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.