Think fast, act slow.

Edging into 2023, neither triumphantly or anxiously, the dust has now settled so I’ll allow myself to look back. Waking up the other day on the first day of 2023 I didn’t feel like I did 23 years earlier, where the world feltfresh and open, and just being alive seemed exciting. On that bright new morning, 1/1/00 my then-girlfriend and I tuned into the radio as soon as wewoke up just to ensure there was no 2k meltdown, then we wrapped up warm and took a train to have a champagne breakfast at the coolest cafe (now sadly closed) in St. Benedicts Street. Everything felt possible. A new century. It was our century….Happiness and hope was in fashion Easy to say we’ve messed things up. But I won’t say that. Change ispossible. Life is possible. Love is possible. If not now, then soon. The ideaof tomorrow is intoxicating if you make the right choices. Now it’s a few days into 2023, and I’m off to Germany – actually to the best town in all of Germany – for a few days, but before I go, it’s time for my yearly highlights….
ALBUM OF THE YEARMarcus Mumford (self-tilted) – In what feels like another world I use to write music reviews. There was a new band called Mumford and Sons, and I gave it 9/10. However I didn’t really listen to their subsequent albums much and I had pretty much forgotten about them. Then one autumn evening I heard Marcus Mumford on the Jo Whiley radio show and his new songs completely blew me away. A few days later he was on Jools Holland and I was hooked. I picked up his cassette. This was honest and raw music, and emotionally almost too difficult to listen to, if it wasn’t for the heartbeat and love flowing through the album.
TRACK OF THE YEARthe beths “expert in a dying field” – swirling indie rock from New Zealand, but what sets it apart are the poetry and feelgood guitars that rattle through the album. I’m still saving up (?) for the album, but this song has kept me in high spirits all year long. The beths along with soccer mommy are the most exciting bands around at the moment.
LIVE ARTIST OF THE YEARremember sports. I saw them on a rainy slow Monday in Brighton, and the crowd was kind of annoying and uninterested, but sometimes that creates the best concert. This little lo-fi punk rock group effortlessly write dreamy and catchy love-gone-wrong songs and melt even the hardest hearts.
BOOK I’VE READ THIS YEAR – I haven’t quite finished Kerouac‘s original scroll “on the road” so instead I’ll say Dave Eggers “The everly”. Reading it means you’ll very likely to throw your smartphone away and that can only be a good thing….
FILM OF THE YEAR – As a beautiful summer drew to a close, I went to the cinema with my 2 teenage sons and we saw Elvis. I hope it wins lots of Oscars, as a cinematic event it was perfect. The best film I’ve seen all year though was a 2019 social=-realism Irish film called Rosie about the impact of poverty on an ordinary and loving family. About as different as Elvis as you could possibly get.
TV SHOW OF THE YEAR – the tourist. As good as tv gets, and super cozy evenings watching this over coffee and flipping out over the wild storyline. As the year ended we’ve been watching the old Colin Firth version of Pride and Prejudice which is perfect winter watching too.
VIDEO GAME OF THE YEAR – I’ve got a soft spot for Denmark ever since I went on a little road trip there with some friends back in 2002 and not only was it one of the best holidays of my life, I also had the nicest hot chocolate I’d ever tasted that I find myself still talking to my wide-eyed small children about. So Gerda, a Flame in Winter is an old fashioned point and click adventure game set in 1944 Denmark under nazi occupation during a bleak midwinter and it gets my vote. I’ve got a PC but I think it’s out on whatever system you play games.

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….

the internet reality.

I read a couple of books recently with a similar theme. The novel “the circle” by Dave Eggers, a kind of internet-modern age 1984. Although I would have written a far happier and satisfying tale, it was brilliant but really scared me. It’s about the end of everything that matters, a world where you can only vote with a facebook account, all kids have chips put in them at birth to prevent child abductions and hidden tiny cameras eliminate crime. So there’s no privacy left anymore. Everything must be shared. The other book was not a fantasy, but a reality “the internet is not the answer” a clued up book written by a Andrew Keen. a Silicon Valley insider and journalist about how the internet is, in a nut shell, making us all unhappy while a few privileged billionaires profit and robots and drones take over all services. Oh and it’s turning us into idiots too and changing our memory and sense of time. Ho-hum

So not exactly happy tales, and certainly not the kind of thing I usually read, but it certainly got me thinking about the state of this little world we share (far too much).

Tomorrow morning I’m going on holiday. We’re staying at a hotel, then we’re off on a boat for adventures. I don’t particularly want everyone to know where I’m going, what I’m doing. I don’t want to share a photo of my kids and I having fun at the beach. Does that make me selfish? It’s important to just experience moments in time with those around you and to reflect on your own existence without posting about it on social media hoping to get a few likes and comments to prove your own reality. I’m not judging, I do it too, but reading Eggers and Keen I realize it really can’t be all that healthy.

It’s what I’ve always loved about writing poems. Everything I write is about myself, relationships in my life (yawn yawn), but I try to do it in a way that doesn’t make sense to anyone else. I’m in love with the mystery I guess, and it seems these days mystery is becoming a dirty word. What and why are you hiding?

So, those are powerful books. I’d really recommend them, but probably not at the same time unless you want to get freaked out. My summer reading now is “my salinger year”, and I’ll be listening a lot to this little punk band you can watch below. More fun soon.

songs and books

Aside from collecting first edition Richard Yates books, I’m also enjoying Dave Eggers. I’ve occasionally read his magazine, and ended up listening to some of his novels on cd back when I was driving for hours all over the place for a fun but temporary job I did a while ago. Now I’m reading “the circle” and it’s the best modern book I’ve read in a long time. It’s a book I find myself thinking about when I’m away from home, working or doing shopping or walking the kids to school feeling excited for the evening to come so I can read the next page. Like a modern 1984 a stark warning about the dangers of internet obsessed society, and it’s funny/sad and makes your heart beat super fast. The writing is crisp, clear, intelligent and the dialogue is spot-on. I’m reading it along with a non-fiction book called “the internet is not the answer” and those two books together make a pretty compelling case for just dropping out of internet life and trying to find Walden Lake in 2015…

There are three songs I listen to over and over again at the moment that I hope to get you into too. The latest NOW music compilation is the biggest selling album of the year so far here in the UK, but I say forget the boring repetitive crap you hear in the charts, this is where it’s at.

1. Lily and Madeline “blue blades” – I’m so in love with everything about this little band. The words, the melody, the lush harmonies and sad reflections of nature and broken hearts. I’ve just downloaded their new EP too.

2. Puss N Boots “down by the river”. Ok, so I own the entire Norah Jones back catalogue, and not many people bought her folky-country band puss n boots, but guess what? I did and this is my favourite song on it.

3. Libertines “Gunga Din” Ok, so they are pretty much on the cover of NME every week, and will outsell most albums this year, but this song makes me happy. Maybe it’s because those last two songs are kind of depressing that you’re ready for the party to begin. And I know I want to go a party put together by Pete and Carl….

4. Mark Kozelek “Caroline” – If I had to throw away my record collection and never restock it, but could keep one thing it would be my Mark Kozelek records and cd’s. This song is about as perfect as it gets.