Sunday, 4 November 2012

Saturday, 3 November 2012

They don't love you back

Note to self

There are things you say you love

Sliding on a mat on a cold, clear winters morning

Sun out, wind offshore

The simple travel of the bicycle

Days running in the wilderness


But never forget

They don't love you back

Monday, 22 October 2012

Misty Morning Swell

Misty morning swell
First swell of Autumn
Sent as congratulations for beginnings anew
A goodluck, a handshake, a hug,all made of water
A sweet gift from nature tenderly wrapped in cloud.

I float on my air
And listen to music
The jazz from third seasons
The talking of gulls.

My hand is cool
As I bestow my blessing
To AEgir and Ran
And their nine billow maidens
Thankyou, I love you
Will visit you soon.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Free Jazz

 Free Jazz is an approach to jazz music that was first developed in the 1950s and 1960s. Free Jazz musicians attempted to alter, extend or break down the conventions of jazz, often by discarding invariable features of jazz, such as fixed chord changes or tempos.

The mid 50s recordings of Ornette Coleman and the first two albums by Cecil Taylor mark the beginnings of Free Jazz. The movement received its biggest impetus when Coleman moved from the West Coast to New York and was signed to Atlantic records. In 1960 he released a recording titled  Free Jazz: A Collective improvisation.

The movement now had a name.


' Jazz is not just a kind of music - the primary African-American artform - but a way of thinking and doing ( based on improvisation, syncopation, timing, rhythm and beat.) Surfers and travellers can be jazz players without ever liking or knowing jazz, where they have that jazz feel that takes them away from the straight line and the standard moves.'         Sam Bleakley.

Sunday, 9 September 2012


Crashing my van had started it all. I was fed up with markets, fed up with travelling , fed up with driving and fed up with vehicles. Prop shaft, head gasket, wheel bearings, blah, blah, blah. You get the picture. Always something.

 As I drove, I listened to Turin Brakes, and read The Sun, spread out on the passenger seat as always.

'Imagine getting caught by your wife in her underwear, aroused on the marital bed, when she came home, unexpectedly early from work!' Nevermind. Deirdre would sort it.

 I saw the tractor and trailer up front, and too be honest, didn't mind going slow. No rush. However, as the road bent round and a long straight appeared, I decided to go for it. As I increased speed and pulled  into the incoming lane, it occurred to me.

' Fuck! He's turning!'

And indeed he was. I'd not seen the sign displaying the turn to the right. I'd not seen his indicators- they were covered in mud. I braced myself, knowing any second I was going to crash. Which I did. The heavy metal trailer behind the tractor compressed the entire left, front side of the van. I came to a stand still on the grass verge. Depressed and demoralised, I got out the van, had a go at the driver of the tractor, realised I'd left my mobile at home, locked the door and walked to the other side of the road, where I waited an hour and caught the Lincoln-Skegness bus home.

I'd not disclosed points when taking out insurance policies for years. I found out from the police that I was in the wrong, and I'd only ever taken out Third Party insurance. The next day I got the van recovered, and went to bed content that my market trading days were finally over.

I was a partner in a new business with my brother manufacturing kids colouring boards, so the next day waltzed into the factory, told Chris my tale (honestly Chris, I was nearly killed!), waited for sympathy, and accepted the offer of working at the end of the packing machine. Chris was top man down there, he made clear. I was supposed to be a sleeping partner, as in a business environment we don't exactly gel, but, if I kept my mouth shut and did what he said, I had a job.

The problem was that I lived 12 miles from the factory, the bus services were shit, and I now had no vehicle. I did have a bike though.

' Thirty five quid?' I asked. 'Is it nicked?'

'Yes- Chesterfield.'

'I'll have it.' I replied.

'Den- do us a favour. Don't ride it round here for a month or two.'

'Thought it was from Chesterfield?'  I queried.

'Don't stress mate.' he said, walking off and popping the money into his back pocket smiling.

I'd put on abit of weight, now relatively content in my married life. I'd been 11 stone for years, but was now 15. Biking to work would do me good I thought, until I bought a car.

The funny thing is that once I started biking to work, I quickly discovered that I loved it. I relished the exercise, but savoured the simplicity more. No petrol, no breakdowns. I resolved to give up looking for a vehicle and stick to the bike. The wife wasn't happy- she couldn't drive.

 ' Get yourself a bike,' I implored.

Within weeks I had a new obsession. I spent tea breaks searching the web, developed plans to operate a market trading business by cargo bike and trailer, and bored everyone senseless. I'd bought a steel framed Raleigh racing bike from my elder neighbour, and attempted a cut price single speed conversion ( single speed and fixed wheel bikes fitted the simplicity model exquisitely). This worked to a point, but my 24 mile round trip ride to work was regularly hampered by problems. I needed something different..


Sheldon Brown is a cycling legend. If you want to know how to attempt any repair or alteration to a bike, then Sheldon is there with the information on the web ( he is now no more, but his site continues). Sheldon loved cycling. But Sheldon loved cycling, not in the ' I'll get the racer out on Sunday way', but in a way that I too share-the bike as everyday transport. Sheldon loved single speed / fixed gear cycling. He also loved  the Raleigh Twenty. I was intrigued.


                                                  Original 60's Moulton.

                                         1975 Three Speed Twenty

The man responsible for the original small wheel bikes was Alex Moulton. In the 1960's he developed a revolutionary bike design for its time - a unisex, step though frame, with 16 inch wheels and front and rear suspension. It was an attempt to take cycling to the masses, to make a short distance commuter cycle, ideal for men going to work and women going shopping (or the other way round in more liberal 60's households!). Raleigh responded to the popularity of the Moulton design by producing the RSW-16, another 16 inch wheeled bike. By 1970 sales of the RSW-16 had fallen, so Raleigh decided to aggressively market another small wheeled bike. This bike was the Raleigh Twenty. This used the larger 20 inch wheels, which made for a smoother ride and less rolling resistance. In 1974 the RSW-16 was discontinued, leaving the Twenty to  become Raleighs main small wheeled bike in production. In 1975 140,000 were manufactured in the UK, which equalled the entire sales of the Moulton from 1963-1974. It was Raleighs biggest selling bike in 1977, and continued in production until 1984, giving it a 16 year lifespan.

I liked the idea of the Twenty. It was an idea that I now shared. It was a bike to do everyday things on - go shopping, ride to your mates house,bike to work, bike to and from the pub on. In short, a bike which would become an intricate part of  your everyday life, to make that everyday life easier, get you out in the fresh air - ultimately make your everyday life, and life in general, better.


I found mine on ebay- £15 from a house in Lincoln.

'Who's it for?' asked the nice lady selling it .It had been sat in her garage for years.

'Err..... For the wife,' I lied.

I handed her twenty pounds and told her to keep the change, and looked round for my son and my bike. Smiling and laughing, he had taken off down the street aboard the Twenty.

' Dad! Why do you want a bike like this?'

The look on his face answered the question.

It's my companion. It spent two years on a daily twenty four mile round trip to the factory. A puncture was the worst thing that happened. It's done 50 mile round trips to Boston. No problem. But its main use is the simple things- it gets me to the beach, to town to do the shopping, and to work. It's a tool. It's got abit of rust where it stands out in all weathers, and it looks abit stupid. (haha.. Nice bike Jesus!). 

I love it.


Monday, 13 August 2012

California Soul


I must be the exception. While the rest of the country enthused about the merits of competition and hard work, representing your country, and 'achieving', I was left cold. The pressures of 'achieving' had lead me to a place which, in the 'achievement' textbook, was the opposite of where I was supposed to be. The first time I got drunk was at university. The first time I went to a nightclub in my local town was after I started university. Eighteen years old. That's not normal. The sacrifice of trying to be a good athlete put me a position where excess was forbidden. Nobody forced it on me- but it was there.

Being a twin is competitive. I was better at sport. He was brainier. While normal people were having normal lifes, we were competing. In Christmas holidays before O and A levels, we'd take one day off- Christmas Day. The rest of the time we revised. 'Healthy competition?' I think not. It may be that, or it may not be, but the result for me is a striving to live life with as little pressure as possible. I don't want a career- too stressful, a mortgage or car- too stressful. I just want to drift along, just kinda happy.

So this Olympic thing had me perplexed. The celebration of our 'heroes'. The legacy. Cameron on about the increase in competitive sports for kids. The way I saw it was that Cameron and the rest of the politicians were doing ok. The economy was fucked. People were struggling. Couldn't afford petrol. The number of people cycling was at an all time high. But this wasn't because of Wiggo and won't be because of golds in the velodrome. It was because cycling was cheap. Implementing the fuel duty rise at the last budget would have had a bigger effect on mass participation cycling than any amount of money given to Dave Brailsford. ........ But I digress.

The closing ceremony cheered me up. Only a little. But a little is better than none. We'd had two weeks of  'achievement' and 'sacrifice'. Our 'heroes'. Up at two o'clock in the morning from the age of 10 to swim / run / row/ dressage, for miles. Missing out on youth to 'achieve'. Now we had our other heroes, from music and fashion, who doubtless never  went to bed before 2, and usually in a state of alcoholic and drug induced intoxication. They had created another 'Legacy', no less worthwhile than our Olympians, but in a totally different way.

As Fat Boy Slim rose out of the stage it took me back . .... Way back.

It was 1995 and a new ' Superclub' was opening in Nottingham, underneath The Theatre Royal, called 'Essence'. The resident was Alasteir Whitehead, notts boy come good, and the guests were the normal suspects floating around the house scene at the time. People like Danny Rampling, Graeme Park etc, etc. My brother was down for the weekend and I was glad because he liked to get wasted, but also knew abit about music. We were on a normal night on the town and had gravitated to this place, but the queue was putting people off. I wanted to go in because in the basement was another club night. One which I had read alot about. One which I knew I'd remember.....The Heavenly Social.

The Heavenly Social started in 1994 on a Sunday night in The Albany Pub in Central London. It was the height of the Britpop year, and the crowd comprised alot of the characters at the time. Frequent visitors were the likes of Oasis, Primal Scream, the Manics and The Charlatans. The night, however, was initially formed to showcase the talents of a recent Heavenly records signing, The Dust Brothers, soon to become The Chemical Brothers. The soundtrack was random, house classics, mixing with indie classics from the likes of The Clash. However a new club genre was about to be born. Mixing ragga and hip hop, the new sound played by The Chemicals and regular partner in crime, Jon Carter, became ' Big Beat'.

I divulged the monthlies, The Face, I.D. and Mixmag , and the weeklies, NME and Melody Maker. Mention  after mention. A Sunday night becoming the biggest clubbing night in London. Things were different. The previous couple of years had seen the rise of  'Progressive House', designer clothes and Cocaine. The social was back to somewhere that club culture hadn't been for a while- drinking. It was a lager fuelled frenzy of good people, good music and pogoing.

After waiting a while we eventually got in and made our way downstairs. The guest of the night at The Social was Fat Boy Slim, another star of the 'Big Beat' phenomena. It was empty. We made our way up stairs to the house area, looking for the toilets. Drunk. From the early days of 1990 I'd been on a similar journey as alot of people my age with an interest in dance music. Marijuana turned to Acid, Acid turned to Speed, Speed turned to E's, E's turned to Coke. I didn't go the Coke route- too expensive. Preferred a wrap of speed and 2 E's. But it was getting boring. Going clubbing and just drinking seemed exciting. Something we'd not done for a while.

As we made our way to the toilets we came across a sort of chill out area, before the main dance room. My ears pricked up. My favourite song at the time was ' California Soul'. I'd picked up the 'Easy' album at a carboot a few weeks previous, and in my small West Bridgeford bedsit had played nothing else. This wasn't the Marvin and Tammi version, but the Marlena Shaw version. Still beautiful. I turned to Chris.

 'Who the fuck is that?' I asked, pointing to the middle aged D.J.

'Not got a clue,' replied Chris. ' Go and ask him.'

I walked up to him , waited until he started his next tune, held out my hand.

' That is my favourite song,' I gushed. 'Who are you?' I asked.

'Jeff,' he repiled. ' Jeff Barrett.'

'Not The Jeff Barrett?' I asked.

' Yes' he smiled.

Jeff Barrett owned Heavenly Records, home to some of my favourite artists, Flowered Up, St Etienne, Beth Orton and Dot Allison. What really enamoured me to him was a recent Heavenly off shoot, Heavenly Books. I was in the middle of a particularly vicious obsession with Paul Weller. That night I was dressed in a new John Smedley jumper, some dog tooth check Farahs (worn an inch above my ankle), red silk socks and Patrick Cox loafers. Combined with the obligatory Weller crop, I thought I looked the bollocks. Now Weller's best mate at the time was a guy called Paolo Hewitt, another mod from Slough. He was a music journalist who had just written a book called ' Heavens Promise.' I'd loved it. Very influenced by Colin MacInnes mod epic 'Absolute Beginners',  it was nonetheless, in my eyes, great. I loved Heavenly.

We eventually made it downstairs. The night was rocking. I remember being tapped on the shoulder on the dancefloor. I looked over. It was Jeff.

' You having a goodnight mate?',

'Yeah. Shit Hot.' I replied.

I remember stood at the D.J box talking to Norman Cook, Fat Boy Slim. The day before I'd read an article about Norman where he recollected a night in Brighton, snorting Ketamine off of some train tracks. I mentioned this to him . He laughed. I remember asking him to play The HouseMartins.

The next morning I was supposed to be up for work at 5, to set up my market stall on Snienton Market, my busiest day of the week by far. We got in at 4. I overlaid. Me and Chris vowed to go to the next social a month later. I'd have the next day off. The Social didn't occur at Nottingham again.


A month later me and Chris are in Hunstanton .He's bought a Volkswagon van and we're testing it out for a few days.  We are stood in a newsagents browsing magazines. Suddenly Chris pipes up.

'Fucking Hell Den. Look at this!'

He thrusts a copy of D.J magazine in my face. As I look down, its the club review section at the back.

Its the first time for the Social outside the capital, but the scenes are no less crazy.
A typical scene.
As Fat Boy Slim is midway in his set, a pissed up clubber, turned comic, walks up to the D.J booth.
'Ere mate. You got any Housemartins?' he says.
'No . Piss off and dance.' he replies, to which he does, both laughing.

That was me- pissed up clubber, turned comic.

That's Legacy. A story I've told a million (and now one) times.

Till next time  ;)