Thursday, August 25, 2005

Injun country

My first vac. job as a student was digging ditches for a water main in Gweek. Our crowst waggon was parked by the only bridge over the Helford. The Helford divides the Lizard peninsula from the rest of the world - though geologically the true Lizard, like Scotland and India, is quite separate from England, and even from Cornwall [I mean Scotland and India also arrived out of the blue, crashing into their present resting places some time ago. I don't mean India was ever attached to Cornwall]. The true Lizard was a ball of magma that rose through the earth’s crust and the ocean, solidified, turned on its side, and collided with early Europe which at that point extended south-west only as far as fifty degrees one minute south, roughly a line between what would much later become Coverack, and Predannack Head.
This is not myth, it is geological fact.
I lived down on the true Lizard, in St Ruan. Down the mains trenches in Gweek ten miles to the north most of my work mates on pick and shovel were ex-tin miners, incredibly tough old men who could dig through anything without hardly moving (we went where no JCB could go before), while I thrashed and sweated for every nugget of boulder clay, pebble and grit on the end of my shovel. When they asked me where I came from and I told them St Ruan, they’d go Fssshwwwt and make a gesture of an arrow parting the hair. Injun country!
I’ve just had an email to say that one of my nephews and his wife are coming to visit next weekend. Ravi is from Seattle. My brother-in-law Lakshmi [why does he have a girl’s name? I don’t know. In Madras they call him Bharatan] is a doctor there. Ravi’s wife has a German name but half her antecedents are American and the other half English, by chance for some generations from the Nilgiri hills across Tamil Nadu from Madras. I met her step-grandfather at the wedding. “I was in your country during the war,” he said.
We did some detective work. He was in the Royal Canadian Air Force, he was stationed at a tiny aerodrome in the back of beyond, miles from any place you could even imagine.
"Where?" I asked.
"Oh, you’d never have heard of it."
"Go on, where?"
"Down on the end," he said. "Almost out of sight."
"Predannack." Of course. On the true Lizard. "Yeah, I come from there," I said. "Injun country."

Monday, August 22, 2005

What are politicians for?

Me: Something disparaging about John Prescott and the dilution of building regs.
Loved One: Something to the effect that in his opinion I do little but yabber. Rather than criticise I should get out there and do something.
Me: But I can't. I can't be a prime minister, a deputy prime minister, a police person, the vandals responsible for the state of our roads, the English Cricket Board, the President of the United States, a Sun-reading SUV driver, &c&c. I am only as enormously multi-talented as I am because I conserve those talents. Dissipate them in all these roles, not forgetting the &c&c, and even that huge reservoir might be exhausted.
Loved One: Give it a rest.
But I think I have a point. What is the point of politicians? Like flies, slugs, bouncers, curb-crawlers, pornographers, wheel clampers and the alcopops industry, they clearly have a role. It's just that in Britain's post-Democracy the role has to be redefined.
I think politicians represent us - not in the old sense, clearly; but they stand for us in our greed, selfishness, hypocrisy, aggression, and all the other less admirable aspects of human nature. They stand for us, and we can look at ourselves, and say what we are willing to put up with, because that way we'll get bigger, nicer, more things; and what we really find a bit icky. Like for instance, hi-res TVs; and torture. And if enough of us think torture may be going a bit far, and we say so, then we might get some new politicians. Then we can look at ourselves in a new light, and see how we're getting on.

Monday, August 01, 2005


Heard Grönland’s recent signing, Merz, in a Huddersfield pub the other night. This guy standing up to the mike with just his guitar and some backing off his ipod is a fine musician and a great performer. There are those Oh yes! moments when he he catches the shadow of a displaced beat with a perfect percussive twang, a grimace and a dip on the long shanks, or hits an emotional pitch on a harsh and lonely high note. I find the soulful mid-life boy-songs less convincing, but then maybe I’m an old rocker and I’m not so keen on the genre. Also, whereas guitar rock is out on its own, lyrical stuff has competition from all recorded times and places, so it can come across as banal if it’s not near perfect.
The other thing - why is the sound equipment, balance &c so crap, so utterly crap at live performances. I’m sure it didn’t used to be - I mean I’ve head Cras at earsplitting levels at the back of beyond in Cleator Moor with only intentional distortion - but the Battle of the Bands before Merz was so buried in high decibel fundamental resonances, the sonic equivalent to uniform low cloud in the weather, that little else comes across. Merz was better because he’s clearly a professional and set up the sound as best he could, but compared to the CD Loveheart it was still pretty undifferentiated. High decibels are fine, but not if the equipment can’t distinguish one bass note from another.
Anyway Merz, at his best, one of the musicians of the moment, and look forward to Loveheart, a great album.