Change in Mood




Life reflects


The russet tones of a naked spinney

Skeleton trees under a daylight moon

Cold nips

At the tips

Of fingers and nose

Harbinger of something on its way


The finger bones of trees

Grasp at the clear, heavy air

While frost


Their former gowns

Diamantes for the newly dead


This is my brave new world

Land of my endless yearning



Extreme as its seasons

And as beautiful as a late Autumn morning.








Words and images are my own.






94. Thank you




This week I experienced my first ever Thanksgiving as we got together with my wife’s family over a meal to truly feel thankful for. It reminded me of the Christmases of my childhood when my mother and grandparents were all still with us. And that got me ruminating on all I now have again in my life.

It’s been a strange year with a great many highs and lows. I finally made it to the US after an interminable process that, in turns, made me feel like a criminal one moment and a stateless pariah the next. I have tried and failed to express the deep joy I felt upon finally arriving at her door. I guess some things can only be experienced, not told.

I got to see two Springsteen shows before I left Melbourne and then had the amazing experience of seeing him on his home turf of Asbury Park, New Jersey in the tiny Paramount Theatre. And I got to do it with the love of my life as a very special treat on my first birthday in America.

I also got married this year… twice. The first, smaller, wedding was the legit one but the second with all our friends and my wonderful son in attendance was easily the best day of my life.

On the red side of the leger, we have been dragged through bitter emotional and legal battles by my wife’s ex-husband who has the clinical narcissist’s instinct for perceiving when things are going well in our lives and then casually throwing a huge wrench into the cogs. He seems supremely unconcerned that the chaos he unleashes each time affects his own children far worse than it does anyone else.

We also managed to have not one but two car accidents in the space of ten days just recently, which resulted in our beloved car being totalled. Another wrench to deal with but at least no one was hurt.

Flipping back to the black side, though, Jersey girl has at last found a job where she feels both appreciated and where her many talents are allowed to shine. This has been a wish I’ve had for her for so long now and to see her happy and (most days) eager to go to work is a deep joy to me.

I have also been experiencing a creative spurt over the past few months which has kept me away from this blog more than I’d like but which is also giving me a fresh vim that I hope will carry me towards something wonderful. Early days yet but the ride has been very enjoyable so far.

So, ultimately, it’s been a turbulent year but one mostly made up of things to be grateful for. I’m grateful for my new home, my new wife, my lovely new daughters and my incredible son, the beauty all around me, the wonderful people I’ve met and continue to meet, and the continued opportunity to stay in a creative space.

Oh yes, and Mary’s Thanksgiving dinner.

For all of these things, I give thanks.


River deep



We took the kids up to the Delaware Water Gap on the NJ/PA border this past week. Jersey girl and I had been up there just a few weeks prior and it was very cool to see the changes the season had wrought.


The scenery is immediately striking.


The mighty Delaware River.






Marshlands are a strong feature of the area.


By the second trip, Fall had really started to kick in.



This time we stopped by Dingman’s falls.






Dingman’s is actually a series of falls.








The river was a little more dramatic on this particular day.



The official description: Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area straddles a stretch of the Delaware River on the New Jersey and Pennsylvania border. It encompasses forested mountains, grassy beaches and the Delaware Water Gap, which slices through the Kittatinny Ridge. Miles of trails include a section of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail. Dingmans Creek Trail leads through a hemlock ravine to towering Dingmans Falls.



All images are my own.











Generals and majors



Ford Mansion (built 1774)


My wife and I took a little day trip to Morristown, NJ this week. Those of you who know your American history may recognize that name and may already have associated it with George Washington.

Washington wintered his army twice in Morristown. The first time was in the winter of 1777 shortly after the battles of Trenton and Princeton (both much-needed victories for the Beleaguered General). On that occasion, Washington made Arnold’s tavern his winter headquarters and spent five months there administering to the needs of his troops.

While there, he ordered that all his troops be inoculated, against smallpox, which had been ravaging his army. This was a gruesome affair that required a needle and thread be passed though the pustule of an infected person to collect infected puss then be used to contaminate a cut made in a healthy person to encourage antibodies to develop. As awful as that sounds, it saved many lives in the overcrowded camp.

Washington returned to Morristown with his army in the winter of 1780. This time he chose the house of a wealthy family, the Fords, as his HQ. There he stayed for six months with his entire retinue of staff officers and servants through one of the worst recorded winters.

This was no enforced occupation, however, Theodosia Ford had agreed to host the General and was paid rent for her troubles.

The Ford mansion is now owned by the Parks Service and is run as a museum. The Washington’s Headquarters Museum includes the house and grounds and an actual dedicated museum which was built behind the house sometime in the 1930’s.

I’d been wanting to get down and see this place for a while and we were lucky enough to choose one of the most gorgeous Fall days for our excursion.


The grounds looked stunning on this particular Fall day. To the right you can see the back of the Ford mansion.
A side view.
House Frontage. To the right is the kitchen and servants quarters.


Across the street from the house stands this superb bronze equestrian statue of the great man (cast in Florence, Italy).
This is the main entry hall. During Washington’s stay, this room would have been constantly full of officers and petitioners of every stripe waiting to see the General or a member of his Staff.
The house kitchen was a hotbed of contention as Washington’s three cooks took over the modest stove. The Ford family’s cook was forced to compete for time at the harth. This was also the room where all the other servants (upwards of 30) ate and congregated so the chaos was considerable. Washington complained to Nathanael Greene that “There is no place at this moment in which a servant can lodge, with the smallest degree of comfort. Eighteen belonging to my family, & all Mrs Fords are crouded together in her Kitchen, & hardly one of them able to speak for the colds they have caught.”


An outside view of the stove. Eventually a log hut was built as an auxiliary kitchen to relieve the tensions in the house.
During the General’s stay, the Fords were confined to two rooms in the house. This room was shared by Mrs Theodosia Ford and her daughter. Mr Ford (who had been a Colonel in the NJ militia) had passed away three years prior to the arrival of the army.
The servant’s quarters (situated above the kitchen) would have been considerably more crowded than these images imply.


Alexander Hamilton was billeted in this room with several other Staff Officers.
Same room. These are officer’s camp beds, designed to be portable and able to fit within a tent.
Collapsed version.
This small room was Washington’s office, where he would have spent most of his days over that long, cold winter.
Hamilton and the other Staff took over the front parlour as their office and a very busy place it would have been.
And this is the room in which the Washington’s slept. Yes, Martha (and her 2 children and 18 servants) joined her husband whenever he was in a fixed camp, often travelling across several states by coach to be with him.


Washington’s Immortals, his personal Life Guard, were stationed very near the house (the main army being encamped several miles away at Jockey Hollow). However, there were only about 150 of them at this time and so the British devised a plan to kidnap the General with a flying cavalry column of about 500 men.

They rode out of New York (the winter was so severe that you could ride a horse across the harbour from Manhattan to Staten Island over the solid ice) into New Jersey.

The plan, as so many do, went astray almost immediately when they discovered all the roads were under deep snow and they were completely unable to even find the correct route to Morristown. Defeated by the very winter that had forced Washington to bed down in the first place, they returned despondent to Manhattan.

I’ll end this post here and pick up in another with what we saw in the museum.




Words and images are my own.








Seven decades and seven albums from the great state of New Jersey

I haven’t done one of these for quite a while but, since the idea behind it is pretty self-explanatory, I’m just going to jump right on in.



  1. In the Wee Small Hours, Frank Sinatra (1955)

In the Wee Small Hours was a concept album conceived before that phrase had even been coined. A densely woven web of melancholy, each song on this disc wanders through the past midnight streets of heartbreak and loneliness.

People forget how much musical perspicacity Sinatra had in those days but a listen to these tracks is a fast reminder. Songs like Can’t we be friends?, When your lover has gone, and It never entered my mind are bleedingly raw testaments to loss and regret.

The boy from Hoboken NJ was never everyone’s cup of tea but he dominated the era of the crooner with few rivals and gave us his own unique interpretation of the American songbook.

Alternatively, try: Sarah Vaughan With Clifford Brown (1955)



  1. Speak No Evil, Wayne Shorter (1966)

The saxophonist from Newark NJ who famously played in Miles Davis Quintet (2) and then went on to form seminal band Weather Report would come to be regarded as one of the great jazz composers. This talent was never more apparent than on his classic modal jazz recording, Speak No Evil.

Featuring the keyboard talent of none other than Herbie Hancock, this highly inventive set of arrangements coalesce into one of the all-time great Jazz albums. The tracks, Witch Hunt, Infant eyes, and Wild Flower are stand outs for me but the entire album hums with a freshness that has failed to dim in the intervening decades.

Alternatively, try: Here Where There Is Love, Dionne Warwick (1967)





  1. Darkness on the Edge of Town, Springsteen, (1978)

I know, you probably think that if I’m making a Springsteen album my 70’s selection, it should be Born to Run but sorry, can’t do that. His fourth album is and will always be my favourite Springsteen recording of all time.

Darkness is, well, dark and deeply compelling. Despite the fact that BTR contains my two favourite ever Springsteen tracks (Backstreets and Thunder Road), this album is the perfect sequencing of raw-edged songs of no redemption. Adam raised a Cain, Darkness on the edge of town, Racing in the streets, and Promised land are relentless in their portrayal of the anti-hero’s incremental slide towards the oblivion of mediocrity.

The NME called it 1978’s album of the year and were right to do so. This album has more punk attitude than any three actual punk albums I can think of.

Alternatively, try: Easter, Patti Smith (1978)





4. Especially For You, The Smithereens (1986)

The boys from Carteret, NJ kind of crept out into the limelight in the early 80’s, never really achieving the level of fame they probably deserved. The Smithereens were seen largely as a retro outfit obsessed with the Mods and ‘60s melody bands like The Byrds.

The inclusion of their track Blood and Roses on the Dangerously Close soundtrack gained them some MTV airtime but their sound never really caught the public’s imagination enough to take them to the next level.

This, their first album, was a high-water mark for the band and a very fine album it is. Pat DiNizio’s writing betrays some fairly dark feelings about love but those guitar arrangements keep things from tipping too far towards the dark side. Standout tracks include, Blood and Roses, Behind the Wall of Sleep, and the excellent Strangers when we meet.

Alternatively, try: Trash it Up, Southside Johnny and the Asbury Dukes (1983)





  1. The Score, Fugees (1996)

Comprising two Haitian refugees (hence the name ‘Fugees’) and one Jersey girl, the Fugees were a band to be reckoned with.  Wyclef Jean, Lauryn Hill, and Pras Michel exploded out of East Orange NJ, with their second album The Score. This was urban life in Jersey laid bare. Songs like, Ready or not, and Family business sit almost uncomfortably beside covers of Killing me softly and No woman no cry, creating a tension laced with moments of pure beauty.

Alternatively, try: The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, Lauryn Hill (1998)





  1. The Meadowlands, The Wrens (2003)

Hailing from Secaucus, NJ, The Wrens were one of the anointed bands of the 90’s Indie scene. Singer/guitarist Charles Bissell along with brothers Greg and Kevin Whelan (guitar and bass respectively) and drummer Jerry MacDonald formed The Wrens at the beginning of the 90’s but this album was released at the very end of their partnership.

It could be argued they were a band of a certain time but this recording still sounds pretty relevant to me. Take a listen to She sends kisses and I think you’ll see what I mean.

Other great tracks include, Happy, and Boys you won’t.

Alternatively, try: Neptune City, Nicole Atkins (2007)





  1. Atlas, Real Estate (2014)

Ridgewood, NJ was the launching pad for melodic guitar band, Real Estate. One could argue that they sound altogether too similar to Britpop darlings The Stone Roses and be fairly on the money. Their lead singer Martin Courtney sounds so much like Mancurian singer Ian Brown that he comes close to parody. That said, the songs on this album are strong and the overall sound so listenable that it quickly gets under the skin.

I have no idea how a band from New Jersey ends up sounding like a Stone Roses cover band doing originals but by about halfway through this album, I stopped caring and just let the music carry me off.

Standout tracks include, Had to hear, Past Lives, and Crime.

Alternatively, try: Painkillers, Brian Fallon (2015)


I don’t own every record on this list but did listen to all of them while compiling it.

There were so many others I could have included. New Jersey has such a rich musical culture and history. I would be remiss if I failed to at least mention some of those not included, so here’s a brief list of significant NJ artists (old and new) worth seeking out; The Roches, Gaslight Anthem, Deal Casino, The Cold Seas, Titus Andronicus, Little Steven, The Shirelles, Parliament, Misfits, The Feelies, Paul Simon, The Sugarhill Gang, Queen Latifah, Count Basie, Thursday, My Chemical Romance, and Kool and the Gang.


A tip of the hat is owed to for pointing me in several useful directions.























I’m reblogging this post, not because I felt it was particularly well written but because I have added a substantial number of photographs since I first published it.

Runaway American Dream

IMG_4192 The Battle of Princeton Monument.

This great State in which I now live, was the crossroads of the Revolution. More battles were fought over New Jersey soil than over any other of the thirteen colonies. Places like Trenton, Princeton, Springfield, and, Monmouth were the sites of some of the most crucial battles of the struggle. Trenton and Princeton are where the tide finally turned in favor of the patriots.

Not four miles from where I type this, is a place where Washington stayed while his army was camped at White House, just down the road (sadly the house burned down in the 1960s but a commemorative sign still marks the spot).

Six miles in a different direction and you find Solitude House, High Bridge. This was another house where Washington (and his wife Martha) is known to have visited as well as General Lafayette, Colonel Charles Stewart, and Aaron…

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