When Wilko Johnson first made a name for himself with the band ‘Dr. Feelgood’ during the early seventees, I was already hooked on the pioneers of funk and jazz fusion and so was paying little attention to other genres. Unfortunately we all too often only appreciate wider tastes with age. Their music therefore passed me by.
It wasn’t until Wilko was playing with Ian Dury and The Blockheads that he caught my attention. I loved Ian Dury’s diverse musical output and often marvelled at his super talented ‘Blockheads’ band as they effortlessly switched between old school rock and roll, pub rock, funk, reggae in fact they could play anything. Ian Dury and the Blockheads could never be pigeon-holed, and it was with very deep regret that when Ian died of cancer in 2000, I hadn’t made the effort to see them play together. I have never lost my enjoyment of their music and still regularly listen.
Imagine my delight when a couple of months ago I chanced on an ad for the Wilko Johnson Band playing at the O2 Academy in Islington, London – supported by Ian Siegal. Wilko’s band consisted of himself, the legendary Norman Watt-Roy on bass and Dylan Howe on drums – all ex-Blockheads! Having learned since Ian’s death to seize opportunities when they arise, I immediately went on-line and booked tickets for myself and Jane. I wasn’t sure if Jane would actually come because although she too enjoys Ian Dury’s music, the set we would see would be Wilko’s – and neither of us were too familiar with his back-catalogue.
The gig was on Friday 30th September, so we booked it off work. Islington isn’t too bad for shopping and the Academy is in the heart of the N1 shopping area so we decided to have the afternoon shopping, enjoy one of Jane’s picnics and then enjoy the show.
The O2 Academy is a small venue (800 capacity), with a small stage area and bars on both the floor and mezzanine levels. I love these venues for the intimacy they provide between the band and the crowd.
Ian Siegal was the support band and played a suberb one hour set and although I was unfamiliar with his music before this gig – his brand of blues, funk and soul fusion was superb. It was also evident that he had his own following in the crowd and was very well supported. I was motivated enough by his performance and the music to buy ‘A Bigger Plate of Meat & Potatoes’ at the gig – a CD and DVD of a live performance from one of his North Sea Jazz Festival appearances. Superb!
|The Ian Siegal Band!|
After a 30 minute break while the stage equipment was moderately adjusted, Wilko, Norman and Dylan took the stage and – oh .. my .. God! Before Ian Siegal had finished his set, he had thanked us all for attending in such good numbers for his set at such an early time – he started at 19:00. He advised us to ‘strap ourselves in’ for Wilko’s set, and from the off I knew what he meant. They were blistering! I had seen Wilko’s on-stage antics on TV before, with his manic stare, pacing rapidly forward and backward as though he was connected to the amp behind him with elastic – regularly mock machine gunning the crowd with his Fender Telecaster with the red pick-guard, but nothing prepares you for the energy that comes from the stage with his ferocious rhythmic strumming and Norman’s pulsating fluttering bass lines, all perfectly synchronised with some of the loudest, crispest flourishes from Dylan’s drums. Awsome.
|Wilko Johnson Band!|
Wilko doesn’t use a plectrum (pick). He has a unique style of play using his fingers to rapidly strum the strings very fast and often very aggressively. He maintains that his Telecaster has a red pick-guard so you can’t see the blood!
My fears about whether or not Jane would enjoy it evaporated immediately. She was dancing within seconds – always a good sign!
Wilko is a man of very few words onstage, and with very few exceptions they ran from one song to the next almost without stopping. Non-stop energy, up-beat, loud and with all three of them providing a master-class on each of their instruments.
|Dylan Howe!||Master bass-man – Norman Watt-Roy!|
If anyone reading this enjoys and appreciates live music and has the opportunity to see these guys play together – take it. You are guaranteed to have one of the best musical experiences of your life.
This week was spent taking a complete rest at a lakeside cottage retreat in Wales.
Lake Mochdre was once a reservoir supplying water to the town of Newtown until 1969, when it became a fish farm until around 1980. Now it is a beautifully rich natural environment fed by three streams and supporting a multitude of wildlife. Some of the woodland surrounding the lake is a remnant of the original western rain forest that once covered Wales. The mixture of habitats including the lake, woodland, farmland and shrubbery that surround the cottage provide for 70 specific species of bird which are all identified in the supporting documentation for the cottage.
|Frank considers a swim!|
The property is I believe a German built wooden chalet type construction which was as you’d expect, well-built and very warm.
All credit to the owner of the property for her vision and the hard work of her and her family in helping to cultivate a thriving natural environment which allows people to live in close harmony with such a setting and enjoy and learn from it.
The weather was very wet. With the exception of the Saturday we arrived and the next day, it rained at some point every day thereafter until we returned the following Saturday. But the weather doesn’t concern me however on holiday. My primary objective is rest – and this is always achieved. The joy of going to bed and getting up without an alarm clock three hours later than normal and being totally free of work is all I need for a successful rest!
The site was not within a working zone for my mobile phone and with no wireless Internet alternative – I was forced to switch-off.
Today we spent a wonderful day at the Welsh Food Festival. The festival is a two day event held at Glansevern Hall – just outside Welshpool. It is now in its sixth year and has been growing steadily in participation and attendance year on year.
Local food producers offer samples of their wares and of course sell them – and we were eager to oblige. We bought locally made bread, scones, several pickles and chutney’s and elderflower wine.
The event wasn’t just however market stalls scattered around the grounds of a country estate. There were also many other activities to bring interest to the thousands of visitors. A guy call Ted Bruce demonstrated the art of basket weaving, which of course were also on sale and the Montgomeryshire Bee Keepers Association raised awareness to all of the importance of bees in the production of just about everything that was on sale – and included demonstrations of how to make honey.
There was also a marquee which at various times hosted different musicians – we saw a Harpist followed by a Welsh folk group backing a demonstration of Welsh folk dancing.
After a very enjoyable day, we returned home to our beautiful lakeside cottage and had tea with our scones.
It’s been a while since my last post.
This has been for a combination of causes but one reason – a lack of time!
The truth is, my work has taken some interesting twists and turns lately resulting in more travel and longer hours, and when I do get some ‘me’ time I have purposely tried to avoid spending it on a PC. Because 99% of my work is carried out in front of a PC – even most of my meetings are these days conducted in Microsoft LiveMeeting or Communicator – I took a conscious decision last year to focus more attention on hobbies that were not PC based. Hence my lack of activity here in this journal.
During the last year we have invested in an iPad – primarily to address Jane’s lack of enthusiasm for the PC platform. She hated being an occasional PC user which meant spending most of her PC time per month updating anti-virus software and patching Microsoft Windows. I eased some of this pain by migrating her unit to Linux – as is documented in a separate blog elsewhere on this site – but even so, she still found the PC a cumbersome device to get to grips with. The iPad however was a totally different experience and she took to it immediately, and has since joined the ranks of Apple converts.
It was while using the iPad more than my PC at home that I became painfully aware that I had my very own site and large areas of it were invisible to Apple devices and others that were not ‘Adobe Flash’ compliant. In pondering the dilemma of making my site ‘Apple aware’, I had to agree that to honour Internet standards I needed to revise my approach to Web publishing and adopt HTML5 and H.264 as a video standard with fall-back to ‘Flash’ where the standard couldn’t be served.
This has resulted in an overdue face-lift to the site. And a renewed interest at writing material for it. Let’s see how long I can keep it up this time
Having enjoyed a lifelong interest in martial arts, well at least from the age of 15, and practiced many forms – in latter years my interest settled in the Taoist arts – particularly qigong and tai chi.
I joined the ‘Taoist Tai Chi Society’ – learned the form – which consists of a 108 move pattern – and enjoy the health benefits that these very subtle yet enormously therapeutic arts have bought me personally.
The Taoist Tai Chi Society was founded by Taoist master – Moy Lin-Shin. (1931 – 1998)
Moy Lin-Shin was born in 1931 in Taishan county, Guangdong Province, China. Moy’s early youth was plagued by ill-health and he was sent to a Taoist monastery teaching the Hua Shan School of Taoism. Here he studied both the religious and philosophical sides of Taoism gaining skills in Chinese internal martial arts – notably Lok Hup Ba Fa, Tai Chi, Hsing I Ch’uan, Bagua and Taoist Qigong. During his time spent studying the Taoist arts he regained his health.
In 1968 along with two other Taoist masters, Moy co-founded the temple for the Fung Loy Kok Institute of Taoism.
Moy eventually travelled overseas and settled in Montreal, Canada. In 1970 he began teaching a small group of students the health and martial arts aspects of Tai Chi. Upon moving to Toronto a few years later, he continued teaching Tai Chi but focussed more on the health benefits and less on the martial applications. Eventually Moy presented his modified Tai Chi form only as exercise, rather than as a martial art.
Moy’s Tai Chi form was developed from the standard Yang style Tai Chi Chuan form, which he then mixed with elements of other internal arts. He originally taught it to condition his students to learn Lok Hup Ba Fa later. He called this modified form Taoist Tai Chi, and emphasized the non-competitive nature of his style of teaching and of the form. A teacher of Taoist Tai Chi is asked to conform to and live by what Moy called, the “Eight Heavenly Virtues”:
- Sense of Shame (consciousness or awareness of dishonour)
- Honor (virtuous conduct and personal integrity)
- Sacrifice (selfless good deeds for others)
- Propriety (the quality or state of being proper, fitting or suitable)
- Trustworthiness (worthy of trust and confidence)
- Dedication (to bind yourself intellectually or emotionally to a course of action)
- Sibling Harmony (compatible in opinion and action with brothers and sisters)
- Filial piety (love and respect for one’s parents and ancestors)
Furthermore, the Taoist Tai Chi Society has at it’s core, the following aims and objectives:
- To make Taoist Tai Chi available to all
- To promote the health improving qualities of Taoist Tai Chi – physical, mental and spiritual
- To promote cultural exchange
- To help others
In accordance with these virtues, Taoist Tai Chi is taught by volunteers.
Since the death of Moy Lin-shin in 1998 the Taoist Tai Chi Society has continued to grow and spread the knowledge and practice Tai Chi. Today the society has approx. 500 branches in 27 countries around the world.