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Showing posts from 2015

Roy Wood isn't just for Christmas - he's a musical genius for all seasons

I wish it could be Christmas every day. Roy Wood is pretty ubiquitous at this time of the year, every year. He's still active as a musician, and appeared on the 2014 Christmas Celebrity "Pointless", closing the show with a great live rendition of his 1973 festive classic. I was thrilled last Christmas when he even "liked" one of my tweets: I'm enough of a starry-eyed big kid to still get excited if a celebrity interacts with me on Twitter.
But in fact, I didn't need reminding of Roy Wood. I have admired him as a musical genius since 1968 when I discovered his band The Move. Sometimes an established band comes up with a song that moves them to another level, and for me the Move's 1969 Number One, Blackberry Way, written by Roy Wood, was one such song. Often said to be inspired by the Beatles' brilliant Penny Lane, both songs have wonderful observational lyrics allied to unusual key changes within an original and unpredictable melody. Yet they are…

We all stand together

This is my post for World Diabetes Day, and in keeping with my silly habit of using song titles for post titles, I have chosen a title from what many consider to be one of Paul McCartney's most forgettable ditties, We All Stand Together
For what it's worth, I actually rather like this much-maligned song, and always did. And the cartoon is wonderful. Was it really 31 years ago? Yep, it was the autumn of 1984. Where did those years go?
Well, 31 years ago I was still 13 years from being diagnosed with diabetes. You never know what life has in store for you....
I told my diagnosis story in a previous post, so for this one I wanted to reflect a little on how things have changed in the almost 18 years that I have lived with the condition. 18 years is a long time: some of my friends from the online diabetes community, the GBDOC, were babes in arms when I fell victim to diabetes, a fact which also raises the  "you never know what's in store" thought.
I recently came acro…

"Far Far Away"

Continuing my quest to give every post a song title, I am using as the title for this post a line from an often overlooked song by 70's glam rock band Slade. 1973 was their annus mirabilis, the year of that incomparable rabble-rousing anthem Come on feel the Noize and of course their ubiquitous hardy annual Merry Christmas Everyone, but in the following year, the song-writing partnership of Noddy Holder and Jim Lea came up with more thoughtful, if slightly less successful, material such as Everyday and Far Far Away, which contains these lines:-
"And I'm far, far away with my head up in the clouds And I'm far, far away with my feet down in the crowds Lettin' loose around the world  But the call of home is loud, still as loud"
It's a song in which a thoughtful Noddy Holder reflects on the influence of travel. They say travel broadens the mind, and I have always been an enthusiastic traveller, and a supporter of the European ideal, for all its imperfections. I …

Kirkham and its twin towns

Kirkham is sometimes thought of as a bit of a backwater, an insular place where people know little and care even less for the world beyond this part of rural Lancashire. Not fair, not true.

Kirkham is the oldest town on the Fylde, long pre-dating Lytham, Blackpool, Poulton, Cleveleys and Fleetwood, and was most certainly a key place of strategic importance in Roman times. The Roman fort on Carr Hill, the highest point on the low-lying Fylde, to the East of the town centre, was an important staging post on a spur of road, a Roman M55 if you like, leading from Ribchester to a port somewhere around Stalmine.
In more recent history, Kirkham was the de facto capital of the area, with its huge Parish covering much of what we now call the Fylde, and the enduring presence of a preeminent Parish church and an ancient grammar school stand as evidence of the town's historic importance. The flax mills gave the town a period of relative prosperity, and agriculture has always flourished thanks …

"Living by Numbers" - my Diabetes Story

It's not been a good week to be diabetic. We woke up on Monday morning to news headlines revealing a 60% surge in diagnosis of diabetes over the past 10 years. The mid-market tabloids featured front pages screaming about the "epidemic" which would "bankrupt the NHS", quoting our poor diet, sedentary lifestyle and bulging waistlines as the cause of this menace. 
You had to look very hard to find any reference to the two types of diabetes. TV and radio did rather better, making clear from the outset that this story was largely about Type Two, but even so there was a sense that diabetes was being demonised.
Small wonder then that people with diabetes were soon up in arms on social media. In particular, the familiar call to re-name Type One was getting another airing, and many Type Ones took to social media to post pictures illustrating how active and healthy they are using the hashtag #RealLifeDiabetes, as well as reminding others how hard it is to live with this …

"I love you just the way you are"

This is getting to be a silly habit, but I'm going to stick to it for now - using song titles for my blog posts.
"I love you just the way you are" -  a Billy Joel love-song, but I refer here not to a person, but to Wimbledon, which reaches its 2015 climax this weekend. 
It's been another great tournament (is it ever not?) and mouth-watering finals still await us as I write. The top players have entertained us richly, the sun has shone, the venue has looked picture-perfect and players have, in the main "met with triumph and disaster and treated those two impostors just the same", as Kipling's poem reminds them to do in the Centre Court locker room.  The BBC's coverage has been comprehensive and authoritative, once they realised that viewers don't want the third-rate zoo-format of "Wimbledon 2day" that looked as if it had been devised by Siobhan Sharpe's fictional Perfect Curve. The Royal Box has featured a succession of celebrities…

"My future in the system was talked about and planned" - musings on university open days

I enjoy finding suitable titles for my blog posts from song lyrics. This one comes from a 1973 song "Free Electric Band" by Albert Hammond, an under-rated English singer-songwriter best known as the writer of "When I need you", a UK No1 for Leo Sayer in 1977, and "The Air that I breathe", a UK No2 for The Hollies in 1974. Albert Hammond, although English, moved to America, and some of his songs reflect that. "Free Electric Band" is a (rather late) manifesto of hippy-trippy dropout values in conflict with what used to be called "the system". It describes the writer's rebellious rejection of his parents' American middle-class values, and of their plans for a prosperous, conventional future. This song came into my head yesterday when I spent a day in Oxford, as I always do at this time of the year, with  a small group of Sixth Form students from my school. At a university Open Day, especially at places like Oxford, young peoples…

Club Day: what on earth is that?

Twenty nine years ago, on June 12th 1986, I moved to my present home, on the edge of the small market town of Kirkham, in the Fylde District of Lancashire. I had been working at the town's historic grammar school for five years, so I knew a bit about the town but only as a workplace and the end of a long daily commute from Southport.
Having decided I liked the school and secured a promotion to Head of Department, we had decided that it was a good moment to move closer to my work, with my wife having chosen to be a full-time mother to our one-year old daughter and new additions to the family planned.
We moved in on a scorching summer Thursday (the day after Gary Lineker's life-changing hat-trick in England's 3-0 win over Poland in the Mexico World Cup), and I had to return to work the next day, leaving my poor wife to start sorting out the chaos of our possessions dumped in a new house. 
Mid morning, she went to the shops to get a few essentials, accompanied by her Aunt, …

"Die heilige Cäcilie oder die Gewalt der Musik"

What's this about? What's with the German title? Well, these words have been in my mind over another wonderfully successful meet-up of the three  twin towns, Kirkham, Ancenis and Bad Brückenau over last weekend, May 15th - 17th. "Die heilige Cäcilie oder die Gewalt der Musik" is the title of a short story by the  18th/19th century German writer Heinrich von Kleist. I studied his work as part of my degree at university many years ago. It's a weird and disturbing tale: I can't remember much detail, but the title refers to St Cecilia, traditionally the patron saint of music and "the power of music", and it's that idea that is my blog post theme. It's not a remotely original idea, but music is a truly powerful thing. This has been vibrantly apparent over this past weekend in Ancenis, as I have had the pleasure of  being present at the meet-up between the bands of our French and German twin towns. Each of these towns, small provincial communit…