Wednesday, 31 October 2012


Rise, the new album from Annabelle Chvostek is now available for you to download or buy. She has produced it by subscription, a triumph in itself, and it is worth taking the time to listen to. As Annabelle makes it clear in the first track that this is The End of Road, it is time for people to come together and to  stop buying into the idea that infinite growth is sustainable or even desirable.

So what's it like then? Well musically she has gathered a group of like-minded musicians around her and I have to say her playing shines through with verve and energy. There is passion here and her singing draws you into her world view.

One of the things I have always liked about Annabelle's skill as a lyricist is her ability to move between the personal and the universal within a single verse. OK, I agree with her political perspective and that makes it easier for me applaud what she is talking- the perfidious press misrepresentation of the demonstrators at last years G20, her championing of first people's rights and their land claims. There are also songs inspired by the landscape-Heartland Quay has been a live favorite for some time now.

She covers Equal Rights written by Peter Tosh, it is a great version, my only criticism is that she performed this song on her last album, a live recording from Folk Alley- but hey, jazz musicians do it all the time.

You will notice I have not offered an in depth lyrical assessment of Rise. The reason for this is that I think you should listen to it yourself and make up your own mind. You can stream it here: . I think it's an excellent album and like Lizzie Nunnery's Black Hound Howling critiques the contemporary situation and offers us a way forward.

Annabelle is touring next March, I'm off to book my ticket for her gig at The Studio in Totnes on the 16th. Do yourself a favour, listen to this album and catch Annabelle live.

Thursday, 25 October 2012


I feel a little like the white rabbit at the moment, late for something, rushing to arrive. No post this Tuesday, for this reason, sorry. Do you have periods like this? I suspect so, we all do.

Anyway, during the mad whirl that constitutes my life at the moment, there was a moment of calm. I finally met up with Oscar Sparrow ( ), best selling poet, video artist, and all round good bloke. It was one of those really relaxed meals when the talk ranges far and wide. We met to discuss the forthcoming anthology that he is at the helm of. I can assure you it is going to be worth a read.

I think for me the world has changed beyond recognition over the last ten years, then I would not have believed that I would be talking with people all over the place without ever meeting them. Now I take an interest in the weekly writings of people half a globe away.

For a virtual immigrant, like myself, the possibilities that this amazing medium holds is beyond my dreams.  There I was at table with like minded creative humans that I had met through the web. I would guess that the majority of you reading this are people I have never met: Hello, glad to meet you.

I know others have said this before and far more eloquently but that does not remove the wonder- nor should it. We live incredibly privileged lives, and I for one give thanks for that.

On another tack, I have been struggling since my return from Catalunya, with a poem that I began to write in my head as I walked around Barcelona.

he gleans his barri
a cart of waste metal
this is his city
so different to mine
he is near the edge
each day we are all closer

welcome to your future

A word of explanation. Barri is Catalan for neighbourhood. I kept noticing people pushing supermarket trolleys from recycling point to recycling point, loaded with metal. I assume they will sell this for scrap. Since the bankers made a pigs ear of all our economies this is people's realities, not the bankers of course, just yours and mine. I had these lines knocking round my head:

I did not want to see the first
So counter to my image of this city

Which transformed into

I decide not to let the first
Question my image of this city

Close but still no cigar. Then I realised that I was not the centre of the poem. That enabled me to put the idea into its present form. What do you think?

I will leave you with a brief word about the post's title. It references Louis Malle's film My Dinner With Andre. It is not his best film, but technically it is a tour de force, being as the title says a film of the narrators dinner with Andre. His best film is Au revoir, les enfants (1987), is a haunting true tale of his school days in Occupied France.

Anyway, before I do that male thing of making a list of Louis Malle's ten best film (it's half formed in my head already...) back to the title. I was reminded of Malle's film when watching Community the other night. I am new to Greendale College and am only up to the beginning of Season Three. If you have not seen it try and do so, its not only very funny but the amount of films they reference will set your head spinning.

Here is the start of Louis Malle's film- enjoy.

Friday, 19 October 2012


When I saw Leonard Cohen the other week I was really taken with the architecture of the space. The plaza was built for the Olympics and in the dusk, to me it looked like the cover of a late 1950’s or early 1960’s science fiction paperback: an earthly paradise controlled by emotionless robot brains or an alien world that is an untouched Eden – until humans arrive... that sort of thing. What do you think?

I spent this morning recording the sound files to go with my poems in the six poet anthology Oscar Sparrow is at present compiling. I never find the recording process easy. I either, speak to slowly and sound strange or, I speak as fast as I can and sound strange and in a hurry.  The interesting thing about this batch was that me and my trusty sound engineer stopped two thirds of the way through and when we restarted an hour or so later I was even more hopeless. There is something to take from this, when you are on a roll stick with it. I shall give you more information about the anthology nearer the time. I know the work of three of the poets and I can assure you it will be an excellent read.

Alison’s post on Tuesday made me think about what defines the different seasons here in rainy Somerset and I thought onions. Autumn for me means that I do two things, one is that I make a batch of vegetarian mince for the Mince Pies we make bake each Christmas. This has to be made to my Dad’s recipe, no other will do and shop bought ones are never as nice. The second thing I do is pickle onions.

Again shop bought ones are always a poor second choice, they taste too much of vinegar. So I thought today I would share the recipe for making pickled onions that I got off my brother-in-law many years ago.
o  Choose small pickling onions, this is a matter of personal taste, you may like big ones but I think small onions taste better.
o   Peel them, then place in a bowl and cover with lots of salt. Keep turning them every so often.
o  Leave for two days. The salt draws the moisture out of the onion and helps to preserve them.
o   Rinse the onions to wash off the salt and dry on a tea towel.
o   Place the onions in a sterilised jar.
o Fill the jar at least one third full of sherry, the cheaper the better.
o   Top up with pickling vinegar.
o   Put a seal of greaseproof paper on the top of the jar then the lid- this will stop the vinegar from rusting through the lid.
o   Leave at the back of a cupboard for at least four months. The sherry will impart a sweet flavour to the onions. Enjoy for the next year, until the next batch is ready.

If you happen to live a in place where you have onions to pickle then try this recipe, you won’t be disappointed.

Today when reading the poems for the anthology I was reminded of the importance of reading your work aloud when you are creating. It’s even better if you can get someone else to read it for you, because then you can concentrate on listening to what it sounds like. After all poetry was originally an oral tradition, and still is in some places.


If the mean cats (half cracked,
Propped up by technology,
And long blue lines of truncheoned force)
Showed you the tools,
As they had Galileo,
Would you eat your words,
Recant what you had said?
Or tied to the metal frame of the bed,
Soaking wet, still scream It’s true,
As surely Galileo knew.
Nine blind years they granted him,
He left to murmur: It does.

This is another older poem. I thought I’d include it here because I suppose it fits with my first idea of the science fiction book cover. There is trouble in this paradise type thing. Galileo was accused of heresy. Of stating that the earth had the audacity to circle the sun rather than being the centre of the universe. The Inquisition is alleged to have shown him their torture devices at which point he recanted. I would have too. I am not sure that I believe the story that he left mumbling it does, I think that is an invention myself. Galileo went blind because he had damaged his sight staring at the sun through a telescope.


Driving blind,
Their emotional compass directs
This envelop of steel.
They drive to reach a solution,
Salvage their marriage,
For the third time his fist
Hits the steering wheel,
She wonders why anger
Is this man’s most complete emotion.

Oblivious of the signs,
Suggestions of how to proceed,
They cut up other cars,
And continue through the day.

Again, an older poem. Mostly reportage. I was driving once and was cut up by another car with a man driving who was arguing with the woman next to him. It seemed too good an image not to use. Have you ever been directly inspired by an event?

I am off to The Bristol Science Fiction Convention tomorrow on behalf of Corvus Press. Perhaps I’ll see you there.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012


Resident Minah birds 

I am really pleased to hand over this post to a friend of mine the talented Alison Wilson, artist, photographer, diver, traveler  teacher - oh the list goes on and on. I was delighted recently when Alison said she would like to write a guest blog. I love her art work and we have a number of examples around the house.We are collaborating on a project that will see the light of day at some point. But her focus today is, well, I shall let Alison speak for herself...

Yellow Flame Tree

Ah… the seasons! Paul’s post a couple of weeks ago really resonated with me. I have lived one degree north of the equator (Singapore) for just over eleven years (I’m originally from the UK).  This means living without four seasons and with constant heat and humidity throughout the year.  That’s not to say it’s always the same weather - the southwest monsoon from June to September does give us a bit of respite from the torrential downpours of the rainy season, but still for the most part it’s always hot and humid.  Temperatures are between 25 to 35 degree Celsius, dropping only little in the evening, and being almost on the equator, it gets dark around 7 pm every single day of the year. 

Pigeon Orchid

Maybe it’s my age, but sometimes the years seem to go by faster and faster, and especially when there is nothing to really mark the changes in the year as in Europe; bulbs poking the soil, having to use a de-icer for the car, turning the clocks back and forward, lovely long summer evenings, leaves falling and so on. Instead I find myself wearing the same clothes all year, writing the wrong month on cheques and craving a bit of cold (and I don’t mean the arctic setting of the air con in local cinemas!). 

Tokyo window display

Singapore has a large expat community and I’ve met people from many different countries over the years. I think of all nationalities, it’s my Japanese friends who have expressed missing seasons the most.  I can see why this would be. At any time I’ve ever visited Japan, each season is acknowledged and celebrated. It is still not uncommon to see women wear kimonos and there are specific motifs for each season, for example a Chrysanthemum motif is worn in Autumn. One thing I love whenever I’ve been to Japan is to wander the food halls and gaze at the artistry of the ‘wagashi’, traditional Japanese sweets that celebrate each season.
But back to the equator.  I try not to let the absence of four seasons get me down. Even if the weather doesn’t change so much, a city with so much cultural diversity has a constant stream of festivals that signal the passing of the year. When I started this post, the (Chinese) Mid-Autumn festival was in full swing, and Chinatown was decked out in lanterns and markets full of mooncakes, pomelos and lanterns for children.  Before the year is up, Singapore will celebrate Hari Raya Haji, Deepavali, Christmas as well as some lesser known festivals such as the Hindu firewalking ceremony Thimithi.  It’s October and Halloween is most definitely celebrated and so is Oktoberfest. The list goes on. 

Lanterns in China Town, Singapore: mid-autumn

Having said that, for me, the ever changing flora and fauna is what excites me most living here and in some way the seemingly randomness of these changes. Here are a couple of examples.
Singapore is known as a ‘Green City’, and it’s true. It’s incredibly lush and green. Majestic trees line the streets offering shade and are often home to various epiphytes such as birds’ nest ferns. Not often, but every once in a while, especially early morning, there is a rather sweet subtle fragrance in the air. Training your eyes upwards, you might spot a profusion of tiny, unshowy white flowers giving off this scent. Neither the flowers nor the scent will last long, only a day. These are pigeon orchids (Dendrobium crumenatum), and their bloom is triggered by a drop in temperature (around 5 degrees or more) nine days beforehand. Witnessing this bloom really lifts my spirits, a bit like that feeling of seeing the first snowdrops in Spring.  
We are lucky enough to live in an old house, surrounded by plenty of mature trees. The last couple of weeks have seen the trees burst in flower, and I’m not entirely sure why – though I think it’s because the dry season is coming to an end.  One of most noticeable and showy of these is the Yellow Flame tree, which right now is giving off an amazing fragrance and a spectacular burst of yellow flowers.  Many other trees are also in flower, and subsequently producing seeds and fruit. The bird and animal life seems to have tripled.  In the mornings there are mynah birds, starlings, pigeons and squirrels all gorging themselves – the noise they make is pretty extraordinary.  Perhaps we are having our own harvest festival here. Talking of birds, I was reminded by a nature organization here that this month is the peak migration time for birds in Singapore. This small island state is part of a very much wider picture. 

Green tea and cherry blossom wagahai

So, while in Europe the nights are drawing in, winter woolies are coming out, I’m going to be heading to the wetland area to see what birds might be visiting, and talking more walks around the neighborhood to see other trees in bloom. 

Friday, 12 October 2012


I arrived home yesterday and am still catching up. Where to begin? Well, I noticed more Catalunya symbols about the place than I have on previous trips. I think since The Crisis began the majority of the population has experienced financial hardship and the outlook is bleak. I saw more people pushing supermarket trollies from recycling bin to recycling bin, looking for what they could find.

This said I also went to the next neighbourhood or barri's Festa Major. This is a free, annual celebration that takes place in each of the cities districts and celebrates local culture. Les Corts, the barri next to where we usually stay; Sants, was holding their Festa Major and I had a great time. I missed the correfoc but last Sunday attended the dance. It was really fun, the local square was closed and a ten piece dance band played until the early hours. I loved the way the community came together and still managed to welcome strangers.

Wednesday evening's traditional sea songs, look how large the crowd is.

We also managed a few days on the Costa Brava, in Begur, a medieval town. The above photo is of the vestibule of the boutique hotel we stayed in. Such a cool place, breakfast was served to good jazz, life does not get much better.

Here are two photos from another medieval town Pals, not far from Begur and equally beautiful.

Leonard was excellent but more of him another time. Yesterday we left the unseasonal heat and pollution of Barcelona (for those of us with asthma it was a little difficult) for the rain swept levels of Somerset, only to discover that part of our alottment was underwater again! I tell you next year I am growing rice.

Friday, 5 October 2012


There is usually a swarm, it follows the energy curfew. I tend to think of them as moths, drawn to one of the few illuminated buildings. All that warm, golden light seeping through the windows, flowing into the grey February afternoon, sweet, inviting and they enter in their droves.

The paintings always attract the most people. All those Old Masters, famous scenes of distant days. My gallery late twentieth, early twenty first century isn’t that popular. There is nothing noble here, there is one installation, mostly found art. That said there is one attraction, they always stand in wonder, remembering. It is a very old mattress, looks like it came from a skip, stained, dirty. It is positioned on the floor like a frozen, falling wave and piercing the centre of the mattress, poking through a ragged hole is a shinning fluorescent tube. The light is soft, it quietly hums and people gaze at it and smile. All around the building are signs stating that all the energy for this museum is manufactured in photo voltaic cells on the roof and that this building has a minus energy rating.

No one stops at the installation-ever. I cannot help but look at it, it is in my eye line, a loop of film endlessly repeated. It begins with an establishing shot, an ordinary hive somewhere in the country. There is much coming and going in this opening sequence, drones return then leave, all is action, and the hive literally hums. The scene cuts to a series of clever fibre optic shots of the inside of the hive, we see the sheer physical effort required to produce honey. The contrast between this industry and the next frame is all the more startling. A medium shot of the hive entrance. There is no activity, we stare at the deserted entrance for a full five minutes, real time, there is a clock in the bottom right hand corner, and this is the only movement. There is a date as well-25.08.12. Then we are back inside, the queen is still alive, we can see the growing bees silhouetted in their cells and the larder appears well stocked, yet there are no adult bees. The fight is over, the drones are missing, awol. The installation ends with these shots of the hive, returns to the beginning. As I say no one ever stops to look. 

If they did I could tell them what it’s all about. I did some homework on this one- it’s CCD; Colony Collapse Disorder. Even now after our own collapse there are experts in rooms arguing over the exact cause of the bees’ demise. From what I can gather the workers just stopped coming back to their home, sort of like those men you used to read about who just popped out for a packet of fags and were never seen again. The colony simply stops- it has a queen, sufficient reserves and an immature generation, but it just stops. Then it contracts and dies.

I think it is the opposite of our situation. The artist knew what was going on, what was already happening to the bees, so she holds a mirror up to us in this film loop. Everything is the wrong way round. The bees had sustainability but the workers gave up, or died or were confused by the signals from our mobile phones, or got slowly poisoned by the artificial fertilisers we threw at the soil or the insecticides we splashed around. Whatever. The colony ceases to be viable. 

We, on the other hand, have the workers, we have the desire, we do not have the resources, those we squandered in a two hundred and fifty year long party. Now we exist on the ruins.

But as I say no one ever stops by the screen, so I am as silent as the hive. 

Tuesday, 2 October 2012


Hello, no interview this week as I am in Barcelona. Yup, probably the coolest city in the galaxy.

I am here to see Leonard Cohen in concert this Wednesday, life could not get much better.

Here are some photos of the city, below is the La Caixa Forum a free exhibition space. The building has been lovingly renovated.

Below is a medieval fresco from a church, its in the Diocese Museum, which is next to the old Cathedral. Again the sensitive renovation is worth a look in itself, some of the walls date back to the Romans.

Here is the magic shop, this is such an atmospheric building, you would think that anything could happen inside.

Have a good week.