Engulfed in Mist

Monday 18th February

I was at Walton all day on Friday and Saturday, and for a change got a remarkable amount of writing done.  So much so that I was in fact a bit of a hermit, and apart from a run-out for milk and bread hardly saw anything of the town.  One of the reasons for buying the house was that I love the sea, and just have to go and walk on the sand, or at least look at it whenever I am here.  Usually Julia and the dogs are here, so I spend at least half an hour with them on the beach, but she has gone to France already, so I was on my own.  I had my writing class on Sunday afternoon, and was planning to leave after watching the Andrew Marr show.  It only takes five minutes to get to the station, so I took a small diversion to gaze at my friend the sea.  And the morning was so sunny and frosty, and fresh and clear and bright I was quite looking forward to it.

The tide was almost out and there were vast stretches of wet shiny sand, with the ripples of the departing waves making tiny ridges in beautiful repeating patterns.  I decided to send Julia a photo, so took out my brand new Blackberry Z10, and located the camera icon and pointed it along the coast, out towards the Naze itself, where the land rises up and the houses peter out. I took a couple of shots then turned to face the pier.  I was amazed, in the time it had taken to click two quick snaps a sea fog had drifted in and was now obscuring the lifeboat end of the pier.  And it was advancing rapidly inland, so much so that I had no time to snap the pier before it was completely enveloped in a roiling tumbling blanket of whiteness.  I looked back and though it must have been less than a minute the mist had engulfed that view too.

As I walked up the hill towards the station I too was engulfed in the whiteness, and suddenly it was cold and clammy, and I couldn’t see more than a foot or two in front of me.  The train loomed in out of the blanket of fog and it didn’t clear for a few miles inland.

And it had come from nowhere, out of a clear blue sky.  One minute sunshine and then engulfed in mist.

View IMG_00000037.jpg in slide show

Please Please me – the remake

Sunday 17th February

On Friday night I watched Please Please Me – remaking a classic, where a collection of artists attempt to recreate recording the Beatles first album which was recorded in just over 12 hours exactly fifty years ago.  It was a brilliant programme with wonderful performances from amongst others Stereophonics, Joss Stone and Mick Hucknall.  A clever idea and the new versions were both familiar and different enough to hold your interest.

All the more remarkable was that the Beatles, although they knew all the numbers they would go on to record as they were all part of their live act, had no real idea which songs to sing or what would end up on the record.  In fact they wasted 17 takes on ‘Hold me Tight’, a Paul McCartney song which would eventually be recorded on Wings second album ‘Red Rose Speedway’ ten years later.  Even the show-stopping Twist and Shout which wraps up the album so wonderfully was an afterthought and done in one take right at the end.

Beverley Knight came up with a sterling rendition, of Twist and Shout at the end of the show.  The songs were first broadcast on Radio2 during Monday, each song being broadcast live at the same time of day as they were recorded.  The best version for me was Gabrielle Aplin singing ‘There’s a Place’.

I cannot find out if there are any plans to release this as an album, but I hope so.  Then to cap a lovely evening’s viewing there was a documentary about Brian Epstein which brought back so many memories of the sixties.  I have said it before, and will say it again.  I was so fortunate to have been one of that lucky generation to have grown up in the sixties and with the Beatles as my very own older brothers.

Beverley Knight

A Tragedy

Saturday 16th February

Occasionally a story emerges in the news for which the only possible reaction is ‘Oh, what a tragedy.’  And the death of Reeva Steenkamp at the hands of Oscar Pistorious is one of those.  The fact that he was one of the first Paralympic heroes, had overcome his own disability, had just had yet another successful Olympics, was famous and presumably wealthy were of course the elements that make it newsworthy.  And Reeva, though unknown to us in Britain, was also a rising celebrity, incredibly attractive and clever too; a law graduate.  Two young people who had everything to live for.  But no more.  What ever the eventual verdict on Oscar it is an awful tragedy.  We all in our vicariously greedy way want to know exactly what happened that night, though as Reeva is dead we will never know for sure.  In a way it almost doesn’t matter; a row that got out of hand, deliberate murder, sexual jealousy, or an actual accident (though four shots does stretch the imagination) – nothing can make it any better.

And why should we be so surprised when Celebrities crack.  Although they have mostly craved success and all that money and fame brings them there is no doubting the added pressure it must all bring.  As a young man I wanted to be famous like the Beatles, though I couldn’t sing a note, and my efforts at learning guitar were pitiful.  And for years I still harboured dreams of success, even as a writer…hahaha.  But thank God it never happened.  I can walk down any street and be totally anonymous.  No-one knows how much money I have, what sort of house I live in, whether I am famous or not.  And so I can be anything I want to be.  And thank God I have never killed anyone – and hope never to do so.  I cannot imagine a worse feeling than having been responsible for someone else’s death.  So, whatever the reason, whatever the actual  sequence of events, whatever happens to Oscar, in many ways his life is over now – just like that of his girlfriend.  Two young people cut down in a moment of madness.  A tragedy.

Steve’s Hammer

Friday 15th February

‘One of these days I’m gonna lay this hammer down’ so sings Steve Earle.  And I am not going to go on about the song or ask you to buy it or anything, though it is excellent.

The point of the song is that when all injustice has been defeated, when every hungry child has been fed, when the greedy are stripped of their power, when the crooked are brought to book, when the corrupt politicians are hurled out of Government, when the weak are no longer oppressed…..(the list is endless)….then Steve’s work will be done, and he can lay his hammer down.

It is a nice metaphor, and it makes you think.  Which of us is really trying to put an end to all injustice, or even any at all?  I started out wanting to change the world; I joined the Labour party and soon rose up the ranks.  It was a personal tragedy of mine, and a feeling of shame that made me quit; I sort-of knew I wasn’t ever going to be Prime Minister, not with my track record anyway.  But I still believed, I hadn’t laid my hammer down yet.

And right through the Thatcher and Major years I believed.  At last along came a saviour, Tony Blair, but then we soon realised he was just the same as the Tories.  He didn’t want to actually change anything, he didn’t want to smash the foundations, he maybe liked tinkering here and there and rubbing shoulders with the rich and famous, but he never wanted to lay his hammer down, in fact he had never even picked it up – not even for the photo-shoots. Gordon Brown was almost as bad – a spent force by the time he got his mitts on the hammer and too tired to lift it.

And now we have Ed and Ed, and we know that when and if their time comes the hammer will be the size of a toffee hammer, ready to smash one or two of the Tory toys, but never strong enough for the job in hand.

And now what of me?  I really don’t know.  Some days the flame burns bright, but others I am just resigned to the way things are.  I may indeed have laid my hammer to one side, if not completely down.  Job still sadly undone, but at least I realise there is a job to be done.

The Great 2013 Horse Meat Scandal

Thursday 14th February

The horse meat scandal is of course terribly funny; facebook is full of jokes about it, and in the grand scheme of things it really isn’t that important.  Except as a reminder of just how rotten Capitalism really is.  The Supermarkets with their lure of low prices have almost completely killed off honest competition from family butchers, bakers and greengrocers.  A fresh fish shop is almost impossible to find today, and now they are selling electricals and homeware and clothing too.

And the power of Supermarkets is in their buying power, and they relentlessly squeeze suppliers on both price and quality.  This forces those suppliers to be more automated, get bigger and mass-produce everything.  So, as well as us all ending up eating the same shit, the quality of that shit diminishes, just as the packaging gets more attractive.  And then someone has the bright idea of using a cheaper meat than beef….

Part of the attraction of France is the fresh market system.  They do have supermarkets in France, and the range of products is amazing, but it is on the markets that you find the best food. There are always butcher’s stalls where if you really want you can buy your horse-meat, fantastic fresh fish, cheeses of every variety, and great fruit and veg too.  And in France most people do their shopping in the markets.  And they buy their bread twice a day, so it is always fresh and lacks all those chemicals to make it last which may be killing us at the same time.

Part of the problem is that we are so time-poor, working long hours, both parents out of the house for hours that it is far easier to do the weekly shop than to buy fresh every day.  And the supermarkets know this and trade on it, hence the remarkable rise in ready meals.  And I am one of those who simply cannot face an hour of cooking after a hard day at the coal face, so I reach for a packet from the fridge of some pre-packaged, pre-cooked ready meal that you simply oven heat for 15 minutes.  But God knows what is in it.  I wouldn’t put it past them to adulterate my veggie soy sausages with donkey if it turns out to be cheaper.

Anything to make a quick buck. And the laugh is that the perpetual moan of the Tories and Capitalists is ‘too much regulation’; ‘scrap the layers of regulation and we can make more profit’ they say.  It is only regulation that has stopped them from poisoning us even quicker.

So Cold

Wednesday 13th February

Is it just me, or is it really getting colder and colder.  It has been going on for long enough now.  Surely.   And yet day after day we get up and are faced with another bleak and cold day.  And it isn’t really freezing – at least not here in London, there have been a few flakes of snow in the air but nothing settling, no real frost either, just so bloody cold.

Everyone feels the cold in different ways.  Some in their hands, their face, their ears even, and some right inside.  My Achilles heel is literally my feet; once they get cold I have had it.  I can’t get any part of me warm again.  I have spent a small fortune on trying to find the best socks to beat the winter chill.  All makes of thermal socks have been tried and rejected.  Even the ludicrous theory that thin socks will keep your feet warm – that was a real waste of time.

Maybe it is my age, I don’t remember feeling the cold so badly when I was younger.  But I groan inside each day as I look out on another cold day.  The tube which in summer is baking offers little comfort, as we all sit or stand huddled together like penguins in Antartica trying to gain a shred of warmth from our neighbours, usually to no avail – and then out onto the street again until we gain the safety of our offices.

In a few days time I will back in France and I keep watching the weather in Eymet; about five degrees warmer than here at the moment, and I cannot wait.  In the meantime I will just have to keep putting up with this bone-chilling cold.

G might once have been for David Gray

Tuesday 12th February But after White Ladder what on earth happened David?  David Gray was unheard of, a complete nonentity in the world of pop.  He had made a couple of albums, full of fairly dull songs which didn’t sell well at all.  Including White Ladder; it was a flop at first.  Then slowly it started to grow, at first in Ireland where it is actually the best selling album of all time, but over here too  it started to impinge on the public’s consciousness, and after a couple of years it was a monster hit.  Everyone loved it.  It hit all the right buttons.  It had groovy modern beats, it had a sort of sad vein which wasn’t miserable but reflective.  And the songs had great sing-along melodies.  Then the hit singles ‘Babylon’ and ‘Sail Away’ took it further.  Almost everyone had a copy – it was the late nineties equivalent of Carole King’s ‘Tapestry’. The world was at his feet, he could do no wrong – surely.  Well, it was a case of diminishing returns, each new album selling well at first on a mixture of hope and memory and then sinking without a trace.  He had somehow lost the magic.  Maybe ‘White Ladder’ was just unbeatable, so perfect that he could never replicate it. But I think there is more to it than that. I saw him live in Hyde Park a few years ago.  Crap, absolutely hopeless.  No charisma, no style and a thin reedy voice.  Put the record back on – I almost shouted. Ah well. At least we still have one of the great albums of recent years to remember what might have been.

The weeks go fast – the weekends even faster

Monday 11th February

Once again I find it is Monday morning, and I am cranking up the machine again for yet another week of work.  It has been nearly 45 years of work already and one fear I have is if dying at my desk, and never having those few years of retirement I have surely earned.  Trouble is my private pension is rubbish.  I am saving nearly £400 a month and will be lucky to get much more out of it than that at the end.  A combination of low interest rates and people living linger means that Annuity rates are on the floor.  Anyone retiring today with a private pension will get half what they would have got a few years ago.  And the Government is busy trying to persuade us all to take out these very same private pensions rather than rely on the state to look after them.

So, I carry on working, at least for the time being.  And the weeks fly by so fast too.  I am at least lucky that I work in different places each day, though on a strict weekly basis, every Monday I am at ……, and so on through the week.  I couldn’t bear to go in day after day to the same wretched office as I used to for years, the sheer monotony is crippling to the soul.  Even so, the weeks fly by, and it seems only yesterday I was sitting in Green Park Pret writing my blog for another Monday.

But if I think the weeks go by fast then the weekends go even faster.  They simply fly past, and before I know where I am it is Sunday evening and the gloomy knowledge that it is only a few hours of mostly sleep before I start to crank up the machine again.

A snippet (from the next book)

Sunday 10th February

Writing class is starting again today, so I got my skates on and did some writing.It is 1967 and Harriet(17) and her sister Jane(15) are the two voices you will hear.  Harriet speaks first…..Hope you like it


‘Hey, Jane,’ I burst into her bedroom one evening, ‘You’ll never guess. This is just too incredible for words.’

‘What?’ she said, sitting cross-legged on the floor, her record player blaring out the Who’s Pictures of Lily, as she turned the record cover over to read the tiny writing on the back; she was totally engrossed in her records.  As usual Jane just wasn’t listening to me.

‘You will never guess who is coming to Stowmarket, of all places?’

‘Who, the Queen?’ she smiled up at me all innocently.  Jane was just learning the art of sarcasm, but would never really perfect it.  Not like I had anyway.

‘No, not the Queen, dippy – but something just as amazing.  I’ve heard from John Jakes, you know his sister is in the year above us, and he heard it straight from the Carnival Committee, or from someone who knows someone on it anyway.  Pink Floyd are going to play at the football ground.  Yes, Pink Floyd of all people.’ I almost screamed with excitement, ‘Can you believe it?’





And yes Harriet was right.  Pink Floyd of all people, were coming to our tiny town.  Of course, they weren’t really famous then.  They had just released ‘Arnold Layne’ and it was getting played a lot on Caroline, but nobody really knew anything about them.  If the people on the Carnival Committee had known anything about them then I am sure they wouldn’t have booked them either.  They were weirder than weird and at the forefront of all that psychedelic scene that was taking us over in 1967.  We were just getting into caftans and beads and bells – and all that hippy stuff coming out of California, and here in England everything was getting pretty strange and far out too.





The day of the concert couldn’t come quick enough, I had made sure that Jane and I got tickets and were there really early.  There was a tiny stage built about five feet high at the lower end of the football pitch, opposite the one decent stand and there was a huge stack of speakers on each side.  There were these old wooden tiered seats down each side of the pitch that had been there for years and a ramshackle fence round the whole place.  No-one in Stowmarket had ever seen anything like it, the thing sold out in days and people were pouring in from Ipswich and Norwich and even further away.  The band were now in the charts with ‘See Emily Play’ and were far too big to be booked into a shit-hole like ours, but still, they honoured the contract and actually turned up.  And Jane and I met them, well were in the clubhouse bar at the same time as them, which nearly counts surely.





Harriet always knew somebody.  Sometimes it was just somebody who knew somebody else but she was so confident she just smiled that dazzling smile of hers and we were in.  The club- house bar was supposed to be for the local bigwigs, the owners of the football club, the Carnival Committee and people like that, but somehow Harriet inveigled us in there an hour before the concert.  Imagine our surprise when in walked the band themselves.  They were incredibly scruffy and looked only a couple of years older than us too.  You would have passed them by on any street, except they had a certain air about them, a quiet confidence and almost a swagger that marked them out as just that bit special.  Harriet walked over and introduced herself to them without a shred of embarrassment, ‘Hi, I’m Harriet and you must be the fabulous Pink Floyd.’  But they seemed not to really notice her, (probably wondered who on earth this smartly dressed young woman was) and smiled politely before being called over to the other end of the bar to drink with a few men in suits, their managers and guys from the record company I expect.  Looking a bit miffed, Harriet just shrugged her little shoulders and said, ‘Well it doesn’t look as though we will be singing backing vocals on their next single after all, does it?’ and we both collapsed in a fit of giggles.  That was our famous meeting with Pink Floyd.





I got my first fuck at that concert.  I had had too much to drink, which was unusual for me, as I could normally stop myself before I got too pissed.  But I wasn’t too drunk not to know what I was doing.  It just seemed right, the music, the lightshow, the moonlight, all those groovy people standing on the pitch almost stunned by the incredible noise the band were making, most of them just waiting for the two hit singles.  But Jane and I had already heard their album so knew the music would be something else entirely.  I was quietly grooving to the riveting bass line when this guy suddenly hit on me.  Well, people were always hitting on me, but he was a bit older, a bit different.  He had really long hair and a biker jacket with badges all over it and I’d never seen him around.  Over the din of the band I caught that he was from Great Yarmouth and he had come on his bike, a brand new Triumph 750.  He had some shit with him and we smoked that behind one of the stands, leaning against the old wooden struts in the dark and as the stuff hit me and I began to go all woozy he leaned over and started to kiss me.





I lost Harriet somewhere on the pitch, we had pushed our way to the front and were only a few feet from the band, and it was really crowded, everyone pushing and shoving.  This was my first real concert and I didn’t want to miss a thing.  There had been a few local bands at youth club dances, but they were amateurs who just ran through weak covers of the top ten, or tried to sound like the Beatles or the Stones.  This was the real thing, and though I had had a few drinks I had been pacing myself.  Harriet could always drink more than me and was looking decidedly drunk, or was it just an act?  You could never tell with her.  She was beside me when they started with Astonomy Domine but I was so engrossed in the music and the light show, all squidgy bubbles projected onto big sheets behind the band, that I didn’t notice where she was.





His hand went straight for my tits, and before I knew it he was hoicking up my skirt and rubbing between my legs.  I knew what was happening and that this was getting a bit serious but somehow I was up for it. It seemed just the perfect time and place to get your first fuck.  I didn’t even know the guys name, which in a way was an even bigger turn on.  In no time he was fucking me, and it was good, so exciting out here in the open, as the cool air splashed all over my breasts and I lifted my feet off the ground and wrapped them round him.  I was so turned on and ready for it.  I had come close once or twice, being felt up in some bedroom at a party.  But I always knew the guys, and there would be all that inevitable relationship stuff to follow, as if you couldn’t just do it and walk away, that would be my ideal.  I had no time for a ‘boyfriend’ and all that schmaltzy lovey-dovey stuff; that was for other people.  So, that was it, my first time; behind the football stand as Syd Barrett was singing ‘Careful with that Axe Eugene’ and my little sister was somewhere up front totally absorbed in the music, here I was getting it standing up from a stranger in a leather jacket with my skirt round my waist, my tits out and my knickers yanked to my knees.  How exciting was that?





Suddenly the band were walking off the stage and the lights were dimmed and just as a touch of panic was in the air, there was Harriet back at my side.

‘Hi, little sister.  Wasn’t that the most fantastic thing you ever saw in your life?’ she screamed at me.

‘Yes, I can’t believe it’s over.  It seemed too quick somehow.  Where did you get to, I thought I’d lost you.’

‘I just had a little walk around the place, you know.  I wasn’t far away.  You know that don’t you.  I would never abandon you Jane.  I always keep an eye out for you.’






Of course I told Jane a few days later and she was so shocked.  ‘You mean you didn’t even know who he was?’ she said. ‘God Harriet, I can’t believe it?  And it was your first time too.’

‘Yeah well – first of many I expect.  Just remember Harriet, got to make it special.  That first time; make it special’ and she laughed at the very idea, ‘Now you can really say I am your big grown-up sister.  And Jane, don’t go getting any ideas in that direction yourself.  You are only fifteen, and that is far too young.’  And she gave me a long old-fashioned look, as if she were some ancient aunt peering over her pince-nez.

‘I wouldn’t dare.  Not with a stranger anyway, Harriet.’ And she looked up at me with such a look of admiration in her innocent little face.  My little sister Jane, ah what would become of her when I went off to University.  How would she ever be able to cope without me – she would probably end up with some local lad and get stuck down here in Suffolk and have lots of kids and stuff.  Not for me though.  No-one will tie me down.  I expect to go places, and I intend to take my fun where I find it.   Look out world, here I come.

The Lure of Nostalgia (1)

Saturday 9th February

Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be, as the old joke goes.  And it is sort of true; looking back on days gone by the picture gets rosier the further back you go.  I can remember milk being delivered to my Grandma’s house, and she lived in town not miles in the country, by horse and cart straight from the farm. You would hear the horse and cart coming up the street and the women would go out with their enamel jugs.  There were a few churns on the back of the cart and usually the farmer’s wife would ladle out one or two pints as required.  If I was good I was allowed to feed a crust of bread to the horse whose bristly mouth would gently peel it from my tiny hands.

Grandma had no fridge but she did have a north facing pantry with no window but a metal grill covered opening to the street.  The pantry was always cold and had a marble shelf where grandma would put the enamel jug of milk, or in the summer she would stand the jug in a galvanised metal bucket and keep refilling with cold water to stop the milk turning.

Then a few years later we had doorstep deliveries, thick chunky bottles with a foil cap which in winter would sometimes be broken by hungry robins who would steal a mouthful of cream.  And what a lot of cream there would be on the top of each pint.  None of your healthy semi-skimmed or fully skimmed white water in those days.  The milk was full cream and for a treat I was sometimes allowed the cream on my cornflakes.  They talk about recycling now but back then everyone washed and left their empty milk bottles out for collection.

Now we almost all buy our milk in the Supermarket or corner shop.  It is far healthier, having been homogenized, pasteurized and chilled for 12 days before we are allowed to buy it.  And we all keep it refrigerated no-one would dream of leaving it out all day, besides it would probably go off in a couple of hours.  It is pretty tasteless nowadays and only really put in tea or coffee for the colour.

So, which was best – horse and cart, and having to keep it cool all day, doorstep delivery once a day and if you forgot to order enough that was it, or the convenience of some white stuff they call milk available in plastic litre (not pint) bottles at every corner shop.  I am really not sure.

Girl (6-7) pouring milk into pail, goat in background