Sunday, July 26, 2015

All The Plans

Salou, August 2014
It’s that time of year again, isn’t it? When you think about it, I suppose it’s always “that time of year again”, no matter what the time actually happens to be. But I digress and, besides, you understand me perfectly, don’t you? That’s right, it’s nearly time for our annual summer holiday, a chance to get away from the stresses of the workplace for a couple of weeks and enjoy the delights of the coast and countryside in charming company. Traditionally, this means taking my mother-in-law to Salou for ten days, accompanied by one or two sisters-in-law, brothers-in-law, nephews, nieces, and so on. Time and money permitting, this is usually followed by a lightning trip to England to visit the quieter side of our Anglo-Basque family and to drink some decent beer.

Shrewsbury, August 2008
This year, however, my wife and I have broken with tradition: we are escaping on our own! The idea is very simple: drive through France, visit Britanny, take the ferry to Plymouth, tour Devon and Cornwall (which we last visited 25 years ago in August 1990 on what was the closest thing we ever had to a honeymoon), visit family and friends, then head back home via Portsmouth, Cherbourg, etc.
Beer, August 1990
Well, there are worse plans, aren’t there? The downside, however, is that a trip like this is a) absurdly expensive – Have you seen the price of ferries and B&Bs in August?! – and, b) requires serious planning. Fortunately for me, I have a wife who is very serious about planning. On this occasion, we have divided the tasks as follows: my wife will be responsible for ‘stuff we don’t really need’ i.e. clothes, food, toiletries, sunhats and suncreams – When was the last time anybody ever needed to use suncream in France or England, for heaven’s sake?! – while, for my part, I will be in charge of ‘stuff we couldn’t be without’ i.e. cars, passports, ferry tickets, hotel bookings, pounds, euros, bank cards, cameras, mobile phones, ipads, travel guides, maps, Kindles, chargers, adapters, ... My list is endless and, needless to say, I drew the short straw. Not that I’m complaining, of course.   

Aretxabaleta, July 2015

Many years ago, I made the mistake of boasting to my wife that I knew a little French. I thought it wise, therefore, to spend these last two months or so immersing myself in the beautiful French language so as not to be caught out when instructed to ask the shop assistant whether they had it in a smaller size, what time they would be closing, and how she recommended that we wash the garment. To this end, I downloaded 1400 Phrases to travel in France with confidence! by Frederic Bibard (eminently practical, but incredibly boring) and 1000 Years of Annoying the French by Stephen Clarke (thoroughly useless, but immensely entertaining). Did you know it was the British who invented champagne, for instance? I’m looking forward to slipping that little nugget into my first conversation once we cross the border.

If I survive the summer, I’ll report back here at the end of August. Meanwhile, thanks for reading and here’s wishing you a wonderful summer wherever you may be heading.

À bientôt J

‘The English say plane, but the French say avion to mean exactly the same thing. How can this be? If you think you know the answer, give me a ring on o double seven three four, o double seven three four; or, if you prefer, drop me a line at c raphead at looniversal learning dot com.’

Colin’s Conundrums had been Slapper’s idea …

‘I’ve decided to give you a radio show, Colin.’
‘Oh, thank you very much, Miss Slapper.’
‘This is the snappest I can go … Why me, anyway?’
‘A, because you’re full of rubbish; and B, because you’re dirt cheap.’
‘But we haven’t even discussed my fees yet.’
‘Fees? … Look, Colin, do you want to be a radio star or don’t you?’
‘Well, yes.’
‘In that case, shut up and listen …’

There then followed a lengthy Don’ts list:

‘Don’t upset anyone; don’t be rude to your listeners; don’t make any tasteless jokes; don’t make any snide remarks about your colleagues; don’t have a laugh at others’ expense; don’t enjoy yourself; … and, above all, don’t forget to plug Looniversal Learning every twenty seconds. Got that, Colin?’
‘Yes.’ (‘No.’)
‘Shall I run through that again for you?’
‘No need, Miss Slapper.’ (‘Run through what?’)

The phone rang and Colin nearly fell off his chair; he couldn’t remember the last time a listener had phoned in. He had often wondered whether there was anybody out there at all; except Slapper, of course, who recorded all the shows and regularly played back the most embarrassing bits at staff meetings.

dayrealing, chapter 4, “Human”

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

People Are Strange

Or, “The people is strange”, as most of my students would say, but that’s not important right now. Until recently, you see, I’d always believed that I was the last normal person left on this planet. And yet, yesterday, as I sneaked out onto our balcony in midday sunshine and Monday underpants, desperately in search of a suitable clothes peg for the ‘easy open’ packet of macaroni that I’d just opened – and destroyed – with great dexterity, it suddenly dawned on me that even I, Mike Church, the most balanced person you could ever hope to meet, was behaving, or at the very least looking, like a total prat.

Well, you’ll have to take my word for it because I don’t have any photos of me in my underpants; and, besides, this isn’t that kind of blog. [Try Reggie’s if you’re into that sort of stuff.] So, anyway, here's a photo that I took with my mobile to show how we use clothes pegs down our way:

Not the greatest photo, is it? I didn’t have a camera to hand, but who needs cameras when we’ve got our mobiles, right? And that’s what set me thinking...

Correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems to me that we are not using things for the purpose for which they were intended, are we? For example, we use clothes pegs to keep food fresh, decorate kitchen cupboards, pinch our nostrils... and occasionally hang clothes out to dry; and we use mobiles to take silly photos, play crappy video games, check our hair... and occasionally call home to ask what time dinner will be ready.

Do you see the point I’m trying to make? Probably not, so here are a couple more questions for you to think about:

Q1. What do you use your car for?
Q2. And what about your bed?

If you replied, “For getting around” and “Mind your own business!” respectively, I’m sorry but I simply don’t believe you. Just to clarify, I can believe you replied, “For getting around” and “Mind your own business!”, but I can’t believe that’s what you really use them for. After all, everybody knows that the whole point of having a car is to be able to listen to your music, as loud as you like, as often as you please, and without being publically and mercilessly ridiculed for your lousy musical taste. To prove my point, I just texted my wife to offer to pick her up. Did I do this because I am a good husband? Certainly not! No, the point is, I am enjoying my Pavarotti CD so much, I need a good excuse to return to the car. (In case any of you are interested in whether my wife took me up on my generous offer, well, watch this space, and I’ll let you know if she ever answers my text. My wife is one of a dying breed, namely, people who only ever reach for their phone when they need to call someone. In the meantime, poor Luciano will have to wait.)

When I’m not using my car as a portable mp3 player, I use it as a portable recording studio and/or portable library...

And when I’m weary and/or feeling small, I drive to the end of town and use my car as a portable park bench. I wish I could say, like Brucie, that I drove all night, but the truth is, it’s just a three-minute drive. So much for romance.

They say a dog is a man’s best friend but, in the absence of a dog, I’d say a car comes a pretty close second.

As for my bed... Well, as you’ll doubtless have guessed by now, I use it purely for professional purposes: to pile papers, dump books, prepare classes, write reports, answer emails... and, OK, I’ll admit it, I have the occasional forty winks. Mum’s the word!

In brief, then, I use my car to relax in and my bed to get stressed in. I suspect, however, that I’m not the only one here. People are strange, aren’t we?


‘Tell me about the Stairway to Heaven, Nick,’ said Colin, desperately trying to sidetrack him.

‘Are you desperately trying to sidetrack me, Colin?’

‘Of course I am. So how many steps has it got?’

‘Quite a few. That’s a very strange question, you know. They warned me to expect a weirdo, but I must admit I’m impressed.’

‘Thank you.’

‘Any normal person would ask, Where’s Heaven exactly? What’s it like up there? Will I be reunited with my loved ones? et cetera, but you’re not “any normal person” are you, Colin?’

‘You still haven’t answered my question,’ said Colin, trying to commit to memory the other questions. They might come in useful later if Nick had another poker fit.

‘Have a guess.’

‘A million?’


‘Half a million.’


‘Eight hundred and twenty-three thousand, five hundred and forty-three?’

‘You jammy bastard!’

You stupid man! Of all the numbers to choose between 500,001 and 999,999, he only had to go and choose 823,543. Seven to the power of seven. It was so obvious, he hadn’t been able to resist showing off. Now, then, what were those other questions that Nick said “normal” people always asked?

‘So where is Heaven exactly?’

‘Are you asking me that because you’re really interested or because you don’t want me poking your eyes out?’

‘Because I’m really interested.’

‘So you don’t mind my poking your eyes out?’

‘No, er, yes. Er, what was the question again?’

‘Nice try, Colin. Look, I’ll tell you what. I’m a reasonable bastard, so I’ll let you have one more question before I gouge your eyes out and rip your burning body to shreds. Can’t say fairer than that, can we?’

‘Well, it doesn’t sound very fair to me.’

‘Feel free to forfeit your last question if you’d rather get this over with. I’m beginning to tire of this conversation myself.’

‘Er, where does Henley fit into all of this?’ said Colin, blurting out the first question that came to his rapidly diminishing mind. Little could he know that his question was a stroke of genius; that, in years to come, he would look back on this defining moment proudly, boring his poor grandchildren stiff with stories of the day he saved his skin – and, by extrapolation, their skin – by asking the Devil how Henley fitted into the universal scheme of things. Assuming a) he had grandchildren and b) he lived to tell the tale.

dayrealing, chapter 43, “Sympathy For The Devil”

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Here We Go Round The Lemon Tree

As my fellow Hispanic lovers will know, today we celebrate el Día Mundial del Limón Ibérico (“World Iberian Lemon Day”). To mark the occasion, I decided to read up on this fascinating topic and create a short quiz to see how many of my readers know their lemons from their oranges. OK, here we go! No googling, no wikiing, and no conferring...

True or False?

1. Contrary to popular belief, there are more orange-coloured than yellow-coloured lemons in the world.

2. It’s a closely-guarded secret that most lemons do not grow on trees but under the ground.

3. The largest lemon plantation in the world is owned by Californian citrus giant, Lemons R Us, and has an extension of over ten million hectares.

4. Truth be told, very few people have a clue how big one hectare is, let alone ten million.

5. Strictly speaking, the lemon should have been classified as a vegetable rather than as a fruit.

6. When Meat Loaf declared, “Life is a lemon and I want my money back!”, he was not actually speaking about fruit. (Or vegetables.)

7. Traditionally, el Día Mundial del Limón Ibérico is celebrated every year on the last Sunday of May.

So how did you fare? Give yourself 1 point for each correct answer...

1. False. The orange-coloured ones are called “oranges”.
2. False. You need to get out more!
3. False. What a load of baloney!
4. True. 1 hectare = 2.47 acres in case you were wondering. Hope that helps?
5. False. You’ll be telling me next that the tomato is really a fruit!
6. True. Meat loves his metaphors.
7. True. But only on this blog.

If you scored 7 points or more, you know all you need to know about the wonderful world of lemons. If you scored 6 points or less, try not to lose any sleep over it.

But what’s with all this lemon nonsense? I hear you asking. Well, you see, I had a rather strange dream the other night. I dreamt I was a lemon farmer, and the BBC had come to film me at work. I was happily harvesting my lemons with a tractor of sorts, though it looked more like a tank-cum-lawnmower, as I recall. 

Yellow bits flew all around me as I continued to harvest my treasured lemons with my lemon mower.

‘How much land have you got?’ the reporter asked me.

‘About eight million hectares,’ I replied. 

The following morning, I went to Wikipedia and was relieved to see that lemons still grow on trees. I was also impressed to discover that the size of my lemon farm was the equivalent of eight million rugby pitches. That’s slightly bigger than the Czech Republic and slightly less than Austria. Well, you get the idea. I was telling porkies, it would seem.

Nonetheless, several questions remain: Why was I dreaming about lemons in the first place? Why would I lie to the BBC? And why, oh why, is my dream world so much more fun than real life?

Thanks for reading J


‘Fancy a yellow?’

‘A yellow what?’

‘A yellow,’ said Nick, removing his Stetson to reveal an orange orange perched proudly on his hideous head. ‘You Earthlings call them “oranges”, I believe, but down here we like to call a spade a spade. Unless it’s a shovel, of course.’

‘But it’s orange.’ So what’s the difference between a spade and a shovel?

‘Argumentative sod, aren’t you? Next, you’ll be asking me what colour lemons are, won’t you?’

‘So what colour are lem—?’

‘Now, listen, Colin, this is your last chance, so think carefully: Would you like a yellow before or after I poke your eyes out?’

‘Er, before, please.’ It was one of the easier questions Colin had been asked today.

dayrealing, Chapter 43, “Sympathy For The Devil”

Saturday, April 18, 2015

The Birthday

My blog is five years old today, so I thought this was a good excuse to celebrate by sharing a link to one of my all-time favourite songs by one of my all-time favourite groups, The Idle Race. I also decided that this was an appropriate moment to compile The Other Mike Church's Best Bits, which, as you can imagine, is a remarkably quick read... and an even quicker download.

If Blogger's statistics are to be trusted, this is my hundredth post since April 18th 2010, and these are the posts that have received the most views:

Walk Like A Giant and My Way are tributes to Mamel and Dad respectively, while Wasted Time is literally what it says: a completely useless list of anagrams that kept me fruitfully entertained for weeks on end. Knowing now, for instance, that "fear and ambition" is an anagram of "mortified banana" has completely transformed my file life.

Be that as it may, I find this audience chart rather more interesting:

And here are my conclusions:

1.  I need to work on my fanbase in America (South), Africa, Asia, Australia, the Arctic, and places beginning with A in general.

Having fewer than 120 visits over 5 years from 6,000,000,000 people is nothing to write home about. That works out at about 0.000000004 visits per person per year.

2. There is zero correlation between  blog visits and book sales; in my case, at least.

I estimate that about 90% of my sales are to the UK, but I get far more visits from Spain and the US. When it comes to sales, the Spaniards are usually reluctant to pay more than zero cents, while most of my American customers ask for an immediate refund once they realise what they have bought.

3. Watch out, watch out, there’s Russians about!

Despite having received 940 visits since the beginning of time this blog, I have yet to make a single sale to Russia; I have no Russian friends on Facebook (or, indeed, anywhere); and I was stood up by my gorgeous Russian brides many moons ago.

Furthermore, if we limit ourselves to pageviews in the last month, the Russians are straight in at number 2:

Well, whoever is reading this, wherever you may be, and whatever you think of all this nonsense, many thanks for your continued support. And here's hoping you'll put up with me for the next five years or so.

Some write wonderfully; some write woodenly; others write whateverly.

Colin was in the last group. He was always in the last group.

Writing was Colin’s catharsis. Whatever “catharsis” meant. And whatever “whateverly” meant, for that matter.

Well, whatever, writing whateverly, wheneverly, whereverly was a wonderful way to wish one’s woes away with words without wasting one’s whatnots by whacking walls or wailing to the wind.

dayrealing, chapter 10, "Don't Give Up"

Thursday, April 2, 2015


‘Can anyone help me? I’m looking for this song by Ricardo Igea,’ somebody asked on Facebook the other day...

‘Ricardo who?’ you ask.

‘Ricardo Igea.’

‘Never heard of him.’

‘Don’t worry. Neither has Amazon.’

Needless to say, Wikipedia is none the wiser, either:

‘No, Mr Wiki. I did not mean, “Ricardo Igor”; I meant what I wrote: “Ricardo Igea”, the most overlooked talent in the history of Spanish music.’

‘Oh, that Ricardo! You mean that mad poet from Zaragoza who smokes like a chimney but has a smile and a voice you could die for?’


‘He’s bloody brilliant if you ask me. Didn’t he do Swimming Without Wings? That song reduces me to tears every time.’


Poor Ricardo. Amazon won’t sell his albums, Wikipedia won’t give him an entry, and YouTube won’t get his song titles right.

‘What do you mean, We won’t sell his albums?’

‘Oh, hello, Mrs. Amazon. Sorry if I woke you up.’

‘Never mind that. Just answer the question.’

‘Why can’t I find Ricki’s albums on Amazon, Mrs. Amazon?’

‘They were discontinued ages ago, so don’t go shooting the messenger. You can still buy Todo Lo Que Tengo. It’s a cracker!’

‘I’m pleased to hear it, but my Facebook friend wants to download Gafeína. That’s on Las Manos del Médico, isn’t it?’

‘Have you tried Spotify?’

‘Of course. They told me to go and listen to Inma Serrano.’

‘And what about his web page?’

‘Inma’s a man?!’

‘Ricardo’s web page, you fool.’

‘Oh, sorry! Well, there are some great articles and links, but there’s no sign of Gafeína.’

‘At least the link to Indigencia still works.’

‘Eat your heart out, Phil Collins! I say.’


‘Never mind.’

‘So what’s Ricki up to these days?’

‘Well, he’s reinvented himself as Muchacho Mochila. Backpack Boy.’

‘Backstreet Boy? I’m pretty sure we’ve still got him on Amazon.’

‘Backpack Boy. Muchacho Mochila in English. Well, that’s my translation.’

‘And a pretty crap one if you ask me.’

‘Have you any idea how difficult it is to translate well from Spanish to English?’

‘What’s wrong with Google Translator?’

‘What’s wrong with Google Translator?! Did you see what they did to Báilalo?’

Ricardo, Ricki, Muchacho Mochila, Mumo... He’s still making the best music around. I wanted to finish with a link to his latest masterpiece, Hoy Es Siempre Todavía. It goes without saying, unfortunately, that I couldn’t find one that worked:

I’ll keep searching J.


–¿Por qué no bailas?
–¡Estoy bailando!

–Why aren’t you dancing?
–I am dancing!

–¿Vienes aquí a menudo?
–Bastante. Soy la mujer de limpieza.
–Ah. Encantado.
–Lo mismo digo.

–Do you come here often?
–Quite a lot. I’m the cleaning lady.
–Oh. Pleased to meet you.
–Shall we dance?

–¿Cómo te llamas?
–¿Y eso cómo se deletrea?
–Tal como suena: L, O, L, A, Lola. La, la, la, la, Lola. Una Coca-Cola, por favor.

–What’s your name?
–So how do you spell that?
–As it sounds: L, O, L, A, Lola. La, la, la, la, Lola. A Coca-Cola, please.

–¿Tu casa o la mía?
–No tengo casa.

–Your place or mine?
–I don’t have a place.

Mañana vas a tener un clavo de mucho cuidado.

Tomorrow you’re going to have a terrible hangover.

Spanglish for Impatient People, Lesson 19, "at the disco"

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Lookin' Out My Back Door

Two heartless traffic wardens prepare ‘Welcome to our town!’ parking tickets for three poor visitors whose only crime was to park on a ridiculous yellow line while visiting their elderly relatives in the nursing home opposite. Meanwhile, another driver is forced into a dangerous overtaking manoeuvre because some idiot with flashing lights has parked on the bend.

Well, that was my immediate reading of the situation as I stepped out onto our balcony earlier this week. Bastards! ... Poor sods! ... Haven’t they got anything better to do? ... And look where they parked their own car, for heaven’s sake! ... Incandescent with rage, I rushed off a couple of photos on my trusty mobile, while simultaneously preparing my indignant letter to the local newspaper. These people needed to be taught a lesson!

Needless to say, that letter never made it to print for various reasons: I still hadn’t made the dinner; I calmed down in the meantime; I could no longer be bothered; I am, despite appearances, a lazy sod; I already have enough enemies in the town hall; and, last but not least, Mother Mary Miguel Ruiz came to me, whispering words of wisdom: “Don’t Make Assumptions” (The Four Agreements, 1997). Personally, I suspect Don Miguel nicked this idea from that classic Guardian  “Points of View” ad:

Oh dear, there I go again making those terrible assumptions! What ever happened to “innocent until proven guilty”? Had it never occurred to me that these noble officers of the law were simply obeying orders from above? Did I seriously think that they got some kind of perverted pleasure from persecuting their fellow citizens? Yes, I did, as a matter of fact, but could I actually prove this? And what about the drivers? Could I state categorically that they were visiting their nearest and dearest, as opposed to having a quick pint down the road?  (The jury is still out on this one.) Besides, why couldn’t they park like everybody else on the estate?

Be that as it may, I’m sticking with my “heartless traffic wardens” theory; not least because that sodding yellow line has resulted in thousands of euros in compulsory donations to our local Policemen’s Ball fund. Bastards. Not that I would ever wish harm on anyone, you understand J.


‘Excuse me, I’m looking for the men’s.’

‘Well, good luck, mate.’

Another mistake. Never ask a smiling person for directions: they are only there to take the piss.

‘Thank you. Could you tell me where it is, please?’

‘Where what is?’

‘The men’s.’

‘The men’s what?’

‘The men’s toilet, of course.’

‘Oh, why didn’t you say so?’

‘Well, I would have thought it was obvious.’

‘Well, you’d be wrong. Never assume because when you assume, you make—’

‘An “ass” out of “u” and “me”. Yes, I’ve heard it.’

‘Well, actually, clever clogs, I was going to say, “You make an ‘as’ out of ‘sum’ and ‘e’.” ’

‘That doesn’t make sense.’

‘It does to me. Now, where was I?’

‘You were going to tell me where the men’s is.’

‘Ah yes, that’s right. So if somebody asks me where the butcher’s is, I don’t immediately assume that they want the butcher’s toilet, do I? In fact, it’s far more likely that they want the butcher’s shop, isn’t it? Ditto baker’s, greengrocer’s and fishmonger’s. It’s what they call “ellipsis”, I believe.’

dayrealing, chapter 3, “Don’t Stop”

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Remember The Days Of The Old School Yard

Brian (3), Mike (6).

A result that was to be repeated on many occasions whenever we played tennis.

My friend and I were having a drink together the other day when Purple Rain started up. As we both happened to like the song, we challenged each other to name the year...

‘Nineteen eighty-eight?’ I said.
‘Nineteen ninety,’ she replied.

Upon which, we returned to far more important topics – What are you making for dinner tonight? What did you have for lunch? Have you done the shopping yet? Have you seen the price of artichokes? etc. – and forgot all about poor Prince.

Once home, I opened my beloved Wikipedia, and discovered to my surprise that Purple Rain had been released in, wait for it,... 1984! We were both miles out – even if, technically speaking, I was less wrong than she was and had therefore won the bet. As always.

So, what was going on here? Put simply, neither of us has any personal or vivid memories connected with this particular song – which doesn't detract from its merit in the slightest, of course. Indeed, the song's intrinsic quality, musical worth, or whatever you want to call it, is totally irrelevant here. As we struggle or breeze through life, certain events  mark us more than others; and, in my case, the songs I was listening to at the time provide a convenient ongoing soundtrack, which I can dig out at any moment. Or, as my literary hero, Karl Ove, puts it so graphically:

“If my memories were stacked in a heap on the back of my life’s trailer,
music was the rope that held them together and kept it, my life, in position.”

Karl Ove Knausgård, Dancing in the Dark

What wouldn't I give to be able to write like that! But never mind Karl. Who here remembers what they were doing late September 1984 when, if Wikipedia is to be trusted, Purple Rain first hit the airwaves? Hey, I do! I was just starting out as an English teacher here in the Basque Country, tormenting my delightful students with Stevie Wonder's greatest contribution to music, I Just Called To Say I Love You ("Listen and fill the gaps"); Band Aid's Do They Know It's Christmas? ("Correct the lyrics if you can"), and George Michael's Last Christmas ("Just watch the sodding video, please").

One of the advantages of writing a blog that nobody reads is I can make terrible confessions and get away with it. OK, then, are you ready? Here goes... The songs I remember best – and even today still, very occasionally, listen to when nobody is around to whack me over the head – are all those glam rock classics from the early 70s: Starman, Sorrow, Block Buster, Ballroom Blitz, Metal Guru, Solid Gold Easy Action, Gudbuy T'Jane, Cum On Feel The Noize, School's Out, Elected, All The Way From Memphis, Roll Away The Stone, Ballpark Incident, See My Baby Jive... David Bowie, The Sweet, T.Rex, Slade, Alice Cooper, Mott The Hoople, Wizzard and, heaven have mercy on me, The Rubettes. Personally, I blame my parents for letting their kids watch Top Of The Pops when we really ought to have been listening through the walls to our neighbours’ Pink Floyd, Deep Purple and Genesis LPs.

I’ve done my best to make amends in the meantime by buying up every 30th and 40th Anniversary “deluxe remastered CD, complete with bonus tracks, DVD and previously unreleased footage”, of every single album ever released in the 70s by ‘proper’ musicians. Amazon regularly writes to me to thank me for being their best customer ever, and to remind me that customers who bought  Pink Floyd’s entire back catalogue “also bought Brian Eno’s entire back catalogue”, “also like Roy Harper’s entire back catalogue”, and maybe I should consider joining them?

But where was I? Well, the point I’m trying to make is, much as I love Wish You Were Here, and while I would infinitely prefer to be stranded on a desert island with Pink Floyd’s Finest as opposed to, say, Slade’s Smashest, the fact remains that the former will never be a part of my childhood’s soundtrack whereas the latter always will. And whenever I hear one of those awful childhood pop songs, I can’t help being transported back 40 years in time to happier and more trouble-free days.


‘Got anything from nineteen seventy-four?’
‘Why seventy-four?’
‘Because it came after seventy-three.’

And, more importantly, before seventy-five, the year in which his music died; the year in which his childhood ended and his teenhood began; the year in which Colin passed away and Craphead was christened; the year in which football in the playground was replaced by rugby on the playing field; and, in brief, the year in which innocence and youth made way for sinners and truth.

‘You’re weird. OK, here you go,’ said Mal, throwing Colin the mic. ‘Catch!’
‘Ah, da-da-dum-da, ah, da-da-dum-da …’
‘Ah, da-da-dum-da, ah, da-da-dum-da …’
It’s definitely not Barry White.
‘Ah, da-da-dum-da, ah, da-da-dum-da …’
Those “Ah”s are getting higher.
‘Ah, da-da-dum-da, da-da-da-da-dum-da-da …’
Wish me luck!
‘La, la-la-la-la …’

And he was away! How he hit those high notes was a mystery. But he did. Just as he used to be able to hit them back in 1974. Suddenly he was in the playground again, running after the ball; he spent a lot of his childhood running after balls. And then he was just running. He wasn’t going to win any MTV awards for this videoclip.

‘Sugar baby love …’

How he loved this song! If you were serious about your music, you were supposed to despise stuff like this – even more so when killjoys pointed out that the Rubettes weren’t even singing the falsetto parts –, but Colin had never had much time for the music snobs, the so-called experts who always proclaimed, “Of course, their first album was the best”, even when anyone with ears could tell you it was a stinker. Well, whatever, it was thanks to hundreds of three-minute gems like this that Colin was able to reconstruct his entire childhood; the hundred happiest months of his life. Now that wasn’t bad, was it?

dayrealing, chapter 47, “Sugar Baby Love