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Friday, January 25, 2002

A Random Hold

Looking down at the sea this morning. A stunning blue light sweeping up from the horizon. Folds of light orange hang in the distance. Their wind-borne placement is completely arbitrary and yet so stunningly right. As I looked at this arrangement of space and colour, I was deeply aware of the liberating rush that such beauty inspires. We take these things so much for granted, rarely allowing ourselves the time to enter into such a moment of exquisite beauty. The sense of balance and calm I encountered during this minute and a half, has stayed with me all morning.

As I walk through Wallsend (so called because it's where the Roman Wall came to an end), there's a light sprinkling of falling snow.

Talking to Bill MacCormick yesterday. We made arrangements to meet up when I'm in London next week. Primarily this is to chat about his work with Brian Eno and Matching Mole. I recall seeing Bill with Random Hold who were supporting Peter Gabriel at Newcastle City Hall, many moons ago. A stunning little outfit I always thought.

Bill cut an enigmatic figure that night wearing a hooded tracksuit top, which cast his face in shadow. The sheer muscular force of his playing was certainly a feature of the band. At one point in the set, he snapped the E string on his bass. Without missing beat, Bill simply assigned his parts to other areas of the guitar and shot a knowing smile to Pete (?) Phipps, the drummer with the group. Random Hold put out a couple of albums I believe but somehow I totally missed them at the time. I'll have to try and track them down at some point.

Another MacCormick classic can be heard on the 801 Live album. I love those bass figures he puts in at the beginning of TNK.

Tonight we are having Sunday lunch. The reason I'm taking such liberties with time and tradition is that I'm off to London and will miss a planned family meal on the day in question. So, we've invited my mother over and, a little after six tonight, we will sit down to a grand Sunday roast with all the trimmings.

Listening To. . .
As Close As This
The Future Now
all by Peter Hammill as if you didn't know.

Thursday, January 24, 2002

A Domestic Saga

Last night, just as we were finishing our evening meal (Risotto with yellow peppers and chicken), Ian McDonald rang from New York. Ian could clearly hear the clatter of dishes and cutlery and offered to call back. Thankfully, I managed to keep him on the blower, thus avoiding doing the dishes. Cheers Ian.

The reason for Ian ringing was to try and fix up a session for the McDonald & Giles sleevenotes. I'm in London all next week, so we're going to have to do it when I get back. Ian came up with a couple of good ideas in terms of presentation within the booklet format and I think I've got a viable approach to the words.

After that I sat up in the yellow room with Tom and Joe. Tom opted to get a head start on his homework, whilst Joe got on with Thor, the God of Thunder. I recall that reading those Marvel comics got me interested in the whole Iceland saga routine. I hope it does the same with Joe.

Later on Debbie and I make a date to watch an edition of Omnibus (an arts programme on the BBC). It's unusual for us to watch a TV programme during the week although we will often get together for a video. Tonight however, the writer Iris Murdoch was the subject of the programme and a new film, which charts her brilliant career and ultimate decline into the fog and dark of Alzheimer's disease.

I have to say that I never ever got to grips with Murdoch's writing and my bookshelves used to be littered with unfinished paperbacks of her work. I had always found her tone to be remote and aloof, a sense of her looking down on the players in her books, rather than engaging with them directly. The documentary on her revealed just how wide of the mark I had been. Finding out just how wrong you can be is always a bracing experience. Much like a cold shower - a bit of a shock to the system but also invigorating.

E-mails stacking up in the in-box including a couple from Bill MacCormick (Matching Mole, 801, Random Hold) and Tim Friese-Green (Talk Talk).

As I sit here in the yellow room at 6.45 a.m., it's black outside with howling winds and driving rain. It looks like my trip to Darlington tomorrow will be cancelled because of industrial action on the trains.

Wednesday, January 23, 2002

Between Now And Where You Want To Be

Felt totally bushed last night without any energy or verve. My later than usual late night caught up with me I guess. On the blower quite a bit last night dealing with immediate happenings and potential futures.

Sometimes there doesn't seem like there's enough time and most of the time, time moves too slowly. The agony of the distance between now and where you'd like to be, can be excruciating.

Gave in to sloth and went to bed feeling I hadn't got much done. This morning e-mails from Bill Rieflin, Markus Reuter, Robert Fripp, World Leader Symes and a few more besides.

Tuesday, January 22, 2002

Talking Heads

Talking Heads . . .

First up was Matt Seattle. Matt had seen my request for him and I to touch base. We did so and very nice it was to hear those lived-in-been-around-awhile tones.

Next up was a lengthy chat with Kevin Eden about Fripp and Eno in equal measure. Plans for plans aired and raised. Interesting to see where the dust might settle.

Then came the turn of John Smallwood all the way from Santa Fe. We kept getting cut off for some strange reason but gamely soldiered on. Whatever multi-vits that guy is taking, I want some.

After that I turned my attention to the latest work in progress which has the title The Ecstasy Head. It's a strange figurative piece - watercolour on paper. Quite unlike anything I've been working on recently. And the title . . came out of thin air "Oh how we adore the Ecstasy head, the one which pitches off to the dark, the one which sees the stars". No I don't what it means either . . .I only write the stuff.

Blimey is that the time !!! . . .I'm off to bed.

Monday, January 21, 2002

Man of Mystery

Last I chatted with Richard Adams on the phone. We were swapping notes about the band Talk Talk and the work of Mark Hollis. We both agreed that Spirit Of Eden (their fourth album) was / is a truly remarkable piece of music. If you've not heard it, then I would urge you to rush out and buy a copy TODAY. . .(that was a Talk Talk joke by the way).

A grey morning but very warm as I walked Tom and Joe along to school. We talked about the merits of super-heroes such as Thor and Spiderman. They're both reading the black and white Essential series of Marvel reprints that Santa delivered. It's funny to think that at their age I was reading exactly the same comics. Both boys were surprised when I told them that the original editions were in colour and now often worth quite a bit of money.

Spent the morning working on STATIC, the installation by Russell Mills and Ian Walton. The logistics involved are considerable. Cutting down a tree from a sustainable forest in Northumberland is the easy (and cheap) bit. Getting it transported from a to b is likely to involve a police escort for a lot of the way. This of course bumps up the costs but there's no real way of avoiding these kinds of issues. The budget looks like a large mountain to climb at the moment but I'm hopeful that we can energise the powers that be in the arts world of the North in order to get them to support the project.

Elsewhere on the job front I'm trying to put sometime into the forthcoming gig with Centrozooon and work on a corporate web site or two. More irons in the fire re business sponsorship for several arts projects.

Currently reading Rosebud – the story of Orson Welles by David Thomson. I'm only twenty or so pages into it but I love Thomson's writing style. It's scandalous, witty, provocative, informative and above all, an entertaining presentation of the facts and fables which surround Welles. I think I first saw Welles on a Sunday afternoon on television. It was Moby Dick and he played the preacher. He looked so strange but utterly compelling.

And a touch later I saw Macbeth and Citizen Kane. I don't claim to have been able to understand what was going on but it did leave a major impression on me, so much so that I've spent a large portion of my life as an adult chasing the echo of that mystery that Welles seems to be.

Sunday, January 20, 2002

Review: Keith Tippett & Peter Fairclough in concert

He's been around for so long now, Tippett is something of a national institution at least as far as improvised music is concerned. Whether he's leading great heaving ensembles such as Ark or scraping about the inards of a piano in a more intimate setting, Tippett is always a spellbinding performer. One of his favoured means of delivery is via duo. It's a very focussed approach and over the years I've seen Tippett perform duets with a variety of players and the best of them is when the other musician stamps his or her own identity on the proceedings. This requires a considerable commitment given Tippett's seemingly tireless appetite for propelling the music onward and upward. In the first half of the concert, Fairclough stuck to his kit drums and never really got much of a look in. Whilst he used the kit as a textural device, it seemed to work fine, but when Fairclough attempted to follow the rhythmic pulsing of Tippett's playing, he often sounded as though he was running after the pianist's coat tails.

As Tippett established one of his rhythmic loops - the kind which can turn on a sixpence - Fairclough would seize upon it and pick it up on the kit. Just as he did so, more often than not, Tippett would then veer off into a more abstract reverie, leaving Fairclough with a clattering beat, stuttering in the air in an ungainly fashion. Not so much keeping the beat but more like beating the retreat.

Now this might sound like I'm being a bit harsh on the drummer. It's not meant as a criticism but rather an observation about the dynamics involved in a duo. Viewed another way, you could argue that it was Tippett who wasn't providing Fairclough with the room to break through. Certainly, Tippett's playing can be so self-contained as to be unassailable - whoever the other musician may be.

In the second half of the concert, Fairclough adopted a different strategy, opting to provide shading and points of detail via percussion. This approach seemed to produce a far more equitable balance between the two players, with the drummer appearing more relaxed. Consequently, the second half of the concert had a far greater sense of cohesion to it.

What marks Tippett apart from many improvising players of his generation, is his love and unashamed use of melody. Whilst many might shy away from the lush romantic chords, Tippett constructs the most beautiful tunes, which were they to be transcribed, would undoubtedly become classic examples of the jazz ballad. The concert came to a spectacular end, when Tippett's spectral, poignant chords accompanied a tinkling musical box, slowly winding down unravelling the love theme from The Godfather no less.

Saturday, January 19, 2002

Grey Area Music

A frantically busy day yesterday addressing and attending to bruised ego's, myopically inclined departmentalists, persuading tentative corporate giants to get on board, creating a present in which a possible future might flourish. You can spend all day running around like a blue-arsed fly and when at last, you settle down at the end of the day, there's very little to show for it. It wasn't quite that bad but the set-backs and defeats tend to overshadow all the positives and good practice.

The small municipally funded arts centre I now work in, is attempting to develop a programme of alternative music - what we often think of "grey area" music, that is, music which blends elements of post-rock, classical voices, electronica and other forms.

In the next few weeks we begin to launch a new series for the New Year. First up will be the boys from Centrozoon - Markus Reuter and Bernhard Wostheinrich. Readers of Krimson News will notice that Centrozoon have recently expanded to become a trio with NO-MAN singer Tim Bowness. Sadly Tim won't be appearing at this particular gig in the north-east but I think this combination of players will be particularly interesting.

Not long after that we'll be hosting a great double-header with local noise merchants Zoviet France and God Speed You Black Emperor. Given the high profile of both groups in their respective fields, we hope that this will help to establish the programme of concerts which we'll be planning in the future.

Last night as we all sat around the table in the green room, Ian McDonald rang up with some news. He's managed to get a number for Mike Gray. Now the eagle-eyed amongst will be immediately excited because Mike arranged and conducted the strings for the McDonald & Giles album.

After we had cleared away the dishes and washed up, I leapt upstairs and rang Mike. I think we got on like a house on fire and have made provisional arrangements to meet up when I'm in London in the not too distant future.

He thinks he still might have his original manuscript for the Birdman suite and some other memorabilia from the period. Obviously, I'll have more information than I'll need for the sleeve notes for McDonald & Giles, so it will go into the Frame By Frame project. Which is nice.

Also on the blower with Sean B from Helter Skelter. We're chatting over the progress so far on two new projects. More details as they emerge. After talking to Sean, Andy Fox from Bristol rang. We're recording an interview for their rock show this Sunday afternoon. Not sure when it will be broadcast but I'll ask Andy for details. If there's anybody in the Bristol area perhaps they'd be able to tape it for me ?

Today we wash, pay bills and, for me at least, Keith Tippett in concert tonight with drummer Peter Fairclough. The local free paper gave the concert an ecstatic preview and a huge picture of Tippett. Beginning to wish I had purchased my ticket in advance now.

Friday, January 18, 2002

Name Dropping

Long scarves of glorious reds and pinks stretch and play across the sky this morning. Such beauty. The sea is calm and a uniform grey.

Hurrah - the rail tickets for my trip to London arrived. Amazingly, I managed to get them at a really cheap price. There's a big promotion on at the moment where tickets are heavily discounted in order to attract people back onto the ailing railway system. I was astonished to discover that when I rang to nbook my tickets, they insisted on directing me to this deal. In my experience, GNER will do their level best NOT to tell you about the cheapest way to get to London and back.

More chat with the Kimberman last night and this morning, regarding his forthcoming exhibition in leafy Highgate at the end of January.

I'll be going down to London for a week to help out and attend the exhibition opening as well as meet up with Brian Eno, Peter Blegvad and the Late Junction team at Radio 3. Blimey . . .as I was saying to Mick Jagger only the other day, I hate it when people name drop.

This week-end, Keith Tippett is coming up to play in Newcastle (well, Gateshead to be strictly accurate). Looking forward to hearing this one. More details after Saturday night. The big question is will Chris Wilson be attending or not ? I'll ring him today and find out. Speaking of the evil Doctor Wilson, I noticed a new book on Bob Dylan in Waterstones the other day. The cover had been designed by Chris. Way to go !!!!

Thursday, January 17, 2002

Density and Complexity

Another day down in amongst the muck and grime of the yards and factories which still cling to life along the banks of now largely Post-industrial Tyne. It was a site visit concerning the large-scale installation by Russell Mills and Ian Walton. The lads weren't at this one rather this was a chin-wag fest for the bureaucrats. Obviously you can't just have members of the public wandering into a venue without going through stringent health and safety checks, considerations given to public and disabled access, liability, etc.

The wider site which covers several acres of land is richly atmospheric. The patina of weather, decline and decay has produced a grimly fascinating skein which grasps and grips every surface. Surprisingly, the site still retains an archive and a full time librarian who has worked there for thirty-seven years.

I spent a little bit of time leafing through the splendid collection of black and white photographs. One section which caught my eye dated from 1968. They had a silvery, almost ghostly sheen to them. Many were of A4 sized plates of metal which were coated in various paints. These were then mounted on frames and left out to receive the blunt charm of the north-east weather. Obviously the purpose was to test the durability of different coatings. I swear they looked like paintings by Russell and Ian.

Later we went out to look at the various routes onto the site and I mentioned the plates to the site manager. "Oh yes I remember those. We shifted them somewhere out of the way about ten or fifteen years ago." He looked around scratched his head and strode off. I ran after him. Around the back of an old shed we found the very frames I had seen in the photographs from 1968. I stretched around to get a better look and saw that many of the plates were still attached. After all these years the plates were totally corroded and not a lick of paint had survived. Instead, years of neglect had imparted a patina of such density and complexity. These cursorily manufactured rectangles had become transformed into something natural and beautiful. I guess you had to be there.

This afternoon I telephoned Russell to tell him of my exciting discoveries. We tend to get excited about this kind of thing. More of the same when we meet up for a technical meeting next month.

Also on the blower. . .The Kimberman of leafy Highgate. We were nudging each other with a few words of advice and encouragement concerning preparations for the forthcoming Kimber exhibition and my tentative steps into the world of wordsmithing. I'm looking forward to my impending visit to leafy Highgate at the end of the month.

Yesterday I received a copy of Volume by Oliver Gray. Although I haven't had time to read it yet I took a flick through. There were a couple of parts where I laughed out loud. Essentially, it's a very personal journey into one persons life as a rock and roll obsessive. Daft and bitingly true in the places I read, I know I'm going to enjoy this one. Cheers Oliver !

Speaking of books . . .Bill from the DGM shop tells me that the KC book is now on sale in the DGM shop and is selling well. Long may it continue.

Listening To. . .
It's My Life by Talk Talk
Spirit Of Eden by Talk Talk

Wednesday, January 16, 2002

Lynch Party

Went to the cinema last night to see Mulholland Drive by David Lynch. I think you always take a little bit of the movie out into the street with you. Sure enough as Debbie and I trundled down the escalator to get the train home, we both were entranced with a large man with his back to us. He was pretty wide and had a bulging neck and shaved head. Wearing a gaudily coloured shirt, he was reading a newspaper. He stood just a little in front of the escalator, which meant that you had to step around him. Perfectly normal I suppose but somehow, our sense of perception had been coloured by the movie.

We then stood on the platform and waited for our train home. After a few minutes a single carriage slowly pulled in and waited. The electronic notice board flashed and flickered with the message "This train is not in service". It then pulled away and slowly disappeared into the blackness of the tunnel. We both laughed. This normal occurrence had become imbued with mysteriousness. We went with the groove, our sense of the surreal had become highly sensitised indeed.

Was the movie any good ? Well, I would say it was classic Lynch and as such transcends good or bad. It just is. You either like Lynch or not. The entire visual and aural repertoire was in place and it all worked. Why it worked is hard to say. It just did. Time and narrative become a kind of gloop which Lynch folds in and over itself. It's disorientating but engaging. Attempts to make "sense" of it seem to be largely irrelevant. You just have to go with the flow. Or not. I did.

Tuesday, January 15, 2002

A Mention In Mojo

Lovely morning, walking the boys to school and spotting for cats. We notched up ten cats today although our best record has been twenty one. After that I went to Newcastle for a meeting with a design company and whilst there picked up a copy of the MOJO and proceeded to page 114 and the review of the KC book.

Reviewer Colin Irwin helpfully warns people with anything less than a frantic desire "to hear chapter and verse about every tiny creative outpouring by Robert Fripp and his chums . . .you should get off very quickly right now." He also says "you have to admire mind-bogglingly exhaustive research that has gone into it." Having said that he thinks that the book fails to reveal any real insight into RF. Rupert Loydell said something similar in his review on the Tangents website a couple of weeks ago.

I was chatting with Sean Hewitt about the review last night and the way I look at it is that
a) it could have been a lot worse (wait until The Wire Magazine review it then you'll know what a bad review is).
b) the entire readership of MOJO now knows about the book. This can only be a good thing as far as I'm concerned especially as the sub-heading for the review describes it as "Exhaustive and definitive fan-friendly history of the band. . ."

Talked to Andy Fox today about an interview about the writing of the book for a radio station in Bristol. Andy is part of a team that hosts a rock show which has featured KC on its playlist in the past. They've read the book, like it and want to do a feature on it. Helter Skelter are going to provide them with a couple of competition copies. I'm waiting to hear back from Andy about the time for the interview.

Monday, January 14, 2002


Spent a portion of the weekend applying a solvent-based paint called Hammerite to a canvass. Felt ill afterwards although the effect is wonderful. However, the stench has caused mutiny in the house and threats have been made against my person if I use the stuff again.

On Saturday morning, Michael Giles rang. We chatted about the book and the progress of what he's calling the 21st Century Schizoid Band. They are getting together in the next couple of weeks for some further rehearsals. Yesterday, Ian McDonald rang. We worked up some approaches to the liner notes for the forthcoming re-issue of the McDonald & Giles album.

Friday, January 11, 2002


On the train this morning I saw the most beautiful sunrise. The sun was a perfect orb of burning scarlet. Astonishing. A welcome day in the office catching up on numerous bits and pieces.

Spent yesterday afternoon wandering around deserted factory buildings in North Tyneside's shipyards with Russell Mills and Ian Walton (known to us as Mills and Boon). Our interest in delving into the obscure and often rutted tracks down in North Tyneside's shipyard building area, was to scout for locations for their large scale installation STATIC:Felt Slippers, which I'm involved in trying to stage.

It's hard to describe the work but here goes:
A disused factory space. It's dirty, grimy and vast. The ceiling is thirty or forty foot high. In the middle of this desolate space hangs a huge tree. Clouds of dry ice slowly unfold and cascade downwards to the ground. Images are projected onto the rolling smoke causing the pictures to undulate and transform into strange, impressionistic shards, ephemeral and transitory.

A clangourous soundtrack relayed though a dozen or more speakers fill the building. The sounds are those of shipyards, ice factories, call centres, people at work. It is dense, rhythmic and oppressive. Dark tones and tense motifs permeate the tangle of atonal thrumming.

In amongst the dense fog of morphing images and pulsing soundtrack, a huge tree hangs mysteriously in the space, it's branches denuded of leaves spread ominously out of the dry ice. In this space and in this location, the tree is maddeningly incongruous. The symbolism of a tree, uprooted and appearing to hover in the high ceilings of this disused factory is very primal and powerful.

If you're going to do something like this, you need an impressive space. Well, yesterday, we found a couple. However, the three of us agree that the first building we looked at was the best. Incidentally, the second space we went was reckoned to be decent as well. An old sixties built factory unit, it was last in use by the makers of the Harry Potter film. They used it as a place to keep the thirty owls which appeared in the movie.

Thursday, January 10, 2002

Love Is. . .

Our house guests have departed and the house returns to some kind of normalcy. Sitting with Joseph, we talk about love. He's been thinking about a girl at school called Molly. In fact he can't get her out of his head. He wants to tell her that he loves her but feels awkward every time he goes to tell her. He thinks that Molly loves him because she often comments on how nice he looks. Joseph wondered if I might be able to offer him some advice in how to talk to girls. Joseph is eight years old.

After dispensing a sure fire recipe for success in all matters of an amorous nature (no I'm not sharing this one I'm afraid), I spoke to Jakko Jakszyk. He's keeping busy with a forthcoming Dizrhythmia album – the album of the meal, as the hirsute guitarist is prone to quip. We also chatted about his involvement On the same night (Wednesday), I made contact with Peter Blegvad regarding his exhibition / gig in the north-east later this year. His wife answered the phone and hollered up to the attic where Peter was busy working. By the time he made it to the phone, I lost the signal on my mobile and was cut-off. As I frantically ran around the house trying to re-engage with the ether, Debbie cuffed the children off the land-line.

Lo and behold, as I'm standing in the garden attempting to get a signal, our phone rings and it's PB. Debbie then has to holler of me. I run upstairs and get to phone but the best I'm able to do is to pant and gasp at a by now patient but quite possibly, perplexed, Blegvad. Still, it's not every day that you get to heavy-breathe down the phone at one of your favourite artists. We've arranged to meet up with Jakko at his gaff at the end of the month.

Wednesday, January 09, 2002

Reviewing The Situation

Last night we all went to our favourite Chinese buffet and ate for England. Joining us at the table were our current houseguest, Dude and Gavin. There was talk about some of us peeling off to go the cinema but this never materialised. After everybody went to bed, Debbie and I sat in the yellow room and talked about work, our combined prospects ahead and how we felt about things.

It was one of those occasions when you feel daunted by the uncertain prospects ahead but comforted by the knowledge that, in facing these issues, you're with the woman you love. The strength derived from this realisation, seems enough to get you through from one side to the other.

On-line discussions about the trip to the States moved a step closer yesterday and I'll be talking to Helter Skelter today about the progress so far on the next book. It's been a little uncertain but I think I've got a handle on how it might be shaping up. It's no surprise but I realised as I was plotting out the months ahead, how much I love the research side of the subject matter. The writing side is too much like hard work.

On the blower with Russell Mills yesterday. We're meeting up this week to scout at some potential sites for the large-scale installation in North Tyneside. We're looking at disused shipyards as possible venues. Sadly there's a few of them about these days. Also got to talk to Peter Blegvad's answering machine yesterday. We're hoping to have an exhibition of Peter's artwork later in the year as well as a concert with Peter and Jakko Jakszyk. With a bit of luck, I'll talk to the man himself later today and arrange a time to meet up with him when I'm in London at the end of the month.

Listening To . . .
Requiem op.9 by Durufle

Tuesday, January 08, 2002

Trying To Trace Richard

As the day progressed, so too did Tom's health and after a good night's sleep, Tom went off to school this morning as happy as Larry. I, on the other hand, feel wretched – partly tired, partly the beginnings of a cold and partly just a being a typical man who collapses at the first hint of illness.

Some of yesterday was spent doing work for the day job and some of it saw me wrestling with an idea for a painting. With little or no technical ability, planning a painting is a painstaking and cumbersome affair, usually involving many run-throughs and try-outs before finding the right groove.

I knew this painting was about small movements within the big picture, so having prepared the canvass with a mixture of yellow's and textured masonry paint, I set about making the small movements. After a while I realised I had made one small movement too many and the effect was more of a big, crowded, anarchic jumble rather than the clear and simple lines I had originally wanted. So, overpainting commences, adding another layer of texture or obfuscation, depending on your view point. The process continues and I begin again.

On the blower this morning with Declan Colgan. I've been trying to trace Richard DiLello, the photographer who took the snaps for the cover of McDonald and Giles. So far I've had no success. I'd sent out an e-mail out to his current publisher but no response either. Sadly Virgin have no leads to offer on this one either. Declan was in good form and I felt slightly more invigorated after speaking with him than I did before. Listening To . . .
Mass "Cum Jubilo" op.11 by Durufle
Henry Fool by Henry Fool
Abonecronedrone by Sheila Chandra

Monday, January 07, 2002


Up most of the night with Tom who is gripped by a severe asthma attack. It's been brewing for a couple of days and after the drama of Saturday, it seemed to get a whole lot worse. After going back and forth to his bedroom, I decided to make life a little easier on all of us and move him onto the sofa in the yellow room. At least Joseph was guaranteed a decent nights sleep that way.

I think we saw in every hour with incessant hacking and coughing. The inhaler took the edge of it but after a while, back the cough would come.

Consequently, I kept Tom off school today. He's a lot perkier but completely bushed. So am I for that matter. Made several calls to work explaining I wouldn't be in today and have decided to try and catch up with some sleep.

Many thanks to the folks who e-mailed there good wishes regarding the hero cat, George Ted. His sister, Min keeps wandering around looking for him. I know how she feels. It's strange how we keep expecting to see him. Debbie had a little weep this morning when he wasn't scratching at the door letting us know he wanted feeding.

Sunday, January 06, 2002

A Magical Read

Tom and Joe had money left over from Christmas which had been burning a hole in their pocket. Originally we had meant to go into Newcastle yesterday but with all the heartache over losing George Ted, nobody was quite up to it. Today however, a bit of retail therapy seemed like a good idea. The pale wintry sun was eventually covered over by a bleak grey sky as we got the train in.

We shopped till we were in danger of dropping. Both Tom and Joe are into comparing and contrasting the stock and prices of the shops. So we'd eye up prospective purchases in one place and then wander over to the next place to see how it matched up. Thankfully, Newcastle is a small city so traipsing from one end to another doesn't take to long.

Our houseguests, Dude (Debbie's sister) and her partner, Gavin, arrived while we were out. They're staying with us for a few days. It's always nice to have people stay but at the moment there's not a whole lot of energy in the house. I don't feel up for sociable conversation, so I skulk off and iron the children's school uniforms, prepare packed lunch's and all that carry on.

Currently reading Martin Booth's excellent biography of Aleister Crowley. Wonderfully entertaining stuff and quite a gripping page turner. Crowley is one of those great character's who inspire fierce loyalty and loathing in equal measure, depending on which side of the magical altar you happen to be on.

Crowley's real talent lay in his ability to gain the confidence of those on some kind of spiritual quest. This was predominately, a journey undertaken by the aristocracy and middle classes (i.e. those who could afford the luxury of not having to earn a living), Crowley was more than ready to help them on their way (i.e. part them from their money wherever possible). Unsympathetic, disreputable, dishonourable, egotistical and downright dotty in part, makes Booth's account such a highly enjoyable and invigorating read.

Saturday, January 05, 2002

A Sad House In Tears

A late night with Tom up coughing with asthma and this morning, George Ted, our hero cat, died. Debbie had him to the vet this morning but received advice that the game was up. Half an hour after she got home, a series of convulsions ran through George and off he went.

Needless to say everyone in the house is very upset.

I only hope our imminent house guests have brought layers of water-proof clothing with them.

Friday, January 04, 2002

George Ted Still Ill

One of our cats, The George Ted, is very ill. Debbie got him to the vet who claims to be baffled by the illness that has laid the Boojemiester low. His records reveal however that he was taken to the vet with the very same symptoms just two years ago. At the time we didn't really expect him to pull through but somehow he did. Today, he was given huge amounts of shots, and returned to the house. He's currently being given water or milk via a syringe. We're hoping that he'll get through this one although the vet reckons this cat might well have used up his various lives.

Isn't it odd how we attach ourselves to animals in this way? Were we to loose him this time, I know I for one would be very upset. These creatures have habits, foibles and personalities that are all part of the everyday life of the household. When one part of that team goes down, it's something we all feel.

The big, heavy-framed painting in the red room fell off the wall this morning. How it came to fall of the wall is something of a mystery. It came down with such a bang this morning, that I heard it as I was getting dressed upstairs in our bedroom. Upon investigation, I discover that the frame is split and the skirting board is chipped and scratched. A bit of a mess really.

Last night I missed Ian McDonald and Sean Hewitt who both telephoned while I was out but did manage to talk to David Symes upon my return. David is enjoying the Level Five CD immensely. He also has been able to help with a future project by sending me an item from his archive of books and clippings. I hope to start getting 2002's projects into gear this coming week as a result. I've looked at the hand-written goals and they still look improbable and alien to me. Perhaps this means I need to revise them. Perhaps it means I need to just get on with things and then hope that I recognise them in due course. Where's Tom Redmond when you need him?

Have bought thick and worthy tome on the I Ching for deeper investigation. Have also bought THE IDIOTS GUIDE TO THE I CHING just in case.

I hear on the news this morning that Sid Smith has won the Whitbread First Novel Award for his book Something Like A House. Two Sid Smith's . . .what a thought ! Given the very different literary worlds which we inhabit, I would think it unlikely that there'd ever be any confusion between us and our respective audiences.

Tonight – it's making Pizza for the gang and preparing for the first houseguests of the new year
who arrive this coming weekend.

Listening To. . .
On Some Road by Remco Helbers

Thursday, January 03, 2002

List In Space

More peering and probing into the potential and possible. Thinking about goals and targets and writing them down. Seeing them in print in my own scribble makes them look very strange and alien to me. "Can I really do all that ?" I hear myself ask.

Wednesday, January 02, 2002

Inspiration From The Commonplace and Mundane

The view from the end of our street. . .

A beautiful slow burning dawn, simmering through the black this morning. I sat by the window looking out over the sea and watched the oranges and crimsons slowly seep out from under the heavy clouds. It's astonishing that something as commonplace and mundane can be so inspiring and so different every single day (slaps hand to forehead at stupidity of last statement).

OK. . .so maybe it isn't commonplace at all – each dawn is unique I suppose. I guess I meant that we take such things for granted because they happen everyday. Finding the time to observe them makes it special. Despite appearances, I don't go in much for the "Today is the first day of the rest of your life" stuff but on mornings like this, I can come pretty close.

I spend some time with the I Ching and share the results of this consultation with Debbie even though it's only just gone 7.00 a.m. Maybe we only see what we want to see when we use procedures like this and that in using them, we subconsciously set off a chain reaction of wish fulfilment.

However, I've used the I Ching so many times in the past and have seen how accurate it can be. I'm not saying the answers it brings up are always clear-cut (or even the ones you might want)but both Debbie and I agreed that the messages today were unambiguous and confirm our sense of where things need to go and how to proceed.

At 8.00 a.m. the children were still asleep but I thought it best to tell that I was going to be out of the house today and that they were to be good lads for Debra. They both gave me a groggy acknowledgement and turned back over.

Outside it's bitterly cold with the ground covered with a thick coating of opalescent ice. The trains are running slow today and the wait at the station would have chilled me to the marrow but for the fact I was wearing several layers of clothing including, I might add, a vest. In the North here, there's a culture amongst men of all ages, that wearing clothes appropriate to the prevalent weather conditions is somehow effeminate. The climate may be bordering on Arctic and you may see the shade of Shackleton passing by on a spectral sledge but nothing will stop some of these lads wearing a T-shirt !

Yesterday I connected with the Kimberman in leafy Highgate and chatted about the impending Kimber exhibition, current listening and comparing notes about our respective Christmas and New Year celebrations. We both agree that the Level Five album is definitely a powerful item, moving Crimson into some very interesting directions. Dangerous Curves really gnaws away up top once you let it in. Over the last few days, we've been wandering arounf the house going "dudundu dududu, dudundu, dudundu". The cats eyeing us strangely as result. I recall the punch of the title track when I sitting in Hugh O'Donnell's office at DGM HQ last year. Hearing this version, I'm glad to discover that it has lost none of its clout.

Listening To. . .
Variations on a Theme by Frank Bridge by Britten Piano Quintet by Schnittke Level Five by King Crimson

Tuesday, January 01, 2002

Quiet City

The wheel keeps on turning and here we are again. Another new year, another new day. Resolutions? Goals and targets more like. Speaking of which, Hell Boy extraordinaire, Tom Redmond e-mailed with words of support and encouragement. As I sat in the yellow room (where I am now) with sunlight streaming through the windows, bathed in the reflected iridescent light, Tom's words arrived at exactly the right moment. What a gift !

Snow on the ground, frozen and impacted, means it's treacherous outside. We consider wandering out along to the beach but put it off for a couple of hours in order to let the sunshine do its work. Tom and Joe return from their mothers and immediately set about going into some elaborate fantasy game with little Sam from next door. The moment is heightened when the Police slowly walk down the street, peering into gardens, obviously looking for something. I play Aaron Copland's Quiet City as the first piece of music for the new year and tears well up. This is such a beautiful, dignified piece of music. I'm rarely unmoved whenever I hear it.

Last night, Debbie and I enjoyed a quiet new year (great connection to the above paragraph eh ?) and after a quick toast to uncertain times and we got to bed. Checking my phone this morning, I see I missed a call from the Kimberman. I'll check in with him later today.

Today, time spent tending to e-mails. I'm thankful to David Johnston-Smith (no relation as far as I know) for taking the time to send some kind words of praise for the KC book and helpfully point out that it's the Coen brothers and NOT the Cohen brothers as previously mentioned in my diary of a couple of days ago.

A review of the KC book has appeared on the Tangents website. For those who don't know it, Tangents is a great site featuring a broad and diverse range of musings on all manner of cultural events. The self-styled "home of unpopular culture" has all sorts of features and reviews which are well worth looking at. I filled in their Mass Observation questionnaire which is highly entertaining and occasionally provocative.

There's a review of Sylvie Simmon's biog of Neil Young just ahead of Rupert Loydell's once over the tome.

A heavier tome is Sid Smith's In the Court of King Crimson [Helter Skelter], as befits our finest prog rock soap opera, err, I mean band. Under Robert Fripp's iron-hand and direction, three, or is it four?, incarnations of King Crimson [each incarnation including several line-ups] have moved from mellotron excess to proto-new-metal, via improvised jazz, seventies rock-gamelan, and quirky 'double-trio' big band. Sid Smith has really gone to town tracking down and interviewing many of the members, and isn't afraid to let them voice their gripes and own opinions. [Only occasionally do you feel like shouting 'shut up' or 'stop whingeing' at some of them.]

Only Fripp remains aloof from it all; and to my way of thinking Smith seems to feel unable to discuss or criticize Fripp in quite the same way he writes about many of the other Crim members. Of course, Fripp is discussed, berated, adored and hated by many of those speaking throughout the book, but the author himself seems strangely afraid to take on the one who is clearly the guiding spirit of the band - however much he claims not to be. As well as the biographical sagas detailed throughout the book, there's also a track-by-track discussion of all the official releases and much live performance. It's a must if you're at all interested in the band.


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