02 June 2008

The Curse of the Zombie Comic

Darkness fell over the town, and through the alcoholic haze the tavern owner did announce,
On the morrow a jester would arrive to spread comedic wit far and very wide
To ridicule all who pass, and play songs a plenty on its baleful guitar
or so the story goes.
Fear and trepidation suffused it way though the friends, the heroes of this tale
They sat at the tavern window now, but the drink had dulled their senses
The fore-shadowing of this doom all too soon unremembered.
Merry they made throughout evening till the cold damp street beckoned forth.
The warning forgot they sang and danced out into the night.

The evening was upon them again and warnings lost or ignored they once more returned to the tavern.
And there it was, the Zombie comic, sitting, eyes dull surveying the crowd,
The old and feeble of mind had quickly succumb to this jester's evil trance,
But our heroes sat there waiting, planning what to do,
To pass this hideous form and not to suffer that malignant curse endured by the frail,

After a time the zombie rested absorbing the power he had gained to return once more with attacks renewed.
In this time our heroes passed out into the garden to smoke and derive strength and fortitude,
Then again the comic returned, the drab rhythm of the sinister guitar entwining and luring even more.
Ale helped some to escape over the wall and dance into the night, free.
But our heroes stayed to plan a revenge.

A weakness was found, the plan was formed to allow them to defeat the fiend.
Overwhelm the beast with comic gifts was it, simple and devastating if only the fiend could see,
With the plan in action the fiend no longer knew how to cope,
Its victims should run and hide from the foul retorts not to invite and enjoy its sneering reposts
With the weapons of ribbons and gaily held hands the monster retreated weakened.
Preying elsewhere, a place without such valiant heroes
Leaving only placards of his evil presence, he left, but forever would be too much to hope,
But what of the old and mentally infirm?
Will the Zombie return to claim them for his own?
Time will tell, but our heroes are ready fight whenever it should happen.

01 October 2007

The City

As the coach pulls into the station I get out, the cold damp September day sets the tone, slate grey and sombre. From my contemplative thoughts of rest - questions without answer, of things done, and things to be done, and then suddenly thrust, dumped into the maelstrom, hundreds of people crowding in the streets. Sirens scream and wail as an urgent riposte to the people who summoned them.

Traffic crawls and people wait, lights change red to green, green to red. The traffic stops and people start to move, each one on their own journey, their destination known only to them, no-one looks at each other. No communication apart to berate or belittle. Thousands of strangers all alone together. On toward the tube passed the newspaper sellers grumpily thrusting their free rags into people's hand and complaining when it's not taken, an impossibility to escape their clutches.

Now down below through the warren and on to the chthonic train, pushing to get in, so crammed that its impossible to move but no one looks at anyone; personal solitude twisted and warped by the masses.

Off the train again and at the bottom of a staircase a tourist recently arrived, jetlagged, struggling with luggage is ignored, never realising that they'd have this problem before leaving home. I pick up the spare bag before it's stolen or declared a ' suspect package' and for panic to ensure. At the top of the stairs I'm thanked and I rush on through more tunnels and on to another platform, less full this time, the train soon arrives pushing ahead a gale, sweeping rubbish and discarded newspapers aside - stampeding into the station. And I get on, as the train pulls out of the station a couple who look down on their luck but high on something else argue, the woman finally gets up and walks toward the door between the carriages, opens it, steps through into the next carriage, all the while the train rattles over the rough and dilapidated tracks. No one else seems bothered and don't even look up, let alone to pass comment. As she passes between carriages I worry that she might slip and fall, but to my surprise and horror my first thought is not that she'll be injured or killed but we'd be stuck down the tunnel for hours... This place is getting to me.

Eastward we travel, along the green, the purple, and the red. Then out to the twisting side streets where buildings gently fade. Crumbling brickwork, peeling paint, and with weeds growing in the gutters nature makes a valiant but futile effort to retake control. The vanguard is led by the precocious buddleia attempting to spread its fragrance over the decaying landscape but is soon vanquished by the pollution.

It starts to rain but it fails to dampen my spirits, the city has done that already.

The world now seems to consist of a universe no further than the next building and the sky seems so far away as to be infinite. I continue walking and come to an area of renewal, old buildings waiting to be pulled apart, diggers and cranes bite into them, and soon all that is left are piles of pallid rubble and twisted metal jeering at the pride with which they were built.

To rest a while, I find a generic café and sitting drinking my generic coffee I start to think where I was a few days earlier, standing on top of a hill overlooking a wooded valley with no one else in sight the wind in my face bringing the scent of heather, cloud shadows raced over the treetops turning them dappled green, here the sky almost seemed close enough to touch and the joy of nature abounded; alone but not lonely.

Another wailing siren brings me back from my reverie, I finish my coffee and head out into the grey streets toward the goal of this urban misadventure.

Into the concert hall, teak beauty abounds and the outside world forgotten, thousands patiently wait from the front row to the highest gallery for their muse, soon she appears, and artist and audience seem awestruck as one to be meeting each other, her songs wind their way though the hall and round the pillars and we newly appreciate the bear and the chim-choo-ree and rise in awe of the sawdust and diamonds. All too soon its over.

After the concert and a poor nights sleep in an anonymous hotel it's back on the coach. The wild-eyed coach driver tries to rat-run a 60 seat coach along suburban sidestreets, passed the rows of dull red grey suburbia and then on to a bridge where a sudden swath of green hits the eye, a park full of trees with a stream running through immediately lifts my spirits and I know I've left the cold impersonal city behind.

Joanna Newsom at the Albert Hall

In two words....

Absolutely Amazing!!

This was the best gigs I have ever been too, and the Albert Hall is great venue. The only one that comes close was Lamb's penultimate ever performance which was at the Shepard's Bush Empire.

Firstly the place was sold out (that's a capacity of 5,500) and all the songs were slightly reworked from the Album so they seemed fresh and had a 3 piece band not the full orchestra which is recorded on 'Ys', and on the album you can't appreciate the skill. One of the songs 'Only Skin' is 18 minutes long. She has written the lyrics for all her songs and they are not repetitive but more like poetry, then she's set them to music which she then plays, playing the harp is quite an intense activity, and then singing without sounding out of breath is some feat. One of the songs in the middle of her set 'Sawdust and Diamonds' got a standing ovation at the end.

Also she seemed to be as amazed at playing in the Albert Hall as the audience was to see her. One song she had the one of the support acts sing the backing vocals and at the end asked them to go get her phone and then had the House Lights raised so she could photograph the hall and audience.
She started off with 'Bridges and Balloons' and followed by 'Emily' which are my favourite songs which is cool.
'Only Skin' was the encore song which she preformed after a 5minute standing ovation and at one point she got lost on the lyrics, which most performers would be criticised for but instead it got a laugh from the audience and a prompt from the percussionist she was off again. If you find the lyrics you will know why.

02 September 2007

The Long Cold Sunday Morning of the Soul*

Early morning at Beautiful Days

Its 6:30 in the morning, I'm cold despite two facts firstly; its August and secondly; I'm using two sleeping bags and wearing a fleece. I've just woken up, although waking implies being asleep which I haven't done a lot of in the past four days, two of these due to being camped out a cold hillside at the Beautiful Days Festival.

I'd been looking forward to it for ages, My first festival: but the previous two nights I might have managed 2 hours of poor sleep consisting mainly on sliding down in my tent and then pushing myself back up again so I exhausted.

I try to get back to sleep and I listen to Lisa Gerrad on my iPod hoping this will help bring sleep. It doesn't and hour and half later I give up trying to sleep, I dress and crawl out of my tent.

All around are a sea of tents with coughing and snoring emanating from many of them. As the rain has finally stopped I decide to have a walk and find the Tiny Tea Tent and have a fresh cup of tea to try and rekindle my atrophying brain.

As I wander through the slopping mud toward the village shop tent a few other bleary-eyed people are also awake at this time, either coming back from partying or other insomniacs.

One of them is walking in the same direction carrying a case of beer, she says 'Hi', she's about my age and looks like the kind of person that wouldn't look out of place at a environmental protest, and we start chatting about festivals and I tell her this my first festival and its a lot noisier than I'd thought it would be, she laughs as she thought this has been a really quiet festival and was looking for more music. At the village shop tent we parted company while she tried to sell the cans of beer and I slip and slide on the way up the hill toward the Tea Tent and my goal of a cup of tea.

I round the corner to the Main Stage and it looks like a very wet ploughed field, ploughed by thousands of people dancing to Gorgo Bordello the night before. Litter blows across the area like synthetic tumbleweed it the cold wind.

Despite this, the wind blowing and only a few people around I remember why I like this time of the morning, the freshness of the day, the secret time before most people are awake and the day seems bright, new and full of possibilities, but the cloying mud soon makes me wish I was fast asleep and warm in my tent.

I finally trudge up to the Tea tent, outside sat around an open fire of burning bits of timber that someone must have found somewhere are people who've been up all night discussing everything and nothing, they all seems to have the same type of baggy, loose knitted jumpers and ripped jeans almost like a uniform. I go on into the Tea Tent but realise I've no money, I swear and squelch off back down the hill until I meet the woman I'd spoken to earlier, I mumble about forgetting my money and she offers to buy me a cup, I gratefully accept saving the long walk back to the tent. We exchange names and she tries to sell more beer to other people in the people in the tent.

I go to the counter and get poured a mugfull of the sort after brown liquid and sit at a bench and sip it. The mug is filthy and I think it hasn't been washed up since the start of the festival, this would normally bother me but I'm so tired and thirsty that I just drink down the tea at the rickety table in the tumbledown tent.

The woman who bought my tea is still deep in conversation and negotiating beer prices, I'd like to stay and talk more but in my sleep deprived state and annoying shyness feel like talking even less than normal and anyway can't think of anything remotely interesting to say and I think chances of managing to hold a coherent conversation are beyond me, so I say goodbye and start to make my way back down to my tent.

I start to wonder whether it would be a good idea to drop out, nearly all the people I've met who most people would think of as drop-outs have been some of the friendliest and easiest people to talk to as strangers, but thinking further, while in theory I'd love the freedom I'd probably hate it, I'd worry about everything and generally hate the uncertainty of it and also I've no idea how to go about it and as I'm just about to buy a flat its probably a very odd thing to think about. As I trudge on back passed the Main Stage I release I've forgotten her name, I get back to my tent and wait for everyone else who can sleep to wake and I sit feel more tired than I can remember.

*Title:With apologies to the late great Douglas Adams.

27 April 2007

The Brandy Run

After the dropping of the smugglers off the Brig turned back out in to the bay. The ship dipped and rolled in the increasing wind, spray crossed the desk dampening the spirit of the captain, money was one thing but spay soaked clothes on a cold night could make anyone miserable. The wind groaned in the rigging and the sails creaked against the breeze. Up in the Crow's Nest a sailor called down, it was all clear ahead.

The Captain stumbled down the narrow stairway, and along the companionway to his cabin, He sat down and looked at his charts spread across his desk, he need to get across to France to pick up the next consignment of brandy, but he was worried about the weather and the about the brandy smugglers. He'd heard stories of them beating those who had been late with collection. But the halo around the moon he'd seen on his way down to the cabin was a portent of a storm.

However after reading the barometer and seeing it set at Fair, he needed time to think of the gamble ahead an whether to risk the crossing. He selected a quill, sharpened it and started writing in his log and tried to think. Finally he decided go for the crossing and anyway what sort of Captain would he be if he didn't take risks. After telling the men of his decision, retired back to his cabin.

The wave that hit knocked the captain out of his bunk. He scrambled up and went out into the companionway as another wave hit as he looked at the stairway water was cascading down the step like a series of waterfalls, up on deck spay lashed, around water crashed over the side again, The Boson tried to tell the captain how the storm came out of nowhere, but the wind carried his words away along with spay.

It was pitch-black and the only light was from the ships lanterns, a mere flicker in the black void. The crew hanging on to the yards trying to reef the sail while the wind screamed though the rigging and sails started to rip, the mast was bending.

Cut the mainsails away” yelled the captain. He had no alternative, if he didn't cut loose them he may loose the ship and everyone to Davey Jones' Locker, The men in the rigging started hacking at the ropes to the and as the sail ripped away it hung on the last rope for a second flapping like a sad flag before ripping away and disappearing in to the darkness.

With the mainsail gone the ship was a lot more calmed down but the wave tossed the around ship like a cornered wild horse. Wave after wave broke across the deck every few seconds and the crew were getting knocked off their feet and were likely to swept overboard. As the crew could not do much now expect hope the captain ordered them below, he was was captain and it was his ship the boson stayed above deck too and they lashed themselves to the wheel and tried to keep the ship facing into the wind and ride out the storm.

After about hour the wind dropped and quickly as it had risen, and eerie silence fell across the ship. Looking a ghostly blue glow started to appeared the top of the masts and end of the yards. The crew who were slowly emerging from below and looked in awe at the display, many of them fell to their knees and prayed.

On the horizon lightning flickered and played between clouds but over time the storm disappeared and the lights faded.

The captain called up his men and set them to work making good the storm damage, most of the sails had been torn, but they had enough canvas to move, however they had no idea where the were they could be anywhere in a within 50 miles. The captain having had this much bad luck decided not to attract any more and decided to limp to France and pick up is cargo, He headed South East and hoped to soon see the French coast and work out where they were and from there head into port.