Don’t fence me in…

Building fences and gates and other stuff.

Every now and then Syd the dog takes a run up the road to the neighbors house, they give him a snack and he comes back, pretty innocuous apart from the fear of the idiots driving on a country road at 90 miles an hour. Added to this list is the person who pepper sprayed the poor dog in the eyes because he had been bitten once by another dog, a sign of aggression would be one thing but the big lolloping idiot that is Syd is hardly fear inducing. I get it he has no idea that the Syd dog is friendly and will leave him alone. I am just a bit fried by it.

So we built a fence, we were going to anyway but the importance became higher on the agenda.

First of all we had to rent a cool tool as digging those hoes by hand was a joke.

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There were 24 holes to dig and this made it so that they were all done apart from the corners in four hours, hours of back breaking work avoided although it was a little tough to run for a long time good job there were three of us I say.

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Concrete got mixed and posts leveled etc. all very proffesional.

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This is not an OSHA approved cutting technique.

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Somewhere in all that is a string line being used. Very exciting.

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I am not sure if this was necessary but who doesn’t want to hit things with a sledgehammer.

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As always tractors were involved.

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Gates were added. It’s not a perfect answer and I bet Syd could get out if he really wanted to but it’s something. It is important to know that there are three generations working on this.

I think I just blew my entire budget for fencing the garden in this year to stop the deer having a buffet in our yard.

An added bonus is this was completed just as the whole pandemic world blew up in our face so we have an added barrier to increase the social distancing defense.

The important thing is that Syd is fenced in.

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it cost how much?

I have had to curtail my concert buying instincts today. This is even before we have a full list of shows over the summer, what if Edgefield have something good other than Blondie, what if the Zoo hits it out of the park? Have I done too much too soon?

This year we have bought tickets for Robyn Hitchcock, Jason Isbell, Roger Waters and now three nights of Billy Bragg. This is a considerable cost and unless Peter Gabriel rejoins Genesis and goes on tour or Neil Young trots out the Horse I am now officially done( of course this has been said before). I got afraid looking at the cost of all this adding up. This is the result of last year only going to two shows total and that was coming in at the end of the year with Ian McNabb and Cold Shoulder in Liverpool, which was my show of the year, and Son Volt in Portland. Two concerts separated by weeks and 6000 miles, kind of weird.

This weekend is Robyn Hitchcock at the Old Church in Portland.

The Old Church (Portland), ex-Calvary Presbyterian

It definitely looks like a nice enough place for a show.

Thankfully my wife is very understanding about this, I feel like the other shoe will drop soon and I will realize I have agreed to something completely unpleasant for the next couple of months.

A big old cottonwood fell down across the creek, this has allowed me and Syd access to part of the property that required wading to get to in the past.

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We also managed to dig a hole in the brush to head out into the back part of the property. Syd is particularly proud of his ability to leap whole trees, so much so he comes back to pose.

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The pose.

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All of this lead our way to the back of the property which I think has not really seen much action from humans for a long time.

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It’s a little strange and magical back there and some funny fungi are in the woods.

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Anyway back to what’s important which is the unreasonable excitement of seeing Robyn Hitchcock on Saturday night, I am taking all three of my boys who seem to think it’s good to humor dad in his odd musical journeys, of course it helps when he pays for the tickets.

no payola in his alphabetical file…

Today the unthought, unconsidered and unconscionable happened. I heard the Clash on classic rock radio. The home of the 92 minute rock block.

Unusually for me I was listening to the radio, mainly because I was in the garages loaner car as they fixed the great folly of a Jeep Wrangler that I drive. As I picked up the key in the shop Gordie the mechanic smirked and when I asked which car said to look for the white toaster in the parking lot. So for the last couple of days I have driven around town in a white Scion toaster, this gutless wonder with no redeeming features has garnered me ridicule and disdain and occasionally sympathy from passersby, coworkers and clients.

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Realistically it’s a vehicle. It works it gets me from point A to point B, it also has no auxiliary plug in or bluetooth,  so I am forced to listen to the radio. This is why this afternoon as I drove home I was forced to listen to Janie Jones playing on this awful stereo system in a car that has no soul on Classic Rock radio. All punk rock sensibilities are gone, no edginess at all and to top it off the next track was AC/DC, which is okay but this is like mixing oil and water. The other problem is it seems that whoever drove it before had programmed every space on the radio with the classic rock station and I was too frustrated to figure out how to change it.

So in the face of a failed impeachment, Brexit starting tomorrow, climate change and the rise of nationalism and fascism and the apparent decline of globalism, it is this first world problem that has caused me the most heartache today.

the problem is all inside your head…

My Dad taught me to iron.

It’s a very particular manner of ironing though.

What you have to maybe understand is that my Dad had worn a uniform of some variety for his entire working life. Whether that was overalls on the railway or the very brief of time he worked at Fords in Halewood, so he could raise enough money for a house downpayment. He was also a post man driving that strange thing in the way of a Morris Minor Mail Van. Looking something like this. Sometimes he would take me with him around the back lanes delivering parcels. Now those back lanes are Kirkby and other housing developments. We would stop and get eggs and milk and bread and vegetables from various farms along the way.

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He claimed this was the best job he ever had although it never earned enough money as there was no over time. It was almost idyllic for a man from Scotland Rd. in Liverpool and he often wondered at only being a few miles from the center of town. Kirkby was in the later stages of being developed at the time and his parents had begun the move out there, with a certain amount fo rancor as they had held on in the city for as long as they could. His fathers ill health and lack of ability to work had pushed the issue. Being on the post allowed him to drop things off for his family, there was no GPS or planned routes and it took as long as it took to get parcels out.

He ended up driving busses and being an inspector, back in the day when those existed, in St. Helens. At the point when he was finally going to be able to get off the road he got sick and had to retire, he was only about 45 and he never worked for pay again. Although he never stopped working.

The common denominator as I said was a uniform and at that time in the Uk what went along with a uniform was usually a white shirt and a tie, yes even in those overalls.

Every day a new shirt had to ironed as this was physical work he did, no real power steering in those days, and in the summer it was warm and well, sweat happens. My dad developed a particular way of ironing that was just the collar and the front of the shirt as the rest was hidden by the uniform jacket and if you had to take it off you would roll your sleeves up. What this meant was when he came to teach me to iron, he taught me this way of doing it, as that was the method he used, my Mum is not someone to teach you to iron, she would just take the shirt and do it for you.

This morning as I ironed my shirt for work I realized that I still ironed this way, neglecting the back of the shirt and the sleeves. This has driven Michelle crazy for about thirty years now and yet she never offers to iron for me, we really come from a do it yourself family. The other thing I realized was that I have never done a days manual labor for pay, this was something that was important to my dad. Now I have done a lot of manual labor voluntarily and even at work I have been known to roll up my sleeves, this afternoon I was stood on a roof cleaning gutters, this however is not my roll, it’s something I do because it’s fun to work that way with kids, not because that is what I have to do. This was my Dads greatest hope that I would not have to work as hard as he did. The funny thing is two thirds of my kids are doing manual work by choice, go figure.

This evening as I sat at the end of the day and reached for a record to play I was seeking something undemanding and enjoyable. Uncharacteristically for my recent habits I reached for Still Crazy After All These Years by Paul Simon. My Dad had been on my mind and this was one of the records I remember him owning, he got it new from the Columbia House Record Club and it sat on the stereo shelf and was played very occasionally. This was probably the record of the month he got by mistake and he never sent back, or missed the deadline more likely.

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I always think the record sounds like Simon had lost the thread a little. It’s too polished and safe, a little too L.A. and then there is the return of Garfunkel for the song My Little Town that adds a saccharine sheen.

But this evening I could see my Dad sat there trying to get it, he had loved Simon and Garfunkel and it seemed he really wanted to like this album especially as he owned it. I can smell the scent of Golden Virginia tobacco, sweat and the gravy from dinner. My dad would usually nod off about half way through side two. We would then sit in silence as in no way could I play an album on the  sacred stereo and my mum would have wanted to let him rest as he had probably worked overtime and not do anything too loud like turn the T.V. on. I think this stopped him buying other Paul Simon albums.

fourth world…

It’s an odd old world, spent the day raging at the injustices befalling me to only realize they were of my own making. Resulting in the question from my wife, “what stage are we in today?” The answer firmly being the ambient stage.

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Treated trumpets and handclaps and guitars and basses, landing somewhere between jazz and experimental, seldom does the trumpet sound like a trumpet although it is the lead instrument. It is insistent and driving and quiet and restrained, except when it’s not, who knew. Somehow it suits the mood as we transition from eve to day. The season is upon us and good will is raining down in an almost palpable way. The money has been spent and the presents wrapped, the meatballs are made and ready to go in the oven tomorrow. The family has gathered, well most of them actually live with us. Currently we have four generations under one roof. It’s an old fashioned way of living, complete with frustrations, remonstrations, salutations and consternations, as well as many a hug, snuggle and some help with lifting the heavier shit.

This all made so much more sense last night, now it’s into the night of the day and the IMG_2774meatballs are eaten, gifts unwrapped and I am sat here alone with the dog, the house is silent except for Aerial by Kate Bush which really deserves a better post than this, Maybe one day but for now this is what it gets, seems I am leaving the ambient stage.

Me and the dog took a long walk today as I streamed this in my ears and now I am here with the record late into the night where maybe it belongs although it is light an airy really. As I waded through the mud puddles and sheltered under a tree from the rainfall I was reminded of how lucky we all are to live here. It’s going to be work but if the collective effort of four generations can’t do it I am not sure it can be done. This last year has been about creating a space to be, pushing the berry bushes back, connecting with the county about a plan for the riparian sections and just getting it together in the country. Then we were faced with a crushing blow or two that shook us, I think we are heading in the right direction though.

This was the view from the walk, I think that something special will be left here soon.

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For those who have missed it here is some tractor porn, a cheeky view through the trees.

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Happy whatever you all celebrate and I hope the New Year brings what you hope for including, health, happiness and prosperity and if none of those at least Peace Man.

 

Screaming sounds are buzzing through my brain Am I mad or am I sane?

It’s been a strange couple of weeks. In the UK for the first time in awhile. This was meant to be a different type of trip, fun and adventure for me and Ben as he made some big decisions in his life that would ultimately impact the whole family. Over the last ten days I have not managed to have the “conversation” I thought I wanted to have.

This has been waylaid by my dad being in hospital the entire time. Days have been taken up looking after my mother, drinking coffee with her and then visiting in the hospital. This has not been the most exciting time for poor Ben, he has been very patient with it however. All in all it’s been somewhat bemusing. We have not managed to achieve any of the things I wanted to. Which makes me think those things maybe were not ever achievable.

Maybe the time for the heart to heart is gone with Ben and even with my own dad.

It’s odd coming from a city that is known around the world. You tell anyone you meet that you are form Liverpool they will know certain facts, mainly about the Beatles or one of the two football teams. It is however a whole lot more than that. An independent city that has finally succumbed it seems to gentrification and it’s own fame. The lines to Anfield were multinational this Sunday and you hear many languages as you wonder around town. The working class houses in the city center now multi thousand pound apartments. It is almost certainly a different city than the one I wondered around as a child/young man, there is however enough familiarity in the streets that I can still navigate with ease.

Slightly drunk on Sunday having met up with two friends that I had not seen in 20 or so years we reminisced about the apartment Andy, who was not present, had lived in. He lived on the top floor of a tenement on Bold Place opposite the bombed out church. The lower floors housed some prostitutes who would try and feed him up as he was so skinny. He is still skinny and living in the south of England now. He probably wouldn’t want me to tell you about the prostitutes though. The day ended in the Pilgrim surrounded by slightly self conscious students watching the football. The football was glorious, the students remained self conscious as the still slightly drunk older men shouted and chanted and cheered.

John made the observation that we all had felt so dangerous back then. How we must have pissed off a lot of people and also how people had looked after the stupid drunk 16 year olds in town. A kinder gentler more connected world. Now the self conscious students just looked bemused by the slightly drunk older men. They also somehow managed to be a little disapproving. Didn’t they know that in our prime we had screamed into the maelstrom that was Hawkwind, The Clash, Magazine, Gong and Here and Now, we had been through the excesses necessary and survived. We were entitled to our bleary gazes and ragged chorus of You’ll Never Walk Alone.

We staggered around from one teenage hang out to the next. Reminiscing and laughing as Ben looked bemused at these middle aged men remembering a time before smart phones and streaming jukeboxes. The Marlborough is no longer the Marlborough and Val is long gone, as is Big Clive from the Swan and the Wilsons is nothing but a memory, the Cracke is living on its brief flirtation with John Lennon as a student. At least John and Paul(the immortal Gooey) had held on to most of their hair even though they had moved to Manchester, of course who am I to complain with the 6000 mile move.

It had been Record Store Day the day before. I showed Ben where Probe used to be and the slightly diminished sad place where it is now. We never went in though. I suppose I should have really as that is what a collector should do isn’t it. I have never really experienced the thrill or need for RSD. I do however have a few of the releases I have picked up when they go on sale or online. We also walked past several other record stores that did not drag me in, mostly because they were closed.

Being in an urban environment as opposed to the rural environment we normally inhabit is a shock to the system. There is no roar of large diesel engines heading out in the morning or the sound of woodpeckers in the evening and the frogs who could forget the frogs, there is however the constant hum of the M62 across the field and the trains every 15 minutes or so and the harsh laughter in the streets and car doors slamming.

So for two weeks I have lain in my childhood bed listening to the music of my youth on headphones. The very same way I used to listen late at night so as not to disturb my parents. These days those albums are streamed on Spotify and not on crackly discs of vinyl. Each night has taken me through an album of the past in its entirety. No shuffle play and no skipping the annoying track allowed. The sounds of my youth in my ears as I come to terms with my parents aging and my youngest leaving home.

In this way I listened to Dark Side of the Moon, Here Come the Warm Jets, Hunky Dory, Wind and Withering, Close to the Edge, Stormcock, Meddle, The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, Space Ritual, Thick as a Brick, Audentity, Ricochet and Full House amongst others. Sometimes I woke up to Spotify deciding what I should listen to next based on some algorithm that would predict my taste. This was invariably not what I wanted to hear at all.

Then one night I looked up into the corner of the bedroom and there she was glaring down on me in her glory, the glow in the dark Virgin Mary that had counted my teenage years . Her ghostly green hue looking at me disapprovingly as I drifted off to In Search of Space. She has been a story I told my friends in the past and there she still is watching quietly as I tried to do my best.

In a fit of rebellion against the Virgin in the corner I bought Hawkwind ‘s record store day offering The 1999 party finally in vinyl were it belongs. I sat and looked at the record and then succumbed to streaming it. No Bob Calvert but Simon House on violin and keyboards and the joy of the glories of Lemmy and the boys blowing the minds of Chicagos youth. Tonight I sat down finally at home and played the record and it is as good as I hoped it would be. It’s anarchic and wild and free flowing, from a time when the pettiness of band life had not destroyed the fun of making a racket.

At the end of the day with all the travails that family bring, the worry of parents and their health, the difficult decisions children have to make and then the knowledge they have to make the decisions for themselves it is good to know there is always a Hawkwind record that will screw its your mind. My dad also reminded me that Ben is just like me, he is going to make his own mind up and at the end of the day a parents job is to love their children to support them to trust them and sometimes to pick up the pieces when they fall.