Monday, 30 December 2013

What I Did on My Holidays/My Top 10 Albums of the Year


I've just got back from a Xmas break in North Wales. We went with neighbour's Des and Louise, to their family bolt hole, a cozy cottage with sea view in Rhiw, on the Llyn peninsular.
It was my first time in the area and surely not the last. It's like the Yorkshire Dales by the sea; spectacularly beautiful yet austere, no frills, built to last. We had plenty of sunshine but also found ourselves in 'The Storm of the Century' on Boxing Day when nearby Aberdaron (1 mile away) recorded gales of 110 mph. Thank God for the dulling effects of alcohol; we should have been crapping it. Anyway, we had a hoot despite our host and games master Des contracting tonsilitis on Xmas day. As you can see we still managed a fine time...
Endure my holiday photos to find my Top 10 albums of 2014 listed below...

















Meanwhile; I've been compiling my tracks of the year CD.
If you want a copy the rules are simple:
Send me your Tracks of the Year CD to:
Trevor Jones
18 The Green
Wooburn Green
BUCKS HP10 0EF
Include your address and I'll return my Tracks of the Year CD to you.
Here's a clue of what you might get; my Top 10 albums of the Year.
Excuse lack of verbiage but I've got washing and ironing to attend to...

Prefab Sprout: Crimson/Red
Fossil Collective: Tell Where I Lie
KT Tunstall: Invisible Empire
Bill Callahan: Dream River
Emiliana Torrini: Tookah
John Fullbright: From the Ground Up
Jason Isbell: Southeastern (Thanks Macwood)
Sam Baker: Say Grace
Josh Ritter: The Beast in it's Tracks
Michael Kiwanuka: Home Again
David Lang: Death Speaks

That's eleven I know but David Lang's gloriously grim album has just arrived and it's sublime.


Monday, 16 December 2013

Hopeland (Notes from Corsica): 23: Saudade

23: Saudade

Every day I sit down with my guitar.
I take the time to reflect.
Time and a guitar; a comfort blanket and a dream catcher.
Songs come easily, but is the first thought necessarily the best, or is that lazy thinking?
I'd like to think of myself as an original thinker, but have come to know that I'm not, something that each new song confirms.
So I cut my cloth accordingly and work within myself, attempting to illuminate the mundane stuff that colours my everyday life, and hopefully present it in such a way that it connects and resonates with others, perhaps as a 'penny drop' moment.
Sometimes we don't notice the obvious.

The artist’s hope of presenting a singular vision has distorted many a creative talent, affectation parading as individuality. Sometimes individuality can get compromised in order to acquiesce to some third party’s sense of genre; others can too easily define our lives for us.
I do what I do because I’m inspired to write and am able to do so in my own sweet time; it makes me happy that I can produce something from nothing and on my own terms. This ‘gladness’ is a bi product of my labour and a rare pleasure.
It makes me mindful.
Genuine delight seems an uncommon commodity these days. Somewhere along the line ‘happiness’ as a right rather than an unexpected serendipitous gift. It’s become an expectation, as materialistic a demand as soap or shoes. TV shows us life’s possibilities, easy credit offers untold opportunity, but there is no labour involved in the acquisition, no pride in achievement or respect for the achievement of others, no real aspiration and ambition, just envy and frustration. Somewhere along the line it seems that we have diminished the ‘delight’ of flighty folly and have forgotten the pleasures to be gained from passing things on, handing them down. Possessions were once cherished, and then bequeathed. These objects connected us to the past. They told stories. Their inheritance invested them with unspoken worth, a silent reminder of those who went before. The potency of these objects cannot be underestimated; solid markers in an ephemeral landscape, they mapped out our journey and reminded us where we had come from. We kept these treasures in a biscuit tin under our beds.
The pleasure of treasure…
Now, fashions come and go. Labels change. Things break, we don't fix them, we replace them; it’s no surprise then that we’ve forgotten how to value things.

As children, with uniforms and chants of prayer, we were educated to conform. Now as self-defined ‘free spirits’ we find that we have painted ourselves into a corner, isolated and yearning for a past where we once ‘belonged’. We look under our beds and find nothing but dust, so we compromise our past imperfections by conjuring substance from the shadows. And so the rosy glow of nostalgia colours and becomes us; our personalities are redefined. Without the currency of 'developed' character, true individuality is fabricated not fostered.
You can have too many options, too much choice. Choice begets change. Change begets loss, but change and development are vital for survival, moving forward. Maybe we lament the things that we miss because we did indeed miss them, or worse, we didn't notice them at all.
And so we become wistful about the past, and fearful of the future; we don't live in the moment, we wrestle with the possibilities of what's beyond the moment.

There is a Portuguese word 'saudade' which is defined as 'a terrible yearning for a past that never existed.' Nostalgia is really a yearning to reclaim lost lives or missed opportunity, hence our sentimental connection to the things that have shaped us; our parents, our childhood, lost friends, music, books, TV and films of a particular era.
There is nothing quite as sweet as the grey warbling of a bird near extinction. We push things towards extinction, and only when we're fearful of their loss, do we cherish them. Why do we need to make things rare, when we should celebrate the common place?
Meanwhile as we respond to ever increasing stimuli we don’t necessarily relate to it. We see the shape of things, but not the texture. We know everything, but is there a genuine understanding? With so much data in the file we seem to have difficulty apportioning genuine value to things.
We are in danger of becoming sensually deprived; we don't know nature, our own nature, ourselves. The common ‘buzz’ of the 24/7 communications age has rendered us over-stimulated, our touchstones have become mobile phones and laptops; we have to keep checking for messages to see if we are valued.
It’s a bit like looking in a mirror to see if we are still there.
We have become too distracted to be happy, when happiness depends on us being present, in and of the moment. I think that we need to simply disconnect and learn to be alone again, to reconnect with our imaginations, to re-engage with our sense of wonder.

Someone once wrote "Wear your life loosely, it fits better that way." The past is the authentic fabric from which we are made; we define ourselves by how we cut that cloth. The filtering of memories enables us to come to terms with what we have become, how we have tailored ourselves.
I feel an increasing sense of emotional isolation. I internalize and only really release through song. I sense that we’re all increasingly looking inwards, taking pride in ourselves but lacking any sense of ‘place’, essentially denying ourselves the benefits of community.
The currency that keeps us vital is life itself, and our vital perception not just of life as it happens, but of our processing of that experience. Our value is not just what we could be, but what we are, what we have become.
The further we grow away from our histories, the more obvious their influence becomes, and the more we idealise and cherish that influence.
Reviewed and rewritten, our past becomes us.
With this benefit of hindsight, how can we be disappointed?
Corsica had gifted me a perfect day in the sun, now I needed to live beyond that day without corrupting or resenting the memory of it.
I’m learning to rekindle hope.
These fleeting cherry blossom moments in Corsica have taught me to cherish the past, accept and recognise its vitality, but not to live there.
When it comes to ranting about the transient joys of all things bright and beautiful, Keats got there long before me, but I believe that William Blake nailed it best when he wrote:

He who binds himself to joy
Doth the Winged life destroy
But he who kisses the joy as it flies
Lives in eternity’s sunrise.

Saturday, 14 December 2013

To the Bone: The Mixes 2

Ok, ok... Marcus and Luce wish all of our readers a 'Merry Xmas'!
And me and Willow? Well, I'm a humbug who looked a bit of a bellhead in the hat and Willow? Well... she's a dog.

'Angelicana' is our most challenging mix thus far.
There are disparate elements flying around.
We had deliberately incorporated Americana (dobro/pedal steel) and Britsounds (mellotron/distorted piano/classic Hammond) and this starts to sit uncomfortably with Marcus who feels that we have lost the quirkiness, whilst I see that USA/UK dichotomy as vital to the track's meaning: our heroine's yearning for the 'dusty roads' of Elsewhere. We go eyebrow to eyebrow and I eventually get my own way. This one could come back to haunt me... The Scientist is usually right!
I offer elevensies and the olive branch is accepted, except we then cannot agree on English Breakfast, Earl Grey, or a cup of Java...
'Man Behind the Moon' is slight (the word 'vignette' is outlawed) but important to the flow of the album. "There's something in the water, there's something in the air, there's something in the way that you worry with your hair." 
It's a gentle diversion and (dare I say) an easy mix of voice, piano, guitar, double bass, with some mellotron 'voices' added to give add a bit of grain. My whistling tooth gives Marcus some grief but the de 's'er soon sorts the sibilance.
A light lunch of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches makes my whistling tooth ache even more . Willow wolfs down the left overs and then demands a walk.
'The Fullness of Time' is a similar arrangement to 'Man Behind the Moon'; we'll need to separate these in the running order. 'We danced as Dusty Springfield sang...' finds that whistling tooth again but it's sssoon sssorted.
Marcus and I hit the kitchen for a beer while I wait for the friday evening traffic to evaporate.
Three more songs to mix and we'll be done.
I'll be back on Tuesday for a couple of days.
It'll all be over by Christmas...

Friday, 13 December 2013

To the Bone: The Mixes

Today is the third day of mixing 'To the Bone' and all is well.
Every mix is challenging but things are controllable for Marcus because we have worked in the old school way by commiting to arrangement and sounds in the recording stage. The first challenge was to edit Melvin's pedal steel parts. As ever his playing is impeccable and, with two or three passes for each song it's really hard to choose what to keep and what to forever dispatch to pedal steel heaven. Marcus is keen that we don't hit the 'pretty button' on this album, so phrase after phrase of gorgeousness is 'wiped for now'. I'd hate to be a wasp in The Scientist's jam jar; he's brutal! To vary the sound we also got Mel to play Dobro and Weissenbourn and Marcus takes them out of their usual reverb and renders them bone dry. We aim at two mixes a day but have already nailed (I think):
Pardon Me: First track done and probably first track on the album. A live take, just me singing to Marcus's prodding piano.
Cabin Fever: Based on Raymond Carver's unsuccessful attempt at using a friend's cabin as a writing retreat. 'Send a letter or a woman!' he wrote...
Fireworks: Currently my favourite; a winsome waltz bathed in the ambience of overhead mics.
Phil the Hat and TJ: A friendship imagined that was then bathed in nostalgia.
Some Kind of Surrender: 'We settle for silence once again.' We go Tex Mex in search of an alternative.
To the Bone: Insomnia and ennui: 'I woke in the night from a stranger's dream, I'd rather be remembered that way.'
Row: Probably the last track on the album. Kind of sad; kind of hopeful.
Luce came in last night to add some siren like backing vocals to 'Angelicana' so we'll be mixing that after breakfast.
To the shower...

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Springsteen and I

My Springsteen weekend continues apace.
1/4 of the Penderyn single malt left and a chilli bubbling away on the gas ring.
And I've just had this delivered (on a Sunday!) by Amazon.
I don't know whether to open it up and play it or wait for Di to return home tomorrow.
I haven't been so anxious about breaking a seal since my first packet of condoms!
Come on readers, you've got to help.
Break the seal or wait?
Break the seal or wait?



Saturday, 7 December 2013

Lovesong: Bruce Springsteen: New York City Serenade & Dream Baby Dream

I'm on my own this weekend; that invariably means cricket, curry, whisky and music.
Even though the early signs of the imminent 'High Hopes' aren't too inspiring, I've got a hankering for Springsteen... I like him languid not lumpy. A bit like Costello; I switch off when he starts shouting at me.
But no-one does a rasping whisper like Bruce... and the motherlode of whispering intensity is surely his sophomore release. It's been a while since I visited the glories of 'The Wild the Innocent and the East Street Shuffle' so I went looking for a live performance of one of its highlights and, boy, did I strike gold.
This version of 'New York City Serenade' was shot weeks ago in Rome and it's just beautiful. 
And I thought that the man's voice was shot... 
It's a stunning performance.
String sections can come over as detached, aloof; here they just seem really chuffed to be there.
Then I then found this video of a song (more of a sweet chant really), 'Dream Baby Dream' which is new to me. It's quite hypnotic and the visuals are a treat. 
I defy even the staunchest cynic not to be moved by a moment or two from these performances...
Music made for the right reasons: to connect.
That Bruce can do that in a huge stadium of 100,000 odd is testament to his abilities as a performer.
Whether you love or loathe him (there doesn't seem to be much middle ground), whether he's whispering or shouting you cannot deny the man's integrity.
Meanwhile, back to the cricket.
Ouch!




Friday, 6 December 2013

Nelson Mandela: The Man is Dead: His Legacy in His Own Words (2002)


Hopeland (Notes from Corsica): 22: The Heat of Horses

22: The Heat of Horses

He sat barefoot in the garden, bewildered by the industry of birds: a chuckling chorus of secret signals, a riot of flight.
Squinting through a silhouette of branches his eye drifted skyward to a pair of red kites circling the morning haze with idle intent.
Spectral clouds lay quiescent, punctured by vapour trails bound for wider worlds. He traced their progress with a trembling finger, conjuring potent meaning from that totemic sky, before the vertigo of longing brought him back down to earth.
Beyond the hedge, a shifting of shadows, a familiar feral scent.
He saw the steam rising from their backs long before their bodies came into view.
The horses never came to his beckoning but he always held their eye.
He loved the heat of horses.
As a boy he would hug their necks and steal their breath while they delicately nipped peppermints from his palm.
He’d carry their stink on his fingers all day.
At night he would dream of dappled flanks and sour green apples.
His story was now a potent past, truth distilled.
Its refined energy taunted these pallid dolorous days.
These days he only had one dream.
He was a boy, running, and his feet made the sound of hooves.
The guitar rested idly on his lap and he hugged its walnut body to his belly, his fingers finding familiar shapes on the ebony board.
The strings were old and dull.
He would boil them later in vinegar.
“You never write me letters”, she had said the night before.
Before the argument.
After the whiskey.
He tested the dew with his toe and reluctantly opened his note pad. Good thinking, bad spelling, too many words.
She’d asked for flowers and, he offered water.
Reaching for his coffee cup he drank the tepid dregs, taking pleasure from the bitterness.
‘Soon all of this will end and ne’er begin again’ he muttered testing the air.
Turning his back to the circling shadows he sat square, found a chord and started his song.



Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Lovesong: Aztec Camera: High Land, Hard Rain

Marcus is in the studio today whilst I'm at the coal face.
Not fair!
He has the marvelous Melvin Duffy in weaving his pedal steel magic on our latest recordings. I hate missing out on these days; it's great watching a steel guru in action. We have worked with two of the best in the past, Mel and BJ Cole; alchemists both, yet they each produce a totally different lode. I'm looking forward to hearing the results next week when we continue with the mixes.

Meanwhile, I've been looking back...

"If you write the truest thing you know as a teenager and you write it well, it’ll be no less true three decades later. When Roddy Frame played those old songs, I remembered again why they swept me away." Pete Paphides

1983.
'High Land, Hard Rain': Jesus; 30 years old this year!
Really?
I remember buying this on vinyl the week of release, spinning it over and over, seeing the band live, wanting to be Roddy.
I was too old of course, he was just 19; the boy wonder...
I won't bang on because two folk have already addressed this brilliantly:
Read journalist Pete Paphides over on his Hidden Tracks blog and Drew over on the blog Across the Kitchen Table.
Then go and order the album here on Amazon; yours is surely languishing next to my lost (5th?) copy.
If you buy the box linked set you get the first 5 albums for just over £10.
Avoid the Remaster btw; apparently it's a dogs dinner...
Di's away this weekend so I'll be getting out the fringed suede jacket and doing one in front of the bedroom mirror. Might even post it on YouTube; apparently I need to improve my 'Profile'...
Here's the excellent 'Walk Out to Winter' live in '83 for The Old Grey Whistle Test.
Amazing: the glasses that render Bono a twat look so cool on our boy.


Monday, 2 December 2013

Hopeland (Notes from Corsica) 21: So Far So Good

21: So Far So Good

These are hardly original ideas.
The grass is always greener.
The human condition is invariably in a state of disappointment.
Is ‘different’ better? When habit and convention demoralizes and casts us adrift, how do we reset our course?
Change?
The thought of real change is intimidating; it could save me, yet I fear it and remain content with cold compromise. Dissatisfied, I crave happiness and, when it fails to materialise, look elsewhere for a quick fix. As ‘consumers’, maybe we have become so used to instant gratification that we can only be disappointed.
I want to be ‘of substance’, yet deny the process that makes the fabric hardy: life. I focus on the horizon, rather than on the small dramas in front of me. I desire to be “anywhere but here” with the vague possibilities of that ‘other life’ making me resent my real life even more. Traditionally these ‘other lives’ were just vague unobtainable pipedreams, seen in fuzzy black and white. Now, digital clarity promises a focused and immediate reality in ‘High Definition’ that is demanded without investment or preparation. Thus, even if I do make the dream reality, I’m unable to appreciate or recognise the gravity of its arrival; I just use it and move on to something else.
Many of my songs focus on the tricks that we use, the games that we play and the skills we develop, to stop ourselves from becoming unglued. For me, silence stands as failure and threatens everything, so I fill it with music and search for the perfect song. I’m surely doomed to be disappointed, but the ambition keeps me moving forward.
I believe that we all rest where compromise leaves us, in a kind of limbo. Limbo? It's sorrow's way; like the unravelling of a lost kite, a gentle rise or fall towards oblivion. We’re all connected by our unravellings, we don’t always feel the tug, but as the line tightens, leaves a mark, then relaxes, we realise that things can never come to rest and learn to trust the rhythm of chance. I say, don't be afraid to forget. You will not. What is vital will remain. Regrets will become your palest thoughts, and one day, when your gaze has drifted, the sadness will buck and buckle and be gone. How do you live the perfect life? How do you write the perfect joke? Start with the punch line and work backwards. And the perfect joke? A man falling from a great height whispering “so far, so good.”

***

Rolling up his sleeves, he approached us with the fixed stare and intent of one about to join a pub fight. As he brushed past, kicking sand onto our towels, I noticed that his belt was already undone. A woman in a red coat, with the countenance of a long-suffering wife, followed closely behind. Fingering his flies the man stopped with purpose fifty feet beyond us and completed his dishevelment. Naked but for briefs and a St Christopher, he clawed at the sand and within minutes had created an elaborate maze of sunken tunnels and ditches which fast became irrigated by the sea. So intent on this toil was he that he disregarded a chuckling child, armed with water wings and a bright yellow bucket and spade, joining the game with relish, until he caught the man’s eye. The sad red lady had stationed herself at a dispassionate distance and sat smoking, in mute acceptance of her lot. Maybe she was a sister or even a care worker. Cursing unseen demons her charge shivered and threw his arms to the heavens, perhaps demanding divine guidance, then continued his ecstatic excavation, like an aguish archeologist digging into the past, tunneling himself back towards happier times. He was joined in his work again, this time by a young Alsatian that fuelled the feverish frenzy, the two working in unwitting unison until the pup backed up, covering the sandscape and its architect, who kicked out at the dog in a rabid rage before returning to his work. After a good hour of unbroken endevour the digger suddenly stopped, as if to the sound of a factory siren, his shift complete. Picking up his clothes in a rough bundle he set off at a pace, retracing his steps, again covering us with sand, his wild eyes indifferent to our sympathetic glances. We had however caught his companion’s attention. As she passed us she rolled her eyes and, in perfect broken English muttered, “Lost forever. And it was a fucking Rolex!”

***

Friday, 29 November 2013

Jones: Spotlight UK Artist: UK Country Radio

You might be interested to know that this weekend I am honoured to be the 'Spotlight UK Artist' on 'UK Country Radio'.
This means that Friday afternoon through to Sunday evening they will be playing one of my songs every hour.
There will also be an interview (just done) with DJ, Jerry Scott, played in two parts between 12.30 - 1pm on Saturday and Sunday.
You can find the station here at www.ukcountryradio.com
The first tracks will be played from 17.00pm today (Friday) on Allan Watkiss's show.
Just hit the big 'LISTEN' button top right of their Home Page and there I'll be.
Yes folks, I am a little bit country.
This of course means that I write sad songs, drink coffee and (very occasionally) play live behind chicken wire.
Small change is acceptable but please don't throw soft fruit...

Thursday, 28 November 2013

To the Bone: The Third Sessions (Wednesday)

Sleepless; I finally get off by reading the late John O'Donohue's blessings in 'Benedictus'.  Lucinda has nudged this my way a few times. There's a fine line between preaching and teaching but the writer's Celtic lilt adds poetry to the piety. He presents wisdom and goodness so keenly and kindly that you can't help but admire his enthusiasm as you melt into the prose:

"There is a quiet light that shines in every heart. It draws no attention to itself, though it is always secretly there. It is what illuminates our minds to see beauty, our desire to seek possibility, and our hearts to love life. Without this subtle quickening our days would be empty and wearisome, and no horizon would ever awaken our longing. Our passion for life is quietly sustained from somewhere in us that is welded to the energy and excitement of life. This shy inner light is what enables us to recognize and receive our very presence here as blessing. We enter the world as strangers who all at once become heirs to a harvest of memory, spirit, and dream that has long preceded us and will now enfold, nourish, and sustain us. The gift of the world is our first blessing."

Willow wakes me from my uneasy slumber with an unearthly howl; apparently a love song for Luce who is on the other side of a closed door. Breakfast (coffee with peanut butter and jelly soldiers) then we head for the studio. Marcus plays a double bass part on 'Cabin Fever' and we think it's done. As Melvin is confirmed in sick bay we decide to start mixing any non pedal steel tracks; we might as well start with 'Cabin Fever' as it's up. The Scientist has to disappear behind the desk to rewire the thing; "lineoutlineinfucketybollocks" is his song as he brandishes a soldering iron...
One hour later Marcus pronounces that 'it's sounding good' and To the Bone's first track is in the bag.
A quick brew to celebrate then onwards.
Next up is 'Pardon Me'. This was the first thing that we recorded for these sessions. It was a live take, just vocals and piano. I shouted out the chords and after one run through we recorded it. Marcus added an electric guitar part and that was it. It was therefore just as easy to mix, so much so that I was dismissed to the shops for bread rolls and batteries. Talk about an energy sandwich!
'To the Bone' is our next mix, a bit more challenging this; like Tom Waits singing for the Salvation Army. I might change the title as I'm not sure that it's up to the pressure of being the title track. How does 'Holy Din' sound? Lots of stomping bass drums and cymbals and... a sousaphone. When I suggest this new title and circus freaks for the video Marcus glowers at me with those knitted scientist eyebrows. I get a similar reaction from Willow and go in search of Cadbury's chocolate fingers...

                                           

To the Bone: The Third Sessions (Tuesday)


Tuesday: I've changed the title of 'Somewhere North of Here' to 'Huckleberry Dear'. I had initially played a chugging acoustic as a guide to sing against; we decide that, although a bit rough around the edges, it's a keeper and commit to using it as the essence of the track; there's a meditative quality that's quite hypnotic. We then add some Mellotron flutes and voices. Affecting and effective; it sounds like Sparklehorse galloping through Strawberry Fields... is that a good thing? We rub our chins and decide to have a cuppa. When I return with the brew and a cheese butty Marcus has a retro 70s Roland Space Echo and a Wurlitzer reverberating. Lovely! The Scientist then plays a shaker which loosens things up nicely; ironic as it's home made from a coffee bean tin...
'Some Kind of Surrender' sounds Tex/Mex and unlike anything we've ever done before; this should dash the Blue Nile comparisons for a while at least. It's ready to go; just needs a bit of Melvin's magic.
'Fireworks' provides a moment of serendipity; on our first listen through Marcus mishits a mute button and there are no direct drum sounds, only the room overhead mic's which give the song a lovely, late night lonely ambience. It's a High 5 moment for sure. We decide to leave it as it is...
'Dream Horses' sees some spikey chords from the Epiphone semi-acoustic and then sends Marcus back to the house in search of his double bass and dog food for Willow.
We're getting messages that Melvin might be cancelling tomorrow; struck down by 'Man Flu', which is a bummer as he is the final brick in the wall before mixing commences in a couple of weeks...
We have a listen to 'Cabin Fever' which is an odd little thing; part spoken, part sung. We try and emulate the reverbed snare sound from 'Bridge Over Troubled Water'. We find a snare sound that is mighty, record it in place, turn the reverb up to '11' and then remove the snare, keeping just the ghostly echo of the reverb; it works really nicely. We'll add some double bass tomorrow but it's now time for curry and beer...

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

To the Bone: The 3rd Sessions (Monday)

Monday: The Monday and Tuesday sessions will be nuts and bolts stuff; tidying up the vocals; adding a minimal amount of backing. The nature of the recordings needs to be refined and fairly... austere so we need to keep our fingers off the luxuriant button... On Wednesday we have Melvin Duffy booked to come in and play some pedal steel, something I always look forward to; it means that things are starting to come together.
Into the studio:
Marcus adds double bass to 'Row', 'To the Bone' and 'The Fullness of Time' and we end the day adding some high castrato backing vocals to 'To the Bone' which induces much mirth and Hinge and Bracket comparisons...
Lucinda cooks a cracking risotto for supper, featuring leeks and crispy chestnuts. Marcus suggests to Luce that she can't really call his bowl of rice a 'Risotto' if it doesn't feature parmesan and nearly ends up wearing it as a hat! The red of the night is a bottle of The Black Stump which takes the edge off nicely. Marcus puts on a yellow vinyl copy of 'Goodbye Yellow Brick Road' and we both play air guitar to 'Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding' whilst Luce looks on with a sympathetic gaze.
He was good was Elton.
Whatever happened?
Time for bed Zebedee.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

In Cassidy's Care: HiFi News: 'Albums of the Year'

'In Cassidy's Care' has received another 'Best of the Year' vote.
Every audiophile's bible, 'The HiFi News' has given us a 95% rating and deemed the album one of the best of 2013.

Sunday, 24 November 2013

In Cassidy's Care: Macwood Fleet's 'Album of the Year'

Nick Baker is a massive music fan with a huge knowledge of music and an even bigger record collection.
It is therefore a great honour for him to label 'In Cassidy's Care' his 2013 'Album of the Year'.
Please click here to connect with his Macwood Fleet blog and read his kind words.
Then why not click here and order a copy (direct from us) for a friend for Xmas.
If you don't do the PayPal dance you could always buy it from Amazon here.
Thanks Nick, from both The Hunchback and The Scientist!
I think that you can safely say that you're on our Xmas card list...

Hopeland (Notes from Corsica) 20: He Could See Nothing But Shadows

20: He Could See Nothing But Shadows

He didn’t know what he was doing.
There was a humming in his head.
Stepping out of the air-conditioned warmth he shuffled down wooden steps towards the lagoon.
The day was hazy and undefined, but surely beckoned.
Looking out to sea the only break in the silver canvas was a brown strip of sandbank.
He turned and headed upriver following a path until it left the water’s edge. There he stepped onto the sand, past a barking muzzled dog, past the vagrant fishing boats that hosted sleeping gulls. Bamboo and pine brush littered the shoreline; beneath his feet crackled a thousand broken shells, the corpses of crabs and inky cuttlefish were everywhere.
Out in the lagoon he could hear the idle chatter of fishermen digging for clams. They lent heavily on rakes, rocking like dancing bears as they dredged for bounty, sifting shells into floating baskets tied loosely to their torsos. They laughed easily, pausing occasionally to open a clam or two, tasting their catch, poverty’s fruit. As one worker broke into song a heron spread its wings to dry them and seemed to conduct the tuneless mantra.
The wrecks of small wooden boats lay strewn above the waterline like broken promises. A few could be repaired but would ever be sea safe again.
A toothless hag in a headscarf crouched upon an upturned wreck bellowing at a giant of a man who coiled a rope and smiled down at her affectionately.
‘This is what we gain when we learn to lose ourselves’ he thought, and wrote those words in a small yellow note pad before moving on.
A feeding fish broke the water nearby and gulls fell on the shadow. Other than the metallic whiff of seaweed the still air was odorless.
He climbed the pine steps of the sailing club where he’d been promised a bowl of coriander clams and a beer, but pressing his nose up against the window he could see nothing but shadows.
He sat on the top step gazing out across the pale gray and thought ‘if I just sit still for long enough something will happen’.
The heron had followed him and eyed him inquisitively from atop a broken flagpole.
The noise in his head suddenly stopped and there was a silence like he’d never heard before.
Behind him, a sharp bang. A smudge of blood and feathers stained the glass where he had previously pressed his nose. On the ground beneath was a brown bird. He looked down at the lifeless body and couldn’t give it a name. His temple twitched and the humming returned. He set off back towards town, in search of company.
This time as he passed the abandoned boats, they made him think not of broken promises but of forgotten dreams, before he realized that they were, of course, the same thing. He wrote this down and then winced at his dreary insight, ‘Bloody genius’.
The sun was at his back now and everything was so much clearer. Beyond his extended shadow he noticed that the only marks ahead were his own footprints outward bound. The prints he left now were those of a heavier man.
The singing fisherman was now aboard a small turquoise boat, the ‘Maria Alice’, diligently sorting his catch; mussels, clams, razor clams, smaller cockles and whelks. He stopped his song and turned, aware of another presence, maybe a customer. He reached into his muddy bucket offering a handful of shells, ‘Mariscos. Fresco. Saboroso. Quatro.’ he smiled and held up 4 fingers.
‘Please, yes, Obrigado’ he stammered and, reaching into his back pocket pulled out a crumpled 50. The fisherman’s eyes narrowed, he snorted and turned back to his sorting.
‘Always carry small change’ he thought, ‘you get to meet more interesting people that way’.
He stifled a yawn and felt a tightening in his chest. Stepping off the sand and back onto the path he slowly reached down to pick up a heavy piece of driftwood, holding it like a club. His back ached and the hum in his head was thunderous now.
“Fifty, a fifty, nothing but a fifty” he muttered as he moved towards the muzzled dog.
He raised the club above his head and held his breath.

Friday, 22 November 2013

Hopeland (Notes from Corsica): 19: An Unsteady Hand

19: An Unsteady Hand

Mike Tehan’s funeral was unforgettable. The Catholic church of St Felix was full; people stood in the aisles and outside in the car park. The wake that followed at the Felixstowe Ferry Sailing Club was a lively celebration of a quiet life. The club house sat at the ‘entrance’ of the river Debnen and offered stunning views both of the sea and upriver. It had been a haven to Mike and was the perfect setting for his send off: a place of function and easy laughter, with ‘Adnams’ on tap, heaven indeed.
Mike’s qualities were modest and intangible but I think that ultimately he reflected what most of us would want to call the best of ourselves. His serenity was a constant and, because of that, he was the perfect touchstone. For me, as a kid, Mike was the one I’d look to when things got a bit wobbly, or when I just couldn’t get trigonometry. He was the funnel, the conduit that brought everyone together at St Felix’s that day. I think that all of his friends present were all a little stunned at the turn out; each of us thinking that we were singularly blessed in recognizing his quiet decency, yet all of us happy to sublimate ourselves as one of many; Mike’s family of friends.

After Mike’s passing an odd thing happened; I started writing about myself in the 3rd person. It seemed that I was outside myself, watching me waiting for something to happen, a dispassionate outsider viewing my fumblings from a distance.
There was a strange and quiet calm, a light, heady feeling, as if a storm was coming. I was about to become dispossessed of something.
This disinterested self-regard was unsettling.
I was full of myself, and yet I found myself an empty vessel.

My thoughts roll like water in a random current.
Memories take on a life of their own, liquid memories that flow without sequence into a succession of rapids and pools.
Sometimes I catch a familiar reflection, sometimes the waters are muddied; there is always an undercurrent of sadness.
Some say that life is a dream, and that one-day we will awake to an alternate existence.
My life could change tomorrow.
Would there be serenity or tumbling confusion?
Could I call it ‘heaven’?

It’s inevitable that mundanities and small dramas set the ripples forming and there they were again. And again, it was through writing that I got to temper that turbulence. Once more I withdrew, simplified and learnt to be alone.
I started writing ‘Keepers’ on the shores of a lake in northern Portugal, and stumbled towards a moment of grace on the roof of a shepherd’s hut back in Corsica. Always close to water, always with a small yellow notepad in hand. Inside the cover of that notepad I had written the words of American poet Galway Kinnell:
‘Maybe the best we can do is do what we love as best we can’.
It was the ‘maybe’ that got to me.

Guided by an unsteady hand, ‘Keepers’ proved to be a collection provoked by loss and a recognition of the importance of touchstones; objects, places and people that inspire us to keep eyeing the horizon, yet offer shelter and safe harbour should things go awry.
We bottle their benevolence and call it ‘home’.
Often unwilling or unwitting bellwethers, their kindred spirit can haunt inanimate objects; a toy plane, a letter, a button, a bible, a key…
These are not pious custodians, just ordinary folk with the same vulnerabilities as the rest of us. And yet something sets them apart, moving us to burden them with our wellbeing. They become the keepers of our faith in other people.
We are comforted in their presence.
We are diminished by their loss.
Their absence is company enough.

***

1969

I remember us standing atop the tower
Peering out beyond and
Beneath the crescent moon
Out into the silver
Wondering
Where the sea met the sky
My hand was in your pocket and
Your pocket was full of stars

And even now
Though your heart is as cold as the moon
My head is full of stars


Thursday, 21 November 2013

My Birthday Delights

It was my birthday on Saturday.
Thanks for all of the cards...
Di produced a few surprises.
On Friday night a quiet game of squash became a proposed surprise boozy night with invited mates at the bar. Unfortunately my game finished an hour later than scheduled so by the time I showed nearly everyone had buggered off, leaving me with a few sulky amigos desperate to depart to better offers.
On Saturday Di and I watched England getting thumped by the All Blacks before making our way to Islington for a great meal (curry and thrice cooked chips) and a gig; Michael Kiwanuka was playing at The Island Queen in the upstairs room for about 60 lucky folk. We got lost en route so missed the support Josh Record. Michael was great though; we sat front row, at his feet. It's not often that you get to see such quality up close and he didn't disappoint; just him on acoustic guitar, ably assisted by a bass player. We chatted afterwards about the possibility of him playing at my music venue 'The Hat Club' in the new year; it may well happen. Home for a brandy or two and bed.

The next day we hit a Christmassy Covent Garden mid afternoon for a wander and a meal; then on the the Drury Lane Theatre to see KT Tunstall in concert. Great seats and a fine night of music. Some of you might recall that we had Tuscon vagabond Brian Lopez staying with us during the summer whilst he supported KT. Well, after the recent US tour Lopez has been replaced by a pale imitation. Billy Lockett was ok/fine if you are a James Blunt fan; he was a little pallid for my tastebuds. KT played a great set although the sound was a bit harsh; more 'theatre' than 'gig'.
So, all in all a grand weekend; Di did me proud, thanks my darlin'.
I got some grand presents; besides the usual cheques (thank Mums & Dads) see if you can spot the various delights. Of particular delight was a bottle of Welsh whiskey. My mate Macwood Fleet is always banging on about the virtues of 'Penderyn' and here, coincidentally, was a bottle on my sideboard, gifted as 'something a little bit different' from mates Chris and Carol. I have to go gently as, Di has oft noted, whisky makes me sour, but this pale amber nectar is indeed as tasty as Mr Macwood promised.
Meanwhile, I'll post some related videos below: you have Michael Kiwanuka singing 'Home Again' followed by KT Tunstall's brand spanking promo for 'Made of Glass', one of the highlights from her excellent recent 'Invisible Empire/Crescent Moon' album. Finally a peek at Josh Record whose 'Bones' EP is doing the rounds. It's a bit Lion King meets Take That for my liking but word is that he's going to be a big star.
What do you think?




Friday, 15 November 2013

Wish List

It's my birthday tomorrow and, rather than offer it up as a present, my stingy old mucker Les Nemes has suggested that I add this to my birthday list.
Donald Fagen's 'Eminent Hipsters' is the sound of a grumpy old man grumbling.
Have a read of this excellent review in the Guardian.
Amongst all of the bile and bitching there is the odd recognition of the transcendence of music.
I love this quote:
"When everything's working right, you become transfixed by the notes and chords and the beautiful spaces in between. In the centre of it, with the drums, bass and guitar all around you, the earth falls away and it's just you and your crew creating this forward motion, this undeniable, magical stuff that can move ten thousand people to snap free of life's miseries …"

Hopeland (Notes from Corsica): 18: A Pocketful of Stars


18: A Pocketful of Stars

When I was a kid the arrival of Uncle Mike was always a time of great excitement; he was a maverick presence in a fairly regimented household, more like a boisterous older brother than the uncle that he wasn’t. Mike was a great friend of my parents; a navigator on the same squadron as my Dad; a confirmed bachelor always on the lookout for a free meal, even my mum’s cooking couldn’t deter him.
My parents Betty and Terry were difficult together in those days. They had met whilst my father was on RAF training in Canada, Dad had proposed and whisked mum back to London where they began their married life in a small room at my grandparent’s house. Betty was nineteen and soon pregnant with my sister Kerry. In a claustrophobic environment the luster of London soon palled; she missed her parents and the frivolities of a Canadian teenage life and soon became homesick. Deprived of the possibilities of a presumed life in Winnipeg she came to blame Dad for everything that she wouldn’t become. Terry did his best but was tied to his career. He’d come from humble roots; a Battersea boy, the son of a bus driver, he had to scrap for his education, eventually winning a scholarship to the prestigious Emanuel school before gaining entry into Cambridge University. After graduating he joined the Air Force to do his National service. As a junior officer he loved the easy camaraderie of the officers’ mess and the obvious career path offered by the hierarchy of that protected environment. He was fiercely competitive, driven, I’m sure, by a chip on his shoulder, his eyes fixed of the next run of the ladder; rank was everything, his family would benefit eventually. I see all of this now and love him all the more for his vulnerabilities, but at the time saw him as mostly absent. Terry had lost his front teeth as a child and his parents couldn’t afford the luxury of trivial dentistry. I think that shaped him as much as anything. Sure, he’d throw his head back and guffaw but dad didn’t smile easily. Mike on the other hand was full of easy mischief. He had none of the weighty family responsibilities that burdened my parents. He was the instigator of cushion fights and the master of Chinese burns. I adopted his nonchalance. In those quirky early teenage years my mother would often round on me and say “that’s your uncle Mike talking” and I’d think ‘please God, yes.”
Mike’s family house was in Cleveleys, just down the coast from Blackpool and sometimes, as a treat, we’d be invited there at the weekends. It was a parent free zone, just us kids and, on occasion, just me. I loved those times the most. I was allowed to do all of the things I couldn’t do at home: make tea, chop wood, stay up late. There I was introduced to classical music and the joys of cooking, two things that still give me pleasure everyday. We’d blast out Mahler and chop onions. If this was the adult life it wasn’t daunting; it was fun. I remember Mike taking me to the Tower Circus where I got to shake hands with Charlie Caroli, the world’s most famous clown. We went to the Opera House Theatre in the Winter Gardens to see the singer Josef Locke whose voice was so loud that he needed no microphone, pretty impressive, even for a ten year old. On the same bill was Jimmy Clitheroe, the ‘Clitheroe Kid’. I laughed so hard that I thought I would choke. Under lustrous skies we rode a rusty tram, wolfing fish and chips from newspaper with our fingers and explored the Golden Mile where I shot the heart out of the Ace and won Mike his money back. Later we climbed and counted every step of the Tower to see the illuminations in their full gaudy glory.
When I was at boarding school Mike would arrive unannounced in his light blue Volvo and whisk me off to the cinema or for a mid afternoon feast at the local Chinese restaurant. There is a love that isn’t duty and, outside of family, Mike was the first person that I knew I loved.
He retired from the RAF in his early forties and trained to become a math teacher, he always loved to be by water and ended up in Felixstowe where he developed a passion for sailing, becoming a leading light at the local sailing club and introducing many a wayward youth to the pleasures of sea and sail. After reluctant retirement he entered his seventies in fine health. We stayed in touch and I visited occasionally; no worries, Brian Mike Tehan ‘Biscuits’ would always be there. He was bulletproof.

***
The phone rang one evening in our Corsican dining room. It was my Dad.
“Bad news, Trev.”
Mike had been diagnosed with cancer. It was well developed.
At first the treatments didn’t affect him much, but as the chemo became more invasive he chose to give up all therapy and opted for quality of life over discomfort, he couldn’t be bothered with medication and doctors. His faith was strong and he was happy to trust in ‘the man upstairs’. The specialists gave him two months. Eight weeks. A few months later it appeared that his charmed life would continue, he seemed impervious to pain.
“Doesn’t it hurt?” I asked him.
“Just the odd bit of tummy ache. Nothing much to moan about.”
I spoke to a doctor who said that without morphine ‘the pain should be excruciating’. Gradually the disease took its toll; Mike lost his appetite, couldn’t drink his beloved ‘Adnams’ Bitter and reluctantly turned to cheap red wine. “It all tastes the same to me now” he said on my final visit to his house. He had lost too much weight and sat like a bag of bones beneath a blanket, while I poured us both a glass, wincing at the vinegar bouquet.
“Do you remember the first meal I ever cooked? It was a fish curry. How sophisticated was I?”
“Nope. Wrong. It was ‘Cod a la Romana’. The recipe’s right there”, Mike looked beyond me to his bookshelf and pointed to a row of tiny white books “go and find me the one with the fish recipes.”
As I reached for the book a flash of guilty memory struck me; forty years ago I had spilt sauce on an open page.
“It’s near the back”, said Mike “easy to find as the pages are stuck together. I suspect a nervous chef…”
Later we drove around Felixstowe in my convertible, roof down; Mike in an ancient anorak, hood up, wearing gardening gloves. He was always cold these days. We stopped at the sailing club for a swift half and were immediately surrounded by salty sea dogs and spotty students. We returned home much later, a couple of pints over the limit. Mike made himself comfortable with the Telegraph crossword in front of his two bar electric fire, while I repaired to the kitchen.
I softened my onions with red peppers and garlic and then, substituting the ‘Baccala’ with plain cod fillets, gently poached the fish in milk and chicken stock. It all seemed a little bland to me but I diligently followed a recipe that I had revealed with great care and a little steam from the kettle. I scattered the obligatory parsley and dished up with some wild rice, taking two trays into the living room. Mike had fallen asleep in his chair to the soothing sounds of a Beethoven sonata, a serene smile on his face. I looked at his crossword, all done. I sat opposite Mike in the threadbare chair that I’d made mine all of those years ago and stuck a fork into my ‘Cod a la Romana’.
It was disgusting.
I ate both portions.

Two weeks later I got a call from my sister Katy.
She was in Felixstowe.
Mike had been taken into a hospice and was struggling.
“They say that he hasn’t got long. He keeps drifting in and out. The last time he was lucid he asked for you.”
I got there just in time to look him in the eye and whisper a promise or two. 


Keepers


A small white room
We wait like empty vessels
Breathing with you
Our spirits rise and fall in random rhythm
Breathing with you
The body of a bird
Hollow boned and glory bound

Yes I will carry
Yes I will keep

We all take a turn
In the seat by the bed
A somber charade
Of musical chairs
Each of us wondering
Will it be me?

Yes I will carry
Yes I will keep

Mumblings of honour
No privilege here
This is as ugly as truth
As intimate as a kiss
Hand in hand
Eye to eye
A glimmer of recognition
A glimpse of oblivion

Yes I will carry
Yes I will keep
Breathing for you
The body of a bird
Bound for the ground or glory

Yes I will carry
Yes I will keep
Yes I will carry
And yes, I will keep

Bonkers but Brilliant


Unsure why this tickled me but... tickle me it did.

Di's favourite building ever is The Chrysler Building.
What a looker...
Check out the video here...


















Architects of important landmarks dressed as their designed buildings at Beaux- Arts Ball. They include Leonard Schultze as the Waldorf-Astoria, William Van Alen as the Chrysler Building, Ely Jacques Khan as the Squibb Building, Ralph Walker as the Wall Street Building, Arthur J.Arwine as a low pressure heating boiler, A. Stewart as the Fuller Building and Joseph Freelander as the Museum of the City of New York. 
They all wore helmet like constructions of the building they had designed. 
23 January 1931.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Vinyl?

Ok folks; I need your help again.
Marcus and I have been discussing the format for the forthcoming release of 'To the Bone'.
Marcus reckons vinyl is the way ahead; will open up a whole new world of listeners to us.
Not having a record player I am a little reluctant. I get his point but don't want to add plastic to that pile of unsold MM cds in the attic. It is not cheap either. Manufacturing costs for decent vinyl can be upwards of £4 a unit as apposed to @ £1.50 a unit for decently packaged Cds...
We will be making the album available as a Hi Res download with Linn; they do all of the variables of download too; CD quality/MP3 etc.
What about not doing it on CD?
Does anyone buy CDs anymore.
Discuss...
Help...

Hopeland (notes from Corsica): 17: Friends Applaud

17: Friends Applaud

The island life had stirred my creative pot, culminating in a productive year that had seen a potent change in the way I thought and wrote. The resultant album ‘Hopeland’ had been bathed in optimism’s glow after the retreat to Corsica had gifted me clarity of thought and a sense of well being that was startling. I had previously written about the journey, but offered no answers, just questions. With ‘Hopeland’ I had actually arrived somewhere; destination achieved. I unpacked. I was home.
The plan was to stay, but my furrowed brow kept moving me forward, beyond the bliss. What followed was no drastic regression, just an unsettling feeling that those peaceful waters were about to be disturbed. At the end of a perfect day there is still darkness and the inevitable notion that the following dawn would bring disappointment. I was in full song yet full of clumsy contradiction, each thought subverted the previous one. Where I had previously danced serenely through my days I was now walking on hot coals; I wanted to draw lyrical breath but was invariably rendered breathless, dizzy and dumb by the savage, intoxicating beauty of the island.
Closer to home, anything that was fleetingly familiar was reduced to homily, which I paraded in songs and poems as freshly minted wisdom.
Did these words even qualify as poems?
I continued to put pen to paper, hoping that the chaos might be revealed as a series of telling moments; my aim was true, but my hands were shaking, grasping at shadows. I found myself reaching for things that were no longer there, or whose influence had become diminished.
There was a constant humming in my head.
Maybe I’d had one drink too many.
At the beginning of the New Year I wrote an email to my ‘virtual’ friends:

Dear All, 
I seem to be disappearing by the day, weaker by the week. 
The new year didn’t start well; I couldn’t shake off the bug that seems to have afflicted us all; couldn’t shake off the effects of the Xmas lubrications; something I’ve never had a problem with before, and my feet hurt so much that getting from bed to bog was becoming a major issue. 
Di complaining about me waking up smelling like a ‘shitty brewery’ was a sure sign that something needed to change. 
Having been off the booze for 3 days now I can confidently say that I feel absolutely no difference other than an ever present thirst and a newfound ability to say ‘Unique New York’ 3 times really fast, particularly after that third cup of (now sugarless) coffee. 
In further attempts towards betterment I’ve stopped taking sugar in my tea and started watching documentaries about animals and trees. 
That should help me sleep. 
I think I’m missing Corsica. 
We haven’t been for a while. 
It reminds me of quote from W. H. Murray: 
“In short withdrawals from the world there is to be had unfailing refreshment. When his spirit is burdened or lightened, the natural movement of a man’s heart is to lift upward, and this is more readily done in the wild, for there it is easy to be still.”
Usually when I’m in a funk I can sit down with my guitar and create something, or simply play. I was now getting nothing from this; the canvas was blank with no lead in the pencil.
Step two of any revival is normally the taking of a bath.
Sitting in the suds I have the choice of reaching for Flaubert’s ‘A Sentimental Education’ or last month’s Esquire magazine.
I opt for an article on how to throw a tomahawk, throw a perfect 180 at darts and throw flaming Sambuca from your mouth. There’s a piece offering a five-day detox (“what can you achieve in 5 days? Even God only got as far as the birds and fish.”) I learn how to do a ‘McTwist’ on a surfboard, mix a perfect martini, dismantle an AK-47 and how to avoid capture behind enemy lines: “Lie on a north facing slope and keep still. This is very difficult. You will develop sores. You will nearly go crazy. And remember, you have to demoralize the dog-handler, not the dog.”
I’m instructed on how to start a football chant (apparently if you are a Borussia Monchengladbach fan this involves not saying “Give us a ‘B’…”) and then move on to the eco-friendly wisdom that “recycled toilet paper’s like taking a cheese grater to a bullet hole” before drifting off into a dumb, numb slumber.
I wake up in cold water; everything is shriveled and my magazine lies at the bottom of the tub. I can just about make out a piece on ‘Famous Last Words’. There’s Bogart’s “I should never have switched from Scotch to Martinis” and Beethoven’s “Friends applaud, the comedy is over.”
This gets me thinking about the possible benefits of ‘getting serious’ and the diminishing returns of ageing.
Is this really the best I’m ever going to feel again?
With this question in mind I resolve to enrich what remains of my life with genuine intent; there’ll be no more parading and postulating about court sprints and investment in World Music.
I need to do some real gardening; plant a thought and watch it grow, rather than just moving on to another lofty deliberation.
So, here goes.
In endeavouring to prevent myself from weakening by the week I’m making some changes in an attempt to embroider that rich tapestry.
This week my attention is on:
- a daily regime of (yes) press ups; 50 in the morning, 50 before bedtime. I’m wobbling at 25… - Continuing in the refining of my drinking career. Fridays and Saturdays only. 
- The serious study of the later music of Scott Walker, which has previously been as appealing to me as
spinach, oysters and anal sex. I’m referring to ‘Climate of the Hunter’ ‘Tilt’ and ‘Drift’, in which Scott famously got his percussionist to punch a dead pig for rhythm and sang about the underworld and afterlife in a voice akin to Donald Duck.
I’ll keep you posted on my progress.
Any advice will, of course, be considered and ignored.
You could always try…
You might not recognize me at the bar, but if you do, be kind and don’t offer me a drink.
Baby steps, as they say.
Trev x 


Although I’d put it out there into the ether as an ironic missive to mates (who either ignored my self-possession or responded with concern), the self-pity of that letter is obvious to me now. One American friend offered the phone number of her lofty Harley Street therapist, another suggested voluntary work: “You need to immerse yourself in someone else’s misery; that would stop you getting so ‘up’ yourself.”
 


The Swimmer 

The swimmer leaves the shore
To test his mortality

He is the sole, vital engine
His actions keep him alive
The alternative is unthinkable
But possible

His discomfort is self-imposed
A discipline to ward off
That prize possession of middle age
Contentment

I shrink against the cold
Eyes sting
I do this to myself
Float then move my arms
Against the indifferent current

There is no disappointment
In the primitive simplicity of this moment
I must move to survive
And that begs the question
Do I need my life?

No wiser, but replenished, reassured
I turn my back to the kindling sun
And reach for the uncertain shore