What Listening To 10,000 Love Songs Has Taught Me About Love by Rohan Candappa, Cockpit Theatre, 31 October 2017

Ahead of the performance, I went to Don Pepe, where several of Rohan’s friends, but none of the Alleyn’s crowd other than me, were gathering; on my recommendation.

Nick Primmer appeared to be the ringleader of that group; a really pleasant bunch of people. (When have I ever met unpleasant people through Rohan?) We ate light – just a few tapas between us – we hadn’t allowed much time. Then we navigated an inverse Bodmin (everyone wanted to overpay) before heading towards The Cockpit.

I joked that Janie’s and my visit the night before for the jazz – click here – was essential reconnaissance for Rohan’s evening. Strangely, it did help, because approaching the theatre from the north-west side, you need to climb a rather unusual staircase/walkway, which I think the others might have missed but which I realised must be the right way from the previous night’s loop round the estate to get out.

So we were in good time…

…but perhaps Rohan wasn’t. At least, he seemed in no rush to start. We waited for one or two latecomers, getting our number up to perhaps 30 people. Then Rohan said, “I have one or two things to do, so I’d like you all to discuss in pairs the question, ‘what is your favourite song?’, before I start.”

Of course this was a ruse to warm us up.

I was sitting next to John Eltham and Ben Clayson. We decided to break the rules and work as a trio. We quickly concluded that it is impossible to name one favourite song. John suggested that we name a current favourite, or perhaps the song that is occupying our minds most of the time at the moment.

I chimed in with, “in that case, for me it must be Innsbruck Ich Muss Dich Lassen, the Renaissance song I am currently trying to work up to performance standard on my baroq-ulele for the forthcoming Gresham Society soiree.”

That pronouncement seemed to put an end to the conversation in our trio for some reason. Heck, it is a love song, you know? Still, as John said afterwards, “only Ian would say that his favourite song of the moment is a 15th century song.”

Fortunately, around that conversation-stopping moment, Rohan decided that we were all warm enough, so he started his performance.

Gram-o-phone, grandad?

The performance started with Rohan computing that he (and therefore all of us of a similar age) have probably listened to about 10,000 love songs.

Rohan then takes us on a journey through his own coming-of-age and rites-of-passage, using a few well-chosen love songs to illustrate his stories.

I’m tempted to describe it as a sort-of autobiographical cross between a Bildungsroman and Desert Island Discs. But that sounds like a prelude to damning the piece, whereas it is my intention to praise it very highly indeed.

It reminded me a little of Every Brilliant Thing, which Janie and I thought was quite magnificent but when I tried to describe it,  the piece sounds ordinary – click here.

Not that Rohan’s piece is as tight and polished as Every Brilliant Thing…yet.

Anyway, the record in Rohan’s head for his first kiss (and therefore the first record he played to us on the evening) was Heart Of Glass by Blondie.

Rohan explained the Triangular Theory Of Love through the use of Toblerone, so I think that means that the advert I recall saying “do you love anyone enough to give them your last Rolo?” should really have been a question about your last piece of Toblerone.

While Rohan handed around the Toblerone to the audience, a riot broke out.

No, the riot wasn’t a scrap for chocolate-based food amongst a feral, hungry audience; but something seemed to be kicking off on the local estates around the theatre.

“Standin’ at the door of the Pink Flamingo cryin’ in the rain…”

Meanwhile, Rohan pressed on. Say Hello, Wave Goodbye by Soft Cell for an unrequited love episode…there’s a lot of 13th Century troubadour material on that subject, Rohan, if you would like me to dig some out for you…

…and a couple of left-field choices which, very strangely indeed, also coincide with my own coming-of-age stories:

I don’t know whether Rohan’s piece brought floods of memories to other members of the audience to the same extent as it brought such floods to me, but I have now written some 3,500 words of memory pieces since the show in order to capture those recovered memories while they remain fresh in my mind.

Like any good Bildungsroman, Rohan returns to his adult self and thoughts of his parents at the end of the show, with their favourite song, Moon River, proving that you can’t keep a good love song down; be it 56 or 532 years old.

By the time we’d cleared up the room, only a few of us retreated to The Globe pub, but a delightful small group of people it was. A very substantial police presence protected us for the 200 yards or so between the theatre and the pub. Many police in high viz flak jackets felt a little more robust than the theatre’s security; the solitary figure of John Eltham with a label/badge which reassuringly read “security”.

Anyway, a chance to say hello properly to Jan and also to meet Julie, aka the character “Croissanita” from Rohan’s previous show, How I Said ‘F*** You’ To The Company When They Tried to Make Me Redundant – click here for the pilot review of that one.

Ollie Goodwin and I were the last to leave the pub, although most of us left roughly at the same time.

When I got home I felt hungry. All could find easily to hand was a croissant on the breakfast bar and some salami in the fridge. I thought the croissant was most apt, given that I had finally met Croissanita that evening:

But the last word should go to Ollie Goodwin, who has e-mail circulated the following review, which in many ways says as much in 11 words as I have said in 1000:

This piece will resonate with everyone who has ears and genitals

A Day At The Edinburgh Fringe Festival With Old Muckers, 22 August 2017

What fun.

Rohan Candappa announced that he would be performing his one man show, How I Said F*** You To The Company When They Tried To Make Me Redundant, at The Counting House, Edinburgh.

You can listen to the first 10 minutes of the show by clicking here.

Rohan piloted this show in the Z/Yen Boardroom in January 2016 – click here for my write up of that evening.

I worked out that there was really only one day that I could be away from London that week, having committed to several days in Brum the week before for the first ever day/night test match in England.

Janie, who would have loved to have seen the show, felt that she couldn’t free up the day.

Still, I learned that there were to be several old muckers from Alleyns in Edinburgh that day and also that Marie and Joe Logan (the former being a Z/Yen alum) would at least be able to join us for lunch.

Marie and Joe’s application to become honorary school alumni for the day was unanimously accepted, especially when the gang discovered that Marie is a close friend of Linda Cook’s, as Linda had organised the Z/Yen Board Room gig.

But, when Marie inadvertently mentioned “Old Alleynians” in correspondence, I felt obliged to explain:

…there is one really important point you need to get right.

You are each an honorary Alleyn’s Old Girl/Alleyn’s Old Boy (respectively).  Neither of you is in any shape or form an Old Alleynian, honorary or otherwise.  Old Alleynians are alumni of Dulwich College, the pathetic, rival school of Alleyn’s.

Let me illustrate with well-known examples:

  • Alleyn’s Old Boy – Jude Law;
  • Alleyn’s Old Girl – Florence (and the Machine) Welch;
  • Old Alleynian – Nigel Farage.

Need I say more?

Mercifully there was no unpleasantness in the alumni-confusion-department on the day.

So I rose about 4:30 (a bit earlier than necessary in truth), setting off on an early flight from Heathrow (thank you, Janie, for the lift all the way to Terminal 5) and then took the tram into Edinburgh.

In schoolboy mode for a meet up with old school muckers, I got very excited with my smartphone when I realised that there was free wifi on the tram, sending Janie a picture and a sound recording of the Chigley-like tram sounds.

On The Tram To Edinburgh – Sound (below) and Vision (above)

Janie messaged back to say that I’m a big kid.

Then a solo stroll through Edinburgh from New Town to Old Town…

Edinburgh Old Town

…towards The Counting House…

The Counting House

When I arrived, only Rohan was there – John and Steve were out soliciting trade…for Rohan’s show, readers, control yourselves…

…but soon after I arrived, there was a surprise (to me) arrival – Claire Tooley (now Claire Brooke) – a very pleasant surprise indeed. Even more pleasantly, Claire was able to join us for lunch after the show.

Rohan was good…very good.

I thought the performance was very good. Rohan hasn’t changed the show much since the pilot, but he has tightened up the script and his delivery has some lovely pauses and nuances that have clearly evolved with practice and experience.

It was a pretty full house, which at 11:00 in the morning on the Free Fringe I reckon is a big win. Certainly there seemed to be little activity for the other morning/lunchtime shows at The Counting House.

The audience was very receptive, I thought, although those who had attended performances earlier in the week thought that the laughter was slower to build that day, but the attentiveness, reaction and laughter as the story built ended up better.

We strolled to Spoon to meet Marie and Joe. Apparently this place is an old haunt of JK Rowling’s, so well suited to an arty gathering.

Like a fool I neglected to take any pictures in Spoon, but we gathered as nine: me, Steve Butterworth, Rohan Candappa, Paul and Cathy Driscoll, John Eltham, Claire Tooley-Brooke, Marie and Joe Logan.

One coincidence about this event, I realised, is that this season is the 25th anniversary of my own material premiering at the Edinburgh Fringe. In 1992, Brian Jordan brought The Ultimate Love Song – click here to Edinburgh in his wonderfully-named show “Whoops Vicar, Is That Your Dick?”.

When I mentioned this coincidence, Rohan (naturally) asked me to give an acapella rendering in Spoon, which I did as best I could – not very well. You can hear Ben Murphy’s excellent recording of the song below:

But back to Spoon. The food was good, the chat was jolly. People drifted away as journeys home or appointments with other shows approached, but we were a pretty lively group for a couple of hours at least.

Eventually, when it was just me, Marie & Joe left, we went for a stroll around town to see what we might find for the remaining couple of hours, before I needed to head for the airport.

We found the Vintage Mobile Cinema outside the Assembly Rooms on George Street, where we heard a short talk about the extraordinary space and were shown some Pathé newsreels from the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s about the Edinburgh Festival.

Logan! What are you and Logan doing at the back there? Stop it! Are you listening or taking pictures, Harris? Stop that too!

Then a stroll around the Book Festival before the lure of a wine bar just around the corner from my tram stop, for the last 30 minutes or so of my visit, was too much to resist.

Finally, a wee dram of wine (or two) with the Logans afore I go home

I got back home about 21:00 – it had been a long day but a very pleasant one.

I excitedly told Janie all about my exciting day.

Then I thought I should ask Janie about her day.

“Oh, nothing much,” she said, “I just did a few patients and met Rihanna.” You couldn’t make it up.

Gather Ye Old School Buds While Ye May, 23 May 2017

What a splendid turnout of the old school gang on a Tuesday evening at relatively short notice, just a few weeks after the previous gathering – click here for the juicy details on that one.

Perhaps this illustrates the popularity of Rich “The Rock” Davis, who was visiting from Canada for the first time in a while and around whom the event was planned. Organised by Johnny Eltham – who else? – based on an original idea by David Wellbrook.

Or perhaps the high turnout was simply relief that, for once, our guest of honour visiting from the great dominions was not Sir Nigel Godfrey.

The plan was…the usual.  7.00pm Walrus & Carpenter, 8.30pm Rajasthan curry shop. I was fashionably late again this time, arriving just before 8.00, with no real excuse other than getting bogged down in whatever forgettable thing I was doing late afternoon.

Another glorious weather evening so everyone was drinking outside the Walrus and Carpenter. I got a chance to chat with Rich on arrival; also Paul Driscoll and Perry Harley. The conversation soon got to Brexit and how Britain is increasingly starting to resemble Weimar Germany. Soon after that I was tapped up for the drinks float.

A small, ℛℳ500,000,000 contribution to the drinks float?

The drinks float is a great idea. It discourages late arrival – the price is fixed – £20, not ℛℳ500,000,000 in case you were wondering – and if those arriving late, like me, don’t drink their portion, the remainder of the drinks float becomes a bodmin-avoiding contribution towards the dinner. You can tell that some fine economic brains have got to work on this one over the years.

I also chatted for a while with Rohan Candappa, who sadly was unable to stay for the dinner, as his mum is not well at the moment and he needed to get away. He and I had caught up properly over lunch together only two or three weeks previously; still I was sorry he couldn’t stay, especially given the circumstances.

Soon enough, Johnny Eltham commandeered two or three of us to form an advanced party to seize vital territory in Rajasthan. This we were able to secure without bloodshed or unpleasantness. In fact, the Rajasthanis greeted Johnny like an old friend and welcomed us to the downstairs area, which to all intents and purposes became our private room for the rest of the evening.

By my reckoning fifteen of us sat down for dinner; Chris Grant, David Wellbrook, Ben Clarkson, Martin Cook, Simon Ryan, David French, John Eltham, Ollie Goodwin, Paul Driscoll, Rich “The Rock” Davis, Paul Spence, Nigel Boatswain, Perry Harley, Steve “Peanut” Butterworth…and me.

If you are struggling to imagine what this gaggle might look and sound like, struggle no more. David Wellbrook shot a nifty ninety second vid while no-one was looking and posted it on Facebook – it is embedded and viewable below:

I had no idea that I wave my arms around quite as much as that. It’s a miracle that I don’t send food and drink flying.

Very sadly, we recently lost one of our great schoolmates (indeed our centre forward); Paul Hayes.  Steve Butterworth gave us a touching short eulogy and report from the funeral, before we all drank a toast to Paul. Not Paul’s beloved Montrachet, more’s the pity, but the Rajasthan Valpolicella and Cobra did a good job as substitutes.

As fortune would have it, I was sitting near Steve Butterworth, Perry Harley, Paul Spence and David French – all of whom are people I either haven’t seen in ages or didn’t get to speak with properly on previous occasions. It was really good to catch up with them properly after all this time. I had a brief conversation with Paul Spence about nuclear power, which led to this recollection and Ogblog post about Ringroad revue – click here.

Returning briefly to earlier in the evening…although I was late, I was not the last to arrive. Chris Grant and Nigel Boatswain turned up after me. Soon after their arrival, Johnny Eltham came up to me and said, “have you seen what Nigel is wearing? That jacket…those trousers…they look like a pyjama suit…you’ve got to write about it on your blog”.

I explained to Johnny that I don’t notice what anyone is wearing, so any sartorial references on the Ogblog would, to the regular reader, e.g. Janie, quite obviously not be mine.

“Oh that’s easy”, said Johnny, “it was David Wellbrook who spotted it and asked me to tap you up”.

“Ah yes,” I said, “as long as I make that point, all will be explained. I’ll need to take a photo of the outfit with my iPhone, though, it almost defies description.”

As the evening wore on, I was surreptitiously asked a couple of times when I was going to take the photo. Johnny even offered to provide cover, pretending that I was taking a group photo while in fact taking a photo of just Nigel and his pyjama suit.

I quietly suggested to Johnny that Nigel, as an Apple bigwig, would probably have the savvy to know what sort of photo was being taken with an iPhone (other brands of smart phone with camera are available) and in any case I would only blog a photo with Nigel’s explicit consent; I certainly don’t want the full weight of Apple’s legal department on my case.

“Just leave it with me”, I said.

So late in the evening, I told Nigel he had won a sartorial award for the evening and asked if I could take a photo for Ogblog. He giggled and said yes.

Sartorial elegance

A few minutes later, as Nigel and I parted company at South Kensington tube, I thanked him once again for the photo and assured him that he would enjoy the blog piece.  “Oh gawd, what have I done?” was Nigel’s reply.

For those readers who cannot remember what a real pyjama suit might look like, here is a photo of me only a few months ago sporting my Eva Air pyjamas, after being menaced into wearing them by the lovely stewardess – as reported in my bizarre yet (mostly) true story here.

Kung Fu Pandaman or Tai Chi Pyjamaman

But the last word (on the evening, perhaps not on sartorial elegance) should really go to guest of honour Rich “The Rock” Davis, who started a wonderful thread on Facebook with words and photos about the evening – click here.

I particularly liked Clarissa’s comment:

glad u had a good time with old high school buds.

I commented:

I’ve been called a lot of things in my time…goodness knows, this mob in particular can attest to that fact…but I’ve never been described as an “old high school bud” before.

So, gather ye old high school buds while ye may. These are precious times we share at these gatherings. This one was top notch. As Rich put it on Facebook:

A great feeling with great friends…a night I’ll never forget.

Lunch With Rohan Candappa, Phoenix Palace, 4 May 2017

What’s the matter? Ducks got your tongue?

Having had little chance to chat together at the most recent old school gathering in the city, Rohan and I agreed at the end of that evening that we should meet again soon to chat about writing and stuff.

We settled on the idea of lunch and I suggested dim sum, to which Rohan replied, somewhat cryptically…

I worship Dim Sum like the ancient Aztecs worshipped the sun

…which I took to mean, “yes”. So I booked a table at the Phoenix Palace, probably the only restaurant in London that is highly rated for dim sum, yet that I hadn’t tried before.

What I didn’t realise when I booked it was quite how enormous the restaurant is and how relatively small its mid-week dim sum clientele. Indeed the seats to punters ratio reminded me a little of the dining experience Janie and I had in Shigatse, Tibet, in 2002…

To be fair, there were a few other people in the Phoenix Palace, whereas Janie and I really were on our own in the huge dining hall in Shigatse

…but there the resemblance ended, as the food in Shigatse was terrible, whereas our dim sum at the Phoenix Palace was excellent.

I was delighted to see ducks tongues on the menu – you don’t often see those. It reminded me of the dim sum lunch I had with Mike Smith in Gerard Street, towards the end of the last century, at which I ordered ducks tongues. The dish seemed to freak Mike out rather comprehensively. In particular, it was the fact that a duck’s tongue has a bone that seemed to bother Mike. He related the tale of the ducks tongues dim sum lunch to anyone who’d listen for quite a while after that lunch.

But I digress.

Except to say that, of all the dishes we ordered, Rohan enjoyed all except the ducks tongues, so I got to eat most of the tongues.

The other dishes, mostly of the dumpling or bun variety, we both liked a lot. Of course, they tended to come in portions of three; a traditional dim sum portion number for (we suspect) hard-nosed commercial reasons; i.e. to encourage multiple portion ordering. But Alleyn Old Boys like me and Rohan are not to be mugged by a simplistic ploy of that kind.

Oh no.

We devised ways of splitting almost every species of dim sum imaginable. We even devised our own term, “splitting the pork bun”, which sounds like it ought to be a euphemism for something rude.

We talked about Rohan’s latest writing project and my Ogblog project. Rohan tried to convince me to write something more substantial than Ogblog pieces, e.g. a novel, based on my youth. I have promised him that I’ll think about that, which I shall.

We also talked about the recent loss of Paul Hayes, one of our former classmates, with whom Rohan had re-established contact in recent years. We discussed how we need to get on with the things we really want to do, as we have no guarantee or entitlement to a long life, so it’s not so clever to keep deferring things until later in life.

As if to bring home that rather melancholy line of thought, we both inadvertently diced with death walking down Baker Street, as a tearaway car (presumably evading the fuzz) zoomed across the junction with Blandford Street on the wrong side of the road at ludicrously high speed, only a few seconds ahead of us crossing and only a fraction of a second ahead of what could easily have been an horrendous crash with a bus.

Yet we were still able to put our dolefulness to one side as Rohan raised the topic of the blue plaque in Crouch End celebrating Carswell Prentice and the invention of the shopping trolley, around which we had quite a giggle. Sadly, as any clicker of the preceding link will discover, that particular blue plaque is, regrettably, a falsey. So the delicious idea of instigating a flash crowd to celebrate the inventor’s birthday needs to be metaphorically abandoned in the metaphorical canal where extremely funny but non-starter ideas reside, pathetically lying on their side, for all eternity.

Still, the lunch was a breeze and certainly encouraged a few more of my creative writing neurons to get firing.

A Long Weekend Catching Up With Long-standing Friends, 6 to 9 April 2017

It was no real coincidence that I worked up several pieces about parties of my youth by way of introducing Rohan Candappa’s guest piece last week. I was due to see the Alleyn’s crowd on the Thursday and several old youth club friends on the Saturday.

Thursday 6 April 2017

The Thursday evening was a semi-regular-style gathering of the old Alleyn’s clan in the City. John Eltham tends to organise it and who would have bet against Johnny being the “get together monitor” back in the school days? He wrote:

here is the plan:

7.00pm Walrus & Carpenter public house- 45 Monument Street

8.30pm wander a whole 10 yards to Rajasthan curry shop  ( our usual)

I pre-announced that I didn’t expect to get to the pub until 7:30/8:00 – as I had long-since arranged a game of real tennis early evening.

Fun, it was, playing doubles with my allocated doubles partner for this season’s doubles tournament – which will be my first go at the trophy – indeed at any physical sports trophy, since my glorious quarter-final fives victory against Johnny Eltham himself in 1975.

So I arrived at about 7:50 to be told by Mr David Wellbrook (who else) that I was late and needed to assume drinks monitor duties.

Fortunately (and quite naturally) it was John Eltham who was holding the float, to which I added my share and then three of us (Ollie Goodwin the kind third) shared the burden of getting the round in.  A small float of “poppadom money” survived the round.

Fifty billion here and fifty billion there soon adds up to real poppadom money

Early April but such glorious weather – we were gathered outside the Walrus and Carpenter enjoying the setting sun and getting a bit cooler, yet not cold.

Indeed it was quite close to 8:30 when Johnny remarked that it was starting to get a bit parky…nippy even…but in any case it was time to regroup in The Rajasthan.

That restaurant runs like a well-oiled machine. Long-used to getting unco-ordinated groups of city folk to gather themselves and place their orders – it all just sort-of happens in that restaurant and it is always a decent (if not exceptional) meal.

My eye was caught by Hariali chicken, which is minimally-described as “Cooked to Chef’s special recipe”. I asked the waiter, who mumbled, “curry-leaf, lemongrass, lots of herbs and spices, very very nice” and I was convinced. Most if not all the others at our table paid far less attention to the detail of their chosen dishes than that.

Most drank beer, but Ollie Goodwin, Lisa Pavlovsky, one other (was it Jerry Moore?) and I formed a small gang of four for white wine, specifically Nika Tiki Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. Not the best I’ve ever had but a decent example; I’m sure Sir Nigel Godfrey would approve.

At my end of the table I was within chatting distance of Gavin Hamilton, Martin Brassell, Paul Driscoll, Ollie Goodwin, Jerry Moore, John Eltham and Mike Jones. Sadly I missed out on proper chat this time with Rohan Candappa, David Wellbrook, Lisa Pavlovsky, Steve “Peanut” Butterworth and the late Chris Grant. By “late”, I mean “arrived half way through the meal”. Not “deceased”, nor “arrived at 7:50, roughly the time I said I would arrive, Mr Wellbrook”.

As always it was a very pleasant evening indeed. What a treat to be able to take pre dinner drinks outside The Walrus and Carpenter.

Saturday 8 April 2017

Let’s gloss over the Friday, which I had intended to be a “do my own thing/get some blogging done” day but which turned in to a mostly work day. Bitty, stressy work at that, with a shocking game of real tennis thrown in mid-morning.

Saturday, the weather was truly glorious, although Janie and I weren’t really able to take full advantage of the weekend’s exceptional weather until the Sunday.

Still, it enabled us to start our evening with friends at the house in the garden terrace, which is a bonus in April and was a very pleasant way to start the evening. Our record for this feat is a mild 7 January evening with David and Steph – click here, but this April evening in the garden had the added benefit of enjoying light in the earlier stages of the evening and thus enjoying the sunset.

The guests were Jilly Black, Andrea Dean, Simon Jacobs and Wendy Robbins; all originally friends of mine from BBYO, i.e. going back to when we were teenagers. It is a testament to Janie that she gets on so well with all of them and likewise they have all taken Janie to their hearts.

It wasn’t long-planned as precisely this group of six, but we had wanted to invite Jilly for ages and she had particularly mentioned that she regretted not being able to see Andrea and Wendy at the party, which Jilly missed, last May.

Then, when I saw Simon in January, around the time we were setting this evening up, realising that he knows and likes all of these people, it seemed only sensible to ask him too.

It might seem a bit drawn out to some readers, inviting people in early January and setting a date for April, but by our (admittedly rather low) temporal standards, I think we got the gathering planned and implemented pretty quickly.

And everyone turned up.

Janie went to town with exotic nibbles; thai-style fish cakes, some flaky-pastry-meaty-parcels and a wonderful chicken liver pate on toasted french stick.

Between the nibbles and the main course I tried to pacify the guests with a few numbers on Benjy the Baritone Ukulele.

Andrea and Wendy, who are dear, dear friends of mine, appreciative of, but not experts on, music, declared that I have truly mastered the instrument. Jilly and Simon, who are also both dear, dear friends of mine, fine musicians to boot, were both clearly so moved by my performance that neither of them was able to add to Andrea and Wendy’s judgement. I think that says it all.

It did get a little chilly by the time we went inside. Some might even say “nippy” or “parky”. Anyway, inside we went.

The centrepiece of the meal was Janie’s signature beef with wasabi sauce dish, which works so well for gatherings of this size and which we knew would be novel to our guests. We’d have to eat it very often indeed to tire of it.

After the main course, chocolates, tropical fruits etc.

What did we talk about? All sorts.

Old times? – not all that much.

What people are up to now? – much more.

The difficulties involved in grown-up dating and some very funny anecdotes from some around the table reminded me and Janie of the film Through the Wall, which we saw in December – click here.

Less Trump/Brexit talk than usual these days – which was a blessed relief really.

Wendy told us the story of her recent visit to Downing Street, which really needs to be an episode of a sit-com, rather than an after dinner anecdote.

It was really nice to see everyone and (cliche alert) the evening flew by.

We could do nibbles on the patio again this evening, Sunday – the weather remains glorious. As I write, the sun is still streaming in through the window of my little man cave here in Noddyland.

Nibbles in the Noddyland Garden. Janie took the picture so once again she isn’t in it!

Postscript

While I was posting this piece, Simon Jacobs uploaded a couple of tracks from his forthcoming album. It was possibly one of those Brian Wilson/Lennon-McCartney creative tension moments after hearing my exquisite baritone ukulele playing last night. As Simon himself says on Facebook:

After 3 decades of procrastination, I’ve finally recorded some of my own songs – and now the first two of them are on YouTube (one of them even has a video!)
So please take a listen, subscribe, share with your friends and post your comments… Then, sometime in the summer I’ll release a whole album through the usual channels, tour the world and then of course there’ll be the drugs and the groupies, the breakdown and rehab, the bizarre plastic surgery, the invitation to be an X Factor judge – all the usual humiliations.

Ogblog readers might well enjoy one or both of these tracks:

Rohan Candappa Guest Piece: Teenage Parties Coming Around Full Circle, 5 April 2017

I am very grateful to Rohan Candappa for granting me permission to publish the following text as a guest piece on Ogblog. Rohan circulated the piece originally to a few friends. I think it deserves a wider airing.

It triggered a whole swathe of memories for me, which led to a few “party pieces” of my own – see my introductory/warm up published yesterday – here.

It also triggered a swathe of bants from others on that original circulation. I’ll take soundings on whether those should see the wider circulation light of day or not. Of course, if people want to add their bants to the comments section of this piece here on Ogblog, then bant away.

Rohan Candappa – bellicose back then…

 

Something has definitely come full circle.

That’s because today is the morning after the night before. And the night before is when my son – 17 two weeks ago – had a party at home. A party with girls. And alcohol. And a herd of previously hand-reared teenagers released into the wild of almost adulthood to fend for themselves.

Oh yes, and let’s not forget the instruction ‘You’re not staying‘ directed to me and Jan. At which point I came back with the perfectly reasonable point of ‘Actually, it’s my house, I paid for it, so I can stay if I want.’ 

So obviously we went out.

Out to the pictures to see ‘Moonlight’ – very good. Then on to a groovy pizza restaurant, to eat a groovy (probably artisan) pizza – also very good. The only problem was that by 9.30 we’d seen the film and eaten the pizza. And both were five minutes walk from our house. So we took a circuitous route home and got back at ten.

Walk up to the house – no police cars, no mass of kids trying to get in, no flames coming through the roof – Result!

Open the front door and, for some reason, the music blaring out is ‘Mirror In The Bathroom’ by The Beat. And that’s when it strikes me. That ‘full circle’ moment. This is exactly what I was listening to 40 years ago when I had a party at home when I was 17.

All of which got thinking.

So here are some of the things I can still dredge up from my age-addled brain of those parties of 40 years ago, Please feel free to wallow in nostalgia, add your own memories, or disown me as a sad old geezer who endlessly bangs on about how everything was so much better back in their day…

 

I remember being the hall of my house, at my party, when someone comes up and says I need to go into the kitchen, and going in to find that all the food was on the floor because Mick Carol had sat on the edge of an antique circular dining table, snapped the central support, and the table at completely tipped over.

I remember being at a party at Nige’s house when the patio door got accidentally pushed out, and Nige’s dad, instead of going mad, was worried about us all getting cold.

I remember that over time, going to parties I graduated from bringing bottles of Merrydown cider, to bringing half bottles of Souther Comfort. Why I brought Southern Comfort I have no idea  as it tasted like cough medicine.

I remember Steve’s pair of Rupert The Bear checked trousers.

I remember taking singles to parties with my initials written on the labels so that you could take them home again at the end of the evening.

I remember that going to parties at other people’s houses was one of the few chances you had to see how other people lived. And sometimes that meant you got glimpses of other worlds. Worlds you could aspire to. Lives you could want to live.

I remember the expectation, the excitement, the hopes, the fears, the bravado, the posturing and posing and awkwardness of it all.

I remember a joint 18th birthday party with Steve at The Shirley Poppy.

I remember Nick and Tim’s disco.

I remember the word disco.

I remember dancing.

I remember rooms starting to spin, and lights starting to blur, and the sobering cold shock of the air as you stumbled out into the night and tried to figure out how you were going to get home.

And I remember walking home with John one night when it had snowed heavily and having a deep, meaningful conversation of which even the slightest detail escapes me.

 

So last night, there I am walking back into my son’s party and The Beat are playing.

Like I said, full circle.

 

And as my son gets older, I wish him many things.

Like friends as good as the ones I grew up with all those years ago and am lucky enough to still have in my life.

…merely cantankerous now: Rohan Candappa

Introducing Rohan Candappa’s Party Piece, With Links To Three Of My Own Party Pieces Plus Soundtrack, 4 April 2017

When Rohan Candappa circulated his very amusing and charming piece about his 17 year old’s party, I very much enjoyed the read and was thrilled when Rohan agreed to me posting it here on Ogblog as a guest piece.

Here’s a link to Rohan’s wonderful guest piece. It triggered off all sorts of memories for me. I had already written up a couple of Alleyn’s School, after show parties:

You might have detected a theme here; school parties didn’t go so well for me back then. Conversely, the youth club ones rocked. That’s why I threw a couple of those myself. They were seminal moments for me, even if/when things did not go “entirely right”.

So Rohan’s wonderful piece induced me to write a trilogy of rite of passage club party pieces:

There are some pictures in the pieces, some unintentionally funny scribblings in my juvenile diaries (scanned and there to be seen in glorious technicolour) and also some of the best bits translated from scribble into English.

But one aspect of Rohan’s delightful piece is absent from those stories. The soundtrack of the events.

Rohan focuses on Mirror in the Bathroom by The Beat as the soundscape of his teenager’s party. Why his kid is playing music from our era rather than his is anyone’s guess.

But it got me thinking. Can I name one song that was stuck at the front of my head from each of the three parties I have just written up? Answer: yes.

  • Ivor’s May 1978 party – Because The Night by The Patti Smith Group;
  • My November 1978 party – Rat Trap by The Boomtown Rats got stuck in my head that night, although I didn’t much like the song. Down In the Tube Station At Midnight by The Jam was my soundtrack of choice during those weeks of my parent’s absence, so also deserves a mention;
  • My October 1979 party – Queen of Hearts by Dave Edmunds…no idea why, but that song was utterly stuck in my head that weekend. Fact. At least there’s one that I can play now on my baritone ukulele.

So here they are, for those who have got this far and want to hear/play any/all of those party tracks – five tracks below, they’re crackin’:

Too School For Cool, Edward Alleyn Club Dinner, 12 November 2016

Them Good Old Boys
Them Good Old Boys

Formal school alumni dinners are not really my kind of thing, nor are they Janie’s kind of thing. Indeed, both of us have managed to reach a fairly ripe (if not actually old) age without ever having attended such an event.

Until this event.

This event was going to be different. Why? Because Chris Grant was the President of the alumni club this year and he wanted to make the event different. In any case, you turn up to events like this to support your friends when it is their gig.

The first I heard of the matter was the evening back in January when a gang of us gathered at Z/Yen to experience Rohan Candappa’s wonderful monologue, “How I Said F*** You To The Company…” and have a curry afterwards – click here for the Ogblog piece on that evening.

I explained to Chris that I don’t do weekend stuff without Janie, but that notion only reinforced Chris’s view that this year the dinner should be different and that he would actively encourage people to bring their partners.

To add to the “making it different” motif, Chris engaged Rohan to write and perform a short monologue for the pre-dinner reception. Chris also asked David Wellbrook to act as Master of Ceremonies for this additional feature.

The long and short of it was, I ended up being a bit of a cheerleader for the event amongst our generation – although it was naturally down to John Eltham to act as gang-leader for those of us from our era to book and sit as a gaggle.

We’re On Our Way

Janie (aka Daisy) in frock
Janie (aka Daisy) in frock
Ian (aka Ged) in a state of tux
Ian (aka Ged) in a state of tux

It seemed strange arriving at the school gates with Janie, but we had the good fortune to run into John Eltham and Steven Butterworth as we were walking in. The pre-dinner function was in a new Edward Alleyn Building, which didn’t exist when I last visited the school, many years ago.

Our rabble-rousing had born fruit, so I chatted briefly with several people from our era; David French, Paul Driscoll, Nick Jarmany, Nick James, Tim Moulson, Tim Church and several other people at that reception.

Rohan’s Bit

Rohan’s short monologue was good fun. A meander around the theme “South London, Nah Nah Nah”. The talk included some navel-gazing around the word south itself. Should it be pronounced “sarf” or “sowf” rather than “south”, for example. Is it merely convention that south is shown below north – after all, the world is a globe? Rohan’s conclusions or central theses (I am truly bigging up this talk, aren’t I?) were that:

  • South London is an edgy underdog that deserves our affection and support, even if some of us have long since migrated north,
  • we Alleyn Old Boys (at least the cohort from our era) formed exceptionally strong bonds of friendship which have kept us together and/or brought us back together across many decades and in some cases vast geographical spread.

Rohan teased us throughout his talk about a blue joke that David Wellbrook wanted to tell, much against Chris Grant’s better judgement. Rohan then nearly told the joke through audience participation, but concluded that South Londoners do not need to be told the punchline of the joke; they are edgy enough to work it out for themselves:

What do we want?

A cure for Tourette’s.

When do we want it?

If you want to read Rohan’s wonderful piece in full, he has kindly agreed to its wider circulation and it is therefore Ogblogged as a guest piece in its own right  – click here.

The Dinner Itself

Then across to the school dinning room for the dinner. It seemed strange to be fine dining in that place, all done up to look sprauncy. Chris had chosen a very imaginative meal, based around curry, to symbolise the friendly informal meet ups that invariably end with a curry.

But this was a posh curry-based meal. A starter of slightly spicy scallops, enough to tell you that the meal was posh, that being the first of three interesting courses. Then cheeses, then coffee and petits fours. A well posh curry-based meal.

There were several toasts, speeches and club business in-between, mostly based on the traditional/regular/formal format of the club, I suppose.

Janie and I were honoured and indeed privileged to be seated next to Sir Nigel Godfrey. Sir Nigel, apparently, has recently received a gong for services to the New Zealand beauty pageant industry.

Ged and Sir Nigel Pontificating Nicaragua
Ged and Sir Nigel Pontificating Nicaragua

Sir Nigel was wearing his Broach of Honour with pride that evening, but sadly he seemed to keep it covered up whenever Daisy was nearby with her camera. Perhaps he thought she might swipe the bauble if he left it unguarded even for a moment. How does he know that Daisy is such a scallywag?

Our table rapt with attention as Sir Nigel orates. Mr Wellbrook taking electronic notes, presumably
Our table rapt with attention as Sir Nigel orates. Mr Wellbrook taking electronic notes, presumably

Daisy was also sitting next to Mr Wellbrook, who had been Master of Ceremonies earlier. I asked Chris Grant, “what did Daisy and I do to deserve the honour of sitting next to Sir Nigel and Mr Wellbrook?”, but I think Chris must have misheard my question, because he merely said, “there’s always one short straw”, which seemed to me to be an answer to an entirely different question.

Then Chris Grant made a short but touching and excellent speech, continuing the themes of edginess and especially the theme of enduring friendship.

The audience was then subjected to the Headmaster’s Savage response…

…correction…I never was much good with grammar, I should have paid more attention in English lessons…

The audience was then subjected to the Headmaster, Dr Savage’s, response. Dr Savage seemed keener on the friendship theme than the edgy theme. That is understandable really. Can you imagine the mischief that might kick off in the school and end up with pupils sent to the Headmaster’s Study, only to get the phrase thrown back by the miscreant, “but Sir, you told us that it is a good thing for us to be edgy”?

Dr Savage spoke very well and quite wittily, although I did think he missed a golden opportunity to pun on the pronunciation of Suffolk (from whence he hails) and Southwark, the borough in which he now heads a school. After all, the two place names, at least when pronounced by a native of the latter, are indistinguishable. (I think he might have been trying to make such a joke, but he got a bit confused and mentioned Norfolk, for seemingly no reason.)

In short, Savage is a talented speaker who prepares diligently, but he lets himself down at times through hurried delivery and under-rehearsal of the humorous lines. A-, could do better than this.

There is an official report and deck of photos for this event on the Alleyn’s School site – click here.

And Then Home

We thoroughly enjoyed our evening. Janie found the company delightful, both the old boys and their wives/companions, such as Lenneke (Chris’s partner) and Emma Jane Moulson. Similarly, I enjoyed chatting briefly with those two and at greater length with Victoria (Oliver Goodwin’s partner) as well as chatting with old school friends.

My only regret is that I barely got a chance to chat with some people I would have very much enjoyed catching up with properly, such as David French, Paul Spence and Nick Jarmany. Perhaps next time, although I hope our next time is a less formal gathering.

Next morning, there was no respite. Daisy and I got up to play tennis in our usual Sunday morning slot. Half way through the game, I realised that I had subconsciously donned a purple top and a purple bandanna. Purple. The Cribb’s House colour. Steeled by my renewed sense of tribal purpose, I naturally went on to win the set.

You can take the boy out of Cribbs House, but you cannot take Cribbs House out of the boy.
You can take the boy out of Cribb’s House, but you cannot take Cribb’s House out of the boy.

South London Nah Nah Nah by Rohan Candappa, Alleyn’s School, 12 November 2016

The following piece, South London Nah Nah Nah, was written and delivered by Rohan Candappa at the Edward Alleyn Club Annual Dinner 2016, in honour of Chris Grant’s Presidency coming to an end. I Ogblog reviewed the event here.

Chris Grant. This image was liberated from the Sport England web site with grateful thanks - we're SO South London.
Chris Grant. This image was liberated from the Sport England web site with grateful thanks – we’re SO South London.

Rohan has kindly permitted the circulation of the piece. If you quote from it, please give Rohan Candappa the credit – he deserves it.

Thank you Mavis.

Recent events have proved to me that the two most important things in this world are ‘words’ and ‘geography’. I’ve always known this as I’m a writer, and I studied ‘geography’ at university.

Now, I know you’re probably thinking ‘what on earth is this fool on about?’ I mean, you’ll probably give me words, but ‘geography’?

Okay, let me prove my point, consider this sentence ‘2016 will always be remembered as the year in which a popular black president stood down, and was replaced by an idiot’.

Oh. Maybe I should have said ‘2016 will always be remembered as the year in which, IN AMERICA, a popular black president stood down and was replaced by an idiot.’

Words and geography. Make all the difference.

Anyway, I’m a writer, and what I’m going to do is read some stuff out to you. And the way I’m rationalising the kind of performance that I’m developing  – is that I’m having a thought, and then taking it for a walk.

And I’d like to invite you all on that walk. To see where we end up.

But before I do ….David, you didn’t tell the joke. I thought you were going to tell the joke….

That’s a shame. It was a good joke.

Okay, a slight aside. When we first got together to discuss this evening David told a particular joke, and we all laughed, and then Chris said we can’t use it.

Probably because it was in poor taste. Or politically incorrect. Or both.

Now, obviously I can’t tell the joke because I am too sensitive and well mannered – but it was good joke…

So here’s what I suggest you do, over the course of the evening, go up to David when he’s on his own and say ‘What do we want?’, he’ll say something, then you come back with ‘When do we want it?’ and he’ll deliver the punch line.

That’s alright isn’t it David?

Anyway moving, on.

I’ve got a piece to read, take about 15…hours. No, minutes, minutes. I know you’re hungry.

So let’s have a thought, and take it for a walk, and see where we end up.

 

——————

 

It’s funny what we remember.  It’s not always what other people remember.

Take this evening.

When Chris first started talking about it he brought up the following incident.

When we were at school the football team made it to a final. The final was held at the ground of Dulwich Hamlet. And during the match, there was a point, or there were several points where we, as supporters of that well known Sarf Lunnun football firm of ‘Alleyns’ started chanting ‘South London, Nah, Nah, Nah!’

Then, apparently, when we got back to school, our behaviour in chanting this chant was berated by Mr Fenner, the Head Master, in no uncertain terms.

And, in part, this incident is what Chris has based his theme for his year as President.

Now the thing is, I was at that match. I was in that crowd. And I have no recollection of the ‘South London, Nah, Nah, Nah’ chant happening.

So it’s funny what we remember, because what we remember, isn’t always what other people remember.

But that’s the glory of being alive. We are individuals. We see the world and interpret the world individually. But we live collectively. And part of our challenge as individuals is to find a way to live collectively.

That’s one of the thing school does for us. In part, in this place, within this school, I learned how to be an individual, but also to function as part of a society. And that played a big part in forging my identity. And I guess I’m not alone in that, or why else would we all be here?

So if a school is a key factor in defining personal identity, which it is, – then what defines the identity of a school.

And does the fact that this school, my school, our school, is in South London have any bearing on that identity?

But before we get to a decision on that, let’s consider the whole concept of ‘South’.

For a start what does it even mean?

Well, that’s fairly obvious – it’s a direction. It’s one part of that set of directions that helps us navigate the world, helps us locate ourselves in the places we live. North, South, East, West. The John, Paul, George and Ringo of directions.

Or, and who else remembers this – Naughty, Elephants, Squirted ….. Water.

South was ‘Squirted’.

Look at a map of the world. Look at a globe, and ‘south’ is, the bit at the bottom. Everyone can agree upon that.

Everyone that is, except me.

Thanks to the power of independent thought that this school encouraged in me, I have stumbled upon this, quite literally world changing, revelation:

The world is a sphere. It floats in space.

There is no right way up for it to be. Given that, then what’s to stop ‘South’ being located at the top?

The only thing to stop it is convention.

Or picture a map of Britain. Well, why don’t we ever draw it, or imagine it, upside down? After all, it exists on the surface of a globe, and a globe is a sphere, and a sphere doesn’t have a top or a bottom.

So ‘south’ is a convention that we have invented, that we all agree upon, because if we didn’t agree on it how would we ever know where we truly are.

But let’s go further in this dissection of the concept of south. Let’s go further because one of the glories of the English language is that words don’t only have ‘meanings’ they also have associations.

So ‘south’ isn’t just a direction.

Things ‘go south’. Meaning they go off the boil, they fall apart.

Or there’s the concept of ‘The South’ in America – the Southern states, all confederate flags, slave owners mansions, and fried chicken.

Or that divide between Europe’s northern states, and its southern ones. That’s a concept wrapped up in all kinds of sub-concepts of power, economic development, even life-style.

Or what about Cockney rhyming slang. North and South. Mouth.

Or, let’s get even more granular – how do you even pronounce the word. Is it ‘South’? Is it ‘Souf’ as in S O U F? Or is it ‘Sarf’ as in S A R F?

I guess the answer to that depends on where you’ve come from.

Or, where you’ve ended up.

For me, as a kid, growing up just off Peckham Rye Park. I lived in S A R F, Sarf Lunnun. Lunnun, as in L U N N U N.

Now I’m older, and wiser, and much stupider, I will say that I grew up, and went to school, this school, in South London.

Clearly the school is still in the same place that it was. So equally clearly it must be me that has moved. In some way.

Anyway, delving deeper into the whole concept of South London, I discovered something really quite surprising. For most of the time South London did not exist.

London, was London, and that was north of the river. The bit to the south was an afterthought, an overspill, a poor relation.

I mean, just look at the buildings in north London. The Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, The Tower Of London, The Natural History Museum, St Paul’s, even the City Of London itself. It’s all north of the river.

What do we get? The short lived County Hall. Southwark Cathedral – which is just a very big church. And Dave Wellbrook’s house in Beckenham.

This isn’t the stuff of a major Metropolis.

South London wasn’t London.

So the pre-Uber, cab drivers legend of ‘ Sarf of the river, this time of night, you ‘avin’ a larf mate…’ isn’t an aberration. It’s how the world was. How the world was perceived.

South London was the wrong side of the river, south London was the Badlands, south London was ‘Here be Monsters’.

And you know what, South London Doesn’t Care. If it is the outsider, the underdog, the unacknowledged that’s just fine. Because that gives South London character. Strength. Maybe even ambition.

And it meant things could happen here.

Take Vauxhall, for instance. From about 1650 for 200 years it was one of the leading venues for public entertainment in the capital. 1785 the Vauxhall Gardens opened with attractions like tightrope walkers, concerts, fireworks, hot air balloon ascents and wooded walkways noted for… ‘romantic assignations’. Apparently, for 150 years, references to Vauxhall were as ubiquitous as, and have the same context as,  references to ‘Broadway’ would later be. That was it’s cultural significance.

Or what about something with closer link to this school – The Globe. Shakespeare’s theatre, built in  1599 – closed by the Puritans in 1642. The Globe was at Bankside. The south side of the river.

The south, the outsider, the renegade, the challenger to the old order.

Or what about the founder of this school – Edward Alleyn. Yes, he was established, yes he was successful, yes he was wealthy. But he was an actor.

And acting, I would argue, is the South London of all the professions.

The outsider, the renegade, the risk-taker.

And isn’t that a perfect description of arguably the most creative person this country has produced in the last 100 years.

David Bowie was born in Brixton. He moved to Bromley. He is an individual born, and bred, and buttered, in South London.

So how does all this relate to this school? This institution?

I mean, look at it. It is a place of privilege. How on earth could it be the outsider, the other, the renegade?

Well, in my opinion, it can. Or at least in a sense it can.

Because we did come late to the party. God’s Gift had been given to many, many people before the first brick of this school had been laid.

We always were the outsider, the other, the renegade because we were not Dulwich College. So guess that what I’m arguing is that in this particular small universe, with its own particular laws of physics, and gravitational fields, I’m arguing that Dulwich College is North London, and we, we being Alleyn’s – is South London.

We are the outsider, the upstart, the challenger.

And that might sound like an irrelevant, contrived, spurious notion, but I think that it’s an important one. And one that isn’t just about looking backwards, but also about looking forwards. And here’s why.

I’ve said that this is a place of privilege – and it is. I’ve seen how much the school has developed since I was an inmate. I look at the academic results and have an absurd, totally unjustified sense of pride.  I mean what’s it got to do with me?

I know that anyone would be lucky to come here. In so many ways it bestows advantages on its pupils. Or confirms the advantages those pupils already have.  And I don’t mean that as a political judgement, I mean it as an observation.

But I think, embrace the concept of Alleyn’s as a South London school – with south being a construct that contains within in it ideas of being the outsider, the other, the renegade – then there is something else that comes into the mix for the school’s pupils.

Yes, advantage is an advantage for young people trying to find their way in an increasingly, and insanely, competitive world.  But I believe that if you want to get on, if you want to really push the boundaries of what you have it in you to become, then what you need is not advantage, but edge.

North London doesn’t give you edge. South London gives you edge.

And that’s why I would argue that the fundamentally South London nature of this school is worth recognising, understanding, and celebrating. It’s a part of its heritage as much as the phrase ‘God’s Gift’, or the cornflower, or that time Mr Jenkins got pushed in the swimming pool on the last day of term.

——————

Now, I mentioned at the start that I would be having a thought, and taking it for a walk, and what I’ve discovered is that when you do that you sometimes spot something off the path you’re on that’s worth checking out.

And what I spotted, on this occasion, was the phrase ‘God’s Gift’.

Now ‘God’s Gift’ is the motto of the school, the foundation. The first time I was really aware of it as a pupil, and thought about it, it felt slightly uncomfortable. That’s because it sounded, to me, arrogant. It sounded like we, the pupils, were saying we were ‘God’s Gift’.

There was also the fact that, at the time, the only other awareness I had of those words was in the disparaging phrase ‘He thinks he’s God’s Gift, to women’.

It was a put down.

But, I also knew that the phrase in the motto was actually referring to ‘education’ – education was God’s Gift.

Anyway, writing this piece I was thinking about the phrase and I have come to the conclusion that it needs redefining. Re-imagining.  So I want to give it a context that makes sense to me. And maybe it’ll make sense to you.

I’m here tonight because Chris asked me to speak. This is not an event I have ever been to before. It never really appealed. But Chris asked me to come. And Chris is my friend.

And I thought about that.

And I realised that gift I received from this school wasn’t education. I would have got an education somewhere else. We all would.

The gift I received from this school was the friends I made while I was here. So John, Steve, Nigel, Ian, Olly, Chris, David. I’ve known all of you for the best part of forty years – you’re the gift. Thank you.

And I would imagine for others of you in this audience, who had the good fortune to go to this school, and also for those who have the good fortune to work here, the same holds true. This school has been, this school is, a crucible of friendships. And we forge bonds here that are hard to break.

I know that for a fact, because I’ve known these people for 40 years – and I’ve been trying to shake them off for at least 35. But they’re persistent…

We forge bonds here that are hard to break. And I would say to the headmaster, nurture that, cherish that, celebrate that. There is no exam results table that it features on, but to my way of thinking it paints a picture on a far bigger canvas. And it’s a beautiful picture.

Now I’ve wandered off the path for too long and need to find a way to get back to my central thesis and wind things up.

The central thesis being that Alleyn’s is a South London school, and that gives it, and its pupils, an edge.

Well if the concept of ‘South’ is all about being the outsider, the other, the renegade – if it’s all about not only about having an edge, but also, occasionally, going to the edge and jumping off. Doing the thing you’re not supposed to do, just to see what happens next, then there is only one logical place for me to finish this talk.

So here’s the joke Chris didn’t want us to tell…

 

A Most Unusual, Multi-Media, Transatlantic, Partially On-Air, Pop-Up Gathering by Part of the Old School Clan, 7 May 2016

I had been corresponding with my old school friend Paul Deacon on Facebook for the previous couple of days, sparked by:

As an aside, Paul asked me if Janie and I had listened to his weekly broadcast on The Grand At 101 lately. I had to admit we hadn’t. The show is on Saturday afternoons in Ontario, therefore Saturday evening here. Janie and I are almost always out on a Saturday evening – Ogblog postings passim attest to this fact. It must be more than a year; perhaps even a couple of years since we last tuned in.

However, our Saturday evening plans – feeding friends Kim, Michel and David – had, for practical reasons, been switched to Sunday lunch instead. As it turns out, Sunday 8 May is scheduled to be “sunny, hot, sit in the garden” weather, so the switch was fortuitous in many ways.

In short, we would be around, so I told Paul we’d tune in at least to some of the show. In the course of this correspondence, Paul Hamer (another old school friend) said that he would also tune in “while cooking his risotto”. At the start of the show, Paul Hamer evidenced the fact that he was listening and cooking risotto with this picture:

Paul Hamer Risotto Evidence
Photo courtesy of Paul Hamer

Indeed, Paul Deacon’s posting about his show and all the ensuing Facebook correspondence can be found here.

Once we were listening in, I mischievously sent Paul the following private message, which relates closely to the rag, tag and bobtail records we procured at the Slipped Disc all those years ago:

Ian and Janie messaging in from warm and sunny London. Would you be able to spin a 45 for us today? Ideally a Melodisc classic, such as Jolie La Ville Curepipe by the Alain Permal Mauritius Police Band, Agbogun G’Boro by Tunde Nightingale and his HighLife Boys, Bulgarian Betrothal by the Bulgarian Variety Orchestra or the classic Stop For The Music by The Nutrons. We and your listeners deserve nothing less.

Melodisc was a most unusual label – probably the first truly “Indie” label around – read more about it here.

Of course, I should have known better than to challenge Paul to play an unbelievably obscure 1960s record.

Soon after 20:00 our time, Paul Deacon broadcast a shout-out to Paul Hamer and played some rather unappetising sound effects in honour of Paul Hamer’s jumbo prawn risotto. Paul Hamer’s retort; a photo of said risotto in all its glory – makes better Facebook/Ogblog than it does radio…but it does look very appetising:

Paul Hamer Risotto Full Glory
Photo courtesy of Paul Hamer

I showed Janie the jumbo prawn risotto picture; she suggested I take a picture of the remains of our dinner and upload it. I made an executive decision not to do that. Even if people could imagine that fine meal from the messy carnage of (what had only recently been) a most impressive-looking roast duck…I wouldn’t have wanted to upstage Paul Hamer.

Then a few minutes later Paul Deacon broadcast a shout-out to me and Janie. Much to my embarrassment, he actually played Stop For The Music by The Nutrons as a request for us. “Truly terrible”, was Janie’s verdict on that obscure musical masterpiece.

When Paul (wisely) interrupted the track before the full 125 seconds of noise had completed, he played The Grand at 101 jingle. “Oh, so Paul also has a Room 101 for crappy records then?”, asked Janie. “No”, I replied, “101 is the FM broadcasting frequency of Paul’s radio station”.

To explain, if I put something on a music playlist that Janie really doesn’t like, it doesn’t simply get deleted from that playlist, it gets moved to a playlist named “Janie’s Room 101 Playlist”. The latter playlist would, in extremis, be played continuously on a loop if Janie ever were so badly behaved as to require sending to Room 101 for re-education.

Readers will, I’m sure, be unsurprised to learn that Janie’s Room 101 is more a theoretical construct or “empty threat” than anything approaching reality. She’s stronger than me for a start. Paul Deacon would be a little disappointed by some of the tracks that have ended up in Janie’s Room 101, but there’s no accounting for taste.

Meanwhile, Paul’s radio show. While simultaneously joking with several of us on Facebook, digging out obscure 1960’s Melodisc records…oh, and of course actually broadcasting a show an hour longer than his usual slot to cover for someone…

…Paul Deacon also told us that John Eltham (another old school friend of ours) would be joining him at the studio “any minute”, along with Rich Davies – yet another old school friend, who lives in Ontario near the Deacons.

I was aware that John Eltham was due to visit Paul and Rich this month, as John had mentioned the visit in correspondence with me a couple of weeks ago. I hadn’t twigged that the visit was so imminent. Indeed, while the broadcast was still going on, Paul wrote:

He’s here now! Just telling us about Rohan…

…the Rohan reference is to Rohan Candappa. I suppose in particular the “telling” was about a gathering we had a few months ago to see Rohan’s wonderful one-man show, which we now learn will be going to Edinburgh this summer – click here to read about it.

So, I woke up this morning to see these wonderful postings on Paul’s Facebook Area:

Johnny & Pauly On The Grand
Johnny & Pauly On The Grand – Photo courtesy of Christine Deacon (I think) via Paul Deacon
A Grand Quartet
A Grand Quartet – Photo courtesy of the waiter via Paul Deacon

I reflect that this connected world of ours is truly marvellous. We can banter with old friends and listen to radio broadcasts across continents. Face-to-face visits across such distances are now affordable, practical realities also. But by gosh it helps if you can multi-task like Paul Deacon!