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Monthly Archives: January 2021


The knee injury put a cap on my fitness regime.

Thirty months later though, and I ‘m much recovered – I can stand, I can walk, cycle and do most day-to-day things. But endogenous repair only goes so far, I can’t hit the bag, can’t spar, no way I can torque on my knee to put any power into my hits. I can’t even shadow box without next-day issues. I thought about taking up judo as an alternative, but lockdown aside, I can’t properly bend my knee, so even grappling is an issue.


So, I have weights. Not big weights, but I do lots of them. And though I can’t run, I can jog up and down the stairs, which is unexpectedly exhausting, in a good way. I’ve discovered that the trick is to look at what I can do, not what I can’t. And it works.

But still, I love hitting the bag, I love sparring. There’s no buzz like it.

I can dream.


riding shotgun in the sky


Today, I came across the venerable genius David Crosby on a tiny desk concert, playing with The Lighthouse Band. Really enjoyed it, the harmonies, as you would expect, were glorious. He even sang Woodstock, written by his ex, Joni Mitchell.

But I can’t help but think the hippies blew it. Their message of peace, love and understanding was great, but the righteous student protestors of 1960s America never grasped that their message was built on freedoms won at the point of a bayonet, not given out automatically along with their degree certificates. The hippies were myopically self-indulgent* in way you can only be at time of great wealth and security.

I align with Johnny Rotten when it comes hippies.

But still, I love David Crosby’s music.



*Easy Rider, for example, is a mess of a movie. It’s as pointless, though admittedly iconic, as the un-rideable motorbikes they pose on. It’s ‘Plan 9 from Outer Space’ level bad, on Harleys, with a great soundtrack.  It’s only rescued by Jack Nicholson’s lightning-in-a-bottle performance as Hanson.


In Bb

I’m amazed that the In Bb project is still going. Every time you engage, the music is different.

In internet terms, the site is archaic, but it’s magical too, and it points to a time when the internet still had unlimited potential, when it was one vast frontier, when our approach to this digital New World was still analogue.

And while I’m talking of Bb, here’s a tune that has ‘In Bb’ in the lyrics.

blue note

The lockdown doesn’t impact on my life as a writer, in fact it gives me more time than I had before, so if there is an impact, it’s positive. But I also play saxophone and, save for one concert, during the brief lockdown interregnum, I haven’t played live for almost a year.

Even my practice room in a local church hall is closed for the duration.

I can’t wait for the chance to play again. I don’t play in bands any more, the noise of cranked guitars was making me deaf, but I love busking in Durham and Newcastle. Plus, per hour, it’s a lot better than minimum wage , so it gives me a bit of spare cash.

Writing is a long-term thing, and the pay-off, if it comes, can be a year or two or even five down the road. Playing street saxophone on the other hand, is live, people react immediately, and while most just ignore you, some sing along or dance, and some stop me for a chat. One girl, a month or two before the lockdown, stood for ages, just listening, then began to cry – I like to think she was enjoying it rather than merely crying in pain. I’ve had musicians, smack-heads, whiskey priests and smart, elderly ladies pay me compliments. Little children sometimes wave from their pushchairs. Though to be fair, the smack-head got annoyed when I wouldn’t share my takings, and some children begin to wail in fear when they hear me.

Whatever, the reaction is instantaneous, and I like it. Even if someone isn’t directly listening to you, there’s a reaction – if you see a romantic couple walking by holding hands and you play the opening notes from The Look of Love, and you can see them squeeze their hands together for a moment, without even thinking, and that’s extremely rewarding from a human point of view. You’re contributing to the atmosphere of the place, which is the role of a musician.

And that’s before I get to the joy I experience just making noise. That joy, when I hit the zone where I’m no longer consciously thinking about what I’m playing, is awesome in its power.

busking, saxophone,



I’m a huge fan of classical pianist Nahre Sol. Watching her gamely take on jazz, blues and other musical genres, following her intellectual, thoughtful and gifted process of learning a different musical language, is both enlightening and great fun.

This is something she wrote as part of challenge from Adam Neely, to create piece of music in the Locrian scale. It’s quite beautiful and I only wish it lasted longer.



It bears repeating.


All stories are about redemption, or the abyss.




It’s been dull skies for a month or two now.

So this morning, as the sun is shining for the first day in weeks, I thought I’d lift my mood by writing with the sun blazing in through the windows. But the sun is so low in the skies, it’s shining straight into my eyes and I can barely see the keyboard.

As problems go, that’s pretty first-world.

I can live with it.


I was lamenting the eager obsolescence of my 3310, and feeling a bit sorry for all the features it has, albeit slow and limited, that I’ll never use.

I don’t mind not using my old iPhone – I only keep it switched on so the family can whatsapp me and, weirdly, it still works without a SIM card – because although apple products are very functional, the company has a serious whiffiness about it. I won’t be buying any more apple products this side of a Chinese sweatshop giving all its staff European level minimum wage and holidays.

So that’ll be a while…

My ideal phone would be a 3310 with a rotary dial. In fact it’d be less, something that only makes or takes calls, the kind of phone that your gran used in 2007, the one with big buttons, before she got her Samsung and took up residence on FB.

My perfect phone – a crap-phone with a rotary dial, would have a memory consisting of a scrap of paper glued to the back for my top 5 numbers numbers. And no other functions.

Anyhow, I was feeling sad for my overly enthusiastic but barely used Nokia and I thought, why am I getting emotional over a brick phone? Then I realised I was getting a migraine and it all made sense.

the shakers – free kindle download

An early collection of short stories. Fragmented, evocative, urban, entirely human.

Free kindle download 21-25 January. Click image for link: