Thursday, 29 October 2009

Hospital

So I went to the appointment with the specialist over the vertigo yesterday.

Frankly nothing much new to report. He thinks it is Migraine Associated - and I have to say some of the stuff points to that. We talked about the medication and he has pointed out one change which I'm pleased with - there is one I'm taking (an anti-psychotic... yes come on get the gags over with!) that does make me feel most odd when you take it - it's like the feeling you get about 2 hours after someone has kicked you in the side of the head. Well I don't have to take that one so often! Result!

I'm suppose to be more strict on a diet that frankly they had told me about 5 years ago but I'd sort of been a bit selective on remembering what was on it. Sadly it includes things like chocolate in all forms... i.e. on a biscuit as well! I mean! And cutting down on my tea and coffee... and cheese!!! "No Cheese Grommit!"

Still I shouldn't moan it's a small price to pay really isn't it.

Hamsters!

I arrived home last night to find Mrs F and Daughter-of-Furtheron looking "frazzled".

They'd had to separate the hamsters who had been having more and more fights in the last few days. A friend came round who is a trainee vet nurse and said that the little one had been injured - several bites/scratches on her back and look undernourished which would explain the fights, we think the bigger one is keeping her away from the food. So they are now separated and we're considering what to do, i.e. keep them both and separated or look for a new home for one of them...

Hamsters! This is why I'm not a pet person... too much hassle!

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

My pal Val

For some reason today I was reminded of an old friend. Val. Val was a lovely lady, she went to one of the local meetings of AA that I started going to when I was first around. Eventually due to her regular "lift giver" going back out on the booze I ended up being her chauffeur once a week to the meeting. She had been through the same rehab as me some years before and she had a gentle lovely recovery. She went off to the theatre with some friends at any opportunity, went to AA meetings in France occasionally with another couple of retires and generally smiled a lot.

Sadly one week she never called me up for the regular lift. I called her number and got no answer - I assumed she'd gone to visit her sister up north as she did occasionally. Another friend tried to get hold of her a day or so later. Sadly then it was discovered that she had passed away in her little flat.

I was thinking about something and wondered what Val would have said to me about it. She was a great influence on me and a it was my privilege to have known her and gained from her advice. The last line of the serenity prayer is "...and the wisdom to know the difference". You can't acquire wisdom over night can you? Wisdom implies long digestion and many influences and a well weathered eye over many situations and issues. I gained a little of the wisdom I may (or may not) have at times from her.

Wisdom - the quality or state of being wise; knowledge of what is true or right coupled with just judgment as to action; sagacity, discernment, or insight


I stole that from Dictionary.com (hence the US spelling of judgement)

Monday, 26 October 2009

New music

I've added a few new CDs to the collection recently.

Paradise Lost - Faith Unites Us, Death Divides Us

Paradise Lost describe themselves as the "dark side" of rock. I saw them on the second stage at Sonisphere and they impressed me. This CD reinforces that level of impression. This band blend heavy rock with melody and interesting lyrics to create an extremely listenable sound. If you like Metallica, Megadeth, HIM, Magnum etc. then I think you'll like this. British too!!!

Newton Faulkner - Rebuilt by Humans

The dredlocked acoustic maestro returns with a second effort. It's not bad but not as good as his d├ębut. He was injured at Christmas (broke his wrist) and I wonder if that has affected him at all? It's a pleasant enough blend of numbers but the guitar playing certainly doesn't stand out as before.

Iommi - Fused

Recommended to me by a friend from the USA. Glenn Hughes has had a troubled past and some of this is reflected in the lyrics on this album. Tony Iommi sounds much lighter and more mainstream rock than the recent doom laden Heaven and Hell outing. However that all just shows the man's great talent - he can cover more than one base. Given this was less than a fiver it was one of my best finds of recent times.

How old are you?

I saw some ad on the TV - I think for Flora margarine. It was about a guy who as a kid started jumping over the garden wall to keep healthy... something like that... something then about your heart age. I know this was about margarine and polyunsaturates etc. but I'm sure there's a song lyric in there about "heart age"... does your heart age through love or does your heart stay young through love?

Looking for inspiration :-)

Friday, 23 October 2009

More thoughts on the set list...

hmm... hmmm...

(That's me mulling stuff over)... hmm..

Okay so the set list that I'd come up with. Concerns?

  • too many instrumentals?

  • too much of my own stuf?


So to that end I'm thinking of perhaps juggling it about a bit and inserting Snow Patrols Run and possibly Semisonics Closing Time. Not sure on the second one yet - still undecided about it as an acoustic solo piece.

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Another British World Champ

Just watched an amazing Brazilian Grand Prix.... if you don't know the result look away now... too late probably.

Mad first lap! But Jenson's tough drive from the far back to get into the points and then to see the bad luck that happened to Barichello means we have back to back British champions for the first time in 40 years. :-)

Well done Jenson - what a worthy result for all your years of effort and especially this year with Brawn coming from a position of nearly not even in the championship less than a year ago.

Add to that Dario Franchitti won the Indy Racing league in America through driving carefully through the first ever IRL race to not have any yellow flags. He managed to stay on the lead lap with the two other title protagonists (Scott Dixon and Ryan Brisco) and when they both needed to dash into the pits for a last gasp top up of fuel Dario managed to just hold on to win the race and the championship. 2 years ago he passed Dixon on the last lap when Dixon's car coughed through lack of fuel!

Brilliant! We might not have anyone in the WRC and poor Toseland has lost his seat in MotoGP but we're still the top in open wheel racing!!!

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Committed! And the Set list develops



See that... that's me on the bill! So committed now, and some friends have somewhat surprisingly shown enthusiasm for coming along!

The Set List Develops

So here we are at the moment

Babylon David Gray
Sail Away David Gray
The Circle Ocean Colour Scene
May You Never John Martyn
Beautiful Marillion
On Camber Sands Gordon Giltrap
Dublin Day Gordon Giltrap

Then a selection of my own from

Gypsy
Solo Sunday
I Used To Know Her
Waterfall
Friends Welcome


Order needs figuring out - 3 are in Drop D so will need a rapid re-tune - also the reason I've left out Late Night Radio by David Gray as that requires the top E retuned to C and I just saw this all as a disaster in the making with too many retunes in the set. Two are capo first fret and three are capo third fret. So be led by ease of guitar setting or consider the flow of the set? To be determined.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

BBC Documentary on alcohol - Do I Drink Too Much

I watched the programme - Do I Drink Too Much? Last night. I recommend it - follow the link.

Very interesting stuff. I love the experiment with the monkeys that shows similar to humans in terms of break down of population it those with alcohol issues and those without. I did think the presenter who admitted his father was "an alcoholic" (Did his Dad come to that conclusion? Was he ever properly diagnosed as such? Or was that just an assumption?) and I think he was desperate to not be like his Dad.

One moment in the whole programme smacked me in the face as he talked about a pub he was stood by where his Dad drank every night after work before coming home, and he described the scene as his Dad came in the house after those drinking sessions. He wondered if his father understood or worried about his drinking and the effect it was having on him. I can't answer that obviously no-one can now his Dad is no longer here but that pattern was so close to my own experience it hit a raw nerve. I can answer for me - I did worry, I did know for years, I did try to stop and fail repeatedly, I tried to control it and was deluded I could on occasions until towards the end when the giving up, trying to control it and then bafflement as to why I was back out of control again became a frightening roller coaster hurtling me towards a predictable end. Death. By accident, by my hand or eventually by some failing of a major organ through alcohol overdoes. I sadly didn't realise in the midst of that grip of the disease at that time the damage it was causing my family. I was never really violent towards them, I was occasionally abusive but really I stole them of peace of mind, I gave them cause to worry and be concerned unnecessarily and I robbed them of a father and husband.

I am an alcoholic, that diagnosis was my privilege having heard others experiences and related my own, how I drank, why I drank and most importantly how I felt about it and how I felt about me and life and my place in the universe. In a room of other self confessed alcoholics I find a bond that is beyond discription I just know I'm one. In the programme the presenter had brain scans whilst intoxicated and a genetic test done to look at whether he met the pattern that shows a predeliction towards alcoholism - fair enough if he needed that. Me I don't. I know exactly what I am. My name is Graham and I am an alcoholic.

Interesting programme although some of the talk about designer drugs to replace alcohol with something less damaging made me smile. Sadly an alcoholic would simply abuse that replacement no doubt the issue being how our brains and personalities need to be satisfied. So nice idea and maybe with some merit but I don't think it removes all the issues by a long way.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Just call me the frog catcher

So last night again we had to rescue a frog that was under attack from one of the darn cats from next door. I managed to grab it and get it in a bucket that we kept in the garage until after dark and the cat had gone.

At least on this occasion my daughter wasn't in the garden screaming like mad... not at the violence of the cat but just because the frog kept hopping towards her!!

Overdue book reviews

I've not done a review of the last few books...

Excavation and The Last Oracle by James Rollins

I discovered Mr Rollins earlier in the year and quiet liked the first book I read - it was a wizz bang non stop global thriller. You know the type where the characters don't spend days in departure lounges or immigration queues so that the plot can move fast from one location to the next.

Both these were very much in the same vein but sadly I now realise Mr Rollins has a formula. That is ... take an ancient legend which has a lost location/temple etc. queue an archaeologist or the like who can find that. However there is always some baddy involved who wants to stop it for some reason.

I preferred Last Oracle largely as I'd recently thought of a book I remember reading that was brilliant called about Savants - I think it was by James Clavell. Anyway I can't find it on Amazon to get it to re-read as I can't remember the title and it doesn't look like it was a Clavell... Anyhow Last Oracle includes kids who are autistic savants and it was some weird connection thing that I'd recently searched for that book then read this one. Gets a "good holiday read" from me.

Conn Iggulden - Bones of the Hills.


Last in his trilogy of Gengis Khan. These have been great reads which have really opened my eyes to the amazing story of this man and the great people he firstly forged into a nation against the background of battling tribes and then conquered a large part of the world. To be frank if he'd have like I'm sure he could have just carried on walking through to the end of Europe if he'd have so chosen. A lot of his life is myth and legend so there is licence to make this a novel but I thoroughly recommend these books as engrossing reads. However this one in particular was pretty savage throughout as it documents his last campaign against the Arabs at the eastern end of it empire.

I'm now reading Bernard Cornwells The Burning Land - which shouldn't take long I can't put it down! He is a great writer for me, he just captures me and takes me straight there. This is the fifth in his life story of a pagan lord who bizarrely has ended up one of pious King Alfred's most trusted generals at the birth of the nation we now know as England. Great stuff.

Monday, 12 October 2009

Biting the bullet

So Toby Burton over at Rock-Til-You-Drop has offered me a place on one of his up coming Acoustic Afternoon in London in November.

Someone said to me the other - "So what do you really want to do with your music?" A relatively straight forward question but one actually I struggled to answer easily. To be truthful I didn't really know. However I have some songs/tunes in the works that have been tripped out on my acoustic for a while now and apart from one or two being up on Youtube I've done nothing with them.

I'm not a great singer but there are probably worse out there, so what the hell I'm going to make my debut as a solo singer/guitarist. Now to find 30 mins of material!!!

Actually that hasn't proved as difficult as I first feared. A couple of David Gray covers are ready for polishing off ready and ideal solo guitar/singer material. Hmm - a little rearrangement of one particular Marillion song and I'm sure that'll work. I have to include my tribute to the late great John Martyn even though I don't play in his style and clearly never ever consider myself to emulate his amazing vocal style.

What else? Oh yes an acoustic version of an old Ocean Colour Scene number I did with a band a few years back that worked well. There are a couple of Gordon Giltrap pieces that are regulars when I sit to play and despite them being a bit of a technical challenge they fit how I'd like to project myself, i.e. someone who can play a bit of guitar.

Then I looked to my own catalogue, there are a few little instrumental numbers - one of which has received several plaudits from those who've come across it on Youtube. There are also a couple of self penned songs, one reasonably new - well the lyrics are and another I wrote some years back whilst in a covers band but we never took it anywhere as it didn't really fit that bands style.

Now to practice and learn them all so I don't make myself look a complete numpty...

More updates to come on my progress.

Saturday, 10 October 2009

This too shall pass...

That phrase has been good to me in the last couple of months. As you all know (regular readers anyhow) I've not been well ... to briefly recap.

  • Stress at work - self induced

  • Busy holiday in very hot/humid New England

  • Vertigo attack on hols

  • More Vertigo attacks at home

  • Time off work

  • Stress because of time off work

  • Back to work full time too soon

  • Stress!

  • Panic

  • Chest pains

  • New medication

  • Off work

  • Slow return to work


Through all of this I've had to tell myself - this too will pass - in time. And it appears to be doing so. No doubt the road that is life will have another hairpin turn or sudden dip I don't see coming and that'll either cause the breaks to have to be applied or a crash that'll require some form of recovery truck to pull me out of a ditch.

Work - I'm in a much better place with it all. Still too much to do and frankly a load of utter nonsense as to what we are doing. I used to get it about what our company did and what I did in that to help it do it... now I just go in potter about, try to move somethings forward and generally try to not get in others way. At least it's not preoccupying my head space like it was though.

Health - I feel a lot better. The vertigo is a lot better, the chest pains better and overall I probably feel the best I have in at least a year but I'd not really noticed how I'd been going down really.

Music - So I said I wanted to get a band together. Given my health that faltered. I spoke to a few people but there are a load of hurdles to cross on that one... finding people of likemindedness who'll stick with it, rehersal time and space, finding places to play (rare locally to me), material etc. So given I'm more interested really in original music I've decided to write and record only at the moment and then see about whether what comes out gets people interested in playing that. I met a guy local to me who has built his own little studio - for a home set up it is marvellous - frankly I know little about it but near professional standard. This guy has a lot of experience playing live, touring, recording and writing. So the intention is to take some of my stuff into his studio with him on the controls and as an additional writing partner. I've already outlined two songs to get going on.

Secondly I might have a solo acoustic gig coming up in Nov - what this space. I'm working on the set list now.

I feel re-energised esp around the music... of course the joke is that ... this too shall pass... :-)

Thursday, 8 October 2009

The current set up...




Rubbish photo off my phone... must buy a new camera!!!

This is the latest set up - just treated myself to a new set of cables to properly wire the FX in on the loop from the amp.

What the kids think of me...



Yes very funny...

the punch line inside of the one on the left is..

"...'Cos I'm your kid. And that's my job!"

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

New Toy



Mrs F's present to me for my birthday was one of these. A Boss Flanger. The name caused much hilarity with my giggly daughter for some reason.

Anyway - great!! Been years since I had a Flanger at my footstep. My continued move from PODs and programmed devices to real valve amps with knobs on and stompboxes continues.

I plugged this in played one of my tunes that I thought would benefit from a Flanger and it sounded super - all controls on 12 o'clock and it's there none of this 6 hours in a "push-this-hold-that" menu to get something I'd think... "Well it's close enough" just top quality sound that you can just tweak here and there if needed.

I've dug out my old Cry Baby Wah-Wah, Boss Chorus and Boss Delay. I'm thinking of getting a pedal board to mount them all on. Mrs F has offered to get me the Boss Phase Shifter for Christmas! :-) Set to Stun Me Zulu... oh he's in our local panto this year George thingy... "Oh yes he is!"

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Dictionaries

What's the point... I'm dyslexic... when I was a kid I was told to look up words I couldn't spell... but the bloody thing is in alphabetical order if you can't spell what's the point - how far after aadvark do you give up?

beaurocracy is the one that had me baffled for too long today...

Restart, rewind, replay... pause

I think that's a line from a Rush lyric. Whatever.

Last night I went to one of the regular AA meetings I go to. It was quite a few folks are off globe trotting the lucky buggers so it was a bit less full than usual. The booked speaker failed to show up so another regular member took the chair.

Boy what a meeting! She really said it from the heart, exactly as it is for her today, many years since she had a drink but still facing life's tribulations on a daily basis and as an alcoholic to do that without a drink can be a challenge.

So many shared back about how it can be bloody hard life at times. It was bizarre as a meeting that many might have thought quiet negative about recovery was in fact the opposite. All these people many with many years of sobriety talking about times when it's been really tough, either now or in the past etc. and all saying that they get so much strength from others who are facing or have faced similar stuff and got through it and didn't drink on it.

I was a bit reflective, possibly a bit down afterwards and this morning but as I say it's sort of worked it's magic with me considering my problems much smaller than some of what these others have had to face and also it's made me realise my biggest problem is simply getting on with it. I know that, enough others tell me that to my face but it still needs me to face it and move through it.

Today has been a pretty good day. I went and did the shopping for Mrs F this morning - and I found everything on the list... that must mean it's time for Tesco to alter the layout of the shop no doubt. I put it all away when I got back. Then I did some emails to do with some AA stuff. I had a coffee and settled into a days work. That hasn't gone too badly as well, including something I didn't want to do - i.e. tell someone how one of their team had performed on something yesterday for me... very poorly. I got a much better result than I expected on that one. Also I was chasing something that had caused an outage on a critical system over the weekend trying to understand and get to the root cause so we don't have the problem again - a load of rework was needed. Guess what a guy openly put his hand up and acknowledged he'd made a mistake. I've sent him a private personal thanks, it takes guts to do stuff like that at times.

Dum de dum de dum... that is how today feels very dum de dum de dum

Sunday, 4 October 2009

New music

So after a while with very little new listening pleasure the birthday and the time of the year has brought a bunch... so here's a quick catch up.

David Gray - Draw the Line

I like David Gray - actually I wish I was him in terms of songwriting and singing. This album is top quality Gray. If you like him you'll like this, but I doubt it'll win many new fans. He seems to have dropped off the popularity stakes since White Ladder but this album is as good in my opinion.

Muse - The Resistance


Muse go more over the top! A good album though with a lot of Queen hints in the arrangements and vocals. Probably more piano from Mr Belamy on this than before and less of a head banger feel than the last two albums.

Rodrigo y Gabriel - 11:11

11 tracks dedicated to musicians who've influenced them. Now these two have a very unique sound and style. Born from their thrash metal history it is however the rhythm work that sets them apart and that is very different. Often people consider it flamenco but they are adamant it isn't, correctly so it's actually very different. I thought they may struggle to match their first effort with this followup but they have done a very very good job.

Marillion - Less is More

An "acoustic" remake of several tracks off past albums. It isn't totally "unplugged" to be fair but the stripped down nature, new instrumentations and arrangements are very refreshing. All in all for a bunch of previously released stuff it is worth getting... there again I'm a Marillion nut so maybe I'm biased.

Saving the planet

I think I am... my Peugeot 406 SW - i.e. a large family estate car, fully loaded with me, Mrs F and Son-of-Furtheron and all his possessions needed for the new year at uni. 600 mile round trip roughly, M25, M1, M6, M54, A5 then the little roads to the wilds of Wales... 50mpg!!! Yes 50mpg! Stick that up your expensive, full of so many metals that'll cause more misery for longer in the environment, hybrid!

Friday, 2 October 2009

Getting better

The good news is that I'm feeling much better at the end of this week. Finally admitting to the problems I was happening and giving into my body telling me to take it easy has obviously been the best result.

I had an ear test at the hospital today as part of the vertigo investigations. They could compare it with the test I had 4 years ago when I first had real issues with the vertigo. The result was that my right ear has an almost identical result - that is the one that has the worse hearing loss in it, I blame the big band jazz band I played in for a couple of years - I stood normally far stage right as you look at it and therefore my right ear was exposed to two drummers and a large row of saxophonists within feet of me! :-) The left ear, the side I have the tinitus and the side of my eye issues during my attacks however was actually slightly better than the previous result.

That is to some point good news. If I have Meniere's then your hearing gets worse every attack on the side you have the issue, so this is a further pointer to my issue being Migrainne Associated. Given this week I feel massively better than last week and the headaches have greatly reduced now I'm on the beta blockers, plus the working less hours and a very conscious effort to not let stuff bother me as much I'm convinced in the end this is all stress related.

Tomorrow will be my 47th birthday and we're going to go out for a meal somewhere for lunch since the evening is already occupied with Daughter-of-Furtheron being in a swimming gala. She was busy in the kitchen last night and I was told not to enter and now a beautiful victoria sponge is awaiting us to tuck into it! :-)