Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Bee-have

A colony of bees gather on the tree around the entrance of their nest to take in the early morning sun. I don't know how long a nest remains active, though this colony of bees have been living in this old oak for years now. Nice to see.

Saturday, 13 August 2016

Sentinet @ the King Arthur 13.8.2016

Fucking astounding! I could just leave it at that, a two word review of last nights Sentient gig at the King Arthur. I could maybe add a couple more exclamation marks, for emphasis. But, as powerful and succinct as that may be, it would just be too lazy and Sentient deserve more... much more ( also, I'm rarely succinct).

I've seen Sentient a few times now, all wondrous, though tonight’s manifestation was imbued with added excitement, as there were new band members on-board. Gone was bass luminary Subs, now that position was taken by the legendary (really, legendary isn't a good enough adjective) Mike Howlett on bass.  When it comes to great bass players Howlett is right up there, his passion and skill shine through brightly, he doesn't just play bass, it flows through him and it shows. Also, Tanya Horn wasn't on drums this evening (although was in the house), that position was filled by the equally magnificent Steve Cassidy. Though a friend who saw Sentient perform Kozfest said they both played, which sounds way cool. Cassidy's drumming is clean and powerful, able to drive and maintain the most rhythmic of numbers.  That wizard of twiddly knobbery Joie Hinton maintained his position at the controls of keyboards and synth. And of course there is Steffe Sharpstrings on guitar. Steffe's a legend, as are his glissando and noodling skills, both instantly recognizable.

As has become commonplace with decent gigs these days, two sets were played of about an hour each, with a small break in-between. What we were served this evening was a tasty feast of, what appeared, improvisational pieces, made up from a myriad of beautifully blended styles and influences, all delivered masterfully. There were psych, dub, space rock and jazz flavours to name few. There was less glissando and more noodling from Steffe this evenings sets that previous gigs, and can the man noodle...yes, and some! Steffe deftly threaded magical paths through the bands improvised sound-scapes, his performance an experience as much spiritual as musical. Mr Howlett was a conduit to the place where bass is born, the bass lines fair burst out of him, as if he were a shaman with the power to birth them. Which he must be, it's the only explanation. Both Steffe and Mr Howlett morphed into space goats at several points, so powerful were the musical vibrations. Well, it's impossible not to. Occasionally Joie, smiling mischievously, would lean over his keyboards towards the audience as if judging just the best moment to lay some mind melting extreme synth twiddling on us. Of course he nailed it every time. Throughout, with steadfast resolve, Steve Cassidy beat the skins, never dropping a beat and making it look effortless (which clearly drumming can't be). What a fantastic drummer, man. The addition of the Howlett/Cassidy combination was something else! (Have mentioned how bloody marvellous a bassist Mike Howlett is?) They certainly elevated Sentients rhythm section to new heady heights (not that the previous Subs/Horn combination wasn't right up there too). Last night we were spoilt, what a performance!

I don't think my descriptions ever do performances real justice, though I can honestly say, I was fair blown away this evening, smiling slack jawed at the wonder of it all. When magic's created it's undeniable, and magic certainly filled the back room of the 'Arthur' last night, and, the audience loved it. Everybody was blissed out, man. One by one they took to the dance floor to swivel, frug and throw shapes, while the end of each track was met with rapturous applause. There were also a couple of notable musicians in the audience last night. Gregory Curvey of The Luck of Eden Hall whose latest album 'The acceleration of time' is a great listen. And, Cary Grace who'll be performing at the King Arthur in September and is well worth catching live. The 'Arthur' was a delight as usual, what a top venue with lovely staff and friendly regulars, and the sound, again, top notch...bravo sound guy. If there was a recording of last nights gig, I'd love to see that available, nudge nudge, wink wink. 

All in all a splendid evening, although I do have one complaint, not about the venue nor the band. But people. Where the fuck were you? Yeah, there was a good turn out, and yeah, we all thoroughly enjoyed it, but the 'Arthur' should have been overflowing, the calibre of musician and quality of music on offer. For a fiver too! My fear is we either 'support them or lose them', and our lives would be diminished by the latter. Whether it's lack of publicity or apathy, it's not good enough. We need innovative and original bands and the local venues for them to perform.  Where ever you are, if you get the chance, support them.

Thursday, 11 August 2016

The sky at night

Messing about with the camera, this is what the sky looked like at 2200 tonight, even though the sun had been down for over an hour. The exposure was longish and I didn't use a tripod, hence the blurriness, although I quite like that softened look to the clouds. It's weird how the sky still looks so blue in the photo, as it was much darker with the my eye. Kept me entertained for ages.

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Egret

A fairly poor shot (apologies) of one of the Egrets, Little Egret (Egretta garzetta) I think, which I mentioned yesterday. They used to be rare, although are becoming more common (600 to 700 breeding pairs in the country, apparently, first breeding in Dorset in 1996). There's invariably one on the stream between Markway Bridge and Mill lawn, sometimes two, which indicates the health of the streams fish stocks.  A lovely sight.

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Misinformation

A petition came up in my Facebook feed to 'protect our forest stream', of course it caught my attention. It told of plans to destroy a 'natural' stream and 'ruin' the 'natural' environment, it had photos which it said reflected previous 'failed' projects. Moving stuff. Except, it was all disingenuous bollocks, probably done with the best of intensions. It just so happens I'd come across a blog post by a local MP from which the petition derived heavily, and which was so inaccurate and ill informed it beggared belief, although being from an MP had an air of authority, but was little more than nimbyism with an anti EU sub text.  The Bog woodland restoration project is a higher stewardship project partly funded by the EU, and it's been running for over 20 years now, I reckon. I'll admit that when I first came across the diggers in the forest remodelling streams I'd grown up with and loved, I was horrified. Although with some research my fears and doubts were allayed, and as the restored streams and their environs healed any lingering fears and doubts were dispelled. The truth of the matter is, all too often what we perceive as natural, is in fact far from it.  Many of the forest streams (pre restoration) were nothing more than Victorian drains to aid forestry, much of the streams environs were plantation woodland too, not natural. The Bog woodland restoration program has returned these streams to the pre Victorian meandering courses, restored a more natural woodland environ and through those actions benefited nature greatly. The Victorian straightened streams were quite sterile, or at best had limited diversity, the waters ran too fast and the drained environs inhospitable to the forests natural flora and insect life.  I didn't know that at the time and though it was how it should have been. Now though along the restored and well healed sections of meandering streams the increased diversity in flora and insect life is clearly visible.  The once empty streams teem with aquatic flora, a huge variety of insects are now present, fish have begun to return and with them an increased number birds such as Egrets, which I don't remember seeing pre restoration. The stream banks, now free from the scouring of fast flowing waters, host a myriad of plants, which also attract increased and diverse wildlife. The environs too have changed markedly, whereas the  straight drains (streams) channelled the water from the land and swiftly out of the forest, the restored streams slow that process down making the environ and the forest in general seasonally wetter, preventing flooding in the adjoining urban areas and increasing the fertility and diversity of the woodland. So, far from destroying a 'natural' stream and ruining the 'natural' environment, this restoration program is enhancing and to a degree (a tiny degree, mind) re-wilding a environment much diminished by human activity.
And, I say all this not being a big fan of conservation per se, what with it myriad inherent problems, born of its species and arbitrary period specific methodology.  Want to know what I'm going on about? Check out 'Feral' by George Monbiot, he explains it better than me. 

Anyway, my point? Question everything, never take things on face value, no matter how emotive or well meaning they may appear. Misinformation in our information age is rife. But hey, don't take my word though.

Sunday, 7 August 2016

Knowlton Yew

One of the Yews at Knowlton Henge.

Scabious

Scabious (Scabiosa columbaria), the pincushion flower, is a common sight on the chalk downs and at the moment they're blooming on mass. Their delicate pinky mauve flowers carpeting the hillsides is a sight to lift the spirits. Beautiful.

Going underground

Whilst out walking near Win Green Hill we stumbled across this strange feature, a tunnel or something.  Whatever it is it's not shown on the OS map, although you'd think it would be. The façade is newer than the tunnel itself, the internal brickwork is clearly older, the environs are dense thicket and scrub, though a path has recently been cut through and the area directly outside the entrance is cleared. So it's looked after, used maybe? The entrance is blocked with a substantial steel door, which has two horizontal slots in it, which I'd imagine are to allow bats access.  There's also an older iron barred door about 5m in, beyond this door the the tunnel is prefabricated concrete in a sort of 70's scifi base style. The tunnel floor has regularly spaced blocks along one side, the type which might have carried pipes or electrical conduit, and is strewn with, what looks like, chalk debris. The strangest thing is there is a light, or light coming from somewhere deep into the tunnel.  Quite the mystery. 

Friday, 5 August 2016

For Nepal

Some months ago I heard Evil Hoodoo planned to release a charity record for the victims of the earthquakes in Nepal. It sounded like a great idea and there were some good bands on board. So I ordered a copy. Well, it has arrived and a thing of beauty it is too. I didn't know many of the bands, and the ones I did were through a friend who knows his psyche music onions and who I think has probably seen most of them live (I've only seen Carlton Melton  live, and they were an audio treat and a half). If the rest of the bands are as good live as they sound on this, well! You get 4 sides of great tracks, from great 14 bands and on nice coloured vinyl too, giving never sounded so good. Kudos to all the bands involved, and Evil Hoodoo for getting made.  

Crabbies

The apple trees over the common may have failed this year, and the cooker in next doors garden has produced but a few fruits, but many of the forests Crab Apples (Malus sylvestris) are heavy with apples. I'll have see what can be done with them, beyond crab apple sauce. 

Thursday, 4 August 2016

The arse end of a car!

Walking along the edge of Ridley Wood this evening we came upon the arse end of a car, well, the tail bumper anyway. A strange find, made stranger as the busy A31 (the closest road) is some 500m away. How the flip did it get right over here? It must have been one hell of of a crash, or maybe a giant Magpie carried it here. I don't know. It's a mystery! Oh, hang on! As it happens, this bumper turned out to be a prophetic sign, man, as the friend who drove this evening ripped his rear bumper off on a stumpy post as we left the car park. Similar colour vehicle too. Weird!

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Antlers

I bothered for wildlife this evening. Of course, I'd like to describe it as 'getting close to nature', although I rather think the deer saw it more as bothering them as they tried to enjoy an evening meal. These five fine fellows were with a large group of does and fauns grazing on the fringes of Brinken Wood. I managed to get quite close to them at times (not the does and fauns, they were straight off), until after about 20 minutes they'd had enough and tried, successfully, to lose me amongst the shoulder high bracken, before disappearing into the shadows of the adjacent woodland.

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

The Preacher

I have to be honest and say, as forgiving as I am, and I really am when it comes to comic adaptations, I was worried about a screen adaptation of The Preacher, Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon's dark and humorous comic masterpiece.  How would they do it?, was my first thought. Followed swiftly by how would they do it justice? Hearing Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg were behind it, I thought....maybe. Seeing the promotional shots of Dominic Cooper as Jesse Custer, Ruth Negga as Tulip O'Hare and, a favourite of mine, Joseph Gilgun as Cassidy, I thought...I reckon this could work. And watch it I thought...YES!  They did it, it worked marvellously. The Preacher is a thing to beauty. All right, it's not the comic, it never could be, but they've done as good a job as I think could be done. The essence and feel of the comic is there, the main plot of the comic is there, just imagine The Preacher in a slightly different version of the comic reality. The same but different. The main characters are there and have developed well, they're convincing as the comic creations. The supporting characters too, some from the comics, some echoes of characters from the comic and some new, are all engaging. I wont give too much of the story away, enough though to say strange things are afoot in Annville; the episodes are dark, sometimes brutal (the motel fight scene) and so funny (the motel fight scene), there are some really strong performances (DeBlanc and Fiore are great, and Cassidy too, that said, everyone of the actors were great) with great dialogue (little filler, all killer) which weaves several different threads together which leads to one of the best season finales of a series I've seen. And the beginning of something familiar to those who've read the comics. Visually, it's a treat, stylish and well framed. I can't wait for a longer season 2 in 2017. 

Monday, 1 August 2016

Lughnasadh

A bumper wheat and barley harvest's here, 
                 and with it fresh bread and beer.                  
And still there are two harvests yet to come, 
before the growing year is done.

Lughnasadh blessings y'all.

Sunday, 31 July 2016

Nipple Hill

I passed Wingreen Hill on my return from Devon this afternoon. I'd been on a mercy mission for a chum (or in this case chump) who'd locked his keys in his van at Kozfest. Easily done, especially at a psychedelic rock festival. As I climbed up Zig Zag Hill, up onto downs Wingreen was silhouetted against the sky in the distance. The afternoon sky was azure blue and dappled with light wispy cloud, the ripening downs landscape was bathed in the rich colours afforded by the summer sun. Lovely! So prominent on the horizon, and so clearly visible for miles around, Wingreen has always been a feature to orientate yourself by. Even if a landscape feature already has an established name, still we tend to assign them our own, so it is with Wingreen, known to our family as 'Nipple Hill'. Seeing landscape, as I do, as a physical manifestation of the Goddess, it's curves, it's hills and valleys, 'Nipple Hill' seemed an appropriate name. 

Saturday, 30 July 2016

Hoverfly

I initially jumped at the sight of this (Volucella zonaria) Hoverfly, thinking it was something more stingy. (Volucella zonaria) is one of the largest Hoverflies in the UK. This beastie, along with a plethora of over flapping, buzzing, hovering insects was feasting on our buddleia davidii, the garden is alive in the sun.

Thursday, 28 July 2016

I hate fairyland! by Skottie Young Vol1: Madly ever after

I enjoy a good graphic novel, and 'Madly ever after', Volume 1 of Skottie Youngs, 'I hate fairyland', is a really good graphic novel, a visual feast of colour and form, wittily written and drawn by Skottie Young. I was drawn in by the brightly coloured cover depicting the psychotic main character Gertrude, a mix of old school comic styles with a touch of the grotesque. Skottie's take on the traditional 'fairyland' story is funny and refreshing, a simple comic story of a girl whose wish to go to fairyland comes true, although having been trapped there now for 27 years, unable to find the key to her return, she's gone a touch mental and has become the feared scourge of that magical land. Something has to be done, and Queen Cloudia of Fairyland has a plan. As I say, a rich brightly coloured visual feast, a brilliant read which I highly recommend. I can't wait for Volume 2!

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Honeysuckle

As I walk each season, each has something new and unique to offer, something of its own and something that, for me, punctuates and symbolizes that period of the year. Now is the time of the Honeysuckle (Lonicera periclymenum), also known as 'Woodbine'. During the day you can pass its delicate flowers, hidden amongst the developing verdance, without noticing them, but come evening time and their heavenly scent is unmistakable.  Rich and sweet, to stop and smell a flower or two is a feast for your nose, and sends the mind soaring. For flowers so understated, they really pack a fragrant punch. 

Saturday, 23 July 2016

Chase Avenue

Chase Avenue.

Cleft Oak

A cleft Oak we came across on our way across Rotherley Down, it was quite hollow, though still very sturdy, and inside it several juvenile Beef Steak fungi (Fistulina hepatica) were growing. Nice tree.

Out in the Chase

The Chase is beautiful, her exposed hills and secluded wooded valleys, a secret landscape for the intrepid walker to explore. I love this land. When people ask 'do you love your country?' I answer 'of course!', though I'm being disingenuous. I know what they mean, and it's not what I'm answering 'of course' to. They mean the jingoistic ideas of patriotism, which mean little to me beyond a currently prevalent and uncomfortable narrative espoused by many. When I say I love my country, I mean I love the country, the land. I understand it, I know what I'm looking at, I know where to look for things, I feel part of it. When I have explained myself to those asking me 'do you love your country?' they look confused as if I'm speaking in tongues. Weird. 

I digress though, where was I, ah yes, the Chase. Her paths wind through a landscape steeped in history, rich in myth and legend. Our earliest ancestors favoured this landscape, remains of their activities dot the land, some easily spotted, whilst others stay hidden in the long grass and sturdy clumps of shrub. For years archaeologists who explored the prehistoric monuments of the Chase ignored the sensory experiences of ancient people, how they would have related to the landscapes they walked, and how that would have influenced the siting of their monuments. It's an area of archaeology I find fascinating which was first popularized by Christopher Tilley's A Phenomenology of Landscape published in 1994. I like to think they'd have possibly experienced the land in some ways similarly to how I do, although they'd have felt it much more immediately and far deeper that I could, our modern world being so removed from our nature. 

Through the stands of the expansive Chase wood we walked through summers glory, insects buzzed from flower to flower (and there were plenty of flowers), the canopy was alive with birds, things rustled in the undergrowth and occasionally we caught a glimpse of deer deeper in the shade. The fecundity of the land is so apparent, her bounties manifest. It was cooler in the dappled light of the stands, not so when we emerged into the open, where the sun beat down with that weird unnatural intensity common these days.  Outside the woodland in the bright light we could see birds of prey gliding above the canopy, circling for prey, occasionally giving an eerie screech. Majestic birds. We made our way down the hillside, through steep sided valleys and along hard reflective chalk paths, until we reached Tollard Royal, a small hamlet nestled in a valley, with a fine pub, The King John. After a brief stop for apple based refreshment and a spot of boot repair, we returned to our walk and began the climb back up onto the downs. Through ripening fields and past strangely contorted trees, the long tough downland grasses grabbing at our boots, we made our way. It was hard going, especially after the pub, but the views, man, the views were something else. Finally we reached the top of the downs and photo above is what we looked out upon and what we'd walked through. Magnificent. Our return was back through Chase Wood, this time along Chase Avenue, a double avenue of mature beech. Hot and tiring, moving slower now, the shade was welcomed, as was the sight of journeys end. 14 miles of outstanding beauty, you can't beat it. That's the country I love.

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Full Moon

Full Moon, I saw you standing alone. The full moon rises in a rainbow hued sky over Mudeford spit. Nice. I never forget how blessed I am to live in an area of such outstanding natural beauty. Full Moon blessing y'all.

Monday, 18 July 2016

Avon causeway

This evenings light gave the River Avon at the causeway a beautiful golden hue. I stopped and stared, transfixed by the sumptuous scene before me, it really was beautiful. We used to swim in this section of the river, the corners were deep, though for the most part the river in shallow here, only waist high. Then people got grumpy with us swimming there, so that was that. What's wrong with folk? We moan and whinge about the unimportant, whilst simultaneously ignoring the glaringly important. I think it comes from feeling powerless to effect the big stuff and a need to feel empowered. Still, lovely evening for a cycle.

Thursday, 14 July 2016

Sweet light

Sweet light through the stands at the moment.  Its been nice taking evening walks through the forest, the late light is warm and soft, casting long shadows along the woodland fringes. Beautiful. The interior, mind, where the light fails to penetrate is far cooler and darker. It's quieter too. The quiet coupled with the shoulder high bracken lends itself to an air of mystery, where the occasional rustle or distant screech conjures mental images of childhood fairy tales, or 70's Hammer movies. Best not dwell on imagined horrors though, make your way back out to the fringes and those last warming rays of the day. Ah, that's better. Nice.

Monday, 11 July 2016

Fire sky

There was an intenseness to tonights sunset as seen from Spy Holms, as if a huge fire raged on the horizon. It was brief though, the colours developed quickly, blazed brightly and faded just as quickly. Nature is generous with her sunsets, as she is with other aspects of her bounty, but you need to be observant or you'll miss too often miss them. 

Sunday, 10 July 2016

Wood ants

A colony of Wood Ants (Formica ......, I'm not sure which specific type of Wood Ant) appear to have collected the flowing buds of nearby spruce trees and surrounded their nest with them. The purpose of this I'm not sure, if there is one, maybe it's just that the buds were a handy building material and have graded themselves through weathering, whatever, it does make for visually interesting image, particularly in its moss green setting. 

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Survivors

It appears my earlier belief that all of the apple blossom had suffered from 'fire blight' or 'Apple blossom weevils' and wouldn't be fruiting, was a a little previous. Only a little, mind. I counted at least a dozen young apples, not enough for my planned cider making, although enough for snack or two whilst out walking the hound.  It may not be many, still, it's nice to see some survivors, I don't like to think of fruit trees failing completely.

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Tranquillity

Some evenings everything is just right in the forest, so it was for tonights walk. The sun still shone as we strolled through Brinken Wood, its rays just warming, though starting to fade as it sank towards the horizon, casting long shadows through the stands of ancient Beech. Ponies gathered out in the shade, as did the deer, neither noticed us passing by, or showed they had, both grazing with contentment. It's July but still the ground is soft under foot and areas of standing water persist, particularly through the younger section of Brinken Wood, where the woodland floor is carpeted by thick lush grass.  A large bird alights from one of the older trees and glides towards a denser part of the wood as we approach, it's a bird of prey though I can't make out which type. It's so quiet out here, checking your foot falls you too can move through the stands silently, so not to interrupt the tranquillity.  We cross Highland Water, still flowing well, although now a dark colour like ruby ale, the consequence of the heathland peats. We're now in Great Huntley Bank and a world of ancient Oak and Beech. It's still soft under foot and grassy, though as we move onto slightly higher ground it dries and the grasses are replaced by thick swathes of shoulder high ferns. It's easy to become disorientated, and has an added sense of wild about it. A couple of times in quick succession a solitary deer darts out of the ferns, glances and then swiftly disappears again.  The sun is lower still now, and the layer of tranquillity has thickened and now covers the woodland like the eiderdowns I remember as a kid.  We stand still. It's only when you stop like this and really listen that you hear the song of the forest, particularly at this time of day.  Yes, it's tranquil, but the song never stops and as we listen, our ears tuning in, we hear twilights verse in the forests song. Birds sing their good-nights, the nocturnals waking at the start of their day and distant ponies calling and then the sound of hooves as the dispersed come together for the night.   

Walking is peaceful, the quiet washes over you and through the jumbled thoughts and distractions of the day. Life can be filled with negativity, and it's hard sometimes not to be consumed by by it, or at the least distracted by it. The forest is a counsellor who walks with you and listens as you churn over your problems and worries. And even if those problems and worries persist, which they often do, your walk amongst the stands is respite enough for you to return to them a little bit clearer and with renewed strength. 

Sunday, 3 July 2016

Feild Maple

The winged seed pods of the Field Maple (Acer campestre), our only native maple, add a vibrant shot of red to countrysides current verdance.

A rip in the fabric of time.

There was a mysterious rip in the fabric of time which appeared over Cranborne Chase today, the rip allowed a conduit to the Second World War to form, and saw the giant shape of a B17 Flying Fortress soaring over the Wiltshire skies. I wonder if the crew knew they were flying in the future they and theirs served for?  The rip was short lived and soon the B17 returned to its own time and skies over the Chase were quiet again. I made it up, you say! Well, I can't think of any other explanation.

Saturday, 2 July 2016

Red sky at night

The red / grey cloud combo is always a favourite of mine. Red sky at night shepherds delight, they say. Well, here's to hoping. Beyond the negative effects on wildlife and vegetation, particularly down at the allotment, I miss the seasons. Sure, I take days as they come, make the most of the good weather when we have it. But it's not right and you know it, this should be summer and the weather should be predictably fair to good, not this grey dank humid shite we're experiencing. We have a clear understanding of how unseasonal weather effects nature adversely, though appear to have a blind spot as to how it effects us (to a point disingenuous I know, we understand about Vitamin D deficiency, but I believe there's more to it), maybe that's because we're British and love to obsess about the weather, but also being British frequently miss the bigger picture. News flash, we are nature too.  Still, tomorrows another day.

Friday, 1 July 2016

Magic Bus @ The King Arthur, Glastonbury

Arthur Conley asked if we liked good music? Well, derrr! Of course Arthur, man! And if it's good music you're looking for then Magic Bus will be right up your street. This is my description Magic Bus from earlier in the year (back in February), I've included it here as when I started describing the band it soon became clear I was repeating myself.

''Well, Magic Bus are a 6 piece psychedelic, proggy, folky, jazz type combo. The band are Jay Darlington whose superb organ (amongst other key based instruments) drives many of the pieces.  Above this soars the magical fluting of Viv Goodwin-Darkes' which dances with the organ like a mischievous sprite (Viv also plays a whole load of other instruments). Paul Evans on guitar, conveys finely crafted songs with great vocals. Terence Waldstadt delivers some masterful lead guitar. Rhythm is supplied by Benny Brooks on bass and Connors' (last name unknown) frenetic drumming. Each band member putting in a highly polished performance on their individual instruments, which when combined together created a incredibly tight performance, a rich and mellow tripped out musical sound-scape with a fantastically uplifting and danceable groove.No doubt influenced and inspired by the sounds of late 60's early 70's from both sides of the Atlantic, Magic Bus are keeping that vibe alive and running with it. Every now and again there’s a nod to the likes of Caravan or  Gong or the echo of west coast harmonies. Don't get me wrong, the Magic Bus are no period tribute band, no sir, Magic Bus are doing their thing very much in the here and now.  You just can't hear organ and flute combined over guitar without being reminded of the early 70's 'Canterbury sound', and that's no bad thing.  I suppose it could be suggested that Magic Bus drink from the same inspirational spring as the afore mentioned, though they've freshened the sound, modernized it, given it a contemporary feel and play it with gusto.''

When we saw them back in February they were bloody marvellous, and tonights gig even surpassed that performance. Along with some favourites off their last two albums ('Magic Bus' and 'Transmission from Sogmore’s Garden' http://magicbusband.co.uk/), some delivered differently, they dropped in some new tracks from their up coming new album (possibly coming out with a vinyl option), which if the quality of the tracks played are anything to go by is going to be another audio treat. The sound at The Arthur, as usually, was very good, which served to emphasise Magic Bus's really clean tight sound. As I've said each member of the band is polished in their art and delivered a masterful performance, which quickly had folk up on their feet. And there were some fantastic dancing stars this evening, no, really, it all adds to the atmosphere of pure joy.  Great projections too. The performance was split into two glorious sets, giving everybody a chance to fill their glasses, and which gave us the opportunity to chat to Connor (the drummer) what a lovely chap, happy to chat with us too and was so full of beans I thought he might actually explode. In fact all the band are lovely and chatty; one of the joys of a small venue like the Arthur is that you're all together, band and audience, creating an inclusive atmosphere often lacking from larger venues. Sadly, all too soon, the performance was over and the bus stopped, and we alighted, although we'd all thoroughly enjoyed our journey, the band looked like they had too, which is always nice. It was another wonderful up lifting gig, which left you feeling much better than you'd been feeling before. I can't recommend a trip on the Magic Bus highly enough...pure uplifting joy.

As for The King Arthur http://thekingarthur.co.uk/wp/, well, you know what I'm going to say...what a magical magical place and superb venue with great sound, a really lovely friendly pub, staffed by great people and filled with friendly welcoming locals. As always 11 out of 10!

Friday, 24 June 2016

I didn't vote in the referendum.

So it's over, it's done, the nation has spoken and we're out. I didn't vote, mind. That's right, I didn't vote in the EU referendum. Yes, I talk and comment on politics regularly (too much some would say), and I'm sure my reluctance to vote came as a surprise to some of my friends, it was a surprise to my family.  But what did I have to vote for? What was my choice? 

Vote out? Align myself with the far right, closet racists and the misinformed nationalists. Those who seek to remove our rights, relegate us to mere work drones living to work and working in poverty. No, I couldn't do that. Of course, that's not the whole picture at all. A huge number of Brexiteers were disenfranchised working class poor, abused and ignored by the establishment and marginalized to an existence in poverty.  I feel their pain and understand their anger, although not their view that immigrants have caused all their woes, they clearly haven't, it's the establishment who have. The same establishment, elements of whom, have pointed them towards the immigrants, and ironically the poor and sick, as their enemy. And, elements of whom have been actively directing the out campaign.  Voting out will not make the life of the poor and disenfranchised any better. On the contrary, out will mean more suffering, more pain, more disenfranchisement, more austerity and more hate and division. That will soon become apparent.

Or.

Vote in? Align myself with the far right, closet racists and the misinformed nationalists. Those who seek to remove our rights, relegate us to mere work drones living to work and working in poverty. Hang on! That all sounds a bit familiar.  I used to be a fan of the EU and understood the benefits it brought. One world, one people, and all that.  Although that was then. In recent years the EU has changed, embarking on a program of watering down employment rights and environmental protection to make us more competitive, embracing TTIP and as for what they did to Greece, well.  Many EU countries are moving to the right, some the far right. The EU continues to expand east, and with it NATO, purposely antagonizing Russia, in clear dereliction of the agreements and promises made at the time of Glasnost. Not to sound like an 'outer' the EU is becoming a monster, a powerful capitalist monster, at that.

Some not really much choice there. As a good friend of mine puts it, 'the opportunity to choose the least odious of two odious turds', again! I just can't participate in these charades, these illusions of choice, any more!

For 6 years those on benefits, those living in social housing, the sick, the disabled have been marginalized and scapegoated, blamed for the country's problems, pilloried and attacked by our government and the press. It was all us and the immigrants what done it. As I remember it, the EU didn't come to our  aid, the EU didn't step in to support us or hold the governments to account for said attacks. When you've been vilified by the government, the media and a population too wilfully ignorant and easily fooled to understand that it surely can't be the poorest in society that have taken all the money and brought the country to its knees, what stake do you have in society? Note, I'd say. No matter which side had won the referendum the attacks on the weak and vulnerable were guaranteed to continue; does it really matter who's kicking you, or how hard the kicks are? Not really, you just want it to stop. I wouldn't have voted out, but I couldn't vote in either, I had no reason or right to vote, I hold no stake in society, 6 years have made that clear.

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Breather

A butterfly stops briefly for a breather on a Common Spotted Orchid before alighting once again to rejoin the aerial foray. 

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Hedge pig

It's not common to see Mrs Tilly-Winkle out in the day, in fact it's not common to see Mrs Tilly-Winkle or her kin, full stop. They used to be a frequent sight when I was younger, scuttling about in the bushes under the moon. Then there was a not so cool period when you frequently saw their remains on the road side. No though, you see neither (clearly not seeing the latter is a good thing) with much frequency. So, I was surprised, and delighted, to see this one noisily rummaging through the thickets of the common.  They've funny little faces and their black pearl eyes clearly mark them out as nocturnal, hence my surprise at seeing one out in the day, I was also surprised at how nonchalantly it continued about its to my presence. At first I thought, being out in the day, that it might have been injured or sick, although it moved at speed when it did move and looked a good size and healthy. Maybe environmental changes are necessitating adaptations or maybe it was that I was walking off the path, whatever, it was nice to see. 

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Solstice sunrise

I'd risen long before dawn, in order to drive through the night the 60 or so miles to Pilsdon on the Dorset Devon border to catch the solstice sunrise. It was an eventful drive, 2 deer, a fox and a badger all caused me to take evasive action, still, makes a difference from having to take evasive action on account of numerous nut-bars in cars. I'd not visited Pilsdon for over 20 years and was looking forward to the visit, even if I wasn't certain there'd be much of a sunrise to see.  Pilsdon is the one of the highest, if not the highest, hill in Dorset and site of an Iron Age hillfort. That said, a road winds past the fort quite near to the summit and on arrival it didn't take long to reach the ramparts of the hillfort. What a view, man!  And to boot, the sun did indeed rise and it was stunning. Well worth the trip.

Below, the brief description I posted on friend-face.

Looking north-east this morning from the lofty heights of Pilsdon Pen hillfort, across the beautifully undulous west Dorset landscape, as the summer Solstice Sun edged deftly above the distant horizon accompanied by the sweet song of the dawn chorus.

Happy Solstice y'all

Sunday, 19 June 2016

Brian Jonetown Massacre

We ventured out to the Engine Rooms in Southampton this evening to see the Brian Jonestown Massacre.  I've listen to their music for years after a friend suggested them to me, although had never seen them perform live. Nor, as it happens, had I been to the Engine Rooms, so an evening of all new experiences.

Firstly the Engine Rooms. Located in an industrial estate, it looked just that, an industrial unit as we languished outside in the rain, whilst the security staff slowly admitted only very small groups of punters in at a time. Once inside, the Engine Rooms on the inside was what you'd expect from the outside....an industrial unit. That said, the space was well used and laid out.

There was no support this evening as a member of the support band had fallen and broken her leg, bummer. On the bright side, the Brian Jonestown Massacre were rumoured to be playing a longer set, which the crowd were obviously very much looking forward to. I understood the bands live performances can be chequered, patchy and disruptive, even violent at times with audience members trying to wind the band up (sad wankers, why would you do that?), although they'd levelled out in recent years. I hoping for something good. The band began to fill the stage and they were off. Every member of the band are proficient musicians with years of experience, and it showed. It's clear why the Brian Jonestown Massacre are such an influential band, a group of consummate musicians, man, were they tight! From the get go it was top shelf stuff, song after song nailed. It sounds like a cliché, but every track was a killer, and there was most definitely no filler. And what an astounding back catalogue, and they used that astounding back catalogue to great effect delivering a really fantastic set and a long set too, they played for a good two and a half hours. The Brian Jonestown Massacre gave us an outstanding performance tonight, they all oozed charisma too, particularly Joel the tambourine man, who has a real stage presence.  The whole gig, long as it was, obviously went too fast for the crowds liking, and when the band had left the stage, even the prolonged calls for 'more' from the crowd couldn't bring them back on.  

What a great night, not even the 2 mile walk home in the rain from the train station could dampen my spirit.  A top night all round, and lovely see people I'd not seen in years and years.

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Hanging in there.

I see things like this so frequently out in the woods that you'd think I'd become blasé about it. But I don't. Every time I come across a tree like this, it amazes me. Near hollow, severely damaged and with its trunk decaying, this Ash tree continues (with a little help from its friends) to hang on in there. Stretching upwards towards the canopy and life sustaining light, the remaining upright bough uses the generous support of surrounding trees to achieve its goal, and the boughs end is thriving. How amazing is nature.

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Broomrape

Broomrape (Orobanche). I'm not certain which of the Orobanche family this is, although I think it's Knapweed Broomrape (Orobanche elatior). Broomrapes are parasitic plants, and having no chlorophyll, and so no green leaves or the ability to photosynthesise, it takes all its nutrition from its host plant. Listed as 'widespread though not common' it is not too common a sight in the places I walk, although here on Martin Down is one place I usually see it. An interesting plant on several levels. It's always a pleasure to spot the unusual.

Burnt Tip Orchids

Burnt Tip Orchids (Neotinea ustulata) on Martin Down. A really beautiful and rare (ish) sight, I counted 14 this year.