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Monday, February 28, 2005


The sun is just about shining on Whitley Bay and that’s about as good as it gets. An idea that continues to race around my brain refuses to let me catch up with it. Whenever I try and put the thing down on paper it simply evaporates before my eyes. Sometimes writing directly onto a computer is a good thing – I can type much faster than I can write longhand and there is the added bonus that I can actually read it afterwards.

Yet there are times when the cards or the notebook or the scraps of paper are the best way to approach something. I mentioned this to a chum on the blower and he said that the idea clearly wasn’t ready to be brought down to earth yet. His suggestion was to let it fly around the room a little more, let if find a surface on which it can rest and flex its wings, THEN nail the sucker down!

Knowing my luck at the moment, I’d probably whack my thumb as I brought the hammer down.

Otherwise, greatly enjoying the stop-go proggy-funk of Lick by Julia Wolfe as performed on the Bang On A Can album Industry. What a little stomper it is!

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Double Bill Doubts

A delightful morning spent taking a walk along a sunny seafront with Debbie. Meanwhile back in doors, the afternoon was spent watching the harrowing Capturing The Friedmans and the dreadfully overlong and therefore aptly named Terminal with Tom Hanks. It’s wrong to make a direct comparison between the two movies. One is a documentary that offers a great deal of insight into the human soul. The other is a schmaltzy sentimental popcorn movie and in its own way is probably OK but really tells us nothing about human beings, the world we live and how we cope with the rigours and contradictions of modern life.

Perhaps the problem is watching two very different movies back to back. Recently we watched Hellboy. Debbie felt that my adverse reaction to this comic book turned into a movie wouldn’t have been half as bad had we not watched a movie called Levity first. Markus R wrote at the time and made exactly this point. Perhaps two contrasting movies in one sitting isn’t a good idea; the lighter of the two is generally bound to come off worst.

Yet I recall that when we went to the cinema to see The Pianist and About Schmidt in one sitting, Alex Payne’s comedy was for more gratifying the ponderous though thoroughly worthy effort by Polanski. We also walked straight out of Kill Bill Volume 1 and into Intolerable Cruelty. My sense was that had I seen the Coen Brothers movie first I would have been disappointed. However it was the other way round and such was my boredom at moody pouts, slashing blades and Kung Fu cliché and kitsch, George Clooney won hands down.

As I write the Oscar ceremonies are soon to be getting underway. Were there any justice in the world, Sideways should walk off with something although I suspect that it will be Martin Scorcese who will scoop the major awards. Although I’m a keen admirer of Marty, I have to say I have yet to see the Aviator. Although there have been several opportunities somehow that period of the Howard Hughes story isn’t something that holds any real interest for me.

Part of the weekend overall has been spent listening to American composers.
Charles Ives (akin to being doused in cold water; refreshing but not something you’d want to do twice in a day), Gloria Coates (a bright light illuminating some very dark places indeed), Howard Hanson (romantic themes; an old movie with a cast of thousands done without the “benefit” of CGI) and Ned Rorem (handles well on a dangerous curve of which there are more than a few).

Friday, February 25, 2005

Responding To Stimuli

The last three weeks. . .

A goes to B but then C happens and everything changes. How does A cope? That’s the conflict, the drama, the place where the heat lies. Character is defined by A’s reaction to C. So far so good. Opting for filling in the detail takes time and patience. A degree of running with idea X only to discover that idea Y would work better. So, a re-write is needed. And then it’s not really a re-write but a fresh approach and all the better for it. A few days pass. Ideas germinate in the night. More revisions and alterations; this bit of dialogue sucks. That bit is great. Music to my ears. Too much description – let the reader fill in the blanks. Don’t worry about the absolute detail, just plough on to the end; get the rough shape and main events down. God, why on earth did I think I could do this? Don’t be afraid to let new ideas and hunches take you off in a few different directions to the one mapped out at the very start. The character isn’t performing as well as he should – too clever by half. If he’s so fucking clever then how’d he end up in this mess in the first place? ; The main plot line is fracturing; not enough tension or characters. Maybe too many characters, it’s not strong enough to hold them all. Listen to what they’re telling you. Ask them questions. Ask the right questions and you’ll get the right answer. Time for an oblique strategy. Fuck it. No help. More revision. Perhaps the basic premise is just too weak. Come at it from a different angle altogether. Tell the story from her perspective. From her background and upbringing…what background and upbringing is that? Well if the writer doesn’t know then how the hell will the reader? Character sketches are totally inadequate. Write up backstory. College, favourite colour, her first screw, pages of it. Days later this woman is in danger of walking out of the place. Keep her sweet, coax her back. Woo her. Finese the premise. Work through the implications of changing it. Don’t write them down – just talk a walk along the sea front and run the changes through your mind. Listen to how that plays. Good isn’t it? Definate possibilities that’s for sure. Don’t get hung up on stuff – just sketch it out. Big headlines. The infill can come later. Get the index cards out, map out the main scenes. Nice music – helps me concentrate. Just getting into my stride. Just keep writing - it doesn't matter how bad it is; the point is to keep going. If this was a car heist story (which it’s not but maybe it should be) then just figure out what the main ingredients you would have to have in such a story or screenplay. Don’t write it up. Whatever you do, DO NOT WRITE IT UP! Oh fuck, I’m writing it up. More walks. Shopping. All the time, figuring out how characters react to D or E. C seems redundant now. That’s OK. It can always come up later. Nothing is accidental. If it’s in the story then it’s there for a reason…Wait. That’s good. No it’s not. I think I read that in someone else’s book. Fuck it. There’s nothing new under the sun. Everybody rips everybody else off anyway. Then a breakthrough and the situation is obvious in terms of what is needed. A goes to B but C doesn’t happen. Instead he meets Z and together they go to M, N and O. There’s balance. The colours are wrong but that can be changed later. I need to get another notebook. The words are just flowing down like water from a tap. Can’t wait to start again tomorrow but then tomorrow is a dry as a dead as a doornail...I've lost the power of speech. A couple of telephone conversations with people who might be able to help. Feeling pleased with the feedback. Reading it back it holds together fine. Confidence abounds. Getting over the dry patch. Lost a few thousands words; forgetting to track working versions. Releasing after a few hours work I’ve been revising the WRONG FUCKING VERSION. A day lost. Too much music. I can’t work with music. I need silence. That’s better. It’s looking good. Feels better. Reads better. By golly it is better. Maybe C would work back after A and B work after all.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

The Poseidon Adventure

The Whitley Bay WeatherCam. . .

Surf's up

The same view as yesterday only minus the sun

Yes, that's a black bin liner wrapped around the recycling point. Neat eh?

Trudging around town on a damp Thursday morning can be a pretty dispiriting activity. It’s empty and wet and those few brave souls you do see, run past with their collars up and eyes down, fixed on trying to get back indoors as soon as possible. Weather like this is always bad for business. Yet some shops remain empty whether it’s rain or shine.

Whitley Bay’s very first shop specialising in nothing but waterbeds is a good example. In the couple of months since it opened I’ve yet to see a single person in there putting the Poseidon range through their paces. I can’t really say I’m that surprised.

Whilst waterbeds are very popular in America and in sit-coms where they are synonymous with risqué activity, I can’t think there’s too much call for this kind of item round these parts. Being British I have a natural aversion to buying any product that undulates.

The owner gazes out longingly at the passing public at the best of times. Today, there wasn’t really much in the way of anybody other than me. We briefly made eye contact but I wasn't up for going in. Being my kind of size I doubt they’ve made a waterbed that could hold my weight. That’s one kind of Poseidon adventure I don’t want, thank you very much.

Yesterday I did a compilation for someone who’s never heard any King Crimson. I chose a track and then followed it up with the first thing that came into my head - kind of like word association. Not everything I chose I would actually chose were I to think about it carefully if you catch my drift. However, I quite liked hearing Cat Food and then Frame By Frame going into We'll Let You Know. Somehow it all made sense and was oddly complimentary. So for those people who like a list…

Disc I
The Power To Believe Part 1
Level Five
Peace – A Theme
Cat Food
Frame By Frame
We’ll Let You Know
21st Century Schizoid Man
Heaven And Earth
One More Red Nightmare

Disc II
No Pussyfooting (Walk On)
Larks’ Tongues In Aspic Pt 2
Book of Saturday
Asbury Park
Neil And Jack And Me
Sailor’s Tale
Three Of A Perfect Pair
The Nightwatch
Deception of The Thrush
Facts of Life

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Keep The Customer Satisfied

Despite rumours of snow-laden mayhem a mere ten miles south of here, shopping for some bits and bobs in Whitley Bay today was a pleasant, though somewhat bracing experience. The sea looked particularly awesome. I don’t mean that in the sense of ‘Awesome, duuude!’ I mean it more in the ‘Oh deary me, that great grey mass of water looks very powerful indeed and is making me feel rather weak at the knees’ kind of way

I stopped by Cartridge World today to pick up a refill as my black wasn’t black anymore. The colour cartridge on the printer gave up the ghost long ago but I’ve not bothered to replace it. You get by without colour but you can’t buck the lack of black. By sheer coincidence my next door neighbour, Jude, was already in the shop. Though her ink cartridge was full it happened to be blocked.

The chap in the shop patiently removed the build-up of ink and slowly but surely restored it to working order. He didn’t make any charge for this service. He told me how the company would send the shop printers off to be repaired at a cost of hundreds of pounds. Given the price of the printers, they were very often thrown away and replaced – it being cheaper to buy new than repair old. Being something of a handyman, he persuaded his boss not to get rid of the broken ones but allow him to cannibalise the parts.

When he’s not serving customers like me, or doing good deeds for the likes of Jude, he’s saving his firm a small fortune and repairing the printers of the sixteen shops that make up the north east franchise. People like that are worth their weight in gold.

Speaking of which, Dick “I’ll get me Lab Coat” Heath provides some interesting comments on the whole CD rot riff I mentioned the other day. He writes

I recognise the 'appearance of bronzed sepia'. If your aluminium layer has oxidised or hydrolysed (as some the Phillips-made CDs of the 80's suffered) then you won't be able to play them at all. More likely the lacquer layer was either that colour to start with (and you hadn't noticed before), or bad news, the lacquer layer is oxidising or UV degrading and eventually the aluminium layer will be exposed, so it will almost immediately deteriorate due to the formation of hydrated aluminium oxide.

I guess you know that the first edition of one of those nuevo metal (to borrow your terminology) Krimson albums (THrakkk??) was gold rather than aluminium (for the price of a standard CD). The idea is that gold being a noble metal; it will not oxidise or hydrolyse. Usually when gold special editions have been issued, the CD was double the price of the normal type.

Now do your calculations: a layer of gold ~ 5" in diameter with a hole in the middle but only 70 to 100 nanometres thick (metallurgists tell me that's how much alloy is put down!), and how much is pure gold per ounce - hence 25 quid for a gold CD is probably a considerable rip off!?

Oh the main point. Legally if your CD deteriorates because of what the manufacturer has done in its production (rather than you storing your collection in a dank cellar in the NE), then the record company is obligated to replace it! That was the situation at the end of the 80's when the first round CD rot became public knowledge.

Joe is still off school although his temperature is now under control. He feels groggy and off-colour.

When I was Joe’s age, I suffered from Osgood-Schlatter’s disease and was often confined to the sofa.

Although very painful, I used to really like sitting on my own and reading. And so does Joe.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

The Gingerous One In All His Pesky Glory

The snow continues to fall although here at the coast it isn’t lying. That didn’t stop Debbie and Tom coming home tonight and looking like drowned rats. After a visit to the doctors Joseph’s is confirmed as having quite a nasty chest infection. Chirpy in himself, he still isn’t well enough to go to school.

Various telephonic connections are made; good news and bad news about a couple of old chums, and meanwhile back at the desk, an important breakthrough on a storyline I’ve been pushing about this last week.

Elsewhere, Lord Beige of Brum has complained to Debbie (once again) about the distinct lack of pussypix on these pages in recent times. And so, for His Beigeness, I present Gingerous One in all his pesky glory, taken earlier this very day.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Review:The Voyage by The Zorn Trio

Turning pop or rock compositions into chamber music rarely works in my experience. There’s a not too subtle energy that often gets lost in the translation from electric to acoustic.

Those arpeggios may well rock the house when they’re played by a leather-pant wearing guitarist but try them whilst wearing a tux and they end up sounding far too dandified for their own good.

Sweden’s absurdly talented multi-instrumentalist Mats Johansson is however an eclectic and versatile composer and well used to integrating rock ensembles with piano trios and large-scale orchestras via his group,Isildurs Bane .

Recorded in 1991 and 1992 but not released until 1996, it successfully transposes the rock-based material from IB’s The Voyage (1992) into a more refined classical idiom, removing some of the more bombastic and overly fussy elements of the original, to produce a leaner, incisive arrangement. Sometimes mixing yearning romanticism and some of the more strident, modernist devices of the European classical tradition, it all hangs together in a remarkably convincing manner.

For those who like their prog rock full on with guitars, drums, symphonic gestures and the whole retinue of studio effects, then it’s worth checking out The Voyage in its original rock format where you'll find some racy arrangements, impressively diverse structures and more than a few surprisingly catchy themes.

I’m supposed to be heading over to Gosforth today to do an interview with the lead singer of an old NWOBHM band that I’m doing some work for. However, Joe has other plans. His raging temperature and wracking cough means he is off-school and confined to barracks for the duration. We’ve all been laid low by the Sneezeathon and whilst most of us are getting over it, Joe has just succumbed.

I spend some time listening to a Debussy CD. This compilation was taken off the front of one of those classical music magazines I used to buy about twelve years ago. I get the feeling listening to it that these performances are perfunctory, a little rushed, the recording a little too cavernous, resulting in the music being fuzzy round the edges. The original shiny silver surface is now bronzed sepia.

Several of my CDs are oxidising nicely; John Martyn’s Solid Air, U2’s The Unforgettable Fire and Sting’s second album being the worst affected. I haven’t played any of the above in recent times but as far as I recall they’re still sounding OK.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Reverie In February

It was a little after seven fifteen this morning when I got up. The night before had gone rather well; an impromptu gathering of friends and neighbours fuelled by several savoury nibbles and a few bottles of good wine. With conversation ranging over many issues (most notably perhaps the secret sex life of retailers), this was a gentle evening of good humour.

By ten o’clock I knew I had drank enough red wine for the evening and swapped to tap water. A couple of chums did the same and Debbie also. By midnight it was all over bar the farewells, leaving Debbie and I to ready the green room for breakfast duties. Cleaning and washing, we swapped conversational tidbits that each of us at opposite ends of the table had picked up during the course of a very convivial evening.

After finishing the chores, we went to bed feeling happy and contented. Seven hours later, I woke up feeling very relaxed and happy, keen to get the day’s first pot of tea on the go.

Gathering the tea-tray from Debbie’s desk in the yellow room and setting off for the kitchen via the green room is one of my favourite journeys. It may not be dramatic or compare too well with some of the great travels that have inspired books and all kinds of art. Compared to Kerouac’s crossing of a continent or Hannibal’s legendary outing, this is really a timid squeak of a walk barely worthy of the name and most likely devoid of merit or sights to write about.

Yet for all its parochial ambition and well-worn predictability, it enables me to ruminate on what needs to be done and what I’d like to do, and in its own way can be just as inspirational as any exotic vista.

Carrying the tray and its contents of assorted cups, milk jug, plate and half-full teapot balanced on my left arm, I cross the landing past our bedroom to take the 26 steps downstairs. As I levelled with the green room, the corner of the tray nicked the door, knocking the tray and subsequently me, completely out of balance; slapstick routine ensues. The tray becomes a bucking bronco of errant crockery as I tap-dance forwards and backwards. The milk jug slips sideways pouring its contents onto the floor before me; a cup goes overboard splintering into tiny china barbs that eagerly awaited my dancing feet.

Somehow I managed to keep the teapot horizontal through-out this spastic high-wire walk, avoiding an even greater catastrophe and eventually managed to park the tray onto the table. Whatever I had been thinking about or planning for the morning’s work had been spectacularly knocked aside. There was nothing to be done but get busy with the mop and bucket and give the green room another going over. It wasn’t how I envisaged starting the day but I made the best of it, trying to see the funny side of it as I picked a couple of splinters out of my bare feet.

And then after that, I made a loaf of bread – another seemingly mundane task but one apparently loaded with all kinds of symbolism and meaning as this email from the recently hospitalised but now recovering John Sargent demonstrates.

Meanwhile, from hospital reading - Authenticity, by David Doyle ('Where does this New Realism come from? What are its demands and how will it shape our future lives? And what, exactly, does it mean to be truly 'authentic'?), this:

'By the end of her life, Elizabeth David's main focus - much to the irritation of some of her original fans - was to rediscover the authentic traditions of English cooking. And, as so often in the authentic story, that meant a determined search for roots. 'We need to go back to the recipes of a century ago or further, when an authentic and still strong English cooking tradition flourished.' she wrote. What had begun as her rejection of puritantism had grown into an equally powerful rejection of the kind of third-rate, fake food the technologists and food corporations were serving up for us all.

And nowhere more than in her defence of authentic bread in her book English Bread and Yeast Cookery which she finished writing just as the restaurant tables were coming out onto the London pavements in that long hot summer. British bread was by this time the most chemically treated in Europe, and Elizabeth David turned her attention to defending small independent food producers, knowing that authentic food required diversity.

She wasn't alone. Small is Beautiful author EF Schumacher - another pioneer of authenticity - thoroughly embarrassed his dinner-party hostess by making the same point a few years before. He started buttering his perfectly white napkin, to make the point that it was indistinguishable from the perfectly white slice of fake bread on his plate.

With Schumaker's help, bread has become a symbol of resistance to fake food. After all, the thirteen big bread manufacturers now control a £3 billion industry producing airy loaves with so few nutrients in them that they have to be injected with vitamins. Every environmentalist should learn to make their own bread, says Satish Kumar, editor of Resurgence: citing it as the kind of act of defiance as Ghandi's learning to spin was in India.'

Well, after a morning that had seen me teetering between comedic pratfall and unwitting Foodie insurrection, I did eventually get my pot of tea and then something else that I hadn’t bargained for.

Sitting upstairs in the yellow room I watched the first real snow of the year flutter down. Protected from the cold winds, with Ginger Bob purring on my knee, I was listening to Michael Nyman’s Decay Music. As the snow flakes swirled and darted about on high-octane wind, the glacial pace of this music contrasted perfectly was a perfect accompaniment and antidote to the high-speed frosty spectacle. It was a moment of sharp contrasts; warm and cold, calm and frenzied, one balancing the other.

Despite the unexpected tea-tray drama and resulting cut foot, the sense of well-being that had hung over from the night before had not been pierced or broken. Indeed, from where I sat it was as though it was being actively enhanced with each note on the piano or squalling gust outdoors. From downstairs, the homely smell of freshly baked bread drifted around the place, insulating me further from the steadily worsening weather, somehow provoking a sense of equanimity.

As someone predisposed to terminal uncertainty and a perpetual feeling of dread that has me hand-wringing for a portion of every day, I had unwittingly entered into a different space that I can only describe as clarity. I realised how lucky I was; the woman I love was sleeping in our bedroom next door and I could hear my children stirring for the day. We had good neighbours and friends that enriched our lives in ways that seemed to go beyond civility and polite society.

In that moment anything seemed possible, nothing was locked off from me. Most of all, the crawling panic I usually encounter was notable by its absence. This was heady stuff. I felt ridiculously and passionately alive. This was what was real. This is what was authentic; the diamonds in the dirt.

Looking back on it much later in the day, I wasn’t going to write about it at first because now that I was out of the moment and getting on with the life of the house, doing homework with the boys, making cookies, washing clothes, ironing school uniforms, going to the shops and the million and one other commonplace duties we all perform, that special lucidity seemed a tad corny and cheesy.

It felt profound but when I tried to write about it somehow it looked trite; as we hurtle about our daily lives, we often miss what’s important and however dumb or obvious that statement may read it’ll do me just fine.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Letting The Spirits Flow

A pleasant evening in the company of neighbours. John, Jude, Dave, Julie and Lesley came round to sit at the table in the green having a nibble, drink and chat about just about anything we could think of.

On the left here, we see Lesley speaking in tongues or letting the spirit flow. Or both.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Auster Fever!

Aside from the coughs and colds that currently hold sway, another bug has hit home bigtime; Auster fever. Debbie is in the early stages of The New York Trilogy, whilst I’ve finished The Book of Illusions and have moved onto Oracle Night, which as far as I can tell is the latest Auster book there is.

Having discovered a new artist (new to me, that is) I often feel compelled to gather up and devour as much as money will allow, so it’s no great surprise that this is happening. In any event, reading is all I’ve been able to do today; my head feels as though it’s stuffed with cotton wool. I wish it was my nose that was stuffed instead.

A quick email exchange with Andrew Keeling; we both agree that Egg were a greatly underrated band. In keeping with the prog theme I spent a portion of this morning listening to Pink Floyd’s Ummagumma. One side features young men grappling with the certainties of their recent past whilst the other contains four individuals looking for a direction to move in. Fascinating.

And now, it’s back to Paul Auster.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

The Sid Smith Sneezeathon

Swathes of Amazonian forest the size of Switzerland are being pulped as we speak in order to keep me in hankies and / or bogroll (whichever is closer) as the Sid Smith Sneezeathon continues unabated. Then, just to add a bit of adventure to the proceedings, a triple-whammy of coughing, sneezing and farting simultaneously ensures a white knuckle ride of a morning.

In such a situation, clenching one’s sphincter as tightly as it will go is the only way to keep a grip not just one’s dignity but the waste matter associated with yesterday’s gourmet repast. Though vital to the preservation of personal decorum, the resulting spasm prevented me from reaching for the box of tissues in time, thus the thundering snot shot not into a hankie but down my beard.

Elsewhere, I enter Nick Hornby and High Fidelity mode when asked to create a compilation of Crimso creations. Does one opt for chronology and landmark tracks or let chance and the foibles of personal taste shape the music?

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

The Periodic Table Of Emotions

I’ve been thinking about petulance today. It’s a powerful reactive substance, so sticky that even if you get an itsy-bitsy smudge of it on you, then you’re likely to get covered in it before you know it. On the periodic table of emotions and attitudes it sits in the same family as Resentment, Irrational and Temperamental. They’re all highly corrosive elements that should ideally be avoided. Sadly I’ve been exposed to them for quite a while now. Half the battle is realising that you’ve been contaminated. Only then can you start doing something about it.

Elsewhere; Johnny and I were meeting with the Arts Council of Great Britain this morning. We were discussing some new ideas and proposals regarding a series of sound installations we want to curate. The meeting went well as these types go; positive noises and encouraging gesticulations. Then the fire alarm went off filling the atrium cafeteria with an almighty din; this was the real deal and so we all trooped out of the building. It turned out to be a false alarm but seemed to be an appropriate way of ending our meeting.

The evening was set aside for a night in with Debbie, who is responding well to her regime of steroids and antibiotics. Her chest infection is well on the way to recovery and the asthma has slackened its grip. The downside to all of this is the fact that everyone else in the house is hacking, coughing and noses set to maximum drip.

We watched Levity (excellent) and Hellboy (dreadful)

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

An Old Master Smiles

I never seemed to get warmed up today. Do you ever have that kind of day, where the motor is running but you never quite get into gear with anything? I thought an early morning shower might put a bit of vim into my sluggish frame, and so it appeared to be the case but after nine a.m. the slump began. I thought it rather worrying the peak of my day might be between seven and nine in the morning.

The postal delivery cheered me up somewhat though; a small package from Talk Talk producer, Tim Friese-Green. Frustratingly though, my listening pleasure was delayed by a visit to John S up in the arctic climes of Windy Nook.

Brian T drove me up there and the three of us were able to have a chinwag about John’s recent brush with death following his blood-clots-on-the-lungs-caused-by-his-broken-foot scenario.

To my delight, I also discovered John was a Paul Auster fan – a copy of the New York Trilogy sat in his voluminous book shelves. John has been a fan for a long time and was even considering writing his MA around Auster’s work. With the practised patience of an old master, John smiled at me while I burbled on about the book and the new Auster I’ve just started reading – The Book of Illusions .

On the way back home, Brian T and I hatch a plan to visit Barcelona soon. He’s keen to help me undertake some crucial research for my Paradise And Lunch screenplay.

But now, my hands are cold, my nose is running and the sneezing has begun. I’m going to go downstairs and cook some food, and later on start listening to the aural delights of Heligoland courtesy of TF-G.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Review: In The Land Of Grey And Pink by Caravan

Sometimes cited as one of the grand old bands of prog, Caravan were really a more of a pop group with a penchant for lining their material with the occasional heavy or jazzy-style rifferama to counterbalance the peace, love and “why can’t the world see it my way” ethos that flavoured the air of their early albums.

Inspired initially by the beat boom of the early sixties (see Wilde Flowers) and then the psychedelic summer of 1967 onwards, Caravan continued to mix and match these components. A good example where these cross-currents meet is to be found in the rather creaky mellotron solo on the album’s opening track, Golf Girl. Its ‘Cat, Sat, Mat’ rhyme and simple structure provides a neat summary for one aspect of the Caravan style; polite tunes, jokey touches (typified here by a trombone break) and a slightly stoned air that reinforced their counter-culture credentials.

In common with other Prog contemporaries, Caravan also peppered their albums with extended compositions. The fourteen minute For Richard from 1970’s If I Could Do It All Over Again, I’d Do It All Over You, laid the ground for the side long suite, Nine Feet Underground on the Grey and Pink album. As nice as these were though, it’s difficult to hear them as anything other than a collection of little pieces threaded together like so many coloured beads.

Lacking the instrumental jab of their close Canterbury cousins, Soft Machine, Caravan begin to sound dangerously stilted when the songs move beyond the four minute mark and become “pieces”. Their secret weapon was to co-opt sax player Jimmy Hastings who was able to provide saxy noodles and some first class flute to breath a bit of fire into the proceedings. Hastings had of course played with Soft Machine and he wasn’t the only thing they’d shared with Soft Machine.

From a distance, guitarist Pye Hastings high-register nasal vocal style bore quite a resemblance to Robert Wyatt, whilst keyboard player Dave Sinclair’s fuzz-pedal enhanced organ wasn’t a million miles away from Mike Ratledge’s more acerbic sound or Egg’s Dave Stewart.

There are points where all the whimsy, period charm and instrumental aspiration combine to great effect. Winter Wine, complete with daft lyrics about naked girls cavorting about, smoky rooms and chivalrous deeds done, has a fine organ solo from Dave Sinclair that begins in a Floydy flourish and ends in an orgy of vintage wah-wah. Released in 1971 however, it was sounding terminally nostalgic even back then.

If I wanted to show someone what was both good and bad about Caravan in one fell swoop then I would play them the title track. Wreathed in smoky sentiment and ladled with syrupy hedonism, it's far too sweet and sickly for its own good. Yet it would be a hard-hearted person who could resist the cascading piano break or even Richard Sinclair’s wobbly lip solo that heralds another likeable though fairly uninspired rummage around the keyboard from his cousin, Dave.

Accessible, bright and easy to hum along to, In the Land of Grey and Pink sits in the pop world when compared to other albums in the Prog genre of the period. There isn’t a bad bone to be found in the body of this music. Nor does it ask very much of the listener. Plodding along with an endearing grin isn’t ever going to stretch the boundaries or raise the bar but in Caravan’s case it’s been the basis of a career that has done them well for the last thirty years.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster

It seems entirely appropriate and in keeping with the themes expressed in his work that I first encountered Paul Auster’s quite by chance. One Sunday afternoon in September last year, I was preparing a meal for the family whilst listening to some music on the portable CD player in the green room. I can’t recall the album in question now. It may well have been something I was working on at the time. It could well have been something for pure pleasure or perhaps to act as aural barbed wire to deter the casual from entering.

If that seems a little extreme, then I confess that when I work in kitchen, I prefer it to be a solitary experience. Yet all of this really doesn’t matter. What’s important here is that whatever it was I listening to no longer caught my interest or ear and I flicked the function button from CD to Radio.

That randomly-timed act brought me into Radio 4’s Bookclub , a monthly show where writers discuss their work with an invited audience. The programme had already started and the first voice I heard was that of the author reading from his novel, The New York Trilogy. The book, written in 1980, had begun after Auster had received a telephone call asking for the Pinkerton Agency. He assured his caller that they had a wrong number and hung up. “The next day, the phone rang at around the same time,” Auster told Radio 4’s James Naughtie, “the same person with the same question. And again I said no, you have the wrong number and I hung up. But the moment I hung up that second time, I said to myself , ‘You fool! Why didn’t you say you were the Pinkerton Agency and find out what the case might be about.’”

This inciting incident that led him to imagine a third call that in reality never came but in City Of Glass, propels the narrator Quinn, a writer of detective fiction, into a world far removed from his comfortable, though not untroubled, existence.

The programme finished and I carried on with the task in hand and quickly forgot about this intriguing world of wrong numbers, chance and mistaken identity. A few weeks later in our local branch library I recalled the story and though I’d forgotten the title I thought the name of the writer was Paul Oster.

Searching through the index for this name produced a blank, and it wasn’t until I was back home in the yellow room Googling, that I realised not ever having seen his name in print, Auster, to my ears had become Oster thus inadvertently rendering him a non-person. Looking back on it now, I have to say that mistake makes me smile given that portions of The New York Trilogy are given over to mistaken identity.

However, back then Auster wasn’t someone I’d ever heard of. He wasn’t in my must-read list and cash being tight, he wasn’t someone I was about to meet anytime quickly as my visits to bookstores had become a fairly rare event. Consequently, and no real surprise, Auster quickly disappeared from my view. Yet things change; events are set in motion in ways that we don’t always realise.

A couple of weeks ago I was waiting to meet Chris Wilson in Newcastle. I was early and killed a little time by visiting the Oxfam shop in St. Mary’s Place that specialised not in dead people’s clothes but books. Had Chris not arranged for us to be meeting, I would not have stepped into this book store anytime soon.

The very first book I saw when I entered the shop was The New York Trilogy. I really wanted it but only had my return fare to Whitley Bay. I found a seat and started voraciously reading as much of it as I could before nipping back out to keep my rendezvous with Chris.

Chris and I have known each other for a few years now but even this familiarity couldn’t mask my embarrassment as I asked to borrow the £2.49 needed to secure the book. Chris whipped out a crisp fiver from his wallet and I dashed along the street, fearing that someone would have bought in the intervening five minutes. Needless to say, the book had gone. I couldn’t believe my bad luck. A sales assistant sidled up to me commenting that I looked like I’d lost something. I mentioned the book to him. He smiled saying it had just been moved from crime section to the travel shelves by mistake. It had just come in that day and had been put out on the shelves only that afternoon. So, with Chris Wilson’s fiver, I snapped it up.

The three stories that make up the New York Trilogy – City of Glass, Ghosts and The Locked Room – dwell to some degree on the kind of freak connectivity that frequently plugs us into that which seems disparate and remote.

Quinn, the central character of the first part of the triptych, becomes embroiled in duplicity, sleight of hand and shifting identity. Blue, the dependable sleuth of the second, realises that who watches and who is watched is all a question of perspective.

The nameless narrator of the third section takes on the wife and child of an old school friend who apparently disappears, leaving nothing behind mountains of unpublished manuscripts. Though physically gone, the body of the missing author’s work exerts a dark and distorting force on those he has left behind.

Though unrelated and capable of standing on their own, these stories are connected through veins of coincidence and flashes of remembrance that we can all recognise. They reverberate when we encounter them. Sometimes they seem preposterous, far-fetched even.

Yet I recall sitting in a kitchen of Jakko Jakszyk sometime in 2000, not long after we’d met each other, and discovering that Jakko had attended the same school, and at the same time as Debbie. And if that wasn’t jaw-dropping enough, he was in the same class as Debbie’s sister, Dude. Having met through a connection to King Crimson, Jakko and I were both shocked to discover an altogether more personal thread that had come to bind our lives together.

Auster’s calm measured prose persuades us to accept the paradox that though such occurrences are unusual they are also essential components of the everyday; simultaneously astonishing but also somehow, mundane. Though short on any kind of description, he draws his characters through action and their responses to increasingly extreme situations. In this way, we learn more about them than any florid prose might ever tell us. They are all given to the contradictory whims of obsessive personalities, pulling them into harm’s way, blinding them to what might actually be going on around them.

Though Auster adopts many of the conventions of detective fiction, the mysteries that generate and drive the narrative of The New York Trilogy often remain unsolved and just as enigmatic as when they first appear. There are no easy resolutions where the preceding events are neatly parcelled up for us. The reader, as much as the writer, is required to imagine the potential outcomes that may have evolved as a result of these chance encounters. Sometimes this feels awkward and even annoying, as in the case of the hapless Blue in Ghosts, who literally jumps ship on the story, deserting the reader when he might otherwise be telling us how it all worked out in the end. Yet this also increases the sense of puzzlement and aura of secrecy and ambiguity that pervades the work.

As far as I can tell, the second-hand edition I picked up in the Oxfam shop that night was published in 1992. The cover depicts a silhouette, literally a shady character, walking through a puddle. His footsteps cause ripples in the world reflected in that water. We see a New York skyline exploding outward, distorted and stretched to breaking point as the waves of cause and effect swell outwards from the point of impact. Given that part a prominent part of the skyline consists of the Twin Towers, the cover appears eerily prescient. Though this combination of images and world events are not directly linked, and are merely the product of chance, they resonate and bounce off one another to remarkable effect. Much like Auster’s writing.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Making A Living

There’s nothing like a severe shortage of cash to focus the mind on those old abandoned projects that might, with a spot of revamping, be resurrected to produce something that remotely resembles an income stream. That I was doing this whilst listening to Radio 4’s marvellous comedy Ed Reardon's Week seems like poetic justice. Or do I mean synchronicity. Or something.

Later in the afternoon I learned that I failed in my application to be a cleaner at Newcastle’s Tyneside Cinema. Though this was a minimum wage gig and consisted of cleaning toilets and tearing ticket stubs, it would at least have the advantage of enabling me to see lots of movies for free. I didn’t ask why I hadn’t been short-listed for interview but suspect a combination of bad back and being too old wouldn’t have gone down overly well.

On the other hand, Chris Wilson emailed to say that a potential sleeve note job for a band he’s doing some design work for has come off. We are meeting on Monday to set up the interviews etc.

Elsewhere, Larry Snead picks up on the error contained in my review of TU’s Official Bootleg. He writes:


" it utilises a sample from the title track of the legendary improv-rocker’s influential album, Future Days."

Are you sure about that? Back when that disc was released I wrote on Planet Crimson that it was from "One More Night" on Ege Bamyasi.

To which I replied:

Hi there Larry
you are absolutley right about the origin of the Can sample.

I wrote the reference on Tuesday from memory and clearly scrambled it up.

Last night when I was playing Future Days I realised that the sample was suspiciously absent. Too late. I'd already posted it. Doh.

The lesson is always check your references before going to print!

Elsewhere, my mother is much improved. The physio says her pelvis is about as good as it’s ever going to be. Debbie continues to improve although as I write this (at 8.00 p.m. GMT) she has taken to her bed. I’m afraid I’m on the late shift waiting to watch the final instalment of BBC4’s excellent series on British Jazz.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Stroll On

Having been on at her for a couple of weeks now to go to the Doctor’s, Debbie finally conceded defeat and dragged herself along to the surgery tonight. Without the aid of several years of medical training I diagnosed that she had a doozy of a chest infection along with a seriously mounting bout of asthma.

The Doc when she got there concurred and as a consequence Big Drugs are currently being ingested with the aid of a pot of tea.

Earlier today I took a long walk towards the lighthouse. Although grey and windy when I started out, the sun fought its way past the banks of clouds. Since taking up these exercises my mobility has significantly increased and although I think I overdid it a little bit today, I do feel rather proud of myself.

Stopping over at the Library of Flatulence for a while helped me marshal my resources for the last leg of the journey home. Whilst there, the pensioners were indeed breaking wind with impunity and the biography on RFK I was hoping to put my hands on remained elusive.

On a bench bathed in the warming sun, I transcribed a conversation between two people old enough to know better.

Listening to Future Days by Can.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Review: TU & TU Official Bootleg

Looking for something that boldly goes where Crimson left off? You know it takes TU

As you might expect given their recent track record and association, TU sounds very close to King Crimson in places. For example there’s something very familiar in the opening track, Untamed Chicken, which belongs to the lull-and-bludgeon school of KC curtain-raisers. Certainly admirers of the ProjeKcts’ more outré leanings will feel very comfortable with much of what's on offer here -Gunn’s solo on Absinthe & a cracker reminds us of his formidable firepower when it comes to taking solos.

Setting aside some of the indelible Crim signature-sounds that pepper the album, this though is very different territory to that inhabited by the Greater Crim. Whereas KC albums both past and present hinge upon one or two unifying compositions, TU dispenses with such key elements, lashing together instead a series of rough cuts, off-takes and apparent cast-offs. These are then swirled together with a mighty centrifugal force, brimming with tiny details, embellishments and all manner of sonic transgressions that come and go with giddying rapidity.

If it’s true that music takes the listener on a journey then consider this as a runaway train of possibilities and high-adventure. The cut and paste eclecticism that permeates the record brings to mind The Faust Tapes, a scrapbook of ideas, intuitions and ceaseless exploration. Never settling in one place for any great length of time, they continually opt for surprising and often jarring combinations of raw components that revel in their ability to startle.

In just six minutes during Terry’s Breath we take in a swirling atmospheric line from Trey, followed by a tight groove overlaid with a gorgeously rich solo, percolating into series of sounds, which themselves break off into what sounds like a riotous and highly entertaining concerto for defective footpedal and one slightly distorted guitar.

TU shows not only the degree to which they coloured-in the Crimson picture but also their capacity for taking a sound and fucking around with it until the poor thing is bashed, bruised and begging for mercy; meet the Piranha Brothers of sound - cruel but fair.

Their Official Bootleg taken from a Californian concert in shows Gunn and Mastelotto in a less caustic frame of mind. True enough, the rolling and tumbling continues with Tuning the Room and Bucket of Russia. Yet there’s a more introspective character when they are on stage compared to the brutal ebullience of its studio counterpart; nearly half the disc consists of a beautiful suite of languid moods. Though they sometimes sound like a scary night in a breaker’s yard, they also show that this is the stuff that dreams are made of.

Chief amongst this category is the fifth track, Can. As the title cunningly implies, it evokes another pair of famous improvising rhythm buddies (Can’s Holger Czukay and drummer Jaki Liebzeit), it utilises a sample from the title track of the legendary improv-rocker’s influential album, Future Days. Bells flirts and dances with Crimson’s The Power To Believe Part II, whilst the closing track, Fandango contains a mesmerising, haunting vocal from guest Azam Ali, that beautifully illuminates the breadth of TU’s impressive and far-reaching versatility.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

An Investment In Time

Joseph’s parents evening went very well indeed; across-the-board praise from his teachers in all subjects. Joe was obviously pleased as the congratulatory comments were read out to him but he was also deeply embarrassed. I think this inability to accept complimentary words is a deeply ingrained cultural trait of the English and one I know I share.

Looking through Joe’s books afterwards was very instructive – he clearly enjoys being at school despite his protests to the contrary. Now I don’t want to give the impression that he’s some kind of wunderkind because he’s not. His spelling is variable and possessed of certain eccentricities and his idea of presentation can certainly be challenging. However what I saw as I looked through the pages of his various jotters and notebooks was enthusiasm and engagement. I don’t feel I can ask for anything more than that.

Were you to look at my school books from that period you would see a mess of half-baked, half-finished scratchings that with a little bit more effort could have been less than adequate.

This follows on from a similarly excellent report for Tom and with this double whammy in mind I rang my mother to give her the update. She was pleased to hear about the steady progress of her grandchildren and no doubt was minded to contrast this with her own son’s faltering efforts at a similar age. She’s not been too well recently – the ramifications of a major fall which damaged her pelvis – and it feels important to be keeping in touch.

Recent conversations with her and others over the last few days remind me that this thing we do called "life" is transient and will be gone all too quickly.

The baggage of prejudices and assumptions I continually haul around with me need not be who I am; the direction in which I move need not be determined by the whim of an automated / conditioned response or reflex to a situation.
If there’s one lesson I would hope to teach my children it would be that they regard the time spent with others as an investment and that they be generous in their hearts towards those around them.

Over on Barry Stock’s diary he has a sound clip running from Paul Bowles, the author of The Sheltering Sky.

“Because we don’t know when we will die we get to think of life as an inexhaustible well. Yet everything happens only a certain number of times and a very small number really. How many more times will you remember a certain afternoon of your childhood? Some afternoon that’s so deeply a part of your being that you can’t even conceive of your life without it. Perhaps four or five times more. Perhaps not even that. How many more times will you watch the full moon rise? Perhaps twenty and yet it all seems so limitless.”

Monday, February 07, 2005

Silence Is Golden

There are some days when it’s better to say nothing and this, dear reader, is one of them.

Friday, February 04, 2005

A Night Out With Tom Jones

Although I feel somewhat addled today, I greatly enjoyed a wild night out in the company of Chris Wilson (ex-wok-smuggler of Walker). Chris had fixed up a meeting with a guy called Rob who wanted someone to do a writing job. Rob turned up with his mate, Bob. Rob makes a good living as a first-class Tom Jones impersonator. Bob is in management.

Gregarious to the max, the expansive Rob insisted on taking us out for a meal. Incredibly good company with a wealth of stories of the corporate entertainment circuit, we drove out to an eatery where Rob and Bob were well known to the staff and management.

A substantial queue of late-night revellers were waiting for a table. When Rob showed up, we were immediately noticed by the owner, who then swept us past the gob-smacked line and off to our seats. As we walked through the crowded place, the house-music changed from generic restaurant to distinctive Tom Jones. There were lots of smiles and grins from the gang of waiters.

I mention all of this because a) it’s very rare that I get out to swanky places like this and b) if I do it’s usually me in the queue gawping as some well-connected folk sweep by on their way to fill their face.

Once we were sat down, Bob showed us his table top magic routine. He just happened to have a set of cards inside his jacket; he just happened to have a particular kind of pencil, a particular kind of pen. He bent cutlery; he made coins disappear; he made the salt cellar vanish before my very eyes. He made me cut the pack, chose a card, shuffled it, covered it in a napkin; made me skewer the napkin with a knife. The knife naturally turned over the card I’d chosen. He played word games and played me like the sucker I am.

“How on earth did you do that?” I asked incredulously.
Smiling, satisfied that his work was almost done, Bob leaned forward; charm personified,.

“Well, it’s funny you should ask…(pausing, reeling me in) but it’s none of your fucking business.”

Afterwards, Bob insisted on driving me home. As we waited at the lights, another car pulled alongside. Suddenly, we could hear tapping and shouting. Rob smiled and slipped on the dark glasses, I got the sense that this happened a lot; he was an absolute dead-ringer for Jones. Clearly the car next to us thought so too, judging by the demand for autographs at a set of traffic lights on a busy city centre junction.

“You know, it happens all the time” said Rob as we pulled away. I nearly pissed myself laughing. I think I got the job.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Review: Heart of the Sun by Theo Travis

Whilst other young-bucks in the field are rushing about fast and loose, Theo Travis is pacing himself for the longer game.

Theo Travis’s pedigree as a sax player and flautist is most assuredly on the rise. Rave reviews in the organs of the Jazz establishment praise his abilities and talents whether he’s busy breathing fire into the tenor sax or blowing a silvery air through the flute.

His last album Earth To Ether (2004) demonstrated the kind of social mobility that seems de rigueur amongst young players these. Fluent and comfortable in a range of style and genre it saw Travis touch base with Canterbury, Crimson, Gong as well as some Getzy bossa nova.

Heart of the Sun (2001) is perhaps more rooted more closely to the world of jazz than its successor, though even here, things aren’t quite what they seem. The core instrumentation of sax, double-bass, piano and drums makes it a jazz album although my bet is these tunes would sound just as convincing whether they were played by a string quartet or a rock band.

Once again, Travis has chosen his collaborators with great care. The groove-filled All I Know and Northern Lights features some rippling lines from the consistently excellent Andy Hamil on double bass. On the latter track his sterling work offers a foundation for sometime George Russell and Miles Davis alumni, Palle Mikkelborg, who contributes a spare, haunting Harmon muted trumpet to great effect. Theo’s sleek soprano lines during the intro are embedded in a glistening atmospheric backdrop that sounds somewhere between Japan and Talk Talk.

Throughout the album, there’s a great degree of attention paid to developing a strategic and thus credible use of sonic effects. Their usage feels natural and well integrated. For example, in a thoughtful and stunningly confident version of the standard, Here’s That Rainy Day, the eerie clouds of glissando guitar generated by Gong’s Daevid Allen somehow equates to the disconsolate ebb and flow of Gordon Jenkins’ sublime arrangement for Sinatra; no mean feat if you can pull it off with only six strings and an echo pedal yet Travis and his co-producer, Steve Wilson (of Porcupine Tree fame) do just that.

Barking Dogs and Caravans shows the composer in a sentimental mood. Refusing to be hemmed in by style, the piece has a gently ascending coda that might not sound out of place at the end of a mid-period Strawbs album. It’s this kind of thing that gets writers like Travis in trouble with the jazz police but it pays dramatic dividends

Paradoxically perhaps, the album’s closing track Bass Rock (as in the fish and not the thing that Geezer Butler did) is a multi-faceted suite which appears to be the deep, dark mysterious centre of the album, out of which everything else flows. Concentrated, forceful and fabulously atmospheric and clocking in just shy of seventeen minutes, it’s an enthralling and engaging work.

Whilst other young-bucks in the field are rushing about fast and loose, Travis is pacing himself for the longer game, developing a persuasive and telling repertoire, rich with a warm tonality and perfectly-poised melodies.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Review: Sideways by Alexander Payne

In casting Paul Giamatti as would-be novelist and down-in-mouth drinker Miles, director Alexander Payne shows how you can make a little whine go a long way.

Miles, and his his old college buddy Jack (Tom Haden-Church), depart for a week long tour of California’s vineyards prior to Jack getting hitched. For his part, Jack – a washed-up soap actor – is looking to party before losing his freedom, whilst Miles, blissfully unaware of the liberation he might enjoy if he’d only get over his two year-old divorce, appears content to merely endure this period of protracted rest and relaxation.

With apparently little in common other than their respective failure this odd couple take to the road. Ever anxious to get laid, Jack quickly hooks up with Stephanie (Sandra Oh), leaving Miles to play gooseberry with her friend, Maya (Virginia Madsen).

It’s a testimony to Maya’s far-sightedness and patience that she can see beyond Miles’ embittered self-loathing and cynicism. Add to this, his simmering alcoholism and the stealing of a thousand bucks from his pre-senile mother, there seems precious little to like about this guy.

Yet, like Madsen’s character, we do somehow find it in our hearts to feel for him. Perhaps she recognises something of herself in the sinking desperation that might be reasonably assumed to be etched into the 700 pages of Miles’ unpublished manuscript.

Yet knowing a picture is worth a thousand words and by focussing in on the dejected poetics of Giamatti’s facial reactions to the messed-up chances that swarm about him like so many flies around dung, Payne describes the bathetic and pathetic far more eloquently than any number of pages of screenplay might otherwise do.

Conveyed with the all the compressed weight and resignation of a man who not only knows the glass is perpetually half-empty but will indeed be downed by someone else by the time he gets to the bar, Giamatti’s performance is nothing short of brilliant.

Underpinned by a wonderfully spare script that offers both belly-laughs and richly darkly comedic moments, like the good wines to which Miles aspires, Payne’s movie neatly avoids any obvious artificial Hollywood flavouring, delivering instead a perfectly rounded resolution that is immensely satisfying and highly recommended.

Schwing in Payne's World...
(l to r) Paul Giamatti and Thomas Haden-Church


Much unexpected joy with the delivery of A Voice at the Borders of Silence this morning along with a bumper package of aural goodies from chums at EMI (more of which at another time).

The book came courtesy of Hugh S and is the autobiography of artist William Segal. A cursory glance through its liberally illustrated pages tells me that there’s a lot for me to sink my creative teeth into. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that it arrived at exactly the right time considering the rekindling of my urge to start sloshing paint onto canvas again.

Yesterday I bumped into an old school chum, Colin M. We were both keen Crimheads way back when. I don’t think he believed a word I said when I mentioned the KC book, etc. If anything I think it scared him off. He looked at me as if to say “When the fuck are you going to grow up?” Fair enough - its something I often ask myself.

According to his wife, John S. had a comfortable night in hospital. I want to ring John and give him good wishes and regards, moral support and all that. Yet I know when a person is feeling ill and low, it can be something of a burden. For example, I regretted ringing a chum last night whose elderly mother is in hospital. I could hear how weary he was of providing another update to yet another well-wisher.

Many thanks to the many folk who emailed me with links to Ley Line sites. After delving into this murky world of flying saucers, astrology, spirits, King Arthur, crop circles and god knows what else, I came out feeling decidedly dizzy. What I was after was a simple map of where these legendary lines allegedly fall across the UK. The truth, according to the X-Files, is out there but I’m buggered if I can find it!

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Shaken & Stirred

I received a phone call this morning from John S’s wife Loretta. It seems that after BT and I left John on Friday morning he collapsed. John had just a few days beforehand, taken an innocuous tumble down his stairs and got a broken foot for his trouble.

He was told to keep the plastered foot elevated above the line of his heart. When BT and I were visiting his house it looked as though he was following this advice, despite being hellishly busy with The Ideas Mine.

As we were leaving his house we discussed things such as thrombosis and the like in a gallows-humour manner that one often adopts on such occasions; allowing us to put names to those things that we’d rather not refer to directly.

According to an understandably upset Loretta, John collapsed the next day and was taken into hospital where he was eventually diagnosed as having several bloodclots on his lungs. I talked to John this morning via the bedside direct line and he’s on the mend but rather weak. Our conversation began strongly but in a few moments, an exhausted John was done.

I have to say I was shaken after Lor’s call and even more shaken after speaking to John. Loretta thinks John doesn’t realise just how close things were for him. Not long after he’d been admitted and she had left for the day, the hospital had rung to tell her to get over there P.D.Q – that’s how close it was.

Hopefully, John’s been through the worst of it and we have him on the mend.


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