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, cafĂ© 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

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Walking on South East Dartmoor

A short two-night break at Ashburton enabled us to have a couple of walks in a part of Dartmoor that we are visit infrequently. An enjoyable sojourn.
Walk 1 (bottom left), just under 5 miles, took us from New Bridge on the Dart up around Aish Tor, along Dr Blackall's Drive and then back down to the river for a finishing leg along its bank. Walk 2, around 6 miles, involved a few tors (Rippon, Pill, Top, Hollow) and Buckland Beacon with its carved Ten Commandments stone. 
Autumn is coming and the trees are starting to shed their leaves. Not at their best colour yet but not far off.
Looking west from the side of Aish Tor. The folds of the meandering River Dart can be clearly seen.
At the top of Rippon Tor looking south. The keen eyed can see the Teign Estuary just to the top left of the rocks in the foreground. Perhaps it's 15 miles to the sea at Teignmouth from here.
Looking down from Top Tor towards the church at Widecombe-in-the-Moor. We had a meal there in the evening at the Rugglestone Inn. 
From Hollow Tor, looking over the browning bracken towards the moor around Princetown. Wonderful views like this all the way on this walk and, most of the time, not spoilt by the rain clouds.
The cluster of buildings which make up Bowden Farm. We think it's a long-house, with a cross passage separating the people (under the thatch) from the animals down the slope in the rest. There's clearly been some modifications made and additions built on but the core of the mediaeval farmstead can still be discerned. 
Some serious stone-walling on either side of the green lane leading from Bowden Farm up onto the moor. For many generations this track has functioned as a drove road for farmers bringing their stock up to graze on the high pasture from further down the valley around Buckland-in-the-Moor.
The delightful little church of St Peter's at Buckland-in-the-Moor. Dating from around 1100, it's a typical moorland church in a sublime setting. Can you notice anything unusual about the clock face?
St Peter's still retains its original 15th Century painted rood screen. This is one of the very few we've come across that you can climb up the rood steps in the wall of the church to see the broad top of the screen. 
The screen has some magnificent carvings and, on the congregation side, the lower panels are covered in these paintings of saints and dignitaries. Although much faded now, their original colours must have been very bright. On the reverse of the panels, obscured by the pews, are painted 'grotesques' - mythological creatures and the like. I don't think they have any religious significance but were the fashion for a period.
And the clock face? Look closely and you'll see 'My dear mother' inscribed instead of the usual numbers. Nothing mysterious about the origin of these as they date from the 1930s and were placed there at the behest of the local squire in memory of his mother. The same squire was responsible for the carving of the Ten Commandments on the eponymous stones on the nearby Buckland Beacon. Actually there are eleven verses carved there as the mason had some spare space to fill. Although the carvings were re-incised about twenty years ago, they are suffering from significant erosion now.