Previously on Game of Thrones

In just a few weeks, HBO will start to broadcast the seventh series of Game of Thrones. The show has a large cast, so I thought it would be useful to take a look at who’s still alive, where they are and what they are doing.

To start, I’ve looked at all of the forty-two actors who have appeared in the main credits for the show. Twelve of these characters had died before  the start of series six, so let’s get started with those.

(In case it’s not obvious, this article assumes you have seen all six previous series of Game of Thrones – so there will be spoilers for the first six series. I should also point out that I’m only considering the TV show here – I won’t be talking about the books at all.)

Viserys Targaryen

Viserys has the honour of being the first major character to be killed off in  the show. In episode six of the first series, he was killed by Khal Drogo by having molten gold poured over his head.

Robert Baratheon

In the very next episode, Robert died after being gored by a boar while on a hunt. It was his death that lead directly to the War of the Five Kings.

Eddard Stark

Ned Stark was beheaded at the order of King Joffery in the ninth episode of the first series. Things started to go very badly for the Starks from that point.

Jeor Mormont

The next major character death wasn’t until episode four of the third series. Jeor Mormont got involved in a fight with wildlings at Craster’s Keep and it didn’t end well for him.

Robb Stark, Catelyn Stark & Talisa Maegyr

The Red Wedding took place in episode nine of series three. The Freys and the Boltons plotted together and killed Robb Stark (along with his mother and his wife). That’s what you get for breaking a promise, I suppose.

Joffery Baratheon

Of all the major character deaths in the show, this probably got the biggest cheers (certainly in my house). Joffery has poisoned at the feast following his wedding to Marjory Tyrell. This was in series four episode two.

Ygritte

The wildlings were attacking Castle Black. Jon Snow knew nothing, but Olly took the shot and killed Ygritte in the ninth episode of series four.

Shae & Tywin Lannister

In the last episode of series four, Tyrion goes on a bit of a killing spree. Having found his lover, Shae, in his father’s bed, he strangles her and then shoots his father with a crossbow.

Stannis Baratheon

By any reasonable criteria, Stannis was Robert Baratheon’s true heir. But instead of being crowned king, he got involved in a bloody and pointless war and eventually got himself killed by Brienne of Tarth after his army failed to take Winterfell

 

So that was all the major character deaths up to the end of series five. Series six took it all up a notch.

Roose Bolton

Roose legitimised his bastard son, Ramsay back in series four. But that did stop Ramsay being very suspicious when his stepmother gave birth to another potential Bolton heir. Ramsay’s solution, in episode two, was to kill his father, his step-mother and his half-brother.

Ramsey Bolton

But Ramsay didn’t last long as Lord Bolton. When Jon Snow’s army, with help from the Lords of the Vale, took Winterfell in episode nine, Ramsay must have realised that his life expectancy was rather short. But it still rather took him by surprise when his wife, Sansa, fed him to his own hounds in revenge for the way he had treated her.

Marjory Tyrell & The High Sparrow

The number of casualties from the Red Wedding took some beating, but Cersei Lannister managed it in episode ten when she blew up the Sept of Baelor when it was full of people waiting for her trial. Pretty much anyone who was anyone in King’s Landing was there. And they all died.

Tommen Baratheon

One of the few named characters in King’s Landing who wasn’t blown up in the Sept of Baelor was King Tommen. But he was watching from his room and when he saw what had happened, he was so appalled that he killed himself by jumping out of the window.

Other Series Six Deaths

But it wasn’t just major characters who died in series six. Many other characters died too. This is a list of the other named characters who died during the series.

In episode one we have a clean-up of Dornish characters. Elleria and Tyene Sand kill Doran Martell along with his guard Areo Hotah and Obara and Nymeria Sand kill Doran’s son, Trystane .

In episode four, the wildling Osha attempts to kill Ramsay Bolton while seducing him. He sees through this and kills her instead.

In episode five, one of the saddest deaths so far was Hodor’s. He died holding a door so that Bran and Meera could escape. We also saw that the reason he could only say “Hodor” was that while this was going on in the present, Bran was watching him in the past and the shouted instructions to “hold the door” somehow leaked through time and affected his brain.

In episode eight, Lady the Crane (the actress who Arya has befriended) is killed by the Waif. Arya responds by kill the Waif.

In episode nine, Rickon Stark is killed by Ramsay Bolton just before the Battle of the Bastards. And the giant, Wun Wun, is killed breaking down the doors to Winterfell.

In episode ten,  Plenty more people die in the explosion at the Sept of Baelor. These include Mace Tyrell and his son, Loras, and Kevan Lannister with his son, Lancel. Qyburn has Pycelle killed and in the Twins, Arya kills Walder frey.

So, all in all, that’s quite a clearing of the board. Who’s still around? And what are they doing?

Daenerys Targaryen

After six series of shilly-shallying around on Essos, Daenerys has finally got a fleet together and is sailing towards Westeros to claim her crown. On the ship with her, we see Tyrion, Missandei and Varys. Theon Greyjoy (with his sister, Yara) are on another ship.

Jon Snow

Jon had an interesting series six. He came back from the dead, was reunited with his half-sister Sansa (the first time two members of the Stark family have been together since the Red Wedding),  gave up his command of the Night’s Watch and took back Winterfell from the Boltons. The series ends with him in Winterfell, being proclaimed King in the North. The other main characters we see at the proclamation are Sansa Stark, Davos Seaworth, Peter Baelish and Tormund Giantsbane.

Oh, and we’ve just found out that Jon isn’t Ned Stark’s bastard son at all. He’s the son of Ned’s sister, Lyanna, and Rhaegar Targaryen. He doesn’t know this yet.

Cersei Lannister

Having destroyed the Sept of Baelor and killed all of her rivals, Cersei has been crowned Queen of the Seven Kingdoms. Her brother Jamie (who returned, with Bronn, from the Siege of Riverrun in time to see the aftermath of the explosion in  the Sept) watches from the side of the room.

Samwell Tarly and Gilly

Sam and Gilly have arrived at the Citadel where Sam hopes to be trained as a Maester. He has been invited explore the library. Gilly (as a woman) had to wait outside.

Bran Stark

Bran Stark is just about to go back south through the wall with Meera Reed. He has become the “One-Eyed Raven” and is having lots of visions that explain the back-story of the show.

Arya Stark

Arya finished her training as a Faceless Man in the House of Black and White, but she turned her back on their mission and took back her identity. It appears she has gone back to working her way through her list as she was last seen killing Walder Frey at the Twins.

Others

Melisandre was exiled from Winterfell by Jon Snow. She left on a horse, but we don’t know where she is going.

Brienne of Tarth was last seen escaping from  the Siege of Riverrun on a boat with Podrick Payne.

Jorah Mormant was sent off by Daenerys to find a cure for his greyscale.

Elleria Sand was last seen plotting with Olenna Tyrell and Varys and agreeing to support Daenerys’ invasion of Westeros.

Daario Naharis was left behind in Meereen by Daenerys. He has be told to keep the peace in Slaver’s Bay.

Sandor Clegane is wandering around the Riverlands with the Brotherhood Without Banners.

Jaqen H’ghar was last seen in the House of Black and White.

And then there’s Gendry. Gendry was last seen back in series three when Davos helped him escape from Dragonstone by putting him on a boat to King’s Landing. Who knows if he got there of if we’ll ever see him again.

 

So that’s where we’ve got to. Now read on…

A Gig Without Phones

Phones at Gigs

On Wednesday, I went to a gig without phones for the first time since… well, since before everyone had a camera on their phone.

I wasn’t planning to go to a gig on Wednesday but on Tuesday afternoon I received an email from Songkick inviting me to a secret gig by Haim. I accepted the invitation and on Wednesday I got further details of the show. This second email also contained this information:

HAIM would like to invite you to enjoy a distraction free concert experience at their upcoming show at Islington Assembly Hall.

No cellphones, cameras or recording devices will be allowed at this show. Upon arrival, all phones and smart watches will be secured in Yondr pouches that will be unlocked at the end of the show. Guests maintain possession of their phones throughout the night, and if needed, may access their phones at designated Yondr unlocking stations in the lobby.

We appreciate your cooperation in creating a phone-free viewing experience for this intimate show.

That sounded interesting. I had heard of Yondr before, but I had never been to a gig where their system had been used. I didn’t even know that they were active in the UK.

But let’s start by addressing that first paragraph.

HAIM would like to invite you to enjoy a distraction free concert experience at their upcoming show at Islington Assembly Hall.

To put it bluntly, that statement is bollocks. Oh, sure, perhaps it’s true that bands would rather people were watching them rather than taking photos or telling their friends on Facebook how much they were enjoying the show. But let’s be honest here, no-one would have invested time and money developing a system to prevent people from using phones at gigs if it was just about encouraging a “distraction-free” environment.

No, this is about copyright protection. That’s where the money comes in.

It’s surely no coincidence that the first gig where I see the system in use is one where the band are trying out songs from their (as yet, unreleased) new album. It also happens to be a show that is being filmed for later release as part of a documentary about the band.  That’s why they don’t want us to record it.

The system itself works well enough. While we’re queuing outside, someone comes along and demonstrates it to us (annoyingly reiterating the bogus “distraction-free” excuse as she does it). It’s a neoprene (or something like it) pouch with a sealable top. She describes the sealing mechanism as “the strongest magnet available”. It looks to me something like the devices they use to tag clothes in shops – certainly, the release device looks identical to the mechanisms used to remove those tags.

As we enter the venue, our phones are taken from us and sealed in pouches (there are several different sizes to accommodate different phones) but the sealed pouch is returned to us to hold on to through the show. This is, I guess, the clever bit. You’d get a lot of kickback from people if you took their phones away from them. But letting them keep their phones, albeit rendered unusable, removes a lot of objections to the system.

If you find you really need access to your phone to during the show, you can go back to the foyer, where someone will open the pouch for you. But you’ll need to have the pouch re-sealed before returning to the venue.

At the end of the show, you file out past two desks that are set up with the release devices. There were maybe a dozen or so in total, and I didn’t queue for more than about a minute.

So, the system works and is pretty painless. I didn’t really enjoy the hour or so that I was waiting in the venue before the show started, without access to Twitter or Facebook, but I’m sure I’d get used to it. I don’t think that the distraction-free environment really added very much to the atmosphere, but I suspect the band (or, more likely, their management and record company) are very happy that no footage of the show will have leaked out.

I do wonder if it’s all necessary. I’m reminded of a couple of gigs I saw within a couple of weeks a few years ago. Bjork was recording her “Biophilia” show at Alexandra Palace. All around the venue were signs telling us not that filming and taking photos was banned. And there was a lot of security trying to enforce the rules. But hard rules like that just encourage people to try to break them – so the security guards were having to work really hard as a large proportion of the crowd tried to grab a quick photo.

On the other hand, a little later I saw David Byrne and St. Vincent at the Roundhouse. Before the show, there was an announcement over the PA (it might even have been by David Byrne saying that they understood people would want to take videos and photos and asking the audience to just please try not to get in the way of anyone around you. That, more friendly, approach seems more likely to succeed. I’ve also seen shows where the act announces that the next song is unreleased and asking the audience not to film it. If you have a nice audience, that works (and if you don’t have a nice audience, then you have a whole load of other problems to deal with).

All-in-all, I’m not sure. I didn’t find Yondr to be a huge inconvenience to me. But I’d rather not be part of an audience where I feel slightly untrusted. I don’t think it will stop me from going to a show, but I really hope it doesn’t become very common.

What do you think? Have you been to a Yondr-ed show? How was it?

Top of the Pops and Me

In 2011, the BBC started repeating old episodes of Top of the Pops. Initially, they were showing one episode a week, as close as possible to thirty-five years after the original broadcast (starting with shows from 1976). More recently, they’ve been showing two episodes a week, so we’re currently in early 1983.

I’ve been watching them avidly since they started, but I’ve been even more interested in watching them over the last year or so – since the repeats hit October 1981. That’s because that’s when I moved to London to go to university and I started to watch fewer and fewer episodes as I, increasingly, had better ways to spend my Thursday evenings. So I’m seeing many of these broadcasts for the first time.

Over the summer of 1982 I pretty much stopped watching completely. I managed to get myself elected as Social Secretary at City University and many of my evenings were spent running gigs, discos and various other entertainments for the students.

I’ve written before about a couple of things that happened while I was Social Secretary (here’s me being threatened by the lead singer of Bad Manners and here I am booking Marillion at the start of their first major tour) but recent episodes of Top of the Pops have reminded me of a few other incidents.

There was the time that I was mildly censured by the London Student newspaper because I had booked Toto Coelo for a Christmas Party. Or the time I booked the Hee Bee Gee Bees (featuring Angus Deayton and Philip Pope) and ended up inviting Philip Pope back to a hall of residence party[1].

A few recent episodes of Top of the Pops have featured Blue Zoo singing “Cry Boy Cry”. I’m not sure I realised what a big hit that was. They played a few gigs at the university – including a “Blue Party Night” at a hall of residence where I painted my face blue, using dye that took days to get out. And I’m pretty sure that they were the band I cancelled when I was offered the Marillion date I mentioned above.

But a recent Top of the Pops reminded me of the biggest mistake I made while I was Social Secretary. I turned down the chance to book Culture Club.

To be fair to myself, no-one had heard of them when I was offered them. Well, no-one who wasn’t really in tune with the London music scene. Of course, you could say that someone who was running entertainment for a London university should really be in touch with the music scene. And I’d have no answer to that.

But when their agent called to offer me the gig, I hadn’t heard of them.

They were just about to start a tour and wanted somewhere to play a warm-up gig. Back then (and, I suppose, it’s still true now) bands used to like using student unions for warm-up gigs. Student unions were like private clubs – you couldn’t get in without a union card. Acts could get their performances right without making fools of themselves in front of the general public. That was how most student unions got most of their decent acts.

So Culture Club’s agent called me and offered me a warm-up gig for their first national tour. And I turned them down because I had never heard of them.

I thought that was the last I would hear of it. But I was wrong. A few months later, at the end of October 1982, they made their first appearance on Top of the Pops. I think this is it (warning, a few seconds of Jimmy Savile at the start of this clip).

Of course, these days we’re all used to seeing Boy George on the telly. But in 1982, this wasn’t the case. It was a sensation. He was all over the tabloid front pages the following day. People talked about it for weeks. Instantly, everyone knew who Culture Club were.

Oh, and the date that I had been offered for the warm-up gig – it was, of course, the day after this Top of the Pops. If I had taken the booking, it would have been a great night. I would have looked like someone who really had his finger on the pulse of the music scene.

Instead, I’m the man who turned down Culture Club.

[1] Although looking at the dates, it seems more likely that this was during the previous year – when I was just a member of the entertainments committee.

2016 in Gigs

Sunflower Bean

Time for my traditional round-up of the gigs I saw in the previous year.

According to Songkick, I saw 39 gigs in 2016. That’s the lowest number since 2012 (when I saw 36 – but had the excuse that my leg was in plaster for six weeks and I didn’t get out much).

Let’s start with the disappointments. I left two gigs at the interval. I had wanted to see Marc Almond for a long time, but when it finally happened it was all just too torch song for my tastes. I’m told the second half was much better.

Then there was Barclay James Harvest (or rather, John Lees’ Barclay James Harvest – the two surviving members of BJH both have their own touring version of the band). Sometimes going to see an act for the first time for thirty-five years isn’t a good idea. They just didn’t hold my interest the way they did back in the early 80s. When they took an early interval (after only half an hour on stage) I ducked out. I hope the second half was longer.

I didn’t leave, but I thought the Björk show at the Hammersmith Odeon was pretty disappointing too. I think I’m in a minority there though.

I only saw two bands twice – Sunflower Bean and the Magnetic North. And this might be the first year in living memory that I didn’t see any members of the Carthy clan playing.

I ticked off four more acts in my “acts from my youth that I never got round to seeing” list – Toyah, ELO, ABC and the Human League. I already have a ticket to see ABC again.

Usually, Amanda Palmer gets a free pass onto the top ten list, but in 2016 I only saw her as a special guest at a Jherek Bischoff show that didn’t quite make the cut.

Here, in chronological order, are the ten best gigs I saw in 2016.

  • Sunflower Bean – the first show (at the Dome) just trumps the second (at the Scala) proving once again that smaller venues are better. I reckon 2017 will be your last chance to see them in a smallish venue. That’s them in the photo.
  • SOAK – I’ve loved SOAK since I first saw her support Chvrches a couple of years ago. And live, she gets better and better.
  • ELO – Yes, incredibly cheesy, of course. But great fun. They have so many fabulous songs.
  • Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark – This was the night they played Architecture & Morality and Dazzle Ships. Not really their best-known material – but the fans loved it.
  • Laura Marling – You can’t go wrong seeing Laura Marling play whenever possible and this show was no exception. I already have a ticket to see her in a couple of months time when she launches her new album.
  • Belle and Sebastian – Only the second time I’ve seen them, but they are now a must-see. This show had them playing all of Tigermilk. I’m seeing them again in 2017.
  • The Orb – The Orb playing all of Adventures Beyond the Ultraworld. What’s not to like?
  • The Magnetic North – The show at RIBA was the second time I saw them in 2016. Their new album, Prospect of Skelmersdale is even better than their debut and I highly recommend seeing them live.
  • ABC – In the first half, they played random hits along with selections from The Lexicon of Love II. But in the second half, they played all of The Lexicon of Love. Everyone in the audience knew every lyric and sang along with gusto. It was sublime.
  • Christine and the Queens – What an awesome act. One of the best live performances I’ve seen for a very long time.

I’ve just deleted Marianne Faithful and The Staves from this list as it was too long. Other shows bubbling outside the top ten include Barenaked LadiesSt. Etienne and Hannah Peel. It’s mark of the quality of the shows I’ve seen this year that I haven’t found space for SavagesPixies or Billy Bragg.

And let’s spare a thought for acts we’ll never see performing again. I will alway regret never seeing Prince live and it’s over twenty years since I saw David Bowie play. But of all the talented musicians who died in 2016 I think it’s the two Leonard Cohen shows I saw (in 1993 and 2013) that I will treasure the most.

There are “year in gigs” posts for every year since 2011.

Listening to Leonard

Leonard Cohen

Over the last week, I’ve re-listened to all of Leonard Cohen’s albums in chronological order. And, most importantly, I’ve rated them.

  1. recent_songsRecent Songs (1979)
    Sorry, but this is the one that I really didn’t get. In “Humbled in Love” it contains one of my favourite Leonard Cohen songs, but the rest of the collection really doesn’t do it for me. The received wisdom is that this was a major return to form following the rather dodgy Death of a Ladies’ Man – but I can’t see it. If I wanted to play someone an album that reinforces the stereotype of Cohen songs being depressing dirges, then this is the one I’d choose.
  2. leonardcohendearheatherDear Heather (2004)
    I’m generally a big fan of Cohen’s more recent albums, but this is an exception. I don’t actively dislike it in the way I do Recent Songs, but It’s very rare that I’ll choose to listen to it over any other Cohen album. There are some flashes of Cohen’s dark humour here, but you have to go looking quite hard in order to find them. And then there’s that version of “Tennesse Waltz”. I’m really not sure what to make of that.
  3. leonard_cohen_you_want_it_darkerYou Want it Darker (2016)
    This was released just a few weeks ago. And it’s only so far down the list because I haven’t listened to it enough to really know how much I like it. As with Bowie’s Blackstar, the fact that it was released so close to Cohen’s death means that it will always be linked to that tragic event and will inevitably be seen as his farewell to his fans. On listening to it this week (for what may have been only the third time) I enjoyed it. If I revisit this list in a few years, there’s a good chance that it will be higher.
  4. leonardcohenpopularproblemsPopular Problems (2014)
    Another album that I really haven’t given the attention that it deserves. To be honest, I’m surprised to find it came out two years ago. It seems like only a few months. I don’t know the album well enough to recognise particular songs, but while listening to it this week I was pleasantly surprised by how familiar it sounded even though I can’t have listened to it more than half a dozen times.
  5. leonardcohenoldideasOld Ideas (2012)
    It’s astonishing to me how productive Cohen became in his final years. There’s an eight year gap between his previous album (Dear Heather) and this one. But then he releases this, Popular Problems and You Want it Darker all in quick succession. It’s like he’s determined to get as much material as possible out there before the end. And like the other two albums in this loose “trilogy” I don’t know it particularly well. I suppose I should count myself lucky that there are still three more Leonard Cohen albums that I need to listen to a lot more.
  6. songs_from_a_roomSongs from a Room (1969)
    From Cohen’s last three albums, we leap back to the beginning of his career. This was his second album and it built on the success of Songs of Leonard Cohen. It opens with one of his best-loved songs, “Bird on the Wire”, and closes with the impressive run of “You Know Who I Am”, “Lady Midnight” and “You Know Who I Am”. First albums can be a fluke. But a follow-up of this quality marks you as a real talent.
  7. new_skin_for_the_old_ceremonyNew Skin for the Old Ceremony (1974)
    By 1974, Cohen is firing on all cylinders. Many of your favourite Leonard Cohen songs are on this album – “Chelsea Hotel #2”, “There is a War”, “A Singer Must Die”, “Who By Fire”. Only the closing “Leaving Greensleeves” strikes a slightly jarring note.
  8. leonardcohentennewsongsTen New Songs (2001)
    How do you follow an album like The Future? In Cohen’s case, the answer is you go away for nine years (five of which you spend in a zen monastery) before surprising your fans with a great new album. Songs like “In My Secret Life”, “A Thousand Kisses Deep” and “Here It Is” are as good as anything he ever recorded. This album is often overlooked, but is well worth investigating.
  9. various_positionsVarious Positions (1984)
    Another largely overlooked mid-career album. Or, rather, it would be if it wasn’t for one single track. This is the album that includes “Hallelujah”. I used to believe that it was impossible to record a bad version of “Hallelujah”. But that was when only talented people like John Cale and Jeff Buckley had discovered it. Now I’m not so sure. There are plenty of other great songs on this album too though. The first track, “Dance Me to the End of Love” was the usual opener to Cohen’s live shows.
  10. songs_of_love_and_hateSongs of Love and Hate (1971)
    Back to the early part of Cohen’s career. This was his third album. It didn’t move much from the successful formula of the previous two albums, but that’s no bad thing as that still makes for a great album. In “Famous Blue Raincoat”, this features my favourite Leonard Cohan song, but there are other great songs too – including “Dress Rehearsal Rag”, “Diamonds in the Mine” and “Joan of Arc”.
  11. death_of_a_ladies_manDeath of a Ladies’ Man (1977)
    This is likely to be controversial. Not everyone likes this album. Cohen himself is on record calling the recording a “catastrophe” and he only ever played one song from the album (“Memories”) in concert. But I like it. I think that “True Love Leaves No Traces” and “Paper Thin Hotel” are two of the loveliest songs that Cohen ever wrote. Ok, “Fingerprints” is a bit cheesy, but surely it’s impossible to listen to “Don’t Go Home With Your Hard-On” without smiling.
  12. songsofleonardcohenSongs of Leonard Cohen (1967)
    There are very few debut albums as good as this one. Even almost fifty years after it’s release, most of Cohen’s best-known songs are from this album – “Suzanne”, “Sisters of Mercy”, “So Long, Marianne”, “Hey, That’s No Way To Say Goodbye”. And the songs that aren’t so well-known are just as good – I’m particularly fond of “Stranger Song”.
  13. im_your_man_-_leonard_cohenI’m Your Man (1988)
    When I first discovered the joys of Leonard Cohen, this was his latest album. And it was completely different to the other examples of his work that I had come across (things like Songs of Leonard Cohen). This was certainly different, but it was just as good – perhaps even better. I immediately loved things like “First We Take Manhattan” and “Everybody Knows” but later on the less immediate songs also gripped me. “Tower of Song” is now on of my favourite Cohen songs.
  14. leonardcohenthefutureThe Future (1992)
    This was the first album that Cohen released whilst I was following his career; the first of his albums that I bought as soon as it was released. And it’s a nearly perfect album. It’s hard to choose a favourite song. The title track is great. “Democracy” and “Anthem” are both wonderful songs with lyrics that really resonate. And I will always love “Closing Time”. I would recommend this album to anyone. If you don’t love it then your musical taste needs serious recalibration.

This is all purely subjective of course. And if I made the list again in six months time, it could well be completely different. What do you think? Have I put you favourite Leonard Cohen album high enough?

Brexit

I was awake soon after 5:30 yesterday morning. As I got to my computer, the EU referendum results weren’t confirmed, but it was looking certain that the country had voted (narrowly, but decisively) to leave the European Union. My thoughts during the day are nicely summed up by my tweets and retweets.

My initial reaction was anger.

(Hmm… the downside of rolling news coverage – that story has changed dramatically since I first linked to it.)

A few minutes later I was slightly more coherent (and almost philosophical)

Then the reality of the situation started to sink in

I tried to be positive

I was being sarcastic, of course. We’ll return to this subject later on.

I started to see life imitating art in a quite frightening way.

(And, yes, I know I should replace that picture with one of Boris Johnson)

Nigel Farage is (and, apparently, always has been) a despicable man. So it should have come as no surprise that his victory speech was insulting and divisive.

I don’t mind not being considered ordinary, but I’m certain I’m real and I like to think I’m decent. Tom Coates inverted Farage’s phrase nicely.

When Cameron resigned, I immediately became worried about the fall-out.

Really, if your best option is a man who stuck his penis into a pig’s mouth, then it must be clear that you’re in trouble.

Then I checked the stock market and realised that many of the Brexit supporters may have shot themselves in the foot.

A story in the FT illustrated the fall nicely (“nicely” isn’t really the right word!)

The markets bounced back a bit later in the day – but it was one of the most volatile days of trading in history.

Fox News can, of course, always be relied on to get important facts wrong.

Then I started to see data on the demographics of the voting – where it became obvious that it was mainly the older generations who were voting against the EU

Can I just point out that it’s #NotAllBabyBoomers :-/

Remember the £350m a week that was going to be diverted to the NHS. Turns out that was a lie.

It was a lie on many fronts.

  • It was a lie because the UK doesn’t send £350m a week to the EU
  • It was a lie because it ignored the money that we get back from the EU
  • It was a lie because any money saved was never going to be spent on the NHS

It was a lie that the Leave campaign were called out on many times, but they refused to retract it.

To be fair to Farage (and that’s not a phrase I ever expected to write) he wasn’t part of the official Leave campaign, so he wasn’t the right person to ask about this. But someone should certainly take Johnson or Gove to task over it.

Going back to the baby-boomers, I retweeted a friend’s innocent question

Then it started to look like Cameron might not be the only party leader to go in the fallout from the referendum

Incidentally, has anyone seen any evidence of the Lib Dems in this campaign? A couple of days ago I saw footage of Tim Farron in a crowd somewhere. Took me a few seconds to remember who he was; and then another minute or so to remember that he was the leader of the Lib Dems.

Euro-myths have always really annoyed me

More bad news from the City

I should point out that Morgan Stanley have denied the story. I guess time will tell who is telling the truth here.

By mid-afternoon, I was working on alternative plans

A final thought struck me

I mean, they were a single-issue party. And they’ve won that battle. Surely, there’s no need for the party to exist any longer. They can’t surely expect people to vote for them now (although, UK voters are a very strange bunch). If they closed down, they could all go back to the Tories and Farage and Carswell could get places in the new Johnson/Gove cabinet.

Oh, now I’m really depressed.

Ten Years?

It’s been some considerable time since I wrote anything about Nadine Dorries. I still keep an eye on what she’s up to, but most of the time it’s just the same old nonsense and it’s not worth writing about.

But I was interested to read her recent blog post explaining why she had given up Twitter (again). Of course, she uses it to rehash many of her old claims of stalking and the like, but what I found really interesting was when she said:

After almost ten years on Twitter (so long I can’t remember) and with 28,000 followers, I have made my own modest exit.

Because that “almost ten years” didn’t fit my recollections. Twitter has just had its tenth anniversary. As I wrote recently, almost no-one has been on Twitter for ten years – certainly not any British MPs.

It’s simple enough to use one of the many “how long have I been on Twitter?” sites to work out when her current @NadineDorriesMP account joined Twitter. It seems to be January 2012.

But that’s not the full story. She has joined and left Twitter a few times. Let’s see what we can find out.

Firstly, here’s a blog post from May 2009 where she doesn’t seem to be planning to join Twitter any time soon.

Anyway, safe to say, I shan’t be joining the legions of twitters any day soon.

It’s several months later, in September 2009, when she announces that she has joined Twitter. So that “ten years” is more like six and a half.

I’m pretty sure that first account was also called @NadineDorriesMP. At some point over the next couple of years, she closed that account (I’ll dig through her blog later to see if I can find any evidence to date that) and some time later she returned with a new account called @Nadine_MP. I know that because in May 2011 she gave up that second account and forgot to remove the Twitter widget from her web site. Then someone else took over the now-abandoned username and used it to deface her site. And then, as we saw above, she rejoined in January 2012.

So I think the list of Nadine’s Twitter accounts goes like this:

  • NadineDorriesMP (Sept 2009 – Unknown)
  • Nadine_MP (Unknown – May 2011)
  • NadineDorriesMP (Jan 2012 – Mar 2016)

That last account is still registered. She just chooses not to use it any more. If past behaviour is anything to go by, she’ll be back at some point.

Anyway, here’s another good example of why you can’t trust anything that Dorries says. Even on a simple fact like how long she has been using Twitter, she just pulls numbers out of the air. She makes stuff up to suit her and she’s been doing it for years.

Twitter’s Early Adopters

You’ll be seeing that tweet a lot over the next few days. It’s the first ever public tweet that was posted to the service we now know as Twitter. And it was sent ten years ago by Jack Dorsey, one of Twitter’s founders.

Today, Twitter has over a hundred million users, who send 340 million tweets a day (those numbers are almost certainly out of date already) but I thought it would be interesting to look back and look at Twitter’s earliest users.

Every Twitter user has a user ID. That’s an integer which uniquely identifies them to the system. This is a simple incrementing counter[1]. You can use a site like MyTwitterID to get anyone’s ID given their Twitter username. It’s worth noting that you can change your username, but your ID is fixed. When I registered a new account last week, I got an ID that was eighteen digits long. But back in 2006, IDs were far shorter. Jack’s ID, for example, is 12. That’s the lowest currently active ID on the system. I assume that the earlier numbers were used for test accounts.

Using the Twitter API you can write a program that will give you details of a user from their ID. Yesterday I wrote a simple program to get the details of the first 100,000 Twitter users (the code is available on Github). The results from running the program are online. That’s a list of all of the currently active Twitter users with an ID less than 100,000.

The first thing you’ll notice is that there are far fewer than you might expect. The API only returns details on currently active users. So anyone who has closed their account won’t be listed. I expected that perhaps 20-25% of accounts might fall into that category, but it was much higher than that.

There are 12,435 users in the file. That means that 87,500 of the first 100,000 Twitter accounts are no longer active. That was such a surprise to me that I assumed there was a bug in my program. But I can’t find one. It really looks like almost 90% of the early Twitter users are no longer using the service.

The dates that the account were created range from Jack‘s on 21st March 2006 to Jeremy Hulette (ID 99983 – the closest we have to 100,000) exactly nine months later on 21st December 2006.  I guess you could get a good visualisation of Twitter’s early growth by plotting ID against creation date – but I’ll leave that to someone else.

My file also contains location. But it’s important to note that I’m getting the location that is currently associated with that account – not the original location (I wonder if Twitter still have that information). I know a large number of people who were in London when they joined Twitter by who are now in San Francisco, so any conclusions you draw from the location field are necessarily sketchy. But bearing that in mind, here are some “firsts”.

  • First non-Californian: rabble (ID 22, PDX & MVD)
  • First non-America: florian (ID 38, Berlin)
  • First Brit: blaine (ID 246, London)

That last one seems a little high to me. I might have missed someone earlier who didn’t put “UK” in their location.

So who’s on the list? Is there anyone famous? Not that I’ve seen yet. Oh, there are well-known geeks on the list. But no-one you’d describe as a celebrity. No musicians, no actors, no politicians, no footballers or athletes. I may have missed someone – please let me know if you spot anyone.

Oh, and I’m on the list. I’m at number 14753. I signed up (as @davorg) at 11:30 on Wednesday 22nd November 2006. I suspect I’m one of the first thousand or so Brits on the list – but it’s hard to be sure of that.

Anyway, happy birthday to Twitter. I hope that someone finds this data interesting. Let me know what you find.

[1] Actually, there’s a good chance that this is no longer the case – but it was certainly true back in 2006.

My Family in 1939

Here in the UK, a census has been taken almost every ten years since 1841. There were a few censuses before that, but before 1841 they only counted people – they didn’t include lists of names.

These census records are released 100 years after the date of the census and this data is of great interest to genealogists. The most recent census that we have access to is from 1911 and the one from 1921 will be released at the start of 2022.

But occasionally, other records emerge that are almost as useful as a census. For example, in September 1939, on the eve of the Second World War, the British government took a national register which was used to issue identity cards to everyone.

Last November, FindMyPast made the contents of this register available to everyone. Initially I didn’t look at it as I have a FindMyPast subscription and I was annoyed that this didn’t cover the new records. I assumed that eventually the new data would be rolled into my existing subscription, so I decided to wait.

I didn’t have to wait very long. Yesterday I got access to the records. So I settled down last night to find out what I could about my ancestors in 1939. As it turned out, it didn’t take long. There were only ten of them and they were split across four households.

george_clarke

This is most of my father’s family. You can see his parents, James and Ivy Cross. They are living with Ivy’s parents George and Lily Clarke. George worked for Greene King all of his life (for over sixty years) and this is the last job he did for them – running an off-licence in Holland-on-Sea. James and Ivy lived in the same building until James died in 1970. I remember spending a lot of time there when I was a child. I even have vague memories of George who died when I was three or four.

My father was born three months after this register was taken – in January 1940 – so it’s interesting to note that Ivy is, at this time, six months pregnant.

albert_cross

Just down the road are the rest of my father’s family – James’ parents Albert and Lily Cross living with their daughter (my great-aunt) Grace. Albert’s father (another James) was the lifeboatman who I have written about before.

robert_sowman

Looking a bit further afield, we find most of my mother’s family living in Thorpe-le-Soken. You’ll see my great-grandparents, Robert and Agnes Sowman, along with three closed records. Records are closed if the people in them are born less than 100 years ago and aren’t known to have died. The first two closed records here are my grandmother, Cecilia, and her sister Margaret. Both of these woman are no longer alive, so I should be able to get FindMyPast to open these records by sending them copies of their death certificates. The third closed record will be for Constance, the third daughter in the family.

maud_mary_turpin

And finally, here’s the final part of my family. Maud Turpin, living alone in Maldon. Maud is Agnes Sowman’s mother. Actually, this record showed me the only piece of information that I didn’t already know. Previously, I wasn’t sure when Maud’s husband Alfred died. He was still alive in the 1911 census and this record gives me strong evidence that he died before 1939. I think I’ve found a good candidate for his death record in 1931.


So that’s a pretty good summary of what you’ll find in the 1939 register. It’s a good substitute for a census (particularly as there was no census in 1941 – as the country was too busy fighting a war) and it’s nice that it’s not covered by census privacy laws, so it has been released to the public about 25 years sooner than you might expect. But, certainly in my case, I already had a lot of knowledge about my family in this period so I didn’t learn very much that was new. If I had paid the £7 per household that FindMyPast had initially asked for, I think I would have been very disappointed.

I should point out that You don’t just get this information. Each results page gives a map (actually, a selection of maps) showing where your ancestors lived. This is a nice touch. There are also random newspaper cuttings and photos from the locality. You might find these interesting – I really didn’t.

Has anyone else used these records yet? Have you found anything interesting?

p.s. And yes, if you’re paying close attention, you’ll notice that there’s one grandparent missing from my list above. Ask me about that in the pub one day.

2015 in Gigs

Chvrches - Tufnell Park Dome

As has become traditional round these parts, it’s time for my annual review of the gigs I saw last year.

I saw 48 gigs in 2015. That’s up on 2014’s 45, but still short of my all time high of 60 in 2013. I saw Chvrches, Stealing Sheep and Paper Aeroplanes twice. I was supposed to see a couple of other artists twice, but Natalie Prass cancelled the second show and I couldn’t get to the second Soak show as I was ill.

As always, there were some disappointments. Renaissance really weren’t very good (I waited to hear “Northern Lights” and then buggered off) and Elbow weren’t as good as I’d seen them before. But the biggest disappointment this year has to be Bob Dylan. He was terrible. I left at the interval.

About half-way through the year, I stopped writing reviews on my gig site. I’ve put up posts with just the data about the shows and I hope to back-fill some of the reviews at some point, but I can’t see it happening soon. Hopefully I’ll keep the site more up to date this year.

So here (in chronological order) are my favourite gigs of the year:

  • Stealing Sheep – It’s been far too long since I saw Stealing Sheep, but the release of a new album brought them to London a couple of times. I’m going to do with the Chat’s Palace show as my favourite as I like smaller venues.
  • Laura Marling – This was simply astonishing in every way. I was completely spellbound thoughout this show. Almost certainly gig of the year.
  • Soak – If there’s any justice in the world, Soak is going to be huge. See her in intimate venues while you can.
  • Amanda Palmer – There always has to be an Amanda Palmer gig on the list. It’s the law.
  • Chvrches – Another act I saw twice. The small album launch show at the Tufnell Park Dome just pipped the huge extravaganza at Alexandra Palace.
  • Heaven 17 – Another band I’ve started seeing whenever I can.
  • Garbage – Sometimes, seeing bands decades after their peak can be a little disappointing. That certainly wasn’t the case for Garbage.
  • John Grant – First time I’d seen John Grant. I hope it won’t be the last.
  • Fuzzbox – Another act from my youth who made an impressive return.
  • The Unthanks – I’ve been meaning to get round to see the Unthanks for years. I’m glad I did. I’ll be seeing them again as soon as possible.

Gigs that fell just outside of the top ten included Julian Cope, Suzanne Vega, Paper Aeroplanes and Smoke Fairies. Oh, and the Indie Daze Festival was great too.

I already have tickets for a dozen shows in 2016. I’m particularly looking forward to ELO in April and seeing the Cure for the first time for far too many years in December.