GOD. to Good Man

WE have touched before on this journey about how certain songs can transport you to places and times far away.

In a sense, that’s what this A-Z journey through my iPod is all about (apart from catching all the bits that have somehow hidden undiscovered), stumbling across tracks that spark something in my head vivid enough to jump out onto the page.

Many tracks have taken me back in time, to places from my travels or people encountered along the way. Ryan Adams  even summoned memories of a bank holiday kitchen clean and ongoing battles with an errant flatmate.

Goddess On A Hiway takes me back to two days on a sofa in a French ski resort.

Not just Goddess On A Hiway, the whole of Deserter’s Songs brings back a long 48 hours or so when venturing too far from the sofa, doubling as my bed in the small apartment for a week’s skiing on a budget, would have been far more of a challenge than any black run.

It had all been going pretty well for the first few days, exploring the pistes (limited, but enough for us) and the evening delights (seriously limited) of Val Cenis, not a resort as much as two strung-out villages on the valley floor lumped together under one marketing umbrella.

We’d investigated pretty much every bar (think we’d covered that on the first night), becoming regular enough visitors to have our favourite spot at the bar in the one nearest the apartment. Next to the bloke who operated one of the lifts having his late-night pastis.

Food options were not that much more plentiful and we had revisited the one main option – small, rustic, nice tartiflette – before heading to the quiz night arranged by the various reps in the resort to bring their various clients together.

And just as we were waiting for the questions to start, it became obvious that maybe the tartiflette was not quite so agreeable to my system and it was a quick sprint – very quick, considering my health, state of fitness and the icy roads – back to the apartment.

Will spare you the details, suffice to say it was a double-edged impact through a long night (and no doubt very unpleasant one for the person sharing the facilities with me) and many ski trips later have still not managed to face another tartiflette.

But it did leave me on a sofa listening to Mercury Rev for a couple of days.

There was another album on the flip side. Pretty sure it was The Bends. The years don’t quite add up, but my cassette version did play slow so pretty good chance it got taped onto a C90 – part of the routine ahead of each new year ski trip.

Along with my back giving way and a trip to osteopath.

Had thought it might be Grandaddy’s Sophtware Slump, but too early. That must have been the soundtrack for another ski trip, Livigno if my chronology is right.

It was definitely Deserter’s Songs in Val Cenis. And it provided the soundtrack to reading Douglas Coupland’s Girlfriend In A Coma.

The Smiths may have provided the title – as briefly glimpsed in the previous post – but rarely can a book and an album have been created to work so well together. At least for a bloke feeling rather sorry for himself on a French sofa.

There is a theme running through the album of leaving (walking away according to front man Jonathan Donahue), but more of a mood which fits in with Coupland’s eco tale  of unexpected second chances and sacrifice – both personal and global.

If somebody ever makes a film of the book and does not use Deserter’s Songs – NME’s album of the year in 1988, when it is was still relevant and worth consuming, but we’ll get to that in the next post – is missing a trick.

It is not the only album or C90 that brings back memories of a holiday, a rather different one to the Greek island of Zakynthos soundtracked by the wondrous Doolittle by the Pixies and the eponymous debut from The Violent Femmes.

There’s tales to tell – just not here – about moussaka, suppositories, darts and girls from Blackpool to the sound of Black Francis and Gordon Gano, who popped up twice on this latest stretch of my iPod from Kendrick Lamar (see, it’s not all “white boys with guitars” to quote John Peel) to Eileen Rose with Gone Daddy Gone and Good Feeling.

There’s also been contributions from a couple of acts installed on this summer’s gig list, actually on the same night in (bizarrely) an arboretum – God’s Footballer by Billy Bragg and Good As Gold by The Beautiful South (actually just two of the band at the gig, but you get my drift).

And there’s been plenty of stuff from people who crop up in my live history.

Echo &The Bunnymen were my first proper gig and are also on the list for the next few months (with full orchestra evidently) and we went right back to the early days with Going Up.

Seen Carter USM (Good Grief Charlie Brown) multiple times early in their career, courtesy of their habit of playing the Banana Club at Gloucester Guildhall, while saw Sugar twice inside a week.

Surprised my hearing had come back in time for the second gig, both of which were opened with the triple-headed assault from the start of the still great Copper Blue album of which A Good Idea sits in the middle (by which point was hopping around after standing on a pint glass in the mosh pit first time round).

Also saw REM twice in a week – a contender for best gig in Newport, not so much in the bigger surroundings of the NEC – and they popped up with Good Advice (not one of their best). Ryan Adams would also be high on the best gig list and he popped up with Gonna Make You Love Me.

The Wonder Stuff (supported by Ned’s Atomic Dustbin) would not be so high on the list, not just because of the effect on my ribs of being wedged against the barriers before spending a night shift pressure testing fuel injection systems. Not to be advised with sore ribs. They popped up with Golden Green.

Never got to see The Jam (not that old) who cropped up with Going Underground. but did see Buffalo Tom (who provided a cover) and judging by early hearings of their new album it may be time to end a long wait to repeat the experience.

Sadly, never got round to seeing Pavement (Gold Soundz, twice) or Super Furry Animals (Golden Retriever), but have sat across a Cardiff pub from various members of one of them on a few occasions.

Might even have been sat on a sofa.

photo by: eldh
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Girl From The North Country to God Save The Queen

Production journalist, endangered species, traveller, blogger, Gloucester rugby & Red Sox fan, indie kid turned melancholic Americano. Views partially obscured
@robglaws – Twitter profile

THE endangered species reference in my Twitter profile was partly a joke, partly a response to the latest round* of journalism redundancies and partly because… well, it’s true.

Anyone who spends their working life dealing with print rather than digital news these days can be excused for feeling like a dinosaur.

And if there was any doubt, somebody told me just that.

It was supposed to be a few drinks with old mates, back in Cardiff. It just happened to coincide with a leaving do at my old paper, so the old mates were supplemented with a fair few of a newer generation of journalists.

And many of them have known little else than a digital first approach to reporting the news (or at least whatever gets the requisite hits), so perhaps should have expected explaining my role in producing a physical product would provoke a question along the lines of ‘what’s it like to be a dinosaur?’.

The person involved was escorted to the bar for even more refreshment and those of us who have worked through the digital revolution from print deadlines to web hits were left shaking our heads and muttering something along the lines of forgetting more about journalism than he had learned.

But his words stuck with me. Is that the way the new breed look at those of us left in print only? Is that the way the powers that be see us when any future cuts are made? And are we really little but a relic of an era long gone?

Would certainly hope my skills do not consign me to extinction. Those skills learned over the years and views on journalism hewn through battles to hit deadlines and many an evening over a few beers when we all would have made top-class editors. Not even averse to producing something on a website…

There’s certainly a place for those skills, be it reporting or subbing whatever the platform they appear on. Best practice is just that, whether you are trying to tell an accurate, well-written tale on paper or on screen.

It is not for nothing we send out a weekly style guide to our reporters.

Or that reports are appearing of one newspaper operation that has come up with the novel idea of employing people to check copy before it goes on the website.

Employing subs, imagine that.

There is one aspect of my life where the dinosaur tag does sit pretty comfortably. Watching television.

It may seem odd to many people, but my viewing habits are largely based on the TV schedules.

Programmes sit unwatched for weeks, often months, on my recorded list (still refer to it as videoed or taped), even series that have had me gripped for a few episodes before missing one for some reason.

And the same is true of my Netflix subscription. There’s a lengthy list of (reasonably) carefully chosen films and programmes. Just rarely get round to watching them.

Call me old-fashioned, but there’s something right about the pace and routine of watching a series in weekly instalments rather than in one or two binges (usually late at night).

Even when there’s nothing on – Tottenham v Rochdale and the inane witterings of Robbie Savage (the personification of the trend to celebrate the inept) in the background is as good a reason to tap away here rather than delve into the delights of Netflix.

And if there’s one thing guaranteed to stop me from choosing that glittering box set, it is being told by any number of people that ‘you just have to watch it’.

Which is why that present of the first few series (that’s series, not season – one for the style guide) of Breaking Bad remains unwatched on DVD and Netflix.

And the box sets which will get me rambling in evangelical fashion (The West Wing and The Wire) were first watched, usually late at night in both cases, on TV and repeatedly on DVD. Not long completed a trawl through both terms of President Bartlet and the streets of Baltimore provided refuge on the journey around Africa.

But maybe times are changing. The dinosaur may just about be catching up with, well, catch up.

Long way to go on Game of Thrones (still in series two as keeps vanishing off Now TV, picked up on a free offer that seemed a good idea) and could well wrap up the first two series of the excellent Detectorists in the next few days – somehow only caught excerpts on initial showing.

And finally got round to watching Stranger Things. It took a while – the first episode watched before the second series had even started before watching every episode over the course of several weekend evenings.

Very good it was too and suggest the third series will be watched as it happens. Or somewhere close.

While much has been written about the music of Stranger Things as a bit of a nostalgia fest, not sure many of the 1980s offerings on the latest stroll through the A-Z journey on my iPod were to be heard on our visits to Hawkins (although an awful lot of my ’80s nostalgia does involve Winona Ryder).

Don’t remember too much by The Smiths (Girlfriend in a Coma), Half Man Half Biscuit (God Gave Us Life and Give Us Bubble Wrap) or The Wedding Present (four versions – live, Peel session, acoustic and original – of the still wonderful Give My Love To Kevin) soundtracking things the right way up nor upside down.

The latest section took us from Neil Young and Crazy Horse to… well, more Neil Young and Crazy Horse (well, the Sex Pistols’ song of the same name to be totally honest but the neatness appeals). and spanned the decades beyond the 1980s – from The Beach Boys (God Only Knows), the Pistols through Blur (Girls & Boys) and Black Box Recorder (Girl Singing In The Wreckage) to last year’s Travel Marmot album of the year by Public Service Broadcasting (Go To The Road).

But the two highlights came from the mighty John Grant. Impossible to pick which of Glacier and GMF to include on the playlist, so they are both there.

Enjoy. Just be aware, GMF does stand for what you think it might.

Been called worse.

  • *Not the last
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The Best of 2017

REGULAR readers may well have noticed one thing missing from the last post – assuming that is, they have read these two sister pieces in the right order.

For a blog that rattles on about music, it was sorely lacking from the last entry. But hey, this started out as a travel-writing site and there’s been precious little of that recently.

Time to address both issues – if losing weight and getting is the main aim for the 2018, more regular articles and travel posts is the second.

As for music, there’s a good reason there was no mention of the A-Z iPod challenge, mainly because it hadn’t got anywhere (before this weekend’s travel-laced trip to London) since we left it at Girl From Mars.

That’s mainly because my listening has been concentrating on another annual tradition, wading through albums which made the 2017’s finest lists but which never caught my eye.

Still investigating some of them, but time for the end result of my much belated list of 2017’s best albums

  • Album of the Year – Every Valley, Public Service Broadcasting

No surprise to anyone who has heard me banging on about it. There’s even a post all about it. Not an opinion shared by all – many plump for their previous album The Race for Space – but the often emotional journey through the history and suffering of mining communities is by far their most complete work, imbued with a heart lacking in previous efforts.

  • Surprisingly Close to Top Spot – Sleep Well Beast, The National

Giving Public Service Broadcasting top spot would have come out of the blue not that long ago, The National hot on their heels would have been an even bigger surprise. They have totally passed me by for years, despite the devotion of some very good musical judges.

This album changed that. Every listen has closed the gap to top spot. Who knows where we’ll be as time goes by – Drive-By Truckers emerged from the pack to be undoubted number one a year ago.

  • Discovery of the Year – Stranger In The Alps, Phoebe Bridgers

Not one that popped up on too many best of… lists, but did crop up enough to pique my interest. And boy, was it worth investing some time in, gatecrashing the top three of the year.

It’s far from perfect. Like many debut albums, it does slightly peter out but her voice, sheer honesty and some serious songwriting chops are enough to leave you wanting more – especially given the 1-2-3 punch of the opening salvo of  Smoke Signals (possibly song of the year which manages to reference The Smiths, Lemmy and Bowie in the course of five extraordinary minutes), the catchy Motion Sickness and the emotionally fraught Funeral.

Ever so slightly in love with her. One to watch.

  • Really Can’t Decide Album of the Year – The Nashville Sound, Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit

Could easily have dismissed as disappointment of the year, but probably doesn’t deserve that – having heard much of it live, reassessed it. It’s just not a patch on Isbell’s previous two offerings.

Think the problem is summed up in the title. His Americana storytelling has taken on too much of a Nashville sheen, sounding too country, too corporate Nashville, too Radio 2.

  • Rethink of the Year – Prisoner,  Ryan Adams

Nobody crops up more often on the A-Z journey through my iPod than Adams – with the possible exception of Dave Gedge – but on first couple of hearings, wasn’t expecting this to appear on an end-of-year lists.

But when it kept cropping up in the upper reaches, went back to a second look and, you know what, it’s better than first thought. Not perfect, certainly not a Heartbreaker (what is?), but his most complete offering for some time.

  • It’s Good But… of the Year – American Dream, LCD Soundsystem

Another which kept cropping up near the top of magazine lists – right at the top of more than one. Another band  that have only really skimmed past my consciousness. At their best, very good, but the fall off is quite quick.

Don’t think this hits the heights of North American Scum, New York I Love You or a few others, but consistently pretty good. Just not that good.

  • Tenuous Claim to Fame Award – Earl Grey, Girl Ray

It almost hurts me to criticise this (however much that is mixed with praise), having first met the singer, guitarist and main songwriter when she was just a few days old. And been the best man at her parents’ wedding (her mum’s in the video just up there and her dad is, in many ways, the godfather of the Travel Marmot).

And do really like a lot of it. Just can’t help thinking they’d have been better off waiting before putting out their debut album and flesh out their sound bit more.

Definitely ones to watch.

  • Collaboration of the Year Award – Lotta Sea Lice, Kurt Vile & Courtney Barnett

Had a brief obsession with Barnett when she first appeared on the scene. This one came out of leftfield but after a couple of listens makes perfect sense.

  • Worth A Listen, But It’s Not…. Award – Shared between a string of old favourites who returned with perfectly decent albums. Just not ones which ever emerged from the shadows of earlier classics.

Between them, At The Drive-In (who returned 17 years after the truly wonderful noise that is Relationship of Command with in ter a li a), The Shins (Heartworms), Grandaddy (Last Place) and Billy Bragg (Bridges Not Walls) have released some of my all-time favourite albums. Bit further down the list this year guys.

Nearest to recapturing former glories were Ride whose Weather Diaries was one of the year’s present surprises. That Arcade Fire’s Everything Now failed to spark was not that big a surprise.

  • Well Worth Seeking Out – Not the top echelon, but worth anyone’s time. A few new discoveries, eponymous efforts by Cigarettes After Sex and The Weather Station , ever-reliable efforts from Mogwai (Every Country’s Sun) and  John Murray (A Short History of Decay) and the return of Michael Head, now monikered with The Red Elastic Band on Adios Señor Pussycat.

  • And The Rest… – Worth a listen and, in my case, further investigation:
    Antisocialites – Alvvays
    Love In The Fourth Dimension – The Big Moon
    Joan Shelley – Joan Shelley
    English Tapas – Sleaford Mods
    Relatives In Descent – Protomartyr
    A Deeper Understanding – The War On Drugs
    Out In The Storm – Waxahatchee
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Under A Well-Lit Sky

NO matter how stable the genius, best-laid plans have a tendency to get swept away by real life.

Some get upset by that and lash out in 280 characters or less. Repeatedly. Others put off attempting to string together rather longer, less knee-jerk combinations of words, no matter how many times it makes it to the top of the to-do list.

Genius? Almost certainly not. Stable? Depends which doctor you talk to.

And so 17 days into 2018, one of the great traditions of the Travel Marmot swings around again – the new year, state of the nation address planned for New Year’s Day finally gets written.

Well, started anyway. Let’s see if we can get it finished despite the distractions of televised football (it’s Chelsea, so pretty safe), Twitter and the need to cook at some point in the not too distant future.*

This tradition started three years ago in a dark, peaceful beach bar in Ghana. It continues for a fourth year in a considerably better lit flat in Gloucester, considerably colder  despite the fact my boiler has been fixed after a couple of days without heat or hot water.

At least the need for a shower finally got me back to the gym.

That initial new year address was written, unplanned, on January 1 (although not posted for quite a few days). The next three have been scheduled to follow suit – the point where those best-laid plans have gone astray.

Things just kept getting in the way. Work, largely, a mini African reunion in Nice, losing weight (more later, not much of an excuse but have spent more time shopping and cooking), binge watching Stranger Things (no spoilers, not finished yet) and largely finding excuses to avoid spending even more time tapping away at a keyboard.

Still got here almost a week earlier than two years ago (starting it at least), albeit more than a week later than last year’s missive when the tradition was expanded to include my pick of the previous 12 months’ album. Again, more of that to come and why this really does need to be done on schedule.

Best albums of 2017: The final cut

So what has changed in those 365 days? Well, 373 to be accurate (and climbing).

On the face of it, not that much.

The blog had been on a hiatus, planned as opposed to just not getting round to it often enough, was living in the same place, doing the same job and was working through a tax issue that was muddying the finances for any travel planning.

Was about to head off to London to the Adventure Travel Show to get a few ideas and at least try to salve those itchy feet.

That much certainly hasn’t changed. There’s a few loose ideas and it was off to Olympia again at the weekend, part reunion, part travel fix.

My flat’s over there somewhere in the distance

Yes, still living in the same place – thankfully, warming nicely after a couple of nights layered up as the mercury dropped at the worst moment – but a fair few things have changed.

On paper, the job is the same but in terms of the working week it is unrecognisable from a year ago. No daily deadline to scurry towards, more a gradual cranking up of the pressure as we head towards Wednesday and the weekly appointment with the press.

There’s also no commute. Well, not so you’d notice. The hour or more on the bus every morning replaced with a gentle stroll a couple of hundred yards to the relocated office.

Not sure all my colleagues – a much more select bunch nowadays – appreciate the move so much having suffered a reversal of travelling fortunes, but now there’s a chance to do something meaningful with the evening. Like writing a blog post. Or going to the gym.

Oh yeah.

The other major change, bar the fact Gloucester have started winning regularly, has been my waistline.

It’s not a massive change, not yet. You might not even notice it, bar my trousers falling down (nothing that new there) unless my belt is pulled so tight it is almost garotting me. It you can be garotted there.

But after seven weeks, the difference is starting to show.

There’s closing in on two stone gone, wearing an old pair of jeans a size smaller (although with no buttons in the fly, not in public) and a lot of walking in Nice was, well, quite nice.

Certainly could not have covered so much ground on foot a few months ago. Then 10 minutes or so would have reduced my left hip to a throbbing knot, shooting pains down to my knee (which has given the odd minor grumble since the much-delayed return to the gym). Partly down to a hip issue, partly my total lack of conditioning.

Some more expensive flats near water

But only when things got steep – and they did, what with neighbouring Monaco being built largely on what felt like a cliff – was there any doubts that this was not a good idea.

Even my back held up to carrying a bag back to the airport when we decided walking was the best option with the Promenade des Anglais closed to buses and taxis for a race.

And it was probably a good idea after breaking a fair few rules of the diet every time we were ready for another round (although never thought it would lead to ordering a Coke Zero in a McDonald’s. Overlooking the Grand Prix circuit in Monaco –  country number 58 on my list).

Add all that up and the whole weight loss thing has gone pretty well. It’s not all been easy and, don’t worry, there won’t be any preaching here but this is something worth sticking with.

There’s a long way to go. Not to any target, don’t really want to set those beyond the next landmark but throw in increased gym and the aim is simply to keep going and see where we get.

Not so much a new year’s resolution, just a fresh way of life – rather like it is not a diet, more a more sensible way of eating.

Haven’t always been good. There’s been a couple of sessions on the beer, rattling up all my syns in one go. And they’ve generally been accompanied by not exactly paying too much attention to the allowed food list.

But they’ve also included plenty of walking – in rain and snow through the streets of London – to counteract the added calories.

That’s sort of the idea (beyond the obvious health benefits). When the Travel Marmot eventually does get back on the road somewhere, fitness and weight is not going to be an issue in choosing whether or not to do something.

You never know, might even doing something about my snoring.

But let’s not get carried away.

  • Think the date at the top rather gives that away, but failing to get it done before heading to bed and four straight days away from the laptop rather scuppered that.

And the need to finish the second part of this post, once it became clear it would be way too long all rolled in to one.

Click just down there to the right for details…

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Ghost to Girl From Mars

IT may have largely wandered down a musical side street – at least very loosely – but this blog started out as a home for travel writing.

The post-pub conversation which gave birth to the Travel Marmot* was about bringing my own writing from out on the road together in one place, as well as a place for advice articles and for other would-be travel writers to find a home.

The last of those never got further than a vague idea, the middle one remains a largely unmined seam of subject matter – there’s a huge list waiting to be tackled – while the first one worked fine. It is just hampered when you are not out on the road.

Which is why we took the diversion on the other journey from A-Z through my iPod.

And that journey cut across the early days of my travel writing, when this blog – and most of those which can be found all over the internet – was largely unthinkable.

Back in the days when internet access was not the given it is these days, newspaper offices had one – two, if you are lucky – machines in the office to be shared on a needs-must business.  Very slowly if you were trying to download a picture or send something via dial-up.

My first bout of travel writing was from fairly exotic climes – The Bahamas.

Newly arrived at a paper in Wales, they somehow decided to pack me off as the company’s representative at a golf tournament for the winners of regional tournaments around the country. We had done the press for the Welsh heat and got to send somebody.

The workload was, frankly, not over demanding. The Welsh winners came from outside our area so nobody was interested in a report on the golf, so all that was left to do was swan around a few golf courses, hang around the hotel pool and bar, pop into the basement casino and enjoy the day trips and activities put on by the tourist board. All at someone else’s expense.

A few hundred words for features never even touched on the unfortunate injury suffered by one of the golfers enjoying a ‘massage’.

Not all press trips are that exotic – most are weekends away a lot closer to home – but over the years managed to blag my way on to a fair few trips (mainly skiing, at least once because they thought it was a well-known ski writer of the same name).

Prompted looks of horror from at least three accompanying PR folk – one when we stumbled on a dead wolf painting not quite the picture he was envisaging outside our lunchtime stop on a mountain in Serbia, another when she realised one of the journalists in her charge was lying in a frozen stream,  trapped under the snowmobile he had crashed in northern Finland.

The third – a fairly regular travel companion – was just horrified at the mention of calling it a night. It was about 2am and it was becoming tough to focus, especially in the midst of a pool battle with two Finnish gold miners, but  she shamed me in to staying up. And making it up for breakfast and a morning on the slope just hours later.

Not me – they are still upright. Got a lot better

The trip which came to mind on the latest section of the A-Z journey was a touch warmer and was in October 2001 (thanks Google, dating courtesy of the trip coinciding with David Beckham’s goal against Greece which took England to the World Cup and more disappointment).

This was more golf, albeit slightly closer to home on the Algarve. A larger group was split across three villas, the four younger lads (it was a few years ago) handed the keys to one with a swimming pool which made fielding on the leg side rather perilous in a long afternoon game of garden cricket.

The trip produced some of my finest golf (not saying much) as even the bad shots seemed to ricochet off the cork trees back into the fairways with one stunning victory over a Sun reporter and a guy we nicknamed Lou Carpenter, who never forgave us for nabbing the best villa and not being included among the younger crowd.

We also had access to a hire car and, for some reason, the others agreed to one of my compilation tapes as the main source of music.

Know there was some Nick Cave on there (Tupelo, probably) which did not go down well. There was definitely some better received Moldy Peaches (Downloading Porn With Davo). And there was Slobberbone.

Gimme Back My Dog, picked up from an Uncut sampler CD, became the song of the trip. At least for the four of us, not sure the rest of the group were quite so enamoured when we hosted a final night barbecue round the pool.

And it was a pleasant, largely forgotten surprise as it popped up at number 4,000 – of, currently, 13,330 – in the latest section from Neutral Milk Hotel (largely passed me by, but seemingly worth further investigation) to probably Ash’s finest three and a half minutes.

We went through ghosts, giants, gifts and girls with a fair few old dependables – Pixies (the wondrous Gigantic, twice), The Smiths (Girl Afraid) and Ryan Adams, two versions of Gimme A Sign and three of Gimme Something Good (one of them twice for some reason).

And there was GI Blues from Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine, which goes back even further than my first bout of travel writing and who bring a fair few stories which we’ll get to eventually. Probably when we get to S.

The song comes from a different perspective, but one verse did catch the attention and works today:

Look away John F Kennedy
Look away Franklin D Roosevelt
Look away George Washington
Thomas Jefferson and Brother Jonathon
Look away Bob Hope
Look away Uncle Sam
Look away Ronald Reagan
Look away Dixieland

Look away indeed. Especially if you happen to be on Twitter.

  • That’s it for the blog for 2017 – Happy Christmas to anyone who has bothered to read this far.

Back soon with the now traditional new year state of the nation post and my pick of the past year’s albums – after wading through the pile of downloads after scouring everybody else’s lists.

In a twist of fate, the daughter of the man who took the conversation about a website seriously and created it while some of us were still lying in bed is poised to feature somewhere in the end-of-year lists.

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