Thursday, June 30, 2016

There's a


(may be ...)


B or is





( ... ? ...)

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

This is worth 58 minutes of your time ...

Monday, June 27, 2016

Iceland 2; Boris Rovers 1

I think that says it all.

An interesting chant from the Icelandic supporters - a sort of delayed clap-whoop.

Very similar to the sudden bass slaps in Anna Thorvaldsdottir's piece Aeriality.

Euro 2016 Update - England vs Iceland

According to our experts, Iceland is just the tip of the iceberg.
Watching Iceland play in the European Cup last week there was a fair attempt at humour as the commentator pointed out that they draw their team from roughly the equivalent population of Leicester. Thus, if you're a bloke between 20 and 40 you stand about a one in two thousand chance of being in the team. (Something like that).

Given the way things are shaping for Labour much the same odds might be offered for being in the Shadow Cabinet. I've had my phone within arm's reach during the day on the off chance I might get the nod.

I'll keep you posted ...


(Please note the attempt at political balance on this Blog).

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Sunday update:

It says it all when our Greek friends agree that well, things could be worse - look at the UK.

Utter shambles.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

& another angle on all this ...

... so easy to get sucked into the Media feed - checking updates, catching the headlines, waiting for the next click bait tasty maggot of information.

So what did today look like?

A run at 6:30 am around the golf course. Rabbits scatter in all directions. Not sure whether they are immigrants or not. Do rabbits carry ID? Perhaps genuine Belgian stock. Pigeons fly overhead with scant regard to fences or borders of any sort. As for clouds ... no respect at all.

Bought croissants, pain chocolate, couque Suisse at the local bread shop. Went to the pool - it's called the Calypso (that's Greek innit?). The guy who opens the doors is Moroccan. The lady at the reception desk is from Slovakia. A quick head count of the regulars - Belgian, Turkish, English, French Canadian.

Walking back to the car (Renault), I see other vehicles - Fiat, BMW, Citroen, Mazda, Audi ... etc.

Back to the house for breakfast. Sat around the table (wood sourced from Poland?): Giulia (an academic from Padova), Milton & Christina & their kids from Greece. Us - a mix of British, Belgian & Czech.

At midday an Amazon UK package arrives via Belgian Taxipost - Ed Sanders' volume of glyphs published by Granary Books (US of A). I leaf through it while listening to Bjork & Anna Thorvaldsdottir (Icelandic) & BBC Radio 3. I write in my notebook (Italian) with my Lamy (German) pen.

During the afternoon I start reading Fernando Pessoa's poems translated from the Portuguese.

This evening I watch (via satellite) the Euro 2016 match - Wales v Northern Ireland. Gareth Bale's skills honed while playing for Real Madrid.

For dinner we eat pizza from Mama Roma & drink Italian red wine. On the stereo - Keith Jarrett (US) with Jan Garbarek (Norway) on the German ECM label.

Need I go on?

No man is an island ...

Update in from our Frimley correspondent ...

... one of the repercussions of the Brexit vote could be that Stilton cheese loses its protected status.

Now if that doesn't make the Leave vote regret their decision ...


The penny's dropped. Well, the pound, too. 

Earlier today I suddenly realised what's happened. Watching and listening to various interviews with Brexit big wigs it becomes clear that they haven't got a clue what to do next. Boris himself blusters about no need for any hurry. Really? Tell that to the EU.

It's as though there's been a school prank - a wizard wheeze - but which no one ever expected to go off quite so well &/or thought they'd never be found out. Watching Boris stumble through the crowd to the waiting car was rather like seeing the ring leader being called in to see the Head. 

"You, was it, Johnson?"

"Er, no - I mean yes - I-er ... look, I'm terribly sorry about all this ...".

"You know Cameron Major has stood down & is no longer Head Prefect? And Osbourne is packing his bags as we speak."

"Really, sir? O crikey!" 

"And you know the school tuck shop is going to have to close - just not enough licorice & jelly babies to go round."

"Gosh, as bad as that sir?"

"And matron & the cleaning staff will all be on the next boat home so you'll have to wash your own socks and make your own bed from now on. There, you didn't think of that, did you? So what are you going to do about it, Johnson?"

"Me? But it was Gove, sir. He's the one who egged us all on."

"Don't try to wheedle out & blame it on someone else, Johnson. Be a man. You're British, aren't you? At least that's what you've been banging on about the past six months."

"Yes, no, I-I- ... you see Sir, we never really meant to do any harm. It was just this jolly jape & things got out of hand. Can I ring my Papa? I'm sure he can write a cheque & sort it all out just like he did the last time ... & the time before that ... "

... to be continued ...

Friday, June 24, 2016


Back in May I was walking around the Italian town of Padova thinking what an extremely beautiful place to live and work in. The buildings are all on a human scale, that inherited sense of Vitruvian proportion which makes you feel immediately at home & lifts the heart. Sunlight falls upon the colonnades creating Ben Nicholson plays of shadow & arcs in & around which the swallows swoop. Students cycle by & cafes spill out across the pavements.  The coffee is cheap & served in real cups & tastes like ... well, coffee. It occurred to me how sad it was to know that back in 'my' country there were people so set against the idea of Europe. Who wouldn't want to share this? 

& then we wake up this morning to discover the 'unthinkable' has happened. You'll forgive me if I try to make sense of this - the logic within what seems to defy reason.

It might seem odd but I am not sure that it is really to do with Europe

First, what do we mean by Europe? For me - working at an International school, living within Brussels, having children within the Belgian state system, enjoying excellent health care & quality of life - it can only seem to be a Good Thing. In five hours we can be down in Burgundy, in twelve you're at the Spanish border. We travelled to Greece and back last year without showing a passport. Such possibilities & privileges. 

However, looking at the map of yesterday's Brexit vote, it's clear that someone living - say - in an ex-mining village in Wales would have a very different version of Europe. For them, 'Europe' can stand for that amalgam of blind political & economic forces which have crushed the life out of them and their surroundings. The media's steady drip feed of 'mad Brussels' decisions (regulations about fruit shapes etc) serve only to exacerbate the sense of alienation. 

Add to this the scaremongering tactics of the Brexit lobby concerning immigration & terrorism & it is hard not see why you'd vote Leave. 

Yet ... what, really, is being offered in its place? A version of 'Great' Britain which no longer exists - has never existed

Does anyone really believe in British companies any more? How many businesses, firms, industries, utilities are owned or at least in some way connected with overseas owners or investors? 

Can anyone be so naive as not to see the extent to which the financial markets are so deeply entwined that it is impossible to 'go it alone'? As, today, the pound goes into free fall and the share indexes are showing red all the way down the columns. That will be British pensions & mortgages suffering in a month's time, a year's time, ten years' time. 

Is the British worker really so short-sighted as to throw away European rules on employment & other civil rights & liberties? 

Can anyone not pause for a moment to consider the benefits of working closely with the European community in terms of policing and shared information concerning likely movements of suspicious individuals & possible terrorist attacks? If a major objective of certain terrorist groups is to sow division among democratic states leading to the very collapse of Western culture as it understands itself then today's move is doing the job for them - the very reverse of what the Brexiters have been claiming in making Britain more safe. 

The argument begins to drift. let's take another angle. 

Is today's vote not also about the widely perceived loss of trust in conventional politics? 'Europe' thus comes to stand for Westminster itself, its self-regarding mechanisms, the way London & the South East are seen to be privileged & the rest of the country can just make do. 

I wonder how many voting for Leave were motivated by a desire to give those bankers, politicians, policy gonks - Cameron himself - the two fingers. You've lied to us, you've landed us in this mess, you're the ones who never seem to feel the pinch, now feel my hurt. 

And it's hard not to sympathise. Especially as it starts to suggest deep connections with elsewhere in the world - Greece, most obviously, plus Spain (Podemos) & Rome (with the election of Virginia Raggi), & - sadly that's the price you pay for 'alternative' politics - in the US, Donald Trump. 

However, the problem is that when Farage et al champion the "ordinary person" it's clear they have absolutely no interest in them. They are simply a means to an end. Furthermore, they will be the very ones that will pay in terms of job cuts, loss of rights, reduced pensions etc. as companies relocate & the EU slams its doors in Britain's face.

And it wouldn't be too cynical to see that within the corridors of government itself, this was less a referendum on Europe than a thinly disguised Tory leadership contest. Stay or leave, in this version, was do you still have any faith in Cameron? or do you fancy a punt on Boris & Gove? Go on - have a flutter (but using the nation's financial security as your stake). Again, "ordinary person" will be the one to pay. 

How nausea-inducing to hear - on the one side - the praise for Cameron's leadership to date & dignity in defeat (when one knows he has always been a chancer & gambled on a Stay vote) - while on the other, admiration for Boris' statesman-like speech & sober delivery (simply confirming how astutely he has played the Buffoon to disguise his real agenda). 

It's rare to find myself agreeing with Alastair Campbell but during his interview on College Green this afternoon he suggested that many of the electorate would be asking themselves "is this the best you can do?" Admittedly he was talking about the Labour party with an extension to the US & Trump. However, the basic question stands. Boris? Michael Gove? Dare one even mention Nigel Farage? Just how low do we stoop to find the face that fits the new Voice of Britain? 

I could go on (I've not even opened up the cans of worms that are the more or less inevitable Scottish & Irish referendum votes). 

One more thought for now - how does this make Britain - we British - look to the wider world? I've already found myself apologising today - at the pool, at the bread shop, in an email to someone in Turin. Will London seem to be such a great place - other than to the super-rich who simply want to plunder it for property? Who can blame people beginning to think the British have turned their backs on a wider world & for what? A diminished bastardised version of their so-called 'culture'. A vote stemming from the worst types of ignorance, misinformation, small-mindedness, jingoism & fear of the Other. 

How silly we look. A large rock floating alone in the sea. 

Rather like Gibraltar but with 52 per cent of its population as apes. 


Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Brexit or not?

The belgianwaffle position in the form of a pwoermd:


Sunday, June 19, 2016


This CD & In the Light of Air arrived during the week. So far I have only really given the first three pieces on Aerial a listen & there is no doubt that Aeriality is the most impressive. To my untutored ears there seem to be evident soundings of Ligeti, Penderecki & Saariaho and a sustained chord which echoes in the resonant spaces of my head with the opening of Beethoven's 7th and Wagner's Rheingold.  This is not to devalue what she is doing, rather to mark a musical landscape that is being reformed much as the geographical one we see Anna T exploring in the album photo.

In interviews she comes across as so slight of frame & gentle of expression. The physical power of this music is quite astonishing in contrast.

Rhizoma remains tantalisingly out of print - if anyone knows of a copy going spare please let me know. Not only is the title redolent with Deleuzean possibilities, the package itself looks beautifully put together ...



Saturday, June 18, 2016

"When my ship comes in
I'll've passed out of mind
Beyond the sight of land
And won't hesitate
For a second
To look back on all this
With fondness or remiss
The air'll be clear
The moon'll be there
And you, whoever
You are and hope to be,
Will be here with my love"

closing lines of "Whiff"


Literally ... on a whim I had just flipped through my brand new copy of Common Sense by Ted Greenwald five minutes ago and lighted on this, the first poem in the collection, and was thinking about the photograph at the back and quite what the circumstances were (why sitting on a television, is that orange juice in the glass he's clutching, is he moving in or moving out, and that broad grin and the open left hand in a gesture suggesting a joke has just been told ...) when I discover he's just died.

Sound of a door closing.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

... so I'm reading 'Potential Random' in the recent Keith Waldrop Selected & thinking not only do I really like this sequence but how nice it would be as a little volume on its own. I search around on the usual sites (alibris etc.) & unearth a few copies but postage is rather fierce.

& then I realise ...

... I have the very copy upstairs. It was one of the volumes Keith himself sent in return for my own effort I sent some years ago.

Comparing the two printings it is interesting to see that for the Selected he decided to drop the asterisks dividing the sections. In a way it makes the shifts in perspective less obtrusive. In another, it makes them all the more disturbing.


Three cheers for Iceland drawing with Portugal - an extra cheer thrown in for provoking such a petulant response from Ronaldo. (E & I agree he looks like a Sim).

Right now I'm going through an Icelandic phase due to the discovery of the composer Anna Thorvaldsdottir. Not, in fact, part of the ECM stable but I wouldn't mind betting Manfred Eicher would like to tuck her under his wing.

Not only is the music utterly compelling but her manner of speaking English is mesmerising.

More on her tomorrow, I hope, when the CDs arrive.


& today I discover the Siglio website on Robert Seydel. A serendipitous moment given my jog this morning with a rabbit scampering before me. Leading me off into the woods & down into a burrow or simply trying to run away? (For Seydel the bunny like the hare were totem animals.)

As I understand it a classmate of Peter Gizzi &, of course, a major influence upon Keith Waldrop's collages. Small world time. Again.


Wednesday, June 08, 2016




So finally the stars come into alignment & I find myself in the same room as Julia Holter. The last time she visited Belgium it was the day after the Paris attacks & Brussels was on lock down. Prudence (cowardice?) meant we stayed home.

Well ... it was a relatively short (one hour plus encore) but memorable set. Julia plus bassist, drummer & violinist. I am not sure, but they didn't seem to be her regular backing musicians. 

Most of the material was from Have You In My Wilderness with a few jumps back to earlier albums. 

Listening live her voice is as powerful & seductive as on the recordings. It's the rhythmic basis of her songs that comes ever more to the fore - a compelling slackness that suddenly catches as the melody begins to soar. The last piece of the main set - Vasquez - had that free section where she's obviously drawing on her roots in the West Coast Improv scene. Gorgeous as her layerings are, I wonder whether she should go back to a more stripped down sound & find what possibilities lurk therein? That might be unlikely given her increasingly bankable status - only last week I paused mid-aisle in the local Delhaize astonished to hear one of her songs coming over the loudspeakers. 

Towards the end of the hour, Julia made one of her few addresses to the audience. It was the fourth or fifth time she was here in Belgium and - she added - "we love playing here in Brussels". Really? I'm not quite sure why - her performance is very much about the music and there's little interaction with the crowd. There was someone who kept suggesting she had a drink but that seemed to fall on deaf ears. 

Anyway, I'd give Julia one of the ninety millions thrown away on Adele in the hope of allowing her the artistic freedom to dream up yet more wonderful sounds. 

In a better world, etc. ... 

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Off to see Julia Holter at the Botanique. She's scheduled to start at 9:15pm.


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