A tales from a cabin in the woods

There’s a certain romanticism attached to a cabin in the woods. People retreat to them to write a novel or an album forged on a broken heart. Mention to people that you’re staying in one and they’ll go all glassy-eyed and tell you how jealous they are. It’s the solitude and isolation they are seeking.

Stepping out of the car into a huge puddle and a face full of midges brings that romanticism back to down to earth. Tramping through boggy, soggy, slug-infested woodland with all your worldly belongings stung across your back drags the romanticism so low that it’s hanging out with Mephistopheles.

The one we’re staying in is somewhere near Haverthwaite, Cumbria. It’s off a road, down a track and just off a lay-by. I couldn’t tell you exactly where it is and would definitely struggle to find it again as it is so well concealed.

Looking like a summer house from someone’s back garden, it wasn’t exactly what I was expecting, but was much bigger, with a pair of bunk beds, stove, table and bits of furniture. The wetness of the day and the surrounding area meant that cooking outside was going to be out of the question. After a brief orientation of the site and marking of our territory, we headed out for a low-level circular walk, taking in a bit of the local scenery around Backbarrow and Haverthwaite.

Well used and well wet!

Did I mention it has been wet? Well all the rain had encouraged major growth in the grass and at times the path was hard to see and follow. This was made even worse when the path had turned into a torrent of mud and sludge, passable only by wading through. This is when I wished I’d worn my gaiters like OP.

OP looking smug in the mud because he’s wearing gaiters.

While the wet weather has been bad for a lot of birds and animals that eat insects, for others it’s been a time to thrive. We came across loads of slugs brazenly slugging across fields, oozing up grasses and generally looking horrid. (Is there any other creature so universally unloved that even the French won’t eat them?) However, one pleasant bonus was the amount of wild orchids we passed which added a dash of colour into the carpet of green.

Orchids in the wild

The walk took us through a lot of woodland, a railway, across rivers in spate, and along the old Ulverston road. This now runs into a field, stopping being a road only because grass now grows over it. The new road is the A590 and was diverted many years ago. Now cars whizz where as just a midge flight away cows chew the cud on what was once the main road through the village. It’s a slight diversion on the circular route but was necessary as it’s the way to the only pub within walking distance of the cabin.

Beware of the trains is always sound advice to follow!

The pub is the Anglers Arms and we sit outside for the first pint as I wring out my wet socks. I’m wearing some new Berghaus boots. Light, leather, Gore-Tex lined, hi-tech walking boots to keep your feet dry and cosy on your walk. No amount of shoe technology is going to keep your feet dry if the water comes in over the top! We soon move inside and sample one, two, three, then four pints of the Thwaites’ ales. Every time we looked around to leave, the rain started sheeting down. The pub was lovely and very welcoming. We should’ve probably stayed for tea, but concious we should finish the last of the walk, we stumbled off with beer sloshing in our bellies.

I’ve never walked through wet woodland after four pints before and probably never will again. While I’m confident I never said “are we nearly there yet?” I certainly thought it. Occasionally the views were pretty nice but it was three miles of slippy truddgery before we made it back to ‘civilisation’.

The walk can’t have been that bad, I’m smiling on this one (looking out over part of Morecambe Bay)

We made it back to the cabin as light was fading and fired up the wood-burning stove, which was not only a blessing for drying out but slaked my ever-present need to burn something. We came prepared for tea with ingredients for a chilli and a tin of hot dogs. OP fired up his Trangia stove for the cooking and we poached the hot dogs in the chilli (out of necessity, we only had the one pan) while sipping more beer. Neither of us had had chilli dogs before but if this isn’t how they’re always cooked, then I think we’ve stumbled upon a great recipe. The food tasted how food always tastes after eight miles and a few beers – GREAT! After that it was a case of listening to music laced with banjos (appropriate given the surroundings) and told wild tales. Always great preparation for our hike up Old Man of Coniston the next day. But that’s for another post.

What all good cabins in the wood should have, a wood-burning stove

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Posted in Hiking, Travel

Sunday Tea Times (with Nat Baldwin, Songs for Walter, and New Hips at Islington Mill)

Around this time last week, instead of my usual routine of ironing work clothes while watching Antiques Roadshow and Countryfile, I went to Islington Mill in Salford for a Sunday tea time show. They had a band I really liked on the bill (Songs for Walter) so I headed over with my American friend Nija.

Tea time, in case you aren’t sure, is about 4.30pm onwards. It’s a time when it’s just about acceptable to eat your evening meal. More venues should have events on at this time on a Sunday as it gives you time to ‘get a bit of culture’ and also time to get home at a reasonable hour and feel super fresh for the next day back at work.

Nat Baldwin

Nat the solo double basser

Headlining the tea time show was Nat Baldwin, who is one of those rare breeds, a solo double bassist. (The phrase solo double bassist may, or may not, be a euphemism). You know your parents love you if they let you choose to learn the double bass as a child. It is such an unwieldy instrument to carry around and I wonder if Nat brought his own over from the States.

I’ve never seen a solo double basser before and they have to work really hard to play and sing the songs, the right hand sawing away while the left is wibbling up and down the neck. While setting up, we can see Nat swigging from a can of red bull which seems a bit incongruous for such a grand instrument, a bit like drinking champagne from a paper cup. However, with his slight scruffy demeanour and his gleamingly lovely double bass, Nat is a bit incongruous too as your expectation of a double basser is that at the very least they will be wearing a suit.

After a couple of songs, Nat agrees that the red bull was a bad choice, saying that he is starting to get the shakes from all the crap that is in it. Because all Americans sound the same, I ask Nija if she knows where in the US he’s from by his accent; she doesn’t and describes his accent as ‘nondescript’. When Nat owns up to being from Maine, Nija rolls her eyes and says ‘figures’. Maine is apparently the most northerly state in the US, almost Canada, a rural backwater made up of forests and wooden cabins (this is the image I have in my mind anyway); so Nija’s eye rolling is a bit like Southerners referring to ‘the North’ with a snort. I’m tempted to push her off her stool for her snobbery but let it slide instead, just this once.

Nat’s charm grows as the set progresses, he clearly knows a bit about the UK; he calls football just that and not ‘soccer’, he asks after Ricky Hatton asking if Ricky’s OK these days. I’m not sure if he’s seen recent pictures of Ricky, who the last time I saw was a long way from his fighting weight. If he has, then Nat’s dedication of a song called ‘Weights’ to Ricky was delivered with the best deadpan I’d ever seen.

If you fancy listening to something probably a bit different to your normal music, I’d recommend giving Nat’s tunes a spin.

Before Nat, were Songs for Walter who have recently signed to Manchester label Red Deer Club. I’d seen them live last year at the Carefully Planned Festival, but it was just lead guitarist and singer Laurie then. Then, as now, I was impressed by the strength of the songs and Laurie’s no-nonsense approach to playing some perfect little two-to-three-minute pop songs. Now, fleshed out with the full four piece, the songs sound even better with excellent use of feedback and muted drums fitting nicely into the Sunday evening bill. There’s a video below of their ace song Meet Me At The Empire.

Last up here, but first up on the bill were another local band, New Hips. There’s four of them in the band but they play at least ten instruments between them with unusual time signatures and excellent musicianship.

This is really how Sunday tea times should be spent. Islington Mill is a great venue with all sorts going on, serving nice drinks (the coffee was good) and the sound in the venue is perhaps the best in town. More of the same please.

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Posted in Thoughts and Things, Uncategorized

Mirror/Meeeeeer/Mear (feat First Aid Kit vs Bruce Springsteen)

The First Aid Kit track below is from their new and lovely album The Lion’s Roar. I couldn’t help notice though that the girls’ weird pronunciation of the word mirror is remarkably similar to Bruce’s in Born to Run. See below – what do you think? Also, it’s a good excuse to listen to Born to Run again (like you really need an excuse).

First Aid Kit – Blue

Bruce Springsteen – Born To Run

(The Bruce pronunciation comes at about 2.55, struggling to make it start there)

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Posted in Songs that steal lyrics from other songs, Uncategorized

Modern Life is Rubbish (a tribute to Alex James)

Modern Cheesehead Alex James
I am the man who leaves out that vital screw in your IKEA flatpack.
I am the ubiquity of scarves.
I am the woman who first called second-hand, vintage.
I am the man who moved the green man from the opposite side of the road at eye level to your side of the road at hip level.
I are teenage spelling and grammar on Facebook walls.
I am lol, rofl, rolfcopter, k, totes, and meme.
I am the Führer of the grammar Nazis.
I am the misappropriation of job titles to make your position seem grander than it is.
I am the Waterstone’s apostrophe, forever lost to the whimsy of a brand architect.
I am the twitchy fickleness of the stock market that brings Robert Peston scuttling to our TV screens.
I am the former rock star, turned celebrity cheese maker.
I am the infinite complexity of a consumer society that demands choice above everything.
I am the 12 brands of stock cube, 31 types of cooking oil, and 23 makes of cat food on your supermarket’s shelves.
I am the brightest of minds who is still baffled about the cheapest way to buy electricity.
I am the man who invented the phrase ‘negative growth’.
I am the tram driver who pulls away as your ticket is being printed.
I am the man who made rail fares so expensive that it is cheaper to drive long distances.
I am the man who writes those ever so helpful information signs on motorways like ‘FOG’ or ‘Congestion: Slow’.
I am the foot deep pothole in every road.
I am the stagnant water in the foot deep pothole in every road.
I am the man who keys cars.
I am the kid who plays his music through his phone speaker on the bus.
I am the umbrella maker who uses substandard steel in his designs so they fold outwards at the first gust of wind.
I am the middle man who sells cheap umbrellas to Primark.
I am the refuse collector who leaves your bin three hundred metres from your house.
I am the Catholic church’s stance on contraception.
And I am the sock forever lost to the washing machine monster.

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Posted in My Original Fiction

My Top 55 most listened to albums of 2011

1 Play
192
2 Play
159
3 Play
133
4
118
5
115
6
112
7 Play
108
8 Play
99
8
99
10 Play
92
11
81
12 Play
79
13
75
14
73
15
66
16
65
17 Play
63
18 Play
62
18 Play
62
18
62
21 Play
59
21 Play
59
21
59
24
57
25
56
26 Play
55
26
55
28 Play
54
28
54
30
53
31 Play
52
31
52
33
50
34
49
34 Play
49
36 Play
47
37 Play
46
38
44
38 Play
44
40
43
41
42
41 Play
42
43 Play
Girls – Album
41
43
41
45 Play
40
46
39
46 Play
39
48
38
49 Play
37
50 Play
36
50 Play
36
50 Play
36
50
36
50
36
50 Play
36
Posted in Uncategorized

My most played songs of 2011 (The top 100 or so)

1
20
2
18
3
17
3
17
3
17
3
17
3
17
8
16
9
15
9
15
9
15
9
15
9
15
9
15
9
15
16
14
16
14
16
14
16
14
16
14
16
14
16
14
16
14
16
14
16
14
16
14
27
13
27
13
27
13
27
13
27
13
27
13
27 Loved track
13
27
13
27
13
27
13
27
13
27
13
27
13
40
12
40
12
40
12
40
12
40
12
40
12
40
12
40
12
40
12
40
12
50
11
50
11
50
11
50
11
50
11
50
11
50
11
57
10
57
10
57
10
57
10
57
10
57
10
57
10
57
10
57
10
57
10
57
10
57
10
57
10
70
9
70
9
70
9
70
9
70
9
70
9
70
9
70
9
70
9
70
9
70
9
70
9
70
9
70
9
70
9
70
9
70
9
70
9
70
9
70
9
90
8
90
8
90
8
90
8
90
8
90
8
90
8
90
8
90
8
90
8
90
8
90
8
90
8
90
8
90
8
90
8
90
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90
8
90
8
90
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8
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8
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8
90
8
90
8
90
8
90
8
90
8
90
8
90
8
90
8
90
8
90
8
90
8
90
Posted in Uncategorized

Top 3 Bad Guys in John Hughes’ Films

John Hughes made some of the greatest films for teenagers ever. While the main characters such as Buck, Ferris, and Kevin are the ones who people remember the most, this post isn’t about them. It’s about the guys that made these characters so enjoyable – it’s about the bad guys. One is a drunk, one is a megalomaniac, and the other is a clever, petty thief. Two of them come very close to outwitting our heroes in the films but it in the end, to quote Kevin McCallister, just don’t have the balls (or brains) for it.

You can vote for your favourite of the three below, or nominate your own.

 

Ed Rooney – Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986, d. John Hughes)

Rooney has some of the great scenes in Ferris – when he’s running down the corridor and slows down as he’s passing classroom doors; the mess the mud and sprinkler makes of his shoe in the garden; or the scene where he flicks the shades up on his glasses. All great but the one below is perhaps the most memorable. It’s so memorable that I find I still repeat it whenever I get the opportunity.

Pooter the Clown – Uncle Buck (1983, d. John Hughes)

There are some top scenes in Uncle Buck: where he gives the headmistress what for; where he shows Bug a ‘little 5 wood'; the flipping of the giant pancakes with the snow shovel. But for me, my favourite is when Buck punches out Pooter the Clown. Not only is the dialogue between the two characters top-notch, this is one of the top five all time screen punches.

Pooter the Clown may be a little unexpected in this top 3, but he plays a key part in helping the audience know that Uncle Buck is a decent man at heart. According to IMDB, the original scene contained more swearing and was much longer and is a scene I’d like to see. Did you also know that the character was played by Mike Starr (it’s hard to tell under all that make-up), who has been in so many films that you forget who he is.

Harry Wet Bandit – Home Alone (1990, d. Chris Columbus)

Mean as a snake and with no sign of a heart, Harry is the psychotic brains of the Wet Bandits. After robbing every house on the street, they come up against Kevin. After treading on nails, having their hair burnt off, being smashed in the face by paint tins, Harry finally gets his hands on Kevin, only to be thwarted by an old man with a snow shovel (the snow shovel seems to be a recurring theme in John Hughes’ films).

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Posted in Thoughts and Things
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