Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Mods & Me

The past weekend was a big one in the mod calendar - the New Untouchables Brighton Mod Weekender.  Hundreds of folk from all over the country (and some from Europe) headed to the coast for 3 days of dancing, drinking & generally checking out everyone elses' shoes.  It's the one weekend in the year where you can guarantee to catch up with those people you havn't seen since the last August weekender.

My experience of mod weekenders started when I was probably 16 and went to Torquay.  Looking back, my first mod weekender was probably actually a scooter run but I enjoyed it nevertheless.  As I moved away from my early teenage mod clothes and into much "nicer" outfits, I progressed to the Isle of Wight, Hayling Island and Clacton "Dirty Weekenders" (as they were called in the 80s!). 

I have a love/hate relationship with the Isle of Wight - love because I had some great memories of my first visits there, and hate because the very last time I went, I remember being so angry over derogatory comments made over a boy I was seeing then (who happened to have dreadlocks), that I stormed off in a huge strop and refused to go out to the evening club....I never returned to a mod rally in the Isle of Wight after that.

The mod scene has been a huge part of my life since I was 14.  I've slipped in and out of it but have always had a deep love for the music, the clothes & the scooters....regardless of what I wore myself.  My secondary school and the tiny little town it was in, was full of mods...which is how I was introduced to the scene I guess.  I remember a memo coming round at school which said that "green army coats are no longer allowed".  I also remember the uproar that caused!!!!!  I went to see Secret Affair at Chippenham Goldiggers around that time.  I loved them then & I still love them now.....which reminds me....are we getting our tickets Claudia????  I bought my clothes in the charity shops of Devizes (our nearest town), cut my hair off and well & truly looked like a boy.  I never did really go for that 60s white boot look.  I always thought it was a bit "fancy dress" and still do now if I'm honest.  I got older, my hair got shorter, and I started to hang out in Swindon...the centre of mod-dom!  I made friends and started going to clubs there.  The 80s were a great time for the scene and a time I was very lucky to be part of.

I had a break from the mod scene in the early 90s, thanks to knowing one of New Model Army, moving to a hippy town and being surrounded by people with dreadlocks.  I moved to London with my dreadlocks, went to Blow Up when it started at The Laurel Tree and within a week had my hair cut off again.  Thanks to some disposable income, I started to get some clothes made at Charlies tailors in Carnaby Street, went to the rallies again and the rest, as they say, is history. I still have friends I knew in the 80s....we've all grown up....but some things never change.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Country goings on....

I'm back from a very needed few days away in Oxfordshire & Wiltshire.  Have you missed me?

First stop - Chipping Norton via the Oxford Tube and Stagecoach.  Amazed that even the Stagecoach bus from Oxford City Centre had wi-fi.  Modern times indeed.  Using my Macbook on the bus was a novelty until I remembered I get travel sick if I even so much as read a magazine so that novelty was short-lived.  The bus to Chipping Norton wound its way round little country roads, past Woodstock and Blenheim Palace.  I felt I'd been that way once before and I think it was en route to Castle Morton festival back in the 90s, when we followed new age travellers' vehicles for miles, not knowing where we'd end up.

Chipping Norton is a pretty little town with lots of lovely places to eat, drink & shop.  If I wanted to live the rural life again, it would be top of my list.  I still don't totally understand why but there are strange little knitted things all round the town - flowers, insects, random bits of blanket - all tied on to benches, lamp-posts, etc.  Apparently they change according to the time of year - hearts around Valentines Day and I'm guessing the flowers because it's (meant to be) Summer.

I loved my couple of days in Oxfordshire.  My friends have the loveliest house and cats, and I'll be back again (if they invite me). 

Next stop - Swindon.  I don't really know what to say about Swindon.  As a young mod, it was an exciting place, full of charity shops stocked to the brim with bargains, northern soul nights, lots of mod-related clubs......now it's not...that's about it really.  I pass through and come out the other side.

Final stop - deepest darkest Wiltshire.  A short trip this time but long enough to give my 88 year old Gran some more laptop lessons.  As I mentioned on Facebook - Grans have things in their cupboard that no-one else has - Crunchy Peanut Butter, Mint Sauce...that sort of thing.  Grans are good. 

What you hear about it being a slower pace of life in the country is all true.  The bus that took me to the train station this morning gayly ambled its way round half of Wiltshire, picking up the most bizarre people on the way, working to no timetable whatsoever.  You never know when you might actually arrive at your location - you can only hope for the best.

Back in the smoke now....what's happened while I've been gone?

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Car Trouble, Oh Yeah!

Crouch End is quiet tonight - the same as most nights really.  I'm thankful I live in a relatively wealthy area at times like this - times of unrest and generally uncomfortable goings on.

London burnt this week - my new home, where I work, the city which I've fallen in love with again and I'm angry that it's been taken over by mindless idiots with nothing better to do.  I was brought up to respect people and property, always say please, and thank bus drivers when you get off!  I cannot for the life of me understand why anyone would think it's acceptable to smash up someone's shop/home, burn peoples' livelihoods to the ground and walk away without a care in the world.  The closest the rioting/looting got to me was Wood Green (15 mins up the road) which was completely ransacked apart from, ironically, a shop called Loot that was untouched.  The morons who casually looted JD Sports (and had the audacity to try trainers on outside for size) should expect a knock on their door anytime soon.  Then Camden, my old stomping ground, under siege it seems.

Like I said, Crouch End is quiet and hopefully the rest of London is too.  Maybe all the idiots will stay in tonight, posting their lootings on ebay, bragging about what they got on Twitter...that sort of thing.  Carry on children.....but be prepared for the consequences. 

Middle aged women everywhere - prepare to hyper-ventilate.  While the capital was in chaos, I was blissfully unaware of so much of it except for the odd text message asking if things were ok.  Monday was my long-awaited night out at the Phoenix Cinema in East Finchley, at an Adam Ant event.  Such a great location and just up the road.  Two films were shown - some old footage from a 1981 gig in Japan and this year's Hyde Park performance.  The films were followed by a Q&A session with the man himself, who came across as intelligent, interesting and witty.  It was interesting to see such a variety of types of people there - everyone from original Adam & the Ant fans and people from bands, to people from the 60s/mod scene.  It seems he appeals to everyone, even after all these years.  Mr Ant finished off the night with an acoustic set, with songs across the board from the obvious Goody Two Shoes and Ant Music to Wonderful which I'd never heard before but which was beautiful.  He threw in a couple of T-Rex tracks which will please my Mum who would have been in her element - Adam Ant AND Marc Bolan - eh Mum????  Mr Ant - you are indeed wonderful in every way - stay happy.

Off for a cup of tea & a cold shower.  Cheerio.

Monday, 1 August 2011

Vintage at the Southbank

Oh dear, where to start?  I'm feeling bad that I'm even writing this as Mr Hemingway is going to have yet another bad review on his hands.

Last year we spent a day at Vintage at Goodwood.  Despite the rain, we had a great time.  There was so much to look at, so much to buy & so much to do.  I seem to remember we spent probably £60 odd on a day ticket but it felt worth it and I would have done it again, given the opportunity.  It felt like 99.9% of people who went had made a real effort and I was in awe.  I was naive this year and imagined that Vintage at the Southbank would be much of the same.  I knew it wouldn't feel quite as special being in London but all the same, I looked forward to it and booked the Friday off work so I could spend the whole 3 days down there, taking photos, seeing some bands, doing lots of people watching.

Alarm bells began to sound pretty quickly when it seemed nigh on impossible to make any sense of the programme - what was on, when, what was free, what wasn't. A million emails went back and forth between us all, trying to figure it out.  Then the ticket prices started to drop - hugely.  This is never a good sign and I felt for those people that had paid the full price of what, I think was up to £100.  As we still couldn't see what we were actually paying for, we (luckily) didn't buy a ticket so avoided that annoyance.

So...Friday.  The vintage market was ok I guess....lots of stalls but not a lot of space.  I think I'm probably spoilt by lots of vintage markets where I live so nothing really struck me as spectacular.  The best part, if I'm honest, were the free samples of Crabbies Alcoholic Ginger Beer.  Oh, the furniture was pretty lovely but I couldn't get that home on the Northern Line.  We spent the majority of time in the Queen Elizabeth Hall, where the NUTs had put some free bands on and thank god they had.  DC Fontana, Big Boss Man & the Small Fakers were pretty amazing....The Yardbirds however, weren't.  I'm positive Johnny Depp turned up to watch The Small Fakers....and I don't blame him one little bit.

Saturday.  Don't even get me started on Saturday.  It was hot, it was crowded with people that wouldn't know vintage if it slapped them in the face and I found it all very distressing!!!!!!  The best way I could describe the market was a bad fancy dress party - lots of silly little posh girls buying "vintage darlink" with Daddy's money and middle-aged women in white go go boots who should know better.  I am a middle aged woman I might add so am allowed to say that.  This wouldn't have happened at Goodwood but the fact that any old Tom, Dick or Harry could walk in off the Southbank made for a trying afternoon.  There was absolutely nothing of any interest in the free areas so my visit on Saturday was very short...I can't even say sweet. 

Sunday.  3 days on and still unsure what the hell we could get for free and what we couldn't!  We blagged our way in on the guest list...as did many of our peers it seems.  The whole of the Royal Festival Hall was a sweat-box - no air-con and completely unbearable.  We nabbed our free ice-cream and went out onto the disco terrace overlooking the Thames.  With a very large Pimms in hand and the world seemed a nice place again.  Seeing lots of smiling people dancing to "proper 70s disco" in the sunshine was a nice sight and you know it's a good party when the East End Elvis's turn up (or is that Elvi?).  We watched Graham Gouldman from 10CC do a set of 60s hits in The Leisure Lounge and he sounded lovely.  Highlight was seeing Bill Wyman walk round the stage.  We ventured into the Soul Casino briefly to catch a tiny bit of Norman Jay and some tunes courtesy of Mr Piller.  As much as I would have loved to see Mr Ant do a whole 2 songs (!!!!) in the Revue, a tenner just wasn't worth it.  Sorry Adam.

So, overall, not a great weekend at all Wayne.  It could have been so much better.  Nothing was worth the money that was being charged initially.  The words "tumbleweed" and "clueless" have been used a lot this weekend and they sum it up perfectly.  Thank god for good friends, Crabbies & sunshine.  #justsaying.