Monday, 31 May 2010

adventures in a norfolk landscape

A weekend away in Norfolk seemed just the answer. Life has been hectic and we needed a break.  So, off we go - we took Harvey the RV up to Norfolk. Lovely site, no major problems - after all, we are only still adjusting to life with a protable bedsit.  The weather wasn't the best but we can cope with that.

The village we stayed in (albeit in a field) seemed quite nice.  It was quiet and sleepy.  Rather too many UKIP posters for my liking, but everyone we met - there weren't many - seemed pleasant enough.  A stroll through the village to acclimatise ourselves seemed in order.  Amongst the UKIP houses and the quiet backwaters, there seemed to be a sort of garden ornament thing going on.  There were lots of toadstools, fairies and hideous faces.  A giant stone pig, several Gargoyles that wouldn't have been out of place in The Devil Rides Out and a general feeling of Royston Vasey about the whole place.

We had to travel at one point to the nearest town, Holt. On the way past I noticed a rather bizarre sight.  An entrance up a small track had two posts on either side of its entrance.  The posts were branches, each with a either a crow or a jackdaw nailed to them - they looked stuffed. One had a garland of cow parsley wrapped around its head. Odd.

On the way back I was looking at them when a strangely decorated car drove past - I didn't fully see it but it had fins tied on and various flowers, I think. We drove past again the next day but I missed them - by the time we found them again, the wind had taken its toll. Now, we think there was a wedding on that night - probably pagan.  All the same - the phrase "NFN" suggests itself.  It's a term used by Social Workers and the like that means "Normal for Norfolk".

There were also lots of signs around advertising the "Scarecrow Festival" next weekend.

I enjoyed going to Norfolk for the weekend, but I must admit that it was a little Wicker Man at times, and possibly a little satanic.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

the onanist entertains

I enjoyed dining alone last night - swanky hotel, glass of London Pride, a Hungarian dish (Pike) followed by a good cheese board (and a reasonable house Trebbiano Chardonnay by this time).  The sauce was a little too smeggy for my tastes and the service could have been quicker - I like to drink the wine WITH the main dish.

Who on Earth thought that I, and my fellow diners, would want to be entertained by a man sitting at a Casio keyboard playing cheesy versions of songs from the shows?  What the hell was that all about?

As I glanced over towards him once or twice, I thought I recognised a look in his eyes that said, "that guy over there thinks I'm a twat." He wasn't wrong. He may have been Rick Wakeman's more talented brother for all I know but all I'm hearing is soft, heavily chorused chords with lots of quavering  synthesised pan pipes.  I was looking forward to the cheese board and a Spinal Tapesque drummer's end to him.  He was right. He was a twat.

The "jazzy" version of "All I Want " (or is that "Wouldn't That Be Luvverly"?) Then, an unbelievable "If I Was A Rich Man" - how ironic.  Baby, you'll never be a rich man. This was the most cheesy OTT lift muzak I've ever had the misfortune to listen to.  I've sat through some awful music in my life. And I've seen Hawkwind live.  And some really awful Special Needs "hip-hop rapper" (or somesuch) from Manchester at Jimmy's Farm last year. Then he re-set his keyboard to "accordian" setting to give us a rendition of "Hello Dolly".  "Mack the Knife" for Christ's sake.  I had visions of Lotte Lenya stabbing him - God alone knows what Ute Lemper would do to him!

For an encore - honest, I'm not making this up - he played "The William Tell Overture" as a disco version.  Oh my . . . we used to play better versions of this by flicking our cheeks with our fingers. Surely, he's given up all semblance of actually playing, I think it's on the demo setting.

"Don't Cry For Me Argentina" as a morbid dirge was his rousing goodnight.  I wrote in my notebook:

It's like a barrel organ where the monkey thinks, "While the cat's away . . ."

Actually, my only experience of busking (at the Tower of London) was rather spoilt by an organ grinder and his monkey.  But that's a tale for another time. Goodnight one and all, rant over.

Monday, 24 May 2010

before the deluge

There seems to be a general Jackson Browne theme running through my life at the moment.  When Mrs Dave and I took Harvey the RV off for its first jaunt to Southwold the other week, I'd just received the new Browne and David Lindley cd "Love is Strange", so we listened to that on the way. Very good it is too. A friend of mine got tickets for us to go see JB&DL at the Albert Hall next month; and another friend wrote about Browne on his blog.

And here I am about to undergo the traditional annual event of exam marking. This involves going to a nice hotel by Regent's Park tomorrow night, taking in a pleasant meal and possibly visiting The Hobgoblin pub nearby. Then wake up on Wednesday, have a shower, a full English breakfast and arrive upstairs for the day's marking standardisation all nicely refreshed. Then I watch all those other harrassed teachers arrive having come in by train after getting up at the crack of sparrow fart desperately searching for coffee. After a hard day fighting losing battles with the Exam Board's decisions, I may stroll down to Tin Pan Alley (Denmark Street) to wander around a few guitar shops before returning home ready to face the last two days of this half term.

Oh, and the flood of marking for the next month.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

solvitur ambulando

Well, enough of all that politics stuff.  Welcome to a new world.  A brave one?  Who knows?  However, there is a film version of Dan Dare in the pipeline, so another piece of our childhood is about to be watered down and made hyper-real and packaged for the ADHD generation.

Still, back to matters at hand - music.  "If music be the food of love . . . prepare for indigestion" was the title of a Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mitch and Titch album in the 1960s.  Can't argue with that.  Here's the latest half-term concept album.  I can't give sleeve notes this time as the concept is "Connections" (cue James Burke).  If I explain anything, it'll give it away. I'll offer the list - you have to guess the connection - by the way, the last track is supposed to connect back to the first one. Anyone who recognises the cover will work it out.  Anyone working out the (rather obvious) connection is every bit as sad as me:

Rosie - Don Partridge
White Bird - It's A Beautiful Day
Les Oiseaux et les Electrons de Branilis - Dan Ars Braz
Hey Mr Spaceman - The Byrds
Golden Ring - J. J. Cale
Flight of the Snow Goose - Camel
Molly Bond - The Oysterband
One Misty Moisty Morning - Steeleye Span
I Can't Dance - Julie Covington
The Lord is in This Place, How Dreadful is this Place - Fairport Convention
An Phis Fhiiauch: The Girl in the Big House - Moving Hearts
Let There Be Drums - The Bunch

Oh, and you need to explain each track.  Happy hour is even cheaper here.

Sunday, 9 May 2010

another quiet night in england

The punishment we suffer, if we refuse to take an interest in matters of government, is to live under the government of worse men. (Plato)

I understand that there was a 65.1% turnout for this election.  Is that all?  I thought from the fuss and speculation that it would be nearer 85%! I thought that the electorate had been motivated this time.  Or that is what the media would have us believe?  Personally, I don't think that's a very good turnout.  Obviously it's better than usual (in recent years) - but, come on! It's not very good is it?

It is the easiest thing in the world to complain about something - sniping from the sidelines, as it were. Rooseveldt (FDR) said, "Nobody will ever deprive the American people of the right to vote except the American people themselves - and the only way they can do that is by not voting." Ignore Americans and think about our own refuseniks. We have to vote to have a voice. As A.C. Grayling pointed out, unless you make people pay for the advice you give, they will not heed it.  He also said that if you give people democratic rights as a free entitlement of citizenship, they appear to disregard it, failing to see how precious and important it is. The news we often recieve of foreign citizens queuing all day to cast their vote (such as South Africa after Apartheid was overthrown) puts into perspective our own very recent news bulletins of dissatisfied queuing voters.  They have the right to vote - and I'm aware of the ignorance of some commentators (Facebookers - tcha!) who complain that voters "should of (sic) got to the Polling Stations earlier" (!) What, and queued for even longer and still be turned away?

There are few more important matters than electing a government. The required solution is that voting should be compulsory (I'm not interested in arguments about free will etc - let's have "none of the above" on the ballot papers).  Again, I refer to A. C. Grayling who suggests that "sceptics and idlers" may think that their single vote may not make a difference either way, but they are wrong in both practice and principle.  Al Gore's fate in Florida a few year's ago suggets the first is wrong.

As for the latter, every refusal to vote is an act of self-disenfranchisement in which a citizen, betraying the endeavours of history, demotes himself to a serf.

Oh, and as you can take the boy out of Hertfordshire but can't take Hertfordshire out of the boy, I was heartened to read that David Barnes, an independent candidate in Hertford and Stortford managed to poll no votes at all.  He didn't even vote for himself.

I'll give the closing words to messrs Jones and Telford of The Oysterband:

It's just another quiet night in England
They turn away if you let it out
They think you're mad if you scream and shout
And another quiet night goes by . . .

Thursday, 6 May 2010

a blind step away

When you wake up on Friday, you will have woken up into a different world to the one you went to sleep in on Thursday night.  Whatever your politics - for us, the world will have changed.

I hope you have followed your heart as well as your head.  And resolved any conflict therein.

No matter what the result - many of us have children: and it's their world we are hoping to improve.   We must not despair, as long as we have voted: we have a voice. Whatever the result, let's be positive. In the words of Alasdair Gray:

Work like you were living in the early days of a better nation.

Good night and may you sleep easily knowing that you have the courage of your convictions.

Monday, 3 May 2010

ghost riders in skye

As we sailed down the Nile last summer, Mrs Dave and I spoke to the various interesting people we met along the way.  We spent several evenings discussing past exploits with those we met.  One of the couples we met, not a dissimilar age to ourselves, had recently travelled to Peru and visited Machu Pichu.  We were interested.  By the time we left our fellow travellers to go to a much less interesting part of Egypt, we were hooked.  Peru - we had a hankering for visiting it this summer. Flash forward to this year and after lots of discussion, on-line searching but no outcome, we decided that maybe we had missed the boat, so to speak.  However, somewhere along the way air travel this year didn't seem like such a good option.

So, Plan B then.

Several years ago, we went to the South-West States - Arizona, Utah, California etc - with much trepidation. After all, we were going to be driving around America! At the same time, I read Richard Grant's Ghost Riders: Travels with American Nomads.  Grant points out that there were some 8.5 million RVs on American roads with between 30,000 and 3.5 million used as permanent homes.  60-90% of these people are over the age of 55. The Good Sam Club, America's largest RVing organisation, estimates that three million people are living in their RVs all year-round. 80% of these are retirees.  Or to put it another way, there are some 9 million or so nomads in America, many of whom had decent jobs when they were younger.  The book goes on to explore the history of nomadic people in the States and particularly, the current pensioners who spend their time travelling around the States from convention to convention with Winnebagos that are better equipped than the average British home.  I enjoyed driving around in the States and would recommend it to anyone.  We watched enviously the Ghost Riders that passed us by in their flash RVs - who knew where they were heading? Looking with envy at campers stopping by the Red Canyon and such places, I accepted my tourist status.  Bloody great big RVs looked too difficult to drive.

Bored with looking for Roadrunners, as the miles built up I would look at the wonderful signs that suggested various "Ghost Towns" we could visit, usually 100 miles off the Freeway in the middle of absolutely nowhere.  One day, maybe we could have that freedom. I do not want to live in one of these beasts but relish the idea of enjoying holidays in one.

Of course, Britain is always going to be a micrcosm of that and a much different kettle of fish to the vast distances of open landscape that the US of A has to offer. However, with the Summer approaching and my constant hankering for travelling around Scotland (particularly Skye), we began to look for the third way.

So, gentle readers, we have decided to embrace Middle-Age fully and buy a Motor Home.  Not a VW or little Camper Van but a big, all-singing, all-dancing mobile bedsit.  As I wait for the torrent of opprobrium and derision from you all, all I can see is positivity - no booking hotels, no camping in cold tents, open roads at any time of the year (including weekends!) - think of Cropredy in the future: no problem getting to the loo in the middle of the night, our own showers etc, etc.

Well, decision made.  'Harvey the RV' is now a reality and we're looking forward to a Scottish jaunt this Summer.  Okay, it's not going to be as romantic as Machu Pichu but no problems with airport strikes, Volcanic fallout or (as probably would have happened) irate Greeks to deal with.

The open road beckons. Oh, and I can take a real guitar on holiday with me.  It sounds like heaven on Earth.