Category Archives: Blogs

Bird brain

Rooks

I’ve started a new blog.  Stupid, I know, when I have the challenge of juggling three already.  But this is just songs and pictures, with the verbals kept to a minimum – easy on the brain, easy on the ear, easy on the eye.  Hopefully.  The subject?  Songs about birds.  My challenge to you is to help me out with songs that, er, fit the bill.  Have a read of the preface for the somewhat sketchy principles I’ve set myself for this bird-brained project.  And be sure to tweet all your friends about it too…

Images by John Foker from rooks.org.uk.

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And the day begins

Its name was always going to tempt me to investigate, but I’m glad I did, because Fontlian is a site worthy of the song it honours.  First, it’s visually striking, down in no small measure to the great photographs.  Second, its words intrigue and amuse.  And third, you get a choice and varied selection of tunes.  Well worth adding to your regular bus route round the blogosphere.

And for those of you who don’t know the song in question, Fontilan has posted the demo version here.

Dust falls on Eugene Schlumburger

Robin has gone into overdrive on his new blog, Include me out.  It’s great to be able to read his writing again and catch up on what he’s thinking.  As well as highly refined and more than occasionally provocative takes on music and film, he’s been posting all sorts of imagery, including some much loved covers from his book collection.  This and our recent Fire Raisers escapade have prompted me to post one of my favourite covers:

Dust falls on Eugene Schlumberger

More than a little ragged round the edges – it was a 1980s Holloway Road second-hand bookshop find – but William Belcher’s design is very possibly one of the earliest examples (1964) of a book or magazine with two front covers and right-way round and upside down text meeting in the middle.  I’m sure there’s a technical term for that in graphic design.

Dust falls on Eugene Schlumburger / Toddler on the run was Shena Mackay’s first book, published when she was just nineteen.  It’s far from the vivid, synaesthetic grace of her best work, but it contains flashes of the brilliance that was to come:

Abigail broke loose from the encircling arms and began sliding and spiralling down the hill until all Eugene could see in the moonlight was her red hair spinning into the white eternity.  He started to run but his legs were heavy with cold and snowflakes melted in his eyes blinding him.  He ran, heavy and lost, his hard feet pounding the slithering ground.  Then he tripped on a lump of ice and fell, hitting his face on the kerb.  The sky flashed round his head and he lay there for a minute, his cut face bleeding into the snow, and desolation in his heart feeling he had lost her forever.  He raised his weak legs and tried to walk, but his steps degenerated into a slide.  As he cruised unsteadily round the corner, he saw himself as she would in a second – ‘I am a man of thirty sliding in the snow with blood on my face.’

She stood at the bus stop, her hair spiked with snowflakes, waiting for him.  She wiped his face with her hair because she had no handkerchief.  As the bus drew away a street lamp lit the face of a battered mole.

You won’t be surprised to hear that it ends badly for Eugene.

Shena Mackay

Emptily through Holloway

pftw01

With this fourth and final Pantry fanzine, I finished the journey on which I had embarked in issue 3, and cast myself away on a desert island, thoroughly isolated.  But having recognised the need to stand free of my influences and heroes, I wasn’t quite able to define myself with as much weight and clarity.  It was summer 1989, and I was on the dole after finishing my third year exams; the Berlin Wall had not yet quite come down, and under the weight of the third Thatcher government and the all-embracing influence of situationism (it was even the subject of my dissertation), I did not feel free.  So I roamed – as the Clientele song has it – emptily through Holloway, seeking solace in the streets, in the messiness of overlapping relationships, and – as ever – in music.  The last being the simplest thing to hold on to and examine, as I turned life over in my hands.  So that – no surprise – was what Pantry for the world was about.  Not that you’d know from the cover, which with highly refined indifference gives no indication of the contents.  Instead simply that arch and ironic title, whose grandiloquence is softened once you register that it’s a tribute to the Isley Brothers’ ‘Harvest for the world’, which I had grown to love that summer.

The photograph is of the house that stood opposite the point at which Hertslet Road was met by Roden Street, where I lived.  The house never recovered from its state of disrepair.  Not long after the photo was taken, work began on the Nags Head shopping centre, which also erased Bovay Place and the squatted red brick building that stood there.

But while I stop here with my thoughts awhile, mourning lost streets of London, why not hurry on over to The London nobody sings?  The party’s in full swing, and it surely won’t be long before the scribe behind Your heart out  posts a song which celebrates the part of London that you know and love best.  (The same scribe, I should add, who twenty years ago contributed a piece to Pantry for the world, as we shall soon reveal.)

Great to to see residents of the Five Boroughs taking up the challenge to bring us The New York nobody sings as well.  Just need Paris and Munich now.

Bi-Joopiter

tmhp_flexi_cover_trim_495w_80q

As previously mentioned, Too Much Hanky Pantry came with a flexi disc by the McTells and Rig Veeda and the Twins.

Better late than never, here are my scans of the disc and its limited edition sleeve (limited in the sense that they weren’t ready in time for Too Much…).  The artwork was by Gillian, one half of Bi-Joopiter.

Some time ago Continuo also scanned these and added Rig Veeda and the Twins’ ‘Creep’ from the flexi disc to a download of the Twins and Rig Veeda’s The tale of the man with the toothpaste head LP.  The LP – the Velvets (and occasionally the Cramps) meet the Swell Maps at the grass roots of experimental lo-fi – has stood the test of time rather better than the flexi.

While you’re there, have a scout through the wide range of musical esoterica unearthed by Continuo – fun for all the family, though Messtheticists will feel particularly at home.

tmhp_flexi_col_495w_80q

High-visibility

The development of the fanzine / magazine in electronic form continues with Manzine, ‘a publication about the male phenomenon’, which is being presented via the intriguing platform of Issuu

The contents are I suspect a little more diverse than those of your typical men’s magazine (top shelf or lower down): umbrellas, the Royal Artillery Monument, a problematic piece (in my opinion) on the mental health risks of blogging, social mountaineering, Belgian beer as felicitous aid to the imagination, a voyage from Israel to Greece on a cargo ship, high-visibility clothing, Brian Eno, the Tweed Cycling Club, and what appears to be a score by everyone’s favourite anti-artist and musician, Bill Drummond.

On the basis of the first issue, it very roughly approximates a cross between Smoke, the Idler or the Chap, and [insert the name of your favourite style magazine here], but should it continue, Manzine may well settle into genre-defying idiosyncrasies of its own.

Typealyzer

Try Typealyzer with your favourite blog (whether that’s your own pride and joy or someone else’s).  It in no way depends on an in-depth knowledge of Myers-Briggs personality tests, nor subscription to the validity of personality testing in general.  I merely present it to you as an amuse-bouche.  I have three blogs, and evidently each offers a different facet of my personality.

A jumped-up pantry boy – ENFP – The Inspirers

‘The curious and insightful type. They are especially attuned to possibilities that involves peoples potential. They usually have a lot of relations and are very perceptive and often unconventional.

They enjoy working together with people and to make use of their enthusiasm. Lonely work and environments with many distractions make them scattered and often gloomy feeling overwhelmed withdraw further.’

Backed with – INTP – The Thinkers

‘The logical and analytical type. They are especially attuned to difficult creative and intellectual challenges and always look for something more complex to dig into. They are great at finding subtle connections between things and imagine far-reaching implications.

They enjoy working with complex things using a lot of concepts and imaginative models of reality. Since they are not very good at seeing and understanding the needs of other people, they might come across as arrogant, impatient and insensitive to people that need some time to understand what they are talking about.’

A wild slim alien – INFP – The Idealists

‘The meaning-seeking and unconventional type. They are especially attuned to making sure their beliefs and actions are congruent. They often develop a passion for the arts or unusual forms of self-expression.

They enjoy work that are aligned to their deeply felt values and tend to strongly dislike the more practical and mundane forms of tasks. They can enjoy working alone for long periods of time and are happiest when they can immerse themselves in personally meaningful projects.’

The day I was Myers-Briggsed at work I had a raging headache, so I was never sure I came out right anyway.  Even less sure now.  Though it looks like I’m defintely an N, definitely a P.  Wikipedia may help those who are curious make sense of their four letter indicator.  How many of you are saying ARSE, SHIT or FUCK right now?  It’s all Jung’s fault.

No, I drift. Mostly I drift.

Issue 12 of Smoke: a London peculiar is out – has probably been out for a while (it’s difficult to tell).  Nominally a mayoral election special, going to press before the buffoon that is Boris entered the eye of City Hall, but sensing the way the wind and the Evening Standard was blowing, Smoke 12 is somewhat resigned to losing Ken and determined nevertheless to continue to celebrate versions of London that are very likely obscured from mayoral view by that floppy fringe of his; but not, er, by the floppy fringe of editor Matt Haynes, the Stephen Fry of psychogeography (a field of study not noted for whimsy, at least not since the original concept of the dérive was repurposed by the likes of Ian Sinclair).

Alongside regular features like ‘London’s campest statue’ and ‘Words found written on the steamed-up windows of late-night buses’, the latest issue has not untypical stories about the Caledonian Road market; the ghost of the motorway that was meant to connect the river and the M1; and about regularly falling asleep next to a particular stranger on the train into Waterloo, a practice more common than you might imagine among commuters whose outer limits location forces them to rise before six a.m.

While Smoke takes pride in being a paper-based entity, there is a website, and now a blog, Danger: void behind door, which seems to have four purposes – 1) to detail (amusingly) the frustrations of being the editor of what I think we’ll have to call a literary magazine; 2) to act as an outlet for Smoke-y pieces which are perhaps a little short of the roundedness that its published pieces posses; 3) to field interest in Sarah Records, of which Matt was one half; and 4) to return to the light of day some of the pieces he wrote as inserts for the label’s releases, which were frequently of much greater interest than the music.  Driftmine reads uncannily like something from one of the better ‘pure writing’ blogs like An unreliable witness.  Except that it was written in 1991.

Incidentally Matt also has another past life as a fanzine editor and he may not thank me for it but I quote him in this piece about Hurrah!

Why we don’t talk anymore

Having finally read the responses to Rockcritic’s group Q&A, there’s a fair degree of both alignment and contrast from a wide-ranging bunch of music blog characters, and a typically astute summation of the issues by Tom over at Freaky Trigger.

The ‘individualist mindset’ of music bloggers identified by David Moore (and many others) must be balanced against the recognition that people have offline lives.  I guess I have to plead guilty to such a mindset, but there’s plenty that could be said on another day about why someone is more loner than communer; in any case it’s a complex choice and the loner’s relationship with the world is not set in stone, varying with time and age.

The thing about conversations is that you do have to be able to set aside time to have them in both the online or real worlds.  Online I very rarely have that time, and in any case am too slow-witted and deliberate to zap out comments like a (hip young) gun-slinging bartender creating work-of-art cocktails.

As with music, so with writing about music – cross-fertilisation, amoebic cell-division, bacterial reproduction, and whatever biological process most resembles pick-and-mix have led to a proliferation of approaches, styles and perhaps conversely increasingly insular micro-communities.  Conversation is easier when you know who you’re conversing with.  There’s probably more linkage and conversation now than there was back when music blogging was about to gain critical mass, it just looks smaller set against the millions now blogging or plugging away.

Obviously, in terms of the exchange of comments that is the hat-tip of blogworld, if you say (as I did) ‘I wish I had more time to respond to what I read on the blogs of others’ your own blog-owning readers are going to think, well, neither do I on yours, Pantry boy; save perhaps for when you have said nice things about me.  Hey ho.  The issue cannot be forced.

I took newsstand to mean newspapers, at least one of which has taken on board blogging both as a means of two-way communication (online at least) and stylistically – the Guardian’s G2 section is full of first person commentary and only its consistency (though not necessarily its interest) sets it apart from the blogosphere.  Significantly I didn’t give a thought to the music publications I browse and occasionally buy in HMV.  I nodded my head at David Moore’s ‘The number of times I’ve learned anything or even particularly enjoyed myself in front of a printed piece of music journalism in the past few years is very low.’  While there are some excellent writers working for the British music monthlies, they do seem constrained by both the limited types of formats available to them and the inherent limitations of each format – the interview, the career retrospective.  Is that what readers want, or is it simply a scaredy-cat marketing perception of what they want?  The old lags on rotation on the covers would suggest the latter.  As for album reviews, only a few releases are given space in which a writer can range and explain and surprise.

Carl Wilson’s point about blogs having created an olde NME-style buzz effect in North America is interesting.  Makes me want not to add to the noise about Vampire Weekend, despite having immediately taken to them in a way that seldom happens during the most recent of my MySpace trawls for fresh sounds.

Why we fight

As per usual, I’m turning up for the match just as everyone is streaming away from the ground.  In fact I am almost certainly the night watchman, employed to keep an eye on the stadium when no-one else is around.  Nevertheless, I should capture my responses to these questions now, more or less at the outset of my blogging life, particularly as the answers have a bearing on this blog’s chronological reproduction of pages from my fanzines of twenty years ago.  I’m keen to map the common impulse which led to both forms of activity.  In terms of blogging per se, I’m answering without having read in detail the responses of others or subsequent commentary – that I’ll do when I’ve finished, and maybe signal which thoughts most and least accord with my own.

These questions appeared on rockcritics.com as a sort of a symposium.  I have never thought of myself as a rock critic, even during the brief spell that I could realistically have been described myself.  Both words in the term are limiting.  I prefer to think of myself as a music writer, or rather a writer about music.  Or perhaps to refine further, I’m a writer who happens to spend a fair amount of time on the subject of music, often more time than I think I ought.

1. Talk about your blog and how it has evolved over time. Why did you start to blog? What sorts of things do you do on your blog?

Evolution is obviously a question for the future.  I started to blog in anticipation of the end of Tangents, specifically to continue my Backed with series but also guessing that I’d need a space to let loose whatever seemed to have some letting-loose merit and potential.  Having written for Tangents since it was a paper-based entity, I had come to depend on it as a means of writing about the music I loved, but increasingly I was taking that means for granted and not being moved to file copy.  I very quickly came to feel liberated by Alistair’s decision to burn Tangents down, and would admit to having felt a little hemmed in there by the voracious tastes of the prodigious talents more regularly pouring forth their words.  I thank him both for the ten plus years of web space and for giving me the (unintentional) gentle shunt / kick up the arse.

I definitely need a space in which to express myself.  I’ve more or less always had one.  I would have felt lost and defeated without my three blogs, whose inception coincides with a surge of creative energy that for personal reasons had gone astray for two or three years.What I seem to be doing both with A jumped-up pantry boy and B/w is capturing the musical past and looking at it from the perspective of now.  Allied to this are the scans from my fanzines, which inevitably set me thinking about how I was then and what I think today.  My eighteen or nineteen year old self would be aghast at some of the things I’m saying about him.

With three blogs, I worry about not spending enough time on each, and losing momentum with one or other of them.  But each has a different purpose, and keeping each plate spinning prevents any of them from becoming boring (at least to their writer).

Here at A jumped-up pantry boy, I would like to be spending more time writing about contemporary music (of as many persuasions as I can muster, certainly beyond the independent guitar pop I major in) than I currently do, and increasingly I hope that I will, though it’s so easy to be nostalgically seduced by a reissue from twenty years ago.  But I like to think that it’s not impossible for a new group to better the songs of, say, the Go-Betweens and the pleasure they have given me.  In this I may be deluding myself, because of the crust that taste and age build up around you.  It is no longer possible for me to empathise completely with the worldview of twenty-somethings, but it is only (on an ongoing basis) this yet-to-be-jaded generation who stand a chance of besting Forster and McLennan.  Yet to be jaded, yet to be set in stone, yet to allow reality to diminish their creative ambition and belief.

Much as I admired John Peel and his never diminishing appetite for the new, I always had the sense that it was possible for him to continue as he did because he never became emotionally or intellectually attached to the vast majority of the music he played on the radio.  Had I ever become as thorough a DJ as John, I’m sure I would have given up in the face of the weight of it all and in the blink of a broadcasting eye, in comparison with his longevity.

So although I spend a lot of time listening to the new, it takes something really special to tear me away from the past and write about the present – The Clientele, Rachael Dadd and the Wraiths convince me to do so, while, for example, Battles, Burial, Cold War Kids and Candie Payne do not quite.

2. Is your blogging voice or the material you cover in your blog different than the voice you use or the material you cover in your professional music writing? If so, how?

I can’t describe myself as a professional for the reasons given in the preamble.  If we stretched the notion of professional writing to include what I did for Tangents, then as yet the voice and material has altered only slightly and not significantly.

On the other hand the blogging form does not seem to me to sit easily with the kind of in-depth writing I’m undertaking over at B/w and in particular the competing distraction provided by seductive links off to other more glamorous, entertaining or provocative worldviews.  I think I am still working my way to a finished blogging style.  I hope my posts will become more judiciously concise and frequent.

3. What are your thoughts on comments boxes in blogs? Do you or don’t you allow them, and why?

I positively welcome them, and at this early stage they are sufficient to create little flurries of excitement.  It doesn’t happen here yet – possibly because stylistically I close posts and argument off too readily – but the refinement that can be arrived at when comments don’t simply comprise of winks and in-jokes (fair enough in itself if the blog acts as a place to have pub-banter when not in the pub) is often impressive.  I wish I had more time to respond to what I read on the blogs of others – so much of it merits engagement, encouragement, hair-splitting, stand-taking.

4. Is your blog a forum to converse with or critique other writers? If so, please recount one (or some) of your more memorable blog dialogs or critiques.

It may become so.  More conversation than critique, I guess, although I welcomed the linking nod I got from Simon Reynolds having appraised Rip it up and start again.  Because I also write fiction, I don’t spend my whole creative life celebrating or dissecting music, and I think I would tend to bow to those that do on matters of critical principle.  I mostly want to share thoughts about great music and would agree with anyone who suggests that is a problematic endeavour in a world packed to the gills with music-makers, listeners and writers.  No-one should care that I have anything to say, but I aspire to saying it in a way which for the reader contains elements of idiosyncrasy, recognition, empathy, neurone-sparking potential.

5. Would you agree that the back and forth conversational aspect of the music blogosphere has died down somewhat in the last few years? Any theories as to why?

I don’t think I can answer the first part of the question having only followed it sufficiently closely since so recently becoming a music blogger myself.  Can anyone keep track of everything that’s going on?  At every moment a new young, middle- or old-aged blogger is starting out on their monologues or conversations.  Like most things, there will surely be waves of activity – some spurred by creative developments, others by technological advances – with certain relative constants.  I suppose for me Freaky trigger and the ILX boards provide a sense of those constants, even though I have never participated in either and rarely have a moment to look beyond the FT blogs to the boards.

6. A lot of music bloggers tend to start out with a lot of energy, then drop out altogether. You have kept at this for a while–what keeps you going, and are you ever tempted to just throw in the towel?

Obviously six months is not long, but when I start something I tend to want to see it through to the end of its natural life.  And as music has no end, and nor does writing about it, I reckon on keeping on keeping on, subject to occasional bouts of futility-induced depression.

I am definitely also subject to the (obsessive-) compulsive quality of blogging but my life aside from writing is sufficiently forceful that I’m obliged to do less than I otherwise might.  The addiction contains in it both noble and ignoble cravings (rather like fanzine writing, hence the reproductions) – you just have to try to obey the noble drive and resist as far as possible the ignoble.  So I don’t envisage needing to wean myself off of it anytime soon.  If I can keep blogs and life in balance, I think I’m here to stay.  The only thing I can see outside of war or apocalypse that that would make me reappraise the worth of continuing would be if the stats dropped to zero.  I need to do it, but I also need to feel that I am not simply speaking to myself, a straightjacketed madman in a white cell.  I take on board the risk that how I express myself may be turned by the existence of an audience greater than one.  I still have some small belief that writing ultimately attains the readership it deserves.

7. Do you think music blogs have any serious impact on record sales, or on how music is covered in newsstand publications?

I suspect negative impact on record sales as far as the influence of this blog is concerned!  I’m not sure I care about this as an issue, beyond wishing the groups that I write about well, in the sense that they make enough money both to support themselves and continue recording.

It must be next to impossible now to disentangle the various strands of increasingly viral marketing strategies, let alone distinguish between or even determine what is a genuine appreciative reaction and one which is tied to or compromised by the buzz.  But in terms of coverage it would seem to be the case that the mainstream media has taken on board the self-publishing revolution, and encouraged a greater level of reader participation, at least in an online sense.  You can see that with the music blog and Comment is free areas of the Guardian.  But perhaps other newsstand publications have not been so enlightened – or prepared to adapt to the changing balance of power in the name of self-preservation and self-interest.

8. What would you like to see more of in the world of music blogs?

Allowing that I probably have an incomplete or distorted sense of what the world of music blogs is, I would wish to see more imaginative responses to music which not only accept the contexts in which songs or pieces are written and recorded, but that give them their head as works of art as well as cultural artefacts.  I suppose I mean that everything is so heavily loaded; if it’s possible, I’d like writers to strip as much of that away as they can (or at least momentarily get past it) and look at the bones, the guts of the thing.  If I am being overly Romantic and culturally naïve about anyone’s ability to do this in the 21st century, carrying the weight of critical baggage that we do, then I suppose that is deliberate.

9. What blogs, music or otherwise, do you most highly recommend?

In addition to the ones I link to on the left under what WordPress unfortunately insists on calling ‘blogroll’ (the ones that aren’t me in other guises are friends – though this shouldn’t discount how highly I rate what they do), I like An unreliable witness for prose which chases itself as might a plump dog following its strangely wiry tail, photography which blends idiosyncrasy with something you might find in a glossy product brochure, subversion of the post-it note, and all-round imaginative engagement with the blogging form.  Skyberries and voidmelons or voidberries and skymelons for Squirmelia’s photographic eye and diary-like interrogation of the oddities of natural and urban worlds.  The police diver’s notebook for Nick Talbot’s sharp political commentary on the state of the nation.  And I like La terrasse for its old-school literary range and flâneur erudition.

Music features prominently in only the last of these.  If the Guardian is right and there are now 4 million bloggers in Britain alone, then I suspect there are one or two more music blogs out there which I would wish to read on a post-by-post basis if I had the time to stumble across and stay with them.  As it is, I aim to write the blog I would wish to read if I were me, but I don’t doubt that there are people out there doing what I do better and more intensively.  They just don’t have my taste…

I admire those few blogs who don’t care to network the blogosphere by linking to a myriad of others in what can either be viewed as back-scratching or patting, or construction of a tapestry of interwoven concerns and cultural identification.  The problem is, they are extremely difficult to trace.  Perhaps there’s a Strange map of them to be found somewhere…

10. Anything else you care to add?

I have been struck at how much like starting a fanzine starting a blog has been.  It’s been a process of learning on the job, finding out both in terms of design and content what works and what doesn’t, reawakening friendships with people whose friendship was awakened in the first place by the fact that we exchanged fanzines.  There has been an element of what we might crudely term marketing with each; I’ve discovered that there really is a virtual equivalent of the (occasionally quite productive) madness of attempting to sell fanzines cold and off the cuff to people who attended the same gigs as me.  Making links to people – I can see how this would lead to real-world friendships in the same way fanzine connections did, were I not the age I am.  Those connections shot off in so many directions, and travelled so far from the initial musical meeting of minds, with letters as a testing ground for ideas, relationships, issues and ambitions.  It would be stretching the truth to call my entry into the world of blogging a creative renaissance, but it’s not far off that, and not far off the creative act of discovery that producing fanzines was.

I have also re-learnt the art of completion; towards the end of the Tangents decade, my ideas were mouldering, and for every article I sent through to Alistair, another nine remained unfinished.

Hello, this is Joannie

It gives me great pleasure to report that David Nichols’ sense of humour is well and truly intact.

And if (among other things) photos of dilapidated Australian railway stations tickle your fancy, as they do mine, then check out the rest of David’s blog.

I think David (and you) might like Nothing to see here.

On Orpheus beach (and at Boston Museum of Fine Arts)

Apologies for trying to set the record for the greatest number of post titles utilising Go-Betweens songs, but The Clientele’s cover of ‘Orpheus beach’ can now be heard on the Rare victory tribute to Grant McLennan site (as previously mentioned here).

You might also want to get yourself over to Bradley’s Almanac, where the full Clientele set from Boston Museum of Fine Arts earlier this year is available with a quality of sound that anyone who’s seen them in London will not be entirely used to.  On the subject of covers, there’s a great, concise rendering of Television’s ‘The fire’ for one of the encores.

Eight pictures

Hurrah!  Alistair’s back in action here in a nostalgic, fictional vein and here, where he’s set me a task.  As this might to some extent help to unmask the shadowy figure variously known as A jumped-up pantry boy and A wild, slim alien, I accept the challenge.  I’ve to set down ‘8 things people don’t know about you’.

1. I dislike, nay abhor, lists in both journalistic and canonical senses and yet I am an obsessive list-maker.  The list of the lists I make would be a long one.

2. At the age of twelve I was diagnosed with Osgood-Schlatter syndrome – dodgy knees, essentially – and was excused from school sports for three years.  Bang went my chances of playing for Ipswich Town.  Yes, I am a frustrated would-be professional footballer as well as frustrated would-be pop star.  Osgood-Schlatter – sounds like a fantasy Chelsea strike force.

I also had a ranula and came very close to being presented as a case study to medical students.

3. My hypochondria is in remission.

4. I was offered the editorship of the jazz section of Venue, Bristol’s listings magazine, one week before I was due to leave the city for good.  I left and the saxophone has never loomed quite as large in my life since.

5. The first group I saw live was the Boomtown Rats at the Ipswich Gaumont.  I recently bought their Best of for £3 to hear again songs which were staples of my pre-teen listening.  They certainly had energy, and Geldof wrote taut, catchy tunes employing relatively intricate arrangements and day-glo lyrical imagery.  My retrospective opinion of them artistically is that they are holed beneath the waterline by Bob’s histrionic vocal braying – rodent by name and asinine by nature.  The CD has an extensive sleeve note by novelist Joseph O’Connor, brother of Sinead, which articulates nicely how a brash gobshite can become number one in a young boy’s heart.

6. I was one of the hundred or so people injured during the poll tax riots around Trafalgar Square in 1990.  Reflexively I headed a brick which had bounced off the side of a police van, still dreaming of playing for Ipswich.  The doctor who treated me at University College Hospital had a flat top and wore a bright yellow tie.  It hurt my eyes almost as much as the brick hurt my head.

7. The book I would most like to read has not yet been published; there may not yet even be a complete draft.  It is the long-awaited third segment of the journey that Patrick Leigh Fermor made across Europe in the 1930s, written from the perspective of age, looking back on a fearless and carefree period of his life with a longing well-disguised by the freshness of the recollection.  A Time of Gifts (1977) and Between the Woods and the Water (1986) contain some of the best prose ever written.

‘Memory encircles [Prague] with a wreath, a smoke-ring and the paper lattice of a valentine.  I might have been shot out of a gun through all three of them and landed on one of its ancient squares fluttering with the scissor-work and the vapour and the foliage that would have followed me in the slipstream.’

But beware, for when reading PLF you are often set adrift on a doldrum-esque sea of digression.  One chapter can maroon you for days.  Yet in others you are zipped along with a zephyr behind you.

8. I am both young and old enough to have an ‘O’ level in Computer science.  My generation is the one which straddles the jump from manual, predominantly sequential ways of writing to the non-linear facility that word processors offer or promote.  Leaving aside form, style, or the knight’s move around an oversize chessboard which determined the chapter sequence in Georges Perec’s Life a user’s manual, we have had to learn about the effect of the physical process on writing twice.  I have moved from pasting pieces of typewritten text onto master artwork to copying text from word editors into WYSIWYG blog generators.  I am participating in the current, moving into the future, but my brain was hot-wired in the past.  There must already be plenty of younger writers who have never written anything substantial longhand.  I wonder if, sick at some point of the keyboard, they will pick up a pen to see how it feels, to see what happens.

I believe I’m supposed to tag five or eight people with the task of continuing this meme but as a diffident novice, I don’t feel I know any other blogger well enough to presume this of them.  So this branch of a chain dies with me.  Not for the first time.

Trust me with a secret you can’t keep

As a ex-contributor myself, I’m pleased to report that Papercuts (strapline: ‘modem life is rubbish’) has been resurrected in blog form.  The ‘Three for ten quid’ post captures the spirit of the turn of the century hard-copy version nicely.

Owl mail

Alasdair’s post for 16th July is obviously a tribute to the new Harry Potter movie and book – he’s J.K.’s biggest fan, you know.

Scroll down for creatures of a more fabulous nature and plenty of evidence for the effects of the myths of the ancients on an impressionable boy’s mind.  While listening to God save the Clientele, of course.

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