A Possible Hobby #1 – Golf

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When I first began this little taradiddle one of my avowed intentions was to investigate the range of hobbies that might be open to me. Since then, I have done little about it. Having recently published a post about the TV program ‘How?’ (and finding out that you are almost all too young to remember it) I have decided that the time has come to make the effort. So here we go, possible hobby #1: golf.

Generally speaking, I am not the kind of person I would expect to be best received in golfing circles. I will never find my name atop the list of ‘must-have new members’ for any newly-elected golf captain. Whilst I have any number of single gloves (usually on account of losing one on the bus) I do not possess brightly checked slacks, tartan socks or a Pringle sweater. I cannot engage in earnest conversation about the horsepower of my car, as I do not know it. I do not own a Pied a Terre in Southern France; I do not keep my business afloat single-handedly. In short, I am not the ‘right stuff’.

That’s not to say that I have not had a go at bashing the gutta percha around a third division golf course every now and then. I did, at one time, gather together a ramshackle collection of car-boot-sale golf clubs and a golf bag, known to one and all as the Tardis, due to its Brobdingnagian scale, which meant that, with or without clubs, it required two men to lift it. I even managed to acquire a pair of jumble sale golf shoes for £1, which had probably seen sterling service when they were manufactured, sometime around the First World War. I suspect that the kind of bunkers they were designed for were not lined with sand.

We played on the kind of courses that had eighteen holes only if you went round them twice: where the bunkers were generally lined with builder’s rubble and the most difficult hazards to avoid were the stray dogs; where the fairway was separated from the rough simply by dint of the fact that it was possible to walk on the fairway without getting nettle rash above the knee; where the greens were identifiable only because they had a flag in them and the mole hills had been flattened with a spade. Some of them had water hazards, but these were generally associated with leaking urinals. They were the kind of golf courses that necessitated the invention of new rules e.g. if your ball lands in the middle of a cowpat, it can be abandoned and the next shot can be played with a new ball, without penalty, from anywhere shit-free in the general vicinity.

I always lugged around a carrier bag of golf balls, simply because I generally lost so many of them. They were of a type that were found by dog walkers and, if I was able to orientate the teeth marks to the right side, they could auto-correct my natural slice. They did make putting tricky though. Mind you, little more than the rabbit droppings to be fair.

Anyway, those golfing days, such as they were, are now over. Golf clubs have either closed or become gentrified, and I am not great at the observance of arcane rules. I am always polite and I have no problem with dress codes, but the social pretention associated with some of these places is off the scale. There are only so many times that I am able to explain that, yes, the little Ford Fiesta is my only car and no, I really don’t have a problem getting to the house in it once I have turned off the road and onto the driveway in the snow (my driveway being approximately three feet longer than my car) although it is also fair to say that my golf bag will only fit into my car with the back seat down and the passenger seat pushed so far forward that my golfing partner requires at least five holes grace in which to straighten out his/her back. Golf is a fine game, but not one for which, if I am honest, I am temperamentally suited. It’s fair to say that, by and large, golf clubs and I are probably better off without one another.

Besides, I’ve just been in the shed and discovered that the mice have taken up residence in my golf bag, the wheels have fallen off my trolley and the clubs themselves have been wedged under the lawn mower with the result that I could probably chip around corners with them. Any future association I am likely to have with putter and ball will probably involve ‘mountain’ clad tunnels, spinning windmills and the knowledge that I have, at last, found my level.

Golf is a good walk spoiled. –  Mark Twain

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Impotent Rage

the scream

I saw this on the BBC News feed today.

I haven’t been able to watch the full video as I could not cope with it, but just open the link and look at the smile on the face of that beautiful little boy and tell me, how can they do that to him?  For God’s sake, STOP IT NOW – ALL OF YOU!

Planning for a present that will be the past in the future

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Don’t panic! This is not about to be one of my vacuous philosophical rants (although vacuous it may well be). It is just a part of the ‘having things clearly mapped out’ side of my nature. (That the other part of my nature is ‘shit, just let it happen man’ has always been a problem for me.) You see, at some time in the future I will take a holiday and during that period, this blog will go on. It will do so not because I think that you cannot live without me – that a spell without my inane ramblings will leave you with an unfillable void in your life – but because I have discovered that it can. I have spotted the little button that allows me to schedule publication in advance which means that, providing I have the blogs ready, I can continue to publish even when the pc and I are not even vaguely adjacent.

So, I guess by now, you understand where I am going with this: my problem is how do I approach the blogs that will mark my absence? I cannot, at that point, write about my daily life as if it is… well… at that point my daily life because, patently, it will not then be so. My daily life may, at that actual point, feature shorts and beer and you will not be interested. I could, of course, write about what will then be today, but publish, as it were, tomorrow. My problem, as you will understand, we have known one another for some time now, is that by tomorrow I will have forgotten all about what I have written today (it having become yesterday) and, upon my return, I will not be able to pick up the thread.

I think of this blog like a bag of marbles that when dropped (they are my marbles – you know they are going to be dropped) scatter all over the room. Each day I pick up a new one and see where it takes me. They are disparate orbs, but all from the same bag. They are not the bag, but they are of it. They are all similar, but they have different little swirly colours to the centre. Most of them are found easily, but some run away and hide under the settee, or lurk in the dark somewhere, to be revealed and stood upon at 3am some future melancholy morning. It is the lurking marbles you will probably get whenever I am away. They are from the same bag, but for some reason they may well have rolled a little further away from home. In the salmagundi of my ramblings, they are the little bits at the end of the table that you do not notice until you walk away and see them on somebody else’s plate. By the time you get back to the table, they have all gone and you are forced to distract a child so that you can steal one from their plate whilst they are not looking.

My hope is that only the most diligent of you will spot it. So why, you might ask, are you wittering about it then? Why is it even a problem? Those of you who do not notice, will not notice, and those of you that do will just nod sagely and say, ‘I hope he remembered to put some suncream on his conk before he started to paddle’. Well, you see, it’s the planning. In the main, I publish only three times a week, but often write more. I might, for instance, write a piece on Sunday afternoon, having published Sunday morning, that I earmark for Tuesday evening, but then I will write a piece on Monday that I decide to use instead, so the original piece is pushed back to Thursday, but on Thursday I had planned to write a slightly longer piece and so it gets deferred again. This can carry on for a while, until eventually, through no fault of its own, the piece finds itself on the sub’s bench – not because it is not good enough, but because time has passed it by and I, as I do, have moved on (somewhere – no way of knowing where). Like all subs, these pieces will, some day, get their chance and, in the grand tradition of super-subs, they often turn out to be the bits that people like the best. So, each week I look over what I have produced and think ‘Which one can wait? Which is the least time-dependent?’ And then I will hold it back for whenever it might be needed. But the problem is, I won’t necessarily remember what I have held back. I may reference it in a later blog, not realising that it is actually now an earlier blog. I may find myself building a blog around a piece of jetsam from some previous blether that, in all the confusion, ends up following it. This, for me, is awkward. It requires a level of planning; a system of record-keeping, that is not natural to me. I always have things ‘mapped out’ in my head – I like to know what I have to do, but when that future washes up against the shore of what I have already done and worse, the former actually precedes the latter, I may founder. If, during the course of the months ahead, you notice that chronological ordering has taken something of a sidestep, that answers are proposed before questions are posed, then you will know why, although you may not know when. If you do, then you will also know that I might, at that future time, be wearing shorts and drinking beer – and I ask you to forgive me on both counts.

But I will still be here, I have no thought of leaving
I do not count the time
For who knows where the time goes?
Who Knows Where the Time Goes (Sandy Denny) – Fairport Convention

An Apology from the Man in the Red Plastic Nose

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‘Sometimes,’ said the man in the red plastic nose, ‘I forget what it means to be funny’ was a sentence I wrote ‘in my sleep’ and used as part of a blog in June (There is no means of testing this hypothesis, but the fact remains that the dog has three ears) which tackled the fact that I did not really understand where this line, along with others, had ‘come from’ nor what it referred to. This blog has come about because now I do.

When I set off along this path a little over eighty posts ago now, my aim was simple: to carry on writing in the way that I always had, just on a different platform. Early blogs were very much in the style I would have used in magazines. A few such pieces continue to worm their way into the blog from time to time and the overriding theme of observing my own erratic descent through middle into old age has remained the same – the whole thing is actually my attempt to swim against the flow in this respect, although, unfortunately, I am a crap swimmer, my water-wings have sprung a leak and the tide is very, very strong – but the style has now become very much more conversational, I think (don’t you?) I have started to read and enjoy the blogs of others, I have learned from them the proper way of doing things, and have even been able to respond to them now and again, in my own fashion. The blog remains the same shape, I think, but the colour may have changed a little.

Generally, the small cob-webby under-stairs cupboard in my head where such things are co-ordinated, comes up with a plan, a way to use all of the bits of raggedy paper that I carry around with me all the time, and when the time is right, the blog just spills out of my head, like nonsense from a politician. There are, however, some pieces that I write and would like to use but, somehow, they don’t quite ‘feel right’ as they are. When this happens, I have to print them up and set about them with variously coloured pens; adding, moving, scrubbing out until I think it might be ready. I don’t seem capable of doing this on-screen. The whole painstaking process of correction, excision and embroidery, which I call tantivy (an archaic word that I have just discovered has no relevance whatsoever, but there it is, I’m stuck with it now) often takes some considerable time before I either end up with something that I am happy to post or something for which I would happily buy a cat, in order to line its litter tray.

So, I have such a piece in front of me now. I printed it yesterday and I returned to it this evening with my rainbow of ball-points and my myriad hi-lighters with the intention of ‘sorting it out’, in much the same way as Donald trump vowed to sort out North Korea. I have read it through a few times now. I have scrawled lines out and I have scribbled additions between the lines and in the margins, but the main thing that I have done is to scrawl a single word across it in thick black felt pen. That word is ‘Jokes’. In short, I appear from time to time to have forgotten what I thought I was here to do. I am the man in the red plastic nose. And for that, I apologise.

Addenda: the piece I have before me is about my antipathy for ‘experts’. It’s ok, but somehow it annoys me. I have decided that I will leave it a few days until I look at it afresh – it may even take longer. It will appear in time, I think – as soon as I’ve found some fun in it. Anyway, for no particular reason, other than I just wrote it today and it is about a nose, I hope you enjoy the little limerick below:

A man with a plasticine nose
Tried to model it into a rose.
He practised until he
Produced a red lily,
Which is almost the same I suppose.

The Haphazardly Poetical – 100% Is All

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Photo by Trust “Tru” Katsande on Unsplash

Well, something had got under my skin, but I’d be lying if I said I knew what it was. Sometimes it doesn’t take much. The news does it most often I suppose: a sense of hopelessness, rage and grim wonderment at where it is all going. A helplessness when faced with those who seek solutions to all of our problems by blaming those of different race, colour, religion, sexuality and God knows what else. There are those who do not hear and there are those who do not listen. There are those who let their dogs shit in the playground… This is hopelessness tinged with helplessness and probably best consumed with a large Scotch. Come to think of it, that could well be what got under my skin in the first place…

100% is All
10% of all the wrong decisions you have made
10% of all the best laid plans that you have laid
10% of all the bills you can’t afford to meet
10% of all the rooms you can’t afford to heat
10% of all the laughter and of all the tears
10% of all the hopes that later turned to fears
10% of all the prayers that drifted on the wind
10% of all the sacred vows that you rescind
10% of all the times you haven’t made the grade
10% of heaven, if the premiums are paid.

It’s Not (Quite) All About Me (part two)

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I don’t watch a lot of TV, but I am aware that when I do, I drive my wife barmy with “What was she in? Was it that thing with wosname, out of the thing set in Oldham – or was it Glasgow – you remember, she was having an affair with the bloke out of the Pampers advert, you know, the one with the lip – kept a sockful of marbles in his trouser pocket… oh, what was it called?” And I can’t let it go. I will spend the next fifteen minutes trawling around on Google, eventually deciding that I actually know her from all the previews they’ve been running for this series and return in time to find that she’s been murdered by the woman from the Specsavers advert. I often wonder why my wife gets so overcome by tiredness whenever I turn up to watch a program with her: why she’s usually gone up to bed before I have had time to tell her that the woman playing the detective’s wife was actually the murderer in a program I watched the week before… or was she the zookeeper with hives? “Oh, that’s this? Sorry, I didn’t realise. Of course, it was the librarian all the time wasn’t it? You don’t know? No, of course you don’t. It’s only just started hasn’t it? I’ll just go and… trim my nasal hair…” Anyway, it is now out in the open, isn’t it? I shall address it.

And I am useless at the kind of social chit-chat that is shared with acquaintances rather than friends. My brain, full of questions – “Do I know them? Do I know their name? Do they have children? Maybe I know their partner… Do they even have a partner?” – freezes and I do nothing but nod like a tongue-tied mute (if that’s even possible) in fear of saying something crass (normally asking after the health of someone whose funeral I have recently attended) until we part, at which point I remember who they are and realise how rude I have just been. I’ll address that too…

And – my word this is disturbingly easy – I am a terrible travel-companion. Travel makes me anxious and I have an almost pathological fear of being late: put the two together and I become a bloody nightmare. I insist on always being so early to the airport that I have more than enough time to become nervous beyond comprehension. Even a giant Toblerone is not enough to settle me. Eventually ladling me onto an aircraft is a blessed relief to my family as I am, by then, struck dumb with terror. Fear of flying, contrary to what people may try to tell you, is not irrational. Expecting a giant metal tube with wings not to come crashing down to the ground is, to my mind, irrational. Disaster is the logical conclusion to the bloody thing being up there in the first place. It’s not the crashing that scares me, it’s the moments before (and I am not thinking about the in-flight food). It is the realisation that I am, thanks to the bloody-minded check-in algorithm, half an aeroplane away from my nearest and dearest, strapped in next to an over-lubricated first time flyer, trying to explain that ‘no, there will be no bar service as long as the plane remains pointed straight at the ground.’ I have realised that the only that thing settles me to the scientific rationale of powered flight is gin. But I’ll address that as well…

I could go on. Sadly, it would be very easy. Trouble is, of course, that whilst I am fully conscious of all the bad characteristics of which I am aware, they undoubtedly pale into insignificance alongside all of those of which I am unaware. How can I address what I am unaware of? I could ask someone, of course, but I don’t really want to hear the answer. It might be long and painful. It might involve traits that I had always considered endearing. It might mean that I can never eat or sleep again. It might mean that I have to change the way that I breathe. It might mean that I have to stop breathing altogether in certain circumstances – e.g. the pause before the winner of Strictly… is announced. No, I can’t seek outside input: I am no Piers Morgan, but even so the results may be too unpredictable and the solutions too drastic. You see, I am reconciled to the fact that I am not very good, but I do not honestly want to be made aware of the myriad ways in which I am actually quite bad.

I could, of course, stop making this all about me and start considering the flaws of those about me, but, in the end, that would only reflect on one person and you might be able to guess who that would be. Besides, I’ve become quite reconciled to being cranky, I just don’t want to be cranky and friendless, thank you very much. I’ll consider my own flaws and you can consider yours – if you have any, of course – I am jumping to conclusions. I’ll address that too…

Niles, I’ve got news for you.  Copernicus called and you’re not the centre of the universe. – Frasier

It’s Not (Quite) All About Me (part one)

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I can’t help but notice that lately many of my posts have become all about me. Not because I’m unduly self-obsessed I think, but simply because I have to write about what I know, and what I know about is me. It’s not what I necessarily intended when I started this, but then things seldom turn out as anticipated do they? Ask Theresa May. One of the side effects of writing a blog like this is that I spend half of my life looking in at myself: considering everything I do, everything I think and comparing it with everybody else. Obviously, I am looking for common ground and shared experience, but I’m never quite certain that I’ve found it. I am never quite certain that anybody else sees the same, feels the same as me. If I was, I would be a politician and I think that we can all agree that that would not end well. It strikes me that every time I start to think about anything, I think about the emotions it stirs in me. I think about what I feel. I think about how I cope, and then I hope that at least some of you might feel the same.

Even when an experience is shared, we don’t necessarily all react to it in the same way. Do we all deal with rude waiters by tipping them in pennies? Do we all handle conversations with our internet provider by pretending to be the local Chinese Takeaway? Do we all deal with nuisance callers by singing them La Marseillaise and refusing to hang up? No? Just me then…

Ultimately, what I have to write is all about me and I’m not sure that I’m altogether comfortable with it. I find myself almost constantly considering the contents of my head and, quite frankly, it’s nothing more than a soup of inconsequence and worry if I’m honest, but it’s the material I have to hand, so I use it.

I could make the whole thing up of course, I’m ok at that, but it’s not the point is it? If I pretended to be (let’s be generous) a middle-aged man facing the problems associated with getting older by cocking a snook at his own neuroses and insecurities, you’d never believe me, would you? Oh, hang on…

What I am really hoping is that we are really all the same – ok, you might not wear your underwear in strict rotation in order to not upset any of it – but fundamentally we are similar (I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to upset you. Shall we start again?) Nobody is ever going to be amused by, or interested in, anything of which they have no experience, and without some glimmer of recognition there can be no interest. At this time, every other night, I find myself reading over what I have written and wondering ‘Am I weird? Am I different to everybody else?’ and I guess the answer to both questions is probably yes… and no. I am different, but only in the same way that we are all different. We are all the same in that. Am I weird? Well, ok, I’ll give you that. Not ‘bad’ weird though. Not strangling pigeons weird. Not howling at the moon weird. Not collecting toe-nail clippings weird. More like enjoying countless repeats of Midsomer Murders weird. More like thinking I am normal weird.

When I read a book, watch TV or a film I am aware that the ‘bad’ characters possess at least some of my own bad characteristics, whilst the good guys share some of my (admittedly smaller pool of) good. I am always happy when my less desirable traits are overcome by my better self. I hope and believe that this is something we all do. There will be aspects of fictional baddies that we can all agree are bad (planning world domination perhaps; setting off a nuclear bomb; twisting nipples and pinching noses), but I suspect that there are aspects that we will all have different opinions about (he’s kind to animals and he always feeds his sharks very well). I’m not going to bother you with what I consider good about me – it’s a short list and it doesn’t feature anything cute or furry – but I do aim to try and unravel some of my bad bits in the hope that, in the future, I might spot them earlier and do something about them before the kids push me out of the car. I must stress here that I have no intention of doing a complete hatchet-job on myself. I don’t think that I’m fundamentally bad; my temper is essentially even, I’m not mean and I am definitely not prone to violence. Like every one of us I guess, I regret a million things I have done in the past, but I don’t believe I have actually done anything bad. Certainly not malicious. In truth I am under-ambitious, prone to slothfulness and painfully aware of my own limitations. I see myself as an ‘everyman’, which must scare the shit out of all the other everymen. I am one of life’s sub-plots. Neither my good, nor my bad, quite strong enough to support its own novel. So, now is the time for me to look at myself again and try to give myself a metaphorical slap around the face in the hope that I will have a little less to write about in the future. I’m not sure how that is going to work.

I delved into my soul and what I’ve discovered is that introspection is not a barrel of laughs…

Every time I’m wrong, the world makes a little less sense – Frasier

The (Possible) Life and Times of Mr Duck

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Photo by JOSHUA COLEMAN on Unsplash

Mr Duck is what the regional newspapers, whilst they still existed, would have called a ‘local character’. When I was a boy the world was full of such characters, they were part of the weather-worn and kaleidoscopically human fabric of every town centre. They were not merely accepted, they were vital. They were a city’s soul. Today they have largely disappeared.

I see Mr Duck almost every day; rain or shine, hot or cold. Mr Duck is tall. His age is indeterminate. His hair is long and grey. His beard likewise. He always wears a fur coat. Always a fur coat, but not always the same fur coat. Sometimes it is full length, sometimes it is short. Sometimes it is dark, sometimes it is light. I am no great authority on matters furrierial (almost certainly a word that I have just made up) but I am pretty certain that they are all ‘real’ fur, although I have never asked. These are heirloom-type furs. I have never seen him challenged about it. This is Mr Duck: it is what it is.
Under the fur coat, regardless of length, Mr Duck wears a nightie. Always white (to varying degrees – less so as the week wears on). Like the coat, the nightie is of unpredictable length. Like the tide, his hemlines ebb and flow, but seldom with any synchronicity. The nightie is always worn over black trousers. I have seldom seen him in anything other than carpet slippers. In the winter he sometimes wears a fur hat which meticulously matches the fur of the coat. He also often wears elbow-length lace and satin evening gloves.

Each day he ambles down and sits on the wall of the restaurant opposite where I work. Each day a staff member appears with a take-away coffee and a pastry for him.

He is called Mr Duck because he always used to carry a child’s soft toy with him (it was actually, in my opinion, a penguin, not a duck – but I am also no ornithologist, so I must bow to greater knowledge) until some toe-rag stole it from him. That it has never been replaced would seem to indicate that it had a special significance for him. Nobody wants to ask him, so we can only imagine… And here’s where my brain kicks in.
I have spoken to Mr Duck on occasions. His voice is soft, but gravelly and definitely southern. I want to know his story, but I never ask him.

I see him as an aristocratic child, devoted to a mother with whom he shared his life, his father having died in India or some equally distant colonial outpost. I believe that he alone cared for his ageing and frail mother and that he has never recovered from the shock of her passing. I believe the furs to be hers (and not, as my more soul-deprived workmates suggest, donated by the charity shops because they daren’t have them in the windows) as are the gloves and the nighties. I think that the soft toy was his own – a last reminder of his childhood. I want to know. I want to ask him and I want to write it all down, but I don’t, because Mr Duck is a local character and I believe I already know his story.

Also, I don’t ask him because I don’t want to run the risk of discovering that the clothes that he wears are just a means of getting a free coffee and a Danish each day; that his mother is still alive and at the bingo, and that his father pulled exactly the same stunt for fifty years before him. I am very happy with the Mr Duck I think I know. Without him the city has no soul.

Some of us live like princes
Some of us live like queens
Most of us live just like me
And don’t know what it means
One World – John Martyn

Ahead of the game…

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So, my friend just turned up with this app on his phone (you know the one) that ages you.  He took my photo, pressed the button and said ‘My God, you look just like that old Country & Western singer.’  I didn’t have to ask which one.  I’d come to the same conclusion months ago, with just the help of a pen and some paper…

It was a while ago , so if you want to read the blog, please just click here

BTW – I have since cut the hair, trimmed the beard and changed the glasses – but it hasn’t helped…

To live without my music would be impossible to do…

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…In this world of troubles my music pulls me through… (‘Music’ – John Miles)

You know the thing when you just know what song is going to play next on the radio? Well, I’m not certain whether I’ve mentioned it here before, but despite being in no way musical myself (the closest I come to playing a musical instrument is when I put the whistling kettle on the stove) and tone-deaf to the power of ten, I have the strange ability to identify a tune very quickly, most often on the first note. (Not really in the top-rank of life-skills, I realise, but it is, unfortunately, the best I’ve got.) I don’t know why. It’s not a conscious thing, but I find myself doing it wherever I am – even when the music is somewhere else. It drives my wife mental in Tesco’s. When I’m driving, I pick up snatches of music from other car radios even when they’re on a different channel to mine and I have to wind the widow down to shout the title at them. Sometimes, in the High Street, I know what people are listening to on their phones just from the way they walk. (Probably Genesis eh?) It makes me a really bad team-mate at music quizzes (I am an adult. I have taught myself to let others answer first. For a man who sometimes has the social skills of a six year old, this is a big deal) and a proper dog-with-a-bone when, for whatever reason, I know that I should know a song but I don’t.

It goes without saying that I can only identify the songs I know (although, when they are completely new to me, I can still normally guess the artist – unless I am also unfamiliar with the artist, in which case I can name the bedroom they recorded it in*). Now, I know a lot of songs. I listen to music all the time. As much as I relish the sound of silence, it only really appeals to me when I can put some music in it. I sit and write in a room full of cd’s – I’ve never really got on with Spotify. In fact I’ve only just turned on to the habit of letting my ipod play random songs in the car as my mind always skips on to what should be coming next. Music is always playing. When I’m alone in the house there is often music upstairs and downstairs. Never the same music mind. Sometimes I sit half way down the stairs to see how they ‘gel’. They seldom do – unless one of them is The Beatles and the other one is… anything that has come since really.

Mostly I listen to the whole album and, although I obviously have favourites, I do try to give them all a go every now and then. The last CD I play every evening is always the first I play the next – just in case I didn’t give it proper attention the first time round. In fact, when I’m concentrating I don’t think I really hear the records, but if they’re not playing then I can’t concentrate in the first place. Sometimes I will work my way chronologically through an artist’s entire catalogue (and, yes, they are racked like that – I also have to have identical slices of bread when I’m making a sandwich and I can’t even look at a pen if its cap is missing*) – Bowie was the last – other times I will deliberately shift from Kasabian, to Fairport Convention, to Elbow to The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, just because I can. I have a secret hidden rack that is full of guilty pleasures: Bryan Ferry, Japan, INXS, All About Eve, The Darkness… that I can only ever play when nobody else is listening. And I have vinyl too, lots of it, although I only tend to play that when I can really listen and then it drives me mad because I know exactly where every crackle and pop is and I find myself just waiting for them to happen. It puts my teeth on edge – like eating a piece of Halloumi when you’re not expecting it.

Anyway… I have spent a lifetime augmenting this systematic collection of multi-genre music (I am an infuriating completeist when I find a new artist) by choosing random albums on the strength of the cover; the title; because they just happen to be in the rack behind the album that I actually went in to buy, or simply because they look lonely. However, of late I seem to have bought more pups than gems and, quite frankly, I’m running out of space to store them all. (I never throw out music.) I have accumulated so many albums with just one good track on them that I am sometimes driven to making compilations: never worth the effort. I go off tracks that are not properly ‘sandwiched’ very quickly. I never got on with ‘Now’ albums. (Actually, anybody else remember ‘Top of The Pops’ albums? All the top tunes of the day, but performed by sessions musicians as they couldn’t afford the real thing – like buying the latest ‘Avengers’ DVD only to find that it stars the local am-dram group. “Iron Man isn’t in this one because his wife’s still doing his shirt. Also she won’t let him out until she finds out what that stain is on his chino’s…”)

So what I really need are recommendations. Please point me at some music that might hit some spot or another (I fear the targets may be getting smaller). If I’m already familiar with it, nothing lost. If I’m not, I can’t wait to find out. I really am open to anything. I’ve always struggled with Rap and Country & Western (now there’s a fusion to contemplate – Drake feat. Loretta Lynn – you heard it here first) but I’m very happy to have my head turned, just as long as I don’t have to wear a Stetson or eat grits (I’ll be honest – until I looked it up just now, I thought that grits were bits of semi-digestible chicken gizzards. They’re not, apparently – but they still sound like they should be).

FYI this evening I have played Roy Harper (HQ), Gong (Gazeuse) and Rush (Moving Pictures). I was just about to play Tom Yorke (Anima) when I stumbled across Polly Harvey (Stories from the city, stories from the sea) so she’s on next instead…

*Complete lie! Come on!…