Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Music I'm listening to at the moment...

I'm listening to an eclectic mix of music at the moment. Belloheads Hedonism - you must listen to that great in your face folk music - trust me throw prejudice away and try them. Robert Plants latest, Steve Earl, Richard Durrant (classical guitar) and then I keep coming back to Heaven and Hell or Black Sabbath the line up with Dio singing. Why? Just brilliant metal that is why and also the sad loss of Dio meaning we'll never get any more. My son and I watched them live at Sonisphere 09, as they took the stage an ominous black cloud descended and the heavens open, how apt!!! But we stood in the rain and watched one of the best bands ever play a brilliant live set. Sadly we would have seen them back up Maiden at the same venue a year later but you all know what happened Ronnie James Dio succumbed to stomach cancer in May 2010 and sadly that was that. Here are two memories from that day... thank the Lord for YouTube :-)

This is Bible Black off the only studio Heaven and Hell album i.e. the last one the four of them made.

This is from the first Black Sabbath album with Dio singing - Heaven and Hell (confusing isn't it). I believe this was the first track the new line up wrote... this is Children of the Sea (poorer quality crowd shot one this)

Friday, 21 January 2011

That's enough loafing about then...

So nearly 7 months ago I waved farewell to my old job and company smiled sweetly at the generous redundancy settlement and wandered off into the sunset. In the intervening time I've pondered on what I would like to do, what I can do and what people are likely to actually pay me to do?

Firstly I thought about a complete career change but frankly some of the options I looked at there had issues, I wasn't completely sure of my commitment to them, saw difficulties possibly with starting on the lowest salary etc. In the end I struggled to with it and realised without that 100% commitment I was going into something that I'd end up with regrets about, it wasn't worth that. Who knows I might still come back to it at another career junction in the future having had a look at it.

I've tried being a professional singer/songwriter... well that has been my only source of income for a while!! However unless we have some unbelievable spell of mammoth deflation what I earn isn't going to pay to get us to the shops let alone buy the weekly groceries! Still I've got the CD out, done some gigs, had some royalties and won the RTYD award. So it was a great 6 months on that front!

Oh yes - I also got a shed load of decorating done around the house.

So into the new year. What was 2011 going to hold for me? A longer period of unemployment didn't seem too appealing. I was very aware that the longer you leave these things the more difficult it is for people not to see you as someone who is a risk as an employee plus you yourself can lose the rhythm of work life. I'd put as I say some thought into where I ought to go, some people suggested being an independent contractor, great as you can earn a lot more, however no security, you have to look after the pension and all that stuff. More importantly you have to look for the work all the time and when one job dries up so does the income. So I'd decided to try to get into a consultancy company where you get the variety of working for multiple clients, you know whatever you are on has an end date and therefore a chance to move to something new. However whatever happens you have a steady paycheck at the end of the month and more people in the company as well as yourself looking for new assignments. Also you are in the client company to do a job and not have to be in the politics of their organisation.

I've been very lucky as having adopted this as the forward strategy at the end of 2010 for implementation in the new year I have already been through a series of interviews with a company over the last three weeks and was offered a role this week. The company is a really great one, English, privately owned, no venture capital or public shareholding, really good client base, nice people working there and HQ is local to me. Really excellent all round. I've accepted and waiting on getting all the paperwork sorted but I expect to start early next month.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Some new songs

I'm drawn down a rockier band orientated muse at the moment.

So I've been recording a couple here is Looking for a Lover and Demons. Enjoy

Friday, 14 January 2011

The monarchy

I would say for most of my life I've been a "non-royalist", that is to say I'm not a rabid supporter and find much of the trappings of the monarchy a outdated anachronism. I don't like the pomp and splendour with it - I think it overblown, too expensive, and condescending to the general population.

However as I've got older I've had to asked myself - "So say you could replace the monarchy. What would you do?"

And increasingly I find myself struggling to come up with an alternative. Do I really want an elected president? Hmm... possibly not. Why not? Well it'll mean again candidates who are there for themselves not the people. Candidates on zealot missions which might spark the public for a period but potentially leave us with messy legacies.

Also look around you, this maybe again a product of my age and getting to realise that no one is any better or worse than another generally but here is a question. Where are the statesmen (and women)? Last real statesmen we had a prime minister I'd argue was Ted Heath - he'd probably have been a better president than he was a prime minister. But today? I don't see a candidate that I'd like to see the complete "Head of State".

So advantages of the monarchy?

It is fixed. We don't have the political fighting of presidents and presidential elections - the Queen is the Queen she doesn't come and go.

The monarchy therefore does give continuity and a personal allegiance point. You can swear allegiance a flag but to swear "for Queen and country" gives a personal bond to your oath.

So I think on balance the monarchy is a good thing perhaps. I'd like to see less grandeur in the trappings of it but lots of people love all that. As I say I still think that harks back too much to a time gone by.

However the monarchy should know it's place - we did chop off the Kings head once before - only to replace it with a religious zealot, maybe that is why we did decide we ought to have them back. But the monarchy is not an absolute ruler the monarch is as much a servant of the people as a soldier. I think our current Queen knows this well. I don't agree with Prince Charles when he enters political debate - sorry that isn't your place, and your birth right as heir to the throne should make that clear.

Having watched "The Kings Speech" some other questions that have been rattling about in my head for ages came to the fore. Can Charles ascend to the throne now he is married to Camilla? She is a divorcee and he will be the head of the Church of England - a side job that comes with the crown courtesy of course of Henry VIII and all that. Given that only 80 years ago Edward VIII had to abdicate due to this issue has the constitution changed that much? The church doesn't recognise divorce and therefore the Head of the Church can't marry a divorcee.

When the time comes it will be interesting to see how this is handled in the modern age? Personally I wouldn't mind seeing Charles forgo his ascension the throne in favour of his son William as that would side step the issue and as I say I have a distaste for Charles' making political commentary.

The King's Speech

I went to see this film last night.

Firstly - it is a heart warming story, one many of us obviously already know well. It is a tribute to the film's makers therefore that it is a captivating watch even though you know several of the important plot points... i.e. you know his Dad dies, you know his brother abdicates, you know that war is inevitable and you know that he did indeed conquer his stammer.

Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, Helena Bonham Carter... well you can't go wrong with a cast like that can you? And in the "bit part players" Michael Gambon, Timothy Spall (doing a really very passable Churchill) etc. and just the cast alone is of actors who I have great respect for.

Apparently the director and cast did have access to Lionel Logue's diaries and patient notes which were unearthed in the family archive by his grandson who has written a book on the story as well. So some of my scepticism about the accuracy was allayed. Of course George VI went on to be an icon of the British war effort and his perseverance against his impediment is a mark of great courage.

So a really good film. It has also made me think on some other things that I'll post about in a moment...

If you want to hear the real speech that is the climax of the film here it is.

Monday, 10 January 2011

Glad I live in the UK

The news has been full of the shooting in the USA of Gabrielle Gifford. I read the following story with sadness...

I don't disagree with the statement that the gun is not evil only the person holding it... however surely in a culture where there is so much blood shed through guns you need to readdress that? I've had this conversation with American friends who go into the "right" and "freedom" mode that I just will never understand. A handgun has only one purpose - to maim or kill humans, it is not a hunting weapon - a gun is not a defence weapon as it will not stop the bullet from the guy pointing the gun at you. You have to shoot first and this spiral precipitates this gun culture in the psyche in the USA.

I had hoped that this very public tragedy might lead to a better debate in the USA about this issue - sadly not by the looks of this report.

I found these stats and you can see that the USA isn't near the top of the league. But look at it like this. UK 1.40, Germany 1.81, Canada 1.99, Spain 1.53 - compare that with USA at 8.95 - you see? You are 8 times more likely to be killed by a gun in the USA than other developed G20 countries. Come on USA for the sake of the next 7 per 100,000 who will die this year that statistically shouldn't if you had gun control laws have the debate please.

Postscript - sorry my maths has been pointed out as wrong... okay taking the average of the 4 example countries I used and comparing that to the USA figure it is "you are more than 5 times more likely.."

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Getting back to "normal"

I dropped Son-of-Furtheron back at university this weekend. So with Mrs F back at work as of last Wed and Daughter-of-Furtheron back at school as of last Tuesday we are pretty much back to normal now... well as normal as we ever get around here! Although D-o-F will be out of school for a week soon as she has "work experience" week. Never seems right when that came for my son I thought "he is too young for this" but she is 15 now - where have the years gone?

We timed the run to deepest, darkest Mordor (Ceredigion in other words ;-)) brilliantly. We'd thought of going on Friday but the weather didn't look great so delayed a day. Great planning it turned out, as we had a really good run - my sons flat mate had a terrible journey on the Friday as the weather caused some accident on the A44 which is the main route into Aberystwyth and that meant detours through some tricky roads. If you know West Wales at all you'll know that there aren't many roads that come close to resembling what dwellers of many other parts of the UK would refer to as a "trunk route"!

Anyway after a nice cheap stay over night in a little hotel I had a lovely journey back, glorious sunshine pretty much the whole way and apart from one minor hold up with a crash at the M42/M40 junction that luckily had closed the M42 not the M40 it was pretty much cruising all the way and hardly much traffic about - even the M25 behaved itself. I was back by mid afternoon just in time for Mrs F to put the kettle on for our afternoon cuppa! I'm resold on the M40 route now as the M1 has been such a pain on the last few trips the South West part of the M25 (which I generally will walk over broken glass to avoid) is I think worth the pain to avoid the seemingly permanent 20 mile tailback that is around Newport Pagnell any time I hit the M1 in either direction.

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Some new photos of some of the collection

I've stuck these up at RTYD if you'd like to look - big thanks to my son for his expert wielding of his camera to get these

Find more photos like this on ROCK-TIL-YOU-DROP's Mature Musicians & Bands Network

The start I was hoping for... hopefully...

I was called up on Tuesday by a company that an old colleague and friend now works for in the USA. They are actually a UK company. I'd talked to my old friend about what I was settling on as my next career step. Basically more than one person has commented in my converstations in the last few months that a) I'd probably find a good cultural fit in a small company and b) I'd make a great consultant - i.e. someone coming to help out client companies with projects, programmes etc.

So this old friend works for just such a consultancy - they have an excellent reputation. I talked briefly with him about what I was looking for and he graciously has recommended me to them. I went and had an initial interview/discussion with them today. It went really well - yep there are some things that'll be a culture leap for me such as possible long term assignments based on the client site which could be anywhere and also the working for the consultancy not the client so there is an element in that job always of looking for the next opportunity for your company - not an issue just not something I've had to do before.

Anyway - they are arranging a second interview next week and it all sounded really positive and seems like the sort of company / job that I'd love to see as my next step. Here's hoping this is just the sort of start I was hoping I'd get in 2011.

Mucho happio today :-)

Saturday, 1 January 2011

That was 2010

So hello 2011 and farewell 2010. Now how to pronounce it... "twenty ten" sounded best as does "twenty twelve" but "twenty eleven" sounds odd and "two thousand and eleven" better. Just me I guess.

So 2010... the awards...

Best gig... blimey difficult, Supertramp were great, a schooltime love and only time ever seen them live. Dave Mathews excellent... in the end though, Joe Bonamassa at Folkestone I think just gets it as the best live show this year I went to.

Best album? Hmmm.... Joe Satriani Black Swans and Wormholes was very good, Robert Plant Band of Joy as well... but I'm going to give it to... (Drum roll) Linkin Park A thousand Suns.

So this year I lost a teenager - my son is now 20. I lost a job through redundancy as well :-) Mrs F and I celebrated our silver wedding anniversary and we had two significant family weddings, my brothers and my nephews.

Best thing this year? Getting the 2010 Rock-til-you-drop Outstanding Achievement award. This time last year I'd done one iffy gig and recorded a couple of songs and had a play or two on Scooter Forums radio... now, more gigs, CD done etc. and the award was the icing on the cake.

2011? Well hopefully more gigs, more writing and recording. Hopefully a job, that'd be good.