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The Deafening Silence

View from Spring Hall

After nearly three years living at the end of the road one of the things that we try not take for granted is the silence. Yes, we will always have the birds and their season songs but, with the exception of bleating lambs and the occasional rumble of farm machinery, it’s quite easy to while away the day listening to the pin point of nothing. Time disappears into silence. Without the passing of modern life we frequently prove to ourselves the hopelessness of body clocks and sun charts. During days off the run of life quickly returns to the elements of sleep, hunger and, of course, children.

We have also come to ridicule the weather forecast. Our place on the Pennines is just eight miles south west of Huddersfield yet any similarity with the weather conditions of this grand town stops with the shape of the clouds. As children we would make expeditions to ‘town’ wrapped as though we were Arctic explorers only to be met by strangers wearing jumpers and trainers. Return journeys would be spent re-dressing in the condensed air of the 352 bus in readiness to be evacuated at the West Slaithwaite turning circle where the road would turn white.

Today, the seven am text message that shattered the silence proved that the weatherman had, for once, got it right. School is closed read the first from juniors. Then came the infants and finally the high school; heavy snow had been forecast and heavy snow had landed. The children retreated back to their rooms as we laid in the warmth just looking at the milk white view. Nothing moved; the world was silent again.

The snow reminds me of our days at Rotcher in nearby Slaithwaite where the neighbouring Trans Pennine railway challenged the rural idyll. I used to watch the passing trains and catch glimpses of the passengers; all the passing people journeying, going somewhere. The sound of passing trains became almost comforting: sounds of people; of life still turning. When the trains stopped during heavy snow the silence became almost deafening, almost awkward in the rooms but, strangely, as the snow thawed we would mourn the loss of the silence.

Today is a snow day and that means cancel all plans and enjoy.

Today also sees the publication of a new poem on the poetry and prose webzine, Ink, Sweat and Tears. Threadbare has been described as a poem that will haunt you and, whilst it is a challenging piece of work, there are some universal themes to explore. You can find out more at http://www.inksweatandtears.co.uk.

The snow day has secretly put on hold good intentions to sit down with the recently arrived art book, Gloaming by artist and musician, Keaton Henson. If you’ve not already come across Keaton then I would urge you to explore his website at http://www.keatonhenson.com. Keaton’s 2012 album Dear was almost the one that got away but thankfully social media knocked on the door and the track, You Don’t Know How Lucky You Are is quickly heading towards the most played list.

Another book recently arrived that will have to wait is Paul Muldoon’s new collection, Songs and Sonnets. This is a fascinating collection challenging the concept of song lyric as poetry. For more information see http://www.enitharmon.co.uk.

Now back to writing and painting avoidance techniques part one. Just for fun and exploration, here’s a snow inspired playlist to enjoy.

Run – Snow Patrol
Wintered – Songs of Green Pheasant
Snow Borne Sorrow – Nine Horses
Sky Starts Falling – Doves
Silent Hedges – Bauhaus
White Blank Page – Mumford and Sons
Blowin’ in the Wind – Bob Dylan
Winter Birds – Ray LaMontagne
Snow (Hey Oh) – Red Hot Chilli Peppers
The Snows – Pentangle

I had considered Snowballed by AC/DC as an extra track but the silence was waiting.

The Hawthorn Halls

At the bottom of my digital music library (ITunes) is a fact: somewhere hidden amongst the plastic and wires is 20.2 days of music. This currently equates to 6883 items, i.e. songs. Added to this there are also a number of songs (lots) that are currently dangling their feet from an imaginary cloud waiting for the celestial power of flesh and nail to zip them back to Dell.

It’s a slow process.

The fact that a majority of the collection is currently playing at rain makers is due, largely, to a catastrophic fault on the eight year old Dell earlier in the year. There had been some clues. The old box laptop had been coughing, spluttering and wheezing for sometime before lines began to appear across the screen; multicoloured effects that in some ways enhanced the hypnotic monochrome world of Word. Then the fatal day arrived. I pressed to start and waited for the familiar whirr and bleep. Nothing. The machine scratched at life: echoes of intelligence filtered out from within the plastic walls in the form of sounds that resembled a bicycle tyre on tarmac. After much tapping and shaking a soulless curser appeared, like a blind eye, and blinked from the top right hand corner amid the sea of blackness. I had to face the fact, Dell was gone. The machine had bowed out, declined its seat at the table and taken its leave.

With the death of Dell came a sudden realisation: back-up! In the old days there was always tomorrow and now yesterday, to quote Paul, seemed so far away. With the machine’s passing also went my email, documents, accounts (to show a loss, of course), contact lists, pictures (only work, fortunately), word documents and, most importantly, the music library or to give it its proper title, The Hawthorn Halls. There was also the liberation from social media which, for those of you who have recently received friend requests may have guessed, didn’t last too long.
The Hawthorn Halls had taken eight years to create. Not only that, after digitalising the hard goods, albums and CDs were placed into piles titled ‘Keeper’ or ‘EBay’. My purple seller star was suddenly beginning to seem like an expensive fashion accessory.

With the receipt of New Dell came the sudden realisation that all was not lost. During the festive period of 2011, Apple had managed (I must have been drunk) to get twenty plus pounds off me in return for a piece of cloud. Thank you, Apple. And so began the laborious task of re-down loading the collection. I am approximately half way through so have had to pay for another year of cloud busting but, hey ho.

With the creation of The Hawthorn Halls comes the knowledge that there are songs and artists who I either can’t recall or who I haven’t listened to, ever. So to put things right, I’ve reversed my preferences and started the game of zero roulette. The intention is to share this fun and point you in the direction of an artist or band that I stumble across each week.

This week’s song, which was a single of the week (free) back in early 2009, is Sometime Around Midnight by The Airborne Toxic Event. Have a look at their website at http://www.theairbornetoxicevent.com/ It turns out the band are quite big in the States.

Now, how to back-up?

An Ending, a Beginning (part 1)

With the solstice passing thoughts turn to new growth and light. I’m speaking about daylight, of course, the type of daylight that will soon begin to stretch into the weak hours of the day and, if you can shelter from the cutting North Easterlies that will slowly begin to warm the skin and the soul.

There is always an amount of optimism for the new at this time of year, albeit that the view from the window does detract me from my plans a little. With the house hanging to the edge of Wessenden Moor, we spent yesterday watching horizontal rain whilst entertaining friends. Today it’s a case of surveying the damage after last night’s terrifying 100 mph winds before venturing for a hill walk with George (George is the eldest who happens to be an Explorer Scout and in charge of today’s walk – I’ve just declined Black Hill).

Thank goodness for the bottles of Black Sheep and red wine otherwise last night’s sleep may have been little more difficult. Although the roof sounded to be taking flight at several points throughout the night I’m quite amazed to find that it’s only the smaller chicken hut (empty) in the garden that seems to have suffered any lasting damage. This hut is used as field hospital should any of the birds start feeling sorry for themselves but I’m pleased to say that together with Carsten the Cockerel, they all seem well in their larger home, albeit a bit moody in the wet.

I say amazed by the lack of damage because I’m constantly surprised by my own building skills when it comes to the roof. I’m sure that if I’d taken the usual steps of paying builders large amounts of money to re-build and re-slate the roof then I wouldn’t give it a second thought but because a) I don’t have any money and b) I like a challenge, then the roof is like a fourth child; something that I nurtured into life and, like a child, constantly worry about. No doubt in thirty years when it’s time to re-do the roof then I’ll have become a little more relaxed about the whole thing.

So let’s return to the start. Whilst this is a time for new plans and setting personal challenges for the year ahead, it’s also a good point in the proceedings to take time out and reflect over the year that is beginning to fade away. I don’t like lists or top tens or what was best as generally they are meaningless – just look at the music charts – but I do like to look back and consider what’s been good and perhaps, not so good.

Outside of the normal humdrum there are aspects of life and culture that, let’s face it, make life and culture worthwhile. The focus of this site does give some clues but in the main it’s art, literature and music. So, in no particularly order, here are some of the highs of the year.

In early December I began to notice a curious thing: the emergence of a favourite publisher. Stuck between the Fabers and Penguins on the shelves usually reserved for ‘keepers’ were spines adorned with the letter S. It’s possibly no surprise that Salt has begun to take up more and more room on my bookshelves with the release of John Siddique’s excellent Full Blood in 2011 followed this year by John McCullough’s moving poetry collection, The Frost Fairs, Helen Ivory and George Szirtes fascinating collection, In Their Own Words and, last but not least the novel that demands to be read in one sitting and then read again, Alison Moore’s The Lighthouse. I need a bigger shelf!

Other highlights on paper included Simon Armitage’s Walking Home and the poignant and sometime heartbreaking poetic sequence, Black Roses.

Late summer saw The Rialto publication of Jen Campbell’s bridge pamphlet, The Hungry Ghost Festival which quickly became one of my favourite collections as did Sam Riviere’s startling 81 Austerities. Other highlights in the poetic world included Glyn Maxwell’s original master class, On Poetry, Tom Chivers’ hugely entertaining, Adventures in Form and Jo Haslam’s new collection, On the Kiso Road published by Templar Poetry.

Away from the mysterious world of black form on white page I stumbled across the one that nearly got way. Found hiding in a long lost packing box marked, ‘Books from Bedroom’, I was delighted to re-discover Markus Zusak’s breathtaking novel, The Book Thief. I would urge anyone to read this novel.

Finally in the book world, Mike Scotts’s engaging ramble through a life in music in Adventures of a Waterboy brought back some fabulous memories, including hiring This Is the Sea for 25 pence from Marsden Library in 1985. Strangely, through reading the book it dawned on me that Mike Scott had pretty much sound tracked my life. From the illicit press to play recording of The Pan Within (don’t worry, I’ve since bought it on three separate formats) that wafted through the studios at Highfields Art College to a wedding blessed with the raggle taggle of, A Man is in Love and then to the now with the foolhardy heart of poet writing to the songs of Mr Yeats, The Waterboys have been a constant, albeit unassuming, companion.

An Evening with Mr Yeats by The Waterboys was one of the live music highlights of the year. To be fair, there wasn’t that many. It seems the thirst for cider and festivals is becoming unquenchable to a point that unless you like standing alongside one hundred thousand other people in a muddy field then between June and September, sorry, no show. We did, however, succumb to Mumford and Sons, Gentlemen of the Road stopover in Huddersfield and were surprised by how much better they played in a muddy field as opposed to the Academy where we last saw them.

We like to see acts before they get too big for their boots and in February we fluked it again. It’s what we call our Damien Rice moment. The moment is named from a Valentine gift I gave to Amanda some years ago to see a little known singer/song writer in Manchester. It was February the 14 and the show was, you guessed, Damien Rice. Anyone who’s had the pleasure of seeing Damien since will know what happened. Our socks where lost, our heads a shed. This year Ben Howard took the mantle at the Leeds Met. The album was good – the show was great. It was the highlight of the year until we got a strange call from our friends, Rosie and Steve.

Abigail Washburn would be doing a small show in the barn at their Marsden farm and would we like to come. Now to put things in perspective, Abigail plays cities and festivals not Pennine villages. But Rosie had hit on the great idea of offering her favourite musicians board and lodgings amongst all the totally locally permaculture goodness whilst on tour to stave off the hotel demons in return for a little fund raiser. The show was magical and afterwards Abigail and Kai where joined by members of Bellowhead and Lady Maisery on the hay bales where, beneath a full August moon, folk music fiddled out into the air to mix with the wood smoke from the pizza ovens until each of our children finally gave in and we walked home through the late summer morning. Magical.

Lady Maisery headlined in a similar fashion later in November and suddenly we felt like we were beginning to witness part of folk history. Cue, Dylan.

Other musical highlights released this year (and in no particular order) include:

The Maccabees – Given to the Wild
Andy Burrows – Company
Tim Burgess – Oh no I Love You
Kate Rusby – 20
Beach House – Bloom
Richard Hawley – Standing at the Sky’s Edge
We Are Augustines – Rise Ye Sunken Ships
First Aid Kit – The Lion’s Roar
Band of Horses – Mirage Rock
Calexico – Spiritoso
Dry the River – Shallow Bed
Mumford and Sons – Babel
The Lumineers – The Lumineers

And looking forward with an uneasy eye on the credit card to Fossil Collective, Kodaline and back again for 2013, Embrace!
The keener eyed observers will notice that there has been no mention of films or theatre in this cultural round up of good things. Well, so be it. But just for some balance I’m staring at an unopened DVD of Searching for Sugar Man. It’s an uplifting and astonishing piece of poetics retelling an amazing musical. I can’t wait!

Finally, special mention for the Reflected Lines project at Hebden Bridge. Here, John Siddique has written a series of thought provoking Haiku that are displayed in thirteen locations around the town. Hebden Bridge suffered devastating floods in late summer and with most shops being small and independent the effects were far reaching. The trail aims to encourage visitors back to the town to see for themselves how the shops are bouncing back. The trail runs up to the 6 January, take a visit if you can.
Still in the Pennines, another special mention for Andy Hemingway at ahgphotography.co.uk. Andy’s landscape images of the Pennines and the Dark Peak provide a magical window that so few people experience. Please take a look at the galleries on his web site.

So, with light and magic we proceed.

All the best,

David.

Hello World

Welcome to my blog; my new internet home.

It’s designed to be a space where I can share ideas, stories and information on new releases and publications. You may also get the odd photograph but that’s entirely down to whether I remember the camera.

The site is also a chance for me to publicise ‘The Walk’. This is The Cotton Grass Appreciation Society. Please see the Cotton Grass page for more information.

Enjoy!

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