Monday 30 November 2020


On Christmas Eve many years ago my heavily pregnant mother fell down a flight of stairs in a Hull department store. Although she probably jingled all the way, nothing was broken; not there and then anyway - however her waters did break four days later and, instead of being a January baby, I decided to make my way kicking and screaming into this world on December 28th.
The department store in question - Hammonds of Hull - has been lovingly recreated by artist and illustrator Nick Coupland in his new collection Modernist Lines, Brutalist Shapes. As you can see, the staircase which led to my 'early doors' all those years ago has been evoked perfectly in his pen and ink drawing.

Friday 27 November 2020

(New) Normal

Earlier this month the acclaimed Nottingham Poetry Festival celebrated its 5th anniversary (can it really be 12 months since last year's event?*); befitting of the times it was, of course, held totally online with 'ticket holders' enjoying gigs and readings in the luxury of their own homes via, you've guessed it, Zoom. 

Will the word zoom, I wonder, in years to come, fill the population with varying degrees of dread or, will it, at its mere mention make our hearts go boom? One for future linguistic historians I'm sure. This year we were privileged to have one of my favourite poets - and co-founder of the festival - former local lad, Henry Normal. Henry was beamed into my kitchen last Friday direct from his Brighton home. Not the same as the real thing, you'll agree, but I'd have struggled to have enjoyed his performance any more even had he have bombed up the motorway on what was a wet and windy Nottingham night.

Henry's new collection is called The Escape Plan. As soon as bookshops are open again I shall be blagging myself a copy, nothing's so sure. And when I do it'll be hard not to hear Henry's dulcet Nottingham vowels in my head as I read it in my kitchen; whilst slurping a cup of tea, most likely.

Henry Normal - 'Not My Cup of Tea' (2020)

* Er, no: it's actually 18 months. And a huge thank you to Georgina Wilding for helping to lay on such a lavish festival in what has been a challenging year to say the least.

Friday 20 November 2020

Ready, Steady, Friday!

A woman of many tee shirts

For this week's Be-Bop Friday I'm delighted to hand over the reins to a new Twitter friend of mine, Carolyn Perry. Carolyn only came to my notice fairly recently; I knew she was a huge punk fan, but it was the tee shirt she was sporting in her profile picture that gave the game away - wearing an iconic '45' shirt can only mean one thing - another Generation X disciple!
Thank you for taking the time, Carolyn. 

"I didn’t get to see Generation X until 1993 when they played a reunion gig at the Astoria as part of a Billy Idol concert. I grew up in Stourbridge and it wasn’t until I started going out with a punk in late ‘77 that I occasionally managed to get into Brum for gigs, though it often involved sneaking out of the house and getting changed at mates’ houses. The lyrics to Kiss Me Deadly really bring back that time for me, just substitute the number 30 bus for the 130 to Birmingham.

‘Seven o'clock they stand in rank

For the thirty bus uptown

And later in a downstairs room

She pulls her lover down

In ecstasy but they can't make a sound

Case her mother might come down’

By the time I left home and moved to London in September '79 Generation X were all but done, and then Billy Idol moved to the US and went solo. It was an exciting time for music with the launch of MTV and Billy’s songs were perfect for new media of music video. Accused of being ‘too pretty for punk’, Billy really suited this format and is a charismatic performer (also I am a sucker for blond spikey hair, which the aforementioned boyfriend also had). I particularly like Billy’s early solo stuff – White Wedding is a phenomenal song and Rebel Yell is my favourite of his albums. I even joined the Billy Idol fan club at one point and have still got the T-shirt!

Idol with guitarist Steve Stevens (Carolyn's pic)

Idol and James wrote some great songs together, and I know I’m in the minority but I think Generation X/Gen X were underrated. I’m hoping that there might be another reunion at some point, but until then I’m glad that Billy is still rocking. I saw him on his 2014 and 2018 tours and he didn’t disappoint. He’s responsible for a lot of timeless tunes and let’s face it, 2020 has been the year for Dancing With Myself*P.S. This video of still sends shivers down my spine."

Generation X - Kiss Me Deadly (1978)

* Funnily enough, Carolyn, I was only saying the same thing myself.  

Thursday 19 November 2020

Love Fife

Mental health issues, spiralling debts and a penchant for self destruction. No, I'm not talking about the present incumbent of the White House. Or even our own hapless Prime Minister. They are, however, the three main reasons why the finest folktronica band ever to come out of Fife are no longer with us. They sadly, though not unsurprisingly, pressed their very own nuclear button in 2004. 
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Beta Band. 

Dry the Rain (1997)

Wednesday 11 November 2020

Ode to Billie Jo

Blankets - not 100% safe

Who remembers when the KLF got it on with Tammy Wynette? Yep, it was 1991- the musical landscape at the time was, to say the least, very housey and drenched in acid (sorry, Aciiiid!) and their resulting lovechild became something of an ear-worm, long before such a thing was even a thing.

Bent tried something similar a number of years later when they and Billie Jo Spears, ahem, laid their blanket on the ground. The electronica duo from Nottingham sampled two of Billie Jo's songs (But I Do and Hurt - both from 1975) and set them against the most infectious bass line you're ever likely to hear. What Ms. Spears thought about the fruit of their union is sadly not documented. I'd like to think she'd have approved. 

Bent - So Long Without You (2003)

Thursday 5 November 2020

Nothing Gold Can Stay

Robert Frost (1874-1963)

Brevity; the idea that less is more. It's a notion I swear by. If you can say it in an eight line poem, then do so. With apologies to Tolstoy, but I'm sure War and Peace could have been condensed into two sides of A4.
Like Bowie, Robert Frost's command of the language was such that he could write a poem as powerful as Nothing Gold Can Stay with room to spare. Autumn - and life - encapsulated in a mere 40 words. It's one of my favourite pieces of prose.

Nature's first green is gold, 
Her hardest hue to hold. 
Her early leaf's a flower; 
But only so an hour. 
Then leaf subsides to leaf. 
So Eden sank to grief, 
So dawn goes down to day. 
Nothing gold can stay.

27 October 2020

There is a beautiful beech tree outside my front door. It must be 200 years old if it's a day. Although I've only lived in this house a little over three years, I feel as if I've known this tree all my life.
I took a photograph of it at the end of October with a fish eye lens. I then tweeted it and said that if I was to take another photograph of it 24 hours later it would look different again. It did. And it has done every day since. These two photos are separated by just over a week - the collage below is a daily record. (I know what I'm like - I can see me continuing to photograph this tree every day.)

5 November 2020