Good news for all Renaissance fans

RenaissanceHere’s some good news for fans of the symphonic progressive rock band Renaissance.  Yes, they are still going, and the lovely Annie Haslam remains on top form with one of the most beautiful English singing voices ever committed to record.

Next month they’re doing their first European tour in over 30 years, and yesterday they started a campaign on indiegogo to raise funds to film the concert at the London Union Chapel on 16 April.  Seeing as getting to one of the gigs is outside my price range, I decided to pitch in to hopefully get that gig filmed.  Click here to go to the campaign page and have a look at all the lovely Renaissance-related goodies on offer!  You’re welcome :)


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Alan Hewitt’s new Genesis book: A Selection of Shows

Alan Hewitt with his new book

Alan Hewitt with his new book

Good news for Genesis fans as tomorrow sees the release of Alan Hewitt’s new book on the Greatest Rock Band in the World, called A Selection of Shows.  Those of you with long memories might recall when Alan dropped in for a chat way back in November 2013, during which he mentioned how long this book was taking him to write.  Well, last week I managed to grab him in the very friendliest of headlocks to find out that A Selection of Shows has taken him five years to create from start to finish.

But what’s it about?  As Alan described it, the book “proves beyond any reasonable doubt that Genesis were one of, in not the most, prolific touring units to come out of Progressive Rock.”  Despite the title, I wanted to know if the book describes all of Genesis’s and its members’ solo gigs between 1976 and 2007.  When Alan had finished laughing his head off, he replied: “At the last count Genesis and the various solo off-shoots have performed 4,830 gigs since 1976, and that is just the ones I am aware of!   A book of that magnitude is beyond my meagre resources even if I wanted to write such a tome.  It would be practically impossible to write such a work anyway, as a great many of the gigs are not documented by live recordings, and others are but the recordings are hidden for one reason or another, so I did the best that I could with some of the resources at my disposal.”

Steve Hackett with Alan's new book!

Steve Hackett with Alan’s new book

Finally I asked Alan, as one of the foremost Genesis authorities, what he sees when he looks into his crystal ball.  He said: “Realistically I think the chances of the band we know as Genesis doing anything collectively together again are minimal, but hey, I have been saying that since the late 1980s and I am proud to say I have always been wrong – never say never and all that.  But I personally doubt that Genesis the band will be treading the boards again.”

With forewords from Steve Hackett and Phil Collins, A Selection of Shows promises to be a must-read for Genesis fans.  Published by Wymer Publishing on 2 March, the book is also available on Amazon; and don’t forget to keep up with all things Genesis at Alan’s fanzine site, The Waiting Room.


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Surviving the rest of winter in three-and-a-half minutes

This is a rank time of year in the northern hemisphere: the sun hasn’t been around in months, which makes old skin problems start back up (a-hem), and the cold and damp days aggravate old injuries in the joints (double a-hem).  You’d think someone, somewhere would’ve invented a version of WD-40 for the, er, over 40s by now, really!

But if like me you’re feeling run down, fed up, done in, and thoroughly wrung out, don’t despair.  We’re over the worst of it.  In just a few short weeks, the sun will come back, and I’ll be able to strip off and run around naked in my back garden once again – erm, er… *cough*  So, anyway, put your headphones on, sit back, enjoy this video, and congratulate yourself on having almost made it through another winter.  Hurrah!


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Proof positive that good writing skills matter

Good news: those clever people at Grammarly have proved (proven?) shown that having good writing skills really does make a difference.  They reviewed the profiles of 448 professionals, and then checked those professionals’ earnings against the number of grammar/spelling mistakes made in the profiles.  Grammarly distilled the results into this this smart infographic:


This is the kind of thing that supports my own professional observations: that people who are better at writing tend to be more professional in other aspects of their careers as well, and I’m really happy to find out that they tend to earn more money, too.  However, I must add the small disclaimer here that Grammarly asked me to blog this story because they will donate $20 to Reading Is Fundamental, a charity committed to promoting literacy, and I’m very happy to oblige.  Let’s face it, if more people could communicate more effectively, then perhaps we’d all be able to get along a little better in this world, so anyone who promotes improved literacy gets my vote.


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Ashes Are Burning

Clear your mind, maybe you will find that the past is still turning,

Circles sway, echo yesterday, ashes burning, ashes burning…

Fire1The New Year has seen a lot of blog posts where, to generalise, people are wondering where the time goes.  So, to demonstrate why time seems to pass so quickly, please do NOT watch the video below.  This is 11 minutes and 22 seconds of wood burning in the fireplace in my living room.  If you watch it, it will be 11 minutes and 22 seconds of 2015 lost to you, which you will never get back.  However, the video is set to the song Ashes Are Burning by the incomparable Renaissance, and it is a wonderful piece of music whose lyrics tell us how the ashes of the past can show us the way to our future.

But don’t watch it, unless, like me, you need time to reflect.  Perhaps your WIP is giving you grief, or your boss just ruined your day, or your kids won’t go to sleep, or you’ve just remembered about that bill you had to pay by yesterday.  Such is the miniature which steals our precious time, and which forces us to take yet more time to reflect.  Forget religion: Time is the only god, and how we use our limited supply is our choice.


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Getting That Squishy Feeling – and a Happy New Year!

FireworksHappy New Year!  You know that moment: you’re walking in the darkness, your foot pads down to the soft earth, but there’s an interruption, an instant’s delay when your shoe squishes into something soft and yielding.  You know at once you’ve trodden in dog-shit, and you also know what the immediate future holds: minutes of frustration, wiping your shoe on the grass, straining to see how much of the turd squirted up the sides, and wondering if you’ll have to wash the damn stuff off in your sink or if you should just go for a one-hour walk to let the ground clean it off.

That was me a few seconds after midnight on 1 January 2014.  I was in my neighbour’s garden with my kids.  A few seconds after we’d toasted the New Year with champagne, I strode off into the darkness to dazzle the children with some fireworks.  I didn’t see it, but I felt it when my shoe landed in it.  I stared down and, in the watery moonlight, saw that it had squished up the sides of my shoe.  At once I took it to be a metaphor for what 2014 would bring. Continue reading

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How to tell your kids that Santa Claus doesn’t exist

BaubleParenting has many brief stops to mark the passage of time on its long journey, one of which is when your child asks: “Does Father Christmas really exist?”
My eldest demanded an honest answer to this question from his mother a few years ago. Being a plain-speaking woman, she gave it.  And now he cites that moment as one of the most upsetting of his (admittedly comfortable) childhood. Last week, our youngest daughter stomped into the kitchen and demanded to know if what her older brother had just told her was true: did Santa Claus really exist, or not?  Her mother – not one to change her opinion even in the face of overwhelming evidence – gave the same answer: “No, he doesn’t exist.”  Cue a little wobble of my daughter’s lower lip, and a hasty retreat to her bedroom.  Knowing that to argue with my wife offers similar benefits as stubbing out a lit cigarette in an open flesh wound, I decided to keep my own counsel.
But I did think: why do we fill our children up with so many lies, only to demolish them as they grow?  And then we wonder why they become angst-filled teens who refuse to listen to us.  Perhaps if we concentrated on the important things: knowledge, self-belief, tolerance, acceptance, we might raise more well-rounded people.  Instead, we fill their heads with the same lies fed to us, of which we were similarly disabused, presumably because we’re too sleep-deprived to seriously challenge society’s accepted customs.  So the cycle continues.
If you have a child who asks if Santa Claus really exists, tell them the truth.  But do it with humour, with a wink and a contradiction, so they know it’s no big deal.  Then let them stuff their faces with sweets :)
Merry Christmas!


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A pleasant surprise and a must for all Genesis fans

PWC series banner with borderI had a pleasant surprise yesterday, when respected author Lynne Cantwell posted a very nice review of Stories of Genesis, Vol. 1.  Lynne is best known as the author of The Pipe Woman Chronicles series, and has recently published her new book, Seasons of the Fool.  I haven’t got to it yet, but to find out what it’s like, I only need to go one of the most well thought-of book review sites out there: Big Al’s Books and Pals, and they regard it as impressive – well done Lynne!


Elsewhere, for the seriously loopy Genesis fan (like me), there’s a new archive site, called, unsurprisingly, The Genesis Archive, run by two fellows known only as “Mike” and “Mark”.  This archive is jam-packed with the kind of memorabilia that will make any Genesis fan go weak at the knees, and it’s possible to spend an unhealthy number of hours just trawling through all the old interviews and reviews and books and press-cuttings and… oh, is that the time? :)


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Chewing the fat – metaphorically and literally

Chewing the fat with a good friend this week, we both agreed how quickly winter seems to come on every year.  One minute it’s the summer vacations, then the kids go back to school and – bam! – it’s time to buy the Christmas tree.  I was feeling a little smug as, in the interim, I’ve managed to excrete another novel (yes, that is the correct verb).  Next up I’m going to write a screenplay.

When I visited the UK back in July, I picked up one of those black metal bird-feeding stations for my front garden.  Now, as another year gets its coat and hat and mooches towards the door, winter has arrived in Warsaw.  Everything is frozen here and the worms and fruit are gone, so while my good friend and I chewed the fat metaphorically, I also caught this local woodpecker chewing the fat literally.

Woody Woody2


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