A Tale Of Harps and Hearts

I was up at the crack of dawn, as I often am, a couple of days ago when this old tune from my early teenage years started playing in my head. It continued playing for much of the day as I desperately searched to see if I had the album from which it came. The song had been recorded by a white Californian, but you could have been forgiven for thinking it was a black man singing raw Delta Blues, and the singer was indeed compared very favourably with Howlin Wolf, who was one his main musical heroes.

Donald Glenn Vliet was born in  1941, and was the son of a Dutch American. Don would often claim that one of his ancestors was a close friend of Rembrandt, who was a major inspiration for him. He was a precociously talented artist and sculptor as a young child.

He is said to have begun drawing and sculpting at the age of four. His subjects reflected his obsession with animals, particularly dinosaurs, fish, African mammals and lemurs. At the age of nine he won a children’s sculpting competition organised for the Los Angeles Zoo in Griffith Park by a local sculptor, Agostinho Rodrigues. This led him to become a student of Rodrigues for several years. During this time, Vliet received several offers of sponsorship from local businesses, including one from a local creamery which would have allowed him  to go and study marble sculpture for 6 years in Italy. He is said to have turned all these offers down, largely due to his parents intense disapproval of art in general, which they associated with homosexuality. His relationship with his parents became very strained as a result, and from his early teenage years onwards he would remain locked in his bedroom, only emerging each day to go to school. During this time, he became friends with another boy at school called Francis, who had a similarly strained relationship with his parents, and the two of them would spend hours together locked in Donald’s bedroom listening to old Delta blues records by Robert Johnson and Son House, Chicago blues by the likes of Howlin Wolf and Muddy Waters, along with Jazz records by  Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane and Thelonius Monk.

Francis started to play the drums and studied orchestral drumming for a time and played drums with a few local bands, before switching to electric guitar later. He became interested in avant-garde music after hearing of a local record shop who had boasted of having such a wildly eclectic stock of records, that they had recently even sold a copy of ‘The Complete Works of Edgar Varese, Vol 1′. Francis was so intrigued by the claim that he spent the next year trying to find another copy of the album, which he eventually did, and this led him to eventually discover Stravinsky, Schoenberg and other avant-garde composers all of whom would remain major inspirations to both youngsters in their later musical careers.

Donald had had major difficulties at school, being severely dyslexic throughout his life, and yet he was a prolific poet and largely self-taught artist, and managed to teach himself to play the harmonica, saxophones and clarinets while being unable to read music. And despite his severely withdrawn personality, with Francis’s encouragement,  he eventually overcame his shyness and found that he was in possession of a very powerful 5-octave range singing voice.

Both lads would go on to become acknowledged as major musical creative geniuses.   Francis recorded over 60 albums  and achieved some considerable commercial success, despite his strongly held and forcefully voiced anti-establishment views, his penchant for bitingly satirical lyrics and his off-the-wall Dada-esque stageshows. Donald made just 13 records before retiring from music to devote himself to painting and sculpture and living as a recluse in the Mohave desert where he had lived in his later childhood. His paintings and sculptures command very high prices these days. During his musical career however, he was perpetually broke and notorious for paying his band peanuts if they got paid at all.

Francis would shorten his name to Frank, and form the ‘Mothers of Invention’  before eventually going solo. Donald became Don Van Vliet, but adopted the persona of a character written for him in one of Frank’s early plays as his stage name – Captain Beefheart. He joined a group of accomplished musicians as lead vocalist playing blues covers, before stamping his authority on them and making them his backing band and musical collaborators which played exclusively van Vliet compositions.

Captain Beefheart and the The Magic Band

Captain Beefheart and the The Magic Band

Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band – Gimme dat Harp, Boy

Harp Boogie

John Peel’s documentary tribute to Beefheart

Wiki entry


Don van Vliet, artist, composer and singer 1941-2010

Don van Vliet, artist, composer and singer 1941-2010

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Poem – Today might be my Wedding Day

Today Might be my Wedding Day

I don’t know how, or when, or why
But I feel that I must kiss the sky
In a last attempt to contact my love
Despite all the shit she’s thrown from above
For today might be my wedding day

Its quite unusual, that is true
To make an appeal that I might rue
But love is love and knows no bounds
Despite the unleashing of legal hounds
For today might be my wedding day

I dont know why and care even less
That this appeal may cause some stress
To me especially at a guess
It really could land me in quite a mess
But today might be my wedding day

Its not that I’m forgetful and missed my chance
To glory in life’s better dance
Two souls as one and quite entwined
No complex details, unrefined
For today might be my wedding day

A silly omission set us apart
No real biggie, but it tore her heart
And now I must really play my part
To get wrongs righted, and try to restart
For today might be my wedding day

I know what you’re thinking, I think it too
Here’s one crazy loony, with a loose screw
Yet if you were in my place, what would YOU do
For today might be my wedding day

I really dont know how this poem will end
Will she still be an enemy, or can we refriend?
10 years is a long time, its a shame not to mend
A friendship broken, which I thought would never end
For today might be my wedding day

copyright Ian Cropton 21 June 2015

All Hail the King!!!

The Celtic Legend of the everlasting cyclical battles between the Oak King and the Holly King is the basis for one of the main tenets of Modern Day Celtic paganism, which in the UK, is primarily represented by the Druidic and Wiccan orders. The Oak King represents the god of Summer and the Light and is closely associated with the rising Sun and the full Sun; The Holly King is the god of winter and Darkness, and is closely associated with the setting Sun and its subsequent death and rebirth.

They fight each other twice a year for the right to become the Consort of the Goddess, Gaia, our mother Earth. The loser licks his wounds and prepares for the next battle.

The dual male to female relationship is often depicted by  3 visible phases of the Sun, the rising Sun(boyhood), the full Sun(Manhood), and the setting Sun(old man). This triple-glyph also represents for Wiccans, the same stages represented by the lunar cycle – Waxing moon(Maidenhood). Full moon(Womanhood) and waning moon(the old crone). The 4th stage when the Deity is not visible is associated with night-time(solar) and the new moon(lunar) and both are associated with death and rebirth. Eclipses, which occur with predictable regularity for the moon and are less frequent for the Sun are both considered magical and associated with increased energies.

My Green Man teeshirt, available at the Avebury Community shop

My Green Man teeshirt, available from the Avebury Community shop

There are two schools of thought about when the battles take place. Some believe they occur on the Solstices, when one King is at his strongest and the other at his weakest, while others believe the battles take place on the Spring and Autumn equinoxes. This seems to fit better with the realities of the agricultural year and of folkloric understanding.

Oak and Holly Kings

Oak and Holly Kings


The Battle of HollyOak

On the Spring Equinox, both Kings are equal in strength, but the Oak King’s power is increasing as the Holly King’s power is on the wane, and so the Oak King wins the battle.
On the Autumn equinox, the reverse holds true and the Holly King achieves the ascendancy.

Both Kings are aspects of the Green Man and are considered to be facets of the Horned God, which is the male half of the god/goddess pair in Paganist belief systems..

Having won the battle, the winner hopefully impregnates Gaia and the result of their union is born on or shortly after the succeeding Solstice. So the Oak King wins the battle on Spring Equinox, known as Ostara to pagans, and may impregnate Gaia immediately, and their son is born around Yule, the midwinter Solstice. If the impregnation doesn’t happen on the first attempt, he has 2 more chances – on Beltane, May 1, which is regarded as the 1st day of summer, and Litha, the Summer Solstice. The result of their union will be born on or shortly after Yule, the midwinter Solstice.

Conversely, the Holly King may impregnate Gaia on the Autumn Equinox and has 2 further chances – on Halloween(Samhein) and the midwinter Solstice(Yule). Their son will be born on or shortly after Litha, the Summer Solstice.

The remaining 2 Sabbats, Lughnasadh or Lammastide and Imbolc or Candlemas, represent the embryonic stage, where Imbolc in early February is associated with the first signs of spring, while Lughnasadh at the start of August is associated with the first signs of Autumn.

And so the battle continues endlessly, with the sons of the Oak and Holly Kings taking their father’s places as the Wheel of the Year keeps turning inexorably.

This is why the Solstices are considered the 2 most important dates in the pagan Calendar.

On summer solstice, the Oak King is at the height of his powers and has his last chance to impregnate Gaia, notwithstanding the fact that she has just given birth to the Holly King’s son.

So if on Midsummer Morning, you go to Avebury Stone Circle or Stonehenge, or any other of the Stone circles or Tors dotted around the UK, and considered sacred sites by Pagans, don’t be too surprised to see men dressed in green. All male pagans consider themselves to be Green men and the sons of one of the Kings. I myself am a son of the the Oak King, and was born in January. My relationship with the Roman god Janus is a whole other story………

And if you’re in a relationship with a Green man, expect a night of passionate lovemaking on Midsummer night 🙂

Stonehenge Summer Solstice ceremony 2013

Roy Harper: The Green Man

Jethro Tull: Songs from the Wood

David Gilmour: Fat Old Sun

More Green man pics here:


Well, its been a few years since I last signed on for Job Seekers Allowance, but the surreal situation I find myself in obliged me to do so again today.

So I took a nice walk across town to the Jobcentre today (I dunno why they call it Jobcentre Plus, if anything it should be called Jobcentre Minus IMO).

Bugger me, how things have changed. When I signed on at Stevenage a few years ago, the place was heaving Monday-Friday, 9-5 every day. Colchester Jobcentre was pretty sedate today, which you might expect to be their busiest time of the week.

Walked in, and spoke to the nice G4S Security Guard/Receptionist. ‘I’d like to make a new claim for Job Seekers Allowance please’.

He looked a bit flustered, and then spotted an Advisor and gratefully palmed me off to her.

JCPA: ‘Hello, can I help you?’
Me: ‘Yes, I’d like to make a new claim for Job Seekers Allowance, please’
JCPA: ‘Oh you now have to apply for Universal Credit’
Me: ‘OK, I’d like to apply for Universal Credit then, please’
JCPA: ‘Well, we don’t deal with applications at the Jobcentre anymore, you need to make your application online, or by phone. Do you have a computer at home?’
Me: ‘Yes, I do’
JCPA: OK when you get back home, go to the www.gov.uk/universalcredit website and make your claim there. I have a couple of leaflets which should guide you through the process’. And she went off to a cabinet, and fished out a couple of dodgy looking and badly photocopied sheets of paper, which she then very professionally folded into leaflets.

‘Umm thx’ sez I, and stomped off back home again. Well it was about a 20mins walk there, and a 20 mins walk back again with maybe 10 mins in the Jobcentre itself. Not that I’m complaining. Colchester is (IMO) a remarkeable town, and every bit of it has its own hidden treasures, so I don’t feel as if I’ve lost anything in apparently wasting an hour of my time.

So an hour later, with nothing to show for my efforts, I logs on to the Universal Credit site.

‘We’ll just run you through a few questions, which should no more than 5 mins to complete, to determine whether your eligible for Universal Credit’ it said.

‘OK, hit me’ sez I

Question 1: Please type in your NI number.

Okeydokey, I’d researched this one and felt very confident.

‘XX 999999 A’, I responded.

‘That is incorrect’ it said ‘Please re-enter’

OK lets try ‘XX999999A’ I thinks

And hooray, I’m off and running

Question 2: Please type in your postcode
Again, I lucked out by having memorised my postcode
‘COx 9XX’ I types

‘That is incorrect’ it said ‘Please re-enter’

Beginning to see a pattern here, I types ‘COx9XX’ and yay!!! I’m over the second hurdle.

Question 3: Blah, blah, blah
Question 4: Blah, blah, blah
Question 5: Blah, blah, blah
Question 6: Are you over 60 years years old, or have you just completed full-time education?

Me: Y

A quick fuzzy moment ensues as the UC daemon evaluates my answers and then……..

‘You are not eligible for Universal Credit at this time, please click the link to apply for Jobseekers Allowance’.

Clicketty click.

You are now making an application for Job Seekers Allowance.
‘We’ll just run you through a few questions, which should no more than 5 mins to complete, to determine whether your eligible for Jobseekers Allowance’ it said.

Question 1: Please type in your NI number.

Beginning to see a pattern, I types ‘XX999999A’.

And hooray, I’m off and running

Question 2: Please type in your postcode

I types ‘COx9XX’ and yay!!! I’m over the second hurdle.

Question 3: Blah, blah, blah
Question 4: Blah, blah, blah
Question 5: Blah, blah, blah
Question 6: Are you over 60 years years old, or have you just completed full-time education?

Me: Y

‘You appear to be eligible for Universal Credit, please click the link to apply’.

There is no link to say to say ‘No, I’m not’, so I don’t click the link.

After a couple of minutes of inactivity, I’m taken back to the Universal Credit hoop.

Question 1: Please type in your NI number.


Question 2: Please type in your postcode


Question 3: Blah, blah, blah
Question 4: Blah, blah, blah
Question 5: Blah, blah, blah
Question 6: Are you over 60 years years old, or have you just completed full-time education?

Me: Y

‘You are not eligible for Universal Credit at this time, please click the link to apply for Jobseekers Allowance’.

At this point, I begin to contemplate suicide for the first time in months, but…..

Clicketty click.

You are now making an application for Job Seekers Allowance.
‘We’ll just run you through a few questions, which should no more than 5 mins to complete, to determine whether your eligible for Jobseekers Allowance’ it said.

Question 1: Please type in your NI number.

Me: ‘XX999999A’.

Question 2: Please type in your postcode

Me: ‘COx9XX’ .

Question 3: Blah, blah, blah
Question 4: Blah, blah, blah
Question 5: Blah, blah, blah
Question 6: Are you over 60 years years old, or have you just completed full-time education?

Me: Y

‘I’m sorry, we are unable to process your application automatically, please phone
0845 999999 and one of our customer advisors will deal with your claim.

I confess at this point I’ve almost lost the will to live, but the donkey genes are very strong in this one, so I dial the number.

‘You have reached the Jobseekers Allowance claimline. All of our Customer Advisers are busy at the moment. Did you know that you can make online by visiting blah, blah, blah?’

I hang on. For 20 mins, by which time, I need to go for a pee. And so I do, taking the phone with me. There is an awkward moment when I’m having to use both hands to insert my catheter, and control the peeing, but mercifully, the loop of Vivadi’s 4 seasons, intertwined with exhortations to apply online, continue unabated.

After 40 minutes, I finally get through to a human.

‘Hello, this is Rebecca, how can I help you?’

Now, this is a dedicated line for new JSA claims only, so I hope I didn’t startle her too much by saying ‘I’d like to make a new claim for Job Seekers Allowance, please’

Rebecca: ‘I’m afraid we’re having a lot of technical issues at the moment, can I ask you to call back on Monday. I’m very sorry’

Me: ‘I’ll bet you are. I’ve been waiting 40 minutes to hear you say that’

Rebecca: ‘Well I can only apologise again. Please call back on Monday.

click. Burrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr


As a mainframe computer programmer of 25 years standing, I am appalled at the
shiity level of computer systems which have been bought and paid for on our behalf by fucking idiots like Iain Duncan Smith.

I’d personally be fucking ashamed of putting my name to this heap of crap.

1. On checking my NI number(Question 1), it should have been apparent that I am over 60 years old and thus not eligible for UC, so no need to continue with any further questioning.

2. Having been confirmed as ineligible for UC, I see no good reason for being returned to the UC questionnaire.

3. A 40 minute wait time to answer the the eventual phone call is inexcusable

4. If it weren’t for my donkey genes, I suspect I might have been slitting my wrists sometime earlier today. Or playing Leonard Cohen Lps (which is just as effective).

And that is the point.

The system is designed to put people off from claiming what is an inexorable right, bought and paid for my most working people’s NI contributions over their entire working career.

Well screw you Iain Duncan Smith. I have £29 quid in my bank account, and I’m not drunk enough yet, so I may be toddling up to to the Co-op before it shuts tonight for more alcohol.

How dare you treat people like this?
How dare you replace a perfectly good system, where perfectly good human Job Centre Advisors figured out what the score was, and what was needed, by several piles of shit masquerading as intelligent computer systems?

Shame on you. You are a useless tosser and you need to stand down and let someone with a compassionate heart and brain take the reins.

These are difficult times, to be sure. You really need to be concentrating on making things easier for people.

Instead, it seems that you are content on making things 10 times worse.

<Rant mode off>


Poem: The One that Got Away

The phrase ‘The One that got away’ has been going round and round in my head for a few days now. And this morning, this popped out. Tissues at the ready, it made me blub copiously writing it, which is no bad thing.

The One that Got Away
I dreamed me a dream just the other day
Of lovers and angels who’d returned to say
The reasons they’d left me
To be the ones that got away.

First came cousin Margaret
My closest friend at play
Though 12 years separated us
We saw each other most every day
For my very first 4 years in life’s long lilting play
I proposed that we marry
On my eighth birthday
She smiled and said gently
‘Well maybe we may
If your love for me endures till a long distant day’
Then she married a footballer
On a dull dismal day
I was happy for her, at the end of the day
But still when I listened, I heard a voice say
This is just a temporary setback
She’ll be back someday
And sure enough in a few years her marriage gave way
Her husband was caught red-handed in play
With the young woman she trusted
To babysit when they were away
I think that I cried to hear her sad news
Well we all did that day, we all had the blues
When Margaret walked out and came back to stay
With her heart and her mind in complete disarray
Then, soon after my brother he too went away
Quite why I still don’t know, and can’t really say
But I do know that day left me totally bereft
My partner in crime had been taken by theft
Twas a miserable midwinter morning that day
Twas quite foggy and chilly, drizzly and grey
We waited to cross over a busy highway
An old man with a lollipop easing our way
Then a squeal of brakes from an unseen car
And a sickening thud as he went too far
And screaming kids, it was quite bizarre
And a glimpse of a broken doll that would scar
My life from right then and for many a day
Oh Malcolm, my brother, why did you stray?
But time heals all things the people all say
And so I was I left to find my own way
Out of the darkness, like an abandoned stray
No help or support offered, such was the way
They said it was best for me, back in the day
Then 2 years on, Margaret was dating again
And immediately lucked out and found a good man
Well I have to admit, that wasnt my plan
So the 12-year old manchild swallowed his pain
As his sweetheart went off and left him again
But Jim was a good ‘un, that much was plain
He was happy to see she was happy again
Jim and Margaret were blessed, she was such a good wife
They grew vegetables in Cornwall, just like ‘The Good Life’
But stormclouds were forming, and trouble and strife
Were all set to dash them, on the rocks they call life
For sadly, poor Margaret discovered a lump
And went to her doctor, who gave her the hump
Her worst fears confirmed, she crashed down with a bump
And her life was extinguished and consigned to the dump
But we who remain still remember her smile
Her elegant beauty, her feminine guile
And I would move mountains or walk a long mile
Just to see her again, and talk for a while
I dreamed me a dream just the other day
Of lovers and angels who’d returned to say
The reasons they’d left me
To be the ones that got away
But in truth and good conscience
I think its fair to say
That they never left me, nor went away
For they live in me now to fight another day
Copyright Ian Cropton 6th June 2015
Dedicated to my cousin Margaret Florence Murphy and my brother Malcolm Robert Cropton. May they Rest in Peace
Jimi Hendrix – Angel

The Key to the Castle

I had another ‘old codger’ moment earlier today frown emoticon. I’d been clearing out the accumulated crap from my bedroom very early and come across one of those neck-ribbon jobbies that you get at music festivals so you can wear your entrance ticket.

This one was from a lovely little local Festival close to my home town of
Stevenage, the ‘Rhythms of the World’ festival, in a fetching shade of mauve.

‘Aha!!!’ Thinks I, ‘I’ll put my keyring onto it, and then tie it off to my belt-loop’. I’ve managed to lock myself out a couple of times just recently, so it seemed a REALLY GOOD eyed-dear.

And then I spotted my spare carkey and what looked like the spare front-door key, both on pristine keyrings. So I took off the knackered keyring with my front door from my bunch of keys, and popped on the new one.

At 6.25am, my son tells me he was running late for work, and begged a lift in, so off we went. Came back to the house after dropping him off, and was pleased to see that the neck-ribbon jobbie was long enough to open the front door without any undue strain, and popped my key into the lock.

Bloody door wouldn’t open.

‘Aha!!!’ thinks I, ‘It must be the back-door key’, so walked round the estate to the alley that runs along the back of the house, and tried the back-door gate. Locked, and the bolt wouldn’t budge.

‘Bugger!!!’ sez I. My son works on the nearby Army base and once he’s on base, its difficult to get hold of him. But it was now getting on for 7am, so…..

‘Aha!!!’, thinks I, ‘I’ll pop down to Asda and pick up a cheap pair of plyers!!!’. And so I did.

Got back to the house sometime later, and the small plumbing wrench I’d bought worked a real treat. Marched up to the back door, put my key in, and turned it.

Bloody door wouldn’t open.

‘Bugger, bugger, bugger!!!’ sez I.

So I sat in the garden chair for a bit and had a ponder. Sent my son a text, and headed off into the town centre to get re-enrolled at the library and figured that I’d have a pleasant morning reading a book in the warmth, as I didn’t expect my son to ring back until midday. I had a few docs that I needed to print for my upcoming court case, so  once I’d re-enrolled and paid the 30p fine that must have been outstanding for 8 years now, I plonked myself down at a PC, logged on, and put my memory stick in.

At which point, the intro to Jimi Hendrix’s Voodoo Chile filled the Library at high volume and I started to look for a large hole to bury myself in.

Couldn’t see a suitable hole in the ground. Well it WAS a bit of a long shot, being as I was on the top floor of the Library, so instead I tried to look nonchalant and logged off, and took myself off outside to respond to my son.

Not unexpectedly, I couldn’t reach him, but he’d left me a Voice message with his office number. So I rang the number and……

It went through to Voicemail.

Several ‘Bugger!!!’s later, I sent him another text and went back into the Library. Got my printing done, picked out some books and headed back for the car, then a quick call into Plod’s Palace to deliver a doc off to Mr. Plod the Policeman. Then texted my son, before driving up to the base to pick up his keys, as per his Voicemail

I got back into the house around 10.30am

So how was your day?

Joan Armatrading – The Key

the bolt wouldn’t budge.

Poetry – I Can’t Breathe Without You – a simple love poem for my family.

Ohhhh how I wish there was a woman in my life to say this to. Another wonderful piece from my good friend Opher

Opher's World

I Can’t Breathe without you.

I can’t dream without you

You are my world

Your smile – my beacon

My colours paled


I have no life without you

That is true

Your truth – my vision

With only you


I can’t breathe without you

I don’t know why

Your essence – my ambrosia

My earth, my sky


My heart won’t beat without you

I know it’s true

Your presence – my nutrition

I love you


Opher 29.5.95

In the final end it is your family that counts – my wife and my kids, my grandchildren and relatives. They are your DNA and pathway to immortality.

To love is what we do best. It is when we are at our best.

If you do not love you have not lived.

Your present is all about who you love. I am a lucky man. I have friends and…

View original post 52 more words