Blog

Greta Thunberg the Inconvenient Truth

“What’s infuriating about manipulations by the Non Profit Industrial Complex is that they harvest the goodwill of the people, especially young people. They target those who were not given the skills and knowledge to truly think for themselves by institutions which are designed to serve the ruling class. Capitalism operates systematically and structurally like a cage to raise domesticated animals. Those organizations and their projects which operate under false slogans of humanity in order to prop up the hierarchy of money and violence are fast becoming some of the most crucial elements of the invisible cage of corporatism, colonialism and militarism.” – Hiroyuki Hamada

Recently my Facebook page and mainstream media both seem to be full of articles and praise for the young Swedish activist Greta Thunberg. Now I’ll start by saying that I’m sure her intentions are honourable, I’m sure that she is one hundred percent genuine and indeed that the effects of climate change are real – although the cause of climate change is not necessarily clear as the conclusion in this excellent recent research paper shows: Propagation of Error and the Reliability of Global Air Temperature Projections Conluding as it does with the sentance ‘ The unavoidable conclusion is that a temperature signal from anthropogenic CO2 emissions (if any) cannot have been, nor presently can be, evidenced in climate observables. ‘

Although the claim by her mother that ‘She can see carbon dioxide with the naked eye. She sees how it flows out of chimneys and changes the atmosphere in a landfill‘ should ring a few alarm bells. Incidentally her mother is Swedish opera singer and celebrity Malena Ernman who has apparently made 10 albums and had two hit singles and appeared in the Eurovision contest. Her father is actor Svante Thunberg, while her grandfather is actor and director Olof Thunberg.

However, she is being manipulated by the world’s financial elites, via vehicles like large environmental NGOs, to serve a pre-existing agenda having more to do with expanding capitalism than reversing or mitigating climate change. Basically she and most of the public (including possibly you dear reader) are being ‘played’.

Much of this is detailed in very great depth by independent reporter Cory Morningstar. This is published here, unfortunately it is a very dense and detailed read; but for anyone wishing to examine what is really going on I would suggest ‘sticking with it’.

Since writing this I’ve found a series of podcasts where these (well the first ones anyway) are read

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

As an aside I can find very little, anywhere on the internet, on how much money is actually funding this 15/16 year old’s well orchestrated publicity jaunt around the world. Update (26.09.19) Cory Morningstar has done another excellent piece examining the government organisations, companies and non profit organisations who are involved. It can be read here.

I never actually thought I’d find myself agreeing with Jeremy Clarkson who wrote; Anyway, this means that Miss Thingamajig will have to go to New York, and obviously she can’t use a plane, because she’ll be called a hypocrite. So this, then, is her opportunity to show the world that there are practical, sensible alternatives to a quick seven-hour flight on a Boeing 747. And she’s done just that, saying that she will make the trip on a 60ft racing yacht.

Naturally, this has made all her disciples very happy, but hang on a minute. What’s the message? That the half a million people who fly every day from Europe to America should use a £15m yacht instead? It gets worse, because if you examine the yacht she’s using, it’s not as green as you might imagine. First of all, it is equipped with a diesel engine. Ha. You didn’t know that I knew that, but I do. And second, it’s made mostly from carbon fibre, which cannot be recycled effectively and which uses 14 times more energy to produce than steel. Which can be recycled very easily indeed.


Some good points Jeremy even if I do think you are part of the problem.

For anyone who doesn’t have the time to read all the articles I linked to I would suggest that you listen the interview with Cory Morningstar starting at about 8.20

There is no point me repeating much of what Cory has already published; if you are truly interested you will read it, assess it and formulate your own opinions. If you can’t be arsed well stick to the Daily Mail and the other main stream establishment propaganda and keep your head in the sand.

But Greta Thunberg is being strategically exploited by the World Bank, the UN, and the non-profit industrial complex that serves the ruling classes. They are using her to advance their own self-interests and objectives – that are in direct opposition to everything this young woman articulates. This is being presented as a “leaderless movement” – very much the “New Power” methodology and religion for the capitalists – theorized by Jeremy Heimans (Avaaz/Purpose) for mass movement building – that serves the most powerful and destructive forces on the planet.

The manipulation of young, malleable minds is at the foundation of Western indoctrination in order to insulate a failing system and mask the market solutions being designed to address it. Market “solutions” that benefit the rich at the expense of  the environment. Hence, the youth are always the sacrificial lambs of the profit and non-profit industrial complex.

“We have to be more than this predictable civil disobedience movement that is organising a data collection dream for authorities. As much as I appreciate it in some ways, a lot of it has been turned into corporate activism that is conditioning environmental movements. There is a lot of big money trying to “roll-out” these kinds of green economic structures that people are not prepared to understand what they imply in practice, because people do not necessarily know the flaws or reductionism of carbon accounting. People do not necessarily know what carbon accounting is being used to justify. Therefore, the flowery and fiery environmental rhetoric from “youth leaders” sounds good, but they are not questioning the market-based mechanism and private sector profiteering that is implied with the internationally agreed upon climate change mitigation strategy.

Really, it is just the repackaging of the same capitalist program, but now it is “green” with new technologies and justifications. “

Edit: Just after posting this link I came across this article and this article which kind of echoes my thougths.

Here are some more articles in a similar vein

The Creation of Greta
Greta Inc.
Unpacking Extinction Rebellion — Part I: Net-zero Emissions
Unpacking Extinction Rebellion — Part II: Goals and Tactics
Unpacking Extinction Rebellion — Part III: The 4th Industrial Revolution
Veritable Uprising or the (Faux) Real Thing?


Share

How to install 4G Broadband if you don’t have fibre.

Ok so if, like us, you live down a remote valley in Wales you may not have access to a decent broadband connection. In fact it is highly likely that you don’t as the whole roll out of fibre broadband in Wales has been a complete and utter fiasco, a cockup of monumental proportions and a financial scandal that no one seems to be investigating. We have promises in writing from a Welsh minister that we would be connected to fibre by 2016. Three years later there is still no sign of it!

Extract of letter from government minister promising fibre broadband by 2016

We’ve done our bit in trying to improve things including contacting our local AM and MP, the Welsh Government, the BBC and setting up a Facebook Group to try to bring fellow ‘sufferers’ in Wales together. My neighbours and I even featured in a BBC ‘news’ article; in true BBC style they investigated none of the issues and posted some dumbed down nonsense masquerading as news.

A much better read about some of the issues can be found here.

Accordingly it was time for some practical action to see if we could improve things for ourselves. We did and here’s how you can if you are lucky enough to live where you can get a 4G phone signal outside your property. Most of my neighbours are not as fortunate as me in this respect.

I will stress that I’m no expert and am just giving you the benefit of what worked for me. If it doesn’t work for you or you fall off a ladder that’s not my problem (because you should not rely on this as being from someone with expert knowledge). So big disclaimer: do this at your own risk, if it doesn’t work, dont blame me, you are advised to seek professional assistance from someone who knows what they are talking about.

Firstly establish if you can get 4G. We can’t get a signal in our house but a 4G phone can just get a signal outside the front of the house. You need to check if you can. First check the various mobile companies coverage maps online to see which provider might cover your area.

The coverage map for Three is shown below for example. In our case it says we can’t get a signal.

Coverage map for our postcode

In fact the postcade location isn’t quite accurate and we are just on the edge of the shaded area up and to the left of the location pin. So our theoretical reception is marginal.

Then get/borrow/ask a friend with mobile phone on that network to check if you can get a 4G signal at your location. If you can check at each (open) upstairs window around the house or even put a ladder up and try (without falling off). If you can get some sort of signal outside the building you are probably in luck.

Once you have established that you are in with a chance you’ll need; a 4G router, a phone SIM card (with data), and external 4G aerial and an aerial mast.

Just for the sake of completion I’ll mention that EE offer an ‘all in one’ 4G install service and ongoing contract – but it’s expensive.

You need an unlocked 4G router that will accept a phone Sim phone/data card. I bought a secondhand Huawei E5186s off Ebay for around £55. This is an old model and I believe that they were ‘badged’ for European Telecom companies and were being sold off as surplus.

Front of router

Your router should have 2 aerial sockets on the back where you can either screw two (supplied) indoor aerials or the two leads from an external aerial.

Back of router

You need to securely fix a mast and a 4G aerial on the outside of your house. Location is important; it generally wants to be at the highest point on your house you can get it and be orientated towards the phone mast transmitting your signal. If you are in a rural area like me it is likely that there is only one phone mast serving your property. Ours is 8 miles away. However, the lead to the aerial should not, ideally, be longer than 5m because of signal loss; so you will need to think carefully about location of the aerial and router into which you plug the aerial leads. The router also needs a power supply (so you’ll need a power outlet nearby) and you will need to distribute it around your house via wi-fi or ethernet cable (a solution for the latter might be to use Powerline adapters).

You can find the location of local telecoms masts using the Mastdata website (sign up is free for 30 days).

Our aerial is a Poynting Xpol-2 this is a directional aerial as we know there is only one phone mast serving our property. I lined the aerial up by plotting our house and the phone mast on Google Maps and drawing a line between the two. I then tweaked it by watching the signal strength bars. The Poynting website has some good information on installing an aerial. There are also some good videos at the bottom of the page explaining things like cable loss.

An onmi directional aerial may be more appropriate where there are several masts in range. In extreme range situations a twin Yagi aerial may be better; so you may need to seek out more information on this from a specialist supplier (told you I’m no expert). There is some good background on aerials here.

Poynting Xpol – 2

The Xpol – 2 has fixed 5m leads that terminate with standard connectors that screw straight into the aerial sockets on the router. So now all you have to do is fix your aerial mast to your house, secure the aerial to the mast (I got my mast and fittings from Toolstation), secure the twin cables and run them into the house, probably by drilling through the wall, or through a window frame or via some other means and connect the leads into the back of the router. You can then plug your computer in via ethernet or use the wifi facility.

Our aerial on a cranked pole just above eaves level on the side of the house facing the phone mast 8 miles away near the Carmel telecoms tower.
Here’s our aerial on a cranked pole just above eaves level on the side of the house facing the phone mast 8 miles away near the Carmel telecoms tower.

You will of course need a phone card/data sim for your chosen provider. I initially bought a 2Gb PAYG data card just to check all was working. This is just inserted into a spring loaded slot on the side of the router. In my case it is Micro sim (so be aware of Sim sizes if you are thinking of switching for a phone Sim as many phone Sims are smaller nano size).

Mobile phone companies sell both data Sims and phone Sims. The former are just for tablets etc. and just for data. They tend to be more expensive and until recently you could only use a data card in a wi-fi router. Since an Ofcom decision (I think) in 2018 it has been possible to use an ordinary phone Sim with a data allowance (often unlimited) in a data only device. These tend to be cheaper and my Three Network phone card on a 24 month contract with unlimited data is £20 a month (these deals can fluctate). I’ve had no issues using a phone card with unlimited data. Perhaps just buy a cheap PAYG one with a small amount of data for testing first before you sign up to a contract? Don’t forget that once you ditch your landline broadband you are entitled to a saving on the line rental charges as well. I shall wait until I’m out of contract before giving BT the ‘two fingered salute’. I still intend to keep a landline for now just in case fibre does come along in the future but I may well experiment with Voice Over Internet (VOIP) calls in due course.

Basically that’s it. Turn your router on and hope that the signal bars light up, we get between two and three bars eight miles from the transmitter. If they do light up you are ‘in business’. Tweak the aerial orientation if necessary. It normally takes a while (15 minutes?) until your new Sim card is registered on the network.

If you need to access the router settings for the Huawei just type 192.168.8. into the browser bar; the default username and password is usually ‘admin’ for both.

So before this I had internet speeds of around 1.4Mbps down and 0.3Mbps up (for urban readers, shaking their heads in disbelief, that is better than many others in rural areas). Now the speed varies depending on load on the phone mast etc but this is what I just measured (It can be less it can be more) as I wrote this. 50 Mbps is an excellent result.

As I say, if you’re in the same situation, and know that there is some sort of 4G signal available to you this may be worth trying (but as I keep repeating don’t blame me if it doesn’t!). Good luck.

Share

This Red Poppy Nonsense is Getting Out of Hand

A few people might get offended here. Good, because the British public needs a fecking big ‘wake up’ call as we head towards another Remembrance Day.

The red poppy was once a symbol to remind us of the senseless massacre of millions upon millions of people in muddy fields far away from home. The poppy was supposed to say never again to the horrors of a spat between politicians murdering a generation. In Britain it has been turned  into a symbol of militarism  It is being used as jingoistic propaganda and is now being hijacked by the right wing and the message is no longer ‘remember the senseless slaughter‘ but ‘support our brave lads‘.

We stopped wearing the red poppy quite a few years ago as we realised what was actually happening. The ‘poppy mafia’ certainly seems to have grown stronger in recent years.

Policing of wearing the poppy has grown absurd: public figures face attacks, all the way up to death threats, for not wearing one. There are fucking poppies all over everything, including buses, police cars and ambulances.

Meanwhile, opinion pieces glorifying the deaths in the First World War seem to be on the rise. Should you raise your head to say ‘actually this all wrong‘ you’ll be berated by the mob (which is I seem to recall what happened to those resisting facism before the Second World War in Germany).

They want us to forget what happened and pretend, as they did a hundred years ago, as though wars are nothing more than a jolly good lark. They brainwash children: not to mourn, but to strive to emulate.  They want us to think that having a military (to invade god knows where next) is actually a ‘good thing’ and necessary. It is only necessary for the Military Industrial Complex where it means huge profits for the arms dealers just as it did back in the First World War.

This is what war and ultimately the red poppy is about MONEY. They want a guillable, jingoistic public who will swallow the next war and deaths of young people so that they can still make MONEY.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That is why these children are being indoctrinated (note the ‘Future Soldier’ T Shirts) in the UK and yet in a few years’ time, if they follow the naive dream they are being steered towards, we could be seeing them shipped back in coffins. With a symbol, it is all too easy to simply radicalise children into militarism (sound familiar?).

More about how the poppy has been compromised through its collaboration with some of the world’s most controversial arms dealers, its increasingly militarised presentation of Remembrance, and its commercialised and trivialising corporatisation of the poppy “brand” can be found in an excellent download here

An excellent article on Poppy Fascism and the English Education System here

Thank goodness for the amazing 95 year old veteran Harry Leslie Smith, who unlike sleezeball politicians is prepared to put people ‘straight’ when it is needed.

Share

Apparently I’m not Immortal

Aortic heart valve replacement and aorta repair on the horizon and I (John) am guessing that open heart surgery is not a bundle of laughs.

It’s a strange thing to realise that things may end sooner than you thought . Thinking about your mortality is of those things you ignore. The days tick by and you just expect they will keep on coming; until the unexpected happens.

Anyone who has read this blog will know that Liz is a retired doctor. Just before she retired, about 8 years ago, we were watching television one evening when she put her head on my chest. ‘I think you’ve got a heart murmur’ she said.

Thus started a chain of events which led to me having a CT scan and echocardiograms every 9 to 12 months to keep an ‘eye on things’. Apparently I have bicuspid aortic valve and an aortic aneurysm.

After 8 years of monitoring things have got to the point that complex open heart surgery is going to be required. I was only told this earlier this week so it’s kind of weird to be faced with the knowledge that you need serious and risky surgery to carry on living.

Heart Surgery
A lot of ‘black humour’ is going to be required to get through this.

To be honest I’m not looking forward to this and it’s obviously a tad scary. On the other hand I’m fortunate enough to live in a country where this surgery is routinely carried out about 7,500 times a year and is free within our wonderful National Healt Service that slime ball politicians on the right are trying to dismantle.

I have no choice; but I can write some words about the process that may help someone else in the future. So despite being the world’s worst blogger I will try and keep this updated to the end (not the best choice of words, John).

The next step is being called for another scan and some further tests so that the surgeons have a clear idea of what they are facing.

So as I get called for tests and then surgery I’ll give you a patient’s eye view of things.

Now hopefully, with the skills of those who work in the NHS and the support of Liz, I’ll come through this ok. I’m a crap writer but would urge you to read this post by a brave lady who had far fewer years than I have had.

It’s a cliche but ‘live every day as if it is your last, for one day it will be’.

Share

Travelling in Bangladesh

We’ve failed lamentably at posting about our travels as most years we take several weeks out to travel. In the winter of 2017 we travelled to Bangladesh.

Bangladesh Map
Our 2017 Trip of Bangladesh

Flying into Dakha we travelled by ancient paddle steamer, car, plane motorbike and trains to (amongst other places) Barisal, Khulna, the Sunderbans, Sylet, Chittagong, Cox’s Bazaar and St Martin’s Island.

For us, other than the terrible traffic congestion in Dhakha, Bangladesh turned out to be revelation so much so that we immediately returned in February 2018 to visit many places we had missed the first time, particularly in the north west and the Chittagong Hill Tracts (the UK Government advise against travel here).

I really cannot recommend this impoverished country too much as a tourist destination. In the first place hardly anyone goes there so you will only see a handful of tourists. Secondly the people are amazingly friendly and with genuine Muslim hospitality you are received graciously everywhere. If you live in the UK you can also get a 28 day visa on arrival (a letter of invitation helps – but we didn’t have one for our first visit). We stayed, where we could, with local families in villages. It is a photographers dream (and you will find youself the centre of attention everywhere being asked to pose for selfies) with everyone more than happy to be photographed.  You can see a few photos on the gallery here

Rice Mill Worker Bangladesh
Rice Mill Worker Bangladesh

It’s strange how most people would probably give Bangladesh a wide berth, claiming amongst other things it is poor, dirty, dangerous and Muslim. Well to people who think like that your loss is our gain becuse we have spent over 6 or 7 weeks in this vibrant, culturally rich country (their annual outside book fair in February occupies the space of several football fields and lasts for a month). We have travelled on overnight paddle steamers, gone fishing with the otter fisherman, travelled on boats up rivers and through the mangrovees in the Sunderbans, spent days with the bonded labourers in brick kilns, visited the ship breaking yards in Chittagon, ridden motorbikes on the beach, shared village houses with the occupants and had some great food. Everywhere we have been met with huge smiles.

Even the poorest families will offer you tea and find some biscuits for you to eat with true Muslim hospitality; it really makes me mad to see some of the Islamaphobia in the west (particularly the western press). But then most who think that way have never actually met a Muslim family and interacted with them let alone gone to somewhere like Bangladesh (or Iran, Pakistan, Syria, Jordan etc.). Travel is indeed one of the best educations you can have.

Obviously it’s not the easiest of countries to travel in, but a local guide is not expensive and will smooth the path for you (message us if you want some contact details).

We may even return in 2019, although Bangladesh does have elections coming up at the end of 2018 and this may bring about some unrest – so we’ll keep an eye on the situation.

 

 

Share

Hifi, Vinyl is bollox so are valves and foo

Like a few males of a certain age I like playing music via my hifi system and to keep abreast of things I joined a couple of online forums (fora?). I won’t name them but I’m sure you’ll find them if you search for UK hifi forums. Most of the stuff posted there about valves, vinyl, cables, mains conditioners is complete and utter crap; as Alan Shaw the respected designer of Harbeth loudspeakers frequently points out.

I love this comment from him about speaker cables:

‘We noted recently that the signal from the microphone to the loudspeaker comprises a line. A line of electrons flowing towards the voice coil of the speaker drive units. Because the voice coils are in a magnetic field, and the voice coil is glued to a speaker cone, we can hear a sound.

Before we get too carried away with spending money on the speaker cable that connect the amp to the speakers, and which is sometimes the thickness of a hose pipe, what about the part of the chain that you the consumer can’t play with? The voice coil wire itself.

Did you appreciate that the voice coil wire is not much thicker than a human hair? And if we unwind a voice coil from a RADIAL 5″ or 8″ woofer we can stretch it out a long way …. far longer than the cable typically used to connect your amp to your speakers! So, on the basis of the sound be limited by the weakest link – in this case the thinnest wire – I’m satisfied that QED79 strand (or equivalent) is ‘more than adequate enough to get you going’.

It really is most bizzare and it’s like the world hasn’t changed since the video above. There is almost a universal lack of scientific knowledge and a desire to ‘believe any old crap’. This is perpetuated by an industry selling dreams of perfect and better sound to the delusional. Some audiophiles call themselves ‘subjectivists’ (i.e. if I can hear the improvement it is better) and they generally spend a fortune seeking audio perfection. Of course the only purpose of a hifi industry is relieve consumers of as much cash as possible and if some sort of ‘pseudo babble’ or fancy coloured light on the front of the equipment does that better than cold hard science they don’t really care; they just want your cash.

People claim that they can hear all sorts of improvements by changing this or that. This is of couse just expectational bias. Hardly anyone carries out listening trials in a scientific way. It’s a fact that if you take any well designed, competent solid state amplifiers and adjust for the difference in sound levels they output – people cannot distinguish between them. That’s why I use a good old Quad solid state amplifier rather than the latest ‘in fashion bling’. Valves by the way just add distortion (which may be nice when creating a sound in the first place) and can, some claim, be pleasing. However, as they move the sound away from what the artist or engineer intended they are ultimately not improving the sound but diminishing it.

This lecture shows how difficult it is test things scientifically.

Vinyl is bollox, there i’ve said it. It really is, no if’s and buts. The dynamic range of even a CD is 100dB or more compared to around 50/60dB of an LP; that is it is 100-1000  better than analogue working at it’s very best. Distortions of 10-30% are quite normal for vinyl replay of loud sounds. That amount of distortion may actually be masked by music, or may add a certain character not readily attributable to “distortion” by the casual listener. Some listeners may even like the distortion, as they consider a particular ‘sound’ to be normal to their ears.

The cutting engineers developed numerous craft skills for working around the technical reality of discs. They became masters of taking the recording and manipulating it so that it would, literally, ‘fit’ onto a gramophone record.

He/she squashes the dynamic range so that the grooves never accelerate the average stylus too fast, he raises the loudness of the quieter elements of the music so that they are both audible above the inevitable hiss, crackles and plops, he reduces the stereo width generally since that minimises stylus movement, he probably monos the bass below about 100Hz (reduces groove width, necessary for 20 mins/side), he sets the peak loudness to minimise distortion on the average pickup and so on.

He uses every trick he knows to compensate for the limits of the medium even though it is significantly different from that recorded by the microphone. And I haven’t even started on hiss, crakle and pops or discussing a medium that degrades over time and with playing.

Vinyl might be a satisfying theatrical performance but is never capabale of reproducing the original performance; full stop. The cartridge is dumb it cannot separate the wanted motion (the music) from the random motion (the noise).

The development of the CD red book standard by Sony/Phillips was an astonishing piece of work for the time and was the greatest leap forward in hifi reproduction ever. The standard still can reproduce everything that anyone over 18 (Some youngsters MAY technically have hearing that extends beyond the upper frequency range) can hear.

By far the biggest factors in hifi reproduction are how the material was recorded in the first place, how it was mastered (some people defending vinyl will quote the mastering loudness wars at this stage) and the acoustics of the room you are listening in.

As for those who claim that some vinyl has a better dynamic range than the CD according to the Dynamic Range Database; well you had better take a look at this.

Basically vinyl is taking the piss. Marketers are selling a theatrical performance (look at the artwork, feel how tactile it is) and a retro nostalgia to get people to part with cash (probably for the second time) for an inferior product.

Oh yea, you also have to turn it over halfway through.

Share

Ryan Young Scottish Traditional Fiddle Player

It’s been sometime since we wrote a blog here. But I doubt that there are too many regular readers! We’ve been keeping ourselves busy in the meantime. Not least helping a young traditional fiddler from Scotland; Ryan Young.Ryan Young Traditional Scottish Fiddle Player

We came across Ryan playing on BBC Alba on the TV and where so impressed that we got in touch with him with a view to seeing if we could help him at all. Ryan is quite simply, in our opinion, the most promising young traditional fiddle player in the UK. His interpretations of traditional Scottish tunes are quite stuning.

Our friendship with Ryan has ultimately led to him recording his first album with a triple Grammy award winning producer – Jesse Lewis.We still can’t quite get our heads around the fact that Jesse agreed to fly to Scotland to do this project; here are some of his albums he was involved in recently.

The album has been recorded in high resolution audio at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and we had a lot of fun helping pull all this together. You can find out more about this here. The album should be available around the first quarter of 2017.

If you are at all interested in traditional music; particularly the fiddle playing of Martin Hayes, Alasdair Fraser and Liz Caroll can I suggest that you check out Ryan’s playing. He really is in the same league as they are. He is, in my opinion, the best young traditional fiddler of his generation.

You can find out more about Ryan at his website www.ryanyoung.scot or follow him on Facebook.

Edit: Since posting this Ryan has won ‘Up and Coming Artist of the Year’ at MG ALBA Scots Trad Music Awards 2016.

Traditional Scottish Fiddler Ryan Young with Martin Hayes
Traditional Scottish Fiddler Ryan Young with Martin Hayes

Traditional Scottish Fiddler Ryan Young with Dennis Cahill
Traditional Scottish Fiddler Ryan Young with Dennis Cahill

Share

Rachel Sermanni at The Magic Lantern, Tywyn

Well its been a quiet few weeks for us old codgers. However, for the next 3 weekends we have 3 gigs lined up. The first was a trek up to Tywyn to see Rachel Sermanni in concert (last night) then next weekend we’re off to see Nick Cave play in Koko, London as John managed to get tickets for the special gig he is doing there as part of his film 20,000 Days on Earth. Then the weekend after it’s back to Tywyn to see Robyn Hitchcock who I blogged about earlier in the year when he played at the Laugharne Weekend. Crickey, at our age, we should be sat on the sofa watching the TV with a mug of cocoa not hurtling round the UK to listen to quirky folk play music in quirky places.

The Magic Lantern, Tywyn
Rachel Sermanni at The Magic Lantern, Tywyn

So speaking of quirky we headed off to The Magic Lantern yesterday afternoon in the van. Liz spent many weekends as a child in and around Tywyn so it was a trip back down memory lane to go back there. We ambled across country, in the annoying way old folk do (if you’re stuck behind in a car whilst John scans the countryside for photographs) and stopped off in rainy Aberdyfi for a cup of tea and fish and chips before trundling into Tywyn an hour or so before the gig. The Magic Lantern is a delightfully converted old Assembly Rooms/Cinema that has real character and rather fine acoustics.

Hitchcock at the Magic lantern
Hitchcock keeps an eye on proceedings at the Magic Lantern, Tywyn. This will be very weird in two weeks time when Hitchcock watches Hitchcock!

I get quite a buzz out of hearing new people for the first time and I’m not too sure how I first strayed across Rachel. ‘That sounds good’ I thought not realising that she was only a tad over 20 years old. Our paths nearly crossed in Clonakilty in the south west of Ireland when she was playing in De Baras pub but we were already going to another gig at Baltimore Fiddle Fair. So, as she lives in Scotland and not that much music gets to the far west of Wales, it wasn’t until last night we got to see her.

What a delight it turned out to be. The venue was perfect, the audience, although not large were attentive, and Rachel was delightful with the bubbly enthusiasm of one so young. Do not be deceived – her songs, voice and delivery are mature. Each song is is sung with a delivery that emphasises its meaning, a little stop or a little smile can mean a lot in these songs. Because she is so unique it’s quite hard to categorise her music; I’ve heard things like ‘folk noir balladeer’ banded about but that doesn’t really do her justice. Rachel is Rachel and I very much doubt she is ever going to be neatly slotted into any pigeon hole.

Songs that stood out for me were ‘Ever Since the Chocolate’, ‘Song to a Fox’, the Robbie Burns song ‘Ae Fond Kiss’ (which I hated when I heard Eddie Reader do it) and the delicious ‘Eggshells’ which was an encore sung without the microphone.

Rachel Sermanni
Rachel Sermanni singing ‘Eggshells’ at the Magic Lantern, Tywyn

A really good gig and it just proves that if you keep your ears open there is great stuff out there. Not wishing to turn this into a rant (us old folks are pretty good at that Rachel – and I’ve done it previously here anyway) I just wish a few more people would turn off their ‘mind numbing’ televisions, that are spewing out plastic pap in the spaces between the commercials, and get along to gigs like this.

After such a good evening what else could we do but park the van down by the estuary and fall asleep to the sound of the wind blowing through the trees. It beats a mug of cocoa and the goggle box any night.

Share

40 Years Ago – The Wild, The Innocent and The E Street Shuffle

The Wild the Innocent and the E Street Shuffle
The Wild, the Innocent and the E Street Shuffle

Forty years ago today one of the greatest rock albums of all time was released. It was the difficult second album for a 23 year old Bruce Springsteen who went on to become a household name.

People seem to love him or hate him. The greatest rock artist of all time or a boring formulaic oldie? This post isn’t about that debate.

How did this young man, who had not exactly been a success at school, manage to conceive, write and put together this masterpiece? Although he probably answered this question himself later in life – “For me, I was somebody who was a smart young guy who didn’t do very well in school. The basic system of education, I didn’t fit in; my intelligence was elsewhere.”

It’s a massive cinematographic style album of the characters and places of where he grew up; stories from the board walk and the beach. Springsteen is observing life from the street corner, rather than driving down the highway.

For me Bruce has never surpassed this album and whilst this was an early (and some argue weaker) incarnation of the E Street Band I love the production and feel of the recording. The music has vast open spaces and room to breath whilst at the same time you can almost feel the heat of a Jersey night. I much prefer the production to the later ‘wall of sound’ production.

As Bruce grew older he seemed to restrict himself into tighter and tighter song structures, that were much more formulaic (albeit a formula that most would be more than happy with). I guess we shouldn’t be angry that he never wrote down this way again, we should just be grateful that, at one time, he did.

So if you detest the thought of listening to Springsteen give this a listen and marvel at the creativity of a 23 year old; you may be pleasantly surprised and if you’re one of the ‘converted’ (like me) have another listen to probably the most underrated album of all time. The last three tracks, especially ‘Incident on 57th Street’ and ‘New York City Serenade’  are some of the best tracks ever written in the ‘rock’ genre (although it defies categorisation); lyrical and vivid story telling at its best. Probably my ‘Desert Island Disc’ if I had to just choose one.

Share

Tulla Festival 2013

As a few people know we’re kind of particular to traditional Irish music and the music of East Clare is high on our list. Most years we can be found heading for Feakle Festival (John helps out with their website) and it was a particular disappointment that we missed it this year due to the death of a close friend.

However, the neighbouring village of Tulla also has a smaller festival at the beginning of September and so we loaded up the campervan and headed of to East Clare for the weekend. Now Tulla can seem a bit of a quiet place (even the residents might agree) – by day it is an ordinary working town that probably doesn’t feature too highly on the tourist radar. It’s even known as ‘the Windswept Hill’. But for those in the know (together with neighbouring Feakle) it is a rich vein of traditional music that produces some of the finest pearls (that could be a tautology or some other linguistic faux pas – but I hope that you get the gist).

The music from this region is some of the best on the planet and I’ve seen some of the all time ‘greats’ playing in the pubs here; Liz Carroll, Arty McGlynn, Joe Burke, Seamus Tansey, Matt Molloy, Eileen O’Brien, John Carty, Mary Bergin, Darren Breslin – the list is endless. Mind you Tulla and Feakle have their own list of greats including the mighty Tulla Ceilidh Band and Martin Hayes.

We got to Tulla on the Friday to find the whole place buzzing with excitement as Clare were in the all Ireland Hurling final on Sunday (Probably the equivalent of the F.A. Cup final in the UK).

The Colours of County Clare
The Colours of County Clare could be found everywhere including John Minogue’s Pub

The Festival proceedings were due to ‘kick off’ around 8.00 p.m. on Friday night with a parade through the town. By 8.15 not much was happening (to the consternation of a couple who had found their way here from Quebec – and I had to explain that Irish time can have a slightly different meaning to elsewhere) but by about 20 minutes past the hour the Chapel Gate Wrenboys, All Ireland Wrenboy Champions, came strolling through town; looking remarkably like extras in Midsomer Murders. They then put on a lively, fun and (sometimes) bawdy show in the Courthouse; great fun.

Chapel Gate Wren Boys
Chapel Gate Wren Boys parade through Tulla to open the Festival 2013

From their we trotted across the road to Minogue’s bar to catch up with a few friends, have a few pints and listen to the session going on. There is clearly some strange ‘time vortex’ in Irish pubs; before you know it – it is 2.30 or 3 in the morning.

Saturday evening brought the main event; the Concert in the Court House hosted by Mary MacNamara, a fine concertina player who does much to teach the youngsters in the area. What a great concert it turned out to be with fine playing from the start when it was opened up by some of those youngsters including 12 year old Lilly O’Connor.

Sorcha Costello and Aisling Hunt
Sorcha Costello and Aisling Hunt, who won the duet category (U18)  at the Fleadh na hEireann, show why the music in Tulla is so strong. Brilliant playing girls!

The concert continued with a line up that just kept up a cracking standard all evening including, Johnny Og Connolly, Harry Bradley, Oisin MacDiarmada, Caitlin Nic Gabhann, Zoe Conway and the Full Set band. Brilliant stuff and a reminder that there is astonishing music out there.

Caitlin Nic Gabhann
Ciarán Ó Maonaigh and Caitlin Nic Gabhann

Harry Bradley
Harry Bradley in full flight

Zoe Conway and her husband John McIntyre
Zoe Conway and her husband John McIntyre

The Full set
Part of The Full Set (if you see what I mean). An excellent young band playing powerful music.

Once again it was back of to the pub afterwards where Andrew MacNamara, Eileen O’Brien, Mark Donnellan and Michael Landers playing a great session. ‘Playing’ is not quite the word for Andrew (whose playing can be best described as ‘fiery’) was trading unusual phrasing with Mark and the battle went on into the early hours with Eileen smiling to herself every time these two issued another challenge to each other. Mighty music; you’d have to have been mad to miss it. Another late night/early morning in a pub (Tulla has this effect)!

Sunday was the day of the ‘All Ireland’ final and Tulla seemed deserted. Some more sessions were happening at lunch time but most minds were focussed on the big game starting at 3.30 pm.

A Session in Minogues
A Session in Minogues at Tulla Festival 2013

Clare had not won the All Ireland Final since 1997. And there was much excitement as Clare led for most of the match, to lose the lead in added time and then equalise 30 seconds after the ‘end’ of added time. So it all has to be done once more in a few weeks time! Not sure I could stand that much excitement again.

It looks all over for Clare, losing by one point at the end of extra time.
It looks all over for Clare, losing by one point at the end of added time.

Then a defender knocks one over from long range 30 seconds past the end of added time!
Then a defender knocks one over from long range 30 seconds past the end of added time! It’s a draw.

Sunday evening was rounded off nicely by a CD launch from Edel Fox (concertina) and Neill Byrne (fiddle) who played a great set to finish the festival off. Time for another pint before heading for the Ferry and home. What a weekend that was.

Share