Taking a break from blogging

It’s been getting harder and harder to write a full post, and I don’t like just whining on and on about my problems.
Add to that the fact that the “new posting experience” from WordPress has made it impossible to actually write travel posts because it’s STILL lacking an “add media” button, and so while I know the code to embed it, I can’t upload the pictures onto WP to then embed them, if you see what I mean.
Aside from that, I’m starting to feel a bit stressed trying to keep up with other people’s blogs. I just don’t have the energy.
Apparently Nausea and Vomiting in Pregnancy (NVP) is made worse by over-activity.
I’m going to have to take some time away from Invoke Delight and away from all your blogs until I’m in such a state where I can actually get out of bed in less than 6 hours.
My counsellor told me to go to A+E and see the duty psychiatrist today. That was probably the day’s low point. I guess I shouldn’t have shared my desires to cut the foetus out of me with a knife, but I’m kinda glad it’s out there. That, and I did vomit in his bin. I don’t do it on purpose.

Basically, though, I’m in a serious bind and I don’t want to talk to anyone about it any more because I’ve talked to plenty of people (irl) and I’m not getting helpful answers. I think it’s because at the end of the day I don’t know anyone who’s similar enough to me to think like me to be able to talk me through it any more. There used to be a time when all my friends and I shared pretty much the same opinion on EVERYTHING. Then we all dwindled and now they’re all very far away. When all is said and done, and all I’m getting is static over the airwaves, I just need to do some serious thinking without other people’s input (except possibly the doctor) and come to my own decision. I don’t have parents I can ring, I don’t have brothers or sisters who I could talk to about this (my half sister has, aside from her LD’s, severe antisocial difficulties; it’s difficult to hold a conversation with her because she’s very confrontational and purposely twists what you’ve said to the extreme and then purposely takes it the wrong way and gets offended about something you never said or thought). It’s not making this pregnancy depression any easier to live with though, having this extra thing hanging over my head all the time, and I need time to think it through.

I had a dream last night that I was boarding a plane to New Zealand, ready to spend a year or so bumming around. I had been on the plane for several hours when I realized I’d forgotten my visa. Then reality crashed through and I realized I was also a) pregnant (violating the terms of the visa) and b) married (and leaving my husband in the UK). I ended up opening the emergency door and jumping off, just tumbling through the clouds into infinity.

On top of that, someone asked today if I was going somewhere on Thursday. I said not, then apologized profusely for letting them down.

Something that really sticks in my craw today is something Dr House said once on the TV, about how people who apologize when they can’t do something apparently are lying. I think it’s an unfair interpretation because I always apologize when I feel like I’m letting people down, and I’m not narcissistic enough to believe that being ill or injured or otherwise indisposed is important enough to other people for them to not be pissed that I can’t do a thing. I think it’s also a submissive thing of feeling like other people’s shit is more important than my own, regardless of how severe mine is. As far as I’m concerned (and in my experience of people) they don’t care about my issues, they care that I’m letting them down. I agree that I am, in fact, letting them down. So I apologize. Then I get neurotic about it and worry that they think I’m not genuinely ill/injured/indisposed because I apologized. Because of some shit that an actor said on TV. How silly is that??? Doesn’t stop me doing it. I hate getting tangled in knots over stuff like this.

Anyway, the Benadryl is no longer having the desired effect today it’s not worked at all so dairy free nutella and rice crackers have been the meal du jour … along with a lemon ice pop. I’ll see you all on the other side of this sickness, it might be in a few days, weeks or months. I just don’t know right now.

Billy Idol and Slash: Download Festival Day 3 Part I

There’s a good reason I never finished writing about Download Festival. Sunday was the day when I realized that I did not actually know my best friend of 9 years. That’s been one of the hardest things to deal with in the past year. You can get through most things with a good friend by your side. Without one, everything is an uphill battle.

Because the first half of the day pretty much revolved around her (as had the previous day) I was uncertain how to write this post. I had gone to the festival to see bands play. I’m still not really sure why she had gone, but I’d realized on Friday and Saturday that she had virtually no interest in rock bands. Following a narcissist around a festival does has its advantages – the lack of empathy makes them force their way through other people to their “rightful place” at the front of the crowd. What could I do but follow, or risk being separated again?

Billy Idol at Download 2015. I didn't know my camera did this stupid date stamp until I got it home and uploaded everything. How irritating!!
Billy Idol at Download 2015. I didn’t know my camera did this stupid date stamp until I got it home and uploaded everything. How irritating!!

Let’s start with Billy Idol. Surprisingly, there wasn’t a huge crowd amassed yet, and we stopped much further back than we could have done. I got the best view I’d had all weekend. He sang many of my favourites including (of course) White Wedding and Rebel Yell, as well as some of the stuff from his most recent album Kings and Queens of the underground, which I am also rather partial to. Unlike many acts from the ’80s, Billy Idol has never overhauled his fundamental identity, so hearing him today is like hearing him in the ’80s, but better, because now he can do his newer stuff as well (which didn’t exist back then) which is still true to form. White Wedding will always be my favourite, and hearing, seeing, feeling him sing it was worth the cost of the three-day ticket in and of itself. The view, as I said, was excellent, and I wasn’t prepared to leave it (despite protestations from my friend to go and get drinks from the bar. I decided to stand up for my right to get a decent vantage point, and declined to leave the crowd), so when the set change between Billy Idol and Slash was going on, we moved forwards and got almost to the very front. We were nearly 5 rows from the front and the view was fabulous.

Slash came out with Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators. If that sounds like “Burt Bacharach and His Band,” it’s definitely ironic. There’s nothing stuffy or staid about Slash’s latest act, and I was privileged to witness his incredible guitar playing. When the crowd surged forward, I got propelled to three rows from the front. At some point, my friend told me her feet hurt, and would I walk back to the car park with her to get a change of shoes (about 2 hours round trip given the mud and her walking speed). I told her I’d wait right here for her (!) and turned my attention to the band again. I worried that I might have hurt her feelings, but my less caring side told me I shouldn’t give a crap after the way she’d treated me for the last 3 days. Nothing could drag me away from this.

Slash playing his guitar at Download 2015.
Slash playing his guitar at Download 2015.

Slash did a few things from his Guns N’ Roses days including Sweet Child of Mine, Welcome to the Jungle and Paradise City, as well as some stuff I didn’t know, but the real piece de resistance, the thing that blew me away and which defined Slash as the real genius behind Guns-N-Roses was Anastasia. If you haven’t heard it, there’s a fantastic live version here:

I was surprised to hear him playing the Guns N’ Roses stuff but I can only think that he and Axl came to an “agree to disagree-ment” that meant they didn’t sue each other for playing stuff they co-wrote.

The crowd surged me forwards and I found myself at the very front, clinging to the front rail for dear life.
The crowd surged me forwards and I found myself at the very front, clinging to the front rail for dear life.

Watching Slash play was a real treat. He seemed to zone out from the crowd, from the rest of the band, and just seemed to merge with his guitar, all his focus was on what he was doing. From the outside, he looked like he wasn’t even paying any attention to what he was doing, and the guitar was being handled as carelessly as a child’s toy or a toothpick. Under his hat and sunglasses, and his incredible mop of black curls, however, I could almost feel the energy he was pouring into the guitar. And in return, its strings danced a song under his fingers. I was mesmerized. I’ve seen some pretty incredible acts, but I’ve never seen anything as hypnotic as watching Slash manipulate those metal strings as a man might make love to a woman. Oh God, what I would have given to be that guitar, even just for a minute…

Then he pulled out the 12-string guitar. Mind… blown! Looking far less like a toothpick and more like he’d just swapped his pea-shooter for a chainsaw, his fingers continued to twinkle over the strings.

The crowd kept surging forwards and I could hardly breathe, one row from the front, until I could grip the safety bar and I was finally at the very front. I wasn’t aware that this was the venue (called “monsters of rock” but since renamed, presumably due to notoriety) where Guns N Roses played and there was a crush as the crowd surged forwards that killed two fans in 1988. I could certainly see a dangerous situation was forming, but the site security were managing it excellently without harassing anyone. Several times I helped people climb over the barrier because you couldn’t get out any other way, and security led them round to safety once they were over the barrier. Nobody going over the barrier was trying to get to the stage. Mostly it was mums with kids.

The 12 stringed guitar.
The 12 stringed guitar.

Having now seen a LOT of bands, many of which have been styled “the greatest band of all time” at one time or another, I can definitely say that of all the living guitarists, Slash is the greatest guitarist alive and if you love guitar music he’s definitely one to see playing live. He does NOT do that thing that I’ve noticed at a few other concerts, where the accoladed “lead guitarist” actually barely plays anything and some replacement gets on with the actual music making. I saw that at The Who AND Megadeth, and I was unimpressed. Slash didn’t do that.

Another real treat was watching Myles Kennedy. Because Slash is a great guitarist, NOT a great frontman, he needs a Circus Master to lead the audience, to sing the words, to add that characteristic fizz of energy that Axl Rose used to be able to portray so eloquently (even in his pyjamas).

Myles Kennedy at Download 2015.
Myles Kennedy at Download 2015.

Myles Kennedy is like a stable, more music-focussed Axl Rose, but he’s clearly no imitator – he’s an accomplished artist in his own right, Myles’s voice is more versatile than Axl’s and he can do a lot more with it; I can see exactly why Slash has collaborated with him so much recently – they pair together better than beans and toast, and when you listen to Axl Rose’s “Chinese Democracy” then follow it up with Slash Featuring Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators’ “World On Fire” there is just no comparison. I’m sorry Axl, but falling out with Slash was the dumbest thing anyone ever did in history. He’s a Stoke-On-Trent escapee (as am I; I’ve always got time for anyone who gets away from that shithole of shattered dreams) and in my vast experience of attending gigs, he’s the greatest guitarist you can actually see play music. I know I just said it but it bore reiterating. I felt like I was in the presence of a true Maestro. This must have been how people felt when they saw Mozart at concerts back in the day.

Then, like a sparkler or a particularly enjoyable cigarette, the spark that the music gave life to was extinguished as it was time for the next act.

What could Motley Crue hope to offer that even remotely compared to Slash’s mind blowing performance?

I was about to find out.

See what’s on the rest of my Bands Bucket list
Other concerts I’ve reviewed.

Battle Vest

In particular musical subcultures, especially heavy metal, thrash and death metal, the concept of the battle vest is well established, and you will see many 30-40 something men, usually bald and walking around built like a tank, sporting a battle vest at particular concerts and festivals. In the course of trying to work through my Bands Bucket List, I’ve seen quite a few. I’ve even got one of my very own.

I would go so far as to say, you can tell how metal a festival or concert is by the number of people wearing battle vests (and motorcycle club attire).  I was the only one at Bob Dylan (but there was a guy with a mohican a few rows away).

What is a battle vest?

It’s a jacket, usually made of denim or sometimes leather, often with no sleeves (particularly in colder climes such as Nothern Europe, where slevelessness is metalness), which has patches affixed to it.

I feel very strongly about the procurement of patches.  The patches in question are not just a collection bought on the internet declaring which bands I like (well, it can be, but that’s for amateurs, and if you’re 18 and have emblazoned your jacket with a Pink Floyd patch, you’re clearly just making a kindergarten collage out of a perfectly good piece of clothing), they’re all representative of the bands I’ve actually seen.  Hence “battle vest” because it’s a chronicling, in embroidered patch, of the battles I’ve survived, the moshpits I’ve been crushed in, the number of times I got trampled by enormous 30 something bald men or had to sleep in a tent that should have been marketed as a child’s swimming pool.  Sounds like hell?

That’s metal.  And there’s nothing like it.  The battle vest is a modern day Bayeaux Tapestry, and you just can’t buy them (well, you probably can, but that would defeat the point of the journey).  Every single one is different, and those patches will stand up to a lot of damage before they need replacing.

The denim ones are usually faded blue or white (bleached) thick denim – the thick denim is integral because the battle vest will need to withstand wind, rain, spillages, moshing, the occasional vomit, and all the steps taken to purge the remains of the aforementioned.  A deep blue cottony shirt that’s been done to look like denim (or girlyfied, as I call it, because you rarely see this crap being foisted on men) is not going to cut it.  I bought my base jacket from ASOS.com and have added the patches as I’ve seen the bands on my bands bucket list.

On the leather ones, more and more people sew patches these days.  It used to be the case that people would paint an album cover and band logos on their leather jackets, but for some reason (probably skill shortages) that’s gone out of favour in exchange for sewing patches.  Or perhaps gluing them.

The glue-on patches are a bit annoying, to me – I try and press them on my jacket but they invariably go brittle and start coming away, so I end up sewing them down anyway.  What’s the point of the glue, apart from to stain my jacket with the residue??

I have also seen people add badges and rhinestones, and this can work really well, but it can also look dreadful.  If you want to look like a school kid from the ’80s, then go ahead and make a badge-only battle vest.  But please don’t make a scene when the old-skool cause-ists (you know, activists, feminists, environmentalists, etc) in their woolen attire and sandals turn up and absorb you as one of their own and carry you away leaving the vague scent of cabbage in their wake.

I like sandals.  But not at a concert or metal fest.  I’d hate to lose a toe.  I also know quite a few environmentalists – although, as with anyone who has a “cause” they tend to over-exaggerate their spiel to a point where no normal person can take it as seriously as the environmentalists would like, because otherwise we’d have to drink our own urine and only eat from dumpsters.  It’s a shame.  I’d like the environment to still be here in 100 years, and I separate my recycling like a compliant citizen, but you’d never find me handing out leaflets (the irony) or harassing people about it.  I also like animals.

One of the big problems with putting a battlevest together has been that some of the bands I’ve been to see didn’t actually have patches.  In some cases (Alice Cooper, below slash in the second picture), I got around it such as buying a fabric “wristband” for Alice Cooper and sewing it on.  It won’t last as long but ain’t nothing ever permanent.  In other cases, such as Billy Idol and Steeleye Span, there’s just no patch available, so they are notably absent from the thing.  In the case of Steeleye Span, I bought a t-shirt.  In the case of Billy Idol, I did not.  I think some bands think they will make more money off you if they don’t sell a patch in their official merch, but the amount of bands I’ve seen this year, I’d need a whole new cupboard to put t-shirts in if I’d bought one for each of them.  It would have added £15 to £25 to the cost of every concert, and that would have severely reduced the number of bands I could have seen overall.

Given the nature of my quest, to see as many of the bands on my Bands Bucket List before they kick the bucket, for me the battle vest was the only solution.  I guess that’s one of the things about it; the battle vest is called a kutte in German because it’s a word play – a kutte is the name for the vestment a monk would have worn, when they had such things as mainstream religion in Germany.  In a way, committing to seeing through my Bands Bucket List seems like a calling – a purely self-indulgent one, but still something that seems to at times touch upon the transcendent and help me make sense of the world around me and my place in it.  It might not be a religious calling, but there’s certainly a spiritual aspect about it.  I can’t explain it, except that I get into a trancelike state when the universe just becomes clear… or irrelevant.  Either way, this whole task has given my life meaning again which I was distinctly lacking before I made a more-than-half-assed commitment to do this.

So what makes a really great looking battle vest?  Well, one thing to bear in mind is (if you’re doing it right) it’s a work in progress, not a destination to race to, and it’s going to be “in progress” for quite a while before it’s completed.  That usually means wearing it while it’s unfinished.  Like how you have to be on the train before you arrive at your destination.  Enjoy the process; if you never see yourself getting tired of bands of the sort who release patches, if you really love metal, I suggest you make your train seat cosy, because your jacket vest may never reach completion – and that’s a good thing!  I’m looking forward (if money permits) to going to Bloodstock in 2016 and seeing some awesome thrash/death metal bands.

The rear of my battlevest.
The rear of my battlevest.
The front of my battle vest.   As you can see from the pictures, I currently only have 14 patches.
The front of my battle vest. As you can see from the pictures, I currently only have 14 patches.

Also I’m adding Children Of Bodom and Asphyx and Murderdolls to my bands bucket list and will update it accordingly.  Children of Bodom are supporting Lamb of God who are supporting Megadeth on Thursday (and it’s going to be awesome).  Listen to them here:

Asphyx just sound excellent on Youtube (I saw their patch on someone else’s battle vest… see how this works now Billy Idol???), give them a listen, I really want to see them live now:

And this is the reason Murderdolls have made it onto the list.  It’s probably old but I only got round to listening to them for the first time today and this was the first thing I picked, it’s the best. Cover. Ever (miles better than Tainted Love):

How does Protein Filler For Hair Work?

It’s Science Friday (okay, it’s actually Saturday now, but I had this uploaded at 23:10 last night after trying to get it to go live all day) and today’s video explains how protein filler, one of the latest “miracle products” works, and whether claims that it “repairs” the hair are exaggerated. Be prepared to see a *real* diagram (not those shitty hair advert ones) of what hair looks like, as well as a visual of the molecular formula of keratin, the molecule hair is made of… exciting!!


The Bands Bucket List

So I’ve alluded to my “Bands Bucket List” many times, but I’ve never really gone into the full details.
Let me explain.
I have a list of bands and musical artists that I would like to see before they kick the bucket. Being on the list doesn’t imply that they are elderly, or that they are more likely to die than some other band who isn’t on the list. It’s simply a list of all the bands, who, if they died unexpectedly in a plane crash tomorrow, I would feel like I had missed a chance to see something truly special.  Sometimes I add things as I decide they’re worth adding.
So here is the list as it stands today, the ones in bold are the ones I’ve seen so far, the ones with a line through them (crossing them out) are the ones that are no chance in hell severely unlikely (or dead).  Ones with a W next to them are on my “wish list” – the Creme De La Creme:

Band Name:
Alice Cooper -W-

Black Sabbath -W-
Blink 182
Billy Idol -W-
Black Eyed Peas
Bob Dylan -W-
Boomtown Rats
Britney Spears
Children of Bodom
Dave Gilmour/Pink Floyd -W-
David Bowie -W-
Death DTA
Deep Purple
Dire Straits
Dolly Parton
Eagles -W-
Fleetwood Mac
Green Day
Gwen Stefani
Iron Maiden -W-
Jethro Tull/Ian Anderson -W-
Jimmy Page/Robert Plant (Led Zeppelin) -W-
Judas Priest
Kate Rusby
Lamb of God (booked 12th November 2015)
Led Zeppelin/Jimmy Page -W-
Lynyrd Skynyrd -W-
Marilyn Manson
Megadeth (booked for 12th November 2015) -W-
Meatloaf -W-
Motley Crue (twice) -W-
Muse -W-
Nine Inch Nails
Paul Mccartney/Beatles
Ringo Starr/All Starr Band/Beatles
Roger Waters/Pink Floyd
Rolling Stones
Slash (Guns n Roses) -W-
Slayer -W-
Slipknot -W-
Steeleye Span -W-
System Of A Down -W-
Tenacious D
Therapy? (Booked for 3rd March 2016)
The Damned
The Jam
The Trashmen
The Turtles -W-
The Who -W-
They Might Be Giants
Within Temptation

Steeleye Span Immortalize Terry Pratchett

You have to leave your house, and you can only take three items with you. What are they? This was a thought exercise my friend had put to me in April 2002. My reply? My dog Dillon, my computer, and my skateboard (because my computer was heavy; all computers were heavy in 2002, and you can transport things on a skateboard). But when it came to it, that wasn’t what happened.

Terry Pratchett was like a second father to me. Or a first father, actually. I come from a long line of incompetent parents. When my mum and step-dad divorced, when I was 15, I could only take three things with me from the house. Contrary to what I’d wanted to take (for which, I was told by my mother, there was no room in the car – I guess it was too busy being full of hers and my sister’s belongings), I took my Lord of the Rings soundtrack (there was only one at the time) and a couple of Terry Pratchett books, picked at random. Specifically? We ended up with Hogfather and Jingo. Hogfather was a book I’d never glanced twice at before (I’d read them all by this point but Hogfather was my least favourite, because I don’t like Christmas). I had re-read most of the others, so now, with no school to go to, no friends to talk to, and stuck in a room with my mum and my sister 24/7, I re-read Hogfather. And re-read it. And then? I re-read it. By the time I was done, I was sure that these characters were real, and that Discworld existed somewhere1.  This theory was later expanded on when, under extreme duress, I left home.  In the year prior to leaving home, I re-read Soul Music more than thirty times.  I was so stressed I was unable to take in new information, and I was trying to make sense of the story but it kept changing shape.  It would be 10 years before I finally understood it.

Years and years later, after the fanged basilisk of tragedy had struck at the people around me over and over again and again throughout 2002, after I had left home in 2005, after I had pieced my life back together again and started at university, I discovered Steeleye Span, in 2007.

It started when I was a regular on a New Age forum, where, due to my unique sleeping patterns, I’d DJ “late night radio” on a writing-only-forum by which I’d post a humorous intro with a song suggestion and people could either go and listen to it on their own computer or remember it or something, and we’d all talk about the songs that got thrown up.

Someone requested “All Around My Hat” and I didn’t know it at the time, so I Googled it, found out the name of the band (who sounded fairly obscure) and downloaded some of their other stuff. Soon, “Blackjack Davy” “Seven Hundred Elves (Now We Are Only Three)” and “The Hard Times of Old England” were staples on my MP3 (other people had Ipods in 2007; I had a phone that could store a whopping 10 songs on it and had a headphone jack, which I upgraded in mid-2007 to a 2gb Goodmans MP3 player which blew me away).

I put them in the same playlist as Jethro Tull, Kate Rusby, and Clannad, all of whom I’d been quite a fan for about a year. Those of you who appreciate that I saw Motley Crue on Tuesday are possibly a bit confused by all these folk legends. I like good music. Genre is irrelevant to me. Storytelling and a damn good tune are what I look out for. Steeleye Span have both in boatloads.

At this point, the link between Steeleye Span and Terry Pratchett only existed in my imagination. They were both well known for fantastic storytelling, for getting to the meat and bones of a tale; they didn’t shy away from the baser aspects of humanity, and most importantly, I rather liked them.  I could feel them dancing around the periphery of something but I wasn’t sure what was in the middle.

On the night of the concert, the ticket said Steeleye Span started at 7:30. Luckily I wasn’t so “experienced” with concerts when I went to see them, because usually the time on the ticket is about 1.5 to 2 hours earlier than the actual start.  Usually.

At 7:26pm, having driven to Nottingham, I abandoned my vehicle in an NCP car park because it was close to the venue, then I walked very quickly to the venue, wishing I had rocket boots.

I showed my ticket, then hurried to get to my seat. The first thing that struck me was how upper-middle class all the attendees were. Everyone I had to squish past to reach my seat – they were all dressed in matched suits and tweed, wearing pearls and diamonds. I suppose this was like a night at the opera for them (which I’ve attended twice, I should write about that at some point).

No sooner had I taken my place, removed my coat and blown my nose, than the applause started, and the band walked on stage, far below me. I guess supporting bands are for bands who need some sort of support? I’m not a big fan of supporting bands, I don’t see the point. They don’t really warm up the crowd because the roadies need another half hour to an hour to set up for the actual band after the supporting act have been and gone.

At the Nottingham Playhouse, I had a cheap ticket that I thought would be miles away from the stage, but I actually had a pretty good view, compared to some of the concerts I’ve been to; I could recognize everyone clearly when they came on-stage and the two photos I took turned out ok too (I was mindful of photo etiquette here – nobody else was taking photos so I didn’t want to be a nuisance but I did want something to accompany this article).

This concert was on the 15th March: It was only three days since the tragic news that Terry Pratchett had died on March 12th, and I was still in shock. This was just over a month after I’d gone to clear my recently-deceased mother’s house, and found three separate and completely poignant sets of the Discworld novels. It would be another month before they’d find my father dead, and two weeks earlier one of my rabbits had died. Death, it seemed, was taking everyone I had known2  and I didn’t know if or when Death (and that damned basilisk) was going to stop following me.

They began to play.

There is something transcendent about hearing traditional folk songs being revitalized, kept alive, and perpetuated through the astonishing medium of electric folk, and the band treat their delicate charges with sensitivity and care. Like any good nurses and doctors in intensive care, Steeleye Span know that their work is to keep these tender worlds alive.

In February 2015, two months after my mum had died (and a month before this concert), I watched Terry Pratchett’s Soul Music (the cartoon series he despised), and I finally understood what the underlying theme was:  Two people (Susan’s parents) had died, and the two people left behind (Susan and Death) were trying to make sense of the tragedy.  The seemingly unrelated plot of the Band With Rocks In was an expression of the profound emotions that play out when dealing with the death of a child or parent.

Imp’s defiance of his parents contrasts with Susan’s compliance.  The music is the harsh, jangling culture of the outside world, moving on, unaware of the loss, living without you.  At the end, when the plot resolves itself, the grieving child and grandfather are able to move on with their lives but they aren’t the same as they were before this all happened.

I felt that seeing Steeleye Span so soon after hearing of the loss of Terry Pratchett was cathartic, soothing.  I wasn’t the only one who felt his loss.  He was always on my “most like to meet” list, but I never wrote to him or went out of my way to see him – I really didn’t know what I would say.  How, in a brief sentence, do you convey to a total stranger the profound and formative effect they have had on your entire existence?

steeleye span 2015

The band said a few words about Terry Pratchett, and I got a little bit teary. It was well-known that Terry had recently collaborated with Steeleye Span for their most recent album, Wintersmith (named, of course, after the Discworld Novel); perhaps the connection between them was lesser known before this collab, but it was certainly there. Pratchett had been a Spanner in his youth, since his friend introduced him to their music, and they even played his sixtieth birthday.

I guess you can get a band that big to play your birthday if you’re Terry Pratchett. I’m putting words into the mouth of a dead man, but I would imagine it was particularly awesome for him to find out that Maddy Prior enjoyed his work, as he enjoyed theirs.  Between them they came up with the concept album Wintersmith – I’m saying it’s a concept album because it all centres around the concept of the plot of Wintersmith. Perhaps it’s more of a concepts album, or a plot album, but it’s certainly not a mere soundtrack.

For me, it was like they had immortalized Terry Pratchett through his works. Often, particularly with traditional music, it is the unfortunate fate of the originator’s name or identity to become lost in the mists of time. In the modern age, where you can tell the importance of the author by how large their name is on the front cover, compared to the size of the title, it’s unusual for us to be unable to attribute a work to an author.

Like Shakespeare, it is highly unlikely, given the scope of his impact on the world, that Terry Pratchett’s name would ever be lost to history. I know his iambic pentameter wasn’t amazing and his spelling in the earlier works was still improving4, but his stories, his characters and their relationship with other characters and the events that transpire as a direct result of that, are what make his work so memorable.

The band went with quite a few old ones (and what a choice of back catalogue they have – all the songs ever credited to “traditional”) then did a couple of songs from their Wintersmith album, followed by All Around My Hat then, after a standing ovation, a 20 minute interval. It was (and is) the most civilized concert I’d attended – no fisticuffs over who gets to the bar fastest, which is more than I can say for the opera. It was like how sensible and mature adults might behave, should such a breed of people exist3.

I went for the merchandise table and bought a T-shirt – I didn’t see any patches, sadly, so my jacket didn’t get one.  Which is good because it didn’t bring any money.  After the interval, there was more from Wintersmith and I don’t remember what else.  By that point I was even more lost in the stories and soundscape, and not really trying to catalogue everything.

Steeleye Span’s significance is in their storytelling, both verbal and musical.  As long as Steeleye Span continue to tell the stories, the people, places, events and tragedies will perpetuate through living memory. This is how the Aboriginals and other tribes around the world ensure that their past is preserved the way it was interpreted at the time, that no “Chinese whispers” effect takes place. At their heart, Steeleye Span embody what it really means to make music.

When the concert ended I wasn’t sad, because I knew that the confluence of our paths was such that they were moving on in one direction, and I was moving in another. I felt very privileged to have had the pleasure of being able to experience the live performance of Steeleye Span, and, along with most of the other bands from the past 15 months since I started my Bands Bucket List5, it’s a memory I will treasure. If you’d told me a year before, in March 2014, that I would one day get to see them play, I wouldn’t have believed you. Here’s what I was watching one evening in March 2014, while I was making alterations to my wedding dress for the nuptials we held on 21st June6:

One of the best things about seeing them this year rather than 10 years ago was the addition of accomplished violinist Jessie May Smart, whose style and panache lent an excellent breath of fresh air to the music. I’ve commented before about how replacement band members often have to be better than the originals, because otherwise fans won’t accept them, and Jessie May Smart is no exception; she really knows her stuff. I’m not entirely sure who she replaced because Steeleye Span have had a lot of people tasked with playing ‘the strings,’ and she’s the first credited violinist, so perhaps it’s a bit glib to suppose that she replaced anyone specific; rather, perhaps she just joined as a well-received and accomplished additional member.

Sadly, most people my age haven’t actually heard of Steeleye Span, and those who have heard the name are generally hard-pressed to name a song of theirs.  I just don’t get why more people around my age don’t know about Steeleye Span. They are, for me, a significant part of the story of how music got to where it is today – you can draw an interconnected spider’s web between Steeleye Span, Jethro Tull, Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin, Queen, and everything Queen spawned.

There are, of course, a million other bands you could add to that music web, but Steeleye Span would still remain at the core of music, it’s heart, essential, like the egg7 in the centre of a Shamble (see Wintersmith for details); the thing that makes the rest of it work at all and which gives British culture its meaning.  When my children are born (and we may have one in the works as I type, although the “6 days early detection” pregnancy tester appears to be an unreliable witness), I will make sure they know where modern music came from, so that they don’t get left thinking that ABBA were the last word in music in the ’70s.  After all, who’s still producing top notch music today?  Steeleye Span, not ABBA!

steeleye span 2015

One day, we will all die. Perhaps Death will take us to some interesting and enlightened plane full of nectar and other stuff. Maybe we just cease to exist. It’s a question I’ve wrestled with for nearly eleven months now, and while I don’t have any answers, the question no longer bothers me. When it comes time for the remaining members of Steeleye Span to kick the (stick and) bucket, I know they’ll qualify for direct entry to the Choir Immortal; no need for an audition. In the meantime, I urge you to go and see them live.

See what’s on the rest of my Bands Bucket list
Other concerts I’ve reviewed.

1 Because of quantum physics.

2 Death has since apologized but would like me to point out that he doesn’t control who lives or dies, he just moves them along to their final resting place.

3 According to a renowned anthropologist, this breed of human has been only been spotted on the coast of the Sargasso Sea.

4 Such as referring to The Librarian as an Orang Outan in Sourcery. This was before Spellchecker existed, after all.

5 The list of bands I need to see before *they* kick the bucket.

6 Nanny Ogg was right: It *was* the shortest night of the year.  We made up for it later.

7 Or other living thing.


Am driving to Edinburgh today to collect my father’s personal effects.  Last night was Motley Crue and Alice Cooper (5 hours driving on the motorway, SO worth it).  I will write it (and Bob Dylan) up when I get back.  Edinburgh’s a 9-10 hour round trip in reasonable traffic.

The roads are pretty foggy.  I don’t want to be on motorways in this weather.  I think it’s easier to drive in fog at night when the daylight doesn’t obscure the headlights.  Ick.

I want to be at home with my bunnies and my tea.


We got a new rabbit to replace Katie, her name is Poppy.

She and Fifer seemed to bond well and we kept them together since we adopted her on Wednesday, after we first visited her on Tuesday (edit: got days wrong).  They’d had two dates at the adoption place and he seemed to warm to her.  It was going so well that we put them both in Fifer’s hutch.

He chased her out because it still smelled of Katie.

So we sorted them out with the spare hutch and put them in the kitchen.  They were back to getting along until yesterday.

Then we put them out in the run again and I thought at first that they were running and playing, but it turned out they were fighting (in a weird, running around kinda way, not the usual scrappy kind of way).

We brought them in and they were fine again.

Then, yesterday morning, RIGHT as we both had to leave for work, they started fighting in the hutch.

We separated them quickly, but put them back together in the run in the evening.  My dearest came to bring them in and Poppy was sitting out in the rain looking sad, Fifer was in his house, he had chased her away.  There was rabbit fur everywhere, and in the darkness my husband assumed this was her fur.  She had a bite on her nose.  I found out this morning, when I went to check on Fifer, that what actually happend was that she viciously attacked Fifer (but we thought he’d attacked her because she’s the one who needs veterinary treatment) and literally torn half his fur out.  He also has a (less severe) bite on his nose.  I put them both in the garden this morning to see how they reacted to each other’s presence.  She kept running towards Fifer and he kept running away then changing his mind and standing his ground.  He chased her away from him, then he ran off and hid from her.  He doesn’t want to know her at all any more, so she’s got to go back to the adoption place.  ARRRGH.  I’ve never had a failed adoption before, it’s really heartbreaking because she’s a lovely rabbit, and I know he’s a difficult one, but ultimately she’s too attacky to be able to live with him and if she’s too attacky for Fifer, I sure as hell aren’t letting her near my other buns.  The week’s just gone from sad to worse in under 24 hours.

The Old War Horse

Seven years ago, my ancient and wrecked bike was stolen.  I loved that bike, but couldn’t ride it more than 10 miles from my uni room because it was just so heavy and old.  It weighed about 30 kilos (60lbs) and I couldn’t lift it off both its wheels at the same time – one was hard enough – but I bought it for £17 in the University bike auction and I stripped it down and resprayed it pink and fixed its brakes and transmission (pull lever gear changer between the handlebars, no Shimano SIS here).  Then one night while I was sitting late in Borders drinking coffee and reading a good novel, some chavvy fucker stole it.  They were kind enough to leave the basket.  I walked around the city until 5am then I turned up at my friend’s house, crying my eyes out, absolutely devastated, and she made me coffee and shared her cigarettes with me.

The next morning, I did what I always want to do when I feel wronged by the universe (and what I’m trying to get out of the habit of):  I threw money at the problem and made it go away.  I walked into Halford’s and bought an icy pale blue, aluminium framed cycle which I’ve always affectionately thought of as my very own pony.

No, it’s definitely more of a horse.

Together, we charted new territory and planned to take on the world.  I rode 30 miles to avoid a house party and caught a train home.  No-one said anything – it was the last train home and there was no-one else on there.  We cycled all over the north of England and parts of Scotland and the midlands.  Over the summer between second and third year of university, I considered the day wasted when I didn’t get up at 3pm and cycle at least 10 miles.

My new bike seemed so unbelievably light and aerodynamic compared to my old one – I could actually lift it (it was heavy, but it was ok) and while it’s always had problems, I never really cared to fix them because I knew most of it was design flaws.  The bike cost £89 in 2008 money.  The cheapest aluminium bike on the market now is at least £130.

I modified it by putting on a luggage rack at the back and a basket on the front, so that I could carry camping equipment on it.

And it was pronounced “probably unsalvageable” on Thursday by the mechanics at my local bike repair place.  In the last 3 months I’ve had to get the brakes fixed twice, the seat needed replacing, all 4 brake pads have been replaced and a new brake cable, the chain and both inner tubes needed replacing, and now, all the spokes on the wheels are rusting and the front wheel rim is dented where I hit a pothole lately.

The front brakes haven’t really worked since I got it, and a quick adjustment always fixed that, but now they don’t fix, so I have to disconnect the front brake because it just gets stuck on, slowing my progress so I’m fighting my brakes to actually move forwards all the time.  On top of that, the gear chain cogs have worn the teeth down so much that on the most useful gears (in both sets of ratios), the chain slips so much that it’s dangerous to stop at traffic lights (but I still stop).

I asked how much new wheels, gears and a brake system would cost.

For lightweight wheels alone, they’re about the same money as it would cost to just get another bike.

It seems that this, too, shall pass.  My bike, my trusty steed, needs to be put out to pasture so a new one can take its place as my workhorse, because I could do these repairs, but what, of my old bike, would actually be left?  The handlebars need replacing really as well because the rubber has flaked away and really that just leaves the metal frame, the aluminium that never corrodes.  What a pity the rest of the components weren’t made to last the same length of time.

I’ve been looking at perhaps getting a folding bike, a lightweight one, but I don’t know right now (my grandma had one of the earliest ones and I used to LOVE it as a concept).  If I buy a new bike, I really should upgrade from the old one, otherwise what’s the point?  My bike gets me from A to B at the moment, it’s just if I want to go to C or D that there’s a problem.  An ultra lightweight folding bike would mean I could use it more, although my knees are protesting right now that the bike should be large with huge gears.

Advantages of folders:

1. They store really small so they’re less likely to rust because you can probably fit them somewhere indoors.

2. They travel on most public transport for free, especially if you put them in a specially made bag.

3. They don’t usually need locking away – normally you can take them inside with you.


1. They’re lighter than they used to be but they’re still not light enough.  As a rule, 12% of your weight should be the maximum weight of your bike.  As I weigh 50kg, that gives me a pathetic 6kg limit.  Nowhere sells a bike for that light, which explains why I get so tired cycling.  The lightest folding bike is 8 point something kilograms.  There are many arguments about whether riding a lighter bike makes a difference, with people referring to a comparison someone did between a 13kg and 9.5kg bike, but these are BOTH light bikes, barely any difference in the weights, and the experiment had far too many variables to be a REMOTELY fair test so I don’t think the conclusion is valid (also my experience with my heavy bike before and my less heavy but still heavy bike now both contradict the conclusion).

2. They’re more expensive than non-folding bikes.

3. The wheels are usually tiny, which
a) looks ridiculous,
b) means potholes are a bitch and
c) means you can’t get them to go as fast so easily, also coasting is slower.

3. There’s a much more limited choice of styles, colors etc because there are fewer manufacturers.

More to the point, I don’t know what to do with my old bike.  It seems a shame to scrap it, but it’s virtually useless (and pretty dangerous with the gear and brakes problems) on my 10 minute commute to work let alone further afield.

Not in the mood…

It’s the last saturday of half term, I’ve got five rabbits cowering in my living room and kitchen, terrified of the fireworks next door are throwing over the fence.

Someone needs to educate them on public holidays:

Halloween:  Shut the fuck up by 11pm.

Bonfire Night:  Light things on fire, then shut the fuck up by 11pm.

Sundays:  Shut the fuck up ALL DAY.

Thursdays: Shut the fuck up ALL DAY.

Any other day:  Shut the fuck up.

In case anyone is as brain dead as the neighbors, it is NEVER appropriate to throw fireworks at animals or people.

This happened in the cafeteria at a school I worked at:

Girl hurt in firework attack

Why are people so fucking stupid???

I have a migraine so bad I’ve tried to pull my own nose off and noise patrol said at 11:30pm that it was “too early” for this to constitute a noise nuisance.  Bullshit.  They just pick and choose which noise laws they want to follow.