Wednesday 29 July 2015

That's What You Are

It takes a worried man to sing a worried song
In 1974 Peter Sellers gave a very rare television interview to Michael Parkinson. Sellers was a troubled man - and it showed. Parkinson gently cajoled him and with the help of a few props, including his beloved ukulele, and maybe a livener or two beforehand in the Green Room, Sellers soon loosened up and within minutes the pair were getting on like the proverbial house on fire.

Sellers had been a struggling musician before the smell of the greasepaint took him over and among the many stories he told was one that, of course, had happened to a good friend of his. At one of their gigs a smartly dressed chap comes up to the bandstand with a young lady on his arm and asks them if the band can play That's What You Are. The pianist cum band leader, having never heard of it, looks through his book in a vain attempt to find it. 'I'm afraid I don't know it' he confessed. 'What?!' says the man incredulously. 'I'll tell you something, what's the world coming to when a band leader can't play That's What You Are?'

'Maybe if you sing the first couple of bars' said the band leader, 'we may be able to improvise.'

'Very well'' the man says, clearing his throat. 'Unforgettable - that's what you are.'

Saturday 25 July 2015

The Jigsaw Man

'I'd rather be doing a jigsaw' Gordon Medd (right) c.1953 
Dad's coming up to see us for a few days. It'll do him good. He's hitting the Great North Road just after lunch and should be with us by mid-afternoon. It'll be a first - with no backseat driver to point out the shortcomings of his driving skills, 'You're too close Gordon', he should be able to set a new PB.

I call him the Jigsaw Man because he's always got a jigsaw on the go: 500 pieces, 1000 pieces, solid colour ones, ones with no pictures on the box, double sided ones - you name it, he'll fix it.

We've got a full itinerary lined up for him. I rang him last night to confirm his booking: 'I'm just packing', he said, 'are we going anywhere with a dress code?'

'Dad, believe me, the places I'm taking you definitely don't have a dress code.'

My dad mustn't be confused with former Everton striker Stuart Barlow who was also, rather cruelly, known as Jigsaw because he always went to pieces in the box.

Wednesday 22 July 2015


What ham, egg & chips should look like
We should have seen the warning signs: the car park was deserted and inside wasn't much better: I've seen more life on an old army blanket. They'd still got their Christmas decorations up for god's sake. But we toughed it out, we stayed.

We shouldn't have been there in the first place; if only our usual midweek pub grub venue of choice hadn't been stacked out with flat landers knee deep at the bar with not a table to be had. So we'd got back in the old smoker and headed east. To what was, back in the day, both a fine hostelry and eating house.

We each went for a pint of their local grog, which despite one being chilled and one slightly above room temperature (amazingly both from the same hand pull) was at least drinkable. So far, so average.

'Ham, egg and chips' I said, noticing it on the specials board. Another warning sign ignored - what makes ham, egg and chips, a pub staple, special? Jenny too plumped for this non-special special.

The place was so quiet we heard not only the sound of tumbleweed blowing through the place, but also the chef, who only minutes earlier had pulled our pints, programming what sounded like a bank of microwave ovens in the kitchen next door. A cacophony of electronic pings was followed seconds later by two plates of warm ham (not bacon, not gammon, but heated ham), solidified eggs, peas and carrots. They were subsequently joined by a joint bowl of soggy (yet burnt at the same time) chips.

We made (hushed) polite small talk in that way only the English can. 'How can they fuck ham, egg and chips up so spectacularly?' I said to Jenny. 'What sort of meat is this exactly?' she whispered back.

We just couldn't run for those hills fast enough.

Bonhomie: 2
Cooking: 1
Value: 2

Score: 1.67

Sunday 19 July 2015

Play time

'Let's Play' - acrylic on canvas (12" x 9")

I can honestly say that if it The Play Inn hadn't existed, I would probably not have embarked on a life of record collecting - had it not been for this quite excellent record emporium then, back in the seventies, money would not have burned holes in so many of my pockets. It wasn't just a record shop either - they had amusements and a snack bar too. And a most adorable curvy creature working behind the counter who could get any young boy to part with their hard earned pocket money just by gazing into their eyes.

However kids get hold of their music today, it can never be as exciting as walking through the doors of The Play Inn in 1973 and asking if they'd got a copy of Hell Raiser by The Sweet. It can't possibly be.

The bags, which I still keep, are a portal back to those days. When I painted the canvas (above) yesterday, I must have had a bit of grit in my eye; nobody sheds tears for the demise of shops. Do they?

Saturday 18 July 2015

The one you never hear about

Father, son and brother
The Number One Son, as you can see from the side bar on the left, often gets name-checked on this blog. Even the Old Man has made his way into several back issues. But the bloke pictured on the right is a newbie; we share a surname but not a lot else. However, on Thursday he came good.

My brother and I may not see one another again for a year or two but I know, if needed, he'd come good again. I'd like to think he knows I'd take a bullet for him too.

Friday 17 July 2015

You can push things to the back of your mind, but you can never forget

In the space of a couple of months I've read Ben Watt's charming memoir Romany & Tom and Patient, his frightening account of how he nearly died in 1992. And now I can't stop playing Hendra - his 2014 collaboration with Bernard Butler. I've been a bit tearful of late, what with all that's been going on, and this stripped down version of Never Forget, performed in London's St. Pancras Old Church last year, certainly hasn't helped.

If you like this,  you must check out Ben's KEXP live session, again with Bernard Butler.


Sunday 12 July 2015

A Bloomin' Book

When my cousin Raymond Murray was asked way back in 1975 by John K**** (our tearaway, black sheep of a cousin) who his favourite cousin was, he told him. And he told him straight: 'Adrianne'.

Roscommon July 2015. L-R, John M, Adrianne, Suzie, Raymond
K**** was crestfallen: 'Adri-fackin'-anne? She's a fackin' girl.' Indeed she is. I, however, was never asked this question as a boy. If I had, I would have said Raymond. Though Adrianne would certainly have been on the podium too. Anyway, it's all immaterial now. I'm in my fifties and love Raymond, Suzie and Adrianne in equal measure. I probably told them as much last weekend. As for K****, he was a wrong 'un. He fell off the radar many moons ago and these days will either be inside or underground.

In 1975, Raymond kept a book. And in this book he transcribed every Top 40 singles chart rundown as broadcast by Johnnie Walker on Radio 1. This would have been on a Tuesday lunchtime when chart positions were everything and Radio 1 was still broadcasting on 247 meters on the medium wave.

I saw this book for only the second time last weekend and it was spellbinding. The level of detail that has gone into it is quite staggering. There's even a (very early) cloud showing every group, every artist, every novelty act who made the chart between 1 January & 31 December. It is indeed an historical document.

Or, depending on your standpoint, just a bloomin' book.

Saturday 11 July 2015

We only steal them

Beer by Black Donkey (legs c/o Suzie Medhurst)
In the 18th century the good folk of Roscommon (Rossies) would raid their neighbours in East Galway and steal their sheep. No big deal; I can think of worse sheep related crimes.

Fast forward 200+ years and, as part of the burgeoning craft beer scene in Ireland, Black Donkey Brewing are commemorating this ancient pastime with a sensational beer called, you guessed it, Sheep Stealer. On the pilgrimage to our maternal grandmother's home last weekend (a weekend filled with joy and sadness), a number of these bad boys were consumed.

A big thank you to Gleeson's for making our stay both a memorable and poignant one.

Tuesday 7 July 2015

Too late

There is, in existence, only a minute and a half of movie footage of me as a child. I know this because, in around 1980, I found a yellow cardboard Kodachrome box amongst my dad's slides and asked him what was on it. 'Search me' he said. I replied that the father of my girlfriend at the time had a cine projector. 'Take it' he said, 'and tell me what's on it.' So I did.

Although it only lasts for about 90 seconds, it is a very moving piece of film: only a handful of days after I was born, sometime in January 1961, friends of mum and dad shot a (very) short reel of 8 mm cine film of them bathing their new born. You've never seen a more happy and proud young couple. And, as you can imagine, I am both very young and very clean. Priceless.

If only I hadn't lost it.

Or at least, I thought I'd lost it. Three Sundays ago after we returned to dad's after visiting mum in hospital he gave me a load of slides. 'I'm making you custodian of the Medd photographic archive' he said. Well, not in so many words, but that's what he meant. This next bit is quite hard to write, because, in amongst the the plethora of slides he gave me was the very same distinctive yellow Kodachrome box I thought I'd lost all those years ago. I recognised it straight away - but didn't say anything: I'll get it transferred onto DVD as a surprise, I thought, and we can all watch it together. My folks will be made up.

'It'll be ready next Tuesday' said the man in the photo shop when I took it in a week last Friday. 'Brilliant' I said. 'Mum's not so good at the moment, it'll make her day.' And then some.

It would have done too. If only she could have hung on for a few more days.

I'm seeing dad tomorrow. We'll watch it together and pretend mum's there.

Wednesday 1 July 2015


Dolores Medd (1934-2015)
On what turned out to be the hottest day of the year, mum passed away this morning just after nine o'clock: the fight had gone out of her. And, anyway, she wouldn't have thanked you for being stuck in hospital with the temperature outside nudging 100 degrees - like all Medds, mum spoke in Fahrenheit not bloody Centigrade. She was a formidable woman, and that's putting it mildly. We never always saw eye to eye, but in the last few years we were closer than we'd probably ever been. When I was poorly after first moving up here she worried about me like a new mother would worry about her sick baby in an incubator.

I need to gather my thoughts properly before the funeral, as I want to say a few words; I know dad would want to speak, but he said he'd lose it. I might still.