Monday, 30 January 2006


I find this a fascinating programme, Balderdash and Piffle, on BBC2 on a Monday night, about the history of words. I did linguistics and the history of language at college two decades ago and always found it interesting. The great vowel shift that travelled across Europe that change 'a' to 'ay' in some circumstances across all European languages around the 1650s or thereabouts, softening vowels (except for Geordies and Celts, of course) - loads of interesting stuff.

Tonight we have Germaine Greer looking at 'cunt' and Courtney Pine considering the history of the word 'cool'.

English is such a vibrant language, adapting and growing as needed, from Chaucer to Shakespeare to Woolf to Viz, all using English to send the exact message they want to deliver. English is made up of so many other tongues, with French derived words dominating the legal system as a hang-over from the Normans who imposed the bones of our legal system, the Vikings who gave us many of our place names in the north east and north west of the country from their invasions, from the empire in the 19th century, particularly from India (ever wondered where 'pyjamas' comes from?).

It grows, it evolves, it changes meanings. Perhaps that's why it's (currently) the dominant language on the planet. More people speak various forms of Chinese (mainly Mandarin) and Spanish, but everyone learns English because it's the standard language of trade and entertainment in so many countries around the world.

Of course, I still don't always understand 'American English' but that's another matter ...

Saturday, 28 January 2006

More Top Ten iPod

It's changed again:

Apply Some Pressure ~ Maximo Park
Big Scary Animal ~ Belinda Carlisle
Darling Don't Cry ~ Buffy Sainte-Marie
Don't You Want Me? ~ The Human League
Lily ~ Kate Bush
American Pie ~ Madonna
Grafitti ~ Maximo Park
Trouble ~ Pink
Holidays In The Sun ~ The Sex Pistols
Mama Weer All Creazee Now ~ S L A D E

That's a nice spread - isn't the shuffle facility fab?

I'm not too sure how 'Lily' got into the Top Ten though, that's a bit of a surprise.

Till Deaf Do Us Part - The Lords of Noize

Just been listening to 'Till Deaf Do Us Part' by SLADE from 1981 and it sounds surprisingly fresh and new. I'm telling you this, mysterious reader, since you'll probably never hear it (and the less mysterious readers would probably run a mile if they saw me even reaching for one of my precious SLADE CDs - philistines!).

It sounds full of life, full of robust (and slighty rude in places) joy, brash and loud. I did, of course, play it LOUD (as is always best with SLADE music). SLADE went through a number of different phases but they were always an excellent rock band, not just Glam gods for a few years.

Ruby Red, Till Deaf Do Us Part, Rock and Roll Preacher, A Night to Remember, It's Your Body Not Your Mind, these and more are all excellent rock songs, guitars wailing and thrashing, drums pounding and Noddy's voice soaring above it all.

To repeat the closing words of Noddy's autobiography (and the sign off de jour on the SLADE mailing list), keep on rockin'!

Friday, 27 January 2006

Let it snow...

What a delightful walk home from the station in the snow, floating down out of a dark sky, swirling in the breeze and being caught in the car lights and street lights. And landing on my nose. I hope it lies on the ground...

And (joy of joys) the tree at the Green is still lit up! I can't believe it - 3 days and counting!

Dontcha just lurve Streatham?

Thursday, 26 January 2006

Retail Therapy

I've been for some retail therapy this evening and it feels good. My new possessions are:

The Best of Kid Creole and The Coconuts - I already have a 'best of' but this is a different one with some songs on that I don't have so it's a good addition to the CD collection.

Missing Songs by Maximo Park (aka me Geordie lads) - this is a new CD of 'B' sides and demos. The awkward thing is that I downloaded 5 of the songs from iTunes the other day before I knew this album was availbale - drat! But it's excellent of course! Other than the CD case which was broken inside...

Some Time in New York City by John & Yoko and the Plastic Ono Band with Elephant's Memory - a very mixed album, this one, some killer tracks and some, um, not quite so killer! I got the vinyl in the mid-'70s and downloaded most of the tracks from various sources last year since it wasn't available on CD. Now it is available, so I got it! Oddly enough, I also noticed Lennon's 'Live Peace in Toronto' that I didn't realise was available on CD (I've got the vinyl of this as well).

The Motown Anthology by Kim Weston (aka Wor Kimmy) - a lost Motown goddess who had her double retrospective CD issued last year and I finally got it this evening. She generally turns up on Motown compilations but it's nice having 48 of her bestest tracks on one CD. Hoping to see her at the Jazz Cafe in 3 weeks time (not got tickets yet...).

Till Deaf Do Us Part by SLADE (aka The Lords of Noize) - an important addition to my collection, this CD is supposed to be discontinued and I haven't seen it in HMV (or anywhere) before so I snapped up the single copy on the shelves. I only have the album on download from iTunes so it's nice to have the 'proper' album. Unfortunately, the cover insert is a bit crap, but that's not the point.

Whenever I go to record shops I always try to check for SLADE and Buffy Sainte-Marie CDs - I popped down to the basement in HMV this evening to see whether there were any new Buffy's available (there are still 3 albums from the '70s not released on CD yet so you never know...). Sadly, there weren't any new 'uns.

I also got the Teenage Kicks DVD, a collection of videos from punk and related bands in the late '70s/early '80s - ah, memories!

I've been very good in controlling my credit card so far this year so it's nice to have a little splurge at last. Now, of course, I've got to listen/watch them all. I'm starting with Kid Creole with the volume turned up - what a class act!

Well, blow me ...

The lights on the tree at the Green are still on, shining away like it was Christmas all over again. Two days running - that's a record!

Wednesday, 25 January 2006

Lights..... camera ..... CLICK!

Anyone who knows Streatham will know Streatham Green, just over the road from St Leonards and between Streatham High Road and Mitcham Lane. And there's a beautiful, big old tree on the Mitcham Lane side. The Green was renovated last year and looks really good now. But it gets dark at night.

Lambeth council, in it's infinite wisdom, has draped the lovely old tree in lights to brighten the area up and add a bit of sparkle. And the day after the lights are switched on they're always broken or vandalised - it's so sad and annoying because it looks so good and makes such a difference to that area. The lights were back on tonight when I was walking home from work so I took the opportunity to take a photo since I expect them to be off again tomorrow.

Tuesday, 24 January 2006

Is this the most important news of the year so far?

O wowee!

Shake those Coconuts, girls!

This evening I have been introduced to the live delights of Kid Creole and the Coconuts by Chris and Dawn at the rather odd box of a building that is the Jazz Cafe at Camden. Onto the tiny stage, extended at both ends, trooped 8 musicians followed by 3 Coconuts and finally the Kid himself for an evening of fun, happy music, latin rhythms mixing with reggae and swing and everything inbetween - Alegria Alegria, happiness and joy!

The Coconuts shimmied across the stage move-perfect, responding to the Kid and sometimes taunting him, excellent foils to his brash man-of-the-world persona. And on the other side of the stage the three horn players were doing their own dance moves and blowing up a gale. What a loud band! Not just in terms of volume, but layers of music, dense, with lots of stuff just underneath the surface. How they all fit on that stage, did all those moves and danced round without falling into each other just screams lots of practice - that's one dedicated ensemble! And Bongo Eddie even played the bongos at one point! My only wish for the Coconuts was a bit more smiling (although that was probably part of the stage presence) and a bit more bazoomies up front! I also suspect they weren't natural blonds...

The Kid was excellent! I've never seen him live before and I'm so pleased I saw him and all the international band tonight. From his wonderfully colourful frock coated suits with a selection to tasteful hats to his overacting during the songs, all excellently presented and designed to show him, the Coconuts and the band in the best light - and it all worked, an incredibly professional performace and a joy to behold! All the songs were extended versions with their own dance routines and audience participation bits. A true showman and an excellent and thoroughly enjoyable show. I've boogied more tonight than I have in the last 6 months put together. And I want more!

As soon as I got in after the long treck from Camden I hunted out the greatest hits CD and bunged it in the machine to transfer onto the iPod - I'll start tomorrow with some happy, sunny music courtesy of the Kid and his Coconuts - you're a wonderful thing, baybee!!

Saturday, 21 January 2006

Me Geordie Lads

Maximo Park - them's me Geordie lads, but don't they look serious? Cheer up lads!

After the shock of Rula's eviction I'm relaxing by listening to their album, 'A Certain Trigger'. There are some great songs on it, clever lyrics and catchy guitar hooks, short, punky songs full of life. I love Paul Smith's vocals, singing in his native Geordie accent - I don't think I can recall anyone else singing naturally in Geordie (even Lindisfarne seemed only to turn on the Geordie for 'Fog On The Tyne').

Songs about growing up and young adulthood, moving away from home and changing your accent, love going wrong... 'why did we have to meet on the night I lost my head'. Young and eneregetic and largely delightfully un-derivative (unlike many of todays new bands). Very refreshing.

I think my favourite song is 'The Coast Is Always Changing' (which I think was released as a single before I'd even heard of them). Whenever I hear it I think of getting the Metro to Tynemouth - no idea why that should stick in my mind since I only ever made that journey once.

Friday, 20 January 2006


How has this happened? How was it allowed to happen? Rula Lenska - the goddess of cabaret camp, Q from 'Rock Follies' - has been evicted from Celebrity Big Brother. That is beyond understanding. The light has momentarily gone out of the world.

Rula is lovely and that is all anyone needs to know. So there.

Monday, 16 January 2006

I Am Dull

Oh yes I am. I checked my palmtop calendar and, according to it, I'm doing nothing for the rest of my life... I have an empty diary for the remainder of January (although I've now added King Creole and the Coconuts next week, which I'd forgotten about). And nothing in the first weeks of February either. What a bore. There must be more to life than an empty diary.

Mind you, my top ten iPod songs have changed. I've had it on shuffle for the last couple of weeks and the list is now:

Itchycoo Park ~ The Small Faces
Same Thing In Reverse ~ Boy George
Don't You Want Me ~ The Human League
Into The Groove ~ Madonna
Swimming Horses ~ Siouxsie and the Banshees
Burn Baby Burn ~ Hudson Ford
The Passenger ~ Iggy Pop
The Pleasure Song ~ Marianne Faithfull
Ask The Angels ~ Patti Smith
Holidays In The Sun - The Sex Pistols

That's a very "adult" selection, isn't it? Or, for "adult" read "old"! I still haven't done the big iPod edit yet - seems like it's overdue now...

Wednesday, 11 January 2006

Moving Young Minds 2006

Moving Young Minds 2006 is over, dusted, all-done and gone. Except for the loose ends, of course.

It started over the summer with education ministers from around the world being invited to come to London for a ministerial seminar about ICT in schools, using technology to teach and learn. Then it started for real on Sunday evening with a reception at the Royal Garden Hotel in Kensington. On Monday 160-odd delegates registered from around 64 countries, including 53 ministers. Five of our own ministers were involved in it as well, speaking, hosting, meeting their overseas counterparts. A global seminar indeed.

School visits around London, speeches and discussions at the QEII Centre in Westminster, a reception in the House of Commons and a formal dinner at the Royal Garden. Lots of interesting discussion, hearing what other countries are doing with ICT and lots of friendly people. And it finished this afternoon at the BETT Show at Olympia.

It's been an exhausting week, with last minute changes to the programme, re-drafting speeches and updating briefings, smiling and chatting, being nice to everyone, cool, calm and collected (well, some of the time). But I'm pleased with it - it went really well, with none of the delegates having anything not wholly positive to say about the event. A swan - serene above the water with legs paddling away like woppy-wings underneath!

And here's my MYM rose, rescued from one of the floral decorations on the tables today, which I wore as a button-hole on my way home this evening.

Now I've just got BETT for the rest of week!

Tuesday, 3 January 2006

Top Ten Ipod

For no particular reason, here is the current top ten on my iPod:

Soho Square - Kirsty MacColl
The Coast Is Always Changing - Maximo Park
Defying Gravity - 'Wicked' Original Cast Recording
Honey Can You Hang Around - Buffy Sainte-Marie
Hey DJ - Blackeyed Peas and Macy Gray
Picture This - Blondie
Bow Down Mister - Boy George
Gudbuy T'Jane - SLADE
Wishing Well - Free
Sorry - Madonna

I've deleted all the Christmas and New Year songs and I'm about to do a major edit of the whole thing so expect this to be very different quite soon...

Sunday, 1 January 2006

A New Year...

A new year begins and I'm still full of cold, oh joy. My cold over Christmas got worse last week and I even got a chill on my jaw which set my teeth on edge - a great way to end the year. A quiet night in that didn't even involve copious amounts of alcohol, a sure sign that I'm not on top form! But leaving that aside...

... What an interesting year 2005 was. Some highlights were:

~ seeing Buffy Sainte-Marie in concert after waiting 30 years and even met her after the gig - what a lovely woman.
~ S L A D E finally issued a DVD (and a remastered hits double CD) which I'd been wishing for for an age.
~ seeing the glories of Florence and the Uffizi Gallery and especially the wondrous Fra Angelico frescoes that made me shed a tear with their simplicity and purity.
~ visiting the startling Museum of Modern Art in New York.
~ my little brother getting married at St James's Park football ground.
~ seeing 'Grand Hotel' for a second time and finding the soundtrack CD in Toronto.
~ seeing Patti Smith play 'Horses' live as the culmination of her Meltdown festival over the summer.
~ seeing the christmas spectacular at Radio City with *real* snow falling on the audience.

Downsides include getting fatter, my back playing up, the daftest little dog in the world leaving us and still being in the same job. I can do something about some of these in 2006.