Notes on Nothing – An Autobiographical Snapshot

I’ve just turned my laptop on after ages. In fact I think the last time I used it was when I was in hospital earlier this year, and while roaming the hard drive I found this. Written to wile away the hours of enforced bad rest, it’s just a snapshot of a train of thought writing about my life. Nothing about anything much, but I have just read it and thought it might be fun to put online. So, if you want to know a little more about my life here you go…

Me and my brother. I'm 14, Steve is 11

Me and my brother. I’m 14, Steve is 11

When you are faced with empty hours stretching in front of you for long periods of time you have to find something to fill them. As a teenager I got up to mischief and did all manner of naughty things that adults called anti-social behaviour, including our group’s favourite game “Milk Bottle Wars”. This entailed riding our bikes towards each other throwing milk bottles stolen off door steps like missiles at the oncoming rider in a bizarre twist on jousting. But mostly we all filled our time with hanging about. Over the park, in the cul de sac that one of the gang lived in, up in the woods at the end of our road, or anywhere really that we could hang out without too much adult intervention. Not doing anything much. We didn’t even drink or smoke. We just did nothing in a large group. I am sure that all adults nearby found us a mixture of disgusting and scary, as people my age now do about groups of youngsters doing the very same today. Of course they are now all high on skunk and drunk of cheap booze, but that’s the modern era for you eh? Although I will admit we did make loads of noise and acted like we were drunk or high or stupid or desperately trying to impress any girls who were with us (you decide which was true….)

Only a few years later I had discovered music, so no more shenanigans for me. Every spare minute was taken up with learning to play keyboards and the basics of operating the very simple music computers of the time. It was the early 1980s and electronic music was all the rage. I was a addict from the moment I first heard The Human League’s Being Boiled on John Peel’s Radio 1 show. I, like so many others, listened on a pocket radio through a single ear piece huddled in my bed as the show went out late at night so past my bed time. The sound of the synthesizer did something to my teenage brain and it was love at first saw tooth warble. Shortly after this I was taken on holiday to my uncle’s farm in Somerset. I say holiday but it was more like enforced labour, as my bother and I seemed to get given “jobs” rather than allowed to have fun. Not that there is much fun to be had for two townies stuck in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by cows and fields. The local kids would have nothing to do with us, so it was “jobs” or die of boredom. On this holiday I was about to hit my fourteenth birthday and so was entering that surly stage. As the level of teenage grumpiness grew day by day, my parents decided it might be wise to take me into a town to let me find something to do that didn’t involve cows. So after a drive through the winding narrow roads that scare the hell out of anyone child from anywhere with real roads and not cart tracks that have been covered in tarmac, we arrived in Taunton. This is the county town of Somerset, with all the trappings of normality. Shops. I didn’t have much money, neither did my parents really, but I still jumped from the car and went roaming with only a perfunctory “bye” to my family to go shopping.

At this time music and fashion was the centre of my universe, yet a had not really landed on My music and My style. Hence I roamed the streets of this unknown town dressed like a strange cross between a punk, and a mod with rather short cropped hair. I had green army trousers with black monkey boots, a printed t-shirt with Eddie Kidd blazoned across it and a brown corduroy suit jacket that had been covered in safety pins and badges. While you might not be able to picture it you must know that stage all teenagers go through, were they think they look great but the rest of the world know the truth, well that was me big time. I knew I had an hour of alone time before I had to meet with my family for family time, so wondered the strange streets with a purpose, although I had no idea what that was. Then suddenly I heard the most amazing sound, coming from a back street record store, that had it’s door open. The had a bow fronted bay window with leaded windows and looked like it should be selling traditional Somerset fair, not pop music. Yet from this shop taken out of a Dickens novel came a sound straight out of the future. I later learned it was Tubeway Army and their hit single Are Friends Electric, but at that moment all I knew was it was the sound of all the science fiction books I loved so much. That moment is one of my fondest memories, as it was the beginning of a life of music and what playing it led me to do. It also signposted the death knell of my search for a teenage fashion that fitted with me, and the start of a relationship with hair dye, eyeliner and dressing up like some kind of sci-fi film extra. To say this was a turning point would be an understatement. Not that I knew it at the time. I didn’t even go in to the shop. Didn’t have enough money to buy anything to be honest, even though singles were only a very cheap. That’ll teach me to buy sweets before hand eh? Teenagers; think they are grown up but still act like kids! All I knew was I had to go and meet my parents and that as soon as I got back to my home town of Luton I had to seek out that amazing sound. The rest of the holiday dragged like they always did. I was so bored I managed to read the entirety of Frank Herbert’s Dune trilogy, which is a hell of tone. Days of drudgery surrounded by far too much nature for a townie teenager, and nights of darkness that was more like a thick sheet over your face than it was the lack of light. Thankfully soon we were driving back, a journey that took forever as my Step Father insisted we use back streets to drive all the way from Langport in the Somerset levels to the streets of Luton, just outside London. (As an adult I find myself questioning whether this was driven by my step father not having a driving license rather than a joy of seeing lovely scenery, but I can’t be sure. Not the kind of question you ask really. “Dad, do you have a license?” Slap would be the reply)

Luton is a strange town. Until I hit my teenage years I loved it. Where we lived, in Stopsley on the outskirts of the town, there was countryside nearby, a huge park and good schools. We also had two sweet shops and a news agents that sold all the comics you could read, and all of my friends were in walking distance. What’s not to love. Hours of fun playing in the local fields, or the nearby woods or the adventure play ground just down the road from my home. It saw safe, with loads to do and a huge shopping centre only a bus ride away. Nirvana for kids. However, as your tastes change as you blossom from childhood into that in between stage of awkward teenager, the shone slowly falls away. It’s still great fun, riding bikes (throwing milk bottle on occasion), and mucking about with weekly trips to the youth club to flirt badly with girls who are only interested in the older boys fill your nights and weekends. You just know that there is something missing from what you imagine you will want as an adult. Or at least I did. I look back and realise that most of my friends did not feel this way. Their world would always revolve around Luton and the surrounding area. This was mainly due to Vauxhall Motors having a major car factory in the town, which meant a never ending requirement for labour and thus secure employment. It was especially important as I hit my mid teens as this was the era of Margaret Thatcher, and the huge growth in unemployment that went with her government’s reign. Being based somewhere that was not so heavily hit as many other industrial towns did create a reason to stay for many people. Of all of the students of my year at high school I only know of a handful who left Luton to live in adulthood.

Move over Tik & Tok - here's Mik

Move over Tik & Tok – here’s Mik

I was one of those. I finally left at the age of 27, but since the age of 18 I had been travelling to London regularly. It started with shopping trips to buy clothes and new records and all those other things a fashion conscious youth can’t find in a small town. Soon shopping was joined by clubbing. London’s nightlife and gig scene called to me, originally on a weekly basis but growing to a point where I calculated I would spend less on rent than I was on petrol for all the trips to and from the big smoke. Why spend more to live in Luton? Well I couldn’t find an answer either so I started putting out feelers to find an place in London, and thanks to a contact I soon ended up in a one bed flat in Hackney. Life both began and ended then. The end was the death of almost all things Luton. I tried to stay in touch with my old friends but whenever I contacted them to ask them to come down and enjoy the thrills of London they acted as if I was showing off. Rather than come down and stay over, visiting the night life and shops we used to all trip to via the train or M1, they decided that I had got too big for my boots and dropped me. Which left me alone in this huge city, so I went out and made new mates. I was lucky at this time as I was a well known TV presenter at the time, and this always helps find mates… of both types (oo-er). Most of them were shallow and after something, but I knew that and placed them in categories. C List mates were those who I called on if I had no one to go out with, required company and was OK with being used in some way. B List were those who I liked but knew I was there more for what I could bring than who I am and then A List where those I hoped would become my new mates. Looking back on this area it was a rather sad period but it didn’t feel so at the time. I had some serious fun, and partied hearty as I had dreamed being famous would bring. Oh yes, I took advantage of all the trappings of minor fame, although I might not have had as much sex as I could have. Far too much of a nice boy. Foolish maybe, but I am a little proud of not being a typical male and just shagging around because I could. Not sure my new mates saw it this way, but for them it meant more available women for them. For me it meant a growing group of female friends that found my personality and attitude towards them refreshing and new. So we all won. I guess. Luckily it led me to finally form the relationship that was to be the most important in my life, that with my wife Diane.

I first met Diane at the Electric Ballroom many years earlier. We think it was in 1988 or 89. We both are crap with dates so it could be later or earlier but hey, as long as both aren’t sure its OK. That week I found myself single after a row with a long time girlfriend. So I went out a free man for the first time in a long time. ON that night, just after I entered the club, I looked towards the bar and there stood a girl who stopped time. Honestly it was like in a film. Time slowed and people parted to create a clear path to this vision who was lit from above by the lights of the bar. I whizzed over, grabbed the bar and jumped onto my feet to say Hi. I spent the night chatting with this stunning, exciting creature and felt something I had never felt before. Sadly she was there with her ex-boyfriend and felt she had to go home with him out of duty. I asked if she would be there next week. Yes she said, but the next week she was not. So I thought that was a chance missed. But her memory burned brightly. But for now, I got on with life.

However I kept bumping into her. I found that she had gone back to her ex, but did not seem happy. She was amazing and although I also returned to my unhappy relationship, she was always on my mind. When I moved to London I bumped into her even more, and started seeking her out. I found that I had a mate that worked in the same place as her boyfriend, so I could find out where they’d be. I even booked her boyfriend to DJ at a club I ran, because it meant I knew where he would be for a couple of hours… leaving her free to chat to. Now I say all this and it sounds rather stalky, but I did not hit on her. I wanted her to be a mate, if I couldn’t be with her I could know her. So I gave her advice on her love life, and just put up with the fact she would not be mine. I formed another relationship with a rather awful woman, but I won’t bore you with all the gory details, but as this nightmare unfolded it became clear that Diane was equally unhappy with her love life. I now formed a rock band and asked Diane to join as a dancer. As soon as I heard her sing, she was then promoted to lead singer and this led us to spend lots of time together working on songs. Tee hee.

Mik and Diane (stage name Angel) giving it large

Mik and Diane (stage name Angel) giving it large

We tried to fight the chemistry the grew between us but it was bound to happen. We kissed a few times on stage during gigs, under the guise of the show. Then one night we planned a night together with dinner. I cooked a Chinese and waited for DI to arrive. She was late but when she walked through the door she was a vision. In the shortest dress I had ever seen. We ate, and I fought the urge to take her in my arms. Then suddenly she jumped on me and we kissed. From there it was a short skip to the bedroom… and I shall say no more. Just it was amazing and I knew she was the one. I was hooked. Not only was she my mental fit, but we clicked in the sack too. But we both had partners. Well I did for a few more days, and then she was dumped. Diane took a while longer but she lived with him. Within a month we were finally together. Yeah! The rest is history… a very happy history.

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Birthday Boy

Cocktails at Bayou Soul

Booze Ahoy

I must admit I have been rather silent on the blogging front recently. I must throw my hands up and admit that it has mainly been due to a busy work load, but the other reason is that it was my 49th birthday last weekend. I honestly intended to do loads this week, but instead I did nothing as I realized that as you get older it takes ages to recover from even the mildest of party weekends!

Mik and mates drinking!

Cat, DI, Birthday Boy & Rob – The Gangs Going Wild!

On Saturday together with my oldest mates, Cat and Robin, we decended on a new bar in Camden, the Bayou Soul, for some very nice cocktails. I do like my drinks to taste like sweeties and I was not let down. Yummy and boozy!

Mik with his brother Steve

Brothers in Arms… or the Camden Head!

The next night my brother Steve came down from my home town of Luton and off we went to see the Dead Kennedys at Koko in Camden. Before we got to the venue we popped into the Camden Head for a pre-gig drinkie and Steve showed off the family skill for pouting!

Dead Kennedys playing live

Dead Kennedys Rock The House

The gig was great, although it made me feel very old. My school mate John Brandham was a huge Dead Kennedys fan and the gig took me back to sitting in his bedroom as a teenager listening to Fresh Fruit and Rotting Vegetables on his record player while I envied his lime green fun fur bondage trousers. Good days!

Mik and his wife Diane

The Bestest Present of All!

So after just two days of fun I retired to the sofa to recover… until today! Shame! Had a great time, and a big thanks to all my mates, my baby brother and my wonderful wife who made it possible. Next year I may need to book a month off as it is my 50th! Not bad innings for someone who was told he’d be dead by the age of 5 eh?

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Folk In Motion Feb 15th

FIM01v1Sepia+LogoIf you are in the Camden area on Saturday February 15th, why not pop down to Cecil Sharp House. I’ll be performing as part of Folk In Motion, The wheelchair Folk dance troupe as we celebrate the fact that Cecil Sharp House, the home of English Folk Dance and Song Society, has just been made fully accessible for disabled people. It’s a great show whether you are a fan of folk or not, and shows what us wheelies can do when it comes to dance. It features guest performances from Liz Porter and Penny Pepper and I shall be singing “The White Buck of Epping”, that was written by a Camden based musician in the 1960s,  so something not to miss. Oh, and it’s free too!

For full details click here.

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BBC3CR Xmas show now Online!

BBC3CR Xmas 01

Just about to go on air

For everyone who missed my BBC3CR Xmas show, Mik Scarlet’s Festive Fun, here it is.

I would like to thank Ben and Sarah who worked with me in the studio to make everything go so smoothly. A big thank you goes out to my guest in the studio, future Paralympic star George Barnard, who was great to chat with and made it even more fun in the studio.

BBC3CR Xmas Mik&George 02

George, Ben and Mik in the studio

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BBC3CR Xmas Radio Show 27th December 2013!

Yes, it’s nearly time!

On December 27th I will be presenting and DJing on my Xmas radio show Mik Scarlet’s Festive Funtime on BBC 3 Counties Radio.  From 11am to 1pm I will be playing the best in festive tracks, plus some party faves top get you in the mood for NYE, and chating about memories of Christmas past & present, family Xmas traditions, New Years resolutions and hopes for 2014 amoungst other things. It will be the usual Mik Scarlet waffling and fun but with a festive twist.

I will also be joined by local Luton teenager future Paralympian George Barnard, who will be telling me what it’s like to train to be a top level sporty type and giving me the round up of festive sport. As I know nothing about sport I am relying on George to help me through this sports mad time of year.

Tune in… or it will be available on iPlayer and then on this website. No escape then….

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Busy, Busy, Busy!

At the launch of Disability Sheffield

At the launch of Disability Sheffield

It’s been a crazy couple of months. It started with a trip up to Sheffield to speak and compere at the launch of Disability Sheffield. It’s really great to see so many of these disability led organizations springing up all over the country, giving disabled people a real voice and ensuring we support each other as we fight to achieve equality. Met some great people and hope to go back in 2014.  The Midlands is a hot bed of disability activism for sure.

Telling it like it is at Imperial College

Telling it like it is at Imperial College

Next I gave a speech at Imperial College London as part of their Disability History event. We tend to forget that alongside disabled students, colleges and universities have many disabled staff and this event was to launch the Imperial’s disabled staff forum. Another superb event, run by some really committed people for the benefit of everyone at Imperial. It made Diane’s day as she always wanted to go to Imperial to study Physics. I hope that in the near future I will get the chance to work the Diversity team there, both with the staff and students. One of their big aims for next year is to get more people to identify themselves as disabled and you all know what a fan of disability pride I am… so watch out.

Waiting to see Mr Jones

Waiting to see Mr Jones

Then Diane  and me took some time out for some fun, and went to the 02 Shepherds Bush Empire to see Howard Jones. I was invited by the man himself after we got on so well when I interviewed him for my BBC3CR radio show. I was really looking forward to it, both as we deserved a bit of fun and as it was Howard’s 30th anniversary in the music biz. Synthpop heaven! Sadly the Empire access is pretty poor and before the show got the hits section we had to leave. I won’t bore you with the exact why, but I do wish venues wouldn’t just sit on their laurels and think that temporary access provision that made them legal when the DDA came into effect nearly 20 years ago will suffice forever. I have heard from loads of other disabled gig goers that they also have had problems with the venue. Come on 02, you could make this venue amazing. I am available if you need any advice!

Outside the SIA offices in Milton Keynes

Outside the SIA offices in Milton Keynes

The crazy thing is that only a few days earlier I popped up to Milton Keynes to attend a training session on taking out Equality Act cases. Run by the Spinal Injuries Association and given by disabled lawyer Jonathon Fogerty, it gave everyone who took part the knowledge of how to use the Equality Act to our advantage. I plan to write a fuller blog about what I took away from this day later on, but for now all I can say is The Equality Act – Waste of Space! I am also unsure if you can sue a venue like the 02 Empire as they do have access, it’s just crap.

All smiles at NCCA Xmas drinkies

All smiles at NCCA Xmas drinkies

We were then invited to a Christmas Drinks party at the Langham Hotel on Regents Street for the NCCA as they celebrated the cycle ride across the country by their special Santas, delivering presents to children currently fighting or who recently fighting Neuroblastoma. As this is the type of very rare cancer I had as a baby, and as the charity is also based in Camden, it seemed we were destined to work  together. It was an amazing night, made even more magical when the Santas delivered presents to one survivor and her sister.  It was blissful to see two wonderful little girls (pictured) tearing open the wrapping paper to get at the gifts within, and even more joyful to see their happiness at what they got. And it was only December 2nd! It also made me remember how lucky I am to have beat this cancer, especially as I did it back in the late 1960’s!

Outside the Beeb

Outside the Beeb

Lastly I learned my lines and got myself all ready to attend a special casting even for disabled actors at the BBC. Organised by the Equity Deaf and Disabled Members Committee, the Creative Diversity Network and the broadcasters, it brought together disabled actors and casting directors in an attempt to show how much great disabled acting talent there is out there. It’s a common claim from the broadcasting industry that there isn’t enough disabled talent, and so the DDMC decided to show that was not the case. With the help of Equity staff and the CDN we put this event together so hopefully in the future we will start to see more disabled people in TV dramas. Maybe even me eh? I should also say I am very proud to be the chair of the DDMC at the minute. Another passionate group of disabled people trying to make the world a more equal place.

With Christmas coming up, I doubt things will be letting up either. I do have something else to announce to the world, but that will happen on Monday.

And with that I am off to put my feet up, before it all goes crazy again…..

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80’s Music show Online

Are you ready to be taken back in time? To a golden age of synth pop, men in make up, big hair, women in suits, lots and lots of hair spray, aftershave that was so strong it knocked your socks off, and parents who just didn’t get it? Well then you’ve come to the right place?

If any of you missed my 80’s music show on BBC 3 CR earlier this year, I have put it online at Tin Decks. So you can listen away or grab it to play on your MP3 player at your leisure. Or you can listen below. I’m so good to you lot.

Upload MP3 and download MP3 using free MP3 hosting from Tindeck.

I just want to say a big thank you to everyone at BBC 3 CR, Howard Jones, Derek and Adrian from Click Click, everyone who sent in messages and requests and of course my amazing wife who danced her way through the show next to me. Also a shout out to Tasos and his film crew who caught the whole thing on video for a documentary. more on that later.

Here’s the full playlist for the show:

First Hour –

New Life – Depeche Mode (3.47)

I Die:You Die – Gary Numan (4.40)

Love Action – The Human League (5.01)

Howard Jones Interview Part 1

What is Love? – Howard Jones (3.40)

Sweet Dreams – Eurythmics (3.57)

Don’t Go – Yazoo (3.08)

Howard Jones Interview Part 2

Things Can Only Get Better – Howard Jones (3.56)

Quiet Life – Japan (4.52)

Planet Earth – Duran Duran (4.01)

Second Hour –

Click Click interview live in the studio

Perfect Stranger – Click Click (4.01)

Follow The Leaders – Kiling Joke (5.38)

Alice – The Sisters Of Mercy (3.35)

Underpass – John Foxx (3.53)

Bedsitter – Soft Cell (3.36)

The Walk – The Cure (3.33)

Ccan’t You See? – Vicious Pink (3.17)

All Stood Still – Ultravox (3.40)

Dynamo Beat – Shock (4.31)

Nowhere Girl – B Movie (4.41)

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Glory Days

What fun we had! Last night a gang of us went to Koko nightclub in Camden to see one of my favourite bands from the 80’s – Blancmange. Definitely one of the best gigs I’ve seen in ages. I had forgotten how much Blancmange had written the soundtrack to my late teens. As well as the obvious “Living on the Ceiling”, the classics just kept coming. “God’s Kitchen” “I’ve Seen the Word” “Waves” and my personal favourites, “Game Above my Head” and “Feel Me”. I had the time of my life, my wife danced all night and even my brother jigged about a bit. For my brother and me it had really fond memories as we saw Blancmange together at the Queensway Hall in Dunstable way back. They were superb then, and they haven’t lost any of their talent or stage craft. I loved Neil Arthur’s dry northern wit between each track. It is the same humour that runs through out all of the their tracks, old and new.
Of course Blancmange hadn’t just decided to tour with old material.They had a new CD, Blanc Burn (pronounced Blank Burn – like Blackburn – as Neil kept reminding us). It continues where they left off. Full of classic synth hits, with their own brand of lyrical wit Blancmange are back and on form. I got my copy of the new CD at the gig.
As an old synth collector and musician that has been finding it hard to feel inspired lately, I woke up this morning singing to myself filled with ideas. Blancmange always did have that effect on me. So I won’t write a great big blog, as I have tunes to bash out. Check out their website for news, music and even a free download.
Before I go and annoy my neighbours, my I want to send my wishes to Stephen Luscombe, their keyboard wizard. He has just been diagnosed with an abdominal aortic aneurism and was too ill to appear last night. It is effecting his spine and I know how that feels, so get well soon mate.

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© Mik Scarlet. First published in Best For Music magazine vol.2 April 2001

Now I know I’m getting old. Soft Cell playing live! One of THE bands of my teenage years, back together! Yippee.

So with full make up on I drive, with “Non-Stop Erotica Cabaret” pumping out of my little blue sports car, to Ocean, Hackney’s new music venue. Being a blaggy bastard it’s the opening night. Invite only and free drink all night… yes I drove… duh. I sit through speeches by Hackney council types, all patting each other on the back (well it’s not often they can do that, so I’ll let them off) and then it’s the opening night fireworks… lovely. At last all the hoopla is over and we are allowed into the arena. I find myself rushing to the front, like a mad teenage fan. It’s all coming back to me…. “Marc, we love you!”

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