28 January 2023

Something Special

I protest....

[In Memoriam Terry Hall]


The lunatics have taken over the asylum....

Everybody knows.....   I am indebted to my elder bro, who sent me this cd as a birfdy pressie.  I had heard of the passing of young Terry Hall but could not really claim a pass to his fan club.  

My excuse might be that during the height of their fame I was immersed in Italian delights, but that is a flimsy weasel.

Terry Hall could sing the skin off a Cane Toad - whatever that means. And his choice of words was simple but subtle. Telegraph readers please look away..... Daily Mail readers, please curl up and die. Life is too harsh for complacency. Life is too short for those who think they believe politics is for the rich to get richer. 

Everybody knows that the boat is leaking
Everybody knows that the captain lied
Everybody got this broken feeling
Like their father or their dog just died

Leonard Cohen and Sharon Robinson

With his sharp suits, harsh buzzcut, brooding brow and hard stare, Terry Hall was one cool customer. The beloved frontman of The Specials and Fun Boy Three has died [from pancreatic cancer] aged 63, another leading light of the punk era gone but fondly remembered by his bandmates as “one of the kindest, funniest, and most genuine of souls”.

Fiona Shepherd
The Scotsman

I come to the party too late, as usual.  But there is still time to protest.  I am sick. And tired.  Is there no integrity?  

In his first comments outside Downing Street, new Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said, “This government will have integrity, professionalism and accountability at every level. Trust is earned.  And I will earn yours.”

Well?  I am waiting.  

To pray or not to pray
To sway or not to sway
Jesus died for something, or nothing at all
Fuck all those perfect people

Sleepy eyes, waltzing through
I’m not talking ‘bout you

James Wesley Voight

Yes, we are all waiting.  Waiting for some integrity, professionalism and accountability.  Members of the Cabinet who have already been sacked but then reinstated with no change.  Members of the Cabinet under investigation for multiple accusations of bullying.  Members of the Cabinet under investigation for tax avoidance.  A Prime Minister who held a US Green Card whilst being in the Cabinet and whose wife not only held non-dom status and so avoided UK income tax but allegedly also still holds a share in a company that has offices in Moscow.

I don’t mind failing in this world
I don’t mind failing in this world
Don’t mind wearing the ragged britches
‘Cause those who succeed are the sons of bitches
I don’t mind failing in this world

Malvina Reynolds

What you gonna do?  We've all got our crosses to bear.  We all have our failings, our weaknesses.  And we should forgive, and forget.  

At least that's how it goes.  Mr Johnson would like us to.....  But I am sorry.  I cannot.  When he was drinking with his stooges in No 10 I was trying to shore up my wife's diminishing life on my own, not even supposed to go out more than once a day, let alone have anyone, not even our daughters, round to keep us company.

By the end of his life Mr. Hall had not entirely escaped his demons, but he had made a certain peace with himself, and with his role as half-willing pop star.

When asked by The Spectator if he derived any pleasure from performing, he responded: “Absolutely none. That’s why I do it.”

He quickly amended that. “I actually do enjoy that thing onstage where I turn round and I’ve got Horace and Lynval, who I’ve known most of my life, and we’re sharing something. That’s my night out. Don’t get out much.”

Alex Williams

The New York Times

I see the faces of starvation (Ah-oom)
But I just cannot see the point (Ah-oom)
'Cause there's so much food here today (Ah-oom)
That no one wants to take away

The lunatics have taken over the asylum
The lunatics have taken over the asylum
The lunatics have taken over the asylum
The lunatics have taken over the asylum
The lunatics have taken over the asylum
The lunatics have taken over the asylum
The lunatics have taken over the asylum
The lunatics have taken over the asylum
The lunatics have taken over the asylum
The lunatics have taken over the asylum

Lynval Golding, Neville Staple 
and Terry Hall


[Dedicated to] the New Axis of Evil:  Donald Trump, Boris Johnson, Simon Cowell - we're fucked.....

Terry Hall
Live at Coventry Cathedral, July 2019

The Specials

15 January 2023

California Dreamin'

Cold Weather Blues

It's a commonplace that January is the Bluest month, and this year perhaps more than usual.  The feasting is over, the King made a speech without a stutter, and the Duke is raking in the profits of his unhappiness.  For us, poor mortals, without the blue in our blood, things don't got no better:

Whoa, times don't get no better
Peoples, I'm gonna have to go
Times don't get no better
Peoples, I'm gonna have to go
Well, you know I'm going back down south
People, where the weather suits my clothes

Muddy Waters
Cold Weather Blues

Yes, it's time to dream, as Dreamin's all we got. O for a beaker full of the warm South, sang Johnny Keats, while the Mamas and the Papas were California Dreamin:

All the leaves are brown (all the leaves are brown)
And the sky is gray (and the sky is gray)
I've been for a walk (I've been for a walk)
On a winter's day (on a winter's day)
I'd be safe and warm (I'd be safe and warm)
If I was in L.A. (if I was in L.A.)

Here the sun may shine, but it is low in the sky, backlighting locked gates:

It's a cold wind that shakes the reeds:

And whips The Wash to muddy frenzy:

Or blows the bins to the wrong addresses:

Up on Lodge Hill, skittish Ponies are nickering as they shelter among the trees:

If I were a goose I would skein away to where the skies aren't grey - or is that blue sky thinking?

In the meanwhile, I have to wrap up and make the best of my weary shanks:

California dreamin' (California dreamin')
On such a winter's day
Stopped into a church
I passed along the way
Well, I got down on my knees (got down on my knees)
And I pretend to pray (I pretend to pray)

You know the preacher like the cold (preacher like the cold)
He knows I'm gonna stay (knows I'm gonna stay)

I've been for a walk (I've been for a walk)
On a winter's day (on a winter's day)
If I didn't tell her (if I didn't tell her)
I could leave today (I could leave today)

Outside, the world is shut down:

You can't even buy an ice cream:

Let alone a Sub or a Snack:


And the beach is not for the living:

So I head inland for the path to sweetness:

Oh, so cold up north that the birds can't hardly fly
So cold up north that the birds can't hardly fly
I'm going back south
And let this winter pass on by
And let this winter pass on by
And let this winter pass on by
Let this winter pass on by, yeah

Time to tuck up nice and warm:

And await the new dawn:

What have I become
My sweetest friend?
Everyone I know
Goes away in the end
And you could have it all
My empire of dirt
I will let you down


Bill Rice, Jerry Foster

With thanks to:

McKinley Morganfield (Muddy Waters)

John Edmund Andrew Phillips / Michelle Gilliam Phillips (The Mamas & The Papas)

Bill Rice & Jerry Foster

3 January 2023

Happy New Years

 Among my souvenirs.....

(Picture taken maybe twelve years - or so - ago....)

Well, here we go.  Another year, perhaps?  I'm not really sure, as I fell asleep on New Year's Eve well before Jools got going, and possibly I still haven't woken.  

And in my dreams I found myself rummaging through a curious assortment of souvenirs from my wasted past. No reason, nor rhyme, apart from this snatch a friend used to sing, but which I cannot remember in full:

A box of matches, and an old French letter,
A dose of syphilis that won't get better.....
[something else ti tum ti doodah]
These foolish things, remind me of you.....

I think the original is better.....?

My first winter in Rome, my mother wrote to me, announcing my brother's arrival:

And on New Year's Eve we watched all hell break loose from my flat window, people firing guns in the air, crates of empty bottles heaved down onto car roofs, all the detritus of the old year flung noisily away.  We tried to walk around the streets, but it was too dangerous, so we scuttled back inside.  Around five we heard the street sweepers start to clear up, and by daybreak the year was clean.  

[It's not like this any more - the rubbish builds all year and rarely gets picked up.]

In my dreams I think it would be good to sweep everything away, to wipe the slate, but then something comes to mind that is a treasure that I want to cling to, whether in an English winter:

Or an Italian spring:

If only we could be together again....


There's no going back, only snapshots of good times, and hazy memories of people and places, like when I went to Tivoli with mum and dad and there was a fox asleep on a pile of straw below our vantage point:

Or a summer visit to Lindsay and family in Kettering:

Or invitations to parties I have no recollection of at all:

Or invitations to parties that we held ourselves, though I don't remember much of them either!) except that I think Matt Frei came to this one:

[But not this one.....]

And Bob never came either:

Not even to my pub, which venture went swimmingly well....  for a while:

 In amongst the dust of my recollections, here's a card from Adrian Mitchell, who came to stay:

And one from Roger McGough who also visited:

And here's one from Vibeka, some time before she joined the BBC:

And here is a reminder that if we didn't send a postcard then there was always the Telegram (there certainly were no mobile phones):

This too was a post card, from Loretta, picturing Trevignano where we lived, though not quite as long ago as is seen in this picture.....

And on my way 'home' I might have stopped in Nice:

Or Paris:

Before chasing dreams with my mother in Dorset:

Where has it gone?  Does it have to be so sad?  Will New Years ever be as good?  Could they be better?  Right now I don't feel too hopeful:

But you never know....

You came you saw you conquer'd me
When you did that to me
I knew somehow this had to be
The winds of March that make my heart a dancer
A telephone that rings but who's to answer?
Oh, how the ghost of you clings!
These foolish things remind me of you

These Foolish Things (Remind Me Of You)

Jack Strachey, Harry Link, Holt Marvell

15 December 2022

Disturbance in the Home

Public Disorder Quiz.....

See if you can match the quote to the author?  Each numbered quotation is from one of these authors:

Friedrich Durrrenmatt,

Don Winslow

Dashiell Hammett

George P. Pelicanos

Ross MacDonald

Raymond Chandler

James Ellroy

(1) A telephone rang in the darkness.  When it had rung three times bed-springs creaked, fingers fumbled on wood, something small and hard thudded on a carpeted floor, the springs creaked again, and a man's voice said:

"Hello... Yes, speaking... Disturbance?... Yes?... Fifteen minutes.  Thanks."

(2) I mixed myself another drink, swallowed half of it and began to feel it too much. I put my hat on, changed my mind about the other half of my drink, went down to my car. The early evening traffic was thick with householders riding home to dinner. I wasn't sure whether two cars tailed me or just one. At any rate nobody tried to catch up and throw a pineapple in my lap.

The barn was a square two-storeyed place of old red brick, with beautiful grounds and a red brick wall with a white stone coping around them.....

The gravel was strewn with cars, carelessly splayed around.  Heavy sounds confused the evening.  My brogues scrunched out of time with the bass and drums.  A squeal lit the night, causing a horse in the paddock to leap and bolt.

(3) The gun was a .38 calibre S and W revolver with a six-inch blue steel barrel, serial number 58237. I shoved it into the pocket of my jacket....

My shoes squished on the floor of the corridor.  There were heavy doors on either side, all of them closed and locked. The hallway was as dim and ugly as the one in my dream.  The only light came from a curtained door at the far end. I had it open and one foot on the porch when someone cried out behind me. It was a woman's cry, muffled by thick sound-proofed walls.  I back tracked into the building.....

(4) The party in full swing, the muster room SRO.

An open bar: scotch, bourbon, a case of rum Trashcan Jack Vincennes brought in.  Dick Stensland's brew in the water cooler: Old Crow, eggnog mix. A phonograph spewed dirty Christmas Carols.... the floor was packed....

The place reeked of Raspberry Juice. Plastic cups stacked on the trolley.   Straws crumpled with paper napkins.  A broken biscuit on the floor.

(5) Spade Cooley and his boys on a bandstand, Spade at the mike with Burt Arthur 'Deuce' Perkins, his bass player, called 'Deuce' for his two-spot on a chain gang: (unnatural acts against dogs......Don't ask, Ed.)

(6) Deborah had moved back farther into the dining room. Smart girl. Cooper wondered where the fourth one had gone to; out in the yard, Poor Boy had said that a cat named Albert was in the house.  Could be back in the kitchen, some shit like that, or maybe out back....  No matter.....

(7) "Well, I work nights," he says, "when most of the games are.  But I come when I can."

He pauses for a second and then says, "It might be my favourite place in the world."

....The emergency squad's large van had driven into the village and was waiting for the inspector. The scene and its immediate vicinity had been carefully searched and then cordoned off. Three plainclothes policemen were hiding in the woods. Their assignment was to observe passersby.....

(8) The other woman was introduced too, but nobody paid any attention to her after the first polite murmur and hat-lifting. She was Swanson's sister......

(9) Jack turned around.  "I used to be some kind of hotshot."  

"Do you have an excuse for your appearance?"

Yeah, I killed two men today."

"I see.  Anything else?"

I put you to bed.  Hope you feel better.  Thanks for saving Champion.

Carolyn Voight

PS - Can I take you to lunch to thank you?

Martin Beck had been a policeman for twenty-three years. During that time several of his colleagues had been killed in the course of duty.  It had hit him hard every time it happened, and somewhere at the back of his mind was also the realisation that police work was getting more and more risky and that the next time it might be his own turn.....

This time, however, it seemed that central command had overstretched themselves.  The pungent mixture of cherry pop and Dettol was giving him a headache. Mike Fox's saxophone was honking in his ear, and people were smiling at him.  A woman in a reindeer onesie took his hand and spun him round.  

This wasn't police work.

This wasn't a disturbance.

This was a Barn Dance! 

A Christmas knees up......

(10) So I squeezed her hand and said goodnight, and I saw the flick of disappointment in her eyes before she smiled again and walked me back into the living room.....

Martin Beck thought of this as he pulled on his wet raincoat and ran down the stairs to the waiting taxi.....

"Calling all cars, Calling all cars!  
All calm at the Barn!"

"10-4 buddy"

"Copy that, Roger!"


*    *    *    *    * 



Damn - I can't even remember!
I'll have to read them all again now.....