A slightly damp and dusty memory

I detoured this evening.

Spur of the moment, probably brought on by the hailstones.

Partway en-route to Brixton I turned left on a whim.

In to Vassal Road, SW.

And pulled up outside the church I used to attend.

Saint John the Divine, Kennington.

SJDK is a large, red-brick structure topped with an imposing spire that stretches upwards to almost pencil-thinness.

My head began playing tricks.

I believed I could smell the dusty/clean scent; the perfume that the wood polish gave off, but with a hint of dustiness from the vaulted places that no cleaner could ever reach.

The smell was a powerful jog to my memory.

My brain revelled in its memory focus, my mental view shifted from the knave to the vestry which brought a new smell; freshly washed and ironed robes.

In those days I was less ‘not religious’ than I am now; I used to go to church for the booze and the singing.

We had an excellent choir.

The organist/choirmaster Floss (his nickname lies in an unflattering story involving the wickedly barbed wit of Fr Geoffrey Kirk); the Divine Helen and her lovely sister Mary, the saintly-voiced Caroline Lenton Ward, Laura McGeary and her husband Peter, Andy Stribley, Roy Truscott.

Not many, no; but what we lacked in numbers we more than made up for in ability and aspiration.

Pauses for thought…

I got back in the car and continued down Vassal Road, then turned right and threaded my way through the one-way system to Calais Street where I lived for a while, and then turned right in to Cormont Road, also where I lived – but briefly.

And then on to Brixton, where I currently stay during the week.

The earlier hailstorm seems to have wreaked massive damage on south London; a couple of stores in the High Street have been flooded; staff sweep floodwater out as I drive past.

Pete and Shane’s house is untouched though.

Except for a small area in my bedroom.

Because I left the window open this morning.



Settle down

Sit down somewhere quiet.

Plug in your earphones – isolate yourself from the rest of the world.

Take a deep, calming breath.


And listen to…


(n.b. large file, over 3mb)


It is the end of the world

Lightning flashes towards the ground somewhere between my office window and The Gherkin…

Thunder makes this building vibrate.

The sky is dark, stormy, ominous.

Yet over there (gesticulates in the general direction of the Post Office Tower) is a blue sky with harmless-looking, white fluffy clouds that resemble a kind of pale candy-floss – the kind you’d get if you made candy-floss without adding the pink dye to the sugar?

There’s a large in-bound airliner slowly cruising north-east to south-west at about 1,800 feet.

But outside, on the ground, nothing moves.

Even the cars are taking temporary refuge from the battering rain.

No pedestrians venture out.

The light continues to fade, street lamps flicker in to life - activated by their light-sensitive devices.

Welcome to the end of the world.

Or July in London.


A slogan isn’t just for Christmas

T-shirted (and polo-shirted!) slogans.

Last Wednesday the waitress in the Deli had a message for everyone.

“A good girl is just a bad girl who hasn’t been caught…”

Guaranteed to get every male (and those females who may be interested) looking at her chest.

But while I was waiting for The Lovely S in the heart of London’s Glittering Theatreland last week I saw the scariest of scary T-shirt slogans.

“Eat, Drink, Pray.”

I’m sure there’s a place for religious messages.

I just haven’t found where that place is yet.

But emblazoned across the bulging-in-all-the-wrong-senses-of-the-word chest of a 23-stone, crop-haired, beer-glass-thick, bespectacled, oh-boy-are-those-way-the-wrong-kind-of-shorts-wearing, (I’m assuming) tourist in the West End of London when I’m within 20Km…

Isn’t the place.


Polite notice to London cyclists…

Dear cyclist.


You aren’t a superior lifeform.

You aren’t invincible.

You aren’t invulnerable.

You aren’t particularly clever.

You haven’t taken a test of competency.

You also aren’t insured.

So the next time I’m sitting in my car at a set of traffic lights waiting for the red to go away…

And you pull in front of my car…

I’m going to put you in hospital.

Or the morgue.

I really don’t care which.

You choose.

Or better still.

Choose not to get underneath my car.

It’s bigger than you are.

It’s heavier than you are.

It’s turbo-charged, fuel-injected, has a hopped-up, chipped engine management system that gives it a 30-70 the same speed it does 0-30 in.

And it’s automatic so I don’t have to waste time with gear-changes.

So just ask yourself, punk.

Who’s going to be away from the lights quicker?

You, struggling to catch your balance before the C of G has its wicked way with you?

Or me?

Do ya feel lucky, punk?



It’s an endangered species you know

My pillow.

listening to How to Save a Life by The Fray, by the way.

I was lying on my bed, partaking of some serious navel contemplation.

I pop downstairs for a drink, return to my bed and…

The pillow.

It’s on the floor.

I pick it up, drop it back in to the middle of the bed, sprawl across it untidily (is there any other way?) and do some more contemplation of the navel variety.

now listening to Big Girls Don’t Cry by Fergie.

After a while I lurch more or less perpendicular, drain my drink and head to the bathroom where I wash, clean my teeth and wonder which day this month I’m supposed to take my contact lenses out.




Back to my bed for a spot of reading and…


The pillow.

It’s on the floor.


I pick it up, put it at the head of the bed wondering precisely when it was I misplaced my marbles.

I get undressed, do my exercises, pick up my guitar, get in to bed and do a different kind of exercise.

I seem to have invented a new chord.

It sounds excellent by itself but strangely discordant when arranged back-to-back with any Major chord.

It’s a kind of G-sus-four-and-a-quarter but a semi-tone higher.

Sounds very bluesy.

The Best Is Yet To Come, Clifford T Ward on iTunes now.

He used to be a teacher of English you know.

In Worcestershire.

Go figure.


I get out of bed to put the guitar back in its stand.

Turn around and.

The pillow.

On the floor.


I pick it up and notice a thing.

In the pillow case.

A long, thin thing.

A long, thin, tortoise-shell-coloured thing.

A cat’s tail.

One of the cats has climbed in to the pillow case.

I ease the cat out of the pillow case and show it the door (the cat, not the pillow case).

She takes three steps then turns her head, fixes me with a baleful stare as if to say ‘why the hell didn’t you get me out of there sooner?‘ then flounces off downstairs towards the kitchen.

now listening to Hide Me by Grandadbob.

Oh well.

It’s the second week running I’ve had a girl in my bedroom.

But the maid’s been since last week.

Which means I can’t even smell The Lovely S’s perfume on my sheets.

Meanwhile, over in Spain

Daughter reports…

She’s going to Cadiz.


To a very special water park.

Is it the one where they film the children’s television programme La Banda? I ask.

Oh, Dad!



And she’s going to try out as a Majorette, just as soon as they’ve tracked down where this thing occurs – Juviles or Cadiar or maybe somewhere else.

She’s enjoying her school holidays – and thinks she’s done well in her examinations.

I’m sure she has, she’s bright.

I’d love to get over there to see her but there’s two chances of that happening right now; slim and no – and slim’s just left town.

Oh well.

Soon as I can then.


Monday evening blues

The Lovely S.


And I can’t be there – in Worcestershire – to give her the support and comfort that she needs.

This sucks.

It’s official.

You can quote me.

My poor girl, she sounded so… cast away, isolated.

And there’s other stuff…

I discovered this evening (I’ve been doing my books – break out the rum rations!) that the agency I’m working for down here has been paying me Net of VAT.

So I’m going to have to ring them tomorrow and sort it out.

I hate talking about money, but…

If these people don’t cough up my VAT I’m probably going to have to hand in my notice; there’s no way I can sustain paying 17.5% tax on a Net earning on what is the lowest rate I’ve ever accepted.

So all in all I’m feeling a little subdued too.

Wish I could just get in the car and go home.

We’ll see how I feel tomorrow.


Last night…


I woke up this morning – ten minutes before the alarm – feeling as though I’d run a hard road race yesterday.

Except I hadn’t.

My calves ache, my legs are a little stiff and I have that tightness across the small of my back that I usually get the day after five miles of roadwork.

But the most strenuous thing I did yesterday was, erm…


I wish I knew what my psyche put my body through while I’m asleep.

I’d really like to know how I can feel this ropey after a good night’s rest!


Book review: Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome

In many ways this is the ultimate children’s adventure:

Pirates, natives, exploration, tension, scary scenes, humiliation, exhilaration, excitement, battle, peace-making, new enemies, new friends and above all…


Freedom from the normal world.

In Swallows and Amazons the protagonists inhabit two worlds.

In the first they are family members bound by the usual restrictions that brothers and sisters – on holiday in the Lake District with their mother and not-yet-toddler sister – have.

And then they discover Swallow, a small sailing dingy ocean-going schooner in which they sail on to Wild Cat Island and set up base.

With their island base established, the adventures come thick and fast.

Excellently told, though some might say this book could be a little clumsy and that the use of sailing slang might be a barrier.

Some might try Swallows and Amazons and say that the terminology would be an obstacle to young readers.

I would argue otherwise, for surely even the widely-read (and much inferior) Harry Potter has introduced children to a world of muggles, quidditch, etc…

Which makes me wonder what the many Harry Potter readers would think of Swallows and Amazons?

Given the age of the book – published before the 1939-45 war – it has aged very kindly.

Arthur Ransome’s conversational style doesn’t feel like a clunky old black and white movie that some books of this time have.

The writing is a little ‘old’ in one or two places but these few patches don’t spoil the overall delivery.

Nor do they interfere with the pace.

And I’d forgotten what a major influence this book had been on my childhood; because of this book I saved my summer holiday pay and bought a dingy and in later life learned to sail.

Swallows and Amazons, much better than Harry Potter.