Thursday, 31 March 2011

i once was blind but now can see

Not too much to say but I'm trying out my new laptop.  Although a hardened Luddite, I do attempt to keep up with the digital world - just tend to find it difficult as nothing works properly.  To me the modern world is much like Terry Gilliam's Brazil - all retro-fitted and steampunkish.  That, or I am just incapable of dealing with digital machines.

Anyway, as I don't like Tesco so don't shop there, I collect Nectar Card points (Sainsbury) and have never really understood why.  Evidently, the points you collect can build up and you can "buy" things with them.  We seemed to have a spare £260 pounds in our account so I thought I'd put it towards a new laptop - so I have no more excuses to not do anything because Mrs D is using the computer. So far, so good - it seems to work ok.

Before the main point of this post, though, you should check this out:

Well worth a watch. Well, it is if you've ever travelled on such airlines.

Now, this might raise a few eyebrows (here) and I certainly feel very sorry for those involved.  The girl used to be a student at our school and I did teach her many years ago.  But.  But check out that third paragraph:

Burdakay, 19, of Birkfield Road, Ipswich, was registered as blind, had no driving license and was driving on an unlit road at night when the accident happened.

Registered blind? What on earth did he think he was doing? "I'm just going for a spin, mum."  "Oh, okay - see you later - habg on did he say he was going for a drive?!"

Years ago, the wonderful Cockney folk singer/comedian Derek Brimstone used to tell a story about how he used to drive Rev. Gary Davis around (a blind Septugenarian ragtime guitarist ) when he toured Britain.  "He could drive himself, but he used to bump into things".

Mind you, this paragraph is quite revealing:

Burdakay also pleaded guilty to a separate offence of attempted robbery at Trawler’s Catch fish shop in Saxmundham, six days before the fatal crash.

"Put up your hands, this is a stick up! Put all the money in this bag."

"Er, this is a fishmongers  not a bank . . . "

"Oh . . . er, have you got any Sea Bass?"

A few years ago the Fish and Chip shop in a village near Ipswich was held up and robbed.  The kid was caught quite quickly, though. The owner knew who it was, because the kid used to go into the shop regularly at dinner times for chips because he was a pupil at the local High School.

You couldn't make this stuff up, really, could you?

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

the spring is upon us

. . . follow my only song.

I must admit that when I saw Fleet Foxes live the other year, I was quite disappointed.  They may as well have played the album and had some cardboard cut-outs on stage.  Actually, that may be what happened but I was, however, quite excited reading the article in Uncut for their new album this weekend and am looking forward to it.  Robin Pecknold seems to be one of those people that wrecks their lives for rock'n'roll.  He sounds like a young David Crosby and their harmonies are quite ethereal.  Those unfamiliar with Uncut should check it out (here).

In the meantime, spring seems to have appeared without us quite noticing it.  Birdsong everywhere and all those SAD people suddenly looking less pale and wan. They're all still palely loitering, though. We wandered by the Orwell River yesterday to relax and take in the view of what Mrs Dave calls the "dinosaur's graveyard". The photo above suggests an ancient petrified creature (or was that just the Adnams?).

I've attempted to post a flip video here - if it works, you'll recognize the music, no doubt. It seemed apt. Unfortunately, the video isn't the original one as I didn't realise how short they have to be!  It is a first attempt so forgive me if it's a bit naff - I'm a technophobe but I'm trying to get to grips with the modern world. I'm sure you'll let me know if it works or not. This was taken on the walk yesterday by the River Orwell as Mrs Dave and I decided to relax for the afternoon before coming home to tackle the Census.

Although the internet was working fine before we left, it had decided not to when we got back.  Looks like the Backroom Boys will need to save the day (again).  Bloody computers.  They're rubbish really. Why oh why do these things take so long?  I sat here for several hours to upload this video - there was no indication other than a little squiggle going round and round.  Gave up eventually and took it down to a tiny snippet. Oh well, we live and learn.

Sometimes they're hard lessons, though.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

pick and mix

A few weeks ago I wrote about knife sharpeners (here) and how wonderful it is to finally find one that works.  Evidently, more accidents happen with blunt knives (so the spin goes) than sharp ones.  Well, I beg to differ . . .

Anyway, as a guitarist, I tend to prefer finger-picking to using a plectrum (the more astute amongst you can see where this is heading).  After cooking last week, I still had to do the washing up (dishwashers aren't an answer) and for some reason thought that washing two knives at the same time would save me time.  Maybe it was the wine . . .  but not quite noticing that one of the knives - yes, the recently sharpened one in "the world's best sharpener" (sic) - actually had the blade facing upwards, I happily continued washing said object.

"Hmm," I thought, "red washing up water."  My right hand thumb was now lacerated.

You may not quite see the rather deep cut into my thumb from the photo (a good centimetre long), but I have found it rather irritating to play guitar, write, wash my hands etc, et al this week due to  the wound. This has meant that I have had to attempt to adapt my usual finely honed style (!) to relying on picks. Now, I've grown up (hang on, I haven't finished the sentence, yet) using either naked finger-picking or what is known in the music business as a "hybrid picking style".  This means that I will use a plectrum between thumb and forefinger and pick with my index and middle fingers to pick other strings.  "What about the other two fingers?" you ask.  Well, I'm not bloody Segovia - more Django Reinhardt just after the accident. Luckily enough, my hands tend to heal quickly - I cut them a lot.

Anyway, where does this leave me?  Well, I attempted to use my unusual thumb-pick - as pictured - which is quite good if you want to swap from picking to flat-picking - but found it too stiff to play in any form of flowing manner.  It's also too loud, accentuating the bass notes. And generally, the thin copper plectrum I favour for electric guitar was far too thin for acoustic guitar. This is all a shame as I've just started playing a bit more seriously recently.  To be perfectly honest - I know this may sound affected - I really find any other type of plectrum anathema to use.

My very good friend Dave Acres introduced me to copper plectrums some 23 years ago and I rarely use anything else.  I think they're called Hotlicks (Hotpicks?) and he brought them back from the States with him all those years ago.  He'd met Lynyrd Skynyrd and they introduced him to them and, as I say, I use them a lot.  I'm forever grateful; long may he rest in peace.  I still have all three from the pack he gave me - they last forever!

The other item in the photo is the unusually shaped brass slide, which is concave, I think (I'm no mathematician) and is able to slide much better across a guitar neck than most straight ones.  Wonderful design.

Well, I was going to write about cooking but seem to have lost my way.  Oh yes, a dinner guest last night brought up the subject of gastric bands as a form of slimming aid (or, at least, regulating food intake).  I couldn't resist re-writing that lovely old Irish song, The Black Velvet Band:

She ate pies and chocolate trifles
Her cheeks were so tightly crammed
Her stomach hung over her trousers
all tied up by a slack gastric band*

Thank you.  Good Night.

* based on someone we know

Sunday, 6 March 2011

love and permanence and other vicious lies

A short film script.

[The instrumental parts of "Kodak Ghosts" by Michael Chapman plays throughout.]

Camera pans across a deserted room.  Brightly lit, two receptionists argue on their phones with annoyed clients. One wears glasses. The other is instantly forgettable. A withered vase of daffodils limply offers some dim memory of spring.

A middle aged man with grey hair and brown leather coat sits staring out at the dimming light - obviously wishing to be elsewhere.

A short, reasonably attractive lady of middle age calls out his name.  He responds and follows her. The camera tracks them walking up the corridor from behind.

CU, her: "It's just up here - they leave me in the corner", she says.

MS, him: "Okay, no problem".

MS, her: She points to the pokey little room, "in here, please."

CU of a tiny wood panelled room full of books and small bottles. The camera tilts down to a tiny school kid's chair and a comfortable padded office chair.  "Take a seat, please."

 MS: He sits glumly and waits for the questions.  "How's it been, then?"

MS: "Yeah, okay."  He then goes in to a long explanation of the last month since the Labyrinthitus hit and how it's been.

Camera slowly pans to MS of her seated: "Eczema, then? (cut to CU: he nods); [MS:] That's good. As long as you haven't used any steroids." She looks up hopefully.

Flashback: Visions of a twisted tube of E45 cream lying on the bathroom shelf.  "Oh no, of course not."

MS, her: "Anything else?" she enquires.

MS, him: "Well, I had a sore throat."

MS her: "That's good - haha, not really of course for you, but . . . as long as you didn't take any medication."

CU, him, slightly worried, sniffs: "What, other than the Strepsils, because it hurt?"  Oops. CU to her disappointed, and faintly disgusted look. She writes in her notes.


MS, her: "No coffee, of course?"

Camera pans back to show him sitting in office surrounded by jars and paraphernalia: "Oh no . . ." he lies, shaking his head.  [Flashback] Memories of sitting in a NYC diner waiting for breakfast.  He passes on the fourth cup of coffee.

Office, present. MS, her, smiling: "Well, you're doing really well.  Try not to drink coffee or take anything that antidotes the treatment."

MS, him smiling resignedly: "Of course  - see you next month".  Antidotes?

LS: He leaves.  CU: She raises her eyes to heaven.  [Music:  Northern Lights by Michael Chapman gradually gets louder]. 

Cut to: Shot of his back, walking down corridor, hands in pockets; his footsteps echo through the wooden panelled setting.

. . . do you remember, do you remember, the night it rained?
We were trying, only trying to get away . . .