Tag Archives: Joni Mitchell

In Aigburth: Liverpool’s Magdalene Laundry?

“I hated being sent to collect me mum’s washing from the Kelton laundry. With a kid’s imagination it looked like Dracula’ s castle or maybe Colditz to my young eyes. You would knock on a huge door which was duly opened by a fearsome looking nun in full habit. Peering in as she went to fetch the wash, revealed a scene I thought was what hell must look like. A horrible smell of cleaning and lots of steam. Lines of women in pinafores and covered heads slaving away. A vacant expression of hopelessness on every face. I sensed evil even at my tender age.

The evil that was the Magdalene story”.
Phil Jones, October 2017

This comment turned up in my email early one Saturday in October 2017 about a blog post I’d written nearly four years earlier in December 2013. That post had been about a general walk around Aigburth in South Liverpool that had ended with me finding somewhere I’d almost forgotten from earlier in my life.

“Let me tell you a story, a true story, from half my lifetime ago.

It’s the mid 1980s and I’m delivering my beloved baby daughter to her nursery. It’s called Kelton and is just down the hill from a convent, called Kelton House. This morning I’ve noticed someone watching me as I drive past Kelton House. Someone who doesn’t look much like a nun. I ask one of the women who work in the nursery, an Irish woman as it happens ‘What is that place up there? I thought it was a convent.’ ‘Well it is’ she says ‘But it’s also a mother and baby home. It’s where the girls come to have their babies, off the Irish boats as often as not.’

So hurtful for them. Us bringing our much wanted and much celebrated babies to the nursery each morning, while they watch us from their hidden away lives.

I wasn’t sorry, then, when the nursery had to move to another place a few months later because the nuns, who owned the land, had decided to sell it off for housing.”

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Behold: The Pen Factory

I’ve been to the same place for my lunch these last two days. This hardly ever happens, unless I’m eating at home. You know, in our own place. That looks exactly the way we want it to and is full of the food we’ve selected or made. So it has to be somewhere else good to get me there on consecutive days.

Behold: The Pen Factory is open for business.

I didn’t think it would be open though. Certainly not by Christmas. Early in November I’d just come out of the Everyman one evening and met Paddy Byrne locking up his would-be new venture after a day’s, clearly, hard physical work in there. It looked like this.

Just six weeks ago.

Just six weeks ago.

“It might not look it but actually we’re nearly done in there’ Paddy told me.’I think we’ll be ready enough to open in about three weeks!”

“Ever the optimist” I thought. And indeed it was a bit more than those three predicted weeks. But it’s open now and I’d be surprised if you didn’t want to go there. Here’s why. Continue reading

The comfort of melancholy

Listening to Paul BuchananDSC06368

“There’s comfort in melancholy
When there’s no need to explain
It’s just as natural as the weather
In this moody sky today”

Beautiful lyrics from a beautiful song. And nothing to do with Paul Buchanan, the subject of today’s piece. These words are from ‘Héjira’ by Joni Mitchell and occurred to me just now as the best way of introducing what it is I particularly like about the music of Paul Buchanan. I love his melancholy.

Which is different to sadness or misery or heartbreak and definitely a long way from tragedy. It’s ‘as natural as the weather’ and has always seemed to me to be an essential element of my life. Some days are melancholy, minor-key kinds of days. Days for keeping warm, drinking tea and looking after yourself. Days in the shade, shadow days, away from the busy-ness and brightness of changing the world or even of radiant happiness. Quietly reflective. Days for listening to Paul Buchanan.

Which I’ve been doing for half my life now. Continue reading

The return to vinyl. What would you get first?

As you may know, three months ago I decided to step back in time and get some LPs again. It had been 23 years since I’d sold off my collection and I was missing the sound and the ceremony of them.

So I ordered a turntable and set off joyously on my LP search. I’ve already written about the places I went to find them, so today I thought I’d write a bit about the LPs themselves. Like, what LPs would you buy first after a quarter of a century’s separation from them?

'Seasons will pass you by' The beauty of the gatefold.

‘Seasons will pass you by’ The beauty of the gatefold.

As I set out I made only one condition. I would look for perfect albums. All good tracks, no fillers. Remembering all too clearly the numbers of my original haul of 3,000 or so that didn’t come anywhere near doing this. Even LPs by very, very good people could be very, very poor. Yes, you David Bowie (‘Tonight’) and even you Joni Mitchell (‘Dog eat dog’).

But I didn’t set out with a list, no point. Hunting mostly in charity shops or in record shops with relatively small vinyl sections, there was no point. It was a case of seeing what I could find.

‘So go on then, tell us, What did you find?’ I can hear you impatiently reading. Continue reading

Something for the weekend?

Second instalment of the new weekly review.

This has been a Liverpool Central Library sort of week for me.1

Going there we’ll get to. But first let’s talk about books and music.

The library has a huge music section. Packed with fascinating books that no one, I would have thought, would want to own. So the library does the job for us, just like it’s supposed to. Every time I go there, if I’m not in the Politics section, I end up in Music. A couple of weeks ago I left with Cilla Black’s autobiography, intending that me and a friend might write a blog post about her. My friend’s reading it at the moment, but unless she likes ‘Our Cilla’ a lot more than I did, then I don’t think we’ll be able to bring ourselves to write about her.

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‘Where’ve you been?’

On returning to Probe Records

I’ve been going to Probe Records since it started, up Mount Pleasant in Clarence Street, back in 1971. It’s in its fifth location around Liverpool now, and the truth is, I haven’t been there much lately. Over the years I have bought a few CDs from Probe, but I always felt CDs weren’t really what it’s about. Vinyl has always had pride of place at the centre of the shop and all over the walls, and it was vinyl I was returning there for today.

On the bus, going into town to hunt for LPs.

On the bus, going into town to hunt for LPs.

After my last post about returning to LPs, the turntable I’d ordered suddenly turned up sooner than I’d expected. So I spent a happy couple of hours on Friday afternoon putting all its bits together and finding my hands still remembered how to do arcane things like ‘balance the tonearm’ and ‘check the stylus is aligned.’ Things I’d never expected to do again in my life. Then in the early evening, both working, we’d had Spotify and iTunes playing in the background as usual. Until, work over, we moved through to the living room to listen to our one LP, purchased from Oxfam on Thursday afternoon, just after I’d ordered the turntable. And it was beyond wonderful. Continue reading

Buying LPs again

It’s started. After a 23 year gap I’m buying LPs again.

Not that I’ve got a turntable mind. That won’t come ’til next week. But it’s ordered.

A record shop, with LPs. Probe Records, Liverpool.

A record shop, with LPs. Probe Records, Liverpool.

For months, possibly years, I’ve been magnetically pulled towards any turntables I’d happen to see when we’ve been in town shopping. Or rather when Sarah’s been shopping and I’ve been loping along beside her. Because I don’t really ‘shop’ and have very little need for ‘things.’ My birthday present this year was, well, nothing. And I was very happy with it because there was nothing I wanted. If it was relying on me the economy would be in an even worse state than it is.

And in charity shops, ostensibly there to recycle our books, I’d find myself flicking through the second-hand LPs. Until fondly reminded that I no longer possessed a turntable to play them on and hadn’t had one for many years.

Well there’s a turntable been ordered now and I’ve been to the Smithdown Road Oxfam and flicked through the second hand LPs with renewed vigour. Because I’ve found that I want LPs back in my life. Continue reading