As part of the Great Clear Out, boxes full of things are being dislodged from their dust foundations and unlidded.

It would be great to announce the uncovering of some neglected but promising manuscript of a novel, an unfinished play, pretty fragments of verse, all ripe for renovation… there are many shards, but a well-decorated commode was still a commode.

I am quite taken by some of the clippings I’ve acquired, including this, from Vox magazine:

May 1994. I think it’s the slightly distrustful tone combined with wide-eyed wonder at the strange promise of the future.

You’ll soon be able to buy standard sized, five-inch discs that will play music and VHS-quality pictures (with the right system from Amiga, Macintosh and so on, of course).

Amiga, Macintosh and so on, of course. Never mind the march of technology – 24 years later, the very notion of wanting to keep something you’ve paid for seems quite retrograde.

So, yeah, it’s mostly going in the recycling.

The title for this post comes from ‘top searches’ on my wordpress dashboard.

Tonight I stepped outside at twilight to shut in the chickens. It was quiet, so quiet I stopped by the side of the house and just stood in the silence for a moment or two. All the day birds had tucked in for the night. We’d had a thunderstorm earlier, and everything smelled crisp and fresh. One of them there moments of clarity ensued.


Then the fragments of alternate lyrics to a version of The Ballad of Dorothy Parker, only about a chicken, re-established themselves in my head (“Yeah, let me get some millet, I ain’t too hungry.”) and normal service was resumed. But still, still.

This summer’s pans on the hobs:

  • Enthusiastically Shedding Stuff
  • Moving house
  • Looking at my family in wonderment (simmer forever)
  • Putting together a hard copy publication
    (Actual physical print product. Comics, music, politics, etc. Would you like to write or draw or something for it? Do please let me know.)

1st January 2014! A very happy new year to all Mortal Bath readers using the CE calendar.

It’s nice to be living in the future. 2014 sounds very advanced. Well, it does to me and all the other remnants of the 20th century I know/meet/am aware of. This used to be the near-distant future. I suppose that’s 2036 now. This year I think I will have quite a lot to say about cultural hangovers, and I apologise now for what may be the first of 10,500 references to temporal equivalence and nostalgia during the solar sojourn. “This is like people in the 1980s banging on about the 1960s,” sort of thing. I was 19 in 1994 – insert the 20-year cycle of your own experience.

Lots to do, lots to write about, lots to get on with. It would be – here’s one thing I’ve learned – foolish, a repeating history doom, to make the usual start-of-year manifesto claims, the sorts that leave one high and dry and looking only semi-dedicated in July. However, I am happy to note that this was the first second new year’s day in my recent memory that I wasn’t nursing some sort of monster hangover of fear… and the day was very productive… ending in Triumphs 3 Disasters 0: glass of wine, take-away curry treat and the grand return of Sherlock on the BBC. Sherlock will feature in The Mortal Bath next week.

But THIS week… well, here’s one of the presents Santa’s little helpers left under the tree:

S-book cover

The idea of S., J.J. Abrams and Doug Dorst’s tribute to the printed word, had me dribbling from the moment I first read about it somewhere, I forget precisely where, probably Boing Boing. Regular readers of the Mortal Bath will be aware of my bibliophilia and a fannish admiration of Abrams’ work. What I’ve seen of Dorst’s work seems appealing also. Happily, regarding the book, the fat man in the red suit obliged…

I have yet to read the text, busy with some Xmas hols library books what I shall mention at a later date. It may prove to be a bit of a disappointment, but… O! The excitement as I slit the cover tape and had a reverent moment handling the Object.

Made up to look like a library book!

Made up to look like a library book!

Napkin map inserts!

Napkin map inserts!

Annotations and postcards!

Annotations and postcards!

Dear me. Reader, I combusted.

Thusly… that’s what’ll be keeping me occupied this first week in January 2014 (claps hands with excitement). Hope you have something pleasant to be getting on with also.

Having received a cassette tape of 7″ singles through the post recently (“You got a what of what through the what?” – The Youth), I decided to set myself one of those implausible, fiddly personal projects that some people pitch to publishers and get paid money for.

You know the sort of thing: Are You Dave Gorman?, Yes Man, Playing the Moldovans at Tennis, Round Ireland with a Fridge, Six Stickers, Flipping a World Record Stack of Beermats with Half-arsed Ideas for Travelogue Pot Boilers Written On, etc.

Flipping fiddling! Here’s a cassette box:


It’s chock full of tapes that I’ve never quite brought myself round to getting rid of. I hold on to them because… well, I’m of that age, y’know?

“I remember when all this were stuff you could hold, look at, skin up on, not just carry on a chip on your phone,” sort of grumbly dad dude duding thing. While I dig a great many innovations of the digital now, you can’t walk into a room full of mp3s and ebooks. Not yet, anyway, and I expect it won’t be the same when we can, somehow.

Additionally, I have a bit of an e-bee in the virtual bonnet about a culture that thinks it’s OK for people’s record collections to consist of 130 folders with a single track in each. (Without problematising the matter by questioning the notion of “record collections”, obvs). The devil take them, and your stereo.


I’m of that age. Nostalgia… I was born and mostly grew up in the 20th century, where we had hopes for the tabula rasa of the 21st. Well, I did. Look what they’ve done to my dream, as Freddie Mercury once implored. This century currently frequently gives me a headache with its shallowness. Faux personal contact touchscreen ‘likes’, bland entreaties to ‘join the debate on twitter’, po-mo e-capitalism gone berserk, a blithe continuing acceptance of perpetual war and the arms trade…

Perhaps it is a headache from unvented fuming. >kaff!<

Yeah, yeah, and they were saying all this in 1913 as well, I’m sure, and 1813, and so on. Looking through the tapes, it becomes clear that, far more than semi-articulated vaguely socio-political motivations, it is basic personal attachment. I am hoarding ageing media because many of them were gifted compilations. The mix tape was a thing of beauty fair. This box contains examples from friends, family, former lovers…


Here are tapes as intriguing time capsules, telling stories with music and pictures about simple (and not-so-simple) lives intertwining. [beat] As well as being relics to sustain a sentimental soul as the world gallops forth.

Thus, in short, do I commit to working my way through said box of cassette tapes, sharing what goodies and possible baddies I might find therein!

But first, this:

Hard copies!

hard copies

Written letters,
got letters,
inserted photos
recorded things, made covers for them,
sent through the mails.
Made tapes for lovers and friends –
compilations relating the state of the nation
back in whenever it was –
or right now,
how you’re feeling right now,
holding the envelope in your hands
having run a finger under the flap,
slit open the paper,
pulled out the letter,
put the photo on the fridge door where you can see it,
placed the tape in old equipment
(pick up thy Walkman…),
played songs,
some you half know, some you don’t know…
and you love them all.

Something like that, anyway. More to follow on the Castrato Attack Group CD, which is available at Memoirs of an Aesthete but for now suffice to say: heaviosity.

Regards the tape and other pressies, thanks be to JCG at Ten Minutes Hate (proper letter coming at you, obvs). The cassette seems to be a compilation of songs with a ‘walking’ theme, which made me chuckle as I did, in fact, play it in a Walkman.

When I was in the classroom and had a free period and put on the tape, this was the first track, and with the massive rumble of orchestral thunder, louring Yorkshire clouds threw rain against the window.

And the sun shone at the same time. It was, let me assure you, a moment quite far out.

Happy days!

While loath to send traffic towards the Daily Mail’s website – as if the Keyword Kings of Northcliffe House need the help – this article about “vintage” record bags was forwarded to me. It is worth a look, if you can bring yourself. I tried to find a tumblr account with similar images, but couldn’t, sorry.

Alors, it stirred some interesting thoughts about records. Actually, the first thing it made me do was turn around and look at this on the wall behind me:

Satisfaction guaranteed in Gothenburg

That’s a carrier bag from Satisfaction, which was a second-hand record emporium in Gothenburg, Sweden. The bag-in-frame is situated above my record collection, illustrating a decorative taste for the obvious that can be seen also on the other side of the room, where I have a bag from Gosh! comics, London, above the comics shelves.

So, bags. The Daily Heil article of course touches on the seeming demise of record shops over the last 10 years, as new means for the mass production and distribution of pop music are embraced. Regular readers of The Mortal Bath may recognise a theme relating to hard copies, in particular the superiority of vinyl/CD/cassette over many aspects of e-music, for want of a better all-encompassing term. I’ll not grumble too much about it: there’s a lot to commend the digital age, but a lot of ways in which It Just Ain’t The Same.

It doesn’t take much to make men of a certain age and demographic wax prolix and nostalgic about stuff in any case (or sleeve). I remember the colours of the WHSmiths bag shown in the article. The first single I remember buying myself came home in a WHSmiths bag just like it. I’d like to say it was one of the Adam and The Ants’ records, but I’m pretty certain it was Brown Sauce’s ‘I wanna be a winner’.

Written by B.A. Robertson (my childhood’s second-favourite B.A.) Brown Sauce was loveable Cheggers, the lovely Maggie Philbin, and N**l Ed****S, off Swap Shop. I think it safe to venture that my purchase proves the diabolic power of TV on impressionable young minds.

Smiths is probably not on many people’s list of go-to places for records now, although they do still stock a Top 40, I think. Further mental baggage includes leaving Our Price, Harrogate, with carriers containing They Might Be Giants (Lincoln on vinyl, an absurd £1.99 in the sale and one of the best spends ever)… singles by The Wedding Present (most of The Hit Parade as it came out) and Manic Street Preachers’s Motown Junk, which I heard on Steve Lamacq’s Evening Session and was totally smitten with, HAD to have it, one of the rare occasions I have actually gone out the next day to buy a record I heard on the radio.

Our Price has closed too, along with pretty much every other record shop in Harrogate. I understand the relatively-recently-arrived HMV is still holding on by the skin of its teeth, although it’s probably only a matter of time before it and all its brethren and sistren are turned into earphones-and-mobile-phone-skins shops by the new owners. Mutter, bah, grumble.

I visited Satisfaction when holidaying in Sverige with pals. Ah, happy memories. The record in the bag was some version or other of Rarities Volume 1 by The Who.

I could have spent about 10m Kronor in there, but I only had 70 SEK spending monies spare. Discovering little troves like that and making a small deposit (“A MONETARY deposit!”) are part of the glory of wandering about in the real world, perhaps an increasingly rare experience in many places. Finding record shops, I mean. Discovering just now via the magic of the webs that Satisfaction has closed down, with the magic of the webs a possible contributing factor, gives me all sorts of contradictory feelings. Much like the Brown Sauce record, in fact.

Yet there are pockets of resistance to this march towards the Musical Singularity. Local-to-me shops in York, UK, such as the excellent Inkwell and Rebound Records (both on Gillygate) or Attic Records (near the market), to name the three I can think of right now, are troves similar in ethos and layout to Satisfaction. As I mentioned in a previous post about jukeboxes, charity shops here remain quite reliable sources for yer vinyl fix, although often they have fallen prey to using Record Collector to price their Fair or Good Copies at Near Mint prices. Hiss, crackle!

When I go a-browsing I tend mostly to have my own bag with me these days, but if I find a shop en passant that has an appealing design on their carrier, it might well end up decorating a wall. And you can’t do that with a zipped folder, kids.

After a considerable hiatus, and being ankle deep in bits of paper, glue, slicing and snipping equipment for a few weeks (as well as trips abroad and two days in bed for manflu), I am delighted to trumpet the long-awaited* issue number 3 of WHAAAT?, the infrequent journal of the incredulous.

Whaaat? #3

Available in glorious hard copy only (it’s like a blog for the bog, yeah?), please get in touch if you would like one.

* thanks mother