Friday, June 15, 2018

FRIDAY MUSIC: The Highwaymen, by JD

The Highwaymen were a country music 'supergroup' comprising four of the best singer/songwriters of the genre: Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings and Kris Kristofferson.

Cash and Nelson have featured on this blog previously so a few words about the other two. Waylon Jennings is probably best known for being the Balladeer of the TV series 'Dukes OF Hazzard' Before then he was one of the artists in the (in)famous package tour of 1959 during which Buddy Holly died in a plane crash. Jennings gave up his seat on the light aircraft in favour of J P Richardson (the Big Bopper) as J P had flu and the tour bus was freezing cold. For a long time afterwards Jennings, by his own admission, felt a sense of guilt about what had happened.

Kris Kristofferson is something of a 'renaissance man' He was a Rhodes Scholar at Merton College where he earned a Blue for boxing. and played rugby for his college. He later joined the US Army and became a helicopter pilot and then flew helicopters servicing the oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico but all the while he wanted to be a songwriter. There is a famous story that he landed a helicopter on Johnny Cash's lawn in order to deliver some demo cassettes of his songs. Cash eventually recorded "Sunday Morning Coming Down" the first of many Kristofferson songs and the rest, as they say, is history!

Friday, June 08, 2018

FRIDAY MUSIC: My Back Pages, by JD

A bit of nostalgia for those of us of a certain age.......

Thursday, May 31, 2018

An EU jawbreaker

Visiting a friend of a friend in Portugal, I admired his classic 1970s Triumph Stag.

(A bit like this)

He then explained that the Government had tried to charge him € 58,000 for registering it in Portugal. You can buy a house for that - even two - in some rural areas.

Apparently this sort of thing is illegal under EU law (a case where most of us would agree).

So the EU fines Portugal every year for doing it.

But not enough. Portugal is happy to pay the fine every year, because the swindle is so lucrative.

EU happy, Portugal happy.

It's a gobstopper of a problem, though - less EU, or more?

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Roll Up! Roll Up! - by Wiggia

We have an annual two-day fete and fair next door to us, really next door, every year. Today (Monday) is the last day and we get a firework display at ten o’clock to finish. The itinerary can be seen here….

The last couple of years have not been kind to this event, the weather spoiling (or worse) either one or both days, but this year a downpour was at the first day's end and so far today it has been sun all the way despite a “yellow” warning from the Met Office.

For various reasons and despite the proximity I have never been, though the firework display is as near in my back garden as you could wish and that has been enjoyed from the comfort of an upstairs window. But today we went, hardly an effort as we have a side door to the footpath that leads to the recreation ground and it is just 25 yards and we are in.

Today was different to Sunday: no WW1 trench experience for us - how they manage that I have no idea - no dog show and no classic cars; more of a kids' day I would imagine.

After a few minutes I wished I had brought my camera, so many were the photo opportunities, but with the ‘English’ moral Police seeing everyone with a camera as a paedo it was probably better I had no camera, even though we are the only country in Europe where this attitude abounds.

We passed through the side gate and almost straight away the first attraction was spied: the donkey ride. Six of the little fellas were working in shifts taking small children in hard hats round the showground for £2 a go. The queue for this was at least twenty long and obviously popular with the junior clientele, especially young girls - nothing changes in the equine world..

The rest was laid out in four avenues and the fair was at the entrance end; not a full blown fair as we had in our day but most of the essentials were there, though no “Big Bertha” or Helter Skelter, but most of the other rides were there including the Dodgems. Now the Dodgems always evoked a smell of burnt electricity in my day as the power was transmitted from an electric ceiling to the car by way of a pole that touched the ceiling, rather in the style of a trolley bus, and the Dodgems were a macho affair with riding on the back until chased off by the operators was de rigeur; this was a very family friendly sanitised Dodgem but still very popular as were all the rides with queues for tickets.

The obvious difference in the fair compared with the ones in my youth, which was the last time I went to a fair, was the new must-have item: the bouncy castle. Here we had a whole range of bouncy castles that had provision inside for war councils, slides for quick exits, stairs so fun jumps could be repeated, castles shaped like giant cars, one with windows shaped like a giant tea pot and assorted others.

There was also a sort of bungee “experience” like a swing on elastic. A small girl on a limited bounce was asked if she was okay, the small screwed up face nodded yes and wanted a bigger bounce; she could not have been more than eighteen months to two years old.The bouncy castle has found a niche with the very young no other entertainment can provide it seems, all of them were in full use with queues waiting, for the very young there were under sixes only castles. I was tempted !

A small pop concert venue for “budding” stars of tomorrow, and in the centre itself junior "how to pot plants" was proving popular, dirty little hands always goes down well.

Elsewhere there was the now obligatory face painting, hair plaiting, sparkly face decoration and a stall selling party princess tutus for the those youngsters who now seem to wear them as everyday attire.

If there was one thing that has changed over the years it was the supply of refreshments, aside from the beer tent and a fruit drinks and cocktails bar ! There were roughly twenty stalls supplying food from the humble and not so humble burger through fish and chips, hog roast (long queue and wait for that one), ice cream van with a queue into the distance on this hot day, two miniature cafes, homemade cakes, fudge, chocolates and everything in between. It appeared that everyone was eating or drinking, gluttony has no bounds on days like this, and yes, guilty! as I purchased a very nice cake with the excuse it was for my tea, though it was far too big for just tea ! With all this food I failed till later to notice one striking omission: no candy floss. No fair is really complete without it, I shall have a word with the organisers so as to rectify this oversight.

Any other obvious differences since those early days? Well yes, the people at the fair: it was the usual mix of what seemed a pretty good cross section of Britain today, in this area anyway, almost exclusively white, which no doubt those in power will do their best to revise in short time, but a good cross section none the less. So what was different? The most striking thing was that in my day the fair would be for teenagers, mods rockers and everyone else would make up a large segment of the fair goers; not so much now if this one was anything to go by, the place was full of the little darlings - I can only think the lure of the bouncy council has worked its magic not exclusively but to a very large degree.

In other areas the strange and the weird show up as they always do, some very odd-shaped people in misfitting clothes, more in clothes of poor taste, we had a lot of very bad tattoos on display in the sun (golden opportunity to show those off in the hot weather), several mobility scooters holding a union meeting in the shade of trees, alongside the picnickers.

Was it a success? Certainly! The raucous calls from the showmen, "Do you want faster and noisier?" were answered with a very loud yes and the delight of it all on the young children's faces was there to see.

Despite all that is going wrong in our country, it was all forgotten on the showground; not a uniquely British event by any means but still going strong and still giving a lot of pleasure to a lot of people.

Oh, the rain never appeared and the firework display that I wanted to photograph went ahead but as the wife prodded me at ten - the time the display started after I had fallen asleep on the sofa - my rushed attempts to capture the display were disappointing, I blame the wife: she deliberately let me snooze on, spoilsport.

Friday, May 25, 2018

FRIDAY MUSIC: Captain Beefheart, by JD

Pic source

Don van Vliet (1941 - 2010) was an American painter and sculptor and his paintings are becoming collector's pieces. I am not a fan of abstract expressionism but others like it so judge for yourselves-

"As a child, Vliet was considered to be a child-prodigy sculptor and at age four caught the attention of Augustinio Rodriguez, a Portuguese sculptor and host of a weekly television show. For eight years Rodriguez featured clay animals on his shows which had been sculpted by Vliet. At age thirteen, Vliet received a scholarship to study art in Europe, an offer his parents declined."

Many people were doubtful of that story and thought it might have been invented by Vliet himself. I was aware that he was a sculptor as well as a painter but I had never seen any sculptures by him. However there is further information on that story here:

Vliet, if he is known at all, is better known as Captain Beefheart; singer, songwriter and multi instrumentalist with his ever changing line up of musicians known as the Magic Band (which included Ry Cooder in an early incarnation.)

His music blended elements of blues, free jazz, and rock with avant-garde composition, idiosyncratic rhythms, and his surrealist wordplay and wide vocal range.

He achieved little commercial success but has become a cult figure and has been a major influence on subsequent generations of musicians. The wonderful facility known as YouTube allows us to marvel at and enjoy the music of this mad genius in all its glorious eccentricity. What has happened to the music business that we are now served up bland lifeless pap from identikit pop 'stars'?

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Air travail, by JD

I wrote this in 2011 when I was thinking of doing a blog post about travelling:

"Writing in the Guardian in 2007, the designer Sir Terence Conran told a story that illustrates perfectly the difference between the ethos of a publicly owned infrastructure company and a privately owned one.

Conran revealed that when he was working on the design of the state-owned Heathrow Terminal 1 and the North Terminal of Gatwick airport in the 1960s, he was pressed to make sure that he provided "lots of seating" for the public. Conran contrasted the concern the state-owned airports authority in the 1960s showed for the comfort of the travelling public, to the much more commercial attitude of BAA today, where "every square inch must be turned over to retail space."

Unlike its state-owned predecessor, the privately owned BAA is seemingly guided by just one concern: maximising profits for its Spanish-owned parent company, Ferrovial. That means out with public seating areas, and in with forcing people to pay to sit down in rip-off cafes and restaurants."

It was brought to mind after reading John Ward's latest observations on passing through Stansted Airport -

Ward's tale also reminded me of an unplanned meander through Barcelona airport (which is called appropriately enough El Prat.)

I checked in at the BA desk then looked at my gate number and access stair. The BA desk was at the foot of Stair C. My boarding pass said Stair A so I walked to the other end of the terminal and climbed Stair A. Through security check which was nowhere near as bad as these things are now. I then looked for the gate number and followed the signs past endless 'shopping experience' and, after a long walk, reached the gate. Entrance to the gate was on my left but to my right was the security check for passengers coming up Stair C!

(I think the Barcelona check-in episode was in 2000 or 2001, can't remember exactly. It was definitely before the 9/11 attacks because security after that was turned into an assault course, the poor passengers being the ones assaulted!)

I no longer travel anywhere because I have done enough travelling and have a lot of good memories but, as Ward says, our puritanical leaders do not want 'proles' like me to enjoy holidays and certainly not to broaden our horizons and our minds.