Monday, April 30, 2007

Who's Joke is This? 1

I went down the local ice-cream shop today, and I said, "I want to buy an ice-cream" The man said, "Hundreds & thousands?" I said, "We'll start with one." He said, "Knickerbocker Glory?" I said, "I do get a certain amount of freedom in these trousers, yes."

Saluting The Cut & Paste Olympians

Alfredo Domenech: Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (Regal, 1967)

This chap here has spent longer than might be thought healthy recreating the Sgt Pepper sleeve for his own 20 Greatest Hip Hop Records Of All Time, um, thing. Anyway, I like it a lot. But he clearly needs a long lie down...

Records I Can't Stand 5

Craig David: Seven Days (Wildstar, 2000)

On my way to see my friends
who lived a couple blocks away from me (owh)
As I walked through the subway
it must have been about quarter past three
In front of me
stood a beautiful honey with a beautiful body
She asked me for the time
I said it'd cost her her name
a six digit number & a date with me tomorrow at nine

Did she decline? No
Didn't she mind? I don't think so
Was it for real? Damn sure
What was the deal? A pretty girl aged 24
So was she keen? She couldn't wait
Cinnamon queen? let me update
What did she say? She said she'd love to
She asked me what we were gonna do
said we'd start with a bottle of moet for two

took her for a drink on Tuesday
we were making love by Wednesday
and on Thursday & Friday & Saturday we chilled on Sunday
I met this girl on Monday
took her for a drink on Tuesday
we were making love by Wednesday
and on Thursday & Friday & Saturday we chilled on Sunday

Nine was the time
cos I'll be getting mine
and she was looking fine
Smooth talker
she told me
She'd love to unfold me all night long
Ooh I loved the way she kicked it
from the front to back she flipped (back she flipped it, ooh the way she kicked it)
And I oh oh I yeah
hope that she'd care
cos I'm a man who'll always be there

Ooh yeah
I'm not a man to play around baby
Ooh yeah
cos a one night stand isn't really fair
From the first impression girl hmm you don't seem to be like that
Cos there's no need to chat for there'll be plenty for that
From the subway to my home
endless ringing of my phone
When you feeling all alone
all you gotta do
is just call me call me


took her for a drink on Tuesday
we were making love by Wednesday
and on Thursday & Friday & Saturday we chilled on Sunday
I met this girl on Monday
took her for a drink on Tuesday
we were making love by Wednesday
and on Thursday & Friday & Saturday we chilled on Sunday
(Break it down, uh break it down)
Since I met this special lady
ooh yeah
I can't get her of my mind
She's one of a kind
And I ain't about to deny it
It's a special kind thing
with you-oh.......


took her for a drink on Tuesday
we were making love by Wednesday
and on Thursday & Friday & Saturday we chilled on Sunday
I met this girl on Monday
took her for a drink on Tuesday
we were making love by Wednesday
and on Thursday & Friday & Saturday we chilled on Sunday

Look! "Bonus" re-mix :(

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Herne Of The Century

So, we finally made it to The Herne Tavern for lunch and it was just fantastic. Our friend Chris says we're too easily pleased, but that's just not true when it comes to lunch (or, indeed, dinner. Or breakfast, actually). But how was it good, you ask? Well:

1. We had a really nice table properly set for four adults and three children waiting for us.
2. Our order was taken within five minutes.
3. The children's food - organic cumberland sausage and thin-cut chips, hello East Dulwich! - arrived in the blink of an eye.
4. Silvana couldn't decide what wine she wanted, so they poured her a taste of a couple to try.
5. Our lunch turned up soon after and it was delicious. Crispy, fluffy spuds, thick cut, pink roast beef, great crunchy, towering yorkshire puds, sweet carrots and crunchy beans. Great gravy. Fresh horseradish. We sat and enjoyed every mouthful in an air of blissful, unhurried calm thanks to
6. The garden. It's a proper sandpit, slides, things to climb on, trees to squeeze around belter. Scrap, Lily and Olivia spent the majority of the afternoon running around barefoot and only returning for an ice-cream or a drink of water.
7. After our main course we wanted to move outside, so all our stuff was moved and we enjoyed pudding and cheese and coffee (which was very good coffee, too) in the sunshine.
8. You can't smoke anywhere in the building. Well, I gave up a week ago today, so I'm all for this kind of thing (*makes punchibly smarmy face*).
9. It was £120 for seven people and everyone had everything they could have possibly hoped for (and more).
10. I gave up counting after nine.

Lily's dad Steve said he'd like to have all his weekend meals here from Saturday breakfast to Sunday tea and I can see his point. If you have small children and have gobbled down too many lunches in an attempt to get everyone sorted before the shouting and moaning thrashing about start (don't you hate trying to get another mouthful in while paying the bill and putting someone's coat on?), come here.

If you don't, go somewhere else because you'll not like it at all. It's a playground with a fantastic pub attached. Isn't that just the best idea you've ever heard?

Records I Can't Stand 4

Gerry Rafferty: Baker Street (EMI, 1978)


Friday, April 27, 2007

Records That Make Me Feel Good: 22

The Killers: Mr Brightside Jacques Lu Cont's Thin White Duke mix (Island, 2006)

Silvana had some harsh words for The Killers a few days ago. But even she would have to agree that this is a work of complete genius, the sort of remix that can make you rethink your whole attitude to a band. Eh, sweetheart? Anyway, I spent 19 hours on a tourbus with The Killers once and I can confirm they were sound chaps. They, sensibly, spent most of the night asleep in their coffin-like bunks, but Brandon and I spent hours smoking Davidoff cigarettes and drinking coca-cola while staring out into the north Californian night. Later, he feasted on Twinkies and looked at me disbelievingly when I said I never eaten one. So I had one. And it was horrible. Years ago I reviewed the singles for Melody Maker with Jacques Lu Cont aka Stuart Price. He must have been about 6 at the time. I also remember having to go to Radio 1 in the middle of the bloody night to interview him when he was doing a special live show there. He was a very funny man. Around the same time my friend Peter interviewed him at home and broke his armmchair, but Stuart must have forgiven him because the only way you can buy this mix now is on Peter's own very marvellous album.

Top Tipple

Our friend Pad really knows about wine and he says this:
"You must run down to your local Sainsbury and buy up in large quantities the Muriel 1998 Gran Reserva Rioja . This little beauty is 100% Temapranillo , spent 24 months in oak barrels and 36 months in bottle prior to release. They are selling it at £4.99 a bottle! When I was a kid and working for one of those posh wine merchants with royal warrants , we used to sell the crianza for £6.85 and that was back in the day! Hurry hurry hurry"

Thank you Pad.

Drunk Mummy, meanwhile is tucking into M&S Chablis.....

Take The Pie Road

Writing recipes is a strange way to make a living. Mostly we are writing for publication at least one or two seasons ahead so none of the ingredients we need are in the shops. And no-one's really in the mood to eat what we're cooking.
Tomorrow, I have asked Heidi, Bert, Sami and Milo to pop over after their walk in the woods with Rob and Scrap for lunch at ours. I am testing recipes for bonfire night which includes mulled cider and a slow-roast pot-chicken I am experimenting with. Only we will be eating it at midday on a sunny Saturday in April.
When my best friend Angela was writing her lovely book Pie, she tested so many recipes she ended up knocking on all the neighbours doors asking if anyone fancied a pie for their tea. She made these for me and Robert and gave us them all ready to cook at home. They tasted wonderful – but how sweet are they! I love initials on things

Anyway, we ate so many of her pies that I can’t remember which one this was. So here’s a recipe from her lovely book. Thanks Ange!

Braised Lamb Shank Pie
Serves 6
400g puff pastry
beaten egg, to glaze
50g plain flour
6 lamb shanks
2 tbsp olive oil
4 red onions, quartered
8 cloves garlic
1 bottle full-bodied red wine
300ml beef stock
2 tbsp finely chopped rosemary
3 tbsp recurrant jelly
salt andpepper

1 Season the flour with salt and pepper and dust the shanks.

2 Heat the oil in a casserole dish and brown the shanks all over. Add any remaining flour and the onions and garlic and stir well.

3 Pour in the wine, stock, rosemary, redcurrant jelly and a good grinding of black pepper. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer gently for 2 hours until the sauce is rich and thickened and the meat is falling away from the bones.

4 Remove the bones from the pan, reserving three of them and flake the rest into small pieces.

5 Preheat the oven to 200C. Spoon the mixture into a 2 litre pie dish. Roll out the pastry to a thickness of 3mm and 2cm bigger than the dish. Cut a 2cm strip of pastry. Brush the rim of the dish with a little water and place the pastry strip around the rim.

6 Sit the three bones into the pie filling at intervals along the length of the dish – these will act as pie funnels, releasing the steam as the pie is baking as will also stop the pastry from sinking into the filling and becoming soggy.

7 Cut three slits in the pastry at the same intervals as the lamb bones and place the pastry lid over the top, sliding it over it the bones. Press down the edges of the pastry to seal.

8 trim off any excess pasty and crimp the edges. Brush with the beaten egg and bake for 30 – 35 minutes until the pastry is crisp and golden.

Hello Old Thing, Hello New Thing: 6

The Beach Boys: Hawaii (Capitol, 1964)

I got this yesterday and, quite understandably bearing in mind how many times this band have been repackaged and resold I initially felt like just chucking it in the bin. But then I heard this and decided that, just maybe, there was some tiny amount of legs left in this whole sunshine-pop game. I love this picture too - so that helps.

Polytechnic: Rain Check (Shatterproof, 2007)

From sunshine - oh yes! - to rain. To be honest, Polytechnic could do with having fared a little bit more betterer in the old gorgeousness exams, (the album sleeve is a cartoon - always a bad sign), but this track is a proper beauty. If you've ever felt anything in for the sort of slightly careworn, just-got-out-of-bed-at-three-in-the-afternoon, shamble-friendly indie-rock that, say, Pavement used to do so well then you'll love it. You will...


When A Band Is, Literally, Quite Good

I know it's kind of tiresome going, "This old thing is really good. Why can't someone be as good as this anymore?" But, bloody hell, James Brown's band were, literally, quite good, weren't they?

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Époisses de Bourgogne

Speaking of Jeroboam's, we gave Jackie and Geoff our Scrap's changing table a few weeks ago and as a very kind thank you, they sent us this amazing box of cheese. We ate the Brie, Stilton and Red Leicester but saved the Epoisse for our trip to Derby as firstly, we knew they'd love it and also a cheese like that needs to be cut and eaten in one go. You can't wrap it in cling film and put it back in the fridge and a whole cheese in one sitting is a bit much, even for us two. Anyway, we cut it and ate it in near silence then all went for a lie-down. According to Wikipedia, its odour is so pungent that its consumption is banned on French public transport. Unpatuerised, stinky, washed-rind cheese cannot possibly be good for you but blimey....

Incredible [Yet Pointless] Feats: 1

This chap clearly has a great deal of time on his hands to perfect such a pointless skill. But, you have to admit, it is pretty amazing. I just wonder how long the unedited versions are :(

Records That Toy With Cultural Norms: 1

The Miracles: (Ain't) Nobody Straight In LA (Motown, 1975)

Released as Motown's white hot period began to fade to a more thinly spread, charcoaly grey, The Miracles decided to, well, go gay. If only for a bit. Over a War-shaped, Latino-lite backing, Billy Griffin sings in his finest, softly-lisping falsetto: "Homo-sex-uali-ty, is a part of so-cie-ty, I guess that they need some more va-rie-ty." Everyone's gay, they reason, so we might as well be gay too. Why, it's the latest thing! Of course, by the end of the track they're metaphorically rearranging their bri-nylons and bristling their mousatches while chatting idly about how those LA gay bars are stuffed full of "fine women" - OK! we get it! you're not really gay! But 32 years later, who could possibly make a new version?

I can't think of anyone...

EDIT: If one of the above chaps was to be gay, which one do you think it would be? I can't decide between Shadesman and The Gruffalo (bottom right)...

The Hilarious Things You Do When You're Drinking: 1

Jerry Lee Lewis: Drinking Wine Spo-Dee O'Dee (Lemon, 1973)

I went to the Dog in Dulwich Village for some beery refreshment with Matt and Gav from our old NCT group last night. Three years after the birth of our various ankle-biters, we still manfully make a date to hammer the fizzy keg on a regular basis. We're a bit selfless like that. Anyway, after a couple we began to reminisce about the drinks of our youth. In particular, the way some of those drinks were served in proper pint (or, even better, half-pint) jugs. You used to have to ask (nicely) for a straight glass. Well, we reversed that trend last night by getting Gav to ask for jugs. Matt and I agreed to drink warm bitter if we could have it in something with a handle. When he wandered out to the rapidly darkening garden gripping these three little beauties we yelped with delight. We did.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Hello Old Thing, Hello New Thing: 4

Johnny Cash: I Still Miss Someone (Columbia, 1959)

Johnny Cash was undoubtedly a wonderful chap and all that, but, my goodness, there's a lot of music to work through, isn't there? I got this in the post today and I immediately put about three of the twenty tracks on my iTunes. This is my favourite, a B-Side, but a great one, where gospel and doo-wop meet country and folk. A sadly underworked seam, that one...

The Nextmen: Did No Wrong (Antidote, 2007)

These two have been making some great hip-hop and soul records for some considerable time (well, it feels like that, but it's probably about five years. Or maybe six) Anyway, their new record has some perfectly lovely choons on it, including one that used the same Johnny Harris sample that was all over that Wiseguys record I banged on about a while ago. I was caught between that and this - and went for this as repeated headphone plays has put this out on top. Deep, single-red-light-swinging-in-a-smoke-filled-room basement breakbeat soul that finds time for a Miles-U-Like trumpet solo and even some vibes quivers. Doesn't sound at all like Johnny Cash.


Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Records I Can't Stand 3

The Killers: Somebody Told Me (Vertigo, 2004)

I'll admit, that singer's a nice-looking man but this, surely, is the most dreary, droney, tedious song of all time?

"Somebody told me that she had a boyfriend who looked like a girlfriend or somebody's boyfriend, or something..." Whatever!

Best Ever Trifle

We had a fantastic lunch this weekend at our friends Fergal and Lorraine's house. Sunshine, great food and great company but with three special highlights:

1) Little Alannah and our Scrap performed a dance routine in the garden involving Alannah singing and clapping while they simultaneously struck various poses including rolling into a ball and springing up with arms stretched. We were all too busy laughing to watch properly but it was fab! He needs to join a ballet class

2) The spectacualr cheeses Merrilees bought from Jeroboam's

3) Lorraine's trifle - It's her signature dish:
Cook Cox's apples in butter, maple syrup and cardamom(!) and spoon into large trifle bowl. Top with layer of summer berries. Cover with sliced Madeira cake and drizzle with calvados. Melt Green & Black's white chocolate and mix with custard and vanilla extract and spoon over cake. Top with whipped cream and silver balls. Yum!

Monday, April 23, 2007

Hello New Music: 3

The Aliens: She Don't Love Me No More (EMI, 2007)
I never wanted to like The Aliens. I avoided their album for months and months because I once interviewed The Beta Band (The Aliens with Steve Mason) and they were the single worst bunch of in-joking, unpleasant, unhelpful, unfunny bastards I've ever met (with the exception of Death In Vegas who were so far up their own fundament I danced a long and involved jig of joy the day it was announced they'd spilt up due no one giving a pish about them anymore).

Anyway - this track, the big, heartfelt ballad from the album is just brilliant. And do buy the record because it is very, very, very good indeed. As good as Amiina (*makes serious face*)...


Sunday, April 22, 2007

Records I Can't Stand 2

No Doubt: Hey Baby (Interscope, 2001)

Style icon?
On-trend fashonista?
I don't think so.
Gwen Stefani looks shocking if you ask me. She's been on a diet since she was 13 apparently. Robert says she's absolutely lovely in 'real life' and I'm sure she is but there's very little I like less than than someone with good self-discipline.

And my, this is one hell of a bad song.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Raspberry Souff

4 eggs
150g golden caster sugar
142 ml carton double cream
1 tbsp plain flour
2 tbsp ground almonds
225g pack raspberries
Vanilla ice cream, to serve

1 Preheat the oven to 180 C, gas mark 4. Using an electric whisk, beat the eggs and sugar for a good five minutes until pale and thick enough to leave a trail.

2 In a separate bowl, lightly whip the cream until it forms soft peaks. Carefully fold the cream into the egg mixture with the flour and almonds.

3 Pour the batter into a large, shallow baking dish and gently scatter over the raspberries – they will mostly sink beneath the surface but not quite all.

4 Bake for 20 minutes until set and golden – make sure it is not still wobbly in the centre. Serve warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Records I Can't Stand: 1

The Cure: The Walk (Fiction, 1983, like that's important in some way)

I don't know much about much but I have learnt how to post tracks - look! - and rather than ramble on about what I like, and why it's so 'amazing ', I am featuring instead the songs I bloody hate, the ones I turn off or shout at. Here are my Desert Island discs in reverse.

The Cure, I quite like. This song, I flipping hate! What say you?

Friday, April 20, 2007

Quiet Is The New Loud

Amiina: Kolapot (Ever, 2007)
I sort of have a new favourite band in the world (I know this happens a lot, it really can't be helped). Anyway, they're called Amiina and they're from Iceland and their new album is really tremendously good. And not just because they're knitting on the cover (although that helps, obv). They are much beloved of the Sigur Ros, Radiohead types, though I shouldn't hold that against them. I think this might be the quietest record I've ever heard. And, yes, all the album is like this. Hooray!

DJ Zinc: Super Sharp Shooter (Parousia, 1996)
The only knitting these mad junglist bastards will be doing is with their eyebrows as they prepare to beat the living bejeezus out of you. This record makes me think of a very naughty chap I used to know called Joe. We listened to this about 50 times as one long night became a new, rather more painful morning and it never, ever got boring. I stole this from this album which is out any day now. And there's not a bad track on it. Which is also hooray-ful, innit?

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Hello Old Thing, Hello New Thing: 3

Meg Baird: River Song (Wichita, 2007)
Meg Baird is out of Espers - that's her on the bottom right. She's recorded this solo album that's really very good. She plucks mandolins and guitars and all that sort of thing. According to Billboard, Baird "has a long held an interest in rural, Appalachian-style balladry", well, haven't we all, sweetheart? Anyway, this is great.

Seefeel: Climactic Phase 3 (Too Pure, 1993)
This fantastic Seefeel record is getting a special re-release because it's 14 years old or something. Is that a valid reason for a re-release? I don't know - I don't make the rules, you know! Anyway, I played this album in the office yesterday. Half wanted to know what it was and how they could buy it while the other half wanted to throw it out of the window into the street. If you like records that sound a bit like they're broken but the people who made them are so walloped on naughty-sweeties that they just don't care then you'll love this. I know I do.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Thanks Mum

Scrap's been off colour for over a week now. Hot and bothered, clingy and waking up five or six times a night desperately upset. It clicked up a gear on the day of his birthday party and he cried during a lot of it, didn't eat anything and spend the next day telling me that he didn't have a nice time at his party and that he didn't like his cake.

Robert has got more than usual on at work and wants to stay late. For some reason I cannot explain, I chose this time to take on a few extra dates at work. Why? Why did I rock the careful balance of work and home - was it just for the extra cash or was it that as a freelancer it's often the worry that a good job will slip through your fingers and a valuable client will be gone forever if you say no too many times? So Scrap gets a few extra days at nursery and he and I skip our days together in the park.

The nursery has called every day this week for us to collect Scrap early as he has a temperature and is not himself. Is it the lack of days in the park that has caused this? Is he missing our time together? I walked off set early on both Monday and Tuesday and today Robert had to leave a meeting to get to the nursery. We're both going to get fired. On the way home tonight I called my mum in Derby and within an hour, she'd packed her bag, given my dad his tea, bought a ticket and got on the train to London. She will sort out our life like only mum can, she will cuddle Scrap all day long, tackle the laundry and ironing mountains and make several brilliant dinners from a chicken and couple of carrots and then go to bed at 9pm.

And Scrap? Seems alright now. This evening he was eating yogurt and watching Night Garden, happy as anything. 'You know our Scrap?' Robert just said to me 'Do you think he's playing silly buggers?'

Real Life Drama!

A shiny red helicopter just landed on the reservoir opposite our office. A load of blokes in yellow jump suits jumped out and clambered gingerly down onto the Pentonville Road where they were met by a portly (from here) looking copper (or was it a traffic warden?). Then they ran off up the road toward Angel so I lost sight of them. But it was definitely exciting for a minute there.

The helicopter naffed off almost straight away...

Wafer potato and Taleggio pizzas

When we were in New York just before Easter we shared this lovely slice of potato pizza. I’ve been thinking about making some ever since. I realise now that this is my fourth or fifth reference to pizza since we began this blog about six months ago so I clearly have yet another food addiction/obsession (hello cheese, cava, chocolate and pasta) that needs addressing.....

Serves 4
1 quantity of pizza dough
2 tbsp olive oil
350g red-skinned potatoes
leaves from 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
2 garlic cloves, crushed
200g Taleggio, diced
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 200C/Gas 6. Divide the dough into four then roll each piece into wafer-thin oval shape about 28cm long and brush with half the oil.

Using a a mandolin or food processor, cut the potatoes into wafer-thin slices and toss with the rosemary, garlic and remaining oil. Lay a single layer of potato on the dough bases and season with salt and plenty of black pepper.

Carefully transfer the ovals to a hot pizza stone or baking sheet and cook for 10 minutes. Scatter over the chunks of cheese and cook for a further 5 - 10 minutes until crisp and golden.

Basic pizza dough
250g strong plain flour

1/2 tsp table salt
7g sachet easy-blend yeast
2 tbsp olive oil

125ml warm water

Mix together the flour, salt and yeast then make a well in the centre. Add the oil and water and bring together to make a soft dough. Sprinkle over a little flour if the mixture feels too sticky but make sure it’s not dry.

Tip the bowl onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 10 minutes, sprinkling with flour when needed, until the dough is smooth and stretchy.

Rub some oil over the surface of the dough then place in a large bowl. Cover the bowl with a tea towel and leave for about an hour until the mixture has doubled.

Knead the dough for two minutes until the excess air is knocked out then roll out and top. Leave for 20 mins or so to rise while the oven gets hot. Bake.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Hello Old Thing, Hello New Thing: 2

The Emotions: So I Can Love You (Stax, 1969)

This Stax compilation arrived the other day. You look down the list at Isaac Hayes, Booker T, Rufus Thomas and you think two things.
1. Jesus, look how many great records they put out.
2. Jesus, I've really heard a lot of those too many times.

But there are still some great tracks in there, and this Emotions track is chief among them. Listen to it and, while it slinks about in the background, your world will be a happier, more interesting place.

The National Fake Empire (Beggars Banquet, 2007)

The National are two sets of brothers and another bloke from Cincinatti, Ohio. Somehow, this makes them seem almost unbearably romantic what with all the huge corn fields, half-empty, twilight bars and over-sized trucks tootling down dusty roads and stuff. Of course, it's probably nothing like that, but what do I know? Anyway, they make me think a little of Leonard Cohen and Joy Division and Nick Cave. Their album includes breezy acoustic strums and gentle trumpet-parpery, there's the odd treacly pop shudder and one rattling, pointed distress-call. This track is just brilliant. That's part of their appeal. If not all of it.

Anyway, enjoy...

Monday, April 16, 2007

Three At Last, Three At Last!

Colleen: Echoes & Coral (The Leaf Label, 2007)

So, the little fellow had his third birthday party yesterday and what a do it was. JAGS sports hall welcomed 20 maniacally excited children, a bouncy castle, loads of mats to jump onto, some little bikes, buggies, footballs, slides, all that sort of thing. After an hour of high-intensity shouting, yelling, jumping, bouncing, racing, running and leaping (with some top-notch, over-whelmed crying thrown in, mainly from Scrap) everyone piled upstairs where Silvana had laid out a special party spread with each little darling getting an individual box-ette (like Roxette, only less annoying) with drink, grapes, chicken and cucumber wrap, jelly 'n' cupcake etcetc). It was quite a sight, seeing all his little pals sat there and everyone was so kind with their gifts. It wasn't just Scrap whom felt a bit overwhelmed by it all, I tell yer *sniffs*.

Anyway, you need a drink after that sort of thing, so we got everyone back to help us clear the cava build up we were suffering from. It was hot. Everyone took on a rosy, happy glow. The young 'uns began to give up the fight and gravitated towards the telly. Most of the older ones nicked off about 6:30. The last, heroic reveller stumbled back over the road to his house at 12:30am. Scrap woke up at about 5. Ouch. If I'd had this fantastically hypnotic little beauty from Colleen's new album to hand I'd have played it to him and we'd have all slept on peacefully til noon.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

(Not Much) Park Life

Rumours circulating that Dulwich Park has become painfully over-popular recently - with some commentators suggesting there's barely a corner left for even the briefest spot of quiet contemplation - were today found to be completely without substance. Scrap, 3, who lives in the area added, "Is moine, daddy. Is atcherlee all moine."

Saturday, What A Day

It's Scrap's party today, so we were all over the place yesterday. Me and him had a list of tasks and were under strict instruction to keep out of Silvana's kitchen as she was up to her oxters in cherry cup cakes and the like. So, we were wandering round Wing Tai by about 8:30 looking for rice-paper wraps and started banging on the doors of the Horniman (every south London parent's second home) an hour later.

We all went to meet the newborn - and rather lovely - Eloise for the first time in the afternoon - hello Eloise! - then, in a moment of madness, decided to call in at Selfridges on the way home. My default setting is to not want to make any random moves at all at that point in the day, but Silvana is entirely the opposite. She revels in throwing in odd moves and just presuming it will all be fine. I always think it will always be a nightmare. When she suggested we take a hungry Scrap to an extremely busy Yo Sushi! I thought, 'This will be a disaster!'. Of course, it wasn't. It was great. Apart from the bit where he fell off the really high stool and banged his head. But an ice cream from the food hall seemed to sort that pretty quickly...

Friday, April 13, 2007

Things That Used To Be A Bit Better In The "Old" Days Than They Are Now 1: Adverts

Are there adverts on the telly at the moment that are anything like as joyous, silly and unashamedly colourful as this Japanese Wham! promo for Maxell from - I'm guessing - 1984?

No. There aren't.

Shame, isn't it?

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Old People Are Cool

Gangstarr: Jazz Thing (Movie mix) (CBS, 1990)
Last Friday we went to Derby. That night Silvana's dad took me across the road to the Royal British Legion club to see the jazz band, Jazz Vibrations (great name). He was as excited about it as I was. They only play once a month and I've only seen them once before, but they are wonderful for a number of reasons. For one, there's not a member under 65 - old people in bands are about the coolest thing I can think of because they've got no aspirations other than to play the music they love. They're not trying to be pop stars or famous or blow anyone's minds, they just want to play. For another, the guy on vibes has clearly been playing the instrument for about 50 years and he is now so in tune with it he's hunched over it like it's a part of him. So we stood at the bar and sank very cheap drinks and smiled at each other not caring what the songs were called or what anyone was doing because it was all good. When the frontman guy put down his sax and picked up his clarinet Silvana's dad's smile got even bigger. 36 hours before I'd been in a cool restaurant in New York, but this was so much cooler. Old guys playing their hearts out - respect is due.

Footnote: The Gangstarr track is taken from the original UK CD single release. Spike Lee's sleevenotes - written on July 13, 1990 - give props to "Duke, Coltrane, Monk, Diz, Mingus..." etcetc. But he also makes room for Biz Markie, Queen Latifah and "Hammer". It's easily forgotten that, for a short time only, MC Hammer wasn't the cheesy joke character he became, but a serious hip hop voice. History is a funny beast, no?

Shoes: A Growing Problem

This is just the pile in the bedroom. If I collected all the ones from the downstairs cupboard and the ones behind the sofa in the front room and the ones left in the back of the car and the ones that we've worn while walking in the woods that are all muddy and have been left in the garden then things would seem really out of hand... There are shoes from London, Munich, LA, New York, Seattle, San Francisco, Dallas and Chicago. We are useless in the face of our addiction. Something must be done.

Caramel Ripple Brownies

My friend Myriam's food blog Once Upon A Tart is fast becoming the best around. She is hosting her first food event Browniebabe of the Month and here is my entry. I've made this brownie for years and it's lovely - two thirds brownie, one third caramel cheesecake.

Makes 16
100 g plain chocolate
100 g unsalted butter
2 eggs, beaten
150 g light muscovado sugar
50 g plain flour
225 g soft cheese
50 g dark muscovado sugar
few drops vanilla extract
1 egg, beaten

Preheat the oven to 170C, gas mark 3. Line a 20cm square shallow cake tin with silicone paper.

Break the chocolate into a heatproof bowl then add the butter and set over a pan of gently simmering water, stirring from time to time until melted.

Meanwhile, make the caramel ripple mixture, mix together the soft cheese, muscovado sugar, vanilla and egg and set aside.

Stir the eggs and sugar into the chocolate mixture then sift over the flour and gently fold in.

Spoon half of the brownie mixture into the tin then alternately dollop teaspoonfuls of the caramel mixture and the remaining brownie mixture into the tin. Using a chop stick or skewer, lightly ripple together to make a marbled top.

Bake for 30 minutes until just set. Leave to cool in the tin then cut into squares and cool completely on a wire rack.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Stop, Potential Thief!

A courier has just arrived with the new Queens Of The Stone Age album, Era Vulgaris. I was about to put it on, but was faced with this BURST of AGGRESSIVE stickery. I'm not sure I want to open it at all now (although Make It With Chu and Misfit Love promise cheap thrills...).

Old Music Wednesday: Soundsystem Special

Mikey Dread: Everybody Needs A Proper Education (12" mix) (Trojan, 1979)
A great record just plopped on my desk. It looks like this and you might want to buy it as it's rather good. This Mikey Dread track is a little bit on the great side

Mark Stewart: These Things Happen (On-U Sound, 1990)
Bim Sherman: Slummy Ghetto (On-U Sound, 1992)
In other reggae news - no, come back! - I'd always thought I wouldn't like On-U Sound stuff as I'd assumed it was for pot-smoking Fall fans (I used to sell a lot of On-U records to a pot-smoking Fall fan), but this is fantastic. Me and my pal Ronnie remixed a Bim Sherman record once. It wasn't as good as this one even by the time we'd finished with it.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

London Cat Eats Chips

I saw this story today on an American website about a cat in London who catches the bus to the chippy every day. When I clicked on the link I was very disappointed to discover that:
a) the story was from the Daily Mail
b) the cat lives in Wolverhampton
c) it didn't actually go to the chippy

Simple Roasted Tomato Soup

I'm happy today. It was my lovely Scrappy's 3rd birthday and what a sunny day it has been. The days are warmer and longer and the summer's fruit and veg are well on their way. Even English tomatoes are starting to taste good.
Serves 4
1 kg ripe tomatoes, halved
1 red onion, sliced
1 tbsp olive oil
1.5 litre chicken or vegetable stock
1 large white potato, peeled and diced
4 garlic cloves, chopped
balsamic vinegar OR freshly grated Parmesan

Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas 4. Place the tomatoes and red onion in a roasting tin and drizzle over the olive oil. Season and roast for 45 minutes until the tomatoes are softened and a little charred.

Meanwhile, place the stock, potatoes and garlic in a pan. Bring to the boil then cover and simmer for 20 minutes until tender. Add the tomato mixture then using a hand-held blender, whizz until thick and fairly smooth.

Check for seasoning and finish with either a dash of vinegar or a handful of cheese.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Basement Crates: Religious Special

Alan McGill: Gentle Hands (Supreme, 1972)
Alan McGill: He Walks With Me (Canaan Records, 1971)

It's Easter Monday, so it seemed an appropriate time to post some of the religious treats I picked up when I should have been watching the magician at a three year old's party recently.

Alan McGill looks a bit like my late Great Aunt Beryl, so, for that alone, I think he is a wonderful chap. He was known as "the smiling face of Gospel" - who, I wonder, was "the snarling grimace of Gospel" and where could I get his LPs? - and he spent many years in California before moving to the heaving fleshpots of Baltimore in Maryland. Has any English person ever been to Baltimore (other than to try and find John Waters?) Anyway, perhaps unsurprisingly for someone called Alan McGill, this kindly hearted soul was of the Gaelic persuasion as his cockle-warming tenor brogue can't help but reveal. He Walks With Me is almost jazzy while Gentle Hands is pure, old-time Christian radio schmaltz and all the more wonderful for it. As far as the internet's concerned, he's still alive and making appearances. But probably only in Maryland. By the way, Hands is taken from an LP called He Touched Me which features a ghostly, godly hand coming down out of the sky. Sadly, instead of inducing awe, this just makes me snigger into my hand every time I see it. Sorry Alan :(

The Glorylanders: When I Found Out About Jesus (IBA, 1972)
The Glorylanders are still going too. They're selling their old tour bus at the moment. They may have bought it with the money they made from this LP - a gospel-folk-pop classic from 1972. I say classic like I knew anything about it, but you only have to look at that typeface or see the stand-up bass and acoustic guitar to know something kewl is going on here. This track is nearly brilliant, it's clear the 'Landers had a big thing for The Beatles, particularly John Lennon 1965/66 era, as you will hear in its series of direct stylistic steals. Great attmept at a "Scouse" accent too...

Dick Saunders: Jesus Bids Us Shine (Echo Recording, 1972)
Jimmy Owens' Come Together Singers: Tell The World (Word/Light, 1973)
The rest of the Dick Saunders LP is a load of no-partner-having, nylon-wearing librarians singing bad hymns to each other, but Shine is a little slice of instrumental heaven. Nice picture of Piccadilly Circus on the cover too. And, anyway, what do you want for 20p (or in your case, nothing)? I've covered Jimmy Owens before, but I was tricked by the different sleeve on this one. Those Christian bastards, always with the stealing and the trickery... However, buying it again did make me revisit it and rediscover Tell The World. Unlike Saunders' lily-livered, Bible-stroking milk-sop pals, Jimmy, Carol (and the Come Together Singers) sound like they're at it all the bloody time.

Joy Is Like The Rain: Speak To Me, Wind (Avant Garde, 1966)
This seems very, um, advanced for 1966, but that's when it was, so there we go. Singing nuns can get pretty tiresome, pretty quickly, but this track is great - a wispy-voiced, knock-kneed, wimple-rocker so In Love With The Lord it can't even breathe in His presence, never mind meet his steely gaze. Don't, like us, go looking for Avante Garde Records on 57th Street as rather like the Electric Banana, it's not there anymore.

Happy Easter!