IN SITU is now available!

IN SITU is now available!.


In the Mail #3: The Whisper Jar by Carole Lanham

In the Mail #3: The Whisper Jar by Carole Lanham.


Father’s Day or A Tale of Two Worlds

Up until 2006, Father’s Day had absolutely no significance to me, as I had no children of my own and I’d never met my father. My mother married my stepfather in 1989 but we pretty much never saw eye-to-eye from day one and so there was no real endeavour on my part to celebrate the day for his benefit. I’m sure I was asked to buy a pair of socks for him by my mother a couple of times, and I’m sure I did a couple of times too. Doing something for your mother on Father’s Day doesn’t really count though does it?

And then came 2006 and Maddoc was born, giving Father’s Day a whole new meaning.

In Sweden, Father’s Day is the second Sunday in November, but I stated from the beginning that I wanted to be celebrated on the English day. This is for two reasons: the first was that I’m English, and it feels like the proper day to celebrate, especially seeing as it wasn’t celebrated in my family before and also due to the fact that my Birthday is 13th November (calendars out people), meaning I would have to have my two special days around the same time (possibly even the same day). That will not do.

An ironic twist today is that my son, Maddoc, has been invited to a Birthday party on my special day. Ironic in that most Birthday parties he attends are on a Saturday and also because the father of the Birthday boy is also English. Maybe he prefers celebrating the Swedish day…

So here I am with Audrey, my daughter, who has repeatedly stated she wants to do her own thing, rather than go out and do things with Daddy. That is fine, she’s only three after all and has not understood the concept of the day. She is merely taking advantage of a rare moment home without her brother, where she can play with the Lego and not be told she’s doing it all wrong…;-)

It’s days like this I’m reminded of the immense responsibility of being a parent, especially a father, in terms of the fact that I never had a father myself and because this is the last Father’s Day I am the father of two. Having never met my own father, I was informed last year that he’d actually died, putting pay to that ever happening. Was I regretful that I’d never tracked him down, that we’d never discussed why he left, why he wasn’t prepared to take the responsibility he helped create? No. I struggle to feel any strong emotions, due to the fact that I never met him, that I only ever saw one photograph of him, that I only heard about him from others.

Blood is thicker than water, is an expression that has never meant anything to me. I believe that family members deserve more chances when they have wronged you but only to a certain extent. Maybe the expression does hold then, just that it is not a given. I have relatives that have said the most hurtful things to me and later acted as though nothing was said. I am a Scorpio and we do hold grudges. I have tried to be more forgiving of others (and myself) over recent years but changing the spots takes time, a whole lot of willpower and the desire.

So today is a day I celebrate the fact that I am a father, that I continue to be an active father to my children, to help them in their lives, as much as I can, as much as they need. It’s a day to reflect on what I have done for them so far, what I’ve done well and where I can improve. I’m helping them through life but they are also helping me, they are making me a better person and for that I am truly grateful.

The son to the father? That’s a role another can play, a role that was denied to me, a role beyond my grasp. We cannot be everything to everyone. Father is a role I’ll happily play. Be. Enjoy.

Maddoc and I decided today that he will call me ‘Dad’. Audrey will continue to call me ‘Daddy’. Until the end of July they are the only ones that can call me this. This is one of the reasons why I don’t want them to call me Mark. That is a name for others, not them, it’s not because it’s a sign of respect, some old conservative view, it’s that it’s their priviledge.

Happy Father’s Day to those fathers celebrating today.


England vs Sweden – a mini-report

Welbeck hits a clever winner

I’ve been reading quite a bit since last night, from both Swedes and Englishmen, about who deserved to win last night, whether the score was fair, with a few grudges starting to spill out.

I’m not sure I understand this one so much, as if we were to take the Czech Repulic vs Greece game, in which the Czechs won 2-1, then you can really start a debate off, seeing as the Czechs believe they should have had a penalty and Greece had a legitimate goal ruled offside. Both game changers.

Here’s how I see England vs Sweden: two teams played for a win, a win which both needed, England to aim for the top of the group and Sweden to physically have a chance of going further.

Both sides were very dangerous going forward, as proved by five goals being scored and Joe Hart and Andreas Isaksson having to pull off some cracking saves during the course of the match. The pick of the bunch being Isaksson’s against Gerrard in the dying minutes and Joe Hart’s punch from Ibrahimovic’s stinger.

However, both sides were extremely shaky at the back, again highlighted by the score and how exposed the keepers were at times and this could have gone either way.

One team took three of their chances and one team took two. There were no contentious decisions, no penalty shouts, no missed handballs, etc., etc. The game was played at a good pace, entertaining to watch (for the neutral – I was biting my nails throughout) and nothing, nothing in the match shows that either team can feel that the elements, the fates or, more importantly, the referee, were against them.

England scored three and Sweden scored two. A fair game and a fair result I feel. If Sweden had won with the 2-1 scoreline they held, I would have said the same thing (albeit in a grumpier tone).

The harsh reality for Sweden is that they played two, lost two, and it is incredibly difficult to proceed with that start. If they had played against Ukraine they way they played against us, I think they would have beaten the Ukraines. And then everything would be different.

But it isn’t.

We are not through yet, for if we slip up against Ukraine and France win, then we are also out. It is in our hands to make sure that doesn’t happen.

Commiserations go to Sweden and good luck to England on Tuesday.

We’ll need it.


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Snapshot 2012: Amanda Pillar » The Hysterical Hamster

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Book Review: The Whisper Jar by Carole Lanham

Book Review: The Whisper Jar by Carole Lanham.


The Year’s Best Songs of 2011 – Now available for your edification!

Enter at Your Own Risk – 2011

First up we have the lovely cover: the photo was taken by Karin Strand and the manipulation done by yours truly,

And now I present the tracks that feature on the CD this year. Please note that this year the original list of 18 songs was too long for the CD and so I kept that as a download version, removing two of the tracks for the CD. This is why there are two versions. Feel free to download the one that you prefer.

If you are a user of Spotify, I also have the playlist there. I try to make life as easy as possible but if you have other ideas for the best way to spread the word, let me know.

Enjoy!

Enter at Your Own Risk – 2011

  1. Shattering Sea – Tori Amos
  2. Perth – Bon Iver
  3. Several Shades of Why – J Mascis
  4. High Low Middle – My Brightest Diamond
  5. Crystalline – Björk
  6. Lotus Flower – Radiohead
  7. Shuffle – Bombay Bicycle Club
  8. You Can Do It (Tee’s Inhouse Mix) – Todd Terry (Only available on the full version)
  9. Cthulhu Sleeps – Deadmau5 (Only available on the full version)
  10. Thru and Thru – Gang Gang Dance
  11. Companions – The Dodos
  12. Hell Broke Luce – Tom Waits
  13. Wait – M83
  14. Streetlight – John Maus
  15. Marked – EMA
  16. The Days – Patrick Wolf
  17. Dear Friends – Elbow
  18. End Come too Soon – Wild Beasts

Links:

Full version (all 18 tracks)

Edited version (16 tracks)

Spotify playlist (all 18 tracks)


Album of the Year, 2011 – Number Two

02. Björk – Biophilia (One Little Indian)

It's the insane one!

And it’s time to bring in ‘mad as a hatter on mind-bending drugs’ Björk and her latest, crazy offering in the year’s best of. Incidentally, this is also Björk’s highest outing since I started the charts (her previous best was third in 2001).

I distinctly remember commenting on an update by that man, Steve Duffy, when he mentioned listening to this and I said I was struggling with it. I was still struggling a few weeks later and this album has climbed, albeit slowly, from way down in the low 70s (the bottom end of the top 30) up to number two. I’m not sure she ever had enough in her to take the top spot but this album is a prime example of the importance of properly listening to music. And yes, whilst getting on my own high horse I am also aware I am guilty of this too (Tom Waits would have never won in 2002 had I given Lambchop and Is a Woman, the listens it deserved, the latter being one of my top five albums of all time).

But hey, Björk is a character, equally adept at providing us with masterpieces as well as utter tosh and listening to this album just reminded me of my students’ adverse reaction to her at the summer camp I was teaching at, showing she doesn’t appeal to the youf of today.

She’s been influential, provocative, naive, mental, aggressive and downright complicated over these last 25 years or so (yes, her first release was in 1977) and I’ve been bemused, entranced, and downright nonplussed by her in that time.

Tell you what though, she’s never dull!

[editor’s note – Maddoc thinks she’s terrible and Audrey loves her]


Album of the Year, 2011 – Number Three

03. My Brightest Diamond – All Things Will Unwind (Asthmatic Kitty)

The mighty Sara Worden!

Shara Worden strikes again and anyone who knew she had released an album this year should really have been expecting her rather high up in the list. My Brightest Diamond is one of my most played artists since I started my whole Last.fm scrobbling saga (number six in the total played) and she’s had rather an impact on me, for her style, voice and wonderful, quirky lyrics. I’m quite sure a few of you have heard her but I’m also quite sure that many of you haven’t and it’s about time you did (you get a track here but also another on the best of for 2011).

Shara has that delectable mix of jazz, classical and pop/indie that I love and even though I said that Wild Beasts and Other Lives could have been in this position, to be honest this is where it belongs, it’s not good enough for either of the top two positions but holds its own against the aforementioned two.

So enjoy My Brightest Diamond and get ready for number two, coming soon!