Tuesday, 1 January 2013

And there they were – gone

Well, that's another shockingly unproductive year out of the way.  Started it with my leg in plaster, then we had a Summer to forget, Autumn saw Howard strapped up with a mangled knee, and December had me strapped up less severely with a less serious version of the same injury (damaged knee ligaments and bruising on the bone).

So 2012 - be off with you.  Personally you were a let down, even though there were some positive moments.

I just haven't been inspired enough to write anything new for so long.  Last time I managed to post, I was wondering about how the Olympics would impinge on my day to day life.  I have to say it hardly affected me.  If anything, transport was better.  None of the usual hold-ups causing me to miss my connections to and from work.  But as soon as everything was over and the visitors had left, the daily nonsense of two minute delays, roadworks and over-crowded short trains started again.  Note to assorted bus & train companies - people visit London all the time.  If you can run a reliable service for six weeks in Summer, you can do so 52 weeks of the year.

Performance wise, the Olympics were great. Starting with the at times bewildering opening ceremony and ending with the inspiring closing of the Paralympics - in particular the Druid call to celebrate the seasons, I went from cynical observer to diligent watcher.  That still doesn't forgive some of the horrors of the Olympic closing ceremony mind.  The sporting performances were special too - from established names (Wiggins, Bolt, Weir, Ennis), lesser known stalwarts (the British Dressage teams, when suddenly everyone know their Passage from their Piaffe) to new stars like Johnny Peacock.  Special mention to a certain horse - Trinidad - who made her below average riders in the Modern Pentathalon seem competent.

But it's over for another 4 years.  It was a pleasing sideshow, but the real world goes on.

The real world included a shocking excuse for a Summer, when the only thing that grew to any level of satisfaction were my salad leaves.  OK, it's nice to pick your own home grown salad for your lunch each day, but it would be nice to have tomatoes, beans and potatoes too, to name but a few crops that failed dismally this year.  The past three months have been so wet that we more or less gave up trying to get to the allotment due to regular flood risks over there, and the back garden path is a good 6 inch thick with wood chips to such up moisture.  The hens have been moulting on or off since October, and only one has come back into lay.  For the first time in three years, we had to buy eggs.

But we're not giving up.  This is a low point - we can build from it.

The rumbling panic over the date 21st December 2012 – talk of the Mayan calendar ending on this date built as time got closer.  Assorted doom and gloom merchants took advantage of this, imagining various catastrophic scenarios.  When we didn't fall off the edge of their flat earth, it started being a "symbolic" end, and veiled threats of major upheavals took over.  Well, as these types are often the same ones who think the moon landings took place in a film studio and other such garbage, a word sounding a little like symbolic comes to mind.

But the 22nd December DID see the end of an era.

That night, The Soundtrack of Our Lives played their final live show.  They may not have been the commercially biggest band in the world, but in my eyes they were among the mightiest.

I was first introduced to their music at a time when I was at my lowest ebb – Summer of 1996 - in between jobs and just diagnosed with epilepsy, my mood following my frequent hospital appointments was lightened by popping in to see my fiends at Heavenly Records.  On one of these visits I was given a copy of a record by a band that St. Etienne had heard whilst recording in Sweden .  And that is how I came to have one of the first copies of Welcome To The Infant Freebase in the UK .

I took it home and listened to it from start to finish. It was a timeless mix of rock, psychedelia, a touch of prog and folk.  Everything I liked, performed with utmost confidence, skill and not a little humour.  I was hooked immediately.

Strangely enough, a matter of days later, I met Nigel Cross, original editor of legendary music publication Bucketful of Brains, who was brandishing a copy of the LP, having seen the band in Berlin, and realised that I would be interested in them. I thanked him and said I already had the record.  Even though this was to most ears a new band (albeit formed from the ashes of another celebrated Swedish band Union Carbide Productions) he wasn't at all surprised that someone had already got me interested.

Seeing them live, you came to realise what a tight unit they were, musically and as bandmates.  They didn't play the UK much, but I got to see them as much as possible.  Their last UK show was in September, the day after Howard damaged his knee.  He turned up at the venue strapped up and on crutches, which allowed us to be given a spot close up to the stage.  It was a great, emotional night, with singer Ebbot morphing from rock guru into mighty shaman.  The final song, Instant Repeater 99, ended with the band taking a bow at the from of the stage.  More than a few middle aged men were reduced to tears by the sight.

Thanks to modern technology, and in particular YouTube, I can relive the night whenever I want.

Ah well - must keep going.  Spent this afternoon at the allotment for the first time in a couple of months.  Mostly filling up compost and leaf mould bins, but also reacquainting myself with the lie of the land, envisaging a fully productive plot once again, and trying not to be overwhelmed by the task in hand.

Three months until Easter.  Let's see what progress can be made by then.