When I was eleven years old. My favourite music to listen to was Glen Miller. I don't recall how I first heard him - probably on telly or the radio in my Nan's house one Sunday. He was the first musician I was really into. Just the sound of his band...It lifted me out of myself. The first music I ever purchased was on cassette in Bojangles, Sheaf Street, Daventry. It was a best of Glen Miller and a compilation of performances he made for radio during the second world war. I think it was In The Mood that got me into him - the blues has always run deep for me, but that's another story. I loved Chattanooga Choo Choo, Tuxedo Junction and Pennsylvania 65000; I Got A Gal In Kalamazoo. Those places sounded imaginary to me. Kalamazoo: just the name of that city made me want to visit there.


Far and away my favourite tune though was Moonlight Serenade. I could never exactly put my finger on why I loved the tune so much. It ached with sad resignation; some kind of yearning feel that made it seem otherworldly. It spoke to something inside me that I was definitely feeling but couldn't articulate. I was having a weird old time of it in those days: at home, at school...


Even if I hear it now, I'm compelled to stop whatever I might be doing. It sends me into a weird reverie that evokes visions of two lovers parting a là Brief Encounter; black and white images of my grandparents at ballroom dances during the war. Once I understood the tragic circumstances of his demise, it reinforced for me the bitter sweetness of this beautiful tune.




Like many, I'd heard a Fred Neil song before I heard Fred Neil. ' The Dolphins' was covered by Tim Buckley on his album Sefronia. Tim was a big fan and even switched from tenor to baritone because of Fred. He gave Bob Dylan his first gig: playing harmonica for a dollar a day at the Café Wha. He helped Tim Hardin and David Crosby; wrote sleeve notes for Karen Dalton and most famously was an advocate for releasing dolphins from captivity. Demonstrating a generosity of spirit that extended further than his song writing.


It was his inclusion in an issue of Mojo about cult musicians that urged me to hear him and then I did...It didn't make sense: this svelte, freckled, ginger haired dude with a voice that seemed to emanate from deep within the earth: soothing, wise, worldly yet other worldly; demanding you to listen. So listen.


10 Sides of Fred Neil


The Dolphins

Other Side Of This Life

Merry Go Round

That's The Bag I'm In

Blues On The Ceiling

Handful Of Gimme

Dade County Jail

Everybody's Talkin'

Wild Child In A World Of Trouble

The Water Is Wide







Twenty months ago when earlier that day I had just tested positive for Covid 19, I sat down to eat a pizza for tea and I had a glass of blackcurrant squash. It was the last time I fully experienced the full taste and smell of not only food, but every other flavour, fragrance, odour, aroma, balm, bouquet, emanation and breath possible. For nine of those months I woke up feeling hung over everyday. The oils recommended for smell training only prolonged the to quote Withnail & I 'bastard behind the eyes' headache.


Unlike many, I wasn't hospitalised - although it was touch and go at one point. I didn't lose anyone close and it gave it me an opportunity to start a new way of living far removed from the pre pandemic normal we all used to know. This is how I would keep myself going on really bad days, days when I would perhaps be out for dinner and couldn't enjoy the experience fully. I stopped cooking as I couldn't enjoy the satisfaction of bringing ingredients together and relishing the anticipation of sitting down to eat. Walks in the woods near my home, whilst rejuvenating, lack the wafts on pine. And during the eight weeks of constantly smelling burning onions and excruciating nasal pain.


It still wasn't enough to overcome the despair that comes with being reminded endlessly of what I could no longer experience. Exacerbated by the fleeting moments when I actually do get a whiff of my love's hair after she's washed it or walk past a rose bush; taste ice cream or a burger. Not only did the virus destroy my olfactory membrane it destroyed my hope of it ever returning.


Hence why I am writing this piece. Outside of those close to me I haven't really talked about how it feels to be nose and tongue blind. Talking about and saying out loud is helping me to reach greater acceptance and focus on finding ways to feel connected to the outer world again. Also, now that I am speaking up about my experience it's as if my creative antennae are constantly sparking.


Here is a poem about it all and for anyone who is feeling it too.


Yersinia Pestis


You turned up in twenty twenty,

Third of November, I recall it, exactly.

Since that day you've never left me.


Most mornings I still spit blood.

You appear everywhere there's food.

You followed me into the woods


once; it seemed I'd lost you,

only to hear gibbering through

the hollow of a Sycamore.


Prattling about the benefits;

how your actions tipped

greater things into my grasp.


You reminded me how

my even being alive right now,

meant that Hugo


Farrer must have survived

your greatest and most creative

endeavour, circa thirteen


forty eight: he got to craft

metal for more. Graft

which helped wipe the shit


from existence for even

the shortest time. Even

until that wanker in


Windsor dreamt up the Ordinance

of Labourers...

There's always a chance


that things will swing

round, unfurl their wings,

make all your senses tingle


exultant once more…

Your most in depth lecture.

'And for what it's worth'


you whispered as you brushed

me aside,

'You are no longer a serf'.