find the cost of freedom…

I sat and watched the dreadful mistake of Afghanistan come to its inevitable conclusion, did anyone ever think it was a good idea?

All I could think was since 9/11 how much life, military and civilian and other resources have we as a species wasted?

I read/watch the news seeing ours and others freedoms being eroded, our hopes being quashed and I wonder.

Being a pacifist it seems is now considered unpatriotic, having a social conscience is considered at best socialist, at worst communist. Doubting that all military personnel are heroes is a sin worthy of stoning and considering that some peoples may have a reason to have a suspicion of the west can’t be contemplated, The idea that racism may have permeated our laws and society is intolerable.

Sometimes it really feels that we have become the thing we are so adamant we are fighting against, nations governed by intolerance, where compliance is more important than thought. We rail against women being oppressed in other countries and allow it to happen in our own, the hypocrisy is palpable.

we looked into the ethers…

Aaaaaah the endless Zoom/Skype phone meetings.

I have been reading about the adverse affects of video conferencing, as I prepare to sit in on 6 hours of conferencing ahead, at one point I will simultaneously Zoom and Skype, I am not looking forward to this and knowing my mum she will WhatsApp video call about the same time.

Things that happen that are good or exciting are limited in these Covid times.

Several months ago I ponied up some much needed cash to order Dusseldorf by Steve Hillage, a recording of a concert in said city on 23/8/79. I waited and waited and worried and then a virus hit and still no package from the UK with my exciting album enclosed. Eventually I gave up and emailed the seller, who within minuted gave me a refund with no communication. Oh well I though all is well at least I got the money back. I then went about my business with my desire for the album filed away somewhere in the back of my mind.

Yesterday I took a drive to the post office to pick up the mail. I do this late at night to avoid the people. I live about 8 miles outside a small time and have my mail sent to a PO Box, there is then the exciting parcel locker to open, it’s like Christmas.  9pm is a strange time to get the mail though no matter what you say.

Sitting in the parcel locker was an anonymous package that when I tore it open was my Sleeve Hillage album. Oh joy now I have a free record and feel bad for the seller who has refunded me. I contacted him and he was most understanding, wanted no cash and was happy I got the record.

All I have to do is listen to it now, thats next as the 1979 period for Hillage was amazing, that is the period that the Live Herald album came from.

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I am so happy about this. Live Herald was three sides live and one studio, this is three LP’s of Hillage goodness. More about it after I listen I am sure unless I just take a nap.

In other news Bambi came to say hi as I was on my way out to get the groceries and then the mail on the way home. So many good things in these Covid times.

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he’s full of piss and vinegar…

Some people fantasize about being at Woodstock, or Altamont, watching Ozzy in his hey day with Randy Rhoades, peeking in as the Stones recorded or seeing the Dead at the Avalon or Joy Division in the early days, attending Stonehenge in the 80’s or any number of iconic moments in rock history.

If I could attend any moment in rock and roll history, which is at the end of the day a pointless fantasy, I would want to ride in the back of the VW Bus with Guy Clark and Townes Van Zandt as they talked songs and drank whiskey, or sit and listen to Guy tell stories of the wild days as he made a guitar. I would want to watch Rodney Crowell and Steve Earle try to impress him with a song they had written, knowing they were performing for a true craftsman.

The first time I heard Guy Clark it was sat on the floor of Daves house in London before we went to see him with Townes Van Zandt, somewhere in the city int he 90’s. The power went out a few minutes into the set, we sat around by candlelight as two masters played. It was a magical evening and the smell of tobacco and whiskey always takes me back to that night. At least thats how I remember the night, reality may be different.

Vanilla wafers and tornados and capes and childhood and cigarettes and Dublin and knives and trains and childhood, love and lust and tomatoes and melons and Texas and friendship and cooking and guitars  and most importantly stuff that works, are all subjects Guy covered in his songs. He is single handedly responsible for me and Michelle buying property to grow tomatoes on.

“Loves a gift thats surely handmade” has summed up my attitude to relationships since I heard the line.

For years I drove a beat up old Ford F150 with a rusty roof and a slider by your feet that would blast hot air on your legs in the summer and cold air in the winter because it was stuck open. I played Guy Clark as I drove and felt like a cowboy, of course I was a pale scouser living the American fantasy, not the dream that was a different car.

I once sat in a hot and sweaty room drinking Old Crow Whiskey listening to my friend cry about his love leaving him. It was his fault and he knew it and at some point we rolled out into the street and howled at the moon when Out In the Parking Lot played on the radio.

“Looks like everybody’s lookin’ for a friend out in the parking lot…”

IMG_2753.JPGThis evening I went for a walk with Michelle and my grandson and the dog Syd up to the copse of cedars at the top of the hill. We watched the deer drink in the creek and then Cody ran pell mell down the hill skinning his knees at every twentieth step or so he climbed up, dusted himself off and took off again, nobody has told him to adjust his expectations and he knows to trust his cape.

In these strange days it is good to connect to the earthiness and class of Guy Clark. He worked at writing songs, it was a craft for him and he would always admit he had not written his last song or best one whenever he was interviewed. I shook Guys hand after his show in Portland awhile ago, he had a cold and was not feeling well but he still played a blinder of a show and had time to talk to the kid in the front and play Black Diamond Strings for him even though it wasn’t planned, he stayed until the last person had left and was courteous and gruffly gentle. I had nothing to say to him except thank you, maybe it was enough, it certainly felt that way and thats how I remember it.

“Only two things that money can’t buy, thats true love and homegrown tomatoes…”

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always the same…

Three unfinished posts, they kind of went this way:

Oh god the coronavirus, idiots in charge, people dying unnecessarily, orange nemesis etc.

My son pointed out I am managing to stay in my echo chamber. I tried watching One America Network and it made me angry. I watched Fox and well  that’s another thing. I watched CNN and yes I am not alone.

The biggest problem however has been the lack of yeast for making bread. I am not sure why making bread is so important in these days of the Covid-19. Maybe it’s to do with being able to do something for myself, being somewhat self sufficient, or the mere physical act of baking helped. For three weeks we have searched out the elusive yeast in supermarkets and other places and couldn’t find any. I am sure this is an intrinsically 1st world problem when confronted with the dreaded virus. I fought the urge to make a starter/levain/poolish or whatever you call it. Basically, water flour and wild yeast that hangs out all over the place. It just seems a little too hipster.

In the end however the deep desire for pizza won out and we began the starter three days ago. You have to name your starter and ours is called Daevid, you have to sing to it so we sing Gong.

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Day 1 nothing exciting here just a mess in the bottom of a mason jar, I tried to avoid the hipster glass of choice but it was all we had.

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Day 2 something living in there, hubba bubba bread company.

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Still day 2 and things are getting out of control so we made pizza dough.

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We fed Daevid again and he keeps producing the magical starter with is Radio Gnome friend. I am concerned things will overflow pretty soon.

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This is the end of day 2. I am not sure where we go from here, looks like we will run out of flour now rather than yeast. Tomorrow we make sourdough rolls, its quite exciting really, I am also making a starter bed to get the garden going and we will rototill our garden space and then fence the critters out. Too many projects and not enough time.

Musically its been like this:

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Yeah I know there is more that could/should be said about all of them.

As I looked through my weirdly and badly curated archive here I realized that one of the first books I talked about when nine years or so ago I started all this blogging shit was George R. Stewart’s Earth Abides, which is somewhat disconcerting. As part of this Covid thing I kind of though about organizing this place a bit, then I wondered why, it’s really here to amuse me and maybe some other people occasionally.

For those that are interested my youngest son survived the Covid-19 and is well, we continued to work on his new living space this weekend.

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The masks are for the fiberglass, it’s impossible to buy safety equipment these days so there was a need to improvise. Yes that is a fashion statement mud boots and pajamas, what every quarantiner is wearing these days.

Oh well thanks for bearing with me, the next post will involve tractors, rototillers, brush hog repair and maybe some yakking about music.

Until then here is Syd contemplating whatever goes through that head of his:

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the trees remain and the sun shines…

 

Life suddenly got real two days ago. My youngest son tested positive for the dreaded disease Covid-19. He is twenty and very likely going to be just fine in the short term, of course nobody really knows what the long term affects will be. He sits in his room playing video game with friends around the globe and his brothers, one in the next room and another finally out of his own quarantine down the road. This is the cost of working in health care these days.

His EMT teacher implied that he had to decide between his job and the class as he was constantly going back to work with infected older people. This seems both short sighted and perhaps illegal as the nursing program at the school has not put this restriction on things. More information is being sought out.

All five of us our now under some form of self imposed quarantine, there is no real advice about what we should do. Should we mask up and go to work? Should we seclude for a couple of weeks/days? There is contradictory advice from OHA, The CDC and the behemoth in chief. Liability seems to be driving the bus as always in the land of the corporation or the pushing of cures that may or may not have efficacy.

I end up every day and night doing my own health check. Do I have shortness of breath? Am I experiencing chest pain? Am I coughing? Am I well or unwell? Several times in the night I have woken sweating convinced I have it, I have to breathe and calm myself. I am fine, he is fine, we are fine.

Me and the dog went for a wander this morning after the 8a.m. meeting and before the 11a.m. We stayed where we are supposed to be, the dog did not pay attention to social distancing. The trees remain and the sun still shines.

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The truth is we are  all okay and there are people who are doing much more than us, making real sacrifices, this brief annoyance is just that an annoyance. This part will end and other things will begin and we will never be the same again. Maybe we will be a ore connected caring race,

The days roll by, the zoom meetings and phone calls, endless meetings. It seems that those of us who no longer actually go to work now seem to need to meet more frequently to justify our existence. I am coming to the conclusion that I really only have a part time job, or I can do my job more efficiently in a shorter time. The meetings are an annoyance, there is no real work so we make work.

The non-profit or charitable world has essentially been ignored by the government, local and federal. The American way is to lean on charities and also let them fail as we are all ultimately supposed to be self-sufficient. All of these things have resulted in the lack of our major fundraiser happening you really want 500 people in a room right now? This means our ability to be self-sufficient is limited. We all know that the stimulus will really end up being focussed on corporations and the profit margin.

However it is the none profits who are managing to meet this challenge with consistency, calmness and empathy as our government partners flounder, bully and attempt to intimidate their way to getting their needs met. Top down example I guess.

Most of my  work is talking to people, supervising managers of social service programs,  and training people. None of this requires a whole lot of work from me right now. Yes I still meet with the people I supervise over a screen. I miss my young people who I mentor and train. I Zoom in to their meetings and they smile and wave give me virtual hugs, and we are disconnected. They are doing the work and I like the head of state at a time of crises am sequestered for their own safety under a mountain somewhere trying to figure out what is actually happening. I send them gifts and masks and chocolate and they do the work.

Our house is divided, I am at one end in my space working, my wife at the other. In the middle is my eldest son and his son playing and laughing and rolling around. In his bedroom is the youngest laughing and coughing and every now and then taking deep breaths. Hopefully all will be well and we will get through this all.

Training plans, goals, board meetings and budgets don’t seem so important right now.

For the very first time in the twenty five years I have worked for this organization this is the first time I have not been on site for a crises. I have been through snow storms, power outages that lasted weeks, landslides, trees falling, epidemics and floods. Now I am not allowed there to do the heavy lifting, collect the treats, smile and let people know up close they are doing well. I am now at that social distance dictated by exposure and age. I am essentially the risk, they are to be protected, kept safe and nurtured, the woman I have mentored to this point gets to be the strong one, the anchor, the answer and this is right. She deserved the whisky we had delivered to her house tonight.

We will get back to normal service eventually whatever that means, thanks for bearing with me.

guitar lessons for the wife…

The weekend is drawing to a close. It’s getting hard to notice are we in the week or weekend?

You can ignore the next couple of paragraphs if you like.

I have to admit that there is not much work getting done in this working from home period. I am beginning to realize that in the face of a pandemic my work is not really that important. I am as we now say non-essential. It’s strange because I used to be essential and now feel I have been downgraded on some level, no longer relevant it seems.

My youngest son went for the test this morning, Happy Sunday I suppose. I had a bit of a melt down, became irrational, angry, frustrated, pissed off. I have been avoiding the news today so I don’t have to get angry at the great orange idiot in chief as his flapping lips serve up lies and deceits and insignificant and inconsiderate platitudes, and also just so I don’t melt down at the sight of the buffoon in chief.

We now live in a world of curves and peaks and flattenings. It’s a world that seemed relevant when reading the book or watching the movie, living it however feels like an understatement. I always imagined that the authorities couldn’t really be that incompetent in real life, and lo and behold they are worse. I guess this is what the relentless willingness to be swayed by wealth has brought to our leaders. They are not leaders they are bought and owned by the money men and the brokers of power, swayed hither and thither by the lobbyists and pundits and the cash cow owners. There is ore concern for this thing called “the economy” than human life. I always Knew this but never thought I would see it acted out so transparently, they really don’t care for us.

So what’s the music of the apocalypse tonight?

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Ah yes Starless and Bible Black. Nothing like King Crimson to toll the bells with. Bring out your dead into the fractured landscape created by the great deceivers.

It’s the type of music that will break your will. Leave you weeping and wailing and clawing your way out of the nightmare. Violins. viola’s, guitars basses and drums tolling the death knell.

Actually it’s incredibly beautiful, irreverent and totally unique.

Thanks for your attention if you made it to the end. It’s strange times and all we can do is do our best to make it through, take care of the at-risk, love each other and make sure we let people know they are cared for as our leaders have shown that we are pretty much on our own regardless of our offical essentialness.

but sooner or later it all gets real…

The weekend, well Saturday.

A strange day. No TV news today, this was a decision someone else made, I have become addicted to information. I did however read the Guardian online. No good news.

I went outside at 8:30a.m. and came in to eat lunch and to cook dinner. I sat in the yard, IMG_3095.JPGin the rain at times and tended the burn pile. I also moved some cedar bark chips we had delivered and shoveled. Syd played with a stick, every now and then he decided it needed to be thrown for him so I did.

At one point I wanted a new blade for the reciprocating saw, I walked to the car and turned around. These things need to go on a list nowadays, no frivolous trips.

Yesterday as I stood around in the pharmacy, constantly moving to avoid contact with others I picked up some essential items that we were missing, pencil sharpener, puzzles for my mother-in-law, new windshield wipers for my car. These things are mundane but heading out to get them comes with a risk that has never been present before.

New list started:

Wood blade for the reciprocating saw

Yeast

Rice

Jalapeno’s

The list goes on, it gets bigger and bigger, things that were just a car ride away a couple of weeks ago. The other day I drove by a thrift store, the parking lot almost empty and a part of me thought “I bet there are some great record scores there.” I pulled in and then pulled out of the lot, it’s not worth it too many people.

I sat in the rain and FaceTimed with my mum. She is holding up, doing small jobs, baking cakes for herself, talking on the phone to her friends and watching the afternoon movie, reading her books. I have managed to make sure she gets her food and stuff delivered, she sends me lists all the time and I add things to the order. It’s quite sweet really. 6000 miles has never seemed so far though.

IMG_3102.JPGI have been working my way through some of my essential records, a bit of fear that I will maybe not hear them again unless I do it now. This is fatalistic and just another excuse to play the damn albums.

I have also been indulging in comfort foods, hmmm Shredded Wheat, wow what a sensation, it’s been so long since I ate them, I bought large biscuits though none of this mini wheat shit. This stuff is the stuff of culinary legends, essential eating, lots of cold milk and some sugar, what else could you ever need in a breakfast experience? Apart form I just ate the at 9p.m.

So one of tonights gems is Neil Young’s On The Beach. It feels apt. I have no idea if the title has anything to do with Neville Shutes book but it feels a little apocalyptic at times. I have written about this before I believe. If our re interested it’s here:  BEFORE

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After that I dug deep into my listening past, sometime in the early eighties in W.H. Smith in Huyton I bought Orange by Al. Stewart. Yes Al is the least convincing of the hipsters but for some reason I find his confessional slightly uncomfortable songs to be really engaging. His penchant for history is also fun. This is the last of his truly great confessional albums. I always wanted to have such romantic adventures with young women. My long  hair flowing in the wind as I wore my sheepskin coat in picturesque spaces with a body contemplative expression on my face getting ready to quote Rimbault.

IMG_3104I used to buy Al Stewart records along with other records in order to hide the shameful record behind something a little cooler. This time I think it was a copy of Marillion’s Real to Reel that hid my shame. Now some would say this is not cooler, but they are wrong. You would have to have cloth ears to think Real to Reel was not cool. So that wold make the shameful purchase of Orange in 1984, when I probably should have known better according to my friends.

Orange is full of songs about Spain, Amsterdam, deceit, love, treachery, washing the sheets and Jimi Hendrix, what more do you need to recommend it. It also has Rick Wakeman pounding the keys and Bruce Thomas from the Attractions, before there was an Attractions, doing bass duties. What more could the love sick teenager need. This was also the first time I ever heard anyone apart from the Byrds or Richie Havens cover Dylan, yes I led a somewhat sheltered life at times. Also Al could play guitar as there is the requisite guitar piece this one also involves a cello which makes it better.

Later on I discovered that those sheep skin coats smelled like Catweazle had peed himself in them, this is a direct quote from the beloved Annie who drank scrumpy and Owd Roger snakebites. She would therefore know this smell intimately. Also mens hair, no matter how long and flowey,  never blows attractively in the breeze unless you are Fabio or Robert Plant, this is actually the standard by which mens flowing hair is judged, are you bodice ripping Fabio or Rock God Planty? Anything in between or less than is not good enough.

So all of this talk of Real To Reel caused me to drag it off the shelf. Remember the Fame label? Damn side two may be all you need to know about Fish era Marillion.

Side two if you are a genesis fan you will notice was recorded at the De Montford Hall Leicester where Genesis Live was recorded. However Forgotten Sons and it’s anti-war theme summed up the Falklands war for many, Garden Party and Market Square heroes was always a party at Marillion shows. Good way to end the night I guess.

 

 

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.