Thursday, 16 May 2019

Plastic in our rivers

And at the bottom of the Mariana Trench.

Greenpeace is testing our rivers in the biggest plastic survey in the UK. Just last year, up to half a million plastic particles per square metre were found in the River Tame - we can’t let our rivers become plastic waterways.

Will you sign the petition to tell government to protect our air, soil and the rivers that connect us in the upcoming Environment Bill?

Petition -

Tuesday, 23 April 2019

Easter Wedding

Having been asked to provide the music and public address system for the wedding reception of family friends, Saturday took me back to the time I was a mobile DJ in the 1970s and 80s. We thought we could save time and effort by using the venue's own large speakers, but ended up using a tried and tested portable system. Lesson learned: you don't need to own the equipment but you do need to ensure it is tested in advance.

The space allocated to DJ and live performance of singer-guitarist was smaller than expected, limiting options for disco lighting, but we were able to use from other projects a mirrorball setup (12-inch ball lit from below by three pinspots) and moonflower projectors (2 x ADJ Revo Sweeps and an Equinox Warp).

Music playout was radically different from the vinyl and cassette decks used back in the day. For nearly two decades now, I have used OTSAV for playout of recorded music, a digital system running on standard desktop or laptop computers. With the addition of self-produced percussive links, a seamless beat-matched music stream emanates from the sound system.

As a convinced convert to digital music playout, I am actually bemused by the current proliferation of controllers with jog-wheels, CDJs and vinyl turntables performing a jog function. All of these seek to control digital equipment in analogue mode as if the software wasn't capable! (OK, I concede that analogue control provides for live production and manipulation of sounds as a spectacle, but surely, adequate preparation obviates the aural need for that?)

Preparation of playlists well in advance of the event was a key planning element, ensuring that the principals heard their kind of music and that any requests could be satisfied readily. The questionnaire sent out at booking time, albeit quite long, was well worth having to hand.


Katie Melua - Blue Shoes
In Tua Nua - All I wanted
Seal - Kiss From A Rose
Russell Watson - Have I Told You Lately
Kid Creole & The Coconuts - Stool Pigeon
Princess - Say I'm Your Number One
James Taylor - Something In The Way She Moves
Robert Miles - Children
Quarterflash - Harden My Heart
KC & The Sunshine Band - Please Don't Go
Drifters, The - Save The Last Dance For Me
Black Sorrows, The - The Chosen Ones
Cliff Richard - We Don't Talk Anymore
Nolans - I'm In The Mood For Dancing
Joan Armatrading - The Weakness In Me
Them - Here Comes The Night
S Club 7 - Never Had A Dream Come True
Jackson Browne - In The Shape Of A Heart
Who, The - My Generation
B Bumble & The Stingers - Nut Rocker
Champaign - How 'Bout Us
Chic - Le Freak
Eurythmics - Here Comes The Rain Again
Bad Company - Love Attack [pn]
Genesis - No Reply At All
Munros, The, Introducing David - Highland Cathedral
Beatles - Octopus's Garden
Corrs & Bono - Summer Wine
Imagination - Just An Illusion
John Legend - All Of Me
Bryan Adams - Summer Of 69 (Unplugged)
Queen - Bohemian Rhapsody
Ed Sheeran with Beyoncé - Perfect Duet [Official Audio]
Lady GaGa - Always Remember Us This Way
Elvis Presley - Can't Help Falling In Love

Calum Scott & Leona Lewis - You Are The Reason (Duet Version)

** JOHN MCLEAN, singer & guitarist **

** DANCE TIME 1 **
Cardi B with Bad Bunny J Balvin - I Like It
Whitney Houston - I Will Always Love You
Queen - Somebody To Love
Eagles, The - Hotel California
Panic! At The Disco - High Hopes
Beatles - Hey Jude
One Direction - What Makes You Beautiful
Black Lace - Agadoo

** JOHN MCLEAN, singer & guitarist, main set **

** DANCE TIME 2 **
Cranberries, The - Zombie
Abba - Dancing Queen
Dolly Parton - 9 To 5
Bee Gees, The - Stayin'Alive
The Wurzels - Combine Harvester (Brand New Key)
Scissor Sisters - I Don't Feel Like Dancing
LSD ft. Sia Diplo Labrinth - Thunderclouds
Cascada - Evacuate The Dancefloor
Pussycat Dolls, The, feat. Busta Rhymes - Don't Cha (Clean)
Maroon 5 - Girls Like You
Gerry Cinnamon - Belter
Katy Perry - I Kissed A Girl
Whitney Houston - I Wanna Dance With Somebody
George Ezra - Shotgun
DJ Casper - Cha Cha Slide
Ava Max - Sweet But Psycho
Gwen Stefani - Hollaback Girl
DJ Snake ft. Selena Gomez, Ozuna, Cardi B - Taki Taki
Beyonce - Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)
Lady GaGa & Bradley Cooper - Shallow
Rita Ora - Let You Love Me
Sia - The Greatest
CNCO & Little Mix - Reggaetón Lento (Remix)
Christina Perri - A Thousand Years
Train - Marry Me (Radio mix)
Taylor Swift - Shake It Off
Alicia Keys - If I Ain't Got You
Dexy's Midnight Runners - Come On Eileen
Thompson Twins, The - Hold Me Now
Human League - Don't You Want Me
Meat Loaf - I'd Do Anything For Love (But I Won't Do That)
Kajagoogoo - Too Shy
Men At Work - Down Under
Toto - Africa
Green Day - American Idiot
Beyonce Feat. Jay-Z - Crazy In Love
Bruno Mars - Just The Way You Are (Amazing)
Pink Floyd - Money

Wednesday, 20 March 2019

Google+ will not be missed

Do you remember thinking "What, ANOTHER social platform?" when Google+ was announced? After ignoring it for a while, I did give it a try from 3 Aug 2018 to 29 Sep 2018. Now Google are closing it to consumers to concentrate on $5 per person per month businesses. Whilst I use and rely on Google products for several functions, Google+ will not be missed. It was probably worth a try though, for the experience alone.

Any remaining followers on Google+ are hereby invited to switch to one of these continuing services:

Saturday, 16 February 2019

Windows 10 Explorer settings (note to self, as defaults unfriendly)

Explorer views vary with content type. Modify thus:

A. Add essential columns - e.g. Name, Date modified, Size
Steps: View > Add columns > Choose columns
Optionally change display order by dragging columns

B. Save view for all folders of same type
Steps: View > Options > Change folder and search options > View > Apply to Folders (in resulting popup, choose whether to match folder settings in all folders of same type) Republished as necessary, because I always seem to forget the detail of these settings!

Wednesday, 2 January 2019

Archie & His Magic Bagpipes

Delighted to hear from author Alexander Weir that a sequel to Archie & His Magic Bagpipes is on the way, as is a printed version of the children's book first serialized on Folk At Five.

Friday, 28 December 2018

So many uses for legalised hemp

'President Trump Legalises Hemp' runs the headline of this snippet.

Legalizing Hemp is huge. Hemp plants maturity is 120 days vs. a tree = 30 years. Hemp plants take radiation out of the soil and consumes lots of CO2. They release lots of oxygen - and produce more pulp than trees to make paper. Fibres strong enough to build fighter jets, produces more oil than a whole field of peanuts, doesn't need pesticides, and the oil can run vehicles. Natural fibres for clothing, and oil for paints/varnish - so many uses!

Thanks to Martin Pickering's 'Secret Blog' for the heads-up.

Friday, 21 December 2018

May Yuletide and the New Year bring you peace and fulfilment.

THE day of the year is here! Winter Solstice, shortest day, longest night, 21 December usually. It was surely the day those that invented Hogmanay and Christmas Day were really aiming at. The true, solar, New Year begins now.

I'll probably remember this solstice as being bracketed by two events - the quirky and lovely track sung the day before on TV by LadBaby, 'We Built This City On Sausage Rolls', and the rare full moon the day after, known variously as Cold Moon, Cold Full Moon, Long Night Moon or the Moon Before Yule. Also, the annual Ursids meteor shower is expected to peak a day or two after solstice, yielding up to 10 "shooting stars" per hour depending on viewing location.

May Yuletide and the New Year bring you peace and fulfilment.

Friday, 7 December 2018

Help wildlife this winter – be a lazy gardener

Help wildlife this winter – be a lazy gardener
Yes. I'm a lazy gardener. Reluctant too. This email from Scottish Natural Heritage, reproduced here with permission, touched a nerve, justifying a 'let it be' attitude whilst adding some helpful hints.

Winter can be a challenging season for wildlife with harsh weather, low temperatures and much less food around.
This year, SNH’s Biodiversity Manager Debbie Bassett shares the range of ways to give nature a helping hand this winter:
  • Be a lazy gardener. Leaving some areas overgrown or filled with leaves and twigs gives insects, frogs, toads and small animals a quiet and cosy place to hide during the colder months.
  • Use your food scraps. Keep a food scraps tub by your cooker - any bits suitable to feed birds and other wildlife can go straight into it. Bruised or overly-soft fruit that may otherwise go to waste – or in the compost bin – can also be left out for badgers, foxes and birds. Cut it in half and leave it on the grass or spike it on a tree branch. The blackbirds will love you for it.
  • Most people are aware white bread is a no-no for ducks – polluting the water and making them ill. But healthy snacks including corn – tinned, frozen, dried or fresh – lettuce and other greens cut into pieces will make you popular at your local duck pond this winter.
  • Garden ponds can be a great water source for passing wildlife but, when temperatures drop, ice can be tricky. A prolonged freeze can mean problems for fish and hibernating frogs and newts. Gently crack the ice to make a hole or float a ball in the water to help stop it freezing.
chaffinch-d10465Debbie said:
“Our winter wildlife loves lazy gardeners at this time of year, and these quick and easy tips are great ways you can help our animals and birds.

“Putting out extra food can help birds and mammals up their energy reserves when food sources are scarce and get them through the winter.

“Winter is a great time to get out into nature and even though these tips help our wildlife, they are also fun too!”

#HelpNatureThisWinter. Check out the SNH web site at

 Pictures credit to SNH/Lorne Gill.

Thursday, 8 November 2018

Skinner & T'witch getting hitched

Congratulations to Steve Skinner and Sandra Twitchett, who are tying the knot on New Year's Eve. As duo Skinner & T'witch, their songs are often played on Folk At Five. Steve has written The Wedding Song for T'witch to celebrate their marriage, and their wedding day will see the song will be played four times in different arrangements. Sue Pope and Barry Pope from A Merrie Noyse Minstrel's are playing recorders, crumhorn, and rauchpfeife on the recording, which will feature, several times no doubt, on Folk At Five on Argyll FM and after the live shows on

Thursday, 18 October 2018

One to add to the playlists

Thirteen tracks of danceability, that's the album 'Livin In The Country Lane' from L J Coon. If you're collecting tracks for a forthcoming party, or need rhythmic records to brighten up the day, check it out!

Sunday, 16 September 2018

A pulsating partnership with great sax

On today's Folk At Five I played 'Comfortably Numb', nigh on nine minutes of audio bliss from the Red Dirt Skinners' scintillating new album 'Under Utopian Skies'. It's one of those musical works, or perhaps it's the duo's performance, that raises the hairs on the back of my neck. Oh, that sax! Oh, those harmonies! All nine tracks have now entertained listeners to the show. And there will be repeats upon repeats.

With this masterpiece, the musical and life partnership of Rob and Sarah Skinner has surely excelled with their harmonies, arrangements and oh-so-delicious sax counterpoints. If you're looking for music to sooth the ripples and raise the spirits, you need look no further, but you may need to wait until 28 September 2018, the album's release date.

Sunday, 9 September 2018

If you love folk music, you'll love this!

Dave Milton's debut album, Songs From The Bell Man, is one of those that gets an immediate 5-star rating in my pre-show playlist. Produced by Ange Hardy, herself often played on Folk At Five, the ten songs convey warmth, history and heritage with their accomplished vocalisation and arrangement. The "Bell Man" phrase comes from Davids other job as Watchet's Town Crier. (Years ago I had a brief go as a Town Crier myself, so it strikes a chord). Catch up on all tracks played at