Thursday, September 23, 2010

Don't Stop (Discotheque)

As summer sinks slowly into the past, I had a day that in many ways couldn't have been much better. In fact, I've had two days that would grace the best holiday days I've had in this country.

Tuesday was a relatively exhausting day, because we crammed so much into it. It was also designed to be a dummy run for an idea I've been toying with. Every year, I see adverts for Mushroom Forays and most of them are in October. Not, in my experience, a particularly brilliant time of the year for finding either the variety or the really good eaters. Don't get me wrong, if we've had a mild and damp September and October then there's a good chance you'll get bucket loads of interesting specimens. You won't, unless the conditions are good, find the best this country and its side has to offer.

The idea was to a) see if I know my mushrooms b) if I could take two novices out with me and teach them how to do what I do and c) to make it a good enough experience to charge people for my time...

I know my mushrooms, but probably not well enough to come across as an expert. I know what's edible, what's not and what is but I wouldn't, but you're welcome to try it if you want. I don't think I succeeded in doing anything that really enthused my guinea pigs - I think they enjoyed it, but I don't know if it's something they'd do regularly. And the third part is, at the moment, probably a real no-no. I'm too bloody pumped up by the volume of mushrooms I've picked over the last 3 weeks and the amount I have dried and squirrelled away for the winter stews.

We found a place that I discovered the week before, when I came home with about a pound of scaly wood mushrooms and 3 wonderful agaricus augustus - or The Prince. We'd not had much rain and I was concerned that we wouldn't find much at all, but boy was I wrong. I filled the basket with wood mushrooms, Princes, scaly wood mushrooms and even a couple of small yellow cracked boletes, which make good eating before they get too big and spongy. This however was to be usurped by something which I will have photographic evidence of within the next couple of days!

I'm playing this a bit cagey, you see. Mushroom hunters are a bit precious about their places and while this place is very well known, I'm pretty sure that my kind are still in the minority. I also know what grows when and where, while most casual hunters take pot luck. I don't really want to tell you where I was, despite its size, but to be able to really tell you how I discovered the find of the day, it would be a dead give away. So, using a bit of unlikely artistic licence... I was climbing this very tall tree and I happened to look down and to my right I saw the biggest mushroom I have ever seen. I mean absolutely as big as a football and it wasn't a puffball!

After 'climbing down from the tree', I retraced my steps until I found it. I really expected it to be riddled with maggots or well old, but it was, amazingly, neither. It was a wood mushroom, which is related to a horse mushroom. It must have been as wide as a football and the stalk was at least 6 inches long. But, a photo was taken of it and it will find it's way here, soon enough.

After a couple of hours foraging, my back started to groan at me like a bastard, so we retired to a nearby hostelry and sat in the sun supping pints of Yorkshire Terrier. Later we finished second at the weekly quiz and thus ended what I described on Facebook as a 'proper holiday day'.

Wednesday was always planned to be our day at the seaside. We had intended to go and see my Godparents in Lincolnshire, but circumstances meant we had to change our plans; the wife decided that we ought to go to Heacham, because we love it and it has the Fox and Hounds, home of the Fox Brewery and a lovely stretch of The Wash beach, that the dogs go crazy for. So that's where we set off for at 9.45am.

After almost killing one of the dogs, in what would have been a crap start to the last day of summer, we made heavy going. It took us over 2 hours to get there (I've done it in 1 hour 40 mins back when I had the Seat) and my hips were screaming at me by the time we stopped. All the walking of the previous day was taking its toll. However, the sun was shining, the tide was right out and considering what a truly glorious day it was, there weren't that many people about and those that were were all armed with hounds!

I won't bore you with beach designers, malfunctioning steam cleaners, the cat incident, or the pint of Bullet I had that was brewed less than 20 feet from where I was drinking it, but we did discover that Marley will dive for rocks. I've only ever seen two dogs submerge themselves in the goal of retrieving, my big rangy mutt is the third. The other thing that's really worth mentioning was the UFO...

I'm standing on the beach, looking out to the sea - which was about 1 mile away and in the distance I saw something fairly low in the sky; it seemed to swoop down and then around and was this dark smudge on the horizon. "What the f...?" was my initial reaction. Then I realised what it was, as it twisted and turned in on itself, sometimes darkening, sometimes almost disappearing - it was a flock of birds fishing. One of those natural phenomena that is quite fleeting but sticks in the mind.

We found a relative short cut on the way home that effectively takes about 10 miles off of the journey; it could have been more had I been allowed to go cross country. We got home about 6 feeling absolutely buggered. The dogs were knackered and grubby and all that sea air had made me hungry and tired. It was a great day though, one of the better ones.


I'm friendly with a number of Indians and over the years I've also been friendly with a number of Pakistanis. The simmering dislike between the two countries has always been a puzzle to me; but cultural or religious differences have always been something I've had trouble accepting. One of the things about the Indians I know is that they are very disparaging about their neighbours. Over the years, I've heard many bad things about Pakistanis and dismissed them, the way you do. I'd never met a Pakistani that fitted any of the low-life descriptions I'd been given. That is except one.

When this cricket scandal business broke a few weeks ago, we got a stream of 'dignified' Pakistan officials renounce the allegations, dismiss them as unimportant, insist the players involved haven't been proven to have done any wrong doing and generally appear to throw the blame in as many directions as possible. Even resorting to the low tactic of counter-accusing the England team of throwing a match.

If India had been exposed as cheats in world cricket. The Indian cricket board would have suspended the players involved immediately; they would have attempted to offer no mitigating reasons or supportive gestures, they would have co-operated 101% with any authority and there would have been a general feeling of disgrace for the entire nation. Perhaps they picked up this trait from being occupied by the Brits for so long; if they did, it stayed. Some Pakistan cricketers have besmirched the good name of their country; some of their politicians, senior cricket officials and diplomats just made it worse.


On an early October day in 1982, I attended an event, which if it happened today, would have been considerably bigger and drier. In 1980, Peter Gabriel had been instrumental in launching WOMAD, but because of financial problems, it was in danger of bankrupting everyone involved. So, Gabriel contacted his old pals in Genesis and they reformed for a one-off concert in aid of WOMAD. It was held at the Milton Keynes Bowl on a cold, wet and windy day.

It started raining when we got there and continued on and off all day and night. It was one of those days where you really wanted to be anywhere else apart from outside in the rain in MK. There were a number of support bands playing that day, The Blues Band, John Martyn and a little known band from Essex. They were supporting 6 of the Best, the name this mega-Genesis line up were performing under.

With hindsight, the most ironic thing about this concert is that I went to see my favourite band of all time in a unique line-up and within a few years the little known support band from Essex had usurped Genesis to become my favourite band of all time!

It was an inauspicious start however. The band, who were due to open the event at 5pm, had just had their first Top 40 hit and were very possibly the wrongest band in the world for this event. Talk Talk were a pop band and very much being marketed by EMI in the same vein as Duran Duran.

The Bowl was full with thousands of hairy bikers and die hard prog rock addicts. this was during an era when pissing in a bottle and then heaving it into the middle of a crowd was common practice. I'd been to Knebworth in 1978 and seen the bikers and greebos throwing everything that came to hand at Devo and what Talk Talk got was almost as bad. They had more shit thrown at them than a communal toilet.

The sad thing was that I didn't really give them a fair crack of the whip. In fact, one of few memories of their show was when all seemed lost and the crowd were growing increasingly hostile to them, Mark Hollis joked that the next song would be Set the Controls For the Heart of the Sun. I think he got hit on the side of the head by an apple. I was one of the many thousands of people yelling for them to get off the stage... Oh the irony...

In January 1983, I met the wife. By the spring of 1983, she had moved in with me. I often joke that my wife can't cook, that she learnt how to be awful in the kitchen from her mother. The very first time she ever cooked a meal for me was memorable for a number of reasons.

I think it was around April or May of 1984. I had a case of genuine influenza and she was busying herself around the house making sure that me and my lodger Rob, who also had the flu, were looked after. Neither of us had much of an appetite, but she insisted that she cook us something and opted for a spag bol as she'd seen me do it a number of times.

While she was in the kitchen, Rob and I had the cable television forerunner to MTV on. It was called The Box and essentially they had about 50 videos that they played over and over - at least that's how it seemed. this video came on from Talk Talk. We were both very unwell, bordering on delirium at times and this video left both of us feeling a bit weird. Neither of us were sure we liked the video, we were pretty much agreed that we didn't like the song. Dinner was horrible.

However, as we spent the next week alternating between sofa and armchair as we tried to get rid of the flu bug, this video played about twice a day and we often caught it. Our dislike started to change; I grew increasingly obsessed by the video, because there were things 'not quite right' about it and gradually the song started to inveigle its way into my head and heart. The first thing I did when the flu had gone was go to WH Smith and buy the 12" single. Such a Shame began its journey to become my favourite song of all time.

By the end of 1984, I was a fan. By the time the band split up, in 1992, they had transformed themselves from a synth pop Euro pop combo into the world's first post rock band, producing pieces of music so far removed from their debut single you would be hard pressed to believe it was written by the same man.

Like so many bands I fall in love with, they split up and unlike others have never got back together. Mark Hollis, possibly the greatest unsung hero of music history, released a solo album in 1998 and has disappeared into his estate in Suffolk, with his wife and his kids (who all must be pretty much grown up now). Hollis hated the music industry. He got shafted by it many times; but at least can know that he shafted it back with just as much gusto.

On the release of Spirit of Eden, EMI were horrified. The band who were on the verge of being massive, had released an album without a single and with a load of tracks that sounded like nothing they had ever expected. They put the record out on Parlaphone and expected it to whither and die. This is an interesting article by Alan McGee: and it basically tells you all the things I could have.

12 years after Hollis' solo album and nearly 20 since the release of Laughing Stock, I still think of Talk Talk as my favourite band. This was kind of highlighted at the pub quiz on Tuesday. It's My Life was the final song in the music round and as it came on my arms went up, in salute. Hearing this classic record rounded off an almost perfect Tuesday and reminded me of a time when music really meant something.


What a load of Cobblers!

Could the ignominy of losing to the Arse, at home, on Tuesday, be erased? The League Cup is a bit of a Mickey Mouse competition and for the first time ever Spurs treated the competition the way many wished they would - by fielding a B team. They were eventually roundly thumped by an Arsenal team with more 1st team players in it than we did. I should be gutted; but I'm not. We can focus on the two competitions we need to at the moment - the Champions League and the Premiership.

However, last night, Northampton Town went a long way to making up every bad result ever. They knocked the once mighty Liverpool (known as The Red Shite in these parts) out of the League Cup, on penalties, after leading 2-1 until the last five minutes of extra time. Now, my hate for Liverpool is much less than it used to be; especially as the Fat Spanish waiter has departed for pastures new. I like Roy Hodgson; he's a nice guy. I think he's made a boo-boo.


I have had my new PC a couple of months. I like it 99% of the time. My new keyboard is a pain. It's considerably smaller than my last keyboard or any other keyboard I've used for that matter and I'm still struggling to come to terms with it. I rarely write a single sentence without a typo, because my stubby fingers catch other keys. I'd change back, but my old keyboard is knackered and I figure I might as well just get used to this one rather than go through the process all over again. So, if you spot the occasional 'bhajism' or more commonly 'top' instead of 'to'; then you now know its down to my keyboard and not because I'm stupid.

Still can't quite work out how I missed 'bhajism' - what with it's bright red jagged line under it! Nice word though; bet it goes well with a nice creamy chicken korma...


As it is now officially autumn, I have an excuse to be miserable for the next 6 months.


  1. There is something wrong with that video, but I can't place it. Is it filmed backwards maybe?

  2. There is much 'wrong' with the video. Sections are filmed backwards, other sections are filmed very very slowly backwards, some sections have Hollis going backwards while everyone else is going forwards. It also utilises stop motion animation - using real people and was probably about 15 years ahead of its time. Still a truly brilliant video.
    The 2 second scene with the hat being put on should be given special attention. Near the end, see if you can work out what they did.