Gloves Off: Simon Hits Back at Lizard’s “Socially Useful Aliens” Idea

Hi, Lizard – sorry, mate, this just won’t do. I’m referring to your “goats and aliens” piece in which you flag the notion that alienated people “might have a positive function as the existential scapegoats of society”. I think this notion is self-contradictory and that your argument makes a logical—or, rather, illogical—leap when you switch from a subjective perspective to that of a hypothetical “disinterested observer”. You gloss over fundamental ambiguities, such as whether alienation is a psychological or philosophical condition, and you end up proposing a synthetic answer to an empirical question (which is rather suspect, if it’s meant to be the result of disinterested observation).

I’ll reference your points and make observations about each one.

  1. “What has occurred to me…is that people like usalienated peoplemight have a positive function as the existential scapegoats of society.

The whole point of being alienated is that you’re on the margins of society or completely outside it. You have no relationship with society and no function within it, other than to submit to its demands—which, being alienated, you can’t in all conscience do.

  1. The idea came to me during a weekend spent struggling with some familiar demons…. So, let’s take a step back and look at this from a broader perspectivenot my subjective point of view alone, but that of a disinterested observer assessing society in the round.

This seems very convenient. How can you simply switch perspective like that? There is an emotional cost to being alienated, and it usually involves being anxious, isolated, angry and depressed. These are chronic ailments, not a temporary excursion such as a “weekend struggling with some familiar demons”.

leloir_-_jacob_wrestling_with_the_angel

Weekends at The Lizard’s

This is a structural shift in your argument from the psychological to the philosophical, which you fail to acknowledge. More importantly, there is a much wider question as to whether alienation is a psychological or philosophical condition, or both, but you ignore it. I don’t necessarily expect you to answer the question (has anyone, yet?) but you could at least point to it and note the ambiguity it creates.

  1. Let’s assume that this observer subscribes to your Alienation Theory of History and sees our society and its existential discontents as the consequence, ultimately, of the human crisis that occurred when the hunter-gatherer lifestyle gradually gave way to settled, urban life.… In real time, with the toing and froing between these opposite poles possibly resembling a sort of Hegelian dialectic, this society might even appear to be (from the outside) a self-compensating system.

This is another structural shift, in which you evoke an external construct (the Alienation Theory of History) arbitrarily, adding a synthetic dimension to what you have otherwise presented as an empirical proposition. You’re now discussing alienation, or purporting to do so, while drawing on knowledge acquired through relationships. Hardly a purist’s position, and one that is surely fundamentally self-contradictory!

I’ll quote the rest of your piece from this point in full.

  1. I find this idea rather interesting. What if our agonising and writing about the human condition is not just the private malady we’ve always considered it to be, but also the way in which society makes up for its materialistic excesses, even if this arrangement isn’t officially recognised and those who are perpetrating the excesses don’t give a fig about us.   [ Perhaps, like the scapegoats of the Old Testament, our role is to atone for the sins of others? We suffer to make up for the fact that they don’t.  [There are dangers implicit in this idea, of course: we should be wary of developing a Messiah complex. But it’s positive in the sense that it gives us some social context and provides a link between us and those who, in their preoccupation with material concerns, are oblivious to us and the wider meaning of their lives.

The contradiction is blatant here: you’ve squared the circle, inserted a round peg into a square hole; you’ve imagined the alienated as having a place in society. Worse than that, you’ve assigned them a subservient role. Have you considered the political implications of this? Very often it’s the outsiders who initiate change and progress; what you’re proposing here is an essentially conservative model in which the alienated, whether they’re being critical of the status quo or collaborative with it, are basically serving it. Your conversation has morphed miraculously from being about the individual and the human condition to being about institutions, and the relationship between them. You’re no longer talking about alienation, for Christ’s sake—you’re talking about Church and State!!!

I mean, SERIOUSLY???

Love,

Simon.

Pic: Jacob Wrestling with the Angel, Alexandre Louis Leloir (1865)

Of goats and aliens: the Lizard replies to the Stranger

Dear Stranger – your seven types of alienation seem reasonable. I haven’t been able to think of any others; will let you know when I do. What has occurred to me recently, however, is that people like us—alienated people—might have a positive function as the existential scapegoats of society.

scapegoat-james-tissot

Agnus Dei: the Scapegoat, by James Tissot

The idea came to me during a weekend spent struggling with some familiar demons. I was bemoaning the fact that my religious and sheltered childhood had hard-wired me to believe, as a default position, that the spiritual is more real than (and superior to) the material. This is the core assumption of most poets, lunatics, romantics and religious fanatics. I never had the financial resources, social support network or mental deficiency that would allow me to indulge such fancies, of course; I had to make my own way in the world and take it on in all its gross materialism.

But my upbringing disqualified me from any meaningful worldly success—the kind that results in complete, or at least sufficient, financial independence. That was the cause of my anger and depression. I felt, as I often do, that my parents had entered me in the School egg-and-spoon race and then, just before the starting gun, decided to amputate one of my legs. There are many, many people worse off than me, of course, but this is the way in which, and the extent to which, I feel frustrated with my lot.

And I am not alone. There are so many of us. We are almost a discrete social class, but most of the time we are barely visible. When we are noticed, we are usually dismissed as fringe-dwellers.

So, let’s take a step back and look at this from a broader perspective—not my subjective point of view alone, but that of a disinterested observer assessing society in the round.

Let’s assume that this observer subscribes to your Alienation Theory of History and sees our society and its existential discontents as the consequence, ultimately, of the human crisis that occurred when the hunter-gatherer lifestyle gradually gave way to settled, urban life. Society now, with the materialistically adept in charge and the spiritually adept forever on the back foot, might look like the logical outcome of such an historical evolution. In real time, with the toing and froing between these opposite poles possibly resembling a sort of Hegelian dialectic, this society might even appear to be (from the outside) a self-compensating system.

I find this idea rather interesting. What if our agonising and writing about the human condition is not just the private malady we’ve always considered it to be, but also the way in which society makes up for its materialistic excesses, even if this arrangement isn’t officially recognised and those who are perpetrating the excesses don’t give a fig about us?

Perhaps, like the scapegoats of the Old Testament, our role is to atone for the sins of others? We suffer to make up for the fact that they don’t.

There are dangers implicit in this idea, of course: we should be wary of developing a Messiah complex. But it’s positive in the sense that it gives us some social context and provides a link between us and those who, in their preoccupation with material concerns, are oblivious to us and the wider meaning of their lives.

Best,

Lizard.

River Notes 1

hawkesbury-1

I’m facing downstream;

Upstream is for the Oedipal,

Those who are seeking answers to the mysteries of life:

Who am I? Why am I here? What’s it all about?

The answers are not at the source,

They are in the flow

And you must catch them as you drift;

And I have drifted far enough

To want to pause, to feel the current

Push against the tide, suspend my animation long enough

For me to think about

The answers I have learned,

Before the river pours me

One last time

Into the forgetful sea.

Seven Types of Alienation

Just putting this out there. Anyone agree with this list? I aimed at seven because it’s a satisfying number and has some literary precedence (“Seven Types of Ambiguity”, etc.). Are there more? What remedies would you propose?

  1. Social

An inability to identify with “mainstream” values and a sense of being disconnected from the broad mass of people. Possible cause: insufficient socialisation when young.

social-alienation

  1. Economic

Lack of creative or personal satisfaction in one’s working life; the oppression of needing to work for purely material reasons, absent of any moral value or purpose. Possible cause: lack of suitable employment opportunities, lack of capital (which would make self-employment an option), lack of appropriate education, training or skills.

economic-alienation

  1. Cultural

Culture: the values and modes of expression that are distinctive to a group of people. Cultural alienation may occur when two or more culturally distinctive groups of people inhabit the same location, but their values and modes of expression are not commonly shared and tend to divide rather than unite them. Causes: historical conquest (English language in Wales, for example), multiculturalism etc.

cultural-alienation-2

4. Personal

The sense of dislocation and alienation that can follow a change of consciousness triggered by an epiphany or some other event that changes one’s view or understanding of the world, usually in the direction of disillusionment. The self feels trapped and isolated in a reality which appears to be irremediably fragmented, and which offers no obvious escape. Possible cause: a traumatic, life-changing experience – for example, death of a loved one, parental divorce, end of a relationship, loss of faith etc.

personal-alienation_the-scream

  1. Interpersonal

Alienation that occurs between people – individuals and/or groups. Can be one-sided or mutual. Possible causes: breach of trust (real or perceived), atavistic anxiety (engineered by a populist politician turning one part of society against another, for example).

cultural-alienation

  1. Intellectual

Intellectual alienation: the “two cultures” syndrome and the notion of left-brain, right- brain dichotomy. Possible causes: originating (theoretically) in the primal Neolithic alienation and exacerbated by the increasingly specialised nature of work since the industrial revolution.   A contrast to the “Renaissance man” model.

intellectual-alienation-2

  1. Creative

The separation of a person from the source of his/her creativity. The sources of creativity can be many, varied and complex, including local environment, traditional ideas and community values, forms of creative stimulation (books, paintings etc.), the means of creative production, personal freedom, the opportunity to engage with the creative areas of one’s consciousness (i.e. time, peace and quiet to meditate, reflect, read etc.). Possible causes: relocation, exposure to new and challenging world views/values; any breach in the sense of continuity or cohesiveness in one’s life.

creative-alienation

Picture sources or credits: carejoy.com, Cornell Press, JTM Signs, Edvard Munch, Palgrave Macmillan, Picasso, Tommy Huynh

Cheers,

The Stranger.

A Mudgee Moment

Some moments come to you as a gift. On a visit to Mudgee at the weekend I found a café tucked away in a courtyard behind one of the main streets. As in most Australian country towns, the shops were closed on Saturday afternoon, so the café was quiet. A middle-aged woman sat alone, reading her Kindle, on one of a suite of faded armchairs arranged around a low table which effectively formed the centrepiece of the outdoor seating area. I took a side table next to the door of the café interior, close to a speaker that relayed a tasteful selection of modern country blues. The staff – all women – were friendly and I ordered a large flat white and a slice of fruit loaf. Sparrows pecked at the uneven cobbles and flew up to perch on the bare vines that hung overhead, watching for the next opportunity to snatch a crumb. I waited for them to pounce.

“Look at you, enjoying the peace and quiet,” said the waitress as she set down my coffee.

“It’s an oasis,” I said. “And I love the music.”

Mudgee is a typical Australian country town of wide streets and low colonial buildings where church spiers are still the tallest structures you can see, until your eye wanders to the blond-green hills beyond them. The old rural and gold-mining economy of the surrounding area has been replaced by vineyards and olive groves, and wine bars and restaurants specialising in local produce alternate with older, less glamorous businesses such as pubs, Thai massage parlours and thrift shops. In the quieter enclaves, several retail premises stand empty.

mudgee-post-office

Old Telegraph Station and Post Office, Mudgee

On this afternoon, Saturday or not, the main street had a lively atmosphere, thanks mainly to the al fresco winers and diners. At one end of the street, close to where the Cudgegong river cuts through the town, a saddlery stood opposite a wine bar offering live music. The shop was open and I wandered in, drawn by the wholesome smell of leather.

cudgegong

Cudgegong River, Mudgee

“Where you from, mate?” Behind the counter an old lady sat hunched over a sewing machine, rapid-fire strafing a horse blanket with needle and thread.  Her red leathery skin made her hair seem whiter than it really was.

“Sydney.”

She nodded, as if to say, “Thought so.”

“I’m normally closed at this time, but I’ve got so much to do.”

At the other end of the street, and at what seemed to be the far end of the town’s cultural spectrum, I found the Mudgee Art House, run by a painter called Warwick Behr. He signs himself Warbehr. I bought a print of his painting of a black cockatoo—a mysterious and iconic Australian bird, reimagined as a splash of psychedelic colour.

warbehr-print-black-cockatoo-on-mustard_grande

Black Cockatoo on Mustard, by Warbehr

 

Intimate Strangers: Rody Finally Gets It

Dear Stranger – this is a very belated reply to your helpful discussion of, in your words, the “two…extremes” of the human condition, pagan egoism and civilised alienation. I think that’s a fair description of the polarity I felt after my Nimbin experience. The reason I’m writing now is that I’ve been motivated to do so by a recent incident which has helped me to put things in a deeper perspective.

As you know, I promoted the wedding anniversary song “Can’t Stand the Heat” on Facebook earlier this month, to coincide with Valentine’s Day. It did well, with more than 2,000 hits on Soundcloud and 1,500 likes, 54 comments and 284 shares on FB. For reasons I don’t quite understand, nearly all the responses were from South Africa, although I had also targeted Australia, New Zealand, the US and UK in the campaign. I can only assume there was some sort of bias in the FB algorithm; either that, or South Africans are a lot more romantic and sentimental than the rest of the English-speaking world. Personally, I incline toward the algorithm theory.

Now, here’s the thing: the (overwhelmingly positive) comments were mostly about the love that people felt for their long-term (and, in some cases, deceased) wives, husbands or partners (I was targeting a 30 to 65+ age demographic). It was a privilege to receive from absolute strangers open and emotional comments about an intimate matter of such importance to them. It reminded me of the familiar phrase and film title, “Intimate Strangers”, which neatly captures the tension between the intimacy of the comments I received and the fact that they were from people unknown to me. This polarity between intimacy and stranger-ness seemed to carry an echo of your ego-alien polarity.

intimate-strangers

And another echo: the one implicit in the words “Universal Stranger”—most of us are unknown to our fellow humans, but we all share a common or universal humanity.

This begins to look like what you call the middle way or the space between: a sense of half-connectedness with humanity in general, which is both forced upon us by the alienating effects of modern society and yet also made possible by the technology which is so much a part of that society. Conceptually, it looks like a paradox, but it lies behind what, for many of us, is a psychological truth: And then that voice said/You’ll always live/Between the Whirlpool and the Worm. (“Black Wave”)

Thanks for the insight. All I need to do now is figure out how to apply it in a practical way each day.

Cheers,

Rody.

 

New Australia Day: a Modest Proposal

Australia Day means different things to different people: for Anglo Australians, it marks the beginning of European settlement and the transformation of a pristine wilderness into a modern democratic nation state; for many indigenous Australians, it’s “Invasion Day”, the beginning of the end of their traditional way of life and the source of their present-day difficulties.

In my case it was the date in 1991 when, with my pregnant wife and young family, I left the UK to make our home here.

After a 24-hour flight and the adjustment of our watches, we arrived on January 28 to find that the area of Sydney where we were to spend our first few weeks had been devastated by a cyclone. Just two weeks later my wife went into premature labour. She was hospitalised. The baby – the longed-for sister for our two sons – was born two months later but survived only a few hours.

turramurra-cyclone-1991

Welcome to Australia. Source: The Daily Telegraph

Our personal history has much in common with that of other migrants and, indeed, the history of modern Australia: a fresh start, hope, crushing disappointment, resilience and survival. We have our third child: he’s a fine, strapping young man, just like his elder siblings. Not only that, but we have just welcomed our first grandchild (another boy!) into the world. Life doesn’t get much better.

So, when I think of Australia Day, I think of a lot of things, good and bad.

Consequently, it’s not hard for me to imagine that Australia Day is good for some people, less good for others. I’m not a fan of the black arm-band view of history and I love this country unreservedly, but I’m not blind to its faults. I have no first-hand experience of the kind of deprivation suffered by many indigenous Australians, but I’ve seen enough of it to know that it’s real and to understand why Australia Day is alienating for many of our first people.

So, let’s change the date; and let’s not.

nicholson-cartoon

Peter Nicholson, The Australian

I’m conciliatory rather than combative by nature, and the heated – and, all too often, overheated – debate about whether to change the date and what the new date should be doesn’t float my boat. So much of it is little more than grandstanding; no-one appears to be seriously committed to finding a solution. For what it’s worth, here’s my suggestion.

In the interests of acknowledging our history, both the good bits and the bad, and celebrating our achievements, let’s keep Australia Day on January 26. And let’s choose an entirely different day as “New Australia Day”.

That’s right – two Australia Days, if you like, each with a different but complementary purpose. While January 26 would still look at our past, and at our present in the context of that past, New Australia Day would challenge us to look to the future as one people. While January 26 would still celebrate what we have been and what we have become, New Australia Day should inspire us to embrace our potential to become something bigger and better – more egalitarian, more inclusive, more open-minded and open-hearted…more Australian, in the best sense.

Naturally, only one of these days would be a public holiday, and I think it should be New Australia Day. The change would be an acknowledgement that Australia has moved beyond (but not forgotten) its British and European roots and is maturing as a multi-cultural society which values its shared traditions, including those of indigenous people, and the opportunity they represent to create a richer and fairer future for everyone.

Mark Kenny recently argued in the Sydney Morning Herald for changing Australia Day to May 9. His reasons for choosing that date were good, but I think it would be a better New Australia Day.

C’mon Aussies, let’s end this pointless bickering and meet each other halfway with a double-barrelled national celebration which, while admittedly a compromise, is still symbolically meaningful: an acceptance of our past together on one day, followed at a later date by a new imaginative space in our national life in which we can come together and pool our strength, hopes and visions for the future.

The Space Between: The Stranger Replies to Rody’s Post-Nimbin Crisis

Hi, Rody – so you see yourself poised to make a choice between pagan spirituality and “civilised” (presumably secular?) values, and possibly some mixture of the two. Let’s think this through.

My approach, as you know, is to go back to basics and consult the Alienation Theory of History. The dichotomy you describe is analogous to that between the hunter-gatherer (pagan spirituality) and agrarian settler (civilised values). I won’t dwell on this point too much; I mention it mainly to create a broader sense of context.

Having done so, let me reference certain characteristics associated with each state, based on other people’s historical observations and my own personal experience. I shall single out one each: egoism in the case of pagan spirituality and alienation in the case of civilised values.

The spirituality of the pagan is spontaneous and creative. There is a subjective element: the pagan feels a personal affinity to the deity. If it’s mediated at all, it’s mediated by charismatic individuals (priests, druids etc.) rather than by highly developed and literate institutions. In such a culture, the personal and ecstatic mix freely. Solipsism is never more than a step away. (I’m simplifying and generalising, obviously, but don’t stop me now….)

“Civilised values” evolve over time but a constant theme is the individual’s relationship with the state. This is the core of The Epic of Gilgamesh: for Gilgamesh to become a good king, he had to experience love, loss, grief and acceptance of death. His building of the wall at the end of the story marks the transition, but his labours convey no sense of spiritual vitality: he is reconciled but alienated, too.

gilgamesh-wall

Build that wall, Gil (Source: www.baruch.cuny.edu)

The simple egoism of ordinary people is a given. It has its roots in prehistory but is visible everywhere in our consumer-driven, celebrity-led society. If you immerse yourself in your pagan spiritual impulse, you risk losing yourself to your ego, and giving yourself up to extreme subjectivity.

As for the alternative, I believe that some degree of alienation is the price we pay for being part of a civilised society. At the most basic level, it means being able to subordinate one’s own impulses to the greater good. At the extreme, of course, it could mean losing yourself entirely, and enabling the abstractions and mechanisms of the world to corrode and even dissolve your sense of self.

I’m inclined to think there’s a middle way: rather than choose one over the other, stake out some neutral space for yourself between them, where egoism on one side and alienation on the other become the boundaries within which you can be your own man.

You may not need much to be free and fulfilled in that small world: common sense, love, decency, self-respect and respect for others would be, I imagine, a good start. It’s a humble way to live, but (to my mind, at least) it has the attraction of being independent from those two invidious extremes of the human condition.

Does that help?

Stranger.

 

Pagan spirituality vs. civilised alienation: Rody’s post-Nimbin existential meltdown

Dear Stranger,

Further to my Nimbin roots festival review of September 28, I’ve been thinking about the experience from a deeply personal perspective. Like most people on this blog, I’m trying to figure out where I belong in the general scheme of things. In my case, this questioning arises from youthful experience of relocation and alienation, which resulted in my feeling “cut off” from my creative roots—the land and the people of my childhood. At Nimbin, I glimpsed the possibility of reconnecting to them.

nimbin-heads

Only reconnect (Source: Nimbin Roots Festival FB page)

Nimbin of course is on the opposite side of the planet to where I was born but, as I noted in the piece, there are similarities between the town (drug culture aside) and where I grew up: a relatively small community with a retail economy set in a rural environment. This and the vibe that was everywhere that weekend revived in me a sense of creative possibility I hadn’t felt since I began writing music and poetry in my teens.

The question is, how do I respond to this or build on it? Do I immerse myself in the pagan spirituality that the Nimbin hippie culture represents, or do I draw on it as material for a broader creative enterprise which also addresses more “civilised” or conventional values?

I feel as though I’m at a crossroads here.

Sincerely,

Rody.

Folk Dancing with the Pot Head Pixies of Planet Nimbin

Nimbin is to Australia what Planet Gong is to the rest of the cosmos, and I had the pleasure of visiting it for the first time on the weekend of September 15-17, which happily coincided with the town’s second annual Roots Festival. If you like your music earthy, this is the place to be—and it’s a lot better value than the yuppified (though still admittedly very good) Byron Bay Blues Festival which takes place every Easter an hour or so’s drive away.

nimbin-street

High Street (in every sense), Nimbin

And what a drive: this part of northern New South Wales really is God’s own backyard with curvaceous hills, fragrant bush and slinky valleys which, under sunny blue skies, are beguiling enough but would look and smell downright voluptuous after a drop of rain. But I digress.

nimbin-rocks-north-coast

Nimbin Rocks (that’s enough puns—Ed.)

The town is certainly a hippy haven and cynical city types like me can quickly tire of its monomaniacal preoccupation with dope and related paraphernalia, evident at the various cafes (“The Bent Joint”) and shops (“Hemp Embassy”). There’s an underlying authenticity, however. It put me in mind of what my small and unprepossessing home town might have become, had I been able to fulfil my schoolboy fantasy of replacing its water supply with lysergic acid.

But enough about me. What about the music?

Saturday

The first act I saw wasn’t particularly promising: an earth-spirit wearing dreadlocks and a loin cloth and smeared head to toe in mud, who snapped into life and played a ditty on the Pan pipes in return for some coin. A little way down the street was a different story: some very fine blues harp indeed courtesy of Billy James from Billinudgel. He told me he enjoys teaching as much as playing, and I would have signed up for lessons on the spot but for the fact that I live an hour’s flight away.

That was it for the buskers. I have the festival flyer to hand and I could easily count the number of acts for the sake of statistical interest, but life’s too short. Suffice to say there were far too many, spread across six venues, for any one person to see them all. The first stage act I saw were blues/folk duo Darktown Strutters who played a very traditional set with sweetness and respect. Frustratingly, I can’t seem to find any examples of their music online (plenty of other bands called Darktown Strutters, but not them).

Blues Arcadia from Brisbane turned up the heat at Nimbin Hall with their soulful blues punched out by Chris Harvey on guitar and the charismatic Alan Boyle on vocals. Rhythm and keyboards were great, too, although I can’t say I saw much action on the bassist’s fifth string. Expensive thumb rest? Hmm….

They were ably followed by The Taste from Cairns who blended hip-hop with rock, soul and funk. The horns featured in the video below were absent on the day, but no matter. They were a blast: I particularly liked the lead guitarist’s imaginative but restrained use of effects and Vanessa’s vocals. (Note to rest of band: this lady is woefully under-utilised. Use her or lose her.) They sold branded stubby holders as well as CDs: a class act. They made me feel old, though: clearly nobody who remembers, or has heard of, Rory Gallagher would have chosen that name for their own band.

The other thing that made me feel old was the fact that neither I nor my companions had heard of ANY of the bands appearing over the weekend. We decided to choose which acts to see based on how interesting or exotic their names were. This put Sweet Emily and the Judgemental Fucks at the top of our list. They didn’t disappoint. Tight, angular rock underpinned by Emily’s chunky guitar rhythms and sharp-tongued solo notes. Many of her songs gave insights into her personal life, some of them intimate, all of them colourful. Tourette’s Syndrome never sounded so good.

And so, eventually, to bed.

Sunday

Another beautiful day in paradise, beginning with excellent chai at the Phoenix Rising Café and what turned out to be my favourite act of the whole weekend. Jolanda Moyle plays ethereal, transcendent modern folk using acoustic guitar loops, sarangi (a classical Indian instrument, somewhere between a violin and a cello) and a hauntingly pure voice with plenty of reverb. Definitely music of, and for, the gods. “You’re in love with her, aren’t you?” said my bride of 33 years. “Er, well…”, I replied. Rolling her eyes, my beloved and our friends took their leave in search of entertainment better suited to the mere mortals which, through no fault of their own, they are.

Back to the Bowlo for some pared back electric blues from Gold Cost duo The James Street Preachers. As the video shows, Jamie Kasdaglis (guitar, keyboard and vocals) and Matt Lye (bass, vocals) are adept at multitasking.

And to cap it all off, Missus Hippy and the Love Handles on the Aquarius Stage—the venue reserved for local acts. Talk about Old Wave music in all its dusty glory: this is the first band I’ve seen in which neither of the guitarists has a full set of teeth. That is not a put-down but a celebration of the fact that men and women of a certain age can still rock it up with the best of them. MHLH do so with original material which is variously timeless and topical, written by rhythm guitarist Doug (I’d play the outstanding My Dog, but the sound quality on my phone video doesn’t do it justice). Mrs H. (aka Biscuit) sounds like a blues mama from way back and exudes earth-mother warmth while lead guitarist Joey has a certain, shall we say, other-worldly appeal. Bob on bass and the drummer whose name I didn’t catch carried it all along very nicely. A highlight of the weekend and a band I would love to see again.

Another highlight: staying at Crofton’s Retreat. Thanks to Wayne and Paul, Bear and Jack. See you next year, guys.