Friday, April 28, 2023

FRIDAY MUSIC: The Alehouse Boys, by JD

The exotic musical sound-world of 17th-century London is brought vividly to life by one of the world's most dynamic and virtuosic performing groups - Bjarte Eike and Barokksolistene - plus a cameo appearance by celebrated soprano Mary Bevan.

Beauty, improvisation, melancholy, bawdiness - Purcell, Playford and their European contemporaries bang heads with ballads, ditties, elegies, sea-shanties and folk song. Along with a variety of classical stringed instruments, their own arrangements delight us in a joyful mix of vocals, percussion, harmonium, guitar, charango and storytelling.

Filmed on location in one of London's oldest taverns, The George Inn, Southwark.

Founded and led by Norwegian violinist Bjarte Eike in 2005, Barokksolistene is now recognised as one of the world’s most dynamic and exciting groups working in the field of historically informed performance, fusing virtuoso musicianship with flawless ensemble playing. Constantly striving to reach out to new audiences, their passion to engage with folk and experimental music, improvisation, visual arts, dance and story-telling has led them to create unique concert experiences which play to sold-out audiences worldwide.

The Alehouse Boys — Bjarte Eike and Barokksolistene — Play Henry Purcell

Alehouse session with Barokksolistene and Bjarte Eike

Neil Gow's Lament with Barokksolistene and Bjarte Eike

Haul Away Joe - the alehouse boys (from the BaS alehouse sessions)

Paul's Steeple with Barokksolistene, Bjarte Eike and Milos Valent

The Alehouse Sessions Corona_Digital_version!

Friday, April 21, 2023

FRIDAY MUSIC: Golden Oldies - the 1950s, by JD

There are, on our televisions, a number of channels dedicated to playing 'golden oldies' music from the 60s, the 70s and the 80s. But there is no channel dedicated to 50s music for some reason. It cannot be because the music was bad, perhaps it is because of the lack of video/film showing the artists performing their songs.

So as a small contribution to keeping the music alive, a selection of goldne oldies from more than 60+ years ago. I think it would be fair to say that musically the fifties ended in October 1962 with the release of the first record by the Beatles and their inspiration came from the music of that era. Without the 50s popular music of today would be very different.

Sunday, April 16, 2023


Cullercoats is a small fishing village on the North East coast of England located between Tynemouth and Whitley Bay. Those two larger towns are or were popular holiday destinations which declined slowly and in Tynemouth's case elegantly after the advent of cheap holiday flights to the warmer beaches of Europe. But Cullercoats remained a thriving fishing village until recently (I suspect the 'Common Market' may have had something to do with that decline.)

Cullercoats has a small sandy bay enclosed by two small piers and as such is ideal for families. The village has been popular with generations of visitors with its secluded bay the highlight. The beach has a Seaside Award and is ideal for bathing. More information here-

I cannot remember when I did this sketch of the bay but it has been sitting in one of my pads for ages. It shows the two piers with the spire of St George's Chirch to the right. Beyond that is Tynemouth Pier and the ruins of Tynemouth Priory.

Compressing the view is of course a bit of artistic licence because this below is what it looks like in a photo taken more recently -

In the later part of the nineteenth century Cullercoats developed a reputation as a popular artists' colony with the everyday lives of the fishing folk often used as subjects. The famous American artist Winslow Homer spent 18 months living and working in Cullercoats. Two interpretation panels on the seafront (overlooking the bay and further to the North, just after the Watch House) explain the fascinating art history of Cullercoats. Here is a short history of Winslow Homer in Cullercoats including a selection of the paintings he did while living there.

~ ~ ~ ~
Homer is a much better painter than I am but I do my best and, using my sketch as a guide, I subsequently painted that same view in acrylic on 8" x 8" canvas. My 'best' was obviously good enough because it is now hanging on a wall somewhere in Madrid.

On a headland to the north of the bay stands the Watch House and here you can see five ladies pretending to be Fishwives. I can remember the real Fishwives many years ago who would sit outside their cottages selling the day's catch which their husbands had brought home from their day out at sea. They would sell mainly crabs and shrimps (prawns?) as well as mussels and whelks and other small shellfish. The cottages are long gone, the Council demolishing them in order to 'improve' the road layout; they straightened it in other words.

Here is a brief history - with nice photos and illustrations - of Cullercoats Watch House from the local newspaper -

This final photo shows the sad end of one of the fishing cobbles, now being used to display flowers. The roof of the Watch House can be seen on the right of the picture with the church spire behind and the view to Tynemouth in the background.

JUDY DINNING Cullercoats Fish Lass

Friday, April 14, 2023

FRIDAY MUSIC: Mose Allison, by JD

Mose Alison (1927 - 2016)

Difficult to 'pigeonhole' this man; Wiki decribes him as a jazz and blues pianist, singer, and songwriter but he was a major influence on some of the biggest names in the pop music of the sixties such as Van Morrison, Georgie Fame, John Mayall, Pete Townshend and many more. In fact, to my ears, Georgie Fame has copied Allison's style of singing.
Don't Get Around Much Anymore

Certified Senior Citizen

Mose Allison - Parchman Farm 1963

Mose Allison - I Don't Worry About A Thing

Mose Allison - Your Mind is on Vacation


Bonus videos:
Interviews with Allison as well as Van Morrison, Georgie Fame etc:

Wednesday, April 12, 2023

Those evil, greedy doctors!

The BMA says the pay of a junior doctor has fallen by 26 per cent in real terms since 2008/09 because pay rises have been below inflation. It is calling for 'full pay restoration', which would amount to a 35 per cent pay rise and be worth up to £20,000 extra for some medics.

- Daily Mail

Never mind the 'some medics' - a ploy to get us envious and angry; the maths is correct. 

If your real-terms pay drops by 26 points from 100 to 74, you need (1.35*74) to get back to 100 where you started, i.e. a 35% increase. 

This is not a pay rise but, as the doctors' association says, a restoration - and I haven't seen a claim for the money lost in the intervening years.

It's what happens when a government loses control of inflation. 

In a way it's a rerun of the 1970s, when Arab oil producers retaliated against the West for supporting Israel in Middle Eastern conflict, by inflating the price of oil. This made everything pricier in our energy-dependent economy and triggered a wave of industrial action as groups of workers tried to recoup their real-terms earnings losses.

Yes, there were some Marxists in unions trying to destabilise the system so that - the great Marxian dream - a better world would magically arise from the ruins; but there was a lot more going on that was not doctrinaire-political.

I remember two words cropping up again and again in these disputes: 

'parity' - a claim to get the same pay as another group doing the same work somewhere else; and 

'differential' - a claim for higher pay by more skilled workers who found that despite their more valuable expertise, their earnings were getting closer to that of less skilled workers as the latter won their pay bargaining cases.

The 'oil shock' started in 1973, the Conservative government fell in 1974 and the incoming Labour Government had to deal with industrial disputes for the next five years.

It was a very long time before I found out that Alan Bleasdale's BBC drama series 'Boys from the Blackstuff', described as

'TV's most complete dramatic response to the Thatcher era and as a lament to the end of a male, working class British culture'

may have been screened in 1982, but was based on Bleasdale's 'The Black Stuff' Play For Today, scripted in 1978 during the Prime Ministership of Labour's James Callaghan.

In rugby there is a move called a 'hospital pass' where you throw the ball to a colleague who is then obliterated by the fast-oncoming opposition. Similarly, some political parties may be tempted to lose a General Election so that the 'other lot' has to clean up the mess and take the blame for all the hard things they are forced to do.

This could be where we are now. 'Demirep' speculates that both Labour in the UK and the Democrats in the US are trying not to win the next election because they can see what is coming:

Saturday, April 08, 2023

WEEKENDER: The water company scam, by Wiggia

Perhaps water should be charged as to area that needs to covered, just a thought…………..
There is no doubt that the privatisation of utilities has had mixed results, some such as telecoms have had a plus in most areas of supply and enjoy a degree of real competition.

Others not so much. The water companies which are monopolies have used their trading position to tread water (sigh) ever since they took over.

We had a vivid example a few years ago here with Anglia Water who saw the way forward as a reason to further fleece the customer. A survey was sent to all paying customers on how they would ‘prefer’ to pay for a modernisation plan, this from a well funded private company. I always believed that private companies would spend money on updating, modernising, expanding to then attract private finance, but not Anglian Water who provide the plan and want all customers to fund the ongoing works. The attitude of the survey was one of no modernisation without pay, not that this would have stopped price rises anyway.

Anglian water is fortunate in that it relies mainly on aquifers for the supply and even in dry years in a dry area escapes hose pipe bans and restrictions most of the time. This doesn’t stop them on their crusade to tell us how to use less water, endless emails give that information.

All this is to save the water company from doing its job: to supply fresh water as needed to an area with a growing population. No new storage facilities are being built or have been built since they took over.

The government has announced we need to save 20% of water by 2038; one has to ask why. It can only be because of the necessity to spend large sums on an industry notorious for not spending what it should. Why the government should back all this under a nefarious 25 year environment plan is a mystery.

Or is it? With an extra 400,000 immigrants per year the demand for water as with everything else inexorably rises. Once again years of neglect in infrastructure mean governments have dug a huge hole for themselves after the profligate covid period; we didn’t have the cash before covid, and now... !

If you take leakage into account, which should be an ongoing maintenance item, yet has become a permanently neglected problem, there would be currently no need to update water storage for some years. Endless neglect has seen leakage become a major problem nationally as old pipe infrastructure has reached way beyond its life expectancy and fails now on a regular basis.

Not only does the pipe fail but the road has to be dug up. A road parallel to us has been dug up at least three times in the last five years because of leaks and a substandard surface installed on what was a new pavement!

Wasn't it this government that decreed all local authorities should be informed of future utilities works so as to stop this constant digging up of newly laid roads and pavements? It seems like that has joined the long list of words and no deeds.

The current eco movement has its teeth into everything at the moment and water companies are not alone in band wagon jumping when it suits. Telling customers to cut back on usage and giving ‘advice’ has now had the inevitable threat of withdrawal of modern installations - dual flush toilets, which I always assumed were to save water are one, though in fairness experience shows they don’t: evidently they leak, and should be banned, though they don’t leak nearly as much as the supply mains!

Also power showers: I have had a power shower for years and if used sensibly they use less water than standard showers. I certainly spend a lot less time under a power shower than a standard one, but really I don’t care, these are devices of the modern age. The problem is not them but the supply companies who have failed to keep a decent standard of maintenance and an almost complete lack of future infrastructure needed with our increasing population, though why it is increasing is a separate matter.

To put it briefly, instead of managing resources either by building more reservoirs or by reducing immigration they want to reduce our quality of life and make us pay more for the privilege.

One final comment: water meters are still not compulsory other than for new builds. Why one section of the public should be forced to pay for water at a given rate and another use as much as they like is a mystery, I would not have a water meter from choice, the myth that they save you money was a statement to get people to change. Anyone who has had a water meter for any length of time and has looked at the differential between the cost of the actual water used and sewage removed will have noticed that the sewage component has become larger than the water amount without any explanation;  here, it used to be roughly two thirds of the water element of the bill.

Once again we are being taken to the cleaners.

Friday, April 07, 2023


Praise the Lord - Sergei Rachmaninov


"Hymn to the Eternal Flame" 
from To be Certain of the Dawn by Stephen Paulus

"Every Orthodox Holy Saturday in Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre, thousands gather to witness a flame “miraculously” appearing in the tomb of Jesus.
Orthodox Christians believe it’s a potent symbol of the resurrection.

It’s the Church's most important miracle. And it’s believed to have been happening annually for the past 1,200 years.
The ritual begins with the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem (or another Orthodox archbishop), descending into the empty tomb of Christ within the church and reciting special prayers. A non-Orthodox Christian is also said to examine the edicule (a small structure surrounding the tomb) to make sure no oil lamps have been left burning inside that the patriarch could use to light his candles."
Victoria Clark recounts a conversation she had with Orthodox Bishop Theophanis in which she asked about the miracle. He replied: “In this ceremony we are offering created fire and from it comes uncreated light, by the grace of the Holy Spirit…before the ceremony begins, a kantila – a little oil lamp – is placed, already lit, on the tomb. The patriarch lights his candle from it while he says a special prayer.”

Bishop Theophanis likens the miracle to Holy Communion when the bread and wine becomes the body and blood of Christ (transubstantiation/ metousiosis). The natural is transformed into the supernatural. In his mind the Holy Fire really is a miraculous fire because the prayer has changed it from ordinary fire to Holy Fire.

Miracle of the Holy Fire (Holy Light) Presentation

Tuesday, April 04, 2023

An Everyday Tale of Online Banking, by Wiggia

This was one of those moments which did not come to light until I returned home and tried to start normal procedures in my life after a spell of oblivion, it transpired that various updates re banking, shopping, Google and other sites had updated their log on procedures and in the case of banks two had actually frozen my account making access unless I updated all the info and supplied new paswords and security information.

All well and good in this scam ridden world of internet shopping/banking, except my main bank account has now become completely unobtainable.

It’s catch-22 gone mad.

Every other site has with much time and effort been returned to its former self as regards usability, though even there the jumping through hoops necessary to get things moving again has been considerable as there is no doubt that the procedures are made more difficult every time there is a reason to upgrade the system; this is not for the customer's benefit.

Nowhere is that more obvious than with the banks. In a nutshell I have been trying to access my online account for six weeks! My mobile app follows the same course, no entry without a new password which cannot be obtained because the system stops it.

Apart from endless attempts to rectify the problem resulting in amongst other things a greyed-out final box that would allow me access, I have also had various attempts at circumnavigating the system; all of which ended up with the same result: no go, whether online or on mobile.

My phone calls have resulted in an inordinate amount of time explaining the situation, endless security questions which all end with a question of what transactions on what dates after the date given I can recall - obviously without access to my statement which I don’t have I can’t answer that so I am effectively blocked from further progress.

Add to that being cut off on two occasions after 30 minutes on the phone and you have a perfect lock out.

Being told I will have to go to the nearest branch, there are only two left in the city five miles away, with photo ID does not thrill me, especially as I cannot walk at the moment apart from room to room and cannot drive yet, and my wife does not drive any more either. None of this was because of actions on my part; as I have statements only available online I have no idea of my current position re available money.

It is easy for the banks, and they are all the same, so changing my account would not achieve anything other than making me feel better. This has been getting worse for some years. The real problem is the security the banks have is insufficient for the task so more security is asked for and this is put on the customer with layers of security questions so the problem becomes that of the customer; it is cheaper for the banks and odious for the customer.

There must be an awful lot of bank customers who are totally bemused by all this and the lack of branches just makes the whole process more annoying or as in my case beyond the pale.

My answer is to go back to telephone banking and paper statements, but I still have the same initial hurdles to negotiate before that can be achieved!