Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Brel de Jour...

Hi Swipesters,

We here at Swipe Towers can't contain our excitement at having procured a sneak preview of the blog that's about to set the www on fire. It's sexy, it's innovative and it positively reeks of moules marinieres. Please, give up your hearts and incomes to:


dimanche 29 février
Last night I dreamt about

dead mussels,
a pregnant, dwarf-eared rabbit being stewed in Chimay,
giant moustaches called Adolphus flying over Utrecht.

Then I was lying in bed with a grizzled old whore who wore too much makeup and smelt of haddock, blancmange and beeswax. We made love like lemmings in mid air, spiralling through the ether, falling, ever falling down the cliffside, plunging towards the jagged, splintered rocks until, just as I was about to come to my climax, I died.

I woke up with a headache. What can it all mean?

// posted by brel @ 3:28 PM

jeudi 26 février
I've had so many women - I lost count at 7,476. After a bit of time passes it can be difficult to remember how, why, when you liked someone - if at all - and nice to revisit it from a safe distance. Sometimes as far as several thousand kilometres. The girl with no breasts I felt up in the public swimming pool at Schaarbeek when I was 15. The relationship at school that ended because of her aversion to mussels - although I suppose, looking back, she had a point. I suppose the shells are a bit sharp. The much older woman whose skill in manipulating my body was as funny as it was frightening - I had never been folded in half before. I can still lace my boots with my teeth to this day, you know. As long as there's not too much damp in the air and I haven't eaten any sausage. Curse this lumbago. Then I recall the first time with someone I can still think of fondly, someone I fell quickly and hard for, and the thousand or so times we were together after that, and the last time with her too. Christ, that Pam Ayres was some woman.

The few whom I could not get enough of - Danielle Steele, Nana Mouskourri, Brenda Blethyn, Blossom from Eastenders, Wim Jonk. The way they smelled - haddock, carp, bloater, with a soupcon of emery board. The way they felt - like farting in a vat of linseed oil. Or tasted - mushy peas sprinkled with Ovaltine. The number of times I was with the Special Girl and wished she would just shut up and fuck me already, bec[a]use I had never come with anyone that way, ever - apart from Clodagh Rodgers, of course. But she kept on and on reciting the shipping forecast for the whole of 1957 until I had to bludgeon her with a kipper. The times sex felt as much like appearing on Celebrity Who Wants to be a Millionaire as a spiritual calling. And how those moments kept me going for weeks afterward, like mussels dotting the cord of our moribund relationship.

These are nice, these little sketches of people I have enjoyed. It passes the time while I'm having a dump.
// posted by brel @ 1:13 PM

Love on ya,


Islamofascists - an Apology...

Hi Popsters,

And before I get on to the proper apology, apologies for the delayed post. I was briefly detained and unable to break away from the free-porn and caviar kindly laid on for me by the British tax payer (thanks again Human Rights Convention - where would we be without you?) to blurb my daily blog. Still, there are worse ways to spend a day than encsconced in a warm cell with The New Age Harlot and a fellow jihadist for company. Belmarsh: What's all the fuss about?

Anyway, with typical Swipean duh-ness, I have, as we used to say in the valleys, got it all completely arse about tit again, haven't I? You'll remember my pathetic rantings at Home Office Mistress Hazel Bleeeeeuuuugggghhh the other day? OK, well, seems I've goosed up badly again. It's been revealed today that among the men suspected of attempting to overthrow western liberal democracy is one who, for some reason best known only to himself, goes only by the name of 'P'.

[Paragraph break inserted - Bob's lapsed into bad old ways again, it seems - M.S.]

Now, 'P' suffers the grave misfortune of being a double amputee. Consequently, far from being a militant jihadist who will not rest until he has eradicated the infidel and brought our legal system into line with that of the 7th century Caliphate, he is instead someone who just needs that little extra help and understanding from the rest of us. Yes, he is a disabled and, as anyone who has travelled on the London Underground of late will know, he is not some hideous monster from the depths of a 19th century gothic horror story, but a useful and valued member of society (provided he doesn't want to get off the train anywhere between Ealing Broadway and Stratford, of course, in which case he is a "how are we going to get that bloody thing up all those flights of stairs?"-type nuisance) So, under new Disability discrimination legislation, he is due to be released in a Care in the Community style gesture aimed at integrating the limbless, hate-fuelled Islamofascist community into mainstream society which is, of course, to be warmly welcomed by us all.

Under the provision of the act, 'P' will be allowed special access to buses via a ramp that will invariably not work and the operation of which will necessitate a variety of impatient watch-checking/heavy sigh responses from driver and passengers alike. Once on board the bus, 'P' will be able, to remonstrate with any passengers who appear younger than him about how they have no respect, should be ashamed of themselves and aren't they blind, he has a disability don't you know and how they should bring back the birch for people like you etc. etc. until the bus finally reaches its destination. Whilst his seven children, all of whom are under ten and verbally incontinent, are allowed to run unsupervised along the length and breadth of the vehicle, kicking fellow passengers and smearing mucus on the seats at every turn, 'P' will turn on his cap-with-a-built-in-radio- receiver and treat those journeying with him to interminable renditions of 'I'm" a Barbie girl, in a Barbie world'. In between verses 'P' will be permitted to grab the handles on the doors of the bus and needlessly slam them together in a violent fashion, causing much alarm to his fellow passengers, and forcing the driver to allow him to alight from the bus at an unauthorized spot - in flagrant contravention of the Highway regulations and to much alarm from other motorists.

[See above]

Once he has disembarked, 'P' will join colleagues outside the nearest tube station where he will sit on a disgusting, vomit stained tartan blanket swigging from a can of Tennents Super and shouting things like, "Arf geddang bazzflipp shazzbolad reeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeem ker" until he is arrested by the constabulary and detained at Her Majesty's pleasure under HARSH NEW TERROR LAWS. Finally, after much cost to the tax payer and and enormous repair bill for TFL, he will be deported back to the place of birth described on his forged passport and locked up, gagged and bound, in a very small [space? Cell?] at the expense of the Algerian tax payer. Keep up the good work, Hazel!

[Originally posted by Robert Swipe, 12.08.2009]

Bob continues picking the scab of Islamic integration (or the lack thereof). The theme is further explored in the following August posts; Carole Kirkwood - a national disgrace, Jihadist bags sexiest lwayer [sic] in the world, and Cack-handed b******s complain of 'alientaion', but this is probably the most successful of such posts. The conflation of terrorism with those other horrifying elements of modern urban existence - street alcoholics, care in the community mentalists, the ordinary, everyday anti-social with no officially sanctioned excuse for their mentalism - and the evident glee with which he delineates the hypocrisy of the liberal establishment makes this one of Bob's most successful satirical posts. In short, it's a terrifyingly accurate depiction of travelling on London Transport in the early part of the 21st Century.



Kaplinsky Watch...

No. 127: Thursday 4th August, 2005

Attire: Purple blouse, black slacks

Shoes: Not visible (sling-backs feared)

Hair: 4.5 on the PCMS (Post-coital/Mussing Scale)

Demeanour: Crabby/Listless.

More tomorrow.

Kaplinsky watch is a non-profit organisation which aims to outlaw this barbaric and pointless sport.


[Originally posted by Robert Swipe, 04.08.2005]

Bob's beginning to hit stride now. The first 'classic' Swipe serial, Kaplinsky Watch was a handy addition to the blogger's armoury: if in doubt, Kaplinsky it became the Swipe rallying cry. August 2005 marks the begiining of The Robert Swipe Show proper. This month saw an astonishing *50* posts as Bob discovers the quickfire, line 'em up and knock 'em out approach that came to exemplify Swipe's golden era. The series was inspired by a comment made by Natasha Kaplinsky that she'd had emails from a viewer who kept a meticulous record of how often the breakfast TV presenter wore skirts, and how often trousers. Bob clearly felt this approach didn't go *anywhere* *near* far enough. Here then, dear, gentle reader, is a compendium of Kaplinsky:

Kaplinsky watch: No. 128: Friday 5th August, 2005

Attire: Stiff creme safari number, ( think "Woman at Roger Whittaker" (jodhpurs??) and dwarf Anne Robinson specs (hmm)

Shoes: Ostentatious flip-flops, no socks (real rubies -or [prob] faux?)

Hair: 6.8 on the PCMS (Post-coital/Mussing Scale) Drool/yoghurt traces? [New styling/sickle-like side extensions perhaps]

Demeanour: Unfeasibly frisky.

Smile effort estimate: 15.7 %.

[Originally posted 04.08.2005]

Kaplinsky watch: No 129 Monday, 8th August

Attire: Subtle pinstripe-skirt-suit-type-thing (racy-lacy trim - or exposed under garment? More research needed)

Shoes: Strappy, sluttish. No Crimson disco? Generally preferred with p/s.

Hair: 4.8 on the PCMS (Post-coital/Mussing Scale) Has acquired hairbrush? More research required [No styling mousse. Running late?]

Demeanour: Smug, shag serene.

Smile effort estimate: 0.7 % (Still buzzing? Ball bearings?)

[Originally posted 08.08.2005]

Kaplinsky watch: No 130 Tuesday, 9th August

Attire: Linen-belt-wrap-type-thing (stretch pants?)

Shoes: (?) The Big Slipper?

Hair: 5.8 on the PCMS (Post-coital/Mussing Scale)

Eyes: Almonds under lids - Last night's motto: "no-sleep-'til-Carlisle".

Demeanour: Bored shitless

Smile effort estimate: 6.3 % Factor in Raworth envy rating of 7.8 = Seriously insincere.

[Originally posted 09.08.2005]

Kaplinsky watch: #587 - Friday 12th August, 2005

Sian Bloody Williams!!

Kaplinsky watch is brought to you by Blist-eze "for the insane jogger in your life".

[Originally posted 12.08.2005]

Kaplinsky watch: No 1,453 Monday, 15th August

Attire: Lilac power pants/suit type thing.

Shoes: (?) Matching SMERSH stillettos

Hair: 8.8 on the PCMS (Post-coital/Mussing Scale)

Eyes: Removed? Possibly borrowing someone else's smaller pair?

Last night's motto: "you're hurting my arm" - think Peter Lorre.

Demeanour: Post-coital Sudoku'd to death.

Smile effort estimate: 9.6 %

Turnbull annoyance factor: Full-on.

Kaplinsky watch is a non-profit organisation. To make a donation call 0898 288 666 3777 2666. Together we can stop this degrading, barbaric and pointless blah blah blah.

[Originally posted 12.08.2005]

>No 2,453 Monday, 19th September

Attire: Pink power pants/suit type thing.

Shoes: Matching slingbacks - scuffed. (Walls? Bedposts?)

Hair: 10.8 on the PHBMS (Post-Honeymoonlong Bonkathon/Mussing Scale)

Eyes: Beatific longing, to the point of appearing retarded.

Last week's motto: "'till the wheels come off/ungh ungh ungh...etc." - think Lawley/fax machine/jellyfish.

Demeanour: Cat who just got the cream and one almighty apocalypse of a humping.

Smile effort estimate: -77.9 %

Turnbull annoyance factor: Bill who?

Kaplinsky watch is a non-profit organisation. Every time you call 0898 288 666 3777 2666 we will be donating 0.00006 cent to the Katrina Hurricane Relief Fund. Together we can stop this degrading, barbaric and pointless sport (and buy several mops and some sponges).

[Originally posted 19.09.2005]

The series was briefly reprised in November of 2005 with this post.


Interactive Bob...

[Presumably at some point Bob has invited his reader{s} to vote on their favourite post so far (?!?) I couldn't find the post or a similar invitation - but then, I didn't really look very hard...]

Hi Swipesters,

Well, the response to the offer of choosing this site's content was quite overwhelming. A big Swipe thanks you to all of you who took part in this. Now, the votes were not [only] very numerous, but also, incredibly close [ surely need not be added that *neither* is remotely true... M.S.] So, in order to ease the pressure on my mailbag, I've decided to post up the three most popular items in reverse order. Starting with today's entry - Stephen Hawking's revisited[,]his born-again Creationist account of the origin of the Universe - I will post up the runner-up and winner tommorow and Friday. In the meantime, enjoy!

(Bear with it - it works if you read it in the voice...)

A brief History of the Universe (Revised and updated by Rev. S. Hawking)

In the be-gin-ning God cre-a-ted the hea-ven and the earth. And the earth was with-out form, and void; and dark-ness was up-on the face of the deep. And the Spi-rit of God moved up-on the face of the wat-ers. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God di-vi-ded the light from the dark-ness. And God called the light Day, and the dark-ness he called Night. And the e-ven-ing and the morn-ing were the first day.
And God said, Let there be a fir-ma-ment in the midst of the wa-ters, and let it di-vide the wa-ters from the wa-ters. And God made the fir-ma-ment, and di-vi-ded the wa-ters which were un-der the fir-ma-ment from the wa-ters which were above the fir-ma-ment: and it was so. And God called the fir-ma-ment Hea-ven. And the e-ve-ning and the mor-ning were the se-cond day. [...]


"He do the Police in funny Voices" - What T.S. Eliot really meant to say.*

Love on ya,


[Originally posted by Robert Swipe, 03.08.2005]

It perhaps needs actually to be heard - that grating, mechanistic, robot drone of his - to get the full effect and make the gag work; the trampling under shining silver cyberbooted foot (or in this case, wheel) of all nuance; the ineffable and the mysterious - the glorious *imprecision* of our understanding of our existence arrogantly swatted aside with a sheetful of - what? Equations. Our purpose in life? To be told which stop we're approaching by a mechanised voice. The age of reason, eh?

Was it Socrates - or am I thinking of Zico? - who said that all he was prepared to say he knew was that he knew nothing. If it's true that there are many religious leaders who could do with a little humility, then how much more so the average, rat-dicing, thalidomide dispensing scientist? Don't get me wrong, I'm all for *rationality*. But to believe that science as we experience it today is theobjective, disinterested pursuit of knowledge stretches the the incredulity more than would the news that there are, indeed, little green men on Mars. Bob's view? A plague on both their houses, probably. He's in fine fettle laying into media interest in 'The Rapture' in this post from 31.07.2006. But, just to prove that there's no ideological gulf that can't be bridged with a little pointless and offensive satire, this post not only shows Bob as being prepared - if this is indeed possible - to play devil's advocate for God, but proves once and for all that even the most heavily foregrounded irony still appears to be beyond the comprehension of many Americans.

So, as the man said, may your God (or stop announcer) go with you...



* Unfortunately most of the links no longer work, but you'll get the idea after clicking a couple of them should you feel so inclined...

Zoe Telford Appeal...

Hello again Swipesters.

You wait months for a post and then 15 come at once, yeah?

But seriously. I have scoured the web for photographs of English rose actress, Zoe Telford, in police uniform for her role as Maggie in the BBC America series, Teachers, and can I find one? You got it - a dirty big nyet on that one. Zilcheroonie. So, it's over to you, Swipe-geeks over at - I await with baited breath. And remember; this is urgent - OK?

Full body shots are preferred, but if you can only find the legs, I guess I'll just have to make do.

Thanks for your assistance and co-operatioon on this,

Love on y'all,


p.s. ...handcuffs would just so make my day....

[Originally posted by Robert Swipe, 01.08.2005]

This one would run and run...

Bob posted Zoe Telford Revisited on 04.08.2005, Zoe Telford - a further appeal on 18.08.2005 before widening the net somewhat with a similarly wretched importuning of Zoe's 'Absolute Power' co-star, Sally Bretton (unfortunately the picture seems to have disappeared - doubtless because it was hot wired or whatever you call that thing where you link to another website rather than to a saved copy of the see, crime *really* doesn't pay...) Then there's this (actually rather frightening) morphing photograph of Zoe posted on 23.09.05. And we *finally* get to see her legs on 24.08.2005. The series concludes with a one last update, which seems little more than an excuse to post up a saucy photo of Bob's then current eye-candy bint of choice, Dita von Teese.

Bob's motivation for this sequence of posts appears to have been two-fold. It seems on the one hand to be a comment on that peculiar phenomenon which anyone who's ever monitored their site meter will be all too aware of; the smutty google search. Bob will feast copiously on such carrion over the next few months. There also seems to be additional delight in having found an especially esoteric niche within that already highly specialised interest group that Bob will go on to make his own; the completely obscure celebrity smutty google search would provide Bob with many a 'hit' over the entire span of his career. These are detailed (often to quite painstaking extremes of dullness) elsewhere. Some posts, indeed, consist of little more than a screen grab of the offending search, allowing the world (or, at least, that small part of it who had had the misfortune to come into Bob's orbit) to trace the students of such compelling areas of research as: "Silverton+butt-grab+bacofoil+nonce" and so forth.

This is another example of Bob's interest in the pornographic process that will ultimately see him becoming personally involved in the production side of the process. For the time being though, there's enough distance between the author and his subject to enable his evident titilation to do no more than peek out from behind a wafer thin veil of irony. Towards the end, unfortunately, that won't be all that's peeking out - but I'm getting ahead of myself here. As will be seen, this subject - the appeal to producer and consumer alike of erotic iconography - will become increasingly problematic and personally engrossing for Bob.


Sunday, 16 August 2009

Rip Her to Shreddies...

"Christ on a bike! Could this broadband speed *be* any slower???"

The Girl With a One Track Mind is already at the laptop and she's barely even started her bowl of Shreddies. "And to what do we owe the dubious pleasure of your fresh-from-the-boudoir, barely clad state of wanton slatternliness, oh infinitely patient one?" I ask, running the sartorial ruler over Abbie's nightshirt, hairnet, baggy socks and slippers ensemble. She's also wearing a pair of flesh coloured tights regularly patterened with tan-coloured spots - either that or she's been 'bumping into things' with quite extraordinary precision or sunbathing beneath an extremely large colander. "Can't you see? That's *exactly* the point!!??" Abbie wails, pouring another liberal slug of vodka over her breakfast ceeral. "I can't get dressed until I've consulted Goop or the Zoe Report, can I???"

"Ah, Goop - I know him. Seen him on the telly; mincing little Oriental fella with the pointy hair and glasses," announces a still yawning Stray Photon. He plonks a freshly poured pint of Strangely Brown Ale and a piping hot mug of Bovril onto the table and proceeds to make stereotypical slitty eyed and buck-toothed Chinaman faces in a remarkably non-PC manner. "Or am I getting him mixed up with that Richard Hammond chap again?" Stray stretches expansively then goes back to solving his inner television presenter conundrum. "No, Abs", is talking about Goop - the new fashion advice website set up by that American actress - you know the one? I was reading about it in the Ffestinyog Ffashion Ffolio ("The definitive guide to what the young Welshman is wearing") just the other day. Lovely looking lass - well, she was until I'd given her a Salvador Dali moustache, a nose ring and a rather unsavoury array of boils and pimples - lithe, lissom, blonde - married to that gurning idiot from Coldplay...

"Palmtree!!" exclaims Photon triumphantly. "It's trow, actually Stray, not tree..." Abbie corrects him. "Sorry Abs, so it is. Anyway, what's this Gwyneth Palmtrow doing setting up a fashion advice website ? I mean, surely she's got better things to do - like learning how to speak properly and keeping her husband fed and watered? Hungry job, I should imagine, ridding the world of famine and putting an end to global poverty. And she could surely put a bit more time and thought into naming her kids. What was that ridiculous thing she came up with for the first one...? "Apple." "Nah, you're alright Abs, I'll stick with the Bovril thanks very much... And while we're on the subject, that Zoe Report - she could do with a good feeding up herself. I've seen xylophones with wore muscle tone... I like something I can get my hands on me, none of this flibberty-gibbety wasting away to size zero mallarkey..." Clearly inflamed, Stray slouches over to the flatscreen and turns on the Breakfast News. (I keep telling him to put some ointment on it, but will he listen?)

"Here, Abs, you could do worse than the pretty smock thing that nice young Katie Silverton is wearing," Stray suggests, trying to be helpful. "Not so sure about the spangly pinnafore and hobnail boots, I'll grant you..." Abbie's silence speaks volumes. "At last! it's finally opened the page. Now, what do you think boys?" Stray and I join Abs in a huddle around the laptop. "Hmmm, I don't know about you Mort, but I'd certainly give Ms. Palmtree one. Not so sure about yours though..." he says, squinting at what is either a sideways on picture of Zoe Report or a kaftan on a pitchfork wearing a curly blonde wig. We're soon despatched back to our pews for being "unhelpful" as Abbie frantically scrolls though the websites for inspiration.

"So Abs, what does the oracle have to say?" I ask, wondering what on earth has possessed Kate Silverton to cover her lower portions and much of the BBC Breakfast sofa with a what appears to be a large, shapeless black table cloth. Has she converted to Islam, perhaps? "Well, Gwyneth seems to think you can't go wrong with the little black number and she's *dead* keen on a nifty little capelet thingy...a *snip* at $2,400. Whereas Zoe Report has a very nice line in shredded tunics, tank tops and dresses in her "Rip Her to Shreds" collection.....oh, decisions, decisions, decisions...." Abs is soon away off upstairs in search of the garden shears, leaving Stray and I alone to ponder the laptop and Kate Silverton's decolletage.

"Oh well," says Stray, "at least it keeps her mind off the rising tide of right wing extremism around the globe..." and goes back to his Bovril mug.


Blonde Ambition...

"I wish we could go back to the way things were..."

The Girl With a One Track Mind is distractedly chalking her cue while Stray Photon takes his turn at the Cow & Snuffers' brand new bar billiards table. She's currently going through a rather pronounced Madonna phase and, as much as the crunchy platunum wig and hod-carrier's arms suit her to a tee, the pointy Jean-Paul Gaultier bustier is perhaps not the most appropriate choice of clothing in which to be hovering over the green baize for any sustained period. A stickler for Health & Safety observance at the best of times, I can sense that Stray is far too tense with the worry of potential impairment to the nap of the pristine potting surface to be attempting the awkward triple cushion kiss off the red he needs to escape the fiendish snooker Abbie has confronted him with. Either that, or the effects of the cannister of butane that proved the only inducement to get Stray to play in the first place is beginning to kick in.

"How do you mean, Abs?" I ask, setting aside for later the review of the new Tim Footman in the North-East Monmouthshire Gleaner and Star (including free sample issues of Le Zeitgeist fanzine and What Ethno-Methodologist? consumer supplement). Unable to get beyond the first sentence - it takes up several paragraphs, mostly in French slang - I'd in any case been too absorbed in giving Leonard Cohen a gigantic Billy Preston-style afro made up of several million pen spirals to absorb fully the gist of the reviewers critique. From what I was able to gather from the rather garbled prose, it sounds as if poor old Tim's made rather heavy work of it. But then I'm surprised that the publishers felt an earnest and metaphysical songsmith such as Cohen to be a suitable subject for the 'Look and Learn' series in the first place. One assumes they know their own business...

"Are you referring to the pre-fame days, Abs?" "Yeah, kind of," she shrugs in between practicing sliding her Drambuie Breezer bottle as far down her throat as it will go. A good job Stray can't see her dicing with suffocation like that - he's either taking the Cliff Thorburn, patient Zen Buddhist of the snooker hall approach to the shot or having an acid flashback, it's difficult to tell - he'd have the St. John's Ambulance on to Abbie in less time than it normally takes to push her love over the borderline. I nervously cradle my 660 cl. bottle of Strangely Brown Ale lest she get the urge to practice with a more well-endowed penis substitute. "Don't get me wrong - I mean, the money's great and everything and being holed up here with you guys is much more of a laugh than I'd ever expected it to be. But don't you just wish you could do something *normal* just once in a while? Like go to the shops, or a club or just do a bit of sightseeing or something....without all know... Fuss?"

"Ah, they'd tear you apart limb from limb and have your haunches stuffed and mounted as soon as look at you if you were ever to set foot on Swansea High Street, let alone That London. It's too late, Abs" I tell her. "You've made your pact with the devil. Just lie back and enjoy the rewards. You've earned it, after all. Leave the blogging to those hacks the publishers pay to trot your posts out for you and consider it a job well done. After all, you've got everything you'll ever need right here - beer, skittles, the widest flatscreen television this side of Offa's Dyke. A constant stream of eminently shaggable and commitment-phobic young sharecroppers. And don't forget the inimitable Stray Photon. What more could a girl want?"

"Shit and buggeration!!" Abbie ejaculates as she steps sharply away from the billiard table. (I do wish she wouldn't do that in public...) Photon's made an absolute hash of of his shot and sent the cue ball flying through the air. It comes to rest somewhere in the padded depths of Abbie's elaborate, Madge-esque network of fetishistic lingerie and webbing. Indeed, it's a good job she's got a pair of baggy trousers on beneath the gussetless undies and rather complex system of suspender belts she's wearing or she might otherwise have been liable to yet another nasty bruise. Honestly, either she spends half her life 'just bumping into things' or has the skin of an over-ripe peach to judge by all the bruises.

Abbie retrieves the ball from her nether regions and places it calmly back onto the table. She rapidly puts 2,500 points on the board, barely pausing for breath and is just about to put the frame safely beyond Photon's reach when a horrifying ripping sound accompanies the motion of her cueing arm. Abbie rises slowly from the table, a length of green felt dangling from the point of her right breast. "Don't either of you *dare* say a word!!" She threatens with a glare that brooks no dissent. And with that she's off into the night, quicker than a ray of light.


Saturday, 15 August 2009

Hooked on Classics...

Night falls on the Cow & Snuffers.

"Two pints of Strangely Brown please..." The Girl With a One Track Mind is kneeling on a stool at the bar, rocking gently towards the pumps in a slightly retarded manner. She is in full goth regalia. "....and a Drambuie Breezer in a pint glass, lashings of ice, topped up with voddy..." The assembled regulars are staring fixedly at her tights, presumably wondering how she managed to get herslf into a pair consisting of more holes than nylon in the first place, and probably simultaneously trying to picture her wearing a top constructed in a similar fashion. "...packet of cheesey wotsits for the hounds..." Keats and Yeats, her ominously well-behaved Staffordshire Bull Terriers, are dozing threateningly at the foot of Stray Photon's chair. "...oh, and Beeb 4 on the box please - there's a concert on I want to watch."

"That's right," I say, flipping to the TV pages of the Perrywinkle Housing Estate Allotment & Beekeeper's Association Newsletter (formerly the Perrywinkle Housing Estate Allotment & Beekeepers' Association Bulletin), "it's the Sir Harrison Birtwistle Birthday Concert; part of the BBC at the Proms coverage featuring a performance of the Accrington-born composer's most famous work, The Casque Marque of Orpheus." Someone, quite possibly yours truly, has doodled a large number of sausages onto a picture of Bill Turnbull wearing his beekeeping suit and written the word 'MONG' across the visor, making him look, to the casual viewer at least, like a self-proclaimed mong astronaut covered in penises.

"What about him, though but?" Dai the Jar, looking uncannily like a young, pre-custard tart habit Phil Jupitus, nods over at a solitary figure sat across the bar gazing up at the football on the flatscreen who is, judging by his green and yellow scarf, a Norwich City fan. Either that or he genuinely does, as his knitted neckwear attests, love Delia Smith. "I'll take care of him", mutters the girl through a barely suppressed belch, abent-mindedly spearing a cheesey wotsit on one of the long spikes emanating from her leather collar.

I used to know Harry - as everyone close to the Birtwistle clan called him back then - when the family lived just around the corner from us and I used to be a friend of his youngest son. This was well before the knighthood, obviously - although it's quite possible that Harry had already received his by then. I'd pop 'round to the Birtwistles' place and Harry would be there, more often than not still wearing an ill-fitting dressing gown regardless of the time of day, that made him look as if he were understudying for Peter Ustinov on the set of Quo Vadis. He'd sit in the conservatory at a big round table with a long scroll of manuscript paper laid out before him, occasionally emitting a series of loud parping sounds which he'd then, presumably, notate in a flurry of squiggles applied authoritatively to the stave. Of course, he'd soon grow tired of our juvenile banter. I suppose there's only so many times you can answer, "No, I always walk like this..." when someone asks you if you've got the scrolls before the joke wears a little thin. It was fascinating to watch him at work though, and we'd do so for as long as we could before the stench from all the parping became absolutely unbearable.

While I've been reminiscing, The Girl With a One Track Mind has sidled up to the young Norwich City supporter and is now stroking his scarf and whispering seductively in his ear. He's soon smiling and nodding in the direction of Dai the Jar, who's stood poised with the remote looking uncannily like a young, pre-custard tart habit Phil Jupitus about to change television channels. An odd, atonal hum begins to fill the bar - a bit like the music you'd hear whenever members of the Star Trek crew landed on a desolate planet on which all red-shirted members of the landing party would be mysteriously eradicated leaving the blue shirted Spock to be beamed back onto the Enterprise alone. A chorus of heavily made up bald men solemnly intone from the pastorally-themed text:

The fourth arch is a tintinabular monocle of Ferrero Roche Beanz meanz Heinz Oh the Okey Cokey Eldorado Privet spoon cheese wallop Bay of Biscay nose clamps...

"Do you think he'll play anything we know? I ask a clearly transported Photon.

Across the bar, the young Norwich City supporter appears to have got his scarf entwined in The Girl With a One Track Mind's spiked collar and has no choice but to accompany her, neck bent at an alarmingly awkward angle, to the ladies loo. Keats and Yeats, evidently pining for their packet of cheesey wotsits, begin to make little high-pitched whining noises. "It's nice to hear *something* that's in tune..." I offer encourangingly as I make my way to the bar to retrieve the tray of drinks and bar snacks. "I dunno," says Stray, wiping a tear from his eye as he opens and closes his mouth carp-like to the rhythm of the massed band of lawnmowers who are driving the 1st movement to its moving crescendo, "I quite like it..."


Friday, 14 August 2009

I'm Sorry, I Haven't a Clooney...

"Bloody Yanks!!"

The Girl With a One Track Mind is frothing voluably as she slams down her copy of the Rothergavenny and Lower Splott Echo (twinned with the Delft Weltessprechtgescheittschrift since 1987) on the table. Clearly vexed, she shuffles her haunches along the banquette and with all due modesty adjusts the hemline of her Geri Halliwell-style Union Jack minidress. It's no use though - we can all still see her pubes. In fact, it's a wonder that someone as fashion conscious as The Girl doesn't at least give them a trim every now and then. Unless, of course, the Billy Connolly look is back in this summer, I suppose...

"Why so, Abs?" I murmur, looking up at her from my copy of Llandudno Lite just as Abbie''s in the process of examining what is either a very nasty bruise or else an exceptionally hard to shift marmite stain on her left breast. I hurry back to my paper and put the finishing touches to the speech bubble I've been adding to a photograph of Alan Duncan. "I'm a useless, arrogant Tory fuckwit" exclaims the disgraced Conservative MP. The legend continues in, if I say so myself, exemplary Rubber Soul lettering: "get used to it!!" That's him told.

"I mean, the flaming cheek of it..." Whatever it is, Abbie's evidently extremely riled. She's barely even looked up at the re-run of E.R. she insisted was put on the pub's flat screen, causing no little ill-feeling among the majority of Cow & Snuffers regulars who'd expressed a preference to monitor the progress of the 11.45 at Lingfield on Ceefax. "I mean, if it weren't for us Brits, they'd still be suffering under the yolk of Nazim..." she says with all the clarity and certainly of someone with absoloutely no grasp of historical reality whatsoever. "...And now, just because they've *finally* elected someone *vaguely* swarthy, they think they *own* the place. Racists!!"

"I believe Abbie is referring to recent media reports in the US which have heaped derision and scorn upon our beloved National Health Service", Stray Photon translates sagely. He's a health professional, so he should know. This probably also explains why the wards are so unhygienic. "'Tis true that certain political elements within the British Conservative Party have conspired with the right wing news media and other American forces of reaction to present a hideously distorted and self-serving portarait of the jewel in the crown of our Welfare State; Nye Bevan's magnificent monument to the solidarity of the working people of these shores; that marvellous miracle of visionary modern socialism; a beacon of progress seen and admired around the world and still the envy of all nations today, regardless of race, creed or colour..." He's stood on the table now, fist raised in right-angled, 'power to the people' salute. To hear him go on like this, you'd never know he delivered leaflets for the Natural Law Party at the last election.

"Well, I just wish they'd go back to shooting one another and leave the long-term care of the sick and the elderly to a nation that knows how to spell words with a 'u' in them..." And with that she's off - gazing up at the screen, enraptured by George Clooney, delicate globs of drool forming at the corners of her mouth as she dreamily twirls a long wiry hair around her index finger.


Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Personae non grata...

The Cow & Snuffers: a tranquil lunchtime idyll. "Did you hear David Bowie's dropping his stage name?" Asks Stray Photon from behind his copy of ther Rothergavenny Gazette (incorporating the Porthwilli Bugler since 1974) "Oh yes?" I mutter abstractedly, engaged as I am in the joint pursuits of a game of binary sudoku and graffitting a pair of nipple clamps onto an adjacent photograph of Dr. Miriam Stoppard. "Seems he wants to revert to being known as plain old David Jones from now on", continues Stray. "What I can't understand Mort, is why these people feel the need to hide behind an assumed name in the first place." He absent-mindedly reels off a list of increasingly bizarre and unlikely monickers: "...Geoff, Betty, Roger. Howesy....Istvanski... T-i-m F-o-o-t-m-a-n!?!?"

The Girl With a One Track Mind emerges from the ladies loo looking vaguely tousled and with a peculiar red and mottled flush around her cheeks and throat. She's somehow contrived to ladder her tights again - this time all the way down from buttocks to the tops of her biker boots. I do wish they'd fix that cubicle catch in there...

"Oi, Abbie!" Stray calls out across the bar to her. "Here a minute..." The Girl With a One Track Mind slinks over vampishly, slumps into a chair next to Stray Photon and sparks up a Marlboro light. (I do wish someone would tell her that you're not supposed to smoke in public places anymore. Or masturbate, for that matter.)

"Don't you think it's a bit pretentious all these people hiding behind stage names and alternative personae and the like, Abs?" (I'm beginning to regret buying him that English-Latin phrase book last Christmas. It's been like drinking with the Pope ever since. Back to the ready reckoner and bar of carbolic this year, methinks...)

Well, you know, like....*duh*!" Abbie ejaculates in between exhalaing enormous plumes of tobacco smoke. (I do wish she wouldn't do that in public.) "I mean, what if, you know, you've, like, got a *really*, *really*, *really*, like, *completely* stupid combination of first and last names, yeah? You'd have to change it then, right?" (She's got her boots up on the table by now and is worrying away at her thigh with those ridiculously long fingernails of hers) "You know, like that fella-me-jig...oooh, what was his name now? You know....the gender-bending glam icon with the unfeasibly large endowment policy. Went like the clappers....oh, you *must* know......Richard....that's it....Richard someone. ....Richard...Richard... *R-I-C-H-A-R-D* S-O-U-L*!!" She cries out, clicking two fingers together and causing one of her false nails to fly perilously close to Stray Photon's pint of Strangely Brown Ale.

There's an uncomfortably long and awkward silence.

"Well, at least that means he's put all that tarting himself up like an androgynous, inter-galactic trollop behind him now," Stray Photon ventures after some moments have passed. "And I suppose we won't have to endure any more of those rambling, self-indulgent, arty-farty albums of his either..." "Oh, I dunno", Abbie pipes up, a smile playing across her lips as she finally succeeds in picking the last, recalcitrant piece of scab from the top of her leg, "Madcap in the Attic wasn't *that* bad..."


Famine groovies...

Much jubilation in the Shadow household to see sat on the BBC Breakfast sofa the lovely Neil Finn, ex- of Crowded House and singer of one of my all time favourite hits-that-should-have-been-but-never-was, Split Enz' 'I got you'. He's on with the bald one from much documented British beat combo Radiohead to publicise the new charity record he's made with a bunch of muso pals he had flown out to New Zealand (in a *thoroughly carbon neutral fashion, I've no doubt) where the assembled luminaries blitzed though the recording of the album in a matter of a couple of weeks. It sounded, from the clip they played, as amiably dull as you'd expect.

Sadly, my interest plummeted on the first mention of the dread beneficiary of the proceeds from this no doubt laudable venture; Oxfam. Since the early days of Band Aid, a small group of doubters including the likes of David Byrne, John Lydon and Morrissey, have raised questions about the manner in which charitable aid for the third world, but predominantly Africa, has been sought and administered. Lydon and Byrne wondered aloud if it was sensible to pour large amounts of aid into an area where they would doubtless become hostage to the unique pressures of a violent civil war - and presumably muttered 'told you so' when much of the grain deposited to feed the starving ended up lining the stomachs of the rival armies. Morrissey, famously, asked if it was reasonable, sensible or fair to expect the problems of African famine effectively to be solved by the unemployed youth of Wigan whilst the (then) Princess of Wales sashayed around in £4,000 dresses. It seems that, sadly, those voices of dissent have increasingly found themselves on the losing side.

I've written copiously elsewhere about the disgusting hypocrisy that allows verdant crops of food for export to be grown within sobbing distance of the starving recipients of Comic Relief aid (there's a sobering article by the Independent's Deborah Orr which I'm sure will pop up if you google the author's name and comic+relief+famine etc...) But it would seem that, emboldened by the ease with which they've been able to transform their ethos and (as the charities themselves would describe it) *brand* (eeeeyu!), charities such as Oxfam have metamorphosed so radically from the altruistic projects I remember from youth into increasingly perplexing behemoths of what might be described as the 'perfect' model of capitalism. So I suppose it should come as no surprise that now, rather than contenting themselves with badgering the unemployed to bankroll their projects, they are beginning to take pleasure in swelling the ranks of the jobless.

This farcical state of affairs is so extraordinary, it's even made the pages of the Grauniad. In what must be an awful ethical wrangle for the typical reader of the paper's weekend Review section, the Grauniad reports on "the closure of a Salisbury bookshop that was blamed on losing customers to Oxfam". Independent, anti-globalisation traders vs. tear-stained, fly faced African children; tough call. Indignant that anyone should object to the highly paid directors of the charity using their unique market position to undercut their 'rivals' on the high street, Charlotte Higgins blogs that she can't "summon up sympathy for the secondhand booksellers complaining of unfair competiton. It is not clear to me", she writes, "why we should be invited to imagine that selling books in order to help development projects in Africa is less worthy than selling them for individual profit." Perhaps I can help Charlotte. The problem is that books sold in Oxfam shops *are* sold for individual profit. Very large numbers of individuals profit from them, and sadly those who profit most are not the starving Africans who are nominally the raison d'etre of these concerns.

So, the vicious circle continues. Western Capitalism plunders the resources of Africa, its banks cripple the African economy to ensure that it remains a victim ripe for such exploitation. It's an indefensible situation, isn't it? So how else could we justify and support it than by claiming to be using every effort to reverse that state of affairs. So out they go, the experts, the bureaucrats, the well-diggers, the teachers and nurses and doctors. And how to maintain such a small army of hired help, desperately combatting the blind forces of economics, famine and disease? The government certainly won't be footing the bill; nor the private sector. And so we end up with that peculiarly modern abhorrence; the manager. Hundreds of them; transforming cruddy little thrift stores into 'modern retail experiences'; a well-meaning army of Mary Queens of Charity Shop who won't rest until they rule the High Street. And there you have it: the obvious solution to the deleterious effects of rampant, unbridled capitalism? More of the same. Limited overheads, they don't even have to pay for their wares or the staff who good-naturedly person their tills. It is, as I said before, not just any old capitalism. This is *perfect* capitalism and, as such, is perfectly objectionable.

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Nothing is Wasted...

...Only reproduced.

Since the late 80s I've had a policy with new music. Rather than get swept along with the hype of all these young, up-and-coming bands, I like to wait a couple of years and see how they develop; let the collective old grey whistle test and the rigours of the album-tour-album-tour-tour-album treadmill take their toll and then see what they're made of - a sort of musical Darwinism, if you like. Not very generous of spirit, I'll admit and, like any form of social-Darwinism, the product of a rather mean worldview and consequently something that is somewhat suspect morally, to say the least. But, on the plus side, I do have a record collection *completely* devoid of any shoe-gazing bands or such over-rated at the time and now languishing in the 'where are they now files' non-entities as (off the top of my head...ooh, let me see...erm...) ... The House of Love, the Lemonheads and Sigue Sigue Sputnik. Oh, and *Frank* *Ferdinand*.

But, as with everything, there's always the exception that proves the rule. Not going along with the masses and picking up every 'album of the decade' and Mercury prize winner that the combined forces of the record industry and the music papers can throw at you is all very well, but, as a statistical inevitablity, every so often, you're going to miss out on an *absolute* classic. Just such a case in point is Blur's masterpiece:

Now, in my defence, I did buy the first single lifted from this exquiste album ('Girls and Boys') and - the jury will please note - this was one of only *four* singles I bought in that *entire* decade (the other three being Pulp's 'Common People', Radiohead's 'Paranoid Android' and something I can't remember the title of by the Longpigs). So, please, credit me with at least a *little* taste, fool though I may otherwise be.

Confession made, let's get down to the nitty gritty. I'm with Eno on this; one of the greatest pleasures in life is being proved wrong. I'm maybe overstating this because I wish I'd paid more attention to it at the time, but I can't believe what an astonishing hole there was in my collection until my recently picking up (for £1.50....*£* *1* *.* *50*!) a CD copy of Parklife. OK, it's not a vinyl copy - that *would* be a cause for a national holiday - but, please, bear with the righteousness of the recently converted. I did hear the album when it first came out - courtesy of a copy loaned from Stray Photon and (I'm guessing) home-taped by me in a desperate bid to *KILL MUSIC*!!! But, as with so many others, that tape probably just festered away in a pile of un-paid for music that was the manifest equivalent back then of what I imagine most people's hard disc drives are like today. My point, I suppose, longwindedly, is that music is more likely to mean something to you when you've gone out of your way to acquire it than when it's just put on a plate for you.

If Parklife was nothing more than an impeccably tasteful whistle-stop tour through the band's British pop favourites, it would be an album of interest to anyone with a more than superficial interest in pop music. As well as their more oft-quoted sources - The Jam, The Who, The Kinks, The Small Faces - Blur also pay their respects to an eccentric pantheon of English pop. Duran Duran and Wilco Johnson ('Girls and boys'), XTC (Tracy Jacks), Madness ('Parklife'), The UK Subs ('Bank holiday'), the Wire of 'Outdoor miner' ('Badhead'), The Stranglers propensity for wierd, organ -driven waltzes ('The Debt collector'), Syd Barrett ('Far out'), Duran Duran [again], the Attractions and Robert Fripp ('London loves') Billy Idol and Department S ('Trouble in the message centre'), The Smiths and the Stone Roses ('Clover over Dover'), The Sex Pistols and Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel ('Jubilee') Aladdin Sane-era David Bowie and the Moody Blues ('This is a low') Did I forget to mention the Incredible String Band? How careless of me.

But there's a confidence in the way those influences are worn on the Blur sleeve that immediately knocks any talk of clever-cleverness on the head. The songs are strong enough in their own right to make a mockery of any suggestions of second-handness or callow trainspotting. 'Girls and boys' doesn't just rely on its obvious debt to those Duran-ies. Rather, it uses it to reinforce the surreal amorality of 'the herd' Albarn has followed down to Greece. The aroma of binge-drunk Brits abroad, promiscuity and the tackily cosmopolitan ('du bist sehr schon - but we haven't been introduced') is captured perfectly and ludicrously counterpointed with the 'sun always shines on TV' phoniness of the video for 'Rio'. It's a stunning musical satire. The finger wagging of the chorus's refrain ('always should be someone you really love') being completely drowned out by the song's bombastic electro-disco strut, like a 'straight' passenger remonstrating with the air hostess having found him or herself unfortunate enough to be trapped on a club 18-30 flight to Zakinthos. Has it dated a jot? I think not.

Perhaps it's the warm afterglow of the opening track, or maybe because I'm writing this on one of the few genuinely sunny days we've been allocated this year, but the album seems to have a similar gloss as those other high summer masterworks, Revolver, Sgt. Pepper and Abbey Road. Tracy Jacks stands 'on the seafront, laughing' before lifting the listener's heart with his self-authorised home demolition. It's a complete inversion of the story of the 'professional cynic [whose] heart's not in it' who won the Blur/Oasis war for them - and is all the better for that. The sun may or may not have been shining when Tracy gets his kecks off - this is England, after all - but it certainly *sounds* as if it was - and I'm *sure* that's Colin Moulding on bass guitar there.

'Parklife' is a muggy celebration of 'the great outdoors' as relief from the indoor tedium of unemployment. "Why we doing this? Shuddup!!!" Someone frantically garbles in your right ear just before Phil Daniels' bravura performance starts up, as if they're giving a leg up to somone on an ill-advised mission to break into the cricket pavilion bar while the team's away on a tour of the Lake District. It's brassy, "pump up the volume, it's a *bank* *holiday*!!" stuff, regardless of what the forecast says. To pursue the point, 'Bank holiday' sets itself either at the beginning or end of summer -the May or August Bank Holidays represnting the most coveted relief from the tyranny of the working week. Whether in May or August, the song swiftly degenerates into a frantically consumed 'six pack of beer' and somehow manages to whizz by faster than a Bank Holiday does itself. Even 'Far out's litany of stars is obliterated by the sun ... sun... sun ...

I always used to imagine the song 'To the end' taking place at the end of a summer party in a grand old stately home. I dunno, maybe I've been staring at the cover of the single of 'Boys and girls' too long,

but it now has that setting-of-the-sun, title-music-for-a-porno-flick feel to it - "jusqu'a le fin, en plein soliel..." "Quando para mucho mi amore chica ferdi carosel..." I was going to describe 'To the end' as "kind of a 'we'll meet again' for the rave generation" until I remembered that those 'bluebirds over the white cliffs of Dover' are actually quoted in 'Clover over Dover'. Maybe it still is, for all that. Again, maybe it's because I'm sat here watching the long summer shadows lengthen, but the by the time we reach 'This is a low' there's a distinct feeling that the sun's beginnning to set. The song ends with what sounds like a hovercraft deflating "...and into the sea go pretty England and me..." But then, as the whole cover concept implies, England's going to the dogs anyway. And as if that weren't enough, that surely is the sound of a plughole evacuating at the end of 'Lot 105'.

Albarn's England is a captivating place; a land of piers, intrusive dustcarts, gut-buckets, where sparrows and pigeons are about as near as you'll get to wildlife and where everywhere appears to be near the sea. (Well, I suppose that's because everything *is*...) People collapse, not sure whether it's in love or because they're drunk. Or they just fall appart - London *loves* that. They strike gently, away from the body. They drive Japanese cars, kiss with dry lips and then bulldoze their own homes. They all dress the same because they all feel the same. They lock themselves away and play computer games or they're drawn back to that ever-present coastline where they'll roll in the clover before jumping off into the sea, finally to be at one with those mystical realms of their beloved shipping forecast. Even the Queen's at it; sh jumps off Land's End.

There's a valedictory feel to much of Parklife, as the shadow of 'magic America' looms and good old English fish and chips are swept away on a tide of imported fast food: "59 cents gets you a good square meal, from the people who care how you feel'. Everything will soon be as horrid as that's song's squelchy synthesizer solo.

But Blur's England is still recognisable, still out there, I'm sure, if you were to look for it. Perhaps what they're saying goodbye to is not the thing itself but the means to describe it. It's hard to envisage anyone ever being able to draw so abundantly from the accumulated vocabluary of British popular music and make music as powerfully evocative of the common English experience again. That's not because the talent isn't there. Arctic Monkeys have proved they have the perceptive powers to observe it and could no doubt develop the broader musical palette that might make them worthy of comparison with Blur. But would their audience ever allow, or even require them to develop that dimension?

It's perhaps fitting that Blur, a band spurred into action by seeing Morrissey on the South Bank Show describing the Smiths as 'the last pop group', should contrive possibly the last great pop album. It's certainly the end of a particular line of observational pop writing that encompasses greats such as Ray Davies, Pete Townshend, Bowie, Weller and Le Bon (Just kidding about that last one!) Looking back - what - 15 years? - it seems as if Parklife belongs more happily in the company of albums like Revolver, Aftermath, Sgt. Pepper, Ogden's Nut Gone Flake, The Kinks are the Village Green Preservation Society, All Mod Cons and Meat is Murder than it does with anything that's been released since.

In a country where 6 minders are required for every binge drinker so that things don't get out of hand in the local boozer, perhaps there's no need for the sort of imagined absurdity of someone bulldozing their own home 'because it's just so over-rated' on offer here for us all to share and have a good laugh about. It's an increasingly angry land. Muzzled, pitched against one another in a ludicrous and pointless race after an electric rabbit they will never catch, two greyhounds caught in full flight in a beautiful and resonant photograph adorn the album cover. One of them is looking straight ahead, perhaps a little apprehensively. The other bares its fangs in a ferocious snarl.


Battle of the Bands...

(...Well, orchestras, really...but what the hell?)

So, ladies and gentlemen, in the red corner... He's big, he's round, he invented the lush discotheque sound....

Mister Ba-rr-y White and his Love Unlimited Ochestra!!!!!

..and in the blue corner...

Your mother bought you a synthesizer? Who'd she get in to advise her?? Of course, who else but...

The League Unlimited Orchestra!!

Let battle commence!

Bring it on up [MP3]


Things that dreams are made of [MP3]

Who will win?

Only *you* can decide....


Saturday, 8 August 2009

The Dark Side...

Nerd alert. This post will only conceivably be of interest to people who find the following piece of information remotely interesting. You can establish exactly how early or late a pressing of your EMI records you have by using the following code:

G R A M O P H L T D.

It's a simple code: G = 1, R = 2, A = 3 and so on. So if you look in the run-off of your old Beatles or Cliff Richards LPs, you'll see a letter (or letters) at a 45 degree angle to the matrix number which represent(s) the number of the stamper used to press your very own copy of the album. So, for instance, my copy of Abbey Road

has the code PDP on side one PGH on side two so by the time they got around to manufacturing mine, they were onto stampers 696 and 617. The idea being that the earlier the pressing, the newer the stamper used to transfer the information onto the platter in your hand and the better the sound. Each stamper would normally produce around 300 copies, so you can see that mine is number....erm.....quite a lot... and obviously a pretty long way from being one of the much-coveted (and crisper sounding) early pressings. I have a copy of A Hard Day's Night from a stamper in the 20s, I think, and there is a notable brilliance to the sound that none of my other Beatles stuff has. Anyway, to cut a long story short, if any of *your* old Beatles LPs have a 'G' etched into the run-off, you're onto a winner... The Beatles D.N.A. site has a host of fascinating stuff like this if you want to learn more about the arcane (and infinitely tedious) minutiae of Beatles/record collecting.

OK, so that's whittled the readership down even further, but in the unlikely even that any of you have stayed the course this far, you might also be interested in this:

That's right, it's a black EMI records inner sleeve. I picked it up for 20p - having first liberated it from the BBC Sound Effects Library LP (Volume 9: Disasters) it had been erroneously coupled with - in the rather pongy depths of the Romanian Orphans shop up in town (they were *fresh* out of Romanian Orphans, unfortunately, but at least the journey wasn't completely wasted...) I could have got it for 10p, but it's good to give the odd offering to the Goddess of Record Collecting. She's a capricious mistress, but experience has taught me that the odd karmic act of self-sacrifice (paying a little over the odds for something you know is in any case vastly more valuable than your pathetic humanoid gelt, leaving that Linda Lewis disco LP in the cancer research shop for someone who will appreciate it more than me to pick it up, stuff like that) often pays dividends in the long run. I was rather hoping it would turn out to be an original Apple sleeve which would have fitted this little beauty nicely:

Sadly, on researching it here, I discovered that the Patent numbers (1125555 & 1072844) don't match any of the sleeves that were exclusive to the Apple records arm of the search continues...

All was not entirely lost though. I discovered here that I *was* at least able to reacquaint this stray orphan with a suitable bedfellow....

Which is nice. Unfortunately, it's missing its polythene innard (Pam's probably using it to maintain her killer-diller, dressed to the hilt look, I suppose...) but I'm sure that'll turn up somewhere. So, all's well that ends well. And at least it's given me the chance to post up that iconic Abbey Road album cover, the photo of which was taken 40 years ago yesterday. So, Happy Birthday Abbey, from all of us here at Garrod & Lofthouse!


Thursday, 6 August 2009

Who the *Hell* do you Think you are???...

It's heartening to see that the old Reithian dictum of entertaining whilst enlightening is still very much alive within Auntie's hallowed halls. The tide of recent history has conspired with the daily drip-feeding of the rest of the media to convince all but the most radical and dyed-in-the-wool anarcho-syndicalist that the class war is dead. But, living up to its noble heritage, on Wednesday night the Beeb delivered a savage blow to the clavicles of any capitalist lackey foolhardy enough to try telling *them* that.

David Mitchell might seem to some an unlikely catalyst to spark the Revolution - until, that is, he opens his mouth. Immediately, centuries of rage at the slavery, economic repression and the hegemony of the land and moneyed classes that you've tried to keep the lid on comes bubbling up in the pit of the viewer's stomach and if there were a Molotov cocktail handy (and you weren't quite so *dashed* thirsty) you'd be flinging it with glee from the nearest barricade and running through the king and all his servants before you could say 'Imperialism is the highest form of capitalism'.

"I come from a long line of Scottish sheep farmers", Mitchell sneers, his nose wrinkling in disdain, as if he's standing in a pile of something that's come out of the arse of one of his ancient ancestors' charges. I've tried very hard to get over my prejudice about him - i.e. that he's a chinless, Oxbridge Footlights tosser - and I've even found long stretches of That Mitchell and Webb Thing very amusing. But what's funny as a comic persona gets a bit wearing when it becomes apparent that the mask is indistinguishable from the actual personality.

I know you shouldn't judge someone by where they live, but Mitchell is filmed leaving a house that, were he not so posh and evidently intimate with Stephen Fry would be immediately swarmed over by the Social Sevices. No doubt they'll be looking for the "missing" child he and his "estranged common law wife" have tied up and kept hidden beneath a bed for the last six weeks so they can sell the story to the newspapers and appear on the Jeremy Kyle Show. Cut to shot of Kilburn tube station. David's off to see his parents, who presumably live a hefty old hike from the High Street in the posh bit of Kilburn. Or Finchley, as it's better known.

Mr. Mitchell sr. is a nice enough old cove who looks at his son with a tender smile that's intended to disguise the immense sense of disappointment his offspring engenders in him - and just fails to do so. Pa Mitchell - sadly not, I'm guessing here, obviously, called Phil or Grant ot Archie - has, as far as I can ascertain, been boning up on the Mitchell ancestry. "They came from Scotland and were farmers", he confirms, pointing at an old portrait on the wall of a gruff looking, white-bearded type covered in tartan and bearing a staff. To drive the point home, he's filmed poring over the incomprehensible Gaelic text of some dusty old leatherbound volumes.

Mrs. Mitchell, meanwhile - almost certainly not called Peggy, Ronnie or Roxy, I'd hazard - looks on in the kind of dismay only a mother who has spent a small lifetime knitting pairs of gloves and patiently attaching them together using a length of wool so they can be threaded through and dangled from the arms of a duffle coat when not being used, only to find that her precious infant has come home yet again minus his mitts. "All that effort", her face seems quietly to bemoan, "for *this*...."

Having prepared a substantial packed lunch and a thermos of oxtail soup for the boy and generally helped him into his dufflecoat and wrapped him up warm against the elements, given him a quick sprucing and a lick and a promise and so on, Ma & Pa Mitchell finally wave their intrepid son onto the Highland Express. "I'm not a particularly sociable person" mutters David, seemingly to himself, as the mothers around him begin to collect stray children close to their bosom, their eyes desperately darting toward the furthest end of the carriage in case there are any empty four-seat berths there well away from the child kidnapper with the laptop, muttering away to himself and being filmed, presumably by Social Sevices.

Arriving in Tongue, D.M. witters on to himself about what a shit hole the place is as sheep, goats, pheasants and small rodents all diesperse rapidly for the cover of the gloaming to avoid contact with the troubled looking man in the duffle coat with the gloves flapping loose at the arms passes by. He meets up with a bonny-faced blonde local lady who has presumably been persauded by the film crew to pretend to be related to young David in exchange for a pair of tickets to see 'Strictly Come Danding' being filmed - or possibly, given the distance from here to Shepherd's Bush, a 'Taggart' DVD boxed set.

"So, this is the derelict and rather grand farmhouse from which my forebears ran a 13,000 acre farm in the mid-19th Century", offers David helpfully. He runs his fingers through some empty wooden shelving units which would once, so he's told by his imposter relative, have housed the invoices for the once thriving concern. Conscious of the current recession and its impact upon the majority of the programme's viewers, one of the crew pokes David with a stick until he finally offers a few contrite words about how sad it is to see a business that once belonged to his family going down the tubes. It's deeply moving to see him, wrestling as he is with the private implications of the impersonal forces of economic history whilst simultaneously playing a sudoku game on his Blackberry.

Keen to discover more about the sheep-rearing life of his forebears, David is introduced to a rather stern looking farm hand who, having first instructed the Mitchell lad to take his hands out of his pockets and, if he's *really* that cold, to wear the ruddy gloves his poor wee Ma stayed up all night knitting for him and which he's just allowing to dangle uselessly from the sleeves of his duffle coat, lets David have a run at feeding the flock. It must have been even more painful for this professional animal husbander than for the casual viewer to witness this product of one of our finset academic institutions making such a pig's ear of the task of drizzling food over the ground for sheep to feed on. "Is that enough", demands a clearly bored Mitchell having spent about a third of a second trailing the sack of pellets over a patch of field about the size of a pocket handkerchief. "Use the whole bloody sack!" Advises the farmhand as the flock, clearly driven by a quite outrageously pronounced peckishness to forego their natural reticence of this evident animal abuser and mill around their inept steward.

We find out a little more about the development of the Highland sheep industry. The land clearances of the early 19th Century despatched off to the coast the many small settlements of crofters who had previously settled the land, leaving the way clear for the local aristos to rent it out to farmers like the Mitchells. Fortunately, to the evident relief of DM's unimpeachably liberal conscience, this all happened well before his family started shelling out to the local lairds in order to suffer the privilege of making a livelihood. So that's alright....

Relieved, Mitchell sets off for the Skye Ferry to explore a different branch of his family tree. Pausing briefly to mutter "hmm, yes, er, all very nice...harrumph" at the stunning natural harbour views laid out before him in the clear Highland light, it's out with the laptop as David decides to do the rest of his research online and thus eliminate the need to meet any more of these ghastly farmhands and labourers and all those awful bloody relatives of his. In a hilarious scene, time-lapse photography is used to give the viewer some idea of the risibly slow download speeds those who live in the natural spleandour of Norther Scotland are forced to abjure. It takes *days* for DM to download a very short pornographic film! How terrible!! Never fear, we can rest assured that once hordes of Middle Class southerners start buying the place up for their second homes and forcing the indigenous people into the welfare queues, they'll soon have that little lot sorted out.

I zone out a bit while Dave is finding out all about his principled preacher great-great-grandfather who campaigned against the child slave trade that saw hundreds of pauperized Highland youths sold into the service of the Manchester cooton mills, but who was also, it seems, bloody horrible to his alcoholic wife. I come back from brushing my teeth to hear David Mitchell's eulogy to the quiet joys of stolid middle classness. "I'm proud to be middle class", he asserts, not even knocked out of his stride by the bigger boy wearing a top hat who cuffs him on the back of his head as he passes. "We can look down on the peasantry and jolly well stick two fingers up at the aristocracy", he chortles, checking to see whether the crumpet he's toasting over an open fire on the end of a silver skewer is browning nicely yet. "So there!"


Wednesday, 5 August 2009

A Thing of Such Beauty...

A while back, apropos of nothing in particular, I happened to post up a quote from a (rather nasty) review of Mary Margaret O'Hara's Miss America LP. The quote described M M O'H as something along the lines of "Annie Hall with a lobotomy". Don't worry, there were people who liked her even less than that: "Dementia's not something you expect of a singer-songwriter" (Whoever wrote that had evidently never heard Gilbert O'Sullivan singing songs about his dog, but nevermind...) In the normal run of things, you'd be able to laugh along at such barbs and content yourself with the knowledge that, say what you like, the lady was blessed with (as The Geoffster so eloquently put it) "the voice of an angel". A very peculiar angel, perhaps, but an angel nonetheless. But sadly, M2 O'H was not only of an angelic but also an acutely sensitive disposition. Stung by such wise-arse cracks, she pretty much turned her back on the record business, thus making the already singular Miss America pretty much her sole recorded legacy. At least, that's the theory...

Until yesterday when I had the good fortune to pick up a CD copy from Oxfam for £2.99, I hadn't heard Miss America for about twenty years. If she hadn't even sung a note, I think there'd be a place for M M O'H in the annals of pop history. The effortlessly iconic sleeve design - is it just me, or does the crown of the Statue of Liberty appear somehow to emerge from those laconic zen brushstrokes - is all her own work too:

At first you'd be mistaken the belief that here's a pretty conventional female singer-songwriter as opener 'To Cry About' drifts along AOR-ly enough with only the odd vocal hiccup and Michael Brook's otherwordly 'infinite' guitar to suggest otherwise. But as 'Year in Song' strides in, it soon becomes apparent that Ms. O'H is coming at this from quite a different angle. The song features some of the most astonishing singing I think I've ever heard, in a performance that seems to turn into a private wrangle the singer is conducting with herself over whether it's worth carrying on with on with the song. The only thing I've heard that compares with it is John Lydon's babbling at the end of 'Holidays in the Sun'. "The aim is joy" she opines at the outset, emptily mouthing what sounds like it might have been advice given to her by a record company executive. But it doesn't sound as if M M O'H is really all that convinced. Pretty soon, in her delirium, she's getting it all arse-about-tit; "iss the aim eh joy?" And then, in a remarkable transformation, just as she's about to make good with the threat to put her audience under sedation, all of a sudden, she's resisting anaesthesia herself: "I'm not ready to go under..." she screeches and before she can add anything about the Berlin Wall, she's been gagged and chloroformed as she's frogmarched off in the direction of the nearest padded cell. The hairs on the back of your neck stand upright in alarm.

'Year in song' appears in the background of this odd clip from a Canadian indie movie (note the rather exquisite pins - M2 O'H's obviously, not the young lad's...):

'Dear darling' is the song I remembered best from all those years ago. It's a lovely, lap steel-guided swoon; "...a thing of such beauty, it must be called love..." Just dreamy. 'A new day' starts out all Laura Nyro, happy clappy in 'save the country' mode but then, just as you're wondering if it's not all abit too winsome, brings you up short with this; "is it better to disappear than to just stand so close to a hole?" It's a line that seems to sum up M2 O'H's all-or-nothing talent pretty well. It also makes me wonder if the received wisdom about her withdrawal from the music business is absolutely true. After all, there's an artistic bravery on display in her work that's often quite terrifying to behold. Her willingness to hold herself up to potential ridicule through the intensity of her performance makes me wonder if a few clumsy barbs such as those above would be enough to derail an artist so uniquely attuned to her own moods and feelings and so evidently driven to go her own way. I think she knew there was only room (perhaps only enough strength in her) for one major work - rather as there could only be one Sex Pistols LP. This album alone took four years to record. Original producer, XTC's Andy Partridge, lasted a day - one would love to have been a fly on the wall at that session... It would have been a pretty intense working experience, cranking yourself up to explode before the microphone like that, as she does on just about every track. No, let the critics have it that their jibes scared the poor thing off, but I personally wouldn't be surprised if this is all we were ever going to get. A thing of such beauty - you don't just churn those out, do you?

So, get Miss America and treat yourself to what's left of a solitary voice, a unique and brave highwire performer.

Here she is lip-synching awkwardly to 'When You Know Why You're Happy' on 'Night Music' I think the guy introducing her is Bill Frissell(?):

The rather too jolly video for 'Body's in Trouble':

And recent footage...which is actually rather scary.

Something I Dreamed Last Night:


Prog Classic of the Week...

We're on our way to Rococco's for a cup of tea (why, oh why didn't they call it Rococoa's??) and I'm telling Philip about the compilation CD I didn't buy. It's called 'Heavy Mod' and it has a track on it by Aphrodite's Child from their 1972 LP, 666. A gleam spreads across Philip's face and he starts nodding with the kind of inner wisdom only available to people who have invented their own alphabet[s...] The nodding increases in speed as I start to form the obvious question. Next day, the answer appears upon my desk...

"If you're going to blog about this, I'd prefer it if you could change my name - I have my reputation to think of", suggests Philip. Duly noted. So, from now on, "Phillippe" it is. And, believe it or not, 666 is actually rather good. For the uninitiated, Aphrodite's Child's chief claim to fame is that the band included the unlikely pairing of synthesizer legend Vangelis and portly 70s housewife favourite Demis Roussos (on bass and trademark castrati vocals). The band were pretty big in Europe and don't forget that discerning 'Heavy' Mod following (all though what kind of crazy-arsed fucking mods they were to be into music as weird as this is a moot point).

Having built up a pretty impressive fanbase through their live shows, the band had a couple of hits around the continent and then, in the early 70s, Vangelis left the other members to their touring and disappeared in Brian Wilson fashion with lyricist/librettist Costas Ferris to work on his and the band's masterpiece. The conventional wisdom has it that Vangelis and Ferris took the Book of Revelations as their template for this epic recasting of the Apocalypse, but a cursory listen will tell all but the most obdurate sceptic that the real inspiration for the work is Les Dawson's classic Science Fantasy novel A Time Before Genesis. Obviously, the pair have a double LP to pad out, so they dedicate considerably more time than the paragraph or two that Dawson takes to describe (to wonderful, and no doubt completely unintentional, comic effect) the ultimate conflagration between the forces of good and evil. Also, for some reason, the aforementioned cataclysm appears to take place somewhere closer to the Aegean than the Glastonbury High Street of the original text. But, come on, this is Prog Rock man! If you can't take a few liberties here, where the heck can you?

So, I'll leave the rest of the talking to the music. Highlights? Well, Roussos has a neat line in funky bass playing and you'll hear shades of Another Green World (three years before its release) all over side 2, particularly on the lovely 'Aegian Sea'. The tintinabular opening of 'The Lamb' was obviously absorbed whole at a tender age by American Beauty/Six Foot Under/Road to Perdition composer (and nephew of Randy) Thomas Newman. The Clangers make an uncredited appearance on 'The Seventh Seal' - as, possibly, does Brian Cant...or is it Chloe Ashcroft? Anyroad, whoever it is doing the narrating, I'm sure they used to be on Play Away and they're on pretty much every track. And if you don't have crazy-arsed fucking Mod classic 'The Four Horsemen' going through your brain on a loop after a couple of hearings, why, you're spawn of the devil incarnate, Beelzebub. Get thee behind me!


[As there are more segues on this album than there are bum notes in a Les Dawson piano concerto, I'll be posting this up as complete sides - hence the low bit-rate.]

Side One

The System
Loud, Loud, Loud
The Four Horsemen
The Lamb
The Seventh Seal

Side Two

Aegian Sea
Seven Bowls
The Wakening Beast
The Marching Beast
The Battle of the Locusts
Do It
The Beast


Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Make it Easel on Yourself...

Ah, deep joy! My all-time favourite televison programme based on the (s)exploits of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood returns to our screens tonight. Is it really a week since the last episode of Desperate Romantics?

Things certainly weren't like that when I was at Art School, I can tell you! Just to clarify, I was only at Art School for about 3 months - turns out I was allergic to egg-based tempera. Haven't been able to keep down the starters in a Thai restaurant since. Tragic really. Still, I'm not complaining - you've seen one ripe and buxom life model in the buff, you've seen 'em all, haven't you? In any case, there's no real money in the art game unless you're prepared to swallow your naturalist principles and go the conceptual route; you know, all that "I think, therefore Yoko Ono is" caper. Always more of a figurative, neo-romanticist, pre-vorticist, post-symbolist man meself. No, you'll not catch me mithering or lashing out at the nearest Young British Artist and trying to shove a canape sideways up Tracey Emin's tentflaps. I'm not bitter...

No, it was nothing like the idealised world of the PRB when I was at the Academy. Instead of being seduced by the gorgeous, Italianate wife of England's finest art critic and connoiseur of the smutty sketch (Ruskin), we shivered away with only a one bar fire for warmth in a damp and chilly garret on the top floor of a tumbledown, soviet-style municipal building. There was no security whatsoever, anyone could just walk in off the street, so you'd have some scruffy, dishevelled looking little dwarf with a vomit flecked beard come up behind your easel, can of Tennents Super Strength Lager in hand, tutting and calling your life drawing "horrible" before falling over in a giggling, drunken heap and smashing the etch-a-sketch kit belonging to the priggish girl in the wraparound tartan skirt sat next to you. Oh, I imagine the security's improved a lot since then. They're probably better at keeping the lecturers out nowadays.

Anyway, back to D.R. What can you say about it? I tried to make some notes during last week's show in the hope of posting up a satirical little piece about it here, but I gave up after about four minutes. It's so preposterous to begin with that the show simply defies any further parody or ridicule. In that respect, it's actually quite a remarkable achievement. You can just imagine the pitch, can't you? "Erm, blah blah blah exciting new televisual interface...rhubarb rhubarb rhubarb post-historico-validity ....formidable youth, I know, here's a good one - just imagine a cross between Desperate Housewives and erm...something to do with romantics?" But no matter how ludicrous the precept, once commissioned, they have to give it a go I guess and the programme makers are only to be congratulated on the astonishing verisimilitude of the period feel they've achieved and the lovingly researched authenticity of the dialogue:

Dante "Dave" Gabriel Rosetti [throwing his mobile phone away with gay abandon...]: Lizzy, I want to *knob* you...

Elizabeth Siddel: Phwoar!! Not 'arf!!

You half expect to hear lines like, "...we the Brotherhood vow to revitalise the stagnant pool of English art with our rejection of Victorian morality and heightened depictions of the natural world, innit?" No, sorry, that *was* one of the actual lines from the programme - you see, it really is impossible to spoof. Then there's the sight of Rafe "Yes, I do bear an uncanny resemblance to my father don't I, only I'm obviously much posher and more better lookinger than what he is - and, no, I don't have a *clue* how you spell my first name either" Spall, rogering senseless the young actress who will henceforth get all the work that Billie Piper turns down, up against a conveniently situated upright pianoforte.

But at least D.R. is instructive in one very important way. It demonstrates, if nothing else, the ridiculous lengths that programme makers need to go to in order to get any kind of arts-based subject matter onto the schedule. And those lengths really are desperate if D.R. is anything to go by. I was surprised by the PRB when I did my degree. I had no idea they were as passionate and angry in their critique of Victorian industrial capitalism. They were a genuine affront to the artistic establishment of their day - and that's always a good thing. They were a genuinely puzzling phenomenon; a disruption. You don't really get a sense of that in D.R. And, did I blink and miss her perhaps, but where the feck is Christina?? Now *she* knew how to paint!!

It's disappointing that the only way that large numbers of viewers are going to find out about the Pre-Raphaelites is by way of this ill-conceived comedy-drama series; one that, whether intentionally or not, serves only to make these interesting and subversive artists look quite ridiculous. Not all arts programming needs to be as epic or heavyweight as The Ascent of Man or Civilisation. But there is such a thing as making things *too* easy. And really, if the Beeb thinks that the only way of interesting the Great Unwashed in the arts is to raunch it up, then for heaven's sake, can't they just put on some decent porn? Or bring back the New Avengers?


Sunday, 2 August 2009

Someone at the BBC is on Drugs...

...Either that or they've just taken a crash course in Gonzo journalism. How else to explain the hellish visions paraded before us on this morning's Breakfast News. And, no, I'm not talking about Kate Silverton's pastel pink, Nehru jacketed twin set and wedge heels combo - although, for the record, NO KATE, NO! It is 2009 Ferchrissakes and you are not, repeat *not* Audrey Hepburn auditioning for the role of Mr. Magoo's even more short-sighted wife.

No, the disturbing hallucination passing for a an interest-worthy news item was a bizarre film about a Christian ministry aimed exclusively at the devotees of that persistent and timehonoured craze-cum-hobby commonly known as Skateboarding. That's right, for some reason known only to the drug-/Hunter S. Thompson- [delete as applicable] addled mind of the film's creator, we are introduced to our guide through this satyricon on wheels; I'm only slightly exagerating when I tell you his name is Ulysses Gongolphus Anthracite Moon Harbinger III. You've probably already guessed that our Ulysses is of American extraction and may or may not have been John Belushi in a former life. He's also been given an 'awesome' opportunity to extend the ministry of Christ's teachings to those who would ordinarily be too immersed in being raced to casualty on a drip-feed after coming a-cropper in mid-triple-overhead somersault to pay any mind to the Good News of Risen Lamb of God. That's right - this is no ordinary church: this is Ramp Camp.

And so powerful is the appeal of Ramp Camp that even hard-faced, heavily tattooed blonde ladies who look as if they know their way around a few darkened alleyways themselves are sending their spindly, board twizzling progeny into the care of Ulysses PuffAdder Macrame Knee Botherer II's tender care. So, rather than waste precious hours that could be spent in spiritual improvement and the contemplation of the infinite mindlessly swivelling a piece of balsa wood that's had some roller skate wheels stuck onto it beneath their feet, they can wheel into 'Ramp 48' (I'm guessing that's what they call their place of worship instead of 'Church'), pick up a tatty paperback Bible with a scary cartoon (presumably of Jesus - although with the beard and the piercings, it could be someone from Slipknot I suppose...) on the cover and....again, I'm guessing here.....mindlessly swivel a piece of balsa wood that's had some roller skate wheels stuck onto it beneath their feet whilst Ulysses P. Orridge in Kanchelskis XIX prattles on about Jesus.

This next bit is more guesswork, I'm afraid, as it's far too early in the morning for a delicate and - let's be honest - booze-addled mind like mine to fully comprehand what's going on in this obscene inferno with the first cup of tea of the day still barely even sipped. Matters are made worse by the fact that the crazed Gonzo mind behind this has eschewed the habitual narrative voice that would drone on over these images of scrawny yank kids in baseball caps and baggy t-hirts and give them some kind of thematic unity with the other images presented. Instead, we're left with these odd, disconnected voices talking, alternately, about skateboards and religion and we just have to assume that these people actually exist somewhere in the world and have valid reasons to be the way they are, instead of being allowed to ignore the item altogether and distractedly wonder what Kate Silverton's like in bed, as one usually would.

It's a bizarre temple, is this. You see, where there would normally be pews and those little block cushions you can rest your knees on whilst your praying (or, more likely, pretending to pray whilst wondering if you should take a punt on young Jack Wilshere in your Daily Telegraph Dream Team...) there's what can only be described as a ginormous, curved piece of even thicker balsa wood - sort of life size, wooden version of those hazardously curvaceous bits of yellow plastic track you used to be able to race Tonka toys on, when you weren't using them as a hand-held microphone and pretending you were Irish Eurovison song contest winner, Dana, obviously. This contramption is presumably the aforementioned 'Ramp'. Around the walls of this... arena is the only word that comes to mind given my ignorance of the terminology for the skateboarding equivalent of a velodrome, are grafitti-style paintings of allegedly Biblical allegories - although they look to my untrained, apostate eye to be more concerned with the Passion of Lemmy from Motorhead than of the Lord. It's at this point that I have to depart to the bathroom. Even my insufferably lengthy ordeal with the interdentals is preferable to this bizarre combination of skateboard screech and evangelical self-righteousness.

It's neither skateboards nor Christainity that are the problem. Rather, it's the facile and peculiarly modern conceit that somehow a set of religious beliefs that have been handed down with little deviation from each generation to the next suddenly needs to be contorted to fit the monosyllabic needs of this current, over-indulged and ill-prepared youngsters. "We give thanks, oh Lord, for our boards, and our ramp and our helmuts..."

Christ on a bike... where's the morphine???