Sunday, 1 November 2015

Fog and Autumn, Poems and Photos



The trees are poorer for their gold is gone.

Spilled their jewels.

Rich are the creatures who thrive in it,

grow from its colour.

Things inside us

I see things that are inside us,

an old anatomy model, a lung, a liver,

hundreds of miles of capillaries,

nerve endings screaming in their cold nakedness.


I caught the silver birches dancing in the fog.

They stopped still.

Hoping I hadn’t noticed.

They are not vengeful.

I am not Actaeon.


A garrotte of spider silk,

drapes the brambles,

the barbed metal,

burdened with tears,

the weaver waits,

for light.


I once read that dying trees,

burst into vibrant green,

a last defiance.

It’s not a dress,

it’s a shroud.

The Stare

Caught in a Gorgon’s stare and




The fog paints away

the familiar

All I have is

ditches in the field

turned earth



I’m walking inside

a teardrop.

I can touch

my horizon.


The sun’s breaking through,

The secret world

will be gone soon

Words and photos © Mel Melis

Monday, 19 October 2015

Joygaze!–Gig and Album reviews, Pinkshinyultrablast, The Go! Team+Glockabelle


Pinkshinyultrablast, 11th May 2015

One of my most played albums of this year has been Everything Else Matters by St. Petersburg shoegaze outfit Pinkshinyultrablast. So it was great to be able to catch them with regular gig buddy the Bossman on their first UK tour when they played at Hoxton Bar and Kitchen on the 11th May. And yes, I am a little embarrassed that they’ve since embarked on a second UK tour and it’s taken me months to write this! So I’m treating this as an album review too (which is also late!)

They play hook laden shoegaze, punctuated by blasts of razor sharp guitars and overlaid noise, the album itself is a beautiful thing. The opening song “Wish We Here” starts delicately, with its vintage analogue synth sound pulsing over you, singer Lyubov’s fragile otherworldly vocals, then a steady building, a marimba beat, synth bass, another layer of synths… then it hammers you, (lots of) guitars, bass, crashing drum runs, more vocals. It’s a fantastic album, great to run to on a darkening moor, it feels like a winter album.

I imagine they write in a shack, holed up in a snowy pine forest somewhere in the Baltic and their music permeates through the ice encasing their studio, firing out refracted light and colour into the night sky. They are an aurora borealis band, people of the sky consigned to live on the ground. What am I talking about? I have no idea, so buy the album. You’ll get it.

Photos © Mel Melis

You can never have too many effects gadgets (below)

Other standout tracks include Marigold and the fun Holy Forest, with it’s quirky beat and spiky riffs. The video is the band’s homage to martial arts.

Pinkshinyultrablast–Holy Forest

Played live the songs are more savage, noisy, the kind of wonderful ear battering you expect from an intimate venue like the Hoxton Bar and Kitchen. The last time I was there was to see Roman Remains, the Duke Spirit side project, which I reviewed here.

The Go! Team + Glockabelle, June 17th 2015, The Village Underground

As well as the late review of Pinkshinyultrablast, I also wanted to review the return of the ever brilliant and fun Go! Team. I think I’ve seen them six times, maybe seven, probably four of those times with my friend John from work, who I also went to this gig with. They are almost certainly the band I’ve seen the most times out of all the gigs I go to. Why? Because they are the most fun live act you can ever go and watch, that’s why. See my review+photos from a gig they played at Icelandairwaves in 2006, here and here.

But before I wax lyrical about the Go! Team, special mention must go to their support act Glockabelle. Ten things I know about Glockabelle.

1. She’s French. She sings in French.

2. She plays retro Casio-tone organs. Several of them. At the same time. Really fast. Impressively fast.

3. She also wears thimbles and plays metal glockenspiels. I mean made of metal. Not like heavy metal, although I’m sure heavy metal glocks could easily be part of her repertories. (I initially thought they were xylophones, but lucky I googled it and learnt xylophones are wooden and glockenspiels are metal… phew no-one will realise I’m stupid… seeing as “glock” is in her performer name!)

4. Her drummer was dressed as a cat. He hid under a blanket during the gig and the audience were encouraged to entice him out.

5. She has covered Bach, The Ramones and the Tetris theme

6. Her songs are eccentrically brilliant. Regardé

Wolf BBQ by Glockabelle

7. One of them is about a washing machine and contains the lyrics “splish splash, splish splash… aaaahhhhh!”.

8. She sells her EP on a stylish personalised USB. I bought one. It’s the future.

9. She was very gracious and had a photo with me. Even though it looked like I was wearing hideous novelty braces (that’s my bag shoulder strap, honest!)

10. She sings one of the songs on the fab new Go! Team album (Catch me on the rebound)

Which brings us nicely to the Go! Team.

Another album I’ve been playing again and again this year is The Scene Between by the Go! Team. It’s a near perfect bundle of joygaze energy (if no one has invented the term Joygaze, I’m claiming it ™) – a similar template to their previous offerings, danceable, endearing, noisy, jangly, guitary, heart warming songs and beats which make you grin from ear to ear and even… dance (not me though, ok, a bit). Songwriter Ian Parton has refreshed the line up, he’s kind of like Professor X of the X-Men, except he plays about seventeen instruments instead of reading minds and has a red and white striped “where’s Wally” tee shirt instead of a wheelchair. There are some new superheroes in his band, only the effervescent and irreplaceable Ninja has been retained. Added to Ninja and Ian there’s Cool Geography Teacher, Disney Princess, Joan Jett with immaculate hair (circa 1977) and Road Warrior Drummer Lady (or Sam, Angela, Cheryl and Simone respectively). The new album is better, more polished, more addictive than previous offerings. And they clearly love playing live! A real treat is The Art of Getting By, an uplifting anthem reminiscent of a 1970s fizzy drink commercial telling us to get on, love each other and do huggy stuff whilst drinking a refreshing beverage. All the songs and little skits are great.

Smattered through the live set were the live favourites as well as the new songs. Audience participation is optional, but I’ve never seen people not engage. I imagine if audience members didn’t, then I’m sure Ninja would reveal a taser with lovely pink flowers drawn on it and zap some electrified love into their twitching suddenly dancing carcasses.

Here is a bunch of clips I took at the gig. Best viewed full screen as I’m useless at filming.

The Go! Team, Village Underground, June 2015


Finally, a couple of photos. Can’t wait to see them live again.

Thursday, 1 October 2015

It’s October, October means Ray Bradbury


“He had never liked October. Ever since he first lay in the autumn leaves before his grandmother's house many years ago and heard the wind and saw the empty trees. It had made him cry, without a reason. And a little of that sadness returned each year to him. It always went away with spring.

But, it was a little different tonight. There was a feeling of autumn coming to last a million years.

There would be no spring."
― from "The October Game" in Long After Midnight

I was deeply saddened when Ray Bradbury died in 2012, part of my childhood died too. In my sadness I was thrilled to see writers such as the lovely Joanne Harris (who I also greatly admire as a writer who captures the essence of the human spirit) write with such love about him.

He was, in my opinion, incorrectly classed as a science fiction writer, but he wasn’t particularly. His short stories, especially in what might be considered his “pulp” era, in the 40s and 50s were masterworks of fiction, ahead of their time in both pathos and sometimes unsettling darkness.

He wrote about the human spirit, kindness, love, tragedy, adversity. He made you feel. Made you love his characters, root for them. The fact that his protagonists were often in fantastical scenarios or worlds, was secondary to his craft. And his craft was the poetry in his writing and the fullness of his characters.

I’ve read lots of “tips for writers” over the years, but when I write, I think of it in terms of a reader, what do I want to read? I don’t (usually) want to be left feeling cold, I want to be engaged. I want to read about people I care about, people I feel empathy for, people, who even if they fail, (because life is like that), I know that even with their flaws, their intentions were good, even if their actions sometimes were not. I am a child of comic books, of clear boundaries between good and bad, as I’ve grown older I’ve learn the hard way, there is no black and white in life, just different shades of grey. In a book though, you can create a world of your own. Sometimes these worlds are fairy tales, and remember fairy tales are often dark and bloody, but also sometimes these worlds are steeped in reality, of sadness, violence, or even the mundane, where someone plods through life, but dreams of something better, of true love, of breaking out of monotony, of fame or infamy. All of these types of stories appeal, because they concentrate on people and the anguish, joy, love and missed opportunities of their lives.

Bradbury captured that, the inner darkness, but also the light. There is always hope in his stories. Mostly…

The quote above came from a book I haven’t read yet, I saw it shared on social media, and thought “wow, I wish I wrote that” (I don’t have a highbrow alternative to that statement!). But it’s true. There is something tragic and beautiful about that passage which engages me, wants me to read more. So tonight I bought the book it came from, online, second hand, because it doesn’t appear to be in print.

Which leads me onto my favourite Bradbury Book, The October Country, a selection of dark, borderline psychological horror stories. October is a funny month, it’s the kiss of winter, the sleep of summer. I went for a run and saw the gold of dead leaves slowly falling from the trees and felt an ache of that loss. That soon the darkness will come, the remaining flowers will wither, the days will shorten further, and I will feel the gloom of the season. The October Country is a book for Autumn. I will read it again. As I often have.

I wrote above that there is always hope in his stories.. mostly. Well the October country has some deeply unsettling stories. Like Skeleton, where a man becomes obsessed and terrified of the bones within him. Or The Man Upstairs, a really quite disturbing story of a child’s detachment from reality and how he can moralise committing a heinous crime.. or was it a crime? The Veldt is a masterpiece, exploring technology yet to be developed, but also childrens’ propensity to explore, sometimes to their own detriment or those of their loved ones.

But there are also lovely gentle stories, like the Homecoming, which has the most heart wrenching ending, I wrote a little more about it here. There Was an Old Woman, who refuses to die, even when Death pays her a visit. He gets an earful. And the Emissary, about a bedridden boy who explores the outdoors through the adventures of his faithful dog.

Bradbury had depth and feeling. In one of his later collections, he was in his late 80s I believe, I remember a story he wrote about a mother who lost her son in an accident, but knowing her son had donated his heart, made it her mission to find the recipient. All she wanted to do put her ear to this man’s chest, so she could listen to her son’s heartbeat one last time. So simple yet such a beautiful premise. It made me cry.

Thank you Ray Bradbury, for helping me read, and making me want to write.

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

The Return of “A Haiku a day”

I spent a very interesting year in 2012 writing a Haiku a day. It’s a creative project I’m very proud of and though the quality is, shall we say, mixed, the output is a lovely tribute to my year. It’s a snapshot diary of events, some of which are not significant, some of which, when I read now, are disconnected from any memory they might have been associated with. The memory or inspiration for the writing has melted away and that pleases me, because I, like you, can take my own meaning from those words hanging in space, with no narrative to go with them.

Writing the Haikus was mostly a spur of the moment thing, I would have an idea, then I’d write it quickly, trying to avoid over analysis or indulgent editing. I diligently followed the 5-7-5 syllable structure and though I shouldn’t necessarily have used metaphors and should have written in the present tense, mostly I didn’t. I guess it doesn’t matter. As long as it conveys something.

Looking at the tags it seemed wildlife played a big part in my year, especially birds. Also death. And the weather, or more accurately, the changing seasons. It was, in many ways, a difficult year, but I learnt the discipline of writing every day and I learnt to be patient, to listen, to watch, to absorb, to feel more and to learn, academically and through my heart. Having the ability to just stop, step out of phase and become a ghost for even a few minutes felt like something of great significance. Modern life and the artificial pressures that come with it become meaningless in those moments. And… Inspiration? It can come from the tiniest thing. It’s often the little whispers, a tiny act, often overlooked or stomped over, which offer the most wisdom. Stop. Listen. Watch. Breathe. Feel.

So, in that I am travelling to Japan tomorrow, the home of the Haiku, the Haiku a day blog will make a little comeback for the sixteen days I’m there. I’ll post a single photo a day and a haiku to go with it. Just for the extra challenge. I have a feeling that the intensity of life, especially in the days I’m working will be more challenging in Japan. Phasing out and being a ghost will be harder, but I’ll try, even if it’s for a few seconds, even if the photo is a spark of neon smeared across the lens through a rainy taxi window. Whatever this turns into, I hope you’ll enjoy.


Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Reiko Watanabe, Hiroshima


Tomorrow is the anniversary of the nuclear bomb falling on Hiroshima. It’s often the story of the individual which hits home when contemplating the horrors of war and the associated loss of life. In Reiko Watanabe’s case, it’s her lack of a story, the hole left, the emptiness of a future taken from her, the life she could have led, which really hit home for me. She was only 15 when the bomb dropped, helping with fire prevention work with her fellow students. She might be alive today, a grandmother, or great grandmother. We can only imagine the dreams and ambitions she concocted in her youth. The war raged around her, but she had a future.

Her body was never found, she was working by a mud wall, and later, her lunch box was discovered, melted, but still distinguishable and full of the rice and peas her mother had prepared for her that morning. It was all carbonised of course, but it was a tiny glimpse to show she was loved. And missed.

The photo below is by Hiromi Tsuchida, it is Reiko’s lunchbox. I first saw this photo in an exhibition at the Tate Modern, Conflict, Time, Photography and I was both chilled to the core at the power of the weapons we’ve made to destroy each other and moved by the humanity of the portrait of this last memento of a young girl’s life.

I wrote these words for her.



By the low wall, Reiko diligently performed the fire drill

she briefly saw the white light, In an eerie silence,

Before it blinded her,

moments later the force, hit her,

Vapourised her, leaving the girl,

In the the spring of her youth,

Just a memory to those who loved her,


Her future dreams, caught in the shock wave,

scattered, as single words,

Sewn seeds, in the poisoned fields,

The wall she worked by, it fell,

so that even her shadow,

was lost,


But her lunch box,

Buckled by the heat, survived,

A memento, a tribute to the love,

of her proud mother, who sent her out,

with precious rice and peas,

to help.


Poem © Mel Melis (photograph by Hiromi Tsuchida)

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

The secret in the book


A book of poetry has sat on my shelf for twenty years, I didn’t know about the secret inside it. Sometimes the books themselves have a story.


It took nearly eighty years for her gift to reach me, her hand written pencil strokes, folded up and slid into the water stained poetry book.

The one she originally had written it for, possibly had left her, or died in the war, or was not all he promised to be, a sweet heart no more.

Maybe she discarded it in pain, threw those words into the darkness, water damaged by rain and ending up in a box or a cellar,

Gathering dust and damp through those quiet dark years, then appearing, pale and dulled by time, surrounded by other dusty discards,

unloved and shoved together, in batteries of loose categories, on that shelf marked “poetry”, in that now closed shop on the steep high street hill.

It was then, decades later, that I caught her book, it arced into my arms. When I bought it, I was poor, the few coins I had, I used to rescue it.

I lifted the sad little thing from the shelf and took it home for a moment of pleasure. A smile is worth the money in your pocket,

a cursory flick through didn’t reveal the secret at first, but I got my smile, and though I was hungry, I was momentarily happy.

And after that first night, the book sat unread, on my shelf, for two more decades, and still those words, the dead woman’s words,

her copied favourite poem, longhand, on love and longing, spoken when she was in the spring of her life, youthful and red lipped, lay hidden,

Secreted, folded and unread on the Children’s Hospital note paper. But tonight, I opened her book and it fell gently to the floor,

Carefully I unfolded it, and I read it, and I was filled with her sadness and hopes for life,

I wonder what her laugh sounded like, I wonder whether she loved, whether she was happy and beautiful,

Nurse Jones, thank you, I got your gift, you poem, and though I am a stranger and we are separated by time, I love it.

© words and photos. Mel Melis 2015. (apart from the words of Nurse Jones and her hand written poem by Dinah Craik, from A Life for a Life, 1859)

I googled the words, turns out it was this beautiful prose by Dinah Craik from her 1859 novel, A Life for a Life

By Dinah Craik

    Oh, the comfort—
    the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person—
    having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words,
    but pouring them all right out,
    just as they are,
    chaff and grain together;
    certain that a faithful hand will take and sift them,
    keep what is worth keeping,
    and then with the breath of kindness blow the rest away.

Saturday, 20 June 2015

I am the stealer of summer joy!


For those of you (not many!) piqued by my confession that I’d finished writing a novel (I’m going back to editing it this week) and asking me for an example of my creative writing, I share this little short story I wrote this week. It’s very much an experiment in free writing, so there are some flaws, it was finished within a lunchtime. I was talking to a friend at work about the summer solstice, why is it celebrated? For me, and in fact for my colleague, the summer solstice seems like the saddest day of the year. The days will get shorter and shorter, it’s the promise of winter before summer has even kicked in.

The longest day of the year is very much celebrated, the further north you go, the starker the difference in the seasons become and the lengths of day and night get more and more extreme. The weather is a strange thing, such an effector of moods, I always think even the ugliest concrete landscape can look prettier when the sun shines.

The tongue-in-cheek title “I am the stealer of summer joy!” was my friend’s light hearted contribution to our discussion, it made me laugh but it also generated an idea for this story, I have permission to use it, so I thank her for that!

The story itself is meant to be darkly funny, surreal and a cliche of Nordic noir, like an Ingmar Bergman film, but I'm not sure if it hits any of those marks in that respect! It certainly is a clumsy exploration of loneliness, and existential sadness, after all we are all really alone right? (listen to me like I know what I'm talking about!).

As for the characters in the story, I don’t know what happens next, for me this is an ending, I could write more, I could make Torstein and Ingrid fall in love, I could have one of both of them die of the malaise hinted at, I could heal the blight on the world and disperse the clouds and rain, but I can’t. For me, this is how this story ends. It feels right to end this way. And yes, I do feel sorry for the dog. You decide if you like.

Anyway, it’s apt, on the even of the solstice, that it is raining today. Cheer up! Enjoy your summer! haha.


(short story © Mel Melis)


I am the stealer of summer joy © Mel Melis

Torstein looked through the greasy pane of glass, the rain was pounding relentlessly against the tin roof, he felt each drop like a nail hammered into his back, the morning was dark, malevolent. He squinted, hoping to see something of the barren sand dunes and perhaps beyond, to the roaring ocean, but everything was blurred by the combination of the imperfections in the glass, the smears of soot and cooking fat, and  the rain’s rivulets pouring down. He sat down at the old oak table again. He began to butter a dry crust of bread with his ivory handled knife, the one his grandfather had given him. His grandfather the whaler, he’d scrimshawed naïve scenes of sea creatures into the whale tooth handle, but through years of use, the relief was worn down. He examined it, turning it over in his calloused hands, it felt weighty, a comfort in his hand, of something lost and yearned for, there was the distinctive spiral of a nautilus shell in the fat end of the handle, but other images were lost to time, eroded, like his memories. He sighed, he barely remembered what any of them looked like, that older generation.

He put down the knife, put down the crust of bread, his big hands gently depositing them so they only made the tiniest sound against the dented metal plate. He decided he wasn’t hungry. Eating was a habit, to pass the time, like smoking. He rolled himself a thin cigarette and lit it with a twig from the open fire. He threw the twig back into the flames, it burst and crackled.

“I am the stealer of summer joy” he muttered when he sat down again. He’d heard it in a dream. A recurring dream. In March, he heard it as a whisper, the ice of winter hadn’t melted then, but the watery sun would peep over the horizon, in a shallow arc, promising warmth in the weeks ahead, but the sun broke its promise, something had happened. In April, the clouds gathered and the rains poured. On occasion they’d get merciful relief from the rain, but on those days the sun was always obscured, by the brooding clouds gathered, which would descend from the sky and contemptuously smother the ground, such that there was no distinction between the sky and the earth. The clouds were heavy, tired, filled with dust and would roll into their houses if they left their doors open. A breath would be like a drink of stale water, people walked with cloths over their faces or their wracking coughs would hinder them. The voice in the recurring dream got louder then. “I am the stealer of summer joy” it would tell him. The only voice of joy he’d heard was the one telling him this, sometimes it would be morose, almost pathetic and plaintive, but of late, it smacked of aloof superiority to his plight, shrill and mocking.

The woman in the corner was gently sobbing, he never even asked her name, but he took her in, her family had died, he remembered that much. She wasn’t company, she was just another thing, an ornament of sorts, in the meaningless suffering he was enduring. Perhaps he was the same to her. When she knocked on his door, perhaps a week before, he knew what had happened to her, he felt it, she was alone in the world. So was he. He didn’t engage, he just stepped aside and allowed her into his hut, she curled up by the fire and didn’t really move much. They were both still alone, but two people alone with one fire saves firewood. It was a practical arrangement. He didn’t mind her tears, it didn’t irritate him, when he did hear it, it was a welcome change from the unremitting rain.

His door creaked open, the unmistakably massive frame of Lars stood there, his silhouette blocking the light. “The light?” pondered Torstein out loud. “There is light?”

Lars laughed. “Yes Torstein! Sunshine! The clouds have broken!”

Torstein hadn’t heard the rain stop, engrossed as he was in his smoking. He flicked the stub into the fire. His dog, the faithful collie Wolf watched him, her big friendly eyes devoted to his every laboured movement. Lars laughed, Torstein hadn’t heard Lars’ jovial laugh in weeks. As his eyes accustomed to the light streaming in around his friend’s frame, he saw the grin on his unruly bearded face. He’d missed this Lars. Lars wore his unmistakable high waist dungarees, pulled over the top of his wide stomach, held up with leather braces. He was a cartwright. In his hand he swung a grey clay jug, a liquid swilled within it.

“Do you think the old gods look favourably on us Torstein?” said Lars.

“The old Gods bring thunder and rain Lars, perhaps the new God is blessing us.” Torstein countered contemplatively. “Or perhaps there are no Gods at all.” He gathered himself up and hauled himself to the door, he wanted to see the sun. “Stromberg, he has been to the city, he has read a scientific journal, he says there were great eruptions in the Orient, the smoke has covered the sky in a blanket, this is why we are cold, why we are ill. The sun cannot see through the dust.”

Lars laughed again. “Stromberg is an idiot” he stepped aside and allowed Torstein to get past him, to walk out tentatively, scrunching his face in the pain of a light he had become unaccustomed to. The woman, who had roused herself, intrigued as to the return of the sun also stepped out, she had stopped crying. The sun on his face had filled Torstein with life and questions, like a melting river, something stirred within him, the spirit of fellowship. “What is your name?” he asked the woman embarrassed, remembering his manners after so many days. She smiled. “Ingrid”

The smile fuelled him further, he liked it, being smiled at, but he wasn’t sure what to do with the feeling “I am Torstein” he said.

“I know” she said simply. He reached for her hand to shake it, but she met it with her opposing hand and stood next to him side by side. She squeezed his hand and held onto it. Her hand was soft and precious. It felt warm. He’d forgotten warmth.

The crack in the clouds was widening, the sun was beautiful, it lit the dunes all the way to the beach and they saw the blue of the sea for the first time in months rather than the grey of sea met by the grey of cloud. Wolf the dog had trotted out and sat by Torstein’s feet, her gaze was on him, not the sun, he was always her warmth, even if the sun was extinguished, she would look to Torstein for light.

The three people stood by the little hut beyond the dunes and allowed themselves the privilege of sunlight, and after some minutes, for it was not a surprise to any of them, the crack in the sky closed over, the clouds stirred and wrestled, boiling into a seething mass, and the rains started again. They all huddled inside. Ingrid let go of Torstein’s hand and he immediately felt his heart go cold. The feeling of warmth, the rays of happiness which played on his soul faded and disappeared. He tried to hold onto that feeling, but the cold took it cruelly away. Torstein stoked the fire. He shivered. He looked wistfully into the dying flame, "It is nearly midsummer but my bones still ache with cold" he paused for what seemed like an age as he stoked further, the metal iron scraping against the old stone of the hearth.

“The summer hasn’t begun, yet the lengthening days will end tomorrow.”

“It is the solstice?” asked Lars. “I forget the dates, they are meaningless in this grey place now”

“Aye, the solstice. If we were able to see it, the sun would shine for its longest, but the day after, and imperceptivity every day after that, the darkness encroaches and fills our hearts with melancholy"

More melancholy” corrected Ingrid with a sullen resignation. Torstein nodded.

The rain battered down on the tin roof again. Lars swung his jug and landed it on the table. "drink! forget this sadness! Kill the pain!"

Lars poured into three tin cups. They each downed a swig of spirit from Lars’ jug, swallowing it like it was liquid fire. As the spirit seared his throat Torstein felt momentarily enlivened, he looked at how beautiful Ingrid’s eyes were, she met his gaze and some recognition of his desire registered, but then the feeling was lost to the rain. They both looked away.

“Enough!” said Lars. He felt frustrated, he was the strongest man on the coast, but he could not defeat the gloom that overwhelmed them. “Keep the drink” he muttered as he left, slamming the door behind him.

Torstein broke the crust of bread he’d previously buttered into three pieces, he offered one to Ingrid, he dropped another one on the floor for Wolf and the third he forced himself to eat. A habit. To pass the time.

“I am the stealer of summer joy” said the voice in his head.

Kathryn Joseph, St Pancras Old Church


When I’m home alone I listen to the radio through the night, songs soak into me, some don’t rouse me, but others tug gently at my subconscious, imploring me to wake up and recognise something important. So it was with Kathryn Joseph’s “The Bird”, a little seed planted itself, I opened my eyes in the dark, fumbled for the light and waited for the DJ to tell me who was singing this starkly beautiful song. The Radio 6 DJ not only gave me the right spelling of Kathryn but also said she was playing at St Pancras Old Church, the home of the Hardy Tree, a venue I hadn’t visited before. I jotted quickly in my notebook and fell back into a deep sleep.

The next day I checked my book, to ensure it wasn’t some wistful dream, smiled, streamed the album and bought two tickets for the gig after checking my gig buddy and fellow blogger Rob could make it too. Had he not been able, I’d have probably gone on my own in anycase.

The album, Bones you have thrown me and blood I’ve spilled (available via her webpage) is a mournful and beautiful thing, full of gorgeous metaphor and observation on the unforgiving and indiscriminate pain that life can serve up to the innocent, to the young, to the weary. And of the sadness of those left behind, who endure the legacy of love and loss. It moves you and pulls you in.

It’s stripped down and acoustic arrangements with her piano and collaborator Marcus on drums/percussion is gentle, at times unsettling, emotional, at other times darkly soothing. You might think from this that Kathryn is perhaps a sombre ethereal presence, but as this fantastic article describes, she is gregarious in person, joyfully sweary and full of energy. You can’t help but grin and enjoy her company.

And in her social media interactions she is gracious and kind, she welcomes interaction which made me smile when I got a personal thank you email after I bought her limited edition single online! And I got a hug before the gig which was a lovely surprise!

Up against some incredible Scottish talent, and arguably the outsider choice for Scottish Album of the Year, she only went and won it, deservedly so. Virtual fist taps and chest bumps all round from her growing fan base!

After a great support act from the talented singer songwriter Yusuf Azak (and love this video with his song played over Goldie Hawn dancing!), Kathryn’s live performance was stunning in the intimate church venue, if you like early Tori Amos, Stina Nordestam, Sharon Van Etten or PJ Harvey’s White Chalk album, I think you’ll love Kathryn. As well as the reflective elements, there were fun moments too, her laugh when everyone politely waited to only crack open their tinnies between songs and the moment the church bells struck ten, and she joked that it was like a godlike intervention to censor the swear word in the lovely and sad song “The Crow”.

Another lovely touch was the free printed booklet of the lyrics for every gig attendee, the lyrics are presented thrown together, without punctuation, like memory, a jumble of themes, thoughts and pictures you need to unpick and interpret. Interspersed among the lyrics are photographs and artworks as well as images of Kathryn’s hand written prose, with annotations and edits. It’s a lovely keepsake from a beautiful evening.

If there was an artist I would want to wish beautiful things for it would be her. What a lovely evening. Thank you Kathryn.

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Dusk and Dawn –June 2012, “I hear those voices that will not be drowned”



After the rains, the sun shone,

A jewel of an evening

where long shadows caressed the beach,

And touched the churning sea,

The mottled sand, built in tiny peaks,

Amongst the dunes, unsullied by feet,

I didn’t know you’d gone,

They were calling me, to tell me,

But I was oblivious,

I’m glad, because I saw beauty,

And now when I remember that day,

I face the sea, the sun at my back,

I see a glint of light on the scallop,

I listen to the timeless pulse,

Of the ocean, the cry of birds,

The wind driving at the hardy plants,

Who tremble, like my fragile heart.

© Mel Melis (all words and photos)


I stayed up and watched the sun rise,

over the North Sea,

I saw her face in the clouds till

the sun melted it away,

Dusk and Dawn, those funny times

neither claimed by day or night,

A time where for an instant,

the imagination snares reality.

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

dälek, Hackney Oslo, May 1st 2015

As I’ve got older, the experience of a gig goes beyond enjoying the music and the company of good friends (in this case my long time gig buddy Bossman)
It also, more recently includes sampling new drink and food, exploring a new venue or part of London, so on Mayday we ventured to Hackney Central to enjoy all of the above experiences where we went to the great bar and kitchen known as Oslo.
I spent a lot of my childhood in Stoke Newington, so I had an inkling as to how far Hackney is from central London by public transport, however, I will say it’s well worth the bus or train ride.
It’s a great venue for food (the burgers are amazing), drink, conversation, with great staff and fast service. The band were sitting behind us enjoying some pre-gig beers and food. And of course they have a gig / club venue attached to them. This review from the Guardian pretty much sums it up.

The gig space itself is intimate with a great view of the stage and fantastic acoustics.
As for the gig itself, dälek were fearsome hip hop noise merchants, churning out brutal beats and grooves overlaid with beautiful white noise with the MC, dälek, throwing himself into the moment with his lyrics. Their energy live is just astounding.
As this article points out on their long absence and return to the live scene and recording, they do take from the more brutal end of shoegaze noise combined with the scalding power of rebellious hip hop and rap. Together it’s a powerful combination.

I love all sorts of music and these guys are so unique and eclectic. Sometimes I love my music to be quiet and contemplative, but sometimes I want the noise to consume me, so I break into fragments, atomise, become nothing. And when I reform, I’m renewed and refreshed. This is what I wanted that night. Noise. The Beautiful Noise.

Monday, 4 May 2015

The Old Barn

Since I’ve lived in the village, the old barn has stood, it was of indeterminate age, but definitely venerable. On a sunny crisp day in March, our friends from New Zealand visited, this is probably the last ever photo of the old barn. The next day when I walked to work through the moors I saw its remains burning in a pyre.

We saw it yesterday, just a fragile frame of wood,
ivy caressed,
the fragile skeleton on the edge of the moor,
the men came, and without ceremony,
dismembered it,
piled its bones and set it on fire,
yellow flames licking at the edge of memories,
ashes rising in the air,
history atomised

Words by Mel Melis, All photos by Donna Grewal ©

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Sustainability, People and Heritage


When people talk of sustainability, the first thing that often comes to mind is the environment, followed swiftly by social aspects, then within a business perspective, the financial sustainability of an organisation. All are important, all are significant.

But what of people? My current assignment with Fujitsu is looking at promoting sustainability within our global businesses and global delivery centres. This is not just an altruistic and heady ambition underpinned by our noble goals to "Strive for Human Centric Innovation to Overcome Global Environmental Issues and Create a Sustainable Society."

It’s also about how we can achieve business success by being responsible, to the environment, to society and to each other. A trusted business builds long term relationships, with customers, stakeholders and employees.

I’ve had the pleasure of visiting our business operations in Spain as part of this assignment, but also three of our Global Delivery Centres, in Portugal, Poland and Russia. Global Delivery Centres are in essence great examples of sustainability success, a centralised, lean organisation and team delivering remote global services. If we can avoid an engineering visit, that is a great success for customer satisfaction, because customers do not have to wait. But it’s also a success for the environment because we are exploiting ICT to remotely resolve key issues without generating even more carbon emissions through transport or disposed equipment.

As well as this, the Global Delivery Centres have a fantastic diversity story. They are multi-lingual, multi-national centres, employing young, ambitious people. I started my own ICT career working on a Service Desk, answering and resolving calls, it’s tough work, but there is a sense of pride and gratification in being able to achieve for a customer and when they thank you, that’s a great buzz. Women are also significantly represented, in management too. In Portugal for instance, the Global Delivery Centre management team has a majority representation of women.

So, and much as it is an obvious thing to say, people are fundamental to the success of any organisation, and the development and sustainability of people is key. An old adage states that employees do not leave companies, they leave managers, in some respects this is true, but organisations like Fujitsu have developed extensive guidelines and policies to develop the expected behaviours of all employees, such that we try to avoid this scenario.

So what else motivates people to stay with an organisation? Well, money of course, we can’t talk about motivation without mentioning that. As well as that, job satisfaction, development, being felt valued. All are significant and there are many success stories in many an organisation of how the sustainability of people, through development, is achieved to drive the long term success of the organisation.

But one thing I wanted to pick up on is the heritage of an organisation, is there a sense of pride with where you work based on what that organisation has achieved? Personally I’m fascinated by the pre-cursor of Fujitsu in the UK, ICL, which in itself was a consolidation/merger of a number of significant British ICT companies with an interesting and diverse heritage of their own, including making components for the code breaking machines at Bletchley Park. The National Museum of Computing there has a great selection of working (pre) ICL equipment and a timeline on history. You can also see reconstructions of Colossus and the Bombe machines in action of course.

But something that stood out for me on my travels is that in our Russian Global Delivery Centre, there is an onsite museum with a great selection of computing history, photography and curios.

For example, did you know Yuri Gagarin’s (you know, the first human in space, that dude) space flight was directed by the locally built M20 computer? Here is a little tribute to him, Lenin is keeping a watchful eye too.

The Soviet engineering seal of approval.

Here is the lovely Margarita, who is now the director of the museum but was one of a handful of employees who set up the factory in the 1950s, showing us the model of the M20 computer.

And finally, me and Margarita, I didn’t speak any Russian, she didn’t speak any English, but we got on fine! (our wonderful colleagues Alina and Gleb were very kind and helpful in translating for myself and my colleague Hiro)

In a broad sense, people make the difference. It is encouraging that sustainability is on the curriculum in many schools worldwide, here’s hoping the future is in safe hands.

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Defining Beauty, British Museum


The new exhibition at the British Museum considers the depiction of beauty in Ancient Greek art.

I marvel at the sophistication of the works that are to be on show and I’m so glad I re-joined as a member. I’m very much looking forward to visiting.

As a teaser, the museum, via their social media platforms, has been sharing various photos of artefacts and artworks to be displayed as part of this exhibition. Today, as part of a focus on International Women’s Day, a beautiful bronze figurine of a Spartan woman running was shared.

Ironically the birthplace of democracy, Athens, kept their women like property, locked up, covered up and having no function in society other than marriage and child bearing. Unlike their Athenian sisters, Spartan girls did sports, had a good education, owned land and performed important civic duties as Spartan men were almost to the man, full time soldiers. Other Greek city states, or rather the men in those states, who provided the contemporary anecdotal soundbites we draw upon, looked down upon the Spartan women, snootily calling them "thigh showers" for their unashamed prowess in athletic pursuits. There was even an athletics meeting for women, in honour of the goddess Hera (Goddess of Women), which took place every four years at Olympia, although this was separate from the Olympic games.

So, here's the lovely figurine of a beautiful Spartan runner showing her athletic thighs, lifting her skirt to maximise her ability to accelerate. It dates from around 500BC, there is a dynamism in this work of art, it really is lovely, she’s so elegant. And where was she running to? I’d guess she was going to kick an Athenian in the balls.

Defining Beauty, From March 26th, British Museum.

Friday, 6 February 2015

PJ Harvey, Recording in Progress, Somerset House, 5th February 2015


After a lengthy morning at the Russian Consulate, submitting my business visa request, I decided to take an early lunch and make the relatively short walk through the sleet to Somerset House, to see if there were any returns of the sold out run for PJ Harvey’s Recording in Progress.

(photocredit © Seamus Murphy)

I didn’t hold much hope, they seemed to be the hottest tickets in town, more an interactive art installation than a gig as such.

© photocredit – Me! (Mel Melis)

It’s totally pot luck, the artists are working, the glass is one way, they cannot see you, they are recording their new album, not putting on a show for you, you might get to hear polished songs, you might just get some discussion, tuning of instruments, jamming, drinking of coffee. So when I asked the security guard in hope, his eyebrow raised itself and he announced with a giant grin. “I think this is your lucky day!” he then led me to a side room in Somerset House’s New Wing, introduced me to another staff member who confirmed that yes, this was the first time they’d ever had a no show and I would be welcome to join the session in progress. I had missed the first fifteen minutes or so, but I didn’t care! The planets and stars had aligned and the gods favoured me! I was going to get to see PJ Harvey recording her new album!

He requested that I deposit any recording equipment (no photos, recording or filming - it was strictly prohibited*) for safe keeping, allowed me to hang up my coat and then led me to the lift to drop me into the stony depths of the catacombs under Somerset House where I was led into the viewing area.

A devoted huddle of acolytes, a tiny number (between 20-30) for an act who can fill massive venues, were politely gathered around the big window spaces looking into the white room, the former inland revenue staff gymnasium that constituted the recording studio in the basement of the historic Somerset House on the Strand. Like me, most of the people there were little. Perhaps our fragility delivers us to the lyrics and powerful themes of PJ Harvey’s work, perhaps I just made a massive generalisation, but I didn’t care, there was plenty of room to see! Peej herself was wearing all black, headphones on, her black hair cascading down in waves, either side of her face. She was testing her vocals on one of the new songs, which turned out to be the “The Revolving Wheel” I believe. Her long time collaborator John Parish listening intently, brow furrowed in concentration as she played the chords she wanted him to reproduce on his acoustic guitar. Flood the producer bounced energetically around the room alternately clutching a cup of coffee and a red moleskine notebook, occasionally scribbling something down, occasionally offering sage advice. “You could bring in the instruments one by one” he suggested on one such foray from his two seater sofa, a statement more than a question. “No” remarked Polly laconically, with a smile. Perhaps a polite reminder that this was her album and vision. Flood didn’t argue, he smiled back. This seemed like a team without friction, a professional but easy going atmosphere to work in. A photographer, I’m guessing Seamus Murphy who created the wonderful films accompanying PJ Harvey’s brilliant last album “Let England Shake” duelled with Flood for centre stage, taking shots of the artists. Also in the room (I think) were the drummer Kenrick Rowe and Terry Edwards, who was ready with his saxophone as well as another unidentified musician with a wondrous beard. A couple of sound engineers dipped in and out at times too. Mick Harvey was also there, sitting next to John Parish, he seemed in a quietly jovial mood, perhaps because the onus was on Parish for the next few minutes. And then some magic happened, Parish played on an acoustic guitar and Polly sang. It was beautiful. We heard the whole of “The Revolving Wheel” from the new album. At the end, I, like many other people in the audience resisted the desire to clap. I saw the two girls in front of me clasp each others hands more tightly. I saw other people smiling in loving appreciation, me too.

The band then seemed to be building up to play a more complete, multi-instrument version of the song, perhaps a version which would end up on the album. The anticipation was building as they tuned up and jammed little elements of it. Mick Harvey’s guitar delivered some pounding bluesy derivatives of the main chord structures but unfortunately our time was up. We were asked to leave the viewing area.

I got perhaps twenty-five minutes of the forty-five minute allocation and I was chuffed to bits. I feel fortunate to have struck lucky. And I can’t wait for the new album. I walked away, the sleet had stopped, the sun was threatening to show its face and I returned to work a happy guy! Best lunchbreak ever!

Big thanks to the very friendly and accommodating staff at Somerset House.

*Fear not! Although recording was prohibited, I did make an “artist’s impression” from memory. Up to my usual excellent standard as usual I’m sure you’ll agree :). I’m not sure there were any big tape reels whirring away, seeing as we are now in the digital age… I think I kind of merged it with an episode of Hawaii-Five-O in one of the police computer rooms. But it kind of works right?

©Mel Melis (not that anyone would steal this….!)

Monday, 12 January 2015

The allure of travel, a tribute to London and Paris


In the guts of London, forgotten verges,

Detritus, piling up, centuries of it,

the train rocks slowly through grime town,

Black bricks loved with painted colour,

Before sinking into the depths,

Of the dark ant tunnels,

And emerging in the bright new place,

The hollowed hull of the beautiful whale,

hedgehog smothered in chimney spines,

St Pancras,

I could go upstairs,

Jonah the explorer,

walk past Betjeman, tip my hat,

Bid him good day as he’s frozen, looking up,

At the cathedral ribs of this place,

Whilst the plonking tinker of amateurs,

on pianos, rattles, in my ears,

But instead,

I look longingly at the snaking jabberers,

Excitable, planning trips, or returning,

To Paris, From Paris,

I pause, I want to be there too,

To fall in love, to drink red wine,

Puff on a cheroot, write bad poetry,

I’m Wilde, Hemmingway, that other guy,

Some dude in a cravat,

A wit, a dandy, someone you want to beat up,

Spilled absinthe,

Looking louche as I watch to Seine, the people,

But work calls, more tunnels,

Then Marylebone, I love you too,

Perhaps tomorrow.

©Mel Melis 2015