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a writer's life Family history Music

Jazz Baby

So here is your humble blogger as a young hepcat. My parents were in their teens when I was born in October ’59. My father, last glimpsed by me when I was five, worked for a while as a policeman. My mother had served coffee at Ronnie Scott’s club in its earliest days and was friendly with Stan Tracey whose tune Starless and Bible Black is awesome. When my mother remarried, my stepfather was also a jazz fan, and jazz has continued to be part of the soundtrack of my life.

I am writing about memory at the moment. My own memories date back to being very young indeed. Memory is of course unreliable — especially when you are imaginative by nature. However, because I was moved from place to place, I can remember being in several houses and situations that date back to toddlerhood. I have no recollection of the scene above however (which is what makes it attractive to me) although I vaguely recollect the Police flats in Finchley where we lived, especially the bedroom I slept in. It was there I had a recurring nightmare of a man in a hat climbing into a wardrobe. That man in a hat has featured in at least one poem, as well as being a sinister figure in my play A Glass of Nothing.

Having Spotify and Google I was able to track down the LPs and EPs that are in this photo, and then make a playlist of the tunes on it. There are tunes by Stan Getz, Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins, Johnny Hodges and Wardell Gray. I am listening to the playlist as I write. Very cool, and full of saxophones and sophistication. I am hoping a Proustian memory will be triggered by a trumpet run or tune, but so far there is nothing. The Miles Davis EP, however, features Milestones. To this day it is one of my favourite pieces of music in any genre.

I am enjoying the exploration of a soundtrack to my temps perdu. I am thinking of Keats now … ‘Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard / Are sweeter‘. Yeah man.

Categories
Art and illustration Family history

Recovering an untold story

Jumper frog hurries home late from work
Jumper frog hurries home late from work

The toad boss is contrite
The toad boss is contrite

Last week I was unexpectedly given a plastic bag containing 13 boards with illustrations by my grandfather, Alex Stowell. Evidently these were intended for a children’s story, which was never published, and the text – if it ever existed – has been lost.  The pictures from The adventures of Jumper Frog, suggest a story in which Jumper Frog works as a cobbler for an oppressive toad, escapes the dangers of foxes and somehow turns the table on his toad boss.

This is a really nice piece of family history. My grandfather died before I was ten, and I chiefly remember him as a witty man with a distinct Indian accent, as he spent his first 20 odd years in the sub-continent. The illustrations for this book, however, are as English as The Wind in the Willows. While they may have their flaws, these pictures make me wonder about the literature and art that languishes in attics never to be seen.