I'm not a grumpy old man, just an out of synch hippy

Thursday, 31 January 2013


Winter work-outs
Anything's better than painting the ceiling

Baby boomers know that they can’t follow the lifestyle of their twenties. If they did they’d be dead, in prison, or confined to bed all day. OK, that last one seems a pretty attractive option, but some of us are still trying to do stuff.

Public-spirited as ever, this blog is now going to share with you a stress-free, easy daily exercise regime, a great way of keeping fit through the freezing winter. It’s a gentle way of working up to half-marathon running (after which you may well be dead, in prison or confined to bed)

First thing in the morning
Get out of bed. Get back into bed. Get out of bed again. Get back into bed. Repeat until your partner groans “For heaven’s sake, I’ll make  the tea.” Now you have the incentive of a nice hot brew, getting up will be easier.

Mental leaps (mid morning)
Sit on your sofa and imagine doing a series of jumps. If this is a bit strenuous, imagine someone else jumping. When I was at Drama School my method acting teacher told me that thinking was doing. Ever since then, I’ve followed her words avidly.

Horizontal Star Jumps (After Lunch)
These are regulation Star Jumps, but you do them lying down on the carpet. If you’re feeling hard-core, do them face-down.  While you’re down there, you can always look for the contact lens you dropped.

Bath Push-ups (evening)
If you run enough water to hold your body weight, this is a breeze. It’s also an excellent breathing exercise as you struggle to avoid gulping down the soapy brine.

Drinking Very Fast (late evening)
Aerobic boozing is a great workout for the arms, the legs (getting up to the fridge for another can) and the lungs as you bellow even louder at the TV.

Good luck. And if these fail, you can always lie in bed till the spring.

Friday, 18 January 2013


The Blues Ain’t Nothin’ but
Even I couldn't get between Muddy and his fans
In December 1968 I worked in Dobells Blues Record Shop down the Charing Cross Road. I wanted to avoid my Dad’s holiday moans about my long hair but also I was a fanatical Blues convert.

Dobell’s was run by a cheery geezer called Ray. I don’t know why he took me on. Maybe he thought I’d attract the long-haired bespectacled stoned skinny white hippy student geek demographic. Maybe he thought I’d chase everyone into the Jazz Shop next door where he worked.

It was like an alcoholic being put to work in a distillery.  I spent hours listening to “Muddy Waters at Newport” on the headphones in the booth as the queue built up. I’d dash to the counter. 

Irritated shopper: “Have you got ‘Muddy Waters at Newport?’”

“Yeah, er, this one copy left…”

“It looks scratched.”

Picky bastard, I thought.  At least it had been wrecked by a genuine Blues fan.

I’d then have a hazy debate with shopper No. 2 about whether harmonicas are more expressive than guitars, as the queue grew longer.

Sometimes I’d put the wrong LP into the sleeve for someone and they’d come back the next day.

“Look, I asked for Howlin’ Wolf’s ‘The Real Folk Blues’”

“Oh, sorry…. er, can’t find it on the shelf.”

“That’s because you’ve been playing it in the booth.”

When people asked a serious question like “Do you have Sleepy John Estes’ 1935 Brunswick Sessions with Hammie Nixon?” I’d stare at them blankly. Just because I was a fanatic didn’t mean I knew anything.

After three weeks I finally went home to a futile argument with my Dad. But I’d had a rich education in music and Ray one in hippy students.

All this is relevant.  The news is full of the death of High Street shops. People are buying online and are jaded with the store experience.

At last I have a footnote in history. Because, you see, it was me who started the trend.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013


The Joy of Vinyl
My original copy. You can hear the scratches from where you're sitting

Last night I moved aside the DVD player, disconnected the VHS, plugged in the turntable and, for the first time in years, I spent a couple of hours listening to our old record collection. Bob Marley, The Beatles, Muddy Waters. Vinyl’s beautiful. It’s one thing about which My Teenage Self and I are in agreement.

MTS:  Hey, don’t push it.

Me:    I’m not. Vinyl has flaws. People who say vinyl’s scratching is just like life’s background noise must share a place with an incurable crisp packet cruncher who thumps the floor every 15 seconds.

MTS:  Yeah, you never did look after the collection.

Me:    Who’s talking – the one who scattered unsleeved LPs on the carpet muttering “Wow, that one’s tooo much”?   No, what’s good about vinyl is the ritual. Dropping the needle cleanly onto the rim was the only eye-hand co-ordination skill I ever gained.

MTS:    Looks like it atrophied pretty quickly.

Me:      Where did you get such long words? I can tell you – and it wasn’t books.

MTS:    What do you mean? I’m doing a literature degree!

Me:      So it definitely wasn’t books. It was LP covers. It was the only reading you did. Apart from cornflake packets and “The Furry Freak Brothers”.

MTS:    “Atrophied” - I got that from LP blurbs?

Me:      Some of those 1960s Jazz LP liner notes used longer words than the solos. And then there was the front covers, the only art appreciation you did for about 15 years. Peter Blake’s “Sergeant Pepper” cover led to Picasso and Goya.

MTS:    God, you’ve got boring.

Me:      I did or you did? No, thanks to vinyl, you kept your tastes intact. Not least, Muddy Waters: “Rollin’ and Tumblin” – it’s still great!

MTS:    It would be if the groove wasn’t stuck. That must have been you.

Me:      Cheeky – it was you.

WE ARGUE UNTIL EXHAUSTED.



Friday, 4 January 2013


Please Please Me…..

They nearly jumped...

So it’s 2013, the 50th anniversary of the release of the Beatles’ first LP. By general reckoning this is the year the sixties began, setting the tone for the decade’s notoriously sloppy timekeeping.  But forget all the myths - what really happened during those turbulent years? Here’s another sheet of student pass notes, from someone who swears he was there (well, that’s what my birth certificate tells me)

Things were incredibly cheap in the sixties. A house cost about six pounds twelve shillings and threepence halfpenny. However the pre-decimal currency was so complicated that people were nervous about spending money. The market slumped.

A draconian Government edict of 1967 compelled people to dance on the streets. This gave rise to the famous protest movement, in particular the sit-ins. Anything but dance! The tyrannical law was finally defeated by the lousy weather.

As Philip Larkin said, sexual intercourse was invented in 1963. The inventor was a Middlesborough guy called Darren. He was having too much fun to remember to patent it, and, although the idea caught on like wildfire, he died penniless, ruined by a stack of paternity suits.

Pretty well everything else was invented in the sixties, too. Music, Lycra, Bronco toilet rolls, mumbling and Goldie Hawn. Goldie Hawn has proved very long-lasting and has been kept on, long after anyone can remember what her original purpose was.

The single most significant social development of the sixties was the nylon sock. This led to the invention of the Odoureater and, soon after, the washing machine. The combination of the socks, energetic movement and plastic shoes was toxic. To this day British males hate to dance.

Were we happy then? Decide for yourself but remember: this was the decade when people started landing on the moon….