Sunday, 5 December 2010

London as she is rarely seen

Lincoln's Inn

Mecklenburgh Square

More here - best viewed as a slideshow

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Long winter evenings

Eilean Donan Castle ~ August 2007
Now that at last I have Lightroom 3 and a decent monitor, I can get down to some photo work.  Good for the long winter evenings...

Monday, 1 November 2010

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Slow Shutter - Art or Gimmick?

With the web giving access to such a huge wealth of material of all kinds, I guess anyone who is likely to be reading this will have come across pictures where moving water has been photographed at slow shutter speeds to give a misty, dream-like effect. The first time you see it, you might think “Wow, that’s really neat” but after seeing a few dozen similar shots, familiarity breeds contempt and you’re more likely to think “good grief, another talentless amateur thinking they can turn an ordinary snapshot into a masterpiece just by applying a bit of gimmickry”.

So I'm kinda hesitant to offer such a shot here. If you want to call me a talentless amateur, just keep it to yourself, okay?

Aira Beck, Cumbria, October 2010 - 1/8 sec, f9.0, ISO 100

Just for comparison, here’s a more conventional version. Unfortunately, at the time I wasn’t thinking about doing a side-by-side slow shutter versus freeze-action shot, so this was only shot at 1/60 sec – not fast enough to freeze fast-flowing water, but the effect is probably closer to what the eye/brain normally perceives.

Aira Beck, Cumbria, October 2010 - 1/60 sec, f3.5, ISO 100

So what's the verdict? Is it art or is it a gimmick?

These were taken just above Aira Force waterfall, in the English Lake District. By way of contrast, here’s a situation where slow shutter definitely doesn’t work, looking down on the falls from above. First a shot of he falls themselves, for context:

This is looking down from the bridge in the photo above. Freezing the action with a shutter speed of 1/500sec (the fastest available at ISO 1600) manages to capture something of the rush, the turbulence – the violence even – of the falls...

...whereas a slow shutter shot communicates very little. There's no form or structure to the flow, just a meaningless blur.

Here though is a photo where, to my mind at any rate, use of this effect is 100% justified. One of my favourites from our trip to Zambia last year.

Victoria Falls, Zambia, July 2009 - 1/8 sec, f13.0, ISO 100

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Musical Magic

You only ever get to hear an artist for the first time once; the impact will never be quite the same second time round. I heard solo bass guitarist Michael Manring for the first time at ‘Round Midnight jazz and blues bar yesterday; I’m still coming to terms with the hugely expanded boundaries of what a bass guitar can do.

Arthur C.Clarke famously said: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” It seems the same principle applies to bass guitar playing. I don’t think I’ve ever been in the presence of such complete mastery of an instrument as I experienced last night; playing that was like nothing I’ve ever heard before. I could see his fingers move, hear the sounds coming through the PA, but scarcely believe that the one resulted in the other.

Actually, I don’t really like that word “mastery”, in the same way that I don’t like the word “conquered” applied to mountains. Conquering implies that the climber has somehow subjugated the mountain, beating it into submission. Mastery implies a relationship of overlord to servant, one imposing their will on the other against an intransigent resistance.

What I saw and heard last night completely transcended that master-servant form of relationship. I know that without the context of the music, any words of mine are going to sound artificial, phrases drawn from a repertoire of praise-giving clich├ęs. But at risk of sounding fanciful, and as anthropomorphic as those verbs I so dislike, this was more like a symbiotic relationship – as though the instrument needs the player in order to give of itself, just as the player needs the instrument; as though both are coming together to give expression to their very being. Fanciful maybe. But yes, it really was that good, and I don’t know how else to express that.

Perhaps another quote would help. Or it might, if only I could remember it. It was from one famous jazz pianist, I think, on hearing another. It was something like “When I heard [X] play, I went home and cried and didn’t play again for a month”. If I played bass well enough, I’d probably feel that way after last night. So it’s just as well that Manring’s playing is in such an utterly different league than mine could ever be, that I need never torture myself by even stepping onto the path of wishing to play that way. If I were to judge my playing by that standard I’d surely never play another note. But then he has been said to be the best solo bass player in the world today.

It’s all just so perfect – articulation so clear and precise, notes so perfectly formed, timbre so rich, I honestly didn’t think it was possible when playing such densely complex passages on a bass. Yet this wasn’t about mere technical wizardry (yes, it’s those magic metaphors creeping in again). Manring quipped that this was “stream of consciousness” playing, and whether or not what he played was rehearsed note-for-note, it came across as a spontaneous development of musical ideas flowing from each other, but coming from a musician so at one with his instrument that he barely had to do more than think the sounds, and they would miraculously flow from his fingers. This is a terrible analogy, but rather like Clint Eastwood flying the Russian jet by thought alone in “Firefox”.

I’m feeling guilty that I’ve not mentioned Steve Lawson so far, even though he shared the billing 50/50 with Manring. But something Steve said when I was chatting briefly afterwards might go some way to excusing that. I was saying how Manring’s playing reminded me of that Arthur C. Clarke quote, and Steve responded that, when Michael played new stuff, he tended to feel that way too, but the aura of magic was less when he was playing material with which Steve was familiar.

I guess that the same principle applies. Steve’s music has become more familiar to me now, and I smile with recognition when I hear his unique style. A style which, whilst equally skilful and articulate, is both pensive and playful, and, perhaps because of that, seems less jaw-droppingly like a piece of magic, at least in the sense of the quote. Magical, yes, but perhaps not magic in such an obviously “how on earth did he do that?” kind of way.

[Did I dig myself out of the hole I dug?]

In any case, stunning as Manring’s solo playing was, the highlight of the evening was undoubtedly their final improvised duet. Hearing the musical ideas developed and passed between them was... ummm... quite magical. A fitting way to end their performance.


I'm left speechless, gobsmacked by the brazen lies, cronyism and sheer callousness of our government.
" of the richest corporations in Britain, Vodafone, had an outstanding tax bill of £6bn – but Osborne simply cancelled it this year. If he had made them pay, he could have prevented nearly all the cuts to all the welfare recipients in Britain. You try refusing to pay your taxes next time, and see if George Osborne shows the same generosity to you as he does to the super-rich."
Extract from here; details of the Vodafone story here

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Greater Spotted Woodpecker

Since this is supposed to be one-third photo blog, I figured it was time I posted a photo.  My camera hasn't seen a lot of use lately, other than for photos of shows I've played for.  Most of those really need some work doing before they're fit for publication though, and time for that has been in short supply.

Yesterday though I spotted this woodpecker in the garden.  They visit often enough not to be an out-and-out rarity, but not so often that we get used to seeing them.  I've been meaning to do some tests with the 45 - 200mm lens on the Panasonic G1, and this seemed like a good opportunity.

Whilst the 14 - 45mm standard lens for the G1 is an absolute cracker, the long telephoto unfortunately isn't quite in the same class.  It's good, but not outstanding.  In particular, contrast seems reduced at widest apertures and furthest reach  - exactly the conditions here.  Plus of course to get the shutter speed up to minimise the effect of camera shake at those long focal lengths (even with image stabilisation), you need to compromise on ISO setting.  Worst case conditions all round, yet exactly the conditions likely to be encountered when trying to pick out distant detail like this.

Enter Adobe Lightroom 3.  Just a relatively light touch, to restore that lost contrast and counter the ISO 1000 noise, but enough to banish the disappointment in the lens' performance.

And for comparison, here's the out-of-the camera original.  Click on both and compare - the noise reduction in particular manages to lessen the graininess of the ISO1000 speed without smearing the details in the feathers.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

The Rain Song

A strong contender for being my favourite Led Zep track, in a masterful arrangement.

Hat tip to @AtmosTrio for the link, via Twitter. Check out their equally awesome version here.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Parallel lines

I just put a bit of history into the Bio tab above.  Feel free to explore or ignore as the fancy takes you!

Thursday, 30 September 2010


Once in a while, you come across an artist whose work, in whatever field that happens to be, resonates in a way that goes beyond simple liking.  So it was for me recently, when I came across Icelandic jazz pianist Sunna Gunnlaugs.  But although music – or any art - can have a profound effect on us, attempting to rationalise why we respond to certain music in the way that we do probably isn’t a particularly useful thing to do.  Even if we get to an answer, it’s unlikely to be ‘true’ in any meaningful way – just a made-up theoretical rationalisation - and anyway, even if I do manage to come up with an explanation, so what?

Nevertheless, the question still bugs me.  The penalty, I suppose, of having once been a scientist, of having a mind that habitually looks under the surface for explanations of things.  Plus this particular response is rather special.  More than just liking – this music seems to speak a language I naturally understand.  It’s the kind of music I’d like to think I’d create, if only I were that good.  Which obviously I’m not.

It was Steve Lawson who introduced me to Sunna’s music, via Twitter.  Steve is a tireless ambassador for other people’s music; by his own admission this publicising almost certainly leads to more sales of others’ music than of his own.  I’ve learned to trust Steve’s recommendations - they’re always worth listening to.  (Which isn’t to say I’d always rush out and buy them.  But even the weird stuff - of which, if judged by conventional attitudes, there is plenty - is good weird stuff!)  So without knowing what to expect, except that it would be interesting, I clicked the link in Steve’s tweet.

Half way through listening to the title track of ‘The Dream’ for the first time, I knew I was going to buy the album.  No question.  Even at that very first hearing, it made sense.

That might seem an odd thing to say about a piece of music.  What stood out wasn’t that I liked the tune or the motifs (which I did), or admired the musicians (which I also did) or enjoyed the soundscape (yep, that as well), but that it made sense.  The musical ideas develop and flow in a way that just seems ‘right’ and therefore deeply satisfying.  The harmonic movement, the way the instrumental lines weave together, the pace, all feel natural – there’s plenty going on, yet I don’t have to struggle to keep up.  The multi-layered patterns in the music seem in some way to match patterns in my brain.

Overall, the effect on me – and this is of course a very personal response – is invariably energising, buoyant; this is music to listen to when I need a lift.  It’s not that it’s superficially happy, but it seems to have a deep optimism.  I’d like to think that’s Sunna’s personality showing through.  In some mystical, magical way I come away feeling a boost in confidence.  In a word, I feel more centred, as though part of me is finding self-expression simply through listening.  Curiously, the only other piece of music I can think of which has quite this effect in such a personal way is one which has a lot in common with Sunna’s music.  That’s ‘Little People’, from Gwilym Simcock’s ‘Blues Vignette’ album.

The scientist in me would love to know what’s going on in my head as I listen.  It’s a very active form of listening; this music messes with my brain – in a good way.  I wonder if it is making neural connections that somehow mirror the neural patterns of those positive feelings?

In the end though, all the rationalising in the world dissolves into nothing once the music takes flight.  Never mind the whys and wherefores – I’m simply grateful that Sunna’s music is.  And I have a strong sense that so far we’ve only had an introduction, an aperitif.  There’s a whole banquet yet to come.

Especially resonant tracks for me:
The Dream
A Garden Someday

Friday, 17 September 2010


How do any of us get to be where we are now? Meticulous planning? Driving ambition? Blown by the wind?

I never planned to play bass guitar. As a teenager, when you might have thought I’d have been sitting in my bedroom picking out the bass line of tunes playing on pirate radio stations, I was barely even aware of bass guitar. (Yep, I’m old enough to remember pirate radio… maybe it’s because you don’t get a lot of bass on the 2 inch speaker of a tiny/tinny portable transistor radio that I never noticed it). My musical interests at the time were largely centred around classical music; I even played the violin, as leader of the school orchestra. Odd choice, as I was never all that fond of the violin as a solo instrument. If I’d chosen cello, I might still be playing it now. But that’s another story.

It was chance that started me playing bass. My son happened to have one, as well as his other guitars. With his classical guitar, he was a member of the Hertfordshire Guitar Orchestra, and so when I had to drive him to fortnightly rehearsals I figured that, rather than sit and twiddle my thumbs for 2 hours, I could take the bass along. After all, I could read bass clef since I also played piano; I’d messed around with guitar, like most teenagers – how hard could it be to follow a simple bass line?

Then I started playing in church. Again, by chance, the MD also directed occasional shows for a local amateur dramatic group, so I got invited to take part – 42nd Street was that first show. One thing led to another, names get passed around MDs, and ten years later I’m losing count of the number of shows I’ve played for. Six so far this year; that must be something like a hundred songs learned. (And forgotten – I’ve never mastered the art of memorising; always have to have dots in front of me).

I’ll be honest; it wasn’t the music that drew me in to playing for shows. Although once in a while something special comes along – like Rent, or Spring Awakening, or The Last Five Years –some shows are frankly nothing special musically. But it doesn’t really matter – what I get from these shows is something else. It’s the joy of making music as part of an ensemble – team spirit, if you like - where the whole is so much more than the sum of the parts; it’s being part of a wider creative enterprise; it’s giving pleasure to the audience; it's getting to hang with some amazing, talented, wonderful people. And it’s about learning and growing as a musician – learning to listen to what the others are playing and to what those on stage are singing; watching the MD for those cues that that tie the music to the action; incrementally improving technique; oh, and buying more gear ;)

Chance plays its part. But it’s how we respond to the opportunities that chance brings that shapes the course we take. Sometimes you have to grab an opportunity with both hands as it flies past, not quite knowing why, not knowing where it will lead, just because it holds possibility – even though you don’t at the time know what that possibility is, just that something new and unknown beckons. A piece of unwritten future waiting for you to join with chance and help shape it.

Fifteen years ago I’d never touched a bass guitar. Now it threatens to take over my life. All down to chance, and recognising and being ready to grab hold of that possibility.

Saturday, 11 September 2010


Why is this so hard?

It seems I’ve got out of the habit of communicating.  Oh sure, I talk to people, though maybe not as much as I’d like to.  Most days it’s just routine stuff – I’m hardly conscious of it.  Someone says something, my mouth opens and words come out, but it’s little more than a basic stimulus-response reaction.  What they say triggers a memory of a related experience, or a repeated opinion; or sometimes the flip-side - sometimes it triggers a learned what-not-to-say.  But all of it could almost be programmed – standard patterns, forever repeating.  I’m not sure I’m even present whilst it goes on.

Even my thoughts, such as they are, follow familiar pathways.  Nothing new, nothing original, nothing controversial – just the same old circles, worn into a comfortable track.  

Maybe it’s the path of least resistance.  Or maybe it has to do with purpose, or lack thereof.  Not enough reason to stir these torpid grey cells out of their stupor.

That’s actually a bit scary.  If all I ever do is to give an autonomic response to stimuli, then take away the stimuli and I become a vegetable.

This, you see, is why I said I wasn’t ready.  With nothing else to write about, I figured I’d try writing about why I have nothing to write about.  And end up going round these well-worn circles.  It was largely because I had nothing new to say that I drifted away from my old blog.  (I had to correct that last sentence; I originally typed the old blog – unconsciously disowning it in the very words with which I describe it).

Clearly I must have thought something had changed – else why would I have gone to all the trouble of creating a new blog?  

The act of creation was part of the reason – simple though the design may be, it was fun playing with the new Blogger template design tool.  But that can only be a means to an end, not an end in itself.  

Take a look down the sidebar.  The blogroll is still there, with those friends I read for who they are, not for what they write about.  (I confess though that I don’t visit their blogs so often these days.  I got into bad habits of reading in Google Reader, but that can be too impersonal, putting one at arm’s length from the writer).  But above that are some other links – mostly also to blogs, but this time themed.  Music, photography, hills and mountains, and what I’ve called worldview.  The first three of these have been my primary loves ever since childhood; I figured that if I’ve stuck with these for so long, they must mean something to me, and that must be a source of inspiration for writing, mustn’t it?

Ah, yes.  That was what prompted me to start blogging again.  Took a while to remember, but I got there eventually.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Not yet

I was mistaken. I'm not ready for this yet. Oh, well... Another time, perhaps.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Genesis MkII

I guess that, now I’ve put a couple of links to this blog out there in the wild, and traffic is just beginning to drift by, I ought to give a bit of background as to what it’s all about.

I began blogging over seven years ago, and for the early part of that time I really thought I’d found a new direction in life. I’d always enjoyed language and appreciated good writing – but hey, I was an engineer, not a writer, and it took a while before I grudgingly accepted that I had a need for the kind of self-expression and dialogue best satisfied through the more measured pace of the written word. And I was totally taken by surprise by the positive reception my words got.

It wasn’t long before I had an active blog, lots of blogging friends and found the kind of relationships that bypass all that up front trivial stuff and plunge straight to the heart of the matter. And, rather to my own disbelief, I felt I was actually progressing as a writer. Hardly anyone in the UK had even heard of blogs, let alone actually had one, so although I blogged under my own name, I was as good as anonymous. It was like moving to a new town where nobody knows you; you’re still the same person, but freed of all those pre-existing perceptions which others have about you, you no longer have to fit into the mould of the person they think you are and can grow in all sorts of unlikely directions. Hence that first blog started out in life titled by a quote from the psychologist Carl Rogers – "Older and Growing”.

What happened next is still a mystery to me. You know how you can be having a dream, in a quite specific context, and somehow the dream morphs into somewhere completely different, yet you weren’t aware – at least in your dream-state perception – of any break? It was something like that with me, albeit that it didn’t happen overnight. It was as though I woke up one day and realised that all of that hope and promise had dissipated, as the path I thought I was on had morphed into something different.

Wind the clock forward a few years, almost to the present. That old blog is as good as dead; the friends and the once mutually supportive relationships now (to my shame) mostly abandoned, albeit for a few friendships still active on Facebook; and writing of any kind is almost non-existent – bar that which can be reduced to the 140 characters of a Tweet.

But now the metaphorical dream has morphed once again, and, as unexpectedly as it left, I find the energy for writing - so long departed - seems to be returning. Yet not as a resuscitation of what had gone before, not merely a few breaths attempting to give life to something that was already dead; I tried that before, and it manifestly didn't work. So this is a fresh start, deserving of a fresh look - and here it is.

Monday, 23 August 2010

Extra large photo test

View from Bowfell summit, December 2008
Yup, that rather knocks the idea of two sidebars fairly and squarely on the head...

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Getting ready for opening night

Spring Awakening - without doubt the best show for which I've yet played. More dress rehearsal shots here and band shots here.

Saturday, 22 May 2010

Whither Art?

It’s not that I actively enjoy suburban railway journeys – certainly not when encumbered by a heavy and unwieldy bass guitar – but I do appreciate the few minutes of guilt-free idleness. Absolutely no reason to do anything other than gaze out of the railway carriage window, following or abandoning whatever thought-paths are opened up by the ever-changing view. Today’s journey was a crossing from one side of London to the other for a bass guitar lesson with Steve Lawson.

Much of suburban London – especially those parts seen alongside a railway line – are frankly rather ugly. I was tired on this particular journey, unable for the moment to balance the ugliness with a rational acceptance of its context, and so the ugliness rather got to me. Instead of being immersed in this noise and dirt and decay, this unkempt rubbish-tip of a city whose back yard seems to mount a violent assault on the soul, how much more pleasant to be away from all this to live somewhere surrounded by green, by tranquillity, by space. A nice safe little island of a make-believe reality we create for ourselves, shutting out the nasty bits, the bits we don’t want to see, the bits that upset or disturb us. Islands of leafy suburbia amidst urban blight; islands of national (illusory?) well-being amidst a world heading for the brink – and perhaps art itself is another form of island, created as an escape mechanism from the harsh brutality of reality.

Does it actually matter that we act as if these islands are real? Or do we need the security they provide so that we can deal with the bigger reality that faces us when we go outside?

If we go outside, that is.

I sometimes worry about trying to justify art, since it sometimes seems to belong only to that artificial reality. Or more to the point, I worry about my art. My music. With working hours written off as worthless, shouldn’t I be doing something of some value with the hours that remain? I over-simplify the question, of course. I can present all manner of excellent reasons why art is valuable, essential even to the advancement of civilisation. How art mirrors the depths as well as the heights of human experience. I don’t have a problem with that, either intellectually or, if you like to put it that way, spiritually. And yet I’m still left with a nagging doubt when it comes to my art. It still feels as though art – my art - is a luxury, to be indulged in only when the real work has been done.

And this is why I miss those railway journeys: the idle thoughts and scribblings in my notebook, stimulated by nothing more than the view from the window, led me to this conclusion: the best way to deal with that question – if I accept that the ‘best’ art is not a luxury at all but an essential catalyst to the expansion of the soul – is to make sure that my art can be counted amongst that which can be such a catalyst. A mighty tall order, one that sounds almost arrogant in its presumption, but nonetheless not one to be shied away from.
In other words, to be the best musician I can be.

It sounds a simple enough concept, and one wonders why it should take such a tortuous mental process to reach this point. However, the ramifications are only just beginning to dawn on me. Some of them are rather scary.

I can be a creature of extremes; holding a tremendous, debilitating lack of self-confidence yet at the same time a deep and sure belief in a potential only just beginning to be tapped. I guess that’s not all bad; at least the lack of confidence prevents what self-belief there is from turning into arrogance.

Ye gods; is the old blogger, not seen here for many a year, at last resurrected?

Saturday, 3 April 2010

Trial photo

Staithes March 2010

A test shot to see how Blogger handles photos. I used to display photos by linking to storage hosted by my ISP, but although that gives complete freedom of sizes etc it was always a real PITA to resize photos both for page size and enlarged size. Blogger only gives fixed size options - and this, regrettably, is the largest* - but it makes life a lot easier, and an easier life makes for more blogging. Hopefully...

* Not any longer, it would seem :)

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

A black T-shirt and a crumpled denim overshirt

It was when playing in the last show that a realisation clicked into place; a new frame of reference for an old perspective, a self-imposed straightjacket miraculously falling away.

Take a typical amateur dramatic production – the cast spans perhaps 18 to 35, the band may be a bit older, and both groups with just the occasional (relatively) old ‘un. This time round, at 55 I was undoubtedly the oldest one there. I’m usually content to be 55, assuming I don’t really fit in a group that is mostly a generation apart. That doesn’t mean being aloof – or I hope it doesn’t. There’s no feeling of superiority by virtue of age, or anything like that – goodness, most of them, cast and band alike, are way better at what they do than I am at what I do (which if you didn’t know is play bass guitar). And I don’t really mean to emphasise age as much as I have done. The theatre set are, shall we say, quite an extrovert lot, and that also creates something of a gap between us. So this isn’t about where any of us sit on any linear scale, be that of age or ability or anything else; no, this feeling of not-really-fitting stems from an internal assumption that these differences – of age, of generation, of personality – are of necessity a divider. An intrinsic barrier, one that might be peered over from time to time, but never crossed.

I said this minor epiphany was down to the show, yet nearly everything about this latest show was just like every other show that has gone before; a cast drawn from the same pool of north London/ home counties talent, the usual suspects playing in the band. True, ‘Rent’ was an ambitious production for an amateur group, but then this is a group used to working at the top end of the amateur range, with production to professional standards. I’ve been part of similar productions before, yet come away feeling little different to how I started.

This time round, however, there was just one tiny difference. Usually, the band is dressed in black, hidden in the pit, essentially invisible, its presence known only by the sound. But this time, the band was to be an integral part of the show. Originally we were planned to be on stage, but space was limited so we did end up in the orchestra pit – but rather than wearing the usual black, we were to dress the part – a 1990’s New York would-be rock band. Such a trivial difference, yet I felt literally 10 years younger, or more to the point, I felt that division – be it of generation or anything else – narrow to the point almost of vanishing.

Now, just in case your imagination is running away with itself, let me put your mind at rest - I didn’t attempt anything that would embarrass audience or myself by looking as though I was trying too hard. No black leather waistcoat open over a bare chest! In reality my chosen garb was still decidedly conservative, certainly by rock band standards. But that isn’t the point – the important difference was not actual appearance, but the fact that, in a small way, we were playing the part of rock musicians. Hardly acting; the audience wouldn’t have noticed anything different. But it felt different.

The ‘costume’, such as it was, wasn’t so effective at the after-show party, I have to admit. No acting there, it was back to feeling like an old fart amongst a different generation. But in a way that drove the point home, a point that goes something like this:

These years where I now find myself are the between years. Between the fiery certainty of youth and the deep wisdom of old age; between career drive and the release of retirement; between parenthood and grandparenthood. Sometimes, in these between years, you feel as though you belong to neither side, but are wandering lost in a drawn-out transition. But it doesn’t have to be like that. Instead of belonging to neither world you can belong to both, having a foot in both camps. In one moment, enjoy the exuberance of youth, in the next, share the wisdom of the years; one moment be a brother, the next a father-figure.

I wish I didn’t keep quoting years and age. This isn’t only about age and ageing, although they provided the context for this post. No, this is about choices, about realising that there is a much wider spectrum of ways of being available to us, wider by far than the narrow confines of the persona we – or at any rate I – usually assume.

Sometimes all it takes for this penny to drop is a black T-shirt and a crumpled denim overshirt.