Avatar Happy Slick Voles Day!

If you’re anything like me, you’ll have woken up this morning, looked at your Pouring Beans Calendar 2020™, and been absolutely thrilled to see that today is Slick Voles Day.

A very slick vole

Sometimes known as St. Vole’s Day (Scotland), Slick Vole Sunday (Australia and New Zealand), Voling Sunday (Canada) or even Slickvolesday Brought To You By CitiBank (USA and Argentina), this is the day when we join together to reflect upon and celebrate the life of St. Vole.

I’m sure you have your own plans to smother some voles in warm butter, so I don’t want to take up too much time when we should all really be with our loved voles, but I did want to take a moment to share with you my favourite Slick Voles Day Carol.

O Besainted Vole

O Besainted Vole
Thy dark eyes quick
And tail darting fa-ast
Hail to you, O Vole

Seek thee holy slickness
O Vole, slicken thine self
Slicken thy-y se-elf

From owl, hawk, falcon flee
From fox and racoon do go
With footness fleet and fur so slick
Evade coyote and bobcat

Seek thee holy slickness
O Vole, slicken thine self
Slicken thy-y se-elf

Of marten and bobcat do hide
Of snake and weasel take flight
In safe burrow revel in oils and butter
Slip thee from cat’s claw and lynx

Seek thee holy slickness
O Vole, slicken thine self
Slicken thy-y se-elf

Take thine golden teachings
Saint Vole, at the Lord’s right paw
Take thi-ine go-o-olden teachings
And slicken thine self

O Vole
O Vo-o-ole

Avatar Free to a good home

As you probably know, for the time being I am shacked up in a different flat a long way from home. There are many things about these temporary arrangements that are new and different, but probably the newest and differentest is the windowsill by the front door.

In this little block of flats, you see, there’s a windowsill next to the main door leading out to the car park, and the residents here seem to use it as a kind of informal swap shop. Unwanted items occasionally appear here, with no indication of their origin, and disappear a day or two later.

In the past week, there has been a noticeable increase in the number of items up for grabs, including a whole host of cook books, a coffee table book of photographs of chocolate, and one of those books that only really existed in the late 1980s and early 1990s that had a beige front cover and was specifically about microwaving things.

Here’s the current offer as I write this.

  • Four dishwasher tablets
  • Three potatoes in a basket
  • Three packs of lard, one of which is in a sandwich bag
  • A small Breville slow cooker
  • A CD compilation of traditional Christmas songs

The bad news, though, is that this week’s real bounty has already been taken. Here is what the windowsill held yesterday.

Yes, it’s hard to hear, I know, but the Ricky Martin album has already gone. I’ve missed my chance. Someone else in another flat is now Livin’ the Vida Loca, and I’m left slow-cooking my lard and potatoes in silence.

Avatar Four Word Reviews: Tenor at the Movies

I cannot explain how Four Word Reviews work. The CDs just arrive, I don’t choose them, and they arrive by their own mysterious schedule. Right now I have a lot of them stacked up. Being in a position where I had a lot to choose from, I took a punt on Jonathan Ansell’s Tenor at the Movies, basically because I’d never heard of him. Here he is, look.

Read More: Four Word Reviews: Tenor at the Movies »

Avatar Pointless purchase of the month: Chris edition

Normally when we take a look at pointless purchases, it’s Ian who’s been pointlessly purchasing things, and I’m one of the smug onlookers who gets to decide whether to just feel superior or whether to mix the feeling of superiority with a bit of heckling. Today’s different. Today it’s me that’s spent my hard-earned London pounds on something useless.

Here we are, then. Thanks to the fan club mailing list, I offloaded some cash to pre-order this highly collectible limited edition picture disc vinyl of Flood, They Might Be Giants’ biggest album, which has been released to mark its 30th anniversary. It turned up in the post this week.

The B-side has frames from the music video for “Birdhouse in Your Soul” on it, so when you play the record it animates.

This purchase is particularly pointless because I do not have a record player. I cannot play this record. Nor do I need to; I’ve got Flood in my iTunes library and have had it for years. This is just for me to look at. I might even frame it.

Also, it’s yellow. I like yellow things.

Avatar Four Word Reviews: Kavana

Sometimes, when a deplorable CD arrives in the post, you’ve never heard of the artist or the album and you’ve no idea what you’re in for. Other times they’re known to you in some way. This one immediately rang a bell: “Kavana”, the 1997 album by Kavana. I remember him. He did a cover of “I Can Make You Feel Good”, the Shalamar song. He was a late 90s pop star. Yes. Him. Great, I thought: maybe this will be an easy one. Maybe this will be like Suggs where I remembered one or two songs and the others were just a bit of a laugh.

Read More: Four Word Reviews: Kavana »

Avatar Middlesax

Seeing how absurdly easy it’s been for Ian to get his turgid prose published, I’ve secured myself a publishing deal for a book of my own. At first I was just thinking about this as a way to rake in some easy cash, but then it dawned on me that I would need to pick something to write about, because ultimately if you want to publish a book you need to bang out a few thousand words.

In the end Ian was, once again, my inspiration. His forthcoming book on Middlesex inspired me to come up with my own literary masterpiece about this lost county. What better than to marry the former county of Middlesex with the history and wonders of the saxophone?

So, I present to you: Middlesax. Featuring:

  • A long and detailed comparison of Baker Street in north London, home of Baker Street station and Sherlock Holmes – which is located in the former county of Middlesex – with the saxophone solo from Gerry Rafferty’s “Baker Street”.
  • Lyrics and score for pop songs arranged specially for the saxophone and rewritten to be about Middlesex, including “Say Harrow Wave Goodbye”, “Edgwarever I Lay My Hat That’s My Home”, and “Sexual Ealing”.
  • Pictures of saxophones and saxophonists in front of Middlesex landmarks, including a tenor sax at Enfield Chase and an alto sax half-submerged in the River Brent. I’m also hoping to get a picture of Kenny G on the steps of Neasden Methodist Church.
  • A list of places in Middlesex that can be spelled using only notes that can be played on a Saxophone. (So far I haven’t found any.)

Available now for pre-order from Amazon and all other bookshops, but only within the boundaries of what used to be Middlesex. Buy it now!

Avatar An Admission of Sorts

As I pulled into the car park, locked the car and headed into Asda I knew I was in a rush. I grabbed the beer I was looking for, paid and made my way back to the car. Asda Radio has a habit of playing a bizarre mix of music no matter what time of day you are there. Running late to a friend’s house the unmistakable tune of ‘Ooh Aah… Just a Little Bit’ by Gina G was audible over the hubbub of other patrons of the supermarket. It took me back to 1996 when this was our entry in the Eurovision Song Contest…

Now we’ve all seen how much of a shambles Eurovision is, perhaps some more than others. As a young impressionable 13 year old I had a lot of free time on my hands. I do remember watching the whole thing because I was convinced that this song, this catchy piece of fluff, created in someone’s studio by faceless music executives and sung by an Australian, not even a native Brit, was going to win. I had a lot of faith at 13; I wonder where it went? I expect it also had a lot to do with the fact that I found Gina G insanely attractive (I was going through a red-head phase, something that has continued to this day). Still, it wasn’t enough for me to actually go out and buy the damn single when it was released, not that it mattered because it went straight to #1 anyway.

Does anyone remember what position the UK got in the 1996 Eurovision song contest? Nope, me neither. I had to look it up but I did know that we didn’t win. The lovely Ireland claimed the crown that year. In my confused teenage rage I drew a picture of a person, possibly me (?), kicking an Irish elephant in the groin. Now this does raise a few questions, the main ones for me are:

  1. Why didn’t I draw an animal that was native to Ireland in the first place?
  2. Was I convinced that elephants came from Ireland or was it the first animal that came to mind?
  3. I can’t draw elephants now; how on earth did I manage to draw one from memory without the aid of Google?

I can still see that elephant now, hands clutching where it’s penis should be, in extreme pain because of my kick to the cohonies. It is as if it’s been etched to the back of my mind, ready to haunt me when the time is right. Yes, I believe the elephant also had hands. Perhaps this is a rare instance of British pride where I wanted to believe that we were good at something and to share that with the rest of Europe.

By the way, have you ever read the lyrics to ‘Ooh Aah… Just a Little Bit’? My favourite line is:

“I’ll give you love you can’t ignore.”

What kind of love is that? The one where you send bits of yourself through the post? The one where you set yourself on fire and jump off a building? It seems a bit full on for what is essentially a song about having a shag with someone.

Avatar Luck be a Musician Tonight

I am one of those people who secretly doesn’t know how lucky they are.

That’s a lie, actually.

I am one of those people who occasionally is convinced that luck completely passes them by but, in actuality, it washes up like waves on a beach more often than not. For every instance of not putting one of those new five pound notes in my wallet (everywhere else they jump out and I’m a fiver down) there is something else waiting round the corner, be it a clear run into work on a morning or a one in a mil find on eBay.

Let me tell you about the 23 June 2019.

I am invited by a friend to go to a gig in case someone drops out. I am officially on the ‘waiting’ list so to speak. The closer it gets to the gig it is quite clear that the other person is not coming so the ticket is offered to me, and despite my pleas it is given for free (no, I’m not spitting rhymes over a hot beat, the sentence came out that way). The gig in question is Nick Cave in Conversation at the Sage. I have dabbled in wor Nick and the Bad Seeds over the years with mixed results. This is not the kind of evening that you say no to; you grab it with your sweaty hands and you run away screaming like a frantic, happy loon.

So I turn up and meet the rest of the friends group, who are all rallied round drinking wine, and everyone seems really nice. The usual polite tidbits of conversation are floated round although that doesn’t last for very long because out of the corner of my eye I can see a man approaching. He is coming directly for us.

“How many are in your group?” he says. We all look at each other, we need someone to volunteer as spokesperson. I don’t remember who but a few people stumble up that there are six of us. “Great,” says the guy, “how would you fancy sitting on stage with Nick? You have to be by this door at exactly 7pm (11 minutes time!) and wear these special bands. I’ll run you through the rest of the rules when you’re led to your seats.”

We all look at each other again; what just happened there? There’s not much time to lose though so we all rush to the toilet and head to the door. More stagehands lead us right onto the stage: there are tables set aside with candles on, creating a kind of arc around the middle, which contains a beautiful piano and nothing more. The rules are pretty simple; shut the fuck up, don’t go near him and don’t bother him. Even I, with my primitive brain can handle this.

Nick Cave talks and plays music for almost three hours. He is roughly ten feet from where I am sitting. Nobody is allowed to take photos of him when he is performing meaning that the only memento I have, apart from the ticket and the special band, is a picture of an empty piano with no-one playing it taken about half an hour before it all started. He was amazing, a voice still raw and strong, a plethora of songs all hand-picked on the night, right there and then, whatever people suggest or he feels like playing is done. I have never seen anything like it and I doubt I will ever again.