Monthly Archives: June 2013

Dodging the moose


A Norwegian driver who swerved to avoid a moose hit a bear instead. The motorist spotted the moose near Hanestad village in Rendalen, north of Oslo, at about midnight on Wednesday, and tried to go around the animal, not realising a bear was nearby.

I have this newspaper cutting pinned on the wall in front of me. It’s been there for some time (it is from the Guardian of 17th August 2012). It intrigues me, and recently it has been on my mind a lot.

The story goes on:

“The driver had lost a bit of speed as he tried to avoid the moose before hitting the bear,” said Svein-Erik Bjorke of the local wildlife authority. “We are tracking the bear and we have found traces of blood.”

The motorist escaped uninjured, although his car sustained some damage. The fate of the bear is unknown. It was obviously able to slip away into the woods, but those traces of blood don’t sound good.

The state of the moose is unrecorded. Presumably rather smug.

Why does this story stick in my mind? I think it’s because of what is currently going on in my life. After more than two decades I am about to leave a job I love and enjoy. I don’t have to leave, and it is tempting to stay. But I know it is time to strike out in a new direction.

Naturally I feel a mixture of emotion. I wonder if I am doing the right thing. But the tired old metaphor about frying pans and fires doesn’t truly apply, because things aren’t that bad right now, and they may not be worse after I leave. I don’t know exactly what I will do in the future, I just know it will be different. Maybe better, but I can’t guarantee that right now.

So why leave? Sometimes in life you just have to take a swerve, whatever the consequences. You need to change direction. It almost doesn’t matter whether the new direction works or not. You can’t carry on with the old one.


Think of that Norwegian driver. He’s tooling along when he sees the moose in his headlights. He has the time and the presence of mind to steer around it, but bugger me there’s a bear in the way as well. But what could he do? If he had known the bear was there, would he have done anything different? Of course he wouldn’t.

Most of us would probably prefer to collide with a moose than a bear.  But it isn’t a choice you can realistically make. You can’t deliberately drive into a moose, whatever the alternative. You have to swerve to miss it and damn the consequences.

Even if you fear a bear may lurk behind it. Even if you know a bear is there. You have to avoid that moose.

So that’s why ‘dodging the moose’ feels an apt metaphor for what I am doing with my life. I am at a point in the road where I have to steer away from the moose that is my former career. It’s something I simply have to do.

Obviously I hope there is an open road beyond it. But even if there isn’t, I’m dodging that moose.

Let’s hope there are no bears.



Filed under Life, Progress

Bruce Springsteen. Approximately.

Bruce Springsteen can, in my eyes, do no wrong. Let me make that plain right off the bat. (Anyone in any doubt of his genius, please watch – plucked from hundreds of examples I could have offered you – this heartbreaking kitchen performance of his break-up song ‘Brilliant Disguise‘.)

No one comes close to pulling off – as Springsteen has – the combination of consummate songwriting craft, consistently thrilling live performance, and a heart-on-sleeve integrity that persists over decades of success, fame and wealth.

I appreciate that some people don’t get Springsteen, perhaps misled by the way Reaganite America misinterpreted ‘Born in the USA’ as a headbanging jingoistic anthem when it was something altogether darker and more complex. Or maybe he really does come across as bit too serious for some.

But as far as I’m concerned, if you have a problem with Bruce it’s your problem. He’s never let me down, across a succession of unparalleled records and occasional live shows that leave every other act I can think of gasping for breath in their energy, variety and emotional intensity. I saw him twice when he toured in 1981 and nothing has ever come close. I’ve seen him play in the years since, and he was still miles ahead of the rest. So, for me he’s infallible.

At least until now.

This week I saw him play at Wembley, the first UK date of his ‘Wrecking Ball’ tour. No one else would even get me to Wembley for a rock concert. It isn’t, to my mind, a suitable venue – too big, too ugly, too far gone in its rampant corporatism (you want beer – it has to be only one brand of generic lager, and it will cost you). But this was Bruce, and if anyone can get hold of a stadium and make it rock, he can.

He did everything right. Starting at a level most bands would hope to reach by the encores, with a rousing, gospel-inflected version of ‘Land of Hope and Dreams’, Springsteen and the E Street Band played a three-hour set that was impressive in its power, poise and showmanship. Springsteen hollered out the hits, prowled the stage working the crowd, and danced and threw himself around in a way that would be impressive in a man half his 63 years of age. He plucked requests on placards from the people at the front of the stage and led the band through a thrillingly varied and immaculately-played set.

He also, having consulted the crowd first, included in the set a complete performance – first song to last, in order – of the album ‘Darkness on the Edge of Town, the 1978 classic that first drew me into his music, and which remains my favourite.

So what’s not to like? Reviews in the Press are claiming it as a triumph. But there is a tiny clue to what went wrong for me in Michael Hann’s piece in the Guardian, which referred to only one song suffering ‘a little with stadium sound’. Michael also admits that he was in the ‘pit’, with a few thousand privileged fans in front of the stage.

Unfortunately, I was up in the seats to the side and the sound was dire for most of the gig; subject to massive echoes from the delay towers, muddy and lacking in definition, with drums louder than anything else.

And this was the view:

Bruce Springsteen. Allegedly.

Bruce Springsteen. Allegedly.

So, hard as Bruce worked, and frenzied as the crowd down by the stage became, I spent most of the night watching the big screen and feeling disconnected. (And I wasn’t alone in this: at one point the person to our left, the one to our right and the man directly in front were all absorbed in looking at their smartphones rather than watching the stage. When people are more interested in following a concert on Twitter than watching the performance take place in front of them, you have to think something’s going wrong.)

Of course, great art makes its own rules (and ‘Darkness on the Edge of Town is great art, trust me). And no one could fault the effort, commitment and skill that Springsteen and the band displayed. He came closer than anyone else could to making a stadium rock like a sweaty club. But I fear Wembley remains no place to watch a rock concert.

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Filed under Music