August 2016

I was waiting for Winter to end, and I then I noticed it was already Midsummer! Crikes! And weather still indifferent. Then the 1st of August slipped in and, with it, the Pagan festival of Lughnasadh, which is the first of the Wiccan harvest festivals.

Traditionally, it is a time of ‘high harvest’ of the summer crop – and indeed, at last, there are some local fruit/vegetables in the shops around here. Pagan wise, an excuse to go sky clad somewhere high and feast. The weather has improved and it is indeed summer’. That being said, aforementioned festival also represents the ‘first stirrings’ of the darkness: and, duly, some days have had that bleary summer feel, and the mornings come with a freshness and indeed heavy dew. Actually saw my first Christmas things in a shop. An inauspicious sign of things to come – cannot believe the speed that the weeks and months whizz by.

Still, for the moment, lots of cultural consumption…..

It was the beginning of the Proms season, and I duly attended a few concerts of this magnificent summer musical festival, including one of Mahler’s 3rd symphony in all majesty.


Went to another late night Gospel Prom. And, in the spirit of love for Global music, attended WOMAD (World of Music Arts and Dance) – I did not attend the first festival in 1981, but just about every year since then. I counted that I have seen WOMADs at 9 different places – including the ICA in London, and a free festival in Ashton Court in Bristol. A big fan! This year, the musical highlights were headliners George Clinton and Baaba Maal, but lots a great stuff on other stages as well – Sidestepper, Vietnamese traditional music, and the Bowers and Wilkins sound tent with state-of-the-art high fidelity sound.


Prompted by my Vicar friend Steve, I have been re-reading the poems of Vernon Watkins. He was a friend of Dylan Thomas. Thomas tells the tale that he was walking along the street with Watkins one day when he tripped over and fell. When they looked down, there was a feather on the pavement. Such was his sensibility!!


Lots of art as well….

And exhibition of the remarkable Georgiana Houghton, a ‘spirit artist’, who claimed her paintings were dictated by angels. She was a theosophist from the mid-19th century who was an early exponent of the tradition that was a kind of mixture of health, social living, spiritualism and art. Remarkable paintings..


On a different note, an exhibition of Georgia O’Keefe – her of the big flower paintings. I must say, I have never been taken that much by her work, but the show did a good job of setting it in context. It is especially impressive for when it was done – really what she was doing from 1919! The big flowers make a lot of sense in this context and are marvelous. Later work a bit mixed and, as if often the case, really her best work is the style she is best known for.


Meanwhile at the Newport Gallery – Damian Hirst’s rather fine gallery – was an exhibition of Jeff Koons’ work – really, from Hirst’s own collection. All the iconic pieces here: the vacuum cleaners, the chrome toys, lobsters, play-doh, and erotica. I always like his work. Also, nice to have tea in Hirst’s Pharmacy.




I was also invited to go to Glyndebourne – a remarkable experience itself; both for the quality of the opera (The Barber of Seville), and the spectacle that is Glyndebourne. In deference to the musicians and singers, you are expected to wear ‘black tie’ evening dress – an excuse to get dressed up and pick-nick on the lawns with champagne, salads and chocolates. Which we did…


Some more work on the Web site: I added some links and also published my translation of Bourdieu talking about art. 50 copies of the Ralph McTell book now sold.

July 2016

Just getting over the shock of the Referendum vote. The social media was red hot the day after, and things have moved apace in less than 20 days following the vote. I plan to write and post my own thoughts and analysis of both the causes and effects of the Brexit vote, so will not say much more here except that I am of the remainer camp. Obvious really, I spent much of my professional life involved in various European projects and, as a modern language teacher (French, German), I have an empathy with the European ideal, no matter how optimistic!! As I write, the Brexiters have all but stabbed each other in the back and we have a new Prime Minister – a remainer, but committed to implementing the ‘democratic decision’. As this will certainly result in a recession, including loss of jobs, public services, and the value of one’s money, we all watch that space with trepidation.

Otherwise a busy month….

I went to see Nigel Kennedy perform ‘the New Four Seasons’. He originally recorded this Vivaldi classic in 1989 and it became the highest selling classical music record of all time – quite rightly so. Now he has ‘revisited’ it with embellishments. A stunning concert with amazing violin playing – I was moved to buy the record.

Also been to the National Theatre a couple of times: to see Terence Rattigan’s The Deep Blue Sea and Bertholt Brecht’s Threepenny Opera. The first I enjoyed very much: although written for a 1950s West End London audience, it was an excellent meditation on aspects of love between two people, and what can go wrong. I like Brecht performed in rough, warehouse locales as is befitting for its road level ethic. I have therefore had problems in the past with National Theatre productions – just too sumptuous. Sadly, the same attitude prevailed again and so I enjoyed it less. Fun though….

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Meanwhile, the new Switch Building of the Tate Modern opened. Built in the same ‘power station’ style as the original, it towers ten floors into the London air – great views from the top! Lots of space inside and some promising performance space. However, only 3-4 floors of actual artwork, and these squeezed to the side. I also do not really buy the ‘thematic’ approach of the Tate Modern, with rooms dedicated to the ‘Artist and Society’ , for example. What does that mean? I prefer a more chronological, historical, national approach.


Also got to see the Mona Hatoun exhibition there. I was really looking forward to this show by the Palestinian artist as I have liked the installations I have seen of hers in the past. However, the whole seemed a bit bitty, some installations not there, and the less impressive included. As they say, expectation can be a prison!!

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Also visited the Blake Cottage which the Blake Society has just purchased on Trust. This is one of only two remaining residences of the English poet William Blake (1757-1803) and is situated in Felpham, Bognor Regis, UK. He stayed there from 1800-1803, living the rest of the time in London. It was an eventful 3 years however, with some of his most far-searching poetry and designs produced there, and ending with him being arrested for sedition (a hanging offense in those days) when he kicked a soldier out of his garden. It took him and his wife Catherine three days to make the journey from London and the morning after his arrival Blake experienced the ecstasy of being on the edge of the sea, away from London pollution. As he stood in his garden, a farmer passed by with his son. The son said, ‘look father, the gate is open’. Blake took this as a sign, in fact he fainted at the vision of a new life there.


The cottage itself has not come up for sale since the 1920s. When it did, the Blake Society of James (, of which I was a founder member in the 1980s, took out an option on it with the intention of raising the necessary 500 K GBP. After 6 months fund raising, it had raised only 90 GBP and so had to let the option go. A week later, however, an anonymous donor phoned up and offered the remaining 400 K GBP. As Blake said, ‘I live by miracles’!!

Otherwise, lots of writing this month:

Completing an academic book on language learning which is due for publication later this year.

I have just translated the transcript of a seminar Bourdieu gave on Art in the later 1990s – I plan to post this on this site later in the month.

Also, finalising my ‘Brief Practical Introduction to Guitar Craft’, which I also plan to post later this month.

For the near future, a more composite piece on King Crimson and some academic writing. Also, planning for trips to Denmark, Argentina and Australia.

June 2016

June and the big news is the launch of this webpage! We have been busy ‘populating’ the site with a range of texts in each of the categories in order to give a reasonable base of material.

As the blurb states, the idea is for me to post various writings that do not come under my ‘normal’ outlets, which are inevitably governed by commercial factors.

Also, the launch of the book: Parallel Lives: the Biographies of Ralph McTell. This is the first book to appear under my own imprint – Pomera Press.

Again, the intention here is to publish books that commercial publishers would not accept. So, small print runs, specialist audiences, etc.

Otherwise, it’s summer – at last ! – in England and so lots of things happening. For example, I have just attended an exhibition on the library of the Elizabethan scholar/ conjurer Dr John Dee (1527-1608 or 1609) – an insight into the way academics thought in those days. Certainly, they did not have distinct subject disciplines as we know them. So, physics, religion, alchemy, biology were all mixed up.


This visit was to follow up a seminar I did on Shakespeare’s The Tempest, which some think was based on Dee. It certainly gave me a point of seeing about their thinking and how they saw the world – and thus, Shakespeare too. Not at all like us, that is why we think him so profound. I shall write on this at some later stage.

Meanwhile, welcome to my page!!


I write a monthly blog to cover the things I have been involved with, events, and the sorts of things that have passed my way: art, music, theatre, books, etc. It has also evolved into a diary of the changing seasons…

What has been happening in my corner of the globe!