More floods – Hebden last week then South Yorkshire & Venice plus catastrophic fires overseas. Here, the weather is pretty much business as usual for the north-west. Rain. Then some more rain. Then some upward sweeping all-penetrating drizzle with in-between redemption of clear crisp blustery days.
It’s easy for glumness to creep in and I’m alarmed by a seeming epidemic of anxiety affecting all ages regardless of circumstance and background. Is it social media and screen staring? Is it the uncertain political situation? I don’t know.
This is where the ranch takes on a different role. This morning I was struck with the raw rugged beauty of the place and I felt an immense sense of gratitude – the daily habit of going up there regardless of the weather is a great leveller. I’m convinced that outdoor labour for its own sake without any particular goal attached is definitely good for physical and mental health . The medical profession is starting to take this idea on board and the value of art and music is also being recognised. I’m particularly interested in how growing food slots into busy daily life and improves it.
Phil and Alex came up and helped me on Wednesday and we made a great start on the hedge. Hedge-laying used to be an in-demand trade not that long ago. Before modern farming methods took hold, there used to be miles and miles of hedgerows. Most of the remaining ones are now cut with an attachment on the side of a tractor. I prefer the traditional method. I once went on a hedge-laying course in Wales. My method involves a hybrid of pruning and laying, although when the inner hedge is big enough, I intend to lay that properly – the whole idea is a low cost stock-proof alternative to fencing. It takes almost as long to gather the clippings as it does to prune the hedge. I need a chipper to chop them into useful mulch.
The plant-based self sufficiency experiment continues. My land isn’t arable but that’s not the point – it’s within walking distance of home. As far as I’m concerned, one of my scrawny beetroots is worth ten processed supermarket ones. The whole point is about building community infra-structure versus globalisation. Also, my land (sloping) and gardening method (no dig) have some resilience to extremes of weather. I have enough water storage for droughts and the raised wood-chip beds have some resistance to nutrient loss from heavy rain.
I planted my strip of autumn rye – about six square metres. The original small pack of seeds grew about a square metre, yielding a kg or so of grain. There was about half a kg left, which I was going to cook like rice – until yesterday that is.
I caught the family of four big crows on the bed. When I looked closer, they were digging out the grain and eating it. I was meticulously careful in covering it when I planted it. My conclusion is that they were watching me (I often sense their beady eyes on me in the distance). They’re very clever – I suspect it’s them that puts out damsons to ripen in the sun and strips the figs. I’ll have to plant it all again and net it. It’s a worthwhile experiment to see whether growing grain is worth the effort. I know that barley and oats have been grown round here in the past.
Elsewhere I’ve been tidying beds, putting irrigation hose away, doing a bit of bottle-building, planting native-wild plant seeds and general low-grade pottering. I’ve had a week off work and I’ve spent most of it in a well-orchestrated super slobathon but I’m fed up now.
When I was sick the other week, I lost a kg in a day. Afterwards, I suddenly got ravenously hungry with a huge craving for a full English breakfast. The next day I came across a vid of an old bloke who had been a vegan for half-his life. He looked about eighty. He was a retired cardio-thoracic surgeon who had still been working ten years earlier earlier. He pointed out how veganism virtually eliminates the risk of non-congenital heart disease. He’s called Ellsworth Wareham and he’s 105.
I’m still investigating and getting closer. Jon and I went to the 160 yesterday for his birthday and I asked him if there was a catalyst for him ditching his vices. He said that he’d already been a vegan for a while and that it gave him great energy and clarity – on New Year’s Eve two years ago, he just decided he’d had enough. I had my own catalyst two nights ago. People I love dearly are struggling and I have more important things to do than cloud my brain. Still it’s not going to be easy – I’m from the North – where are my pies, tabs and pints? We’re still making our little films. He’s finished the third episode which is about my engineering apprenticeship and the value of being able to make things. It’s getting a bit one dimensional – me sitting in the chair rambling. The next episode is How to make a 7″ single and will be more about demonstrating how to do stuff.
We had our allotment association meeting on the ranch last week. It was fine. About eight people came. Linda took over as secretary and Alex became treasurer. When the land-owner of our allotments died quite some time ago, there was some underhand skulduggery and we were faced with the imminent loss of our plots. We formed an association so that we could buy the land ourselves and I spent a lot of time studying land law. Once it was ours, I transferred each individual plot from the association to the tenant. Each transaction was equivalent to buying a house.
I had to learn loads about rights of access, covenants, restrictions, easements and so on. It would have cost us thousands if we’d paid a lawyer. I developed a healthy disrespect for solicitors. I learned that the majority of stuff that they do can be done by anyone – conveyancing (transferring property) certainly can. Recently I sorted out lasting power of attorney for a friend. People told me that solicitors charge between five and eight hundred quid. Rubbish. It costs nothing – just the eighty-two quid registration fee. The government website is very clear and user friendly. The same applies to probate and making a will. It’s a good example of how conventional society teaches us to believe certain things. Question everything. Do it yourself.
The first meeting that I ever went to was at North-West Arts on King St in Manchester. It was the North-West Musicians Collective who put on bands every Tuesday night at Band on The Wall. If you went to enough meetings, you could get a gig (we did, and it changed our lives).
The meeting was fun in its own right – lots of disparate musos – some young ones + older hippies. It was run by Dick Witts and his partner Louise, who we all fancied. We were late to the party and bands like The Fall and Joy Division who were early members had moved onto bigger things. Boff, Haggis and I went on the bus. After the meetings we went to The Sawyers Arms across the road.
That was a good kind of meeting. Not long after, Simon, our manager formed our own collective and they were good meetings too.
The next meeting I went to, was after Notsensibles had split – I was still playing in bands and organising gigs and I produced a fanzine. For some reason, I can’t remember why, I got invited to a political party gathering. In contrast to my previous experiences, it was a situation of immense tedium. Some snivelling twat was whining endlessly about fuck-all in particular – wallowing in the smell of his own farts. It was a long weary wait before my turn to speak came – I can’t remember what I said, but the twat became exceedingly irate and I wasn’t invited back.
I’ve been to many similar meetings since and I try and avoid them. If, hypothetically speaking, I got involved in a regular meeting, it would be more like the Musician’s Collective ones.
I’M IN A MEETING! It’s in our office because we haven’t been able to find a room anywhere else in the hospital. There’s a record player on the desk and a guitar in the corner brought in by some old hippy. It’s thoroughly convivial and there’s no twattery. The Derry Girls are sat together in the middle. Neill wisely turns things around when we’re discussing one of our thorny issues by saying ‘What would the chief executive do?’
Afterwards, Erin and I discuss the recruitment film and we come up with the simple idea of just briefly filming colleagues in a fly-on-the-wall stylee, with text over the top and maybe some background music.
I stay and type up the minutes – I want to get them done before my week off. It’s seven by the time I’ve finished and caught up with a few other bits. I go out onto the shop floor to mention something else about the film to Erin. Hornshaw is still there – she was supposed to finish at six.
‘What are still doing here old man?’ she says
‘What are you still doing here tubs?’ I say
We walk to the multi-storey together. Normally, we would obvs sprint the 10 flights to the top, two steps at a time but we get the lift on account of her gargantuan pot belly. We extol the virtues of village life vs inhabiting the big bad city.
Rock & Roll:
Rock & Roll is just about as neat as it’s ever been. We played our first gig in ages at The Tapster’s Promise in Colne last night. Lindsey and Peach DJed and it was swell. People had actually come to see me play which is a big thrill. I’d decided to do two sets and Gaz, Eamonn and I had rehearsed loads of new songs. The first set had a load of quiet songs including the new one – I find quiet songs incredibly difficult to play live – there’s nowhere to hide. We did two Notsensibles songs in the second set and they went down a storm. I want to do more. I’m going to learn Instant Classic next.
After the first set, Mog, Lindsey and I were talking about our punk project – Sick of Being Normal :Pendle Punk 40 years on
Mog said ‘If it wasn’t for punk, we wouldn’t be standing here now.’ She’s probably right.
Boff came over on Thursday and we met up with Jamie Cunningham who is an ultra-muso like us. He runs that 0282 place upstairs at Burnley library which is all about encouraging arty community stuff in the area. We’re going to tie in the event and maybe move the exhibition to the library after the gig. We talked about music for the gig on 8th Feb – we don’t want it to be a nostalgia event for old punks – we want it to be a celebration of punk’s influence and how it’s carried on into the current generations. Jamie suggested a grime artist so we’re looking into that.
The whole thing has a good energy and there’s a lot of love – it all ties in with the current politics. Who would punk rockers vote for? Some Etonian buffoon who doesn’t even represent a molecule of the steam of their turds or the last from the Nye Bevan mould?
Us doctors are ruled by a code of conduct laid down by the GMC – duties of a doctor etc. Our exclusive duty is to our patients. If you’re in a bad smash up, you’ll come to a major trauma centre and literally hundreds of dedicated health-care specialists will save your life then get you back up and running – the cost is hundreds of thousands delivered by teams with members from all over the world. In America it would cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars. If you had the choice to vote for the NHS or the American system it wouldn’t be too difficult to choose.
We went on holiday by accident – a wild extravagance by our standards – a night in a B&B in Morecambe. We had a sea view. it lashed with rain all night long. Louise’s sister Lesley came and joined us in the room and we went out and bought some food and vino. In the morning after we checked out, Louise snuffled around the abundant junk shops in the west end and I walked walked walked along the magnificent prom in the raw blustery wind – almost to Heysham – The view northwards to the lakes over Morecambe bay is stunning.
Elias turned up on Friday and we went to the little pub round the corner. We phoned Sam and he joined us with the dog. It was nice and so quintessentially ordinary grass roots Burnley. The dog is a beautiful brindle whippet and he was admired. We came back to the house to see Louise and have a couple more ales. Sam always plays me his new recordings. As they were leaving, I played them mine, fully expecting the ripping piss-taking at the falsetto singing. True to form, Sam did a suitably scathing shamone-motherfucker impression, miming a prog guitar solo over the top.
Since Louise’s mum died, the value of family and friends seems more important than ever. We had a nice Sunday dinner and they all came round. I still miss my dad – you don’t appreciate them when they’re there. His last coherent words were ‘I love you both’. I see the money that he left me as a gift of love to help look after the tribe.
The van is looking tired and weary outside the front door. We just started it up after several weeks and went over Crown Point – it ran like a dream, pulling up the hill like a mountain goat. I’ve already decided to sell it but this is probably the worst time of year.
Here’s me and Tom back in the day when we had a 2-piece band long before they were fashionable – he was a stonking drummer. He sang and played keyboards at the same time on some songs. I had my guitar split through 2 amps – one bassy and one guitary – we had a pretty good sound.