With Nothing Else Occupying My Head

There has been a lot going on recently. A trip to Madrid has been well documented. So have the flurry of home games for Crawley. It has been a long time since it was started in January, but the bathroom is still not finished. OK it is useable, but there is still the bathroom cupboard and flexible mirror to go, and until they are done then the final tidy up can’t be. There are all kinds of things in unexpected places in the house, the front and back gardens, and until last weekend the loft.

After getting back from Madrid there were also a whole host of events with WORDfest. I was on stage for two of them. The Write Way Live at Ifield Barn theatre, where I read one of childhood memory pieces called “Cake.” The next night was the quiz, and someone came up as I was putting out a few nibbles on our team’s table to ask where the cakes were. Live interactive tales of Crawley in the old Ask building followed, and then on the Saturday there was the Crawley Creative Writing Group’s session for which I’d produced the books, then in the evening it was the Mother Tongue event where I read a poem in Gaelic (mangled might be a more appropriate description). And comedy night. It’s been busy.

I have been reading certain things and making up in my head what they actually said. Three weeks into using the toothpaste I can see it is called Oracare and not Oral Care as I’d read / assumed. Now all I can think of is someone having to look after Rita Ora.

Another example of this phenomena came when a leaflet came through the door for the local elections. It was from Labour for their candidate Bob Noyce. It took several attempts to get the name correct as I kept reading it as Bob Nonce, definitely not a voter friendly name.

And I spent years misreading a supplier’s name at work before I finally got their name correct. The company supplies the vast array of flexible benefits on offer alongside our payroll. And therefore, I always assumed their name was a mash up and called them Beneflex for at least ten years before it finally sank in there is no L in their name and they are actually Benefex. Personally, I think they missed a trick.

On to destroy it yourself. It is nearly two years since the kitchen was done. Not long after it was completed, I attempted to put a towel rail up on the wall behind the kitchen door. I made a mess, and one side came off the wall. So, it was removed with a view to fixing it later. Instead, last week a different rail was bought and on Saturday I got round to putting it up. I got two holes drilled in the wall without making them massive, got the plasplugs in OK, had one side fully screwed in tightly, and had the other side screwed in three quarters of the way only for the top quarter of the screw to snap off. I thought I would unscrew the first side and move it along a couple of inches. Only for the thread to disintegrate and make unscrewing it impossible. I could get it out of the wall. I’m still in a strop about the effing wall and its utter dislike of me and distain for me when it knows I hate DIY and I’m bad at it.

Anyway, a friend came round, managed to get the new rail off the wall and have securely fixed the original rail to the wall. But there is now a new blind to fit in the living room, and the thought of it is giving me the fear.

I was a bit meh all weekend. Part of which is the unrelenting horror show that I know work is going to be, and part of it is the destroy it yourself piece, as it makes me feel like a worthless / useless piece of excrement.

Helen suggested putting some music on and wanted a suggestion of a record to play. So, after umming and aahing I went old school. Not in a rave or rap view, but picking something from my teens when I first got really into Motown. Back in the eighties I had a set of cassettes. Motown Hits of Gold, volumes one to eight. I have the record box set now, which in addition to the eight originals had a disc nine of ‘future hits.’

I haven’t played any of these since the eighties, but I nominated volume seven side one, as it was one of the cassettes I played to death in my Walkman. It is amazing what memories it brought back. So much so I wrote a piece just about that album.

And both the music and the writing takes my mind off it all.

Ridley’s Believe It Or Not

Listening to a Depeche Mode playlist today, and in “Personal Jesus”, every time they sing the line ‘reach out and touch Faith’, I sit there thinking that Faith is screaming back at them, ‘leave me alone you bastards, stop fucking touching me!’

All hyped up and ready for the Carabao Cup third round draw. Burnley away. Not the kind of draw you want. There is a certain symmetry as Helen was born in Burnley, but a Tuesday night trip to Burnley in November isn’t what anyone needs. It was a neither one thing or another draw. They aren’t in the Premier League (something our owners didn’t seem to know when they tweeted about it – they must have missed their relegation last season), but they are high enough up the league ladder to make it difficult. If it was going to be away, at least be somewhere decent, or against someone decent. Them at home would have been fine, but it’s just a bit of a let-down.

Helen hasn’t been having much luck with her prescriptions this year, and the Kamsons next to Southgate Medical Centre have been little to no help. But they managed to surpass themselves this time, as when she turned up to pick up her prescription, they told her she’d picked it up two days before. Only to then deny having given her prescription to someone else, and as a replacement have her a totally different brand with not as many doses. All whilst trying to gaslight her and say they had never said they gave her prescription to some random. Absolute clowns.

Speaking of clowns, I’ve been playing a few more of my self-curated artist playlists. I created most of these years ago, at which point I can only assume I was completely shit faced. The David Bowie playlist had a track in it I didn’t even recognise. And the Michael Jackson one had ‘Got To Be There’ on it, which is OK, but not exactly one of his biggest bangers; and the duet with Paul McCartney, the very creepy ‘The Girl Is Mine’. If I did have to drag Macca into it why did I pick this instead of ‘Say Say Say’? the more worrying thing is that I’ll have played these playlists a few times over the years and never noticed some of these travesties before. They might all need reviewing.

Remember back in the eighties where the games on the Acorn Electron, or the Amiga, had you going from room to room to find things, but it got more and more difficult to get to where you needed to be the longer it went on. Well, we played a 2022 real life version on Friday as we tried to get to Standen House. We merrily made our way across Crawley to go up Turner’s Hill Road. Only for the roundabout on Balcombe Road to be closed. So, we took the detour the other way along Balcombe Road, and a sharp turn back on ourselves at the Cowdray Arms, and back past Worth School and Abbey. Only to get to Turner’s Hill and find the road through to East Grinstead closed. So, it was off through Crawley Down and Felbridge and into East Grinstead, past the Sainsbury’s and back towards Standen, only for that road to be closed at the roundabout as well. Fourth time we did manage to get there, and arriving there did feel like we had solved the game’s big mystery and completed the level.

We went for a pizza in East Grinstead after the Standen visit and were sat in the window overlooking the High Street. Where, for at least ten minutes, we saw a confused and hapless Deliveroo driver wander up and down, back and forth across the road, through alleyways, all trying to find whichever food establishment he was supposed to be picking up the food form. Obviously unable to read the map on his phone. Which didn’t bode well for whoever the poor sods who’d ordered the food were. If he ever found them (not guaranteed by any means), it was highly likely that their food will have been cold. Unless it was ice cream they were ordering, in which case it would have been melted.

Saturday morning felt like a rush. I was in town early, but the window seat in Maccy D’s didn’t offer up any observational gems. Then I was rushing around to finish off all the photos needed for the work photo scavenger hunt. And a detour to the museum to get photos of my pieces of work now on display (after being missed initially).

Then to writing group and back to town to get a haircut. Only to find my usual barbers in the middle of a renovation, and so no trim from Sideshow Bob this time. It must have been Crawley haircut day, as all the other barbers close by had queues out the door. It took a bit longer than planned to get my hair cut. The amount of hair on the cloak shows just how long and scraggly it had gotten.

Heading home, the bare-chested bloke pushing a bicycle with a new boxed microwave on it didn’t look suspicious in the slightest. Not did his about turn and detour when he saw a couple of police cars parked further up Brighton Road.

Why aren’t Crawley Town allowed to own a dog? Because they can’t hold onto a lead. After the heroics of easily beating Premier League opposition on Tuesday night it was back to earth with a bump as they played bottom of the league Rochdale. We were preparing for the cremation party, so I was checking the score at regular intervals on my phone, and was happy to see a 1-0 lead at half time. Not so happy to see an equaliser in the second half, or a sending off not long before full time. And even less so when looking at the match stats and seeing we were outplayed in all aspects. Still winless in the league, but at least out of the relegation zone on goal difference.

The cremation of the dearly beloved Adidas polo shirt went ahead on Saturday night. The fire pit was going well, and people were round, but hen the t-shirt went on they were all off doing other things. It burned surprisingly well as a solid mass as I sat there poking the fire with a long stick until it was just ash.

Later on, all the years of old paperwork we wanted to dispose of went onto the fire as well. Old bank statements, credit card statements, utility bills and the like. My favourite what do you call joke came to mind again and it may have been more appropriate if it was Helen throwing the paper onto the fire. ‘What do you call a woman who throws all her bills onto the fire?’ ‘Bernadette’. (Burn a debt for the terminally slow amongst you.) On one of the other open tabs in my head, the Four Tops were playing on top volume.

I went to the bathroom, and through the open window I could hear a loud, strident, woman’s voice shouting, “Die! Die! Die!” it did sound quite disturbing until I realised, they had friends round for a barbeque and that one of those friends is called Di. And that no murders were about to be committed. (That I know of.)

A new Sunday night cop drama. Ridley. Well, retired cop, brought in to help. We’ve seen the kind of carnage that can bring (Baptiste, I’m looking at you). A fictitious town/city called Bradfield, but supposedly in Yorkshire (so a cross between Bradford and Wakefield then). Both of the lead characters have had their natural Northern Irish accents beaten out of them. There are four episodes, and so I was expecting the long game, but it’s a single case per episode, so we can see what the pattern is going to be for the series before we get to episode two.

Some long-forgotten case the old git worked on is relevant again, so he’s called in to help. Everything is solved. They forget that AC-12 was a different character in a different series even if it is the same actor, and so throw in a sub-standard copper getting investigated for how they handled the old case. And finally, someone thinks that the main character can sing, and so at the end of the episode he goes back to the club he part owns and sings an ‘appropriate’ song to the crowd in the club who are wondering where the hell this random rocked up from, as elsewhere the real cop is putting the bow on the current case.

It is worth pointing out that there has been a series called ‘The Singing Detective’ back in the eighties. And that they’ve let many actors who have played fictional detectives sing in real life. (Bruce Willis – Moonlighting, Telly Savalas – Kojak, David Soul – Starsky And Hutch, to name a few). It would be good if we don’t get a Christmas album of “Adrian Dunbar Sings…” As, Mary, Joseph, and the wee donkey, no one needs that.

Hmmm, More Vinyl

There was a grand opening Friday morning in Crawley. After a gap of nearly five years, HMV was returning to Crawley. The old Crawley store was closed in the second round of closures and restructures when the company were struggling; and it is now Dunhelm less than one hundred yards away from where the new store is.

HMV had been hit hard by the supermarket chains (especially Sainsbury’s and Tesco’s) going big on having lots of vinyl, CDs, games, and DVDs in their stores at cheap prices. Which along with the ever increasing empire of Amazon was making it difficult for them to survive.

It was a shame for Crawley as HMV was the only proper record shop in the town. And what do you know, no sooner had it disappeared from our streets then the supermarkets announced they were scaling back their music selections, and in the case of Sainsbury’s stopping them completely. So, after forcing HMV out of the local market they withdrew and left us with nowhere locally to get new music. And with that it was either travel long distances or use Amazon, neither being great options.

In addition, HMV’s flagship site on Oxford Street went as well. I was shocked to see that building just a couple of weeks ago when we were up in London. The shop has been taken over by American Candy Store, and the famous sigh on the front of the building now reads “His Master’s American Candy Store”.

HMV hasn’t always been the greatest chain, or the cheapest to buy from, but I’ve been buying records (tapes, CD’s, videos, DVDs etc.) from them for nearly forty years.

There were a couple of stores in Leicester where I grew up. One in the Haymarket centre which sold everything, but I would use the smaller store opposite the market as it specialised in the burgeoning House and Hip-Hop scenes in the late eighties.

I spent vast amounts in the Manchester store when I lived there and was restarting my collection. I have a mass of limited edition, signed, etched, coloured vinyl, and poster pack seven inch singles that were releases by rock and indie bands in the early noughties.

When I moved to Crawley in 2006, these releases were dying out, but I still got nearly every new seven inch that was available there. As vinyl pretty much died out I didn’t go so often, but Vinyl’s comeback was just gaining pace when the store was closed.

The grand opening was at 9am on Friday morning, and they were giving away goodie bags to the first twenty five people who bought something. On a non-work day I’m not usually out of the house before eight very often, but I was this morning and got to the store about twenty past eight.

I was tenth in the queue outside the front door. By the time the staff came down to have their opening day pictures taken, and the local press had arrived to document the opening, I looked around and the queue was strung out behind me towards Memorial Gardens and the back was out of sight.

There was no stampede when the doors opened to let customers in. Everyone went up on the escalator in an orderly fashion. I went straight to the vinyl, found a Prince box set I didn’t have and headed to the till. By then, stampede mentality had kicked in and people were running to get into the queue for the till. I’d grabbed one item I’d really wanted and headed to the till, but people were picking up the first thing they could see to get in the queue to pay and get one of the goodie bags.

I was fifteenth in this queue and so I did get a goodie bag (two Star Wars t-shirts, a couple of key rings, a bobble head figure, notepad, pen, baseball cap, Japanese candy, and a tube pop), so definitely worth getting up early.

Then it was time to do some proper shopping. The first three Prodigy albums on vinyl, a Kinks box set, a Factory Records box set, a couple of books, a t-shirt, and a couple of other pieces later, it was an expensive morning.

But none of the box sets were as much as my most expensive single item purchase. i made that way back in 1988, from that HMV by the side of Leicester market. The twelve disc “The History Of The House Sound Of Chicago” set me back one hundred and twenty quid back then.

I’ll be happy if I’m still buying box sets of vinyl from HMV in another thirty-four years from now. Let’s hope they survive in Crawley in this new store.

New Year New Attitude?

2022, a new year, and it seems like a year since we were last at a game – the disappointing 2-1 defeat to Mansfield Town at the end of November. Since then, Crawley have only played two away games, a midweek 1-1 draw against Walsall followed by a 2-1 win against Leyton Orient, some payback for the 4-0 thrashing they gave us in the Papa Johns Trophy (albeit with vastly changed sides), and the first time we had scored more than one in a game since the end of September.

We were due to be playing Oldham Athletic on the 18th, which we had planned to miss so we could get up to London with enough time to be sorted ready for the Madness and Squeeze concert at the O2, only for the game to be postponed due to Covid protocols. As were the away game at Stevenage on Boxing day and the home game against Bristol Rovers on Wednesday night.

After a week of rain, we woke up this morning to sunlight, and confirmation that the game against Colchester United would be going ahead. We started the game two places and three points above them in the league and having won the corresponding away fixture earlier in the season. We also kicked off having games in hand over every team above us in the league apart from the leaders Forest Green Rovers.

Of course, by the time we set off for the game the sun was being hidden by lots of grey miserable clouds. Not only that, but we were running late as I had been fannying about trying to find the name of the actual song that the “Da da da da da da Kwesi Appiah” chant had come from. It had been playing over the radio at some point during the couple of weeks we’ve been off work, and both of us – although being in separate rooms – had both sung the chant when that particular horn bit had been played. Then both laughed at each other about being saddos for doing so. It had been three quarters of an hour with no joy, and so we were scurrying to the stadium.

It did look like no one else was heading there. We saw no one on Wakehurst Drive but did see some people when we got to the underpass. Ten minutes before kick off and there wasn’t a programme to be found, and we didn’t stop to get a drink before heading to our seats, and so we were there before the players came out, a fact Al took great delight in pointing out, asking if being on time for games was a New Year’s resolution. There looked to be more in the ground than the parking and footfall would have suggested, though for some reason part of the seating in out stand was covered up.

Crawley started quickly with some early pressure and a couple of chances. Drummers were in full effect, with the usual one in our stand in competition with the one in the terraces and the one the away fans had brought with them. Colchester meanwhile were wearing their puke green and black away kit and were going one letter on from our chant with their own. Us chanting CTFC and them chanting CUFC.

The first of many balls to leave the ground came on 9 minutes as a clearance flew over the KRL Logistics stand, surely leaving a dent in someone’s car in the car park. Three minutes later we got into a great position, only for the attempted cross to be skewed wide and high over the same stand. From the restart ball three went over the Mayo Wynne Baxter stand, and if it carried on at this rate we would be running out of balls before the end of the game.

And then it was 1-0, Tom Nichols crossed from the left and Ashley Nadesan headed home. We followed this up a few minutes later with another couple of good chances with a couple of good saves from Colchester’s keeper in quick succession keeping the score at 1-0.

Just past the halfway point in the first half ball number four sailed out of the ground over the Ryan Cantor Club stand. Not long after it sounded as if there was a steam train chugging along the A23 behind our stand. Turned out it was a steam engine, some kind of tractor that we could see the smokestack of as it went around the roundabout.

37 minutes in and it’s 2-0, a corner comes in, goes back out, in, out, everything bar the hokey cokey before Francillette prods it forward and Joel Lynch fires in from close range. An almost unheard of two goal lead this season. It stayed that way until half time. A half which I think was out best performance of the season so far. It seemed as if the three weeks off had done the team the world of good.

The rain arrived with the half time whistle, and there were some really dark ominous clouds around the ground. The phrase “it’s black over Bill’s mother’s” is one I use a lot. Well today, it would certainly appear that she lives in Broadfield.

Colchester started strongly in the second half, whether that was due to a kick up the backside at half time, or their New Year’s Eve hangovers wearing off was hard to tell. But it didn’t last long, in the 55th minute it was 3-0, Ashley Nadesan scoring his second of the game after decent work and a good cross from Kwesi Appiah. The first time in over a year we had scored three at home in a league game, only the second time this season we had scored three (the other was in a 6-3 away loss to Forest Green Rovers back in September).

Half an hour into the second half and we get a free kick on the edge of the penalty area, which Jack Powell powered against the top of the crossbar and the post, causing ball number five to fly over the top of the Ryan Cantor Club stand.

A few minutes later and Colchester pulled one back to make it 3-1, a bit of pinball in the penalty area and a shot ricocheted off the post and into the back of the net. It would lead to somewhat of a nervous end to the game for the Crawley players and fans. A couple of substitutions were made to freshen up the tiring players, and the third sub was made when they put the board up for five minutes of injury time.

The sponsor’s man of the match was unsurprisingly named as two goal “hero” Ashley Nadesan, and the crowd just managed to scrape over the two thousand mark at 2,022, with 332 of them being away fans.

Injury time brought about ball number six leaving the ground, this time over the KRL Logistics stand as Colchester threatened again. But the general nervousness came to an end when the ref blew for full time, and we could celebrate a 3-1 victory. The first win of a season that wasn’t by a single goal margin, and one that lifted us four places in the league to a much more respectable 14th place.

A good start to the new year, and hopefully one that can be continued into the second half of the season.

And typically, five minutes after getting home (after a very nice curry stop at The Downsman), I found the song that had delayed us getting to the game. The chant for Kwesi Appiah is to the music from Kungs vs Cookin’ On 3 Burners’ “This Girl”.

We’re All Going On A Christmas Holiday

It’s a good day, our leave has started, we are now on holiday until the new year, eighteen non work days. A lottery win to extend that would be great.

Friday morning, we were off to Brighton for Helen’s full Nuffield Health health check that she had paid for a couple of years ago, via Hayward’s Heath. It was bright sunshine all the way, by the time her assessment was up the fog had started to roll in, and by the end of it we were unable to see the sea.

There was a midpoint as it got cloudy, I was left alone with my brain, with a view out to sea, and wrote this poem whilst I waited.

https://onetruekev.medium.com/waiting-461c8a6b15a1?sk=b866233ce7f65df444679252d6adf6bc

After which we were meeting Liam and Ellie for lunch at The Westbourne, near their house, which meant we had to find somewhere to park. The full rant on this can be found below

Lunch was good though.

Everywhere you (stop) look and listen there is something saying, or someone shouting, ‘get your booster.’ And to be fair the NHS texted me to say there was a walk-in clinic available at the Apple Tree centre on Friday until 1pm. Unfortunately, this text to tell me this was sent at 1.38pm on Friday. I’m currently trying to find a DeLorean that will go at 88mph to get me there in time.

The fog carried on hanging around after that. By the time we’d driven up to London on Saturday afternoon. It was what might have been called a pea souper in the past.

The Saturday night was the Madness and Squeeze gig, there was lots of other app related precursor, the full tale of which is below

We had taken the decision to miss Crawley Town’s home game on Saturday so we would be able to make it up to London for the gig without a mad rush. Only for the Crawley game to be postponed for Covid reasons, so we may be able to see the game (always assuming the muppets in charge in this country don’t lock down venues again due to Omicron).

You see things get stolen or “borrowed” from hotels all the time. But I’d have bet good money on the combination missing from our room never being guessed by anyone. The little holder for toilet rolls – the bit that clips on at either end and spins round – that was gone. The metal bracket it would clip on to was still there, screwed to the wall. And the little glass shelf above the towels. The one they usually put the plastic glasses on in the bathroom. Shelf gone. The two wall mounts with the slots in for the glass to slot into – still there.

It probably says more about the location of the Holiday Inn Express than anything else, but the security was the best of any IHG hotel we’d stayed at. The main door required room key card use to get in when we got back from the gig, and when I nipped across to the shop for drinks after breakfast. It was also needed to use the lift and the stairs. Yes, it’s obvious and simple, but they could do with it at more of their hotels.

On the drive up to Morecambe on the Sunday morning there was very little let up on the fog. M11 – fog. M25 – fog. M1 – fog. M6 – fog. Morecambe – fog. Some fairly light, other patches were thick, some so thick if you had asked me where I was, I could tell you I hadn’t got the foggiest. Yes, I did try catching the fog – I missed (mist). One of the worst places was at the M6 toll booth, coming out of there it is like Wacky Races at the best of time, but when there is fog where you can’t see the sides of the road there it’s like a spooky version of it, almost like Wacky Races meets Scooby Doo.

And the other thing is that it doesn’t seem to matter which lane we get in, it is guaranteed to be the official numpty lane. In the fog, there was a car in front of us trying to pay with their phone, despite it clearly saying card only and that it doesn’t accept Apple Pay or Google Wallet etc. They tried to pay half a dozen times with their phone before using their card. On the way back in the light it wasn’t much better. First there is the lane with the big red X above it that lots of cars were still queuing in until they were told to find another lane. And then there are the muppets who seem to think that lining their car up in the next postcode will make tapping their card easier. There were two in the queue in front of us who ended up hanging out of the car to their waists to reach across to the reader. Probably the same twats who can’t use indicators or who tootle along in the middle lane doing 60. (Someone in Lancashire is not a fan of this, as they have graffitied at least three bridges telling such drivers they were tools.)

Anyway, occasionally we did find ourselves above the fog on higher ground and it was bright sunshine up there. Which was causing the car’s map display to become dark (night mode). So, it went fog – day mode, sunshine – night mode. I’m not sure where the sensor for this is on the car, but it would appear to be fucked.

The first full day in Morecambe saw stops at Matalan, Dunhelm, Home Bargains, and Sainsbury’s. What do these four places have in common? They are all an almighty time suck turning morning into evening. Granted it didn’t seem like five hours. More like five weeks.

In the evening we went for a walk up to the front and along the promenade. No idea if the tide was in. All I could see were lights over the bay somewhere near Barrow-in-Furness.

Tuesday saw a trip to Kirkby Lonsdale, which is covered in the link below.

https://onetruekev.medium.com/a-wander-around-kirkby-lonsdale-a3ad42e5124a?sk=ce253f4256ea32e3a6b184426db4947e

In the evening we headed out for dinner at the Morecambe Hotel, and for the second visit to Morecambe on the trot I nearly killed us all by pulling out in front of a vehicle I hadn’t seen. Nothing to do with the non-stop chatter in the passenger seat. It took a while for my nerves to calm down.

And then it was all over; and we spent most of Wednesday driving home. Although when we got to the M25 all the road signs had the message “Salt Spreading”. Having been up north for a few days, it did make me wonder if this was a new Covid variant affecting Cockneys only. It’s as likely as anything else these days

A Bit Of A Mad Squeeze

Usually, if you are going to a gig, you will be excited about it. And going to see Madness with Squeeze as support at the O2 should be a reason to be cheerful.

However, the O2 had been sucking any joy out of the build up (obviously helped by the other shit storm of the Government and their lackadaisical handling of all things Covid). First there was the e-mail ten days before the concert saying you had to have a Covid passport on the NHS app to get in. By now my utter distain for being forced to download apps should be well known. But having paid for tickets it was a necessary evil I suppose.

But it turns out it wasn’t as evil as what O2 were going to pull next. Four days before the gig there is another e-mail, this time saying tickets were available. But only on the O2 Arena app. No printed tickets, no pdf to download. App only. I was spitting feathers by this point. With much swearing I downloaded their app, only to then have to register, a process completed by clicking on a link by e-mail. Twelve times I clicked on the link before finding their e-mails were going straight to junk mail. Once registered I then had to link to my tickets, which was another registration process.

When I bought the tickets, many months ago, there was no mention of any of this rubbish. If there had have been I wouldn’t have bought the damn tickets, and it is a guarantee I will never buy tickets for the O2 ever again, and nor will I buy tickets for any other fucking venue that will force me into downloaded an app to be able to get into the gig. They can all go fuck themselves.

We had booked a hotel in Stratford (a third of the price of nearer ones) bearing in mind it was three stops on the tube. Only to get another e-mail from the O2, this one informing us of a tube strike on the day of the gig.

Fast forwarding to the day of the gig, we got to Stratford, and Helen had tried booking a few places for food without much success, so we got the bus to the O2 (as it turns out, a bit slower, but more convenient being almost door to door, than the tube would have been), and winged it. Ending up at Café Rouge, where there was no wait for a table outside under umbrellas and heaters.

Getting into the gig wasn’t anywhere near as bad as I thought it might be, even with all my ranting above. The queues were massive at entrances A & B but being up in the clouds meant we were at the furthest point away at entrance H, where there was no queue, and both the NHS and O2 app worked, and we were on our way up in less than a minute.

It has been a while since I’d been to the O2, and I’d forgotten just how small the seats were in the gods. I’ve lost a fair bit of weight since the last time there, but they are still too narrow for my fat ass, and the legroom would only work if I were a foot shorter. Even Helen was finding the seat narrow. But whatever the confines of the seat were, there would be no way I would be standing up. Fuck it is steep up there. My head is spinning if I look down whilst stood up, and only just calms down when seated.

Looking around, there were a lot of people wearing fez’s, Madness ones. Which was good, as it showed exactly where the obnoxious moron sections were in the crowd.

If I though my seat was tight, I wasn’t having half the issues a woman two rows in front of us was. She really couldn’t get into her seat at all, trying half a dozen ways. Her other half (wearing tatty shorts) tried bending the arms of the seat out of the way – to no avail. She took herself off, not sure where she was going, or hoping to sort out, but her other half didn’t go anywhere. (She came back four songs into the Squeeze set, sat on the steps for a couple of songs, before cramming herself into an unused seat on the end of a row – whilst shorts bloke was fast asleep before the end of the Madness set.)

And then it was show time, Squeeze ambled out onto the stage and launched into an incredibly good set. The tickets for the show weren’t cheap, and I might not have gone for it if it was just Madness, but the chance to see Squeeze tipped the balance for me, and they didn’t disappoint. They rattled through twelve songs, with all the favourites there, and only the one I didn’t recognise in the middle – F-Hole, which sounded like it could have come off Nirvana’s Nevermind.

The full set list was, “Take Me I’m Yours”, “Up The Junction”, “Hourglass”, “Slap and Tickle”, Cradle To The Grave”, “F-Hole”, “Labelled With Love”, “Muscles From A Shell”, “Annie Get Your Gun”, “Tempted”, “Cool For Cats”, and “Coffee In Bed”, during which they went around and spotlighted the different band members and they all did solos.

To our amusement, the couple sat behind us weren’t Squeeze fans. They were seated before we got there and had given us filthy looks when we sat down as they had to stop dangling their legs over onto our seats. Getting there that early, you would have thought they were up for seeing Squeeze, but at no point did they applaud, sing, or move during the Squeeze set, just sitting there with faces slapped by a wet fish, and arms folded. They were strictly Madness mutherfuckers.

After an interval full of eighties and nineties singalong anthems, it was time for Madness. A phone rang in the red call box on stage and Suggs appeared there and answered it before appearing from the call box onto the stage to let the audience shout the intro to One Step Beyond before curtains dropped to reveal the rest of the band. As the roadies tried desperately to pull the curtains off stage, they were hindered by Suggs blithely wandering around on top of them.

Nearly forty years on from playing “Complete Madness” to death, they played most of that and much more beyond, although no longer with Chas Smith. It was a storming set, featuring two songs I didn’t recognise – “Baby Burglar” and “If I Go Mad” – both good, and there was a good reason I didn’t recognise them, as they haven’t been released yet and they are being introduced on this tour. There were some good visuals on the screens behind the band during the set, the highlights being them playing Gene Kelly doing the well-known “Singing In The Rain” clip from the film whilst the band did “The Sun And The Rain;” and various clips from “The Ladykillers” as would be expected with the tour being called that.

Towards the end of the set, they played four songs that I would have thought prime candidates for any encore, so when they said they were finishing with “It Must Be Love,” I wasn’t expecting an encore. Nor was I expecting the woman sat on the row in front of me to get up and be swaying and waving her arms from side to side. For crying out loud you silly bint, this is Madness, not fucking Paul McCartney doing “Hey Jude.” When it was finished, they piled off stage, and quite a lot of people left. Only for a bagpiper to come on playing “When The Saints Goes Marching In,” before going into “Scotland The Brave,” during which all the band came back onto the stage from the telephone box and did a two-song encore.

It was amazing, but then it was over, and they left the stage for real this time, and it was time for us to head back out into the night. Two great bands in a single night, and a top way to start an extended holiday break.

The full Madness set was “One Step Beyond”, “Embarrassment”, “The Prince”, “NW5”, “My Girl”, “Take It Or Leave It”, “The Sun And The Rain”, “Baby Burglar”, “Wings Of A Dove”, “One Better Day”, “Lovestruck”, “If I Go Mad”, “Shut Up”, “Calm Down Mr Apples”, “Bed And Breakfast Man / Woolly Bully (medley)”, “House of Fun”, “Baggy Trousers”, “Our House”, “It Must Be Love”, and then for the encore “Madness” and “Night Boat To Cairo”.

Where Have All The Sevens Gone?

It’s not exactly a secret that I have a thing about records. And that has probably been the case since I was a small child.

There was a record player in the front room, and in the meter cupboard was a cardboard box of 7” singles. Most without any sleeves. I was fascinated by these black pieces of vinyl with the different coloured labels in the middle. I would play the same ones over and over again. The music and lyrics becoming embedded in my brain. I knew the records by sight before they went on.

The black label with the grey band at the top; that was the London American label, and it was Curtis Lee singing “Under The Moon Of Love”. Then there was the bright yellow label with black writing on. This was the MGM label and was Connie Francis’s “Stupid Cupid”. Then there was the purple label of Pye, and Lonnie Donegan with “My Old Man’s A Dustman”, with its humorous set pieces which I still use all these years later. The dark red with faint grey writing of the Parlophone label, Peter Sellers and Sophia Loren “Goodness Gracious Me”, and another London label, slightly different as it wasn’t American. This time Pat Boone with “Speedy Gonzales”. I’ve played the latter two just this week. Of course, they wouldn’t get made nowadays with their cultural appropriation and stereotyping to the fore in them.

Over the years I bought lots of 7” singles, albums, 12” singles, cassettes, CDs and even downloads, but nothing matched that mania for 7” singles. My collection has had its ups and downs in terms of volume, and its back down to a more manageable level nowadays from the peak of over 11k six years ago.

A couple of things have brought the thought of seven-inch singles to my mind recently. The first being that there was a writing exercise around early musical memories a couple of weeks ago in one of the writing groups I go to, and some of the above sentences come from that.

The second is I’m reading a collection of books by Andrew Cartmel in his Vinyl Detective series. I read the first one last year, but I’ve read three more in the last week and I’m about to start on number five. They are thoroughly entertaining, even if the searching for records by the lead character brings about all sorts of shenanigans you wouldn’t expect to come across when flicking through some vinyl.

There is a lot a searching through charity shops for records involved, and it reminded me that I have done a hell of a lot of the same thing over the years. Even in the years where there were virtually no new records being released, there would still be lots of second-hand stuff lying around.

So, I thought I’d go and have a wander around the charity shops of Crawley on Friday to flick through the vinyl as a nostalgia thing.

The first rule of charity shop records is that you have to wade through the mountains of LPs first. There will be lots, and they will invariably be made up of classical, soundtracks and then James Last and Ray Conniff records. I’m used to that.

What I’m not used to is there being piles of those naff albums, but then there being no 7” singles in sight. Not a single one (or a single single if you want). In any of the charity shops. So, in a brief sojourn from workshops and other tedious calls at work I had a quick wander around the charity shops on Boundary Road in Hove only to find the same thing. I thought back to a previous week when out in Shoreham, and it was a similar thing there, even in the record shop I nipped in.

Where the hell have all the 7”’s gone? There used to be boxes full to sort through, but now there is nothing. So much for a nostalgia laden wander around the shops.

And that’s the other thing, the charity shops are disappearing as well. Well, certainly in Crawley. Dr Barnardo’s went a few years ago, but in the last year Sense and Revive have gone from The Broadway, and in the last few weeks Cat’s Protection has closed on The Broadwalk and Save The Children has disappeared from The Boulevard. That’s half of the normal charity shops in the town centre gone (the furniture ones don’t count).

I’m not sure where I’m going to get my fix of nostalgic flicking through seven-inch singles now.

But I’ll leave you with a list. Of seven 7” singles with seven in the title.

The Four Top – Seven Rooms Of Gloom

Cola Boy – Seven Ways To Love

James Fountain – Seven Day Lover

Dubliners – Seven Drunken Nights

Chuck Woods – Seven Days Too Long

OMD – Sailing On The Seven Seas

White Stripes – Seven Nation Army

Driving Myself Crazy

Yes, I’m back to moaning about driving. I’m well known for hating driving, but it has to be said that commuting to the Hove office has made me more comfortable in driving. However, Thursday morning was a real pain in the arse. I did leave the house expecting to need a Bond style car with underwater additions (think the Lotus Esprit from “The Spy Who Loved Me”) with the torrential rain that had hammered it down during the night. I didn’t need that, but it was water that was causing me issues.

Instead of five minutes, it took an hour to get from the house to being on the main A23 at Pease Pottage. The usual slow traffic due to roadworks at the Broadfield stadium roundabout being added to by the fact the entrance to the north bound M23 at Pease Pottage was closed. So, nothing from Crawley or coming over from Horsham could get on the M23, so were going around the roundabout and ending up coming back through Crawley to get on further north. Yet they hadn’t closed the road where it turns from the A23 to M23, so anything from further south was able to get on without any issues. (The M23 had been completely closed during the night due to flooding and crashes).

Therefore, I was an hour later getting to Hove, and the main junction over the Old Shoreham Road down to the level crossing was chaos. The level crossing was down, and traffic was backed up. This didn’t stop morons from the west turning in and ending up sat on the box junction, then those heading north couldn’t get past and blocked the junction some more. Those heading east added to the blockage, and those heading south and west finished the job. Not one of the imbeciles understands the concept of a box junction.

I was finally able to get around the corner and headed down to cut over the railway along Olive Road, only for an idiot taxi driver to have abandoned his vehicle on the turn off. So, it took nearly two hours to get to work instead of forty minutes.

The evening saw a writing session in Brighton. Having been stung £12 for less than two hours parking at a previous session, I caught the bus. It was good to relax and be able to look – properly look at the buildings. I’m always looking up when not driving, seeing the ages and styles of buildings much better away from the ship fronts. Regency, Victorian, Edwardian, Art Deco, and Brutalist all wedged in against each other.

Whenever I did look down, mainly to contrast the glass and metal shop fronts with the older upper floors, I am confronted by regular piles of rubbish, on the pavements or piled up in the road instead. I didn’t know until one of my colleagues mentioned it earlier in the week that the Brighton and Hove binmen are on strike.

It seems incongruous, the piles of mainly black bags (with the odd white, or blue, or yellow, or green) ones in there and with many split to be stacked up as an eyesore against the many grand buildings on the other side of the rubbish strewn pavements.

There are few ugly buildings on the journey. The Co-op being the one that springs to mind immediately, as does most of Waitrose. The corner of Waitrose you see first on approach from the west looks like another of the grand curved frontages of regency houses along the route, but the rest is a mess of mixed pebbledash and brick in no single style, which seems a shame.

The workshop was on something called mass observation – which is quite an interesting concept, but there were two different explanations of what mass observation is that sprang to my mind (neither match the correct version, which is worth looking up and reading about). First, I thought about little aliens coming to Earth and their first interaction with humans is watching a Catholic high mass. Secondly, since mass is weight, and therefore mass observation is weight watchers!

At least there was no reason to get up really early on Friday, but the radio was playing when “Dare” came on with the dulcet tones of Shaun Ryder, and it led to an interesting stream of consciousness conversation. We’ve been watching the greatest hits of the 90’s series, and he’s been on looking like a Gollum headed weirdo. Helen asked about Happy Monday albums (had they done any), and so I rattled some off. “Bummed” got a laugh, but “Squirrel and G Man Twenty-Four Hour Party People, Plastic Face Carnt Smile (White Out)” reminded me of Manchester days and Surerandomality as it gave the aliases to two of us. Then of course there was the last album they did at the time, the one that bankrupted Factory Records “Yes Please!”

From there it jumped to the film Twenty-Four Hour Party People, where Steve Coogan played former Factory Records boss Tony Wilson. And the fact that Peter Hook commented on the casting with the quote, “It’s about the biggest cunt in Manchester played by the second biggest cunt in Manchester”, which always makes me laugh. With Coogan in camera, it moved onto the fact that his Partridge act is ruined forever by the fact that Richard Madeley is on GMB on a regular basis nowadays and out Partridge-ing anything Coogan could come up with.

This week he’d berated a young woman (who was on talking about having her drink spiked on a night out) about watching her drink at all times. The Twitter backlash did include at least one reply along the lines of “What, like Tesco have to watch you all the time around their alcohol supplies.” Helen said she’d seen him outside a Tesco metro in Chipping Norton once (presumably casing the joint), whereas I had used to shop at the Didsbury Tesco where he forgot to pay for his alcohol. In fact, it linked back nicely to Squirrel and G Man, as another of the main protagonists from Surerandomality days (Hopalong) regularly used to stop there on the way back from a night out to buy the female he’d picked up some flowers, and invariably the latest Harry Potter book.

Such an entertaining conversation we were later getting up than intended, but it was a good day, with a potter around Steyning, full of old Tudor buildings, a medieval church, and a very nice lunch at the White Horse. Still, plenty to see there I think, so another trip to be made soon.

The Absolute 100 Collection

Back at the start of this year, Dave Berry, the breakfast show presenter on Absolute Radio did a long running section called the “100 Collection”, where he was going to slim down his record collection (I know the feeling) to the greatest 100 albums of all time.

But being Absolute Radio, it wasn’t going to be a case of a straight up top 100 list. True to their myriad of different stations, they broke it up into ten different categories. They had seven of the categories to match up with their speciality stations: the 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, 00s, 10s, and Classic Rock. Then they added three non-station related categories; best Difficult Second Albums, best Greatest Hits collections, and best Soundtracks. Then they had ten albums per category. Looking back, it is I suppose a small mercy that their new station – Absolute Country hadn’t started, as I doubt they could name ten Country albums, let alone find ten great ones.

Working from home during the time they were running this I got to hear each of the top tens for the categories as they were announced every few days. There were some I agreed with, and others I didn’t, and some I though WTF at. And of course, a lot of “how on Earth have they left that one out?”

I thought about it and decided to put together my own list following the same rules. And then I put that thought in a box with all the other things I was going to do, and let it get swept away in a sea of apathy.

It was three months later before I got around to doing my list. To be fair to Dave Berry, it isn’t as easy to do as I imagined it would be. The issue is the categories. If I named my hundred favourite albums then there would be a very heavy bell curve with its central point around 1986, yet I’ve only got space for ten 80s albums. Yes, it was possible to get some in to the Difficult Second Album category, a few into Greatest Hits, take a very liberal take on the term Classic Rock, and even slip one or two into Soundtracks. But it still left a number of very good albums set to miss out.

It took a couple of days to complete, but I was happy with my list. And then I put the list away. I left myself notes if I suddenly had a thought about “that’s a great album – put it on the list”. Now, six weeks later I’ve looked at my list again, and taken a look at the notes I made. Only to find that I’d already included all the albums I’d noted in my list.

There are a few artists who appear more than once, but that shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that knows me, and thankfully for me, it was within the original rules Dave Berry set himself.

When I got to the end and compared it to Dave Berry’s list, I ended up with twenty albums that matched his list. The 90s and Soundtracks were where we thought the same the most (four albums in each category), but I didn’t match a single album in the 80s or 10s categories (although one of his 80s list appeared on my difficult second albums list). Those that match are in a different colour and in bold.

I’m happy with my list. There are some on it that I don’t own on vinyl, and some on there that don’t exist on vinyl, but I do have them all in some format or other. And yes, I did stick a compilation into one of the categories outside of Soundtracks, but my obsession with that album has already been the subject of a previous (very long) blog post. My list grouped by category is below. Let the dissention begin.

60s

The Rolling Stones – Aftermath

The Beatles – Revolver

Small Faces – Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake

The Kinks – Well Respected Kinks

Dusty Springfield – Dusty In Memphis

Otis Redding – Otis Blue

Smokey Robinson & The Miracles – Make It Happen

Stevie Wonder – I Was Made To Love Her

Aretha Franklin – Aretha Now

The Rolling Stones – Let It Bleed

70s

Marvin Gaye – What’s Going On

Stevie Wonder – Innervisions

Earth, Wind & Fire – I Am

Eagles – Hotel California

The Jam – Setting Sons

Kraftwerk – Man Machine

The Who – Who’s Next

Blondie – Parallel Lines

Darts – Double Top

The Jam – All Mod Cons

80s

The Style Council – Café Bleu

Eric B & Rakim – Paid In Full

Ice T – Iceberg / Freedom of Speech

Alexander O’Neal – Hearsay

Pet Shop Boys – Please

Terence Trent D’arby – Introducing The Hardline According To…

Beastie Boys – Licensed To Ill

Various – Electro 13

Michael Jackson – Thriller

NWA – Straight Outta Compton

90s

Green Day – Dookie

Prodigy – Music For The Jilted Generation

Ice T – O.G. Original Gangster

Nirvana – Nevermind

Oasis – Definitely Maybe

Paul Weller – Stanley Road

Portishead – Dummy

Pulp – A Different Class

Black Grape – It’s Great When You’re Straight…Yeah!

Rage Against The Machine – Rage Against The Machine

00s

Arctic Monkeys – Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not

Bloodhound Gang – Hooray for B00bies

Linkin Park – Hybrid Theory

Amy Winehouse – Back to Black

The White Stripes – Get Behind Me Satan

Mark Ronson – Version

Paramore – Riot

Reverend & The Makers – The State Of Things

The Killers – Hot Fuss

Kasabian – Kasabian

10s

Plan B – The Defamation Of Strickland Banks

The Heavy – Hurt & The Merciless

Indiana – No Romeo

Kasabian – For Crying Out Loud

Lounge Kittens – Sequins And C-Bombs

Paramore – Paramore

Paul Weller – Wake Up The Nation

Prince – HITnRUN Phase Two

Janelle Monae – Dirty Computer

Lizzo – Cuz I Love You

Difficult Second Albums

The Style Council – Our Favourite Shop

Foo Fighters – The Colour and the Shape

Public Enemy – It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back

Ice T – Power

The Heavy – The House That Dirt Built

LL Cool J – Bigger And Deffer (BAD)

Paul Weller – Wild Wood

Prince – Prince

Eric B & Rakim – Follow The Leader

Duran Duran – Rio

Greatest Hits

The Jam – Snap

Madness – Complete Madness

Billy Joel – Greatest Hits Volume 1 And 2

The Cure – Standing On A Beach – The Singles

Depeche Mode – The Singles 1981-1985

Madonna – The Immaculate Collection

Squeeze – 45s and Under – The Singles

Human League – Greatest Hits

Simple Minds – Glittering Prize 81/92

New Order – Substance

Classic Rock

U2 – The Unforgettable Fire

Iron Maiden – Seventh Son of a Seventh Son

Black Sabbath – Black Sabbath

Def Leppard – Hysteria

Foo Fighters – One By One

David Bowie – Let’s Dance

Dire Straits – Brothers In Arms

The Who – Tommy (Film)

REM – Automatic For The People

Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin IV

Soundtracks

Prince & The Revolution – Purple Rain

OST – The Blues Brothers

OST – Pulp Fiction

OST – Baby Driver

OST – Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

OST – Colors

OST – Star Wars

OST – Bugsy Malone

Elvis Presley – GI Blues

OST – The Lost Boys

A Trip To The Museum

I paid a visit to the museum on Friday 21st May. I am a member and had been a couple of times between lockdowns last year. Although most of it is the same, the main exhibition space upstairs changes periodically, and it is worth popping back on a regular basis to see what the current exhibition is. I will touch on the current exhibition (at the time) later.

Although I have been before, Helen hadn’t. Well, not recently, the last time she had gone to the Crawley Museum it had been at Goffs Park. Even with having been before, I find there is always something else I notice that I didn’t on the previous visit.

Wandering around, the museum is deceptive in that it initially looks quite small, but the way the space is set up on both floors, and how the exhibits are laid out, it crams a lot in and it seems to be a lot bigger than you first think. The ground floor deals with the history of The Tree, both the building the museum is housed in, and the actual tree it took its name from, and then takes Crawley history from the Victorian era to the modern day.

It has some of the original war memorial plaques (others having been stolen), that are replicated on the entrance to the Memorial Gardens from County mall. With my love of churches I am drawn to the Chapel sign, and of course to old street signs.

The wall around the stairs up to the first floor have a number of great photographs by Jeff Pitcher, where he is holding an old photograph in the foreground of the modern view of the same spot.

Upstairs, beyond the main exhibition hall, in a series of old, Tudor beamed rooms, is the more ancient history of Crawley from Iron Age times through to the Georgian era. I hadn’t noticed the little cupboard in the corner of the furthest room from the stairs before. It made a great place to hide so I could pop out and surprise Helen. Yes, I am still a very big child.

There is ongoing work to a new display, with a reconstruction being made to show Crawley High Street in Tudor times. It wasn’t complete when we visited, but what had been done to that point looked good, and I look forward to revisiting and seeing the finished version.

With the museum only having re-opened, the fact that the music exhibition was going to end the following week, was the main reason for this visit, and the main difference from my previous visits. I knew The Cure were famously from Crawley, and that Chico was, but it was surprising to learn about some of the other acts shown in the exhibition.

What I don’t know is whether what has been going on since is a coincidence, or whether the exhibition has prompted me to be on the lookout for musical links to Crawley.

On leaving the museum that Friday afternoon I soon found myself in Oxfam and browsing in their music selection I found the 7” single by Terry Dactyl & The Dinosaurs – “Sea Side Shuffle”; something I had been reading about less than an hour before. At 49p I couldn’t resist buying it and adding it to my wall of vinyl at home.

Then on Bank Holiday Monday, Radio 2 were doing all day Popmaster, and one of the questions was “Which one hit wonder had a 1972 hit with Sea Side Shuffle”. I’m not sure I’d have known the answer ten days before, and the contestant certainly didn’t. Other questions on the day asked about The Cure, Ms Dynamite, and Chico.

Speaking of The Cure, Mojo (the music magazine) had given away a cover CD called “I Wish I Were You” in April, which was a collection of covers of The Cure’s songs. Although I’d had the CD for a while, I was only really listening to it at the end of May. The track that caught my attention was one called “I Don’t Know”, which I didn’t recognise as a Cure song, but it was a hip-hop track using “Lullaby” as a sample. I was quite taken by the song and looked at who it was by to find it was Akala – Ms Dynamite’s younger brother – and another who I had read about in the exhibition. Again, I hadn’t really heard about him until reading the stuff in the exhibition. I went away and listened to some more of his tracks and now have bought his first two albums.

It’s possible all of this would have happened anyway, but I was certainly more aware of it all because of my trip to the museum.

And of course, any trip to any museum anywhere ends with me in the gift shop. I was quite restrained this time having spent a lot of money on my last visit, but I did manage to get a copy of John Goepel’s “How I Chose Crawley’s Street Names”, something to help me in my street sign photo taking obsession.