Avatar A slice of 2010

While rummaging in the dusty Beans archives for material to put in the 2024 calendar, I found a load of photos we took during the making of the Papples’ second album, Masterpiece, back in 2010. (I also found pictures from 2011, when we were making Pop Squared, but I’m saving those for next month because you have to keep those post totals up.)

There are 149 pictures in the set, so you’ll be relieved to hear I whittled them down to 80 before adding them to a new photo gallery in the usual place.

The photos start out in my old flat in Streatham, where we can be seen doing a bit of recording and editing, but then quickly turn to a day trip we took to Kent. I think we spent the day touring around various seaside towns, messing about, taking photos for the album cover and possibly sending postcards to Kev. I’m fairly sure the photos include visits to the Isle of Sheppey, Westgate, Whitstable, Sandwich and Samphire Hoe, though there may be other places too.

In Westgate we refused to get out of the car, and instead spent our time getting into stupid positions (in the boot, legs out of the window) and using the headrests to pretend to be walruses.

Along the way we learn a number of things.

Ian enjoyed taking a self-portrait. Selfies hadn’t been invented in 2010, but if they had, he’d be the king of them. Among the 69 pictures I discarded were lots of alternative shots of Ian’s face that he took himself. There are still loads in here.

I thought it was funny to be completely expressionless and vacant in pictures, and did this almost every time a camera was pointed at me. Most of these are irritating and don’t work, but I will admit that the picture of me outside a pub called “The Smack” still makes me laugh.

We also learn that Kent is full of places with stupid names, and we photographed most of them. Pictures of daft streets, towns and businesses litter this album. It’s a masterpiece of silliness. Enjoy.

Avatar Memories (approaching the grey hemisphere)

It is now only two days until I pass into official middle age, two days before it all comes crashing down upon me. Actually that’s not true. I have long since been comfortable with my transformation from hip thirtysomething into a forty year old man. I’m sure that forty year olds have a lot going for them and, if not, then I’m here to shake things up for them.

I started reminiscing (even more than usual) about my youth and decide to record some of the lessor-known facts in case anyone was interested. They are in no particular order and most of them are probably not worth hearing anyway. Consider yourself warned:

Dad’s Army

I watched a lot of television as a child. A lot. I spent most days flicking through the TV guide circling what I wanted to watch in the upcoming week. On weekends it was worse, starting around 6:30am for the kids TV, taking a little break around lunchtime when the “adult” programs started and then coming back in the afternoon for more cartoons, sitcoms and anything else. The BBC repeated tons of sitcoms over the weekend and I was there for them. In my tiny child brain I would sing, “Who do you think you are kidding Mr Kipling?” when watching the opening for ‘Dad’s Army’. Don’t ask me why, it doesn’t quite scan properly (which may explain a lot of my efforts at writing poetry) and there is absolutely no correlation as far as I’m aware between the beloved cake-maker and the murderous dictator.

Wizards

Later on I wanted to be a space cowboy but earlier on in my life I wanted to be a wizard. This may have been spurred on by what I read in ‘George’s Marvellous Medicine’. I would steal various shampoos, conditioners, bubble baths and sometimes things from the kitchen cupboards (the bathroom was next to my bedroom so it was easier to sneak in and out with my effects) and mix them together to create potions. Did I have a proper cup or beaker to do so? No, I used the top of an old toy that had broken off. It was as curved green pot thing that was supposed to be the top of the tree. I think my mum noticed things were oozing out of the back of the small wooden desk in my bedroom so they broke in to look at what I had been doing. It seems as though I had also mixed in a dead spider to my current concoction to, I don’t know, heighten the potency of the potion. Needless to say I was politely asked to stop.

Showing off

I did a lot of showing off. I had three other siblings to compete with, I had no choice. Right? Right. I’m glad we’re on the same page. During the summer holidays my dad would “borrow” a video camera from the school he was working at and we would make home movies of varying quality, mostly terrible. In the quieter moments I would use the camera to record whatever I thought would be a good idea at the time. Once I made a stop-motion video of my pink dinosaur killing himself by jumping off the end of my parent’s bed, and when I say stop-motion I mean practically still shots with huge jumps in the middle rather than painstakingly moving the dinosaur into the next position. The crowning achievement however was the time I recorded five minutes of me narrating a fictitious race between… well that part is lost to me. It was a race though because I was doing my best Murray Walker impression. I was young and I had a cold so my enunciation was pretty terrible. I moved the camera wildly from side to side saying whatever came into my head. The film is notorious for one line that my brother and sisters still bring up to this day. I cannot tell you what I am actually saying because there is no substitution in the English language that would explain it yet I cannot fully believe I would say what I said at the age of 6 or 7. What did I say? Sigh. “I wanna see some boobies!” I didn’t fully know what boobies were at that age so why I would want to see them is anyone’s guess. It’s baffling knowing that it’s me and not being able to understand what I’m trying to say. The answer is lost to time.

Entrepreneur

One more before I go. I had a knack of trading things at an early age. In primary school I would take the toy or thing that came in the box of cereal and I would trade them at school with other kids for toy cars. I didn’t want the cereal toys, I wanted their toy cars and for some reason the other people thought this was a fair trade. In secondary school (you may have heard this one before) I would take the lunch that my mum had so carefully put together and sell it to someone in my form for the price of a school dinner which, I believe at the time, was £1.30. I did this every day so I came away with over a fiver a week to add to my pocket money pile. I used the money to go into town at the weekend to buy video games and CDs. My mum wouldn’t be home until after 5pm on a weekday so I would come home and eat bread (about a quarter of a loaf) and cereal to take away the hunger pangs I was feeling. She didn’t find out about this until I was in my twenties. I ate so much bread I believe it may have contributed to the intolerances I am now experiencing as an adult man, plus it made me round and chubby like the Pilsbury Doughboy from all the extra carbs.

Avatar H-A-L-L-U-M-I

Back in July 2020, Ian was carrying out some gentle archaeology among his possessions, which had begun to settle in accreted layers like sedimentary rock. In the midst of a rich stratum of shopping lists and half-finished song lyrics, he stumbled upon a miniature Sacred Book, and reported this to the Beans.

The booklet runs only to four pages in a bigger book that is otherwise full of other tat, and records the events that took place in the Magic Lantern pub in Whitley Bay (which later became a Harvester, and is now, of course, a Miller and Carter). In-depth scientific analysis of the occasions on which all three of us were in Newcastle, cross-referenced with the visits that had not produced a full Book, suggests that this was likely to have been in 2009.

We begged Ian to scan in these pages so they could be added to our collective store of wisdom on the Beans. We implored him. We offered him trinkets and prizes and financial incentives in discreet brown envelopes. But he resisted, and no scan was ever made.

Well, I don’t know about you, but my patience ran out, and it ran out at about 6.30 this morning. So I took the dodgy photos he had posted to the Beans, straightened and corrected them, and produced decent quality images of all four pages which I have now added to the Beans, bypassing the whole sorry business of Ian having to scan them. I have titled this new book “H-A-L-L-U-M-I”, that being the first thing written in it.

Its four pages contain an amazing number of in-jokes that survive to this day:

  • Wexford and the cheeses
  • Chris’s scrodsack of change
  • The science of warms per air

So, there it is, a lost slice of history, saved for the benefit of the nation. You can find it in the Books section.

Avatar Quince

A long time ago, Ian had a mild obsession with the letter Q, and specifically the way that the letter Q is little used and frequently overlooked. His short-lived website in the early 2000s had an entire page celebrating it.

If you were looking for the fruit equivalent of the letter Q – something obscure, overlooked, probably not very useful – then you need look no further than the quince. It even has a name beginning with a Q.

For reasons known only to themselves, the people who renovated our house about 15 years ago decided that the back garden needed a quince tree. Now, every autumn, we receive a harvest of quinces, which are all ready all at once and so have to be either used or thrown away within a very short period.

A big bowl of quinces

Unfortunately there’s not much you can do with quinces. They were very popular hundreds of years ago, when modern fruits like apples, oranges and bananas had yet to arrive in England. If you were, say, Henry VIII, you would have eaten a lot of quince because there wouldn’t have been much else around. Today you probably wouldn’t bother and they are one of the most useless fruit trees you could possibly plant. (The other fairly useless old-fashioned fruit is a damson, and they planted one of those in our back garden too. This year, for the first time, we got one single damson fruit off it.)

If you’ve never encountered a quince before, here are the essentials:

  • Looks a bit like a big cooking apple, with yellowy green skin
  • Absolutely inedible unless cooked, ideally for quite a long time
  • Flesh is white when raw but turns bright pink when cooked
  • Texture is grainy, like a pear, but even grainier than that
  • Flavour is quite mild, a bit appley, and a bit peary

The list of things you can do with a quince is not very long. You can use it as a substitute anywhere you would cook an apple – so you can use one instead of an apple in a pie or a crumble, but you have to cook it first. You can bake one into a cake if you have one of a very small number of cake recipes that call for one, but you have to cook it first. Or you can boil it down over the course of about a month to make quince jelly, which is quite nice with cheese. Failing that you can leave it in the kitchen while you try to work out what to do with it all, until a time when it goes off, at which point you can put it on the compost heap.

This is the last year that we will be cooking a small amount of quince and throwing the rest on the compost heap, since the tree has now been cut down. Farewell, tree – and thanks for all the quince.

Avatar Nish lives on

I decided I was too “hairy on the go” and needed to cut down on a bit here and there. The most obvious place was the top of my head so I decided to go for a haircut.

Modern life dictates that if you do not have a preferred barber or hairdresser then you have to choose the one that’s most convenient for you. I have tried a number of places over the last few years and can’t quite settle on one. They’re all fine, nothing out of the ordinary, nothing too special to go back to though (apart from the one where they gave me lots of coffee and made a huge fuss over my haircut however it cost twice as much as usual). There are two barbers near my work so I opted to walk past both of them, gauge how many customers were in each and select the one that was the quietest.

I meandered into the barbers with a queue of one and a half in front of me (the half was already in the chair and almost done by my eye but then spent another ten minutes having very little to nothing done to his bonce) and took a seat next to a glass cabinet of hair supplies and accessories.

It was a warm day so I stared nonchalantly out the door and around the room. It was then that my attention was immediately brought to the collection of items a little above my eyeline:

There it was. Nish Man hairspray.

In my mind what happened is that our mythical status grew and grew so much that we spread to the outer parts of Europe and Asia. There a large group of Turkeys (Turkians, Turkish? Turkpeoples) decided that in order to spread the word of how talented and funny we were, they turned us into an aerosol. I know it’s not the greatest explanation but what were you expecting, really? It’s me here, everyone.

It’s a legacy of some kind I suppose and one that will make your hair a good hair. I had a look and there are other products available for all your grooming needs including wax, hair wax, hair on wax hair, volume powder, styling powder, hair on wax powder, eye gel, eyebrow powder wax and strong fixative yellow.

Now available in all good barbershops.

Avatar A reminder of old reminders

I use the “reminders” app on my phone quite a lot, because I am forgetful. It’s clever because you can get it to remind you about something at a particular time, and then once you tick the reminder to say you’ve done it, it just disappears. Poof! Gone.

Except it’s not gone, it seems. If you open up one of the menus and tell it to show you completed reminders, there they all are. All of them. Mine go right back to 2011.

I had a scroll through and most of them are very boring. Some of them are not. Here are some things I have been reminded to do in years gone by.

I don’t know what most of these mean.

Go to bloody Richmond FFS
Crisps
Windy tomorrow
Hotel?????
Fg
More wontons
Dentist/ear/tip
Post Ian a picture of a fist
R4 debacle
Go go go
Listen to the thing
Look for workman
Brioche and food
Family pictures sending please
Ask about onion soup
Friday
The Hoodie Problem
Mike is going to phone you at 4
Remind Steve to freeze three (3) breaded chicken breast fillets and retain one (1) chicken breast steak in the refridgerator
AAAAAAAAAAAA
Clean crap out of headphone jack
Tinsel, silver: six metresworth
Hello! Sorry for the slow reply, I was at work and then I was very, very asleep.
Eyyyyyy mate
Make some decisions
UKIP weather
Pester Kev
Give Joe ten pounds Sterling
Post to the Beans

Avatar Mind your step

There’s a restaurant near us that we sometimes go to, which is in an old building. You’ve been in places like this before: it was an ancient thing to begin with, all wooden beams and low ceilings and big oak beams everywhere, but then it’s been extended by knocking through into bits of other buildings and there’s more bits taking it through the back into what used to be an outhouse of some kind. Now it’s a rambling maze on the inside, full of little rooms and cosy nooks. It’s nice.

Anyway, there’s one table tucked away in a little space of its own, surrounded by oak beam walls and artfully exposed ancient masonry, and whenever people go to sit there, they find themselves having to go up two steps and then go back down one step again. It’s like a little barrier on the way in that is a positive invitation to trip up and go headlong into a table full of unsuspecting diners. The floor level on both sides is barely any different, so it’s just in the way.

Anyway, I’ve noticed this several times and always thought it was odd. Turns out they must get asked about it a lot, so they’ve put a sign on the step to explain why there is a step in this eminently stupid place.