Saturday, 31 July 2010


You're flesh and blood
You're skin and bone
You're nail and cartilage
You're muscle and you're tone
You're beating heart
You're straining lungs
You're nervous energy
You're idleness

You're instinct's slave
You're reason's child
You're a playful kitten
You're wilful and you're wild
You're a bleeding gash
You're a healing scar
You're writhing electric lash
You're a tiny little spark

But you're beautiful flesh and blood
And i can't get enough
You're beautiful skin and bone
You're body and your soul

You're platonic thoughts
You're animal lust
You're living poetry
You're ashes and you're dust
You're a howling roar
You're a whispering hush
You're a barren wilderness
You're fertile and you're lush

And you're beautiful flesh and blood
And i can't get enough
You're beautiful skin and bone
You're body and your soul

You are a miracle sent from above
You are the person who teachers me how to love
You are the lode-star, you are the one
You are the warmth of the afternoon sun

You're indiscreet
You're propriety
You're drunk and disorderly
You are sobriety
You're my life support
You're my iron lung
You're as old as the universe
You are so very young

And you're beautiful flesh and blood
And i can't get enough
You're beautiful skin and bone
You're body and your soul


report from the festival:
emma and the professor
humorous acoustic guitar and drum duo
from the river redlake in the shropshire marches
2 duos
one british and one german duo
playing as a foursome
dark tales of kings, princesses and lovers
ominous white swans in fields
rhineland mermen
dark horses
irrepressible geordie comedian meets enchanting french songstress
great chemistry
hilarious song titles
such as 'can a blue man sing the whites?'
'jesus at the airport'
the wilsons
five old timers from teeside
an acapella wall of sound that sends a chill down the spine
young trio from border country
instrumental slip jigs and lilting ballads
i fall in lust with the barefoot fiddle player
as she ways erotically from side to side
her fiddle playing isn't bad either
the accordionist is out of this world
i buy the cd in the tent nextdoor
the young uns
young teeside pretenders to the crown of the wilsons
sorrowful sea shanties
acapella wall of sound mark two
lots of laidback conversations with some very nice folk
between sets i set up my music stand
and sit strumming and writing in the sunshine
can't wait for towersey over bank holiday...

Sunday, 25 July 2010


Down in the Gulf of Mexico
Where the warm ocean currents flow
A pipe has burst and eleven are dead
And a shadow has started to spread
To the size of England it grows
Where next nobody knows
They put their faith in technology
Suddenly they are all at sea

I'm talking about the oil slick
It's spreading and it's making me sick
Today it's priority one
Tomorrow - the show will move on

The Gulf fishermen try to kick up a stink
But who cares about what the hell they think?
When the shrimping barons defer
To the bigger fish in the pecking order
When it feeds an addiction like a shot in the vein
It's a vain search for somebody to blame
And the dolphin and the pelican
Who's going to represent them?
(I protest, your Honour)

I'm talking about the oil slick
It's spreading and it's making me sick
Today it's priority one
Tomorrow - the show will move on

Beyond petroleum, or that's what they say
Beyond caring, to put it another way
With some slack regulations to thank
They're laughing all the way to the bank
Cutting corners, stretching the law
A fat chance of being caught
The slick reassurance of the PR man:
"We are doing everything we can"
(For our shareholders)

Down in the groin of Africa
Where the Niger weeps for its black delta
Far from the lenses of the media
It all sounds so familiar
They've seen it so many times before
How their riches have made them poor
And one leak doesn't seem very much
When you've lost everything you had
And everyone you loved

I'm talking about the oil slick
It's still spreading and it's making me sick
Today it's priority one
Tomorrow - will we just move on?


sunday morning
warwick bound for an another day of folk fun and fun folk
waiting for the 11:13 at moor street station
a recently restored edwardian architectural triumph
with an old steam engine parked wistfully on platform three
in the gwr centenary lounge no less
i take advantage of their free internet service
(closely guarded idler's secret revealed)
ignoring the numbing doof doof of the radio
i look up at the reproachful stare
of a great western railways map dated 1909
great wasted railways!
for this period rail map resembles a contemporary road map
main lines and branch lines interweave in a tight web
the lines fan out in an irregular pentagon
its five corners:
land's end
south wales
north wales
and manchester
tellingly the hubs of the network are brum,
the welsh valleys and the severn vale
centres of industry one hundred years hence
now reduced to...well what?
this comprehensive network would take the traveller
with the aid of a bicycle
to wherever he wanted to go
to within no more than a few miles of his final destination
oh halcyon days
for the carefree

Saturday, 24 July 2010


working my ticket at warwick folk festival
this is the way to do things
in return for a morning's litter picking and recycling
i am in receipt of a festival wristband
and a meal voucher
no money changes hands
the festival gets a clean and tidy site
and fulfils its recycling commitments
and the taxman keeps his grubby paws out of my leisure activities
but even better than that
they generously give me a season wristband
meaning that i can go back tomorrow
as a non-paying customer
so watch this space for more on warwick folk...

Friday, 23 July 2010


a little giddy
i peddle home through the darkness of manor farm park
the glow of the full moon light
and a vague sense of direction my only guides
the pleasant smell of freshly mown grass wafts past my nostrils
i have journeyed home from hockley without lights
as night has fallen like a blanket
hockley - faded inner-city locale
where the black eagle spreads its wings
i have supped on tasty ales from far and wide
at the pub's annual beer festival
brews with all manner of bizarre titles
allgates honey gold caskablanca from wigan
howard town glotts hop from glossop
weatheroak queen victoria from down the road in kings norton
i catch up with terry from my conversation nvq and his missus
out for an occasional friday nighter
terry buys me a half of perry
which is way to sweet and way to strong
i chew the fat with a semi-intelligible smooth-pated fella called gaz
who wants to emigrate to catalunya like george orwell
and a frizzy-haired moustachioed bloke with a large beer gut
from somewhere out west
both gaz and frizzer share a panoramic knowledge of black country alehouses
and as the ouside light which illuminates the stained glass slowly fades
i warm to their tales and recommendations
this is a lovely pub
an island of authenticity in a sad sea of fake commercialism
slimy slugs and withered lettuces
ember inns 'freehouses' as free as a lifer
a place frequented both by locals and ale devotees from far and wide
long may the pints flow from its well used hand pumps...

Thursday, 22 July 2010


the cognoscenti act on instinct
they work hard
although to them it is not the kind of work that comes dressed in overalls
they are not easily pleased
they ask difficult questions
and disdain unsatisfactory answers
they pay attention
they keep their eye on the ball
and their ear to the ground
they crave information
they think outside the box
they scorn the commonplace
they unearth the esoteric
they bury deep
they carry a metal detector
they look under the carpet
they dig for dirt
they are cynical until the evidence suggests otherwise
they are sceptics and doubters
they are agnostics despite their gnostic name
they hoover up snippets
they keep their ears pricked
their eyes pealed
and their noses sniffing around
they love abstractions and frameworks
and they adore the hands-on and the concrete
they value the gestalt
they glean details
they like to see the big picture
and all the little connections
they are of the zeitgeist
but they are timeless
they revere the past and dream of the future
but they are definitely here now
they experiment
they pun
they play pranks
they flirt with ideas
they eschew easy solutions
they are the mad ones who make the rest of society more sane
they burn with a light that never goes out
they pursue a theory to its logical conclusion
they seek out fellow knowers
they are thinkers, feelers and players
they revel in the absurdity of life
and delight in its obscene beauty
while enduring its beautiful ugliness
they are more concerned with playing than winning
more interested in the journey than the destination
they share with others and expect nothing in return
they are not always italian
the cognoscenti - what a great name for a rock band!

Wednesday, 21 July 2010


One morning as the sun came up
And the garden birds were singing
Down the road came a busker playing
And he said: People, are you listening?
I'm headed for a land that's far away where money isn’t counted
So come with me, we'll go and see the Great Green Happy Mountains

In the Great Green Happy Mountains there's a land that's clean and bright
Where the neighbours smile and greet you and you sleep well every night
Where the highways all are empty and the sun shines every day
On the bugs and the bees and the tofu trees
The ginger beer springs where the nightingale sings
In the Great Green Happy Mountains

In the Great Green Happy Mountains all the taxmen are out of work
And the bankers have no money and the lawyers do not lurk
The fields are full of organic veg and the barrels full of ale
Oh I'm bound to go where to a place I know
Where the views are panoramic and the rent is low
In the Great Green Happy Mountains

In the Great Green Happy Mountains the rivers flow with wine
And no one wears a watch because they all have so much time
The politicians grovel and the media tells the truth
There's a lake of hot soup and of curry too
You can paddle all around them in a big canoe
In the Great Green Happy Mountains

In the Great Green Happy Mountains employment is a sin
And you can clock right out again as soon as you clock in
There ain't no direct debits, no ring tones or big bills
So I'm gonna be where in a land that's free
Where there ain’t no ASBOs or CCTV
In the Great Green Happy Mountains

So I'll see you very soon before the next full moon
In the Great Green Happy Mountains


during some idle time today
over a delectable half of amber black country nectar
in a cosy eighteenth century dudley tavern
i got into conversation with a fellow idler
on the provocative subject of vegetarianism
my co-conspirator in productive idling, a rational reflective fellow
put it to me that one of his reasons for eating meat and fish
is that it forms part of the natural diet of homo sapiens
indulged in by the majority of human civilizations over millennia
i.e. it is a kind of dietary 'default setting'
which we are perhaps unwise to tamper with
this is an argument i have heard before
but it strikes me as an unsatisfactory one
yes, humans are clearly omnivorous beings
capable of eating and digesting a wide variety of foodstuffs
both plant and animal
but does it follow that killing and eating other sentient life forms
(just because we can and consider it nutritious and tasty)
is a good thing to do?
the word natural is one of those flexible linguistic friends
it is natural for humans to become violent when threatened
to injure or kill each other in a fight over scare resources
as the british government continues to demonstrate in afghanistan
yet does this justify the act?
for me killing an animal is not a significant step away
from killing a fellow human
the willingness to sacrifice an animal for factory fodder
is not a million miles away from sacrificing a human being
we are all flesh and blood
we all have a place on this earth
the fact is that humans
or at least humans who live in lands of plenty like this one
have a choice about what they eat
they can choose from an enormous variety of nutritious foods
only a tiny proportion of which consist of meat
vitamin b12, the only missing ingredient in a vegan diet
(according to the advice of the dieticians i have consulted)
can easily be found in a range of delicious yeast pates and spreads
and can be stored in the body for long periods
to finish with a grisly statistic
the average brit carnivore fills his or her stomach
with more than 11,000 animals over a lifetime
just imagine coming face to face with that lot!
just imagine the enormous amount of scarce land, water and fuel
needed to bring these 11,000 carcasses to the plate
and that's without even factoring in the egg and dairy industries
as so often
what seems to be perfectly normal
under closer scrutiny becomes perfectly insane!


ideas drop from the sky
they hide under toadstools
flow unexpected from the pen nib
lurk unseen under computer keys

ideas are veiled in mist
they are revealed in a sudden sunsplash
uninvited like the clouds
carried by the gentle breeze

ideas are scattered by the wind
they pitter patter like soft rain
fall silently with the snow
hang from the eaves like icicles

ideas burst forth with the sunrise
they emerge from the twilight shadows
are shrowded in old dust sheets
whisper their intent from the lips of a lover

ideas fall from the pages of books
they leap from a stream of words
blurted out by children
suggested by a woman's curve

Tuesday, 20 July 2010


today i'd like to explore the idea of productive idling
for which i'm most grateful to tom h
who has opened my eyes and sparked my curiosity
at the inaugural dark mountain festival
i was having a conversation on the topic
with some like-minded fiends over the weekend
and it struck me that there were several ideas
i needed to get straight in my own head
to avoid some potential confusions or misunderstandings...
so what is productive idling and what is it not?
i should start by saying
that we're dealing with something of a paradox here
for aren't we all taught from an early age that idleness is a 'bad thing'?
sloth being one of the seven deadly sins
now just in case we might have forgotten
the endless reproaches of our parents and teachers
society today screams at us from every angle:
'go, go, go!'
'eat, eat, eat!'
'buy, buy, buy!'
'work' work, work!'
'party, party, party!'
'spend, spend, spend!'
'consume, consume, consume!'
(...and all will be well)
not always in so many words perhaps
but the exhortations are ubiquitous
they leap from the pages of magazines
they are shouted from advertising hoardings
they blast out of the gogglebox
they blare from the radio
they spew from the mouths of fiends and family
this stuff even comes uninvited through the letterbox for god's sake!
the intimation is clear
by keeping ourselves busy in these socially-sanctioned ways
we will find the route to modern-day nirvana
but something quickly becomes apparent
on studying these exhortations -
all of them happen to involve some kind of direct or indirect consumption
when we buy, eat, travel or party
we are spending and consuming
when we work
we are earning the necessary cash to fuel that expenditure
in other words
capitalism and consumerism has got us exactly where it wants us
by the balls and in its lap
and despite appearances to the contrary
all this consuming is by its nature incredibly passive
as we stare at the television or listen to the wireless
we are helplessly bombarded with the words and images of others
there is no dialogue
no response is required
big brother is unstoppable
our only say in the matter is to switch over or turn off
when we shop or travel
what superficially seems active is in fact passive again
we choose from the limited range of affordable options
that the retailer offers
fosters or stella?
fairy liquid or insanesbury's own brand?
ford fiesta or renault twingo?
a week in the algarve or ten days on the costa del sol?
tweedledum or tweedledee?
oops - i've inadvertantly strayed into politics!
what this means is that the defining act of the idler
is to reject the whole idea of working hard to consume
beyond what is necessary to live in comfort
now 'comfort' is a flexible friend
(it can be a fabric conditioner for instance)
but here i'm talking about the first three of four categories
identified by nineteenth century philosopher william godwin:
1) subsistence (food, drink and shelter)
2) moral and intellectual development
(education, information, friends, books, etcetera)
3) affordable pleasures (tea, coffee, alcohol, cigarettes)
the fourth category that the idler rejects?
"superfluities produced by abridging multitudes of men
to a deplorable degree
that one man may be accommodated
with sumptuous yet, strictly considered, insignificant luxuries"
this fourth category - rolex watch territory -
which subjects ourselves and others to arduous toil
is the one that the exhoratations work so hard on
for without the constant pester power
without the and crafty enticements and incentives
most of us would largely ignore it and be content with our lot
'special offer!'
'70% discount!'
'four for the price of three'
'three bottles for 5 quid'
(one bottle only costs 1.67 - do the maths!)
it is also the type of consumption that enslaves others
those that toil endlessly in the mines
in the sweatshops
on the processing lines
that we might reap the fruits of their labours
but i think that idling is not just about rejecting consumerism at large
it's also about brushing off the expectations of fiends and relatives
and everyone else who wants a piece of you
'do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law'
as alistair crowley put it so well
what that doesn't mean is that doing whatever the hell we want is ok
or that everyone else has to suffer the consequences
for it is equally important not to break the golden rule:
to live by the maxim of 'do as you would be done by'
the point is that we are all responsible for our own happiness
for rejecting the demands of others if they clash with our own callings
or meddle and interfere with what we enjoy
by way of example
if i want to smoke a spliff to chill out in the evening
then who are you or the government to stop me?
which brings me to the 'productive' bit
for if idling is not passive, it must be active
it must translate into doing something useful with your time
let me offer some examples:
1) enjoying a good veggie meal, good vino and good conversation with fiends
2) daydreaming out of the window
3) going for an evening stroll with a loved one
4) tending the vegetables in the greenhouse
5) brewing one's own beer
6) taking a refreshing nap
7) writing poetry
8) doing a pastel sketch
9) giving or receiving a nice back scratch
10) doing a spot of yoga or stretching in the garden
11) playing with the kids
12) hiking across beautiful rugged landscape
13) making a proper pot of leaf tea
...not to forget composing a good blog post!
notice how none of these activities involves more than minimal consumption
on the contrary
many of them are completely free - in more ways than one!
(sshhhh! don't tell the idleness police!)
and certainly don't venture anywhere near
the rolex watch territory of Category 4
all of them involve the pleasures of doing something actively for oneself
perhaps for or with others in a mutually beneficial way...
ok, today's sermon over
and now that i have productively idled away so much of my time on this blog post
i shall idle away even more time on producing my next ditty
goodnight to all you idlers!


david cameraman's great idea for a 'big society'
- fill the country with obese people?

Monday, 19 July 2010


"never the time, the place and the loved one"
so my old nan was in the habit of saying
but the time is surely right
to become what we might have been
the place is surely ours
to appreciate and embellish
the loved ones are surely all around
if we would but acknowledge them
with a sincere heart and a gracious nod
the old days sweetened with nostalgia
were no better
the bright shining future
holds no greater promise
the grass is no more green
if we care to take an honest closer look
we are all ninety-nine percent homo sapiens
and one per cent individual
right now
right here
right us
this is all we have
what do you say?

Sunday, 18 July 2010


whiplash tarmac snakes its course
eroding ancient chalk landscape
breeching the yielding mendips
channelling urgently across level somerset
not for me
i strike out
across fields of golden hay
past the yellow hammers
that bounce in the hedgerows
below garrulous crows
that cavort in the sky
or are they ravenous ravens?
now breathless
at the summit of this grassy knoll of brent
saint george's tattered pride
flutters in the breeze
proud cymru ripples away westwards
turn the compass to the east
where arthur's tor rises over avalon
what ancient once stood in my place
upon this mount of frogs?
what forested landscape did he survey?
what covetous conquerors did he espy?
what bloody battle did he fight?
what subsistence did he earn?
all questions without answers
and now i must head for home
for far have i come
but still so far to go