Ho Ho Ho…

A couple of weeks ago, Chris Youlden, Mel Wright and I met for a drink. Last time we met, neither Chris nor Mel were drinking. I’m glad to say that when I arrived, late of course, they both had drinks in front of them. Suddenly, I felt I was in the right pub. Mel is engaged in writing another part of his Hastings trilogy, so he brought us up to date with that. Chris is on the mend, though there are setbacks from time to time. His leg swelling had eased somewhat though the skin eruptions continue. He has to go to the hospital twice a week at present. He’s hoping to be well enough to do the gig at the Chippenham in February. Let’s hope the treatment continues to work and that he can join us.

A few day’s later, I did a gig with Jim mercer’s band Ella Speed at The Magic Garden (formerly The Secret Garden) in Battersea Park Road.  It’s an interesting pub, and is set up for music well enough, with a stage and lighting, a sound system. and an engineer. It also has an appreciative crowd of regulars, so it has all the makings of a great gig. It also has regular events and has been going great guns for a few years now. I certainly enjoyed the place and the gig.

As for today, I’ve got the turkey in the oven and the kids, grandkids and great grandkids are coming around later so another enjoyable family gathering is underway. I merely start proceedings and Gigi, Jessica and Elinore do all the donkey work. I have just given a friend a lift to do his meals-on-wheels Christmas deliver and will pick him up after he finishes when he will join us for the meal. As for New year’s eve, The Johnny Nikki Band is on at the Chippenham so I shall catch them there. Incidentally, our gig there is on the 21st February at 9pm and it is free, so I hope to see a few people there too. The first of the family are ringing the doorbell right now, not a jingle bell one, but time to wish everyone a happy Christmas. Enjoy yourselves!

The Alley Cat Bar

December 10, 2013
6:00 pm

Ella Speed,

Happy Hour blues at The Alley Cat,

4 Denmark Street, London W1.

Near Tottenha, Court Road Underground.

6pm till 8pm

Before I forget…

I managed to miss the last Ella Speed gig at the Alley Cat Bar by simply misunderstanding when they were taking a break from the fortnightly residency. However I did manage to catch another gig by a trio led by Dan Nash, a singer guitarist, who has a great repertoire of blues songs. It was just by chance that I was in the Chippenham hotel at the end of my street that night and it was a pleasant surprise when they came on. I highly recommend them. His web address is


I did remember to go to a previous gig at the Alley Cat though it wasn’t the Tuesday residency but was in fact a late one with various other acts. It was well attended and the audience were enthusiastic. We’re there again on the 10th of the month so I shall probably manage that one, age permitting. We’re also doing an Ella Speed gig at The Secret Garden in Battersea on the 15th.

Despite all the claims that the economy is improving I’m finding just the reverse as my overdraft limit has just been reduced. Needless to say I was not amused. Of course I could give up drinking but back in the real world I can’t see that happening. My newest excuse for going to the pub is that I get to see my seven week old Great grandson Harley there from time to time. So far he’s not on beer but he definitely licks his lips when I down one…

Art and about…

The other day, I was stopped in the street by a couple of neighbours who recommended an art exhibition at a nearby canal-side church, St Mary Magdalene’s. They told me that the exhibition was well worth a look and also the vaults of the church where the exhibition was being held were really fantastic. Armed with this information, I duly persuaded  my partner Gigi to pay a visit with me. We were not disappointed.

As we arrived we ran into the artist, William Stevens, and had a brief word before entering. The works, “The Drovers“, are based on the imaginary clash of 19th century cattle drovers entering modern day London. The artist had travelled in Central Asia where he had encountered a current culture similar to that of the old drovers of Victorian times. The result is a reflection on history, fantasy, and modern urban life on the streets. The exhibition is on until the 29th October from midday until 5pm. In addition, the vaults themselves are also spectacular. St Magdalene’s is a fine neo-Gothic church and somehow is a very appropriate setting for the display.

After the exhibition we went to the nearest bar, no surprise there, where we sat with our drinks under an awning beside the canal, watching the interloping Canada geese passing up and down, without, I hasten to add, the ushering of drovers. I was suddenly reminded of my first full-time job. I had worked on a dairy farm and on a few occasions I had indeed driven cattle through the streets of Hereford, from the Cattle Market to a farm on the banks of the River Wye, just outside town  I had completely forgotten these incidents. Must really be getting old.

On the subject of getting old, My annual birthday bash went really well, though there were some late arrivals who thought that the gig went on after 11pm. Well it did a bit, but not intentionally planned. I really enjoyed it and the audience was very appreciative. Once again I want to thank the band and the guest musicians. Photographer Tim Holt was in attendance and I’ve just received  his archive gallery of the event. You can access the photographs of the night on his website: http://phatfotos.co.uk/shakey/Shakey_et._al./Welcome.html

The Alley Cat

October 6, 2013
8:00 pm

Ella Speed with Jim Mercer and Shakey Vick

At the Alley Cat Blues Night.

Sunday 6th 8pm

Four acts on  £5 on door.

4 Denmark Street W1

Paris Blues

I would like to thank everyone who sent birthday wishes via facebook and cards. I’ll be having my birthday bash at the Chippenham Pub in Shirland Road this year. The pub is at the junction with Chippenham Road. The band will be Alan Vincent on guitar, Jim Mercer on vocals and bass, Mel Wright on drums and John Lewis on keyboards. Chris Youlden can’t guarantee to be there as his health problems don’t seem to be getting any better, but I’m expecting a few guest musicians along. The gig will be on the 12th October starting at eight in the evening. It’s actually about ten days after my birthday but that has nothing to do with old age. As for my actual birthday, well that’s another story.

In fact, Gigi had to go to Paris for the day on business so I  went along with the idea of  having a celebratory meal there before returning to London.  We started off by almost missing the Eurostar from St Pancras because of traffic problems but we just about made it by switching to the underground mid-journey. The business took place in the garment district of Paris but went on much longer than planned. This was not a secret plan to keep me out of bars, or so I was led to believe. Any way the business finished around six thirty and we went to a nearby café  for  much needed refreshment of  French cheeses and wine.

Then the evening got a little out of kilter. We decided to make our way to the Gare du Nord terminus and have a meal in the vicinity before boarding the train. A simple plan which went slightly wrong when we met by chance a couple of friendly Australian ladies and fell into conversation  punctuated by a bowl of  very spicy olives interspersed with the odd glass. That was when we realised  it was time to make our way to the station. After much huffing and puffing we arrived just in time to watch the last train leave. We were given a couple of goodwill ticket changes  so that we could catch the first train out the next morning.

Time for plan B. A couple of phone calls to London  to let people know of a change of the next day’s  arrangements  followed by a decision to find hotel and then get my birthday meal. We didn’t have to go far and checked in then went to a nearby restaurant and ate. And so to bed at about half one in the morning. We awoke not so bright and breezy at six for the journey home. Suffice to say we did not miss the train.

The Chippenham Hotel

October 12, 2013
8:00 pm

The Shakey Vick Band

The Chippenham Hotel

Junction of Chippenham Road and Shirland Road.

8pm Free

Shakey’s annual birthday bash

Buses: 6, 187, 228, 31, 328, 414

The Alley Cat

October 1, 2013
6:00 pm

Ella Speed

Jim Mercer’s blues quartet with Shakey Vick

The Alley Cat

4 Denmark Street W1

6pm Free

Not so tired…

Recently Bettye LaVette did a gig in Chelsea at the Under the Bridge club. She had recorded one of Chris Youlden’s songs, “I’m Tired” so Chris and I went along to catch the show. She duly performed the song and later we met her backstage, thanks to the auspices of Kevin Kiley.  She is one of those performers who never seem to get proper recognition until late on in their career, but she is a great singer with a sense of irony and knows how to put on a show. She has a good band too, who supported her well. She then finished the evening with a solo vocal, with a gospel tinge which emphasised how exceptional a voice she has. A fine evening.

I did another gig with Jim Mercer’s band Ella Speed at the Alley Cat in Denmark Street on the following Friday and that went pretty well too. Pete Miles sat in on drums and did his usual great job and there was a friendly crowd too, so I thoroughly enjoyed the evening there also.

I didn’t get to Notting Hill Carnival this year for the first time in years, so I don’t know how it went, but there seemed to be a lot more people there from what I’ve been told.  Gigi and I had other things arranged but there’s always next year. However we did manage a post |carnival party along with Jon T-bone Taylor and other friends at Jason’s annual shindig. He does the website for me, but his other talents as host and chef did the trick. Well, as I’ve fully recovered, it must be time for a drink…

The Alley Cat

July 11, 2013
8:00 pm

Ella Speed

The Alley Cat, Denmark Street, Soho.

Doors open eight.

Jim Mercer’s band  with Shakey Vick, Peter Parker and Sakura Mori.

Chris Youlden improving

I gigged at the Alley Cat in Denmark Street with Jim Mercer’s band. It was during the happy hour as usual and eventually people arrived and got happy, well they applauded boisterously, so I guess they were happy. I remained sober which does not mean I was unhappy. We are going to do a less than happy hour on Thursday 11th July starting at nine in the evening or at least after the happy hour which ends at eight. Jim has finally decided on a name for the band which is Ella Speed an old Leadbelly song I believe. The line up is Jim Mercer on vocals and guitar, Peter Parker on Bass, Sakura Mori on drums and myself on harp and vocals.

Last Friday I met up with Mel Wright and Chris Youlden for a tipple or two. I did the tippling because the others were on non-alcoholic beverages, Chris because they’ve finally tried an antibiotic which seems to be working and Mel for whatever reason, (sanity probably…I daren’t ask). Chris’s leg is still badly swollen, but the virus seems to be responding to the new medication. He promises to drop in at the Alley Cat when he’s properly recovered. I look forward to his recovery.

Last Saturday’s gig at the Red Squirrel went well, despite the opposition from Glastonbury and sports on television. The band played enthusiastically and we had a couple of sitters -in…Natalie, who did a tasty version of “Mustang Sally” and Eddie Gee, who did a spot on harp and vocals. It was a very lively party crowd which meant lots of drunkenness. I didn’t want to be the party pooper so after the final set I too joined in the revelry, or boozing as some people might call it. As the rest of the band were driving, I had to dispose of the band drinks which had been bought for us. Well we’ve all got do our bit haven’t we. We are all in it together, right?