Departure lounge ramblings on music, places, climate change and stuff outdoors

Painting the fog – Impressionists in London

Tate Britain’s latest exhibition, ‘Impressionists in London – French artists in exile 1870-1904’, would be as much at home in a museum as in a gallery. My companion wanted more information about the brush-strokes, but markontour was happy to explore the social history of late nineteenth century London through the medium of some wonderful paintings inspired by fog. I wonder if a modern-day Monet is painting Delhi, Beijing, or even diesel-blackened London?

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Peggy Seeger and the joy of living

The defining moment of a wonderful gig at Cecil Sharp House on Thursday night was when Peggy Seeger introduced one of the last songs penned by her late companion, Ewan MacColl. Written as he ambled round the lower reaches of a Peak District escarpment, watching Peggy and his daughter, Kitty, make a much-loved climb that he was now unable to undertake, MacColl wrote ‘The Joy of Living’. “Farewell you northern hills, you mountains all goodbye.. Farewell to you, my love, my time is almost done.. Give me your hand and love and join your voice with mine / And we’ll sing of the hurt and the pain and the joy of living”. Despite its poignancy it seems to perfectly sum up the live-life-to-the-full approach of this incredible woman, even if she didn’t write it herself.

Kingfishers – making the everyday sparkle

Yesterday markontour and the crew of the Burton Library Astronomical Survey Team (Marine Division) enjoyed the rare pleasure of following two kingfishers in succession, their electric colours lighting up the afternoon as they bobbed and weaved their way along the banks of the Trent and Mersey canal. Earlier my Dad and I had been going through a box of my sixth form poetry essays in a vain attempt to clear space in my parent’s loft (all that got ditched were a few surplus copies of ‘Funding London Underground’ – a campaign publication I had worked on in the late 1990s). Thus inspired, I spent the afternoon, when not at the tiller, trying to find a poem about my favourite bird.

A midwest farmer’s daughter in Brooklyn

“How does a lead singer change a lightbulb?”, asks Margo Price’s harmonica blowing husband during a break between songs. “She just holds the damn thing up and waits for the world to spin round her and screw it in” he explains, to his wife’s visible delight. For this is a night of smiles for Margo Price, who despite introducing a new album full of true-life tales of bad men, worse choices, and trouble with the bottle, looks and sounds like there isn’t a happier person on Earth.

John Kemp Starley and the two wheeled revolution

The ever-wonderful Vestry House Museum is currently showing a great little exhibition about the development of the modern bicycle and the Walthamstow man who invented it. As Walthamstow successfully experiments with mini-Hollands – neighbourhoods designed for pedestrians and cyclists – it’s fantastic to know that the bike itself has its roots in E17.

Roots, Radicals and Rockers

Thanks to Billy Bragg’s first foray into non-fiction, ‘Roots Radicals and Rockers’, markontour is currently listening to Lonnie Donegan. Although I’m sceptical that ‘Rock Island Line’ would induce the same excitement in twenty-first century kids as it seemingly did in 1957, as Bragg turns out to be as eloquent in prose as he is in lyrical verse, I am nevertheless both highly entertained from taking the book’s journey and prepared to believe that skiffle did indeed change the musical world.