Category Archives: Writing

Reading Festival 2015

Saying Farewell To Old Friends – What I Learned About WordPress

It has been a funny few days.

Earlier this week I decided it was time to prune the number of blogs I am following on WordPress.  I didn’t want to lose any blogs that I read frequently or bloggers with whom I interact.  As a result I decided to go through every account I was following and prune the ones who don’t actually post on their accounts.

I was really surprised at the number of accounts I was following that had been dormant for years.  As a result I decided to prune any blogs that had not been used in the last six months.  It was interesting to see that the vast majority of the blogs that were dormant had very few followers and that they all followed a very clear pattern.

I suspect that many of the people I unfollowed abandoned their blogs because they didn’t have a readership and as a result they lost interest and gave up.  I believe this demonstrates a few simple truths about blogging.

We all blog for different reasons, but I think we all share something in common.  We believe we have something to say, and of course we want others to hear us.  A blog without a following is simply a public diary.  We use our blogs to express ourselves whether through our writing, photography, art, craft,  cooking or whichever medium we choose.

The thing is if you want people to buy into your blog you need to work at it.  It takes time and effort to build a following and it is a slow process, but the more you put into your blog the more readers or viewers you will attract.  It is important to post regularly, but it is even more important to interact with other bloggers, especially those with whom you share an interest.

WordPress has something like 13 million blogging accounts and you really need to be a part of the community if you want to gain followers.  With that many blogs around your relationship with your readership needs to be a personal one.  I was sad to unfollow so many accounts, but following those accounts was a pointless exercise.  My blog is important to me, but so is being part of the community.  I enjoy blogging but interacting with others is important too.

I hope to be here for a long time, my blog is a part of my day and I hope it will remain so for many years to come.

Iceland Geysers,

Weekly Writing Challenge – Ice, Water Steam

This weeks writing challenge is to consider what it mean to be the same thing, in different forms?  To explore different facets of ourselves.

This challenge through up a host of ideas, past, present & future perhaps.  Maybe, school, work & retirement or single, married & divorced or child, youth & adult.  So many choices, so many ideas.  I eventually settled on three aspects of my love of music. the three facets of which are musician, listener and critic.

I love to play music, as a child I played flute and tin whistle to a reasonable standard.  I was self taught and learned mostly by ear.  I enjoyed playing, mostly for my own pleasure.  When I joined the Navy I stopped playing, the lack of somewhere to practice in the confines of Her Majesties war ships was a major factor and whilst I never lost my love of music I did stop making my own.  Many years later I decided to learn to play guitar.  Initially I took some lessons but in all honesty I found lessons too restrictive.  I wanted to play and sing songs I knew, I had no intention of going for grading exams, I just wanted to have fun.  Once again I developed a passion for playing and over the past 18 months I have taught myself to play a long lust of songs.  I play most days and really enjoy it.

My major passion in life has always been music (after my family and dogs of course).  I have built up a huge collection of CD’s and Vinyl though the Vinyl has been packed away for many years.  These days I love the simplicity and the accessibility of streaming and downloads.  My iPod is a constant companion and with a 160Gb drive it has  over 16000 songs on it with plenty of room for more 🙂  The only downside with digital is it is far too easy to spend a fortune on music every month 🙂  Any regular reader of this blog will know how much time and effort goes into my music.  In 2014 my festival programmes and ticket stubs revealed that I have seen at least 270 bands and artists this year, quite a haul in anybodies book.  I am looking forward to having an attempt to surpass that record in 2015.

The final facet of my musical self is as a music critic.  The primary reason for the existence of this blog is that I wanted to share my thoughts, feelings and experiences of my music listening with anyone who cared to listen (or read).  Creating this blog has been a massively uplifting experience.  I have gained over 1200 followers, have written almost 500 pieces and reignited my love of photography.  My career as a reviewer is still very much in its infancy but it has lead to me writing for an online music magazine (echoesanddust.com) and even to paid writing work with U.S. based online magazine Inquisitr.com.  All this in six short months.  I find the WordPress community incredibly helpful, sharing and caring but above all they inspirational.  That inspiration has driven me on to use my creativity as a means of coping with my depression and it has even lead to me earning some cash to supplement my pension.

They say that if you can earn some money from doing something you love then you are really in a good place.  So thanks to my music and thanks to the WordPress community the three facets of my musical personality have come together in a hugely positive way.  Happy days.

Adam Duritz

Happy Happy Joy Joy – Daily Prompt

Todays Daily Prompt ask when we last cried tears of Joy?

I actually didn’t have to think too hard about this one as I remember it clearly and it wasn’t very long ago.  On November 1st 2014 I had the pleasure of seeing the wonderful Adam Duritz and Counting Crows live in Birmingham, England.  I have been a huge fan of the band for years but had never had the chance to see them live before.  My wife, son and I went to this show and we all had a great time.  If you didn’t see my review of the gig you can check it out here.

I feel an affinity with Adam Duritz as he is a fellow suffer of the dreaded black dog of depression and he puts a huge amount of himself into both his songwriting and his performance on stage.  Make no mistake Duritz can hold you totally spellbound.  So it was in Birmingham, he was amazing.  As Adam sang it was clear he was in a very good place which was great to see as he had been on the road for the whole summer.  He was happy and his delivery was so very moving as he went through a fantastic set of the bands classic songs and tunes from the new album ‘Somewhere under Wonderland’.  I was already feeling quite emotional when Adam started to Sing ‘Washington Square’ from the much underrated album ‘Saturday Night & Sunday Morning’.

Adam Duritz

Adam Duritz – Counting Crows

As Adam sang the opening lines:

I sold my piano, it couldn’t come with me
I locked up my bedroom and I walked out into the air
Nothing I needed is left there behind me
I walk out through the shadows of Washington Square

Well I thought my heart was going to burst, it is such a beautiful song and he delivers it with such feeling, such imagery that the tears just ran down my face.  It was the musical moment of my year and will live long in the memory.

Thanks Adam Duritz.  Stay well and keep spreading the love.

The Photographs here are from the bands Show in London the following week.

Goodbye 2014, Thank You, And What A Ride It Has Been

So it is here, the end of yet another year and what a year it has been.  It is traditional to spend a little time reflecting on what has gone in the past year as we make our way into the new one to come.  So often we reflect on the sad or bad things that have happened and we think about how things will be better in the year to come.  As I sit here I cannot think of a single bad thing that has happened to me or my immediate family this year, it has been a year of almost constant highs.

My lovely wife has as always been a source of constant love and support, she recently left her job and is looking forward to an exciting new chapter in her life in January.  My son is doing well at school and is developing into a caring, happy, pleasant and well adjusted young man.  My nieces have made us all proud this year, Erin is doing well at Cambridge University, Dani did well in her GCSE exams and continues to develop her love of horses and her equestrianism.  Kirsty and her husband Clint have brought a new member, baby Lucy, into the family and her sister Karlyn and partner John will be bringing another new arrival in 2015.

I retired from work as a result of my depression back in February.  I confess I was a little apprehensive about this but it has been wonderful.  Only by leaving the police service behind have I come to realise how much it dragged me down, how deeply unhappy it made me.  Retirement has allowed me to leave behind the people who drained me and left me so unhappy.  I made a resolution last year to break away from negative people and to make more effort to spend time with friends, family and people I care about.  I have managed to do this and it has been a hugely freeing experience.  I was concerned about how I would spend my time, a concern that was totally unfounded, my days now are filled with creativity and things I enjoy doing.

I have written well over 400 articles on this blog, had well over 50k visitors and close to 1200 followers in 6 short months.  The blogging community is friendly and supportive and my blogging has lead to me waiting articles for an online music magazine and an online news outlet.  I have developed my interest in photography, completed a University short photography course and upgraded my camera equipment.  I look forward to undertaking more courses and developing my skills in the year to come.

Musically my year has been off the scale.  I have seen at the very least 270 live bands at the gigs and festivals I have attended.  I have continued to learn to play guitar, I am far from great but I do love to play and I look forward to continuing to learn and improve in 2015.  Over the course of the summer the weather was even kind with just one festival being a wet one.  I have my fingers crossed for similar in 2015.

Over the course of the past year I have made so many new friends and acquaintances, people who expect nothing from you other than to share your company and a beer.  people who want to share good times, spread happiness and enjoy life.  Thank you one and all, you know who you are.

So 2015 arrives with so much to look forward to, new lives to welcome, weddings to attend and no doubt numerous more happy experiences with friends, new and old.

So come on 2015, bring it on, we are ready and waiting.  Happy New Year to all my friends, old and new, to my family, but most of all to my wife and son.  it is going to be another great year.

Taliban attack Pakistan school

Taliban Attack A Pakistani School More Than 100 Reported Dead

News agencies across the world including Reuters are reporting that Taliban gunmen have attacked a military-run school in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. Latest reports indicate that the Taliban have killed around 100 people, including 80 children, and hundreds of students have been taken hostage. The Taliban threatens to destabilise Pakistan, where they control areas in the north-west of the country. In recent weeks the Taliban and have been blamed for a wave of suicide bombings and other attacks.  Read more here

Santa

Christmas At Risk: Santa Claus Blames A Lack Of Qualified Labour

In a huge scoop for the Sound of Summer blog reporter Alan Ewart was last night flown to the North Pole to interview Santa Claus.  Alan was flown to Santa’s secret North Pole base by Reindeer Express.  In a first for the Blog Santa told our reporter that he was deeply concerned for the future of Christmas.

Santa said

“There are a number of things causing me concern this Christmas but my biggest worry is the difficulty in attracting suitably qualified elves to make the toys.  Elves seem to be unhappy that I can only offer seasonal work”.

Santa went on to say

“Some of my reindeer are getting old and are close to retirement.  Flying reindeer are not easy to find and it seems that some young reindeer simply don’t want to undertake the hard physical labour that pulling a flying sleigh full of toys for all the worlds children requires.”

Santa Claus said that he had seen in The Guardian that traditional toys like dolls of characters from the hit movie ‘Frozen‘ were likely to be in very high demand.  Santa did say that he was concerned that many children were asking for technology based presents like Apple’s  iPhone or iPad that were being produced cheaply in Chinese factories.  Santa said that he could not compete with these vast factories that seemed to have a never ending supply of cheap labour.

Santa did say that the decisions taken in some countries to cancel their Christmas celebrations to help to control the spread of disease would mean that there would be a reduction in demand for some toys.  Santa went on to say that he understood the necessity for these measures but he felt very sorry for the children affected.

Whilst at Santa’s North Pole base our reporter also managed to grab a few minutes with Mrs Claus, Santa’s wife.  When asked how Santa managed to keep the reindeer flying so fast for so long Mrs Claus said

“Throughout the year we feed our reindeer on a special diet of whole grain foods.  This keeps them in tip-top condition.  At the beginning of December their food is supplemented by a specially developed magical ingredient, this gives them a huge amount of energy, enough to help them to ensure that all deliveries are made on time.”

Santa finished the interview by saying that he believed that he would be able to deliver a normal Christmas service this year but to ensure that he could meet future demand he needed to recruit suitably skilled elves and more reindeer.  Santa said, I can offer great working conditions, good rates of pay and an excellent holiday package.  If you are an elf interested in working for Santa you can apply by sending you CV to media_elf@emailSanta.com or by sending a copy addressed to Santa Claus, Santa’s Grotto, Reindeerland, XM4 5HQ

I love free write tasks.  I don’t know why but they always arrive just when I am in the mood for a streams of consciousness piece.  I had already been stimulated this morning, unsurprisingly by a piece of music I listened to when I was on my daily dog walk. I was at a gig on Tuesday evening and the support act was a young folk singer named Will Varley.  I got talking to Will after his set and he asked me to write a review on his latest album.  Regular readers will know that i do a lot of album reviews and was delighted to be asked to do this one.

As I was listening to the Album “As The Crow Flies” I got to a track called ‘When You’re Gone’ the song starts with two amazing lines;

“Well her eyes were as wild as a Cornish storm,

Her heart like the cliffs, all battered and worn”

What a stunning lyric!  It throws up images of a wild eyed free spirited stormy and angry woman.  I see bright blue eyes, touched with anger, perhaps in the midst of an argument.  Her anger perhaps a response to mistreatment or hurt over years.  Treatment that has worn her down and that has bruised and battered her heart, shaking her ability to trust and to love.  Perhaps she has had a succession of painful blows in her life, small painful things that over tie have eroded her self worth and confidence in the way that the seas gradually wear down those wild windswept cliffs.  Is she standing on the edge of a precipice, a personal conflict.  Is there a crisis that has her on the edge of a wild Cornish cliff as the storm batters the Coastline?  Is she standing there today as a wild atlantic storm approaches the UK, the effect of a so called ‘weather bomb’ that is due to arrive later today?

Isn’t it amazing what one or two well written song lines can through up.