Monthly Archives: January 2017

Record Of The Week # 4

January 28, 2017

Becky Warren – War Surplus

As a boy then one of the buzzes a teenager could get about his latest vinyl discovery was enjoying the fact that you were amongst the first to discover a bright new star. In effect, you were in on the ground floor before the masses discovered your secret find. Inevitably by their second stellar commercial success you had moved onto the next ‘secret’. This is where I am at the moment.

When I heard Becky Warren on this genuinely profound piece of work it was hard to grasp that this Americana artist was not huge. I heard her on the now much lamented but gone Americana Music Show podcast that brought so many unsung legends to my humble abode.

Based in Nashville she’s paid her dues and inspired by her experiences with her former soldier husband and his battle with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from his service in Iraq. She had the talent, passion and insight to link some hard hitting brutal lyrics to punchy Americana rock. Exceptional tunes accompany each track. Tight rhythm and beautiful guitar that fills the gaps between her vocals.

We begin the journey into Scott and June’s life with his military experiences cutting through their lives like a knife through hot butter. In ways that are reminiscent of Springsteen and his searing and frank word pictures of everyday folk in low rent urban America then her take on the returning damaged trooper are done with exceptional deprecating insights and gallows humour. This makes the story live and you empathise with their lot in life.

The album starts with ‘Call Me Sometime’. He’s returned to Texas and is not the man he was. “Stay Calm, Get Low’ picks up on Scott’s active service and takes you into the soldier’s world of surviving on the front line. Flicking back to ‘Seemed Like A Good Idea At Time’ covers the decision to join up and the time you have to reflect ‘when you are 3,000 miles from a decent beer’. ‘Take Me Back Home’ reflects on the reality that home might not be San Antonio but back on the front line, a place where his skills and temperament fit.

This arrived at the end of 2016 and was an antidote to the horrific quantity of music talent that checked out during the year. With this then I’m hopeful for the future but how many other artists and their wonderful music are out there?

Paddy, pants & sympathy – Week 4 : 2017

January 27, 2017

This week I attended a York Carers Centre hub in my capacity as a trustee and met some of the staff and some of the people they provide help for. In York there are over 18,000 carers and I am always humbled by how they cope and their devotion to the person they care for. It is a growing responsibility for everyone out there. I’m glad to be trying to contribute.

The grey matter was also engaged this week as I attended York University night school classes. This term it’s ‘England & The Irish Question (1823 -1923)’. A fabulous couple of hours delving into the history of Ireland and its tribulations to get to its independence.

The news continues to be difficult. No I am not referring to world affairs but the latest cancer risk revealed this week – over cooking roast potatoes. I genuinely do accept that they might have this potential but with hospitals full of people who have spent their life eating fried food, smoking and drinking like drains then I think this may not be a priority concern.

As a landlord we have a flat in York that we let. Experience has enabled us to avoid problem tenants but there can be challenges. The current set are young with one working and one being a PhD student. Infrequent visits to the property reveal that they aren’t house-proud and I am inclined to line them up like errant teenagers and tell them to buck up and dust and wash up or note that the drawers are there for putting things into. (I have a gift for communication).

Apart from being easy going and tolerant then also you have to stay on top of the condition and performance of the property. We have hit a cycle of refurbishment and we are spending a lot of money changing the internal heating solutions. I agreed a  price with a contractor and a date was set. On the day I turned up to let the contractor into the house.

I discovered a scene that looked like parts of the flat had been burgled with the added bonus of dirty pots etc. So I apologised to the contractor; showed him the work and left. Anna visited on the lunchtime the next day to see how they were getting on and to establish a finish time for me to inspect the final work. She was not impressed to find one tenant in bed and a pile of dishes in the sink that seemed architecturally impossible to stack. She sent them a text expressing displeasure! Now usually she is calm and conciliatory and I am unreasonable and confrontational (another gift).

I came to inspect the final installation and let the contractor go. Up and about was the tenant and so maybe a few words might be exchanged when I’d finished with the electricians.

However, the tenant wanted to speak to me (!) She led off with an apology for the state of the flat and advised that she’d been sent home from work as she was so upset. She and her partner were splitting up. Hence the state of the property. So I went from being Mr Angry to an Agony Aunt – clearly a ‘work in progress career change for me! We sat down and had a chat about the future tenancy and the like. Poor girl.

I can’t believe my wife sent that text.

An expedition was also made to Huddersfield (of mashed potato fame) where a visit was made to the temple aka Vinyl Tap and this gem procured for my favourite eldest daughter’s LP collection.

Lastly, I was out on Thursday night with a pal having a curry. Got back to be asked “do you know how many pairs of underpants you have?” by  the present Mrs Ives. Before venturing a very inaccurate estimate I enquired as to why she knew the answer? She had been tidying/organising my drawers. So if anyone has some suggestions as to how she might spend her time more usefully or the exact number of kegs I have them then please feel empowered to let me know in the ‘Comment’ box below.

Record Of The Week # 3

January 23, 2017

B B King – Take It Home

I once woke up in Clarksdale. Mississippi and when the Delta Blues Museum opened I visited the exhibits before throwing my leg across my bike and cycling south. I rode the 65 miles to Indianola where the BB King Museum is sited. I got there in a steady downpour but the ride through Mississippi was flat. A busy and energetic day for the Blues I hear you say. It is a fabulous museum but there may be easier ways to get there.

This pilgrimage was because this legend was worth studying in greater detail, not least in his proverbial back yard. The museum is the best music museum I have been lucky enough to visit.

I’m not sure how I came across this masterpiece in 1979 but it is blend of straight down home Blues and Blues Rock. It was a brilliant introduction and so many of these tracks have become friends forever. BB King has a distinctive and melodic vocal style and the captivating, fluid and often soaring and searing guitar is an irresistible combination.

The team of Will Jennings and Joe sample wrote five of the tracks with Jennings collaborating on the other four. In other work then Joe Sample was a ‘go to’ session keyboard player and Jennings would become well known for working with Stevie Winwood, Eric Clapton, Whitney Houston and writing several soundtrack classics – ‘My Heart Will Go On’ and ‘Up Where We Belong’.

BB King was an early originator who played the US chitlin’ circuit in a time of segregation and prejudice with his band and maybe just about making a living. He started life on a plantation driving a tractor before his escape into music. As regards the ‘story’ every Blues man needs then he was authentic.

Blues music, at the time, in the USA was definitely a race thing and whilst it spawned white Rock n’ Roll then it wasn’t remotely mainstream up until the 1970’s. Eventually white music fans heard from their white Rock heroes about the real Blues men and from here many people who we would now regard as Blues legends – Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters and ‘Blues Boy’ King started to get greater exposure.

BB King issued tens of albums up until his death in 2015 (this was his 26th) and played a major role in bringing the genre of Blues to a wider international audience.

What first caught my ear was the name check of our own Queen in ‘Better Not Look Down’, the mournful and beautiful self pitying of ‘I’ve Always Been Lonely’, the practical courtship analysis going on in ‘Second Hand Woman’ and the tongue in cheek affair of ‘A Story Everybody Knows’.

Bliss and worth the bike ride but maybe not the beg bug bites at the motel afterwards!

Broadcasting, Brass Monkeys & The Boro – Week 3 : 2017

January 23, 2017

In what was generally a tumultuous week, which saw The Donald installed in The White House and hundreds of thousands on the street then life in York was a lot more quiet. It was a time for seeing old friends and so coffees were drunk and biscuits ate.

As a fashion icon then mistakes were made when I found myself in Lidl wearing Crocs. Despite a concession for age then the rules of engagement dictate that you are not allowed to wear them more than 100 yards from your front door. It has to be said that as opposed to attracting ridicule then I did fall into step with other footwear on display! 

However, probably not much more than 100 yards from the front door was a splendid walk with the present Mrs Ives on Sunday in a local wood – the image shows the early morning sun but regrettably not the rapidly departing deer that fled on our arrival! It was cold first thing but got colder and after this stroll I ventured out briefly on my bike returning when the temperature had fallen to -2.1° C or 28° F. A bit too much like ‘brass monkeys’ as they say round here.

As you might suspect then I spoil her and the latest indulgence involved an outing up to Middlesbrough to watch some Premiership football. (This is not my team but we enjoy watching a quality spectacle). We watched the ‘Boro lose 1-3 to the cheeky East London Cockneys – West Ham United. Andy Carroll was a class apart from the other players on show and for that he only graced the contest for 66 minutes but found time to score two goals and make numerous defensive headers. Quite a tidy stadium but being sat close to the away fans wasn’t all good as they took The Sandpipers’ 1963 hit of ‘Guantalamera’ and replaced the Cuban lyrics with the delicate refrain of ‘you’re just a town full of paedos’. Southern class.

With all things Donald in the air then I took to the airwaves to join Jonathan Cowap on the BBC Radio York morning show to add to a conversation about holidaying in the USA. I have to admit that being on the radio would have been beyond exciting a year or two back but I have done it five times now and feel like an old hand. 

For an hour I commented with a bloke from London, on the line, giving expert travel advice plus callers Jonathan invited to join the show. Dorothy from Malton got slightly tongue tied when her big moment came and couldn’t remember where she had visited… but apparently it was nice! As I departed Jonathan told me that the next hour was concentrating on American cuisine. I so love the place but umm.. good luck with that one!

On other cultural fronts then I finished Season 2 of Kevin Spacey’s House Of Cards and am working my way through Bruce Springsteen’s autobiography ‘Born To Run’.

News coverage…. no one cares

January 20, 2017

This morning I bowled up to the building that houses BBC Radio York and the guy that was actually on air was outside the building having a quick cigarette! I was scheduled to be on the show with him (!) in about 10 minutes. I was there to talk about travelling/holidaying in the USA.

I didn’t detain him long as I suspected that he had to get back! However, I asked how the show was going. He said “terrible”! They’d invited callers to telephone in about the politics of Donald Trump. No one called! Given that York has a population of 120,000 and tens of thousands in the broadcast area then this was a poor response.

Knowing that a long discussion was not appropriate I volunteered my own thoughts and said “I don’t think people are that interested: it is just a fixation of the media”. He said he agreed, stubbed out his fag and returned to the listeners.

The advent of 24/7 news means that those who have the inclination, or are paid to have the inclination can blitz you with every twitch of a political story and the views surrounding it for what appears forever. If it is your drug then you can also participate and spill your poison across your iPhone or keyboard as well.

The British media has got so excited about Trump.

(Let’s not enter the debate on the politics of it all. I’m more comfortable respecting the Americans to make democratic decisions without proffering a profound view).

Why are the British media so interested in the US President? We’ve never shown anything like this interest in previous Presidents. During George W Bush’s tenure we had the collapse of the US banking system where I lost my job and the deployment of British troops in Iraq! It isn’t as if they have not affected our lives in the UK until now.

Journalists and their editors are fixated. It is as if no judgement is exercised on how and what to cover other than something that interests them.

Not fair? Well let’s talk about this – remember ‘The Leveson Inquiry’? This was a judicial public inquiry into the culture, practices and ethics of the British press. Really nobody in the British public gave a damn. Yet radio shows were stopped for breaking news, it was the headline news on TV, radio and Internet for a few weeks. Now as a publisher, editor or journalist then I may be very interested professionally but it is as if they didn’t see beyond their bubble and personal pre-occupations.

It was telling on last night’s BBC TV’s “Question Time’ when the obligatory anti-Brexit question of ‘What do the panel think would be the result of a Second Referendum now?’ got hit into the long grass by all the panelists who had little interest in the question and whilst all waffled around the subject then it was interesting that no one answered the actual question. The point being that the issue or story has no life in it. This was despite it being a week where the Prime Minister outlined more about a future UK trading position outside the European Union.

So do I want less information and less investigation? No I want relevance and an appropriate level of coverage.

Less is more as they say. 

Moores People Update

January 19, 2017

I was thinking that I might post a few updates on people and Moores.

If you want to add anything then I am happy to receive information to later post. Get in touch! I know some people catch up via scouring Linkedin or Facebook. However this won’t be the distorted stuff you read on those sites. I’ve read some people’s summary of their career and felt that Winston Churchill, Mother Teresa. Bill Gates and Nelson Mandela needed to up their game to make a mark!

Also if you know anyone who would like post this then please forward the link or give me the email address.

Your intrepid explorer met with Janet Lumb in Wistow during the week. Janet who departed the Mothership sometime ago is enjoying her retirement and looks great. It seems she is ticking off the holiday islands off Africa as holiday destinations. In the garage is a beast… Barry, her husband, has invested in some heavy metal. This V8 MGB is a customised version of the British Leyland classic. Recently rebuilt and still being lovingly upgraded – it has more grunt than Jeremy Shaw.

Sad news from Acomb concerns Mark Granger’s dog. This lovely puppy was christened Memphis. Not after that ancient Egyptian town or the birth place of Aretha Franklin but the Dutch footballer acquired by Manchester United last season. This follows the history of Mark naming his  dogs after MUFC players. The other Memphis is shortly to ply his trade in France. Not all is lost as Mark reports that the dog responds to being called ‘Zlatan’.

Steve Johnson (of Public Sector Sales fame) continues his world travels with the plan to spend 3 months in Latin America. This entails taking in the culture, history and sights starting in Argentina. After touring extensively in the Far East and Turkey (in the bits nobody dares now visit).

Steve, now a resident of Wiltshire, advises that it is too late for him to learn Spanish and feels confident that his course in pointing and speaking loudly, in English, should see him through. Should you want to contribute to a fund to pay the pending ransom then I will provide details on line soon.

As I catch up with people then I discovered that leavers from Moores in 2016 were Stewart Swan, Anne Pattinson and Mark Sutcliffe. You may have known this. I understand that Anne has stopped working now. Mark was trying other things post Moores but is reflecting on Plan B. It has to be said when you end up redundant then it is often time to take time out before starting again.

Chris Morris still remains devoted to Leeds United. I think we can mention this now as the Mighty Whites appear to be exceeding all our expectations. Chris is out and about with his music and I loved the story from last year about him being in the USA when he and his pal decided to attend a Jake Bugg concert at the last minute. They bowled up without a ticket and blagged their way onto the guest list and got close to the stage tickets…. those trusting Yanks eh?

Lastly I’ll sign off with an admission. Richard Bywater, who I am sure is running the procurement activity at Moores, posts regularly photos of images of Railway Wagon labels for cargo throughout the late 20th century. (…..I thought I had problems). By way of sport I then submit song titles that align with these tickets.

Charity…. value for money?

January 16, 2017

It seems as if you are impugning the reputation of a dearly loved old aunt by asking if charities are good value for money but it has been rattling around my head for sometime and there are things to consider.

Firstly it is a complicated matter in that some organisations are charities that you wouldn’t think were. Some hospitals, social housing companies, schools, colleges and their like are charities but I refer to the charities who we ride across continents, run around muddy fields, swim miles and bake for.

I was recently asked to support a friend who was completing a swimathon for Marie Curie. I chucked in £10 but later, after research discovered that only £6.50 of that money went to the cause she was swimming for! Of course there is administration to pay for but other things have to be noted. Marie Curie employed, in 2014, 4,352 staff. Only 3,164 were nursing or staff in hospices. The balance of 28% of the staff were involved with Publicity, Fundraising, Support, Shops and Research.

Cancer Research UK have over 2,000 employees directly involved with fundraising. They also pay surprising salaries: over 39 executives took home over £100,000 pa. This truly troubles me as when it comes to the next senior executive they need to hire they will trot along to the Executive Headhunter who will tell them about talent shortages and competitor pay levels and then look forward to the 15 to 20% commission that they will pocket for finding this bright light in the firmament. Now I’m all for talent but, frankly, the Prime Minister only earns around £145,000 pa. I feel that you could successfully recruit for lower remuneration.

Added to the problem is that many of these organisations have Final Salary Pension Schemes. It is ironic that donations are topping up pensions that most donors can but dream of. Little old ladies paying £2 per month by direct debit? The Royal National Lifeboat Institution has a deficit in its Scheme and was planning to pay £12.7m into their fund in 2013.

Sorry but I haven’t finished. People care about all sorts of things, for example, red squirrels. A quick Google will bring up several charities raising money for these little tree rats. Each to their own as they say. However Gift Aid cost the Government about £1.2 billion pa. Let’s be frank we all tick the box, why not? Free money for the charity? Well sort of, as ultimately it is the tax payer who foots this along with the £1.2 billion non domestic rate relief that charities receive back. So the extra 25% might be worthy for a charity helping those with MS but squirrels?

So you may have the view that anything that brings an end to suffering in foreign lands or a cure for something dreadful is worth twice the price and don’t dwell on the numbers but be aware. I’m more for giving money to a charity that is local and modest and not something that I don’t view as appropriate.

(Further reading from True and Fair Foundation, Charity Choice & ThirdSector.co.uk)

Record Of The Week # 2

January 15, 2017

Miranda Lambert – The Weight Of These Wings

Nashville has long been the centre of a slick production line of artists promoted and supported by the music-making machine. In fact if you can sing, you’ve paid your dues and look the part and then with, granted, a hell of a lot of luck you can be pushed out front with a contemporary Country album with Top 20 hits. Providing you get on the road to work the USA then you’re made.

It’s easier for the boys and the current appetite for bro-country appears insatiable on American Country radio. Only two girls might make the playlist – Carrie Underwood and the Texan Miranda Lambert.

Despite the airbrush photos and PR then Miranda defies the convention and lives her life like many of her songs. Her former husband, the mega Country star, Blake Shelton, described her as ‘complicated’…. I’ll say.

This latest album comes on the back of that turbulent divorce and the general view by many in the Country establishment that Blake was well shot of her. A double album is a difficult project to pull off but there are few clunkers out of 22 tracks. Relationships and her difficult nature are to the fore in the often raw lyrics as she name checks the broken hearts, the highway (‘Highway Vagabond’), its towns, drinks galore and sometime casual sex (‘Vice’). You think that this is probably personally researched despite her co-writing status on nearly most songs.

So why is the record that good? Frankly she’s able to dictate to the record company that she’s not doing a bright and shiny Nashville product and so much of this has a traditional or roots feel like Chris Stapleton’s 2016 Academy of Country Music album of the year – ‘The Traveller’. The arrangements are moody (‘Tin Man’ and ‘Runnin’ Just In Case’) when they need to be and as usual exquisitely delivered. However there is the usual flippant levity that can chuck up a Top 20 hit (‘Pink Sunglasses’). This is an artist putting down her mark as the real deal and not simply reliant on a good set of lungs and a platinum rinse.

Let’s be fair anyone who includes ‘Tush’ by ZZ Top as part of their stage set clearly demonstrates that they had the cajones and independence in place well before they embarked on this defining album.

Trains, Dinghies, Hull & German Brandy – Week 2 : 2017

January 15, 2017

January 9th saw all the UK get back to work. As usual the holiday seemed too long with the usual grumble of why have so much time off work with the weather so miserable. Early highlights saw me lunching with the Vale of Pickering Probus Club before taking them across America in 45 minutes (see Travel blog). Probus is an organisation emerging out of Rotary for retired or semi retired Professional and Business chaps. Anyway no snoring despite getting the fateful after lunch shift and a few quid raised for the charity.

With the present Mrs Ives not working then we are ‘doing things together (“brilliant” I hear every married man sympathise). This extended to going swimming together. I am rubbish and plod wearily up the pool giving the lifeguards cause to worry about a potential drowning incident whilst Anna sped up and down the pool. The first problem was that as she swam past then I would like you to imagine the comparison between a small dinghy in a harbour whilst the cross channel ferry catches it in its wake, I was that dinghy. As I am recuperating at one end she then offers coaching advice. Two words came to mind and they weren’t ‘breast stroke’. To top a super joint activity then when I left the pool I approached a woman leaving the shower area with a towel on her head and encumbered with several bottles of shampoo and other emulsions. I had forgotten my shampoo and thinking that this woman was my wife I instructed her to hand across a shampoo. She did this in a slightly confused fashion until I discovered that she was not my wife. Well, I wasn’t wearing my specs was I!

I waste far too much time on social media. In my enthusiasm for politics and current affairs I follow a number of interesting characters not least Hull’s very own adulterous pugilist John Prescott (a former British Deputy Prime Minister).

He Tweets the usual left of centre stuff and gets lots of hammer from those who remind him of his gilded career. Imagine the bemusement when he Tweeted asking for help on repairing his grandchild’s toy train. This was a delightful and quirky post: it’s as if the political Tweets are really a game but when something important comes up then you send out something that says ‘hey, I’m a human being and can we stop the game temporarily whilst I resolve a practical problem’. Many helped with attendant images but he received lots of replies along the lines of him being a “Fat Controller’ and ‘don’t ask Southern Rail they’re on strike’!

With the weather getting a little snowy we drove, on Saturday, up to Skipton and alighted on the choo choo puffa to Appleby. This is a train ride into the north west of Yorkshire and over the county border into Cumbria (or formerly Westmorland). What staggering scenery. We eventually got off the train and mooched around Appleby where Mrs Ives bought some German brandy before the return trip (which remained unopened I have to add).

The above image is from the train window. You start to appreciate what an engineering feat the construction of the line was.

We never got a proper view of Ribblehead Viaduct – you need to be beneath it. This is an epic Victorian structure that enabled a great span to be achieved to carry the railway track between hills. I did volunteer driving up here in the Morgan when the weather was better to complete the task, this initiative was received with mixed enthusiasm by my co pilot.

The outing was topped off by a wonderful vegetarian meal at ‘The Veggie’ in Ilkley. We were passing through on the way home and after the no small task of finding parking we dined here. I am one of the people who if they experience something terrible or fabulous are quick onto Trip Advisor and I was delighted to wax lyrical about this establishment.

Next week sees me (or hears me?) on BBC Radio York again, they are having an American theme on Presidential Inauguration Day and apparently they think I know a bit about the USA as a tourist destination.  I am on with someone from ABTA.

…….also as they say then I have a face for radio.

Record Of The Week #1

January 8, 2017

Joe Cocker – With A Little Help From My Friends

So I am the bloke with the odd album, and as they used to say, who has stuff on heavy rotation during most waking hours. I listen to new, old, CD, downloads, vinyl, podcasts, Blues, Pop, Folk, Country, Rock etc. I’ve always believed that there are two types of music – good and bad. I’ve just under 3,000 albums to choose from at the moment and I thought I’d pick the odd gem to talk about as my album of the week. Let’s start with:

Me and Joe go back a along way to the joy of sitting in the Odeon, on The Headrow in Leeds, and watching ‘Woodstock’, the movie, in 1971. For a youngster not really yet steeped in Rock then I’d only recently graduated from The Beatles and pop music to the heavy and good stuff. Hippies rolling around in mud and indulging in free love (what was that?) and wacky backy were a mystery to a 16 year old from Barwick-in -Elmet but the soundtrack sure sounded good.

His tour de force cover of Lennon & McCartney’s Sgt. Pepper’s jovial uptempo song was a revelation as it turned the ditty into a rock soul ballad of gigantic proportions. Anyway Joe had me in his corner from there on in. However, the former Sheffield gas fitter’s output from there on was patchy albeit with a few highlights until he checked out in 2014. (However, his career didn’t go without recognition for his services to music and he received an OBE in 2007; all of which confirms my scepticism about the worthiness of the Honours system!)

The much maligned Music For Pleasure label picked up this selection of tracks and released it at a budget price in 1969 (it seems to be basically virtually nearly all the same tracks he released on various labels internationally at the same time). So as a boy with limited cash to spend I bought this and got some brilliant vocals and an introduction to Bob Dylan (I Shall Be Released, Just Like A Woman & Dear Landlord) and Leonard Cohen (Bird On The Wire) and not least the Beatles classic.

He is one of the important Rock vocalists of the age and I am sure that this vinyl gem will come to a charity shop near you soon. Frankly they are ten a penny but it is still a magnificent listen.