Tuesday, 26 January 2010

curse you dan dare

I came across a rather strange news story yesterday.  It appears that many people who go to watch James Cameron's "Avatar" are becoming depressed.  This is not necessarily because the film is so bad (I haven't seen it yet) but due to the fact that the current 'real world' is so depressing.  They want to live in the perfection of Cameron's hyperreal cartoon one! So, let's get this right, these people are upset because they don't live in a science fiction world?

Good grief!  I've been living in a science fiction world most of my adult life!  I mean look around - talking sat-navs that tell us directions, phones that double as cameras and computers.  I can connect to the internet on my phone - alright, I can't really use it properly but that's more to do with my own incompetence.  Our last car had more computer hardware in its dashboard than NASA had to get men up on the moon.  Mind you, often our car couldn't get us to Ipswich let alone the moon.  The more technical gizmos, the more to go wrong.  It didn't fly, either.

I am still waiting for my jetpack, though.  When I was a boy, I was promised holidays on the moon, a jetpack and I wouldn't have to work.  I realise that for two and a half million people that last bit came true. But we're nowhere near leaving the planet en masse or singeing our bums with the flames from our jetpacks.  Reading Dan Dare in "The Eagle" and watching "The Jetsons" and "Star Trek"  certainly prepared me for living in a science fiction world.

Things never turn out how you expect them, though, do they?

Sailing boats and rocket ships,
Silhouettes across the moon.
Our dreams are like broken strings,
Songs without a tune.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

the fylde

I think the last post showed how bored I was earlier.  Poor joke, even poorer photo. Ah well, it allowed my good friend Brendan to make a joke.  I was thinking of deleting the whole posting.

Anyway, everyone else has gone to bed, Mrs Dave is in London and I'm having a nightcap - a glass of The Isle of Jura's finest. And I'm thinking about guitars, as is my wont.  Tonight I'm thinking about my Fylde.

I bought this guitar back in 1977 for the princely sum of £250 - for a 20 year old, that was a lot of beer vouchers.  Very few of my friends would have afforded that at the time as they were still studying.  Thanks to Mr Sunblest in Stevenage, I was able to afford this rather fine example of the luthier's art.  I looked at the Fylde website the other day and saw that the same guitar would now set me back £1561  and that is a lot of beer vouchers.  It still has the little orange sticker inside with the serial number: 593. For some reason I've tended to keep it in a case for the last few years, I guess because I've bought other guitars.  I somehow manage to come back to this one, though.  It is usually pretty well still in tune even if I haven't played it for a month or so. Not long before Christmas I restrung it (D'Addario phospher bronze - about .12 to .54 I think) and gave her a good clean - the neck needed some lemon oil.  As I've got a cold I thought I needed a few Tunes.  Every time I pick it up I wonder why I bother with anything else.  I suppose a cutaway electro is easier to record and, being lazy, easier to play (my Yamaha has a neck like an electric).  The neck width on the Fylde is .45mm whereas the Yammy is about .42mm  - exactly the same as the red Strat.  Yes, sad isn't it?  I've actually measured the necks (even more geek-like you may need to know that these have been measured just below the nut).

Anyway, the Fylde website tells me that it's an Orsino model made from Honduras Mahogany with a Red Cedar top.  I don't know whether mine is Honduras Mahogany but I'm sure the top is Red Cedar.  The neck is also Honduras Mahogany with a Rosewood fingerboard - my favourite.  Chrome-plated Gotoh machine heads and black and white purfling around the soundhole finish it off.  However, my additions are the black scratchplate - lots of frenzied strumming back in the day - and a rather fetching scratch on the front.  This was achieved by first born lurching across the room about 20 -odd years ago clutching a Lego brick and a malevolent look in the eyes.  I also notice that nowadays a Hiscox case comes with your purchase.  Luxury!  My dear old mum bought me a guitar case for it (I've still got it) for my 21st birthday.  The postman had brought the guitar in an old cardboard box.

I have written probably the best songs I've ever written on this wonderful example of Roger Bucknall's art (yes, including the one from a previous posting - it's the one that was leaning against the wall by my bed).  Actually, I reckon this was one that was hanging around the factory when I ordered it.  Mr Bucknall didn't seem too bothered when I phoned up to discuss it - a bit distracted really.  I guess he was too busy dealing with Gordon Giltrap and Cliff Richards never mind about some whelp from Stevenage. But still, it was a handcrafted guitar!  A beautiful machine that anyone who ever tries it falls in love with it.  I've been offered various amounts for it over the years, but it definitely is NOT for sale.  This is a life partner.  I was going to put a pickup in it once, but because it's not a cutaway, I never bothered.  As I said, I've got the Yammy for that.  I really like the Yamaha ( a future posting will be about it) but I could live without it.  I guess the Fylde is what I'll grab in the event of an emergency.

For fingerpicking this really is the business. And because it is now some 33 years old, it has matured wonderfully.  There are a few surface cracks where it's dried out (thanks to central heating - for the first few years it wasn't a problem as my parents didn't have central heating) and I emailed Roger about it and he suggested I send it to him to sort out.  What I actually did was buy a humidity device from the US of A. It was bizarre, it looked like a clarinet made by Salvador Dali - green and floppy.  You soak it, squeeze it and then leave it in your guitar for a few days.  The guitar seems to look much better after a bit of rehydration.  You can hardly tell it got dried out.

As I said, it sounds wonderful.  Very full sounding with a rich deep bass and responsive treble.  Beautifully made, beautiful sounding.  There are many fantastic luthiers out there but I really am happy with this.  It has been part of my life for so long now, I can't imagine it not being there.  It's a shame that the old vinyl album "Fylde Acoustic" isn't available on cd as it was a brilliant showcase for these instruments: Nic Jones, Gordon Giltrap, Michael Chapman, Vin Garbutt and many others were featured.  I must get the ION record player gizmo out to see if I can record it to MP3.

Oh well, as Peter Green said.  Bedtime.  The whisky bottle is a 10 year old Jura that happened to be there by the Fylde when I took the photo. Any spelling mistakes . . .

scotland calling

Apropos of nothing in particular, I was reading a news item in "Current Archaeology" magazine.  It was entitled, "Scotland calls for the return of the Lewis Chessmen".  Not my usual reading matter but one of my daughters is studying the subject at Southampton Uni and happens to be home for a few days.  She showed me this article as she knew I would be incensed.  Why should I give them back?  They seem quite happy here.

high tide, mid afternoon

It's 8 degrees Celsius outside and the sun has brought out la tourista in droves.  I took the bumper collection of bottles to the tip this morning - believe me it was an embarrassing amount.  I filled the boot of our car with 3 boxes and 6 bags of bottles.  I haven't actually been to the tip since at least two weeks before Christmas - we seemed to use a lot of Olive Oil and Marmalade over the past few weeks.  Honestly.  Okay, it was a rather fine collection of Sunday Times Wine Club and St Peter's bottles (they always seem too nice to throw away).  Anyway, as I drove along by the sea front at the bottom of our road, I was taken aback by the amount of cars parked there.

It was like a fine Spring morning.  The first decent few rays of sunshine for ages so presumably most of Ipswich decided to come and spend the day walking up and down the prom before diving into The Fludyers (pronounced "Flujjers") for some braised guinea fowl and chips or whatever they're offering on their menu this year.  Still, all good for the town's economy, I suppose. Actually, I had some rather fine fish and chips there a few weeks ago.  A great lunchtime pub but it's a bit like one of those Edward Hopper Diner paintings at night. It's the double-fronted red brick building behind the lamp-post.  Behind that is where Mrs Simpson waited for Edward VIII to abdicate.  In front of it there's a small tea room called, unsurprisingly enough Simpson's.  Perhaps the teetotal tourists are in there gulping tea and eating bits of quiche and salad leaf.  That's what we used to be served up with when I used to go to NUT meetings there.  Terribly twee.

This rather fine postcard from probably the 1950s shows that most of this sleepy seaside town has hardly changed since the middle of last Century. However, as you can see from this morning's photo, the skyline has changed radically!  The Docks throw out so much light pollution at night that in certain parts of the town it's difficult to stargaze. The unusual concrete object in my photo is a seat. Not many people sit on it though. They probably can't work out how to.  The wooden timeshare untis that are ubiquitous on the Suffolk Coast are sometimes a target for the hordes of bored rampaging teenagers when they need to warm themselves up of an evening.  Talking of fires, I've got the stove happily burning the logs I chopped up this morning.  Despite the temperature outside, I still feel the need to burn some wood.

Actually, I've realised this is probably all a bit pointless and I should really be doing something useful.  Task avoidance.  I suppose I'd better go and make dinner soon.  And I need to put some more music on.  The new Imagined Village cd is good - less big names and none of that clattery hip hop/drum'n'bass rhythm section that gets on your (my) nerves after about 2 seconds - sorry but when I downloaded the first one onto my iPod, I had to delete the Tam Lin track by Benjamin Zephania.  Nothing against Ben but its about 8 minutes long and I know I'll just forward it everytime it comes on.  There's still lots of sitars on the new one.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

the ethereal radio

Where to start?  1978 seems like a good year.  I was quite young, free and rushing nowhere fast.  I remember waking up what? Two or three o’clock one morning – in recollection, I’m sure it was a Saturday morning – with a song in my head.  Not just a few words but a SONG – lyrics, chorus, central riff and chords all fully formed.  Okay, so now looking back it sounds like a cross between Richard Thompson’s “Poor Ditching Boy” and Lennon’s “Norwegian Wood” but that’s not really the point.  It expressed an emotion at the time – unrequited love I suppose – but it was created by me lurching out of bed, picking up my acoustic conveniently propped up near the bed and strumming out this masterpiece in one go.  Reaching across for a pen and paper (a Bic or whatever was to hand in those days – I’m much more particular today about what I use) and jotting down this paean to my latest heart-throb, I then crashed back out for a few hours.  When I awoke, there it was!  A fully formed song.  Although I can barely remember lyrics or even what I was thinking about an hour ago, I can still play it and (more-or-less) remember most of the lyrics after all this time.  It is basically unchanged – although I will admit to adding a bit to the song within the following day after a chance comment by my good friend Terry.  He mentioned Saturday being a “razor-blade day”.  Great line, I couldn’t ignore that one!  We were sitting in the Wimpy in Stevenage – no McDonalds in those days.  So, I remember it well.  The song, known amongst the three of us that have ever heard it as “The Old Fashioned Girl”, falls into a genre the great singer-songwriter Bill Caddick called “Fake-Traddie”.  However, much as it is probably embarrassing now and laughable to sophisticated 21st Century iconoclasts like yourselves, it came from somewhere.  Everything comes from somewhere.

I’ve often read interviews with songwriters (believe me, I’ve read a lot of them) where they mention songs coming from SOMEWHERE – almost a gift.  The apocryphal story of Keith Richard springs to mind – him lurching out of bed and playing the riff to “Satisfaction” on his acoustic – yes, propped up by his bed – and playing it into his cassette player.  Come the morning, there it is fully formed.  The rest is history.  Keef went on to riches and fame, whereas I still have my own blood and (most of) my own teeth.  But the point is, gentle reader, where does this gift come from?

Moving on a few years forward (or backward, depending on your pov) to 2002.  There I was sitting in an exam room at a time when common-or-garden teachers still did invigilation, and my mind starts wandering.  Pondering this very phenomenon, I realised that songs (poetry/stories/inventions etc) do come from somewhere.  They are probably a gift – possibly from another place we can only access at particularly intuitive times.  I called this phenomenon the “Ethereal Radio”.  There’s something almost spiritual about writing, as there is with creating any art. I’m not claiming to be producing art, but someone, somewhere wanted me to create that song.  I haven’t really created anything similar since.  Again, it’s not perfect as a song but it did (does) summon up a particular place and a particular time.  She never heard it, though.

Driving across the South-West of America a few years back, I was quite taken with the miles of desert highways, ghost towns, Joshua Trees and telegraph wires.  Although I’m not a fan of long-distance driving in Britain, I enjoyed it in the States – and these images kept reminding me of this “spiritual radio” that seems to transmit ideas, songs, poetry, art etc to those of us that are receptive to it.  I have occasionally written stuff that I feel inspired by but rarely have I felt touched by something “out there” again.  John Tams talks of “song-making” rather than song writing, and I think that it’s a more apposite term quite often.I write this to explain to my various friends that over the years may have heard me mention the term – or indeed used it as a heading for a string of emails.  The ethereal radio is something I’m sure we all tune into at times.  You may have your own term for it.

Out across the desert
It's not the wind that howls
Where dust-parched travellers
Hear mournful vowels
Hang like windhovers with nowhere to go
It's the sound of the ethereal radio

Sunday, 10 January 2010

that sly, bold reynardine

As I write it would seem that the snow has decided to leave almost as quietly as it came. I say that because at some point during the night - 5:30 in the morning to be precise - something went bump in the night. We can only presume it to be snow falling en masse from a roof - possibly ours. Obviously I jumped up straight away to find out what it was - the last time it happened, a few years ago now, it was a ceiling giving up the ghost after a 100 years in the bedroom next to ours. But first, obviously I looked out onto the street below our bedroom window. Nothing obvious to see but I saw Mr Fox running nonchalantly down our street, leaving his (or her) prints in the snow. Footprints in virgin snow, indeed.

I'm always excited when I see a live fox. I often DO see urban foxes running around and I'm sure they used to enjoy opening our rubbish bags in the back garden before the council decided we all needed industrial-sized lidded skips to keep our waste in. But, like most people, the commonest sighting of foxes is as a pile of fast food for crows by the A14. Unfortunately the foxes will not be enjoying the snow as it will be difficult to find food. It was still a huge thrill for me though.
Still, as I said, the snow is melting so unless there is a huge freak snowstorm during the night, I will be wending my weary way to work tomorrow. I guess I'd better have an early night, then.

The picture is of our street earlier, so no fox.

Sun and dark she followed him,
His teeth did brightly shine,

And he led her up a-the mountains,

Did that sly, bold Reynardine.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Deal Gone Down

I first became familiar with Michael Chapman’s playing when I took a chance on an album called “Michael Chapman Lived Here” released in the early 70s on Cube Records. I’d seen it in a window of what I now take to be Cube Records in Soho. They released various compilation albums like T Rex and Procul Harum if my memory fails me correctly. The cover was excellent (I still have it upstairs amongst my vinyl records but can’t access it at the moment). The album suggested a mysterious life of bedsitters, smoking Gauloises and drinking wine whilst angsting about missed chances and long since gone ladies (they were always “ladies” in those days). But that album was a compilation of Chapman’s early days at Harvest Records (EMI’s attempt at competing with Island) and I bought “Deal Gone Down” in the hope that it would be similar. I bought it in the old Virgin Records shop opposite Tottenham Court Road tube station.

This is absolutely my favourite Chapman album. It was a much more stripped down sounding album compared to the orchestrated songs with flashy guitar players like Mick Ronson that had played on the Harvest albums. The sound of this has stayed with me for over 30 years and I still enjoy playing it – tracks from it often come on my iPod whilst I’m driving. The cover was a simple dark blue glossy sleeve with a small square picture of Chapman’s head. He’s lighting a cigarette and looking straight ahead. The photo that really sums up this time for me, though, is the one from “Michael Chapman Lived Here” which is used as the cover for a recent compilation (“Dogs Got More Sense”) which is now the only place you can get “Deal Gone Down” – iTunes notwithstanding of course. You can buy the whole compilation now called “Originals” for £7.99 from iTunes or .79p per track. Anyway, the photo is a black and white (almost sepia tinged) picture of Chapman sitting on a bed – old bedspread, no duvets in England in those days – playing a Fender Telecaster (with added humbucker in the neck position) and a cigarette stuck behind the nut. He’s looking into the mid distance as though deep in thought. I’m sure he was.

The album opens with The Rock’n’Roll Jigley – evidently they can’t say medley in Leeds, he used to joke. A solo electric guitar starts slowly and funkily with occasional cymbals and then bursts into a jig with bass and drums and a second electric guitar. We were all familiar by then with electric folk bands playing jigs and reels but this had a real funky feel to it. Indeed, somewhere upstairs I still have Charles Shaar Murray’s review from NME that suggested this album was evidence for Chapman as Britain’s J J Cale. I wouldn’t totally agree but I think I know what he means. The rhythm section was Rick Kemp and Nigel Pegrum from Steeleye Span who knew a thing or two about playing rocked-up jigs. Live, this always used to segue into the following track but here stands alone. The second track is Party Pieces. What a great world weary song this is. If you’ve ever stood at a boring party thinking I really should go now, I’m far too over-refreshed, then this is for you. A solo acoustic guitar starts the song off in an Open D tuning. A second acoustic joins in with some violining from an electric guitar setting a very woozy atmosphere. The opening lines – the first words heard on the album – “Well, I guess I’ve stayed a little too long . . . and had too much to drink” sets the tone. With solid support from the Steeleye rhythm section, two electrics join in the chorus: “I’m face-to-face with the door, feeling my feet on the floor, my lover don’t need me no more” – a reminder of all the awful parties I endured as a teenager. Actually, all the parties I’ve ever endured. As the song fades you can hear him say buried deep in the mix, “I have been known to take a drink . . . or two”. Me too.

Another Season Song follows, two acoustic guitars double-tracked and another very world weary lyric. Lovely double-tracked lead guitar, too. I have always seen this album as being two distinct halves. The first side – I’m talking vinyl here – was mostly Chapman solo with some bass and drum backing. He double-tracks most of his guitars but the voice remains solo. The other thing that has always stayed with me is the feeling that this album somehow seems redolent of Herman Hesse’s “Narziss and Goldmund”. The wanderer out discovering the World and telling of the adventures he finds. Many of the lyrics on this album echo that feeling for me. The following track, Stranger Passing By is probably the track that really summons up that link. Chapman sings to a solo acoustic guitar accompaniment. Used To Be reminds me of the opening "Jigley" in feel. Its humorous lyrics, however, are very telling – “I used to be a teacher but I couldn’t get it right” – Chapman had started as a teacher (well, lecturer in photography) but it also seems to strike home because of my chosen profession. Simple electric guitar is joined by drums and bass with a cheeky little guitar solo. He also mentions being a “wanderer in the night”. This is the last track on side one. As I said earlier, I see this album as being two distinct halves.

The second side is Chapman in what seems like more of an electric band setting. This side opens with the title track. A solo electric guitar with a ragtime beat starts off. I understand from Marc Higgins’ essay on the reissue that Chapman used a piece of sponge behind the bridge to get that “sproingy” sound – almost rubber band-like. The Steeleyes join in with bass and drums and we then get the first backing vocals on the album. Maddy Prior (also from Steeleye Span) and Bridget St John do the honours here. There’s a lovely fuzz-toned guitar solo (double-tracked) too. This is followed by The Banjo Song with its double-tracked overdriven, raunchy electric guitars – both Chapman – all on the edge of feedback. The tune was re-used later live for Shuffleboat River Farewell on the live album “Pleasures of the Street”. The 70s trio Prelude provide backing vocals here. Lyrically, this song tells of Chapman sitting against a tree playing a “banjo borrowed from a friend” (Derek Brimstone, I believe). The slothful tale suggests a hazy summer day after a glass or two of wine. The banjo breaks – “does anybody know who does repairs? Do you know anyone who even cares?” This is a full sounding bluesy shuffle with some great guitar work. The solo has two guitars playing off each other and must have been fun recording. The beat is insistent with a huge sound towards the end as guitars and backing singers all wail away. The song fades. The wonderfully circuitously titled Theme From The Movie With The Same Name follows. It’s a brief instrumental with two acoustic guitars and a third guitar that is put through a strange effects pedal. Marc Higgins informs us that it’s a “Green Machine” bought from a New York guitar shop on a whim. It has an underwater feel to it – all wobbly and “squonky”. At times, it reminds me of the opening track – perhaps there’s a slight theme, a motif possibly. Beautiful tight but fluid fingerpicking. Then the second boogie starts up. Again, a solo electric guitar all overdrive and funk starts us off, to be joined by Kemp and Pegrum kicking in Goodbye Sunny Sky. A slide guitar joins in – not overpowering, always serving the song. A tale of lost love, Chapman says goodbye to a lady known as “Sunny Sky”. I suggest any interested parties track down Chapman’s autobiography “Firewater Dreams” for background on some of these songs. The last forty seconds of the song steps up a gear with the massed voices of Michael Chapman singing the title refrain. The last song on this short album is Journeyman – again, suggestive of Hesse. A solo electric guitar with the sponge in place and a familiar ragtime rhythm leads us into a true tale telling of Chapman’s travels as he heads home after a wearisome tour. Kemp’s bass joins in with volume swells and a violining effect which adds to the atmosphere. Prior and St John join in too. Chapman’s vocals are slightly slurred here which suggests his weariness. The last two minutes of this, the longest song on the album at 5 minutes, begins to fade with lovely electric guitar filigrees dancing around the melody.

And that’s it.

A solo album with some excellent support from Kemp’s rich, resonant bass and Pegrum’s solid drumming with plenty of splashes of cymbals. Chapman’s lyrics feature many references to nature – birds singing, trees, sea and sky whilst telling of love lost and time passing. His guitar playing on this album is perfect. This isn’t a flash million-notes a second, jazzy guitar hero we’re talking about here. It’s a journeyman player who supports the songs. Acoustic guitars in D tunings, overdriven Fenders and solos only when they’re needed. Masterful. This is old analogue recording – Fender guitars and amps. The acoustic is probably an old Gibson as this was the days before Chapman started using Fylde guitars (more of in an upcoming posting). This album is all wood and wires. This album has genuine tone. It’s a fantastic mix of acoustics and electrics. Lyrically, it’s spot-on. No secrets of the world, no mysticism, just honesty. Honesty and regret.

And why does it matter? Well, possibly to others it doesn’t, but this album with its stripped down feel is still one of the best ones to put on late at night with a glass of Talisker in hand. Pure reflection.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

the snows they melt the soonest

Well, the snow has hit us big time much like the rest of the country. However, in the twenty odd years I've lived down here on the coast, this is the first time that we've experienced anything like this. I'm sure that the snow will hang around and cause much more grief for our friends from the north but at least we've managed to get a day off school for once.

I took the photo that may accompany this posting (technology allowing) yesterday on the way to school at about 8:10. I walked along past the same spot at midday today and thought about taking a photo from the same spot. I decided that a few blocks of grey wouldn't really look too good in the end. So I didn't bother. The photo doesn't make up for the missed sunset from Sunday but, once again, it gives me an opportunity to try to get myself better acquainted with the various type of technology on offer. Speaking as a Luddite I am struggling at times. Mind you, I took my phone to the Wherephone? Carhouse earlier as I'm fed up with a) it not working and b) everyone telling me that I'm useless and that I should c) take it back to get it checked out. I did c) and it looks like a) I was right, however b) continues to be the case. Maybe I'll get it sorted sometime this year if the Pony Express manage to get through from Ipswich and back again.

I'm off to finish my ever-growing list of things to write about. The first "re-view" of an old favourite album is upcoming so I'd better go and listen to it with a notebook and pencil in hand to make sense of 34 years of listening pleasure. Now, let's see if I can get the picture to load up onto this blog . . .

Sunday, 3 January 2010

cold haily rainy night

The snow returned today to East Anglia. I don't know when it snowed exactly but it hadn't by 2:30 this morning as Mrs Dave and I were walking home from seeing friends at that time. Just after I walked up to get the car from our friend's house in glorious sunshine, the heavens opened and sent rain which turned to sleet, which turned to hail and some sort of heavy snow effect. I was eating breakfast (full English - late) and watching this haily/snowy mutation piling up on the table mentioned in yesterday's posting.

After that we had to drive our daughter to Ipswich to get the train to Southampton. Nothing unusual in that but we saw a sign for "Pantomime Parking" which was unusual. Oh no it isn't! Okay, so loads of jokes made about that on the way to Sainsbury's. You can make up your own, I'm sure. On the way back from the aforementioned establishment we saw the most beautiful sunset - very low, quite early. There was a golden orb sinking rapidly down casting some incredible dusky pinks and greys in the clouds. Unfortunately there's nowhere to suddenly pull over and stop safely to take a picture on the A14 but it would definitely had been worth it if I could have. As I'm not much of a photographer generally, this shows how wonderful a sight it was. Radio Dave (affectionate name for my iPod) played "I Feel Possessed" by Crowded House at that exact moment - nothing to do with sunsets or anything like that, but the mixture of a beautiful panoramic skyline and a great song makes life seem good for a few minutes. A real watercolourist's sky.

Hinting at synchronicity there (if musical accompaniment to a vision can be seen as such), but I had just bought the new edition of Guitar and Bass magazine which features an article on setting up your guitar for slide. This is something on my mind quite a lot at the moment. My other Strat is an older black one with a maple neck that I have been meaning to do exactly that to for ages. So, I'll keep you informed (who am I kidding? I mean I'll remind myself when I look back at this) as we go along if I make any progress on that front. Excuse me . . .

A few minutes later . . .

I've just managed to knock my beer glass over, onto the desk which has spread Marston's Pedigree over various Post-it notes and a few drops have splashed onto my copy of Nigel Slater's "Tender Vol 1" (Christmas present from first-born). This necessitated clearing it up and having to pour another one. I've been kicked out of the kitchen and relieved of dinner duties as I'm not feeling well (for some reason no one likes listening to you coughing and spluttering like some 19th Century consumptive whilst making mince pies). I'm not used to doing nothing on a Sunday early evening, I'm usually mixing three of my passions - drinking fine ale, listening to excellent music and producing food good enough to eat.

I will return to Mr Slater's book in the future - there's an issue here about what people call "small gardens" and the postage stamp sized yard outside our back door. There really isn't room to swing a cat - which reminds me, I need to find a new hobby.

The dark has risen and the snow seems to have stopped for now (no amount of praying is going to stop us having to start back at work tomorrow!) so while I sit around waiting to watch Dr Who on BBC3 (we were travelling back from Stevenage when it was originally broadcast) I guess I should do something constructive. Unfortunately that's not my forte so I'll probably mess about for a while instead.

The last two weeks have flown by and now we have to start back facilitating the learning of the young. Just think, all those eager faces - little tabula rasas - waiting to be filled with knowledge. What's that? Oh, sorry, I mean waiting to be shown how to independently come to their own epiphanic moments. Of course.

Saturday, 2 January 2010

winter blues 2

Not so easy, then. Here's the picture - I warned you about me and digital technology. Good thing no one's watching.

winter blues

I thought I'd mess about with a few things whilst I learn how to use all this technology. Here's a picture of one of my guitars in our backroom. Today is fairly miserable for various reasons. The weather is awful - and I feel awful. I have a cold that doesn't want to go, hanging around like the snow.

Everyone's gone out and I thought I'd take a photo to see if I can upload it easily onto the blog. It appears to have worked. Remember, I have hinted already about my problems with digital equipment. I'm sure a younger person (or more logical one) would have had no problem doing it but it took me a while to figure it out.

This guitar is a Fender Highway Strat - American made. I bought it a few years ago after my mother died. She left me a bit of money and as she was always quite supportive of my attempts at playing the guitar I thought she would have wanted me to buy myself a new guitar. When I say supportive, I mean she put up with me sitting in the smallest room of the house for hours playing the guitar. I never was very good at reading in that particular room. The natural reverb of the room always made my playing sound better - I guess it was something to do with the tiles.

I don't play guitar in our small room - I tend to to use the back room as we call it. In the summer I can open the french door and sit at the table you can see just behind it. As old Omar Khayyam said:

Here with a loaf of bread beneath the bough,
A flask of wine, a book of verse - and thou
Beside me singing in the Wilderness -
And Wilderness is Paradise enow.

Or at least a glass of beer and a sandwich, anyway.

footsteps in virgin snow

This is a totally new departure for me. Having recently found out how easy blogging is, I have decided to take these first few tentative steps. The point of it is for me to have a platform to pontificate on various interests and themes that dog my thoughts constantly. And as there probably won't be anyone listening, I can write about anything I like. That means there will be plenty about music, time past and time passing, my ability to misuse anything digital (so much for "idiot proof"), thoughts on life in general. And music.

I've been thinking about this blogging business for quite some time and now that it's (virtual) reality I seem to have hundreds of things I want to write about. All in good time. There will be some writing on albums that have meant a lot to me over the years - they won't necessarily be ones that everyone (anyone?) will have heard of, just important music that has stayed with me. I need to make some sense of the changes that have occurred over the last 50 years or so too. I guess I'll be making lots of lists to work out where to start. Possibly at the beginning, but it'll be more fun to drop things in as we go along.

The title will be explained all in good time. Ah well, gentle reader, let's raise a glass and drink a toast to adventure.