Sunday, 31 January 2010

Pointless things to do on a Sunday Morning

Number 28

Following from Number 27...

Washing the car when it is so cold the water freezes on it and also makes the drive a skating rink and likely to catch the unaware mother-in-law when she comes up for tea!

Also - my outside light... damn thing keeps not working, get up on the ladder unscrew it fiddle a bit and it works again... Grrr! Maybe I should just buy a new one, I noticed one like ours for only £10 in B&Q.

Last thing - printing passport photos out. Became really stressful! Mrs F needs to send her licence back (least said the better) and needed a new photo done what a palaver.

Friday, 29 January 2010

How rich am I!

I was studying the summary of the governments inequality report that was reported in the press earlier this week.

Now I know that in regards of the whole world's population I (like most really in this country) is extremely well off. I also know I pretty well off and well paid compared with the average in the country.

However what surprised me was how well off I am in comparison to a lot of people in this country - I was further up the tables than I was expecting. See whilst I live in a "nice" house in a "nice" area and we have food on the table, clothes in the wardrobe, warmth in the radiators, can afford some luxuries and don't really have to scrimp to make ends meet I'm not exactly Rockefeller you know. I don't live in a mansion, my kids go to state schools, my fleet of automobiles is actually one that is a company car anyway and the other a 1.4 little town runabout for the Mrs... not a Ferrari, Rolls, Bentley etc. in sight. I'm comfortable yes, as I say we can say things like "Let's eat out tomorrow" and I don't have to worry where the money will come from and if my son called me today with a problem in Wales he needed us to go there instantly I could do it again without worrying about breaking a budget.

I try hard not to take what I have for granted but I don't always succeed, this report was a bit of an eye opener to me.

Old bass finds loving new owner...


Regular readers may remember I sold my old Peter Cook bass late last year to a guy I met via a chat on a vintage guitar forum... I know that is very sad but...

Anyway I got a lovely email from him telling me he loved the bass and had set it up to his style etc and figured it's versatile, unique and confusing control system. He had recently gigged it and included a photo of it finally back where it deserved - on stage being used.

See a guitar isn't just for Christmas it's for life :-)

MRI scan done!

So I'm glad the scan is done. I hate those machines! Firstly I get claustrophobic, just talking about pot holing or things like that make me feel mighty scared. So they lay you down and push you back into this tube that is no bigger than the inside of a Christmas Cracker. My instant reaction is to scream and push the button to ask to come out. This one had a mirror system so you could see the operators who were behind about 2 ft of bullet proof glass and steel doors! However the system sort of makes you think you are standing up if that makes sense. With my balance issues that was something the brain just wouldn't suss at all so I wouldn't look into that.

Then there is the noise - I think having a dustbin on your head and someone smacking it with a baseball bat would be preferable. So they say things like "Right this one takes 5 mins, please try to stay still"... Then this bombardment like being in the trenches starts and the whole machine shakes like it's a Saturn V trying to break the lock of earth's gravity. It stops... "Hello - we'll do that again it's fuzzy, try not to move" GRRRR!

Anyway all done now - hopefully the result will be like the last one... "Nothing found" which of course being it is of my head proved the funniest thing since the dawn of time to my darling wife!

It also doesn't help that my son takes great delight in telling me exactly what these things do to the molecules inside your head - frankly I'd rather not know!

We had to go to my daughters parent evening last night. Comments like "very capable pupil", "Highly intelligent", "More than capable", "imaginative" etc. We clearly are paying her too high an allowance if she can bribe like that! :-)

Monday, 25 January 2010

Saturday outpatients clinics... and other weekend stuff

Saturday outpatients clinics are possibly a good idea. There was no one in the car park and the hospital virtually empty, plus I was seen bang on time and felt had more time as the consultant wasn't behind trying to make up time. The good news (as I type this I'm desparately looking for some wood to touch) is that I've been really good since the last attack back about three weeks ago. Hopefully the road forward will continue like this. I couldn't find a link to foodstuffs and in the end the consultant agreed that stress is probably the biggest influence on the condition.

I've got to go and have an MRI scan this week now - that is 7:45am! Doesn't really mean a problem as I'm normally in the office by then anyway and hopefully it'll mean the car park is clear again. I had one some while back and hated it! I'm not great in confined spaces and the noise really does do my head in!

Most of the rest of the weekend had a huge music focus to it. Mrs F and Daughter-of-Furtheron went to a schools swimming gala on Saturday, amazingly my daughter was the only representative from her school... which even though it's the smallest secondary school in the area I thought was a bit odd. She didn't quiet get into the final and the rules were she could only be in one event. Anyway while they were out I got around to recording two songs that have been on the boards for a while.

They are available in the player on this page... eyes right --->

Rise Up - this is based around a lick I had written ages ago on my old Yamaha 12-string. I then came up with an idea of a verse chord pattern which is basically rising through an Em scale in a pentatonic scale. The lyric idea of "Rise Up" came from the chord pattern idea and I had some lyrics fixed - the song is dedicated to anyone who has had their self-worth/self-esteem knocked down by people and is a call for them to "Rise Up".

Within
- a lyric idea I've had for ages. There is a phrase I heard years ago "Comfortable in your own skin" that I've wanted to write a song about. Firstly since at the time I heard that phrase (about a year before I went into rehab but after I'd started to really try to do something about my drinking problem) I had absolutely no bloody idea what it meant. Honestly I was that lost at that point. So this is another one of my recovery songs, it's about someone who is now comfortable in their skin and able to look at themselves. So I had some half written lyrics and then the chorus lyrics solidified from that and I just doodled about until a simple little chord pattern suddenly sounded right. A little thought and that was fixed... for the interested it is G, C+9, Em7 and D (with a sus4 trill). Now the trick... I leave the D and G held on the top two strings through all chords apart from the D so they stay the same as the chords move around below - well I like the way it sounds.

Sunday I ended up giving my aging Squier Strat a much needed clean and set up. There was a lot of gunk on the fretboard - but I can't remember when I last cleaned that out! I polished up the frets with the great Planet Waves fret polishing system which does a good job for the DIYer. However I have to admit that as the old girl is approaching 30 a fret dress if not a total refret might be on the cards as they are beginning to look well worn, not that it is affecting playing yet but I think soon it might on some bends. New strings and a little bit of intonation adjustment and brilliant. I restrung the Les Paul.

I was listening back to the Sat evening Drunk Punk show whilst doing this lot. Now I started recording the two songs above about 1pm on Saturday and their they both were out on the show by midnight. How utterly amazingly cool is all of that! I am again in so much debt to FourDinners for his support.

Later I was relearning a total 12 string classic (Give a Little Bit by Supertramp) and wondering if I should add that to my set list for the up coming gig. The 12 string is a nightmare to tune and I've struggled with it's action and intonation over the past years... now I'm thinking of using it live - I must be bonkers! But with Rise Up built around a 12string, Beautiful sounding so much better in it's original 12 string setting and now Give a Little Bit maybe there is justification for my madness. Maybe not...

Sunday, 24 January 2010

Big in Yorkshire

According to Four Dinners some of songs are "going down very well in Yorkshire".

Now that is good news but also a bit odd, here's why.

When I was about 10 I was asked to write a story at school. Now I was already music obsessed so no surprise I chose to write about a band who were on a tour in a little old van, I think it broke down and that was the point of the story them being helped to a gig. Okay - so what. The band was called "The Yorkshire Boys" and the story was set in the Yorkshire Dales as we'd visited there on a school trip my first one staying away from home without Mum and Dad.

So when Dinners told me this I was somewhat aghast! Funny how I so vividly remember that nearly 40 years later when I can't remember what I did yesterday at times!

Now do you think this prophetic and that I'll soon be organising a tour of Yorkshire? I doubt it somehow :-)

Line 6 JM4 Looper for sale


I'm selling my sons looper for him as he's found he's not using it much and as an impoverished student could do with some readies... although he found a fiver in a puddle the other day and wondered whether picking it up qualified him for tramp status. We had a vote on Facebook, anyway it bought him and his girlfriend a meal out... well sausage and chips from the chippie.

Anyway the looper is on eBay if you are interested.

Saturday, 23 January 2010

New songs!

Look at the player or pop over to my Reverbnation page to hear them.

Rise Up and Within.

You can join up to a mailing list by clicking on become a fan on the widget on this page.

Friday, 22 January 2010

Essential reading

A classic post from the creator of the Some Grey Bloke Vblogs.

None the bloody wiser...

I have toyed with making that the title of this blog on more than one occasion!

I'm 47 which on anybodies estimate should make me.
An Adult
Mature
Just over half way through life (if using current life expectancy averages - 79.3)
Older than the majority (average age in UK in 2008 was 38)

However despite all these factors in my favour I often feel completely at a loss in the world. Wisdom and it's application a dim ambition on a far horizon.

Glee? What is that? Everyone on the Radio was talking about it this morning - I've seen numerous episodes have been recorded on the PVR, presumably by my daughter. No idea? I watched a couple of mins of Big Brother and said "That guy looks like Vinnie Jones". My daughter in that teenage exasperated way explain it was him ("DEERRRRR!") since it was 'celebrity' big brother. Who the hell are the others then?!?!?!? Anyway the few mins I tried to watch this to "bond" with my daughter was more than enough and I soon withdrew. Reality shows... reality?! Oh yes I didn't see the TV awards thing but how do shows with celebrities in them qualify as a talent show? Ben Elton's horrific post apocalyptic vision from This Other Eden seems to be closer to truth than fiction by the day.

Whilst thousands die in Haiti and we struggle with the recession, global warming and conflict both in the "war zones" in the middle East but also more importantly in the melting pot of our own multicultural land. What do you get on the front of the papers? Tiger Woods snapped in a clinic reportedly being treated for his sex addiction. Tiger - good on you, confront your issues openly and honestly and I wish you well in your recovery. However why the hell is this front page news?!

You know the older I get the less I understand.

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Good days... bad days...

Sometimes they are the same one... Yesterday I helped out a colleague who has inherited a guitar from his Father-in-Law. He doesn't play himself and therefore was looking to sell it. It is a mid 90s Fender Strat made in Japan, with a large Fender logo but with a small Squier Series on the headstock. An odd mix as it had a vintage sort of look / feel to it but then some non vintage features i.e. 70s like tuners, modern style truss adjuster, skunk stripe on a rosewood fingerboard (odd!), a single ply scratchplate but with '62 position screw holes... yes '62 not modern I checked, a vintage trem but with more modern looking bridge pieces. Anyway it wasn't in bad nick, few worn frets in the lower positions, clearly someone who predominantly played open chords a little rust and some dents on it. I restrung it and did a quick set up, neck relief was ok and intonation close but the action needed a little tweak.

Anyway he has advertised it at work and if that fails then it'll be eBay bound I think.

So it was a laugh and fun to do. Also generally work was an ok day so I got into the evening feeling pretty good. Then I got a phone call with some news about a relationship issue in our family which I wasn't expecting. Suddenly I wish it was like the guitar, put it on the table, quick fiddle with some tools and polish and viola it's all fixed up. Relationships and life isn't like that though is it and I am powerless over these things, I can offer support, advice if asked and "be there" but there's not much else is there. This is the bit of existing in the world I sometimes really find the hardest - I'd love to dive in and just "fix it" but I can't and accepting that and doing what I can is the hardness thing at times.

A very relevant post given my blog title don't you think! Sums me up!

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Technology

Now I used to like to think I was technically savvy and not a Luddite about modern advances but... Is it just normal as you get older to resist change? Is it that change is now so flipping fast no one can keep up?

Anyway I have a new phone... well it's not just a phone it's a BlackBerry. Partly I got it as my boss had a moan I didn't have a company mobile that was on the list to be call in an emergency - I pointed out I had a personal one and that was on the emergency list, but apparently they won't call that in some emergencies only others you need a company one to get all emergencies. Don't you love the nonsense of large corporate policies I wonder where the hell that one came from.

Anyway - now I can do my emails while sitting on the loo. Why? I have no bloody idea! But here is the best bit... Mrs F had to show me how to make a call - simply using it as a phone nearly flummoxed me, then I couldn't get out of keypad locked mode.

Convergence - that is the buzz word on all this. Soon my TV will be my computer and my phone my music player... what the hell is wrong with just one thing doing one thing? Why don't people converge so that the Archbishop of Canterbury is also a striker for Plymouth? Because the bish is good at being a bish and not a footballer. I look in my "tool kit" you know a saw is a saw, a screwdriver is a screwdriver, a chisel is a chisel why didn't craftsmen like my Dad feel a need for convergence?

Grr rant rant... I'm feeling very much "an analog man in a digital age" probably the best quote to come out of the House of Commons in some years.

Monday, 18 January 2010

Happy New New Year

I've decided to restart the year. All the snow and hassle with that, getting to work (or not), schools shut, getting my son back to uni etc, the Haitian earthquake - how horrible is that? How it makes you glad of where you live, by total luck of birth pure and simple isn't it, I'm just damn lucky I was born here in the UK. It reminds you so quickly about the fragility of life and of our society doesn't it. If a quake of that size hit a large conurbation in the the UK would it be much different? Might be easier to mobilise relief from closer quarters but frankly when everything you take for granted, food supply, shelter, warmth, clear water is taken away I think we'd easily find ourselves in a similar position. You feel so helpless don't you? I've made a donation via the DEC website but that seems such a small gesture.

My personal biggest issue at the moment (which is in the grand scheme of the universe a piddling little trifle) is my job. I just loath it. There's no real reason for that other than I've simply run out of steam with my company I think and I just don't seem to be able to re-engage. I'd hoped that coming back to a New Year would be the impetus I needed but sadly not so far, but as I point out there have been some other distractions.

So let's have a New New Year for me.

I need to get off my arse about the job. I have been approached by another company and am exploring that but frankly it's the same type of job... same s**t, different bucket springs to mind. However maybe a change will re-energise me. Alternatively I'm thinking about a career change, I have identified a course I could take and a route into the new career via possibly some voluntary work. However to make that happen I could really do with a large chunk of money... like the redundancy pay that I didn't take last year. I was hoping that that opportunity might re-present itself but that isn't looking likely. Maybe a voluntary redundancy scheme will be offered and I might be able to find an opportunity to move on via that.

One thing I think I need to fly to the USA and have a bit of a frank face to face with my boss about it so he understands where I am and what I am thinking.

2010 will be a good year I'm sure.

Ever onward...

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

"Barely passable, with extreme caution"

I now know what that means when referring to a road over a hill in Wales!!!

In the end after aborting getting my son back to Aberystwyth at the weekend we heard that friends of his were making it back ok so we set off Monday morning. We had a really good run, M25 quieter than you'd expect on a Monday, the Dartford Crossing queue free for example. We thumped up the M1, M6 and onto the M6 Toll where we stopped for the usual exorbitant snack lunch. Push on along the M54 and A5... everywhere blanketed in snow with Kent where we live and the M6 Toll looking the biggest snow falls.

Into Wales through Welshpool and the amount of snow on the ground increased esp. through Newtown. Then the climb up over the mountains. Stunning! The most wonderful sight! It was clear and sunny and white peak after white peak in front of us and walls of snow and ice on either side. I remarked I was hugely impressed that the council had got and kept the road so clear esp given our local council has struggled to clear the bus routes in our town. Then down the other side to Aberystwyth itself. Bizarre! Hardly any snow, honestly it's virtually clear there, apparantly it has hardly ever snowed there.

Anyway Tuesday morning I get up and leave the hotel and start to head back. No more snow but the wind had picked up a lot, I didn't get 10 miles until I had to turn around. The first big slope up to the hills was covered and very very slippery. Most small vehicles were turning around and not risking it, I decided not to risk it if the locals weren't. The local advice (thanks to the ladies at the little petrol station I asked at) was to head south on the coast road and then to pick up the M4, a route I'd considered Monday but it is a lot longer in distance and time. With snow forecast for later in the day coming from the south I wondered at the sense of driving toward that region. Still, I looked at the map picked my route... to Cardigan down the coast road all the way then up over the hills and down to pick up the A40/A48 straight onto the M4.

Drifts! Never seen this before but any break in the road side cover and snow was billowing from the fields across the road. Most were a few metres long and easily negotiated. Others much longer. One had a van already buried in the remains of a wall where he'd gone too fast. One down hill caught me out; I stupidly touched the brakes and I completed the last 20% of it sideways and grateful the guy at the bottom had seen me and waited a long way back before he started his assent. Then over the A478 - it was good at the start and I climbed up behind a lorry I'd been following virtually all the way, he was becoming my good luck talisman I decided. Then more and more drifts, that were deeper and longer with the car bottoming out as I straddled the ruts left by my talisman ahead. I came around one corner to see the lorry disappearing in a cloud of snow. This was a big drift and long, I couldn't see the end and the wind was whipping a lot of snow across the road. Into 2nd gear and in I went. Suddenly all visibility was lost and I bumped along the ruts. "Sweet Mother!" is all I remember thinking. Another car suddenly loomed up going in the other direction, then again total white out as I edged onward. It can't have been much more than 1/4 of a mile but it was bloody frightening. When I got out the other side the lorry was a lot further ahead, no doubt he had some vision higher up... if not he had balls of steel! After that it was reasonably plain sailing although it was a much longer trip in terms of mileage and time taken than the day before.

Once on the A40 I tuned into BBC Radio Wales, I'd not done so before as frankly not hearing about the road I was on had been my philosophy... wisely! In the middle of the list of closures, including the A44 (blocked by drifts and at least one stuck lorry) I'd started out on originally there was this "A478 is barely passable with extreme caution"... oh that was what that was... felt more like total fear to me!

More snow predicted here tonight... come on give us a break, the school only reopened today for my daughter.

Friday, 8 January 2010

So like I'm a bit fed up of the snow now...

Schools shut.

AA meetings closed.

Swimming club cancelled.

Can't get to work... so working from home off the dining room table while the rest of the family try to be quite around me when I'm on telephone calls.

Clear the drive and it starts snowing again before I got finished!

Cancelled plan to get son back to university this weekend.

Blah blah!

Still things to be grateful for... I'm warm, have plenty of food, etc. really it is no hardship just pigging annoying.

Hats off to the people who do carry on working, we've had deliveries over the last two days, even if the parcelforce guys had to trudge up the road with my heavy box as they didn't fancy getting stuck in our road. The post man continues as well and Amazon met their next day delivery promise via CityLink.

Not felt brilliantly well this week, the tinnitus and balance issue there again, had a clear day most of yesterday but Tues night, Wed and today have been crap. Hey ho... this will all pass some point.

I was born in 1962 so was a tiny baby in the great freeze of 1963. It snowed on Boxing Day and didn't thaw until March!! The sea froze at Herne Bay! Apparantly my son says that the marina at Aberystwyth has frozen this year and temperatures are near the lowest ever.

Is this the result of Climate Change? Just cos on average the whole world is getting warmer doesn't mean that we might not have winters like this more often than not now?

Some politian said it would need £15m to clear the roads daily in the winter in the South East - businesses are losing £30m a day. So I think to myself surely they and us would pay more tax? He said it's be £60 a year on my council tax bill - that is £5 a month and I pay £130 a month now, frankly little increase it seems to me. But then I suppose at the moment I don't struggle to pay that like others may.

Where is music going in the next 10 years?

This post is in response to this post by Toby Burton which is itself a commentary about two other articles.

The premise is that a musician can create a sustainable business model if they can get 1000 "true fans" who will part with $100 a year on purchases from said artist, i.e. a turn over of $100,000 makes you a viable concern.

However there are many issues with all this that have me thinking.

Firstly 1000 people willing to part with $100 a year just on your material. Now I'm a bit nuts about Marillion but I doubt there are many years I'd get close to that and they are probably the artist I spend the most on any year. So say a new album is out I'll buy that, possibly on preorder and a special edition lets say that is £20, a gig with the Mrs say £30 a ticket and membership of the fan club that's £20. That does get to £100 but I probably only see Marillion live every other year so that's £100 on a good year. I very much doubt there are other artists I come close to... yes gig tickets are pricy but most of those I go to are not self promoted, unlike Marillion and Gordon Giltrap - there's another in this category and sadly he probably gets £30 one year for two gig tickets, £15 another for a CD and once in a blue moon something if some of his music is published like when Troubadour came out in book format.

This exemplifies the issue. firstly getting that money out of people is hard and will get harder is there are loads of musicians out there seeking more true fans from the populace.

Also pointed out in the articles is that only targetting at a very small market of the true fans can alienate the casual listener. Let me return to Marillion who were pioneers of this model with Anaraknophobia where they asked the fan club to part up front with money for an as yet un-written and un-recorded album. I paid - I'm mad like I say about this group. They did it again with Marbles and Happiness is the Road. However you can argue the albums have become almost too intimate between the band and it's select bunch of fans who fund them and possibly one reason Marillions sales and exposure have diminished. The casual listener is almost excluded from the club ... at the gigs the band often ask who bought the presale, how do those who've come along still wondering where Fish is (he left 20 years ago) feel? Excluded?

Toby talks about new music and I acknowledge his statements are true. I struggle to find new music to listen to, Jools Holland helps at times, Radio 1 does not! Recent new acts I've discovered came via either being at a festival (Paradise Lost via Sonisphere) and support acts at gigs (Fictionplane at Police gig, Phil Campbell supporting David Gray), luckily these days I have no reason to stand in the bar until the main act comes on, but I've often listened to these new acts with about 10% of the crowd.

Maybe music now will change since there is frankly little money in it really like there was, will fans continue to shell out of the live experience? That is where there is money to be made at the moment but forget releasing material illegal downloading has totally killed that.

Maybe music will go back and there will be more locally based artists with small pockets of support and everyone will be an amateur, maybe the ultimate ideal of the punk revolution (i.e. that anyone can make music that is broadcast) will be truely realised.

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Why I hate South Eastern Trains

We live in a part of the world that must have the most expensive and useless train service.

I've always marvelled at the East Coast and West Coast mainlines when I've used them. Jump on a train in Kings Cross - you get a nice seat and a power supply etc. Just settling into the book and bugger I'm in York or wherever it was I was going to. Cross London and then... hours of hassle with South Eastern.

So they now have the new high speed service - with "bullet" trains. Well if all bullets were like these guns wouldn't be the problem they are. The bloody things go slower than a degenerating old lady with a zimmer frame! My son paid the excess the other day to go "high speed" and arrived 45 mins after if he'd gone the slow route!!

Then cap it all New Year's Day. We had a massive family gathering and my sons girlfriend was travelling from West London to meet us at midday for the meal in Medway. First the tubes were running late. We look out... on no a frost! Only a little one but for South Eastern this was severe weather!!! WHAT!!!! We knew the first train she could get was cancelled. So the poor girl stood on Victoria station for nearly and hour to be told that the all trains were cancelled due to the severe weather!!! WHAT SEVERE WEATHER!!!! She went back home. And get this they refused her a refund which is outrageous as they offered no service. My nephew had the same problem but a taxi was an expensive alternative but they made the meal. Best bit - we have the highest rises in fares because of the investment.

This is the second decade of the 21st Century - it is frankly ludicrous.

Oh yes my brother had to change all his plans for his trip to Belgium over Christmas due to Eurostars problems. Why can's trains just run in Kent it can't be that difficult surely!

Belated Happy New Year

Happy New Year to all. I hope 2010 will be good to all of you.

Been busy the last couple of days with family and stuff.