Thursday, 28 June 2012

In Cassidy's Care: 9: Last Thursday

The next couple of days were a blur of emails and long distance phone calls. Cassidy was the youngest of three brothers and his siblings Thomas and Richard took control. He sat limply by his laptop nursing a mobile phone, thinking of his family, unsettled, absurdly resenting his brothers, waiting for something to happen.
Thomas and Richard.
His dad was Henry.
Tom, Dick and Harry.
Nice one dad.
The phone rang early Thursday evening.
"Regarding the funeral service, I'll be reading something appropriate", Tom was as dry as ever "and you know how hot Harry was on civil rights? Well Dick's going to sing a spiritual for him, ‘Eyes on the Prize’. Acapella I think. He doesn't want Thelma the ten-thumbed organist ruining his performance. What do you want to do Peter?"
"Who does Dick think he is, Mavis frickin’ Staples?" said Cassidy, another seamless deflection.
“There’s a comprehensive will and Mom’s been well catered for, as have we all. It’s no surprise that the old man was prepared for departure”, sighed Tom. “And apparently we’ve each been left one of his potted plants; don’t know what that’s all about, do you?”
 Cassidy caught his breath and sat down heavily, holding his hands against his chest as if nursing an injured bird.
“Anyway, Dick and I are the sole executors “ continued Tom “so you’ve nothing to worry about bro.”
Cassidy looked for offence but could only find relief.
“Strangest thing happened yesterday”, Tom softened “We went into Yarmouth and met with Sam Jonas, Dad’s financial guru. He was talking us through the immediate arrangements, consolidating all dads’ checkbooks and cards into one easy access account for Mom, stuff like that. You know how Dad always threw Christmas checks and gifts at us all, to get around the inheritance tax thing? Well Mom said she was keen to carry that on; even increase the gifted amounts to the max. Damndest thing, just as Jonas okayed this, the building was struck by lightning; no shit, lights went out, windows rattled. Dick and I hit the deck. Mom just stood there looking up out of the window, smiling serenely. It was like a message from beyond, Harry pissed at Annie for splashing out with his cash…”
Tight arse, thought Cassidy.
"What’s that?" said Tom.

That night he had a dream: ‘The Cassidys’ were practicing in their garage. Harry prodded the keys of his accordion, while Tom hunched over his Fender bass, glowering darkly at his four strings. Dick was shirtless and thrashed at a low strung acoustic, bellowing out ‘Like a Rolling Stone’ in a key that was obviously too high for him. ‘The Cassidys’ always reformed to perform at family gatherings and Harry was a taskmaster at practice. “A band’s only as good as its drummer” was his mantra. Cassidy was a lousy drummer. In the dream his hands were so sweaty that he kept dropping his sticks so he gripped them tight and the tighter he gripped the harder he hit. A stick splintered and broke. Reaching for a replacement he dropped the beat. Tom, Dick and Harry stopped playing and retreated into a corner, whispering. When they turned back to face him they were all wearing plastic masks sporting the features of smiling baby dolls. There was a darkening and the rumble of thunder, a loud crack as lightning struck the tin roof of the garage. The amps blew, sparks everywhere. Within moments ‘The Cassidys’ were aflame, dancing horribly as their masks melted grotesquely.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

The Glow Diaries: 8: Good Vibes

As 'Glow' nears its completion and Marcus prepares himself for the mix, I throw in a wild card. I think that when I said "Can I Start Again Please?" Marcus thought that I wanted to wipe everything done so far.
This song and 'Night Sail' seemed to guide the way ahead and set the template for the many spoken pieces that went on to shape 'Hopeland' and 'Keepers'.

Monday, 25 June 2012

Waxing The Aughts (Poetically)… droned remembers Alaska by Miracle Mile

One of the occasional joys of googling oneself (come on, we all do it) is to find the occasional missive, not by a journalist, but by a fan.
Have a read of this post from
The "young boy and girl kissing" on the cover by the way is Marcus and his Mum. He didn't know he was on the cover until we opened the first box of CDs...
A reminder that you can get the new remaster of 'Alaska' as a studio master quality download here at Linn.

Miracle Mile – Alaska [2003]
I am an old geezer compared to most here, I would assume. Christmas Eve, 2002, drinking with a girl who could actually stand me for more than a few seconds. Waxing poetically about life, love and the pursuit of accidents gone before us… this girl had astonishingly been with me for a little over 2 years and I was consumed by her. Everything, the look, the voice, the smell… the taste. Addicted completely. Little did I know that one week later… she would, uh, how can I put this…?…disable the dreamer, the one thing she loved in me the most… the dreamer in me, he was gone. In the blink of an eye, just like that.
Fast forward, blurringly 24 hours later. Walking into a record shop in a daze, my one place of solace. New Years Day, 2003… new releases!!!! Could there be something, someone else’s words, that might be able to help? I find an album by a band called “Miracle Mile”, the album “Alaska”. The album cover of someone spying through tree leaves at a young boy and girl kissing and holding each other. Why would I want to experience their happiness? To know that it just might still exists somewhere? Could “the dreamer” still be inside me?
It’s been almost 7 years of listening to this album. The comfort of an old friend’s voice. Reassuring me to continue the path. I must not give up. Continuing to believe is like breathing, walking, eating…you just do it. Survival…remembering the feeling and how it will all be worth it... to just experience it one more time.
Thanks for indulging me.

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Sunday Morning Blue: Max Richter: The Blue Notebooks

One of the many pleasures that we get from the house in Corsica is that it gifts us a spectacular silence; quieter than anything you've ever heard. This makes the occasional local intrusions particularly potent: a church bell, a shepherd's call, George the donkey laughing uproariously from across the valley. We're mindful of the music that we fill this venerable void with. There's a lot of classical music, local polyphonic songs, anything needs to be of a gentle lilt.
I forgot the ipod this time so we were stuck with the few CDs that were already in the house but they all skipped like seven year olds; so we mostly played the dozen CDs that I'd made up for this trip; prospective car music.
I've been listening to a lot of modern classical of late and the music of Scottish/German composer Max Richter sits atop the pile. The cyclical nature of much of his music gives it a meditative, hypnotic quality; undeniably emotional stuff, the perfect balm for a Sunday morning hangover.
My current favourites are 'Memory House' and particularly the intimate beauty of 'The Blue Notebooks', fragments of which are to be heard below.

Saturday, 23 June 2012

In Cassidy's Care: 8: Last Wednesday (continued)

He missed the last tube but that was no biggie, it had stopped raining and the evening was now calm and balmy. As he strolled towards the nearest bus stop Cassidy thought about the ugliness at the football match. He really had to put a check on his… utterances. They were going to land him in trouble. But then some things needed to be articulated. Maybe he had a ‘special need’ but surely there were other folk who felt the same way, acted the same way. There was a term for the perennial weepers of the world: ‘for crying out loud’, so why not one for overactive thinkers. ‘For thinking out loud’ didn’t sound quite right but…. it wasn’t as if he had Tourettes for Christ’s sake, it was just that sometimes he needed to hear his thoughts, needed to give them substance. The same reasoning caused him to catch his reflection; in shop windows; strangers’ spectacles; the back of spoons; in the windows of this red double decker as it pulled up in front of him. No vanity, just the need to check that he was still there.
Cassidy sat on the top deck in a front seat from where he could monitor his journey home. The bus was empty except for a couple to his left in the adjacent front seat, nursing a baby. Cassidy watched them in the reflection of the bus window; she a pretty sparrow, hand in next-door’s pocket, a stranger looking bird. They wore matching black quilted anoraks, she clutching the little bundle to her breast, his hood was up, arms folded tightly across his chest. He wore thick-rimmed spectacles that magnified his eyes. He blinked erratically and seemed agitated; kept tapping at his mouth with his fingers. The girl took his arm. “I love you with all my heart sweetheart, love you like my baby.” She nuzzled the infant’s brow. “You’re my first and second accidents you are” she chuckled, “I’m still waiting for the third. Good things come in threes”, she added absently, leaning her head against the man’s shoulder. He chewed his cheek and whispered something about Alaska. Cassidy narrowed his eyes and leant towards their reflection.
“I need the coast, the taste of the ocean”, the man continued. “In Alaska you can sit and count your emotions, get to understand your emotional… geometry. It’s wild and cruel, but a wonderful place…” he looked towards Cassidy and lowered his voice “Of course you need to be prepared; need to take care. You can never really trust nature, but it’ll never let you down.” The man put a clenched fist into his open mouth and ground his shaking knuckles into his teeth, a peculiar tic. Cassidy could see that, although he spoke like a sage, he was really no more than a boy, nineteen or twenty. The girl seemed older, maybe in her late twenties. She pulled his twitching hand towards her chest to calm his agitation; placing it tenderly on the back of the baby’s hooded head. She cooed and gently rocked, holding them both close, smelling their skin. She smiled towards Cassidy’s frozen reflection and he noticed that she had a hair lip.
“Investment is for fools”, continued the boy “and praying is for martyrs. And money… money is for spending. I say leave nothing behind.” The boy’s speech seemed archaic, tautly rehearsed, reminding Cassidy of an old time preacher. He sat upright abruptly, pushed the hood back off his head and ruffled his thick greasy hair with both hands. “You’ve got to live your dreams or you watch them die. You bend or you break with that simple truth.” He leant towards the baby, whispering now. “You know I didn’t want this. It was a shock to me, seeing how careful we were with contraception and all but…” he put his fist to his mouth again, and, again, the girl soothed him.
“I‘m glad that we didn’t get rid… that salt and water method your mother swore by.” His trembling voice was almost inaudible now. “I watch her when she sleeps. I do. I breathe for her, listen to her little heart beat.” Cassidy could feel his own heart beating as he watched this strange little unit fussing over their child. Was it time for changing? Was it time to feed? This little bundle was probably all that they could ever hope for; maybe all they’d ever need. They fell into seeming sleep and there was silence, an almost biblical quality to the scene, until the boy broke the spell with another one of those odd convulsions.
“This is us sweetheart”, the girl sang out moments later, and they rose to leave. She stooped to pick up her bag, leaning so close to Cassidy that he could smell talcum powder.
He looked into her cradling arms.
Nylon hair, perfect plastic toes.
The couple shuffled past him apologetically.
Cassidy could barely breathe.

Monday, 18 June 2012

Rosebuds Needed

I'll leave this up as the lead post until Friday in the hope that it'll catch your eye and imagination.
I posted it a few days back and had enough response to sense that there's much mileage here; objects that inspire memories of childhood; revisited, revealed or re-invented. 
Come on folks, reveal your Rosebuds in the 'Comments' box below...

"Rosebud is the emblem of the security, hope and innocence of childhood, which a man can spend his life seeking to regain. 
It is the green light at the end of Gatsby's pier; the leopard atop Kilimanjaro, seeking nobody knows what; the bone tossed into the air in 2001."  
Robert Ebert

Here's an interesting one.
I recently posted this in conversation with Toronto Tim regarding Paul Buchanan's 'Mid Air':

"For me, that's what's potent about Buchanan's writing TT; he details the concerns of man; seen and recognised by a worldly man; then a revelation will be qualified with a small 'child's eye' detail'; a red car in the fountain, christmas tree lights; starlight in a suitcase. Is he dreaming; pining for the safe harbour of childhood, or using signifiers that help him to decipher to confusions of the adult world? 
I suspect that Buchanan has a 'Rosebud' or two in his attic... don't we all?
Mine's a Blue Tractor. 
What's yours?"

Anyone who's seen the film 'Citizen Kane' will be familiar with idea of 'Rosebud'
In the film Kane's last word is "Rosebud"; one of the themes of the film is the search for the meaning of that word. This itself is a symbol of lost childhood; a cherished memory of an object that signifies or embodies lost youth.

So, I ventured a blue tractor (it's a long story).
Toronto Tim gave me an enigmatic list:

- Mickey Mouse "ears"
- Eskimo Pies
- Dad's tree hammock
- Mom singing "Amazing Grace" 
- Pop-Tarts!

I feel a 'list song' coming on.
Why not join in below; give me your 'Rosebuds'.
You don't need to qualify or explain them; although you can if you'd like...
Here's a chance for you to have a childhood memory captured forever in a chart topping pop song...

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Sunday Morning Blue: Anything by Sigur Ros

I meant to post this a couple of weeks ago.
We've just returned from our travels; fallen for the island again after recent disenchantments. I forgot to pack the ipod so we had to rely on an old CD player that skipped like a 7 year old and one or two new CDs that we played to death (Max Richter/Peter Broderick/Paul Buchanan and... Sigur Ros which is indeed the perfect soundtrack for gazing at mountains).
More of the trip later; I hope that you've missed me as much as I've missed you...

We're off to Corsica today for a couple of weeks so I'll be dropping off the blog map for a while. There'll be a tale or two to tell on my return; we've got a house to sell...

I've just received the new Sigur Ros album 'Valtari'.
It's a beautiful thing.
Any Sigur Ros album would work as a Sunday Morning Blue album; in turns uplifting and melancholic the Icelanders work wonders with their fairly limited template. They do the widescreen post rock thing even better than Mogwai, but I really like their acoustic songs.
Hvarj/Heim is a double album, essentially the soundtrack to a fantastic documentary 'Helma' that was made during a low key tour of Icelandic backwaters. The film is brilliantly shot; the soundtrack's 2nd disc Heim is my favourite; here they do acoustic versions of some of their better known songs.
Stripped bare they are gut wrenchingly beautiful, tender and intimate.
Perfect for Sunday morning contemplation.
I strongly advise that you buy the film.
I think that Bazza's currently got mine.
I want it back!
I've posted Helma's trailer beneath this lovely version of Samskeyti.

Saturday, 2 June 2012

In Cassidy's Care: 7: Last Wednesday

“What a mess. What have you two been eating? Here, let me clean you up.”
Cassidy looked at Amelia and recognized goodness personified. She was kind, caring and, yes, needy. She’d simply made the decision that she didn’t need Cassidy. Fair enough. Her choice.
Her loss. He watched from a dutiful distance as she dabbed away with a damp cloth and whispered kindness into her boys.
                'Who are you to be so strong
                 That you can leave it all behind?
                 Laughing in your sleep
                 And trusting in the kindness of the world
Joe Henry. He loved Joe Henry.
“You best be going Peter. Last tube. Bill will be home soon from his squash night.”
Bill had haunted Cassidy’s life for over a year now and he was yet to set eyes on him. He only knew that he existed for sure because the boys put flesh on his bones: “Uncle Bill this. Uncle Bill that.” Not that they’d been given the opportunity to meet; this was the first time he’d ever got past the front door and into Bill’s lair. It was raining so hard that Amelia had dragged the three of them in off the doorstep, sopping wet, and made them all cup of ‘Oxo’.

As a mid-week treat Cassidy had taken the boys to see their first Premiership football match; a wealthy parent had offered free tickets for an evening match at Stamford Bridge; a ‘hot ticket’ too; the London derby; Chelsea and Arsenal. Perfect, as while Thomas was lukewarm Chelsea, Archie was red hot for Arsenal. Cassidy frankly didn’t give a shit either way but knew that Archie would be ‘well chuffed’, a saying that he confessed to picking up from his Uncle Bill. The promise of seats in the Director’s Box never materialized. Cassidy had hoped for air-conditioned warmth, some of those fabled prawn sandwiches and perhaps a glass of chilled Chablis. What he got instead were two hours of ‘April Showers’, a gristly pie and a polystyrene cupful of ‘Oxo’. Beef stock, for Christ’s sake. What was all that about? They sat sodden, huddled close, surrounded by Neanderthals who looked like they should’ve been ringing the bells of Notre Dame. What was all that inane chanting about? Tuneless dirges, much macho pointing and gesticulating at opposing fans, strange hand signals that mystified both he and the boys.
“Ah, the sweet smell of the testosterone”, sighed Cassidy.
The man directly in front of them turned around and glared. Christ, a fucking Troll, thought Cassidy.
What did you say?” demanded Troll menacingly.
“I, ah, I said that we’re not having much luck in goal. We’re lacking in the, erm, goal department…” Cassidy smiled weakly and scrutinised the ads in his match programme.
Troll scowled at Archie’s Arsenal shirt and grunted “Facking Gooners”. The crowd roared, Troll muttered “twat’ and turned back towards the pitch, refocusing his bile on a skinny bald guy in black, frantically waving a flag. Waving? Most probably drowning; April frickin’ showers.
Wanking arsewipe?’ Cassidy saw that one register with Archie; knew it was destined to become another breakfast time question.
The game was frenzied with much slipping and sliding. Even a bewildered and disinterested Cassidy recognized that it was a wash out, a damp squib; two teams desperate not to lose, two defenses so brutishly efficient that any offensive creativity was thuggishly stamped out. Literally. And there was too much posturing and petulance for Cassidy’s taste. Chelsea’s number 9 was particularly annoying. He arched his back theatrically whenever a yellow shirt got within spitting distance, rolling around in agony until he realized that no one was watching him. Then he was back onto his feet, straightening his hair band, and waving his arms about. And then it seemed like he was asking the referee for something to eat. When nothing was offered he threw his head back in pantomime laughter and waved his albatross arms again.
“If that big African flaps any harder he’ll take off”, said Cassidy to his cold pie. “Role models my ass.”
Troll turned and glowered again; Cassidy buried his nose deep into his cold cup of Oxo. Troll had taken his shirt off, revealing an artless tattoo that spanned his shivering shoulders. ‘Blue is the Colour’. Bloody right if it gets any colder thought Cassidy.
Number Nine swan dived spectacularly in front of goal and was dutifully admonished by the referee with more theatrical semaphore.
Stickonpenalty. Wotyoravingafackinglarfrefyatossertwat
Tossertwat’? Cassidy thought of his father’s boating buddies who fished off the Eastern Arm of Cape Cod; how they loved their weekend clambakes on the beaches of the South Shore; how they cursed with humour and eloquence as they pitched their Sunday horseshoes, while clams and mussels and lobsters cooked in a pit over heated stones. Those boys could curse; the perfect words pitched perfectly, just the right side of an inviolable line. There’d be no offence taken as non was intended, for their sacrosanct oaths were laced with kindness and affection. There was no warmth from these cruel fuckers, no blue collared beauty, no ‘sing-song’, no irony; just ugliness and discord as they strung expletives together without syntax or meaning. Witless… twats.
He’d had enough. Cassidy grabbed the boys roughly by their collars and pushed them towards an exit.
“There’s twenty minutes left Dad”
“You’ve got school tomorrow Archie”
“But we might miss a goal Dad”
“Move it kiddo”
As they made their way along the Kings Road towards the tube station the stadium erupted.
“Goal” Archie scowled, kicked at a can and drifted ahead of his father.
“Go and walk with your brother Daniel.” Misery loves company thought Cassidy eyeing Archie’s pigeon toed gait. Both he and Amelia had worried that he might need ‘special’ shoes. They had seen a podiatrist who assured them that they had nothing to worry about, then tried to sell them two hundred pounds worth of prosthetic insteps. Nothing to worry about? Cassidy couldn’t remember when he’d last had nothing to worry about. The specialist was right in Archie’s case. He’d developed into a much-prized ‘leftie’, a southpaw so ahead of the pack in his ‘Sunday Soccer’ class that Coach Johnny had to hobble him. “Right foot only for you Archie” he’d shout from the sidelines, then joke with Cassidy about Daniel’s two left feet. “Shame that he’s a ‘righty’.”
As they approached Fulham Road tube station they passed a Greek kebab house and Cassidy offered an olive branch. The boys always talked in hushed tones about their classmates’ revered post match ritual of donner kebabs and Red Bull. They’d pass on the Red Bull but, why not a kebab? What Amelia didn’t see wouldn’t harm them.
Cassidy winced as the boys swamped slices of pressed lamb with sweet chilli sauce, more greasy gristle. At least there was salad involved with this particular culinary delight.
“Just don’t tell your mum.”

And now here he was, in Bayswater Bill’s kitchen, all high design and fine line. No sign yet of Amelia’s homely hand he noted with silent satisfaction.
“What have you been feeding them Peter?”
Daniel stood pristine but the evidence was everywhere on Archie, his face plastered with red sauce, dried tomato emblazoning his chest. Christ there was even a salad leaf stuck to the back of his neck. The boys glanced towards him, then back to their mother before bowing their heads. Amelia puckered her brow and closed one eye, as if sighting Cassidy down the barrel of a gun. 
“Right, I’m off. Don’t want to miss that last tube.”

Friday, 1 June 2012

The Glow Diaries: 7: Sexy Drums and Ham Sandwiches

Here we entice pedal steel maestro Melvin Duffy (left) up from snowbound Cornwall with the promise of a ham sandwich; and, bugger me, if he isn't a vegetarian...
No such problems with avaricious drummer, Danny Cummings (right); not only will he play on anything; he'll eat anything and everything...

Click on the image below to enlarge and read.