The Jack Jackson Recording Studios

There are museums that specialise in all sorts of things if you know where to find them – I saw an extraordinary collection of vacuum cleaners at Knebworth House and once I was taken to the Erotic Art Museum in Hamburg.  There’s diversity for you; two types of sucking on two continents.

In deepest Buckinghamshire there is a museum that finds, moves and rebuilds interesting buildings called The Chiltern Open Air Museum.  The work they do is very specialist and preserving heritage buildings is a costly and time-consuming business.

So when they asked me to do a short video of their campaign to restore the Jack Jackson Recording Studios, I jumped at the chance.  This funny little brick cottage, a former cowshed built in around 1745 saw both George 2nd and Lemmy from Motorhead on the throne (slightly different ones) during its extraordinary lifetime.  Elton John, Ian Dury and many others used it and Jack Jackson himself who claimed it for music was crowned “Father of DJs”.

The studio is currently a pile of bricks but with the funds raised by the museum and this campaign, the idea is to restore it completely and fill it with vintage recording equipment. In time, Shure mics will gleem, needle gauges will flicker and valve amps will glow once more as the next generation of popstrels discover what it was like to record in the punk era.

For more info or to donate go to 

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“Nice”.  Small word, big meaning.

Someone told me recently that when they were writing essays at school they were told never to use the word nice.  What kind of a rubbish teacher was that to say such a thing.

Probably this took place in the context of when they were asked to write an essay about what they did at the weekend, like “we had a nice trip to the seaside with Mummy and Daddy”.  No doubt the teacher said “Don’t use that word! – take a whack! It’s a short, useless, unimaginative little word and will serve you no good whatsoever.  It’s over-used by people who can’t be bothered to think of a better word to use and I won’t have any of your nice in MY classroom”.

Fire that teacher.  Nice is good.  Nice needs a break.  Nice has a place, it’s just our challenge to find out how best to use Nice and that teacher failed.

Nice works well in places where other words just don’t stand up.  Its brevity carries an impact that a sentence with more than one word (let alone other words with only four letters) just wouldn’t have.  Nice is flexible too; it works as a positive word when something is completely fitting (Did you see that catch? Nice!) and as a negative word when it’s not (My Daughter swore at me – Nice!) .  Nice is chameleon; Nice can wear sarcasm like a second skin.

And even in its benign and standard form we know exactly where we are with Nice. She was just, well, nice…”.  Its mediocrity is the linguistic equivalent of the perfect colour beige and while this may not be a desirable attribute there isn’t another word in the English language that can do this.

So let’s hear it for Nice.

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The Down Under tour

It’s been so long since my last blog I’ve almost forgotten how. Almost. But I’ve been busy; travelling in fact, and now that I’m back I’m happy to share a few observations on what was a delightful family holiday in Singapore, Australia and the Indonesian island of Bintan.  I made a video too …

Singapore is a great place.  Can’t say enough nice things about it.  My old mum was there in 1945 and she said I should have a Gin Sling in Raffles so, we did.  Although the city has developed at a pace, not much has changed about Raffles (it’s been lovingly restored) except a beer and a cocktail cost $52 which would’ve been a month’s salary for a Red Cross nurse in those days.  Mum loved the place too but she said “There were a lot of Americans there after the war.  They were nice, but they were very noisy…”.  No change there, then.

Gardens By The Bay

Gardens By The Bay

Today Singapore is urban, busy, modern, clean, efficient, humid.  And very friendly too.  One of our team bought three bricks of cigarettes on the plane and took them through the Red customs channel at Changi Airport only to be asked how many he had and casually ushered back through the green channel by the smiling customs man. “Not enough” he said.  Choice.

Highlights other than seeing Raffles for the first time included a sunset dinner at KuDeTa in the SkyBar and Lau Pa Sat (Food Courts) or Satay City as I called it. Oh, and cold Tiger Beers and Fu Nan: Digital Life shopping mall; hundreds of electrical gadget shops on six floors.

On to Brisbane, staying with rellies. We had a topsy-turvey Christmas in 35 degree heat; with crackers, 20-plus people on the deck, prawns like flamingo heads, Bundy and Coke, kids in the pool followed by an epic game of yard cricket.  We spent a few days in Mooloolaba and Noosa (an hour’s drive north) where we rented a “unit”.   sony aus 234We played in the surf, had dinner at Fish on Parkyn, lunch at Hot Pipi’s, visited the seafood market and took a jog along the seafront (soon to appear on

I love Australia. I loved the steaks at The Breakfast Creak Hotel. And I love The Aussies too, for their humour, their directness and their fortitude. Such a young country still presents boundless opportunity as exemplified by lovely Emi Kamada’s new and incredibly popular Bird’s Nest Yakitori bar where we spent a very enjoyable evening eating every part of a chicken, cooked over white hot Vietnamese charcoal. Culturally, Australia may be behind the curve but the Aussies enjoy life probably more than we ever will.

sony aus 787Finally back to Singapore and on to Bintan Island – an hour’s boat ride from the harbour. Stayed in The Banyan Tree where we had intimate contact with giant centipedes and saw baby Green Turtles.  It was a nice chill out phase but it’s an expensive way to see the Monsoons and it did rain a lot. They’re building an airport on the south side of Bintan and they’re already developing massive swathes of land, murdering ancient trees to make way for golf courses and holiday homes.  Although I sponsored it by going there I can’t help feeling sad to see such a paradise of an island slowly asphyxiating in a slurry of concrete and international cash. We may be the last generation to see it as it was and for that at least I’m grateful.

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Little Wins


Occasionally I like to re-blog; I think its a nod towards keeping up the blogging community spirit. I really liked this one not just for its craft but for its sentiment too.

Originally posted on NO HALF MEASURES:

Not everyday needs to be a game changer, those defining moments are beautiful because of their unexpected rarity. But, everyday does have to be a positive step forward, or at least that’s my thinking.

As a self-confessed ambition-hungry (some would most likely use impatient, angry and Scottish) woman, I have a tendency for giving myself a hard time over the silliest of things – forgetting to post a letter, call a friend, dropping my weight by 10kg on my back squat because I’m a little tired that day and mentally berating myself for being ‘pathetic’ thereafter… Ridiculous, I know. But honestly, we all give ourselves a pretty hard time and it’s time we started grabbing a mental kit-Kat and taking a break.

I was chatting with a friend a couple of months back who commented on my dedication to my health and fitness and various work commitments; you get so…

View original 440 more words

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Chorleywood Litfest – the movie!

I was pleased to be able to produce a mini documentary this month for a local event now in its 9th year – The Chorleywood Litfest.

This festival is not only a Kindle-free celebration of books and their authors but a celebration of village life and community too and more than 1500 people came to The Memorial Hall over seven nights to listen to talks from Charles Spencer (Killers of the King), Jodi Picoult (Leaving Time) and Tanya Byron (The Skeleton Cupboard) to name a few.

What strikes me about this event is how reading a book (a thing with covers, pages and a spine – not an electronic device!) is as popular a thing as it ever was.  And that reading, once considered to be something of a solitary activity, has matured into a social channel all of its own, collecting and engaging readers to share and debate the merits of the written word.

Jodi Picoult

Jodi Picoult

Tanya Byron

Tanya Byron

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Permaculture; a new word for you.

Periodically I like to rant.  That’s one of the best things about blogging – you can let go a bit if you really want to.  One of my fave rants is about sustainability; how eternal growth is impossible and that nothing lasts for ever.  You can see past rants about this here and here.

Then I get this call from Faheemah Luqman who in the sweetest of Jamaican accents tells me about Permaculture (Permanent Agriculture) and asks me for my advise on how to promote her visitor-friendly and wholly sustainable eco-resort project Blue Paradise farms.  Like.

Here is a woman who has put her life savings behind a project to create a mecca for Permaculture in Westmoreland, Jamaica.  And she’s looking for students to come and learn about how to live and farm sustainably.  She’s devised courses and gathered teachers who are qualified in soil improvement, water management, solar energy and construction all with an eye to a harmonious relationship with nature to make our lives more sustainable and productive whilst reducing the work required.

If, like me, you believe that sooner or later and not by choice but through deliberation we will all have to think this way then check her out at or share this blog with others who might be interested or think they might be able to help.

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Three villages in Cambridgeshire; a 7k run.

Generally speaking I like trails, not roads. But when the roads are country lanes or when there is a mix of road and trail I’m pretty happy. I also generally like to know where I’m going but when you’re in a flat landscape it’s fun to just strike out with a rough idea of where you’re going and just chug round the lanes taking left after left after left (or R, R, R) and hey presto, you end up where you started.  Eventually.  Usually…

Sanger_Institute_and_Hinxton_Hall,_Cambridge,_UKThe village of Hinxton where I started is listed in the Domesday Book of 1086 as Hestitona. It’s also the home of the Sanger Institute – they of the human genome project where DNA was first sequenced so it brackets a whole millennium.  From the north end of the High Street take a left down Mill Lane to see the restored 17th Century mill then join Duxford Rd. and follow your nose over the River Cam (it’s a wet ford but there’s a bridge for runners and dog-walkers – Labradors are expected to wade) and the main Cambridge to London Railway crossing on to Duxford village.

Duxford is best known for its Air Museum but it to has a history that is known to go back to the 10th century when it was known as to Dukeswrthe meaning “The enclosure of Duc” – we don’t know who Duc was but I bet he was teased as a child what with a name like that. The Airfield was active in WW2 and was the home of the famously legless Douglas Bader’s Squadron.bader

Jog down Duxford’s main St Peter’s St to join Ickleton Rd with a left. You leave Duxford village on this wide road (not too much traffic and a wide grass verge if you prefer the soft stuff). It’s about 1.5m to Ickleton and on this leg you get a good feel for the Cambidgeshire countryside. The views are long and the sky is wide. You can see rain approaching in the distance but it can miss you by miles. Bright pools of sunshine steal across dark, loamy fields and crows scatter as the bird scarers crack.

Into Ickleton, probably the most historic of all three of these pretty Cambridgeshire villages. Too much to write here but one early occupant rejoiced in the name of Alsi Squitrebil so there’s another unhappy schoolchild ill wager.

Hook the first left as you enter the village and stick to Brookhampton Street which will take you past impossibly old buildings, leaning like cripples, inwards towards each other as if to share their secrets.

Brookhampton Street takes you to back to Hinxton – you’ll see Hinxton High Street on your left after only another mile or so where if you have time you should stop for a refreshing pint of “Rusty Bucket” from The Red Lion before heading home.

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