Author Archives: Alan

Clusterschmuck..

I thought I’d written about this kind of thing before, but having a quick search I don’t think that I have.  It’s a geeky marriage of the kind of thing I do at work (on occasions, although less so these days) and my personal life thanks to the Facebook Report over at Wolfram Alpha.

Essentially, taking a whole load of data (ie, your Facebook stuff) and doing funky things with it.  My favourite is this clustering exercise of friends based on connections with one another.  Certainly its’ first attempt gives some fairly neat clusters (I added the shapes and labels on there).  I just refreshed the page and noted that it comes up with a different map, although I’d still identify similar clusters from it.

clusteringOf course, as with any large dataset there is a bit of a problem when trying to shoehorn such a large group of people (504 were included in this analysis apparently) into ten buckets.  I’ve got outliers in there who don’t really fit in any of them, and plenty of ‘node’ people who traverse many of my different worlds (the ‘Family’ group in this instance holds many of these folk).

The categorisations that it tries to apply take workplaces/places of education and geographic information to try to inform the clusters (hence the colour coding).  Interestingly it doesn’t pick out ‘Likes’ or interests that might give some clues – but usually the linkages between people are enough to spot how these people relate to one another in your life.

The report goes further to help you identify these (although you’d know them intuitively I think), Rich my brother shares 149 friends on Facebook with me, Rich Crouch is next in line on the mutual friend count – crossing over as he does on the Forest, Ferocious Dog, Boots and probably sneaks well into the Family group of friends too.  It’s really interesting to see such things quantified.

The demographic splits are interesting too – two thirds of my Facebook friends are male, a third female, I’ve discovered that one of my old school friends is apparently 89 years old and therefore my oldest friend.  A timely lesson in the quality of data impacting the quality of results I guess!  The distribution of ages of my friends unsurprisingly centres closely around my own age range.

Geographically I’m very United Kingdom biased but do have a few further flung friends around the globe too!

Screen Shot 2013-10-13 at 20.52.31As well as stalking my friends, the report also looks at the content I bombard Facebook with.  Apparently I write DAY and TODAY a lot, as well as clearly mentioning our feathered critters by name quite a bit, and there’s more than hint in there that I might talk about Ferocious Dog rather a lot!  Partly given away by Ferocious, but also the easily misunderstood reference to dogging that makes it in there too!

Ultimately very pointless, although I suppose illustrative of the powerful information Facebook has to better understand people.  From a professional perspective the ability to analyse how people connect together is fascinating and something missing from our individualistic datasets at the moment.

Information is powerful stuff innit, whilst I’ve found this exercise pretty insightful it’s also maybe fuel to the fire that choose to ignore Facebook through fear of giving away too much information about themselves to cynical corporations.

If you’re not one of those, you can generate exciting maps and more from your own Facebook data by clicking on the link included up there somewhere!

 

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Those Forest Men – by Mark Collar

I’ve got Forest books literally stacked up waiting to be read.  There’ve been a real glut of them in recent years, and whilst I do like a good autobiography on occasion, I have to be in the mood, the likes of John McGovern, Garry Birtles, Viv Anderson and Larry Lloyd sit resolutely on my ‘to read’ pile, and probably will do for a considerable time.

This book is a bit different though, it’s very different to any football book I’ve ever read before.  It was written by my friend Mark Collar, and I’ve been ludicrously tardy in both getting it and reading it.  Once I did pick it up I genuinely struggled to put it down and had finished it within a couple of days.  I opted to read it cover to cover, others have ‘dipped in and out’ of chapters – I can see both methods working.

It’s difficult to describe the genre – there’s a bit of self-indulgent (but in a good way) autobiographical recollection of a fan who lost interest in Forest at the wrong time.  I can empathise with that, Forest’s most recent European adventure in the mid-nineties corresponded with my discovery of girls and booze – “I can miss out this time, there’s always next season!” I thought.  Oh foolish me.  Of course, Mark did the same when we were lifting trophies on the biggest stage, so he wins there!

Ostensibly the book centres around youth team players who lodged in the attic of his parental home – it follows their fortunes, recollects their characters and particularly centres on John Robertson, who didn’t stay with the Collars but certainly spent time with the players that did, and at their house.  Interspersed are reflections on players, events, games, managers – spanning the entire history of Nottingham Forest.  Sometimes Mark’s research, sometimes he has included work by guest writers.  It’s a charming and varied read.

Even someone who’s read lots about Forest found plenty to learn in here, some new stories, some comfortingly familiar ones and some awesome new random facts.  What has clearly been a labour of love for Mark has retained a punchy pace – some chapters last literally a couple of pages, others are in depth – you could easily read them in isolation but similarly they all hang together to give a sum of Forest through the ages through the eyes of someone who has grown up with Forest initially enthusiastically, at some times begrudgingly and is finally now reunited with the club that it was perhaps inevitable he’d return to.

As well as Mark’s labours the book is interspersed with worthy inclusions from Steve, Gary, Alex and Phil to boot which allows room for other voices in the narrative.  The package is topped off with some lovely artwork by Diane, and if you’re lucky enough to grab a first edition version there’s an amusing alternative forename for Bobby Charlton in there!

You can buy Mark’s book from Amazon, and if you’re in any way interested in Nottingham Forest (or indeed, football in general), then I think you should do.

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Loyaulte Me Lie..

I’ve harboured a half-fixation with King Richard III for a good many years now.  In my pre-GCSE school days I was still studying history.  He was portrayed as the suitable ghoulish caricature you’d expect (although my vague memories of the time do suggest that Miss Turner did present reasonable doubt with the classical view of that period of history).

That in itself is fascinating enough for a young mind that likes a dark tale of treachery and scandal.

Subsequently through varied and subtle means I came to adopt a more Ricardian outlook on the subject, and whilst of course history of that distance away can only be conjecture I do feel a strong empathy with the interpretation I’ve placed on this notorious historical figure.  I wouldn’t go so far as to say he’s a hero, but as someone who’s been demonstrably vilified at least partially falsely perhaps I just like going for the underdog.

Either way, I do find myself in a position of admiring the construction of this former monarch I’ve constructed in my mind.  An odd position to be in as I’m by no means a monarchist at all – although a monarch (the last one in fact) who took to the battlefield in person to defend his crown is rather a different proposition to those that inhabit the palaces of this green and pleasant land nowadays.

So, Loyaulte Me Lie.  Richard’s motto, in the Anglo-Norman that would’ve been used in the court during Richard’s reign.  It translates to Loyalty Binds Me, and I really like it as a mantra to try to live by.  I like to think I’m a loyal person, I relate to it, both in family or friend terms or of course also in the more base tribal instincts of being a football fan.

In the context of supporting Forest over the last few years then perhaps ‘Loyalty Cripples Me’ might be more appropriate, but I digress, and not in a timely fashion as the Reds have started this season in fine fettle!

To draw this to a close, it was only relatively recently that I realised with a wry smile that I’ve spent more than ten years feeding my mortgage through the analysis the data attached to a retail loyalty scheme.

So Loyalty binds me indeed, and promises to do so for some time!

Meanwhile since the discovery of his remains in a Leicester car park I don’t think poor Richard has yet been laid to rest in a manner befitting his status.

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Tick tock, tick tock..

Bloody hell, July has gone completely!  Of course, quite difficult to follow a blog post as interesting (to me at least) as our Polish adventure – but that’s not to say there’s been reasonably exciting things occurring since then.

Not least  – and top of mind – the return to the football pitch for me after the dreaded drop-foot.  On a fitness level, this has been monumentally horrible – half a year of not playing, and not exactly doing a great job of finding alternative ways of maintaining my fitness, has really taken its’ toll. Fortunately my technique – such as it is – doesn’t seem to have suffered too much after my first couple of ‘bedding in’ games.

I’ve been getting a bit of jip in one of my thigh muscles from kicking the ball hard, but I’ve had that before – a combination of not stretching/warming up properly and my spell out of action have been causing this – but a combination of anti-inflammatories and treatment with heat is seeing this recover faster after each game, which is reassuring.  Tonight is my first outing for Thursday football so far this year, probably my more challenging group.  So fingers crossed!

I’m really hoping Henri Lansbury has kept this summer addition to his head. It’ll almost be like a Ferocious Dog gig at the City Ground!

As well as playing football of course we also have watching it to look forward to.  Forest kick off the season at home against Huddersfield on Saturday and now Forest have deigned not to evict us from our seats I’m looking forward greatly to seeing how Billy Davies starts the season.  We’ve made some shrewd acquisitions and seem likely to add some more – if you read the rumour mills then there are very few players out there who haven’t had some kind of medical or offer from Forest.

Following Forest online lost a lot of lustre for me last season when I literally ‘lost that loving feeling’ and opted to shut down my semi-anonymously written Forest blog, which now sits in mothballs like an old abandoned place.  I must say I haven’t missed what had become a bit of a drudgery, whilst the goings on at Forest are rarely dull – sometimes I wish they just were a bit.  The forums are increasingly like warzones and I barely follow any Reds related users on Twitter aside from folk I actually know.  It’s sad that by and large football fans are so incapable civil communication – even when they support the same team.

On the music front a last minute decision to snag a day ticket for Deerstock in nearby East Bridgford proved a masterstroke – an excellent little event organised by Jed Southgate at the rear of the Reindeer Pub took place, even a fair amount of rain on the Saturday night couldn’t spoil a top day – it was headlined by Ferocious Dog which is always going to float my boat of course, but a nice mix of other talented acts throughout the day kept us very well entertained.  I shall look into probably going to the whole festival next year, as the Friday and Sunday were awesome too from what I’ve read.

Related to Ferocious Dog was the recent Panorama show relating to post-traumatic stress disorder suffered by people coming away from active service in the forces.  Lee Bonsall, son of Ken and brother of Dan in the band, was featured in the show – he tragically took his own life having not received the support he needed from the army.  Alarmingly the programme revealed that this tale is disturbingly common – I would recommend taking a look at the programme, and most definitely signing this petition calling for support for our service personnel.

Ken and the band continue to do sterling work in raising both awareness and money to directly help folk in the same boat that Lee found himself through the Lee Bonsall Memorial Fund.  Families of others who suffered the same fate are similarly taking real positive action to help others – it’s a real inspiration and I’m in awe of how brilliant these people are considering how badly let down their loved ones have been.  They fight on, and I’m proud to support them in whatever small ways that I can – which will definitely include hammering out any fundraising activities via Facebook and Twitter for those of you that have the undoubted joy of me on your social networks.

To finish on a lighter note I’ve become strangely addicted to Rooibos tea.  As part of last year’s ‘Project Fatty’ I basically knocked caffeinated tea on the head at work, opting instead for herbal variants (ostensibly to cut down my dairy intake).  Having run out of such tea a couple of weeks back I started back on my old stash of tea which had an impact on both sleep and digestion patterns (I’ll leave that there!).  I picked up some Rooibos on the recommendation of a workmate and it does the refreshment job without any of the caffeine nasties.

Speaking of ‘Project Fatty’, that half year of inactivity has rendered a sequel to probably be in the offing, I really need to eat a bit more sensibly and get a bit of weight off again…. at least being back on the football pitch 2-3 times a week will help at least arrest the weight gain!  I also need to face up to the elephant-in-the-room that my guitars seem to have become since recovering from ‘Susan’..

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Kraków and Auschwitz..

The central square in Kraków is stunning

The central square in Kraków is stunning

Fate decreed that this was to be the year of Kraków for me – whilst Mum and Dad had already arranged a trip to the Polish city in June for Cat, I and them, it turned out to be the destination for the stag do for Paul that Rich organised too, this time at the turn of February into March.

What a beautiful city it is though, and the different emphases of the two trips combined with the different seasons made the two visits in quick proximity not in the slightest bit problematic.  Indeed, I’d be very surprised if I don’t return to the place again in the future – there were still a few parts of we didn’t get to visit that I’d like to.

The first trip was cold – there was lots of layers, there was lots of huddling in the network of underground bars the city is full of.  Finding them was both a challenge and an adventure at times.  We found some great places to enjoy the excellent local beer, and whilst rarely at the fabled ridiculously low prices people quote, considerably less expensive than we’d pay here!

We also took a trip out to shoot some guns, including a glock pistol, a magnum style pistol, an AK-47 and a pump-action shotgun.  I’m not a huge fan of guns, but it was really enjoyable nonetheless – although I can’t help but think had the gun range chosen to breathalise some of the party it might’ve been a somewhat different experience.

The only duplication between my two visits was the final day in both cases, so I’ll cover that at the end, as it is where the trips changed from a holiday to something different.

Fast forward to last weekend and the weather was beautifully warm – temperatures from mid 20s to touching 30 by the time we went home is well within my ‘ideal weather’ zone.  A trip with the family is a very different proposition than a stag do, so I wasn’t too fazed by already having been there.

Indeed, having met the company that helped Rich organise such a great stag do it gave me a great head start.  By emailing ahead I was able to secure transfers to and from the airport as well as a couple of excursions we knew we wanted to do ahead of time, and do so for a ridiculously competitive price all in.

If you go to Kraków then the first thing you should do is contact Amazing Kraków – thanks to the arrangements I’d already made by email with Rafał upon arriving at the airport all we needed to worry about was, well, nothing really.  Maciej was waiting for us and took us to our hotel whilst pointing out local points of interest.

Our hotel was around five minutes from the central square, which is a nice balance to have – close enough to reach, not too close to be disturbing if you’re trying to sleep!  The staff were awesomely helpful and friendly and they let us have one of our rooms early to dump our cases before we headed out to find some food.

We found countless places providing decent food and drink for very reasonable prices, even those favourably located right on the square.  Vegetarian food was sometimes tricky to find, but by no means impossible – and once we found places that catered for non-meat eaters the quality of offering was very good.

We armed ourselves  with a degree of orientation on the first afternoon by taking a tour on an electric cart (for about a third of the listed price after minimal haggling!).  This was a great way to get a glimpse of things you might want to spend more time viewing.  There’s a lot of these kicking around – definitely bargain for a better price – we paid 220PLN for the four of us to do a two hour tour taking in four ‘zones’.

Unlike on the stag do we were able to pack in quite a bit more culture – we visited the Wieliczka Salt Mine, which was completely awesome.  Not only the scale of the mining, but the creativity of the miners to carve statues of impressive scale and intricacy.  To see a rendition of Da Vinci’s last supper rendered in Salt with a chisel was deeply impressive.

Thanks partly to the electric cart tour we opted to walk to the Jewish quarter for something to eat, and latterly to found the Human Body exhibit and the close-by former factory of Oskar Schindler on foot.  The latter now operates as a museum giving extra context to wartime Poland and the appalling events that unfolded by the Nazi occupiers.

We didn’t rush around too much and spent plenty of time eating, drinking and mooching around the place.  Given more time I’d have liked to have spent more time exploring the castle and the garden that surrounds the city where the original walls used to stand.  Maybe for another visit!

Looking back at the entrance to Auschwitz II / Birkenau

Looking back at the entrance to Auschwitz II / Birkenau

The final day was a mirror for both trips – and marks a definite switch from recreation to something very sombre indeed.  Which is why I think it makes sense should you make the trip to do this visit at the end, in our case combining it with a transfer to the airport.

In both cases Rafał collected us to take us to the former concentration and extermination camp of Auschwitz and Birkenau.  It’s difficult to express in words really – people regularly say that it’s something people should visit, and I agree – but it’s not to understand something, because some things are beyond comprehension.

By attaching yourself to a tour guide you get a real insight into the purpose and horrors that took place in the buildings you are walking around.  Artefacts from prisoners detained or murdered suddenly blasts throught the objectivity of numbers we’d have learned in history lessons as school to reveal real lives, real people.

To reel off however many hundreds of thousands or millions of different nations people perished in these camps during the second world war is of course upsetting, but the numbers are beyond what we can comprehend in real terms, numbers are by their nature objective, dispassionate, inhuman almost.

Seeing a pile of glasses, all of which a person’s eyes looked through, thousands of pairs of shoes, suitcases with names on them, tools of business, shoe polish and collections of childrens clothes – these are the fragments of real lives – in bulk – that puts human beings, not numbers, at the centre of your conscious mind.

Having a mind naturally predisposed to rationalise and understand, you can’t help but spend time here with an unquiet mind.  You learn how through unfathomable ideological aims the Nazis productionised death for Jewish people, with the same kind of mechanistic considerations anyone who works in business would be familiar with – increase efficiency, reduce cost.

I am glad I’ve been, even twice in quick succession – we must never forget the depths to which we can sink as a species.  Augmenting what we learned here with our visit to the museum at Oskar Schindler’s factory and the former Ghetto area in Kazimierz gave more context to the horror that people underwent still within living memory.

The original booking of the trip by my Mum was driven by a conversation we had about a morbid – what’s the right word, desire? no. Wish? no. Ambition?  not quite either – let’s stick with an intention to to visit Auschwitz.  To what ends I’m not sure for either of us, but I’m pleased to have done so – even if it simply asks more questions than it can ever answer.

So I do agree with those people who say that people should definitely visit what has become a combination of a museum, a memorial and indeed, a final resting place – but if you were to ask me why I have that conviction, then I would struggle to find the right words to justify the conviction.  But you should go.

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Holy ear-worm! Proof of indoctrination..

I’ve had another one of those ‘random hymns popping in my head for no reason’ occurences over the last couple of days.  I’ve only just gotten around to looking it up, I’d mixed it up with ‘If you’re happy and you know it’ in my head – which isn’t that surprising given both songs compell you to clap your hands.  It was the line ‘I look around and the sun’s in the sky’ that was the hook for me though, which perhaps isn’t surprising given the lovely weather.

Like many hymns it’s actually quite a nice tune, it’s just a shame about all the god stuff.  Here it is, if you’d like your very own primary school assembly ear-worm for the day:

Stand up clap your hands shout thank you Lord
Thank you for the world we’re in
Stand up clap your hands shout thank you Lord
For happiness and peace within

I look around and the sun’s in the sky
I look around and I think “Oh my!”
The world is such a wonderful place
And all because of the good Lord’s grace

Chorus

I look around and the creatures I see
I look around and it amazes me
That every fox and bird and hare
Must fit in a special place somewhere

Chorus

I look around at all the joy I’ve had
I look around and then it makes me glad
That I can offer thanks and praise
To him who guides me through my days

Apologies if you now have jaunty strains of Primary School caterwauling to the accompaniment of piano running through your head now.  Who knows, maybe you’ll enjoy it?  It’s only through reading through the lyrics with adult eyes probably for the first time ever that I realise Richard Gere must have taken the second verse a little too literally if the rumours are to be believed!  Let’s not ever get on to purple-headed mountains…

On indoctrination, I suppose it’s not so bad retaining jaunty tunes if I managed to resist the ideology!

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My desire, is always to be here, oh City Ground..

Our awesome seats are safe for another season before further potential meddling will ensue!

Our awesome seats are safe for another season before further potential meddling will ensue!

Forest have seen sense and reversed their plans to relocate season ticket holders in the Bridgford Upper after apparently overestimating the popularity of housing home fans in the Bridgford Lower.

I suspect they probably failed to appreciate the subtle different between the following two statements, the first of which is most certainly likely to be true of many Forest fans, the second it would appear is less universally adhered to (and that’s before you consider the planned price of £549 a year to do so!)

“It would be great to have the Lower Bridgford end for home supporters to generate an atmosphere”

“I would like to sit in the Lower Bridgford end”

Without properly ascertaining not only the will of those fans they would have been uprooting, but also determining the actual demand for tickets in that area and performing the necessary calculations to work out the financial impact, this has been an exceptionally good example of the kind of impetuous and ill-prepared decision-making that Fawaz runs the risk of getting a reputation for if he’s not careful.

Certainly taking fans views on board is a great plus – and I’m sure the intention is to please – but it needs to be conducted in a more robust fashion.  To say most fans didn’t want the change would be just as inaccurate as those when it was proposed who said that most did – it needs a proper piece of research with season ticket holders.  Forest have the contact details of all concerned, it wouldn’t be that difficult to arrange.

As they continue to consult over what to do about the away supporters hopefully the lessons they’ve learned from annoying their loyal customers will be built into any future plans.  Football fans are the dream ticket in terms of a loyal customer base – they aren’t likely to switch allegance any time soon, so you have to really mess up to see them walk away as a fee-paying customer.  Forest came close this time for many.

In an era when companies are able to manage millions of customer records then Forest really have no excuse in not wrangling the few thousand records they have to get a proper view of what people want.  At the moment that doesn’t exist – so people, self included to a degree, simply upweight their own preferences and state them as a ‘for the good of the fans’ statement.  Which is a ridiculous stance to take regardless of what you think, when it’s based on a sample of a few people you know – basically, ignorance.

I’m sure it won’t be the last mistake Forest makes with a relatively new regime in charge – but they should be applauded for pausing what looked to be a ‘done deal’ and taking on board the extent of opposition to their choice and backtracking.  Hopefully they can learn from the danger in assuming what a few hundred relatively anonymous emails or Tweets represent the views of all those who actually swell the coffers of the club in the form of season ticket sales.

Plus it sounds like we will have Forest fans behind the goal in the Lower Bridgford end anyway, so from the point of view of the original campaign everyone is a winner.

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Relocation Relocation Relocation

We’ve sat just above the leftmost John Pye sign for a dozen years. Now with a days notice we are expected to pitch up elsewhere.

It’s been a good extended weekend.  Hell, an excellent one – lots of good friends, good music and good food and drink and some not too bad weather either made my first trip to Bearded Theory a raucous success.  As well as getting the opportunity to see many of my favourite bands – The Levellers, Ferocious Dog, 3 Daft Monkeys et al, there was of course the chance to randomly happen upon lots of new music.

Upon getting back home yesterday though a degree of that residual good mood glow has been extinguished by the news that Nottingham Forest have decided, ostensibly as a result of fan pressure, to relocate away supporters at the City Ground to where I sit.  Where I’ve already paid for next season’s ticket, so they want me to join the Hoi Polloi tomorrow as season tickets hit general sale to sift through the dregs on offer in the rest of the ground.

Rich and I have sat in block U1 on the front row for a dozen years or more – we’ve made great friends up there, love the view, the atmosphere and everything else about it.  There’s nowhere else in the City Ground I would want to sit instead, so the opportunity to relocate to ‘better’ (read: more expensive) seats for no additional charge is an empty offer as far as I’m concerned.  Particularly when we’ll be stuck with the higher price come renewal time this time next year!

The worst thing is those seats in the Lower Bridgford end, supposedly highly coveted by Forest fans, will be amongst the most expensive in the ground.  Why anyone would pay the £150 more to sit under the away fans hurling god knows what at you compared with the comparable (crap) view at the Trent End I’m not quite sure.  So the move is a neat distraction from sizeable price hikes, and as far as I can tell at the behest of a relatively small number of fans who emailed Fawaz about it.

Whether these are the people who will pack that end out for £549 a season remains to be seen.  Should the consultation process conclude this move is to go ahead (the council and police will need to approve it from a safety perspective) then my seat won’t be available for home fans, I’ll be seeking a refund and not going anymore.  Notwithstanding the ridiculousness of the decision, the manner in which it has been communicated (or rather, not commicated at all) to those affected is shocking.

That no actually robust survey beyond the #nffc Twitterati emailing an ‘Ask Fawaz’ session occurred is scandalous – they have our contact details, they could easily determine what number of fans would welcome a move, and what proportion would relocate to the hallowed lower tier.  This is something I suspect that was decided without consideration for supporter needs – even the superficial ‘Ask Fawaz’ ones.

Whilst I realise we are mere walking wallets as far as the powers-that-be at football clubs are concerned, it looks as though this wallet at least might well be shutting itself after many years of freely and liberally helping to fund the club.  Now I need to think of something else to be doing with my season ticket money and free weekends, perhaps there is a link to this new dilemma I wasn’t expecting to be facing and my opening paragraph?

Of course, it’s possible that the club will fail to get this move ratified – as I type there are council and police representatives at the City Ground presumably for that purpose.  Should they raise objections, coupled with a surprising number of people who are very annoyed at the move, then we might well find the club backtracking with some excuses around safety concerns or otherwise, in the meantime because there’s a bit of a furore everyone forgets that they’ve actually made the prices rather high.

I do hope that sense prevails and this plan is quashed, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to move to an inferior location than the one that I paid in advance for a few weeks ago now.

NB: I thought I’d published this before, apparently I didn’t!

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Weirdy beardies..

Dean clambers up on to a surfboard comprising of yours truly!

Dean clambers up on to a surfboard comprising of yours truly!

As the weeks drew closer to my first ever visit to Bearded Theory I was pensively looking at the long range weather forecast.  Rain. Lots of it.  It didn’t bode well, despite the frankly amazing line-up of acts and the potential for new discoveries.  The sticking point for me was not really liking camping very much.  Being less than an hour from home, I suppose heading home each day wouldn’t be impossible – as it turned out, the camping wasn’t so bad.

Luckily for me Linda and Lou insisted I go and camp with them – so I met them on Thursday in the carpark and we set up in a likely looking spot – starting with a 5m by 3m shelter (thereafter dubbed ‘the erection’) which proved invaluable as a sitting spot during down time.  After a few attempts we got the shelter looking like it should and duly pitched our tents around it including one for an arrival in the morning.

Nearby were plenty of Ferocious Dog types so there were plenty of people to chat to, and with Simon and Lynn arriving at our camp later, as well as Mike and Martine camping nearby too there was a great community vibe going on once we were fully underway.

However, back to Thursday night eventually we headed off to see the not particularly secret gigs in the Lock Inn tent.  One awesome thing about Bearded Theory is the laid back attitude to people bringing their own alcohol, not only is it fine to do this in the campsites, but in the arena too it’s absolutely fine, the only rule was a reasonable request to not bring glass onto the site.  That said, we still bought a fair few beers!

Whilst I’m bound to forget notable things I saw during the weekend, it opened stormingly with Ferocious Dog and then 3 Daft Monkeys taking to the Lock Inn stage.  A chance to get a mosh in early doors is always good, and getting to be ‘the surfboard’ during Freeborn John a personal highlight in my now not inconsiderable journey following the band around – even if the security got a little over-zealous and tried to eject Dean from the premises, order was restored – as was the song, and the surf.

Other musical highlights in no particular order (and probably missing some) were scattered around the venues – in the Something Else Tea Tent we were treated to awesome performances by the Star Botherers, Red Ruff, Brad Dear, Gentle Kitten (arf) and annoyingly missed the Beanfeast Banjos.  In Tornado Town we were treated to Whisky Stain, Bootscraper, Pussycat and the Dirty Johnsons and The Beards whilst the main stage played host to Goldblade, Reverend and the Makers, New Model Army, Asian Dub Foundation and – of course – The Levellers.

I didn’t spend much time in the Magical Sounds tent although enjoyed from afar the sounds of the Peatbog Faeries, and found that Subgiant had a strangely soporific effect from the campsite nearby as it lulled me to sleep.  Not quite so much the case for A Guy Called Gerald who was a bit more jarring when trying to find a comfy position whilst clothed in many layers inside a sleeping bag!

There was loads more too – but when you’re addled with cider, beer and/or rum then you don’t remember all of it, and looking idly at the line-up on the Bearded Theory website makes me think “Oh, how did I manage to miss that too?”  I’m not too downhearted by that though as I saw some really cracking new bands, a few that I’m not too bothered about and some consumately awesome performances from bands I’m more familiar with.

As well as drinking my own booze we also sampled a few of the ales available at the festival – they’re reasonably priced (in the beer tents – the Lock Inn was quite pricey) and tasty.  The thing that consumed most of my cash over the weekend was the awesome array of food though!  I had brought quite a lot of food with me, but found that both the quality and reasonable prices – we had toasties, pies with mash, shish-kebabs, halloumi, hotdogs, burgers and still managed to not visit ever vendor – not to mention an excellent full Welsh breakfast every morning to set us up.

Having said that, the restorative powers of ‘Betty’ the gas stove was needed to mobilise us for breakfast – Lou’s coffee making skills of a morning came with a high billing, and she certainly didn’t disappoint.  Betty did run out of gas literally come the final day, but we were rescued by one of our kind neighbours who let us pinch a bit of theirs.  There’s no way I’d have had a gas stove and kettle if camping alone!

The pervading thing about the whole weekend was the laid back and easy vibe from staff and visitors alike – with the weather not as bad as feared spirits were high and fun was had.  The participation rate for the final day fancy dress and beard-wearing speaks volumes for the crowd – as well as the considerable number of folk I already knew there, I met plenty more who seemed to have a similar mindset of having a great time without being an arse.

On the slightly less positive side there were tent thefts on the first couple of nights – many quite close to us, however the security team really excelled themselves and managed to capture and detain a group of them and hand them over to police custody and take steps to return people’s property – but that and a bit of rain on the Friday night were really the only blemishes on an otherwise splendid weekend of good friends, good music, good drink and good food.

Definitely a festival to recommend – my favourite performances of familiar bands was undoubtedly delivered courtesy of the Levellers, Ferocious Dog and 3 Daft Monkeys, whilst new discoveries like The Star Botherers (‘Bad Guy’ might well be song-of-the-weekend for me), Red Ruff, Whisky Stain, The Beards and Bootscraper will all be future welcome additions to my playlists and gig-going.  I’ve been enjoying the photos filtering through on Facebook – just Linda’s to go I think.. c’mon Linda, get a move on!

Categories: blog, ferocious dog, levellers, music | 1 Comment

Sweet dreams (aren’t made of this)..

I quite often have quite vivid dreams, then by the time I’ve finished hitting the snooze option on my alarm they’ve dissolved to fairly disparate images or moods, by the time I’m brushing my teeth I might have a vague impression of having had a dream.  By the time I’m in a car and into the commuter-trance-state I’ve probably forgotten pretty much everything about it.

So it’s odd this week that a couple of nights on the bounce I’ve had two very vivid dreams which were both not particularly nice, and both have remained in the conscious part of my brain rather than dissipating into nothingness as my daily doings gradually fill my waking thoughts, pushing away any transgression my subconscious night-ponderings that might have crossed over into my conscious brain.

The first felt like a fairly long episode as the time-bending properties of dreams can – it was fairly mundane, me, going about daily life mostly around home with loved ones and family – but I’d learned that I’d been diagnosed with cancer.  Not a specific type, and it was clearly quite early – at that juncture my outlook was quite positive to those around me – whilst feeling somewhat hopeless myself.

Frustratingly I awoke at that stage, so never found out in this mystical subconscious alternative reality whether there was a treatment programme, whether it was successful or not, or any other of the myriad of details you’d want to know if that situation were to happen for real.

So having found it unusual that a dream should stick in my head so readily, it was all the more surprising to have another the following night that similarly remained in my conscious mind quite persistently.  This time I was taken back in time to the late nineties and the turn of the millennium when I was working at Colours Sports Club & Bar in Nottingham (no longer there now, it’s now Bistro Live).

Colours was never a busy place, but it was a good vibe working there – we would stay after hours to paint and decorate and socialise together a lot, I really fondly remember my time there.  On this occasion I was behind the bar on my own when some dodgy characters came in and nonchalantly opened the till and started taking money, quite a lot of money – deliberately, casually.

When I challenged them on this there was a fair degree of threat to my wellbeing, and the dodgy times were subsequently backed up by the person who was supervising the bar at the time (neither the gangster types nor the supervisor were actual people I know, oddly).  I remained openly angry at this and subject to gangster-based hostility, but not direct threat or harm before again, I awoke never find out if I got attacked outside at the end of my shift!

At times Colours was host to many dodgy characters, but never quite to that extent!  I’m not at all sure why my subconscious would be kicking around exaggerated versions of the now fairly distant past in that way.  I think the most discomfort was certain clientelle’s insistence on ‘Happy Hour’ priced drinks (or not paying at all on a couple of occasions).  As I said above, those rare instances aside working at Colours was a fun time.

Whilst I have no real belief in dream interpretations I decided to have a quick search anyway, supposedly to dream you have cancer denotes – unsurprisingly – hopelessness, grief, self-pity and unforgiveness – or possibly an area of life that is hurtful, disturbing or bothersome in an emotional sense.   Hmph! Had I reached treatment stage it might be interpreted as a sign of positive changes in life – which figures!  Maybe I’ll have that dream later!

It was hard to think what to search for for the second dream – I plumped for threaten as whilst I was uncomfortable in the extreme in the situation I was placed, I never came to actual harm – there was only the implication of it.  To dream of being threatened is supposedly a sign of internalising a fear, and that you’re feeling inadequate or oppressed.  So that’s fun, too!

As a self-indulgence I had thought of keeping a notepad to hand to jot down details of dreams whilst they’re still intact as I awaken – but I never really got around to it.  Whether they have any deeper meaning or it’s just subsconscious detritus being kicked around your brain while your conscious mind is having down-time, well who knows?  Interesting though, regardless!

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