heard on the wire

Drop the hammers, drop the guns


I start my new career as a teacher very soon. That’s probably the scariest sentence I’ve ever written. A long holiday is coming to end, some 15 weeks after I completed my training, qualified-teacher-status recommendation in hand.

I’ve blogged. Suzi and I have been to the beach, many times. I may have drunk a little too much from time to time. We’ve decorated the spare bedroom. I’ve even managed to find my way around the NatWest website, so no one can say I haven’t achieved anything.

It was there that I found my free National Trust passes, one of which took us to Cragside and to the nearby village of Rothbury, where the above photo was taken. It’s one of my favourite photos.

Crag side was where William Armstrong asked the inventor of the incandescent light build, Joseph Swan, to convert four vases into electric lamps, thus making the house the first in the world to be lit by light bulbs.

Joseph Swan was a local lad remembered by the Gateshead school that bears his name and gave me my first classroom experience. Thus the visit was neat way to begin bringing this long break to an end.

Coincidentally, neatly and fortunately, the beginning of the new school year will coincide with the release of a new LP from The School.

Wasting Away and Wondering will be the third long player from the Cardiff septet, whose sixties-tinged pop has long been a favourite of this blog’s.

The band heralded its release, as bands are often won’t to do, with an EP whose title track confirms their ongoing commitment to excellence.

The School // All I Want from You is Everything

Citing more recent influences, Mercury Girls are three men and two women from Philadelphia who are set to release their first single on Slumberland Records, home to the mighty Pains of Being Pure at Heart.

Until then, Mercury Girls’ eighties-flavoured sound can be heard on a pair of excellent demo tracks that they put out earlier this year.

Mercury Girls // Golden

In the eighties there were four TV channels in the UK, which we all thought was more than enough, given the quality snd rich variety of programming that all four produced. But there wasn’t enough profit in this apparently, so in the name of choice the government decided to open up UK broadcasting to multimillionaire franchisees. As a result we can now choose to pay to watch sport that previously we could watch for free; pay to watch films that previously we could watch for free; and flick through umpteen channels to see that the only quality programming now comes from abroad. There’s nothing wrong in that, of course, only that a generation of programme making potential has been lost to the drive for viewing figures and shrinking advertising revenues.

Which makes this all the more desperately sad.

Colleen Green // TV

And finally, apropos of nothing, a question: what would The Cure have sounded like if they were a Spanish band of the current decade? Like this, that’s what.

Black Islands // Missing Flame

That was going to have been that, until I realised that I hadn’t yet included a track from the latest Belle and Sebastian LP, Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance. By rights, they should have been among those acts featured in my last post. It was perhaps remiss of me to absentmindedly omit the from the list of bands that get a free pass. However, free passes are only as good as the last record and sadly that can only be described as disappointing, the Glaswegians’ weakest offering to date.

But the paucity of outstanding tracks doesn’t mean this was a bad record and it certainly doesn’t diminish the stage presence of one of our finest live bands. Their tour in support of the LP included a series of videos, the highlight of which was this intriguing accompaniment to the LP’s eighth track.

Belle and Sebastian // Perfect Couples

And on the subject of the National Trust…

Ballboy // The National Trust

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Photo: Rothbury by photographer; some rights reserved.

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