Beside The Seaside

You may have heard that this has been an especially brutal winter here in New England. As a result I don’t think I have ever looked forward to a summer more. If you hear me complaining about the heat in August, feel free to hit me over the head.

Download: Seaside Shuffle – Terry Dactyl and The Dinosaurs (mp3)

In case you didn’t know, this was a 1972 novelty hit by a band that featured Jona Lewie.

Everyone Knows It’s Windy

I slept through the infamous storm of 1987. I had no idea what had happened until I was woken early in the morning by a phone call from my mum asking me if I was OK. Then I noticed that our electricity had gone out. I still went to work later that day — Spirit of The Blitz and all that, you know.

Poor old Michael Fish, 30 years of forecasting the weather on the BBC — mostly accurately I imagine — and all he gets remembered for now is blowing the call on the biggest storm to hit England in 300 years. It reminds me of that “And you shag one sheep!” joke.

Download: (He’s Our Dear Old) Weatherman – Mark Wirtz (mp3)

This happy paisley number is from the 1960s legendary unfinished Teenage Opera project.

Fall Backwards

I lived in Florida for 10 years and it all sort of went by in a blur because there is no real changing of the seasons to mark the passing of time there. The climate just goes from really hot to less hot, and the palm trees look the same all year round.

In New England it’s hard not to notice the change of seasons, especially Autumn which announces itself in a colourful explosion of red, orange, and yellow leaves on the trees. It really is quite spectacular, people here drive out into the country just to see the foliage (we did it last week). The London “countryside” (ie: the parks) can be quite beautiful in the Autumn too, as you can see from the above photo taken from the book Richmond Park Photos.

Here’s another lovely change-of-seasons record. As you can tell, like most English people, when I don’t have anything interesting to say I talk about the weather.

Download: Summer Is Over — Dusty Springfield (mp3)

For the anoraks out there this was the b-side of “Losing You” in 1964 and is now a bonus track on the CD version of A Girl Called Dusty.

Phew, What a Scorcher

We’ve had a bit of a savage heatwave here in the States recently and the temperature where I am reached a sweltering, Betty Swollocks 100F a couple of weeks ago (that’s 37C to you Eurotrash.) Someone asked me if it ever got that hot in London and while I don’t ever remember triple-digit heat in the city myself apparently it did hit a record-breaking 102F in the capital one day in 2003 which must have turned our non-air-conditioned Tube trains into even more fetid cauldrons of sweat and BO than usual.

Ask any Brit of a certain age about hot weather and chances are the first thing they’ll mention is the summer of 1976 which for many of us is still the touchstone for memorably scorching weather. There have been baking hot summers since but none that went on so long with so little rain (it was the driest year since records began in 1772) and caused such bad water shortages that some people had to get theirs by filling buckets from standpipes in the street.

I turned 14 that summer and in photos I have a nice dark tan, but my strongest memory of the time doesn’t involve sun-kissed days playing outside or carefree adventures around London (though I’m sure there was a lot of that), but instead the one thing that has stuck in my mind was an episode of Blue Peter that was all about tips for conserving water and John Noakes said we should turn the tap off when brushing our teeth instead of letting it run. Ever since then I’ve always turned the tap off. Thanks John!

Of course no one had heard the phrase “global warming” in the 70s — in fact the big scare at the time was the chance of another Ice Age — and apparently skin cancer didn’t exist either because we didn’t cover ourselves in SPF +100 before we went outside. No, it was a quick lube on the face and shoulders with Boot’s suncream and if we got sunburned (and I did, a lot) mum would cool our skin down with some cold Calomine Lotion straight from the fridge. So it’s no wonder the summer of 1976 seems so idyllic and perfect in our memories, hot weather didn’t fill us with feelings of impending doom back then.

“Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” was number one all that summer but I don’t think we need to hear that again, do we?

Download: Sun – Donovan (mp3)

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