Bloke in the Kitchen. Chop suey

kitchen

Taking the mystery and fear out of cooking

chop suey 1
Just because it’s foreign, that doesn’t mean it’s difficult.

As with chow mein, chop suey is a simple Chinese-style dish that can be adapted to what you happen to have in the kitchen. There is no universally-agreed recipe, but wherever I have eaten it, the common denominator has been bean sprouts, so that is what this recipe is based on.

Many Chinese recipes use monosodium glutamate, but we’re going to do without it. It is a kind of salty flavor-enhancer that occurs naturally in certain foods, but eventually some scientist made it as a powder. It’s about as traditional as chicken nuggets, so you can live without it. The Chinese did for thousands of years.

We’re using chicken, but you’ve seen a Chinese menu: you could do it with pork, beef or prawns. The chicken is pre-cooked – maybe the remains of a roast. Just pull it apart into strips a few inches long.

The way I see it, this is a light dish full of vegetables, with plenty of gravy at the bottom, the meat or seafood for protein, and rice on the side for energy and bulk.

Vegetables are mainly water, and bean sprouts particularly so. That is probably why there is that old thing about having a Chinese meal and being hungry again an hour later. If that happens, though, it just means you didn’t eat enough rice.

The water chestnuts are there purely to add to the Chineseness of the dish. If you’ve never knowingly eaten them before, they don’t have a pronounced flavor but they do have a surprising  crunchiness.

The ingredients are just suggestions. The only must-have is the bean sprouts.

INGREDIENTS

Bean sprouts

Sugar snap peas

Pak choi (chopped)

Water chestnuts (canned)

Strips of chicken (already roasted or fried)

Garlic (finely chopped or crushed)

Soy sauce

Chicken stock

METHOD

Heat a little oil in a wok or a big frying pan and quickly do the garlic, but don’t let it burn. Add half a cup of water and half a chicken stock cube,  then the sugar snap peas and the pak choi. When the vegetables have cooked down a bit, add the bean sprouts and  water chestnuts and stir well to get everything juicy with stock.

Then add the chicken and season to taste with soy sauce, salt and pepper. If you like a lot of gravy, add some more chicken stock.

Serve with boiled rice and lap up the compliments from people who think you’ve done something difficult.

COWBOY TIP

If you don’t use pak choi or sugar snap peas, just get something green in there. Savoy cabbage, celery tops, broccoli florets or spinach, maybe. You can slice some mushrooms thinly and add them early on with the garlic. If you can’t find any water chestnuts but you do see bamboo shoots, use them. You’re not slavishly following orders – you’re creating something.

 

The wisdom of pop songs – Start with the title

buzz 1
Hey, I got a great title. Anybody got a tune?

Any time someone writes a song, they hope it’s going to be a hit. Even if it’s you or me, with precious little hope of that ever happening, we  daydream. And we try to make it attractive to people.

Unfortunately, there is no magic formula, but that doesn’t stop people  throwing in every trick they can think of.

Songs have to have ‘hooks’, but what is one of those when it’s at home? It’s a catchy little bit that goes on repeat in the listener’s brain.

However, you either think of one or you don’t. The blessed few, such as Paul McCartney, have been supplied with catchy bits way beyond their fair share over the years. From Yellow Submarine to The Frog Chorus and beyond he has come up with tunes you can’t get out of your head.

Another potential tool at the writer’s disposal – and one which any mere mortal can use – is the catchy title, particularly a popular expression, saying etc, whether classic or fashionable.

buzz 3
The Essex. They had the image, they had the title…

As an example, take drop dead gorgeous. It’s an expression that emerged some time in the 1990s and spread throughout the English-speaking world. It was only a matter of time before someone used it for a song title, and lo and behold, in 1997 a band called Republica did just that and had a hit. This was followed a couple of years later by a film of the same name and there are probably beauticians’ shops and boutiques all over the world trading under those three words too.

The English singer and producer Nick Lowe took advantage of the expression “you’ve got to be cruel to be kind” and duly reaped a number 12 spot on both sides of the Atlantic in 1979, while three years later Kylie Minogue benefited from Stock Aitken and Waterman’s eye for a commercial idea with Better The Devil You Know.

Scottish songwriter/singer B. A. Robertson enlisted the posthumous help of William Shakespeare for his To Be Or Not To Be, a title which has also been used by other artistes, including the actress Courtney Welbon, whose  more recent song owes nothing whatever to Robertson’s.

buzz 2
Well, it was the old boy’s deathday this week

Elvis Presley was a pioneer of the buzz-phrase title with It’s Now or Never in 1960, and the years following that used the trick relentlessly.

Early Motown legend Mary Wells had a big hit with Smokey Robinson’s Beat Me To The Punch, well before her classic My Guy.

Around the same time a group of US Marines, three men and a girl singer,  had a degree of success with Easier Said Than Done, which did well in the US and just scraped into the UK charts, boosted by its popularity on the Northern Soul scene.

The world’s leading exponent of the art of making a song out of a title must be Jim Steinman, creator of hits for Meatloaf and others, who came blasting out of nowhere  in the 1970s with Bat Out of Hell. He kept his corpulent, overacting friend in the hits with other such gimmicky numbers as Dead Ringer and perhaps the most despicable abuse of words in the history of music, (I want you, I need you, but there ain’t no way I’m ever gonna love you. But don’t feel sad, cos) Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad. Along the way he provided Bonnie Tyler with Total Eclipse of the Heart and Celine Dion with It’s All Coming Back to Me Now.

The late Irish blues-rock guitarist Rory Gallagher seemed incapable of naming a song or an album without resorting to snappy familiarity: Big Guns, Photo Finish, Stage Struck, Fresh Evidence.

buzz 4
What rhymes with this, guys? Oh yeah, I’m doing fine… on cloud nine

And people are still doing it. R. Kelly’s Thank God It’s Friday took advantage of a phrase coined by a restaurant chain, while Aerosmith gratefully accepted a few million bucks via Diane Warren’s I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing.

In the 21st century if there is one saying that was asking for this treatment it is that ubiquitous piece of dumb wisdom What Goes Around Comes Around, and Justin Timberlake did the honours in 2006.

Or perhaps the top candidate was (What doesn’t kill you makes you) Stronger, which provided inspiration for both Kelly Clarkson (or her writers, anyway) and Kanye West.

buzz 5
What doesn’t kill you makes you… richer

Honourable mentions: Queen for Another One Bites the Dust, Helen Reddy for That Ain’t No Way to Treat a Lady and The Eagles for New Kid in Town

Kaycee’s Klasic Films – Crazy Heart

Siobhan Kennedy-Clarke’s classic film reviews
Our fictitious reviewer Siobhan (KayCee) didn't have much of an education but she's passionate about films

crazy heart

Most actors try to hang onto their good looks and their sexy image even when they’re well past it and you’d of thought Jeff Bridges would be one of them after all he’s a pretty sexy guy or was when he was young but he seems to of decided he’s going to be a character actor in his later years. He did True Grit which was brave considering it is a classic that is always  linked with John Wayne and not just that but he did it as an overweight grizzled smelly old guy not like the smooth young seducer he used to be.

In Crazy Heart he does the same he’s a washed up country singer who used to be a big star but now he’s better at drinking than singing. You can see why Jeff would be interested in this because he’s always been into music I remember in the 1980s he fronted a long show about pop music which was all clips of classic songs and he linked it walking along beaches going “Rock’n’roll!”

He was also in Heaven’s Gate with Kris Kristofferson whose an old singer-songwriter my Mum says she thought he was a bit of alright and he was a bit beardy and gruff I think. That’s what Bad Blake is like in Crazy Heart.

The thing is these old geezers often get given a good looking girl as a co-star who falls in love with them or at least lets them into her drawers for some reason I don’t know I suppose we’re meant to find a mature man’s experience interesting and think we might learn something and all the older women these days are supposed to be “cougars” who want to teach young men all they know so the law of supply and demand means there’s this age gap thing going on.

Anyways in this there’s Maggie Gyllenhaal as a journalist who interviews him and gradually they get close to each other. The thought of getting close to someone like that kind of makes me want to gag but you have to remember that it’s just a film and forget that in reality he must smell like the devil’s handkerchief.

And of course he starts getting his act together and cleaning up and all that, all for the love of a good woman, but then he takes Maggie’s four-year-old son out for the day to a mall and has a drink and manages to lose him I tell you after I watched that once I didn’t want to see it again it was so horrible but after a year or two I gave it another go silly eh? I know it’s only a film and it is all right in the end but it still worried me.

crazy heart 2
Have you brushd your teeth, Bad Blake? No, I mean it

Apart from the love story which takes a big hiccup at that point for obvious reasons  there is the professional side with this younger guy Tommy played by Colin Farrell who used to be Bad Blake’s kind of protégé and is now a star in his own write and he wants Blake to write songs for him but he will perform them himself because now he’s the one that sells all the tickets and records. It seems fair enough you can see him thinking it’s wrong having to play second fiddle when you know you’re the real thing and this young twerp ain’t fit to lace your boots or whatever. Must be hard.

But at the end of the film Maggie comes back into it and there seems to be light at the end of the toenail as they say. Jeff Bridges won the Oscar for Best Actor for this and rightly so I reckon he’s growing old not exactly gracefully but he’s accepting change and getting on with it good for him.

 

 

 

The English Pedant – Quite a condundrum

If you are quite sure it is quite likely to rain, do you mean you are absolutely sure that it is a fair possibility_ Or that you are fairly sure it's definitely going to_It's quite confusing, isn't it_ Quite the most confusi

When teaching English to non-native speakers, something that comes up now and then is the need to withhold information for fear of complicating matters. Take quite, for instance.

When we use it nowadays we usually mean a medium degree of something. Quite warm, quite cold, quite loud, quite quiet. It means fairly; it doesn’t mean 100%.

And yet not so long ago it meant quite the opposite.  Quite the opposite. In that context it means completely or absolutely.

Both meanings are currently in use, so the EFL teacher has to decide which one to teach and which to hide. (Students need to be presented with simple explanations, rights and wrongs, where possible. Only the very advanced ones should be burdened with such brain-twisters.)

If we say the identity of quite is quite complex, we mean it’s somewhere between perhaps 30% and 60% on the complexity scale.

And then there is the difference between “he’s quite a conversationalist”, which is complimentary, and “he’s quite the conversationalist”, which can have a disparaging, bitchy tone. “My ex-husband is quite the man-about-town”.

How did this happen? It’s a condundrum, isn’t it? Well, quite. Exactly.

It has to be down to our old villain, ignorance. Someone got it wrong and others heard it, understood what the speaker or writer meant,  didn’t mark it down as incorrect, and started using it incorrectly too.

Now, trend-spotters, a brand new one came the Pedant’s way just this week. It was in a regular weekly football column by a former player and now pundit who broadcasts his views via the BBC. In his “team of the week”, he spoke of a young Manchester City striker and how Pep Guardiola, who will take over as manager at the end of the season, must be looking forward to working with such talented youngsters. But instead of soon-to-arrive manager or perhaps incoming manager, he told us Guardiola was the incumbent manager.

It’s an easy mistake to make. Quite easy? No, very easy. The word incumbent sounds as if it means someone who is heading this way, but it doesn’t mean that. It  means the current manager.

If this word suddenly changes its meaning, it’s quite likely there is only one man to blame.

Confessions of an expat – Caracas and queues

Even before the economic crash which brought shortages of everyday items, one rather surprising feature of Venezuelan life was their willingness to queue. British people always think we’re the only people on the planet who do this, but out there they form orderly queues for buses, underground trains and banks.

caracas
Even when you eventually get on a bus there’s no guarantee you’re going anywhere

That is where the orderliness finishes with buses, though. There don’t seem to be timetables or signs indicating bus stops – people just know that if you stand in a certain place a certain bus will pick you up. At the start of the journey they don’t leave at a particular time, just when they are full. I must admit that at peak times in Caracas, when the lines of people go back 200 yards, I was known to lurk near the front of the queues for two routes, both of which would get me home, and drift between the two so that I became a familiar figure and then shuffle onto whichever arrived first. In the evenings they make up the prices as they go along, but I found that if you called their bluff and hand over the usual fare without showing them up they would usually accept it.

The vehicles themselves are often old and dilapidated, but they get you there and your expectations change out here anyway – the smell of burning engine oil might be slightly alarming, but it’s not the smell of a burning bus.

The queuing business is similar in the Metro – they have lines painted on the platform that encourage you to form snakes, but the thing is so busy much of the time that I would either breeze into a gap and casually peer up the tunnel as if looking for a train, then hang around there, or make a late run into space. It’s dog eat dog when the train arrives, anyway, with the women among the worst offenders, barging with unnecessary force into crowded carriages, safe in the knowledge that nobody is going to punch them because they are just defenceless females. The UK still has a few overcompensating women, punishing today’s men for the sins of their fathers, but out there it seems like they’ve only just finished burning their bras.

That, in fact, will never happen there, because the women like to flaunt what they’ve got. They are very proud of the fact that Venezuela has produced more Miss Worlds than any other country, and they still do well in the competition’s successor, Miss Universe. Incidentally, they call a winner of one of these competitions ‘a Miss’.

miss v
Top export: Venezuela has produced more ‘Misses’ than any other country

Rumour has it that many of the spectacular cleavages are surgically-enhanced, but be that as it may, the feminine scenery is tremendous. It doesn’t stop some of them behaving like graduates of the Holloway Prison School of Charm, but maybe it’s better to be assaulted by psychopathic sisters rather than psychopathic brothers.

There is even a Miss who not long ago was a mayor of part of Caracas and is tipped to be a future president. However, the country will first have to bring to an end the Chavez/Maduro years, and although a million telescopes are trained on the horizon, there is no real sign of that particular ship coming in yet.

As for the banks, it’s all a matter of incompetence. You can be in there for literally hours waiting to accomplish a simple task such as paying in a cheque.

caracas 2
Boys will be boys, but this is real life, not a film

And speaking of incompetence, after six months I was still hopeless at Spanish. I could read the newspaper and understand most of it, write in Spanish and even speak it a bit in a halting, laboured way, but when they started talking I got hardly a word. In a strange way this helped me as an English teacher, because I now recognise that blank look in some of my students’ eyes when I ask them a simple question. I was routinely humiliated by bus drivers and shop assistants who felt superior to this clever-dick gringo because they could speak the language and I couldn’t.

Phrase books and elementary Spanish courses? Forget it. In their world when you walk into a cafe the waiter says ‘What would you like?’ and you say ‘A white coffee, please. ‘ In reality he says ‘Gorblimey guvnor I’ve got a bleeding sesame seed stuck between me teeth wotcha want then?’ and you stand there with your mouth open.

In my defence, I must point out that many Venezuelans speak Spanish as if they never went to school. It’s all sloppy pronunciation and slang, and they are particularly reluctant to use consonants, so that when you’re listening for the underground train driver to announce the next station as Parque Carabobo, he gabbles something like Ar-eh Ara o-o and everyone but the foreigner understands. I’ll get it in the end.

They tell me Caracas is one of the most dangerous cities in the world and that you’re safer in Afghanistan than walking the streets as I did. Everybody seems to know someone who was robbed at knifepoint or even kidnapped. Well, all I can say is that I never saw any trouble. I tried to steer clear of the areas people say are best avoided, but as one of them was the place where my bus left from, it was a question of keeping a low profile. Don’t advertise the fact that you have a laptop in your bag, and don’t bring your wallet out and flash the cash – sound advice anywhere.

 

 

Ref! On supporting your local team

The candid thoughts of former Premier League referee Colin Preece, as recorded by our eavesdropping mole in the Duck and Peasant.

 Referee

Evening lads. So, yes, FA Cup hotting up, as you say, Dave. Well, actually I don’t know if that is the right expression. It’s coming to the end, but I can’t say I’m particularly excited, are you? Palace and United in the final?

Trouble is, we’re spoilt these days. With the Champions League, the FA Cup has become a minor competition, hasn’t it? Even though Manchester United are pleased to be in the final, it’s kind of a consolation prize and I’m sure they would rather be safely in the hat for playing Bayern and Barca next season. There was a time when winning the Cup, as we used to call it, was a big deal, but now it’s only a big deal for smaller clubs and for eight-year-olds supporting the big boys.

I agree, Dave, it’s unfair, but if you remember, it was United that started it when they declined to take part a few years ago, when was it?

2005, 2006, Baz? Sounds about right. And that was all to do with taking part in the World Club Championship, which is a mickey mouse thing if ever there was one. But it’s a money-spinner, and that’s all that matters to some people these days.

Quite honestly, I don’t like the way the game is going globally-speaking. Spanish football on British TV, who gives a toss? Well I know a lot of people do, but what I mean is they shouldn’t. They should be supporting their own teams, Plymouth Argyle and Stockport County and Reading, but half of them have to claim affiliation with Man U or Chelsea, and then you’ll see them wearing a Barcelona shirt. Got to be associated with teams that win things. It’s all wrong, Baz, don’t you agree? If you grew up in Stoke on Trent you support Stoke City, you don’t switch to Spurs because Harry Redknapp is there and they look like they’re on the verge of something.

Cheers, Gary. Bottle of San Miguel, please. Yes I know it’s Spanish. I’m just drinking it once, not getting married to it.

Yes, a mate of mine did that. Not Stoke, Ipswich. He was fine with his birthright in the 70s when they were doing well, but give him a couple of barren decades and he jumps ship. Didn’t tell me, though. I was talking to a mutual acquaintance and his name came up and the guy goes “He’s a Spurs fan, isn’t he?” I said no, born in Ipswich. And when I confronted him about it, he was almost denying his heritage.

I think it’s outrageous these days when kids from England profess to be Barca fans. Mind you, I think a lot of it has to do with the colours of the shirt and the fact that it’s a fashionable city. You don’t meet a lot of British Bayern Munich fans, because it hasn’t got the cachet.  French word, Baz, I’m not even sure of the dictionary definition, but it means something is cool, trendy, respected, something like that. You don’t go on stag weekends to Germany, do you? Same with Shakhtar Donetsk and Porto. People are pathetic, they have to cling to the coattails of the popular.

 

 

Have faith, will travel – in Tobago

stained-glass-63204__180

And so to Tobago, little sister of Trinidad and a slow, quiet place with some lovely beaches. It is also quite hilly, as I find when I go looking for a little Anglican church I passed while driving. You don’t notice the hills so much when an engine is doing the work, but it only takes 10 minutes before I’m wishing I had brought the car. In the UK I walk everywhere and enjoy it, but here nobody goes anywhere on foot, and with good reason.

A lady in a car stops and offers me a lift, so I climb in, sweating profusely, and in five minutes we are at the church. It is a small place with an even smaller congregation and they make a bit of a fuss of me afterwards. Then I make the mistake (as it turns out) of telling them I play guitar. They have no musical instrument to lead the singing, so I am pressed into agreeing to play for them, starting the next week.

As nice as it is to play in church – and I’ve done it before – what I really want is to sit quietly in the pews and relax, rather than be solely responsible for the music, so I silently resolve to simply disappear again.

Anyway, I then find another Anglican church closer to my house, so I give that a whirl next time and it’s a lot bigger and very well attended. They prise the music thing out of me, though, and I agree to join the group – at least I won’t be running it myself.

Music practice is on Thursday at 6pm, so I turn up at that time, but there are only two other people there, and the group leader is not one of them. This, as anyone who has lived in the Caribbean knows, is called “island time”, which means people turn up as and when they feel like it. I hang around until 7.30, when one of the others phones the leader, who calmly announces that he’s not coming.

Call me a fastidious, uptight Brit if you like, but there is such a thing as professionalism and sheer courtesy, and I’m quite keen on both of them, so again I decide I’m not going back.

So I’m looking for a Sunday home again, and there are options, but all the services start at 7.30am. On a Sunday morning. Too much for me, even if I do get up early these days.

The rest of my year in Tobago passes without any church at all, apart from a one-off visit to the Catholic one, which is chock full and has a nice atmosphere. Quite simply, though, I don’t feel like I belong there.

But you can pray in your bed. You can pray on the beach. You can communicate with God on the settee. So I do all those things, and life carries on perfectly well.

Bloke in the Kitchen. Arepas with tuna

kitchen

Taking the mystery and fear out of cooking

The arepa (pronounced a–reh-pa) is the staple diet of Venezuela and Colombia, which means they use it like other nationalities use bread, and indeed it is a type of bread. It is made not with wheat flour but a kind of corn flour – not the very fine stuff you use for thickening sauces, but a more gritty grade. The best known is called Harina Pan and you may have to search for it; you won’t find it in many little supermarkets. But there are South Americans all over the world and they love this stuff.

harina
When you find a packet of this, don’t just buy one – buy half a dozen

Having tracked down some Harina Pan, you’re on the road to a lifetime of easy meals.

It’s not like baking bread in the UK or US, where it has to rise and the whole thing seems difficult. This is a knack, not an art.

With arepas, the trick is in getting the consistency right – and that is all a matter of practice. We’re making this for two people, so just adjust the basic quantities according to how many people you’re catering for. If you make too much, you can put the excess in the fridge and use it a day or two later. If you don’t make enough you make some more.

Arepas are quite filling, so you may find one is enough. If you eat two or more for breakfast, you probably won’t need to have any lunch.

You can eat lots of things with them, from grated cheese to black beans. We’re going to do a tuna and onion salad.

INGREDIENTS (FOR THE AREPAS)

Harina Pan

Water

Salt

METHOD

In a large mixing bowl, pour about a cupful of water (depends on the size of the cup, I know) and a sprinkling of salt. Then add Harina Pan, stirring with a wooden spoon, until it is a thick paste just the dry side of wet. Knead it with your hands like you would ordinary dough and you’ll get a feel for it. (One good thing is that it doesn’t stick to your fingers like wheat dough does.) Scoop out  a handful, roll it into a ball about the size of a tangerine and keep rolling it around until it’s solid. Then you start tossing it from hand to hand and it will gradually flatten itself against your palms.

If this doesn’t go too well at first, don’t worry. It’s the kind of thing a Venezuelan housewife can do with her eyes shut and she will always be better at it than any chef. But you will improve every time.

As the dough flattens, if it starts to crack around the edges, get a splash of water on your hands – just enough to dampen them – and fix the cracks.

When it is about one third of an inch thick and maybe four inches wide, you’re in business. The actual size is up to you. Bigger than four inches is harder to handle. Smaller ones are cute – they call them arepitas.

Heat a good, heavy frying  or griddle pan but don’t use any oil. Turn the heat down to about one-third and place the arepas on the hot surface for 20 minutes or so. Flip them and see if the surface is developing golden brown marks. Do both sides until they are like that.

When one load is done, put aside and cover with a tea towel. Arepas stay warm quite a long time.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
The family cook’s best friend: the easy, versatile, filling arepa

VARIATIONS

Some people like to fry arepas, which can add flavor but also adds calories. You can also bake them in the oven.

INGREDIENTS (TUNA AND ONION FILLING)

One can of tuna in oil

An onion

A pepper (red, yellow or orange)

A tomato

Cilantro (coriander leaves) Half a handful.

A lime (or if you can’t find a lime, use a lemon)

Olive oil

METHOD

Drain the oil from the can and put the tuna into a mixing bowl (Christmas pudding size). Chop the pepper, cilantro and onion and mix in. Squeeze the lime juice over the mixture. Add a small glug of olive oil (if it’s not still oily enough from the can). Sprinkle on a little salt and pepper.

TO SERVE

Straight from the pan, arepas are very hot, so you may want to use a cloth to pick one up. Slice it open with a knife, working your way around the edge. Open it flat and spread some butter on, then spoon the tuna salad on. Pick it up with your hands or use a knife and fork if it’s too hot or messy for you.

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What do you mean, messy? This is food, not art

 

 

 

 

The wisdom of pop songs – It’s hard being young

The human condition explained in three-minute bursts
teen 1
So you’re a teenager, eh? Can I see some ID please?

Young love manifests itself in song all the time and varies over the decades only by dint of the apparent level of innocence. When teenagers were first labelled as such in the 1950s they hit the world like a new species, and yet they seem, in retrospect, pathetically grateful to be acknowledged.

Teenager in Love, a 1959 hit for Dion and the Belmonts, sounds as if the title was written first and the song built around it (more of which next week), but like many a ditty featuring teenagers, it was written by professional songwriters well past puberty – in this case Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman (Save the Last Dance for Me, Sweets for my Sweet, Suspicion et al).

Too Young was a hit in 1951 in the US for Nat ‘King’ Cole and in the UK by Jimmy Young, both of whom seemed too old rather than too young to be bleating about this.

They try to tell us we’re too young
Too young to really be in love

It has always been the teenager’s most cherished wish to be accepted as an adult and allowed to do ‘adult’ things, while refusing to get out of bed before midday and have a shower unless they have a date with the love of their embryonic life.

Longing for the day when all will be enabled has resulted in some beautiful songs, and none is more poignant t hanRuby and the Romantics’ highly emotional yet controlled Our Day Will Come, with its primitive, surging organ (the musical instrument, that is). Such is the majesty of the song that it has been recorded by scores of artists since, such as Bobby Darin, Brenda Lee, The Supremes, Fontella Bass, Isaac Hayes, The Carpenters, Dionne Warwick, K D Lang, Christina Aguilera and Amy Winehouse.

You can listen to it via the link at the end.

Ruby
Hey Ruby! Give the guys the slip and meet me round the back, okay?

Puppy Love, written in 1960 by Paul Anka and recorded by him and others including Donny Osmond, falls on the mawkish side of the fence, but that didn’t bother millions of youngsters who moped tearfully around their bedrooms, hopelessly in love with some dork at school.

The magic age is 16, which coincidentally is the age of consent in many places. After all, if you’re that obsessed with somebody there is a fair chance that you’re going to end up with their tongue down your throat, and we all know where that leads.

In the mid 1960s it was still just about acceptable to openly lust after underage girls, as in blues songs such as Good Morning Little Schoolgirl, with its none-too-subtle declaration, “ I wanna ball you all night long”. Some people were seeing sense, though, or possibly seeing a prison sentence on the horizon. Gary Puckett and the Union Gap worried themselves sick in 1968 with Young Girl.

With all the charms of a woman
You’re just a baby in disguise
And though you know that it’s wrong to be alone with me
That come-on look is in your eyes

teen 3
You can’t be arrested for wearing civil war gear, more’s the pity

It was a sentiment that still bothered pop stars in 1979 when Abba asked Does Your Mother Know: same scenario, hormone-driven young girl looking for trouble.

Meanwhile, the broader concept of teenagerism had been aired in the early 1970s with Alice Cooper’s Teenage Lament ’74 and T Rex’s Whatever Happened to the Teenage Dream.

Brief teen sensations Alessi, two  cute twin brothers who could actually sing, brought dignity to the genre with their elegant, jazz-inflected 1976 smash Oh Lori, in which the action moves swiftly from wanting to ride his bicycle with her on the handlebars to recalling having her dance for him in her bare feet one afternoon when her feet weren’t the only things that were revealed. But that’s a teen-teen thing, and the world is more tolerant of that.

You can listen to it via the link at the end.

alessi
Omigod, girls, his button’s come undone! Oops!

The Police raised the age-old problem of girl-fancies-teacher with Don’t Stand So Close to me, while Aerosmith merely strutted and lusted in true 70s rocker style on Walk This Way.

Even Steely Dan, well old enough to know better, found themselves in an age-gap romance on Hey Nineteen. Although 19 is probably old enough to do whatever you want in 99% of the universe, here it was the cultural differences proving troublesome.

Hey Nineteen, that’s Aretha Franklin
She don’t remember the Queen of Soul
There’s hard times befallen the soul survivors
She thinks I’m crazy
But I’m just growing old

Sensible as he is, the narrator resorts to tequila and cocaine to gloss over the problem

The Cuervo Gold, the fine Colombian
Make tonight a wonderful thing

The Ramones, never ones to let us into their troubled psyche, motored through Teenage Lobotomy, while British rock-popsters Supergrass poked fun at their junior selves with Alright.

We are young, we’ve gone green
We’ve got teeth nice and clean
See our friends, see the sights
Feel alright

Ah, youth! It’s a minefield and we all do well if we get through it unscathed.

Our Day Will Come: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qw9RVjEN9OI

Oh Lori: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I-R8ru1TAAo

 

Kaycee’s Klasic Films – Bridget Jones’s Diary

Siobhan Kennedy-Clarke’s classic film reviews
Our fictitious reviewer Siobhan (KayCee) didn't have much of an education but she's passionate about films

bridget

I know a lot or people think this is just a “chick flick” which is a quite insulting description if you ask me because what’s wrong with a film that appeals mainly to women it’s just like action adventure films are mainly aimed at men and there pretty brainless a lot of them I mean the films not the guys although I suppose they can be dumb too.

Bridget Jones is this 30-something English girl whose just doing what we all trying to do get along in the world and be successful and happy she’s played by Renee Zellweger who does a fantastic job with the English accent you would never think she was a yank. She is also good looking but not too glamorous and perfect which is important cos most of us like to think we’re okay looking but we know we’re not supermodel material. In real life Renee didn’t like her appearance much it seems because last year she had a facelift and now she looks completely different she had a bit of a squinty eyed look and I guess she didn’t like that but most people I know thought she looked fine so it just goes to show.

Bridget works for a book publisher in London and  her boss is Hugh Grant well he’s Daniel but he’s played by Hugh Grant who is just being himself as usual charming and funny and sexy and Bridget fancies him like mad but he’s the kind of guy that’s never really going to go for someone ordinary like her and he’ll always be cheating on his woman anyway whoever she is.

But there’s this other guy played by Colin Firth Mr Darcy from the TV Pride and Prejudice and he’s called Darcy in the film I suppose that’s an in-joke or something. Mark Darcy. He’s Colin Firth being himself too he’s as good looking as Hugh Grant he just seems more serious and not so much fun I suppose that all depends on what your looking for if you like a guy who can talk serious about things rather than thinking the only fun is when he’s trying to get you in bed then he’s more your type.

Mark is really more the kind of guy you’d pick for Bridget because even though he is a bit uncool sometimes so is she I suppose that is all the film is about there’s no big plot and no drama it’s just you sitting there hoping she’s going to come out ahead. Me I would probably bonk the smooth one and dump him and try to make sure no one finds out and then get with the nice guy and live happily ever  after but I don’t know if it is ever that simple is it.

They tried to cash in on this film with a sequel Edge of Reason but  of course it wasn’t as good. They try to make out there doing you a favour with sequels because there giving you more of what they know you like but really they are thinking if you forked out for the first one you might fork out for a second helping but it don’t work like that do it? Were not stupid.