Sunday, 19 February 2012

while seasons change

Hmm . . . this one could take ages, or just take up a lot of my time thinking. . .

Where to start? Having just come back from a few days in London - glorious days, real fun - I need to think a few things through.  However, despite the experiences of the Hajj, The Ladykillers, the Cartoon Museum, Vinopolis, A Dangerous Method, et al, I have come back with other things on my mind.   I guess reading Nick Coleman's The Train in the Night along with Mike Chisholm's blog and my own thoughts having bought the two Strawbs BBC recording cds ridiculously cheap in Fopp (Shaftesbury Avenue - next to the Marquis of Gransby).

Now, I don't know what any of you think, or to be perfectly frank, nor do I care.  But they're good albums.  (I love the BBC and without them, we'd be culturally much poorer without them as they have a wonderful collection of sessions and gigs from last Century on tape).  I've just wallowed for longer than I should in the bath listening to one of these albums and decided that I should perhaps be writing a book about music/me/growing up/1970s and all that. Many things am coming to me in de bath . . . whoops, just slipped back into Private Eye and general Idi Amin . . .

What I really do think is that we shouldn't be caught up in this modern culture (?) of guilty pleasures.  For whatever your deity's sake, if you liked it when you were young then just acknowledge it. It really doesn't matter.  Why do we spend so much time apologising for what we enjoyed when we were young?  Why don't we just accept that in some cases, we still like that stuff?  I'm not embarrased about this stuff.  If you are, get over it.

Boyzone - the lost years
 I just mentioned on Mike's site about album covers that I loved the Strawbs' album covers From the Witchwood and Grave New World but had to hesitate in my typing because - just for a moment - I felt awkward in case anyone might complain about my lack of taste.  You know, "Oh god, how could you have ever like THEM?" Well, excuse me but **** ***.  Why shouldn't I like them?  After all, I enjoyed them when I was fourteen, so why should I apologise? 

Many of us "grow up" and stop enjoying things we enjoyed at an earlier age and try to pass it off that we've "matured" and left it all behind.  But so what?  Okay, I don't particularly enjoy Yes anymore - I don't have any interest in listening to them now - but that doesn't mean that I should write them out of my history, does it?  Are we so "cool" now that we can't accept that we liked anything that anyone else dismisses? 

Well, growing up I liked Genesis (pre-PC), Van der Graaf Generator, Focus, Audience, Capability Brown, Fields, Black Widow, Lindisfarne, Curved Air, Hatfield and the North, Caravan, Horslips, Wishbone Ash, Barclay James Harvest, Gryphon, Help Yourself, and who knows what else?  I don't care if anyone thinks that my taste was crap because I got a lot of pleasure from it ( and in some cases still do).  A lot of it was down to the bands I was lucky - no, privileged - to see.  I spent much of my youth in clubs and pubs and the Lyceum and Hyde Park and Weeley seeing great bands.  I was young and (getting served with beer by lovely young barmaids!) had a great time.  God, now I think of it, it was wonderful.  After all, I was able to see my "heroes" - so much for the Beatles and Otis Redding fans - I saw mine!

Let's call these "innocent pleasures" shall we?  We were innocent and just checking out possible futures . . .
The sort of bands that I used to go and see for 50p at local clubs, or at the Roundhouse and Marquee, now constitute a rock'n'roll cornucopia (I'm about to write a blog about the wonderful 60p Charisma packages) that some would give their right arm to have experienced.  They still surface in my memory occasionally as good times had . . .

In this current digital climate of keeping everything alive, I'm still able to hold onto those once-only memories of long forgotten bands (whither Spreadeagle? Krazy  Kat?).  It would seem that we are supposed to either ignore or pretend that our pasts didn't happen.  Well, I'm happy those days happened.  Black Widow and their naked lady being "sacrificed" at Hitchin just after being exposed in the News of the World? Yep, thanks, I was there.  Rick Wakeman playing keyboards for the Strawbs at Stevenage Bowes Lyon one Sunday night just before he joined Yes; yep, I was there.  Bowes Lyon again, believe it or not, Iron Butterfly on a weekday night - I was about 13/14, yep there (they really were crap, though). Weeley, the most inept British Festival ever, yep, I was there.  The night the Who played Charlton football ground supported by Little Feat and just about every other future top name British Band?  Nope, I was down the road at the 100 Club watching a young Peter Gabriel-led Genesis with about 50 other people.  Quite happy to have been there instead of with the cool ones at the Who gig.

I guess, to be quite honest, I've about had it with the whole idea of "cool". My own personal version of cool includes seeing Joni Mitchell and the LA Express at Victoria, John Martyn many times but at the same venue with Paul Kossoff jamming on the encore; John Tams singing rock'n'roll with the Richard Thompson band at the same venue; Sandy Denny at the Cambridge Folk Festival jumping up in the middle of Al Stewart's set (Dave Swarbrick got up to jam, totally un-rehearsed); perhaps seeing the 101'ers just before they became the Clash was a bit what others may call "cool" (they were a bit crap); and hundreds of other gigs that are too numerous to remember. Not exactly "cool" I suppose to many others. And oh! Too many Albion Band gigs to mention - but the opening night of the Barbicon, let us not forget was a concert by the Home Service supported by RT.  Yep, I was there. . .

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

i'm leavin' now

Halfway through February.  It's that funny time of the year when I am a year older than my wife - this lasts for nine days.  Then we revert to me being only nine days older than her.  She loves this few days of the year when she can make some capital on the "age difference". 

Nevermind, it's not important.  I have now passed the midway in my fifties, they say it's all downhill from here.  Mind you, they've been saying that for the last twenty years, really.  Still, we're going to celebrate it somehow.  We've decided that we need to get away for a few days, so London's Calling.

We're off tomorrow to the Smoke for a few days of Culture with a big C.  Two for One offers abound and so we'll hopefully be able to take in the Hajj Experience at the British Museum and a trip to Vinopolis and maybe a film or a play, too.  We've gone onto laterooms to find a reasonable hotel (much like last week) so everything seems ticketyboo.  I think the Cartoon Museum is nearby too so we may go there as well.

Despite the fact that the quacks still can't decide what's wrong with my left foot, we'll still go up and wander about.  I went back to them last evening and my regular doctor told me that there's "not much wrong" - which is fine for him to say.  It still hurts.  Anyway, I went and bought (at vast expense, let me tell you) some orthotic supports for my feet.  Hopefully, these will sort it out.  Evidently it's not a fracture.  Oh well, maybe one day someone'll let me know what it's all about.  So far the only person who has made any sense of it all is a friend of ours who's a vet.  That says it all!

We've been off school for our half term break this week.  my sister came down for the weekend - my only blood relative still alive - and I've tried to relax a bit so far.  In between catching up on hair and dental appointments, I decided to change the strings on my Fylde.  Thirty Five years and counting. It sounds wonderful, and more-or-less in tune whenever I take it out of its case.  However, I put some Elixir strings on which I've taken a gamble on as they're damned expensive.  They're supposed to last for years because of their "nanoweb" covering.  Hmm, we'll see.  They do sound great at the moment, though.  I must admit to being a bit guilty about ignoring this noble beast for months at a time.  I don't deserve it but I bought it fair and square in the late seventies with money that I earned. According to various inflation converters, the £250 I paid in 1977 is worth about £1400 now.  A new Fylde Orsino (the basic model, ie mine) now costs £1795.  I'd hate to lose it or break it but the Insurance people may have kittens. . .

The current edition of Word magazine has a lovely article on Jackie Leven and a free cd that works as an excellent primer to his work - fourteen tracks that cover a lot of ground.  Recommended to one and all (except Mike).  You need to look inside the magazine for it as they've stuck it onto a page, which means it'll rip the page as you remove it.  Well thought-out, there.

One of my daughters bought me Nick Coleman's The Train in the Night: A Story of Music and Loss for my birthday, which is almost un-put-downable.  I'll have to think about this over the next few days but some of us take listening to music for granted.  When disaster strikes and we lose our hearing, how do we respond?  Very thought provoking and right up my alley when it comes to reading matter.  More on that later. Now, talking of trains, where did I put those tickets?

Sunday, 5 February 2012

gentle chaos

I spent Friday evening and Saturday at a conference at the BFI on South Bank this weekend.  I had to rush back to avoid snow stopping play as far as the trains go, but a jolly good time was had.  The snow was deep pan crisp and even just like a Christmas pizza this morning but probably will mostly have vanished by tomorrow.

I'd left school early on Friday, missing my afternoon lesson, to get up to London in time.  I'm glad I did as the evening session was a talk by Ian Livingstone, founder of Games Workshop, author of many games-style books and now currently the big guru and prime mover to the current government on Computer Science.  You know, the stuff about how students don't need a year to learn how to use Excel and Word as they're born with the knowledge; they evidently need to be able to programme computers to make Britain great again.  Something like that, anyway.  it was an excellent talk - but like everyone else, I'm totally gobsmacked by how much money is involved in the Games industry.  It's billions of pounds, much more than movies or music.  Blimey.

I stayed in a very swanky hotel, the Plaza Riverbank which is a four star hotel.  I found it on or whatever - it was what they call a "mystery hotel".  You have to apply first, then they tell you which hotel it is.  Other than the fact it was quite a way (although near Waterloo) from the BFI it really was a lovely place to stay.  I guess you've realised that I'm not paying for it.  Although I went in my own time and spent part of the weekend working in workshops and lectures, it was all for education.  Therefore, school paid for it.  However, the upshot is that it was only £79 for the night, which situated where it is, is not bad.  A bit of luxury, anyway.  It'll take a little while to fully assimilate the usefulness of the conference, but I thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

Despite making a couple of (very) short films - one of which I was in* - I spent some time networking and generally enjoying the opportunity to just be there.  After Friday evening's session, I had a lovely meal at the BFI Riverfront restaurant.  The day's special was Sea Bream and salad at a very reasonable £10; all the other food looked good too. After getting back to the swanky hotel, I tried to watch Jaws 3 but fell asleep. Awful.

The next day was quite busy what with all the workshops but I spent an enjoyable hour in the BFI bookshop and spent a fair bit of my small budget on Film books.  What I did manage to get hold of, though, was a four dvd  set of Mystery and Imagination, an ABC tv series from the late 1960s.  It has loads of great programmes: tv versions of  Dracula, Frankenstein, M R James and Algernon Blackwood stuff, all brilliant for teaching the lower years Gothic literature.  Funny enough, that's exactly what I had started teaching my year 8 on the Friday morning.  It's rated at age 12 so it should be perfect.  I'm looking forward to exploring them (including the Canterville Ghost starring Bruce Forsyth as the ghost!). This all fits in well with my current obsessions, so I'll probably mention these as we go along over the coming weeks.

So, why 'gentle chaos'? Well, I can't help but think that any time I go to these sort of conferences (not that I get much opportunity to) they're always so beautifully amateur.  What I referred to someone at the weekend as 'gently chaotic' - the fact that it was organised to a certain extent but not really fully thought-through.  Why send a ticket to be printed off for Saturday, but not Friday, and then not want to see it on the day anyway?  "Oh no, we don't need that.  No-one else would be mad enough to come here on a Saturday for this!" 

Still, although they wanted a hundred to attend this conference, they managed ninety eight, many quite poorly paid teachers.  Many of whom had paid for themselves.  This is quite remarkable. I bet tossers like Mi****l G*** and that complete ****** that runs Ofsted wouldn't beleive it that some of us are commited enough to give up our own time (and money in some cases) to attend this purely because we love what we do.  They probably would think that we earn too much! I had a great time, anyway.

Talking of Ofsted, we have what is now known in the business** as a 'Mocksted' this week. A pretend Ofsted to get us panicky and rehearse for the real thing when it eventually comes along.  Mrs Dave is obviously quite involved and busy preparing.  I'm off for a bath and a glass of Skye's finest.  Oh, and to listen to the album of the week - Bap Kennedy's The Sailor's Revenge

And then tomorrow I'll worry about tomorrow . . .

* I'll post a link if it ever appears on one of the websites its's supposed to
** I work at an Academy now.  The Tory party are definitely carrying on in Th*****r's project
**** you get the idea