Monday 10 October 2022

Two things

Two things I have just learned:
  1. A very rare instance of a Welsh word finding its way into English: penguin. originally, of course, pen-gwyn - white head. Except penguins have black heads.
  2. A committee is sitting in the Vatican considering what to do if and when extra-terrestial intelligence makes itself known to us. Of course, there is but the one God for the entire unverse, but it's not clear whether JC is Saviour of the human race, or all intelligent races. Either way, there will be a need for some sort of evangelism, post discovery. Tricky.
These things wre discovered during the most recent Offa expedition, a worthy project interrupted for 2.5 years by, you guessed it, Covid-19. This leg was from Four Crosses to Trefonen, which - on paper - was "just another leg" but as ever in reality turned out to be stunning. Flat bits, up bits, down bits, view bits, golf courses ... I could go on.

Inter alia, we saw

  • Evidence that Offa got the boundary between Wales and Lloegr in the right place.
  • Views to left and right. Or right and left if you're going the other way.
  • Many fungi. One of our number said he knew which were which, and he is still alive.
  • The Montgomery Canal.
  • Evidence that Oswestry was once railway central.

Culminating with a pretty VR wall box as we relocated our transport.

We are now more than 2/3 of the way up - here we come, Prestatyn.

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

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.