Antenna

Antenna

Monday, 17 December 2012

DON'T BE LONELY

When the hour is getting late
When the light is growing dim
When the earth is giving way
When the walls are closing in
Don’t be lonely

When the gods have turned away
When the fates no longer smile
When your star begins to fade
When you’ve fallen out of style
Don’t be lonely

When the bastards get you down

When there’s no one on your side
Don’t be lonely

When the sun is in your eyes

When the wind blows in your face
When the winter starts to bite
When your collar starts to chafe
Don’t be lonely

In the darkest of hours

When fear and hunger devours
Don’t be lonely
Caught in the tightest of webs
At your lowest of webs
Don’t be lonely

When you feel like giving up

Please don’t be lonely

Saturday, 27 October 2012

TROUBADOR

The troubadour stands in front of the crowd
With eyes soft and dreamy he gazes around
He tries to remember, he tries to forget
As he sings them his tales of pity and regret

He takes his guitar and begins to strum
His words tumble out, he knows not where from
But the chattering crowd they look on with disdain
They don’t want to listen, they’ve never heard his name

Troubadour, troubadour
He has a tale to tell
Troubadour, troubadour
He knows it so well

His songs they pour out like whiskey from a flask
His melodies they flow like ale from a cask
The crowd they ask him for mirth and for cheer
But his thoughts they are dark as the colour of his beer

He’ll play his sweet music to all who have ears
He’ll sing of his visions, he’ll sing of his fears
He’ll play them a ballad, a lilting lament
He’ll play till his voice and his fingers are spent

Troubadour, troubadour
He has a tale to tell
Troubadour, troubadour
He knows it so well

His sad eyes  carry the burden of society’s ills
This melancholy minstrel, he’s had more than his fill

He’ll play in the morning, he’ll stay there all night
He’ll play for your pleasure, he’ll play for a pint
He’ll play for the coin you toss into his hat
He’ll play for the pauper and the aristocrat

Troubadour, troubadour
He has a tale to tell
Troubadour, troubadour
He knows it so well

Troubador, troubadour
Give them a song
And then play them one more
Troubador, troubadour
Give them another
Then play your encore

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

THE BOATHOUSE

The water laps the shoreline and the ripples spread in circles
The sun is sinking slowly out of sight
The bats skim low for insects and the fish lurk in the shadows
Day is burning slowly into night

Lay your head on these cushions, look up at the sky
Let’s go down to the boathouse, you and I

Can you hear the quiet of this rare and precious evening?
Can you smell the fragrance in the air?
Can you sense that time has been suspended for a moment?
Can you taste the magic in the air?

Shake loose from your moorings, shake loose your hair
Go down to the boathouse, I’ll meet you there

Oh we could be floating away
Oh we could be in another place
Oh we could be so high
Oh we could touch the sky

The evening is so lovely and you, you are so lovely
Is that a spell you’ve put upon me?
Don’t be shy
Let us seize the moment or it will vanish like a rainbow
Come let’s go before it fades and dies

Take this oar in your hand, feel the smooth grain
Let's push off from the boathouse and drift away

Lie back on your pillow, close your eyes
Let’s go down to the boathouse, you and I

Sunday, 23 September 2012

WHAT I LEARNT ON MY HOLIDAYS

i have learnt the importance of travelling light
i have learnt to respect the mountain
to know the limitations of my ageing body
i have learnt that a pair of trekking poles suddenly doesn't seem so much of a luxury
when knees begin to seize up halfway down a mountain
i have learnt the joys of escaping the eye of the clock
that the wilderness has a transcendent power and beauty
which nurtures the human spirit
i have learnt that when battered by high winds
on a hillside in the middle of a rain squall
it is much easier to identify with modern industrial civilization and its products
a waterproof anorak and trousers and comfortable leather walking boots
i have learnt that the mountains are no place to be when the drizzle sets in
i have learnt to appreciate how tough it must be
to eke out a livelihood in remote moutainous terrain
i have learnt that an artist is a mirror for the audience
but that sometimes the mirror needs to be broken
i have learnt that life is about following one's intuition
and then putting one foot in front of the other

Saturday, 15 September 2012

LUNATIC

He takes one small step, makes one giant leap
Looks back at the swirl of cloud and ocean
He places his flag, he sifts through the dust
Over his shoulder a planet in motion

He’s a lunatic, he’s got a fixation
He’s under a spell, he’s under a charm
He’s a lunatic, he’s looking for omens
Out for a walk under the stars

He gazes in awe at her celestial body
The milky white skin she slowly reveals
She’s a bright crystal ball on black velvet cushions
The guardian of sleep, the keeper of dreams

He’s a lunatic, he’s got a fixation
He’s under a spell, he’s under a charm
He’s a lunatic, he’s looking for omens
Out for a walk under the stars

His talk is of science, of divine inspiration
Mechanical marvels, ingenious schemes
Under cover of night, deep in conversation
His muse lights the way as he wanders the streets

He’s a lunatic, he’s got a fixation
He’s under a spell, he’s under a charm
He’s a lunatic, he’s looking for omens
Out for a walk under the stars

Saturday, 1 September 2012

INTERNATIONAL LOVE

She came from China
On a slow boat
He swam from Java
He barely kept afloat

They were born under different stars
Spoke in different tongues
They moved in different orbits
Worshipped different gods

But when they met it was beautiful
Two cultures collided
Two cymbals clashed

International love
Hand in glove
International love

He was warm and open
She was shy and reserved
He was easy-going
She always had to be first

It was a meeting of bodies
A meeting of minds
An entente cordiale
A delicate compromise

And when they met it was beautiful
Two cultures collided
Two cymbals clashed

International love
Hand in glove
International love

They were oil and water
They were fire and ice
They would both fight their corner
They were both always right

But their days were numbered
They knew it couldn’t last
Their edifice was starting to crumble
Their light was fading fast

Cracks began to open
Fault lines appeared
They were pulling in different directions
It had to end in tears

But the memories were beautiful
When two cultures collided
When two cymbals clashed

International love
Hand in glove
International love

He came from Java
On a slow boat
She swam from China
She barely kept afloat

International love
Hand in glove
International love

Thursday, 23 August 2012

BROTHER WOLF

Brother wolf – out there in the forest
Brother wolf – in no man’s land
Brother wolf – melting into shadows
Brother wolf – covering your tracks

Brother wolf – fire in your belly
Brother wolf – licking your wounds
Brother wolf – gazing at the heavens
Brother wolf – howling at the moon

Oh brother wolf you are warm in your cave
Where the snow can’t get in
Oh brother wolf you are safe in your cave
Where your enemies can’t find you

Brother wolf – following your instincts
Brother wolf – surviving on your wits
Brother wolf – stretching every sinew
Brother wolf – swift as the wind

Oh brother wolf wrapped up warm in your furs
Against the harsh winter cold
Oh brother wolf you have known it from birth
The wilderness is your home

Here comes the huntsman with his gun
He’ll try to shoot you if he can
Give him the slip
Lure him to your den
All they will find is his bones picked clean

Brother wolf – steel in your jaws
Brother wolf – iron in your sides
Brother wolf – blood on your claws
Brother wolf – death in your eyes

Oh brother wolf you are warm in your cave
Where the snow can’t get in
Oh brother wolf you are safe in your cave
Where your enemies can’t find you

Oh brother wolf wrapped up warm in your furs
Against the harsh winter cold
Oh brother wolf you have known it from birth
The wilderness is your home

LOST

Lost my bearings
Lost my way
Lost my maps
Got led astray

Lost in the forest
Lost in the wood
Lost in the storm
Lost in the flood

Lost at sea
Lost in the fog
Lost the thread
Lost the plot

Lost my grip
Lost my touch
Lost my faith
Lost my trust

Looking for a sign
Looking for a path
Looking for a star
To light my way back

Looking for a sign
Looking for a path
Looking for a star
To light my way back

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

CLOSE YOUR EYES


The prettiest girl I ever saw
Walked out on me this morning
She packed her bags, she spread her wings
She left me without any warning

The sweetest rain I ever tasted
Moistened my lips by and by
Its gentle caress was soft on my face
It brings a tear to me eye

I close my eyes and I can see again
I listen to the silence
Just close your eyes and you can see again
Just listen to the silence

The loveliest sun that ever set
Went down on me this evening
Its orange glow dimmed and then died
It burns a hole in my memory

I close my eyes and I can see again
I listen to the silence
Just close your eyes and you can see again
Just listen to the silence

The softest darkness that ever fell
Cradles my soul tonight
The fullest moon that ever rose
Blankets me in its melancholy lamplight

I close my eyes and I can see again
I listen to the silence
Just close your eyes and you can see again
Just listen to the silence

Thursday, 19 July 2012

ORCHESTRAL MANOUVRES


we are on our way to collect h's violin from the repair workshop
it's a half-size model that my grandfather bought for my uncle
when he was a young boy during world war two
and hasn't been played for nearly seventy years
hearing of h's violin exertions
uncle john has passed this family heirloom on to us via my mother to see if it's worth fixing
we haven't been to the workshop before
and i have to consult the map carefully to work out how to get there
we drive several miles out of the city to the edge of the countryside
a wedge of worcestershire strangled by the m5 and the m42 ringroads
we pass the crown pub and turn off the main road into a country lane
it narrows rapidly and takes a sharp bend past several cottages
just as we approach another abrupt bend
an elderly couple hoves into view
as if in a dream
i find my eyes focusing on none other than my uncle and aunt
out for an evening amble through the country lanes
as is their dog-walking habit
i suddenly remember that the crown is just round the corner
from the bungalow they moved into a few years back
they are as surprised to see us as we are them
particularly when i tell them why we are in this neck of the woods
after a few minutes driving up and down the lane and asking a few locals
i discover that the entrance to the workshop is opposite the very spot
where we bumped into my uncle
chris the violin repairer tells h that she is a very lucky young lady
the violin he has repaired dates from late victorian times
it is a high quality instrument worth between five and six hundred quid
h's eyes widen - that's a lot of pocket money
i'm wondering if we should tell my uncle how much his antique is worth
perhaps he'll want it back!
but more than anything i am staggered at meeting him yards from the repair shop
a route he must take often
for these days i barely ever see him

Monday, 16 July 2012

JACK OF ALL TRADES

i often get asked by people
who's that singing on your album?
who's that tinkling the ivories?
who did the drums?
what they don't realise is that i do the whole shebang myself
yep - it's all yours truly
from conception to execution
the writing
the recording
the production
the mixing
the mastering
the artwork
very occasionally there is a co-writer in there
lucifer was one such example
from time to time i get a few production suggestions
from my little bro
lately i've been getting some useful feedback on lyrics from a couple of friends
(thanks to el joven and 'christopher')
but basically it's all my doing
i don't wanna take all the credit of course
most of this stuff is summoned from the ether
by the subconscious
dredged up from some dark deep place
bubbling out from some hidden underground spring
words emerging mysteriously as if to a medium at a seance
but to take on all these roles
one has to be a jack of all trades
even at the risk of being master of none
i admit it
i am a sloppy guitarist and bass player
i have a reedy voice and a limited range
i am a novice keyboard player
my instruments are mediocre and always going out of tune
my technology is meagre and basic by today's studio standards
i've got a few ideas about effects and engineering and production
but i'm not into it bigtime
i'm good at arranging
i have a way with words
and the art of song writing is definitely my forte
how good are these songs?
i really don't know
the buzz i get from writing and performing them is enough
giving expression to the thoughts and emotions that flicker incessantly through my brain
but as for being a master
to hell with that!
i like to spread my creative net wide
and i sometimes think that maybe too much mastery is not such a good thing
there are plenty of fretboard-shredding lead guitarists out there
plenty of keyboard hotshots
guys with degrees in composing and recording engineering
and where are they?
i mean the thing is
a lot of this stuff can't really be learnt as such
it's intuitive and self-taught
the beatles didn't do masters degrees or a phd did they?
so i do my music
i record it
i put out cds
i play my songs every week at the tower of song
to those who have ears
i've even started putting together some primitive little videos
when i'm not being musicianly
i grow my vegetables
i look after my bike and my daughter's bike
i write my poetry and my blog
i draw my pastel portraits
i teach my students
i get stuck in
i have a go
i get on with it
and i don't worry too much about messing up

Sunday, 15 July 2012

THE DEATH OF DEATH OF A GOD


this blog is almost done
and i must say that it has served its purpose well
as aid and accomplice
to its musical counterpart
steadily filling cyberspace with zeroes and ones
while its audio cousin slowly gestated in the dark womb of my computer's hard drive
this project has been a long haul
its immaculate conception last autumn seems an awful long time ago
like a foetus it has developed in fits and starts
lengthy periods of inactivity
interspersed with intense growth spurts
it overran the third trimester
and it is now a month overdue
its creator has felt like a heavily pregnant woman
overburdened, impatient and unable to get comfortable
but today i have recorded and mixed the fourteenth and final track
and mastered a compact disc
so there you have it:
ten months of my life condensed into a hundred or so blog posts
and fifty-three minutes of musical catharsis
the theme of DOAG runs like a seem through the songs
colouring them with the same palette
a loss of faith in the culture of which i am a part
but no longer identify with
the dawning recognition that redemption or salvation are impossible
probably best summed up in infidel
something of a pivotal track around which the album revolves
i don't believe in progress
i don't believe in rules
i don't believe in science
and i don't believe in school
i don't believe in violence
i don't believe in war
i don't believe in justice
and i don't believe in law
there's a lot of hurt and frustration on this record too
relationship and incommunicado are pretty honest confessions
remnants broadens that hurt and pain out
with the difference that as a culture
we've lost the ability to even feel or communicate the hurt
what are my tears? avoids acknowledging the pain altogether
songs like asleep-awake and right here right now provide a counterbalance
a much needed more positive more uplifting less bleak outlook
musically the record is a little less consistent
i hope that's a strength rather than a weakness
there are several quite heavily 'produced' tracks on there
multi-tracked backing vocals and overdubbed guitars and keyboards
some of it rocks - the electric guitars and drums
are sometimes louder and more distorted than ever before
but overall i've been moving towards a more 'live' sound
i think that comes through in some of the vocals
and also in the songs that were literally recorded live
just voice and acoustic guitar straight into the mixer
so the artifice of 'artifact' and 'menagerie' and 'total' has been leavened somewhat
i think it's the way to go actually
so watch out for a future 'fireseed unplugged' release
just me and my fender acoustic...
anyway there are gonna be a few changes on here too in the coming weeks
as one project is delivered another has already been conceived
just as i did with 'total'
i have been two-timing this album
moonlighting on a new project
which will soon be launched right here on this blog
so keep watching this space my dear fiends
and i hope you enjoy the cd!

DE CLARE


i live here among the ignorant like a lost man
in fact like one whom the rest seems careless of having anything to do with
they hardly dare talk in my company
for fear I should mention them in my writings
and I find more pleasure in wandering the fields
than in musing among my silent neighbours
who are insensible to everything but toiling and talking of it
and that to no purpose
i long for scenes where man has never trod
a place where woman never smiled or wept
there to abide with my creator god
and sleep as i in childhood sweetly slept
untroubling and untroubled where I lie
the grass below
above the vaulted sky

Sunday, 8 July 2012

JUST BE


the whole thing takes places inside an old converted factory shed
as we walk in
a group of bright young things are lounging around on sofas
discussing the previous evenings performances
the air is thick with european accents and idioms
french, italian, but mainly spanish
bohemian-looking young men sport unkempt beards and dreadlocks
dusky mediterranean beauties are all dark eyes and olive skin
among this heaving cosmopolitan crowd
it's reassuring to find some purity
good warwickshire ale being served in the cafe
we grab some drinks and settle down on a comfy second-hand sofa
i flick absent-mindedly through the programme of events
while she strikes up a conversation with a japanese dance performer based in berlin
it feels as though europe is fragmenting, says the programme
it is at times like this that art must come in to its own
i heartily agree
we look forward to imagining a different europe with you
the festival directors proclaim
a positive sentiment if ever there was one
we are ushered into a dark auditorium
in the centre of the stage a white refrigerator is starkly illuminated
on either side are piles of scrunched-up paper
failed drafts from a frustrated writer's pen
suddenly a small window opens
first an arm and then a head pops out
the arm deposits another ball of scrunch-up paper onto the heap
the fridge begins to wheel itself restlessly around the stage
a buzzing bass-frequency soundtrack reinforces the claustrophobia
of a life lived inside a narrow box
eventually the fridge door opens and a dark frock-coated man climbs out
he paces restlessly around rearranging the sparse furniture
referring to notes on a music stand
then plucking half a dozen white rubber balls from the fridge door
he executes a series of mesmerising juggling tricks
as he is consumed by madness
the next performance features a latin dance couple
the two partners pout and posture at each other from opposite ends of the room
spraying themselves suggestively from small perfume jars
presently they begin to dance a sexy samba
but soon the performance degenerates into a sado-masochistic dual
where the lovers drag each other around the stage by their hair
culminating in a torture scene where she fills his mouth with salt
and pours a can of coca cola as he writhes in agony on the floor
as the lights dim their collapsed bodies are finally reconciled
bathed in stroboscopic stars reflected from a spinning mirrored disco orb
during the interval we dine communally in the old workshop hall
at long tables laid out in rows under the cavernous roof of the shed
there are tasty rosemary and lemon bread rolls served with olives
delicious green leaf salad garnished with purple and yellow flower petals
the vegetarians among us savour baked red peppers
stuffed with chopped tomatoes and salty capers
balanced by delicious new potatoes cooked in herbs
our new friend yuko invites us to share her bottle of red wine
which complements the mediterranean cuisine perfectly
struggling to be heard above the cacophany of conversation
yuko tells us of her work in berlin
in the world of butoh
an avant-garde japanese dance genre
back in the auditorium we don individual headphone sets
and sink back into the darkness
for a bizarre sensual sci-fi ride
you are an audience
our semi-human semi-robotic narratress intones into a microphone
she stands centre stage dressed in a red frock and high heels
oddly mechanical, oddly alluring
you are a machine for watching, she continues
remember everything
the ethereal space music echoes and reverberates across the stereo spectrum
now i will take off my knickers, she informs us
she leaves them dangling from her ankles
and her breathy voice begins to mutate into that of a lascivious male porn star
as the music throbs and gathers intensity
as the lighting penetrates her now translucent red dress
she transmutes back into her female identity
and suddenly all is darkness
and we are returned to earth

Friday, 6 July 2012

ALL THE FOURS


my bingo ball pops up
and this time it's number 44
forty-four years old
forty-four years young
it's all relative
some days this week
i've been thinking about my mom and dad
knocking on seventy-one and seventy-five respectively
and wondering:
if this is how old i feel
then how on earth must they feel?
then i thought of my aunt
who lives on her own at eighty-one
and still cooks and looks after herself
gets out and does her own shopping
of course to the woodle
forty-four years must seem an age
just think - thirty-five woodleless years!
as for the goings-on at the time of my birth
during that year of political chaos and revolution
(not to mention domestic upheaval for my parents)
i've made a few interesting discoveries recently
i found out that robert pirsig was just setting out on his american oddysey
immortalised in zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance
i also discovered that the byrds were flying in for a rare visit to england
appearing at the royal albert hall the following evening
weird coincidences
or perhaps not?

Thursday, 5 July 2012

INCOMMUNICADO


You're incommunicado
You're down too deep
You're off the radar
And you're out of reach

I've been sitting watching
The lonely road you're travelling on
Oh have you forgotten
You're not the only one

You hide yourself away
From me and all your friends
But life is to be lived
It's not a currency you spend

You're incommunicado
You're down too deep
You're off the radar
And you're out of reach

Oh you're cold in your bones
Though you're close to the hearth
You huddle for warmth
But the cold is in your heart

I have watched you drifting
Left stranded by the tide
Your fortunes slowly shifting
Your wishes being denied

I come looking for you
I prepare some things to say
But up come your defences
And you turn me away

You're incommunicado
You're down too deep
You're off the radar
And you're out of reach

PICNIC BY THE MOTORWAY


as a hitchhiker on life's meandering road
you never know where your next lift is coming from
or where it will take you
i had all my little plans and schemes for the week worked out
a solo trip to the lakes
a family weekend camping near bishop's castle
taking in the lively carnival on the village green
and what did they amount to?
the weather and my health scuppered the lakes
and apart from the wayward elements proving inauspicious for a camping trip
it turns out that the carnival was actually last weekend
first and foremost my health has forced the issue
encouraging me to take my idleness to new extremes
so instead of positioning myself on the slip road
i have withdrawn to the verge
i have opted out of the fray
for a picnic by the motorway
watching the cars go by like clouds
reclining for a nap when i feel like it
losing myself in a good book
a delightful self-published work by my friend laurence shelley
sharing the weird and wonderful events that were unleashed
when he decided to hitch the length of britain
from lizard point to dunnet head
but even as i laze on my pinic mat
a few cars can't help stopping on the hard shoulder
this week's rea river roots night at the tower of song happens to be...
the fourth of july
so feeble as i am
i cannot pass up the opportunity
to perform my eponymous peace anthem to the assembled throng
what did tom martin say the other week?
'as songwriters we feel we have a duty to comment on these things'
and afterwards the main artist comes up and thanks me for marking the event
then today my pal joven forwards me a flyer
for the birmingham european festival
which has just opened
it looks fantastic
and i wouldn't like to miss this extravaganza for the third year running
well worth interrupting the picnic for
don't drive off - i'm just coming!

IN REFLECTION


looking back at my credo of the sixteenth of may
from the vantage point of six weeks further on
in many ways i can say
i have been spectacularly successful in ploughing my own furrow
i have embraced freedom
and i have taken responsibility
i have assembled a veritable portfolio of teaching projects
from university wannabes to korean child don't-wannabes
(actually they seemed to enjoy their weekly lessons
and told me i was the best teacher in the world!)
from desperate housewives to desperate presesessioners
whose classes i self-marketed and self-promoted
then there has been the commercially sensitive error tagging project
which turned out to be a computer screen-staring drudge
albeit of an intellectually stimulating kind
the main problem being the large doses of medicine at one sitting
where small spoonfuls would have been more digestible
all of which brings me finally
to being locked up in a hotel suite every evening during the euros
with the boisterous boys from jeddah
at least it was a good way of avoiding watching england matches
i knew their desire and motivation was lacking
when they started waving twenty pound notes at me
in the hope of persuading me to finish the class early
but the worst thing was the endless bickering
not to mention the mindless classroom violence
(bruce lee-style fly-kicks and vicious diving strangleholds!)
and the strained arms and shoulders
from lugging bicycle panniers of books and waterproof clothing
to and fro across the rainy city
all in all i have to say
in hedging my bets
i have overdone it
i have taken on too much
i have kept too many irons in the fire
i have ensured that the merriment has been in short supply
and now i am paying the price
in listlessness and in exhaustion
it feels like a kind of post-traumatic stress disorder
but at least it was my choice
and i hope i have learned my lesson

SOUTH BIRMINGHAM FREELANCE TEACHERS GUILD


The Way of the Guild – The Six Tenets

1. We value means over ends, process over product - the journey is more important than the destination.

2. We value quality over quantity, depth over superficiality, space and time for learning.

3. We value the whole student and the whole teacher.

4. We believe that the learning process should be self-directed, supportive and fun.

5. We espouse flexibility in the form of principled eclecticism.

6. We negotiate a fair price for our work.

Monday, 2 July 2012

ON CHANCE ROAD


at last!
some time out from the daily grind
a blessed few days of idleness
a lungful of fresh oxygen
after the total submersion of the last couple of weeks
respite from bickering saudi kids bringing chaos to strange hotel suites
escape from the repetitive strain of endless error tagging
reprieve from the number-crunching calculations of presessional stragglers
so there was i
all set to head for the hills for a few days
to the romance and majesty of the cumbrian lakes
where wordsworth's heart was swept away by the beauty of it all
but it is not to be
the summer rains will not abate
i have not organised my travel or lodgings
but most of all i am weary
afflicted by a dreadful debilitating fatigue
that saps my energies
that fills me with ennui
but lets me sleep only fitfully
so my idle week off finds me on chance road
hitchhiking to wherever my journey takes me

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

THE IDLE PARADOX

my fellow blog fiends
over the last few weeks of bloglessness
i have reached a most sombre conclusion
it is this
that being idle is bloody hard work!
for the aspiring idler is forced into daily conflict
while he shirks the dull routines of modern existence
all around him swirls a maelstrom of bother
disturbing and distracting our heroic idler
into always being busy doing nothing
for therein lies the paradox
to be busy is to achieve very little
save for boring oneself to death
in the role of a tiny cog
maintaining, servicing and consuming
greasing the great wheel of the slave culture
on the other hand
to be idle is to be productive
to think, to enjoy, to create
to luxuriate
yet it is these three jewels
thought, joy, creativity
which are anathema to the botherers
the interferers
the bores
those whose purpose in life is to control and subordinate the idle
to the daily tedium of wage slavery and commodified leisure
sold to the unwitting in the form of jobs and careers
supermarkets and shopping
i-phone and internet
television and take-away
theme park and leisure centre
yes, it is a constant struggle
to keep one's head
while all around others are losing theirs
to espouse life-affirming anarchy
in a death culture of state-corporate collusion
and yet it is a battle worth fighting
a cause worth supporting
a war worth waging
so will you join me, my fiends?
will you take a stand?
will you plant an idle flag in the dirt?

Thursday, 7 June 2012

LITTLE WING

Little Wing is perched on her boulder
Trying to catch the Big Fish
Little Wing, she thinks of her father
And his departing wish
Little Wing, she stares at the water
So clear and so deep
Little Wing with a weight on her shoulder
With a promise to keep

Little Wing
Hear her sing
Above the river’s roar

Little Wing, she sits in her classroom
Waiting for lessons to end
Little Wing is lost in a daydream
Pondering what Father said
Little Wing returns to her boulder
Waiting for Big Fish to bite
Oh it’s been a long day
It will be a long night

Little Wing
Sweetly sings
Above the river’s roar

Big Fish has lived a thousand years in this bourne
Each year it comes back home to where it will spawn
And Little Wing, she knows her tribe’s destiny
Is flowing with the river to the sea

Little Wing, she stands on her boulder
Raising her spear to the sky
Quick as silver, straight and true
Like an arrow it flies

Little Wing
Hear her sing
Above the river’s roar
Little Wing
Sweetly sings
Above the river’s roar

Little Wing, she clutches her prize to her chest
And home to Father she walks

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

THE GENTLE MUSIC OF A BYGONE DAY


resting against the spreading bows of a tree
a young woman plucks languidly at a six-string lute
a faraway look in her eyes as the notes chime
beside her a demure maiden with flowers in her hair
reclines on a fallen tree
her dispassionate gaze falling on her musical score
beyond the two figures
a gentle stream meanders through a rolling bucolic landscape
a path leads invitingly across a stone bridge
winding gently away
over the lush green hillside

Friday, 1 June 2012

QUOTATIONS

have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful
or believe to be beautiful
so said the great victorian polymath william morris
oh william
i heartily agree!
but such a thing is easily said
with a large inheritance to live off
a retinue of servants to keep your house in order
and an absence of internet shopping or car boot sales
how distant morris' aspiration seems
as distant as the victorian era itself
this morning
i awake early at six thirty
and pad down the stairs to fix a nice cafetiere of coffee
two hours later
the cafetiere remains empty
the culprit?
a marathon session of tidying and cleaning the kitchen and garage
it all starts innocently enough
a quick sorting out of the recycling before the binmen arrive
then things go progressively downhill
as i try to clear some space around the kitchen boiler
to allow the gas man to do his annual check unimpeded
and strip away layer after layer of unwanted stuff, dust and grime
in the process of this operation
i unearth literally mountains of supermarket carrier bags
just a few months ago i recall throwing out hundreds more of them in sheer desperation
to an uncomplicated idler like me
living like this is utter anathema
what's that other quote from fight club?
the things you own end up owning you

Thursday, 31 May 2012

HONESTY

honest
scruffy
threadbare
wearing its heart on its sleeve
"a tribute to the travelling wilburys" for chrissake!
dubiously tuned
devil-may-care
ramshackle
chicken shack
content over presentation
plucky
cantankerous
mumbled
fumbled and scuffed
idiosyncratic
eccentric
indiscreet
unkempt
unpolished
unpoliced
how i love
the towering tower of song

Saturday, 19 May 2012

BARMY

out of habit
i turn on the radio
and then wish i hadn't
president o'barmy is wittering on about 'the need for growth'
let's stop a moment and think about what this actually means
while life on this planet hits the buffers
o'barmy wants to prop up the broken financial system
by accelerating planetary destruction even further
in other words
to enrich the few
at the expense of the many
including all other life forms
truly this is a game of consolidating
in the words of john kenneth galbraith
private wealth and public squalor

Friday, 18 May 2012

LENNON & MCCARTNEY

there is steve kilbey and the church
there is jim aka roger mcguinn and the byrds
there is ray davies and the kinks
there is bob dylan
and there is the late great jake thackray
but the greatest influence on my music and songwriting
remains that pair of giants
lennon and mccartney
it would obviously be churlish to diminish mccartney
supreme melodist
virtuoso multi-instrumentalist
outstanding vocalist
frequently inspired lyricist and songwriter
just look at songs like yesterday, penny lane and hey jude
but when i look for key songs in the beatles catalogue
it is not generally mccartney or harrisongs that stand out
it is lennon's
the exceptions that prove the rule
are their first double whammy from 1963
she loves you and i wanna hold your hand
both co-written eyeball to eyeball in hotel rooms while on tour
but from that point on lennon establishes himself as the key writer
that opening chord of a hard day's night
cuts a swathe through popular music
ticket to ride is rock's first proto-heavy metal track
help! combines its writer's vulnerability
with similar climactic energy and drive to a hard day's night
norwegian wood moves into edgier lyrical territory
meshing english folk with indian raga
tomorrow never knows ushers in the strangeness of psychedelia
this incredible recording has never dated
despite - or perhaps because of -
the head-swimming onward march of technology
rain updates ticket to ride's heavy metal style
harnessing the byrds' gleaming treble guitar tone
then smudging it with a druggy smear of backwards vocals
strawberry fields picks up where help! left off
adding depth, subtlety and texture to the angst
and instrumentation almost orchestral in its sweep
a day in the life represents perhaps lennon's (and the group's) peak
a devastatingly sad and moving mood piece
with lennon's voice at its most vulnerable
another contender for greatest ever beatles recording
could be i am the walrus
an astonishing rant against england and petty authority
sneered against an incredible backing track
brilliantly orchestrated by george martin
that scales and descends a relentless escher staircase
the distortion of revolution captures the zeitgeist of the year of my birth
in the same way as the stones' street fighting man
happiness is a warm gun offers three or four songs in one
a kind of history of folk and rock music sewn together
finally there is the political boldness of come together
mccartney weighing in with a superb swampy bassline
as if to prove his worth
as lennon's indispensable partner in crime
where would we be without them?

Thursday, 17 May 2012

END OF THE ROAD

i wake from dreams of rust
i have booked volky into the garage
for he has been acting strangely of late
protesting a little too much
woodle climbs into the back
for her lift to kiddie prison
i put volky in reverse
depress his accelerator
and...
nothing happens!
i try inching forwards to test if normal drive works
and the gears engage
if i can push volky up the driveway
we should be able to make it to the garage
enlisting the help of mrs fireseed
plus mum, dad and the postman
we heave volky out onto the road
but shifting our trusty volkswagen proves difficult
my revs are not reaching his wheels
the power is draining away somewhere in the distribution chain
we amble along at a pedestrian speed
crawl painfully up a steep hill
and are faced with the terrifying prospect
of crossing the bristol road
in the face of a stream of rush-hour traffic
a38 navigated
an emergency traffic light forces us to lose momentum again
as i plan my attack on the next hill
the revs get louder and noisier
until the needle on the dashboard leaps to 60000 rpm
and i see smoke emerging from the bonnet
just like in a breakdown scene from a film
as we come to a halt
there is a sickening finality to it all
i feel like icarus flying too close to the sun
it suddenly occurs to me
that just like every human being
every car is destined to wind up in the same place
an automobile graveyard
volky is towed to the garage
pronounced terminally ill with a ruptured gearbox
and escorted back home
to be carted away imminently to the knacker's yard
chance has it that some korean friends of ours
are selling their own car at a rock bottom price
and hours later i am driving the as yet nameless vehicle home
i park it guiltily on the drive
in full view of volky
whose pride of place has now been usurped
by an oddly similar dark green saloon rival
younger and fresher
and a hundred thousand miles less travelled
glancing from one car to another from an upstairs window
i am struck by the unflattering contrast
the graceful sweep of volky's heavy but well proportioned curves
next to the clumsy profile of his superficially similar successor
like a well bred shire horse
standing beside a common cart pony
to bed i go with a heavy heart

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

CREDO

IDLER

I take my tortoise for a walk
I don't hurry
And I don't rush
I stop for a little talk
I don't worry
And I don't fuss

I come out when the sun shines
Lie in my hammock
And sip a glass of wine
Cos I'm an idler
And I take my time

I'm at the pub for a quiet drink
I don't hurry
And I don't rush
I need to stop for a little think
I don't worry
And I don't fuss

Hail fellow well met
Pardon me while I roll a cigarette
Cos I'm an idler
And I take my time

Some people say I'm a layabout
But that's just ridiculous
They're just envious
I love freedom
Fun and responsibility

I live my life at the pace of a snail
Sit in my garden
And pour a glass of ale
Cos I'm an idler
And I'm doing fine

BROKEN

a broken bike
a broken guitar
a broken greenhouse

a broken printer
a broken toaster
broken shoes

a broken gearbox
a broken window
broken brakes

broken teeth
broken shoulders
a broken arm

a broken heart

BACKLOG

so much to talk about
my precious seeds
so much poetry
so many musings and inklings
so many pages of idling notebook filled
but so busy doing nothing
so distracted and confused
so little time to commit virtual ink to cyberpaper
so now my friends
now is the time to clear the backlog...

Thursday, 10 May 2012

TOWER OF SONG

this music bar borrows its name
from a leonard cohen song
his face adorns the walls
part of a giant mural that features the greats of rock
lennon
dylan
hendrix
et al
segments of the revolver sleeve
paul's unsmiling face peering out nonchalantly from a pillar
i can't believe it's taken me so long to find this place
it is for music aficionados
not for boozers
not for loud groups of mates out to get plastered
the sound system is clear and bathed in dreamy reverb
it allows no casual interruptions
the lights are low
but the spotlight illuminates the artist
staring out into the blackness
it is difficult to make out the audience
it puts you in the zone
alone with your voice and your instrument
but in touch with the punters
who can hear every nuance of your sound
the genial owner tom jams along with several performers on his digital piano
he is already in my good books for offering me an ale on the house
when i popped in the night before
tonight bill is organising the rea river roots club
he runs a tight ship
a strict diet of two songs per artist
each of whom is summoned to wait in the wings
to take the stage as soon as the previous act finishes
there is an extended set for the special guests - easy street
whose guitarist expertly coaxes his gibson
into bluesy cascades of melodic sound
when my turn comes
i manage to fluff the first verse of radioactive
but importantly don't let it throw me
like it did one night at the prince of wales
and i fare better when properly debuting the great game
the echo makes it sound strangely like the audience is joining in with the choruses
perhaps they are
there is a lovely variety of artists
two acapella acts
one male
one female
singing songs of sadness and beauty
an eccentric old irish fellow
banging away manically on a bodram
a technically accomplished and muscular classical guitarist
and towards the end
a couple of morose-looking chaps
one plonking away on a ukelele
the other stepping up to the mic hands in pockets
to harmonise on the choruses
plaintively bemoaning the loss of public libraries
the nhs
even our social bonds
to 'the big society':
'and when it's gone it's gone
when it's gone it's gone
then it's gone'
heart-wrenching
and absolutely unforgettable!

WORK-SHY

currently rereading tom hodgkinson's
'how to be idle'
and what a pleasure it is
to savour the good humour and bonhomie
that tumbles from every page
just to show what we idlers are up against
tom offers a chilling quote from heinrich himmler
in a nazi edict from january 1938
as the storm clouds were gathering over europe:

"work-shy elements within the meaning of this order
are men old enough to work
and who have recently been certified fit
and who can be proved to have rejected
offers of work on two occasions without just cause
or have accepted work
only to abandon it again shortly afterwards without adequate reason
will be sent to concentration camp buchenwald"

Monday, 7 May 2012

LIKE SHIPS

Like ships
In the night we pass
Clocking off and clocking on
We navigate the murky waters
We ebb and flow with the tide

Like ships
Like ships

Like ships
On the waves we roll
Listing from bow to stern
We chart the open oceans
We drop anchor far from shore

Like ships
Like ships

Like ships
From the rocks we hide
For safe passage we hope and we pray
We shelter in draughty harbours
We weather raging storms

Like ships
Like ships

Friday, 4 May 2012

THE GREAT GAME (SONG VERSION)

The Great Game will suck you in
Make you tired and restless
It will trap you in its web
Control you like a chess piece
Oh the Great Game

The Great Game dictates the rules
You must follow to the letter
It’s not a game you’d want to lose
But winning isn’t any better
Oh the Great Game

Defy the Great Game at your peril
For you will be stigmatised
Ridiculed and rejected
Insulted and patronised

The Great Game will bleed you dry
It will push you through the mincer
It conquers and divides
Then turns to point the finger
Oh the Great Game

The Great Game will spit you out
Chuck you on the scrapheap
It will cart your bones away
Bury them in landfill deep
Oh the Great Game

It’s not your age or gender
It’s not the colour of your skin
It’s not the nation on your passport
It’s the master you serve

THE GREATEST SPEECH EVER MADE?

DR JEKYLL AND MR HYDE

strange day at the mill
anti meridian
your humble fireseed plies his trade as university lecturer
exposing innocent teenage minds to the evils of civilisation
post meridian
your favourite blogger assumes the role of responsible father
taking his darling daughter to the polling station
to place an 'X' for the greens on his ballot paper
vote 'no' for a city mayor
and educate her in matters of democracy
come nightfall
your popular singer-songwriter is back at the prince in cambridge street
after a lengthy absence
debuting a song he's just finished writing at the bar moments earlier
it's a crazy idea on a crazy night
as i'm waiting to go on
the place is suddenly mobbed by a crowd of scary-looking skinheads
darts fans from somewhere up north
chanting 'barmy army' at the tops of their voices
it would be an intimidating atmosphere
even if you're sensitive tunesmith wasn't about to hit the stage
but by a stroke of good fortune
the storm clouds part
and the sun comes out
the crowd clears out just as suddenly as it arrived
as I finally strap my guitar and stride up to the microphone
i thank my lucky stars
i wouldn't have liked to refuse a request from that lot!
the remaining punters get a rather loose version of 'relationship'
which sounds to me like all voice and no guitar
it's hard to get a sense of the overall sound at the prince
but the pa seems to emphasise the vocal and i find myself popping the mic
then i do something foolhardy
placing my notepad on the music stand
i announce to anyone who's listening that i am going to sing 'the great game'
the song i've been working on for the last day or two
and just scribbled out some lyrics for moments earlier
it's not at all bad considering
and gets some positive reaction from john the host
i've quickly learnt that this is the great thing about open mic
it's all about taking risks
improvisation
experimentation
pushing the boat out
i finish with 'coming home'
and spontaneously improvise an ending
singing the praises of the pub
and its status as the best open mic venue in the city
again this goes down well
then i'm back out into the streets and the rain
running for the last train
(i'm always running for the last train!)

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

THE GREAT GAME

the great game
a game of social constructs
a web of socially constructed concepts
that structure and define daily life
take the construct of a job
a role, duty or service performed
not for enjoyment
not for fulflment
not for altruism
but for money
that other social construct
that key chess piece in the great game
for enjoyment, fulfilment, altruism are never the prime motivation
they are but useful by-products for those fortunate enough
to exercise or receive such rewards
for those who are not
the great game says 'too bad!'
closely allied to the construct of a job
is its close cousin employment
here the language gives the great game away immediately
to be employed is to be passively used by another
to serve
to do another's bidding
to toil and to sell one's labour to achieve another's goal
to be deprived of self-direction and personal agency
to be in common parlance a lackey
self-employment merely renders the user and the used one and the same
leaving the game unchanged
the great game dictates the rules
and requires them to be followed to the letter
legislatory body and judiciary rolled into one
the great game refuses to tolerate non-players
those who choose to opt out
those who see the great game for what it is and for what it isn't
such non-players are viewed as a threat
they are patronised, stigmatised and ridiculed
they are robbed of the means to participate
in different pursuits of their own choosing
the great game subordinates all human activity
to the achievement of its grand designs
it pits the players against each other
it divides and conquers fellow countrymen and women
it sets native populations against incoming migrants from abroad
it scapegoats the outsider and 'the other'
it rewards the winners for their ruthlessness
it punishes the losers for their lack of the same
in the great game
it isn't a person's gender that matters
nor their age
their nationality
the colour of their skin
it is the master they serve

Monday, 30 April 2012

ECOSYSTEM

delirious
the swallows
hadron colliders
skim the somber surface
darting this way and that
snapping up insects
oblivious to human presence
brushing clothes with their twitchy tails

serene
the grebes
promenaders
glide calmly across the pock-marked lake
leaving no ripples
diving deep to search for titbits
coming up for air
gulping down their silver treasure

steadfast
the bullrushes
witnesses
sway in the stiff breeze
whispering in hushed voices
keeping the secrets of the silent water

vigilant
the watcher
keeps a stony eye on the boathouse
penetrating the stillness

THE BLUE WATER

Push the boat off from the shore
I've never been this far before
Who knows what lies beyond?
Out of sight of anyone

Reel me in
I'll take the bait
For I've no time to sit and wait
I've found out what I've waited for
It's out there on some distant shore

It's out there on the blue water
And who knows what lies so deep?
You'll always be your mother's daughter
You'll always have your father's heart to keep
But think of me sometimes

I've never been where I couldn't stand
Always kept my feet upon dry land
Always kept the Great Bear overhead
And now you rock the cobwebs off my bed

Make it last
I'll take the bait
For I've no time to sit and wait
I've found out what I've waited for
And tasted once I want it more

It's out there on the blue water
And who knows we lie so deep?
You'll always be your mother's daughter
You'll always have someone else to please
But dream of me sometimes

Remember all the days that you've been mine
Lying on my bed our arms entwined
And now our futures lead us on
But please don't ever think that I am gone

I'm out there on the blue water
I'll always be my father's son
Out there on the blue water
You'll always be the only one
So think of me sometimes

LINKS

life as a tangled web of experience
the little connections both numerous and nebulous
micro-fibres that bind events together
fine filaments
delicate tendrils that extend and grasp
we struggle free
only to find ourselves caught up in the same dramas again
the stone of gronw
pierced by a spear
yields ghostly images
the watcher by the lake
penetrating the landscape
frames the boathouse
the serpentine severn
gurgling up from its welsh spring
slides by impassively like melted chocolate

Sunday, 29 April 2012

OCCUPATIONAL HAZARD

it can be tough rowing upstream
forever marching out of step with others
hearing the beat of a different drum
as my grandmother used to say:
a prophet hath no honour in his own land
being a fearless pioneer can be a painful experience
opening oneself up to the scorn and ridicule
of those who cannot see the value of the vision
it can be a lonely existence
without safety in numbers
the lone wolf who refuses to run with the pack
the bear who retreats deep into the forest
the mountain goat perched stubbornly on his windswept rock
but when the sacrifices weigh heavy on aching shoulders
it is worth remembering
that freedom from the stifling conformity of the herd
is ample reward

Friday, 27 April 2012

OH MY GOD!

i'm back at my old om haunt from last summer
it feels like another kind of homecoming
the familiar smell of the beer-soaked seats
the night lights on the wooden tables glowing in the darkness
the faded lived-in decor
i'm here early for a change and it's a quiet night
so i get the first spot after the host has warmed up the audience
when i say quiet
i'm forgetting one large table of about twenty people
who insist on talking loudly through the warm-up slot
i wonder why they are here in the back room
rather than staying in the main section of the pub
the host is admittedly not very inspiring
he pulls up his hood like a gangster
and starts to strum clumsily at a slightly out-of-tune guitar
his vocals an incoherent wine
he actually interrupts his performance to take a phonecall
it is a couple of friends he's invited
who are sitting in the bar next to me but haven't even recognised him
talk about stage presence!
eventually i get the call, plug in and fine tune my fender
the large group are still chatting noisily
tonight i make my debut as fireseed
i've also decided that i'm going to work on my banter
partly to compensate for the tuning issues i'm having with the fender
i tell the audience how happy i am to find my trusty old plectrum
under the bed
but i'm struggling to compete with the racket to my left
i'm also grappling with the dodgy mic stand and weak sound system
i launch into relationship
the tuning almost immediately slips but it's not bad
coming home is better especially as i'm debuting it tonight
asleep-awake (second performance) and street executive complete the set
the banter is good but wasted on them
i sit down at the back feeling a bit cheated
but perk up when last week's voucher winner buys me a pint of moondance
and i get a couple of generous compliments on the performance
i get into an interesting conversation with a couple who have moved up from london
to build a recording studio in newtown
they organise festivals in europe and already have a couple of studios down south
they are impressed by the om scene in birmingham
they say that it barely exists in london
they think everyone is really friendly up here
londoners are like robots in comparison
that's scary considering how robotic this culture seems to me here
n is black and he tells me shocking stories about the the xenophobia in russia
racist lynch mobs against non-whites that sound far worse than the bnp
they are planning to leave the country in the medium term
sick of the way that musicians are treated and under-valued in the uk
meanwhile i have realised why the noisy group are here
one of their number
an irish guy
has stepped forward to regale us with a u2 ditty
and a few more covers
his guitar badly needs new strings and a proper tune
he fires out volleys of expletives to the sniggers of his mates
of course he wins the fifteen quid beer voucher
by virtue of having the most whooping mates to call on in the vote
as the evening ends and queen's we are the champions plays on the pa
the boozy party begins to cavort drunkenly round the room
slurring out the hackneyed lyrics at the tops of their ugly voices
this is about as far from artistic expression as it is possible to get
could this be my last om at this venue?
maybe

Thursday, 26 April 2012

OF RED LIONS AND YET MORE SYNCHRONICITY

i have finally made it to the red lion folk club
kings heath's worst kept secret
i'm still kicking myself about missing the sensational chris wood
who was here back in march
but am heartened by the first thing i see above the ticket desk
a large colour poster of jake thackray in his pomp
yes - the leeds legend played here once upon a time!
i'm partly here to catch layla tutt
she of layla and the goodlads fame
who so captivated me at the yardbird on sunday night
with her rhythmic acoustic guitar
floaty ethereal vocals
and intriguing lyrics
not to mention a graceful stage presence beyond her years
and i kick myself for not getting here sooner
for as i take my seat layla is most of the way through her support set
(i have not been aided by a cross-town cycle ride into a fierce rain squall)
i'm relieved when she announces she's returning for a second spot later
and pleased to have a brief chat during the break
it's a great little venue
a decent-sized but still intimate affair
with proper lighting rig, soundboard and foldback monitors
a guitar-playing red lion draped behind the diminutive raised stage
the old dance school are the main act tonight
and the seven members barely fit on the tiny stage
it's a versatile and nicely balanced line-up
two violins/violas
one guitarist/vocalist
one whistle player/vocalist
a trumpet player/weird sound effects man
double bassist
percussionist
together they produce some dense textures
underpinned by a rock-solid rhythm section
uncannily the welsh 'coming home' connection rears its head yet again
one of the songs is called something like 'herud'(?)
a welsh word which roughly translates as 'a longing for home or place'
another song references bardsey island
which i'd never heard of until i looked it up the other day
after spying it among the panorama from atop the chair of idris
all this is getting weirder and weirder!
layla's second set does not disappoint
an intense affair
and it's reassuring that other guitarists have similar tuning problems to me
would i like to play this venue?
you bet i would
must pass them a demo cd pronto!

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

I'M A MUNCHKIN!

it has been too long since there has been much humour on this blog
but something really tickled me yesterday
hannah woo and i were just about to leave the house for my parents' place
when the phone rang
we were running late
and i assumed it must be my brother or dad
wondering where we'd got to
woodle kept repeating the same phrase down the phone
in a funny high-pitched voice
'i'm a munchkin!'
she was dressed up in this role for the family party
'who is it?' i asked after a while
'it's uncle john' she said
eventually a few i'm a munchkins later
i managed to grab the receiver
but the voice at the other end was unfamiliar
"i'm calling on behalf of eddie freeman, your local councillor" the man said
"i was trying to play along with your daughter
but every time i asked her who she was
or if i could talk to someone else in the house
she kept repeating 'i'm a munchkin!'"

COMING HOME AGAIN

i am borrowing a book by alan garner
an uncivilised author i've never read before
though i used to have a copy of elidor on my bookshelf as a kid
the book is called the owl service
its home until recently was the gravity-defying shelf
on the wall of the living room
in woodle's piano teacher's house
the story happens to be set in a welsh valley
and draws on ancient welsh mythology
it is slowly but steadily drawing me in
today i pick up the book and this is what i read
the main protagonist is talking to his mother:
"Mam, just listen - please, Mam!"
Nancy was silent.
"You told me so much about the valley," said Gwyn, "it was like coming home. All my life I've known this place better than Aber. Mam, I even know who people are when I see them, you described them that good!"
as i read this
a tingle passes down my spine
that phrase 'coming home' jumps out at me
the title of the song i penned on my return from wales last week
on another page Gwyn exclaims:
"Land of my crumbling fathers!"
another line from the song
something is resonating really powerfully here
there is a synchronicity
a rightness
a match of experience, emotion, mythology, story and song
and it is freaking me out!

Monday, 23 April 2012

WHAT IT MEANS TO BE ENGLISH

as the red cross of saint george
once again flutters uneasily in the chilly april breeze
my thoughts return to the eternal question
what does it mean to be english?
what does it mean to be an english patriot?
when so much of this country's history
is drenched in a bodily fluid the colour of the cross
when this nation state cannot give up its chronic addiction
to bloody conquest abroad
being english means living with an appalling legacy
of (neo-)colonism
the evils of empire and slavery
'the white man's burden'
(never the white woman's)
the absolute corruption of absolute power
being english means being marked by an indelible class-consciousness
from its anachronistic monarchy down
which pervades all relationships
which divides and conquers
being english means inheriting the culpability
for setting in train the merciless tide and squalor of industrialisation
which has harnessed the 'ghost slave' machines of the fossil fuel age
in short being english means acquiring all the trappings of civilisation
how have we treated even our closest neighbours?
especially our closest neigbours?
the welsh
the scottish
the irish
the answer is aboninably
it is hard to be a patriot in this regard
unless one aspires to being the playground bully
thankfully these horrors are leavened a little
by some more palatable elements
the climate and landscape of this sullied but still beautiful land
the plants, flowers, animals and birds
the magical language of english itself
the folklore, music and art that this land has inspired
the good food and ale
last but not least the people who genuinely love our unhappy land
unfortunately a small minority
but worthy fellow resisters to the fascism of the 'good germans'
who enter into a mestophalesian pact to sell england to the devil

Sunday, 22 April 2012

COMING HOME


Coming home to the valleys and rivers
Coming home to the place of my birth
Coming home to the land of my fathers
Coming home to the memory of these hills

I breathe the rarefied air
I climb the contours
Across the hillside I stare
To Arcadian shores

Step across the threshold
Step out of the rain
Come in from the wind and cold
Dry your boots and ease your pain

Coming home to the valleys and rivers
Coming home to the place of my birth
Coming home to the land of my fathers
Coming home to the memory of these hills

I slide on blankets of scree
I clamber over boulders
How much further I see
When I stand on giants’ shoulders

Sit down by the hearthside
Pour yourself a glass
Listen to your heart sigh
Feel your throat catch

It’s a different language
It’s written in the stones
It's wild and it's savage
You can feel it in your bones

Coming home to the valleys and rivers
Coming home to the place of my birth
Coming home to the land of my fathers
Coming home to the memory of these hills


Saturday, 21 April 2012

SYMMETRY

an old thinking notebook tells me
that we met at the station pub
on the evening of wednesday 8 december 2010
i have some hazy recollections of the evening
i remember how a copy of 'free to be human' changed hands
and there was much talk of our plans and directions for the new year
if i were to trawl through some of my other old notebooks
i would find further records of other meetings at the station
especially over the summer
when i was grateful for the moral support and cameraderie
at my weekly open mikes
i was more than happy to return the favour
as you took to tredding your own boards
as the year began to wane
the venues for our rendezvous diversified
the red lion
the british oak
the country girl
the selly park tavern
the whore and hands
the old moseley arms
all became our watering holes
but the format remained the same
good ale
good conversation
time and space to explore the kind of personal stuff
that is often difficult to explore
intellectual inquiry
spiritual sustenance
all while avoiding pub quizzes!
back at the station on thursday night
we came full circle
there was a nice sense of symmetry
that we should end up there again
two travellers on railway lines to who knows where
you in the audience
as i debuted a song inspired by a comment you threw into the mix
on a night not long ago
'you're either asleep or awake'
i recall you saying
'and most people are asleep'
thanks for the inspiration
thanks for the warmth and the friendship
it's been an interesting journey
i'm already looking forward to the time
when our tracks cross again
hasta la vista amigo

Friday, 20 April 2012

CONDEMOCRACY


if democracy is
government of the people
by the people
for the people
then condemocracy is
government of the people
by the rich
for the rich

Thursday, 19 April 2012

OUTSIDERS

it is a farewell dinner for a group of visiting students at the university
we are in a basement spanish tapas bar by the canal
munching on a cornucopia of tasty delicacies
the vegan options are surprisingly good
quinoa salad and fried mushrooms
generous plates of patatas bravas
the sangria is flowing nicely
in between the various demands for photo opportunities
and noisy whoopings at the sniff of a suspected romantic liaison
between members of the party
i keep up a playful if fragmented conversation
with three girls from indonesia and india
the general atmosphere puts me in mind of a birthday party
of mixed fourteen-year-olds from rather privileged backgrounds
the kind of party i was never invited to
and never dreamed of going to when i was a kid
i notice one member of the group sitting alone
seemingly not interested in interacting with his fellow students
or the members of staff who have turned up to see him off
he is spending most of his time tapping at his phone
tapping into my own outsider mentality
i find a suitable opportunity to go over and have a chat
it turns out that he is disdainful of the superficiality of the evening
and i can't disagree with his sentiments
i ask him about his experience of visiting england
'disappointing' is the main adjective he uses
the formerly pre-eminent colonial power
reduced to a country of faded grandeur
wallowing in nostalgia and a backwards-looking mentality
hardly surprising given that he lives in go-ahead singapore
looking around him
he talks dismissively of the culture of individualism
the narcissistic era of the facebook page
(not to mention the blog!)
where his monied peers post endless snapshots of themselves
grinning inanely in front of some or other international cultural icon
while gaining no understanding of the deeper significance of the place
or emotional experience of visiting it
i say it's all part of the cultural zeitgeist
a manifestation of our collective lack or loss of wisdom
and so we sit there
a pair of outsiders
looking in
and shaking our heads...
until we are asked to pose for a group photo in front of the bar

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

THE DARK MOUNTAIN

it all seems so much clearer up here on the dark mountain
among the majesty and the grandeur
breathing the rarefied air
up here there is a sense of scale
that dwarfs the petty concerns of women and men
the views panoramic
a broad concave arc of coastline
a craggy range of snow-capped peaks
this topography demands a radically different literacy
far removed from the impotent lines and squiggles of the page
the close contours stiffen the sinew
this timeless wilderness whispers of how our ancestors once lived
without creature comforts
free from the tyranny of the clock
out of the harm's way of lunatic drivers
undisturbed by ice cream vans and amusement arcades
even communication signals are blocked by the mountain's uncompromising bulk
leaving the poor believers tapping frantically at their palm pilots
helplessly scratching their heads
this mountain has stood the test of time
it has watched as men crawled out of their primordial swamps
and scuttled about in the valleys below like busy ants
just as easily crushed
up here the freshly fallen snow lies unsoiled
an unprivatised common that knows no hosepipe ban
glacial lakes hold up mirrors to the sky
and delight in what they see
like its fluid counterpart the broiling sea
the dark mountain forces us to confront existence in extremis
heals us with its beauty and drama
reminds us of where we came from
and what we have forgotten

FRACKED!

it sounds like a headline from the front page of the sun snoozepaper
a crude attention-grabbing non-story
a pile of read-all-about-it cadswollop
how i wish i was making this up
but no!
as regular readers of this blog (unfortunately not the sun) will know
the civilised will not stop
until they have wrung every last drop of profit
from our ravaged earth
this time it's a wheeze with an appropriately anglo-saxon-sounding name
fracking
fracturing (destroying) the shale rock below the earth's surface
while pumping chemicals into (poisoning) the aquifiers of fossil water
to extract (steal) the gas contained in the seams
a panel of scientists has been commissioned
to tell government ministers what they want to hear
that the earthquakes caused by previous tests
present no significant risk to the public
the experts who don't come up with the required results
are as always quietly removed
the damage is being done by a us corporation
given licence to destroy a distant colonial outpost (the uk)
the profits will be funnelled to wealthy shareholders around the world
the pieces will be picked up by us
the uk taxpayers
this is our very own athabasca tar sands
and it is happening right here on our doorstep!

Monday, 16 April 2012

BEACHCOMBER

wandering the shore
wondering what she will find
chased by the sand spirits
the whirling dervishes
urged on by the roar of the waves
the beach gradually surrenders
pieces of driftwood
worn smooth by insistent tide
sharp-edged razor shells
fit for a barber's salon
shiny pebbles
beady eyes plucked from a sea monster
the happy curator
lays out her acquisitions on the sand
like a mermaid at her dressing table
in the distance
a seagull cries
the marram grass whispers
a crab scuttles away

Friday, 13 April 2012

DEVELOPMENT (PART THREE)

the condemn government's new bill
apparently rests on the presumption of 'sustainable development'
returning to our first working definition
the one that seems to ignore the wider ecology
this is surely an oxymoron
a crass cognitive dissonance
an orwellian doublethink
which echoes pretty much all government- and media-speak
not to mention the world of academia
like talking about 'humane slaughter' or 'sensitive culling'
but looking at our revised definition
it actually makes perfect sense
for repair, nurture and healing are surely necessary
to sustain the remaining life on this planet

DEVELOPMENT (PART TWO)

an author i admire recently put development another way
he described it as 'destroying beauty for money'
what a powerful evocation!
returning to part one of this post last week
we could adapt our working definition to 'destroying beauty for comfort'
which begs the question
are beauty and comfort opposites?
are they mutually exclusive?
where seven - soon to be nine? - billion humans are concerned
perhaps the answer is yes
as for rampant uncontrolled greed
the grasping accumulation of stored personal wealth
capitalism itself
these things must surely be incompatible with beauty
so where does this leave development?
perhaps what it is really about is repairing and rediscovering beauty
about nurturing relationships
healing mind and body
opening up to the sheer bliss the natural world offers
if only we were willing to look

JESUS DIED TO SAVE OUR SINS

"jesus died to save our sins" screams the poster
"...so that we don't have to" i think to myself
so that we don't have to do anything
so that there is no need for us to act or to buck the system
so that all we need do is have faith in divine intervention
so that we can abdicate all responsibility for the parlous state of the world
and surrender it to a cosmic deity floating on a cloud
so that we can wait patiently for a beautiful new millennial era
while all around is havoc, death and destruction
so that we can bow down to a superior power
greater and better than ourselves
and be rendered weak, pliant and impotent
good germans indeed!

Thursday, 12 April 2012

GOD MESS

The sign in the park reads:
Please keep your gods on a lead
And clean up after them

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

INFIDEL

I don't believe in progress
I don't believe in rules
I don't believe in science
And I don't believe in school

I don't believe in Jesus
I don't believe in sin
I don't believe the preachers
When they tell me what to think

Because I am an infidel
And I live by different truths

I don't believe in murder
I don't believe in death
I don't believe in taking
And I don't believe in theft

I don't believe in violence
I don't believe in war
I don't believe in justice
And I don't believe in law

Because I am an infidel
And I live by different truths

Suddenly it doesn't make any sense
Honestly I can't sit on the fence

I believe in nature
I believe I owe a debt
I believe in saving
What we have left

Because I am an infidel
And I live by different truths

Because I am an infidel
And I live by my own truths