Saturday, 31 October 2009

Weekend songs – life from death

This will be the end of this short series of songs, I promise. Here are two lovely sounds for the weekend (and nothing Halloweeny...I'm sure you can find those elsewhere).

First off, here's the song I was going to post yesterday. The song itself was made more famous by other Latin American singers (Mercedes Sosa in particular who died very recently - another blogger wrote about her here) but this version is sung by the writer of 'Gracias a la vida' (Chilean Violeta Parra 1917-1967). She had the obligatory tragic end but it's a beautiful song...a really beautiful song. If you don't know Spanish I would just enjoy the sounds but if you really want an idea of meaning there is a translation here. I haven't gone through it word for word to see how good it is but it could give you at least an idea of what the song is about (if you really want that).

And another person I wanted to squeeze into this week's DJ set was Nina Simone (1933-2003). What a woman, what a musician, what a voice like no here she is singing another song about life ('la vida' is life in Spanish...and I'm sure at least some of you know that). Although Simone did write songs this one is not one of her own compositions but was written by James Rado and Gerome Ragni with music by Galt MacDermot (read about it here – it originated in the musical 'Hair' which I've never seen a production of in any format – anyone else seen it?). Anyway, on with the's Nina:

Have a great weekend...a weekend full of life!


Friday, 30 October 2009

Friday song – from Iceland with love

I was thinking of posting a song by a Chilean singer/songwriter today but then Titus put in a vote for Iceland's most famous...and I couldn't say no to that cute little doggy face now could I? That's Titus' face not Björk's...obviously!

So which song? To be honest my very favourite Björk number is on her album 'Debut' and it's her version of a fairly conventional 65 year old song (maybe I'm just an old-fashioned girl). Here it is – a bit of romance for a Friday...

The song, of course, is 'Like someone in love'. It was composed in 1944 (for a film soundtrack) by Jimmy Van Heusen, with lyrics by Johnny Burke and it was Bing Crosby who had a hit with it first.

I guess I'll post the Chilean song tomorrow. This could run and run...


p.s. So is there really no TFE Monday poem task? He'd better not throw one out at the last minute...Halloween is taken very seriously in this house and we're going to be busy.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Thursday song – Mmm, skyscraper, I love you

This is turning into one heck of a jukebox/DJ mixtape! Today's musical contribution is by one of the best-known bands of what you might call the rave era...and I know just saying that will make some of you switch off (or click away) IMMEDIATELY but please don't! It wasn't all really wasn't. Some of it was brilliant...even without the drugs.

OK...a lot of the electronic dance music of the late 1980s and 1990s was and is, I admit it, a rather specialist subject...but that's not the case for all of it. I mean, some of you didn't think you liked folk music but you loved June Tabor yesterday, right? So why stop there? Onwards, soldiers, onwards! To where? To the Underworld...

The British band Underworld have made quite a lot of electronic dance music that can, I think, appeal to a huge range of listeners (if they just give it a go). One of their tracks did cross over to pop success (the track 'Born Slippy', thanks to its inclusion on the 'Trainspotting' soundtrack) but I have to say that that is one of my least favourite bits of Underworld. Much, much better is their album from the early 90s 'Dubnobasswithmyheadman'. It is full of great tracks – 'Cowgirl', 'Dark and Long' and most of all, for me, 'Mmm Skyscraper, I love you'. This track features vocalist Karl Hyde to great effect and has some fairly quirky lyrics (one of the reasons Underworld stood out from the dance crowd was their different approach to vocals). You can read the lyrics here (if you really want to...they're quite bizarre). The following video was the best version of this track that I could find on youtube and bizarrely, but interestingly, it features lots of pictures of a Frenchman who climbs up buildings for fun (Alain Robert...nothing to do with the band).

To listen to this track properly I would suggest you put on headphones and concentrate on it thoroughly - it's really not background music. Listen to it from start to finish and leave any prejudices you might have about electronica/dance music/rave/house/trance/techno aside for a minute. This is just a really good piece of music (and the words are fun too...though they don't really get going till about 3 minutes in). Try to enjoy it. Go on...just try one...

So what do you think? I love it. Always have...always will.


Wednesday, 28 October 2009

A Wednesday song - back to clouds

Maybe I'll post a song every day for the rest of the week (I did used to be a DJ you know - maybe this is just a different outlet for that occupation). Today's song is one that was mentioned in the comments last week when we were talking about clouds. It is sung here by one of English folk's finest singers June Tabor. Tabor isn't one of the young, new singers of the latest folk invasion (and boy, are there a lot of them!). Instead she is very much old guard but unlike some of the latter (with their wobbly, for me, almost painful voices) Tabor has a beautiful, deep, strong voice with a wide range. She's really something special (though I suspect she'd hate to read that...I get the impression she's all about the music and the tradition and not particularly self-interested). I've yet to see her live (details of current tour dates and so on are here) but I own a couple of her cds and they are all fantastic. Anyway, see what you think of this:

The song was written by Bill Caddick (his website is here).

Now, what song for tomorrow?


Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Tuesday Song – and here's Thom

The Monday Poem is still there if you want to read it. In the meantime I'm moving on to a Tuesday song.

You might remember that my Mark is quite a Radiohead fan (and I've written about that band here and here). Mark also listens, quite regularly, to the solo album that Radiohead's Thom Yorke put out in 2006 ('The Eraser'). I remember it was up for the Mercury Prize that year and Yorke performed one of the tracks live on the awards show and it was brilliant (the track, the performance, the ability to turn a poxy awards show into something altogether more fantastic). You can see that performance here (who won that year? Arctic Monkeys says google) but the song from Yorke's album that has well and truly seeped into my mind this week is this one:

The lyrics (more or less...) are here.

Now I'm off to go and do some cleaning. Oh and I must email some questions to Liz Gallagher for her book blog tour thing.


Sunday, 25 October 2009

Monday Poem – a hellish assignment

So – Monday poem. I'm posting now because I put my Monday piece up on Sunday last week and nothing terrible happened (computer didn't self-destruct or anything...TFE didn't kick me off the bus and into the gutter...). Plus I'm not sure this subject/mood is good for Mondays. Anyway, on with it.

The assignment was...(a) listen to the clip below (without trying to find out anything more about it), (b) write down what occurs/comes to you whilst you're listening to it and then (c) present your offering on your blog (unaltered). Here's the clip (it's about 10 minutes long and I don't think it's ever been covered by Atomic Kitten or anyone):

Below is my written offering. I had to make a few tiny changes to my original outpourings because there were a couple of details that really needed to be looked at before this was ready for anyone other than me to see it. I make no apologies for doing this - this is my blog and I have to be able to stand by anything I put up here (even if it's only me and then...oh yes, me again who reads it). Is it a poem? It's some writing, that's all I know. Here goes:

Inferno again

And Hitchcock
Go together like
A lot of buses
Hitting the brakes at the
Same time

And still they brake
Because there's somewhere
They really don't
Want to go

Seagulls, fading seagulls
Playing some kind of
Infernal bongos
Whoever let the seagulls
Near the bongos?
They've gone wild
And they may just beat us
To within an inch
Of our mystery

Distant foghorn
It wants to join a band
But no-one will listen

Time to think
Time to remember
Other times listening to
Experi-mental music
Like once when that guy said
'Hey, have you listened to Aphex Twin?
He's wicked
He sampled the sound of
A woman screaming
Whilst she's being raped.'

It probably wasn't even true
He was a fair bullshitter
Still I thought
He should roast in hell
For even considering that
In a good way

Him and Ricky Gervais
Bring forth the pitchforks

It is worth, I think
Learning to see the line
Because there is a line
And once you've crossed it
You are all the things that previously
You may have fought against
You're shit

The vampires have left the fairground
But the foghorn's still going
It's lonely and it wants to go home
No rhythm though
So it can't find a way
Even with a prescription
And it gets lost in some dreadful
Modern dance piece
Where everyone is just
Rolling around and acting out horror
When we don't need to go to a theatre
To see horror

Stand at a bus stop
Open a drain cover
Flip back your ears
And hear the screaming
Of rat demons
As they work their way
From the sewers to the tops of our trees

Some are here already
They sent the seagulls on ahead
But the rest
Dripping in waste
Are coming

They're on their way

RF 2009

Interesting challenge this week, I think. Look forward to reading some of the others.


More bits from papers

I will be posting my Monday Poem tonight but just before I make the gravy for Sunday dinner/tea let me share a few more news links with you. In the last post I didn't link to any articles about the bnp's Nick 'born liar' Griffin and his BBC TV appearance however Saturday's Independent newspaper had several good pieces on the subject so I thought I might link to some of them quickly.

You can read a piece challenging some of the statements Griffin made on TV here.

There's one by Diane Abbott about why he shouldn't have been on the programme in the first place here.

There's one attacking the programme for its treatment of Griffin (and what this might mean) here.

And finally...bring on Barnsley...there's one about reactions to the show from people in a Northern English town here.

I hope the Independent doesn't go under (as some say it will). They print some good articles (when they're not busy making far too many holiday supplements). Drop all the lifestyle crap, I say. Just be a really good newspaper, maybe.


Friday, 23 October 2009

Other stuff in the news

I'm not the world's most zealous housewife (I'm not a wife for a start). For example, our house is a bit of a mess this week but the first job I turn to (well, after cleaning the toilets...some things just cannot wait...) is sorting out all the piles of newspapers that accumulate here. Mum gets the Independent every day and it does have some good articles so I like to at least flick through each copy before I send them to the garage (for recycling or firebuilding). That has been my housework yesterday and today...does it count?

Some of the papers are very old but that doesn't really matter (an interesting article is an interesting article). Below are links to some of the pieces I think you just shouldn't miss (and none of them are about England's cuddly nazi, Nick Griffin...I have been giving my thoughts on him and his TV appearance on facebook and elsewhere).

Start with this article about 10 year old Isabelle Cain winning the Independent's art competition for children. It's fascinating and possibly particularly of interest to those with autism in the family.

Move on to this interview with Afghan campaigner Malalai Joya (published in July of this year). A huge, huge article that touches on so many subjects. It's one to make a person feel guilty about moaning about stupid little things too.

Back in September the Independent printed this open letter about being an intersex woman (from Sarah Graham to South African athlete Caster Semenya). It's inspiring and revealing.

Finally...I never knew writer Zadie Smith's brother was a rapper but apparently he's a comedian now (read about him and the family here). Usually stories about families full of talented people get on my wick but I really admire Z Smith's work so I can make an exception. If he's half as funny as she is talented then he'll be pretty good. And we need good comics...we really do.


Wednesday, 21 October 2009

More about the clouds

Last week (back here) I mentioned a 'small stone' that I had up on Fiona Robyn's popular A Handful of Stones site. I also said I would post the other four 'stones' about clouds that she had not picked so here they are:

Cloud stone

Nothing looks as real as the clouds today
So total, so solid

Low cloud

Over there they see nothing
Over here we see their low cloud
And wonder what they see

Cloud factory

The place where they make clouds
Must be very busy
A great employer

Cloud association

Speech bubbles
Puffs of smoke

So what do you think? Would you have chosen the one that Fiona did...this one:

Cloud secrets

What do the clouds know
That they're not telling?

Or one of the others? I liked the 'Low cloud' one myself.

I'd be interested to hear your thoughts. Or read some other 'stones' on clouds.


Some singing

Just back from the folk club and I really should go to bed. The guest tonight was Texan Katy Moffatt (now resident of California...she is touring though and you can find songs and dates here). She's been singing and recording for years but I'm afraid to say I'd never heard of her before. Here she is with a quite lo-tech video clip (it's a lovely song about a girl and her gun...tongue in cheek, I'm quite sure).


Sunday, 18 October 2009

Monday poem - Death, the Musical!

And so to this week's Monday Poem task (a bit early - we'll be travelling home all day Monday)! As some of you know I've been away all week so there was no danger of me taking the first option (finding the film 'Garage', watching it and writing about it). This meant I had to take TFE's second option which was...take in this Sylvia Plath poem, think about it for a bit and then get to work on one of our own. I didn't have a lot of time but I wanted to keep up my 100% attendance so I got to work when I could (quickly and quietly and in between visits and meals out with family...).

To be honest with you (rightly or wrongly) Plath already popped up in a Monday Poem of mine a couple of weeks ago (here) so I was not exactly keen to work on another Plath-related task again so soon. I'm not a huge Plath fan (as I've said before) and so I would have been happy to read anything by pretty much anyone else for this assignment. But it was not to be so I got on and read the poem (as many times as I could bear) and then I started writing guess what...a sad poem about the tragedy of humanity. Luckily, perhaps, that poem didn't seem to want to come out right (it's still sulking in a file somewhere). Then, without any warning, this song came into my songs do. It came again...and again...and again (and I've chosen to post you a version sung by our Girl's favourite singer...RIP EK).

It's a while since I rewrote an existing song (there was this one a while back) so I thought I'd have a go at it with this Cole Porter number. To begin with I wondered if English comedian Victoria Wood had already done it but her song shares only the title (see here). Mine has a different title but shares the tune and the format (you will notice the two longer verses at three and seven as in the original). I've sung it to myself a few times and it does all fit if you pause in the right places (so if at first it feels wrong just give it another go). I would sing it for you but my excuse, once again, is that we're away from home (and I'm really not meant to be doing this kind of thing at all). Here it is...and you'll be humming the tune all day if nothing else:

Dying art

Birds do it, bees do it
Dogs and frogs and certain seas do it
We all do it, we all die some day

And whilst bees do it, birds do it
Love and friendship, tired words do it
We all do it, we all die some day

Eventually, even cats do it
Once they get to their ten
Buddhists get less stressed about it
Such is the power of zen

Presidents, monarchs - popes do it
Fairly often all our hopes do it
We all do it, we all die some day

The so-called great and the good do it,
From nowheresville to Hollywood they do it
We all do it, we all die some day

Young hearts way ahead of turn do it
Some of us dread it, others yearn for it
We all do it, we all die some day

Victims of war on all sides do it
We know that's part of the plan
There seems little sense to it
Some people do what they can

The folks at home and away do it
Two hundred thousand every day do it
We all do it, we all die some day

RF 2009

I could have kept going and written a hundred verses...still might try some more at another date. For now there's more family stuff and then a long journey and then we should get home Monday night. I might get to read everybody else's contributions then.

Friday, 16 October 2009

Two little notes

I have a small stone over at this site today. It's funny because I sent four others to Fiona with this one (though they were all about clouds) but it was my least favourite one that she picked! If I was at home I'd post the others here for you to see...but I'm not so I can't. Maybe next week.

Also there's a lovely post about my poetry postcards up today. That's over in Wales - here. If anyone orders cards obviously I will send them when I get back...postal strikes in the UK depending...


Sunday, 11 October 2009

Monday poem - from a distance

I'm not really haven't seen me. I wanted to leave the post below as my 'out for a week' sign but TFE is doing a Monday poem after all and I haven't missed one yet so I thought I'd try to squeeze a quick one in from a distance. TFE put some photos up as a prompt the other day and I (very hurriedly) produced the poem below. It wasn't quite a five minute poem (maybe ten minutes...) but who knows...maybe you'll find something of interest in it anyway. I won't be about for much commenting just now but I'm with you all in spirit if nothing else. And I just of the other photos was of balloons and I have a balloon poem that I posted back on 1st January this year (here...that one's on a postcard too). But back to today - I'm sure you'll be able to work out which of his photos I chose for this piece (see all the images here). I didn't really write about his image...more about what it reminded me of.


Everywhere I've gone
I've taken
Pictures on a wall

You, you and you

I see the image of your eyes
Still signs of life
And I'm revived

RF 2009


Saturday, 10 October 2009

National Poetry Day and five words for Hope

Oh my goodness...the National Poetry Day (Plus One) event here in Montrose last night was a huge success. Lots of people came! You can read a bit about it here and I'm sure there will be more posts about it as time goes by (that was quick...there's another one about it already here). I'm a bit too worn out to write much we go away tomorrow and I've packing to do.

In the meantime Hope had a 'write about 5 words' meme a while ago (here) and I said I'd do it and now I have (I wrote it up yesterday when I was trying not to worry about how the evening's event would go...). The five words Hope gave me were music, ocean, words, travel and home.

All the cliché's saved my life, been my best friend...I suppose I could live without music (just) but I wouldn't be very happy about it. It just makes everything better. Well...nearly everything.

I saw the Pacific Ocean once...touched it even. I was in Nicaragua in...maybe 1987 (certainly in the Sandinista era) and I was there with a group of people from university. They had all gone to 'learn about the revolution' ( and I was unofficial interpreter) but I got a bit bored with the official tours and ended up wandering off on my own and staying with a local teacher, going dancing, having more than a few adventures, going hitchhiking. One day a few of us were helping build houses (me, build a ridiculous!) and the two Nicaraguans we were 'helping', Luis and Marlon, suggested a trip to the beach (I think). We ended up getting a taxi (public transport being a bit ropey/non-existent during the Contra war and all) to the Pacific coast. The radio in the cab was playing a Samantha Fox song I seem to remember (that was weird). The place we went to was one of the fancy resorts left over from the Somoza era but there was no-one had the money or the time for fancy holidays during this period. We sat on the beach, touched the water...and then (I suppose) we got back in the cab and returned to Managua. It's a bit of a fuzzy memory but I do remember being very excited and thinking 'that's the Pacific Ocean, the PACIFIC OCEAN!'

Now, do I love words more than music I love them the same? I have no idea (but put words together with music and you have songs, of course, which is a pretty amazing business). But I do know I walk around in clouds of words most of the they're fairy dust. I like that they're real (in some ways) and yet (in others) they're not real at all. I find it all fairly magical and I don't really want some boring pseudo-scientist telling me otherwise (I did a linguistics module at uni – what a pile of dullness that was...). So back to magic...pass me the dictionary and pretty soon I'll show you something amazing...

I've been an adventurous, free-spirited, hit-the-globe traveller and I've been a scaredy-cat stay-at-home and I suppose just now I am somewhere in between the two. I think people can get too obsessed with travelling ('move, move, never look at where you are now...') and people can get too tied up with where they live ('no-one exists but us') so I think somewhere in between the two is probably not a bad place to be. Compromise is an often underrated solution. Does that make me old?

I've been thinking and writing about home loads of late (in Monday poems and beyond). What is home, we ask ourselves again and again, what is home? I'd say home is warmth, comfort and (if you're lucky) people, a little peace and sustenance. Sometimes it really is simple – home is the place where you know you'll get a decent cup of tea. Sounds like I am officially an old person. Hurray!

Now I'm on holiday (and luckily it's a week off Monday poems from TFE too - good timing). ADDED LATER - it was going to be a week off but I've just read a post of his and he's changed his mind and posted another task! Somehow I just find them irresistible. I'll try to manage something quick before we go.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Round and around and home we go

Busy week this week. Monday poems (tick), Martin Simpson at the folk club (tick) and still to go the National Poetry Day Plus One event (this Friday in Montrose) and then Sunday we set off south (to England...) for a week of family visiting and such like. Busy, busy, busy.

Martin Simpson at the folk club last night was, as last year, simply brilliant. I wrote about last year's performance here and he was every bit as good this time. He played a lot of tracks from his new cd 'True Stories' (not as immediate as his last one, 'Prodigal Son', but in its own way just as special) and he started his set with a song from the new album called 'Home Again' (about his home town of Scunthorpe in North Lincolnshire, England). I can't find that song online yet but his myspace page is here for information, tour dates and so on.

It was a great audience at the folk club last night and a top show of local floor spots in between Martin Simpson's two sets (there were acapella singers, guitars, a and poem about our folk club back here, if you're interested). I read two poems – the tea one (from two posts ago) and a new one (that I'll post today). The new one is about my first home town (I've had quite a few). I felt a bit bad about the home town poem that I wrote for the Monday Poem a few weeks ago (here). I know a lot of you liked the poem but still...I felt that I owed it to some of my home towns to try and write some more positive poems on the subject too. So I started with my first home town...and this may turn into a series.

I was born just outside Darlington in county Durham (England) and I lived in or around that town until I was about 12 (when we moved miles and miles to...Middlesbrough...). Darlington is famous for being the site of the first public railway and you can read all about that here. It is my home town (in one sense) but it is not in many others – I didn't live there for long, I've never lived there as an adult, I don't have any family there and neither of my parents grew up there or anything. The poem covers all these things in a way...and it is a villanelle. I know not everyone likes them but I do...some of my best poems have been villanelles (see here). Anyway, here it is. I might record it later on for an audio version.

Rolling stock

People talk, people sing about homeward bound
Of the place where they stay, where they'd like to remain
But the wheels of our lives go round and around

Take a town, Darlington, once so key and renowned
As the place where they rolled out the age of the train
People talk, people sing about homeward bound

The tracks of our trains may now seem run aground
But in 1825 they were our future - plain
The industry wheels going round and around

Locomotives moved coal and then folk by the pound
All thanks to the whirring of George Stephenson's brain
People sing, people long to be homeward bound

But progress takes over the wheel, so we've found
From the foot to the cart, from the car to the plane
Faster and further, around and around

Still we look for a home and listen for its sound
Where will it be, do we know its refrain?
People talk, people sing about homeward bound
But the wheels of our lives they go round and around

RF 2009

Monday, 5 October 2009

Monday poem - it's a picture

OK, it's Monday and recently that can mean only one's TFE's Monday poem time. I was a bit busy last week writing like a possessed person but I did squeeze in a look at the task at some point. This week's assignment was to look at the photos at this post (oh, and this one), choose a photo, look at it again and then write something. To begin with I picked the kind of underpass one (first photo on the first post as listed here) and then I started work on an ill-advised poem about whether the word 'underpass' might work as a synonym for...well...a certain part of a woman's body. I didn't finish that couldn't decide whether it wanted to be humorous or not and I just didn't have time last week to find out. Plus I'm not sure it was working at all so it may never see the light of day. As it were.

Instead I wrote a very short poem about photography and art (and all kinds of other related matters). It's not really connected to any one of the photos we were shown – sorry about that. I used to write lots of short poems (and I wrote about some of them on the blog back in February of this year...posts every day from 2nd to 6th February 2009) but recently I seem to have got a lot more long-winded. I'm not sure that's always a good thing so back in the interests of brevity I present you with the poem below with my very best wishes. Below that I have pasted some photos that seemed appropriate. They were all taken by other members of my family - one Our Girl took on the streets of Bruges in the summer and the other two were taken by Mark in (a) New York and (b) that museum in Barbizon, France that no-one recognised in the summer photo quiz (back here). I hope you enjoy this short trip.

Mixed messages

'Oh, that photograph!'
They said
'It's beautiful
Just like a painting'

'Oh, that painting!'
They exclaimed
'It's marvellous
Just like a photograph'

RF 2009


Thursday, 1 October 2009

Tea break

I almost feel like apologising...I'm just writing so many poems at the's like a mania. Maybe it just is a mania. I suppose I should send them off tidily to competitions and magazines...but all that side of poetry just gets me down if I think about it too much! So instead, here it is for you gentle visitors. Remember yesterday we were talking about tea (and I took a line about tea - the drink - out of a poem)? Well, here's the don't-worry-the-tea-will-get-its-own-poem piece I was referring to in the comments. I hope you find it enjoyable and refreshing. Mug in the photo is model's own, by the way (my favourite morning vessel just now).

Best drink of the day

1. First blood

More than mother's milk
I remember Dad's tea
Brewed by magic elves
(Well, a teasmade)
It was good and sweet
And usually left by the bed
As he dozed for England
Quite dead to the world

The drink as I sipped it
Was adventure in a mouthful
Maturity and wisdom
All life in a taste
In the twilight mornings
In that big old room upstairs
There was little else to think about
We were animals in our den

2. Next generation

Tea, coffee, wine, beer
So much liquid under the bridge
Then finally some growing up to do

I was in labour for about a week
But at least at the finishing line
There was strong, proper tea for two

The cups were white, institutional
And we sat in shock, you and I
And drank her health for the first time

Today she's healthy still and growing
So far, at nine, she drinks nowt but water
But we know that can't go on forever

I see her as she watches us imbibe
The must-have clockwork tea in the morning
The desperate, snatched gulps in the afternoon

And I see her wonder, I'm quite sure
What secrets the special potion holds
What power's in the cup

RF 2009