Week from Monday 5th June 2017

Hooray! It's that time of year when I can roll out the "FLAMING JUNE!" gag once again. No sooner have I turned the page of the calendar, we are under thunderous skies once more, with lots of rain scheduled, guaranteed to make everything nice and muddy just in time for festival season. It has happened EVERY year in living memory.

The CriTéRiuM du DAuphiNé is off to a flying start, a single-week dress rehearsal for the Alpine stages of LE TOUR. Yesterday's circuit of Saint-Étienne was the first stage, so nothing TOO exciting has happened just yet, but all eyes (well, this pair, anyway) are on ALBERTO CONTADOR, who at some stage is bound to go head-to-head with his arch-rival Valverde...

After Stage 4's TIME TRIAL, the leader board of the CriTéRiuM du DAuphiNé is starting to take shape, as the 'favourites' find their slots. With the exception of winner Richie Porte, none of the big names rode a particularly good TT, but (yay!!) ALBERTO CONTADOR is now in fifth place in GC, a couple of seconds ahead of Chris Froome. That increases the likelihood of him going head-to-head against Valverde (now in third place). It should start to get interesting tomorrow, with bigger Alps looming.

Of course, it is the GENERAL ELECTION that is at the forefront of everyone's thoughts this week. Our particular constituency is the very definition of a SAFE TORY SEAT. Last time around, the Conservatives pulled more votes here than the rest of the candidates combined! Factor into that the UKIP vote (propelled from nowhere to second place) and you can see that anyone in this town with political affiliations LEFT OF CENTRE doesn't get very much of a look in.

Since the early nineties, I have 'traditionally' voted for the GREEN PARTY, because I could not, in all conscience, vote for a BLAIRITE "NEW" LABOUR. I believe that, under JEREMY CORBYN, the party is now returning to its core values as I recognise them. I will therefore be voting LABOUR in this General Election.

But having said that... Quite honestly, I don't see anyone recolouring the political map in THIS neck of the woods. The Conservative status quo in THE COUNTIES will be maintained and perpetuated by people who are rich enough and white enough (or stupid enough?) not to be affected by 'ISSUES'. The best one can hope for at this stage is a HUNG PARLIAMENT and the slim chance of some BALANCE-TIPPING taking place at a national level...

Up bright and early then, to do my civic duty... Then I made my way to GOZZY to sort out some printing and to get a long overdue HAIRCUT. I hopped on a bus to SOUTHAMPTON for an hour or two of browsing. I treated myself to "FRESH AIR", the new album by FAUST (or 'faUSt' as I believe they would now like it to be spelt), plus a FRANK ZAPPA album that I didn't hitherto know existed ("LITTLE DOTS", a sort of sequel to the 1972 Petit Wazoo recording "IMAGINARY DISEASES").

Well, I called it, it certainly looks like we have a HUNG PARLIAMENT of sorts. But, to be honest, I'm scared to look at the GORY DETAILS this morning. I've been occupying my brain with other things instead - I got up at five-ish to do some typesetting work and I watched the CYCLING over breakfast. Anything but look at the news or see what folks are tweeting about! It would probably be far too DOWNHEARTENING...

I have to say, after the gripping final stages of the GIRO D'ITALIA, the CriTéRiuM du DAuphiNé has been a bit of an anticlimax, rather lacking in thrills...

Week from Monday 12th June 2017

OKAY! I'LL TAKE IT BACK! The CriTéRiuM du DAuphiNé HAD been a bit boring this year, but then - AT LAST! - the final day's mountains had all the thrills and spills that had been missing all week. Especially if you are a fan of CHRIS FROOME and/or RICHIE PORTE. Which I'm not, personally, but there you go. Like the GIRO D'ITALIA, the outcome was down to FRACTIONS OF A SECOND in the end. While all of the expected GC names were battling amongst themselves for THOSE, Astana's JAKOB FUGLSANG whizzed past them all and won not only the stage but, thanks to those lovely TIME BONUSES they still have, the overall MAILLOT JAUNE prize as well. Who'da thunk it?!? (Meanwhile, the TOUR DE SUISSE has just started, but I won't get to watch any of that for real. I have to rely on the Twitter feed and my own imagination!)

Oh! Did I mention that the KING CRIMSON 'single' had arrived? Their version of David Bowie's "HEROES" is terrific, made all the more astonishing by the fact that the whole thing was recorded live. It's leagues better than the previous versions with ADRIAN BELEW... and I'll stick my neck out and express the opinion that it's a much better live performance of the song than BOWIE himself ever managed! The slight disappointment on learning that the included "EASY MONEY" is one that I've heard before, is tempered by the fact that it's also the BEST version I've heard by this incarnation of KCrim, so it's well worth having again on a proper CD!

I've been experiencing intermittent INTERNET CONNECTION outages again this week. At first, it seemed to lose touch at a regular time every morning (annoyingly just when I want to send stuff out!) and then settle down again for the rest of the day... But now it's becoming more unpredictable at other times as well. TalkTalk did announce that they had been doing some 'routine maintenence' on their website at certain times of the day/night, but I wonder if it's also got anything to do with all these roadworks we're having?

In between these niggles, I have managed to download the very latest version of FIREFOX so that I can give it a go (the 64-bit version of FF 54.0). First the GOOD NEWS: It no longer takes an eternity to open up. Loading times have just about caught up with CYBERFOX, making it a viable option again. But... My STYLISH doesn't work anymore! This is probably to do with the growing tendency of internet browsers to block the use of some third party add-ons "for safety reasons". But for me it's a major deal-clincher, that ability to customise how I see certain web pages in my browser, to satisfy my own preferences and prejudices! That was also the main reason for me not taking to the Chromium-based EPIC PRIVACY BROWSER in the end. I like it a lot, BUT IT DOESN'T WORK WITH MY STUFF! As far as I can ascertain, STYLISH (and a number of other custom style editors I've now considered as alternatives) won't work if you have PRIVATE BROWSING enabled. The plug-in will install, the button is there, but it is useless. In the case of STYLISH, the 'write new style' button also doesn't do anything, so you can't import your scripts. As I pointed out before, it seems you can't have it BOTH ways. You can have total privacy and security OR you can keep all your bells and whistles...
UPDATE! UPDATE!! UPDATE!!! - The trick is to temporarily turn OFF your private browsing and anti-tracking settings (via the 'OPTIONS/Privacy' menu). As it turns out, that IS what stopped STYLISH from working properly earlier. You can now go ahead and reinstall STYLISH if, like me, you'd previously removed it in frustration! There's usually some restarting involved along the way. Now you can build or import your USER SCRIPTS because, magically, you will find the 'write new script' button WILL work! Once you've got everything back to how you want it, you can then turn your private browsing back ON again and do another restart. STYLISH will continue to work as normal, HOORAH! Now I'm no expert, but that looks like a BUG in somebody's code to me...
With another two-and-a-half dollars-worth (£1.47! Yay!) of Bandcamp 'royalties' arriving in my PayPal account this morning, I felt the need for a VERY long 'WALKIES' to recover! I made my way down to HILL HEAD and traipsed back through TITCHFIELD HAVEN, following the stagnant River Meon back to TITCHFIELD ITSELF. I saw some cows. I saw some goats. I photographed some gnarly gravestones. Of course, once I'd reached the village, that also meant that I faced the prospect of the UPHILL SLOG back home. Ouch! Do I still have the legs for a 'MOUNTAIN STAGE'!?! I made it, but I'll be paying for it later... The goats were all Boers and the gravestones were gnarly to the point of illegibility.

DREAM DIARY... I'm on a 'CRUISE SHIP'... or is it? I think I'm on a 'college trip' of some kind... Having checked on board and been allocated a cabin, I awake from a short nap... I'm now wandering around trying to locate the rest of my 'group'... But I'm not sure it's a REAL ship at all, more like some kind of elaborate film set... There is a big veneer-clad section that looks like a theatre, but inside, fully-clothed people are having 'swimming lessons'... At some point, I'm in a city centre shopping arcade, without having left the 'ship' first... Eventually, I'm convinced that I've been wandering around for far too long and that I must be 'late' for something... I meet someone I recognise, but he says he's been "skiving off", so he doesn't know where anyone else is either...

Week from Monday 19th June 2017

Here we are, hurtling through June again. If I were to say to you "Wibdoo wibdoo cha cha cha, Acpadulco rum bah bah...", you'd know EXACTLY what I mean by now. So arrive scorching hot days, insects, hay fever, dried-up riverbeds and fields full of moneyed hipsters who manage to get themselves caked in mud yet again while bouncing up and down to terrible music. Plus the annual "GOD-ON-A-PUSHBIKE®" collate-a-thon really needs to be done sometime this week and I've promised UNCLE WILLY that I'd install a newer version of LINUX on one of his computers.

The TOUR BOX 2017 from the KING CRIMSON chaps is the best one yet! There's a lot more PRESENT DAY KCrim on this one. WHICH IS NICE. As with all the Tour Boxes, it's the CONTEXT that keeps you listening. Even if you've already got (most of) the tracks elsewhere, hearing them juxtaposed in new and interesting ways makes for a WHOLE NEW LISTENING EXPERIENCE. This volume has particularly good 'SEQUENCING', especially the "LARKS' TONGUES" suite on disc two. I've immediately put a large chunk of it onto TAPE(!) for next week's road trip.

IT IS HOT. Everyone says so. After doing UNCLE WILLY's computer yesterday, I hopped on a bus and continued the day in Portsmouth and Southsea, soaking up some much needed VITAMIN D. Actually, I don't mind the heat so much myself. It's the continuous flow of mucus that I have a problem with... Don't forget though, that it's GLASTONBURY weekend coming up, SO IT WILL RAIN THIS WEEK. It's a LAW OF PHYSICS as immutable as that quantum gravy we keep hearing about.

I see that the new umpteen-million pound TRANSPORT INTERCHANGE (i.e. Bus Station) is now up and running at the Harbour. It feels just like a smaller version of VICTORIA COACH STATION, all automatic sliding doors, shiny faux-marble, seated departure areas and hi-def telly screens displaying timetables with continuous updates from Sky News. It's wasted on the people catching a bus to Leigh Park!

The whole of Thursday was spent COLLATIN' 'N' BOXIN' stuff. As usual, I found that, while I was able to count all the leaflets into separate PILES, I am woefully short of lids for all the boxes. I will have to go out SCROUNGING for more cardboard today! We are planning to do the 'TOUR DE HANTS' DELIVER-O-THON next Wednesday, so the compiling of ROAD TAPES has started in earnest.

Week from Monday 26th June 2017

We saw an ELEPHANT OF PIPES, lots of rain, several species of BIRDS OF PREY, some rain, the occasional RABBIT, numerous TRAFFIC JAMS, many of them in the rain, made a number of rude comments about rich people and cursed the inadequacy of the ROAD SIGNAGE in this green and pleasant. And listened to various forms of strange music. In the rain. We also saw a family of moorhens being shepherded across a village road by some helpful mallards. But there are so many bleedin' ROAD WORKS and DIVERSIONS in operation throughout the county (and the adjacent ones), that any PREEMPTIVE NAVIGATIONAL PREPARATION was immediately abandoned and - of course - we got frustratingly lost even more than usual. In the rain. (Shelfy has one of those little webcam doobries stuck on his windscreen. If nothing else, we might get some ARTY AMBIENT VIDEO FOOTAGE out of today's experience.)

Now I want to be paid.

I had intended to recover with a DAY OF REST on Thursday, but once I'd worked out some bills, checked my email, seen all there was to see on Twitter and been to the post office, I got BORED just doing nothing. So I hopped on a train to deliver the last of the parcels to Southsea. That's got THAT job out of the way! Naturally, I did some wandering about while there and visited some record emporia...

PILES... For a pittance I found a couple of desirable shiny things of a jazzy nature: a CASSANDRA WILSON album I'd not seen before, plus some monster 'fusion' by a power trio consisting of SCOTT HENDERSON, JEFF BERLIN and DENNIS CHAMBERS... What the heck! I'll treat myself to the highly-regarded "CAN: THE SINGLES", even though I think(?) I have it all already... FAIRPORT CONVENTION have been honoured with a second volume in that five-CDs-for-a-tenner "CLASSIC ALBUMS" series, so how could I not? I'm in the middle of a "TOP ROOTS NAMES" craze at the moment! It's a patchy period in their long history, but experience tells me that the superb "NINE" and "RISING FOR THE MOON" are worth the price of admission alone. I love that all of the CDs in the pack are emblazoned with the classic ISLAND label artwork... On arriving home, I find a package from the BURNING SHED concern. It contains the first half of my two-part BRAND X order, the "NUCLEAR BURN" 4-CD box that gathers together all of the band's Charisma releases. (The second 'half' of the order is their eagerly awaited NEW double live album, due in a couple of weeks.)