Saturday, November 29, 2014

(doorway, 29.xi.14)

Jog blog update ...

This morning - having already stretched the limbs a bit walking down for the bread - I set off from the front door (7:30) jogging up to the main road, along to the lights, then into the woods & the full circuit down to the pond.

Just me & the ducks.

& the clock says 8:00.

A personal best - & no pauses. Rewind two weeks & I wouldn't have believed it was possible. As C. says, we hardly realise what our bodies are capable of. Maybe those two months of regular walking have made the transition easier. Or it's the magic shoes.

Admittedly, the first 5 minutes are an effort. The calf muscles complain, the front of the shins, too. However, by the time I'm up to the end of the main avenue of trees & the steep climb is over, the body is getting into rhythm. Entering the return path & I really feel I could go on for another half an hour. Hard to credit. Prudence takes over (she runs by my side, always - accompanied by Sheer Sloth) & I decide not to push my luck. If I can maintain 30 minutes as the limit for the next few weeks then that's bloody amazing as far as I'm concerned. Three outings per week (this week it's been Monday, Thursday & today) that'll do.

Another big thanks to those people who've said an encouraging word.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Jog Blog Update ...

This morning I go for an hour's walk through the woods. It's tempting to break into a trot, push it, but a little Welsh voice is reminding me not to do too much, too quickly.

Yesterday, I managed a 20 minute jog with ten minutes of walking either side. So, looking back over the week, that means three outings (Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday) with the proper foot equipment.

For anyone reading who is wondering whether jogging is for them, I'll share these thoughts.

First, it is true that you can shift a gear above walking pace if you remember to keep your jog rhythm within your heart rate. Try & run & you'll be coughing your guts up within 2 minutes. (Exactly what I used to do). That said, I have the impression that I'm going a little quicker on the home strait - as if the body's adjusting.

Second, forget trying to compete with the Lycra crowd - they've been doing this for years. Just follow your own rhythm. I find I enter into a strange space of inner & outer awareness - my feet, my arms, sweat, breathing & leaves on the ground, the sky, bird calls ... Dog walkers don't seem to notice you. Other runners give you a friendly nod or are off in their own world. Maybe the trees are smiling.

Third, intersperse with walking &/or pauses if that seems right. I noticed that yesterday I was able to go further than either Tuesday or Thursday.

Fourth, the 'runner's high' is a fact & bloody amazing. Maybe it's even more acute for a beginner as your body is wondering what the hell is going on. Even as I walk back I can sense the difference. After a shower you're almost floating. The brain seems sharper, colours & smells more intense, your palms 'buzz'. You feel (in my case) decades younger. Although the legs are obviously getting a work out, the stomach feels tighter & your back 'open' (if that makes sense). So far I cannot complain of any aches or pains - perhaps as I had been walking a lot before & I'm also getting into it gradually. That's why the non-running days are crucial.

I suppose what this all amounts to is: it's worth a go.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Ten days after I was in Fnac buying that travesty of a new album by Pink Floyd, there I am again this morning & this time buying the 'new' collection of old Wyatt recordings released under the title Different Every Time. It's very clearly timed to coincide with the biography by Marcus O'Dair - & there's nothing wrong with that.

Imagine how I smile as I read the booklet containing a quotation from an email sent by RW to O'D:

"I can be kind and easy going in the social world ... but I am utterly assertive and ruthless when it comes to what music is released in my name ..."

Well, quite. & there's more music of interest in 5 minutes of this collection than the combined efforts of Floyd & their array of producers & session men managed in the entire sorry length of Endless River.

Highlights so far - Shipbuilding (of course), God Song, the collaboration with Anja Garbarek (a real find).

Is this a 'last album'? I hope not. Anyone who loves good music would want to hear more from this man - quietly establishing a William Blake-like tradition of modest home production of Works for Eternity (just look at that photo!).

Cheers the ears up no end.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Jog Blog update ...

... 20 mins with a 10 min walk either side up to the woods & back. Beautiful autumn afternoon sun, smells of leaf rot & dog faeces grace the nostrils ...

Lest I be misunderstood, I record this not to show off. More to prove to myself I can break a stupid habit of a lifetime & just maybe there's someone out there who'll feel 'well - if that lazy sod can do it, so can I'.

Thanks to the Encouragers out there.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

It's funny how you find what you need almost without looking ...

Jogger blogger update ...

Purchase a pair of proper running shoes (the least garish, which isn't saying much) after having been warned by several hardcore runner colleagues that you can really do yourself a mischief in the wrong footwear. Nothing seemed cheap but assuming I get a hundred runs out of these shoes it will work out cheaper than the pool membership.

I walk out of the house at 3:45 & go up to the woods. There I decide to try C's approach: a constant faster-than-walking pace but not so fast as to get you out of breath. I had anticipated that I would give in after three minutes. In fact, it felt ... right. No doubt to a bystander it must have looked pretty pathetic - a short of geriatric trot - but I could keep it going.

I followed my usual walking route up the path & got into a rhythm. After 15 minutes I stopped. Had a 5 minute breather & then retraced my steps. I reckon I must have managed 20 minutes in all. At the traffic lights I slipped back into walking & so home (4:25). Not bad.

Frankly, I am amazed. Never in my life have I been able to do this. I suppose I've always tried to go too fast & the body has said no. & maybe wearing proper shoes helps - cushioning the impact, adding a bit of support & spring to the step.

The advice seems to be give it a rest now - I'll go out again Saturday.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Just to keep things in proportion, let me pass on anecdote from David Hockney in today's Observer. He's smoking in a park watching rabbits when two women jog past & wag their fingers at him reprovingly. As Hockney observes, they reckon they're the healthy ones - but then they hadn't seen the rabbits ...

How right he is.

& I also agree with him on "dreary".
In case you are following the new jogging enthusiasm ... I went out at 8 am (brightish morning, dry, but that sense that things could change), walked up to the forest & began the walk/run routine.

I managed 9 spells of shuffle-to-trot each lasting around one to two minutes making - maybe - 15 minutes of jogging? I got back to the house at 9 am so an hour overall.

I've no idea whether this is too much or too little for a Day Two. My shins seem to pull a bit & walking afterwards the knee caps feel a big creaky. To be expected no doubt. On the plus side is a real sense of energy, colour in the cheeks, & a considerable dollop of self-righteousness.

I'll keep at it - Wednesday afternoon is a possibility.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

I have never been a jogger - 100 m was my distance up until the age of 16 & anything above that felt like a marathon. I'm also suspicious of the whole self righteous puffing & blowing & spitting in Lycra elbowing past as you try to enjoy a quiet stroll in the woods ...

Therefore it feels odd to be admitting that out early this morning - still pretty dark, the rain pattering down - I did break into what was something approaching a run.

Yesterday I had a conversation with a colleague who I know is the hardened running type. One thing led to another & she began to suggest I try a step by step approach to jogging - acknowledging that walking has its merits but doesn't quite get the heart rate up.

The principle is that you walk as usual but then set yourself a short distance to run. It's not Sebastian Coe stuff, more a shuffle, but certainly not a walking stride. Start to feel tired ... drop back into a walk. Then repeat. Difficult as it is to admit ... it works. I ended up doing 8 short jogs being sensible & deliberately not overdoing it.

Little by little you increase the periods of running until the body can sustain continuous effort. According to C. stamina builds & you can surprise yourself.

I'm making no promises ... but I'll try it again tomorrow ...

Friday, November 14, 2014

... rather enjoying a sporadic exchange about the Floyd album via the comments in An odd place to be but it's somewhere to talk & get rid of some bile.

I'm wondering whether we could get up sufficient critical mass to lobby either Gilmour & Mason or whoever holds the rights (EMI?) for a genuine Rick Wright tribute album - all those songs that never made it onto the albums, his own abandoned solo projects, bits & pieces sat at the piano ... That they might be rough & far from the usual high-gloss Floyd product would only make the release all the more poignant.

Anyone out there agree?

Thursday, November 13, 2014

... & here's another thought on the Endless River ... consider Robert Wyatt, an exact contemporary of Gilmour & Mason. He's been quietly producing a series of 'end of career' albums that put anything Floyd have managed post-Waters to shame. He gets a fraction of the media attention, and, I'd assume, nothing like the financial returns. However, his compositions embody a mind & ears attuned to what is going on around him as well as the legacy (his own & other people's) that lies behind.

What can he think about his mates' most recent effort?

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

It's gratifying to see Endless River get steadily mounting one star ratings on Amazon UK. I wonder whether it would get zeros were that possible. It's not just me, then, that finds the album such a travesty.

Driving in to work it occurred to me that developing the shape argument a little further, track 18 represents what Gilmour acknowledges will be the 'last words' of this the 'last word' in the band's history. What a horrible thought!

Cast your mind back to Syd Barrett's haunting farewell (Jug Band Blues) & then the closing track on The Final Cut which - given Waters' subsequent departure - acquires added poignancy. Now we have 'Louder Than Words' as ultimate closure, the very title of which invites ridicule for its brazen cliché and the temptation to take it literarily were the music itself not so clunkingly dull. Only sheer indulgence & infatuation could explain Gilmour allowing his wife's effort to go beyond the just a nice idea but really we'd rather not stage. Surely Rick Wright had odd jottings in a drawer that never made it into a fully-fledged song? Wouldn't that have been a more fitting way to round things off?

As it is we're left with that nasty taste in the mouth & a feeling that even the best moments we've enjoyed listening to Pink Floyd have somehow been diminished.

Quite an achievement, 'Dave' & 'Nick' as the last trustees of the Pink Floyd legacy. It would have been better to have zig-zagged away & saved us the boredom & pain. Not even an outside chance of a pig on the wing ...

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

A more succinct way of stating the demise of Pink Floyd since (choose your own date &/or album):

when you become your own - second rate - tribute band


... by the way, that soup is bloody good. One to warm the cockles of your heart & put hairs on your chest.

Not that you may wish to have hairs on your chest, of course. Still ...


Turning over my reactions to the new Floyd album, trying to account for the feeling of dismay at such a feeble effort. Perhaps they are the perfect embodiment of what Mark Fisher et all would describe as post-Fordist capitalist economy. The non-communication trope acting as an admission that such music has severed any meaningful ties to its society & listeners. That it will be bought via iTunes & loaded into iPhones etc by no means a contradiction in terms - rather the proof of the commodification and explicitly 'product' nature of album.

Which wasn't the case thinking back to Piper at the Gates & early Floyd's direct involvement in the 60s counter culture. This was a music that was, in its well-behaved trippy way, challenging, opening up new avenues. Move on to Dark Side (when, by all accounts, most of the basic material for both Wish You Were Here and Animals was being test-run at concerts) and there is still a purpose - the possibilities offered by new studio technology, the stadium experience, even the notorious 'invisibility' of the group created (paradoxically) a bond with its fan base. Floyd had mystery. The album covers contained clues. Something was being communicated precisely by being concealed (hence the raising of Syd to quasi-martyr status).

Ironically, The Wall is both an acknowledgment of the collapse of relation between the group and its audience (Waters' infamous spitting at a fan) as its solidification. No matter how much the voices chant "bring down the wall" the tumbling blocks on stage do not embody what is occurring in social space. From now on Floyd music becomes a fought-over territory of capital investment - which the lawyers on both sides knew.

Post-Waters Gilmour & Mason find themselves in an invidious position. Owners of a brand which has fabulous commercial potential but in a social and political (not to say personal) situation that has effectively sealed off the music from anything other than ever more elaborate pastiche (verging on parody). Sadder still, few cared - certainly not the record company who saw a cash cow; nor, it seems, many 'fans' who simply wanted the 'flavour'. As a result we witness the bringing in of session musicians & producers charged with capturing that 'inimitable' (heavy irony) Pink Floyd sound and the updated Mrs Gilmour as lyricist.

The subsequent albums are therefore exercises in simulation driven by crude financial imperatives (ex-wives, yachts, vintage cars, etc) masquerading as keeping the fans happy. Revealing was the willingness to finally compile a 'best of' - what better way of saying the integrity of the album was now irrelevant in the face of discrete chunks of music product. Never forget, Waters was training to be an architect & the sense of an album as a built construction runs deep within (even his worst) work. However, such sonic architectural constructions simply don't mesh with the prevailing economics dictating the buying & consumption of music.

& so we arrive at Endless Drivel ... sorry, cheap joke ... River. Initial problem: how do we dress up & justify a load of old (second rate) product. Brainwave! Call it a tribute to Rick Wright. Syd had been milked to death & Floyd have from his departure been trading in mourning. Perfect. Not only is there an absence of musical ability & compositional intelligence to really make something interesting out of it (no John Zorn, no Frank Zappa, no Teo Macero) but absolutely no commercial sense: a set of odds & sods plays perfectly into the iTune generation's habits - wait for the number of ringtones you hear off this album. Television documentary soundtrack technicians will be rubbing their hands with glee. It's perfect, too, as Amazon raters have pointed out for Pilates classes. Shove it on the flash disk & play it on the car stereo. Or light a candle in the bedroom & drift off to sleep. However ... & this is the point ... do anything but actually listen to it. Rather just have it 'around' as most music is being consumed these days.

Which, again, goes so much against the grain for what I & - I think - many Floyd fans loved in their music. That sense of architecture & of a narrative which would hold you across a 20 minute side. Think of Echoes. Think of the shape of the two sides of Dark Side. Think of the way Shine On You Crazy Diamond bridges side one and two. Think of the development of Dogs & Sheep on Animals & the way Waters works Pigs on the Wing like parentheses. Like or dislike the music, you have to admit that there is a considered structure & a sense of the material base of the music: a duration of concentration. A best of anthology cuts right against this & only serves to cheapen what - in context - are valid compositional methods (the slow openings, the sudden erupting chords of Gilmour's guitar, the solos, the hiatus moments which then open out ... even the musique concrete elements & voices). Consider how well the snippets of dialogue work in Dark Side in counterpoint to the music; how the transistor radio of Wish You Were Here creates an unnerving effect of space - there are many more instances. Tempting as it is to attribute this solely to Waters I am not so sure. It is more the result of a compositional architecture & a sense of shaping an object not - as now - a product. Try to simply duplicate these motifs (for want of a better word) irrespective of compositional logic & the whole thing collapses into pastiche (worse, self parody).

Do they care? Probably not (that awfully smug postcard photo speaks volumes). However, looking at many of the reactions on Amazon there's a strong impression of people - the die-hard fans - feeling decidedly let down, if not frankly betrayed. That's the irony: listeners who seem to care far more about the music than their stars. A very sad & sorry state of affairs.

Anyone else see a parallel with our current politics?

A brilliant sunny November Tuesday morning. And a day off. Perfect.

What better to do - after an hour's stomping through the woods - than to make a soup. So here goes:


Chop onions - red & white
Dice chorizo

Start the pot sizzling with oil & add the above plus two chicken legs.


Prepare celery, red & yellow peppers, carrots, courgette, a potato.
Add to pot.


Drain haricot beans & lentils. Add.


Add some tomato paste/purée. Then boiling water (judge quantity).


Add garlic, chopped chilli pepper, smoked paprika, thyme & a dash of Worcester sauce.

Salt & pepper to taste.


Leave to simmer away for one hour. Sit & read a book while enjoying the aromas (smoked paprika really gives it a kick).

Mine looks like this ...


When it's finished I'll lift out a couple of ladles worth & blitz the rest. (Obviously the chicken legs will need to be stripped of meat). Then I'll return what I took out to give it texture.

Give it a go. The colours - reds, oranges, the brown undertones ... autumn in a pot.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Oh dear ... spoke too soon. The initial flush of enthusiasm up to track 7 fast disappeared as I carried on into track 8 through to 18. With each succeeding number the fragmentary ideas dry up & in come the predictable chord progressions, rock clichés & arsenal of Floyd trademark effects (thunderstorm ...  platitudinous sound bite c/o Stephen Hawking* ... church bells ... ). Why? Why? Why?

One answer: because they think it sells (give 'em what they want!)

Another answer: because they simply can't think what to do with the material & fall back into old habits.

I found myself wondering what someone like John Zorn could have done with such material. Put it another way, how a King Crimson or a Yes would have the musical resources to shift direction & gear. As for Zappa ... so much of his work was an example in how to transform archive recordings into new configurations.

It would be lovely to think rather fondly of this CD  like a newly-discovered sketchbook in the drawer of a deceased artist. Those recognisable marks & sketches that suggest some now never-to-be executed master work. Sadly not. It's more like a form of collective Alzheimer's: fumbling gestures towards what were once familiar habits. And in the last pages conclusive proof that he'd lost his touch & was now painting by numbers.

If Yoko was the death knell of the Beatles then Polly Samson is surely the Oh-no of the Floyd. The lyrics she supplies to 'Louder Than Words' are truly execrable. In fact, the entire song is ghastly (the death throes of an elephant) & must confirm to Roger Waters why he is better off out of the picture. Say all you want about the Final Cut etc. but he never delivered anything as lame as this.

Maybe they should have just released track 2 and left it at that. For me it's like a great mouthful of Sauternes with foie gras. Delicious & delightfully self-indulgent - & then the palate cloys. Another serving & - no, I've had enough. & it turns out that it's now flat Cava & paté maison (past its sell by date, to boot).

What. a. pity. Really.


* that reliable Floyd trope of lack of communication that emerges round about Dark Side of the Moon opens & closes Endless River. Never very convincing in their case - other than as evidence of what happens when you are one of the mega-rich & can afford horrendously expensive law suits - it has a kind of sixth form glibness in its attempt at profundity.

The lengths one goes to ... At lunchtime I nipped out to the local Mediamarkt only to find that the new Floyd album had sold out, next delivery Wednesday or Thursday.

This afternoon the traffic was unusually quiet (tomorrow's holiday) & so it seemed worth chancing it & continuing into town. & yes, there in Fnac were stacks of CDs.

I've only listened up to track 7 but ... yes, & I know this will able a bit of a shock, it is better than I'd feared. Track 2 is gorgeous - delivering the kind of pleasure you get in a dream when you seem to have happened into a jam session with your favourite band noodling in & around their well-known album. The familiar unfamiliar & that frisson of a look behind the scenes.

As for the 'package': the cover art is unimaginative compared to the days of Hipgnosis, the postcards - especially the one of the smug looking Gilmour & Mason - regrettable, the booklet obviously playing on ideas of sailing & navigation (although how the recording studio houseboat would make it up the Thames let alone the Greek Islands ... but why carp?). However, wouldn't it have been refreshing to go in the opposite direction & deliberately underplay it - restrained white cover, hints, suggestions, sketches ... as when the Floyd were all but invisible.

Because that's what your ears glimpse ... hints of what Floyd might have been had Rick Wright spent less time on his yachts & Roger Waters had siphoned off his personal traumas into side solo projects. For these fragments actually argue that the ever so famous Pink Floyd sound could have taken off in a very different direction - a music that embraced space and texture & didn't need the (commercial) straitjackets of lyric content & stadium rock flourishes. No doubt they'd have made a lot less money but ... we might have had some much more exciting & unpredictable music.

I'll let you know how the remaining tracks go.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

That time of the year when the soul turns to Dickens. At least, mine does.

& so I go upstairs & retrieve my spine-creased copy of A Tale of Two Cities. Embarrassing as it is to admit I have never got beyond page 204 (or so my file card with notes testifies) despite multiple beginnings again. Why? That it feels somehow untypical? Or the inevitable interruptions due to teaching commitments? Maybe. Or some new enthusiasm erupts & leads me elsewhere? More than likely.

This time I am determined to see it through.

Sunday, November 02, 2014

It won't be long before the 'new'* Pink Floyd album emerges & I wonder whether I am the only one to feel distinctly ambivalent about the whole idea. Eager, yes, to discover some genuinely interesting insights into the early sound which - I've always sensed - owed more than was often admitted to the keyboard player Rick Wright. Anxiety, however, in finding suspicions confirmed: that this will be an overproduced series of out takes which should have rightly remained on the editing room floor or in the can; that the current Mrs Gilmour has been allowed to contribute another set of lyrics only adds to the concern (how Roger Waters must wince at the very idea); & that the handful of albums which have some merit** will be yet further tainted by the subsequent cashings-in.

I suppose we will just have to wait & see ...


* by chance (or maybe not) last night one of the Freeview channels was broadcasting a documentary on Atom Heart Mother. I'd seen it before but it really underlined the paucity of Floyd's material & skill once Barrett disappeared. Ron Geesin is the key figure behind the scenes shaping what were a series of incoherent noodlings into something substantial. Pink Floyd as the ultimate embodiment of the old chef's adage of never throw away scraps? Of course it helps to have EMI behind you, willing to throw vast amounts of money in advertising & lavish repackaging ...

** as far as I am concerned this means: Piper at the Gates, Meddle (for Echoes), Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here, Animals (which often gets short shrift).

The Wall is the beginning of the decline as Waters wrenches the band away from any kind of musical interest & into a form of self-aggrandising psychotherapy. The Final Cut confirms this dead end although there is at least a sense of personal investment. Anything since is truly awful & transparently motivated by alimonies for ex-wives, vintage car habits, & rock star misguided self belief that because B-A-N-D has become B-R-A-N-D this is reason enough to go into a studio. (Notice the way David Gilmour talks - a weird kind of Cambridge Senior Common Room gentlemanly understatement peppered with quasi-divine afflatus rhetoric masking pure profit-based calculation. I am sure he's a jolly nice chap - a typically Dave phrase - but Bono lies at the far end of this spectrum).

. Driving into work the other morning with 'Village of the Sun' playing & humming & drumming along  & think...