Snow from a week ago remains frozen after a spate of minus tens. I follow the footprints of a big fox around the field. He’s come in through the run at the bottom.
We’ve had cold snaps before – it’s called winter, but this one is particularly protracted, with a deep gnawing relenting penetrating iciness. Even socks, two hot water bottles and a thick jumper struggle to keep bony boy warm in bed. For the first time ever I’m sitting with a blanket wrapped round my legs. It works.
It’s a time for intuitively hunkering down, yet paradoxically, getting outside is more important then ever. What’s more, once I’ve crossed the finger-numbness threshold, it can be quite exhilarating in the crystal blue deep shortening days, where, as ever, nature is the subtle guide.
Our little gardening group is on winter tick-over, but nevertheless it’s established, with 33 on the emailing list. I like the idea of forming fringe micro-societies that bypass the profiteers. The potential is enormous.
Dave and Lisa and Karen and Alex have been up and we’ve got another decent chunk of hedge pruned. I remain preoccupied with turning the clippings into compost and firewood. The amount available from hedging seems paltry compared to the giant chunks of diseased ash that are readily available from Dewy. Processing it is labour-intensive too, but nevertheless it’s part of the local ecosystem, so I’ll persevere. I haven’t even used the log-brancher yet.
Like many people, I’m obsessed with heating at the moment. It’s a controversial topic, because the widely-available 100% organic high-concentrate combustibles are out of fashion. I need to crack on and start building my rocket stove range. The design is roughly four times more efficient than a conventional stove. We’ve a lot to learn from the Scandinavians. With proper insulation and ventilation, our houses could be so much warmer.
Of course climate change is a thing, but it was a thing before the microscopic pin prick of time since humans have been poisoning the planet. The destruction of the world’s ecosystems by the same bunch of ultra-rich who are fucking us over with everything else is a slightly different issue.
Oh how I despise the energy companies and their grotesque profits at the expense of people living in misery, unable to afford to keep warm. Earth, water, air, fire. The four essential elements. They’re trying to take our fire away from us. Smart meters are a form of digital slavery. A large proportion of us are enslaved to our digital devices and social media, me included. These things didn’t even exist a few years ago. In different circumstances, I would start from scratch with an off grid house. At least I’m part of the way with the ranch. It would be easy to live up there and any old local postal address would do.
I have a morning at Dyneley with Dewy and we fell and chop up a medium-sized ash. It’s minus seven when we start, but we soon warm up and I come away with a van load of wood, which I further chop by hand the day after. There’s a primordial satisfaction from having a supply of firewood. Ash is the only UK timber that can be burned green because of it’s relatively low moisture content, although it burns more efficiently when seasoned.
I’ve finally finished the steel doors for the sub-station. It was a big job and took longer than anticipated because I had a problem with one of the locks. Alex helped me fit it. When I’d finished painting it, I tried to think of something profound to write on it – a magical symbol or something. I couldn’t, so I just wrote the usual and sent it to my fellow vernacularists.
My fascination with archery continues. After a lot of experimentation, I’ve settled on a hybrid Comanche grip. My average score started off at about 4 out of 12 and it’s gone up to 10/12. Mog likes archery too and one day we politely shoot an arrow at a time at the straw target during conversation. I point out that one of us looks like a warrior queen, and one of us looks like Gollum.
Towneley Hall and park are a big part of Burnley life. Despite being an ordinary terrace, our house is just inside the park and it’s lovely to be able to wander up there. The last member of the family to live in the hall was Lady O Hagan, née Alice Towneley. She sold the hall and park to Burnley council in 1901. My dad’s grandad was her coachman.
Dewy’s biggest gardening interest is trees, whereas mine is medicinal and native wild plants. He became friendly with Sir Simon Towneley a good few years ago when he ran Offshoots, the permaculture project in the park. Sir Simon too was a keen arborist and he allowed Offshoots to plant some trees at Dyneley.
Dewy subsequently became the gardener at Dyneley and I met Sir Simon a few times. I know his daughter Cosima better – she’s a real live wire and extremely knowledgeable about local affairs and rights of way.
When Sir Simon died recently, I didn’t particularly think it appropriate for me to go to the funeral but Dewy said that Cosima would appreciate it and she did. Helen and I went. It was full-on high catholic, with soldiers in dress uniform at the church door, a mass and priests chanting in Latin. Dewy was deservedly mentioned in Peregrine’s eulogy. I’m not religious, but there was something unexpectedly, spiritually cathartic about it – particularly the overspill on the walk home.
An old man is walking down Tod Road pushing his grandson in a pram. A woman drives past, winds down her window and shouts ‘Cunt’. What a gobshite.
Wtf is wrong with these people? Nevertheless, us vernacularists (3 women on the posher end of the spectrum plus me) use the term regularly and forward each other meme’s frequently. Both Helen and Mog come out with precisely the same sentence independently ‘It’s a term of endearment’. There are now a few websites selling dedicated products – cups, cards, fridge magnets and so on. I had the same idea a few years ago. I’m thinking that there might still be a niche market for utterly inappropriate hand-printed cards. In fact I’m working on a couple at the moment. ‘It’s Christmas … and you’re still a …..’ ‘Father Christmas …. is a ….’
I’ve always said that it’s marginally more satisfactory to procreate than not. The ‘G’ word is still banned mind. I always thought that John Lee Hartley would be a great Rock & Roll name and I even used if for a while. Sonny Wray is even better though. I use my steely blue eye contact fleetingly – I can see into your soul, but then you can see into mine and we wouldn’t want that would we? It’s different with the baby. His brown eyes gaze into mine frequently, accompanied by his wan little smile.
I’m carrying him to our house from Rachel’s one day in my makeshift sling and he’s staring at me and smiling, I’m coincidentally outside Ginger’s house, when I suddenly have one of those raining/not raining moments. I’m thinking of all the times I missed with my own kids, through being too stressed and exhausted with my job (don’t blame your job arsehole – you would still have been a cunt regardless). I keep telling Rachel that he’ll only be a little baby for the blink of an eye.
I left medicine over a year ago but I’m still a registered medical practitioner. I’ve always felt the need to speak out if I think something is medically wrong and boy have I spoken out.
I’m done now though. I’m beyond grief. Doctors used to endorse smoking and the brave doc who spoke out against thalidomide was ridiculed for years. There’s a reason why they have blanket censored the questioners.
I have to buy a five pound bottle of gin, to loosen the taps, because Burnley boys don’t cry. It’s come too close to home and I have to just concentrate on the positive. I read somewhere ‘Love like you’d like to be loved.’ I’m digging that. Be a rainbow in someone else’s cloud and all that. Seize the day – every second, every minute, every hour.
I notice that I can’t walk anywhere locally now without being in the view of one of those round cameras. They’ve all appeared in the last couple of years. It’s understandable to see them in town centres as part of the CCTV, but they’re everywhere. There are even 2 on the walk up to the ranch.
The vile slimeball Hancock has announced that he’s stepping down as an MP.
What isn’t widely reported is that he has no choice because of a vote of no confidence from his constituents.
I am not the only one to quietly rage at the failed attempt to make him publicly acceptable as a so-called celebrity. Karma is a Kunt prick, and those that who were forced to let their loved ones die alone, will not forget. No hiding place.
Rock & Roll:
… has been enormously good fun lately – that says a lot coming from a curmudgeon like me.
What have you been listening to lately Stevie? said no one ever. I’ve been listening to lots of balladic Richard Hawley, Ray LaMontagne and Paulo Nutini. The jewel in the crown is Cherry Ghost’s Cold Mathematics and even though I’m not a fan of strummed guitar, this version is exquisite. I wonder if it’s his son playing with him? That’s the way it is sometimes. Despite best efforts to push away, it really does boil down to undeniable cold mathematics.
The meditation is throwing up some weird psychic shit and one day, a particular thought, accompanied by a very clear tingling on my forehead comes, three times in a row. It turns out to be true, but not quite in the way that I thought, and not before making a dick of myself. It all turns out OK in the end. This meditation lark isn’t the mellow journey that I’ve been led to believe – it throws up some right spiky shit.
The mellow music has spawned a couple of new efforts including this one. I paraphrased some of Sam’s lyrics with his permission ‘Acid in the eyedrops…’ ‘If love is the drug…’. I wrote it the day before Gaz and I filmed and recorded it. We had to do it lots of times to get it down, because we didn’t know it. It’s recorded on the day of Simon’s funeral, so the symbolism is apt.
Last time, I mentioned that I’d finally embraced computer-based music via Ableton. I planned a dance track, using NOTSENSIBLES Death to Disco (our first single) as a starting point. It was only natural to look to disco music for inspiration and I settled for a seventies Bee Gees influence. The guitar riff and drums are heavily influenced by Stayin Alive but hopefully you can’t really spot it.
I added a nice arpeggiated synth part using the miniKORG, but there was still something missing.
That’s when I asked M C Saga to step in and see if he could rap over the top. M C’s original inspiration comes from the tight-white-trousered seventies Gibb brothers, so it all fits.
Once the track was mixed and recorded, I planned a video and that’s where the fun really started. Mog and Dawn and Gaz kindly agreed to be in it. My favourite dance scene ever is Fred Astaire’s and Rita Heyworth’s Shorty George. Rita is looking all demure as Fred fawns round her. I love the moment that she gets up and starts dancing. I mentioned it to Mog and she said ‘If you think I’m going to move like Rita, you’re going to be most disappointed’. Nevertheless, she smashes it on the day, resplendent in lime green suit.
Gaz controls the camera and the understated star is Dawn, as she quickly takes charge of the choreography, calling out instructions: ‘Roll’ ‘forward’ ‘back to back’ ‘hail him’. In the kitchen scenes, Mog and I are actually following Dawn’s movements behind the camera.
10 000 hours:
Sam has got his muse back and is recording his songs on his own (in the same room where I recorded a lot of mine before he was born!).
He mentions Billie Eilish, telling me that she and her brother were home schooled and encouraged to do what they really wanted by their parents. On one of the walls of her studio is the phrase 10,000 hours. which comes from the book “Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell. The notion is that there’s a minimum amount of time to put in to achieve success.
When I look up 10 000 hours, it translates as 1.14 years. I think, that’s nothing. My engineering apprenticeship was four years. It took me ten years from scratch to qualify as a doctor and another 10 years to become a consultant. 10 years is more apt for my studio wall.
I hear Brian Johnson talking about his time in AC DC on Sunday 6 music. He’s very entertaining and describes getting up to sing again at the age of 74 and pulling it off.
10 years then. To write those books. To make those records. To get the gardening project off the ground.
It’s Sunday evening. I don’t watch football, but it’s the world cup final and Louise and Sam ask me to put it on. The game is nearly over and France are winning 3:2. There are shots of Macron flanked by rich people from countries that chop heads off. I don’t like him – he’s a WEF weasel prick. I hate penalty shoot-outs – they’re so stressful. Nevertheless, I’m overjoyed when Argentina win. I have a soft spot for the country. Our dancing has gone up a notch after the video, but can anyone teach me the Tango?