Sunday, 18 March 2018


Martina & Alfons - Prague 2018

On my last night in Prague I met Martina. And Alfons. Martina wanted to take my photograph. Not an issue; though I can count the number of times that's ever happened to me in a bar on the fingers of one hand.

Alfons, her adorable 12 month old black labrador, Martina told me, is named after Alphonse Mucha, the celebrated (and much copied) Czech Art Nouveau painter.

I then, of course, had to take her photograph. Unfortunately we didn't exchange contact details, so she'll probably never see this.

The footage below is quite amusing, if only for the presenter's suit and waxed moustache. But it gives you an idea of Mucha's place in art history - even his 'throwaway' advertising posters command silly money.

Saturday, 17 March 2018

The Very Fabric

Liberty Bridge (taken from Buda) 
It will come as no surprise to you that more than a few beers were consumed on my recent Eastern European jaunt. They like their lagers over there - which, personally, I can take or leave* - but coming up on the inside rail is a burgeoning craft beer scene that is certainly giving Euro-fizz a run for its money. That coupled with the fact that Budapest, our first stopover, is, officially, the cheapest place in Europe to drink beer and, all of a sudden, it's Game On!

Budapest is a tale of two cities, quite literally: a city divided by the Danube: conservative and classical Buda on the East Bank bank and, over the water, Pest (where we were staying) - busy, buzzing and bourgeois (as one of the guides I picked up described it).

Basic Bár (aptly named) was a smashing little find tucked away in the Jewish Quarter. Selling locally brewed Hungarian beers (a great range of IPAs, cherry beers & dark beers) with luxuriant electronica (they love house music as much as they love lager, seemingly) booming out to its Bohemian clientele - not a tourist in sight, it really was the perfect spot.

In his broken English** the barman was able to tell me in words of one syllable just how good his beers were (and they were) and that he piped in John Digweed's "Transitions" (his London radio show/podcast) every week for his discerning punters. This was the one playing when we were in.

It took me back to the plethora of Fabric CDs I own - many with Digweed remixes - and Saturday nights in particular back at Medd Towers in the early noughties when I took charge of the decks and cooking (knobs and hobs) with Digweed, Sasha et al creating the perfect soundtrack to the best homemade pizzas in town, bar none.  Ask anybody.

* With the exception of Pilsner Urquell Dark which hit the spot later in the week in Prague
** Still way better than my Hungarian

Saturday, 10 March 2018

Trains and Boats and Planes

Budapest 47.4979° N, 19.0402° E 
Sat, Sun, Mon

The bags are packed. The taxi to the airport's booked. The cat's sulking1. Yep, time for a few days away.

Three nights in Budapest, a train journey on Tuesday across the Hungarian border to Prague: three further nights in the Czech Republic, and fly home next Friday. Should be good.

Tues, Weds, Thurs

No itinerary to speak of; nowhere to be at any set time - just a few nice beers to be drunk, an eastern European goulash or two and a bit of culture thrown in for good measure. I know there's a terrific  floating jazz bar2 on the Danube everyone raves about, so a couple of hours on board a boat listening to live music, with a drink in my hand - should tick all the boxes.

And, can I just say, I'm getting really excited about the six hour train journey - I absolutely love foreign train travel - the drinks trolley, a good book3 and just gazing out of the window; what's not to like?

I'm sure there'll be pictures and stories when I get back, but that's it for a few days.

Hamarosan találkozunk4

Burt Bacharach - Trains and Boats and Planes (1965)

1 Doris hates it when we go away; she'll be OK
2 Columbus Pub
3 The Chalk Man
4 See you soon

Friday, 9 March 2018

Johnny's always running around

Johnny & Mary Antonia*
As the excellent Mad Men slowly begins to exit stage left in front of my very eyes (86 episodes down, only six to go), I've been forced to seek solace in another Netflix boxset: Lovesick, starring the ever charismatic Johnny Flynn, is my kind of show. It's funny. It's sad. And it is, for the most part, believable; pretty much. All the characters and their back stories are interwoven perfectly - making it a real ensemble piece. The writing is slick and it's always on the button. So much writing these days, especially comedy writing, is a bit like tuning in an old radio - sometimes the reception is good, other times not so. Lovesick is consistently 'locked on'.

I won't give away any plot spoilers, but if you watch the 45 second trailer below it will, I'm hoping, pull you in. And please don't think it's in anyway akin to the Richard Curtis school of lazy, tepid Rom Com - it's way, way, better than anything Curtis could ever conjure up (with the exception of About a Boy, and, in any event, that was Nick Hornby). No, Lovesick is a genuinely very funny and moving show that will definitely keep you out of mischief for a while. I'm on Series 3 so will be a few lengths ahead of you if you do decide to jump in.

Oh, and did I tell you that the soundtrack is none too shabby either? Take a look.
The episode I've just watched had a quirky take on Robert Palmer's Johnny & Mary. It's by Todd Terje with guest vocals by Bryan Ferry. I know what you're thinking but, believe me, it does actually work really well. Palmer's quirky 1980 single has been slowed down somewhat and been given a slightly sinister coat of menace.

Bryan Ferry & Todd Terje - Johnny & Mary

* Johnny Flynn plays Dylan, Antonia Thomas plays Evie

Sunday, 4 March 2018

If you should pass by, be sure to drop right in

The first, and the best
There is nothing, absolutely nothing, about this piece of film I don't like. Every moment of its five minutes and 20 seconds warms my heart. Laundromat is taken from Rory Gallagher's eponymous  solo album released in May 1971. And this performance from Beat Club (a sort of German Whistle Test) was recorded shortly thereafter. As with most overseas performances by UK bands in the seventies, we never saw them; it's only recently, all these years later, that we've discovered what our idols were getting up to in Europe and America thanks to YouTube and the like.

Rather than frame a 250 words review of it, here are the headlines:

* Curly guitar leads, *so* 1971

* Rory wears double denim, and gets away with it

* His drummer wears his girlfriend's top, and he too, sort of, gets away with it. Just

* Rory's guitar looks like it's just been pulled from a burning building

* Tarot card backdrop

* Stack of orange amplifiers (though not Orange, but Stramp)

* He never looked better than he did in 1971; he would soon *fill out*

* Laundromat sits at the top table of the Side One, Track One Club

Rory Gallagher would have been 70 last Friday. He never even saw his 50th.

I'd like to dedicate this to Frank Johnson. It was he who pointed me in the direction of this album all those years ago. Cheers Frank!

Saturday, 3 March 2018

Tossed Salad & Scrambled Eggs

Quite stylish
Frasier, the iconic hit TV show spin-off from Cheers, was first broadcast on NBC 25 years ago. It ran for 11 seasons and a staggering 264 episodes. And I loved every single one of them - it was certainly appointment TV at Medd Towers on Friday nights till it bowed out in 2004. That the show's main protagonist Frasier Crane was outshone every week by his younger, more pompous, brother, Niles (even after he got it on with Daphne) only added another layer to one of the most genuinely funny sitcoms ever to come out of America; or anywhere else for that matter.

Kelsey Grammer - Tossed Salad & Scrambled Eggs

Friday, 2 March 2018


All Medd Cons
Paul Weller was in town this week. For some reason I didn't fancy it; I'm kicking myself now.

I wonder if he played anything off All Mod Cons? You're probably aware that this year marks its ruby anniversary. Christ, where did the last 40 years go? (I can remember clearly the day I bought my copy) - the worrying thing being that 40 years prior the Second World War hadn't yet broken out. Stop the world I want to get off.

Anyway, you can keep Down in the Tube Station at Midnight and 'A' Bomb in Wardour Street - if I'd been at the Arena on Tuesday night I'd have asked him, politely, to "play that silly little poem you wrote when you didn't know any better." The words are naff, obviously, but it has a certain 1978 charm nonetheless. Chances are he'd have probably pretended not to hear me, but I think Fly would make any Weller Top 10 (there he goes with the lists again), don't you?

Paul Weller - Fly