Leave it out John

This fine example of a Jamaican ska/pop tune was bought for the bargain price of 10p in what I used to know as “John’s” second hand shop in the Hillfields district of Coventry in the late 1970’s. I was then working in a factory which used to knock off at midday on a Friday so in the afternoon I would spend my wages on second-hand records and clothes (hey, what’s changed!)

The shop had two or three floors filled full of musty smelling women’s dresses, old tailor’s dummies with arms missing and big wooden wardrobes amongst other bric-a-brac and the shop owner looked like a thin Giant Haystacks.

My favourite part of the shop was the big boxes of 7″ records, most without sleeves next to cardboard boxes of mouldy, well thumbed adult magazines and the owner’s heavily moulting Alsatian dog who growled aggressively at you in the corner (nice!)

A good few of my reggae records were found there and I know of other people who shopped at this quality establishment too (a studio 1, 7″ blank with “Mittoo” scrawled across the label in felt tip which I overlooked is sitting in the rhythm doctor’s record boxes even as I write. Hi Chris!)

I rarely get misty eyed about damp smelling second-hand shops and this place is probably well knocked down and built over today, but this gaff still has a place in my heart. RIP “John’s.”

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Sow solid crew

The risk of frost is well and truly over so you can quite happily sow outdoors. Sowing seed outside is simple and perhaps a little bit riskier than doing it indoors what with the chance of wildlife getting to the seed before it germinates and the seed may rot if there’s a lot of rain (that happened to my runner beans sown earlier this year) but I wouldn’t worry too much about that, give it a go!

Firstly make sure the ground has been well prepared beforehand (organic material dug in earlier in the season but not in the case of carrots or they will “fork”), any large stones taken out and the soil broken up to a fine tilth (rake it and then rake again). Depending on how dry the ground is I also wet the soil lightly an hour or so before I sow. I then get a stick and make a slight indent where the seeds are going to go and then pop the stick in at the end to mark the row. Sow as thinly as possible to avoid any waste of seed (remember any left over can be used next season.) Cover over as directed on the seed packet (the rule is about twice the size of the seed) then give it a light water.

Then it’s fingers crossed and wait for the seedlings to appear watching out for any obvious weeds coming up that might choke them. I have also been putting a couple of long twigs over the area to deter any cat that wants to ruin my OCD straight lines. Always use a plant label to mark the row to avoid confusion like I’m having at the moment with my courgettes and cucumbers.

Over the last week I sowed more sweet peas and garden peas which I got all off ebay. They arrived in some unconventional packaging to say the least, in the case of the sweet peas in a folded over square of kitchen towel and the peas in a plastic sarnie bag. The peas looked like the ones me mum used to boil for 30 mins after soaking them the night before in a saucepan in a net with a white tablet.

Also you might have heard of the term successional sowing, all that means is to stagger your sowing as to avoid the plants harvesting all at once which would cause a glut. Peas, beans, lettuce and cut again salad, carrots and beetroot all do well sown like this and you’ll benefit from a longer period of cropping. Sow little and often (once a fortnight in season).

On a different note the garden is going bonkers at the moment what with this mad weather (sun then rain, then rain and sun.) The early spuds are flowering away like there’s no tomorrow, the pond is buzzing with tadpoles, waterboatmen and dragonflies and there’s fruits forming on the tomato plant in the hanging basket. I’ve now started to feed the tomatoes by using some of the worm juice (not a technical term) seeping out from under the “I didn’t buy it” wormery diluted in a bucket of water. It’s all going off!

A camberwell beauty

Prince Buster  – Taxation – Fab records white label
Here’s another second-hand classic (with very apt lyrics!) which was found in the Scope shop in Camberwell (42 Denmark Hill, London SE5 1JL) in the late 1990’s. This charity shop still delivers today as the other week I got a Mongo Santamaria greatest hits LP (cuban latin jazz) and Johnny Clarke’s version of  “no woman no cry” on 7″ for £2. How good is that?

Anyway the buster tune was found when I was off-loading some unwanted Christmas presents from the relatives in the midlands (white socks, denim after-shave and a big tin of tea-time assorted biscuits etc). I walked into the shop just as the guy behind the counter was flicking through a bunch of singles which I noticed contained a couple of reggae sevens. He was chuffed I had recognised one of the tunes and also that I had donated some stuff so he let me have the pile of about fifteen singles for a fiver. This was probably one of my best finds of all-time as it included a Wailers 7″ from the late 60’s and some punk singles including Subway Sect’s “Ambition”. Super! The moral of this tale is don’t bin those white socks and that woolly cardigan from your nan, stick them in your local charity shop!

Friday night chilling

Matthias Reiling – Apology Girl (Tornado Wallace Remix)
I heard this the other day on phonica record’s podcast from a couple of months back (listening to records I’d love to buy but can’t afford. Arghhh!) and it’s been running through my brain since. A lovely tune, a bit moody at the start then building into a jazzanova/love dancing vibe. Lovely stuff!

A scratched sunday night reggae classic

Last night fueled by supermarket bottled lager, I decided to go through a few forgotten about second-hand singles found searching through boot sales and charity shops over the years. In amongst the pile I found some singles that would be worth a mint if they were in a half decent condition (which they ain’t!) but discovered this classic rock-steady guitar instrumental from 1969. Not exactly hi-fidelity but a tune all the same!


Inventive planter of the week

Thanks very much to our friend Sharon Bassey of the London beekeeping association for sending us this picture of a very clever idea for a planter from a friend of hers using a wooden pallet. How brilliant is that? She mentions they would look great as dividers or up against a shed/wall and I reckon they’d work well on a balcony too. Any more inventive planters out there? Send your planter pics to us. Inventive planters of the world unite!

Cor baby, that’s really free!

A few months ago my wife found this wire plant pot holder in the street to be chucked out. The pot that’s sitting in it was rescued from the garden of the then derelict house next door (which are now flats and inhabited thank the lord) and filled with some self-seeded nasturtiums transplanted from the garden with a little bit of creeping thyme which I got from the growing food in the city course at the walworth garden farm.

I very rarely throw any plant pots out unless they are beyond repair and if they’re plastic and unrepairable they go straight in the recycling bin. In the case of cracked terracotta pots I break them up and stick them in a bucket to use later as “crocks” to put in the bottom of pots as drainage. All the good pots get stacked up at the bottom of the garden (after a good wash out) and reused time and time again. Waste not want not and all that!