Mixcloud

I’ve started a Mixcloud page to post some of my favourite songs up, a random bit of everything that makes me sing or dance most of the time both, at the very least I tap my hands/feet.

To kick off I’m uploading a series of CD’s I made for a friend, volume 1 is up now, hope you enjoy some, if not all of it.

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A Feast for Crows – George R. R. Martin

After hours in the chair Sam’s back was stiff as a board, and his legs were half asleep. He knew he was not quick enough to catch the mouse, but it might be he could squash it. By his elbow rested a massive leather-bound copy of Annals of the Black Centaur, Septon Jorquen’s exhaustively detailed account of the nine years that Orbert Caswell had served as Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch. There was a page for each day of his term, every one of which seemed to begin, “Lord Orbert rose at dawn and moved his bowels,” except for the last, which said, “Lord Orbert was found to have died during the night.”

There are spoilers as usual.

So I’ve learnt by now if you’re in the prologue you won’t live long enough to make it into the actual book, say hello and goodbye to Pate.
After the clearing of the decks we have new perspectives for book five. The prophet, Aeron Greyjoy as he deals with Euron Crows Eye claim the iron Isles, while Hotah is the captain of the guard for the Dornish prince, who is being pressed to go to war with the Lannisters following his brothers death.
Meanwhile Cersei strives to fill the vacuum following her fathers death while going slightly mad and imagining Tyrion behind every corner. Jaime disentangles himself from her while er, well nothing much happens really for half the book. The Dornish rebellion is extremely short lived, Euron sends his brother across the sea to capture the Dragon princess (we all know who that is) while Brienne is on a task to find Sansa Stark, although Arya will do, but she’s in Braavos and pops up now and again as she trains in the house of black and white.

Samwell has been packed from the wall to go to old town to train as a Maester and he has Gilly in tow with a baby, in a nice touch, he runs across Arya in Braavos. Although these characters have no knowledge of each other, it was a rare moment of interaction between two people who we follow throughout.

Jaime escapes Kings Landing as he seeks to cleanse himself of his twin, and he eventually ends up at Riverrun where he manages to avoid breaking his promise to Catelyn about taking up arms against the Tullys. Speaking of Catelyn, she has taken the life from the dead Dondarrion and is now leading the outlaws, eventually condemning Brienne to death because she had roamed across half of Westeros trying to find a girl that only 2 people know the whereabouts of (one of which is the girl herself) and because she had a nice sword. The girl is of course Sansa, although she is now Alayne, and helping Littlefinger rule the Vale.

Most of the action centres around Cersei though, as she drinks and plots to try and get rid of Margaery yet keep the loyalty of her father. By the end of the book she has revealed a destiny told her by a fortune teller, but more importantly, closed the noose around the queen’s neck, only to find herself entangled in the rope as well.

Martin puts a note in at the end of this book, and explains that book five will pick up on what’s been going on elsewhere while he has focused on Kings Landing. While I can’t say A Feast For Crows captivated me in the same was as the previous books, it seems almost bare plot wise compared to the previous books, it easily relies on Martin’s sumptuous and intricately detailed prose, that makes the pages drift by.

Jaime read it in the window seat, bathed in the light of that cold white morning. Qyburn’s words were terse and to the point, Cersei’s fevered and fervent. Come at once, she said. Help me. Save me. I need you now as I have never needed you before. I love you. I love you. I love you. Come at once.
Vyman was hovering by the door, waiting, and Jaime sensed that Peck was watching too. “Does my lord wish to answer?” the maester asked, after a long silence.
A snowflake landed on the letter. As it melted, the ink began to blur. Jaime rolled the parchment up again, as tight as one hand would allow, and handed it to Peck. “No,” he said. “Put this in the fire.”

Connecting Continents: Indian Ocean trade and exchange

A taster, what seems like a cupboard stocked with little nuggets of information about trade around an ocean that connects Asia, Africa and the middle East, where commodities such as spices, gemstones, ivory and ceramics have been exchanged for over five thousand years.

It wasn’t until the first Century AD though that people understood the ocean currents and monsoon winds, which would shape the pattern of trading until the steamship in the Nineteenth Century. Merchants would live for 6 months in port cities and travel back with the prevailing winds.

The first thing you see as you step into the small room is a boat and figures made from cloves, from the Indonesian Spice Islands, that were popular from the seventeenth century onwards. The exhibits on show are complimented by images from sailors, travellers and pilgrims, all of whom traversed this mighty ocean along with the merchants, who’s ships bulged with people, culture and religions, ideas and beliefs as well as goods such as pottery, plants, food and luxury goods such as gold and ivory from Zanzibar and Bagamoyo, used for piano keys and billiard balls.

For much of the time beads were used both as a form of money as well as decoration, as were cowrie shells, which are impossible to forge and which were used widely. However incredibly, their value depreciated between 1897 and 1902 from 200 to 1 rupee to 1200 to 1 rupee.

Into this complex and established network sailed the Europeans, as they rounded the Cape, hunting for spices such as nutmeg, mace, cloves, cinnamon and pepper to take back to a hungry and excited population back home, which they did so in vast quantities from the sixteen hundreds onwards. As their empires moved in they moved people for infrastructure projects and plantation labour using a form of indenture, where workers from South East Asia and China worked to pay for their passage, as East Indiamen, built for large quantities of cargo, joined Chinese Junks and Arabian Dhow’s riding the ocean currents and winds.

The exhibition and interest in the ocean as a focus, has formed from work of a growing body of scholars, inspired in part by the work of Fernand Braudel on the Mediterranean, which uses seas and oceans as the geographical setting for research, over and above continents and land based regions. Although goods were originally traded along coastal routes, ships were soon traversing the ocean, creating the need for ports and trading centres to cater for an ever increasing array of merchants and sailors. A travel route along the coastal route of this network, although almost impossible today given where it would traverse through, would provide some fascinating insights into the historical and current impact and influence of the ocean on it’s shores. Paul Theroux did something similar, travelling around the coast of the Mediterranean in his 1996 book, the Pillars of Hercules

There is much much more to say here, and in the end this small exhibition can merely give a taster, and like the first time a European tasted pepper and enthused the what and wherefore’s that would eventually lead to pushing the boundaries of the known world, hopefully this will lead to people learning more about the history of this mighty Ocean.

The exhibition, Connecting continents: Indian Ocean trade and exchange is on in room 69a of the British Museum until the 31st of May

A Storm of Swords 2: Blood and Gold – George R.R. Martin

That was for the good at least. The one-armed armorer was hard headed, tough, and well seasoned in war. Ser Wynton Stout, on the other hand . . . well, he had been a good man once, everyone agreed, but he had been eighty years a ranger, and both strength and wits were gone. Once, he’d fallen asleep at supper and almost drowned in a bowl of pea soup.

THERE ARE SPOILERS IN THIS (So now you know..)

A Storm of Swords 2: Martin is clearing down the decks, the pieces are moving slowly around the board, swapping sides like the wind changing direction.

Starting over somewhere else completely, Daenerys takes down Yunkai with bribery, a few barrels of wine and her unsullied, before moving onto to the next city where she uncovers one of her three promised treacheries and finds a new knight. After taking this city, she decides to try and have a go at ruling as a queen while her dragons grow, but don’t worry Westeros, your time will come..

Arya tries to run away again in her Olympian quest to get home, but runs into Sandor Clegane, which was a bit unfortunate to say the least. But the Hound is nothing if not practical, he serves no master now but does like the feel of a lot of coin. This works quite well for both of them until he seemingly gets himself killed so Arya legs it.

Catelyn is packed off to Seaguard while Robb decides to take back Moat Cailin, he’s left Jeyne his wife back in Riverrun (on the advice of his mum), but wait, didn’t the dwarf woman warn Beric and his flaming sword not to go to Riverrun? Oh Catelyn what have you done? Again. Before she’s off to Seaguard though she has to attend her brothers wedding to one of Walder Frey’s brood, on arrival Catelyn is on heightened alert, something must happen, initially it doesn’t, but still she frets, and well she should.

Samwell is on the run with one of Craster’s wives and her babe, before getting rescued by loads of ravens and a man on an elk, it all happens beyond the Wall
Speaking of the Wall, Jon made it back! Amazingly everyone believes him straight away as he moans that the Wildlings are south of the wall while the Maester seemingly cuts up his leg.

Then Martin goes on a rampage. At Edmure’s wedding he KILLS ROBB AND CATLEYN in one chapter! Damn Walder Frey. I had to put the book down. For several days.

Meanwhile Stannis looks over the map of his kingdom and plots.
Bran finally makes the wall, and is met by Samwell, apparently the man on the Elk wants to meet Bran.

It’s Joffrey’s wedding..and continuing with the theme of great weddings, Joffrey dies near the end of it after choking on his wine..or did he? Sansa uses the dying King as a distraction to escape and meet up with an unexpected ally, leaving Tyrion in the brown stuff. He’s rescued by Jaime before taking a detour from his escape route to murder Shae and his father, Go Family Lannister. Jaime also frees Brienne and gives her a nice sword, then seemingly wants to be able to write something nice about himself in the White Book, lets see how that goes.

Sansa becomes someone else as she starts her new life with Littlefinger, who pushes Lady Arryn from her sky window dungeon and blames it on the singer, and why not eh?

Jon protects the wall before being tried for desertion..go figure, you wonder why he bothers. In their darkest hour the Nightswatch are rescued by Stannis! he’s finished plotting and breaks the wildlings. He wants Jon to become the Lord of Winterfell, but thanks to the clever work of Samwell, Jon is made Lord Commander of the Nightswatch, we have to wait until book five to work out what Stannis thinks of that.

And there we are, the end of book four, a hideous death toll with Tommen and Stannis seemingly the only Kings left in the field, and Daenerys across the sea, but winter is coming (it seems to be taking it’s time) and so are the Others, but the North is slowly sorting itself out it seems, it was a rare bit of warmth when Samwell and Jon met up near the end, the only happy bit in four long books, at some point things must start coming together, surely? I’ll just keep reading until it does.

“I know your history, Ser Denys,” the king said brusquely. “I give you my word, I shall not ask you to lift your swords against any of the rebels and usurpers who plague me. I do expect that you will continue to defend the Wall as you always have.”
“We’ll defend the Wall to the last man,” said Cotter Pyke.
“Probably me,” said Dolorous Ed, in a resigned tone.
Stannis crossed his arms. “I shall require a few other things from you as well. Things that you may not be so quick to give. I want your castles. And I want the Gift.”
Those blunt words burst among the black brothers like a pot of wildfire tossed onto a brazier.