Saturday, 22 December 2012


Maggie, Terre and Suzzy Roche. No
information about the cat, sorry
We Three Kings

Do you know The Roches' lovely
We Three Kings?

If not, get it now! Here is a YouTube clip of very poor quality, with some of the songs, but don't let that put you off.

Here's what I wanted to play:

For Unto Us a Child is Born - The Roches | Muziboo

But remember - "'E's not the messiah - e's a VERY NAUGHTY BOY!" 

Thanks for popping in. The salon is open for comments - tastefully decorated for the season.

Friday, 21 December 2012


Ho the Solstice! Light your fires and candles and wreathe your dwelling with winter greenery (as opposed to Mountain Greenery, one of the finest songs ever written. Don't believe me? Get a load of these rhymes - here. If you look on YouTube you'll find a surreal Mickey Mouse version, which I was going to offer, but they SING THE WRONG WORDS!!!!)

Continuing the theme of my favourite Christmas songs, let's have a
bit of  Jethro Tull,  with a fine example of Bad and Aggressive Miming from 1976.

And here's Greg Lake, bewildering some Bedouin. I don't know the date of the video, but it looks authentically '70s to me.

Whatever you are doing, may your solstice be bright. It may be the longest night, but remember that in the dark of winter lies dies natalis solis invicti - the birthday of the undefeated sun.

Thanks for popping in - do leave a comment in the salon.

Waes Hael!

Saturday, 15 December 2012



I hope you have stopped reeling from the X-rated Bitter Withy.

In a similar vein, but with a U rating, here is the splendid Barry Coope singing the Holy Well, where Jesus was a little more saintly in his reaction to the nasty gentry.

The Holy Well | Muziboo

Friday, 14 December 2012


Swedish Yule Goat. Bit small, isn't it?

Well, it's not far away. I have been mainlining Christmas songs in my singing groups (one of them since October) and I thought I'd share a few of my favourites here, after the rip-roaring success of The Bitter Withy. Panic ye not, no folk music here - we are in the popular music world.

I have few traditions at Christmas, and most of them have fallen by the wayside. I used to play two albums on Christmas morning. On a turntable, obviously. One song from each of those for you - first, from Phil Spector's Christmas album, here are The Ronettes singing Sleigh Ride. (I do like it when people post videos of artists singing a different song.)

And from Bing Crosby's White Christmas, here are Bing and the Andrews Sisters singing Mele Kalikimaka.

Isn't that festive?

And here we have what must be the greatest Christmas number 1 EVAAAH...(It's a peculiar video in many ways (note comment about the drummer) but as the only ones I could find from the 1970s were from Top of the Pops and rather sullied by the appearance of a discredited disc jockey, I couldn't bring myself to post any of them.) Are you hanging up your stockings on the wall? Have a dance on me. 

Thanks for popping in - hope to see you in the salon.

Sunday, 9 December 2012


I remembered that I can do a thing - and here is Mike Waterson singing The Bitter Withy

The Bitter Withy | Muziboo


It's a busy time. The elves are giving me grief.

I haven't forgotten you though. Here are a couple of random offerings.

I wanted to post Mike Waterson singing Bitter Withy, partly because of the story told in the song and partly because it is an extraordinary rendition. Is it on YouTube? Is it buffalo. However, I found this version, annoyingly sung to a different tune but worthy of a listen. Compare and contrast the delivery of the lady and the gentleman. And where is number three?

And for those of you panting for more Arthur Brown - here he is with Kingdom Come. I am indebted to the person who posted Galactic Zoo Dossier in its entirety and commend it to you. However, if you only want to listen to the very short section that sprang into my mind the other day, start listening at 26.07. You are after Brains. Blink and you'll miss it.

Back to the grindstone. Ho ho ho.

Thanks for popping in - do visit the salon while you're here.

Thursday, 22 November 2012


If you followed the links in my previous post you will have heard the clever wrens singing. 

A clever wren

In human music, what they are doing is called hocketing. Here's a snappy definition from Oxford Music Online:

"(Lat. hoquetus, (h)oketus, (h)ochetus; from Fr. hoquet, Old Fr. hoquet, hoket, ocquet, etc., related to English hickock, hicket, hiccup, and similar onomatopoeic word formations in Celtic, Breton, Dutch etc., meaning bump, knock, shock, hitch, hiccup; attempts at etymological derivation from the Arabic must be regarded as unsuccessful).

The medieval term for a contrapuntal technique of manipulating silence as a precise mensural value in the 13th and 14th centuries. It occurs in a single voice or, most commonly, in two or more voices, which display the dovetailing of sounds and silences by means of the staggered arrangement of rests; a ‘mutual stop-and-go device’ (F.Ll. Harrison). Medieval authors.... mentioned the existence of this practice in popular music."

If you have a library card, you can access Oxford Music Online to discover more obfuscatory explanations and listen to some examples. And please desist from any attempts to prove etymological derivation from the Arabic - you will only be ridiculed.

Here's a clip of the Dirty Projectors demonstrating it very beautifully. Feel free to watch the whole video - I couldn't manage more than 10 seconds of the incoherent young man (there seems to be something about hocketing which encourages over-elaboration) and fast-forwarded to the singers, who start at 7.17 ish.

And here's Meredith Monk and Theo Bleckmann with a longer and more complex example.

Hocketing happens all over the world - the panpipes of the Southern Andes are played that way, although the panpipes of Ecuador (where the wrens were recorded (blimey, try saying that with your teeth out)) are not.

My initial research has not revealed the originator of the practice in humans and I suspect that is unknowable, as it is so old. I like to think that whoever it was, or they were, the inspiration came from listening to the birds.

Thanks for popping in - the salon is always open.

Sunday, 18 November 2012


No, not the Sebastian Faulks novel. I tried to read it once, but it failed to engage me, as indeed have other works by Mr Faulks, apart from Human Traces. And possibly Engleby, although I remember not a jot of it.

This is a wren. Check out what
its South American cousins do.
Anyhoo, I meant the song of birds. I've touched on birds before, but without aural reference. Birds are very quiet this time of year and I miss them.

Let's all sing like the birdies sing? Well, we can't necessarily. We produce sound through a larynx; a bird produces sound through a syrinx, which is a very different kettle of fish, anatomy-wise and means they can do all kinds of clever things.

That fact notwithstanding, the artist Marcus Coates did something wonderful a few years ago. He asked people to learn and reproduce birdsong. He did this by recording the birdsongs, slowing down the recordings and giving these to the participants. He then filmed them singing at the same speed and then altered that film to bird speed - sound and vision. The speeded-up movements are eerily birdlike. Here is a montage and here you can see more of "Yellowhammer" and hear a recording of the person at normal speed.

There is a song called The End of The World. My favourite version of it is by Andy Mackay, but it is instrumental so if you don't know the words, you wouldn't get the reference. It's on YouTube though. It's on a sublime album called In Search Of Eddie Riff, to which I lost access in The Great Music Division of 1989. I mourn it still. Well - there's a thing. I had looked for it online before and found it commanded fabulous prices. I've just looked again and there are some more reasonably priced so I've just snapped one up as an early birthday present to myself. Hurrah! Their idea of "very good" quality in vinyl had better coincide with mine...

Anyhoo, here is a version with words. It's the most well-known version, I think, although I didn't know until today that the singer was called Skeeter. In the clip, she displays curious head-bobbing behaviour (perhaps due to the weight of her hair) which is rather birdlike. It's a funny old world. As further evidence of this, here is a picture which came up when I searched Google Images for "birds". Is it me?

Thanks for popping in. The salon is now open for musings.

Sunday, 11 November 2012


Gosh, that was a busy week. Can catch breath now.

While I was looking out at the garden during the two minutes silence, a montage was playing in mind and I realised how much of my knowledge and feeling about WW1 is due to art, not education. Formal education, I mean. I did History at O-level and by Christ it was dull. Not only that, it finished with the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand. So I might remember Arkwright's Spinning Jenny and the repeal of the Corn Laws, but nothing much else.  And it was taught by an absolutely terrifying person, tweed-clad and heavily-moustached. She had a slight speech thing and couldn't manage "r". There was a story that she once reprimanded an unfortunate (reprimand was her favourite teaching method) by saying "Really, Rosemary, you write reams and reams of rubbish" and the entire class had to endure the rest of the lesson with blood trickling from their lips in their efforts not to laugh. (Apart from the wretched Rosemary, who was in a pool on the floor) It was also solemnly reported that she had no home of her own and slept in one of the attics, with only the ghost of Lady Cornwallis for company. (Lady Cornwallis being a previous incumbent of the building, not an old flame...) I remember a particularly hysterical conversation where we speculated about how she spent her time - "And..and...I bet she only ever listens to the NEWS on the radio.." and I worked out how she could station-hop to arrange this newsfest.
Although the passage of time has brought me more understanding of the human condition, I remain let down by both her teaching methods and the curriculum.

Luckily there is art - mostly poems, books, films for me. Oh and songs. So when I stand on Armistice Day I hear the poetry of Owen, Sassoon, Graves; the songs of Novello and Weston and Lee.  I see the books of Vera Brittain, the splendid BBC dramatisation of Testament of Youth and the final scenes from Blackadder Goes Forth

and I remember

Sunday, 4 November 2012


I love fire. Who doesn't? We had a wonderful one last night. In case you think I am an arsonist, may I point out it was a bonfire in the garden in honour of the forthcoming fifth of November.

When I was growing up, we had a bonfire with a guy, although we would not have been allowed to drag it round the streets requesting pennies for it. Not that I wanted to - it always struck me as a peculiar thing to do. (Especially when the guy is question was sub-standard - a bit like claiming that shouting one line of "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" and knocking on someone's door constitutes carol singing. Standards!) We also had potatoes cooked in the fire (although these were disappointingly hard and tasted of ash) fireworks let off at a sensible distance by An Adult - and best of all, sparklers! Nothing to beat tracing your name in the air with a sparkler when you can hardly move your arm for the layers of clothes you were wearing. One year, I took hold of the wrong end of a sparkler and by Jiminy, that hurt. (I told you about the accident rate.)

This isn't ours, but I thought you
might like to be reminded
of what a fire looks like
We didn't have a guy last night (does anyone, these days?) but we did have fireworks, courtesy of a neighbour who thoughtfully let them off in his garden, to be admired by those of us sitting round the fire, before taking his place with us. We talked of books and new ventures but mostly looked at the flames and the embers. We went to bed with it still burning (no need to alert the authorities, all was made safe) and it was still smoking this frosty morning.

Here's dear old Arthur Brown. Those were the days. I love reading Wikipedia's po-faced descriptions of songs. Allow me to quote from the entry for this one "The song ends with the sound of a wind from hell." Really?

And here is Josef Locke, with an excellent example of maintaining-sang-froid-whilst-forgetting-one's-words-on-live-television. I suspect the Guinness was one of many...

Thanks for popping in. The salon is now open...

Wednesday, 31 October 2012


Halloween is here, and spiders abound. Check out the fabulous Halloween art from Words and Pictures here.

I used to be terrified of spiders. I think it's the speed at which they move. Or I might have caught the fear from my sister, who remains terrified. Many years ago, my sister was at home from college, and Sleeping In. My younger brother decided it would be a wizard wheeze to creep into her room and place his huge black plastic spider on her knees as she slept, so that it would be the first thing she saw when she woke up.  I can still hear her screams. Younger brother went into hiding for some days. Shortly after the Tate Modern opened, I went with Sister and there was a large (and I mean massive) Louise Bourgeois sculpture of a spider.


Sister was prepared - we knew it was going to be there. We could not refer to it as a spider, only a spiderous thing, and she managed to get past it without screaming. I'm not sure how.

Spider song number one - from the great and glorious Who - here

I stayed terrified of spiders until I did NLP training, when I chose that as my phobia when we did the phobia cure. I wouldn't say I grew to love arachnids, but I'm not running-around-the-room-screaming-when-I-see-one-scared and I've even managed to catch a few with a card and glass, in order to free them outside.

Some cats that I've had have enjoyed catching and eating spiders. That's an unpleasant sight - a cat with spider's legs waving around in its mouth as it chomps happily. At least the cat didn't emulate the Old Woman and then swallow a bird. Oh wait...

And spider song the second, from the ineffable Bowie - here. I went to see Bowie on his Ziggy tour in the early 70s (gosh, we're back there again). I was 14 or 15 and sitting right in the front stalls of the Colston Hall as Bowie gyrated his way through thrilling music in brief and glamorous costumes, I began to suspect that there was indeed more to life than the nuns were telling us...

Thanks for popping in - and watch out for the ghoulies and ghosties and long-legged beasties. Not to mention things that go bump in the night...

Thursday, 25 October 2012


I know -  it's been days. Straight into a song. Gosh that's melancholy - fitting for autumn days. Or perhaps that's just me.

Anyhoo, time has gone somewhere since we last met here. Reputations have shattered, recessions have ended and I've visited a stamp fair! Not philately, no. More, perhaps, another time.
I used to collect stamps, in a desultory fashion. I think it was compulsory.

This is it! Isn't the internet

Someone gave me a 1966 first-day issue World Cup stamp (football, you know) but I didn't understand the system and tried to remove it from the envelope, thus ruining it in stamp-nerd terms. Don't know what became of it, or the collection. It was in an album and everything! Red, I think.

I think I lack the collecting gene.

Do you know Flo and Eddie? They were Turtles and Mothers of Invention - Flo and Eddie was their name for their incarnation as a duo. Somewhere on the interweb is a fantastic video of them explaining their various legal battles, with diagrams. On their LP Flo and Eddie, they do a cover version of The Kinks' Days, which was the other song in my head as I started typing. Here it is. The whole album is sublime, some of it eccentrically so. Enjoy!

Thanks for popping in. See you again soon.

Saturday, 13 October 2012


I wore kilts when I was a child. Did any girl growing up in the 1960s escape them? Here is a photo of me at a very young age astride Muffin the Mule (don't). As you can see I'm sporting a very fine kilt.
Except that it wasn't - it was a tartan skirt. No pin. Even in those heady days of utter carelessness with children, I was considered Too Young for a kilt pin. It was probably just as well, given the accident rate amongst my peers. In later years, at a birthday party for one of my classmates (I won't name her because that seems intrusive) the birthday girl managed to get a cocktail stick embedded in her foot in a most dramatic way (cue shrieking and pointing from all present). In the spirit of the age, she got the blame for being careless. In a French class once, another to-be-nameless classmate suddenly and dreamily interrupted Miss (oh I suppose I'd better not name her as well. Pity. She had the best name of all the teachers. Then she went and got married and became Mrs Something-much-more-mundane.) Where was I? Oh yes, the interruption was "Oh - it's gone right through". All eyes swivelled to the speaker and widened in horror as we saw that she had managed to push the point of her compasses through her middle finger and out the other side. More shrieking. She was roundly blamed for playing with her Maths equipment in a French lesson. Perhaps she would have got more sympathy if it had been in Maths. Doubtful, considering the treatment awarded me when I put my arm through a pane of glass in a fire door, necessitating 35 stitches. I'm not bitter. Anyhoo, I had plenty of kilt pins later and I don't remember any accidents. (Something has happened to Blogger. I don't like it. This post looks odd - sorry I can't work out how to make it behave.) I got to thinking about kilts following Nell's comment on a previous post. Then, whilst preparing for a Singing for the Brain session this week I came across this. Enjoy! All things truly are connected. Thanks for popping in.

Monday, 8 October 2012


Trying The Mess Song in a different way:

The Mess Song | Muziboo


Trying The Mess Song again...

Sunday, 7 October 2012


I don't like it. So there. Let's kick off with a song (it's that sort of a day).

I've learned how to do a thing! If it's worked, you should hear, here, the marvellous Spooky Men singing The Mess Song. There wasn't a YouTube version, so the Thing I learned to do (or possibly didn't) is to embed a song from my collection.

I do like transformations of Mess into Order. One of the best things about The Railway Children was the way they (or perhaps it was Mother) Set To and made their new house a home, be it ever so humble.

The kind of mess I dislike most of all is other people's. Nuff said.

Anyhoo, what got me thinking about mess was this:

It arrived some days ago and stayed in its outer packaging until today. It is now unboxed, but still sealed.

I fear it will Make Mess.

Will I dare to go further? Will Dick and Snowy escape? Stay tuned for the next exciting instalment.

Nice to see you - pop in any time.

PS - ok, I see I haven't learned how to do a thing. Buy the cd - it's called Tooled Up and it is excellent. And if you ever get a chance to see them (they often tour the UK) seize it with both hands. They are fantastic performers. And they can grow beards if they want to.

Friday, 5 October 2012


I promised more about these in a previous post. Well, here we are.

A mondegreen is a mishearing of a phrase - often a song lyric, but not originally. I used to have terrible trouble remembering the word  - how bizarre, I would think, but how excellent that the phenomenon has a proper name. I must remember it. Remember it? Did I heck as like (I live in the north now. It rubs off.) Then I found out (through the miracle of the interweb) why it's called that and now I can remember it because it's linked to something, not floating untethered in the wordsphere.

In November 1954, Harper's Magazine published an essay by Sylvia Wright called The Death of Lady Mondegreen. (As befits a masters' student, I tried to check the primary source. I found this. Those of you with powerful eyesight will no doubt be able to read it. I would require a subscription (or a prescription) in order to do so. Well, pooh to them. Have you read The Belfry Witches? If you have, you'll recognise the reference. If you haven't, what are you waiting for?)

I am indebted to Wikipedia for the following quotes from the essay:
“When I was a child, my mother used to read aloud to me from Percy's Reliques, and one of my favorite poems began, as I remember:

Ye Highlands and ye Lowlands,
Oh, where hae ye been?
They hae slain the Earl O' Moray,
And Lady Mondegreen.
The actual fourth line is "And laid him on the green". (Wright explained the need for a new term: )
The point about what I shall hereafter call mondegreens, since no one else has thought up a word for them, is that they are better than the original.” (My underlining)

The concept has been extended, but sticking to Ms Wright's original definition,  I don't think I have any personal mondegreens. The only genuine mishearing I remember is thinking Elvis Presley was singing "Don't be cruel to a hard-backed stool" which is clearly not better than the original. Or is it? And I was singing all kinds of nonsense to Life on Mars, but I think we all were. Including Bowie. (I seem to have angered the gods of Blogger by copying from Wikipedia and now I can't get my font right. Well, pooh to them.)

At a singing workshop once someone introduced me to the wannabe Lady Nerth  which I think does qualify. 

I don't seem to have a relevant picture to post, so here is an irrelevant one. Go on, take the weight off for a few minutes.

Thanks for visiting - see you soon. Look - the font's back!

Sunday, 30 September 2012


You can't tell a book by them, apparently. Previous readers will know I'm a pen geek. Well, I'm a notebook geek as well. (All right, I'll come clean. I am a giant stationery geek. My favourite shop is Paperchase. End of.) I have a collection of notebooks, some of which are very old. I realise that there is no such thing as the perfect notebook, although I spent a long time searching for this Holy Grail, convinced that one day I would find it and never have to look again. Then I found out that some people had collection of notebooks on the go, a la Doris Lessing. I embraced this concept wholeheartedly, not least because I realised that it licensed me to have a wide variety.

In 2000 I went to Australia for five months, having escaped from Pensions. Before I went, I read Bruce Chatwin's The Songlines, as a sort of preparation. (If you haven't read it, do so immediately. Go on. I'll still be here when you get back.) In it he describes the French notebooks he uses on his travels. Before his trip, he finds that the manufacturer has stopped making them, but manages to find a supply and Stocks Up. I was made mournful on reading this - I had never seen one of these notebooks but I Wanted One. In Australia, I stayed with friends in Melbourne for two months and then set off around the rest of the country, in the traditional backpacker way, armed with a rucksack and a long-distance bus ticket. I was not a traditional backpacker however, being older and in possession of funds that would allow me to take a plane if I wanted to. Gosh, it's a big country. The low point, travel-wise, was the 21-hour bus journey to Alice Springs (can't for the moment remember where from - could it have been Darwin? And why didn't I take a plane???).  On arrival at each place I made a beeline for the museums and art galleries (after finding a bed for the night, that is). Again, not your typical backpacker. After being amazed by many exhibits in the Art Gallery of New South Wales in Sydney, (including a room full of stones suspended by a web of ropes from the ceiling)
My first Moleskine, with black
Pilot Vball 0.7, to show size
I trotted into the shop and there, in front of me was a large display. I nearly passed out. Yes, there were the notebooks whose passing I had mourned in England - the famous Moleskine. With trembling fingers I picked one up and opened it, discovering a pocket in which there was a little leaflet giving their history. An Italian company had taken over the manufacture. In these interweb days, I would have looked them up on reading about them and discovered this beforehand, but such was the slowness of those times that I had to travel to a different hemisphere to find one. Reader, I bought one. And made my travel notes in it . I have not had such a perfect notebook moment since.

Speaking of covers (which I'm not, yet) here's one of my favourites.

this notebook
Now I am venturing into the world of the art journal, I have been enjoying my cache of stationery. I came across this notebook. Goodness knows how long I've had it. The price is still inside - £1.35 - so I bought it after 15th February 1971. I had used it at some stage, as some pages had been removed. It has blank pages of reasonable quality so I thought I would use it as an ideas book. Not with that cover though.  I remembered covering textbooks at school and thought I would just make it a plain brown wrapper but I couldn't find any brown paper. So I rummaged through my Collection of Things and found:

a gift bag
some bias binding
a gift bag (forgot to photograph it before I took it apart) and some bias binding. (I have no idea why I have bias binding. I have not used bias binding since about 1968. It is entirely possible that I bought it because I like the term bias binding.)

And - after only a little cursing - I have this:

To those of an artistic bent, it will not be impressive. But the idea that I would take a notebook and alter it in any way is a new and exciting one to me.

Thanks for reading. See you soon.

Saturday, 29 September 2012


I am a pen geek. I love pens and own an inordinate amount of them. I have High and Particular Standards, depending on the job in hand. I am very fond of pens which come in many colours. I have many sets. Here are some of them:

Sharpie plus Pilot projector markers


Staedtler Triplus Fineliner plus Triplus Color (sic)

Ain't they purty?

Staedtler 326 washable fibre-tip

Gosh I enjoyed that. More another time...

Thanks for visiting - see you soon.

HAHAHA - did you think you weren't going to get a musical interlude*? Shame on you. Here it is

*I do know that an interlude doesn't come at the end, but I seem to be stuck on the term. Oh look -  it doesn't come at the end now.

Friday, 28 September 2012


...of previous apparently wholehearted approval of The Hills is Lonely. Have now read more. It has not stood the test of time, sensibilities-wise. Some of her language is unfortunate. And I'd like to make it clear that the bit I was laughing at was the bit about her being up a tree to escape the cow.

End of statement.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012


often find life funny. I believe that the only reason I managed 25 years in the pensions industry was that I was expert in finding humour in most situations. Well, perhaps not most - that might be rose-tinted reflection. I finally managed to extricate myself from Pensions (as it was known), with a nicely negotiated redundancy package. In the customary and embarrassing speech inflicted on leavers,  my manager said that an unexpected bonus of accompanying me to meetings with clients was the amount of laughing we did in the (usually long) car journeys and that she had had no idea Pensions could be so funny. Which was nice. Some twenty years earlier, a previous manager had said to me "Really, Small*" (not public-school formality - it was a nickname. It was a nickname-heavy establishment.  One of my colleagues was known as Horse and he was unwise enough to make it plain he didn't like it. Hmmm. Perhaps not so far from school) "you speak to me as though I were an amiable buffoon." I remember looking at him and taking just that little bit too long to lie and say I didn't think of him like that at all and he harrumphed off. As he regularly asked me to go and buy wrapping paper and then use it on various family presents, I felt entitled to regard him how I wished. Actually, I liked him a lot and I really didn't mind the present-wrapping -  it was better than manually calculating GMPs (don't ask).

(*Has this mode of expostulation fallen out of fashion? Billy Bunter was always saying it "Oh really, Coker" usually followed by "Ha! Ha! Ha!' yelled Bob Cherry. And "well, really" was a favourite of my mother's.)

In the last week I have found myself laughing out loud whilst on my own in cafes twice. (Gosh, what a dreadful sentence.) That is quite unusual - I might find something funny but I rarely hoot about it if I am alone. The cause of the first was a picture in last week's Guardian. As one of you knows, I laughed so much I stuck my finger in my coffee. The second time was caused by a rereading of The Hills Is Lonely. I read all of Lillian Beckwith's Hebridean books many years ago and I remember I loved them, but I had forgotten quite how funny they were. Are. There are only a few books which have made me laugh out loud and at the moment I can only bring one other to mind - the glorious, bonkers, perfect Uncle Fred In The Springtime, by P G Wodehouse (especially the bit about entering the Empress of Blandings in the Derby.)

I had considered having Charles Penrose with The Laughing Policeman as the musical interlude, but I've always considered it rather chilling. This isn't a song, but it makes me laugh. And the subtitles are a nice touch.

I couldn't leave you songless, though. Here you are. On Monday I shall be singing this with the Sheffield Singing for the Brain group in the Crucible. Yes, really. 

Thanks for being here. Back soon. 

Tuesday, 25 September 2012


I've been back to the seventies. Musically, but when music comes the memories come with it. Something - I don't know what - put me in mind of Althia and Donna and their glorious hit Uptown Top Ranking. Here's a picture of my copy!

Gosh, I've just posted a picture of a record. Next thing, I shall be posting a poor-quality video of it playing on YouTube. No I won't. Someone else will have done it already.

Anyhoo (sic - American) it took me right back. Apparently it was released in 1977 and got to number 1 in the Hit Parade (oh how I miss that term) in February 1978. I thought it was earlier but the interweb tells me otherwise. Not to mention the date on the record. I like to think that I was ahead of the game and bought it in 1977 but I really don't know. What I do remember - vividly, sharply and with a stab to the heart - is the effect it had on me. I had no idea what they were singing about and I don't think I ever did (until yesterday when I Googled the lyrics) but that song bypassed my brain and went straight to the viscera. It was wild. It made me jump up and down. It filled me completely. I wasn't well-versed in reggae - possibly my only exposure at that stage would have been Desmond Dekker's The Israelites (or "My Eyes Are Alight" as the mondegreen has it. Do you know about mondegreens? Another time.) I was more of a Roxy Music/Pink Floyd/T Rex/Jethro Tull/Blondie sort of girl. Perhaps I somehow knew that two women (and they were young - 17 and 18) singing reggae was unusual. Perhaps it was that one of them wore big glasses (I would have seen them on Top of the Pops, but possibly not initially). Perhaps it was those horns. Perhaps I did understad the lyrics on some level. All I know is that it electrified me. And still does.

Here it is then - I chose the clip of them on TOTP so you can see them, but it doesn't beat putting your own copy on your own record player (yes, I still have one) and dancing round your front room in your nightie, like I've just done. And wining up your waist like billy-o.

Thanks for listening - see you soon...

Sunday, 23 September 2012


Gosh I don't know what's come over me. As you know, I've been blogcruising and yesterday I wandered into the world of art journalling. I knew about it through the very talented Butterfly at Words and Pictures, and now I've had a good old rummage in the cyberworld.

Now, I could bang on for some time about my history with Art, so I won't. Suffice it to say that although I would describe myself as a creative person, I would not describe myself as an artistic (in the visual art sense) one. I do, however, like writing - the physical process, I mean. I love the feel of pens in my hand and the experience of making marks on a page. So when I came across a process from DaisyYellow called slow journaling (sic - it's American),  as demonstrated by Leslie Herger, I found myself desperate (I do not exaggerate) to try it. So I did. And I took some pictures, because I realised that a) it's nice to have a record; b) for me, it took away the fear of messing things up, because I would have a photo of the stage before and c) BECAUSE I CAN (cf iPhone).

So I'm going to be very brave and post them. Oh - one other thing. The idea of doing this with words of my own was too much for me in a first attempt, so I took as my text the fine Scottish song Ye Canna Shove Yer Granny Off A Bus (my phonetics). There are other verses, but they lack the high moral tone of verse 1, so I have not used them. Ready?

Stage 1
Stage 2

Stage 1 - draw boxes with wavy lines

Stage 2 - write words and go over outline of boxes. For those of you who like pens (and if you don't, I'm sorry. I mean I'm sorry you don't like pens) I used a Pilot V5 hi-tecpoint 0.5

Stage 3
Stage 4
Stage 3 - paint over with watercolours. 

Stage 4 - go over outlines messily with Sharpies to match the watercolours. Nearly. (My own idea! Not to do it messily, though.) NB I don't know what's going on with the text here - I can't get it to space properly - sorry.)

Stage 5
Stage 6
 Stage 5 - realise that watercolours were too strong and text now more difficult to read. Experiment with using Sharpie to go over text, whilst subliminally altering message. Put in arrows so people know where to go when reading.
Stage 6 - go for it with Sharpie-ing and add more helpful instructions.

Stage 6

Stage 6 - admire my handiwork and nearly drink paintwater instead of tea.

Stage 7 - realise there are two Stage 6. Er - Stage 6s. Sixes. Stages 6. Whatever.

So - the result is far from perfect but I had fun doing it and learned a lot. Ooh - musical interlude.

Thanks for reading. And remember what not to do with your Granny.

Saturday, 22 September 2012


Tammet, not Tammett.



I've been cruising the blogosphere. Cruising is perhaps not the mot juste - the blogosphere is a vast, invisible place without a map, and I've only dipped my toe in the water -  haven't even got a boat yet. However, my forays have been fruitful, in that I am beginning to be clearer about what I like in a blog:

1) It's got to look appealing to me. If it's crowded. with huge chunks of text all over the place, flashing images and adverts, I'm not going to read it, however interesting the content.

2) If it's written by an English person (sorry British - I do hate that term. And even more, its ugly abbreviation Brit. Ugh. Actually I can see rapids ahead - I will change that to a person whose first language is English. That still sounds hazardous to me. Good job I'm wearing my life jacket.) it's got to be written in good English (and, for the avoidance of doubt, I consider American English to be a separate language) - spelled correctly, correctly grammarised (go on...) and with a fluency that makes for easy reading. Does that all sound like I'm a candidate for the BNP? I sincerely hope not - all I'm trying to say is that for me, the use of language is important and as I only speak one (which is embarrassing), it's English.

3) I like pictures. The quality of some images is astonishing. I've never been much of a photographer, having come of age in the era of SLRs, fancy lenses and huge price tags. Although I had mobile phones (American translation - cell phones. See? Separate language.) the cameras were poor and hardly worth using. A few years ago everything changed when I got my first iPhone (seriously - everything) and I had a decent camera with me at all times, so now I take more photos that I used to. I'm not very good at framing images, but I've still managed to take some that please me. My favicon is a picture I took at Biddulph Grange Gardens.

Ever been there? It's remarkable. And if you ever have the misfortune to find yourself transporting four teenage boys to Alton Towers, Biddulph is not far away and you can while away some time. It's mysteriously compact.

Here's the picture. S'alright, innit?*

4) Although I don't particularly like blogs which have a lot of personal detail, such as a litany of the doings of small children, I do like to get some sense of the writer. OMG!* We haven't had a musical interlude yet. Hang on. Try this

5) Did you like it? Point 5. There should be a point 5, otherwise we'll only have four points, and that would be unsatisfactory. I much prefer uneven numbers - 3, 5, 7... If they are primes, so much the better. Did you hear the readings from Daniel Tammett's Thinking in Numbers on Radio 4's Book Of The Week recently? Cracking. I rushed out and bought the book. Oh, oh oh! I've just remembered he has a blog. Let's see if it meets my criteria. Or helps me set new ones.

Thanks for reading - see you soon.


Friday, 21 September 2012


Mary Beard recommends blogging four times a week. That is how I was going to open this post - and indeed, I see that I have done so. Then I thought I'd better check that's what she actually says. She doesn't. Such is the delightful caprice of my memory. I was once convinced that I remembered everything exactly as it was, and sadly events often confirmed that I did, which is a dangerous situation. When one is Often Right, it is easy to slip into Invariably Right, then hubristically headfirst into Always Right Without Exception. Back to MB. What she actually says, in her introduction to the second collection of her blog posts, All in a Don's Day, is that her rule for herself is "...two posts a week, rain or shine...". As I admire her tremendously (cf wrens) I was going to follow her rule, but now I've confused myself by not remembering the rule correctly. I could choose to go with 4 times a week, but that now seems uninviting as it does not bear the imprimatur of the excellent Professor Beard.

I know some people who post every day, as a sort of challenge, and I can see the attraction of that -  sitting down every day to write, whether you know what you are going to write or not. (Not necessarily sitting down, of course. And not necessarily not knowing.) Here's a daily blog I love: Boo Hewerdine's Blog Thing.

Speaking of Boo Hewerdine, I saw a 2003 documentary about Richard Thompson the other day. Well worth a watch if you are interested in the processes of a singer-songwriter, the history of electric folk, or would just like to hear dear John Peel's voice again. Time for a musical interlude? Here's Meet On The Ledge. Stills only, but evocative. Pass the joss sticks.

So I don't know how often to blog. Perhaps I'll just see.

Thanks for joining me today. I hope you will join me again. Whenever that is.

Monday, 17 September 2012


I like birds. I like looking at them as they go about their business. I often imagine myself as an eagle, soaring over fields and rivers, resting on mountain-tops. I never imagine myself as a wren. I admire them tremendously, but their tiny lives are fraught with danger.

Time for an educational musical interlude - hurrah! We'll have Steeleye Span singing Hunt the Wren. Gosh, I got distracted on YouTube and instead we have the Clancy Brothers (and the Furey brothers, apparently. What good value.) in a fine example of singing without breathing whilst wearing heavy sweaters. Here they are.

I once went to a zoo in France. I confess to a liking for zoos, even though it's cruel to cage animals etc. I was born and brought up in Bristol, home to a very fine zoo and, of course, the BBC natural history department, so I developed a sense of ownership in the world of looking at wildlife, in that way that is so comforting to a child. The French zoo was run-down and terrifying. There was a large enclosure containing all manner of avian life, which was open to humans. I noticed the vultures about half-way through. Part of me knew that vultures eat dead things, not live tourists, but the part of me that goes round screaming "we're all going to die!" wrestled the sensible part to the ground and propelled me, stiff-legged, to the exit. Toute suite. The zoo also had a scary bear, that rocked back and forwards, measuring the jumping distance out of his sunken home. Put me right off zoos for a long time.

Some birds are huge. Here is a picture of a jabiru:

It's massive. Adult males can be 5ft tall and can have a wingspan of 9ft. Don't panic, you are unlikely to meet one unless you live in South America. If you do live in South America, steer clear, especially if you are on the small side. Or are made of straw.

Thank you for meandering with me today. We may return to birds as there is much more to say - I haven't mentioned Sepulchrave, Earl of Groan, for instance. Well, I have now.

Sunday, 16 September 2012


This is my first post. Thank you for reading it. I can't pretend I'm not nervous, but perhaps no-one is reading this, so in a tree-falling-in-the-forest and one-hand-clapping sort of a way, perhaps I'm not nervous.

The title of my blog says it all - I have given myself licence to ramble. Naturally, I am struck dumb by this width and depth and the range of potential subjects.

Two of my friends are very fine bloggers, so you could do worse than check them out, if you're already bored.  If I've done it right, they should appear somewhere over there....

Gosh, I'm exhausted. I'm going to try publishing this now and see if it works.

Did you make it this far? Thank you and hello