November 21, 2017


Written on the summer solstice, and saved for a gloomy day in autumn.

It is the hottest June day since 1976.
I am staying very still, indoors,
So that the neat does not notice me.
The heat creeps around the door
Sucking at the limp air
Until there is nothing left to breathe.
It shimmies across the room,
Seductive, soporific;
Presses itself into my skin,
Holding me down.
Sticky-breathed stroking,
Nothing to do but surrender.

November 10, 2017

Birthday Albums #6 – Painted Ruins

Grizzly Bear – Painted Ruins

Hang on, didn’t you say last week that it would be “Shields”?

Yeah, funny story…

Oh there’s always a funny story with you, you imbecile.

Now now, just because you have no real identity and exist solely in my imagination, doesn’t mean you can be rude.

What do you mean, no real identity. Think about it.

Hang on a second. Exists in my imagination… obnoxious and abrasive…

Yes, you’re getting closer…


No, try again.

Ewan the Shark?


Holy balls. You mean it’s been Ewan the Shark asking me these questions all this time?

Right on, dick-for-brains.

Wow! Ewan, what have you been up to lately?

Oh, you know, the usual. Bit of this, bit of that.

How’s the fin?

Getting better, getting better.

Cool. So, about this album review.

Yeah, tell me your funny story.

Well, after all that build up, it might be a bit of an anticlimax. Turns out, I put the wrong album on my wishlist.

So you’ve got two copies of Shields now?

Well, no, I didn’t actually have the CD. So I’ve now just got one physical copy of an album which I formerly had in MP3 format.

Ah, that’s not so bad then. So who unnecessarily spent money on you this time? Was it Karen’s dad again?

Nah, my mum this time.

Does she read this blog?

I don’t think so. Anyway, Shields is a great album, but given that the whole thrust of this project is to review albums based on first impressions, I’ve got Painted Ruins now and am going to review that.

Makes sense. Proceed.

So as I’m listening to this album for the first time, I have this sinking feeling. I listen to the first few songs and am filled with a feeling of dread. It seems that Grizzly Bear are suffering from what I call “All The Good Chord Sequences Are Already Taken” syndrome. I am unable to pick out any kind of melodic patterns. In an effort to do something novel, they’ve written songs that are criminally uncatchy, random sequences of chords and notes that have no soul in them whatsoever.

Turns out, I should have had more faith. Because upon second listen, something starts to emerge. That little shred of familiarity from hearing the songs once is enough to provide just enough context that things don’t seem so gloomy after all.

You can probably guess where this is going. After three weeks, which probably corresponds to at least 10 listens through of the album, it’s climbed in my estimation greatly. Not so much that I’d proclaim it to be one of the greatest albums in the world or anything like that, but enough that I can get to the end and quite happily set it going from the start again. This album is, in short, a grower.

Best Song?

I don’t feel like I’ve really experienced this album on that level. It’s not a song-by-song sort of album, so when I look at the track listing, it’s a very unfamiliar collection of song titles that look back at me. I can’t tell you which one’s which, I can’t hum them. Not that sort of album, at least not to me. But, flicking through the album, I can heartily endorse Mourning Sound and Losing All Sense as my personal favourite tracks.

What’ll be next?

Kintsugi by Death Cab For Cutie.

October 28, 2017


I believe that this is the first time that I’ve been to Leeds, but it can be hard to be sure because I’ve done lots of things while drunk before and I can’t 100% rule out going to Leeds.

October 20, 2017

If birds were on twitter

Red robins would be asking you:
What would Jeremy Corbyn do?
Peacocks always posting selfies;
Magpies’ jokes are someone else’s.
Ducks and geese go on and on
About what their prodigal brood has done.
A pheasant moans about bad drivers,
A blackbird says his noisy neighbours
Always wake him up at dawn
(At least he gets to catch the worm).
The pigeons in Trafalgar Square
Brag about their followers.
Amidst this chattering of fowls,
The only sense is from the owls.
The whole covfefe’s a squawking throng,
From hashtag tits to muted swan.
But there’s no such thing as real bad news –
It’s lucky if they crap on you.

October 15, 2017

Birthday Albums #5 – The Fault In Our Stars

Various Artists – The Fault In Our Stars (Soundtrack)

How did it get on my wishlist?

I put this on my wishlist after watching The Fault In Our Stars film and being fairly impressed by the soundtrack and how well chosen the songs were. Instead of just being a bunch of backing noise, the music added a noticeable character to the film.

And why did you watch the film?

I saw a trailer for it on TV and thought that the cast looked pretty good. We’d just watched Big Little Lies so the Laura Dern / Shailene Woodley combo looked like a winner.

What’s it like?

Now hang onto your hats because this will come as a huge surprise, but the soundtrack to a drama about teenage cancer patients isn’t exactly a party album. The songs are mostly fairly glum, but beautiful. There’s an Ed Sheeran song and a Ray LaMontagne song on there, so that probably gives a fairly good indicator. That said, there are one or two slightly more uplifting songs on there, and a totally incongruous Swedish hip-hop song. At first I was puzzled by its inclusion, and wondered which scene it accompanied, but then I reminded myself and nodded in satisfaction.

After listening to it for a couple of weeks, I’ve reached the point where I need to move on to something else, maybe something with a bit more spring in its step, but this is still a fantastic album that I have every intention of coming back and listening to more of in the future.

Do you often cry like a baby at romantic films for a teen audience, or was it just this one time?

You’d have to be a heartless automaton to not cry at this film, disembodied voice.

Yeah, but you cry at films all the time, it’s hard not to tease

Yes, admittedly in recent years I find myself crying to films increasingly frequently, but maybe that’s just because I’m watching different kinds of films these days.

You cry at the end of Elf when Zooey Deschanel is singing “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town”

I cannot tell a lie, I do.

And you cry at least once in pretty much every Pixar film

Look, the guys who make these films are professionals. They know how to get the emotional reaction they seek.

Do you want me to change the subject?

In the interests of rescuing this album review that has gone hopelessly off the rails, that might be for the best.

Okay. Let me just check where I got to on the script. Ah, yes – Best song?

Boom Clap is just spectacularly catchy, it’s sheer pop brilliance.

What’ll be next?

Shields by Grizzly Bear.

  • Comments: 2
  • Maybe it's a question of building up a tolerance. Maybe regular reading of teen fiction me... - Pete
  • I won't say I cried like a teenage girl when I read the book because my teenage daughter r... - Gammidgy
October 8, 2017

The Trans-Pennine: A Cautionary Trail

Nearly a year ago, my Mum and I cooked up the idea of walking the Trans-Pennine Trail. Honestly, I wasn’t that mad about that particular trail; it didn’t look very pretty. Nor did I like the symbolism of walking to Armpit, where it ends – I’d rather walk away. But I did fancy heading off into the wilderness for two weeks to see what I was made of.

Pete wasn’t mad about it either; he wanted to go walking with me, so the new plan, to leave him in charge of Casa Uborka while I went off to have fun, was pretty unappealing. I mollified him by arranging some walking weekends on the Thames Path with him, and we had a lovely time, as has been mentioned before. Meanwhile Mum started training and was soon walking 15 miles twice a week, far more than I have the time to manage.
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  • Comments: 2
  • Nobody knows. - Karen
  • I really enjoyed reading this :) *Do* banana skins biodegrade? - Lisa
October 2, 2017

Half Century

Fifty approaches, and I’m
More like a building into its foundations
Than a bee on a flower.
My bucket list is emptied across the sand;
All my youthful potential,
which was squandered,
has got its second wind.
A late summer breeze;
A reprieve.
A sigh of relief that I’m finally filling my wings.

October 1, 2017

Birthday Albums #4 – Attack of the Mutant 50ft Kebab

Space – Attack of the Mutant 50ft Kebab

How did it get on my wishlist?

Every now and then, I wonder about the bands I listened to in my teens, and what they’re doing now. Remember Spiders by Space, that album that your girlfriend wouldn’t buy because of the cover? I discovered that they’re still active, so figured let’s slap their latest album on my wishlist and see what comes from it.

What’s it like?

On first listening, the album basically sounded like regret. It sounded like the sound of my pen on paper writing a letter to Karen’s dad saying “I’m so sorry that I put this album on my wishlist because you spent your money on it and now I feel really guilty.” The songs are musically uncreative and the lyrics devoid of any wit or cleverness. Most of the choruses are just the title of the song repeated four times.

As I played it through for a second time, it wasn’t quite so bad – with a little familiarity behind me, I could start to appreciate one or two nifty little pop hooks here and there, but still there is nothing that I would go so far as to recommend to a friend. Maybe to someone I didn’t like, someone whose time I wanted to waste.

Best song?

The best bit of this album was the bit where I felt like I had definitely given it as much time as it deserved, and unceremoniously removed it from the car to make way for the next CD. Normally at this point I’d rip it to MP3 and add it to the archive, but I might not bother on this occasion.

What’ll be next?

The Fault In Our Stars soundtrack by Various Artists. I sense that reviewing this will be tricky, so I’ll just do my usual stunt of just blathering on for three hundred words without actually reviewing anything. Damn, I’ve just given away all my trade secrets, haven’t I?