“Stuck in a rut now I’m in a Groove”

Positive, energetic bluesy rock and Roll – Hamilton Loomis.  Mentored by Bo Diddley.

Hamilton Loomis plays at the Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival this year, Tuesday 18th July, 8.30 pm at the George Square Spiegeltent.

Music to set your ears fizzing.  Interesting to have as your wakeup call on your phone in the morning…. difficult to imagine anyone sleeping through this.

I come from…. we are poets

If you like your poetry gritty, real – then you will likely enjoy this 3 minute video poem – which was shown on the opening night of the 48th Poetry International Festival (currently ongoing in Rotterdam).  Evenings’ performances are uploaded to Youtube as they go.

film by
Alex Ramseyer-Bache & Daniel Lucchesi

“Invisible College” – writing advice

The Invisible College” is a BBC series of programme, available free on i-tunes as podcasts, or listenable to on half-hour programmes.  They encourage creative writing and are now on series 2 (broadcasting Mondays, 4 pm, Radio4 FM).  Catch all previous episodes on BBC i-player, titled “Invisible College”.

Screen shot 2017-05-23 at 21.33.56.png
Dr Cathy FitzGerald – keeping it all lively and easy to understand

Brilliantly, the BBC are pulling on their recordings of all sorts of writers in many different styles, over decades, so it’s a mixed bag of voices and advice, ringmastered by Dr Cathy FitzGerald – we hear Maya Angelou, Eudora Welty, Ted Hughes, Susan Sontag, P G Wodehouse….. such a variety of writing genres and styles are covered.

The radio recordings are around 30 minutes each – but as podcasts (on i-Tunes) they are broken up into lessons averaging 10 minutes.  So you can learn a lot in pocket-sized parts of time!

This is the BBC doing what it does best: educating, informing and being entertaining while it does so.

Here’s a wee sample 2 minute extract – Ted Hughes advising on word choice:



The radio Series 1 episode 1 starts here:


Topics covered include: inspiration, routine, time off, concentration, character, plot and style, the importance of reading lots, choosing right words… and the joy, the joy, of writing and the written word.

What’s your life advice?

Yes, it’s that time of year again – 20 years ago, a journalist, Mary Schmich, on the way to work saw a young woman with her face tilted towards the May sunlight and thought “I hope she’s wearing sunscreen…” and went on to write an article based on the life advice she would give, if she were asked to give a commencement speech at College (at that point, she was 43 herself).

The article was printed as usual, but unusually, someone posted it on the internet without Mary’s byline and it became an internet sensation, with Baz Luhrmann making it into this musical hit the following year.  Thankfully, the writer was track41jOy67ZN6L._AC_US218_ed down and royalties now go to Mary Schmich.  Her decades of journalism won her the Pulitzer prize for commentary in 2012.  In 2013, her writings were gathered into a substantial book (over 300 pages) of quick to read articles, “Even the Terrible Things Seem Beautiful to Me Now”, by Agate Publishing – it is still in print.

Interestingly, she published the original article under the title “Advice, like youth, probably just wasted on the young.”  Today, she still receives emails from people who were inspired by what she wrote – “fuelled by coffee and M&Ms”.

Incidentally, one of the lines in the article is wrongly ascribed to Eleanor Roosevelt (I have a much-cherished greetings card to prove it) – but it was an original comment by Mary:

“Do one thing every day which scares you”

(Full text of the original article is still viewable on the Chicago Tribune’s website) at


Through writing the article, Mary came to realize what her life lessons would be – and it was such a positive experience that she encouraged her readers to sit down and write out theirs.  What have you learned?  What wisdom would you pass on, to a younger generation? 


Songwriter – Carly Simon

Just watched a BBC documentary on the making of the album “No Secrets” – which includes the song “You’re so vain”.  Absorbing.


We get to hear from the producer, bassist, sound engineer, drummer, lead guitarist, her manager and most of all Carly herself.  What were her inspirations for her songs?  What was it like to be at the centre of recording such a phenomenally successful album?

A great insight into songwriting and the team effort which is recording an album. And also of the personal and emotional toll it takes on the performer, in the concentrated pressure chamber of the studio. Should be watched by all wouldbe musicians.

Much of the documentary is about the single “You’re so vain” because there are so many little separate elements which made it special.  One of these is backing vocals by a very young Mick Jagger, whom Carly randomly met at a party shortly beforehand, and brought into the studio.

Carly also talks about how she was influenced by the soul stylings of singer Odette (photo featured above).  The photo on the album and its title were not chosen til the very last minute.  The photo used on the front cover was literally as Carly left the photo shoot, dressed in her own favourite clothes, to go back to the studio to work.

Much of this album and its making are indeed life and art combined – the life of one particular musician, at a particular phase in her life and in the technology of sound recording.

This one hour documnetary is available to view on BBC iplayer but only until 5 June – so watch or download soon.


Brief Playlist for evening drive

As I drove home tonight along the plummy blue-violets of the evening, reflected in the firth, these few tracks from a playlist hatched a year ago, seemed to match the mystery of the atmosphere:

Brilliance   “The Sun will rise”

Mumford and Sons “Sigh no more”

Page CXVI  “Be thou my vision”

Scott Blackwell “Hallelujah”

Port Blue “Up Ship”