Quick, before they recede any further …
A dozen days ago now Evie Laden and Keith Terry at York House. World-class Americana for a fiver less than half a mile down the road – aint life grand? Even if the beer ran out early. She was a clawhammer banjo player and step dancer tutored in the south Appalachian tradition and he was a jazz drummer when they met; when they moved in together they found there wasn’t a single duplicate CD in their both extensive collections. Not that there was much evidence of jazz in this show. Tunes old and new, of the tradition, in the tradition, and some amazing hand-clapping body-slapping rhythmic routines. Near the end a speeded up breakdown version of Ewan MacColl’s The first time ever I saw your face which worked beautifully and has revived the song for me. A great night, for which much and many thanks, Ken.
And the next day I turned up too late for the usual suspects but did witness and survive Barney and accompanying cajónist’s singalong rendition of Gloria Gaynor’s I will survive in the closing stages of the AORTAS open mic night at The Old George. No, really – it was great. Glad I bothered.
Tuesday saw the launch of The Box Ticked‘s actual CD – which I might well be writing about in a separate post – at the April Scribal Gathering. They delivered a nicely judged and hugely satisfying set of originals from the album and gave us an accomplished cover of Bowie’s Five days as a bonus. And apparently the righteous Xanadu, previously mentioned favourably in despatches, are actually called In Xanadu, which isa slight improvement (though I still can’t get the image of Dave Dee, Dozy, Mick and Tich out of my skull). Another varied evening’s entertainment chaired this month by that man Ken (again).
It’s a bit specialist, is Oxford to Bletchley including Verney Junction to Banbury by Vic Mitchell and Keith Smith in the Middleton Press Country Railway Routes series (2006). Not particularly well reproduced b&w photos (with detailed captions) of stations on one of the many routes that didn’t survive Beeching, by far the best and most interesting photo for me – though there’s a good one of Bletchley station back in the day at the end of this post – is the days-of-futures-past shot on the cover of the rather stylish diesel railcar, that was introduced with no great success on the route in 1938. Still, good to nostalgise a bit (on tracks I never rode on) and to think this is one of the lines that might rise from the ashes again in the future.
I could quote endlessly from Moranthology (Ebury Press, 2012), Caitlin Moran‘s entertaining and wide-ranging collection of pieces from her Times interviews and columns. I like her a lot. She has me punching the air – wit and wisdom: yes! – on many topics, and her serious stuff (with a potential guffaw never far away) on, for instance, what it’s like to be poor, deserve wider currency and to be out there in the political arena:
We’re all just monkeys using sticks to get grubs out of logs, really. However. There is one, massive difference between being rich and being poor, and it is this: when you are poor, you feel heavy. Heavy like your limbs are filled with water. Perhaps it is rain water – there is a lot more rain in your life when you are poor. Rain that can’t be escaped in a cab. Rain that has to be stood in, until the bus comes. [...]
But the heaviness is not really, of course, from the rain. The heaviness comes from the sclerosis of being broke. Because when you’re poor, nothing ever changes.
And she knows because she was brought up there. Her notion that being taxed is a signifier of personal success – “What a seriously grown-up thing to be doing“- needs to be stated more often. Some of the pieces here fill in some of the gaps in her memoir, How to be a woman. Hence her passionate defence of public libraries, where she ‘home’ educated herself after primary school (and didn’t we librarians do a good job?). Her Celebrity Watch columns are up there with Charlie Brooker’s take on all the nonsense. Hard to shake off, too, her description of David Cameron, three months before he became prime minister, as the potential winner of a ‘C-3PO made of ham‘ fancy dress competition: “His resemblance to a slightly camp gammon robot is extraordinary.” Her TV criticism is usually on the ball, with a big ‘Yay’ to Sherlock and a classy demolition of Downton (easy, I know, but she does it so well), though her championing of The hour did give me pause. But her summing up of Doctor Who certainly hits the spot:
It is, despite being about a 900 year-old man with two hearts and a space-time taxi made of wood, still one of our very best projections of how to be human.
One last quote that, I think, epitomizes her take on life beautifully. She’s describing in retrospect the event – “having gone mad after having smoked a massive bong in front of Later … with Jools Holland“- that led to her leaving behind any mind altering substances other than alcohol:
… it’s obviously unendingly amusing that I lost my mind whilst watching Jools Holland playing boogie-woogie piano with The Beautiful South on BBC2. If there’s anything that proves I have managed to ascend the class ladder from ‘working class’ to ‘middle class’ it is, surely, this. Well done me.
I’ve been dunning After Liff: the new dictionary of things there should be words for (Faber, 2013), John Lloyd and Jon Canter‘s sequel to The meaning of liff 30 years on. They get the words needed for those “perfectly common things around us that have somehow escaped having names” by “recycling the ones on signposts.” Hence Dunning (a small village in Perthshire) is a verb, present participle, meaning “happily reading a book in the loo.” Which is where my copy of After Liff has lain since it was bought as a cheap offer makeweight to get free postage when buying another book altogether, and because a friend had raved more than once – “funniest book”etc – about its predecessor. I’m on my fourth time through now and it just gets better with each reading – more pennies dropping every time as some sort of sense emerges. They range from the pretty obvious, from bad puns through decent cryptic crossword clues, into words that somehow sound just right and then we enter a zen or even an Ivor Cutler universe of fetching nonsense; with mild filth and not a few duds on the way too, of course. So, not entirely at random, how about Nantwich (noun: a snack where the filling drops out, leaving an empty husk), Stockleigh Pomeroy (noun: the manhunt that takes place after a murder, to find a neighbour willing to say the line: ‘He kept himself to himself”) or just plain Malmö (adjective: happily tired) for starters? It’s cumulative. I’m on the look out for the words on a signpost that will fit that sinking feeling and frustration when you get half the hazelnuts or dates in a kilo bag of Jordan’s Natural muesli falling into just the one bowl on one morning.
Finally, if Derren Brown came out onto the stage to the strains of This charming man no justification would be necessary. And he works so hard. Derren always asks people not to reveal what happens in the show so as not to take the element of surprise away from those who haven’t seen it yet, so I’m not going to say much about Infamous except, par for the course, we came out going not so much WTF? as How? Vastly entertaining and good-natured. The usual mix of the aforementioned charm, illusion, manipulation, mental tour-de-forces, wit and demystification, with some autobiography thrown in for spice and inspiration. Undoubtedly a force for good; so pleased he’s on our side.
And here’s that photo. Never let it be said I don’t keep my promises. Most of the time: