My 50 Favourite Things (part 1)
On 22nd October 2014 I published my first Hub, so having managed to produce a further 48, I wondered what subject I should tackle for my 50th. Well, I thought, it has to be 50-something...
50 Ways to Leave My Lover
50 is the New 40
50 Knights in White Satin
50 Trombones in the Big Parade
50 Shades of Colin
50 Days in Peking
50 FatBoyThin Jokes
50...okay, I'll stop now.
So here it is - my 50 favourite things, in no particular order.
1 - Jez Lowe and the Bad Pennies
Folk singer and song-writer Jez Lowe is one of the most talented musicians in the UK, if not the world. I've seen him perform many times with and without his band (the Bad Pennies) and his words and music knock me for six every time. If you've never heard the man, seek him out and have a listen.
2 - Home Made Bread
I've been making my own bread since I started Hubbing and in fact my recipe for sourdough starter was the subject of my very first Hub. One of the things I really like is having to knead the dough - it's quite therapeutic, as it forces me to stand in one place and work at it for a full ten minutes. And even though my loaves don't always turn out the way I expect (sometimes a bit flat, sometimes a bit burnt) I love the taste.
3 - Playing My Guitar
These days I mainly play an old nylon-strung acoustic (or classical) guitar, as it's great for folk, jazz and the odd bit of Isaac Albeniz (and even an occasional burst of Black Sabbath!) It's also easier on the fingers so if I don't play for a few days, I can come back to it and enjoy a pain-free session. Mostly, I play folky stuff - Ralph McTell, Jez Lowe, John Martyn and Bob Dylan, but I like to learn new songs too, since no-one goes anywhere in a vacuum.
4 - Walking
I try to go for a least one walk each day, but our Scottish weather doesn't always make that easy. I'm not keen on venturing out in torrential rain, but I don't mind if the sun ain't got his hat on. I love walking, and even though I sometimes have to remind myself how much I enjoy it, once I'm out there, it's great and I can get lost in my own thoughts, or pretend I'm on the brink of a great story idea. And besides that, walking is a great way to keep fit and I'm a little overweight just now, so every chance I get is a chance to lose a few pounds.
5 - Radio 4
I realise that being a fan of BBC Radio 4 is a bit like admitting I'm a middle-aged, middle-class, chardonnay-drinking typical radio listener, but I grew up listening to the radio so programmes like 'Just a Minute', 'I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue' and 'The Afternoon Play' are somehow ingrained in my psyche. I also love the idea of voices in my head so I have to use my imagination. Radio drama showcases some of the best writing around and it's a great way to do two things at once. Which brings me to...
6 - Ironing
I started ironing my own clothes when I was about 12 years old. It wasn't that I particularly enjoyed it, or wanted to get down-and-dirty with domestic tasks, but simply because with three of us guys (me, my brother and my dad), my mum had quite a lot to cope with. Also, I thought I could probably make a better job of doing my shirts than she did (in fact, after a while, my dad asked if I would do his shirts too).
In any case, I still find ironing, like bread-making, somewhat therapeutic and it gives me time to think, or listen to Radio Four.
7 - Mask-Making
I've done a lot of mask-making over the years and have experimented with several different materials, including liquid latex, fabric and cardboard, but I've always loved papier mâché best. Years ago, while I was at university, I made a 'positive' image of my face out of plaster, then used it as the basic mould for every mask I made after that, knowing the finished mask would fit my face. Using clay to build up features (nose, mouth, eyes) on top of the 'face', I would model the character I wanted to create, then cover it papier mâché to make the final mask. Papier mâché is very hard-wearing and can be painted, varnished or decorated using different coloured tissue papers. It's also very messy and allows me to be a bit of a kid again. Yey!
8 - Books
There's a lot to be said for the way technology has moved forward over the last few years, and having the ability to carry several dozen novels around with you on an e-reader or whatever, is certainly a saving on luggage. However, there's nothing like a book, nothing like the smell, the feel, the weight of it in your hand, the different formats, colours, textures. In fact, you could write a song about it (with apologies to Rogers and Hammerstein):
There is nothing like a book,
Nothing in the world,
There is nothing with that look,
That is anything like a book!
I always have a pile of them on my bedside table, as well as at least one in whatever bag I'm carrying around. I read every day and have pretty eclectic tastes, so whatever I pick up next will be completely different to the one before.
9 - Writing
I've been trying to write since I left school. Well, obviously I started writing before that, but leaving school was the catalyst that pushed me towards doing something creative and (hopefully) meaningful. My first stories and poems were terrible and I continued to write absolute drivel for many years.
It was getting into drama and the whole idea around making theatre that really gave me what I needed, as it gave me an insight into how stories (good stories, that is) are created. Nevertheless, it's still been a hard slog and the odd bits of work that have made it into actual hard-copy printed magazines and the like, doesn't add up to a whole hill of beans. But as with all proper writers, I am, therefore I write.
10 - Cooking and Baking
I'm not sure if these are two separate things, but we'll take them as one for now. I've been cooking for many years - that is, putting stuff in pans and heating it up. Over the last ten years though I've honed my skills and can now knock up a pretty fantastic fish pie or a tasty meatballs and potatoes wedges that'll get the taste-buds a-tingling.
My baking skills on the other hand were pretty much non-existent until about a year ago, as I was always a bit scared of cakes (making them, that is, not eating them!)
10, 11, 12 and 13 - The Beatles
John, Paul, George and Ringo, in case you're the one person on the Earth who hasn't heard of them, were the four mop-tops who made up the greatest band in the world - The Beatles. From their beginnings in 1957 to their much-publicised break-up in 1970, the band wrote and recorded hundreds of songs that will always be a big part of what, for a lot of people, the Sixties came to represent.
I was only nine when the band broke up, so I'd only just begun to be aware of them in the early Seventies, but when I bought a copy of 'The Beatles Complete' sheet music, I was amazed at how many of the songs I already knew - as if they were somehow built into my psyche. Songs like 'In My Life', 'Yesterday', 'Help', and 'Octopus's Garden' seem as fresh now as they were back then.
14 - Festivals
It's been a few years since I was at a music festival, but I've certainly seen my fair share. The first one was Reading Rock back in 1979. I don't remember much about the bands I saw except that the line-up included The Scorpions, The Tourists, Nils Lofgren and Molly Hatchet. I went again the following year and saw Rory Gallagher, Slade and Iron Maiden, amongst others.
In recent years, I've checked out The Secret Garden Party, The Outsider, The Hop Farm and of course, the magnificent Edinburgh Fringe Festival. These days I'm not much of a fan of camping, so I prefer to go back to a nice clean boarding house or hotel after a day of music, comedy and movies, so it's unlikely I'd ever turn up in Glastonbury's famed fields of mud.
And the Rest?
14 down, 36 to go. Watch this space! (Well, not literally, obviously...)