Thursday, 31 May 2012


wearing its heart on its sleeve
"a tribute to the travelling wilburys" for chrissake!
dubiously tuned
chicken shack
content over presentation
fumbled and scuffed
how i love
the towering tower of song

Saturday, 19 May 2012


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


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


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
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



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


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


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


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
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'
and absolutely unforgettable!


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
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 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



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
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
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