Saturday, 31 December 2011

Furtheron review of the year

In the past years I've done reviews of the year so here to keep with tradition in 2011 Furtheron's reflections.

Jan - I got interviewed for a job having spent 7 months in the back end of 2010 out of work.  I was listening to Heaven & Hell a lot, recording rockier stuff and putting up pictures of guitars...

Feb - Started my new job, where I used to work it was announced that a full UK pull out of R&D was happening and all my old colleagues were losing their jobs.  Gary Moore sadly passed away. I played a gig at the Lamb and Flag in London.

Mar - I was working away from home and my post count dramatically dropped off.  I was really struggling with the job - not the work (although it was a stupendously big workload) but more the living away from home all week or a really bonkers commute - up at 5am back at about 8pm.

Apr - One lousy post!  I was really lost in the madness at that time.  I ended up leaving the assignment away from home, the company luckily offered me one back at my old place helping with the close down which was good as I knew the place, it was a much better commute but was very sad being there as hundreds of people left.


May - Went to see Rush at the O2 with my brother.  Posting picked up :-)  Bin Laden gone etc.  I went through my 7th AA birthday.

June - Tescobank - don't go there!  Useless just useless...   I hurt my Squier Strat in a stupid accident - I knocked it off the wall getting out a case when I should have taken it down first.  My mother-in-law had an unnecessary accident and we had a lot of disruption in family life as a result of that.

July - I was heavily affected by a great BBC play called Stolen about child trafficking. Daughter-of-Furtheron was away in Spain on a school trip... sounded more like a great holiday to me :-) Poor Amy Winehouse surcomed to her addiction sadly.

Aug - I was offered two jobs!  In one month!  I had got a job lined up in Kent with a similar commute to my old one but it was good not great money and whilst some said the company was good I heard other poor reports.  But then I got an interview and an offer of the job in London which I then accepted.  We had a terrific holiday in the Lake District even if Son-of-Furtheron did try to kill us with his mountain hike!  Mrs F and I went to a lovely wedding in the West Country too... busy times!

Sep - Still amazed with stories of slavery in modern England.  The 10th anniversary of 9-11 brought back a host of memories and I left my job and the placed I'd worked in for most of the last 20 years for the last time (most likely) as it is all being closed down and I wouldn't be surprised if by this time next year it'll just be a large pile of rubble.  Started my new job.

Oct - I entered my last year of my 40s... this time next year I'll be 50... 50!  How the hell did that happen.  Books - I was reading like mad now I was commuting to London.  One of the major advantages of working in London frankly :-)  I had a stunning PRS payment for royalties on my material - well it was several 10s of pounds :-)  Sadly Dan Wheldon died which was a huge tragedy, his career looked like getting back on track for 2012 with a good drive and the new car he'd already been helping develop.

Nov - I started to use Soundcloud which is a great vehicle.  I started on a series of chairs at meetings that has continued through December and into January I have one already in the coming week.  Funny you do no chairs for months then get a stream like that.  We had the bus ticket scandal to deal with - actually still dealing with they have so far still not reimbursed us for the extra costs as they promised - frankly Arriva your customer service stinks!  Lot of proud parent posts as my daughter became 16 and we had a parents evening and my son had some stunning photos on Flikr.

Dec -  Some acoustic solo pieces recorded following a request from someone for something they could use.  My use of Soundcloud led to one of the most amazing things of the year - I was covered!  Having someone else consider something that I'd penned worthy of them putting effort into learning it and frankly massively improving it then recording it was hugely humbling.


Gig of the year - few to choose from but I'll give it to Rush - they were brilliant as ever.

CD of the year - Blimey that is hard... I'll give it to John Martyn - Heaven and Hell since it was his last probably more due to sentimentality than anything else. Worthy of mention Elbow's Build a Rocket Boys, City and Colour Little Hell and Black Country Communion 2, Yes - Fly From Here (great return with a new singer) were big contenders as were late entries Steve Earle I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive and The Civil Wars - Barton Hollow.

Book of the year - another hard one... The Millennium series I'd not read until this year so they possibly get that as they were fantastically good.  Also I read Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks that was another brilliant book

Anyway - Happy New Year to you all I hope 2012 is a good year for you all.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Christmas music round up

I got three new CDs :-)

Peter Gabriel - Shaking the Tree.  Well not strictly new, I used to have this on cassette (any one under 20 now will need to go to wiki to look them up!) which bit the dust as cassette players reduced towards zero in the house.  It is a collection of his hits up to about 2000 ish - great stuff, Red Rain, Sledgehammer, Solsbury Hill, Don't Give Up etc. 

Steve Earl - I Won't Get Out of This World Alive.  Just under 38 mins - just like an old vinyl record!  12 tracks of utter brilliance frankly... super lyrics (e.g. Melancholy Malady) super playing throughout and Steve's voice just gets better with age.  Written in the time after his fathers death a very poigniant tribute.  Super duper!


The Civil Wars - Barton Hollow.  Fantastic debut from this Nashville duet.  They have voices that angels would have and together are just devine.  This is probably the debut CD of the year for me without a doubt.  If you've never heard of them try and check them out I'm positive you'll not be disappointed.

On other music front I got Tony Bacon's book on Gibson's odd shapes (Explorer, Flying Vee and Firebird) which has a good set of photos and I'm early on in reading but is as ever with his stuff well researched through interviews with Gibson employees of the day etc.

Also I have a new music book - Gordon Giltrap's classics.  I'm trying to learn Heartsong at the moment.  As ever with him it is almost a surprise to find something in standard tuning but still a challenge to come anywhere near his impecable playing.

I got some blu-rays (Cars2 :-)) and a condenser mic for use in the studio from my wife and son :-)  Looking forward to using that at some point soon.  I hope you all have a good Christmas yourselves

I should do the annual Furtheron review of the year soon... I'll try and get to that...

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Happy Yuletide blessings

... to you all.   Given I'm not a Christian it is a bit odd that I find myself repeatedly wishing people a Happy Christmas... my son heard the Yuletide thing and said about it... I'll try to adopt it from now on.

Our Yuletide is underway, the turkey is roasting, the veg is for the large part prepared and ready for cooking, all the presents are wrapped and cluttering up my music room before Mrs F and I play Santa and his little helper later tonight and put them under the tree.  My daughter has been baking mince pies, we've watched Muppet Christmas Carol and have Carol's from King's on as I type this.

I'm lucky I have my family around me, warmth, more than enough food etc.  Others will spend this Christmas on the street, cold and alone.  I should be forever grateful of what I have not what I have not.

I hope all you have a great holiday and celebrate whatever you want in the manner you wish to.  May the blessings of Yuletide from any deity that you may, or may not, believe fall gracefully on you...


Friday, 23 December 2011

Book Review - The Drowning Pool by Syd Moore

Just about to start typing and thought "Shit last time I did a review the flipping author popped up and made a comment. Therefore conscious of the litigious world we live in I ought to mind my p's and q's!"

I bought this book on a bit of a whim.  Piley and Mondo have a Tuesday night radio show these days (they no longer comment on here or talk to me now they are famous you know :-() and Syd was a guest on there a few episodes back.  Anyway due to that I looked out this book, which I believe is her first novel.  It was only 99p for the Kindle edition so given that was a third of what I pay for The Big Issue now and half the price of a skinny latte in Pret a Manger I thought what have you got to lose and in seconds it was on my kindle in my Tor Be Read collection.

The Drowning Pool is a modern ghost story set in the Essex seaside town of Leigh-on-Sea.  Sorry did I just say a ghost story in Leigh?  Yep that is what I thought too, surely ghost stories need to be set in isolated mansions in the highlands or something.  The whole thing is written in the first person as the personal account of the events that happen to Sarah Grey who has moved to Leigh with her young son after the tragic death of her husband.  She has a group of very close friends who unwittingly on a summer night hold a sort of seance that starts a series of hauntings of Sarah that leads her to investigate the death of a lady with exactly the same name as her some 150 odd years before.

It is a brilliant story in which the various characters in the modern day life of Sarah end up completely intertwined with the historical characters in the 19th century and the ending is somewhat cataclysmic and not what I was expecting at the start at all.

The one observation I have to make is that the modern day characters live in a world of alcohol and drug filled fun - the use of "recreational" drugs is talked about.   I know this is for many very much the reality of modern life - however for me I never got how any drug was "recreational".  My drinking was rarely if ever fun.  This isn't a criticism of the book at all, in fact it was truly enlightening of Syd to open this world a little to me. It only relates to me reading about characters in a world I simply cannot inhabit ; the "Oh I get drunk once in a blue moon at a friends gathering" and "I'll smoke pot when it is offered to me"... bizarre people what's the point in that!  Chemically induced oblivion only has any point if it is pretty much a constant situation for me... A small insight for me into the "real" world.  My wife has had a few "girls" nights out as we approach Christmas where she has the rare few glasses of wine or Southern Comfort., me I avoid the Christmas party at work and go to a Step meeting in an Age Concern building in Canterbury...  I am lucky that my wife has never really been a big social drinker... although that could be as a result of watching me slowly drowning myself towards death with booze - if she'd had the good fortune to marry a normal guy she might have a better relationship with alcohol herself... 'tis a family illness as they say.

Sorry - back to book.  Excellent read with a Furtheron double thumbs up.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Insincerity becomes you...

I got an lovely email from some lady called Liz who works for some website somewhere... apparantly they have a fantastic new product, I wouldn't know it is something that has absolutely no interest for me and not an area I can recall ever having blogged about at all on here.  Anyway she "ran into my blog" (sic) ran? into it... what it was on the screen and you headbutted your laptop from a 10 yard run up?  She says she "absolultely love(s) it"... really?   So given your product has nothing to do with guitars, sobriety, recovery, or pretty much any other subject ever referred to on here I get the feeling that isn't quiet the truth... 

Now for anyone else - here is something I've stated on here before - or on the blog that went before this that I stupidly deleted once in a fit of some weirdness - I don't do endorsements, not for money or anything.  I don't review stuff sent to me, my reviews are of stuff that I've actually bought myself.  I have turned down free offers/trials of stuff that is guitar related that I get because this blog is not about that, it is about me and my life it is not about making money or getting a free offer of something.

Another valuable lesson on life's little highway for me (to be honest I don't think Liz will be stopping by the blog again despite her protestations of affection for it so she'll sadly lose out on this little insight) - if you are going to do something, do it well, be truthful and honest with yourself and with those you are engaging with.   If I ever did blanket email people with a view to them reviewing and promoting my music for example I'd probably target blogs and sites that actually regularly have that stuff on them!

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Book Review - King's Man - Angus Donald

We continue with the latest enstallment in Mr Donald's retelling of the Robin Hood saga... through the eyes of Alan o'Dale or Alan of Westbury as he is known in this fictional setting.

The book is written as a memoire of Alan's written in his old age, this is like the others in the series, so the one thing you know whatever scrape Alan may be in he has to survive it or there is a major continuity blunder in store ;-)

Anyway these are good rattling, knightly rampaging romps.  Robin and Alan are now back in England following their travels on the crusade with Richard the Lionheart of the previous book.  However Prince John covetously is eyeing the throne of England and Richard is captured by some enemies he made on the crusade on his way back to good old Blighty.  This is all historic fact but within the factual parts Angus weaves in the acts of Robin Odo, Lord of Locksley, the Robin Hood of the legends to come.  He turns Alan into Blondel who is a legendary troubadour who allegedly did go to Germany to try and seek King Richard out whilst the King was  being held for ransom.  So a mix of historical fact and legend weaved in.  It works well and is an easy read without being as totally absorbing as some are.   I definitely enjoyed it enough to purchase the next instalment once released.

Monday, 19 December 2011

Christmas nearly here

It is feeling more like Christmas - Son-of-Furtheron is home for the festivites, I picked him up over the weekend.  Compared to some Christmas time drives to deepest, darkest Wales this one wasn't too bad, a bit of slushy snow on the road above 900ft over the mountains but not too bad.  I took today off just in case we had issues getting back but in the end I went out with S-o-F and his mate to the cathedral of consumerism that is Bluewater.   Too many people but he got the books he wanted and we then went to see the new Sherlock Holmes film which was good entertainment.  The cinema there has the new digital 4K projectors - impressive frankly.

So four days at work left, although a lot of folks are on leave and the campus will be very quiet now all the students will be gone.  So hoping it is reasonably quiet few days.

That's it really... not much going on in the Furtheron household just awaiting the day...

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Jamie Johnson - you heard him here first

Jamie performed at the Songwriter night at the Nags Head last night and blew us all off the stage - we all easily accepted that he was the only real flipping talent there - an amazing voice.

Go here and have a listen to Cloudy Skies.  You can download it and play it to all your friends too!

Then go and like him on Facebook to make his day.

A little spruce up

You may not have noticed but I've spruced the blog up a little... well on the right hand side where all the boxes and stuff is...

Firstly given it is pretty much the anniversary of my winning the Rock-Til-You-Drop 2010 Outstanding Achievement award I thought I ought to take that off the site.  Also I'm liking SoundCloud a lot so have replaced the Reverbnation player box with a couple of SoundCloud - I might think about actually paying for the premium service as I can then have a larger amount of "sets" to put works in which might make sense to then do and vary from time to time what is on here. 

Finally I've added a Facebook button to my Facebook music page if you like my music and are on Facebook please click that and then "like" me as a few followers of this blog already have.  I only use that page to put up music related stuff so you'll not get all the family drivel about how my daughter hates my leather jacket etc.

That is about it for this week really busy at work catching up before we all go on holidays.  I'm off to Wales to fetch Son-of-Furtheron back for Christmas first thing Saturday morning.

Oh yes I went to a Songwriter's Night in Rochester last night and saw a brilliant young singer/songwriter.  I've got his card somewhere - once I check out his internet presence I may well come back here and urge you to go listen to him - he was brilliant.  The guy who runs the night at one point said the rest of us might was well just sit back and let him play all night!

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Some more music on SoundCloud

Ok I had originally "kept back" these three as they were intended for a band project idea I never got off the ground.  I decided I might as well stick them up on SoundCloud... they are a certainly a bit different from the stuff I've recently been posting :-)

Demons by Graham Hunt - Medway
Looking for a lover by Graham Hunt - Medway
Might just be the one by Graham Hunt - Medway

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Golden Moment - Graham Hunt cover

I'm very humbled as Nic Evennett has listened to some of my stuff up on Soundcloud and decided to do a "cover" of Golden Moment... well frankly her cover is way better than my original!  Click on the linky to listen

Golden Moment - Graham Hunt cover


Here is my original for comparison - I think you'll agree Nic's piano and much better vocal and lowering the tempo to a beat I'd never be able to sustain (I'd speed up I know I would) really captures the original essence of the underlying meaning of the lyrics, a moment of total peace, calm and serenity.

Thank you so much Nic I am very humbled.



Golden Moment by Graham Hunt - Medway

This shows just one annoying thing I've just discovered with Soundcloud - I thought I was being a numpty but the embedded thing I figured out the other day appears to only be available for your tracks when you click on the Share button in SoundClous.  I suppose I can see the reasoning, anyone could embed the player thing without you knowing... but given you've put it up on SoundCloud would you worry?   Anyway please go click on the link above and give Nic's version a listen.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

The OFT

These are times of austerity, we all need to tighten our belts, make sacrifies etc. - hence my pension and my wife's will cost us more, hence we're to get a massively below inflation payrise next year but will have to pay £9000 a year for my daughter to get a degree which is the only way she'll be qualified to get a job in a coffee shop soon no doubt.

Right Mr Cameron and others I have one answer for you - Scrap the OFT.   I've read two bonkers decisions of theirs recently that defy all normal logic.  (OFT - Office of Fair Trading)

Firstly the OFT have decided that there is no need to limit the interest rates charged by payday lenders.  As long as they abide by telling people the rate that is fine.  These parasites charge up to 4000% - no I didn't mistype that - 4000% for short term low value loans.   OK unfortunately, dear government, your numeracy education has failed repeatedly over the last few years I pretty much guarantee that most people don't really understand percentages - if they did no one would ever borrow from these people.   So more of the most vulnerable will be forced into spiralling debt due to the decision that "such (price) controls may further reduce supply" (OFT report).

Secondly our local paper closed this week after 156 years loyal service to our community.  This put 35 people out of work less than a month before Christmas.  The reason the paper closed?  The OFT.  Yes honestly it can be laid pretty much straight at their feet.  The owners were trying to sell that title and some others to a rival to combine with their own (in my view much inferiour) product.   The OFT decided to refer this to the Competition Commission because of the concern about the new owners having a monopoly in a particular area - hey look at water supply in my area or train services... where's the competition there?  The new purchasers withdrew the offer that day, citing the cost and length of time it would take for them to take part in such a review.  So a matter of weeks later the paper is closed completely all staff lose their jobs and the rival has the monopoly that supposedly was the concern.  By the way the OFT were told that this is exactly what would happen if they made the decision to refer this case!

Utterly bonkers!   Hello men in ivory tower... earth calling!  So we need to save public money I can offer you the OFT as I fail to see how this is actually helping the man in the street at the moment.

The few...

What would you think is the exclusive club in the world in terms of exploration?  Those that have best Mt Everest?  Sadly no longer you can virtually book that on a package deal these days.

Easy then you think, the men who went to the Moon - there were 12 in total of them... interestingly there is the same number in the club of "men who flew to the Moon but didn't land".  (Source Wiki).

No the one that I think probably beats them all, and interestingly beat the first walk on the Moon by about 9 years is the Men Who Have Been To The Bottom Of The Ocean.  Truly only 2 men have done it, Don Walsh and Jacques Piccard in the research bathyscaphe Trieste in 1960.

This story reported by the BBC is interesting as there has been a whole plethora of new survey's being done in the Pacific at the moment, the devastating tsunamis of recent past have allowed for an influx of research money.

The estimate now is that the deepest point is actually about 10,944m give or take about 40m based on the accuracy of the kit.  11km to you or me.  That is 6.83miles in old money or a couple of furlongs short of 7miles - that is a heck of a long way.  You could drop Everest in there from the very very base up, i.e. from sea level and it would still disappear under the surface.

There is a new race on to go back to the bottom - and now these guys can do it with a much more accurate understanding of the sea floor due to this recent mapping. But still seems amazing that there is a place on the earth that man has visited substantially less than we have visited the Moon.

Interesting cheap guitars, TC wizardry, Rice Guitar pickup giveaway

So in keeping with the title of this blog something about guitars for a change... actually 3 things.

Firstly - CH Guitars have some different from the run of the mill guitars for sale via eBay at the moment.  These include this take on the Fender Broadcaster (to be renamed Telecaster) prototype that Leo first made.  Given only one pickup it is more an Esquire-a-like I suppose.



Secondly - how about this.  A 12 string Les Paul - ooohhh!  Seriously I'm mostly putting this up here in the hope one of you will buy this and stop my head going "buy it... buy it"...



The good news is the prices - £249 for the Tele and £349 for the Les Paul!! Go check out there is also a nice looking sunburst Fender Tele Deluxe copy for only £299 as well.

Now here is the coolest thing I've seen in technology in ages.  TC Electronic have a long established reputation for quality kit.  They have introduced a new range of compact effects pedals with the "Toneprint" feature.  This is in itself already neat - the pedal has a small usb connector on it, you plug that into your computer, go to their website, find a "Toneprint" (i.e. patch) you want from some famous muso and down load it into your pedal.  How neat - esp useful I'd have thought for session or covers band players but then... hang on you go to the studio guitar, lead, pedal(s) - you aren't going to hump the laptop are you.  So now you don't need to if you own an iPhone.

You download their app for the phone (free) - on the phone you navigate to the TC site find the Toneprint you want and then you beam it to your pedal by holding the phone over an active pickup on your guitar - it goes through the pickup down the cable and viola the pedal is reprogrammed.  At first I a) thought this was a gag - check not 1st April b) thought it so Star Trek ... but it does work.  Holy Moly!



Finally there is a pickup give away going on over at Rice Guitars - if you go to their Facebook page and click on the link etc. you can win yourself a $250 set of handwired Strat replacement pickups.   Got to be worth a go.

Monday, 5 December 2011

Book Review - Trinity Six, Charles Cumming

This is the first Charles Cumming novel I've read and I bought it because it was one of those "if you liked that you'll like this" recommendations.  So I downloaded it onto my e-book reader - oh yes I'll say a little more on that in a moment... and gave it a go.

Very good in general, very typical modern intrigue filled modern day spy thriller.  Of course the problem for modern spy thriller writers is that the old East (i.e. Russia) vs the West (i.e. UK and USA) antagonism of the cold war years has long since gone away.  So what does Mr Cumming do to address this?  Simple dig up old spies from the cold war and have them spilling the beans to a new generation with the hint of a big modern day scandal if any of this got out.  So why Trinity Six... remember Blunt, Burgess etc. well here is a claim of a 6th member of that group of spies recruited in the 30s but this one remains buried by both Russia and the UK to this day... imagine that Margaret Thatcher had never stood up and admitted to Blunts confession made all those years before type thing.

Actually it works well - for me more than interesting in that the hero is a Professor of Russian History where I now work!  Some of the scenes are played out at the corner of the road just outside my office... which makes it difficult for me to separate fiction from truth... this happened when Waking the Dead was filmed in an office block I once worked in many years ago and I found myself thinking - "So the murder happened just after I left there. I can't be a suspect or witness then"... err... it's fiction you Muppet!!!!  So whilst I've looked for the hero's office it isn't there... 'cos it's fiction you Muppet!!! Oh yes right...

Still we run through London, Winchester, Berlin, Vienna etc. at a rattling pace.  Good and bad spooks pop up all over the place and in the end.... well read the book.   If you like spy thrillers this is pretty good and I'll be probably reading some more from the same author.

Kindle Reader update

Mrs F bought me a Kindle for my birthday back in October and I've read the last few novels on it.  I like it, easier than carting a book about.  It is easy to read, or so I've found, only once on one train did I find light an issue but given that is a one off must have been me that day or the light itself.  Also it is really good for reference books.  I've only bought one or two so far but having them in a slim small little thing means you can quickly check something, put bookmarks in where you need to and quickly pull up the one flipping bit you can never get in the right order.  I know I'm trapped into the Amazon paradigm through this one and there are other more open choices out there but all the reviews say the Kindle is very good, I'd agree with that.  To be honest I'm a bit of an Amazon whore anyway so what the heck and finally it has worked really well with my account - it was quick and simple to set up and has worked fine since.  So I'm an ebook convert now... honestly I'm nearly in the 21st century!   Only one thing I'd moan about the Kindle.  Someone else can't buy you a book and send it to you currently which is a shame - would be nice for Christmas/birthday if you could buy a book for another person and then it download on the day - I'm sure they will fix that some how.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

A couple of solo Acoustic pieces

A couple of pieces originally completed as part of a commission for some royalty free soundtrack click on the link

Solo Acoustic pieces

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Furtheron Studios

I couple of quick (and rubbish!) photos of Furtheron Studios in full flight!

Firstly the chaos that is the music room!



Later on downstairs copying over the recorded material onto the laptop and using Audacity to clear off all the coughing and sniffing before I get settled!



Friday, 2 December 2011

Inspirational?

I have a great old friend who I worked with for a good number of years, he was briefly my boss for a while, a man I have a lot of respect for.  Very level headed a man who has seen a lot and done a lot and quite a humble chap.  He also edges more than a little towards the curmudgeon end of the scale.  Anyway one day we were reading an interview that had appeared somewhere from another old colleague of ours who was trying to climb the greasy pole of corporate success.  In this interview he was asked who out of his past and present colleagues would he say had been "inspirational".  I remember my friend just repeating with almost despairing incredulity the word "Inspirational?".   He couldn't quite grasp that anyone we worked with could be inspirational in any way.   It was very funny and over some years I've only had to say "Inspirational?" quietly under my breath to him for him to have a beaming smile at our private joke in whatever context that may have been.

In a world where superlatives seem to be losing their value in the currency of language daily everything now is "awesome", "amazing", "fantastic"... if you say something was "interesting" or "good" people look at you as though you aren't joining the party, you aren't on the programme.  But truly I try to keep the superlative for use when applicable.  My coffee this morning was "nice", it was "good" - it wasn't "awesome". 

I watched a series of speakers this morning at an event I was invited to attend.  One in particular was very impressive.  He spoke for exactly his allotted time, 10 mins, no notes, no PowerPoint slides, no prompts - no hesitation, no noticeable errs and umms, not flustered or too fast nor too slow and stilted.  What he had to say was concise but also far reaching, it was educating and thought provoking.  It was "very good" and it did indeed enthuse me.  None of the other speakers were bad, others were highly enthusiastic and humours, others clear and direct etc.  However this one person did shine out - a very special man with a very great talent that he has clearly honed into an applied skill. 

In 10 minutes I learnt a lot - and not just from what he said.  Inspirational?  Pretty close...

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Bublé!!

In a momentary lapse of reason I clicked on "add to basket" for the Michael Bublé Christmas CD when on Amazon the other week.  My wife and daughter both wanted it for the lead up to the festivities of Christmas.  Oh Lord forgive me - I must make amends!

It arrived yesterday and on the journey home I walked from the station to my mother-in-laws where Mrs F and Daughter-of-Furtheron were having dinner.  We got into Mrs F's car to drive home and they had said CD in the player and preceeded to torture me with it.  The drive home is less than 10 mins - I can walk it in 20 and wished I had.  Finally I had to crack wound down the window and screamed out "Help! Get me out of here they are playing Bublé".  The woman walking her dog seemed a little surprised.

Now Mr Bublé is very popular but every time I hear him I just don't get it at all, it is cheesy, sickly, dummed down crooning, and he is devoid of any emotion in any delivery of any song I've heard, I just see him swaying on stage winking at the prettiest middle aged MILF that catches his eye in the first 5 rows, honestly I really wonder if he started the whole thing as a parody and no-one but me gets it?

To restore my sanity this morning I had John Martyn on the MP3 player on the train and was moved close to tears more than once.   There is a man who could, write, sing, play and just pour emotion into his fingers and throat...  Mr Bublé take note, music is about emotion not simply play/singing all the right notes in all the right order.

I just found this fantastic version of I Don't Want To Know on Youtube from the great BBC Transatlantic Sessions series... love it!



Now see that's better isn't it... RIP dear Johnny - forever in my heart and soul.

Grateful

I was going to post about the economy, the Chancellor's statement (Osborne, not Valorum, though you might think we've gone over the dark side given the perilous state of everything), the strike, the debt mountain - I started typing it on the way into work after reading the paper.   But frankly is was a miserable post that concluded we are all doomed, capitalism is reaching it's ultimate zenith of a small number with huge wealth and the rest of us fighting for existence from the scraps from their tables.  So I binned it - what's the point?

Now what is worth talking about is that I went to a meeting last night I've not been to in ages.  No real reason except that family circumstances make Tuesday less than ideal for me to be out that night every week.  I had been invited along by the secretary to be the speaker.  Now 6 years or so ago this was one of my "home groups" I was secretary myself and the guy who is now secretary was himself a struggling newcomer who couldn't sustain a fragile sobriety and went back out there for 2 more years of misery before coming back again.  He is now sober, well, healthy, working - in fact doing remarkably well in his job, got a nice place to live, a new girlfriend etc. etc.  A sober success story and a lovely, lovely bloke.

A lady came in for her first meeting.  she wasn't well, her husband had brought her.  As I started my story she became disruptive, she didn't mean it, she needed a drink or some pills, her husband you could tell was at his wits end.  Two of the regular female members of the group took her out of the room and the rest of the meeting was held with her wailing in the background.  I hope she comes back when of a mind to be receptive to it.  You don't turn up at an AA meeting in the first place if it isn't shit - it clearly was very shit for her yesterday.

Gratitude - I'm sober.  How?  Buggered if I know sometimes I just don't pick up a drink now - I know it'll make it all worse not better.  I like waking up not feeling like shit, sweaty, head pounding, hating myself and the world and picking a fight with the world from the moment I open my eyes.  I'm alive, I'm sober, I'm healthy, I'm warm, I have food in my belly and licence for my telly - to quote Paulo Nutini.  He goes on to say that "best of all I've got my baby".... well for me "best of all I've got my sobriety"  (I know it doesn't scan into the music - forgive me)  without that I'm nothing.  And at the end of the meeting "the promises" were read out as is tradition at many meetings...  now whilst I can't say "fear of economic insecurity" has left me or "the feeling of self pity" has totaly slipped away in that room with a lot of memories of my early sobriety with some influential friends I'd not seen in a while I did indeed feel that I've made some significant progress over the last 7 years or so... not perfection thankfully my ego has enough of it's own will but some progress to be sure.

Monday, 28 November 2011

Gig Review - Gordon Giltrap Brook Theatre Chatham 24-Nov-2011

Another visit by Mr Giltrap to the old Town Hall in Chatham.  The Brook makes use of the old Town Hall's main ballroom which is a spacious but still reasonably intimate setting for Gordon's one man show.  I've seen him several times here now - Gordon has affection for Kent as he was born in the county and has many family connections still with the area.

As ever Gordon was on top form playing through many old classics, Dublin Day, On Camber Sands, Heartsong, Lucifer's Cage etc. whilst interlacing in material off his latest album Shinning Morn in particular showing off his capabilities using a partial capo on a couple of numbers.

As ever Gordon entertains between the songs with anecdotes, jokes and whimsical tales.  He is a man of very pleasant company.

For all the guitar maniacs out there here is my recollection of the guitars used

Vintage Gordon Giltrap signature
Fylde dreadnought
Fylde 12 string - 1970s vintage which Gordon recently acquired and frankly sounded fantastic!
Rob Armstrong "baby" guitar (Lord's Seat and Here Comes the Sun)
Rob Armstrong small bodied guitar - used for Appalachian Dreaming in replacement of the old "boot sale" guitar
Vintage AV3 semi - fitted with a piezo bridge, used on Dodo's Dream.

In particular the Vintage signature model held it's own given it's sub £400 street price against the £2000 plus price tags (at least) of the others on stage.  I'd seriously like to get both a 6 and 12 string model of that myself... however I doubt my playing will do them justice!

A brilliant night out - whether you are a guitar nut or not, a night out at a Gordon gig is really good.  Now I'm a player and there to be wowed by some of his brilliant technique but as he said "All that matters is whether you like the sound of the tune or not".  Spot on and to show that is more than true several times I found myself drifting off into the music, taken to wherever it wanted to take me and only at the end of the piece did I realise I'd stopped trying to figure out how he does the trills so quick or what was the strumming pattern there etc. etc.  Truly great music played superbly.

Book Review - The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson

The concluding book in the Millennium trilogy and a gripping one at that.  At the end of the 2nd book there was a tense ending with still unanswered questions (clearly) and this book picks up directly at the final point of the preceding title.

Once again the two heroes of the piece at Lisbeth Salander - who is one of the oddest main characters in any series of books you may find and the journalist Mikael Blomkvist. 

So firstly - you can't really read these books out of sequence, especially this one follows so much from The Girl Who Played With Fire that frankly I suspect you'd be totally lost before long.  However if you have read the first two there are still a bunch of questions to be answered about what happened to Lisbeth in her childhood and how none of this has ever come to the surface before. 

Without trying to give too much of the plot away Lisbeth is in hospital gravely ill and still likely to come before the court on a series of charges relating to the incidents in the previous book.  Blomkvist is determined to help her despite her reticence to ask for any help or to engage in any dialogue with authority figures.  Finally you start to get beneath the outer layers of her in this book and begin to understand, in part, why she behaves as she does.

The whole plot revolves around several groups and their investigations into the events and also those that will stop at nothing to conceal the original truth and there are a couple of interesting sub plots as well.

And the ending... well just let's say that the seed was very much sown for the next in the series... and there lies the rub and the real life bizarre controversy around this series.  If you don't know Stieg died suddenly just after the first three books were accepted for publication.  His long time partner had collaborated on these, has the uncompleted manuscript for the fourth and allegedly outlines for up to 6 more.  However Stieg died without a will and without marrying his partner Eva Gabrielsson so by Swedish law his father and brother inherited his estate, which with the sudden international success of the novels was not inconsiderable.  Eva has refused all offers asking repeated for the total rights to the works, not she claims for the money but to manage them as Stieg would have wanted. 

I'd love to read the 4th novel if it ever comes out.  There is a trilogy of films (in Swedish) and the first is a soon to be release Hollywood block buster.

In fact sooner or later the whole story behind the real life story may become a book/film... Larsson was himself a journalist who publicly exposed some nasty folks - not unlike Mr Blomkvist in the books.  His death maybe simply one of those things but I'm sure there is a list of conspiracy theories as long as your arm as well.

Anyway to sign off on the book - a compelling read if you've got into the characters via the first two books.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

The A13 blues

Didn't Billy Brag do a Route66 rip off way back about the A13?

Well it was hardly the road of dreams on Tuesday night!  We did manage to get to the gig all on time, but the air was blue in the Furtheronmobile at one point.  There is a bunch of roundabouts all together all with a gazillion cones around them and seemingly not one iota of a sign that might actually tell you what chuffing exit to take! 

Whatever - we got there as I say in time and Daughter-of-Futheron had a great time.  Mrs F and I retreated up the road to a little Italian restaurant with a good set menu and had a lovely meal - despite Mrs F's coffee cup falling to bits as she lifted up and coffee all over the place.  Anyway on the way back I checked the map - probably should have done more of that on the way up there and we got back a lot quicker than it took us getting there! 

I did also have a terrible nights sleep that night - been a long time since I've had a bad dose of insomnia but I really had a rubbish night being fully awake for ages between about 2 and 4 and only sort of dozing through the rest.  All normal service was resumed last night I'm pleased to say so it was purely a one off.

Off to see Gordon Giltrap in concert in Chatham tonight... living the dream or what - Southend Tuesday, Chatham Thursday when will my rollercoaster millionaire lifestyle come to an end?

Oh there was some show on the TV last night... looked like some rubbish magazine programme a bit like That's Life with Nick Knowles hosting.  Anyway somewhere along the line one of the presenters made some quote about students getting free bus passes... oh dear, Mrs F is a little touchy about bus related stuff following the great bus ticket scandal - so they got a berating email from her I think indicating they should check their facts before shooting their mouths off.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Sweet 16

Well maybe not so much of the sweet?  No, no I jest honestly.

Somehow my darling daughter is 16.  16!!! Where the hell have the days, months, years gone.  Her due date was 21st of Nov.  At about 3am that morning Mrs F woke me up and said "My waters have gone"...  So into action, called the midwife, called the in-laws, made sure all the bag etc. was ready.   Midwife turns up and says "Given your waters have gone I'm calling an ambulance" - I remember Mrs F strapped to a wheel chair thing being carried down our stairs by two burly ambulance guys with her in one of her uncontrollable gigging fits.

Anyway - as with our son guess what... nothing.  All day... nothing, I thought "This'll be like last time and she'll have to be induced etc.".   Anyway with my son packed off to stay with the inlaws I left her on the ward in the late evening, and went home.  To bed - be fair I was knackered having been up half the previous night ;-) (expect plenty of comments from female readers after that one ;-))

Just got into that deep sleep at about 11:30 and the bloody phone rings.  "You better come in her contractions are starting".  So in I go...   about 3am our daughter appeared with a mop of spiky jet black hair... which is odd as that soon fell out and she has been blond (in more senses than one) ever since.  I phoned my Mum as soon as I could - about 3:30 - well she had said to call her once the baby arrived :-)

But now she is turning into quiet some young lady.  I'm awfully proud of her you know.

Tonight her birthday treat is to see Example (look him up :-)) with her lifetime best buddy in ... Southend!  Yes Mrs F and I have to amuse ourselves in Southend whilst the gig is in progress ... Southend, Tuesday night, in November... living the dream or what!

Sunday, 20 November 2011

How do they get away with it?


I looked in a well known high street pawn brokers in Chatham yesterday. I just looked in and saw a '72 style Telecaster Thinline hanging up. It said on the ticket clearly Fullerton USA - £599. WHAT! I went in...

Even before getting within 4 yrds of it I could see it was a wrong'un but I asked for it off the wall for a quick look.

Hmm.... Let us start with the obvious things I noted.

1. No serial on the headstock - I think it highly unlikely one of these would not have one, some early ones may be but.

2. No bullet truss rod. EH! All Thinlines with humbuckers had the same neck as the custom, i.e three bolt with adjuster and a bullet truss.

3. black paint inside the body... what?

4. The bridge was held on by normal woodscrews... through holes in front of the bridge pieces as well as through the centre... again WHAT!

5. no Fender stamp on the bridge saddles, which never looked like been within 5000 miles of the USA!

6. pickups - gold plated. Yes you heard me... I know. No Fender logo across them and only 2 screw fitting - all thinlines had 4 screw adjustment.

7. turn over... four bolt neck plate. Wrong. With a stamped serial number... on a USA post 72 instrument!

8. Strings anchored through a piece of plastic set in the body.... sorry not 6 brass farrules...

So I hand it back to the guy and said "That isn't a USA Fender mate" and start to explain.... He was "too busy" and moved off. I pondered a call to trading standards but what is the point - sadly though a Coldplay wannabee may well get his Dad to shell out for it for Christmas, that would be a travesty.

New song called Partial

Click on this link to hear Partial

Influenced by David Mead - using a partial capo, covers the top 5 strings at the 2nd fret leaving the low E open.

Enjoy

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Jon Gomm - Passionflower


All you can say really is... Holy Cow!  Followed by "Pass the chainsaw I need to chop up my guitar collection and give up!"

Friday, 18 November 2011

Buying tickets for gigs these days

Coldplay - Emirates Stadium June 2012.  Tickets on sale 9am Friday 18th November 2011.  I was online, logged in and punched in 3 for the unreserved seating at exactly 09:00... after a couple of mins - can't allocate your request.  Try again - 7 min wait... think I'll be clever and start a second window - neat eh!  No they've thought of that somehow via Cookies I presume or IP tracing spot it and tell me to start again - bugger.  So go again about 09:10 now... more than 15 min wait.  Hmm... not looking good.  Not unexpectedly it tells me again cannot fulfill the request.   One last try - instant rejection... sold out!  What a joke.

So I try another site - that says all the cheaper ones are sold out already so I elect for the more pricey reserved seats... yippee success, however we'll need oxygen due to the altitude we are sat at and we're in a different postcode to the stage - how come they are £20 dearer than the nearer unreserved seats?  Oh yes - of course they were all sold out... in 10 mins.... so I had little choice.    Call me a cynical old git but I bet they are already available at inflated cost on the "fan ticket exchange" sites.  The whole thing these days is a total sham.  Still I'll have a happy teenage daughter when I tell her we can go to the ball... ;-)  And of course we're lucky I have a job where I can have a coffee and have unrestricted access to the internet... how anyone who works in a job like a teacher or lorry driver or policeman etc. is ever likely to be able to buy concert tickets in the modern world is frankly beyond me - seems less than equitable.  Maybe the old days of bunking off school to stand in a queue at the box office was in fact actually fairer.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Little acts of kindness

On this blog there is a page entitled "My Drinking Story" - it is actually simply an assembly of three posts that I put up on this blog around the time of my 6th AA birthday in May 2010.  I put it there when I revamped the template etc on the blog a few months ago.  Earlier this week someone read it and left an Anonymous comment saying simply "Thank you".  How kind of them, I've no idea if they are seeking a solution to their own or someone else's drinking problem, someone struggling in recovery looking for a bit of a boost to get them through a bad day, hour, week, month or whatever.  But how kind of them to just let me know that they had read it and were grateful it was there.

Someone else in the blogsphere who is a long term reader of this blog responded to a comment I made on their blog with another act of generosity and kindness.

Both these things are quite little in the grand scheme of things but they really hit me - it is these little things that really matter.  The saying thank you, the acknowledgement of someone else and offering what you can in return.

Service is one of the three sides of the AA triangle - the long serving AA "logo".  Service, Unity and Recovery - the three pillars that AA exists on.  It is at times easy to lapse into thinking that having a service position in a group, intergroup, region etc. is your fastrack route to ticking that box.  But service doesn't have to be about simply helping the wheels of AA be lubricated and keep rolling, important though that obviously is.  Service can be - helping stack the chairs at the end of a meeting, giving someone a lift to a meeting, speaking at a meeting and then there is the little clause in Step 12... "Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs".  Note the last 7 words.  It isn't good enough for me to be a "good" member of AA around AA only - I need to work at this everywhere.  Never easy.  Also though it shows me that I can look for some help, guidance and instruction from those in AA those that at times truly do understand the inner most workings of my head but also I should look to those in rest of society who exercise these principles without having to consider them as AA work in progress they do them naturally or through some other inherent driver.

It is easy to be ignorant, resentful, angry, bitter, argumentative, judgemental it is harder to be open, considerate, caring, kind, respectful.  To be honest I don't think our society helps much, turn on the tv and you are bombarded with people telling you this is better than that, the news is full of journalists telling us not just what happened but their interpretation of the motives behind it and the consequences of it etc.  The Eurozone crises for example - how much is that now at the state that it is simply since reporters have looked for a new doom and gloom story to again make us resent the bankers and the politicians.  The reporting of something as a "crises" rather than an "issue" leads to a "panic" not a "solution".  Maybe it wouldn't be different (how can you tell?)  but as I say may be more acts of kindness and listening without judging would do us all a better service.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Book Reviews - Agent 6 - Tom Rob Smith and The Legion - Simon Scarrow

Agent 6 - Tom Rob Smith

This is the third novel I've read by Mr Smith.  All three have had as the central character Leo Demidov.  Leo is an ex-KGB officer who has wrestled with his loyalty to state and party with his own inner moral code.  The two previous books Child 44 and Secret Speech were both excellent reads and I was looking forward to this one.  I wasn't disappointed - it leaps forward in timeline at times (like some films do) from Leo's time in the KGB in the 50s through the 60s and onwards into the 80s.  The plot centres on a tragic event which completely throws Leo's life into turmoil - one that will haunt him for the next 15 years. 

This is a brilliant book.  Really a fantastic page turner with shocks and twists at all page and there is more than one climax in the book - the final ending was for me extremely emotional.  There is a great deal of knowledge shown about Russia through the period and you do get under the skin of people living in that regime at those times.  It is an interesting insight to a world that I have no personal experience of, this might be a novel but it is a highly educational one at that.

The previous books have received much critical acclaim and this is just as good in my opinion.  The one odd thing like the previous two is that all speech is indicated in italics which takes a little getting used to.  Not sure why but it has been a consistent style through all three books so Tom obviously has his reasons for it.

Thoroughly recommended - one of my reads of the year so far.

The Legion - Simon Scarrow

The umpteenth volume in Simon Scarrow's Roman series still staring the intrepid duo of Macro and Cato.  If you've followed these since the beginning when they started as the "Eagle" series the boys have been to England via Germany and back to Rome and to the outer reaches of the other end of the empire in Syria.  Then the "Eagle" moniker got dropped and the lads continued their adventures ending up putting down a slave rebellion on Crete.  This latest book takes up the story from where it left off with Macro and Cato chasing after Ajax the leader of the rebellion who had escaped from their clutches at the end of the last book.  This time they end up in Egypt chasing Ajax and his band of rebels down and also having to take on the might of the Nubian (Sudanese in modern terms I believe) army in a battle to preserve Rome's control over the bread basket of the empire - the fertile lands bordering the Nile.

It is all good rollicking stuff - with individual fights and battles a plenty.  If you've read any of these before there is little different in this one, that isn't a criticism this is a winning formula so why change it.  There is one twist revealed right at the end as they finally corner their nemesis Ajax that I hadn't been expecting so touché Mr Scarrow on that one.  The other little plot twist on this one is that Cato is rising rapidly through the ranks and now outranks his friend and mentor Macro leading to some little tension between them. 

So all in all not a bad read - and the ending?  Well the next instalment is ably lined up and I believe already hitting the shelves in hardback form...

Friday, 11 November 2011

The bus ticket scandal!!

Here is a good one... frankly you can't make this sh** up!

We have for the last 4 and a bit years bought my daughter a termly season ticket to get to school on the local bus company.  Luckily the council just introduced a scheme when she moved to secondary school that allows us to get that at half price - yes unbelievable to many of you but until then in the free republic of Medway you had to pay full fare to get your kids to school!  Even at half price that is a lot of money - that latest one cost us £98 a couple of weeks ago... yes folks about £600 a year for about a 4 mile commute!  My £4000 a year to London which is 10 times the distance actually seems a bloody bargain compared with that!

Anyway - it has always been a family gag about the bus station.  They used to have to look the cost up in a book and then do a calculation manually on a calculator then write the ticket out by hand!  Recently i.e. in the summer they "improved" this.  Now they... look the price up in a table, do the calculation but then print the ticket on a ticket machine like the drivers have in the buses!  However they still have to write on the students name and the stops it is valid between!  (Dark ages really :-).  They then get a bit of company branded card and laminate it to that.  Brilliant.  When this new system came in my wife was told it was because the drivers wanted the tickets to all be the same style.

Since then my daughter has been challenged several times regarding the validity of her ticket.  On Tuesday morning finally one driver said "This ticket is a forgery you can't use it".  My daughter sighed and said - "Ok single to the school then" and bought a ticket.  "Can I have my bus pass back".  "No you will use it again it is a forgery".  My daughter was incensed - by now the whole bus is knowing something is up.  She states "That cost my Mum £98 you can't just take it off me".  He refused to return it.

My daughter in tears called my wife.  The driver refused to discuss the issue with my wife on the phone at the next bus stop.  My wife called the bus company - well a call centre located somewhere in the UK nowhere near us - to complain.   I called at 2pm to be told that the driver was "still on the road" - I very nearly wanted to quote HSE at them that given he took the ticket off my daughter at 7:20am I really hoped they seriously weren't suggesting he'd not had a break for the last 7 hours driving a bus with up to 70 people on board about!   My wife called again at 5pm to be told they had identified the driver but not spoken to him yet!

Next day we decided to leave it - no point in racking up expensive calls - it was one of those 0845 numbers which cost a blinking fortune from mobiles.  4pm my wife called - to be told that the following...   (The lady read it verbatim off the incident system)

"Driver took ticket as it was a forgery and Chatham bus station have dealt with it".

Even she was incredulous.  We'd had no phone call, no explanation.... nothing.   She noted my wife's anger and returned it to the duty manager of the area with an urgent flag. 

By now my position was that we'd never see the bloody ticket again and that either through incompetence or to cover tracks someone had conveniently "destroyed" it.  I was having fantasies of me having to go to court to get my £98 back!

Thursday - my wife gets a call in the afternoon at her place of work.  A very very apologetic man explained that the ticket had been confirmed as genuine, the driver spoken to and the ticket could be collected from... the place we originally flipping purchased it!  My wife went there straight after school with my daughter and it was "sheepishly" handed over by the counter staff, who made no comment and no apology either.

So we have the ticket back... for how long I wonder?  I still feel she will be challenged again and can't rule out the possibility of another confiscation as the drivers clearly have limited knowledge of their companies operating procedures.  God help them if they do - I think this time Mrs F will give chase along the route, board the bus and there will be the mother of all rows!

We are going to write a letter of formal complaint to the bus company firstly complaining strongly that they need to train their drivers better, that the way my daughter was treated was humiliating and degrading - she was in floods of tears and shaking with upset on arriving at the school, we want compensation for the additional tickets, phone calls and parking fees incurred and finally demand a written apology from the company and hopefully the driver himself to my daughter.   I don't hold out much hope - my ploy will be saying the letter is "open" and will go to the local press if they fail to act within 7 days.

This is all on the same theme as the other posts today - my daughter is a polite, hard working, diligent student.  She is on the brink of adulthood and at the point where she can put in the effort and sacrifices to study more, get a job, try to make a difference, pay her taxes, be a role model to others or she could... give up, treat people with disrespect, look to either live of the state, fiddle her taxes or fare dodge etc.

I hear many people crying out for the youth to show respect.  You know what?  Disrespect breads disrespect!  I see it daily - and sadly I have to say mostly by people in my generation or older - it is true the students and youngsters around me show polite respect most of the time the those around them.  Who the hell is at fault with the degeneration of our society.... I'm inclined myself to be on the side of the young currently.

The Student protest in London this week

A facebook friend commented about the protest in London this week "...shouldn't these bloody students/wasters of taxpayers money be in the f**king lectures they a moaning about paying for?"   I politely commented back that it is "reading week" at most London unis this week, meaning many courses have no timetabled lectures and also that Wed afternoon is traditionally sports afternoon as well so that the march was scheduled for a time when the majority of students wouldn't miss a lecture.   The tabloid inspired snap judgement made me smile really and reminded me to criticise from a position of little knowledge is a dangerous thing.   To be frank the march started at the bottom of the street my office is in - I could barely hear the protest over the droning helicopters and there were more police on the streets than protests and bystanders combined!  There could be an argument that the massive police operation was a bigger waste of taxpayers money.

An unashamedly proud parent post

I am a proud parent.  We went to my daughters "parent evening" last night.  They really are awful flipping things.  A hoard of parents all feeling madly out of place, this is my daughter's domain, the teachers talk to her with a closeness I find at times odd since I have pretty much no knowledge of them but they know my daughter very well, the building is an old school (some bits about 100 years old I believe now) my daughter knows it intimately pulling us this way and that way.  We arrive for an appointment, there are no chairs to wait on so the parents shuffle like naughty kids waiting outside the Head's office. Then the teacher shuffles the appointments apologizes for running late and calls you over.  Then the conversation is really with the pupil - rightfully so but I feel at times almost purely an observer in on my daughters life, just given an glance through a normally closed window.  The teachers talk about assessments, mocks, exams, grades etc.  It is all jargon that most parents no doubt struggle with.

But the phrases that some out are.  "Pleasure to teach", "always has an opinion", "is far better than she believes she is", "Shame she isn't considering this for A level", "I'm so pleased she's considering this for A Level she'll do very well", "A is easily obtainable A* is possible", "A* isn't in the bag yet you need to continue the brilliant work", "she listens really well, something not easy to teach to others", "A reflective learner who considers the feedback and always improves her work".

We leave after an hour or so with the impression that my daughter is clearly the best student the school has ever seen and will conquer the world in the future.   No seriously she is a very bright young lady who clearly puts effort into her studies, she also clearly listens constructively to the majority of feedback and endeavours to incorporate that into her future work.

Teenagers today seem to get massively bad press.... see my post about the student protest in London this week as one minor example of that.  However the majority of youngsters I come into contact with are hard working, care about themselves and others, have strong moral views on particular topics, want the world to be a better place, are fed up with the system us cynical old gits seem to perpectuate and often would put many of the "adults" in the world to shame through both their quality of thought and action.

So I am today an immensely proud parent - not just of my daughter but also the many of her friends we saw at the event last night who I know make up the majority of the younger generation - the ones who frankly given the mess we've made we should begin to entrust the future to more rapidly than we do.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Soundcloud vs Reverbnation vs etc.

Following on from the last post.

I've kicked off a couple of discussions on a couple of forums to see garner people's opinions on these.

So if you have any and are  a member of LinkedIn then go here or if you are, or would like to be, a member of Rock-Til-You-Drop then go here.

If I get much debate on these I intend to end up summarising in both places and back here at some point in time.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Soundcloud

Increasingly I've been finding more and more people are out there on SoundCloud.  So I've joined them, clearly MySpace seems pretty much long dead and Reverbnation whilst good is looking a little old and haggard in the fast paced changing world of music dissemination.

Anyways  I've a profile and a bunch of tracks up at http://soundcloud.com/grahamhunt-1 please pop over and say hello.

One thing with Soundcloud is that it very much is a mix of producers and consumers - there are a huge number of people on there simply using it as an on-line music juke box - which has been a restriction with Reverbnation for me the only people who join up are normally other musicians, Soundcloud looks a more direct to consumer method.

Having said all of that of course - if I ever get to 100 plays I'll be happy! :-)

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Gibson Firebird X

Gibson continue to court controversy with another new techno rich offering.

I've not even seen one of these in the flesh but have read a couple of reviews and seen the demos on Youtube etc.

What do I think?  Firstly I like the Firebird shape this being based on the second non reverse version.  The headstock looks odd, I think it had to be 3 a side for the robot tuning but I think an asymmetric shape would have suited the body shape better.  The finish... well personal choice, I'm not madly keen and would have preferred at least some natural or block colour option.  The body is ash by the way, different for Gibson.  I have a home made Ash bodied humbucker loaded Strat - I like Ash, dense good sounding wood only used from time to time by Fender and some others. Maple fretboard!!  Yep Gibson seem intent on pushing the boundaries of their expected norms on this one!


Now the technical bit...

It is too much to cover but lets try.  You have three pickups all different magnet types.  There is the robot tuning system Gibson have sold on several other models already - now that is bloody clever!  If you do use a lot of different tunings it must be worth a look at.

But it is all the built in gubbins that is really the main thing here.  On the side of the top bout of the guitar are two banks of sliders blue and red.  Blue control modulation, reverb and echo effects, Red compression, distortion and EQ.    Each of the three sliders controlling a different parameter depending what effect is selected.  You select them by the two toggle switches on the front of the guitar toward the lower bout.  They select the effect but also you twist your knob (steady now!) to mix in the amount of effect with the dry signal.

So - already confused!  Yes it is hugely versatile - but hang on I've got to select this, twist that move the bloody fader on the side!!!  You can store and recall patches... HOORAY!!!  So you fiddle set up the sound store it and all set for the show.  All of this is analogue electrics - which Gibson make a big noise about and so have some reviewers - although I'm lost as to why really...  horses for courses really.  I think a lot of the control built in here (more to come later) would fit to digital sound sources a la the Line6 Variax as well.

Oh I forgot - it has piezoelectric saddles so has an acoustic simulation mode as well!

Now - you get to foot pedals as well!  This allows quick recall of the patches and also one of them is an adjustable one so you can vary some parameters with your foot whilst playing.  THIS IS ONE OF THE BEST BITS OF THIS WHOLE THING!!!  Here is the thing I think will suddenly stick, it is simple but innovated genius at the same time.  These work by Bluetooth - you know the thing you use to connect your phone to a headset or to download photos from a phone to your laptop - it can do a lot lot more.  At last someone really using it for something brilliant.  No extra cables etc but external control of your guitars controls.  Ever tried "violining" on a Les Paul bridge pickup?  Not easy I can tell you...   with this idea that would potentially become common place - or jumping to predetermined pickup and control settings from a footswitch.  Trust me I think once others get their heads around this we'll see others jumping on this idea - if I made guitars I would be doing it now!!

So a leap forward or a leap too far?  Probably too far for most of us.  However I see this on sale at about £3,300 - there are a couple of places quoting under £3,000.   You all have that sharp intake of breath moment but hang on... Gibson Les Paul Custom £2,799 - PRS Studio £2,749... and you only get normal pickups and no patch / external control on them?   Think on it...

Gibson Mini Site dedicated to it.

Comprehensive demo by a Gibson product evangelist!

Step 10

Last night I visited a meeting I don't often go to.  I'm thinking I ought to go more often plenty of friends there who I don't see as much as I used to, plenty of strong sobriety etc.  I felt wonderfully at home and happy.

I was asked to be the initial speaker on Step 10.  It was funny I was asked on Monday and said "yes" as any good AA member should do.  But Tuesday and Wednesday I was thinking, not for the first time in my recovery, maybe I shouldn't do this - I'm a bit of a fraud I don't do it the way it should be done.   Hang on, what way it SHOULD be done, it is a programme suggested not mandated.  Anyhow on Wednesday night at my home group a young AA talked about his first year in recovery and touched on the steps including Step 10 and said like all the steps he needs to do it every moment of every day when needed.  I woke up at that and thought - "Exactly that is how I live it".

He was at the meeting last night - Kismet - another of those AA coincidences that do stretch my militant agnostic views to the limit at times.

Step 10 is about keeping personal inventory and when wrong promptly admitting it.  The 12 and 12 book (essay on all the steps and traditions) talks more about the spot check inventory than either a daily reflective balance sheet or a longer term periodical review.  But it is how I have to live these days - working at this hard in early recovery once I had learnt I could live with out the booze but "what now?".  If anger rises I have to look at me - pride, selfishness etc. often at the bottom of it.  Anger is no good for me that route lies drink.  Interestingly the sharing in the meeting had some polarizing views (not surprisingly there are as many programmes in AA as alcoholics!).  I side for me with the argument that anger is not good, it is a natural emotion but it is not the way to let it out etc.  I used other thoughts at these times, stuff I learnt from a psychiatrist on a course about interpersonal skills which had a lot about Transactional Analysis in it.  Rebellious Child, Critical Parent - these are modes where the anger in me will take me and it is not profitable in any relationship.  Saying how I feel is ok "I don't feel you are listening, appreciating my position here".  "I am frustrated that you can't get x done sooner" etc. that helps.  Tell them but get it away from me for a more productive conversation.

Also one great thing that I learnt from someone very early on... "You have to give everyone the right to be wrong"...  True!

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Book Review - The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson

The second in the Millenium trilogy.

This book picks up some time after the initial book finished but the two central hero characters are the same.  This time we get much greater insight into the illusive character Lisbeth Salander.  Through the book elements of her past that have made her the social misfit she is are gradually revealed.  You understand much more why she is like she is.

This book is however darker and more brutal than the first.  Larsson was himself a campaigner against violence against women following an experience in his own life.  This book is more explicit about some of the abuse and the violence more prevalent than in the first book.  However as part of a campaign to expose exploitation and abuse of women it does an excellent job.

The narrative is fast flowing with many twists and changes to keep you guessing.  It is indeed a shame that Mr Larsson did die so young, he'd have gone on I'm sure to write many more best selling novels.  Definitively a thumbs up approval from me.

Post script to St Paul's story

Subsequent to the last post.... here is an excellent commentary on the current position from a BBC journalist.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-15567206

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

St Paul's

So what is going on at St Paul's then?

The protest is as ever the loose coalition of folks who are against the excesses of capitalism - some no doubt more than others in the mix.  Some probably just want a "fairer" system, would like to see that the world economy was not put into recession by the actions of relatively few.

It would have all been a bit of a side show with probably little coverage in the media after the initial glare of publicity.  However now various members of the clergy are falling like nine pins over the whole thing.  Bizarre!  I'm still not sure why they have resigned.  First to go was Cannon Giles Fraser - who appeared to have been instrumental in the siting of the camp around the cathedral in the first place when the protestors first turned up and were looking for somewhere near the London Stock Exchange.  He seems to have resigned as he felt decisions being taken inside the cathedral were ones he could not agree with.  The subsequent initiation of legal proceedings to clear the protestors bear that out.

Then the Dean Graeme Knowles resigned as well.  Although for me it is difficult to fully grasp why he went - it seems he has fallen on his sword as the criticism of the cathedral has risen in the press, in particular the lack of a coherent strategy for dealing with the camp.

What a shame really - whilst this continues to give the protestors much more publicity than they probably ever expected it hasn't shone a good light on the cathedral.  They have now suspended the legal proceedings as well.  Confusion reigns one feels.

It makes one wonder exactly as one of the home made banners displayed at the site says "What would Jesus do?"   Should the cathedral be seen to try to restrict the right of the protesters to peacefully protest?  There is a perception that this about fairness within society to try to stem the continue inequity between the rich and the poor - not helped by recent statistics showing that executive pay in FTSE100 companies has risen nearly 50% in the last year.   I think we either except the Orwellian construct that some are more equal than others or we do try to do something to stop this.   Whatever caused the current recession, be it over zealous bankers looking for profit from unsustainable risk, poor legislation by government on the financial markets or the actual policing of the financial markets by the relevant authorities,  the bottom line answer is that pretty much everyone is now feeling the pinch somewhere...   well not with a 50% payrise you probably won't.    That has to be the point of the conversation somewhere here doesn't it?

As a side show Louise Mensch on Have I Got News for You was very funny about the whole situation....

She's a politician... yes an MP... people have voted for her to represent them in deciding the current and future policy of the country... Lord help us!

Friday, 28 October 2011

What do you buy the Aston Martin owning guitarist?

Now I'm sure this has been a problem for many of you over the years.  Well we know have the solution.

Aston Martin guitars and amps!!!

Inspired by the Gibson Corvette guitar (Yuk!) and the Fender Jaguar Strat these are now available for order.

The guitar is a high tech carbon fibre affair made by Status.


Love the logo between the pickups and the Aston style "vent" on the upper bout, although I wonder if any punks out there might find that injury inducing as they thrash windmill style around.  Punks playing this... maybe not.

Anyway so you've got the DB9, Vantage or what ever and your beloved has bought you the guitar.  You can't possibly just plug it into any old amp can you?  No of course not.  Enter the Aston Martin amp


I love how this looks - the grill has real 1960s DB4 look about it.

More info at Aston Martins guitar and amp site.

Now for the painful bit...

The guitar is £5,995 and the amp is £7,995!!  Available from World Guitars if your bank balance can stomach it.   Just one thing, would both these fit in the boot of an Aston?  How rubbish would that look scratching you DB9 fighting to get these off the back seats!

Thursday, 27 October 2011

RIP Amy Winehouse

So now we know.

The verdict of "misadventure" brings a close this sad story.  "Misadventure" - sounds almost a playful word, a lark, mucking about and something went wrong.  Drinking yourself to death is not just mucking about that went wrong.

The official level of alcohol in her body was 416mg per 100ml.  Apparently 350mg per 100ml can be considered likely to bring on fatal consequences.  The drink drive limit is 80mg.

I dread to think what levels were in my system at times - especially towards the end.  I was barred from a pub for life in the last few weeks since I was drinking pints of Guinness faster than they could be poured.  I know one day I gave up counting at 20 pints - got off the stool and drove home!  Utterly ridiculous -  somehow I never killed myself or others.

The story of Amy having been abstinent for a while then picking up again isn't novel either.  I hear this time and again in the rooms of AA.  I myself stopped for about 6 weeks at one point in the last year of my drinking.  But of course then the voice said "So you must be cured now" and I had a pint.  Nothing bad happened, so I had another and another and another... Everytime in that last year when I did stop for a few days/weeks when I started again soon it was back as bad, in fact actually worse, than before.

RIP Amy - all I can really say is "There but for the grace of God (who I don't actually believe in by the way but it is a figure of speech) go I"

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Interesting BBC programmes

I'm seriously ill by the way - I have the man flu - which if you are male you'll understand that I am very very nearly at deaths door and how I struggle on is a triumph against all adversity.   Hang on why I just slurp my extra strength LemSip....

Right - I'll not dwell on my serious medical condition clearly...

I watched a couple of great programmes last night during a "home alone" period when my daughter and wife were at swimming training.

Firstly Dr Alice Roberts has an entertaining and educational programme on at the moment about the evolution of human beings.  This was the second in the series.  It is interesting the kind of things they are showing in the development of bipedal humans from tree dwelling apes in the forests.  Driven by climate and forced change of habitat as the world changed around our ancestors.  Interesting stuff - looking at how we evolved to a particular type of diet, why cooking might be the reason we developed bigger brains than the species before us etc. 

Secondly I watched a programme with Marcus du Sautroy, who actually makes me wish I had paid more attention in A level Maths, in which he discussed the recent announcement of measurement of the speed of neutrinos being slightly above the speed of light.  He brilliantly (valiantly) tried to explain why this matters, it blows up a lot of Einstein's theory, explains why for mathematicians there isn't a problem with something travelling faster than the speed of light (it just needs to come into existence at that speed, it can never be accelerated past that speed since that would take infinite energy).  Now the problem could be a measurement issue, or some such.  It was all jolly interesting, and again I listened to string theory in 4 minutes and simply have to say... sorry don't get it!!  I doubt I'm the only one.  Anyway - if you want to be confused, educated, entertained and bewildered all within an hour worth a watch.

I reflected briefly on the link between these two programmes.  It was (in the grand scheme of things) only a short time ago that we were running around hunting game and digging up roots etc. as our only way of survival - now we are arrogant enough to talk about theories of "everything".

Sunday, 23 October 2011

RIP Marco

Only a week after having to share the sad loss of Dan Wheldon very sadly MotoGP rider Marco Simoncelli died at today's Malaysian MotoGP race.  He had a front end fold on the second lap and sadly instead of him and the bike sliding straight off into the gravel trap for some reason the bike came back across the track and he was hit by two other riders.  His helmet came off in the impact and it was obvious from that split second that this was very bad news.  The race was abandoned and soon it was announced that Marco had not survived the crash.  He was 24.  He'd come 2nd last week for the first time ever - had struck a deal to be a brand new Honda next year and would have won GPs soon and possibly been a champion.

A very very sad loss - This year Marco I watched you mature and try hard to get rid of the wild man image some branded you with and the last few races showed you were a true threat to the top riders.  Love and prayers to his family and friends trying to come to terms with a tragic young loss.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Quick Book reviews - Death of Kings - Bernard Cornwell, Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - Stieg Larsson

Death of Kings - Bernard Cornwell.

The latest in Cornwells Lord Uhtred series.  This one finds devout pagan, Danish raised Uhtred still fighting for the Saxons.  Alfred the Great is nearing the end of his life without seeing his dream of all England united in a single kingdom... the squables with the Danelaw in the majority of the north of the country overshadow this.  With Alfred near to death some scheme to take the crown of Wessex for themselves, others eye Mercia the puppet kingdom that is a buffer between Wessex and Danelaw.  Others want peace - peace?  With Uhtred about?  No chance!  Even in his 40s he is the most feared Saxon warrior.  This brilliantly tells the history around the narrative of Uhtred and his follows.

I love Cornwell's stuff - if you love old history and fictional novels based way back when - read this.  Makes you proud to be British and descended from these tough guys!  As I sit there reading it on a Kindle in the HS1 into St Pancras...  GRRR!  Maybe I should shout "Shield wall on me" next time they cancel the 17:27 to Broadstairs and see what happens?

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Lot of hype around these 3 books and the death of the author - however I can see why.  Captivating read frankly.  Brilliant if odd main characters, twisted plot lines evil villains at each turn, even Nazi's!!  One of the best thrillers I've read in ages.  Top stuff.

If only I was like the main character - he seems to be able to bed any female between 25 and 60 with no more than a smile and his intellect... cobblers!

Thursday, 20 October 2011

I want it all and I want it NOW!!!

This post is about change, fear, anxiety, faith etc.

I'm slowly getting into the new job.  It has been an interesting journey so far.  Basically I've been recruited into a new position in the organisation that actually is yet to fully exist.  This is because they are only a certain way through all the proposed changes to the division I'm in and therefore I've joined as head of a group that won't exist until all the changes are completed and that is still a little way off.  So it is a little bit odd at the moment, there is stuff going on in the existing structure which I'm listening to but not actively involved in.  I've been involved in some of the organisational change stuff working with my boss and others on the job descriptions and gradings with HR. Work is beginning to come along that I can pick up on since new stuff, like some bids for new projects don't have an obvious owner other than myself so that is ok.

But overall I just feel not quite there yet.  Change takes time and I'm only just knocking on the door of 4 weeks here and in a large complex organisation with multiple drivers, stakeholders etc. it is to be expected that you can't get to know it all in anything like that time.

And I know all this - change curves like this are natural.  Some things already feel natural - the morning regime of getting up getting ready and walking to the station - sorry did I say "walking"?!  Yes I commute on the train now so have a 20 min walk to the station, a 10 min walk at the other end and the same in the evening... well not totally true the lovely Mrs F most days picks me up about half way back from the station which is exceptionally kind of her.  I've sussed out a couple of good places for a coffee/tea break during the day and a couple of nice cafes if I need to get a hot lunch.  Like I say in some ways it seems I've been doing this for ages not just a few weeks.

But there is an anxiety about this all, mostly about (as ever) my ability to achieve in the role etc.  I'm a born pessimist with a healthy dose of negativity thrown in for good measure.  Fear of the unknown and anxiety about the change is not to be unexpected.  I need to ride the wave of this out.  I need more faith in myself, as a friend once said about a different job move - "You can do the job, they wouldn't have employed you if not" (Simple!) and also faith that whatever the outcome it will all be good.  What's the worst that can happen?  Well I suppose I could lose the job, but that's surely unlikely.  The consultancy I left to come here were sorry to lose me and I've had recent independent corroboration of that, so there proof that I'm not a complete dunce.  However in my head there is always the little voice saying "well pulled the wool over their eyes didn't you" - even though I didn't!

It will be - I really like much about the place, people and atmosphere.  It is certainly different working in a research university to where I've previously worked but it is certainly a nice place to be.

One of the phrases I hated in AA when I first came about was "time takes time"... but I want it now!  I want it all and I want it now! (To quote Freddie Mercury).   To think a year ago I was out of work and busy decorating.  Not long after that I started beginning to look around for a job - I applied for a ton that I never even got a polite brush off reply from and many where it was "you don't fit the necessary requirements" etc.  As ever I put on a brave face to most but inside started to seriously panic that I was never going to find a job again.  Now look at me - I had two offers on the table a few weeks back - I had a choice to make!  Time takes time...