Monthly Archives: February 2017

Review: The Passing of the Years – Liz Crippin

The Passing of the YearsThis CD of six songs (which makes it an EP in my book) was recorded live, and mostly in one take. The tracks are simply acoustic guitar and voice, creating a spareness that gives these melodic morsels of emotional oomph the space they need to breathe. You’re going to need two or three listens before you begin to realise the true depth and impassioned resonance of Liz Crippin’s songs. They speak of longing, love and lust; regret, remorse and rumpy-pumpy.

Her finger-picking guitar style melds with beautiful phrasing and intriguing, surprising chord patterns to provide a high, airy platform for Liz’s touching Welsh-accented voice to purr through the emotional gears. Sharp, intelligent lyrics reward more than one listen, too, as clever wordplay and metaphor are gradually revealed.

The title track gets into your blood. You’ll be playing it in your head for days. The pretty Rosie’s Song, a hymn of love for a beloved guitar, simply shines with beauty – listen to that guitar line, though, for a real release of endorphins. And if the unrequited longings of ‘Invisible’ don’t pull at your heart then you’re not a human being. If I have one criticism, it is that ‘Hurricane Girl’ needs more power in the chorus, as of a storm-driven wave hitting the shore. Perhaps, though, that was a limitation imposed by the recording conditions. I can’t wait for the album version.

wombicon5I adore this CD. You will too. The Passing of the Years by Liz Crippin. Songs: Rosie’s Song, Monsters, Hurricane Girl, Invisible, You Don’t Know Me. Five happy wombats out of five.

Buy it here:



I adore this photograph, taken in the 92nd minute of Bury’s game at Chesterfield on the 17th February. George Miller has just scored the winner as my beloved Shakers came from a goal down to win 2-1. I love the joy in the photograph, yes, and the endless smiles. But I am also intrigued by the variety of people and small dramas that it shows.

In the foreground, stewards struggle to prevent excited supporters getting onto the pitch to celebrate with the players. More fans, including a guy of huge beard in replica shirt, hurry down the steps to join the fun. Just in front of beardy bloke to the right of the steps, someone has fallen down and is being helped by other fans. In front of them, a man has the presence of mind to photograph the melee.

Over to the left a small boy, held in his father’s arms, raises his arm in celebration. Top right, a man is busy texting news of the goal to someone who might be anywhere in the world. Bottom left, the ball sits ignored for now. Bottom right, the referee watches impassively, making a mental note to add on an extra minute to the game to allow for the celebrations.

And no, I didn’t take the photograph*. I am, in fact, in it, between my daughter and Beardy Martin. Spot the Wombat.

*I took it from Twitter feed of @stephenthirkill


A little teaser from one of the stories in ‘The Museum of White Walls: forty tales of a world askew’, to be published soon.

Shiver me timbers“No, no! Listen,” Crow explained hastily, “The skinny bloke reckoned that this map would lead us to treasure. Buried here, where there’s a big ‘X’, near this pool that feeds down into the bay.”
“What does the ‘X’ stand for? Oh hell, it’s not ‘xylophones’, is it? Not much call for xylophones along the Skull Coast. No wait, it’s ‘xenopus’, isn’t it? You want me to load the Little Mavis with xenopusses.”
“No no no, the—” Crow began, then paused. “What the flaming hell is a xenopus?”
“African clawed frog. Produces eggs in response to the urine of a pregnant woman. Used for pregnancy testing.”
“Oh,” said Crow, pausing for a moment to consider the odd mind of his captain. “No, it does not indicate the location of a xenopus. The ‘X’ doesn’t stand for anything. It just marks the spot where the treasure is buried.”
“Then why didn’t they put a ‘T’, for ‘treasure’? That would make much more sense.”
“I don’t know why they didn’t put a ‘T’,” sighed Crow, “It doesn’t matter why they didn’t put a ‘T’. What matters is that the skinny feller said that here,” Crow’s grimy fingernail indicated a scratchy ‘X’ in the centre of the map, “is a treasure more valuable than gold coin.”

Here’s me in the mid 1970s

I have no idea who the other people are, although I *think* the stripy sexpot was called Jude.


Fun with GIFs

All The Crepuscular Dudes

Inspired by KJ Collard’s poem ‘The Eternal Muse’, this short tale will appear in my forthcoming collectioon, ‘The Museum of White Walls’.

Kolonisatie van Europeanen te Suriname. Opheffing van het pauperisme, ontwikkeling van handel en industrie, met ongeveer 90 platenI remember only shards these days. It’s all fading away. Except for a few things, most of my short time with Aoide has gone already, but the feel of her breath on my neck, the curl of her fingers interlaced with mine, the swirl of my mind when the side of her mouth curved in a half-smile – those things will stay with me forever.

We met at a party held in a large Georgian house. I had gate-crashed earlier that evening, looking for some mindless distraction to wrench my mind away from the latest job, and the desperate pleading in the target’s eyes just before I put a bullet between them. The Service pays its operatives well, but not well enough to completely erase the pang of shame that eats at our souls. I needed bright lights and noise to wipe away the patina of guilt, and the ever-growing thought that one day my Glock might just fire a bullet between my own eyes. This shindig promised lights, noise and more. It turned out that the celebration was for the eldest daughter of the house, who was about to get married to – God forgive her – a futures trader.

The family was hideously rich. A thirty-piece band played swing tunes, the champagne was Dom Perignon White Gold, and the food was magnificent. I had just made my selection from the menu for the first three courses, which oddly still sticks in my mind – miniature pastries filled with spiced cheese, a meat tile (pieces of veal, simmered, sautéed, served in a spiced sauce of pounded crayfish tails and almonds), to be followed by fig and ginger frumenty.

As it turned out I never even saw the dining room, for at that moment I saw her. Aoide; a pretty thing in a white dress, bobbed dark hair held in a circlet of silver, a graceful nose, and a full mouth with a delicious overbite. I’ll swear as she floated down the wide staircase at the other side of the room that she gazed at me directly with eyes large and ocean-pearled. I found it impossible to look away.

She half-smiled at me as she crossed to the stage, climbed up, and joined the band as they played “Serenade in Blue”, singing with a voice like liquid gold. As the final notes faded, no-one applauded, no-one took any notice of her song. She crossed to my side and took the glass of champagne out of my trembling fingers. I felt a tug in my chest as I gazed slack-jawed at the curve of her neck, the freckles spattering her bare shoulders.

She took my hand in cool fingers and led me outside into the warm twilight. Bats flitted and swooped, and an occasional travelling silence marked the flight of an owl overhead. Aoide spoke of the kinship she felt with the twilight creatures; the owls, bats, nightingales and moths – all the crepuscular dudes, as she called them, often heard, rarely seen. She felt the music in their sounds; the hoots, clicks and warbles all melding together into a magnificent vespertine symphony.

She led me to a walled garden, where the air caressed us with the scent of evening primrose, sweet rocket, phlox, honeysuckle, moonflower vine, angel’s trumpet and night-scented stock. Her hand on my shoulder nudged me to a chaise longue in a summer house, and there in the dark we talked like old friends. We laughed and lamented, spoke of our fantasies and our deep dark shames.

She confessed her envy of her two sisters; Mneme and Melete. For my part, I opened up more to Aoide than I could ever have imagined doing with anyone. I did not go into details about the Service, but she could see the fury raging inside me, the eternal struggle against a yawning maw of empty despair. Her eyes offered understanding and hope, but no pity, and I loved her for that.

She laid her head on my shoulder, her warm breath on my neck setting my mind awhirl, then she was kissing me, undressing me, seducing me there among the scented night flowers, our soundtrack the music of all the crepuscular dudes. I asked if she’d stay with me. She said that she would be with me always.

Afterwards, half dozing in her warm embrace, I wondered whether I should tell her what I did for a living, how many innocent lives I had ended, how many families destroyed. I questioned whether I would, after all, welcome the chill kiss of the Glock against my forehead. I decided that, unworthy though I was of the breath of life that Aoide had offered me, to turn my back on such sweet serendipity would be a disgrace greater than admitting to my iniquitous occupation as a destroyer of lives.

A bright future with Aoide flickered in my mind, but before it could grow into a warming flame I noticed that my back was cold. Aoide had gone. She hadn’t moved, or stood up – I would have noticed – she simply was no longer there. It was as if she had become a night-scent herself and drifted away on the soft breeze. As strangely as our union had begun, so too had it ended. I was devastated. A lifetime with her had slipped from my grasp almost before I had dared to dream it. An opportunity to turn my life to good things, missed.

I dressed myself and stumbled home, and though I visited the Georgian house time and time again, initially to enquire fruitlessly about Aoide, then later as a family friend and eventually as owner, I never saw her again. The agony of her abandonment swallowed my self-loathing whole, and suicide became less important than discovering what had happened to the girl who had seduced me in the twilight. I never did make that discovery.

I’m an old man now, and my memory plays tricks. If I did meet Aoide again, I’m not even sure that I would recognise her. Time can be a cruel tide to drift away on. However, the ocean of time has helped me to recognise one thing – after a million what-ifs and a lifetime of lost sleep, I have realised that our brief encounter wasn’t a missed opportunity at all.

In the half century since that night I have lived life as a good man. I left the Service behind and took a job as a gardener. I buried the Glock deep under my potato patch. I fell in love with a good woman – the daughter who had married, and then rapidly divorced, the futures trader. We raised two other good women, and we travelled the wide, mesmerising world. Yes, we lived in contentment rather than bliss, but who’s to say that’s not the better state? And, over time, I forgave myself. Aoide was the source of all of that. She breathed spirit and integrity into my lungs one twilit evening, and I’ll be forever grateful to her for that.

There have been difficult days, too. My wife died four years ago, my eldest daughter the year after. I cry sometimes. Occasionally, in the dark, I can still see the horror in a target’s face; smell the acrid pistol shot, the iron splash of blood. But then, every evening, I receive a remarkable gift. The moths appear, then the bats and owls – all the crepuscular dudes.

Then I remember her breath, her touch, a heartbeat, a tingle and a moment of dizziness. Aoide joins me every evening as the blanket of night settles about us. She is with me still and always, just as she promised that night long ago, and every evening at dusk I softly sing our song. When I hear that serenade in blue, I’m somewhere in another world, alone with you.

A special place, a special space

Bury Parish Church

Bury Parish ChurchI’ve always loved churches, though God knows (sic) I’ve never been in the slightest way religious. To me, churches are simply havens of calm and relaxation, providers of aesthetic beauty, and sources of the occasional historical fascination. I sense no presence in there except the imagined ghosts of history.

Coffee!This is Bury Parish Church. It’s not actually that old, having been built in the 1870s, although there has been a church on the same site for over a thousand years. It is rather lovely.

There’s a coffee shop just inside, where I like to go for a small Americano after gym. Fusiliers coloursIt’s good coffee, and inexpensive. After my drink I usually wander into the main body of the church for a shufti at the Lancashire Fusiliers colours, and a quiet ten minutes just having a relaxing sit down surrounded by calm, untroubled by frets about the state of the world, or thoughts of jobs I have yet to do.

Here’s a point, though. Anyone seeing me sitting quietly in the pews might think I was communing with my god, when in my reality there is no such being. For an all-too-brief spell, I can be alone with my thoughts, unmithered by cats, spam callers, or nagging thoughts of how The Raven’s Wing’s Minstrel John and jongleuse Moss might break into a rich merchant’s house.

However … maybe that’s all ‘God’ is? Simply a device invented to allow us a brief respite from all the worries of this horrible 2017? If so, then I’m more confused than ever I was.

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