A Girl’s Own Room


My sister’s room was next to mine, but non-sister girl’s bedrooms were still mysterious places to me. According to the pop music of the 1970s boys sometimes didn’t leave them alive.

Download: Angie Baby – Helen Reddy (mp3)

A Room of Your Own


I shared a bedroom with my older sister until I was 11 years old and I used to dream that if I had my own room the walls would be painted Chelsea blue with a big white number 9 (Peter Osgood‘s number) on one of them. Sadly, when the glorious day came that I got my own room after we moved to a bigger council flat it didn’t live up to that fantasy and turned out to be a tiny box room with ugly orange wallpaper. But I didn’t care, it was mine!

Having the freedom of your own bedroom is a big deal when you’re a kid because your life is dictated to in so many other ways — what to eat, what time to get up, how long to stay out — and while you might not get to pick the furniture, how it’s arranged and what’s on the walls are about the only way you can stamp your personality on your environment at that age (like making the David Bowie bin on the book cover above). Personal space is even more at a premium when you live in a small council flat and have a sibling.

I wasn’t a solitary kid but I was perfectly happy to be on my own and the room was my very own Fortress of Solitude where I could daydream and let my imagination bloom. I had really bad hayfever in my early teens and spent a lot of hot summer days alone in my room with the curtains closed to ease my sneezy and red-eyed misery caused by the pollen-rich air outside. I think I basically “missed” a couple of summers that way, and though it makes me sound like I was some adolescent Marcel Proust I didn’t write an epic novel but I did draw a lot, read piles of comics, and listen to the radio, often while drowsy from anti-histamines. To this day getting woozy from medicine still gives me a Proustian rush back to my shady bedroom.

Once I got later into my teens the room became an even more important refuge, somewhere to go with all those confused thoughts and raging hormones (if you know what I mean). I’d moon in frustration over some girl I didn’t have the nerve to ask out, stew about how unfair life and the world was, and draw rather gloomy pictures. It was also where I spent nearly every week-night listening to John Peel, which is probably what I’m doing in this photo.


See what I mean about the wallpaper?

Even though it was small a lot of big things happened in that room. It was where my life-defining love of pop music and graphic art developed; where I first heard about the deaths of Ian Curtis, Elvis Presley, and John Lennon; where I first heard songs like “Love Will Tear Us Apart” and all the other classics that would define my youth. It was also where I got a girl’s bra off for the first time.

I left home in my mid-20s after I graduated from art college and moved into a flat with some mates. My mum finally got rid of the horrible wallpaper, painted the walls blue (10-year-old me would have been very happy) and turned it into a storage room full of junk and boxes. Whenever I went home I’d peek in there and it looked so different I struggled to imagine all the days and nights I’d spent in there and what that room had meant to my youth. All I had was the ghosts of memories of that tiny little space where I became me.

Download: In Your Room – Bangles (mp3)

Something for the Weekend



Here’s another duet between and old lounge lizard and a young lady better known for her looks than her singing.

In case you’re wondering this is from the 1974 TV series Twiggs. Yes, Twiggy had her own variety show.

The Mad Woman in the Kitchen



I think even back then we knew Fanny Cradock was a bit deranged. I love the way she says “A PROPER OMELETTE PAN!” as if she’s going to come round your house and hit you with a ruler if you don’t use one. And how crappy that stove looks now compared to the fancy, well-appointed kitchens Nigella and Jamie cook in. But at least it’s something her viewers might actually have themselves — looks like the stove we had, in fact — and not some aspirational Aga range which cost more than most people’s cars.

This is the Christmas episode from 1975 and apparently things were so bad that year — terrorism, unemployment, inflation — British housewives were reduced to making their entire holiday feast out of mincemeat. It’s all rather sad and desperate and Fanny even gives a little speech at the end about the “appalling present conditions” as if the country was in the middle of the Blitz. Pretty sure we had turkey as usual that year.

And God Created Bardot


When I posted the video on Friday I had no idea it was Brigitte Bardot’s 80th birthday on Sunday. Though she’s mad as a box of frogs these days, she’s still the iconic queen of all the pouty, gap-toothed, French-movie sirens that have reduced so many of us to helpless blobs of jelly over the years.

Serge Gainsbourg’s most famously naughty song was originally written for Bardot, but stories of apparent heavy petting between the two of them while recording it caused a scandal before it had even come out. Brigitte was married to another man at the time — those French! — who was, not surprisingly, none too thrilled by this so she asked Serge not to release their version. It didn’t come out until the 1980s and I think is sexier than the version he did with Jane Birkin.

Download: Je t’aime… Moi Non Plus – Brigitte Bardot & Serge Gainsbourg (mp3)

Something for Le Weekend



There were several early Brigitte Bardot films on the telly here the other night and from what I saw they weren’t very good (with the exception of Contempt). But I guess when you have Bardot to look at the film being any good is an irrelevant detail.

Part of The Union


Living on the other side of the Atlantic now I really didn’t have a dog in the Scottish independence vote but I’m happy with the result purely because it increases the chance of a Labour government being elected who hopefully wouldn’t be as awful as the Tories. Even though I’m a Londoner I can see that the city has too much influence and we need a counterbalancing force in the North. Plus I have Irish and Scottish blood and think we’d lose something if the Celtic part of our identity went away — much as I’m proud to be English, being “British” is better.

But I must admit part of me would have been thrilled with the opposite outcome because it would have been a big kick in the balls to David Cameron and the entrenched Westminster status quo which seems to be much needed. There would have been something very punk rock about Scotland tearing up the UK and starting again.

Would have been a shame to lose so many great bands from the UK though.

Download: Let’s Get Out Of This Country – Camera Obscura (mp3)

Something for the Weekend



Poor old Malcolm Owen. Died of a heroin overdose after The Ruts had recorded just the one album and a few singles, forever making them a “What if?” footnote in post-punk history. Also had the misfortune to die only two weeks after Ian Curtis and get forgotten by history while the gloomy Manc is a legend (even though The Ruts were a bigger band than Joy Division at the time).

What’s it all about?

The sentimental musings of an ageing expat in words, music, and pictures. Mp3 files are up for a limited time so drink them while they're hot. Contact me: lee at londonlee dot com

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