Inspired by other lists that also picked some of my favourites I thought I’d gather a list of my own.
It’s been a year of missing live performances and staying in and music has been a great solace.

So, in no particular order, here are my 2020 earworms. Hope you find something new.


Alabaster DePlume – To Cy & Lee. Instrumentals Vol 1 Bandcamp
I saw him perform a brief set at the Union Chapel and could see he was going in an interesting direction. Then this album came out in Feb 2020 and became a bedrock during lockdown. Undefinable and comforting.

SAULT – UNTITLED (Black Is) Bandcamp
One of the most important albums of the year. Amazing music, hopefulness and resistance – and all profits to charity.

Michael Kiwanuka – Home Again YouTube
Just a great voice and a lovely album. What’s not to like.

Matthew Haslsall & The Gondwana Orchestra – Into Forever Bandcamp
Originally from 2015, but I’m working through the back-catalogue now. So many great albums. Spiritual jazz.

Matthew Bourne – 1674 Bandcamp
New release this year from the brilliantly inventive keyboard player. Great soundscapes and spaces. Lots more in the back catalogue.

Ed Dowie – The Adjustable Arm EP Bandcamp
Another Union Chapel find. New album coming in 2021 but I needed more now! It’s been three years since ‘The Uncle Sold’, so I picked this up from 2014. Filling that Robert Wyatt space but making it his own.

Nat Birchall – Mysticism Of Sound Bandcamp
Anther 2020 release. He plays everything himself this time. Cosmic!

Ranjana Ghatak – The Butterfly Effect Bandcamp
Just a beautiful voice. Sanskrit / devotional / mystic / inspired. See her live if you ever get a chance.

Gia Margaret – Mia Gargaret Bandcamp
Another find. Her second album, released this summer. Uplifting instrumentals with a bit of Alan Watts voiceover.

Emily A. Sprague – Hill, Flower, Fog Bandcamp
Another American instrumentalist who delivered this year. Full of soft squeaks and drips, a warm cocoon.

Steve Lawson – The Best Of Steve Lawson Pt1 Bandcamp
Where has he been hiding? Superb British solo bass player with 20 years of releases. He generally releases everything under a lifetime subscription model but I think this was a pay-what-you-can release.

Christine and the Queens – La Vita Nuova YouTube
Surely the soundtrack of the year. We played it a lot. Thanks Chris.

Gil Scott-Heron – Pieces of a Man YouTube
Been working my way through his back catalogue and this one is still as fresh and relevant as it was in 1971.

What a year…

Who used all the teaspoons! Why are they all in the dishwasher first? Just rince and dry unless it really messed up, 😏

Bruce Lee image - Peace in strengthOne that I have posted before, but it resonated again today given the current circumstances in several areas of concern.

“Do not pray for an easy life, pray for the strength to endure a difficult one”, Bruce Lee

I’m finding ‘martial’ arts, and related thinking (eg. Daoism),  to be a great bedrock at present.

Train hard, be gentle.

On the way to the DWSA advanced course I stopped off at Otley to participate in my first competition.

Day 1. After a short prep talk by our instructor Andy Loudon, the course participants split into two groups. One group of 4 doing cheek ends, the other two practicing a lunkey wall. Other bursary students were on site as well practicing for their level 3 exams.

The rain drifted in about 30 min later and then stayed with us for almost the whole day. The site got muddy. Stones slippy.  But we stuck it out.

Tips. When stripping out a wall, consider how to do this as fast as possible. After all you get paid for building a wall not for taking it down!

Setting up lines and pins – keep it simple.

Home wet. Remember to put overtrousers on when it rains next time. Some showers last all day!

Day 2. This ran as a mock exam. We stripped back what we had build and rebuilt it again – aiming for 7 hours completion time.  I still had a few layers to do by the end of the day. So will finish tomorrow morning. 

This post is intended as a starting point for online collaboration — let it be a launchpad for something you make yourself.

I suggested the theme of ‘renewal’ with very little thought. The concept came very instinctively from the time of year we are in, the recent changing political landscape and some semi-dormant pagan leanings.

Already fresh shoots are pushing up through the frozen winter soil ready to be bluebells and snowdrops.

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So, where am I with my renewal?

At the turn of the year someone asked the typical question of what new year resolutions we were making. Honestly I had not put any thought into it, but said I wanted to “get more active politically”, or something like that. I’ve been on marches, always voted, but apart from that it’s been minimal engagement,  a bit of clicktivisim here and there.

I decided to start local and went along to my ward’s newly established local branch meeting. And then a constituency branch meeting. Suddenly I had a new group of people to relate to and a headful of power relationships and agendas. A week later I was helping man a stall in the high street to campaign for a better funded healthcare system.

There are many more areas of my life that could do with some renewal, and you can probably find some of your own. It doesn’t have to a major effort, maybe be a simple act to relate with a friend again.

Let’s use the vigour of the coming spring to help recommit to action again. Move from passive to active – that’s the transformative power of renewal for me.

I am doing one fundraiser this year, this time for Breast Cancer Care www.breastcancercare.org.uk.

It means I have to cycle fast around a route on a very small bike, with some hills, in a suit; and do it twice.  It’s next Sunday (21 Aug) and I just got signed up.

Please spare a few moments to donate something that will help provide support to people, and their families, who get this disease.  You can donate at this page: http://www.justgiving.com/gerald-baxter/

Thanks.

Here is how I finished my last attempt at the same event in 2009

That's me that isOne of the nicest open shoots of the year I know is held next door to Kew Gardens by Royal Richmond Archery Club.  It happened last weekend and, although I shot a below par round and didn’t near the medals, it was a great day out.

Various participants (including me) were filmed on flip cams by some roving reporters – it was a bit spur of the moment and made me realise how ‘being on the spot’ and still being able talk coherently was quite a skill.  I now appreciate even more the feelings of some of my past internal work video ‘victims’ – who still delivered some great snippets.

If you shoot flipcam interviews – you should try and spend time on the other side as well!

Learn more about my day at Winkball’s report (my bit has the same photo as the link).

On Saturday we were shooting at 50yds when one I saw one of my arrows hit, but also something flew past the target?

When we went up to collect the arrows at the end of that set we could see I had hit the nock of  an arrow already in the target and split it in half – with a splinter of shaft flying off with it.  Luckily it was one of mine as well!  Both arrows scored (nice) and I should be pleased with the grouping 🙂

It makes me think that it would be very hard to actually get one arrow to stick into another with modern plastic nocks.

Arrow splitting a nock.

Almost a Robin Hood

Since taking up Longbow archery a few years ago I have been fascinated by the variety of bows available. Choosing one above another is difficult.  It is not easy to try them out; friends at clubs may be OK with you having a go with their bow for a few ends, but it takes time to get to know what is working for you.

So, I started out with a bow made by club resident guild member, Paul Reed, who had made bows for many members and others.  I acquired a triple laminate bow (42 pound pull at 28 inches). This served me very well, even taking the Surrey Longbow championship one year, and still continues to be a reliable companion.

Next, on a trip to Washington State,  I came across Curt Brisky who fulfilled my next desire with a truly traditional lovely and sinuous pure Yew bow (50 pounds pull). This was a new experience and a new love. Faster and light in the hand 80 and 100 yards became more realistic distances to shoot, albeit with new arrows (arrows are a story for another day!), and a bit of adjustment.

Then I read a review of a Adrian Hayes bow on the Archers Review blog. I was impressed, even excited by what I read. If a bow was really that good I had to take notice. Yes I know it is only one part of the equation in the bow/arrows/archer mix, but I was struggling to find form with my current mix of arrows and bows and I was ready to take a chance.

I phoned Adie and had a good chat; a few weeks later my new bamboo backed bow (52 pounds @ 28″) arrived.

First impressions were good. Very good. The extra pounds felt OK, the bow was responsive and light in the hand. Arrows shot true and suddenly I started to realise where my weaknesses were. Yes, I need to improve my aiming. Yes I need to match my arrows better to the bow(s).  But now I have a bow that in  some unspoken way reveals that to me.

It will still be a while before I understand this and start to find the right combinations of bow & arrow at the different distances. But that journey has now started. Thank you Adrian, Curt and Paul.

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