Mixed Fillings


Last week I was due to see my dentist, Dr Gorgeous, but the appointment was cancelled at the last minute because he was sick.

He’s been our dentist for a couple of years, taking over the practice after our dentist of 25 years had to retire  because of ill health. Our previous dentist was a few years older than me, with a gentle manner and a pleasant humour. Dr Gorgeous, however, is in his mid thirties, likes taking part in triathlons, plays the music station BBC 6music in his surgery and likes to chat about current trends. He is also tall, athletic, dark haired, with piercing blue eyes and a soft Irish lilt in his voice.

I remember Lady Barton St Mary returning from her first appointment with him, with a rather beatific smile on her face.

“Yes, I think my visits to the dentist will be rather pleasant in future,” she opined, “I’m quite happy to lie back in a chair and look into his eyes.”

Good grief.

Our old dentist was quite happy to leave my teeth alone, but Dr Gorgeous has that youthful enthusiasm. It’s almost as if he sees my nashers as a rather decrepit building he’d like to restore to its former glory. In my more fanciful moments, I can imagine reaching my sixties with teeth that could rival Simon Cowell’s. I wouldn’t be able to smile in the street at night time for fear of reflecting the headlights of oncoming drivers back into their eyes and causing a terrible accident.

So, three weeks ago, he gave me some special flossing sticks which looked a bit like miniature lavatory brushes.

“Use these on your back teeth,” he instructed me in his sing song accent, “I’ll see you in three weeks to decide on the future of your mouth.”

I’d never felt so important. A summit meeting for my gob.

He showed me how to use them. I spat blood into the bowl.

“Ha! A bit o’ blood! That’ll happen to start with!”

Dr Gorgeous seems to like bleeding mouths. Momentarily, I wondered if he’d like one.

So, for three weeks, I’ve been using these miniature bog brushes in between my back teeth. He was right. The bleeding eventually stopped. Perhaps he had my best interests at heart after all. In fact, he’s always done a fine job. He’s never really caused me any pain. He likes John Grant and can speak knowledgeably about indie music past and present. He has the current issue of Esquire magazine in his waiting room. He likes to talk running and cycling.

To be honest, I’m starting to see Lady BSM’s point of view.

Keep smiling.


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The Magic of Giving a Gift.

As most of you are aware, I start panicking about Lady Barton St Mary’s birthday gift in August, despite the fact her birthday isn’t until the 18th December. As you may be aware ( see  Christmas Past, Christmas Present – Mustard Coloured Track Suit and a Leopard Skin Kimono) selecting gifts is not my forte.

Fortunately, she informed me that she wanted some Chanel No 5 perfume, which was fine. Also aware that I wouldn’t find it however hard I scoured the shelves of the local petrol station shop, she directed me to the John Lewis website, which now has a special Chanel sale section.

“At the moment, they’re offering 10% off,” she explained, “if you order it today, you can also save 25% with our family discount card.”

I forgot what type of Chanel she wanted. Coco? Coco Chanel? Coco Madamoiselle? Cocovoulezvoucouchezavecmoi? Coco the Clown? I’d distracted myself.

“Chanel No. 5,” she reiterated firmly, “look at the start of this blog.”

Oh yeah.

So, having established that I can purchase it online now, with discount, using her card, part of my BSM birthday panic will be over. Phew.

She leaned over my shoulder as I searched for the right product, giving me a hug.

“That’s one of the strengths of a long relationship,” she whispered in my ear, “always being able to surprise your partner.”

Wait until I give her this vintage bottle of  Stowaway (Sleepy Lagoon) I ordered on

eBay instead of the Chanel. She’ll be so thrilled!

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Woolly Hats and Daffodils – Bordergame (The National Theatre Wales)

Have cash will travel.

Have cash will travel.

Wordpretzels, this blog is all about the ‘immersive theatre experience’ Bordergame, so may contain some spoilers for those of you who may feel like taking part. However, it would be hard to spoil the performance, since the outcome is completely different for every audience member. Stay with me on this…

Bordergame comes from the minds of two rather weird geniuses, John Norton and Matthew Wright, directed by John Norton. This is the basic premise: Wales is now an independent state, The Autonomous Republic of Cymru; in the NewK, there’s a TB epidemic and people are dropping like flies. It’s your mission to make it across the border and be accepted as a bona fide citizen of ARC; What’s there to stop you? The border guards of the Border Agency of the Autonomous Republic of Cymru (BAARC), led by the rather sinister figure of Alun Trevor. What’s more, B.A.A.R.C. is ably assisted by online players who can watch the action on covert cctv cameras, all registered members of the Active Citizen Programme (ACP). They have the power to watch you participate and decide whether you should be allowed citizenship or be deported. Still with me?



The night didn’t start well. Lady Barton St Mary and I missed our connecting train to Bristol Temple Meads (the gateway for illegal entry into ARC). To make matters worse, Miss Katherine, travelling from Cardiff, had our tickets. Or rather had forgotten them and had returned to her flat to retrieve them, thus making her impossibly late. Ironically, she was having a nightmare trip out of Wales.

Therefore, we arrived in a rather dark and stressful mood as the rain lashed down on a damp November evening.

No matter, we managed to rendezvous with our contact, open a safety deposit box and collect our cash and a letter with instructions.

I followed the map, walking briskly in torrential rain, the paper wilting and getting softer in my cold hands. I had to find Riverside Road and meet my contact. Lady Barton St Mary struggled to keep up, skittering across the cobbles in her heels. I spotted a figure silhouetted under a streetlight. I approached and gave him the coded message. He stared at me for a moment. His black skin glistened as droplets of water ran down his cheeks.

“Stand over there,” he said brusquely in his thick African accent, pointing to the corner of a building. Lady BSM approached him and tried the same line. He fixed her with a steady gaze and snatched the map from her hands.

“What are you doing here!” he demanded, “can’t you see you should be under the bridge up there?”

Poor Lady BSM looked at him imploringly. She’d already had a run in with the sat nav in the car, which had steadfastly refused to find a suitable car park, so she looked a little defeated.

“Go!” shouted my guide, “and run! You’re going to be late!”

I watched Lady BSM disappear into the murk, unaware that I had her rail ticket in my pocket. I was joined by another migrant, who introduced herself as Adalyne. Later on standing on Platform 4, I found out that she was from Brisbane, Australia.

“What the hell are you doing here?” I asked her as the rain did its best to hammer through the roof.

Our guide approached, standing very close to us both. He looked from one of us to the other.

“When is The Queen’s birthday?” he demanded of Adalyne. She giggled.

“Don’t laugh!” he shouted angrily, “Dis is no laughing matter! You will be asked dese things by the border guards! 21st April 1926! Follow me!” he hissed, turning on his heel and heading up the hill back to the station, splashing through the puddles.

As we reached the archway leading into the back of the station, he bustled us into a corner and produced a bag. He produced two identity cards with our images on and demanded $500 each from the stash we’d collected from the safety deposit boxes. Meekly, we handed it over.

He then explained that people were dropping like flies from TB in the NewK and we needed proof that we were healthy. For $50 each, he would give us four sets of X Rays showing that we were. Adalyn tried negotiating.

“These aren’t very good X rays,” she said, “I know, I’m a nurse!”

Wrong move. Our African liaison gave her his best stare.

“When was the NHS founded?” he enquired.

“1967?” she offered hopefully. He stared at me, lifting his chin for a response.

“1948,” I said, confident in my knowledge.

“1948,” he confirmed.

I handed over $100, trusting Adalyne to pay me later.

Transactions over, we were taken around the corner and briskly led by another diminutive figure to the back of a yellow transit van and bundled in.

“Wait for Snakehead,” we were told, “he’s going to get you across.”

It was dark, but we could make out three shadowy figures; two females and another person under a blanket, who said his name was Odey. We introduced ourselves, although by now I wasn’t concentrating and can’t remember their names. One of the ladies tried to find out where Odey came from.

“Syria,” he said, coughing loudly.

“Sorry,” he said softly, “I think I have TB.”

“Move up, move up!” said Adalyne in her thick Australian accent, her bony hip pushing me towards the back of the van, away from the sickly Odey. We fell silent as the back doors opened and a large figure climbed in and slammed them shut behind him. He wore fatigues and a flat cap, eerily lit by a bright torchlight he held in his left hand. He remained silent for a few seconds.

“Where’s yer ID?” he demanded, a strong, aggressive London accent. We held our IDs aloft. He snatched one from the girl opposite.

“This is an old card,” he growled, “you’re travelling as a British citizen. When were you born?” he asked her. Fortunately, she’d memorised her given birthdate. He took another.

“Where are you from?” he said in a low tone.

“Bury,” the next girl stuttered nervously. She’d also followed instructions and memorised the card.

“Where’s Bury?” he asked. Silence.

“Fucking hell. You don’t sound like you’re from Bury. You lot have got to liven up or you’re fucked,” he spat, producing some yellow coloured booklets.

“These,” he explained, “are your ID papers with immunisation information. They cost $300. Each. Hand it over.”

I watched carefully as he snatched the money from my group’s hands and threw the booklets at them.

“If you have a mobile phone, turn it off,” he rasped. “Use these,” he said handing out old fashioned models. “You’ll be sent messages and be called with instructions.”

He then handed out green beany hats with a daffodil motif.

“Wear these. That way you can identify other migrants,” he explained.

He pointed at Adalyn and me.

“Your train leaves at 20:54. Platform 11. Now fuck off,” he muttered, opening the transit doors and spilling us out into the bright lights of the station.

“Here’s your fifty,” said Adalyne, handing over a crisp note.

“Thanks,” I said, “at least I’ve come out on top once tonight. I stiffed Snakehead for a couple of hundred,” I laughed. She smiled and shook her head.

“Bloody risky,” she opined.


Handed to me at Temple Meads. Maybe all is not perfect in The Republic.

We made it onto the train and split up as instructed. I found a seat by the door , just outside the carriage. By this time I’d found Lady BSM and given her the rail ticket.

It didn’t take long before I felt the presence of somebody standing next to me; a young woman, wearing a luminous yellow jacket, the letters B.A.A.R.C. emblazoned on the back. I kept my head down. My phone buzzed with messages, warning of other migrants who were spies, calls helping me with my Bury accent.

I continued to move about the train, avoiding the guard. At last, I received a text congratulating me on crossing the border. Yes! I’d made it!

Then one message informing me that Interpol had reported my ID as false, recommending I claim political asylum when confronted by the authorities and to await a call with my asylum story. The call, when it came, was muffled and indecipherable. Oh dear.

We arrived in Newport and made our way to the designated exit, staying close together as advised. As we left the station, we were met by uniformed figures – the B.A.A.R.C. enforcement officers, who lined us up and one by one, checked our documents and asked questions:

Where was the queen born? Where does a cockney come from? When is mothers’ day?

One by one, migrants were allowed to pass, or told to stand to one side.

“What happens on St Valentine’s Day?” asked the tall imposing border guard.


helo , Im ‘yn actio

“Oh, you give gifts and flowers to your wife or girlfriend. Or both,” I grinned, hearing the chuckling behind me. Authority always makes me do this, try and make fun. The guard smiled and looked at his diminutive female companion, before turning once more to me.

“What do you think of St Dwynwen, then, the Welsh patron saint of lovers? You heard of St Dwynwen?”

“Of course I’ve heard of him,” I replied confidently.

“She,” said the female officer, a jubilant look in her eyes, “St Dwynwen’s a woman.”

I looked back at the huge security man.

His smile had disappeared and he gazed over my shoulder under the slashed peak of his hat, no longer interested in my presence.

“Stand over there.”

I did as I was told.

Lady BSM answered a couple of tricky questions and made it through. I was on my own.

The next I knew I was in a van and being driven around the streets of Newport. We arrived in a dark, dingy car park, the tarmac iridescent with the earlier rain and were led, single file, into a brightly lit office; B.A.A.R.C.’s interrogation centre.

We sat in plastic chairs as migrants were led into an office to be questioned. However, three of us were taken upstairs, where we had to read words from a screen into a tape recorder to ascertain whether our accent betrayed the information on our ID cards. It’s hard to keep up a Bury accent for long. Unless you’re from Bury.


Guard suspects there’s a leek in the Welsh border control…

Then back downstairs for more questioning. I desperately tried to communicate with my fellow migrants to get an asylum story, without luck. Like the others on the train who I tried unsuccessfully to buy things from, they thought I was a tricky plant. Suspicion and paranoia play a large part in the illegal immigration game, counteracting that aforementioned camaraderie. Eventually, the large border guard appeared again and ordered us downstairs and out into the open, where another minibus waited for us. Another trip across town, another line up against the wall. The guard pointed at a fire door.

“Knock on the door. This is a safe house. You will find your loved ones inside. Thank you for playing Bordergames,” he announced with a kindly smile.

I was reunited with Miss Katherine and Lady BSM.

The safe house looked authentic. The asylum seekers inside certainly were. Niki, from Eritrea, had paid 2 500 euros to get from Greece to the UK. Odey was into his third year of a mechanical engineering degree in Syria when the shit hit the fan. Lots of them hadn’t planned to come here, some of them would rather not be here, but had no choice. Their circumstances and their home countries had somehow become bizarre and dangerous places to live.

I thought about my own feeling throughout the performance. I’d been nervous. I felt unsettled, confused by the constant use of a language I couldn’t understand; in this case, Welsh. The camaraderie between the men and women who shared my journey was strong; we somehow supported each other, even though we’d never met, but had an underlying feeling that any of us would do anything to get citizenship. It turned out that the two other ladies in the van with Adalyne and me were spies.

Then I considered what it would be like to do it for real. Nobody would give me a cheery smile and wish me luck at the end of it. I travelled on a train in an upholstered seat. Not a fridge or a packing case or under a false floor in a truck. I went without food and drink for a couple of hours, not days on end.

“What exactly is it the creators are trying to say?” asked one participant back in the safe house.

I’m sure that when he starts to recall his crazy journey from Bristol Temple Meads to Newport, wearing a woolly hat with a daffodil on it and concentrating on a cheap mobile phone, he’ll work it out for himself.

Bordergame runs until 21st November 2014. For more information, go to







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My Tour of ‘Nam – The Cheltenham Literature Festival

Not being one to follow convention, or, as others call it, being disorganised, I’ve decided to tell you all about The Cheltenham Literature Festival two weeks after it finished.

This was the first year we seriously followed the festival. Lady Barton St Mary and I went to a couple of talks last year (Ian Botham, Johnny Vegas, Midge Ure) but never really did the ‘literature’ bit. We needed to prepare, so we became festival members. Of course, in order to look the part, I needed to visit Marks and Spencer and purchase a new sports jacket, some chinos and a flowery shirt. Sort of ‘Paul Merton casual chic’.

Indeed, this year, we did get to see a lot more literature rather than celebrity. It was an opportunity to play the part of the sophisticated intelligentsia, whatever that is. Sitting in Cheltenham Town Hall, enthralled by Kazuo Ishiguro, talking us through his distinguished career as a writer, I nodded in all the right places and started to realise what it was like to be a proper writer.

In fact, as I saw more and more of people who wrote books for a living (Will Self, Nick Hornby, Martin Amis) I came to realise that what they did was a job. Not writing a load of old claptrap like this. Mind you, Ishiguro’s wife read the first 80 pages of the novel he’s writing at the moment and told him it was crap. He started again. It’s nice to know that other people rely on their wife’s opinion as much as I do.

Of course, there was the celebrity bit, too. My hero, Danny Baker, was appearing at the festival to promote the second part of his memoirs. My colleague Little Andrew had been to see her personal hero Brian May the night before I saw Danny Baker and had been disappointed. Brian had been a bit grumpy, although that may have been because Little Andrew turned up with his guitar book to sign rather than the art book he was trying to flog at £45 a go. Never meet your heroes, they say.

In this case, ‘they’ were wrong. Danny was a real pleasure. The whole hour was wall to wall Danny Baker stories, most of which I’d heard before in different forms but still immensely entertaining.

danny baker 2

The man himself. Notice my festival attire. Next year I may adopt the waistcoat like Danny.

“He’s like this all the time,” said Emma Kennedy, who was interviewing him. We queued up to meet him and sign my books. It took over an hour, but all you could hear in the Waterstone’s was Danny’s cheerful voice and encouraging tones. I hoped I wouldn’t lose the power of speech when I shook his hand.

Fortunately, I didn’t. He was amused at Lady Barton St Mary’s title. I told him that I’d followed him since the days when he co-edited ‘Sniffing Glue’ the punk fanzine, through his NME days and radio career. His upbringing has some parallels with mine – for example, when he impersonates his dad, it’s as if he’s channelling mine. I explained that my dad was a cockney and my granddad a docker, like his dad. Danny was a really nice bloke. Thanks, Danny Baker.

Gerald, my old fag from school and his wife Sarah (who won’t use her title for political reasons) joined us for the final weekend. More sports jackets and colourful shirts. I considered a cravat. I was getting lost in this literary fervour.

Saturday morning, Gerald joined me to see Rod Liddle. The surprise was that he was interviewed by Anne Robinson, the hard-nosed, surgically enhanced hack and host of The Weakest Link.

Afterwards, as we left the venue and headed to the local coffee shop, I spotted Anne Robinson heading towards us. Gerald braced himself and decided to engage her in conversation.

He leaned forward as the petite but spiky redhead approached.

“Miss Robinson, may I say thank you very mu-“ , he began.

Miss Robinson , not breaking stride, waved a hand in poor Gerald’s face and made a “duhduhduh” noise, almost a perfect impression of Bruce Forsythe in mid dither. Gerald, bemused, stared at her back as the diminutive diva disappeared in the crowd.

For the next hour and a half, Gerald and I spent our time discussing literature and politics in a coffee shop before walking around in Marks and Spencer for more Lit Fest kit. Admiring each other’s choice in tailoring and enquiring as to whether they had Gerald’s size in these slacks and do they have an elasticated waistband, I looked at the expression on the young shop assistant’s face. Naturally, she thought we were an item. She marched off to the stock room. I looked at Gerald.

“You do realise that she thinks we’re a couple of old queens,” I explained to Gerald. He snorted.

“Sorry, I can’t see why she’d think that. You’re not my type”, he replied.

He can be so hurtful sometimes.

Saturday evening and I went to see Martin Amis on my own. For some reason, a talk about concentration camps and the people who worked within them didn’t fit in with everybody else’s idea of having fun, so they waited for me in All Bar One, sampling the cocktails.

As I walked to the venue, I stopped briefly to check messages on my phone. I felt the presence of somebody standing next to me, arms folded, staring out across the park. I vaguely knew him from somewhere, but where? It must be from work. Was he a manager or boss of somewhere? A head teacher?

He turned and caught my eye and smiled.

“Hello! How are you?!” I asked brightly, trying to get some clues, searching my butterfly brain for a name.

“I’m fine thanks. You?” he replied, nodding his head in my direction.

“Oh yes, I’m fine. Are you enjoying the festival? Do you come here every year?” I asked.

“Mmm, yes, I always like to make the effort”, he chuckled.

“Well, nice to see you,” I said, proffering my hand.

“You too”, he said, shaking my hand and giving me a wide smile.

Half way through Martin Amis’s interview, when they were considering how long a prisoner lasted in Auschwitz, the name of my friendly acquaintance dropped down into my head like a penny in a money box. ALAN YENTOB!!!

Yes, I’d asked The Creative Director of the BBC whether he made it every year to the literature festival. Oh dear.

The evening finished with an hour of John Cleese, who was very entertaining. I considered John Lydon, but very often the former Sex Pistol can get over excited and act like an arse when interviewed, so I decided against it. Steeley the Tinkers’ Friend and She-La! did see him. Steeley said he was good. She-La! said he was an arse. Perhaps she’d met him before when she had her minor hit “Touch Me (But Not There) back in the 1980s.

On Sunday, Gerald graciously gave up his ticket to Lady BSM to see Damian Lewis and his wife Helen McCrory read love poems and accompanied me to see Mark Haddon talk about his book ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time’.

Andrew Holgate the literary editor of The Sunday Times, introduced him to a packed Town Hall.

“Of course, I realise that each and every one of you here have read the book and know the story so well”, he started.

Gerald gave me an alarmed look. ‘I haven’t’ he mouthed.

The next hour I spent listening to Mark Haddon talk about how successful he is whilst trying to stop my old fag from snoring too loudly.

We made our way home as the festival came to an end. I realised that this was the new type of festival going for me, rather than the muddy, drunken rock festivals of my youth. I realised I’d swapped being surrounded by denim and leather to being surrounded by corduroy and tweed, the smell of cannabis to the smell of roasted coffee, beef burgers to Chateaubriand.

What’s more, I’m happy with that. I like feeling as if my brain’s been nourished. I like the occasional cocktail. I’m happy to shop for clothes with another middle aged man who also moisturises.

We’ll be back next year. I’ll look out for my friend Alan.

danny baker 3

Enough said!

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She Thinks I’m a Medical Wonder…

One of the curses of having a butterfly brain is that I have a tendency to look for the gag in everything. This caused me a little bit of a dilemma the other week, with a comment that politeness prevented me from correcting without offending the person concerned.

I was running in The Forest of Dean Half Marathon, which is conveniently staged in The Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire. This course is notoriously ‘undulating’, which for those uninitiated in the idiotic pursuit of ‘running’, means it is bloody hilly and you generally get puffed out.

The participants are a very friendly and supportive bunch. In the first mile, a rather athletic looking man ran alongside me and nodded at my right leg.

“How is it running with that on?” he asked. He was referring to the rather industrial leg brace I wear to stop my knee from falling off. I have no ACL or cartilage left in it. Recently it’s started to make a rather worrying clunking noise, but that’s another story.

rob marathon2

A fine specimen. The shorts were longer for The FOD HM.

I smiled stoically and told him I was used to it. He informed me that he was going for a knee operation and was looking for something to wear while recovering.

Usually, people give me shouts of encouragement, rather impressed that an old cripple such as myself can manage to run at all. I tend to agree with them.

Lots of other runners (mainly female) put their head to one side and mouth “Awww!” as they jog past, showing sympathy. My shallow nature and large ego means that I’m grateful for any attention from fit attractive ladies in lycra.

So it came to pass five miles into the race. A young blonde lady eased up beside me and said “Awwww”, staring at my leg brace. I was wearing long lycra shorts which never, ever chafe but one day may result in my arrest. The shorts covered the top of the knee brace.

“Have you lost your leg?” she asked me and I puffed along. I didn’t even think about it.

“Only the top half,” I explained, pointing to my obvious lower leg. There was a pause before she gasped.

“Oh my word, how did it happen?” she enquired. I looked at her closely out of the corner of my eye to see who was teasing who here. I realised it was definitely me doing the teasing.

“Oh, it was a surfing accident off the coast of Falmouth. Shark attack,” I told her solemnly, knowing this should do the trick. I waited for the laughter. Or the slap. Or the trip. It didn’t come. I looked directly at her watery eyes and wobbly lip. This had gone far too far now. But I couldn’t stop.

“The shark ate my thigh, but I managed to swim ashore using my lower leg as a flotation aid. Some kind holiday maker called an ambulance which rushed me in for emergency surgery.”

I could sense the young lady thinking beside me.

“So how do you feel your lower leg?” she asked.

I told her about all the sophisticated electrical devices available to surgeons these days. By now I was starting to feel a little ashamed.

“Well, I’m amazed at what doctors can do,” she said, “and I think you’re amazing too.”

She gave me a sympathetic rub on the top of my arm and increased her pace.

“Just wait until I tell my boyfriend about this!” she called back over her shoulder.

As the run progressed, I forgot about our short conversation.

I was chillingly reminded of our chat five minutes after I’d crossed the finish line. Leaning on my haunches, trying to return to some form of normality rather than looking like I was playing ‘air bagpipes’, I looked up and caught a glimpe of a blonde pony tail and pink running top. My sympathetic, gullible girl. Talking to a rather muscular, 6’3” man, who had a bemused look on his face. I watched for a couple of seconds as he pointed to his own leg, chuckling. The expression on his pretty girlfriend’s face darkened as she immediately started to scan the crowd of competitors. I deceided this was a good time to slink back to my car and drive home.

By the way, the race itself was a complete disaster for me, my worst by far. Which means there is such a thing as divine retribution.


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Showerdee People – A night with James Taylor

I must admit, I wasn’t that keen to start with. Six months ago, Lady BSM had spotted that James Taylor was playing at The LG Arena in Birmingham on 26th September.

But he is one of the great living singer songwriters, introduced to me  back in the mists of time when I first met her ladyship. His soft, smooth style was the perfect background for wooing. At the time, I hadn’t realised I was being wooed.

So I agreed and Lady BSM bought tickets for us both and also one for Pen. The Sexton said he would pass on this occasion, not being the James Taylor type.

So it was with expectation that we took our seats in the upper tier; good seats they were too, with a perfect view. The show start time was 7.30pm, but we arrived at 7.25pm without worry, since experience has shown us that the main event rarely starts on time. Not in James Taylor’s case: he was on just after half past seven and straight into ‘Something in the Way She Moves.’ In his awkward way, he explained that it was the song he played to Paul McCartney and George Harrison in 1968 when he signed for Apple. The Beatles obviously held a special place in his heart as he described sitting in the studio with them as they recorded The White Album. Wow.

james taylor

This is the second half of the show. I know because he wears the hat for the second half only.

“I ‘d like to play some new stuff,” he explained, which as always was met with faux approval from the audience. I was unaware that JT had a new album. He hasn’t, I discovered, since it’s ‘still in production’.

It wasn’t long before all the gems started to appear, Taylor’s distinctive country/blues sound, his lead guitarist Michael Landau playing brilliantly on his bright red Fender Stratocaster.

Every Day, Country Road, Carolina on my Mind, they all made an appearance, along with ‘Millworker’, a song from his unsuccessful musical. Like Burt Bacharach, Taylor does a pretty good line in self deprecating humour. I suppose they can afford to. Watching him play guitar is quite impressive, but, he is one of the greatest and has been doing in for probably nigh on 50 years.

‘One More Go Around’ was a song describing Taylor’s keenness to do it all again.

“Maybe next time I’d remember it!” he laughed, referring to his fondness for chemically induced recreation in his younger days. It was his chance to show he could play some mean blues.

“Sweet Baby James” was written about his nephew, giving him the opportunity to describe driving across the States in his Ford Cortina GT, an iconic British car of the 1970s. It’s easy to forget that James Taylor spent a long time in the UK, what with the sheer ‘Americana’ feel to his music.

“We have to have an intermission,” he explained, “I don’t know why we have to have an intermission, I’d carry on, but we do.”  Perhaps there’s some law about singer songwriters over retirement age having to take a break.

So the first half ended with ‘Shower the People’ and I was immediately transported back to Lady Barton St Mary’s room in Lancaster House at The University of Sussex, lying  together on her 2 ft 6in bed as this sweet flowed over us from the speaker of her Amstrad radio cassette player. It took me a while to realise there wasn’t a special race called The Showerdee People. I didn’t mention it at the time.

Returning to our seats after 20 minutes, James was already on stage, but on the edge of the stage furiously signing autographs and posing for photographs with thrilled middle aged women. He continued signing as the band returned and started playing. It’s at times like these you realise all these musicians would be happy to play their instruments without a crowd and without money, probably. Go figure, X Factor.

James played another ‘new’ song – ‘You and I Again’, all about long term relationships and wanting to go back and do it all over again. Very poignant, lovely song. Completely untraceable on the internet.

Then back to the hits: Handyman and a great version of ‘Steamroller Blues’, with James Taylor parodying the blues style without disrespect. By this time, the audience were in Taylor heaven, as hoardes of excited ladies (and a few gents) wiggled their way to the front, forming the politest mosh pit I’ve ever seen.

Up on the Roof, Mexico and Smiling Face kept the crowd shuffling back and forth a respectable distance from the stage, finishing with tumultuous applause.

The encore included You’ve Got a Friend and How Sweet It Is, James Taylor ‘encouraging’ the band to play on. His final song was an ancient Celtic song, accompanied by band member Andrea Zonn on fiddle.

So there it was, a lovely evening of true American folk/country/blues, all familiar songs, like a comfortable pair of shoes. James Taylor defies his age – his voice is clear and has not diminished. Maybe the drugs do work.

In the car on the way back, the motorway had been closed and I had to take a diversion that the sat nav didn’t like. Lady BSM and Pen gave their own input, meaning I had three strident alpha females all telling me what I should do. Normally, this would have been stressful, but in my head, James Taylor was singing ‘Showerdee People you love with love, show werdem how you feel,” and everything was fine…


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Writing 101. One.

I saw it at the last minute, an opportunity to take part in the Writing 101 Challenge, so took the plunge. Just write anything for 20 minutes, anything you like, a stream of consciousness where it doesn’t matter what you write, just write. Have they been reading my blogs? You see, I know that there is a whole community out there, millions of wordpretzels, all doing the same thing as me, all of them better than me. Do I have to do this every day? No. Do I have to do it at all? No. Will I do it every day? No. The real challenge for me to try and take part. As regular readers of my drivel will tell you, letting my butterfly brain loose on a piece of random writing could be a dangerous thing. I hardly make sense when I blog normally and that’s after I’ve spent several agonising minutes revising what I’ve written – most of my work is like a well insulated house, with hardly any drafts.

Yes, I realise that being English the word is draughts, but at least my American friends will appreciate the terrible pun. Yes, I’m English, home of queuing (a word I can never spell), poor plumbling, a lack of good dentistry and a tendency to hog all the sun loungers on holiday and blame the Germans.

At the moment, the whole nationality issue is big news in the UK. Scotland are having a referendum, where they’ll decide whether they want to be independent or not. But, like many others who can’t admit it, I’d be a bit confused if I were Scottish. If I vote yes, am I voting for independence? Or is it no?

It turns out it means this:

Yes, we don’t want to be part of the Union, no, we don’t, or No, we want to say yes to being part of the union, oh no to not being out. You decide. Or rather, they decide.

You see how it all goes around in my head? How the heck do I get through each day without a carer?

Oh well. Time’s up.

The twist is that I have to post this on my blog.



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