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Friday, November 30, 2001

In The Court of King Crimson

The following entry did not appear on the DGM diary at the time. Taken from my notebook written on the train going back to Newcastle the day after the launch.

The book launch went better than I could hoped. About half an hour before it was due to kick off Sean B thought it would be good if we had some mood music playing as the punters arrived. I offered to nip around the corner to Border’s and get some Crim in. I was happy getting out of there; my nerves getting the better of me. I was convinced nobody would turn up.

I left the shop – Denmark Street was deserted which just made my sense of apprehension worse. In Borders I rummaged through the Crim back-catalogue. The Politics of Music – Too much Court DC and JW get offended. Not enough Court and MG and Ian McD get pissed off. Maybe I should get Discipline or later – then they’re all grumpy in equal measure.

Realising that I was spending too long in the shop I get Court and Lark and head back round the corner to see a massive queue out of the shop door. Feel elated and greatly relieved. Inside some Crims have arrived. A gentle chaos ensues in the tight cramped space of the shop. We wait for John Wetton but time is getting on and the crowd is very restless. Just as we decide to start the Giles Brothers go AWOL. After an age I go to find them and drag them back in. We start. Short speech from me; the usual bollocks no doubt. Publicly thank Sean H and Chris W.

I’m touched the people who’ve turned up. My mother and my sister and her family; she married an old school mate of mine, Bernard. We used to listen to Crimson together all those years ago. Chris Taberham is also down from Newcastle for the event. I was worried that he would come down and see me forlornly asking people if they would buy my book so I could sign a copy. Alan Pearson who I was at school with (he now lives in Essex) turns up. He chats with my sister just like in old days – 1972.

John Wetton arrives after we’ve started – stuck in traffic. He looks unhappy and refuses my offer of a seat next to David Cross which unsettles me. Eventually a box of books is found for him to park on but for a while he stands and signs books and looks pissed off. Nevertheless, a good evening - Sean B reckons one of their best. Bizarrely someone asks me to sign a copy of YPGTKC. ”I’m nothing to do with this” I say. Doesn’t matter. Sign it anyway.

Afterwards we head over to a bar off Tottenham Court Road; v.noisy, v.silly. I get v.drunk. People saying nice things to me. David C.v.v.pissed. Back to Highgate high as a kite. Kimber is funny and brilliant in Bengal Berties. Debbie and I laugh and splutter through the food. Crimed out, cream-crackered but very happy that it’s gone so well.

The Team
l-r Sean Hewitt, John Kimber, SS, Chris Wilson

Thursday, November 29, 2001

The Grumpy Boys

It's raining so hard this morning that we get the bus along to the school. The boys are grumpy that they aren't coming with me to London. They enjoyed their first visit so much that they are desperate to go back. How much of this is to do with a thirst for our metropolitan heritage or an assault on Kimber's collection of James Bond memorabilia is open to question. Mind you, without any prompting from me Tom described Kimber as "a truly evil dude". He said this with a big wide grin on his face so I guess this must be some kind of endearment.

After dropping the boys off at school I pick up a copy of this months Record Collector and am pleased to see that they've run a news story about the signing on page 8. OK so there are several inaccuracies but it's not a bad bit of publicity for the event tomorrow. Speaking of which, an e-mail from Peter Sinfield suggests that he might be making it along to the bash. Looking forward to it!

The bad news is that I'm closed off to e-mail now because it looks like I'm infected with the Badtrans virus. I sent out tons of e-mail the other night and so I can only hope your anti-virus software did a better job than mine. There are two infected files which Norton Anti-virus says it cannot repair or quarantine. I'll have to deal with this when I get back to Whitely Bay on Saturday. I got my infection from Bill Bruford who duly sent out a round-robin of apology. Likewise I'm sure.

Right no more words. . .I'm off to central station in Newcastle bound for leafy Highgate and beyond !

Wednesday, November 28, 2001

Different Journeys

I was up in Northumberland yesterday - Netherton Park to be precise - and the weather was wild and tempestuous. After getting off the train I had to get a taxi to my meeting. As hail the size of large marbles bounced off the bonnet of the car, the driver had to drop to a snails pace.

After a couple of hours in the genial company of Steve McGough - web master of one of the work-related sites that I write for - I was back in the taxi making the return journey to Morpeth station. The contrast in the weather was startling: beautiful clear skies and beams of warming sun the colour of clear honey !

As I waited for the train I focused on the couple of paintings I started at the week-end and came up with an alternative approach to them. Waiting for a train is a good place to get some thinking done. Even better when the train gets cancelled and the replacement bus service turns up.

In the house in the evening I work on the one painting and the new approach seems to be working - not building a wall but making a brick. On the book front I spent a heavy night of spamming people about the publication of the book. As far as can tell the book is shipping to places as far afield as Australia, Japan, various towns and cities within the States, numerous parts of mainland Europe and quite a few other nooks and crannies besides. The wave of good will coming in off the returning posts was like chicken soup for the soul - heartwarming and uplifting.

Looking through my pre-DGM diaries I saw this in the archive. It was never meant for publication and it kind of makes me cringe a bit but it seems sort of apt given the timing of the book launch.

28 November 1997
A Phone Call And An Opportunity
On my way towards my mothers tonight on the bus and my phone rings. I answer to hear Dianne Aldahl from DGM.

Slightly gob smacked I say hello and wonder why she's ringing me. She offers me free tickets to every ProjeKct One gig at the jazz café next week if I staff the merchandise table in return. Like a fool I tell her that I can't as I'm at work. I tell her that others are going to be there for the full week and that I could give them a ring. She says no. Robert is quite particular about who he wants working for him and that I was his first choice. The words "me" , "feather", "down" and "knock" spring to mind though not necessarily in that order.

She offered me her home phone number but of course I didn't have a pen ! She said she'd e-mail me.

In an indirect way I guess it was this phone call that would have ultimately led to embarking with the book. Phew - rock n' roll

Tuesday, November 27, 2001

Sniffing Out A Good Story

Joseph sat at the breakfast table (aka Debbie's desk) in the yellow room listening to the news this morning. The "news" on Radio Four was rumbling its way through another round of endless speculation about the "what mights" and "what ifs", which seemed to have all but replaced any kind of sound factually based reporting.

"I hope the terrorists are finished now Dad" said Joe. I suspect that several people are hoping for the same thing although I fail to see how the ongoing defeat of the Taliban will have any impact on this heartfelt desire.

E-mails from a variety of folks wishing me well for the launch on Friday including John Smallwood, Toby Howard and Robert, as well as a lot of feedback from people who've received their copy of the hardback. One e-mail from Campbell Devine really stood out. Modesty forbids me from reprinting Campbell's kind words but I regard it as high praise indeed coming from the author of the Mott The Hoople biog All The Young Dudes.

Just to remind you good people out there in DGM-land, Campbell's book garnered the following review in the pages of Record Collector:

Overrated? A tad, perhaps. But there's a great story in there, as the intrepid Campbell Devine proves again and again throughout this 400-page-plus biography. This is not a book that beds its subject down amidst acres of cultural context. Instead, Devine has assembled one of the most detailed accounts of a rock band ever committed to print, via countless interviews and a nose for a good story. By the time you reach the copious appendices at the back, there's little else you'd imagine ever needing to know about the band, its origins, its offshots and the subsequent activities of its many members. Devine leaves no stone unturned, and despite its length, the result is a book that will amuse and enlighten any enthusiast of 60s and 70s rock (Mark Paytress)

If I can get a notice as half as good as that then I'll be a happy camper.

Monday, November 26, 2001

Dark Places

Dreamt about Austen Rowley last night. Ages ago (circa 1996?) there was a gathering of Crim fans at Chris and Marlene Raven's house. I wanted to be there but couldn't manage the time or the money needed to get me from a to b. So I figured I do the next best thing and make a video for the gathering to take a look at. The video was shot by Austen Rowley an old chum of mine.

For one evening, the pair of us wandered around Newcastle city centre while I talked directly to camera, showing the folks at Chris's house places of Crim interest. Places like the City Hall, Fenwicks Department Store, Newcastle Odeon and other points of trivia. From what I heard the video was well received by the gang.

I didn't see Austen again in person although we talked on the phone a couple of times and tried to meet up as this entry from my personal diary demonstrates.

27 November 1997

Missing The Pint. . .

A pointless night of missed rendezvous. Due to go out for a pint with Austen Rowley. Get bus at 7.10 p.m. due to meet Austen at the other end in swinging North Shields. No Austen at other end as arranged. Head of down to pub for a quick sneb to see if he's about. He isn't. Off for a walk around the square to kill time until next bus comes around.

Waiting on the corner see Ian Bell from work. Wave hello in a self conscious kind of way. Probably wonders what am I doing. More waiting around. A cold mist swirls about.

Bump into Chris Reagan who used to be Davina Wilson's partner. He wonders what I'm doing waiting around Shields on a cold Thursday night. I fumble with my headphones. He asks if I really have any music on the 'phones. He says "I see you still like your music". I say but of course. He's slightly aggressive as he speaks. I wonder if he's drunk or on something.

7.45 and no Austen at Bus stop and I head to the Bell & Bucket. No Austen. Have pint and read newspaper. 8.15 p.m. leave pub and try to find a phone. No Austen at bus stop as I pass. No change in pocket for the phone. Go to Tap & Spile pub to see if he's in there. No Austen. Miss bus.

Wait for next bus reading Kinky Freidman. Get on bus. Ride home. Get back in house. Debbie out and Lil looking after children. Sam tells me that Austen rang at about 8.00 p.m. wondering where I was.

Thank you and good night.

Not too long after this, I heard the news that Austen had committed suicide. Unhappy for most of his adult life, Austen was tortured by relationships with women; his mother, his sister his girlfriends. Finally he had enough and punished them all in the only way he thought might mean something. Dark places. Dark, dark places.

Sunday, November 25, 2001

David Bowie Cleans Our House

The really good news from today is that Debbie's mum is now out of hospital. They talked on the phone after David had rang. She's tired (as you are after you've nearly died) but pleased to be home (as you are after you've nearly died).

Debbie and I slept in until 11.30 a.m. ! Slightly blearily we get up and make some food and get on with the business of getting the house tidied up ahead of our up and coming visit to London. David Bowie was the choice of music for tidying up and he'd hardly got into his stride when David Symes rang.

Chatting about the book which David is more than half-way through. So far so good. Talked to David about the launch. I confess I'm feeling a bit nervous about this. My nightmare is that three people and a dog turn up. I'm not worried about this from the point of view of sales - the hardback is now sold out - but rather it's the fact that several Crims will be there to sign and schmooze. I just hope the night wont be a total waste of time for them.

Later in the empty evening I hot-legged it over to Chris Wilson's house to pick up some bits and pieces. He's chuffed to bits with the way the book turned out. And so he should be. Whatever anyone might think of the content, they'd have to agree that it looks great and that's down to Chris's hard work. He's going to be at the launch so be sure to shake his hand.

Just to remind everyone that the book launch is a public event and every one who want to come along and say hello is more than welcome. Confirmed Crims so far include Michael and Peter Giles, David Cross and John Wetton. Rumours are circulating that there's likely to be another VIP Crimperson present as well. Who ? Well you'll have to turn up to find out.

Friday 30th November, 6.30 p.m. at Helter Skelter's shop, 4 Denmark Street in London.

Saturday, November 24, 2001

A Belated Celebration

Last night we celebrated my mother's 74th birthday. This consisted of a vast meal eagerly devoured by the gang - Sam, Alys, Tom, Joe, Debbie, Me and Doreen. Singing happy birthday, we turned the lights off and paraded her cake (Banoffie Pie actually) with seventy four candles on it. It was in fact her birthday on the Thursday but because my mother has such a heady social calendar, we had to wait until the Friday evening before we could fit her in.

Later in the evening we sat around the table listening to Peter Blegvad (Choices Under Pressure album is a real family favourite) and Charles Trenet chatting on this and that. Interestingly Tom elected to hang out with the old 'uns downstairs and although the conversation drifted around topics of which he had little understanding, he was enjoying the social buzz of it all. We brought Tom into the conversation on several occasions and he relished the opportunity. His main topics of conversation were secret codes and mark Rothko. This latter choice of topic my seem a bit clever-clever but was occasioned by the fact that we were discussing Alys' art project at school which touched on the great man himself.

Just as we were getting the dishes tidied away Ian McDonald rang to catch up with the news and views. Ian seemed in fine form and was looking forward to getting to grips with the re-mastering of the McDonald & Giles album which Virgin will be releasing next year. Although I've mentioned it several times in these pages (and formally acknowledge in the book) access to Ian's 1969 diary numerous photographs and other memorabilia was an incredibly important part of the writing process.

Quite what Ian and other Crims will make of the book remains to be seen.

On the agenda today . . .Go to visit the Ornulph Opdahl exhibition in Newcastle meet up with Debbie and the gang who are in town shopping and then off to see Harry Potter the movie.

Thursday, November 22, 2001

Happy Birthday Doreen

The lightest most diaphanous blue seeping out from under the heavy blankets of black cloud. Seagulls crying above, the slow toll of waves pounding up against the lower promenade. A beautiful morning after the rain here in Whitley Bay.

Today my mother is 74 years old. The boys and I sang her Happy Birthday. She's got a full schedule of birthday-related events today and tonight, so we're pencilled in to have a birthday tea and evening with her tomorrow night.

Wednesday, November 21, 2001

Time Spent

Gordon Haskell rang this morning. It was just a little after 8.00 a.m. and he was enquiring on the progress with the book. So I brought him up to speed which goes like this. . .

A copy of the book in both formats arrived yesterday from the good folks at Helter Skelter. I have to say that it I think it looks great. All of Chris Wilson's hard work has paid off. Had some good feedback from several people who've bought the paperback edition from the Helter Skelter shop. Gordon said he would try and make it along on the night but he needed to check his diary. Well it'd be good to see him there.

The rain has come down hard today but thankfully lifted as Tom, Joe and I walked home tonight from school. I cooked food for the gang and Tom worked on secret codes - his current passion - of his own devising. Then Tom and I baked flapjacks. It's rare that Tom and I get any time on our own by which I mean Joe or a.n.other is nearly always present.

The times that my own father and I spent together when I was a child I can count on one hand.

1. A bus journey to Newcastle and a walk along Newcastle's quay side

2. A visit to my dad's workplace at the Baltic Flour Mill on Gateshead quay side.

3. A reserves football match at St.James Park (home ground of Newcastle United FC)

4. A Sunday league soccer match

5. There is no number five.

I make a mental note to try and split my time a bit more so that we both get some quality time together. Sometimes you get caught up in the whole thing of getting everybody from A to B you forget to look out and take in the scenery.

E-mails from Robert Fripp from San Francisco , Martyn Hanson (who mentions he's just completed the first draft of his forthcoming biog of The Nice) and Alan Pearson.

Alan is an old school chum I haven't spoken to for well over twenty years. This silence is not due to any feud or spat but simply unfurling geography, employment and distance.

His cousin Jeff Bianchi gave me his addy and I got in touch. Bingo ! He sent me a photograph via e-mail and bugger me backwards and call me Barbara but he hasn't changed a bit. Full head of hair, no double chin and just as thin as he always used to be. I on the other hand look like I've had a hard paper round over the years.

Anyway, there's a chance he might be able to make it along to the book launch on the 30th. It was Alan Pearson who took the photograph of Robert, me and my sister Lesley standing outside the stage door at Newcastle City Hall on March 21st 1973 (right) This photograph appears on page 8 of the book.

Tuesday, November 20, 2001

Michael Karoli

Lots of e-mail traffic last night. I was saddened to receive this one from Kevin Eden - author of Wire biography Everybody Loves A History.

Hi Sid

don't know if you've heard but Michael Karoli died suddenly on 17th. Don't know if you are/were a Can fan, but it's left me numb. On Sunday I was bopping around to them wishing their brilliance on the world.

If you want to let the world know via DGM please feel free.

Here's what Holger Czukay says:
"november 17

Can guitarist Michael Karoli died unexpectedly this morning in his home while playing on his favourite instrument. In the last weeks we often had telephoned together in which he expressed how lucky he felt that our ways were crossing. When he still was at school in May 1966 I became a music teacher in the same school. And as I hadn't any professional training I gave a test lesson to that class where he was sitting as a pupil. The director told me to leave the room for a moment while he was speaking to the pupils what they were thinking of me becoming their teacher. Michael told me later that he especially favoured this idea which practically meant that I was earning a salary each month, my first - and last too. At that time he took some guitar lessons from me but frankly speaking I could at least learn as much from him as he could learn from me.

After leaving the school we kept staying in contact roughly thinking what our future could become while working together on a piece by Bix Beiderbecker "In A Mist" - a premonition to Can's "Mushroom". Micki later commented this recording that it reminded him of the atmosphere in Chicago during winter time and of "In A Mist".

Last time we worked especially tight together was on Can's "Rite Time" album from 1987 till 89 which we both produced. About a month ago we phoned each other to arrange a video interview date where we wanted to go through our common history. He suggested to wait a bit longer as it would appear to him speaking out his final testament. Thinking of his young children he tried to avoid this thought as they strongly needed the father. This afternoon i tried to confirm a date, a few hours too late. Michael was the most intelligent guy of us all to say the least."

I saw Can a couple of times in the seventies - around the time of Ege Bamyasi and Soon Over Babaluma. Given the collective nature of their music it's pointless trying to single out Karoli's contribution from the whole. That said I thought he was a wonderful player indeed. As a spotty faced, long-haired kid, my chums and I went behind stage after a gig at Newcastle's Mayfair. I got to talk to Czukay - who wore gloves while he played the bass - and Karoli. I have no idea what they made of a bunch of gushingly enthusiastic Geordies with one eye on their back stage rider but we loved them.

Monday, November 19, 2001

Reading The Cards

Strange Dreams . . .

Walking in a faraway faded English sea side resort. There's a fine skein of drizzle covering everybody and everything. As I walk I look down and see a large crack in the paving slab in front of me. I can see something inside. I kneel down and delve in. The crack is large enough to allow my hand in. There I find some old books and packets of the old-fashioned cigarette cards. The are all slightly damp but otherwise fine. There are several packets of cards one of which is all about cricketers. Another one has architectural details but these have been pasted on top of the original cards - which are now obscured.

The books have cardboard covers and look Victorian. Inside they are full of tables of numbers and what I recognise as astrological symbols. In some cases the damp has smeared the ink and the pages take on the appearance of an impressionist painting. I've become separated from the party I was walking with and I become anxious. I gather all the books and the cigarette cards and find myself in an ochre coloured room. There's an open fire crackling and strange sounds coming from outside. I've never heard sounds like these before and they are indescribable.

As I read through the tables of numbers in the books I realise the columns of numbers and symbols are a code and each number refers to a letter. I try and make sense of it but any meaning eludes me. Some of the pages now have a smudged golden light within them and the room has changed colour.

Sunday, November 18, 2001

The Book Is Out

Yesterday Debbie and I went into Newcastle and spent the day getting Christmas presents for the gang. The big bonus was I picked up a copy of Chick Corea's Tones For Jones Bones. Regular readers will recall I bought a copy of the compilation Inner Space a while back but missing two tracks. Happily the re-issue of TFJB means I now have the full compliment of Corea material from that era. The re-mastering work on it makes it sound like it was recorded yesterday.

When I got back in from the shopping I found that Helter Skelter had mailed up the plates for me to sign. My mum (who had been babysitting for me) made a pot of tea and I sat down in the yellow room and started scrawling my name. An hour later they were all done and my mum had sent them registered mail back to HS.

An hour after that I got an e-mail from Richard Maughan who told me that he'd just purchased a copy of the paperback edition of the book in Helter Skelter. An hour later Helter Skelter themselves e-mailed to say that the books had arrived ! Much excitement in the Smith household I can tell you. Sean B said they were going to mail me a copy ahead of the 30th. Also saw the book advertised in the back of the current edition of Mojo. Yee and indeed haaa !

Last night we all watched Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade. Good knockabout stuff and the boys thoroughly enjoyed themselves. Alys and Debbie did too. After which the boys went to bed and we watched Parkinson (a long running UK chat show featuring the avuncular host Michael Parkinson).

We watched it because he was interviewing the actor Robbie Coltrane who I really like not least because next to him I look positively svelte. As the world will know, he stars in the new Harry Potter movie as the half giant Hagrid and marvellous he looks too.

Today the boys and I spent most of the morning shopping for groceries. The boys hate shopping in the local supermarket but we managed to make a chore into a quality experience by working as a team, problem-solving and having fun.

Bill Rieflin e-mailed once or twice but the content is too scandalous to reprint in these pages. Suffice to say Bill more than understands the concept of getting his retaliation in first.

Saturday, November 17, 2001

Finger Lickin' Goo. . .

7.02 a.m.

I heard the central heating come on just before six and never got back to sleep. Lay there for about half an hour but realised that I was just disturbing Debbie. Got up to look out of the window but of course it was pitch black. Only the wee lights of the day boats from Cullercoats could be seen bobbing somewhere out in the dark

Went to the Doctor's yesterday who told me that I had a poisoned finger. Gave me some anti-biotic and told me to give it a good squeeze if I was brave enough. About three hours later as I typed away at my lap-top in the general office, I felt a sharp pin-prick of pain and the thing had burst. Taking the time to get a piece of tissue, I then squeezed for England and the whole rancid mess oozed thickly out from underneath the nail.

Think of the inside of peach in terms of its colour and then think of goo the consistency of thick lumpy custard and then think of the whole concoction being slowly piped out of an icing bag - the kind used for cake decorating. Mmmmm. . . that's nice Max.

Later in the day after two tablets I began to feel queasy and bilious. After work I managed to get the shopping in but on arriving home Debbie and my mother had to prepare it all as I felt so ghastly. D figured it was the anti-biotic that had made me feel grim. It seemed to pass around 7.00 ish and I didn't have any more. The rest of the evening was taken up with the entire family (that's six of us plus my mum) watching a video of Spy Kids. Utter tosh but enjoyable utter tosh. Tom and Joe were high as kites after it and I almost had to strap them into their beds.

Checking e-mails I discover that Helter Skelter are sending me the plates for signing and an old chum Jeff Bianchi got in touch. The best e-mail of the week came from Chris Wilson. Chris you'll recall did the design work on the book. I'd e-mailed him asking if he was going to be able to make it down to London for the launch on the 30th November. Here's what he had to say. . .

I have booked a hotel room, with Full Indian Breakfast probably, a couple of tube stations away from Helter Skelter on the 30th (it's a Penthouse suite - above a shop that sells dirty books) rather than do my usual London thing and see the gig and get the last bus back through the night.

Besides after "a" drink, there are no toilets on these things. Not for solids anyway.

Back in 1983 I got the night coach back from London which took 9 hours or something. Now here's me dying for a poo thinking, well we're bound to stop off somewhere. Did we shite. I could feel every cat's eye and road marking all the way home.

Then eventually arriving at Newcastle it was too early for any public toilets to be open and so I staggered to get the first Metro to West Monkseaton. Know how the Metro always has to wait at South Gosforth? Right next to the steamy Gregg's factory where they make the pasties?

By this time it feels like I'm about to give birth to an elephant, so you get the picture...

So yes, I'll be lurking in the background somewhere. Fucking hell - only two weeks to go Mr Sid Smith The Author!
Sausage-Sphincter Wilson

Friday, November 16, 2001

Toilet Seat Blues

The tip of my finger beside the nail is a bright swelling yellow under the skin. Pulsing and throbbing gently, it doesn't actually hurt anymore. I don't know if this is a good sign or what but either way I'm at the Doctor's this morning to get it checked over.

Good job it's not serious as I had to wait three days for the appointment. I guess I'll get a prescription for some anti-biotic and a month off work. Oh well maybe not.

The boys are in denial this morning. The toilet seat is regularly being covered in pee because one of the boys doesn't lift the darn thing. When challenged about this sloppy behaviour they both deny being the culprits.

"Well" I say " It's not me and it's not Debra and it's not Sam and it's not Alys. If it isn't you two that leaves only two possibilities. One is that it's the cats. . .or that we have an incontinent ghost !"

"Yes" they chorus "it must be a ghost !" Whilst I am prepared to accept the presence of something of a spookular nature in our house (we call him Jim by the way), I find this unearthly manifestation a tad too far fetched. Still the boys deny any involvement in the Sopping Seat affair ! The plot (not to mention the pool) thickens.

Thursday, November 15, 2001

Accidents Will Happen

Reading The Ossie Clark Diaries. Passionate, vibrant, egocentric, impossible, nasty, loving, bitchy, brilliant, depressive and so on. It's like watching a fast-moving film where you get a glimpse of a celebrity or face you only recognise after they've moved off in the crowd. After a while it becomes too manic - just reading it wears me out. The original diaries are kind of like schizophrenic illuminated manuscripts that twist around and blitz the page as Clarke's moods rise or fall.
I recall seeing the David Hockney's wonderful painting Mr and Mrs.Clark and Percy at Hockney's Newcastle show at the Laing back in the 80s and being intrigued by this man in chair staring out at me. Years later I discovered his iconic status as fashion designer to the stars and his rise during the sixties. Fame and fortune were a daily part of Clark's life until the drink, drugs and mental illness got the better of him. The diaries poignantly chronicle the spiral into penury and increasingly dangeous relationships. Knowing how the story ends, one reds these pages with mounting alarm. He describes in some detail the deteriorating situation and one feels desprate for him; wanting him to get away. Of course he can't - that's a feature of his addictive personality. Inevitably perhaps, he was killed in a frenzied attack by his male lover in 1996. Tragic stuff but scarily fascinating.

Shocked to hear last night that Steve Cowgill - a long-term chum of mine since 1975 - was knocked off his bicycle last night. He's been scanned, X-Rayed and been generally poked and prodded and released from hospital. According to witnesses he was going negotiating the roundabout at Mast Lane when a car coming from the other direction drove straight into him. He went over the bonnet and ended up thrown into the path of another oncoming car. Mercifully this managed to stop in time. The hospital said Steve was unconscious for fifteen minutes but the throw was quite clean and so he's without any breakages. Apparently he has little or no memory of the event.

Needless to say he's off work and unable to play the bass - which is his great passion. I'm going to get over to his place at the week-end assuming he's well enough to receive visitors.

Some good news. Debbie's mother continues to improve and has now had all the tubes finally removed from her body. Her breathing has also improved considerably to the point where she only requires oxygen once or twice a day. The water in her body which caused her to swell up is now draining. All of which has lifted Debbie's mood considerably. I know it sounds a bit sloppy but a sincere thanks to the many people who wished Debbie and her mum well. I passed on those wishes directly to Debs when they arrived and I know they helped. So give yourselves a big hug from me.

Speaking of big hugs. . .I talked to the Kimberman last night. He's excited about the new show and is relishing the pressure of a January deadline - his next exhibition. Painting to a deadline changes how you paint and possibly what you paint and from what he was saying, it's a space Kimber is keen to sample.

We also pondered on how we might collaborate at some time in the future. He also expressed an interest in getting over to Amsterdam in June next year to hear Andrew Keelings orchestrations of Robert's soundscapes. All together now - "KSF a-hu a-hu !"

Yesterday morning the boys and I were treated to a huge arcing rainbow. Quite beautiful. What an inspirational sight as you walk to school. Tom has more than settled in his new surroundings, whilst Joe continues to stoically endure it. Funny but we all thought it would be the other way around.

Listening To . . .

Inner Space by Chick Corea
Miles David Quintet Complete Recordings
Heavy Horses by Jethro Tull

Wednesday, November 14, 2001

More Thumb Thrum

Was meant to go to see the Tin Hat Trio in concert last night but felt so puggled by the time I got in from work and cooked the food for the gang. So it was spark out on the sofa.

The finger continues to thrum and throb like an outboard motor in need of a tune-up. Several e-mails come in pointing out that I should get this checked out. Andrew Keeling writes to point out that it was a year ago almost to the day that he did his finger in ! Spooky or what ?

Two bits of the future also arrived last night. Firstly, I worked on some blurb for John Kimber's exhibition in February next year. The blurb is for the catalogue. Kimber and I hooked up telephonically earlier in the day and toyed with the idea of doing a joint exhibition at some point. As the day went on I really got excited about this idea. More later no doubt.

The other bit of future came via an e-mail from Andrew Keeling. I'd written to him to say how much I was looking forward to hearing his orchestrations of RF's soundscapes. Andrew mailed back to say that they are going to be performed at the Concertgebouw, Amsterdam toward the end of June next year.

I for one will be at this event. There's a ferry that goes direct about thirty minutes from my front door. I also know a couple of folks who live in Rotterdam (hi Remco and Ada !!!), so it'd be too good an opportunity to miss.

Tuesday, November 13, 2001

Thumbs Aloft For Bill

It's my left hand, second in from my thumb. The end is swollen and pulsing. Along the rim of the nail the surface has a white icy sheen which gives way to the angry red swelling which then radiates around the finger as far as the first joint and a little beyond.

A couple of weeks back I was opening a carton of plum tomatoes and I snicked the finger on the foil pull-back. It hurt like hell the way tiny cuts do and I thought nothing of it. However a couple of days later it started to become sore and obviously had a slight infection. I'd thought that the thing had come to a head - quite literally - when I managed to excise a small quantity of puss. So far so bad.

Then last night, as I stood at the back of the Live Theatre watching Bill Bruford and Earthworks go through their paces, I felt the finger throbbing in time with the music. My first thought was to welcome this addition to my time-keeping abilities. However as the night wore on I found myself wincing as I picked up my glass of beer. This morning it bumped against the tea tray and boy did it sting.

Bill and the boys played a good gig last night and the crowd were very appreciative indeed. The music drew upon some of the earlier Earthworks material but focused principally on the last two albums - Apart and Surprise. I chatted with Bill before the gig. He was in good fettle and interested to know how the book was going, interested in hearing about Robert's views on various items of the band's history. While I was there I distributed some flyers for the book.

I didn't hang about at the end after the band had received a standing ovation but walked up the steep bank from the Quayside and back into the city centre. Got the train home with Chris Taberham who was at the gig. He'd thoroughly enjoyed himself as indeed I had. Chris told me he was going to come down to London on the 30th for the book launch.

Monday, November 12, 2001

Grey Haze

A uniform grey cloud covering the horizon, bluring the sea and sky. I've been listening to shed loads of VDGG over the last twenty four hours. The live album Vital in particular left me scratching my head. It's some of the most densely compressed music I've heard for quite a while.

At times its wonderfully imprecise and chaotic, everything being dragged into this pulsating dark centre. At times I wasn't even sure I was enjoying it. Still, I notice it's in my bag for headphone listening later today at work.

Tonight, I'm off to see Bill Bruford who's playing at Newcastle's Live Theatre. I think I saw Bill with Earthworks around this time last year. Soon after my back went and I was laid up for months. I hope there isn't some kind of cause and effect in operation between BB and my BB (Bad Back). I'll let you know.

Sunday, November 11, 2001

Christmas Shopping

A wonderful romantic day spent with Debbie after her return from seeing her mother. The day was gloriously sunny and we went to Newcastle undertaking the first pass at the dreaded Christmas shopping. The big deal about all this is that we got to hold hands for the entire trip.

Her mother is greatly improved having had all but one of her tubes removed from her body and is even walking around the hospital ward. Consequently Debbie is so much happier and was her usual bubbly self.

Exciting e-mails from Remco Helbers in Rotterdam and John Kimber of leafy Highgate. Remco tells me of his new record label (which I'll be giving a shameless plug in the not too distant) and the Kimberman talks of an exhibition in 2001. As if all of this was not enough, Stephanie Ruben rings to say she's going to try and get along to the book launch on the 30th of this month. She's also going to try and persuade her neighbour (Mel Collins) to get along to the launch providing he's back in the UK then.

Friday, November 09, 2001

A Long Way From The Fulham Road

I blame Kimber. There I was one Sunday afternoon, minding my own business in El Kimbo's living room, when he says "I think you'll like this" and he goes and puts on Passion Play by Jethro Tull. "No, no ! It's OK, I know this one and I don't like it." I spluttered to no effect at all.

I hated Passion Play when it came out and whenever I heard any subsequent Tull albums, I felt them to be ersatz distillations of the original force and presence of Anderson's writing (itself considerably influenced by Roy Harper but let's not go there for the moment).

With Passion Play my feeling was that they'd lost the plot. What on earth was it all about? After Thick As A Brick, which I loved and saw performed live when it was first toured, Passion Play sounded like a dull reworking but without the sly brilliance of the original. People had said Brick was indulgent but compared to all that tosh about the Hare who'd lost his spectacles, Brick was positively concise. So Tull were consigned to the back burner of bands I used to like.

Despite loving the early Tull, the only album I had in my collection was Brick which I picked up in a store in Seattle whilst there with the folks from P4. Less than four months after sitting in Kimberman's living room in leafy Highgate, a quick count reveals that there are now ten albums in total occupying shelf space in the yellow room. There's all the stuff pre-Brick which has all just been re-mastered but since getting all of that, I've started adding all the stuff I've never heard before. Minstrel In The Gallery, Songs From The Wood and today, for a fiver from the wonderful Reflex Records in Newcastle, Heavy Horses. Here's to you Kimberman - may your codpiece be forever full.

Whilst in town I also picked up a tube of gold acrylic paint. I've started on a painting for John Smallwood and at some point in the night, I knew the thing needed threads of gold paint lightly brushed across it. So on my travels today I picked it up. Not a colour I've ever used to be honest and not one I'm too keen on. Yet in the night, gold is what came down, tapped me on the shoulder (waking me up with a start I might add) and said "this painting needs gold".

Toyed with putting it on tonight but the theme and motivation has evaporated for the time being. Additionally, the painting is to have some text within it. The trouble is I don't know what the text is yet. So I'll wait for that to download as well. It's quite nice painting with somebody in mind - especially when you don't know them and you don't even know what the finished product will look like.

Heard from Deb tonight as well. Good news is she reckons her mother is greatly improved. Not out of the woods yet but significantly better is what she said on the phone.

Cordless and Fancy Free

Is it just me or does the addition of any piece of software or hardware to one's computer always turn into the long dark tea-time of the soul (as the late great Douglas Adams once put it) ?

I was at a presentation on a new regional portal at the local TV station the other day. All the great and good were there. At the end of the usual "important step forward for the region" style speechifying, the assembled throng were given their reward. This was a branded cordless mouse. It's been laying on top of my desk for three days now - decidedly uninstalled.

There's a cord which plugs into where the regular mouse would go and a bright yellow disc to facilitate the installation. The mouse itself seems to sit bristling with power like a purring Ferrari. Yet I hesitate. My experience with adding new pieces of kit or software to this old steam-driven PC is that it almost never quite happens like they said it would.

Inevitably some dialogue box pops up and asks me a question which I don't fully understand or (in most cases) haven't got a clue about. So I click yes or no and then it doesn't quite work as it should. Take the CD-writer I recently got. Idiots guide. So far so good. BUT no amount of re-installation will enable me to compile tracks rather than a straight forward copy.

Several phone calls to largely automated answering services later and what should be an interesting and possibly exciting prospect feels somewhat shop-soiled and second-hand. So three days on I continue to look at this cordless mouse.

Of course, until I got one as a freebie I didn't realise that I ever needed or wanted or cordless, infra-red mouse. Why would I want one ? The cordless one I've got works just fine and does what I want it to do. OK every once in a while I have to pick off that black gungey stuff that builds up on the interior of the wheel. However, that's about it in terms of maintenance. Even the cordless one would need that kind of attention AND it would need it's battery changed. No. I'm going to avoid the rainbow of anticipation and disappointment and just stick to the regular style mouse. There. That feels better.

Last night storms raged and battered the coast here and as I write the snow and sleet is coming down thick and fast. As we lay in bed last night, the sound of a chimney pot rolling down the roof and crashing into John and Jude's back yard roused us from our slumbers. I'll need to check if it's from our stack or theirs.

As for Debbie - well I kissed her goodbye this morning as she and her kids leave the house to go down to Wellingborough to see her mum for the week-end. Some signs of improvement in her mother's condition have lifted Debbie's spirits. Small steps.

Thursday, November 08, 2001

Flashes & Rumbling

Everything that could rattle was rattling like it was the end of the world this morning. Great swingeing gales slicing in from the sea as the rain fell like rivets. Flashes of lightning and then rumbles of thunder. Finally it feels like the weather is changing into something that might be described as seasonal.

In acts of extreme heroism, Margie Pomersley got the signed plates off in the post to Helter Skelter yesterday. Sadly these plates lack the signatures of Pat and Trey. Though the guys were willing to sign for King and er. . .posterity, time ran out and Sean needed the plates back in the UK to ensure that the hardback would be ready for publication on the 30th of this month.

Pat e-mailed and sounded excited at some of the new material that KC have been working on in Nashville. Can't wait to hear it myself. I'm looking forward to reading the reviews and comments from all you lucky, lucky people in the USA.

Debbie's mum remains a cause for concern and last night things were pretty low for Debbie. She's been allowed to take tomorrow off work in order to spend the week-end with her at the hospital.

Wednesday, November 07, 2001

Eyes on the Horizon

Black flagstones of cloud pave their way to the horizon. Just above the sea a tiny sliver of blue and white peeks out. A moment of hope. A beautiful painting.

Otherwise it's cold and coming on to rain. The weather report suggests there might well be snow by the week-end. Of course looking from the window into the garden I see that there are still marigolds and both the lobelia and fuscia are re-budding. The frost will kill them off.

Created a flyer for the up and coming Bill Bruford gig in Newcastle. Of course the flyer is a piece of shameless marketing for the KC book. I figure I need to take whatever chance I can to promote the thing.

Markus Reuter wrote to me reminding me to get off my lardy butt and send him the text and stuff he needs to get the book web site up and running. Have promised him that I'll get it done over the weekend.

Tuesday, November 06, 2001

A Semblance of Process

Beautiful clear sky this morning. Rows of clouds tinged with pink and gold. Quite beautiful. It's so easy to take these kinds of things for granted but this backdrop which shifts and moves on an hourly basis really is a gift.

Elsewhere the view isn't so edifying. The Government is now saying that even if Osama Bin Laden is captured and killed, his supporters may well continue their campaign of terror. This is of course no surprise to anyone. At the week-end a car bomb exploded in Birmingham - a direct reminder that the road to any peace process is populated with defiant factions.

At least there's a semblance of process - no matter how shambolic - in Northern Ireland. The so-called 'war on terror' continues to writhe and lash out without any clear focus.

Debbie's mother continues to stabilise. Four days now without a step backwards. The hill to climb however is still very steep indeed and there is now speculation between Debbie, her sister and her mother's partner as to whether she wants to make the climb. She's currently refusing any kind of food and lies with her eyes tight shut. Debbie will be going back down to Wellingborough this week-end. Many thanks to the many people who've e-mailed me with their good wishes. It's greatly appreciated.

With all the business going on, I'd quite forgotten to let readers of this diary know that I've changed jobs. Four years ago Robert asked me how old I was. "Forty" says I. "An excellent age to make changes to your life" says he. Little did I know just how much it would change and in ways which I could not have predicted. After more years than I care to remember, I've now finally stepped out of management and back to where I began - arts project work based inside a municipal arts centre. On paper it represents a significant cut in pay but in practice it's a wholly liberating experience. It means I can concentrate my energies on working with specific projects and there's room to engage in my own extra-curricular activities. Early days at the moment but yesterday felt like the start of something.

Sunday, November 04, 2001

Killing Time

Debbie got back from Wellingborough on Friday evening. I met her off the train whilst my mother did the baby sitting duties back at the ranch. Debbie's own mother is not out of the woods yet but the good news is that she's out of intensive care. They reckon its going to be another four weeks or so in hospital and even then it depends on how well she responds to treatment.

Debbie is understandably caught between a couple of different worlds - glad to be back home after two anxious weeks away and yet wanting to be back in Wellingborough where her mother remains. That constant pull creates an undertow of tension for her which explains why she was glad when I told her that Alys was out staying with friends on Friday night. One less persons demands to be met and addressed. Saturday was spent mooching around doing household chores, washing school uniforms etc., while Debs spent a little time catching up with her school work.

A nice break came when the pair of us watched To Kill A Mockingbird on BBC2 in the afternoon.

A winning combination - Gregory Peck and Harper Lee

It's one of those great movies which has me reaching for my handkerchief (the toilet roll actually) within the first ten minutes. The combination of Elmer Bernstein's autumnal score, the bitter sweet narrative and the believable humanity of the performances make this a profoundly sad but ultimately uplifting film. Gregory Peck’s Oscar-winning performance is remarkable; the very embodiment of integrity and a kind of role model for all men who would like to be a better father to their children. It’s rare a film gets so close to the spirit and feel of a book but this is one of them. Harper Lee’s novel is so beautifully written one can almost feel the lazy heat of those long ago summers fanning out from the pages. I read the book in my late teens although I'm certain I'd seen the movie first. The book is almost always better than the movie. Yet this one is for me, too close to call.

Saturday evening, the kids and I played a game of Star Wars Monopoly. Alys secured a comprehensive victory over us all. Then I broke Debbie out of her work and we watched some television in a fairly disinterested way.

Today it's been more of the same although the children are highly excited by the prospect of a fire work display tonight on the links overlooking the sea. Debbie works and I undertake the sock sort. There are 12 pairs of feet in this house on a regular basis and they generate a tremendous amount of socks for washing and sorting. Sorting them out is a fairly relaxing, mindless activity helped along by the Grows Fins Beefheart double anthology courtesy of the Kimberman.

Kimber's house guest at the moment is none other than Patrick Shuleit. Normally resident in Chicago, Patrick is over in the UK and Europe on business on behalf of his new employers St. Louis Music. After talking for a few minutes on the phone last night I wished we could get the timing right to meet up.

Thursday, November 01, 2001

If Stevie Wonder Popped In For A Cuppa. . .

Last night was Halloween and the kids had a great time doing the trick or treat routine. They were out with all the other kids engaged in similar acts of extortion and threatening behaviour. They returned home groaning under the weight of all their ill gotten gains.

I discovered that Innervisions by Steve Wonder definitely helps with getting a mountain of dishes cleaner in half the time. Despite the dull and clunky drumming throughout. If Steve Wonder dropped by our house for a cup of tea I should be forced to say to him "Oi Wonder ! Noooo. You may well be an important songwriter with multi-instrumentalist capacity and famous throughout the four corners of the planet. BUT you are not gifted when it comes to laying down anything other than the most rudimentary of beats which unfortunately mar the rhythmic ambition of what is otherwise a wonderful and classic album with neary a bad tune on it !"

On the other hand I'd probably just simper and ask for an autograph.

Then I had me a Travis Hartnett feast playing a couple of Tik Tok albums (A Single Glass Of Water is the mut's nuts), Futura and Electrochakra albums. All highly enjoyable indeed.

Spoke to Debbie yesterday around mid-day. She was very upset at her mother's apparently worsening condition. Then when we talked last night it looked like there were signs of some improvement. Slight but some measure of improvement. Consequently she was in higher spirits. The roller coaster ride of extreme and conflicting emotions looks like its going to continue for some time yet.


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