Leo Kottke – Jack gets up (and once in a while the wind blows)

I am writing this Post from a new home.

We have exchanged the woods and swooping Hills of Surrey for the heaths and lakes on the edge of the glorious South Downs.

New home. New School. Packing up. Moving on. Moving on up.

Actually 39 steps up.

Which seemed, when we first viewed the apartment, a good way to get the heart pumping and the blood pressure lowering each time those 39 steps were climbed.

But. But. Carrying 2200 books up those 39 steps proved a little more than a toning exercise.

Consider the equation.

2200 books times 39 steps equals one very tired hombre!

I’m not even contemplating the Vinyl issue.

I never have trouble sleeping.

But last night you’d have to measure the time between my head hitting the pillow and me lying in the arms of Morpheus in micro seconds.

A full fathom five sleep caressed by whispered dreams.

A sound spiralling and spiralling in and out of consciousness resolving at 6am into a name.

Jack. Jacques. Jack.

And, as always with me, a song.

Not take me right back to the track Jack.

Not you go back, Jack, do it again.

Not hey Jack Kerouac.

No,  the song Finnegan flowing through my dreaming mind was ‘Jack Gets Up’ by Guitar maestro Leo Kottke.

Oh, oh, oh .. you know just how I feel Leo!

‘Everyday in the morning when you get up and you crawl out of bed
And you crawl out of bed and you crawl out of bed
Everyday in the morning when you get up and you crawl out of bed
And you look at the moon where the window is
And the stars shine, and the stars shine, and the stars shine
Everyday in the morning when you get up and you crawl out of bed

You crawl out. You crawl out. But the Moon and the Stars shine.

It’s another day of your life.  Fresh white paper to leave your impression on.

Leo Kottke has been places and seen things carrying his guitar all the while.

He has developed a masters command of his instrument playing with a rare combination of finesse and feeling. Now, when you’re trying to hold an audience with self composed instrumental music it helps if you can tell a few stories too.

As shaggy dog stories go it would be hard to beat, ‘Jack Gets Up’. It exercises a hypnotic hold on your imagination as your mind knots itself trying to disentangle meaning and meanings from the lyric.

The allusions and resonances will appeal to each of us according to our different characters and histories and our capacity for daytime dreaming.

Perhaps we are all asleep in the same dream. But, whose dream? Whose dream.

I know well that feeling of seeing your Father’s face in he mirror and the thin grin … the thin grin as you ready yourself for the challenges of the day ahead.

Every life has lots of lint in the pocket. You mean to clear it out but it builds up. It builds up.

And, where, oh where, are my car keys! Probably next to my glasses!

Life resolves down to a process of finding and losing, finding and losing – on every level from the most trivial to the most cosmically important.

Tears in the bank and the credit card we all know about.

Yet, and this is the glory of life; once in a while the wind blows and the heart winds and the heart winds.

The brown ground and the worms patiently wait for us all.

So today as you crawl out of bed leaving the snort fort behind remember that the stars are shining above you and the Moon will light your night as the Sun will light your day.

And, once in a while when the wind blows and your heart winds, your heart winds grant yourself a grateful wide grin.

May the wind blow for you today.

 

Hats off to Jack and Jacques:

It happens that, after Tom, Jack is my favourite male name.

So, I take this opportunity to thank  some of the Jacks and Jacques who have inspired and illuminated my life.

Jack Kennedy (you all know about him!)

Jacques Levy – Songwriter and Seer – ‘Isis, oh, Isis, you mystical child.’

Jack Nicholson – a couple of tequilas to the good I sometimes act out some of my favourite Jack Nicholson lines.  My absolute favourite, from The Last Detail, being:

‘I am the motherfucking shore patrol, motherfucker! I am the motherfucking shore patrol! GIve this man a beer.’

Jacques Tourneur – Film Director. He directed troubling thrillers and heart stopping noirs like  I Walked with a Zombie and Cat People.

Always playing at The Immortal Drive In is his classic Out of The Past (build my gallows high baby!) starring an unmatchable Robert Mitchum and the most fatale of all femme fatales Jane Greer.

Jack Johnson – World Heavyweight Champion and iconic African American.

Jacques Prevert – Poet, Screenwriter. A very cool homme indeed. His, ‘Paroles’ travels everywhere with me (yes – up all those 39 steps)

 

 

Jack London – A writer whose hallucinatory gift for narrative grows more impressive the more I strive to tell stories.

Jacques Anquetil – He sure could ride a bike!

Jack Kellett – He plays a mean guitar.

Jack O’Toole – He sure did like a pint!

Jack Kerouac – the Beat goes on. And on. And on.

Jack Lord – Book ‘Em Danno.

Jack The Ripper (whose real identity was of course ……)

Jack Elam – as soon as you see Jack’s name in the credits you can relax. One fine Western coming up!

Father Jack – ‘Drink! Feck! Arse! Girls!’

Jacques Derrida – What was he on about?

Jack Bruce – a true musician. Check out his Sings for a Tailor immediately!

Jack Palance – Boxer, Actor – in certain lights (principally the light of my imagination) I have been mistaken for JP.

Jack Teagarden –  He played sublime Trombone and sang the Blues with deep feeling.

David ‘Jack’ Hayes – Father and Son, fine men both!

Jacques Tati – if you ever need cheering up …

Jack Nicklaus – If you wanted one Golfer to play a round for your life …

Oh and as we all know … ‘There was no actor anywhere better than the Jack of Hearts.’

 

By Public Demand more Jacks, Jacques, oh and while we’re at it 3 Jakes!

Many of my faithful readers have demanded favourite Jacks & Jacques to be added to the Jukebox Rollcall of Honour. So:

Thanks to Cincinnati Babyhead for ‘Jack’ the Dog from The Band’s classic The Weight.

Thanks to Beetley Pete for Jacques Brel, the great Chanson writer and famous Belgian (more on him later)

Thanks to Elmer Gantry for Jack Doyle fabled Irish Boxer.

While we’re on Boxers how could I have left out Jack Dempsey!

Jacques Cousteau dove pretty deep!

Jacques Rousseau knew a thing or too!

Jack Benny played the Violin (though not on Desolation Row)

Jack Reacher’s out there somewhere waiting for trouble to clear up.

Jake Thackray had wit and style and wrote songs like nobody else.

Jake LaMotta – boy could he take a punch!

And to wrap it all up – ‘Forget it, Jake.  It’s Chinatown.

I happen to be a Swede myself – Sweden, Ingrid Bergman and Billy Bragg

We are spending two weeks of our summer vacation here in the delightful ancient university town of Lund in southern Gotland, Sweden. With its squares, cobbled streets, army of bicyclists and plethora of book and coffee shops Lund inescapably reminds me of my own Alma Mater, Cambridge. Like Cambridge Lund empties out in the summer as students return home or fill backpacks for exotic travel. Meanwhile the more well heeled professors pack their Volvos and head for their southern European Villas, Trulli and Gites.

As we stroll around the delightful Statsparken listening to the strains of a tango ensemble drifting over from the bandstand my mind, in holiday, ‘powering down’ mode idly rambles around my memory bank searching under the tags of Sweden.

The first outputs, unsurprisingly given my interests, are the names of a series of actors, writers, sports stars and musicians. First out was Ingemar Johansson who was briefly World Heavyweight Boxing champion in 1959/1960. I chuckled as I recalled that his,’ send the opponent to sleep’ right hand was variously christened, ‘Toonder and lightning’, ‘Thor’s Hammer’ and, my favourite, ‘Ingo’s Bingo!’


I’m sure millions of Swedes, listening on the radio to his first fight with reigning champ Floyd Patterson, must have let out a mighty multiple chants of Bingo! as Ingemar decked Floyd seven times in the third round to bring boxing’s premier crown home to Sweden!

Moving onto a somewhat more elevated intellectual plane my memory numbskulls next presented me with a series of powerful images attached to the name of Ingmar Bergman. I remembered that when programming the Sixth Form film club in the early 1970s I had insisted that we show Bergman’s intense masterpiece, ‘The Seventh Seal’ to balance out contemporary cult classics. Bergman was also my go to Auteur to demonstrate to prospective girlfriends that I was a deep thinker!

I was a little chastened to think that the next Swede in my memory download had not been the first – Raoul Wallenberg who was surely one of the great heroes of the twentieth century. Through a combination of bravery and immense resourcefulness he was principally responsible, as Sweden’s special envoy to Nazi occupied Hungary, for providing the means for tens of thousands of Jews to escape their inevitable fate in the Death Camps. His own fate, still in some measure mysterious, was to be captured, imprisoned and executed by the Soviets. His name and the light of his life will live forever.

Of course being a devotee of Scandinavian noir fiction and film I fairly quickly brought to mind Henning Mankell and his moody, brilliant and affecting detective Kurt Wallander. Our family devotion was proved by taking the highly enjoyable, recommended, vintage fire engine borne tour of Ystad the scene of so many of Wallender’s cases.

That said my favourite Swedish detective remains Martin Beck the complex, introspective hero of ten magnificent novels by Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo. I also affect that when I wear my finest Saville Row overcoat that I cut a figure not dissimilar to that of the actor Mikhail Persbrandt when playing the role of Beck’s maverick sidekick, Gunwald Larsson.

I remain convinced that to be a poet is the highest calling in literature. So I soon thought of one of my own, ‘lifeboat poets’ (see forthcoming series!) Tomas Transtromer. His poetry deals might and main with life in all its human complexity. So he is a nature poet, a religious and mystical poet and a poet of everyday life. This is highly charged poetry creating a force field of words to capture essential truths. It takes a poet to say:

‘Every abstract picture of the world is as impossible
As a blueprint of a storm. Don’t be ashamed because you’re human – be proud!
Inside you vaults beyond vaults open endlessly
You will never be finished, and that’s as it should be.’

Tomas Transtromer died in March this year. Following the earlier death of Seamus Heaney it feels to me as if the tent poles of poetry have been felled.

Turning to the arena of music a plethora of names crowded into my mind each crying out for my attention. Jazz greats like saxophonist Lars Gullin and pianist Bengt Hallberg recorded music fully the equal of their American counterparts in the 1950s and they were the role models for a marvellous Swedish film about the jazz life, ‘Sven Klang’s Combo’.

This is some seriously cool music. I suggest you pour yourself an Akvatit and lean back in your easiest chair with eyes closed and let Lars and Bengt illuminate your spirit with their Northern sounds.

Ann Sofie von Otter is a mezzo soprano with a wide stylistic range stretching as far as a collaborative album with Elvis Costello!

It would be remiss of me not to mention ABBA – surely no one alive in the 1970s hasn’t lustily sang along to, danced along to and said (even if sotto voce) thank you for the music to Bjorn, Benny, Agnetha and Anni – Frid. If you’re too hip to appreciate the pop perfection of Abba I have to tell you buddy you’re too hip!

I should add that Agnetha’s 2004 album, ‘My Colouring Book’ filled with beautifully sung, heartfelt covers of 60s classics is a largely overlooked gem of a record you are strongly advised to investigate.

But, the song that kept bobbing to the top of my consciousness was not by a Swedish artist but a song about a Swede – ‘Ingrid Bergman’ a recording of a ‘lost’ Woody Guthrie lyric with added tune by Billy Bragg from the album, ‘Mermaid Avenue’ also featuring Americana kings, Wilco.

I should, in confession, say now that I lied when I said the first Swedish name that occurred to me was Ingemar Johansson. No, in truth one name kept flashing like a lighthouse beam illuminating my mind – Ingrid Bergman, Ingrid Bergman, Ingrid Bergman.

As her name and a succession of images of Ingrid played in my mind the soundtrack accompaniment was provided by Woody Guthrie’s lovely, sensual love letter to Ingrid touchingly performed here by Billy Bragg. Play it one time Billy!

Under two minutes long but expressing a world of emotion. Sitting in thrall in our cinema seats gazing at the vision of the soft, womanly, beauty of Ingrid Bergman generations of boys and men fell irrecoverably in love. In our dreams we would all have manned the oars willingly and set sail to the island of Stromboli oblivious to the risk of catastrophic volcanic explosion!

Ingrid benefitted from the genius of the great lighting cameramen and cinematographers so that her naturally fresh and intoxicating beauty literally glowed from the screen. However, for me, Ingrid in addition had a rare earthy quality that gave all the characters she played an approachable humanity who could combine moral strength with vulnerability.

I never thought of Ingrid Bergman as a ‘Goddess’ but simply as the loveliest, most heart and soul affecting actress to ever grace the silver screen.

‘If you’ll walk across my camera
I will flash the world your story’

Ingrid Bergman, Ingrid Bergman, Ingrid Bergman. Here’s looking at you kid.

Now the reach of this blog might not encompass the entire world (though over 150 countries so far is a good start) but it does definitely cover Britain and Sweden and I hope this short tribute from a Brit to Sweden and Swedes finds favour in both nations. We will definitely be coming back to Sweden.

Tak sa mycket Sverige. Vi kommer att se dig snart igen.

Note – in case you are wondering where the, ‘I happen to be a Swede myself’ phrase comes from I can tell you it was the typically disorienting reply from Bob Dylan in 1966 to Swedish broadcaster Klas Burling’s simple question, ‘Do You know any Swedes?’

The Immortal Jukebox : Where It All Began

Recently I have had some readers ask me where the title for my blog comes from and what the theme or mission of The Immortal Jukebox is. The simple answer is that the Jukebox is a hopefully entertaining vehicle for my musical enthusiasms across all the genres of popular music and popular culture that have obsessed me for the past half century or so.

I want to celebrate the great, discover and promote the neglected and tip my hat to the artists who have given me so much pleasure and enlightenment. When I started I started I had no idea if anyone beyond my family and faithful friends would be interested in reading my musings.

I am delighted to have found such a significant community of intelligent, lively minded readers!

Below is the original post on the Jukebox which might set my later ramblings in context!

Red and green and yellow – buzzing and glowing with the neon primary colour promise of dangerous thrills and illicit pleasures.

A sensual blow to the solar plexus when in wonderfully mechanical operation.  The chosen 45 is lifted from the racks and placed with a hugely satisfying clunk onto the turntable and then the arm housing the magic needle descends and …..   Two or three minutes of temporal and eternal bliss.  Play that one again!

Maybe the jukebox is in a roadhouse just outside of Memphis where a truck driver who loves ‘all kinds’ of music gets to hear the singers who can wrap up heartache and joy and project them through the vinyl into the hearts and souls of the dancers and drinkers and the quiet girls in the corner.

Maybe it’s in a dancehall in Hibbing where the iron ground vibrates with magnetic energy and the bitterly cold wind hits heavy on the borderline.  Here a tousle headed kid with a teeming head full of ideas and an unassailable sense of destiny has an epiphany when the lonesome whistle blows and he has no need to ask for a translation of Awopbopaloobopalopbamboom!

Maybe it’s in a coffee bar in Liverpool where two teenagers levitating with energy and talent and the desire to make the world anew can go when they are sagging off school and dreaming impossible dreams of songs with their names in brackets after the title.

Maybe it’s in Detroit where an ex boxer and jazz buff with enough entrepreneurial ambition to found an empire has figured out that the empire could be built on the talents of the hometown teenagers of his own race – once he had organised them.  He understood that the white world was waiting, unknowingly, for a vision of a young America that he could manufacture and supply in the form of a production line of vibrant, electrifying   45’s … Are you ready for a brand new beat?

More likely it’s in a thousand towns all over the globe where men and women meet to drink and laugh and cry.  Where they go to find love, laughter and sex and temporary forgetting.

On the jukebox there’s always that song … The one that makes the hairs rise on the back of your neck … The one that makes your heart pump faster and faster … The one that makes you ask the first time you hear it ‘Who’s that!’ … The one you’ll never forget as long as you live, the one that will always embody youth and hope and the promise of a better, bigger life.  The one to play again and again, learning every word , every riff and lick, the one you saved up to buy to play at home as loud as your neighbours would allow.

The Immortal Jukebox will celebrate 100 of those records.  Not the 100 best records of all time or my hundred favourite records.  These will be a 100 records that would turn your head when you hear them come blasting out of those jukebox speakers.  A 100 records that sound great whether you are drunk or sober.  A 100 records that pull you in whether you are in the giddy throes of new love or bemoaning the love you have just lost.  A 100 records to give you hope or consolation.  A 100 records that would have you reaching in your pocket for the money to play that song again.

Moments, Moments, Immortal Moments

Sometimes it might take just a single beat of your heart. A lightning strike seared into your memory: something really crucial has happened and whatever happens from now on it will be in the shadow of this! Maybe it’s the first time alone together when she called you by your name and it felt like a new christening. Or the time your toddling son folded his hand into yours without thinking as he looked for stability and security on the road ahead.

Sometimes it might take years; the slowly dawning realisation, (like a photograph emerging from the darkroom) that it was that moment, that event, which seemed so trivial at the time, where a new course was set that’s led you to your current harbour.

Moments, moments, moments. Our lives in our imaginations and memories are never a complete coherent narrative but rather a silvery chain of moments: some cherished and celebrated some sharply etched with pain and sorrow. Some where we have the starring role in the drama others where we are strictly extras in the shadows at the edge of the stage.

The older we get the more we learn that some of those moments have become our own immortal moments: the moments we will return to again and again, voluntarily or necessarily as we try to make some sense of our frequently clogged and chaotic lives.

And, when we shuffle through these moments we will find many have been supplied by our encounters with the music, films and books that have become part of the imaginative and emotional furniture of our lives. Snatches of lyrics and melodies from favourite songs that you find yourself unexpectedly singing; scenes from films that seem to be always spooling somewhere deep in the consciousness now spotlit in front the mind’s eye, lines of poetry read decades ago that suddenly swoosh to the surface, seemingly unbidden, in response to some secret trigger.

I remember the exact moment, as a teenager, when I idly picked up a dusty book in a rundown junk shop and read these lines:

‘ Thou mastering me God!
Giver of breath and bread;
World’s strand, sway of the sea
Lord of living and dead;
Thou hast bound bones and veins in me, fastened me flesh,
And after it unmade, what with dread,
Thy doing: and dost thou touch me afresh?
Over again I feel thy finger and find thee.’

The opening lines of Gerard Manley Hopkins’ epochal poem, ‘The Wreck Of The Deutschland’. Rooted to the spot I read the further twenty or so stanzas with my head and heart ablaze. I was aware of taking in only a fraction of the meaning and technique of the poem but I was absolutely sure that this was poetry of the highest order and that sounding its depths would be the work of a lifetime. I had made an emotional and spiritual connection that could never be undone and Poetry with that capital P was now a territory open for me, necessary for me, to explore. Strangely enough this was also the moment when I also glimpsed a future in which I might write poetry myself.

Similar thrilling encounters with literature, music and film now form a personal rosary of treasure in my life. I want to share just two more with you here today (I think I sense a series coming on!).

Marlon Brando and Eve Marie Saint as Terry and Edie in a duet scene from, ‘On The Waterfront’ from 1954 in pristine monochrome with wonderful cinematography by Boris Kaufman. This scene played with such truthfulness, tenderness and delicacy by both actors struck me very forcefully at the moment when first viewed and it has continued to bloom in my memory and imagination. If asked to give testimony for Marlon Brando as the greatest film actor of his time I would, of course, cite his thrilling physical presence and ability to dominate and take possession of the screen with special reference to, ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ but it is this scene that would win the argument for me. Brando here hits a peak of American naturalistic acting using the method techniques he had learned but without being imprisoned by them.

In this scene with humour, pathos and dignity and without a shred of affectation or disrespect he incarnates Terry as a living, breathing man who wins our sympathy, as fellow human strugglers, trying stumblingly to articulate our feelings both to ourselves and to those we love and those we yearn to love us. Watch the way his body language evolves through the scene as he realises Edie is intrigued by him and interested in him for himself. The way he picks up, plays with and finally wears her dropped glove (seemingly improvised) should be required viewing in every drama school.

Astonishingly, this was Eve Marie Saint’s film debut. The camera obviously loved her at first sight. As Edie she is a luminous quiet presence whose watchful stillness, intelligence and sensitivity makes it inevitable that Terry will fall for her and fall hard. She understatedly lets Edie’s dawning love for Terry emerge as something as natural as drawing breath. She believably illuminates Edie as a young woman with steel in her character as well as beauty and charm. Acting with Brando, even for someone with her accomplished background on stage, must have been an intimidating challenge but there can be no doubt that Eve Marie Saint matched and balanced him through every frame of celluloid on show here.

At some heartbreaking level we understand that these fleeting moments of intimacy shared in this scene by characters afflicted by doubt and bruised souls will be moments they will both need to recall in the painfully tempestuous times ahead. Maybe it’s an eternal truth as Dylan wrote that, ‘Behind every beautiful thing there’s been some kind of pain’. Few scenes in cinema history bring out the truth of this statement with more clarity.

Mink Deville, led by Willy Deville a pompadoured and preening singer (finger on the eyebrow and left hand on the hip!) who showed himself throughout a roller coaster personal and professional life to be a supreme rhythm and blues and soul song stylist. He had rasp and romance, swagger and sensitivity as well as presence and power in his vocal arsenal. I recall the moment of seeing him for the first time on the British flagship chart music programme, ‘Top Of The Pops’ in 1977 and jumping out of my chair to applaud this performance of the signature tune of his early career, ‘Spanish Stroll’.

Willy added sass, instrumental colour and wasted seventies urban elegance to the magic and mystery of doo-wop and Brill Building vocal group harmonies to create a wonderful record that creates its own bright shining world every time you hear it. His wonderfully liquid self regarding, shooting cuffs vocal is all strutting Latin braggadocio anchored in his assured rhythmic poise. Special praise is due to the mellifluous backing vocalists who wonderfully evoke the steam heat of a New York night on a tenement stoop as they support Willy’s imperious lead role.

I love the ringing tones of the guitars, the Spanish flourishes, the proto rap intervention by bassist Ruben Siguenza, the tempo changes and the dreamlike woozy character of the whole song. Most of all, most of all, I love and keep returning to the moment when Willy sings the line:

‘Make a paper boat, light it and send it, send it out now.’

Especially those last three words. Anyone who can make the heart leap with three simple words is an artist to cherish and revere. I’ll write a full tribute to this great late lamented talent in due course but in the meantime trawl Youtube for a series of magnificent vocal performances and load up your shopping cart with his albums. You won’t regret it.

Adios Amigo, adios.

Moments, moments, Immortal moments.

Footnote: Sadly since this post was written and published Lauren Bacall died. I dedicate this post to the memory of wonderful actress and hell of a broad who created more than her fair share of Immortal Moments.

An Interlude In Madeira

http://

This past two weeks I’ve been relaxing in the lush green Atlantic island of Madeira with my family. While soaking up the sun and sights (more anon) and catching up on the massive books to be read next list I’ve, as always, kept an ear out for interesting music.

The most charming and arresting musical experience I had here was listening to the fluid jazz guitar quartet led by Juan Calderado which plays regularly to the patrons of the delightful Ritz Cafe in downtown Funchal. Juan, a rhythm guitar partner and two percussionists lay down an entrancing mellow groove that seems to shimmer around them in the lovely Madeiran summer light.

While the repertoire is a straightforward mixture of jazz and superior pop standards the arrangements and performances demonstrate an acute musical intelligence and feel with real rhythmic and melodic improvisation giving each tune life and charm. Catch them if you can!

Madeira is of course a Portuguese province and the gentle lilt of that graceful language softens all conversations here. Portuguese is the language of one of my most beloved musical genres – Fado. This is a music of bruised pride and dignity; a music that understands that a passionate life along with the joyous rewards of love and family will also inevitably involve the wounds and scars of disappointment, regret and loss which no one truly engaged in the business of living can avoid.

The Portuguese term for the soul of the music is, ‘Saudade’ which encompasses longing and fate – forces we all know something about. Saudade involves an accommodation with those forces not a surrender – it’s music that doesn’t rage against fate but rather ruefully smiles at its presumptions accepting its lessons and storing the wisdom for future use. It is a music of a people who have known defeat more than once yet who remain undefeated.

The queen of Fado, Amalia Rodrigues, is a figure who stands comparison with the greatest divas of popular music : Edith Piaf, Bessie Smith, Lydia Mendoza and Umm Kulthum; artists whose work made them not just admired but loved by entire nations and cultures. They defiantly expressed, not without significant cost to themselves, a deep measure of the longings, joys and frustrations struggling humanity has to battle. We feel listening to them as if they represent our hearts and souls standing up and singing out in the face of life’s torrents.

Amalia Rodrigues is virtually a secular saint in Portuguese culture; a constant source of solace and resolve during times of conflict, depression and highly charged political ferment. She was a woman whose beauty and style marked her out as special and that was before you heard her extraordinarily searching and affecting voice. This is a voice that will engage with your emotions, wring your heart and linger long in your memory.

Travel Notes:

If you are ever planning a trip to Madeira there are scores of excellent guidebooks and histories that will help you enjoy your stay. My comments below are strictly unscientific and personal observations!

Driving:

The Portuguese drivers are tremendously avid tailgaters. They seem to be in competition with one another to see who can get within ten millimetres or so of the car ahead in order to force them to switch lanes so they can then roar off into the distance! Watching one of these operators loom larger and larger in your mirror is an unnerving experience. Move over and let them by.

Madeira is a land of mountains and valleys making for dramatic vistas and world class hiking trails. It also means that you will have to confront some heart stopping steep roads. Make sure your car has plenty of power and a smooth, secure gearbox. You’re going to be using first and second gear a lot and before you go brush up on your hill starts because boy are you going to need to have confidence in that skill!

Lizards:

If you’re renting a house or apartment you’re sure to find you’re sharing it with a menagerie of speedy, skittering and leaping green and yellow reptiles. The first time one appears its a rare person who won’t jump a few inches into the air. However, you soon realise they are harmless and doing you valuable service in keeping the insect population under control. By the end of two weeks here I had fondness for them and even gave one sprightly fellow his own nickname (Lightning).

Bridges and Tunnels:

Because of the mountainous terrain Madeira must be paradise for anyone who has an interest in the wonders of civil engineering. Millions of tonnes of concrete must have been poured to build the gorge spanning bridges and the deep bored tunnels. There’s a great photographic essay waiting to be completed on this theme.

Be sure to:

Take the wonderfully relaxing cable car ride from Funchal to Monte. The fifteen minutes or so you spend suspended in a comfortable cabin looking out and over Funchal, the mountains and the sea seems to makes time tick at a more proper stately pace. You arrive philosophically refreshed and in the right mood to wander amid the botanical gardens of Monte. You can take the cable car back down but I recommend swooshing down in the traditional toboggan ride powered by the steep slopes of the mountain and expertly steered by two costumed, ‘pilots’. It’s the only way to go downhill!

Visit the cave and volcano centre at São Vicente on the north coast of the island. First there’s a pleasant drive there from Funchal and once you arrive the complex is both beautiful and utterly fascinating. The caves are extensive and immersing yourself in them under the tutelage of a knowledgeable but not intrusive guide is a rewarding experience. The film and exhibition about the volcanic and geological history of the island have been brilliantly conceived and executed. If you’re anything like me you’ll emerge looking to buy a series of books on the subjects. Fantastic value at only 6 Euros!

http://

Imagine yourself as Ishmael (remember he alone survived) boarding The Peaquod when you visit the village of Canical where John Huston’s film of Moby Dick with Gregory Peck as the monomaniacal Ahab was filmed in 1956. I consider Moby Dick not only to be the Great American Novel but a monumental work which ranks alongside The Iliad, The Divine Comedy and Shakespeare’s Tragedies. The magnificent sonorousness of Melville’s heroic prose and the epic scope of his imagination never fails to thrill the mind and stir the spirit. I try to read the great work every year.

Once I’ve landed back home and caught up with the post and my domestic duties normal service will resume here at the jukebox. Hope you all enjoy your holidays wherever you venture.

Monochrome Memories: Britain In The 1950s

http://

Have Google, YouTube and your drink of choice ready and let the memories cascade!

(Other search engines and video sharing sites are available!)

Aldermaston, CND, BBC, TV Westerns, Sputnik, Burgess and Maclean,

Never Had It So Good, Teddy Boys! Hula Hoops, Derek Bentley, Oh Boy!

Jack Good, Michael Miles, Take Your Pick (You did say yes, didn’t you?)

The Goons, Who is the third man? The Sky At Night, Poodle socks,

Much Binding, Brains Tust, Tom Finney, Keep Off The Bomb Site!

David Attenborough, Brighton Rock, Don Cockell, Kenneth Horne, Llandow,

Mortimer Wheeler, The Great Fog! Polio, Jackie Milburn, Rock around the clock,

http://

Lynmouth Flood, Wealdstone Railway Crash, Four Minute Mile, Hydrogen Bomb!

Ducks Arse! Hilary and Tenzing, Coronation, Nuclear Power, Dennis Compton,

England’s Won The Ashes! Tommy Farr, Magic Magyars, Rachman,

http://

Riots in Nottingham Hill! Naked into the Conference Chamber, Mau Mau,

Malaya, Get Some In! ITV, Boom goes Bikini! Fanny Cradock, Jimmy Clitheroe,

Skylon, Films about the War, Morris Mini Minor, Tommy Cooper, Push and Run,

Festival of Britain, ‘He had a good war’, Victor and Hotspur and Hornet, The Mekon,

Gilbert Harding, Gilbert Ryle, Bertrand Russell, Tommy Steele, Skiffle, Sidney Miles,

It’s Trad Dad! Humphrey Lyttleton, Ken Colyer, 100 Club, Crane River Boys,

Lonnie Donnegan! Buster Crabbe, Angela Mortimer, Derek Ibbotson, Devon Loch!

Fred Trueman, Life With The Lyons, Take It From Here, Juke Box Jury, Busby Babes,

http://

Hancock’s Half-Hour! Whicker discovers the world! Under Milk Wood, Raymond Williams,

Pinky and Perky! Evening All, Cross at the Zebra, Klaus Fuchs, Laker takes all ten!

Six-Five Special coming right at you! Eamon’s got the big red book! Munich crash,

VHF, Quatermass, Muir and Norden, Galton and Simpson, Kitchen Sink!

Waiting For Godot, Cliff Michelmore, Coffee Bars, Don’t Look Back In Anger,

http://

Pillar Box War, Gunnister Man, Clyde win the cup! Stratocruiser crash, Eddie Thomas,

Cumbernauld, Auchengeich, Hibs Famous Five! Listen With Mother, Under Milk Wood,

Silverstone, The Archers, Korea, The Turing Test, Narnia comes alive! Corgi Cars,

Gormenghast, Dennis the Menace, ‘It’s an X!’, Easington, Randy Turpin,

Billy Budd, Study for your Os and As and you’ll get on, Pevsner’s Guides,

Watch out for the Triffids! Princess Victoria sinks, 10 Rillington Place, James Bond!

Matthews and Mortensen, Gordon wins at last! Piltdown Man’s a fake,

http://

Down With Skool! Ton Up Boys! Here come the Teenagers!

Maidie and Murray, Terry Thomas, Philosophical Investigations, Omo and Daz,

Let’s all look back at The Good Old Days! Now we can read Linear B!

Fings Aint What They Used To Be! Royal Court, Chiz, Diana Dors, Cliff Morgan,

Ash On A Young Man’s Sleeve, Aneurin Bevan, Empire Games,

No more rationing! Who do you think you are – Stirling Moss?

That’s all from Tonight for tonight – until tomorrow night goodnight!

http://