Week 26 – TBT 2017 – Hunting for Witches

I don’t have much of a story for this track, though I know it’s only 10 years old. Put simply, it’s Dee’s birthday, she loves this song, so I thought I’d share this for her. Happy birthday Dee! 

I’ve not listened to much Bloc Party, though I’ve heard the name over the years. Note to self, listen to more because this is really good! 

Bloc Party – Hunting for Witches


Week 25 – TBT 2017 – Waterfront

Simple Minds are another one of those bands that I didn’t like, then I liked for a while, then I didn’t like them again. Now I can listen to a couple of their songs at a time, but I wouldn’t necessarily want to hear a whole album, and I doubt I’d try to see them in conert again. I went once, but was at the very back of the SECC in Glasgow and couldn’t really see them. And it took longer to get out of the car park than the gig had gone on for!

Anyhow, I chose this track because it shows that bass lines don’t have to be complicated to be effective, and I don’t think you can get much simpler than playing one note over and over! 

I hope you enjoy this blast from the past: it doesn’t seem to get played on the radio as often as some of their other tracks but is very worthy. This is the only one of their singles I bought (on 12″) and I don’t think I’ve any of their albums on vinyl.

Simple Minds – Waterfront

Week 24 – TBT 2017 – In The End

It’s hard to believe that this song is 17 years old! It appears on Linkin Park’s first album, Hybrid Theory, and is a classic of the NuMetal genre, which appears to fuse heavy rock riffs with synth sounds and rap. Linkin Park are probably my favourites from that genre, because their lyrics and musicianship come together beautifully to produce eloquent and melodic songs, some with a real cutting edge. I loved the video for this too. Incredible imagination to come up with flying things that look like whales and ancient statues. Enjoy!

Linkin Park – In The End

Reflections on poverty and a multicultural visit

I’ve been very fortunate this week to visit Prague as part of a business trip. Business was concluded early so I’ve had a bit of time to kill while waiting for my flight home. I came here last year with Dee and we both fell in love with the place. It’s not been the same without her, not quite as good, but it’s an enchanting city all the same. 
I’ve walked up to the castle, around the various buildings there and then back into the Old Town via the Charles Bridge. The views from the castle were superb, as were the sights while there. I’m now sitting in one of the main squares sipping iced tea, watching the world go by, and a number of things have struck me about this visit.

There seem to be fewer people begging this year. They kneel, elbows and head on the ground, with cups or hats outstretched, and don’t make a sound. Most of the streets are cobbled and it can’t be comfortable. Whether this is to encourage them to feel shame, to punish them for begging, or to prevent too many people doing it, you can’t help but feel for these people. 

It’s impossible to know their story, but trying to imagine how bad things must be got them to force them to beg in such a way is enough to make you weep. I wonder if there are less of them around because the authorities are cracking down hard on begging, whether they’ve been moved out of the tourist areas, or whether there are genuinely fewer people that need to beg here. 

While at the castle, I took the opportunity to visit the cathedral there. It is simply stunning on the inside. Upon reflection, there were visitors from all over the world inside that Roman Catholic building, and I’d be willing to bet that there were more non-Catholics in there than Catholics. It was apparent that all inside were marvelling at what they saw, from stained glass windows to the towering ceiling, and many were taking advantage of being in such a sacred space to commune with their god or their thoughts.

Walking the streets of this lively and lovely city, walking round the castle, and sitting as I am now having tea, I’ve been stuck by the plethora of languages spoken, at the number of visitors and at the number of nationalities represented. I can hear at least five languages at the moment – and none of them are English! 

I’m sitting here wondering at how everyone seems to get along. I’ve not heard an angry voice while I’ve been in the city. Staff everywhere are unfailingly polite. Is it simply the good weather that means all these faiths and creeds are enjoying the sights, sounds and tastes of Prague, or is there something else? Wouldn’t it be great if the rest of the world could learn how to do this too?

Week 23 – TBT 2017 – Smash It Up

Did you know that the first punk single released in the UK was New Rose by The Damned? Or that their brilliant double LP, The Black Album, had one side which was recorded live and which isn’t included in the CD version? I listen to that album a lot, and really missed the live side – until I found Spotify. Smash It Up (Parts I and II) is on there, and for as long as I can remember I’ve loved the bass line in Part I.  

This version on the video is a studio version, but it’s almost as good as the live one.  

I was lucky enough to see The Damned when I was in my teens. They released their Friday the 13th EP on the same day as I saw them, and the gig was memorable for a couple of reasons. There was a power cut during it, so Rat Scabies (the drummer) played a 10 or 15 minute solo while they got everything working again. Captain Sensible (guitarist) swapped his jacket with someone in the crowd because his original mohair one looked to be covered in spittle (not mine!) as was kind of customary (and gross) at punk gigs in those days. The support act was the Anti-Nowhere League, who found notoriety by having the B-side of their Streets of London single banned as an obscene publication, and they were very growls and menacing. 

I still follow The Damned and Captain Sensible on Facebook, though I’ve not seen them since the very early 80s. Listen to the track, and see if you can hear why I think the bassline is brilliant. 

Smash It Up (Parts I and II) – The Damned

Thoughts on mortality

Tomorrow I will be attending a family funeral. My relative died three weeks ago after a long battle with illness. He lived less than an hour from me, I knew he was seriously ill, but I never found the time to visit. Yet I’m finding the time to go and pay my respects, to support his family. In part that’s down to a sense of familial duty: going to funerals of relatives is what we as a family do.

That’s got to be the wrong way round, hasn’t it? Why have I waited till someone dies before paying my respects, before going to see him and his family. Isn’t the time that he (and they) most need me is when he’s still alive, so he knows that he’s in my thoughts? Isn’t that the kind thing, the caring thing, the right thing to do? These are thoughts that have been eating me up, and Dee has been very supportive throughout. 

That’s something that I recognise I need to do better. Spending time with people when they’re alive is a rare privilege, because all too soon they’re gone, and you’ll never have that opportunity again. 

Over 10 years ago I made a good friend when I trekked on Kilimanjaro. We never saw each other after spending those 10 or 11 days on the trip, but we spoke every couple of months and the friendship continued. It was a friendship born out of shared experience, and there were no romantic notions or undertones. One Christmas she emailed me to tell me she’d been diagnosed with terminal cancer. A few days later my house was flooded due to burst pipes and things were up in the air, with me staying in a hotel for a fortnight while repairs were done and the house dried out. At the end of January I thought I would drop my friend a line, but I saw on Facebook that she’d passed away a few days before. 

I was shocked by how quickly that had happened. I’d had no idea she was so poorly. And I’d had days where I did nothing but watch TV waiting for my house to dry out. Why hadn’t I phoned her, gone to see her, let her know I was thinking of her? 

It’s plain to see that I didn’t learn my lesson, but I’m determined to learn it now. Life is short. Life is precious. Spend your time with those you love and like. Be good to those around you and make the most of every moment you get to spend with them. 

Thank you to the heroes and heroines among us

Three “successful” terrorist attacks in the last couple of months here in the UK have led to an apparent upswing in extremist views. I’m not talking just about those who want to try to wreck Britain and our society, but also those who think that deportation is the answer. (The thing is, quite a few of the perpetrators have been born and brought up in the UK, so where would you deport them to?) There have also apparently been five terrorist attacks over the same period which government agencies foiled.  

I’m not going to write about the perpetrators, or about those who are pushing for a Trumpesque travel ban or blocking of immigration (again, if the perpetrators are born and brought up in this country, how would those bans work?)

What I’d like to do today is to pay tribute to the emergency services and others who ran towards danger rather than away from it. Over the years, the police in particular have come in for a huge amount of criticism. They’re “too heavy handed”, or “not well enough trained”, or “shouldn’t be using things like tasers”.

On Saturday night, it took them just 8 minutes from the first call for help to having shot and killed the three attackers. Those attackers were attacking and stabbing indiscriminately, targeting anyone who they found nearby.  (It also took the ambulance service just 6 minutes to arrive on scene, when they wouldn’t know what was happening or who was attacking who.) They are all heroes, and I want to take this opportunity to thank them and say what a wonderful job they do for us.  

I’d also like to extend my thanks and appreciation to those civilians who confronted the terrorists, tried to lure them away from other victims. We’ve heard stories of people throwing glasses, bottles, crates etc, or of hiding other people in their places of work.  

To me, that is remarkable bravery, a totally selfless act: it is simply awesome.  These people are literally putting their lives on the line for complete strangers.  They are all heroes and heroines, and we owe them our thanks.