"Earth’s distant orb appeared the smallest light that twinkles in the heaven; whilst round the chariot’s way innumerable systems rolled and countless spheres diffused an ever-varying glory. It was a sight of wonder: some were hornèd like the crescent moon; some shed a mild and silver beam like Hesperus o'er the western sea; some dashed athwart with trains of flame, like worlds to death and ruin driven; some shone like suns, and as the chariot passed, eclipsed all other light." From "Queen Mab" by Percy Bysshe Shelley (1813)

Thursday, 24 June 2010


So much for the new job. Long story short it hasn’t worked out so I’m back on the market again. Any offers? On the plus side I can now take advantage of the good weather and take Mrs Kitsch on an impromptu trip to the seaside.

I don’t know what it is about the seaside, and in particular the sea, that draws me back. I’m sure I can’t be the only person who gets the urge every now and again to be by the sea, or better still in it. Is it a primal thing? It has been suggested that the hairless ape that is our species evolved into modern humans because we left the jungles and forests for the coast, the so called aquatic ape hypothesis. Living off shellfish and swimming in the oceans shaped us to become what we are today and in evolutionary terms that wasn’t so long ago. So maybe the urge to return to the sea is a primal thing after all. All I know is a trip to the seaside was very much in order, the weather was good, we had the time, so off we went with phasers set to “fun”.

The music that accompanied us to and from our seaside destination was a two disc collection of work by Ron Goodwin, which may seem an odd choice for an ex-indie DJ but “Elizabethan Serenade” and “Miss Marple’s Theme” simply can’t be beaten. There are some real classics in there too like “633 Squadron” and “Where Eagles Dare” but the best bit was trying to guess those tracks we didn’t know or at least what type of film they came from or what its basic theme was. Good old Ron’s use of the musical cliché kept us guessing along nicely with tracks like “El Morocco Tea Rooms”, “Tropical Mirage”, “Laughing Sailor” and “Handyman”. It certainly passed the time in an entertaining manor, especially on the return journey through all the many stretches of motor where a speed limit of 50mph was imposed because of road works, two separate incidents of upturned cars on the hard shoulder and the threat of “pedestrians” on the road. The upturned cars and the warning signs of “pedestrians” on the road were around the Bridgend area, so it’s possible the incidents of suicides in my old home town haven’t abated. Tragic.

However, disc one of Ron Goodwin came to an end as we entered The Gower in South Wales, a favourite place of ours that we’ve visited on a few occasions. The beaches there are very good and there are a lot to choose from. This time we selected Oxwich Bay not far from The Mumbles. Within about 15 minutes of settling in a spot by the dunes we were in the water. I floated about on my “turbo sport surf attack” inflatable ring (how long have I had that thing?) while Mrs Kitsch, unable to resist the lure of the briny, was soon swimming about like a West Country Esther Williams. Marvellous, just what we needed and the water wasn’t too cold either.
The plan was to go back in again a bit later but there were sufficient clouds to prevent the sun from keeping the water warm enough and we only managed a paddle later. In between our aquatic adventures there was much relaxation with Mrs Kitsch reading and me stretched out fast asleep (insert your own gag here about locals trying to rescue a beached whale).
Now although I said there were some clouds, there was still a lot of sunshine and the sensible thing to do would have been to put on some sun cream like my other half did but I deliberately decided to forego being sensible and get a little bit sunburnt. I can’t remember the last time I got sunburnt. All the talk of skin cancer and frankly the simple lack of really hot weather over the last decade or so mean that I just haven’t had sunburn in a very long time. So I thought, sod it, a little bit of sunburn, why not? How bad can it be?

Its twenty four hours later and you can fry an egg on the heat coming off my knees. My pink knees. My very pink knees. And it’s not just my knees, I’m a bright neon pink on my legs, the tops of my feet, my neck, shoulders, arms, and my chest and belly. I’ve totally irradiated myself; I look like lobster boy from a carnies freak tent. It stings quite a bit too. And do you know what, its fine. I’m sunburnt, it hurts and its fine. I didn’t intend to get quite so burnt but I really don’t mind that much.

I’m reminded of family holidays in Porthcawl more than 30 years ago (bloody hell am I that old? unfortunately, yes) and a time before health scares and rubbish summers. I remember playing on the dunes there, trying to fly a red kite with my brother and my dad. I remember that the sunburn hurt a lot which I didn’t like obviously, but the skin peeling off later on was pretty good in a ghoulish sort of way, you know how kids are.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying you shouldn’t take precautions against sunburn and I’m not advocating getting sunburnt as a good thing that everybody should do. Not at all. It’s just that I haven’t experienced it in a long time and I just wanted to feel what it was like again.

A one off shouldn’t cause any long term problems and I’ll go back to covering myself in protective creams again after this but just this once, I wanted to experience a bit of sunburn. However, I do think I might have over done it somewhat, I certainly didn’t expect to feel quite this bad. But I can’t honestly say it wasn’t worth it.

We ended our lovely day out at the seaside by driving to The Mumbles for fish and chips and ice cream (is this another primal urge? Could it be that our aquatic ape ancestors also enjoyed fish and chips and ice cream? I think more research needs to be undertaken in this area). Even here I indulged in excess and purchased a rather large strawberry flavoured 99 with nut sprinkle from the wonderful Joes Ice Cream Parlour. It was brilliant though.
So what with the sea, the sun, the fish and chips, an ice cream and spending all day with Mrs Kitsch, all to a Ron Goodwin soundtrack, it was a pretty good day.
I slept for ages last night and dreamt about a thrash metal band called "Our Message Is Older Than Your Message Is". I even heard a couple of their songs in my dream, they were pretty good too, a bit like Slipknot, a far cry from Ron Goodwin. In my dream the band members also toured as solo performers and had a song about that as well. I have no idea what any of this means, if it means anything at all but it seems like a pretty cool name for a band.

Suggested listening: “That Magnificent Man and His Music Machine: Two Sides of Ron Goodwin” by Ron Goodwin

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Avantgarde Hummings

A lot has been written about popular composers over the years but very little has been written about the worlds least popular composer, Avantgarde Hummings, from Salzburg.

You know more of the works of Herr Hummings than you think you do. His work is performed daily across the globe by an army of devoted followers despite most of the rest us disliking his music intensely.

Avantgarde Hummings has rejected conventional methods of both composition and instrumentation in favour of a more industrial method. He also insists that his work is not performed in the more traditional concert halls or music venues or indeed at the more regular time of early evening. Instead, the maestro is adamant that his works are performed outside in the streets of residential areas, most often in the early hours of the morning or late at night.

His preferred instruments are pneumatic drills, cement mixers, steam-rollers, skips, lorries and most vehicles from the JCB range. As well as his “works for road gangs and builders” he also composes more intimate pieces; I am sure you will be familiar with his various chamber works for lawn mower, hedge trimmer and leaf blower. He has also written some solo pieces like “Man With Hammer” and “Man With Drill”. You may also have heard extracts from what are regarded as his two masterpieces “Concerto for Black and Decker Workmate” and the massive “opera for road movers” called the “Ring Road Cycle”. However, two of his most performed works would have to be “Erecting and Dismantling of Scaffolding at Dawn” and “Bin Men In The Morning”.

Some of his more experimental works from his “after dark” period include “Car Doors Slamming at Midnight”, “Argument for Couple at 3am”, “Dog Barking Incessantly” and the ever unpopular “Car Alarm”.

So next time you are woken by an unexpected clamour just lie back and enjoy one of the many works of this most prolific and unpopular composer, Avantgarde Hummings, from Salzburg.

Suggested listening: Extracts from “The Complete Works of Avantgarde Hummings” outside your home shortly.

For Fox Sake

Experts will tell you that fox attacks on humans are about as rare as hen’s teeth. So why is it that just weeks after the Tories get into power we see in the news that there have now been two attacks on children by foxes, one in Northern Ireland and another more recently in Brighton? Why? I will tell you why. It’s because the Tories want to overturn the ban on fox hunting.

After the first attack I said to my brother that we would see more such stories in the news as a way of getting the public “on side” for this change in policy. And what do you know, a couple of weeks later, another fox attacking a child story.

There’ll be more of these in the coming months; foxes spreading disease stories; foxes killing pets stories; foxes claiming expenses they’re not entitled to stories; foxes in league with Bin Laden stories. You wait and see, it will happen. And then in about a year or two, if they’re still in power, the Tories will overturn the hunting ban. I’ve watched Spooks, I know how these things work.

Frank Sidebottom, Thank You

What a terrible year this is turning out to be for rock stars. It seems like we’re losing at least one a month; Jay Reatard, Paul Gray and Mark Linkous to name just three. Now tragically, Chris Sievey has died. You may not recognise that name but he was the man inside the papier-mache head that was Frank Sidebottom.

Frank Sidebottom is dead. I don’t ever remember writing anything quite so sad as that last sentence. Frank was an indie hero who spanned the worlds of comedy and music. He loved space, football (particularly The Robins), Timperley, singing and colouring in. And those of us that saw him perform live or bought the records or all too rarely saw him on TV, loved him.

I was lucky enough to interview him once. I still have his mobile number in my phone. I bought him a pack of colouring pens for his fantastic drawing. He told me he went through a lot of pink doing Little Frank’s face, so I got a couple of extra pink ones. Here’s a really bad photo of me with the great man.
That was taken at Moles Club in Bath in 2007 during the comeback tour. I must have seen him about three times in all. He was a truly unique and gifted performer. You can read some of the tributes fans are leaving on his website here.

I can’t believe that Frank/Chris has died, but he has. You know he has. He really has. Thank you, Frank/Chris.

I've just discovered that there is a campaign here to get Frank's latest world cup song "Three Shirts On My Line" to number #1. What a tribute that would be. They need to get make it available on i-Tunes and Amazon first and then decide on a which week to got for, so keep an eye out for that. Meantime go here to see the fantastic video.

Suggested listening: “Frank Sidebottom's ABC And D: The Best Of” and "E F G And H: The Best Of Vol #2" by Frank Sidebottom

Monday, 7 June 2010

Why Did This Have To Happen?

Why did this have to happen?

Suggested listening: "Steady The Buffs" by The Buff Medways

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Space Is Really Big

I’ve added another fine book to my personal library of space literature with the bargain purchase of “Space: The Ultimate Frontier” by Michael Sharpe from the British Heart Foundation charity bookshop.
OK, so there was some water damage to this book but it wasn’t too bad and the book cost just £4.50. To put this in context, new the book costs almost £30 and even good condition second hand copies go for about £25. Why is this book so expensive? Well, it is enormous coming in at a massive 59cm x 43cm x 2.5 cm, so it’s over half a meter high. I think a pictorial example of exactly how big this book is would be helpful at this point.
See what I mean, it’s huge. As well as the slight water damage to this copy, I have discovered online that there are some errors in the text with some later editions of the book coming with an update sheet to correct them, which my second hand copy doesn’t have but really, look at the size of it. And the photos inside are marvellous.
The book covers all the manned space flights from Gagarin’s historic Vostok 1 in 1961 to China’s second manned space flight in Shenzhou 6 in October 2005. It also includes a couple of X-15 sub-orbital flights, so it’s pretty extensive. However, it’s the large scale photos that really make it.
And all for just under a fiver. Bargain. One online reviewer of the book says he keeps his copy in the corner of a room and turns a new page over every day, which seems like a splendid idea to me. However, I’m not sure we’ve got a room in the house where we could do that at the moment. Oh well.
Buying this book has reminded me again of a question I ask myself from time to time; why do I keep buying so many books? I’ve bought and read a large number of books on the subject of the space race and have several more waiting to be read. I also intend to buy yet others and read them too. However, I also have a large number of books on many other subjects, some I’ve read, many I haven’t. Surely it would make much more sense to just borrow books from the local library when I actually have the time to read them. I’d save a small fortune and have less clutter in the house. I can’t even use the old argument of having them to hand for reference purposes, not since the introducing of the world wide web.
No, there really isn’t a justification for it at all when you think about it rationally. But as I’ve mentioned before, I really do enjoy the process of browsing in bookshops, an exercise made all the more pleasurable when it’s for something in particular; the thrill of the chase and all that. But also, how wonderful to come across an unexpected delight, as in the case of my most recent and oversized purchase. It may not be my only vice but as vices go it’s not such a bad one, is it? If all I leave this world when I die is a house full of books, well, that’s not such a bad legacy really.