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Tuesday, 18 June 2019

History of the Jews in England (Part 1)

A thirteenth century English manuscript  image of Jews being beaten.  Note that the two central characters appear to have emblems of two stone tablets on their clothing.
THE HISTORY OF JEWS IN MEDIEVAL ENGLAND is a relatively short one. William the Conqueror is said to have brought in moneylenders from Rouen, France, after 1066. As such, Jews had the protection of the Crown and this alone caused much resentment particularly in times of economic hardship when they and other foreign nationals were liable to persecution. The earliest reference to Jews in London dates to 1130 and notes their settlement around Cheapside and Jew Street, now Old Jewry, which name is almost all that remains of the original Jewish district. Sadly, one has to look hard to find any evidence of medieval Jewry in London. Although excavations in Milk Street and Gresham Street have uncovered two mikvehs (ritual baths) of the thirteenth century which are unique to this country. Until 1177 the only Jewish cemetery in England was at Cripplegate and this must have caused great hardship to Jews living elsewhere in the country.

In 1262 a mob destroyed a synagogue, south of Lothbury Street EC1, and killed 700 inhabitants. Apparently there were several synagogues in London because in 1282 the bishop of London was ordered to destroy all synagogues in his diocese. 
The coronation of Richard 1 in 1189 marked the first of a series of attacks on Jews. The arrival of Jewish dignitaries at Westminster to pay their respect to the king sparked a riot in which some thirty Jewish families were murdered. Similar attacks also followed in Lincoln, York and Norwich.
The years leading up to their expulsion from England were particularly oppressive; in 1275, Edward 1 issued the Statute of Jewry. Jews were prohibited from charging interest on loans and had to collect all existing debts by the following Easter or forfeit them. All Jews from the age of seven had to wear a yellow felt badge 6” long and 3” wide. A poll tax of 3d a year was also imposed from the age of twelve. Three of the 63 clauses of Magna Carta (1215) directly relate to Jews, and in particular their money-lending activities. It means that the document not only has enormous significance for English history, but also epitomises the privileges and problems of medieval Anglo-Jewry.
Finally, Jews were given notice to quit England completely in July 1290. The Jewish presence in many English towns lasted until that expulsion. At that time there were about 3,500 Jews out of a population of around two million people in Britain.
You can hear a Jewish spiritual song here. It's a modern song but the words (in Hebrew) are from Genesis and speak of a golden river flowing out of Jordan.

Monday, 3 June 2019

Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night

Image result for dylan thomas
Dylan Marlais Thomas 1914 - 1953

Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night by Dylan Thomas
Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on that sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
The form of this poem is known as a vilanelle; a strict format with nineteen lines - five tercets (three lines) followed by a final quatrain of four lines. Notice that each stanza has the same ABA rhyming scheme.
The lines 'Do not go gentle into that good night' and 'Rage, rage against the dying of the light' have become iconic in their own right. The influence of this poem has become widespread since it's publication. It is an exhortation to resist the onset of death, written as his own father was dying. The poet gives the examples of how  'wise men', 'good men', 'wild men' and 'grave men' do not meekly accept the inevitable.
Television writers have borrowed deeply from the poem including Doctor Who, Northern Exposure, Mad Men and Family Guy. The poem's connotation with death and endings was used to effect in the final episodes of St. Elsewhere and Roseanne.
As well as taking his name from Dylan Thomas, Bob Dylan was hugely influenced by his writing style and developed Thomas's themes of conflict in his own lyric writing.
I'm listening to the Norwegian soprano, Sissel Kyrkjebø singing the spiritual song Going Home based on the largo (second movement) of Dvorzak's New World Symphony.
Listen here and be spellbound! I never tire of it.

Tuesday, 30 April 2019

Strawberry Fields / Penny Lane

Strawberry Fields / Penny Lane

In 1966 The Beach Boys released Pet Sounds, widely praised as one of the most influential and innovative popular recordings of all time. Meanwhile in England, The Beatles were entering the most creative period in an outstandingly productive career  They listened to Pet Sounds and were inspired in the same way that Dylan had influenced them a few years earlier. They had decided to try to produce something in a similar vain and were sensationally successful as the result was Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.  
They began by each of them returning to their roots and writing a song each about their up-bringing in Liverpool. John Lennon came up with Strawberry Fields and Paul McCartney composed Penny Lane; both titles being taken from locations in that city. Their UK record label, EMI, were pushing for a new single so they released a double A-sided disc using those two songs which never made it on to Sergeant Pepper after all.
Photo: Linda McCartney
The songs are interesting because, for me, they epitomise the character and song-writing style of each of the two Beatles.
Penny Lane is strongly melodic and actually fairly complex musically. The lyrics are very interesting and must seem mysterious to non-British listeners. They contain several ambiguities 
The 'shelter in the middle of the roundabout'
such as being "there beneath the blue suburban skies" while the fireman "rushes in from the pouring rain - very strange". Very strange indeed. So the images are being presented as a kaleidoscopic view of Liverpool. It is rumoured that McCartney was using LSD at that time....."She feels as if she's in a play. She is anyway"
"Four of fish and finger pie" is a very clever piece of writing and worth explaining. "Four of fish" referred to four pennies worth of Fish and Chips and "finger pie" is a sexual reference to the fumblings that went on the the bus shelter (solo or joint!). Also it's a lovely pun on 'fish fingers' which is how fish sticks are known in the UK.  
One of the most interesting things about the recording is the piccolo trumpet solo played by  the late David Mason of the London Symphony Orchestra. Paul heard a recording of Bach's Brandenburg Concertos and asked George Martin what the instrument was playing the high notes. It is an exceedingly difficult instrument to play because it does not keep properly in tune with itself! The player has to 'pitch' the notes him or herself. Very strange. Paul told David Mason exactly which notes he wanted to be played. Paul McCartney was a great inventor of melody and an original lyricist. Listen to it HERE.
By complete contrast Strawberry Fields Forever really represents the state of John Lennon's mind at that time and I am going to talk about this song from a psychological point of view. Strawberry Field is the site of a Salvation Army Children's Home in Liverpool near where Lennon grew up. Lyrically the song is very introspective with each verse descending deeper into a kind of mire of indecision:
 "No one I think is in my tree, I mean it must be high or low.
That is you can't you know tune in but it's all right, that is I think it's not too bad.

"Always, no sometimes, think it's me, but you know I know when it's a dream.
I think I know I mean a 'Yes' but it's all wrong, that is I think I disagree."
Strawberry Field, Liverpool
But the most amazing thing about this record is the way that the very recording of the song reflects John Lennon's indecision. Did you know that the record is made from two completely different takes spliced together? If you listen carefully HERE at about the one minute point you can clearly hear the miraculous job that engineer Geoff Emmerick and producer George Martin have done. They had two recordings at different speeds and in different keys which they achieved by slightly slowing one down and speeding the other one up. This matched the speed and altered the pitch and it was all done with a pair of scissors and two tape machines!
Postscript: Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys was in the middle of producing their album Smile when he heard the Sergeant Pepper album being played on the radio in his car. He pulled up at the side of the road and listened to the whole of the record. He immediately stopped work on Smile and did not go back to it for decades. I wonder what he thought.
Also, years later, George Martin said that it was an awful mistake not including Strawberry Fields and Penny lane on the album because they were the foundation of the concept that generated it. However, the Beatles had a policy of not including single releases on albums.

Thursday, 18 April 2019

Painting of the Month (87) April 2019: Rembrandt Self-portraits

About ten percent of all of REMBRANDT VAN RIJN’s works were self-portraits. He made around one hundred, of which about forty are paintings. His earlier efforts were mainly etchings but later on the oil-paintings took over. He produced self-portraits at a steady rate until his death in 1669 aged 63 and they form a sort of artistic autobiography and they give us an ever-changing view of his appearance – warts and all. This is my favourite of his self portraits; he generally did not paint in this rather grand way but instead showed himself in everyday poses and using a variety of facial expressions which was very unusual for that time.
Self-portrait, Rembrandt van Rijn 1606 - 1669

In his portraits Rembrandt often looks worried and vulnerable but the facial expressions he used were frequently for the purpose of study. His pictures are devoid of conceit or self-deception and he shows himself in an honest and realistic way (usually!) He was also skilled in many other genre's of painting.
Rembrandt, acknowledged as one of the greatest European artists whoever lived, died as a pauper and was buried in an unmarked grave. He was notoriously careless with money and he became a bankrupt and there was no money for a headstone so it is not known exactly where he is buried.
He died 350 years ago and he never left the country of his birth.

I'm listening to Elvis Costello singing the marvellous song Shipbuilding, originally written for Robert Wyatt (whose version I actually prefer). Elvis improved the original lyrics in the light of the Falklands War. It includes the wonderful lines "Diving for dear life when we could be diving for pearls" - a poignant look at the choices people make. The song tells the story of men and boys being sent to war in the very ships that they had constructed. Listen here.

Wednesday, 27 March 2019

The Lavender Hill Mob

A couple of weeks ago Leah and I went with some friends to an event which was part of JEWISH HISTORY MONTH. It was a tour and talk at Ealing Studios. They showed one of the great Ealing Comedies – The Lavender Hill Mob with Alec Guinness, Stanley Holloway and also featuring Sid James, Alfie Bass and with a cameo from Sydney Tafler. The whole event was in honour of Sir Michael Balcon who directed the studio from 1938 to 1956. He was the son of Jewish immigrants from Latvia. Several members of his family were in the audience.

Sir Michael never really mixed with the ‘talent’. His office was a house within the Ealing lot and, if they wanted to talk with him, he opened a window and addressed them through it!
When the BBC took over Ealing Studios in 1956 he left the Company and set up Ealing Films in Borehamwood. Ealing is still a working film and television studio, the longest continually working one in the world, which opened under another name in 1902. The Berlin Film Studios would have held that record but they were interrupted by RAF Bomber Command during the war. The Luftwaffe’s attempt on Ealing was, thankfully, less successful!
I'm listening to Victoria de Los Angeles singing the haunting melody, usually known as 'Bailero' from Canteloube's Songs of The Auvergne. I listen to this piece of music nearly every day of my life and it never fails to move and inspire me. 
Join me and listen here!

Friday, 22 March 2019

Painting of the Month (86) March 2019: L S Lowry

Laurence Stephen Lowry, always known professionally as L S Lowry, was born in Stretford, Lancashire, England in 1887. He was very much an eccentric Englishman and his works were late in being loved outside of the UK but he was always popular in England. His pictures were very accessible and for a long time he was viewed as ‘naive’ or a ‘Sunday painter’ which annoyed him intensely, but there is more depth to his personality and his work than that which first meets the eye. His paintings are instantly recognisable usually for the inclusion of so-called ‘matchstick’ men. Although he also painted some quite eerie industrial landscapes that are notable for having no people in them at all.
In some ways one could make an argument that Lowry was a bad artist but although he lacks some techniques he more than made up for it through keen observation, attention to detail and an obvious love of, and sympathy for, his subjects.
You will have to make up your own minds through looking at the pictures below!

L S Lowry (1887 - 1976), Going To The Match 1953
A very typical Lowry work and one of his best loved.

 The Old House, Salford 1948
I love the simple, clean lines of this picture. It's a very simple painting but quite absorbing, showing Lowry's draughtsmanship.

Industrial Landscape 1955
Not actually devoid of people but they aren't prominent!

Portrait of a Man and his Two Sons 1950
This unusual painting was sold at Sotherby's for £1.7m in 2015

I'm listening to one of Don McLean's many beautiful but barely known early songs, Bronco Bill's Lament about the reality of Hollywood cowboy film stars. Listen HERE

Tuesday, 5 March 2019

Vin Mariani

VIN MARIANI was a tonic wine and patent medicine which was made from Bordeaux wine and coca leaves created in 1863 by Angelo Mariani, a French chemist from Corsica. The ethanol in the wine acted as a solvent which extracted the cocaine from the coca leaves thus altering the drink’s effects. It was exported with 7.2mg of cocaine per fluid ounce to compete with the higher cocaine content of similar drinks in the United States. Advertisements for Vin Mariani claimed that it would restore health, strength, energy and vitality.

Vin Mariani was a massive hit. Mariani’s wine and coca tonic took his home city of Paris by storm, and then, the rest of Europe and the U.S. Seizing on the opportunity, Mariani opened offices in London, New York and Montreal. To support demand for his product in the U.S. he opened a second laboratory in New York. Vin Mariani had many competitors and imitators, but a shrewd celebrity-driven marketing campaign    earned him millions of dollars worth of sales. While Mariani’s ads claimed that thousands of doctors endorsed the product, it was the celebrity endorsers who really pushed the elixir. The ads he ran in newspapers and magazines featured countless politicians, actors, writers and religious leaders, all extolling the many virtues of Vin Mariani. Devotees of the drink included Alexander Dumas, Emile Zola, Presidents William McKinley and Ulysses S. Grant, and countless monarchs including Queen Victoria of England. In addition, actress Sarah Bernhardt and Pope Leo XIII, who gave him a Gold Medal, were among the many who actually appeared in advertisements. I think, considering the content’s, it’s no surprise that the product was so popular!

Eventually these kind of drinks were banned which led to the invention of drinks like Coca Cola which originally contained some cocaine.

I'm listening to The Rolling Stones version of Jimmy Reed's Honest I Do from their first album. It's much-recorded song but I think their version stands up well to the others. Listen HERE.

Thursday, 28 February 2019

Sonnet 116 by William Shakespeare

Sonnet 116 by William Shakespeare
Let me not to the marriage of true minds   
Admit impediments. Love is not love   
Which alters when it alteration finds,   
Or bends with the remover to remove:   
O, no! it is an ever-fixed mark, 
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;   
It is the star to every wandering bark,   
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.   
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks   
Within his bending sickle’s compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,   
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.   
  If this be error, and upon me prov’d,   
  I never writ, nor no man ever lov’d.
This is in the form of an English or Shakespearean sonnet with three four-lined quatrains followed by a couplet. The other major form of sonnet is the Petrarchan which has an eight-line stanza followed by a six-line conclusion and with varying rhyme schemes.
The poet is describing how true love is never-changing and does not change "when it alteration finds". The metaphor of sailing the ocean is strong with "an ever-fixed mark that looks on tempests"; in other words the North Star. A "bark" or barque is a three-masted sailing ship.
In the third quatrain Time is personified but although his sickle may alter the course of beauty it cannot change love which  lasts "even to the edge of doom" - until the end of life.
In the final couplet Shakespeare is saying if he is proved wrong in his description then no man ever-loved.
I'm listening to the wonderful and tragic Robert Wyatt singing with his group Matching Mole. The song, O'Caroline has real meaning in his life and is not just a love song. One day I will write a post about Wyatt. Listen HERE.

Thursday, 14 February 2019

Painting of the Month (85) Feb 2019: Samuel Peploe.

SAMUEL PEPLOE was a Scottish post-impressionist who worked in Edinburgh and Paris. He was an avid follower of the French painters throughout his career.
Sill Life, Samuel Peploe (1871-1935)
I like this painting for its simple beauty and I am reluctant to over-analyse. I will just say that the influence of Cezanne is strong and obvious. That’s no bad thing as far as I am concerned! He made many still life paintings and also excelled at landscapes and a few portraits. Here's another:
I'm listening to my favourite version of one of my favourite songs: Willie Nelson's Funny How Time Slips Away. You can listen here. There's also a great version by Brook Benton and many others.

Wednesday, 23 January 2019

Happy Listening (1)

Image result for listening to music
I don't really know if many readers of this Blog (actually there aren't many anyway!) ever listen to the music I refer to at the end of most of my posts. So, here's a second chance to listen, or listen again, to my first selection of them. Just click on the song title to hear it:
1) Madeleine Peyroux singing Careless Love

2) Bobby Charles singing Small Town Talk

3) Richard and Linda Thompson singing I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight 

4) Jake Thackray singing (live) Lah Di Dah

5) John Williams playing Antonio Lauro's Valse Creolo (aka Vals Criollo)

6) Wibert Harrison's original recording of Let's Stick Together

7) The cast of Hair singing What a Piece of Work is Man based on a speech in Hamlet

8) Steve Goodman singing The Dutchman

9) Kiki Dee singing Amoureuse

10) Jerry Jeff Walker's original recording of his song Mr Bojangles

Friday, 18 January 2019

Light & Dark

The BBC showed an interesting two-part documentary recently called Light & Dark. I always enjoy Professor Jim Al-Khalili’s excellent science programmes on TV and radio. 
learned one especially interesting scientific fact when I watched the second part last night. We know that light travels in straight lines, right? (If you didn’t know that – you do now!). We also know that there are about 10 billion galaxies in the universe and that there are around 100 billion stars in the average galaxy. That gives us a total of about 1 trillion billion stars. So: every point of the sky should be lit up and the sky ought not to be dark. Obviously the photo shown here was taken by a very powerful telescope and has about, what, 5% of the sky lit up. It was once thought that dust clouds in space were obscuring our view of the others but we now know that that isn’t the case.
The reason is that a mere 200 million years after the Big Bang, 13.7 billion years ago, the first stars began to form – and the light hasn’t reached us yet! I find that astounding and it makes me feel very small and insignificant...
I’m listening to Chris Bell’s 1973 song 
You and Your Sister. It’s just the kind of plaintive pop song I go for. Listen HERE.
Although Chris was killed in his sports car in 1978, at the age of 27, he was very influential on later musicians.

Monday, 31 December 2018

Happy New Year

This includes Facebook and Blogger friends 
as well of course!
I hope that 2019 brings you whatever you may wish for.

Friday, 21 December 2018

Season's Greetings

Who'd have thought The Beatles would be fans of 
West Ham United?

Sunday, 16 December 2018

The World of Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

Kurt Vonnegut fought in the Battle of the Bulge, the last major German offensive of World War II. His unit was inexperienced and sent to what was considered a “relatively quiet” area. He and many others were captured and sent by train to Dresden. The train was bombed by the British Royal Air Force and many were killed but he survived and became a prisoner of war, working in a factory by day and living in a “warehouse”. Dresden was not of any strategic importance and had little in the way of defence or air-raid shelters so when the controversial three-day blanket-bombing by Allied forces began, he hid in a cellar during that time, which was full of “hanging cadavers”. When he emerged Dresden was mostly gone - flattened by the carpet-bombing.
It has often been remarked that war leads to the production of great art and literature. In Vonnegut’s case his experiences led to the creation of his greatest and most successful work: Slaughterhouse Five. The building he had been living in was an abattoir or ‘slaughter house’.
He expounds his philosophy through this crazy, original, thought-provoking book whose protagonist is Billy Pilgrim. There are multiple themes in the book; I would say that the major ones include: the folly of war, free will (or rather, the lack of it) and time. Not only is the time sequence not linear, it’s not just flashbacks either – it’s all over the place!
Also appearing in Slaughterhouse Five is Kilgore Trout, a character used at various times by Vonnegut in several books, (at least his name is) said by critics to be at least partly an autobiographical creation. Trout is a poverty-stricken struggling science-fiction writer. In this book he acts as a catalyst for the main character, Billy Pilgrim.
If science-fiction is not your thing, I would still commend this book to you as it is one of the most important American novels of the 20th century and Vonnegut one the vital writers.
Here are some quotes from Slaughterhouse Five:
“Among the things Billy Pilgrim could not change were the past, present, and future.” 
“They were adored by the Germans, who thought they were exactly what Englishmen ought to be. They made war look stylish and reasonable, and fun...
They were dressed half for battle, half for tennis or croquet.”

“Billy licked his lips, thought a while, inquired at last: "Why me?" 
"That is a very Earthling question to ask, Mr. Pilgrim. Why you? Why us for that matter? Why anything? Because this moment simply is. Have you ever seen bugs trapped in amber?"
"Yes." Billy, in fact had a paperweight in his office which was a blob of polished amber with three lady-bugs embedded in it. 
"Well, here we are, Mr. Pilgrim, trapped in the amber of this moment. There is no why.” 

And the most famous one of all:
"...and so it goes..."

I'm listening to the late J.J.Cale singing City Girls. You can listen HERE.

Friday, 7 December 2018

The Poet Roger McGough

This is a re-post from four years ago:
I went recently, with my younger daughter, Laura, to hear the Liverpool poet Roger McGough reading works from his long career. In the 1960's he used to be in the band Scaffold with Paul McCartney's brother, Mike McGear.
It was in our local library with a small audience and it was a very entertaining evening, both funny and moving by turns. I bought a few books and told him that the last one of his that I bought was as a teenager - many years ago. He looked at me over the top of his glasses with mock horror! He still has an element of that Liverpool wit, long associated with The Beatles.
Roger McGough today

And in the 1960s, left, with the group Scaffold.
Paul McCartney's brother, Mike McGear is in the centre.
Here are a few of his poems to enjoy:

God bless all policemen
and fighters of crime,
May thieves go to jail 
for a very long time. 
They've had a hard day
helping clean up the town,
Now they hang from the mantelpiece
both upside down. 
A glass of warm blood
and then straight up the stairs,
Batman and Robin
are saying their prayers. 
* * *
They've locked all the doors
and they've put out the bat,
Put on their batjamas
(They like doing that) 
They've filled their batwater-bottles
made their batbeds,
With two springy battresses
for sleepy batheads. 
They're closing red eyes
and they're counting black sheep,
Batman and Robin
are falling asleep.
We're the Mafia cats
Bugsy, Franco and Toni
We're crazy for pizza
With hot pepperoni
We run all the rackets
From gambling to vice
On St Valentine's Day
We massacre mice
We always wear shades
To show that we're meanies
Big hats and sharp suits
And drive Lamborghinis
We're the Mafia cats
Bugsy, Franco and Toni
Love Sicilian wine
And cheese macaroni
But we have a secret
(And if you dare tell
You'll end up with the kitten 
At the bottom of the well
Or covered in concrete
And thrown into the deep
For this is one secret
You really must keep.)
We're the Cosa Nostra
Run the scams and the fiddles
But at home we are
Mopsy, Ginger and Tiddles
Lastly, to show that there can be depth as well as humour.....
I explain quietly. You
hear me shouting. You
try a new tack. I
feel old wounds reopen.

You see both sides. I
see your blinkers. I
am placatory. You
sense a new selfishness.

I am a dove. You
recognize the hawk. You
offer an olive branch. I
feel the thorns.

You bleed. I
see crocodile tears. I
withdraw. You
reel from the impact. 
I am listening to Dissatisfied Blues by 
Sonny Terry & Brownie McGee. Listen HERE!

Wednesday, 7 November 2018

Eric Bogle & June Tabor

One of my favourite songwriters is the Scottish-Australian folk singer Eric Bogle. I especially like the interpretation of his work by the British singer June Tabor.  The three songs here are particularly poignant at this time because they are about the First World War. I have provided a link to each song performed by both June and Eric.
I don’t believe that any other medium has described the futility of war in a way that hits home like these songs do.
And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda

No Man's Land 
(also known as The Green Fields of France)

Now I'm Easy
By the way, a 'cocky' is Australian slang for a farmer 
(originally a cockatoo farmer).

Wednesday, 24 October 2018

Talent Show Contestant

This lovely sketch from The Mitchell & Webb Show beautifully expresses my feelings about 'talent' show contestants! If you like this there are plenty of their clips from the shows on You Tube.
I'm listening to a track from The Times They Are A-Changin'. Restless farewell is here.
Like many of Dylan's lyrics these stand up well on their own - especially the final verse:
Oh, a false clock tries to tick out my time
To disgrace, distract, and bother me 
And the dirt of gossip blows into my face 
And the dust of rumours covers me 
But if the arrow is straight 
And the point is slick 
It can pierce through dust no matter how thick 
So I'll make my stand 
And remain as I am 
And bid farewell and not give a damn

Wednesday, 3 October 2018

Painting of the Month (84) Oct 2018: Mont St Victoire

Have you ever wondered why artists continued to paint after the invention of the camera? After all, the camera would have depicted scenes like the one below with great accuracy. It 'never lies', does it?
Photograph of Mont Saint Victoire overlooking Aix-en-Provence, France

However, the camera cannot easily capture mood, atmosphere, feeling or imagination. The French artist, Paul Cezanne returned many times throughout his career to re-paint this view over and again and he found something new to say about it almost every time. I don't want to say anymore now because I want the visual to be dominant in this post. Just luxuriate in the beauty of the paintings below here...

I'm listening to the original version of Rivers of Babylon by the Jamaican reggae group The Melodians. 
You can listen here. I like it loud!

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

Don't Take A Fence

'Don’t Take A Fence' by Paul Curtis.

Don’t Take A Fence

My uncle John the fence died

When I heard I felt quite sorry

It was poetic justice though

As he fell off the back of a lorry
Copyright © Paul Curtis. All Rights Reserved

This is a lovely little poem which may need some explaining for non-English readers. In Wales 'John the fence' would be a man who erected fences; in England and elsewhere it would be a man who received stolen goods.
And in British English (I'm not sure about elsewhere - please let me know), something that 'fell off the back of lorry' means it was stolen so I can sell it to you cheaply!
I'm listening to the wonderful John Prine singing his own song, the achingly sad, Hello in There. He was past his best in this live recording but still has the power to convey a moving story. You can listen here.
There are also good versions by Bette Midler and Joan Baez.