Wednesday, 31 December 2008

2008

So that was 2008 was it. Well nearly about 12 hours still left.

Rubbish year on many fronts, the global financial crisis, continuing conflict in too many areas, again exemplified by the Gaza fighting in recent days. I watched a Michael Palin programme with him trying to trace some crew he sailed with 20 years ago, he went to Mumbai and visited several of the places subsequently attacked in the recent attack. Why so much violence?

Anyway - at least for me another sober one under the belt, as long as I don't drink at all today, unlikely as I'm at an AA meeting this evening.

Music - lack lustre year in some ways. But CD of the year is either Elbow's Seldom Seen Kid or Kings of Leon Only By the Night - one day one next day the next... :-)

Best live album defo Jeff Beck live at Ronnie Scotts.

Best rock album Metallica Death Magnetic.

So here's to a better and hopefully more peaceful 2009.

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Happy Christmas

Well folks this is the very last post before Christmas 2008.

So happy Christmas to all of you.

Did anyone see the Rab C Nesbitt Christmas revival special last night? I’d forgotten just how brilliant that show was. I was in stitches throughout – esp. his discussion with the server in the coffee shop about his Tall Latte.

Here are a selection of my favourite Christmas tunes for you to enjoy.












Monday, 22 December 2008

Mark my words - there'll be queues...

On Saturday Mrs F and Son-of-Furtheron headed off to the Bodyworlds exhibition at the O2. Daugther and I had passed on this, largely as I don't think daughter would have liked it. Mrs F said it was fascinating and glad they went - my son said the whole thing about embryos to children's challenged his thinking on abortion.

I'd stupidly in a moment of not thinking/listening properly had apparently agreed to take Daughter to Bluewater as she had a voucher still from her birthday burning a hole in her pocket. She is to shopping what I am to guitar ogling; an obsessive.

We headed there early with her moaning and me saying in typical grumpy Dad style - "there'll be queues already". There weren't :-( I've never had such an easy exit of the A2 and into the place, this of course accompanied by a daughter in complete "told you so" mode next to me.

Anyway we hit the shops then had a Chinese lunch before heading for the exit as the after lunch hordes descended. Having said that for the last Saturday before Christmas it was flipping quiet really.

Oh yes we had a great time label shopping in one of the department stores. Most expensive jeans we saw were £375 - they were so low slung and skinny frankly that was an utter rip off as there was hardly any material in them? You'd need to be a size 4 to fit them I think. I found some nice brown shoes for £225. We left. If shops are still selling stuff like that then this recession isn't making much impression is it - or maybe like often in the world it's those that can least afford to be hit by this kind of thing that are hurt and those that have too much already glide serenely through it all.

Good grief I'm famous...

Well not really but I have been asked to pen a post as a guest blogger on Jemsite a community site with focus on Ibanez Jem guitars plus other stuff.

My post is about my guitar collecting obsession and is called in search of the perfect guitar. Funny since penning this last week for them I've since bought this months Guitar Buyer magazine which has a PRS flavour. A PRS catalogue, DVD with endorsees talking ad nauseam about PRS's (I get the point that they "stay in tune dude") and many shops highlighting their PRS stocks throughout the magazine.

So now I'm thinking 513... I played one a while back and really loved it but that was a rosewood neck one that was really silly money - as if the new mahogany necked one at £2199 is a bargain heh? Or maybe a CE Alder - different, interesting woods and bolt on neck. I'm thinking sort of souped up strat sound. Stop it!!!

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Davy Graham 1940 - 2008

With great sadness I heard of Davy Graham's passing this week.

Davy was one of the great pioneers of the British Folk scene in the 1960s along with the likes of John Renbourn and Bert Jansch. Bert Jansch is known very much for his rendition of Anji which was written by Davy Graham. I was introduced to that piece by my first guitar teacher and that was when I first came across him.

From my perspective he's a name I've known and respected but really it was the people he influenced who've subsequent been influences on me, Gordon Giltrap, John Martyn and Jimmy Page.

Here is some Davy Graham to remember him by.



And here is Gordon Giltrap playing Anji(e) in his own stunning style.

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Eleanor Simmons and Alastair Hignell I salute you.

I watched most of the BBC Sports Personality of the Year shindig on Sunday night.

The two best awards for me were the young award that was given to Eleanor Simmons for her stunning gold medals in the Paralympics. It was so good to see a paralympian wining an award where she was head to head with able bodied athletes – a great message for our country I thought. Her beaming face and great spirit are one of the best memories of this year.

But the most poignant for me was the award to Alastair Hignell who was awarded the Helen Rollason award for ‘outstanding courage and achievement in the face of adversity'. In 1975 I was on a school trip to Twickenham to watch the varsity match – we saw history as Hignell scored 60 points that day for Cambridge. He’d already moved positions from scrum half to full back so that he stood more chance at an England place. He’d made his debut in club rugby and also for England already. He went on to be a memorable England full back. Not only that he also played professional cricket for Gloustershire for many seasons and won England caps for that sport as well. An amazing sportsman. He retired and became a commentator for the BBC. In 1999 he was diagnosed with MS. He has battled it for those years but this year had to retire due to his worsening condition. I was at Twickenham for the Wasps Leicester Premiership final that was his last game and remember the amazing standing ovation he received before the kick off. As he received his award on Sunday the smile was there, the thanks to others and I was reminded what a gentleman he has always been.

So both these awards brought much needed humility to me. Whatever is going on in my life it is small compared to what some people have to face day to day and that they overcome with great dignity.

Monday, 15 December 2008

Song recording update and headlights…

I drove over 600 miles in 24 hours to pop over to Wales and return with Son-of-Furtheron, a good proportion of his belongings, a ton of incomprehensible Physics lecture notes he needs to revise for his exams in Jan and a somewhat bizarre range of books needed by a friend of ours doing his masters who’d come home on the train earlier in the week. Frankly with the weather this weekend the driving stank, on the M1 on Sat it was laughable to watch these idiots trying to weave through the traffic. After every 30 miles or so you’d pass them again as they’d got stuck in the outside lane and they’d be off again.

One of my flipping headlights failed on the drive up. So I thought “No problem I’ve some spare bulbs in my box of crap in the boot I’ll replace it”. Open the manual; I’m un-usual I normally do read the manual I generally find it helps. Once when I was support for a leading dealing systems provider I used to do front line support for some of the top financial institutions in Europe – many times my summing up on the error report was “Told them to RTFM!” even at times after a flight to/from a European capital and an over night stay had been billed to them as they insisted it needed a site visit.

Anyhow back to Friday night… STOP. Apparently the dipped headlight beam bulb (yes the one you use the most) is not a user serviceable part. What?! :-S Big warning that I was at risk of electrocution. Given it was cold, very wet and very windy I decided that frying myself in the car park of Watford Gap services wouldn’t be the best idea. I popped into the Peugeot main dealer in Aberystwyth on Saturday morning. Firstly the comment that “I only have Mazda technicians on” perplexed me, why does a Peugeot main dealer not have Peugeot technicians? And it’s only a flipping headlight bulb, surely they can change that? Then the guy says “We don’t hold them in stock they are about £130”. Sorry for a headlight bulb! What the hell is it made from? Plutonium? Luckily it’s still on warranty and even better regardless of that I’m extremely lucky to still have that very British of perks – a company car. So I’ll not pay but putting that to one side, £130 and nearly a week to wait to replace a bulb is just crazy. My local dealer – can look at it Thursday. It’s only a bulb? I’m at a loss. Come back cars with carburettors etc. I could look after on my drive.

Anyway – Son-of-Furtheron is back and guitar music comes pouring from his bedroom. He’s learnt some off Death Magnetic and is trying to master Sweet Child ‘O Mine at the moment. He’s definitely improving. Probably the old competitive thing of him being back and also him asking how the new recorder was working out led me to admitting I’d not figured it out at all and locking myself away with it for an hour or two Sunday morning.

To recap – after my dilemma I bought the Boss BR-600. First thing…. RTFM! It’s very large and complicated – the manual that is. The box is very small and complicated.

I jumped into the Quick Start section and with headphones and guitar plugged in dived in. So I quickly got a noise coming out the headphones and found a reasonably heavy guitar sound. Right need some drums. That looks to be the most tricky part of this so far – in the end I settled for a simple rock 4/4 pattern continuously looping, I’ll work on a full arrangement later. Right Gordon Smith into drop D and off we go with an attempt at Head Full Of Shoulds – which has been knocking about in embryonic form since Sept. Tempo too fast – quick manual check and I figured how to change that.

Yes we have lift off I’ve recorded something. So select next channel and record a 2nd guitar part. Apart from sounding like an unrehearsed jam, which in fairness it basically was, at least I was getting stuff down. So I went mad grabbed the bass and tried to lay a bass part down, tricky given I was effectively writing it as I went and suddenly the figuring of notes from Drop D on the guitar to 5 string bass was more thought provoking than I’d expected, a little case of recording red light nerves I think. Nice bass sound though was quickly found and viola my first crack. I've not tried mix down, mastering and copying off yet which I might still do using this demo as something non-critical to learn on.

So lessons learnt.

1. Arrange the damn song!! Some bits was 4 bars of this then next time 6 … oops
2. Practice the bass part
3. Figure better second guitar part and use a diff sound. The same sound means it’s not easy to hear in the mix.
4. I need to figure out programming the drums into an arrangement

But I think we’re getting somewhere. I don’t need full blown brilliant production I’m hoping that recording a few demos will get me to them get others involved and head for the stage or a proper recording studio.

Friday, 12 December 2008

Oliver Postgate

You may have seen on the news last week that Oliver Postgate has passed away. A man who had a gentle but still massive influence on myself and my family. For those readers who’ve never heard of him Oliver Postgate made short animation films for the BBC. His films were for kids. I well remember as a child myself loving Noggin the Nog which was the first one he made with Peter Firmin under the moniker of Smallfilms. These were introduced like an old Norse saga. Oliver Postgate provided the narration as well as the storylines. Last year we went to the British Museum and I sought out the Lewis Chessmen which inspired the look of the characters and set. Actually I love books about Vikings and historical novels, I wonder whether there is some influence there, it wouldn't surprise me.

Later Smallfilms made Ivor the Engine. This was always my personal favourite. Again the animation was homespun and quaint, the storylines gentle and narrated by Oliver. This was the brilliant story of a little steam engine that worked on one of the little railway lines in Wales and his adventures with a host of characters. Brilliant stuff. Some years later my son became an Ivor fan too alongside the Thomas the Tank Engine animation series of the 80s/90s. Whilst it's a bit morribund at the moment my interest in model railways was no doubt shaped by Ivor and the Thomas stories I read as a child myself.

Subsequently Smallfilms made Pogles Wood which I fondly remember from "watch with mother" times. The Clangers was another favourite – this odd series was about a bunch of funny creatures who lived on a moon and talked by whistling at each other. There is a whole generation who can still converse in Clanger whistles. I remember that was one of range of short programmes that used to be on while I had my tea just before the adult programmes started with the news about 5:45 every evening.

For many people Bagpuss was the crowning glory and I believe that once won a pole of the best kids show ever. It was after my childhood and neither of my two ever rediscovered it to be honest so it's not one I recall much. Today you still regularly see cars with a Bagpuss in the back shelf so I think for the generation just beneath me it was a massive favourite.

Finally my personal link to Oliver Postgate runs further since he lived and worked not far from where I live so would often pop up at things and on the local radio/news etc. And more importantly one of his sons is an art teacher at my sons old school, it was his Meccano that was commandeered to make the Iron Chicken in the Clangers. This man had a huge influence on my son, his art and photography skills and his development as a person. Clearly he himself was massively influenced by his father and Peter Firmin so I have directly and indirectly much to thank Oliver Postgate for and he has left his mark in the British consciousness and culture much more than many much more lauded people. Thank you Oliver.

Thursday, 11 December 2008

It’ll be lonely this Christmas…

Anyone remember Mud’s Elvis rip off from the 70s? Firstly what happened to good old Christmas novelty number ones? Come to that what simply has happened to good old fashion pop music? There’s a lot of good music out there still but there is a lot of guff as well and the radio isn’t what it used to be. This post is in danger of becoming something from Grumpy Old Men at Christmas.

I was at an AA meeting last night and Christmas was, not surprisingly, one of the topics of sharing. What was surprising however was how many people honestly shared that they really don’t like Christmas, it disrupts the routine, it costs you a load of cash you can little afford and for many it isn’t really a time of celebration with families fractured or moved away etc. However one thing we were all agreed on I think is that a sober Christmas will be a thousand times better than a drunk Christmas.

I used to be one of the big organisers of Christmas nights out etc. in my drinking days. One I remember was a pub crawl around Canterbury, to be fair anything I organised was a pub crawl somewhere, normally Canterbury cos it’s quiet nice sometimes Ramsgate for reasons I’ll never understand. (Proof reading edit - there are a lot of pubs there you Muppet). Anyway on this one I was wearing a roll neck jumper and with my goatee beard and tousled hairdo (it’s quick and simple) one lady on this jaunt made the comment I looked gay. I turned to the barmaid and said “Do I look gay to you?” I swayed gently as though a tree in a breeze as she considered her reply. “You’ve just ordered your second large dry sherry so I’d already assumed you were”. Now why did I used to drink sherry when I was drunk? No idea – I think I thought it showed more class than vodka. I then spilt one all down me which meant when I collapsed onto the last train home several people moved down the carriage leaving me in peace it was freezing cold that night and after the 2 mile walk home from the station I caught a horrible head cold for the rest of the holiday.

I can smile at all that now looking back but this will be my fifth Christmas sober. Mrs F has a load of nights out with work, the girls etc. planned. I’ll be staying in, I’ll not miss it one bit. So the bottle of sherry we have in the drinks cabinet and that sometimes comes out when recipes demand it – normally as a substitute to rice wine in the Chinese - will be the one that is lonely this Christmas hopefully. Nice cup of tea will see me right.

Oh I had my annual appraisal at work yesterday and my rating was 0.1 below the norm. (I didn’t even know we had a Norm working here, or do they mean the French bloke in the team, but he’s from Paris not Normandy). Anyhow I think that is about the best summing up of me I’ve heard in a long time :-)

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Oh what a beautiful morning.

Hardly Oklahoma I know.

Whilst the temperature is distinctly demanding a woolly hat it was beautifully sunny and clear today on the drive to work - so clear in fact I could see to France on the drive down the hill.

Also believe it or not - Gillingham are still in the FA Cup. Yes I know! And cap that it was an away win, a massive rarity in itself, but also an away win in a replay. Against Stockport who are in League One. What is going on? We've now got Villa at home in January. Holy Cow!

STOP PRESS - the Villa game is going to be on ITV. The Gills full 90 mins on top telly against premiership opposition. I think I've just enter an alternative reality.

Monday, 8 December 2008

The relativity of time and Christmas memories/wishes

I don’t live up a really high mountain, I live in Kent and whilst I am some way up the shallow slope on the northern side of the North Downs so hardly a region noted for its high altitude. The reason I’m pondering this is that the weekend seemed to flash past quicker than Lewis Hamilton on a final lap burst for pole position. I watched a Horizon programme about time last week and was reminded that the closer you are to a large gravitational body the slower time travels, therefore if you are up a high mountain time must surely go quicker. Hence my puzzlement as to whether the contours on the map about my house are correct or not…

Enough of the waffling basically the weekend came, the Christmas decorations came out the loft and went up, after having to fix one set of lights, I cooked a Chinese for Mrs F, Daughter-of-Futheron, my brother and his girlfriend, we put the kitchen back together which is always a big job once I’ve been cooking (I ran out of oven space, bowls, spoons everything this time!). Went to an AA business meeting, had one all too brief look at my Boss digital recorder thingy – why to they put on a demo song that makes you think “I’ll never be that good”, I know they intend to inspire but for people like me it’s more a hindrance than a help… wrapped up my presents to Mrs F whilst she was out and then that was it… It’s Monday morning now.

I’m trying to curb my looking forward to the break at Christmas a bit. I’m concerned I’ll create loads of plans in my head and get little of them done. I should just look forward to the break and take it as it comes. We have planned a big New Year’s Day get together, it’s a bit of a family tradition. When we grew up and left home Christmas Day moved to be centered around our families this being firstly true with my sister who’s the eldest and gave Mum and Dad their first grandchild. After Dad died and Mum moved to her little bungalow New Year’s Day tea was at her place. As the families grew it did reach quite mad proportions – 7 adults and 6 kids in a small one bedroom bungalow was a laugh.

Sadly for reasons I’ll not go into a halt got called to that and we moved to having a meal out on New Years Day which Mum paid for. That has now grown to include other additions to the family and this year we’re booking for about 17 I think. Now my sister has a Grandson and there are a growing number of additional partners in the children. Mrs F chatted up the manager of the local restaurant and he relented on his “no party over 10” rule for us. It’s a shame Mum won’t be there to see the first one of these with her great-grandson no doubt making a great mess in his highchair. Now the children are setting up their own families and moving on slowly no doubt this’ll change and I suppose there is every chance it’ll only be a few of us again in a few years.

A fellow blogger out there in the real world is facing a very tough time at the moment as her Dad is very unwell. Obviously I’ve been there losing Mum and Dad before that but now esp. at these times in the year I can look back and remember just special moments. The fort that is still kept carefully in the loft that my Dad made me for Christmas when I was 8 and my son played with subsequently, hopefully I can pass it on to a grandson of mine one day. The mad New Years teas at Mums with all the kids playing with new toys and watching videos and her table groaning under the weight of food she’d prepared, my brother-in-law protesting he couldn’t eat another thing then Mum just putting a mince pie on his plate no matter what.

I bit early maybe but in this mood I thought I’d just wish you all a fantastic Christmas this year.

Thursday, 4 December 2008

New look blog, last gig of the year and the much treasured Furtheron gig of the year awards.

I’ve tarted up the blog a bit as you may notice. Along with the seductively reclining Les Paul on the header there are some lists as to music I’m listening to and books I’ve been reading on your right that I’ll endeavour to update regularly. Please feel free to comment on anything you notice in there…

Mrs F got an early Christmas present last night as I took her to see Simply Red at The O2 on their Greatest Hits tour. Simply put Simply Red are Mrs F’s favourites above all others so she is sad that they are calling time on their career and that this is the final tour. This was the fifth time I think we’ve seen them, once about second album time at the Docklands Arena (does that still exist?) and I remember them having loads of technical issues that night. At Wembley Arena I think on the Stars tour. Brighton some time later on the Home tour and a couple of years back at an open air gig at Leeds Castle in Kent just after Blue came out.

So anyhow – very very good gig. We were up in the gods and I really mean that – if you have a problem with heights level 4 at the O2 is to be avoided. Still we had a very clear view of the stage :-) bit like a Buzzard does as it circles it’s prey. Simply Red aren’t my personal favourites but they are a very impressive live act, very polished, excellent sound quality and extremely tight. I’d love to work with the two brothers who make up the rhythm section they are just stunningly solid.

It was a hits tour and they have a fair number to get through. My favourite album by them is A New Flame and they played a few off that which was good. One of the big crowd pleasers was Money too tight too mention which made me think that in the 23 years since that was a hit we’ve sort of gone full circle really… or have we not moved?

So that is it for gigs this year. I suppose time to vote for gig of the year… blimey difficult as always given they are all so varied. Metallica has to be up there for the fan club O2 gig, which was great as they played such a different set from their standard fare, cost only £5 and apparently they gave the proceeds to charity. How come I normally shell out £40 to get in to a gig then? David Gray was very good at Folkestone – I like that venue as it is so intimate. Hmm Queen were very good… then the stadium gigs Foo Fighters and Iron Maiden…. Okay…

Best gig overall – Metallica for some of the reasons above and because they played their socks off.
Best Stadium gig – oh tricky, I think the Foos just edge it as they clearly loved it and the finale with Jimmy Page and JP Jones topped it.
Best small gig – I’m going to give to Gordon Giltrap at Chathams lovely little Brook Theatre. If you’ve never seen him do yourself a favour and get along. He’s very witty in his little monologues in between the songs and one of the finest guitarists you’ll ever have the privilege to witness.

Monday, 1 December 2008

Healthy life

Health is a relative term isn’t it? Are you healthy? Am I healthy?

Well I feel pretty good at the moment. Firstly the problem in my upper back / neck that was giving me pain in my arms is a lot better than a few weeks back. However as regular readers will know I hurt my lower back two weeks back. It made a remarkable recovery I think given how I felt the 48 hours directly afterwards. It is still twinging a bit but not bad at all. I went back to swimming for the first time since then this morning and it was pulling a bit but was okay really. I need to do the funny exercises a physiotherapist gave me some years back. I’ll not go into detail but I look like a deranged cat in most of them – there that’s got some peoples imaginations working overtime no doubt. I had a cardiac risk assessment done recently, when I drank for years I had hypertension (high blood pressure) and was on treatment for it. As soon as I stopped drinking it came down. Now I’m “a little over weight” and my cholesterol is “just over normal”. So generally okay and apparently my risk of a fatal heart attack is 6%. I was musing as I left the surgery that if I had a heart attack there and then could my wife sue the doctor… of course the risk wasn’t 0% was it so no I concluded. What a daft mental discussion.

Mentally I’m in a much better place than I was through most of the summer. The big depressive thoughts are more under control and I’m doing a lot better. It’s simple really, look at the positive not the negative. I know it’s bleeding obvious but I struggle with the bleeding obvious at times.

The family found it highly amusing but I’ve bought a book and DVD about Buddhist Meditation. If I was forced to have to be in a religion I think I’d currently choose Buddhism. I like a lot of it’s underlying philosophy. Now all I have to do is get over the embarrassment of doing the meditation (what’s to be embarrassed about? I don’t know but I am) and try it out. They speak of the “monkey mind” all those thoughts that keep bombarding your conscious mind all the time. Oh how I relate to that.

So to keep my body healthy I need to exercise, generally and the ones for my back issues and I think the meditation thing will help with the mind health as well if I can just get myself to get on with it.

Sunday, 30 November 2008

Shopping done!

Took a day off on Friday and got the Christmas shopping done. Good old Mrs F had given it all some thought and had the lists in order we hit Bluewater at opening, split up and by lunchtime were all done. Blinding! There's a lot on order from Amazon but we are pretty much sorted out.

Daughter-of-Furtheron and I had a day together Saturday as Mrs F had a girlie day with some of her mates. We went shopping and got a load of bargains in Body Shop - thanks to the assistant there who helped us, had a coffee/hot chocoloate and muffin moment whilst waiting for her shoes to be reheeled and then headed to our favourite Chinese restaurant. Somehow we had a discussion about drugs, alcohol and smoking. She's only 13 and so knowledgable already, I hope she makes the right decisions in the future.

Thursday, 27 November 2008

F1 medals disaster

As long as the F1 championship has been going, long before Mr Eccelstone had made a fortune from it, it has been a championship that rewards consistency of performance throughout the year – hence it is points based and I for one hope it will long remain so.

It could do with more overtaking… people blame the circuits but I’ve watched GP2 races on the same day at the majority of European circuits and there is plenty of overtaking in those races. Yes that is a one make championship so everyone has the same car, engine, tyres etc. I’d hate for F1 to go that way since part of F1 is the teams building better and better cars to beat one another.

So if it was up to me what would I do? (No point moaning here without an alternative is there). Okay here would be my plan.

Points for positions increased.

i.e. 1st place 15 points, 2nd place 10 points, 3rd place 8 points…. Or similar – if someone won’t overtake for 2 points will they for 5 or 10?

Give points for qualifying. Pole 5 points, 2nd 3 points… Why? Because then some teams will go for low fuel qualifying to get the points and compromise their race strategy, they shoot off for 10 laps, pit and refuel and rejoin mid field and need to fight back up the order.

Finally reward what people are saying is missing. Why not have some points awarded for the most places gained in the race? If you start 10th and end up 2nd you get some bonus points, something like 3 points for most places gained, 2 points for next, 1 point for third number gained. This’ll mean even the minnows at the back without the budgets to regularly score points at the front can still fight for places throughout the grid just passing that guy in front in the last lap may get a point or two even though you’re finishing in 10th place.

The proposal as stated makes me feel like saying just make it a knock out competition – the guy who comes last in every race can’t start the next until you get a final at the end of the year, first over the line is champ. Sadly though I think people would only watch the last race and the sponsorship would dry up and lower teams would struggle for money. Or just have one race like the Olympics.

I really hope this isn’t the way the sport goes it’ll be a sad day for me and probably my ending of being an avid F1 watcher.

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

What in the name of Les Paul is that?!

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and all that but what the hell is Gibson doing making this? http://www.guitarvillage.co.uk/product-detail.asp?id=7064

Also who is going to buy it? Esp at that price...

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

A dilemma

So I’ve some ideas for new songs hanging around but over 2 years ago I jettisoned all my recording gear when I downsized into the smaller bedroom in the house to allow Princess Pink and Lilac (my daughter) to take over the room above the garage which had been my “studio” since we’d moved in. To be fair I’d hardly touched the stuff in years as I’d lost the drive to write and record my own stuff, also it was very dated a very old and very basic Fostex 4track portastudio, an old Alesis sequencer, a Yamaha DX keyboard I never got the hang of playing let alone programming etc. I even sold my old Boss drum machine.

The dilemma therefore is what to do to rectify this situation.

My first thought was to go computer recording but frankly I have enough of computers at work and my home track record isn’t good either – our latest one is just back after weeks on its back needing a new CPU etc. So I’ve decided I definitely want to go for a dedicated recorder of some kind for ease of “plug in and just do it”.

I like the look of this Tascam DP-02CF. Tascam have a good rep when it comes to home recording – I remember in the early 80s my band of the moment being amazed at getting our hands on an original portastudio of theirs to record a couple of songs. This looks good from the point of view of simple to use, obvious lay out etc. Clearly they’ve gone for the “knobs to grab and twist” rather than a complicated menu structure. Generally it’s about £200.

Then I’ve also seen this Boss BR600. Now this has less knobs and looks more menu driven – however it does have a drum machine built in. I’m less bothered about effects as I’ve a Line6 POD so have no worries on getting a good sound into the machine. The other advantage with this looks to be massive portability with it running off batteries even and having built in mics so possibly useful if I do get a band together for rough recordings of rehearsals / gigs. It’s about the same price – maybe a little cheaper.

So the less features Tascam but possibly easier to use – but I’d have to buy a drum machine as well. Or, the Boss with the drum machine and the portability – although the latter I simply don’t need just at the moment.

A conundrum indeed… Oh yes and I better wait for Monday to save that 2.5% on the VAT.

VAT

I’ve tried a little research but not got to find what I was looking for. My memory of VAT was that it first came to be in the UK in 1973 as part of our entry into the European Common Market (as it was called then). At that point I remember there being three bands – 0% for essentials, 12.5% for most items and something like 24% for luxury items. Some years later the two charging bands were pulled together into one at 15%. Many items that were exempt as essentials have over the years lost that status and are now taxed – Children’s shoes I recall being one that was hotly argued at the time. Along with fuel which was at times on a different lower band.

I thought that VAT was “temporarily” increased to 17.5% from 15% by the Tory government in the early 90s to cover the deficit that the treasury had due to number of people not paying the community charge (“poll tax”). It never went back down – so this “temporary” move to lower it to 15% could be viewed cynically by people with long memories… like me. However given my research didn’t back up any of this stuff maybe my memory is just warped by time as well…

Monday, 24 November 2008

Some of the guitar collection



First is my old Classical - it's a Fender FC40 that my Mum bought me when I was about 14/15. I've never had another classical really and it has lots of memories.






Next up a slight odd ball - A Peter Cook Axis custom
This has active EQ on board. Lovely guitar with a great neck. Big frets and a strat scale with through body stringing. I got it in Andy's in Denmark Street in the 80s. Probably not worth much but if you wanted similar quality today you'd pay a lot.



Here is my Squire Strat. It's a 1962 replica that I bought brand new in 1982 in Charing Cross Road and have had ever since. So one of the early sought after JV series. In the name of playability, usability and reliability I've replaced the tuners with locking Sperzels and the electrics are from an old USA standard. In value terms both mistakes but this is a "keeper" so what the heck. Whilst not as beat up as his it has a bit of the John Frusciante about this one... okay it's also about £11,000 cheaper than his original as well no doubt.



Next - this is my Gordon Smith Graduate 60 - second Gordon I've owned. Light for an LP alike and great sound. Mrs F bought me this as my 40th birthday present. Originally I was looking for a double cut but this one just had that special - "thing" and I had to have it. The coil taps add great versatility and also if you turn the tone control to 10 it acts like a bypass adding an audiable lift. I think Fender Delta tone controls do the same thing.




Moving to the Gibson end here is my Les Paul Special - I had a thing about wanting a guitar with P90s on it. I nearly bought a Squire tele with 2 P90s then saw this at under £500 brand new! It's got the faded finish but is nice and the faded feel on the neck is actually quite nice. However I don't really use it that much - after all that hankering after a P90 beast I find little use in the stuff I play to be honest.









So to the top of the pile my crown jewel in the collection. This is my Les Paul Custom - it's a 2006 Custom Shop one I bought via a grey importer and saved myself about £500 on the prices in the shops at the time. Why a black custom? I suppose it all goes back to being a kid, all Les Pauls were just so out of reach I remember that a Gold Top Deluxe was £505 in Bells catalogue and I think a Custom was £625. Stupid money for a teenager like me then. Also just the availablity, deluxes would show up, normally 2nd hand, in the local shops. But customs you never saw, of course Peter Frampton had his three pickup one, Steve Clark of Def Leppard later used them but probably it was Brian Robertson on the cover photos of Live and Dangerous and then John Sykes subsequently in Thin Lizzy that stuck the black custom in my head as the guitar. So I could have bought a standard for less money granted but there is just something about the black custom I've always wanted. As a guitar it sings really well, the neck is a bit beefy for some people no doubt but that is part of the whole thing for me and ... it weighs an absolute ton! Honestly grown men have whimpered when just asked to hold it for a moment let alone wear it for gig.

Hairspray review

The weekend went really well with Son-of-Furtheron making the trip home from Wales for his sisters birthday.

Saturday morning was the usual over excitement that youngsters have for birthdays with her opening all her presents in our bedroom. I'd got her a new digital camera - pink one of course - and all weekend she's been clicking away like nuts, including a picture of the Camberwell snooker club... don't ask me.

Unfortunately I'd let slip something a week or so ago and she'd put two and two together and despite as saying we'd pick her Nan up just so she could see son-of-Furtheron before leaving the obvious hole in this being that Nan lives right next to the station so it looked odd. Anyway at the appointed time the streched pink limo pulled up outside and her and her friend were over the moon.

We all settled into the ridiculous thing full of balloons and banners. Son-of-Furtheron now admitted that when he'd told his flat mate he was coming home to ride in a pink limo and go to see Hairspray this friend had looked at him and said - "You aren't gay are you?" Very funny.

So the Limo dropped us in Covent Garden and a large lunch later we headed for the show. I have to admit that I have never seen either film version (original with Divine and Riki Lake or the remake with John Travolta) so knew nothing of the story at all. So for a big brash bright singalong a musical it actually deals with some pretty deep subjects, how people view those who don't fit the accepted view of the norm and racism. Given the election result this month it was quite poignant.

The production was excellent - brilliant dancing and singing and on a smallish stage by West End standards clever use of scenery - esp one bit that I missed entirely until the right moment which was very clever, I won't spoil it by telling you what happens there.

The cast were excellent with Michael Ball the obvious star among stars. He was brilliant in the role and so funny at times as well.

So a highly recommended stamp from me. My daughter and her friend really loved it too which at the end of the day is all that really matters.

The Limo picked us up outside the theatre and a nice journey back home.

Sunday we drove up to Victoria and put Son-of-Furtheron on the coach back to Aberystwyth. His ticket was only £4.50!!! However the coach did break down and he had to wait 30mins at Telford for a replacement but at least he got back okay late in the evening.

Mrs F and I remarked to each other last night as we were turning the lights out that you plan these things for ages and then whoosh it's all gone in a moment and that it is apart from the memories.

Friday, 21 November 2008

This week and the weekend

So I spent two days off sick with my back. It got a bit better Tuesday. Wednesday morning I made the decision to go to a business meeting I was booked to attend near Stratford-on-Avon. So I set off, I got off the M25/M40 for a bunch of it to allow me to stop and walk about. To be honest about half way I thought “this was a mistake” but by then it was really a case of might as well carry on to the end now I’m this far.

The meeting was very useful – lots to consider. This is in an area I’m trying to work on at the moment about how can you facilitate better buying and selling of knowledge. We’re at a potential tipping point to get this off the ground but it all needs marshalling and focusing and pushing.

The meeting was held in a large Elizabethan manor house that has been turned into a hotel. Allegedly Shakespeare route As You Like there. Wednesday evening the back began to feel better and this continued on Thursday with the journey home not as bad discomfortwise as the trip up had been.

So I’m back in the office today and a little bit painful but not as bad as it’s been – actually I’ve taken no pain killers today so that must say something.

This weekend in my daughters 13th birthday. So I’ll have two teenage kids to be dealing with from no on. Our son is making his first trip home from Wales for this weekend which will be great to see him – I hope the travel plans he has worked out all fall into place. We’re off to London tomorrow to see Hairspray as her birthday treat. I’ll no doubt post here how it all goes.

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Pain, pain, pain!

So some point today I bent down just putting some rubbish in the bin after I'd been out in the garden clearing up leaves etc. and bang! It was like someone swiped my back with a sword. Agony! Goodness knows what I've pulled but it hurts like hell!

Friday, 14 November 2008

What the hell happened to me?

This post was inspired by Aunt Jackie at Deep in the Forest.

My first ambition was to be a musician – it’s so old I can’t remember where it came from. Before I was at school Mum had bought me a little play guitar and I’d stand in front of the huge stereogram we had then playing her collection of singles. Beatles, I want to hold you hand and This Boy a couple of my favourites, The Shadows who my sister like, we had an EP from the film The Young Ones with the red Fenders on the cover, Elvis – “Devil in disguise”… etc. I remember at a birthday party before I was 10 telling everyone I was going to be a guitarist – I remember they mostly laughed.

Then I started to buy stuff – Ha ha said the clown by Manfred Mann was where it started and then others until Supertramp, Hendrix etc. started to take hold. Then the flood gates with Rush, Yes etc. etc. by then Mum had forked out £20 and I had a nylon strung acoustic I tried to learn on. She sent me for classical lessons which was a great way for me to learn.

So to school, at secondary school I got all political and was in the Young Socialists and the various left wing campaign groups – anti fascist league etc. For a few years I was going to be an MP get into government and change the world….

Then I was 16 and wanted to leave school. I went to college briefly studying engineering – realised that was a mistake and went back to school after almost getting a job but my Dad had the one and only stern fatherly advice chat ever where he pleaded with me “not to waste my brain”. As I came to the end of school I then decided that whilst my ambition to still be the greatest guitarist on the planet was there I decided I needed to have a stopgap career. So I got the opportunity via a local employer to go to college to learn about computers and get into IT. So 25 years in it been a useful stopgap.

The other day someone asked me what was my ambition and I was actually a bit flumuxed as to an answer. I burbled on about living comfortably probably near where I’ve always lived as I like it – definitely in the UK whatever happens, maybe somewhere else like Dorset but probably still Kent. Kids still talking to me and able to do stuff I like doing.

That isn’t a bad ambition I suppose but it seems a bit flat compared with changing the world through political action or inspiring a generation to learn some song I’d written. If I had stuck with a couple of the bands I was in that had some of the characteristics necessary or dedicated myself to music with a bit more dedication I wonder if I would have ever been the next Jimmy Page? Irrelevant really it was never my destiny clearly.

Still there are a few people today walking around clean and sober because I was the person they turned to when they needed help into rehab or AA. I’ve two wonderful kids who are smart, witty, think for themselves and have opportunities to experience many things and will be great adults. Who knows what’ll come of their ambitions maybe my legacy will be their success.

A colleague of mine who has known me for 10 years said to me the other day “You don’t realise sometimes how respected you are by others around here do you?” That was a bit of a knock as I don’t do compliments at all well but after some time processing it I know it to be a genuine comment and therefore if I’ve done stuff that has influenced others in someway that they respect then that isn’t a bad thing at all either is it.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

I simply wouldn't have believed it....

Amazing!!!

Gig Review. Queen + Paul Rodgers

Brian May extolled the virtues of the refurbished Wembley Arena saying how the £10 million face lift had improved it all and apologised for the last time they had played there which had been in the temporary tent thing. Well yes Wembley is a lot better than it used to be at least the toilets (although there are far too few for blokes and far too many for girls…:-)) and the food outlets are more numerous than of old, however if you now compare it with say O2 at Greenwich I don’t think there is much comparison. The O2 is much better with all the restaurants outside, better seats which have more leg room and are more comfortable and better laid out than the slab sided arena.

Anyway – enough of the venue… The gig was brilliant. I wouldn’t put myself in the rabid Queen fan category but I do think them a brilliant band and have always liked the diversity of their music, they seem to roll up a lot of styles whilst always maintaining the Queen sound. Even now with Paul Rodgers filling the vocal duties there is still a Queen vibe – no doubt in no small part due to Brian May’s unique style and sound.

They played a long set with no support band – well done to them. They did about two and a half hours and covered a load of the old hits and throwing in some of the new material off Cosmos Rocks which fitted in pretty seamlessly I’d say.

Some of my colleagues were dismissive of Paul Rodgers “filling Freddie’s boots”. Firstly he doesn’t need to in my opinion given his own track record with Free and Bad Company. Also he’s one of my favourite vocalists of all time and is still mighty impressive I think. However my arguments fell flat as I realised most of them hadn’t really heard of him! What the hell were they doing in the 70s? Oh! Maybe most of them weren’t born. :-(

One thought did cross my mind as Freddie appeared on the big screen - they cleverly intertwined footage from the famous 1986 Queen gig at Wembley stadium with the live band for Bohemian Rhapsody - there is one place where there is a better gig tonight and that would be wherever Freddie, Paul Kossoff and Boz Burrell are no doubt with guests like Jimi Hendrix or may even Mozart turning up as well... ;-)

Mrs F and I made a weekend of it staying in a nearby hotel which was nice apart from the fact that the X-Factor must be filmed nearby and it was full of people with “Vote for my dopey relative” t-shirts and I overheard one conversation with someone else attending the Queen concert where they were saying … “no I’m going to see someone really famous who’ll still draw a crowd when all that lot are long forgotten”. Apparently there is some controversy now about Saturdays vote on said show and even some MP talking about it in the commons. Hello Mr MP can you sort out the economy or help our over stretched armed forces fighting wars you tell me are for my personal safety in far flung countries. There’s Zimbabwe and Congo could do with some political solution as well if you can be arsed with any proper foreign policy…. Oh no sorry helping your constituent from X-Factor will no doubt win you the popular vote!!!!

I’ll get me coat…

Friday, 7 November 2008

A Head Full of Shoulds.

I’m still struggling with this depressive mood I’ve had for several months now. I’ve never known me have one that has lasted this long or had me so baffled as to how to move on.

I’ve a head full shoulds. (I tried to write a song called that a while back, embryonic lyrics at the bottom)

I should be happy as I’m not in Rwanda as one example.
I should be happy Obama was elected president as that is a momentous thing.
I should be happy my son has done so well in his first set of exams at uni.
I should be happy I’m off to a gig this weekend with Mrs F.
Etc.

Acceptance.

I’m not doing so well on acceptance. Where I am, how I am, who I am, what I am are all exactly right, for right now. I’m not living in the moment my mind is a yard forward or a yard back never exactly where I am. I'm comparing myself too much to others again as they are always better at me in whatever dimension I decide to compare myself against that day.

Positivism.

I bought the book The Secret a while back on someones recommendation. I’ve still not read it… says volumes that doesn’t it. There is something comforting and warm in my negative state despite the angst it causes me.

Gratitude.

"Gratitude is the attitude." I often hear that. I need to get back to my regular gratitude lists and thoughts. A dear friend in AA often says “I have to do gratitude”. A fair point, action orientated, turning outward not inward.


A head full of shoulds
Wasting my time
A head full of shoulds
Filling my mind
A head full of shoulds
Making me blind
A head full of shoulds
No peace can I find

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Gordon Giltrap - emptying his cupboards

Deejay put me on to the fact that Gordon Giltrap is selling off some of his guitars via Guitar Junction in Brighton.

Oh heck now look I'm drooling over this Hagstrom Jazzer

and this Fylde Nylon Electro-Acoustic

and (unrelated but a bargain and would fit nicely in my English Guitar Collection Corner) this Patrick Eggle Berlin....


Hopeless isn't the word...

A new day

I wake up. It’s a new day. So is today radically a different day from the last? There are days when the world changed. When that guy assassinated the Archduke Franz Ferdinand that change the world (Sad but I bet you most people under 30 will think of that band from Scotland before WWI today). Hitler deciding to ignore the rhetoric of England and invading Poland that changed the world. Dropping the bombs on Japan that changed the world. Henry Ford thinking up mass production, Fleming with penicillin, Berners-Lee just letting the world wide web be available for all for free…

Will Barack being the first African American elected president be one of those moments? Who knows, history will judge won’t it. There’s some weird connectedness sort of going on here though isn’t there? Well there is in my mind…

So today is 5th Nov – Bonfire night, Guy Fawkes night or whatever you call it. Tonight throughout Britain people will let off fireworks, build bonfires and burn an effigy of Guy Fawkes in celebration of the failed plot in 1605 to blow up King James I (of England – James VI of Scotland) by a group of catholic rebels who wished to restore a catholic monarch to the throne of England/Scotland and turn back a series of events that start with Henry VIII and the dissolution of the monasteries etc. which started in 1534; so about 70 years before.

If you then wind forward the issues between state and the various factions of religion around Anglican, Catholic and puritans in particular continued to fester into Charles I reign and when he tried to unite the church throughout Britain under a new “High Anglican” ideal with a new Book of Common Prayer that led to the Scottish Rebellion and eventually the three English Civil Wars, Charles being beheaded and Britain being a republic between 1649 – 1653.

However lets just rewind a bit from there back to 1620 i.e. after the failed Gunpowder Plot but before the English Civil War. That year a group of brave pilgrims left Southampton in a ship called the Mayflower and sailed to what is now Plymouth Massachusetts. I know there were other migrations but the Plymouth group was a very significant one in the colonisation of America. Interesting that they left England to travel to the New World due to the religious persecution they were suffering.

Let us suppose that the Gunpowder plot had succeeded and now today England was a Catholic state not Anglican. Let us also suppose that the new monarch in 1605 had moved swiftly to squash all religious persecution in the early 17th Century. Would the pilgrims have risk all for that journey in that scenario? I wonder who would have been being elected to rule exactly what today?

So as I say let history judge what is a significant day or not… It all interconnects eventually in someway.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Sorry?

According to this news story on the BBC some scientists claim they can trace a relationship between the development of autism and higher than normal rainfall in the first three years of a child's life.

Beats the hell out of me... Maybe there is some truth but I think this is where you begin to wonder about two unrelated facts being misconstrued. There was some survey a while back that found that schools that had a blazer as a compulsory part of its uniform had better GCSE results. So recently my sons old school has reintroduced the blazer as part of it's uniform. I'm at a loss about this supposed link - my sons school is a high school in an area of selective education - i.e. we have local grammar schools as well. Those have retained the blazer throughout so at the time of the survey a school with pupils who failed the old 11plus (as we called it) who didn't have a blazer in the uniform was compared to schools with the top 5 - 10% of intellect (i.e. the grammar schools) and who retain the blazer.

Hello!!!! The blazer has nothing to do with it, perhaps making kids take an antiquated test and labeling them a failure at 11 and making that divide evident between them and those that passed via institutionalised segregation might have something more to do with it. But I notice all the high schools reintroducing blazers - so lets watch those GCSE results soar as a result of this action...

Two facts then equated to make a new "truth" without further consideration. Maybe there is something in this autism report but I really think it needs a massive amount of further research. Surely autism would be very high in Ireland then - is that true does anyone know?

Monday, 3 November 2008

Lewis

Well that was a bit flipping close wasn’t it? I think if I’d have written an F1 thriller novel with that as the final chapter the publisher would have no doubt said – “The ending is a bit far fetched isn’t it?”

I did for a few minutes think that he’d probably let the championship slip away when he seemed to just lose concentration and go too wide and Vetel sneaked through. I’ve not seem any film of Glock before the passes but from the car language presume he’d spun – or was having massive difficulty keep the car on the track. I mean you can’t get any closer than that can you when Massa crossed the line he was champion but then in the next few seconds that pass meant he wasn’t. How cruel for him was that as well. It is good now though that F1 is in a much healthier place driver wise than a few years back where really it was Schumacher and virtually no one else to challenge him. Now you have Hamilton, Raikkonen, Massa and Alonso all with the ability to win the championship and others coming up as well. Kubica with the right car would be there as well and Vettel is a fantastic talent as shown in the last half of this year. Given the Renault power issues that Red Bull have suffered (although the Renault itself in the last few races has been way better) I sad to see him move as on current form I think he’d have more chance at more points and wins in the Toro Rosso.

Given a couple of other championships have gone very much to form this year – Rossi dominating in MotoGP again and the seemingly unstoppable Seb Loeb taking his fifth straight title, even superbikes was Troy Baliss in his final season with Troy Corser second – it’s good to at least have a new world champion in the pinnacle motorsport and a Brit at that for us as well. Sadly we’ll not have a Brit double as Andy Priaux reign as WTCC champion is over no matter what he does now in the final round he can’t win.

Friday, 31 October 2008

Jeff Beck at Ronnie Scotts

Last week the BBC showed film of Jeff Beck playing at Ronnie Scotts at the end of 2007.

Stunning. Breathtaking. Genius.

Jeff Beck has for a while been one of the few guitarists I'd say to people was really still out there being inventive, novel, interesting, different. I saw him live backing up Sting some years back but this TV special was absolutely ace. I think a CD is already out and a DVD to come.

There's nothing I can find on the net from that show but here is a taster of one of his tunes.

Buying advice

A friend at work is looking to get a Christmas present for one of her family - a Fender Jazz Bass. Good choice! She has a budget of £500 and ask my advice. I offered the following but made me realise that frankly it's bloody confusing as hell isn't it for someone who knows nothing but what they know the other person wants but they want to buy in secret without that person knowing....


No problem – happy to help.

Okay firstly an attempt to quickly unravel the mystery around this…

Largely there are three main groupings of Fender instruments.

American made – these are the “puka” Fenders made in the Californian factories. Generally considered the pinnacle that people aspire to. I’ll explain more about these in a moment…

Mexican made – these are still Fenders but generally not considered the real thing. You have to be careful when buying as these are often refered to as Standard series and I’ve seen Mexican Fenders on eBay with “American” in the title. There is a difference with “American Standard” vs “Standard”… confusing

Far East – some with Fender in large name but these are rare most have Squier as the main name and noticeably cheaper normally.

Okay – so assuming you’re looking for an American one given these are as I say what most people aspire to. There are three divisions generally…

1. Highway 1 series – this is like the one in the link you sent me. These are stunningly good value frankly. You can get them brand new for just around £500 if you shop around. Companies I’d recommend that have on-line/mail order via phone are Andertons in Guildford http://www.andertons.co.uk or Guitar and Keyboards in Brighton http://www.guitarampkeyboard.com/ You’d be right up against your budget but get a brand new USA built instrument with a guarantee etc.

2. American Standard Series – or USA Series depending on age they recently changed the title. Brand new these start from about £750 - £800 and will go up… and up to many thousands

3. Vintage / custom shop. These are likely to be out of your price range I’d suspect even second hand they generally are limited editions and hold their value very well – many even appreciating over time.

So the things to look for are to confirm that is a USA version – as I say just Fender Standard in the name is likely to be Mexican. These are good but not as good as USA built and won’t hold their value like USA ones do.

If you do see a particular one that you are thinking to bid on please let me know and I can have quick look and give you my opinion. Clearly the whole eBay thing is a bit buyer beware – although I’ve bought guitars via it at very good prices myself. But then I’ve also reported sellers to eBay who are clearly selling things that are not what they suggest they are as well. Final bit of advice – any guitar with the word “project” in the title on ebay normally means something is seriously wrong with it needing someone with serious knowledge, a long time and or a lot of money potentially to fix, for example to replace the electrical components in a bass like this would be easily the best part of £200 - £300 and a new neck and fitting will be likely similar.

My advice would be with your budget to think about getting one of the Highway 1 series brand new from a good mail order/online dealer. I’ve played a few of these and been tempted to get a model from this range myself I think they are excellent value.

Signs

The other day I was looking at a large sign in the window of a church where I regularly attend an AA meeting. It was advertising an “Indoor boot fair”. I looked at the steps up to the door, there is a ramp but small and twisty. The door isn’t that big either. So I turned to a friend and said – “How do they get the cars in for this indoor boot fair then?”

He pondered this – “Presumably you empty your boot and take the contents inside”. He offered.

“Wouldn’t that be a jumble sale?” I asked. “Would’ve been in our day” was his considered reply.

However another person spotted a similar sign and then we had a conversation about boot fairs vs jumble sales. And rightly he pointed out that for a good old fashioned jumble sale you separated out your crap into, clothes, bric-a-brac, etc. and placed it with other similar items. Whereas in a boot sale, indoor or traditional, basically all your crap is on your table and then the next table is another similar assortment of different categories of crap belonging to the next seller.

The second sign that had me thinking this week was “Major Antiques Fair”. Hmm – did that mean an antiques fair where all customers had to be a particular rank in Her Majesties forces? Bit limiting that surely? I’d have thought there some discrimination legislation would outlaw that as well these days.

Or was it selling major antiques – what make an antique a major antique? Size? Value? Some antique judging panel?

Thursday, 23 October 2008

Then suddenly it was different... after weeks of effort…

(Bit like the quote from the Roger Miller the singer who said something like “It took me 20 years to become an overnight success”).

For anyone who’s followed stuff here or elsewhere before there was a here will know I went through a low patch. I’m slowly coming up the other side. I was sharing about that and some other stuff at an AA meeting last night and as ever in that process I began to realise that things are better than they were a while back, I’m moved on and am getting on with stuff better.

As ever though my negative default brain process clicks in and almost demands something more tangible to prove to me this improvement. I try to quell that with “This will pass..” “Time takes time”, “Acceptance is the key” etc. thoughts and application of the programme.

Then in my inbox this morning is an invite from a Prof at a learned university to step in at the last min as a speaker at an international conference next week. Someone can’t now make it and they know of some work I did some while back which they believe will fit the agenda. Best of all my boss is giving a talk at another conference next month based on that work and I can lift that presentation and use it as appropriate.

How cool is that? Also it might just quieten my “Where’s the evidence then?” sullen persona that lurks around in my head sneering at my attempts to gain a serene recovery.

Much to be grateful for today, much to continue to be thankful for.

Monday, 20 October 2008

Happiness is the Road

The new Marillion album has arrived in it’s jiffy bag. A double CD with two books of photographic art work, lyrics, credits and of course the list of nutters from the Marillion “family” who parted with their hard earned cash some months back to pre-order and hence pay for the production before a note was played. So yes my name is in there. Marillion have pioneered the use of the internet to connect directly to their fans since the 90s and this is the third album they have funded through a direct appeal to the faithful to pay for a special issue of the finished result before they begin to make it. This one is currently only available direct from Marillions on-line store.

Like many of their albums after the first listen through I’m thinking… “Hmm need to listen again”. After another few listens (despite my daughters protests) it’s a classic Marillion album. Very much more Marbles than Something Else was. The lyrical concepts are pretty neat as well. It’ll be in the player for a long time to come before I grow tired of it I think.

Stand out tracks are… Happiness is the Road, This Train is My Life, Woke Up, Half the World, Whatever is Wrong with you. Whatever is Wrong with you is the first single off the album and the subject another Marillion invention – they are running a competition for fans to create a video on the subject. The one with the most views on YouTube by 1st Dec wins £5000!


“Find a better way of life at www.marillion.com”.

Sunday, 19 October 2008

she's back

After over two weeks and just when we thought there was no possible hope my mother-in-laws cat has reappeared. She'd been less than half a mile away and via the cats protection league she's back home now. The lady who had been feeding her had no idea who she belonged to.

a happy ending...

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Gig Review – James Blunt

I took Mrs F to see James Blunt at the O2 arena last night.

Second time I’ve now been to a gig at the O2, my son took me to see the Metallica fan club show last month there, which I missed a review on as that was during blog hiatus… Just for the record, bloody brilliant, bonkersly loud and all very Metallica. I’m very impressed with the O2 as a venue given there are loads of restaurants in the building, for us it’s only 50 mins drive away and the parking is really close if expensive (£20) but then we can leave the gig and be home in less than an hour from leaving our seats. As opposed to Wembley, Earls Court or Hammersmith where we’ll be lucky if we’re on a train by then.

I’d done very well getting tickets in the third row right in front of the stage. Mrs F was very impressed although we were surrounded by a few slightly worrying JB fans who looked like they might stray into psycho stalker territory on occasion. They were having various chats about how to get backstage after the show.

So Mr Blunt isn’t my preferred cup of tea but his stuff is pleasant enough and he performs it in a pretty polished way. The band were very accomplished and tight. The slightly odd highlight was a rendition of Slade’s Cuz I Love You complete with a stage leap from JB and him running down the aisle complete with bunch of security fellows to a piano that appeared in the middle of the floor area next to the sound mixing desk etc. from which he performed a couple of numbers.

So guitar fans… loads of Gibson acoustics – which is not a topic I’m hot on frankly. They were all J45s I think of some description – lovely red sunburst one but also a plain one that was obviously custom with a very ornate fingerboard inlay that I think I’d have struggle to play if I needed to look at the fingers. Looky here. A Seagull 12 string which sounded lovely and, shock!, Mr B on an electric – looked like a relic telecaster but wasn’t Fender – pickup height adjustment screws visible above the scratchplate and slightly odd headstock shape being the give away. His backing guitarist was a variety of telecasters and a couple of 335s for a few numbers.

All in all though a good Tuesday night out. Mrs F phoned our son as we left to tell him it was “Brilliant so much better than Metallica”. How would she know she never went to the Metallica gig :-)

Monday, 13 October 2008

Julian Bream

There was a great programme on BBC4 on Friday night showing clips of Julian Bream from the early 60s through to the 90s.

Now I remember him being "the man" of the moment when I picked up classical guitar in the mid 1970s. I remember him being this outrageously ostentatious bloke driving old 30s sports cars etc. Also I remember his facial expressions whilst playing.

This programme though was a really good sample of his playing - he is a man with great tone.

Here is one of the things I found on youtube.



Made me think about getting the old classical out more and trying to knuckle down to playing that more... then the Les Paul called and I was seduced by the mistress of rock n roll - well Red Barchetta by Rush mostly... do you think that was a bizarre round the houses reference re the red sportscar of said Mr Breams?

Friday, 10 October 2008

Great Guitar show

If you've not seen yet the BBC is doing a series on the history of the guitar - I think the 1st part is repeated on BBC 4 this evening at 11pm - set your recorders up now!

Here's an example of the exclusive video clips off the web site the BBC has set up.

What’s the bloody point?

I was commenting on another bloggers blog about energy and commitment etc.

So here we go guys here’s my major issue at the moment my major character defect that is causing me pain.

Sometime ago I used to have the energy thing where I used to throw myself in to something with a passion. Nowadays though I find myself begrudgingly struggling into some action with a continual “What’s a bloody point?” question bouncing in my brain.

Why is that?

Am I just lazy? Fair question to ask. It may just be that but I don’t think that is it. I do “turn up”. I go swimming quiet a bit, I put in the hours in at work, I attend regular meetings for AA and I so service commitments in AA and again I turn up and contribute there. I regular take my kids to events they want to go to, I do my bit about the house and garden. If I was just lazy surely that’d show through in those kind of things or in how I take care of myself physically etc. So whilst I’m prepared to admit to a bit of that I don’t believe I’m an inherently chronic lazy git.

Is it because of the experience of the past where I fear that whatever I’m doing will likely as not get stopped, highjacked by someone else’s ego or just peter out as the enthusiasm and commitment of others wane? Some truth to that. My company is embarking on another major restructuring initiative less than 2 years since the last one. To be honest I think we’ve barely got the model that was designed then working and they rip that up and present another. It’s business I know, it’s driven by a continually falling share price and a perception we’re not delivering what we need to meet the expectations of the board, the analysts and the shareholders. But you then look at the new system and inherent changes in our processes and interfaces and think – “so do we just band aid a solution as on current form we’ll ditch this in 18 months vs doing the full job on it properly”. (Hey reading that back I’m just becoming a cynical old git maybe that’s it :-) )

Or is it fear? That’s my biggest fear right now is that my reticence to bite the bullet, grasp the nettle and launch myself at stuff with any passion is fear. Fear of what? Fear of failure, fear of exposure as a fraud or lacking in some manner, fear of being labelled with the commitment to whatever it be and that will be to the future detriment in my career or personal advancement. Fear of having to give away my passion and possibly then having to suffer the pain associated with that deal when inevitably the activity ends. So I run the risk of suffering the internal pain of feeling like a perennial under/non achiever because I have the fear of the loss associated with the end of the commitment but miss out on the feelings of success over adversity etc. that taking the challenge on would present me.

Let’s just pick at some this for a moment.

Fear of failure is a biggy for me. I know I don’t start stuff as I project the likely failure therefore consider it not worth beginning.
Fear of the exposure again is a paralysing one. At heart I want everyone to like me and respect me, therefore I have to be great at whatever I do so that you like me and respect me. A bit of an unrealistic expectation that – I’m human and can only be good at some things. Plus will my attempting something and going – oh actually I don’t know about this make you think I’m any less of a worthy person?

Finally the fear of loss. The fact that in committing to anything means you give of yourself a little and therefore take a stake in it means there is that inevitable loss will happen but I fail to look on the positive strokes side of the equation that I may well gain more positives than negatives from the experience. I must read that book The Secret that’s been recommended to me – it’s all about looking for the many positives not the negatives isn’t it?

You know I’m glad I wrote this – it’s really helped clarify my issues. “Nothing to fear but fear itself” – 2nd time that quote has appeared in this nascent blog. Maybe I should have called it the road from fear or fear factory … oh that’s been used before hasn’t it.

It's been a week now

My mother-in-laws cat, Mitzi, wasn't well last week - a problem with her kidneys that she's had before. So she got some medicine from the vet etc. but then almost immediately and very unlike her the cat went missing. She's old and a rescue cat who'd been poorly treated so she stays pretty much in the house and the garden. Sadly it's been a week now with no sign of her.

It's the not knowing that's the worst bit isn't it.

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Missing the boy

Son-of-Furtheron has started at university – he is now in his third week.

To be honest it’s been a bit traumatic for us. He really struggled with homesickness at the back end of the first week much more than any of us really expected I think. I wasn’t sure what was best to call him each day or give him distance. The calling each day seems best at the moment. He then got “Fresher’s Flu” no doubt due to the stress, a whole load of new folks in one place, diff living conditions etc. However he is on the mend now and really settling in well it looks like, however the weather has been terrible apparently but then he chose Wales! He scored on the accommodation he is in a revamped block and not close to the noisy pub area but away in the trees.

But I’m missing him – it’s now me and the two women in my life. There just isn’t someone who gets my humour or encourages me to turn the music up. On Saturday I sat on a bench like some lost bloody tramp for an age whilst the girls tried on multiple make up samples in a cheap make up store. I went off bought a rugby shirt came back and they were still at it! Still new times, new focus I suppose – I should remember to take a book shopping next time.

My birthday…

It was my birthday last week – my belly button birthday as we call them in AA. One advantage of being a recovering drunk is that I get two birthdays!!! My AA birthday – i.e. the day I started to get sober (14th May 2004) and my actual birthday which was last Friday.

I had the day off work as Mrs F doesn’t work at school on a Friday and we had the day together. We went shopping at Bluewater – we are so bloody predictable!!

So now I’m in my late 40s – I have to be according the family as I argued when I was 44 that I was still in my early 40s they then point out the mathematical inconsistency if 46 is not my late 40s… honestly mid 40s suck they seemed to only last a year. :-)

At the shopping centre we bumped into an old school chum of mine and his wife. He hasn’t changed in all the years that have separated us meeting as 11 year olds at the bus stop to head to secondary school in Sept 1974. His son has the guitar bug as well and our music likes still so overlap – he was at Maiden at Twickenham – kicks himself for missing the Led Zep/Foo Fighters mash up at Wembley… oh that brings back memories he was in the crowd of us who went to see Zep at Knebworth in 79. He got the tickets for us. He’ll be at the Queen + Paul Rodgers gig Mrs F and I are off to in Nov as well.

Talking of which my son got me the DVD of that very Foos gig which of course we were at – brilliant. Also I got Pink Floyd live at Pompeii – another of those seminal moments in my life. My Mum took me to see Napoleon at the local cinema in some attempt to educate me when I was about 10 I think. However Live at Pompeii was the B movie (remember those days?) and I remember that more than the main feature so I’ve wanted it for a long time, more poignant now given Richard Wrights recent passing. That’s weird; the random music player I’m listening to as I type this just picked Echoes … how in-the-ether-random-but-all-connected is that?

Other things I got… Daughter-of-Furtheron bought me a jumper, I got a shirt, the latest Bernard Cornwell book Azincourt which already has me enthralled, Queen + Paul Rodgers CD, Elbow CD (One Day Like This is a stunning track alone – just go download it now and make your life better), Gary Moore CD – it’s just Gary… :-) loud blues…, some guitar strings… But the bestest best thing that was best of all was a brilliant chocolate cake that my daughter slaved in the kitchen on the Thursday evening baking for me. It was stunning and lasted less than 48 hours and that was without our son being about and also including that we went to our favourite “eat all you can” Chinese buffet on Saturday as well.

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Unfettered capitalism

So is the current money and stock market meltdown the precursor to the end of unfettered capitalism?

I don't know frankly but I do sit and wonder about it all.

a) how can one bank (HBOS) be under so much threat when others aren't? Is HBOS really that badly run? Or is it that people just hate that goon Howard in the tv ads?
b) maybe all those building societies that became banks shouldn't have done. In both the case of the Abbey and Halifax I voted against demutualisation - although I never moved my business. I sold my Abbey shares ages back but held onto the Halifax ones. Whatever given both have been taken over and Halifax / HBOS is about to be taken over again I'm not sure that the few hundred quid everyone got as a result of the demutalisation was worth it now?
c) How the hell is Iceland in the position it is? About a year ago I wondered where all the Icelandic money was coming from as some Icelandic consortium bought Army and Navy. Now I know - they didn't have it they just borrowed it - an old adage "If you owe the bank £200 it's your problem, if you owe them £200,000,000 it's their problem" - very true that.
d) I heard a guy from the premier league say "We shouldn't think like the French that debt is bad just that you need to ensure you amount of endebtedness is comensurate with your income". Well I tell you son my father thought debt was bad and I'm glad I've sort of followed his principles, I'm fortunately not in a debt position myself but have investments etc. I do worry about. But look at my son - at uni and he'll have a stonking debt (in my terms) by the time he leaves. Frankly why worry though it doesn't seem to be an issue still - maybe the govt will bail him out if he screws up. He's looking at various ways out - clearly never earn a lot is a good one as you never pay back the student loan, stay in Wales (if he does they clear some of the English debt to put him on a par with Welsh students - their fees are much much lower) (but I mean, live permanently in Wales?! He'll have to support Ospreys of something equally bad :-)), possibly move overseas as looks like they've not considered the brain drain issue.
e) Who drives these markets? Why is "double digit growth" important? Who to? Are we all to blame as we are the people who demand good returns on our investments in our pensions or whatever? I read a report on my company and us failing to grow at double digit rates was sneered at - btw we are one of the largest in our field and earn billions a year - how the hell do we keep growing? Surely there's some limit somewhere?
f) "there's nothing to fear but fear itself" - very true.

So I glance down my RSS reader at the news stories coming in and just wonder where it'll stop. Looks like some major UK retailers will go to the wall soon as they cannot borrow to stock their shelves or the insurers will not insure them to ensure the suppliers will supply on credit.

Is capitalism a human instinct? - survival of the fitest - the strongest in the pack gets to lead or gets the most women etc. So is greed an inbuilt human trait? Look how the socialist experiment of the 20th century ended up, that didn't work out well.

Now the great depression of the late 20s early 30s hardly killed off capitalism so I doubt this blip will since as soon as the dust finaly settles those that have profited from the downturn will be the people others seek to emulate to get a bit more and it'll all start off again and how long will the memories be? There are 4 billion people in this world who live on income less than $3000 a year (that's about £1700). You know I don't feel that badly off really in comparision - I have warmth, health, good living conditions, sanitation, power etc. It's a shame our govts can pump billions to maintain this creaking system - rather than just taking say $100 billion of all that and giving all those folks a $25 bonus...

So I'm back

So I'm back in the world of blogging after a while away.

I'm going to try to get back to original spirit I had in my old blog before I seemed to lose the point.

So the name says it all really - this'll be about guitars, music, life (mine and others), the funny things I see in the world, the things I don't understand in the world (well some of them maybe - if I go for everything in that category we'll never get finished), and things I learn in the world...

Welcome to anyone who comes here to read and comment. However I will moderate comments and reserve the right to not publish comments I don't like or don't want published. Simply put this is my blog and my life and that's my choice I simply ask you all to respect it.

Bienvenue, Welcome, Wilkommen...