St Trinian's locos

Watching The Great St Trinian's Train Robbery (1966) on TV the other day it made me wonder how many films contain footage of steam locos and whether these have been documented on the web. For the record, the loco Frankie Howard's robbers were driving was LNER 0-6-0T J50/3 class 68961, introduced 1926, and the one the girls pursued in was a J94 'bucket' saddle tank 68011. The J50s are absent from my 1964 Ian Allen combined volume, so I assume they must have been scrapped by then and the film made with one of the very last as none were preserved. It was too dark to catch the loco being robbed right at the start of the film. Although these are LNER locos, the location was Longmoor military railway, Longmoor Military Camp, Hampshire, also the location for The Lady Vanishes (1938), The Challenge (1960), and Runaway Railway (1965). The new St Trinian's film has had awful reviews, but from the trailers, head girl Gemma Arterton looks utterly gorgeous.


Billy Blake

William Blake is one of the few poets I love. To celebrate his 250th birthday, I'd like to share one of my favourite poems of his from the Rossetti Ms - I made this into a cartoon for the first issue of the Guildford Arts Lab poetry mag Glad Day, but I'm having trouble locating it! I asked a thief to steal me a peach: He turned up his eyes. I ask'd a lithe lady to lie her down: Holy and meek, she cries. As soon as I went An Angel came: He wink'd at the thief, And smil'd at the dame; And without one word [said]* Had a peach from the tree, [And still as a maid]** Enjoy'd the lady. 1st reading deleted * spoke ** And twixt earnest and joke


St Michael's church

Originally uploaded by fred pipes.

A dramatic incident! Whilst visiting some Xmas Open Houses I heard that the roof of St Michael's church, famous for its William Morris, Ford Maddox Brown and Edward Burne-Jones stained glass windows, had blown off in the wind. On arriving I saw that a panel of lead had fallen off the bell steeple and had caused some iron guttering to fall through the roof of the side chapel. The fire brigade were making it safe. I managed to visit today: 6 Clifton Street where I had a glass of glögg and a piece of gingerbread, and bought some Country singer xmas decorations by Peter Chrisp and Lisa Wolfe (the Dolly Parton had sold out); The (Kim) Glass House, where I had a cup of tea and a mince pie and bought a linocut card; 15 Chanctonbury Road where i bought neither food not articles; 13 Granville Road, where I bought an artists' book about Beer by Joe Mclaren; and finally The Dragonfly House, where I had a glass of red wine and bought a Sarah Bidwell lavender bag. I'm ashamed to say I didn't go on the Clarion bike ride today!

Rusty's Round-up

Originally uploaded by fred pipes.

What a brilliant idea - to recreate a Western radio show at the recently redecorated and de-privatised club The Hanbury Ballroom. Rusty's Round-up was built around a fab house band comprising: Andy Roberts (with a very authentic accent) on geetar; Nick Pynn on fiddle; BJ Cole on pedal steel guitar; Graeme Ross on dog-house bass and Debbie Tyndall, backing vocal. There were also guest appearances from Sleepy Ed Hicks (comedy clawhammer banjo), Debbie Doright, and, the star of the show, youngster Elvin Priestley (played by Suspiciously Elvis). Flame-haired Rusty looked gorgeous on the door and the whole thing was masterminded by Laurie Hilton-Ash. I arrived excited and early and sat down at a table (like we did at the Howe Gelb gig) with the nearest thing to beer they sell there - Tetleys! - to be told I couldn't sit down cos I hadn't booked a meal. So, I was decamped to a bar stool and the place began to fill up with noisy diners (plus the odd cowboy and cowgal), a shame cos you couldn't really hear the spoken parts of the show. The recording over and off air, the evening was rounded off by a set by the excellent Jailbait rocking the joint. Wonder what the well-heeled diners thought of it! Note to self: must get a cowboy hat (and shirt).


Joy Division

I was sitting in the Duke of York's last night watching the documentary Joy Division (which should really have been called Ian Curtis) when I wondered why I wasn't watching it at home on the telly. Don't get me wrong, I did enjoy it, but it was mainly talking heads (no Debbie, but Annik was in it and I'd been wondering what she looked like), some rough footage from Super8, and bits of artiness from posh southerner director Grant Gee aiming to make nearly-80s Manchester look like a 1950s Alphaville. We all know it's grim Up North, but it wasn't as bad as all those B&W photos in the snow made it out to be! I was amused however by Hooky's story about Billy Burroughs telling Curtis to 'Fuck off, kid' when he demanded the free book he thought he was entitled to, at Plan K in Brussels. I was at the cinema of course for the Q&A with the director. What did he think of Control (funny how everyone calls it Closer)? He hadn't seen it, far too busy, but will probably get it out on DVD... What did Jon Savage actually write as credited writer? Not actually very much, apparently, but he did give them access to his address book. Is there anything else to be said about Joy Division? Ian Curtis's notebooks are the next big thing. See what Guardian readers thought about it.


Silver screen

What a dark miserable drizzly day! Well, it's Tuesday so that means Silver Screen day at the grand old Duke of York's. It's half-price for pensioners, plus you get a free cuppa tea and a biscuit (my first time so I wasn't sure how many biscuits one is allowed!). Was it packed out then? No! The film was Wes Anderson's The Darjeeling Limited. A film about a train (sadly not steam), three estranged brothers and huge set of posh luggage (designed by Marc Jacobs for Louis Vuitton, with 'suitcase wildlife drawings' by Wes's brother Eric)! I loved it – just the right mixture of comedy and pathos. A feast for the eyes, and a great soundtrack too. It also comes with its own sexy built-in short Hotel Chevalier. A great way to spend a rainy afternoon. The only problem with film, however, is that you can't rewind the bits you miss, like you can on my Topfield.


Frank Sidebottom

Originally uploaded by fred pipes.

I can't remember the last time I saw Frank Sidebottom, but it was over 20 years ago. I don't think his act has changed much, but that's why we like him so much. Being allowed to sing Beatles tracks and Manchester classics like 'There is a light that never goes out' or 'Love will tear us apart' club style, to a jaunty John Shuttleworth keyboard accompaniment, with proper improved (Frank) endings, is a pure joy. And I've never been so close to the great man, and Little Frank, in the sweaty packed-out upstairs Prince Albert (where they are at last doing Harvey's on tap downstairs). Frank must have been boiling in his big head, especially when he kept adding clothes! Check out the Wikipedia page for more titbits on the Timperley troubadour. Support act was the banjotastic hillbilly band Leonard and Bubba’s Delicious Goo-Goo Cluster, starring the Albert's resident sound man on drums.

Meanwhile, the big debate over Led Zeppelin's first UK gig rages on. Leaving aside whether they were Led Zep by then or still the New Yardbirds, the date in question is 15 October 1968 (or 25 October on the Led Zep website). Now, I'm pretty sure I was there, but... by October I would have left Surrey Uni, and I was at the Battersea campus in any case! Was it at Battersea or Guildford? The internet seems to think Guildford, a fair assumption as that's where Surrey Uni is now, but the Great Hall there wasn't built until 1969, and only smallish Boogle gigs (organised by Adrian Boot) were held in the basement of the Chem Eng block! BTW I was just emailed by Peter Panayi, bass player in Helix. Rumours of a Helix reunion are bound to start. Save up for a ticket now!


No win for Clarion :(

A big thank you to all who voted for my Clarion website in the SCIP Brighton Web Awards, but it wasn't to be. Worse news is that neither Myf Nixon's fantastic Draw Anyway website or David O'Connor's Cavalaire Hotel website won anything either!! Deserving winner in my category was Amaze. No free T-hirt, no free drinks, but we did get a goodie bag from the Argus containing... a copy of the Argus, a couple of lectures on user experience and accessibility, and splendid entertainment by the The Ukes of Hazzard.


Vintage bus day at the Bluebell

Originally uploaded by fred pipes.

On Sunday it was vintage bus day on the Bluebell Railway, so I stuck my hand out at St Peter's and got a free ride into the past. I was just in time to see the 'Golden Arrow' of Pullman dining cars pulled by SR U-class 2-6-0 1638 (no name) setting off. My regular train to Kingscote, pulled by O1 Class No 65 was a bit late setting off, but I was treated to the sight of dozens of pheasants, bunnies and two deer along the way. At Horsted Keynes, I copped West Country class pacific 34028 Eddystone going the other way. In the yard at Sheffield Park were SECR Wainwright C-class goods loco No 592, West Country class 34007 Wadebridge, 21C123 Blackmoor Vale and BR Standard 73082 Camelot along with all the other regulars. Bumped into Nick Sayers and family getting off the train! I just missed the 16.05 bus back to Brighton and had half an hour wait, so supped a pint of Bluebell and was driven back in the same not-so-vintage bus through the dark back to Brighton.


Vote for moi!

You have until Wednesday 14 November to vote for my Clarion website in the SCIP Brighton Web Awards. If you're stuck for who else to vote for, Myf Nixon's Draw Anyway website (which deserves Best in show, in my opinion) and David O'Connor's Cavalaire Hotel website are both worthy contenders, done by friends of mine. It was way back in 2002 that I won a T-shirt in the same awards for my Weird Cycle Lanes website!!


Up North part 2: Derby

Originally uploaded by fred pipes.

The plan was to visit Derby to research my ancestors. My great-great-grandfather Samuel had owned a saw mill there, but after he died my great-grandfather George moved to Liverpool, via Salford, thence to Bury. On Sunday I visited my niece in Little Lever ('C'mon baby, do the Locomotion'), who coincidentally would be spending the next few days in Battle, down here! I got a lift to Bury and spent some time on the station watching the steam trains and drinking beer. Monday morning, it was a bus and a tram and then a train to Broadbottom (past a station called Flowery Field!) where Lois's son Joe was doing gymnastics. Then a fantastic drive through Glossop, along the Snake Pass, to Castleton, there to ascend Peveril Castle. Tea and parkin, then back to New Mills.

On Tuesday I got the scenic TransPeak bus across the Peak District. Couldn't get on at The Swan cos of road works so Lois dashed to Furness Vale (Soldier Dick) and I jumped on. The driver however had printed the Wayfarer ticket before I could utter 'concession' so I paid full price of £8.30, still a bargain. The bus/coach went through Buxton, Bakewell and Matlock, with autumnal scenery all around. At Derby I trundled off to find the B&B. I was bursting for the loo, so popped into the Soul Deli for a coffee. The owner asked me if I was an artist and gave me loads of info on where to go. After checking in at the Chambers House, opposite a gothic ex-art school (For Sale), I walked up Macklin Street, where George had lived (oddly there was a Gerard Street just around the corner), then caught a bus to Uttoxeter New Road to check out Sycamore Villa. But where it should have been (no 131) was no 155! What was going on? Towards Derby, past the old cemetery, the houses were 101, 103 etc. Where had the house gone? I bussed back to Derby and to the Local Studies Library to try find out. I looked at newspapers on microfilm, directories and maps and deduced the road had been renumbered! Why didn't I take a photo when I could have? I'd have to go back tomorrow. I popped into the Silk Mill industrial museum briefly thence to Ye Olde Dolphin Inn for a pint of Spooky, a veg moussaka, and a pint of Aleoween. Phoned Paul (friend of Avy) back at the B&B and he suggested a pint at... the Dolphin. So another Spooky then a walk to the Flowerpot and a pint of something or other. I'd asked Phil Dobson to recommend some pubs in Derby and I'd done two of them already.

Wednesday, I had my unimaginative veggie brekky (beans, tinned tomatoes, egg and hash browns) then set off for the art gallery to check out the Joseph Wrights. Then back to the Local Studies Library to finish off a few checks. I'd discovered that Sam's steam saw mill was between City and Mansfield Roads. No loo at the library so I popped into the Cathedral coffee shop for a coffee and soup, then across to the cathedral proper for a quick look. Over the bridge was where the saw mill should have been, but it was a housing estate. Back over the bridge to North Parade where Sam had just bought a house before he'd died in St Alkmund's churchyard (demolished in the 1960s to build the ring road). I didn't know the number but took a snap of those fine Georgian buildings anyway. Final task was to locate Whitecross Street - I traipsed for miles to find it was now a modern housing estate. I should have checked these out on Google Earth first! Bus back to Derby, then bus back to Sycamore Villa to take a snap, then to M&S in the massive brand new Westfield mall. Supper at Paul and Jane's (who live near the bus stop I ended up at when tracing Whitecross Street), taxi home.

Thursday, checked out at 10am, walked to station via Westfield again. The whole south of Derby seems to be new, so there was no point checking out Siddals and Copeland Streets. At the station, discovered that there was an ASLEF strike so no 12.04 to London (I had hours to wait anyway) so popped along to the Brunswick Inn (another Phil recommendation, and the best) the other side of some lovely railway cottages - a pub and a brewery! I had a lovely pint of Father Mike's 5.8% at £2.60 and a bowl of soup. This and the cottages were to be demolished but were thankfully saved. Full train back to the new hi-tech St Pancras ( a student next to me very kindly let me watch a Bruce Willis film 'Hostage' on his iPod), and another full Thameslink home.

Up North part 1: Bury

Originally uploaded by fred pipes.

I nearly didn't get to the autumn steam gala at the East Lancs Railway in Bury. The train from London Road was 8 minutes late, which meant I missed the fast train to Victoria and got to Euston with only 2 minutes to spare. Luckily the ticket man took pity on me and only charged me an extra fiver for the next train. The ticket to Manchester only cost £8.25. Compare that with four quid for the tube ride across London (must charge up that Oyster!) and £3.20 for the tram ride to Bury! On Saturday I got the bus into Bury, went on the market to buy some V-Pud vegetarian black puddings from Chadwick's, some black peas, and a hot butter pie from Stone's in Hornby Buildings, The Rock, which is due to be demolished soon, along with the Odeon next door, to make way for a new Debenhams and yuppy flats. The old slice of Bury opposite the Odeon (including Thompson's chippy) has already been flattened so there will be little left of the town soon! So, down to the trains, passing a couple of vintage buses (a red Rawtenstall and a green Salford) outside Bolton Street Station. LMS 5690 Leander was pulling freight, so I hopped on the train to Heywood pulled by the gorgeous LNER V2 4771 Green Arrow in apple green livery. Back at Bury the loco was changed to BR standard class 4 2-6-0 76079 which took us to Rawtenstall and back, via Ramsbottom. I had a nice bottle of Moorehouse's Black Cat on the train. Also running was a GWR double header of 2-8-0 3802 and 4936 Kinlet Hall. I also spotted an LMS tank pottering about, which I assume was Jinty 47324. There's a complete list of locos at the ELR here. So to the Trackside bar (which always has a fine selection of real ales) for a pint of Knocker Up and to watch the engines shunt in the twilight. Then it was back to my sister's for black peas, parkin and a firework display.



Originally uploaded by fred pipes.

Last night went to the Pavilion Theatre to see African band Kékélé. They must have started on the dot of 8pm, cos they were in full flow when I arrived at 20.05! Three singers, backed by a very laid-back pair of guitarists (using acoustic guitars), a conga player, tenor saxist, drummer and electric bass. As predicted, we couldn't keep still, and a couple of lady stage invasions livened up the proceedings! The Pav served Dark Star at £2.90 a pint, which was a nice surprise, and it was all over, with one encore, by 9.45! If you want to have a great night out and be home in time for cocoa, you can't beat a rumba band from the Congo!

Bulleid weekend at the Bluebell

Originally uploaded by fred pipes.

Last Sunday I cycled down to Pool Valley to jump on a vintage bus taking me to Sheffield Park and the Bluebell Railway. It was their 'Giants of steam' weekend, to celebrate 40 years since the end of Southern steam. It could have been called Bulleid weekend because there were four of his pacifics in attendance: three Spamcans and one rebuilt West Country class loco, plus assorted others. Arriving on my not-so-vintage bus, the train at the staion I jumped on was being pulled by BR tank 80151, ah well. But then a train double-headed by West Country class 34028 Eddystone and visitor streamlined West Country class 34007 Wadebridge thundered in. Whoopee! I travelled 3rd class to Horsted Keynes, where the idea was to get a pint of Harvey's and check out the trains! First was 21C123 Blackmoor Vale in Southern Railway Malachite Green and Sunshine Yellow livery heading back to Sheffield Park, followed by SR U-class 2-6-0 1638 (no name). Terrier 55 Stepney running as a Brighton Works shunter in Stroudley's famous 'Improved Engine Green' (aka baby-shit brown), was tootling up and down pulling a guard's van. The Harvey's had run out and there was a queue at the bar so I hopped aboard the double-header to Kingscote, the end of the line, saw the engines change ends and came back to Sheffield Park, where I had a wander round the sheds. The 4th Bulleid pacific, visiting Battle of Britain class 34081 92 Squadron, in British Railways Brunswick Green livery with orange and black lining, was in the yard but didn't seem to be in steam. All around were other locos, silent and at rest. I watched Wadebridge go out again, on its own this time, and saw Blackmoor Vale come in, noticing that on the other side the nameplate said O.V.S. Bulleid, then it was off home on a proper red vintage bus. Next weekend I'm off to the East Lancs Railway at Bury for their steam gala.


Where has our tree gone?

Originally uploaded by fred pipes.

One of the delights of living where I do are the trees lining Clyde Road and Ditchling Rise. OK they drop leaves (and conkers) and disrupt the pavements, but as a devout tree-hugger, I worship them. But what happened to a younger tree outside the Duke of York's cinema? Marks around the base seem to imply it was a Council job, but why?



Originally uploaded by fred pipes.

Londoners! How do you put up with it? I've done my time in the Big Smoke, having lived there four years and commuted there and back for many more. But I'm glad I only have to endure it rarely these days. Yesterday I had to go see my publisher Laurence King at Angel Islington. Getting there was fairly straightforward: the Thameslink to Kings Cross then a bus. The 10.04 (the first train I could use my railcard on) was rammed and I felt sorry for the American family with two kids, a baby and huge amounts of luggage who got on at Gatwick and detrained, like me, at Kings X Thameslink, a station with lots of steps and no lift. I don't know their ultimate destination, but could hear them given much misinformation from other passengers. After the meeting I headed south to see the Millais exhibition at Tate Britain. I was laden down with heavy books so decided to take the bus all the way to Victoria. Big mistake - on Theobald's Road the driver advised us it'd be quicker to walk! What with roadworks and selfish drivers blocking junctions, the whole of the Holborn area was in gridlock. I had to walk all the way to Centre Point on the Tottenham Court Road before I could rebus. At Victoria I grabbed a sandwich from M&S and headed to the Tate on the C10. Millais is my least favourite Pre-Raphaelite, and this was confirmed by this exhibition. Apart from his early paintings, they look overworked and murky, the faces sometimes seem like porcelain plaques collaged onto the freer painted canvas. Even the later Scottish landscapes look better in reproduction than in the flesh. It was worth seeing, however, and I got in free thanks to Amanda's friend of Friend card. Great to see the drawings - and his palette and brushes - and how some of the paintings, ie The North-West Passage, are enormous! Roll on the Holman Hunt show! I had a quick look at the Turner Prize Retrospective show and Hockney on Turner, but by then was cultured out! Bought a couple of badges: one by Jake and Dinos Chapman saying 'I've been bad' and one by Sara Fanelli saying 'Future artist'. Back on the C10 to Victoria and a fast train home, covered in aches and pains.


The Curst Sons

Originally uploaded by fred pipes.

Sorry Pog I missed the gig last night - too cream crackered from the Clarion bike ride to Worthing and back. But looking at your MySpace site I see it was cancelled, so I don't feel so bad! I did go see the excellent Asbo Derek and The Curst Sons, a hillbilly threesome of banjo, guitar and rhythm stick/washboard, at the City Gate Centre on Saturday night. There was a different sort of clientele that night, a little less dapper, a little more crusty! But a yee-har dancin' good time was had by all. Hear them here. They were joined by a very competent father/daughter country/folk duo in need of a fashion makeover called The Joneses (from Wales). Then I trod the familiar path to the Duke of York's for a screening of the 1921 silent film The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari accompanied by the Radio Reverb Orchestra, starring my old celebrity chum Gus Garside. I'd not seen the film before and loved the amazing Expressionist sets and titles, but the arts of acting and storytelling have improved somewhat since it was made! And I got a free badge from Anna Moulescoomb! I wasn't going to bother - and I needed an early night - but it was free and just round the corner, so what the hell. This week I shall be staying in a bit more.


Brighton Live

Originally uploaded by fred pipes.

This blog was only ever meant as an aide memoire pour moi, so please don't expect any detail or critique! It's been a busy week what with the wonderful Brighton Live putting on free gigs all over the place, and often nearby. Last Tuesday I popped down to Audio (formerly the Escape) to catch The Fuck You Planet Earth (aka Mark's band) who are a lot less frantic than they used to be, in fact quite mellow! Just Mark on acoustic, a Jack Black-lookalike electric guitarist and drummer. It was an early gig so I got back home in time for Holby City and Silent Witness. No mySpace yet. Wednesday was the NUJ Brighton Branch AGM at the bland Brighthelm (but pub after) and I thought I'd catch Peggy Sue and The Pirates at Barfly (formerly the Gloucester) but there was a long queue so I didn't bother. Thursday was the monthly Brighton Illustrator Group meeting at Castor and Pollux (on the subject of Agents), but it was late when it ended so went home. Friday aftrenoon I popped down to the Corn Exchange for the Brighton Art Fair, had a bottle of Harvey's and a natter with some old mates, then home. I'd filmed the road-roller printmaking in Pavilion Gardens on the Monday - see photo above (and spent most of last week trying to improve the video on YouTube to no avail!) and the finished prints looked great. After my tea, I popped down to the City Gate Centre above Blockbusters and caught the end of a set by Los Piratas, a jolly South American style band with accordian and ukulele. I'd come to see The Ukes of Hazzard, 3 ukes and a bass, 3 blokes and a gal, but they were disappointing and only came alive during the last number.Don't get me wrong I love Django-style jazz numbers but more variety would have been nice. By this time the quasi-religious hall was filling with 50s throwbacks and rockabilly joungsters awaiting the jumpin' jivin' sounds of the Fat 45s (hear 'em here) - there were hundreds of them and they were great - doing a mixture of Louis Jordan and rock 'n' roll - any band with a honkin' baritone sax is OK by me! Well, the joint was still jumpin' as a pedalled up the road to the grand old Duke of York's for David Bramwell's Oddfellows Casino: David on piano, sounding a cross between Paul McCartney and Victoria Wood, singing wistful Northern songs accompanied by a lovely lady flautist (Eliza?), an electric guitarist and another bloke on trumpet (it was getting late!). David's website is a bit out of date; so is the MySpace! This was followed by a screening of the 1932 film Freaks - amazingly I stayed awake throughout! Aiming to see Asbo Derek and The Curst Sons tonight, but I do need an early night. Well done, Brighton Live - I just wish I had more stamina!


Howe Gelb

Originally uploaded by fred pipes.

Howe Gelb was a delight last night at the newly redecorated and de-privatised club The Hanbury Ballroom in Kemp Town. I'm not yet familiar with Mr Gelb's oeuvre - I confess the only song I recognised was Ketty Lester's lovely 'Love letters', but he was a class act, accompanying himself on guitar and grand piano along with Swedish bass player Thoger Lund and - thanks to the enthusiastic audience - doing a long encore with various members of the bands of the supports. Who were: Kate Maki from Canada, who stood in for a choir during the encores, and Lonna Kelley from Arizona (with a great electric guitarist, heavy on the tremolo). It's a wonderful venue and as intimate as it gets, but be warned there's no proper beer at the bar!


I like trains

Of course, I didn't actually see anyone die on Saturday - I saw a chain of events that led me to believe no-one could have survived. And that has been confirmed since: Brian Brown of Doncaster crashed Hawker Hurricane BD707 from Duxford into a field near Lancing College during a simulated dogfight involving Spitfires, Hurricanes and Messerschmitts during Shoreham Airshow. That shocking and tragic event has rather reset my memory. I was going to blog that Thursday and Friday nights were ideal for the elderly gentleman about town. Thursday's Catalyst Club [when is Cheeky David going to update his website?] provided four talks for four quid, plus a slideshow on the World Moustache and Beard Championships of which David Bramwell was a judge. The talks were: Astrology (boring), Pierrepoint (by Ross Gurney-Randall who had a play called 'Follow me' on the subject at Edinburgh), cunnilingus (rather puerile), and finally and aptly Hitler's moustache (apparently he had bits sticking out each side in the first world war but his sister in law in Dublin told him to cut them off - later she said 'I think he's gone too far'! A white supremacist website say it was the minimum necessary to purify the air going up his nostrils...). Friday night , I popped into the MA illustration show PV briefly but it was a pay bar so resolved to go back when it's less busy. Onwards to the seafront and the Jonny Hannah PV at Castor and Pollux. The show is entitled 'Hot dogs and rocket fuel' and Jonny does gorgeous linocuts and silkscreened prints (usually at BIP) and has painted several 'oilcans' (great value at £120 each). Whenever I see a book cover I like these days, it's usually by Jonny - so he's getting the respect he deserves. Mike Levy was very generous with the 'red plonk' so I was quite merry when I set off along the beachfront (past a huge queue to see Maximo Park at a new nightclub called Digital) to Barfly (formerly The Gloucester) to see iLiKETRAiNS. Any band with that name I've got to like, especially as they issue Railcards and have an enamel badge to buy with iLiKETRAiNS written in a British Railways totem. I used my former to buy the latter at the merchandise stall and received a free button badge and poster! They were excellent live, albeit very sombre and downbeat, a bit like British Sea Power. And it was all over by 11pm so I could get home to my pipe, slippers and wee dram of whatever is on special offer at Sainsbury's this week. Many thanks to Anna Moulescombe of Melting Vinyl for getting me in. Train spotters will see from my Flickr website that I was at the Bluebell Railway yesterday with the Clarion cycling club (Horsted Keynes buffet does a lovely pint of Harvey's). Tonight it's Howe Gelb at the newly refurbished and private-members club The Hanbury Ballroom in Kemp Town. Wonder if it's proper beer there or will I have to resort to the old standby of lime 'n' soda again?


Pilot Is Named

The pilot of Hurricane BD707 has been named: Tragic Airshow Pilot Is Named (from The Argus): "Moving tributes have been paid to a Hawker Hurricane pilot killed when his historic fighter aircraft nose-dived into a field at Shoreham Airshow. Brian Brown, an experienced airman from Yorkshire, was killed instantly when the plane, which was taking part in a Battle of Britain dogfight display, crashed at 3.20pm on Saturday."


Shoreham Air Show

Originally uploaded by fred pipes.

I saw someone die today. It was horrible. At first I thought it was a stunt: plane dives behind trees followed by a big bang, just like in the Battle of Britain films. Only it was real, surreal because it was during a simulated World War II dogfight complete with 'anti-aircraft guns' and fireball bombs going off on the runway of Shoreham airport. Then I spotted a plane near Lancing College going straight down towards the ground. I waited for it to reappear but there was an ominous pause, then the explosion I photographed from Rick and Krysia's Velux window! I always used to joke that I carried a camera around in case of a plane crash - now I've actually seen one and it wasn't funny. It was a Hurricane apparently and the show carried on, 'because that was what he would have wanted' so they said on the Tannoy. I need a drink.


The Monkey's Paw Club

I haven't been out much lately so - thanks to a Facebook aside from socialite Peter Chrisp - last night popped down to the Komedia for the inaugral meeting of The Monkey's Paw Club: 'a literary evening inspired by the legendary Hellfire Clubs, Tales of the Unexpected, Ripping Yarns and Gothic Horror! An opportunity for Louche Libertines, Dapper Dilettantes and Cunning Courtesans to convene in leisurely fashion over fine wine and shady conversation'. Well, no David Devant unfortunately, but an evening of storytelling, burlesque and physical theatre staged by Vavavavoom's Stella Starr and Mr World Moustache Championships Michael 'Atters' Attree. The Monkey's Paw is a three-wishes gothic horror story by WW Jacobs and we were treated to a reading of it by Guy Venables from the throne. This was after erotic stories from Stella and some Sherlock Holmes. In the second half things got more physical: a deadpan clown with bubble skills called Mr Ed, lots of saucy vampiresses, and finally a magic lantern show and 'seance' by Atters, with ectoplasm everywhere! Top night out for the more discerning (and elderly) punter (seated, and all over by 11pm), despite the price of Komedia beer! This morning around 6.50am I was woken up by 8 or 10 bangs that sounded like gun shots! Eek!


Statue stolen for scrap

Police Piece Together Statues Last Moments (from The Argus): it's surely the end of civilisation as we know it when a bronze statue is hacksawed to bits for an estimated 100 quid's worth of scrap! A Henry Moore statue was stolen in 2005 (presumably for scrap) from the courtyard of the Henry Moore Foundation in Perry Green, Much Hadham in Hertfordshire. Nearer home, the bronze statue of Olympic gold medallist Steve Ovett was stolen from Preston Park, Brighton last weekend. Police have since recovered pieces of it across the London Road from a bonfire near a tree protest camp. A 44-year old woman was arrested and later cautioned. That's it! Sculptor Peter Webster, then a teacher at Cardinal Newman School, spent four years creating the £25,000 piece some 20 years ago. He was also responsible for the statue of Max Miller on New Road. Peter lives across the road from me!



Originally uploaded by fred pipes.

It's not often that Brighton is visited by a steam loco - and even rarer for such a beautiful beast as 'Spam-can' Battle of Britain class 34067 Tangmere (built at Brighton in 1947) to steam through my local station, London Road. So I dragged myself up at the crackle of the dawn at 8.55am to cop the train to Faversham Hop Festival belching out filthy smoke along the Lewes line. I knew it was coming back to Brighton at 10.12pm so thought I'd watch it steam over the viaduct. That would have made a fantastic photo in daylight! Tangmere will be this way again, passing through Preston Park, Hove and Worthing, for a trip to Bath and Bristol on 22 September. The rest of the day? A 22-mile bike circular from Berwick (not -on-Tweed!) with the Clarion.


Kent & East Sussex Railway

Originally uploaded by fred pipes.

The joy of being semi-retired is that you can take your Bank Holiday any old time! On Monday, I went against the flow cycling out of Brighton to go foraging for blackberries and sloes in Patcham. I'd wanted to visit the Kent and East Sussex Railway Open Day but discovered the country buses didn't run on Sundays and Bank Holidays. So, it was Bank Holiday Tuesday then. Once upon a time you'd make for the busiest interchanges, like Crewe, to spot trains, now you have to get to the deepest countryside. I used to be sniffy about light railways (and still am a bit about narrow gauge railways) but this is a delightful 11-mile track from leafy Tenterden to Bodiam Castle, through the Rother valley. I got the train to Hastings and planned to get the two-hourly 349 to Bodiam (trying to find bus info on the web is a nightmare - sites like Traveline take you all round the houses!). When I arrived at Hastings station, however, I noticed a 340 already in heading for Tenterden, so hopped on and my bus pass took me into Kent! The route took me twice past the railway - at Northiam and Rolvenden - and eventually at tenterden it was a short walk down Station Road to the ticket office. I'd just missed the 13.15 (pulled by a WD 'Bucket' saddle tank) so went for a cup of tea and a toasted teacake and caught the 14.20 pulled by a little Wainwright P class tank no. 753, in the livery of the S E & C R. I had a 3rd class compartment to myself and was able to enjoy the sulphurous fumes and cinders in my face, jumping from side to side of the non-corridor compartment with each bend! Oh what joy! I decided not to get off at the shed at Rolvenden as the logistics of catching my last bus were too tight. Spotted 2 other WD saddle tanks and an ugly USA class loco in grey with WD1960 painted on the tank. [Full list of locos can be found on the Wikipedia page.] The other train passed us (without stopping, as we did on the way back) at Wittersham Road. Then it was on to Bodiam and a fine view of a proper castle, ie one with battlements and a moat! On the way back I was joined by a family of mum, two kids, and 'Steve', who'd been to visit it. Back at Tenterden I had an hour to kill so visited the Colonel Stephens museum (an extra £1.50!). Therein I discovered a fascinating coincidence. Holman Fred Stephens, who built this and other light railways, was the son of Pre-Raphaelite Frederic George Stephens, and godson of William Holman Hunt! Inside the museum was another loco - Gazelle, an 0-4-2 from the Shropshire and Montgomeryshire Railway, described as the smallest preserved [standard gauge] locomotive in the world. Great day out: I'd seen three castles (we passed Pevensey Castle and Hastings Castle on the train), lots of wildlife, including a fox by the tracks just outside Hastings station, and seen a beautiful old loco built in 1909 still in steam. Bliss.


Edinburgh Festival 2007

Edinburgh Festival 2007
Originally uploaded by fred pipes.

Apologies that this is more like a list than a blog! It's my annual pilgrimage to Edinburgh.

Thursday 9 August: travel up to Edinburgh on GNER up the east coast. Spotted 6225 Duchess of Hamilton (or was it 6233 Duchess of Sutherland visiting? a tea trolly got in the way) outside York Railway Museum, possible the most beautiful loco ever built. Child playing with Thomas the Tank Engine toys doesn't even look up. Customary pint of 80/- at the Cally Bar at Haymarket, followed by walk to Sam's, then walk to Pleasance courtyard for a few more pints.

Friday 10 Aug: Hangover, vow to 'never again'. Visit Warhol exhibition at the Mound. Sam is a 'friend' so we get to the front of the queue and free entry. Play with the silver balloons (I take an illegal photo!), liked the children's room with the robot paintings. Walk to Fruitmarket to see the Alex Hartley exhibition (he who climbs buildings) and have a sit down. Up to Halfway House on Fleshmarket Close for a pint. Took in a couple of galleries on Fopp Street, notably John Stezaker's montages at Stills and a comic book thing I couldn't see the point of at Collective. Free comedy at Canon's Gate - inc. the whole of Peter Buckley Hill's one-man show. Sam and his friend Kenny sneaked out. Off to Udderbelly for more pints - spotted Nicholas Parsons in the queue.

Saturday 11 Aug: Art Bus to the Modern Art Museum to see the Richard Long exhibition - lots of mud, mud, glorious mud! Shame they didn't sell souvenir pots of ... mud! Met Paul at Guildford Arms then bus to pub near Queen's Hall, thence to see the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain. They did a great 1.5 hour set, but didn't do 'Smells like Teen Spirit'. I had an early night (watched miserable Mike Leigh film 'All or Nohing' on TV with a wee dram).

Sunday 12 August: Festival Sunday on the Meadows, just behind Sam's flat. Saw (heard) some comedy: Paul Sinha, Josie Long and Al Pitcher, all very funny. I'd just about pushed my way to the front and a view, when an American woman with guitar came on and cleared the tent. Sat outside the Speigeltent in the rain for a bit then went for a meal at Kushies and then to the Bow Bar and met Nick. Up to the Underbelly (I asked Sam what this building was used for when the festival wasn't on - he said nothing, it was too dangerous!). In the Belly Dancer we saw Fisher King Leven, of which Jackie Leven was the star. Didn't really work - they were all good, but each sat and waited for his turn.

Monday 13 Aug: day trip to Newcastle. I've been through Newcastle on the train for the past 11 years and always wondered what it looked like so got up at the crack of dawn for a day oot on the toon. Got metro to Monument and walked to the Laing Gallery. I love Victorian art and this is a gem. It has a lovely room of 1930s paintings too, all beautifully captioned. Star is Holman-Hunt's 'Pot of Basil' but there is a whole wall of John Martins and a Burne-Jones. I was delighted by an exhibition of watercolours by the Richardsons, and the Thomas Bewick collection of wood engravings. Had lunch with old friend Yvette and she told us aboot the electric bus. My tip: forget about the metro, etc - get a £1.50 day saver and use the electric bus (Quaylink) - it goes everywhere you want to go (except Seven Stories and the Biscuit Factory). So I got one across the swing bridge and into Gateshead to the Baltic, went up in the lift and walked down (Beryl Cook show was on, plus Dazed & Confused vs. Warhol, with silver balloons you could photograph, but weren't allowed to touch!), across the Millennium eyelash bridge for a lovely pint of Gladiator at the Crown Posada - no idea where that name comes from! Back on the bus to the Sage for a coffee then back to the station via the Bigg Market (didn't spot the Fat Slags tho). Train was running 40 minutes late so thought I might miss Stewart Lee (the 41st best stand-up ever) at the Udderbelly. Got cab and they kindly let me in! He was great and did a very brave Josie Long silent surreal ending! Spotted him the next day with a bag of chips in his hand but forgot to shout 'Weightwatchers' at him!

Tuesday 14 Aug: bus to Talbot Rice Gallery (outside which I spotted the above Stewart Lee!) to see David Batchelor's show Unplugged, basically totem poles of pound-shop objects ordered by colour. There were some geodesic spheres made from sunglasses that Nick Sayers would have liked, but the drawings were disappointing. Windows have mysteriously been revealed in one wall! Walked down to the City Arts Centre and got a concessionary admission with my bus pass to see the huge 'Hand Heart and Soul' arts and crafts exhibition. Some beautiful objects and paintings, I particularly liked Basil Spence's perspective of a church complete with comical figure mowing the lawn. Met Nick at the Stand for our annual trip to Simon Munnery's AGM, always good value. After a one-hour show we were led down to Arthur Smith's art gallery for another hour and half of chess-pool, motions and various pieces of Sherlock Holmes and Germaine Greer. Lost my brolly while going to loo so got taxi to Pleasance and Andrew Lawrence's show 'Socal leprosy for beginners and improvers'. I'd never seen him before. He was young and edgy, both nervous and offensive in a very funny fast way. Nick and Sam both got picked on (we were on the front row) but he left me alone!

Wednesday 15 Aug: home. Dumpling business lunch with Sam and Rob at Chop Chop then on the 12.58 from Haymarket to Euston, changing at Crewe! It was a ridiculously cheap ticket and I've always wanted to change at Crewe so went for it. Never again. The journey was along the west coast was pretty at first, through mountains and the lake district, but tedium soon set in and on the penultimate leg on Thameslink I was squashed in by a bloke with laptop! It took 9.25 hours to get home - not recommended! Thanks to Toni my courgette survived my absence and there weren't too many phone messages or emails either. Now I need a rest!


Mia Riddle at the Albert

Mia Riddle at the Albert
Originally uploaded by fred pipes.

Went to see Mia Riddle and her band last night at the Albert, the first time I'd been there since the smoking ban - a great gig marred slightly by a dodgy pint of Harvey's (the first ever)! There was a small barrel on the bar downstairs and the first pint tasted like nectar. The next pint from upstairs, dredged from the bottom of the barrel, was just not up to scratch and I left half of it! First on was a guitar duo called Tandy Hard - great voice, but the miserablist songs made Leonard Cohen sound like George Formby. We needed cheering up and Pog never fail to deliver, tho most of the songs were about nightmare relationships! Kerry was off in Mongolia looking after orphan babies, so bass stand-in was Simon. After a rousing 'In Heaven' we were taken there again by Mia's angelic voice. She was with full band, including a dishy banjo player, Laurel Wells, who must be a bit of a model/fashion designer judging from her MySpace site. Had to rush home for a glass of Soberano to wash away the bad Harvey's taste... Took some truly atrocious photos - just can't get the settings right for low-lighting.



Originally uploaded by fred pipes.

My garden is a jungle at the moment, what with all the rain, but I'm reluctant to do anything about it, cos my pond has spawned millions of micro-frogs! I have to be careful stepping out of the back door as they like to congregate there! This one would have fitted on my little finger nail, had I been able to catch it! Boy, can they jump!

Pog at The Sanctuary

Pog at The Sanctuary
Originally uploaded by fred pipes.

I'm sure the 'Cella' at The Sanctuary in Hove has shrunk - or rather the bar has expanded. Only Continental-style lagers I'm afraid, but I'm there for the launch of Pog's 59th album 'Finding hope in unlikely places'. It's their best so far, with great tracks they've been playing live for a while, such as 'Because it's football' (a brave critique on the new-build Seagulls' stadium plannned for a green field on the edge of the South Downs), 'In Heaven' (the la la song), 'London's Grand Parade' and 'Phone in well'. The setlist was the album, straight through, tho Deacon, Wob, Paul and Kerry didn't have time to do the penultimate track. The lighting wasn't conducive to good photos (Kerry was in shadow most of the set) - well, that's my excuse anyway! And the set was punctuated by power cuts activated by the noise limiter! Supports were Spalien Acecraft (who missed a rhyming opportunity with 'cemetery' in their song about the Vogue Gyratory), and the multi-media minidisc-powered Project Adorno doing a psychogeographic essay on London (the Central line used to be longer when it went to Ongar). Top night out, and only a fiver (including a free CD!) Catch Pog at their next gig on Wednesday at the Albert with Mia Riddle.


Courage at St Matthew's

Courage at St Matthew's
Originally uploaded by fred pipes.

Well, the Worthing Festival Open Houses are closed for another year! Well done Dan and the RAG Artists and Makers. Bought a cute glove animal from Erica Smith and a Penguin Pool book from badge queen Anwen Williams at the St Matthew's Courage show then headed to Thompson Towers to invigilate. I sold another Shoreham Airport print! Woo Yay! Then I hot footed it to Lesley Buckingham's in Patcham for her birthday and lots of CAKE! (But I was yearning for savoury and apparently missed a Terre a terre spread!) Still, the cake was gorgeous, especially the Madeira Cake, made by Lesley's mother. Sunday, I did my bit for charity, marshalling on the Capital to Coast bike ride, manning the rest stop at the top of Devils's Dyke. Took my folding Giant Halfway on its maiden voyage downhill all the way home!



Save The Old Toll Bridge

Yes folks, it's my annual token Charity bike ride on 22 July! It's not in aid of cancer, nor will it save any Third-World children - it's for an old wooden bridge in Shoreham by Sea! See a description here. And I'm only doing a pathetic 10 miles! Please don't offer more than 50p, but if I do get a few sponsors, I won't feel so foolish handing my form in!


Get John Shuttleworth chartbound!

John Shuttleworth is currently number 96 in the Physical Top 100, but no. 29 in the Indie Charts! This blog - Hotmilkydrink: Get my hero chartbound! -says it all!


Worthing Open Houses

Originally uploaded by fred pipes.

After a blissful night's rest at Hingley Heights (Malcolm from The Office lives downstairs!), and a hearty breakfast of crumpets, Guinness Marmite and Belgian apricot jam, we set off in Amanda's air-conditioned motor car to the coast and Worthing for the Artists and Makers Festival. Failing to grab a copy of the East End Advertiser's advertised Special on Street Sex, we proceeded towards the Blackwall Tunnel and the M25. All was going swimmingly until the Brighton turn-off, where we encountered gridlock! We continued to the next junction at the picturesque village of Reigate, and turned towards Dorking. Everyone was delighted to see the giant cock of Dorking on a roundabout that we passed! The A24 down to Worthing was a breeze and despite never approaching the town from the north, found Thompson Towers quite by accident! Dan was out doing a curated bike tour of the Open Houses, so we had tea and a piece of Sheila Guyatt's fabulous fruit cake in the garden. Rob and Amanda went sightseeing and I stayed invigilating. No sales yet, but Dan is doing quite well. Rob and Amanda kindly gave me and my many carrier bags a lift back to Brighton and home, en route to Hastings. A night in watching the Tour de France on ITV4 followed, and so to bed.

Tour de France prologue

Tour de France prologue
Originally uploaded by fred pipes.

On Saturday, after a great breakfast I had the fabulous treat of a trip by motor car to the Canary Wharf Waitrose, one of the grandest in the world. Out into the agoraphobic open air and with a Boots sandwich in my bag, I entered the cathedral-like space that is Canary Wharf tube station on route to the Tour de France. The tube was jammed with people on their way to Wembley to see Spinal Tap at Live Earth, but eventually I got to St James's Park and found a gap on the route of the Prologue on Victoria Street, a long straight view in both directions. At 3pm the race started, with each rider led by a motorbike (alternating British bobby and French gendarmerie) and followed by about three cars of spare bikes and a tv crew! After a while I decided to walk to the start, past Westminster Abbey and Parliament Square where there was a big screen. I was surprised to get a reasonable view of the start on Whitehall near Downing Street, and all the police motorbikes. I then moved on to the finish, through St James's Park, past all the coaches where cyclists were warming up. No view for me at the crowded finish, so I wandered back to my original position, taking in Bradley Wiggins warming up at the Cofidis coach. Saw the last few riders, then went to a pub by the tube station to have a pint of London Pride and watch the results on the TV. Despite various texts and phone calls, didn't manage to hook up with anyone! Then it was back by District Line to Mile End for a fabulous supper cooked by Amanda of broadbean soup followed by butternut squash risotto and Eton mess, all washed down with kir royale and wine, with live Spinal Tap from Wembley on TV. Bliss.

David Devant at 100 Club

David Devant
Originally uploaded by fred pipes.

It was an action-packed weekend up the Big Smoke, so will have to do this in installments! Travelled up on the Thameslink train with Peter and Lisa and first stop was the Cartoon Museum for a W Heath Robinson exhibition entitled 'Helpful Solutions', featuring mostly his big monochrome contraptions, plus two real machines, apparently made for a Jonathon Ross show! The Cartoon Museum is a gem, never been there before, but has some great cartoons on show. Bought a catalogue, had a coffee round the corner (all those streets around the British Museum have been pedestrianised!) then off to Trafalgar Square for the opening ceremony of the Tour de France. Charring Cross Road had been blocked off (literally with concerte blocks) so I walked down, and met up with Nick and Rob by the Fuji stall, amazingly! The Square was rammed and with no chance of a view (even the big screens were obscured by trees!) we decided to head up to The Angel (a Sam Smith's pub) for a couple of pints. Then it was on to the 100 Club, snatching a veggie roll on the way. With our virtual tickets in our hands, first surprise was there was David Devant ephemera for the taking at the ticket booth! A programme complete with setlist, Spirit Specs and Psychic Selector, a Fantasy Fag and a Spirit Eye. Oh what joy! Just like the old days. We grabbed a table by the side of the stage by a poignant George Melly poster and settled down to watch the supports: a sort of school orchestra, Boogaloo Stu ( a sort of camper smarter version of the Vessel) with the gorgeous Sparklemotion Dancers (who once supported Mr Solo), and some chaps (and a chappess) in white boilersuits making a racket. Then it was on with the show. They did the complete 'Work, Lovelife, Miscellaneous' in order, but with 'I'm Not Even Going To Try' at long last renamed 'Auntie Mabel', plus the two tracks from the single given away with the vinyl version of the LP (and if you don't know what they are, you're not much of a fan, eh!). Not much Spectral Roadie action or bagpipes unfortunately but a great singalong set neverthless with audience invasions and interaction a-plenty. Encore was 'Space Daddy', 'Dangerous Dilettante' and finally the magnificent 'Pimlico'. Fantastic! Then it the night bus to Mile End, where Rob and Amanda had kindly agreed to put me up...



Coffee at the De La Warr

Coffee at the De La Warr
Originally uploaded by fred pipes.

Did a shift on the 20th Century Society stall at the Midcentury Modern fair at the marvellous De La Warr Pavilion in Bexhill on Sea. This is such a wonderful design icon, that even the coffee in the cafe is a work of art! But there is no cycle parking to be found anywhere near! Also took in a fab but smallish exhibition of designers' drawings called Vision Bank, including Erich Mendelsohn's first ideas for the pav, Sir Giles Gilbert Scott’s design for the K2 phone box (1924), Henry Beck’s preliminary sketch of the London Underground (1931) and Sir Joseph Paxton's blotting paper doodle for the Crystal Palace. As I'm writing this I can hear 76079 steaming out of Brighton back to Bristol. I can't believe I missed it when I got off the diesel from Bexhill at Brighton station!


Drawing for designers

Drawing for designers
Originally uploaded by fred pipes.

The advance copies of my new book have just arrived: one UK, one US. I still find this exciting! The cover illo is by Karim Rashid. ISBN is 978 1 85669 533 6. Publisher is Laurence King.


Lord Nelson

Lord Nelson
Originally uploaded by fred pipes.

It was an unexpected delight to see smoke over Hove station as I exitted Ellen's 50th at Ralli Hall around 11pm. I knew it was Lord Nelson, but it should have been at Hove much earlier (21.20 according to the tour company's website, on its way back from Bristol). I was a little bit drunk so the whole thing was like an amazing dream! I do have the albeit wobbly photos to prove it was real tho. Earlier in the day I'd been in Worthing to lend support to the launch of the Artists and Makers Festival. Dan had been up at 9am with young Edward to spot the Lord from a Worthing footbridge (without smoke deflectors). It was also the occassion of a handing over of a petition to the Mayor to save Elisabeth Frink's 'Desert Quartet' sculptures from being removed by the developer who was supposed to have 'gifted' them to the town. Alison Lapper was to have done it but she was late (but in time for the photos -- see some in Facebook). I had a quick look round Worthing - noting that the 'New Amusements' sign on the pier has been replaced by 'Pier Amusements', bought some chilli beer from Stumpy on the farmers' market, plus some BOGOF brocolli ('picked that morning', that would only go to feed the pigs if I didn't buy it!), and did a turn in the festival shop. Then it was a quick trip to snap the other big heads at Amelia Park, and a dash into Lidl for Norwegian smoked salmon. This morning I felt a bit rough and listening to the rain belting down outside decided not to do my planned Clarion ride around Littlehampton.


Radioactive vases

Radioactive vases
Originally uploaded by fred pipes.

Went along to Cafe Scientifique last night for the first time, at the Branch Tavern. It's a bit like the Catalyst Club, only there's just one speaker, and it's free! Pint of Courage Best in my hand I went upstairs to listen to Steve Ashley of the National Physical Laboratory and Uni of Surrey (my old stamping ground) talk about 'Radiation in the strangest of places', basically arguing that naturally occuring Radon gas is much more of a worry than human-made radiation, although there are some surprising highly radio-active artefacts around: the luminous instruments of a Lancaster bomber for example, in home smoke alarms, and in glassware. I put Steve up overnight in my lodgers' room and asked him to test with his Geiger counter the two Pilkington's Royal Lancastrian vases I bought at an antique shop in Compton over 20 years ago, which I've always suspected may have a Uranium glaze. Alarmingly, it made as much noise with the vases as it did when he waved it over a lump of pitchblende back at the Branch Tavern!


Mark 'Uke' Walsh

Originally uploaded by fred pipes.

Popped along to the Kemp Town Karnival on Saturday to sample some of Luca's pancakes, but she was busy so I had a slice of anchovy and onion pizza round the corner (and bought another courgette plant to replace the one eaten by snails). Further along the Max Miller Appreciation Society had a stall and I was lucky enough to catch a set by Mark 'Uke' Walsh doing a few George Formby numbers. It was strange to see Max Millers, Morris Men and Bretons all in the same patch.


Bury babies

I'm from Bury, Lancs (or Greater Manchester as it is now) and I always knew that Bury was famous for Sir Robert Peel, who invented the police, John Kay (any relation to comedian Peter Kay I wonder?), inventor of the flying shuttle, and Victoria Wood. I went to school with another relatively famous Burmunian, Peter Skellern. But I was amazed to find on the Facebook Bury Babies group a whole list of famous people from or with connections to Bury. Cherie Blair for example was born in Bury. Richmal Crompton, a distant relative of mine and author of the Just William books, was also born in Bury (Ramsbottom actually). Here is a selection of other notable people who were born or brought up in Bury: Celia Birtwell: textile designer and David Hockney muse Danny Boyle: film director Lol Creme and Kevin Godley of 10cc Anna Friel: former Brookside actress Guy Garvey and the rest of Elbow Reg Harris: world cycling champion Ralf Little: Antony from The Royle Family Gary & Phil Neville: international footballer twins Martin Noble of British Sea Power Mike Read: DJ Lisa Riley: Emmerdale actress Mark E Smith and other musicians from The Fall Ian Wallace: drummer with King Crimson.


Zoot Money (and John Shuttleworth)

Originally uploaded by fred pipes.

One of my favourite albums of all time is a 1965 compilation from Decca called R&B which featured John Mayall, Alexis Korner, Graham Bond and Zoot Money's Big Roll Band. Since then Zoot's appeared with GRIMMS and Vivian Stanshall, amongst many others, and is still touring, with the British Blues Quintet, featuring Zoot (keyboards and vocals), Colin Allen (drums), Colin Hodgkinson (bass), Miller Anderson (guitar) and Maggie Bell (vocals). I can't remember ever seeing Zoot live, but on Saturday night I did, in a marquee by Shoreham Beach, part of the Adur Festival. Zoot was in fine voice, and for the first time I noticed a Mose Allison influence. Maggie (ex-Stone the Crows) was belting them out too and soon had the audience of a certain age bopping on the dance floor! Guitarist Miller (from Houston, Scotland!) was in great form - you could almost imagine Clapton in the room! All except the drummer took at turn at vocals. A truly all-star lineup. Harvey's was on offer, but at 3 quid a pint!

Earlier that day I was on the Brighton leg of the World Naked Bike Ride (though not, you'll be glad to hear, naked!). Friday night I was down the Komedia again to see John Shuttleworth in his new show 'With my condiments'. Laser screeder from Goole Dave Tordoff opened, followed by a brief video of his life and ambitions, then John was straight on with lots of new songs: 'Chef from Sheffield' and 'Tummy Trouble' in the first half; 'Heartache and heartburn' and 'Serial cereal eater' in the second. Very catchy and singalong-to. He ended with the relatively recent favourite 'I can't go back to savoury now' (available to see on U-Bend, err YouTube) then did an encore of oldies: 'Eggs and Gammon', 'Y-Reg', and of course 'Pigeons in flight'. Then he came back for a 2nd encore: 'Mary had little lamb (green beans and new potatoes)' and finally a poignant 'Dandelion and Burdock' (we'd already had a very poignant 'From a father to a son'). What with 'Mutiny of the Bounty' (Mars of Slough, you've really done it now), 'Life is like a salad bar' and 'Two margarines', it's remarkable how many of John's songs are food related! A top night out from Sheffield's premier entertainer. Download his latest EP (extra portions) 4 Rather Tasty Tracks for just £1.99 at his website.


15 Faces

Meet Mr Pipes: : photos of me in the 15 Faces section of the BBC Southern Counties radio website.


Giant Kinetic Wardrobe

Giant Kinetic Wardrobe
Originally uploaded by fred pipes.

Ex- Bonzo Dog Band member Roger Ruskin Spear's Giant Kinetic Wardrobe performed at the 4th Surrey University Free Arts Festival held on campus at Guildford, Saturday 7 July 1973. I took these ropey black and white photos with my Exa IIb. More on the Free Festivals here.


Cheeky Charles

My old mate Marky Charles of London is on telly this Thursday, on the new BBC2 prog Mary Queen of Shops. The idea was to do a Gordon Ramsey and ginger up that zebra-striped clothes shop at the end of Sydney Street with a few provocative t-shirts and turn them round. Set your video!


More art cake

More art cake
Originally uploaded by fred pipes.

Sunday was the last day of the Artists Open Houses. It was a bit damp so I donned my waterproofs and set off. First stop was the Open House pub in Fiveways territory, but housing a Beyond the Level exhibition by Emma Brownjohn and others. I was particularly taken by Tiffany Lynch's paintings, which would look computer-generated if seen in reproduction! I bought Emma's eco book then wandered downstairs to the "farmer's" market in the garden. Bought some eggs off Linda from Hen Heaven in Henfield (really!) then on me bike again deeper into Fiveways territory to visit Mel Williams on Southdown Avenue and buy some cards. Decided to pop into a genuine Fiveways house a couple of doors down to see David Williams (no relation) and was excited to see he'd done a painting of 71000 Duke of Gloucester - at 10 quid a print I had to have one. They were serving cake but it was a little too early for me (forgot to snap them!). Onwards to Christina Ure's house on Chester Terrace to see her gorgeous paintings of fairy cakes (she also has an exhibition on at Terre a Terre) and sample my first cake of the day: mango and coconut! Sublime! The orange and poppy seed looked nice too! Took a snap of the gorgeous irises in her front garden then headed off down the hill to Mike Embden's at the bottom of Beaconsfield Villas. His watercolours of the South Downs are something else and when I win the lottery, I'll have one. Didn't buy any of his honey this year!

Round the corner on Stanford Avenue I followed the dotted line through the driving rain to Kaori Tanaka's 'Secret little garden' and Edgar Moore kindly made me a cheering cup of tea. I bought some banana cake (50p) to eat later! Loved her cork animals and platonic solids in chalk. Popped into Caia's again at Beaconsfield Workshops to chat to Kay Walton about aboriginal art, then on to another new Beyond the Level 'house' at York Studios. Had a chat with Ern, who's been a Brighton face for years, then cycled round the corner to Pelham Square where Ed Tucker was keeping guard. Then it was back over The Level to Park Crescent Terrace (should I detour into Hanover? no, I was cold and wet and wanted to go home!). Luckily at Miranda Swift's they had a fine selection of cakes - and savouries! I opted for the red bean and tomato quiche (turning down the optional coleslaw) and very nice it was too. I bought (£1.20) a slice of Homity pie for my tea later and headed home. Popped into The Dragonfly House to check on sales (thanks Gilda for buying a pair of linocuts!), then it was a night in with the telly. There were a few Open Houses open today for the bank holiday, but I couldn't be arsed.


East Beach Cafe

East Beach Cafe
Originally uploaded by fred pipes.

The pensioners of Littlehampton must be a very fit bunch - the beach is miles from the town centre! I took a break from my busy schedule yesterday to go on a bus pass expedition to see the East Beach Cafe, due to open in June. The bus journey on the 700 Coastliner took a staggering two hours to get to the sleepy resort, then I had a long trek along the prom (with talking lamp posts ordering cyclists to dismount!), but it was well worth it - the mild steel cafe designed by Thomas Heatherwick looks great, and well done to Littlehampton for making it happen. I had a great toasted teacake at the nearby Bowling Green Cafe (the saucy Polish waitress reminded me of the Harry Enfield sketch) but sadly the LMR (Littlehampton Miniature Railway) wasn't working. Next week: Bognor!


Bonzo films

Bonzo films
Originally uploaded by fred pipes.

Lots of celeb spotting recently. At the (Argus award-winning) Count Arthur Strong - 'The Musical' at Komedia on Sunday, guess who was in the audience (apart from the usual Brighton luvvies)? None other than Michael Aspel of Antiques Road Show! Last night, up in the Big Smoke for 'A night with the Bonzos' at the National Film Theatre, I was excited to see Paul Weller of The Jam in the bar, looking more like Rod Stewart every day! When Nick arrived he pointed out that the chap with him was Graham Coxon of Blur! There was another chap with ukulele who looked a bit like a young Ray Davies, but noone could ID him. At the Bonzos film show, Sam Spoons and Roger Slater were there in person and it was good to see lots of clips on the silver screen, including some never released songs: 'Love is a cylindrical piano', 'High School Hermit' and a backwards version of 'How much is that doggy in the window'! Climax was going to be 'Adventures of the son of the exploding sausage', which I'd never seen in its entirity. It was dreadfully disappointing! With a cast of Viv and the Bonzos, to make such an awful film is some achievement! No words, no script, just the lads mucking about on a farm with some kids, their low-budget version of 'Magical Mystery Tour' (a clip of which was also shown). Back outside in the bar, Paul's gang was joined by part-time Bonzo Phill Jupitus. Nick wondered if Paul might include some Bonzos covers on his next album! Off to The Hole in the Wall (as mentioned in 'Blind Date') for a couple of pints of Adnams Explorer, then the tedious train journey back to the seaside.


Harry Hill

Harry Hill
Originally uploaded by fred pipes.

Met another of my heroes last night - Harry Hill doing a signing for 'Tim the Tiny Horse' at the Old Market, Hove. He did a perfect stand-up set, catering for both the kids and their parents, then patiently signed all our books. Signings are great events (remember Alexei Sayle?): you get a top bit of stand-up in a smallish venue, then get to meet your idol! 'Tim Rice, Tim Curry? What is it about the name Tim and Indian food? Kate Moss, Kate Bush...' Tim the Tiny Horse however eats Hula Hoops (beef barbeque flavour) and was all drawn by fountain pen, Harry told me as he drew a Hula Hoop on my book. I noticed he had some of his jokes (including the splendid visual joke about the castle designer's laptop) written on the side of his hand. On stage he'd done a DIY session, starring two giggling goth girls ('don't milk it' muttered Harry) to demonstrate it wasn't as easy as you think to write a book, unlike 'You've been framed', which he said was money for old rope. Thanks to Kazza for lending me a surrogate family: Sean, Tom and their friend Owen. Thanks also to the Old Market for a decent pint of Harvey's..


Kocani Orkestar

Kocani Orkestra
Originally uploaded by fred pipes.

Continuing the big band theme of the Brighton Festival, last night I saw Macedonian wedding band King Naat Veliov and the Original Kocani Orkestar - their only UK gig - courtesy again of BBC Southern Counties radio. Led by composer and trumpeter 'King' Naat himself, this seven-piece brass band made their name on the soundtrack of Borat and Emir Kusturica's film Time of the Gypsies. They also made life hard for the security staff at the Dome, who'd been instructed, I presume, to escort anyone daring to dance in the aisles out of sight to the rear of the venue! They soon gave up this unpopular policy and everyone was on their feet by the encores. There were a few Macedonian flags around, a cross between a red union jack and a sunburst, and King Naat's Balkan beats certainly brightened up a chilly evening in Brighton, despite the Dome killjoys. But why do I always associate 'macedonian' with those tins of tasteless diced carrots and peas of my youth?

The evening started well with the American duo A Hawk and a Hacksaw, augmented by Budapest quartet The Hun Hangar Ensemble. The set opened with violinist Heather Trost and Balazs Unger on cymbalom (a cross between a dulcimer and xylophone) alone on stage, with Jeremy Barnes on accordian parading through the audience (and briefly pinching my pint) followed by the rest of the Hungarians, on drums, sax and trumpet. On stage, the sax player and trumpeter doubled up on violin, and we were even treated to the Balkan bagpipes! The drummer switched to three-string bass and Barnes played drum and cymbal with his feet. Probably the more interesting of the two bands - hear them on MySpace - their name apparently comes from Miguel de Cervantes’ novel Don Quixote - someone who has gone mad can't tell the difference between a hawk and a hacksaw! Ten out of ten to the Dome for serving Dark Star 'Festival' ale straight from the barrel.