As Plato put it

As Plato put it: Music is a moral law. It gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, a charm to sadness, and life to everything. It is the essence of order, and leads to all that is good, just and beautiful, of which it is the invisible, but nevertheless dazzling, passionate, and eternal form.

Whatever the outcome of today’s general election, the lyrics of this fugue will still be true. Unfortunately. Continue reading

The end of the weekend

I have eaten all three of my meals at home today, not unusual, but either I am being particularly uncritical or the meals have been particularly good, for as I finished the last mouthful of my freekah based salad this evening I reflected that I could not have enjoyed better meals anywhere. OK lunch would have been improved by a side portion of rice, but otherwise it was all perfection. I reckon I have had fifteen portions of fruit and vegetables today, and that includes a rather lovely alcohol free cocktail of mango, orange and something I have forgotten Celia bought me at Sound Unbound this afternoon. It was made by Mix and Match Unlimited if you are looking to try it.

My neighbours B&J who looked after the incomparable MasterB when I visited Australia in 2016 told me about Sound Unbound. They also kept a close eye on him and gave him love and attention when I was hospitalised for a few days at the end of last month. But that’s another story, and yet another post I haven’t got around to writing. If you follow the link you’ll see we were spoiled for choice with music in a variety of venues, all for free. It was eclectic, it was vibrant, it was eye-opening and it was fun. I rather liked Zwarm who performed in St Giles Cripplegate, the church where my paternal great  great grandparents married. I think they would have been quite surprised by today’s use of the space.

Zwarm at st Giles Cripplegate

Continue reading

Just Wonderful: Love London

For this post I am going to try to eschew politics as I feel I am going to tip over the edge soon. I believe it was Harold Wilson who said a week was a long time in politics, but here in the UK five minutes can be enough at the moment to find the world you thought you knew has been turned on its head. So let’s have a break from Brexit, though like some ghastly ghoul in a B movie we know it’s going to keep coming back. Like hiccoughs. Only worse. Much worse.

Fortunately, there are parts of life that continue affirming, and often unexpected. I was about to go to bed on Friday when I received an offer of tickets to a performance of Beethoven’s 6th. A couple of texts back and forth established it was local, no charge, and in a multi-storey car park. Who could refuse? Certainly not I, but it turned out lots of my friends who had a bewildering array of entertainments booked for Saturday could, while I had just planned to be at home with MasterB. Note to self: get out more. Steph was free and not only embraced the offer of a spare ticket but offered champagne chez elle before the event. I had to pass on that as I was working and would need all my time available to get to the gig for the appointed hour.

God, I love London. I know the venues around the multi storey car park: Bussey place, the Peckham Plex, but somehow Bold Tendencies had not registered on my radar. Thank-goodness for B&J, sometime and future cat sitters who had bought the tix. We met at Frank’s Bar, a rooftop space with jaw-dropping views and a large clientele. As Steph said when she arrived shortly after I did, “Where the fuck do all these people come from?” Steph says fuck a lot.

A bar with a view

A bar with a view

B&J’s glasses were empty. They had been there a while. Steph and went to the bar. The queue was six deep and a mile sideways. I have no bar presence whatsoever so my expectations were low. I come from a long line of publicans, and some might think that would mean an advantage when it comes to getting the attention of bar staff, but I think it must be indelibly written on my aura that my role is collecting empties and wiping tables. Much to my surprise we were served within a few minutes, minutes during which Steph talked about the mud at this year’s Glastonbury. Mega mud. Continue reading

The Day the Music Died

Last night the incomparable Ian McMillan compered the TS Eliot Prize nominees reading their poems at the Royal Festival Hall. Since Celia introduced me to this wonderful event, it has been a fixture in my Januarys. Tonight the winner will be announced at the V&A. One of the poems was about the Day the Music Died, when the Big Bopper, Buddy Holly and Ritchie Valens were all killed in a 'plane crash.

It wasn't something that affected my life, as I wasn't that long out of the womb. Later I enjoyed Buddy Holly, who I always associate with Jimmy Ruffin as I was introduced to their music at the same time when my sister borrowed albums by both of them from a friend; and I have seen the musical twice, but he was always someone who spoke to a generation before mine.

Popular music provides the soundtracks to our lives, takes us back in an crotchet to places and times we had all but forgotten. The lyrics articulate our angst, our anger, our love, our hope. Never underestimate the power of popular music to glue your memories together, to create shared bonds with people.

Today the music died again. I heard about it via Instagram, and had an elongated 'this doesn't make sense' moment because only the other week I read an article about his new album, released just this weekend. It talked about him being reclusive, spending time with his young daughter in the privacy of their home. So the implication that David Bowie was dead didn't add up. Continue reading

Arise Sir Van

The Birthday Honours list contained one name that made me sit up, well metaphorically anyway. Van Morrison is a knight.

Ok, he’s not a member of the Order of the Garter or anything, but bloody hell. Sir Van. Coo. I wonder if he could ever get upgraded to life peer? I am trying to imagine him on those red benches, standing to make a speech opposing cuts in the arts or something. I can’t see him taking prisoners.

Apparently he got it “for services to the music industry and tourism in Northern Ireland”.

That last bit made me chuckle. He has probably done more to put bits of NI into the imagined map of the country than anyone else, but it would be far from intentional. The idea of Van being the face of NI tourism belongs to something penned by Armando Iannucci. Can you imagine it, Van’s face scowling out from beneath his pork pie hat on billboards encouraging you to visit the sights. No, far better let his words and music do the work.

Still, City Airport has already been renamed Georgie Best Airport, so why shouldn’t Aldergrove, aka Belfast International, a destination I am heading for again in a few short weeks, become Van Morrison Airport? They could play his music in an endless loop, which would make me very happy.

And It Stoned Me should prepare anyone for a stay in NI, especially the weather.

There was a piece in the Belfast Telegraph last year about VM themed walking tours. It’s well worth reading, and I do like the word Vanorak. Read it here. Continue reading

Vinyl Nights

Moving furniture about in the sitting room has put me back in touch with my vinyl. For some forgotten reason I had it across the room from the turntable. Now they are reunited and, after balancing the stylus under Mike’s expert guidance, I have been enjoying an evening of glorious memories of the 12″ kind.
Mike used to run a shop up the road and rescued VCRs and other electrical gadgets from premature retirement. When he gave up the shop and became a man with a van, I was lucky enough to still have his mobile number. Today, I decided the non-functioning stylus arm had to be sorted. I rang Mike. His wife answered. He’s retired, she told me. My heart sank.
Fortunately Mike called me back and guided me through everything I needed to do. A hero.
So the rest of the day has been enlivened by spinning the discs.
I don’t care what you say about CDs, they do not have the quality of vinyl. There’s an immediacy, a rawness. As I write this sentence Billy Bragg is singing (sic) on Life’s a Riot , being the Milkman of Human Kindness. Continue reading


The soundtrack to these days is Snow Patrol, despite the fact that The day thy gavest, Lord, is ending is in my ears all the time. But in the car Snow Patrol rules. There is one track that I turn up, that somehow articulates some of what I am feeling, and the fact that it has pretty, jangly, chords too seems right. It’s about a broken love affair; he doesn’t know, but she could be happy. I feel a bit like that with Mother. She isn’t able to tell me, but maybe she is happy; maybe she is happily saying a slow goodbye to her life. She has always had a strong Christian faith, so maybe she is anticipating a happy afterlife. Some months after my father died, she was walking down the road, thinking about him, when suddenly she looked up at the sky and thought, he’s a free spirit now. She told me she felt like a burden had been lifted, that instead of imagining him in his death throes, she felt he was happy, not slowed and frustrated by the illnesses he had suffered.
Another line in the same song says how somehow everything he has smells of her. It strikes a chord. How can the abstract pack such a punch?

Continue reading

New Year, New Mosaic

Another in my postcard series. I need to finish around the edges, maybe using copper ribbon, or more likely painting it. There are a few, very small gaps. I may fill them with tiny shards. Originally I had being going to grout, but then decided against that. The ceramic pieces were given to me by London Potter, Barbara Wakefield.

Sea Shanty