Sunday, 31 May 2009

Catching up

The blog has been sadly neglected while we have been enjoying the holidays. Apologies. Here are some of the things we did.
Saturday: To Brixham for the Heritage Festival fireworks, which were top-notch as ever. We leaned on the harbour railings while the whizz-bangs whizz-banged and a slightly merry lady from one of the kiosks gave us the rundown on what a great place Brixham is. We hadn't the heart to tell her that we weren't on holiday and knew the place inside-out, so we just listened politely and nodded. Younger daughter ate ice cream out of a cone packed with fudge. I almost asked the man in the shop if he packed the fudge himself, but Mrs H elbowed me in the ribs and told me to stop being so childish.
Sunday: Gardening and mooching. Walking the dog. Motor racing on TV. Beer.
Monday: Mooching and gardening. Walking the dog. Me in a foul mood because Bank Holidays are for getting out and doing things, NOT for mooching and gardening.

Tuesday: To Calais on one of Mrs H's whims. 'Why not?' she said, and it was hard to come up with a reason. Drove to Dover up the A303 and caught SeaFrance Rodin. Disaster as the Friterie des Nations was closed, but it was open again when we returned a little later in the afternoon. Sun broke through in the evening for a drive up to Cap Gris Nez and then on to Wimereux with horse riders on the beach silhouetted against the setting sun and a flock of sand martins doing their noisy thing. If there's a better stretch of road to drive on a sunny evening I've yet to find it.
Wednesday: A couple of cases of wine and general grocery shopping. Three French bulldog puppies for 999 euros each in the pet shop. Mrs H wanted to buy them, but got a bit confused with the exchange rate. When I explained the error of her ways she went a bit cold on the deal. Heard a cuckoo while strolling in the grounds of the fort. SeaFrance Rodin back again over a choppy Channel, then a nightmare drive home. M25 solid. M3 solid. A303 closed due to accident at Stonehenge. Nothing for it but to hammer back down the M4 and the M5 listening to the European Cup Final. Manchester United lost, so that cheered us all up a bit.
Thursday: Mrs H into hospital for long-awaited knee operation, carried out by Dr Nie (I kid you not). Saw a handsome fox in Primley Meadow while walking the puppy in the morning, which lightened the atmosphere somewhat. The operation went well and by 6pm I was driving her home again. I asked her what she wanted to eat, expecting the answer to be something like a poached egg and milky tea, but she wanted sausage and mash.
Friday: Mrs H is bored by convalescence already. We drove out to Ashburton to collect tickets for the Blues Festival and Mrs H tackled the stairs with gusto.
Saturday: Wall Park hosts a match between two teams of Brixham United veterans. They haven't asked me to play, which will probably seem like a good thing in hindsight. It's a 2-2 draw, and there are many familiar faces, including one man I haven't seen for 20 years and had in the meantime convinced myself that he must be dead. I am delighted to report that he isn't. Mrs H valiantly toils up those stairs again and sits with her bad knee shielded from the crowds as Nine Below Zero play a glorious set of red-hot R&B. Even Mrs H, up until now not a great advocate of Nine Below Zero, concedes that they were damn good. Now get me out of here before some bastard bumps into my knee.
Sunday: Garden centre, lawn mowing and an extraordinary finish to the Giro d'Italia. Space Beacon Earth rehearse in a carpet warehouse in Teignmouth in the evening ahead of tomorrow's big debut gig. For the first hour and a half they are woeful, and forget everything. Then suddenly the penny drops and they are right on top of their game. Roll on tomorrow.

Thursday, 28 May 2009

Party Pit

Are The Hold Steady the best live band around at the moment?
Certainly the best I have seen for a long, long time, maybe since The Clash in their pomp in 1978, maybe since Nine Below Zero at the Piazza, maybe since the Manics at Plymouth Pavilions.
The gig at the Princess Pavilions in Falmouth was was the third time of seeing The Hold Steady for me and for Bridget, who took the picture from our vantage point in a seething mass of Cornishmen two rows back from the stage. It was robust in there, to say the least, especially during 'Massive Nights' and 'Stuck Between Stations'. But we handled ourselves pretty well and shook hands with the Sons of Trelawny after a mighty version of 'Slapped Actress' had brought proceedings to a close and we made our sweaty way out into the night for a two-and-a-half-hour trek back up through Cornwall in the early hours.
We saw them at The Point in Cardiff, which is now apparently closed. That was a 10 out of 10. Then we saw them at Bristol Students Union, where I made us late by getting lost in the Christmas shopping traffic. That was about an eight out of 10. Falmouth, where we had a pint in the evening sunshine and a bag of chips on the way up the hill to the theatre, was definitely another 10.

Thursday, 21 May 2009

Victory Parade

It was Torquay United's victory parade through the town tonight - the players on the top deck of a clapped-out open-top double-decker with the big shiny trophy.
They went from Plainmoor down to the sea front, then back up to the Town Hall.
On the sea front the police helicopter hovered overhead and fans unfurled a giant flag from the Palm Court bridge so the players could pretty much reach up and touch it as they went by.
Outside the Town Hall there were hundreds of people singing and chanting, and when Pete the PR man put on 'Rocking All Over the World' quickly followed by 'We Are The Champions' it was deafening.
Inside there was a civic reception at which the Mayor said some nice things about the team but clearly demonstrated that football is not his number one interest.
There was a certain amount of tittering among the players as the Mayor said 'Hurrah!' for the third time and Elliot Benyon's phone went off.
Darryl from Plainmoor, in a voice like Alan Partridge, said: "This is comedy gold."
And he was right.
The leader of the Lib Dems was sitting there in a bright yellow wig, the Tory lady councillor who looks like the Queen Mother held up the trophy for everyone to see and Younger Daughter got her picture taken with her two favourite players.
This made Older Daughter, here making her first appearance in this blog, very jealous by text.
One by one the players melted away, most of them moving swiftly in the direction of Applebys, leaving just Greavsie and one or two others heroically mingling with the dignitaries.
Younger Daughter and I also melted away. The need to get home and do some work meant we had to decline a most tempting invitation to go back to the Devonport for a pint. Shame.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009


All over the country running clubs train on Tuesday nights.
Some of them run on streets, in parks, round and round tracks.
Tonight we did 300m reps on the beach at Goodrington, with the evening sun turning the red sand to gold and the bay a steely blue all the way from Hopes Nose on one side to Berry Head on the other.
A red-sailed vintage Brixham trawler went across the bay from right to left and then went back again. Herring gulls squabbled in the storm water outflow and two blackbacks ambled around over the shallow breakers.
Lucky buggers, aren't we?

Monday, 18 May 2009

Wembley and more

That was some weekend.
Friday night saw me on taxi duty, collecting three rather inebriated ladies from the middle of Brixham where they had been the last to leave the pub by some distance.
Mrs H failed to recognize the car while Nanna and Debbie sat in the back and giggled.
They think I'm the perfect gentleman, but had one of them chucked Cherry B or whatever over my upholstery they might have seen a different side of me.
Saturday night was Cheese Night at the Fangios, and we didn't watch a single minute of Eurovision.
The Fangios had challenged us to scour the cheese shops and come up with something unusual. We thought we had done reasonably well with a couple of French examples, one of which was so runny that it turned to liquid the minute the rind was cut.
Elmer, however, excelled himself with something that looked, so a medical man said, like a gangrenous wound wrapped in clingfilm. It certainly smelled profoundly unpleasant, and was comfortably the winner of the Eurovision Pong Contest. We all ate a piece just for bravado and it was indeed vile, although not quite as bad as we feared.
Mrs H almost collapsed on the spot with the horror of it, but she survived and perked up remarkably when Elmer's cheesecakes put in an appearance.
Feeling somewhat the worse for cheese, I drove to Wembley on Sunday for the BSP play-off final in which Torquay United beat Cambridge 2-0.
I did the usual online stuff, then some player interviews and a page one, so it was 8.30 by the time we left and we were virtually the last people out of the stadium.
You can see me being professional and unbiased here...

...and I was on Setanta shaking hands with all the players as they went up to collect their medals. Will I ever grow up?
For more, I refer you to the Captain's Blog, the link to which is on the right, over here somewhere.
Then more Space Beacon Earth tonight. There are two weeks to go to the gig and tonight they were more together than they're ever been. They were all relaxed and enjoying it. I now know the names of all four songs which are in playlist order: Carnaby; Strawberry Fair; Rosemary's Sundial and Sunny Day Brain Chisel. I have now changed my opinon on Rosemary's Sundial. It does not, under any circumstances, require a cowbell. What was I thinking?
Apparently they are becoming known locally as Gay Bacon Sandwich, but having a nickname at least means people are talking about them.

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Happy Birthday Nanna

Nanna's birthday today, so we celebrated her entering her 40th year with a couple of pints at the Torbay Inn after running.
The Torbay is a great back street pub with decent beer not costing a fortune, and a nice atmosphere where you can tell a few tall stories and have a laugh without upsetting anyone unduly. South Devon AC has kind of adopted it as home base, and they don't seem to mind a load of unkempt slobs in hoodies piling in every now and then.
There were plenty of tall stories tonight, with Mrs H, Mr Fangio, the Caerphilly Kid. DIY Dave and Nanna on top form.
I don't suppose Haile Gebreselassie goes for a couple of pints after running, then scoffs beans on toast at 11pm, but it's what we do.
It was a good run, too. Nothing hurt and I didn't feel like throwing up at the end, which has been a problem for the last few weeks.
We went out through Waddeton then round to Galmpton and back. About six miles with a couple of beastly hills in the middle. It was hot and heavy, but the severe weather warning I posted on the website this afternoon came to nothing.
There were skylarks and swifts in the fields, big ginger South Devon cattle peering over the hedges and a couple of horses racing round their paddock as we went by, just to keep us company.
It was the kind of spring night that reminds you why you go running.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009


PHIL Daniels, the very fine actor, warned Mrs H to steer clear of the roasted broad beans tonight, and thankfully she took heed.
We were at the Theatre Royal in Plymouth to see Quadrophenia. Phil Daniels starred in the film version in 1979, and had made a special trip down to Plymouth to be at the press night for the new stage show.

We spotted him on the fringes of the far-West Country media glitterati, only two of whom we recognised, in the half-time drinks and nibbles area. As Mrs H pondered the little dishes of wholesome snacks, Phil Daniels issued his warning that the roasted broad beans weren't all that. He was right, too.

I seized the opportunity to shake his hand and engage in a brief conversation that embraced music and scooters, as if he hadn't had enough of those over the years.
He excused himself for a pee and we made our star-struck way back to our seats for the second half.
Then, as the cast took their well-earned standing ovation, Pete Townshend himself came on to take a bow.
Bloody Nora! Talk about a night of the stars...
Quadrophenia, by the way, is absolutely brilliant.

Monday, 11 May 2009


Rosemary's Sundial needs a cowbell, and I won't rest until it has one.
That's the conclusion I reached while sitting through Space Beacon Earth's rehearsal tonight.
They played their four songs in gig conditions, that is to say straight through, with any minor glitches left in. There weren't many, and I played the part of 'Enthusiastic Audience' while Steve the musician and mentor prowled in front of the band clicking his fingers. I applauded after each song, moving from seat to seat to make it appear as if there was more than one person in the auditorium. I'm not sure it worked that well.
Gino warmed to the 'gig' conditions, introducing the songs and making the other three laugh, which seemed to put them at ease. Matt, James and Alex played really well together, and the finishing jam saw them more relaxed than usual.
I clapped and Steve the musician banged two pieces of metal together during Sunny Day Brain Chisel to create some rhythmic atmosphere.
But Rosemary's Sundial definitely needs a cowbell, and I might just be the man to play it...
The gig is just three weeks away now, and they're nearly ready. In July we'll be going into the studio to make a CD.

Friday, 8 May 2009

Monsieur Citroen

Midnight, and the rain is pattering lightly on the window and some herbert is driving what is probably a midnight blue Citroen Saxo with an exhaust pipe the size of a dustbin around Bookers car park, which is just at the top of the road.
They leave their gates open at night, presumably in case the building catches fire and the fire engines need to get in, but most nights there is the sound of squealing tyres about now and the over-revving engine of some tiny car that has just scraped into insurance bracket one.
When Monsieur Citroen sat back in his deep leather armchair, sighed a sigh of hot Parisian pavements, twirled his waxed moustache and signed off the last pastel drawings of the prototype Saxo, did he think for one moment that his beloved creation would end up disturbing the peace thanks to some acne-splattered twat in a rain-soaked car park?

We ran a hash course through Occombe and Scadson Woods tonight, thanks to Alan and Jamie the course markers. It was wet, slippery and muddy, but tremendous fun. We ended up at the Old Smokey where the joy of a pint of Adnams was tempered slightly by the fact that the lovely barmaid took more than three pounds off me for it. Nanna was talking about some new wallpaper she has found with fibreglass in it. I asked if you could build a boat out of it. It seemed a perfectly sensible question when it left my head but Mr Fangio nearly soiled himself with laughter.

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Controversy surrounds the appearance of the New Seekers in Torquay! Who'd have thought it?
Axccording to the Daily Mail today, all foreigners are horrid and we're all going to die of something. Oh, and the original New Seekers who aren't in the current New Seekers don't think much of the current New Seekers tour, which is the one coming to Torquay.
My interview with the man from the current New Seekers, who are under fire from the original New Seekers, could have descended into a load of nostalgic guff about Coca-Cola adverts. Now it looks as if it could be quite controversial.

Manic Street Preachers were on Jools Holland last night. Every time I see Nicky Wire on TV or up close, I resolve to grow old a little less gracefully.

Monday, 4 May 2009

Bank Holiday

Football is bound to crop up on this blog now and then, and today is one of those days.
This evening Torquay United lost 0-1 at Histon on a pitch more suited to my potato crop than a flowing game of football, but nonetheless thanks to the fact that they won the first leg 2-0, they will now be going to Wembley, again.
In fact it will be the club's fifth visit in 20 years, which isn't bad going, and on May 17 we will all be there to see if they can beat Cambridge and get back into the Football League.
I did the web updates, Twittering and Facebooking from the comfort of my sofa this time, watching the game on Setanta and thus avoiding an extremely long trip to Cambridgeshire and back. Bazza from down the road came up, bearing the noblest gifts of all, bottles of beer.
Younger Daughter's mate came round, too, and while Mrs H was out teaching children how to jump over hurdles and run at the same time, the rest of us watched the game.
I was terrible company, I'm afraid. I drank Bazza's Doom Bar and muttered and grumbled my way through a stressful match, occasionally banging away on the laptop keys to report a significant incident. My conversational skills left a lot to be desired, and for that I apologise to all.
After the final whistle I wrote some stuff for the paper, too, but by that time Bazza had gone home and the girls had melted away to another room. I must try to be better company when my team are playing, but it's hard. Sorry everyone.
Earlier in the day we had a stroll through Cockington. Reg made new friends and entertained the public by leaping in and out of the stream by the boardwalk in pursuit of sticks.
Two people, one of them the Mayor's official limo driver, quite independently remarked on the size of Reg's ears. The poor lad will get a complex.

Sunday, 3 May 2009

Vegetable patch

The potatoes are going great guns, punching through the soil every time we try to cover them up. They're nearly ready to be left to their own devices now.
The purple sprouting is huge, meaning we will soon have to face the shocking truth that neither Mrs H nor I have a clue what to do with it.
Onions are thriving, as are carrots, beetroot and garlic. The leeks are looking a little puny, though, and may not give us much of a crop.
Thanks for asking.

Mystical Spheres

To the vet's with Reg, after he started scratching his ear madly and flapping his head all the time.
Of course, by the time we got to the surgery he had stopped scratching and flapping, and the vet could find nothing wrong with him.
So we had a chat with her about Reg having a certain operation which comes the way of all young dogs about town when they reach a certain age.
Back home again, Reg and I had a sit down in the sunshine with a cup of tea and a digestive to talk things through, man to man like.
I explained to him that the reason he is currently cocking his leg up everything in sight, including the vet's scales and Denzil the West Highland White, is that his brain is receiving messages from his Mystical Spheres telling him to do these things.
I told him it was fine, and that all men spend most of their lives acting on information supplied by their Mystical Spheres, and oh doesn't it get them into trouble.
But, I said, most men can manage to stop short of urinating in public every thirty seconds or so. And most men don't urinate over their friends when they meet them in the middle of Roselands fields. Well, not often.
And that's why those Mystical Spheres of yours are going to have to come off, young man.