Wednesday, 30 November 2011

NOW! That's What I Call A Tune! 8

The great things about this series is that I don't just get to choose songs by great acts but I get to reminisce about tracks that I'd forgotten about. Browsing the running order on Wikipedia may not be quite the same as handling the gatefold sleeve of a double album (look it up, kids) but it still generates those "Oh, do you remember...?" moments as a buried treasure bursts from a box at the back of your brain.

Last week's entry by Sly Fox was one such tune, this week's is another. It may be a bit slushy, but it is very much of its time - and if this series is not about nostalgia, I'm not sure what is! Here's Barry Gardiner with I Wanna Wake Up With You:


P.S. I did almost choose Cameo with Word Up, but I actually prefer Gun's version from 1994.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Tuesday Titter 10: Vic Reeve's Windiest Night Out

This week's Tuesday Titter is an animation courtesy of BBC Comedy which describes a momentous night for Vic Reeves, narrated by the man himself:


Wednesday, 23 November 2011

NOW! That's What I Call A Tune! 7

This weeks tune is a top slice of Classic Eighties Cheese from a genuine One Hit Wonder. Here is Sly Fox with Lets Go All The Way, Oh-oh-oh, let's go all the way...



Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Tuesday Titter 9: Burnistoun

I've recently been catching the Scottish sketch show "Burnistoun" which has been running on BBC2 England. To be honest, it's a bit hit and miss - and it's no Chewin' The Fat - but it's had it's moments. 

This week's clip made me laugh out loud when I first saw it, and fortunately I found it straight away on You Tube:



Monday, 21 November 2011

A Brief Annoucement

Unfortunately my computer died last night so until it has been resuscitated, blogging will be light. I do have a number of NOW! posts scheduled and one or two others, so there will be at least a weekly fix of blogging activity, but otherwise I may be gone for some time.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Sunday Sounds 26 - The Pretenders edition

Following my recent post featuring UB40 and Chrissie Hynde, Stephen messaged me on Facebook (other Social Networking sites are, I'm assured, available) with a link to a track I hadn't previously heard but is now today's Sunday Sound - The Pretenders with Everyday Is Like Sunday:

I also discovered that they do a great version of the Radiohead track "Creep". Enjoy:


Saturday, 19 November 2011

The Orange Show... featuring The Muppets

A few posts ago I mentioned the new Orange "gold spot" cinema advert featuring The Muppets. I promised to keep an eye out for it becoming available online... and it has! Here it is:


Friday, 18 November 2011

The Male Model Edition (and so much more)

Inspired by Stephen, I decided to find this video which I can remember watching streamed live on Facebook last year. To the casual eye, it's the Dolce & Gabbana Spring/Summer 2011 collection. To the discerning ear, it's the divine Miss Annie Lennox with a fantastic performance of two of her biggest hits, accompanied soley by a piano.

Sit back, close your eyes, relax... and enjoy.


A Dead Good Time 2

Yesterday I posted some photos taken in Bristol's Arnos Vale cemetery. The active part of that cemetery is beautifully tended whilst the older areas have become a nature reserve. Prior to visiting that, I popped into the Catholic burial ground, Holy Souls Cemetery, next to it.

This was different in character, partly because it was much smaller and partly because the first area you enter has a number of overgrown graves and gravestones clad in ivy and other climbing plants. There was also a grave marked by a rather ostentatious crucifix - I've never seen anything quite like it.

In the past, I used to find the sight of an overgrown cemetery sad and felt this was somehow wrong. My feelings have relaxed on this over the years and now think there is something in being left to rest - truly - in peace which is organic. Dust to dust... 

Of course, overgrown gravestones also make great subjects for photographs:


Thursday, 17 November 2011

Use your loaf

If at first you don't succeed...

try, try again:

You can find the recipe I used here. I used around 5g of dried yeast (as opposed to 10g of fresh yeast). On my first attempt my warmed milk was too warm and killed the yeast and consequently the loaf never rose. To circumvent this on the second attempt I dissolved the yeast in a little bit of lukewarm water (half just boiled and half cold) with around 5 g of sugar. Halving thus established that it was active - it produced bubbles/froth - I added the milk mixture to it, ensuring the milk had cooled sufficiently this time.

Other than yeast problems, the process is reasonably straight-forward although messy and lengthy!


A Dead Good Time 1

A few weeks ago, after lunch on a Saturday, I embarked on a random walk. Shortly after starting out, I realised I was near Bristol's Arnos Vale cemeteryLike many people, I like the peace and tranquillity of graveyards and cemeteries. 

As someone who enjoys spending time alone and loves to go on urban walks with just his iPod Shuffle for company they offer a space for reflection quite unlike anywhere else. There is a reverence about them which comes as much from a proper respect for their place in society as much as from any supposed consecration of the ground itself.

Arnos Vale is unusual in that it has a visitor's centre and actively encourages people to come and enjoy the grounds which contain the cemetery, gardens of remembrance, chapel, war memorials and a nature reserve. As such, one can move from the tended and pristine lawns with rows of graves to the wooded areas where the graves lie peacefully amid the fallen leaves of seasons past.

If you live in Bristol, it's worth a visit (I may even pop out there again myself this afternoon); if not, enjoy the pictures:

There will be more pics from this shoot appearing over on the the widow's window, which I update (almost) daily.


Wednesday, 16 November 2011

NOW! That's What I Call A Tune! 6

They say we're young and we don't know...

Okay, maybe once upon a time. Anyway, I'll tell you what I do know, this week's NOW! Tune is UB40 and Chrissie Hynde's version of I Got You Babe...


Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Tuesday Titter 8: I Will Survive

This weeks Tuesday Titter has been inspired by Stephen Glenn's recent entry for G in his "L, the U and Everything: A-Z of the Music I have". He posted a video of Gloria Gaynor singing "I Will Survive" which reminded me of this week's video.

It's an internet classic which has been around since long before You Tube! If you've not seen it before, watch and enjoy. If you have seen it before, watch and enjoy again!


Sunday, 13 November 2011

Sunday Sounds 25: The Billy Joel edition

This week's Sunday Sound is a special double A-side edition featuring the legendary Billy Joel (who also featured in this post).

First up is "We Didn't Start The Fire" which I had - as a present from one of my sisters - on 7" vinyl single. In the post linked to above I included a fan-video but the official video is now available for embedding, so here it is:

Next up, a more "spiritual" number - The River of Dreams:



The Poppy Appeal: Where your money goes

This is the last of my posts commemorating Armistice Day and Remembrance Sunday. I wanted to shift focus from remembrance to the practical action which the Poppy Appeals facilitate. To that end, I have chosen three videos and I make no apologies for the quantity or length of these.

The first is a fantastic poppyscotland video in which various veterans share their experiences and impressions of military life and facing action:

Next, a young man who was given practical help and advise through the Royal British Legion:

And finally, another poppyscotland video which also features a young man who needed help re-establishing himself in civilian life after receiving a medical discharge from the Army. I felt it was really important to include these last two videos as they highlight the ongoing need for the funds raised by the poppy appeals quite aside from the importance of remembering the sacrifice of those who have died in active service over the past near-century:


This post is dedicated to my cousin, currently serving on his second tour to Afganistan. I sincerely hope, in the best possible sense, that he never needs to draw on the services of poppyscotland.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Guilty Pleasures 8

1,2,3,4 Come on baby, say you'll love me
5,6,7 times 
8,9,10,11, I'm just going to keep on counting
Until you are mine

Yes, the subject of this weeks Guilty Pleasure is Gloria Estefan whom I really liked back in 1989/1990. As I remember, she was one of the few artists that both I and my elder little sister liked. As a general rule, if she liked an artist (and here you can read Michael Jackson as well as New Kids on the Block). 

There were many tracks that I could have chosen but I decided to stick with my original choice. No, not 1,2,3,4 - that was just there as a bonus - but Rhythm is Gonna Get You. Oh yes, it is:


Thursday, 10 November 2011

For the Fallen

Tomorrow is Armistice Day and as in previous years, I shall be marking this with some appropriate posts.

Today's post is a classic and oft quoted poem by Laurence Binyon. It's sobering to think that although this was first published on the 21st September 1914 - just under two months into the Great War - it still has a relevance today.

For the Fallen by Laurence Binyon

With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,
England mourns for her dead across the sea.
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of spirit,
Fallen in the cause of the free.

Solemn the drums thrill: Death august and royal
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres.
There is music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears.

They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

They mingle not with laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England's foam.

But where our desires are and our hopes profound,
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
As the stars are known to the Night;

As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain,
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.


You can find my previous posts on the subject of Remembrance here.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

NOW! That's What I Call A Tune! 5

This week we reach NOW! That's What I Call Music 5 and although there were a number of good tunes to choose from, I really couldn't not choose Simple Minds with Don't You Forget About Me. Not just because it's a great tune - and it is - but also because of it's association with one of my favourite films of all time: The Breakfast Club.

Unfortunately, as it's available to rent on You Tube, clips and trailers are hard to come by with Embedding Disabled by Request. I have found this, although the picture quality isn't the best.

And if you want to see the band doing their thing, here's the official video in all its Eighties glory:



Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Tuesday Titter 7: Yes, Minister

I really, really, really wanted to share the new Orange cinema gold spot ad with you today - it's a glorious mix of music, song and dance starring The Muppets. I went to the cinema the other day and saw it twice - both times it left me, literally, laughing out loud. Unfortunately it's not online (yet, at least, but I'll be keeping an eye open for it. Two eyes, as often as I can spare them.) 

Instead, therefore, here is some absolutely classic comedy from Yes, Minister. Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got an appointment with a gentleman from the Scotch Office...



Monday, 7 November 2011

James Naughtie and The Wasp Factory

James Naughtie is one of my favourite Radio 4 personalities. Not only is he the "good cop" to John Humphrys' more robust and assertive cop on the Today programme but his too-rare pieces of reportage showcase a great skill of approaching complex issues from a sympathetic and human viewpoint. His reports from the campaign trail in the last US elections were essential listening in this regard as were those from Japan in the wake of the Earthquakes earlier this year.

(These foreign assignments are a matter of ongoing controversy on Radio 4's Feedback programme - not to mention The Daily Mail, of course - the argument against such trips typically being: "How many correspondants does the BBC need in any one place? And what point is there in presenting the show from, say, Japan when it could equally well be done in London? For my money (and it is in part) Mr Naughtie is a shining example of how being at the source of the news informs and illuminates in a way analysing it from thousands of miles away can never do. But I digress...)

Aside from his political nous, though, Naughtie also has a wide range of artistic and literary interests which the Today production team also ensure are utilised when the opportunity arises. These interests are also given expression when presenting the Proms and Radio 4's monthly Bookclub.

The format of the Bookclub is an interview the author of a given book, guiding the listener through the thought process of the writer, the issues and plotting devices, the characters and intent as well as chairing a discussion and taking questions from the audience. Naughtie does this expertly, showing a real knowledge of the book under discussion and ensuring that the major themes and questions are addressed.

This month's book happens to be one of my favourites and by one of my favourite authors: The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks. It's waiting on my iPod to listen to but I've no doubt it'll be a corker. You can find it on iPlayer or you can download the podcast

Here's a taster of the programme courtesy of Naughtie's own e-mail. If you're at all familiar with his accent and the cadence of his voice, you should be able to detect that in his writing:

"I’m fairly sure that Iain Banks is the first guest on Bookclub of whom I have asked the question: have you ever let yourself be psycho-analysed? I was therefore slightly disappointed when the answer was no, but it was worth a try.  (Radio 4 Bookclub this Sunday 6 November at 4pm and Thursday 10 November at the new time of 3.30pm.)

If you know The Wasp Factory, the book that launched Iain’s serious writing career 27 years ago, you will know why the question arose. Frank’s story, which gives the book its shape and its spirit, is one of grotesque adolescent excess, particularly in the matter of violence. He has killed three people (at least, we’re told, one of them a sibling) and much of his delight while he is growing up comes from meting out undeserved punishment on any living thing that passes by. Take the alarm clock contraption which involves wasps being pinned to the hands and, as a consequence, being killed to a timetable set by Frank, allowing him to wake up to see his latest victim being squashed as the clock strikes the hour, with another one coming along behind. The book is a picture of disturbance, a kind of punk’s-eye view of the world, which is a place of gothic horror and badness. Yet, as Iain told us, “Frank thinks he is relatively normal – it’s as simple as that.”

You can see why I wondered if he’d ever had his head examined to see where the story came from, and he recalled happily a launch party for one of his books in Edinburgh when an American student asked him if he had experienced a very troubled childhood, expecting the answer yes. Iain pointed out his grey-haired mother in the crowd, who duly obliged with the truth: “Och no, Iain was always a happy wee boy.”

We were talking in the National Library of Scotland in Edinburgh, where our readers had been re-reading the book, sometimes after several years, and returning to the themes that Iain has picked up in his overtly science fiction books (which he writes under the name of Iain M. Banks, a distinction which I think he now mildly regrets) and which have given him a cult following. The Wasp Factory presents a world where the certainties that Frank lives with are ones that would repel or terrify the average reader – burning dogs, tortured wasps, murders, a bizarre substitute religion in which he believes that the future is foretold by one of his grotesque killing machines, which kills its animal victims in a dozen different ways. So why was the book so popular?

His answer is that he thinks readers get the joke – “it was a hoot and a giggle” – in a way that critics certainly didn’t. A number of reviewers wondered how a publisher could stoop so low in letting the book onto the streets. Why can’t they get it, he wonders? “It’s a simple method, gross exaggeration. Being a science fiction writer helps – the term is extrapolation but it’s basically exaggeration.” When Eric, a brother whom Frank hasn’t killed, emerges from an old-style psychiatric hospital, it allows Frank to appear normal by comparison, but readers learn of the strange happenings in his past. By the end of the story, Franks makes a discovery that is clearly one of the most important of his life and will shape his future. We do mention in the course of the programme what this revelation is, simply because the book has been around for long enough for that to seem reasonable, but I won’t talk about it here, in case some of you are reading the book for the first time. Let’s just say that it changes his identity.

The story is set in a community in the far north of Scotland, which Iain knows well, on an island. Frank’s father Angus, an eccentric doctor, is part of the psychological puzzle of the novel, going every now and again to Inverness to sell drugs, which he makes at home, and perhaps sharing some of the Frank’s attitude towards women – in the absence of a mother in the house, he rails against the betrayals of women, even Mrs Clampy, the housekeeper, who is a bastion of sanity in the place. Iain is happy to describe it as a psychological study : Frank creates not just a physical environment that suits him, and his urges, but a mythological one too. Iain is as convinced as aetheist as you are ever likely to meet (he will acknowledgement that perhaps 1% of him is simply agnostic, but no more). Iain says, as you might expect, that he’s always found Frank a fascinating character, but he echoed the feelings of surely nearly every reader of the book when he said that he wouldn’t like to find himself living next door to him.

I don’t know if you agree with the reviewer who said that he found it incomprehensible that a publisher could have stooped to such levels of depravity (that was The Irish Times) or with one of our readers who said that, having not expected to enjoy it, she found herself reading the gory and funny bits to her husband on a long car journey and laughing out loud. Either way, it was a landmark book – a piece of gothic fiction and fantasy that established Iain Banks’ career and seem to fit happily into the early 80s punk-influenced popular culture. I hope you enjoy the programme."

If you've not heard the programme before, do give it a go. I'm sure you'll enjoy it!


Bristol Graffiti

Aside from the major pieces of street art, such as those created for the See No Evil festival or various Banksy works, Bristol is also home to a lot of random, small pieces of work: Here's a small selection of some that have caught my eye:


N.B. Masthead for this piece courtesy of

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Sunday Sounds 24

I'm not going to muck about with a long introductory spiel this week as my Sunday Sound is a major hit from a legendary artist and the story behind the song is so well known as well. So, here's Mr Eric Clapton with Tears in Heaven.

Enjoy, Andrew.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

5 on the 5th - November

It's time for this month's 5 on the 5th and the theme this month is "Movement"... I must confess I found the theme tricky - especially as only have my phone to take pictures with - so you'll just have to imagine any movement illustrated for yourself.

Bristol River Ferry

Pero's Bridge, Bristol


A Movement?

Cascade Steps, Bristol

Remember you can see more 5 on the 5th entries here and more of my pictures over on the widow's window.


Guilty Pleasures 7

This week we're going back in time and featuring X Factor USA and former American Idol judge Paula Abdul's first UK hit - 1989's No.3 hit "Straight Up"... Oh yes, it's cheese but oh such good cheese...

I take no responsibility for this getting stuck in your head.


Thursday, 3 November 2011

Desert Island Discs

One of my favourite wireless programmes is Desert Island Discs which, like most of my radio listening, is now done via podcasts... My iPod Shuffle being a vehicle for producing my own personalised and remixed Radio 4 (with the odd programme from Radios 1, 3, 4 extra, 5 live and Scotland thrown in for a bit of variety).

But back to DID... in the days before my Shuffle it was a programme that I only caught now and again but now I listen every week - and have also downloaded many of the archived episodes which are now available. It is one of those great Radio 4 institutions which has the ability to surprise and delight on a regular basis whether you know of the guest or not. 

(If you're not aware of it, the format of the programme is simple; the guest picks eight records which mean something to them and which they would like to have if abandoned on a Desert Island. These are shared throughout the programme during which the guest is interviewed and tells us something of their life story. Castaways on the island are given the Bible (or Qu'ran, Torah or other scripture as appropriate) and the complete works of Shakespeare, a book and a luxury of their choice.)

Sometimes you learn new things about the Castaway you thought you knew a lot about and sometimes you're introduced to a unknown person whose life is of particular interest. This week it was the latter, the guest was Lord Victor Adebowale, whom I must confess I knew nothing of. He's a former chief executive of Centrepoint and now heads up Turning Point, a Social Care enterprise in London.

One of the records he picked was The Tourists' version of I Only Want To Be With You. Although a big fan of Annie Lennox and the Eurythmics, I hadn't come across this version of one of my favourite songs of all time. Whilst I'm not convinced this is a great version (how can anyone, even the fabulous La Lennox, beat Dusty?), I do love the video:

DID is repeated tomorrow morning at 9am on Radio 4 and is also available as a podcast here.


Wednesday, 2 November 2011

NOW! That's What I Call A Tune! 4

Although there were a number of good tunes I could have chosen from NOW! That's What I Call Music 4, one track towers over all the other candidates - Pride (In The Name Of Love) by U2.



Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Tuesday Titter 6: Pachelbel Rant

I came across this week's video a couple of weeks ago courtesy of a comment on a post by someone I follow on Google +. You may think there's nothing to dislike about Pachelbel's Canon but Rob Paravonian begs to differ:

You can enjoy more videos by Rob Paravonian here. Check out the American Idol Loser Song and his take on the Friends Song too.