Tuesday 26 May 2015


The twinning process between the city of Plymouth and the whole of the United States continues apace. Last week, after reading an internet article about the UK, Wonkyeye asked me the unlikely question "What does WKD Blue taste of?" Describing a flavour is almost impossible but I think I captured the essence of the drink when I said "Low rent nightclubs and regret".

This weekend I was at the council tip and a totter helped us to unload the car, he was charming, polite, and had a strong and pleasing American accent. He sounded a little bit like Cletus the Slack Jawed Yokel from The Simpsons but with a more sing-song lilt. I'm no expert in identifying American accents, but his put me in mind of somewhere more troubled by alligators than hipsters, and rife with Christianity.

I asked him where he was from and he told me "I'm a yank". In fact he said something more like "Ahm are yeyank". To start with I thought that that was hopelessly unspecific, a bit like me telling people that I'm from The Northern Hemisphere, but it makes perfect sense. He works in a customer facing role amongst the people of Southwest Devon – the slack jawed yokels of the UK – and he has a strong and distinctive accent. He probably has to answer the same question ten times an hour for his whole working life. This is how I imagine the conversation used to go until he got bored of the middle bit:

"You talk funny, where you from then?"
"I'm from Shreveport."
"Eh? Where?"
"That's in Louisiana ma'am."
"Eh? Where?"
"U.S of A".
"Oh. You’re a yank".

Richard "American Totter" B

Tuesday 19 May 2015

Circle of Life


At the end of last week the blues guitarist B.B. King died. I am fortunate to count among my friends a guy who was a professional guitarist for most of his career and who was famous in the 80s. I sent him a text on Friday morning to let him know that B.B. King was dead. His reply was better than any obituary I could try to write:

"Oh that's very sad – he talked to me after a gig when I was 15 or 16 – he was a really kind and nice man – fucking good guitarist!"


On Saturday night I was at a birthday party for this blog's longest serving and most loyal reader. I met her more than 15 years ago when she used to go out with one of my friends, and I first met her family at one of her earlier birthday parties. That party started off with a boozy lunch in a pub with a very good kitchen. Her boyfriend and I put away a considerable quantity of beer. My recollection of the rest of that afternoon is hazy but I awoke in the evening in her parents' kitchen with my head slumped onto the table and found that a birthday tea with cakes, sandwiches, and sausage rolls was being served around me. Bizarrely I made a pretty good impression on her family.

Richard "It's probably because I didn’t say anything" B

Tuesday 12 May 2015

Album Review

"The Race forSpace" by Public Service Broadcasting 

Some scenarios play themselves out time and time again in my life: Inanimate objects waiting until I need them before they break. The endless cycle of wanting something, getting something and then wanting something else. The feeling that you are just about to crest a hill and the realisation that there was a little bit more hill hidden over the horizon (this happens in my work, in my playing, in every new skill that I try to master, as well as in walking up hill).

Even more frequent and unavoidable (and this is a story as old as time and as ubiquitous as death) is hearing a couple of good songs on the radio and then not liking the album.

Public Service Broadcasting is a two-piece London band where neither member can sing. They play drums and electric guitar (or banjo or just about anything with strings) and use samples from public information films, propaganda and old radio programmes as well as all kinds of electronic sounds.

The album "Race for Space" tells the story of the space race in the 50s and 60s using samples from JFK's "we choose to go to the moon", contemporary radio broadcasts, NASA radio traffic, and control room recordings. It sounds great, all the samples are interesting and some of it is genuinely moving. The musicianship, particularly the drumming, is wonderful. The recording of the drum kit is flawless - it actually sounds like a drum kit being played well in a fairly open room. The two singles "Gagarin" and "Go" are spectacular. Genuinely good songs with compelling riffs and beats, inventive, interesting and different. I thought I had stumbled onto this decade's Kasabian and awaited the album with rapt anticipation. The singles are only two "rock" songs on the album, the rest is ambient or atmospheric. Perhaps the other songs are just as excellent and I don't have the right education, background or pharmaceuticals to appreciate them. What I can say is that they hold very little interest for me, and it isn't my new favourite album.

Richard "Gambaccini" B

Tuesday 5 May 2015


I've just come back from the states, and while I may be getting better at the language, I'm still struggling to understand them and to make myself understood. While fashioning a rudimentary dessert above an open fire they seemed to be talking about "gram crackers". I assumed that these were a biscuit made from gram-flour. No. There is an entire class of biscuit called "Grahams".

And Americans can't pronounce the name Graham.

While there is weak and insipid beer available through much of the USA, in the pacific northwest it is mostly delicious and really strong. The weakest IPA I could find was 6%. After I'd learned that it was easy to buy a full sized pint by asking for a "twenty" I kept accidentally drinking too much and either making a fool of myself or feeling unwell. One afternoon I thought that the remedy was to order a shandy. Unfortunately that drink is unknown in the states. I explained that it was half beer and half lemonade. Sadly they made lemonade from scratch with lemon juice and zest, soda water, and sugar. The resulting drink was uniquely unpleasant, the head in particular was bright yellow and covered with zest. The waitress asked me how it was, and I hope that the correct translation of "absolutely disgusting" is "not quite what I was hoping for".

Richard "a pint of water weighs a pound and a quarter" B