Sunday, December 27, 2009

Character Thespian Dies Peacefully

I wept buckets to learn that an old family friend, the prolific character actress Marianne Stone (in real life Mary Noble), who appeared in hundreds of movies including nine Carry On films died just before Christmas. She was the wife of the late showbiz writer Peter Noble whose last job was the editor of Screen International.

I loved Mary to bits! Before Peter got his job at Screen International, the Nobles entertained constantly at their Sunset Boulevard styled house in St Johns Wood. At every party, they roped their daughters Katina and Kara - the LA based ex-Capital Radio breakfast DJ, who now owns the property empire Noble Apartments, and their teenage friends (including me and my sisters) to serve the drinks and canapés to their show business friends.

'Give a peanut to Dudley Moore,' Mary used to say giving us a bowl of nuts, pushing us in his direction.

Going round to the Nobles' house was heaven, especially as each time there were friends like Paul McCartney, Shelley Winters (once I walked in on her when she was on the loo), and Peter O' Toole there.

And as my family lived round the corner from the Nobles, I daily used to run down the road to their house and have lengthy one to one sessions with Mary/Marianne discussing showbiz and men (one of her admirers was Donald Sutherland).

So, naturally I was devastated when Kara told me just before Christmas that Mary (87 years old) had peacefully popped off at home surrounded by her daughters Katina and Kara, plus her grandson, the video director Nick Frewe.

'I've had a fabulous life,' she said before she expired.

It was true, as she and Peter reigned as King and Queen at Cannes for years when the film festival was at its most glamorous, and were even the pampered guests of Imelda Marcos at the Philippine Film Festival in its hey day.

In typical showbiz Noble fashion, Kara has already organised an over subscribed memorial party for her late Mum in January and armed with waterproof mascara, I shall be there.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Peter Eyre Has A Stalker

(I'm typing this with my toenails). I went to Zanita and Brian Smedley-Aston's for dinner at their spectacular stage set of an apartment in the West End last night. Brian (his uncle Frank Launder wrote, produced and directed the first four St. Trinian's films with his partner Sidney Gilliat) used to be an international film editor - one of his many credits was the legendary Performance - before becoming a movie producer. One of his films was the infamous Vampyres, the classic horror lesbian vampire film which incidentally is to hit Blu-ray Uncut on March 30th, 2010.

Over Zanita's delicious coq au vin dinner washed down with vintage champage, I was amazed to discover that the classical thespian Peter Eyre had recently moved into the Smedley-Astons' apartment block and now resides in the flat below them.

Although the last time I clapped eyes on Peter was several years ago when he 'was' Ken Tynan in Smoking With Lulu (unfortunately, I didn't see him in Jude Law's Hamlet), I drunkenly wrote him a deranged letter and impulsively shoved it through his letterbox. I don't care if Peter thinks he's now inherited a stalker, I'm a fan!

(In Peter Schleshinger's divine book Checkered Past, full page photos of Peter Eyre and myself appear on pages next to each other! Aaaaaaah!).

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Alexander Technique Might Save My Bacon

I'm currently reduced to blogging with my fingernails, as I'm suffering from a flare up of RSI in my thumbs due to excessive key tapping. In order to avoid having to pick things up with my teeth, and resorting to use voice recognition software, I'm going to hang up my hands for a bit until they recuperate. At least I've got a good excuse not to send out Christmas cards this year, as at the moment I'm unable to forge my signature without difficulty.

But all is not bleak, as I have managed to book myself in for a concentrated course of Alexander Technique sessions (a long waiting list) with my local practitioner (Paul Burge) who sleeps, dreams and breathes it. He said if I brought my laptop in to see him, he would instruct me exactly how to work with it, which could be the eternal RSI cure I've been searching for.

And yes, I booked myself in before discovering that the bunion afflicted Victoria Beckham is a new convert, which could prove that the Alexander Principle, founded by F. Matthias Alexander (pictured) is going to be the next 'must have' fashion accessory.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Madame Arcati Makes Me Procrastinate

I'm hopelessly hooked on Madame Arcati's laugh out loud, hysterically funny gossipy blog, which I compulsively devour on a daily basis. And the witty and bitchy Comments are worth reading too, as they are provided by international journalists, writers, publishers and movie stars etc., most of whom post anonymously.

Because Madame Arcati (in real life, Arcati is the journalist and writer Victor Olliver) is my favourite blog of all time, I was THRILLED when 'she' put my first novel Frantic on her Christmas book shopping list. I was even more thrilled to see what exalted literary company I'm keeping on her sidebar: a convicted criminal authoress and Jonathan King, who's written his autobiography. Poor bugger!

Thanks to Madame Arcati, I see several new copies of Frantic have now been sold, which proves that on line publicity really does work.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Fran Meets Polly In Cyberspace

In 1979, I interviewed Fran Lebowitz for Ritz newspaper over tea at Browns Hotel. The celebrity photographer Michael Birt took this nostalgic still of her which he has just discovered in his archives. Michael, who's currently got a photograph of the playwright Polly Stenham in the Taylor Wessing Photographic Prize at the National Portrait Gallery had to sneak the picture as the hotel didn't allow professional photographers to shoot in their foyer. Also, I couldn't hear everything what Fran was saying as she softly garbled her words but we managed!

Monday, November 30, 2009

An Astrologer Who is Always Right

Gregory Sams who is the author of the fascinating bestseller Sun of gOd is such an ingenious macrobiotic cook, even his roasted pumpkin seeds are more addictive than chocolates. Over stuffing my guts at his birthday bash last night, I met an interesting astrologer called Laura Boomer, who is acknowledged in Greg's book for feeding him 'interesting solar links' . Laura must be authentic as she's been a practitioner for about thirty years, and at one point during her illustrious career was even the resident astrologer at the BBC.

'Astrology is a great but rarely used tool. To understand the planets is to know one's heavenly vibration. There are other ways to understand oneself in relation to the cosmos, of course: yoga, meditation, years of therapy, even the act of creation itself,' she says.

I don't usually plug friends so blatantly (!), but anyone who is interested in having their chart done (for the rest of their lives if they want) can e-mail her at Everyone who has been to her says she is always right.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

AWOL Tuner

It's not every day that one's friendly piano tuner has to take leave of absence in order to go on a world tour with Status Quo. But, that's what Paul Hirsh did when he was asked to stand in for one of the band (Andrew Bown) for a two year stint.

Paul, who is a talented all round musician: hypnotic keyboardist, guitarist, vocalist, bassist, composer, arranger and musical director was a founder member of the scintillating pop rock band Voyager. I suspect the reason why he gave me my (first) Christmas present: a Voyager album titled Eyecontact was an act of compensation for having to neglect my piano due to touring session work with acts like not only Status Quo, but also Chris Rea etc.

Incidentally, I don't play the piano but hang on to it for my Californian based brother-in-law Austin de Lone (a keyboard player) to pound on when he visits London.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Dominic Lutyens Goes Stylish

Although Thames & Hudson published the meticulously researched 70s Style and Design book, its co-authors: journalist Dominic Lutyens (his next book out is on the textile designer Celia Birtwell for Quadrille Publishing) and Kirsty Hislop threw an over-subscribed book launch for their new book with Fran Findlater at Portsea Place, her private Georgian house in London.

Incidentally, it used to belong to the late Kardo Sessoeffs who 'dedicated their lives to collecting and researching works of art.' Unfortunately for all the valuable works of art, there were so many guests pressed up against the paintings on the wall, that the Sessoeffs must be turning in their cultured graves.

The stylish coffee table book is stuffed with 70s 'movers and shakers' (including Peter Golding, Yves Saint Laurent, Vivienne Westwood, Zandra Rhodes, Bill Gibb, Halston and Fiorucci etc.) most of whom were at the crammed-packed launch. At one point, I was sandwiched between 70s luminaries Peter Golding and Lynne Franks in the middle of the stairs and none of us could move.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Mods Nostalgia

Sartorial historians and anyone who is ancient enough to have remembered Mods first hand, should drool over this Original Mods event held at the Horse & Groom, 26 Curtain Road, London, EC2 on Thursday November 12th, 8.30pm, entrance is free.

Whenever the word 'mods' is mentioned, the movie Quadrophenia immediately springs to mind, but mods weren't just a bunch of parka wearing scooter drivers who enjoyed seaside gladiator battles with rockers.

'The mods of public infamy came later, and were more associated with ska, soul, parkas, scooters and scrapping in Brighton,' says a spokesman for DJHistory, the event's organisers. 'The original Mods were the original working class rebels, post-war Britain's first dandies. The mods (derived from 'modernists') had their roots in the 1950s and arguably, grew out of the coffee bar beatnik scene driven by a significant Jewish cadre. We have organised a stellar cast of dandies to help us sift through the crap to get to the truth and hopefully get a few tips on how many buttons our suit should possess on the way.'

The prolific writer Paul Gorman, author of The Look will be the host on the panel. Also on the panel (in no particular oder) will be: the natty dresser Jeff Dexter, who was a pioneer South London Mod, and was banned from the Lyceum for doing the Twist before becoming London's celebrity DJ at Tiles, UFO, Middle Earth and Implosion. Lloyd Johnson, who is an aficionado about street fashion, (I was hooked on his Johnson shops in Kensington Market and Kings Road), and Mickey Modern, who reputed to be the first mod in south London and is 'still more stylish than the rest of Southwark put together.'

After the discussion, there will be questions from the audience and lastly, 'vigorous dancing' to 60's sounds.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Artist Channelled by Late Sixteenth Century Playwright

David Graves, who has been David Hockney's assistant for decades now writes extraordinary period plays in verse in his spare time.

In the late Seventies, Graves gave me a couple of his iconoclastic sculptures, one of which looks like a peculiar TV ariel. That one was on top of my TV for over thirty years until it fell onto the carpet last week. Its marble base broke in two, but luckily David Graves came to the rescue and superglued the base together for me today, and now it's as good as new.

David also printed out a couple of his plays for me, one of which is inspired by Giambattista della Porta, the most prominent playwright of the late 16th century Italy. It's currently out being read, but I'm so jealous he doesn't suffer from writer's block. David, who is fairly new to creative writing said he doesn't know where his plays come from but the verses are spilling out of his brain. He feels compelled to write. I wouldn't be surprised if he is being channelled by Giambattista della Porta himself!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Day of the Dead meets Mencap

I schlepped along to the "Mencap Dia de los Muertos" preview at the Proud Gallery in order to support Joanna Jacobs, who's got a Mixed media 'artwork' in the show. Joanna, daughter of the veteran disk jockey David Jacobs, and the ex of ('Ain't Misbehavin') Clarke Peters used to be a fashion model for Models One (The agency's founder, Jose Fonseca has got taste) before turning to Art and creating her 'eco-funky' recycled bottle cap earrings (for sale at the Proud Gallery at only £20 a pair!).

Other artists displaying their wares included Gillian Ayres, James Aldridge, Craigie Aitchison, Hilary Simon and the ubiquitous Tracey Emin. I wondered why none of the art, inspired by the Mexican festival Day of the Dead didn't display red stickers until I discovered that all the stuff will be auctioned at Bonhhams, Knightsbridge on 11 November in aid of Mencap.

So, who was at this glittering exhibition besides Joanna's actor son Jo and a sea of her old boyfriends and admirers? The artist and photographer Mark le Bon, Gavin Millar, Jenny Dearden, Jeff Dexter and singer/songwriter Andy Allen were amongst the rabble admiring the art. Andy, who is the son of Elkan Allen, creator of 'Ready Steady Go' replaced the Sex Pistols' Syd Vicious on bass when he popped his clogs. He was with his pretty daughter Dixie, who's doing English Lit for 'A' levels, but moonlights as a performer for her dad's Hankdogs acoustic band. Andy stuck a skull sticker on me which was a guest pass for his Easycome Acoustic Club in South London. It was worth dragging myself out for that then!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Gentlemen's Clothing Store Makes Bespoke Coats For Dames

Justin Sumrie with New & Lingwood coats
Girls! Offer to escort your sugar daddies when they go shopping at New and Lingwood, the 'world-renowned' menswear company. They make the school outfits for Eton's pupils, so that's why their international clientele includes Old Etonians besides royalty, Hollywood movie stars and the British aristocracy.

Not many people know that although New & Lingwood is a predominately mens' store (who makes bespoke clothes as well as ready-made shirts, zany hosier and shoes), they also have a sideline making bespoke coats for women. Justin Sumrie, the Director of N & L , (and also my cousin) says that when their regular men customers are being measured for bespoke clothes, the store also offers to make their women companions bespoke coats while they are waiting. Beats just being offered a cup of coffee.

This was all news to me until Justin offered to give me an early Christmas present: a couple of elegant coats when I dropped in to see him at the store's Jermyn Street branch today. He gave me a replica of a bespoke soft tweed coat made for the Queen of Belgium (one of N & L's clients) and also a black doeskin coat. As starting prices range from £595-£1,000 upwards, I was thrilled, especially as I now don't have to persuaded a man at gun point to take me along to New and Lingwood while he gets measured up for a bespoke wardrobe.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Riff Raff

Film director David Blyth has just returned from the Hamilton Underground Film Festival (in New Zealand) where he attended a packed-out screening of his last film Transfigured Nights.

David met Richard O'Brien's alter ego, Riff Raff from The Rocky Horror Show on Hamilton's main drag - Victoria Street. The last time I saw Richard was when he was incognito, dressed as a woman at a party. He was so convincing, I didn't recognise him. He was so immersed in his female character that I suspect he believed he was the real thing. I never realised he was a method actor! (Incidentally, David was interviewed recently on - click on - Extensive Podcast on his BlythCult Twitter page).

Monday, October 12, 2009

Beauty and the Beast

Robert Plant, the singer of the late and lamented Led Zeppelin was one of the surprise guests at the recent Richard de Lone Special Housing Benefit concert at San Francisco's Great American Musical Hall. Austin de Lone's singer/musician daughter Caroline (my niece) was also one of the guest performers at the concert (she sang one of her own songs). And here she is backstage with Robert Plant (click on the photo for close-up). I'm glad he recognises talent when he sees it.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

A Space For Photo Exhibitions

If a photographer is unable to land a show at the prestigious Hamiltons Gallery, all is not lost. There other venues for photographers to exhibit their wares. Peter Herbert, who will have an exhibition called "Skylines" at the Conference Centre, St Pancras Hospital from November 19, has chosen a gallery called Flaxton Ptooch in 'up and coming' Kentish Town Road to showcase his new stuff, a salon large enough for a rock band to play in. Just as well, as Peter's pop singer daughter Kiria was strutting her stuff at the packed out opening in her black and white costume, which matched the photos' frames. Peter, I want a set tea at the Wallace Collection in exchange for the blatant plug!

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Celia Birtwell At Boots

I popped into Boots today (the branch opposite Debenhams in Oxford Street), and witnessed one of their in-store's promotions. The versatile designer Cellia Birtwell, flanked by her daughter-in-law Bella Clark (who runs Celia's fabrics shop in Westbourne Park Road) was raised on a podium on the ground floor presiding over her new collection of gorgeous knickknacks.

I know now where to get all my Christmas shopping from, as Boots is doing a Special Offer (3 for the price of 2) until December 25th. Loads of enthusiastic punters were in a frenzy, including David Hockney who was buying up Celia's pink patterned Sewing Organisers before he returned to Bridlington. As I can't even thread a needle, I settled for Celia's piece de resistance: her black patent Vanity Case with her trademark bouquet design, a couple of matching pairs of her pretty bouquet patternd socks and a Gadget Case. And as it looked like it might rain, I also grabbed one of her umbrellas. All the stuff is very well-made and is selling at bargain Boots prices.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

UCL Older Mothers Conference Generates Global Publicity

The most positive outcome about Dr Sammy Lee's recent well-attended Motherhood In The 21st Century all-day conference at the UCL, is that it has put the controversial subject of Older Mothers on the map in a rational and good way. For when the subject of 'IVF pregnant mums way past their menopause' hits the news, the articles are usually accompanied by bloodcurdling, tabloid styled screaming headlines.

At the prestigious conference, I spoke to many of the people present who unanimously agreed the conference was a big success. All the eminent scientists and infertility gynaecologists agreed that the reason why the Conference was so successful, was because it explained all about the real issues concerning Older Motherhood which needed to be aired, but are never written about in the glut of sensationalist articles about older mothers. Other attendees I spoke to agreed with this sentiment. They included barristers, psychotherapists, clinical embryologists, ethics students, research fellows, nutritional therapists, chemists, PhD students, fertility nurses, journalists and editors, midwives, acupuncturists, GPs, infertility counsellors, public relations consultants, ethics students, clinical psychologists, medical historians, sociologists and science writers.

The general consensus of the conference was that the subject of Older Mothers has been orbited into the public domain. All will be explained in detail in the published book (due out around December 2009) about the "Motherhood in the 21st Century's" stimulating conference and extensive debate. It will contain the verbatim proceedings of the all-day conference, so most likely this ground breaking event will have a place in scientific literature for the layperson, the student and the expert/clinician alike.

On a personal note, I am eager to read the book (in due course, details can eventually be viewed on the UCL Older Mothers link), because I was unable to hear all of what the softly spoken Shere Hite said; who apparently spoke about orgasms in her speech.

However, I was pleased to see that the UCL posted my blog entry about the Older Mothers Conference on their website, and that the Conference as a whole generated a lot of publicity including lengthy articles about the day from international journalists and on the UK domestic front, from the Times’ Vivienne Parry which attracted a very large number of Comments, proving that people in general want to know the real issues about Older Motherhood.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Older Mothers Conference

If a bomb had dropped on the UCL yesterday, a big chunk of the international world of IVF would have been wiped out. The charismatic Dr Sammy Lee, the renowned clinical embryologist, who was an early pioneer of IVF (and is now interested in stem cell therapy and human cloning) organised a glamorous one-day conference and debate on "Motherhood in the 21st century" inside the guarded university's Anatomy Department.

I arrived at the university's JZ Young Lecture Theatre the same time as Lord Professor Robert Winston (Professor of Science and Society and Emeritus Professor of Fertility Studies at Imperial College) who was giving the conference's opening address and the cultural historian, Shere Hite, one of the conference's diverse speakers. Although she is a revolutionary feminist, she looks and acts like Marilyn Monroe and immediately had all the men eating out of her hand. It's incredible to think her first book, the infamous, "The Hite Report" sold 48 million copies worldwide. No wonder she looks like a million dollars. (I asked her if she would ever consider having herself cloned, but she said she would have to know more about it).

The actual conference explored the reasons why some women choose to become mothers late in life. The speakers focused on some of the ethical issues: i.e. 'is it good for the parents? Is it good for the child? Is there a different standard applied to elderly mothers as opposed to elderly fathers?' Health and safety issues were also addressed, including the health risks associated with older women getting pregnant, increased risks of high blood pressure, diabetes, developmental problems with the placenta and need for Caesarean section, etc.

The entertaining Dr Ray Nobel (the Senior Lecturer/Graduate Tutor Obstetrics and Gynaecology, UCL; Medical ethicist) conducted the debate in the afternoon).

'What a panel!' he exclaimed.

I had to agree with him, as the conference speakers included some of the globe's famous scientists and infertility gynecologists including - here comes the name checks: Dr Gulam Bahadur, (Head of Fertility & reproductive Medicine Laboratories, UCL), the charming Peter Brinsden (Medical Director, Bourn Hall Clinic), Professor John Carroll, the Associate Dean, Division of Bioscienes, UCL, Professor Gedis Grudzinskas (Formerly Chair of Obsteric & Gynaecology at St Bart's and the Royal London Hospitals, as well as of The Bridge Centre. Now in private practice in Harley Street, and current editor of RBM Online), Dr Joyce Harper (formerly of the London Fertility centre), Professor Dr Shere Hite, Professor Sammy Lee, Dr Menabawey, who confided he owes his entire career to Sammy Lee, Professor N Pandiyan (Chief Consultant, reproductive Medicine, Chettinad Hospital & Research Institute) who had flown over from India just for the conference, 'the Big Cheese' Professor Claudio Stern (Head of Research Dept., Cell & Development Biology, UCL), Dr John Swann (Senior embryologist, Royal Free Hospital) and the dishy Dr Paul Serhal (Medical Director, UCL Fertility Unit).

If a woman was desperate to go through the expensive rigmaroles of an IVF baby, this conference was the place to be. Although one doc stood up during the debate and raised a few laughs by saying:

'A thirty-nine year old woman friend told me she wanted to get her eggs frozen, so I advised her to meet the right partner as soon as possible and have a baby the natural way.'

The London's Global University laid on a delicious lunch and dinner , and I never knew that the world of IVF and academia could be so entertaining. Thanks Sammy for an uplifting day and I know who to come to if I want twins at the age of seventy!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

On The Guest List

I haven't been to Dingwalls, the live music club in Camden Town for centuries. I think one of the last times I was on the guest list there, was when I listened to Debbie Harry's gig in the ladies' lavatory which used do have the best acoustics in town!

Last night, I was booked in to see Martin Belmont perform at the club, playing his new CD The Guest List featuring fabulous musicians like Paul Carrack, the 'rock 'n' roll doctor' Hank Wangford (who gave a sophisticated performance), Nick Lowe, and Graham Parker etc. The legendary Dave Robinson, who created Stiff Records was holding court, surrounded by blokish pub rockers (such as the surviving Ducks de Luxe) most of whose careers he has spawned.

So, how did I get to hear about this illustrious gig? From Austin de Lone (my illustrious brother-in-law), who started the pub rock movement in the United Kingdom with his old band, Eggs Over Easy. He has inspired and played with them all!

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

A Double Whammy Sightseeing Expedition

Peter Herbert curated the recent Freedom Of Art exhibition at The Conference Centre at St Pancras Hospital where incarcerated prisoners' powerful Art sold for well below Sotheby's auction prices.

Now, Peter has curated a new Portraiture exhibition titled Taken From Life, which opens on Wednesday September 9th at the same Conference Centre. Art on Show includes (here comes the press release) 'sixteen paintings from the oil painting collection of Keith Marshall, new work by photo realist gymnast artist Adam Walker-Smith, the outsider artist Phil Wildman, who presents a collection of raw mixed media self portraits and from the photographer/writer Joanne O'Brien: painted portraits of theatrical folk including Harold Pinter, Mike Leigh and the actress Siobhan Mckenna.'

On an historic note, One advantage about visiting the Concerence Centre is the fascinating graveyard attached to the nearby St Pancras Old Church which Charles mentions in the "Tales of Two Cities". It's worth a visit just for the Thomas Hardy Tree which is a national treasure. (The Hardy tree, growing between gravestones moved while Thomas Hardy, then a trainee architect, was involved in the clearance of part of the churchyard to make way for the railway).

Monday, August 31, 2009

Millennium Knocks me Out

Alan Jones, one of the founders and organisers of the annual FrightFest film festival (now held at the Empire cinema in Leicester Square) gave me an early Christmas present: a ticket for "Millennium", the film adaptation of Stieg Larsson's bestseller, "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo".

This thrilling Swedish movie with sub-titles zipped by even though its running time was 150 minutes. I can safely state it was one of the best films I've seen in as long as I can remember, and now can't wait for the other two parts of the "Millennium" movie trilogy, based on Larsson's other books: "The Girl Who Played With Fire", and "The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest".

"Millenium" was such a powerful film, that after I emerged from the screening, I didn't know where the hell I was. When I finally realised I wasn't in Sweden but was holed up in the densely populated Leicester Square on a Saturday night, I cut through the Soho streets, still totally immersed in the movie.

I skidded and fell over in an alley packed out with drunken revellers, and was immediately helped to my feet by a gang of concerned bystanders, who informed me I had bashed my head on the pavement. Paranoid, I had done a 'Natasha Richardson,' I assured them I was all right and groggily made my way home.

I am still compos mentis, but still can't stop thinking about the movie, which goes on general release in the UK in April.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Black on Black Food

Gregory Sams'
new book Sun of gOd (his previous book is the iconoclastic Uncommon Sense) looks like it's becoming a best seller. It's selling like crazy, especially since Jonathan Cainer wrote about him and his book in his Daily Mail astrology column every day last week.

To celebrate, Greg kindly gave me a one to one macrobiotic cookery lesson at his house. First, he (patiently) taught me how to concoct perfectly cooked rice (to think I've been making it wrong all these years!) with garlic and onion, plus black turtle beans, and the pièce de résistance: black fungus (available from Chinatown supermarkets). Also on the menu were steamed vegetables, plus Magimixed swede with butter, a sprinkling of cheese and yoghurt. Yummmmm! I never realised how tasty macrobiotic fodder could be.

To think, when I attempted to become less yang after chewing macrobiotic food for the first time at the Sams brothers' (Greg and Craig) famous Seed restaurant all those decades ago, I chose to exist on a regime of brown rice (plus cigarettes). I was forced to stop when I was unable to walk up the road anymore! But thanks to Greg, I'm now a black bean convert, especially as the meal we cooked tonight would have cost in the region of £2.50 per head, ideal in these 'credit crunch' times.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

A Missing Treasure Is Discovered

David Hockney did the cover for Alfalpha's first critically acclaimed album. "Middle Class", the band's second album, also on the EMI label was axed.

Unfortunately, when this harmonic country style rock album (recorded at the Workhouse studio alongside The Blockheads' "Do It Yourself" offering, engineered by the 'fabulous' Laurie Latham) was finished, it coincided with the onslaught of punk music.

According to the major record labels, the 'revolutionary' emergence of punk made talented authentic rock bands an obsolete dinasaur. As far as they were concerned, they were completely redundant. The Music Biz welcomed the fact that punk was made up of predominately working class musicians (a couple of exceptions that instantly spring to mind are The Pogues public school educated Shane MacGowan, and The Clash's Joe Strummer, who was famously a diplomat's son).

In the Mid '70's, Alfalpha was regarded as 'polite' rock, which explains why their second album was christened "Middle Class". And although this talented band who played country cross music with an edge; and provided the backing vocals on Marc Bolan's last album, they decided to disband after making their doomed second offering. Even though the band had a successful regular Thursday night slot at the Speakeasy Club, where the punters went wild on hearing the band's second album, the band still decided to break up.

When Jeff Dexter, the band's producer/manager informed me David Gilmour's studio manager had found the tapes, and he now had them, would I be interested in going to his house and listening to the aborted album? 'Is the Pope Catholic?' Of course I would.

Alfalpha's talented musicians on the first and second album comprised of 'boy genius' songwriter and musician Nick Laird-Clowes (six string accoustic guitar), Sam Harley (bass and accoustic guitar), his brother Andy Harley (accoustic guitar/lead vocals). They also discovered the writing skills of the then unknown Chris Rea (just down from Middlesborough ), who wrote the album's beautiful "Because of You" track.

At Jeff's house, I sat down and listened to "Middle Class" all the way through, and lurved this exquisitely produced happy album (stuffed with stirring harmonies), which although made in the mid Seventies has travelled and is totally relevant today. I hope Alfalpha's magnificent second album gets re-issued. It deserves to!

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

An Australian Grammatical Mishtake!

I created this blog in order to blatantly promote friends and family. So I can't resist plugging my old society photographer pal Robert Rosen, who during the early Eighties used to be a permanent fixture at London parties before triumphantly returning to his native Sydney.

At a recent 'glittering' shindig to celebrate '50 Years of Australian Vogue', a huge wall in the 'lounge area' was devoted entirely to Robert's photographs. But, don't Australians have any sense of grammar? Surely, it should be "Mr Robert's lounge" - not "Mr Roberts lounge?!"

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

A Body Conditioning Reunion

I used to religiously go twice a week to Andreas Reyneke's Body Conditioning Studio in Notting Hill Gate in the Seventies. Dreas is the body conditioning teacher to the stars, and Bianca Jagger, who wore plastic thigh warmers, Rupert Everett, Rod and Alana Stewart were in my regular slot. My body had never looked so good, and no wonder as Dreas, an ex-Ballet Rambert dancer has taught Pilates for over three decades and is reputed to be one of the best in the world.

The last time I saw Dreas was over twenty years ago, when I told him I was leaving him for golf (I sobbed with emotion while doing an arabesque on one of his machines). So I was intrigued when Celia Birtwell, also an ex-pupil and incidentally the best textile designer on the globe ordered me to meet up in her shop, as she was treating Dreas and myself to a big reunion lunch.

I was relieved to see Dreas looked exactly the same and was also relieved when he said I hadn't changed a bit either. I gave him the third degree, interrogating him on what form of exercise I should do now, as I'm bored stiff with doing the gym. Dreas suggested I get his book Ultimate Pilates, and also his DVDs - available from the Dance Books site.

He recommended I should first look at the Dynamic 5th: Pilates + Preparation for Ballet Students with Dreas Reyneke and students from the Royal Ballet School DVD, which gives the dancer co-ordination, core control and stability from the feet in application and action; and demonstrated by dancers from the Royal Ballet School. As this DVD contains a 'wonderful' series of arm exercises that work the upper back and posture, and also the back of the arms, it is suitable for everyone.

The Advanced Pilates DVD features three dancers from the Royal Ballet: Tamara Rojo, Johannes Stepanek, and Edward Watson (who is the Royal Ballet's most pliable principle dancer), plus the English National Ballet's Désirée Ballantyne. It would be worth getting the DVD for them alone.

I shall give it all a a whirl. Mind you, once Dreas sent me to a beginner's ballet class which was so rigorous, it left me unable to move for a week afterwards!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

For All You Crippled Writers Out There

I've been doing so much extra key-tapping since joining Facebook, I started to get excruciating pains in my thumbs as soon as I glued myself to my computer. Luckily, a truly fantastic healer called Sat Raimondo (his contact details are on his site) came to the rescue. I tubed it to his flat in Clerkenwell where he gave me an invigorating Indian Head massage, concentrating on my hands and arms, giving me a dollop of spiritual healing for good measure. I came out floating and have been able to write ever since without stopping for breaks. It's comforting to know Raimondo is on permanent standby if/when I get into trouble again.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

My New Writers' Group

Since I joined Facebook (three lost days ago), I confess I haven't written one word of my new novel but to compensate, I have made my first cyberspace Friend on the lethally addictive site (it's incredible to see how many friends and acquaintances in my ancient address books are still alive).

My new pal is a talented New York based Videographer called Joly MacFie (his work can be viewed on Punkcast), who makes visually unique videos of all the bands as a 'hobby', and then sells them his edited and captioned tapes, all of which look like mini-movies.

In the 'Old Days', Joly was the roadie for the defunct Pink Fairies band, graduating to becoming the creator of Better Badges before emigrating to New York and making a name for himself with his ingeniously directed video work.

At one point, while I was chatting to Joly on Facebook - he was telling me what he thought of my first novel Frantic - I was simultaneously involved in a literary conversation with the 'legendary' Sam Cutler (infamous for hiring the Hells Angels to guard the stage at the Rolling Stones' Altamont concert), discussing his book, You Can't Always Get What You Want: My Life with the Rolling Stones, the Grateful Dead and Other Wonderful Reprobates", and ex-"Deviant" , the prolific science fiction writer Mick Farren. Mick recommended I get his book, Jim Morrison's Adventures In The After Life after I asked him which book of his I should read first.

The outcome of our conflab is we are all going to send each other our respective books. Never in my wildest dreams, did I imagine I would join an On Line literary club with a gang of old reprobrates!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Cyberspace Addiction

Oh dear! What have I done?! It was the illustrious Jeff Dexter, who led me into temptation. I've finally succumbed and have just joined the dreaded Facebook site, which I've been resisting for 'years'. I suspect it's not a good idea, as I'm already finding it toooo addictive. Not exactly conducive to writing! It's bad enough I'm hooked on Madame Arati's hypnotic site, but at least I'm not bonkers enough to join Twitter!

Thursday, July 09, 2009

New Zealand Goes To Brazil

David Blyth, the New Zealand based international film director has been invited to this year's Fantaspoa film festival in Brazil (held in the most southern and European city Porto Alegre on the Atlantic coast), as not one but FOUR of his movies ('Angel Mine', 'Death Warmed Up', 'Bound For Pleasure' and 'Transfigured Nights' ) will be screened there. .

He has also been asked to conduct workshops at the festival with the Argentinean director Fernando Mantelli. But, David won't just be presiding over his past films at the festival, as he will also be talking about his new script outline called Wound, an original supernatural horror film. 'A supernatural daughter returns to haunt her birth mother exposing the monstrous family secrets,' is how David describes his new project (its shoot date will tentatively be early December depending on financing).

So, I was thrilled when I received a couple of freebie DVDs from him sent by FedEx, especially as they were two of his earlier films, namely: Death Warmed Up, and Angel Mine - the latter was so controversial upon its release, that Questions were asked about it in Parliament. (Read all about it on the The Listener article).

Death Warmed Up is notorious for being New Zealand's first horror film which was made before Peter Jackson's splatter comedy horror flicks. In fact, I met David a few years prior to Death Warmed Up's screening at the London Film Festival in 1984, during which members of the audience were vomiting in the aisles because back then, this unique comedy horror film was seen as visually shocking.

Both DVDs are available from David's site (click on David Blyth), as well as the rest of his movies, including Bound For Pleasure, and his latest release - Transfigured Nights, (which will also be screened during the eleven week "Sunday Night Out" festival on Triangle and Stratos Television in New Zealand from 26th July through to 4th October ).

But first, when David returns from Brazil, he will be editing his "French Connection" documentary (funded by the French NZ Friendship Fund) which concerns the 90th anniversary of the Liberation of Le Quesnoy in Northern France, in which his Grandfather played an important role. This illustrates that David is not a one movie genre director. So, it's all GO for David, but why does everything seem to always happen at once?

Sunday, July 05, 2009

There's Nothing Wrong With Nepotism

I started this blog in order to blatantly plug members of my family, so here goes: I'm heartbroken I shan't be able to make my illustrious brother-in-law - Austin de Lone's gigs in Italy this month. (Austin recently sat in and played accordion with Elvis Costello and an abbreviated version of his Sugarcanes at his in-store appearance at Amoeba Records in San Francisco. The Sugarcanes are a batch of Nashville A-list musicians that recorded Elvis's new album and are currently touring with him, which proves that Elvis always makes sure he surrounds himself with the best musicians).

Austin's exciting eleven piece band, Austin de Lone's Soul Blues Review (Eric McCann - bass and vocals, Ernest "Boom" Carter - drums and vocals, Danny Caron - guitar, Charles McNeal - tenor saxophone, Alex Budman - alto and baritone saxophone, Joel Behrman - trumpet, Mike Rinta - trombone and arranger, Austin de Lone - piano, Hammond B-3, Wurlitzer electric piano and bandleader), with special guests Sweet Nectar (Sue McCracklin - daughter of Jimmy McCracklin, living legend of the blues, Maureen Smith, Marcia Gamble) will be appearing with Bobby Johnson at the Umbria Jazz Festival (July 10-19.)

Also, Austin de Lone's Soul Blues Review will be the house band at the Poretta Soul Festival, at Rufus Thomas Park in Porretta Termé July (24, 25 & 26). They will be backing up Spencer Wiggins, Percy Wiggins, Oscar Toney Jr, Toni Green,, J. Blackfoot, Jesse Dee, and Bobby Johnson, as well as performing on their own and giving music seminars during the week they are in Porretta

Unfortunately for Italy, Austin's favourite singer/my niece Caroline de Lone will not be appearing with the band this summer, as she is at home in Mill Valley busy writing new songs for her first album which her dad is producing.