I rarely, if ever, blog about music. For a start, I haven’t got a note in my head and I know nothing about musicianship. But, maybe because I’m in my dotage, I’ve suddenly acquired a strange enthusiasm for the band Genesis, in its original classic form.
Now I recall that I did once own two or three of their albums – these were the days when they came in vinyl and you put them onto a record player. These were also the days before Internet, MTV, YouTube etc. I doubt I could have named the band members at that time. For sure I wouldn’t have been able to tell you, without looking at the album cover, what instruments were being played and by whom. Still I guess I must have enjoyed the music to a certain degree, albums weren’t cheap.
But that was 50 years ago. Why now, for the first time, am I looking at old documentaries and footage from concerts, memorising complex lyrics, enthusing over the band members’ undoubted mastery of their instruments? It’s odd indeed.
You can trace the band from 1967 to the present day. However the ‘classic’ years were 1970 – 1974. That’s not to imply that they were necessarily the best years, just that for me and others that was when they rose from uncertain roots through to being masters of what is now termed progressive rock. The classic line-up consisted of
Tony Banks, keyboard
Mike Rutherford, guitar, bass
Steve Hackett, guitar
Phil Collins, drums
Peter Gabriel, lead vocals
All were masters of their instruments, but they originally struggled to attract other than a niche audience. It was only when Gabriel began to introduce theatrics such as masks/costumes into song segments, and telling whimsical stories while the band re-tuned between numbers, did they start reaching a wider crowd. Even to my untrained ear, some of their best-known works border on genius, such as
Firth of Fifth
The ‘classic’ period came to an end when first Peter Gabriel then Steve Hackett left for pastures new. It is history now how Phil Collins eventually stepped up front to lead the band into a new era.
What is also remarkable is that, all these years later, all these guys are both still alive and very active in the music business, as are very early band members like Anthony Phillips and Chris Stewart. We are so used these days to popular artistes passing on too early. Even poor old Phil Collins, the cheeky chappie of the band, now prematurely aged and infirm, still gives it his best shot.
And so, to finish, I commend to you Firth of Fifth with Banks’ dazzling piano introduction which moves onto what is probably Hackett’s finest piece of guitar work.
Once a year, here in the UK (ok I know Jersey isn’t in the UK) people get a bit upset about horses dying during Grand National weekend. This year there was an attempt to shut down the main race by the group Animal Arising. The race went ahead. One horse died, adding to two earlier in the meeting.
This is just the publicly visible tip of the iceberg and the horse racing industry will tell you that safety is being improved all the time. Perhaps it is, but vegan activist Emily Moran Barwick from Iowa has spent a lot of time on studying the human relationship with horses with her article https://bitesizevegan.org/is-horse-riding-cruel-is-it-vegan/
Emily starts at the opposite end of the ethical spectrum. Part of vegan philosophy is to avoid – as far as practical and possible – any exploitation of animals. The question should not be whether we hurt, harm or damage horses by riding them, but are we entitled to ride them in the first place. She starts her article by addressing four common arguments in defence of horse riding:
Riding provides good and necessary exercise for horses
Riding provides an enriched environment and stimulation for horses
Horses like to be ridden
Riding creates an emotional bond between horse and rider
Emily deals with each of these arguments in turn before addressing the physical and mental harm caused to the animal.
She then interviews a former horse trainer Ren Hurst, author of ‘Riding on the Power of Others’ who describes how she learnt how to treat horses as equals, not as animals to be exploited. She describes the very last time she sat on a horse’s back. “I placed my hands on his withers and I just asked him, ‘Is it OK for me to be up here?’ And he just had this really deep sigh and dropped his head. I don’t know how to explain this other than it felt like he said ‘yes’ but with total resignation, like it wasn’t coming from a good place. I knew that feeling, I knew that feeling deeply of saying ‘yes’ when it really, really wasn’t what you wanted. I just slipped off of him and I was completely done.”
It’s a remarkable piece of research and opened up new lines of thinking for me. Such research has not been popular with those in the industry, and it will bewilder many others, especially those who love and care for their animals. They will say that those with no experience with horses are talking rubbish.
I last wrote about this horrific tragedy in 2019, noting that a fresh inquest was to be held. And at last, a full 42 years after the event, this is under way. It is only under way due to the persistence of the families who were affected. Left to their own devices the Irish Government would long ago have forgotten about the manifestly wrong outcomes of two previous enquiries.
Now it seems the families of the 48 children killed that night (not forgetting the many more badly injured) are getting some sort of closure.
The first few weeks have been given over to the families who have, in turn, addressed the inquest. Their memories of their children are beautiful, the events and aftermath of the evening of 14th February 1981 haunting and unrelenting to this day. “How can you ever wake up from a nightmare like this?” says one.
And perhaps one sister spoke for all. “Marie has been lost in the smoke and devastation of the Stardust for too long. The decades-long fight for answers has taken far too much from us already. So today we are taking her back and remembering her life. We are reclaiming her from the darkness and despair and bringing her back into the sunlight where she belongs.”
All that they now ask for are the full facts and an honest verdict. Any charges to follow on from the inquest now seem relatively pointless.
…when you grow up? I’m pretty sure young Elizabeth Sugrue, growing up in Kerry in the west of Ireland in the 18th century, didn’t spend her days dreaming of becoming an executioner. Yet that is what happened. Still a young woman she found herself facing the gallows, along with others, in Roscommon Gaol. The hangman was indisposed and Sugrue saw an opportunity. “Spare me life yer honour, spare me life an’ I’ll hang thim all.” And so she did, and continued to do so for years. The story is told by Irish journalist Clodagh Finn here.
By contrast, little Albert Pierrepoint, growing up in Yorkshire, England, always wanted to be a hangman. He was born in 1905 and it was quite usual in those far off days for a son to follow in his father’s footsteps. Father Henry was a hangman by choice as was his brother Thomas, so young Albert was to the manor born. After some years as an assistant to Uncle Tom, Albert’s first solo was in October 1941. In a 25-year career he executed between 435 and 600 people including many war criminals and high profile murderers. Upon retirement he ran a pub in Lancashire. He died in 1992.
Hangman wasn’t a career suggested at my grammar school (though, in fairness, capital punishment had been abolished in the UK by then). Neither was anything else suggested other than banking or insurance, though the staff at school knew less about those industries than I did. Unable to get into the school’s First XI I guessed that professional footballer was out of the question, and lighthouse keeper didn’t quite work out. Accordingly I accidently spent 47 years as an accountant.
I don’t get too upset about people dying, generally speaking. Yes there is a sense of loss and some sadness, but I prefer to remember people for what they brought to the world during their lifetime. And there is no doubting that the world is better off for what my friend Angie brought to it.
Her parents were from Jamaica, and of the Windrush generation, arriving in London in the 1950s. They met and married and Angie was the second of their three children. Living in Watford, Angie’s childhood was a happy one and she says she was never aware of any racism during that time. She was a bright spark and soon found her way into the embryonic computer industry, becoming in demand for her flair and knowledge. This together with her infectious personality brought her success. She moved into project management and, later in life, became a freelance consultant. She loved travelling and did so extensively, making friends all over the world. The girl had done well.
Remarkably well, considering she had to battle and survive
Hodgkin Lymphoma in 1977
Hodgkin Lymphoma (again) in 1987
Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma in 2014
Breast Cancer in 2017
Serious heart problems as a result of treatment of those conditions
Angie developed a positive mental attitude to her illnesses, determining that they would be no more than a nuisance to her regular life. In time, her various eminent consultants became astonished at how she refused to acknowledge pain, and how she recovered time and again almost by force of her own nature. We worked on preparing a book on the subject of positivity and how the right mental attitude could win the day. A couple of extracts:
There was one episode which illustrated where the medic/patient relationship can be mishandled. It’s not a one-way thing with the medic talking at you, telling you. Listening to the patient is vital as well. This occurred when the pharmacist came to me with a bag of pills to take after my chemo – anti-sick pills, steroids, digestion assistance, I don’t really know. The conversation went something like, “I really feel OK and I’d rather not take anything, thank you.” “But you have to, doctor’s orders.” “No thank you, I’ve no symptoms.” “Well take them anyway in case you have symptoms.” “No. I have some at home anyway which I’ve never had to take. It’s just wasting taxpayers’ money.” “You have got to take them, they’re on the prescription!” “Why am I going to take tablets I don’t need?” “Oh do what you like!” and she stormed off.
I had the operation and, after a little stay in the ICU, I found myself in a small ward of eight beds and just four patients. There were drips and tubes everywhere in me. One of these was in my chest, a morphine drip. The nurse told me to click the morphine button if I was in pain. I was OK, no pain. A few hours later when the anaesthetic had worn off, still no pain. The nurse was puzzled and concerned by this.
Then, drama. I was given a blood thinner tablet, Warfarin, as a precaution against blood clots. Almost immediately I felt pressure in my chest. It was filling with blood and the tube wasn’t taking it away fast enough. Then it stopped draining all together, something was stopping it. Maybe there was a nick in a vein and blood was escaping. Maybe there was a blood clot. In any event I was now having trouble breathing. It was an emergency and they started to put a team together for a further operation to sort it out.
By this time in my life I knew that positive thinking, the power of the mind, can work miracles. While the staff were running around in preparation I focused. I visualised the blood clot disappearing down the tube and all excess fluid going with it. I saw it, visualised it clearly. But in reality nothing was happening. I was shocked as I was certain this ought to be working.
Then something came back to me, something that I’d picked up on a course not so long ago. I was visualising using only one of my available senses, sight. To engage the full power of the mind, to find the life force inside us, we need to recruit our other senses – hearing, feeling, tasting, smelling. Then it becomes powerful and real.
So, into action again. Now I could see the clot going down the tube. I could hear the little plop as it went into the jar. I could feel the pressure on my chest lessening. Taste and smell not so much in this instance but I tasted the water that I was drinking, smell the surgical nature of the ward. The three key senses are visual, audio and kinaesthetic.
I went through the whole sequence again, twice. I felt the pressure alleviating, I could see the clot going down the tube into the jar, I heard the plop, I drank the water, smelt the room. The pressure fell away. Everything changed and became reality. My mindset and lifeforce had made it happen.
Most of the time, Angie and I worked over Zoom, but last summer she came to Jersey. We did some work, and some walking. A livelier, sparkier, more friendly person you couldn’t meet.
A couple of weeks ago I WhatsApped Angie to see how she was getting on with her medical records which she was going through. Two days later the message was marked as ‘read’ but no reply. Then I heard from a mutual friend that Angie had died on 17th April.
It was a privilege to have known you dear Angie, Rest in Peace.
Sark, the fourth largest in size of the Channel Islands, was not overlooked when our German friends marauded this way in 1940 and hung around for five years. I commend to you Nick Le Huray’s blog post which tells of a strange but enduring love affair which flickered during those dreadful years, blossomed after Liberation and only came to a natural end very recently. The post contains a link to some rare wartime footage.
Only the third running of this charity event and already it has become a favourite with local runners. The charity in question is the well-loved Jersey Hospice which is the prime provider of end-of-life care here and it depends entirely on donations, bequests and the like.
The race starts at the charity’s retail outlet in St Ouen in the north-west of the Island, finishing at the hospice itself on the outskirts of the capital St Helier. A big crowd of us shivered our way onto the free buses which were to take us out to the start – a miserable, damp sou’westerly probably discouraged a few of the less committed entrants. Nevertheless, in excess of 400 of us lined up for the start, augmented by a further number of relay runners.
For me it was a significant occasion as I chased a possible prize in my new M70 category. Not too many of us old fools still running at 70 but those that do are generally useful runners and are not to be taken lightly. Personally I considered that I was in decent shape and planned to run 5.30 kms which would bring me home in about 1.55. And as we streamed off out towards the north-western tip of the Island at Grosnez I had to make a conscious effort to ease off the pace. A long way to go and it was far to early to concern myself with the competition. I love getting involved in a race with others but to do so in the early stages of a 21.1k race would invite disaster. At least I have learnt that lesson down the years. So with 5.20s and 5.25s showing on the watch I settled in to the cruise and, as we turned back into the lanes, the weather relented.
My daughter Emma is running well now, her son (my grandson) Dawson just a year old. We’d chatted a little before the start but now she was off well ahead of me with a running buddy (they were to finish in 1.47). Slowly I came onto the shoulder of a running friend Phil (himself 70 shortly) and we had a little chat before I edged away. I was to finish a few minutes ahead of him.
The course is designed so that the race comes back past the start at about half way. Now we were headed firmly across country towards the finish and the race really begins. I felt fine and strong with a steady pace established. At this point one’s pace is set and the watch is perhaps of mild interest but of little practical use. Your pace is now allied to those runners round and about you and you stick with them. One or two will fall away and the occasional runner will pass you out but this third quarter of the race is where you just hold steady.
I’m happy to exchange the odd word or joke with runners I come across in races. Today there was one guy with whom I swapped places a few times. A couple of times I tried a few friendly words but he was having none of it. His prerogative of course and his energy was better directed to pulling away from me in the final stages.
This course has the considerable benefit of a flat, even slightly downhill last few kms. Now then is the time you can push on, accelerate, if you have anything left. Of course everyone does likewise and picking up places is hard work. Suddenly there’s the entrance to the hospice and up the slope to the finishing line with welcoming spectators and earlier finishers. My time, 1:53.01, a couple of minutes ahead of schedule. A slight negative split too (second half faster than first half) so confirmation that I couldn’t have done much better on the day.
It turned out that 75-year-old Bob Hurst won the M70 prize with a great time of 1.50. I got second place though (and 186th overall) not that far in front of John Cunningham and Bernie Arthur. Overall winner was Bruno Francisco in 1:13.36.
No pics sadly – I’m not paying Jersey Evening Post £20 for one.
The harsh winter of 1963 was only a memory and it was sunshine all the way as we navigated our way through our final months at St Thomas More R.C. Primary School in the eastern suburbs of Birmingham. True, the 11-Plus loomed, the exam which would determine the course of our secondary education, but that could wait. Because in that summer of 1963 we were gripped by something much happier and headier, Beatlemania.
Even if not everybody had a telly then, most had radios. And from that radio came an exciting new sound which they were calling pop music. And every other record seemed to be a loud and bouncy one by The Beatles. Parents grumbled and turned the volume down. From the front pages of all the papers beamed the four lads in their identical neat suits and long haircuts. They were regarded by the grown-ups with a mixture of interest, intrigue and – in many cases – outrage. What were things coming to?
And at school we embraced the whole thing. We boys all started to form pop groups.
“Want to be in a pop group?” “Yes! Who else is in it?” “You have to say ‘yeah’ not ‘yes’. Don’t know, We need two more.”
All groups had to have four members, three guitarists and a drummer. And a plural noun for a name – The Jets, The Rockets, The Tigers. We’d rehearse in any available space. “She loves you yeah yeah yeah..” “Please please me oh yeah..” “I wanna hold your hand..” Air guitars, air drums. And, rehearsals done we’d stand in the playground and do our stuff. The aim was to get a few people to stop and listen. Few did. We got a few laughs all right. Success was if a group of girls stopped, wiggled and danced a few steps before moving off.”
Band breakups were common. Formed during morning playtime, a group might have split by lunch. Maybe the drummer left to try his luck elsewhere. At any time there were three or four performances going on. Of girl groups there were none, The Spice Girls were well in the future.
The teachers looked on in amusement and even encouraged us. I think there was even a pop concert organised for groups to perform at, but, maybe mercifully, I don’t recall it taking place.
And then it all ended, as suddenly as it had begun. Beatlemania was dead. We took our 11-Plus and went our separate ways, our little part in pop history forgotten.
This perfect lavoir could be nowhere else but Jersey. Deepest Jersey, in the parish of St Martin on a typically drizzly Friday morning. All you could hear at this spot this morning was the gentle sound of the stream as it merrily ran into the communal washing place and thence onwards, under the lane and cottage opposite and eventually to Queen’s Valley Reservoir.
See how well and unobtrusively the lavoir has been maintained down perhaps 200 years.
The lavoir will have been originally constructed by the landowner for use by family and neighbours, the latter perhaps expected to pay a small fee. In the near silence this morning it wasn’t difficult to imagine the local women, now long forgotten, catching up on the gossip as they did their weekly wash.
It’s a funny old time of year for Jersey Heritage. All sites are closed to the public until March, apart from Jersey Museum, which is open all year round. I’ve been taking the opportunity to re-visit the Museum several times recently.
Today I took a closer look at the Merchant’s House permanent exhibition. It is so called as the building which houses it, 9 Pier Road, was built in the early years of the 19th century by successful trader Philippe Nicolle. It is set out as it was in 1869 as the then owner, financially-stricken Dr Charles Ginestet who had married Nicolle’s widow, was preparing to flee for his native France to escape his many creditors.
The exhibition features actors representing Ginestet, his wife and her sister – remarkably lifelike on film – arguing and lamenting how their comfortable life has come to this, as the vultures gather.
All in all it’s an intriguing section of the museum, best absorbed when there are few other people about. Indeed today I was the first visitor of the day and as I left 90 minutes later, that was still the case.