Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The courage of his convictions

If you ever doubted the supremacy of experiential learning over any form of teaching, including psychological brainwashing, you should listen to Ben Griffin, ex-SAS founder of Veterans for Peace UK. Seemingly wired for combat since boyhood, Ben joined the Paratroopers at 18 and throughout his first tours of duty longed only for more adventurous action. Training was nothing to do with the army's role as protector of us 'civi cunts', it was all about following orders without engaging the brain. Gang mentality is developed by fear of group punishment, aversion to killing overcome by de-humanising language: aim at the centre of the mass for fire a bullet in that man's chest.  (Did you know? ~ I didn't ~ that research showed 90% of soldiers aimed above the heads of their enemies, until impersonal terms reversed the stats). Now completely indoctrinated ~ his term ~ Ben joined the SAS. It was in Iraq he started wondering if we're causing more problems than we're solving. We'd become the secret police of Baghdad, living where Saddam Hussein had lived, using his tactics. I wanted to engage an enemy, what we were doing was terrorising civilians. Appalled by what he saw, Ben left the life he'd believed was his vocation, and is now restrained by a High Court injunction from his mission to 'tell people what was really going on'. The problem, he realised, was not just the Iraq war but war itself and the militaristic attitudes of our media and society. You can go on protests and not make any difference, it's like pouring weedkiller or plants that are tolerant. We need to be more proactive.
So the group Ben formed, Veterans for Peace UK, goes into schools to counteract the gloryising of combat, aiming to change hearts and minds, although Ben admits if his teenage self could see him now he'd just think 'what a wanker.' And yes, he is in breach of his injunction each time he gives this brilliant talk, organised at the Cheese & Grain by Frome Stop Wars Campaign on Tuesday. It met with massive applause from the Cheese& Grain audience ~ but then we would clap, wouldn't we, he's preaching to the converted. Weedkiller on the already weeded, you could say.  Memo to self: be more proactive...




Saturday, January 24, 2015

It's never too late to live happily ever after...

My introduction to theatre was through my father who was a traditionalist: iconic drama at top London venues throughout my childhood was, with hindsight, fair trade for the ban on cinema and TV, but musicals weren't on the dramatic menu. I discovered Stephen Sondheim's darkly magical world only five years ago, when saw Into the Woods on stage in Leamington and was captivated.  So even the fact the movie is a Disney production didn't stop me scampering off to Bath at first opportunity to see the big screen version out now (and up for 19 nominations including 3 Oscars including Meryl Streep's fantastically witchy witch). Into the Woods  is a collage of fairytales, laying out the familiar character cards and motivating longings of the game ~ romance, reconciliation, justice, and above all the primal scream for love ~ with wit and satire too (I loved the leaping princes' waterfall duet ~ in real location apparently, with only chicken wire spread over the rocks to avert catastrophe for Chris Pine and Billy Magnussen).  And perhaps oddly, half-sung dialogue doesn't detract from psychological insight, as when Cinderella queries the value of social elevation, and the giant-crisis panic response of mutual-blaming.  Sondheim's characters must be a dream for the actors who, from Johnny Depp's all-too-short lupine life to James Corden's heroic journey as the baker who finds manhood by facing his fears, are all terrific. So there you are: if you've missed it live, I'm sure it'll be downloadable. A visual feast, as they say.

Meanwhile in Frome, the fantastic Three Corners featured at  Grain Bar Roots Session and Friends of  Frome Festival gathered after hours at the River House to hear Melanie Jones reading from L'Amour Actually, the novel inspired by her blog on life in rural France. The woman was one of those irritating expat types who felt she owed it to the world to impart on all her superior knowledge of life in France ~ but don't be deterred, that's a quote from the story, not my comment about the author.

In case you haven't heard of Tommy Emmanuel ~ I hadn't, till recently ~ he's 'an Australian virtuoso guitarist best known for his complex fingerstyle technique, energetic performances, and use of percussive effects on the guitar.' Wiki also mentions the clatter of awards he's won around the world. And he finished his current UK tour in Salisbury, where I was lucky enough to be one of the thousand-plus music fans in the City Hall on Friday (thankyou David!) to hear his final gig. Stunning is the best word. Tommy can do anything with the guitar, it seems, from evoking nostalgia ~ his Beatles medley a special favourite ~ to jigs and reels apparently played on fast-forward ~ Tall Fiddler simply incredible. He gives a helpful lesson, too, for anyone with bionic fingers and 23 hours a day free to practice... As those links will show, he's a charismatic performer and a charming man who really seems to believe his own motto: "It's never too late to live happily ever after."

Monday, January 19, 2015

Villajoyosa: happily named haven


Villajoyosa,  where I spent last week with writer and long-time friend Jill Miller whose blog gives a fascinating account of her eventful & recently nomadic life, has confounded my prejudices against the Costa Blanca for the second time this winter.  Jill and John's apartment features three long windows overlooking a chequered fountain-square beyond which there's a beach of soft sand the colour of warm croissant, beyond which stretches the Mediterranean sea, tone-shifting through turquoise to silvered indigo below an azure sky from golden dawn, on the left, to fluorescent pink dusk, on the right, about ten hours later. We spend these intervening hours walking & talking and sitting & talking, mostly outside, and in evenings go to the wi-fi bar for me to post images of the day's wanderings on facebook.
All along the sea front, gaudy apartments in scorching colours clash against a sky so savagely blue that image saturation is totally redundant. Palm trees punctuate the pink pavement and cluster on the beach. I learned (thanks Stephen McParlin) that the vividly painted houses are to guide fishermen home in dangerously bad weather ~ also that the sweaters made by mothers and wives are they can be identified, if necessary, after prolonged loss at sea. This is still a fishing town: we watch the trawlers returning with their catch each evening, swirled around with seagulls.
Another charming aspect of town life is the graffiti on every available public space: what Spanish crews may lack narrative and satire, they supplement by tireless profusion.
As well as flȃneuring the streets and squares of Villajoyosa we made other sorties, into the mountain villages around Puig Campana (thanks Carole) and a tram ride to Finestrat (every horrendous high-rise cliché about this coast), but mostly we walked along the rim of the town, beyond the marina on the dawn side and past the estuary below the town bridge, where the heron fishes at dusk. And we talked about childhood ~ or more accurately, ways of surviving early experiences. Synchronicitously I've been reading two terrific books which, fictionally (We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler) and diagnostically (Kith by Jay Griffiths), both look directly at the lifelong significance of early years. All learning is experiential and there's no absolute truth, but Jay argues convincingly that the dominant culture treats young humans in ways that would be illegal if applied to young dogs.. society has historically contrived a school system that is half factory, half prison, and too easily ignores the very education which children crave. Karen's narrator, Rosemary, uses anthropological material in a very different way: no spoilers, but here's one thought to be going on with:  The value of money is a scam perpetrated by those who have it over those who don't; it's the Emperor's New Clothes gone global. If chimps used money and we didn't, we'd find it irrational and primitive. Delusional. Chimps barter with meat. The value of meat is self-evident. 


Saturday, January 10, 2015

cameras and other obsessive games

Key event of this week for me was the much-anticipated first showing of Games Night,  pilot for a novel and uniquely unusual concept based on the enduring fascination of board games  ~ for some anyway, though not for the teenage hero of this sharp comedy who finds himself trapped for the summer with an obsessed father and his nerdy chums.  Scripted by Sam Morrison and Andrew Endersby with input from director Martin Morrison, with great acting from familiar faces among Bristol's best, tight editing and a brilliant soundtrack, the consensus of opinion at the packed show-room of Bristol's Hen & Chickens was that this really should make it to wider audiences.... so, fingers crossed...

As my lens loss lament in the previous post generated a surprising amount of interest in these phone-camera days, here's the update ~ which contains the A-word so you may think it serves me right for
dealing with a despicable tax-refusing institution, but remind yourself it's actually the despicable bankers & warmongers wrecking the economy, and despicable media which keeps us all blaming everyone else...  So, if you're sitting comfortably, I'll begin.
Despite being just within warranty, the man from del Nikon said No to refund and the sympathetic man from Amazon (yes, real person on the phone within seconds of my online whinge) could only suggest Small Claims Court.  So there the matter ~ in this case malfunctioning Nikon J1 ~ rests,  for quite a few unhappy customers according to Google as Nikon cameras appear to be designed for obsolescence after a year. Seizing a chance to upgrade I splashed out on a luscious Sony 6000 and spent a happy morning in The River House test-shooting, until the non-removeable fake shutter click became so annoying it all had to go back... acceptable on a windswept moor or Foo Fighters gig probably but not for my kind of observational photography.
So I downgraded instead and got a neat little Kitkat-sized Canon IXUS, without the bells and whistles, in fact satisfactorily mute. Hurrah. Though Ollie is actually dancing not cheering.

Off to Spain now, to spend a week with writer Jill Miller, talking of writerly things and, I hope, walking in sunshine as we appreciate the septegenarian pleasures of life.


Monday, January 05, 2015

Begin

 "Wishing you all year of passion, excitement, narrow escapes and a few victories" ~ from Alex Boyt, that for me was the cream of the crop of generic new year wishes on facebook.
Like 600 others in Frome, I launched my 2015 launched in retro style, dancing & chorusing along with Sergeant Pepper's Only Dartboard Band at the Cheese & Grain with their finale performance ~ the final foot of their last leg show-tour. Allegedly.... A brilliant event from the fab five, including all the favourites ~ especially their spine-tingling version of While my guitar gently weeps ~ with Leander Morales providing superb support. Leander is in fact a Frome Standard Man-of-the-Year, along with equally lovely Peter Macfadyen for being a splendid, warm-and fuzzy yet environmentally effective, mayor ~ in Leander's case the nomination is for collecting signatures from diverse celebrities  (Ed Sheeran to Terry Wogan via Nicholas Cage & Paloma Faith, fr'instance) on a guitar which raised £11,000 on eBay auction for the RUH neo-natal intensive care unit. 

I'm ending with this image of Bratton White Horse for sentimental reasons: my beautiful little Nikon reported a lens fault immediately after taking it - first camera I haven't broken in years, and it goes and breaks itself - so NY picture in this posting is from my mobile, with Leander filched from Rob Moger's facebook. Unable to face a cameraless future, I've just splashed out on a new system, either brave venture or the triumph of hope over experience...
So as we carefully unwrap box-fresh little 2015, here's my usual January offering to you all: the sublimely ordinary words of Brendan Kennelly, hoping you'll find both comfort and inspiration here.
Begin again to the summoning birds
to the sight of the light at the window,
begin to the roar of morning traffic
all along Pembroke Road.
Every beginning is a promise 

born in light and dying in dark
determination and exaltation of springtime
flowering the way to work.
Begin to the pageant of queuing girls
the arrogant loneliness of swans in the canal
bridges linking the past and future
old friends passing though with us still.
Begin to the loneliness that cannot end
since it perhaps is what makes us begin, 

 begin to wonder at unknown faces 
at crying birds in the sudden rain 
at branches stark in the willing sunlight
at seagulls foraging for bread
at couples sharing a sunny secret
alone together while making good.
Though we live in a world that dreams of ending
that always seems about to give in
something that will not acknowledge conclusion
insists that we forever begin.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Look behind you... we're nearly there

"All the elements for a magical family pantomime" is the reviewers' concensus on Cinderella at Theatre Royal Bath. Packaged by UK Productions, this is a live show for a TV generation: flat-screen sets, celeb names, Strictly-style dance routines & X-factory song arrangements, and scripted with meta-televisual gags - some genuinely witty, though from response to Fairy Godmother Melanie Walter's omelette-obsession it's a while since anyone watched Gavin & Stacey.  Local references were popular with adults ~ Bath's poshness, parking problems, and proliferation of 'fairies' ~ with farts and bottom jokes for the children.  Funniest moments by far came unscripted: Jon Monie as Buttons is a master of impro and Ugly Sister David Ball's lapses were marvellous, especially when he corpsed after proffering a highly suggestive-looking false leg to Dandini for the slipper-trying-on sequence. Crazily flamboyant and absurdly costumed, the best drag act I've seen since San Francisco's Beach Blanket Babylon.
But Cinderella, of course, is more than a comedy, it's the best-loved rags-to-riches tale in the world, travelling from ancient Greece and reaching us today via Grimm brothers and Perrault. Dani Harmer as the quintessential 'persecuted heroine' is a cheery little thing who evokes no thoughts of actual abused children to spoil the fun ~ indeed Cinder's tale of woe is largely parody, as when as she sings 'I'm all alone' with the entire cast & crew assembled to sympathetically chorus 'except for us'...   Without its dark heart this is a different story from the magical myth that glimmered through the gloom of my postwar childhood, and the only acknowledgement to deprivation here is a gag about Big Issue sellers in the gallery.  But hey, it's that look-behind-you time of year, and the three little girls in princess dresses seated next to me were entranced from first glimpse of the glittery pink safety curtain to the happy-ever-after curtain-calls. Oh and there are real white horses to pull the coach. Well, trained ponies anyway.  Showing till January 12th.

Time now for a seasonal break from public to personal activities with family & friends, possibly till next year. Thank you for reading, go well and, as wonderful Dave Allan used to say, may your god go with you.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Midwinter Medley

The Midwinter Poetry Cafe was a particularly pleasant one with a great atmosphere and some terrific poems, from open mic readers as well as from our guests local wordsmiths Rick Rycroft and Muriel Lavender, and Karen Woollard & Jill Flanders from the Warminster Poetry People. Rick is a poet 'in love with the ordinary', creating lucent imagery from slugs and half-remembered dream phrase. Muriel showed her impressive versatility as a performer by following her entertaining cautionary santa-saga with some stunning haiku, including several so orally beautiful the full-house audience seemed stunned... Helen Moore read her account of an activist protest entitled #iceclimblive, now published in a collection of 'ambitious poems by women poets' entitled Her Wings Of Glass. And if you'd like to be a founding member of group of serious poets to meet monthly and focus on the craft of editing your work, contact Norman Andrews for full details. Sounds a great idea to me.
It's always good news when Three Corners has a new album, and to launch Singular the band gave a full performance of all ten gorgeous tracks at the Masonic, with a chance to dance during and after.
What more could anyone want? Maybe a portion of  Dexter's Extra Breakfast ~ and we had that as well.



A brilliant Roots Session at the Grain Bar on Wednesday, with Griff Daniels & Nicki Maskell plus guests including velvet-voiced Steve Loudoun, songs ranging from 1950s pop through folk-rock and reggae to soulful blues.  Saturday morning streets jingled to the splendid sounds of Honk Monster, with Pete Gage finishing of a mega-musical week at the Cornerhouse, atmospheric lighting great for dancing but not photo-friendly.
Fromesbury Writers takes our end-of-year meeting seriously, in terms of festivity, and as an additional reason to be merry, Debby Holt has just got a new book deal, so prosecco was essential ~ thanks Jill Miller for donating in absentia, we're toasting you in Spain and wishing you rich writing as well as sunshine.  Frome Writers Collective had their get-together in Divas, and I'll end back at the Cheese&Grain with an art-&-craft market featuring local practitioners: lively images of Frome streets from Fourmakers, quirky pendants by Pukka Jewels (love the vintage camera one) and amazing products from foraged berries & herbs by Wild Things"  ~ that's Kylie and Lauren-Olivia, who developed their business from scratch (or possibly from snatch) through the Edventure apprentice scheme. Who needs Lord Sugar? or any kind of sugar ~ their rosehip chocolate is sweetened entirely with honey.  As BBC Points West so nicely put it in their plug for our local shops "The chaos of Black Friday seems a world away from the streets of Frome.


Saturday, December 13, 2014

What's on in festive Bath? More than Christmas stalls!

Ever wished you could fly? Chris Hadfield says it's really easy: "you push off with your toes and up you go, it's so much fun." But you have to be living 220 miles above the 'oppression' of earth's gravity.  Chris is a spaceman, and a singer, photographer, raconteur and performer too as I discovered at his talk at the Forum on Thursday along with about 500 spellbound astro-fans. As Commander of the tight-bonded team living on the International Space Station for stints of six months at a time, he's been around the world 16 times every 24 hours, and finds 'it unifies the whole planet as one continuous connected place.'  Chris covered every aspect of his personal story from first inspiration through launch and return procedures and his constant feeling of 'being overwhelmed with the wondrousness of the world', which is pretty well how I felt about his entire talk. I never realised that living in weightlessness requires regular exercise to prevent your now-redundant spine from disintegrating ~ and music is essential too, for psychological health, which is how Chris ended up playing Bowie in space in a video that went viral last year.  Oh, and you can't see the Great Wall of China from space, that's a myth. But you can see the M25.

As we filed out still overawed, faint sunlight was sparkling on the tinselled chalets of the pop-up market but paper stars and reindeer mitts didn't seem so alluringly photogenic after watching lightning streaks above Indonesia like a huge fluorescent marker drawn across the surface of the globe. 
Shakespeare loved mistaken identity but how seriously can you take the notion of male and female twins so identical they baffle both their best friends and their lovers? Not very seriously in the current production of Twelfth Night at Bath's Rondo Theatre, in which diminutive Viola ~ delightfully played by Marie Hamilton ~  is mistaken for the robust figure of Michael Keene’s Sebastian on the basis of a similar false moustache and jolly jumper.  In a brave move director Ian McGlynn shared all the roles between six lively actors, extending the play’s theme of deception and duplicity in this festive female-dominated version of Shakespeare’s popular comedy.  Justin Palmer, shape-shifting from obsessively passionate Orsino to pompously absurd Malvolio, is particularly impressive. Showing till Saturday 20th.

Monday, December 08, 2014

Once upon a time... and a very good time it was.

Charles Dickens must be grinning in his grave every time Merlin Theatre Company puts on a play based on one of his books. Following their brilliant Oliver! last summer comes an ensemble musical version of A Christmas Carol directed by Claudia Pepler with a fabulous cast, marvellous set, great visual and sound effects, and some spectacular puppetry. I wish I had pictures of the spine-chilling ghost of Christmas future but here's Marley's ghost taking a final bow, and most of the cast with Simon Huggins superb as Ebenezer Scrooge, charismatic throughout whether ruthless, regretful, or repentant. Dickens never flinched from dark truths, social or psychological, and nor did Chris Blackwood in his script and songs, but from opening to finale this was a feel-good feast for all ages. As entertainment this pushes all the buttons: dewy-eyed moments with Bob Cratchett (Ryan Hughes excellent) and Tiny Tim, hilarity from the housekeepers (Tracey Ashford especially droll as aptly named Mrs Filch) and a still-topical theme in economic inequality.Your wife’s ill health is not my concern, sir ~ the twenty pounds you owe me is my concern, Scrooge tells a despondent debtor in the opening scene. Would that ghosts in chains and 15-foot high skeletons could visit every banker and politician in the land this Christmas.
Elsewhere in Frome, Feast Street is open now each weekend till Christmas, and there's a new coffee shop on the bridge: The River House opened on Saturday night and is already the place to be. "Coffee making is an alchemy, a fusion of science and performance" ~ Ollie Wright, manager.  Sunday saw the last Independent Market of the year, and Frome Writers Collective set up stall in Cheap Street ~ a wise choice as main roads and precinct were jammed and Stony Street was total gridlock.
Frome Independent Filmmakers Collective had a showing of three intriguing shorts from Bargus, including The Tenth Muse scripted by Nikki Lloyd, which won the Salisbury Arts Centre 'Shoot Out' 48-hour film-making challenge. And here's Paul Newman and Jill Harris talking to the writers' group which is invited by Black Swan Arts to respond to each current exhibition. The Open Arts show is on till 10th January.

Saturday, December 06, 2014

No more Christmas footie for you Johnny, and other (more cheerful) tales

Johnny Got His Gun was an anti-war novel written in 1938 by Dalton Trumbo, and like Private Peaceful uses the story of one naive young soldier to make an impassioned appeal to end forever the senseless horror of warfare. It's doubly harrowing now we all know that warfare, senselessness & horror enhanced, will continue to be an established pillar of politics as long as financiers rule the world. An adapted stage monologue version by Bradley Rand Smith for Metal Rabbit has been touring and came to Bristol's Brewery last week with replacement Kaffe Keating taking over the gruelling role of Joe, once soldier now sentient stump. I mention that because Jack Holden, acclaimed in War Horse, must have been a daunting act to follow and perhaps director David Mercatali upped the lighting and sound effects to compensate. The real impact of the play comes slowly and towards the end, as Joe pleads in head-bumping morse code, the only way left for him to communicate sans limbs and facial features, to be allowed to become an exhibit to warn the world. Before they start a war, let them look at this thing here... people wouldn’t learn much about anatomy but they’d learn an awful lot about war... What do the dead say? Any of them ever come back and say, 'I died for decency and that’s better than being alive'? You should say, I gotta know what Liberty is, and how much we’re gonna have when it’s over. Brave words, but liberty is not on the world table any more than peace. A poignant period piece as finale to the dramatic war-memorabilia of 2014.

Still on the subject of theatre, Tim Walker, ex-chief theatre critic for the Sunday Telegraph, compiled for the Guardian a round-up of the current cull of reviewers. His 'bloodbath' list of the vanished includes Libby Purves, Michael Portillo, Nicholas de Jong, and Charles Spencer, all voices with experience and insight. So who will tell you what to say about what you see now?  Well there's bloggers of course, but we don't claim conscientious deconstruction, we just give a subjective personal view ~ though on the plus side we don't have our travel expenses & hotels paid for so we don't have to deliver spurious 5-star hyperbole. But Tim Walker fears for the future: I just don’t see that conversation led so confidently by the newspaper critics being continued in any serious form online or anywhere else.... any Angry Young Men out there now preparing to make their entrances had better be quick about it, otherwise I wonder who on earth will still be around to recognise them... Or maybe people who are passionate about theatre will continue to make it happen, and audiences will continue to have their own opinions and discussions even without benefit of Sunday Telegraph views to quote.
Comforting, maybe, with so many big guns retreating from the field, to know the Guardian's own Lynn Gardner stands immovable. Here's her view on the role of drama. Actually it's more about marketing but she says a theatre which doesn't have some financial failures isn't taking enough risks, which is a sort of comfort in these challenging times.

Over to Bath next for a delightful soiree at Mr B's Emporium of Books for the launch of the Bath Short Story Award 2014 anthology. Here's Alison, founder of Frome Festival Short Story Contest, with Jane Reikemann who ~ with Jude Higgins and Anna Schlesinger ~ admininstrates the competition, and that's Elinor Nash whose story The Ghost Boy was picked by literary agent Lucy Luck as overall winner. The collection, which looks great, was produced locally by The Self-Publishing Partnership and you can buy from the award website or from Mr B himself. And the 2015 competition is now open!

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

"for such the scenes the annual play brings on"

Walt Whitman was referring to 'the delicate miracles of earth' in his poem Soon shall the winter's foil be here but 'annual play' fits well for Frome's winter Extravaganza, when the town centre turns into a vast community party with dazzling entertainment all evening.
This year the theme was Edwardian Christmas, so a choice of socialite or suffragette for the ladies and big hats all round. Frome Street Bandits, sounding fantastic as always, were dressed to impress with VOTES FOR WOMEN sashes as well as toppers and bonnets. Traditional games and strolling performers like juggler Marky Jay proliferated along the cobbled streets and up the main road (those closed-to-traffic signs certainly get well used in our town.)  One highlight was Tall Will the big-bubble man, who could enfold a child in a glittering air-balloon the size of... well, a child, with one hand while squirting mini bubbles at squealing onlookers with the other.
Amazing too was slack-rope walker Kwabana Lyndsay, who stripped to his Edwardian sock-suspenders to juggle a firebrand and a machete and an apple, which he ate while the other items were still in motion. There was sizzling drama too from Flame Oz in a spectacular finale involving blazing hoops and firework-like torrents of silver rain.
Ironically, though no performers or audience were harmed in the making of this marvellous entertainment, there was a genuine fire scare when Boots started smoking ~ really funny to watch two ten-foot comedy policemen shooing people off the road so the fire-engine could arrive.  (Here's me and Mr Mayor looking unaccountably guilty, although we didn't know then about the simmering chemist shop behind us.)
And after the grand tree-light switch-on and the street entertainments, Silk Mill's glowing pop-up music bar was open till late, serving prosecco under the stars.  Mega congratulations to everyone who contributed, including shops offering nibbles and snowballs, and to Frome Town Council who well-deserved their resounding cheer from the crowds for devising such a brilliant event.

Frome Town Council must be dizzy with accolades this week: they have just won the cumbersomely-titled but prestigious 'Most Proactive Public Sector Body' award, for sustainable activities and projects including electric car share. Our Mr Mayor wore solar-powered flashing bling on that occasion. Praise from a different angle for Frome as "Village England" offers an Insider's Guide with focus on the gorgeous scenery, interesting shops, independent cafes, friendly people, and for 'best' experiences picks out the wiggle-dress couture of Deadly is the Female (not just for Nigella you know) and the local brew and Wurzel-talking customers at the Griffin ~ which also regularly runs excellent music sessions. The Garden Café comes in for honourable mention too, which reminds me: if you're in the vicinity on Monday 15th, our Midwinter Poetry Cafe there has a great guest line-up: Rick Rycroft, Karen Woollard with the Warminster Poetry People, and luminous-and-rather-lewd Muriel Lavender.  Open mic too, and festive nibbles.

As usual there's too much going on to cover everything, and this high-level adulation begins to feel like an inflight magazine, but I really should include The Lords of Thyme  folksy music event at Rook Lane with Sara Vian and marvellous local duo Feral Beryl as support.
And as there hasn't been much about writing in this posting I'll end with Walt Whitman again  ~ thanks Fiona Willis, for quoting on facebook this beautiful summary of the purpose of life. It's from the preface to Leaves of Grass, written 1855.
"This is what you shall do: Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to everyone that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown, or to any man or number of men - go freely with powerful uneducated persons, and with the young, and with the mothers of families - re-examine all you have been told in school or church or in any book, and dismiss whatever insults your own soul; and your very flesh shall be a great poem, and have the richest fluency, not only in its words, but in the silent lines of its lips and face, and between the lashes of your eyes, and in every motion and joint of your body."