Saturday Waffle

I got a new job recently. I’m now the web and social media bod for the local churches. Which gives me something more to do with my days than browse Reddit and fail to do any hoovering. In the first week on the job I’ve already set up the new website.

And that’s got me thinking about what I’m going to do with this old site. I’ve had it for a very long time, going back to 2004 I think. Maybe even earlier. And while once it was buzzing, social media has rendered the personal blog somewhat redundant. Or has it? With the rise in bots, fake accounts and online misanthropy of all kinds perhaps there’s still a place to share one’s thoughts away from the toxic atmosphere of forums and comment sections.

I don’t let anyone create new accounts here so there won’t be any posts by Russian teenagers calling themselves Derek575736343 “Pro-Brexit, free speech, Won’t be silenced” etc. And given that I have a decent education and am not a baby-boomer this site is also free of idiotic nonsense support Brexit, cruelty to the poor or the wish to machine-gun immigrants. Nor am I in the pay of Vladimir Putin.

So perhaps I will just carry on making the occasional rambling post such as this and gradually developing this site more into the photography blog I’ve been considering for a while. In the meantime I’m well aware the site runs rather slow. This is down to my host Dataflame – a once good web host but in recent times seemingly giving up on performance and good customer care. I’ll be off to a different host in July when this contract ends, maybe even sooner.

In the meantime if you’re still one of the five people who pops along here occasionally to see what I’m up to, then hello. Nice to see you.

How They Danced, The Little Children Of…

Our youngest is studying the stone age at primary school at the moment. And it was suggested that over the half term holiday pupils should visit somewhere with a link to Britain’s stone age past. Given that our son had already made a Stonehenge cake it was obvious what we had to do.

A Swift blast up the A303 later and we were at the new Stonehenge Visitor’s Centre. And very nice it is too. It’s small – a shop, a ticket office and an informative but brief exhibition hall – but still worth a visit.

The ticket includes a short bus ride to the henge itself. This bus journey features a voiceover telling passengers about the archaeological features visible during the journey. And then onto Stonehenge itself, along with hundreds of other people from all over the globe.

The stones are a magnificent site. But on a bitterly cold and wet day such as this we couldn’t help but wonder what the many visitors from foreign climes made of the henge. We had only travelled an hour or so. If I’d been on vacation in London from China I might have felt the journey was a bit much for a pile of stones.

There was no lack of significance for me though. As this visit allowed me to fulfil a lifelong ambition. Yes I listened to Spinal Tap’s epic song Stonehenge on my phone while at Stonehenge. At what volume? Well what do you think?

Hey Look It Snowed

It may have have been brief. But it was the first proper snow we’ve had in our corner of West Dorset since 2013. The kids were really excite. Alas it wasn’t to last. While the fabled Beast From the East gave us one day of gorgeous powdery snow, the next day saw it covered in a layer of ice from freezing rain. So no sledging or snowman building for us this winter.

How I Didn’t Learn to Play Guitar

In 1989 I got a book that was just strumming easy chords to famous songs. It was frustrating because they weren’t necessarily in the right key and so I couldn’t play along with the records. But I persevered. Went don’t a few dead ends – such as spending months fingering the open E chord the wrong way.

I had an Epiphone superstrat. But no amp for the first couple of years. I plugged the guitar into my boombox and if I wanted distortion just turned it up. I knew nothing and that probably slowed down my learning.

But things got better when I bought a Led Zeppelin tab book. It was mostly inaccurate, but it got me started on lead and riffs. But the big change was when I realised that I could play the notes from Black Dog in any order I wanted and they worked over the same notes. I’d discovered the pentatonic scale. So improv began.

I started buying American guitar mags that had tabs to songs in. And I bought tab books I had no chance of being able to play. But I’d enjoy muddling through playing along to Satriani’s Extremist album despite not being able to play the widdly bits. Though funnily enough it was often the riffs I loved more than the widdling anyway. By the time I started uni in 93 I would spend weeks pouring over tab books and could (back then, no chance now) play most of Maiden’s Fear of the Dark album.

The main thing for me though was right from the start I was more interesting in writing my own songs rather than play someone elses. Even now my repertoire of other artists’ material is very low. I would have been a better guitarist if I’d had lessons, but less fun for me I think. I enjoyed the journey, I wasn’t looking for some destination. I would do stuff like use two boomboxes to record my own songs with sound on sound – dubbing my live playing into it – adding drums from a cheap keyboard. I enjoyed the muddling through, the experimenting.

A Calamitous Day

The Prime Minister has signed the Article 50 notification. Our country has begun the process of leaving the Europe Union. The 52 percent that voted for Brexit (actually 26 percent of UK population) is now in charge. Whatever happens now is their fault. Don’t blame us if it’s a complete mess. And don’t blame the poor, the immigrants, the muslims, the homeless, the children, the sick, doctors, the nurses, the banks, the schools. This is your UK now, if you voted for this, own it.

I’m sort of an immigrant to this country. I sneaked in. It is a country I have loved but always felt a bit of an outsider; aware that I was adopted by both a new family and a new nation. I’m lucky in that the colour of my skin makes it easy for me to hide in plain sight in the UK. But it also means people have been willing to share their hateful views with me – thinking I’m one of them. But I’m not. When I hear their racism, the darkest recesses of what might be loosely called their soul, when they use immigration to justify this political leap into the dark, they are talking about me and my children.

And so no, this doesn’t end today. Like millions of others in this country I will fight for a decent future for my family. A future free of hatred and bigotry, a future free of lies painted on buses, free of ignorance and lack of education. A future where instead of isolating ourselves and dreaming of some version of 1950s that only existed for a privileged few even then – instead a future where we try to be part of something bigger and better for the benefit of our children and their children. A future where expertise, education, science, and truth are still important.

Today the UK takes a terrible first step into isolation, into a petty small minded version of this country that’s unwilling to be part of a community. A hideous mashup of The Darling Buds of May and Love Thy Neighbour. A future molded by US health insurance companies, big sugar, the Daily Mail, Murdoch, a USA in political turmoil, and the Kremlin.

I still hope our government will see sense. I hope they realise the incredible damage that could follow and thus make a brave u-turn. But I fear that the most likely outcome is that our children will be damned to a nation suffering a prolonged political, social and cultural ice age. We have a government more interested in maintaining party unity than protecting us against any external threat to the UK. We’re sleepwalking into oblivion with the scriptwriter working in Cyrillic.

To those who voted for setting the clocks back 40 years, I hope you enjoy your bendy cucumbers and incandescent light bulbs. But I don’t think they will be much compensation for the many hardships to follow.

In some ways I hope you are right. It would be wonderful to think we’re beginning a new golden age, a revitalised and glorious United Kingdom, once again earning the Great in Great Britain. We’re not though, we’re really not. You can’t build a golden age on bigotry and lies.

Maybe one day the 52 percent will understand that, and they will even apologise to us. Until then, the rest of us will fight this massive mistake. Not just for our sake, but for your sake and that of your children too. Because that’s what being part of a family, union or community is all about. You’ve just forgotten.