Steal My Spam

The Ouysse is a short but spectacular river that flows into the Dordogne at Lacave. For most of its 45 or so kilometres, it travels underground – part of the labyrinth of caves that have transformed the limestone causse into a geologist’s theme park. After its emergence somewhere near Rocamadour, the last leg of its brief journey forms a magical steep-sided valley dotted with some of the finest watermills in the region. Being a family home, the Moulin de Latreille may not be the best known, but it sure hosts the best parties.

I went there on Saturday night with a pair of graphic artists: my friend Dan and his father-in-law, who told me tales of the wildlife near his home on the east coast of Scotland, somewhere between Aberdeen and Inverness. We went for a kind of private performance by Gigspanner, Peter Knight’s spin-off three-piece band when he’s not busy touring (as one of the group’s founding members) with Steeleye Span.

Peter and his wife, Deborah, stayed at Fi and Giles’s chambre d’hôte a couple of years ago when they were looking for a house to buy and no doubt fell in love with the mill, as most people do. I imagine that they probably stayed in the bedroom whose window looks out on the Ouysse as it skirts the house. Subsequently, the guests tracked down that elusive house in the unpopulated wilds of the Creuse. They had talked with mein hosts about one day playing at the mill and Deborah arranged the gig as part of Gigspanner’s short tour de France.![](upload://3l9qPkJg0CgQ4XM3d3wiqZo6jeO.jpg)

We have known Fi and Giles for ten years or so. Due to the trying business of having to earn our respective daily bread, we don’t see a lot of each other, but it’s one of those bonds that matures and strengthens as the years go passing by. Every time we come away from the mill after a party or a dinner date, we drive home with a warm glow that derives from a feeling that we have been privy to something memorable. The pair of them know such a diverse range of people that they’ve become legends in their own lunchtimes. Giles, for example and much to my envy, numbers Procol Harum’s Gary Brooker among his coterie. One Sunday we met a friend of theirs from England, who – we discovered – used to share a house near Guildford with my brother.

Getting to the mill involves a vertiginous descent down a track ravaged by rainwater. Each time, it creates a sense of child-like expectancy in me, as if I’m following Jules Verne’s Arne Sacknussemm down into the centre of the earth. You can measure progress with the mill by the state of the track. Fi and Giles have suffered for their ‘art’. For years, they banged their heads against the doors of indifferent officials in seeking help with the road and with a turbine that would harness the energy of the mill-race. They’ve endured winters that would have tested the mettle of Shackleton’s Antarctic team. Parties in the early years were powered by throbbing turbines that devoured fuel like it was on special offer at the Boxing Day Furniture World sale. But things have come together over the last few years. Although subject to the vagaries of the river, the water turbine helps to keep them warm in winter and the chambres d’hôte are now included in the Alastair Sawday guide.

We paid the price of admission and parked in a meadow bordered by the river and the steep cliffs of the opposite bank. If you’re steeped in the mythology of the Wild West, you can almost imagine that you’ve stumbled on the hideout of the Hole In the Wall Gang. It wouldn’t surprise you to see a group of horsemen kicking up dust as they zig-zag down through the brush of the precipitous rock face. Instead, we stumbled upon kids playing games and adults standing around chatting or sitting on some of the old armchairs dotted about incongruously. After the brief overnight rain and an unpromising morning, the sun had come out in the afternoon and the air was still balmy, filled with the smell of sausages and chicken wings smoking on barbeques.

The three band members had set up their stage in the cavernous barn whose low beams create a deceptive sense of intimacy. Lured by the sound of Peter Knight on the fiddle, those of us there for the music stood or sat in semi-silent devotion while those there for the ‘craik’ carried on carousing outside. One particularly loud group of hooray-Henrys combined the two. If I’d been Peter Knight, I would have given them a very cold and meaningful stare until they got the message and drifted off outside. But Peter is a good-humoured man who clearly has that enviable ability to lose himself utterly in the act of creation. Watching him communicating wordlessly but joyously with his two campadres as he stringed or plucked his fiddle, I thought about how it must be almost a religious calling to be a musician.

Only the previous weekend, I’d watched a clip of Steeleye Span performing their well-worn ‘All Around My Hat’ on some BBC archive collection that went with a documentary on Fairport Convention. The 2012 version of Peter Knight was reassuring like the 1960s model: glasses, moustache, a little greyer, a little heavier. Probably, too, a little funnier. His laconic introductions seemed suffused with the experience of 45 years in the business.

I was never a great one for the folk revival as a lad. I saw Ralph McTell and Al Stewart once, and the unique John Martyn on a few occasions at Queens University, Belfast. I had a single or two by the Fairports, Basket of Light by Pentangle and a brilliant album by the oft-forgotten Trees. But on the whole, fiddles and fingers in the ear weren’t my cup of tea. On Saturday night, however, I was spellbound by the brilliance of the musicianship. Just three men and their instruments: Peter on fiddle, Roger Flack on guitar and Vincent Salzfaas on the most tasteful djembe and congas. It was folk music, Jim, but not as I knew it.

They played two sets separated by the inevitable extended interval. They rewarded the woman who brought them a clutch of beer cans with two extra numbers after the obligatory encore. And then we shuffled off into the night, some to stay in tents pitched on the meadow, others to drive home. I asked Fi if they’d made anything out of the event. Not really, but it was good publicity. More importantly, it was the occasion. And who knows, maybe next time? Lit up by coloured fairy lights strung from the trees, the mill sometimes appears as a kind of gift to their friends.

The stars were out in force as we trudged to the car in the darkness. We spoke of the magic of the occasion. It was one of those special events that mark out your life. Ah yes, I remember. What a night. Late September 2012. I saw Gigspanner at the Moulin de Latreille. Down by the river Ouysse.

Hi Ron, yes they are currently PDF's although I did try to convert some to ePub and Mobi for Kindlefire but it didn't work, but I am sure that was just me being non-techie. I will do something I should have done ages ago, which is produce a sampler cd-rom, I will do that aqnd get a copy to you, plus I do have a dormant project which is literally an online magazine on the History of Advertising. I produced six copies of it a year or so back but couldn't get any interest generated in it, I'll also send one of these off to you for your (hopefully) interest.

Problem with everything is finding the wherewithal to promote things. A few years ago available cash was not a main problem, but since the contracts dried up it is much harder. More of a challenge perhaps?

Norman, you perhaps need to get out more! lol

That is a lot of stuff!! yes pls PM me a .pdf or Are these just .pdfs? As that is only the next stage to online magazine/books...have you seen those?

Hi Ron, in fact it represents some 12GB of material (Twelve!). I worked it out the other day that there are about 12-15,000 images involved. and Yes, I am stark raving mad, as I have been converting these into Lectures, which I hope I can sell for 'bums on seats' locally to aid the old pension along!

I don’t think I’m doing this picture bit right, sorry about that. Anyway there are another three books (not shown) Motorcycling, Food, Wine & Spirits. Soft drinks is on the stocks, and then i am into the major project of WW1 for 2014, and projected tomes ‘History of Propaganda’ and a ‘Pot-Pourri de Paris’. I also have a plotted project for ‘French Music Hall’.

Haven't made any money out of this as yet as the Marketing is up the guys in Oz, but I have had three years of putting them together and being fascinated by the whole project, and it was a drug! I have put them all into PDF files, so just between ourselves if you would like to see one of the books in that format let me know.

OMG Norman that's not books that's a library!

Oh the bottle is just there for size comparison! Believe that and you'll believe anything!

Brian, nice to meet up with another after dinner bore! I DO try to keep my trap shut a bit as it ^pee's off' SWMBO (and quite rightly) but a few jars and I'm off and running!

I think we might have hit a nerve with this one? Answers I can give.

Ron, love to be be-friended by you - for my sins I was for a relatively short while General Manager of JWT-Direct in Melbourne, Australia.

The books are through Mosaic Books (aka Mosaic Publishing Pty Ltd ) also in Oz, but here is a pic of most of them.![](upload://3D2YdyDtXhI7uRW3SKgA2CysXaD.JPG)

Lists! Nostalgia! I'm yer man. Include me in - or whatever it was that Sam Goldwyn said. Ron, I never saw Fairport, though I lived in Brighton for 10 years, but I did own Audience's 'House On The Hill' on the Famous Charisma Label (as well as their little known first album on Polydor). Would that I still had both in my collection. Norman, I'm already beginning to wonder whether I've still got time left on this mortal coil to re-read things like A Confederacy Of Dunces and listen to all of Thelonious Monk's solo piano recordings. There are 10 CDs in my Billie Holiday boxed set and I only get a chance to air them once in a blue moon. Yikes! Someone please stop the planet spinning so fast. If it slowed down a bit, maybe the years would go passing by slower.

anyone who might be interested in receiving a flurry of normally unpublished pics of music greats, should hook into this

Rock First

Had a couple of Fairport guys jam at my house some years back... larf! ( sure I saw the name mentioned in this thread )

I first saw them topping the bill in Brighton in 'Nineteen hundred and oooo it's all in black and white' Second on the bill was 'Audience' ( brilliant ) and lastly a little known GENESIS

Ralph now lives in London Apprentice in Cornwall.

Norman Clark

hehe I used to be with JWT in London, OK to be-friend you?

Ron Birks


just found your Blog!

Hi Norman Clark

Love to see your Graphic Design books. Where would I look?



I would begin with one discussion and see how that develops, if it takes off you can add new discussions for the other topics. Entitle the posts something like 'What are your top 100 films'. Once you have a comprehensive list it could be separated into genres.


Don't get me going Norman. I am a decade younger (well 64 in a couple of weeks) but because I am an anthropologist who went out into parts of the world that have developed to modernity since the 70s, have been in pushing the 100 countries for work, had the fascination of life in immediate postwar Germany before all of that, knew musicians, movie stars, comedians and who knows whoever else by chance rather than selection I am an over dinner bore or fascination depending on taste. You might just know what I mean. With totally eclectic tastes in just about everything it is all the battier. I have enjoyed life to the full and love to share, no matter how it sounds crazy and contrived, but I know...

Fair comment Brian. As I indicated I can't say i have thought this through properly. It will be good to get other reactions as well.


Hi Brian, one thing we of a 'certain generation' have, is more memories. How often have we all sat around dinner tables with friends and said ' do you remember.........?'

I am absorbed by nostalgia, not for any main 'it was better then' type of thinking, but as a mapping system as to how we arrived at where we are today. This is why I am deeply involved in producing these books on graphic design throughout the eras, as they are fascinating trips. My music collection (now over 4,000 hours) is another dimension of that.

At my now age of coming up 73 years I know I will never listen to all the music I have in my library, never read all the books in the same place ( a mere 3,000 reference books!), never listen to all the plays and book readings, never paint all the pictures I would love to paint - but I am gong to give it a dam' good try before I fall of my twig!



Keep them time/period neutral (not 'era' for instance) Jazz, etc., simplify by asking favourite genres as an open question which could come out as one or twelve but listing genres is too much. Then ask for favourite performers and works in chosen genres. Gets interesting...