I’ve Just Finished Reading Harry Potter……

It’s only taken me 14 months (including a 6 month hiatus somewhere in the middle) but I’ve finally finished reading the #HarryPotter series. These are my initial feelings on finally coming to the end of JK Rowlings story about the worlds favourite boy wizard:

1. Definitely worthy of a solid **** rating. Whilst by no means perfect, there’s no denying the effort and wealth of imagination used to carry the story through 7 increasingly complex books.

2. Overall the series could probably have used more judicious editing in places. Rowling herself has indicated she would like to revisit 2 books in the series – my guess would be 4 and 5.

3. And whoever said Rowling had never met a verb she didn’t like (was it Stephen King?) makes a valid, if tongue in cheek, point. Several times I could have done with a dictionary as I had no clue.

4. Still, now I’m at the end I’m rather sad it’s over. The joy of the series is definitely in the journey and not so much finally reaching the destination.

5. Someday I’ll likely revisit these opinions in slightly more depth. But not today.

The Long And Winding Road or 40 Years Later: How I Became A Beatles Fan

The Beatles – 2009/10 Stereo Remasters
Being born in the 70’s I’ve been aware of The Beatles and the individual members all of my life but never really gone out of my way to listen to them. Of course it didn’t mean I didn’t hear them on the radio, TV, films or being covered by other artists so it was hard to not be at least familiar with some of their output. However it wasn’t until the 2010 reissues of the Red and Blue albums that I decided to dip a toe in and buy some of their albums. For quite a while I thought this was all The Beatles I needed. This changed one day in late 2019 when I saw several of their studio albums going cheap in my local Sainsbury’s: Rubber Soul, Revolver, Sgt Pepper, Abbey Road and Let It Be. At this point I knew enough that Sgt Pepper was not only revered as one of, if not the best, albums by the group themselves but also possibly of all time. Based on that I thought it was worth a punt as my first Fab Four studio album proper. Long story short, I loved it and decided it was worth taking a chance on the other albums I’d seen too. Enjoyed them just as much although found Let It Be to be a bit of a come down from what went before. Although further reading lead me to realise this was not much of a surprise. Anyway, from here I quickly picked up the White Album as the missing main album in the run of albums I now had. For about a month I immersed myself in this new found music when HMV had a price crash on Beatles albums. Striking quickly I picked up all the missing studio albums plus Past Masters. I’ve been enjoying them ever since. Key takeaways for me which may seem obvious were that I finally better understood why The Beatles have the reputation they have. I was aware of it, of course, but without really immersing myself in the music I had no way of understanding exactly what influence they had. I’d always been wary of people my age or younger who would state that The Beatles were the best band ever in their opinion. I’d always wonder whether they had truly come to that opinion themselves or were they influenced by what history told us. Having worked my way through their catalogue I got it. Not only did I now appreciate how they developed in such a short period of time but I also realised how – from Rubber Soul onwards at least – what they were doing to resonate into other post-Beatles bands I was a fan of – both subtlely and not so subtlely – in terms of the range of song writing, album construction and sound. Rubber Soul particularly seems to me to be the major blue-print for Brit Pop which wouldn’t happen for another 30 years. Final note: For what it’s worth all the albums I purchased are the 2009 Stereo remasters. I mention that here as I know this is a big deal for some people. I don’t particularly consider myself to be an audiophile but I am certainly aware of the ‘loudness wars’. Regarding these particular ‘remasters’ they sound fine to me. While I haven’t heard the original 1987 Beatles CD’s – and I don’t really have the time and inclination to search them out – I have heard other CD’s of the era which perhaps could benefit from a little extra depth, clarity and punch. I have certainly heard some modern CD’s which do sound as though everything is turned up to 11 and therefore lacking any sort of nuance. I don’t get that with these. As to the other part of the statement ‘Stereo’. I do understand the history in that the majority of these albums were made to be heard in Mono and the Stereo was an after-thought with a lot less time and thought put into them. That being said, considering the limitations of both time and technology, they don’t fail to entertain me. I still can’t quite get over how recordings that old can sound that vibrant, spacious and relevant. Yes, I initially found it strange getting used to what appeared to be a strange placement of instruments but I got used to it. I even realised how they must have influenced others: two Queen album tracks The Millionaire Waltz and Who Needs You immediately spring to mind. Yes, in time I may feel the need to seek out the original Mono versions not to mention many of the other Beatles releases out there. But for now I really do feel I have all The Beatles I currently need.

PlayList #1: Phil Collins Almost Live

Phil Collin’s – The Singles was released recently in two configuration. A deluxe 3CD chronological order collection and a standard 2CD version that seemed to have a curious game of two discs running order. Nothing much can be done about musical variety about the 3CD set but the 2CD version appears to be mainly upbeat songs on disc 1 and ballads on disc 2.

Using nothing but the tracks on the 3cd collection I decided I wanted to create a playlist which featured at least 1 track from all of his albums – including the 3 soundtrack albums he was involved with – and using previous tour set-lists for inspiration. I also decided to whittle the number of tracks down from 45 to 26 giving a running time of approximately 2 hours.

So, this is Phil Collins…..Almost Live…..

  1. Thru These Walls
  2. Hang In Long Enough
  3. Against All Odds (Take A Look At Me Now)
  4. Don’t Lose My Number
  5. You’ll Be In My Heart
  6. True Colours
  7. Look Through My Eyes
  8. Can’t Stop Loving You
  9. Another Day In Paradise
  10. Both Sides Of The Story
  11. Dance Into The Light
  12. Separate Lives
  13. I Don’t Care Anymore
  14. Something Happened On The Way To Heaven
  15. I Missed Again
  16. One More Night
  17. We Wait And We Wonder
  18. In The Air Tonight
  19. You Can’t Hurry Love
  20. Wear My Hat
  21. Two Hearts
  22. Sussudio
  23. A Groovy Kind Of Love
  24. Easy Lover
  25. Going Back
  26. Take Me Home

The Time, The Place.

Think of a place. Any place. That’s what I’ve been asked to do. Without even putting any thought into it my mind is conjuring up an image. Is it somewhere I’ve been? Yes. Is it somewhere I’d like to go again? Possibly. Is the image a true representation of where I’ve been or a construction made in my mind from various fragments of a 24 year old memory. I don’t know.

All I do know is I’m stood high up on a hill, on a roadside. The road sweeps on up the hill to my left before turningup and over the crest. To my right the road drops down before turning back on itself as it makes it’s way down the hillside. It cuts through a terrain mostly of relatively flat grass. I think a mast of some kind is nearby. Possibly near where I’m stood or maybe slightly further up the hill behind me. Maybe some trees too as you follow the road up. The hill is empty going down. As you out look and across, there is more land working its way up to another hill.

Down in the valley going as far as the eye can see from left to right is a river. A wide river. But not an empty river. People live here. There are homes, houses on the water. Not just one or two but possibly 10’s or hundreds. Maybe even more. I’m having to rely on my memory. It’s a village. The houses themselves are made of wood and are not actually on the water so much as they are above it supported by wooden stilts and joined together by wooden walkways. On the top there is corrugated iron for a roof. While the houses tend to look similar, they are not identical, there is a definite character to each building.

The village is a sprawling mass. It’s hard to imagine the sort of people who would live here. Are they affluent? Do they live here by choice? Do they have nowhere else to go? Whatever, it has a uniqueness which in some ways seems to give it a beauty all of it’s own. Even it’s name, Kampong Ayer (literally water village) seems to have a literal beauty. I think it’s the way it just rolls off the tongue with ease.

Not far from Kampong Ayer lies the county’s capital, Bandar Seri Begawan. The home of one of the richest men in the world. The Sultan of Brunei. Back in 1990 it very much felt like Brunei was a place of different worlds and cultures colliding. Some parts of the country were obviously home to extreme wealth but other parts definitely saw sight of extreme poverty. A lot of the modern architecture had a style all it’s own yet the western influence was not hard to see.

24 years later I would very much like to go back to see how much the west had continued to invade it and how much of it own unique character was still in place. I would like to find the hill I was stood on to see how much of the view I remembered remained.

What I have written above is purely based on a 24 year old memory. Go here for more information and pictures of Kampong Ayer to see what it’s really like. It’s interesting to me to see it is pretty much how I remembered it, although I didn’t trust my memory of its size. I knew it was big, but perhaps couldn’t appreciate quite how big.

Random Typing Birds

Random stream-of-consciousness where are you now? Thinking idle thoughts of nothing in particular. Can hear a bird outside chirping away. What must it be like just perched on a roof somewhere just warbling away to yourself, ten to the dozen, non stop? Chirp-chirp-chirp. Oh, now I’ve actually started to listen the bird has stopped. Does it know? Is it bothered? Has it just been mugged by a cat?

Anyway, where was I, typing away blindly at my keyboard I think. Screen looks a bit bright, might have to alter that. Wish my accurary was better. Either need bigger keys or smaller fingers. Not that anyone but me would notice.

Considering it’s almost 8pm it’s still quite bright out there. Nice and peaceful too. Even with that bird chirping away to itself. Assuming it’s the same bird. May be a different one. Can’t tell. Not quite as talkative.

Just listening to sounds now. Can hear other birdsong disappearing into the distance, interrupted by the occasional passing car making its way up the street. All drowned out by my tap-tap-tapping on the keyboard. Firing off in intermittant bursts in response to the intermittent thoughts flying through my head.

Tired. I spend all day working at a computer. My eyes want to rest. Yet, if I rest my eyes I can’t look at the screen. I want to look at the screen. I keep re-reading what I’ve already typed. Keep noticing words I’ve missed out. Probably because I’m tired. Put them back in. Make sense of what I’ve written.

Think everything is okay now. Probably see something else blindingly obvious later. Probably makes sense anyway. Over analysing as usual. Only know what I think. Can’t mind read, why try? Keeping eye on the clock. Tired eye. Got to stop soon. Could stop now. Not sure when I started. Just added something. Always re-reading. These sentences are getting shorter. Apart from that one.

Into The Void – Weekly Writing Challenge











Photo credit: Emptiness by Cheri Lucas Rowlands

I don’t know why I am drawn to this photo. I think to me there is something of a mystery about it. Where is it? What is it for? Where does it lead to? The lines of – and the structure within – the photo draw your eyes to the darkness at the back. I want to walk into the scene, to walk along the path into the void.

Is that desire to discover what cannot be seen partial to me? Or is it a reflection of the natural human need to explore, to find answers, to discover what else is out there beyond ourselves? Just like explorers through the ages, be they sailors or astronauts, expanding the limits of our knowledge both physically and mentally.

I think the appeal of the photo – and indeed the unknown – is the mystery. The problem with a mystery though is that it can only retain it’s interest or allure whilst it remains unknown to us. With no context and no background information about the photo it is easy to speculate about – and place our hopes and interpretations onto – it. Of course it is entirely possible that the truth of the picture is rather more mundane than the wild flights of fancy that can be placed upon it. Part of the fun is in formulating explanations for what we are looking at.

The question is: were I to find out the location and purpose of the building, would my impressions, my gut feelings, toward the picture change? How much does our feelings towards something we see depend on our prior knowledge? With my questions unanswered the picture continues to intrigue and interest me. As much as the composition would still draw my eye to the darkness, would I still see a gateway to an infinite number of possibilities if I knew the reality of what it is?

Written in response to the Weekly Photo Challenge: 1000 Words

Object – Weekly Photo Challenge

objectOriginally was trying to come up with something cleverer for this weeks Weekly Photo Challenge but although I thought of alternative meanings to the word Object I couldn’t come up with an idea that I liked. In the end I decided a photo of something which is close to me and this blog would suffice.

I’ve Seen The Future…..(It’s Not Just Me!)

It’s February and it’s been 8 days since my last post.

This sounds like the beginning of a Bloggers Anonymous session, except rather than being a mantra of success it’s rather a reflection of how I seem to have ran out of steam somewhat since following the Zero To Hero challenge. If I’m honest I found myself running out of steam with several days of the challenge remaining. I think this was mainly for two reasons: a) a bit like a kid in school I was itching to take the training wheels off and do it my way and b) I thought that I had already begun to find my voice.

And yet here I am 8 days later struggling to think of something to post. I do have plans to contribute to some of the other challenges featured on the Daily Post. In particular, I think the Weekly Photo Challenge could be good for me given that I am interested in photography. Although at the moment I seem to be falling victim to my own desire to try to be too clever by half. As a result I am still trying to come up with an interesting take on this weeks challenge: Object. I’ve also had a looking at this weeks Weekly Writing Challenge and although there is a picture there that is catching my eye, I’ve yet to formulate a decent response as to why.

I do know that at some point I want to continue a series of posts that I’ve started looking back at the work of Steven Spielberg. I’ve been a big fan of his ever since I saw E.T. as a 6 year old back in 1982 and I was curious to see what effect his work has on me now compare with how I felt the first time I experience it. In other words it’s an excuse to watch all his films again. I just need to find time to sit down and watch them, and perhaps my love of Spielberg could be worthy of a post all by itself.

This leads me to an emergency post list I have also started. Sometimes I have an idea of what I would like to write about but the words just aren’t flowing as well as I would like. Rather than try to force it I just add a one-line sentence to the list outlining what I wanted to write about and why. This way, if I can’t think of anything now, I can merely visit the list at a later date in the hope that at least one of the items will trigger off a full and rounded response.

Funnily enough I have inadvertently covered an item on the list with this very post by effectively writing the third in a trilogy of posts chronicling my difficulties in coming up with something to write. See here and here for what are essentially parts one and two respectively.

In the end though, when even long time celebrity bloggers such as Wil Wheaton suffer the same problem, then I know it’s not just me.

Alas Poor Books…..

Ok, I think I have a problem. I think I may be a book hoarder. It’s the only conclusion I can come to. Having recently spent time re-arranging shelves to make space for some new books I’ve seen how many are currently still unread.

Now when I say unread, that covers everything from not even opened through to started but not finished. In many cases this has occurred due to buying another book not long after and ending up reading that instead. Of course I’ve always meant to go back to that discarded book. But then other things get in the way. I begin spending my time watching films, listening to music or aimlessly surfing the internet instead.

The discarded books get forgotten about and join the rest of my collection slowly gathering dust until such time as I get the urge to pick them up again. There it sits reminding me that it’s function hasn’t been fulfilled. That it hasn’t been used in the way it was intended. That until it is read it has failed in its quest to enlighten me.

Therefore I have told myself that this is the year that I will begin to make amends to my unread treasure. That I will finally use them for the purpose they were designed for. That I will finally appreciate the amount of work it took to create them in the first place. That I will finally read those books.

Family – Weekly Photo Challenge


For todays Zero To Hero task we had to take part in an event or challenge. I decided to enter this into the Weekly Photo Challenge. Unfortunately I can’t remember what these are. Knew I should have taken a picture of the sign! Any ideas?

Edit:now pretty certain it’s a family of Marmot’s.