#project365 #38

Although technically it is not an actual photo I have taken, it’s still a picture. And a god damn exciting one.

After various messages to get someone, anyone, to join me on three nights of stunning entertainment, it has been sorted. Getting someone to join me at a Billy Bragg gig is not the easiest of tasks.

Bragg is playing at various venues over the course of the year with this 3 night extravaganza. At one stage it looked like a few days in Dublin. That was until looking at the cost of tickets, travel and accommodation, it would have been cheaper to go fully inclusive in some luxury Mediterranean resort.

So, it’s three nights travelling to and from Cambridge – all on various school nights. So who is joining me you ask? My brother. The only complication is that he lives in Hong Kong. But he is up for it. It appears my brother is equally obsessed with Billy as I am. Cushty.


Tedious links….

In my last blog post I decided that my mantra for my Half-marathon PB Challenge would simply be 'Get Better' and then posted the video from Dan Le Sac vs Scroobius Pip of the track 'Get Better' (see what I'd done there?). Now I'm not normally a fan of electro hip-hop rap, but Dan Le Sac vs Scroobius Pip have written some fabulous stuff, and lyrically they are very good.

It was listening to the lyrics of 'Get Better' that got me thinking and ultimately the reason why I am blogging today. The lyrics include these lines:

“Like Billy says, whether you have or you not have wealth, the system might fail you so don't fail yourself”

This is a reference to the mighty Billy Bragg and the track 'To Have And To Have Not' from the album Life's a Riot with Spy vs Spy. In the past this would have caused me to dig out the CD and whack it on the stereo, although nowadays a quick search on YouTube is all you need to do to. So here you have it, a classic track from the Bard of Barking circa 1985…..

As if that link wasn't tedious enough, I recalled another recent artist who mention the mighty Bragg: Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly. The track is 'Hand Me Downs' from the album Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly and includes the lines:

“I'd learnt more from transit vans and Bragg, than I'd ever learnt in class, a lifelong education, from punk rock 101”

So, may I present the fabulous Sam Duckworth in the guise of GCWCF, although no video of 'Hand Me Downs' (sometimes it is possible that youtube can let you down), instead 'Find The Time'…..

To complete a trio of videos today, and a link so tedious it barely actually exists, we have Mumford & Sons. I came across this fantastic video today whilst reading some blogs, that is the link, I saw it on a blog! First time I've seen this video, not sure how I've missed it up to this point. 'Hopeless Wanderer'….absolutely brilliant…..



Blog Juneathon

Juneathon Day 3 plus Billy Bragg

Last night….

The fantastic Billy Bragg, The Bard of Barking, at The Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon. Great gig, great venue…overall a great night. I did manage to take a few pictures before the grumpy old bag told me not to – apparently pictures are not allowed in the home of Shakespeare. I'm not entirely sure what they thought I was going to do with pictures….sell them for £millions?

NB. The empty seats you can see behind Billy were the only empty seats in the theatre.


Day 3 of Juneathon. This was intended to be a nice gentle couple of miles around the woods with the dog, but because of this…..

….it ended up as over 5 miles because a run to the ponds was required to let the boy wash himself off.

Today's mileage = 5.24

Total Juneathon mileage = 14.05

Mojo level = very high (still?)



I must confess…

….it has been three weeks since my last blog.

Quite a lot has happened in that time….

A trip to The Engine Shed in Lincoln to see the rather fabulous Lucy Rose. Since buying the album 'Like I Used To' I've been a fan….and when I heard she was to play Lincoln I was on it like a rat up a drainpipe.

Lucy Rose has been described as an English Suzanne Vega and been likened to Laura Marling…so what could go wrong? Nothing. The set was full of her own brand of acoustic folk/pop yet mixed with jazz-funk rhythm that cannot fail to entertain. Good gig – she's going to do well me thinks.

Next up was a trip to the ole smoke to see Frank Hamilton (again) at The Borderline. Although not the best gig of his I've been to, due in part to the big heffer standing in front of us who seemed intent on trying to step on the feet of everyone, complete with her ridiculous boyfriend who thought just because he had a big camera this gave him the right to be a complete arsehole. And what is it with girls in London and their stupidly huge handbags that that refuse to put down, they just hang around their elbows sticking them in you. Now I'm a Londoner and proud of it, but things have definitely changed.

But Frank himself was on top form, not the best set list he's every played, but he is slowly attracting more and more acclaim, I think 2013 is going to be a good year for the man.

There was also a very early, or should I say late, Christmas with my sister that I somehow remembered to blog about here.

School has been absolutely crazy: workshops, immersion days and so much exam prep that if my boys and girls don't pass I'm not sure what to do. This week we said goodbye to the Y11s…I've really enjoyed the last couple of years with my group, they've all done really well and developed into lovely young men and women over the years. I wish them all the luck for the future.

But half-term has finally arrived….a relaxing week in store with a few bits and pieces to do at home….mum's birthday party…Billy Bragg gig….and on the horizon we even have #juneathon. Oh crap!



Billy Bragg: Tooth and Nail

With his first studio album for five years, Billy Bragg is most certainly back…..only now we see the more relaxed-into-middle-age Bragg, an album about love, loss and hope, as opposed to fight, struggle and protest. As much as this album lacks a bit of the old fiery protest singer, what it does show is that Billy has lost none of his songwriting skills: touching and poignant throughout.

The album has a definite Americana influence, lots of slide guitar and a country feel in places. Bragg still manages to produce an album that feels perfectly balanced between the polemical and the out-and-out love songs.

The album is littered with the songs of struggle – only now it is the struggle with relationships, loneliness and loss. As much as Bragg is associated with protest songs, he does, in my opinion, sing about love even better. Take 'Your Name on my Tongue' a song about love and longing, or 'Handyman Blues' a wry look at modern relationships.

“I'm not any good at pottery, so let's lose a 't' and shift back the 'e', and I'll find a way to make my poetry build a roof over our heads”

Following on from the Mermaid Avenue album's of Guthrie lyrics put to music, Bragg has included one Woody cover: 'I Ain't got no Home' – an anthemic track about a migrant worker trying to survive the depression the 1930s.

He does still sing about changing the world, but in a calmer, less anxious way: 'Tomorrow's Going to be a Better Day', 'There Will be a Reckoning' and 'Do Unto Others' all have something to say about people and politicians alike, but with a softer tone and more philosophical approach – perhaps Bragg is mellowing in his old age!

“There will be a reckoning for the pedlars of hate who spread their poison all across this estate and a reckoning too for the politicians who left us to this fate”

Overall, 'Tooth and Nail' is a great album, it has a back-to-basics feel to it, it feels like we are welcoming an old friend back…


Blog Janathon

Back in the Blogosphere…

Let's be honest: Janathon was a disappointment. Only managed to run for 22 days, barely reached the 100 mile mark and found the second half of the month very tough. Cue an endless list of excuses: cold, snow, ice, busy at work, snow, cold, ice, dark nights, busy at work and it was very cold.

Following on from the monthly projects in 2012 and Janathon I feel like a bit of a rest is needed in February.

Work has been very busy and I've been working hard to catch-up with marking in an attempt to have a pretty quiet and relaxing half-term. The hard work has paid off and I've somehow managed to do everything apart from a class set of Y10 controlled assessments that need doing. A week to recharge the batteries this week because the next term is probably going to be very busy: exam preparation, after school sessions and other general rubbish.

So the start of half-term began with beer, some vodka martini in a James Bond style, some blue stuff…

….followed by some green stuff….

In other news….I have managed to bag some tickets for a few gigs in the coming months:



Running, albums and idiots…

The weather is definitely attempting to thwart Janathon, we've reached day 19, but it is no match for these babies….

Only the third run with my new amazing 'Puma Faas 250' – yes a very strange name for a pair of trainers – but they coped fantastically with the snow and ice this morning. I think they are ready for a longer run in the morning, although not sure I am.

I drove up to the woods this morning and parked on the top road and didn't even consider taking the incredibly icy road down into the car park. However, various people did. It always amazes me how some people can be so stupid. When you stand at the top of the hill and look down the road into the car park it actually looks very dodgy, what makes people think it will be ok? Now I'm not one to say 'I told you so', and actually I didn't tell anyone, but I was quite pleased to see two cars stranded at the bottom of the hill and one in the ditch. Idiots.

I'd imagine that lots of blogs will contain a few snow shots, so why not?

And in other news……

Spring looks to be quite exciting, with the release of new albums from Frank Turner and Billy Bragg. Billy's new album, 'Tooth & Nail' is out March 18, followed by Frank's latest 'Tape Deck Heart' on April 22.

It has been a while since a Billy Bragg album, so I'm really looking forward to it. The few tracks I've heard suggest it's going back to what he does best: great simple melodies and the voice of an angel.

They will, of course, be touring to promote the albums. I've even pre-ordered the Turner CD to allow me to get in the ticket pre-sale for access to tickets 48hrs before general sale. With only a handful of gigs announced it looks I'm off to Birmingham.

Now I will be looking for volunteers to attend the Bragg gig – I struggle to find anyone to go with – can't understand why????! Have a listen…

Today's snow mileage = 6.36

Total Janathon mileage = 79.66



Bits and Bobs

Its been a while since a blog post, so here goes……

On the work front it has been a crazy last couple of weeks at school which has meant that I have a fairly long ‘to do’ list over half-term: marking, reading, marking, planning, marking….and….yeah….more marking.

On the running front the weather has meant that it has been a bit touch and go lately. The last two weekends I had planned to run a couple of races:

  • Last Sunday – Bourne Frostbite – cancelled ‘snow and ice’
  • This morning – Stamford St. Valentines 30K – cancelled ‘snow and ice’

Although in both cases, unlike the France/Wales rugby, they made a decision 24hrs before the start. I’m gutted the 30K has been cancelled, with all the miles I ran in janathon I felt like it would be a good way to finish it all. I have managed to do a few runs, although I hate the thought of starting a run in the cold, once I get going I think it’s fantastic. It’s great to fill the cold air in your lungs, very invigarationg! Since janathon came to an end I have had no problem settling back into the old ‘run when I fancy it’ routine. The dog joined me this morning for a gentle 4 mile jog through woods and over fields on the outskirts of town.

We also have some good and bad news on the music front…..firstly bad news….

Frank Turner has released another 150 standing tickets for his Wembley gig in April. Which is bloody typical since the only tickets I could get a couple of months ago were seating. I thought back then to hang-on and wait for some more standing tickets to be released, but began to panic as it was near sold out, so bought seating tickets. Damn! Damn! Damn!

And the good news….

It has been announced that Beans on Toast will be opening at the gig. Which is fantastic news!  So full line-up:

…nice! Also on the music front….I am loving The Vaccines and Bombay Bicycle Club at the moment….

Finally, my February challenge of learning to play the ukulele is not going particularly smoothly…..enough said.



Billy Bragg… bloke!

Billy Bragg and the new lyrics for ‘Waiting for the Great Leap Forwards……

It may have been Camelot for Clegg and Cameron
But on Coalition Cul-de-Sac there’s not much business going on
Youth unemployment’s rising and factories are failing,
Public servants marching, Europeans need help bailing
Things have not been this bad since the days of Margaret Thatcher
So keep calm and carry on watching X Factor

In the former Soviet Union the citizens demand
To know why they’re still the target of Strategic Air Command
And they shake their fist in anger and respectfully suggest
We take the money from Trident and spend it on the NHS

High up in the Stock Exchange they’re knocking back the champers
While Boris Johnson Boulevard has been colonized by campers
Who want to ask some questions about the way that we do business
In the twilight of the capitalist system

The world wide web is wonderful if you’ve got something to sell
But opinions often summon up a focus group from Hell
Best not to be distracted, stay focused on your goals
And take my advice – don’t feed the trolls

Jumble sales are organized and charity shops open
The Tories keep on telling us that it’s Britain that is broken
Time to get active with the activists so switch off World of Warcraft
And start working for the Great Leap Forwards

One leap forwards, two leaps back
Chuck out Berlusconi and put in a technocrat
Waiting for the Great Leap Forwards

Here comes the future and you can’t run back from it
If you’ve got a smartphone, I’ve got an app for it
Waiting for the Great Leap Forwards

In a perfect world we’d all sing in tune
But this is reality so switch off the auto-tune
Waiting for the Great Leap Forwards

It’s a mighty long way down rock’n’roll
From Top of the Pops to Strictly Come Pole Dancing
Waiting for the Great Leap Forwards

If no-one out there understands,
Start your own Occupation and cut out the middleman
Waiting for the Great Leap Forwards

So join the struggle while you may
The revolution is just a tea towel away…