Wednesday, April 27, 2011

TMI! Five things you probably don't need to know about me!

I have been running this blog and writing in zines for nearly a third of my life and very little about me has remained a secret, yet it occurs to me that there's probably still a lot of useless information I can dredge up from the depths for purposes of bewilderment fuelled entertainment.  So in the interests of 'what the hell' and 'gawd knows why mister' here are five facts about me written in a style that straddles itself awkwardly between self-effacing and apologetically self promotional.

Too much information!

  1. I am fluent in sign language.  Sort of...
    For a few years I had a job in residential care providing support for adults with learning disabilities.  Somehow I ended up working with folk with 'challenging' behaviour, including a deaf autistic chap, and  that's why one my colleagues was a very lovely deaf middle-aged chap called Robin.  Robin refused to admit that he could lip-read and wouldn't talk to me unless I signed to him, so I had no choice but to learn British sign language very quickly indeed.  I say I am 'sort of' fluent because I haven't had to use sign for quite a while, but after a few minutes of chatty signing it usually comes flooding back to me.

  2. I was a pre-teen gymlast
    My memory is a bit hazy on this one, but I do know that it happened because I still have my merit badges.  I also remember that one day I suddenly noticed that I was the only boy attending the training sessions.

  3. I was nearly a nurse
    When I was fifteen I knew beyond all doubt that I was going to make my living either as a musician or a writer, so when the school career's advisor asked me what career I was aiming for I told her music (because somehow that seemed less cocky than declaring I would be a writer).  The career's advisor said something along the lines of 'no, what do you really want to do?', I reassured her that I would be playing my bass guitar in exchange for vittles, she disagreed and that's how I ended up doing a BTEC ND in science (Health Studies), which is the fast-track to becoming a nurse.  But it wasn't all bad news - I was the only male on a fifty strong course...

  4. Some of the people I refer to as family members are not family members.
    Because, well, some folk are so much more than friends aren't they?  Case in point is Graham (a.k.a @GrumBirky), who was born on the same day as me, was my best man and has lived in the same house (or just a few doors away) for the whole of the fifteen years that I've known him.  My mum hated the idea that Graham's own mum lived many miles away so she 'adopted' him properly into our family; he IS my brother!

  5. I'm not as tall as I thought I was.
    Until yesterday I thought I was 6' 2" tall, but it turns out that I'm only 6'.  Maybe I'm shrinking?

P.S This post was inspired by one I read over here -

Friday, April 15, 2011

Me on the BBC!

Tonight (15/04/11) at 7pm I will be part of a takeover of the brilliant 'BBC Introducing' show on BBC Suffolk.  Along with Martyn and Jason from Antigen records I'll be talking about the mammoth 'The Ugly Truth About Ipswich' compilation album that we're jointing putting out soon.

The Ugly Truth About Ipswich is an album that documents the gloriously creative Ipswich music scene over the last thirty five years.  I'll be making a more comprehensive blog post about this epic project, but for now I'd recommend you listen to tonight's show.  The album has really broad appeal (and has some very famous folk on it) so don't go assuming that just because you're not from Ipswich* this won't be fascinating!

I think we're going to try and play the entire album tonight, which (if nothing else) will mean some very interesting edits of the riper language that pops up in some of the tracks.

Listen online at BBC Suffolk....

The Ugly Truth About Ipswich Facebook page...

Antigen Records...

*Being pedantic I'm not from Ipswich myself, I grew up in Wickham Market.

Update 16/04/11
A podcast of last night's show will be available on the BBC Suffolk site for the next thirty days

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Crossing paths.

The Sluice by the tip in Ipswich
I think I heard his bottle chink as it bounced off a stone in the footpath, but the grind of my rusty chain makes a similar noise, so maybe not. I slowly rolled round the bend in the path and when I first saw him slumped on the ground I thought he was leaning to let me pass; the river is stagnant and foul on that stretch just before the weir, so I slowed to thank him for being considerate, and that's when I saw how desperate he looked.

The bottle I thought I'd heard hit the ground was laying a few feet further down the path; the final drops escaping into the hard trodden dried mud.

"Are you alright mate?"

His head lolled as he looked around himself; as if he was trying to still his thoughts enough to find an answer.  I repeated myself and his head tipped back as he stared up at me, apparently only now aware of my considerable bulk standing in front of him.  He splayed his hands out as he searched for, and then clung loosely onto his knees.

I looked back down the footpath behind me, hoping that 'she' wasn't about to walk around the corner.  I didn't have time for this, but fuck; I can't just leave a fellow human in need?

Can I?

"You sure you're alright mate?"

He worried his knees with slow moving blackened fingers and fought the words as they came, delaying them, trying to hold them in, but after a long sigh they beat him and he muttered,

"Move along..." One of his hands slipped off his knee, and his head fell forward to stare at the dirt in front of his feet.

So I did what he asked me to; I moved on.

About a hundred yards down the path I took a last look over my shoulder and he hadn't moved.  I really wanted to help, but I guess he'd already escaped whatever hell was hounding him, and I was still trying to escape mine on my bike.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Burritos on Bishopsgate - Wrap It Up

I've always been a fan of food in tortilla wraps and since trying a proper burrito while on a writing trip to the states a couple of years ago I've been on the hunt for something similar in this country.  My first proper burrito came from a place called Gordito Burrito in Rhode Island, and as sad as it might sound one of the things I miss most about being in America is how easy it is to find an edible burrito.

Jim's nachos @ Gordito Burrito
Good times in Gordito Burrito
(no, that isn't me).

As marvellous as the cosmopolitan cuisine of this country is we don't appear to be able to get our act together when it comes to making a decent burrito - most burritos I've had in the UK have been either poncey miniscule restaurants efforts swamped in gravy, or extortionately priced tough tubes crammed full of god-knows-what at festivals.

I've had some nearly commendable burritos in places like Camden, but when compared to the fat, warm, yielding, fresh and healthy (yes - healthy) burritos I had in America the burritos I've eaten in my home country have been a poor imitation of what this fantastic food should be.  As I'm sure you've gathered by now I adore burritos, so making do with these poor imitators was the culinary equivalent of being a big fan of the Mona Lisa but making do with a biro scribble of an dead rat on the back of a discarded cigarette packet.

Wrap It Up.
When I found a new burrito place opposite Liverpool Street station (on Bishopsgate) I knew I owed it to myself to continue my search for a well made burrito.  As soon as I had walked through the door it was clear that I might have found my burrito Shangri-la - the place was light, airy and well lit, the total opposite of the British burrito places I'd been before.  The staff were super friendly and 'shock'; they appear to actually enjoy their jobs!  The guacamole was zesty, the rice was tender, the black beans were tasty and the portions were generous (to say the least).  I was actually a little surprised when the cheery chap behind the till told me how cheap my meal was!

I don't profess to be an expert on every food joint in London town (and I'm sure there are other great burrito places) but I do know enough that I now seem unable to walk past Wrap It Up without popping in to buy something.  Hell; the fact that I'm currently the Mayor of Wrap It Up on Foursquare (despite the fact I only visit London once a week) should give you an idea of the high regard I have for this burrito joint!

Related links

Wrap It Up...
My review of Gordito Burrito...
Photos from my trip to America...

Monday, April 11, 2011

First impressions count (as weird).

This tub has something to do with
us needing a new cooker...
I guess you could call this post a fictionalised account of real life events, although I suppose telling you at the outset that this isn’t a true representation of how the following occurred might take the shine out of it.  Hmm; please can you try and forget that you’ve read this intro and skip onto the metaphorical main course of this post…

The first time I meet someone new* I always say or do something really odd.  I’m going to keep my musical life out of this post because the lycra we wore on stage for a while in my old band gave a lot of people (in audiences) a very strange first impression of me, and was more revealing of my anatomy than my personality.

Today was a fairly normal day and yet I still managed to make at least a couple of first impressions that may or may not be worth reporting (you’re the judge, not me).  Both of these incidents occurred while I was trying to replace our knackered old cooker - my wife was out doing what gardeners do whenever they’re gardening and for reasons I won’t embarrass myself by sharing with you it was imperative to replace the cooker before she returned to roost.  Time was short so I employed the cheerful assistance of my terminally unemployed buddy Jonny Culture (no relation other than the fact he has the surname culture for the same reason I do).

Breeding white goods.

Out with the old...
Before a new cooker could be warmly welcomed (yes that is a pun, poor as it may be, please tut, sigh disapprovingly and move on) into our home the old shamed cooker needed to be frowned at, grunted over and cast into the back of (my fake brother) Graham’s van for it’s final journey.

Jonny and I were halfway through the grunting part of the casting out process (trying to summon strength from our weak bodies to slide the cooker into the van) when my fake brother’s new lodger made a surprise appearance on the scene.  Most of the surprise was his, because from where he was stood our ‘thrusting motion’ was creating the impression that Jonny and I were trying to do something to the cooker that nature never intended and God would almost certainly disapprove of.  The exchange that followed went a little something like this,

“Hello Chris…. You must be Chris!”  The look on his face appeared to be more a reaction to the scene than the lines of the players.  He offered no reply so I doubled the effort being made on my side of the conversation,

“Chris?  Graham’s new lodger?”  Jonny stood back from the van and rested against the wall of my house; he’s known me long enough to be aware that these types of exchanges can take some time, and he’s also a great fan of leaning on things.  There was still no reply so I continued to dig upwards out of the hole I had found myself in,

“This is Graham’s van!”  Yeah, I know that outburst wasn’t going to help, and in the awkward conversation that followed I also found out that calling Graham’s new lodger ‘Chris’ didn’t help either, on account of his name being Danny.

Danny took my introduction with the sort of good humour an adult might show a young child who is telling a rambling pointless story (a bit like this one), and as soon as etiquette allowed he escaped, leaving me free to travel across down to make my second odd first impression of the day… with the also old.
Searching for humour and finding mild offence.
The charming sun-dried lady in the second-hand white goods place where I bought the new cooker was a genuine delight; she was friendly, engaging, keen to part me with my cash and had a laugh like a heavy smoking hippo.  The impression I made on her deserves less wordage, because unless she’s sold me a shocker I very much hope that by the next time I see her time will have eroded her memory of the brief conversation we had at the climax of our transaction,

“Ere love, oi needcha address and foe-warn number.”  I told her the first line of my address, she asked me spell it so I did, and carefully enunciated every one of the seven letters.  She carved the details onto the receipt and continued,

“Whatsha powast cowed?”

“Would you like me to spell that for you as well?”  She looked up and me, widened her eyes a little and stood perfectly still for long enough for several tens of heartbeats.  A gust of wind blew past us and made a gentle whistling noise as it passed between her ears, and then she replied,

“Well that’s not very nice is it…”

The thing is, I really wasn’t trying to be rude; among other friends (and I dare say in my meandering writings) that line would have passed as humour!

So there you have it – I make odd first impressions, and I doubt that I’ll ever change, and I’m not sure I want to.  The positive aspect of making odd first impressions is that it really helps people remember who you are, and the next time they see you if they avoid you then it’s their loss, and if they make a beeline for you then you’ve made a new friend.

*In person, although to be honest I probably come across just as batty online, but in smaller more focussed doses.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

The Computers - Music is Dead

CDEP - One Little Indian Records

Starting off like a seriously dirty version of psychobilly the title track of this E.P totally changes tone when the vocals kick in - sure there's yelling, but it's damn cool yelling that sits nicely in with the music rather than overpowering it.  The vocals aren't as harsh as Ghost of a Thousand and yet somehow more guttural than The Refused.

The second track 'Burning Love' has broader appeal and is a toe-tapping bruiser of a song that is almost bubblegum pop.  As I sit down to review this E.P the sun is shinning and I've got a weekend full of fun ahead of me; this song just kinda feels right for this sort of summery optimistic mood.

I don't often like to talk about production when reviewing bands (on account of it usually meaning more to bands than punters) but the tonal quality of this recording is astounding, whoever mastered this disc deserves every penny they got paid!

While  The Computers are undeniably punk rock there's a strong Rock and Roll after taste, and it's a damned tasty part of this musical meal.  If you like bands like The Shitty Limits and Fucked Up then The Computers deserve a place on your shopping list next time you shove your hand in your pocket to enrich your life with another music purchase.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Born to ride, pensively prepared for pain - a sponsored bike ride.

Mark Schorah and Andrew Laws get saddle-sore for charity.
Mark and I are band mates in a band called 'These Are End Times'; I play bass and Mark plays trumpet (because he is a real musician).  Last year one of the string-flingers (guitarists) in our band (a fella called Martyn Peck) impressed us by doing a proper long stroll to raise cash for The Red Cross. 

At the end of his epic walk Mark and I met Martyn in the pub to offer congratulations (and beer).  Last year Martyn walked from The Dove Street Inn in Ipswich to Felixstowe and back again, this year he's upping the ante somewhat by walking from Haverhill to The Nelson in Ipswich, which is a sole-destroying forty five miles!

Mark and I were so inspired by Martyn's pluck that we decided to do something similar to raise a some cash for Red Cross.

At first our plans involved only the pub part of at the end of Martyn' sponsored strut, but finding people to sponsor Mark and I to drink beer in a pub would be a non-starter because we often do that for free.  We soon realised that we should exploit the fact that our friends like to see us suffer, and therefore should attempt some sort of physical feat in order to encourage friends and family to pony up the dough, and that's when we came up with....

Mark and Andrew's big bike blowout!
On the 3rd May 2011 at the same time in the morning that Martyn leaves Haverhill Mark and I will leave The Nelson on our bikes, we will attempt to ride to Martyn's starting point in Haverhill, and then (and this is where the 'blowout' part is likely to happen) we're going to try and ride all the way back to The Nelson in Ipswich - that's ninety miles!

In preparation for this foolish feat I have started training on my mountain bike (to increase my saddle stamina), and Mark has prepared by fitted a brake to his single-gear racer (a bike that is older than he is).

I don't think I need too tell you why The Red Cross needs more money than ever before, and if you sponsor this mad bike ride you will be doing a truly great thing.  Please take a moment to dontate; even tiny amounts make a huge difference to those in need.

Update - 04/05/11
We did it! Find out more here -

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

How to give a cat a pill

I was recently going through some of the old source files for Beat Motel zine and found this graphic I made for issue #04, so in the interests of recycling and beating the climate crunch I thought I'd post it here:

P.S. This comes from an issue of Beat Motel that was published in January 2006, and I have no idea if I wrote this or not (probably not), so if this is yours then get in touch so I can give credit!