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Stornoway at the Barbican

I had the pleasure of seeing Stornoway play at the Barbican last night. This band occupies a special place in my heart these days; I discovered their first album early in my relationship with Kirst, and we both loved it. Listening to it always brings back good memories. Then their second LP – Tales from Terra Firma – came out during our sabbatical earlier in the year, so that’s now associated with Patagonian coach rides and a sun-drenched boat ride across Lake Titicaca…

Even without those positive associations, Stornoway are right up my street. Gorgeous melodies and lyrics, and in Brian Biggs, a distinctive vocal that rings clear as a bell. The band more than lived up to expectation last night; the only disappointment from my perspective was no Here Comes The Blackout or The Bigger Picture. You can’t have it all I guess. Fuel Up and You Take Me As I Am were big highlights, as was a beautiful unplugged section. Good times.

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Hiking around Keswick

As will probably preface every blog entry hereon in, long time no post. One reason of many was a weekend trip to Keswick, back at the start of November. Having never been to the Lake District this was an area I’ve wanted to visit for years, and it was great to finally see these iconic rolling hills for myself.  Just a little more patience was required before I managed it, though. The Lake District is renowned for its rain, and sure enough the Saturday was a total washout; five minutes after leaving our B&B the heavens opened, lashing the fells deep into the night. In other words, a good day to blow the budget in Keswick’s many pubs and restaurants.

On the Sunday and Monday we were rewarded with perfect Autumn weather, though, and devoted the days to a circuit of Derwent Water and a yomp up Walla Crag. Plenty more shots await in my Keswick set on Flickr.

Autumn in the Lake District

Keswick, Lake District

Autumn carpet

The calm of Mallorca

Life’s been hectic of late. Before this particular batch of busyness, though, we spent a lovely week in Mallorca – grabbing the last few rays of summer before it left Europe. The calmness of these shots feels at odds with the last few weeks (and the workmen drilling the road outside as I write).

Balearic sunset

Mallorca, though. What a wonderful, seductive place. So much so that we got engaged while out there – which explains much of our recent activity, as we realise next year isn’t that far off when it comes to finding (and affording!) venues and the like.

Photography took a back seat to relaxation, but nonetheless it was  my first chance to try the Fuji X-E1 in a more typical setting for my photography.  I’m definitely not as comfortable with it as my 40D, which fits like a comfy (if heavy) pair of slippers. Nonetheless I came back with a few shots I was pleased with, and as many have said, the jpegs were so good I didn’t need much, if any time in post. I could get used to that, as my backlog from South America is still massive.

Lots more from Mallorca in this Flickr set.

Ses Salines

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A gushing fan post about Frank Hamilton

Frank Hamilton

Back in 2008 I received an email from a former colleague. Her younger sister was singing with a guy playing the Bedford in Balham (my local, and a lynchpin of South London’s music scene). Did I fancy heading along to the gig, given I lived round the corner?

I did fancy heading along, and that guy turned out to be Frank Hamilton, who played a cracking set of perfectly formed songs. There was an honesty and humour to his lyrics, a tenderness for loves lost, current or never quite won,  all tied to excellent melodies and a great voice. I was an instant fan – it’s the sort of thing I’m a total sucker for. After the gig I told him so, signed up to his mailing list, and over the following year or two nabbed the odd MP3 he released.

Frank Hamilton

Sadly those mails seemed to dry up, and whenever You, Your Cat & Me popped up on my iPod I wondered what had happened – he was surely way too good not to be making a success of things.

That blackout lasted until last year, when I rediscovered Frank through his One Song a Week project, then running here on WordPress. It was just as it sounds – he wrote, recorded and released one song a week throughout 2012.  The concept was much like his songs, really; deceptively simple, rarely done so well.

A collection of those songs is on iTunes and is a brilliant buy. It’s easily my most played album this year (though Alt-J are doing well at the mo). The bedroom production means the songs need to stand on their own merits, and that they do effortlessly. As ever, it’s the hallmark of a great album that I seem to have a different favourite each time I go back.

Frank Hamilton, Highbury Garage

Anyway, this is all a long-winded preamble to the fact that last night Frank played Highbury Garage, and the gig just underlined what a massive talent he is. In a way he’s come on miles from that Bedford show five years ago – more confident, more polished – but the most important things were just as I remembered. Wonderful tunes, clever lyrics; it was great to see a man whose star is surely back on the rise.

A few shots from last night, shot with my now trusty Fuji X-E1, pepper this post.

Oh, and excuse the first-name term vibes in this post. Maybe it’s the way I first discovered his music, or his conversational presence on social media, or simply because his songs so consistently strike a chord with me, but it can almost feel like I sorta know Frank, just a little bit. I’d love to see him get the success I think he deserves. Going by last night’s atmosphere, I suspect I’m not the only one.

Trekking in El Chaltén

Another batch of travel shots. Given I’m now working on images taken back in late March, I’m finding the distance helps me to identify the keepers; it’s also a reminder that we did actually have this glorious, uninterrupted slab of free time. It seems so long ago already.

El Chaltén is Patagonia at its picture-postcard best. Here’s a handful of shots from a very memorable hiking trip; there are a few more up on my Flickr set.

Mount Fitz Roy

Moonrise, El Chaltén

Magellan woodpecker

El Chaltén, Argentina

Hiking in El Chaltén