Thursday, 30 January 2014

Kitchen Talk

Before Christmas a new neighbour came to dinner. She enthused about our kitchen, which she described as a bang-up-to-date retro gem. I'm not sure whether she was being kind or whether she really meant that, because I've since seen her kitchen, which is a wonderland of open-planned elegance, with round basins recessed in marble worktops, questing taps like cranes' necks, and discreet utilities concealed behind panelled doors.

Retro ours is. I suppose it was the first generation of fitted kitchen, in that the sink is built into a cupboard unit which matches a similar unit on either side. The cupboards and drawers are a mushroomy cream colour. The sink unit has 'Dairymaid' written on it in cast metal, cursive script, like something on the boot of a 1950s Cadillac. And indeed, inside one of the cupboards, recorded by the sort of office stamp that had rubber belts turned by knurled wheels, is stamped, '23 February 1959'. The sink is stainless steel and the worktops are Formica, patterned, on close inspection, with tiny, ochre leaves.

The shelves and cupboards either side of the chimney breast date from the 1930s, when the house was built. There is a cream-coloured Standard 1941 Model C Aga cooker, a second-hand 1970s electric cooker inherited from neighbours, a scrubbed deal table, upright Victorian windsor chairs, and a bookcase for cookery books made from one of the children's bunk beds.

When we visit other people's houses and admire their newly refurbished kitchens, I have pangs of conscience that the Social Secretary has never had her own new kitchen. But then, none of my family ever had new kitchens. Their kitchens were practical, and cosy, and worked. None aspired to be show-pieces. They were about function, not fashion, and Vermeer would have felt at home in them.

In 2006 The Department of Communities and Local Government published 'A Decent Home: Definition and Guidance for Implementation'. It identified 'a reasonably modern kitchen (20 years old or less)' as one of the criteria defining a decent home. As our kitchen had its last make-over over half a century ago, I guess that officially we don't have a decent home - except that, apparently, 1950s kitchens are back in fashion, and there are people out there stripping out the so-yesterday granite and stainless steel, and putting in Formica just like ours.

I read that kitchens can be expected to last ten years. According to Which the average cost of a new kitchen is £8000. This means that not replacing our kitchen since the 1950s has saved around £40,000. It's also reduced quarrying, deforestation, ore extraction and consumption of petrochemicals. Granite, for example, is one of the most energy-thirsty materials available, and it is currently being mined at an unimaginable rate.

Maybe green is the new granite.

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Here is the video for Kirsty's new single, 'Foundations' - produced by the legendary Stuart Epps, and set to photographer Mark Gee's breathtaking real-time footage of the rising full moon over Mount Victoria, New Zealand.

Monday, 20 May 2013

Songs are like children.

It must be flattering to have one's song covered. Kirsty's song 'Broken-Hearted' hasn't even been released yet, except in the video I posted a few days ago, but it's already popped up on a Youtube video from a cafe/brewery in Brive-la-Gaillarde, in the Limousin area in France. I gather the performance was unpractised and the violinist hadn't even heard the song before, but I think it's charming.

I suppose songs are like children; you go through a trying confinement, give birth, and then one lets them go and they take on a life of their own (or not!).

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Eurovision 2013

Of course we can’t win. We won’t ever win again now, with the politics of it all. And we tell ourselves that we don’t even want to, which we do, and that it doesn’t matter, which it doesn’t, and that of course we never watch it because it just makes us angry and it’s not the kind of thing one admits to…but a lot of us will.

So here’s to Bonnie Tyler tonight, with her post-operative gravel voice, still rocking at my age. She’s earned a place in the Rock Hall of Fame several times over, but most of all for ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’. The 1983 video, appropriately filmed in Holloway Sanatorium for the Insane, still works, and the song remains one of the biggest grossing singles of all time.

Go Bonnie.

Thursday, 16 May 2013


Daughter Kirsty's new single 'Foundations' has just been released. It was recorded and mastered in his Cookham Studio by legendary producer Stuart Epps (Elton John, Robbie Williams, George Harrison, Bill Wyman, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, Paul Rodgers, Mark Owen, Barry White, Kiki Dee, Paul Weller, Oasis, Led Zeppelin, Bad Company, Twisted Sister etc.). He's done a good job and so has she; I think you'll like it.

You can listen to the song on Stuart Epp's website. Turn up the volume and enjoy.

Available on Amazon here for a paltry 69p, and it should be on iTunes in the next few days.

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Julian Williams

In an OCD sort of way I've been cataloguing the various pictures I've bought over the years. In the attic I dug out a small roll of pencil sketches of ballet dancers I bought from an art student in Covent Garden Market in the 1980s. I fell for them at the time, but somehow never got round to doing anything with them, and they've suffered a bit in the meantime, which makes me a bit of an iconclast, I suppose.

I asked the artist for his name when I bought them. He replied that he didn't sign his sketches, so I explained that I wasn't expecting that, but wanted to remember who had drawn them. He wrote his name and address on the back of one of the sheets.

Recently the internet enabled me to track him down. His name is Julian Williams. When I met him he was studying at the Sir John Cass Art School in London. He now lives in the rather splendid Lampeter House in Pembrokeshire, where he runs a publishing company, ‘Two Bad Mice’ and with his wife Mami hosts operatic concerts in the grounds each year.

I was right to buy those sketches; he draws beautifully. This is one of many sketches he did this week on a short break in Venice. It is a family of French tourists he saw in a square; I hope he won’t mind me posting it.

I particularly like a series of drawings and story he did last year, called ‘The Mouse Olympics’, which you can visit here. It deserves to be published, so if anyone reading this agrees and knows the right sort of publisher…

Thursday, 9 May 2013


New video of daughter Kirsty's song, 'Brokenhearted' just completed. This was filmed and produced by the talented writer, director and cinematographer James Crow, who wrote the screenplay for the 2012 film 'GBH' set in the London riots of 2011, which starred Nick Nevern, Kellie Shirley and Steven Berkoff amongst others.

This song reached the semi-final of the 2012 UK Songwriting Contest.

Kirsty MacLeod - We'll Be Broken Hearted Again (Music Video) from James Crow on Vimeo.