Miscellany and detritus, from the writer of Is This Mutton?com

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Monday, September 17, 2012

The Beatles: So Over?

I was listening to a radio programme about Dame Vivienne Westwood recently (left) in which she disclosed that Malcolm Mclaren had dared her to set fire to the waxworks of The Beatles in Madame Tussaud's.

"I thought it was a good idea," she said. "I mean, they were rubbish. But I was afraid people might get hurt."

Then, a few days later, my mum, a well respected authority on popular music, said she had never liked the Beatles. I would like to say she was more of a Rolling Stones' fan but the truth was she liked the Ray Conniff Singers and Andy Williams.

The Beatles were slightly before my time, but my brother, who's six years older, bequeathed me all his albums.They were played hundreds of times on "Sid," the Alba record player.

I always listened to side 2 of A Hard Day's Night when I was getting ready to go out, age 15. At that time I had perfected the half gold, half green eye lid.

But recently, a lot of Beatles songs make me want to gurn. I can't stand Hey Jude, All You Need is Love, Back in the USSR, Strawberry Fields, Twist and Shout and Lady Madonna. Some of them sound very dated, a sort of cloying sentimentality.

It's not helped by Paul McCartney croaking out Hey Jude at large public gatherings. Really, he should take a lesson from David Bowie who retired in 2003 and has stuck to it (even though I would dearly love to see another album from him).

But The Beatles still have the power to take your breath away. I never liked "A Day in the Life" but when it was played on the radio recently, I was transfixed. It sounded so contemporary. And I still love Eleanor Rigby - that most evocative of songs; Something;. I Feel Fine; Fool on the Hill.

Where are you with the Beatles? Love or loathe?

Sunday, September 16, 2012

We Venture Across the Border

I spent the last few days in Devon with my mum, who was 80 this year but still very spry with all her marbles.

I didn't take J. My view is, if a husband's natural habitat is not a garden centre or tearoom, it will only cause misery to inflict it on them. Plus I would hate to be in one of those joined-at-the-hip couples. As would J. 

When I'm staying with Mum, or Giz, there's a certain ritual to our day trips. We like tradition and continuity. The most popular are:
1) Otter Nurseries for plant buying and lunch followed by either Endsleigh garden centre  (to find  something Otter didn't have) or Buckfast Abbey, where you can get a very fine treacle pudding;
2) Exmouth and Sidmouth and maybe Budleigh Salterton. I lived near the seafront in Exmouth for a short time and love the unspoilt splendour of the beach and the ramshackle nature of the town;
3) Roadford Lake, on the Devon/Cornwall border, preceded by a visit to the Devon Paperweight Centre at the superbly named Leg O'Mutton Corner, Yelverton;
4) Goodrington, Paignton, where we spent many summer days on the red sands, watching the steam train go by (the driver was straight out of Central Casting with a flowing red beard and cheery wave);
5) Totnes for a mooch around gentrified shops selling organic this and that, and strange shops full of arty tourist tat/tut.

But this year, reader, we threw something different into the mix. A coach trip! Now Giz does these quite often. She has a social life that would put Prince Andrew to shame.When I was a teenager we often did coach trips because it was impossible to get Stamps to take us anywhere. There were two memorable trips to Newquay where we didn't even get out of the car because he couldn't find anywhere to park. He refused to pay to go in a car park so unless we could find street parking.

The coach trip was to Boscastle, Tintagel and Padstow.My first time at all three!

It took about an hour to do all the pick ups around Plymouth. Interminable, thanks to roadworks at Laira. Giz and I were the first to board. By the time we got to Boscastle, ostensibly for coffee, the fellow travellers were straining for pasties and many were indulging before we had chance to get our bearings.
Giz feeling the nip

It was very cold. Very very cold. A few people had been caught out and were wearing only short sleeves.

Boscastle was fairly brief. Just fifteen minutes later we were in Tintagel, for an hour and half. We had a below average, "give the emmets any old rubbish, they won't come back" type of lunch in a shabby restaurant and then wandered round trying to find a sheltered spot. Giz inevitably got talking to some of the people on the coach, including a bloke on his own - we named him "Pasty Pete," with a huge stomach and a short sleeved top. He'd been on 12 coach trips last year, he told us, and Badger's Holt for Christmas lunch can't be beaten.

Everyone was back on board with minutes to spare; a reflection on the charms of Tintagel. I've never seen a castle so bashful or so many shops full of useless "tut:" piskeys, fairies, things connected with King Arthur, etc.

Thence to Padstow, or as it is now known, Padstein. The influence of the TV chef hangs heavy. As you arrive, sweeping into an unprepossessing car park with views of diggers and trucks, you walk past three buildings forming part of the Rick Stein empire: a wet fish shop, fish and chip shop and deli. The unsuspecting emmet is lured into buying unnecessary jars of chutney, cookery books and things labelled with the name Chalkie, the chef's late dog.

Padstow itself is a harbour with a cluster of shops, mostly selling pasties, fish and chips and tut. On a sunny day it would be glorious to sit and watch boats and people. On a cold, windy day, with two and a half hours to spare, it was teeth clenchingly awful.

Pasty Pete had his third pasty of the day. I had my first  (had to be done). We both had a pleasingly large bakewell tart in a cafe which failed the old fat test.

Back on the coach and Pasty Pete's luck had changed by the time we reached Plymstock. He had struck up conversation with a woman at the back. Regaling her with his 12 coach trips last year and the splendours of Badger's Holt, she remarked that they ought to go on trips together. "Oh yes, I am single," he declared, before adding suspiciously, "But aren't you married?"  "Yes but we don't get on," she said dismissively, before sweeping off the coach with her entourage and leaving us all dangling as to the outcome. Will there be tinsel and turkey for the two of them? A pasty a deux at Mevagissey? I don't think we'll ever know, because Giz has decided her coach trip days are behind her.


Sunday, September 09, 2012

A summer to remember

All the superlatives have been said. The clockwork precision of the organisation; the warmth and optimism of the crowds; even the weather was praised.

This summmer, 2012, will never be forgotten.

The Paralympics winds to a close tonight and we will then be utterly bereft.

Today was the Paralympics Marathon, and I had a great vantage point at Cornhill watching a) the competitors and b) husband J performning in his last duties as a volunteer.

John and friend

Our first glimpse of the male wheelchair racers: David Weir is fourth

John rids the streets of London of competitors' drinks bottles and random balloons

We finally got inside the hallowed Olympic Stadium for the opening ceremony of the Paralympics. The weather had taken a turn for the worst that day, and it was blustery and cold. But later at the park, the sun broke through.

I wish every person in the land had had the chance to experience the Olympic Stadium. It was the most amazing experience. It was like sitting with 60,000 friends. Everyone was speaking to each other and volunteering to take photos.  And when the Paralympics GB team was announced, there wasn't a dry eye in the house. We stood and cheered and clapped as the cavallcade slowly wound its way past.

When we left, the cheery volunteers shouted "goodbye" and "see you tomorrow" as we sped through the underground system in an ultra efficient and fast way. We were home within 30 minutes.

The wild flower meadow was amazing - as was the Orbit

We found Mandeville - he wasn't very cuddly
The royal barge was there too

In the Olympic Stadium

Our Greatest Team, left in white, make their entrance

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