Thursday, September 22, 2011

Move Along, Move Along

I am 35 years old. In those 35 years I have lived in 3 of the constituent nations of the United Kingdom as well as Germany, the Czech Republic, the United States and, briefly, Belarus. In my 10 years living in the Czech Republic, I lived in a small town called Mlada Boleslav as well as Prague, in total though I lived at 8 addresses in 10 years. I have spent my life moving around, and can happily say that I enjoy it. My little brother, only 1 year my junior, took a different path to adult life, settling down in the Highlands and pretty much staying put, though even he has moved house within the same town a few times.

I often think that Mrs Velkyal has had a calming influence on me, I can watch football without apoplexy these days for a start. In the 6 years we have been together I have only lived at 3 addresses, and 2 of those cover 5.5 years. Even so, I find it nearly impossible to not think about the other places in the world which pique my interest. Perhaps growing up in the British Army gives you a taste for going somewhere new, a taste for always being an expat. I get the sense at times that if we were to move to the UK, I would probably feel like an expat even there, after all I left just after I graduated and haven't spent an extended period of time in my own country since.

I keep a mental list of places that I would love to live in, just in case my numbers come up on the lottery and I am suddenly flush with cash. Near the top of that list would be a return to Germany, mainly to put my Germanophilia into full swing, I love the German language (no I don't think it is "too brutal for singing"), German efficiency, German food and German beer, I like Germans and find their sense of humour funny, yes they have one. If we were to move to Germany there are a couple of places I would most like to live in, Berlin and Celle.

Mrs V and I went to Berlin a couple of years back and absolutely loved it, had Obama failed to win the election in 2008 there was a very good chance that we would have moved there rather than here. Celle is a smallish town near Hannover, and the place we lived in as children, it is also etched in my memory as one of the most beautiful towns in Europe. My attraction there is simple, I would love to experience the town as an adult, it is also entirely possible from research my great uncle Bill did, that my father's family originally came from that neck of the woods.

One thing is for certain, I don't feel as though I am done with travelling and seeing places new and intriguing.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Recovered Memories

I enjoy taking photos, indeed at my parents' place in France there are boxes of photos I took in the dim and distant past before I got a digital camera. It is only in the last few months that I have been able to retrieve a lot of my photos because they were on the hard drive of my old laptop that died.

Normally this wouldn't have been a major issue, but the laptop in question had Windows XP in Czech rather than English. While my Czech is OK, dealing with technical language is a completely different ball game. So once I had my wireless router set up I set about re-installing Windows and getting all the files on to an external hard drive. With that process done, I have slowly been sorting and organising all the various bits and pieces that I managed to recover. So I thought I would post a few of my favourite pictures which have never before seen the light of this blog.

When we lived in Prague, I would walk home from work quite often and crossing the Nusle bridge was part of the walk. The bridge has high sided fences as it is a popular place to commit suicide. There is no river under the bridge, just a cobbled street and houses, I can't imagine how it must feel to live there and have people leaping to their deaths on the street outside.

Just round the corner from our flat was this tower and church, and we would walk by them several times a day.

I have always loved railway stations, the potential of all those places to visit. This one is the oldest railway station in Prague, Masarykovo nádraží and was literally opposite the building we lived in.

The other station we lived close to was Prague's main station, Hlavní Nádraží, from where we would get the train to České Budějovice and then on to our favourite getaway town for a weekend, Český Krumlov. This picture was taken from the window of the penzion we always stayed in.

In the final months we lived in Prague, Mrs Velkyal and I made a point of going to the various places in the city we had either loved or neglected to go to. One such place was the Estates Theatre, where Mozart received great acclaim for Don Giovanni, and I took this picture of the seats.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

30 Day Song Challenge - Days 28, 29 and 30

Having skipped several days, I have decided to merge the last three themes into a single post and only have a single track for each theme.

Day 28 - a song that makes you feel guilty

"Summertime" by Billie Holiday

I can honestly say that there is nothing that I feel guilty about, and certainly no song that makes me feel guilty for anything I have done. The track above though makes me feel guilty for liking it, because I can think of no good reason to like it beyond the fact that I just enjoy listening to it - pure hedonism.

Day 29 - a song from your childhood

"Shoplifters of the World Unite" by The Smiths

This song always reminds me of two people, my eldest brother, and my best friend from primary school, who I haven't see since I was about 13. The Smiths were one of the first bands I liked, and still like to this day.

Day 30 - you favourite song this time last year

"Sleepyhead" by Passion Pit

Something of an unusual choice for me I am sure, but this time last year, having had my driving license for but a few months, I would drive around town listening to this song and generally being happy with life.

So there we go. All done.

Monday, May 09, 2011

30 Day Song Challenge - Day 27

Given that I can't play any musical instrument, today's theme of "a song you wish you could play" is pretty pointless. However, I wish I could play some form of bagpipe, so these tracks showcase a form of pipe.

Track 1 - "The Dreaming of the Bones" by Davy Spillane, featuring Sinead O'Connor

Davy Spillane is one of the world's leading uillean pipe players, a master of the ethereal wail which is so haunting.

Track 2 - "Gabriel's Oboe" performed by Carlos Nunez

Originally composed by Ennio Morricone for the film The Mission, this version is played on the gaita - a form of bagpipe from Galicia in Spain.

Track 3 - "The Three Pipers" by Carlos Nunez

Another Carlos Nunez track, in which he blends the sounds of the Breton pipes, Great Pipes from Scotland and the Uillean pipe.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

30 Day Song Challenge - Day 26

Sorry, sorry, I was working in a brewery yesterday and was wiped out before watching Doctor Who. Today's theme is exceedingly easy, "songs I can play on an instrument". The reason it is so easy for me is that I don't play any musical instrument, unless you include strumming mindless chords on a guitar.

So, I can't give you any songs for today's theme, so I'll just put three clips from an artist song I have been listening to a lot lately - Cecile Corbel

Track 1 - "La Fille Damnee"

Track 2 - "Je Vous Pleure

Track 3 - "Corpus Christi Carol"

Friday, May 06, 2011

30 Day Song Challenge - Day 25

Our theme for today is songs that make me laugh. Again I skipped a day, but as I was brewing with my favourite brewpub, I think I have a valid excuse.

Track 1 - "Nightboat to Cairo" by Madness

If you've been following this challenge, you'll know that I like Madness a lot, and most of their songs are kind of the funny. "Nightboat to Cairo" is very in the usual Madness vein, quirky lyrics, daft video and just fun to listen to.

Track 2 - "Lucille" by The Corries

A parody on country music by the legendary Corries which never fails to make me laugh, and I am sure many of us have told tales of broken hearts over pints in the pub.

Track 3 - "Rabbit" by Chas and Dave

Perhaps it is just me, but music these days seems so tiresomely earnest and meaningful. Thank god then for Chas and Dave.

I think Chas and Dave take the accolades today, fun music that brings back lots of memories of childhood.

Track 3 - "

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

30 Day Song Challenge - Day 24

Songs I want played at my funeral is the theme for today. I really don't go for the whole "celebrate my life" thing any more than I want people to wail and gnash their teeth. What is a funeral at the end of the day? Saying goodbye and going to the pub for a booze up? With that in mind, let's go.

Track 1 - "The Parting Glass" as performed by Sinead O'Connor

What better way to say goodbye than to recall the many fine people and great experiences I have had?

Track 2 - "Asleep" by The Smiths

There are times when I think this song is the apogee of the Morrissey and Marr partnership, and when I am gone, "don't feel bad for me".

Track 3 - "Sae Will We Yet" as performed by The Corries

If there is an afterlife, I hope it is like Valhalla from Norse mythology, laden with drinking and generally living it up.

All great tracks, so I'll have them all thanks.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

30 Day Song Challenge - Day 23

The theme for today's collection of ditties is "a song you want at your wedding". As I am already married to the immeasurably lovely Mrs Velkyal, I guess I should choose some of the musical highlights from our reception - which was held in the downstairs bar at our local pub in Prague. Mrs V and I have some disparate tastes in music, and so we just put all our favourite tracks onto my laptop and turned them into a playlist.

Track 1 - "El Palo Pinto" by Cahornega

This track was actually part of the pre-reception selection, while Mrs V and I were having our pictures taken by the insanely talented Mark Stewart of Black Gecko Photography. Cahornega are one of those bands that I found through Myspace.

Track 2 - "You Can't Touch This" by MC Hammer

What can I say beyond, it was Mrs V's fault! But I guess it was her wedding as well (and I am really rather fond of her!).

Track 3 - "Svítá" by Jaroslav Ježek

Taken from the soundtrack of one of my favourite Czech films, Tmavomodrý Svět (Dark Blue World for those unversed in Czech). This song was one of the few that Mrs V and I danced to during the reception - dancing not being something I enjoy, however both of us love this kind of big band and swing thing.

Taking the choice by a short nose is Svítá, so mellow and beautiful.

Monday, May 02, 2011

30 Day Song Challenge - Day 22

Day 22, songs that I listen to when I am sad. I really don't like dwelling on sadness, so I listen to music that will either cheer me up or take my mind off things.

Track 1 - "Thunderchild" by Jeff Wayne

I love Jeff Wayne's musical version of War of the Worlds, and this is one of the most uplifting songs on the album.

Track 2 - "Here I Stand" by Iona

Usually sadness for me is when I feel homesick, which may be slightly nuts for a guy who hasn't lived within 200 miles of the place he calls home for more than 15 years. When I listen to this track, and the instrumental piece that immediately follows it on the album, I can close my eyes and am back in the Hebrides.

Track 3 - "Song for Whoever" by The Beautiful South

One of the best songs by one of my favourite bands, "Song for Whoever" - a sweetly melancholic song, just love it.

Of the three, it is Here I Stand that I listen to most when I am sad, mainly because sadness of longing for the islands on the edge of the world go hand in hand in my life.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

30 Day Song Challenge - Day 21

I took a day off yesterday, preferring to sit in the pub and drink several pints of a dark lager that I helped brew at my favourite brewpub. Suitably hungover, erm refreshed, let's kick on with today's theme - songs that you listen to when you are happy.

Track 1 - "Chinese" by Lily Allen

There is something about the every day in this song which is so charming and laden with whimsy.

Track 2 - "God Bless the Child" by Billie Holiday

Happiness for me is usually a very mellow state of being, and Billie Holiday as long been the soundtrack to mellowocity.

Track 3 - "Caravan of Love" by The Housemartins

More mellowocity, more happiness.

Of the three, I think my favourite is Lily Allen, love listening to that in the car.

Friday, April 29, 2011

30 Day Song Challenge - Day 20

Theme de jour is songs you listen to when you are angry, this is quite easy really as I have a go to band when I need to let off a little steam - Rammstein.

Track 1 - "Ich Will"

Track 2 - "Amerika"

Track 3 - "Sonne"

Ah, I feel better already.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

30 Day Song Challenge - Day 19

A song from my favourite album is the theme for today, and I guess most people will be thinking that my favourite album is by my favourite band, but not so. Just a quick aside, in these days of iTunes and downloads not many artists make albums anymore. Sure they might put 10 or 22 songs together on a single disc, but few actually create a thematic or artistic whole. Any way, my favourite album is "Dog, Man, Star" by Suede, and here are my 3 favourite tracks, in order of third to first, with no commentary necessary.

Track 1 - "Still Life"

Track 2 - "The 2 of Us"

Track 3 - "The Asphalt World"

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

30 Day Song Challenge - Day 18

Part two the most difficult themes for this 30 Day Song Challenge, songs I wish I heard on the radio. Actually this isn't as difficult as yesterday's theme because when I do listen to the radio I often find myself muttering about the parochial nature of the music choices, or the obviousness of the music when there is a show that I listen to vaguely regularly. Our local NPR station, which I mentioned yesterday, has a weekly show called Thistle and Shamrock that I try to listen to most weeks, so here are some tunes I would like to hear on that particular show.

Track 1 - "Brave Foot Soldiers" by Wolfstone

A song about a march organised by the Scottish Trade Unions Congress in 1993 in support of that most "basic human right: the right to work".

Track 2 - "Black is the Colour" by Cara Dillon

I first heard Cara Dillon when I found her profile on Myspace, and just fell in love with her beautiful voice, and this song in particular was a favourite. It still sends tingles up my spine.

Track 3 - "Bean Pháidín" by Lasairfhíona Ní Chonaola

Another case of hearing her stuff on Myspace, but in this case I went and bought her album into the bargain.

Of the three, the one that would most impress me being played on the radio is Bean Pháidín.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

30 day Song Challenge - Day 17

I think today, and possibly tomorrow, poses the most difficult selection when it comes to this 30 Day Song Challenge malarky. The theme is a songs that "you hear on the radio often". Hmmm, I don't listen to the radio much, unless it is the BBC World Service, and when I lived in the UK over a decade ago, I was a convinced Radio 5 listener, with the occasional dash of Radio 4 thrown in for good measure. As you can imagine, I am very much out of touch with modern chart music.

Given that I listen to our local NPR station here in Virginia, WVTF, I do get to hear quite a bit of classical music, so here are some of the highlights of recent listening.

Track 1 - "Song to the Moon" from Rusalka by Dvořák, sung by Gabriela Beňačková

Not only does Beňačková have a beautiful voice, but this aria from Rusalka is simply haunting.

Track 2 - "Papageno" from The Magic Flute by Mozart

The Magic Flute is my favourite opera, and I have no qualms in admitting that I love to sit and listen to whole thing at work, and have been known to sing along to myself - where I know the words.

Track 3 - "Land of Hope and Glory" by Edward Elgar and A.C. Benson, from the 2009 Proms

A wonderfully stirring ditty and lyrics that make my want to sing loud and proud, in as thoroughly an unBritish manner as possible of course.

Oh what the heck, I have to choice the Elgar/Benson stuff, even listening to it now has me thinking about cricket on the village green, maiden aunts cycling to church, oh god, I think I'm going to puke.

Monday, April 25, 2011

30 Day Song Challenge - Day 16

Day 16 sees the theme of songs I loved by now hate, so join me on this walk of shame...

Track 1 - "Kiss Me" by Sixpence None The Richer

I wish I could give you a reasonable excuse for my hating of this song, especially as for a few summers in the early Noughties I loved it! Perhaps it is a vomit inducing lyrics? The bubble gum sweet upbeatness? Whatever it is, this song just makes me want to puke.

Track 2 - "Lovefool" by The Cardigans

To think I went and bought an entire album on the basis of this song! What was I thinking - actually it was probably because the lead singer is hot. Still, that is no basis for a long time musical relationship, and I soon fell out of love with this tripe.

Track 3 - "Bitter Sweet Symphony" by The Verve

Ok the song a decent piece of music, but it went through a phase of being played and played until the lasers had worn a groove into the CD. If absence makes the heart grow fonder then this is definitely a case of familiarity breeding contempt.

The worst of the 3 there is Kiss Me, what dire, washed out crap that was.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

30 Day Song Challenge - Day 15

Here we are at the half way point, and today's theme is "songs that describe you". This should be weird, so let's dive on in....

Track 1 - "Driving In my Car" by Madness

I only got my driving license in 2009, mainly because Prague has an incredible public transport system and so having a car was completely pointless. However, moving to the States made it a priority to learn to drive, and so at the age of 33 I finally took the plunge and did so. The exam itself was a bit of a joke really, a ten minute spin round the block and hey presto! Admittedly I failed the written exam first time round, mainly due to getting confused between metres and feet - the sooner the world goes metric, the better.

Track 2 - "Fields of Anfield Road" by The Kop

I love the original song, The Fields of Athenry, but being a Liverpool fan, I prefer this version.

Track 3 - "Wild Rover" by The Corries

Since I left home at 19, I have lived in England, the Czech Republic, Belarus and the US. As a kid I lived in England, Scotland, Wales and Germany. Even now, I am sure there will be other places to live and experience before I finally find a place to stop and put down some roots.

Of the three, it is Wild Rover that I think best describes me and my life.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

30 Day Song Challenge - Day 14

I have fairly strong opinions about most things, well you need to be opinionated to write a blog, let alone three. Our theme today is songs that no-one would expect me to like. In the interests of objectivity (if it exists of course), I asked Mrs Velkyal for some songs that she never expected me to like.

Track 1 - "Young Hearts Run Free" by Kym Mazelle

I think Baz Luhrman's interpretation of Romeo and Juliet was excellent, and snooty pillocks who complain that "it just isn't Shakespeare" clearly have no idea about reader response theory. A curse on their houses!

Track 2 - "Holding out for a hero" by Bonny Tyler

Mrs V is sitting aghast as I play this track whilst writing the post. Honestly, you have never see such a look of incredulity.

Track 3 - "Deeper River" by Dusted

Again a track from one of my favourite movies, A Life Less Ordinary.

Well that was fun, unless you are Mrs Velkyal! If I were to choose just one, it would be Deeper River, especially this remix.

Friday, April 22, 2011

30 Day Song Challenge - Day 13

Day 13 is a Friday! Is it unlucky? Is it bollocks! Anyway, the theme today is songs that are a guilty pleasure, which is a slightly weird concept because one thing you learn in permissive Prague is that not to feel guilt for your pleasures. To the songs though....

Track 1 - "Can't Get You Out of my Head" by Kylie Minogue

Always reminds me of the old joke "what is the difference between driving a Skoda and putting your hand in Kylie's top? You feel a bigger tit in a Skoda!". This song though is fantastic!

Track 2 - "The Final Countdown" by Europe

Hair band, 1980s, what's not to hate? The fact that Europe were playing when I first kissed my wife? I guess it helps to know what a Friday night in Lucerna means!!

Track 3 - "Oh Diane" by Fleetwood Mac

Stevie Nicks is apparently something of a distant cousin, but driving the country roads around Charlottesville listening to Fleetwood Mac at full volume is such a great way to feel happy, and this song just tops the drive off to a tee.

If I can only pick 1 of the three, the Europe have to take the biscuit. So much wrong with it, but I love that song.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

30 Day Song Challenge - Day 12

Doing an about face from yesterday, the theme for day 12 is a "song by a band you hate". As you can imagine for an opinionated git like me, there is an extensive list of musical crap out there. Here are three, each from a band I hate. No words are necessary, the horror of the music speaks for itself.

Track 1 - "Blue Monday" by New Order

Track 2 - "Fields of Gold" by Sting

Track 3 - "eSeMeS" by Lucie Bílá

Goodness me, I feel physically sick right now.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

30 Day Song Challenge - Day 11

Day 11 sees the theme "a song from your favourite band", finally a reasonably simple theme. I have many bands that I like, but when push comes to shove, there is one band that simply stands head and shoulders above all the others. The Smiths. The three tracks I present here are in order of preference, from 3rd to 1st.

Track 1 - "Hand in Glove"

Track 2 - "Girlfriend in a Coma"

Track 3 - "This Charming Man - New York Vocal"

There we go, that was easy.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

30 Day Song Challenge - Day 10

A third of the way in and time for a rest, or at least some songs that make me fall asleep. When I was a kid I had a German made wall radio which I kept next to my head when I went to bed, and so I would fall asleep listening to something or other. It was a habit that continued pretty much up to the time Mrs Velkyal moved in with me. A lot of my favourite music comes from Ireland and Scotland, I love folk music, Celtic music, whatever you want to call it, so naturally these dominate this category.

Track 1 - "Beyond These Shores" by Iona

Iona have long been one of my favourite bands, ever since I picked up a copy of Book of Kells on cassette and would listen to it on my walkman whilst going to sleep, despite the opinions of some people I knew then who regarded it as New Age music as thus intrinsically evil - one of the best things I ever did in life was reject that way of thinking. This track comes from the album of the same name and is inspired both by a Psalm and the Journey of Saint Brendan, one of the most fascinating stories from medieval literature.

Track 2 - "Winter, Fire and Snow" by Anuna

I really like listening to choirs, the human voice is so majestic and awe inspiring. Anuna are an Irish choir that I think make some of the most achingly beautiful music possible, this song is simply heart wrenching.

Track 3 - "Maria Solina" by Carlos Nunez

When you think of Celtic music you think of Spain don't you? Well, if the answer to that question was "no", then I seriously recommend you start looking into the music of Galicia, and in particular Carlos Nunez. I can't remember the name of the woman singing this song, but I think she has a beautiful voice and has sung me to sleep on many a night.

Of the three tracks above, "Beyond These Shores" holds a special place in my world. Whenever I hear this song I am reminded of the Atlantic ocean, which was just a mile or so from the house I grew up in on the Isle of Benbecula. Home, a place of peace, a place of rest.

Monday, April 18, 2011

30 Day Song Challenge - Day 9

As I surveyed the list of topics for the 30 Day Song Challenge, I immediately knew that day 9 would be one of the most difficult. Not for reasons of too many choices, but rather because I really do not like dancing. When I do out to a club or a disco it is usually a case of going out with mates and enjoying the music and being the keeper of the table/space at the bar and drinking whilst watching everyone else dance. I can count on three fingers the number of times I have danced in the near 6 years I have been in a relationship with Mrs Velkyal; the night we met, a friend's birthday a few weeks later; the wedding. It is then with trepidation and wishing foot shuffling was regarded as dancing, that I offer these tracks.

Track 1 - "Beyond the Sea" by Bobby Darin

It may come as something of a surprise to some that I like the occasional bit of Big Band and Swing. I first heard this song when I was at college, when I went to see the film "A Life Less Ordinary" - still one of my favourites! I have actually been known to "dance" (if you can call my uncoordinated attempts at movement thus) to this track with as much abandon as can be mustered. In the privacy of my own room of course.

Track 2 - "Tom's Diner" by Suzanne Vega (DNA 12" Remix)

Mrs Velkyal reliably informed me that this is one of the songs we danced to at my friend's birthday party in 2005 - if I remember rightly it was her 25th. Naturally I defer to the wife's greater knowledge of my dancing inability.

Track 3 - "Baggy Trousers" by Madness

Back in the days of my uninhibited childhood, before I discovered the immense power that the opposite sex can have on your self-esteem and confidence, I liked to bounce around the living room while watching Top of the Pops, and this is one of the songs I most remember dancing round to, while pretending to play the saxophone.

For pure nostalgia reasons, Baggy Trousers has to be my track for today.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

30 Day Song Challenge - Day 8

I sing in the car quite often, usually when Mrs Velkyal isn't there and I can put the volume up to an indecent level and just kind of let loose. Today's theme is songs that I know all the words to, given my singing habit, I know the words to an awful lot of songs, so I will give you just three favourites and leave it at that for today.

Track 1 - "Embarrassment" by Madness

Track 2 - "Black Velvet Band" by The Dubliners

Track 3 - "You'll Never Walk Alone" best sung by the Kop

If I had to choose one song of the three it would be You'll Never Walk Alone, for obvious reasons to those that know me.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

30 Day Song Challenge - Day 7

We've had songs that remind me of someone, songs for somewhere and today's theme is songs that remind you of somewhen, although the actual term is "a certain event". I want to avoid going for obvious events, weddings and the like, so let's go.

Track 1 - "I of the Mourning" by Smashing Pumpkins

OK not exactly a specific event but rather a ten day marathon of losing myself in someone else's mind, missing many a stop on the metro in Prague and hoping my students would cancel late so I would get paid anyway and not have to stop reading. I was bored one Friday afternoon. Waiting for a friend to finish teaching his lessons before we went to the pub, I picked up an old battered copy of The Lord of the Rings and started to read. I had intended just to fill some time, and ended up absorbed by the story. I would read on the metro, on trams, on buses, in cafes between lessons, and while reading I would listen to my walkman, and for the entire time it took to read the book, I was listening to Machina/The Machines of God by Smashing Pumpkins. This track always reminds me of the charge of the Riders of Rohan.

Track 2 - "Ruby over Diamonds" by Kashmir

If you are of a certain vintage, the term "walkman" is more than just a brand of MP3 player from Sony, it is the beginning of your journey with portable music. The original Walkman was a portable cassette player, which morphed into the Discman portable CD player and then back to Walkman for MP3. I got my first walkman as a kid, living in Germany, and had one well into the 21st century. I also had a discman, but I had a bigger collection of cassettes than CDs until about 2005. Overtime I have traded up from cassettes to CDs - I am not the kind of person to go crazy for the latest whizz bang gizmo and spend buckets of cash on getting my favourite music in the right format. Yes, I have a good laugh at all the people that went nuts over minidisc when it was locked in a battle for the future of music with MP3. Anyway, in 2007 I finally laid my Walkman cassette player to rest, and bought a Walkman MP3 player and the first album to go said player was Zitilites by Danish band Kashmir (thanks to my friend in Astrid for introducing me to them, and Mew). Ruby over Diamonds is my favourite song from that album.

Track 3 - "Uprising" by Muse

In July 2009 Mrs Velkyal and I left Prague and moved to the US, spending a month in South Carolina before coming up the road to Charlottesville, Virginia. A couple of months after we arrived, we got tickets to see U2 in concert at the University of Virginia's Scott Stadium, which I wrote about on one of my other blogs. Supporting U2 that night were Muse, who were a new band to Mrs V and I, and we thought their set was the highlight of the night, as excellent as U2 were as well. I think that concert was our first taste of culture shock. Going to a gig, I assumed there would be a bar in the venue and that it would be an adult event. How naive of me, no bar, kids wandering around and an all round family friendly atmosphere, I gringed more than once that night, it was as if rock music had got all comfortable with Walt Disney.

Of the three track there, I think my favourite is the Smashing Pumpkins, I still see Theoden leading the charge of Rohirrim against the walls of Minas Tirith every time I listen to that track.

Friday, April 15, 2011

30 Day Song Challenge - Day 6

I have lived in many places, both as a kid wherever the British Army decided to post my father, and then as an adult, as I discovered the joys of being abroad in the world. The theme for day 6 of the 30 Day Song Challenge is being reminded of somewhere, this may is tricky with so many places and so much music.

Track 1 - "I Like It" by Gerry and the Pacemakers

One of the places we were sent with the Army, several times in fact, was a town called Celle, in the north of Germany. When my elder brothers would come home from boarding school for the summer, we would go to amusement parks and zoos. One such amusement park was Heide-Park near Soltau. During one such trip there was a thunderstorm and rained lashed down while we sat in the car dejected. Being the driver, my dad was king of the cassette player, and this song came on, and my elder brother Scott muttered "well, I don't" at the end of the one chorus of "I like it".

Track 2 - "Going Home" by Runrig

Home is a troubling concept for Army brats. Is it the place you were born in, spent a few months in and then moved on to the next posting? Is it where your parents come from, and then what if they come from opposite ends of the country? Is it where you spent your childhood before secondary school, and what if you went to 4 primary schools in 4 countries? For me, home is where I spent more time than anywhere else before becoming an adult. That place is the Outer Hebrides, in particular the island of Benbecula. Sure, my brothers are scattered around the UK, and soon to be the world, my parents are in a tiny French hamlet, but home is still a windswept island on the very edge of Europe.

Track 3 - "Come Back to Camden" by Morrissey

As I said about the previous track, my parents come from opposite ends of Great Britain, mum is from Fraserburgh in Scotland, dad is a Londoner. Inevitably we spent time in London as kids, dad's mum was the only grandparent I ever actually knew. There is line in this song about drinking "tea with the taste of the Thames" which makes me think of sitting in her old council flat drinking tea that had the classic hard water scum floating on the top. We would go and try to feed the ducks in Gunnersbury Park, and instead watch the carp rise to take the bread. Nan would make cheese and onion sandwiches, sometimes I think she survived on cheese and onion sandwiches and a nice cup of tea. I love going to London whenever I have the opportunity.

This one is actually quite simple because for all my liking for London and being a Germanophile, it is always Uist that I think of most, and if I do ever tire of travelling around, hopefully it will at least be the West of Scotland that I go home to.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

30 Day Song Challenge - Day 5

Songs that remind you of someone. Hmmm, how easy would it be to get all maudlin and look back to painful break ups and shitty situations? But, you know, I love my life as it is now - I wouldn't change my wife for any other woman on the planet. So I think I will take the route of songs that remind me of people that mean a lot to me.

Track 1 - "Torn" by Natalie Imbruglia

When I was a student in Birmingham, my best mate Cristi and I were responsible for clearing up after the live in students had breakfast. While cleaning various pots and pans, we would listen to Chris Evans on Radio 1. Chris Evans made a point of playing Natalie Imbruglia's cover version of "Torn" until it got to number 1 in the charts, and he played it every morning while we were working in the kitchen and we both loved the song. Even though I haven't seen Cristi in well over a decade now, I still regard him as one of my best friends and one of the most genuinely wonderful human beings I know.

Track 2 - "Shoals O'Herring" by The Corries

Yes another song by The Corries, but this song always makes me think of someone I have never met, and never will, my grandfather. My mother's family come from Fraserburgh in the north east of Scotland, a town more famous these days for the BrewDog brewery. Mum's family were fishermen, working up and down the east coast of Great Britain, following the herring. In my grandfather's eventful and thoroughly unorthodox life, one of his jobs was as the Managing Director for a fish canning company in Lowestoft, before emigrating out to Adelaide in Australia.

Track 3 - "Start!" by The Jam

I have three brothers, two older and one younger. When my little brother and I were kids, my eldest brother Mark came to live at home for a while. Every Saturday we would get the newspaper, decide what we thought the football scores would be that day, pick a horse from the day's races and he would put a £1 bet on for us, a fiver on the Grand National. Mark was a fan of The Jam (actually a fair bit of my musical taste is entirely his fault), and he had this song as a 7" single. We listened to this song a lot.

I am not going to decide on a single track from these three. They are all excellent tracks and the people they bring to mind are, or were, all excellent people as well.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

30 Day Song Challenge - Day 4

Today's little jaunt through my musical tastes is around the theme of songs that make me sad. Usually songs that make me sad are songs that actually make me feel either melancholy or nostalgic rather that actually upset. So, to today's videos...

Track 1 - "Loch Tay Song" by The Corries

This traditional Scottish song is so full of pathos and pain that there are times when I physicaly cry when I listen to it. I can't help but think of home whenever I listen to The Corries, even though the concept of "home" is a tricky one for an Army brat.

Track 2 - "The Green Fields of France" by The Fureys

Originally written by Eric Bogle, this song captures the futility of war so perfectly, and especially the waste of a generation that was supposed to be the war to end all wars. Although it has been recorded by many acts, The Fureys do it best for me.

Track 3 - "Miserere Mei Deus" by Allegri, performed by Kings College Chapel Choir

Well, nobody said it had to be modern. Quite often I listen to this when I am feeling down and I find comfort in the beauty of human genius. That perfect harmony of voices is simply beautiful.

Three quite different tracks there, but the song that makes me feel the saddest is "The Green Fields of France" because it seems we never learn that war solves nothing, and simply shares the pain of humanity to the widest audience available.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

30 Day Song Challenge - Day 3

Day 3's theme is songs that make you happy. Bit of a strange topic for me in some ways, do they means songs I listen to when I am feeling down so that I feel better, or songs I listen to when I am happy? I am going to assume that both are acceptable, and that may make my 3 selections somewhat weird.....

Track 1 - "Today" - Smashing Pumpkins

The first time I listened to Billy Corgan and co was back in Uist when a friend lent me "Siamese Dream", and it simply blew me away. "Today" was the highlight of the album, quickly followed by "Disarm". That riff, the juxtaposition of the distorted guitars and soaring chorus never fail to make me smile.

Track 2 - "Come on Eileen" - Dexys Midnight Runners

If you can listen to this song and not tap your foot and smile, then you must be dead.

Track 3 - "Live It Up" - Mental As Anything

Just a great feel good tune, catchy chorus (which make the wife roll her eyes as I sing it in the car!).

Of the three track there, I think the one that makes me happiest when I listen to it has to be the one from Down Under - Live It Up it is!

Monday, April 11, 2011

30 Day Song Challenge - Day 2

So the theme for today's song is "your least favourite song", which I assume is just a nice way of saying, the song you hate most.

Here are the contenders:

Track 1 - "How Soon is Now" - T.a.T.u.

First a couple of qualifying statements, I love The Smiths, I love this song, I quite T.a.T.u. but this must be the most perfect storm of shit in the history of humanity. They simply do not have the charisma, vocal range or anything else involving talent to pull this song off. Shite, utter shite. So bad, I can't even listen to the end of it.

Track 2 - "The One and Only" - Chesney Hawkes

Utter crap. End. Of. Story.

Track 3 - "Especially For You" - Jason Donovan and Kylie Minogue

See above. Their acting in Neighbours was piss poor, and this was no improvement. Gut wretchingly awful.

How quite one chooses from this collection of dross is beyond me, but for pure crime against a great song, by a great band, T.a.T.u. must take the award for my least favourite song, and no amount of faux lesbian action on stage can redeem them.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

30 Day Song Challenge - Day 1

I have noticed lately that several of my friends on Facebook have been taking part in something called the 30 Day Song Challenge. Intrigued, I did a quick search on Google and found the website that seems to have started the whole thing. To cut a short story even shorter, I decided to take on the challenge, but to do it through this blog rather than Facebook, and to add a bit of a twist, to post three tracks for each day and choose the winner from those.

Day one of the project is dedicated to "Your Favourite Song". Favourite song is such a broad topic, so I narrowed it down by defining "favourite" as a song that I have no problem whatsoever clicking repeat to, and listening to it more than twice in a row. So, here goes.......

Track 1 - "Sen" by Lucie

It is rather inevitable I guess that after 10 years in Prague, there would be a Czech song or two floating around as my favourites. I went to see Lucie in concert at the old Slavia Prague football stadium, in 2001 I think. The title of the song in English is "Dream".

Track 2 - "Stay Together" by Suede

I have been a fan of Suede for years, I loved the Dog, Man, Star album, and several of its tracks could have made it into this list. I first heard "Stay Together" on the radio and it was love at first listen.

Track 3 - "While You Sleep" by The Mutton Birds

Walking into the centre of Birmingham one Saturday morning, when I was a student, I saw the album cover for "Envy of Angels" by The Mutton Birds. I loved the picture on the cover and so splashed the cash to buy the CD - a bad habit of mine is buying albums because of the cover art, which may explain somewhat why I buy albums rather than downloading them, I love reading the booklets. Anyway, when I got back to my dorm I chucked the disc in and found that I liked the music, and this song was the highlight. I love the sheer happiness that the songs gives me every time I listen to it. When The Mutton Birds came to Brum on tour in 1998, my mate Cristi and I went along to the gig and had a great night out.

Choosing a favourite song from those three is, naturally, very difficult. However, purely the fact that I love to put this song on in the car and sing loudly while driving, my favourite song has to be "While You Sleep" by The Mutton Birds.