Reflections on our 1924 show supporting the CND


Back in September 2021, we were lucky enough to be invited to join the Oxford Classic Jazz Band at a CND Benefit Concert.

I confess to my shame that I am not an activist and my politics are woolly-minded fascism with liberal tendencies, so I don’t know quite where I sit on the issue of nuclear disarmament, but if you pay me to sing I will come and do my best to entertain.

Here we are – hard at it. And please note that I’m obscuring their smashing logo ‘Nurses, not nukes!’


I wonder if I look anxious in this clip. I have to confess that I was, because there were some special people in the audience who were original members of the group known as The Greenham Common Women. They camped outside the Greenham Common Airbase in the 1980s and their campaign was enormously successful. 

I was too shy to mention on the night that I grew up in Newbury and in fact lived in the area called Greenham Common, just below the Airbase. It was just before their time, though, as I left Newbury in 1975 to go to Birmingham University. I wonder how I might have been affected if I’d still been living there… probably not much, alas. 

Reading this article in the Guardian Newspaper, peppered with fabulous photos that I cannot afford to reproduce here, I’m very glad I didn’t pipe up with my feeble claim to their fame. I only wish I had a fraction of their courage. 

I suppose it takes some kind of courage to live the life of an entertainer, but that’s more about the courage to be poor, the courage to make a regular idiot of oneself and the courage – eventually – to retire. I haven’t quite mastered the last one. 

Speaking of entertainers, which I ought to be, The Oxford Classic Jazz Band is led by Nick Gill, with whom I’ve worked before, the lucky dog.

Nick has – or did have once – a piano on wheels. I’m not talking about an electric piano, it’s a real piano that he wheels about. See below, I’ve sourced this photo of Nick on his piano from Mortimer Jones’s excellent blog: NARROWBOAT BONES.


I wish Martin had one of these. He might prefer it to his electric Nord. That’s a really fine piano, the Nord, but it’s still not a steam piano is it? Martin has been known to call them Sootyphones.

I don’t know why… Sooty seems to be playing a very fine piano in this video 


If we had a piano like Nick Gill’s I could get a trailer for my little Kia Picanto and hook Martin and the piano to the back of it. Then we could whizz about the country in style, with him entertaining the nation in all weathers.

Talking of entertaining the nation in all weathers, Nick often features the marvellous Caroline Whatsam with the Oxford Classic Jazz Band. Wait for it, the connection will be explained very shortly. Here’s their Duo –

Not only does Caroline sing beautifully but you’ll see at three and a quarter minutes in that she also plays the saw. That’s why I mention the weather. It is unarguably an outdoor instrument. I tried to play it myself once inside a pub, when Caroline was kind enough to show me how, but after a few seconds I came-over-all-unnecessary and had to stop.

You have to bend it back, vibrate it and play it with a fiddle bow. I mean the saw. Don’t be disgusting. So you need to be quite strong and confident. I suddenly imagined it flying out of my hands and decapitating members of the audience. It was a terrifying image.

But what a marvellous thing it is in the hands of a master. Caroline plays it superbly, whilst managing to look beautiful at the same time. An extraordinary feat.

Talking of beauty (you see how cleverly and seamlessly I link these paragraphs) another regular with the OCJ Band is the delightful young singer Holly Taylor-Zuntz, an asset to any band.



Hmm. How offensive have I been so far today? Sexist, Electrical-equipmentist, and displaying questionable politics. I can hear my children shouting, ‘You’re so shallow Mum!’

That’s the nearest I get to fond recollection of my children.

So what, I cry! Don’t shallow people deserve a voice?


Whaddya mean, ‘No’?

That’s Shallowist tharriz.

Vintage Jazz Singer and Author

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