Wednesday, 27 August 2014


When I am a famous author, I will be invited on to Desert Island Discs to tell the wonderful Kirsty about my eight favourite records. These are they:

DAVE ALVIN Harlan County Line

Love this. Saw him at The Cluny performing it a couple of years ago, note perfect, of course. Just shut my eyes and I’m transported back to 6th Street, Austin.


This has 160 views on YouTube. And I must have watched 150 of those times. What a record. He couldn’t get any label, major or minor to put it out so he sunk all his money into starting his own little record company. The great, great Robbie Vincent played it every week on his soul show back in the eighties, which is when I got to hear it first.

FRED McDOWELL Shake Em On Down

Isn’t this the most thrilling sound you ever heard? This is a master at work. Flawless playing and singing. I saw him live once, in an upstairs room in a pub in South Shields.


Which Richard Thompson track to choose? Beeswing? I misunderstood? I’ll take this piece of poetry, please.

SUZANNE VEGA Small Blue Thing

More poetry. I could listen to this a thousand times and never get bored with it. Almost perfect match of melody, lyric and performance.


The words of this are, well . . . nonsense to be honest. There is a school of thought that considers this to be the greatest ‘pop’ record ever made. Could be, could be. The guy that wrote it allegedly lives in a Central Park Penthouse in New York, all on the royalties from this. It has never dated.

Believe it or not, I saw them once in London; Victoria Theatre? Rufus were okay but she had real star power. Twenty-years old then.

This is the real Queen of Country.


I wanted to include some Folk Blues, a musical form I have been listening to around the North East clubs for many years. All my life really. I was actually present when this little film was taken, at the Little Theatre, Gateshead.

No Jazz, not a lot of current stuff, not much Soul or Folk or World. Dvorjak isn’t there either. Not much in fact, with more than three chords. So what.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014


This is my fish recipe that I give to people who come round for a meal. Takes me about an hour from start to finish.


40g butter

250g basmati rice

2 x hard boiled eggs

1 x green chilli, seeded and chopped

1 x lemon, peeled

1 x bay leaf

2 x tsp garam masala

375ml chicken stock

1 x tbsp coriander, chopped

2 x spring onions. Sliced

400g un-dyed smoked haddock

Salt & pepper

Pre-heat oven to 180C.

Melt butter in heavy-based casserole.

Keep on the heat. Then add garam masala, cook for a minute or two then pour in the rice and stir well. Turn the heat down then add chilli, bay leaf, lemon zest, salt, pepper. Pour over the chicken stock, then simmer. After just a few minutes lay the fish whole on top of this mix. The fish will sink under. Put lid on casserole and place in pre-heated oven for 20-25 minutes.

Remove from oven, then switch off oven but keep door closed. Leave to stand on the hob with lid still on, for ten minutes, When you take the lid off you will find that the stock has absorbed more or less all of the rice. Lift out the hot fish onto a side plate and take the skin off; return the skinless haddock to the casserole dish together with the hard boiled eggs and the onions and the chopped coriander. Mix it all up, not too vigorously, just use a fork.

You should leave it in bite-sized pieces. Remove bay leaf, cover with lid again and return to now cooling oven for about 5-minutes. Remove from oven, lightly mix one more time, then serve.

And thats it. No side dishes or starters necessary. Will feed four adults.

Sunday, 24 August 2014



This image is a Combination Leather Tube Split Stitch-In Long Pull Handle, made by Turnstile Designs. At a guess, I would say that there is probably no European hotel built or refurbished in the last five years that does not have this handle in the Lobby and quite possibly, along every Corridor.
We met the owner of Turnstile a few times. Can’t remember his name now, sorry, Steve Roberts, he is called. He had a stand at an exhibition in London back in the mid-nineties where we were three stands up from him. We were all just starting out then and it was probably as big a risk for him as it was for us. Pleasant enough guy, ex-Public School with an interest in Art and Interior design. We really thought he was way off beam trying to sell his leather handles to the construction market. Kitchens and Homes & Gardens weirdos maybe but major building projects? You need a complete range of products for architects, hinges and locks and everything in between. And what happens to the leather when you use it externally?
We met him again a couple of years later, where we both had larger stands and he had begun to get the measure of his market. He had a wider range, not just leather but ceramics . . . still the same idiosyncratic designs . . . but there was the beginning of a comprehensive, across the board product family there now.
I haven’t seen him since those early days but I see from his website that he has a very successful company now, not least I should imagine, because his products are un-copyable by the Chinese. I hope he continues to prosper.

Friday, 22 August 2014


This is a beautiful piece of Artwork I nicked from Oxford American, of Merry Clayton, star of a recent film about black backing singers and the woman behind Michael Philip on Gimme Shelter.

Saturday, 16 August 2014



My friend Susan is a great dancer. She has long legs and a good figure, so all she really has to do is shake her hips to look good, although she could in fact more than hold her own on Strictly. My parents were good dancers and went ballroom dancing twice a week until well into their eighties. I think it accounted for their longevity. My mother always said that it was because he was such a good dancer that she fell for him. I can believe that, they didn’t have much else in common.

I was a pretty good dancer when I was younger. Not everyone is; not everyone can be bothered learning and practicing.

Every year we travel to Billingham to see the International Folk Dancing Festival, in the open air. It has become a little tradition.

We went there today. There were dancers from Russia, Korea, Chile, Holland [clog dancing!], Mexico and Cyprus. The dancers all wear versions of traditional costume and whilst the dances are all choreographed and probably bear little relationship to the original village festival dancing they are supposed to represent, you can still see and appreciate their cultural roots. The Russian men all do that individual Cossack squat dancing, kicking out their legs or doing acrobatics. All the East European troupes we have seen do the same thing. I believe it is called Hopak. It is intended to look improvised and is based on traditional Cossack virtues of heroism, manliness, speed and strength. The pretty girls go round and round like Russian dolls.

The Cypriot dancers all hold arms like the Greeks and again, whenever we have seen southern European dancing, or Israeli dancing, they all do that. The dancers from Chile dress like Gaucho’s and the smouldering young men carry scarves and wave them at one another. The seditious women slink.

You forget actually, that music is made for dancing as well as listening [see previous Lucinda Williams post] and how life enhancing music and dancing can be when done well.