Category: music

Screen shot 2019-12-31 at 18.08.08Since 2013 I have set myself a challenge of reading 50 books a year and then I track my progress on Good Reads.

I fell three short in the first year but have hit my target ever since. This year I gave the maximum five star rating to six titles: Continue reading

Music highs of 2019

weird-banjo-pic-copyFor me 2019 was not a particularly memorable year for music. I found pleasure in some old favorites but made no significant new discoveries.
Mostly, female artists struck the strongest chords with me. Billie Eilish’s debut ‘When We Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go’ and Lana Del Ray’s ‘Norman Fucking Rockwell’ were rightly rated highly in many ‘best of’ lists.
I wrote around 10 reviews a month for Whisperin’ & Hollerin’ , about half of my output from the previous year. Continue reading

I am re-blogging this appreciation of ‘Lanark’ in honor of Alasdair Gray who has sadly passed away at the age of 85. He was a genuine original who will be sorely missed.


LANARK by Alasdair Gray (Canongate, 1981)


If anybody denies that Lanark is a work of genius, that man or woman is not be trusted. If that same person says that it is a work of madness, you might concede that he or she has a point.

It is, by now,  common knowledge that the line between the two concepts – genius and madness – is a fine one. Navigating life can be defined in terms of such a fine line. Imagine a tightrope walker moving between two points without the security or consolation of a safety net. On false step could prove fatal and the safest option of all is not to start the walk from point A to point B in the first place.

Fortunately, enough humans have an inbuilt drive to do things that  have not been done before.  Convention tends to stifle such urges but the risk takers…

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Gillian Welch – blessed

Mark Twain was on to something when he said that “a pessimist is a well-informed optimist’.

Psychologists will tells you that a negative mindset is defensive posturing to hide some deep-seated vulnerability. It is also said that positivity and good heath go hand in hand . But breaking out of a vicious cycle of cynical thinking is easier said than done.

I have little faith in those glossy magazine articles that are full of superficial lifestyle tips written to order rather than based on actual experience. The abiding message such fluff pieces peddle is that negative thoughts ought to be smothered at birth.

I believe this perceived wisdom is not only wrong but also potentially damaging. How can you look squarely at the world and still be full of idealism and gladness?

Personally, I’d rather be in the company of a confirmed pessimist than a contrived optimist. I identify strongly with Gillian Welch who sang so memorably: “You know some girls are bright as the morning and some girls are blessed with a dark turn of mind”.

The Old Ways by Robert MacFarlane (Penguin Books, 2013)
The Old Weird Albion by Justin Hopper (Penned In The Margins,2017)

Screen shot 2019-12-02 at 21.59.29If Robert MacFarlane were to say “I’m just poppng out for a walk”, chances are you wouldn’t see him again for days, weeks, even months. Not for him a gentle stroll in the park. We’re talking serious trekking here. He tells us nothing about the equipment or supplies he takes with him, but it’s plain that he sets off prepared to sleep rough and scavenge for food if necessary.

Being fully immersed in the natural world is what drives him and gives him sustenance. In ‘The Old Ways’ the writer wanders around England and Scotland and also roams abroad (Palestine,Spain and Tibet). Some of these adventures border on the reckless as he challenges himself against the elements or strikes out onto what he knows full well to be inhospitable terrain. MacFarlane regards “walking as enabling sight and thought rather than encouraging retreat and escape”. In other words, it’s a serious business and not just a gentle recreational pursuit. Continue reading

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