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Showing posts from 2016

My Songs of the Year

I managed to get to three gigs this year. It doesn't sound like many, and indeed it isn't many, but three tends to be about my average per year. At the beginning of March, I went to see Låpsley in Bristol. This was followed two and a half months later with a visit to Bristol again with my mate Simon (who's just turned 50!) to catch Slow Club prior to the release of 'One Day All This Won't Matter Anymore', their third album.  Then, if you think things couldn't get any quieter on the gig front, things did get quieter.  All my focus was on getting everything finished and signed off at Bath stonemasonry college, and then barely a week later - in the second week of July - I was off to London for the start of the Prince's Foundation apprenticeship in traditional building skills.  This has taken me all over the country, but the apprenticeship was based in East Ayrshire in Scotland for the first three months.  
I listened to a massive amount of music while I …

Bus Stop II - Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire

For all the second-hand excitement of The Burning Bus Saga, it was not the most interesting thing to happen during that very cold morning at the bus stop.  Within the curiousness of the situation, I got chatting to the young woman sat next to me who was also a prospective passenger of the troubled S3 to Oxford.  In our abundant Englishness, we exchanged a polite word about the weather.  Within the space of a minute, she told me that in this cold her left foot always gets much colder than her right one.  I considered this for a second with a nod and a thoughtful expression, but I couldn't relate. I didn't tell her this, but I have always had excellent circulation.   
In between short bursts of her Snapgramming her Instafriends on Tweetchat, the conversation moved onto hands.  No one here knows me, I thought.  I'm going to throw a pebble into The Lake of Surrealism just to see what happens.   "Imagine if you were an alien," I said.  "And you came to inhabit a hu…

Bus Stop - Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire

I had some frightful luck with the bus yesterday.  I wanted to make as good an impression as I could with Bernard, the gentleman who'd very kindly taken me on as his stone letter carving apprentice.  I had pushed the Prince's Foundation for this placement and I'm glad I did.  I feel very honoured to be here.  To be around and learn from someone who works in a most noble and skilled craft is a source of energy that I will carry with me for a very long time.  
I got to the bus stop for 8:00am.  I wanted to get a head start on drawing my L's and E's before Bernard arrived.  I wanted more practice, wanted to feel the good drug of progress in my veins and the skill in my hands. I wanted to feel the fullest weight of its expression.  I wanted to be the one who takes the panorama of the kingdom of language that exists within it.  What are you saying, Tom?  Does that even mean anything?  Take a breathe.  Keep it simple.  Okay: so in short, I wanted to live in a single lette…

The Goose Hoose

The Goose Hoose came together like a dream. The build was expected to take around ten weeks, but we had it wrapped up in five. It was a quick turnaround time by anyone’s standards, not least by a set of apprentices, some of which had no prior experience in stone masonry. Under a different set of circumstances, the build might have taken us longer, but the combination of certain things made it feel as if we were working within a slipstream. First and foremost, the guidance from Daryl, our building tutor and my BFF, was outstanding. He's been a force for good as the captain of Team Stone and is a real credit to Dumfries House. His knowledge and efficiency sometimes made my head spin. Secondly, there was a really nice set of dynamics within the team, which created a cohesive, positive atmosphere right from the off. Everybody mucked in, everybody did their bit, and at the end of it, we all sat on the roof with a glass of Prosecco and toasted to a job well done. 
We toasted to …

Day 1 and an Ode to Departed Friends

And so it begins. The live build. There were 27 of us during the summer school and that has now reduced to 11. I loved every single one of my summer school friends, and I actually found myself becoming closer to them in the three weeks that we were together than I did during my three years of stonemasonry training at Bath College. Leaving the office and retraining as a stonemason was a great decision on my part, even if I do say so myself, but the summer school was something else. It was a series of magnificent flashes of colour, setting itself aside from every other experience I’ve had up to this point. It was so unique and went by in such a blur that I was afraid that it might have been part of some elaborate hoax, a drug-induced coma or worse: a dream. When Christian and I got back to Dumfries House on Saturday evening after two weeks off, we were glad to find that everything we had remembered was still here. Gradually, as our newest friends began to arrive over the course of…

Day 0 and the Raleigh Wildtrack

I knew I needed a mountain bike for the live build, but I’d left buying one until the last minute. It wasn’t through want of trying – I’d visited half a dozen bike shops in the area over the past few weeks in search of a suitable one, but there was one problem: my taste for mountain bikes was still firmly rooted in 2000. The turn of the century heralded the beginning of a passion for bicycles that is still firmly with me. So I preferred the retro style that I grew up with. The new style was too flashy for my taste and the tubing was far too thick. At the age of 14, my school friends and I would cycle through Upton St Leonards, up a very steep hill called Portway to Painswick Beacon. It took an hour or two to cycle right to the top, but it was worth it. It was in this area that I found a freedom in cycling down its wooded trails. You can’t beat the exhilaration of cycling fast down a hill and I wanted to capture some of that excitement while I was at Dumfries House. I visite…

Kitty

On the very first morning of the summer school, Corinne was complaining of stiffness. She’d taken part in the Vitality British 10K run in London the day before and in doing so helped to raise over £2000 for charity. My cousin had also entered the race and it was also one that he went on to win. I told Corinne about it and she was suitably impressed, but I don’t think it’s something I told you. 
Skip forwards a week and a half to Dumfries House. I discover that you’re a regular runner. Some mornings I saw you as you set out on your morning jog, other mornings I saw you when you get back. I’m not a 100-mile a week man like my cousin, but I do run. I like running. I like the intensity of it. I like it for the freedom it affords and for its accessibility. I like the freedom of knowing that I can go anywhere I like and I can go immediately. It doesn’t require a membership or expensive equipment. I don’t necessarily need to travel anywhere to do it or have to rely on anyone when …

Ashleigh

“It is the third day of the summer school and I feel dizzy with inspiration. The lecturers are opening up a whole new world for those who let them. The last three days have been a great outpouring of wisdom and I feel proud that I was chosen to be here. The tap has been turned on and knowledge is dripping from above. “The buckets!” I want to shout. “Get the buckets!” All I can find is my notepad and pen, so I write down as much as I can, scribbling in a frenzy, capturing as many ideas as I can. We are all stood at the gateway to a whole new kingdom and our lecturers are handing us the key.” 
It was a warm afternoon anyway as we stood with our drinks outside The Bricklayer’s Arms, but I was warmed even further by the lecture that Lucien had given before we finished for the day. He had shown us the contents of his sketchbook and dazzling beams of light projected from every page. He showed us a riverfront capriccio and it was so dreamy that I would have done anything to walk withi…

Christopher

We joined the River Ayr roughly halfway along its 40-mile journey from its source at Glenbuck to its mouth at the seaside town of Ayr on the west coast.  Towards the end of our outward walk along the riverbank, we came to an old rusted pipeline that passed over it.  It was a bridge for daredevils and thrill-seekers and a place that has doubtless served as childhood initiation ceremonies for generations.  The world was your playground and your eyes were wild with love when you saw it.  The appearance of the pipeline ushered in an early Christmas for you, and if I listened really carefully I could almost hear the atoms in your body fizz and pop and whirr with excitement.  You vaulted the iron spikes of its fence and Amos followed suit soon after.  It was around this time that Wakina’s face dropped.  She spoke to her compatriot in rapid Kenyan.  “Why do you have to be such a dumbass, Amos?  You are 41 years old.  When are you going to learn to grow up?”  I don’t know any Kenyan so I can&…

Jo

When we got to Cumnock after the tour of the Knockroon estate, none of us really knew what to do with ourselves.  We gathered on some steps and tried to settle upon the most judicious course of action.  Naz was looking for a pub, while Shreya and someone else may or may not have gone into a clothes shop.  Most of us decided that the local Asda was the safest and most sensible option so we headed over in a great shoal of cultural diversity.  This place was curiously, intimidatingly sleepy.  I checked the day: Saturday afternoon.  Perhaps Scotland had different weekends.  Or the air raid siren had recently gone off by mistake.  The locals who were out were nonplussed by our presence, crossing the road not to be unfriendly, but rather to survey whether the scene was unusual enough to be put on Facebook.  A very well-represented cross section of planet earth had descended on Cumnock that afternoon, only to find that approximately 85% of its inhabitants were asleep.  
You joined us in Asda …

Charlie

It is the morning of our architectural tour of Glasgow and we are stood brushing our teeth at the row of washbasins.  You are in your usual place, charming the same section of mirror with your reflection.  If your good looks were split into quarters and opened up along the length of this room, all four of you would be handsome.  I catch the eye of my own reflection for a moment and see that all I can offer you in return is humour.  I feel the scene is begging to escape the ordinary so I consider asking you to strike your best Blue Steel pose, but I don't know how good you are at mornings, or if toothbrushing time is considered sacred time where you're from.  Then I think about your McLovin' impression that I have already seen you do so well, but stop short of asking you to do it again.  Instead, I offer something that is less intrusive and better suits the subtleties of morning.  ‘You know when we get back from Glasgow’, I say.  ‘Will we have to start calling it Glasgone?’…

Corinne

On the final day of design week I found you stood outside, hunched over and useless with laughter. Kitty was next to you as your hysterical reflection, the symmetry broken only by her hand as a sign of support on your shoulder. I knew the moment was yours and Kitty’s to share so I took a picture and slipped back inside unnoticed. Hearing you laugh was a source of strength that stayed with me for the rest of the day, and it followed me wherever I went: it helped me make the curved ridge board while Amos was making the trusses for our model, it lent a hand in beating Canadian Chris in an arm wrestle at the Boswell Arms as we celebrated that evening, and it told me to throw water on our beautiful model tower when Eric set fire to it when we got back. 

I wanted to know the source of your laughter but that desire sat on a perfectly balanced set of scales with the need not to know on the other side. I ascribed a personality to each of them.  I imagined that those two needs were best of fr…

Dear Brilliant Girl and How I Found Her

I received some wonderful cards for my thirtieth birthday, not to mention many more messages by text. I decided that as a way of saying thank you, I would make a found poem out of them.  The official definition of found poetry is "a type of poetry created by taking words, phrases, and sometimes whole passages from other sources and reframing them as poetry".  
An argument could be made that it's a way of cheating, because you're re-using something that already exists.  But by placing conditions on what you write and how you write it, it catches the essence of what the process of creating a poem is about.  More traditionally, these rules usually manifests themselves as a particular rhythm, metre or rhyming scheme according to either a poem's established rules - be it a sonnet, a sestina, a haiku etc - or a poet's own particular set of rules that he or she decides to place upon it.  
Contemporary poetry is often criticised for an overabundance of free verse - tha…

Slow Club Gig Review - The Lantern, Colston Hall - Saturday 28th May 2016

It is Bank Holiday Monday morning and as I write this, a cover of Future Islands’ ‘Seasons (Waiting on You)’ is playing on repeat on my laptop.  “Seasons change and I try hard just to soften you.”  It’s something about the rhythm of that line that keeps me returning to it.  It might be how it forms a metrical palindrome in the way the stresses fall.  I imagine a mirror, or pivot, between ‘try’ and ‘hard’, and a great blossoming from its centre, rather than from left to right.  Its content adds emotion to its appeal, but its structure has a symmetry and simplicity that’s as pure and as honest as a blush.    It is one of the most beautiful first lines in music and it is being sung by Rebecca Taylor of Slow Club. 



The song is a tapestry rich with feeling that Slow Club delicately weave their own brand of richness through. The Future Islands original was the soundtrack to last June’s family trip to Gdansk in Poland and I am transported back there every time I hear it.My brother hears it f…