May 20th 2020 – The Way Its Always Been Done

Two news stories converged to get me thinking yesterday. First the confirmation of the entry requirements post-brexit that will be required for any prospective new migrants to the UK, and the requirement to secure a job of minimum salary of £25,600 (for full points). Secondly, the number of deaths from Covid-19 in care homes, and an interviewing underlining how strategies weren’t co-ordinated due to the diffuse nature of care home ownership. Both these stories spoke to me about how a certain type of Economic thinking that has been all-conquering over a number of decades had led to so many off-base assumptions in our society. As value is determined purely by profitability than by actual societal value.

The minimum salary pretty much says to a vast majority of workers in the UK, myself included, that you are of no value. Which is nonsense as the huge pay differential between the top and the rest of us, skews the national average salary which would’ve been used as a base for this policy.

The care homes speak for how the over may years, the main concern for how to organise anything at government level is pure cost. Its a way of thinking that seems counter-intuitive – surely you look at need and then look at how to fund that, not look at a problem and how we can solve it and still make profit. So much of this thinking has led to outsourcing to private sectors, who of course are going to look to make a profit to continue operating, and justify existing. Problem is market-led decisions tend to lead to low wages, and low quality, to keep costs low, to maximise profit.

This is how you end up with nothing working and a load of competing entities leading to a red tape, inefficiency and no-one getting the services they should.

I can only hope eventually a change in the way of thinking comes through, otherwise we will continue to have a country that doesn’t work – regardless of how many perceived outside influencers you rid yourselves of.

May 19th 2020 – A new blog

Just a quickie today as I’ve been working on launching my Nordic Folk music blog and FB page – North Sounds. I’m hoping to work quickly to add plenty of content to draw in traffic before I start trying to entice some artist for interviews and writing regular reviews. I’m excited to get started but aware that getting seen is a very difficult thing to achieve and I’m going to have to keep working even when shouting into the void (a familiar feeling).

May 18th 2020 – 365 Challenge Part 1

Ive joined up with some members of the Kermode Appreciation Society facebook group to take part in the 365 film challenge. Simple premise, watch 365 films in 365 days. Normally a thing to do at the start of a new year but this has been started now as it seems lockdown is going to go on for a bit and it gives a kind of meaning to the lazing about.

The rules are that each film must:

  • Be and accredited film through the BBFC
  • Each film must be one you have not previously seen
  • You can watch several in one day, you don’t have to stick to 1 a day as long as you are staying at the average of 1 a day
  • Documentary Films are acceptable
  • 5% of films may be less that 60mins long – that works out at 18 shirt films

This nicely coincides with the start of my weeks holiday from work, and signing up for the BFI player trial. So over the weekend and this morning I have made a start with the following (NB: ill do a brief list and thoughts each Monday on films watched):

    • Aniara (2018) – A spaceship carrying settlers to Mars is knocked off course, causing the consumption-obsessed passengers to consider their place in the universe. Interesting premise and treatise on the human condition, of hope, despair and hedonism – went a bit off course at time sbut a fairly gripping watch. (7.5/10)
    • Walkabout (1971) – Two city-bred siblings are stranded in the Australian Outback, where they learn to survive with the aid of an Aboriginal boy on his “walkabout”: a ritual separation from his tribe. Excellent cinematography and an interesting tale of clashing cultures. (7/10)
    • The Seventh Seal (1957) – A man seeks answers about life, death, and the existence of God as he plays chess against the Grim Reaper during the Black Plague. I can understand the acclaim, it’s well shot for the time and tackles huge themes, a little slow in places but makes you think (7/10)
    • Evolution (2015) – The only residents of young Nicholas’ sea-side town are women and boys. When he sees a corpse in the ocean one day, he begins to question his existence and surroundings. Why must he, and all the other boys, be hospitalised? A very slow watch, again beautifully filmed and intriguing to see what the big secret in the town is, big ideas but poorly executed. (5/10)
    • In The Name Of The Father (1993) – A man’s coerced confession to an I.R.A. bombing he did not commit results in the imprisonment of his father as well. An English lawyer fights to free them. Excellent film, I don’t know I didn’t watch this before being a fan of The Boxer which also stars DDL and set during the troubles, adding flesh to a story a was aware of as a youngster but knew little of the facts about. (8/10)

May17th 2020 – National Identity

Revisiting the idea of national identity today. Not something I was planning to do but got to thinking about it after watching an old Limmy video on You Tube talking about a twitter spat with Richard Herring over the latters ironic use of the phrase Scotch to talk about Scottish people. The chat was fine and seemed a genuine misunderstanding of intent, however there was a lot of chat about how Edinburgh is not Scotland. This is an argument I’ve heard of many times from those in the west, dismissive of people from Edinburgh, from up north, from Aberdeen, from Dundee etc as being different. Not sharing the same patter as the Glasgwegian and therefore not proper Scottish.

It got me to think about another aspect that renders national identity absurb. That what is defined as national traits in a country is generally portrayed by the dominant regional group – generally those in and around the capital. The part of the country where the centre’s of culture are, that show ourselves and the rest of the world what it is to be off that nation.

It seems that our belonging to a particular homogenous social group is a lot more micro than the concept of nationality. It speaks to the idea that to be Scottish isn;t necessarily to be Glasgwegian, to be English isn’t necessarily to be from London and the home counties, to be French is not necessarily Parisian.

This further makes the idea of nationality based politics all the more absurd, because unless you are part of that centralised region-as-nation identity then what you are upholding is something that is foreign to your experiences.


May 16th 2020 – Bundesliga’s Back

So my favourite league is the first major league to come back after lockdown, and today it was great to watch a couple of games, including watching my team Borussia Monchengladbach grab an impressive win away and Frankfurt and leapfrog Leipzig into third in the league.

It was a bit surreal having no crowd noise, and from both games I saw it seemed like it was a bit surreal for the players too. Unsure really how to deal with the concept of social distancing within a contact sport, it really took some time into both games for there to be any close tackling and the physicality you expect in the game. Perhaps that’s contributing to the teams in both games with the technically better players managed to get early convincing leads?

It’ll be interesting to see how the games pan out to the season end, while the strange atmosphere and general strangeness of being around people lead to some freak results and unexpected outcomes – can it possibly curtail Bayerns march to the title.

Most interestingly, what will happen should any players test positive between games? I think other leagues will be watching to see what happens and hoping for success as a blueprint for getting things done elsewhere.

May 15th 2020 – Holidays

Ah, so today I turned on my out of office for what while actually be 10 days of freedom – the joys of having a bank holiday Monday right after your week off. Alas the gamble that there may have been some relaxing of lockdown in time for this has not paid off, so I still won’t be able to go and visit my wife, and will though we can exercise more, there’s so little to do outside that it is pretty much a lonesome flat-bound week.

Time to find those little jobs needing doing around the place, time to try out some of the ideas in writing I’ve been coming up with. Failing that time to veg and watch some films ive been meaning to watch for years at least.

May 14th 2020 – Shrooms

Recently I’ve watched a couple of interesting documentaries about psychoactive drugs and heard Laura Marling talking about taking Mushrooms and it’s something that has interested me. The idea that it can help change the way your brain’s neural pathways work, to alter perspectives and perhaps even your personality (temporarily or longer term would be the debate).

As someone often being introspective and wondering about my own personality and how it can be improved, it is something that interests me as a concept. Especially the idea of small doses for milder effects but with tangible results which there have been limited studies about.

Of course, its not something as a 40-something I’m going to jump into doing myself, I’ve always been far too acutely aware of my addictive personality, and too aware of potential disaster to dabble in that sort of thing.

However, the idea interests me as something that could be studied more and could at some point in the future become something that is a viable treatment people can take.


May 13th 2020 – A You Tube Festival

I’ve been my last few evenings with live music on you tube, or I mean music recorded from gigs. Mostly, a lot of the small indie pop bands that I love, and quite a lot at the Indietracks festival that I absolutely need to get to some year whilst its still running. Tonight I watched The School doing a set from 2009, a band who released what to me is the ultimate indiepop album ‘Loveless Unbeliever’ which includes the outstanding single ‘I Don’t Believe in Love’

What struck me watching this though was, these type of bands are generally the outlet for the songs of one person. One person who’s poured a lifetime of experience and emotion into some 4 minute pop songs. One person now performing in front of a bemused crowd of 80-100 people, of whom maybe a handful have connected with the music.

On the one hand it must be great that something you’ve created has connected with even one other person. On the other hand though, it must be slightly galling to be night after night be giving a little something of yourself and feeling like no one is really listening.

No wonder a lot of these bands don’t last too long, so many great songs lying on albums only a handful of people are listening too.


May 12th 2020 – Emmy the Great – First Love

So as a departure, I’m going to do a few blogs about albums that have a meant a lot to me over the years. Starting with one iv’e been listening too today. The debut album by Emmy The Great – First Love.

I discovered this album during the period around 2009/10 when I was working night shift in Morrisons. To get through the shifts I would spend my days downloading as much new music as I could via the P2P sharing site Soulseek (excellent for available of more obscure artists), and listen to as much new bands as I could during my shift. This album more than any other has stayed with my other years since and remains as vital now as it did then.

The sound is mostly stripped back, acoustic folk, though with a few interesting sounds mixed in. Very pleasant and the first few times I listened to it, it washed over me as nice but nothing special, that is until I listened to the lyrics. When I first took notice of the song ‘We Could’ve Had a Baby’, and it’s lyrics about the potential outcome from being raped. The lyrics stood in stark contrast in the melodic almost motown style of the song. This is interesting I thought to myself.

The I actually listened properly to the lyrics of the song ‘MIA’ which recounts the tale of the aftermath of a car crash. At a time when I was feeling low and considering my place on this earth, a lyric as practical as ‘Who’s going to cancel my debt?’, which the character in the song muses as they lie there next to a dead partner and pondering their own possible demise. It struck with me because a silly little thing like worrying about who would handle the mess of my finances as well as the physical mess if I was to end it all, meant I never felt it was something I could do. A debt trumping over a lack of hope.

Then you’ve got ’24’ a clever track recounting the wasting of a life, as someone turns 24 whilst watching all 24 episodes of a series of 24. Now obviously I was older than that at the time but the idea of a life wasting away struck a chord again.

The rest of the album is similar in tone, a mixture of tragedy and humour, with melody and just a lovely sound. It resonated as a direction my musical tastes would take sonically going forward, stripping back, looking for more from less. Rather than trying to fill every second of a song with interesting and new noises, to start looking for space to breath and to think. It also resonating in helping me to start thinking in a more positive way, by holding a mirror to how I was feeling and making me want to find a change in myself rather than a change in my surroundings.

The album has grown in stature after it came onto Spotify replete with the tracks from the Edward EP – Canopies and Drapes is a must listen for any child of the nineties. Also I’ve subsequently had another track gain extra meaning as my Wife and I have both subsequently and separately fallen for the title song First Love with it’s gradually speeding up at the end and it’s lyric about ‘Hallelujah, the original Leonard Cohen version’ – ironic that we have a bond over a song the is about the death of a first love.

I saw Emmy live at the Pleasance a couple of years later (I think, maybe it was 2011, maybe 2012) at the Pleasance Theatre, after her not-inconsiderable follow-up Virtue came out. She was a joy to see live, a stripped back show, a connection with the audience and a little bit of the shambolic to make the event special also changed what I looked for in a gig.

I’ve got a Spotify playlist that I made of those nightshift listenings, I’m sharing it here –

it’s interesting to see how many I listened to so much then but haven’t though of since.

May 11th 2020 – Is there Anything Out There

I love by the sea, I don’t have any houses in fron of my building, I have some street lights, a road a bit of grass then into an expanse of sea. Should be ideal conditions to get a good view. During the day is great but I’ve always held a fascination for space and it frustrates me that I can’t think of the last time I saw a star out of my window. Light pollution, cloud cover and probably general smog mean that I never see beyond our atmosphere, never get to see any of the phenomenon that come around periodically, and as a wannabe stargazer it breaks my heart a little.