I heard this on the cover CD I got with an issue of the much missed Word Magazine. I think it’s one of my favourite things Lou Reed did. It is from an album called ‘Recitement’ by Stephen Emmer, a Dutch composer, with a different speaker on each track.

I thought it was maybe a poem that Reed was reciting, so I was slightly surprised when I googled some of the phrases to find that it was prose, and from a book that I had read (although nearly 20 years ago). It was from the introduction to Paul Theroux’s ‘The Great railway Bazaar’, which is a marvellous book.

This started me reading Theroux again, in some cases re-reading books of his I read years ago. My current copy of ‘The Great Railway Bazaar’ I got from the Red Cross charity shop in Aberaeron. I’ve no idea what happened to my original copy.

The Independent newspaper recently featured the whole of the first chapter in their travel supplement – read it here.



Creativity, Writer’s Block, Getting Arse into Gear, etc

I’ve really let things slide this past couple of years. I used to read loads, at least a book a week. I used to play my guitar and write a song or two every week. I now read a book once a month, on average, and write a song about once a month too. I’m not sure if these two things are connected, whether the imagination required to read a book spills over into songwriting too.*

Last week I start to change things: I set myself the challenge to write a song a day, every day for that week (I was off work that week, handily).  I might post some of those songs later this week if you don’t behave yourselves. And I have decided to continue into this week, and possibly forever. Every day I will do something creative.

Also, I am going to spend an hour a day reading a book. I have a backlog of 40 books, so I should really get a move on, in case Santa decides to bring me even more, which has been known to happen.



*This time coincides with me getting a decent-ish internet connection, and spending lots of time sat in front of this infernal machine clicking on things. Not the most creative activity, really.

Campfire Songbook

I’m going camping on Saturday¹ and it is sort-of expected that I will bring my acoustic guitar. This year I’m going to try and learn a few songs that my friends might know or like,  instead of playing my songs² or jamming on blues scales.

One friend suggested ‘Chuck E’s in Love’ (until she realised just how wordy it is) and has requested ‘Sara’ instead (which should be easy, it’s only 3½ chords). Another friend has requested ‘Amy’ (will be sounding more Ryan Adams than Mark Ronson, obviously).

To this I have added ‘Reel Around The Fountain’ (my friends will like that) and ‘Jennifer She Said’ (still a few Lloyd Cole fans in the gang). After that they are just going to have to put up with me jamming.


My notebook with all the songs I’ve learned in it

¹If it doesn’t stop raining between now and next weekend, I will be seriously thinking of not going.

²My songs aren’t terrible (although they tend towards melancholy) but no-one will be singing along as they don’t know the words.


I’m not making any resolutions this year – I never do – but if I did they would be something like this:

a) blog at least 5 times a week
b) run at least four times a week
c) make music 3 times p/w, minimum
d) make effort to sleep better
e) read loads

That lot shouldn’t be too difficult.

What I did in 2011, part 10 – Read ‘Story of Art’

The Story Of ART

One of the side-effects of my visit to London in April, and the museums and galleries, is the realisation that I don’t know much about art. I had always suspected as much, but now I have managed to upgrade my level of understanding a little

I could have got this book from the National  Gallery bookshop, and I wish I had as it was on special offer… But E.H. Gombrich’s ‘The Story Of Art’ soon got me up to speed. I wish I’d had this book decades ago, I’d have appreciated the world around me – the man-made bits of it – a lot more. (It covers architecture, in addition to painting, drawing, sculpture, etc)

I liked the feel of the book, too. – it’s a nice size and it has ribbon bookmarks to keep your place, and is printed on that thin ‘bible’ paper (not the colour plates section, of course) so it’s a nice object in its own right, even if it wasn’t one of the best textbooks I’ve ever read.

I’ll re-read this again, later this year. And hopefully, get back to the National Gallery to have a really good explore.

Too Much

I have too much stuff to do. I have far too much culture, my brain is clogged up and I can’t cope.

I’m just about keeping up with my music, I can hit play on iTunes and it all gets played about 10 times before the month is up, and I have 90 new Emusic downloads to listen to.

Books. Don’t talk to me about books. I have something in the region of 40 unopened books. I am in the middle of reading 3 (or maybe 4, not sure here) books, Don Quixote, Shock Doctrine, True History of the Kelly Gang, and something else I can’t quite remember at the moment. Don Quixote is about 1000 pages long – which is off-putting somehow. Only 600 pages to go.

DVDs? Don’t talk to me, etc. I have 3 House boxsets. The first DVD of Cosmos. Synecdoche, New York. And more, but I can’t even remember what any more.

I have no time left. I also need to do stuff like eat, wash, work, sleep, and I don’t see how I can fit it all in. I might have to stop eating, or something.

Just finished reading … ‘In cold Blood’

This is one of Truman Capote’s best known works, apparently it caused a great controversy when it was published. It is essentially the first ‘true crime’ book, although since it is written by someone not obsessed with serial killers, cannibals and Jack the Ripper, it is generally considered literature.

Capote investigated the circumstances of the murder of the Clutter family, and interviewed practically everyone involved, including the killers themselves, and created this absorbing and detailed story of true events.

Even though we know who committed the murders, and that they were eventually apprehended, this does not read quite like a murder mystery, more a psychological study of the murderers and the community of the victims.

It took me a while to get into, and I’m not sure why, and I’m glad I stuck with it.

I just finished reading… ‘Kill Your Friends’

John Niven’s novel ‘Kill Your Friends‘ is insane.

It is offensive on just about every level you care to mention – the main character is racist, sexist, fat-ist drug hoover. It is also one of the funniest things I have read in a long time.

When the plot turns murderous, it is less convincing, but the rest of it, telling the story of an A&R man at a London record company in the late 90s is hilarious. There is a lot of filthy sex and swearing, and a colossal amount of drug-taking.

I will not be lending this to my mother.


I don’t normally do new year resolutions, but am thinking there are a few things I could do this year. I am compiling a long-list.

1. Practise the saxophone at least once a week. I’m not going to get any good playing every 6 months.

2. Play the guitar at least twice a week. Shouldn’t be problem.

3. Read some books, like I used to. There are loads of unread books on my shelves.

4. Listen to the radio. This is related to #5. BBC 6Music for preference.

5. Have at least 2 evenings per week where I don’t turn my PC on at all.

6. Shave every day not twice a week. This is mostly just to see what it’s like.

7. Tidy my room, and keep it tidy. partly connected to #8.

8. Throw some stuff out. Clothes, crap, stuff. I don’t need it all.

9. Plan meals, and stick to the plan. This should save money, and I might get vitamins or something.

10. …

This is just a starter, I could do all of these. I should do all of these. Number 8 is a one-off, so it’s not even something I have to do all year, just the once.

I’m reading… not very much right now

It’s weird, I used to read so much, all the time. At the moment, I’m quite good at not even finishing books. Here is a list of books I should be reading, but am not.

Naomi Klein ‘The Shock Doctrine’ – Over a third of the way through. I know why I haven’t finished this – it makes me so angry I have to put it down. I know I need to finish this so I can annoy people by going on and on about it and insisting they read it too.

(Started about 6 months ago, I think)

Truman Capote ‘In Cold Blood’ – I’m about a third of the way through this. Not as Earth-shatteringly good as I thought it might be.

(Started just before all the films came out. How long is that, 3 years? Jeez…)

Moore/Lloyd ‘V for Vendetta’ – I stopped reading this because there are so many things I ought to finish reading instead. Plus I don’t know how I feel about graphic novels.
(started 2 weeks ago)

Michael Palin ‘Hemingway Adventure’ – Started this because I wanted something ‘light’, am enjoying it. Don’t know why I put it down. It’s short and it’s got big writing, I have no excuse.
(started 4 weeks ago)

Peter Carey ‘True History Of ‘The Kelly Gang’ – I was really enjoying this, have no idea why I stopped reading it. Just picked it up and have discovered where my (Latvian) 2 Rouble note/bookmark has got to. I had been wondering.
(Started probably 5 years ago, when paperback came out)

Oh bugger, there’s more… I’m a chapter into ‘Confederacy of Dunces’ too, and Orhan Pamuk’s ‘Snow’, ‘Don Quixote’* and… no wonder I’ve got 40 books I haven’t even opened yet.

*Got an excuse for this – bookmark fell out quarter-way through, didn’t fancy starting this huge book again. Have since discovered I used post-in note as bookmark, place saved, yes!