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March 26, 2012

The Bigots Society

I try not to worry too much about the bigotry and lies that are routinely printed in the Daily Mail, reckoning that it's God's way (if he exists, which he almost certainly doesn't) of demonstrating to the rest of us just how civilised, caring and intelligent we are in comparison.

But tonight I got wind of a story they ran today and the comments that were being posted online about it, which sent me to bed despairing that we have become a thoroughly sick and nasty country. These are not the comments of the paper itself, but they do demonstrate, I think, the kind of readership it attracts (online and in print) and probably encourages.

The story concerns a disabled woman's humiliating experience of having to crawl off a train at midnight because there were no staff around to help her. It should be understood that it is illegal for a business in this country to provide a service that is not as effective or efficient to disabled people, so that equality is a right, enshrined in law. Daily Mail readers may not realise it, but we are now in the 21st century and trying to avoid sending people to the workhouse if we can possibly afford it.

The disabled woman in question was actually Tanni Grey-Thompson, who won no less than ELEVEN Paralympic gold medals, has since become Dame Tanni and - as I know for a fact, because a few years ago I was lucky enough to interview her - is a thoroughly lovely person.

I follow her on Twitter, where her cheerful and informative tweets about her incredibly busy but modest life only make me admire her more.

Follow the link above and see the comments section, especially 'worst rated', for full evidence of just how selfish and inhuman certain sections of British society are. And if you want to feel really depressed, consider how this fits in with media and political strategies to cast anybody who needs any extra help or compassion or anything that requires any money to be invested in them as whingers and scroungers.

Dame Tanni Grey-Thomson is a national hero and a national treasure, but here are a selection of the things Mail readers think about her in particular and disabled people in general as they struggle to live as close to a normal life as the rest of us:

I find it odd that this Woman expects to be treated the same as everyone else.Yet as far as I can see she has been as no one helps able bodied people either. She's received exactly as she asked for.What she is in fact demanding is special attention and moaning about not getting it.

I used to be very sympathetic to people like this lady, but after having numerous incidents where disabled people behaved in a most arrogant and demanding manner including queue jumping, and using their disability to get preferential holiday time I just let em get on with life. They demanded and rightly received equality in law, so I just treat them the same as everyone else now.

If one is disabled it is important to organise ones life more prudently. Getting off a train at midnight is not the best of an idea. May I humbly suggest that too many disadvantaged people expect everything to be handed to them on a plate , and that there could be a slight degree of arrogance involved.

Hang on. These people fought for equal rights. And rightly got them. They are entitled to equal pay, equal everything as far as I can see. When they have a bad experience they run to the papers. I only ever see tanni in the papers when she is rubbishing able bodied people. If i was to rubbish disabled people the way she is complaining about able-bodied people there would be holy war. Where are my equal rights??????

What about able bodied men in this world. Where have our rights gone? And the ironic thing is that they do not race in ‘wheelchairs' - they are specially built very expensive machines that make it extremely easy to race. Where is the achievement in that ? I would like to see them race in actual wheelchairs.

They could put a little cattle type wagon with a big ramp on the back of every train where all the wheelies can travel together so they don't feel so different.

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March 25, 2012

Swindon Town nil

History was made today at Wembley; it was the first time Swindon Town played at the 'home of football' and I wasn't there to see it. They were playing in the Johnstone's Paint Trophy final against Chesterfield.

I spent the day tiling the bathroom - as, indeed, I spent all weekend - and while there were a lot of other things I would have liked to have done with my time, watching football wasn't one of them.

I haven't actually watched a whole football match all season, and seeing Swindon Town is no higher on my priorities than watching, say, Rochdale. Since they decided to appoint a self-confessed fascist as manager (Paolo Di Canio), I no longer feel any allegiance to my home town club, which I had supported since seeing my first live game - the 1969 League Cup final at Wembley.

I wondered how I would feel today and if some part of me would miss the occasion. As it turned out, it still meant nothing.

About 5pm I was told Chesterfield had won 2-0. All I felt was disappointment for all my family and friends who went all the way to Wembley to see them lose. Not so long ago I would have kicked every ball and headed every header, but not any more. And after today I can be quite sure it will never be like that again.

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March 21, 2012

All talk

I spent part of today listening to four speakers and some of it listening to the sound of my own voice.

The latter was an illustrated talk, this evening, to the Wrens' Association about - what else? - Alfred Wiliams. I have to admit I quite enjoy these because people are always amazed at some of the details of his life, and over the last two or three years, especially, I have amassed a lot of knowledge on the subject, so go into talks with a surprising (for me) amount of confidence.

In comparison, one of the speakers I listened to, earlier in the day, neither gave the impression of knowing his stuff nor of being adequately prepared. It was part of the Bath Digital Festival, called Digital For Non-Profits, a free event which I attended out of amateur (heritage/historical) as well as professional interest.

Generally, it was well worth attending. Two of the other speakers were good, and the third, who is the head of digital communications with the Royal Shakespeare Company, was excellent. He had loads of simple and mostly cost-free ideas of how to use the internet and social media, even if you are a small organisation. I wonder if there is any future in this sort of stuff for refugees from the declining local newspaper industry.

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March 19, 2012

Exhibition-ism



The second and last day of our mini break in London started with the main event - a visit to the Royal Academy for David Hockney's exhibition, A Bigger Picture.

There have been various programmes on telly about it, but nothing could have prepared us for just how good the paintings were, the scale of some of them and how many there were.

Hockney is probably the most famous and the best living artist - and as soon as you enter the first room in the gallery you understand why. On four facing walls are pictures of the same rural Yorkshire scene, each painted in a different season and each really captivating.

Most of the pictures are on a similar theme, and - interestingly, for somebody who is colourblind and a bit of a student of colourblindness - their colours (I am told) are often a departure (and sometimes a radical departure) from reality. So trees can be purple as well as green, and fields red as well as whatever colour they usually are.

Talking to Julie about this, this seemed to put me at a bit of an advantage over the rest of the visitors to the gallery - because for me there was no having to come to terms with the ‘wrong' colours before enjoying them for what they are, and the contrast - which is always what I'm most in tune with anyway. Colours are never actually 'right' through my eyes, so I really I felt as though I was already on the right wavelength.

More to the point, Hockney seemed to be on my wavelength, which was pretty impressive - as though he was able to overcome, at will, the need to use actual colours, which would probably stifle other, lesser artists If they tried to achieve the same effect.

Whatever was going on in his head concerning the colours, I thought the whole thing was stunning and full of clever ideas; the work of a real genius. Julie and I more or less agreed on what we liked best, and the one above was a strong contender for overall favourite. There were literally dozens in the exhibition that, if you had it on your living room wall, it would stop you, every morning that you passed it, and make you study it.

And that was only the conventional paintings. There were also two other aspects that were just as impressive. One was the series of short films of the same scenes in some of the paintings, which were captured simultaneously by nine different cameras and presented side-by-side - so a wide wall of 18 screens (six wide and three deep). These were in beautiful, vivid high definition, so ironically the colours were now super-real - and quite mesmerising.

As if all this weren't enough, he had also used an iPad as a sketchbook to create a whole set of digital pictures. These had been blown up to approximately six-foot tall prints and sometimes even bigger, and demonstrated that he had realised the potential of technology to become a whole new artistic medium, raising the iPad from what you might have thought was a toy into a legitimate artform by not only endorsing it but underlining its potential in the hands of a great artist. The iPad ‘paintings' were every bit as striking as the traditionally created ones.

So not only do I feel inspired to do more drawing/painting myself, but I'm also tempted to find out how to use our iPad as a sketchbook too. So look out. Possibly best of all about the exhibition is the public reaction to it. We booked our tickets in advance and today queued up outside, waiting for it to open. Those without foresight joined a longe queue to pay at the door. It was more like going to a rock concert or a football match than an arty, stuffy, snooty exhibition. There was also a mad scramble for souvenirs in the shop: David Hockney postcards, David Hockney sketchbooks, David Hockney pencils, David Hockney mugs and David Hockney carrier bags. I'm thinking of framing one.

And there is always the added value, for me, in Hockney being a working class hero - an honest Yorkshire lad who just turned out to be the greatest artist in the world.

After buying our memorabilia, we did a bit of wandering around, which is probably the best way to experience London. First we went to Convent Garden, where the dual highlights were the collectors' market (even though I bought nothing) and the pie shop, where we bought our dinner: minced beef and onion pie with mash, which is more or less the perfect meal for me.

Eventually we wandered off and accidentally (but fortunately) discovered Chinatown - an area of London I had somehow never been to before. So that was interesting too, especially the 'pork bun' - more like a kind of filled dumpling - that we sampled.

After that there wasn't much time to do anything apart from hot chocolate in a cafe and then head for Victoria and catch the coach home.

The next time we come to London it will probably be during the Olympics, when it should get better still.











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March 18, 2012

Capital-ism



We're in London, courtesy of a ridiculously cheap deal: £15 for a night in the Travelodge at Tower Bridge, where we are staying just for tonight.

We booked it months ago and were delighted that it coincided with the end of The Hammerman (see below), except any idea that it would be a way to unwind was always going to be impractical. Whenever we go a short break like this, we try to pck as much in as possible, which means a lot of moving around - often on foot.

We had to get Sean out of bed early to give us a lift to the bus station for an early start (the 8.25am coach) and we were at Victoria before 10.45am. We decided to head straight for Oxford Street for a drink, which turned out disappointing for me. I don't know what I was expecting really, but I would have welcomed something - anything - to relieve the monotony of the big High Street stores, but the only alternative was a few tacky souvenir shops.

However, walking down Oxford Street did cause us to stumble on the Palladium, which was fortunate as we were tempted by adverts for the matinee of The Wizard of Oz. We had been toying with the idea of turning up at some show or other and seeing if we could get some cheap tickets, and the Palladium were offering some for a wizard £25.

Everybody knows the story is weak and the songs catchy but naff, but we still enjoyed it, especially the effects, which made the most of the famous revolving stage. It's colourful and fun.

During the interval I got talking to the guy next to me, who had come on his own. He said he was in London from Malaysia for a couple of days and visiting friends, and was delighted when he realised The Wizard of Oz was on. "I have a confession to make,” he said. “I am soon going to play the Wizard back in Malaysia." It turns out he is a professional actor and has been signed up for a big version of the show in Kuala Lumpur.

After the show we checked in at our hotel, went out for a cheap meal, walked over Tower Bridge and along the river, stopped for a drink, then collapsed - tired and trying to build up our energy for another hard day on our feet tomorrow - including a long-planned visit to see David Hockney's new exhibition at the Royal Academy.





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March 17, 2012

Team Hammerman

I sometimes sit and ask myself: "What the hell am I doing here when I could be sat at home with a glass of beer and my feet up, watching some rubbish on the telly?" Tonight I got my answer.

The little run of The Hammerman at the Phoenix Theatre, New College, Swindon, came to an end with a nearly full house - the other two nights had been just over half full. The whole thing has been steadily consuming more and more of my time over the last few weeks, and especially this week.

Tonight's show went extremely well, and while it's a relief that it's all over and was the success it deserves, most of all I feel immensely proud to have been involved with it.

I don't know what's better - to be involved with a large group of people who are overflowing with their own individual talents, or that those people are - almost to a fault - also so nice.

I'm not just talking about the performers, whose talents for singing, acting, hard work and seeing a project through is - and not to exaggerate here - quite awesome. Their skills are self-evident as soon as the curtain goes up. I'm also talking about all the other people - set designers, set builders, props manager, stage crew, technicians, front of house volunteers, etc, on who the show also relies if it is to work.

Even more impressive is the sum of all these parts. I reckon more than 40 people worked together on this crazy project. That's a huge team that needs to pull together.

And it was a crazy project - to put on a musical about somebody who is virtually unknown (Alfred Wiliams) by an amateur composer (John Cullimore), featuring almost unknown songs, so that the audience not only don't know what they are going to get, but can't hum along with the songs like they do with other musicals (although they were certainly humming them on the way out). And to do it without financial back-up (unlike the last time, when we had a Heritage Lottery Fund grant) and put it on in the current economic climate in Swindon, where far too many people are content to sit at home on a Saturday night with a glass of beer and their feet up, watching some rubbish on the telly.

All the best ideas are crazy ones.

I may be biased but I think The Hammerman is one of the best musicals I've ever seen, with one of the highest counts of show-stopping songs, and the cast of this production - albeit mostly amateurs - were one of the best I've ever seen. And having spent a few years reviewing and then a lot of years paying to watch various different shows, I've seen a lot.

This project featured some seriously clever and successful people. The composer, John Cullimore, is a consultant surgeon (writing brilliant music is only his sideline); the director, Maria Jagusz, has sung with nearly every major opera star of a generation and every major opera company you could name; Paul Bradley, who didn't so much play Alfred Williams but become him over three nights, is a former centre forward with Kidderminster Harriers and all-round gifted sportsman who is now finding a new vocation, which is performing.

But it's not these people's talents and accomplishments that is most impressive, nor those of the rest of the team's; it's that they are all such nice people with it - genuinely down to earth, caring and friendly.

To take just one example: John MacGregor, the professional who was employed to mix the sound, did an incredibly efficient and creative job, but when he presented his bill it was light by £100. This, he said, was because we hadn't had full houses and he didn't do as much work as he had quoted for. Of course, the amount of work is actually the same for him, whether there is one person in the audience or 150. But he said he was also knocking some off the bill because he loved the music and the show, believed in it and wanted to support it. Half an hour later he was taking £20 out of his wallet and asking how many bottles of (commemorative, fundraising) beer it would buy him - and went home with a crate of it.

And that is why the hell I wasn't sat at home with a glass of beer, with my feet up, watching rubbish on the telly.

I should add a footnote about Alfred Williams and why John and I, along with another unsung, clever and thoroughly nice person, Caroline Ockwell, founded the Alfred Williams Heritage Society in 2009. It was merely to make more people aware of this inspiring character and the precious literary legacy he left us. The Hammerman is a great vehicle for this, as well as being a worthwhile artistic project. We don't do this in a Born-Again Christian, tub-thumping way, and we aren't nerds who think of nothing else (whatever teenage daughters might think). We know - just as Alfred himself knew - that some people are never going to be interested in the extraordinary qualities of other people, but when they are open to it, it is a pleasure to educate and entertain them.

Alfred Williams would have been proud to have been associated with The Hammerman. He would have been far too modest to be really comfortable with watching it, but I'm sure he would have been proud of our efforts. And because he really understood people and what can be achieved when they put their energies into creating worthwhile things, he would be especially proud to have been associated with the people who made it happen.

Always judge people by the company they keep.

The picture, below, is the said John MacGregor at his mixing desk. There are lots more rehearsal and backstage pictures here.


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March 16, 2012

Alfred and Betty



Two down, one to go.

We are now two thirds of the way through the new production of The Hammerman musical, for which I have had various pre-show duties and some nerve-wracking responsibilities during each performance.

I only have six buttons to press at key moments, which is nothing compared with the sound and lighting guys, whom I sit with, but still scary. John, on sound, has to mix 22 radio mics, a seven-piece orchestra and a long list of sound effects, and Dom the lighting guy also has a console that looks like something out of the Starship Enterprise.

Luckily for me, nearly all my bits are in Act I and I can relax and watch the show as soon as the certain goes up on Act II. As I have my own 'cans', I also get a fascinating insight into how it all works. 'Cans', by the way, are what the stage manager and crew and us theatrical techie types call headsets.

Tonight, though, there was an extra responsibility as we had a guest of honour - Betty Rynolds, a (nearly) 91-year-old lady whom we believe is the last person still alive who actually met Alfred Wiliamsthe subject of the show, and his wife Mary. Betty met him several times while growing up in South Marston, and was only nine when Alfred died - a day she remembers clearly.

We picked her up from Highworth, gave her a free seat, introduced her to the stars of the show, including Alfred (Paul Bradley), Mary (Emily Campbell) and even a child character who was specifically called Betty after her (Alice Fisher). Then took her home.

I'd interviewed the real Betty before, but was still impressed by her energy, her memory and her positive and active outlook, despite her age. She talked all the way home and seemed to really enjoy herself.

The picture, below, which shows her with Alfred's book about South Marston, a Wiltshire Village, was taken by me for a feature I wrote for the Swindon Advertiser this week. I wrote the full story for the Alfred Williams Heritage Society, which is here.

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March 15, 2012

Culmination



The Hammerman musical, which tells the story of Alfred Williams, was finally staged today, and for the cast and crew and also for me it is a culmination of weeks of effort and creativity.

As when it was put on before (in November 2012) I am feeling really proud to be part of an ambitious but successful product, and thankful that I didn't have any jobs that involved getting up on stage.

With hours to go before curtain up, I was still beavering away, making the half a dozen fake newspapers that are used on stage, which is harder than it sounds when you have to produce a broadsheet paper and all you have to do it with is an A4 printer that regularly screws up the paper in protest at having to print on genuine newsprint.

I was also responsible, during the day, for various other things in my capacity as the Vice-chair of the Alfred Wiliams Heritage Society, including organising an display stand and transporting the precious cargo of commemorative ‘Hammered' beer to the theatre.

Over a longer period I have designed the beer label and all the publicity material (banners, posters, leaflets, website), wrote and designed a 24-page programme, organised all the PR and prepared a set of projections that are used in the show.

Last time The Hammerman was staged, this last job was a doddle because it was just a few stills, but I was concerned to discover, only a couple of weeks ago, that this time they wanted moving pictures, and I not only had to come up with videos of a steam train and galloping horses but animations of a calendar to show the passing of time.

This not only put me on a steep learning curve, but thrust me into a pressurised job as it is my trembling fingers that have to push the buttons in real time to make these things happen on stage.

In the technical and dress rehearsals (from which the photos here are taken) and on the first night, all this passed off without incident and actually looked quite good from where I was sitting, which was up in the control box, at the back of the auditorium (that's the view from my seat, above).

I've been saying that I'm looking forward to getting all this over with, but it's been a pleasure to work with everybody concerned. The director, a lady called Maria Jagusz, has a stunning CV that includes singing with nearly every major opera star you could name - Domingo, Carreras, Dame Kiri Te Kanawa - but probably an even greater talent is her ability to get other people to do stuff for her - from the tireless scenery people to the props lady and a seriously talented cast of all ages. It's almost impossible to put on a musical that nobody has heard before, about a man who hardly anybody has heard of, and make it a success. But we did it!















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March 12, 2012

Lettice for supper

Treat time for us again this evening as we crept through the fog to Newbury and our favourite little theatre, the Watermill.

I always say that whatever the play (unless it's by Alan Ayckbourn), it's still a treat - and, actually, the play is nearly always very good anyway. But not tonight.

This was no fault of the actors who did a good job of carrying what is, quite frankly, a dull and often irritating play: Lettice and Lovage by Peter Shaffer.

Whereas, in his two better known plays, Equus and Amadeus, Shaffer's characters are interesting eccentrics who are either mad or close to it, here the eccentric Lettice Douffret isn't mad, just maddening. She is interesting only for the first ten minutes of the play, which is the only time I didn't want to throttle her for over-dramatising everything in her miserable little life, and doing it in a pompous upper class accent.

Any character with a silly name like Lettice Douffret is bound to be annoying and unrealistic, and we (the audience) should have known better. I think Shaffer was trying to out-Ayckbourn Ayckbourn when he wrote it.

I would urge everybody who hasn't already done so to sample the amazing atmosphere of the Watermill, but - for best results - not just at the moment.


A scar is born

I had the stitches taken out of my surgical wound today, so the full glory of my 7-8cm scar has now been revealed.

They were the first stitches I'd ever had, so I hadn't really thought about what the scar would be like, but I certainly wasn't expecting it to be as impressive as it is. I know it will fade, but at the moment it's like the one on Frankenstein's monster's head.

I have to say I'm pleased the whole business is now finished, and I now only have my scar to remind me of it.

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March 10, 2012

It was 20 years ago today...

Today is Sean's 20th birthday. That's two decades of fatherhood. Two whole decades!

I think anybody who looks at Sean and sees what he has already achieved - especially in doing a job he loves - will say we have done pretty well. We were especially proud, today, when he came home from teaching one of his drumming lessons with a home-made birthday card that his very young student had made. Another one bought him a present (a rubber!) and - even better - his mother made him some cakes.

To have that kind of respect on only your 20th birthday is really something, I think.

After the traditional but rushed opening of the cards and presents in the morning (because of another drum lesson - this time with a student who is in his forties) any resemblance between birthdays of old virtually disappeared as Sean spent the evening with his girlfriend.

Our lives have changed dramatically from the days when the kids were very young, but we still look forward to birthdays.

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March 9, 2012

Tarantara!

We went to STEAM tonight to see some Gilbert and Sullivan. That's Gilbert and Sullivan, not Gilbert O'Sullivan. It was Iolanthe, to be precise.

I won't bore anybody with the complicated reason why we were there, but I will confess that I really quite enjoyed it.

It's fair to say that the plot about fairies and the House of Lords probably wasn't based on a true story, and a few of the words in the script may not have been taken directly from the OED (Tarantara! Tarantara!). Also: I'm far from being an expert on G&S, but I will offer this theory about their work: that all their shows were basically the same, with the same tunes and the same characters, but with names and settings changed.

Actually, all these things add to the fun, and I believe that is the point of it. I was thinking of writing this entry in the style of a G&S operetta, but fortunately it passed.

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March 5, 2012

In credit



Today was the long-awaited day when the short film I have been working on with my old Adver colleague Fiona Scott was finally broadcast on BBC West's programme, Inside Out West.

Even though I was there throughout the filming and editing process, and had already seen it several times, it was pretty weird to see it again in my own living room. So was seeing my name on the credits in glorious BBC Gill Sans. This is because I was an official researcher and got paid for a week's work. The picture above, by the way, was taken by my friend Pete. I wouldn't be so vain as to take a picture of my own credits; not for public consumption anyway.

I'm not sure what other people thought of the film - it's incredibly difficult to capture the essence of a large subject in a short space - but I'm really proud to have been involved with it, and if I put on my Alfred Wiliams Heritage Society hat for a moment, I think it did a good job of furthering the society's prime directive, which is to get more local people to realise what a local hero used to walk in their midst.

I also had a morning appointment at BBC Radio Wiltshire, where I was plugging Alfred in general and both Inside Out West and The Hammerman musical in particular. I am becoming an old hand at radio interviews and people keep telling me they sound OK, so I'm quite happy to do them - even when they are live, like today's.

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March 4, 2012

Superstrings and Bellowhead



I have a feeling today was a good day. I'm pretty sure about it, actually. It seemed pretty good at the time, although I suppose you never can be certain.

The day started early on account of I am very busy with Alfred Williams stuff again. That's because another production of the Alfred Williams musical, The Hammerman, is fast approaching (March 15-17) and my position of vice-chair demands I am involved on several fronts.

That wouldn't be so bad, but Alfred seems to be cropping up everywhere, thick an fast. After yesterday's largely literary event, today I found myself at Swindon's STEAM Museum as I have had some involvement with a concert jointly being performed by a music charity called Superstrings and folk ‘supergroup' Bellowhead.

Superstrings try to get kids playing music out of school - and succeeded, big time, because they had 120 on stage, playing a suite of new songs specially written by Pete Flood, the drummer of Bellowhead. The songs are inspired by Alfred Williams, no less, because he undertook a project, back in 1915/16, to record the lyrics of more than a thousand traditional songs that otherwise would certainly have been lost forever.

We (the Alfred Williams Heritage Society) were leafletting the concert, but also had a display, which I was still designing this morning. And printing. And laminating. And compiling. And transporting. And erecting. Nothing is ever simple. However, some people see me as a bit of an authority on Alfred, so while we were at the museum I was interviewed for another BBC Wiltshire radio programme and had a chat with Pete (the Bellowhead drummer) about Alfred and drumming. I was too busy doing all this to listen to myself being broadcast on Radio Swindon 105.5 - an hour-long programme I recorded on Thursday.

After rushing off to attend part of a rehearsal for our own show, it was back to STEAM, where the Superstrings part of the concert proved ambitious but excellent - a perfect mix of classical and folk undertones (pictured below). They also did a great job of educating people about lots of aspects of Alfred Williams's life between songs - partly thanks to information supplied by me.

And then Bellowhead were stunning too. I'd borrowed some of their CDs, so knew what to expect, but I'd also been told their recordings just can't do their live shows justice, and now I know what they mean. There are eleven in the band, and between them they play just about every acoustic instrument you can imagine that can be played standing up. Pete the drummer played standing up too.

Here's a link to Bellowhead on Later With Jools Holland, which seems to have been a sober and unusually restrained performance compared with tonight's infectious high energy.

As if to emphasize what we are trying to do with Alfred Williams, which is to make more people aware of the amazing things he did, even Bellowhead gave him a mention.

I cannot tell you what a relief it is to hear other people singing his praises. I'm pretty sure some of my friends and half of my family think I must be losing the plot because of this apparent fixation with Alfred, but I really don't seem to have much say in the matter. Alfred is something that just happens to me.

Tomorrow's Alfred-related happenings will include another live interview for BBC Wiltshire and the broadcasting of the Alfred Williams-inspired short film I helped make for BBC West, which is going on BBC1 (West) at 7.30pm.

There is every possibility I will actually turn into Alfred Williams at this rate. It will at least prove a few theories about my fragile mental state.

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March 3, 2012

No, really...

I know how to live. Not only did I go to a poetry/literary reading this afternoon, but I followed it up with a slide show of somebody else's holiday pictures.

If I sound like I am being a little facetious, please don't get me wrong. Actually, it's been a really enjoyable day.

The poetry reading was the annual joint meeting of the Friends of Alfred Williams and the Richard Jefferies Society, at the Richard Jefferies Museum at Coate, Swindon, which purely consisted of a roomful of mostly older people taking it in turns to read passages from books. Not earth-shattering stuff, it's true, but as they were all very clever and knowledgeable people who had carefully selected the pieces to read, it turned out to be really enlightening. And it may even have changed my opinion of Richard Jefferies, a writer I have found extremely hard going in the past.

I'm still not convinced that he had the natural talent of a truly gifted writer such as… well Alfred Williams, actually, but there is no denying his historical worth, and he had some pretty insightful things to say.

The slide show was put on by my lifelong friend James, while his wife Julie provided us - a group of a dozen - with some lovely home cooking. Some of the slides were from holidays we all shared, but James and Julie's own holiday pictures were worth seeing too because - James being James - he takes an interest in everything around him and has something interesting to say about everything. James can also be relied upon to take a view of the world that's completely different to the crowd, which is a quality I am increasingly thinking is deserving of admiration in a world that is losing its way.

Because of our previous invitation to the above, we had to squeeze in a sadly only brief appearance at a Carter family gettogether. Nearly all of the others who were invited managed to make it, so it was a shame we had to leave early, although we did manage to be there when all five of my great nephews/nieces were gathered together at the same time - for the first time ever.

The venue was my brother Maurice's (and Jacky's) new home, which is also the house where I grew up. They recently bought out mine and my brothers' shares in the house and completely transformed it. It's weird to visit a house that's both old and new at the same time, and which has loads of memories and none.

This do was sort of aimed at officially marking the beginning of the new era, and at least we were there for part of it.