Monday, 31 December 2007

Still walking

I've been tagged again courtesy of wayfarer: I'm going to do this one for a number of reasons, though overall I'll continue to politely decline tags unless it's something that really grabs me (which is why this one looked interesting). Thanks to wayfarer for that: it's an end of year meme and, while I'm cynical about the whole New Year's Resolution type of stuff, wayfarer rightly pointed out that this isn't really about that as such.

But! (it's not a big but....this is a big but) it will have to wait until tomorrow since there are plenty of questions to be answered and I'm not in the frame of mind just now, having come back from yet more walking. This time I was out with a couple of friends in the Malverns, having a very bracing two hours or so in the hills, which I really enjoyed. So, yet more photos for your edification.

We also found this obelisk (though to be honest I've a suspicion that other people may have found it before we did) and decided to recreate the tower in Mordor from Lord Of The Rings, the
one with the big evil all-seeing eye on top of it: I haven't linked to any photos of the one from the film since I think you'll agree that this is a supremely convincing mock-up, without any tinkering on Photoshop believe it or not.

I'm in a pleasantly drowsy state following the walk and a welcome pub lunch and a pint of Old Speckled Hen, though I'll be heading out again later for a gathering round at someone's house: I'm sure it'll be pretty hellish in many of the pubs this evening. I'll take this opportunity to pass on my best wishes for the New Year to those of you who stop by to visit the Press. Hope you have a good one.

Friday, 28 December 2007

Yuletide Blog

I know I know, another terrible pun and I bet loads of other people have done posts with the same title. No points for originality then.

Anyway I wanted to post up a few more pictures: on Christmas Day, following a couple of pints and some serious putting the world to rights with my brother at the local pub, I had a walk round armed with my camera. I'm not sure if pictures of a craneyard, amongst other things, would count as particularly festive for most people but it's something that I've always felt to be very striking visually, and this was the first chance I had to go and photograph it.

Oh, and some pictures in the local cemetery. Cheerful soul aren't I. Well it was a really beautiful afternoon as you can see from the sky, and very calm and quiet.

Monday, 24 December 2007


I was hoping for fog and, on our shortest day walk, we got it. I'm just back at home briefly and will be heading back up to Derbyshire again later on but I thought I'd take the opportunity to post up a couple of photos from the walk. It started out not exactly bright and sunny, but far more so than we'd expected.

As we got onto higher ground (we were doing a ten-mile route which took in Mam Tor and Kinder Scout) the fog descended and it was beautifully bleak and very other-wordly. We were out walking for nearly five hours and managed to find a sheltered spot for a lunch of sandwiches and mulled wine, after which we got thoroughly soaked thanks to a steady fall of rain which carried on for a couple of hours. So a pint and a chance to get dry and warm in a pub in Edale was more than welcome (I always like the idea that the signs for Edale will say "Abandon Hope..." since that's the name of a neighbouring village).

It's good to have a few days to relax. Here's hoping everyone has a good Christmas and New Year.

Wednesday, 19 December 2007


Yes, they do happen. One happened just yesterday in fact.

Late afternoon, I was walking home from work and I bumped into a friend of mine. We stood chatting for a couple of minutes, then he suggested we go for a pint. I was dubious about whether I wanted to, since I was looking forward to a quiet evening in, then he came out with the classic line "go on, just for one!"

How many times have you gone for "just the one" drink, only for it to turn into several, after which things start getting very hazy and then the following morning you wake up and think, oh shit, I really don't feel very good?

Guess what?

One solitary pint of beer later, I got another round in and that one was followed by another and we didn't fall out of the pub til midnight and threw up all over the pavement NO! we left the pub, I went home, and had the nice quiet evening that I'd originally planned for myself.

Like I said, sometimes miracles do happen.

Monday, 17 December 2007


....four working ones before I finish for Christmas. I'm trying not to wish them away too quickly. The last three years I've not had much of a break, but this year I really felt like I needed it and so, after Friday, I don't return to work until January 3rd. That's still only a week and a half but it's the longest time off I will have had since I started this job.

Which will make it hard to start back again.

That's the negative stuff out the way: whatever happens or crops up this week, I'm off at the end of it and that's that. I'm not really looking forward to anything specific with my time off, just the time off itself. I'll be spending some of it up in Derbyshire, which means peace and quiet (and booze) and plenty of long walks. Last year - or was it the year before? - it was magnificently foggy some of the time (as in the weather, not my frame of mind), and there was a pleasant eeriness to wandering around the lanes and pathways with hardly anyone else in sight. I'll be taking my camera with me and will post any worthwhile pictures up here once I'm back.

I remember last year having a long walk while I was in a mild stupor, and feeling a sheer sense of relief at being temporarily free from the rigours of the daily routine. I summed it up with a rather grandiose phrase which I saved in my mobile phone: the freedom from everyday restrictions tempts me to do what I consider to be normal. Which doesn't necessarily mean I automatically want to do something "weird," but serves to indicate that a lack of externally-imposed structure gives me more space in which to clear my mind, be myself.

Am I thinking about this too much? Perhaps, but these lanes and paths are the same ones as described here, and which carry a lot of resonance for me. I used to also spend time out here late at night with paints and sketchpad (and cans of beer), and it would be so dark that I would have to have a system of remembering which paints I'd used so that they didn't get completely muddled up. The results - when they actually turned out alright - were a sort of cross between what a late Turner seascape might have looked like were he very drunk and very arthritic, and the visual equivalent of eating spaghetti. I'm sure that's not too hard to imagine is it? Probably the above also serves to add context to "what I consider to be normal."

Actually it used to be very enjoyable to go out and paint late at night, though occasionally the sense of eeriness would get the better of me and I'd have to pack up and head back to somewhere slightly less off the beaten track.

Well, following on from the previous post, I would enjoy it if we had a proper fall of snow: but some heavy fog would be enough for me. On Saturday I'll hopefully be meeting up with some friends for the revival of an old tradition, they used to get together on (or as near to it as possible) the shortest day for a walk in the Peak District, with mince pies and mulled wine for refreshments. Followed, hopefully, by a stop in a decent pub with a real fire, good food and some real ale.

Saturday, 15 December 2007


I tend to get a bit obsessive at this time of year about the hours of daylight: or, more to the point, the lack of them. It never used to bother me as a child. For one thing, there were always the distractions such as Bonfire Night and of course Christmas. Plus, I think, living in a comparatively rural area made a big difference: winter, in that context, seemed to make sense as opposed to being an inconvenience (not to mention a bit of a drag).

Also (adopts suitably Northern accent), when I were a lad, we had proper winters with snow and everything.

Anyway - while I wouldn't describe myself as seasonally affective (far less seasonally effective), it's nevertheless a big relief to get to this point in the year and know that, even just by a tiny margin at first, the days are going to start getting longer again. I know I'm hardly on my own when I say how dispiriting it becomes after a while to have to get up when it's dark day after day, and not return home from work until it's dark also.

Most days at this point in the year I tend to look at the BBC's 5-day weather forecast, especially because it has the times of sunrise and sunset. The shortest day isn't, of course, until near the end of the coming week. But, looking at the 5-day forecast, it's good to see that while the sun sets at 15.52 on Tuesday (round these parts anyway), then on Wednesday it doesn't set until - wait for it - 15.53!

Ok, so it obviously won't make a really noticeable difference for a while, but just seeing that extra minute of sunlight being noted on the forecast makes it feel like a psychological barrier will have been crossed in a few days time.

Right: enough wittering, I'm off down the pub.

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Writing behaviour

No this is not following on thematically from the previous post, though there's plenty of food for thought there. But this is a sidestep since there's only so much discussion I can have about such topics without starting to feel like I'm bringing my work home with me. I do intend (he says) to follow it up with some related thoughts, but not right now.

Given the various postings and discussions about music (and photographs, such as the post before last), much of which has been taking place at avantgardening, I was thinking about my own approach to the creative process, with particular reference to writing and recording music. This then is a summary:

1. I get a brilliant or interesting idea (or at least that's how it seems), which may be triggered off by something I've seen or heard during the day. It stays in my head and I find myself working on fully-formed arrangements - still all in my head - to the point of preoccupation. These arrangements sound startling, vivid and original, whether involving layers of guitars, computer-generated sounds, beats, samples, whatever.

2. The process described at point 1 always happens at an inopportune moment, namely when I'm nowhere near my laptop or guitar or whatever.

3. By the time I do get to my laptop, one of three things usually happens:

a. I've forgotten the idea, so I go and do something else.

b. I make a start with playing and recording. In this case, the process of translating the epic/brilliant/bombastic nonsense into something tangible, invariably runs into problems. It doesn't sound the same, in fact it sounds a bit crap. I leave it for a while and go away to think about how I wanted it to sound in the first place. Then it all starts to fall into place again, it's clear in my mind and I know what to do! This moment of clarity is once again at an inopportune moment though and so I go through the pattern detailed in points 1 -3 inclusive.

c. I make a start with playing and recording. It might not sound exactly like the original idea, but it sounds alright and I'm onto something. I listen back, like what I've heard and start to get precious about it so I'm scared to do any more.

4. I then leave it alone for a while and work on something else as a displacement activity: sometimes, this is another piece of music developed from just tinkering around with no pressure or grand designs unlike the kind of thing described in points 1-3. In fact, it's usually a completely stupid idea that seems so ridiculous that I'm happy to work on it since it makes me laugh and it's of no possible consequence.

5. Eventually I come back to the piece described in points 1-3 (this may be within a couple of days or weeks or even months, sometimes it's been literally years) and having lost the preciousness of the original idea, I'm quite happy to rip it to pieces and change it into something radically and brutally different. Sometime after it's started to finally take its own shape, I start to listen back to it objectively and realise it's pretty much what I was trying to do in the first place: it's just taken a hell of a long time getting there.

6. The music done as a displacement activity in point 4, since it involves no pressure or contrivance, almost invariably ends up being the better, more interesting piece of music.

Sunday, 9 December 2007


I've been meaning to post up a link to this for a while: it's the published report of an experiment which took place in the early seventies, titled "On Being Sane In Insane Places."

To greatly summarize, a varied group of people who might be considered "normal" (in this context, that should be taken to mean having an absence of any psychiatric symptoms) agreed to become pseudopatients, such that they would each attempt to gain admission to psychiatric hospitals. The way they would go about this was agreed in advance, each one would go to a different hospital and complain of hearing a voice saying specific things.

None of the hospitals or their respective staff knew of the experiment, and each "patient" would not, apart from reporting the particular symptom in their initial appointment, otherwise attempt to behave abnormally or falsify any aspect of their life history.

Once admitted, each "patient" would have to aim towards being discharged by convincing the hospital staff that they were "sane."

Although not without its perceived flaws (some mention of which is made here), it makes for compelling and unsettling reading.

It raised questions about how "normal" behaviours become symptomized when a person is labelled and viewed in a specific context and environment. For example, as part of the experiment the "patients" wrote notes about their experiences whilst in hospital, and in one case this was taken to be a sign of pathology by the staff, noting it as being "writing behaviour" and hence giving the connotation that there was something obsessive about it.

There are numerous other examples of how the ordinary facts of a person's life, background and behaviour are distorted to fit the picture of mental illness now that they are hospitalized.

Interestingly (among many other adjectives that could be applied), none of the staff in any of the hospitals were able to identify the presence of any of these pseudopatients, although many of the other actual patients did cotton on to the fact that there was nothing wrong with them.

I may (or knowing me, I may not... or not for some time) post some observations loosely related to the above stemming from my own experience through work and also from a personal perspective.

Saturday, 8 December 2007

Chaos... sometimes bliss.

Wednesday, 5 December 2007


You can tell it's time for a quiet lie down when you can't get the words to "Chick Chick Chicken" out of your head - and you can't stop singing them to the tune of "Folsom Prison Blues."

Go on, try it, it's amazing how well it fits the tune. On second thoughts: don't, or it'll start driving you to distraction too.

Monday, 3 December 2007


I conceal anger now. The thoughts heavy, it's not known or felt. Although new yearnings take hours, I never get tired of poring over silly things, and taking time healing. Every minute of my evening necessitates this.