Thursday, June 13, 2024

Remembering Gitte

Ten years ago today, Gitte Christensen passed. A wonderful writer, a quiet achiever, all round lovely person, and a good friend.
You are never forgotten, Gitte.

Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Echobelly, Ocean Colour Scene and Other Assorted Blasts from the Past

Back in the 90s, while living in Japan, I started listening to Echobelly. Their first two albums were wonderful but like so much of the music I listened to in those days, I figured there was minimal opportunity for me to see them live.

A few weeks ago, that dream came true. Echobelly came to Lincoln, and I was not disappointed. They sounded fabulous, looked great, and had a fantastic stage presence. The audience was a little small, and a little quiet, but from where I was standing it appeared everyone was into the music and grooving along in their own way.

Being a small city and with one of the main venues always in financial trouble, Lincoln hasn't really attracted much in the way of music in the past 5 or 6 years - at least, not music that interests me.  Tribute bands have their place, but they're generally not really my thing. They are, however, a cheap and safe option for a cash-strapped venue.  Fortunately the venue was taken over last year by one of the local colleges, and what a change!  It's only May, and I've already seen more acts than I have in each of the past five years. And I have bought tickets for a few more in the next six months or so. Again, many are musicians I was listening to in the 80s and 90s and figured I would never get to see.

I posted recently about wanting to see more live music, and since then I have been, and also exploring the local folk scene. It hasn't disappointed. There truly are some hidden gems here in Lincolnshire.

Next up?  Ocean Colour Scene.  A long time favourite, and although I've seen Oscar and Simon as an acoustic duo, this will be my first time to see the whole band.  And I can't wait.

I see double up ahead 
Where the riverboat swayed beneath the sun 
Is where the river runs red 
Like a King who stalks the wings and shoots a dove 
And frees an eagle instead 
It's more or less the same as the things that you said

Friday, May 10, 2024

Rock the Casbah.

Spring has finally arrived, much later than usual, and it feels great.  The sky is blue and clear, the air is fresh, and the garden is coming alive again.  We spent much of last weekend replanting, weeding and generally tidying up. Hard work, but well worth it when it's so enjoyable sitting out there.

We managed to get away for a few days at the end of the month. First time I'd been overseas on holiday for several years, and it was fabulous. I even enjoyed the flights. But how can you not love three full days of wandering around Marrakesh. 

Not out first time there.  We spent a few days there on our honeymoon, and fell in love with the city then. The smells, sounds and the sights. Once again we wandered through amazing gardens, enjoying the calm away from the hectic city outside, and sipping on cool mocktails in the heat of the day. The food was fabulous, whether from small cafes or proper restaurants. And the vibe of the Medina, walking the streets, surviving the souks, and getting lost in the tiny, winding lanes. I even rocked the Casbah. What a fabulous city.

I returned home almost reluctantly. Work here is busy, but the memory of Marrakesh continues to refresh.

Thursday, April 25, 2024

Why Are Fans So Awful?

It doesn't matter the fandom, so many fans are overly-critical, negative, and generally awful. If something isn't exactly how fans want it, then it is torn to shreds.

Late last year, The Beatles released Now and Then.  Many of us fans loved it, but you should have seen the discussions and comments which were simply negative - many of them before it had even been released.  Last week, the Beatles announced they were finally going to release the Let It Be film. This has been rumoured for release for many years now, and fans have been calling for it. And yet, once it was announced, fans started writing about how terrible this release would be, how it won't be this or that, won't have extras and so on. "we'd rather have a copy of the Shea Stadium show", they said. Never mind the fact as Beatles fans we have more outtakes and more unreleased material than virtually any other fandom, barring Bob Dylan.

But no, this release is going to be awful.

And talking of Dylan, the negativity towards the biopic is astounding. Timothee  Chalamet is a couple of inches too tall, the back pack he is wearing in the photos is not exactly the same as Dylan's. I even saw one comment today that said he didn't want to see this film because it will be terrible.  "My daughter hated Dune 2", he declared.  Yep, I have been wondering what his daughter thought of Dune 2, as that is how I base all my film reviews.

And then in Australian Rules football. My team, Essendon, played the biggest game of this year against last years Premiers. And it ended in a draw. Both teams played well, and my team, who has vastly underperformed for many years, were fabulous. Never gave up, chased and maintained the pressure right through the match, and were hard. Last year these fans were saying they just wanted effort.  Today, despite the pundits saying that no Essendon fan would be disappointed with the result, these fans were screaming because we didn't win.

And I'm not going to even look at the crybabies who announce often and loudly how much they hate any Star Wars film after the mid 1980s.  Sigh.

For the record, I loved Now and Then, look forward to Let It Be, think Chalamet will be a fabulous Dylan, and was thrilled with the efforts and result from today's match.

I don't care whether you (or your daughter) didn't like it.  I'll be over here making up my own mind.

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

More Music.

Much of my music collection has been in storage for quite a few years. Recently I've been able to access my music, and I've been able to commence sorting, organising, and completing the cataloguing I commenced way back in Australia.

It has also been really lovely to rediscover old favourites and listen to albums and tracks I'd forgotten about, or not had easy access to.  (I don't stream, for a number of reasons - and anyway, from what I've seen, some of my favourites simply aren't on those services.)

Last night I listened to an album I initially bought in 1989 or so, and haven't heard for around ten years. I was amazed at how fresh it sounded, and also how I knew the words and music so well.  It was wonderful to listen to. And I'm sure other aural delights await me as I explore my collection.

In a way, this re-access to my music, as well as going to a couple of live shows, has re-energised my love for music. I've bought tickets to a couple of other shows coming to Lincoln, and even explored the Folk Music scene in this county. And I was surprised to see that it's actually quite healthy and active.

I've known of the Folk Club in Lincoln for around a year or so, but their regular sessions clashed with another regular commitment I had.  I no longer have that, and so tonight I'm heading off to, hopefully, meet like minded people with similar tastes in music.

It can be uncomfortable joining a new group of people, but I've already had some online contact with a couple of them, and they seem really friendly and welcoming. I'm not nervous at all, and really looking forward to going.  And, as one would expect from a folk club, they meet in a pub.  Bonus!

In the next few months I have tickets to a few shows, Folk Club and Live Sessions pencilled into my calendar, and an unusual opportunity to explore new music.

Music still stirs my soul and speaks to my heart. And very often inspires my own creativity.

I'll let you know.

Saturday, March 23, 2024

A Changed World

Four years ago today, the Prime Minister announced that we would commence lockdowns here in England. That was Monday evening, and by Thursday we were working from home.

I recall the Tuesday morning, where we met in the office and made plans for relocating. We had known this would likely be coming so much preparation had been done in advance, but now we were organising equipment, stationery and other needs.  It all had a sense of gravity, of seriousness and urgency. 

For some reason, we were under the impression this would be around six weeks, that it was quite temporary, and before long we'd be back in the office. Certainly, at that time, we didn't realise it would be at least 18 months, and that would not be full time in the office. In fact, in our case, we would never return full time to the workplace. 

Not only working practices have changed since those days.  The world has changed too - noticeably in many cases, much more subtly in others. People have changed, our behaviours have changed, relationships have changed. And I think the full effects of all this will not be recognised for many, many years.

I know I've changed - perhaps for the better in some ways. Certainly these lockdowns and changed work practices have affected me and those around me.

There were, of course, some lovely aspects to these lockdowns. It was a beautiful clear spring, with no traffic, little noise, clear skies and lots of insects and birds. Would that spring have been beautiful anyway, or was it the result of less pollution from cars and industry?

Not that I would want it to happen again, but I did quite enjoy the peace, the walks each day during set times, and the sense of "all in this together" and "doing it for the community".

I've recently read, over in tin-foil hat land, that there could be an event in March or April which could cause something similar to happen again. I don't think I place much credence in these wild theories, but just in case it happens and you aren't of a conspiracy mind, you read it here first! 

Saturday, March 9, 2024

Live Music. Again.

It has been a long while since I went to see some live music. I think the last concert I attended was in London, about a year ago. I regularly check to see who is coming to Lincoln, just in case, but for the past couple of years, pickings have been slim.

Partly this is due to the size of Lincoln. We are a small city, with a small population, well off the beaten path. The venues we have in town are also small. The main one was in financial trouble, and was having problems attracting artists. as such, it promoted a lot of comedy nights and the like. The other, probably understanding what sells, seemed to focus on tribute act - something I've never been too fond of.

But there has been a turn around, The main one was taken over, remodelled, and has started attracting performers of note - or at least artists I'm interested in seeing. 

Recently, in a matter of days, I went to see live music at both these venues.  And I loved every second of it.

First up was Something About George, a tribute to George Harrison.  I hesitated for the longest time, but then read some reviews. It wasn't a tribute act, but a band paying tribute. The frontman talked between (and sometimes during) songs, telling George's life story, and the relevance of the songs being played. And it was good fun. Really good fun.

The second was Fairport Convention.  Someone I know told me they'd seen them in the early 70s, and figured none of those originals would be there. Of the five he saw in those days, three were still part of the band. And they were wonderful.  I have seen this lineup before, but Dave Mattacks didn't play with them last year, so it was great to see him back on drums.  And, being the lovely chap he is, he signed a couple of XTC and George Harrison albums for me.  Bonus!

Oh, and a huge shout out to Plumhall.  This wife and husband pairing were the support act, and they were fabulous. I became an instant fan.

And so I am going to go and see more live music. I've been exploring British folk music since I was a teenager, and I am aware there is a healthy live folk music scene here in Lincoln. I have thought about attending some of these events for some time, but they generally clashed with other regular activities I undertook. That has all changed, and so from this month I plan to see more live music.

And that's the way it should be!

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Passing Patrons.

It's been almost eight years since I moved back to the UK. And where I live is quite different to where I lived in Australia. It's certainly quieter, slower and more laid back. I love the little village in which I live, and the city is quite beautiful.

People often ask me whether I miss Australia. I have moments, of course, but what I do miss most are my family and friends.

I have plenty of friends in the UK, and people I am friendly with, but I haven't really made any mates. Those who will drop over for a pint, or to watch the footy, or just to hurl abuse and mock you. As you get older, it gets harder to make new close friends.  I think this level of friendship occurs due to shared interests, experiences or through the mutual looking for friends. By my age, most people already have their friendship circle and don't need any more. I suppose it doesn't help that most of my interests seem not to be shared by anyone around me.

On the weekend, I was in another city for a conference. A splendid time was had, and during the dinner break I headed out to find some food. I ended up in a small Indian restaurant, and shared a table with another patron, someone not attending the conference.  I really enjoyed his company, and we seemed to have so much in common. We chatted about music (similar tastes), laughed, and generally had a good time. And then I had to leave.

I said bye, and headed out. A minute or so later, I considered returning to ask if we could connect on social media, but I figured that might be weird. It's unlikely we'd ever get to hang out due to the distance between our cities, and that's what I would have really enjoyed.

Maybe I should have. You never know. We might have ended up hanging out, somehow, somewhere. But if it's meant to happen, it'll happen. So Mark, if you're out there and somehow reading this, get in touch. 

Tuesday, January 30, 2024

Weird, Weird, Weird Year

It's been a weird start to the year. 

I know the past few years have been weird anyway, but I had expected that to have ended by now. On top of that, there have been a few events and circumstances which have created a weird vibe.

I have had a few moments where I have seen through the veil, seen a few things for what they are, and unburdened myself of a few things.  And that has been healthy. I've also taken on a few healthier aspects, made some decisions, and changed directions with some stuff. And don't read too much into any of this. None of this is huge, life-changing stuff, just a few minor things which have eased my mind.

I am awaiting some news, hopefully good news, which I will share when I can. Something which will feel good and validate some work I've done and decisions I've made. And even if the news isn't what I hope, that's fine. Disappointing, but understandable.

Ah yes, a completely cryptic post in which I haven't really said anything. And I know if I read this in a couple of years time, I'll have absolutely no idea about what I am referring to.

Oh dear. At least it will be a mystery to keep me entertained.

Wednesday, January 17, 2024


I've been thinking about reputations recently. People, places, companies - many have reputations for this or that.  For being friendly, funny, charming, authentic, honest. And sometimes they are, but sometimes they're not.

I recently visited a market town which has a reputation for being a place which delights foodies. It also has a reputation, and promotes itself as being charming, old fashioned, and some culture. I was rather surprised to visit and see none of that. It was rather disappointing, particularly as we had driven some distance out of our way to have a look.

Of course I recognise that we all have different perceptions, we all see things in different light. But apart from a small deli and a farmers market on the way out of town, there was no indication that this village had any culinary delights to offer. In fact I really only saw chain bakeries and supermarkets. Perhaps it is a hidden gem, which they only show to special visitors.

Over the years I've been invited to meet people with a reputation. One in particular was described to me (by several people) as being "very creative and imaginative."  We met, we talked, we exchanged ideas.  Their ideas were no more creative than those of the Year 8 students I was teaching at the time.  Looking back, I now recognise that the people who had described them as such were in a world which wasn't particularly creative.  I can say how comparatively, they might have believed this person was. The problem was, I think, that this person wanted to build this reputation, and to use it to get out of doing work.  When the team was doing all the hard work, they wouldn't go, and simply said, "I'm the ideas person."

More recently I was introduced to two people at the same time. The first used a term to describe themselves which is usually only used in newspaper articles, biographies and history books.  No one would ever use it to describe themselves. In the following discussion, they then use a word and said, "But you probably don't know what that means," and then went on to explain it. (I did know, but I didn't have a chance to say so!) Not to be outdone, the second person used another term to describe themself, and then out how clever and intelligent other people thought they were. 

We conversed for around thirty minutes on a subject in which both claimed to be specialists, but neither were particularly insightful, and indeed one was completely wrong on several counts. So much for a reputation created by and for yourself.

Many times I have taught students who had a reputation for being trouble and causing problems. I would always let them know at the start of the year that I didn't care what their reputation was, I would accept them based on how they behaved with me.  I can honestly say that with only a couple of exceptions, these kids were fine with me and caused little trouble.

Reputations are there to be tested. I don't ignore reputations, but I try to not believe them and discern what people are really like.

Sometimes, with a bad reputation, all we really want is to be proven wrong.