Friday, 25 September 2009

Top 5 Things about Shepperton

We've lived in Shepperton for almost seven years now and are very much at home. It has the same suburban village feel I grew up with in Thames Ditton. It's the sort of place trendy alternative comics would have ripped to pieces in the 80's but I've come to realise it's the sort of place I like to be. I couldn't hack living in the City, however exciting and vibrant it might be, and I don't think I'd cope that well in the Country either. Suburbia is like Baby Bear's porridge. It's not too salty nor too sweet. It's just right.

1. Shepperton Studios - Originally opened in the early thirties, Shepperton Studios remains an active and important part of British cinema. The list of films made there is both extensive and impressive; The Third Man (1949), The Omen (1976), Alien (1979), Ghandi (1982) and Shakespeare In Love (1999) to name a few. Despite the scale of production involved the studios are actually tucked away and only a modest sign and the occasional dayglo direction signs give any indication of what's going on.

2. Home to author J.G. Ballard - The late James Graham Ballard lived with his family in Shepperton since the late fifties. I was quite excited when I first found out the author of "Empire of the Sun" and "Crash" was a fellow resident but disappointingly never saw him around town. I wondered what effect Shepperton had on Ballard's literature and found this article which has some rather bleak looking photos. It also includes some quotes and passages from JGB about the town including a fantastic description of Shepperton residents as "exotic marine creatures with the dream-filled minds of aquatic mammals".

Other famous residents include the actor Frank Finlay, Peter Moran who played Pogo Patterson in Grange Hill and Ray Dorset of Mungo Jerry fame.

3. It's destruction in "The War of The Worlds" - That's the H.G. Wells novel of course not some forthcoming event I have precognition of (Sorry, been watching too much "Peep Show" lately, I'm starting to sound like David Mitchell). There's a whole chapter titled "What I Saw of the Destruction of Weybridge and Shepperton" which describes the destruction of the town by Martian invaders. We live in a Victorian semi which was built around 1881, some 17 years before the book was published. It added an extra reality to the novel and to my mind we're damn lucky our house is still in one piece.

4. The Damned play Live - Yep, they did and there's an album to prove it. Appropriately titled "Live at Shepperton 1980" it captures a fan club gig from 29th July and was originally released as the fourth side of the double vinyl "Black Album". This got me quite excited as I couldn't imagine what venue they played at. The Village Hall? The Kings Head? The roof of the post office sorting depot? Turns out they played at Shepperton Studios, which is a little disappointing based on my early impression of being able to pop down the local and see a chart topping punk band for a fiver. Shepperton's not renowned for its live music scene the only band I've seen play was my pal Gibbo's first group (Never Before Midnight) who played their final show at the Village Hall in the early 90's. However, I've just discovered that rock legends Uriah Heap also played live at the studios as recorded by the equally appropriately named "Uriah Heep - Live at Shepperton". Shepperton, Rock City!

5. Shepperton Village Fair Raft Race - OK, I'll admit I'm struggling a bit now but the raft race really does have to been seen to be believed. The Village Fair has been a fixture in the calendar for over 35 years. The raft race is always a highlight and this year some 42 "vessels" took part. It's not so much a race as a procession but there's something wonderfully British about watching the never ending stream of home made craft wobble their way round the bend in the river all in the name of charity. Maybe these are the "exotic marine creatures" of Ballard's mind.

Friday, 11 September 2009

Top 5 Footballs

As a kid my favourite ball to kick about in the back garden was a light bouncy plastic one. The sort you can get from Tesco for a quid now. I had a George Best Soccer Special which had his signature on and looked a bit like an Adidas Telstar. I liked it because even the gentlest of taps would cause it to fly down the garden at top speed. I was able to recreate Alan Sunderland's Cup winning goal for Arsenal, sliding in to fire home between the two trees that provided my goalposts. My other ball was an old fashioned leather one. It was heavy and under inflated but it was good to use on windy days or during periods when my George Best Soccer Special was nestling in a neighbours bush and I wasn't allowed to climb the fence to get it back.

1. Adidas Tango

This is the classic Adidas design that graced World Cups, in various forms, from 1978 until 2002. It's a brilliantly simple yet eye catching design. When Adidas decided they'd try something different in 2002 it really didn't work. The Fevernova might have had some fancy colours but it just looked wrong.

2. Adidas Telstar

For anyone who grew up watching football through the sixties and seventies THIS is what a ball was supposed to look like. Simple and straightforward with a great name. Also the first Adidas World Cup ball used at both 1970 and 1974 competitions.

3. Slazenger "Special Edition"

This is the 1966 World Cup ball but represents the classic "old style" ball that have survived from the early 1900's. Made from heavy leather with thick laces tying the whole thing together it was a solid lump which makes the skill and technique achieved by players from that era all the more impressive. Even so it was a massive improvement on the 7 or 8 panel balls they used in the 1800's. That really must have been like kicking a lump of concrete.

4. Mitre Ultimax

Mitre designs haven't changed a great deal over the years. In the eighties their Delta 1000 was the ball of choice for Football League games. The Ultimax is the current Mitre ball and I like the colour scheme more than any of their "classic" styles.

5. Adidas Champions League

Yeah, I am running out of choices. I don't really like any of the fancy Nike, Puma or Pony designs so it's back to Adidas. The Star effect has been used for many of the recent Champions League finals and as a contemporary design I think it works pretty well.


Saturday, 5 September 2009

Top 5 Indian Curry dishes

The school summer holidays are all but over and I've completely failed to build up a stock pile of top fives to kick start me on the weekly routine again. Think it could be a while before I've found enough time to get something decent written but I'm fed up with seeing the Wombles at the top of the page so here's a quicky on my favourite currys.

1. Chicken Dhansak - My new favourite curry. Chicken and lentils in a rich spicy sauce that gives a medium heat and slightly sweet taste.

2. Chicken Jalfrezi - Former number one which is about as hot as I can take. You can at least leave a few chillis if you're struggling.

3. Chicken Korai - Sizzling sauted chicken with onions. Good choice if you don't fancy a sauce.

4. Lamb Rogan Josh - It's not often I don't pick Chicken but this is a classic curry that is great for a bit of a change.

5. Chicken Tikka Masala - The first proper curry dish I ever tried.