Tuesday, January 01, 2019

Unavoidably seasonal!

December ended with  mild weather, a lustrous solstice dawn and enormous silvery full moon, plus festivities nightly all around town. There was much festive spirit around in the week leading up to the big day, with great live music too. Artisan was the venue for another of the Bare to the Bones gigs organised and led by Paul Kirtley, with a dozen musicians entertaining with songs ranging from classic rock -with Annie Davenport's lyrical sax - to a delightful spot from a young performer apparently perched on a snowman.
By the weekend Frome was as lively as you'd expect, with music all over the place and Pip Utton's acclaimed reading of A Christmas Carol at the Merlin, but my report is a bit patchy: you know how when you're young and get over-excited and your mum says, stop dashing about - you'll Get Ill, and you don't, and you do... well, it appears it's the same when you're old too, so a few events didn't make the final cut. The Cornerhouse hosted a particularly lively session on Friday led by Geoff Younger and Colin Ashley, with great guests and much dancing, but I can tell you nothing about the following night's events (though luckily I was mobile enough to respond to Hunting Raven's urgent call for another delivery of Frome Unzipped to fulfil demand in their christmas rush.... twice!)
On Sunday the Three Swans hosted an amazing afternoon of festive singalong music - classics, folksongs and even carols - involving a gathering of murmuration proportions of amazing performers of all ages, definitely the best possible way to ease into the official crux of the season especially when topped off with the Pete Gage Band, in top form as always, at the Cornerhouse in the evening.
Cornerhouse kept the musical  flag flying high with the final Jazz Club of the year, which featured the Keith Harrison trio with guest Knud Stuwe, whose playing on the esoteric oud - an ancestor of the lute - added a wistful mood to the crowded pub.
Change of mood again at Cornerhouse with the New Year house party - host Martin Earley providing a smashing buffet and the lovely local musicians and singers creating the smashing party atmosphere.

I did manage several walks, coughing gently, so here's an image from midway through that bit between Christmas Eve and New Years Eve when the holiday shifts from public to personal: high above Eastville Park (which is really lovely btw and features a lake with swans and a heron) there's the remains of a WWII look-out station, inherited now by brambles and graffiti artists. We came across it at the same time as a group of local walkers and one was happy to tell the story. This was the site of legendary supergun 'Purdown Percy' - a massive ack-ack gun that shot down countless enemy aircraft. Legendary indeed - there was no such weapon here, only a battery of small guns  showering shrapnel all over the city. Perhaps height enhanced the sound, or maybe it was patriotic optimism, but actually between 1939-45, only two of the hundreds of German planes flying over Bristol were ever shot down.
And the traditional year's end to a writer's blog is always a poem. I was going to write you a satire on the Majestic message delivered this year beside a golden piano, which began by commending the might of the RAF and ended without apparent irony vaguely commending the notion of universal peace,  but I lost heart. Here instead is the passionate voice of Dylan Thomas reflecting on the passing of a lifetime as we all sail away from that other country called 'the past.'
Nothing I cared, in the lamb-white days, that time would take me
up to the swallow-thronged loft by the shadow of my hand
in the moon that is always rising,
nor that riding to sleep
I should hear him fly with the high fields
and wake to the farm forever fled from the childless land.
Oh, as I was young and easy in the mercy of his means, 
Time held me green and dying
though I sang in my chains like the sea. 
Makes me feel glad I missed out on a happy childhood.  Go well, may 2019 be tender with you.

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