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Book Review

Mott’s CD review

Book Review: Does Anything Eat Wasps?

Having an eye for trivia, the title Does Anything Eat Wasps? (ISBN 1-86197-973-8, published by Profile Books 2005, and edited by Mick O’Hare) caught my eye. The basis for the book being the New Scientist’s “Last word” weekly column of science questions, with the answers supplied by the readers.

The questions are divided into eight broad groups covering Our bodies, Plants and animals, Domestic science, Our universe, Our planet, Weird weather, Troublesome transport and Best of the rest, so you can see there is fair spread of subject matter. Be it ever so trivialized!

For example, did you know that scientists have been able to follow the migration of the Mongol hordes through the type of ear wax they possess. And if you did know that, were you aware that ear wax contains cerumen, skin cells, hair fragments, bacteria and the odd airborne dust particles. After reading this I think I should be more careful when I haul the brown wax out of my ear with my skillfully applied paper clip.

For all the global warmers out there, did you know that the UK is sinking in the south and rising in the north? Apparently, this is known as isostatic rebound coming from the fact that the north of Scotland during the Ice Age was once covered in 300 meters of ice. As this melted, the pressure under the earth’s crust began to push the north upwards. This rate of rising is around one meter a year, so you can forget about standing there with a ruler.

For me, one of the funniest was a question asking whether midwives actually tied a knot in the newborn’s umbilical cord. However, this is not the case, and these days a plastic clip does the job. The best letter coming from a Rob Ives in Cumbria in the UK who wrote, “We found the clamp was ideal for holding our muesli bag closed. It lasted for a few years until it eventually broke and we were forced to have another child.”

The book resembles a printed ‘Wikipedia’, that font of all knowledge from the internet. The difference between the New Scientist book and Wikipedia, is that the book has been moderated by the editor, whereas I believe that Wikipedia remains unmoderated by outside ‘experts’.

It is a ‘fun’ publication and anyone with an eye for trivia will really enjoy it. However, at B. 525 this is not a cheap read, but unfortunately, the publishers have decided that it will be a cheap publication, printing the book on very thin, very cheap paper stock. If you buy this book, read it quickly before the pages turn into paper dust. It is time that publishers paid as much attention to the delivery of the words as well as the content.

Finally, in answer to the question, “does anything eat wasps”, it seems that the list is quite extensive, including frogs, dragonflies, larger wasps, birds, skunks, bears and badgers, bats, weasels and predatory goldfish, with the last word coming from one gentleman who claimed that wasp larvae fried in butter were delicious. So there!

Mott's CD Reviews:  The Amazing Blondel

“A foreign field that is forever England”

Mott The Dog

5 Stars *****

The Amazing Blondel - what a truly scrumptious name for a band from the early seventies, and not only a band from the early seventies, but a true hippy band playing music on lutes, guitars, flutes, Irish drums, pipes, whistles, and of course a crumhorn.

The Amazing Blondel were at their respective peak between 1970-1972. They did carry on after that but lead singer and chief songwriter John Gladwin left in 1972 and things were never really the same after that.

The Amazing Blondel was originally a duo of John Gladwin and Terry Wincott before being joined by guitarist Eddie Baird. During this time they released four albums, all on the prestigious Island record label: Amazing Blondel (1970), Evensong (1970), Fantasium (1971), and England (1972).

This album, “A foreign field that is forever England’’, is a collection of live recordings from The Amazing Blondel’s tour of Europe during this time, with the best recordings selected out to give you the impression of one typical concert from that time, although the album itself was not unleashed on its eager Amazing Blondel Fan’s fans until 2001.

The music itself is totally timeless, wandering minstrels in the sixteenth century probably roamed the land earning their crust by playing very similar music to that which The Amazing Blondel played. Certainly no electric instruments, and actually any instruments they have could be hand carried.

As all of these concerts were recorded in halls all over Europe, there must have been some form of language barrier, as is shown by the muted applause given to the band after being introduced by the French compeer at the start of the first song. But by the seventh song the band has truly won over the audience, getting them to sing, stamp, and clap along to the music.

The live setting really suited The Amazing Blondel, as the warmth of their songs envelope their audience, cleverly written songs, but with an underlying current of bawdiness, and a certain element of schoolboy humour. The song title “Dolor Dolcis’’ means sweet sorrow in Latin, but dolar dolcis is the only thing Latin about the song. Figure that out for a bit of pseudo culture.

There was almost four members of The Amazing Blondel, John Gladwin and Terry Wincott sat at the front with Eddie Baird sitting just behind them, passing forward whatever instrument to the front of the stage, whichever was needed for that particular number. Then in-between them all was always a crate of beer. Before the first song was sung, three beers would be popped open and when the crate was empty the band finished playing, so if you were enjoying an Amazing Blondel concert you simply invested in a few more beers and kept the band on stage. Seems like a reasonable deal to me, doesn’t it to you?

Of course one of the nicest things about The Amazing Blondel live was the spontaneity, which is delightfully represented here. The instru ments are all played with genuine ability, which is only to be expected as the Amazing Blondel was formed at music college.

The in-between song banter is earthily funny, for example “This next song is from our last album, it did not sell well, in fact it only sold two copies, he bought one, and I bought one. He hated it.”

I won’t tell you any more, as I will leave it to you to get a copy and have all the banter unfold as you plough your way through the joys of the Live Amazing Blondel.

The band is essentially English; who else could write a folk song that is twenty minutes long on their home county of Lincolnshire, a rural farming county from middle England (Aerosmith could only be American but that did not stop them going onto international success, and the only place that Lynyrd Skynyrd could possibly be from is Texas, and everybody knows “Sweet Home Alabama”). So there could still well be a place for The Amazing Blondel in the international market, especially with such a ground swell of support developing for them on their home shores at the moment.

On the Amazing Blondel studio albums over forty different instruments were used, plus on some tracks a full orchestra, but it’s here in the live environment that their star really shines. In between songs, instruments are quickly changed, but this only gives each song its own definition, or in some cases a definition of each section of the song. The three part harmony vocals are nearly perfect, and when I say nearly perfect, that little rough edge gives the songs a charm of their own. The whoops and hollers emanating from the band as they get the crowd to sing-along to “Shepard’s Song” cannot help but bring a smile to your lips as the band brings out the inhibitions of the crowd to join in on the chorus.

Live in concert now The Amazing Blondel are more popular than they have ever been, and the original trio reform every year to get away from their day jobs and go out on the road, not only in Britain but all over Europe. They often perform at huge open air events and steal the show with their whimsical charm.

Although long gone are the days of waist length hair and beards, Kaftans beads, tie dye t-shirts and 28'’ loon pants, to be replaced by sensible hair cuts, if there is enough to cut sensibly, expanding waistlines, shirts with collars that don’t create a health hazard in high winds, and trousers they call slacks, but such is how time marches on. Nonetheless the music remains the same: timeless.

The music of The Amazing Blondel is not something to freak out to, or leap about your room to if you want that (which we all do from time to time). There are few certainties in life on this planet; however, one is you cannot perform a contemporary modern dance to the music of Amazing Blondel, unless you are incredibly drunk or aiming at pure farce. I for one will never give up or forget the beguiling clipperty clop, clipperty clop, clipperty clop, of the charming Amazing Blondel.

The Amazing Blondel

John Gladwin: Guitars, vocals, and whatever else took his fancy
Terry Wincott: Guitar, vocals, and whatever else John wasn’t playing at the time
Eddie Baird: Mainly Guitar and vocals

The Songs

Dolor Dolcis
Spring Air
Shepherd’s Song
Celestial Light
Fantasia Lindum
Saxon Lady

To contact Mott the Dog email: [email protected]