Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Wedding Venture

My exceedingly talented friend Kerry Bartlett recently made the brave decision to branch out into the wedding video market.

A venture into the capturing of a couples' 'perfect day' on film would send most people into a panic-driven seizure, but Kerry is a seasoned pro - cutting her teeth in this market many years ago as a wedding photographer.

I too have a lot of experience as a wedding service provider: many summers as a teenager spent behind the scenes at a stately-home-cum-wedding-venue gave me a robust 'bomb-proof' mentality and propensity to keep calm and carry on in the face of any unplanned wedding misdemeanour. I've witnessed fights, blood, oceans of tears (and some happy moments too!!). Nothing can ever surprise me at a wedding.

When you're backstage at this type of 'production' - even though it is an exceptionally special event for your clients, if you've prepared yourself for every eventuality, you will come through with a satisfying outcome (and a sprinkling of cinematic gold dust).

So, at the beginning of this summer I was delighted to be asked to accompany Kerry to a series of weddings, acting as her assistant (second camera operator). I was in the midst of a frantic spell on a medical documentary series for C5, but thankfully, weddings are generally on the weekend, so these extra curricular activities didn't interfere with my bread-and-butter production work. The weddings were a welcome glimmer of light relief to be perfectly honest.

I've witnessed most kinds of human drama during my TV production career, so working with a best friend, in a Mediaeval Barn on a bright and sunny Saturday in the heart of the Somerset countryside seemed like a superb idea - a stark contrast to filming in stressful hospital environments the length and breadth of the UK.

I'm pleased to report that we work very well as a team. We have a giggle: singing in the car, setting up Go Pros in unusual places, stretching our limbs in order to create the perfect pan across a high-growing maize field with a cumbersome crane.

We've produced three films together now. They're short non-dialogue music videos that capture the emotions and key points of the day. Kerry's style is elegant, intimate and ethereal. Improving all the time.

We thoroughly recce the locations in plenty of time before the guests arrive - looking for that prime backdrop that somehow encapsulates the bride and groom's personalities and also complements their outfits - without taking them too far away from the party they've been planning for months. 

Shooting with up to three/four cameras means we can cover things from a multitude of angles as well as making sure we don't get blamed for kidnapping the bride and groom in order to indulge in Hollywood-style auteur filmmaking.

I'm amazed at the standard of Kerry's work and her speedy mastering of Adobe Premiere Pro and editing to music. I'm proud to be involved and hope that we go from strength to strength as a partnership. Fingers crossed we double our bookings next year.

Here's a a taste of what's on offer when you book this wedding-proof production duo:


New Website

At the beginning of the year, I spent my 'down-time' working on a website. It's so difficult when you're promoting yourself as an entity. It's a minefield. I used background colours that reflected my sunny disposition. 

Seven months on and my website needs a re-vamp. Those colours and the 'sunny' style I had created made me cringe. I'm not really sure why, but it had to be changed.

I've striped things back: made the site cleaner and easier to read. I've also cut down a lot of text - I know the fickle attention span of the average web browser. 

Here it is, the new website:

Creative comments most welcome readers!   

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Reality Killed the TV Star

Joey Essex winning 'The Jump'
Steph and Dom entertaining Farage
Chris and Stephen in an EE advert with Kevin Bacon

All examples of a new breed of TV personalities, known literally for their personalities. They don't have traditional star quality. They can't sing, dance or act.

Celebrity is dead. Year on year, TV schedules are upping their content of mockucelebs - cheaper to produce, just about recognisable enough to gain an audience.

Don't get me wrong. I adore Gogglebox. I even dabble in Made in Chelsea occasionally. But what I love most about Googlebox is the 'fixed' positioning of the characters. You don't see them making a cuppa or rooting around the sock drawer. And although the Gogglebox creators seem to want to keep that format going - the more outrageous characters are popping up in other realms of the TV stratosphere.

I wouldn't be surprised if Steph and Dom get a chat show deal soon. I'm alright with that, though I'm not sure I'd watch it avidly. Shows like 'I'm a Celebrity...', 'Strictly Come Dancing', and 'Celebrity GBBO' now rarely have a full-quota of bonafide stars. The liquid gold has been diluted with cheap yellow paint.

If a show has 'celebrity' in the title, you shouldn't have to spend thirty minutes of the show name-searching on IMDB.

Alas, the reality TV format shows no sign of waning. No doubt there'll be weirder and wilder scenarios for the shallow reality puppets to go about their vigazzling and pejazzling in the public eye.

I won't be watching. I call for the merging of factual genres to cease. Get back in your boxes.  

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

A Dumb Crush

I feel the need to admit to something really embarrassing.

I have a crush. A dumb crush in the form of floppy-haired, Californian teeth-whitened, male bimbo extraordinaire: Joey Essex.

I don't exactly fancy him, I wouldn't actually want to spend any time with him (the constant hair playing would drive me to insanity), his brain is about 20 minutes behind his mouth, but I can't help admiring his skills. His snow sports skills.

I have a invested interest in Channel 4s The Jump   because I worked for TwoFour (the production company) recently, and I can ski/snowboard.

There's no way in hell you'd get me on that jump - not for money, not for TV exposure. Even though I can chuck myself down a mountain without any effing and jeffing or screaming, the thought of doing 'extreme' snow sports sends me into a shivery mess.

And yet, the camera told us that Joey was rather lacklustre in training (I dare you to refrain from laughing when Joey runs after his bolting snowboard, which eventually ends up in the river!), and astoundingly managed to avoid the jump till the final - Joey Essex WON! He won!

According to Joey - when he really puts his mind to it: he wins. And it's true. Imagine if Joey put his mind to world peace or running the country?

I was gunning for Joey to win almost from the get-go. He was the underdog. He defeated not only an Olympian, but a sturdier-than-sturdy rugby pro.

Joey. I don't know what the future holds for you now you hold this coveted yet superfluous prize. You can actually do something. You have actual skills.

You make a living from being dumb, but you fooled me for a week.

This crush may crumble soon, but at the moment - I'm transfixed by your gleaming Essex smile and exuberant tomfoolery.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Pool-side lunging

I've witnessed many a social faux pas at the local sports centre of which I'm a member (see previous blog about excruciatingly slow swimmers). But pool-side warm-ups/cool-downs are a new experience for me. It's another socially unacceptable activity to add to the list, and this one rates very high on the cringe-o-meter due to the U.D.O.A (Unnecessary Display of Appendages).

I know of only one man who does this.
He can't be British. British men wouldn't have the balls (eh-hem, excuse the pun) or audaciousness to carry out this rather bold activity.

So, this guy comes through the changing room doors: tall, lanky, middle-aged. He is wearing tight briefs (not quite speedos, not quite trunks). He slowly walks around two sides of the pool and positions himself close to the life guard's tower, facing us swimmers in the water.

And it begins:

Hip rolls - slow and deliberate, protruding his groin deliberately and holding the pose there.

Lunges - All the way down, hands on hips, again tilting the groin forward.

Torso twists - exaggerated and repeated more than necessary.

Toe touches - thank god your butt isn't facing the pool for this one.

You repeat this routine after your swim too.

Is he showing off? Is he trying to pull? Is he so proud of his Speedo-clad appendages that he gives them two opportunities to be paraded every time he comes to the pool?

It's like car-crash TV - I can't help but glance over. Not to admire, no far from it!

I cringe deeply. Speedo lunges are not going to start trending any time soon.  

Monday, 3 November 2014


When you’ve been friends with someone for 28 years, you take it for granted that you’ll know them for at least another 40. Taking things for granted is dangerous.

You usually only learn this when it’s too late to change things.

In this instance, I’m talking about a beloved friend known since we were in nappies, who was stolen from us just as she was giving life to her first child.

This was not a natural misdemeanour – my friend forfeited her life due to the incompetence of the person responsible for her wellbeing. When she was at her most vulnerable, starved of breath, this person of supposed medical superiority made a catastrophic error.

I don’t believe it’s healthy to dwell on the crime – we can’t turn back the clock.

All I can hope for is that justice will prevail.

It happened a month ago, and yet, it’s still so hard to process.

There will be no more letters, no more calls, and no more get-togethers on birthdays and Christmases.

Last time I saw you, you were sat in the long grass at Kew Gardens, in a circle of adoring friends. A summer picnic, a baby-shower, the first I’d ever been to.

The weather was perfect – the food offerings bountiful, the banter whip-crackling. You were the picture of maternal bliss: make-up free and beaming with health, a spectacular bump, even at that early stage in your pregnancy. We talked of the house you were in the process of buying and all the exciting nesting rituals you were having fun with.

I have since visited that nest: it is just as you’d described it, but the tragic truth is I will never actually see you there, tending the roses or feeding Isaac on the terrace.  

When I start to think about not seeing you again – this is when I have to dig into the abundant treasure chest of memories I have of our lives together, very much entwined together from your year dot.

Although I was two years older than you, and can’t actually remember you first coming along – we grew close and spent many weekends and after-school nights coming up with enterprising business ideas and letting our imaginations run wild out in the countryside and gardens surrounding our childhood homes, separated by a measly half a mile.   

George’s Marvelous Medicine-style potions and perfumes were concocted from grape hyacinths and whatever flora and forna we could lay hands on. Dirt under the nails, a staple occurrence.
Pom-poms and friendship bracelets were made and sold from the wall outside your house – occasionally purchased by locals taking pity on us. The meager proceeds were swiftly traded in at the Spar where our penchant for E numbers was satisfied in penny sweets.

There was one time when a local mafia-type property tycoon stopped in his blacked-out Mercedes (rosary beads hanging from the rearview mirror) to peruse our wares. He gave us our biggest sale, though I don’t know if he actually took his purchase away with him. I just remember a big shiny coin, maybe a 50p piece, the biggest one garnered from this particular enterprise.

Our parents were very salt-of-the-earth: we regularly swam amongst the tadpoles in a lake, ate strawberries till our stomachs hurt from fields owned by our parents’ friends, built dens on the farm, modeled for Homes and Gardens magazine. Sounds idyllic: it truly was.

Passengers in your mum’s Nissan Cherry, we’d often sing along to ‘You Drive me Crazy’ by the Fine Young Cannibals.  Long summers running amok, freedom never tasted and felt so good.

We also spent a lot of time in the pub. The Walnut. Oh course we were too young to drink, but drinking was the last thing on our minds – especially when there was a rabbit warren of hotel corridors to explore and cunningly acquire a stray bowl of chips when we knocked on the frosted glass window of the kitchen. Jolly chef Ali never failed to pander to our opportunist charms.

Summer pub expeditions usually involved us commandeering cardboard boxes in which we would either sit in for a different perspective, or try to race down hills in – though I’m not sure how successful this was. Boxes were also used to picnic in, out in the garden.

We went to different school, but after-school activities such as choir and brownies brought us together in the evenings, after which we’d watch East Enders together. We nicknamed you Sanjay. It was the era of hopeless Nigel and partner in crime Sanjay.  

As teenagers we had separate friendship groups, but then those groups came together for the awkward years of excess: alcohol, parties, mischief.

Then all of a sudden, you were grown-up, wise beyond your years and getting a serious career. Perhaps those years of friendship bracelet making were setting you up for the sales prowess you quickly developed as a young adult.

I selfishly hoped you’d take a job that you were interviewed for in Bristol, secretly looking forward to the potential of spending more time with you here. But you followed your heart back to Biarritz and the dream job. And the dream man.

You finally fell in love, the only thing that had been missing from your fruitful life. With all the pieces fitting neatly together, you beamed with confidence, self-assurance - reaching a higher level of happiness.

We were with you the weekend of the announcement. The youngest of our friendship group to become an expectant mum. We were overjoyed to hear the news and that most fulfilling of journeys started for you. Devastatingly, it was also the last of your journeys.

I have met you boy, held his warmth. He has your eyes. He is your being.

I will see him grow, develop his own unique personality. But I will be hoping he keeps your curiosity, your appreciation for nature, your verve, your calm and clarity of perspective.

Out of sadness there is light. He will be your light.



Monday, 29 September 2014

My summer in the "Ugly, lovely town"

The good, the bad and the Mumbles

I’ve landed in a foreign town, not far over a bridge that cost nearly £7 to cross. They speak another language. Welsh.

They speak a lot of Welsh too – I feel a bit like a teenage Exchange student trying to make sense of the pithy garble in perplexed excitement.

The Telesgop TV office is next to a giant Amazon warehouse, slap bang in the middle of a business park that is very much in the midst of major plastic surgery (the bit where the doctor draws dotted lines around the chubby bits, then prods and stretches the skin to work out what to do with the mess in between his fingers). On the other side of the park is a film studio unit where an American production company regularly practice explosions that rock the foundations.  

My colleagues at work chortle and cuss in their native tongue, and I thoroughly enjoy hearing the rollicking tones and try rather unsuccessfully to guess what they’re on about.

Swansea is an odd place.

I find it apt that Swansea’s most outstanding export (Dylan Thomas) brandished it the “ugly, lovely town”. 

A contradiction, but an accurate one.

Dylan was born but only a mile away from where I’m staying and yet the modern Swansea landscape is pitted and scarred by many a horrendous architectural malfunction and years of abject disrepair. 

It’s a bit of a wasteland with smidgens of joy to be found it you’re prepared to poke around a bit.

I like poking around. And I have a new bike.

It’s obvious that Swansea has been through some very tough times. Much of it looks cheap and poor – residential parts remind me of Channel 4s ‘Benefits Street’. Only there appears to be a Benefits Street lurking around most corners. Kids playing tennis across the middle of the road, not even stopping to let me pass safely on my bike.

I notice that the council don’t even provide residents with black wheelie bins. As I set off on my bike on collection days, the rubbish is piled high in plastic bags: thin cheap ones that are prone to sea gull attacks. 

It’s a coastal city – at least for protection against the razor-sharp beaks of sea gulls – give these people some bins!

You can’t fault Swansea in other respects, mind. The ‘friendly-smiley’ barometer points high up the scale, as if the city’s people (like many Eastern Europeans) have come through the oppression and can't help but put a brave face on things, an outward projection of strength – things are (slowly) on the up-and-up here.

Things are on the up-and-up. There’s SW1 and a new Uni being built near the marina.

You can buy two meals and two alcoholic drinks for under 20 quid (that's without stepping foot in a Wetherspoons I hasten to add!!)

You also have some spectacular coastline and hills at the periphery, the Mumbles and Gower beyond. I’ve peddling past volley-ball matches on the beach, a boarded up pier not quite ready for summer, yet bristling with gaudy promise.

And there’s been some sun. I wasn't expecting that. Especially after a local taxi driver proudly informed me that Swansea is one of the UK's wettest places. 

I suppose, like Dylan T, I have been inspired by the Swansea landscape, inspired to write this.

So Swansea, you still have the propensity to encourage creativity.  

Dylan T speaking beyond the grave??
P.S. I'd strongly recommend the Dylan T exhibition at the Swansea Museum. There is a replica of his favourite pub inside. And you can sit in the very spot where Thomas took many a boozy afternoon snooze (on the cold stone museum steps).

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Another one lost to the subliminal heights

It's no wonder adrenaline junkies are drawn to the mountains as thieves are drawn to diamonds.

Mountains are sublime and dangerous - a hedonistic and addictive allure. To those hungry for snow-topped peaks with hidden depths and untracked territories, the mountains are a candy store of endless curiosity.

During two unparalleled winters skiing and snowboarding in Chamonix in 2009/10 - I teetered on the perilous edge of danger more than a few times. After a knee injury mid-way through my first season (sustained during the first run of the day, skiing over-ambitiously, hungover, on piste) -  whatever 'no fear' attitude and bravado I had build-up over those first few months instantly diminished as my mortality became lucidly clear.

After a recovery which took about 7 weeks, I got back up the mountain (a gazillion times harder than getting back on a horse after a fall) and began to play safer - not veering off-piste too far, not going as fast as I knew I was capable of going. I decided to check into the 'safe' skier brigade. Definitely a minority group in Chamonix.

Last week a friend phoned to tell me someone we knew had died in an avalanche out in Chamonix. He was 27, a very skilled skier - well-seasoned seasonnaire making sausages (his nickname was Davey Sausage) to pay the bills and training a local youth football team in his spare time. Always smiling.

I only met him properly once last year, when he stayed at my house in Bristol for one night with a group of my Chamonix friends. He got up early to buy and cook breakfast for us. Simple but kind gestures like this stick in your memory.

I was shocked to hear the news and it brought back a familiar pang of pain. Familiar because I'd lost someone special to the mountains the same year I had my skiing accident. Ed Cakebread (aka Gateaux Pain) chose the same shabby barely-chic art nouveaux-style watering hole as me to earn a living at that winter. Like freshers, we were thick as thieves: the gang competing to go out and get smashed every night as fervently as we promised to get up the mountain (with or without hangovers).

Like me, Ed was a beginner skier, but unlike me, he was brimming with testosterone and determined to fly through the ranks and become a pro asap. He did progress quickly, perhaps too quickly.

A short time after my accident (Ed was my knight in shining armour that day - buying sweets to get my sugar levels up after the shock, and looking after me until I was ready to get back into town), his family came out to Chamonix for a short holiday.

Keen to show off his new skiing prowess, Ed took his family to Grand Montets (the most challenging area of the resort), and proceeded to go over some of the jumps in the park. These park jumps were mostly reds - and fatally, he pushed himself too far, got too much air after one jump and landed flat on his back. His heart stopped instantly.

The news dented the town like a giant meteor. Mourning and longing took hold. In a way, having his family there helped - we were able to build a more rounded picture of Ed - the Ed who lived in England. We swapped stories and everyone wrote pages and stuck photos in a memory book for Ed's family to take back home with them.

Like Davey Sausage, Gâteaux Pain was charming, perma-happy and on thrill-seeker overload. On the hunt for that perfect day of synergy on the slopes.

I'd class myself as a fair-weather skier now, like the day-tripping Italians in their duffle coats and Ray Bans - content to do a few runs interspersed with generous doses of sitting on a sun-drenched terrace, sipping vin chaud.

These brave and peerless guys pushed the boundaries - gave everything they had, sacrificing themselves for that perfect moment in the snow. I hope their final moments were sublime, perfect, exhilarating. I also hope that when their bodies touched the ground, they felt nothing.        

There's risk in everything we do, and yes, skiing is definitely at the top end of the risk barometer.

Live each day as if it's your last.

Davey Sausage and Gâteaux Pain thrived on this mantra and that's why we'll always remember them for the amazing things they actually did.

Procrastination was not in their dictionaries.

Monday, 24 February 2014

Life in the Slow Lane

Being told you're fast should be perceived as a compliment.
Being told you're too fast might still be taken with some sense of achievement.
But being told you're too fast- in the context of slow lane swimming is not so much of a boost.

The first time I encountered fat man slow - it was his rotund belly with sticky-outy belly button and faded Hawaiian shorts that caught my attention. That was certainly not the pinnacle of his presence in the water though.

His repertoire of strokes seems to consist solely of the breast-stroke under-water style: blowing giant bubbles every time he goes below and coming up, he pulls the best drowning carp-mouth I've seen on a human. He must have impressive lungs.

I know toddlers who could take on an entire TA assault course in the time it takes fat man slow to complete one length.

I'm not one for over-taking (I'd rather cut my lap short and turn back the other way), but all three of the others in the slow lane were over-taking him, so I'm afraid I jumped on the over-take band wagon.

Wish I hadn't.

I've just made my third or forth over-take in 10 minutes. I'm at the deep end, about to set off on another lap. Fat man slow suddenly unleashes his pent-up fury on me. In a winey, loud Truman Capote toned voice he vents at me:

"You're too fast! You shouldn't be in this lane. You should go in the other lane!"

Too shocked to reply, I darted off very quickly. I avoid confrontation like David Cameron avoids answers in 'Prime Minister's Questions' and my brain goes to mush when it does happen, so there's no chance of me finding a remotely satisfactory rebuttal.

Another time at the pool fat man slow gets in just as I'm finishing my session. Phew.

However, I had been swimming with several fairly competent swimmers in the slow lane for 30 mins previously, and I can't help but feel sorry for them - knowing what they're in for, especially if they haven't yet experienced fat man slow's uniquely tortoise-in-slow-mo swim style.

As I come out of the showers, back into the changing rooms - I hear a bit of a din coming from the pool. Someone else is falling victim to fat man slow's angry vendetta against normal speed low-lane swimmers.

"You're going too fast! I wish I was as fast as you, but I can't go any faster! Please use the other lane, it's not fair." I couldn't help but chortle a little bit. I didn't hear a reply in defense.

It makes me wonder if this happens every single time he swims? What makes me angry about the situation is that if you're that slow - you've got to be acceptant of some under-cutting and over-taking - same as on the roads. There's no rules against it. It should be fine as long as the over-taker leaves a wide enough berth.

I'm also extremely annoyed that he vented his anger on me in particular. Why me when there were four other fellow over-takers in the slow-lane at the time?

I don't think he's ever likely to graduate to the middle lane, so to avoid any future slow-lane angst, I've decided to move to the middle lane instead.

Sure, I'll have to deal with being the over-taken one from time to time, but I'd rather that than being publicly humiliated or having my progress consistently hindered like a minnow stuck behind a whale.  

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

A Dip into the Unknown

My friend Annie recently blogged about trying out a new pool as an alternative to running for safer pregnancy exercise. I'm doing the same (minus the bump!)

I've just enrolled at a private school Sports Centre just round the corner from my new flat. It's got everything you could ever need to keep toned (inc. badminton courts!) but it's weird because there's a constant stream of students either walking past the windows with swaths of text books held to their chests as I'm cross-training in the gym or clogging up the entrance in excitable teenage huddles.

I feel a bit out of place but at least they're polite, well-spoken kids who (hopefully) aren't likely to put chewing gum in my hair as a dare.

In her blog, Annie remarked at the awkward 'lane etiquette' at her leisure centre of choice, surprise at the very public communal showers and subsequent topical debates going on between the soap-lathering swimmers.

I'm glad there's private showers at my new pool, though I have to say I'd love to overhear a good debate between two pensioners on the morality of the people in 'Benefits Street' or Prince Charles' visit to the flood victims on the Somerset Levels. Hopefully I'll come across some eccentric characters soon.

They were certainly in abundance at a private hotel pool I used to be a member of in Falmouth. I'd do a ridiculously early swim six times a week so, believe me: I got to know the pernickety habits of the bemusing regulars. There was one Mrs Trunchball-esque battle axe who looked fearsome in her plastic cap and thunder thighs. She didn't budge for anyone. Her lane was her lane, end of.

The absolute pinnacle of eccentricity came in the form of a 70-something-old man smothered head-to-toe in tattoos and piercing. The cherry on top of this near-naked assemblage, as if he didn't have enough adornment already- was a speedo thong. Yes, really. They ranged in style from paisley to psychedelic swirls. Always colouful. Always a bit too much cheek on show.

What a character indeed. None of the regulars batted an eyelid. Funny to think that I probably wouldn't have recognized him in the street, with all that body art covered up. I wasn't phased by the tats or piercings particularly, but the thong was rather amusing.

You've got to have balls to carry that look.


Wednesday, 29 January 2014

The Archlute

Having recently moved to Clifton (the poshest part of Bristol...where all the slave owners expressed their wealth by building the mansions that I can see out of my living room bay window) and having a curious nature, I decided to take a walk on the wild side last night. I went to a club. A club that plays music, but not of the kind that involves glow sticks and hot pants.

With boyfriend in tow, we entered the Bristol Music Club just at the end of our road. The programme was titled 'The Early Baroque', which I'm aware of in terms of the artistic movement, but I'm not at all familiar with the music of that era.

Taking our seats in the tired but comfortably warm auditorium, I was pleasantly surprised to see the isles filling up - bearing in mind it was a bleak and damp Tuesday evening in January.

I had a niggling apprehension that the night might be a bit old-school (fuddy-duddy) as the programme featured quite a lot of recorder, but the first trio up on stage was a man with an indistinguishable stringed instrument that nearly touched the ceiling even when he was seated, and two expression-full sopranos, one who was old enough to be my grandmother.

I scanned through the programme as the ladies belted out 17th Century songs in Italian - searching for a name to put to their accomplice's instrument - ah ha, it's an archlute!

There must have been about 20 strings to it. It looked a bit like something Errol Flynn would have played in Sherwood Forest to woo the ladies... but the neck - the neck of it looked like a traditional lute spliced with a giraffe.

To illustrate the ridiculousness of the length of the archlute, with impeccable comic timing - when the player stood up to take a bow, the top of the archlute hit one of the spotlights in the ceiling.

As well as making a crashing noise, a cloud of dust (or plaster) showered down on him. This caused a bit of a titter amongst the crowd, and the man on the stage although looking a bit embarrassed, took the accident in good humour.

He must be used to it. With such a cumbersome piece of kit.

After the interval, archlute man and his sopranos came back for a second set - we had to wait a while as he tuned up. Yet again, he had to apologize - but made it into a joke by saying that the archlute was a labour of love as he spends about 50% playing and 50% tuning.

The recorders weren't actually too bad. In fact a Sonata in F major was quite captivating, especially when it was explained that the composer had written the sonata in imitation of bird song.

Will we go back? Yes, I think so but not every week. There was a bar with a bowl of peanuts on it. An eclectic audience - all appreciative listeners, though I was definitely the youngest person there.

Maybe I'm mellowing, but I'd rather be the youngest person at an intelligent and enlightening music club than the oldest person in a flea-pit 'clubbing' club.  

Thursday, 31 October 2013

St Jude Dog

Conversation overheard in a Glastonbury charity shop yesterday between a woman working behind the desk and a lingering female customer:

(As predictably British as ever, the conversation is about the wake of storm St Jude, three days after its unassuming wave of disaster tickled our coastlines)

Lingering Customer: "I had a dog called Jude... you know, named after the song 'Hey Jude'
Woman behind counter: "Oh, lovely."
LC: "She died last year, actually on St Jude's day. The feast day.
WBC: Oh, right.
LC: "Yes, it was terrible actually. She'd been ill for a while and I thought it was her time to go. I nursed her on my own, knew she was giving up. I was on my own and I had to make that decision.
WBC: Oh, oh dear.
LC: "I took her into the vets, the vet agreed to put her down. But it wasn't until this year, with the storm, and it being named after St Jude...that I realised my Jude had been put down on St Jude's day last year.
WBC: Oh right.
LC: "And it makes me think. Perhaps, if someone else, if my husband had been with me. At home, when I thought it was Jude's time to go - maybe he'd have said, no, it's not her time. She'll pull through."
WBC is silent, looks on awkwardly
LC: But it's funny how the storm last week was called St Jude. Makes me think it's somehow making me remind myself about my dog Jude - seeing how the stormed happened on the same day that Jude died last year...

Made me chuckle a bit and think how funny it is when people try to sort of free-style associate stories with current affairs and weather patterns...

Scurge of the press

Being a Bristol resident I was obviously aware of the Jo Yates story as it unraveled a few winters ago, and reading the vilified articles in the press about Chris Jeffries, landlord and for a time, suspected murderer of his tenant Jo.

The images showed a wild-haired man, looking somewhat wild and disheveled. Small-minded people reading the tabloids would have no doubt made assumptions about Jeffries. But the derogatory and hurtful words and misleading images of Jeffries used in the press at the time have no doubt caused his friends and family much suffering and stress before the full press liable story was exposed.

Until recently, I wasn't aware that Chris Jeffries is a member of the same gym as me - has been probably for longer than the three years I've been going - yet it didn't strike me that this was the man from that press frenzy, even though we've been in the gym at the same time probably a hundred times.

It was the gym manager who first alerted me to him - only because we got on to the subject of documentaries and he mentioned that a certain major broadcaster was soon to be filming in the gym as part of a documentary about Chris Jeffries and his ordeal with the press and the police - clearing his name and appealing for compensation for his treatment while being under suspicion for the Jo Yates case.

That image of the wild haired-man did stuck in my mind, and sure enough I saw a man in the gym (a few days after my conversation with the manager) with similar facial features - but now with very short, dark hair around the temples. A very slight and quiet man, who moves much more gracefully through the apparatus than any of the other men members.

Ah ha, I thought, that's Chris Jeffries. I wonder if the stress he's been through, (wether inadvertently or directly through that derogatory image and words used in the press) caused him to change his image?

Either way, I was intrigued to see him - to think about everything he must have been through over the last few years - all that unnecessary pain and anguish caused by a few vindictive, shallow-minded and callous editors. I'm happy to hear that he's at least received damages from eight newspapers who reported on the case. I hope he's finding peace now - I'll look forward to seeing the programme.

This article summarizes Jeffries' ordeal very well:


Tuesday, 29 October 2013

If you go down to the woods today...

Exactly what fairy tales are made of. I could imagine the caterpillar from Alice in Wonderland reclining on one of these. There were many others but this one was the most impressive as it was (as yet) untouched/un-munched. 

Such stark whiteness
pencil sharpener furled
embezzled in delicate lamb-soft moss

A twisted woodland fit for a Tim Burton movie

A quiet and special moment caught as the sun came through and made the earth warm after a torrential two-hour downpour. Could double for dawn mist - deceptively mysterious. 

Otherworldly light on an autumnal afternoon

A line of whipped clouds on the horizon at Porlock Weir

An endless wave of pebbles

Ships all at land

The pomp and ceremony of a Regatta circa 1908, Porlock Weir - a tradition that I hope has stood the test of time

Thank you Huxley

Antic Hay

I'm enjoying a bit of a reading renaissance. 

Maybe it's the turning of the seasons that breaths an instinct within me to snuggle down, in a comfy corner and disappear into someone else's life. It's about a book a week - or more accurately one a weekend at the moment.

I learnt to be a very speedy reader back in the days when devouring three/four books a week was standard procedure for keeping-up in BA English(with Media) classes. Then there was a time when 'the career' took over and books would be dipped into/skimmed/read but not consumed or unintentionally deserted for months at a time, so passages would be re-read over and over accidentally with only the vaguest feeling of deja vu. 

The follow up to 'Easy Riders, Raging Bulls', which title evades me, is case in point - all I remember is that it concentrated heavily on the arrogant and fastidious early career of Quentin Tarantino, but was no way as engaging or memorable as 'Easy Riders' overview of the explosive arthouse scene in Hollywood during the 60s and 70s - before cinema got homogenized.

I really recommend devoting yourself to a book over a weekend. You're in absolutely no danger of forgetting characters, rereading chapters or loosing your page/makeshift bookmark. 

What I enjoyed more about consistently chugging through 'Antic Hay' by Aldous Huxley in less than 70 hours was the joy of finding new words and hunting down their definitions (somewhat lazily on my android). Maybe my vocab has diminished, or maybe it's just Huxley's superior possession of the English language but either way - there are some BIG FAT BUTTERY words in 'Antic Hay' and that's inspiring to me.

Here's some delicious, delectable Huxley-plucked words that I ear-marked because they're definitely worth trying to slip into conversation:

*Gormandizer = Someone who eats gluttonously; gorging

*Rabelaisian = Display of bawdy/earthy/course humor (Ref. to Francois Rabelais, a major French Renaissance writer of satire and bawdy jokes)

*Callipygous = Having beautifully proportioned buttocks

*Hobbledehoy = A clumsy or awkward youth

My favourite is hobbledehoy - mainly because of the way it makes your mouth feel quite awkward while saying it.