Sunday, 31 January 2016

Ghost of A Flea.

Must be something in the water. I seemed to be so easily provoked emotionally these days. The spectrum of lights that break through the branches of a leafless tree. Crushing a lavender bud from the pot outside my front door between my fingers and breathing in the smell of a wind swept moor I no longer have the legs to traipse over a mountain top too...
           And just yesterday hearing Harry Secombe singing Jerusalem on the radio as I browsed the second hand books the hospice shop on the Antrim Rd. That very funny man had an amazing voice and he carried that hymn til it soared and yet he grounded it as well. Maybe it was because it was the same place just a couple of weeks ago I heard of the death of Bowie. A sad voice coming over the air on a radio that had seen better days I guess no matter how much we try to live in the moment the past and the yet to be whirl all about us like a dervish. Anything permanent is just an illusion. I wonder if I would have felt differently if the song had been Bowie singing The Laughing Gnome...
             Ha,Ha,Ha,He,He,He,I'm The Laughing Gnome And You Cant Catch Me..

The Mysterious Mr. Quin.

Twelve stories by Agatha Christie first collected in nineteen thirty, involving a sixty nine year old socialite and his relationship with a mysterious figure called Mister Harley Quin. ( Yes, it sounds a bit clumsy but I imagine it have sounded spirited and even a little gauche all those years ago.)I say relationship but I actually mean fleeting but significant contact.These are not stories specifically about crimes in the usual sense of the word, more a series of mysteries and injustices that the central character Mister Satthwaite finds himself encountering and strangely drawn to. Each time meeting Mister Quin who comes and goes in the blink of an eye and who seems to pursue an almost supernatural agenda.
Agatha Christie writes so movingly about the ageing process and what it feels like to be a person who lives beyond the time period they feel most comfortable in. In fifteen years time these stories will be over one hundred years old. The main character, as I said an ageing socialite and wilful snob of sorts, finds himself increasingly marginalised who race to party like there is no tomorrow. Bright young things in their glittering prime. It is beautiful world full of beautiful people doing beautiful things. If you can afford it. Mister Satthwaite can afford it but he still finds himself pushed to the side. A witness to the lives and experiences of others. a voyeur of a kind. He is a kind and patient man with great empathy for those about him and also the melancholy of an older man who sees the world he feels most comfortable in slipping away. Agatha Christie captures the flavor of dislocation and personal loss with a casuality that makes one believe she was no stranger to such feelings herself. In these tales of lost love, murder, scandal and suicide she covers the waterfront dipping her toes in all. Agatha Christie has worn the crown of the queen of crime for so long it is hard to imagine any one else sitting on that throne and who would really want to. Knives hover above and about thrones in most uncomfortable ways.This is an interesting and entertainingly rewarding collection of stories from a prolific pen. you occasionally feel as though you are at a swarthy ball in some huge country estate where you been handed a glass of champagne and a little mask on a stick. You are just waiting for the lights to blink and a strangled scream from somewhere nearby..

Magical Mushrooms.

Work in progress. Mushroom spotting. Did a montage of pebbles on a beach. Wanted to try a montage of fungi. Was given a guide to the various types of mushrooms one might come across on a forest ramble.Am trying to recognise the ones that might kill one outright. If one chose to pick and eat something growing on a forest floor. Like some old crone in an MR James story. A right and proper warning to the curious. I am not attempting to communicate with Terrence Mc Kenna on some ethereal plain. a mushroom growing in a forest in northern Ireland does not have the veneer of an aid to otherworldly thinking that one growing in the Amazon basin may endow. I am more shambolic than shamanic.

The Coral Island.

The great grandfather of all boy's own tales The Coral Island has been read by generations of young adventurers and journeymen(even if most of those adventures and journeys only took place in the space between their ears.) and I recently had the pleasure of reading it again. Not the abridged edition as published by Dean but the version RM Ballantyne intended. Actually the book I read smelt as though it might have been his own personal edition. Also the levels of violence seem higher than I remember from that sanitised Dean edition. Cannibalism rears its ugly maw a few times and with a head scratching degree of casuality  (Some brain matter is scooped and cooked at one point!)The Story is about three friends who find them selves shipwrecked and marooned on the most idyllic sounding island in fiction. Blue, blue clear water to dive, swim and fish in(with the occasional shark to avoid.) An amazing beach to sleep on and mountainous jungle forests to explore and have adventures in. Three good friends find themselves surviving and growing together, facing down dangers and seemingly untroubled by any inner demons of their own. The first part of the book is taken up mostly with the stranded boys surprisingly successful attempts to feed, water, shelter and even clothe themselves( without as much as a tube of sun-screen.). not in the least squeamish they do not hesitate to hunt, catch, kill, skin, cook and eat whatever island wildlife falls into their culinary demographic. People today can barely shop for food without becoming unbearably stressed. This is an age before anthropomorphic  empathy crippled us as a species..I am not baiting vegetarians there or those of a gentler disposition  as I do not believe my previous assertion. and am laughing at my own attempt to sound worldly.I am no Kraven The Hunter more your mercurial Craven the Coward. The second part of the narrative is more taken up with their life threatening adventures as well as a few experiences which act as affronts to their Olde Worlde Christian sensibilities.
              It all feels terribly dated now. A very mannered Lord Of The Flies with the protagonists descending into more practical life adjustments than the chilling barbarism of our distant ancestors. Well, I say that in a cautionary fashion. Not so much distant as sleeping lightly not so far beneath the skin. You have to read with generously non-judgemental eyes as there are colonialist attitudes clunking throughout the text but it is still an entertaining read after all this time. It was a juvenile tale in the era of its inception and the years have morphed it into something else. This book and others like it would have lined the shelves of school libraries the world over. It is hard to imagine some of the tiles or book covers having social acceptability in the world as we understand it to be. And quite rightly so in some cases.
               I never did read its sequel The Gorilla Hunters but it already sounds equally charming. One so rarely gets to go on a gorilla hunt these days.
I first read this book as a boy in one of those abridged editions published by Dean. I seem to remember a time when the world seemed filled with cut down classics published by Dean with colorful covers that stimulated hesitant readers into picking them up. Covers which when seen now seemed possessed of an almost religious innocence(now that is a tautology if ever I read one). Covers that seemed to suggest there is no situation a stout hearted Christian lad cannot handle by virtue of their er, virtue. I do not believe the adventurous next generation look to distant horizons for adventure any more. It is hard to imagine them looking beyond the screen of a hand held device really.The pursuit of celebrity or fame seeming to occupy the destination of choice once heralded by a life beyond the familiar horizons..
              Or maybe that is just my fear of a future that sets no store by my own feeble aspirations.
              My desire to get to the moon in a wooden rocket.

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Kingly Cub.

                                                    (From my sketchbook. Edward V11.

Shelley,Shelley, Um.

                                 (From my sketchbook) Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley.

Bowie's Tempest.

I have read somewhere that The Tempest by William Shakespeare was the last play he wrote entirely on his own (whoever you personally believe The Bard Of Strafford really was, the son of a glove maker, Christopher Marlowe in hiding, Edward De Vere, whoever..) It certainly feels like the end of something. Prospero is winding down his time as a mage, he releases Ariel, puts away his books of magic and breaks his staff. He steps back from all that is Faerie and re-embraces his writing it Shakespeare also seems to part the veil somewhat between those who followed his work and the man himself. As though he were speaking to his audience and looking directly at them through Prospero's eyes as he draws down the curtain on a world of magic.I feel that play has parellels with Blackstar and its proximity to the twilight of a man who has lived so long immersed in a modern magic of sorts.
           There is a melancholy quality that runs like a rich seam through Blackstar. There are tracks that allude to times and tunes past, well remembered songs and their composition. A track such as I Cant Give everything away feels like a track left off Low or at the very least a song recorded in a studio not so far away from the time and the place that wonderful album was recorded in. Let yourself be swept away by Blackstar and you will see what I mean. With Bowie's passing it feels as though a certain magic has gone out of the world. A sprinkling of stardust that allowed the wingless to fly.

Tom Tom Club.

Holy Smoke! Never mind the Doctors question mark underpants. Here is what every truly Stylish Time Lord is wearing under their to speak.I wonder if it would be possible to track down a pair of these..That are not second hand off course.

Working Class Hero.

Happy Birthday Tom baker! Just over forty one years ago our hero was working on a building site when he got the job that would change his life forever. This photo from The Big Finish Facebook page shows him on his last day on the site.See his workmates toast the good fortune that would take him out of their lives. What a great photograph. It says so much about the unexpected nature of our lives. One never knows the paths we may find ourselves walk down and the many treasures that may await us. Its not all Daleks or Weeping Angels waiting to ambush us..

Sunday, 17 January 2016

The Now And Forever.

There is a beautiful song (among a few other beautiful songs) on The Kate Bush album Never for Ever. A song called Blow Away. A song about music and the people who make it and just what does happen when that person is gone. If you are reading this and feeling a bit sad or down you might want to seek it out and listen to it. I am thinking about Bowie here and indeed a couple of his friends are name checked in this song from 1980. That is 36 years ago.It is Marc Bolan and Keith Moon who are remembered in the words of this amazing songstress. I am sure that Bowie himself must have been shattered by the death of his good friend Marc Bolan and in the now many years since his passing wondered when they might meet again.
                 Perhaps in another time in another place.
                 Somewhere else.
                 And where ever that is you can be sure it will not be boring.

Guitar Man.

Strum away Big Man.Play us a sad tune. The maestro has stepped back out of the spotlight and the curtain has fallen.It cannot stay closed though. We need the music too much. But for now a sad song will do.

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Someone Lost And Loved.

                                               Tho' much is taken, much abides, and though
                                               We are not now that strength which in old days
                                              Moved Earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;
                                                         One equal temper of Heroic Hearts.
                                                Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
                                                   To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.
                                                                                   Ulysses by Alfred Lord Tennyson.
Oh Boy. Such days. It can be hard at times to say aloud that which is truly unspoken in the heart. When what we are trying to express with clarity is obscured by a blizzard of ill- judged sounds that pass for words. We sound angry when we aim for temperance. We sound ignorant when we strive for wisdom. Words just fail as they often times do when a man tries to speak from his heart. But this I can say with an absolute certainty;I loved David Bowie and I always will.It is hard to imagine a world that no longer has such a precious being in it..
            Just days to absorb Blackstar, To look at those accompanying videos and realise the context in which they were created. The Heart aches..
            But it sings too. A heart filled with songs that will never stop. With work that will never rot.
            Bowie sang his life and we all listened and it was a better kinder world for it.
            I wish I could sing. I would sing for him and like a host of angels sing him to his sleep.
            Good night David and thank you for everything.

Saturday, 9 January 2016

Damned!We're All Damned!

                                                         "Just For You Heres A Love Song!"

...Some people took punk very seriously indeed. A few good friends of mine saw the possibility for social change in its ethos and thought it the responsibility of the artist to change the world through their music and almost as importantly their hair. And then there was those of us who liked bands like the Damned. For about four albums they were for me one of the most enjoyable sounds to come thumping through the heavy mono speaker of my ma's stereogram. Signed to Stiff Records they came already with a thumbs up in a funny kind of way. There were some genius people on that label back in the day. From Ian Dury and Lena Lovitch right up to the labels most sustained hit makers Madness. Not that hits seem to matter much back then it seemed to be about something else. Having a great time most of all.
              They bloody looked great too. Each member doing his own thing. Dave Vanian always looked amazing and I so envied Captain Sensible and his mohair suit. I wanted one so much but did not even know what mohair was. I thought there was a wild animal called a Mo. One of my neighbours, Peggy Ferguson, sent some old cushion covers up for my ma. We were always being given hand me downs as my family never had a pot to piss in. She was a bit startled at her window one day soon after to see me walking past wearing them as a waist coat. They were fluffy and bright orange. I decided they looked like the hair of a mo. since I was not a bad hand with a needle and thread I turned them into a warm piece of eye catching apparel. "Here,Billy, Malachy Coneys away past wearing the cushion covers I sent up for his ma." I heard she exclaimed to her husband who barely batted an eye lid about anything he heard about me. Well, he was profoundly deaf in one ear. They served me well did those covers. Keeping me warm in a cold climate.
               I suppose when you are really really broke everything you get is just gravy.

The Caged Bird Sings.

                                              When the Canary calls you just gotta answer..
I had a" team up "recently with The Black Canary. Those associated with the costumed vigilante fraternity do that occasionally. It is texting with a mask( Cripes, is there any other kind?) We had met previously in Det Sen Monastery high in a mountainous region of Tibet. We were both there to master the arcane discipline of the Right footed Path of The Ladybird.( A mystical ability that teaches costumed hero types how when faced with overwhelming odds  to run away. Such wisdom comes at a cost.)
              Anyway she asked for some assistance regarding a n entire shipment of meaningful dialogue which had been hijacked on its way to the Northern Irish assembly and unless it was recovered all our senior politicians would be reduced to talking meaningless boobie-babble. The main suspect was a mutual Nemesis The Button Mushroom King of Anarchy and his Army Of Anarchic Fungi.
                Only time will tell if we were truly successful in our enterprise.
                (Black Canary; The Lovely Miss Joanne Alexander( Check out her Facebook Page
                  And special thanks to Ex Daily Planet Photographer Jason Murphy.)

What The Doctor Knows.

The Doctor is trying to tell us something. Perhaps he trying, modestly, to hint at his imminent return at big Finish with a whole new season of stories with the lovely Lalla Ward/Romana and John Leeson/K9. The universe always seems a more welcoming place with these three mad edjits flitting about it. Even with the Black Guardian breathing down their necks...