Stuart Constable's blog

A few words slung together

September 10, 2017
by Stuart
Comments Off on The Narrow Way

The Narrow Way

Ha! Another Ummagumma reference. The Narrow Way was David Gilmour’s solo bit. 

ANYWAY… the point is that I have not yet shared the interior of our home for this adventure.

This is the luxurious living and dining area.

Here is the kitchen, in full swing.

And that’s as far as I got before stuff happened and I had to stop. There were beds and toilets. 

Now, however we are properly home. It was fun, but frankly I’m knackered and very glad to be back.

Silver Fox out.

September 10, 2017
by Stuart
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Tiller girl

They call her Mellow Yellow. Rae did a hard stint along the Nene-Ouse link towards March. The wind was particularly tricky, but that was most likely because I made lunch. Heinz soup can be so capricious. We’ve both fallen in love with the sou’wester, but I think it definitely prefers her.

September 9, 2017
by Stuart
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Twilight Rae


We’ve moored at Hilgay, down a branch off the Great Ouse called the river Wissey. We can feel the end of our trip approaching; we have to be at Denver Sluice by 11.45 tomorrow. It’s only about an hour from here. The trip down the Wissey was winding and reedy, but hey, we’re old hands now. I forgot to buy steak in Littleport but Rae is a master improviser. Master? Mistress? Can I say that? Probably not. Bloody patriarchal language strikes again @Ruby @Lucy

September 9, 2017
by Stuart
Comments Off on Rhinos, Winos & Lunatics

Rhinos, Winos & Lunatics

If you were hoping for something about rhinos, or wine, then I’ve sold you short, I’m afraid. There is lunacy aplenty, however.

The heading is the name of an album by Man, one of my most favourite bands. Man are on my mind because I’m reading Deke Leonard’s books about them. And, while we were in Cambridge, I picked up the boxed set of the ‘Original Album Series’ in Fopp, featuring five classic Man live albums, including Live At The Padget Rooms, Penarth, and The Greasy Truckers Party, which was organised in part by my friend Matthew Trustman.

The thing about Man is that they straddle everything I love about rock’n’roll, except for heavy metal. When I say rock’n’roll, I mean all of rock music, which includes heavy metal, prog, actual rock’n’roll (now called rockabilly for some stupid reason), punk, disco, jazz fusion, pop – you name it, it’s rock’n’roll to those of us who’ve been in it a long time. Even those overblown, strutting public schoolboys Queen qualify, at the pop end.

Anyway Deke Leonard himself described Man as a rock’n’roll band, and if he says so, then that’s how it is.

The most important thing about Man is that they are Welsh. They play British-style proggy rock music, but they are massively influenced by the West Coast scene of the US – people like Quicksilver Messenger Service, Jefferson Airplane and the good ol’ Grateful Dead, who are THE band for me. Even more than Pink Floyd. Man, for me, have a bit of the very best of everything.

I was introduced to them by my old friend Debby Cooke (now Luxton) whose sister Janet was going out with a bloke called Dexter, who was into Man. Clear? Also, Ian Campbell, a near neighbour of ours who we used to give a lift to school – he was the same year as Steve – was a Man fan and, as I recall, saw them at Wycombe Town Hall.

Ian used to come and wait in our kitchen and I thought he was dead cool with his long hair and loon flares. Which made it all the worse when I came down for school in a lather of excitement about some new shoes I had to wear, which were possibly Wayfinders, with a compass in the heel. Anyway, I marched into the kitchen going, “new shoes, new shoes, new shoes” in a silly voice, only to find Ian standing there looking vaguely bemused. I never really recovered.

As usual it took me a long time finally to buy an album, and the one I bought is still a Desert Island Disc for me: Be Good To Yourself At Least Once A Day.

What a wonderful name for an album. It has a fabulous cover and only four long tracks: C’mon, Keep On Crinting, Bananas, and Life On The Road. Bananas and C’Mon are both classic Man tracks.

One of the reasons it stands out for me is the sound. Warm, slightly fuzzy, but comfortable and friendly. Terry Williams’ drums especially have a soft but no less insistent sound that kind of defines the whole album.

It was recorded at Rockfield Studios, where a lot of my favourite albums were made, including Hawkwind’s Hall Of The Mountain Grill, and Kingdom Come’s Journey, two other Desert Island albums.

I’ve encountered bits of Man as I’ve pottered through my little music career. Storm Warning played the club in Swansea set up by Terry Williams and Clive John, and Pete Brown, who accidentally hired me as part of the Krissy Matthews Band, usually worked with Phil Ryan on keyboards. That’s not to say I MET Phil Ryan, or even depped for him, but I was aware of his presence when working with Pete. Phil was the man who played the signature solos on Bananas and C’Mon.

Ken Whaley, who toured with Man, including an ill-fated American tour, worked with my brother as a journalist for a while, on the Islington Gazette. He signed my recording of Man’s BBC In Concert session, which included the best version of Deke Leonard’s signature 7171551 I’ve ever heard. But again, I never actually met him.

Most recently, I met Deke Leonard, guitarist, singer, songwriter and chronicler of Man. Derek White (Storm Warning bass) and I travelled to Cardiff together to see Son Of Man, the band set up by George Jones, son of Micky, the man who was Man more than any other man. Deke was guesting with them.

Well they played some of my favourite songs, including Bananas and 7171551, and Deke was in fine form, even though he was in long-term ill-health. Afterwards, he signed two books for me and chatted to me as like an old friend. A lovely feller. Not more than six months later, he was gone.

As he said that night (in a rich Llanelli accent that covers a multitude of oaths), “Why do the Gods always take the good ones? Why don’t they take Brian Ferry? Fuckin’ ‘ell…”

Funnily enough, Deke is not on Be Good To Yourself. It’s Micky Jones’ voice and guitar you hear soaring above things after Phil Ryan’s joyous solo on Bananas.

That was the thing about Man. People came and went, and went and came again and no one really cared. They just wanted to make music together. How lovely.

September 8, 2017
by Stuart
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Moor fun

Can’t actually remember where this is now. I think Friday evening at Isleham, ┬ájust before we discovered the dog track.

September 8, 2017
by Stuart
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The old man and the sky

Heading back up the Great Ouse, Lucy at the tiller. We’ve just pumped out our waste and taken on fresh water. All is well, despite the anxious moments when we first opened the valve.

We got a rare sight soon after this, of a pair of herons cruising above us. And then a blinkin’ kingfisher, which we had not seen for a couple of days.

September 8, 2017
by Stuart
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Norman is an island

After the Lemon Tree, we made a pilgrimage to Ely Cathedral. It’s a Norman cathedral, built after William’s conquering armies finally defeated Hereward the Wake. Hereward’s fighters defended the Isle of Ely for five years. It actually was an island then; the Fens were not drained until the 18th Century (I think that’s what our guide said).

The picture is taken from the nave of the cathedral from the west, so facing the altar. Up above you can see the ‘lantern’ tower, which dates from the 14th Century.

The original collapsed when the foundations were undermined by the building of a Lady Chapel. To rebuild the tower, they brought massive oak trees up the Ouse from Bedford, each one more than 300 years old. So the oak of the lantern has stood for more 1,000 years.

This is the Lady Chapel. The statue of the Virgin Mary was carved in Portland stone by David Wynne, the father of Ed Wynne of the Ozric Tentacles. I first heard the Ozrics when David Wynne chose Myriapod as one of his Desert Island Discs. They have been up there with Hawkwind and The Grateful Dead ever since.

And this, as best as I could manage, is the great organ of Ely Cathedral. The big decorative bit to the right is fake – purely decoration. You can just see some of the real pipes up on the second level.

Charles Handy bemoans the lack of ‘cathedral builders’ these days, by which he means visionary people who are prepared to start projects even though they may never see them finished. Such people are driven by causes greater than themselves. I wonder if the Gherkin will still be there 1,200 years from now?