I’m ‘enjoying’ the tv programmes commemorating the Bolshevik Revolution of 100 years ago as I’ve always been fascinated by the history of Russia and the Soviet Union. I tend to think of communist Russia as the experiment that never was; communism by name only, mafia tyranny in reality. It’s a complex history and a revolution betrayed, as they usually are. But for a brief instant there was hope.
We should thank the Soviet Union for keeping Western Europe relatively honest, as without it we’d never have got our NHS, Council Housing, Pension rights etc. The powers that be in our neck of the woods were terrified of an alternative economic/intellectual model appealing to the oiks. Now the Soviets are gone and the western capitalist is showing his true colours.
When I was a youth I wrote a song, ‘The Freezing Sea’ which was Trotsky singing to his estranged wife and in middle age I wrote ‘Ghosts Upon Dead Rivers’ about murdering lunatics like Uncle Joe Stalin. Happy days…

Robert Harris is a writer whose books I’ve enjoyed for years although I sometimes belittle him with faint praise; ‘he’s a great thriller writer’ that kind of thing. That said, he is a great thriller writer but he’s often so much more. Known predominantly perhaps for the excellent Fatherland, his rich body of work includes the Cicero trilogy – an absolute feast for lovers of Ancient Rome – and a thinly disguised portrait of an ego driven Tony Blair in The Ghost. I was a bit disappointed with his last, Conclave but his latest novel, Munich, is superb.  

The novel concerns Chamberlain and Hitler and the events leading up to the infamous ‘peace in our time’ proclamation by the now much derided British prime minister. Harris addresses the Munich agreement from a different angle than the usual appeasement one and the book reads like an argument for the PM as a force for good at a time the forces of evil and war where in the ascendancy, and it’s a convincing argument. The story is driven by the relationship between 2 civil servants, one English the other German, who knew each other from their days together at Oxford, and the role they play in the cauldron of late 1930s world affairs. The overriding message of the book seems to be that Chamberlain was, contrary to conventional historical opinion, no spineless fool and Churchill’s eventual success should not have come at the expense of Chamberlain’s reputation. To the victor the spoils, alas, is an ongoing tragedy throughout history but the greatest tragedy here is Chamberlain’s quest for peace failed and in retrospect was always doomed to failure. 

Nowadays, with Neo Nazis seemingly everywhere you look, it would take more than a peace of paper to get us to believe we had peace in our time, but only 20 years after the first great world war, people had to believe another could be averted. Chamberlain was certainly one of those and perhaps that’s the worst thing that can be said about him.
Highly recommended if you like thrillers, espionage and an intelligent reading of history.

Here’s a live video of This Is a Cold War (the song’s from the second Cold War EP) I recorded on my phone while practicing at Silver Lining Studios last week. I had my own practice room until recently so it was nice to spend a couple of hours going through songs old and new as I try to figure out the what, why and wherefore of my music life. I can thoroughly recommend SLS if you’re looking for a room(s). They have 3 of them, one of which has recording facilities and there’s a shop selling all the bits and bobs you might need. It’s a good place with good space and a friendly environment all round.

Anyway, here’s the video. Nothing flash just me and my keyboard.

Halloumi bake with roasted veg. 

I love cooking. I love cooking once I know what I’m doing. I love cooking with a glass of wine at the ready and some great music or radio programme playing. In a pathetic attempt to garner more eyeballs to my site I thought I’d share the occasional recipe via the blog. 

I’m getting ready to go on my hols and as much as I enjoy being elsewhere I love being at home. Cooking, drinking wine and listening to great stuff. But needs must so in celebration of great holidays I’m having a Mediterranean scran tonight. I’m a vegetarian for the most part and this is tasty as you can get : baked halloumi with roasted veg.

Ingredients, but you can use what you like really. Tomatoes, new potatoes, courgette, shallots, rosemary, thyme, chilli flakes and halloumi. There’s barely any cooking involved.

Chop the spuds in to smallish chunks and parboil them for 10 minutes or so and in the meantime heat the oven to gas mark 6 or 7. Cut the toms in half, I like the small vine ones, slice the courgette and the shallots, put them in a roasting tray with olive oil, salt and pepper, rosemary and thyme. When the spuds are done add them, fling everything together and part in the middle, like Moses and the Red Sea. Cut your halloumi in half, place the pieces on a big piece of kitchen foil, pour a bit of olive oil over them and sprinkle chilli flakes. Then do the foil up in to a parcel and place it in the roasting tin where you did your Old Testament miracle.

Bung in the oven for 30 minutes or so, stirring half way through. Eat. Go on holiday and relax.

Music by Lambchop https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/22-a-million/id1141107722

Recipe stolen from Nigel Slater but messed about with.

When I was recording my Cold War EPs (see here) I wrote a lot of songs, many I never finished, considered not good enough or thought inappropriate in some way. I was going through the CW hard drive and found them and on listening back one or two aren’t bad. This one is ok I think.

The Cold War seems to me now to have been a continuation of the 2nd World War and our parents and grand parents must have been knackered having to deal with a constant hum of war and threats of war. A lot of messed up people were stalking the earth. Us kids just got on with things as far as I remember but I can also recall dark nights of fear, my infant brain scared out of its wits, as I lay in bed convinced the bomb was going to be dropped any time soon. I used to plan hiding spaces but as a family I don’t think we practised the Protect and Survive instructions for turning the airing cupboard in to a bomb shelter.

So here’s a song about growing up a cold war child. I admire songwriters who can invest their stuff with humour and wit, I alas seem not to have the gift so it’s quite bleak. I think it’s a bit too personal to have found a place on the EPs but I hope some of you like it.

I’ve been working on some songs, old and new, which are loosely connected by being about England or English places. Of course the subject of England is a hot one at the moment and if you’re like me, you’ll despair of the direction we are heading in. Politically, there are some signs of progressive policies around the margins but I can’t honestly say I see things improving for the foreseeable future. I’ve certainly been encouraged by the number of younger people taking an interest and I can only hope that my generation, I’m talking 40 and up, the ones currently in charge of everything don’t make a complete mess of things.

I’m not a patriot. I’ve always been relatively happy to be English, after all most people are something, but it doesn’t define me, I don’t think we are better by any measurement. I’d betray my country before I betrayed my loved ones that’s for sure. Most of the songs are not however, political with a big flashing capital P. I’m hoping to finish them all by the end of the year and then decide how to make them available for your pleasure.

Here’s one of them. The lyrics were mainly the work of Shaun Belcher a poet and artist and are concerned with the degradation of the beautiful English countryside. I recorded it in my living room to test a new microphone and it’s not turned out too bad.

I’ve been intending to change web server for quite a while now, but it’s a bit of a slog to do so. When my site went down with a 503 error notice it became time for me to do so.

I’m hosting this one at WordPress itself as i like using the software and understand it and I’m hoping it will prove stable Strong and stable ha ha! Time will of course tell.

I’m at a crossroads in many areas of my life (cue violins) but I’m hoping to reengage with the dwindling but lovely band of people who enjoy my music and I intend to make more music too. I’m looking at ways to make my experience of playing, recording, writing and all the rest of it more satisfying both for you and me. I’m not by nature or psychology great at the travelling circus part of the business of show but hope I can make myself step out more often than I do and hope too it will be good for any audience I have. I am determined to do more with my website that is for certain and have plans in my head for making this corner of cyberspace at least worth a visit.

After all, we live in interesting times.

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