Beth Jeans Houghton

Beth Jeans HoughtonBeth Jeans Houghton has just released her debut album with her band ‘The Hooves of Destiny’. There’s every chance you haven’t heard of her. I first saw her at Swn in 2009 where she appeared in a tall white wig and had big problems getting her instruments to work. I instantly loved her music (which I’d not heard before) and was charmed by her Geordie stage banter. I’ve seen her several times since and each time she’s changed.

She started off being a new folk hero (the second time I saw her she was supporting Stornaway). Then for a while it felt like she might be the next Lady Gaga as she immersed herself into LA culture while recording the album and was rumoured to be dating Anthony Kiedis (from Red Hot Chili Peppers). Her album took a long time to come.

In December I saw her play a Christmas party gig. It wasn’t the best of crowds as a lot of people had come to see the, very different, Canadian band on before her. The gig worried me. Beth was, well, narky on stage and the new songs lacked the sparkle of the ones I knew.

And now her album is out. And I very much like it. But there’s a problem. I think she is going to sink without much of a trace. The few reviews I’ve read have been positive but they struggle to define what her music is — generally they’ve described her as folk. BBC 6 Music have supported her with sessions and interviews but outside of them I cannot see anyone else getting behind her.

I really wanted Beth to be the next big thing. She’s got the personality. If I’m honest I wanted this so I could say I saw her three years ago before she was famous. Oh well.

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Work and Personal email

Sparrow iPhoneNow I’m working for two different companies I have three email addresses to attend to during office hours (the third being my personal one). I prefer to use different email addresses as it keeps projects separate and I can avoid my work ones when I’m not on the clock.

This is easy on my laptop where I use the superb Sparrow mail app during working hours. It makes it easy to swap between any of my inboxes and one that amalgamates all my new mail.

This is less easy on my iPhone where the single mail app does an OK job at managing my different emails but it is on 24/7. This means I get alerted to new work emails at the weekend and my slight OCD means I cannot stand to see the little red number telling me I have unread emails. So, I have to open them.

What I need is a second email client on my iPhone. Apple used to say they would not approve apps which repeated functionality already on the phone — i.e. not allow other email clients. Happily they’ve relaxed this rule. Sadly the Google’s Gmail application isn’t great (yet).

The good news is Sparrow are working on an iPhone version. I hope it is good, I’m counting on it.

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The Kelvedon Hatch Secret Nuclear Bunker

Bad mannequinIf you are looking for a geeky day out then visit the National Museum of Computing at Bletchley Park. But if that is too far and you fancy a drive up the M11 then head to The Kelvedon Hatch Secret Nuclear Bunker.

It is a decommissioned bunker that was originally built in the 50s as part of Britain’s air defences. Hidden underground it was home to one of those large maps you see in the movies with ladies pushing planes around while male commanders look on.

In the 60s it was upgraded to be an emergency regional government defence site. If south east England was hit by a nuclear bomb, key politicians and public servants would be locked inside to run the country. It was maintained for this purpose through to the 90s. Now it is back in the hands of the family who originally owned the land in the 50s and they’ve opened it to the public.

It is fabulous on many levels. It shows the level of planning for nuclear war, is packed full of outdated equipment and bad mannequins, and it illustrates the absurdity of the advice given to the public (you should hide in a cupboard boarded up with doors and mattresses for two weeks but, basically, you are going to die a horrible death).

The fact it is a family owned museum really shows through. While it is brilliant they have taken the time to open it to the public, you can see they lack the finer points of museum management. In particular there’s all the hand-written signs that bark commands at you, and “that means you”.

It is only £7 and for that you get a headset tour. Sadly they don’t let you take photos without a £5 permit (something many signs warn you about). It would have been a great advert if I’d been able share what I saw.