Wednesday 29 April 2015

Backs to the wall

Last Sunday afternoon was too nice not to take the guitars into the back garden and annoy the neighbours. The Number One Son and I played this song a couple of weeks ago in a very traditional folk club in Leeds. We'd not been before and, as we were making our way to the venue, I said to James that he'd be the youngest person there; and I'd be the second. Right and right again. As you can see, we play this without resorting to putting our fingers in our ears. I hope you can listen to it without doing the same.

And a big thank you to Kirstie

Saturday 25 April 2015

Calling a spade a spade

Borrowing my friend Jane's turfing spade to form a new border (for Doris to sunbathe in) cost me dearly the other day. After inadvertently hitting rock, the tool buckled beneath the weight of my size nines and soon took on the appearance of a bizarre Uri Geller experiment.

Turns out the spade in question is a family heirloom dating back to the turn of the nineteenth century and was reputedly used to tend the gardens in nearby Castle Howard. Apparently you can't put a price on it. You can, however, put a price on a Spear and Jackson modern day replacement. Whether or not Jane ever speaks to me again, on the other hand, is anyone's guess.

Sunday 19 April 2015

Pick up a Penguin

That's six now. I may take a Penguin vacation and revisit them later. In the meantime, a couple of them are for sale over at Artfinder.

And if you can't see what you like there, feel free to get in touch via the comments box below.

Thursday 16 April 2015

This one skips along at quite a pace

When you get paid to write about music you should stay well clear of the cliché. And the dreaded screamer! If a band or artist's new platter is a return to form, it's best not to mention it; just think it. Likewise, said record may well be a sonic cathedral of sound - but keep it to yourself.

When The Banned recorded Little Girl in 1977 I had no idea it was a cover. Yet despite (cliché ahead warning) nailing it, I think it's safe to say it can't hold a candle to the original.

Syndicate of Sound: often imitated, never bettered, And if you were to say it skips along at quite a pace, I wouldn't argue with you.

For James

Sunday 12 April 2015


Adele has the honour of being my fifth Penguin and also my first mixed medium: acrylic and water colour. And unlike the previous four (Ian Fleming, Paul McCartney, Jenny Medd and Jane Friend), I've painted her edges.

Although Adele isn't really a posh bird, she is a baker. And a sweetie.

Wednesday 8 April 2015

Turn back the dial

My friend Phil does up old radiograms and Bluetooths his eclectic record collection through them in his rather wonderful pub. The names on the dial conjure up all sorts of imagery and evoke so many memories. I swear I can smell the valves warming up. And that's not a euphemism.

From top to bottom, left to right:

BBC Third, National, Hilversum, Athens, Budapest, West Reg, R Norm, Western Reg, Scottish Regional, Brussels, Beromunster, Dublin, N. Ireland, London R, Marseilles, Prague, Radio Eireann, Athens, Madrid, Berlin, Rome, Northern Reg, BBC Third, Cork, Mid. R, Welsh Reg, Paris PTT, Sottens

Oslo, Luxembourg, National, R. Paris, Lahti, Kalundborg, Motala, Ankara, Moscow, Huizen

Monday 6 April 2015

They should call it the Humber Delta

I was born in Kingston-upon-Hull. That's what it says on my passport. You'll know it as Hull. And if you're a true local you'll drop the H. If you ever pitch up there, the chances are you're not passing through; it's not on the way to anywhere (except Rotterdam) and, despite its City of Culture status it's still better known for white phone boxes than William Wilberforce. And, of course, tenfoots.

Saturday 4 April 2015

The McNamaras are coming (back)

'Roscommon' acrylic on canvas
Later this year I shall be making an emotional return to Roscommon. From being a babe in arms to a stroppy teenager, I and the rest of the Medds went on an annual pilgrimage across The Irish Sea to my maternal grandmother's year after year after year. And for the first fifteen of those summers I had a blast. But by 1977 I'd had enough. So much so that two days into the vacation and I baled: a quick 'phone call to my favourite Auntie north of the border and I was travelling, alone, on a bus through 'the troubles' and spent the rest of the fortnight in Lurgan, Co. Armagh. Happy days.
  But now, I want to go back. See the old place again. Will it have changed? Probably. Will I recognise the place? Definitely. Will I be able to take a walk down to Hessions and grab myself an ice cream wafer. Alas, no: Cyril Hession, like the lone Texaco petrol pump on his forecourt, is long gone.
  My cousin Raymond, who will be joining us on our quest, sent an email to the local rag ahead of the trip. I'm not expecting a ticker-tape reception, but a pint of the black stuff with their reporter & toggy would be nice. Here's what Ray had to say.

I am Raymond Murray, son of Aidan Murray (born 1934, Ballyleague) and Carmel McNamara (born 1936, Strokestown). My mother’s family moved to Ard-na-Greine in Roscommon town around 1940. My grandfather was Sergeant Joe McNamara, my grandmother, Mary (Maxie), nee Lynch from Donegal. They produced 14 children, Sean, Phyllis, Gerry, Joe, Myra, all deceased, and Mabel, Olive, Dolores, Carmel, Paddy, Adrian, Noel, Bernie and Stella. 

My granny may well be remembered by many still living in the town. She was a renowned golfer and a tremendous consumer of a product called Jameson’s Whiskey. You may have heard of it! My aunt Stella (Finnerty) has lived locally in Knockcroghery for 40+ years, a couple of doors down from the great Jamesie Murray’s pub. As you know, in the 1950s work was hard to come by in rural Ireland, with many having to go overseas to support themselves. 

My parents moved to London in 1953, returning to marry on 5th August 1957, before returning to England until 1968. We now live in Lurgan in County Armagh. Several of my mother’s sisters also moved and settled in England and live there to this day. As separate families, the various McNamaras travelled from parts of England to visit Ard-na-Greine each summer, but often our paths would cross as we squeezed into granny’s three bedroom house. As is normal, you veer towards those of your own age. So John Medd (born 1960. son of Dolores), Adrianne Stone (born 1959, daughter of Mabel), Susan Medhurst (born 1959, daughter of Olive) and myself (born 1959) formed special bonds. 

Memories of ice-cream from Cyril Hession’s shop opposite the county hospital; what seemed like very hot summers spent at Portrunny on the Shannon in the pre-sunscreen days of old; and the occasional night out to Con Moran’s pub or the Kon-Tiki near Rooskey to hear the soon to be famous Brendan Shine. Then life took over…..we grew up, we married, had children, did what people do….and drifted apart. John, Adrianne and Susan remain in England, but let’s not penalise them for that. We did, after all, thump them at rugby quite recently. But with many of our domestic commitments now fulfilled, and with luck having smiled on us, we have recently rekindled our friendships. We had a wonderful gathering in Lurgan in 2013, but always felt that a visit to Roscommon town would be a fitting way to seal our reunion. It is now 40 years since we spent a summer together in your town……and it’s been too long. Flights are booked, cars are hired and the four of us are staying in Gleeson’s on Saturday 4th July along with our wives and husbands. The girls have husbands, the boys have wives. (It’s not something you would have thought necessary to mention in the 1960’s but the times they are a changing). We hope to visit some of the afore-mentioned places and perhaps pay a tribute to Jameson’s, which killed my poor granny at the age of 93. Legal proceedings are ongoing. I hope this story is of interest to you.

Friday 3 April 2015

Warner brothers

'Warner Brothers' acrylic on canvas
Harry (1881-1958), Albert (1884-1967), Sam (1888-1927) and Jack (1892-1978): the Warner brothers. By 1923 they already owned a string of movie theatres and, operating out of Hollywood, had moved into film distribution. In 1927, within a couple of years of establishing Warner Brothers Pictures Inc., they released The Jazz Singer - the first film to have synchronised music and dialogue.

Nearly fifty years later they released this. We can only speculate what Al Jolson would have made of it.