Monthly Archives: May 2017

Steve Johnson

May 26, 2017

I have some Moores items to post but tragically some other news has come to pass that I feel I should advise before the usual lighter stuff.

Steve Johnson (PS Sales) had died after a very short illness at his home in Sherston, Wiltshire, he was just 60 years old. From feeling unwell to his passing was only around a month. This has left everyone not only deeply saddened but utterly shocked at the sudden turn of events.

You may recollect from a recent post that Steve was holidaying in South America and not least indulging in one of his hobbies – photography. If you wanted to take some epic images then you couldn’t do better than Antartica.

Steve left Moores in about 2010 and went on to run an internet business. By this time it was the end of an era for so many Moores people and we were all well past looking at our former glories. However, Steve had driven the order intake in the ‘East’ of the country, by 2005, to £11.5 million.

At this point he was a Sales Manager after starting life at Moores selling the Single Living Accommodation solutions. Given that Public Sector prices were very competitive in the market then through his efforts and the importance of the LHC his profitability was exceptional. He never dwelt on this but I did raise with him these achievements. He saw it as a team effort. However in my opinion then someone rightly gets to stand on the top of the podium.

A point that always surprises former managers is how many younger people who worked in their teams learned and developed with them. I expect those associated with Steve will feel enormous respect, affection and gratitude for this part of their careers.

Ironically the future in front of Steve looked financially secure and leisure beckoned with his partner. A thoroughly splendid, generous and interesting man then this cruel turn of events makes you realise how precious life is.

Look after yourselves.

Rats, Pills & Tea Lights – Week 21 : 2017

May 24, 2017

Surprising what you learn at Costa Coffee. I was stood in the queue with a rat trap, when the Barista (or the bloke behind the counter who made coffee but had a fancy title dreamt up by a Marketing agency) commented on my purchase. Much to our distress we have had Roland running around the garden for sometime and he’s quite a size. The Barista wasn’t hostile to my death mission but did comment that he kept them as pets. Deciding that he was mad I limited our exchange but did enquire, on my exit, as to whether his neighbours knew about his hobby?

After an uncertain period then we appeared to have let our vacant house. As always we have now refurbished and cleaned it up such that it seems a shame to hand it across to tenants. The market has been slow due to various excuses from the Letting Agent. Explanations include – seasonal drop off, General Election and the considerable building of purpose built student accommodation in York, which has proverbially drained the swamp! Anyway they are not in yet but fingers crossed there are no hitches.

As I’ve reported then after a further DVT I’m on a pill a day to prevent a re-occurrence. It doesn’t seem to be a problem other than remembering to take it. However, when I replenish my stock then I am still a little amazed that I get them for free as I am over 60. I note that the Conservatives are clawing back some benefits from the wealthy if they get re-elected. As the ‘baby boomer’ generation that has pensions, high value property and, sometimes, savings it seems a nonsense that the younger less well off should subsidise them. Thank you for the free pills but really you shouldn’

By any standards then 70,000 miles is a long way to ride a bicycle. This week I clocked up this total. As I am male then I have recorded just about all my bike rides and so when this milestone came around even I was amazed. For those who look too closely at the details then yes I have got slower (!) over the years but also the mileage is accumulated on a variety of bicycles and the slowest times (mph not kph!) include hauling heavy loads on a rugged steel bike up the Pyrenees, Alps, Rockies or the Sierra Nevada.

Lastly the events of the week in terms of atrocity must have floored everyone. I don’t think you could have received the news without becoming tearful. Slaughtering innocent people has now reached 8 year olds. Beyond belief. Everyone was interested in the details and the news channels went into overdrive. A lot of people in Manchester were literally overcome by the severity and affront of it all. I am proud of my hometown and I can well understand their reaction. However the only thing people can do about it, it seems, is hold a vigil, provide support and comfort to those affected or helping and, lastly, call for unity. This last thing is vague but I imagine is about not allowing racism to take hold. They’re right.

Never once did I really hear a thoughtful analysis on disaffected youth who feel outsiders in their society through the colour of their skin or religion, the divisive arbitrary drawing of borders between countries in the Middle East by the colonial powers in the 20th century, the hopeless and nothing short of murderous regimes run in Middle Eastern countries by Saddam Hussein, Bashar la-Assad, Colonel Gaddafi and then, the icing on the cake, the intervention of Western countries militarily in the Middle East. On this last point then Britain with the French bombed Libya to a ruinous state and now it is a disaster with no ruling party or system to control. However it is rife for pouring out more grief toward Europe. Even Obama censured Cameron for this failed intervention.

The above being said then no one has a right to commit murder and if they do then they should expect justice in whatever form it takes. The security services are brilliant and unsung, I’m grateful for their professionalism and overall success. Even at the risk of curtailing civil liberties then we need to have more controls and monitoring of those who might kill us.

…at the moment, let’s hope the tea lights work.

Jason – Week 20 : 2017

May 18, 2017

As week’s go then this one has not been the best.

I’m not very anxious about signs of my own mortality. It’s along the road but it seems to be out of sight at the moment. However for one good friend it came dramatically into sight before he got too close to 60. Such is my mental process that after I received a text from Marion I immediately thought of ‘First Of The Gang To Die’ by Morrissey, not least because Jason Field was.

I met Jason when he became a resident in a house I shared in Billericay in the late 70’s/early ’80’s. He was a young undergraduate engineer on a placement with Ford Truck. The rest of us in the house, Paul, Peter and Tim, worked at Ford, whether Tractor, Cars or Trucks.

It was stupid lads together who either balanced buckets of water on top of doors, invited the most vulnerable to a complimentary sandwich saying it was chicken but enjoyed their reaction when we told them it actually was frog leg meat, let off horrendously loud boat fog klaxons at 3 am next to someone’s bedroom and not least enjoyed rolling up to the pub for continued ribbing.

Jason at work was a star and a hoot out of it. A confident, opinionated and slightly know it all from Newton Aycliffe. More fun continued when he borrowed his dad’s Morris Marina Estate and, with Neil, we drove to Austria for the Grand Prix – many memorable moments not least him carrying out some engine servicing at a campsite that eventually necessitated getting the equivalent of the RAC to visit to swap around the plug leads that stopped the engine firing!

Clearly from this photograph we must have been invited to a fancy dress party back in the day – I recognise my old school cricket pullover, if not the bearded lad in tinted glasses with masses of hair..

We all left the house and moved on. Jason finished his degree at Manchester University and not least caught the eye of his bride by turning up at the Hall of Residence bar in bedroom slippers. (At my age this seems logical but at 20 years old or so then I can see the fashion crime). He returned to Ford and moved up through the grades that we had all originally coveted. On his stellar rise he ran a night shift at Halewood, ran the White Body Plant at Jaguar, looked after the manufacture of radiators at Dagenham and ended up in the Czech Republic joint running a Plant that made air conditioning and light components for just about most major car manufacturers in Europe.

We’d kept in touch albeit loosely, as blokes do, and met up over the years. In 2009 I cycled with a another pal, Jim, to his house in Kunin, just over the Czech border, from Krakow in Poland (via Auschwitz). There we were treated royally by Marion and Jason before trundling back. He was now in his early fifties and thinking that he might retire back to England. The pension seemed good and life was good.

Despite Christmas cards then the communication tailed off. People can be like that I thought. However, in 2014 I received a card from Marion saying that it would be great if maybe I could invite him on Facebook? He was now wheelchair bound with Multiple System Atrophy. This very rare condition leads to a failing of the body whilst the intellect remains in tact. Of course I went to Essex to see him and admired their fortitude and spirit coping with this wickedly random tragedy. Over subsequent visits with Jason, now in care, he was always cheerful but for a man of such energy and capability it all seemed unforgivably cruel to be reduced to such captivity.

I was getting frustrated looking for decaffeinated coffee beans at Tesco (they didn’t have any) when Marion sent a text saying he’d passed. I’m sure when I next visit that aisle I will have a terribly heavy feeling.

We’d tried to visit in February but he’d been rushed to A & E, it was not uncommon for him to have episodes that needed hospitalisation, and it was in our plans to try and visit again on May Bank Holiday.

So a part of my life has gone but frankly my loss is incomparable to a widow’s. As they say seize the day and look after yourself.

Dog Trauma, Fraud & A Festival of Cards – Week 18 : 2017

May 4, 2017

I recently heard a story that a friend of a friend had a kitchen installed. The kitchen installer then sent his final invoice by email. The email was hacked and the invoice altered such that the account and sort code were changed to a Nigerian account. Unsuspecting any problem the recipient of the invoice paid on line to this now altered bank account.

All was quiet until the kitchen company asked where the money was? Eventual investigation revealed that the money had been paid into a ‘new’ account and that the kitchen company had indeed not received its money. I’m not sure where the impasse has got to but you expect that the owner of the kitchen may have to pay twice.

So be cautious in paying direct on line against an invoice received by email. Maybe my chequebook isn’t completely obsolete yet? Isn’t it about time that some form of cyber security initiative controlled Nigerian email? Not only is there this horror story but also we all suffer from junk mail; should you be unlucky enough to click their attachment or links it will expose your computer to fraud. Always check the address of the email sender – on junk mail it is usually some nonsense and not PayPal, a bank or whoever it purports to be from..

The family suspects that it is a toss up whether my being in the company of small children or dogs is preferable. This is very unfair but probably true. However, I am not cruel and when I visit Wales to see my sister then I diligently walk the dog – Blossom (…don’t ask).

I might have been more positive about dogs were it not for the modern etiquette that demands scooping up its droppings wherever it might randomly deposit them. The old days of leaving it anywhere weren’t good – I remember a long bus ride home from central Leeds to my home in the country with smears of it on my leg, this happened when I was nine and may explain a lot! Anyway me and Blossom had a nice long walk and usually she keeps any surplus until she gets back to the house and drops a load on the back lawn: not in line with the reason why she was hauled around but it does avoid inverting the poo bag and gripping the warm, smelly and slimy gift and then carrying it home at arm’s length.

As we cruise country paths surrounded by grass and farm animals then it crossed my mind that should Blossom develop the need then some relocation of the mutt into the long grass might hide the deed and we might proceed quickly from the scene of the crime undetected. So imagine my horror when we returned and got on the street where she lived and she adopted the pose on the verge… oh no! I did contemplate checking all the surrounding windows for surveillance and if the coast was clear then dashing for our front door afterwards, however, the risk of ignominy and future pointing was too great a risk. So thanking the very empty canine from the bottom of my heart I collected the bountiful donation and went home wondering if I could find a plug on Google for next time.

After advice from my physio I joined a gym in order to use specific equipment. I’m not a stranger to physical exercise but gyms are not my scene. The Council run one nearby and as it is chocker full of kit then I signed up. Gaining access when getting to the gym however remains a baffling experience.

At Reception I presented my gym membership card and my York Resident’s card. The Receptionist chirped back “£5.80 please”. No I smirked back, “it is £3.90 as I is am a York resident and an old person entitled to a discount”. Okay she confirmed, “May I see your concession card?”

What! I had already got two new cards to attempt to penetrate the gym did I need a third? After asking where I might get the third card and what it looked like she said it had to show proof of my age on it. Warming to the conversation I enquired as to whether she had my age on the system as I had to go through an induction and form submission initially. Yes, she the system noted my age but I still needed to show proof. Now I’m all for detailed checks if buying a shotgun, accessing large Social Benefit payments, boarding a plane and the like but for an hour wasting myself on a Bosu ball and a Leg Press?. Anyway she relented… on this one occasion, and allowed me entry after I gave her another card… my Debit card to pay the £3.90.

Pocklington Arts Centre – We Salute You

May 14, 2017

If I had two claims to fame, that I would peddle in North America to court celebrity, then the first is that I have shaken the hand of the future British King, Prince Charles and the second is that I went to the same school as Carson, the butler in Downton Abbey. The latter spoke beautiful English. That, I know, would have a bunch of Americans cooing that they ‘loved his accent’. Well this compliment can be returned because on a Thursday afternoon as I was sweeping the drive (welcome to rock n’ roll) and BBC Radio York interviewed Bennie Pete, the leader of The Hot 8 Brass Band. Bennie has a delicious Louisiana drawl acquired from being a resident of N’Awlinz.

Bennie was on the Afternoon Show promoting their gig at the Pocklington Arts Centre that evening. Pocklington is 15 miles east of York and is a small town of 8,500 folk who mainly use this little town as a dormitory whilst they work elsewhere. Around it is farming land and so if it had an economy that drove it then that would be it. Also within it is a prestigious private school that boasts William Wilberforce as one of its former pupils. He led a campaign in the first half of the 19th Century that led to the abolition of slavery in the British Empire being passed by an Act of Parliament in 1833. He’s not unknown in the USA as I actually cycled past a small town in Ohio called Wilberforce, named after him whilst heading to Nashville via the route of the Underground Railroad in 2015.

So listening to Bennie and his Southern tones I still had to pinch myself that Pocklington could attract such international acts. In fact, Pocklington Arts Centre some time ago had become an important venue for Americana acts to visit whilst in the UK and I was so grateful that I didn’t have always have to troop to Manchester, London or Newcastle to see my heroes or heroines.

Hearing Bennie on the radio and then later that night on the stage made me think how special and unusual this place was and that I should write down its magic and the way it brought American music to East Yorkshire. Bennie between songs talked about their tour and how each venue was a new discovery in the UK. When the band pulled into Pocklington and saw its small market square, little shops and general mid 20th Century feel they were bemused. They were used to checking into a hotel and then using the Sat Nav to get to the venue for a sound check. To stroll across the street was a novel experience and they liked it. They also liked the packed 197 seat venue that danced, whooped and shook as they brought their jazz funk to this sleepy town. In fact we surprised ourselves!

Staying in Pocklington is what 95% of what the artists do, even Rosanne Cash, who’d wanted more upmarket accommodation in York was to be found eating fish and chips at one o’clock in the market square after her set. Such is the footfall of Americana legends to Pocklington that Rodney Crowell couldn’t be fitted in because Jim Lauderdale was booked for the night that he had spare on that tour.

If these Americana artists get together back in the USA I wonder if they talk about Pocklington Arts Centre? I think they might – not least because we’re thrilled and grateful that they brought their talent to us.

For me personally, I got to sit, my then 17 year old daughter, in the audience as Chris Smither captivated the audience with his wondrous Train Home album and not only could he play and sing but that insistent foot tapping was haunting. Lucinda Williams needed a bigger venue up the road but she brought her catalogue to an adoring audience as she reeled off the highlights of her recording career. Tift Merritt alternated between acoustic guitar and piano playing her own uplifting soulful Country. Albert Lee told us of his touring with an icon, Don Everly and lastly would Laura Cantrell remember a bloke rambling on about riding a heavily laden bicycle up 1900 feet to Panguitch Lake, Utah on a cold September morning listening to “Queen Of The Coast”? I’d like to think so because I will always treasure her impersonation of someone riding a bike.

Pockington Arts Centre we salute you.

Record Of The Week # 18

May 12, 2017

John Moreland – Big Bad Luv

John Moreland’s fourth album Big Bad Luv is the kind of slow burner that even on first listen you know contains a few years of pleasure up the road as you continue to discover further delight in the attitude, melodies, voice and not least the profound and expressive sentiments.

The music is crafted with Tchad Blake, who’s produced the Black Keys, U2, Bonnie Raitt and The Artic Monkeys (to barely scratch the surface), on the controls. The sound is understated rock with a blues tinge and so definitely Americana. On his web site they reference The Band and some of that quality and vibe is to be found not least with the organ on, maybe the album highlight, “Love Is Not An Answer”. It is the strong and handsome yet whiskey mellowed tones that captivate as he interprets his world-weary observations. This at least is my take on the verse content but Moreland himself says:

“At the very least my songs have been a way to exorcise negative feelings so that I can move on. And hopefully they provide that same experience to listeners”

‘Lies I Chose To Believe’ hooks you with a great melody but what an opening line:

                                                 “I’ve gone and lost my faith in photographs

                                                 Curse those martyrs that mark my past”

We’re in the presence of a poet as well as a tunesmith and no wonder Jason Isbell name checks this new album on Twitter. “Sallisaw Blue” starts apace and references Oklahoma, his current domicile as well as explains where the Big Bad Luv reference comes from (a neon sign!). A great start with a rolling gait before we take it down to “Old Wounds”… ‘don’t forget to love me in damnation’ may give you a clue as to the song content if the title didn’t. The lighter arrangement of “Every Kind Of Wrong” is acoustic with occasional tasteful slide. “No Glory In Regret” sees Moreland accompany himself also on acoustic guitar and he sings:

                                             “God’s been making deals

                                             While we’re down here spinning our wheels

                                             And using up our little share of luck”

Whilst all eleven of the tracks engage and the album certainly remains strong for the duration the record finishes with “Latchkey Kid”. This beautifully reflects on his previous life as that child with the key but lately:

                                           “And when I look into the mirror, now I see
                                            A man I never knew that I could be”

A real pleasure

(Lastly, this is definitely the album sleeve of the year so far. Love it and maybe I’ll search out the vinyl!)

Record Of The Week # 17

May 10, 2017

Wishbone Ash – Argus

On December 15th 1972, for a cost of 60 pence, I was sat on an elevated platform (where the Orchestra usually sat) , next to the stage, at Leeds Town Hall where after an opening set by The Average White Band on strolled the band of the moment, Wishbone Ash, debuting their earlier April release – Argus. This record not only became an album of the year but also became one of the seminal rock guitar albums for anyone born in the 50’s. 

As they reached their third album then the ‘sound’ had been honed and the twin guitar passages and harmony vocals became their signature. It helped to have the Production and Engineering skills of the team behind the then stellar Deep Purple at the helm. Add lyrics about medieval warriors complemented by fluid and intoxicating guitar solos then you have the ingredients for bliss. Rock can often rely on the shock and awe of electric guitar and a driving beat to become memorable but this album’s longevity also leans heavily on melody and some exquisite musicianship best illustrated by “Leaf And Stream”.

It wasn’t an era when ‘progressive’ rock bands sought singles but “Blowin’ Free” would maybe their ‘greatest hit’ and the delicious chorus is pure summer apparently written about a Swedish girlfriend of band member Martin Turner. If there was ever a BBC Radio 2 record that you could imagine a few million blokes of a certain vintage telling the wife to shut up as he cranked up the radio on the weekly car trip to Tesco then this is the one.

Today the band still tours in two guises – one is led by lead guitarist Andy Powell, who flourished – every 17 year old’s air guitar fantasy – a Flying V back in the day and the other incarnation is led by original bassist, Martin Turner. I’ve seen both and if you have the chance to see either then you will be rewarded. The band has had many line ups over their career but only these two members tour playing the catalogue. However, whilst that may in theory damage the authenticity then I believe that the enthusiasm, energy and slavish note perfect adherence to the original wonderful records of new members can make the experience better.

In fact I can well recollect, sometime in the early Noughties, spilling my pint at Fibbers in York as I punched the air when the chorus came back in on “The King Will Come”, a slow burning anthem with some intricate guitar passages.

If the combined talents as musicians and songwriters elevated this album to iconic status then the twin leads of Any Powell and Ted Turner set the pace but the insistent and complimentary bass of the other Turner is not to be under estimated – listen to how it drives and solos on “Sometime World” and then note its rough and attractive tones on “Blowin’ Free”. Sticks man, sorry I’ve slipped into Sounds 1974 mode err… I mean, drummer, Steve Upton has his subtleties as well as brawn as witnessed on standout “Warrior”.

As another rock band of the era opined then be good to yourselves, put this album on NOW!

– For the former Member of Parliament for Thurrock (1987 – 1992)

Plums, Boiling Water & The FBI – Week 19 : 2017

May 10, 2017

Well the bad news is that I’ve watched the 52 episodes of House Of Cards and finished Season Four with nothing left. However help is at hand as those nice people at Netflix unleash Season Five at the end of May. Given the surreal politics all over the world at the moment and not least in Washington DC then this epic story about a US President, which involves murder, betrayal, sacrificing others, money laundering, occasional sex and attempted assassination makes complete sense. Until it comes out then I’m watching Better Call Saul.

The politics drags on and is so dull that the lovely BBC led on the sacking of the Head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation tonight. Frankly who in the UK cared? Given that we are in the middle of a General Election campaign then somehow you’d think that the FBI, an institution that about 70% of the UK population couldn’t identify, wouldn’t be the lead item unless you obsess about Donald Trump.

We visited Skipton on Saturday and enjoyed the market. Boy was it cold, I had to buy a hat (not much hair I’m afraid) and yet today it was scorching and shorts were worn and more importantly the hood was down on the Morgan. I cannot remember the temperature fluctuating so dramatically in a day or two.

Skipton should be a sleepy farming market town in the Dales but it still surprised with the market stalls. One selling old vinyl LP’s – where else can you get an old Millie Jackson album for £3 and Asian vendors with their young lads, beside them learning the trade, selling just about anything. We bought plums and strawberries. After this excitement we went on a barge trip on the Leeds Liverpool Canal where we learned about its mill history during the Industrial Revolution. The trip home was via Ilkley where we stopped off at the sensational The Veggie for lunch. Frankly, if everyone went there for a meal then it would be a threat to future meat sales. Wonderful place… oh, that Portobello mushroom burger was beyond bliss.

The present Mrs Ives still can surprise (and worry me) after 30 years of marriage. I had had breakfast when she appeared in the kitchen and emptied a recently boiled kettle of its water and refilled it? So I enquired as to why you’d throw away recently boiled water rather than just re-boil it? Apparently re-boiled water has a detrimental affect on the flavour of her coffee. Yup, me neither…