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If music be the food of love

December 9, 2017

If music be the food of love, we are spoilt for choice, and we should be pretty much loved-up to the dolly’s wax! – Perhaps that’s one of society’s problems, surfeit, sickness and death of true music/love? Anyway, don’t get me started.

The Bridge

Over the last few years, I have unintentionally been through a sort of musical detox, and I’ve found myself withdrawn from popular musical consumption. Partly ‘cos I just lost taste for, and enjoyment of, what I was hearing. Partly a mid-life shifting. Also, we are all experiencing a move from the ‘ownership of music’, the purchasing of records, CD and MP3s to the streaming of music: where we can listen to almost anything at the click of a button, through providers such as Spotify, Deezer, Amazon Music, and Apple etc.

The music I have been listening to has come through selected BBC Radio 6, Radio 3, and even occasional Radio 2 programmes. Also through social-media’ prompts to Youtube and the like – for example, via Twitter I have found delights hidden on BBC S4C, seriously really good simple honest TV, hidden from mainstream.  The BBC has a feature called My Music where if you hear something while listening you can simply add it to your list of interesting pieces. You can then simply ‘click’ and export your list of ‘likes’ to a service such as Spotify. Over the last year, I’ve unintentionally accumulated a few dozen ‘liked’ tracks on my BBC My Music.

I thought I’d share this odd selection of stuff that has been ‘liked’ this year. Many of these tunes have made me stop, pause, cease, yield, and think again.
I just loved hearing Rebroff’s playfulness 2’30” into his unique rendition of Kalinka. I first heard this at 7.30am one morning on my bike, thanks to @PetrocTrelawny and team.
Ešenvalds’ Stars is just beautifully rendered by Voces8 again discovery thanks to Radio 3.
Lewis & Leigh have a unique sound that I have not been able to forget after discovering them live in Nottingham last year.
Some tracks are odd, some carry baggage, some just resonate like a shining bell in a darkening disquiet.

I look forward to discovering more next year! or indeed tomorrow!

Stuff from 2017 …



Wild natureness

November 26, 2017

Do you remember the nature table at junior school?  Most of us are intrigued by nature, wild animals. ‘Back to nature’ and the ‘greenwash’ industry is a big deal. Many of us are currently loving our serving of ‘Blue Planet’ on Sunday nights.

Please don’t yawn, it’s discussed ad infinitum elsewhere, but recently I have not been able to shake thoughts about our ideas of ‘nature’ and ‘wild’.

As I look up from these pixels on this ‘device’; through the window, the blue sky and green meadow, scribbled with autumnal browns and blacks is simply but significantly invigorating in an inexplicable way. Yes, I know I need to get out more.

I often I see a scene, a sunrise, passing colours and textures etc and feel (think) the urge to capture an image, seconds later it is gone as the colours and composition change in passing. Perhaps it was not the image, the visual phenomenon, the sight, that is exciting. Perhaps it’s our recognition of something beyond our natural thought patterns that is the energising thing. So perhaps what is amazing is something wild inside me that is triggered by what we perceive? We are not wanting to share the natural sight, so much as we would love to share the wild vision.

You may notice my morning instagrams. Many of my photos are of wildlife or of natural views. But, I struggle to understand, why, when we want to celebrate goodness in our world we often revert to celebrating ’all things bright and beautiful’, ‘the stars, the rolling thunder’, ‘like a river’, ‘fire’, ‘lights’, ‘the birds of the air’ etc. Human nature often seems flawed; we require pills and potions, corrective mechanisms and language to keep us sane.
We often prettify nature, ignoring its wild survival mechanisms. We seek to get back to ’nature’, as if ‘human nature” is to build on, over and above the wild. Yes, we create stuff out of natural chemicals, but is what we do with the stuff a ‘natural’ progression. Or is it cultural? Is our culture a step on and over the natural wild. Is culture a step away from the wilderness? As soon as we start being human, is it still natural?

Yes, we are all excited by the natural/wild light and energy of a new day, but if I am honest, I am more excited but the amazing intriguing simple cultural things people can do. The simple joy children share when honest childlike ways break the adult pretence, the unconditional smile or appreciation shown by a stranger, the sharing of food, the breaking of debt and dues, the forgiveness of injury, the wisdom of age combined with over the vigour of youth, the emergency services’ dedication, the steadfastness of community workers, the morning puja, the celebratory meal, the coffee shop chatter… Is the essence of these things more wild than natural?

We return to the natural to wash our transgressions, to cleanse our busy minds…  Some of us use music to connect with our inner wild. Like our cultural imagery, much of what passes for music in our culture is so prefabricated that its ugliness passes for cool. Over the last few years, I have discovered great soundscapes through BBC Radio 3’s Late Junction, and even other ‘stuff’ on Radio 3. When the choir I am in plays with sounds in practice, the experience can be far more affecting than the most celebrated compositions.

So back to a wild naturalness … With music, the noise is wild, the composition is a construct; what we feel & think upon perceiving the sound or music can be phenomenal.
With visual art, the mark and light is wild, the composition is a construct; what we think and feel upon perceiving the vision can be phenomenal.
Perhaps in life, the natural is a construct, underneath this construct is a wildness that if felt and thought about might perhaps be significantly phenomenal.


Gazelle Ultimate

October 24, 2017

And so it came to pass…  after six & and half years and roughly 20,000 miles the ‘old faithful’ has been exchanged –  I trust its new owner will enjoy it as I did. See the history of my old Specialised here: Bike (pre Sept 2017)

One of the reasons for the upgrade – chain & chain-set wear & maintenance, gear wear and maintenance.
Over the last 6 years, I have discovered that bike commuting 12-20 miles a day takes a large toll on the mechanics of a bike. The condition of our roads and bike paths throws dust, debris and all manner of crud into the mechanisms of a bike. Without regular cleaning and maintenance parts wear. Even with cleaning and maintenance parts wear! The novelty (and cost) of this is ok for some, but I am not naturally a dirty-hands bloke. I have to put a thankful word in, to the lads at City Cycles in Thurmaston – great service always!


So a Gates ‘Belt Drive’.
Gates say “Free yourself from oily, rusty chains… Clean. Smooth. Strong. … last longer than chains, never need grease and are nearly maintenance-free … goodbye to high-maintenance bike chains. Say hello to simplicity and fun.”
We’ll see.


AndHub Gears‘.
The Shimano Alfine 8 speed. Shimano say “a stylish and sophisticated way to enjoy the ultimate urban riding experience”. Reviews are good: “…does an impressive work … you don’t have a problem with its weight … rapid and silent functioning … unpretentious maintenance”
We’ll see.


And theGazelle Ultimate S8‘.
I researched a good selection of belt drive city bikes. The interweb’s got a lot of good things to say. Thanks also to input from friends like 42 Bikes Dave and his research into a ‘Bike For Life’. Ultimately (forgive the pun), I landing on Gazelle, supplied locally by Future Cycles in Leicester.

Time will tell of course, but after a few good runs, I have to say “I am very pleased”! The ride is quiet, smooth and solid. The gears are simply a delight. I wondered if the gears would be enough but no worries there; flat out on the straight and down to near bottom for the few ‘hills’ on my commute (short sharp inclines).

A few tweaks to the delivery from the Netherlands. All thanks to amiable folks at Future Cycles in Leicester.

  • I have retained my old Brooks Flyer saddle. It’s likely a friendly pair of old boots. The saddle that came with the Gazelle was hot and definitely not as comfortable.
  • I have again opted for Marathon tyres, and moved from 32mm to 35mm to take a bit more of the tree-root-hit out of the ride.
  • I have also kept my Jones handlebars and well worn Ergon grips.  The bars are a more classic design that allows the rider to sit up more.

As I have said many times before, my riding style over the years, has changed from:
i. Trying to co-exist with motor traffic, riding a bike with a similar driverly attitude and outlook.
ii. Aiming to be more aware of place and adopting a more contented, mindful way…

Enough for now – just to say thanks again to the folks at Future Cycles in Leicester, and of course to the mensen(?) at Gazelle UK and the Netherlands.

Autumn Commute 2017

October 23, 2017

It’s been a while since I posted a bike video – but with the clocks going back I thought I’d capture the ride home  – next week it’ll be dark. 😦

Not that the dark’s a problem really. It’s currently pitch dark on my inbound journey at 7am anyway. I find that in the dark you can often see other traffic and they can see you, sometimes better than in the daytime. In the dark, vehicles are lit up (hopefully), and people on bikes, of course, should be lit up too! With lights, you can see vehicle’s lights approaching from behind, as well as hear them.

But for now here’s record of an Autumn 10mile commute out of Leicester. 3 x 10min films.

Autumn Commute 2017


…and below is a reminder of the old commute and weather from other seasons. Potentially weather to come – the thought of it is worse than the reality – Happy daze!


Wet and Dark:




October 22, 2017

I have always struggled with making my mark.

Some people live vibrantly, painting, splashing, etching, layering, and filling their canvases with energising colour and texture. Some people’s lives seem passionately imbued with sights, sounds, people, places, hobbies, habits… I am not talking about professions, I am meaning individual’s personal tapestries. People who plunge into culture and community, people who enjoy and celebrate many aspects of the world we are creating. I admire and applaud many of the people that stand out in our community. I admire and applaud hearty homemakers, community stalwarts, keepers of tradition and pioneering adventurers. Where would we be without them?

I’ve encountered plenty of stuff over time, and yes I have enjoyed and celebrated much of it, but alas I have never really opted to develop or evangelise this, that or the other. After 30 years of adulthood; after years of scribbling, erasing, doodling and redrawing; I fear my personal canvas hosts an accumulation of unfulfilled shapes, smudges, faded bleeding colours.

As a visual and performance art student I was always attracted to the abstract. Many years on, I still find the abstract more enticing than the real. I am drawn less to the objective material and more to the subjective essential.

With our media currently covering the centenary of the Russian Revolution, I am reminded of a favourite painting of mine; Kazimir Malevich’s ‘White on White’. His Suprematist paintings were aligned with his ideas around “the supremacy of pure artistic feeling” rather than the visual depiction of objects. Today, we seek objective truth over subjective opinion, but perhaps today more than ever, with our object worship and linguistic ownership battles, it might pay to be more mindful of a true essential supre-subjectivity.

On a recent trip to West Cornwall, the place where I was ‘brought up’, I was reminded of the power of the natural, the essential. The sea, the water, the natural or wild, the powerful landscape of the coast. Many of us are drawn to such places. Like hill-climbing, where we can find ourselves at a thin place, where our object filled lives meet ‘space’. Where we are confronted with a space bigger than our canvas, a power stronger than our tools, a force that might blow away cobwebs or wash tired hands or weary faces. An abstract place, where popular objectivity might be seen as shallow mirage, a place where we might be able to feel more and think more.

I work with paper; large quantities of paper. It has struck me when I wash my hands at work, how remarkably refreshing the water can be after a few hours handling reams and reams of paper. We cannot objectively see the dust we are handling but when washing we can subjectively feel the cleansing soothing freshness of washing away the patina.

As I mentioned, as time goes on, I am drawn less to the material and more to the essential.

Frank Bowling

I have always loved Malevich’s ‘White on White’ with its off-white depth, its imperfect cleanliness. But I also love vibrant resonate stuff like the work of Frank Bowling’s pure abstractions. I am thankful for passionate people who enjoy and celebrate our world. But I consider it vital that we are mindful of the cleansed off-white, the smudgy greys, the tainted blurry edges, and the residual watermarks that are perpetual, eternal, and will endure in and around us no matter what.

Imagination is more important than knowledge.” – Albert Einstein

In Praise of Goodness

September 17, 2017

We can all laud, lament, wallow and sizzle in the nastiness, the rats, the rot, the deceitful selfish unfairness that humanity creates and fuels*. The glorious joys that warm our world are all too often contemptuously ignored in our familiar routine race to our daily desires.

Joy to the world, the breath we breathe, an amazing thing, gives us opportunity to be, to receive, and to give.

Two of my favourite ideas; one from Wallace Stevens “the interaction between things is what makes things fecund”, and from Ezra Bayda “What happens when we slow down and pay attention? Everything! Innumerable delights are right at hand.”

Occasionally I feel the need to sing. To breathe in the largest helping of the essence of life and exhale…

A friend (EL), reminded me recently; In our endeavours, we blossom and flourish, and wither and perish; but nought changeth the immortal, invisible, wise, inaccessible, blessed, glorious, ancient, almighty, victorious, great, unresting, unhasting, and silent as light … fountains of goodness and love.

The gut-grafting, heart-healing, womb-warming, brilliance is ever present, a clenched fist must be opened to receive it, a simple gift. Yet, so often our culture smothers life with needs, wants, synthetic pretence, and all manner of nonsense dressed up as beauty.

In praise of Goodness;

The enthusiasm of youth.
The companionship of friends.
The hope of rescue.
The promise of pregnancy.
The bounty of sharing.
The healing of laughter.
The surprise of ingenuity.
The colour of spring.
The warmth of soup.
The wisdom of the old.
The options of the alternative.
The wishes of the brave.
The power of honesty.

Always simple and never easy. But, good is good, sing and shout it. Celebrate, just a little.

*Don’t let the b.stewards of doom get you down.

Save £585 a year?

September 9, 2017

Ahead of #cycletoworkday this year, I thought I’d just look at some figures, as I’ve biked ~3700miles commuting over the last year.

Below is an update to my 2011 ‘Commute’ costs post.

Current 2017 fuel costs:
Driving ~9.6 miles @ 7.5mpl, £1.18p/litre, costs £1.51 each way, that’s £15.10/week.

You can read about a previous bus, car, bike experience and costs here: Commute

So simply on fuel, I’m saving us ~£15/week.
That’s 39 weeks x £15 = £585/year.

Yes, I know I’m lucky to be able to ride a bike to work, yes there are some jobs where it’s not possible, but there are a lot of jobs where IT IS POSSIBLE!  You may recall, when it was initially suggested that I could cycle to work once a week, my response was ‘never in a month of Sundays!‘ – it was seriously not an option!  The idea was simply crazy!

(i) I’d get wet and cold and be a gibbering wreck when I got to work.
(ii) I really don’t fancy the ride home after a day at work.
(iii) It’s too far.
(iv) It would take too long.
(v) The traffic would be a nightmare.
(vi) I like my podcasts in the car.

After a few months and a transition to cycling daily, I found…
(i) Buzzing! and ‘up for it’ when I get to work. (The weather is not an issue if the right clothing’s worn, and inclement weather is much less frequent than you think!).
(ii) Take it from me, surprisingly the ride home is a great tonic!
(iii) It’s not as far as you think.
(iv) At an average rush-hour, by bike’s not much more than by car.
(v) Don’t be part of the traffic!
(vi) Radio* in one ear on the bike is fine (low volume). and ride off-road where possible.  (*BBCRadio3 AM, BBCRadio6 PM)
(vii) …

It’s taken me years to rediscover, there’s a lot to unlearn, perspectives change and the world becomes quite a different place.

I am not a follower of the sport of cycling, worthy though it is. Just as an average driver is probably not a follower of Rallying or Formula 1, exciting though they are. I am not a lycra lover. I don’t (anymore) try to beat my time! I don’t think you should have to “dress like a cyclist” to ride a bike – practical ‘normal’ clothes can be found to suit most purposes. It’s just riding a bike to get from a to b.

The simple act of riding a bike is good for so many reasons – personally, socially, mentally, physically, community, interaction, pace, progress, ambition… all can be fed by a new way (an old way) of experiencing things.

Perhaps think again, and perhaps cycle again?

Read my previous Celebration of Cycling post here.

You can see my bike related posts here: bike