It's been a trying week with over a hundred student essays to mark - payback time. One poor chap let the following howler get through, invoking the little known theory of interactional shitwork (which, on a bad day, feels like the perfect description of higher education and is why, perhaps, I can only bring myself to do it part-time.)

On the musical front, Jim Penny has now also joined the Telling the Bees line up, and you can hear some recordings of our first rehearsal here, on the Bees blog. The magic is most definitely there. On Saturday, me and Jim did a stripped down set at the Truck Store, as part of the warm up for Wood festival. Seemed to go down very well. And then we retired to Jim's boat for a glorious session with Jo (Red Dog Green Dog), Mikey (just about every band in Brighton), Dave (Nature Boy) and Colin and Jane from the Bees. The beatific smile on Jo's face as she squeezed out perfect chord after perfect chord said it all. The best music in the world will never be heard by critics or promoters or journos or punters. It happens spontaneously, when musicians get together and play for themselves. I have to pinch myself sometimes. I can't believe I'm there, a part of it. Such a privilege.

And on the way home, at one in the morning, the nightingale was in full voice, more punchy and inventive than ever. Such stamina.

Yesterday me and Nomi went to church, which is to say we went on our habitual long Sunday walk, this time a loop around the village of Stonesfield. In comparison to Devon, Oxfordshire seems pretty flat and uninspiring. And yet there's a gentle magic to the land here that has rubbed off on me over the years. It's fair to say that I've fallen in love with it.

As we ate our sandwiches, a cuckoo piped up in the distance, his voice blown this way and that on the wind, while a flurry of House Martens snickered above, almost in reach.

And then, one of those rare marvels. As we walked back along the Evenlode, the sky was filled with insects. We'd chanced upon the one day of the year that the Mayflies emerge. After a year living on the river bottom, they crawl up reeds, pupate and take wing. All on the same day. How do they know?

In the air they fly upwards, a metre or so, then hang-glide down again, up and down, up and down. They land on your hands and clothes. Close up they look like little steampunk flying machines, air-galleons of wood and brass and steam.

A small flock of Black-Headed gulls plucked them from the air as easily and as greedily as someone tucking into the tasters at the supermarket deli.

The adult Mayflies have one purpose - to mate and lay eggs - after which they die. They only live for a day.

And that, I suppose, is the art. Being in the right place at the right time. Wonderful when it happens.


  1. I go to the same church.... and sing to the trees so maybe they won't be "silently raging" in the forest I steward!

    And, just finished my part-time higher education gig... and learned that my department head's request for a raise for me (after 16 years of just under full-time teaching load) was denied... :( Universities over here are surely not about teaching anymore, I wonder if they are there?

  2. Love those TTBs snippits...the great camaraderie that musos seem to have. I think I need to find some more dodgy learner musos like myself because I think I need to jam, there's only so much you can do by yourself!

    My brother taught part-time as an associate lecturer for a couple of years too, until the politics and back-stabbing and cost-cutting ground him down and he couldn't stand it anymore. I think universities should be about learning, not profit margins.

  3. How sad that it's a worldwide problem - I thought my job was to educate people but no, it seems that I'm supposed to maximise 'the student experience'. Whatever that is. Grmmmpphh as Asterix used to say...



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