You remembered it's a leap year, right?

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February 2020

Back to Socials

So I am tentatively dipping my toe into the water of social media again, having left it to wilt on the vine for months and months. I mentioned at the end of last year that I was planning on doing it, but I didn’t want to rush into it.

Here’s the thing: I need to use it professionally, and I’m sure we all agree that there’s a great deal about it that’s toxic. (The largest social media company in the world was built on the motto “Move fast, break things.” — turns out, democracy was a thing!)

That said, I still feel that, overall, social media is net good. It really does allow people to be more connected. It’s just that it is still new, and we’re still in the process of figuring out how to use it properly.

And I do want to figure out how to use it properly. In a way that’s fun, and sociable, and supportive. Social media platforms are unique in that they can be customised by their users to a granular level of detail. So I’m working on the theory that if I’m having a bad experience it’s because I haven’t done the groundwork in blocking out everything that is just noise.

So I'll probably start in a clumsy way, and keep tinkering until I get it right. That means experimenting with more content on the website too. I just want to make sure it doesn't take energy away from the main project of making music. Which I suppose means I want it to be fun… but not too fun!

Okay, this month’s newsletter…

I saw a couple of movies last weekend which are sort of polar opposites, and both are getting recommendations. Since last time we’ve had the Oscars, and I’m not recommending either Little Women or Parasite, even though they’re both great, because they’ve been quite rightly getting a ton of buzz.

Although, when it comes to people getting buzz, I’m also recommending stuff by Florence Pugh and Taylor Swift, so perhaps I’m undermining my own logic.

All of this is a bit cheerful though, so I’d like to just roughen the edges with some YouTube videos on divorce and institutional misogyny. It’s February, and we shouldn’t get carried away with too much joy and anger the sun god.

In fact, a fair bit about this newsletter is about angering the sun god.

You should note some of this stuff down – this is some useful advice.



"Why'dya spill ya beans?"

The Lighthouse is a movie about two lighthouse keepers (or ‘wickies’) who start their 4 week shift on a remote American island. One of them does something that anyone who knows The Rhyme Of The Ancient Mariner will tell you is a big faux pas, and low and behold there’s a storm, the relief boat doesn’t come, and they both go delightfully mad.

(Weirdly, it seems like there was a British film made in 2018 with the same title, that... basically seems to be the same movie! But, to be fair, this new one does look like it’s better made. It’s beautifully shot, beautifully written, beautifully acted.)

The director has said he came up with the idea while thinking about lighthouse keepers, and concluding that “no good can come from two men having to live in a giant phallus”.


DC Comics does the Spice Girls (in a good way)

And kind of opposite to The Lighthouse in pretty much every conceivable way, except that it’s also really good, is Birds of Prey : a loud, brash, oversaturated fog horn of a comic-book adaptation that pushed every one of my popcorn movie buttons.

Margot Robbie plays Harley Quinn, a former professional psychiatrist turned criminal anti-hero, who blows things up, kidnaps children, has a pet hyena, and does a bit of roller-derby.

In the course of her criminal endeavours she gets pulled over to the side of righteousness, and teams up with a bunch of crime-fighting misfits. It’s violent, it’s sweary, it’s adorable. Highly recommended.


Death By A Thousand Cuts

I’m obviously a bit Taylor Swift fan, yet somehow I’ve only just got around to checking out the most recent album. To be honest, I found the previous one a bit of a disappointment. (Although I think she’s such a good songwriter that even her less good songs are still great in places.)

But I love love love this album and have been listening to it on loop. It’s smart, it’s heartfelt, it has great hooks. It’s very pop – so if pop isn’t your bag this might not be for you.

It also has a guest appearance on one song by the Dixie Chicks. And if that doesn’t sway you then I’m sorry, I don’t know how to help you.


Suddenly Florence Pugh is everywhere...

I’m sorry but yes, this is random: I stumbled onto this video of actress-of-the-moment Florence Pugh, and had no idea that she is a great guitar player and singer.

And then I found out that her dad owns a number of the local Oxford restaurants and bars that H and I frequently frequent (Kazbar, Café Coco, Café Tarifa and the Lemon Tree).

And finally, the internet has been losing its shit about how she makes her own marmalade.

I’m not entirely sure what I’m recommending here. I think I’m recommending Florence Pugh’s marmalade.



What a modern day witch hunt *really* looks like

In 2007 American student Amanda Knox was arrested in Italy for a murder she did not commit. Unbeknownst to her, whilst on trial, the world’s media started to whip up stories about this murder being the result of a sex game gone wrong, and how Knox was a manipulative nymphomaniac who engineered the whole thing. This insane kind of Bacchanal orgy of imagination took over the global conversation, and a lot of hacks and paparazzi made a lot of money.

This video series, on various kinds of shaming and modern witch-hunting, is presented by Knox (who was released from prison in 2015). And it’s not for the faint of heart.



Yes, it really is just an hour-long conversation with a divorce lawyer

Yeah, this may seem like an odd pitch, but…

This video came up on my recommendation feed just before I was going to bed, and I saw it was about an hour long, so I thought I would just watch the first 5 minutes. I went to bed an hour late that night.

It’s so fascinating.

It is basically lessons on how to have a happy marriage… from a divorce lawyer. Who, it turns out, has a keen insight into when and why happy marriages stop being happy.

The lawyer seems to be a fascinating person, and both he and the host are very good at cutting right to the point, and presenting their opinions in sharp, clear ways.

My main take-away, actually, was that a great marriage is more than worth the work. (Actually, this lawyer is really interesting about that: “People say marriages are work – no, it shouldn't be!”)

Projects Which I Would Do If Only There Were 25 Hours In A Day…

Single-issue political party

Mainly out of curiosity, I would like to create a single-issue political party whose sole aim is to destroy the sun.

Inspired by a throwaway line in The Simpsons, I just feel like its an idea whose time has come. In fact, I believe that, come election time, it would wipe the floor with the opposition.

Because you can blame everything on the sun. Climate change. Energy dependency. Lack of privacy. Suddenly the complexities of politics can be reduced to something so simple that everyone can get on board with it. Whatever your problem, the sun, the great giver of life, is ultimately to blame.

I can see election posters with a sun emoji, a red line through it, and the words "Better off without it!" The tabloids would go crazy for it! (Except maybe The Sun.)

And the other great thing about it is that, once you've actually destroyed it, you have seven more planets and a moon that you can turn the public's outrage against.

Review podcast for Also-Rans

Slightly more serious one. A podcast reviewing the arts: literature, film, music, painting, computer games, etc.

But not this week’s hot releases. It digs back into the distant, and recent, past of art that never found a wide audience.

And not in the ‘Long Tail’ of amateur artists (that's what The Algorithm is for). I'm talking about big movies you've never heard of, with big celebrities and big budgets, that lost out to the intense competition. I'm talking about other great books by 'one-hit wonder' authors.

There is so much great art produced at an incredibly high level that, for a multitude of reasons, never reaches a wider audience. And I’d love to hear about it.

Honourable Mentions

Alien vs Paddington

In which Hollywood’s favourite teddy bear teaches the galaxy's most deadly predator the true meaning of friendship.



I want to invent a folk instrument that has the tone of a kazoo, but the volume of a bagpipe. To keep very young children in line.

(* Update: I have since found that it exists, and it's called the Bombarde.)


A subscription service to manage your subscription services

It will track and display them in a convenient way, so you can see how much you're spending (e.g. "For the money you spent on Netflix you could have bought...") It will save you time and make your life simpler.

One catch: once you have signed up you can never cancel it.

Upcoming Events

Friday 13th March

I don't like it any more than you do, but let's make the best of it...

Dear Diary...

Did I ever tell you about the household gods?

I can’t remember which stories I’ve told here. But, context: I moved onto houseboat in 2010, and for the winters of 2012/13 and 2013/14 it flooded badly.

Everyone would say to me  "Well, you're okay, right? Your boat just goes up and down with the water level..." True, but it's the knock-on effects. When the water level drops quickly, boats can get snagged, can tip, and can sink. Also, I was moored far away from the nearest road, and for all intents and purposes I was suddenly living in the middle of a lake.

Both years, the flooding lasted for months at a time, and if I wanted to leave the boat (i.e. not go mad with cabin fever) I would often need to wear waders. (And then carry them around with me at my destination.) And there's a certain water level beyond which it's just not safe to walk anywhere, even in waders, and one year it got close to that. The flood water moves fast (and, incidentally, is full of raw sewage), and pushes against you as you walk. If you fall over, the waders fill with water, making it difficult to get up again. Oh, and there's also the question of how long you can go without refilling the water tank, stocking up on fuel, emptying the toilet…

So I ended up spending week after week, feeling trapped, not going out except for work. I coped with the stress of constantly wading through flood water by getting drunk and staying drunk. I would be glued to the weather forecast, and feel a sense of dread in my stomach every time I heard the heavy pelting of rain begin on the roof.

And there was another psychological knock-on effect. Simple things like getting food to and from the boat started to require strategic thinking. But I was starting to find strategic thinking difficult, because I was constantly stressed and panicky. 80% of my thoughts were taken up with trying to judge what the weather was going to do.

One day, staring out of a window at a grey sky hanging ominously over a yellow, angry flow… I wondered about how people coped with flooding in the past. And it occurred to me that they were probably a lot less stressed than I was, because instead of fretting over things they couldn't change, they left it in the hands of their god or gods.

I thought about that. Maybe that approach was fine in the short-term, but foolish in the long-run. Surely.

Then I started to change my mind. So what if these deities were or weren’t real? If you’re worrying about something you can change, that should be your responsibility, but some things we worry about really are out of our hands, and in those times there is one big advantage in handing it over to the divine. It means you stop trying to second-guess your future luck.

What if, as a way of coping with the stress of months of flooding, I just bought myself a household god - and told myself that if I put out little offerings then it would make the weather better? It wouldn't, obviously, but might it make me worry less about it? To feel like there was someone who had the matter in hand, so long as they were in a good mood? And sure, I would know for a fact that the whole thing was in my imagination. But… might I start to forget that?

Or, stranger still, might I actually find my own behaviour reassuring, even if I knew it was an act?

Well, I did it anyway. I did a bit of googling, and very quickly realised which god it should be: Isis, the Egytpian deity associated with flooding – and also the name of the river that flows through Oxford and causes the flooding. And I knew what the ‘offering’ would be: spiced rum.

One Amazon delivery later.

It worked. First off, very shortly after I started doing those offerings, the flooding stopped, and has never been anywhere near as bad since. And yes, that’s just me applying my own narrative to events beyond my control, but that was the whole point of the exercise. But more significantly, from the moment I decided to go ahead with this foolhardy plan, I felt better. I think in a similar way to how the ritual of funerals, with their suggestion that the dead live on (e.g. respecting the ‘wishes of the dead’), can help us process our loss.

Buoyed up by the success of this operation, I wondered if I could apply this sorcery to my non-existent love-life. And one commissioned household god later, I met H for the first time. Again, narrative after the fact, but who cares – it still happened. Maybe it changed my attitude to relationships, I don’t know.

Anyway. As I see that Bewdley is once again submerged under that silt-ridden torrent, I’m reminded how frightening it can be to be isolated and up against forces of nature that just last for days and weeks and months. I hope they’re coping.

Watching The Lighthouse, oddly, reminded me of that feeling.

The constant rain. The concern about supplies. The drink. The going-slightly-mad.

Still love the boat life though.

Perhaps I went mad before the flooding, even.

So What Have We Learnt?

All that I can really say for certain that I’ve learned in February is that this is an amazing cover of ‘Hide And Seek’ by Imogen Heap:

Scary Pockets does 'Hide and Seek' with a talkbox

Yeah, H is right, the original is better, but this is still cracking.

"Mm, what'd you say?
That you only meant well? Well of course you did
Mm, what'd you say?
That it's all for the best? Of course it is
Mm, what'd you say?
That it's just what we need? You decided this
Mm, what'd you say?

Ransom notes keep falling out your mouth…"


Happy leap year, my little mutton chops…

Ask me things

If you have any questions then seriously, do please drop me a message using one of the pretty social media buttons below. About the recordings. About the gigs. About life. About the universe. Just don't ask to go up to the lighthouse lamp room. I tend the lamp room.

  • Click on the images to see the originals. (It just means less admin for me this way.)
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