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September 2019 Archive
30.09.19 > Katie Sings The Beatles at Abbey Road
If you missed Katie's magical performances of three Beatles songs on BBC Radio 2 last Friday then I feel for you. The show is available at BBC Sounds for another 26 days, though it is likely that content will be unavailable outside the UK (don't ask me why, possibly something to do with copyright issues.) If you just want to hear Katie's contribution you can do so below, but don't hang about—if the BBC get sniffy about it these clips may need to be removed (unreasonable but feasible).
Katie's full performance
In My Life
Here Comes The Sun
Here, There And Everywhere
29.09.19 > Friday Night Is Music Night: The Beatles Orchestrated
There was a very special live music event a couple of days ago. The Beatles Orchestrated (better than the "Beatles are castrated") was part of the Radio 2 Beatles season and broadcast from Abbey Road Studios for Friday Night Is Music Night. Katie performed three sumptuous and, as host Guy Garvey so accurately put it, spellbinding performances. Her tracks were "In My Life", "Here Comes The Sun", and "Here, There and Everywhere".
The concert is available on BBC Sounds for 28 days. Katie's segment starts around 17 minutes in. It is well worth catching before it disappears into the bowels of the BBC Archives, though it is worth pointing out that although Katie nailed her performances there are one or two other artists that murdered their songs. They shall remain nameless—your ears will let you know when they hear them.
Oh, if only someone had thought to record and edit Katie's bit for posterity... ( 😇 😉)
28.09.19 > Track Notes 66: Shiver And Shake
Shiver And Shake
Katie Melua, Luke Batt
My word this is a catchy song! It gets your foot tapping from the start but once the syncopated drum beat kicks in adding an almost tribal rhythm it's hard to imagine even the most curmudgeonly grump not leaping up to do a little booty-shaking. Then it all stops for a bit, allowing Katie's vocals to soar whilst the grump stands there rather sheepishly, unsure what to do. Thankfully, the rhythm kicks back in again and the grump can flick his combover about like a L'Oreal superstar before trudging back to his stout and pork scratchings when the criminally short record ends. How I wish there was a 12-minute FatBoy Slim mix of this song.
A few live performances of this around. One of the better ones is Shiver And Shake live at Rockhal, Luxembourg, 2013.
27.09.19 > Katie Bite: Market Day In Guernica
26.09.19 > Georgian Church Chorals
This CD of Georgian Church Chorals is one of the most beautiful 73 minutes of music I have ever heard. Good thing I ripped it to mp3 as soon as I got home otherwise I would soon have worn it out. Don't bother troubling iTunes, Amazon or Spotify for it—you can only get it at Bagrati Cathedral in Kutaisi. It is an absolute steal at 10 lari (about £2.60), though if you factor in flights and accommodation it becomes a tad more expensive. But it is worth every tetri.
25.09.19 > Hope And Homes For Children Christmas Concert
Katie will be performing at St Mary Abbots Church, Kensington on Wednesday 4th December, for the Hope And Homes For Children Christmas Concert. It's a local event for Katie but for those outside North London, who may need to involve trains and hotels in their thinking, even if Katie only performs one song it will be a lovely evening with other performances and celebrity appearances with a festive atmosphere and above all it is for a very good cause. Tickets are limited, so if you are interested you can find out more at
24.09.19 > Lyric Card: Love Is A Silent Thief
23.09.19 > Thank You Georgia
For stunning statues...
and silly sculptures...
for dogs playing dead...
and cats being cute...
for being exciting and quirky...
for the food and friendship...
I thank you, Georgia
Just like Arnie, I'll be back...
22.09.19 > Postcards from Georgia 19
Other than filing a tax return online, walking out to the end of the suspension platform over the Okatse Canyon is the scariest thing you can do. The sign advises no more than ten people at a time, so when there are nine of you gingerly standing there, trying to act nonchalant, and you see Fatty Arbuckle waddling towards you, you have nine very nervous individuals weighing up if it's time to leg it.
The Prometheus Cave is the biggest underground cave system in Georgia. Only a tenth is open to the public but there's still about a mile of it to explore, including a section that requires a boat trip (warning: being a midget is advisable). It is all lit up with spectacular LED coloured lighting which, like the stalactites and stalagmites, has naturally evolved over millions of years.
A boat trip along the Martvili Gorge is another large thing to do, though they do make you paddle the buggers yourself (given the echo of outboard motors might cause millions of tons of rock to land on your head, probably a small price to pay). The three things mentioned today can all be done in a single day trip from Kutaisi (as well as seeing an impressive waterfall), a trip that blows Cheddar Gorge and Wookey Hole well out of the water.
21.09.19 > Postcards from Georgia 18
As I entered into Borjomi park I spotted this chap taking my photo. So I reciprocated. Mind you, I didn't have a top hat with a bird on it, so he wins.
A stunning waterfall being guarded by a bronze bloke with his modesty protected. Just. I think there are more statues in Georgia than actual people.
Tits in Borjomi are very friendly. This is because they are Georgian, naturally. Who doesn't like a friendly tit?
20.09.19 > Postcards from Georgia 17
My new favourite place in the whole world, the spa town of Borjomi. It is like a cross between Coniston, Buxton and Portmeirion (minus the big white balloons). It is just the most magical place with trees everywhere and mountains all around. Some people might want to retire to a hot place with a sandy beach. I'd rather retire here. A true paradise town.
The Love Bridge. A bit like The Love Boat, but cheaper. Instead of getting lucky for the price of an ocean cruise you can get lucky for the price of a padlock.
The natural spring water here is freely available at this pump station. As you can see, some people even bring buckets. It comes out of the ground naturally warm and, like any warm water, is a bit gross. The water is said to have great healing properties. This, of course, is largely bollocks, but at least it is pure and hasn't been through a tramp and recycled twelve times. The true healing in Borjomi comes from the location itself, which is like a comfort blanket for the soul.
19.09.19 > Postcards from Georgia 16
The cave city of Vardzia is a must see. It is without doubt the most incredible place I have ever been. It is awe-inspiring to think how much work went into making these caves and they are so much more complex than you would ever imagine. One of the wonders of the world. You can truly feel a connection to your ancient ancestors and it is humbling to visualise the city when it was thriving and teeming with life. The caves are numbered. I put a deposit down on 89 and I hope to move in before winter. Put Vardzia on your bucket list. Now.
Cow chaos is an everyday experience in Georgia. In fact, it is an every minute experience. Scenes like this are normal. If you wondered why there are so many kittens in Georgia it is because British tourists have them whilst travelling on Georgian roads. The sheer anarchy of it all is terrifying to foreigners. Georgians don't bat an eyelid.
Whilst on the subject of cows, it is worth noting that in Georgian villages everyone owns a cow. You would be considered a lunatic if you didn't have one. And maybe a pig, goat and a few chickens too. Each house is a micro-farm. People don't want their cows munching their way through their own gardens so they turf them out on the roadside to eat the grass verges. Seems sensible enough, though you would think a little basic road safety training wouldn't go amiss.
It's not all about the churches and cathedrals. There are some fine castles to be found in Georgia too. Like this massive complex at Athaltsikhe Castle. Like Vardzia, you could spend an entire day exploring this impressive place. Georgians don't do things by halves.
18.09.19 > Postcards from Georgia 15
Gelati Monastery near Kutaisi. This is a stunning place, still undergoing a lot of renovation but well worth a visit. The glazed roof tiles are stunning, though I wouldn't want to be the one having to replace them.
Sweet Memories Hotel in Kutaisi. Small, but perfectly formed. This is a typically Georgian property, utterly delightful, and the owners always go the extra mile for you and make sure you do, indeed, leave with Sweet Memories.
More evidence of dinosaurs thriving in Georgia. Okay, this guy may have shrunk down to three inches over time but if he was three metres long you'd be thinking twice about getting close enough for a selfie.
17.09.19 > Postcards from Georgia 14
The Holy Trinity Cathedral of Tbilisi. The churches, monasteries and cathedrals of Georgia are beautiful and iconic. And there are many of them. In fact, I think Georgians have one each.
Georgians are never short of good advice...
You're just what it says on the tin!
16.09.19 > Happy Birthday Katie!
16.09.19 > Postcards from Georgia 13
From most places in Tbilisi you can see either the radio tower or the iconic Mother Of Georgia statue. The latter may not light up in all manner of funky colours at night but in daylight it is a wondrous monument. Like all mothers, she is holding a bowl of porridge and a sword. She stands guard over her children, ready to give them breakfast and then go out into battle. Like all mothers. You may be thinking she appears to have turned her back on the people but, like any other statue, you can view it from behind and this is one of the many stunning glimpses of her you can get in the Tbilisi Botanical Gardens.
The Botanical Gardens are a gorgeous place to while away a day. In September the weather can be just right even if the fauna isn't quite at its best. It is for this reason that I'm not showing you some rare species of dog-eating carniverous, or indeed canineverous, plant. Instead, here is an owl made out of bits of wire.
There are still dinosaurs in Georgia. No, not people without a smartphone but actual monsters that see you as dinner. This nightmare beast has a row of teeth along its stomach and stripey eyes. I mean, come on, who the hell has stripey eyes? How does a creature evolve with built-in Venetian blinds?
15.09.19 > Postcards from Georgia 12
It is hard to walk very far in Tbilisi without having to put some effort in since it was built on the side of a hill. Quite how the first settlers here failed to notice this is uncertain. There is a plus side of course in the stunning views afforded and a walk up to Erti Kava coffee room means you have officially earned the right to one of their lovely cakes without feeling guilty about it. It also means there are some spectacular roads of the kind that deserve a really good bike race. Tour De Georgia?? Georgians are kind and thoughtful people and you can usually find somewhere to sit and have a rest. Below you can see some nice benches cleverly built in to the handrails. If you are the kind of person that enjoys sitting with your backside overhanging a cliff then these are for you.
I've taken a thousand photos in Georgia already. I've seen things you people wouldn't believe—attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion... well, maybe not that, but a ton of jaw-dropping scenery. But I'm not showing you that. Oh no, I'm showing you the underneath of a funicular railway. You have to admit, of all the things you might see every day, such as your other half or a bill on the doormat, this would not be one of them.
Ancient cave art half way up Mtatsminda. Nobody knows how old this is, but experts have suggested it could be thousands of hours. Is it a dog? Or a moose? Or a mouse with unusually long legs? You decide. Just gaze in wonder and feel the connection with your ancestors.
14.09.19 > Postcards from Georgia 11
Don't ask. I have no idea. I was expecting to see one of those little information boards explaining everything but nope, nothing. This would have building inspectors in the UK snorting their Chardonnay out of their nostrils. Clearly, Georgians see the world differently.
The funicular is the easy way to get up the ridiculously steep mountain that overlooks Tbilisi, though it's a sardine special and there are better places to be on a hot day. Going down, it is far better to take the million or so steps (probably an inaccurate figure since I didn't even try to count them, but there are a lot) which have been beautifully constructed from red bricks and cobbles in a wonderfully twisty-turny adventure leading you back down the mountain. You do pass the odd lunatic trudging up them. It is best to avoid eye contact so they don't detect the pity and disbelief you feel for them.
The theme park on Mtatsminda wasn't really designed with grumpy Englishmen in mind but I can imagine it is something of a wonderland for kids. On the face of it, it is still a lovely place to just sit and chill but in reality the endless repetition of the slightly sinister music from the rides quickly begins to bore into your brain and turn you into a zombie. You have been warned. But there is little doubt that Mtatsminda is worth the effort of getting to simply for the jaw-dropping views of Tbilisi in all its glory. Tbilisi is the sprawling, throbbing engine of Georgia. You can see the twin exhausts in the middle of the picture.
Couples get married on the mountain at Mtatsminda. I imagine all the guests riding up on the funicular might be a dainty sight. For a moment, I got my hopes up when I saw this place but they'd just sold their last bride that morning and won't be getting any new stock until I've left for Kutaisi.
13.09.19 > Postcards from Georgia 10
Seems even giants can hire a bike in Tbilisi.
Georgian cuisine is wide, varied and unique. You may not find everything to your taste but there will almost certainly be things you do like. It's hard to see how anyone couldn't like khachapuri, for example. There is also a delicious sweet called churchkhela (that's just its name, nothing to do with an actual church) that is made by threading loads of nuts on a piece of string and then dipping them repeatedly into a mixture of flour-thickened grape juice. They dry into firm, chewy, knobbly energy bars. No artificial flavourings or preservatives. You'll see tons of them hanging up on roadside stalls, though these are probably best avoided unless you like a good coating of carbon monoxide from traffic fumes, and are available in a wide range of colours due to different grape varieties though I don't really understand why this doesn't just mean green or purple.
Anyway, even if the food doesn't float your boat you won't starve in the major Georgian cities since you'll see the likes of McDonald's, Subway, Dunkin' Donuts and the mighty KFC. Old Colonel Sanders was one of the first to dip a chicken's toe into Georgian waters and you'll see that famous red and white logo on advertising screens and posters all over. This one is telling you about an ice cream for 1 lari, which is about 27 pence. You couldn't get an empty cone for that in the UK. Food is cheap here for most visitors.
The best thing ever made in Georgia is Katie Melua but, as far as I know, there is only one—I've checked in nearly all the gift shops without luck. But the next best thing is wine, and this is everywhere. And I mean everywhere—if you venture into the woods you'll probably come across a black bear trying to sell you his homemade wine. There are plenty of high-class wine shops, tastefully lit and suitably shiny, trying to sell you all manner of wondrous liquids. Wine was invented in Georgia and they do it really well, so even a ropey backstreet Spar will be well-stocked with good stuff. You can get a bottle of Kindzmarauli for 11 laris (around £3) that will taste so much better than any pretentious plonk that will set you back £20 in Tesco's (other supermarkets with pretentious plonk are available).
12.09.19 > Postcards from Georgia 9
Ah, those Love Bridge sculptures. Here we have a lovesick lad leaping over to end it all as a couple of passers-by rush to stop him. Such drama, frozen in time for us all to ponder over.
The massive radio tower on Mtatsminda, მთაწსმინდა, can be seen from just about anywhere in Tbilisi. You will often catch a glimpse of it between buildings and streets, following you around like some kind of iron stalker. In many countries it might be regarded as a bit of an eyesore but I love it. One Christmas they adorned it in colour-changing lights and it looked so good they left them on and it has been lit every night since.
In Georgia there are orange touchscreen pay booths on just about every street, even the dodgier-looking ones. It seems they are used for everything from paying your gas bill to telling your fortune. They aren't cashpoints but seem to have a hundred other options and people use them all the time like some sort of dystopian high-tech necessity of life. Wandering around Tbilisi at night is actually the closest you can get to being in Blade Runner.
Oh, and they have graffiti in Georgia too.
11.09.19 > Postcards from Georgia 8
Tbilisi is the city of sculptures. There's even one of me. I don't recall sitting for it but no matter, the likeness is uncanny.
More sculpture genius. A man lighting the gas lamp. Or changing the LED bulb. Depends how old it is I guess.
In Tbilisi, even the view up a back passage can be surprising, though thankfully in a good way.
10.09.19 > Postcards from Georgia 7
Another day in Tbilisi, another bridge. This one is known as the Love Bridge, which admittedly rolls off the tongue rather more easily than the official name of the Nikoloz Baratashvili Bridge. It features some lovely sculptures, such as this elegant lady, whom I admired for quite some time before realising she might be being a bit rude about my personal endowment.
It is a little known fact that Jules Verne once had a premonition about an underground passageway deep below the streets of Tbilisi (or 'Tiflis' in his time). It inspired him to write "Journey To The Centre Of The Earth". Okay, I might have made that up, but really, the escalator ride takes so long you expect to re-surface in New Zealand. I'm surprised Katie hasn't held a concert down there and got Guinness World Records involved again.
This is Georgia's answer to the leaning tower of Pisa. A quirky, wonky clock tower at a marionette theatre. It is arguably more interesting than Pisa because at 7pm a puppet appears in the upper window and whacks a bell seven times. Then, in the lower window, various other marionettes parade by in a little show set to chimed music. A bit like a cuckoo clock on steroids. Dafter than a bucket of brushes, as Georgian as it gets, and utterly wonderful.
09.09.19 > Postcards from Georgia 6
The Peace Bridge in Tbilisi. This city looks lovely during the day but at night it is magical. The red lights in this photo aren't random, they are lighting the bridge as the Georgian flag. (Some wags have suggested the bridge was sponsored by Bodyform but we'll gloss over that.)
Cats in Georgia don't speak English at all. I was being very complimentary to this little fella but he just looked at me as though I'm the village idiot. I bet he's already told his mates about it. And by the way, those are the finest set of whiskers I've ever seen on any creature. I should add that there's a marked difference between cats and dogs in Tbilisi. Cats seem wary of everything, as though they've stumbled upon the set of "Blade Runner". The dogs can't be arsed and just play dead.
It has long irked me that Doctor Who encounters most of the alien baddies turning their evil eyes on England. Why not China? Or Argentina? Or indeed, Georgia. But she does at least holiday in Tbilisi. She first visited Georgia thousands of years ago when it was the only place on earth she could get wine. And she keeps coming back for that Kindzmarauli...
08.09.19 > Postcards from Georgia 5
Animals own all the roads in Georgia. They kindly allow humans to use them too. This is one of the many patrol cows that wander up and down the highway and enforce random brake tests by crossing in front of you. Lorry drivers in particular are very nervous of failing. Patrol pigs also carry out the checks in some areas, whilst spy dogs operate pretty much everywhere.
Stacey Dooley has yet to make a film about the Goat Gangs of Georgia but the world needs to know. These laid back thugs intimidate motorists even on the major highways, as you can see from this pic snapped from the Metro Bus to Tbilisi. The police are too scared to take them on so the wave of terror continues unabated.
Georgians know how to party, even in a thunder storm. The band played modern Georgian folk music with the addition of some rolling thunder and a lightning light show. Some people were dancing in the rain. I was bang in the middle of the food tent sipping Saperavi and sampling the wonderful cuisine. All research, you understand.
07.09.19 > Postcards from Georgia 4
Something new to discover around every corner. This photo is ironic because Batumi is not too dear at all. Mind you, they are not always this tasteful—I'm hastily glossing over the sculpture called "flip flops on eggs", which is one of many *wtf* installations.
Japanese Garden in Batumi Boulevard. Perfect for a Zen moment to restore your inner calm after crossing any street in Batumi. Drivers in Georgia don't worry too much about pedestrians since they are quite soft and unlikely to do much damage to their cars.
The cable car provides spectacular views of Batumi. It is a serene ten-minute ride up to the viewing platform but the views are amazing all the way. (I say serene but you might not want to pick a windy day and it goes without saying that you'll need a solid head for heights.)
06.09.19 > Postcards from Georgia 3
The statue of Medea With The Golden Fleece in Europe Square. Placed here in 2007 as a symbol of close ties between Europe and Georgia. Which makes it unnecessary in my view since I consider Georgia to be in Europe. End of story.
There are nine million fountains in Batumi
That's a fact
Or it may just be a lie....
There are quite a lot anyway. And they look especially amazing at night. Pick a balmy night and go on a fountain crawl. There was a saying "See Naples and die" (which is why I've stayed away from Naples). I prefer "see Batumi and live".
Cormorants in Georgia are deeply religious.
05.09.19 > Postcards from Georgia 2
One of the many impressive skyscrapers in Batumi. And yes, those of you with eagle eyes, there are three men in the picture, working whilst dangling on the end of ropes. Amazing views as long as you've got amazing gonads.
Georgian humour. Sign at the Kolkheti National Park Visitor Centre. Mars Base 51 (bit of a dig at Area 51, Nevada) only 46 million km away. Just when you think you can't love Georgians any more...
Batumi, the gift that keeps on giving.
04.09.19 > Postcards from Georgia 1
Greetings from Georgia! გამარჯობა საქართველოდან!
I'm in beautiful Batumi by the Black Sea and it is wonderful. It is a curious mix of old and modern, vibrant and exciting, with something to marvel at on every street and there are miles of tree-lined Boulevard to wander, every inch spotlessly clean. A feast for the senses and a massage for the soul. I had to make a beeline for the Ali & Nino monument, which I've been dying to see. It is a both a stunning sculpture and a marvel of engineering. Once a day, the two lovers come together, pass through each other and then part in silence. Magnificent.
The amazing Alphabet Tower is a must-do. Batumi's answer to Blackpool Tower is adorned with the graceful letters of the Georgian alphabet. The lift whisks you up 300ft into the glass dome where you can dine in a lovely restaurant which slowly revolves through 360 degrees giving you a constant panoramic view. If you time this for sunset it is spectacular. A truly unforgettable experience.
Sunset over the Black Sea from the Alphabet Tower
03.09.19 > Track Notes 65: Love Is A Silent Thief
Love Is A Silent Thief
Katie Melua, Toby Jepson
The first of two songs on the album Katie co-wrote with Toby Jepson. Who he? Well, a hard rocker for one thing, so how he came to get involved with Katie is unclear, though the timeline suggests new hubby James Toseland might have had something to do with it and we know she has the witchy ability to bring out the soft side of metal heads, such as her brother Zurab and drummer Joe Yoshida—both of whom had toured with Toseland. (Worth pointing out that Katie was there first though—Yoshida worked with her as far back as 2012 when he was regularly used by Dramatico and he was even involved as a session drummer on Ketevan, and of course with Zurab she goes back all the way!) To be fair, you could imagine this song being ramped up to a hard rock version quite easily, unlike their other collaboration "Chase Me", which is hyper-girly and sounds like it could have been co-written by John Inman rather than Toby Jepson.
Katie released a video for the song where it is set to scenes from a 1969 Armenian movie, "The Colour of Pomegranates". It begins with a dedication to director Sergey Parajanov, citing him as inspiration for the song. It's fair to say the most common reaction to it will be along the lines of "wtf", but it is worth remembering Katie's Georgian background. You can tell from the church towers that some scenes were shot in Georgia and it is probably more culturally important to Georgians than to the rest of us, though worldwide critical acclaim was generally good and the film has appeared in some lists of the world's greatest films. If this video piques your interest it is worth noting the original movie has now been restored and released on Bluray.
02.09.19 > Lyric Card: Sailing Ships From Heaven
01.09.19 > Happy Anniversary Katie & James!