Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Where did this come from?

I expect everyone, once in a while, wakes up with something in (not on) their mind and wonders "where on earth did that come from?". Here's something that the wee small hours brought me the other night.

I have a soft spot for a rock track called 'I will possess your heart' by the US band, Death-Cab for Cutie. It's an unusual recording in that the intro lasts for about half of its entire 8 minutes or so and, for some reason, I find its monotony quite compelling. So much so that I've clipped it out and have been known to play it on a loop continuously, particularly when I'm working in the early hours and want something non-intrusive as background music. I've always wondered where the band got its name from and had intended to find out but never quite got around to it. However, I haven't played, or thought about it consciously, for many months. And that was how I went to bed that night.

Now it gets seriously weird: at some stage I woke up confident that I knew exactly the origin of the name. It was from a track off the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band's LP from 1967 called Gorilla (believe me, that's obscure). I've got it on vinyl somewhere but haven't played it for at least 30 years. A check on Google confirmed that it was correct!  I'm not a neurophysiologist and one day someone will be able to give me a mechanistic explanation for how, and why, this sort of thing happens. In the meantime, I'm content to remain intrigued by it - that and feeling pretty smug that it's all in the memory bank  somewhere.

The above clip is taken from the TV series 'Do Not Adjust Your Set' which screened on ITV for a while after 1967. Lots of familiar names in the cast (David Jason, Michael Palin, Eric Idle, Denise Coffey and Terry Jones), with the Bonzos providing a musical interlude in each episode. Given the anarchic and surreal comedy presented, it's hard to believe that it was conceived as a children's programme. Compare and contrast with the technicolour hyperactive rubbish on offer for youngsters nowadays. I can only fantasise on what the cast would have made of Tinky Winky, Bonky Wonky et al. And dontcha just love Viv Stanshall's hallmark gold lamé suit? There was a time when I wanted one but, luckily, they were impossible to find in Aberystwyth.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Ashes to ashes, dust to dust....

One of the more unusual gifts we've received was a double burial plot in Danygraig Cemetery in Risca, South Wales. At one time, it seemed the ideal resting place for us but, as our focus is now in the West Country, we've decided to rescind our claim on this piece of the Principality. That decision taken, we were left with the question "if not Danygraig, then where?". And that was not too hard to answer. Given our affinity for Dartmoor, having our ashes scattered, together of course, somewhere on the moor seems to be a good exit strategy. I guess we'll have added spice to our walks from now on as we eye up suitable spots for the 'deed'.

Not that I'm in any hurry for the day to come but I am curious about some of the practical details. A quick Google search soon produced enough information to shut me up for a while.

Would there be any problems in scattering ashes on the moor?  
The Dartmoor National Park Authority (DNPA) looks after the moor and, from a rummage in their electronic drawers, I'd call them a reluctant acceptor of the fact that some people want to have their ashes scattered within their domain. They do not advertise or generally recommend the scattering of ashes, there is no reference to it on their website and they say there is no ‘official’ policy. But there is an unofficial 'advice note' on the subject and these are some salient points from it.
  • A low-key, informal scattering of ashes would raise no objection.
  • A formal gathering, of 30 or more people, on Common Land on DNPA land would require specific permission and would require them to check time and date to avoid clashing with other events.
  • They would normally refuse permission for any permanent plaque
  • They don’t like ashes being buried as this is in contrary to DNPA byelaws.
  • They don’t want ashes scattered in rivers or streams as the water may be for human or animal consumption lower down the watercourse.
  •  If a popular spot, such as Hound Tor, used by lots of people is chosen, they ask that the scattering is done when the site is quiet and/or in a more secluded part of the site so that others there are not perturbed.
All of this seems pretty reasonable and shouldn't get in the way of anything we might want to do.

Are there any hints as to how ashes should be/could be scattered?
Yes, hints there are aplenty. Once the stone was lifted, I was amazed at what was revealed. I didn't know that 'scattertubes' existed and that there is one with a Dartmoor theme just waiting to be bought. Wonderfully tasteful and I might just add it to my Xmas list. I reckon if we both keep our weights in trim, we should fit into a single tube. Presumably there are perforations at the bottom for easy dispersal of the contents?
And there is a whole range of others to choose from. Take a look at these: but please, not the Teddy Bear or Golfer's.
And it doesn't end there! Should someone want a permanent memento of my/our physical presence/s then they can incorporate a few grammes of ashes in a paperweight or a walking stick handle or a stained glass window. I'd suggest an egg timer but that's up to them.
All we need to do now is the choose the spot and then, I guess, we are all set to go.

Saturday, 13 December 2014

My Desert Island Discs

Although they might not like to admit it, I'm willing to bet almost everyone who listens to the programme will have at least a rough idea of what they'd chose if they were ever invited onto Desert Island Discs (still going strong after 72 years on air and nearly 2500 episodes). I know it’s an absurd vanity to even momentarily entertain the idea that I am of sufficient public interest to be asked onto the programme, but that doesn't stop me preparing my list.

The rules
Here's a little context for those unfamiliar with the programme. The rules of being cast away on the imaginary island might seem a little anachronistic in this digital age but they boil down to these: you’re allowed 8 discs (tracks, in the modern vernacular) and the means to play them, presumably mechanical as there is no source of power for electrical devices. Concessions are that you can take with you a holy or philosophical text, the complete works of Shakespeare and one other book, plus one luxury item, provided that it doesn’t aid your escape from the island. Oh yes, you also get to chose the one disc you'd save if the whole lot were going up in flames or being eaten by unfriendly natives or at risk of being swept away in a tsunami.

My choices
Although there are no criteria given for the selection of the music, a convention has developed whereby it reflects milestones and/or people of significance to the castaway. And who am I to go against this convention? It's been fun, interesting, surprising, and quite nostalgic, ranging over the years (oh, so many years!), compiling the following tuneful timeline:

1. Lynn Onn (The Ash Grove) - Cor Meibion Treorci Choir (Treorchy Male Voice Choir).
I've always had a soft spot for this folksong. It is the earliest song I can remember learning (in Mrs Jones' class in Bedwas Junior Mixed Primary School) and I learnt it in Welsh, not English. Unfortunately my Welsh has been long forgotten but singing along to this under the palm trees will bring it all back - or at least the phrases that feature in the lyrics.

2. Myfanwy  - Morriston Orpheus Choir.
Mrs P entered my life when I was a callow (and probably shallow) youth of 17 and this is a favourite of hers, and that's good enough to get it on my playlist. Notwithstanding that connection, it's one I'll always associate with the Cardiff Arms Park and Rugby International Days. Happy, hazy days!

3. All right now - Free.
1970 was a great year. We were newly married and living in a very modest one-bedroomed rented flat in Southampton. In the June/July we went on a Departmental 'disco cruise' to the Isle of Wight and back and Free's All Right Now was the song that accompanied us there and back, as if on a loop. It was all right then and has been better than all right ever since. It still withstands repeat listening and would give me the right soundtrack over which to hone my air guitar skills.

4. On the turning away - Pink Floyd.
For several years before our children fled the nest, we would spend our Summer holidays on the highways and byways of Europe, driving from one Eurocamp site to the next. This track from Pink Floyd is redolent of memories of these times and, you've guessed it, another air guitar opportunity. I can just see myself looking into the setting sun and doing some serious work with the tremolo arm.

5. Spem in Allium - Thomas Tallis.
Every year we spend a week in St David's in Pembrokeshire and there was a time when we fitted in another week earlier in the year to take in the Music Festival in the Cathedral. One time at the Festival we were privileged to listen to a performance of Tallis's Spem in Allium as he intended it - 40 part harmony sang by the choirs surrounding the audience in a U-shape. Unforgettable and the task on a desert island would be to decipher and learn each of the 40 parts.

6. Kipper the Dog 
Underneath this gruff exterior is a grandfather who is inordinately fond of his ever-increasing brood of grandchildren. A desert island would be their natural environment and it would be great to have merry helpers to fetch water, haul wood, light fires, cook my food and wash my smalls. But such luxuries are banned so, as a very poor substitute) I'll take along the piece of music that they have all enjoyed at one time or another. The theme from Kipper is so relaxing that it would be ideal mood music for swinging in a hammock underneath the stars. It was either Kipper or The Wiggles (Quack Quack Cock-A-Doodle Do) but I thought I'd end up hanging myself if I listened to too much of the latter.

7. Spiegel im Spiegel - Arvo Part.
It means 'Mirrors in Mirrors' and is a supremely meditative piece. I find the smooth melodic line of the violin elevating and it takes me far out beyond the here and now. To be played when the isolation of the situation starts getting me down?  It's another favourite of Mrs P so that's another good reason to take it along.

8. Zadok the Priest - Handel's Coronation Anthem No. 1.
I've sung this anthem a few times with various choirs and it's never failed to send shivers down my spine. I particularly like the God save the King part and the intrigue of the intro. It's always struck me that Handel decided to be boring for a page or so of the score and then thinks "Argh, I've forgotten that they need to crown the king now" and, from there, he really gets going. It's something for me to sing along to full voiced as I wash my smalls in a tropical stream.

The book
I'd have the Bible (only the King James version would do, thank you very much, as I want it in proper English) and the complete works of Shakespeare but what about my own choice of reading material? Lots of candidates for this but I have settled on a brilliant little book that will keep me occupied and mentally stimulated until I am rescued from the island: The Chicken from Minsk and 99 Other Infuriatingly Challenging Brainteasers from the Great Russian Tradition of Maths and Science. I was recommended this book several years ago and finally bought one, second-hand, recently for a couple of pounds. You can get a flavour of its contents from the back cover. quoted below. This is a relatively trivial problem but some of the others are really taxing: even the solutions are hard to understand. Great fun, though, and working through them (or not) will really help while away the solitary hours.
Besides chess playing and problem solving, drinking is and always has been the most common form of recreation in Russia. Vassily has acquired a 12 litre bucket of vodka and wishes to share it with Pyotr. However, all Pyotr has is an empty 8 litre vodka bottle and an empty 5 litre vodka bottle. How can the vodka be divided evenly? 
The Luxury item 
I did consider taking my piano so that I could continue my hitherto futile  attempts at learning to play but realised that it would probably go out of tune quite quickly in the tropical humidity. A longer-lasting luxury, depending on how much I was permitted to have, would be writing and sketching materials. Writing is one thing I never get tired of and I can see myself sitting on a rock scribbling away at my diary, blog, doggerel and, perhaps, the book that every one has inside them. And sketching? It's something I've always intended to take up and who could get bored looking closely at the flora and fauna?

The One Disc I’d Save
A difficult choice but I'd have to go with the Thomas Tallis. Deconstructing the polyphony would keep me engaged for ages and, let's face it, it's just a beautiful piece of music, redolent with so many memories and connections.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Who to follow into the Revolution? Brand or Bevan?

I've just finished Russell Brand's much-vaunted book Revolution which I really, really wanted to like. Unfortunately it was not to be. Here's why..

I found it to be a very long slog and I suspect that it may be destined for a place on the list of books that are bought but never finished (can anyone honestly say that they got to the end of Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time?). All of Brand the comedian-cum-film-star-cum-people’s-revolutionary-cum-mockney-bloke is there. His need to be noticed is on every page and his unwillingness to get out of the way of the story confused/infuriated this reader at every turn. He likes to think of himself as plain speaking but this plainness does not extend to his writing. Here's a fairly typical sentence. ‘The significance of consciousness itself as a participant in what we perceive as reality is increasingly negating what we understood to be objectivity’. Clear as mud, eh? In a half-baked manifesto towards the end, he says "we know what has to change: corporate tyranny, ecological irresponsibility and economic inequality". That much we can agree on, but how do we bring about that change? Precious few suggestions for this and I suspect we'll have to wait until Revolution II to find out how to do that.

In interviews to promote Revolution, Brand has said that he is prepared to die for his beliefs. Before that time comes, the rest of us may have died from boredom. Can any Revolution begin with a yawn? But I'm being unkind: bludgeoned and bored I might have been but I have to admit that he certainly has been successful at getting ideas that others have been articulating far more coherently and for far longer, heard by a much wider audience. Perhaps that's his role in life - agent provocateur for the superficially impressed?

If you are looking for a 'grown up' book on politics, I can thoroughly recommend Aneurin Bevan's In Place of Fear. It hits all the spots that Brand misses by a mile. Written in the early 1950s, it is as relevant today as it was when it first came out. Bevan believed that Democracy and Socialism (not Communism) go hand in hand and that the unrestrained free-market undermines democracy. Rather than an economy based on the attempt to frighten people into working harder by allowing many to fall into unemployment, poverty and homelessness pour encourager des autres, Bevan proposed that government provides for the basic needs of all through a comprehensive welfare system and more control of the nation's resources and infrastructure. It's a programme of social democracy that seems to be gaining renewed support in the UK and it's one that Blair/Brown/Milliband have long left behind - and look at the electoral price they have paid. But let's leave that for another day.

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Our wonderful NHS

I've had occasion recently to have had some treatment through our wonderful National Health Service. Yes, our wonderful NHS. Not our failing NHS, not our bureaucratic NHS, not our far-too-expensive NHS but our wonderful NHS.

By coincidence a letter dropped through our letter-box a short while ago as part of a new Government initiative to let us know what is happening to the tax we are paying. It informs me of the total direct taxes I paid in 2013-14 and the proportion of my taxes which have gone to various headings. For example, I paid £139 towards reducing the national debt last year and a further £105 (probably enough for a couple of bolts from the back of a tank) towards the defence of the realm. And towards the budget of the National Health Service I contributed £374 from direct taxation. Given that direct tax constitutes about 45% of the total government budget, it is fair to assume that I probably stumped up a further £410 in indirect tax.  So for a few pence over £15 (circa $23) a week I have got access to a service that has treated my fingers, my eyes, given me regular check-ups and continues to provide me with a whole bag of life-saving pills every month.

Even in the context of Black Friday and Cyber Monday - that is some bargain. Wouldn't it be great if those willing to fight to get £50 off a TV would put as much energy into fighting to save our wonderful NHS from the depredations of the Lib-Cons?

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

John Singer Sargent

I like the stark beauty of John Singer Sargent's 'Gassed' and, close up, it is nothing short of incredible. I've seen it a couple of times at the Imperial War Museum in London and reproductions can neither do it justice nor give a true feeling of its size. It's roughly 6 x 3 m and dominates the room it is in. This painting led me to explore his work further and I came across this short compilation. It's whetted my appetite: we really ought to get up to London and spend some time in the art galleries there. An early New Year's Resolution?

Sunday, 30 November 2014

What was I thinking when I bought this: Part X.

During a recent forage into the geological time warp that passes as 'my wardrobe', I came across a tie I used to wear. I can just about remember buying it (in Bromley?) as an ordinary tie for work and, I must admit, I could make this one of my most prized possessions: let's face it, ties this hideous aren't easy to find. Yes, you can buy lots of joke ties that are intentionally horrid, but what makes this thing so awesome is that someone designed it in the 70's-80's as a serious tie for men to wear to work, business meetings, weddings or whatever. And I paid good money for it and did just that.

When I saw it again (my Howard Carter moment), I knew I'd stumbled on something rare and worth keeping. Someday I'm sure one of my descendants will think the same.

Unfortunately (or should that be 'fortunately'?), the picture doesn't do the bright colours justice. The vibrant reds, oranges, pinks, yellows, golds and a few previously undescribed hues make a pattern so striking that looks like someone has thrown up.

Also, it's so wide at the bottom that you could wear a midriff-exposing shirt and no one would notice. Ah, here's a thought: perhaps with my increasing paunch, I ought to start wearing it again?

Friday, 28 November 2014

A stitch in time.............

A kind reader asked me why I hadn't been blogging much this week. Well, the reason why not is on the left: I've had some surgery on my right hand. The dressing came off today to reveal the track of 14 stitches, which will be taken out next week.
I'd been treated for Dupuytren's Contracture, an inherited condition which causes contraction of a tendon in the palm of the hand, which in turn caused my ring finger to bend inwards. The surgeon corrected this with some judicious prodding around and removal of the affected connective tissue. The less-than-small incision was necessary so that he had plenty of room to avoid severing any nerves.
Where did it come from? It runs in the family - my father had it - and shows a higher incidence in people with Northern European antecedents. And that's why the condition is also known as "Viking Disease" or "Celtic Hand".
Based on my two criteria of success for this operation (coming around from the anaesthetic and having the same number of fingers I started with), it's all looking good. And get this stylish splint I've got to wear at night for the next couple of months: pretty cool, eh?

Now you see me...............

I know not what dredged up this long-forgotten episode from my childhood but I smiled when it flitted through my consciousness.

When I were but five or six, I was idly killing time by exploring my nan's dressing table in her bedroom when I came across a jar of Pond's Vanishing Cream. Having heard about the Invisible Man serial on our wireless, I liberally smeared it on all my visible parts and then went down to test it out. I was most disappointed when my nan and Aunty Phyll said "Hello Deri" and walked straight past me. Was I the only child to be taken in by this stuff?

Sunday, 23 November 2014

'Tis the nightmare before Christmas........reprise.

Readers with a long memory will think this one is familiar. Yes, it is but I still feel exactly the same. It's that time of year again and I've just had my first instalment of the 2014 compilation of my second favourite podcast (the first is, of course, the Best Radio Show You Have Never Heard. Try it and let your musical joy be unbounded).

The season is approaching, folks, when we curmudgeons have lots to sound off about. And there's nothing that irritates us more than the annoying, tedious and repetitive Christmas jingles and tunes we are confronted with wherever we go. Yes, it's time to be assaulted yet again by an excruciatingly dippy version of “It’s A Jingly Jangly Jolly Holy Holly Santa Snowy Sleigh Ride” or some such. It really is snow joke (sorry). Once I hear Noddy Holder dementedly screeching 'It's Christmas!', I want to perforate my eardrums with a hot needle.

But I never do, of course, because not all Christmas songs are totally naff. Let Santa Parsons give you an early Xmas present and point you in the direction of some festive musical fun that will make you forget the tuneless turkeys. You might just find your heart filling up with Christmas joy if you follow the link to the podcast called The Yule Log from Hell.

It's a compilation that comes out at this time of year of 'alternative' Christmas songs: some straight, some completely off-the-wall, some politically incorrect, some plain awful, some you would definitely not want your mother to hear but all of them infinitely preferable to Wham, Slade, Wizzard and their like. Take a look below at a few of the songs featured and think where else you could find them. Why not download them all and entertain your friends and family to around 15 hours of festive glee? I have and I will - so, visitors to Colinette Barn (you know who you are!), you have been warned!
*  We Three Kings – Nitty Gritty Dirt Band
*  Away In A Manger – Snap-on Tools Male Chorus
*  The Bell That Couldn’t Jingle – Herb Alpert & the Tiajuana Brass

*  Merry F*&$ing Christmas – Denis Leary
*  I’m A Christmas Tree – Wild Man Fischer
*  Nutcracker – The Simpsons
*  Got a Cold in the Node for Christmas – Gayla Peevy
*  Xmas in February - Lou Reed (RIP 1942-2013)
*  Give Me a Second Chance for Christmas – Mike Viola & the Candy Butchers
*  Kidnap the sandy claws - Paul Rubens/Cathrine O'Hara/Danny Elfman

Saturday, 22 November 2014

The difference a few megapixels make.

I like my (relatively) new camera. By modern DSLR standards it's quite modest but it's more than good enough for me. It happens to have the best sensor of any camera I have ever owned - packing a mighty 18 megapixels. I remember buying a 2 megapixel camera a few years ago and thinking "nobody could ever need more than that". I remember telling someone that wanting more than 5 megapixels was nothing but being greedy and exhibitionist. I remember hitting double megapixel figures with another purchase and thinking "that is more than enough for the rest of my life".  No doubt within the next few months I will be penning another blog post as I try out some new 50 megapixel camera (message to Mrs P if she reads this - no I won't, my camera buying days are behind me. But I'm always in the market for another lens!).

Friday, 21 November 2014

Boots back on again!

A mid-November 7 mile walk on the southern fringes of Bodmin Moor. A dry, reasonably clear, day but wet underfoot in places.

The route of the walk. The open spaces of Bodmin Moor are to the north. As the elevation profile shows we descended to the mid way point and then climbed steadily - but not too strenuous ly - back to our starting point.
Trees festooned with moss and ferns are not uncommon sights around here, indicative of the prevailing climate - mild and damp!
What were they thinking about when they renovated this cottage? Pink walls! Pink walls! In an area of granite?
And in the distance, about 5 miles away, basking under the sun is the Cheesewring.
Is it a stream or a footpath? Both!
Something that I've never come across before - a white frothy exudate on an old tree stump. A quick Google when we got back reveals it to be Bacterial Slime Flux, due to a bacterial 'infection' of the tree. The tree produces resin and carbon dioxide from the bacteria produces the froth. Odd.
Moss, haws and rain drops.
The tower of the church in St Cleer. A fairly common style of architecture around these parts and, according to the buildings expert we had with us, probably all built by the same people. The tower was visible for most of our walk.
OK, not uncommon in many parts of the country/world, but they are on our walks. Deer, of which there were three. I think this is only the second sighting we've made on all of our walks. That's not the say that deer are rare in these parts, they are quite common - but elusive.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

I laughed like a drain.

Do you ever get a 'ping' moment when something just resonates with you? I do and one such was on a solo Saturday evening drive last week. I was tuned in to Radio 4's 'Loose Ends' and listened to an interview with Imtiaz Dharker. Who she? She was born in Pakistan, grew up a Muslim Calvinist in a Lahori household in Glasgow and eloped with a Hindu Indian to live in Bombay. That marriage finished and she married a Welshman, Simon Powell, who died in 2009. She is an accomplished pen and ink artist, poet and political documentary film-maker. With such a background, the interview was bound to be interesting and the 'ping' moment came when she read her poem 'I swear'. It's a love poem with a difference and I like it because the genuine affection comes through in the language and the modulation of her delivery. I did two things when I got home: I went on the BBC i-player and recorded the clip directly from the programme and I ordered the book in which the poem appears. The publicity blurb for the book, Over the Moon, says that "these are poems of joy and sadness, of mourning and celebration: poems about music and feet, church bells, beds, café tables, bad language and sudden silence". From what I've read so far, I agree, and it will a great collection to dip into.

Here's the recording, followed by the verses. Both to enjoy - or maybe they only 'ping' for me?

I Swear

Because I turned up from Bombay
too prissy to be rude
because you arrived via Leeds and Burnley
you thought it would do me good

to learn some Language. So

you never just fell, you went arse over tits,
and you were never not bothered

you just couldn't be arsed, and when
you  laughed you laughed like an effing drain
and when there was pain it was a pain

in the arse.

That was just the start: you taught me
all the Language you knew

right through the alphabet from a to z,
from first to last, from bad to worse and worser
and the very worst you could muster.

I learned the curses. I learned the curser.
So proper you looked in your nice shoes and suit
until you produced Language like magic

out of your mouth and I was impressed

and oh I fell for you arse over tits
and when I said so you laughed like a drain
and we blinded and swore like the daft buggers
we were, all the way down Clerkenwell

and all the way up on the train
to the Horseshoe Pass.

And I tell you, since you went it's a pain
in the arse, and when some days I feel like shit
or when I say that I feel flat, I swear

I hear you laugh like a drain.
ot just flat, Mrs, Flat as a witch's tit,
hat's what you say. Flat

as a witch's tit.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Narcissism with a technological twist

Not wanting to resist the zeitgeist, I've been attempting to take some selfies to post on my blog. As you can see from the following, my early efforts have been less than impressive. It's actually more difficult than I thought to get a decent shot, until..................
..I came across this little gadget - the Selfie Stick. An amazing piece of technology, it's a must-have for any budding narcissist. You just clip your mobile phone into the clamp on the end and, using the Bluetooth control, click away to your heart's content.
And is it worth the modest outlay? With masterpieces like this, surely there can't be any doubt? I tremble when I think of the joy it's going to give me - and my blog readers.

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Birds, a bee, a tree and a fern

Over the past two weeks we've been in Pembrokeshire, Monmouthshire, Gloucestershire, Kent and Cornwall (of course). Lots of photographs taken and a few of them are destined to become part of my regular screen-saver rota.
Just a robin taken in our garden. Unusually it's in focus despite being taken through a double-glazed window.
Another in-focus robin that went bob,bob bobbing by - in the grounds of Grosmont Castle in Monmouthshire.
A solitary turnstone at the northern end of New Gale beach near St David's.

I have been trying for ages to get a decent photograph of a buzzard and, lo and behold, here's one above our garden.

A black swan at Leeds Castle, Kent.
A rather late in the season female red-tailed bumble bee in the herb garden at Leeds Castle.
 A rather splendid oak tree near Goodrich Castle on the Wales/England border.
Part of a fern frond glistening in the sun somewhere unknown.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

My late night listening................

Just a little taste of Lizzie Ball on violin in performance with Jeff Beck and Tal Wilkenfeld (on bass) playing Women of Ireland. It is a rather tasty bit of violin playing, and the other two aren't bad either!
Compare and contrast with an earlier version by The Chieftains recorded in the early 1970s. It's a haunting melody and ideal accompaniment for a late night editing session.

Friday, 7 November 2014

Mindfulness or is it mindlessness?

I was flipping through one of those free local magazines that these days drop through the letter box like 1960s Radio 1 DJs falling from grace, when I came across a page full of horrendous banalities of the kind that seem to be the twenty first century equivalent of the cry of the snake oil salesman. "You can become mindful at any time you like just by paying attention to your immediate experience and situation", or so the article said. "Research", although, as you might expect, the precise nature of which is not specified, "indicates that living in the moment can make people happier, because most negative thoughts concern the past or the future". The entire saccharine-fest is topped off with the following little aphorism:
I do apologise if anyone has had to read that having just consumed their breakfast, the words are enough to make anyone feel a little nauseous. I have obviously been living my life all wrong for the past sixty-odd years (and some of those years were very odd), believing that we should learn from the past and plan for the future. But no, the past and the future are steeped in negativity - let us all live for today and to hell with the consequences. I'm not impressed.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

St David's October 2014: Part 1

Here we are again for our Autumn sojourn in Glowty, near St David's.  The weather forecast is reasonable and we are looking forward to a relaxing week. Not that our first full day was that relaxing as we had a 12 mile walk along the Pembrokeshire Coastal Footpath from Newgale back to St David's. It was a linear route as we had caught a bus from St David's to Newgale to get to our starting point. Boo hoo - the Welsh bus company did not accept our English bus pass. It was a good walk with views, and strong winds, all the way. Solva, conveniently was just about the half way point and afforded us a lunchtime stop. I'd be less than honest if I did not mention that we were both a little leg weary after this one: it had quite a few ups and downs.
Looking back towards Newgale Sands: at 2 miles in length it's the longest beach around these parts.
Looking forward along the coast we'd be walking along. In the distance is Ramsey Island, lying just off St David's.
Lots of sky and plenty of seascapes all the way along.
Our half way point - Solva.
Every promontory on the coast seems to have an associated ancient fort. Most need a lot of imagination to make out any remains. This one is unusual in that the defensive earthworks are still clearly visible.

There were plenty of Parasol Mushrooms alongside the footpath. Some still at the bulbous stage..........
.....whilst others had completely open and showing their characteristic pointed top. They are quite edible and have an intensely strong 'mushroomy' taste. Although I've never tried cooking them, I would imagine that they would be very tasty.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

My style guru?

An acquaintance once suggested that, with my keen sense of casual coordination, I should adopt ZZ Top's Sharp Dressed Man as my signature tune. A kind thought but one that I had to pass on as I already have someone to whom I owe fashion inspiration.

And that person is Robert Herrick, whose poem 'A sweet disorder in the dress' has been my sartorial compass ever since I read it in my first year in grammar school. Fashions come and fashions go but he has always pointed me in the right direction.

A sweet disorder in the dress
Kindles in clothes a wantonness:
A lawn about the shoulders thrown
Into a fine distraction:
An erring lace which here and there
Enthrals the crimson stomacher:
A cuff neglectful, and thereby
Ribbons to flow confusedly:
A winning wave (deserving note)
In the tempestuous petticoat:
A careless shoe-string, in whose tie
I see a wild civility:
Do more bewitch me than when art
Is too precise in every part.

And never in his wildest dreams could Herrick have had in mind the fashions recently unveiled by Japanese designer Yohji Yamamoto. Extravagantly praised in Vogue magazine (how else do you think I keep at the cutting edge of fashion?) under the heading 'A sweet disorder in the dress', they described Yamamoto's latest collection as 'frank, fearless and free'. Vacuous publicity-seeking tosh for the rest of us, I would guess? More of a sour disorder of the dress, methinks.

FWPE2015 Suzy Menkes Yohji Yamamoto: A Sweet Disorder in the DressFWPE2015 Suzy Menkes Yohji Yamamoto: A Sweet Disorder in the DressFWPE2015 Suzy Menkes Yohji Yamamoto: A Sweet Disorder in the DressFWPE2015 Suzy Menkes Yohji Yamamoto: A Sweet Disorder in the Dress