Spitalfields Fruit & Wool Exchange; January 2016

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Up to Spitalfields, to discover that the Fruit & Wool Exchange has been mostly demolished, in the cause of redevelopment. From the developer’s website (and, yes, I know that isn’t always a reliable guide…), it doesn’t look like too bad a scheme, and certainly far from the worst example of facadism in that area.

Newcastle Quayside; December 2015

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After 36 hours of incessant rain, we woke to clear blue skies on the 27th of December. After a walk round a mostly-deserted Ouseburn, we headed down to the Quayside, enjoying the sunshine. By mid-morning people were streaming down to the riverside, released from two days indoors, and drawn by the gravitational pull of Tyne, bridges, and the Baltic gallery. We’d already visited the Baltic on Christmas Eve – enjoying the B. Wurz exhibition, feeling a little nonplussed by the other displays, being grateful for some excellent activities and books to read for our 5 year old – but it was still nice to poke our noses in briefly. Every walk needs a token purpose, at least.

That was (a slice of) 2015

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Back in the north east for Christmas – as good a time as any to look back over the year and try to remember what I did in 2015.

Lot of gigs with my band; though as ever there were runs of too many then too few gigs. Highlights of the gigging year:

  • A freezing cold New Year’s Day afternoon in Greenwich Market where it seemed half of Greenwich had braved the weather to come out to watch us.
  • The Brooklyn Bowl (in the O2 Arena!).
  • Playing at The White Swan in Charlton village not longer after it re-opened and having Glenn Tilbrook of Squeeze join us for the second set. Amazing how everyone steps up when you have actual professional musicians in the band.

After an early-in-the year wobble about my proficiency as a lead guitarist I got to a point where I feel I’m at least good enough for the level I’m playing, and that realisation seems to have led to an improvement in my playing through the year. I’m never going to be Roy Lanham, but good enough is good enough.

Photography: I didn’t take as many photos as I usually do, and I feel a bit as though my photographic chops have suffered as a result. Next year I promise myself I’ll get out and take more. I am very happy with the Fuji X100t I bought earlier in the year; 2016 could well see me sell off my Nikon gear in favour of another Fuji body to go with the lenses originally bought for my X-E1. However hard I try I’m never as happy with the files from the D7100 as from the Fuji cameras. Mostly, though, I need to make the time to make photographs.

I bought more records than was probably financial sensible and played them on my new secondhand Technics turntable, to great satisfaction. Should have bought it ages ago.

Work was up and down, in the way that work often is. Completed a year of working in Canary Wharf: so far the convenience of getting between desk and home in half an hour is outweighing the many downsides of working in a bland, privatised compound. It doesn’t pay to think too hard about how convenience trumps all sorts of things we otherwise would say we value.

After a trip to Cornwall over the summer we managed a foreign holiday for the first time in years (and my daughter’s first ever trip abroad), which worked very well; lovely to get some October warmth before the British winter kicked in.

I didn’t manage to do a great deal for our local community website, The Charlton Champion, but I did manage to persuade one of our local councillors to write a piece, which – in a borough where the council leadership tightly controls its news coverage by publishing a weekly newspaper – felt like a useful achievement. Hopefully that’s a vaguely positive sign for next year. Also, a piece on late opening at Charlton Lido was shared on Facebook 200+ times: a personal record by a factor of many.

On swimming, I managed to go to Charlton lido pretty much weekly, sometimes more, enjoying year round opening. A vow to swim at least 1km every visit went by the wayside when I realised there wasn’t quite time to do that many lengths while my daughter had her swimming lesson, but who cares? I extended it to a mile a few times, and now know I can do that easily with enough, which felt like a decent achievement for someone who’s gone through most of his life to date without bothering much with exercise. Better still was the pleasure of watching my daughter learn to swim and enjoying the lido.

There was much besides, of course; some good, some not so good, and though it’s still a sad and beautiful world, I’m looking forward to 2016. Thanks for reading.

Now listening: ‘The Land and the Garden’, Vic Mars

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  Picked this up from the Clay Pipe Music stall at the Independent Label Market in Spitalfields in November without really knowing much about it – a limited edition, I found out later (for what that’s worth). I’m not wholly convinced by the whole ‘instrumental music about place’ thing, but everyone needs an angle and the music is lovely. It has the wooziness that I love in some of the work of the Memory Band, Sparklehorse, and so on.

Harty Ferry, Isle of Sheppey; November 2015

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A freezing cold November trip to the Isle of Sheppey to collect a friend from a wedding. Lunch in Whitstable seemed like a good plan, but took nearly as long to reach from the furthest tip of Sheppey as it would have done from Charlton. Harty Ferry would have provided a more direct route; sadly it closed in 1914, though you can still see the slipway (above). I’d like to go back and spend some more time exploring Sheppey’s Dickensian marshland landscape sometime – preferably on a slightly warmer day.

More Bert Jansch re-issues

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Very pleased to hear that Earth Recordings are re-issuing one of my favourite Bert Jansch albums (and didn’t I plead for someone to do that just a few weeks ago…?) in February next year:

And they’ve also recently re-issued Jansch’s Moonshine on picture disc (the picture being a fairly horrible jolly Albion, folk-music-overtaken-by-CAMRA style of country pub scene; not one for the living room walls). Not my favourite album of his, but does feature a spirited version of The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face, which avoids turning into a dirge, unlike many interpretations of that song.

Now playing: ‘The Individualism of Gil Evans’

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The Individualism of Gil Evans:
terrible artwork, incredible album. I struggled for a long time to get into this kind of orchestrated jazz; then the light went on one day listening to one of the Gil Evans arranged Miles Davis albums. This one’s got it all (except Miles): tunes, tone, moods, the funk, and some incredibly intense drumming.

It’s an ideal candidate for a nice vinyl re-issue, though; this c.1974 copy misses some of the best tracks. So here it is in full on Spotify:

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