A lapidary log.....

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November 2009
October 2009
August 15 2009
June 2009
April 2009
February 2009

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DIARY 2009

February 2009

We had no say, alas, in the cancellation of the Soho Revue Bar show we were booked to do on Feb.18th, the company running the place has gone into liquidation: it's a real pity because the venue would've been ideal for us, intimate and seedy, red plush upholstery, the works. It's such a nice space that it's unlikely to stand empty for long, so I hope we can re-schedule a gig there soon.

How was Christmas/New Year round your way? I spent it the bulk of it chin-high in my own particular pick-and-mix of the nation's (globe's) favoured anaesthetics (sport/booze/TV and showbiz) but I still dared the occasional peek through my fingers (past the carcass-in-waiting slumbering deep in a comfy armchair in the mirror over the fireplace) in the direction of --- what? Where? Eternity?... Somewhere down the line I treated myself to a new turntable, the latest Antony & the Johnsons LP and the Collected Poems of Edward Thomas. I saw in the New Year, but in a pestilential mood, for all the reasons you'd expect:

a) that the guilty bankers and financiers are still not being slowly tortured to just-this-side-of death so that we can nurse them back to ruddy health only to start their torment all over again. As one headline pointed out, in China they'd execute the bastards.
b) that we're not subjecting Brown and his entire Cabinet (Harman! Milliband!! Jesus!!!) to a Wicker Man-style ritualistic execution; we should be rolling the whole cabal up Whitehall on tumbrels to their public burning in Trafalgar Square, both as punishment for their moral duplicity and incompetence and so as to put the fear of God up all future administrations.
c) that this country's long tradition of freedom of speech/thought are being eroded by the diktat of cretins.
d) the death of the great Harold Pinter (Betty Page and Eartha Kitt, Dave Dee and a Stooge died too, but in artistic terms Pinter's was an entirely different league of achievement, up there with Beckett's. The man was not only a genius, he was notoriously irascible: a couple of the obituaries mentioned how a waitress once took his order in a restaurant, sealing the transaction with a cheap-and-chirpy " No problem!", to which Pinter replied: "I wasn't anticipating any"....!).
d) Jools's Hootenanny --- I don't think I need expand, do I?
e) I had to rush Ted to an emergency vet. (I took him back the following day for the all-clear and women coming in and out of reception were cooing over him, his magnificent brow and bottomless gaze resemble Nietzsche's after the breakdown).
f) Songdog's Xmas single failed to chart (Time Out liked the lyrics but deemed the record a "turgid steamer": so says some jaded gobshite with a GCSE in English, but it made me laugh, I have to admit. Now, when we play the song in rehearsals it's "Let's take a pass at The Turgid Steamer").

Anyway, it all already seems a long time ago and, the news about the cancelled show apart, things have been looking up a bit since then, because:

a) it's snowed a bit (I love snow).
b) I've written some new songs.
c) I've been running an hour a day, five days a week, dieting, lost quite a bit of weight.
d) It's been reported that Ry Cooder will be playing dates over here this year.
e) Bruce Springsteen has a great new LP out.

I was sorry to see Woolworths go, even though I never shopped there. I bought a cheap "The Best of the Velvet Underground" CD in the Brecon branch, just to remember Woolies by. I was sorry too to see those animal rights activists nicked and going down --- to me they're martyrs, political prisoners (while the fucking bankers go unpunished):

Should eye with tenderness all
living forms,
His brother-emmets, his sister-worms.
(Erasmus Darwin, 1803).


We've got ten songs ready for another record (or eleven, counting The Turgid Steamer) with one more tune still on the workbench. In a bar in New Cross last night we sketched out a battle-plan for the recording sessions --- how many extra musicians we'll need/be able to afford given our budget, etc. This one will be recorded in a variety of locations over a period of two months or so; we're even thinking of using Nick's mobile rig to do a few of the songs at my place in Wales. Nick likes to plan these things in minute detail, like we're invading Normandy or launching a space-shuttle.

I've been thinking about the films I saw throughout 2008: I didn't really see that many, but of those I did I think the two most memorable were maybe "The Dark Knight" and "Appaloosa". In the Batman film Heath Ledger's turn as the Joker is a real tour-de-force, and Ed Harris's Western is sublime in every detail, I highly recommend it.

Right, that's it for now, I think I fancy some music, so who's it to be, Louis Armstrong or Georges Brassens? ......


April 2009

We've been rehearsing and rehearsing and rehearsing and we're finally ready to start recording, basic tracking beginning (definitely!) on Monday April 27th. We'll do "The Rain Is Falling On The Old Cat's Grave" (there's a strum-through of this one on YouTube somewhere), "3:30am (Small Talk)", "The Widow", "1979", "Obediah's Waltz", "An Old Man's Love", "Shaman", "Gene Autry's Ghost", "Elaine", "I Got Drunk & I Wrote You A Poem" and "Writer's Block" plus I'm still bashing away at something new that I may or may not get finished in time (working title: " I Took Longer To Get Home Than Odysseus Did"). Subject-matter-wise we're talking love, sex, death, scatology and the state of the soul; there'll be horns, trumpet, harp and strings in addition to the usual stuff we play. We've toiled like navvies on the arrangements, clanking and heaving like a scaffolding-gang, I've spent whole evenings plonking away to a metronome, internalising the tempos, with occasional interludes for day-dreaming, a spot of onanism and a few good books ("The Philosopher & The Wolf" by Mark Rowlands, "Searching for Cioran" by Ilinca Zarifopol-Johnston, "Lowside of the Road: A Life of Tom Waits" by Barney Hoskyns and "The Letters of Samuel Beckett 1929-1940, edited by Martha Dow Fehsenfeld & Lois More Overbeck, all good stuff) and a triple-CD set of old songs about Paris (if it's true your unlived life stalks you like a famished shadow mine traipses fore and aft me along the wharves of old, post-war Pareee, Maigret-style, and my Prada Amber Pour Homme masks the stink of pipe-smoke). We've also been invited to play a 40-minute set at the Band of Heathens show (apparently Barack Obama grooves to this lot!) at the Borderline on Wednesday 3rd June and we've said yes, so do try and make the effort if you can (after all, it's been over a year!).

April already -- the cruellest month and then some --- and the snowdrops and daffodils are pinging up like gilt-Police in riot gear outside RBS in the City (photo - Reuters)edged bonuses throughout Tony & Gordon's nasty little police-state. Did you get biffed by a bobby at the G20 protests? Take one for the team from some psychotic little Nazi on overtime, sticking it to the hippies with his faux-cock of a baton, and his identification-number left back in the locker for the day? (I dreamed there was a rematch, and this time the police were helping drag those City boys from their oak-panelled bunkers for mulching). I just heard on the news that one copper was bragging on his Facebook page about how much he was looking forward to administering a kicking to some longhairs --- I'll bet his wife shudders inwardly when he touches her. ---- Mercy, I almost forgot! --- What about the Jade (she who warmed the nation's hearts) vs Trimble (she who knew all the answers on University Challenge) bout! C'mon, chaps, which of those ladies would you lay your cloak across a puddle for? (That's what I love so much about the global sweetshop ---- our choices say so much about who we really are ....) ..... England's green and pleasant land --- do me a favour!!!!

I'd like to mention Graham here, I haven't seen him in decades, but we were close friends from early childhood up until the age of 16 when he joined the Army and our lives took very different paths; now he's in a Belfast hospice with only weeks left. Two songs in particular have always brought him to mind --- "Abraham, Martin & John" because that was the song playing in the Cardiff cafe me, him and his mother had lunch in before his Army interview (I didn't want him to join. I knew we'd hardly ever see each other anymore, plus this was the heyday of the counter-culture, and joining the Army just didn't make any sense at all, just seemed plain wrong) and "Ferry 'Cross The Mersey" just because he used to love it so much. I remember us walking home down the Gossy after we'd been to see Elvis in "Flaming Star" at the Capitol (both of us wearing the badges they'd given away free in the foyer) talking about what life would be like when we grew up. He was already chomping at the bit, I wasn't ready to put away childish things quite so eagerly (and I'm still not) and I vaguely resented the fact that he was so keen to up tracks and quit what I already took to be Paradise). We last spoke (by phone) on the eve of Songdog's trip to Russia and when I told him about it I sensed a reticence on his part, like I was making him uncomfortable talking about it (Morrissey spoke well about this kind of thing) ..... Anyway I really can't get my head round the fact that anyday now Graham won't be in the world anymore and I wish he could just get better, spring from his bed and carry on till he's old.

I don't watch much TV but I did catch (not at the time of transmission but later, online somewhere) an excellent three-part drama called "Red Riding", based on a series of novels by David Peace; best thing I can recollect on the box since "Deadwood". A lot of reviewers seemed to find it a bit confusing, but then those are the guys who'd probably plump for Jade.

There's a new Bob Dylan LP out on Monday. See you at the store.

I'll write again once the recording's underway.





June 2009

Wed. 3rd June, The Borderline

Ah, it was great to be back on the boards at last – I’d forgotten how much I like the Borderline too, the gig went really well, great sound, great audience; The Band of Heathens are lovely people and a superlative bar band.

We’re over halfway through the next record, most of our own parts are on, now there’s to be a short hiatus while Jerome does the string arrangements, then it’s back in to record the string-players -- plus horns and a harp, budget allowing .… I said ‘budget’ -- I apologise for dropping that turd of a word into the pellucid waters of our discourse (as Abba once sang: “Money money money/Belongs in the dunny”) but it’s an ugly world out there, and most of the very vilest horrors are $-shaped in one way or another. I’m keen on getting in a glass-harmonica player for “A Life Eroding”, I love the sound those things make, but I was concussed for a good ten minutes when I heard the guy’s asking-price …… Nick Kaçal’s producing the record, he’s a real stickler, a bona-fide martinet, often a scourge of God, but he performs great deeds in that little studio of his (he’s talking of finding a place to run as a commercial concern, but I ask myself how is someone as fastidious --- as downright sniffy! --- as Nick going to cope when the client’s say an indie band chasing “What’s The Story Morning Glory” as the-score-to-beat, or some poor besotted nerd out to recreate “Revolver” crotchet by crotchet!).

Note to all Beckettians: there’s a production of “Waiting For Godot” currently running in London with a cast consisting entirely of National Treasures --- Ian McKellen (!!), Patrick Stewart, Ronald Pickup and Simon Callow!!! Distinguished thespians they may be, but these are not the sort of actors who should be performing Beckett. Best boycotted, then ….

Personal disappointment of the week (this one scored a humungous 8.35 on the Bummer Scale): hacking my way through a dense thicket of designer-shops in Brighton yesterday I chanced upon what I at first took to be Shangri-La ---- a better sort of shoe-shop with the very coolest pair of Marlon boots in the window, a snip at only £89! (Black, silver-buckled winklepickers as worn by the imperishable Marlon in The Perishers cartoon-strip that ran for decades in the Daily Mirror: I read somewhere that Keith Richards named his son after the character). But life being what it is, they had the boots in sasquatch-size only. And this particular shop was the only outlet, there was no other branch I could try. And the shoes were imported from Portugal and no, they weren’t expecting to take delivery of any more … Ah, it’s a cruel fucking world, it really is. Suddenly, without those Marlon boots to tramp in, a sunny day in Brighton held no further charms for me and I drove home, sulking all the way; got in, watched a film on Manet, still feeling as ratty as could be, my existential mojo real gone; without those shoes the future looks bleak ……

John Calder’s bookshop at 51 The Cut, SE1 (opposite the Young Vic) is hosting occasional Wednesday night acoustic shows --- we’re talking not lo-fi but no-fi --- no mics or PA at all, songs straight from the sound-hole-and-the-knee, just as God intended, with a curtain pulled across the shop halfway down and fifteen or twenty chairs facing a tiny stage. I’m tempted to do a little solo show there, showcase some of the songs from the next album, maybe play a few of the tunes Songdog never get to do live ….? The venue would insist on a door charge but I’d provide the free red wine for all comers. I think I’d probably enjoy it, at least! In my opinion John Calder was the most important publisher of the second half of the last century, no-one else had a list to touch his (he’s not dead, incidentally, just retired). I hate to dilly-dally like this --- will I do it or won’t I?! --- but it’s because I have no aptitude for the immediacy of experience, never have had (though I’m choc-a-bloc with the adolescent’s capacity for the essential. It’s a kind of curse, really gets on people’s tits …..).




August 15 2009

The Mad Monk of the soundboard is locked in his cloister in deepest SE4, mixing our next album, toiling throughout the small hours over bowlfuls of Sainsbury’s strawberries, calibrating his reverbs to within a billionth of a second, honing, polishing, alchemising my doodles into the music of the celestial spheres: one fine day, he’ll be finished (surely?). “Look,” he pleads, “you’ll just have to tell me when it’s time to get off the carousel”.

“OK, Nick,” says I, “it sounds lovely. Now step down.” but it’s already too late, he’s located something niggling him deep within the bowels of the mix, the carousel’s giddy whirl has whisked him away out of earshot, he’s off again with a mad cackle -- it’ll be two days before he’s back -- he’s but a foot away yet as beyond reach as the black goddess that left my train at Denmark Hill last Thursday lunchtime (by the time I spotted her the doors had closed and we were trundling towards the Elephant & Castle. What was I to do? Pull the communication cord? Isn’t there a fine for improper use? OK, this wouldn’t really have been improper use, but the grown-ups that run the world never see the essential truth, do they, the hard-hearted, wrong-headed, practical bastards ……). We had a great day back in July working with a string-quartet on four of the tunes, Jerome had crafted some lovely arrangements for them to play: we had a wonderful afternoon too when Sean Hargreaves (he played piano on “Montparnasse” on the last record) came in to put down some organ on another four of the songs --- Sean’s a proper wizard and a true gentleman. The trumpet-player we hired came from Monmouth and had played with the Super Furry Animals for about six or seven years (the Furries --- the best band to hail from Wales after us).

Speaking of hallowed ground, I spent a fortnight there again just recently --- it rained as hard as it must’ve in Noah’s day, and man, it was beyond beautiful. We climbed Pen-y-Fan (the highest of the Brecon Beacons) like we do every year --- Pod says when the time comes that we can’t manage it we’ll know we’re old farts (which is very different to what we are now --- Saga louts …..). Kept seeing posters for a tribute band called the Stereomanics!!!! Jesus Christ!!! Can that be legal?!! The originals are …. one thing (!) ---- but a tribute band!!! I’d sooner watch turds bobbing in a barrel of stagnant water for an hour. --- Tell me, readers, why are people so incredibly dumb!!! ….. (Just give me a minute to calm down. And I’m sorry about the Jesus Christ thing, I recently promised someone I wouldn’t take the Lord’s name in vain any more: but, hey, at least blasphemy is a victimless crime, eh? …..) ….. Halfway through the stay Corrinne rang from London to say she’d come home one sunny afternoon to find Pod’s cat Yin lying dead beneath the pear-tree. The Big Yin (a creature of true beauty, and not to be confused with that un-beautiful and tiresome Scottish comedian) had been with us for 18 years, lived alongside us through all the high jinx, disappointments, japes and severe turbulence of the nineties and noughties and had survived still crazy after all those years, and she’ll be sorely missed and never forgotten (Pod drove back up to bury her and then came back down). It’s kind of sad now to crunch up Pod’s path knowing Yin isn’t spying on you from a nearby bush or won’t be sashaying down to meet you halfway anymore. I’m pouring a glass of something nice and red to raise to Yin as I write this : well-lived, old girl! …..

Reading anything good? I’m slipping to and fro between “History on our Side” by Hywel Francis, a book on Wales and the 1984-85 miners’ strike and “The Gospel According to the Beatles” by Steve Turner, charting “the journey of the group from fun-loving agnostics to drug-inspired mystics, a microcosm of the pilgrimage taken by a generation”. I also rented a couple of DVDs I’d highly recommend: “Surveillance”, directed by Jennifer Lynch, the incomparable David’s daughter, and “Julia”, featuring a magnificent performance from the routinely-outstanding Tilda Swinton --- a couple of movies guaranteed to enjoyably see off yet another deadly evening when there’s nowt on but sport.

Bumped into Gary Brady in Potter’s Field Park recently (he produced our first three albums: while I was in Wales I listened to those records again for the first time in a long while and boy was I impressed! Was that really us? ---- Hey, Gary, didn’t we do good!!). He’d just come back from a walk across Spain (and wrote a very funny blog on the journey as he went). It was great to see him again and I wish him well. (Escapade gone, Yin & Yang gone. Les Paul … What the hell is happening to the world!).

There’s talk of us playing the Offset Festival next month, but I don’t know yet if it’s anything more than just that. Anyway, I’ll report on it if it happens, and who knows, maybe Nick will finally get off that carousel and deliver us a finished album?

Till next time, then.

Nos da.




October 2009

Well, we finally finished the album in mid-September and it should be out by next March at the latest. The title’s likely to be “A Life Eroding” and the track-listing is: “Obediah’s Waltz”, “Gene Autry’s Ghost”, “3:30am (Small Talk)”, “1979”, “Elaine”, “Shaman”, “I Got Drunk & I Wrote You A Poem”, “It’s Raining On The Old Cat’s Grave”, “An Old Man’s Love”, “The Widow” and “A Life Eroding (So Much Sorrow)”. Buy it in colossal amounts and maybe we’ll land that much-coveted slot on “Strictly …..”?

I’ve long been fascinated by the Greenwich Village play-and-pass-round-the-hat scene of the early 60s, I really wish I could’ve been part of it. I suppose today’s equivalent would be the hundreds of folk/acoustic gigs in pubs and back-rooms all over the land, so we’re embarking on a tour of those (starting in London to save on petrol costs and mindful of our green footprint). Last night we did five tunes at Andy Allen’s venue upstairs at the Old Nag’s Head in Nunhead Green (just a twenty-minute drive from my mansion) and we had a hell of a time. Andy asked us back as a ‘headliner’ so we’re doing it again next week, just guitar, accordion and mandolin but a few more songs. Andy’s our kind of guy, he’s been a musician all his life, made two albums with Joe Boyd as the Hankdogs, and served time in the Professionals with Steve Jones and Paul Cook --- Andy/Hank ain’t no straight, you know what I’m saying? …… We’ll be popping up Christ-knows-where as I find the venues. In the meantime we’ll be doing a spot at the Betsey Trotwood on Farringdon Road on Nov. 10th and another Arctic Circle do at the Union Chapel on November 1st.

We’re looking back over the albums and digging up stuff we haven’t played for years including a version of “Shipwrecks” off the first album. I have a new song that I came up with too late for the new record --- “The Lies I Tell Valerie” ---- that I hope we can arrange and feature in these ‘guerrilla sets’ too.

Speaking of Dylan (the Greenwich Village reference at the head of the previous paragraph?), you’ll have read by now that he’s releasing an album of Xmas standards. This is an incredibly unhip thing to do --- and just when he’s top-of-the-world all over again --- no-one else would dare! Man, that guy’s just so ornery! And the record will probably be really appalling. Magnificent! I’ll be buying it for sure.

Martin Ledner’s a guy I came across a few weeks ago at the Betsey Trotwood and that you should check out--- he sang a setful of tunes I took to be folk-standards but that he’d actually written himself, and all good (especially “Lament of a Dorset Shepherd”). Dylan would definitely like his stuff, and so do I (and only exceptional songwriters can do it for me anymore).

Spent an evening at Filthy McNasty’s listening to some old ex-NME journos reading from upcoming works on the Slits and then the C86 moment --- not that I have much interest in either, but London was such a different place then and hearing those times eulogised just brought it all back, nostalgic old git that I am (life was so good between the first Summer of Love and the Winter of Discontent but those post-punk London years were pretty spectacular too. Alas, round about 1982 the fucking Eighties kicked in…..). I also saw Howard Barker’s “Found in the Ground” at Riverside Studios in Hammersmith. I’ve been following his work for 25 years and the standard never slips a centimetre, the play was utterly engrossing: he says he regularly sends all his new work to the National Theatre to have rejected just to make sure he’s still on the right track (I feel a deep kinship here vis-à-vis, in my case, the ‘music industry’). I have a ticket for a Wrestling School rehearsed reading of his latest text to take place at RADA next week but now we’ll be in Nunhead playing for Hank instead. On Monday I’m at the Union Chapel for the Gavin Bryars Ensemble’s performance of “Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet”.

I’m drunk and very tired, I’d best go.

Isn’t October a beautiful month?

Wasn’t it better when the government answered to trade unions rather than banks and ‘financial institutions’? (The “Back to the ‘70s” movement starts here) …..

I’m too drunk to re-read this, if it sucks I promise I’ll do
better next time ………




November 2009

Over the last month or so we’ve been playing a lot of ‘pop-up’ gigs, open-mic nights, it’s fun and better than staying in. We’ve played the Nun’s Head in SE15, the Glad in SE1, the Betsey Trotwood in Farringdon, the Union Chapel bar in Islington and then the Library opposite. We’ll be at the Windmill in Brixton on Dec.3rd and then some MySpace chums have invited us to do a set at their show at Le Pub in Newport, Gwent on Dec. 5th so we’re doing that too. Just ask us and we’ll probably play for you, mostly anywhere, all we ask in return is some small offering ---- maybe a nice hunk of Victoria sponge or a few Jammie Dodgers, a plateful of wholemeal sandwiches (cheese-and-pickle), a nice drop of Rioja, a line or two of your best white powder, a kiss from your wife/sister/girlfriend/mother (or, if that’s going too far, maybe just a stroke of her hair?). In return you get a selection of our ditties performed on acoustic guitar, mandolin, accordion and harmonica. Let me know if you’re interested ……?

Isn’t it a pity #1: Keith Waterhouse’s death.

Isn’t it a pity #2: The demolition of Escapade Studios where we recorded our first three LPs and a whole bunch of other stuff --- assorted B-sides, an EP, stuff for Uncut cover-mounts, etc. We had a lot of wonderful times in that shed. Gary Brady’s uploaded some photos of the building-site it now is on his MySpace page, including one of him standing in the rubble where the sink we’d make life-giving brews at used to stand. For me, the most affecting picture of all is one of the back wall where Dave used to set up his kit, it’s now a flank-wall of the building next door, cement-smeared and open to those chilly late autumn/early winter winds already buffeting us. I’ll be lobbying for a blue plaque to be erected in the alley ……

One evening last week we looked in at our lawyer’s ‘winter party’ (I’d got drenched en route and barged my way in feeling really ratty, though soon to be soothed by a procession of young ladies in black dresses serving champagne, topping up my glass at every other sip) and got talking to someone who said he’d put me in touch with a third party who’d recorded the entire Scott Walker 1969 TV series (audio only, done on his tape-recorder directly from the TV set) and that he’d provide me with a copy at a price (I watched the entire series, it was a life-or-death thing at the time, “Scott 3” and “Scott 4” were major events in my life that year and I wanted to be Scott so badly. I’d been reminded of the series again when Blossom Dearie’d died a few weeks previously, she’d been one of Scott’s guests). Whatever the price it can’t be more than my immortal soul (a bloodshot, dog-eared thing, admittedly) can it? So the tape’s as good as mine already, yes?…. That same evening I also met a guy who used to be in Amen Corner, I shook his hand on the grounds that “If Paradise Was Half As Nice” is still a fabulous record. On my way home I got drenched again, and by then I just wanted to fight somebody. I sprinted home from the station, lay gasping on the stairs in the hall, my neighbour came running, thinking I’d been mugged ……

Telly’s undeniably one of the biggest contributing factors to the decline of Western culture and I try to avoid it like I would pigshit in my cornflakes but I have to admit my mmm-button’s been pressed good-and-proper by a couple of recent foreign cop series --- “Wallander” (Swedish) and “Spiral” (French). Then there’s “True Blood”, a vampire thing I’ve got hooked on (that’s what I want to be when I die, a vampire). Then, one night, I walked in on “The One Show” and found Sting (is he a Sir yet? --- I can’t remember) on the sofa sporting an elemental beard and in conversation with (‘chatting’ doesn’t seem appropriate in Sir Gordon’s case) the two presenters. I know a lot of people can’t abide Lord Sumner --- I suppose, like Macca, you sense he’s fully aware of just how gifted he is, and some people can’t handle that --- but on this particular occasion he brought such badly-needed gravitas to this show (not the very crappiest thing on by a long shot but still the televisual equivalent of a paper party-hat) that it felt a bit like Harold Pinter had suddenly materialised in Jonathan Ross’s ‘green room’. He pronounced “The X Factor” to be an execrable thing (as it absolutely is) and then picked up a guitar and effortlessly knocked off something lovely from his new record. He’s never really made much a dent in my bumper, a handful of great tunes apart, but out of sheer respect I bought his record the next day (with him on the sleeve looking so dashing on his snowy Italian estate) and a few things on it are very beautiful indeed. Then he turned up on “Later ….”, did one song (a poem of Robert Louis Stevenson’s he’d set to music) and made everyone else on the show look like they were just messing about. (Incidentally, how come, week after week, series after series, the best act on gets to do just one song?!!!). I think I mostly like the fact he’s serious about what he does. (A friend of mine wrote to me recently bemoaning the lack of seriousness in our culture, wondering why it isn’t taught as a compulsory subject in schools, and that’s a damned fine question). One more word for today on the subject of telly ----- like everyone else in the country I tuned in for “Question Time”, the episode with the gurning little fascist v a roomful of the smuggest, most self-satisfied types you ever saw ---- political affiliation didn’t come into it, I hated them all, including the Corporation’s doughboy chairing the ‘discussion’. (Don’t you really loathe Jack Straw? What a time-serving cunt). I’ve always had a thing about Bonnie Greer, I think the lady has class --- the fact we’re both recipients of the Verity Bargate Award would be my opening chat-up gambit should we ever meet! --- but I do wish she’d had a prior engagement that day and just hadn’t got involved).

Got torrentially rained-on in Wales over the weekend, visited Ebbw Vale, the town where I was born. Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council has closed the Festival Park Owl Sanctuary to the public (the place where I adopted a vulture, my regular readers will recollect), the nasty, uptight, short-sighted, narrow-minded, bureaucratic bastards. Official reason: the place doesn’t have a zoo licence. The real reason is rumoured to be that the re-opening of the railway down through the valley (originally closed in 1966, post-Beeching) has quintupled the value of the land the sanctuary occupies and so, naturally, the council needs them tree-huggers out pronto, there’s money to be made, pockets to be lined (I’ve worked it out, the figures are shocking: if one owl is worth approximately 2,974 councillors, then that same bird must equal a mind-boggling 2,871,999 property developers!).

I’m looking forward to the set we’re doing at the Windmill, Brixton on Dec. 3rd, opening for Louis Eliot. (The last time we played this venue was the night I scribbled the first few lines of the lyric to “The Republic of Howlin’ Wolf”, so I think of it as a lucky place for me). Are you coming down to cheer us on? Go on, say you are!

We’re toying with the idea of putting on a night of our own somewhere, asking artists we admire to come and do a spot. I’d ask Michael J. Sheehy (in fact I already did when I bumped into him quaffing a pint of Guinness outside a pub on Seven Dials; he said he’d be up for it) and I’d ask Vinny Peculiar. We’ve also made a few new friends recently that you might enjoy --- Jason McNiff, Ben Folke Thomas --- and we’d no doubt invite them too.

Life is so busy and time flies (a year already since we recorded our 2008 ‘xmas single/winter song’! Three months since we finished the new album!) but it’ll happen in due course, after an appropriate interval for mulling things over, all I need is a little time to think (think! --- as if I haven’t already as good as thunk my life away!) ………

Christ, is that the time!!!!