Provincial Letters

Far from the mad crowds of the city, Blaise Pascal passed comment on the strange behaviour of this urban contemporaries in his Provincial Letters. The connection between them and this blog is somewhat tenuous.

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Location: Grimsby, N E Lincolnshire, United Kingdom

My star sign in Superstition. And I didn't believe in reincarnation last time, either. The only thing I can't tolerate is intolerance. I am a fanatical ant-fanaticist. I am bigotted only where bigots are concerned. I am a fundamentalist atheist. I'm proud to be a product of evolution; I know it in my genes.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Posted @ 17:30Friday Night

and Friday night took me out to Holton-le-moor for the Acoustic Troubadours night…

How it all began…

The other week at the Tap & Spile's Open Mic, Trev C says to me: "Is Rob coming down tonight?". I replied in the negative, having spent the previous couple of hours with the aforementioned Scottish person. But I proceeded to ask why. Trev explained that Rob was due to perform at a fund-raising gig in Holton-le-moor on Friday 23rd March and Trev wanted to check the details. Now I happened to know that Rob had a gig with his band (The Honey Badgersnot the ones you'll find by a Google search, but that's another story) on that particular evening. Trev muttered words of frustration and said, "I don't suppose you could do it instead?". Pleased to be asked, I affirmed my availability (my other option for that evening being going to The Honey Badgers at The Spider's Web) and a deal was struck.

During the following week, Trev confirmed the arrangement and he was to pick me up on Friday afternoon and take me out to Caistor (where he lives) and thence to the gig and thence to stay the night so we "could have a little drink".

And so…

And so, Friday rolled around and Trev arrived to pick me up at 15:50, dead on time. Pausing in Grimsby to drop off some CDs of Rob performing live at The Spider's Web (part of the "get a new guitar for Rob campaign" — yes, it's that Rob), we headed for Caistor.

The first job was to take Pebbles for a walk; Pebbles being Trev & Angie's collie. The woods around Nettleton were lovely in the late afternoon; it was dry, a little cold, but the skies were clear and blue and not a breath of wind. Pebbles ran and sniffed and generally had a good time; Trev and I walked and nattered, just enjoying the day.

Then back to Trev's and the packing of the car and the getting ready (and the cheese sandwiches).

Angie was now home and there was some small time for catching up, but not a lot. The PA and headline act — Chris Treebeard and Paul Pearson — were coming across from Sheffield and we had to meet up with them at 18:30 to guide them the last half-a-mile or so. All was fine, and we met in the car park of the Salutation Inn at Netteleton as arranged. Then on to the Moot Hall at Holton-le-moor.

The Moot Hall was built around 1910 and is a lovely example of late-Edwardian English rural architecture: predominantly symmetrical without but delightfully idiosyncratic within; mock-Tudor both inside and out, built of brick and wood and possessing a truly wonderful, large open fire. This latter proved to be a focal point on such a cold evening.

The PA was erected and connected with minimum fuss and efficiency (Chris T making the whole process look so easy and uncomplicated that there was no necessity for assistance; indeed if anyone had insisted on lending a hand, it would have slowed the process). The other performers arrived: Jonathan & Phil Norman (young but dangerously talented); Steve Jackson (veteran local performer and music buff); and local hero Donna (great voice). Chris & Paul did their soundcheck and by 20:00 we were all set up and ready to go… …just waiting for the punters to arrive.

I won't review the performances (let alone my own); suffice it to say that it all went off very well and everyone was well received and there were no technical hitches. The mass jam at the end was very enjoyable, for the performers at least. Trev C was there with nearly all the acts, hitting congas, scraping washboards and doing his very best as compère and host; adding sparkle and humour to the evening.

And so to bed…

And then it was all over and we were all tired and emotional (OK, a little inebriated) and full of food. But it was a grand night and I wouldn't have missed it for the world. Thanks Trev (and Argie).

If you get the chance to see Chris Treebeard (either solo, in a duo with Paul or in one of his many bands), grab it with open arms: he is a musician of extreme talent, great humour and makes for a wonderful evening.

Posted @ 17:00Announcement - Update

The fireball xl flynn stuff has all been deleted. Thanks for all the kind messages of support and the attempts to change my mind. This thing needed doing — for my own sanity — and that's it.

If anyone is still desperate for a copy of the songs that were on those sites, please e-mail me (the address is at the top of this page) and I'll send you them.


Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Posted @ 20:20Announcement


My fireball xl flynn MySpace page will be deleted on Sunday 25th March 2007. At the same time the fireball xl flynn music sites at Beta Records and Showcase Your Music will also be deleted. The music on those sites will be available for download and listening until then — after Sunday, they will no longer be available.

I am taking some time to rethink all the music I make and perform and I no longer think it appropriate to have these sites in existence. Thanks to everyone who has listened to and enjoyed my music and been kind enough to support and encourage me.


Saturday, March 17, 2007

Posted @ 02:00An Audience With Audiences

The following interviews have been conducted over a number of years by listening to other people's conversations, observing their behaviour and hearing second-hand reports. The actual words are made up.


What do you think of live music in pubs?
Don't mind it, so long as they don't expect me to change my normal habits and be quiet and listen or anything. After all it's my local and I can shout at my mates if I want.

But don't the performers find that distracting?
They should learn to ignore it. Or turn the PA up. But not so loud I can't hear my mates.


Do you listen to the performers?
Not really. They don't play any songs that I know. And if they do they don't play them like the records. Except my mate, he's good. I always listen to him and tell everyone else to shut up and listen. Couldn't give a shit about anyone else.

Why not?
I don't know them. And they're boring. If they were any good they wouldn't be playing in this pub, they'd have a record deal and be playing big stadiums. Or on telly.

But doesn't everyone have to start somewhere?
Yeah, I suppose so. But they're boring. Not like my mate, he does Keane and Cold Play and Oasis and stuff. He sounds great with backing tapes. He should be on X-Factor, he should.


Do you think the audience should be courteous to performers?
What do you mean?

Well, allow them to perform without deliberately trying to distract them, for example
Oh, you mean, like not walking in front of them while they're playing and stuff. That's just a bit of fun. If they can't take it, they shouldn't be doing it.

Do you like live music in pubs?
Yeah, so long as it's just in the background and I can talk about football while it's on. And they let us watch football. And stop the music when the football's on.


What would you say to someone who got upset with the behaviour of an audience?
I tell the to shut the fuck up, it's a public place and I can do what I like.

Do you always behave like that in the pub?
Yeah, when there's people playing music I do.

An why do you do that?
'Cos it winds up the prats who are performing.


Why do you have such loud conversations when other people are performing?
I'm only interested in doing my bit and drinking.

Do you like any of the other performers?
Yeah, some of them. I listen to them, sometimes. And shout jokes at them. It's all part of the fun. The others are just idiots or pretentious prats who don't do stuff I like.

The above are based on real events. I've only added words to make my point. I make no other comment.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Posted @ 02:59Rotten Apples

I've never really taken much notice of the damn silly "Operating System Wars" that plague computer journalism (and various other areas of the media): it's always seemed very pointless and a waste of time, effort and trees. There are Apple zealots, Linux zealots and Windows zealots who all behave like religious terrorists on acid. But one curious fact has always struck me…

It's been a truth since the mid-80s that Apple were never going to become the desktop of choice in most major businesses since their developed software base has always been oriented toward the media sector; remember that Adobe began its life as a provider of solely Mac software. And, having seen and used — particularly in the late 1980s and early 1990s — the image-editing and publishing software available on the Mac, I can personally vouch for its superiority to the Windows offerings (things have changed somewhat, but it's still reasonably true).

What has always struck me, however, is that Apple have always been on the receiving end of generally very good press coverage, with little criticism and overwhelmingly favourable comment (violently contrasted with the general treatment of Microsoft). I'd always assumed this was a result of the predominance of Apple products in the industry and the consequent familiarity of journalists with these pieces of software rather than those used in other business sectors.

For example, I have seen only one article critical of the extraordinarily short warranty on the iPod and the various problems which people have had with the battery life and general reliability of the product. Even that report was, overall, supportive of Apple's apparent efforts to correct the problem and slightly dismissive of any criticism of what is portrayed in the media as an innovative and forward looking company which has its customers' desires, wishes and satisfaction at its heart. I've had my suspicions that perhaps they are just another large company who can sway the press somehow, but I've never had anything to pin it on; the reports are that Steve Jobs is a nice guy who just wants to make good products and, in the process, make a dollar or two (yes, they're often flimsy, announced too early and don't work quite as expected initially; but, what the hell, they're nice products).

Now I've discovered a little reported fact…

The fact is that members of the National Union of Journalists get 20% discount on Apple products, and have done for years. If our press was as unbiased as it claims to be and wished us to believe this, I would have thought… …but, of course, I'm expecting too much as usual.

Insider dealing is everywhere and the intricate, soul-destroying, mind-upsetting political games of Elsinore seem positively aromatic in comparison to the behaviour of the fourth estate…

By the way, I get no discount from any software or hardware supplier; I'm not sponsored by anyone. However… I'm always open to large (or, failing that, very large) offers of cash — so long as you don't mind me mentioning the fact in the resulting blog posts.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Posted @ 23:17Letter II

2nd March, 2007

Dear J,

Another month has come and the world doesn't get any saner. Not that I really expected it — not that anyone should seriously expect it. It's probably not less sane, but that's debatable; we'll just have to all struggle on and hope we all get through the experience without too many bruises and as few broken parts as possible. With so many events in the last couple of weeks it's difficult to stay away from commenting on particular events rather than sticking — as I intend — to more general considerations. Please excuse any of my lapses in this regard, sometimes the events of the day do get under my skin.

So, what is it, outside the contents of the news reports, that has got under this bee's bonnet just recently? It would be nice to tie my subject to some, singular object or happening. But this can't always be, so we'll dive right in.

But, perhaps, let's start from the news that the couple who were charged with poisoning their foster-child with salt have had their convictions overturned. One phrase in particular has stuck in my mind from the reports, the wife's comment that "the case will be decided by 12 people who don't really know us". Her point seemed to be that, if the jury really knew them, then all this evidence stuff would be unnecessary; that facts were far less important than the personality of the people involved. Such attitudes appear to be more and more common these days: that guilt or innocence could be more swiftly determined by simply knowing the people concerned better; that people who are "nice" don't commit crimes, only "nasty" people do.

I've found this attitude in many guises. One of the favourite protestations against the being prosecuted for exceeding the speed limit is that the police should be "catching real criminals". A further manifestation is the idea that the police always know who committed a given crime but are prevented by manipulative, greedy and immoral defence lawyers. And, there's the idea that I've heard expressed that the police should "have let me off, because it's not as if I do it all the time".

I'm very, very worried about the growth of this idea. Justice is seen as simply a matter of catching — and punishing — all the bad guys, no matter what, It doesn't matter how you get them, so long as you get them. But, on the other side of the coin, people seem to expect the police to accept a smile and a "nice" demeanour as sufficient evidence against their involvement. It seems to me that there is a widespread belief that spotting the guilty is blindingly obvious and we shouldn't have to prove it particularly rigorously — but that doesn't apply to me, of course, because I'm a generally nice person.

We may be moving into an age where the process of justice is no longer a matter of proof but one of vague supposition; where the very fact that you are the sort of person who might have committed the crime is enough to get you imprisoned for it. And lawyers: all they're good for is corporate, business law.

I suppose it's a matter of debate whether the world wants to be like this. It's probably also not for me to stop it if that's the way it wants to go. But such resignation to the inevitability of the rise of the selfish state, doesn't — and can't — make me like it.

Take care, love,