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"A Time of Gifts" by Patrick Leigh Fermor

"A Time of Gifts" by Patrick Leigh Fermor

In 1933, at the age of 18, Patrick Leigh Fermor set out on an extraordinary journey by foot - from the Hook of Holland to Constantinople. “A Time of Gifts" is the first volume in a trilogy recounting the trip, and in this volume the reader accompanies him as far as Hungary. 

It’s an exceptional book. Published years after the event, in 1977, it still perfectly captures the wonder of his extraordinary journey and the many fascinating people he met on the way. What elevates this magical book are Patrick Leigh Fermor's gifts as a writer and the resultant delightful prose; his enthusiasm for knowledge and learning which peppers every page; and his personal charm which makes him as welcome in aristocratic homes as hostels or the homes of farm workers or labourers. 

Patrick Leigh Fermor also provides an alternative cultural history of central Europe. His gifts for languages and history result in musings about Yiddish syntax, Byzantine plainsong, and most memorably the whereabouts of the coast of Bohemia as mentioned by Shakespeare (turns out it existed for 13 years but also turns out Shakespeare probably couldn’t have cared less), and much much more.

So, in summary, a beautifully written travel book, that also serves as a history book, and in the company of the most charming and enthusiastic teenager it’s possible to imagine. A remarkable book by a remarkable man. I look forward to the next volume, Between The Woods And The Water, though plan to read the recent biography Patrick Leigh Fermor: An Adventure by Artemis Cooper first. All in all this feels like the start of another beautiful relationship.

5/5

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Patrick Leigh Fermor nameplate


The Patrick Leigh Fermor Appreciation Society 

I started "The Patrick Leigh Fermor Appreciation Society" after reading A Time of Gifts and around a quarter of Patrick Leigh Fermor: An Adventure by Artemis Cooper

I am already in thrall to Patrick Leigh Fermor

There seems to be so much to admire about the man: enthusiastic, tolerant, charming, open minded, heroic, passionate, erudite, educated and a great writer. I am sure he had his less attractive qualities however, so far, I am captivated by his many positive characteristics. Whilst I know very little about him, I am already set upon reading all his books and others associated with him and his era and exploits. 

If you feel the same, or think you might, then please come and get involved.

Click here for “The Patrick Leigh Fermor Appreciation Society”

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My second video featuring footage and photographs from the End of the Road 2014. I am much happier with this one as it gives a broader perspective than the other more arty version.

End of the Road Festival is an annual music festival in England which focuses on alternative music, mostly folk, alt.country and Americana. It is hosted at the Larmer Tree Gardens, on the border of north Dorset and Wiltshire, and usually takes place over the first or second full weekend in September, opening camping on Thursday afternoon with the entertainment running from Friday to Sunday inclusive. The first festival took place in 2006, and sold out for the first time in 2008. The festival is independently run, and started by two friends Simon Taffe and Sofia Hagberg.

Music is a Flaming Lips mash up

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A homemade video I made for the wonderful “Gravity” by Pete Fij / Terry Bickers….

Pete Fij / Terry Bickers “Gravity”

Quite pleased with this one.

"Gravity" is available on their album "Broken Heart Surgery". Buy "Broken Heart Surgery" from their Bandcamp page.

Please note I have no association with the artist. I am just a fan of their music.

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So it’s that time again and here’s a selection of top tuneage to kickstart your weekend.

Joy is unconfined as the new album by Pete Williams new album “Roughnecks and Roustabouts” is available to download on Pete’s PledgeMuisc page.   Something I strongly recommend you do.

Here’s a track from it.  It’s called “People”.  I knocked up this video too…

Pete Williams - People

I’ve been listening to a lot of music by the Head brothers recently, especially the Pale Fountains and Shack, and also the peerless “Magical World of the Strands” from whence comes this beaut…

Michael Head and the Strands - And Luna

Another artist who has been popping up on the nigeyb turntable is Glen Campbell.  She’ll laugh when she reads the part that says I’m leaving…

Glen Campbell - By The Time I Get To Phoenix

Here’s the haunting timeless simplicity and beauty of “Know” by Nick Drake…

Nick Drake - Know

And finally, here’s the wonderful “Sister Europe” by The Psychedelic Furs…

The Psychedelic Furs - Sister Europe

Have a wonderful weekend.

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A short film made shot at Camber Sands and Pett Level in East Sussex last weekend.

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I made my first ever video yesterday. Just filmed some stuff on my phone on Hove seafront, mucked about with it on iMovie, added “Deep End Version” by Champion Doug Veitch (anyone else remember him?) and Bob’s yer Uncle. For a first attempt i’m quite pleased with it. Ain’t technology wonderful….

"Deep End Version" by Champion Doug Veitch 

Filmed, edited and produced by nigeyb - August 2014

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"A Moment Worth Waiting For" by Kevin Pearce

I first came across Kevin Pearce through his 1993 book “Something Beginning with O”. I have no idea why I bought it but I was hooked from page one, and still have my original copy which seems to go for around £50 on eBay these days. I next stumbled across Kevin’s work through his Your Heart Out website which contains a series of essays that explore all manner of interesting and eclectic music. These essays are also highly recommended.

If Bob Stanley’s splendid “Yeah Yeah Yeah: The Story of Modern Pop" was the ultimate guide to the British pop charts, then "A Moment Worth Waiting For" does a similar job, but in a parallel universe and is a bit more time specific. Whilst "A Moment Worth Waiting For" contains references to the pop charts and the mainstream, Kevin Pearce's focus is more about what was happening at the margins and in particular what was happening in the early 1980s. Kevin's genius, and to me it is genius, is to find myriad connections between his multifarious musical passions and, as with all good music writers, to inspire the reader to (re)visit the songs and artists he discusses.

OK, cards on the table. It helps enormously that we both share a huge enthusiasm for Vic Godard. Vic, as you probably know, has been constantly questing since emerging with other early punks, pursuing his own distinct musical agenda, primarily, it seems to me, to please himself and the enlightened few who embrace his maverick sensibilities.

Kevin Pearce shares Vic’s questing spirit. At the start of A Moment Worth Waiting For, he makes it explicit that he cannot be constrained by genre…

How can anyone stick to one thing: funk, punk, jazz, reggae, hip hop, techno, folk, classical, whatever? 

Quite so. There’s always a new world, unexplored territory, or a selection of rabbit holes to disappear down. What’s wonderful about Kevin Pearce is he will point out new pathways. I scribbled down all the references (musical, cinematic, literary - though mainly musical) that piqued my interest. Another reader would doubtless come up with a very different list.

How Kevin manages to establish and remember the numerous intersecting connections he highlights throughout A Moment Worth Waiting For is a mystery to me, however I am very grateful for his diligence and passion which informs every page of this wonderful book. 

5/5

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My pre-teen daughter’s current favourite song which - with its healthy dose of cynicism about the happy shopper, credit-driven, consumerist world we live in - is probably quite a good sign.

In all the magazines they talk about weight loss
If I buy those jeans I could look like Kate Moss

Lily Allen - Everything’s Just Wonderful

I feel privileged to have lived through an era when “Mouldy Old Dough” was the number one single in the UK.  Needless to say my pocket money contributed to its reign at top spot.  Be proud Britain, be very proud.

Lieutenant Pigeon - Mouldy Old Dough

Back in the world of 2014, this song makes me can make me dance, sing and anything.  Never been much of an Ed Sheeran fan but this is quite simply a classic pop tune.

Ed Sheeran - Sing

Barely a week goes by when I don’t marvel at the wonder of the Faces.  The one band I wish I could go back in time and see live.  Here’s You Can Make Me Dance, Sing or Anything, or to give it its full title You Can Make Me Dance, Sing or Anything (Even Take the Dog for a Walk, Mend a Fuse, Fold Away the Ironing Board, or Any Other Domestic Shortcomings)

Faces - You Can Make Me Dance, Sing or Anything

And finally, one of the greatest songs of all time, and from the much maligned “My Beauty” covers album by Sir Kevin Rowland.  As George used to say, listen without prejudice, it’s spectacular.

Kevin Rowland - The Greatest Love Of All

Have a great weekend.

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Martin Newell, The Greatest Living Englishman

Here’s my interview with Martin Newell

What do you know about the greatest living Englishman, Martin Newell? If your answer is nothing, or not much, then you need to put that right pronto. There’s never been a better time.

Soft Bodies Records have recently released the utterly splendid “Return to Bohemia“, which is the new Cleaners From Venus (aka Martin Newell) album.

Captured Tracks have recently released Volume 3 of their extensive Cleaners From Venus reissues.

And, on top of that, Martin Newell has also launched Mule TV, a new YouTube channel, in which he goes in search of a perfect pop song for the 2015 Eurovision Song Contest. Mule TV is a series of short, very entertaining videos that feature a host of diverse characters, all of whom look suspiciously like a certain Mr Newell.

Once you’ve embraced that little lot, there are books, poems, a website, and an enormous discography to explore. In summary, the man’s a national treasure, and our man nigeyb recently caught up with him…

Hello Martin.  You were ill in 2013.  How are you doing now? 

In most ways, I’m better than I was. The eyesight in one eye is still dodgy, but the surgeons saved the sight and we’re still working on it.

The collapse, a non epileptic brain seizure briefly killed me, I’m told, last May. It was a one-off we think… an electrical fault caused by temporary potassium deficiency, general exhaustion, lack of sleep and a bit of a drinking… quite a lot actually.

I listened to what the neurologist said… “More sleep and less wine… try to remember that you’re sixty now and not thirty..”

I said, “Okay Mr Shiraz.”

There was a pause.

“That’s Mr Sharif.” he said quietly.

So, that’s one death, two eye operations, then my mum died, a week after I got out of hospital. I got on with my album and tried not to take it all personally.

Congratulations on “Return to Bohemia”, the latest Cleaners From Venus album. It’s another wonderful collection that harks back to the golden age of classic pop. Even by your own high standards, this album seems to exude quality. What were your aims at the outset? How pleased are you with it?  Where does it fit with your other work?

I do have this ability to bury myself in music and writing when things are going badly. I wanted to write a cheerful album. After the brain seizure, last summer, all my senses were heightened… for a while this was quite intense. In case it was the last thing which I ever did, I thought that I’d better concentrate. I think it’s as good an album as ever I’ve made. It’s kind of ‘everything I’ve learned about pop so far; distilled into 12 songs. I do feel absolutely at the top of my game at the moment. I seem to have recaptured all my old DIY recording enthusiasm.

Tell us about your splendid new Mule TV YouTube project, including more about your quest to find an appropriate song for Eurovision 2015.  

This is at least half-serious. Whether I’ll get to enter the competition or not, I have doubts. The BBC, for the past few years choose our songs by a mysterious process called “internal selection.” Since I have one or two friends in high places, I asked a few questions yet have still not found out what ‘internal selection’ involves or who does it. I do know, however, that it’s very difficult to find out how to enter a song. For the past few years too, the public are not consulted or asked to vote upon the matter. The result? A number of absolute three-legged donkeys. This country is capable of writing the best songs in the world. Why are the “Auntie Knows Best” BBC hunched over the entry process? Is it, as some think, that if we actually won, we’d then have to pay to host it? I really do think it’s very strange. And I’m going to sit there on Mule TV mercilessly lampooning them, until I flush them from their cover.  Oh and it is terrific fun, too!

You seem to be having a ball on Mule TV, in addition to creating some marvellous comic characters. How much are you enjoying it?  Where have the characters emerged from?  How many are alter-egos?

The characters on Mule are probably all aspects of me to some degree. Mossy the ’80s miserablist singer is of course quite obvious. I believe that The Smiths and XTC between them just about covered the job in the ’80s that the Beatles did in the ’60s. I loved the Smiths.

What does Eurovision mean to you? Why has the UK fared so badly over the years?

I think of the Eurovision as this warm cuddly thing. It’s a shining example of a genuine entente cordiale — one which businessmen, politicians and sports majordomos can only bullshit about. Here is a chance for people of many nations and cultures to share each other’s music, humour and quirks. It’s been a bit hi-jacked by gender politics at present, but there are worse things to be hijacked by. I don’t wish to enter it as a performer, but I’d love to enter a song for it to represent my country, because I’m good at writing songs and I think that I may be able to write something which everyone would love. I’d like to see the contest redefined as a genuine song contest… not merely as a bit of high-camp. I know it’s fun… but I have to ask, “Where are the songs?”

The UK has fared badly, partly because of the Beeb’s arrogance and stupidity and partly because the whole art of songwriting is being buried under hyperbole and technology. Nobody wants to admit that we no longer produce songs of the quality and standard raised during the mid 20th century.

I notice your bicycle features from time to time on Mule TV, and in a recent episode you appeared to be watching the Tour de France when it visited Essex. What does cycling mean to you?

After a guitar, I think a bicycle is my favourite shape. I have never driven. For a while last year, the doctors told me not to cycle for a few weeks, while my operation scars formed. When I finally got back on the bike in late September, I was full of joy, like a pit pony let out into the meadows after a long winter.

I recently read (and loved) your 2001 memoir “This Little Ziggy” that covered your eventful life from the mid-60s to the mid-70s. You have published other books (poetry, newspaper columns, Wivenhoe). I read elsewhere you were planning another memoir, is that still the case? When might we be able to read it?  What are you writing about at the moment?

There are odd chapters and essays of my life after Ziggy all over the place. I think one memoir is enough for now. Ziggy was very raw and very honest. A little too much information perhaps and that wasn’t even the whole story. At present I write a 900 word feature each week for the East Anglian Daily Times about some aspect of my life or other and I write poems every week for the arts section of the Sunday Express. I’ve written a chapter for someone’s else’s book recently about the psycho-geography of East Anglia. I’m more absorbed in music and Mule TV right now.

Because I generally won’t deal with literary agents or London publishers (I’m sure the feeling is mutual) I don’t get hassled to write coffee-table garbage or pointless stuff for In-Flight mags or Waitrose Weekend… which is what lit agents make you do… so I only ever do the work which I like… I wait for someone to ask me to do stuff. If I like the idea I do it. So far as I’m concerned, if I have enough of everything: food in the cupboard, money for some wine, and work to do in the morning, then that’s enough. Why go rubbing shoulders with international twats and corpulent piggies? Anyway, my passport’s expired and I may not renew it.

Captured tracks, the Brooklyn-based independent record label, have – over the last few years – lovingly reissued three box sets of your back catalogue. Given that many of the original releases were DIY efforts, done independently, some cassette-only, and which presumably felt quite ephemeral even at the time, how does it feel to see all this work being reissued?  Will there be any more reissues?

I think nearly all the Cap Tracks releases were DIY things. I should feel somehow artistically vindicated that all these things have been so popular 30 years after I did them.

But hardly any were heard at the time by anyone who might have influenced their fate. I was after all, trying to set up an alternative to the music biz. Those things which were heard by music biz people… their attitude was nearly always “This needs a big studio and producer.” My own reaction to this, even in the face of being offered money was usually a two word answer rhyming with ‘truck’ and ‘cough’. On the few occasions I gave them a chance, tracks were usually ruined… or promises turned out to be lies. I eventually realised that I was dealing with people who didn’t know as much as I did. But to be fair I am an awkward and slightly damaged bastard and I do think that I know best. I’m not at war with them anymore, I just realise that my music has about as much in common with the music industry as say a French ballerina does with a small light engineering firm in the West Midlands.

Here’s some quick fire questions…

What’s your favourite track, or album, to…

…dance to?    

“Soul Makossa” by Manu Dibango

…feel nostalgic to?

“On a Saturday” by Keith West

…cry to? 

“Kentucky Avenue” by Tom Waits

…relax with?

“But Beautiful” by Stan Getz (with Kenny Barron /live at Umbrian Jazz festival)

…ponder life’s complexities? 

“Esprit D Armenie” by Jordi Savall

Which artist, or artists, you respect or admire?  

Rod Stewart, Ron Wood, Keef

Things that make life worth living?

Music, books, and German wine

If you couldn’t live in Wivenhoe (God forbid) where would you choose to live? 

Frinton…maybe Dedham

Thanks Martin

My pleasure

“Return to Bohemia” by Cleaners From Venus is out now.

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nigeyb is, amongst other things, a chameleon, a Corinthian, a cyclist, a writer, a photographer, a DJ, an aspiring good egg, a slow lane dweller, a musical evangelist, an introvert, a dancer, and a wine enthusiast.

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It’s Friiiiiday.  

I’d like to take her home, that’s understood….

Kraftwerk - The Model

Does life get any better…?

Haircut 100 - Love Plus One
Perhaps just a bit…

Captain Sensible - Wot!
There’s so many pathways that lead to the heart…

Josef K - Radio Drill Time
And does it get any more beautiful…?

The Go-Betweens - Quiet Heart
Have a wonderful weekend.