RT & Follow to win

20140705-105221 pm-82341708.jpg

An unknown number popped up on my phone this afternoon. The lady was going around delivering raffle prizes following the All Saints Summer fair yesterday and could she deliver our Ben 10 skateboard. Certainly, just put it over there with the rest of the prizes. Over the last 6 months or maybe a year it’s been a bit uncanny. It started with winning tickets to Green Man festival (even if we were too skint and busy to actually get down there). From there we seem to have had a surprisingly good hit ratio on competitions. The Skateboard followed hot on the heels of 2 burritos from Barburrito, not to mention the flood of Gruff Rhys paraphernalia.

So I thought I’d have a look at the haul so far

-A Pair of tickets to Green Man 2013
-Book : River Stars by Guy Gavriel Kay
– Signed book: Boneyard Ballet by Chris Odgers
-Book: American Interior by Gruff Rhys (subsequently signed)
-American Interior Deluxe Vinyl Boxset and T-Shirt
– Trwbador – Breakthrough 7″
-2 Barburitto burritos
– Ben 10 skateboard

Edit 11/08/14
-Friendly Fires signed 12″

….and long may it continue.


Gruff Rhys in the Welsh Interior 2/5/14

20140504-084135 pm.jpg

I count myself for lucky to have seen Gruff play the other night at a tiny, unique venue in the back and beyond of Wales. It felt like I had a bit of an adventure of my own just getting there. When the tour dates came out ‘Cardiff’ seemed quite convenient as my parents live there. Turns out the gig was in an old Welsh chapel (now a recording studio) about 20 minutes outside Cardiff in a very small village called Pentyrch.

So after a Megabus from Manchester and a bus out to Pentyrch I was there, nice and early for a good seat. I didn’t mind waiting outside (in the graveyard) as the door was open and I could hear Gruff sound check but was easily persuaded to go into the bar when offered- I know, a Welsh chapel with a bar, what has the world come to.

Gruff came into the bar at one point but I he was caught in conversation with some guy (later discovered they had been on The Voice apparently) so I didn’t get a chance to say anything.

Once inside the chapel I wasn’t disappointed. Pulpit, pews and a balcony all made for an impressive theatre. I took the front centre seat but felt decidely odd as the son of a pastor sitting in front of the pulpit sipping my pint!

I’m quite the fan of concept albums and eccentric projects. Of course Gruff Rhys is no newcomer to the scene with his critically acclaimed neon neon side project chronicling first the life of John DeLorean on Stainless Style and later Giangiacomo Feltrinelli on Praxis Makes Perfect. It also reminds me of another musical obsession of mine, Luke Haines of The Auteurs. I’ve been fortunate to have seen him with his North Sea Scrolls side project, detailing his alternate history of Britain and touring his album on British wrestling in the late 1970’s and early 80’s. Like American Interior both had a generous helping of slides, songs and comedy interludes.

Anyway It wasn’t long til the man himself took his position behind the pulpit accompanied by a smaller than life John Evans. What followed was 1 3/4 hours of music and eccentricity. I’d imagine something similar would have been happened if the original John Evans had made it back to Wales and had gone to the local chapel to try to convince the locals that they should all move to America.

PowerPoint in one hand and guitar in the other Gruff transported us to Wales and America in the days of the American Revolutionary War. Besides playing many of the songs from the new album he managed to merge in some old favourites whew the fit the theme. Talk of the mythical Prince Madog provides a opening for the ‘The Court of King Arthur’ (one of the few Archaeology themed songs about). He even managed to find parallels with communism by playing ‘Hammer & Sickle’ from the recent neon neon outing when speaking about the dream of a ‘Free Wales’ in the New World.

Here is ‘100 Unread Messages’ It pretty much covers the whole story with numerous key changes! He did ask us to bear with him as most of the songs were getting the first airings – you’ll notice a few aborted starts but the audience was definitely on his side!

100 Unread Messages, Acapela Studios

In between songs Gruff illustrated the story of John Evans through a speedy PowerPoint. Speedy due to the ominous ’10 % Battery Remaining’ popping up on the screen. Again best seen rather than explained:

To London!

The demise of Don Juan Evans

Sublime and ridiculous throughout, I’m not sure where the time went but all to soon it was over and Gruff departed leaving only John Evans to pose for pictures (of which he did many).
Tshirt purchased all that was left to do was wait for my parents to pick me up. Wait. Yep so far out into the sticks was it that I had to take up my parents kind offer of transport. I wasn’t going to looks gift horse in the mouth though and neither did the two guys I extended the offer to. Somehow it felt in keeping with the intimacy of the night.
It really felt that we had witnessed something special. I know he will be taking the show the big city of London but just like John Evans, he had to set off from Wales first.
Diolch Gruff!

Approxiamate setlist (give or take and jumbled up- May have been more American Interior songs)

Honey all over
100 unread messages
Lost Tribes
Court of King Arthur
American Interior
Lonesome Words
Gyruu Gyruu Gyruu
Hammer and Sickle
The Swamp
The Whether (or not)
Allweddellau Allweddol
Sensations in the Dark
Shark Ridden Waters

EDIT: Just spotted this other review from Wales online

20140504-084212 pm.jpg

White Poppy or Red Poppy?


Originally posted as an answer to:
How do you feel about people wearing a White Poppy for Rememberance Day?

At the end of the day, whether you wear white or red, they are both charitable symbols of rememberance. To say one of more valid or respectful than the other is ludicrous. It’s a personal choice as to which each person decides to wear, if any at all. Even though both find their roots in the inter-war years of 20th century, the Red Poppy of the Royal British Legion is presently the more dominant and widespread of the two

To wear a symbol outwardly as you go about your daily life seems quite a big thing to me. I don’t wear any other throughout the rest of the year so when I do I want know that I am wearing it for the right reasons.

I can’t help feeling the Red Poppy of the RBL has been somewhat hijacked by politicians and the media in recent years. From late October you will not see a single person on tv or in public life without a poppy (except Jon Snow- the newsreader perhaps) Great you may say- but if everyone is forced to wear them is that really conveying the right sentiment.

Then there are the politicians. I do think the Red Poppy campaign is far too militaristic. Of course the Royal British Legion is a military organisation, in their own words they are ” standing shoulder to shoulder with those that serve”. Which is great if that’s the cause you want to support. I wouldn’t find myself supporting military charities the rest of the year and don’t feel the need to now.

I feel quite uneasy about the rise of the ‘heroic soldiers’ theme in charities, where the armed forces are raised above all other professions because of their bravery. There are many other brave professions such as Nurses, Social Workers or the Police, for example that don’t get this special treatment, yet I would argue carry out more heroic duties.

While I wouldn’t necessarily say that the Red Poppy campaign glorifies war, I would say that it adds to this idea of the noble fighter and perpetuates the idea that a strong military is the only option.

Yet as an Archaeologist and one time History teacher I still want to remember those that have died and suffered through the tragedy of war. So for the last few years I have chosen to wear a White Poppy, made and distributed by the Peace Pledge Union.

Without its military connections, for me the White Poppy can represent a wider range of people that have suffered and died in conflicts; not just our Soldiers but Soldiers on all sides, civilians that died in all countries and also people that made the decision not to fight.

My Grandfather was a Conscientious Objector during World War II. He had to stand before a judge and defend his decision not to fight because of his Christian faith. By wearing a White Poppy, somehow I feel slightly closer to that decision.

Both the Red Poppy and the White Poppy are fitting ways to remember the huge sacrifices made by those that have gone before. However I feel the White Poppy further reminds us that we must always strive for peace.

What are some concepts that were difficult for people to grasp in the past but are now common place?

Answer by Steve Tamburello:

1. Silent Reading

Silent reading was quite unusual in the west, at least until the 10th century. Rather it is thought that you had speak the words out loud to read them. One of the first people to be actually recorded as doing so was Ambrose in the 4th century AD. It was noted by St Augustine of Hippo on his visit to Milan.

This is an extract from:

"Ambrose was an extraordinary reader. "When he read," said Augustine, "his eyes scanned the page and his heart sought out the meaning, but his voice was silent and his tongue was still. Anyone could approach him freely and guests were not commonly announced, so that often, when we came to visit him, we found him reading like this in silence, for he never read aloud."

 Eyes scanning the page, tongue held still: that is exactly how I would describe a reader today, sitting with a book in a cafe across from the Church of St. Ambrose in Milan, reading, perhaps, Saint Augustine's Confessions. Like Ambrose, the reader has become deaf and blind to the world, to the passing crowds, to the chalky flesh-coloured facades of the buildings. Nobody seems to notice a concentrating reader: withdrawn, intent, the reader becomes commonplace.


To Augustine, however, such reading manners seemed aufficiently strange for him to note them in his Confessions. The implication is that this method of reading, this silent perusing of the page, was in his time something out of the ordinary, and that nomal reading was performed out loud. Even though instances of silent reading can be traced to earlier dates, not until the tenth century does this manner of reading become usual in the West."

2. Segmented Sleep

Another fascinating difference is normal sleep patterns in Pre-Industrial societies. So your average medieval serf might find it difficult to grasp the concept of sleeping for 7 or 8 hours straight. They would have been used to getting up in the middle of the night and getting up to all sorts of things.

In 2005 Roger Ekirch, a historian at Virginia Tech published a book called At Days Close: Night's In Times Past. It was the culmination of 20 years research into references to sleep patterns from Homer's Odyssey, through ancient texts, medieval writings and all the way to modern day African tribes. He concluded that many of the references described a  a first sleep which began about two hours after dusk, followed by waking period of one or two hours and then a second sleep.

"It's not just the number of references – it is the way they refer to it, as if it was common knowledge," (Ekirch).

So you came in from the fields exhausted, the sun has gone down and all you can do is collapse onto your bed. So what do after you have refreshed yourself with a few hours sleep. Well apparently some got up and ate, some entertained or went around to neighbours houses to socialise. Reinvigorated from their nap some muster the energy for more energetic night time activity! Some doctors even recommended there was a better chance of conceiving after 'the first sleep'.

After a couple of hours of night time activity a 'second sleep' or morning sleep was had until sunrise.

This seems like such a fundamental difference to the daily routine that it really didn't occur to me before I read of the research a few years ago. Here are a few leads if you wish to find out more:


View Answer on Quora



Like many other journeys this year I sat down this morning and looked over the crossword in the i newspaper.  Frequently I would have been asked after 10 minutes “have you finished it yet?” by Gwyn in front seat. Sometimes I had, sometimes he had, whichever it was by first break between us and a couple of others we normally had it cracked.


To say it was surreal going to Gwynfor’s funeral today would be an understatement. I still can’t match what happened today to the bloke we all knocked about and bantered with only last month. Although we all only  found out yesterday what had happened I’m glad we made the effort to get to Aberaeron in West Wales for the ceremony. I think it was good for many of the very separate groups to come together to remember and piece together some of the details and memories from our encounters.

Gwyn was one of a kind, one of the big characters on the digging circuit. I first met him back in 2003 on my very first dig and subsequently over in Ireland. I hadn’t seen him in quite a few years until earlier this year in South Wales on a Cotswold job. The hair was shorter and neater but he was unmistakable, striding around site. Perhaps calmer than the last time I had worked with him but as sharp and witty as ever. There were very few boundaries with Gwyn which meant some were more cautious with him at first, but it also meant that everything was open to be discussed. From philosophy to religion to history to politics he had a huge knowledge to draw on. On a lower level he could leave a newcomer to site quite shocked if they weren’t used to his unique style of break time banter.

Although it was hardly believable to be in the situation of attending his funeral today I think it was a fitting send off. His family, some diggers and his neighbours from the farm gathered together for a simple and honest service before he was buried next to the sea nearby.


He had plenty of stories that deserve to be recounted but maybe that is for another time.

Gwynfor, what can I say, you will be missed.

Luke Haines got a Casio VL Tone


It was only a matter of weeks ago that I was in a car, flying down the motorway to my last dig, discussing musical heroes with Sir Julian. New Wave and Now I’m a Cowboy were on repeat on the stereo. Chinese Bakery, Junkshop Clothes, Don’t Trust The Stars, Lenny Valentino. So many great songs and so many memories associated with them.  Yet I had had never managed to catch him live.

Shoot forward to last Saturday evening. The New Continental in Preston. A rare live appearance in the north west. Rare also for its intimacy and relaxed nature. I have a live recording of Haines  entitled “No dialogue with C**ts” where lets say he is not so open to interaction with the audience. It was with this in mind that I approached him to see if he would sign some old Auteurs and Baader Meinhof records I had. In fact he was a complete gent, self effacing even.

Luke Haines is loosely touring his latest concept album, “9 1/2 Psychedelic Meditations on British Wrestling in the 1970’s and early 80’s”  Just like his Baader Meinhof album I have been gradually drawn into to his chosen subject matter as I have listened to the album over the last few weeks. The people and images are just on the edge of my childhood memories. Even though I was only a few years old in the early 80’s  Big Daddy and Giant Haystacks were familiar household names. And it was their faces on the backdrop that greeted us as we arrived.


An album solely about British Wrestling may sound crazy or like a gimmick but believe me it isn’t. If you happen to read either of his books you will know that Haines is the first to point out that he should get more credit than he has done and he not wrong. In “Rock Opera in the Key of Existential Misery” he admits he is ‘no Leonard Cohen and definitely no Nick Drake’ yet he encapsulates the sights and sounds of a bygone England in the way that is equal to Drake .

So we are given an insight into the characters of each of the faces on the wall (when he can find them) and also a glimpses of what it was like to grow up in the Haines household of the 1970’s. A young Luke eating liver sausage sandwiches and cheese while watching World of Sport.

After a rousing group chorus, a memorial to the departed wrestlers ‘in heaven’, we were treated to his latest revelations as written in his book ‘Post Everything’. Never one to hold back, Luke Haines gives us the inside story of his ill fated, if not slightly tongue-in-cheek National Pop Strike of 2001. Funny stuff, even to a slower witted northern crowd.

 If an album of wrestling themed music isn’t for you then perhaps neither is one recounting an alternate British history where Osward Mosley held the sway of power for two terms. Too much for MP and Poet Laureate ‘Enoch Powell, Space Poet’ who left the front bench to join Gong. All revealed on the elusive North Sea Scrolls.

The night was capped off perfectly by a gracious Haines in the bar, holding court for the many fans who had appreciated his musings from afar for many years. He did well to listen to the ramblings of many starstruck punters and yes i’m including myself in that group.

Big Daddy Got a Casio VL Tone

It’s the end of rem as we know it


So this was the week that rem split. It was only the day before that lisa and I were watching an old rem storytellers on MTV. At the time I reflected on how even hearing one song takes me back immediately to my teenage years. I used to listen to those albums so much. Strangely because they are so familiar I maybe forget to listen to them now. I can kind of play them in my head but from time to time one song will kind of sound new again. Most recently it was Harborcoat. I suppose because Stipe mumbles through the first few albums it’s easy to miss the lyrics and just like the song for its overall sound. The words just being another instrument.

That said its not as though any of them died. Some of the reports kind of felt that way. It does make sense looking back. Collapse into now was the last album of their deal with Warner bros and there was already speculation as to whether they would do a radiohead or commit again. Of crowded house or gorky’s are anything to go by some of the most interesting stuff comes after the split.