You're in my Head

Athens, you were kind of cool when all is said and done…


There’s a lot of places I’d like to visit and a lot of places I’d really, really like to visit, Athens falls into the former category and wouldn’t be my first choice for a 15-year anniversary trip. However, seeing as the capital of Greece was a forerunner on Etina’s (Athina) bucket list, it became an obvious choice for the trip.

I’m very glad I went, as Athens is one of those cities that creeps up on you unawares, which may sound strange when you think that the Acropolis dominates the view from every angle (we even had a view from the hotel), but it’s a little more complex than that. Yes, you have the Acropolis and Zeus’ temple, and Ancient Agora, etc. but you have a city which, although doesn’t wow you with the rest of its architecture…

View original post 860 more words


Athens, you were kind of cool when all is said and done…


There’s a lot of places I’d like to visit and a lot of places I’d really, really like to visit, Athens falls into the former category and wouldn’t be my first choice for a 15-year anniversary trip. However, seeing as the capital of Greece was a forerunner on Etina’s (Athina) bucket list, it became an obvious choice for the trip.

I’m very glad I went, as Athens is one of those cities that creeps up on you unawares, which may sound strange when you think that the Acropolis dominates the view from every angle (we even had a view from the hotel), but it’s a little more complex than that. Yes, you have the Acropolis and Zeus’ temple, and Ancient Agora, etc. but you have a city which, although doesn’t wow you with the rest of its architecture, charms you before you know it.

My first thought was, ‘this is a bit grim isn’t it’, kind of dirty, dusty, hazy and not unlike several other cities low down on my to-visit list. Soon after though the character of the city starts creeping through, permeating the haze and the dust and the grime, and transforming the city into a whole other beast, colour and style, history and culture all to the fore and it’s then you start getting a feel of where you are.


Standing in the shadow of giants on Acropolis hill (most significantly, the Parthenon) gives a sense of just how insignificant we all are but also how destructive we are and how wilfully we destroy things that others have taken years to build. Mentioned quite often on the information plaques and on videos in the museum was the great thief, Lord Elgin, who took advantage of making off with several statues and works of art from the area, refusing to return them when the Greeks requested their history back. These artefacts can now be found in the British Museum and are yet another reminder of just how much we Brits have to apologise for…


The people are, on the whole, cheery and friendly but our main interaction, in truth, was within the tourist industry and bars, shops, restaurants. Coffee was incredibly expensive and at times was as pricey as Sweden (no mean feat), food was great (lamb dishes and various cheeses, were my highlights), and both of us fell for the Christmas biccies: Kourambiedes, heavenly biscuits filled with almonds and coated with a sprinkling of icing sugar…delish!


The more we walked around Athens (we pretty much only walked, save the obligatory open top bus tour), the more we realised the spider web network of streets linked each other far more than we could even fathom, it was like one minute we were at the other end of the Acropolis (our mainstay landmark), and all of a sudden we were directly under it ordering a coffee. Streets were filled with numerous bars and restaurants until turning a corner into a dark street (without even streetlights) before then turning again and hitting a plethora of bars. And it kept happening, all over the place, the ultimate pot pourri of street life. The design of the bars and the cafés were the same, with no two alike (except for the chains, which included the dirge of the local scene, Starbucks).

Ermou was my absolute favourite street, due to just how manic and all over the place it was (especially in the Monastraki and Ancient Agora areas). There were people everywhere, jostling for parking spaces (Greek parking is a must-see), running up and down the streets, shouting to and at each other, blocking each other in before having a chat about the weather. There were second-hand shops all over the street, selling junk (and finds) of all kinds. I was walking in a daze, carried on on some kind of manic euphoria, my cosy Western European (lately more Northern European) eyes unable to send all the messages to my brain quick enough. I was entrenched between an adrenaline rush of epic proportions and needing to go and have a quiet moment to digest it all – I forced the adrenaline rush to take over and decided to digest it all later on (I didn’t regret it).

Food and drink prices, on the whole (coffee excepted), were reasonable and not up to the extortionate prices which were claimed by many Trip Advisor reviewers on their stay. Sure, it was expensive if you are expecting Eastern European prices (as Slovakia it is not), but travelling around in the EU zone, prices are generally not as different as they used to be.


This was not the only negative with Trip Advisor unfortunately as I was constantly reading reviews which claimed views such as “Rude staff, expensive and not that good”, whilst also giving the restaurant in question a four-out-of-five-star grade, making it very hard to know what people liked. The lowest grade for one of the cafés we visited was 3.5 and the highest, 5. It seems like all of the places in Athens are recommended.

The places we went to were varied, like their designs, but were mostly managed by polite staff, the orders usually came in a reasonable time and we were only subject to the ‘extras charge’ once, as most places either asked us if we wanted extras, or gave us complementary bread and olives.

We ran (slowly), we walked, we explored (most of the areas) and we savoured the expensive coffee and the OK Greek beer (the highlight was finding some Belgium beer in one of the restaurants) and had a cracking time. Thankfully we were rewarded for the risk of not keeping with tradition and visiting Italy, as we had for our first anniversary (Rome, Florence), and tenth (Bergamo, Verona, Venice and Milan). We didn’t travel on our fifth anniversary, as Maddoc was only eight months old.

The question now, I suppose, is what do we do for the 20th anniversary trip? Keep an eye out!


Album of the Year for 2014

Swans: To Be Kind (2014) – Muse/Young God

Well, to say that 2014 has not been a good year for music would be a complete understatement, as my listening has dropped to embarrassing proportions, in part due to my time at work, but also because of my playing several of my older albums and playlists.

However, one album has really stood out and, on repeated listens, dared to suggest its superiority over the other releases of the year. I was pretty shocked that this is actually Swans’ third album and have decided to check out earlier releases, early in the new year.

I love the noise, the intensity, the fact that an experimental album can also sound so cohesive, and at two hours long, that is some achievement.

Give it a listen, in fact give it more than one, as it demands attention and if you don’t give it what it deserves, you’ll be sorry (and listening to The War on Drugs, or Cloud Nothings).

What was your album of the year?

Varför gick Mishra med i Sverigedemokraterna?

Scary comparison between Muslims joining Sverigedemokraterna and women speaking against feminism.


Idag skriver Mrutyuanjai Mishra i Sydsvenskan om varför han lämnar Sverigedemokraterna och slutar som skribent på sajten Avpixlat. Han beskriver hur han i Danmark inledde sin bekantskap med “främlingsfientliga partier”, men att han nu känner att han “varit naiv och begått ett fruktansvärt misstag”.

“Jag gick med i Tryckfrihetssällskapet för att jag ville kämpa
för yttrandefrihet, men idag känner jag att jag har blivit utnyttjad.
Min invandrarbakgrund har använts för att rättfärdiga hat
och rasism och för att försvara trångsynt nationalism.”

Mishra hävdar att hur han gick med i partiet för att det sade sig värna om yttrandefrihet och mänskliga rättigheter, men att han nu insett att vikten att verka för tolerans snarare än intolerans är för viktigt för att han ska kunna bortse från det Sverigedemokraterna står för.

“Jag trodde att Sverigedemokraterna ville arbeta för integration,
men nu förstår jag att det handlar om assimilation – att människor

View original post 550 more words

Free books and magazines!

Well the time has come for me to downsize my book and magazine collection (unfortunately) and I’ve put together a list of the relevant goodies on offer on a Google doc file:

It’s a real mix of stuff I’ve bought and read, have been bought, stuff I’ve reviewed or been given at cons. My first thought was to pop them down to the second-hand bookstore in town but I thought I’d give you lot first shout, as some of the magazines, for example, might be interesting to complete collections, etc.

Feel free to ask me any questions regarding any of the titles and feel free to put your name on as many as you like. It’s first come, first served, as long as you’re prepared to pay the shipping for your choices.

You can comment here but I’d prefer if you added your name to the Google doc, so that others are aware of what has gone.

Happy browsing!

42 or the meaning of life: Part One

My first stark image of the day would have to be the nuthatch I spotted whilst cycling to work, after having dropped off my boy at school.

‘Fall Colors Nuthatch’ by Lara Ellis

In what way is a nuthatch symbolic? Well, we have to go way back, back around 32 years in fact to Mark as a mere ten year old, fascinated by animals and, with his grandmother’s guidance, learning about the animal world through books and forays into the local area.

The guidance was not so much hands-on as spiritual, based on the fact that my grandmother was bed-ridden at this time, a result of being diagnosed with TB when she was just three years old. At that time, the solution was that the patient should get as much bed rest as possible, a total contradicton to today’s advice. My grandmother was ill her entire life, using a walking stick in my early years, a wheelchair from my being about five or six and becoming confined to bed, with frequent stays in the hospital, as I turned ten, finally dying at 49, when I was only twelve years old.

However, she remains a massive influence in my life, governing certain decisions I make today and responsible for many of my life values (for good or ill).

On a grey day in Burnley, at ten years old, I asked my mother if I could buy a print, which depicted a nuthatch on a tree. It cost £5.00 and my mother thought I could spend my money on something more reasonable for a boy my age, like Lego, for example.

But I was determined and not suprisingly when I returned home with my prize (bought with my own spending money, I might add), my grandmother naturally loved it. It went up on my wall the same day and remained with me for many years before going the same way as much of my stuff when I was foolish enough to store several boxes in our damp, dark cellar, whilst I travelled around the world.

So the nuthatch was a symbol on this day, my meaning of life day, when it reminded me of my grandmother and all that she gave me, still gives me and how I can never truly thank her for it all.

Walking and Listening

Today I’m having one of those days, mainly due to the fact that I had a very restless night last night. I am aware of having at least two nightmares, both of which involved me not looking out for my children and both of which had me reacting angrily to myself after the event.

I put it down to the fact that I am subconsciously dwelling on this ‘life’ question, although I’m not entirely sure why I am dwelling on it or to what end. I have always had an interest in the topic but never really thought about it as much as I’m doing at the moment.

I blame Douglas Adams in part. This, due to the fact that I am re-reading his ‘Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ “trilogy”, as a consequence of turning 42 next month and the relationship to that number and the meaning of life, the universe and everything.

I also blame Wax Tailor and Archive for their wonderful albums ‘Dusty Rainbow from the Dark’ and ‘With Us Until You’re Dead’, which have both focused on the meaning of life and our roles in the great scheme of things in different ways.

Dusty Rainbow from the Dark

I had three lessons today and was a little apprehensive before all of them, not for any other reason than my lack of sleep last night, certainly not anything to do with lesson planning or the groups themselves, just that something felt “off”, out of place, displaced, disjointed.

Lack of sleep can do that.

Last night I continued my walking and listening sessions with a trip to one of biggest supermarkets in town, not the most scenic route but a productive one. The walk there was much easier, due to the fact that I had a rucksack filled with about 30 kilos of shopping on the way back (maybe not 30 but quite a bit).

My music choice was a bit of a mix: some EL-P, some Lecrae, some Wax Tailor (see above) before finishing of with Museum. A nice mix and a nice walk.

Today should be floorball (innebandy) but I just don’t feel like it, my energy levels are so low. Sometimes you just have to accept the fact that it’s not the right day/time.

I think tonight I just want to spend time with the kids before trying to get myself an early night.

What he hears in the dark

Twice today I managed to force myself on my new(ish) health program – the magic of walking. I suppose it is power walking of a sort, as I get my running gear on, pick an album to pop on the MP3 player (just now my mobile phone) and set off, walking as fast as a can for as long as I feel like (around an hour).

Tonight was a walk around one of our areas of scenic beauty in Norrköping, Strömmen (translated directly it’s the stream but it’s a bit bigger than that) in the dark. I realised, once I’d left the lit area, that I was getting a little nervous. It reminded me the stark contrast to when I walked through the park home in Burnley in my early teens, totally oblivious to the real dangers in the area (preferring to worry about witches and the like). In years since I have read about abuse, murder, rape and the like in the stretch between Burnley’s town centre and my family home.

And I’m back on the life is short, life is fleeting, what’s it all mean pondering. I mean, when I started planning my ‘meaning of life’ party this year (as I turn 42), I wasn’t aware just how much of a mid-life crisis I’d put myself through. I suppose at least that means that I’ll live to 84 now instead of 70 (seeing as I had a mid-life crisis party 2005.)

But the walking feels more my thing at the moment, being as the music really inspires me and I also realised today I can walk pretty rapid when I feel like it (especially when it’s dark…).

The album of choice today was Archive and With Us Until You’re Dead and it’s already a classic – I leave you with the first single from the album: Violently

Audrey and her grandmother would have gotten on

Today was one of those days that I thought a little about unfairness.

Basically, I spend a lot of time reminding myself that even though I don’t really believe that everything happens for a reason (I used to) or that after a really terrible thing comes a good thing (I used to), I do believe that you have to get on and make the best of what you have. Call it the stiff British upper lip, if you will, I tend to sway on the side of the overwhelming realisations that life is so fleeting and so fragile that if you don’t get on with it you’re a bit of a fool.

Anyway, today was a day where I felt an ache that my mother never met any of my three children but especially Audrey.

We were in town doing some errands and I asked her if she wanted to come for a coffee break with her daddy. A double cappuccino and a chocolate biscotti for me and a glass of water and a coconut ball for Audrey and we were set. As we sat and chatted I became aware of just how much a people watcher Audrey is before her comments started about how nice that girl’s plaits were and how much she liked that woman’s jumper and how that other woman looked like her auntie Vivianne.

And the more I sat and listened, the more I realised that had my mother been sat there with her, they would have both been in their element, comparing the people coming in, discussing hairstyles and clothing and so on.

Fairness is relative, but today I felt unjustly served.

Ishtar: a review

Ishtar: a review.