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THE INDEPENDENT

FIELD-NOTES

1.03.2012

Dance Of The Far Northern Sky

Listen. It’s a cold moonless night in a small town
on the bleak secluded edge of the Arctic Circle.
Hush now. Time passes. Hush now. The locals are all sleeping.
During the long dark months, on nights such as this one,
an ancient portal opens between this world and the next.
For this reason, we’ve been sleeping with the curtains open.
And finally, at a little before 5 in the morning, they come for us.
Hush now. A hoarfrost whisper on the raw North Wind.
I rise and stand naked at the window, my pale English skin
illuminated by the underglow of the street-lamps below.
I stand there dumbfounded. Compelled. Entranced. As still as a frozen ocean.
What was it I wonder, that Jules Verne’s intrepid adventurers
had hoped to discover beneath the glacier, that they couldn’t
more easily have found in the winter sky above their heads?
Hand-in-hand they dance before us. Carried aloft by 12 Valkyries on horseback.
Hush now. A chorus of empyreal will-o'-wisps, chasing their many green tails.
Up beyond the icebound headlands. Up beyond the icebound scree.
Visitors, not of this Earth. Trapped somewhere between us
and the bands of Orion’s belt. Hostages to the high latitude.
I watch them flutter then ripple then eddy then skip.
She watches them flutter then ripple then eddy then skip.
Pull your head from out of your neck, lift up your face, and bear witness.
A Supercommunion with The Cosmos. A glimpse of The All Thought.
A reminder that this world below is still in the process of being created.
Gaze upon them for long enough, and simple words cease to have any meaning.
Gaze upon them for long enough, and eventually they begin to fade.
Beckoned by her smile, I return to the warmth of the hotel mattress.
We lay together, electrically-charged by our visitation.
Dawn is still another 4 or 5 hours away, but
there promises to be good fishing tomorrow.
That 40-pound brown trout may yet still be mine.

Moving Images Of The Aurora Borealis From Space

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5.19.2011

Don’t Mess With David Thomas Broughton

David Thomas Broughton stands 18-floors tall tonight.
Air-conditioned against the maelstrom of Historic 6th Street.
High above this "so-called" Live Music Capitol Of The World.
When Vivian Stanshall died in a Muswell Hill
house-fire in 1995, he left behind no male heir.
Enter stage-left, pursued by wingless ecoparasite,
this former data-analyst and conservation officer
from the West Riding Lands of God’s Own Yorkshire.
A one-man band for the DIY Loop-Station generation.
Forever delayed. Forever detuned. Forever thankfully askew.
Broughton is not just the organ-grinder, but the Capuchin monkey also.
A proud purveyor of his own unique brand of
tribo-electrically charged spectral digi-folk.
The long lost link between Eric Morecambe,
Peter Bellamy and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop.
Ploughing and harrowing his own spontaneous furrow.
His deadpan jowl super-glued to deadpan cheek.
Spinning straw into a woolen rainbow. Collecting cabbages on the head of a pin.
Making Austin truly weirder with every rape-alarm he chooses to sample.
A David Thomas Broughton gig is an event. A spectacle. A true happening.
His shenanigans but momentaneous. His yearnings so sweet and discordant.
Twinned with the sound of one prosthetic hand clapping,
David Thomas Broughton burns whilst Texas slowly fiddles.
Your answers please, on a stamped undressed elephant in the room.

DTB on the streets of Austin Texas (2009)

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3.17.2011

Let Us Not Forget The Former Mission Of San Antonio De Valero

The city of San Antonio sits 158 miles north
of the Mexican border. But it wasn’t always thus.
And the reasons whyfor, have more than a little to do with
a line once allegedly drawn in a patch of dirt with a sword.
For as long as history shall remember gunpowder, freedom
and gumption, The Daughters of the Republic of Texas urge
all men and women to remember thirteen fateful days in the year 1836.
For in that year, the growing friction between American settlers
and the Mexican government came to a bloodthirsty head, behind
the reinforced walls of this old abandoned Roman Catholic mission.
Listen tight, the final assault lasted about as long as a
soccer match, and began in the darkness before dawn.
No quarter was offered them. And no quarter was taken.
And when the dust finally settled, wild frontiersman
Davy Crockett, Colonel William B. Travis, Jim Bowie,
and between 188 and 250 other defenders of liberty,
lay in their ditches, as still and dead as coonskin caps.
By no means valuable as a military position, The Alamo had
become something more than that. It had become a symbol.
A single fingered salute in support of a sovereign state.
A tattered red flag in the face of a bullish Napoleonic dictator.
A house of prayer that became a fortress.
A fortress that became a shrine to independence.
One of the largest collections of Alamo memorabilia
is owned by former Genesis drummer Phil Collins.
But please, don’t let that put you off. Visitors from
south of the border may be relieved to know that
they also publish a pamphlet guide in Español.

Visit the set of John Wayne's 'The Alamo'

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3.13.2011

Go South-By-South West Young Man

When Sir Walter Raleigh’s first expedition
set sail for The New World in the year 1584,
it is reported that his party of pioneers included six
Morris-dancers and an accompanying hobby-horse.
The dancers would no doubt have helped entertain
the crew during their three months at sea, whilst
the hobby horse, being a kind of English centaur,
would have been fed warm ale and scraps of meat
in order to stave off scurvy and prevent equine lameness.
The first Europeans to set foot in what
would later come to be known as Texas,
would have been greeted by The Caddo Nation;
a group of sedentary farmers who believed the
world to be populated by supernatural beings.
The Caddo knew of The Green Man and of Beowa.
And their lives hinged around a series of complex
seasonal rituals marking the cycle of life and death
- performed in the hopes of ensuring favorable
relations between themselves and the spirit world.
By night, I find myself seated amongst these border Indians.
Cross-legged in a conical grass hut. Sharing a
bowl of foaming tea made from wild olive leaves.
My brain churning. My blood racing. Sweat pouring from my body.
A faint yet constant buzzing noise in my feverish ears.
A noise which sounds, at first, like crickets rubbing
their long legs together in the tall grass. But which
might equally be the distant sound of a fiddle being scratched.
The Old People are sending me their voices, from far far away.
From a shallow hollow betwixt rolling hills.
From the place where the Earth meets the Sky.
I was born from Cotswold barley, and thus
to the Cotswold barley must I one day return.
So bury my heart by a bend in the babbling brook.
Low down in the Ironstone loam, near
the roots of a softly sighing willow tree.
Out amongst the cuckoo-spit and the damsel-flies. All
watched over by the fossils of long-dead sea-urchins.
In 1584, when Sir Walter’s men left the New World,
they took with them a great many exotic animal skins,
and necklaces made from the finest of ocean pearls.
History, alas, does not record what became of either
the six Morris Men or their accompanying hobby horse.
But my hope is that they decided to stay on
a while longer in order to smoke more tobacco.

SXSW 2011 'Guardian' Interview

Official 'Way Of The Morris' website

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2.15.2011

Arise Mandiba. Arise And Denote Yourself.

From the flat summit of Hoerikwaggo,
it’s easy to spot tiny Robben Island; shimmering
like banished pancake batter on cold blue waters.
A scant 3.3 km long and only 1.9 km wide,
the Dutch colonialists were the first to use the
island’s landmass as a prison back in the mid-17th century.
The first tribal leader to be incarcerated there was
a local Khoikhoi interpreter, to whom the Dutchmen
bestowed the nickname “Harry The Beachcomber”.
Imprisoned for stealing small amounts of tobacco and alcohol,
“Harry” eventually escaped using a small wooden rowing boat.
But other tribal leaders have not always been so fortunate.
Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela spent 18 of his 27 years
of forced bondage, marooned upon Robben’s hard rock.
As a category D prisoner, Mandela was allowed
one visitor and one single letter every 6 months.
As a category D prisoner, he was forced to quarry
more than his fair share of limestone during that time.
Looking down upon that tiny island
from the flat summit of Hoerikwaggo,
I can’t help but think about what Mandela’s view
must have looked like from the opposite direction.
Did the sight of the Almighty Mountain intimidate? Or did it inspire?
To the colonizing trading power, he was a disbeliever and a terrorist.
But here was a man prepared to die in order to uphold
his inalienable right to be a human-being upon this Earth.
A man prepared to walk the long way round to freedom.
Upon water. Upon air. A man who became a giant.
A giant who became a Sky God.


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1.02.2011

The First Grandmother Of Lucha Libre

The Méxicans like their wrestlers to wear masks.
And Doña Virginia Aguilera liked her wrestling more than most.
For over half a century (until her death in 1997, aged 97),
Doña Virginia never missed a single fight, always wore
her very best outfits to the arena, and was never seen
without her trademark umbrella - with which she would
often reprimand participants who refused to play by the rules.
When asked what she enjoyed most about the lucha libre,
she said it was the sight of; “Christians killing each other”.
Doña Virginia’s devotion was always to the ring. And always
to the sweat and the spectacle of her beloved luchadores.
Not for this grand Señora a shrine to our Lady of Guadalupe.
Instead, her most prized possessions were
the bloodied locks of shaved hair which she
collected from the canvas at the end of bouts,
and took home to be washed with soap and water
before hanging them on a clothes-line to dry.
When I was a boy, my Father would take me to watch
the wrestling at the old Winter Gardens in my home town.
He hated it, but he took me anyway because he was my Father.
And Father’s tend to do things like that for their sons.
Now maybe it’s a cultural difference, or maybe it’s
just a sign of the times, but the Father sat beside me
in the stalls today appears to be enjoying the high-flying action
just as much as either of his 2 sons; both
of whom are wearing shiny replica masks.
Wide-eyed, we enter into a whirlpool of catharsis;
living and dying with every back-flip from the top rope.
In this Olympian catch-as-catch can between Good and Evil,
we jeer at the rudos whilst giving applause to the técnicos.
We know our parts well. For we are all Doña Virginia’s grandchildren.
And not one of us can resist the salty scent of a fresh Christian kill.

Trailer for the documentary 'Super Amigos'

El Santo unmasks live on Méxican TV

The Méxican Wrestling Council's official website

12.14.2010

Young Man Of Ethnomusicological Sorrow

Folk music reinvents itself.
Yep. That’s just what it does.
Periodically, over time, it remakes
itself anew. Which is why it endures.
Sam Amidon sings other people’s songs, and for that
may both Alan and John Lomax make us truly thankful.
Lone-and-lonesome, and blessed with a backwoodsman’s warble,
some say he’s from Old Vermont. Hence the twang to his accent.
Some say he could play the fiddle before
he could walk. Hence the turkey in his straw.
Out there along the railroad tracks he wanders.
In-and-out of County Jails. Hand-in-hand with The Shakers.
Off and on again with the chain-gangs of yore.
Subdued yet soulful. Muted yet imploring. A lemon light of Angelic sound.
Warm Jonnycakes in his pockets and cedar smoke in his corn-cob pipe.
Up-plucking at our heartstrings. Vibrating the very membrane.
These songs that Sam Amidon sings are
old-time songs. Transformed and transformative.
And the words to these old-time songs come from who knows where;
refracted and rejiggered by this fresh-faced musical mountaineer.
And if Sam Amidon admits to not always knowing the exact names of
all the notes that he’s playing, then it surely behooves us to forgive him.
For his is the sound of the grain and the lumber and the hushabye.
And deep is the Smithsonian River in which he chooses to fishe.
So here's to Cisco Houston and to Blind Sonny Terry.
And here’s to Huddie Ledbetter and to Moran Lee Boggs.
And Bessie Jones and The Georgia Sea Island Singers too.
And here’s to all those long-lost long-ago voices that
rambled and sharecropped and moonshined afore yee.
Sam Amidon's gonna die with a clawhammer in his hand, hand, hand.
That Sam Amidon gonna die with a clawhammer in his hand.

Sam Amidon performs at SXSW 2011

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10.01.2010

How Dry Does Your Deepest River Flow?

Wade through the rowan and the willow
and the thousand-years of stunted oak,
and there, in the heart of the deepwood,
may you find them.
Barefoot upon ancient ground.
In a small man-made clearing.
Far from the idlers and the imbeciles,
and the petrol-pump and the pylons.
Incline your aid and your ear towards them, and be rewarded.
Hear their songs of testimony, persuasion, exhortation and warning.
Joyous and luminous. Sorrowful yet glorious.
Like young Joshuas yowling at the stubborn walls of Jericho.
Soul-searching for their suppers. Sorting wheat from chaff.
Moving the air about them. Stringing daisies on a chain.
This is the music of the wagon-wheel and the whetstone.
A lily of three-part harmonies among thornbush.
Oh Precious Lord, take my hand and lead me onwards.
As it was in the beginning, so it is now.
And thus shall it ever be so.
World without end. Amen and Alleluia.

Dry The River play 'Bible Belt' for Watch Listen & Tell

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9.15.2010

You Can Lead A Horse To Water

Is there any animal that could
look more at home with its landscape
than the horse and the vast North American Prairies?
And yet Equus Ferus Caballus is not indigenous to these lands.
It was the Europeans who brought the first horses
to the The New World during the mid 16th century.
In return we got the potato and the rolling tobaccy.
But the Native Indian Peoples had foreseen
these strange new creatures in their visions,
and took to them like ducks may take to fresh water.
Naming them Medicine Elks and The Big Dog.
I may have grow-up amongst the countryside,
but the only people I ever remember seeing
on horseback when I was a child, were on the television.
And oftentimes, they were riding their noble steeds in black-and-white.
The Lone Ranger had Silver, whilst William S. Hart had his trusty Fritz.
Like streaks of black-and-white lightning flashing cross the sky.
Like the swiftest of black-and-white arrows whizzing from a bow.
My four-legged companion out on the trail today is Chase;
a left-brain introverted Appaloosa, standing
16-hands high, and noted for his grumpiness
as much as his irregular leopard-splotched coat.
But spotted horses have long been considered magical.
And me and Mr. Chase are working on a shared belief
in the universal force that permeates all living things.
My thighs against the fenders. My feet loose in the stirrups.
My foreign landlubbing scent upon his slick back. Upon his withers.
A switch of a comet-like tail. A flaring of
warm nostrils. An evacuation of the bowels.
The High Plains overwhelm and enchant in equal measure.
They are a sacred and haunted place, where
the winds yawn down straight from heaven.
The steady movement beneath me. The creak-creak-creak of baked leather.
It would be all to easy to enter into some kind of a trance.
To see day turn to night. Turn to day. Turn to night again.
To witness a nebula of silent spilling stars keeling overhead.
To be blessed with 350-degrees of sight. To see The Milky Way laid bare.
To dream of The Ghostdance and The Hummingbird
is to dream of a better world still yet to be re-made.
There’s no land but this land old-timer. So giddy-up
and follow those travois-tracks deep into the wanderlust.

Anti Monkey Butt Powder available here

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9.13.2010

Song Of The Rocking Z Dude Ranch

Across The Great Divide,
in a hole between two hills,
beside the shining Little Prickly Pear,
stands the ranch of one Zackary Wirth;
eldest son of a local catskinner named “Butch”.
The Wirth family hail from faraway Germany originally.
Zackary's great-grandfather came West in search of gold dust in the year 1862,
and his grandfather was a tailor who cut meat for the military before
marrying himself a pretty Swedish courtesan in the summer of 1876.
The same year in which the Wirth family first
homesteaded this patch of swooning grassland.
Make no bones about it, Zack’s a man’s man through-and-through.
And Montanan to the core. Right to the very quick.
A God-fearing paterfamilias with a preacher-man's beard
and an infectious belly-laugh as uproarious as all hell.
A buckaroo who could ride on horseback before he could walk.
The enduring romantic appeal of the cowboy, he tells me,
lies in the spirit of independence that he’s come to embody.
That, and the underbelly of violence hitched to his wagon trails.
The gambling and the drinking and the womanizing,
and all that dagnabit cold-blooded murdering
that took place in the dirt and the dust
of the fledgling townships still sticky
from the beestings milk of their founding.
So embrace the romantic appeal while you can Zack tells me.
But don’t forget that even Duke John Wayne
sometimes died at the end of the final reel.
Zackary Wirth stands upon his quarterdeck, and watches
the clouds pick-up pace as the day ages into late afternoon.
He stands and watches the sun curdle into the far horizon over yonder.
And he breathes deep of the sagebrush and the fragrant pine aspen.
There are more cattle in The State of Montana than there are people.
And approximately 12,000 miles of asphalt; much of which follows
routes originally blazed by the annual migration of the hairy buffalow.
Montana is where people come to when they don’t wish to be found.
For there’s a awful lot of land to lose yourself in.
Just ask the notorious Hole In The Wall gang.
Land. Lots of land. Under Big Sky high above.
Roll on, thou wide and sun-bleached ocean. Roll on!
And as the old-timers used to say, if you’re going
to eat watermelon, you’d best go eat some watermelon.

Evelyn Cameron: Photographing Montana

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9.10.2010

Meet Me At The Fraternal Order Of Eagles

I’m sat on a stool in my favourite writer’s
favourite drinking den in downtown Bozeman.
And I’m wearing brand new cowboy boots.
I’m wearing brand new cowboy boots and I’m drinking
Jack Daniels in lieu of any George Dickel. Straight-up without rocks.
This old-fashioned gin mill hasn’t changed its spots in decades.
The Friday night atmosphere is best described as fruit-fly infested.
The Friday night decor the Pantone spot colour of infected lung.
There’s a pockmarked pool table,
a vintage Ms. Pac Man arcade game,
some newer electronic slot machines and college
football playing silently on the TV’s. Go Bobcats!
Life’s little journey from darkness to darkness
offers-up a number of milestones along the way.
Today is such a day. A day on which to sip sourmash slowly.
The cowboy boots on my feet are a birthday present to myself.
Fresh out of the box and made from premium full-grain leather.
Bought this very morning from a man named Beau.
A little tight around the toes maybe. But that’ll change given time.
They just need a little breaking in is all. Just like we all do.
“Cuss if you must”, reads the bar’s motto;
“But do it with class. Because the one you’re
drinking might just wind-up being your last”.
I’ll raise a silent toast to that. And I’ll wear
my brand new cowboy boots whilst doing it.
A silent toast to 40 years aboard Spaceship Earth.
A silent toast to the family tree of procreation that preceded me.
A silent toast to the spider’s web of time and circumstance
that has brought me to this here drinking stool upon this
here September evening amongst these here Bozemanites.
A silent toast to those preparing to do-si-do another Friday night away.
A silent toast even to the Fair Maid who’s going to marry me one day.
Wherever She may be. And to whomsoever She may currently be with.

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Brautigan Fishing In The Last Best Place

The poet and writer Richard Brautigan
first came to Paradise Valley in the year 1973.
He came here to eat hotcakes, and dream
his dreams about Japanese women’s feet,
and ended-up buying himself a 40-acre rancho
close to where Hemingway once liked to fish.
The rancho consisted of a large 2-story house,
a log-cabin built shortly after the Civil War
and a big ole red barn where Brautigan
kept his smith-corona typewriter.
There was an empty chicken coop, and lots of thistles.
Not to mention several abandoned automobiles,
which often served him as makeshift day-beds.
Brautigan lost himself a lot of friends whilst in Paradise Valley.
For those were the years which he spent hanging-out with the movie-stars.
The years in which he began to drink a little too much a little too often.
But his was not a rapid freefall into bitter alcoholism and abject paranoia.
And this is not the home in which he eventually killed himself.
Brautigan lived a looney-tune life of
self-imposed semi-isolation out on the ranch.
When he was depressed, he liked to
read a biography of William Faulkner.
When he got bored, he liked to sit at the
kitchen table with his point-22 calibre rifle,
and shoot-up telephones, televisions, bath-tubs,
pinball-machines, kitchen clocks and any
other inanimate objects that he could find.
The poet Aeschylus died when an eagle accidentally
dropped a tortoise upon his head. Brautigan was not so lucky.
He had to take matters into his own hands. Much like Sylvia Plath.
Though his choice of weapon was Smith & Wesson handgun
borrowed from a Chinaman, rather than a kitchen oven.
On the day Brautigan left Paradise Valley for the last time,
he presented his good friend, the author Thomas McGuane
with a glazed clay Japanese funeral urn wrapped in a blanket.
He told McGuane that he’d send instructions
about exactly when the item would be needed.
If The Big Goof had lived, he would’ve been 75 years old this year.
As it was, his long-legged corpse was discovered
in California on the evening of October the 26th, 1984.
It is speculated that his body may have lain undiscovered for as long as 6 weeks.
Legend has it, that the note
he left behind contained the following
three handwritten words; “Messy, isn't it".

Brautigan reads 'All Watched Over By Machines Of Loving Grace'

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9.09.2010

Here Fell The Son Of The Morningstar

The Big Sky wears itself a scowl
as I head out East on Interstate 90.
The Thunderbird is shape-shifting. Stirring from its sleep.
Across the Yellowstone River, keeping the rail-tracks on my right.
Past the oil refinery. And the posters advertising the annual re-enactment.
Come on. Many Indians. Heap Big Village. Overwhelming odds. Be quick.
The last Paleface to see that
crazy cocksure Cavalier alive
on that hot summer’s afternoon in June 1876,
was 7th cavalry bugler Giovanni Martini;
who was handed a note, scrawled hastily
upon a sheet of paper torn from a dispatch-book.
The note requested reinforcements and ammunition packs.
But when those reinforcements eventually arrived,
a full 2 days later, the only living thing
that could be found upon the greasy grass
was a wounded horse by the name of Comanche.
And Comanche’s silence spoke more eloquently than any words.
Comanche toured the country
until his eventual death in the year 1891.
After which he was stuffed-and-mounted
with full U.S. military honours, and placed
within a dehumidifying glass cabinet, which was housed
in the natural history museum at the University of Kansas.
Whichever way you do the math, it's safe to say
that The Boy General has been a long time waiting
for those ammunition packs of his to arrive.

Friends Of The Little Bighorn Battlefield

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8.08.2010

The Annual Harvest Of The Crawdaddys

Crayfish possess two pairs of
antennae and five pairs of legs,
and are fiercely territorial crustaceans.
Etiquette requires one to
first pinch upon the noble tail
and suck out the juices, before commencing
any decapitation, declawing or shell cracking.
Being a lazy eater, this is all a bit too much like hard work for me.
I’d be far happier with some tapas. Or a calzone.
But when in Scandinavia, in August,
one must don the paper hat and the paper bib
and play ball to the very best of one’s abilities.
So skoal to the late summer sunshine. And skoal to the Man in the Moon.
And always remember to remove the bowels before eating.
If nothing else, try and remember to remove the bowels.
Regardless of how sticky your fingers may be.

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6.16.2010

There Used To Be An Arts College Right Here

Me and the 28-acres of medieval estate
that sit atop this particular curve in the
River Of Dart have history. We go way back.
This curious hilltop helps bind me, inform me and nourish me still.
When I think about Dartington, I think about
the Henry Moore, and the Peter Randall-Page.
I think about the blackened bark of the 2,000-year-old yew tree.
The Tiltyard’s handsome grass terraces.
And everyone’s favourite odd-toed bronze donkey.
I read my first Sam Shepard play whilst I was here.
Which changed my life.
I saw my first Almodovar film, and my
first Robert Altman film whilst I was here.
Both of which changed my life.
Whilst here, I played a transvestite for the first time.
Whilst here, I bought my first Nirvana album.
Whilst here, a visiting tutor became the first person to tell
me about something he called the “information super-highway”.
Which was, ultimately, to change all of our lives.
When I think about Dartington,
I think about the fact that I simply
wouldn’t be doing what I’d doing today
If not for the unique learning experience
I was afforded during my 4 years atop this holy summit.
It was a course that didn’t hold your hand. Or help you tick boxes.
It was a course that gave you precious space outside of the curriculum.
Space to try things out. Space to fail. Space to pick oneself up,
and fail again. Or maybe, if you were lucky, succeed.
It was a course that gave back only that which you were prepared to put in.
And education in this country in general, is
much the poorer for its closing. It really is.
To my mind, at least, the landscape here
and the college are intrinsically linked.
They share a symbiotic relationship. And so,
whilst I’ve nothing against Falmouth personally
(I’ve never been), the notion of up-sticking
and leaving this sacred soil
feels more like a death knell
than simply the end of an era.
And, as I’ve come to appreciate as I’ve gotten
slowly older and more crotchety, once these places
of genuine idiosyncrasy are gone, they’re gone forever.

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2.21.2010

Who Ordered The Mono No Aware?

So, I’ve been falling asleep in the cinema again.
Easily done for a man of my advancing years.
The darkened room. The comfortable seat.
An ice-cold bottle of imported beer beforehand.
I fell asleep watching Michael Haneke’s ‘Time Of The Wolf’.
I fell asleep watching Wim Wender’s ‘The Wrong Move’.
I fell asleep watching Peter Brook’s ‘Marat/Sade’.
And I fell asleep watching Jean-Luc Godard’s ‘Le Mépris’ too.
This is my second Ozu in 7 days, and my
body's buckling just a little under the strain.
My throat is red raw, and my brain is drowning in its own mucus.
I’m finding it somewhat hard to breathe, truth be told.
Have my eyes turned pink yet? I can’t see in this light.
To be invited into a Japanese home
is to be afforded a very great honour.
And the guest always takes priority.
Remember that. And always remove your shoes upon entry.
4:3 is an aspect ratio which complements Ozu’s world of domestic interiors.
It’s all about the hearth and the home afterall.
For therein lies the hot emotional core.
A clock chimes. A wife behaves obsequiously.
A businessman pours green tea over a bowl of plain rice.
Western brand names hint at an off-screen American occupation.
The pop-and-crackle of fluff on the film print
perfectly reflecting the noise inside my weary head.
I start to hallucinate about halfway through the film.
I see a spectral figure standing in my peripherals.
He's looking straight at me. Not at the screen.
And he's addressing an audience from a lectern.
He doesn't see the young ultranationalist
drawing his wakizashi blade until it’s too late.
All things are transient. This knowledge I humbly receive.
Pathos is sometimes chastened. Eye-lines can be disconcerting.
His fate etched upon a tatami mat. Hidden behind a a shōji screen.
He rests now, peacefully, alone in the void.
Only after the door has closed behind me,
do I put my hat and my coat and my brogues back on.

Inejiro Asanumaa is assassinated on national TV

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2.04.2010

Oh Mighty Pitchfork Of Catalonian Massif

I feel desiccated from another night
of boutique 4-star hotel air-conditioning
The great outdoors, I tell myself, despite the
ungodly hour, must be doing me some good.
The make-up girl’s breath carries with it
the stale aroma of cigarette smoke and
the first thick black café solo of the day.
And when she leans in close, I can tell she didn’t
have time to take a proper shower this morning.
My sneakers, for the record, smell of day old Pyrénéean sheep shit.
In the grand scheme of things, I guess that makes us about even.
The make-up girl asks if I’m okay with her
touching and prodding my face and
restyling my hair this way and that.
And as she asks these questions, I can hear the
West Wind whistling through the gaps in her teeth,
from here all the way to the tiny principality of Andorra.
My head nods my approval, but what She doesn’t realise
is that I’ve long since left my physical form behind
and stepped onto a different plain of existence entirely.
My soul has passed through 7 stages of consciousness.
Many hands of light are busy dancing in front of my eyes.
White spots of light dance in front of my eyes.
Indigo spots of light dance in front of my eyes.
Maya blue spots of light dance in front of my eyes.
Bright green spots of light dance in front of my eyes.
Orange spots of light. Yellow spots of light. Red spots of light.
A pincushion of colours and a taste of ambrosia on my tongue.
Pyrene was a nymph who took courageous Heracles as a lover.
But she died alone, in the woods, after giving birth to a serpent.
The demigod piled-up stones to make for her a tomb,
and thus formed this great mountain range upon her corpse.
The twin forked peaks of the Pedraforca above me.
Vapour trails above me. The Dog Star above me.
The halls of Mount Ólympos always above me.

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1.22.2010

Come In Number 51, Your Time Is Up

See there; a mock orgy in the High Desert.
A 20-mule team from Joe Chaikin’s Open Theater
writhe around in the arid sand and volcanic dust.
Amidst the Playas and the Stardunes. Amongst the fossilized
remains of mastodons and camels and old gold prospectors.
And you may dig it. Or you may choose not to.
But the sun is beating down on them. And, man, it’s pretty far out.
And man, it may also be in possible violation of The Mann Act of 1910.
The Girl is wearing turquoise. The Boy has a loaded pistol in his sock.
Howls of derision await them. The front
cover of ‘Rolling Stone’ magazine awaits them.
Marriage to Dennis Lee Hopper for one.
Death in the state penitentiary for the other.
Listen there; can you hear the sound of Jerry Garcia
swirling amongst those convex badland convolutions?
Roscoe Holcomb, John Fahey and The Pink Floyd too?
But stay tuned brothers and sisters, for there are going to be fireworks.
And then some. In Peckinpah slow-motion. And from multiple angles.
Using miniatures. And long-lenses. And the pages
of that there National Geographic
will be left a-blowing in the wind.

Mark Frechette and Daria Halprin TV Interview

Final scene from Michelangelo Antonioni's 'Zabriskie Point'

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1.06.2010

Kim Noble Is Unwell

The average male ejaculate contains
3 cubic-centimetres of semen, despite
what you may have heard elsewhere.
Kim Noble is a man who knows a thing or two about cubic centimetres.
His latest one-man multimedia performance contains a lot of semen.
And it’s semen all of his own making. No Methyl cellulose at work here.
No egg whites mixed with icing sugar and a splash of condensed milk.
And all because Floella Benjamin beat him in the London Marathon.
Kim Noble trained in fine-art at Sheffield Hallam University.
10 years ago, he won himself a Perrier award for “Best Newcomer”.
More recently, Kim’s been spending time at
the Maudsley hospital in Camberwell South London.
The Maudsley has it’s own Morris dancing team. I know that for a fact.

The Maudsley is where my dead friend Sarah
once spent time as a voluntary patient.
Kim Noble once threatened to jump from London's Waterloo Bridge, but didn't.
Kim Noble once threatened to jump from Edinburgh's North Bridge, but didn't.
Many people diagnosed with a Bipolar Disorder threaten suicide,
but on average, only about 0.4 percent
of them successfully go through with it.
Personally, I could have done without the sad-faced clown's make-up
and the crumpled Superman costume with the Max Wall bald cap.
I felt it only served to hide the real Kim Noble. The raw Kim Noble.
The unyielding and unshakeable Kim Noble
that was supposedly being lain bare before us.
Is it a cry for help? Or base autoeroticism for critical-acclaim?
'Time Out' saw fit to issue Kim with 6 stars out of a possible 5.
But what do they know? I mean really? Personally, I wouldn’t trust
‘Time Out’ to know the difference if it suddenly jumped up,
and scored the flesh on their forearms with a Stanley knife.
And yes I am only saying that because they gave me a bad review once.
The average male ejaculate contains 150 mg of protein.
The average male ejaculate contains 11 mg of carbohydrates,
6 mg of fat and 3 mg cholesterol. Aswell
as traces of potassium, copper and zinc.
And all because Paul McKenna didn’t post him a signed photograph.

Kim Noble's Official Website

'Bipolar Disorder Magazine' Website

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12.17.2009

Slow Is The New Quick, Just As Quiet Was The Old Loud

If Jack and Megan White had grown-up
eating saveloys out of old newspaper, then
they might have sounded something like this.
The girl next door. The boy next door.
Rapunzel on perpendicular percussion.
Metrosexual Rockabilly on skiffle guitar.
Like old school-friends with grass-stained knees,
they coo-coo in perfect harmony as
Winter’s first snowfall flurries outside.
The yule-tide period is a notoriously
turbulent time for affairs of the heart.
I can vouch for that. Relationship meltdown is rife.
The number of break-ups suffers a razor sharp increase.
And so, Slow Club’s repertoire of busted-love strumalongs
and ballads about the impermanence of things, seem to me
to be all the more appropriate at this festive time of the year.
Between my feet, I’m cradling an exotic plant that's
still wrapped in its protective sheet of clear polythene.
It's a Euphorbia pulcherrima. Better known as a poinsettia.
It's flaming red foliage a long way from Southern Mexico
on this cold and icy December’s eve.
The girl who gave it to me, was worried
as to whether or not an exotic plant was an
appropriate gift for me to be taking along to a gig.
But I assured her that the poinsettia would be fine.
That it really wasn’t that kind of gig. And that
besides which, the seasonal bloomer might even end-up
benefitting from the whole City of Steel anti-folk musical experience.
It definitely appears to have grown a little taller since the start of the night.
But maybe that’s just my imagination?

Slow Club sing 'When I Go': Busking Bandstand Session

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12.08.2009

Single White Soulmate (Maximum Length 500 words)

I got off the train one stop early
and followed her down the busy platform.
She was wearing a patterned dress over thick tights
and a pair of loose-fitting flat-soled shoes that made her
shuffle a little as she walked towards the escalators.
Her shoulder length hazel-coloured hair
looked like it had been spun in a poppy-field
and then left to dry in the wild wind for a week.
Her cardigan had small holes in the elbows.
Her cheeks were lightly flushed.
And she was carrying just the right amount of
excess weight around the bustle and the corselette.
I followed her towards the fluorescent Way Out signs,
through the barriers and out into the glare of the streetlights.
And then she was gone. Consumed by a shoal of oily fish.
I never asked her name. We didn’t even make eye-contact.
It’s certainly possible to pick faces out of a crowd.
Godfrey Reggio’s film output is proof enough of that.
And so I continue to live in hope. And so I continue to let my gaze wander.
I’m looking for someone wearing Grandma’s hand-me-downs.
I’m looking for innovative use of multiple
hair-clips and designer spectacle frames.
I’m looking for a piercing too many about the ear
or the nose and maybe even the bottom lip.
I’m looking for lips recently stained by spaghetti gravy.
I’m looking for freckles in hard to reach places.
I’m looking for someone who scribbles
reminder notes on the back of their hand.
Someone studying the yellowing pages of a dog-eared
Picador or something published by Blacksparrow Press.
A girl you can imagine telling your darkest secrets to.
A girl you can imagine finishing all your sentences.
The kind of girl you’d dream about naming a distant star after.
The kind of girl you’d look forward to sharing a sleeping-bag with.
The kind of girl who could play the kazoomaphone
or knit herself a woolen beard. Preferably both.
But oftentimes, what we’re looking for turns out
to have there all along. Sat right beneath our noses.
Which is another way of saying, girls are a lot like philtrums.
Which is probably why the Ancient Greeks considered
the infra-nasal depression to be one of the most
erogenous spots on the human body.

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11.11.2009

The First Of Far Far Too Many

Truth, as we all know, is the first casualty of war.
Aeschylus, the father of tragedy, taught us that much.
But in terms of The Great War 1914-18, the
first British casualty was a young
golf-caddy from North Finchley called John Parr.
He was only 16 when he joined the
4th Battalion of the Middlesex Regiment,
and was assigned the role of reconnaissance cyclist.
Parr, like many others, lied about his age.
On Friday August 21st 1914, he found himself
on patrol in the village of Obourg, north east of Mons
and just over the border into Flanders. It was there that
he encountered an advance unit from the German First Army.
16-year-old John Parr remained behind to hold off the enemy,
whilst his colleague returned by pedal-power to report to superior officers.
At dawn the next day, the British army fired
their first shots in anger on the Western Front,
and young golf-caddies from far and wide
began falling like blanched dominoes.
St Symphorien Military Cemetery:
the final resting place of Private John Parr

10.24.2009

I Lie Here In A Strange Girl’s Apartment (After Brautigan)

I lie here in a strange girl’s apartment, reading
a poem called ‘I Lie Here in a Strange Girl’s Apartment’,
written by an American man called Richard Gary Brautigan
who died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound in the year 1984.
And you have to realise that I didn’t plan it this way. Not at all.
I mean, you have to realise that this is a case of purest serendipity at play.
I simply opened the book (first published in New York City 41 years ago),
turned over the page, and there it was; 14 lines long
and printed on paper now slightly mottled with age.
Lying here in a strange girl’s apartment while she takes a shower,
I find myself listening to the sound of the running water, and imagining that
it’s the sound of the Pacific ocean that I can hear coming from the other room.
I imagine the black-green kelp. I imagine the seagulls shrieking overhead.
Richard Gary Brautigan’s ‘I Lie Here in a Strange Girl’s Apartment’
is dedicated to a woman called “Marcia”. But what I don’t know,
and probably never will, is whether or not this Marcia
is the same Marcia as the Marcia who Brautigan
dated for a time, and who turned out to be the last person
he ever spoke to (on the telephone), before pointing
a loaded .44 Magnum at his troubled and quixotic head.
That Marcia, so the story goes, tried calling back later,
but repeatedly got Brautigan’s answer-machine instead.
“Hello, as you can probably tell, I’m not here right now,
but you can leave a message for when I am here,
after the beep” are the words which Marcia heard.
Over, and over, and over again.

Richard Brautigan page at 'Old Poetry Dotcom'

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8.15.2009

The Spirit Of Old John Barleycorn

Do you believe in giants?
Jez Butterworth surely does.
Cornish giants in particular. The likes of
Cormoran and Blunderbore, and lovelorn Bolster -
who once stained the sea waters red with his blood.
I've fond memories of Mister Butterworth,
for it was he who taught me how to roll the perfect
Peking duck pancake with hoisin sauce. But that was many years ago.
Jez is older now. And wiser. And time has tickled his beard with frost.
One of five siblings, he grew up in suburban St. Albans.
These days however, Jez lives in rural Somerset and raises pigs.
And good luck to him I say. May Queen Mab bless him always.
The West Country soil has helped him to relocate his muse,
whilst mine remains stubbornly mired
in the deepest dankest pile of hogshite.
Set in the fictional Wiltshire village of Flintock,
Jez’s new play ‘Jerusalem’ features a masterful
and mercurial lead performance by Mark Rylance.
An actor with all the poise and fury of a Raging Ballerina.
An actor who rolls his own cigarettes and drinks 8 raw eggs a week.
Based on a real-life “local” character called Mickey Doo,
Rylance is the living, breathing, belching embodiment
of an angry, disenfranchised and gelded olde England.
For amongst all the talk of of bric-a-brac and tombolas,
and floats and fetes and whirley-swirlers, the play reaches out
to the ancient lay-lines that criss-cross our faded realm
and seeks to summon up the totem spirits of Jack-O-The-Green
and poor John Barleycorn - the Christ-like lord of the hops.
The play resonates. It hums. It dances upon telluric currents.
It reminds me of blowjob I was once given
in a crop circle near Alton Barnes in 1992.
They ploughed, they sowed, they harrowed him in.
They throwed clods of dirt upon his head.
But Johnny Rooster Byron shall rise again.
Just like the Harvest. Just like the holy Nazarene.
Here’s to the revels. Here’s to the ruckus. Here’s to the
fracas almighty and the sweet blessed Merrie-oh.
We leave the theatre with the scent of gasoline still in our hair.
And with the Wyvern dragon flying proud upon gold-tipped wings.

Royal Court trailer for 'Jerusalem'

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7.14.2009

Tautology Of A Band Name

These Local Natives hail from
the Silverlake neighborhood of Los Angeles.
Near the reservoir. East of the Hollywood Hills.
They all share a house together there.
Like the Monkees did in their syndicated TV series.
Like John, Paul, George and Ringo did in 'Help'.
They eat breakfast together around a big table.
Buy their groceries together. Do their laundry together.
They probably sing together in the shower;
where the acoustics are always so much better.
Here, tonight, on a Monday evening, they’re
playing their first gig beyond North American shores.
The narrow stage is shaking from the exuberant clatter
of their splash cymbals and their multiple drumsticks.
Here, tonight, on a Monday evening, is where it's at.
The boys in the audience have grown mustaches to mark the occasion.
The girls down the front have spent the
weekend practicing their eyelash batting.
And when these Local Natives tip their heads back,
close their eyes, and unleash upon us their
soaring 4-part desert-sand barbershop yelping,
our feet all leave the ground for a second.
And it's then that we realise, if we didn't before,
that these infectious young men probably won’t be
sharing a house together for very much longer.

Local Natives at MySpace

Local Natives: BBC Radio 1 Session

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6.24.2009

Land Of The Midnight (Or Black) Sun

One day, not so very long ago,
She invited me to spend Midsummer with her,
across the waters, on top of sunshine mountain.
Amongst the juniper and the toadstools and the green birch.
I looked into flights. I booked the time off work.
I read Tove Jansson and watched Tartovsky’s 'The Sacrifice'.
And then she stopped returning my calls. Even when she was drunk.
And that was the end of that particular chapter.
And so when, in years to come, people ask me
where I was when I heard that The King Of Pop
had died, I’ll be able to tell them only this much;
I was out in my wooden garden, in just my underwear,
drinking a cup of redbush tea in the moonlight,
and thinking about how much closer
to the Arctic circle I should’ve been.
How I should've been counting cat’s hairballs
and collecting rain water in coffee jars.
Watching a country house slowly become a bonfire.
Watching a dry Japanese tree transform into a maypole.
Maybe next year instead? Before I turn 40.
Before the frogs start growing their ears back.

Banned 'Midsummer' Ikea Commercial

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5.22.2009

The Far Out Recording Company

In 1988, I left home for the first time
and went to live right beside the seaside.
I shared a chalet with a man called David,
who had a harelip and worked in the kitchen department.
In the mornings, I would clean my teeth in the tiny bathroom
whilst looking out through frosted-glass at the sand-dunes.
My gums would bleed and my eyes would itch.
I was only there for the fag-end of the summer,
but it was the longest 4 weeks of my life.
I couldn’t wait for the nights to start drawing-in again.
Before I left home, someone had given me a C90 cassette tape
onto which they had imprinted the sounds of an album entitled
‘The 8-Legged Groove Machine’, by a band that I’d never heard of.
I listened to that album from start to finish at least
once a day every day. Pausing just once to pop the lid
and turn it over. It became something of a ritualistic act.
A way of escaping to another world. A world far removed
from the salt air and the donkey derbies. A place where
buzz guitars roared and stretched calf-skin was soundly pounded.
I played that little box of tunes until the magnetic tape finally snapped.
It was music that made me want to pierce my earlobes.
It was music that helped me develop a sneering disdain
for my fellow man. Without that album, I’d no doubt have
walked out into the Atlantic one cold morning and never looked back.
When The Wonder Stuff played their farewell gig in 1994,
I was far far away; truly on the other side of the planet.
It was 82 degrees in the North Queensland sun, but
I still wore my black t-shirt my black knee-length shorts
and my cherry-red Doctor Marten boots. I calculated
the time difference. I observed a minute's silence.
When I got back to England, I cut off my hair
and split-up with my girlfriend. And things
got worse before they got better.



The Wonder Stuff's first ever TV appearance

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3.19.2009

Alan Moore Doesn't Watch The Watchmen

From the moment the screen turns a beautiful shade of
smiley-face yellow, I’m confident that the next 162 minutes
are going to far exceed any of the expectations I may have had.
The Warner Bros. logo appears. Black on smiley-face yellow.
The Legendary Pictures logo appears. Black on smiley-face yellow.
The DC comics logo appears. Black on beautiful smiley-face yellow.
Prepare yourself for the smell of Nostalgia. Here comes the human bean-juice.
The dirigibles and the triangles and the
geodesic domes are all present and correct.
See there, the genetically-engineered lynx.
See there, the Gunga Diner fast-food wrappers.
See there, Jon Osterman's big blue uncut cock and shaven blue ball-sack.
Believe me, I don’t miss the presence of the psychic alien squid thing.
And I don’t miss the excerpts from ‘Tales Of The Black Freighter’ either.
I don’t even mind that Hollis Mason dies off-screen. Really I don’t.
Thing is, I can still remember the first time I saw
those magical words; “Suggested for Mature Readers Only”.
I can still remember the day I underlined the phrase
"Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?” in a school library book.
Darren Aronofsky decided to make ‘The Fountain’, rather than run the gauntlet.
Paul Greengrass passed. Terry Gilliam went so far as to say it couldn’t be done.
If I’m losing you, then tough-titty. Either ride out
the storm or go cry in somebody else's cornflakes.
This film simply wasn’t made for you. And what’s more, I’m glad it wasn’t.
They’re even playing ‘Hallelujah’ on the soundtrack.
And what’s more, it’s the original Leonard Cohen version.

Play the retro 80's Watchmen arcade game

'Watchmen': the Saturday morning cartoon version

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3.08.2009

Sugar On The Mound

I don’t know much about baseball,
but I do know that it’s far-and-away the most
popular sport amongst the people of the Dominican República.
Nothing else even comes close. God, Fatherland, Liberty, Baseball.
Makeshift diamonds on every empty parking lot. Jumpers for bases.
Miguel ‘Sugar’ Santos is 19 years old, and a rookie pitcher
for the Quad City Swing in Davenport, Iowa. He’s a young man,
a long way from home, with an uncommon ability on the mound.
Smokeball. Curveball. Knuckleball. Okie-Dokie. Backdoor slider.
His all-time favourite ballplayer is Roberto Clemente;
a Puerto Rican who won 12 (twelve) Gold Glove Awards,
made 3,000 career base hits, and became the first Latin American
to be elected into the prestigious MLB Hall of Fame. Posthumously.
Miguel ‘Sugar’ Santos is played by Algenis Perez Soto. He’s been
playing baseball since he was 9 years old. ‘Sugar’ is his film debut.
Writer/Directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck took a chance on the kid.
And the kid doesn’t let them down. He keeps his eye on the game.
The infectious sound of the bachata music follows him wherever he goes.
It’s only as the end credits complete their upwards roll
and the lights come back on, that I’m reminded
of the fact I’m sat here all alone in the cinema stalls.
But hey, it's not like this is a new experience for me or anything.
She’s stood me up before, and she’ll no doubt stand me up again.
9th inning. 2 strikes against. Oh say it ain’t so, Joe.
Go on, Joe, say it ain't over till it's over.

Official Website for the movie 'Sugar'

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2.28.2009

The Sound Of The Perennial Long Grass Rustling

Virginia-born Andy Cabic could’ve called his band
Palmarosa. Or Citronella. Or maybe even Sandalwood.
But he didn’t. He didn’t call his band any of those things.
And music this good, would still sound this good
whether it was played at the bottom of the deepest ocean,
or way up there; above the clouds, where only Gods were s’posed to tread.
For Vetiver sing simple songs about coming on strong and going down fast.
Songs about going fishing. Songs about the open road.
Songs that clarify. Songs that refresh. Songs about lemon trees
and rainbow skies. Songs about good times and good friends
and San Fransisco's Mission District by-the-bay.
Lilting, twirling, shimmering songs. Songs that rusticalize.
Andy Cabic wears a corduroy fisherman’s cap throughout.
A “Donovan” cap, as my dad might choose to describe it.
Like vintage Joe Orton. Like Lennon back in ‘64.
It reminds me of a corduroy fisherman’s cap I had as a child.
I had a real thing for hats when I was younger.
Hats were the first thing I ever learnt to draw.
I went everywhere in that corduroy fisherman’s cap of mine.
I flew kites with my grandfather in that hat.
Oh mamma. Oh papa. Watch me, as I follow the breadcrumbs home,
out through the tall and fragrant kuss-kuss grass, illuminated by
the new moon hung high above Primrose Hill.

Welcome to the Vetiverse

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1.28.2009

Fikamusikkonsert-In-The-Fields

One of the many things I love about
our Swedish cousins, is the fact that they’ve
a word in their lexicon which roughly means
“to meet-up with friends and drink some coffee”.
And that word is fika. Some fika. To fika. It’s fika time!
Now strictly speaking, a fika isn’t really a fika without
the accompaniment of something sweet on the side.
A cinnamon roll perhaps. Or a saffron bun.
Or, in tonight’s case at least, a low-key gig
in a church dedicated to the patron saint of outcasts.
Better known by the pseudonym Loney Dear,
Emil Svanängen is a multimember home-recording
one-man-band phenomenon, who appears
very much at ease up on the pulpit this evening.
For whilst other Scandinavians of his age were out
meeting girls, drinking snaps and smoking herring,
Emil was in his parent’s basement in the city of Jönköping,
armed with a minidisk microphone, various instruments and his PC.
In a recent interview, Emil described his albums as being a bit like cakes.
The kind of cake this brings to mind
is a traditional Swedish Prinsesstårta;
multi-layered and dusted with sugar.
A light green falsetto exterior giving way
to a rich swollen centre of whipped
percussion and butterfat handclaps.
If he doesn’t hook you with the spiraling glockenspiel
in ‘I Am John’, he’ll no doubt ensnare you instead with
the whistling refrain that underpins ‘I Was Only Going Out’
or the singalong section which enhances ‘The Meter Marks OK’.
Your sweet-tooth smile widening with each new overdub.
Outside, afterwards, fika-time over for another day,
we lean against the gravestones for a while
and suck on cold beers whilst a steward
sweeps-up cigarette butts at our feet.
Loney Dear has a plane to Boston Massachusetts to catch in the morning
I’ve got a radiator that needs bleeding.


Loney Dear play live on Band Busking Dotcom

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1.09.2009

Filmed In Mexico In Panavision

So there’s me, Chuck Heston,
Richard Harris, Jimmy Coburn Junior,
Warren Oates, Rodeo Slim Pickens,
L. Q. Jones, Cannonball Taylor
and Robert Golden Armstrong.
Out on the High Road, pursuing renegade Apaches.
Out on the High Road, pursued by French Irregulars.
Bloody Sam's trademark catsup red
staining the arroyo and the whinstone
and the waters of the Rio Grande.
Claymore and Colt and mini-howitzer.
Mules and buzzards and howling prairie wolves.
Mariachi guitar, south-of-the-border harmonica
and some of that old-time bareknuckled sucker-punching.
I know they don’t make them like this anymore,
just as surely as I know that
my heart is broke right now.
It needs time alone in the hot white sun.
Time to wallow in the charcoal of old cookfires.
For she is my scar tissue. And beyond doubt my Achilles Heel.
Leaning forward, I spit into the dirt,
wipe my mouth with the back of my hand
and, taking up the trailing reins,
ride up through the low juniper
to rejoin the column
as they turn and ride on towards
the crumbling walls of Durango.

Trailer for Sam Peckinpah's 'Major Dundee'

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12.25.2008

The Last Pause Is The Longest

There are two kinds of silence in this world.
And no-one knew that better than Harold Pinter.
Beckett may have started it, but it was
Pinter who made the pregnant pause his own.
‘The Homecoming’ contains 224 of them.
‘The Caretaker’, by comparison, a mere 149.
I don’t owe it all to this son of a Jewish tailor,
but I certainly owe him a lion’s share.
I saw him that once in the flesh; leaving his seat
following the posthumous premiere
of my friend’s suicide-note of a stageplay.
He was taller than I’d pictured him.
With a stature befitting of a Nobel laureate.
The black cells were in his gullet even then;
steadily multiplying, though not yet diagnosed.
How I wish now that I'd asked to shake his hand.
Afterall, in the end it’s all about the ferret
under the cocktail cabinet. Or is it a weasel?
Blackout. Curtain. Applause.

Harold Pinter: official website

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12.17.2008

My Own Private Guernica

Snow falls upon the Sierra de Guadarrama.
Shadows lengthen in the afternoon sun.
I could have gone to see Picasso’s ‘Guernica’ today,
but I just can’t face that capacious canvas right now.
I’m not really in the mood for abstracted strategic bombing.
I feel shot-thru with enough symbolic shrapnel as it is.
Instead I’m stood here, watching the street-walkers on the corner.
Counting the number of imported cigarettes smoked.
Counting the number of tricks turned.
The bull is just a bull. The dying horse is just a dying horse.
The inverted hidden harlequins are just inverted hidden harlequins.
I could have gone to see ‘The Garden Of Earthly Delights’ triptych.
Or ‘The Black Goyas’ (painted at home by a half-mad old deaf man),
but best I stay right here, partly hidden by the heavy curtains.
Collecting dust on my eyeballs. Slowly bleeding out.
A lemming on a clifftop.
A kitten in a gunny-sack.
I open the sallyport and close
the first door firmly behind me.
My white flag is unfurling.
I can feel my toes beginning to curl under.

Pablo Picasso's 'Guernica'

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11.20.2008

No Canines Were Harmed During The Making Of This Motion Picture

When I make my next film, there’ll be a dog in it.
And yes, you can hold me to that.
There’s something about the way
they gaze directly down the barrel;
right into the heart of the lense
and straight through to the other side
- observing this farcical human puppet-show
in farsighted lateral shades of sepia.
Glassy-eyed like some shellshocked Tommy.
A two thousand yard stare which says;
I know God is dead, and what’s more, I knew
he was dead long before Freddie Nietzsche did.
A quiver of the snout. A lolling tongue. The faintest twitch of an ear.
What can I say? It gets me every time.
Writer/Director Kelly Reichardt certainly knows the score.
Her new film, ‘Wendy & Lucy’ stars Michelle Williams
as the eponymous Wendy, alongside Reichardt’s
very own pet dog, Lucy, as the eponymous Lucy.
Uncredited for her role in her owner's previous film, ‘Old Joy',
Lucy is a golden brown mixed-breed bitch.
What one used to call a mongrel. Or a mutt.
Her page at the International Movie Database lists her as Lucy (XXIX).
Lassie was played by a male Rough Collie.
Toto was played by a female Cairn Terrier.
The Littlest Hobo was actually played by 2 different
German Shepherds, both of whom were called London.
But let’s be honest about this, compared to Lucy,
they were all just show-offs. Sideshow acts. Circus freaks.
Lucy's from more of a Lee Strasberg kennel-of-thought.
Her recognition at this year’s Fido Awards stands testament to that.
Based on a short story by Jon Raymond, ‘Wendy & Lucy’
is set in a small town in Oregon's Cascade Mountains.
Much like the Union Pacific locomotives
that moan in the night like beached sealions,
our two heroines just happen to be passing through.
En route to Alaska in a second-hand 1987 Honda Accord.
The film cost just $300,000 to shoot and lasts for 90 minutes.
Which is about 630 minutes in dog-time.

'Wendy And Lucy' trailer

Lucy The Dog at IMDB

The Fido Awards (The Doggie Oscars)

Trailer for a short film in which I play a dog reincarnated as a man

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11.14.2008

And Thus Passes The Glory Of This World

I've an ability to stomach
happy-clappy finger-clicky
Nu-Folk-Pop better than most.
For that reason, ‘Peaceful The World Lays Me Down’,
the debut album from Noah & The Whale,
was the soundtrack to my summer just gone.
It's tweecore mix of fiddle, brass
and gently strummed gawkiness
instantly reminiscent of the back-roads
and boulangerie’s of French-kissed Provence.
Leading man Charlie Fink sings mostly love songs.
Sometimes he gets the girl. Othertimes not.
Such is the way of these things. Sic transit gloria.
If he wasn’t headlining a sold-out gig
at Camden’s Koko this evening,
Charlie Fink would probably be sat at home
wrapped in a patchwork blanket
watching an imported Hal Ashby film
whilst sipping Earl Grey from bone china.
In 5 years time, I wonder if he'll
remember just how meteoric has been his rise.
In 5 years time, I wonder if he’ll
still be producing Laura Marling’s records.
Still be getting nominated for Mercury prizes?
In The Year 2013, Charlie Fink will still only be 27.
The same age as Jimi Hendrix was
when he choked on his own vomit.
Then same age as Brian Jones, Jim Morrison
and Janis Joplin were when they met their maker.
The same age that Kurt Donald Cobain was
when he put the muzzle of that shotgun
in his mouth and
pressed reboot.

How to play '5 Years Time' on the ukulele

'Blue Skies': Live In Session (BBC)

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11.11.2008

The 11th Hour Of The 11th Day

Don’t blame Gavrilo Princip for bringing
the Golden Age of Pax Britannica to an end.
He was only 19. The kid didn’t know what he was doing.
And in that, he can hardly be said to have been alone.

11.04.2008

Black Is The New POTUS

They’re glued to CNN at Honolulu’s Punahou College.
And on the shores of Kenya’s Lake Victoria.
And in the city of Montgomery, Alabama too.
Glued to Wolf Blitzer’s Electoral Map Calculator
and to the “live-by-hologram”
interview between Anderson Cooper and
the vocalist from the Black Eyed Peas.
Knawing their fingernails to the bone.
Counting to 270 beneath their collective breaths.
When the Commonwealth of Virginia
turns blue, the fat lady starts singing.
The cake has been baked.
The hoops have been shot.
The bellwethers have been rung.
Defeat for the elephant. To the donkey, the spoils.
Sound a fanfare of automobile-horns for the common man.
HOPE springs ever eternal. Happy days are here again.
But please, this I beg of you good people
of America The Brave;
no more grassy knolls
Magic-Bullet Theories or
Texas School Book Depositories.
No more Ambassador Hotel kitchens or Lorraine Motel balconies.
No more Leon Czolgoszs and no more Charles J. Guiteaus.
This I beg of you good people of the Land Of The Free;
please, by the grace of Almighty God
in your Heaven above, no more
of those oft-quoted sockdologizing
old man-traps.



CNN: world's first hologram interview

will.i.am's 'Yes We Can' music video

'Don't Vote' public service announcement

'More Party Animals' merchandise

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The Land Without Shadows

Stepping off the F-train at Stillwell Avenue,
I’m officially 241 days early for next year’s
Famous International Hot Dog Eating Contest.
Plenty of time to get my oesophagus up to speed.
Plenty of time to line my stomach with milk.
Once overrun with rabbits, Coney Island
was immortalised by the penmanship of
Hubert Selby Junior and Joseph Heller.
This is the place Woodrow Guthrie called home.
This is what The Warriors fought all night to get back to.
I last walked the Coney boardwalk nigh on 10 years ago.
It was the morning of my 30th birthday. A watershed occasion.
I ate a blueberry ice-cream. I played some skee-ball. I dipped my feet in the water.
The abandoned Thunderbolt rollercoaster was still standing that day.
The Brooklyn Cyclones were still known as The St. Catharines Blue Jays.
And The Twin Towers still dominated
the Lower Manhattan skyline, and weren’t
all broken up into pieces and buried
along the banks of the Fresh Kills estuary
out there on the furthest horizon.


List of the gangs in 'The Warriors'

Nathan's Famous hot-dog eating contest

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11.02.2008

Marathon Changed Its Name To Snickers In 1990

Whichever way you look at it,
you’ve got to feel a little sorry
for Pheidippides of Ancient Greece.
In 490BC, he gave his life for the
cause of long-distance foot racing
and didn’t even get a 10K named in his honour.
Of course, things were very different in those days.
Back then, there were no tracking chips
fitted to participant’s sneakers
and no volunteer “Bandit-Catchers”
employed to stop unregistered runners
from crossing the finish-line in Central Park.
No live bands lined the route back in 490BC.
And no enthusiastic spectators gathered on bleacher seating.
Poor old Pheidippides. All that way;
across fennel fields and rocky terrain,
to deliver a message of victory to his people.
26 miles and 385 yards
without so much as a PowerBar gel blast.


'Run For Your Life': The true story of
Fred Lebow and the New York Marathon

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11.01.2008

Pass Me The Melatonin Please

It was early when I first awoke that morning.
A cold north wind was whistling around the high-rise.
Whispers of the Munsee Indians
who once laid claim to these lands.
We’d flown in Air India just the night before.
Lost 5 perfectly good hours in the process.
I remember she had her back to me;
wearing Sony walkman headphones
a sports bra and nothing else.
Running on-the-spot. Silhouetted against the glass.
Her bare feet pounding the parquet flooring.
Her Circadian Cycle all shot to hell.
It was early when I awoke, alone on the inflatable mattress.
Way too early. Far too early. Beaucoup much too early.
Outside, the snow was piled-up on the sidewalk hip-deep in places.
I sat there in shallow silence a while, propped up
by a pillow, eyes still wet with milky morning dew,
hypnotized by the veduta di fantasia illuminated behind her.
Dawn light burnishing the brownstones and skyscrapers with gold leaf.
Eldorado rebuilt on bedrock. Atlantis risen anew from the ocean floor.
A tangled mess of inlets and islands
on the very edge
of The New World;
conquered and colonized
and bent to the will of mankind.
This city of cities. This metropolis that Mammon built.
Kublai Khan’s stately pleasure dome made steel and concrete.
Putting a pot of cinnamon coffee on to boil,
I managed to persuade her to rejoin
me back beneath the crumpled sheets.
We made love like ancient Minoans;
cracking open our outer shells
and letting loose our astral forms
to roam amongst the space dust
- whilst 20 floors below, the background
vacuum-cleaner hum of Manna-hata
built gently towards its Gershwin crescendo.

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10.29.2008

Schenectady County, New York State Of Mind

If a one-handed
Charlie Kaufman
stood there clapping,
in a facsimile of a lonely forest
built entirely within a metaphysical warehouse,
and there was
no-one there to hear him...
would he still make a sound?

Trailer for 'Synecdoche, New York'

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9.27.2008

The Sport Of Tomorrow

In the future there will be no war.
In the future there will be only Roller Derby.
Faster than frisbee disc golf.
Sexier than competitive eating.
More violent than dwarf-tossing.
Not as Flemish as vinkenzetting.
A kind of British Bulldog on wheels,
Roller Derby is a game of Blood-and-Thunder.
A game of Pluck-and-Fidelity.
A game of Style-over-Substance.
A game of Razz-and-Matazz.
6 Blockers 2 Pivots and a couple of Jammers in the rear.
Three periods of between eight and ten minutes in length.
Each period divided into a smörgåsbord of two-minute jams.
And inbetween? Plenty of good clean unsportsladylike conduct.
Ministry of Neo-Burlesque meets Queercore riot-grrrl.
Rockabilly meets NWOBHM meets Beastie-Girls meets Cybergoth.
Kiss-curls and Monroe piercings.
Polka dots and desert camouflage.
Coloured gumshields, fishnet burn and Betty Page tattoos.
Welcome to The Thunderdrome true believers.
Welcome to Do-It-Yourself Third Wave
Skate-Punk Feminism in all its glory.
Caution: Do not interfere with Rollergirls who skate out-of-bounds.
Remember: Getting a Rollergirl in your lap
is not a right
but a privilege.

London Rollergirls official website

Official list of Rollergirl names

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9.11.2008

Wild Radishes Are Falling On My Head

Batten down the hatches
and pack away the easels,
there’s a mistral wind
blowing in over The Bald Mountain.
It shakes the bell-tower of the old church
and rattles the grapes upon their vines.
The wind serves merely as a precursor.
An early warning system if you will.
It heralds the arrival of a storm on the horizon.
But don’t worry. There’s no need to panic.
For the dark bumpy clouds approaching
the Lubéron Massif are in no especial rush.
For Things happen a little slower around these parts.
This storm requires some time to brood a little.
Time to procrastinate. Time to shrug its shoulders.
If this were a game of pétanque,
we’d be bracing ourselves
for a thirteen-to-love whitewash.
If this were a game of pétanque,
we’d be about to be "Made Fanny" of.
Sheet lightning strafes the nearby Plateau d'Albion.
Thunderclaps echo out across the Golden Triangle.
Further up the garrigue a stray cat comes into season.
Further up the garrigue a hunting dog is ritually slaughtered.
And then, finally, a sudden drop in barometric pressure.
Starlings swarm for the safety of nesting spots.
Earthworms pour fourth from the rich red earth.
Geckos drop their tails. Fire ants self-replicate.
There’s a phrase in the local dialect for the kind
of unrelenting deluge of raindrops soon to betide us.
Literally translated, it means “wild radishes are falling”.
The hatches are all battened down.
The easels are all packed away.
The radishes start to fall upon noble Occitania.
They pommel the ochre deposits at Roussillon
They pound the hilltop enclave of Gourdes.
They pepper the melon fields of Cavaillon.
Wild radishes fall upon the tiled roof
of a converted Farmhouse
sheltering just behind
those tall cypress trees right here.
Further up the garrigue a hand chokes the engine of an old Motocross bike.
Further up the garrigue a voice on a car radio raps in Arabic and verlan.
The lights flicker once, twice, and then they go out.


The Cloud Appreciation Society

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9.04.2008

Oh Train Of Great Speed

I’ve seen enough French New Wave to know
that the roads to Provence are piled high
with the wreckage of burning bourgeois automobiles.
The TGV high-speed locomotive is the quicker option by far.
Faster even than Japan’s famed Shinkansen bullet network.
Sculpted long ago by slow-moving glaciers
the rich rural folds of this fertile landscape
now hurtling past my window at over 500km-an-hour.
Human hands planted the potpourri of lavender fields.
Assembled the sleepy village perches hewn from local stone.
Rustic panorama sung softly into existence by troubadours.
Agricultural patchwork painted into being by Cézanne’s brushstrokes.
A true sense of place for all the senses.
The high-speed TGV locomotive is also the safer option by far.
I mean, think about it for a second; when was
the last time you heard of a cross-channel train catching fire?

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7.21.2008

With One Final Finger In Dane's Dyke


Upon this pebbled beach is where our story ends.
This is where I hang up my langseax knife.
Now am I housecarl. Now have I earned mine spurs.
July 1066 was a cruelly hot summer by all accounts.
July 2008 has proved itself to be anything but.
Yet we have persevered. Yet we have remained resolute.
Men of great spirit stand either side of me.
These proud men of the Shires. These plucky sokemen.
This brave Band Of Brothers beneath the banner of the wyvern.
No hairy star hangs overhead this night. No portents of doom.
Only a silvery Hay Moon rising high above the salty whale-road.
Illuminating the great chalk spur of Flamborough Head.
Reflected in the faces of those warmed by campfires.
I shall fight to the death for my king.
If my king or my earldorman shall die,
I shall take his place and fight
just as he would have fought.
If any man here see me taken with weakheart,
and run away, he shall remind me of this pledge
made here before my kith and my kin.

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7.20.2008

Now Then Now Then (But Not Just Yet)

When I was small, I wrote to Sir Jimmy Savile three times.
I asked him if he could fix it for me to play drums with Adam & The Ants.
I asked him if he could fix it for me to pilot the Millenium Falcon.
I asked him if he could fix it for me to visit
the offices of Marvel comics in New York City.
Sir Jimmy never wrote back.
I don’t hold it against him though.
He was a busy man. He had shellsuits to dry-clean,
Cuban cigars to smoke and lank hair to get platinumized.
A member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire
and a Knight of the Pontifical Equestrian Order of St. Gregory,
Sir Jimmy is an esteemed Friend Of Israel,
an Honorary Royal Marine Commando
and a Freeman of the Borough of Scarborough.
He claims to have invented both hip-hop and rap music.
He also claims to have raised over £40,000,000 for charity.
Which, whatever way you choose to look at it, is a lot of sterling.
On Boxing Day 1994, Chris Morris
announced live on BBC Radio One
that Sir Jimmy had collapsed and died.
As it happens, it wasn’t true. It was just a joke.
And to this day, Sir James Wilson Vincent Savile
remains the only still-living person in the free world
to have a commemorative bench dedicated to them.
Seriously, how’s about that then?


Sir Jimmy Savile: "I Invented Zero Tolerance" clip

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7.16.2008

Greetings From The Grand Hotel Scarborough

The term “Faded Glory” probably
best sums-up Scarborough’s Grand Hotel.
Its austere brickwork the colour of nicotine.
Its mismatched carpets pre-decimalisation.
Completed in 1867, it looms large above the seaside town,
casting long shadows over the harbour and the South Bay.
The Grand boasts 2 Restaurants, 3 bars
and the most cases of food-poisoning
of any hotel in the North Yorkshire area.
Its 4 towers represent the 4 periodic seasons.
Its 12 floors represent the 12 months of the year.
And its 52 chimneys represent the 52 calendar weeks.
Jack Torrance, an aspiring playwright, is in the room next door.
Marion Crane is taking a shower in the room right across the hall.
The emergency number to contact reception is 6666.
(The Number Of The Beast, plus an extra 6 for good measure).
I’m trying hard not to think about how many people must
have died in the bed that I’ll be sleeping in later tonight.
Check-out, it’s worth noting, is 10am sharp.

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7.02.2008

Vivat Harold Rex Anglorum!

The world sure is a big place;
full of many people seeking an escape
from the pressures and anxieties of everyday life.
Some choose to play World of Warcraft.
Some choose to learn Klingon (or tlhIngan).
Others still choose to dress in chainmail
and spend their weekends bashing 57 shades
of Living History hell out of each other
in muddy fields the length-and-breadth
of this Merry Olde Kingdom Of Enga-lond.
With a worldwide membership of around 600,
Regia Anglorum are one such organisation.
They're like the Sealed Knot "on acid". Or maybe bogmyrtle.
There’s Nigel and Roland and Big Joe.
There’s Johannah and Christine and Grace.
There’s Mike the field-archaeologist from South Wales.
And there’s Wōden-lookalike Kim, their self-appointed Eolder
(who doesn’t fight anymore, but takes 40% of all earnings).
Head shots are strictly banned in re-enactment combat.
As are all strikes to the hands and the feet and the joints.
When not skirmishing, members like to whittle wood,
drink mead and sew inside seams and undergarments
in a manner entirely appropriate to the period.
The gentleman playing King Harald Hardraada of Norway
is a systems-analyst from Nuneaton back in the “real world”.
He’s taken the day off work today.
Platted his hair before calling in sick.
Painted the skin around his eyes black with grease
whilst drinking a cup of tea from a polystyrene cup.
He’s promised to take a look at the stunt coordinator’s
broken laptop when we break for lunch.
But first, the small matter of the Battle Of Stamford Bridge...

Join Regia Anglorum

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6.28.2008

Ten Sixty Six And All Of That

Welcome to the Shieldwall fellow fyrdsmen.
Chin up. Stand firm. Parry and thrust.
You're suffering from both constipation and hayfever.
Your hauberk armour is hanging wet and heavy on your shoulders.
Your Spangenhelm helmet is digging into your nasal bridge.
Your kite-shield’s rough wooden surface is skinning your knuckles.
As we all know, The Battle of Hastings
didn’t actually take place in Hastings at all.
As we all know, the area surrounding
Senlac Ridge came to be known as Battle.
And not the other way around.
Long, fierce and bloody-beyond-belief
they began fighting at dawn on October 14th
and fought for as long as the daylight lasted.
And then they fought some more.
Neither side willing to concede.
The Anglo-Saxons refusing to yield.
The Normans refusing to give up the ghost.
The sandy stream transformed into a sanguine lake.
But don’t believe everything you read on a Bayeaux embroidery.
Tall dark and and handsome, King Harold Godwinson
was only identifiable from tattoos found upon his torso.
He was beheaded and gelded. Though not in that order.
And there was likely no arrow in his eye.
Whilst the king’s body was carried from theatre
and buried beneath stones in an unknown location,
the corpses of the 5,000 Englishmen who’d died in his name
were left to rot in the open-air for the next 10 years.
As a warning. As a deterrent. Like so much cheap manure.
The wyrds remain wholly inexorable.
The wyrds go ever as they will.
Where’s a Russian linesman when you need one?

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