Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Have yourself a hillbilly Christmas

I decided to get this the other day after hearing one of the tracks on MOJO's Electra compilation. I was vaguely aware of them due to Gene Clark having recorded a couple of albums with one of them (looked it up: Doug). It's a full on bluegrass affair which, if I'm remembering the blurb in the magazine right, was recorded as a fuck off to the label which backfired by becoming a hit (I love it when that happens). Seems harsh though, I'd have thought Electra was a very cool set up.

The Dillards Old Joseph

I'm safely tucked away up north for Christmas now, after a nightmare journey. I think I might grow a beard.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Tickle on the tum

From time to time it's occurred to me to write some things about where I live and now, inspired by a property type article about the place in today's Evening Standard, here's my guide to Twickenham.

The Stadium. I've never been to a sporting event or a gig here. Just an art deco pottery fair. And I didn't buy anything. So, moving on into the town itself, b
eing a delicate indie-type I don't venture into the high street pubs - the Cabbage Patch and the George etc. The closest I get to entering a manly, rugger pub is the St Margarets Tavern over in St Margarets (which, when I think, I have sort of written a bit about).

When it's not chock full of hearty types in Harlequin tops it's very relaxing and cosy for such a big pub. The food's very good too and one of my mates was always chuffed to drink there cos they did Becks on tap. It's across the road from Twickenham film studios where the Beatles recorded some bits of the Magical Mystery Tour I think, they did something there anyway. I imagine there's a good chance they had a few beers in the place.

Also in St Margarets is Ches' caff which does an excellent breakfast, though it was done up a while ago and now has a proper evening restaurant bit. This has rendered it ever so slightly poncified. Moving along into the main bit of Twickenham the article mentions Church Street which features the Fox, the only pub in central Twickenham that I drink in. The first time I stepped down into the place two old buffers puffing away on pipes had created a mighty fug. It is, of course, not like that now. A shame, the pipe smoke, the lower than street level floor and the riverside location gave it a piratical vibe.

Also good on Church Street is Langton's Bookshop. I tend only to buy kids book in there to be honest. It scores heavily though for having a tearoom in the back - very comfy. Last stop for me on Church Street is Sweet Memories, which as the name suggests, is one of those boutique sweet shops that have sprung up recently to cater for sweet toothed nostalgists such as me, and for which trend I'm grateful. I noticed a few years ago that newsagents had stopped selling boiled sweets - and I do like to have a quarter of aniseed rock in my coat pocket when I go for a long walk.

Round the corner (past Flood Lane, look up to see commemorative plaque in the wall opposite showing the level of a flood in 1775) is the Thames. On the right is Eel Pie Island. Sadly you no longer haul yourself across on a rope ferry, there is instead quite a striking, high-arched bridge. My wife's known this part of the world for longer than me and the first time we walked down to this bit of the river I said something like, "That looks interesting" to which she casually replied something like "Oh yeah, it's Eel Pie Island". I couldn't believe it - as a big fan of both George Melly and the Rolling Stones the place was semi-mythological to me. I raced over the bridge to explore and...was pretty disappointed really. It's all private, as far as I could make out the general public only have access to a few yards of pathway. There's an article about it in this month's Uncut actually.

Along the Thames the other way (towards Richmond) you go past another good pub, the White Swan. It's long been an ambition of mine to get there early on a misty winter morning and get a window seat. Most times though it's been sunny afternoons and I've sat in the beer garden, which floods when the tide comes in. Trevor Bayliss, ladykiller and inventor of the clockwork radio, can occassionally be seen sat seductively in his powder blue E Type Jag outside this pub. Such a beautiful car.

Back into Twickenham and the main drag, as the article says, is a disappointment. There are plenty of charity shops, though not much vinyl to be had. The high street is long and featureless - it could do with a cinema round about where the big timber merchants is now. It needs a bit of character - which,speaking for myself, I think a greasy spoon and a decent record shop would go a long way towards providing.

Back to reality - trudging along the next good thing you come to is Angelo's. A slighly scruffy Italian restaurant. The owner (Angelo?) is, on the other hand, a very dapper Italian gentleman, probably in his sixties now but still capable of carrying off his dazzling tonic suit. Slightly further up is Panda Garden which does the best beef chow mein I've ever eaten, but my wife hates it. As a consequence I'm usually dispatched to get the Chinese from the brilliantly named, and admittedly superior, Ewok over in St Margarets.

Moving beyond Panda Garden (past the brand new tattoo parlour) you come to a railway bridge. Being a provincial country mouse I always get a big kick out of seeing trains going by overhead. It is, in my opinion, one of the most urban things ever. Walking under the bridge you cross from TW1 into TW2 and in doing so you are now unlikely to be eligible for free delivery from takeaways in places such as Mortlake and Sheen. Emerging from the shadow of the arches you are faced with the impressive horse chestnut lined triangle of Twickenham Green, the easternmost surviving portion of Hounslow Heath apparently.

Arthur's Restaurant there does a decent bacon sandwich but I mention it mainly because I'm certain that the building was originally a large (probably Edwardian) public lavatory, it's got that look about it. On the opposite side of the green is the cricket pavilion. According to their election literature the local Tories are very proud of the pavilion, and I admit it is a lovely building. Cricket is played on the widest part of the green but that doesn't stop them from hitting the cars parked around it. I've never seen them hit a moving car but it'd only take a good six.

A row of shops runs along the green the most fantastic of which is Shepperton Design Studio. Many's the time I've stood gawping at the reflec armour on display. However tempting the Tie Fighter pilot's outfit is I don't think I'd get away with buying one considering the sulks I've gone into when I've discovered the true price of some of my wife's handbags. I'd never, ever live down spending over a grand on a plastic spacesuit which I'd almost certainly never wear outside my flat.

If you've travelled this far and fancy a curry you'll be faced with a choice between the Green Spice and the Taste of Raj which, oddly, are right next door to each other. I favour the Green Spice on the grounds that it has booths and a mirrored mosaic bar that is a classic of its type. And I suppose it's a few feet closer to my flat that the Taste of Raj. A little further along you'll see the burnt out remains of two shops - a post office and a laundrette. Allegedly the fire was caused by a cannabis factory in the flat above the post office. I fantasize about turning the laundrette into a greasy spoon, it's just the right shape and size and the door and windows arrangement is perfect for a caff.

Finally, a bit further along, Crane Park - a long thin park that stretches alongside the River Crane (I noticed in the Guardian's obituary of Monty Sunshine that one of his first bands had been the River Crane Jazz Band, Twickenham was clearly a hotbed of post-war beatniks). I remember a few years ago commenting in the pub on the pleasant ease of walking by rivers, only to be slighty crestfallen at a colleague's prosaic observation that this was probably down to the fact that such walks were almost guaranteed to be along the flat. Hmm, good point I suppose.

Anyway, Crane Park has been on a couple of occasions the route along which, in a fit of post New Year disgust, I've taken myself out for a jog. Predictably enough I was defeated after five minutes or so, my mouth filling up with warm saliva and terrible aches wracking my body. So each time it turned into a slightly delirious amble through the nature reserve there. The park features an unusual, fairy tale looking tower, ironically in fact the sole remnant of the once extensive munitions industry that existed here. The towers were required for the manufacture of shot, which was made by pouring molten lead through a gauze at the top of the tower into a vat of cold water below. I'd never thought about how shot was made before. Will Self writes a bit about it one of his books (Psycho Too, by the sound of it).

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Cold comfort

I usually post tunes at random fairly soon after I discover them and I’ve been meaning to post this for ages. But anyway, as you may have noticed, it’s freezing so not only an amazing track, but also highly topical. I can’t remember where I first ran into it – possibly it was mentioned in a Stereolab interview or something.

Wendy & Bonnie The Winter is Cold

In further cold-weather-related-trend behaviour I’m sporting a fantastic duffle coat at the moment. I’d been on the lookout for ages – I had thought I’d pick one up at an Army and Navy Surplus easy but they all seem to have closed down when I wasn’t looking. The purist in me would only settle for a very basic style and on that score the high street was a dead loss. I did find one that I liked in a department store but when I checked the price tag it was £250 – I just thought, “Has the world gone mad?” I got a secondhand one for thirty quid in the end.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Cult corner

I've never been that bothered about bootlegs but years ago, after reading an article in MOJO or some such, I went on a search for Pink Floyd's Vegetable Man. I'd heard the version of it on the b side of the Mary Chain's Upside Down, and fine though that is, the lyrics are drowned under an avalanche of feedback. I approached likely looking stalls from Camden to Portobello Road only to find the vendors there couldn't help and seemed reluctant to discuss bootlegs. Eventually I did acquire a copy on vinyl but it was very murky indeed.

Anyway, about a week ago (I don't know why I hadn't thought before) I realised I could probably, quite easily, find a decent version of it online somewhere. And so I did. Because I could never clearly make them out I'd looked up the lyrics ages ago and they're some of my favourites ever. Incredibly simple - I think what I find so compelling about them is that they're so direct. A description of his physical trappings that's so straight forward that it becomes weird, especially the bit about his watch.

Pink Floyd Vegetable Man

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Burrito No 1

Going to the same sandwich shop week in week out, no matter how good, is one of those little things that can have you wondering what you're doing with your life. Here lies Artog, he ate about 10,000 salami and salad baguettes. So I was pleased, walking through the side streets of SW1 yesterday, to find Picante tucked away on Greencoat Row. (I also noticed that the Cardinal is having a refurb - I hope they keep the dinginess.)

My patronage often seems to be the kiss of death for any range of establishments, so I recommend this fantastic eatery in an attempt to preserve the only source of burritos within easy walking distance of my work place.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Hall of Bright Carvings

I read about this exhibition in the Observer, a little article accompanied by a picture of the car or the eagle, I can't remember. The first thing that sprang to mind was the Hall of Bright Carvings. I was keen to go, and when I saw that it was only a ten minute walk from work that settled it.

I’m a bit wary of small galleries and it was weird compared to the anonymity of a bigger gallery, to stand there next to the gallery owner in a room that was maybe only just twice the size of my living room. But the owner (Jack) was a thoroughly nice guy, very chatty about the whole phenomenon.

My favourite was the aeroplane - would they take the wings off to bury it, I wondered, otherwise you’d be looking at digging a seriously big hole in the ground. It wasn't built for a pilot but for an old lady whose unfulfilled wish it had been to fly in one. Others were more representative of their final occupant, lions were popular for warriors and the eagle was for a king.

Another sign of my advancing years, the gallery owner seemed so young. Which brings us naturally enough to mortality and death. Until quite recently it’s fair to say that I spent too much time worrying about death. No matter how long you contemplate it I don’t think you can ever get your head round it.

When I would turn my mind to the practicalities of it all I thought I'd like to be buried, and I previously imagined a cardboard coffin. Now it seems a shame not to try to come up with some everyday item, a freakishly large wooden version of which I could be interred in. Maybe a cigarette packet. Benson and Hedges. As I’ve repeatedly said, I don’t really smoke, but I do enjoy my lapses and I’m pretty certain that the best part of two decades that I spent idiotically puffing away will be at the root of my demise.