We’re usually much slicker than this…

My attempts to prop up the failing Zuckerberg empire with my mildly eccentric posting, combined with its ability to direct its more discerning users to this even longer-form example of my “brand”, has caused me to acquire a certain degree of notoriety.  I suspect this is mostly local to the Southampton area, though as any content Liked by a Friend becomes accessible to that Friend’s Friends (and so on, to Kevin Bacon and beyond)  my nonsense may be spreading more widely than I realise.

There is a (heretical) school of thought that believes if a gig occurs in Southampton and I am not present, then it can’t really exist – however, this is not a universal belief.  In conversation after the Tankus the Henge gig on Thursday night, I discovered someone surprised to see me there – I think they expected me to only attend more high brow entertainment: how little they know me and the depths to which my brow is willing to sink!  At last night’s gig – of which rather more later – someone felt the need to explain, after I apparently gave the impression of recognising them from another recent event (in fact, I was staring vacantly into space at the time), that they weren’t following me.

I used to think that were I to shuffle off this mortal coil in my freezing garret, it would be many weeks before the smell of decomposition (slowed down my reluctance to use the heating) caused my remains to be discovered.  This no longer seems to be a major concern!  There was significant traction and amusement last night following a Facebook friend posting that they were at a gig in Southampton and I wasn’t there.  Despite my best attempts, I am still only able to be in one place at a time – though I am working on this limitation…

Anyway, my fame is such that this post was basically commissioned by one of its main subjects (and not me).  Yesterday evening, I took myself to the Art House and managed to find time between scoffing their delicious mince pies to attend a gig by guitar maestros and (probably still) friends Nathan Ball and Jack Dale.  It was Mr Dale who approached me before the gig began seeking a “review” in this infamous cultural institution – I made no promises, claiming it would depend on the quality of the content provided.  As this post will confirm, more than sufficient incidents of moment arose during the gig for me to let my fingers do the walking over the keyboard this morning.  Jack also proposed a title for this post, which I have not used – instead going with the most oft repeated phrase from last night’s fun!  His proposal was “An evening of stories”, but I feel my choice has more appeal to the click bait generation.

While the chaps are friends – and more as I will later reveal – some areas of contention did arise early doors.  Both musicians had CDs on sale at the gig and each played the title track from their musical momentos, but Jack was willing to significantly undercut Nathan on price.  I am unable to report whether this aggressive pricing was reflected in the volume of sales following the gig: sometimes premium pricing can act as a sales driver by suggesting a higher quality product…  For the first half of the gig, the chaps played tunes alternately with some attempt to link each tune thematically with its predecessor though I don’t think the long-running The Chain feature from the Radcliffe and Maconie show has much to worry about.  During this segment there was a notable divergence in use of the capo – with Jack making much more extensive use of his example.

My followers on Facebook will know that I have shown in interest in Mr Dale’s use of the capo and his opinions thereon over recent weeks.  After last night, I am starting to wonder if his use of the capo is an attempt to pass messages in code: either to his controllers in Moscow or Pyongyang or perhaps as a desperate cry for help.  Last night’s code was 35200223, but so far my crack team of cryptographers have been unable to decipher it.  He did also use three guitars – against Nathan’s one – and I wonder if these also have some meaning in the code.  This could be my big Dan Brown moment, a whole series of novels about a middle-aged white guy (me) deciphering the secret codes used by a cabal of guitarists and blowing open some global conspiracy (OK, I’ll admit it, I’ve never read anything by Mr Brown or, for that matter, his wife and their boys).

As well as giving me the idea for the Capo Code™, the gig contained significant intra-song conversation (whether ad-libbed or scripted was left unclear, but if the latter I feel I should throw my hat into the ring as their new scriptwriter) which brought a significant portion of the Ball and Dale back story to our attention.  We discovered that Jack had a surprising number of people called Nathan as best man at his wedding (two!), sadly the number of best men not called Nathan was not made explicit.  The other (better) Nathan(II) also had an important role as duenna, bringing our heroes together.  Back in the mists of time, Jack had stalked Nathan(I) for quite a while before they were brought together by his illicit covering of one of Nathan(I)’s songs.  Nathan(II), a drummer in Nathan(I)’s band, in an attempt to head of any incipient feud introduced Jack to Nathan(I) (I presume without raising any more alarming incidents of stalking: nothing was mentioned directly, but I feel binoculars and rifling through bins may have been involved).  One feud averted, he became an unwitting cause of another as Jack promptly poached him to drum in his band.

The gig also featured the traditional guest slot where a person is plucked randomly from the audience to play the B Minor piano accompaniment to Medicine.  Last night, John drew the short straw but managed to fill Patrick Ytting’s shoes (and indeed the rest of his clothes) in fine style.  I assume ‘John’ will, by now, have been poached to join Jack’s new musical venture as a drum’n’bass collective.

Following an intervention from the world viewing the gig from beyond the confines of the Art House (thanks Samuel, wherever you were!), the much maligned Wonderwall cover was discovered to have played a pivotal role in bringing the gig to the world.  It was shortly after Wonderwall was released, while seeing two fellow sixth-formers performing an early cover version, that Nathan was inspired to take up the guitar and his first guitar tutor was a book of Oasis ‘tunes’.  Despite this inauspicious start, his guitar skills were impressive – and his strumming technique much more in line with my own teachers’ opinions than Jack’s.

For the second half of the gig, Nathan played a few songs (mostly) uninterrupted by Jack  except for the stentorian sound of his heavy breathing, which even unmiked could clearly be heard above the amplified guitar and voice.  The gig closed with Jack accompanying Nathan on a lap slide guitar for the final few songs (well, that and quite a lot of tuning – but, we were reassured that this was atypical with the words quoted as our title).  It was a glorious of evening of music and fun – and yes, I’ll admit it, of stories too!  Almost the whole thing was recorded by Jack (from two separate camera angles) but the cameras ran out of storage space in the final song and so the gig’s stirring apotheosis will have been enjoyed only by those of us lucky enough to be in the room.  Slightly disturbingly, the feed from one of the cameras was continuously displayed on a large flat screen TV to my right – which given that I was clearly visible in the feed, could leave a chap feeling a tad self-conscious and even physically inhibited during the gig.  Living in the world’s most surveilled nation I am probably on camera for most of life, but I can’t usually ‘enjoy’ the footage in real time.  Hopefully, I refrained from doing anything too outrageous on camera (though I was sorely tempted): I guess time will tell…

If this post has a moral dimension, I guess it is to be careful for what you wish.  It also acts as a timely reminder that Jack Dale plus the Art House equals fun times!

Orange megaphone

“Where is he going with this title?” you may wonder.  The thought “Why has he been so poor at updating the blog of late?” might also have crossed your mind.  At most one of these questions will receive an answer (though not necessarily a satisfactory one) in the text that inevitably follows.

Southampton is a city of hidden delights.  Before moving here, I checked to see that it had all of my vital needs covered: an art house cinema, a theatre, a classical music venue, a John Lewis, decent rail links (in theory at least) and a blood donor centre.  A slightly odd list of needs – and certainly one which suggests I see myself as some way from the foot of Mr Maslow’s triangular hierarchy.  This post will cover none of these key conditions precedent to my relocation, but a lucky find that has oft been mentioned before in this blog will now be thrust into the limelight.

On my first visit to Southampton (as an adult, I may have come here as a child), to reconnoitre the town and view my flat-to-be, my first stop after leaving the station was the Art House Cafe for a spot of lunch.  No-one wants to meet an estate agent on an empty stomach (or, indeed, at all).  The internet had pointed out the cafe to me as a likely spot to offer some cake-centred breaking of my relatively brief fast.  The internet had not been economical with the truth and I was suitably fortified before my rendezvous.

Time passed (as is its wont).

I then discovered that the Art House also staged events, and so went to a few comedy nights there – at this stage, all starring Andrew O’Neill who managed to bring three different shows in a year.  After this lengthy introduction to their first-floor ‘venue’ (fools may rush in, but I don’t like to be so easily typecast), I branched out and started to attend some of their fairly regular musical offerings.  These have now become the mainstay of the rapid recent growth in my CD collection.

Going to a gig at the Art House is not unlike having the music performed in your front room – except, their venue is a little larger than my deceptively-spacious (OK, small) lounge and has a vastly better sound system (indeed, for my money offers the best venue sound in Southampton other, perhaps, than Turner Sims).  I nearly almost always manage to sit in the front row – offering good leg-room and allowing my glasses to remain in their case – as others seem to fear the potential for audience participation (though this has only happened rarely, despite my obvious star quality).  They also book the ‘talent’ and deal with all the admin and set-up (and down) – which is a major boon.

As a cafe, they can also provide drinks to satisfy both the temperate and the dipsomaniac, which can be consumed during the gig from ceramic or vitreous vessels (no plastic beakers here), and a selection of food, including cake.  Somehow, the lack of an interval ice cream is much easier to bear if a thick slice of cake is available in its stead.  Their cake is vegan – not something I have ever attempted to make at home – and I have no idea what they use in lieu of eggs (and will perhaps be happier remaining in ignorance), but the results are delicious.  As I have discovered over the last week, they also make the best mince pies in Southampton (based on my slightly limited, but growing, experience).

I have enjoyed some wonderful music there: recent highlights include the folk and gypsy-jazz infused work of Kadia (unusual, perhaps, for having a cellist on lead vocal) and the more classically strung delights of the Stringbeans Quartet (who improvised not one but two pieces in a key and style of the audience’s choosing: apparently C# Major is quite the challenge).

However, due to a recent rather dilatory approach to this blog, this post has been hanging around as an unfinished draft for quite a while and so the inspiration for putting digits to keyboard was a Sunday afternoon gig way back in October.  This was even more intimate than usual with myself lounging on a comfy sofa with a truly massive chunk of cake (and a responsible pot of tea) to enjoy some Hungarian indie synth pop from The Kolin.  I had zero idea in advance what they might be like, but the gig was amazing fun: the only disappointment being that they did not sing in Hungarian. How the band came to be performing in my local cafe/venue, on their four date UK tour, I have no idea but I’m grateful for the improbable juxtaposition.

The band have a certain fame for the use of body paint, rather than more traditional habiliments.  However, on the day they were fully clothed though I fear the drummer may have taken his style tips from the Swingtown Lads (perhaps ironically).  However, painting was still much in evidence – with some incredible face and body painting going on to one side of the stage (the stuff you see on children was as nothing to this) and a mural being painted on the other.  An afternoon at the Art House can truly be a gesamtkunstwerk.

The lead singer (keyboard player and driving force) of The Kolin as well as using a normal-seeming mike also used the style of microphone I had previously associated with taxi drivers and policeman for some lyrics.  For one song, he even used an orange megaphone (see figure 1).

Orange Megaphone

Figure 1: The title explained!

As you will glimpse, they are also the first band I’ve seen at the Art House who brought their own neon signage!  (You can also see a corner of the Muriel and the artist hard at work).

This reminds me of another great thing about an Art House gig: the performers seem to enjoy themselves as much as the audience.  It is wonderful to see musicians clearly having a really good time: it makes for a special evening (or afternoon) out.  While many of my readers may not have the good fortune to be local to Above Bar Street (oddly, not famed for its subterranean drinking dens), I suspect many a town or city will have a decent, independent music (and more) venue and at a time of year when people are making new resolutions might I suggest people plan to check out their local ‘Art House’ in 2016.  You probably won’t regret it (and I’m sure they could use your support) – and I’m taking no responsibility even if you do.  The buck doesn’t even slow down here.

Do we need a bombard?

I should start by preparing fans of medieval military history for disappointment: I shall not be talking about siege weapons.  Well, not in any conventional sense, though the Old Testament would like you to believe that city walls can be breached using only members of a modern orchestra’s wind section (though I believe some supernatural interference may also have been involved and the events portrayed are not supported by the archeological record).

In the modern world, music is rarely used in civil engineering and almost never for demolition.  However, it does have a strangely powerful effect on human emotion, if not on masonry.  It can intensify your current mood or transport you into a completely new one.  I’m guessing this is culturally conditioned – you learn the difference between major and minor – rather emerging from the womb with all the basics of the tonic scale pre-installed (the gin scale, I believe, has to wait for puberty).

Music can take us to quite dark places: I well remember a quote about the final movement of Shostakovich’ String Quartet #15 which I used in an Open University essay a few years back.  It was described as being able to “do no more than thumb disconsolately through the album leaves of a deranged life”.  At the time, I was in no position to check this statement, but now with Spotify I was able to listen to the movement as part of the research for this post.  I’ll agree that it isn’t a barrel of laughs, but I didn’t find it that depressing.  Then again, I was in a rather positive mood having re-read TMA04 (the essay in question) and been positively surprised by its quality (to the extent that I can’t really believe that I wrote it).

However, a mere 300 words in, I can exclusively reveal that this post will be about the ability of music to bring joy (of the unconfined kind) into my life.  This can come in many ways, for example a semi-competent vocal performance of a piece of serious music by the author works (though I suspect in this case that the joy is limited to the author), but I shall actually be talking about the fun to be had from the live musical performance of others (let’s face it, GofaDM is more than sufficiently me-centric already).

Of all the splendid musicians I have seen in recent months at the Art House café, two groups particularly stand out in the joy stakes: in that it is impossible to listen to either without my face being parted by a grin.  As it transpires they share a common drummer, though I don’t think he can claim all the credit.

The first would be The Madcap Ponderlings (previously known as The Skull Kids) who describe themselves as “waltzing a fine line between carnival cabaret, whimsical psychedelia and alternative rock” (which is far better than any description I could generate). The second, who I saw on Friday, are Threepenny Bit who are a folk/ceilidh band, though this description doesn’t entirely do them justice.  For a start, I’m not convinced that either the saxophone or the electric bass would count as traditional folk instruments – though I feel the accordion and fiddle are probably on much safer ground.  As so often, I nearly didn’t go: associating folk with sandals, beards and a degree of po-faced seriousness.  I’ll admit there was one very fine (and familiar) beard (I am slowly discovering how the bar staff of the Turner Sims spend their time off), but I didn’t spot a single sandal or any visage reminiscent of the gazunder (a word which seems to have been appropriated by the darkling world of estate agency, if Google is to be believed).  I find it hard to believe anyone else had more fun than me last Friday night.

It was during that Friday evening that I discovered the hybridisation of musical genres has gone even further than I could have imagined.  One of the group had spent time in France with a band that mixed Breton folk with death metal – and it seems such folk-metal crossovers (le metal celtique) are quite big over la Manche.  Among the more standard instrumentation of ‘death metal’, this band included the bombard: an instrument whose very existence could make one appreciate a neighbour who has taken up the drums or violin (because it could be so much worse).  If I did need to find a woodwind instrument that would give me a fighting chance of bringing down a city’s walls, I think the bombard might be my choice: if only because the city’s denizens may demolish their own walls to escape its plangent song.  Perhaps luckily, it requires a lot of puff and so it can only be played in short bursts: rather less luckily, this issue is resolved by pairing it with a form of the bagpipes.  This traditional bracing (known as Sonneurs de Couples) is, having sampled a short snatch, even worse than you are currently imagining.  This is weaponised folk music and a very good reason never to upset the good people of Brittany.  Despite this view (which you should feel free to check for yourselves, but don’t then come crying to me: you were warned!), today’s title was posed as a serious question with a view to augmenting the musical forces (very much in the sense of ‘armed’) available to Threepenny Bit.  The vast majority of the band, very wisely IMHO, demurred.

Dark side fame

Today’s premise will require a degree of set-up and I can virtually guarantee that the pay-off will not be worth it.  However, they do say that it is better to travel hopefully than to arrive: so why don’t we all strap-in and try and enjoy the journey despite our foreknowledge of its disappointing conclusion.  In many ways, this post will be an allegory for life – sometimes, I wonder if this blog is too clever for its own good…

So, let’s start with the dark side.  I refer not to the Force – fear may lead to suffering via anger and hate, but this need not trouble us here – but rather to the moon.  The dark side of the moon is not, to the best of my knowledge, exposed to any less sunlight than its obverse: the name is just another aspect of our species’ tendency to anthropocentric thinking.  As tidal locking means that our satellite constantly shows the same face to us, earth-bound humans, we have decided that the side we could not (historically) see must be “dark” (never having been illuminated by our hubristic regard, I presume).

My head is shaped not wholly unlike the moon and, as a result of limitations in my cervical vertebrae, use of a single reflective surface reveals only a single face (mine) to my gaze (were I an owl, it may be a rather different story – but I’d probably struggle to blog in quite the same style or quantity).  As a result, the back of my head is somewhat analogous to the dark side of the moon – though has yet to be celebrated in album-form by Pink Floyd (or any other popular beat combo of the last half-century, for that matter).    When my hair is cut, I am usually asked how I would like the dark side of my noggin to be coiffured.  I have tended to allow my interrogator relatively free-rein on the basis that I will never see their work (except on the single occasion when the haircut is complete and a second reflective surface is deployed that I might admire their efforts) – however, I am starting to think that this may be a mistake.

Earlier today, I came to the realisation that the dark-side of my head has achieved a considerably greater degree of fame than the side where my features are located and on which I lavish the vast majority of my, admittedly limited, cosmetic attentions to tart up what nature has provided (and subsequently decayed).  For the purposes of my current thesis, I am defining fame in terms of appearances on the internet: either as a still or in a moving image.  How, you might ask, has this come to be?

Appearances, on the web, by the business-side of my head (as we might call it) are relatively rare.  I have added few myself (I feel this blog is suffering enough for one man to inflict on the general public) and have generally managed to avoid having pieces of my soul captured in the photographs that have then been placed “on-line”.  If you (or at least I) image search my name, you will see more pictures of John Finnemore and nearly as many of both my blog brother and Saint Rita of Cascia as you do of me.  Only a single video of my visage seems to exist, created by the author for Metablog 6.

The back of my head, by contrast, is a regular star of both video and stills: three of each from last night alone.  This arises through my regular attendance at music gigs in the Art House Café, here in Southampton.  To enjoy greater legroom and obviate the need to use my glasses to correct my myopia, I tend to sit in the front row: audience participation is rarely required (though this has happened, but luckily I am a shameless show-off).  For what I presume to be marketing purposes, fragments of these events are often captured on the digital equivalent of film and then released into the wild via the café’s Facebook page.  Satisfactory visual capture of an event seems to benefit from a little distance from the action (unlike my ageing eyes) and so the back of the front row (and often more) of the audience is captured.  After last night’s very enjoyable time spent with the musical stylings of Cat Eliza T and then Daisy Chapman, I happened to check Facebook to discover the back of my head appears in more of the uploaded content than either of the “talent”.  Should I, perhaps, be selling advertising space on the dark side of my bonce?  Does it need an agent?

Those with the desire to follow our every move (along with reading our every email et al) have invested significant money in facial recognition software.  This is in line with our own human obsession with the business-side of the head – but why should we inflict this preoccupation on our software children?  My own experience suggests that the dark-side of the head may be a far more valuable target for intelligence gathering.  I await the call from MIn (for suitable n)…

Never judge a guitarist by his fingers

On Wednesday evening, I once again found myself at the Art House Cafe listening to some (relatively) local musicians of improbably high quality.  As the title hints, some of this music involved guitars – of the acoustic variety.

Once upon a time, I could (sort of) play the guitar – taught by my then English teacher Mr Owen (before he fled to Gravesend).  Even at my peak, I was only strumming basic chords in the most plain vanilla manner possible – though I could use a transposition clock!  I actually own an acoustic guitar and fully intend to re-learn how to play it (however, this intent has been “active” for more than two decades now – so readers would be advised not to hold their breath).  As a result, I have a very modest understanding of what a guitar can do and how tricky it can be to play.

The gig involved a support act (guitarist 1) and the headline act (guitarist 2 + drummer).  Support was provided by Alex Bowron who had very unpromising fingers (in my, clearly erroneous view) – rather short and chunky and almost entirely lacking in nails (i.e. much shorter even than mine).  Despite this apparent handicap, he could do things with his guitar that I have never knowingly heard before – and which despite being able to see both his hands very clearly, I have no idea how he achieved.  He also made use of two capos (capi?) – which seem to have come a long way since my time with Mr Owen – to produce some glorious music.

The headliners were Will McNicol and Luke Selby.  Will had fingers which seemed much more compatible with playing the guitar – longish, slender digits with enormous, plectrum shaped nails on his plucking/strumming hand.  These nails clearly required a fairly serious maintenance regime – I assume he has to wear a single glove much of the time to protect them (or he may just be less of a klutz than I am).  He was (if possible) an even more incredible guitar player than Alex and also produced sonic effects I have never heard before (including an unexpected use of a business card and singing into his guitar – where the trick is not to inhale).  Luke was a drummer – and seemed very good at it, but given my previously mentioned lack of rhythm I may be overly easily impressed by drummers.  His drum kit included a foot cabasa – an instrument new to me.  Web investigation suggests that whilst it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, it does offer “a unique new voice for the feet” – which I can think we can all agree is something the world has been crying out for these many years!

They played a very wide range of music, covering inspiration from at least four continents – and for most of the gig wore only one shoe between them (I will leave an air of mystery around which of the four feet  – 1.22m – remained shod).  My musical education as a child was, in many ways, rather deficient – largely due to my lack of interest the subject (though I was very good at music-stand repair).  As a consequence, a surprisingly large amount of my music awareness came from Radio 4 comedy shows of the 1970s.  So, I do have an odd love of both the blues and madrigals as a result of some of the Willy Rushton era rounds of ISIHAC.  Much as I love and admire Colin Cell, hearing the boys playing Mississippi Blues including proper blues “licks” was a wonderful thing and almost brought a tear to my eye (despite a complete lack of vocals: not even a single “I woke up this morning”).

So, once again my musical horizons have been expanded for less than a tenner – and another album has been added to my collection (Hitchhiker by Will and Luke).  Living in Southampton really does have some excellent compensations.

*ahem*

Today’s title continues the fine British tradition of understatement – not as a matter of policy or desire, but because I am otherwise unable to spell the sound of a cough.  I realise “ahem” is more of a genteel throat clearing, but it was the best I could muster.

Ever since coming out as happy, in a recent post, something has been attacking my chest (something microbial or viral, rather than a confused woodpecker on the hunt for grubs) which I presume is the universe taking revenge for my o’erweening hubris.  As a result, I have been coughing for two-and-a-half weeks – and not usually in a genteel manner, for a start my coughing often seems to have more than a hint of a goose’s honk (though offers substantially greater volume and bass).  Despite the obvious hint for any believers in homeopathy (into which camp I do not fall), I have not been treating my condition with goose grease – for a start, is this the same as the goose fat which until so recently filled the seasonal shelves of our supermarkets?  Frankly, if we are going for seasonal unguents I’d prefer rubbing brandy butter on the affected area – though it would make a terrible mess of my clothes.

The last couple of weeks has been a tricky time to be afflicted with a cough, as a number of musical (and other) excursions had been booked back in the halcyon days when I still had my health.  As this blog has noted before, the concert hall and theatre are very much the preserve of the bronchially-challenged, but until now I have always managed to avoid adding my own input to the typical cacophony.  In an attempt to avoid becoming any more hypocritical than normal, I have been attempting to suppress the desire to cough on a rather regular basis of late.  This has generally been reasonably easy with the aid of the odd sucky sweet (one contained in a quiet wrapping and accessed in the gaps between the music).  However, early on in the world premiere of a quiet piano piece at Kettle’s Yard, I was overcome with an urgent need to cough and suppression proved very difficult, but a combination of physical contortions and a readiness to die rather than suffer embarrassment just about saw me through.  As a result, I remain (almost) entirely unsympathetic to those who cough their way through recitals.

Last Saturday, the cough appeared to be in remission and so I decided to celebrate by enjoying some live music at the Art House Cafe.  Well, of late at Fish Towers, and in direct contravention of the rules laid down by BBC Radio 2, Saturday is music night!  After the fun of the Skull Kids, the following Saturday night I found myself in King’s College Chapel listening to Dvořák’s Eighth Symphony and Brahms’ Ein Deutsches Requiem – which provided a degree of contrast in my sonic outings.  This was also huge fun – it’s not often these days I get to see a full orchestra and choir in action – and from the front row a great wall of sound washed over me.  This Saturday was Jonny Phillips (a subset of Willowen) and Hot Feet – and once again, while being unknown to me before the evening started, they were excellent and I’d certainly seek them out again.  I’m not sure how the Art House chooses its bands, but they do seem rather good at it – perhaps the southwest is just blessed with good music?  I also love that the space is wonderfully intimate and (important for a man of my age) you get to sit down!

Anyway, having booked to go to the gig in the morning, the cough returned with a vengeance in the afternoon – with barely time to draw breath between vocal explosions.  Arriving at the Art House, I usually partake of their wares – and given how bad the cough was I threw caution to the wind.  Chocolate is not supposed to be your friend in my condition, but on the principle I couldn’t make things worse I had a hot chocolate (with my traditional shot of “medicinal” rum) and a thick slice of chocolate cake.  Delicious!  It also softened my cough to almost complete non-existence for a good three hours – in a manner not produced by any of the palliatives obtained from the pharmacy.  Now, this was not a proper medical trial – and I can’t be sure if it was the beverage, rum or cake which was decisive in effecting my miracle (if temporary) cure – but I’d thoroughly recommend it to any similarly afflicted GofaDM readers.  Even if it doesn’t work, you can still enjoy the cure – to an extent rarely offered by the stock of Boots’ the Chemist.

At some stage, I think I shall have to collect together all the “cures” for modern ailments I am discovering as I make my way through this veil of tears.  I can now fix both a bad back (using a car battery and a walk) and provide respite for those with a serious cough.  I am rapidly becoming the Galen de nos jours.