Thursday 28 January 2021


I have the sort of job that requires me to have an annual appraisal, which itself requires the completion of a rigid, onerous and slightly ridiculous form.

In prepping for my imminent annual dissection I referred back to last year's appraisal write-up and note that I wrote about a promotion opportunity being closed off to me, thus:

...if others are moving forwards and I am standing still, am I actually going backwards, relatively speaking?

I can't help myself, when it comes to words. I bet my colleagues think I'm a pompous arse.

Anyway, here's an appropriate song that I thought I had featured before but can't seem to find where, so apologies if this is repetitious... but at least it bears repetition, so much so that I'll include two versions. Play loud.

Wednesday 27 January 2021

Rude Runes

It's a source of constant surprise, and regret, that I have made more money from t-shirt designs than I have books. Regret, because I'd dearly love to be a successful author. Surprise, because I literally knock up the t-shirt designs in minutes, with precious little thought for actual design or visual appeal. I don't try very hard at it, is what I'm saying.

But anyway, after becoming familiar with the Anglo-Saxon alphabet today (don't ask), I suddenly hit upon the idea for Rude Runes - basically, t-shirts (or hoodies, or badges, or laptop cases, or ... or all the rest) that proclaim a modern swear word, curse or oath, but spelled out in Anglo-Saxon runes. There's an example on the right, the most obvious one if you're trying to read or decipher it without knowing actual Anglo-Saxon letters.

There are nine such designs in all, if you want to drop the F-bomb, proudly display the C-word, tell someone to F-off, call them a dick or worse... all available in a range of fetching colours, and on a range of products, not just clothing. And they're all available, along with other hastily knocked-up designs at - be quick, because for the first two days all new designs are discounted, so a Rude Runes t-shirt is currently only a tenner, rather than the usual £15.

Go on, there must be someone you'd like to give a scatter cushion to, whilst simultaneously calling them a tw*t...

Monday 25 January 2021

Time-Capsule TV III - Terry Wogan interviews Rik Mayall

I won't take you through the YouTube dot-to-dot that led me serendipitously to this clip, I'll just leave it here for your viewing pleasure. Recorded in 1984 for a spot on Tel's thrice-weekly chat show, the clip begins with five minutes of not so much stand-up but performance from Rik as Rick from The Young Ones, and then a ten minute interview. And it's the latter that's especially interesting: Terry, then 45 or 46, becomes, to my mind, slightly fixated on whether 26yr-old Rik's humour is aimed at the young and designed to appal the older generation. Rik answers politely and intelligently, and tries to move the conversation on, to talk about his comedic influences, but it sort of looks like that was the line of questioning Tel has prepared, and that was what he was going to follow, regardless. Rik seems to get a bit bored at one point, and looks almost relieved when the interview is over. Mind you, when Terry asks Rik if, when he matures, he would mind going into a situation comedy, I couldn't help but think of Man Down.

After watching this I wondered if I, as a middle-aged man now, would be appalled by today's youth comedy. I pretty sure I wouldn't, I just might not think it was very funny. Mind you, this week I've been mostly laughing at the utter genius of Rod controlling Emu throwing Rod into a freezer, so...

Anyway, here's the cracking wee clip of when Terry met Rick, now both much missed.

Thursday 21 January 2021

The (im)persistence of memory

I have a pretty good memory. In fact, at the risk of grandstanding, I'd go as far as to say I have an excellent memory. It's not photographic, or eidetic, or any other -ic, but I have very good recall. More often that not this is a blessing, though it can also be a curse (something I've sort of alluded to before). Either way, you'd want me on your pub quiz team.

Maybe this is partly why I'm interested in false memory syndrome. I'm not talking about generic common false memories - you know the sort, you think you remember something from a family holiday when you were two and a half but what you really remember is a photograph taken of you on that holiday. I have no empirical evidence to back this up but I suspect such "constructed" memories are quite common. No, what really interests me are memories of things that never happened.

Example. Reservoir Dogs is a film I've seen a lot, though not recently. I have a crystal-clear memory of Harvey Keitel, as Mr White, saying the following line to Michael Madsen, as Mr Blonde:

"Just because you say something is so [pause] doesn't necessarily make it fucking so!"

This memory is razor-sharp in my head. I can see how Harvey in standing, I can picture the angle his head is tilted at.

Except it didn't happen.

I know this, because I went looking for a video clip of the scene, with the intention of making it into a GIF-based meme rebuttal to all the blow-hard Trump supporters who asserted that they knew, they just knew, that the election had been stolen from them, despite the total lack of any evidence to corroborate that perspective. I know, I was bored, it's lockdown, what do expect? But to my surprise, YouTube failed me - I couldn't find the clip. I even tried Vimeo. Again, nothing. So I searched film-quote websites for Mr White soundbites, to make sure I'd got the wording of the quote right, just in case I had misremembered (although, in my arrogance, I didn't really think this was the case). Still no luck.

In desperation, I found a copy of the Reservoir Dogs script online, here (it's brilliant, by the way). Side note: did you know that "fuck" and its verb-form variants appear exactly 200 times in that script? Well, you do now. Anyway, by searching the script for "necessarily", I found these lines, as spoken by Nice Guy Eddie (Chris Penn):

"You beat on this prick enough, he'll tell ya he started the Chicago fire. That don't necessarily make it so."

And that's as close as anything in the whole film comes to my false memory. In fact, the scene as filmed, rather than as scripted, was even closer to my memory, with the F-bomb dropped as I had remembered (as filmed, the F-count is way higher than 200). But it wasn't Mr White speaking. I think maybe I conflated this with another scene in which Mr White argues swearily with Mr Blonde (the whole "You gonna bark all day, little doggie, or are you gonna bite?" scene). Who knows. Basically, my subconscious mind took these two scenes and mashed them together to create an entirely new scene that never actually existed. Fascinating, eh?

It ain't necessarily so

Barking all day

So, false memory syndrome, that is to say memories of things that didn't happen rather than constructed memories, is fascinating. Freud was very interested in it, but what did he know? Maybe Tarantino unwittingly performed memory implantation on me instead ... but that's a whole other can of worms.

What a load of old waffle. Good excuse to write about a classic film though, eh? And yes, since today is 21/01 I did wait until 21:01 to post this - you should probably feel sorry for me...

Wednesday 20 January 2021

About hope

"Remember, Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies."

So writes Andy Dufresne in a letter to his friend Red at the end of The Shawshank Redemption. It's a nice uplifting quote, isn't it, in what, for many people, is a nice (ultimately) uplifting film.

There's a problem with hope, though. It's fragile. Hope can be dashed. It might not ever die, if Andy is to be believed, but it can certainly be hospitalised. Today, for example, I am feeling cautiously hopeful: hopeful that Trump is gone for good; hopeful that Biden and Harris are an unqualified success; hopeful that the vaccincation roll-out can gather pace; hopeful that daily COVID deaths must surely (please) start to fall soon...

Regular readers of this blog (both of them, ha ha) will know that I am not usually this optimistic, even guardedly, about world affairs. So I should add, for balance, that my hope is cautious. Trump is gone but says he'll be back, "in some form" (which sort of implies he's really some kind of shape-shifting alien, and that would certainly explain his lack of humanity); Biden is kicking off with a swathe of seemingly excellent executive orders, but the US is a fractured nation right now, and he and VP Harris have their work cut out; and whilst the UK is finally starting to get to grips with vaccination (God, it's taken them long enough), it's really hard to have any faith in the hopeless, hapless, heartless shower that is Johnson, Gove, Patel, Hancock, Rees-Mogg and the rest ... and that's putting aside any party politics, and judging them purely on their achievements to date.

Seems appropriate to remind ourselves, then, that earlier in Shawshank, Red admonishes Andy, thus:

"Let me tell you something my friend. Hope is a dangerous thing. Hope can drive a man insane."

Take the two lines together and you get a neat summary of how I'm feeling right now - my hope hasn't died, yet, but it is driving me insane. It certainly feels like a dangerous thing to cling on to. As that other great sage once said, maybe I should stop watching the news.

Until then, I will leave you with two hopes: firstly that Joe and Kamala prevail; and secondly that we truly have seen the last of the Trump clan in public office (I'd love to see a female president, just not Ivanka, thanks). After all, I try to be optimistic ... but, you know, a pessimist is never disappointed.

Friday 15 January 2021

Blue Friday: Matthew Arnold's Field

About as blue as they come, this is from Ben Watt's superb 2014 album Hendra. In Matthew Arnold's Field, Ben describes scattering the ashes of his late father, the jazz musician Tommy Watt, at one of his favourite beauty spots near Oxford.

At a time when daily COVID deaths are through the roof, to the extent that we are becoming numb to the figures, and at a time when physically saying goodbye to a loved one might be hard, if not impossible, this might strike a chord.

Wednesday 13 January 2021

Current mood, plucked from the ether

Continuing the aforementioned review and partial cull of my excessive CD collection, I came across an album I fully expected to go: Ether Song by Turin Brakes. I probably bought it at the time, or soon after, on the basis of breakout hit Pain Killer (you know, it had the "Summer rain" chorus). Tur(i)ns out to be quite unrepresentative of the rest of the album though, parts of which head tentatively in a Radiohead direction...

Anyway, it's this track, more than any other, that has saved Ether Song from The Purge, not least because it captures the essence of my current locked-down, post-Brexit, black-dog mood rather well. I would say enjoy, but that's not really the point with this kind of song, is it? At least not lyrically.

Sunday 10 January 2021

Sunday shorts: A Working Day

A one-off resurrection for the Sunday Shorts series, and with a song that is hardly appropriate for the day of rest: this is the opening track from Lonely Avenue, the collaboration between Ben Folds and Nick Hornby. I've been listening to it a lot lately, and you should too. There may be other, better Lonely Avenue posts soon too, who knows... but until then, here's A Working Day.

Tuesday 5 January 2021

Doubling down

Over the Christmas and New Year, I spent a bit of time thinking what I might blog about in 2021. Reader, it was time poorly spent. I had an idea for featuring songs that actually benefit from the much-maligned saxophone, like Echo Beach by Martha & the Muffins, or Will You? by Hazel O'Connor, that kind of thing. The Joy of Sax, I was going to call it. Yeah, I know... luckily, I quickly realised that I would only be featuring songs that we all know and love already, so what would be the point? Then I had an idea of featuring songs that run one into the other, like All Mod Cons/To Be Someone by The Jam, or Weightless/...And Stones by The Blue Aeroplanes, that kind of thing. Segué to Heaven, I was going to call it. Yeah, I know... luckily, I quickly realised, etc...

So, until I can think of a decent idea for a blog post, I'm just going to have to continue the aforementioned review and partial cull of my excessive CD collection. Specifically, I've found a CD that I own two copies of, because I bought it in a charity shop and then, much later, saw it in another charity shop and couldn't remember whether I'd bought it already or not. We've all been there, right? Anyway, that's the only reason I'll be selling a copy of The Seahorses' sole album, Do It Yourself. Here's a track from it that, in a nutshell, encompasses everything that was good (that singing voice, musicianship) and bad (fret-based self-indulgence, lyrics) about the band. Here you go.