Sunday, 22 February 2009

Ascendant Band, Astronomical Beer

To a gig last week; a guy named Paul Dunton from Tunbridge Wells has established a series of candlelit soirees featuring local artists. This was the first to be held in Maidstone, upstairs in the local Pizza Express. Most of the musicians came from Tunbridge Wells, and may be familiar to Justme and Completely Alienne

Any showcase for local talent is worthwhile, and this was potentially a good venue. Unfortunately the twin emphases on food and music clashed. It was a distraction having waitresses clattering to and fro with orders, and the restaurant prices for drinks were prohibitive. With beer at £6.50 a pint and entry at £7 per head, a party of four could be £50 out of pocket before they'd sipped the first drink. Order a meal as well, as was clearly expected by the staff (we didn't, and we weren't alone), and you were into serious money. When we'd seen the price list we whipped straight back out to the pub next door and sank a quick pint before the first set, and then nursed an expensive bottle of cheap wine for the remaining three hours.

The evening opened with a 16 year old pianist/singer/songwriter, Annabel Durnford, who performed with grace and maturity. She was followed by the event organiser Paul Dunton and friends. Piano, violins, flute and cello delivered an unusual fusion of pop/rock ballad and chamber music. I'm not sure the room did them justice.

Third act was singer/songwriter Joanne Louise Parker. Her spare guitar technique placed the focus on a voice of bewitching tone and clarity, and she showed an almost celtic ability to sing on pitch without accompaniment (or 'a cappella' as it's poncily known down here). Perhaps there is a Free Church enclave in her native fens. Folk/blues flavoured, she is very good.

Headliners Cyrano came from Tunbridge Wells. They produced a consistently tight, studio-quality sound which belted around the room in a sustained, plangent attack. When I looked at the audience they were tapping and twitching as if they were wired in series, and women were dancing on the steel stairs to the mezzanine floor. Joe Ackerley's voice soars with plaintive purity, Karl B hammered away on lead guitar like an onanistic gnome, and bass and drums were balanced, punchy and harmonious. Cyrano are currently putting together their first album. Watch this band, because I reckon it will become a household name.

Monday, 16 February 2009

What's in a Name?

The Sagittarian has speculated about the title of my blog. My readers have varied tastes; in an attempt to please both of them, I will offer several different explanations, any or none of which may be true.


A memorable event in my early life (in fact the only memorable event in my early life), was playing the part of the ferryman's son in Ingmar Bergman's 1961 film, 'Through a Glass Darkly'. I was offered it through an old family connection, and the location was the island of Fårö, which was closed to normal visitors at the time because it contained secret military installations. But Bergman lived there, and this was the first of many films he made on the island. I was only there for two days and have limited memories of it all. I do recall that Gunnar Björnstrand, who played the novelist, was always pleased to see me and taught me a traditional greeting which I still remember; 'Gå bort du otäck litten räka'. Sadly Ingmar Bergman was by then unrecognisable from his famous rôle as Ilsa Lund in 'Casablanca'.


Newcastle's Long Bar is on the Great North Road, almost opposite Central Station. In those days it was very much a men-only bar. In retrospect it was a bad idea to have agreed to meet Tim Darkly there for a pint of Fed Special on the way to a party. I'd have been all right. Cherry loons and an Afghan coat might have escaped comment in a student town. But Darkly was dressed as a nurse, complete with balloons. It wasn't a fancy dress party; he always dressed as a nurse, and I should have remembered that. Even then, we might have got away with it, if he hadn't misjudged his embonpoint (the balloons were over-inflated) and jogged the arm of the diminutive Geordie standing next to him, causing him to spill beer down his shirt. The man said something very brief that neither of us caught, and very deliberately poured a significant amount of brown ale down Darkly's cleavage before turning away. Darkly asked me how we should respond and I, thinking that the best thing would be to buy the man a drink, said, "Through a glass, Darkly". Unfortunately he thought I said, 'Throw a glass, Darkly'.

I can tell you, should you ever be in a similar position, that the care offered in the Royal Victoria Infirmary is second to none.


My choice of hymn for our wedding was number 240 from Hymns Ancient & Modern, which is adapted from the poem 'Elixir' by George Herbert (1593 - 1632). It includes the verse, 'A man that looks on glass on it may stay his eye; or if he pleases, through it pass, and then the heaven espy'. (It's a pretty line, although the following verse gave me an opportunity to glance significantly at the Social Secretary; 'A servant with this clause makes drudgery divine: who sweeps a room, as for your laws, makes that and th' action fine'). The glass line seems to echo Corinthians 1, 13,8. "For now we see through a glass, darkly" - a line I've always had affection for, since I am not unknown for seeing life slightly hazily through a glass.

Saturday, 14 February 2009

The Sun is Out, the Sky is Blue

It's been such a sairie, downing few weeks, and suddenly the sun is out and the sky is cerulean blue (shameless plug), so here's this, because I can.

Thursday, 12 February 2009


Roses are red,
Violets are blue;
Our leader is Brown
And we're in the poo.


Your turn...

Tuesday, 10 February 2009


I'm just trying you out to see what everyone's talking about.

Sorry. I was playing with Twitter, and it asked me what I was doing.

Ooo. I've got a tweet.

Brothertobias@ nudrig2 No, I'm not famous. Although I like to think I have a modest following in the world of scripophily.

Brothertobias@ nudrig2 Not at all. It was a pleasure talking to you.

Another tweet. That's two tweets already.

Brothertobias@heavenlytwinny Thank you. It's early days. What about you?

Brothertobias@heavenlytwinny I do find the 140 word limit a constraint when trying to address issues of any complexity, especially when there is a moral or ethical dimen


Brothertobias@heavenlytwinny dimension

Brothertobias@wedekindboy Isn't 0825 an odd time to be eating pesto?

Brothertobias@heavenlytwinny Ahaha :)

Brothertobias@wedekindboy Ah. Guadalajara. I understand. Wasn't thinking. No, I don't think I'm that Brother Tobias; I never taught at a mission school.

Brothertobias@wedekindboy No, really. I've never even been to Mexico.

Brothertobias@wedekindboy Well quite. That must have been very painful, and you have every right.

I have to go now.


I dunno. I guess it's like marmite. It has a strange fascination. Yes, I visited Stephen Fry's tweets, of course I did. And thence to Sandi Toksvig's sister's. It was a learning experience (I didn't know Sandi Toksvig had a sister). And snooped in on some familiar bloggers, whose one-sided chatter was witty and entertaining, like listening to shiny people at the next table, wishing they were your friends.

But it's a bit like Blogger with just the comments and no blogs. I don't want to start collecting celeb responses like tiny trophies. And just tweeting and being tweeted would become a full time occupation. It's as if networking has become the end, not a means.

I admire anyone who can blog and twitter. So many balls to keep up. Some of my favourite bloggers have taken to Twitter. You know who you are. But I hope we who are left sedately in the blogosphere don't lose you altogether.

Saturday, 7 February 2009

Don't Pick Me, Pick Chesley

Listening to the recordings of the splendidly calm Chesley B Sullenberger's radio transmissions as he prepared to ditch his stricken airliner into the Hudson River impressed the hell out of me.

One afternoon in November 2001, I was locked in an unlikely embrace with a fridge/freezer as I manoeuvred it in a stiff-legged waltz across the drive behind the house, ready for the local council's collection service the next morning. There happened to be a thick fog, so I was surprised to hear a low aeroplane approaching. A very low aeroplane. Approaching. Very low.

I stopped and stared blankly into the mist, and at the last possible moment a light aircraft appeared an extendable ladder's height or so above the house and disappeared again into the whiteness.

There is a wooded hill behind us, and I had time to think, "Jeez, that's low. He'll be lucky to clear the trees," in a sort of 'but of course he will' tone of thought, when I heard the violent sound of breaking branches and the aircraft's engine appeared to stop abruptly.

I learned a lot about myself in the next few minutes. Principally, that I am not a Chesley B Sullenberger. I am not fashioned from the stuff of which cool-headed, laconic heroes are made. Headless and chicken spring to mind. My 999 call must have sounded excitable at best, and probably an octave too high. (When I reported an aircraft impacting trees, the operator remarked disbelievingly that they had not had any other reports to that effect. Sully's measured tones would have had them scrambling helicopters before he'd finished giving his name).

Conscious that any support would be some time to arrive and that I might be faced with people who were feeling not very well, I set off up to the wood in my gum boots carrying a fire extinguisher, some dressings and bandages, my mobile and my Boys Book of Light Aircraft. I was trying my best, but frankly, Mr Cool I was not.

When I got to the right part of the wood I clambered about in the misty undergrowth, looking down for wheels and bodies, and up for tail planes and the like. All I found was a few foil-wrapped packets of foreign coffee amongst the brambles. I began to wonder if I had imagined the whole thing, until I heard on the local news that an aircraft had made a forced landing at the Kent Show Ground, formerly the wartime Detling Airfield.

I found the report of the accident today. It is interesting that the Instructor stated that he had been flying at about 650 feet - significantly lower than the height of the treetops in this area. It also seems incredibly lucky that the place they came down happened to be a former airfield. Although the aeroplane was substantially damaged, with bits of tree around its nose and undercarriage, the two occupants were unhurt.

About a year later I recounted this story to a knowledgeable friend who told me that it was standard practice for smugglers to conceal drugs in packs of coffee. I was away up to the wood as soon as it was light, but disappointingly the packs I found (which I imagined had been torn out of some sort of hold or locker) appeared to contain nothing but ground coffee.