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Buzz Time & That January Jazz!

Updated: Feb 4, 2023

Sixty-One – there it is, done and dusted, dozed off in my teens and woke up in the third age! Old guard folk-punk-poet in his senior years. He struggles on – bless him!

Blood tests, X-Rays, Doctor’s appointments, Specialist appointments, more blood tests – welcome to 2023 – welcome to the new new-normal. Such is this road on which I find myself.

Life without lectins is working out pretty well – though requires imagination and experimentation. Fried egg on gluten free toast layered with smashed avocado, green salad and sweet potato fries on the side – not too shabby. Eating out is harder, but then I haven’t had a severe inflammation flare up in six weeks and that’s such a relief. Still get grumbles, aches and nagging pains, but the real debilitating shit seems to be – touch wood – somewhat tamed. I probably need to consult a decent dietician – the web is awash with theories, debate and horror tales – you have to pick your way through the swamp to chart your own course.

We lost a friend, just before Christmas – just gone in his sleep. Nick was a cool, considered creative powerhouse with a cunning sense of humour. From ‘90’s space-rock at the New-Year Crow through to DJ sets in the park and the final act – our Hammer Man producer-director-star-force of nature. I managed to set him up supporting Judge Jules at a local charity gig in November and feel glad I was able to offer him that as a parting shot – he was a natural choice. Shooting the breeze – foraging and gimbles and crazy shit. It sucks!

Hammer Man - Skull Puppets, Directed by and starring Nick 'Beardo' Frewin

First gig in four months – playing outside in sub-zero January – at the wonderful Farmer’s Boy. My lovely cuz came down (from the Midlands) with partner and shaggy dog – so sweet. We played pretty well, despite the shivers, and it felt good to be back strumming with the boys and chatting to the stalwarts that attended. My favourite song of the day was our take on The Giant of Illinois (Handsome Family) – just fitted the moment somehow – cool!

Los Chicos Muertos at The Farmer's Boy - Never Learnt to Swim (Clive Product)

Skull Puppets reconvened as well – back in Bruce’s garage – Nick’s ghost in attendance. Some much needed fuzz-noise protest. We had to turn down several gigs over Christmas/New Year as I just hadn’t been well enough to rehearse since the Autumn – but there’s new recordings in the pipeline and gigs awaiting for sure.

I’ll still easily sleep for nine or ten hours – I wear out pretty quickly, and then there’s the pervading sense of otherness and occasional involuntary trembles. The medical benefits of red wine and 90% dark chocolate are a welcome comfort.

I’m pretty much back at work, in between the medical appointments – well, another year of having to justify the importance of adequately funding community arts events and projects – such is our burden.

On my Birthday I went into London with Justine and Emelia (wife and daughter) – first trek to the big smoke in quite some months. We headed straight for Tate Modern and decided upon checking out the Cezanne exhibition. That line kept going round in my head – ‘in the room where they keep the Cezanne’ and couldn’t place it. I thought it was from Jonathan Richman’s Vincent Van Gogh but much as I endeavoured to recall all the words it just didn’t fit. I later recalled of course that it was Girlfriend – right singer, wrong song. It was lovely just mooching round the galleries, though a little crowded. My take away was that some of his preparatory studies were somehow more vibrant than the finished works and that he had a strong closing chapter. Afterwards we walked along the South Bank, stopping for a coconut milk cortado, before crossing over and wandering through Covent Garden before some extended perusing in Fopp and Forbidden Planet. I picked up (another) Velvet Underground live album and Talking Heads Psycho Killers Live ’79.

With energy levels fading we caught the bus to St Pancras and checked a couple of food places to see if there was anything I could eat on the menu – there wasn’t. So straight to the Champagne Bar for some bubbly rose whilst watching the Eurostars come and go. We checked out the nibbles menu and noticed that there was a cheeseboard. I explained my dietary predicaments to the lady behind the bar and she set about ensuring I received a goodly proportion of Goat’s Cheese as well as some gluten free toast and a fine bowl of olives (goat’s and sheep’s cheese are low lectin as opposed to cow’s cheese which is a no-no). Justine and Emelia had oysters and smoked salmon croque respectively, so all very excellent in the end.

St Pancras

Back at home playing that Velvet Underground album, I read in the sleeve notes that a young Jonathan Richman had attended the gig – being as it was in Boston – though no mention of whether he had a girlfriend at the time!

Back in August 2022, whilst still harbouring a cancerous kidney, I began to write a poem. The impetus was an uber ride towards our debut Skull Puppets gig at Biddle Bros in Hackney- just across from my birthplace. Cruising through those so familiar streets, laughing and buzzing on pre-gig adrenaline. The poem slowly developed over the following months, becoming something of an epic. Pour yourself a stiff one and enjoy…

Buzz Time on the Murder Mile

Blue light caffeine buzz

Uber cool street smart

And drive

Just drive

We are kids at the fairground

All punk rock and lairy

And laughing

Like loons

On this warm summer city

Define us in heartbreak

In powder and cold ink

And howl like a mad thing

This pauper’s kingdom

Set sail in a cold war

A state of attrition

But learn from the bruises

And call out the fuckers

For what will define us

Is less than you’re thinking

Enchanted sidewalk

And tracks in the basement

Look down from the buildings

Take courage in nothing

And swim like a demon

For there in your eyes

Is the panic and freedom

The passion and glory

All speedball romance

And the late-night phone calls

That walk with the angels

And never regret

All the gasoline comforts

The makeshift tents

The ash in the wind

And just freeze

Right there

That moment they held you

In frame and in noise

All blurred and ecstatic

And fun

Like a fuzzed-up bohemian

Sailing and scented

All camp and confused

And lost in the transcript

The needles and pinstripes

The poets and pushers

That drink to the ones

On the wayside and lost

For we ran

Oh we ran

For one beautiful moment

And there in the telling

The stories and rumours

That made us beguiling

That focused the tuning

That left us so broken

Created mosaic

In a Kinder egg Jesus

Who led from the back

With the faintest of smiles

And born to the vampires

This night-time is ours

Take joy in the calling

Take heed from the prophets

Who stood in the spotlight

Who died in the prologue

Who relished the seconds

Who stammered and stuttered

And strutted off skyward

We stand on their graves

And we shuffle


Torn from the season

Just give me a moment

And breathe

Breathe it all in now

For one day

You will need this dream

For one day

You will fall like them

And will cling

To the thought

That for one sweet second

These streets were ours

Such a small thing

Hardly anything really

Who knew

What terms are we using

Define handsome doctor

Do tell

Do tell

Pass around cigars

The port and the quips

There’s jazz in the holding

This sense of foreboding

Wracked soul from the valleys

Cast wayward and crooked

Take solace from those

Who have left for the mountain

Now way beyond sight

As the cloud is descending

No pain no gain

No rain in Spain

No sense of shame

No fun no name

Let’s call it out

Let’s say the word

Then lock it away

In a file marked secret

Damn this trial

And curse this joke

For one brief moment

I swear he spoke

In the wall of the harbour

At closing time

Meandering homeward

In neon and star shine

The sticky tarmac

Slowing our stride

Was it there all along

Or still lost in the ether

So hard to determine

Through a medical mask

Quite what expression

The eyes are not telling

Press pause

Right now

We’ll pick it up again later

Test the shadow

Step out from the doorway

If only it would rain

This air is too heavy

Crazy big moon

With an amber hew

And stars falling

Like press bulb poppers

This heaven you speak of

A cellar in Lyon

So far from the sidewalk

So taken in myth

Summer store Tuesday

The bars are still open

I believe

Life’s a cunt

And then you survive

Just drive

I promise not to cry

Just hold me

Soar away

And smile

For a while at least

Just drive

Grae J.


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