Tuesday, 8 January 2019

Staying alive......

Lawdy, doesn't time just fly!?  Some years since I been here but maybe because I now spend so much time writing inerviews, features and music reviews I just seldom find the time to update these days. That's my excuse anyway.
We moved house about 18 months ago, a few hundred kilometers south, into a part of France we know well and have long loved. Now based in a small village in the Charente region we are about 10 kms from the Dordogne and in an area surrounded by lakes - not as many as Sweden - and rolling countryside. All very 1960s Herefordshire in look and feel.
I've taken overe a editor with the UK's leading blues magazine, a full-colour print thingy that takes up much of my time and provides bags of music, passes, opportunities and little income, sadly! However, this past summer, we spent most of the time out in the USA, travelling around meeting musicians, attending festivals and generally having a grand time from Atlanta - known as Hotlanta, for good reason - Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Colorado, Utah and Oregon. All very pleasant but also a tad tiring given the travel demands and the vast distances covered.
New Orleans was a dissappointment, though we were based in a plush hotel right in the centre of the music action.The whole place is just way too busy, tourist over-run and dirty and noisy. Good music was hard to find and, in truth, we were glad to escape and return north to Tuscaloosa, Alabama,where we stayed a month or so with good musician firends.

Returning home to France, we were glad to be back to sanity and loads of cheap wine and decent food. However, after barely a week, we had to head to a music festival in the south of France, where we met many old friends and had a great time. T one point, to my astonishment, I was thrust a Mic and had to address the crowd in my basic French! Memorable but hopefully not to be repeated.

I had interview time with the legendary Carlos Santana who was touring Europe, and he has invited me over to USA, for the 50th anniversary Woodstock festival in summer 2019. He played the first, original and famous event and is again booked for the 50th bash; he wants me to join in and come on stage with him and his band. An offer that might prove hard to resist. Gotta be a blast!
I also spoke to my own personal gutar hero recently, Ry Cooder, a guy who has made a name for himself as the world's number one acoustic and slide guitarist, played with the Stones, and everybody else of note, and introduced the world to Cuban music with the Beauna Vista Social Club a decade ago.

Another surprisingly nice, laid-back guy I hooked-up with recently was the wild-looking ZZ Top frontman, Billy F Gibbons, while he was passing through London. Why do all these guys, generally rebelluous types, stay at the Savoy, one of London's most expensive joints, when in town? Could it be they now love luxury and food? 

Led Zeppelin frontman, Robert Plant, was also a delight, a genuinely easy-going, interesting guy with absolutely no front. We shared loads of things in common having lived as near-neighbours in the Herefordshire/Monmouthshire border country for many years. So we had mutual friends, favourite local ales and ciders, and bags of other surprising links. He's invited me along to his London home, given me his address and seemed genuinely open and friendly. I must make an effort to keep in touch.

Another great time was had with Mr American Pie, Don MacLean, again he was touring Europe and was a delight to chat with. And so it goes.

Although we're now sort of settled here in SW France, I still hanker after and miss the wild beauty of Sweden, despite its startling low winter temps and the snow.....it just gets under your ski, I guess. We still visit at least once every year, now spending time mostly in Stockholm with musician friends, and going on a Press jolly, a Blues at Sea cruise affair where we are given first-class cabins, bags of good food and unlimited plonk! So, can't be bad. In addition, one of our musician friends, Brian Kramer, from Brooklyn, has lived in Sweden over 20 years and is married to a Swede, so we invariably hook-up and stay with them for a bit.

This year, 2019, we plan to spent the summer in Sweden and Scandiland doing the music thing and catching up with old friends and former neighbours etc. I'm already looking forward to that though I expect it will fuel my longing to return to the crazy place.

With bleeding crazy Brexashit looming, we are furious about it all. We could have easily had Swedish citizenship when living ther but now no longer instantly qualify as we've been out of the country for too long. This despite retianing strong links and addresses etc., in the country. However, on the plus side, Sweden has confitrmed it will give Brits who are either resident on Mrch 29th or with any implementation periad dates, the same rights as are currently available. The only snag with this may be the loss of Freedom of Movement, though in effect we have European registered cars - one French, the other Swedish - so can readily travel around freely in Europe as Shengen means no border checks for the most part. Only time will tell how that works out.

Well, that's about it for now. Odd to be here, blogging again but maybe I'll try to become a bit more active again. Who knows!

To close, try this one. He was a delight to talk to about this very song:


Or this one, a personal long-time favourite with a history I now know, straight from the writer/horses mouth:

Sunday, 11 September 2016

Mister Bojangles, Dance.....

Had an interview with one of my own personal US music favourites on Friday, while he was vacationing here in France. I've been a huge fan of David Bromberg since first hearing him back around 1970 or so. Over the years I've managed to get a fair number of his albums and I've also caught him play a storming live set out in NC, USA. His people in USA connected me with him as they knew I wanted to talk with him about his forthcoming new album due for release in mid-October. Thankfully, they sent me a few copies and helped arrange the hook-up.

Bromberg was the guitarist with Jerry Jeff Walker's Band for many years, Walker being the guy who wrote the wonderful song 'Mister Bojangles' many moons ago. Bromberg did what is probably - and generally acknowledged to be - the definitive version of the song, though these days he tries to avoid playing it. He laughed when I mentioned it to him but in part it has earned him the title of the Godfather of Americana music out in the States. In addition to this he has co-written songs and toured and recorded with George HArrison, often plays as first-choice sideman with Bob Dylan and worked many times with the late BB King and countless others.

An Ozzie magazine wants a full feature about him as does a major US title, plus Sweden France, UK and Netherlands. Bromberg seldom does press, so I reckon I'm bound to be quids-in. He turned out to be really friendly, amusing, easy-going and interesting. I had a wonderful time chatting with him. He is a genuine US roots music icon, much loved by most in the know and most other musicians.

I leave you with Mister David Bromberg:

Thursday, 8 September 2016

Some Like It Hot.....

Summer is drifting to a hot, sweaty close here in SW France. It's been an unusually bitty season for the region; we've had early chilly weather with some rain followed by week after week of searing heat and not a drop of precipitation, with temps reaching almost 40C at times. It reminds us of our time in Andalucia, where these temps were a daily thing throughout both July and August. As a result, the garden potager has been a bit of a flop this year with Peppers,  Aubergines and Melons all being small and poor. Pots are also small but plentiful and we had loads of good Garlic early on. Strawbs, Rasps nd Blackcurrants all poor and only a handful of Goosegogs. Leeks are okay but Cauli, Sprouts and cabbages all poor quality, stunted and too small. It has been just way too dry and the sun has been burning much of the crop. Toms have been good and luckily the freezer is fairly well stocked.

                                                        The garden in early Spring:

                                                        The garden this Summer:

We've taken on a fair sized plot of previously well-manured and used veg garden with a useful stone shed from a weekender, a French neighbour who had virtually given up on it after many years. It adjoins our own land and we'd noted his increasing absences and disinterest, so asked about it. The result, we have it free of charge. It will be used for Pots, Leeks etc next year.

We've been out following the music festival trail around France, meeting many musicians, promoters and organisers etc., and receiving mountains of Press/promo CDs for review etc. The sprog, LVP, made it over for a few weeks with the grandsprog in tow and the weather was fortunately, as above, hot and dry. They seemed to have a good time and we booked them both cabins etc for the ferry crossing on one of Britanny Ferries bigger boats plying the cross-channel routes, together with hotels in Portsmouth each end of the journey to make life easier.

Back in May, I went to cover a Blues Festival in a delightful small Belgian town, Purrs, about midway between Antwerp and Brussels.I arranged accomm thru the online site AirBnB, and it turned out perfect. To my astonishment, the hosts also have an elderly Renault 4 GTL, just like our own, albeit a different colour. We were all equally surprised:

                                                                 The Belgian R4:

An old war-time fort, now an inviting cafe/bar in Purrs:
Add caption

 Unexpectedly, due to one band I'd expected to meet (Bert Deivert & Copperhead Run from Sweden) pulling out due to illness, they booked in one of my favourite US soul-bluesmen, Johnny Rawls, as a last minute addition because he was in France touring. By chance I 'd received a phone all from his record company boss and band bassist a few days earlier, so we met up by chance.

 I caught his soundcheck while having a beer just outside the marquee he was to play, ran in, discovered it was indeed him and armed with me backstage pass walked up to him as he came off-stage, me singing one of his songs back to him. The look on his face of pure surprise, not to say shock, was priceless but we got on well and had a fine time sitting chatting about mutual buddies, one of whom the wonderful Otis Clay, with whom Johnny had recorded a great album in 2014, had just passed back in January. Otis' manager is a close mutual friend, so we got on well discussing the problems she was now facing out in USA - she was also Otis's partner, and J and I were invited to attend his funeral out in Chicago but couldn't afford the travel. We received a copy of the Order of Service etc, however.

                                               Johny Rawls in action in Belgium:

More recently, attending a blues festival in the Nievre/Burgundy borderlands, we found ourselves driving past t a small place named - 'Bellebouche', which I reckon is where a couple of UK bloggers I follow when they post are based. It was tempting to make a detour to see them, but sense and the searing heat prevailed and we passed by. Maybe next year we'll check it out.

We're setting off to a Swedish Blues Cruise affair again in a few weeks time. The boat sails from Stockholm out to Finland and back with about 2,000 Scandinavian music fans and about a dozen bands on board, including some pretty fine US players we already know. We're planning to buy an elderly, preferably 1980s, Saab or Volvo while there and drive back home, so have booked only one-way flights so far.

Towards the tail end of last year/2015, a grey tabby cat appeared around the garden. He was a whole male, looked aggressive and down on his luck, eating the chicken-food etc. As it turned out to be a particularly dry winter, with very little rain and mild weather overall, we started to feed him daily with dried cat-tucker and he gradually worked his way into the menagerie, albeit with a few cat-fights and loads of spitting and hissing from our three moggies. Now, he's part of the family and seems happy to be around, scrounging food and generally making himself at home. A local cat charity helped with a subsidised neutering etc., at a local vet and he's now just another of the cat-gang. It took him ages to figure out how to use the catflap, mind you. We think he was probably dumped by somebody as he's not a known village cat, though he's now part of the furniture and the hissing is steadily diminishing in force. We call him 'Catty' which he readily answers too. Thankfully!


I'm now working regularly with music magazines in Australia and a major title in the USA, so get passes etc., to events almost anywhere and interview access to many big-names, these days. All very satisfying as I also get their albums etc no problem.

We have bought a UK trailer tent, a Conway Camargue affair, that turned up for sale on a French Brit sales site at a very good price; it makes life attending fests etc.,m much more manageable and a lot less expensive. It was owned by a Brit who returned home having sold it another Brit who then went on to buy a campervan and are now moving to live in Spain: if you'd told me I'd be happy to have one of these some years ago, I'd have sneered and laughed like a drain, but it sure is impressive and I'm delighted with it, esp given what we're up to and the travel involved. Although now receiving regular income from some music magazines, the expense of travel and accomm was always a killer at times:

We were also down to again meet Johnny Rawls a week or so ago when he was playing in Lucerne, Switzerland along with Rufus Thomas's daughter, a very fine singer herself, Vaneese Thomas and an old buddy fron North Carolina, ex-guitarist with Otis Redding & Solomon Burke and Stevie Wonder, Roy Roberts. He played Cognac Blues Fest early this year where we again met up. Iggy Pop was also there but he was a prize pest:

                                                             Roy Roberts at Cognac:

A bientot. Must try to keep up a bit.....: Johny Rawls and the song we sing together when we meet:


Thursday, 12 November 2015

This Ole night-life sure is killing me.....

Now nearing mid-November and the weather has changed yet again. We've gone from wintry blasts to glorious Autumnal days with sunny, often fairly warm days and such unseasonably warm temps that it's now making the national news out here, with bathers taking to the beaches, lakes etc, all grabbing a slice of it where they can. It has its downside, of course, and I've had to keep the mower in use, doing what I hope/plan will be the final cut of the year a few days ago. The mower itself, a relatively new ride-on, is now under wraps till next season/year.

We picked the last of the melons last week, and had some surprise last Rasps and a corking, huge Strwberry, too. Leeks, Broc, Cabbage all still going strong and the Sprouts are also producing well. J has uprooted the Courgettes, at last, and we've decided to plant far fewer of both those and Cucumbers next year: they both become too difficult to keep up with, and as everyone else has the same problem, it's not easy to even give it away at times. The Pots were very good and we've loads in dry storage, and a chest freezer jam-packed full of Toms, Beans, Aubergines, Chillis and Rasp and Strawberry Coulis. We've also made mountains of Chutneys, with the Peach being a firm favourite of most and Pear and Quince - we get enormous Quinces hereabouts - also a winner. J made some excellent Cucumber Relish with many of the over-producing Cucs. All very handy and helpful.

The old Renault 4/Quatrelle - as they're known here - is going incredibly well, economically great and fun with it. They are sort-of collector cars here nowadays and so we get gawping looks everywhere we go, as we're using ours as a daily car rather than wrapping it up for winter, as most do. We're planning to take it over to the UK/Wales around Xmas and hope it manages the journey okay. We can see no reason to doubt it!:

We visited Sweden a few weeks ago, the first time since we sold up and moved South about three years ago - doesn't time fly!  We were based in Stockholm for a few days and were lucky with glorious Autumn weather of warm, sunny days albeit chilly at night. Despite that people were out swimming in the eastuarine waterways that bisect the town. We had Passes for a Blues Music Cruise aboard a large ship that headed out towards Finland then returned full of pretty-drunken Swedes. All in all, it was very pleasant as we had back-stage facilities of unlimited food and wines etc and a decent cabin. We met up with most of the musicians and received a few promo CDs etc. It was all rather tiring, music people inhabit the wee small hours mostly, and it can be hard getting used to the routine.In addition, we spent one afternoon at a wonderful music venue in Stockholm. This is a bar in the Gamla Stan - old town - known as 'Stampen' - (The Stamp). The music was absolutely top-dollar and I met up with a couple of US musicians who are now resident in the city, Brian Kramer (Guitar) and Bert Deivert (Mandolin):

 And a young Swedish blueslady ( I reckon will make it in due course, with more experience under her belt) playing with a veteran of the Swedish blues scene on Harp/harmonica. Shoutin' Red with Bill Ohrstrom on board the blues boat:

We were suposed to hook-up with another US-Swedish import, a Brooklyn guy, now approaching 90 years old, Izzy Young. Young was on his way to meet with us at Stampen bar but we were unable to wait as we had to be onboard the boat by a particular time etc. So we sadly missed meeting him. Izzy was an important man in the US music scene around New York in the 1950s/60s/70s and a number of documentaries have been made about the guy. He ran a 'Folk Lore Centre' in Greenwich Village back in the day and now runs a similar place in Stockholm. Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Tom Paxton and almost everyone else hung out there in NYC as they struggled to make it and break in to the music world. Izzy Young provided a warm place with coffee and music etc so was popular with many then broke young wannabes. Young got Dylan his first profesional music booking and helped launch Dylan on the world-stage.  A US Senator has just been over visiting him and his huge archive collection of music memorabilia etc., has just been shipped off to the Smithsonian in Washington DC.

I'm particularly sad to have missed him because a few days ago I pulled out a copy of an album on Vinyl I've had since the early 1970s. It features Maria Muldaur, banjo-ace Bill Keith and many others, including two seminal music brothers from NE USA, Artie (now sadly passed) and his brother Happy Traum, who played on many of Dylan's big-selling albums and now lives up in Woodstock. On the album cover, I'd never noticed before, sits Izzy Young with  Maria M to his side, John Sebastian (Loving Spoonful) behind and Happy Traum to the other side. By chance, on the very next day after I pulled out this album a message turned up in inbox from Happy Traum and today a copy of his new Cd arrived. It's a trange world, music makes it small at times, for sure:

Can't seem to be able to turn the damn round, I fear!!!

Time for some fine - cheap - vin rouge. A bientot!

Happy in action:

Saturday, 26 September 2015

Slip Sliding Away.....

Another three months have simply disappeared, it seems. After an exhaustingly hot, dry summer, we've moved into Autumn with a stark weather-change, fierce winds and heavy rain for days on end gradually giving way to pleasanter dry, sunny days of temperate nature. The change was noted by us but also our neighbours, most of whom are less than amused by the sudden nature of the weather changes we've had in recent weeks.

The veggie patch/potager is reaching its end, though we still have some Aubergines and Toms producing, and the Courgettes also appear to have a second-wind. Leeks, Cabbages and Caulies are all okay, too. The freezers are groaning under the sheer weight of stuff and we had a pretty fair crop of Pots, now bagged up and out back in a cool, dry area. The Beans were not as good as last year though we have a reasonable amount to shore us up through winter. The Peas were a wash-out, sadly.  Strawbs did well as did the Rasps and the Grapes. Both the Melons and Aubergines were disappointing this year. But as everyone else around us were also grumbling, we can't be too surprised - all down to just too, too dry this summer. Not something to generally merit complaint, I feel.

We've done a fair bit of musicy stuff with guest-lists for a few US visitors on the Festival circuit here in France. We hooked up with Florida bluesman, Selwyn Birchwood, a genuinely nice, unaffected young guy who is destined for greatness, I'm sure. He keeps picking up awards in the USA, has a solid recording contract and is a guy we first met out in Portland, Oregon at a Blues Festival a few years ago. So it was good to catch-up again.

In addition, at the same event, we were guested with US soul-blues singer Otis Clay, another lovely guy. I already knew his manager and she had also come across with him. He brought a wonderful 10-piece backing band, Horns, Female vocalists, the whole damn caboodle along with him and put on a terrific live show. At the end, after a wonderful encore of top soul material - Dock of The Bay etc - he literally staggered from the stage, down the ramp to the green-room pouring sweat and clearly exhausted. He had been playing under strobes etc in temps of about 37C and is in his seventies these days.

We followed that festival in Cognac with a blisteringly hot festival in the midi-Pyrannees region in Cahors, a,lovely town encircled in a loop of the River Lot. Here temps were about 40C every day, with little respite in the steamy evenings. Again we had guest-lists with a few visiting US players, including Gospel singer Ruthie Foster, who was charming, friendly and extremely pleasant, despite having a positive 'anti-thing' about Press in general, I later discovered.

Next month we're off to a blues-cruise affair on a big boat out of Stockholm. It will be interesting to return to Sweden for a few days and I've already arranged meetings with some musicians up there and some guest-lists with a few of the US players on the cruise itself. Knowing the Swedes, I rather fancy the cruise will be a bit of a blues/booze cruise with plenty of projectile vomiting going on. We will see. We have Passes and cabins etc thrown in for the event so only have to cover our travel and we have found a failry central place to stay on airb&b, at a very reasonable price. We're already looking forward to it.

Sadly, a few months ago, a very good friend, a UK guy living out here, passed with a massive heart attack. We were terribly saddened by his death. He was larger than life, incredibly helpful and friendly - a truly lovely guy who knew his days were numbered but kept on as if he was in best of rude health. He died while out in his garden cleaning his terracing areas in torrid heat. His wife had told him to stop cause it was way too hot but he ignored her and the rest is history. We went to the Crem in Niort and I spoke at the service.

Then, as if that was not enough, in th past few days two more friends have upped and pegged it. One is a very old buddy of mine from my yoof in Scotland. He died in his sleep and the funeral is in Glasgow next week, so I'm down for that and have booked my flights etc. It will be interesting to see who else attends!

In addition, on the very same day, we learned of the death of a French near-neighbour and friend of JVP's. She took her own life, much to our astonishment. But, of course, you never really know what's going down at times. We attended the funeral yesterday where there was a huge turn-out, illustrating clearly that she was widely loved and admired.  A tragic end, it seems.

Our two dogs took to fighting viciously, ripping each other apart at every opportunity. We struggled for about six weeks but despite trying parallel walking, muzzles etc., it continued until we reluctantly returned the older of the two, Benny, to the refuge he came from. The other dog had been with us longer but it was still a near-impossible decision. JVP was so upset by the loss/departure of her clear favourite hound that after much soul-searching we reversed the process, so to speak, and swapped Golly for Benny with the refuge. So, Benny is once more with us. JVP is happier though I miss Golly and feel guilty about it in some way. So Golly will have to return and we'll try the services of an animal/dog behaviourist who lives  and works in the region, at great expense.



Ruthie in action

I've been asked to take over the Features Editor position with one of the UK's leading blues magazines and have just started this recently. It takes a fair bit of my time each month and is something I can easily undertake. It's a useful number, especially with the extra access and perks it throws up for us both. JVP is now 'my' official snapper and also gets Passes etc. She's enjoying the photography thing and has loads of stuff published already -  a huge change from the world of midwifery!   I'm also working regularly with the principal US blues title, so with all the others too, have plenty on my plate.  Indeed, in amongst it all, I have a chance of steady work as a music hack with a title in northern Sweden - a strange idea but one I'm not totally averse to!

As for the immediate futire, Time for some plonk, I reckon. Take care out there.

Monday, 22 June 2015

Rocking along.....

Another month has slipped past, seems to be the way these days. Summer has at last arrived, after a decidedly variable, unpredictable sort of Spring. Temps now firmly established on a daily high-twenties/thirty basis. All a bit tiring at times, though we have breezes from the coast to temper the heat. Unbearable at times overnight, though.

The festival season is unpon us and we've been to a small local music festival that was, in reality, pretty dire with Hunting Horn ensembles and a truly scarily out of tune, for most part, Big Band with a Brit singer who struggled to find pitch most of the time. His vesion of the old Sinatra classic, 'New York, New York' was frightening, and that's being charitable.

We're off to UK in afew days time; only for abour 4 or 5 days, then back. A friend's daughter is going to house-sit for the cats, dogs and Hens. Hopefully she'll also water the vegies which are now growing profusely. We're already being over-run by Courgettes and Strawberries, Balckcurrants, Rasps and Goosgogs are all excellent. We've also, sadly, had a visitation from the dreaded Doryphore - Colorado Beetle. They are rapatious bastards and can strip Pots/Toms/Aubergines leaf growth in no time at all. J seems to be on top of them now and we think/hope to have caughtem in time before any true damage was done.

We were surprised to find them here though we once saw them marching in huge numbers down the petite rue where we were renting a cottage a few years back about 80 miles South of here. So we knew thm to be in the area/region.

We were given another young Hen a few days ago. She's rather nice, I reckon, though she is being mercilessly harried and attacked by the other four old lags who resent her arrival. It's normal, of course: 'henpecking is a viscious fact of Chicken life, I fear. We're seperating her from the remainder of the flock now and she wanders the entire garden freely and returns to her own hutch each evening at dusk. Oddly, however, she manages to fly/jump ober the fence into the main Hen-run for egg-laying and so far manages this without attack from the others before reversing the process and escaping once again into the main garden.

Yesterday evening we were surprised to see a couple of owls seemingly having a bit of a fight as they flew low over the bottom part of the garden. Territorial, no doubt. They seemed to sort themselves out before flapping off and one of them took over quartering a neighbours garden. They must be facing a challenge from our three cats who still catch mountains of small rodents, tjough Ginger is unlikely be a threat to their diet as he tnds to let the little creagures go and they oft escape his clutches.

Golly, one of the new dogs - the younger of the two - has develpoed a skin problem and is losing his coat at an alarming rate. It seems to have coincided with his being 'Frontlined', so we've shampooed him with a medicated animial product and will ensure he has a different anti-flea/parasite application in future in the hope that will solve the problem.

There are loads of snakes around this summer: mostly Western Whip Snakes, it seems. These are attractive greeny/yellow critters, non-venomous and a pleasure to see. They are on the verges of many fields/woodland edges and scurry out of sight as we approach with a loud, crashing noise through the dry grasses and verge hedgerwos. As a result, they're pretty easy to follow and identify. We also came across a giant bright green caterpillar - clearly a Hawk Moth or something similar, we eventually decided it was in fact a Swallow-Tail Butterfly caterpillar. Hopefully, it will survive the snakes who would no doubt be more than happy to meet it.

We're off to Cognac Blues Festival in a week or so, where we're on the gust-list of an old US soul singer, Otis Clay, for the event. I know his manager who has added us to his meet list for the event, as she'll also be over for it. In addition, a young US blues player, Selwyn Birchwood will also be on the same bill, and as we met him a few years back just after he won a number of big US blues music awards, we'll be catching up with him and his band too. We also have Passes for the entire event, though we won't stay for all of it this year.

Next month we were planning to attend another Blues Festival in Cahors, in Lot et Garonne, a fair way South of us. However, though we have passes etc for the event agreed, it clashes with the Annual Renault 4L International Meeting which is held a lot closer to us in a small town near the Loire. So, with a recently purchased Renault4 GTL - stil running well - we have elected to attend that event instead, where we will be camping and meeting up with a substantial British contingent who are travelling over specially for it. Should be a gas, I'd say. I certainly hope so, though I fear many will be anorack-enthusiastes with near-perect-concours condition cars, unlike ours which is scruffy but servicable!:

Bill Wyman was perfectly pleasant to chat with. Happy to talk about The Stones etc - despite his minders trying to control everything and keep the Stones on the back-burner. He waffled on about Mick and Charlie and only fell silent - with a capital 'S' - when I introduced dear old Keef to the conversation. Clearly some history there, I guess!

I've also a Pass for the forthcoming Cropready Festival in Oxfordshire later this summer. I hope to meet up with Emmy Lou Harris who  will be there with her old buddy Rodney Crowell, a great US/Americana singer-songwriter that I met back in January at Glasgow's wonderful Celtic Connections Festival:

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Je Ne Suis Pas Un Rock Star.....

May has been an odd month here in France so far. Too much windy weather with dipping temps - never Swedish dips - and rainy too much of the time, for my liking. Now again, at last, we seem to have turned a corner with warm, sunny days and glorious vegetation/flower growth etc. Lots of beautiful Goldfinches bobbing around the garden, picking up grain from our Hens run and drinking from the pool. All beginning to feel as it should at this time of year here in this part of Froggoland.

The cats are once again living outdoors for the most part and have changed diet from Whiskas to dried food, supplemented by the ocassional mouse and sadly - Goldfinch! Save of course for Ginger who remains firmly rooted to the idea of living his life as an indoor cat. Golly could do with having his hair cut severely, as it's a beautiful, straight, almost wispy coat that flaps and flounces around him as he belts around the garden. It will soon be too hot for him, so we must make arrangements. Benny on the other hand has a shortish coat and follows J around like the proverbial lap-dog!

J is once again busy in the garden, following a plan of sorts and having again manured the veg plot/potager etc., has began planting for the season: Strawberries are doing well and we should have some very soon; Apple, Pear, Gooseberries, Rasps, Blackcurrants and Cherries all coming on and as we had no late frost and bumper flower blooms on the Victoria Plums and Greengage trees, we are hopeful of a good crop there. The Vines are in good heart and the Walnut tree we managed to rescue from its darkish space behind stifling Hazelnut growth - which we cleared away for most part - is also looking much happier. The Pots, Toms, Courgettes, Aubergines and Beans are also all in though, as the temps have been a bit lower than expected till now, the Beans have yet to sprout. Maybe have to replant/reseed those. The Melons are going in today and the lettuces are already well established. We will add Cauli, Cabbage and Broc to the mix and though we have elected to forego Onions this year we will plant some Shallots, a favourite in Froggo cooking and a winner. Also Garlic, but not until late Autumn together with Leeks etc and a range of winter veg. It's amazing what can be grown here and we still have loads of fabulous beans etc from last year in the freezer. Only just finishing off last season's Aubergines now, tonight will be their last.

The locals all love our old 'new' car, and smile and wave heartily when we drive through the village. They almost all had one at sometime in their younger lives and, if not, admit to having had the ubiquitous - and now collectable - Citreon Deux CV.  As the Renault 4 is of a similar stripe, they are pleased with our choice and make comments about how we are now just like them - ie. driving left-hooker. It's great fun to drive and people actually smile evrywhere we go, stop and point etc. These simple cars, once so common here, are now few and far apart, it seems, much to our surprise.

Our neighbours' Goats appear to be thriving, again to our surprise, as the neighbours, well meaning though they are, clearly still have little idea of how to handle or manage the creatures. We always had a few for milk - Anglo Nubians - when we lived in the Brecon Beacons area, in the hills above Crickhowell. So we have books on husbandry and many years experience with them. The young nanny kid is growing fast and now climbs the neighbours' crumbling walls and peers over at us, always a troubling sign and development given the breeds propensity for trouble, their curiosity and voracious appetite for most garden plants etc. We'll have to keep a keen eye out for the little boooger:

Always on the lookout for nosh and trouble: just over 1 month old, our neighbour's Alpine Nanny Kid

Today is just too hot for gardening, so J has elected to have a day pottering from time to time in it but mostly sitting back, in shade, and reading:

J struggling with parasol while Ginge makes one of his rare forays into the outside world and Benny sits supercilliously in the shade to the side.

The entire village has undergone a facelift-cum-makeover in the past six months with cables being put underground, new water mains pipes and new drainage. To cap it all they also landscaped the place which will no doubt, as many neighbours say, result in a hike in local taxes/rates next year in all probability. However, it certainly looks better, in our view:

This last one, is our alleyway to the house, down behind the Mairie on edge of village.

And last winter, at this small pond outside the former Cure's house - now empty and unused - a beautiful Kingfisher cottoned on to the fact there were large goldfish in the pond, so steadily picked them off so there are none remaining. Sad in a way but a pleasure to see the bird in middle of the village:

I'm still busy writing for an ever increasing number of music titles across three continents and receive anything between 20 and 60 CDs a week for review. Keeps me occupied and it's something I know about and enjoy. I'd prefer it if I could have a better income from it but it's steadily improving, I guess, and I'm making good connections in the business both in the UK/ Europe and the USA. I reckon I'll have to move into music/artist PR work to get a decent, reliable income from it - a similar field but not one I have great experience with. 
A few weeks ago, I spent an afternoon chatting to one of my personal favourite UK musicians, Andy Fairweather Low. A Welshman, he was frontman with Amen Corner back in the 1960s and for past 15 years has been Clapton's guitarist - Clapton credits him with the arrangements for his hugely successful 'Unplugged' album and Andy did help with them, he confirms, and went on to record it and tour in support of its release with Clapton's band. In addition, he  also played with George Harisson; Van Morrison; Tom Jones; Pink Floyd; Bob Dylan, almost everyone of importance, it seems, including our daughter, LVP's old buddy, Robin Gibb of the BeeGees. Nowadays when not fronting his own outfit, The Low Riders, he tours and records with Clapton - he was in New York's Madison Square Gardens with him only last week - and is a member of Bill Wyman's band the Rhythm Kings. Speaking of whom: I'm scheduled/down to chat with Bill next week about his latest solo album, the first in about 30 years. I have a preview copy etc and it is all a bit like his surprise hit 'Je Suis Un Rock Star' in the early 1980s. Still he should be interesting, given his remarkable background!

A cheesy song but I'm looking forward to chatting with him Wednesday 13th - lucky for some, I trust - middle of next week. Andy Fairweather Low tells me Bill's a real nice guy. I certainly hope so!