IMG_2965 by WJCruttenden
IMG_2965, a photo by WJCruttenden on Flickr.

I found this inside a copy of 'A Book of Children's Verse' on my bookshelf. It had belonged to my uncle and was a reward he received at school. Kindles may be nice but you wouldn't find one of these.


I thought some of the metaphysical imagery was particularly effective...

Once I had a terrible, nightmarish experience that I'd like to share with you.

I was at the house of my then girlfriend enjoying some light conversation and a drink. She left the room and returned with a giant stack of A4 paper. On each one was a poem. "These are some of my poems," she said. Then, in a scene much like the one with the Vogon Captain in Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy she began to read them.

I made my excuse after three or four and did the typical male thing of avoiding her in order to destroy the relationship and, more importantly, to never have to hear her poems again. The following year I was in Borders with a pal and the local poetry club began a recital. More horror. Then, on a local radio programme I heard someone reading a poem about their mother.

"We often went on holiday
We used to go to Devon.
We drove their with my mother
But now she is in heaven."

... went one of the many quatrains. I still shiver now.

After these experiences I had to do some serious thinking. I love poetry but amateur poets came across to me in a way that amateur airline pilots might to their surprised passengers.

The first step was to re-think the poetry I was writing. Someone (I forget who) had made the point that you should think really hard before writing a poem about yourself. If you were that interesting (he surmised) other people would be writing poems about you. So, I stopped writing about myself.

The second step was to not show anyone my work until I had got beyond the stage of copying the styles of others. So I did that.

The third stage was to read a lot more contemporary poems. A surprising amount of amateur poets write as if they (or their language) come from the 18th century.

The fourth stage was to not show my poems to anyone until I felt I had learnt the craft. I couldn't afford to go on a course (still can't) so I got books from studied form, technique, rhyme, rhythm and the multiplicity of things that infuse good poems. This has been going on for over fifteen years and very enjoyable it's been too. Not just for me but for all those people who haven't had to read the terrible, shit, poems I made along the way.

The only problem with a course of action like this is that you get used to not showing work and crafting away quietly. I've been working hard to find my own voice and overcome the lazyness that affects and inflicts so much amateur poetry.

But then my friend lost his baby. She was nineteen weeks old and had been fighting hard to live after being born premature. When he wrote about his loss I responded, instinctively, by writing a short poem. It was well recieved and I felt that was that (it's a few posts below this one).

Then I wrote a poem, for fun (but with some thought) which got a more public airing. Again the response was good. Perhaps it's time to let a few more out into the open.


To be fair to the Guardian they reflected the recent Prom which featured Strauss's 'Four Last Songs' pretty well. A beautiful Prom overall but with some horrendous brown moments in the songs themselves. So much of this is subjective, which leads me to a comment I spotted on Amazon yesterday.

The new ECM Album by Dans Les Arbres was reviewed by someone who complained that this disc of improvised music did not feature any songs. This was a problem, according to the reviewer, because CDs are expensive. No amount of banging my head on the table makes opinions like this more reasonable.


City Noir

Last night at the Proms the John Adams piece, 'City Noir' was played. I was at home, doing the ironing but thanks to this symphonic mastpiece I was driving down a freeway (or is it a highway) in 1950s Los Angeles, at night, going past sleaezy jazz clubs... quite possibly in the batmobile.

It was a glorious feast of a work and the applause at its conclusion suggested the RAH crowd loved it as much as I did.

However, if you read the Guardian or certain other papers this morning you'd believe the performace was lacklustre and overlong.

I'm willing to admit that one person's expereince listening to a piece of music can be wildly difference to someone else's (Too Kool To Kalypso by Klark Kent was deeemed "depressing and grim" by a pal, whereas it makes me dance all around the kitchen playing air drums) I can't believe the Guardian critic actually heard the performance I did. He certainly didn't hear the audience reaction.

Tonight Strauss's Four Last Songs are being performed. Let's see what the Guardian's guy thinks of them.


Here’s an odd moment. I’ve been at the day job for the last week and I’m still half way through recovery time for my knee (see self-indulgent posts below). Climbing stairs has been something I’ve had to be careful about since the op. I have to lead with the good leg going up and the bad leg coming down (“heaven going up, hell coming down,” as a friendly medical person told me) and take it all, literally, one step at a time.

As I’ve been following this advice for nearly four weeks it has become second nature to me. Today I decided to walk down the stairs normally. But, at first, I couldn’t remember what the ‘normal’ way was. Right foot down, then left…no wait, left leg goes two steps down… or does it? I hobbled back a step and tried again. After a few weird moments I remembered the sequence and tried again. Right sequence, wrong idea. Much pain and a message to my brain from my knee that translated as, “You idiot! Wait until you’re properly better.”

Part of my upcoming holiday plans involved climbing Mount Snowdon. Hmmm, might have to rethink that one.


Star of the Sea

Star of the Sea (For Molly Allcock)

You have survived the early arrival
And breathed life back to
Those close to you.

You have travelled for nineteen weeks,
Doubling your weight.
Raising expectations.

You are too tired to carry on
And with regret made of
Tubes, Perspex and wires,

You have left us.


I'm sitting here with my leg up, resting after my first day back at the dayjob since the operation, and I notice that I still haven't posted about the relatively recent Stickmen gig in Islington.

So, here it is.

I drove into London after work and, thanks to the terrible traffic, missed any chance of getting some food before the gig. I was expecting Gavin Harrison's band to be on first but was delighted to find Stickmen on instead. The band is made of Tony Levin (my bass playing hero), Pat Mastelotto (the most inventive drummer in the world) and Markus Reuter (one of the most inventive musicians and composers around). I expected a lot and got a lot. They played a storming set without ever giving the impression of showing off. Actually the word that loomed largest during the set was 'fun'.

If the amazing music wasn't enough I finally got to meet my ePals, Lee and Lisa Fletcher. How wonderful to meet someone you've known virtually for so long and feel glad that the 'real' person more than matches up to the virtual version.

After the Stickmen set was over I met Markus and his wife Rene. I also briefly met Pat Mastelotto, Jakko Jakszyk and realised that the people who looked like Bill Bruford and Steven Wilson were indeed Billy B and the Porcupine tree main man.

But despite meeting and chatting with this wealth of talented and lovely people the special moment for me, as a bassist, was to have a few minutes with Tony Levin, the emperor of bass guitar.




 Rene, Lisa and Lee

 Some bald bloke and Markus

 One of these bass players is much better than the other

To say the evening left me feeling inspired would be a huge understatement.


Freakin Disco

It's been nearly two weeks since my knee operation. Everything has been going really well and then John Schofield messed me up.

I'll explain.

I was making bread in the kitchen with both children close by. I need music to cook or bake so I put on the John Schofield album 'Up All Night'. The very funky track, 'Freakin Disco' came on just at the moment my son started crying. I picked him up and to cheer him up started dancing. The part of my brain that should have told me to stop was listening to the bass line.

While performing an extremely cool shuffle all my weight came down on my right leg. Boom! Lights in front of my eyes and a swift returning of the boy to the floor and I was ready to limp back to the sofa. Ow, ow, ow, ow!

Of course I had to finish the bread, so I put the beautiful ECM album, Nuove Musiche by Rolf Lislevand on.