Archive for the ‘Personal’ Category

I’ve been listening to Roy’s music for years: originally, I read an article in a guitar magazine, and then heard down the grapevine about his live peformance, and I thought it sounded fun. This all happened when I was about to go to university. It was this collection of circumstances that has meant that Roy had a formative place in my musical upbringing. I bought a copy of his album Once, and shortly after saw him play live. Before this, my life music had been limited to blues in the local pubs; Roy was the first “real” gig that I saw live.

After this, Roy along with John Martyn ( (who was responsible for the second real gig I went to), became a regular. I would see him play every year or two, I bought a lot of his back catalogue and listened to it often.

As time has moved on, Roy has got older and tours rarely now; I last saw him in 2010 (as support for Joanna Newsome). And I listen to his music much less, largely because I listen to music much less. I decided to go down south, therefore, partly for old-time sake. I wanted to hear him live again.

Despite the passing of the years, he remains fantastic: he voice still has a grandeur and sweep to it. His songs are passionate, moving and his lyrics poetic. Over time, of course, his performance has changed: no longer the distorted guitar, nor using his mic stand as a slide, the full “One Man Rock and Roll Band”. His first song was about reminiscance, and this was perhaps appropriate; the strongest of his music is now in his gentler, more melancholic, quieter songs.

The strange thing about the gig, though, was my reaction. When he started to talk about the next song, I would often recognise bits of the intro, but then could not remember the song associated with it. But when he started playing, I knew the tune, and the words, sometimes without remembering what the song was called, it would slowly uncover in my mind.

Music is part of life. It has always evoked many emotions: the excitement when you discover new music, the passion when you listen it repeatedly, the sense of dislocation when the music lifts you away from yourself and takes you to a different place. Of course, it is not just Roy getting older: I am about the same age now as Roy would have been when I first saw him. Music can be many things, but now, as I age, I find a new emotion: the pleasure of association, with music that I have heard and changed with over time. I have learned it so well that, even where I cannot remember it, I will never forget it entirely. In that sense, it has become and will remain a part of me.


I am very happy with myself as, on saturday, I managed to complete the 64 mile Cyclone. The last time I managed this was 6 years ago ( There were other momentus events happening in my life that year (, which probably explain why I have not found the time to replicate the feat since then.

My main change this year has been my training schedule; I knew that I was going to get there by cycling at the weekends — it’s not enough, and too irregular. So, instead, I have been using some cycle rollers that I bought ages ago but have not really just started to use. And what a difference they have made; I remember feeling tired after a 20 mile ride in April, so have got to 60 pretty quick. In fact, I managed to time close to my previous best, coming in at 4:57 (on the road) or 5:12 (elapsed) which makes just over 12mph.

It was a hard ride — I’ve been training mostly up and down the river, and the cyclone is pretty hill; I was starting to feel tired at 50 miles and, although I did keep the speed up for the ride in, I was reaching my limit. Having said that, this year, they have added a 90mile route as well, and I fancy trying it next year. I’m not totally convinced that my bike ( is right for it. It’s a little heavy, probably about 15kg with all the extra baggage I carry on it. But, then, I am also a little heavy with the extra baggage I am carrying, so perhaps it’s not an issue.


I think that I have missed the last few years of holiday posts. They are no doubt getting undoubtely getting increasingly in-appropriate as this blog completes it’s transition to an open lab-book. Still, I am stuck in an airport post-ICBO, so why not?

I have, to my knowledge, only been to Greece for work before, so I was not entirely sure what we were going to get, beyond the climate and food, which I figured was likely to be pretty similar to Turkey where we were two year before (actually, we could see the Turkish coast we had swam from). In this, I was correct. It’s reasonably hot. The ground is dry although there is no shortage of water (although, I didn’t know that Rhodes has almost no natural running water). The first week there was a very pleasant wind blowing, although I believe that this is unusual; it had gone by the second week.

Pefkos it a pretty small town and it is entirely tourist-driven; the accommodation is largely populated by the UK package tour operators, and it is rather “English breakfast”, but not offensively so. Our hotel backed onto the beach and, unlike Turkey, Greek beaches are not private owned; long may this last, although I have no doubt that somewhere right-wing economics are busy coming up with explanations as to why this is really a bad thing.

Rhodes itself is very beautiful, although we saw it largely by tour bus; while this avoids argument as to who is going to get stuck with the driving, the lack of control and the joyless, breathless, pillar-to-post excursion experience brings hassles of its own. Still, unlikely Turkey, the attempts to sell junk (Onyx in Turkey, Olive oil in Rhodes) to tourists was much less relentless. Likewise, the prices were reasonable, stated up-front on the menu and stuck to. Best things to see, if you are interested, were Rhodes town itself, and the butterfly valley, although this is not a major discovery. If you go to Rhodes, people will give you opinions on the 10 options pretty quick.

I believe that as a tourist town Pefkos is unusual on Rhodes in actually having Resturants at all, as most of the other towns have full-board hotels and there is no market. This seemed like a good thing, as hotel catering is rarely reliable. However, the resturant food was rather disappointing from a veggie perspective. While the Greeks seem curiously smug about their cuisine as they have discovered both the grill and the oven, their main dishes I find lack variety or composition, so I was not expecting much there. But, their mezze are great and even if they are largely replicated identically between resturants, so I expected to eat well.

The problem was that the mezze were too big; by the time you’d bought, say, some hummous, with a bit of bread, you already had half the food that you were ever going to eat. If I wanted to sample the variety they had on offer in one meal, I’d have to buy 5 dishes, then throw most of each away. I tried asking about this, but Greece (or tourist Greece) is not like Italy; the menu is a description of what you can choose from, not a starting point for negotiation. I didn’t starve, but it could have been so much better.

The best meal I got was from a buffet at the hotel, where I could pick what I wanted; oh, the irony. This at their themed “Greek night” — a pretty obscure theme for a Greek hotel, on a Greek island, in Greece, but they attacked it with gusto: they seemed genuinely disappointed that I didn’t drink the Ouzo (“it’s a spirit, with aniseed”, they explained); then, the Greek dancers, to the sounds of a bousouki player, and attempts to get us to join the knees up, after which the band switched between the top 10 bousouki standards, interspersed with the top 10 chart hits (Taylor Swift sounds better on bousouki than in the original though, perhaps, that is less surprising than it seems on first thoughts). It was all rather fun, even if haunted by the shade of Monty Python.

The backdrop to the holiday was the economic crisis; the Greeks voted no in the middle. It seemed a brave attempt to resist the bullying and hectoring; reform is needed, indeed, but it is in the international businesses who think that tax is for the little people, and with the self-appointed guardians of the economy who treat social justice and welfare as a luxury to be disposed of, as soon as the opportunity arises. Perhaps it seems unlikely, given that their leaders have already capitulated, but I hope that the Greek people can hold on to as many of these things as they can. Maybe, the Greeks can help lead the world back toward democracy and away from the current hegemony; they have a history in doing this, after all.

If they can keep their free beaches which they were kind enough to share with us on our holiday, and which I hope they will share with us again in future, that would be nice as well.

As on a previous, happier, occasion, I ask for my readers indulgence for this personal post. This was my reading delivered today, 29th January, 2015.

My father once said that he could not understand how people found so much to say at funerals; at his, he said, his life story would be over in just a few lines. Perhaps, here, I will prove him right.

My father used to describe himself as a blessed man — he meant this in a very simple way, which was that he was a happy man, contented with his life and his family. My father did not want for things for physical possessions but he did want to look after the things that he had. He loved to make and build things, to define simple solutions to little problems; his garage has shelves and cupboards that he crafted like a fitted kitchen. He was happiest in his home, in the environment that he had helped to build.

As children, my father would take my brother and I on long cycle rides through the countryside around Worcester on many weekends. In my memory, these rides went on for a long time, though I was young and they cannot have been that far; but they were an enormously exciting adventure. They left me with a love of cycling that I retain to this day. In reality, of course, it was just my dad finding a creative way of getting us out of the house while my mum made dinner.

My father loved to talk with people, to find out how they were. After Sean, my son, was born, my dad spent many hours talking with my Italian father-in-law: first, they waved their hands around; then, after I showed them how, they used my computer to translate, passing it backward and forward between them. The lack of a common language was never going to get in the way of my dad having a good conversation.

When I was young, I did not think of him as a good father, just as my dad; I thought every dad was like that. Seeing him with my son made me appreciate him all the more; the sweet stupidity of an eighty year old man, crawling on all-fours with his grandson saying, “shall I make some silly noises, then”? He loved Sean beyond measure.

He had a deep consideration for others. When I told him how I had not been able to return this year at Christmas for his unexpected operation, he said that, he would have been devastated if I had, and that he hoped that he had not spoiled the holiday with his illness.

My dad’s life story may not be one of great deads or big adventures, but these things miss every thing that was important about him. He was a loving man, a kind man and a generous man. But above all, he was a gentle man. His loss leaves a hole in my, and our, lives that cannot be filled, but if when my, and our, time comes, if family and friends can say the same thing about us, then we, too, will have lead blessed lives.

William Henry Lord

Bill Lord


Thank you


Death Thanks

I was lucky enough to catch (er) the premier of Catch-22 at the Northern Stage on Saturday. I’ve been to quite a few shows there now, and they are generally good; an adaption of what I consider to be best book that I’ve ever read, I was optimistic. We had good seats as well, middle, fifth row (far enough away not to get a stiff neck, close enough to hear clearly).

Looking through the programme, I was confused as to who had made the adaption as it wasn’t not mentioned anywhere; fortunately, BBC News put me right; the play was my Joseph Heller himself.

The stage set was fantastic, a cut-away bomber with the back-end merging into a beach hut. Like the rest of the set, it was used for many purposes — as a plane, an office, an entrance way. The cast was the same; nine actors jumping backward and forward between roles, except for the actor playing Yossarian, who, as in the book, was a solitary figure in the middle of the madness.

On the whole, I think it worked rather well. It’s a mistake, I think, to compare it to the book directly; nothing ever could. Many fantastic parts were missed — including my own favorite great loyality campaign, and the shortening meant that only a few characters really came out of their own: Colonel Cathcart, Major Major, the Chaplain, Natley (and his whore). Not all of it, I think, made entire sense: the naked man in the tree was funny, but it wasn’t clear why Yossarian refused to wear his clothes; nor the ending, with Orr’s escape missing, it’s not clear why Yossarian got all optimistic. But how could there not be parts missing? The main thing is that the feel of the theatre show and the book are the same; it’s confused, dissonate, unsettling, challenging all at the same time as being very, very funny.

The BBC news article raises the question, in the 40 years since the play was written why has it not been performed more. Good question, indeed.

A few weeks back, I went to see Neil Young at the Academy. This represents quite a few firsts for me: although I’ve loved his stuff for years, this is the first time that I have seen Neil Young live, and likewise Crazy Horse. It’s also the first gig that I have been to for quite a while. I have never got over the sense of excitement of live music and this has only been increased by its rarity. I was definately looking forward to it.

Set against this, the Metro Arena is not my favourite sort of venue. Large venues such as this are fairly soulless places. The arena fits squarely into this category; like a football stadium, seats too small and uncomfortable. Moving around involves lots of shuffling around in big queues.

The stage set consisted of a Crazy Horse banner, some enormous packing cases, and video screens set in old style TV casing. All of this rather swamped Los Lobos, who none the less did a good support set.

The packing cases were the first sign of the melodrama of the evening; with the rather strange sight of roadies dressed up as mad scientists running around, these were lifted up to reveal the set of enormous amps familiar from Weld, backed by Day in the Life. This was a complete revelation; played loud over a big sound system with all the resonance of an arena, it’s a totally different song. Dramatic, exiciting; the John Lennon vocals in the second pattern were haunting, and the orchestral finale were stupendous, leaving the audience stunned.

This was followed by a slightly cheesy rendition of the national anthem, and then straight into Love and Only Love; this really summed the rest of the night up. It was loud, long and overblown. And, yet, somehow they get away with it. The songs are simple and direct. Despite the theatrics, at heart its just a bunch of guys on stage, hunched over their instruments playing in a way which cuts through all the messing, takes you into the music and carries you away. It’s live music and more over it is music that is at its best live. You need it there in front on your to appreciate it to its full extent.

There are times when, perhaps, it feels like one too many thudding chord changes too many, one too many feedback-laced false ending, but I didn’t care. I’ve been listening to some of these songs for 20 years now; the band is now all in their late 60s or 70s, and some of the songs over 40 years old. But, to me, it felt fresh; I dont know if I will ever get to see them live again, but I am glad that I have seen them once. A great gig for me.