Suet pudding

Since I stopped eating meat nearly 30 years ago (I confess I'm not vegan, nor vegetarian, cos I eat the odd bit of fish) there have been food items I've missed. I used to have dreams about liver, like the grilled liver and chips with a fried egg on top we used to have in the cafe over the deli at Boggi's in Clerkenwell. I have fond memories of salt beef sandwiches with mustard from a shop that seemed to serve nothing else, in Fetter Lane. One thing I used to love as a lad was steak and kidney pudding, with tinned peas and a ladle full of brown gravy, as served in that cafe over a shop on Kay Gardens, when we wagged off school on a Friday. They did meat puds in tiny tins too, I seem to remember from my student days. The nearest to it was a wild mushroom suet pudding from Terre a Terre one Christmas freelancers lunch a few years back. Gorgeous! Since then we've seen veggie haggis and black pudding appear, tho I'm not conviced by the V Pud - tastes nothing like the real thing! Veggie food has come a long way since that brown slop they once served at Crank's. Thank goodness for Linda MacCartney and Quorn. I love pies and pasties and still mourn the demise of Sainsbury's Savoury Pasty. Yes, I know you can buy cheese and onion pasties ('do I have to spell it out!') and Waitrose do a lovely hand-crimped vegetable one, but I crave that MEAT taste! Linda's Country pies are a great stand-by, but frozen products seldom come out right with me. Recently Quorn have been releasing various pastry slices, including Minced beef with onion (not available in all supermarkets I'm sad to say) which I quite like but examining the shelves at Asda the other day my heart stopped when I spotted the new Quorn Beef style and ale pudding! And yes, it does taste like I remembered, and you don't have to boil it up in one of granny's stockings for hours on end! They do a mince and onion version too (but curse their packaging that makes every product look alike!). It's a dream come true. So what's next on the wish list? If they can do haggis, which is mostly cereal filling anyway, it can't be too difficult to produce a veggie faggot? Come on Mr Brain, what are you waiting for?


The Two Wrongies

Watching The Two Wrongies last night - two lovely funny dancers who perform much of their act naked (except for rubber bathing caps) - made me wonder when nudity began to lose its shock value. When I were a lad naked flesh was rare and highly charged - we only had National Geographic, Amateur Photographer and library books detailing expeditions to far off hot places to pour over. I think I remember seeing dancers from Sierra Leone on tv once - with bare breasts! - in black and white! The annual Bury Fair had a Nude Show, that was always closed on the opening night so as not to embarrass the Mayor. For sixpence you got to see a foul-mouthed compere introducing tableaux of perfectly still naked ladies recreating famous paintings. The only book in the school library with the word 'fuck' in it was a well thumbed copy of The Cantos of Ezra Pound. If you did come across a copy of Spic, Span or Health and Efficiency in the playground, the nether regions were always air-brushed out. We had to wait for Paul Raymond's relaunched Men Only in the 70s to see pubic hair for the first time! At college (1965-68) I discovered that foreign films, especially those of Fellini, usually contained some nudity! And my first full frontal was Arthur Lowe's wife (or was it matron) wandering empty school corridors in Lindsay Anderson's If. Then there was a trip to a Soho strip club with the rowing club, where a Wilfrid Bramwell character behind a hatch served up Nescafe from a small tin as we sat in cinema seats to watch ladies, moving this time, remove their clothing. But it was the late-60s and soon there was hippy nudity mostly everywhere. There was Hair and Oh! Calcutta!, though I saw neither, and then we got Page 3 girls - and some of the early ones were quite attractive and artistic, quite unlike the plastic busty teenagers we have nowadays. It is said that John Ruskin, having been brought up with marble statues, was so horrified when he saw Effie Gray's bush on his wedding night, the marriage was never consummated and she ran off with Millais. He'd have been very happy with today's Hollywood waxings. Nowadays, along with easy access internet porn, there are nudist beaches, the World Naked Bike Ride every June, and The Two Wrongies. They were a delight and not a bit embarrassing, down the Basement last night - lithe dancers with a sense of humour, in the Liz Aggiss mould. We saw them on stage, dancing beautifully, and 'backstage' chatting and changing what few clothes they had. Highlight was the 'air sex' competition in which three highly accomplished members of the audience mimed foreplay, the act itself, and cigarette afterwards. Hilarious.


Billy Cowie

I'm not a big fan of video installations, dark rooms in art galleies, audience participation - or dance for that matter - but for Billy Cowie, I'll not only make an exception, but be first in the queue. 'The revery alone', part of the Dance for camera festival 2008 is his best yet: seven minutes of mesmerising movement - on the ceiling! After donning spirit spex at Lighthouse, you are invited to lie flat out on yoga mats in a dark room, there to watch a naked dancer hanging on to the wallpaper. Truly [literally] amazing. It's on until 11 December. Also worth seeing is MyrioRama by Jeremy Radvan over the stair well - him drawing to a dancer's movements (reminiscent of his show down the sewers a while back). But you wouldn't get me down the dirty hole that was 'Burrow Me' even if there were wall-to-wall real naked ladies inside!


The Brothers Quay

The exhibition of work by the Brothers Quay (or Quay Brothers as they are also known) at the University of Brighton gallery - Inventorium: the Pharmacist's prescription for lip reading puppets - is truly [literally] amazing. It's a collection of scenes from their animated films shoehorned into boxes, cabinets of curiosity, theatrically lit with big lenses to look through that make the interiors even more Tardis like, and which direct your gaze to pertinent details. Largely overshadowed by Czech animator Jan Svankmajer, to whom they have created a homage, the American twins are perhaps best known for their 1986 film Street of crocodiles, based on a novel by the Polish author and artist Bruno Schulz. The creepy boxes full of bark, crystals and talcum powder populated by Bellmer-like robot dolls, look as if they will come to life any minute, which they do, in their films, also showing at Cinecity around Brighton now. You almost expect Foster and Gilvan to pop out from behind them at any second. Apart from the 'Powdered ejaculation of a stag (at the time of rutting season)', a line of which we are invited to snort and is currently sustaining Peter Chrisp, the other highlight is 'Eurydice - She, So Beloved', a work based on Monteverdi's Orfeo in its own room which also contains a coffin of pylons and more bark. This mostly live action dance piece was quite long and dark and would have benefitted from the addition of a comfy chair for the more elderly connoisseur. But it's not often we have an exhibition of this importance in town - go see it! It's on until 20 December usually until 8pm, but closed on Sundays!


Chainsaw rebels' station tree protest

Chainsaw rebels' station tree protest (From The Argus): my neighbours Marc and Angie of the Dragonfly House use direct action to protest about tree chopping on the railways.

Great service

Great service (From The Argus): my letter to the Argus about the axing of the Brighton to Watford Junction service.


Steam at the Bluebell and Bury

Originally uploaded by fred pipes
There were two steam galas on the trot, last two weekends: first on the Bluebell, then on the East Lancs. I made use of the vintage bus to get to the Bluebell on Sunday 19 October. Star was GWR Prairie 5199. Jinty 47493 had broken down, so the only other locos in steam were Southern Railway U Class no. 1638, Somerset and Dorset Joint Railway class 7F no. 53809 and South Eastern and Chatham Railway O1 Class no. 65. I didn't take many snaps, concentrating on Flip videos, which can be seen on Vimeo. I met my friend Karen and 3 kids (and Johnny) there and we travelled back to Brighton on another vintage bus.

Up in Bury I was joined by my sister and brother-in-law on the Saturday train to Rawtenstall. It came in as 61994 The Great Marquess, but as we pulled out, there she was on another platform! Andrew Barclay 0-6-0ST Austerity no. 2183 was chuffing up and down taking footplate passengers for a tenner. At Ramsbottom, we found out we'd been pulled by Jinty 47324 (I still don't know why they're called Jinties!) and they jumped ship and headed back to Bury - pulled by 71000 Duke of Gloucester, the lucky things! I carried on to Rawtenstall where I headed off to the R Lowry exhibition. After missing the Duke again on the way back I had to be content with a double header of L&YR 0-6-0 Class 27 no. 1300 and the Jinty. On Sunday I met my friend Lois, Pete and little Joe. I'd calculated that we'd get the Duke this time, and in she came from Heywood. But... again she was detached and we ended up leaving Bury with 61994 The Great Marquess! At Ramsbottom we saw pig's ears at the car boot sale, had black peas in a polystyrene cup (60p) from Ye Olde Black Peas stall and a chocolate drink in the strangest footballers' wives cafe. It was a cup of frothy milk you had to dissolve a bar of German chocolate in and whisk up (3 quid)! I can't see it catching on! We continued to Rawtenstall pulled by Black Five 45407 and back to Bury. On the way back I was filming the Duke stopped at Ramsbottom when a torrent of rain came off the roof of our train and soaked me! Took some more films back at Bury, then went for a pint of black stuff in the well stocked Trackside bar. Lois had a black pudding bap and then drove us through the rain to New Mills. Pocket rocket BR 2-6-0 Class 4MT no. 76079 (running as 76001) was also in steam but I couldn't get a decent shot of it. Next day I travelled to Liverpool to sample some Biennial art (not that impressed by the videos at FACT or the paintings at Bluecoat) and visit and photograph various houses my Grandad lived in - in Toxteth and over the water in Egremont.

Ray Lowry exhibition

Originally uploaded by fred pipes
I love my bus pass! When I was Up North last week, I used it to visit houses in Toxteth and Egremont lived in by my Grandfather (still amazingly in existence), and to reach the tiny Lancashire town of Crawshawbooth to visit the Ray Lowry exhibition at the See Gallery. It's incredibly sad that I'd only heard of this exhibition because he'd died, and sadder still that he won't profit from the sales of his artwork (but he does have a son I believe). Along with Bill Tidy and Larry, R Lowry was a great influence - I loved his surreal scratchy drawings in NME and Punch, but know nothing about him, apart from his unhealthy interest in the nazis! I was in Rawtenstall anyway, riding the East Lancs steam railway, so on the advice of gallery owner Julian Williams, caught the X43 bus along part of 'The Witch Way' towards Pendle. The gallery was easy to find, in an Oddfellows Hall and I was taken aback by the crisp gorgeous oils he'd started painting of Manchester (aiming to become 'the other Lowry'). Around the corner were the cartoons I'd known, loved and laughed at. And there were plenty more up the stairs, including folders full in the photographic studio up top. I got a cup of tea, but had to be quick browsing so as to catch the bus back. I bought one depicting Bob Dylan trying to buy a drink at a bar. In another building were his large oils, incuding swasticas made from eggs and bacon and confectionery, an attempt to rehabilitate that bad symbol. Back in the gallery the curator of the Bluecoat in Liverpool was discussing the possiblity of moving the exhibition there. There were plenty of red dots tho, so it won't be the same. The bus driver on the way back was intrigued by my Brighton bus pass. Back in Rawtenstall I searched for Britain's last temperence bar to no avail - maybe it was shut on Saturdays? After buying some batteries at Boots, I got to the station to find the Duke of Gloucester had just pulled out, and the cafe was closing. And it was raining...


Having a Wii

Originally uploaded by fred pipes
Am I old? Am I? I do have a bus pass, but don't feel that old. Mind you, when I look in the mirror, I don't see my dad, I see my grandad! Roy Lowry didn't even reach state pension age before snuffing it. Does old mean sitting in overheated communal rooms smelling of wee and watching loud daytime TV like my poor old dad before he died? Going to genteel tea dances, and not even ironically? According to Age Concern, old means over 50! That's a shock. Most of the people in my choir are older than me. And I'm one of the younger members of the Clarion Cycling Club, Brighton and Hove Section. So, am I old? With an invitation from my 'old' friend Patricia who works at Age Concern, I popped down to the Royal Albion Hotel to see what the nu-wave old folk are up to these days. It was the final of the Nintendo Wii ten-pin bowling tournament and the two teams were T-shirted and ready to go. Marion, Pat, Margaret, Fred, Tony and Eric from Somerset Point, a sheltered housing block in Kemp Town, were in black; Frank, Mal, Michael, Joan, Les and Eileen from Woods House, in Hove, were in white. And they were good. Strike followed strike and lots of arm action led to the blacks winning 681 to 669. Thankfully, the Wii software kept track of the complicated scoring. Then it was a photo call and off across the road for fish and chips (I headed to the Off Beat). If it's that much fun, I can't wait to get really old!

Ray Lowry RIP

Ray Lowry, punk cartoonist, and no relation of L S, has died age 64. Must go see the exhibition of his work in Rawtenstall when I'm up in Bury next week... Ray Lowry, the artist/illustrator who worked for NME and designed the front cover of The Clash's classic album 'London Calling', has died aged 64. Lowry died in his home in Waterfoot, Lancashire yesterday (14 October) after suffering from illness for a number of years. Lowry contributed illustrations to NME throughout the '70s and '80s as well as The Guardian, Private Eye and Punch. A Ray Lowry exhibition is currently running at the See Gallery, Rawenstall, Lancashire until 7 November.


Three Bonzos and a piano

My most favourite band of all time has to be the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band. I saw them for sure in 1966 in the Great Hall of the University of Surrey (at Battersea) where I was studying and I'm positive I saw them even before that, more informally in the student bar. I was privileged to be at their reunion 40 years later at the Astoria, have seen Roger Ruskin Spear's Giant Kinetic Wardrobe - at the UoS free festival in 1973 - and have enjoyed seeing Neil Innes many times over the years. So it was with great excitement last Saturday that I cycled to the Latest Musicbar (formerly the Joogleberry) to see Three Bonzos and a piano, namely Roger Ruskin Spear, Rodney Slater and Sam Spoons with Dave Glasson - particularly since Neil Innes and Fatso had cancelled their gig at the Duke of York's cinema the night before. Thankfully, Jo and Laurence had saved me a seat up front (though my view was obscured by Rodney's music stand!). They opened with Cool Britannia, swiftly followed by Watermelon and On her doorstep last night, Roger taking most of the vocals and the audience joining in with gusto. There followed two energetic sets of mayhem, with many Bonzos numbers covered, and a few surprise items too: viz: Punktuation and Sprouting Broccoli. We had the trouser press, shirts, the Leg, and all manner of special effects, ending with a tribute to Viv, Tent. It was great to be so close to three living legends and I managed to capture some videos on my Flip Ultra. At least two others were videoing the performance on proper camcorders. I'll deffo be back next month, and hope it'll be a regular gig. Andy Roberts was in the audience - maybe he'll play next time. You can find my videos here. And here's a video from a better angle by David of the Do Dah Diaries also on Vimeo.


The Weasel

The only papers I buy are the Saturday and Sunday Independents (cos they are manageable reads and I'm not a social worker). Last Saturday morning I was devastated to discover that my favourite columns: The Weasel, which had been going since the start of the Indy in 1986, and Will Self's PsychoGeography had both been axed! Not only that but we'll lose the lovely drawings of Lucinda Rogers and the always entertaining scratchings of Ralph Steadman. Saturdays will never be the same again!


Caravan Gallery

Originally uploaded by fred pipes
I haven't managed to catch many of the Brighton Photo Fringe shows yet, but I did pop into town last Friday to buy some postcards from the Caravan Gallery, parked in Jubilee Square. Their photos make me laugh out loud and we even made a pilgimage to 'Thistle Do Nicely' in Edinburgh on the strength of seeing it on one of their cards. I bought their book and loads of cards and Jan Williams was very impressed by my stories of Mr Cooper, the Baker Street barber featured on a Brighton postcard, now sadly deceased.

Farley Farm

Originally uploaded by fred pipes
You lazy blogger, I hear you cry! It's not as though I've had nothing to blog, you understand. Truth is, I haven't had much work to avoid, but now I have. So, we're back! On Saturday, I had a motor car journey out to Chiddingly, to visit Farley Farm, the home to Lee Miller and Roland Penrose. The Clarion visited Chiddingly last Sunday on a bike ride from Berwick, to coincide with their Festival, which included Morris dancers, belly dancers (not dancing together, unfortunately), apples and beer! One feature of the festival was that there were cut-price tours of the farm for three weekends. Tessa suggested we go this past weekend. Unfortunately, she was too poorly to go, so I piled into Mark and Anna's car with my neighbour Marion Charles.

Just turn up, said the flyer, so we did. Waiting for the next tour at 2.30, we looked at the mini-print exhibition in the barn, but it was too wet to consider the garden. No photos were allowed to be taken inside, and the two delightful guides kept their beedy eyes on us! I love places full of stuff! There were paintings everywhere, Picasso plates and tiles in the kitchen, a Man Ray collage in the hall, African carvings and curiosities all over the place, and of course Lee's photos and Roland's paintings everywhere. In a big room was a case full of Lee's wartime souvenirs, including two sets of knuckle-dusters and Hitler's stationery. (Apparently the farm is a magnet for Neo-Nazis, according to her grand-daughter Ami in the gift shop.) In case you don't know who Lee Miller was: she was a Vogue model and the Kotex Girl, then went to Paris and met Man Ray and took up photography, was a war correspondent (for Vogue!), and ended up with Roland in a Sussex farmhouse, being visited by Saul Steinberg, Picasso and Man Ray, amongst many other esteemed Surrealists. Her photos can be seen here. If any 'Johnny Foreigners' arrived at Lewes station looking lost, the taxi drivers would take them to Farley! The house has a feel of Charleston about it and Roland went up a few points in my estimation - I'd always considered him a bit of a toff dilettante like the Bloomsbury lot. Go see it if you can - the big 25 quid tours are booked up for the rest of the year, but the downstairs festival taster tours are well worth it. Afterwards we had tea at Silletts Cottage tea rooms in Selmeston!

Saturday night was the debut of the Twilight Club in the Argus Basement. Organised by David Bramwell (of Catalyst Club fame) and Rachel Blackman, it involved parlour games on a medical theme and a show in the pit by Foz's Sawchestra. There's a video of some of it on Vimeo. I was a bit unsure of the geography of the place so missed the first sitting, but they sell proper beer (in bottles) and the performance was worth waiting for. Reminded me of those happenings at All Saint's, Powis Square in the late 1960s, but much more entertaining! This is a welcome addition to the Brighton scene, for the older and more discerning punter.


Edinburgh Festival 2008

Originally uploaded by fred pipes
Well, I didn't need my sun glasses, but it didn't rain all the time! I travelled up on Wednesday 13 August, crossing from the new St Pancras to King's X via platform 9 3/4. GNER is now National Express. The Cally bar at Haymarket had been demolished for the new tram works, so met Sam in Thomsons Bar for the first pint of 80/- (now called 80, presumably to appeal to young folk!). Next day I was checking Facebook when I received a communication from Marek Kohn, who was speaking at the Book Festival at 2pm. I dragged myself away from the olympics on TV and got my first of many £2.50 day savers (my bus pass isn't valid north of the border). In his audience I spotted Dick Witts, so we had a natter and collared Tony Benn in the signing tent to demonstrate his combination bag and seat (as seen on Richard and Judy). Before had popped into National Trust place and had a letterpress book plate printed! Then walked along to Chester Street to see Harry Potter illustrator Cliff Wright and friends (Mark Harrison and Tim Gill plus girls in flowing dresses) at their art exhibition. On Tim's recommendation, bought some cut-price folk albums at Fopp in Rose Street.

Friday hoped to catch the Art Bus - but it'd been discontinued! So did the smaller galleries, including Richard Wilson's deconstructed hot dog van at the Grey Gallery, then to the Stand to see Simon Munnery's AGM, which continued over the road in the pub, as usual. On Saturday we started at the art school to see the op art E-cyclorama, then to Talbot Rice for Andrew Grassie's hyper-real self-referential egg tempera paintings. They were wee! We were offered magnifying glasses to examine them! On Royal Mile were amused by Gamarjobat and saw Billy Cowie's dance installation at Grassmarket, which was also surprisingly wee! Tonight's show was in a swimming pool - Liz Bentley-on-Sea - not very good, despite the venue and uke action.

Sunday saw the traditional outing - to Musselburgh by bus, to see Mad, art at Eskmills and have tea at Luca's. Later met Peter and Lisa in Bennet's Bar for a couple of pints. On Monday saw Cholmondeleys feat. Nigel Burch at the Assembly then to Cafe Royal for a lovely dark pint, and thence to the Teviot for How to play the uke in less than an hour, a hot squashed show with nice but quiet ukes, Lisa standing in for Foz? Then a quick hike to the Festival Theatre for the Waverley Care comedy gala and loads and loads of very funny people. We were right up in the gods!

Tuesday was wet and Sam was back at work so I did the big museums on the 13 bus. I was round the Tracey Emin show in a flash (tho I bought a pencil!) but the Foto exhibition at the Dean was much better than I'd expected, with much collage and graphic design as well as photos from their golden age. Back to the Pleasance to be a late entrant to Isy Suttie (Dobby in Peep Show)! Back to book festival for Billy Cowie's talk - bought his book, which I'm looking forward to now I've finished A Short History of Tractors in Ukranian, and we had a pint in the Spiegeltent as the rain hammered the roof.

Wednesday got a bus to the top of the Royal Mile and watched a conjurer briefly, before walking down to the Fruitmarket to do the dark rooms properly (I'd wimped out on Friday!) - the installations by Canadians Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller were very impressive - the record player one downstairs and the killing machine upstairs particularly, the use of sound, light and robotics very theatrical. Waiting for Jo Neary's show to start at the Assembly I went to the Standing Order for a sub-two quid pint, to be joined at my table by Nigel Burch. I recognised him without the Foz makeup and we had a chat about banjuleles. Joanne Neary was excellent, can't think why I hadn't seen her in Brighton. Then it was off to Leith for a farewell meal at The Ship on the Shore with Sam and Charley. I had hake (and a taste of razor clam and scallop - but why do chefs always spoil these dishes for veggies by adding superfluous chorizo and black pudding?). Thursday was back to Haymarket for the train home.

Spa Valley Railway

Originally uploaded by fred pipes
I didn't have too many expectations for the Spa Valley Railway, at Tunbridge Wells. It's quite short, with mainly smallish locos, but I was in for a delightful day out. It was on the 29 bus all the way, but I'd just missed a train so after a quick look round, popped into Sainsbury's next door, to buy a shirt and pie for supper. As I returned, LMS 0-6-0T Class 3F Jinty no. 47493 (must try to find out why they are called jinties!) was pulling the train into the station. I took some snaps of it, but was disappointed when it returned to the shed. We were to be pulled by a diesel BR Bo-Bo Class 33 no. 33063 'RJ Mitchell'!! As we set off, however it became clear there was a steam loco on the back, Peckett 0-6-0ST works loco no. 1636 'Fonmon' (see a video here). The day was marked as a gala celebrating ten years since High Rocks station opened. I went to the end of the line at Groomsbridge then alighted at High Rocks on the way back. The Mayor and Mayoress of Royal Tunbridge Wells were being snapped next to the loco and a motley band was playing in the gardens of the inn, so I found the entrance to the mysterious High Rocks and had a quick look. It was one of those Victorian playgrounds, populated by strange looking sandstone rocks, some with ancient graffiti carved into them. I didn't fancy the aerial walkways so returned to the pub. No real ale on offer so I wandered back to the platform, to catch a wedding party arriving on the next train, powered this time by the jinty! So it was back to Groomsbridge then to TW, where I had a cuppa and a train biscuit whilst waiting for my 5.15 bus home.


Folkestone Triennial

Originally uploaded by fred pipes
I've been meaning to take more days out now I'm semi-retired, so when Peter mentioned that he, Lisa, Judy and Chris were going to Folkestone to view the Triennial, it spurred me into action. They were going by motor car, but I was determined to use my bus pass, but as it'd take all day to get there, I went to Hastings by train. This also should have meant less time to wait for the bus (it would have been 50 minutes at Rye) - but, as the PDF timetable I downloaded was wildly wrong (it was for 2004!) I was out by 20 minutes! The 100 bus mysteriously changes to the 711 at Lydd and it was an enjoyable journey taking in Winchelsea, Dymchurch (children's paradise) and Romney Marsh. After Hythe I was in virgin territory and soon I was at Folkestone bus station. First piece of art I encountered was a Tracey Emin sculpture of a child's hat (I think) attached to a bench in a shopping street (8b on the map) - I was too shy to snap the two smoking ladies sitting there oblivious to being in proximity to Public Art! The others were down at the harbour so I sped down the Road of Remembrance (I hadn't realised Folkestone was so hilly!) for a pint of Spitfire at The Princes Royal. As we left the pub we spotted the Orient Express leaving the harbour (unfortunately with a diesel either end). There was also lots of art to spot too (it's much better having them all around town than all in one building!). After spotting another Tracey up some steps, I left the others heading east to chase the Mobile Gull Appreciation Unit and I returned into town. It was hot and humid and there were hills to climb! Stopped in at the Triennial Visitor Centre for a proper map, thence another Tracey (and some false alarms - Folkestone is littered with discarded soggy baby garments!), to the Library to catch the last 5 minutes of Tacita Dean's fishing boat crossing from Boulogne to Folkestone (probably the best bit), a quick pop into Lidl to see if they had any of those hard Italian biscuits with chocolate chips (they hadn't) and back to the bus station, hungry, hot and bothered. On the way back, between Lydd and Camber, it started throwing it down, just as it had on our last Clarion bike ride in those parts. But this time I was inside a nice warm bus! Next week, Bognor?


Rogues' Gallery

Originally uploaded by fred pipes
Why is travelling to and from our capital city always so fraught! There's an excellent London-to-Brighton rail service and I have my bus pass (oh, and also a dud oyster card!) but just getting from A to B is always hard work. Last night A was Farringdon station and B was the Barbican, just one tube stop away, but as aforementioned oyster card wouldn't top up, I hadn't bought a Travelcard and I was buggered if I was going to spend 4 quid on a single, I ended up walking (the busses were all full)! I was meeting Peter, Lisa, Foz?, Nick and Rob to see Rogue's Gallery, an evening of rollicking sea shanties (or chanteys as they call them) based on Hal Willner's CDs. After a quick pint of London Pride at The Sutton Arms, Foz? and I took our seats on the row behind Peter and Lisa. Hoards of performers stormed the stage and we set off with Baby Gramps singing 'Cape Cod Girls' banging his battered National guitar and sounding like Popeye the sailorman! Then it was a procession of stars, some I'd seen, some never before, taking turns to be backed by the excellent house band led by Kate St John and a mass choir of other performers. We had the Carthy family of Martin, Norma Waterson and Eliza, Neil Hannon in fine voice, Shane MacGowan playing harmonica and singing 'South Australia' and 'The Leaving of Liverpool', sexy Martha Wainwright, the Thompson siblings Teddy and Kami, cheeky Robyn Hitchcock (who used to live in Guildford), new romantic Richard Strange (singing the very rude 'Good Ship Venus'), Suzanne Vega and, the star of the show, cartoonist Ralph Steadman singing the cannibal song 'Little Boy Billy' plus many more. But Tom Waits impersonator Sandy Dillon ruined 'Bully in the alley' for me by not taking it seriously enough! It was whole festival in a evening - 3 and a half hours with no interval. We had musical saw (David Coulter), harmonium (Roger Eno), all manner of other stringed instruments (Leo Abrahams), violins, accordians, traditional folkies, pop stars (but no show by Pete Doherty) and rousing moving music - but you can have too many laments and it was maybe a tad too long, meaning Foz? and I missed our last sensible train and came home on the 1am from Victoria, after an eventful crossing of the Port o' London - but that's another story!


Pease pudding

Pease pudding is a new blog on the art of budget cooking from my old friend Lois Blackburn up in the Peak District.


More Watercress

Originally uploaded by fred pipes
On my second trip to the Watercress Line with Worthing Coaches, it was a full 53-seater so I sat piggy-in-the-middle on the back seat with several entertaining old ladies who told me all about the war. When we arrived, LMS Class 2MT 2-6-2T No. 41312 was in steam, doing some work experience, so I popped off to the working Post Office in Arlesford to post some proofs, thence to the pub for a pint of Fagin. The train coming back from Alton (and the one to take us there and back) was pulled by Spamcan 34007 Wadebridge, and I tested out my new Flip camcorder on it. It proved susceptible to wind noise and camera shake, but see my Vimeo pages for the excellent film quality. The cream tea was very welcome and I got an extra scone from my old ladies, plus a pot of Watercress Line jam to take home (unfortunately no watercress, the 60p bunches I saw in Arlesford looking a little wilted!). Another nice day out!



blast.png 633x851 pixels: play the ukulele!


betty bib's fairyware

betty bib's fairyware: been helping Lesley to set up her blog.


Isle of Purbeck

Originally uploaded by fred pipes
A hay fever sufferer going on holiday to the countryside? In June? I must be mad. In fact, I'd temporarily forgotten I had hay fever - but not for long! And a holiday was too good to miss.

Day 1: Friday 13 June 2008. Train from London Road to Wareham, via Brighton, Barnham and Southampton. Beer in pub, then bus to 'the top of the lane'. The bus driver was a bit grumpy about taking my Halfway folder on his bus, but we did! The top of the track was a bit muddy, so I opted to take the longer road journey. Spotted some little stoat/weasel-type animals on the hot road but they scarpered as I got near. The Worth Matravers sign had 'Twinned with Royston Vasey' stencilled on it! I was first to arrive, followed by Jackie and Rob (on the train with me), Pam and Steve (by car with all the luggage) and much later Jim and Sally. I'm staying in The Dairy, on Renscombe Farm, the site of a top-secret radar establishment during WWII. Jackie cooked curry.

Day 2: Saturday 14: Cycled to Langton Matravers for newspapers - nobody told me Purbeck was hilly! Then a walk to St Aldhelm's Head (I cycled) past a quarry famous for 'sparkle' and eventually the Head, where's there's an austere small square church called St Aldhelm's with just one window and a notice: 'To the person who leaves lighted tea lights. Please stop you have cracked this window with the heat'. There's also a coastguard station and a memorial to the radar research (unveiled by Sir Bernard Lovell), oh, and the view, over a large cliff, that a couple of days later a 4x4 went over. Thence to the Square and Compass, and the first of many pints and pasties that week. Steve cooked roasted vegetables.

Day 3: Sunday 15: We went by car to Corfe Castle (Rob and Jim walked) and after visiting the church and watching the town crier in action, I went down to the station. I let the diesel go and awaited the steam train, by which time Jim had joined me. The train was pulled by an ancient 0-4-4 tank, LSWR Class M7 30053. So it was to the end of the line at Norden than back to Swanage, where we alighted for a pint at the Red Lion. We joined the others back at Corfe Castle just as a marching band dressed in spiderman costumes - part of Corfest - was entertaining the crowds. I cooked pasta.

Day 4: Monday 16: Gerry and Christina had replaced Jim and Sally so we set off in two cars to Arne nature reserve - in search of the Dartford Warbler! It was a heathland/wetland walk with dragonflies, heather, orchids and my first visit to a hide (spoonbills and oyster catchers, but no Bill Oddie). We saw a tiger beetle or two, but alas no sightings of our bird. Pam cooked nut roast.

Day 5: Tuesday 17: It was off to Studland with Rob and Steve, by bus. Worth Matravers, the nearest village, only has 2 a day so we caught the 9.30. At Swanage we got the open-top 50 and got off at Studland. After a quick visit to the church and celtic cross (circa 1975), we went down to the beach for a cuppa at Joe's Cafe and a view of Old Harry rocks. The lads wanted to do some serious rambling, so I headed back for the last bus to Worth - 2.15 from Swanage. Managed to spot Standard tank 80078 (built in Brighton 1954) at the station, and back at the village popped into the tea rooms for a toasted teacake. Rob cooked lasagne.

Day 6: Wednesday 18: Off with Pam and Steve in the car to Brownsea Island, via the chain ferry between Studland and Sandbanks, home of the footballers' wives. Went in our second hive, then around the red squirrel trail. Not a one was seen, and we'd given up hope when the nice lady at the visitor centre announced there was one on the feeding table the other side of a window! Result! Saw lots of tame ducklings and baby geese. Then it was off to the cafe for lunch and not to feed the peacocks which we were told could become aggressive! Pam made soup.

Day 7: Thursday: I still hadn't done any watercolour painting, so Jackie suggested I did a view of Chapman's Pool from the cliff top. It had been very windy and raining overnight but the sky was blue as Rob and I tramped across the field to the Purbeck Way. The rest had gone to see Winspit where Dr Who had been filmed. The steps to Chapman's Pool were very steep, I'd been told, so we walked along the top to a memorial to the Royal Marines. But it was much too windy (thankfully blowing inland, I'm not a big fan of cliff-top walks!). So it was off to the pub, where we did manage to create. Supper was microwaved left-overs, of which there was much, augmented by Steve's frittata.

Day 8: Friday. The plan was to have lunch at Kingston in the Scott Arms, which had a great view of Corfe Castle. We had to vacate by 10am so caught the 9.30 bus out of the village. Rob and Jackie however soon tired of Swanage so we decided to get the 50 to Bournemouth, via the chain ferry, which Rob wanted to experience. The 50 is very popular but we managed to get a seat downstairs (it was beginning to rain) and went on top for the ferry ride. At Bournmouth there was nothing promising near the station, so we carried on to Southmpton, thence to Brighton and home, grabbing a sandwich on the way. I'd left my bike with Steve, who delivered it and my luggage that evening.

Verdict: The Isle of Purbeck isn't too far away from Brighton, but is sufficiently different to feel like you have been away. Despite forecasts of rain, we were lucky with the weather, which was mostly hot and sunny. The accommodation - although remote - was superb, as was the food! It's a little too hilly for my liking (but ideal for ramblers!). Saw lots of wildlife and amazing views. Excellent company and close to a steam railway! Heaven.


An A4 at Alresford

Originally uploaded by fred pipes
Belting through the green Hampshire countryside, we see a train in the distance. What's pulling it? Is it a diesel? A Spam can? No, bloody hell, it's a Streak, an A4 like Mallard the world speed record holder for steam! The world's second most beautiful locomotive (well, I am an LMS man, after all). As we arrive at Alresford station, the train is just pulling in. It's 60019 Bittern in Brunswick green British Railways livery. Wow! I'm on my second Worthing Coaches excursion, this time to the Watercress Line. As the other passengers amble off into town, I can't wait to get onto the platform. LMS Class 2MT 2-6-2T No. 41312 is in steam in a siding and I wait for Bittern to change ends to take some photos. Then I sit and eat my Boots sandwich as she quietly chuffs away. Our train is this one, but two hours later, so as Bittern headed off to Alton, I head off for a pint of Ringwood bitter at a local hostelry. Arlesford is a Georgian town and actually had a Post Office open, so I took advantage to buy some stamps.

Back at the station I crossed the footbridge to take a snap of the train coming in, wheels and all. Then it was on board for our cream tea, in the front coach. At Ropley I jumped up to cop the engines in the shed: BR standard class 5 4-6-0 No. 73096 and SR Merchant Navy Class 4-6-2 No. 35005 Canadian Pacific amongst others in various states of repair. At Alton I popped out to take more photos and on the way back we passed a lonely DMU with zero passengers on board! Then it was into the coach for a scenic ride home. Never did get any watercress!


More Open Houses

Originally uploaded by fred pipes
Well, the Festival of Artists' Open Houses is over for another year (or until Xmas, but I don't usually show then) and I'm pleased to say that I sold about 7 prints from The Dragonfly House. Yesterday I sent in a sicky to the Clarion, and decided to scale the heights of Hanover to check out some more Open Houses. Katie Mac had sent me a Facebook invitation to 134 Queen's Park Road so decided to make that the summit and work back down from there. It's not easy finding a route up the hills that doesn't involve some bike pushing, but I zigzagged up the steep streets and eventually arrived at the summit. There should be a funicular railway for Hanover, or at least a ski lift - the people who live there must be very fit! Also in the house was Andy MacLynn (who did the cover of the AOH brochure) and I really love his reductive acrylics of Brighton, just black line and one or two colours - and lots of white. Katie's saucy screenprints were a delight too and there was lots to see in this huge house, including the dark animals of Simon Postgate, son of Oliver, creator of Bagpuss, the Clangers, Noggin the Nog and Ivor the Engine. A quick pop into the basement at 134a, and across the road into 145 then it was cycling uphill again (I thought I'd reached the top?) then down Bentham Road to a nuclear bunker!

No. 62 is an installation by a group of 'pengineers' (pen engineers, not residents of Penge) led by Philip Cole who have explored the futility of preparing for nuclear war. Their garden is deceptively huge and in the middle is a restored Anderson shelter, the inspiration for this piece (it also has a view - though a massive concrete wall - of Hanover's mysterious reservoir). Back in the house under the floorboards is a secret stash of tinned pears! I bought an unknown chilli pepper plant and a large courgette plant (to replace the one chomped by slugs the other day) and headed down Whichelo Place (completely missing another open house I was going to pop into, but there was no going back!) to the Hanover Community Centre for a cup of tea and a scone, and to buy two heritage tomato plants (along with a set of Ben Naylor postcards!). Then it was round the corner to 88 Lincoln Street to see the photos of Andy Deighton and Lauren Chauvin - Brighton Flickr group regulars. A quick pop into 13 Lincoln Cottages and it was off home, fully laden! But... I decided to pop into 17 Clyde Road to photograph Alan Baker and Curtis Tappenden, but Curt was up at The Pecks at 145 Ditchling Rise having cake, so I trudged up the hill and rewarded myself with a slice of rhubarb cake and more tea! Then it was back to the Dragonfly House to pack up for Adur - I'll be showing in Krysia Drury's open house during June!

Other Festival highlights included Jarvis Cocker's highly entertaining lecture on lyrics - from Louie Louie to Leonard Cohen, via Des'ree and 'I am the Walrus' - at the Dome on Friday night (including 3 songs with him accompanying himself on guitar) and jumpin' an' jivin' to Fat 45 at the (Pussy) Parlure Spiegeltent on Thursday night (well past my bedtime!).

Peter Chrisp's Tiki-themed birthday bash at Hove's retro Bali Brasserie was the debut public performance of Uklear Reaction (sadly, no MySpace page yet), plus a stonkin' set from Jailbait. UR's second gig was at the Dragonfly House end-of-show party on Saturday night, tho Peter and Foz? missed most of it (and the whitebait and chips from Bardsley's), due to theatre-going commitments!


Jane's Blog

Jane's Blog: Highly entertaining blog from Jane Millar, of 11 York Villas. If you want to know who everyone is, consult the first posting!


Atters' other world

Originally uploaded by fred pipes
I don't normally go out on a Monday, but the prospect of some theramin action plus tasteful striptease, all under the direction of Atters - and FREE - was too much to resist. So it was across the border into Hove once more, and the Iron Duke. This is another pub I have so far missed in my 20+ years in the 'city', but with Harvey's (at £2.65 a pint) and Landlord on tap I'll be back! The band was Spacedog, with Sarah Angliss on theramin, musical saw, and one of those blowy plastic piano things that Foz? has, all processed through a Mac. Atters did his hilarious paranormal slideshow (spookily, the sheet screen dematerialised at one point!), then it was Spacedog again, this time with Clara 2.0, the robot doll. They're on at the Sanctuary on Wednesday if you want to catch them. Finally, Atters couldn't contain his excitement when burlesque star Ruby DeMure performed her sensational 'Beneath the Tash of Atters' routine. What more could a chap ask for?


Artists' Open Houses

Originally uploaded by fred pipes
Yesterday I arose too late to make the Clarion bike ride, so resolved to visit some Open Houses as recompense. I decided to do Seven Dials, via Hove (to avoid the hill of New England Road), via George (closing down sale) and Robert Dyas (where on earth can you get small terracotta flowerpots in Brighton?). First it was up the hill of Brunswick Road to see Colleen Slater's gorgeous underwater flower photos at 'Our Beautiful Maisonette' at No 19. Also liked Dee Berridge's life drawings (note to self: must get down the Sussex County Arts Club soon!). The combination of heat, hill and art was making my temperature soar, so I set off deeper into Hove to see Tessa Wolfe Murray's ceramics. They weren't where they were last year tho, so I copped an unexpected one at Amews Art, 23a Wilbury Grove - some first timers showing sculpture, photos and screenprints in their studio. Onwards and upwards, past some very grand villas, to 51 Wilbury Road, two flats in the same building, where Tessa's sublime ceramics (she hates me calling them pots!) were on show. Tessa BTW is a comrade Clarionette. I marvelled at Lawrence Latham's time-lapse photography and bumped into Ali Hastilow, who is showing in a Seven Dials house later on my list.

Now was a tricky bit, getting from one map in the AOH brochure to the other! By chance I took the right turning and spotted Silverdale Road, so popped into The Glass House for one of Kim Glass's prize-winning cream teas, a sit down and a chat. Revived, it was on to Chanctonbury Road, where two houses right next door to each other were open: first timers Eight O Nine at no. 13 showing the eery photography of Cameron Watt; and at 15, festival regulars Artists Live Here. I resisted one of Terri Bell-Halliwell's cakes and wandered upstairs to bump into old chum Jerry Webb, with whom I used to work at EMAP many moons ago! He's showing photos there. Bought a signed book: The Illustrated Brighton Moment, and it was off again, retracing my steps to get to Granville Road. A coach party was filing into Square Enough so I popped over the road to see Cecil Rice's phenomenal watercolours (and equally fantastic oils). I did a workshop with him at BIP last year to try learn some of his secrets (lots of space, big brushes, lots of water!) - he's been to the Taj Mahal and the paintings are breathtaking. Did I mention that I love his work?

Then it was across the road to see Oli and Joe at no.13. I got them to sign my Illustrated Brighton Moment book and bought a card and a badge (it's a cracker!), which both turned out to be by Joe again (I bought his Beer book last year!) - Oli didn't seem too upset! Ben Allen's mansion was going to be my last stop. Bumped into Stella Starr in the garden next to the tortoises and said hello to Jon Crane who'd been printing his pansies next to me at BIP the other week (he also did Cecil's workshop!). All the BIP boys and girls were on show in this huge house: Jane Sampson, Rich Townsend and Rosie Irvine, daughter of my mate Rick (Rintintin) and Jan (who has a new studio down on the seafront). About to go home, I bumped into old clubbing chum Marek Kohn, who is also in the Illustrated Brighton Moment book, who insisted I visit his neighbour at 11 York Villas, only to discover it was the house of Jane Millar, another screenprinter and friend of my ex-lodger Ellie Curtis. [On today's trail, I also kept crossing the paths of a couple (Caroline and Jamie?) who know Nick Hider!]. This debutante house was full of high quality contemporary work, including the digital prints of their 13-year old son Jacob (not quite the youngest artist in AOH - that's got to be Noah Tappenden!). And so, all cultured out, home. Only another 195 houses to visit.

I must mention 13 Gladstone Place, whose PV it was on Saturday night. If you think Open Houses are all crocheted toilet roll covers and painting by numbers, get down to Vogue Gyratory! This flat is an installation! You're given a map on the way in and even told to poke around under the stairs. The work inside the narrative is all hauntingly beautiful: from Frances Stott's pencil drawings of shipwrecks in oyster shells and Lucy Cash's video loop, to Michael Hutson's photographic memories of when he was in a coma. You may have met Michael, he may have cut your hair - he's a barber on Sydney Street and frequents the Off Beat Cafe. Very Brighton!



Loppy remembered

loppy remembered
Originally uploaded by fred pipes
Well, the Open Houses are once again open for the weekends in May. I haven't seen many of them yet (preferring the Vintage Commercial Vehicles rally down at Madeira Drive yesterday!) - but I am exhibiting as usual in The Dragonfly House, where Angie and Marc provide me with a dark corner in which to show my prints old and new. Only one new one (made at BIP) this year, I'm ashamed to say, but one has sold already! Visitors to The Dragonfly House, 48 Ditchling Rise, Brighton --
winner for the past two years as Best Open House in the Artists' Open Houses Festival - may well remember Loppy the pet rabbit in the garden, always a big hit with the children. Sadly, Loppy passed away last year, but a memorial has been unveiled - a wooden automaton by Helen Sinden, best known for her wooden heart boxes. Turn the handle and Loppy dives into view and a cloud (his ghost? his dream?) rotates. There also a peep hole where a carrot is hidden! Go on, have a go - you know you want to.


Isle of Wight

Originally uploaded by fred pipes
For my second coach adventure (I have yet to use my national bus pass!) I travelled to the Isle of Wight (never been there before) on Sunday with Worthing Coaches. I really really hate getting up early, but managed to cycle down to town for the 7.40am start and felt pretty rough as it trundled west, picking up passengers from towns mentioned in Lemon Jelly's 'Ramblin' Man' - Rustington, Southwick, Goring, Ferring, Angmering (well, not really, only Angmering is mentioned in the song and we didn't stop there). After passing Arundel and Chichester we arrived at the Southsea ferry terminal for the 10am cruise. I avoided the tea queue and sat on deck drinking miso soup from my flask and watching strange round forts float by in the misty distance. It's only a short half-hour hop (even quicker by hovercraft) and you can see the other side as soon as you take off! We docked at Fishbourne and were quickly on the road to Ryde and along the southern edge of the island, which was much hillier than I'd imagined. We stopped for lunch at steep Shanklin (never did discover where the beach was!), so I bought postcards of the Six or Seven Wonders (depending on which postcard) of the Isle of Wight (Needles you cannot thread, etc), and waited for The Crab to open at 12. Grabbed a pint of Goddard's and ordered a crab sandwich, which was huge. It was warm enough to sit outside, but generally the weather was a bit overcast and damp. Then we were off west down narrow lanes to see the real thing. The view of The Needles from Alum Bay is not great - to get a good view you really need to take a boat trip. Then it was back west, stopping at Godshill for tea. It's one of those villages invented for coach trips, with a huge car park and nearly every building a tea shop. I was attracted by the offer in The Hollies of a toasted tea cake and cup of tea for two quid. I followed this with a two quid ice cream (rum 'n' raisin) made by the Minghella family. I didn't pay to go in the toy museum, nor the model village, but did buy two scuptural looking succulents for 70p each. Then it was back to Fishbourne for the ferry. The weather was getting rough and I snapped a rainbow over Ryde pier before a squall came whipping in, so watched the water sloshing round the decks from inside with a can of McEwens (no draught beer). We followed a big Brittany ferry into Portsmouth, where we got a glimpse of the Spinnaker Tower and HMS Warrior, then home to catch the last episode of Foyle's War. Thanks Dave! I gave him a two quid tip. I'm not sure about these things, but seem to remember that you always tip the coach driver!


Rails Peaks and Fells

Originally uploaded by fred pipes
When you become a pensioner it's compulsory to go on coach tours. An ad from Newmarket in the Argus caught my eye - Rails Peaks and Fells - I love railways (ironic isn't it) and some of the heritage ones are a bit difficult to access by public transport, so I thought I'd give it a go. It was also incredibly cheap (£150 for two nights in a hotel, all the tickets and three-days travel). Friday was tedious - I had to get myself down to the pier by 7.25, and I was the only one from Brighton. Then it was hours of pick-ups, from Burgess Hill and Crawley to Staines and Hemel Hempstead, then being stuck in traffic jams on the M6, lots of visits to motorway services, and finally our hotel - the Britannia in Bolton! The food was surprisingly tasty and it was happy hour in the bar (£1.50 for a pint of John Smiths) both nights until 9pm - the TV was crap tho (no Freeview), so it was Torchwood and an early night.

Saturday was tons better. We set off at 9am through north Lancs to Settle, with some lovely scenery on the way. Weather was bright and we had a good ride on the Settle to Carlisle route on the regular diesel, with our guide Eric. Shame we couldn't have seen the route by helicopter - caught only the briefest glimpse of Ribblehead Viaduct. In Carlisle had lunch in the cathedral tearoom with Tessa the unaccompanied lady (we three waifs and strays - me , Andrew and Tessa - sat together at meals) and a browse round the charity shops (bought a book on the 1938 Empire exhibition at Oxfam) then it was back on the coach to the Lakes. The Kirkstone Pass and views of Ullswater were breathtaking - you need a coach to see that! Windermere and Bowness were basically a tea break (but I did buy a flat cap for £3.99 plus 10% discount!), then it was back to Bolton, where I managed to escape for an hour of two after dinner to see my family in Bury. We'd seen boxing bunnies, magpies, baby ba-lambs, pheasants, lots of plastic bags in trees, a grouse (well, it looked like the bird on the whisky bottle), snow, daffs, primroses, waterfalls and lots of steep hills.

Sunday we went straight down to the potteries to take in the factory shops at Spode and Wedgwood. We should have done them Friday, but cos of motorway delays it was today. I actually bought something (a bowl and mug - some china made in China)! Then after a brief stop in Telford services where the sandwiches were too dear to contemplate, it was off to the two-level town of Bridgenorth and the Severn Valley Railway. After a bowl of chips in the cafe and a wander round taking snaps of locos (45110, 48773 and 7802 Bradley Manor were in the yard), I grabbed a pint of Dark Raven and jumped on the 2.30 to Kidderminster. We were pulled by 88 (53808), a 2-8-0 from Minehead in the colours of the Somerset & Dorset Joint Railway. I had my head out of the window right by the front of this magnificent loco (it was going backwards) and it made a gorgeous sound (got told off for making a draught!). Coming into the station as we were leaving was 7812 Erlestoke Manor, and on the way we saw GWR pannier tank 7714, mickey 42968, and Prairie 4566, which was taking the train back to Bridgend. Six locos were in steam that day! Full list of locos on Wikipedia. Then it was off home, with a pint of Abbot ale in Crawley (I was told to remove my wooly hat in the pub!) while driver Don got his 30 minute EU regulation break. He kindly dropped me off at the bottom of Ditchling Rise, so it was home for Casualty 1907.

The verdict: despite the tedium of Friday, it was a very pleasant experience overall. Coach travel is very comfortable and you're taken everywhere door to door. We had a helpful Janet the Tour Manager and the hotel, whilst being remote (by the motorway for businessmen), was comfortable and the food surprisingly good, with meat, fish and veggie both nights. Evenings could have been a problem - must get the laptop sorted. We could have had longer on the railways, but it was a great taster, and we saw lots you probably wouldn't see as an independent traveller.


Peter Saville

Popped along to The Space at the Jooglebury last night to see Peter Saville interviewed. First we were treated to the very jolly Spaniard Vicente Todoli, Director of Tate Modern, who didn't believe in visions (he was brought up a Franco Catholic) nor favourites and only got the job because art was his third love (after books and film). Live music was from a rather dull The Scarlet Street Resistance. Saville, no relation to Jimmy, was inevitably asked about Ian Curtis and Tony Wilson and some factions of the audience were rather sniffy about his work for Wham! He said when he went to the studios to get the credit info for 'Wake me up before you Go-Go' (cheers from audience) from George Michael, he thought it'd take ages. 'The overweight 20-year-old' said: it's simple, just put: Written, arranged and produced by George Michael. And he meant it! Saville said he was glad of the work cos he was banned by most record companies - he was always late, he was expensive and the stuff was difficult to produce. Melita asked about the golden age of vinyl covers and Saville pointed out that album covers completely comprised youth culture in those days - there were no magazines, websites, whatever there are nowadays. But album covers don't pay the rent and he moved into more corporate work. He said he was notorious for spending his fees three times, something that resonated with the freelancers in the audience: when he first got a job, he'd spend the money; when he invoiced the job, he'd spend it again; and when he finally got the cheque, he'd spend it all again! I took along my copy of Unknown Pleasures for him to sign (I won nothing in the raffle!)- he said it was too valuable to sign!! I said no, no, no! and he very carefully signed it under the credits on the inner sleeve. My hero! Dan Thompson has been chasing me about not updating my blog enough. He's opened a record shop in Worthing called Revolutionary Records (was Random Rules). I popped over there on Saturday to be delighted by free badges and live acoustic sets by Ben Salter and some of the Bamboo Band, including James Fryer on a Venezuelan cuatro. Treated myself to some veggie pies from Worthing's fabulous Waitrose on the way home. Off Up North on a coach trip this weekend, now that Time Team has finished for another season! RIMG0002.JPG Dan and Ben Salter And I forgot to mention that I went on a coach trip to Aldermaston (atom bomb factory) on Easter Monday, to 'Ban the Bomb'. Much amusement was caused by the sign that prohibited photography - and sketching! The police were serious too, even tho all that could be seen through the fence were nondescript buildings! Lots of stirring speeches and a grand day out. RIMG0002.JPG


Rockabilly Jamboree

Originally uploaded by fred pipes.

Following on from the last blog entry, The Hare and Hounds (aka The Hairy Hounds) is just round the corner from me and I must have been in it twice in the past 20 years, but never before upstairs. (Last time was to see local soul band The Champions.) Downstairs on Saturday night was an enthusiastic young punk band The Eleven 37s, but upstairs it was the Rockabilly Jamboree! Gorgeous Rusty was on the door and I'd just missed the support band, so I got a pint of Bombardier and settled down for Jailbait, with Andy Roberts. But it wasn't just Jailbait, there was also burlesque! Including a distressed damsel tied to a cactus, the attack of the 50-foot woman, and of course, Stella Starr in full cowgirl gear. Earlier I'd popped down to the opening of Red Mutha on Trafalgar Street where my old clubbing chum Marky Charles of London was playing with his band Gobsausage. They were very exciting, with lots of noise, naughty gimpishy nudity and microphone throwing! True essence of punk. The kids were gobsmacked!




Originally uploaded by fred pipes.

I've lived in Brighton for over 20 years now, but there are still parts of it to discover - Kemp Town, for example. Last night I met my uke chums Foz? and Peter plus Lisa at a pub I'd never been to - 'the home of the blues in Brighton' The Ranelagh Arms, on a little side road called High Street, for a quick pint before repairing round the corner to Bom-Bane's on George Street. Now I'm sure I've been here before when it was something else, but now it's more an art installation than a restaurant (see it to believe it!), and on alternate Tuesdays they have music downstairs, curated by Jane Bom-Bane's son Rudi. It kicked off with a quartet of violin, Rudi himself on mandolin, banjo and a guitarist singing some sweet songs, with co-proprietor Nick Pynn precariously perched on the spiral staircase fiddling, not with his usual instrument, but with the sound mixer. The tiny space was packed but not uncomfortable and took me back to 1969 and the Arts Lab, when troubadors like Roy Harper, Brigid St John and John Martin would stop by. Artistes were seemingly picking from the instruments hanging on the wall (Nick's?) and playing them! Next up were the mandolin and clarinet duo James and Alex who for me were the stars of the night: lovely voices, excellent songs. The first half concluded with Gabriel Byrne who was OK but whose guitar was annoyingly out of tune. As everyone jostled to buy more Belgian beer, two strange figures sat calmly waiting to start the second half: an African warrior with black feather head dress and a dreadlocked chap in glasses with gourd things on their laps. Music was coming from somewhere, but was it a tape? or was it really eminating from those enigmatic globes. No musician movement could be detected! It was Linos Wengara Magaya and Tim Lloyd from Zimbabwe playing Mbiras (thumb pianos) and even though I couldn't understand a word of the vocals the hypnotic sound really communicated a happy atmosphere. Then, the highlight of the evening, a magical unaccompanied duet from Jane and her beautiful barmaid about a journey around Brighton, ending up at - Bom-Bane's. Top of the bill Sam Beer down from London, was, well very top-of-the-bill! He was a pleasant enough chap and a very accomplished guitarist, but the songs were just the slightest bit dull. Carrier pigeon take me home! The audience, most of whom weren't even born when I moved to Brighton, loved him though, and overall it was a top night out for 3 quid, with not one dud on the bill. Must go back there and try the food!


The Politics Show

Originally uploaded by fred pipes.

Last Tuesday I was phoned by my chum Patricia, who works at Age Concern - she had 24 hours to round up three volunteers to be on telly, riding around on a bus, talking about bus passes. Naturally, being a media tart, I jumped at it. I cycled to Hove Bus Depot and met up with the others, one of which, by complete coincidence, was Clarion Social Secretary Ed Furey! So, along with presenter Max Cotton, bus supremo Roger French and a lady tory councillor, we rode around Brighton filming a piece for Sunday's Politics Show, national section (I was on the local insert a year or two ago talking about Artists' Open Houses)! You can watch it again here for a week - we're on after the eco-houses. Of course, they made us jump through hoops and it all took much longer than expected - and I had to wait until the bitter end so I could get a lift back to my bike. Great fun, tho!


Dulwich day out

Originally uploaded by fred pipes.

My trip out with my newish Giant Halfway 7 folding bike didn't start well. The little tyres were squidgy and they had a different valve to my workhorse Giant Stonebreaker! It has Presta valves, but with a bit of fiddling about (you have to unwind the nipple bit to let the air in) and adjusting of my pump (two plastic things inside the business end had to be turned around and replaced) I got them nice and firm. It was on Brighton station that I realised I'd forgotten to bring a lock, so I cycled down the hill and popped the one from my other bike in my bag and so it was back to London Road station for the second time! The trip to London on the fast train was uneventful - I parked my bike (unfolded) in the designated place by the toilet. Then I wheeled it around to Platform 3 at Victoria for the Orpington train (no cycle space, so i stuck it by the door). First obstacle was at West Dulwich ststion - steps! Hmm not too bad going down, but I'd have to lug it up again on the way back. Then onto the streets of London and a cycle lane most of the way to Dulwich Picture Gallery, where a row of cycle racks outside cheered the heart.

I was there for The Age of Enchantment exhibition, subtitled 'Beardsley, Dulac and their Contemporaries 1890-1930'. It was fabulous. Starting with a whole room of delicious Beardsleys, it led onto room upon room of artwork from the golden age of illustration, with some of the greatest penmanship (and penwomanship) known to man (and woman). From Beardsley's Gothic followers such as the saucy Harry Clarke, Laurence Houseman, Charles Ricketts, and Charles Robinson (no William Heath or Thomas) - but it was great to be able to see his pencil markings to the printer in the margins - through obsessive Glasgow ladies, such as Jessie Marion King, whose 'The White Lady' - drawn on vellum with added touches of silver - has some of the most microscopic pen lines I've ever seen! Through the weirdness of Sidney Sime, to a couple of Rackhams, to the wacky Detmold twins (with Edward's furry animals almost as good as Alan Baker's), to a room devoted to Edmund Dulac. Now, I've seen Dulac's before and was amazed by their colour, not always emulated in the printed book, but I admit being slightly disappointed by this selection, which with a couple of exceptions including the poster for the exhibition, appeared dark and overworked. By the last room we are now into the more decorative Art Deco style and the exhibition concludes with a plate by Clarice Cliff to commemorate Frank Brangwyn's ill-fated House of Lords murals. The exhibition continues until 17 February. Take a magnifying glass.

On the way out I popped into a room containing six (out of a possible seven) pictures of St Sebastian by Guido Reni. It was spot the difference with four of them almost identical (one from a place called Ponce in New Zealand) and another pair similarly similar. Two compositions; six paintings! Remarkable. Apparently if your name is Sebastian you can get in free. The cafe was a bit full of old ladies, so I got on my bike to explore Dulwich Village and a splendid Victorian pub The Crown and Greyhound. I entered through the billiard room (alas with no billiard table) and ordered a lunchtime special of soup (brocolli and stilton) and half a sandwich (crayfish) with a pint of Harvey's. Then it was back to West Dulwich, and all those steps up to the platform, back to Victoria, and again a fast train to Brighton just before the rush hour. Final test for the Halfway was shopping, where the 4-for-3 offer on the beer at Sainsbury's put the 10kg limit of the pannier carrier to the test! Luckily it was downhill all the way home. Will have to sort out some smaller panniers that don't catch on the back wheel!


Touch Me Pipes

Thanks to Adrian Chiles and an item on The One Show about strange British place names (yes, Ramsbottom is one of them), I've discovered that Touch Me Pipes is a small 'tenement' near Trevithian, in Cornwall. The name is an 18th century Cornish expression for 'to rest awhile'. It's on the Lizard peninsula, near St Keverne. Not seen it on a map yet!


Tunbridge Wells

Originally uploaded by fred pipes.

The No. 29, from vibrant metrosexual Brighton to genteel Royal Tunbridge Wells, must be one of the great bus journeys of Britain, wending its way via Lewes (past Harvey's brewery) and Uckfield though the spectacular South Downs and leafy Weald. The occasion was a rare gig by David Devant and his Spirit Wife at the Forum, a former (very grand) toilet on the edge of the common. I alighted at the Pantiles and after checking in at The Swan Hotel, a tavern I can heartily recommend, £60 a night via Late Rooms. [Foz? complained later that his 'boutique' hotel had no tea-making facilities or trouser press, and breakfast comprised dry foreign bread, salami and cheese!]. After a quick visit to the friendly tourist office to get a map, I met up with Peter Chrisp on the High Street and after a visit to a second-hand book shop, where he purchased a copy of Cuban Pete sheet music (with uke chords!) we had coffee in Blends (where the proprietor was the spitting image of Nigel Havers), thence to the Duke of York for a pint or two of Harvey's. Supper proved difficult to find - we were turned away from Pizza Express and Zizzi, but found refuge in an Italian tapas bar called Soprano, where we overordered and observed the pink-wigged hen party opposite! So, stuffed, it was on to the Forum where we caught the end of a set by locals Mr Tom Williams and the Boat, featuring a lady violinist (anyone remember Curved Air?) and harmonica. Then it was the band we came to see. The boys launched straight into 'Cookie' (I think) and powered through a blistering set, Mikey in half glittery costume and cape, Foz? in a monkey suit (I thought he was a teddy bear a la Mark Wallinger until the head made an appearance during the encore, during which he played Mikey's pink uke). Despite being their first gig since the 100 Club, everyone was on top form, and it was a great set. Apparently the band had torn up Mikey's setlist and substituted their own, much to The Vessel's delight. The Forum was full, but very few old faces - Mr Peekaboo was Mr Solo from Brum, and he videod the whole thing on his new gadget. Dai Laffin was there too with a large contingent, and I met a couple from Shoreham.

Next morning, after a hearty breakfast of Alpen (too sweet!), toast, tea and 2 eggs, baked beans, mushrooms and tomato, we met up with Foz? and took the 29 to Isfield where we had 2 hours before the next bus to play on the Lavender Line. Lady Angela, a Peckett Class R2 0-4-0 saddle tank No. 1690 originally from the Gypsum Mines in Nottinghamshire, was waiting in the station, so we jumped into the open-air truck to ride the mile or so to the end of the line and back. We stopped a couple of times on the way back for a photographer to take snaps for next year's brochure - hope we'll be in it! After larking about in the signal box, we had a pint of Old Hookey in the Laughing Fish and jumped back onto the 29 for the ride home.