Lisa Marini – Wonderful new video

The new single.
I think this video and design work captures the spirit of the singer, the song writer, the poetry and the song. I love it!!!

Illustration: Anna Millais/ Animation: Adam Hodgson/ Shot & Edited: Lisa Marini. – More? written by Lisa Marini / Produced: Patrick Wood Vocals&Guitar: Lisa Marini / Bass: Jack Tustin / Drums: Arthur Newell / Lead Guitar: Patrick Wood / Second Guitar: Benedict Wood / Cello: Sam Brown/ Keys: Patrick Wood.

George is on the road

George is on the road – passed his driving test – FIRST TIME – with only a few lessons !!!

He inherits Maria’s car which was once Maria’s dad’s and then Maria’s mums. We buy a Ford from Maria’s brother that was once his mother-in-laws. Arthur’s car, which was once Maria’s brother’s daughter’s and then Maria’s, gets a new clutch in York but is scrapped a week later in Peckham at a garage owned by an ex Ewok.

Lisa Marini – new single – amazing! Out on Friday.

Lisa is performing at the Green Note in Camden on Sunday – get tickets here

“I have seen LISA MARINI perform several times at different venues – as a solo artist and with different backing musicians. The thing that is a constant is that Lisa is spell-binding and mesmerising. Her self-penned songs are achingly melodic and artfully delivered. Her oeuvre is not soul but is totally soulful, it`s not jazz but is cat-like cool, it is not country, but she has global appeal.”

Lisa Marini is a delight to the ears and eyes…a joy to the senses.” Paul Latham | CEO, Live Nation

Beautifully crafted songs, infectious guitar picking and a defiant voice performed with some of London’s best young jazz players. Expect a delicious hybrid of Folk, roots and jazz.

Piers, Ashes and Appendicitis

I feel guilty for not having written for so long. I wake up early and a niggling wave of failure makes my heart beat even more irregularly than usual. Not that anyone other than me is bothered but although I have dropped many things during the course of my life writing this blog is not one I feel ready to drop. Putting aside childish ambitions to be an inventor or an astronaut or a diver or a vet, whilst an adult I have failed to maintain my music theory, piano playing, bass playing, German language, Italian language, a million different computer languages, learning maths, philosophy, photography keeping up regular exercise, eating fewer sweets, writing poetry, reading poetry and brushing the cats. Things I have kept up – watching telly – all the episodes of the Good Wife, Gilmore Girls and Friends – shopping, particularly online and particularly prime – tee totalism (enforced through illness) and that’s about it. I am not a failure yet but I am a lazy git!

That said I have been quite busy. As my health is excellent my body and brain’s reflex is to store brownie points by being a good boy at work. I have quite a bit of teaching and adminy things to do and I rather enjoy doing them. I have discovered that if I devote quite a bit of time devising systems to do things efficiently I actually enjoy the process of doing them more. I quite like puzzling out the optimum way of recording video feedback and distributing it in a timely way to students. Yes it’s true I am a bit of a nerd! “If a jobs worth doing its worth doing well” I hear the hordes of tiresome goody goodies holler – and here I am hollering right alongside them.

Since my last post Maria and I had a short holiday. Most importantly I discovered a very palatable alcohol free beer in Southwold but we also distributed my parents ashes and my eldest got appendicitis. What a strange thing to do on both counts! Needless to say however you do it you end up with a Clarks shoe load of parent dust and in this case, as the two events directly coincided, (ashes and appendicitis) an absolute shed load of anxiety. Poor eldest was extremely very horribly unwell and to be honest despite having my entire wonderful extended family doing the dust chucking I was just not in the mood, preoccupied as I was with the what then seemed a rational thought, that my dear lovely dead parents were reaping pestilence on my current loved ones just because in 1971 I sold the gold sovereign they had given me for an electric guitar. Anyway he is better phew!!.

The younger one has been in Senegal learning drumming. The experience was life changing in a million different ways not all to do with drumming. He is a total Afrophile now with the kind of wanderlust I used to pretend to have when I was his age. He is the real thing but actually my modest globe-trotting was never really a pleasure – I didn’t much care for going places, all scary and inconvenient, lucky really cos I don’t go anywhere now – ah that’s not true on our recent holiday we went to three piers, Southwold, Brighton and Deal. We met lovely family members and actually had time to talk properly. Most encounters with my extended family are big do’s really busy and noisy and full, civilized enough but not my thing. I much prefer slow socializing- aren’t I dull. Piers thrill me – I honestly don’t know why. I want to own one.

I might be involved in a fun project for the university, my first consultancy for five years. I really fancy it because it’s in Bridlington which is everything you imagine about a seaside town but dare not say in case you offend someone who lives there. I love it, love it, love it.

The Matthew Read Trio are in the midst of an Arts Council funded tour so they are nipping round the country in my Volvo Estate. Catch them if you can they are great. I am forced to drive either Art’s Clio with the dicky clutch or Matthews rather too nice Vauxhall. Anyway both vehicles have this thing you may have encountered called a manual gearbox. Who in their right mind would chose a car that has more than 2 pedals – one to go and one to stop. Seriously though I now hate the effort involved in driving manual cars and look forward to becoming reacquainted with my stately black petrol guzzling ocean liner. I believe she is back tonight with the trio- who play in Leeds on Sunday – be there or be square.

Love to all.

Gradually madder

Since coming off the chemo drugs and feeling gradually better I have gone gradually madder. I noticed almost immediately that as my body started to run more normally my brain was skating off in the opposite direction. How could it be that a holiday from daily poisoning was making me feel more anxious and disorientated? The responsibility of going back to work with a brimming bowl of teaching was not something that would normally bother me but, on this occasion, I was choking on every morsel of preparation, feedback or marking. My 9:00 till 5:00 Friday (hardly exceptional but necessitating a 5:30 alarm) paralysed my eyelids open. I certainly wasn’t worried, depressed or even sad, actually the opposite, just hyper anxious and obsessively hard working. What was going on??

Yes what was going on? – I failed to ask myself in the rush toward start of trimester. As day one of teaching approached I decided to revisit resort-not-sleeping, a place that had been off my bucket list since the trip to China in the 80’s fiasco, the abandoned to burn by my costume designer fire incident and the dragging my mattress around the hotel corridors looking for somewhere to shack up with the sleep fairy debacle. Anyway in the last few weeks, and after some practice, I manage to achieve that special status reserved for only serious insomniacs of not sleeping for one night AT All! OK so a slight exaggeration – I needed to get up at 6:00 am. I slept from 5:45 till 6:00. I know because I was digital-flashing-clock watching all night. For those of you who have never tried it, I recommend insomnia as way to experience what it’s like to have OCD. I guess it might be a derivative. Your head goes into a loop ‘Look at the time, and I am still not asleep!’ -> ‘I am still not asleep. What time is it?’ -> repeat ad-nauseam. For those of you who have it, and I know some of you in the family suffer, maybe it helps to know we are all in the same club, even if nobody in their right mind would want to be a member.

Tips for surviving insomnia

  1. take pleasure in punching the smug, right-on GP who puts up a massive fuss about giving you sleeping pills and recommends mindfulness (more about that incident when my rage abates)
  2. Read what the brilliant Labour MP Jess Phillips has to say about managing anxiety and insomnia

    “When things are really bad I take medication.”

so refreshing to hear someone say “Take the drugs.” Instead of – go and swim with dolphins with crystals down your trunks.” Yes, she also advocates regular exercise, I can forgive her for that, but a public figure addressing the stigma felt by us ‘softies’ that occasionally need some chemical coping strategies, is just what the doctor ordered, at least for me.

  • And this is the big one – read the back of your drug packets when you are on chemotherapy because ….

I mentioned in passing to my consultant that I was surprisingly anxious and had trouble sleeping despite being in such a positive place medically. I expected an explanation along the lines of – ‘now you have a bit less to worry about, your brain has invented some trivial worries to fill the hole’ … but no, he barely broke his verbal stride (you know the one that goes Him: ‘How are you?” Me: “Good.” Him: “Fine. Shall we say see you in 3 months.”) as he explained that for the last nine months I had been effectively taking sedatives. More than one of the drugs I was taking, even in small doses (I was taking big ones) would put most people to sleep. Thalidomide was prescribed originally both to alleviate morning sickness and to calm the mother down. My body had grown used to daily inputs of self-inflicted narcolepsy and now I was cold turkeying.

So there it is – now it all makes sense.

I am not having an Ingmar Bergman (Persona) moment.

I am having a Danny Boyle (Trainspotting) moment.

The anxiety and sleeplessness has not stopped yet but I have got a grip and a bunch of pills. Meanwhile Tracy Emin, another hero of mine, has taken a bunch of selfies to make all us nutters feel less alone at 3:17 in the morning.

Lisa Marini – London gig March 8th – we will be there

The marvellous Lisa Marini and her marvellous band that includes the marvellous Jack Tustin, Benedict Wood & Arthur Newell are gigging on March 8th at St Pancras Old Church. Tickets and information can be found here

The new album is totally amazing!!!

Lisa’s new website is here

Maria and I will be there and it would be fantastic to catch up loads of family and friends. So book your tickets pronto.

Windy day on Mars

Why the delay in posting? Let me explain.

Sometimes I worry that I just might be being boring. No, no, no! I hear you cry. Well, when you have little of import to say, no ripplingly funny cat anecdotes, no hospital misadventures involving poorly arranged gowns or hilarious pensioners getting misdirected by the Sat navs into one way streets (oh wait, that was me in Hull on my way to collect an old telephone from an eBay seller in a car park) it’s hard to acquire the confidence to press finger to keyboard and wax. But I owe it to you all, dear readers, to ensure you are fully conversant with my escapades, unremarkable though they are.

Maria is mid her seasonal Dickens read hence the rhythm of the last sentence.

Christmas is pretty much over and a big family super success it was. Due to conflicting schedules and parental turn taking we had our four early for “fake Christmas.” Maria had done her customary thing with trees and lights and lights and lights and baubles and candles and ribbons and incense and turkey and Christmas cake and lights and mulled wine and stuffing and Christmas pudding and more lights to which I contributed zilch. Why she endures my complete physical and emotional absence during the Christmas preparatory period I don’t know. She is so into it! And incredibly loveable it is too. Day one of the family visit and we blew the main fuse at 2:30 in the morning. Not some trivial circuit breaker but the fuse that is the first gateway between power station and domicile. A big black thing that looks like it was once part of a Lancaster bomber. Its demise indicated that the 9 storage heaters, the tumble dryer the 4 foot blow up Santa, the two immersion heaters and the 3000 watts of outdoor lights bought at a car boot sale (I jest not) could be drawing more power from the grid than the rest of the village put together. Anyway I slept on the sofa with a delighted ex Ferrell awaiting Northern Power who arrived after only a couple of hours with full mining helmet lights and generators to reconnect us. Last time this happened, donkeys years ago, we actually blew the cable off the outside wall and burnt it through like a Roman Candle, this time happily I did not have to lie about our power consumption and blame the previous house owners, as apparently it wasn’t our fault, the supply having been recently upgraded, however they agreed that excessive Christmas electrical joy and the blown fuse were probably not unconnected.

This outage came just a week or so after the 8 days we were cut off from phone, internet, landline, text, Netflix and catch ups of “Strictly.” The result of some over enthusiastic pruning of ivy on the telegraph pole with a chainsaw!!! by two nice ‘Open Reach’ chaps from Cumbria. I must admit when I saw them assault the pole I did wonder whether the combination of delicate electrical wiring, entangled knots of ivy stems as thick as blacksmiths arms and two burly enthusiasts, the bearers of said arms, wielding a chainsaw, a hand saw and an axe would result in the intended ‘pole clearance’ or the more likely “whoops we have cut through the wire but we ain’t the right guys insured to fix it” scenario. Anyway the latter came to pass as predicted. The blacksmiths and I enjoyed an amicable coffee together discussing the incident. My Bulgarian was taxed to the limit by our reflections on the quality of Bulgarian coffee versus Italian. I still don’t know which of us won or indeed if it was that we were talking about but anyway after many apologies they went back to Cumbria and we were left bereft of all digital connectivity. I would like to report how much we both enjoyed ‘being away from the telephone’ that old desert island disks “how will you cope marooned on a desert island cliché”, but actually, if I could have broken out with a digital connectivity yearning rash I would have done. Both of us became really quite anxious and fed up. I was no longer able to contribute my paltry amount of admin to the University, the telephone box was forced into silence, Nonna could no longer summon us (her mobility is now virtually zero) nobody could get in touch with us through any channel except by travelling to York and banging on the front door and the only telly was the telly that dropped down the telly aerial, ie repeats of top gear and QI. I was onto BT support daily, facilitated by hacking into the neighbours poorly secured Wi-fi from our shed, or using the telephone next door at Nons. Four times over four days BT promised to fix it and on three of those four occasions they did not show up. We were so so so pissed off. Finally they arrived with a Cherry Picker from Tadcaster, not a peasant wearing traditional dress with hands stained with purple juices, but a mobile person crane. This time the right people to fix it were present, although staggeringly they had to borrow some of my tools, having been gifted with a new junction box equipped with a lock and no key. Anyway to recap, imagine our surprise and delight when a week after digital connectivity was restored and my blood pressure settled to its normal just below Chernobyl level, we blew up the electricity supply in the middle if the night just as our Christmas guests had arrived. Anyway all turned out well in the end.

So the other good news for me is that I am off the drugs. My numbers are the best they have been since diagnosis so the nine months of mildly disabling medicines and three months of not going into work or driving anywhere has been worth it. Pretty much immediately I have started to feel much more normal. I am no longer dizzy, I can drive again, my energy levels are going up and I would swear I can see my legs metamorphosising from something an anorexic stork would be ashamed of, to something the Incredible Hulk would be proud off were he also to be anorexic. As you know the machine at the NAC always reports the ratio of my muscle to bone-matter gristle as laughably poor in my extremities. Basically my arms and legs are barely strong enough to stay attached to my body let alone contribute anything useful. If I find myself in the crouched position, say to retrieve a toothpaste cap, I need to find something substantial to haul myself up on, the sink, a handy scaff pole or a passing visitor will suffice. After a childbirth level of straining and groaning I am eventually restored to homo erectus. Thus; for the most part if I drop something, unless it is really crucial, valuable or embarrassing, it stays right there on the floor until the clean up fairy retrieves it. The alternative being the spectacle of me wheezing my way upright while grappling for hand holds as if I were climbing the Matterhorn without ropes. Anyway all of that is improving and while I am no springy chicken the improvement is massive already.

I have tons of teaching next trimester so I do need to do a lot of prep over Christmas but in between we are having return visits from some, or possibly all of our four. We will be doing another Christmas lunch on Christmas Day for Nonna, just the three of us. To be honest I can’t be arsed but as I contribute nothing to the process it seems churlish to complain and at least I get my presents. Spouserly presents are modest this year as we bought an expensive fence. Maria designed it and to be honest I was concerned that it could end up a bit Guantanamo as it’s about six foot high and of Trumpian substance but I have to say it’s turned out to be a design triumph. The issue has been that easy access to the dog walker lane from our garden has encouraged a steady flow of friendly pups to visit us unexpectedly, either in the garden or occasionally in the house. While I am an enthusiastic dog lover and tend to toward the welcoming, the three cats are not so delighted to see their food vacuumed up by anything from two white devious shiatsu to a dim adorable but not unintimidating Doberman. The fence has the added advantage of curbing that annoying Yorkshire habit of friendliness, manifest in worthless chat about the weather, a topic I simply don’t care about, particularly when I am engaged in lofty literary thoughts on our loggia regarding telephone directories (see below).

The new year looks promising for one and all and I eagerly await the arrival from our four of a novel, a screenplay, an album and accomplishment in Senegalese drumming. They are all being as incredibly arty as I am being incredibly dull. I am currently thrilled by a book recounting the history of the telephone directory which, by the way, began in America as one sheet of card listing predominantly doctors and dentists. No numbers of course, that hadn’t been thought of, just names.

Here is a cultural puzzle for you all I have been considering. There was a vogue, after the invention of the telephone, particularly in France for postcards featuring, predominantly anonymous children but also adults, photographed speaking on the telephone. These were often accompanied by some sentimental verse.

The romantic connotations of lovers communicating over a distance seems clear enough but some fella just sitting at a desk holding a telephone receiver to the ear is not particularly romantic, festive or cool. I know I am missing something here but can anyone think of an example of modern technology which has been repurposed in a similar way? It seems to me a bit like sending someone a postcard of an unknown person operating an iPad and expecting the recipient to be pleased, surprised, amused or moved. I just don’t get it. That said I am completely drawn to this period of rampant eccentricity. The era from 1870 to 1920 is variously stuffed with technical and cultural innovation as well as a mixture of self indulgent angst and wackiness. I have already bored you with my enthusiasm for the music of that period but the more I read, the more I find the “stuff” of that period alluring. Telephones, phonographs, radios, photography and film. I think part of it is a childhood sense that despite the brilliance of the inventions most of them are reasonably easily understood and thus potentially duplicated in Meccano or with a few lengths of copper wire and a magnet, whereas technical innovation today is largely incomprehensible and certainly not reproducible in Meccano.

Did you hear the sound of the mars wind? Actually it was really the sound of the spaceship vibrating because of the wind, but so what. “A windy day on mars.” What a thought.