Sleep Is Overrated Anyway.

I can go asleep like *that*

(Visualise me clicking my fingers.)

Even in a strange bed, I have no problem. But if something wakes me once I’ve been asleep I find it difficult to get back off again. Which doesn’t work well with my wife liking to sleep with the window open, especially at this time of year. In the early hours of the morning someone was talking outside of our house before getting into a taxi. And that, my friends, was that.

Awake at 2.45am and immediately knowing that I was going to struggle, I got up at gone three, that wonderful blue hour where reality shifts into something else.

And that something else set the tone for the rest of the day.

When I first went downstairs my dog Bryn did his best to keep me company.

But he soon gave up the struggle.

Looking for positives, being up early gave me the opportunity to listen to the new Kula Shaker double-album that had dropped at midnight while I was still spending my brief sojourn in the underworld.

Still happily existing outside of the mainstream, there is a song on it called The Gingerbread Man.

And if you thought that was surreal enough, things turned even more so when I called into the local McDonald’s for a coffee.

Approaching the touchscreen order point, I was greeted with:

Start order to get deliciousness

Start order to get deliciousness. It sounded like one of those sentences that’s been passed several times through Google Translate but still doesn’t quite hit the mark.

I ordered my coffee (deliciousness), picked my coffee (deliciousness) and sat down. It was only after finishing my coffee (I’ll spare you) and walking towards the exit that I spotted the old man. He was sat at table, head down, scribbling away on a notepad. Around his neck he wore a cardboard sign which read:

Old man for sale. Make me an offer.

I know a woman who works in the restaurant who just happened to be stood by the door and so I enquired about him.

Oh him. He comes in most mornings, writing in his notebooks.”

Of course, as a writer, I was curious. Curious about his subject. Curious about that sign that hung ignominiously around his neck. Or maybe it was hanging there as an invitation to approach and start a conversation.

But in the end I decided not to interrupt him. He seemed in full flow, and when you’re hot you’re hot.

And perhaps I’d baulked because I feared that I’d caught a glimpse of myself, still the writer, slipped into eccentricity, two decades in the future.

Or maybe even just five years, depending on how much sleep I get.

Of Mice and Men, Monarchs And Music

You may have seen something of the celebrations taking place around the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee weekend. (Some people have referred to this as ‘Platty Joobs ’ but personally I think anyone heard to utter this travesty of a term should be imprisoned by Her Majesty in the Tower. Or taken straight to Tower Hill to have their head served up on a silver platty. Platter! Damn it! I meant platter!)

Naturally a lot of the focus was down south on our Nation’s Capital, but what about locally?

Well, in my town, it was advertised that a beacon, one of more than 1,500 throughout the Commonwealth, would be lit at 9.30pm in the aptly named Jubilee Park.

In theory, such an historic occasion sounded like something worth attending, but it didn’t quite pan out that way.

Although it was advertised to take place in Jubilee Park the beacon was actually on the park’s edge, just below the wall of St.Leonard’s church. This meant that the majority of people, gathered high inside the church grounds, were unable to view what had actually attracted them there like, yes, moths to a flame, in the first place. And also they were unable to hear the rehearsed speeches as the microphone, working in the two test runs, didn’t work for the real thing.

The best laid plans of mice and men and all that.

But still, the beacon was lit, let the records show, as Middleton took its place in the symbolic line of celebratory fire.

Earlier in the week (and less of an anti-climax), there was another celebration as Manchester’s own Liam Gallagher made a triumphant homecoming return to the Etihad Stadium, home of his (and my) football team Manchester City, as the warm-up gig to his upcoming Knebworth show.

A friend of mine was attending. We’d both previously seen the singer perform at the Etihad before as part of his group Oasis, as well as at the Reebok in Bolton. The first time we’d seen them live was at Maine Road (City’s previous ground) a jaw-dropping twenty-six years ago. 1996. Though we didn’t know it at the time, the group had peaked musically but there was still some good music to come and there was some great music then. My abiding memory of that might is sitting on the shoulders of another friend as the sky darkened, the moon rising over the stadium, as the band launched into Champagne Supernova.

(For any music aficionados reading this, there were two great support acts that day: Ocean Colour Scene and Manic Street Preachers.)

1996, though. Twenty-six years-how time flies!

This time around my friend had gone to the gig with his daughter-how time’s change!

Good music survives through generations, with the older influencing the younger, and there they both were connected to it, and each other, in that incredible middle ground.

By all accounts it was a fantastic gig and he took this equally fantastic photograph.

I got the moon. He got the fireworks.

We both got the memories.

An Incidence Of Coincidence

Coincidence. Serendipity. I’ve been speaking a lot about that kind of thing recently. From a reader posting comments on City Jackdaw about places from her childhood that also hold connections for me, to a fellow blogger describing serendipity playing out in her own life.

Along with what’s the chances of that happening in the face-to-face world that we operate in, too.

Highlighting them seems to be attracting more of the same, eavesdropping universe that this is.

This post is an example of a string of coincidences that recently played out over the last few days.

It began when I messaged my cousin to see if he wanted to go to a local Non-League football game. He replied that, along with his family, he’d gone to Glastonbury for a few days, a place I know that they love.

In answering his text I told him to “Enjoy Avalon”, referring to the link that the place has to Arthurian legend.

Later that day, while absently scrolling through Facebook, a video surfaced that was first posted in January by the group Kula Shaker. It featured them spending some time on top of Glastonbury Tor, at either sun-up or sundown, with some music and chanting featuring in the background.

So of course I sent this video on to my cousin as I was sure he’d appreciate it. He did.

Then, speaking of Avalon, in a local charity shop I came across a book that I’d been meaning to read since I was a child:

I snapped up a bargain and was able to start it, a few decades down the line from those first youthful intentions.

Now, back to Kula Shaker again:

They are a band that seem to be marmite to people, but I like them. I first encountered them in 1996 when I worked for a short time in a warehouse (predictive text changed that to whorehouse 🙈) on Stakehill Industrial Site.

Driving an electric pallet truck, I passed the radio, perched on a bottom stair, that was playing what sounded like a slice of 60’s psychedelia, which I love.

After first catching my ear, it seemed that, as I made many circuits around the warehouse throughout the next few days, whenever I passed the radio that same song would be coming from it (coincidence again?). This regular amount of airplay demonstrated that whatever it was, it must be new music, and eventually I stopped my truck and hung around long enough to get the name of the track:

Tattva, by a new group named Kula Shaker.

I went straight out and bought their debut album ‘K’ which featured that song, and have been a fan ever since.

Now, fast-forward back to today.

Kula Shaker’s last album had come out in 2016 (K 2.0) but they had been posting/tweeting/crowing for a few weeks about some new music and a tour that was imminent.

Then we got a countdown promising . . . something.

First there was a cryptic smiley drum thing.

Then the countdown became more specific.

And then D-Day, a video was posted showcasing the first music from this pending new album. The title of the song?

What’s the odds? I’ve stopped asking that question.

Glastonbury/Avalon/The Once And Future King

Don’t be surprised if the group play Glastonbury this year. This thing is going to run and run.

I will follow their lights/And I will follow their star.

Who Resides In The Shadows?

I’ve not written any fiction for six years.

I hadn’t realised it had been that long until I was going through some books today and uncovered the two volumes of The Northlore Series that I have three stories included in (Volume One: Folklore; Volume Two: Mythos), along with a poem.

I sat down and read my contributions. Reading them for the first time in a while felt strange, as though they’d been penned by someone else. The last one was published in 2016, and since then it seems that my focus has been solely on poetry and non-fiction.

I enjoyed becoming acquainted with those characters again: Alfred Cartwright, the former English teacher finding himself trapped in the horror of the Somme, and Andy, the young, infatuated, wannabe writer, working in a Manchester cafe for a little extra money.

As any reader or writer will know, fictional characters take on flesh in the mind’s eye, appearing in the form that our imaginations give to them. But with the final character – a Lutheran Pastor ministering to a small rural village in Norway, I had a little help with an illustration provided by the series’ artist, Evelinn Enoksen:

I peered at his face, up close, thinking ah, I remember you. Torsten Göransson, the Stockholm man of faith, struggling through the snow.

It made me think of other characters that I have, neither drawn nor written, existing half-formed in the back of my mind, having been pushed back further down the line.

Maybe I should consider bringing some of them out into the light? Maybe they want to breathe a little?

Maybe I should turn my focus inwards and ask “Who’s there?”

Perhaps after this oral history project is completed.