Thursday, 24 February 2022

Terminalia 2022

Is it just me, or does Terminalia seem to come round earlier each year?

Finding myself halfway between Peter Hammill and Henning Wehn, circumstance caused me to celebrate the festival in Scrobbesburh, which was especially exciting as the town was partly submerged as a result of storms Derek, Eric and Fuckwit arriving in a 6 day period. Rudimentary Internet research revealed the course of the largely pillaged town walls and so I advertised a circumnvagation, fully expecting a 25 minute solo perambulation. Imagine my surprise to find Andrew, Andy and Kate the Pipe ready to join me at the start.

Andrew knew a lot already, and we had the most marvellous document prepared by the Archaeology Data Service. Coupled with Kate's enthusiasm to engage everybody in conversation ("We're doing a tour for Terminalia ...") this turned into a much longer and really fascinating trip. I think we fulfilled all the aims of the celebration, and I don't recall us mentioning Brexit, Covid, or Ukraine once.

There's no secret about the tour, so anyone could do it. Just the odd picture may communicate the enthusiasm of the day:

  1. Fragments of the wall can be seen in many places, together with some intact sections. These were at their best when they were not really accessible and you had to take sneaky looks ... On the way (1), On the way (2); a secret bit; in a pub garden; a surviving, rather pretty, tower. God bless Kate Humphreys, although how did she come to own it in the first place?
  2. We met a very nice chap who owned property on the course of the wall; he had been very badly flooded but took a long time to explain to us how the area had once been.
  3. A collection of wall and other stones had been assembled near a very wet bridge. One was not of the local sandstone, but was very smooth volcanic rock. There is an unflattering picture of Kate smoothing it a little further.
  4. Stopping for welcome refreshment, Kate showed us her current plan, which we followed as best we could.
  5. Throughout, we were awestruck at the quantity of water flowing down the Severn (more properly Afon Hafren, since it rises in mid-Wales) in the wake of Storms D, E and F. This picture fails to capture the awe: on a normal day, this shot would have had no water visible at all

I wonder where Terminalia 2023 will be observed.

Tuesday, 22 February 2022

H to He

To Manchester, to experience a much postponed concert by Peter Hammill's Van der Graaf Generator. Given the fellow's age (and mine), this is one of those experiences to slot in as soon as you reasonably can. Fate, in the form of Storms Derek, Eric, and Fuckwit nearly intervened, but it was OK in the end.

The trip also took in the valedictory running of Blake's 52More Score #10, and a celebration of Terminalia 2022, both of which are detailed elsewhere.

This trio that has been playing together for ... err ... 54 years so we needn't be surprised at a very polished show. There's no doubt that the absence of a saxophone left a saxophone shaped hole where a saxophone ought to be, but they rang the changes rather well. Having been unfairly tarred with the "prog" label, they managed to dip toes in quite a range of genres, and the man's voice has lost none of its power and almost none of its range. A very few imprecisions, but hey - that's why you go to hear people live.

It tells you something that they didn't play any of Killer, Man Erg or A plague of lighthouse keepers - they have quite a songbook to choose from. For this reviewer, Scorched Earth was the standout. The setlist is at setlist.fm.

Hammill and Fripp are part of a generation - I believe they get on well together. In contrast to the lip-zipped Fripp, Hammill was happy to banter. Pausing for an interval he noted "It's quiet when it stops, isn't it?"

I think the jury is out on which of VdGG's albums is most memorable/influential/best but it's inquitous to compare stuff released in the 21st century with that from over 50 years ago. From early days, it's hard to better Pawn Hearts[1], but my introduction to all this was in Pat's back room and H to He, whereat I first met the proton-proton fusion reaction. In preparation for the gig, I chose to manufacture my own merchandise by customising a black hoodie thus

I think this all worked rather well, even if it does undermine the principle of bands selling massively overpriced garments at their pension fund boosting gigs.

[1] Pawn Hearts, wherefrom Man Erg. How well known is it that this synchronises wonderfully with Buñuel's Un Chien Andalou? Check it out.

Friday, 19 November 2021

Muad'Dib

Some years ago - more than 50 in fact - I read an SF book, probably on my friend Jonathan's recommendation, that I found to be rather good. Predictably, there were sequels of monotonically decreasing merit and I wisely stoppped after the first such.

Attempts to film this story have either foundered or been poorly received, and none of my shekels have been diverted to viewing any of them. This year, the most recent such attempt has been well received so we went to give it a spin this week. Yes, it was rather good.

One of the absolute highlights has to be Leto being ceremonially led onto Arrakis by a bagpiper, but the quality of the thing actually pervades: the visualisation of the various worlds is good enough to make you think "yes, it was like this", and - modulo 50 year forgetting interval - I think it was remarably faithful to the text. There were too many details to capture, but I think I noticed them using both metric and Imperial distance measures (didn't the 'thopter have to rise more than 5000ft?), which is admirable. And the worms were pretty good, leaving a lot to look forward to in the [predictable] sequel.

Before I saw it I chatted with a 15yo friend who told me he had seen it, and that he had read the book. I told him I was his age when I read it, which I rather liked. In retrospect, perhaps I was spoiled because I came to expect that all SF was of the quality that Herbert, Brunner and Trout generated, but this is false.

Tuesday, 22 June 2021

Score #10

I subscribe to the Walking Artists' Network, which is ironic as I am not an artist and find much walking constrained by circumstances. Anyway, therein Blake Morris solicited participation in his 52 More project. Ever one to jump first and look second, I said "why not?".

Blake explains all this very well himself so I won't duplicate: suffice to say that I synthesised a score as

  • Always move away from the restrictive
  • the passage of time investigates — rather than celebrates
  • find materials to make an old-fashioned archive and check the accuracy by touching something
or, if you prefer, here is the original in cut-ups:

Blake and I will perform this on the last Tuesday of every month until Terminalia (23rd February, as usual - the last outing will be 22nd February). He suggests an invitation be sent to anyone interested, and so over a period of months we cannot fail to collect an old fashioned archive of some interest.

So join in. Blake will be pleased to hear from you.

Monday, 24 May 2021

Building a coracle

We spent the last weekend building a coracle at Gorfanc. Haven't had so much fun in ages. Gorfanc is an idyllic spot near Carno with lots of lovely things to do, hosted by Pippa and Rob. If you enjoy sleepless uncomfortable nights, you can camp (some people like camping - not me guv'nor).

Here is how you make a coracle (the pictures which follow imply that H did all the work - not so. She will produce a much better blogpost that has pictures of me doing things):

  1. Acquire lots of long thin bits of willow. If they are dry, soak them.
  2. Rob will provide you with a seat plank. Put it on the ground and poke 4 willows into its prepared holes.
  3. Poke 24 more willow sticks into the ground according the the Magic Measuring Sticks you will be gven.
  4. Say hello to Pippa when she comes round (often) to check you haven't made a total pig's ear of anything.
  5. Remove the seat. Start to weave between the poles, according to the instructions you have been given.
  6. Pop the seat back in, and do lots more weaving according to instructions. When finished, take an arty shot of your workpersonship with 2 (two) shadows.
  7. Listen carefully to Pippa's instructions to how to bend the poles over. Then do it. The resulting hoops have to be the same height and curvature. And the willow mustn't snap. Tricky!
  8. Do more tricky bending.
  9. Tie special string around the crissy-crossy bits.
  10. Survey the field of inverted part-made coracles: easily mistaken for a neolithic cemetery.
  11. Detach the coracle from the planet. Notice it looks like a boat when you invert it.
  12. Over coffee, watch a demonstration of paddling technique. Then try it.
  13. Find the immense roll of calico, and measure out a stretch big enough to shroud your colander.
  14. Following instructions, spend a long time sewing the calico over the basket weaving (yeah, all the effort that went into beautiful weaving is now invisible). Unskilled sewers will leave traces of blood all over the calico, facilitating later DNA identification.
  15. Put your coracle in the boot of your car (notice how easily it fits), and drive it home.
  16. At a later date, when the weather is dry (yeah, right), apply bitumen paint to the underside to effect waterproofing of the calico.
Say farewell to a terrific bunch of people and hosts. Take a small detour to try out paddling someone else's coracle on real water. H will provide you with a video of this ... Take care to grab a picture of the super VR wall box near the old Carno post office.
Hope to met Pippa and Rob again. If there's a following wind, I may even buy some bees from them.

Sunday, 4 April 2021

In search of Plasbâch

The Easter weather being clement, I decide to take the new bike out in search of a fine George V lamp box at Plasbâch. All catalogues of the nation's postboxes report it is somewhere between Llangwyryfon and Llandeiniol but you never know quite where.

Some considerable time with Google Streetview failed to reveal a precise location. In desperation, I turn to the National Library of Scotland's very considerate Internet provision of archive OS maps. On the 1906 series, Plasbâch appears at Lat/Long (52.32367,-4.08583) (or GR SN5795271894 if you prefer), [click to enlarge]

while on the succeeding 1953 series map it has disappeared,
so no surprise that I cannot find it on a 21st century map. Back to Streetview with these co-ordinates and if you have the eyes of a hawk you can just see it tucked into a rather overgrown hedge (go on, have a look for it yourself). Bingo.

On arrival, of Plasbâch there is no sign on the ground whatever: close by is a rather later property. Nevertheless, the box is there and at a very jaunty angle to the horizontal indeed. Someone taking note of HMHB, the hedge has been cut. I can't believe many envelopes get stuck in this fella, so catch it while you can.

Just up the road is a much easier to find George VI
where there is also an impromptu shop

Saturday, 27 February 2021

Swyddfa'r post ar gau

With Mark Drakeford's permission, I escorted my birthday present up to Banc Y Darren to visit the very best postbox within cycling distance of my home. Strictly speaking, the present escorted me.

The condition of the Banc Y Darren sundial has deteriorated since my last visit. I can't believe it ever worked very well.

And thence via the precipitous gated road to Goginan to fill a gap in the ongoing survey of SY23 boxes.

This box is midway between the much loved but currently closed Druid Inn, and the old chapel that used to be the Goginan Post Office.

Swyddfa'r post ar gau. Tafarn ar gau.