Nancy_SpungenIf you’re interested in the difference between a 20 year old man and a 40 year old man, and there’s really no reason why you should be but if you are, here’s a good example.

Nancy Spungeon.

(Who was neither, but I’m just being deliberately oblique.)

When I was around 20 I studied popular music at Liverpool University, and I first learnt about Punk.  I’d been aware of it for years, but never really got it.  So I learnt about the New York Dolls and Television and CBGBs, and the Damned and Souixie and the Banshees and the Sex Pistols.  And I learnt about Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungeon.  Sid and Nancy. Continue reading


I took this photo next to a cashpoint in the centre of Oxford a few weeks ago.  A few days later I saw another fascist slogan by another cash machine on the outskirts.  In the past I might have occasionally seen a fascist slogan scrawled on the door in a public toilet, but never out in the open like this.  And one week ago today, in what I imagine will prove to be a historical date, England and Wales (but not Scotland and Northern Ireland) voted to leave the European Union, and since then there have been enough news stories a spike in racially motivated attacks for the Prime Minister to comment on it.

Today, these are the pages that Facebook suggests I might consider joining:


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When we heard that the final Bellowhead gig ever* was going to be in Oxford, in the Town Hall, on the first of May… it all sounded a bit too good to be true.

If that doesn’t mean anything to you: Bellowhead have been so much more than the most popular folk band in England.  Never mind that they won award after award, and got signed to a major label, and were generally considered the best live act in the country by folk and non-folk pundits alike… they just set the agenda.  Every album they released simultaneously opened doors for what’s possible with traditional music, and closed other doors because “we can’t do that or it’ll sound like we’re trying to be Bellowhead”.  For me personally, they were the band that sparked my interest in traditional English music, and I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen them live.  And some of those times were better than others, but even the worse times were a better live experience than most bands on a good night.

But it held more significance for me.  The first time I ever saw them live was 10 years before, almost to the day, in the same venue.  And on that dancefloor I met a group of friends who got me into folk festivals and eventually playing in the band for Armaleggan.  So it was kind of a big deal.

In fact, let me show you a little video from my old undeleteable YouTube account, that I made about the joys of Bellowhead, back in 2008.

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‘Sierra Road’ by Paul J. Rush (CC BY 2.0)

Just for a bit of idle procrastination, I’ve been looking back at online forums over the centuries. It’s really made me realise how much we depend on them. Think about it. If you have any complex problem, that requires consulting with an expert, all you need to do is to log in to one of these almost magical places, and some kind, constructive expert will be able to give you not just the information that you need, but also the encouragement you need to really make the most out of that information.

Unsurprisingly, web forums have been at the heart of some of humanity’s greatest discoveries.

For example*:

(* Warning: contains all the swearing. All of it.) Continue reading