Monthly Archives: March 2019

Strange (Music) Tales From The Cookie Kitchen .

“One shot, this is it, Did you delay?”  Click Click.   The Beat.  

1980 saw the Iranian Embassy siege in London.  My best friend at the time, let´s call her JM, and I, followed it for the five days, smoking weed and listening to music.  This included the Special Air Service of the British Army abseiling off of  the roof of the embassy and going in through the windows.  This was broadcast live, at peak time on a bank holiday Monday, watched by millions of people. We turned the music down and the sound up and watched what would become a defining moment in UK history, and the end of the siege.   Journalists from all over the world were gathered outside the building.  Exciting stuff back then.  The Thatcher years.

1980 also saw The Beat explode onto the music scene, with the album  I Just Can’t Stop It, to become one of the most influential bands of the British Two Tone Ska Movement.  It was a time of social and political upheaval.  Love and Unity was their message, set to a combination of soul and reggae, pop and punk.  The Beat came from the industrial, working-class areas of Birmingham, as did JM.  She had moved to Bristol early 1979, the year that The Beat’s first single, a remake of Smokey Robinson’s Tears of a Clown entered the charts.   JM had been and still was a friend of Roger Charlery, better known as Ranking Roger, toaster and vocalist with The Beat.

IMG_6738

When their tour dates were announced JM called Roger and we were on the guest list.  The show, first of at least twelve that we attended, was superb.

“Say too much war in the city, yeah, Say too much war in the city, whoa I sing I said a love and unity, the only way, And unity, the only way …. ”   Whine and Grine/Stand Down Margaret.  The Beat.  

Roger and a couple of the other members of the band, plus a few road crew, came  back to JM’s place after the gig, where we smoked and listened to reggae they had brought with them, until the small hours of the morning.

We joined them for a fair number of dates on that tour.  Sometimes helping on merchandise, sometimes with the catering crew, more often than not rolling spliffs, and always at the side of the stage during the gig.   We travelled with them to Belgium and Holland for a few shows too.   One of the happiest and most memorable years of my life.

As was the way back in the heady days of the punk scene, reggae music was played before the gigs would start, so heavy on the bass your inner organs would vibrate.  That was where I got my early reggae education.

The Beat played the album Heart of the Congos by the Congos before each show.  It was produced by the mad genius Lee “Scratch” Perry in his Black Ark recording studios.   An absolute masterpiece.  It was at the time only possible to get a hold of it on import, if you could get it at all.  Many of the Jamaican pressings came with a number of small potholes on the vinyl which although very authentic was quite annoying.  My memory is vague as to how The Beat hooked up with the Congos, perhaps I never knew, but they did.  And they then released the Congo`s album onto Go-Feet, their own label. so that everyone could have access to it.  JM and I were invited up into the studios in London for the laying down of, and mixing of the tracks.

We spent twelve hours in a dark studio, so much smoke you could hardly see through it, listening to the production of the album.  The Congoman, the mighty Cedric Myton, was in the studio with us, overseeing the production. This was a pivotal moment in my life, something so amazing and such a privilege that I cannot believe it happened.  Each track was shortened for the album, fading out the dub that each track would go into.  I was given a cassette of the original tracks including the dubs, but sadly over the years I have lost it. The album is an exquisitely spiritual and beautiful piece of work;  Roydel Johnson’s tenor, Watty Burnett’s deep baritone, and  Cedric Myton’s luxurious falsetto.  I cannot recommend it highly enough.  I have kept the album with me for the last nearly forty years.

I continue to play The Beat, their music as fresh and bright and politically on-point now, as it was then.   I closed my recent radio show with them, saving the best for last.

“Say goodbye everybody, Goodbye everybody, Goodbye everybody, yeah, I say I’m sorry to say but I’m on my way, I won’t be back for many a day.”  Jackpot.  The Beat.  

IMG_6760

Ranking Roger.  1963 – 2019.  RIP Rude Boy.

CQ of APJ   

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

14 Comments

Filed under Perfume Reviews

Reading Diary – February/March 2019

Book people tend to categorise themselves as either a ‘character-based reader’ or a ‘plot-based reader’. Character studies with little plot aren’t enough to keep me interested in a book but at the same time, I’m happy with slow-paced books if I like the overall mood of the world in which they’re set. I have therefore decided that I am an ‘atmosphere-based reader’.

Equal Rites (Discwolrd 3) by Terry Pratchett

“Hilta laughed like someone who had thought hard about Life and had seen the joke.”

This is the first Discworld book I’ve read. I’ve been put off it up to this point because I’m not generally a fan of zany humour and was concerned this wouldn’t be to my taste (as much as I’m a fan of fantasy). I decided to give Equal Rites a try because it’s the first in the Witches series and I liked the premise of a young girl accidentally inheriting a wizard’s powers.

I thoroughly enjoyed myself from start to finish. The world is fascinating and the characters are excellent with the relationship between young Esk and Granny Weatherwax being a complete joy. It’s funny and often silly, but not absurd to the point of being annoying. The writing is pleasingly clever and there is a strong plot.

Generally, I just loved hanging out in the Discworld. There is something warm and comforting about it that soothed my frazzled nerves – perfect light-hearted escapism. I decided to carry on with the next book. 5/5

 

Equal_Rites

 

Mort (Discworld 4) by Terry Pratchett

I bought Mort as it’s the next book in the Discworld and I’d heard good things about it. Unfortunately, I would have been better off continuing with the Witches series. I liked Mort as a character and there was good comic value in Death but the rest of the cast left me cold. This meant I wasn’t engaged with the quest to rescue one of them. There were still some nice ideas, funny moments and clever writing as you’d expect from Terry Pratchett but I never really got on board with it and just wanted to finish the book so I could get back to the witches. 2.5/5

 

The Colour of Magic (Discworld 1) by Terry Pratchett

Portia is a big fan of the Discworld series and told me that I should never have bothered with Mort and to go back to the first book, so I did. It made sense because this book gives you a fair amount of background to the world. Unfortunately, The Colour of Magic was everything I was concerned this series would be – convoluted and all over the place. I didn’t care for the craven wizard, Rinsewind or the irritatingly naïve tourist, Twoflower. Some lines were amusing but it was more like a collection of a stories than a cohesive narrative, with the pair being involved in one surreal episode after another. I did learn more about the world but I barely got through it. Although I still want to read Wyrd Sisters, this has sadly put me off for now. 1.5/5

 

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

“The beauty of this world where almost everyone was gone. If hell is other people, what is a world with almost no people in it?”

You can’t get much further away from the Discworld than a post-apocalyptic thriller – not a genre I normally read. I’d heard a lot about Station Eleven but what got me to try it is the fact it was often described as atmospheric and elegiac.

The book starts off with Day Zero of the flu pandemic that will wipe out 99% of the globe’s inhabitants in a matter of days.  The story is set around the Great Lakes where we follow the stories of a number of interconnected characters in different time periods before, during and after the collapse of civilisation. Twenty years hence, we follow a travelling band of musicians and actors performing Shakespeare to the disparate settlements.

This isn’t just a tale of survival. it’s about what really sustains us when everything is stripped away, how our lives touch those of others, how we can sleepwalk through our lives and what matters when all is said and done.

It’s a thought-provoking, gripping read. 5/5

 

station 11

 

Fear: Essential Wisdom for Getting Through The Storm by Thich Nhat Hanh

“To meditate with mindful breathing is to bring body and mind back to the present moment so that you do not miss your appointment with life.”

I’ve wanted to read the teachings of Zen Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh, for ages. My recent determination to give mindfulness a proper go gave me the impetus I needed to pick this up. It covers fear in a whole range of circumstances from death and personal relationships to terrorism. There are then exercises for incorporating mindfulness into your daily life. I’m a dreamer, so mindfulness will always be a struggle for me but I know it’s practice, rather than something you master. 3.5/5

 

fear

 

What are you reading this spring?

 

24 Comments

Filed under Book Review

Skincare Serums – GOW

The launch of budget skincare brand The Ordinary got me seriously into skincare a few years ago. However, the more I learnt and watched YouTube vloggers, the more I bought  into expensive products. Now I’m stripping it all back and concentrating on well formulated serums with active ingredients at a reasonable price. I don’t want to spend over the odds for gorgeous packaging or coveted brands.

Garden of Wisdom (GOW)

I had limited success with The Ordinary and when they parted ways with Victoria Health I was interested to see that it was replaced with a number of products from an American brand, Garden of Wisdom, which they reformulated and repackaged. I’ve been using three of the serums for a couple of months now and am extremely happy with them.

“All Garden of Wisdom products are cruelty free, suitable for vegetarians and free from alcohol and silicones. Garden of Wisdom uses as few ingredients as possible to allow the actives to reach the deeper layers of skin to improve the appearance of skin.”

 

Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant which combats the damage done by pollution and UV exposure. It also has a skin brightening effect. However the formula has to be stable and at a decent percentage. The GOW offering is Vitamin C 23% + Ferulic Acid (£10 for 30ml) and has a pleasant cream formulation which isn’t too grainy or sticky.

It contains the gold standard of Vitamin C (L-ascorbic acid). I could tell it is a high strength from the sharp tingle I felt on my skin the first few times I applied it, however my skin has become accustomed to it. The air-tight packaging with pump is very welcome although after a couple of weeks it started to catapult the product across the room so I had to cup my hand over it. At this price it’s not a deal-breaker.

20190209_1304557741262653017474091.jpg

Peptides boost collagen which keeps skin plump and bouncy. GOW’s Anti-Aging Multi-Peptide Serum (£20 for 30ml) is a clear, almost jelly-like serum that has a hydrating effect thanks to the presence of hyaluronic acid. It feels lovely on the skin. It can be used over the Vitamin C.

Niacinamide is another ingredient with proven skin benefits. It helps regulate oil production, improves the skin’s barrier function (preventing dehydration) and minimises dark spots. I found the Ordinary’s Niacinamide very drying but I’ve had no such problems with GOW’s Niacinamide Serum (£9 for 30ml). I use it on nights I’m giving my skin a break from retinols or on weekend mornings when I’m not using Vitamin C.GardenOfWisdom_SD-1024x681

I’m going to continue with these products and intend to repurchase when they run out.

Let me know in the comments whether you use any serums in your skincare routine and if you’ve tried GOW.

All products purchased by me. 

19 Comments

Filed under Beauty Review

Strange Tales from the Cookie Kitchen.

“But today there is no day or night, Today there is no dark or light, Today there is no black or white, Only shades of gray.”   Shades of Gray by The Monkees.

I returned from the Dominican Republic to find MJ dead.  He had overdosed the night before.  My first love, my partner of eight years, the person I had moved to Amsterdam with.

My father died in 1971.  MJ´s father died in 1975.  No one teaches you how to deal with the pain and we both carried the scars.

College 1978.  I was sat in the common room, listening to Spirit’s The Twelve Dreams of Doctor Sardonicus, when MJ walked through the door.  Barefoot, ripped jeans, long curly black hair, an earring, and John Lennon glasses.   It was love on the spot.  Who hears warning bells at eighteen?

I was fourteen when I went to see Stardust. It was the 1974 sequel to the film That’ll be the Day.  It follows the fictional band, the Stray Cats,  who were David Essex, Keith Moon, Paul Nicholas and Peter Duncan.  Essex, a real-life pop star, playing the rise and fall of Jim Maclaine, fictitious pop star.  Managed by Mike, played by Adam Faith.   Kind of mixture between fiction and reality.

Spellbound from the start,  I was in the film every step of the way.  The music, the clothes, the drugs, the glamour.  I was living it.   Jim Maclaine, who had become a megastar and split from his band, was being used and abused by the business; and eventually goes to live in Spain in a castle, becoming a  recluse, his manager in tow.  No one has seen him for two years,  at which point he is talked into giving a live interview, in his castle, which he absolutely does not want to do.   As he sits in front of the cameras, he starts to talk,  but makes no sense.  Publicly there was triumph but privately disintegration.  Mike realises that Jim has OD’d, calls an ambulance and goes and pulls him out of the press circus.   You see him carried out and put into the ambulance on a stretcher.  And then he dies.

I was absolutely blindsided and started to cry.  I could not stop.  I wept all the way home, and as I went into the house, my mother came running, asking what was wrong.  I kept crying.  She told me it was only a film, but it was so much more than that.  I felt that I had known Jim, and my heart was broken.  I cried for the rest of the night, a deep pain in my chest.

MJ and I spent the next nine years together, the last two of them in Amsterdam.   A couple of busts.  A shitload of fabulous music, the punk years, the club years, the festivals years.   No TV but always a good sound system.  Music day and night;  reggae, punk, hippie, psychedelic;  Stooges, Velvets, The Clash, Stones, Talking Heads, Grace Jones, the music that accompanied the slow descent into a heavier scene.  Funny stories, sad stories and some quite terrifying stories.

MJ. 1959 – 1989.  I loved not only him, but his amazing family too.  And still do.

I had not been back in Amsterdam for 36 hours from the Dominican Republic, when I found myself on the way to the airport to meet his mother and brother. off of a plane.  I was in total shock.  It would be some time before I was able to cry, my heart so broken that the pain had not yet set in.

 

MJ

 

“It was easy then to know what was fair, when to keep and when to share, How much to protect your heart, And how much to care, But today there is no day or night, Today there is no dark or light, Today there is no black or white, Only shades of gray, Only shades of gray.

CQ of APJ

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

21 Comments

Filed under Stories