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A good summer for blackberries

Last week I had the pleasure of visiting family and other monsters on the Île d’Oléron.

When I spied these blackberries ripening defiantly in the cracks of the citadel wall, slightly above a hastily spray-painted English curse word, I felt something big. Was it recognition? Relief? Or something like hope? A mixture of all three, wrapped up in the joy of seeing an unarticulated notion taking physical form.

There are so many reasons to let expletives fly from our mouths. Inaction in the face of ecological breakdown. The amplification of discontent, unmediated by editorial thoughtfulness, and the interpersonal cruelties that criss-cross the globe, propelled by the algorithms of social media. The persistence of so many forms of oppression, as well as the allure and durability of ignorance.

A lot of things are breaking. We don’t know what will take their place. This is scary. So many of my songs are animated by this thrill of panic. As if Eden responds with a call to defiant action and the vitality of love, while also acknowledging the inevitability of death. Maple Seed is a gentler reply to the same fear of dissolution. Tender breezes – where might they come from? Where might they take us?

A breeze brought a blackberry pip to what might have seemed an inhospitable place, a crack in the face of a fortess wall. But it sprouted and grew of its own accord.

I, too, have new songs ripening in my mind. But they bristle at the thought of being rushed. They thrive on freedom and sunshine, which they are greedily soaking up this summer.

Sour or sweet, they never fail to surprise me.

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Springing back to life

Oh my fine friends, it has been another trying winter. And we are still here! In a world that needs our creativity and playfulness more than ever.

I have been laying low, regaining strength and looking forward to reconnecting with friends, listeners and fellow makers as the frost begins to fade.

First stop is a housewarming hootenanny at the Oxford Poetry Library on 9 April at 7:30 pm.

Second stop is May Morning. I am overjoyed to be joining the Whirly Band to raucously welcome the rising sun on the steps of the Bodlean Library. This year the first falls on a Sunday, so there should be ample opportunity to nap later.

Both events are participatory, so dust off your poetry journal and your dancing shoes! Though if you are more comfortable watching quietly and just soaking in the energy, that is equally welcome.

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Silvester’s Primulas

Heavy as it is was with pandemic worry, my heart couldn’t keep from singing when I set eyes on the flamboyant blossoms in front of Silvester’s Stores on Magdalen Road. It is a real treasure of a shop, run by the son of the man who established it decades ago. A hodgepodge of birdseed, hardware, crockery, and other domestic items, its over-stuffed shelves harken to earlier times.

Some of the stock may be older than I am, but they also carry fine, fresh specimens for the garden. I usually just linger there on the pavement, soaking in the uproarious colour before going on about my day. But since my days have become increasingly circumscribed by the walls of my own home, last week I chose three lovely primulas to call my own. I couldn’t help but hum as I walked down the street with the plants in my arms.

As I arranged them on the window sill in our bathroom, a little ditty entered my head. The next day I put my phone on the music stand of our electric keyboard and pressed record. I then went back and took some more footage of the shop and its environs, watched some YouTube editing tutorials, and, over the course of a few days, stitched it all together into a teeny-tiny film which I released on Valentine’s Day.

I hope it captures some of the delight these flowers have brought to me on these dreary winter pandemic days. I like to imagine the wonder and vitality of their little blossoms careening through the ether, conspiring to connect us in spite of the lonliness of lockdown.

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Sh*tshow

A not-so-subtle analysis of the current political moment.

The idea for the song popped into my head one morning, fully-formed, as my percolating coffee burbled gently under the eerily calm voice of the newsreader. 

As the day wore on, I imagined singing this new song at the top of my lungs at a Bastard English Session. This fantasy put a desperately needed smile on my face. Since I knew James Bell was interested in doing another video collaboration along the lines of Newcastle to Portsmouth, I plucked up the courage to do a one-take video and shared it with him.  He added some wicked harmonies and recruited Calum Novak-Mitchell, Mick Phillips, Laura Theis, Trev Williams, Hannah Gray and Josh Robson-Hemmings (of Threepenny Bit) to join in the mayhem.

The awesome instrument Mick is playing is a nyckelharpa. It’s from Sweden.

Here’s hoping the tides turn soon. May the mean-spirited sh*tshow give way to a pile of benevolent compost, from which a new era might spring.

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It’s alive!

Grumpy by Sam Twigg and the Sometimes Band

We did it! We actually did it! Our lockdown video is finally live. Thank you Hannah Gray, Jane Griffiths, Colin Fletcher, Tracey Rimell, and Joshua Robson-Hemmings for contributing your talents on flute, fiddle, bass, vocals and guitar. This project kept me going and only occasionally drove me up the wall. I hope you enjoy it. If you do, why not share it with someone who has contributed to, and/or alleviated your lockdown grumpiness?