Autumn displays to mend your heart

I had an unbelievable summer, full of love, fun, laughter, holidays, seaside fun, late nights, new experiences and general rad times. Still, I always knew once September hit things would get tough, but I didn’t know how bad! I got a real case of September Sadness – the kind that drags and swipes at any happy thought you try to hold onto. The kind where you lay on the bed, celiing gazing, just wondering what on earth will shake this awful feeling that everything good is over and nothing will ever recapture the magic of the past. Feeling so sad, so lonely and lost that gets just boring to carry that around with you day in day out let alone to tell anyone about…Well, nature has a way of healing, and nature has restored me in the shape of Autumn.

So it’s not just rushing through the calender until Christmas, it’s just taking it slow experiencing the changing season – the leaves of course give a spectacular display in the forests I go to. The cooler weather feels refreshing, the gloves and scarfs make their first expereince like an old friend to hold onto and snuggle onto. The hot chestnut man in the city wonders the city streets tempting you. Blankets to watch cozy films at night. Fires. Star gazing in warm jumpers. Hot chocolate at bedtimes. German mountain herbal tea in the mornings. Hot water bottles. Filling the house with silly autumn displays – letting the kids go crazy putting fallen leaves and twigs and pinecones and acorns and conkers and endless blackberries and apples all over the house.

I feel refreshed again, ready now. Music and books make me happy again. I’m reading Jack Kerouac on the road the original scroll. Oh my goodness. It’s breath taking the way Kerouac can knock you out with a sentence. It’s sad and it’s beautiful and hopefull at the same time. This original scroll is crazy, no paragraphs, not really any grammer. Just words and words, and it’s a lot more raw than the published version. Parts of it dealing with sex and drugs shock me, but I’m easily shocked…I’m so happy this scroll was published, in many ways it’s even better than the published on the road.

I’ve also just finished the always fantastic Anne Tyler’s “Saint Maybe”. It’s been said many times, but she’s such a great writer. She writes about family life and all it’s craziness, and the hopes and fears and damage we do to each other. Like her other works, it’s brilliant and I’m always reccomending and sharing her books with everyone. Saint Maybe is the book you need in your life.

My list of records I want to buy is getting ridicilouslly long, but I’ve put a few down below for you to listen to if you feel so inclined. The beths are a super cool group from New Zealand and there new record is contagius fun. Maya Hawke is a famous actor’s daughter but also a really cool songwriter. Remember sports I’m seeing in a couple of weeks, which I’m super excited abou, and they’ve just released a new EP. Wild Pink keep on putting out interesting and atmospheric records, this new one is no exception. Pixies keeping it real with this really grungey record about as far away from Maya Hawke as you can get! Finally…for fun….I just heard a really interesting interview with Geoff Farina, the guy from Karate and it reminded me what a cool band they were.

Stay focused. Don’t drop too many leaves.

Tired of fighting….

I normally love the changing of all the seasons, yes even the freshness of winter – and spring is normally a time of new beginnings, new hope, new love and a couple of wild birthday parties thrown in too for good measure. This year, it’s harder to be happy with a terrible war raging just a few hundred miles away from my cozy living room. Hard to be happy with the “cost of living crisis” and hard to be happy when doctors and specialists telling you you need to watch your own mental health…but happiness is here, if you look for it, it’s all around, and like always normally it’s being here in nature, feeling free in the wild, that means the most to me. City life, i love you and I love visiting you, but my God I’d be so lost if I didn’t live in the countryside with all it’s intoxicating charms and freedom. Nothing can beat being free and being brave. I don’t think you can live better than by being free and being brave.

One thing I’m also incredibly happy about is the easing of all restrictions. It means I’ve been able to visit Germany already a few times this year, and I’ve had the most beautiful and fun times over there. I take back goodies too to remind of these good times when I’m missing my “big boys”. It means I can drink cool stuff like organic “spring” tea (Frühlingstee) and read little Conni books to the little kids here. I told someone in Germany that my 4 year old daughter probably knows more German than I do just from watching Conni cartoons.

Sometimes though it’s good to just embrace the melancholy, and Angel Olson cetainly does that in her new song “All the Good Times”. It’s a haunting epic breakup song, one of the best songs I’ve heard this year. Don’t be afraid of the sadness. The video is great too. If you looking for happy scroll down to the next track….

When I was sick with a fever and in bed for 2 days with covid earlier this year, I had Virgin Radio on all the time. I’d drift in and out of sleep waking up to some 80’s power ballad. Something comforting about Virgin Radio especially when you’re ill, it’s like tomato soup. The presenters don’t really talk much they just play feelgood college rock. This song by Morgan Wade is super pop, but it’s rich and she tells a great story in this little tale of a young girl dating an older “reformed” guy without it sounding cheesy or creepy but somehow pure.

Sticking with the radio stuff, when I head to the city my car radio picks up NME radio. They play a real eccentric mix of songs, old and new. This one came on today, and I’ve just been humming it all day long and singing it to my confused kids.

Soccer mommy is someone I’ve recently “discovered”. I think I read an interview with her and she sounded totally nuts, which is how you want rock stars to be, and I was pleased to see that I really also enjoyed her music. She’s got a new album out that looks cool, but I’m going back to this little one from a few years ago before she became “cool” it’s all about lost love and a boy who broke hear heard whose name happened to be Jacob. It’s raw and it hurts but that’s where it’s power is.

Bryan Ferry is a guy I’ve followed since my dad use to have his tapes as we drove around too fast in his sports car when I was 7. Roxy Music have released some of the best records I’ve ever heard – country life will blow your mind even in 2022 – and now old Bryan has a little EP out of cover songs of very old songs I’ve never heard of. Anyway this isn’t the best Ferry, but who cares, I’m happy he’s still releasing anything. It’s a song called Love Letters. It’s a song to play when you;re about to go to bed, as I am now. Good night stay safe remember love always wins xoxo

Redemption is always possible.

Cold days here in the countryside, feels more exposed amongst all these fields but sadly no snow yet – last year in the “snow zone” area we lived we had weeks of thick beautiful deep snow with lots of fun sledging and skating. Still I always love January, at least the idea of a new month in a new year, where everything feels possible somehow despite the hardships and craziness of life….

January is always a slow month for music, but after a somewhat wild interview with Cat Power in uncut magazine. I’ve been enjoying her new album of covers. I’m crazy-excited for the new spiritualized album coming out soon, and next time I make it to the big city I’m gonna check out the new Neil Young album “Barn”. I also really want to go to the cinema next time we can get a babysitter to check out the new Brian Wilson doc. That poor guy messed his fragile mind up with drugs, but his genius remains intact.

So I’m trying to hibernate and read, which ain’t too easy with crazy kids trying to copy wilykit and wilycat’s thundercats antics. Anyway I read half of Roddy Doyle’s “Love” but got bored of reading about some boring guy cheating on his wife so took it back to the library. I’ve got a Dave Eggers book “heroes of the the frontier” waiting for me to start though, about leaving everything behind and finding freedom with your little family. Perfect! I also got sent in the post today the latest copy of Mutuality – this ain’t really the place for religious politics, but it’s this feminist Christian magazine I subscribe too. It’s awful the way women have been treated and continue to be treated by the church.   God ain’t no man, I know that for sure. My Mother as much as my Father….anyway…politics over. Haters gonna hate so whatever.

The radio is always cool. I got into this really mind-blowing story on Radio 4. It’s set 5 years in the future, but the world’s gone nuts and it doesn’t seem so surprising when you hear the news these days. I didn’t think it would be my kind of story, but it’s got me hooked. Check it out here

Stay warm….

simple pleasures

Almost 18 months have drifted by, and here in England the last few months have felt surprisingly normal. Face masks seem pretty much discarded at least where I live (which is fine by me), gigs and plays sell out, and the cinema was packed when I was there the other day. Travel is finally possible again, and this summer is still fresh in my mind with such vivid and colorful memories that I’ll cherish forever…Today though the news ain’t so rosy, and we’re taking a step back but I keep finding not only joy but also refreshment and meaning in simple pleasures. Walking through the forest, running along the beach, radio shows, baking, newspapers, getting a new cassette for my stereo. In the autumn we moved house, to a place we call evergreen cottage, in a tiny little village surrounded by fields. Right now, the fire is lit, Christmas is looming and whatever the news tells me I can’t stop making plans, even if they get delayed and distorted the world can’t shake them.

So what’s been happening? I saw an Arthur Miller play down at my little local arts theatre earlier this month, and it reminded me what a brilliant writer he was. The dialogue was fresh, the acting spot-on. Check out the trailer from although a bigger and more flashy show in London – it’s still A View From the Bridge and it’s still rad.

Whenever you move someplace new, one of the first things to do is join the local library. We’re super lucky to have a small library which is surprisingly packed with some great books. First thing I saw when we walked in was a load of Jack Kerouac books, some of which even I haven’t read yet. Anyway it was here I picked up a Raymond Chandler. A writer I guess I’ve been meaning to check out for the last 20 years or so, and although it’s a slightly more mainstream that I usually read, he writes like a dream and the way he can describe people and their emotions is really something special. You feel like you’re right there, in the rain and dreary city streets, full of sophistication and style but tinted with a lot of regret and pain. Perfect winter reading really. I also got Hans Fallada, a guy who really lived the crazy way he wrote, more of him in a second….

[PDF] Download The Big Sleep EBook Free

Although I suppose by far the best book I’ve read this whole year is “the good Germans”.

The Good Germans by Catrine Clay | W&N - Ground-breaking ...

My history teacher always said you can’t ever say “THE” about an entire country. You can’t say “THE Germans” in the 1930’s, and what I loved about this book is it’s all about strength and resistance amongst quite normal people. School teachers, writers (like Hans Fallada), church people…Sadly though it doesn’t end good for any of them. It’s my book of the year, focusing on very different personalities but each resisiting the brutality and violence they saw as their country fell apart. Check it out, a fantastic read.

I’ve been listening to Hiss Golden Messenger these last few days. What else? Wild Pink always provide a bolt of optimism in my life. Tom Petty of course gets me through dreary lockdown days at the beginning of the year. Love the last few albums, including her short film, by Taylor Swift, Lana del rey and Norah Jones. Mark Kozelek’s 2021 album might not rank up as his greatest work, but it’s intriguing and soundtracks a guy going stir crazy but somehow surviving during lockdown and broken hearts. New Neil Young album out pretty soon too. Writing of whom, I also really loved the David Crosby “For Free”. My album of the year though is Bobby Gillespie & Jehnny Beth with “Utopian ashes” – all about broken marriages and sadness, it ain’t the feel good album of the year (which if you looking for it, goes to Remember Sports “Like a stone”). Enjoy these videos, and Merry Christmas xoxo

FUTURE >>>> here.

Upbeat Songs for Downbeat Times

I thought it might be fun to write about five upbeat songs that have kept me going this crazy year. Some old, some new and some unexpected surprises in here!

Let’s start with unexpected. I’ve really been enjoying watching the 1989 episodes of the weekly British music pop show Top of the Pops on BBC 4. I guess 1989 was one of those years for me where emotions were out of control – my parents’ divorce followed by the best summer of my childhood having fun in a 5 star swanky hotel in Florida, then my brother starting to lose his mind and finally just finding salvation and hope in pop music. So the music that year on the show seemed to reflect that (the cure “lovesick”, Debbie Gibson “we could be together”, Bros “too much”). In 1989 I kept a diary where every week I would write down the top 10 singles. Anyway this Top of the Pops performance of a Kirsty Maccoll song I haven’t heard probably since 1989. I found myself singing it to get my daughter to sleep at night, and have a chance to reflect and appreciate things lost. Perfect for lockdown

 

Another surprise was this jaw-dropping new Bob Dylan record which appeared suddenly a couple of months ago. I read the 5 star reviews, and finally picked it up in a department store while I was over in Germany. I’ve been playing this most nights, it fits perfectly with a slow burning candle and a glass or two of wine. Good old Bob, still poetic and edgy at 79.

 

I have been looking forward to new music from the Dixie Chicks (now just called the Chicks) since it was announced earlier this year, but I had no idea it was going to be this good. I’ve only heard the two singles so far, and both just knock me out. The protest anger of March March sets the tone perfectly for standing up for truth and freedom in this mad world, but I like “Gaslighter” slightly more maybe because it’s all about a divorce!

 

Another band who finally have a new album out is none other than Bright Eyes. I’ve been obsessed by Conor Obest since I first picked up a 7 inch record in the now sadly-missed Virgin Megastore in Norwich, UK. I don’t think anything he’s done has topped 2016’s “breakdown” album Ruminations, but I’m excited to hear the new Bright Eyes stuff when it’s released later this year. I really like this hpynotic video for this song “Mariana Trench”

 

Finally…hard to choose – but I’m going for Tom Petty, and “You Don’t Know How it
Feels” taken from his best album (wildflowers). It’s just sets the tone for the day. I tend to stick it on first thing when I’m folding laundry. Every morning more laundry. Once done I can escape with the kids for adventures outdoors. That’s how we roll with three crazy wild forest children all under five years old addicted to fun and Tom tells it how it is.

Adventure is waiting

bbIt’s been an incredible tough few months not being able to excitedly jump on a train or plane (like Betsy here on the left!) every month to go and see my kids over in Germany. I was just about getting use to them moving over there back last August when this pandemic struck in March here in the UK. So whilst I’ve cautiously booked a trip next month i’m still getting through the days. Still there have been some special moments – sending typewritten letters to each other, telephone calls, silly postcards, fun little parcels, skype calls and I’m now recording a book on cd I hope to finish next week to send accross to them. It’s a Betsy Byars novel Craacker Jackson, and I’ve loved recording it so much it’s made me realize just how fortunate I was to discover this fantastic author back when I was 12. If 16 is the perfect age to read Catcher in the Rye, then 12 must be the perfect age to read Betsy!
I was lucky enough to not just have a bookshop at my school, but also to have my parents put in fen pounds every term onto my account there – easily enough for a choose your own adventure book and a Garfield comic which was pretty much all I got. Still, once in a while I’d try something different. I think I just thought this Betsy Byars book Cracker Jackson had a cool cover with a kid on a bike, and I thought the author had a cool name too. Those days it didn’t take much to impress me. The book itself blew me away, I’d never read anything like that before – it was nbb2ot just that it was funny and story was believable and exciting, but the way she wrote! Wow, it blew me away. I’d never read anyone writing about people like me, kids whose parents were divorced, who felt like a loser and had a kind of odd family, and who felt always slightly out of the loop with the cool kids but who worried about being cool and funny a little too much. Her dialogue is spot on, and even now reading it for the first time in 30 years it feels as fresh and real as ever.
My school bookshop didn’t have any other Betsy Byars books, for all I know I got the only copy. But over the next couple of years I got a few more – at libraries and birthday and Christmas presents –  The burning questions of Bingo Brown. The TV Kid. The Computer Nut.  The cool thing is that no matter what the subject was about – you knew it was going to a fantastic read because it was a Betsy Byars book. I remember ripping open The Computer Nut on Christmas day “Oh cool, a Betsy Byars book!” and I always experienced that same adrenaline rush opening the book and reading the first few paragraphs.
We never read anything like Betsy at school in my pre-teen years. We read things like Day of the Triffids and Animal Farm, which whilst enjoyable to a degree never really got my heart racing. I was always suspicious of anything we had to read at school for it meant you’dbb3 not only have to read it out loud in turns in class, but write some essay about it too. Betsy was someone I could read – or even better persuade my mum to read to me – and it was like reading about people I might know and hang out with.

I was just doing a bit of research for this blog, and I found out Betsy died in Feb at the age of 91. I had no idea she was still around and writing books. She seemed a tad eccentric, living in a cabin on an airstrip so she could just fly off on her plane whenever she felt like it. I guess that’s cool, even if it sounds a little crazy! Anyway, she was a very rare writer, not many can actually write for the pre-teen market with such style and wit. Literary critics say she is one of the best children’s writers of all time. So, go and check out her books now, read them now or give ’em to your kids. Let’s keep her books in print, for recording this book for my kids now I tell you the books haven’t dated at all – those themes of vulnerability and confusion on the cusp of teenage life will never fade no matter what the world looks like these days, and kids today need her as much as I did back at the end of the last Century 😉

lockdown love

Well, last time I wrote this in January I said it’s been the strangest year I’d ever known, so seems likely this one will easily top that! Before all this craziness I was about to start a new blog about my little life here looking after three wild kids under five, and my trips to Germany to see my other two slightly bigger but just as wild kids. So that kind of got scrapped, because nobody – and I mean nobody – wants to read a weekly blog with some jaded guy going on about missing his kids in Germany, and listening to a scratch Larry Norman “I wish we’d all been ready” every day crying into his burnt porridge….

So instead, I’ll just stick with wordsandguitars , but yes it’s absolutely heart-breaking to lose hopping on the train (boo to nasty airplane pollution!) pretty much every month to spend a glorious few days with my kids across the channel. Every day when I wake up it’s the very first thought in my mind. I can’t even write a throw-away poem about feeling sad because I just don’t have the focus. So…with that in mind :-

I cherish the simplicity of life here now. Having nowhere to go. No plans. No work. We are lucky to live in an extraordinary secluded little spot, surrounded by countryside on our doorstep. Writing this looking out from the bedroom window at the rolling hills, it calms me and thrills me. Spending all day with three little children is intense but I’ve never seen them so happy.

Here are my highlights, in no order

Tblog1he cool quranatine – this is a ridiculously long radio show put together by the always-entertaining Henry Rollins. It’s pretty much 4 hours of stories and rare gems and music by little punk bands I’ve never heard of. You can dip in and out of it whenever you feel like, I tend to put it on when I’m baking yet another batch of peanut cookies!

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newspapers – I no longer bother to really listen to the news, like I use to in the “old days”. I’d go crazy if every hour I was reading the latest updates. I tend to listen to a bit of the one o clock radio news but that’s about it . However 3 days a week we get a a delivery of either The Guardian or The Times. The newspaper girl drops it off into our letter box as the morning birds start singing, and what could be better than starting your day with a cup of coffee and flicking through the paper. Of course I don’t get to actually read it properly until the kids are asleep…

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Letters – sure sure, I use skype and facetime and all that to chat away to friends and the kids in Germany, I also love using the landline telephone but nothing quite beats a written letter. Most of the time I use the typewriter, and the post being a bit slower these days somehow just makes the whole experience that much enjoyable. Somebody says “hey, I wrote you a letter and posted it today” and then for the next week or so you’re checking the post to see if it’s arrived. Simple pleasures.

Reading – so many great books around, at the moment I’m reading the swirling “around the world in 80 trains” by the awesome Monisha Rajesh, Anne Tyler’s latest “redhead by the side of the road”, peanuts comics, and Carrie Brownstein’s (sleater kinney) “hunger makes me a modern girl” All well worth checking out this spring.

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Baking/Cooking – In the good old days, just weeks ago, I tended to do a bit of baking ever so often with my little 3 year old who always loves baking but these days it’s become pretty much part of the daily routine. I guess we go to the supermarket so infrequently we don’t really have biscuits and cakes in the house anymore from the shop, so we are just baking them. Making our way through the be-ro cook book. We get a lot of vegetables too from a nearby farm, so always cooking something healthy too.

blog5Games – when the kids are tucked away, and dreaming of little bear or star wars it’s time for scrabble and music quizes with a candle flicking away by the board, and a record spinning in the background and if you’re lucky a cup of filter coffee and some organic chocolate.

Stay safe and do the right thing.

Peace xoxo

 

 

 

2019 the year the moon faded

It’s been the strangest year I’ve ever known, the moon we once shared all night has gone but fragments remain, giving me hope for better things in 2020….Meanwhile these are my highlights of 2019

Album of the YearRemember Sports “slow buzz” This little punk rock band blew me away in the spring when they released this album. It’s fast and upbeat lyrics about fighting back against failing love just completely blew me away.  I got it on cassette too which makes it extra special too. A pretty much perfect record, and easily a highlight of not just 2019 but the entire decade. Woah, it’s that good!

Film of the Year – The first half of the year I spent Sunday mornings at the town hall in Folkestone watching kids films, and then the second half I’ve been occasionally watching things that the postman drops off thanks to good old cinemaparidso. A couple of films I’m waiting to see, Marriage Story and Little Women, seem pretty rad, but as not seen them yet I’ll have to go for something a bit crazy. It’s this Hungarian film called Sunset, and it felt like a dream. I saw it in a little town frozen in time in Devon, and the whole night felt so wonderful and so warm. It’s probabbly not a Friday night fun film, but if you are stuck  watching it in a tiny arts centre in Devon with a few pensioners pushing 90 it can add to the charm.

Book of the Year – I’m reading the new John Le Carre, but too early to call that book of the year. It came out a couple of years ago but I really enjoyed Kim Gordon “Girl in a band” with it’s snapshot postcard entries of fragments of her life in and out of Sonic Youth.

Play of the Year – Again, so many good things I miss, but I did catch “Home, I’m darling” which was really fun. Also I have a cozy memory of drinking a whiskey at the balcony during the break, and watching a rather odd looking man climb out of a flashy sports car outside the theatre.

TV Show of the Year – Err, I guess I can’t say Neighbours can I? I need that liberal Melbourne lifestyle escapism these days more than ever. Apart from that, I loved both the Eric Clapton documentary Life in 12 Bars and the energetic yet sad life of Inxs frontman Michael Hutchence in Mystify. Both were shown on the good old BBC.

Concert of the Year – I saw Rural Alberta Advantage earlier in the year, and my heart was frozen in time and I lost all sense of reality just losing myself to their awesomeness, Fantastic concert, great great band.

Comic of the YearArchie Married Life 10 year anniversary. Need I say more?

 

 

 

I thought this love would last forever…

8 months ago since I last wrote here, some little poem I scribbled in a cafe in Folkestone of all places…

Anyway, I thought I’d just stop. Stop doing things, but then strangely life got more busy and crazy and insane and beautiful. These days I hardly every have a moment to write a poem, let alone a story. My daily bible reading plan that I started at the start of the year says 19th March. Books and clutter fill the house. Laundry everywhere. No meal plan done so who knows what we’re eating later.  As I write this  my 1 year old son rather hypnotically keeps throwing books off the book shelf, but I’m just going to let him explore his creativity. I wanna smash it up, Sam, smash it up. Tidy up times come, tidy up times go 🙂

Still, it’s all good. It’s life, and as crazy as it is it’s still our little life. I guess it’s too early for Christmas films, but I’ve already started watching them. Channel 5. Always the same story, always everything is broken but then saved by the magic of Christmas. I still believe.

I picked up the new Norah Jones EP which she wrote with a bunch of hipsters like Jeff Tweedy. It’s short but beautiful, perfect for the wintertime drinking hot chocolate and dreaming about a better world. I’ve also got Mark K’s latest, more rambling blah blah blah. I miss Red House Painters. Then I’ve been listening to Larry Norman and the Cure. I’ll put some tracks of those at the end if you feel so inclined to check them out.

I’m reading Kim Gordons “life in a band”. Finally reading it, it’s been gathering dust here for a while barchieut it’s a great snapshot of a time and memories swirling with the intoxication of trying to fit it. Then she goes on about Thurston Moore being an asshole. He probably is though….

I saw this and it’s on my Christmas list. Looks crazy good. 10 Years being married to Bets/Ronnie. Means nothing to most people, but those Archie stories keep me sane sometimes.

It’s all sold out anyway, but I was hoping to go and see this interesting looking play God’s Dice in London. While there I was going to check this out about the awful treatment of the Roma people in Nazi Germany, no point hiding from sad things. Doesn’t work.

Anyway, I guess I better go and tidy up those books now. He seems happy, I just hope my Dostoevsky isn’t ripped up. Cool little discussion on Radio 4 the other morning about Crime and Punishment which you can hear here. That book changed my life, I remember reading that on an airplane back in 2001 whilst the plan was filling with smoke and some crazy guy started screaming…it wasn’t me.

More soon. Here are those vids. Better go tidy up those books, just hoping Dostoevsky hasn’t been ripped up.

 

 

Birthday letters never sent

time eclipsed responsibility

edged off the horizon

my jet set life twisted and dived

into a burning broken heart, but still we

play feel good tunes on repeat

 

Every night…the same dream –

we stroll under soaring moonlit truth

to a marching melody of forgotten love

and rainbow hope

 

Morning comes, morning walk

through wildflower fields and I count to 224,

and deconstruct letters never sent

as a distant church bell so softly and sweetly calls

 

but I’m not yet out of time

as fragmented circles surround me

with no straight line solution

ready to seal my fate.

 

Written 21.5.2019, Folkestone, England.