Sunday, 23 December 2012

Christmas Cats

Looking a little cross. The tinsel was irritating Minty.
A pair of cute kitty pictures for my 100th PCA post!

Tommy awaits his Christmas treat of giblets in gravy. Num nums!
Merry Christmas everyone!

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

I Predict That Mud Will Be No.1!

The Top 30 Today (How I think)...August 1974!
Flicking through one of my old scrapbooks recently, I came across a page of chart predictions from 1974 (see picture above). It wasn't dated, so I've checked the Guinness Book of British Hit Singles for evidence of day, month and year...and I think I've cracked it!

I wrote this on 17th August 1974, when I was 9 years old and obsessed with the pop charts. I know this because of my predicted new entries, some entered on the 17th (e.g., KC & the Sunshine Band with their first-ever hit), others on the 24th (e.g., Paper Lace). I really really wanted Mud to be number one, but were they?

Well, no, Rocket only ever reached number 6! Top spot that evening belonged to Prince Charles's crushes, The Three Degrees, who remained at number one for a further week until being usurped by primary school girls' favourites, The Osmonds (who, in turn, were knocked off the top by 9-year-old boys' favourite, Carl Douglas - hooray for boys - we obviously had much better taste!).

Not sure why there are so many blank spaces in mid-chart - I presume I just couldn't remember every song in the previous week's rundown. And what's that angel fish doing in the middle?

Monday, 5 November 2012

34 Squirrels

Delightful red squirrel nibbling chestnut, Brownsea Island.
The annual trip to Brownsea Island in Dorset produced an exciting total of 34 red squirrels this year!

Red squirrel outside the restaurant, Brownsea Island.
Last year's 60 squirrels was unlikely to be beaten, but 30+ was a good haul. They're very active in October, mostly at the inhabited end of the island. Scuffling around with nuts, leaping around trees, they're not too shy - so long as you're quiet, you should see them.

Posing Autumn peacock, Brownsea Island. Coming to a chocolate box or jigsaw near you soon!
Also seen at close quarters...chickens, deer and peacocks!

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Ghastly Football Kits

Notts County's prototype away kit on a soap-on-a-rope box.
I'm usually asleep by the time the third match comes along on Match of the Day, bored rigid by Hansen and Shearer's inane comments. I rarely go to bed though, as there is a slight chance that I might wake up in time for Pompey's 30 second slot on The Football League Show at 12.35am. Some hope.

This Saturday though, I did it! I finally did it! I was awake when the Third and Fourth Division games came on for the first time this season. And I was shocked at what I saw. Not the standard of football compared to the highest tier of English football - I'm used to that after following Pompey all my life.

No, it was the kits. Why do so many clubs change their colours when there's no clash with their usual first choice? And why are so many of these change kits so...ghastly? Yeovil Town's steward-wear with claw rips was bad (actually, probably the worst in the entire professional leagues). But the ones that got my goat in particular were Notts County and Port Vale, both of whom played in pink.

Now, there are certain colours that are NOT football colours - pink, brown and purple in particular. Unless you are Fiorentina or Anderlecht, you should not be playing in purple; brown was Coventry City's away kit circa 1975; pink is okay if you're Italian. Otherwise, no, no, no! Notts County's kit reminded me of the colours on my old soap-on-a-rope box from the late 1970s - specifically designed so that nobody could sue Avon for copying their kit without permission. Perhaps Avon can ask Notts County for royalties now they've copied their old design?

Everything's rubbish these days.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Happy 10th Birthday to My Cats!

Minty hiding from the local nuthatches. They'll never spot him in there!

Tommy cooling down and looking a little cross in his cardboard home.

It's a big day today, as Tommy and Minty reach the grand old age of 10! Of course, in human years, they would be 52 and wearing beige cardigans as they sit upright in their head-of-the-family velveteen armchairs, smoking their pipes whilst reading the Sunday papers (or whatever it is that 52-year-olds do these days).

Instead of reading the papers, they're asleep upstairs right now, as is the way with cats. Later on, they will have a tasty treat or two and lots of special strokes. They may partake of their favourite hobbies - Tommy rompling on the pom-pole (purring and fussing on a brick column at the front of the house that used to have a gate attached); Minty climbing on my shoulders and having a ride around the garden. Or maybe they'll just lounge around in cardboard boxes?

It's a special day.

Happy Birthday Cats!

Friday, 31 August 2012

Two Dragonflies, a Damselfly and a Bush Cricket

An immature female common darter?
Typical man changes his hobbies on a regular basis. Whether through boredom or not really getting to grips with the previous one, or just finding something more interesting, hobbies can be ephemeral. Of course, I'm a typical man.

A member of the Libellulidae family, either a ruddy darter or a male common darter.
Collecting beer cans, Top Trumps, crisp packets...yep, done that. Visiting all the football grounds in my home county...yep, doing that. Groundhopping can't be done during the summer though, so taking photos of insects occasionally takes its place as the hobby du jour.

A blue-tailed damselfly.
Here are some of my favourite photos from the last year or so.

From the top:
  • What I believe to be a female common darter dragonfly, taken at The Blue Pool in Dorset at the end of July 2012;
  • Either a male of the same species, or a ruddy darter, taken on Brownsea Island in Dorset, October 2011 (I am definitely NOT an expert - 70+ species of dragonfly in the UK - males, females and immatures often appearing completely different within the same species - no, this is going to take me a while to become competent);
  • A blue-tailed damselfly (fairly sure about that - also taken at The Blue Pool);
  • A speckled bush-cricket, taken in my garden two weeks ago!

And finally, a speckled bush-cricket!
Dragonfly and damselfly experts impart their knowledge in many places, including here and here. I'm learning!

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Ted MacDougall Sports

Ted MacDougall Sports Ltd, 1971.
Looking through my old football programmes in the attic the other day, I came across an old AFC Bournemouth programme from October 1971. To be precise, AFC Bournemouth were actually still Bournemouth and Boscombe, and their programme was an "official journal" called Head For The Top With The Cherries! Chock-full of excitement, it's a ripping good read from cover to cover...grainy black & white photos of Cherries players in action...facts & figures galore (a 16,000+ attendance for a midweek League Cup tie v Blackpool!)...and adverts! Lots of old adverts!

Visit the Cherry Bees Shop for all your ash tray needs (official club badge inscribed!), also bob hats, cuff links and driving gloves (red and black)! There's a photo of the shop window display - Football League Reviews on sale for 1p each! I don't know much, but what I do know is that if time travel ever becomes a reality, I'm going to stuff my pockets full of shiny new pennies and go shopping at the Cherry Bees Shop!

And if I have any left over cash, I shall then pay a visit to Ted MacDougall Sports and splash it all on the Cherries' brand new look - short shorts! With string! Years before Sports Direct and their ilk firebombed every other sports shop out of existence, there was a store in every town owned by an ex-pro. In Havant, we had Bobby Tambling Sports. I only had a vague inkling of who Bobby Tambling was, but my dad knew, and whenever I needed new football kit for school, this is where we bought it from.

Whether my dad was able to buy directly from Bobby himself, I'm not entirely sure, but put in the same position myself, if Andy Awford or Kit Symons ran a shop now and I thought I might have the chance to chew the fat with them whilst buying a pair of football boots for my son, I'd be there like a shot!

The old days were better days in many many ways. See Got Not Got for details...

Friday, 8 June 2012

The Indiepop Map of Great Britain

View The Indiepop Map of Great Britain in a larger map

You know that feeling you get when skimming stones at the beach, and after a dozen or so flompers (they bounce once and then just flomp on their side, sinking both themselves and your heart at the same time...), you suddenly skim the perfect stone - it bounces once, twice...eighteen times! Your breathing stops and you leap in the air with a yell and a woot! And then there's another twenty flompers...

The perfect pop song is like the perfect skimming pebble. The perfect pop song can be old or new, but it has to have spirit, it has to have spunk, it has to have that bouncing feeling, as though the music is walking on water. A lot of so-called indiepop gives me that feeling. There may be buzzsaw guitar, there may be primitive drums, thumping away like a scared rabbit; it may be gentle and sweet, but it has to be special.

Often, you hear a geographical reference in a song - tears at Bellshill Station as a lover disappears up the railway track perhaps, or a song about it raining at a football match. I thought it would be interesting to compile these references on to a map, so I did (with a little help from my friend Louise)! The map is shown above, and I've opened it up for everyone to edit, so if you can think of any relevant additions, please feel free to add them!

The key to the different coloured pins goes like this:

Yellow: a place is named in the song title.
Blue: a place is mentioned within the lyrics.
Red: where a band lived (usually taken from addresses on old vinyl sleeves).
Green: record label or shop addresses.
Purple: old fanzine addresses.


I've only added one Half Man Half biscuit song from the many available. There is a separate HMHB lyric map to be found here.

My definition of indiepop will be different to everyone else's. I've included songs from related genres, such as the tuneful end of punk. So long as there's some independently-minded and spirited pop going on, that's good enough for me.

No metal.

UK only. If anyone wants to create a map for another region (or expand worldwide), be my guest.

Now, thinking caps on...

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Alfred and Svetlana Went to Sea in a Beautiful Pea Green Boat

Not exactly a pea green boat...
Alfred, formerly a fresh young carrot, had had an interesting life above ground. He could have bored for England with all the tales he had to tell of his evenings as an Elvis impersonator, of his nights as a superstar DJ, and of his days and days as a father to a can of whole baby carrots (and peas...can't explain that).

After their whole baby carrots had grown up and left home, Alfred and his model girlfriend Svetlana decided to buy a boat and sail the oceans, whale-spotting and generally soaking up the sun. They spent all their savings on a beautiful pea green boat (vintage, mint condition) off of eBay. But when it arrived, what a miserable surprise they had. It was neither beautiful, nor pea green. On the other hand, it was certainly vintage, as in "broken".

Ignoring their dream boat's woeful condition, they lashed themselves aboard anyway and set sail for who knows where. Nobody saw them go, and nobody has seen them since. I like to think that they're bobbing around on the Sargasso Sea, playing endless games of chess and feasting on fresh lobsters.

I suppose we'll never know.

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Alfred and Svetlana

Alfred and his model girlfriend, Svetlana.
Alfred became more and more well-known on the party scene - a "face", a "number", a "dude"... He became an international superstar DJ for the hip young root vegetable set. His cheeky smile, witty banter and wads of cash attracted a raft of admirers, many of them female. He soon became inseparable from a tall, rooty* Eastern European model called Svetlana. He bought her the most expensive mohair jumper ever made, and then splashed out even more on a matching tiara and pink sunglasses. You could see how happy they both were in the photo.

Svetlana gave birth to a can of whole baby carrots (and garden peas...somehow...can't explain that). But the club music scene is unforgiving, and Alfred's style soon became old news. There were money troubles and psychological woes. His rise became a fall, and he fell hard...

* as opposed to "leggy". Carrots don't have legs.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Alfred, the Elvis Years

Don't you step on his blue suede shoes.
Carrots age quickly. It has been estimated that for every day that it's above ground and unrefrigerated, a fresh young carrot will age the equivalent of ten human years.

Thus it was that after only four days of partying, laughter and general mayhem, Alfred reached his Elvis impersonation stage. Dressed in his filthy cream jacket, hanging out with well-known pretend celebrities such as the fellas out of Nowaysis and Greenish Day, Alfred became a hit on the tribute act circuit, playing to frenzied audiences of frustrated accountants at Britain's barn conversion venues. He had a grand old time, but it couldn't end well, could it?

Monday, 2 April 2012

Alfred the Fresh Young Carrot

Young, fresh and curiously sexy - Alfred the Carrot
And so begins the tale of young Alfred, the big-nosed carrot, who first came into my life last Wednesday. I was just about to start peeling him, ready for the pot, when I noticed his appealing features - his outsized proboscis, arched eyebrows and goofy smile - but it was the buck teeth that really made my heart melt.

And then he spoke...

He spoke of his life since he went overground, hauled from the earth by a rusty piece of farm machinery somewhere in darkest Cambridgeshire. He spoke of being washed, sorted and packed in to a recyclable plastic bag with ten of his family, then taken by lorry to Morrisons supermarket in Totton. He told me he was claustrophobic, and of how happy he was to be alive and free from the sweaty plastic bag at last.

I told him that I wouldn't chop him up and use him as a colourful salad accompaniment. I told him I would help him, that I would take him to parties where he could meet the stars, that he could have a life above and beyond that of an ordinary carrot. He cried, and as a dribble of snot rolled down his upper lip, he blushed, turning bright orange, and told me that he was the happiest carrot that ever lived.

So I chopped up his brother Fred instead. Mmm, tasty!

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Lyrics Quiz 2: 69 Love Songs

Tommy! Your copy of 69 Love Songs is upside-down!
The words for Lyrics Quiz number 2 all come from one album, which you might think should make things easy, until you realise that the album has 69 songs on it! Split into three discs, 69 Love Songs by The Magnetic Fields is a fine collection of tunes taken from a wide variety of genres (and you can quote me on that). And what's more, of the people I know that regularly visit this blog, at least three of them rate it very highly indeed! So, this quiz is for you...

Name the songs that the following lyrics come from:

1. If you really loved me, you'd buy me the Great Pyramid
2. Grand pianos crash together
3. You are a splendid butterfly
4. This is for Holland-Dozier-Holland!
5. Refer servicing to qualified service personnel
6. You were an Army officer and I just a Rockette
7. If I was Paul Bunyan, I'd carry you so far away
8. My mama said gently, you can buy her a Bentley
9. In tat or tatters you're entrancing
10. The princess there is me, decked out like a Christmas tree

I shall post the answers in the comments area in a few days. Good luck!

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Lyrics Quiz 1: The Smiths

Minty with his marvellous collection of Smiths vinyl.
It's time for another quiz. This time it's a lyrics quiz!

Every sensitive soul since 1983 has spent at least some time obsessed with The Smiths. We all know their songs. If you can sing along to their big hits, their small hits, their B-sides and the less well-known album tracks, then you will do well at this quiz. But how well?

Name the songs that these lyrics come from. Seven out of ten will be a great score! I shall post the answers in the comments area next week.

1. Belligerent ghouls run Manchester schools.
2. I broke in to the palace with a sponge and a rusty spanner.
3. Please the press in Belgium.
4. Boot the grime of this world in the crotch, dear.
5. I'd leap in front of a flying bullet for you.
6. "He never really looks at me, I give him every opportunity"
7. I want to catch something that I might be ashamed of.
8. I'd like to drop my trousers to the Queen. Every sensible child will know what this means.
9. I know the windswept mystical air, it means I'd like to see your underwear.
10. I'm going to meet the one I love, at last, at last, at last.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

My Lovely Internet Radio, Part Two

Due to the orange street lamps, the sky really is that brown around here!
Beneath the dirty brown skies of Southampton*, you often find me listening to my lovely new internet radio. For rock n roll and soul, it has to be WMFU, but for other moods, there are thousands of other stations out there, approximately 1% of which meet with my music snob approval.

One such is Dandelion Radio, who profess to channel the spirit of John Peel. They have real DJs, which makes a pleasant change from the many stations that just play MP3 playlists. My favourite disc spinner is Rocker, who was previously in The Rosehips and The Flatmates. He tends to play "my sort of indiepop", so I try and tune in when he's on in the daily schedule spinaround. Past sessions by the likes of The Wedding Present, Manhattan Love Suicides and Liechtenstein give you an idea of what to expect.

Rocker isn't the only half-decent presenter on Dandelion Radio, so it's worth tuning in at any time to hear what's happening. However, as soon as any of them play any Mogwai soundalikes, I hit the retune button!

* They have now banned blue skies around these parts, as it reminds them of Portsmouth FC - if they could have red and white stripy sky, they bloomin' well would! See also nearby Eastleigh FC and AFC Totton, who have both changed their traditional blue kits this season, as presumably that colour hits sales of replica kit in their club shops [blogger tuts and shakes his head with disapproval].

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

I Love My Internet Radio!

Get down off that tree Tommy, and come and listen to some rock and soul on WFMU!
After dropping a few hints, I received an internet radio for Christmas. I listen to music for an unhealthy proportion of my waking hours, and I'm always curious to hear new sounds. Being able to tune in to any radio station in the world or any available podcast or "listen again" whilst cooking macaroni in the kitchen without the hum of the PC as an irritating background noise was highly appealing.

I love my indiepop, my rocksteady and my post-punk, but I also want to know more about the soul and rockabilly sounds of the late 1950s and early 1960s, so I searched for a station which would give me the sounds that inspired The Cramps. I found it at WFMU Rock & Soul.

Below is an old programme from the excellent Fool's Paradise With Rex series. It features (at approximately 27 minutes in) the tune which may have influenced The Cramps more than any other song - Cravin' by Bobby Roberts with The Bad Habits. It rocks!

I'll link to some of my other favourite stations in the near future, but if anyone knows of any similar station to this one, I'd love to hear about it!


Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Cat Spotting Part Six: Watch Out, Watch Out, There's a Humphrey About!

Petersfield Puss.
More cats spotted in Street View:

The first puss was seen in Petersfield in Hampshire, possibly partaking of some territorial spraying up against a drainpipe. Dirty kitty! In your bed!

Watch out, watch out, it's Humphrey in Mansfield.
You have to feel sorry for the second cat. This one resides in the rock-hard Nottinghamshire town of Mansfield. Living in the houses to either side of his home are a pair of big bad bruising toms named Rocky and Tyson. This cat's owners have unwisely called it Humphrey. Imagine the ribbings it gets whenever it bumps in to one of its neighbours! Poor old Humphrey. He needs a hug.