Thursday, 9 December 2010


We can now be found at the much more straightforward URL

Please update your RSS feeds now so you can say in the folky loops, and I'll see you there!

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Maybe I'm Wrong And I've Always Been That Way

The last couple days for me have been a lot like an episode of Scrubs, except with less Zach Braff and more exposed shin bone.

I spent Thursday and Friday shadowing a surgical team at a hospital in London, where my sister's lovely generous doctor friend had so kindly volunteered to let me get in her way while she tried to save people's lives. Getting work experience is of course an essential part of the process of trying to get into medical school, but for me it was particularly important. I needed to make sure I was doing the right thing.

You see, I've been so intent on becoming a physician I was worried that maybe I'd been swept up in the romance of it all, with the idea that every day starts with a fresh set of scrubs and ends with a patient making a miraculous recovery after thirty seconds of CPR and a young handsome doctor saying, Dammit, I am not losing this one!

I was worried that despite the mile long queue of weary medical residents and SHOs who have warned me to get out while I still can, despite the $120k+ education fees I can expect to spend a good chunk of my life paying off, despite not being able to even think about making a salary for the next six years, despite having to leave all my friends in the UK and start all over again in a country I haven't properly lived in since I was 11, despite all this, I am still as enthusiastic about becoming a physician as I was on that sunny July day back in 2009 when I realised there was nothing else in the world I could imagine myself doing.

In reality, I've wanted to be a doctor since I was little (though the career path did have healthy competition with 'astronaut' between around 1997 to 1999) but poor science grades gradually chipped away at that dream until it seemed like nothing more than a silly idea. When my GCSE results came back sometime before my 17th birthday and I realised I was not the mediocre student I had always suspected I'd been, that little doctor seed that had been frosted over by a blizzard of Bs and Cs for so many years suddenly broke through. Despite this, I was so keen to get to university and so reluctant to spend another year getting the science prerequisites required to get me to medical school, I ended up settling for a Politics and Sociology degree in the UK.

The past three years have been fantastic, but only because the last two have them have been spent knowing the pure unstoppable fact that when I graduate I will be pursuing an MD in the United States. Okay, sure, so I have to do a post-baccalaureate premedical degree first, and that will take up to two years and around 30k to finish, but the important thing is, I'm getting there.

So when I got to the hospital on Thursday morning (I was so nervous I arrived an hour early and had to sit in the staff room awkwardly watching SkyNews with a bunch of exhausted doctors who did not want to have to make small chat with a clueless pre-med student after a 12-hour night shift) I knew that everything was on the line. My little medical dream seed had matured into a sturdy sapling, but I was waiting for the gale forces of reality to come and blow me off my feet again.

So I waited.

I waited through my first round on the ITU ward, dealing with patients who everyone knew were most likely headed for the morgue.

I waited through my first surgery, a knee replacement that involved a lot more chiseling, grinding and power tools than I had ever expected in a hospital.

I waited through my first cardiac arrest, when the resuscitation team fought and won against an elderly heart that stubbornly refused to keep beating.

I waited and I waited, peeking through my fingers and holding my breath for the moment when I would say, Oh, right, yeah, that's why I would make a terrible doctor, that's why everyone says it's not nearly as a good career as it used to be, that's why I should just give up right now.

It was only when I dumped my blood-stained scrubs on Friday evening and left through the revolving doors of the hospital that I suddenly realised nothing at all in the past 48 hours had made me any less determined to be a doctor. Finally I could relax my shoulders, untense my worried mind and think, Right then, let's get on with it. I came away unburdened by my fears of failure and instead weighted down with a hundred-and-one more reasons why I have to succeed.

Okay, sure, I've only seen the clean, daytime tip of an otherwise frightening, exhausting and mind-numbing iceberg, sure I've only seen one hospital, and not even one in the country in which I intend to practise. But I've seen enough to know that the roots of my dream to one day (still a long, long way away) become a doctor have gripped me so tightly that if I don't drop everything I am doing right now and pursue this time-consuming, money-draining, life-changing goal, I will have let down the six-year old self that envisaged it in the first place.

When I got back to Bristol at 10 o'clock at night, I walked through the frosty streets to an empty house and sat in our basement living room, drinking beer and eating pasta. One of my housemates texted me and asked if I wanted to come round to a little party a few doors down the street. It was 2 degrees outside and I'd just picked up on three clinical inaccuracies in an episode of Scrubs I was watching.

I told him I'd see him in the morning.

In other news, I've been zeroing in on a lot of amazing folk lately, and can't even quite remember where I found this week's track. I wish I could tell you more about Nathaniel Raitliff, but I'm thinking all you really need to know is that he must have been reading the part of my secret diary where I wrote how much I love vocal harmonies. He must also have read the footnotes on including wonderful lyrics and the margin where I'd scribbled how much I like powerful chest-baring choruses. Either that or he's just one of the amazing new artists that contemporary folk has been churning out lately.

I'm going to start locking up my secret diary.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Progressive Folkism

Not all music genres were created equal.

When I walk into university everyday it's impossible for me to ignore the flyers taped to post boxes and telephone poles advertising all sorts of artists I've never even heard of before. I can hardly open my email inbox without being inundated by an avalanche of Facebook invitations to events hosted by MC Shamtastic or the Croydon Dub Masters. Many an evening have I walked away from the DJ booth in shame after being told that no, sorry, they don't take requests for Paul Simon at Lizard Lounge.

We live in a prejudiced world.

Long gone is that golden era when 'folk' and 'club' were two words that frequently appeared in the same sentence. How I wish I could experience those salad days, when I wouldn't have to panic when asked, so what kind of music do you like?

But there is hope. The few hundred visitors I get on this site every week all stand testament to the stalwart remains of folk fandom. The emails I get from readers suggesting new tunes and bands I haven't heard about fill me with unparalleled joy for the future of our encroached genre. We're still here, I whisper to my tear-stained reflection, And, dammit, we're going to stay.

And so to my humble comrades of the Good Music Resistance, to my fellow folk freedom fighters, I implore you to carry on resisting, to spread the good word of Folk. Slowly, we can persuade the non-believers, inch by dulcet inch we will retune their chart-deafened ears to the strumming of acoustic guitars and the chorus of three-part harmonies.

To aid you in your quest of conversion, I gift you with an excerpt from The Little Folk Book: Quotations from Folkmaster Luke. Spread yourselves throughout the countryside and speaketh my Word to those who will listen, for within folk lies the answer to many of life's deepest quandries.

The Little Folk Book: Quotations from Folkmaster Luke
Chapter 7--Coming Out the Folk Closet
There comes a time in every person's life when he or she must come to terms with what he or she truly is inside, a time when those feelings that have been bottled up for so long must finally be faced head on and properly understood. Usually people encounter signs that make them realise once and for all that they do truly like folk. You might have experienced these signs too. Perhaps you heard Mumford & Sons on the stereo at Old Navy and it made you feel...funny. Perhaps your friend put some Johnny Flynn on while you were hanging out and you felt an incredible loneliness when the track ended.

However you discovered that you like folk, the first thing you must understand is, there's nothing wrong with you. Many people throughout the world feel exactly the same way as you and it's perfectly normal.

Of course, life for the folk-initiated isn't always easy. At some point you're going to want to tell your friends and family, and if you don't handle it perfectly there could be dire consequences.

Luckily, the Generous and Exulted Folkmaster Luke and the National Party for the Advancement of Wonderous Acoustica have compiled a list of advice for what you should do when you finally decide to come out of the folk closet.

#1 Don't always tell people you like folk music, it might confuse them
A difficult question for any folk fan is, so what music are you into? Tread carefully, comrades. There are several ways to answer this question. Firstly, judge the questioner. Does she seem cool to you? What is her body language telling you? Is she genuinely interested in what you are going to say or is she only making awkward small talk while you both wait desperately for your mutual friend to come back into the conversation?

Act accordingly. If you don't think she will respond well, shrug off the question. Here are some handy phrases for you to employ:
- Oh, you know, I like everything, mostly acoustic stuff really.
- Well, I'm not really that into music, I just like simple stuff.
- Hmmm, do you know that guy Jack Johnson? Yeah, he's pretty good, I'm into him right now

Of course, there is the chance that your questioner would be receptive to a truthful answer. Don't be afraid to humbly offer 'folk music...?' as a response. If she smiles, lifts up her sleeve and reveals a tattoo of a heart with the words JOSH RITTER etched inside, it could be the start of a beautiful relationship.

#2 No one likes pretentiousfolk
Some people like to spread the good word of folk and that's fine. The problem is, there will inevitably be those who don't want to hear about your enlightened sense of existence. I know, I know, what's the point in knowing about the greatest genre of music in the world if you're closest friends can't? Believe it or not, though, some people do not wish to hear about your slightly unorthodox taste in music. Some people are not big enough fans of music in general to be impressed that you think Devendra Banhart is too mainstream for the freak-folk outfit or London neo-folk got left behind with Alas I Cannot Swim. Some people don't like sitting next to the guy at parties who spends forty-five minutes individually explaining the pseudo-biblical references in each of 'The Trapeze Swinger's eight separate verses.

There was a time when this guy at parties was me, but as I became less of the Guy At Parties and more of the Guy at Home By Himself On A Friday Night Wikipedia'ing The American Civil War, I realised that subtlety, modesty and calm were the best attributes to have when listening to friends talk about how Jason Mraz is the best acoustic artist of our generation. Just grit your teeth, smile and hum along with your friends to 'I'm Yours'.

#3 Learn to play guitar
Do you know what is even cooler than writing folk music? Converting pop music into folk music. It's like aural alchemy. Most pop songs are based on three or four chords. If you can figure out these three or four chords, learn how to do a nice little fingerpick with your right hand, and slow everything down, you can turn everything into a folk song! These are the tunes that people want to sing along to at parties. These are the tunes that will make people realise they love folk without even realising it. If you don't believe me, ask William Fitzsimmons:

I hope I've been able to return to you lonely folkies out there some of the hope you bestow upon me every time you visit Shut The Folk Up. Honestly, folk is making a resurgence. These days you can hear good folk in places other than just phone adverts and Gossip Girl. Mumford & Sons are just as likely to be featured on a hip trendy website like this as they are on your mainstream radio station, and I think that is a sign of the times.

This week's reward for your tireless persistency in folk promotion is, in the opinion of myself and Papa Burns, one of the most beautiful pieces of folk music ever written. Judee Sill was probably the most unassuming heroin addict you have ever seen, and her untimely death at 35 appears all the more catastrophic when you hear what a genius she was at her craft. In the copy of her song 'The Kiss' below, I've chosen to leave in the brief intro in which she tries to explain to a live audience the hidden meanings behind the track. She seems to get lost in her own thoughts as she speaks, though, as if the true story behind the lyrics has escaped even her, the person who conceived it. What kills me the most is when she quietly, but with undeniable authenticity, tells the audience that she hopes they'll like her song, before launching into it. I feel this way every time I try to introduce folk to one of my friends, lining up something on iTunes that's been haunting me for weeks, sitting them in my chair and throwing it all into a click of the mouse.

I let the folk do the rest.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Three Things I Learned Yesterday

1) No matter how long you watch the Discovery Channel for, when you get back to your computer your dissertation will not have written itself

2) Sometimes the best music is the kind that's recommended to you by your best friends*

3) If you're too busy watching TV working and getting med school experience to write a full post, three bullet points will suffice

*For proof, listen to Augie March below (thanks, Kev).

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

When I Finally Grow Up (Part 1)

I've got rather messy career aspirations. For a good part of my life I've been having an internal struggle over what I want to do with myself. This is pretty normal of course, most people have no idea what their futures will be until they stumble into them sometime around their twenties. Usually, people know that they want to be in business, or in media, or in fashion. For me though, I knew there were only two specific ways I could turn out: as a doctor or a writer.

I come from a family of writers. My sister is a travel writer, got a 1:1 in English from University College London and gets flown around the world to give speeches on various aspects of the written word. Mama Burns is also a writer, following Papa Burns' job from continent to continent and editing various magazines and newsletters along the way, writing her own column in New England and now gradually breaking into the journalistic world on the West Coast. Papa Burns co-wrote a book once, Brother Tom studied English at university and the Twin is doing the same now.

You could say it's kind of in my blood.

Of course, we're all attracted to the romance of journalism. I remember reading Hunter S. Thompson's The Rum Diaries and assuming that all journalists must live debauched lifestyles on tropical islands with beautiful women and unlimited supplies of white rum. I also got lost in the idea of becoming a foreign correspondent, jetting off to Iran and Burma and Chile on the BBC payroll, whipping up a furor in the international press with my dry witticisms and then returning to a good night's sleep at one of my many bohemian loft apartments dotted around the globe.

It was under these pretences that I pursued a degree in Politics and Sociology at university in England. As a first year undergraduate it was hard to penetrate the student journalism scene (it's not what you know...) but I was soon embroiled in it after someone in my halls of residence drove a brand new Mini across the quadrangle and up and down the stairs. I'd signed up to be my 'hall reporter' in hopes of being assigned a decent story, and though they didn't want a lowly first year to write this particular front-page article, they would be happy for me to take some photographs of the wasted car and give a statement.

How exciting! I relayed to my friends in a cafe on the day the newspaper came out, That's me! I took that photo! I gave that quote about that stupid idiot driving the Mini! Unfortunately, a boy in the cafe overheard, came up to me and told me that I should probably not quote things that I didn't know anything about, and it later turned out that this boy was the stupid idiot who had been driving the Mini. Oops.

I learned to be a little more discrete in my journalistic ventures but remained just as enthusiastic. I hounded friends for stories and constantly scanned the news for mentions of my university. While chasing one particularly controversial story I was assigned to, I was given a phone number for a staff member at the uni and I called him up. After some particularly cautious (boring) responses, I decided to drop the tact and rile him up to get some more interesting quotes for the paper. We ended the conversation with him more or less slamming the phone on the receiver, and as I smugly Googled the man's name to find out his role at the uni, I realised that I had just been provoking and teasing the chancellor's right-hand man. Second oops.

By the end of the paper's run, I had managed to squeeze into the elite circle within the student newspaper, a place where few first-year students manage to go, and had earned the title of Senior Reporter along the way. It was only during the paper's final edition that it dawned on me what a little shit I had become. I ran around the university, antagonising people, eagerly searching for the most gruesome stories about students getting beat up and mugged and attacked. I looked for controversy and institutional unease. I was always the first to hear the latest gossip, and there was a certain thrill in being the one who got to dispense it on the front page, but it was always a short-lived high. I decided I wouldn't work on the paper the following year, that I would stand up for my morals, the morals that I had been decimating all those months simply for the sake of my silly title as Senior Reporter.

Then of course I was offered the role of Deputy News Editor and my morals went back out the window.

To be fair, I did my best to change my ways. I standardised the paper's writing: no more first person narratives (shudder), contractions (shudder) or whacky alliterations (SHUDDER). I gave more control to new reporters. In the end, I let the Editor steer the ship while I just sat in the background, scrubbing the barnacles off the hull. Unfortunately, the ship--for me at least--was sinking, and while I enjoyed polishing other people's rough articles and seeing my own work occasionally grace the front page, I knew that this would be the last paper I would write for. Journalism wasn't for me.

Luckily, STFU isn't a newspaper and so there's no reason why I can't post you a song that I think you'll all like. I picked this up a few days ago. If you are starting to feel the grind of Winter life, think of 'Sounds Like Hallelujah' from Seattle's The Head and the Heart as a big old overcoat that'll keep you toasty, if not for a full day then at least for the few minutes it'll be playing on your iTunes.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Let It All Out

I'm sure there must be some way we can increase the number of hours in a day.

Let's do the maths. Say we wanted a couple extra hours more than the 24 we have already. Simple. It's done. This would make the average week 182 hours long, 14 hours longer than the measly 168 we've grown accustomed too. This it turn would mean 780 hours in a month (up from 720) and 9360 hours in the year.

Right, okay so like an eager British politician we'd have to do cut something out of the budget to make up for the deficit (you're really only supposed to have 8640 hours in a year). Something would have to go. How about February? Any bits left over I'd just add on to June.

In doing so I would go a long way in eliminating two of the biggest issues I've been having problems with lately: time and climate. (I might also eliminate your birthday too, though, if you happen to be born in February, so perhaps not the best plan.)

I'm back at university now and have made it to the dreaded final year when the working world begins to flash its big ugly headlights in your rear view mirror. My housemates spend their free time answering weirdly revealing questions about themselves for graduate intern schemes (my favourite so far for a friend applying for a position at an oil and natural gas company: "Firm X prides itself on safety in the workplace. Describe a change you have made in life to ensure that you are safer." I can't imagine how telling an HR Manager that you look both ways when crossing the street or make sure the lights are switched off before changing a bulb will make you that much more attractive an applicant, but apparently if they take the effort to hire you they don't want to see you perish in a nasty stapler-related incident at the office) while yours truly works long unpaid hours at night shelters, charity shops and hospital wards to try to make myself that much more attractive to medical school admissions officers.

Add in the increased work load of 3rd year, plus needing to somehow find the time to feed, clothe and bathe myself and you start to get the picture. I've always thought the worst thing about being super busy is not having the time to read books. There's a pile of untouched novels I was given at Christmas beckoning me from the bookshelf, but so far this term I seem to be limited only to journal articles with 'feminist thought' in the title. It's getting hard to stay enthusiastic.

Everything is made that much trickier by the fact that England IS SO INCONCEIVABLY COLD. My room in the house I share with four friends is an old front room with a big bay window. Lovely, you might say, and indeed it would be if it's glass wasn't two-hundred years old and two micro-millimetres thick. I wake up in the morning and instinctively reach for my bedside table for a pair of gloves (this makes putting my contact lenses in later a little tricky) before retreating under the covers to psyche myself up for the perilous journey to the shower that awaits. Then in one swift movement I explode out of bed, grab a towel as I accelerate out the door and shoot up the staircase. The worst site in the world to see at this point is a closed bathroom door indicating occupancy and a freezing retreat back to my bedroom but usually my crazed thumping up the stairs warns the others that an icicle-laden housemate is approaching.

The shower itself is another issue. You see, among the fun little idiosyncrasies of our house is that if you have the shower too hot, the internet turns off. It's something to do with plugged up pipes messing up the electricity which affects the router, and the end result is a tepid shower. The front and back sides of my body have to take turns facing the reluctant stream of lukewarm water, which means that any given time 50% of my body has the opportunity to develop frostbite.

The next part in the process is of course the worst part, when you are dripping wet but need to complete that final journey back to your room. Ususally I black out at this point and wake up sprawled beneath my covers, my hair damp and my glasses foggy. Meanwhile, the boiler sits quietly gathering dust in the corner of one of my housemate's bedrooms.

Oh dear, only three weeks in England and I'm already complaining like a Brit. There are, of course, a number of ways to deal with the issues of climate and time. My two favourite happen to be whisky and music. Though the former is not such a feasible solution at any time before 3 in the afternoon, music is accessible 26 hours a day, 182 hours a week.

When your pining for the warmer climates of your home town, what else can you do except listen to the music that always makes you the most homesick. I actually have a playlist called 'Homesick Music' on iTunes (or alternatively, Hey! My Door Was Shut For a Reason! ...No, I'm Not CRYING! Music) and the undefeatable Josh Ritter always figures numerous times on this list.

So this is for all you kids living away from home, even it's been a while since it was somebody else's job to pay your heating bills.

'Another New World' comes from Josh's latest album So Runs The World Away. If you listen closely to the lyrics you'll hear the gorgeously crafted tale of a sea captain trying to find a passage around the ice of the poles. In classic Josh Ritter fashion, the song seems to have layers upon layers upon layers of meaning, but Annabel Lee, the name of the sea captain's ship, actually comes from a poem by Edgar Allen Poe. What really kills me in this song is the story, which you really should sit and pick apart by listening to the lyrics as the music flows around you.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

I Saw a Shadow Touch a Shadow's Hand

Sociologist Manuel Castells talks about how as humanity gets increasingly computerised and networked, anyone without a laptop and a broadband connection is simply cut off from the rest of the world as it steadily ticks on without them. Certainly for the last few weeks this is pretty much exactly how I've been feeling.

I live on the west coasts of two different countries, splitting up my time between Bristol, England (where I study) and San Diego, California (where my parents live). Every summer I have to make the paradigm-shifting, Earth-shaking, jet lag-inducing transfer between these two countries and the process seems to knock me out for weeks. It takes a long time for me to acclimatise myself to student life: this morning I sat at the kitchen table till noon waiting for breakfast to appear in front of me. You forget how wonderful mums are until there's eight thousand miles of ocean separating you from freshly ironed boxer shorts and bottomless cups of tea.

This time round, though, the shock of overflowing laundry bags was cushioned by a week of touring round the country with Papa Burns and the twin. We started near London and wormed our way up the M24, dropping in on relatives as we went and leaving them flustered and bewildered by our empty beds the next morning.

We finally reached St Andrews in Scotland, the fuzzy ginger hat of England, where I had to go through the heartrending process of parting with my twin sister, the person who has known me since my humble zygote days. Tears aside, St Andrews is a gorgeous town and certainly worth the visit. It's basically where golf was invented and Papa Burns took us out to the Jigger Inn, the original pub built to service the course. Here the Luke Burns Food Awards saw some new winners, as I graced the burger I had for dinner a gold star in my Best Burger (In a Restaurant) category, while the sticky toffee pudding that followed received a nomination for Best Pudding (Non-Chocolate Variety)—but ultimately lost out to a lemon meringue pie Mama Burns made back in July '08.

Leaving St Andrews, with the car lacking a passenger and a couple suitcases we made a good pace south, where I had to do a handstand in front of the Angel of the North. She was pretty much begging me to.

Note: If you can see your bellybutton from 100 feet, it's probably time to start dieting

Now, my dad is originally from the north of England. For those reading this in America, you should probably know that regional contrasts are just as marked in the UK as they are in the States. The south has classically been labeled the 'posh' side of England, whereas the north has always prided itself on its abundance of coal mines, steel factories and trade unions. The time had finally come for me to acquaint myself with my northern roots.

I did everything I could to immerse myself in Yorkshire culture. I went to watch Rotherham, my father's hometown with a team my dad has supported since the days footballs were still made out of leather, wolfing down vinegary chips and moaning with genuine northern exasperation at the nil-nil result. I discovered a whole slew of second cousins I had previously only ever seen in Christmas cards and photo albums, and was awed by their politeness as they lined up to thank my father for the sweets he had brought them (“Thank you, Ooncle Patch-rick!”). I chuckled conspiratorially with my Uncle Fred as we carried our overflowing plates away from the meat buffet of a local pub carvery, and then groaned quietly as I struggled to fit my stomach back into the rental car for the drive home. We also visited my German grandmother who lives in a home very close by and took a tour of the streets and fields my father played in as a boy.

It was this final part of my three days up north that really shook me. As we wandered around Rotherham, Papa Burns slowly brought me back in time. Starting with his elementary school, we traced a line downtown that culminated somewhere in the mid-19th century, outside a row of terraced houses that belonged to my great-great-great-grand-something. On this corner stood a sweet shop he ran and behind it, a cobbled square that I recognised from a black and white photograph taken nearly two centuries ago that hangs above my father's desk.

A few minutes down the road stood a large brick building plastered with signs for DISCOUNT CARPETS—CHEAP CHEAP CHEAP! Papa Burns and I pulled back a rusting fence and stumbled into a graveyard next door blanketed by overgrown vegetation and beer cans. We had to be quick, we weren't supposed to be there and the owner of the carpet store was apparently not a very nice chap. My father had just enough time to point out a crumbling chapel where his grandparents had married so many years before. The owner of the carpet store was looking to tear down the property, he told me, was trying to build a block of flats in its place, didn't care about the graves or the chapel. Papa Burns' efforts to preserve the area had been ineffectual, the neighbourhood was too rough to warrant a restoration grant and few people seemed that bothered to fight for it.

Suddenly a quiet voice called from around the corner, “You're not supposed to be in here.” From the other side of the building emerged three tiny children. We were caught in a surreal moment, my father and I engulfed in the sadness of this crumbling building, trying to escape before we were seen and now suddenly being interrogated by a group of six year-olds brandishing sticks. After we explained the plight of the chapel at trembling twig-point, the little gang disarmed and enthusiastically promised to start a war on the chapel's behalf. After seeing we got back to our car safely, they sped off to find bombs and missiles in the park across the street. Within this tableaux of young children and old buildings, of the overcast Rotherham sky my father spent his formative years beneath, of that same big man walking away from a town that was becoming less and less familiar, I felt I understood a little better the stolid, impassive qualities so often associated with people from the North.

On the drive home Papa Burns gestured at the long beams of light peaking round the corners of Rotherham's greying buildings. He mentioned how the light in Rotherham had a certain slow, dreamy quality he has never seen anywhere else in the world. It was good to know that not everything was changing.

When I finally got to Bristol and said goodbye to Papa Burns, who had been my traveling companion for two weeks, I was struck by an unbelievable sadness. Just like I do every time I miss my dad, I hurried inside and put on some Paul Simon records.

If you're in the mood for some good old-fashioned feeling-sorry-for-yourself then you can't really go wrong with a bit of Paul Simon. My older sister remarked to me how great it is to discover an overlooked but entirely incredible song by musicians who have been around for forty years, whose repertoire you thought you knew off by heart. She sent me Simon & Garfunkel's 'Bleaker Street' a week ago, and it's been on repeat ever since.