Sunday, 31 May 2009

Friday, 29 May 2009

Aren’t we lucky and weekend plans

I watched a programme last night about people who suffer with Tourettes. This was the third in a long running series following a Scottish guy that started with him living with his Mum and family in the 1980s when he was a teenager. In the subsequent programmes they have followed another sufferer who is now himself 15 the same age as John was in the original programme.

I’m so lucky I don’t suffer with something like this illness and neither do any of my family, although it is a running family gag that Mrs F suffers from it particularly when she goes into a rant about someone, notably weather presenters.

In the programme John the older guy was in near tears as he reflected on his extremely lonely teenage years when he couldn’t forge any friendships with anyone. He hasn’t been able to find a partner and he spoke about how just getting to work which is a 10 min walk is an achievement for him. He works as a caretaker at the local community hall and clearly takes immense pride in his job. You could see through the film that taking the Tourettes away and he is a very caring lovely man.

Greg, the 15 year old, spoke of one day some summers back where he had hardly any “tics” and that it was this perfect summer day and he holds on to the hope he’ll have another day like that in the future. I reflected on the fact that Greg was much more integrated within his school and his friends more accepting of his condition than teenagers had been when John was that age in the original programme in the 1980s. All the time the media seem to portray an image of the youth of the country being disrespectful or trouble makers – the “hoodies” etc. You know what I think that this showed that in fact this current generation of teenagers are much better at tolerance, acceptance and care than generations of old. It gave me some real hope for a better future.

We're all off to a family BBQ at the weekend for my nieces birthday, she is in her mid 20s and suffers with ME which she finds very debilitating and frustrating. She had to give up a career in the caring profession where she'd studied hard because she simply couldn't cope and now can only work part time. Sunday Mrs F and Daughter-of-Furtheron are running in the Race for Life which they have done for a few years now in memory of family members we've lost to cancer. so as I say we have much to be happy and grateful for this weekend.

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Book Review – Ben Elton Inconceivable

To be honest I was never enamoured with Ben Elton as a stand up comedian back in the 80s when we was all the rage. It was always the shouty too fast delivery for me, I didn’t get it although a lot of what he ranted about I could related to and/or agree with.

The first book I read of his was “The First Casualty” which I heard him talking about on a talk show and was intrigued by the concept held within it. Now that was a very good book and thoroughly worth a read as it had a lot of deep context within it and from then on I was sold on him as a satirical author.

For some reason I don’t rate Inconceivable as one of his best, as I say First Casualty or the recent Blind Faith are much better reads and intros to his work and if you want more laughs Gridlock is immensely funny. I recommended that to a Boston cab driver I had an interesting journey with once who subsequently emailed me to say only Brits can write satire like that. But this review is not about that it’s about an earlier book Inconceivable which I picked up cheap in a second hand shop.

So Inconceivable is the story of two 30 somethings who have been trying for a baby for 5 years without success and is written in the form of the two of them keeping secret diaries which was something the female of the couple got as a suggestion from somewhere. The story unfolds of their journey toward IVF treatment and also the changes in their relationship as they go along. So there are plenty of funny situations that they get into, having sex on a ley line for example and being caught by the police, how tricky it is to produce a sperm sample on demand and the ignominy on the various examinations and tests the lady has to go through.

Also I didn’t like the climax of the book, I applaud the author for facing some of the realities but suddenly it all seemed a bit rushed at the end, I felt let down in not getting to the bottom of exactly where the relationship was although maybe that was deliberate to leave you making your own mind up.

So a moderate thumbs up – if you’ve read others of his but not this one then I’d recommend it but as I say if you want an intro to Mr Elton’s work start elsewhere.

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

What we lie about

I spotted this on the Hotmail home page – I’m sometimes drawn to these things. Apparently some new TV station asked 2000 of us (Brits that is) what we are most likely to lie about. How do you rate on this then?

1. Age – when we are young we lie we are older and guess what… when older claim we are younger. I’m 46 by the way… and that isn’t a lie.
2. Alcohol consumption. LOL! I used to lie about this all the time but in mitigation of that I rarely could actually remember what I’d drunk on any particular day, it all got foggy after 8 or 9 pints I found. But saying to the doctor repeatedly that I was a “normal drinker” was a lie. Now when I truthfully tell people I don’t drink some have a bigger problem with that than when I was a drunk… go figure.
3. Sexual history – men increase it to impress, women decrease it to preserve their modesty. Honestly? Me – it’s been 3 in my lifetime. Go ahead laugh at that if you like.
4. Lying about your appearance – either lying about your weight or dying your hair or what ever. I’m 13 stone 8pounds and wish I was a stone lighter.
5. Job – lying about your job! I once in my old drinking days pretended to be a carpet salesman, I think I know why too long to explain. A guy in that pub was an ex-carpet weaver and I was exposed as a fraud. Some change their job title deliberately. Ok – I’m an Application Service Delivery Manager. There you’re none the bloody wiser now are you :-)
6. Embellish your CV. Maybe this is why finding a job is so difficult – everyone else is lying! It’s been years since I had a proper CV, I was trying to write one when I landed this job thank God. Maybe I should claim higher grades in my guitar exams?
7. Lie about how often you have sex. So that is why I often feel like everyone in the world is at it constantly? They aren’t they are lying to impress me. Me? Currently very infrequently, borders on complete celibacy actually.
8. Connections – lying about who you know. I know hardly anyone of importance frankly, I’ve bumped into a few celebs at AA meetings but respect the anonymity of that, also they are just like me trying to not drink today.
9. Exaggerate your wages. Normally something I’d avoid mentioning, I’m ridiculously overpaid frankly… let me say this – How do MPs make ends meet on a salary as low as that? :-)
10. Concealing an illness. Guilty! Well I did finally own up… and my arm still hurts etc… I don’t think guys do this do we? Surely a good ache is a great way to moan with your mates.

So what do we think? True or is the survey a lie?

Monday, 25 May 2009

Where we come from

I've mentioned the BBC programme The Incredible Human Journey before. Well I'm still captivated by it. Shows my ignorance I suppose that I knew so little about the colonisation by earlier humans.

Last nights episode was about the colonisation of Europe starting about 40,000 years ago. I didn't know about the Nethanderals already here and in large numbers. They were pushed increasing west as humans came in and the last known enclave was at Gibraltar. One thing recent DNA sequencing shows that there was no interbreeding between the two groups.

Now for me the most enlightening part and something either I had heard before or had built into my own belief structure was that art was one of the separating factors between the two groups. Nethanderals may have had tools as good or possibly better than us, been probably stronger physically and had slightly larger brains but we had art and spiritualism. Some learned people now think this is why we prospered and they failed in that we were bound together as a greater group. The programme showed the earliest know European musical instrument - a flute.

After the ice age a second wave of newcomers brought the Venus figures with them again showing a widescale link of a common culture and one no doubt with spiritualism or religion at it's heart.

Absolutely fascinating. Oh yes and 10% of all modern Europeans can trace themselves back to one woman apparently the DNA tells us... they have named her Europa. Finally the programme showed where farming started in southern Turkey, do you know that all domestic arable crops can be traced to wild grasses cultivated there. Again mind boggling to me.

Thursday, 21 May 2009

It’s life Jim but not as we know it.

Wasn’t that in the lyrics of that annoying Startreking novelty record years ago? Whatever it’s where my head is at at the moment.

I had a really really crap day Tuesday. I was completely overwhelmed by the demands of the new job culminating in a meeting where someone was laying down the law about what she expected my new team to be doing and I was thinking… hang on this is one bullet point on the role description and if this is the level they are expecting that is an 80 hour a week thing just for that alone. I went into a spiral of can’t do this, can’t do that, too difficult, I’m useless, exposed as a fraud, lose my job, wish I’d just taken the redundancy, blah blah blah… I ended up with huge chest pains, headache, dizzy feeling, nose bleed… etc. I couldn’t get to sleep for ages either.

Yesterday I tried to tackle the issue but doing an action the team had asked me to marshal our thoughts on the issues and we met briefly to discuss that and agree some next steps – which I’ve further worked on today. Better, just do what you can and be honest about it. Essentially as a team we’re asking for some support staff to do much of the mechanics of these processes so we’re not totally swamped. We’re meeting our boss hopefully on Tuesday to get his backing for that. I also spoke to one colleague who I have great respect for – he offered some suggestions on this as well. Actually just doing that and foregoing my usual “I must fix this all myself or be a failure” mode of operation is pretty good for me.

I went to my regular Wednesday AA meeting. At the moment it is my role to find speakers for the meeting, we had a “group conscience” meeting last week and it was pointed out that all the speakers this year with maybe two exceptions have been male. Fair point, the meeting has normally a few more women present than men and my predominance of male bookings reflects that I take very strictly the “male to male” suggestion in the fellowship – my close friends, confidents and advisors are all male. It was summed up at the conscience meeting as “You need to get more women” – which brought much hilarity to the proceedings. So out of the hat last night I produced… a woman speaker!

It was for me a fantastic meeting, that room has held many for me and why it is such an important meeting for me. A lot of talk about “struggling in life”. We all have different things, some relationships with children, others dealing with issues as they are trying to study for a degree, others dealing with the aftermath of their drinking and break ups of marriages and separation from children etc. I spoke about my turmoil about the job, the lady speaker said “But you’re looking at the positives aren’t you? They gave you the job and wanted to keep you on, it’s a job that people want and need hence the initial overload etc.” Simply – no I’d not been doing that. I refer you to the list of negative emotions/thoughts I’d been having Tuesday evening.

Being a recovering alcoholic is simple – Don’t pick up a drink. Life is the bloody difficult bit. I’m so lucky my kids still are part of my life, I hope they still like me and I hope we have mutual respect for each other, my wife hasn’t thrown me out and refusing to have anything to do with me, I do have a job where others don’t. As I listened to all this stuff going on in others lives and our common bond which simply is this is the stuff that makes us drink as we can’t cope with it, do normal people cope any better? I don’t know but however they cope I know my default coping mechanism… get drunk, hope it goes away, if it doesn’t sabotage it, bluff it, bullshit it whatever to get through… then to cope with the emotions around all that… i.e. go get drunk. Stay permanently numb to the world and to people, squash the emotions that I don’t want and that includes both good and bad ones… simply just try to go along on a flat line with no reality of emotion.

These days I have to deal with feelings, mine and others. I have to go through it and learn and face it… it is life, real life but as I say it’s still a life I find very alien to me at times after an adult life of 25 years drinking and 5 years not drinking… I’m really still in my head an adolescent learning how to cope with the basics in life, it’s a journey.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Book Review Slash – an autobiography

I picked this book up for a fiver in HMV some time back and have now got around to reading it. My overall summary is that this reminded me very much of newly sober members of AA when they recount their story in a “chair” at a meeting (where someone starts the meeting off by talking about their experience). Essentially it’s a huge “drunkalog” in which the newly honest person needs to unburden all they can to their audience. It trundles along with references to bits out of sequence etc. and is like Slash has to get all this off his chest. It’s only in the last couple of pages that we get to his sobriety, the book was completed a couple of years back when Slash was just a year sober but the fruits of recovery are already bearing buds in those pages. For an old drunk like me (am I really that now?) I smiled ruefully at this. I think the boy has got it now and I wish him well on his sober path.

Whatever the point of the book was and it’s slightly disjointed style it is a very good insight into Slash and his point of view over all the GnR stuff. Let me put this straight right now, Appetite for Destruction wasn’t a bad album but I don’t get the “GnR are the best thing ever” type adoration they get in some quarters, an old singer in a band I was in almost dismissed every other band/singer as worthy of consideration as an influence. Welcome to the Jungle, Paradise City, Sweet Child ‘o Mine and Mr Brownstone… all very very good rock tracks, but as a band with a body of work groups like Metallica have done far more of note in my opinion. The Use Your Illusion thing was lost on me November Rain and Knocking on Heaven’s Door from around there were to me cringingly awful, sounded like a rock band trying to play at my sisters wedding to earn some money to get to the next let your hair down gig. Chinese Democracy has already dropped right off my play list and I think it’ll be in a charity bag before the year is out. Velvet Revolver Contraband was I feel better in the whole than any GnR record and Fall to Pieces just a brilliant song that is better than anything with Axl singing on it, that isn’t a go at Axl it’s just that to me that is the best GnR/Velvet Revolver song of all. So I’m not a dedicated fan of Slash and co.

How the hell they got anywhere is a bit of a bloody miracle when you read the book, by 19 Slash was already a Heroin addict and the first album nearly didn’t happen due to his habit, and other issues in the band with that kind of thing to be fair. Like Eric Clapton (and others I know) when he kicked the junk he simply sweated it all out for a couple of weeks and then… hit the booze! He then learnt he had to drink all day everyday to stop the alcohol withdrawal. Even after a somewhat ill thought through drug binge one night he famously nearly died however even that didn’t stop him and he continued with modified drug and drink habits for sometime further.

I found the book engaging in a “what the hell can happen next” kind of a way. It is very very honest, especially for a man with two young sons now. They will no doubt be told sooner or later about some of it’s contents but that is his life and his choice to put it out there publicly. You do get some insight into the man, he is a very distrustful and sometime obstinate character but still a very caring person on the other side, his love of animals comes through for example and his concern about others around him, Steve Adler for example.

One thing that was interesting for me in reading this was that I am very grateful that my musical exploits when I was younger were never successful. Reading this made me think about what the hell would have happened to me if I had pushed on in the music world rather than doing the sensible thing and getting a proper job. I just became an anonymous functioning alcoholic with a 9-5 job, nice car, semi-det house and a couple of kids. Reading about GnRs rollercoaster makes me realise that if I’d have found my way into a scene like that I very much doubt I’d be around now to read his account of it, I’d have been a major casualty on the way. And do you know today I’m really grateful for that.

Odd world

Somethings that have struck me as odd in the last day or so...

1. Why is this MP expenses thing still going on? MPs feather their own nests through exploitation of the fees system and with additional interests outside the Palace of Westminster... errrr No shit Sherlock! Hasn't this always been like this? Just these days we get the info and report it. Some say we should vote in a completely new set... and how would they be any different, there's a quote about wanting to be a politician should be the bar to you being one or something like that isn't there. It's a bit like the "cash for honours" scandal, I was again like... and so tell me something new. Stop beating them up over the cost of getting their country pad cleaned and get them to do something valuable like fix poverty in Africa, ensure health treatments get to the right patients, fund research into fusion energy and renewable energy... etc. etc.

2. Weather. Driving to work today I'm driving through a downpour, road covered, windscreen wipers going full and thinking to myself "Arse! the rain mac is in the boot". Get to work less than 10 miles away and dry as a bone and bright sunshine... odd!

4. How many atoms in an ant? Surburbia's young son has posed this question and I can't find a quick answer on the internet... it has me perplexed, what a great question.

5. So the 13 year old father who was splashed all over the tabloids earlier in the year is not actually the dad of the baby. A DNA test has now shown that the Dad is another school boy who was 14 at the time of conception. Holly Cow! How messed up is all that - again stop winging about politicians expenses if you want to punish them send them to Afghanistan on the front line, or out on the streets at closing time or make a team of them the social workers for the menage a tois involved in this particular mess. Might get them focused on real actions to improve the country.

Monday, 18 May 2009

"Like a dog on lino"

That was one of the best quotes yet from Charlie Cox the commentator on MotoGP when he talked about Rossi's early and disastrous change to slick tyres. He slithered off the track within a lap, returned to the pits, got a speeding penalty, change bike again and eventually came in last proving even the very best can have an off day.

BBC brilliant

There is a new brilliant programme on the BBC on a Sunday evening at the moment that has me totally captivated The Incredible Human Journey.

This series is all about tracing the colonisation of the world by Humans. The first part concentrated on the migrations within Africa from Homo Sapiens birthplace in the Rift Valley. Now it talked about genetics… did you know that if you are of African descent you can be on several “branches” of the human evolutionary tree but everybody else… yes everybody else, European, Asian, American etc. can be traced back to a very very small number of humans who left Africa about 70,000 years ago. Amazing! Dr Alice Roberts presented a set of theories about how these early pioneers left Africa including some climatic modelling that showed the barrier of the Sahara and Arabian deserts may have not been a problem at one time around then due to a weather shift meaning the deserts might have had sufficient vegetation to allow migration. Some finds in Israel area point to that being the route but it’s believed actually that migration failed and died out, so the preferred theory presented was around the southern shore of Arabia which due to changes in sea levels would have been different and would have exposed a load of fresh water springs potentially.

This week the second episode went to Asia – now why these early settlers continued walking and following animals to kill right into Siberia where it is so bloody cold I suppose we’ll never know but they did. But actually the really interesting bit in this programme and one I was totally ignorant of is that it is pretty much “perceived wisdom” in China that they are different from the rest of humanity and believe they trace back to a different evolutionary route from Homo Erectus completed different from the Africans. A professor showed some different skulls to try to back this claim up explaining this is why Chinese people have flatter faces, different eye sockets etc. However Chinese geneticist has take 1000s of samples across China and looked for a genetic mutation known to have occurred in the Rift Valley Homo Sapiens about 80,000 years ago. Guess what – every sample has it again pointing to this small migration, and he was expecting to actually prove the opposite, he supported the separate evolutionary route philosophy.

Of course one thing that this brings home to me when you look at all the wars, religious, political, racial etc. etc. differences that are perpetuated and fuelled in this world today the answer is… we are all Africans and pretty much brothers as well. Now shut up arguing, stop fighting and help those we left behind fix the problems of that continent so that kids don’t have to die needless from malaria or dysentery etc.

Damn interesting programme that is very well worth watching. Oh and for the fellas, Dr Roberts is pretty cute too… :-)

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Geisha girls and Red Cross Parcels

bet the title got your attention...

So Daughter-of-Furtheron is nothing if not occasionally unorthodox :-) Fashion of History project, all the other girls are picking Mary Quant, Vivian Westwood, the funny looking French guy and the woman with the huge lips no doubt. Oh not my offspring. Geishas! In addition to the raised eyebrows at the library where they have ordered some books for her I went to Amazon and searched. A book about Geishas Illustrated or some such comes up - out of stock but available second hand, therefore basically a few quid. Well support the kids and all that - I order it. It arrives and I very quickly thumb though it, the language looks like it was written as a university paper with loads of eloquent words etc. and then about half the book pictures, mostly looked like Japanese art work and some old photos. Ace I thought - I've done well there.

Later Mrs F says... "Did you look at that book?" "I glanced dearest why?" She opens to a particular Japanese drawing... well it was extremely graphic to say the least (and a bit educational for me), a sort of Geisha Japanese Karma Sutra I suppose. Now I'm in the dog house for buying pornography for my daughter! My son has found all this highly hilarious.

Talking of him he gave his name but our home phone number to The Red Cross and they keep phoning up to get him to be a supporter, also they sent a tea bag and a small chocolate etc. to him with a Red Cross greeting card. Opportunity too good to miss so I write in the card "In case you need this Love Dad x" and send this off to him, we have a joke about The Red Cross parcels of biscuits and tea I deliver from Mum to him when I visit or take him back. Best bit... when I said "Did you get the parcel?" on Facebook the other night. "Yes... the chocolate was rubbish" ROFL!!! It was a joke but as the student he is even one small bit of chocolate was too much to miss. Re my last post - see now that is why I got sober things like these, isn't it brilliant to have a laugh and be part of a family like that.

5th Birthday

Today is my 5th birthday. My 5th AA birthday, we cheat in AA we have a “belly button” birthday and an AA birthday, otherwise called by some their sobriety date. Mine is 14th May. In 2004 that was the day I last had a drink.

I remember bits of that day well. Typical Friday really, work up feeling the effects of the previous days drinking. I’d been trying to give up for a year and just a week or so before felt so bad and stood on top of a cliff willing myself to find the courage to jump off. I failed. An old lady walking her dog walked past commenting on what a lovely day it was. I smiled and said it was but inside was screaming “Sod off you old bat I want to kill myself here.” Then I wondered briefly if I insulted her if she’d throw me off and fix the problem. Defeated I headed to the pub and drank again effective resigning myself to a life of misery as I couldn’t break this bloody cycle.

So back to Friday 14th May 2004. I did the usual sod all at work in the morning focused on lunchtime, Fridays were good as several of my colleagues would go to the pub on a Friday so my drinking would be partially legitimized that day. I headed there just before noon. Just as I started my second pint a text arrived from my wife. We had had an inheritance and I had some investments pay out that meant we were in the very fortunate position of paying off our mortgage. So for a few weeks this was the fixer, the solution, the problem to all my life, get that monkey off my back and it’ll all be flipping marvellous. The text said “All the paperwork here, the house is now formally ours! Tonight we can celebrate”. That was the word that did it. “Celebrate”. What the hell did I have to celebrate, this momentous news had made no difference to me or how I felt about life at all. Nothing, nada, niet, nill, zip… I was crushed again. I downed that pint and of course the bit in me that just said “fuck it” went off. I went on an afternoon long bender. I can’t remember if I went back to the office, if I did or not doesn’t matter. I was on a mission and crawled through several pubs on the 40 mile journey home.

I was supposed to take my daughter to a swimming lesson about 6:30 I think. By then the mobile was off, I was onto about pint 15 or so and was in my “local” where I’d started drinking when I was 16 about 25 years before. I really had moved on in my adult life hadn’t I, that whole setting is so ironic really. I was talking with a couple of the usual drinking buddies in there. One of them was a plumber who’d recently done some work for us and he’d been back either that day or earlier in the week to fix something. He was relentlessly taking the piss out of me for being useless as frankly on that kind of DIY I just leave it to someone who does know their onions. At 10 minutes to 7pm that evening I finished my pint and staggered out.

I got home and my son said “Mum is furious with you, she has gone to the swimming lesson. Oh and the TV isn’t working”. Here was my saviour, as a gallant knight I donned my shield jumped on the mighty horse and found the insurance for the TV. I phoned the helpline and arranged for someone to come on Monday morning to fix it. Brilliant! She’ll be so happy I’ve sorted that one out I thought.

She wasn’t. For years my wife simply ignored me when I was like this but this night she didn’t – she snapped and went for me – verbally. We had a major screaming match for a good hour or so. Suddenly I fell to the floor curled up and started crying – my head was quietly saying “It doesn’t have to be like this, it can’t carry on like this”. After an hour or so we talked calmly about it all. My wife threatened to kick me out if I didn’t do something, but that didn’t matter really threat or no threat it was that I was beaten by the drink that mattered. A few days later I walked into a rehab and a week later into my first AA meeting.

Today when I look back I almost end up writing about that creature who was on that bender in the third person. I know it is me but it isn’t me if that makes sense. I still consider myself early on in sobriety, possibly when I’ve been sober as long as I was an active alcoholic for I might feel like I’ve redressed the balance a bit.

Today is a fantastic day since whilst I do think of being an alcoholic and about drink I don’t think about taking a drink. I will be a viable human being in my small way. I hope you all have a fantastic day in whatever small way is applicable for you.

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Nunostrat returns

Good news - Nunostrat has come back from the menders. It now has a nice new nut properly cut rather than the God awful mess of a brass thing that I put on there years ago and has had a proper set up.

The main reason it went it was it just didn't sound right, the bridge pickup sounded woolly almost like it was being played through a Wah-Wah that was held cocked open but not in a treble boost position like someone like Schenker or Satriani would do.

So my friendly repairer - who is a great guy based at Music Workshop in Ramsgate if anyone reading this is close enough to consider him - had a look and found a little gremlin which was a little strand of wire that was shorting out across the tone control - so much for my neat soldering. However he was complimentary of the coil tapping etc. I'd done. Also he has subtly re positioned the pickup as well since it's really a Gibson spacing which isn't great for a Fender bridge / scale so he has moved it fractionally lower to help a treble bias on it.

Nunostrats spec and history

This is a home assembled bitsacaster which I started building with my Dad about 1980/1981 when I was about 18. It was influenced then but Alan Holdsworth and that I'd already butchered my Columbus Strat copy that was my main guitar then to have a humbucker in the bridge position - I invented the superstrat you know... er actually I copied the idea from the guitarist who had been in Steppenwolf I think.

Body - English Ash, roughly routed for normal Strat pickups and a fixed non-trem bridge when we got it. It was soon attacked by me to house humbuckers and to enlarge the cavity for a four control layout. Stained with some Ronseal product.
Neck - maple with rosewood fingerboard, it has a funny two tone "skunk stripe" up the back, odd as it's a rosewood board, normally you only get skunks on maple boards. It's a typical 70s style large headstock and bullet truss. Neither neck nor body were Fender. I think they both came from a company called Touchstone Tonewoods I'd seen advertise in a magazine. Finished with teak oil and wax
Pick guard is hand made by my Dad to my design - I think he sourced the plastic.
Tuners - currently Sperzel locking ones, originally it had Schallers on.
Bridge - a Mighty Mite chrome plated brass one. Brass ferrules on the reverse for string anchoring.

My Dad mated the neck and body and positioned the bridge.

Pickups - once had Dimarzio PAFS, then one of them went into the Columbus Strat and an Ibanez replaced that. Then it had a Shadow guitar synth on it for a while.

When I refinished it, I thought - this looks a bit like Nuno Bettencourts guitar (ex-Extreme) so it was christened Nunostrat.

Pickups - from Swineshead pickups. XBuckers - wood bobbins in mahogany that almost match the stain. I replaced all the pots and it has coil taps on the tone controls.

So up to date - the brass nut I fitted and cut replaced and now with 10s on rather than tow rope 12s I had on in an attempt to detune.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Peter Green documentary on the BBC

I watched a good Peter Green documentary off the BBC over the weekend. If you didn't catch it the iPlayer version is here.

It was pretty good with the major focus on his time with Fleetwood Mac - which amazingly was less than 3 years in total. Peter Green is in my humble opinion the best white British blues player to come out of that whole 1960s scene. And he was so much more... Need Your Love So Bad, Black Magic Woman, Oh Well, Man of the World, Green Manalishi. The last two showed the dark side of Peter's character which was very troubled and a lot of time is spent in the documentary with other members of Fleetwood Mac about the infamous Munich incident where Peter took some drugs and the others all point to a instant worsening of his mental wellbeing from then on. He ended up very very ill over the subsequent years.

Sadly his recovery whilst dealt with in terms of the start of it was far too quickly glossed over. His work in the 90s etc. with The Splinter Group and solo stuff was very very good, maybe not Fleetwood Mac in their heyday quality but not far off. I obviously never got to see him in the day with Fleetwood Mac but did catch him several times in The Splinter Group and some of those performance when he play instrumental versions of Man of the World (he couldn't sing that one any more) and Green Manalishi coupled with the Splinter Groups material (Destiny Road is very good place to start on them if you don't know them) made them very special gigs. A friend of mine was moved to tears the first time he went with me.

So worth a watch - I just wish more had been said and shown of the material post his recovery as it really deserved it and is a very fitting tribute to the man in so many ways and also an inspiration to anyone who is mentally unwell.

Monday, 11 May 2009

Another random catch up

So the swimathon results came out… I’m something like 1003 out of 2663 who took part… I think. My daughter was very pleased being in the top 100 who took part in her discipline.

Where did the weekend go? They seem to get quicker, is this some odd time warp thing? We re-joined the library, failed to find a book that suited the project but have some coming on reserve. I should use the library more, all I do is buy books, read them once then either pass them on, exchange them at the second hand book shop or give them to charity shops. Did some gardening, I attacked… sorry… pruned the bush at the bottom of the garden again but Mrs F was approving in the end. Restrung and cleaned up three guitars, most notably my acoustic (Yamaha LL11) which after a polish, oil of the neck and new strings seemed to be beaming with pleasure and sounded and played better than ever. Surely that is just stupid thinking but honestly it was almost like the guitar was saying “Hey thanks I needed that now hear what I can really do”.

F1 – go Jenson go! I watched qualifying on Saturday, to be honest sometimes more exciting than the races and this was no exception. JB was ok about sixth or so throughout, then Rubens takes pole just after the flag has waved to stop the session, then Vettel betters him then Jenson comes from nowhere, last man through and pole position. Better still when you saw the replay, he started that last do or die lap with less than 2 seconds to spare. In the race his switch to two stop (why they had considered 3 is beyond me, I presume the hard tyre issue) was inspired and he drove very well esp the last session on those bad hard tyres where he was just lightyears ahead of the rest of the field. With how it’s going now you have to say he does begin to look like a potential champion in waiting. Rugby – loads on with Challenge cup in League and the Union playoff semi finals. I would have loved Harlequins to get to Twickenham but Leicester and London Irish no doubt deserve it.

Sunday, 10 May 2009

CD Review - The Devil You Know - Heaven & Hell

1980. Do you remember it? Well that was the year I got to see Black Sabbath live at the Hammersmith Odeon. My mate Aiden did his usual skip off school to take the money to queue at the box office for when it opened, his Dad drove to London every day for his job so dropped him off. This was the Heaven & Hell tour, Ozzy had moved on and Bill Ward was not well enough to stay in the band at that time. So the Dio, Iommi, Butler, Appice line up was on the road. We were in row D I think. Bugger it was loud! I remember a lot of the old lags calling for Ozzie, which was a shame as I thought it a darn good gig, I also thought that album good.

Wind forward to 2007 and the lads get back together for the third time after 1991's Dehuminizer album. They record three new songs for the Dio Years complilation and decide to tour again. Then they decide to make an album...

First track Atom and Evil tells you all you need to know. This is one hell of a band and they are right back. The slow riffs blow you away, Iommi is definitely still the king of heavy riffology. Dio has a great voice, slow vibrato and a singer not a screamer. And without a doubt there is something just amazing once Geezer and Tony Iommi start riffing together.

Bible Black is one of my favourites, a slow acoustic opening with a restrained Iommi bluesy solo as Dio narrates in his own style. Then the build with the rest of the band until you get a totally classic riff along classic you can't help but headbang away to. Eating the Cannibals is about as up beat as it gets here although this is not thrash you know. I love that name, no doubt someone will already have beaten me to grabbing it on Myspace. The closing track Braking into Heaven is another blinder starting with a slow sledgehammer of a riff that instantly conjures evil thoughts.

This is metal of the top order, if you like any of Sabbath's back catalogue dispell any "where is Ozzy" concerns and try this out.

Quite probably the metal album of the year, well let's put it this way it'll take something bloody stunning to beat it.

Friday, 8 May 2009

Random post about stuff

haven't much to say at the moment... very busy with new job so from nowhere to "Understand this years budget across this area, recast it into new coding structure and then propose new budget with 25% cut in it for next year and produce a lucid strategy to present to senior boss a week on Wednesday". Ok - what shall I do after lunch? Oh yes and pick up a major project as technical guy on that as the old one just walked out.... Well I was getting bored not being busy :-)

I took my lovely old Nunostrat to the menders today, he is going to set it up better and try to figure out the wiring issue that means it just sounds wrong. We'll see next week how that has gone.

Banks! Don't go there, so after closing my accounts now the local ATM that I can get to in the morning has stopped giving you envelopes to pay cheques in. Flipping thing, it's just that you expect stuff like that to just work these days don't you and when it doesn't it's a real hassle.

Weekend coming... off to the library first time in years, daughter-of-Furtheron wants to do research on Geisha girls. Don't ask I normally try not to, history of fashion project I think. Still going to a library will be good.

F1 - so let's see if the others have caught Brawn up shall we? I'd love to see Jenson battle for and hopefully win the championship. Watch the in car footage, compare his smooth style against the others they are correcting all over the place in the corner, JB turns in once and unwinds smoothly out, very Jackie Stewart.

I hope to read more of Slash's autobiography - Jesus he lived a life! I'm about to him being 19, he has had more women than I've said hello to, in the a band about to become huge and already a daily Heroin addict that can't control it... Makes my life look like I'm a saint frankly.

I owe you all a CD review of Heaven and Hell's new one. In a word BRILLIANT!. I'll elaborate over the weekend hopefully.

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

CD Review - Gypsy Soul by The Sue Menhart Band

Gypsy Soul is the second release by The Sue Menhart Band; the follow up to their impressive debut full length album Torn last year. This time we get a 4 song EP format.

We kick off with the title track Gypsy Soul - the intro is a Spanish style noodle by guitarist JJ that lulls you into thinking this will be some gentle laid back jazzy number. Oh no - the band kick in with a toe tapping stomper that is a solid foundation for Sue's great blues/rock chic gravely vocal delivery. This lady has an infectious voice that just guides you in. The lyrics are ideal for those of us in the "greying rocker" fraternity, i.e. those of us who didn't drop out and/or make the grade in rock school 20/30 years ago and so do the 9 to 5 thing through the day but have our hidden side in the nighttime... This is a common theme in Ms Menharts lyrics and that is no bad thing.

The band are tight as hell! JJ executes a neat and effective solo, the Hammond organ wails just as it should (Procul Harum memories here) and the rhythm section hold it all down with fine effect.

Coming Home is the second track a happy time sing along that is dedicated to all the serving officers in the USA armed forces and captured I think the spirit of troops who have had to serve overseas in recent years and this is a uplifting song from that point of view of someone looking forward to returning.

Why You Love Me - hang on was this written in the late 60s? This track has a whole jazzy/funk vibe going on a bit Stax vs English Blues/Rock to my ears. Again great playing from all with a tasteful solo and guitar bits and then one of the best keyboard solos I've heard in a long time... i.e. melodic, thoughtful and fitting.

Lastly The Choice is a love song - and what a song that Sue dedicates to her husband. Call me an old soft romantic but this one brings goosebumps on the neck and a lump to the throat, brilliant lyrics and a soulful rendition that can't hide the true feelings. The sort of song a talent show winner would over do the vibrato and over do the dynamics where here with Sue's slow vibrato and quieter delivery makes for a much more emotional performance. If this was a X Factor/American Idol finalist this would be no 1 in a instant. Sadly though the likes of Sue are overlooked by the business.

So very well worth checking out. This is a great example of bunch of more mature rockers who have broken out from the 9 - 5 rut and show the rest of us what can be done. Production is excellent as well. Just going to say it again - The Choice is just a stunning song and performance.

Go here now and check them out. If you are close to them in Connecticut you can't go wrong getting to one of their shows.

Hey !!! Just found I can post their widget player thingy on the side bar... so EYES RIGHT.... :-)

Book Review - Wolf of the Plains by Conn Iggulden

This is the first book in a trilogy by Conn Iggulden covering the life of Genghis Khan.

As regular readers will know I read quiet a bit of historical fiction, firstly because often the subject times appeal to me and it's a good way I feel to get some appreciation of history through an entertaining format - although you have to accept the regular use of literary licence of the author.

Anyway this is a reasonably good read if you like historical fiction. We're introduced to Genghis as a young boy competing with his brothers to show his worth in the tribe and to gain the affection of his father. His father is very off hand with his sons largely as a way to make them the warriors and leaders he wants them to be.

His father is murdered early on (in true history there is little known about his Dad's death so some licence is employed here) and he and his family are cast out from the tribe by a new khan who takes over. Against the odds his family survive and in time he is able to raise a new tribe, take on his old enemies to avenge his fathers death and eventually depose of the usurper who took his fathers place and claim his tribe back.

So on the whole a reasonable read if not maybe the reverting page turner I get with Bernard Cornwell or Simon Scarrow - possibly the subject possibly the authors style I don't know which. I'll probably look for part two in the second hand shop at some point no doubt.

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Where'd the weekend go?

Three days - three whole days off! And gone in a flash - plus the usual ritual abuse from my USA colleagues about the number of public holidays we have... actually I think it's less than they get in most states but I gave up arguing a long time ago. Interesting fact I heard from someone today - if you look at GDP per head of populations USA is one of the top countries, UK bottom of top 10 ish and France further down. You then look at GDP per hour worked and France streak to the top and the USA fall beneath us. Interesting!

Weekend - Saturday the girls dragged me off shopping - best day of the weekend and I'm in a climate control cathedral to consumerism! Sunday I went to see Ireland deservedly win the A1GP world cup of motorsport with two brilliant drives by Adam Carroll - it's a travesty that guy isn't in F1 in F3 he was a revelation on a limited budget in GP2 the same but sadly I think he'll be another great driver that hasn't the right connections to get into the top - I do hope he gets a career in say the USA single seater series or something. Monday we went to the beach - it was freezing! Well not really but I've getting old and grumpy about this kind of thing, after lunch my daughter and her mate went to a fair and then we went on a beach/cliff top walk which was nice.

So a great weekend if over way too quickly and back to work to a bulging inbox and back to back meetings through the afternoon/evening... this new job is if nothing else occupying my time successfully.

Final observation - how come Fiat which is a company that lots hundreds of millions of Euros itself last year is seen as a saviour for Chrysler and GM? If I was running a business and was struggling to make money and someone came in and said "Hey let me show you how" and I said "what did you do last year" "Lost" I think I'd walk away. Maybe this is why I don't understand macro-economics... just seems bloody daft to me. GM sell it's EU plants to Fiat who probably will just instant close one or two of them... er why can't GM just do that... confused?