February 2017

Into the New Year in January – never entered one with so much trepidation. It feels like the end of what my generation worked for: community, multiculturalism, tolerance, a fairer society. Now, the gloves seem to be off. Anything could happen.

One of the things that I noticed in 2016 was how social media came into its own. For the Brexit and US elections it was the only place to me. Conventional newspapers struggled to keep up – even their on-line versions. Of course, Face book means that no only is everyone publishable, they are published. The attitude seems to be any opinion is as good as any other. In this way, everything is levelled down.
It was also the year when I first felt the reality of ‘post-truth’ and ‘post-fact’. I would say that we have spoken about ‘postmodernism’ for years and now it has arrived, but postmodernism seems quite benign to what we have now.

Early on in January, I went to Paris for a social event. Also, took in the new art centre at the Jardin d’Acclimatation near La Defense. Loved the audacious architecture: France always manages to introduce modern buildings amongst traditional ones in a way that works – unlike in Britain.



I thought the Impressionist painting would be a bit boring but far from the case – real crème de la crème stuff based on a single collector’s collection.



The grey wintry weather followed me there though. As it did to Trondheim in Norway.


Don’t think I have ever been that far north before. I am told it is bright with the snow but it had all disappeared when I was there. Issues of light here: it struggles to get light by about 10.00 in the morning and is closing in again by early afternoon. A very ‘quiet’ country – outside at least. I took in a trip to a friend’s farm on a fiord: rather beautiful vistas and ait that is so clear. The world certainly looks different when you are on top of Europe. Rather lovely wooden houses – the keep them lit during the day with candles, etc. Very atmospheric.




Working on a book chapter on reflexivity. Apparently, my Bourdieu Key Concepts book is being translated into Portuguese – cool. Also preparing for the second edition of the Parallel Lives book, as well as the Satsang and Guitar Craft books.

More material on the surrealist painter Ithell Colquhoun, who I am continuing to research. Read the new editions of her books on Cornwall and Ireland from the 1950s – with intros. By comedian/ writer Stewart Lee. Good that these have been reprinted since with renewed interest they are both selling at high three figure prices. Preferred the Cornish to the Irish one, but as it seems lighter – but then, I know each of the places she writes of.



Nice little film about her here:



January 2017

December went as a bit of a blur. No sooner back from Australia than plunged into the Yuletide season. Very nice lights and decorations everywhere – we needed them to cheer us up. However, at the same time, my body went into catatonic shock with a drop of some 26 degrees in temperature. Also, what is usually a gradual descent into the turning of the year became a sharp fall. Reduction at high speed!

Then tumbled into birthday – me being a Sagittarius!

Saturn is crossing my Sun – the first time for 30 years, so severe pruning afoot.

Still, the Winter Solstice was soon upon us – at 10.44 precisely on December the 21st to be exact.

From now on, in the Northern Hemisphere at least, the Sun is moving back towards us. Or, at least, that is how we sense it; actually, it is the other way around, of course – we are moving towards it. Either way, the sunlight is strengthening all the time now.

Christmas decorations: I obtained a tree. Much controversy about whether to have a real one or not these days. But, the ones I buy are cultivated precisely for Christmas and from sustainable resources. There is something about having the Tanenbaum within the house for the period of the festival: whether it be the birth of Christ, the birth of the Oak King, Yule, St. Nicholas, Wassailing, or Saturnalia.

When you are unmarried and without children it is a strange time of year because everyone seems to be gravitating towards parents, grandparents, children and grandchildren. Best a time of quiet reflection is called for at the changing of the year. I certainly enjoy the food and cooked myself a Christmas cake:

Before that, there was time for some cultural activities. I attended the American Expressionism exhibition at the Royal Academy in London:

Good range of artists from the 1940s and 50s, including a fine selection of Rothko painting which always somewhat take my breath away. Pollock also represented well with a wider range of his work than is the norm.

The Beyond Caragaggio exhibition at the National Gallery, London was also excellent and was able to show the influence he had on a number of painters around his at the time he lived: 1571-1610. Realism and light seem to be the defining features of his art, and were appropriated by others – for a period at least. It really is about subject-object – something that Shakespeare was working on at the same time.


I also went up to London to pick up my lovely Gibson J45 guitar:

This is circa 1959, and I bought it from Robert Fripp some years back. It has been in for a service by Tom Mates who is actually a fine guitar maker and technician. He does the guitars for Ralph McTell, so know what to do and – more importantly – what not to do with old Gibsons. I spent a lovely morning chatting with his and trying his various guitars – all excellent, but I particularly liked a small parlor guitar. He also has a fine collection of National steel guitars from the 1920 and 30s – these are the ones with a metallic resonator. Each one an absolute beaut. with all the markings of their past lives. Lovely muted sounds.

Part 1 of my piece on King Crimson 1 1969 was posted on the DGM webpage.


This is an extension of my writings on musical biography. Parts 2 and 3 are to appear in the future and I am also working on further pieces taking the essays up to 1975, which is the first natural cut-off point for King Crimson.

There after, plans for 2017 – Paris, Norway, Germany, India, Argentina, Brazil, Australia. Well, some of those…we’ll see which crystalise…

December 2016

I feel rather amiss for writing the last month’s report so late. However, my excuse is jetlag! Only back in the country for two weeks and still aclimatising – well, I did suffer a 26 degrees drop in temperature coming back from my Australia sojourn. It was a lot of fun and took most of November and into December. I did not keep a log as such and just let the experience wash over me but I did return with 467 photos!

My plan is always to fly to Perth, which is the nearest point to stop. Very nice it is as well to be in the Esplanade hotel – a stones throw from the seafront and its fish restaurants and Freemantle town behind.


I chilled out there for the week beside the pool and took the odd excursion into the city for galleries and a change of scene.


Freo itself is lively with restaurants and cinemas, markets, etc. Just went into this lovely little ‘alternative’ shop the Blue Buddha – which was full of crystals, clothes, ornaments, books, records, and other goodies.


No sooner was I there than the shop assistant diagnosed a stiff back – the flight! – and set about to burn a suitable herb around me. She also recommended South Beach, which I immediately took in. Lovely.

Also, went into Murdoch University and caught up with some people I know there as well as doing a public lecture and seminar.

Next was Melbourne. Arrived there in rain – what!!?? and indeed clouds for the first half of the week. Too far south. However, a lively place and very cultural. My hotel was odd – I had to lie on the floor to look up out of the window to see the sky in order to know what the weather was as there was a high grey concrete wall about six feet from my room. This was a bit weird. Especially, as the room was decorated in black and silver – very designer. So, the overall effect was a bit ‘grey’. Quiet though which is my main issue, and then out into lively downtown Melbourne. Took in the rather good Victoria National Art Gallery which had a good selection of Australian and European art, if not much indigenous pieces. A fun designer exhibition on Kyle Minogue as well – what a wonder! Quite busy at the university with three sessions and also individual post-graduate tutorials. This was probably the most ‘cultural’ of the departments I visited, and I did talks/ seminars on Music and journalism.


Sydney next and treated very grandly. A lovely hotel just to the edge of the University, which made my daily travels into it easy.


Hot here though and this is something to be managed; that is, do not go out into it or, if you do, make it for only short passages between shade hops. Really good facilities and it shows that this university is the tops in the country. Excellent lecture theatre and good breakout rooms.


Again, I did individual supervision meetings with an amazing range of topics – from literature to sado-masochism! Also recorded, in film and audio, some ‘dialogues’ with a colleague there focusing on Bourdieu and Legitimation Code Theory.

And, finally, Canberra. This is an odd place, but I love it. Odd because it was set up to be the capital of Australia to stop Sydney and Melbourne fighting over the title. Ozzies tend to be regionally quite competitive. It was also set out as one by an architectural couple who were associates of Frank Lloyd Wright (in turn an associate of Gurdjieff). It is all very modern and well organized but so quiet. In fact, you think you should keep your voice down as someone might hear what you are saying. Never any traffic jams. Here, I talked on Biography and gave a one-day workshop on Creativity. It being the capital city, there was the best of the galleries there. Some amazing indigenous art also. I took hundreds of photos. Actually, got into the whole situation with respect to the Aboriginals much more on this trip. As someone said, to me, their position is so bad it is almost invisible. Certainly, there are so few and they seem marginal, in a very sorry state. I saw one walk through a crowd one day and everyone just ignored him as if it was a cat. Like they pretended he was not there. Also took some photos of Aboriginals protesting in front of the old government buildings. Much as I really like Australia, it is very difficult not to have this huge Aboriginal shadow standing over one all the time.


The quality of life there does seem higher than in the UK, and there is a great sense of dynamism. The Ozzies were always open with me, which I like and prefer compared to the reserved English. A little brash, occasionally, but never to take offense.


Then back to Perth for a few days before flying back to good old UK. I already want to go again!!


November 2016

Past month has been even super busier than normal, and indeed these notes are written somewhat in hast as I prepare for take-off to Australia on the 4th.

Certainly the waning year, and autumn is in full throes in my part of the world in the New Forest, England. Of course, the socio-political climate – both home and abroad – is super hot, so it is important to keep focus on immediate surroundings and what they offer – something that I can affect.


Several highpoints this month – individual events and longer-term involvements.

I went to Cordoba in Argentina for a concluding project of Guitar Circle work – The Symphony of Crafty Guitarists – this an extension of Guitar Craft/ Guitar Circle work I have been involved with since 1997. It was great to meet up again with so many past chums of courses over the years, and we were in a splendid compound for much of the time. Apart from coming down with a South American cold which someone generously passed on to me, there was a lot of good work and at separate levels including Kitchen work and personal meetings. And, of course, the culmination of the project – a performance in the local – rather large – church. This was very well received – in fact, better than most orchestra projects I have been involved with. Great energy and spirit at the end, and the search for ‘what’s next?’.


Back home, I began and ended the month with a concert by my friend Ralph McTell – first in Bristol and then in Poole. Both great shows in lots of different ways, but the Poole one in particular being excellent – really well played and the audience response was very warm. Amazing to see how a set list evolves over the course of a tour. Inevitably, there is an after concert drink and time to catch up. I have now pretty much sold all 100 copies of my Ralph McTell Biography – ‘Parallel Lives’. I am planning a 2nd edition for 2017, which will allow me to revise, edit and extend.


Also, a great concert by Petula Clark. I have a real penchant for French chanson, and she mixes this style with English traditional popular song. In fine voice with some lovely new and old songs, many given a new twist. Rare treat to have someone of her stature out on the road and presenting this style.


Most of my writing has been connected with the Australia trip – basically preparing my presentations. However, setting up future work for my return: the final King Crimson piece, the second edition of ‘Parallel Lives’, the publication of my ‘Introduction to Guitar Craft’ and my ‘Dialogues with Satyananda’ – and then make some progress with my next academic book. Not to mention ‘Tango Spies’!

So, Australia, here I come:

Australia Tour 2016




Nov 5th – 13th :   Perth/ Murdoch University

Esplanade Hotel, Fremantle

46-54 Marine Terrace, Fremantle, Western Australia, 6160

Tel: 00 61 8 9432 4000


Nov 13th – 19th : Melbourne/ Monash University

Punthill Hotel, Flinders lane, 267, Melbourne

Tel: 00 61 1300 731 299


Nov 19th – 26th : Sydney/ University of Sydney

Adina Appart Hotel, Chippendale, Sydney

74-80 Ivy Street, 2008 Sydney, Australia

00 61 2 9311 8800


Nov 26th – Dec 3rd :     Canberra/ University of Canberra

University Accommodation

University address – University of Canberra, Cooinda Hut, Bruce ACT 2617





October 2016

Saw my first Christmas cards on sale in August, so now that time of year is certainly getting a grip.

We have pretty much had Harvest, Lammas and the Autumnal Equinox. So, the year is folding in….Samhain in a few weeks.

Likewise, for me, it is a period of retiring, retreat – from the garden to the house, from t-shirts to pullovers, crocks to shoes. This year I am taking a step further and am ‘retreating’ to Argentina and Australia for most of October and November. Not my favourite time of year. And, turbulent this year – with unknown consequences of political events in the US, UK, not to mention the middle east. I find all this has occupied a lot of my thinking space these past weeks.

Otherwise, I did complete and post – on this site – my Brief Introduction to the Practice of Guitar Craft – a completion of sorts will be the upcoming course in Cordoba. I have also been preparing about 12 presentations for lectures in Australia – including one on Creativity, which will be a first for me.

Guitar Craft: A Brief Introductory Guide to Practice

I have enjoyed various exhibitions – and from one extreme to another. The work of the rather enigmatic artist Christopher Wood, who painted alongside Ben Nicholson in the 1930s as the pre-cursors of so-called English modernism. His style is an odd mix of the figurative, abstract/ surreal and naïve. Both Nicholson and Wood apparently discovered the enfantine artist Alfred Wallis who, as an ex-sailor, painted to ‘keep himself company’ – flat and on any odd shaped bit of wood or board. Wood’s family lived in Reddish Hose in Broadchalke, in the graveyard of which he was buried after, apparently suffering from drug-induced paranoia, he threw himself under a train at Salisbury train station. I recommend The Fatal Englishman by Sebastian Faulks:



I also went to a graduate Art exhibition at the University of Chichester. Just four of them. I love their lively, fizzy work, and wonder if any of them will become a name. If they do, I will have wished I had bought their work. One never knows…..


Also an amazing book on Time, which really follows up on my latest enthusiasm, Space and Physics. Something that I find more spiritual than ‘the’ spiritual. Just by being what it is!!


Slightly more down to earth, I went to see The Plough and the Stars by Sean O’Casey – a play about the Easter Rising in Ireland in 1916. It is now a bit dated but still gives a good account of the mixture of seriousness and farce that characterized the uprising. It was its 100th anniversary this year, and many tales and commemorations were held in its honour. Most seem to agree that it went off well, with a correct balance of circumspection and respect for those who in effect were the first to found an Irish Republic – indeed, the foundations of what we have there today. I find myself drawn increasingly into Irish history – more so now not living there.


Lots of new listening, including this:

Elan Sicroff’s 6 CD recordings of the non-Gurdjieff compositions of Thomas de Hartmann. Pretty comprehensive and a good representation, at last, of the scope of his work.


So, preparations continue……

September 2016

Summer waned over August whilst apparently coming into full bloom at the same time. Now moving into September and a distinct feel of autumn in the air.

August was a good month for getting out and about though.

A trip to Denmark and one of the oddest hotels – architecturally – I think I have ever stayed at in Copenhagen, and then a further trip up north for a conference seminar


Another trip to Cornwall as well and more spectacular sunsets on the Penwith coast.


This was mainly to take part in the second – and final ! – Folk Cottage reunion day held down near Mitchell. This was the place in which Ralph McTell pretty much began his rise to popularity in 1966 – in fact, he lived in a caravan there in a field. At the time, the building was no more than a barn but is now incorporated into the splendid home of the owners of the farm. Everyone agreed that facilities – marquee, loos, and sound – were markedly improved on 50 years ago!! The weather was lovely and, not surprisingly, there was a lot of re-acquainting going on. A bit more before my time, and a generation ahead. I did not know everyone, but I kind of knew who they were. A great event!


Current projects in Cornwall include: Sven Berlin, Ithell Colquhoun, and St Hilary.

In between, a couple more Prom concerts: the San Paulo orchestra from Rio, Brazil: two separate concerts in fact – the first with a young pianist, Gabriela Montero, who played Grieg’s great piano concerto. She then came on and demonstrated the remarkable ability to improvise – classically! – on any melody an audience member would whistle at her. Later, she and the orchestra were joined by a samba band and gave us some Brazilian jazz. Good but I am never convinced by classical orchestras playing popular music. It all seems a bit staged and lacking in spontaneity!

Another trip took in Bach’s mighty B Minor Mass. It goes on for some 100 minutes. I had the odd sensation when the whole thing came to a halt after around 45 minutes – or so it seemed to me! So, I don’t know where it took me!!?

Interesting exhibition of the Finnish performance artist Ragnar Kjartansson at the Barbican. One piece had two girls in a 3-hour kiss in a boat in front of the main building there. There were then seven guitarists playing the same dirge in another room, whilst a video of his actress mother played a scene with his actor father in which she says ‘take me now by the washing machine’ played out on the wall. The film repeats before any action begins. In another, different musicians in different rooms in a large house in New York sing and play – all very unhappy. Of course, completely mad but different and certainly, there is still a sense that the work would have a lot in common with popular fine art pieces. I would love to know what a student artist would make of it.

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Published, on this site, my translation of Bourdieu speaking with a group of student artists.

About to post my Introduction to Guitar Craft.

Half of the 100 copies of the limited edition of the Ralph McTell book now sold.

Now working on presentations for Australia.

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 (http://www.blakesociety.org/), 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!