writer, performer, musician, wine drinker

Valencia – Hogmanay Part 2

I’ve quite a bit more to say about Valencia in due course, especially if I’m going to follow through on my threat of writing a travel book about Spain. In the meantime, though, I just wanted to share some thoughts about the fantastic accommodation we had there, as we huddle round the combined effects of the central heating and the oven, slow cooking a beef stew back home.

There are no doubt any number of good places to stay in the city, but there few, I’d wager, can offer as unrivalled a view of the City Square fireworks at New Year or, indeed, those for Las Fallas in March, as Ana’s fifth floor flat in Calle Periodista Azzuti, available through Airbnb. The flat itself is funkily furnished, and offers a good double bedroom and two singles (one slight note of caution: the single beds aren’t huge) with all the usual facilities, including two toilets, one of which also holds a shower. We didn’t use the cooking facilities much – why would you when you can eat out as well as you can in Valencia, frankly – but it’s all there.

Here’s some of the aforesaid funky furnishings:


But the real beauty of the flat is its location: 5 to ten minutes’ walk from the city centre attractions including the Cathedral (they have the Holy Grail, you know? Oh yes, it’s very nice… (c. Monty Python)) and the magnificent Central Market (also pictured). It has a spectacular view across the City Hall over the rooftops by day:

Add the night, however, and even before the fireworks start it’s pretty special:

…and then add fireworks. One word of warning, however: make sure you’re back in the flat well before the festivities start, and the street’s closed off. It took one or other of my language skills or my rough Fife charm to convince the nice policeman that yes, we were staying there and yes, we promised to go straight in and stay there for the duration!





































Adverts below here there be. Said Yoda.





Valencia – Hogmanay Part 1

As I write this, the walls of our airbnb apartment are almost literally shaking from the noise outside – and that’s just the soundcheck! It seemed like a good idea at the time to take a place just off the Plaza del Ayuntamiento, where the Valencian New Year celebrations are centred. Later, we’re promised, there will be music, and then we’ll come under heavy bombardment from fireworks. We intend to participate fully. I suspect we won’t have much choice.

In the meantime, and pending some more meaningful reflections on this fantastic city, here are some more photos, taken from yesterday’s trip to the beach, and today’s visits to the Botanic Gardens and the central market.





























Muchos noticias comerciales bajo de aqui. Es la falta de WordPress.






Valencia – first impressions

I’ll blog about this in more detail presently, but in the meantime, here are some bonny pics of the city, the central market, and some top paella made with costillas y setas (pork ribs and mushrooms). Oh, and Hesperides, and, presumably Mrs Hesperides, who have a garden all to themselves…



















Down here be nothing but adverts











Musical Advent Calendar Day 24: Bruce Springsteen – Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town/Mariah Carey – All I want for Christmas

I’m not a great fan of the modern, non-geographical, use – or over-use – of the word ‘journey,’ to describe a period of personal development of some kind. So I’m going to call this month’s musical advent calendar a trip instead.

It’s not been without its dilemmas (and one discovery has been how to spell that word). Each piece of music carries with it some sort of freight: I haven’t consciously tried to be unduly ‘cool’ in my choices, but, for example, there’s not been any Abba, when there clearly could have been.

Beyond that, though, the songs and the act of choosing them have stirred up memories, almost all good, of various things: events and periods in my life I associate them with; gigs I’ve been to; but most of all, the familial and other relationships they evoke.

Frozen Spider’s Web in Fife, earlier this year

I write this morning from our flat in Edinburgh, where we’re spending Christmas with Daughter and Heiress. It’s the first time we’ve done that: and yet, even though we still live full time in Fife, coming here still feels like coming home. Who knows, this could be the start of a new Christmas tradition for us…

…and as daylight slowly breaks over stormy, red-edged skies, I know that the rest of my small but perfectly formed family are gathering together elsewhere. In Canberra, my brother and his wife will be preparing for their two sons coming round, along with my younger nephew’s girlfriend; my sister’s in London with her Son Number 2 and his girlfriend; my older nephew will be with his wife, his own daughter and heiress, and his in-laws near Stirling. And wherever we are, I know two things: we’ll be raising a glass to those missing, and there will be music of some kind going on.

I’ve always considered myself the least musical of my siblings: I mean, they’ve both got Grade 107 or whatever in proper instruments like piano, violin and viola, and sing in choirs. I’ll never be much more than an average guitar player, and my singing’s not really up to much. But music, this month has taught me if I hadn’t known before, is a part of me. It’s been the soundtrack to my happiest moments; it’s kept me going through the most laborious of workaday chores; and in my darkest times, it’s been my salvation.

Grandpa Anderson’s Christmas Rose Pics: Alison Ferguson

So of whatever religion or none, celebrating the winter solstice or the longest summer day south of the Equator, I hope Bruce, Clarence and the rest of the band soundtrack a great day for you all, and thanks for listening!

I could have left it there. But Mariah Carey is a guilty pleasure. Yeah I know it’s cheesy, and she’s a total diva etc etc, but that joy in her voice when she hits the final top note: you can’t tell me that was a chore for her. You can act all cool and say, huffily, ‘well, I was going to give him Springsteen, but Mariah Carey! ‘ sake…’ all you like. I bet you click on the vid when no-one’s watching.

Last chance to donate to the Myanmar Red Cross Appeal




























They’ll be selling you stuff down here. Why not wait and see what’s under the tree for you

Musical Advent Calendar Day 23: Tom Petty – Refugee

A group of children fleeing from Myanmar

I’ve been prattling on about music for 22 days now, and under that pretence trying to get you to donate to a good cause. It’s not really in my nature to preach about this stuff, and I guess if you haven’t donated by now you’re not going to, but here goes anyway (taken from a BBC article):

The plight of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya people is said to be the world’s fastest growing refugee crisis.

Risking death by sea or on foot, more than half a million have fled the destruction of their homes and persecution in the northern Rakhine province of Myanmar (Burma) for neighbouring Bangladesh since August 2017.

The United Nations described the military offensive in Rakhine, which provoked the exodus, as a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing”.

Myanmar’s military says it is fighting Rohingya militants and denies targeting civilians.

Who are the Rohingya?

The Rohingya, who numbered around one million in Myanmar at the start of the year, are one of the many ethnic minorities in the country. Rohingya Muslims represent the largest percentage of Muslims in Myanmar, with the majority living in Rakhine state.

They have their own language and culture and say they are descendants of Arab traders and other groups who have been in the region for generations.

But the government of Myanmar, a predominantly Buddhist country, denies the Rohingya citizenship and even excluded them from the 2014 census, refusing to recognise them as a people.

It sees them as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

Since the 1970s, Rohingya have migrated across the region in significant numbers. Estimates of their numbers are often much higher than official figures.

In the last few years, before the latest crisis, thousands of Rohingya were making perilous journeys out of Myanmar to escape communal violence or alleged abuses by the security forces.

Why are they fleeing?

The latest exodus began on 25 August after Rohingya Arsa militants attacked more than 30 police posts.

Rohingyas arriving in an area known as Cox’s Bazaar – a district in Bangladesh – say they fled after troops, backed by local Buddhist mobs, responded by burning their villages and attacking and killing civilians.

At least 6,700 Rohingya, including at least 730 children under the age of five, were killed in the month after the violence broke out, according to Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF).

Amnesty International says the Myanmar military also raped and abused Rohingya women and girls.

The government, which puts the number of dead at 400, claims that “clearance operations” against the militants ended on 5 September, but BBC correspondents have seen evidence that they continued after that date.

At least 288 villages were partially or totally destroyed by fire in northern Rakhine state after August 2017, according to analysis of satellite imagery by Human Rights Watch.

The imagery shows many areas where Rohingya villages were reduced to smouldering rubble, while nearby ethnic Rakhine villages were left intact.

Satellite images shows Rohingya village destroyed by fire

What is the scale of the crisis?

The UN says the Rohingya’s situation is the “world’s fastest growing refugee crisis”.

Before August, there were already around 307,500 Rohingya refugees living in camps, makeshift settlements and with host communities, according to the UNHCR. A further 655,000 are estimated to have arrived since August.

Most Rohingya refugees reaching Bangladesh – men, women and children with barely any belongings – have sought shelter in these areas, setting up camp wherever possible in the difficult terrain and with little access to aid, safe drinking water, food, shelter or healthcare.

The largest refugee camp is Kutupalong but limited space means spontaneous settlements have sprung up in the surrounding countryside and nearby Balukhali as refugees keep arriving.

While the Kutupalong refugee camp has grown from 13,901 to 22,241 since August, the number living in makeshift or spontaneous settlements outside the camp has climbed from 99,495 to more than 547,000.

Other sites in the region have also expanded – as of mid-October 2017, there were 10 sites occupied by more than 12,000 people.

There are also around 78,634 people staying outside the camps in host communities.

What is being done by the international community?

Image copyright Getty Images

Rohingya woman sits in a tent in a refugee camp near Cox's Bazaar

The need for aid is overwhelming.

  • The whole refugee population – almost one million people – require food aid
  • 18,083 children under five have been treated for severe acute malnutrition
  • 424,100 children under 15 years of age require diphtheria vaccination after outbreak confirmed
  • 37,215 temporary emergency latrines have been built Bangladesh military
  • 500 tonnes of aid has been delivered in five airlifts

There has been widespread condemnation of the Myanmar government’s actions but talk of sanctions has been more muted:

  • The UN Security Council appealed to Myanmar to stop the violence but no sanctions have been imposed
  • The UN’s human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein has said an act of genocide against Rohingya Muslims by state forces in Myanmar cannot be ruled out
  • The US urged Myanmar’s troops to “respect the rule of law, stop the violence and end the displacement of civilians from all communities”
  • China says the international community “should support the efforts of Myanmar in safeguarding the stability of its national development”
  • Bangladesh plans to build more shelters in the Cox’s Bazaar area but also wants to limit their travel to allocated areas
  • Myanmar urged displaced people to find refuge in temporary camps set up in Rakhine state. In November Bangladesh signed a deal with Myanmar to return hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees, but few details have been released
  • The UK has pledged £59m in aid to support those fleeing to Bangladesh. UK Prime Minister Theresa May also said the military action in Rakhine had to stop. The UK has suspended training courses for the Myanmar military

OK. I think that gives you the idea. I could rant on about organised religion, but really, it’s just another example of man’s inhumanity to man, woman and child. Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Cohenite or Brutalist, you can get that, right?

I’ve been promoting the Red Cross Appeal, but if you google ‘Myanmar appeal’ you can get others too.

Here’s a song by the late, great, Tom Petty that kind of fits the theme.



…and as a wee bonus, here’s a Dylan track I’ve not heard for a while – good video too!











































If you haven’t had enough adverts from watching the ones at the start of the Youtube videos, here are some more.

Musical Advent Calendar Day 22: Frank Turner – The Sand in the Gears

Image result for the wasp factory

You heard of bibliomancy, right? Yeah, predicting the future by opening a book – generally the Bible or some other sacred text, Iain Banks’s The Wasp Factory, for example. Well, some similar type of magic juju was at work in the choice of today’s track.

There I was last night, consulting the rough list I’d made of possibles, and cycling through a couple of left field ideas I’d had from reading the reviews in the latest Uncut. None of them was really lighting my fire, when, on the Facebook tab, up popped no less a personage than Emma, the lead singer with Isaac Brutal, with Christmas wishes for the band.

This being Brutal, the Yuletide greetings consisted of a link to Frank Turner singing ‘Merry Christmas You Cnuts,’ or something like that. Always good to hear of that particular Anglo-Saxon king. But my act of playing that song, and pausing Jon Langford and Four Lost Souls to hear it, had got the modern equivalent of my spirit guide – Youtube’s algorithms – going. Busily doing something else again on another tab, I became dimly aware that we had moved on from Langford, to an English-accented set of vocals.

And so it was that I came upon Frank Turner’s modern day protest song, ‘The Sand in the Gears,’ and thought, aye, that’ll do just dandy. Brucie is a-coming on Christmas Eve, but until then, the advent calendar’s going to be a tricksy critter!



Stuck for a last minute present? Why not give those guys on the Bangladeshi border a better Christmas by donating to the Red Cross Myanmar Appeal. Your loved one will love you all the more for it. Unless they really wanted socks.























You know the drill by now. Here below adverts there be rearranged into a well known phrase.

Musical Advent Calendar Day 21: Randy Newman – Political Science

Image result for winterval

Winterval in Waterford.

As we inch (so it seems this year) ever closer to the Big Day, I keep thinking, I should really start doing something a bit more festive. And I have done – well, sort of. There was the Prince track last Friday to get you gee’d up for your office parties. And … errr … Nick Cave’s ‘Red Right Hand’ had the word ‘red’ in it, and that’s a Christmas colour?

Anyway, here’s a song I’ve loved for decades about the US blowing up the rest of the world, so suck it up!

Seriously, Randy Newman is an under-appreciated songwriter. I don’t think he minds too much, as he has a side line scoring major Hollywood movies, which presumably keeps the wolf from the door: since you ask, Wikipedia tells me –

“His film scores include Ragtime, Awakenings, The Natural, Leatherheads, Cats Don’t Dance, Meet the Parents, Cold Turkey, and Seabiscuit. He has scored eight DisneyPixar animated films: Toy Story, A Bug’s Life, Toy Story 2, Monsters, Inc., Cars, Toy Story 3, Monsters University, and Cars 3, as well as Disney’s The Princess and the Frog and James and the Giant Peach.

Newman has received twenty Academy Award nominations in the Best Original Score and Best Original Song categories and has won twice in the latter category. He has also won three Emmys, six Grammy Awards, and the Governor’s Award from the Recording Academy.[3]”

He wrote this, by the way, in 1972. Thank goodness it’s lost its topicality.

What? Oh really? Still a thing? Sorry, American chums. I know you’re on the side of the angels.


Yeah, I know, I say this every time. But really, these guys the military regime have kicked out of Myanmar who are living in refugee camps could use some help.



































































Adverts below here. Buy stuff before America drops the big one!


Musical Advent Calendar Day 20: Nick Cave – Red Right Hand

Image result for red hair

Another Nick Cave song? How can I justify it? Well, Daughter and Heiress decided the other night to add a touch of ginger to her blonde locks. There was hair dye all over the bathroom, although to be fair she cleaned most of it up. You know what though? Just as well she wore gloves, because by the end she had a Red Right Hand.




Still time to give to the Red Cross Myanmar Appeal and help those Rohingya refugees out.
































































Rampant commercialism below here. Possibly.

Musical Advent Calendar Day 19: LCD Soundsystem – How Do You Sleep

Roland SH-2000 Image Bonetech3D Conceptart Scifi ConceptsBonetech3D Conceptart Scifi Concepts

I do like to confound Daughter and Heiress’s expectations of my musical tastes. As young folks will know, LCD Soundsystem were big in the early years of this century, then disbanded, then came back together with everyone expecting they would just do, like, a greatest hits package. However, instead they produced the critically acclaimed ‘American Dream,’ which has just topped Uncut’s list of albums of the year.

My nephew Jonny, who’s in his thirties (is that Generation X, as opposed to D & H’s Millenial? Who knows… or cares…) sent me as my birthday present in September Mogwai’s latest, and ‘American Dream.’ I didn’t expect to like it. I mean, synths?

However, I did and I do. This is one of my favourites, with an insistent, vaguely Celtic, drumbeat starting things off, and then things slowly building and building until, several minutes in, there’s this big slab of synth kicks in…

Probably back to something guitar-based tomorrow.



Think of giving to the Myanmar refugees. You’ll sleep easier. See what I did there?

















The American Dream couldn’t exist without commercials. But you can.

Musical Advent Calendar Day 18: Leonard Cohen – Hallelujah

Ok, so I said I wouldn’t put this one in. I changed my mind. So, what can I say that’s new about the song that spawned a thousand cover versions and a million open-mic night travesties?

  • The origin of the word ‘hallelujah’: from Hebrew hallalu-yah “praise ye Jehovah,” from hallalu, plural imperative of hallel “to praise” also “song of praise,” from hillel “he praised,” of imitative origin, with primary sense being “to trill.” Second element is yah, shortened form of Yahweh, name of God. Other Abrahamic faiths are also available.
  • In Cohen’s native Montreal, the street sign for Marie-Anne Street got a makeover on his death (see above).
  • According to the same article in El Pais I nicked the photo from (yes, I’ve been doing my Spanish homework) Leonard used to buy his bagels at Bagel Etc (Saint-Laurent, 4320). There’s a whole walking tour industry around his old haunts now.
  • One of the writing sessions for the original 80 verses of the song took place at the Royalton hotel in New York, where he was reduced to sitting in his underwear, banging his head on the floor. The dent on the floor in room 113 is now a Unesco World Heritage Site. Okay, so I made that second bit up.

…and yeah, I know all about the Buckley vs Burke version yada yada, but I’m sticking with Lenny. There’s a fine version on his late-period live album from London, but I’m going with this one which shows him giving it everything but the kitchen sink in San Sebastian in 1988. Vaya con los angeles, Leonard!

I‘ve finally got around after 18 days of preaching at the rest of you about it, to donating to the Red Cross Appeal for Myanmar. It only took a second. Here’s the link.

PS if you want a female singer’s version, kd lang can sing it a bit – an interview I saw with LC quoted this particular performance with approval:






































































Rampant commercialisation may happen below here. If so, boo!