Steve's Online Diary
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DIARY 09/02/09If scenery, in itself can take your breath away, The Highlands of Scotland will leave you gasping. Britain really is astonishing in its diversity of natural beauty. From Cornwall, through Devon, the changes are striking. The Chilterns, the Mendips, the Peaks and the Pennines; reaching there via Shakespeare’s own country, then the Lake District, flashing its self-confidence at you, well-earned through its proud survival through ice age after ice age. And then The Highlands, defiant and magnificent, sturdy and muscular, the product of a settlement of nature five million years ago. We gasped at times, it was sometimes that spectacular. Off the road, down the un-adopted lanes to lochs we could only locate on the large-scale atlas with ultra-close inspection. And The Great Glen, from Inverness to Fort Augustus, all covered in a rented 4 x 4. See Dulsie Bridge on Youtube. Check it out. See the lads leaping 60’ into shallow water, last summer. We were there in January, of course, so we have shots of its water, high up the Findhorn, covered in ice and rushing fast and furious, taken from the bridge. Just another of many secrets we came upon, sneaking around the hideaways of The Highlands.
DIARY 29/01/09Can't believe John Martyn has died. Watched in awe as he picked his acoustic and then slammed a fuzz-boxed Strat in Les Cousins, a hip London folk club, in the early seventies. I sang between his sets, in one of my first public efforts, Muriel The Actor and Sebastian, free and to near-silence. They wanted folk music, and I gave them The Human Menagerie. Happened the same at Bunjie's. But I played as a floor-spotter at folk shows by Bert Jansch (mesmerising), Noel Murphy (hilarious), Martin Carthy (perfect) and John Martyn (unpredictable). He was touched by the hand of some Muse, to say the least. "May You Neve" will forever live among my most wanted songs of all time. But I'll always know I can't have it. It was his, and no matter who or how many covered it (Jim Cregan produced the best of all I've heard for Linda Lewis), it will always be his. His own. To mumble and to tease us with. To intrigue and inspire. He intrigued me, back in ‚'71 and last year at the Folk Awards, where we talked backstage. He in wheelchair, having lost 30% of a leg, me feeling guilty and self-conscious towering over him. I wanted to squat like an adult does to chat to a child in a pushchair, but he'd have spotted the condescension straightaway and might have hit me. Always seemed unpredictable. Not charming. But Phil Collins will tell you that that was part of his charm, after all. And he'd be right.
DIARY 23/11/08My dad came over from Spain; first time in England since my mum, his mate for over 60 years, died at Easter 2007. Never known a man like him: 82 and fit as a butcher's dog. Built a 4 panel (each 6' x 6') wood shed in among the apple orchard, pretty well single-handedly, save assistance from my son and Greta's boyfriend, Nelson. They passed the hammers, the nails, the bags of pre-mix and the posts. They learnt a lot from a very clever and wise man. The energy! Took him to Huntingdon to see my Vacario run in a bumper. He talks to everyone and anyone. I tend to keep my head down. Horse ran a good second and will hurdle later in the year. Decent type. Land Hawk continues to impress at home on the Newmarket gallops, and will win a maiden early next season, I believe. No Cockney Rebel, but few ever are. My dad said he'd never fly again, after my mum died, ensconced as he is in the Spanish sunshine so comfortably, but he did. And now he's talking over there about his next trip.
DIARY 30/09/08Man On Wire. Unmissable. Stunned for hours, even days. Envy Philippe Petit's great courage and unnatural skills. Am in awe and want to go to New York and bore him with my admiration. For a time I feel slightly obsessed. Must write about it, in a song. Stunned and disheartened, to be honest, as the writing is coming so slowly, but life does go on, so called in a Dowser. Man with rods and a magic touch. Apparently. Hovered his glorified coat-hanger around an acre and a half of our woodland. Found nothing worth reporting. Incredible. There are springs all along the lane out there; all local water was brought by yoke from 50 yards along until the late 50s. There is a well in the cellar of our own house. Will try with the JCB. Want a large pond/small lake to float a boat on. If the Dowser is right, we'll line it. May keep sycamore roots around one side for wildlife. Birds might nest in them. Cut over 100 of them this year. Weed of a tree, but makes good firewood. Now there is light getting in, I will de-ivy the apple trees and get the orchard thriving. Plenty of cookers this year, in spite of overcrowding until we lopped in big style. And a couple of delicious eaters still come good. Intend plucking a batch, eat with breakfast cereal.
DIARY 28/08/08End of June: lunch at the Express Newspaper building, Lower Thames Street, in the exec. suite of proprietor and erstwhile drummer Richard Desmond, with Sunday Express editor Martin Townshend. Martin was a rock music writer way back and our paths had crossed, fleetingly and impersonally, several times over the years. Martin wonders whether I might have a topic to write on for his paper. I feel flattered, being offered the chance to be a hack once more. Trouble is, while I feel strongly about many issues, I wonder whether airing it all in public is a good idea. To the Barbican later for the Scottish National Theatre Company's "Black Watch". A stupendous, emotional piece. Power all over the stage. Real power from pretend soldiers. Hard to accept at times that they are actors. Iraq and back. Bad life. Brilliant play. Faultless production. Billy Sloan recommended it to me, and he is clearly a good judge, as he also thought the Abba musical rubbish! That's my kind of pal.
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