A YEAR IN A LIFE (A REVIEW)
This past twelve months has been a period of significant change in the lives of me and the wife. Having been retired for a while, we couldn't decide where we wanted to live; in Cardiff where we had a history, roots and family or in France in the house we'd bought as a project some 15 years earlier but specifically as a retirement home to see us through our Autumn years. So, Cardiff or Brittany?
We deliberated, discussed, debated, and finally decided.
And moved to the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park in west Wales.
As with all major life decisions, there were upsides and downsides. On the plus side, we would be moving from an urban area to a country retreat which is a mere ten minute walk from lovely beaches with crystal waters. When the early-morning light is right, you could imagine that the term 'sea green' was created here. The lane on which we now live often has a grassy stripe down the centre, it's so little used, and we see the seasons evolving on the banks - recent drifts of snowdrops gave way to clumps of primroses and wood anemones. Next come the bluebells which are bulking into blankets on the banks and in the adjoining copse. Plus we're now seeing evidence of foxgloves as their leaves begin spreading and seeking the light. Fantastic ferns are preparing to open in the shady areas, their heads resembling ammonites, shepherds' crooks or coiled cobras. And of course - this being Wales - hosts of golden daffodils.
On the minus side of the decision to up sticks, I had to terminate my regular show with GTFM 107.9 where I had produced and presented a dedicated live-to-air Blues show every week for over thirteen years. (For those interested in statistics, it was for many years the only dedicated Blues music show being aired from Wales and was also one of the longest-running radio shows of its type broadcast from the UK). I did try commuting to the station a couple of times but the almost 200 mile round trip meant it just wasn't feasible. So, what to do?
Having already established a relationship with a couple of internet stations over the preceding four years or so, I decided to record a weekly show from home and offer this to them for broadcast. Another station also said they'd like to air the show (although they seem to have subsequently disappeared into the airwaves ethers a few months later) so it seemed like a good way to transition from my FM presence and, hopefully, take a few of my regular listeners on the journey with me.
Thinking that my days of interviewing stars of the Blues world were over, I settled into a routine: We got a rescue dog from a shelter, then every day we walk with him early in the morning, again in the evening and then fit in whatever we can in between.
It is often said that people get bored in retirement and this is what sees them off before they've had the chance to punish the exchequer for a refund of 45 or more years of contributions. I sometimes wish I had the chance to get bored...
Lots of my time every week is spent receiving, cataloguing and sampling new Bluesic from lots of sources - many are long-established contacts made over the years but some are new additions and this allows me a broader range of artists to set out on my aural stall. The weekly show which I record - The Blues Exclusive - generally takes me about four hours so counts as a day when mixed into the dog-walking melange. (Had we decided to move to France, this would have been called Le Blues Exclusif which might not have been grammatically correct). A couple of weeks back, I recorded show #52 - the first anniversary show.
My decision to move away from the bright lights of the big city had made me think that my relationship with Bluesic and its performers might begin to fade into history. Not a bit of it.
As well as being invited to join the organising committee of the long-established Tenby Blues Festival (this year's event is from November 10 - 12), during the year I have interviewed a long-time favourite of mine, former Junior Wells sideman, Albert Castiglia, riding high on his latest solo album 'Big Dog'. I was invited to the home of my hero, Andy Fairweather Low, to record an exclusive interview about his 50 year (so far) musical career. On the same day, I was asked to introduce the band Glas when they recorded their Live album 'Just A Stage We're Going Through' in front of an audience - they surprised me by keeping part of my introduction on the album for which I'm very grateful. I again introduced all of the main stage acts at the Abertillery Rock & Blues Weekend continuing a tradition that has brought me to Abertillery every July since 2004 – (2017 Festival dates July 7 - 9). I also got to chat with Kaz Hawkins just the day after she was selected to represent the United Kingdom at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis (and just this week, she and her band have won the European Blues Challenge 2017 - it's been quite a year for them too)!
I recorded interviews with old friends Lisa Mills and Paul Lamb and chatted briefly with Brits who are currently impacting the international stage, Ian Siegal and Joanne Shaw Taylor, as well as wunderkind Laurence Jones.
Also, during the year, I interviewed American stars Marcia Ball, Dustin Arbuckle of Moreland & Arbuckle, and (possibly one of my biggest scalps to date) Bruce Iglauer, the founder and President of Alligator Records - a label which has probably spawned more Blues musical talent than anyone since the legendary Chess label.
All interviews have either been aired on the Blues Exclusive or will be aired shortly. I also had an hour chatting with another (non-Blues) hero, Steve Harley of Cockney Rebel; our third meeting over the past 12 years.
So, that covers the Bluesical year. What else have I been up to?
Well, I've been regularly attending a 'bread club' where, under expert supervision - but in a very convivial atmosphere - we learn to make breads from across the world. More of that in a soon-to-arrive non-musical Blog which may well include a couple of recipes. I'll also tell you about my art classes, my allotment and assorted experiences over the past year.
But very topically - I've also returned to one of my early loves which is writing... A couple of decades back, I had some sketches aired on television and, like many people, feel that there might be a novel in me somewhere. So, it's under way. Currently, though, my priority is writing a 'treatment' of Elen's Island for submission to television companies. For anyone who doesn't know 'Elen's Island' you've clearly not been following me on Facebook. It's the first childrens' novel written by my elder daughter, Eloise. A second novel 'Gaslight' - this one based in Victorian Cardiff - has just been published. Check out her publications at http://www.eloisewilliams.com/ They're darned good!
Oh! Here's some 'news just in' - The Blues Exclusive has now been included in the schedules of Blues411, a very well established dedicated internet Blues broadcaster (that's almost an anniversary present - see Home page for airtimes) so I'm a very happy Easter bunny. More to come very soon.