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.

 

 

Days of war nights of love

Eight months have gone by now, last time I wrote it was Zwischenzeit …a time of in-betweens….now, it seems to never end, uncertainty, My life is stable, but Brexit bores are everywhere I look. I meet someone who seems kind and caring, then they say something dumb like”Oh the sooner we leave Europe the better!” and I just smile and think you are fucking nuts.  Newspaper articles confuse me, so I turn to home life, to snapshot this peaceful view from my bedroom window where I can hide away from life. I listen to music, I read books and I make long telephone calls. Away from politics there’s much to do, like making food for my family (now I mostly skip the analysis I find all sorts of fun things in the newspaper to enrich my life, like the recipe of the day!)

I still believe. I still read adbusters, I still want to break down falsehood and lies and hysteria and all the things that disrupt a life lived less ordinary. I still pray and read the bible, and I still look for meaning. I saw a book yesterday, funnily enough it was after we met my capitalist father for coffee, and this little book was called “Not working why we have to stop working”. At that point my 2 year old daughter starting crazily running around and throwing books around so I couldn’t investigate further. Still I love the title.

Moment of joy >>>> taking the train to London, having the most perfect cappuccino I’ve ever tasted at a little Italian cafe but having to drink it at super speed as it took them 10 minutes to prepare this perfection. So I guess it seemed rude that we drank it in under 1 minute because we had to get to the theatre to see “Home, I’m darling” which was about as enjoyable as a play can possibly be!

Music I’ve finally picked up a Mark Kozelek album I’ve been meaning to buy for months, it’s heavy but enjoyable. I listen an awful lot to the wonderful Tom Petty boxset, and I’m loving the Norah Jones interview in Mojo magazine.

I’m going to write more, much more. It’s how I figure out meaning in this crazy lost but enriching and beautiful world we share.

something good

Zwischen means not being too far away, reading newspapers and books, but no writing. No poems or stories, nor is it the time for tears or to start a whole new project, or way of life. It’s not a time to, once again, set a match to everything and watch the whole thing burn.

It’s a time to wait. A time to sing silly songs in your bedroom as the clock strikes 2 pm. It’s a time to put on a hypnotherapy cd and fall asleep within 2 minutes as the calm kind lady on the cd tells you to “go on that magic carpet to a special place you don’t need to tell anyone” . I don’t know what the lady says when I’m asleep, but I try not to think of Ian Fleming’s “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” ( where innocent people are hypnotised as they sleep to distribute bacteriological warfare agents throughout various parts of the world!)

It’s a time of in-between. Of taking a couple of weeks off school, to go on some beautiful walks in this amazing part of the world, to watch films and daydream about a better world. A time to spend an inspiring morning at an alternative school, there is a better world. You just got to find it.

I saw Wonder Boys the other night, I haven’t got round to reading the book yet, but I love this film. It’s about a writer, whose kind of washed up and his life is falling apart. Soundtrack by Bob Dylan. Here’s a clip :

 

winterThe closest library here is a few miles away, it’s the kind where you still get your book stamped with the due date. It’s very charming. Anyway, I picked up Winter by Ali Smith, I’m a quarter way through. It’s very well written, like a snapshot of our lonely lost times. I also bought a book when I was in the city called “Why go to Church”. Funny title, but last time I went to church was 2 churchmonths ago and I counted 9 other people there, all far older than myself. Later that Sunday I couldn’t recall what the “message” was. These days I get better insight at the primary school daily worship assemblies. So, we’ll see.

To finish, here’s a beautiful little song. It was sung at the Oscars. Crazy world, but crazy love.

 

things are changing

i had to escape. I moved far away, to a very old house down a little lane, where there are no cars, and not many people either. I live here where when you wake up, and it’s snowing outside, there’s no button to press for heating, you’ve got to go outside and gather some logs to make a fire to keep your family warm. It’s so quiet here, it’s a cottage lost in time. A place where you heat the water with coal, and a beautiful area where I’ve got a job at the little rural school across the fields.

It’s not a place to hide away and accept loss, and to cry about things gone wrong, it’s a place to re-connect with the world around you, and to be creative and to fight for believe in life and in love.

I feel home here. It’s where I’m suppose to be, hidden in a country cottage reading newspapers, writing poems, listening to music and embracing life for what it is, not to call it harsh or hard, but to accept the beauty of a single day. Walking home from work, I’ve never seen such epic stars above me which illuminate life. I have no choice but to look up and lose myself in the wonder of it all and marvel at Creation and Gods love for all of us.

Then there is music. I can’t get by without it anymore. We drove into the city today, for I still love the pulse of  electricity around me, and I picked up these albums.

 

no turning back

All the cool stuff comes from Australia. Earth Hour. Cute Koala Bears, Neighbours….and now Plastic Free July, which we’re trying to do here. As I try to focus strictly on words and guitars, this isn’t really the place to go on about how plastic is destroying our oceans, and how a million water bottles are bought every minute which is going to wreck our beautiful planet, but if you want to find out more go to www.plasticfreejuly.org and you can find out all sorts of interesting things like ways to make your own toothpaste!

Sitting here on a sweet summer evening, a baby rocking in her seat, a pile of magazines and books surround me – here’s a few the latest Atlantic magazine, Ethan Canin’s “a doubters almanac”, Norfolk Living magazine, Archie Married Life comic, and JJ’s “Land of Far Beyond” I’ve got Buffalo Tom in my head. These days I pretty much always have Buffalo Tom in my head, there were one of my first teenage crushes – seemingly exotic, romantic and effortlessly cool. They were American, and I always looked to American music and culture because already at 16 I was sick of England. Sick of old people going on about the beatles, and I always felt more connected to Generation X – Douglas Coupland, Richard Linklater films and the beat generation. Buffalo Tom were often playing at some gig in the tv show My So-Called Life (with Claire Danes), and I’d listen to them and daydream about going to an American school and meeting cool interesting girls like Angela and hanging out and playing pool with Jordan. I had to wait a couple of years until I got to do that….

Time for a couple more fun songs? Here’s a little punky poppy light and kind of silly band called Charly Bliss, good when you can’t hear anymore Trump news

Summer song of 2017 Alvvays 🙂

Nights of Love

Been so caught up in the merry-go-round of school/children/domestic bliss/regretting regret/to-do-lists that I’ve not had time to capture much in writings, either poetic or here. Doesn’t matter, as I read in an essay by the American essayist Mark Grief that people  waste their time trying to write diaries or take photos because people like that…like me….he argues do not fully experience life, but merely live in a fantasy escapism trying to catch time before it rushes on to the next experience. He says better to just drift through…Well, Marky Mark, I’ve been doing that a bit too much recently, and it somehow doesn’t quite fulfil me. Maybe I’m into escapism as I need to record words more than ever these days.

For my birthday I had a HMV voucher so I picked up the latest albums by Neil Young (Peace Trail) and Thurston Moore (Rock ‘n’ Roll Consciousness) Neil Young is  here is railing on in an enjoyable way about how he doesn’t understands the modern world, and he’s angry with too about people messing with nature, native Americans and the workers, and it’s full of energy and protest. Thurston Moore is a nice collection of breezy 10 minute songs, with flowing guitars and a relentless drumming by good old Steve Shelley. It’s got Debbie Googe on too, and it feels like early 20th century sonic youth. That’s not a bad thing. I’ve been listening to it a lot driving to and from work, and it’s got the right balance of escapism and interesting lyrics to keep you focused after a crazy day working in a little school.

Been reading lots of interesting things. Really like this Dutch magazine called Flow. Also got a copy of the always brilliant and funny PJ O Rourke “How the hell did this happen” in which he attempts to understand how the hell Trump got elected. Also the new Gwendoline Riley “First Love” which I’m hoping will win the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction this year, because it’s the best modern novel I’ve read in ages. It’s sad and brutal though, but as I watch “Neighbours” everyday for 20 minute blasts of escapism in sunny Australia with nice happy one dimensional characters, I need to counter it with something like Gwen Riley.