General Update 25 March 2010

Bob Jacobs's picture

My mother died the day before Xmas Eve, so we’ve been dealing with the consequences ever since.  From numbness, through shock, gratitude, regret and happy memories, we’ve gone through the usual gamut of emotional turmoil, exacerbated by the uncivil warring between my brother and sister, both of whom would be happy never to have anything to do with the other ever again.  When Mum’s house has finally been sold and the estate divided up, we shall all be much better off financially but all the poorer spiritually.


She had a humanist funeral, which went very well, all things considered, even though Elaine’s address was incredibly solipsistic.  We managed to persuade the celebrant not to spout any “beliefs” about humanism, the point being that, as atheists, we do not believe in anything, full stop, period.  Mum sent us to Sunday School so that she and dad would have peace and quiet on Sunday morning and told us that it was so we could make our own minds up; but both she and dad were confirmed atheists and we children developed the same way (though Elaine did go through a religious phase as a teenager and got confirmed, causing my Mum to giggle uncontrollably when the rather short bishop had to reach up to baptize her).


The music was mostly sad classical stuff by Schubert (Mum’s favourite), Beethoven and Mozart.  Afterwards, we had a successful buffet at a nearby hotel.  All Mum’s neighbours were there and many of her friends and relatives made it despite the snowy weather.


Now we’re distributing a few treasured belongings among them and trying to rehouse my brother, who lived at home in a symbiotic relationship.  He actually found Mum and was knocked though a hoop by the whole thing.  His depression and alcohol dependency have got worse, so he is dazed and confused and forgetful most of the time.  We’re trying to sort him out so that he doesn’t just squander his inheritance on a pocketful of promises (to adapt a Paul Simon line).  So that’s been keeping us busy browsing the internet, making phonecalls and driving up and down the motorway to Exeter on a regular basis.


It’s quite useful in a way that I haven’t had regular employment, so my time has been more flexible than it might have been but Mary has had more difficulty, shuffling her full time job with all this.  I’ve also had my bird surveying to do.  I’m taking part in a major project by the British Trust for Ornithology to map the nation’s birds throughout the seasons and country.  I have four tetrads (2x2km squares) to cover in early winter, late winter, early breeding season and late breeding season, over five years (2007-11).  This April I’m planning to do all four tetrads, given a spell of decent weather.  Of course we’ve just had a splendid March (when no surveying was required), with two weeks of unbroken sunshine, culminating in a downpour last night.  I expect April to be dismal …


In between times, I have been doing a short contract for two “Primary Care Trusts” in the National Health Service, much maligned by the Republicans, I have noticed.  I’m not sure that what Barack Obama has achieved will actually help those people who are now going to be forced to take out health insurance but at least it is one in the eye for the greed is best school of politics.  I expect the insurance companies, for all their bleating, will still make a fortune out of it all; and the poor will still suffer the most; but at least a few will be able to afford treatment they would otherwise have been bankrupted by or died for the want of.


I’m still scouring the web for more suitable employment but not having much luck, so it is as well that I have the consolation of music, which I am enjoying on those long journeys and at the gym, where I am spending as much time as I can find.  Robin Trower’s Bridge of Sighs album is excellent accompaniment to a vigorous workout, as is Nick Harper’s latest, “The Last Guitar”.  I generally listen on shuffle though. 


I just did a compilation for Mr Bill, who is abstaining from internet communication at present.  My first cut of a compilation came in at 200 tracks, so I took an arbitrary decision to cut it down to listenable size by just selecting those categorized as “Alternative”.  These 40 tracks fit neatly on 2 CDs, so that’s what he’s got (virtually no Blues, Rock, African or Country music has made it through this net, so no Nick Harper, no Jimi Hendrix, no Joe Bonamassa, no Paolo Nutini, no Seasick Steve, I’m afraid..).  Still, lots of good stuff has made it through.  Each CD is in alphabetical order of artist, so there may be a few unfortunate sequencing errors but I hope he can live with those: here is the list (apologies for the abbreviated titles, courtesy of iTunes):


For Bill Alternative March 2010

      40 songs, 2.5 hours, 213.3 MB

   Name                     Time Album                  Artist

   Beach Baby               2:40 Blood Bank             Bon Iver

   I'll Never Tell          3:16 My Old, Familiar Fr... Brendan Benson

   We Close Our Eyes        8:05 Do You Like Rock Mu... British Sea Power

   Cookie Jar.              2:50 Ciao My Shining Sta... Chris Collingwood

   Postcard Blues           3:36 The Trinity Revisited  Cowboy Junkies

   The Wanting Comes I...   6:27 The Hazards Of Love    The Decemberists

   Moonsoon                 3:47 Ayrton Senna (Bonus... Delorean

   Sun Giant                2:14 Sun Giant              Fleet Foxes

   Miles Davis & The Cool   4:11 The '59 Sound          The Gaslight Anthem

   Ready, Able              4:17 Veckatimest            Grizzly Bear

   Happy Birthday Yest...   3:36 Ciao My Shining Sta... Hayden

   Happy                    4:17 Rabbit Fur Coat        Jenny Lewis

   Josephine                3:22 Josephine              Magnolia Electric Co

   River of Dirt            4:27 Little Hells           Marissa Nadler

   We Gathered in Spring    3:33 The Trials Of Van O... Midlake

   Twenty Cycles To Th...   3:08 Molina and Johnson     Molina and Johnson

   Savannah Smiles          3:38 The Stage Names        Okkervil River

   Sink Or Swim             4:31 Belly of the Lion      Ola Podrida

   Before The Sun Goes...   2:26 More Of The Past       Vetiver

   Little Man - Vic Ch...   3:46 Ciao My Shining Sta... Vic Chesnutt

   Neon Bible               2:17 Neon Bible             Arcade Fire

   Willow Trees Bend        4:08 Lie Down In The Light  Bonnie "Prince" Billy

   Woman Left Lonely        4:07 Jukebox                Cat Power

   Train in Vain (Stan...   3:10 London Calling         The Clash

   Villiers Terrace         2:47 Killing Moon The Be... Echo & The Bunnymen

   Starlings                5:05 The Seldom Seen Kid    Elbow

   Hurricane Drunk          3:13 Lungs                  Florence & The Machine

   Golden Hair              6:24 The Madcap Laughs A... Hope Sandoval & The...

   The Hanging Heart        9:09 Comets, Ghosts and ... Howlin' Rain

   Johnny Got A Boom Boom   3:01 Now Hear This! 65 J... Imelda May

   Wrecking Ball            4:33 Our Love To Admire     Interpol

   Communion Cups And ...   2:03 Around The Well [Di... Iron & Wine

   Nora                     2:45 Before Sleep Comes     Luka Bloom

   See Emily Play           2:18 I Know You're Marri... Martha Wainwright

   Ain't Got Nothin'        2:15 Dig Out Your Soul      Oasis

   You Ain't Seen Noth...   3:36 Scraps                 Otway, John

   Song For Alice           3:38 22 Dreams              Paul Weller

   Life Stinks              1:57 Datapanik in the Ye... Pere Ubu

   For The Boozers And...   5:30 Daddy's Table          Phil Campbell

   Flint (For The Unem...   3:44 Michigan               Sufjan Stevens


Happy days!


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Alan Jones's picture

Blog entry

Hi Bob - wouldn't presume to comment on your mum's death since it's so personal except to say that when my mum died five and a half years ago it necessitated a strange rapprochement with my sister (whom I hadn't spoken to in the preceeding ten years except when I met her at my mum's hospital bedside after her first heart attack) which lasted from the day Carol phoned me tosay that mum was in hospital to the day after the funeral... bloody weird things, families.  To change tack - I, too, am doing the BTO Bird Atlas Survey.  I've been quite frustrated over the winter because the snow has meant that some of my tetads have been inaccessible unless I had a four-wheel drive, but come April I hope to get going again and at least get some breeding season records in for some of the Highland heartlands.  Do you do the BTO Garden Birdwatch?  I've been doing it for about five years now but the peak came a couple of weeks ago when I saw my first ever Blackcap ("and the blackcap sings and the forest rings") - a female, on the garden birdtable!  At least that was a better first than  my best friend Phil who is also abird enthusiast and Harper enthusiast whose first enconter with a Blackcap was when one flew into the windscreen of his van and died....To change tack again, I was very impressed with your  compilation for Mr Bill - mainly because I had only heard three out of all the tracks on the CD.  Looks like there's about a year's worth of musical exploration signposted there! All the best -

  Alan Jones

Bob Jacobs's picture

Thanks Alan

Thanks for your interest and observations.  As you say, families are strange things.  In my case, the relationship between brother and sister has deteriorated beyond repair and my relationship with my sister is undergoing unusual strain at present.  I'm getting on quite well with the brother (also an Alan), which probably explains that!

I understand the frustration of trying to survey birds in the winter.  I just fitted my winter ones in.  Then the weather in March was lovely and I decided to do a breeding season visit, only to be reminded that I couldn't do one of those till April, so that visit just turned out to be a mega roving record....  I recently resumed my subscription to Garden Birdwatch and have enjoyed compiling my regular reports.  I have most of the common garden birds frequenting my feeders, but it's interesting to see the fluctuations in numbers.  I usually get a siskin or two in February but I didn't this year. Blackbirds were very numerous until just recently, so either they've dispersed or fallen prey to one of the many cats hereabouts.  I have a pair of Blackcaps frequenting my feeders still.  Not sure whether they will settle here or return to Germany or wherever for the summer.  Fingers crossed.  Two of my three dunnocks have just fallen prey to the neighbour's cat, so I'm a bit cross today.  Time for a bit of Lou Reed's "I can't stand it any more".

I've been listening to the full length version of my playlist for Mr Bill (the 200 songs).  I feel a bit guilty because the Blues and Country sections that followed on from the Alternative section are much more consistently listenable.  Even Mary, she of the Cliff Richard tendency, enjoyed most of yesterday's crop as we roamed the Berkshire Downs.