Sunday, 26 February 2012

Fleet Foxes on Fire: A Review.

June 2011 - Fleet Foxes

Moving on to June then and the sold out Fleet Foxes gig at Wolverhampton Civic Hall. Here is another band of artists from that magical city of Seattle (it’s all in those beards). The release of their second album Helplessness Blues offered something slightly different while maintaining the same kind of ethereal sound of the self-titled predecessor. Each album feels like it tells a complete story with each song a chapter creating a novel of pure aural beauty.

The first two songs performed were unfortunately marred by the incompetent sound engineers for which I don’t think the band can be held totally responsible. As powerful as Robin Pecknold’s voice is, the cacophony from the instruments (as musically superb as it was) drowned it out almost entirely. Thankfully by the third song this had been smoothed out so the remainder of the show was pretty much perfect holding many in the audience captivated for the duration.

If Band of Horses made me feel like I was floating effortlessly on a cloud listening to angels play their songs to me on harpsichords, Fleet Foxes take it a step further (or perhaps even several steps). I was indeed sitting at the feet of the Gods (and I’m an atheist) as each song was revealed inside my mind as a story of spectacular depth. It was kind of like a really good acid trip* involving angel choirs singing to the sounds of higher order orchestras combined with unicorns on lead guitar, squirrels on bass and badgers playing banjos. There were even Oompa Loompas (but with wings) dressed in fox costumes as they sang in perfect harmonies with the angel choirs.

From the melodious splendour of White Winter Hymnal and He Doesn’t Know Why to the beckoning of Blue Ridge Mountains and Ragged Wood each had the ability to yank off your scalp (although not literally) exposing your brain directly to the wondrous offerings. Then Your Protector starts off nice and slow with its gradual introduction to the other instruments before erupting into a tour de force of amazing lyrical and musical performance before the first minute is out. As the words, ‘You run with the devil,’ were sung out the big red beast appeared before my eyes but fear not for it was only Dave Grohl from Tenacious D’s The Pick of Destiny and he vanished in a puff of green smoke as the Foxes hummed a harmony that acted as a vanquishing spell.

The new album opener Montezuma was outstanding while the more delicately beautiful sounding Blue Spotted Tail was pure perfection. Pecknold held the audience by himself while the band retired for a break before the encore. Belting out Oliver James with only minimal guitar and someone in the crowd shouting, ‘Come on!’ as he really went for it.

From Lorelai to The Plains/Bitter Dancer to The Shrine/An Argument and The Cascades, there was little doubt we were in the presence of musical giants. Finishing with the title track Helplessness Blues made me want an orchard so I could work until I’m so sore all I can do is sit in my rocking chair on my porch listening to Fleet Foxes. Perhaps this is their overall plan? If it is count me in.
On top of this I was left questioning why on earth I ever had my hair cut short and how long it would take to grow it again. Added to this my need for one of those beards I directed my cloud in the direction of Seattle to see if I could speed up the process however I’m afraid I stalled and the ending of the evening’s entertainment bought me crashing back down to reality as I had to drive all the way back to Northampton.

Once again, please accept my apologies for such dodgy filming skills but when enjoying such shows filming is difficult. I'll be taking my own better pictures in future as well as better videos for future reviews.

*please note I do not encourage or endorse the use of drugs. It was the Gods, not me who made it appear like an acid trip. If you don't wish to blame the Gods then I hear those Oompa Loompas are quite colourful characters (pun intended). They probably slipped it into the beer.

Music of the moment:

1) James Vincent McMorrow - Click on his name to check out his EP We Don't Eat, it's very good. And yes it does appear he often sports one of the beards too. You see, it really is in the beards for some of these artists. The album Early in the Morning isn't half bad either, I highly recommend it. I'm gutted I missed the opportunity to see him live on his recent tour.

2) I.R.I.S. which stands for In Retrospect I See. Do you see what they did there? They have a really nice sound which sort of reminds me a bit of Funeral For A Friend. A promising EP Out of Fiction is available now.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

A Night With Perfect Folk: Review.

Thursday 16/02Kathryn Roberts and Sean Lakeman with support from James Findlay.

Arriving at The Musician I was surprised at the relatively small size of the venue. I wasn’t expecting it to be anything other than a pub but I was expecting somewhere a little bigger. However, this certainly didn’t detract in any way from the wonderful night of music that followed. If anything the even more intimate ambience it served to create married superbly with the nature of this particular gig by the experienced and very talented married duo. The Musician reminded me very much of The Hotel Cafe I went to in L.A. in 2010 after repeated suggestions from Tom Mcrae (I did also attend the Hotel Cafe Tour in 2008). We need more of these kinds of places throughout the UK. Somewhere for the smaller yet just as important (as the bigger) gigs. 

There was a very quiet young man sitting next to us who had a large bag filled with cameras at his feet. ‘Photographer,’ we thought until at about 20:30 he got up and walked onto the stage immediately in front. I’d noticed he was a little nervous beforehand but nerves didn’t show once he started his set. Beginning with a warm up for his voice sans instruments James told us he’d only just thought of doing as he was sitting amongst us. His set list included a host of traditional folk songs both inspiring and jolly, sad and melancholic but all sung with a gusto indicative of a lifelong love for folk music joined with a confident yet not at all cocky approach to the guitar. He played one incorrect chord somewhere within one of the early songs which he jested about with the audience who laughed alongside him. This is a young talented musician to watch out for. Already with two fantastic albums out (both of which I purchased on the night) he mentioned a third and speaking to him briefly after the gig showed excitement about its forthcoming completion. He also played the violin for one song managing to do what I'm sure isn't unusual amongst folk folk (forgive me), but what I've only seen Seth Lakeman do before, singing in perfect time to the music with an added jig here and there. Superb!

After a short break Kathryn and Sean took to the stage for the first half of their set. Kathryn's voice is note perfect and so beautiful it carries me not just to a place I really want to be but to a place  I  want to stay so I can listen to her forever because life would be complete with the auditory elegance she bestows. I’d only seen her and Sean once before at Beautiful Days last year although as a prolific and highly skilled guitarist Sean has been in bands I've seen at least three times over the previous eighteen months. It was at a Seth Lakeman gig last May (where Sean was playing guitar) where I was first introduced to their music purchasing their second album as I'd already bought all of Seth's. 

One of the best purchases I’ve made although I am still eager to get my hands on a CD of Kathryn's collaboration with Kate Rusby. I can only imagine the absoluteness of tranquillity this would carry with it leaving my ears desperately craving the sound. The harmonies of that pairing must sound like a morning in perfect springtime as the dew lies heavy on the grass. There's an ever so slight chill in the air but one that blows away the dust of winter and is soon washed away by the early morning Sun bursting through the lone grey cloud, leaving behind it a clear blue sky. Birds cheap. Squirrels look puzzled. Hedgehogs quickly retire to their daytime slumber. Although if these two were singing the soundtrack to such a breaking of the morning the hedgehogs would not be retiring. The Squirrels would not look puzzled and the birds would be silent listening in awe, little beaks open wide (I'm digressing, apologies).

The banter between the married couple is as genuine as it is entertaining. Kathryn introduced each song often in the form of a personal story explaining how they'd come across it (if not written by them), why they felt it deserved its place either on their set list or albums and how they may have changed it from its original form.  At one point to introduce Huldra she talked about British folklore and how scary it can be with stories ending badly yet how such tales do seem to teach children to avoid certain grisly dangers. This led to an explanation of a Scandinavian cautionary folk tale about women who prey on men in forests. Enticing them in for sexual intercourse they reward those who satisfy them but often kill (or maim and do other nasty torturous things to) those who don't. Think the alien woman from Species and you'll be along the right lines. 

Kathryn sang Huldra beautifully in spite of the gruesome lyrics. This is what she does so very well with her voice. She breathes such a richly theatrical life upon often such very gloomy songs infusing them with such a soul they grab you by your heart pulling on your emotive strings long after they're finished.

'So, anyone fancy a holiday in Norway?' She asked after the applause ceased. Well, yes that’s actually where I’m planning this year's trip, incidentally. I shall stay away from these Huldra for I would most certainly be doomed.

Speaking of their now 5 years old twins she introduced her own favourite folk song from when she was that age. They had a sing song at nursery and Kathryn was called in for a word. There were lots of nursery rhymes and twinkle little stars but one of the twins chose the 9 verse ballad of Barbara Allen. (I remember we sang this at school in the choir. I say choir but being school kids the majority of us no doubt sounded like a group of constipated badgers on crack). This led to a shortened version of Lord Gregory by Maddy Prior & June Tabor, a song that was on Kathryn and Sean's first album together.

Another song and one she crafted herself was The Ballad of Andy Jacobs. This is a poignantly sad song based on her childhood memories of the miners strike during the 80's. It tells the story of a man who like the majority of men in northern mining towns and villages was really put to the test by the rapidly changing times, not least by the devastation these changes left in their wake. While effectively a commentary on the times the end result is a wholly personal tale. 'Oh Cassie, Love.' 

The fact both this and Huldra will be on the forthcoming album only makes me more excited for when it does come out. I would pre-order it now if I knew how (Note to self: find out how).

It’s true there are many folk songs that don’t have choruses but so what? Those that do really make up for it and the audience were encouraged to sing along to them. Those such as The Granite Mill, which claims the highest body count of the evening (300 all in one go) enticed people to sing along. As did Lifetime of Tears.

Red Barn sings out the story of a murder from 1827, a song on their second album. This is what would happen, people loitered outside the courts hearing the details of cases and jotting them down, producing pamphlets with ballads on them. Using her dad’s 3rd best flute stuck together with tape as Kathryn's was unsalvageable thanks to a lego man’s head stuck inside that couldn’t be freed in spite of it being completely deconstructed.

There was also much talk about Devon life, or rather the fact nothing much happens. Except for the annual village fair the first weekend in June each and every year. Sean added this was to ensure the residents spread the gene pool at least a little for survival purposes which invoked laughter from the crowd. The biggest news, Kathryn explained, was the time she chased a pig up the road not wanting it to get hit by a car, then getting chased by it herself. Sean completed the story explaining how later that very same day they heard the pig being shot by the slaughterman next door to whom it belonged.

The entire selection of songs tell vivid stories invoking striking images to match the majestic voice singing and the skilled guitarist playing them. I'm certain the imagery they bring to mind is only achieved via the sheer exuberance of the vocals.

As good as their set at Beautiful Days was last August this was an opportunity to see them play even more songs. It was a real treat. At the end Kathryn commented on how relaxed we’d made them feel hoping they hadn't come across too relaxed. Not in a bad way as it was more like what is becoming my ultimate cliche thing to say, 'It was more like we were round their house just chilling with them playing some folk tunes for us.' Although in this case it was literally like we'd all just gone to the pub together for a friendly social get together.

My only issue, which is effectively my own fault anyway, was that they didn't play one of my top favourite songs, Rule and Bant from their second album. I say it was my own fault because they happily take requests from people and I didn't ask so I didn't get. This means I will hopefully be arranging to see them again before the year is out and I will definitely be getting my request in.

Videos: First video is Joe Peel from the first album. Please forgive my visuals as this was taken on my phone. Just listen to the guitar and voice though!!
The Second is Jackie. These first two videos are from this gig while the third and fourth were filmed at Beautiful Days 2011.
The third is Red Barn which I guess would feature one of the last appearances of Kathryn's own flute. The one that got bested by a Lego man.
The fourth and final video is of Gerogia Lee. This is an often requested song if it doesn't feature on their set list and you can understand why just hearing the vocals on it. Please forgive my rubbish camera skills.

Music of the moment:

It really is difficult to be so selective here and summarise two or three bands/artists. Whatever I put below is important in that it really does have my attention at present. However I do listen to a lot of music as much as I can so there are often many more bands/artists I have on the go at any one time.

1) They've featured twice already but having just released a new EP entitled Alone In Berlin One Cure For Man. You seriously need to check them out. Unique beautiful vocals married with some pretty amazing guitar playing. This is a band to watch!

2) Another one already mentioned but listening to the album The Water's Edge again twice in the last two days it is Luke Ritchie

As for books, I have to admit I have bought Life Knocks by Craig Stone. This is the prequel to The Squirrel That Dreamt of Madness. Please see the last blog entry for my review of that book. Reading the review you will come to understand why I had to buy it straight away and also why I've already started reading it. It is going to be awesome, I can tell just from the opening.


Monday, 13 February 2012

If You Don't Read The Squirrel That Dreamt of Madness You're As Mad As a Mad Squirrel Who is Mad Beyond Madness!

Do you ever wish you could quit your mind numbingly tedious job? Do you feel like you may be dangerously close to telling your employer precisely where you’d like them to lodge their pay freeze and patronising school type rules? Well now you need not have to follow through thanks to one guy who already did (well, he did the former). No voluntary redundancy was this but rather voluntary homelessness as Craig Stone set up ‘home’ in a London park in the guise of main character Colossus Sosloss armed with a 450 GSM sleeping bag from Argos, a pad and a pen. A rip roaring wondrous actual laugh out loud funny adventure ensues as he chronicles the days that followed in The Squirrel That Dreamt of Madness.

Reading the blurb on Amazon and a few of the reviews sucked me right into the world of Colossus and was enough for me to buy the book and find out more of what it was all about. I thoroughly enjoyed the white knuckle ride through Gladstone Park it whisked me off on, meeting such richly woven colourful characters along the way like the midget park keeper who looks like two pillows tied together with old rope stuffed into a bag with a worried face drawn onto it by a gorilla with arthritis. There’s Moonface, ‘a fat ginger man up a tree that looks like a space hopper with anger issues’, not to mention Dorangel Vargus and PC Whirled amongst many others. There’s even a cameo from the voice of Stephen Fry as a human sized fox wearing a lab coat.

There should be a warning on the cover about reading it in the presence of others because you will end up laughing raucously at the turn of almost every page. A worthy example is the discussion about how it seems to be common for superheroes to turn bad in their third movie outing. Colossus asks if, ‘In Lassie three, will Lassie grow a beard, smoke cigarettes and push kids down wells and lock them in abandoned mines?’ The imagery this paints is a pure delight. And I can’t imagine anywhere else you’ll find a list of ways to kill a budgie some of which include, 'cooking them in a sandwich, drowning them in a bath (with weights), explode them and kick them in the balls.' From Colossus sized carrots to the intricately detailed description of how the animals communicate when trying to decide how to deal with the animal murderer stalking the park are simply sublime.

Humour is not all Craig has in his sprightly bag but trust me if it was he does it so well it would be more than enough to propel you all the way to the end still wanting more. When I could finally get my laughter under control I found poignant stories invoking feelings of sadness and pity. It was wonderful to have my emotions toyed with in a way that can sadly be missing in stories today. There are wonderful moments of philosophical clarity and observational genius. Other moments have a feeling of existential reflection about them which left me thinking, ‘Wow, this guy is so good!’ These moments echo thoughts on issues resonating with many of us as we tirelessly try to find our own place in a heavily saturated trend loving routine laden world; a world where anyone with an original personality is often pigeonholed as a geek, an eccentric or even a weirdo.

There is a flawless flow to the whole story demonstrated by the effortless way Craig goes off on several tangents while keeping the writing so eloquently cohesive. Not a word is out of place. Here is a writer with a unique voice, both distinctive and original making this not only a ‘must’ read for all but an ‘if you don’t read it you will pay for it bitterly in the afterlife (whether or not you believe in an afterlife is immaterial)’ kind of book.

Whilst a fast paced book one could happily read in one to a few sittings the overall vibe created made me want to savour it for as long as possible. Since completing it the withdrawal symptoms are worsening so much that if I don’t start a second reading soon I might just end up hitting that F8 key myself. Park wardens beware. Old ladies with missing dogs stand clear. Budgies….well just don’t leave anything in the cage with which your budgie may hang itself.

Just when you near the end and think it couldn’t possibly get better you’re faced with, what for me was, an interesting if unexpected twist. It really finished it on what was already going to be a mountainous high.

Come on people get clicking fast and buy this book because at such a bargain price for a cracking read why wouldn’t you? Then Craig can launch his next book which I’m now so eagerly awaiting.

'Better to live dreaming than dream of living,' and The Squirrel That Dreamt of Madness brings the dream right to you. I read a lot of books so it's fantastic to come across one so refreshingly new. Unfortunately I rarely have time enough to give books a second read but this is one I'll definitely be making an exception for.

So if you want to discover how Colossus ended up getting beaten up while dressed as a fish finger sandwich I urge you to buy this book! To wrap up I'll use the words of his landlord Ali who told him when he packed up his belongings and moved out, 'I will miss you Colossus Sosloss colossally.'

PS - Any writer managing to include the longest word in the English dictionary in their story ensuring it has a worthwhile place deserves all the success in the universe!!

Music of the moment:

1.) Whitestar kindly sent me two of their CDs through the post which are superb. A review will follow soon. Listened to the album From the Gutter to the Stars so far and loved it.

2.) Elliot Minor's self titled debut album - loved it when it came out and love it still.

3.) Also just listened to the One Cure For Man EP again. Top quality tunes.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

The Wolf Who Became A Granny Tranny. Or, Whatever Happened to Little Red Riding Hood?

While on the subject of nursery rhymes I’d like to put the tale of Little Red Riding Hood under the microscope. A little girl walking through the woods heading for her grandmother’s cottage although as this was once upon a time in a galaxy far far away….oh hang on one moment….I may be getting slightly mixed up there. No she wasn’t one of the Jedi siblings from Star Wars was she? Ah that’s right, my investigations revealed Red now has ten children all by different fathers and is believed to be doing this just for the money it affords her from the state which she uses to pay for her severe crack habit. If her lovely old grandmother could only see her now. I mean her actual grandmother and not the wolf in a grandmother suit. How blind was this girl? She mistakes a big grey furry wolf for her own grandmother. I mean talk about getting it wrong. Okay so some grannies may have a bit going on in the facial hair department but when you take a wolf to be your grandmother surely that’s stretching it a bit too far? Had Red’s mother sent her with a picnic basket full of hair removal products?

Moving back to the story I’ll begin by mentioning that it is stressed very clearly, as clearly as the clear crystal of the Crystal Castle (which I don’t recall was that clear at all now I mention it) which is of course defended by the mighty She-Ra (He-Man’s twin sister) who I saw in the pub last week. She’d recently split up with her girlfriend so was considerably upset at the time drowning her sorrows in booze which is never the best way to cope with a relationship breakdown even if it may be the most common. I think I managed to cheer her up a bit and almost convinced her to come for a curry with me afterwards until remembering she’s a cartoon not possessing the capacity to digest food. This reminded her she couldn’t drink real beer either so she left behind a huge puddle of it on the floor where she’d been sitting. No waste at this pub though as Benji the landlord’s domesticated aardvark was later seen licking up every last drop after which he began belching ferociously before collapsing like an elephant after a one minute run on a treadmill (picture it complete with sweat bands).

Anyway back to Red Riding Hood. The tale begins by explaining it took place at the time when all birds and beasts could talk just as well as you and I, ‘and nobody was surprised to hear them talk as I suppose one would be nowadays.’ This I pitch at both extremes. Whilst I find it extremely insulting in that it’s another great big whopper of a lie which of course as kids you don’t find out until much later (and by yourself for that matter) at the same time I thought it kind of nice they at least seem to tackle the fact animals in this story do talk. With that rhyme detailing the exploits of the laughing dog, the flying cow and the violin playing cat, none of these things were addressed were they? No precursor or warning of such strange behaviour from these animals that might aid us in not going rather insane. It all ended up like an advertisement for hallucinogenic drugs – and this for children!!!

So it is explained that the animals do talk but on the other hand nowhere does it stipulate they live and interact with humans. The little girl (although not quite so little now after giving birth to such a numerous litter of brats) toddles off to her grandmother’s cottage somewhere in the woods singing as she goes. Exactly what she was singing nobody knows but rumour has it this will be released on a forthcoming retrospective soundtrack entitled ‘The Music of Little Red Riding Hood.’ This should be available for download on iTunes in due course.

As she gets nearer to her destination she encounters the wolf for the first time who tells her he knows her grandmother – yeah right – picture it now him going round every Thursday for afternoon tea.

‘Mmmmm, grandmother I think I’ll have your leg on a sandwich with my tea please,’ licking his big wolf lips (okay so wolves don’t exactly have lips but are we certain in this crazy world that they did not at the time of this tale? I mean they do talk after all? Evolution is sometimes a strange thing). ‘That’ll be two sugar lumps for me please me darlin’ Adopting a contemplative expression on his big wolf face he might then add, ‘On second thoughts grandmother dear, no sugars for me as I have a dentist appointment tomorrow and he’s not going to be impressed with me for bingeing on grandmother body parts as it is!’

The wolf fools the little girl into racing him to the old woman’s cottage. What a dizzy bint? How stupid would you have to be? This girl seriously needed some kind of intervention. Naturally he arrives before her to lie in wait. When the girl arrives she finds she cannot get inside so has to be instructed in opening the door by her grandmother, alias the wolf dressed complete in granny clothes and hat to boot.

After finally gaining access to the cabin she comments on how bad granny’s cold must be to make her sound so hoarse. WHAT? This girl is deaf as well as completely stupid. She sounds like a bloody wolf god damn it because she is a wolf, where did the horse come into it? I’d like to know what horse she has spoken to or heard speak because from my experience these beautiful creatures talk so softly almost as if in song most of the time. I was regularly in the audience on ‘Sunday Morning with the Band of Horses’ just listening to them conduct and debate their equine politics for hours on end.

When Red finally walks into a very dark room granny is in bed with the duvet pulled right up to her head so fair enough perhaps she can’t see the wolf underneath. That is a pity because a big bad wolf in drag is quite a sight I can tell you, had me in hysterics for days when I saw the CCTV footage. It is known to most animals however that Thursday night is drag night at The Animal Inn, a place where the animal community gather together socially resulting in much merrymaking, frivolity and where it has been common to encounter wolves in granny drag complete with purple or blue rinse wigs if not wearing ever more elaborate hats. I do advise caution when planning a visit to this strange yet magical establishment if only to spare you the Pig N’ Dale strip show every other Tuesday, now that is a display to give the most hardy of folk nightmares for life.

What happened next in the actual story should really have given it away as the granny-wolf put out his big furry paws and began to open the basket the girl’s mother had sent. Of course in this basket there was hundreds of tiny flesh eating spiders that would have devoured the old dear so Red’s parents could move into the cottage and live happily ever after free from the evil old witch she’d become. Therefore in theory one might conclude the girl should’ve let the wolf open the basket and all would’ve ended quite well for her, but no they got chatting. The wolf probably imagining the girl roasted on a huge platter accompanied by mashed potatoes, peas and carrots. ‘Knew I should’ve bought along some mint sauce,’ he might have thought, ‘it tasted so nice on Little Bo Peep and those three little pigs…mmmmm.’

‘What great arms you have!’ the girl observed out loud still not twigging it was actually a wolf and not her dainty old-aged grandmother. Of course in those days most grannies had big grey bushy arms with paws at the end and no opposable thumbs. The wolf’s response was seemingly polite.

‘All the better to hug you with.’ This translated into wolf-speak literally as, ‘All the better to claw you to death, rip you to shreds before dicing you up to fit in the pot with a nice red wine sauce!’

‘What great ears you have!’ the girl continued observing these striking features. You think she would have realised on her previous visits her grandmother having these. And I’m sorry but the ears should’ve been a dead giveaway!! If not then they should have at the very least given rise to some level of concern given they protruded through the night hat. Further, by this time she must have now been looking at the wolf’s head yet still not recognising it was an imposter. Her poor grandmother is all I can say for she must have been one ugly hairy looking old lady.

More talk ensued as the girl continued noticing more and more alarmingly odd features until, ‘What sharp teeth you have!’ she cried, the penny finally dropping in her tiny brain after all she’d seen and heard thus far.

‘All the better to eat you with,’ shouted the wolf who wanted to tell her at length how he would prepare her like lamb and suck on her bones but after it took her so long to twig he was actually a wolf in granny drag he found himself no longer bothered for, ‘why should he waste his intelligence on someone so dense?’ he thought. It had been a very long day and he had had to wear old lady clothing on a day that was not Thursday (animals in drag night at the pub) so he would be a laughing stock as it was. I suppose that’s the price a wolf must pay for fame to get into one of these stories.

At that very moment the door to the cottage flung open revealing two tall heavily muscled and tattooed woodcutters bearing heavy axes. ‘Ok Miss Spooner,’ they bellowed enthusiastically, ‘which one of us gets to go first today?’

‘Or perhaps you can take the both of us at once if you’ve been taking your cod liver oil?’ added the second one. Well, perhaps Red didn’t grow up to be much different to her grandmother after all.

The two woodcutters actually killed the wicked wolf by gruesomely axing the creature and all in front of this little girl. Being as dense as she seemed she probably thought they were murdering her grandmother. She goes off in tears, understandable after such a near death experience and witnessing the brutal slaying of the wolf, to search for her actual grandmother who happens to walk through the door at that moment. It was her friend Mrs Hall who had been unwell so okay then everything is fine. Little Red Riding Hood will grow up to be a one parent slut due to this scarring incident but no harm no foul. Word has it those two wood cutters each fathered one of her children but due to the circumstances it is impossible to tell which particular kids and when.

As with all these tales they insisted everyone lived happily ever after but how can they even attempt to convince us this is true after what happened? The actual point from all this, if there is any point I suppose one might add, is the gruesome nature of these tales we tell to young children and the constant lies we weave about them.

Interlude of Madness - There Once Were Flying Cows.

‘Hey diddle diddle the cat and the fiddle’

To begin with let’s take this one line by line. I remember when I was about three or four I sat and watched Willow, our cat at the time, for hours and hours on end hoping to catch a glimpse of her Vanessa Mae-ing it. I was of course left disappointed later coming to realise that even if she could indeed knock out a tune or two on an instrument she was just far too tired (and busy washing when she wasn't tired) to bother. ‘Liars!’ I thought. They tell us repeatedly how lying is such a bad thing, a vice, a habit not to be pursued and yet all through childhood it seems children are lied to endlessly. Then I grow up and (while under some influence or other I cannot possibly confirm or deny) meet Valerie the banjo playing badger which pretty much confirmed the whole truth that cats may well be able to play the fiddle after all.

‘The cow jumped over the moon’

Yes. A cow filled with enough helium perhaps, or one that could fly but cows stopped flying thousands of years ago when big smelly cow pats would fall out of the sky on unsuspecting passers by killing, often proving fatal.

Even when they could fly some just weren’t prepared for air or space travel. It was reported in the Annals of the Great Cow Dynasties that many flying cows who ventured as far up into space burned up in the atmosphere. As you should know cows are currently well known as a big contributor to methane emissions so this should not come as a surprise. Perhaps where irony creeps in is they would at times, depending upon how much gas was inside them at the time, create such beautiful firework displays that folk in the know would often charge tickets for the best seats. Naturally all the cow dung splattering around the world was considered to be a bit of a downside. Out of the cows that eventually did make it into space some have been sighted floating aimlessly about unable to steer their way to the moon (where if this dandy little tale is true they were heading merely to jump over it and back to earth), obviously because what they lacked were decent rocket boosters on their udders.

‘Wouldn’t look natural or organic,’ God has been quoted as saying in its defence. I’m betting it didn’t anticipate quite the number of deaths this flaw in the design plan caused, omniscient my backside! Probably why it took their wings away from them but to be quite fair this episode in their ancient history made them all very depressed. Hard to contemplate I do understand but stick with me here I am only relaying the facts (as written in the Annals of the Great Cow Dynasties) to you. Consider it. A clinically depressed cow. Some had it so severe they took their own lives.

How in the Universe does a cow commit suicide? I hear you ask. Well in the texts it says some hanged themselves in barns after dark while others would simply slit their udders. This was a gruesome period of time for cows. Some officials (officials of what no one quite knows but when one is a proper official complete with certificate of officiality it becomes difficult to argue with them) believe more cows perished during the ‘Great Cow Depression’ than died when they had wings and would forget to keep their wings flapping leading them to fall to the ground with an almighty thud. People died. 

‘The little dog laughed to see such fun’

Don’t even start me on this one. Dogs laughing? That’s as messed up as cats playing violins. And yes at the same time I was staring intently at the cat hoping to catch it with a fiddle (even just holding a fiddle might have appeased me), I was also spending equal amounts of time glaring at the dog, Max, waiting for him to burst into laughter. Never happened although I’m almost certain once I heard him bark at me, ‘what the woof you looking at? I want a bitch!’ I was a little startled but when running to my mother and relaying what Max had barked I was promptly sent to my room. I bet Max was in hysterics after that but I couldn’t see being confined to my room.

Let’s not forget in the rhyme the dog was laughing due to such fun he was witnessing. A cat playing violin? A cow jumping over the moon? This is fun? Messed up is what it is! All the dog does is laugh at this incredibly whacky behaviour from his feline and cattle compatriots. Should have stopped eating the meat he was being fed for it obviously had acid in it or some other hallucinogenic substance. Or perhaps he was a dog that liked the odd cheeky joint (not of the meat variety).

This next line needs just a tiny preamble because it is my ultimate favourite moving away from the animals doing trippy things, which yes is a bit out there but at the very least they are living things and can move and well okay they can’t exactly do the things the rhyme claims they did but......

‘And the dish ran away with the spoon!’

Exactly! This is where parents really take the piss don’t you think? A dish running? How precisely does a dish run? It’s a god damn dish they don’t have legs for starters and neither do spoons. I felt sorry for the knives and forks and the plates for they were really left out which led to the horrific cutlery wars of the middle ages (and by the middle ages I do mean in terms of the timeline of cutlery, not our own). Again thanks to the repeated lies of the big folk I’d often wonder in puzzlement why my breakfast bowl would not run when I wanted to watch it do so. I’d therefore throw it on the floor throwing my spoon after it as far as I could thinking, ‘If you’re not going to run fucking well fly!'

To follow: Whatever happened to Little Red Riding Hood?

Also also to follow: Review of Seth Lakeman 2011 gig & Fleet Foxes 2011 gig.

Music of the moment:

1.) Open the Door by Andrew Page - thanks to twitter.

2.) The Water's Edge by Luke Ritchie - thanks to twitter & his sister Charlotte who plays Oregon in Fresh Meat

Book(s) most recently added to the 'to read mountain':