Old Stuff Is Better Than Most New Stuff Blog

Her Indoors has been off in Weston-Super-Mare this weekend, earning honest dough by singing songs to the elderly in a holiday camp. As I knew I had The Gables all to myself today, I’d earmarked it for a Big Push on Getting Things Done. It’s half past seven in the evening now, and the tally for today’s achievements stands at somewhere near, but not quite, bugger all. Since the last instalment, it’s been a varied couple of weeks, the high spot of which, and I don’t seem to be able to get this out of my head, was a brief glimpse out of the intercity from Penzance into Paddington at around Slough, which revealed this-

This, Ladies and Gents, is the Horlicks factory, from which emanates many tons per day of crepuscular powdered bliss. I think that it’s the crenulations which do it for me, and of course the huge red letters on scaffolding. Though I don’t know for sure, I reckon that those light up at night, shouting their cosy message loud and proud into the night sky. A sort of comforting version of Speer’s Munich stadium. A stark and blissfully welcome change from the acres and acres of cost-dictated concrete and glass tedium which normally pass for industrial premises, the turn of the century creation of the Brothers Horlick must surely represent to the eastbound service as great a visual treat as the seaside track at Dawlish represents to the westbound. With that big chimney, this looks like a proper factory, and even has a whiff of the Wonka works about it. Best of all, rather than being converted into “A Stunning Development of Vibrant Executive Homes,” the Horlicks factory is still firing happily on all four, supplying its eponymous tincture to the empire. Horlicks from that very building kept Scott and his chums warm down in the Antarctic, it was consumed by Our Lads by the cubic mile in both wars, and was the staple drink of the 1948 London Olympics. I know Coke owns Christmas, but this is all pretty good stuff, especially as it all happened in jolly old Slough. Ha! Further proof that most old stuff is better than most new stuff.
Immediately prior to the Horlicks Factory Epiphany, I’d been down to the Yamaha Summer Jazz school in Falmouth University where I was to be the visiting Nob, hence the journey. My job was to take an afternoon masterclass and then put on an evening gig. They wanted to call it a recital, but I can only go so poncy, even on their generous budget. As Falmouth is only twenty miles nearer to The Gables than Cologne, I elected to go the night before. The big carrot here was the thought of 36 hours of campus life, all nice and removed from the real world, and so it was to be. Falmouth Uni is brand spanking new, all, erm, cost-dictated concrete and glass, but like any such place you surrender any responsibility for yourself on walking through the gate. Food happened in the food place, drinking went on in the drinking place, sleeping went on in the sleeping place, and jazz went on in the jazz place. No hoovering, no washing up, no emails or anything. Just jazz and consumption.

For the non-recital, I’d enlisted the help of three chums- here we are, halfway through. I guess the photo’s a bit fuzzy because no known camera could withstand the full torrent of the creative magma washing from the stage, but you may well be able to make out Nick Dawson at the piano, Paul Morgan on double bass and young Ed Richardson at the drums. This is a proper Olympic-standard rhythm section, and as everybody was getting the full Yamaha campus treatment, we all felt in the right kind of mood to play as hard as we could, which paid off well. Often, playing as hard as you can results in Sid and Vera on the front table looking at you as if you’d just had a wee in their family photo album, but here we’d forgotten the crucial fact that half our audience was made of students. Students who were out to really enjoy the jazz and who went beserk, especially when Paul, who is by far and away the fastest gunslinger in the west on double bass, did one of his impossible triplet runs up into, as bass players call it, the dusty end. It was Paul’s birthday that day too, and all of his new young fans bought him a drink afterwards. I didn’t see Paul the next morning, but I’m assuming he’s home by now. The following Sunday saw a trip to the Dunsfold airshow, which had been scheduled for months to be The Big Sight Of August, but got, as we know, unexpectedly pipped to the visual post by a suprise innings by the Horlicks Factory. It didn’t disappoint though, as all 180 thousand of us who went got to see this-

This is a shot I took of the only two flyable Lancaster bombers in the world flying together, just over me and Her Indoors. Gamely, she came along, as being a good Wigan lass any kind of a day out represents a treat, even if it does involve standing in a field with 179,998 be-anoraked men and getting that peculiar sunburn on the forehead and upper neck unique to airshows. The Lancasters were fabulous- somehow two of them is way more than twice as good as one, and even the space between them had become worth watching. The noise is quite something as well-the vibrations set up between two sets of four engines is as wonderful as it is indescribable, so I’ve put a YouTube link on at the end if you want to have a listen for yourself. This summer was the only time the two old girls would ever fly together, as one lives here and the other in Canada. As they flew over, the audience, all 180,000 of us, went silent. That was really quite a moment. We were also treated to the Vulcan, which as well as still looking inexplicably futuristic even though they started on it in 1946, laid on its usual party trick of putting on the reheat as it turns away from the crowd. This is a sensation akin to hearing and feeling old lino tiles being torn from a kitchen floor, but on a biblical scale- Here’s a photo- I’ll leave it up to you to make the noise yourself.

Croydon was the scene for more magnificent sights, as the day after the airshow we had a Jazz At The Philharmonic show down there in the Oval pub (Name, not shape), the highspot of which was George Hogg and Ryan Quigley doing the trumpet showdown on Sweet Georgia Brown. Echoing the Vulcan experience of the day before, when the show got to maximum speed and volume and the trumpets were at maximum altitude, the audience actually gave them a standing ovation while they were playing. I’ve never, in 35 years of playing, seen anything like it. I really think that we could get more jazz going by organising it like this- the boozer was rammed full again, with people standing four deep at the bar. It’s only a matter of making it really exciting and accessible, I’m sure of it.

Over on the Curry Underground, you may have noticed that I’ve invested in a new camera with which to document the various expeditions. As we had a nice dollop of quality suburban sunshine this afternoon, I took the opportunity to photograph some of the recent Fruits Of The Shed, which, with the Seaplanes Of The Axis Powers temporarily on the back burner, have taken the theme of Classic British Jets of the 1970’s. Thus on the Temporary Model Aerodrome, or piece of hardboard balanced on the roof of the Volvo, here they are. Taken on the last day in August, amidst the whirring lawnmowers, popping barbecues and the knock of willow on leather from the field over the road, I do understand that aeroplane-shaped bits of plastic are not everybody’s cup of tea, but whenever I put a picture of a plane on, the ratings go up. By thousands. It would appear that they are more popular than jazz, anyway.

Blackburn Buccaneer Mk.2, Fleet Air Arm

Detail shot inside cockpit- this took me ages!

Blackburn Buccaneer Mk. 2A, Royal Air Force

Hawker Hunter Mk. 6

Hawker Harrier Mk 3

McDonnell-Douglas Phantom FGR 2

Detail shot- again, weeks went by doing this- what a twit!

If you want to hear the Lancasters, have a look at this- it’s extra added value, as they are joined by the Vulcan. Absolute gold-standard aeroplane porn, this. see video

Remember, most old stuff is better than most new stuff.