cassettes line-up, lined-up
Mr cassettes, Nick Reeves, on The West Country
Milk, milk, lemonade / inter somnia.
Dorset. Summer. 1974.
Some things just stick in your head. Some things just click and make some kind of sense: forever. And some things are just senseless, but remain.
Everyone was saying that Figgs’ mum only had one bosom. That particular tittle-tattle had circled the playground all summer term; first as a whisper, misheard and Chinese. Then as a snigger. But, by June, it was a chorus. It sang from the soft tarmac – a choir of thin voices in snotty unison, or thereabouts, to the tune of ‘Hitler has only got one ball…’. It accompanied Tag and British Bulldog.
It was a mantra for the boy in the fourth with the Rubik’s Cube. It, somehow, found its way into verses of hymns in dusty assemblies. (Sometimes, the way I tell it now, is that even Mr. Thomas said it, as he chalked up Latin verbs on the blackboard one afternoon – but, that cannot be true: perhaps, that was dream) It could certainly be heard as a chant, full-blown, from the back of the hot, green coach as it passed us at the gates, transporting the boarders back to their term-time home on the hill at the end of day: ”Figgs’ mum has only got one tit/ that’s why all her bras don’t fit…” I don’t think the lyric went any further than that. I suppose it didn’t need to: the word was gospel.
To the mind of a ten year old, as I was, the concept was, on deeper reflection, absurd; impossible. And, a little too disturbing to be possible. Ladies had bosoms.
This much was apparent. Babies sucked milk from bosoms. Bosoms were full of milk.
Ladies had two bosoms.
Mrs. Figgs, a huge, friendly, ginger woman with a red face, answered the door. She pawed one side of the door frame and the gold sank a little further into her fleshy fingers. She nodded me in, breathlessly, and I slipped in under her arm. An immense heat and sweet odor filled the gap between her shapeless blouse and the painted blue wood. I glanced up, briefly, into the hills and valleys of her clothing, but nothing out of the ordinary was revealed; everything concealed.
”Ee’z dow ninna zella, Nicky. Scam perlong.”
Figgs and I spent alot of time together that summer. In the cool concrete cellar under his house. We played darts and we drank his grandad’s warm scrumpy, ciphoning it off from a barrel into the white tin mug that hung strung on a string. It was like no apple juice I’d ever known: sharp, warm, full of bits. The room was littered with these wooden barrels. The air tasted of apples (as did grandad Figgs). We played 100-to-one and Round-The-Clock. The four walls turned in circles and thoughts came easy and words came hard. It was on my lips to ask after his mum, but I never did.
As it turned out I didn’t need to: an answer arrived by itself one day.
The Figgs’ house sat on a bend halfway down the steep street that ran through the village. The gradient was such that most traffic passed slowly down the hill on continuous brake. Looking back over newspaper reports from those times now, I see that there were several accidents on the stretch of road over the years. I only remember one.
The house above us literally shook under the impact. The dartboard fell from the wall and everything, everything, hung in dust, in silence, for an eternity after the crash. We ran, slow motion, outside to the front of the house.
The lorry was on its side. The underneath, road-black and hot, faced the house. The cab lay awkwardly on the lawn (later a huge scar would be revealed slashed into the soft earth). A wheel was spinning and a man was climbing out of the top of the hot mess from a door that bore, with the twist of a head, the legend AXE VALE MILK. It was a vast metal beached whale. Mrs. Figgs appeared from the house. She was carrying a bucket in one paw and a washing bowl in the other. She passed us and ran out around the front of the lorry and into the street.
The milk lorry had burst open (in one, two, three places) along its spine and powerful torrents of milk jetted from its wounds onto the tarmac. A white sheet river rushed on down the hill and, there, ankle-deep in it, stood Mrs. Figgs. Her massive frame ghosted as she leaned into the cascading milk-flow. Above her head, clasped in both hands, the washing bowl to collect the milk. (The bucket rolled around at her feet and headed downtown). Such was the power of the outburst within which she showered that the milk merely hit the bottom of the bowl and exploded back out again. She turned her head to us. Her hair plastered all over her face. Her bodywet and shapeless beneath her clothes.
”Gerrabarrel. A barrel! A barrel! Gerrabarrel from thez ella!”
I guess that that was just what we did. We went and got an empty barrel from the cellar. I don’t really remember how this particular story ended. However, in that moment, – stood on the pavement, seeing Mrs. Figgs drenched in milk, ankle-deep in the stuff, and so desperate to collect it from the hemorrhaging lorry, – it all made some kind of sense. The rumour must’ve been true. No one else was more entitled than her to that milk.
A cassettes biography from Mr Nick Reeves
1999: wrote and recorded ‘West Country’ with dear Magic Sam.
Alaster G: bass/guitar
Magic Sam: vocals, banjo, guitar.
Reeves: guitar, vocals.
This was a four track recording, one morning at Scream rehearsal studios.
Sam had a lot of the lyrics and the GC chords down. I had the ‘Christmas…’ lyric
and the GCEmCD bit.
We welded the two together.
(4 cassette tape edition!).
2003: woke up in a sleeping bag in the back room.
The drugs were all sweated out.
I had slept through the run-up and turn-of-the-century.
Girlfriend slept on upstairs.
She would sleep until the money was smoked.
And then she’d figure out something else.
I got up.
I took the dog for a walk.
The woods around Banstead still hold a special place in my heart.
The sun dances through the trees. The rain drums the leaves.
It was on these paths, headphones on, that Birdy and I escaped.
Man, I still love that dog.
She’ll be long dead now.
Collected all my notebooks together and rewrote.
Wrote some songs and recorded them, there,
in the back room on a Tascam four track
and called it all
Old Vinyl & UFO Kids.
2004. Played several ramshackle solo gigs around Croydon –
mini-disk, acoustic, drum machine, fairy lights.
gave away 100 CDRs.
(thanks & chocolate medals to Esther at The Ship & TenFootJon.)
Longed for electric in 2005.
Santiago borrowed The Lesmeriser’s drums and we played those songs to death
– the birth of the Local Lo-Fi Scene.
2007. A new set of songs/an old set of songs.
Recorded at the old Beanos studio, east Croydon by James Hawkins.
Rain Later, Good! (100 CDs).
Josef F: guitar.
Nic Mainwood: bass.
P. Scott: violin.
Daniel Bissex: saxophone.
Magic Sam: banjo.
Reeves: voices, guitar.
Gigs and thanks to Esther, Green Dragon, Black Sheep, Gavin K, Scream, Cartoon.
2008: Local Lo-Fi Scene EP (50 cdrs, hand printed)
recorded at Scream rehearsal studios…
Mark Strange: bass.
Reeves: vocals, guitars.
2009. Recorded solo cassettes album Bell Hill (for second-hand lovers);
a tribute to Beanos record shop and vinyl and love and all things second hand.
2010: recorded The Wizard of Was collection at home on eight track tape and garageband.
2011- 2012. Wrote what becomes ‘When Bowie Had English Teeth.’
Gigged and recorded.
Nipper Smith: bass.
Peter Lally: drums.
Reeves: voices, guitar.
Gavin K: keyboards.
Recorded at Rocket studios, east Croydon by the very great Gavin K.
thanks to… BBC6, The Oval, Green Dragon.
Aimee Grinter: voices.
Mike Brown: guitars, voices.
Punk Wayne: drums.
Nipper Smith: bass.
Gavin K: keyboards.
The Lesmeriser: percussion.
gigged and recorded Suicide Fringe/Quick Joey Small and new version of West Country.
Went for a drink with Nick Bourne & Magic Sam…
…2014.Paul Howard: guitars.Mik Tubb: bass.Mike Brown: guitars.Grinter: voices.Reeves: voices, guitar.
Previously from cassettes
Old Vinyl & UFO Kids
Rain Later, Good!
When Bowie Had English Teeth