MEDiA: Saxondale

Watching this terrific little series again. What fun! as Miranda’s mum liked to say. Saxondale really tickles my funny-bone. And laughter is great medicine when you’re wrestling with a St. Bernard’s sized black-eyed dog.

The ageing quite clever and quite articulate ex-roadie turned pest controller is a great creation. Struggling with anger issues, and having to deal with the excruciating Vicky (Morwena Banks) to get jobs.

He encounters a Top Gear presenter, his ex-roadie pal Deggsy, animal rights protestors who object to his pest control methods, and a plethora of other characters, from the occasional appearances of hapless shopping centre-salesmen (Tim Key), to regulars, like Vicky, Raymond, his girlfriend, Magz, and his anger management counsellor, Alistair (James Bachman).

Vicky, Raymond, and Tommy.

In a similar yet different way to Coogan’s sublime Alan Partridge, the whole attention to detail thing with Saxondale’s music-obsessed character is a real pleasure for those who, like me, share similar interests.

And, again, as with Partridge, we love him as much for his myriad foibles and failings, as for his ‘good qualities’ – be they his ‘Stang, ready wit, or ‘classic rock’ schtick – all the while squirming in embarrassment when he goes off on another misplaced tanned-genital rant.

The scenes with his daughter and her beau are great, as Saxondale battles with his responses – whether natural or conditioned – and piles mistaken assumptions on top of angry prejudices. And all the while Focus or Tull, and similar ‘70s sounds, pump up the irony of the disparity between an ageing rocker’s dreams and visions of himself, and the humdrum reality.

Vicky, perma-tanned denizen of a Stevenage industrial estate.

The rapport with Vicky, via whom he gets his pest control jobs, is truly and deeply and excruciatingly excellent. Indeed, all the relationships are really well observed, teetering between very broad humour, and finely nuanced observation.

There are just so many moments that resonate: the comfy old slippers, the lines of coke with Deggsy whilst lamenting the follies of the world, the inadvertent self-harm at the gym (and the hilarious drive home after), and the struggles with ageing.

These latter range from Saxondale’s quirky facial tics and odd snuffling noises, to his inability to hoist himself into a loft (as his young assistant Raymond does), the glasses scene with hooker, the need for Viagra, and limitations on sexual positions due to a body that’s gradually wearing out.

Another dimension to all this, besides the 70s rock thread, is the general cultural milieu, with Tommy quoting Zulu, and frequently harping on about everything from Isambard Kingdom Brunel to Barnes Wallis. A set of … eugh! tropes (spits and washes mouth out) that fit a certain demographic, to which I belong, like Cinders’ glass slippers.

It’s humour that cuts pretty close to the bone, for some of us viewers. And, I think, is all the funnier for it.

Tommy smoking a dolphin bong. Brilliant!
A fab scene from Tommy’s anger management group.
Several fab scenes from Tommy’s anger management group.

I love the scenes at the anger management group that Tommy attends, at the local library. His humour and sarcasm are tragicomic, and, as with much comedy (also very much so with Partridge) he says out loud what many might think, but either then think better of, or at least choose not to say out loud.

Teresa isn’t so keen. ‘It’s a boy’s thing’, she says. And maybe she’s right? Still, I love it!

MUSiC: James Brown On The TAMI Show

It’s funny how long some things take to happen. I’ve been listening to Sting sing the line ‘James Brown on the TAMI show’ since my early or mid-teens, and I’ve been seriously into James Brown himself, or more accurately his musical legacy, for three decades or more.

And yet only now have I actually tried to check out exactly what is ‘James Brown on the TAMI show’? And, thanks to YouTube and the interweb, I finally found out.

I’m only in to the second tune at the time of posting this. And whilst I love JB and his Famous Flames, the squealing ‘Beatle-mania’ type audience response is messin’ with my noggin!

FAMiLY: Chez Gimeno-Palmer, Again

Teresa and Sofi cooking together.

Looking after Hannah’s daughters, my nieces, Ali and Sofi, is a regular and very welcome routine that we have going on at present. It may not last long, as I know Hannah needs to change her work situation. So we’re enjoying it whilst it lasts.

Ali’s a great drum student.

I’m lending Ali a drum kit. It’s an old Premier, in pretty poor nick. it used to be my busking kit, when I did that, in days of yore! I think I need to upgrade the cymbals I’m loaning, as the ones on this kit are awful!

It’s nice teaching Ali. She’s a great kid, and a good drum student. Both Ali and Sofi are musical. Ali favours guitar and drums; Sofi, clarinet, piano, and now sax as well!

Quality time with the utterly adorable Lobster.

It’s pleasant to get out of our own environment. And it’s not too demanding. In fact it’s fun. I slept superbly last night, as well. Which is, at present, rather unusual.

We do breakfast lunch and dinner for everyone. Or rather Teresa does. I help out a bit sometimes (I even cooked a whole meal on the first visit!). But it’s mostly my terrific mrs.

This is typical scene, in Northstowe.

Today I’ve been tinkering with a guitar. I used to do that quite a lot. But I’ve lost touch with ye olde axe in the last year or two. So much so, it’s initially frustrating, discovering how much I’ve forgotten!

But it comes back relatively quickly. Not that I’m great, on guitar. I was pretty competent at one point. But that was when I played daily, which I haven’t done now for aeons. Well, whatever, as folk say nowadays. I’d just like to get back into it a bit, and hopefully enjoy doing so!


SNOOKER: Sullivan vs Williams, ‘23 Masters

Ronnie seemed unstoppable.

I didn’t see half as much of the recent Masters Snooker tournament as I’d have liked. But I did catch a few matches. Some, like the Trump vs Bingham semi, were quite dull. Even excruciating at times!

I’d heard the pundits mention that this one, O’Sullivan vs Williams, was a good ‘un. So I thought I’d check it out. I wasn’t disappointed.

‘The best shot so far this afternoon’, quoth Dennis Taylor, as Ronnie pocketed the above pictured long red, clean as the proverbial whistle. This quarter final clash of two snooker Titans, both legends in their own lifetimes, lived up to its billing. Quite a rare thing, I find.

Williams, as funny a player as this face suggests.

Mark Williams is, as any Snooker fan will know, an oddball. Perhaps ironically, being one of the best ‘single shot’ snooker players ever makes him a formidable break builder. A lot of the time he favours floating the balls into the pockets, ‘dead weight’. And this slow measured approach means that sometimes you might forget how good his technique is.

The contrast with Ronnie’s more attacking and aggressive flair makes for a great pairing. And both are super canny, and can, as Hendry likes to observe, be as hard as granite in freezing other players out. Both have superlative Snooker brains, often seeing things others wouldn’t.

This match was great. Perhaps the best of the tournament? Ronnie looked unbeatable at the outset. But Williams turned the tables on him. Both showed how, sometimes, just one mistake can be super costly.

Williams took ages over this shot!

The match reached a final 11th frame decider, and – after a typically gonzo one-armed off the cushion shot (missed!) – Williams played the ‘best shot in this wonderful match’ (Taylor) – pictured above – which had Hendry frothing: ‘magnificent, absolutely magnificent!’

I love Snooker. I find it very relaxing. And I particularly enjoy a really great match, like this: two players playing at the top of their game. Williams finished with a total clearance. Fab!

FiLM REViEW: Little Shop of Horrors, 1986

I’m not a big fan of musicals. But this one is bonkers. Based on a film made by Roger Corman, which in turn was made into a musical, and directed by Muppeteer Frank Oz, it’s truly gonzo.

Audrey II is an amazing piece of work (requiring a team of twenty-two puppeteers!), voiced wonderfully by head honcho of The Four Tops, Levi Stubbs.

Levi Stubbs, bottom left.
Audrey II menaces his namesake, Audrey.

And not only is Audrey II a mighty (pre-CGI) achievement, so too is the entire Skid Row set, which was constructed as an indoor studio environment, at Pinewood Studios, in England.

There are some terrific cameos. My favourites being Steve Martin’s sadistic rockabilly biker dentist, Orin Scrivello (DDS!), addicted to laughing gas, and his Planes Trains & Automobiles co-star, John Candy, as manic DJ ‘Weird’ Wink Wilkinson.

Steve Martin as Orin Scrivello, DDS.

The movie was produced by music mogul David Geffen, subject of Joni Mitchell’s terrific song Free Man Paris.

A bonkers thing, and one of the few musicals I can bear – though enduring the ‘numbers’ is an issue – to watch all the way through.

FiLM REViEW: Planes, Trains & Automobiles, 1987

Of course I’ve seen this movie before. It’s one of those they put on every Xmas. But you can really see why. It’s a lovely film. Schmaltzy? Hell, yes!

The moment the odd couple first meet.

Steve Martin is city slicker ad exec Neal Page, who winds up sharing an adventurous road trip with larger than life curtain-ring salesman Del Griffith, played by John Candy. Director John Hughes is very good at this sort of thing. And Martin and Candy are perfect in their roles.

Travelling by bus…

Themes that it touches upon are friendship, family, and coping with adversity. What relation it has to any form of reality, who knows? But it’s a pitch-perfect Holiday Season movie, a Hollywood dream-machine confection par excellence.

Funny, moving, it’s a real pleasure to watch.

MUSiC: Michael Hedges, Artist Profile (1998)

With the recent passing of Dino Danelli, and the icy frosted fingers of winter gripping us in their cold embrace, Death is in the air!

That made me think of the amazing talent of Michael Hedges. The above-linked YouTube video is a 1998 docu-bio, featuring interview footage, and music from a 1996 concert.

Right between this concert performance, and the release of the Artist Profile doc’ dedicated to him, Hedges died in an auto accident. It was 1997, and Hedges was only 43. What a loss to the world of art and music! Thank goodness for his recorded legacy.

I nearly called him ‘the incomparable’, but was then going to follow that up be saying ‘like a collision between Joni Mitchell, Jimi Hendrix and, er… Well, anyway, comparisons, or at least influences, can be heard. But his remains a now widely imitated style, that is, at its core, his unique extension of guitar-based music.

Hearing his soulful rendition of Bob Dylan’s All Along The Watchtower, channelled through Hendrix’s reading, and played in a Joni-esque wide and deep tuning, is really something. And then there’s all his original instrumental stuff.

I’m out doing some Amazon deliveries for a few hours later today, to top up my meagre teaching earnings. I shall be digging Aerial Boundaries and Breakfast In The Field. Even the album titles (and cover art, etc) are fab. And then there’s the music!

MUSiC: Herbie & co. Danish TV, 1976

Loving the montage effect! And the vivid colours!

Great near 40 minutes of Herbie and co on Danish TV, from 1976.

Herbie - Keys
Bennie Maupin - Sax, etc
‘Wah Wah’ Watson - Guitar
Paul Jackson - Bass
James Levi - Drums

What terrific music. Such a great combination of funky groove, and jazz, with the perfect balance of instrumental prowess and structure, creating instrumental sounds that absorb and uplift. Truly music that is both high art and tasty home-cooking.

Setlist (taken from the YouTube post)

Herbie Hancock and his band perform cuts from the albums “Man-Child” and “Secrets”:

1. Hang Up Your Hang Ups (from Man-Child, 1975)
2. Gentle Thoughts (from Secrets, 1976)
3. Spider (from Secrets, 1976)

When I was running my own jazz funk group, I had all three of these tunes on my setlist wish-list. We did occasionally play some of the usual suspects: Watermelon Man, Canteloupe Island, Chameleon. And one or two less frequently covered numbers, such as Wiggle Waggle, and that one Dee-Lite sampled (I forget the title!).

Others that I really wanted to do include Actual Proof and Tell Me A Bedtime Story. Oh, Herbie! What a talent. And surrounding himself with folk like Paul Jackson, Bennie Maupin, Bill Summers, and a parade of drummers and guitarists that include the likes of Harvey Mason, Mike Clark, and of course Watson and Levi.

Wah Wah Watson’s Gentle Thoughts epitomises an era for me. I may have ‘golden age syndrome’* when it comes to stuff like this? And who knows, perhaps actually now is the golden age? Inasmuch as I can enjoy this Danish TV show that, at the time, I had no idea about.

Ah, the sheer bliss, of watching and hearing the joyous melodic grooving of Gentle Thoughts, in an expanded live version. These righteous dudes both recreate the magic of the album version, and transcend it, with the live improv’ aspects of the performance.

So, I’d like to thank Herbie and co for the music, Tim Berners-Lee for the internet, and YouTube and ‘Phazers’ for hosting/posting this. Thanks for making an everyday Saturdsy magical.

* I get this phrase from Woody Allen’s Midnight In Paris.

SPORT: Football, World Cup ‘22 – Morocco beat Spain

Bono, formerly of U2, now taking Morocco further…

Well, whilst working on the shed roof, I watched the Morocco vs Spain game. It wasn’t the most exciting. For 90 minutes, then 30 more, the teams seemed pretty evenly matched.

I was rooting for Morocco. They played better.*

But when it went to the dreaded penalty shoot out? Then things got very interesting.

Morocco just beat Spain on penalties. And I have to say, they deserved the win. As I said above, it was not the greatest match I’ve ever seen. But Morocco dug in their heels, kept Spain under the cosh, and had the better opportunities.

This guy was a hero.

And when it came to the penalties, they were just better. They took them better, and their goalkeeper saved them better.

Achraf Hakimi’s penalty, and the celebration afterwards, were fabulous.

You could actually see it all in the player’s eyes. The Moroccans clearly wanted it, and believed they could do it. The Spanish, by contrast, were weak; you could see the doubt and fear in their faces. Astonishing!

* Oh, and I liked their kit better! I know this is silly, but sometimes I go with aesthetics.

On a separate but related note. I’m really digging this current England team. Just saw Grealish talking about facing France. The guy is as solid as his Giant Redwood tree-trunk legs. And he’s right. We have an excellent team.

With Sterling gone home, it’s interesting that the England team still have loads of firepower. France have Mbappe (ok, they also have Dembele, Griesman, etc.). But we have Kane, Saka, Foden, Henderson, Bellingham, and Pickford in goal (oh, and Grealish, lest we forget!).

That’s the spirit!

It’s unusual for me to say this, but I have faith in our team.

SPORT: Football, World Cup ‘22 – That’s More Like It!

What a great picture. What a great moment.

England 3, Senegal 0

I used to actively dislike football. Or at least I tried to, for a spell. What I really disliked (and still do) are: yobbism, the tribalism of some supporters, and the grotesque capitalism that has colonised and dominates the sport.

Anyway, mini-rant over, back to the footy. And tonight it was, mercifully, enjoyable. Well, at least it was if you’re rooting for England. And (I’ll forego my rant about patriotism and jingoism!) And I was/am rooting for England.

Bellingham and Henderson celebrate goal #1.

I won’t pretend I know much about the beautiful game. But I do know that I like Gareth Southgate’s managerial style, and the crop of players he has at his disposal. One of the ITV pundits – Gary Neville? – put it well, saying Southgate was ‘compassionate’, and that his team believed in him as a leader.

I also liked the sound of the cultivation of a team spirit by watching matches together, as opposed to players disappearing into solipsistic isolation in social media and gaming consoles, etc.

Kane hoofs in goal #2.

But to the match: Senegal started strongly, getting the first two best chances. But then England gradually warmed up. And in the last ten minutes of the first half, first Henderson and then Kane (finally!) scored superbly emphatic goals.

I have to admit my attention wandered in the second half. But then I’m not the worlds most ardent footy fan. And I often tend to be doing other stuff whilst watching matches. But when Saka scored goal number three – another real peach – it brought my attention back with a bang.

Saka enjoys the glory of goal #3.

I rarely bother with the pre or post match punditry. And tonight was, in that respect, business as usual, for me; hopped into a piping hot bath, and then off to bed! But it’s nice to have been able to enjoy watching England compete internationally and acquit themselves so admirably.

Great work, lads!