I’m living in a dream land…

I read Bruce at Vinyl Connections D&D post the other day, it’s here:


Next thing I knew I was hip deep in gore attempting to rescue the blacksmiths daughter from the goblins as they sacrificed her to the horribleness below. Well it wasn’t exactly the next thing but Sunday afternoon as we drove the backroads searching for the new homestead we got the call, “come home we need two more for the dungeon.” So there I was an intelligence challenged barbarian hacking his way through the mess a 22 year old can create in his mind after a steady diet of Moorcock, Tolkien and Gaiman with a healthy dose of Star Trek thrown in for good measure.

The amusing thing was my wife had been living out her own elvish fantasies as we trudged through the woods, a promising 10 acres off the beaten track. She found the sunny dell by the creek and the wooded copse held all sorts of plans for the future.

Getting lost on the way back in the dreaded berry bushes as we failed to remember our route up the hill left me bloody and beaten.

All of which will undoubtedly result in the dreaded offers and counter offers that all property deals end up as, not to mention where the septic system will go and how deep does the well have to be questions. Which means that the battles ahead have nothing to compare to the skull crushing and slicing and dicing that we went through on our return home after the attempt to find the property markers, fording two creeks and climbing the hill to the copse.


They’re burning effigies out in the street Man the lifeboats, sound the retreat…

Dreams of America have been part of my consciousness my whole life.

I used to sit with my Grandad as he told me tales of ocean voyages and Times Square in New York. He had travelled the world it seemed to me, he had actually travelled the world but that’s what happens when you are a chef for the Cunard line. He was a larger than life man who had sailed the oceans and fought in the war. He was a role model, I know he was flawed as a younger man but in his age he had grown into a gentleman.

He told me about skyscrapers and fancy suits and sandwiches as big as your head. He also told me about sharks in Australia so I never really had the fantasy of visiting as it sounded too dangerous, We used to sit for hours watching cowboy movies and Cary Grant films, sometimes these were the same thing, it seemed every week there was a new movie to watch. One night we stayed up until midnight to watch High Noon. This was in the days before video machines. Then he would tell me about the cars and later the girls and jazz music. Right about this time my Nan would send me out to play and tell him to stop filling my head with nonsense. I think she was afraid I would take off.

My Nan had tales of Americans as well, they were not so complimentary. Stories of brash arrogant men in uniform who would harass young women. Tales of caution. She was however not averse to taking advantage of the odd yank, as she put it although she also guarded her two daughters with a ferocity that was probably legendary in the alleys of Liverpool.

My Dad also had tales of America. The American cousin who sent candy. This caused my Dads legendary dislike for wintergreen. He remembered the big cars coming off the ships though and the Levis you could get cheap in the pubs on the Dock Road. He also laughs at the thought of sitting in the bath so they fit perfectly.

Later on for me there was music and books and more movies and more music. I was almost cured by Jaws, damned sharks again. Then I read On The Road and all was forgiven, this was the America I dreamed of. Art and words and vast panoramas and infeasibly massive cities. Then I read Hunter S. Thompson and was convinced all Americans were in a drug fueled frenzy moving at 1000 miles an hour. All of America was Vegas, the Rat Pack, the chase in North By Northwest and Dylan’s Brownsville girl wrapped up in a mess of beat poetry and Rock’n’Roll.

I had however never met an American. I knew they were around and we hung out in themchale-s-irish-american American Bar on Lime Street, pretending to be cool and hoping a real American would walk in. For some reason we were convinced the name of the place would drag them in like a magnet. I think they have knocked it down now.  It was a rowdy bar at the best of times but I am not sure it deserved knocking down.

I would hear the accents on Matthew Street on Friday and Saturday but those sweaty overweight men bore no relationship to John Wayne, Johnny Cash or Bob Dylan. They could not be real Americans just some bellicose imposters to confuse me. Everyone in America was cool, I knew this because it was the land of Dylan, Kerouac and Todd Rundgren and the A-Team and the Wild Bunch. A land of mavericks and loners and super heroes.

IMG_6584All of these thoughts have been stirred up by listening to Ray Davies new album Americana. The realization of how pervasive America was in my life and how far away it was even in the 80’s. Also how glamorous it still is in my mind. A place to be aspired to, a dream a goal to attain. Even as I live in the USA today I feel more a stranger than ever before.

It’s a strange old world I suppose.

You just happened to be there that’s all…

It’s been a day and a half today. I went to the doctor and on the corner was a guy begging, panhandling, choose your term.

I was overcome with a realization that we are all so close to homelessness. So I dug my wallet out and gave him all the money I had. Through my head went all the usual cynicism, he’ll buy drugs or booze etc. I felt a fool an idiot a mug.

I sat in the my car on the way out of the doctors and on the corner was the same guy. He was sitting on a bucket and eating a sandwich, he smiled and gave me a thumbs up. All my usual bullshit lifted and I smiled.

As is usual I visited the thrift store on the way home. To spend some of that disposable cash we forget we have nowadays. I wandered over to the stack of records and the young man stocking said there’s a whole bunch of vinyl over there not on the shelf. I dug around for awhile and hit the motherlode of used vinyl for the month. I walked away with twenty records or so that are all new to me.



It’s funny how years stick in your mind in relation to music, life and everything else. 1989 for some reason is that year for me as I discovered listening to that Texas album.

1988 and 1989 saw me living in the south, this is the one and only time in my life I have done this, funnily enough I felt more lost and confused in the south of England than I ever have since moving 6000 miles to the Pacific Northwest. There may be all sorts of reasons for this mostly to do with mine and other peoples biases. Or maybe I just feel safer in the north west of any country I inhabit.

For two years I was away from my hometown. I had to travel by train to get there and back when I had time off or needed a bit of sanity in my life, or insanity at times. Of course this ended for awhile when I met the woman who would become my wife and then the four/five hour journey became less important or frequent. Until she went north and I had to commute in a way all over again.

All this travel required me to buy a walkman cassette player, and then start buying cassettes. This was an alien experience and I have to admit it was not a medium I enjoyed. I went pretty quickly from records to CD’s with little stopping in between apart from the recorded mix tapes and cassettes my friends gave me. This was difficult for me as I was forced into buying albums in a format that was not particularly enjoyable for me to listen to. It also involved folding the inserts the right way to fit into the container, making sure the cassette was rewound so I didn’t have to start in the middle or rewind before listening and the countless batteries.

The outcome of all this was I decided to only buy those albums that were newly released and were essential to me at the time. Of course being particularly snobbish I also tried to keep this to a minimum as it would eat into the record buying and I was already paying a fortune in train fare. fullsizerender-3As soon as I stopped that silly every other weekend commute I stopped buying cassettes which meant for about a year every other Friday on the to Liverpool and on the way back to the south I only listened to these albums. I think I may know every line and note of these records . This also means that if I listen to them I am immediately transported back to 1989. Aural time travel at it’s oddest.

Anyway in the particularly blurry picture to the left are the sounds of 1989 train journeys as I put my head down and navigated the tube and London without making eye contact with another human being as this may have initiated a conversation that I was not ready to have. It seems ridiculous that I survived countless journeys with only these five records to keep me company. These are also the only five records I have owned in three formats.


When the fire is grown too fierce to breathe In burning irons I’ll be bound.

What next on the great adventure?

There is something sad about sitting in an airport, leaving your parents behind again, the inevitable last moment of tearful FaceTime and then the monotony of wondering the duty-free and W.H.Smith store. Wondering if you are going to cough all the way home and frustrate your neighbor. In the last couple of years I have made more trips to the U.K. than in the twenty or so before. My parents are aging as am I and it seems to be at an accelerated pace. They are also struggling with some health issues which are progressing the way they are supposed to I guess.

What used to be fun jaunts to the old country, happy meals and tearful goodbyes that you new was not forever has turned into something else. There is a real sadness and an uncertainty that this may not only be for a short time and that next time there may only be one of them.  On that level you start or at least I started to realize that sickness is a truly personal experience unique to the individual, although it seems at time to have become a series of Facebook requests and fake “amens” along with the desperate beginning of most people will not post or reply to  this statements.

This visit was supposed to be a joyful experience. Hanging out with the parental units and maybe meeting up with some people, virtual and real, Instead it turned into series of visits to hospitals and doctors as we tried to figure what was going on with my Mum. It turned out she was dehydrated and not eating, not a good combination for an older lady who is struggling with other health issues. Who knows why these things happen, maybe it is an evolutionary thing when you stop using resources for the tribe or maybe it is just that nothing tastes good anymore so what is the point of eating it, only she knows and she is not telling.

So with things just barely in control it’s time to leave, 10 days has flown by with appointments and crying and hugs and tears and more hugs. I’ll be back in August and hopefully things will be better because this is my youngest sons graduation gift, Cropredy, traveling and neolithic stone circles maybe or a swim in the Irish Sea.

And then there is the question of why do we go on sometimes, for our children, our parents, our jobs, our partners? Ultimately the answer to that is as personal as anything else in this world.

There is however always solace in good music.

So many things I would have done But clouds got in my way…

Maybe it’s time for one of those round up posts, or not.

Christmas is behind us and all that brought. I am anticipating a fun filled couple of days with the family and then maybe off to the high desert for New Years. I really need to get some hiking boots though to thoroughly enjoy that experience.

It’s been a pretty strange year. A year of reflection and consideration, that began with a rush back to the UK to deal with illness, then a return over the Summer to continue with that as well as having a vacation of sorts. In two weeks I head back to see my parents and hopefully keep getting things organized for them.

I’ve bought a lot of music this year, mostly used albums from various sources, mainly thrift stores, then every now and then I think of something I really need and suddenly I am online looking for bargains, they can still be found occasionally. I also realized that I had a real affection for the music I seemed to despise when I was a teenager as well as a continued love for some of the old favorites. I realized how many records I had discarded over the years and had to find again and also how many records had been lost because of generosity or the end of a relationship.

15698257_10209936042751580_8384825806606636043_n-2This last year I rambled through my sonic memories, blasting out Hawkwind and Pentangle on the same day, relaxing with Leo Kotke and getting angry with Harper. I failed to enjoy a Steve Hackett show too many phone calls not the music,  and never went to the Field Music gig I had so looked forward to because I had to get on a plane all in the same two days. Maybe this trip I’ll get to find some records especially those Julian Cope records that have been on my mind this week. I may also get the chance to catch up with some people other than my parents in Liverpool this time.  I did however find my favorite Cope album with World Shut Your Mouth, a record that saved me from an interminable week of Bruce Springsteen and Queen one summer.

To round the year off me and my son just bought Cropredy tickets. This has been my 15726798_10209909453526866_5475464668825045969_nchildren’s graduation gift for many years and this is the last one to graduate, the bands 50th anniversary and also my friends 50th birthday. This will all be celebrated if it all works out in a field In Oxfordshire this August. Then I get all sentimental about my relationship to Fairport Convention and the fact I have been attending Cropredy since 1982 and I believe this may very well be the last, it looks the right one to end on as well.

I think that next year may well be overshadowed musically by that strange anomaly that is Fairport Convention for me in many ways. Over the last few weeks I have been drawn to their music, that may very well be because I just bought tickets for Cropredy and a nostalgia that is definitely rose tinted. I have also pretty much decided this will be my last visit to that field. Of course I made the same statement in 1992 when I staggered back to my tent knowing I was leaving for the USA pretty soon, then I found myself back in ’97 and occasionally throughout the years, money and time allowing. I found a copy of Moat on The Ledge from the ’81 show when it was still considered a reunion stuffed in the back of a wardrobe. This record caused me much grief when I bought it in Probe records all those years ago, not hip enough probably.

Well who really knows what will happen next, I know I have found it hard to sit and write recently, not much to really say. I had to force myself to sit down for this. For my own sanity more than anything. I get back to the USA right before the inauguration so we will see what they brings. It is exciting concerning times indeed.