Saturday, 17 February 2018

Swan song

Why do we still use overhead power lines? Why isn't all that shit buried, it's ugly and dangerous. A beautiful swan, a big bird too, done by an unseen power line down the lanes. Cycling the lanes recently I'd noticed a few groups of swans settled in fields, apparently they enjoy grazing in them.  You'd have thought with the rivers and harbour nearby, and the high numbers of waterfowl, migratory and otherwise in the area, that more lines would be marked with bird diverters. Or even better, put overheads underground, like the other utilities; pylons and expanses of wire appear so archaic.

Friday, 16 February 2018

Ivy, or not Ivy?

Ivy, or no Ivy? That is the question. Whether it is better to leave Ivy growing on a host tree or to cut it down. I had always thought that Ivy was harmful to the tree, though it turned out I was wrong; Ivy doesn't harm healthy trees, nor does it aid the tree, it just utilizes it, it does though support quite a number of wildlife species, making it a definite positive addition when growing on conifers. It can hide disease though, and overwhelm a weak crown leading it to topple, although a healthy crown should limit Ivy growth to a sustainable level. This one looks like it's holding the balance right, at the moment.  

Thursday, 15 February 2018

John Ironmonger

You come across as manner of oddity whilst out wandering. There's a cutting through Ackling Dyke, the Roman road, at Harley Gap, and on one side, set into the Roman road's Agger, is a memorial stone to 'John Ironmonger 1919-1986'. I wonder why John has a memorial here? It's a rather cool spot. I don't know who John was, I don't know whether he was an ironmonger or not, but I know someone cared a lot about him, it's in beautiful spot for a memorial stone. Well placed on the top of Harley Down, a hill with good views across swathes of the chase, across it's history, and close to many of the areas most important prehistoric sites. There's continuity in it too, when you think about it, it's little different to the Chase's barrows in motivation, the permanent memorialising of a person at a significant place in a landscape significant to that person. It's well old school, really. 
I've done an internet search on John Ironmonger 1919-1986 and turned up absolutely nought, he shall remain a mystery, like Townley Shenton.

On the road...

On the road back in time. I though I'd explore a different aspect of Cranborne Chase on today's walk. I parked up between Gussage St Michael and Gussage All Saints and took 'Ackling Dyke' the Roman road the 4 or so miles to top of Wyke Down, where I sat a while on one of the prominent barrows and took in the full majesty of a landscape steeped in millennia of human activity. Well, it would be rude not to. But for an ever so slight kink just before you reach Harley Gap, the course of Ackling Dyke is, as you'd imagine, quite quite straight.  Build around the mid first century AD Ackling Dyke is your standard (ish) Roman road, it's constructed on a substantial Agger (embankment), about 15m wide at the base, with the road surface would be about 6m wide, and on either side would have been a broad drainage ditch. The section which runs for nearly 2 miles through the Drive Plantation is stunningly well preserved. The Agger shows few signs of degradation, the road surface still, for the most part, flat and the drainage ditch and low outer bank are clearly visible (on the woodland side, other side mainly ploughed out). Quite wonderful. The road would have given the local population a strong message, 'we are Rome, and this is all ours' type of thing. The road cuts through all manner of prehistoric features, features which although probably not visited any more, still held sway in the folklore and imaginations of the people.  Just like our colonial railways, the Roman roads weren't benevolent gifts to improve the lot of the locals, they were for communication, military and exploitation purposes. Ackling Dyke was certainly made to impress, and two thousand years on it still does. I really recommend this as a walk, I've not seen a better preserved length of Roman Road. 

Sunday, 11 February 2018

Pelvic bones

As I took a short cut through one of the younger blocks of conifer mosaic on my way to Mogshade Hill, I stumbled across a greening pony skull. If you walk off the tracks and through the woods enough it's not uncommon to come across disarticulated bones around the forest.  About 6m from the skull were the 2 pelvic bones, again, not uncommon for the bones of fallen animal to be scattered. Though these bones were weird, these had definitely been purposefully positioned, I'm certain this isn't how they were left via natural process. There was symmetry in their placing.   On closer inspection, the needle litter in area encompassed by the positioned bones had been notably compressed, something had sat/been placed there for some time, and recently. I wonder what the motivation for these acts was. Of course, the positioning of the bones, and the episode compression may represent different events. You 'll often come across something out of the ordinary out in the forest. Still, what's it all about.  Riddle me that?

Mogshade Hill

I imagine the view eastwards over Lucas Castle and the wooded fingers of Highland Waters upper tributaries from Mogshade Hill hasn't changed much in centuries. For me it's a view which epitomizes what I imagine much of the forest looked like pre-forestry; wood fringed brooks, thicket clumps and open woods, set in swathes of open heath and mire. You know, thinking about it, some of these trees that crowd together on the eastern lip of the Mogshade probably remember those times.

Friday, 9 February 2018

Vernditch stands

Vernditch Chase beech stands, a naked army ready for action.

Wooded paths

Although often shown on maps as merely footpaths along the edges of fields, you find many paths about Cranborne Chase are much more.  Many of them are paths running through slithers of, a sort of, woodland, 6m to 8m wide, though in nature not so much woodland, the flora they contain make them more like hedgerows on steroids. During the summer months they afford you welcome shade in the more open and exposed parts of the Chase landscape. In windy weather the debris that frequently litters their floors brings the fear. Though whenever you walk them they've always a magical aspect to them, as if you're walking old lines. I'd imagine they're busy nocturnal highways too.

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

The 'terracotta' hedge defender

Not as grand in scale or in numbers as his Chinese namesake, still, Terry the 'terracotta' hedge defender stands proud. Terracotta is shown in quotation marks as the warrior, or more accurately a broken half a warrior, is not terracotta at all, rather cheesy fibreglass type stuff.  Terry's just another example of the weird stuff you find in the hedges and fields down the lanes. 

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

News-lite

A lot's being made of 'fake news' at the moment, and yeah, there's a lot of it about. Though fake news is usually easy to spot, it's created to push buttons and therefore it'll be so far up the chosen confirmation bias scale as to intuitively set the alarm bells ringing in rational folk. And of course there's the other use of the 'fake' label, truth labelled fake to discredit it, though that's less talked about. Whatever, it does what it's intended to do, muddy the waters. The thing is, we know it, so we can compensate. Something I find equally worrying, if not more so and just as problematic is 'news-lite', a story with some of the inconvenient truth removed. It's becoming common place, particularly when relating history, and it's the supposedly trustworthy media who are most frequently guilty of it.  A good example is today’s main story, '100 years since women get the vote', a great story, and obviously a step forward on the road to women's emancipation. But..., we were only given half the story, with the inconvenient aspects ignored.  Yes, women got the vote, but ah, only about a third of women were given the vote in 1918, and those women had to be over 30 and possess substantial property or wealth. So, the real story was, 'some' middle aged middle class (and above) women were given the vote. Okay, it was still a start. Though, why weren't we told that? Why weren't all women given the vote in 1918? Well, it was because the government/establishment of the time feared the power that women would have in light of the number of male voters who'd died during World War One.  Little has changed there then. Many of those denied the vote, the two thirds of women, were those who'd worked so hard in the dangerous and health destroying war industries invaluable to the war effort, though their effort and work was not to be rewarded.  Little has changed there then either. It would take a further 10 years for them to get the vote, and a further hundred to breach the bastions of the government/establishment, and that war is far from won. I answered my own question, why was the story edited, why weren't we given the whole story? Because really very little has changed. So, we'll spin the story. I listen to the media today, and but for a few occasions where the whole picture was alluded to, none of the reports honestly reflected what happened in 1918.  I can guarantee that the majority of people now believe that 'all' women were given the vote in 1918, which just isn't the case. Though to many it's now actual history, the beeb said so. History can be dangerous, especially when it differs from the historical narrative on which an establishment has built a nations psyche. Man, this is just one historical event to be presented to the masses, doctored. Dunkirk, Churchill, the Empire and our colonial past, to cite a tiny few, have all been edited to the benefit of the establishments 'benevolent, heroic Britain' narrative. Isn't not telling the whole truth, just more damaging fake news? 

Sunday, 4 February 2018

Slufters

It's easy to see the forest as permanent, an unchanging landscape preserved in aspic. And, yeah, there are parts of the forest which are ancient and unchanged, though there are also parts of the forest which are used as they were for centuries, for the production of timber. Not so much these days for the deciduous hardwood of the majestic Oak and Beech, but for the quicker growing cash crop coniferous trees. Slufters was originally enclosed and planted in 1862, though the Oaks first planned have long gone (accept for those which flank the brook which runs through Slufters Bottom), to be replaced in more recent times by conifers which themselves are now being harvested. I'm not uncertain what will replace them this time, though I think the enclosure might be being returned to open heath. It's easy to forget that a fair proportion of the New Forest is in reality treeless exposed open heath with wetland heath and mire filled hollows; and would have been even more so in years gone by.

Did they get you to trade?

Hot ashes for trees.

Saturday, 3 February 2018

Snowdrop

Those heralds of spring, their heads bowed to the new sun, the dainty Snowdrop (Galanthus nivalis) are now out in abundance. In plant folklore the Snowdrop, being one of the first blooms after the dark barren months symbolizes hope, and assures us that nature hasn't abandoned us. Which is good.

Friday, 2 February 2018

Cursus's end

The Dorset Cursus would have been a magnificent monument and expansive feature in the Neolithic landscape. Comprising of two joined sections, the Cursus is a linear feature of two parallel banks and ditches running for 10 km north east/south west across the undulating north Dorset landscape. For the most part nothing of this vast monument remains visible above ground. Though some of the associated features still remain visible. The earliest of these features are the Long Barrows, the focus of collect burial, these monuments pre-date or are contemporary with the Cursus, with one being incorporated in the bank. At the north eastern terminus of the Cursus are several Long Barrows, a couple of which are tree crowned, and when approached from the right direction create a striking silhouette on the rise. I love walking these archaeologically rich landscapes, and they don't come much richer than Cranborne; although the Cursus and Long Barrows are Neolithic, all the ages are represented. Bronze Age Barrows, earthworks and enclosures, Iron Age settlements and earthworks, a Roman road, right up to the mid 20th century military firing ranges, and evidence of the hunting and farming practices in-between. Fantastic. I really feel I'm walking in footsteps of the ancestors, in their landscapes, their monuments and activities come to life in my minds eye.

Return to Cranborne

It's been a few months since I walked over Cranborne way, and I couldn't have chosen a better day for my return.  Weather wise, it was my favourite type of winters day; the sky was clear, but for well spaced blobs of candy-floss cloud, which allowed the sun to show off it's growing strength, and the air was suitably chill, chill to the point where you could really feel it going down. Lovely. I approached Martin Down from the hamlet of Martin, I love the view or the chalk grassland as it rises up from this direction. Reaching the top of Martin Down's rough grassland, I could see the world of the Chase laid out before me, it's a splendid tapestry of mixed farmland with broad hedge lines, chalk downland and pockets of woodland. And it feels timeless. Criss crossed with rights of way, it's a landscape of boundless walking opportunities, and always the possibility of the surprising. 

Thursday, 1 February 2018

Imbolc

The wheel turns and now with Imbolc upon us the promise of new life is manifest in the shoots of spring just poking their heads through last autumns fall. This is just the beginning. It wont be long before these Ramson shoots cover the woodland floor, and then fill the stands with their garlic scent. This is a time of preparation and readying. A time spiritually and emotionally to clear the decks of those unwanted and unhelpful things in our life; the negative attitudes, the doubts and self constructed barriers to fulfilling our dreams, or at least striving for them.  A time to clear the home of clutter, easier said than done for a hoarder like myself, who as is the way of hoarders, really believes that I'll find a use for the draws, boxes and jars of things I know I should have thrown away. Tidy house, tidy mind, yeah right. And in our garden and/or allotment, a time for clearing the ground ready to receive the seeds of future harvests. It's a lovely time of year, a time of unbound potential and possibility. A blessed Imbolc to y'all, enjoy.

Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Afternoon lighting

I loved the late afternoon light on the Oaks and lawn at Balmer this afternoon. The sun showed itself briefly, gently illuminating the stands in a golden hue, which contrast beautifully with the heavy grey blue cloudy skies. Lovely.

Tuesday, 30 January 2018

Spawn

The frogs appear to be going for it this year, there's spawn in every conceivable wet place. Maybe it's a take over bid? Maybe not. I fear though that their spawning may have been a bit previous, this spawn in the wetland adjacent to Silver Stream at Rhinefield was exposed to last nights frost, and observations over the years suggest that this is, or can be, a bad thing. That said, if the frosts don't continue for too long, I'd imagine the frogs have spawned enough to ensure plenty survive to tadpolehood. Time will tell.

Sunday, 28 January 2018

Frog chorus

I was back in the west of the forest again today.  On the whole, I tend to rinse an area for a few days or a week, and then move on to another and do the same there, that way I get around the forest and everywhere is always fresh.  The afternoon was fading, as was the light as I crossed the open, and wet, land between Denny Lodge and Denny Wood; it's where waterways, ditches and streams, converge in an area of extensive seasonal standing water and permanent bogginess. Like several areas of the forest there are bridges for ease of crossing the streams, though getting to the bridges and remaining dry is harder. Upon reaching the final bridge on the edge of Denny Wood I took time to pause, when I was struck by a sound, it sounded like a deep low cat purring on loop, then amplified, it filled the air. At first I thought it must be a machine or something in the distance, though as I focused on it, it was clear it came from close by. As far as could, wetland restricting me, I followed the sound and then it's origin became clear. The wetland in front of me was teaming with frogs, who themselves moved and furiously hopped in 'water' teaming with spawn; no, really, there was more spawn than water. It was an incredible sight to match the incredible sound. I've never seen as many frogs, nor as abundance of spawn. My photo doesn't do the scene justice, though if you look closely you can just see what I'm talking about. And this is only a tiny area of the much bigger wetland, although indicative of the rest. Quite amazing.

Saturday, 27 January 2018

Stratigraphy

Walking through the northern reaches of Denny Lodge Enclosure I notice where one of the drainage ditches had recently been re-cut that the material piled on the banks was full of small shells and shell fragments.  These small shells and shell fragments were in grey blue clay, very similar to that which emerges in the cliffs at Barton, in fact they're the exact same Eocene sedimentary deposits. About 40 odd million years ago the whole region was an extensive shallow muddy lagoon/sea.  What struck me was the stratigraphy, or at least how close to the surface these ancient deposits were, the grey blue clay is not more that 30 cm from the surface, and I'm not sure that the orange clay horizon above it isn't just oxidized grey blue clay. The material heaped in the banks was absolutely stuffed with shell, the sea must have been chocker with life. The proximity of the clay to the surface, and that it extends under the whole forest and beyond, explain why the forest is so wet.You're not walking in the forest, you're really paddling in an ancient sea.

Thursday, 25 January 2018

Hengistbury Head

Out of sight, out of mind, maybe. Though nature and time ensure that burying our past doesn't mean it's gone for good. Along the seaward face of Hengistbury Head, structures of our Second World War past continue to erode into the present. The Hengistbury headland was heavily utilized and fortified during the war years, and of course post war many of the associated feature were removed, or as I allude to, buried, whilst others, notably infrastructure elements such as the concrete and brick conduits which carried communication and power cables, already invisible underground, remained where they were. Many of the sturdier structures, Anti Tank Obstacles (ATO's), Pillboxes and Gun Emplacements were broken up and buried or used as hardcore. In the cliff face, just as the headland rises, some elements of those broken and buried structures are being exposed by erosion. The photo shows what I believe to be a destroyed Artillery Pillbox with some heavily corroded and concreted ironwork, whether associated with the pillbox or not, I'm not sure. I say an Artillery Pillbox as the embrasure (the aperture to fire through) is too substantial for small arms, offering a broad arc of fire; such a large embrasure would have left men inside with just rifles or light machine guns too exposed. It amazes me how clean and well preserved (except for the intentional damage) these structures can be, just look at the concrete, it looks recent, not 70 odd years old; and these structures were thrown up in haste too, with often not the best materials. As the cliff erodes I'll see if any more diagnostic features emerge. I also had a look at the surrounding fill for any smaller artefacts, though none revealed themselves. A walk that stimulates the mind as well as the body is twice the walk. Nice.

Tuesday, 23 January 2018

Groyne replacing

They're repairing or replacing some of the groynes along the promenade at the Southborne end of Bournemouth Bay. Usually you only see a low wall of wood and the tops of the pillars, but exposed as they are it's amazing their true size and the scale of the undertaking in their construction. All to try and keep nature in check. Stupid monkeys. Nature always has her way in the end. Every few years Bournemouth council spend millions pumping sand from out in the bay up onto the beaches, the groynes are there to slow long shore drift and keep the sands in check. The fact that the same process is undertaken again and again surely should tell us something. No, like modern day Cnut's, we think we can stem the tides.  The thing is, if the promenade wasn't there, then the sandy cliffs would erode naturally and the beaches would be sandy, as they'd always been, without the need for human intervention.  We make our own problems. Still, interesting to see.

Monday, 22 January 2018

Gnarly Trunks

It's wonderful how some ancient Oak trunks gnarl up as they return to the earth. Their trunks becoming ever changing patterned landscapes, works of organic art, another aspect of natures art gallery.  The views and vistas of the forest are like the great canvases of old masters and the trunks and stumps wondrous sculptures. Like any good gallery, you can loose yourself in both.

Saturday, 20 January 2018

The sun always shines somewhere

The sun always shines somewhere, even on the most overcast of days.

Thursday, 18 January 2018

Gavin da Blitz

 Photo pinched from Here and Now Friendface page.
Aw, man. I've just heard that Gavin Da Blitz passed from this world into whatever comes after. Sad sad news, man. Now, I didn't know Gavin personally, it was through his music as keyboard and synth wizard with the legendary Here and Now band I knew him, though that said the sadness I feel today at his passing is as if I did know him. It's weird, you don't often know the musicians you listen too, though spend such an inordinate time in their company that they have a genuine effect on you that a sort of weird friendship develops, as if you did know them. During the 80's we saw Here and Now countless times, and we listened to their albums and bootleg tapes almost religiously, for a while to the detriment of expanding our listening. It was a mainstay in the soundtrack to my formative years, and their albums/bootlegs still get regular plays. I loved them then, and still do now. Here and Now's 'All Over The Show' still gets a weekly play. Gavin's synth wizardry played a major part in their sound, I remember at gigs watching fascinated as he twiddled knobs to create the finest of spaced out sounds that elasticized your mind. He'd not played with the band for some years (other than Keith's 60th, possibly), his role assumed in recent times by the equally talented Andy Roger, though when ever you play one of the older vinyl albums there he is doing his magic. So he's gone, though still here, and will be fleetingly every time you spin a Here and Now waxing. I don't like the phrase 'rest in peace', I'm hoping there's something more beyond, and if there is, then I hope that those who've gone beyond are experiencing what it may have to offer to the full. Thanks for the music Mr Da Blitz.

Sunday, 14 January 2018

What?

No, not the 'sword in the stone', but a knife in a tree. Just another example of the weird shit you see if you keep your eyes open when out walking. The knife is quite high up the trunk, higher than I could reach without really stretching, and I certainly wouldn't be able to get it so firmly stuck in.  Again, I'm left wondering, what's the story here? I have to say, I've seen a lot of discarded knifes out and about over the years, often stuck into tree stumps or the ground. Maybe it's some knife cult making ritual deposits? Well, surely that's as good a suggestion as any.

Saturday, 13 January 2018

Ouzo Bazooka's Songs from 1001 Nights

Ouzo Bazooka are back with their third album, Songs from 1001 Nights, and as you'd imagine, it's a lovely listen. It arrived at my door this morning and took only moments to find itself spinning. 'Songs from 1001 Nights' keeps bands reputation for producing great psych waxings flying high, a deep rich psych sound which oozes the exotic taking you on a magical psychedelic journey through foreign climes. Though this time on a slightly different tangent. The opening track '1001 Night' is a slow droney number, setting the feel of the album as a whole, it has a hypnotic feel to it, you could imagine yourself wandering tripped out through an kasbah or something to it. While 'Nile Fever' has the feel of a movie soundtrack. On side 2 I particularly enjoyed 'Turkum', again there's a soundtrack feel to it as well as something of the exotic. The whole album has quite a laid back late evening feel to it, check it out. Although different in sound to the bands previous releases, still infused in all the tracks are the bands cultural and regional DNA, and I think that lends Ozuo Bazooka's sound something really original and warm, they've created a unique fusion of sounds. If you get a chance to see Ouzo Bazooka playing live take the opportunity, I've only seen them once, and it was a smashing performance.

A note of amendment.
It's come to my attention since I initially wrote this, that I've been listening to the album at the wrong speed. Not once, no, not twice, no, but on several occasions. Now I realise, it's obvious....now I realise! Yes, I know, I'm a chump, and it renders my musings on 'Songs from 1001 Nights' the ramblings of a mental. Though it does show that some music can be played and enjoyed at the wrong speed (or as I'm going to suggest, a 'different' speed) and still be well worth listening to. I enjoyed the album I thought I heard, I felt it had merit, really droney merit in retrospect. But still. I was going to delete this post, then thought, naw. So, I'm looking at it positively, now I've got 2 versions of an album for the price of one. Stop taking the piss, I didn't have to tell you.

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Stir crazy!

First day out of the house after nearly 2 weeks of proper bed ridden flu, well, other than a couple of brief tripped out and nauseated outings to the food fortress, shit doesn't get done if I don't do it. Man, I hate being ill. Today was the first time I'd felt near (only near) human enough to venture out in to the woods. And as if in support, the sun shone, as wrapped in many layers, buffs and topped with a thick beanie, I stumbled coughing through the stands. The forest was beautiful, I stood breathing in the fresh clear air, so refreshing after the thick muggy air of inside, whilst above me the ancient beech and oak of Mark Ash towered reaching for the sky, it's interesting to note how often you see an Oak and a Beech planted together out here in the forest. Ah, healing nature, you can really feel it. My wander only lasted about 25 minutes before, although I wanted to continue, I knew it would probably be to my detriment if I walked further. You notice as you get older, lurgies last longer and you don't bounce back quite as quickly. It's hard to accept, though it is how it is. Well, it's nearly 2 weeks into January and now everything's behind, I'm always trying catch up as it is, better get a shuffle on.

Friday, 5 January 2018

On the twelfth day of Christmas

On the twelfth day of Christmas music gave itself to me. Music is the gift that just keeps on giving. Music is the first thing I put on most mornings, and the last thing I turn off at night. It makes me dance around the house when I'm doing the chores, and sends my spirit soaring. It offers me solace and comfort when life's bearing down. It's always there, indelibly linked to my memories, and is forever triggering reminiscences, which in turn normally bring a smile. If music is the food of life, then I'm a unrepentant greedy bastard, and I'm going to carry on gorging myself whilst there food on the table. I wondered what track I could attach to this post, of course it was obvious, it had to be a bit of Todd, what with him being feckin ace. Enjoy.

Thursday, 4 January 2018

On the eleventh day of Christmas

On the eleventh day of Christmas music gave to me, the Here and Now band at Unit 23 Totnes. Ah, Here and Now, a band like no other, a band which holds a special place in my heart. The band has seen a few line up changes over the years, comings and goings, though throughout there's always been one consistent, the governor, Keith The Bass. And, with him in the bands current manifestation are those Andys of 'Music of the Andys', Andy Roger on twiddly tings and Andy Burrows on guitar, and Kangaroo Moon's Mark Robson on keyboards and Gem Quinn on drums, and, man, are they good. They've always been good. Shit, man, what am I saying, Here and Now have never just been 'good', they've always been at least 'great', though more often than not, bloody marvellous. And so it was at Totnes, the chemistry and energy of the current line up made this gig as good a Here and Now gig as I've seen, and over the years that's a fair few. It was an evening to immerse yourself in the joy of familiar tunes played with new twists and be enthralled by new material, solid gold shit too. Word is that they've been in the studio since and that a new release is in the offing. Oh happy days. Click this for a nice rendition of 'So Glad You're Here' filmed by John Peters.

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

On the tenth day of Christmas

On the tenth day of Christmas music gave to me, well, music didn't really give it to me, though it does allow music to give to me, the lovely new Rega Planar 1 record deck I got for my birthday. I'd had my old Dual Audiophile concept cs503-2 record deck for years, though in recently I'd had to replace the headstock, the belt, of course the stylus and the original lid, long broken, was replaced by the lid from my even older vintage Dual cs505-4, which didn't really fit. Still, it played records and allowed my music (records) to keep on giving, in fact it has had a long and distinguished service record of consistency. It's interesting though how you accept compromise without really knowing your doing it, especially if it has developed slowly. I thought that my Dual still sounded fine, and to be honest it didn't sound bad or anything, although from the first spin of the Rega I could hear the difference, it shouted at me. Now the sound appears cleaner, clearer, with more detail and depth. All my records are new again. Huzzah!

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

On the ninth day of Christmas

On the ninth day of Christmas music gave to me the best gig of the year, the Grace Curvey Collective. Well, that's just what I called them, in fact it was an evening with the Cary Grace Band and The Luck of Eden Hall in the shape of Mr Gregory Curvey, beautifully moulded, melded and exquisitely blended into something unique. Wondrous! I refer you to my post at the time.

Monday, 1 January 2018

On the eight day of Christmas

On the eight day of Christmas music gave me the wonder and nightmare which is bandcamp, and all the magic therein. I'd used bandcamp a few times over the last few years to buy a track or two, here and there, though it was always after being directed to the site, I'd never really explored the site until this year. As I say, it's a real wonder, so much good music to be found and I know I've only just scratched the surface. I'd say most days this year I've listened to at least one new band on bandcamp, more often than not though, I've listened to several more. And, my musical world has expanded exponentially. It's not merely the amount of bands on there, but the immense range of genres and styles, I've found bands I know I'd never have come across otherwise. Bands like 'Stones from the Sky' a French psych/rock/garage whose release 'Live in Agger' is a fantastic listen, 'Between the Buttons' psychedelic pop at it's best, or early 70's Neo-folk 'Comus' who returned for a 21st century reunion album which is great, and I could go on and on. Without bandcamp I'd have missed all of that and more, so, I'm currently loving bandcamp.  I also suggested the site was a nightmare, which it is, the downsides being, there's just so much good music to be found, and my pockets are shallow, if not drought ridden for the most part, and a major bugbear of mine, the prohibitive cost of shipping from the states if you want hard copies of some of the music. Bummer! That said, much of the stuff on there is reasonably priced, or much even name your own price, though that too can pose a dilemma, how much do you give; as much as you can, though what if that's not a lot. Bandcamp is a gift that keeps on giving. A few other bands I've found through the site and I'd recommend you check out are Psychic Lemon, 62 Miles from Space, The Paperweight Array and Nathan Hall and the Sinister Locals. And that really only a few of my recommendations. Once your on the site you've dropped down the rabbit hole into a world of opportunities to feed your ears, my bandcamp 'wish-list' grows daily.

Sunday, 31 December 2017

Reminiscing

Thinking of Gong at Totnes reminded me of the time we saw Gong at Beautiful Days back in 2009 (we saw Gong twice that year [the other time was in Exeter in November] each time with a slightly different line up), or more specifically, iI was reminded of an event in the crowd. The crowd grew in size and anticipation as we waited for Gong to take to the stage, amongst the crowd there were a group of what I'd describe as classic 'brew crew' characters, they were dressed as you'd expect, almost as if in uniform, they had a sack truck of Special Brew, they were being loud, obnoxious and intimidating, throwing their empties carelessly over their shoulders in the crowd and such like. The were putting on quite a show. My kids were fascinated, most of the kids watching were fascinated, whilst many of their parents, many of which looked like they'd never come across people like this before were naturally horrified and intimidated. Beautiful Days is a weird festival, it's family friendly and mainstream, whilst simultaneously having alternative almost a free festy-ish feel. As I say the 'brew crews' antics were all a show, when challenged for their behaviour the group apologized politely and continued their drinking less boisterously. All was good. Of course, they still were the focus of attention as they deteriorated in front of us. Increasingly the worse for wear, one of their number eventually succumbed to Special Brew and gravity, and crumpled to ground. His compadres looked on with genuine concern. At which point one of them, maybe the groups physician, approached the sprawled fellow, checked him out and mumbled sympathetic words, where upon, with a little encouragement, the collapsed fellow managed to get on to all fours.  The concerned fellow now reached into his pocket and produced a paper wrap, which he carefully unfolded. I knew what was coming next and looking around me at the horrified faces of other parents, so did others. Fuck I thought, how will explain this to the kids. With the wrap carefully unfolded, the guy proceeded to gently dab white power into the collapsed fellows mouth, once, twice, oh go on, one more, and then, excelsior! Slowly, like the opening scenes of 2001 the formally collapsed fellow resumed a bipedal posture, to approval of his group and was passed another can. As I say, all of this was done in front of a mixed crowd of all ages, many adults looking on in dismay.  I'd seem my kids, like many others, watching fascinated. I told them the truth, what else can you do. You know, what struck me was how caring, gentle and loving the whole dysfunctional scene was. All mobile again the group moved off, disappearing through the crowd. I'm certain I saw one of the fellows, the one with the wrap, in a Glastonbury pub several years later, and he was a very nice, if not messy, chap. Anyway, of course Gong were fantastic. I'd seen Gong several times over the years in one form or another though never including Steve Hillage and Miquitte Giraudy. I was also excited for my children to see such a legendary band, a band they'd heard many times at home. Funny how your mind wanders through the tunnels of time.

On the seventh day of Christmas

On the seventh day of Christmas, music gave to me a surprise, which really shouldn't have been a surprise. Back in March we ventured west to Totnes to see Gong, I'd last seen some years back on the 2023 tour when Daevid and Gilli were still with us. I'd not seen the band since and I have to admit to being a touch concerned that something may have been missing. I know it was essentially the same line up of consummate artists, minus Daevid and Gilli, as Gongs 2014's 'I see you' (which was both fabulous and moving in equal measure), but still, I don't know. From the performances get go I felt foolish, no, I felt guilty that I'd had any doubts or concerns. This was Gong! No doubt about it. I should have known better, Gong has always been fluid, emerging in different forms and guises, though always in essence Gong, that was Daevid's magic, his creation, his gift. Kavus steps up and takes the lead with a charisma and attitude befitting a Gong front man, I was pleasantly surprised with the air of continuity and continuation the band exuded. Dave Sturt on bass is fantastic, as is Fabio on guitar and Cheb on drums, and Ian East as well as being a superb sax player was also very funny to watch. All round it was a wonderful evening of glorious Gong, I was a bit of a twat for fearing it would be anything else.

Saturday, 30 December 2017

On the sixth day of Christmas

On the sixth day of Christmas music gave me by far the finest release of the year, the Luck of Eden Hall's 'Make Way for the Mighty Machines'.  Epic, immense, majestically sweeping, all could be used to describe this track, and none would really do it justice, though they'll do for a start. I'd heard a review copy early in the year and couldn't wait for its release which wasn't until October. 'Make Way for the Mighty Machines' is a 23 minute long opus, man, epic is just what it is, so many different elements at play, so many diverse musical styles blended beautiful to create a fabulous whole, it's horizons huge. From it's opening lyric 'we're the resistance, we wont give in, to corporation blight' you know there something more to this track than just music, it's a heart felt message too. It's a rallying cry in the face of the developing storm born of capitalisms failings that's engulfing the globe. I see the track as an anthem for positivity as disobedience to the prevailing negative mainstream narratives as projected through a corrupt corporate media, it urges us to 'discard all negative thoughts' pumped at through our TV screens, it reminds us that those TV's are not our friends. It doesn't just illustrate the problems, it suggests solutions, 'let's share a message of love', is a salient message there in, it's an important message that the Luck of Eden Hall are delivering here, and it reminds us that 'numbers give us the power' to effect change, together.  Our culture needs more musicians who'll give positive focus and a voice to our feeling of disenfranchisement. Well, that's how I see it anyway. As for the music itself, well, there are elements of psych rock and punk sensibilities flowing through strong undercurrents of prog grandeur, it's a vast canvas and every inch of that canvas bathed in a myriad of musical colour and flavour.  It's immense, in sound and in scope, every instrument is played to perfection.  It's a legit musical masterpiece, man! And on this occasion the Luck of Eden Hall is just one man, which makes it even more outstanding, an incredibly talented man, Gregory Curvey. Gregory wrote it, produced it, mixed it, he plays guitar, bass, drums, synth and delivers vocals, all to the highest of standards; I don't doubt he made the tea as well. There's no end to this guys talents. No, really! He's also a fantastic artist and craftsman, on top of which, I had the pleasure of meeting back in the year, and he's a bloody nice chap, to boot; don't you just hate people like that.  As I say, by far the finest release of the year, grab yourself a copy, you wont regret it. This release is a split on the B side of which are 3 tracks by Red Sun, which are also rather good.

Friday, 29 December 2017

On the fifth day of Christmas

On the fifth day of Christmas music gave to me The New Avalon Ballroom Weekender. And wow, what a weekend that was! Sublime bands in salubrious surroundings enjoyed in good company, it doesn't get much better than that. The last few years have throw up obstacles which have meant I've not made it to the festivals or gigs I'd often planned to, I feared it was going to go the same way for The New Avalon Ballroom Weekender, though the Gods and Goddesses smiled upon me and with a little help from my friends (as the Beatles said), at the last minute I was travelling to the Isle of Avalon and on to that hostelry of fine repute, The King Arthur.  The weekender was more fun than I could have imagined. We, like many, camped on the edge of town at the Isle of Avalon Touring Caravan Park, very nice, good atmosphere and within easy walking distance of the town. I have to admit to getting a bit too wasted on the first night, I blame....well, I don't blame anybody, it was a fine evening, even if I did require supporting on the walk back. I took a more measured approach on subsequent days. We didn't get to see all the fantastic bands, although as you'd expect the ones we did gave stella performances. We saw current favourites like The Cary Grace Band, Magic Bus and Music of the Andys, new bands (to me anyway) such as Zub Zub and Tim Hawthorn and the Archetypes and long time favourites and legends in the form of the Invisible Opera Company, Kangaroo Moon and Here and Now. It was magical. And, Here and Now's Andy Roger giving me shout out before 'So glad your here' was a lovely gesture, brought a tear to my eye and was the cherry on one hell of a weekend cake. I was so glad I was there too, to have seen such fabulous bands and enjoyed the company of so many lovely people was a real tonic. I salute all involved.

Thursday, 28 December 2017

On the forth day of Christmas

On the forth day of Christmas music gave to me a beautiful evening at the Square and Compass with Kangaroo Moon. For me, it was without a doubt the gig must brimming with joy this year, the Square and Compass was filled with love and good energy.  And it rocked. If you don't know the Square and Compass in Worth Matravers it's not the largest pub in the world, though certainly one of the most convivial, the room in which bands perform is about the size of an average front room, and on the night I recall here, it was crammed with dancing folk of all ages, all with beaming smiles. The attached video isn't of said gig, but does give a flavour of their sound, or should I say 'one' of their sounds, as Kangaroo Moon are a fluid band which manifests in different form, with different line ups, playing different sounds; what's consistent is that they're always well worth seeing.

Worbarrow Bay

Taking the opportunity of the Lulworth ranges being open over the Christmas period, we set off early for Purbeck, and on arrival we found the quarry above Kimmeridge already filling with cars. Our mission today was Worbarrow Bay again, though approached from a different direction affording us different views. The ridge above Kimmeridge is always a lovely walk, allowing aspects over Kimmeridge bowl, across the Tyneham and Corfe Valleys and in both directions along the coast, with a fantastic pay off upon reaching Tyneham Cap and Townley Shenton's seat.  From there we made our way along the top of the towering Gad Cliffs, and down the slippery hillside to Worbarrow Bay. It had been a while since we'd walked around the pebbly shore of the bay, it's a walk to to nowhere, as the beach abruptly ends at Cow Corner and the chalk cliffs which lead round to Arish Mell. Although it's December, the warm sun and inviting chalk hued seas looked inviting, though I'm certain that deception would be quickly seen through if we'd taken the plunge. The last time we walked this way the beach was clear, a long sweeping curve of graded pebbles, today though though the beach is truncated by a massive landslide from Flowers Barrow Hill. Large boulders now need negotiating if you're to get to the bays far end. We decided to return over the landslide, climbing to emerge about half way up the hill. There may have been huge boulders on the foreshore, though behind them the chalk is cherty and gritty, and appears as if shattered into irregular, though rough similar sized, pieces. The scar of the slide is massive and imposing, the land surface scoured of vegetation, it's alien in aspect and eerie to walk, possibly added to by the air of danger. When we emerged out onto the hillside I admit to being relieved, though was happy to seen immensity of scar first hand.  It's easy to think of this rocky coast as a static thing, although in recent years in particularly that view has been challenged in light of the numerous and often immense slides and the changes they bring.  We walked back up through the Tyneham Valley to the quarry, a good walk on a lovely day.