Wednesday, July 27, 2016

My one novel was set in this forest

From Amy!

Musings on driving, parking and life's direction

          I have just got back from the nearby shopping mall, feeling somewhat frazzled. I am an anxious driver and although it is only a few miles away I have never driven there before. I needed to go to Debenhams (the department store) for a certain item of clothing it turns out I need to go with my dress for a concert. This is what happens when you have a bias cut silk dress and healthy eating hasn't been top of your list for the last few months. I had a most interesting discussion with my singing coach about this. Apparently it is completely normal to need special stage items. Then came the discussion about silhouette vs actually being able to breathe (always handy when you're singing). It appeared Debenhams would have the answer. So I psyched myself up and went.
          Parking is always a problem for me. If the space isn't three times the size of the car you can forget it. I thought a weekday morning would probably be ok in a multi-storey so I looked online for the closest one. The Fareham indoor shopping centre page was most helpful, detailed directions and a postcode for the sat nav. I only had one mishap on the way there, I turned left just before the car-park instead of into it. That resulted in a 16-point-turn in the taxi pickup point but I was reassured by the fact that I could at least SEE the car-park. I eventually got inside and drove around until I found a very easy space to navigate. I took careful note of the level I was parked on. I've been known to be so relieved to have managed to park I completely forget to make a mental note of this trivial detail and spent the rest of the day searching for the car.
          With the help of the floor plans in the mall I find Debenhams and think/hope I have what I need. I gather a few other bits of shopping and head back to the car-park which is helpfully signposted inside the centre. I find my ticket, pay the fee and head up the stairs feeling virtuous about not using the lift. Level 1 doesn't look the same from this end so I walk around a bit. It really doesn't look the same at all. I'm sure those concrete pillars were painted purple and on the wall is a large 'This way to the shops' sign. I don't remember there being anything as helpful as this when I got out of the car. Hmmm... It begins to dawn on me that I'm in the wrong car-park, but hang on a minute... the machine took my parking card, and my money!! Maybe all the car-parks use the same universal system. Oh NO!! I've paid for my parking and I'm now on a time limit to get my car out of the car-park! Only I'm in the wrong car-park and I don't know where the right one is!!
          I head back down the stairs and look at Google maps on my phone. A stupid thing to do, whoever heard of a sat nav finding your car when you don't know where you left it! I find the floor plan again and find (or course) there are two car-parks adjoining the centre. I must be in Osborne Road car-park... I do HOPE I'm in Osborne Road car-park! So the ever-so-helpful website sent me to the car-park for this centre that is not called 'Shopping Centre Car-Park'. I silently curse Fareham Borough Council as I dash past the shops trying to retain the directions out of here in my head. I eventually make it back to the correct car-park and much to my relief the machine accepts my ticket and lets me out.
          I think I'll stick to writing songs! Shame it doesn't pay enough to take a taxi everywhere.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

More Una from O. Reader

More Una
            I recently wrote a post called Una, about someone I knew in my religious work a lifetime ago in London. Alas, my words did not persuade her, but I like to think we had a good rapport, and a life-long interest in the film industry meant that quite often our discussions got “off the point”. Well, off my “point” anyway.
            Una lived on Ealing Green, very close to the Ealing Film Studios, which by then had been sold to the BBC. (The same street housed both my “church” and my school.) Many years later as an old lady she had been interviewed as part of a British Film Institute history project, and by chance I came across a reference to over two hours worth of interview that was languishing on cassette in some archive.
            So, I applied and sweet-talked, and badgered and NAGGED (something the pixie may have experienced from me in the past) and eventually they agreed to digitize the tapes. It took a while. The tapes had to be found, people were always going on vacation and would do it “later” and when finally I got the file, they had made a mess of it, duplicating part and omitting other parts. But finally I got the file, and with the help of my daughter it was transferred to my trusty iPod.
            It was interesting hearing Una’s voice down through the ages. She was, as I remembered her, very “London”, but educated “London”. I had not realized or remembered that she had specifically worked in the music department at the studios - starting in 1943 for six GBP a week for four hours a day, and ending up on a basically the same money eighteen years later from morning to fall over time. But she loved the work, keeping classical composers like Vaughan Williams happy, organizing orchestrations, scrounging a stop watch during the war - they apparently wrote their music without directly seeing the film but timed by stopwatch - and on occasion writing music herself, including a comic song that ended up in a Tommy Trinder film. (You would really have to be a British “anorak” to remember him - Americans would have no chance.)
            And it is funny how attitudes change with years. In her interviews she was scathing about her one acting role in a film, the infant prodigy in Cavalcanti’s version of Dickens’ Nicholas Nickleby - “miscast, dreadful, the director was very disappointed and so he should have been, etc. etc.” But when I knew her she remembered the experience quite positively. Years later I bought the DVD on the strength of it, only to find her part had been cut down to just a few seconds. Maybe the director agreed after all.
            The one thing that was a revelation was her family background. Her brother, Hal Mason, was a film producer - I knew that - but her parents had been circus performers, working all over the world, including America (where her brother was born) and Australia - where they had a longer stay than anticipated due to the first World War. Her father had been a trapeze artist with his own company and her mother before marriage had been a trick cyclist in a famous troupe. When age caught up with them, they went into running hotels and putting up “theatricals” who would remember them from their mutual time “on the boards”.  That is where Una learned to play the piano and sing - apparently she could reach such high notes that she is heard - uncredited - in several ancient films while someone else mimes obligingly for the camera.
            But the revelation about her mother got me to thinking. I remember her mother. She was a little old lady - well, not so little - and after Una and I had more or less gone our separate ways, I used to see her taking the sun on a bench on Ealing Green and sit down and pass the time of day with her. I would never have dreamed in a million years that she had once earned her living wobbling around on top of a unicycle. You never can tell.
            So now I have taken to looking at people I meet, and just wondering...

Coffee and Comfort - Uncertain Artist

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Russians, Koreans and other Morons.


Never Peeve a Pixie

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

National Unity. Germany 1919

Post World War I National Assembly
Post Card New to My Stamp Collection.

Airmail Cancellation on Unaddressed Card.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Pixie Warrior Color Page

Knock yourself out. Post your finished page somewhere and send me the link!


Friday, July 01, 2016

From O. Reader


Last year at the Cambridge Folk Festival the main headliner was Joan Baez. In her heyday in the early 60s I wasn’t too fussed. For me her voice was pure, mannered and irritating. She used to give what I would call a “custard pie” performance. Imagine an old Buster Keaton or Fatty Arbuckle movie. Someone putting on airs appears, and a custard pie would sail out of the wings. Splat! Right in the kisser. So, so satisfying.

But as Joan got older and her voice got more “lived in” she improved drastically in my estimation. Her performance at Cambridge won me over, and when I saw they were issuing a live concert recording - 2 CDs and 1 DVD - of her 75th birthday bash, I bought it. A host of ageing folkish luminaries appeared with her, Emmylou Harris, Judy Collins (a big rival in the 60s), Paul Simon without his cap for once, Jackson Browne, Mary Chapin Carpenter (who we will be seeing at Cambridge this year) but I’ll desist, because the reader will either have never heard of them, or if they have, will probably know all about the album anyway.

So what songs have stood out for me from first hearing? One was a belting version of House of the Rising Sun. This was made world famous by the Animals back in the days of yesteryear, who pinched their arrangement from Bob Dylan’s first solo album. However, it is actually a woman’s song. Of a woman gone wrong. In the usual way. A lament. Let ‘em have it, Joan. She did.

Paul Simon joined her to sing the Boxer, with Richard Thompson playing back-up guitar. They slipped in an extra verse that brought the house down.

Now the years are rolling by me
They are rocking easily,
And I am older than I once was
And younger than I’ll be
- But that’s not unusual...
Nor is it strange,
After changes, all the changes
We are more or less the same;
After changes
We are more or less the same.

My daughter grew up as a Simon and Garfunkel fan. We used to call them Simon and 
Garbage-Uncle and wind her up something rotten, as parents sort of do. Well, these parents anyway. In her teens she wrote an arrangement for her school choir of The Only Living Boy in New York. She probably got her love of S and G from her mother, rather than me, but I did enjoy Simon’s first solo album recorded in the UK before he hit the big time. Yup - and Here’s To You too, Mrs Robinson... And don’t get me started on Anne Bancroft in the Graduate...

There was a merciless parody of S and G by a British double act Hale and Pace, which you can catch on You Tube if you have a mind to. Fortunately my daughter laughed too...

Joan’s patter had a dig at Bob Dylan claiming to write a traditional folk song, with quite a nice vocal impersonation, but of course he and Joan had been an item for a while. She was the megastar, he was just the harmonica player for Caroline Hester who pinched an old folk tune No More Auction Block and turned it into Blowing in the Wind. But Bob latched onto Joan’s star and to some degree eclipsed her. And then, because folk was just a vehicle, and at heart he probably wanted to be rock star, he went electric, to the dismay of his original core audience. This was completely irrational, because blues players had been electric for years. Anyhow, back to the show - Joan did Dylan’s bitchiest of “get lost” songs Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright, which rumor has it was originally written with her in mind. Ah me - the trivial things we used to take so seriously all those years ago...

She did Freight Train, which I first bought on a 78rpm shellac disc back in the Precambrian era. It was written by Elizabeth Cotten, who had been a maid for the Seeger family. (Yes, the extended Pete Seeger family, who had been quite well-to-do. Pete of course “dropped out” as all good radical folk singers do, but he did drop out of Harvard). The Seegers heard Elizabeth sing her own song and supported her on her way as a folk singer. There is some footage of her on YouTube as an old lady singing Freight Train and playing a guitar left-handedly. But not re-strung, just played upside down. It gave new meaning to the expression “cotton picking”. So Joan belted that one out.

Some of her biggest hits over the decades of course appeared - There But For a Fortune (written by Phil Ochs), Diamonds and Rust, Gracias a La Vida, The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down, and - very appropriate to finish on - Forever Young.

There are lots of folk performers from the 60s who still sing, and frankly shouldn’t. Knowing when to stop is a judgment that many fail to make in all walks of life, and singing is a prime example. Not just folk singers - anyone remember Pavarotti’s last appearances? And rock singers. I saw Little Richard in his heyday - fantastic” - but also well into his 70s - hilarious - but for all the wrong reasons.

But Joan really did well. There was no need to make any concessions or allowances.

Play it again, Sam.