Author Archives: Tim Hall

There have been suggestions that the BBC continues Top Gear by regenerating Jeremy Clarkson in the manner of Dr Who. There were also suggestions that the next Dr Who be a woman. But if you cross those streams you end up with Top Gear presented by Katie Hopkins….

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Mostly Autumn Full 2015 Tour Dates

Olivia Sparnenn of Mostly Autumn at the 2014 Cambridge Rock FestivalMostly Autumn have now announced their tour dates for the remainder of the year, taking in venues across the country over the summer and autumn, culminating in four special dates at the end of the year, extended shows that will include “Dressed in Voices” as well as a revival of the Pink Floyd Revisited set from a decade ago.

These four dates include a return to York Grand Opera House, this time on Friday 13th of November, and a special Christmas show at The Assembly in Leamington Spa on Sunday 13th December.

The latter will be the only Christmas show this year, and features an extended bill running from 4pm to 10pm, with details to be announced. Since it’s difficult to imagine Mostly Autumn playing for six hours there will presumably be other bands on the bill.

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Froxfield – A Near Miss

From the Rail Accident Investigation preliminary report when a heavily loaded HST struck debris on the track, and came very close to derailment at 95 mph.

The bridge parapet had originally been struck at about 17:20 hrs by a reversing articulated lorry. The lorry driver had turned off the A4 at a junction just north of the railway bridge, and crossed over the railway before encountering a canal bridge 40 metres further on which he considered to be too narrow for his vehicle. A pair of road signs located just south of the A4 junction warn vehicle drivers of a hump back bridge and double bends but there were no weight or width restriction signs. The lorry driver stopped before the canal bridge and attempted to reverse round a bend and back over the railway bridge without assistance, and was unaware when the rear of his trailer first made contact with, and then toppled, the brick parapet on the east side of the railway bridge. The entire parapet, weighing around 13 tonnes, fell onto the railway, obstructing both tracks

This was the same type of train travelling at the same speed as in the 2004 Ufton Nervet crash in which the train driver and five passengers died. This was a narrow escape from what could have been a similar disaster.

It was predictable but disappointing that lorry drivers on a forum I won’t name were keen to shout down any criticism of the driver. If you suggested that someone who recklessly endangered several hundred lives be prosecuted, you were compared with Hitler.

I can understand it’s human nature to want to circle the wagons in situations like this, but when the safety of the public is at stake the idea that “armchair critics” must not comment on “professional issues” is dangerous bullshit. As the saying goes, you don’t need to be a chicken to know when the egg is rotten.

The professionalism (or lack of such) of the road haulage industry is the business of everyone who shares a transport environment them. Don’t let anyone persuade you otherwise.

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RIP Terry Pratchett

Pratchett DeathSo we all knew it was coming; like Iain Banks we’d known he was seriously ill and it was only a matter of time, but it was still a shock to hear the news of Terry Pratchett’s death at the age of 66.

Terry Pratchett was the most significant fantasy author of the past thirty years, certainly from a British perspective. Nobody other than perhaps Tolkien has cast a longer shadow over the genre, and Pratchett has produced a huge body of work. He’s crossed over to the mainstream with a readership well beyond the confines of science fiction and fantasy’s usual audience, while remaining hugely revered within fandom. The blurb of his books used to say he was sometimes accused of writing literature. That’s because he did. Although the majority of his books were comedies, Pratchett fiercely rejected the idea that comic was the opposite of serious. He could and did tackle many weighty subjects, and brought them to an audience Serious Literature could not hope to reach.

The vast majority of his comic fantasies took place in the Discworld, a vast flat disc on the back of four elephants on the back a giant turtle. His fantasy world was a mirror held up to our own; like much classic SF this enabled him to explore real-world issues from a position slightly removed. He tackled politics, economics, organised religion, race and gender, and did it without the preachiness of many a lesser author. He populated his world with so many memorable characters; Sam Vimes, unique as a comic policeman who’s actually competent, the witches Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg, Moist von Lipwig, the convicted conman turned nationalised industry boss, and Death, the ‘anthropomorphic personification’ Pratchett managed to make into a sympathetic three-dimensional character.

Pratchett’s insights into human nature make his work valuable to all sorts of professions. Of the tributes I’ve seen online, Mike Talks has suggested some of his books are a must read for any tester just to challenge them, and to expand their minds. And Rev. Rachel Mann has not only named Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg as inspirational characters, but suggests that “Equal Rites” and “Small Gods” should be required reading for anyone wanting to enter the priesthood.

If you haven’t read any Pratchett, you need to. If you’re not an avid fantasy fan I would recommend you avoid the first couple of Discworld novels starring the failed wizard Rincewind. “The Colour of Magic” and “The Light Fantastic” are picaresque journeys parodying corny fantasy clichés, and won’t work as well if you’re not familiar with the works being parodied. Start instead with something like “Guards! Guards!” or “Wyrd Sisters”, which introduce you to Sam Vimes and the witches.

And now he has met one of his best characters. I’ll let his Twitter feed have the last word.

(The image of Terry Pratchitt and Death came from Mike Talk’s blog, which does not identify the artist)

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Also Eden tour with Silhouette in May

Bristol-based Also Eden have announced a short co-headline tour with Dutch outfit, Silhouette, with one date in The Netherlands and four in the UK, including a first ever visit to Scotland for either band.

The tour begins in Utrecht, after which Also Eden will also appear at the Prog The Castle festival in Heidelberg. The two bands will then play four co-headline dates in the UK.

The dates are:

  • Friday, May 8th – Star Sound in Utrecht
  • Thursday, May 14th – The Railway in Winchester
  • Friday, May 15th – The Railway in Bromley Cross, Bolton
  • Saturday May 16th – The Flying Duck in Glasgow
  • Sunday May 17th – The Thunderbolt in Bristol

More details from the Also Eden site.

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The trouble with music journalism is there are still too many writers who lack the self-awareness to realise that what they think is a universally-acknowledged truth is actually far closer to the linguistic equivalent of a dog urinating to mark its territory.

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Karnataka, Bilston Robin 2

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It’s been more than two years since Karnataka last toured the UK. Fronted by their third lead singer, former Riverdance singer Hayley Griffiths, the new-look Karnataka made a strong impression back in 2012. Extensive touring spawned the DVD “New Light”. Since then they’ve have spent most of the past couple of years in the studio recording a new album. But despite the length of time they’ve been away, they pulled an appreciable crowd for a Sunday Night on the fourth date of the “Secrets of Angels” tour.

The band the stage with a bang, opening the brand new “Road to Cairo”, a driving hard rock number number some people may have recognised since it appeared on the cover disk of Prog magazine ahead of the album release. Although Hayley promised they’d be playing the new album in full, for the first set the emphasis was on well-known favourites; a powerful “Talk To Me”, “The Right Time”, and an impressively rocked-up take on “Delicate Flame of Desire”, featuring some evocative guitar work from Enrico Pinna. A drum-heavy reworked intro heralded the lengthy “The Gathering Light” to bring us to the interval.

If the first set focussed on the familiar, the second half was almost entirely new, and this was where Hayley Griffiths really came into her own with material written to take full advantage of the remarkable power and range of her voice, as demonstrated by the operatic high notes of “Poison Ivy”. It was all very dramatic and dynamic, closer to the symphonic metal of bands like Nightwish than the ethereal sounds of their early days. They finished with the epic-length title track parts of which saw a return to the celtic atmospheric side of their music.

They encored with the lighters-in-the-air ballad “Feels Like Home”, with an a cappella ending, and it was all over, leaving you wishing for more.

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Karnataka were a great live band back in 2012, but this performance saw them raise their game to another level. Hayley Griffiths’ dramatic stage presence and stagecraft makes her the obvious visual focus of the band, and she’s more confident now in the role of rock frontwoman, even if her song introductions occasionally sounded a little stilted. Enrico Pinna has to be one of the most talented guitarists in any band of this level; reeling off magnificent cascading solos. And new drummer Jimmy Pallagrosi made a very strong impression; with his mop of hair and the storm he kicked up behind the kit he sometimes seemed to be channelling Animal from the Muppets.

Karnataka have gone through a lot of changes over the years; bassist and composer Ian Jones is the sole constant factor, and Enrico Pinna is the only other remaining member from the band that recorded their previous studio album “The Gathering Light”. But the way they reinterpret older material rather than attempt to faithfully recreate the originals should have long dispelled the idea that they’re any kind of glorified tribute band, and the emphasis on new material on this tour shows a band looking to the future rather than the past. While there were still one or two who preferred earlier versions of the band, finding this incarnation too bombastic, the newer harder-rocking Karnataka won over the vast majority of the crowd in Bilston.

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70 Through The Trees

Freightliner's 70019 passes Reading on a diverted Southampton-bound freightliner.

A photo that can’t be taken later in the year, for more than one reason. Freightliner’s 70019 rounds the curve between Reading and Reading West with a Southampton bound container train, diverted from its usual route due to the landslip at Harbury.

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Dapol Falcons

Dapol Falcon

Latest new toys for the train set are some newly-released “Falcon” ballast wagons from Dapol. They’re excellent well-detailed models of what has now become a very common sight on the full-sized railway, and at a price that makes them very good value for money.

Engineering trains used to be the poor relation of revenue-earning freight,and were seldom modelled. Such trains were often made up from superannuated repurposed revenue-earning wagons running behind the oldest and most clapped-out locomotives in the fleet.

With the massive investment in an increasingly passenger-focussed railway, all that has changed.  Engineering trains represent a major part of the privatised freight companies’ businesses, and a more typical train today is made up of modern purpose-built wagons behind the newest and most reliable locomotives.

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Here’s a short train of the full-sized versions at Dawlish back in 2004

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Kim Seviour leaves Touchstone

Touchstone's 2014 Christmas gig at Bilston Robin 2

Sad news from  Touchstone

It is with regret that we announce the departure of Kim Seviour from Touchstone.

Kim has decided to leave due to ongoing medical issues. Here are a few words from her…”I’m sure that this will come as a shock to many people, and for that I’m very sorry. As many of you will know, I’ve dealt with a health condition, M.E for the last five years of being in Touchstone. The condition and the lifestyle changes that it has resulted in, including a move cross-country, have made it impossible for me to commit to Touchstone in the way that it truly deserves. I need to take time to concentrate on my health and getting myself back to peak condition. Who knows what lies ahead after. I love my boys to bits and we’ve shared many amazing adventures, which would have been impossible without the support of incredible music lovers, and friends such as yourselves. I wish the guys the very best and know that they will continue to make awesome music, which I fully support all the way. For those who can make it, I would love to see you and share a drink at HRH, which will be my last Touchstone gig. Thank you so much for everything, I love you all. God bless xxx”

All the band fully accept this situation and support her decision and we know that you will join us in wishing Kim all the very best for the future. We will still be in very close contact. It’s been an amazing journey for all of us and we sincerely appreciate all the fantastic support from our fans and friends, given to us over the years.

Kim will be leaving after our performance at Hard Rock Hell on Friday 20th March, so if you want to get a last chance to see this lineup, it’s a trip to North Wales…!!!

As for the future of Touchstone, there are no immediate plans for a new release; the band is currently on indefinite hold and remaining members will pursue other projects.

At some time in the future the Touchstone phoenix may arise again…;

Kim will be a very hard act to follow with her dynamic stage presence and distictive voice. I first saw her ar her very first gig with the band, supporting The Reasoning at Crewe Limelight.

This incarnation of Touchstone should go out with a bang at HRH Prog.

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