Monday, 31 December 2012

Kit guitar build part 1



Enthused with the kit and being on holiday (one advantage of my job is we get oodles of holiday) I've made a start on the guitar.
I sanded both the body and the neck with 120 grit then further with 240 and finally with 320. Then to the finish. I don't have anywhere to spray and I like natural finish and feeling guitars. I found Wudtone finishes and I am going with an amber one. The neck I have decided to use Danish Oil on as I've seen others use this to good effect.

Below is the body after sanding, then with the first base coat applied and then the neck with the first coat of Oil on it.




Saturday, 29 December 2012

Review of the year

This will be short as I don't have a working computer at the moment so typing on a phone is such a pain!

Overall a so so year, I've not enjoyed work but a review of my situation means I will have to grit my teeth and carry on with it for now. Musically I got the second album out but work time and pressure has meant  no time to gig and promote it sadly.

Album of the year tough one so many good releases this year. In the end I will go with Rush and Clockwork Angels.

Gig of the year again most gigs I went to were super but Andy McKee, Preston Reed and Jon Gomm win that one!

Happy New Year to you all. And my advice to all is get a job you love not one you have to endure simply to earn the dosh!

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

The new project

Mrs F bought me a Telecaster kit as my Christmas gift. It has an ash body, maple neck with rosewood fingerboard. I have some stain from Wudtone that I will use on it.

I will post the progress once I get going on it


Thursday, 20 December 2012

Christmas at home...

Into the last leg now - only today and tomorrow at work, my son is back from Mordor - sorry Mid-Wales ;-) - for the festivities, all the presents are wrapped - cluttering up the music room sadly but it is ok, I just can't really play electric as they are all around, over, behind, on top off the amp and my pedal board.  That is ok as recently, no doubt partly influenced by seeing Juan Martin the other week, I've been pulling out the oldest guitar in my collection - my faithful old Fender FC40 classical, which my Mum bought me when I was 14 or 15.  I'm back into my limited repertoire of Sor, Tarrega, Bach etc.  I'm trying to learn Fauré's Pavane at the moment.  Anyway enough about guitars... let's talk about life... Christmas life...

Our Christmas will follow the pattern of many years now, pretty much ever since we've had children so 22 years now.  It will just the four of us (Mrs F, Son-of-Furtheron, Daughter-of-Furtheron and yours truly) along with Mrs F's mother on Christmas Day.  We'll rise when my 17 year old daughter who wants to appear so grown up, mature and sophisticated most of the time reverts to her inner child and will want to get us up early.  The "kids" will have opened their "bags" - we used to have stockings that we put little bits in that were left by Father Christmas in their rooms, now they are "bags" with the little gifts my wife and I like to get them, cosmetics, toiletries, CD/DVD etc. that kind of thing.  Then we'll go downstairs and open the presents again left by that ingenious Father Christmas under the tree - the "kids" will have theirs in large sacks we've had since they were little.  No doubt there will be a note again from Father Christmas to thank my daughter for the mince pie and drink left for him (used to be a sherry but for the last 8 Christmas's he has asked for a soft drink ;-)) and the carrot for Rudolph - my daughter will analyse this normally claiming it is my wife's hand writing disguised - which is a terrible slander clearly.

Breakfast will be croissants and jam/honey.  We'll then get dressed and I'll head off to fetch Mrs F's Mum, she lives only a couple of miles away luckily.  Then it'll be get the dinner ready time, we'll probably have roasted the turkey the evening before and prepared a lot of the veg.  So it is carve the turkey and reheat that in gravy, cook the veg.  Sit down to the meal and fill ourselves up.  After the meal will be another round of presents for the kids from Mrs F's Mum.  Then we'll sit down and pick one of the new DVDs to watch no doubt, followed by a tea that no-one apart from my son will actually really have room left to eat, of sausage rolls, mince pies (made by my daughter before hand I suspect), cake, etc. etc.   Dr Who on the telly at some point around now will be another highlight and recent tradition.  Then again probably another film from the new selection acquired.  A few drinks for those that do, cider for my son, Smirnoff Ice for my daughter  sherry or Bailey's for the mother-in-law, Bailey's I expect for Mrs F, coke for me.  Then run Mrs F's Mum home, a Horlick's and to bed happy in the cocoon of family love that I will have experienced.

Boxing Day we'll have left over turkey in a casserole no doubt, some experimentation with various gifts of a more cerebral or practical nature, continue to catch up on listening to the various new CDs etc. and then off to visit my sister and her family for tea.  Tea will be a huge spread like only my Mum and sister seem to know how to collect and shoehorn onto a table that is much too small really.  We'll all help ourselves sat around laughing at each other and playing with my great-nephew and niece.  He is still the great young infant age who laps up Christmas and she will be experiencing her first and no doubt will be a bit bamboozled by all the noise, people and change of routine.  They'll be another small set of present swapping between us all.

Then a few relaxing days off I hope, my work closes between Christmas and New Year which is really lucky.  New Year's Eve will be mince pie a cup of coffee and Jools Holland on the TV.  We'll wish each other a Happy New Year and no doubt be in bed not long after 12! I mean it is only another day in reality.

New Years Day is another tradition.  It was for many years "Mum's Day".  After Dad died and I'd been the last to leave home Mum went to my sisters for Christmas Day and stayed over for Boxing Day - hence why we also have that tradition of visiting there that day.  But on New Year's Day all of the family, all 12 of us, would descend on her little bungalow for tea - her little gate leg table creaking under the weight of Tunis Cake, sausage rolls, sandwiches, jelly, etc. etc.  The kids would go mad normally most if not all 6 of them on her double bed in her bedroom watching her tv in there whilst the adults stayed in the living room - until the noise levels from the bedroom demanded an intervention.  As Mum got older though and the kids the size of adults and new partners added to the numbers the convention moved to us meeting for lunch in a local restaurant and then decamp back to our place which was the large enough to cope with everyone for tea and  more cake, sausage rolls etc. or the "growing lads"!  Although we've now lost Mum we still carry this on, for myself, sister and brother it is a poignant memory of Mum.  This year will however be the first one my brother and his family won't be at - he is visiting his in-laws, his now wife never knew my Mum and she has both her parents still, they should take advantage of that while they can so I completely understand that decision.  However we are back at the "old" restaurant, the one we used throughout the last years of Mum's life, who haven't been able to cater in the last couple of years where numbers have soared as high as 20. So whilst sad my brother etc. can't be there it is at least nice to go back to the place with more memories of Mum.  This year will be a bit of a "farewell" meal for us as my son is off to live, study and work in Svalbard a few days later for 6 months.

Although I can predict so much of the festivities as we do like to follow our traditions I'm still so looking forward to it. The family love, laughter and fun will be plentiful I know.  Also I will try to embrace it all as given my son is now 22 and my daughter 17 I suspect there are far far fewer that will follow this traditional pattern in the years ahead than we've already experienced but that will be ok as we move to newer phases of the family's development and expansion.

I trust all of you have a lovely Christmas and New Year celebration.  I hope you can share it with those that you love and that love you unconditionally back as only family can.

Finally a lovely quote (forgive the paraphrasing) from Steve Hogarth of Marillion from his Christmas message to fans on the fan club DVD this year... "If you can at Christmas spare some money for the poor.  Also remember those that are so poor all they have is money"...    Well put Mr H, it inspired this post as it reminded me that I am a very very long way from being that poor and I'm very lucky and very very grateful for that.

Please share some of  your Christmas traditions in the comments if you can.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Gun control

Right into the fray. Hello USA. Here is my advice to you. Ban guns like we did after Dunblain. Screw the constitution this is 2012 not 1789.

Guns are not a defensive weapon if I have a gun to defend me it only works if I shoot and the only purpose of a handgun is to kill people it is not a defence it cant stop bullets only spew out its own!

So simply ban guns and enforce it! Please

Friday, 14 December 2012

Horrible dream

I had a horrible dream last night, in fact I'd call it a nightmare and I don't really ever recall having one quiet so disturbing.  I'm sharing it here just to get it out of my head - I had to talk to my wife first thing this morning as well as I felt so disturbed by it.

I dreamt I murdered my son.  Honestly - the actual killing was brief in the dream I know we had a disagreement and I hit him with something and then hid his body.  The setting was oddly bizarre as well.  It was in a back street garage type place, you know the kind where there are as many rusting hulks as cars being actually worked on.  I hid his body under one of those cars.  My wife was in the dream and knew about the killing and we were behaving in a manner to make it look like we knew nothing including going to the garage and talking to others expressing concern over our missing son.... just awful.  I still feel bereft as a result of this.  Several times I was trying to cry over this but couldn't as I was the cause...

Right final weird twist... Newton Faulkner (or someone who looked remarkably like him anyway) worked at the garage as well, I think, he did owe my son money and that was somewhere wrapped up in the whole motive thing.   So odd... and scary

Please DON'T analyse this - I'd rather not know how much my head is screwed up

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Gig Review - Mumford & Sons London O2 11 Dec 2012

Last night the Furtheron clan, minus number 1 son who is still in Wales, trooped off to see Mumford & Sons at the O2 arena at North Greenwich.

They stated that this was the largest gig they'd ever performed in doors and that the were "bricking it" playing such a large venue.  However you'd never have believed it.  We saw them last at Hammersmith Apollo back in Oct 2010 at the end of their whirlwind breakthrough year.  Now at that gig they looked genuinely overwhelmed and amazed at just being on a stage like that with a crowd that size - well the O2 is of course up a league or so from there but from the off they looked confident, in charge and frankly that they belonged!  They owned the stage last night.  Of course a second massive selling album under their belts with consequently much more known material and coming off the back of a long touring schedule including well received gigs in the USA no doubt have given them a more honed edge to live performance.

They are still a bit of an oddity Mr Mumford and friends, folk and country influences abound but mixed with a heavy rock flavour - there was one point where all four were heads down rocking out at the front of the stage with synchronized heads-a-banging pose that would not have disgraced Status Quo or many other rock Gods!  The odd bit of that being a Martin acoustic and a tenor banjo as part of the instrument line up... you don't see that at a Megadeth gig now do you?  Talking of instrumentation one of their strengths is the multi-instrumentalist nature of them, banjos, acoustic guitars, electric guitars, mandolin, upright bass, electric bass, full drum kits, accordion  keyboards... I've no doubt still missed something from that list and add the backing horn and string section and they produce a hell of a noise!  And all of it very Mumford & Sons - again one thing setting these guys out is that they have through all this clashes of influences they have forged a very unique British sound, one the crowd loved.  They moved from the sing-a-long hits to quieter more reflective numbers with ease, the vocal harmonies were flawless to my ears and the crowd loved it all.

The latest material has more electric and rockier influences - I can see them moving through different phases as they incorporated other genres in their output and hope that they continue for a long time - they are a real success story and well worth seeing.  Sound quality was excellent and the light show whilst not hugely elaborate very effective.

Support was provided by firstly Post War Years a three piece electronica outfit - not bad, good soundscapes etc. at times.  Second up were Dawes from LA - a very USA folk-rock sound.  I like these a lot actually, good songs well structured and played, a good sound overall and superb vocal harmonies.  They came back on to perform with Mumford & Sons notably in the rousing show closer, the Beatles classic (although I prefer the unsurpassed Joe Cocker version myself) With a Little Help From My Friends.  Lastly Piff the Magic Dragon made a couple of appearances between the acts but his magic act didn't really work in a venue like the O2 - not helped by the hapless camera work - I presume there had been no rehearsal of that bit - too many close ups of the face of Piff and his audience volunteer meaning you missed the actual trick!

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

... if we work for them.

I was reading another recovery blog and was reminded of the last bit of the AA promises...

"They are being fulfilled among us—sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. They will always materialize if we work for them."  

The actual promises are irrelevant really but the point is that you will get improvement in your life, if you continue to work the AA programme.  This isn't a rant about step this and that, to me everyone works the programme in a way suitable for them and I firmly believe as stated in the last step you have to embed the new learnings and way of life into all my affairs - i.e. I have to live a new life in a different way in every aspect of my life.  That is what I've spent the last 8 and a half years trying to do, at times with more success than others.

But reading Bye Bye Beer's blog earlier suddenly made me think of a couple of recent incidents, just ordinary life stuff, nothing big etc. but in which I found myself reacting in a particular way a calm way, a humble way ... but I only realise this by this reflection enabled through someone else sharing their experience.

This is how AA and its programme works for me.  The changes are slow and slight but massive and amazing in reflection and in light of day.  I'm no longer an out of control rambling drunk who was more a liability in most situations than an asset.  But it is all a journey, I can't let up I have to keep on trying, working and reflecting on these things to be sure that I don't lose what I've gained so far and that no set back is so disturbing that the only solution is a drink.

For normal drinkers and non addicts you'll read this and probably say "What is this nutter on about?".  However I think many who are on a road to recovery will see and inkling in what I've said here about progress rather than perfection.  :-)

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Juan Martin - Live at The Brook Theatre Chatham

Last night Mrs F and I and four other friends went to see Juan Martin live at The Brook Theatre in Chatham.  Firstly again The Brook is a lovely little venue, the old Town Hall with a fantastic sound and feel.

Juan Martin was just stunning.  Now I really only know him from his Picasso Portraits album from years ago where as a tribute to Picasso he wrote pieces inspired by the masters great works and fused it with a modern rhythm section.  A really really good album and was for a while a regular on my old turntable. 

Juan knows flamenco inside out.  He talked of the history of different regions and influences, his influences in writing his pieces and what he tries to bring into them.  Many times I was just lost in the music and not sat in cold November Kent but in sunny warm Andalusia!

He used a new guitar for all tracks bar one built for him by Stephen Eden for Lewes.  Frankly just stunning sounding guitar.  Fantastic night all over.


(Thanks to P Shannon for the photo)

Friday, 16 November 2012

Farce

So the elections for the new Police and Crime Commissioners were a resounding success... errr clearly not.  Looks like most of the population didn't even know about them.  The predicted turn out is... *Dramatic pause, like they do on shows where someone is about to leave the competition....*  just a smidge over 18%!  Are you kidding me?  What an utter waste of time and money.  How now can any commissioner take up their new role with any sense of a "mandate from the local community".  About the only real publicity we had on it in our area was a slanging match between two of the candidates over whether one of them had been reprimanded over saying the new system was a waste of money on their blog.  Great bit of positive campaigning all round that was...

So we are fighting wars to give people democracy - there are uprisings throughout the world against dictators so people can vote - we have that, we commemorated the dead last weekend who gave their lives so we can vote and... we don't bother!  Makes you wonder doesn't it about what we really truly hold dear or not.


Monday, 12 November 2012

None the bloody wiser

There has been more than one occasion when I have considered renaming this blog None The Bloody Wiser"!  The older I get the less I know I really know - both in terms of life the universe and everything and also in terms of my own ability to operate within said reality.

The last few weeks have been a bit of a struggle - sorry folks this is all about work again, regular readers may detect more than one long-running theme here.  I've just felt overwhelmed by it, worried and stressed by it, lost about it etc. etc.  But of course this all comes down to a couple of major factors.

Firstly impostor syndrome. This is something that I only recently became aware of in terms of it having a name and being well recognised.  I've suffered with this all my life.  The continual fear that today will be the the day that "they" realise that I am a fraud at this job, task, activity, whatever and that they will call time on me and expose me as the failure I undoubtedly am.  Interestingly a lot of highly qualified people suffer with this condition who have considerable evidence to support that it isn't true.  Take me for example, I have letters after my name to prove I can do what I do supposedly, of course I'd point out that I acquired this years ago via a route now long shut off and my skills are out of date etc., I have had only one period of un-employment in 30 years, the 7 months back in 2010 when I was made redundant - and I chose to have a break as I was very lucky with a nice pay off from a job with a company that had employed me for over 19 years, promoted me several times and given me bonuses based on good performance... but you see still I know that deep down I was just pulling the wool over their eyes.  In the job I have now I've successfully worked through a 9 month probationary period (not all who joined around the time I did have survived that) and been told on more than one occasion I'm doing well but of course I know that this is all just smoke and mirrors.

Secondly is my need to be totally self reliant and the fixer of all things for others.  I demand too much of myself, I need to be doing this or that as well as all this.  I can delegate well enough but too often don't and do it myself or don't do it myself as I don't know exactly how rather than passing that onto the person who could no doubt just do it easily.  The fixer of all things is a need to maintain lovely harmony about me, I don't like the vibes of conflict and disagreement and even when the issue is nothing to do with me really (i.e. group a dislike group b's way of doing something and I'm in neither group!) then I need to stand back and accept it is nothing to do with me and up to them to deal with it really.

So work has been busy as someone was moved to a new area of responsibilities and that means I'm having to hold the fort of that role until a new person can join at the end of the month.  This happened on top of an intensive period of work reviewing a large chunk of what my team is responsible for which is taking a good 20% or more of my time through a 6 week period at least.  So it is no wonder I feel a little stretched.   And still no-one has actually lost it with me and told me I'm not doing the right thing and not doing as well as I should be.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Lovers and Fighters

Just cos this is simply just brilliant...





The Temperance Movement (with the stellar Phil Campbell on guitar and vocals) with Lovers and Fighters.   Enjoy....

Monday, 29 October 2012

Championship deciders.

Any regular reader of this blog may well have spotted that my favourite kind of sport involves speed - motor-racing both cars and bikes with the series I most closely follow being F1 cars, MotoGP bikes, British Touring Car Championship, British Superbikes, British F3 cars, World Superbikes... etc but those are the main ones, British GT is in there as well esp this season which was good.

So this is the time of year that championships wind up. F1 is still up for grabs but given the dominant performance in the last few races I get the feeling Vettel is going to reclaim the top crown for a third year running. It'll be a good fight back as they were not the all conquering team of the last two years and he has had to show his metal and come back into contention, but a shame as this starts to look like Schumacher at his dominant form in the 90s early 2000s. It'd be nice to get some other names up there I feel. Still some way to go and anything can happen, I wouldn't write Alonso off yet but frankly if he does win it in this years Ferrari he deserves a special mention, clearly nowhere near the best car but he fights it to get the results, if he was in a Red Bull or a Mclaren frankly it would no doubt have all been over by now!

MotoGP was decided this weekend in the cruelest of fashions. Lorenzo has been either 1st or 2nd in every race bar the one he crashed out of. So Dani Pedrosa had an uphill struggle to stay in the fight for the crown. When he hit the front and pushed hard to get a break on sadly a millimeter too much here or there caused him to run wide on cold tyres and that was his race and the championship over. Lorenzo fully deserves it with such a consistent season.

The real fun has been in some of the British Championships with all of them going into the last round undecided. Shaky Byrne was brilliant to win the BSBs - he hit the last round with three races to run - he won them and that was that worthy champion. If the rumours he'll be promoted to MotoGP next year are true I hope to see him have some good results.

BTCC was similar - Gordon Sheddon taking it on the 2nd race of the last round of 3. He still didn't really believe it when he crossed the line - he's been a stalwart in the championship for many years, often playing support to his title winning colleague. He won more races than everyone else so again just reward for a battling title race. Jack Harvey in F3 overcame a poor penultimate round where he seemed to be penalised for everything, luckily one of those was overturned on appeal which I thought right - he overtook on the outside and the guy inside him locked up and hit him and he got the penalty, seemed more than harsh to me. Again he bang in a win at the last round and got the result. I hope he can get the funding so illusive to many UK drivers these days to progress to the very top of the sport - given how he won this against some very tough opposition it'll be a tragedy if he doesn't.

Now to the two tightest. World Superbikes - Max Biaggi won this in the last race by the tightest of margins - Tommy Sykes who won that race doing all he could was 0.5 point behind Max in the final reckoning. Tough luck on Tommy and I hope he can come back next year stronger and have another go - we could do with a new British World superbike champion since Toseland and Hodgson both retired.

Then the British GT championship - through the last race the crown went back and forth over three contenders throughout! In the end the winners actually had never won a round over the year but then it should be about consistency for the championship but I can't help thinking the Nissan boys really deserved it and were robbed by a mechanical failure when in the lead and looking good to step onto the top of the podium

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Another week - another gig review! Newton Faulkner - Margate Winter Gardens 24 Oct 2012

I was very lucky that a John a friend of mine had bought two tickets to see Newton Faulkner only to realise after he'd got them that this week is not in fact half term and therefore his intended partner for the night (his daughter) was not going to be able to come her being a busy newly qualified teacher who lives quiet a way away.  Since I'd offered John a spare ticket to see the Guitar Masters gig in Folkestone a few weeks back he kindly offered me the chance to see Newton live much to the chagrin of Daughter-of-Furtheron!

So firstly the venue - like Folkestone Lees Cliff Hall this is an old sea-side posh dance hall venue built in the heyday of opulent summer seasons around the British coast I presume it is early 20th century, lovely mouldings around the walls and ceilings, over the top chandeliers etc.  Exactly the kind of over the top extravagance you'd never be able to get past a quantity survey and corporate accountant if you were building something today.  The venue isn't bad, a little shabby here and there and with the stage on one of the "long sides" it's not ideal for modern gigs but that adds to some of the charm.

Support acts - sorry didn't catch all their names I think it was Grace Savage on first - UK Beatbox champion  or something.  Interesting in some ways but not my think really - she has a good voice and the two multi-instrumentalists supporting her made good noises.   The next band was a four piece - girl singer who had an exceptionally good voice and the songs had good arrangements but the sound was awful, don't know why only they had this problem but the feedback and poorly balanced mix significantly hampered them sadly.

So to the main act.  Newton performed totally solo, brave for such a large venue (I estimate best part of 1,200 people) with a lot of enthusiastic youngsters in the standing area - John and I being of the "older generation" had bagged two seats in the raised seating at the back ;-)  A range of beautiful acoustics in different tunings and at least one Baritone provided his arsenal.  With three CDs now to his name Newton has a considerable catalogue to draw on and from the first number was in fine form.  He can really really play the guitar in the modern acoustic, percussive mode a la Andy McKee, Jon Gomm etc. but he also has an incredibly good singing voice and an ability to write really catchy numbers.  He also is a very engaging host providing a bunch of little insights and stories between the songs.  He was using some bass pedals etc. to fill the sound out but frankly being essentially one man and one guitar he can fill a very large concert very well.  All in all a super night out - highlight was the closing track for me off his latest album "Pick up your broken heart" which was simply fantastic and the crowd all left happy with many singing, humming, whistling tunes from the set - says it all really.

Postscript note - the only slightly odd note was the couple of ladies sat next to us who then stood for most of the show, no problem there but they had come dressed as though going to some ladies tea party, very smart dresses, formal handbags etc.  As the night progressed they moved just in front of the seats we were in and were having a great time dancing together, hugging, kissing taking photos on their iPhones ... all ok but the outfits really baffled me - is there some thing in Lesbian circles about this kind of dressing up as though you are a maiden aunt going to the Harrods tea shop?  I've led such a sheltered life I don't know...

Postscript - just found this from a recent guitar show in London to give a flavour of the evening.

Friday, 19 October 2012

Gordon Giltrap and Oliver Wakeman - Brook Theatre Chatham

I had a fantastic night out last night, Mrs F and I went to a packed Brook Theatre in Chatham to see Gordon Giltrap and Oliver Wakeman in concert.  Right - yes Oliver, not Rick who Gordon has collaborated in the past with but Oliver is now working with Gordon on a new album "Ravens and Lullabies" due out in a couple of months.

Any regular readers of this blog will know that Mr Giltrap is one of my heroes having seen him in many concerts, bought a load of his albums, struggled over learning his pieces, bought one of his signature guitars and had the privilege of meeting him at a workshop some years back in Margate.  So this review will be biased! :-)

Brilliant night - a couple of pieces off the new CD, one played in a "unique arrangement", i.e. I think Gordon went wrong somewhere but frankly I don't think anyone in the audience noticed at all - I certainly didn't.  Some of Gordon's famous pieces worked with brilliant accompaniment from Oliver - Isabella's Wedding shone out in this regard for me.  Oliver introduced several pieces of his from his back solo catalogue again with Gordon adding some great additional guitar parts.  One thing it was interesting to watch Gordon on these pieces and the Bach one they did as well.  Gordon was "out of his comfort zone" I think, these aren't pieces he had years and years to nail and as any musician  will know once you are playing with someone else there is a higher degree of rigour in how and what you play, if you are solo you can be freer with your timing etc. as there is no-one else needing to be understanding of it.  Also Gordon was studying his "music" carefully at many points - but I don't believe he actually can read music - I'd love to know what he uses, some form of tabulature no doubt, but with rhythmic symbols or not etc. Whatever the performance was still flawless on both sides of the stage.

Both took solo slots in the first and second halves and there were brilliant as you'd expect.  Along with their great humour, obvious friendship and clear mutual respect of each other it was a pleasure to be in their company for the evening which seemed to finish all to early.  The encore piece was interesting with Oliver having asked that they do a version of Wondrous Stories by Yes which he never got the chance to play live in his time with the band since post Jon Anderson it wasn't on the set list.  Oliver a worthy "secondment" for his Dad as he put it - his little quip about his different approach to subject matter vs his Dad was also a humorous insight to family discussions :-)

For the gear heads Gordon was festooned with signature machinery on stage.  He used his Flyde Gordon Giltrap signature in standard tuning the most of all.  Two of his Vintage Gordon Giltrap signature guitars got used to, a cedar topped one which looked to me to have had a new Rare Earth pickup fitted replacing the factory standard arrangement and a mahogany fronted one again with a Rare Earth on it.  For Dodo's Dream he used his new Fret King signature electric guitar which sounded fantastic - everything I see and hear of these new Black Label Fret Kings seems that they have to be on your shopping list if you are looking for something under £1,000.  Lastly he used his Rob Armstrong baby guitar for Here Come's The Sun to much ribbing from Oliver about it being a "toy".

Great night out, two super musicians in complete harmony with themselves, the sound was excellent again as always at the Brook and the album is now on my wish list and I await it with great anticipation.

Update...
Found this sequence on Youtube - different gig but good sequence

Monday, 15 October 2012

Reminding me it is only a short time...

via the blog world I came across Saz and through her to her Mum Moanie.  I was an irregular visitor/reader/commentor on both blogs.  A while back Moanie announced she wasn't well - "the Feckler" as she called it.  Last week sadly Moanie lost her battle with it.

Everyday there are hassles, the everyday stuff of getting on with a job, doing the washing up, gardening etc. etc.  so many things that we "have" to do and how often do you get to the end of the day and reflect on where has any of that got you?  Life is short - I hope you make the most of yours today.  The AA programme has a lot about "living in the day", for me the endless negative projection I used to have was crippling and blinding, never seeing what was good around me there and then.  I have much to be thankful for and be happy about but my default position is to ignore all that and go into negativity.  Poor Saz and her family's loss reminds me that there was things I ought to put a touch more priority into.

UPDATE!

I've just realised why I should be thinking this way - obvious really - it was the anniversary of my Dad's passing on Saturday, 28 years ago, and that was a Saturday then too.  It doesn't weigh too heavily now but it is still there - esp as I know that I've spent a lot of energy in my adult life trying to do things to please him, gain his blessing/approval and make him proud and of course that is all a bit daft and pointless given he isn't around to give me any confirmation on any of that.

Friday, 12 October 2012

Updating lists and listening, reading and learning things

I've been remiss lately and not been keeping the lists on the right hand side of the blog alive with latest stuff, I believe this is no doubt due to me moving to an android mobile platform (I bought a new phone with a touchy screen thing in other words) and do a lot of my social networking and communications (reading blogs / facebook and tapping out incomprehensible emails/comments etc.) on this device whilst on the move - i.e. on the train.  It might be a good use of the commute but re-reading the spelling, grammatical etc. errors in some recent comments/emails I think it maybe not so and no doubt half of you think I've lost my marbles when you see my comments to you.  Anyway I've updated the lists.

Music - there is a load of really good stuff around this year, with Rush Clockwork Angels, Marillion's Sounds that Can't be Made recently added to on the perpetual playlist with Muse's 2nd Law (different but growing), Linkin Park's Living Things (really good), Magnum's typically Magnum latest offering and Mumford & Sons Babel adding an acoustic less brash balance.  I should review all of these probably on here really.

I've been busy reading too.  Tim Severin's Saxon is a great book if you like his well researched, highly descriptive but perhaps slower paced than many style of novels - the first part in a trilogy I was impressed.  The main character obtains a legendary Arabic work on the interpretation of dreams which was an interesting topic line around which to base his adventures.  However I've just finished Sebastian Faulks' simply brilliant A Possible Life.  A collection of short life stories set in present, past, future with rich, poor, male, female etc. main characters but each one draws you in and captivates you.  I was spellbound by it - the overall message is one about the meaning of existence through the individuals love of another (or others) but then what or how is that relative to the individuals real being?  Led me to buy a short book on reality from a philosophic point of view.  Interesting and thought provoking stuff - I loved one bit in Faulks' novel where one character is remembering something in his distance past as a child but reflects there is no atom in his body by then that would have been there then, they would have all have been exchanged with new ones... so how come he can remember - the memory can't be physical but he is the physical being... Hmm... deep stuff, beyond me other than to say the book was profound for me and left me deeply touched as to what is my mark on the world now or what could it be?  Highly recommended read.

I also attended a course at work this week on communication and how to work in teams etc.  I found it a good course, the trainer was very good with bags of experience and humour.  However I realised I actually knew a great deal already and this was a useful reminder and did introduce some new models for me to consider.  However these "soft skills" are easy to learn but so, so hard to practice aren't they?  Well I find they are, I'd rather go to my default behaviour of sending a badly written email or a scrappy blog post with no real purpose or content other than to say - "I'm still here and trying, progress not perfection, as AA say"! :-)

I feel that life is a little humdrum currently - probably the post birthday blues, you know all the build-up great event and now that is gone and past so feel a little deflated.  I'm just trying to do the normal stuff every day and trying to get to be grateful and appreciative of it not ungrateful and resentful.

Friday, 5 October 2012

Newcomers

Newcomers - this is a term used in AA about people new to the fellowship, the programme, sobriety etc.

Over the years I've seen Newcomers come and go, some come in and either don't want to really stop or expect someone to do it for them or whatever.  One saying I heard a long time ago was - It is no good coming to AA for back problems.  The Newcomer looks at you oddly.  You know to get your wife off your back, your boss off your back, your landlord off your back etc.  Many I think just make a show of it exactly to ease those back problems.  Some do connect and put in the effort and seem to be getting it then suddenly drop out.  I remember getting a call from one guy like that who decided to stop coming as he couldn't get the courage up to share (i.e. speak) at a meeting.  I tried to tell him it didn't matter - his choice etc.  In the end I realized he needed a justification for why AA couldn't work for him.  His choice.

Anyway some newcomers come in and get it and stay - they may slip and slide but they become regulars, I watch them collecting monthly sobriety chips in their first year etc.  I see the light come back on in their eyes. Then sometimes they amaze me - someone a few months in shared at a meeting and it was one of the most profound moments in my life.  I won't share what he shared just that it struck such a chord in me it was like a massive resonance in my head and heart.  Fantastic.  I also gave a newcomer a lift home one night this week - I nearly didn't recognize this clean, well dressed man from the scruffy guy who'd sat at the back the week before in his first meeting.  A man who has a chance now and seems to want it asking about more meetings and not trying to run before he can walk just trying to get to meetings and staying away from the drink - his new lodgings have a no alcohol on premises policy which is good for him too.

People who have no personal experience of AA or addiction sometimes ask me why I still need to go to meetings.  Firstly to get and keep me sober but also to help these others if I can, but frankly more often than not it is them helping me rather than the other way round!

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

It was 50 years ago today

That I popped into the world!  Happy birthday to me!

The front room is full of cards - unusual I normally only get a few family ones - I should be 50 every year!  I've a finger drum kit from my brother!  Some CDs, loads of vouchers etc.  but one very special present.  Mrs and the kids have bought me a weekend pass to next years F1 GP at Silverstone!!!  How fantastic.  It has been years and years since I went to a GP so really overwhelmed with that actually and it is so good as it's ages away for the excitement to build.

Finally the card from Mrs F was this box - hand made by a very clever friend of ours.  On the outside it is covered with music - took me a couple of minutes to figure out it was Voodoo Chile Slight Return by Mr Hendrix.  Open up to the inside and lyrics from Fantastic Place by the unsurpassable Marillion...

How amazingly cool!



Sunday, 30 September 2012

Another meeting, another chair! Keep death off the roads!

So I went along to the meeting on Friday that I'd mentioned - it is a little way from me but one I've been to over the years, it does have cross over of some membership with my Monday meeting but also new and different faces including some old ones not seen for a while. One of those is a guy who got sober same time as me, one of the class of 2004, who used to go to the same meetings as I for a while, but work, life etc. mean our paths rarely cross, probably a year since I last saw him.  He came up gave me a huge hug and big smile.  It was worth going for that alone - truly linked to these people through mutual pain and understanding and through a love and fellowship you can't describe (I've paraphrased the quote apologies).

Then another old friend is now secretary there, bizarrely we drank in the same pub for years and were nodding acquaintances there.  As I got my coffee and biscuit he said "Would you mind doing the chair?".   I had to chuckle but agreed - when I'm asked to do these things there is probably some  reason behind it I don't understand and I honestly don't mind, it is good for me to listen to myself sometimes and hopefully others get something out of it, if only that AA and the programme have worked for me one day at a time to stay away from a drink for over 8 years, and I have a relationship with my family and friends I never had before, and a changed attitude to life where I don't judge and measure my success (or failure) against size of bank account, car, house, holiday etc.  I judge my success against how I feel inside, how my spirit guides me and is guided itself.   So I did the chair and enjoyed it, even if I did nearly cry when talking about something - but again I'm no long ashamed of that, the things I did in my drinking that hurt my family hurt me too now and that is precious to me.  Talking about my daughter telling me only in the last few months how she used to lock herself in the bathroom, shaking with fear as I raged about the house drunkenly shouting and screaming hurts me now because I cannot believe I behaved like that and didn't realise how it affected others - but then that is what alcohol will do to me, make me do things I don't want to do and anaesthetise me to both my feelings and the feelings of others too.  It is important for me to remind myself on a regular basis of those things. So mixing up my meetings is working, I'll continue to do it I've decided - it helps improve the level of charge in my spiritual battery.

A quick warning - I've just helped my daughter apply for her first driving licence... yes...  I know... I should be more responsible to the people in my area...  Where the hell is the time going... oh yes finally do actually turn 50 for real on Wednesday as well.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Wales, wet, meetings and a year in the job...

So Son-of-Furtheron is back in the land of male voice choirs etc. - i.e. back in Wales ready for new year at uni - his last!  Yes this time next year I've every confidence he will have a flying first in his undergraduate master in Physics and Space Science...  Yes he does make his old man look like a thick old numpty...  I'm so proud.   Daughter-of-Furtheron is settling into A level studies and is looking at universities that we'll be traipsing around this time next year in preparation for her to apply to.  One finishes and another joins the fray.  Mrs F is settling in with a new year group, new teacher she is working with and two guinea pigs her class has adopted!

The trip back to Wales was, almost predictably, met with weather that even Noah would have said "You expect me to go out in that!".  When I fetched S-o-F back at the end of the year we just escaped as floods hit that area - this time it was worse in land and I had to slowly edge through some road covering floods.  One time a helpful lorry coming the other way just ploughed through and I was totally swamped!  Luckily the car didn't miss a beat - probably a good job mine is a boring old diesel and therefore no ignition leads to get wet and stop everything working.  I was mighty glad to get home after 600 mile round trip and frankly some awful driving witnessed by me.  When you can't see more than 100 yards due to the spray, the surface it covered in running water and all the signs are flashing "50" in bright lights shooting along at 90mph does mean you'll hit something - that is a comment to the numpty in the silver BMW M3 that I saw on the M54 hit either the barrier or that big crane, I don't know which I saw him disappear into the spray then pulling off with half the front of his car ripped off.  Idiot!

I've been to a couple of different meetings recently - asked there to "do the chair", i.e. share my story with that meeting.  Lovely to see some old friends, make new ones and see newcomers working hard to find their way.  Told me I need to vary up my meetings - Friday I'm travelling off to one I've not been to for a long time.  It'll do me good I know it will.

Today was the first anniversary of me starting at the university in the job that regular readers will know I've had a little struggle with.  That is me though!  I've passed probation, got a few pats on the back.  I've figured out some real issues and now we have a plan to work through in a structure way a redesign of the services we provide and detail an improvement plan.  All positive stuff.  I've figure some of the people there tell me they know a lot but frankly don't.  Communication is very poor sadly in some aspects - I aim to tackle that head on and have a go at addressing my little bit where I can.

Working hard to not let my common autumn depression get too big a grip on me.   Progress not perfection.


Monday, 17 September 2012

Stumbling toward 50...

Saturday just gone the family held my 50th birthday bash... now it isn't my birthday yet, still a couple of weeks or so away but due to availability of sons etc. (he will be back to uni next week) it seemed sensible to hold it early.   Those who know me via this blog will no doubt not be surprised to hear me say I really am not a great party person at all. For that reason I'd wanted an "afternoon gathering" the original plan being a little do at our place through the afternoon.  However as the invitee list grew and the summer's weather wasn't great we decided to move to an alternative venue so we booked a room above a pub that my wife knew about and they provided the sarnies etc. meaning Mrs F enjoyed it far me being able to circulate around.

In the end somewhere attendance was somewhere in the 30s.  Which was pleasing, all my close family was there, the extended bits to (i.e. partners and family of nephews etc.) some friends from AA and some old friends who used to be a regular friends some years back but with life and families changing we all moved on and don't see each other so much at all these days with one of those making the trek up from Bristol.

It was really nice to have all those people around to celebrate with - although I still feel a bit of a fraud given my birthday is still a way off and all the cards/presents were left un-opened until the actual day as that seemed right to me.

Here is the cake Mrs F commissioned from an extremely talented friend of hers.  Most people claimed it was a dead ringer for me.  I think I look like a character from the old Camberwick Green shows which I really like the idea of... if only they would make a remake I could pitch myself in as a wandering musician... :-)

Oh yes and with so many AAs at the party the bar I suspect didn't quite sell as much alcohol as they expected to!

Friday, 14 September 2012

CD Review - Marillion, Sounds That Can't Be Made

People who know me, my family especially, and readers who've been around this blog for a while might well know that I am a bit of a Marillion fan. It may be somewhat unfashionable but what the hell do I care. Although recently Prog Rock does seem to be garnering more acceptability, there was even a short piece on the BBC news about the first ever prog rock awards event, and with bands like Rush and Asia etc. turning out great releases and touring you have to say it is still alive and well, the younger generation like Opeth and Steve Wilson also keeping the old beast alive.

So Marillion then - if you have heard of them no doubt it is memories of the Fish era 25 years ago when they popped up every now and then on TOTP with a minor hit, often looking very oddly dressed and playing even odder keys and time signatures. After Fish departed they drifted away from the general consciousness, sadly in my view. Steve Hogarth (H) replaced Fish in 1989 and the band has continued to have a very very loyal following since. So much so that many of the albums the band have produced in the last 15 years have actually be funded by preorders from the fan club members. I'm one of those bunch by the way parting with my hard earned readies many months before there is any sign of a physical result. The one advantage is receiving the release before general release. So it has been with Sounds That Can't Be Made the bands latest offering.

In summary one of their best albums for many many years. It has taken some time since the last new studio offering as the band knew they needed a re-charge. It was definitely worth the weight.

The album kicks off with Gaza. A fantastic piece of music inspired by the Gaza situation. This is 17 mins of pure brilliance. This is a Marillion heavier than normal, very charged and back to the multiple sections linked well together. This piece is frankly the highlight of the album and almost worth getting on it's own it is a mini-masterpiece. Steve Rothery's solo is once again a master-class is tasteful augmentation to a song not an over-dominating blitz to boost the guitarists ego.

As the final strains of Gaza drift away you think - what can follow that? The answer is a complete change of mood - again a driving sound with a tuneful chordal riff that sticks in your head instantly. H is superb on this track his emotion pouring from the speakers (headphones) in an excellently executed performance.

Those for me are the two stand out tracks of the album but there are other amazing gems, particularly the 14 min Montreal, Lucky Man and the 10 min closer The Sky Above The Rain. Erstwhile lyrist John Helmer returns with lyrics for the track Pour My Love. it's been some albums since he last got a credit on a new Marillion track.

Sadly Marillion like many other bands/artists are pigeon-holed by previous pre-conceptions and people thinking "Oh they can't be good/relevant any more". It is interesting that somehow a band like say U2 continue to be considered hip/cool/of the moment whilst others drop away but I don't feel the quality of output justifies it - certainly not with this release. Marillion may play to smaller venues, not feature in chart shows etc. any more but their music is frankly more relevant and vital now than 25 years ago in my humble opinion.

Spend the next 17 min of you life profitably - I give you Gaza by Marillion...

Thursday, 13 September 2012

The other two...

So Meesrs McKee and Gomm don't feel hard done by... and just cos simply this is music at it's very best...




Andy McKee, Jon Gomm and Preston Reed in concert

Last night was an absolute privilege to attend the first date of the Guitar Masters UK tour at The Quarterhouse in Folkestone. To see three such incredible exponents of modern acoustic guitar playing on one bill was fantastic and in a terrific intimate venue made it superb.

Jon Gomm kicked off the night taking to the stage with his trusty "Wilma" his beloved Lowden which sows the signs of his playing style due to his vigorous percussive techniques the table is heavily worn across most of itself. Jon ran through a selection of material from the recent Domestic Science singles series back to early material. All played in his own style as his fingers fly across the fret board and strings picking, tapping and slapping the body etc his case feet are dancing on his effects pedals keeping the sound in check. Many of Jon's tunes are songs and he hear I great vocal delivery to accompany his phenomenal playing. All too soon he departed the stage and Preston Reed came on.

Now of the three I'll be honest Preston was the one I knew the least about going into last night, I was aware of the name but wasn't aware of his music.  That is something I will be addressing.  Both Jon and Andy throughout their sets and the entire evening made many references to Preston being a huge influence on themselves and being a true pioneer in modern acoustic guitar playing.  He was a mighty impressive player - a very tall man coming over somewhat shy but once he started playing the guitar it was sublime.  He played one tune inspired by the Japanese bullet train called Shinkansen that truly did have me thinking I was on that train, his percussive style incredible to see in action.  I will be seeking out more of his music in the near future I'm sure.

Last up was Andy McKee.  Andy has carved a niche in the world of modern acoustic guitar players and is revered the world over.  He has a wide range of styles from intricate fingerpicked ballads, complex fast country style pieces and many atmospheric partial capo modal tuning instrumentals.  Andy was on very very fine form not breaking step when on one retune on his absolutely stunning fan fretted Greenfield guitar he simply picked up his Baritone and carried on including reworking some of his tunes there and then to a baritone compromise.  Just brilliant!

For the finale Preston and Jon returned and the three played together on stage for the first time ever (this being the first date of the tour).  For Jon's tune they played Waterfall which I was really happy about as the omission of that from his set was the only negative of the night so far for me.  They all added something special to each others tunes ending on Preston's Lady's Night and they left the stage to rousing applause and cheering.  We briefly got to shake their hands in the foyer on the way out and as ever I went into goofy fan/idol praise mode!

So they are on the road in the UK for another 19 dates.  If you can get there, support live music and watch three masters enjoying their art - I promise who will leave enriched and inspired.

Here is a video of Preston Reed performing Shinkansen from a few years back...

Friday, 7 September 2012

Surplus to needs...

Yesterday Son-of-Furtheron and I went to the filming of Antiques Roadshow at the Chatham Dockyard.  I took a watch my Dad was awarded when he started work there in 1940.  I'll have to explain it one day when I have a bit more time.  However I suspected (knew) the watch wasn't intrinsically worth much but with a cutting from the paper, the inscription, my Dad's original apprentice indentures etc. I thought it may have local interest.  As I talked to the expert we were 20 ft from the last RN vessel built in the yard, HMS Ocelot an O boat sub, which my Dad worked on.   But the harsh reality of commercialism showed through. Since the watch is "worthless" (well up to £100) the expert wasn't keen on it featuring on the programme.  The programme their choice but there you go.  The best thing was how British it was.  1 hour in the first queue to be told the second queue to join for another hour or so and then 10 mins with the expert!!!  Thousands of people there so given what a max of 20 items on the show our not making there is to be expected I suppose.  Still he did tell us to repair it so it works didn't look like an expensive job - my son would like that.  Maybe in time it will return to the yard in the museum again as the expert recommended we'll see maybe a family decision on that at some point.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Hero

Alex Zanardi has been a hero of mine for some time.  A great driver in his Champ car career, I'd followed him since watching him in the early 90s in F3000 battling with Damon Hill et al at the time.  He never seemed to get the right car at the right time in F1 and went back to the USA.  Sadly in one of the most horrific crashes ever in Germany in 2001 he lost both legs, instantly in a crash that frankly was a miracle he survived at all.  He showed incredible spirit returning to race again in a modified touring car even winning World Touring Car races.  That was pretty incredible.

Today he one a paralympic gold medal - at ironically Brands Hatch!  He is simply an inspiration and a man for whom I do not have words to express my admiration - I wish I had just one once of his humility, tenacity and grace.  I don't like the word hero banded about as it often is these days but for Mr Zanardi I will happily use it... he is a true hero!

http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/disability-sport/19493510

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Is it Autumn?

When does summer stop and autumn begin?  Whatever it is September and that means, shorter days, leaves falling, kids returning to school etc., no holiday to look forward to for ages!  We are done with the summer then, Mrs F is back to work at school, Daughter-of-Furtheron is starting the 6th form/A-level adventure and Son-of-Furtheron will be back at his esteemed educational establishment for the last year for his masters course before this month is out.

I think this is a time to stop freewheeling and for me to start steering and pedalling a bit more.  I've been sort of just cruising along thinking things like "well I will sort x out once we've had our holiday" or "I can't plan for that until y happens", etc.  Procrastination!  I've blogged about this before on here, remember the book I bought and then took an age to get around to reading - exactly!   If I'm honest part of the issue is prioritisation, what should I be putting my energies into?  Here are some of the options in no particular order...

Recovery - progressing myself on a bit more.  I think I've plateaued for a while in my recovery.  I don't feel as though I'm making progress and feel that there are some big areas of me that I want to put under the spotlight a bit and I'm sure that part of the procrastination is just me avoiding opening that can of worms.

Music - I'd love to get more gigs.  But I'm just not putting myself out there, in fact frankly I'm rubbish at this side, the selling of myself and the hawking round getting gigs.  However I have some open mic opportunities at a couple of new venues coming up in the next few weeks.  I'll see how they go.

Model Railway - not something I've mentioned on here but I have a large model railway in the loft (no that isn't any form of euphemism btw).  It started being built when my son was younger, the original reason being it was supposedly for him - cough, cough... anyway it has sat largely untouched for a good number of years now.  After our trip(s) to steam preservation lines in the Cotswolds S-o-F and I got up there and cleaned up the track and had trains running again after only a few minutes.  There are some areas where the track could do with relaying and there is a whole bit to be finished in terms of an original plan to build a covered over tunnel that has never been finished.  Something to move up the list of "things to be done" perhaps, it does provide a good creative practical outlet.

Work - see recent posts on this.  I'm coming up to my 1st anniversary working at my current employment, now granted it was an odd induction joining in the middle of a complex and at times controversial departmental re-organisation.  However things are now settling down but I have to admit I'm not convinced about it.  I've blogged about this before, the job is a very good job etc. etc. I just think I've tired in my work focus and find it difficult to get any motivation and drive back into that aspect of life.. so I think I'm approaching a time where it will be "get on with it or move on".

Garden - Our garden needs some attention. I'm not a great gardener frankly, I need plants that need minimal attention.  However even then a couple of bushes have suffered disease/pest attack over the last couple of years and need to be frankly got rid of!  Another example of one of those jobs I keep putting off.

Guitar Building - I've an ongoing desire to get into making guitars - well assembling them at least.  You can buy kits and lots of different components so easily these days on the web that I would be keen to have a go... again.  A long time ago I worked with my Dad to assemble a home built Strat that after some years became dubbed the Nunostrat.  I remember it teaching me that I needed to know more than I did at the time but I now think that time has possibly come.

I just need a clear plan, some bloody motivation to get things done and frankly just getting on with it and doing some of these things.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Edinburgh

Or where the hell has the Furtheron clan been now!  Yes a short stay over in Edinburgh, capital of Scotland and a city I like a great deal, fantastic architecture, lots to see and do etc.  Mrs F, Daughter-of-Furtheron and I flew up there - why is it so much cheaper to fly than go by train?  We stayed in a little B&B run by some Eastern Europeans (confused!) on the Southside of the City.  One thing I have to say Edinburgh has a fantastic bus service!  I've no idea why they are digging up so much of the city to put in a tram system the buses are cheap and very frequent so I don't think they need anything else.

Here are a few snaps from the trip.


Yes we went to see the Pandas at the zoo - all they do is sleep, eat and poo and can only mate on two days in one year...  no wonder they are endangered!  The zoo are hopeful that they moment of love next year will be a bit more success apparently Yuang Guang (the male above) "got his geography a bit wrong" when they got together this year!


The stunning castle up on the crag looking up from Princes Street gardens, which were years ago a man made lake (the Nor Loch) where all the waste from the Old Town part of the city went...  oh and they dunk witches in there too.  Given what was in there the fact that they burnt you at the stake for being a witch if you did float in it was possibly a blessing in disguise!


Palce of Holyroodhouse - The Queen's official gaff in the city.


A view of Princes Street gardens, Princes Street itself (the main shopping area), the New Town and in the distance Leith and the Firth of Forth from the castle.

Thursday, 23 August 2012

One of those days...

...when I remember what is good in the world.

My daughter, like thousands of other 16 year olds, got her GCSE exam results today.  2 A*s, 9As and 2Bs.

:-) :-) :-)

Happy and proud to be her parent day!

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Difficult Decisions or just Hypocrisy

Some stuff in the news recently has had me thinking... where are things just difficult decisions that the people who have to make them have a very tricky course to steer and where there is no real "right" answer overall and where is there just plain hypocrisy.

Today I read that Tony Nicklinson has died.  This poor man who was undoubtedly highly intelligent was left severely paralysed as the result of a stroke.  He had campaigned for the "right to die" - essentially the issue being he couldn't kill himself as physically he could not administer the lethal injection or take the pills.  Recently the High Court ruled that if he asked his family or a doctor to carry this out they could still be prosecuted for murder.  It seemed on face value an absurd ruling, this clearly intelligent man who had thought it all through and who was clearly suffering psychologically due to his physical condition simply wanted his wishes to be carried out.  If he could have killed himself he would have but he was unable to.  In the end an infection and his refusal to take food meant he now has passed away and his wishes regarding resuscitation have been respected as they should be and his death was by natural causes.  However I can't criticise the judges in this case - firstly they don't make the law, parliament does, they interpret that and adjudicate but murder is murder there was no blurring in their view.  I support the decision however painful for Mr Niklinson as I can see the issues it may bring up - ensuring that the person is fully compos mentis when they make that decision, there is no duress being brought to bear on the individual etc. etc.  If this is to be a "right" in future we need all those kind of things thought through and a public debate through parliament on whether as a nation we do agree with it or not.  Mr Niklinson's legacy may well be that we do indeed have that national debate, sadly you can today rightfully say that will be too late for him.   So this is a decision, in my opinion, where for the judges making it there was no "right" answer frankly - I'm glad I was not in their shoes.

Now Mr Assange - is it right for the UK to be sabre rattling over his being granted asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy?  Are the charges Sweden true or not?  Who knows, if we don't get a trial little chance of ever knowing the truth.  Is he right to be afraid? Possibly. Does he have the right to ask for asylum in the way he has?  Compare this with the Pussy Riot protest and trial in Russia and the condemnation that the UK government has levelled at the Russians about freedom of speech.   Just for a moment think on this... let us say that as a protest against the monarchy the Sex Pistols had reformed, stormed into Westminster Abbey and thundered out a performance of their 1977 anti-royalist anthem "God Save The Queen" on the day of the recent Diamond Jubilee celebrations.  Or more believable young black rap artist today jumped up on the alter of St Paul's performing an anti-government rap littered with obscenities.  Would we expect these people to be arrested and prosecuted?  At least with something along the lines of breach of the peace?  I doubt very much that nothing would be done.  Heck not that long ago St Paul's was in court trying to evict peaceful demonstrators in tents outside the building from its environs.  We shout for freedom of speech; we decry rigid clampdowns on anti-establishment protest in countries we have a historical philosophical beef with but seem in the next sentence to be similarly vindictive against people who lead protest against our own establishment.   Are these tricky decisions or just hypocrisy? 

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Holiday!!!


We've been on holiday... to the Cotswolds.  Finding little places like this.


Big places like this


And lots of things like this...  the girls weren't so keen on the trains for some reason!


An old fashion family holiday for us, although with the additional of Girlfriend-of-son-of-Furtheron (GOSOF - that doesn't work!).   We stayed in a farm converted into holiday cottages which was lovely but in the middle of nowhere, seriously to get a phone signal required gymnastics in the rafters.  I didn't realise how quiet it was until lying in bed this morning in our little quiet suburban street I wanted to scream out the window at the cars and planes and people on the way to the shop to shut the hell up!

I'd love to live in Bath I think, really lovely place.  Still back to the grindstone now...   Sorry I'll drop by blogs as I catch up with life!

Sunday, 12 August 2012

So proud

Last night like many millions sat, then stood and shouted and cheered as "little Mo" ran to victory in the 5km to get the distant double gold.  A fantastic achievement by any standards.  

However what makes me so proud was that Mo came to this country as a refugee and last night Britain showed our true side as a multi-cultural nation. As Mo knelt and prayed after his run and 80,000 cheered the roof off what more needed to be said.   An Islamic refugee national hero.

Britain - I love you.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

It all seems to be 50... and what I am grateful for.

I turn 50 in just under 2 months.  But looking at the stats on the blog I have 50 followers, welcome to the 50th!  Also just gone through 50,000 page views.

I read a couple of blog posts about loneliness today.  Interesting isn't it that we live in a world where we can all stay connect much better than we ever used to - we were trying to explain to the kids how my wife and I kept in touch when we were courting... er we met each other!  We did luckily have phones at home, we got one when I was about 16 I think - honestly up until then I'd have to use the pay phone over the road on the little green.  But it is interesting that I think loneliness is on the increase despite all this.  My daughter have 100s of "friends" on Facebook and Twitter - but truth is she doesn't know hardly any of them.  On here many people read and comment and I have a blog roll I visit, people I find interesting or we have a common bound, sometimes music, often recovery. 

So what am I grateful for - my family for a start and my wife.  I'm never lonely as I have that basis for a start.  I have a load of friends in AA, I may not spend a lot of time with them socially outside the rooms (some do) but truly they are great friends. 

My wife has been organising a bit of a do for my impending 50th - in the end the venue moved from home to a pub she knows that has a function room.  There is a sense of irony that a recovering alcoholic has his do in a pub, but many of those coming can drink safely and sanely - although I almost guarantee the noisiest most boisterous lot will be the AA members there!  Anyway - the room has a capacity limit... near 50...  It is all 50 at the moment.

Friday, 3 August 2012

Gigs Galore

Right - the promotional tour for The Man Inside is underway... ok ok that may be stretching a point a bit but I have got some gigs lined up!

Several are open mic nights but I'm planning to get there early and get a slot and see how it goes.  Also I've been asked to play a Songwriters Showcase at Canterbury which I'm really looking forward to as it'll be my first gig as a 50 year old!

All up at my music site for info.

Book reviews - Code to Zero & Warlord

Code to Zero by Ken Follett

Super read this one. Great cold war thriller with some terrific twists in it and good characters as well. The novel starts with a man waking in a public toilet in a railway station in Washington in the late 1950's. He has lost his memory entirely. You follow him trying to figure out who he is. Once in learns that though soon he knows someone wiped his brain and is still chasing him. Soon figuring out friend from foe and why this is happening now is a complex picture.  It turns out he is a rocket scientist, one of the best and has been working on the USA programme to get its first satellite into space.  His amnesia must be something to do with this.  But what?  Is he the spy or it is the spy who has done this to him?  Throughout the plot in the present of him trying to find who he is and why this may have been done to him you are given various flash backs with the main characters allowing you to slowly piece his past together at the same time the character is trying to as well.

Top book well written, a good story line, characters & twists and a tense climax.  Complete double thumbs up on the FITUBRS scale.

Warlord by Angus Donald

The forth in the series of books inspired by the Robin Hood legend.  I've covers these in other reviews before here and here at least... I like these series of books and found Warlord being downloaded to my Kindle on the day of release automatically from my pre-order - clever that (I know I'm supposedly an IT professional, honestly though folks it is getting on for at least 20 years since I really did anything technical, but this new found stuff just amazes me at times!).  Ok to recap all books are written from the point of view of Alan Dale, he of the old legends who as a boy joins Robin's band of thieves and outlaws when rescued from the evil Sheriff of Nottingham.. yes yes you all know the stories.  However in Angus's version Robin becomes a knight of repute standing alongside King Richard on his crusade and now in this novel in his fight in France against King Philip for the return of lands taken from English hold.  By this book Alan is a full knight who is betrothed to his love.  However life isn't smooth for Alan, firstly he has to do as Robin and the King bid, largely gory battles in France and also the need to discover more about his heritage and his father's death.  He father was hanged by the Sheriff of Nottingham but he's died with only telling Alan a tantalising fact that he had been ordered to kill his father by a mystery man.  So when not slaughtering the French Alan is in France tracing his father's early life.  He discovers who is his nemesis and why and a good adventure all around follows, with excellent weaving of the fictional and legendary Robin Hood characters around the factual campaigns of Richard the Lionheart.  I also find out that Mr Donald had a similar childhood library to me - he recalls a Ladybird book about Richard the Lionheart - I remember that but think maybe my brother or a friend had it... however I devoured many times the Silver Arrow a Robin Hood adventure that was in the old book cupboard in our hallway.  I've looked on line and it'll cost me nearly £20 to relive my childhood now... damn should have held on to all that "tute" as Mrs F calls it :-)

I will say it is a double thumbs up on the FITUBRS scale again from Angus (have to be good - last time he came and sort out the review here!)  No honestly highly recommended if you love this kind of historical adventure.  Now stop reading now to avoid a serious plot spoiler!

My kids noticed a long time ago that many of the books I read had Templars in them or the Holy Grail ... often both.  To date this series has only featured Templars in the periphery as they were on the crusade etc. but this time they feature more heavily and guess what... the grail appears!  Hooplar!!! The kids were ecstatic when I told them - well er no actually their eyes rolled and some muttering about every book I read having these two themes... untrue... a good percentage maybe but not every one!

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Isolation vs Integration

Another blogger sparked off something in me that has really got me thinking...
So here I am in the "new" job...  I've put the quotes there as actually I've been here over 10 months now and rapidly it'll be a year so is it still "new"?  It feels it to me.  And there in lies a crux of issues that have been assailing me of late. Let me throw a bunch of things at you... culture, complexity, change, commitment, belonging...

A little history lesson.  I worked at the same place from 1991 - 2010 until I was made redundant, something I was happy about at the time, that old place was on a downward spiral and my mojo had decidedly left me and I found myself regularly the harbinger of bad tidings "We tried that three times before and it failed due to a, b, c etc.".   I needed to get out and get a change.  After 7 months not working I got a job with a small consultancy firm - I didn't mind the work and the fact that as a consultant you go into somewhere and can be extremely focused, most of the everyday stuff is just not relevant or of interest to you.  However I really really hated the life out of a suitcase not at home except at weekends flavour of life so after 7 months there I was looking for a local job, I found one with a respected company in it's field and was going to start there when another job I'd applied for just before the other one fell in my lap - I was stunned it is with a prestigious institution in the heart of London and frankly I never expected to get the job.  I took that job instead and here I am...

When I joined I knew that the department I'm in was in a massive period of change, essentially 2 or 3 departments all joining together and a root and branch organisational change under-way. I joined in the middle of this and it wasn't pleasant, the culture of the organisation is a bit "job for life", there is a relatively very low turnover of staff and due to a union dominated employer/employee relationship change takes a very long time and is frequently disrupted by the unions.  I understand some of why they do this, however it angered me at the time I joined.  Due to some logistical issues I was initially put in an office that was not with people I closely worked with, they were in another office block.   The reorganisation look longer than planned/hoped and it wasn't until April this year I was really in place in the job and we only located all together a month ago in a new office block.  The whole change process is still ongoing and much is still being said of transition rather than normalisation.

I realised - or rather I've been burying from my conscious focus! - through another blogger that my actions have been isolationist not one of integration.  I frequently lunch alone, reading books/blogs at that time - it has become "me time".  Maybe not a bad thing, but hasn't helped my feeling of belonging a part of here.  Also the institution is large, it doesn't have the normal structures you may be used to in a corporate world (where I've spent most of my working life) the whole thing is effectively a group of alliances to a brand but more on a sort of franchise basis than a wholly owned subsidiary.  This again makes understanding the politics, the drivers, the real objectives very difficult to grasp - a very senior may say something  about policy or strategy but really they have little direct authority to implement that completely they have to sell, cajole, entice others to that view point, all the time remembering that some of those they need to influence have the option of taking a large chunk of the organisations prestige, funding etc. with them if they decided that they didn't like that direction and would be better served in another similar institution.  The complexity is frankly baffling - I have found it a very hard environment to get my head around I can say.  The politics are just too complex to say and the lack of cohesive communications and conflicting prioritisations and decisions too numerous to keep track of.

So I find myself regularly faced with all the above and soldier on trying to affect some little part of my activities to be seen as a successful contributor to the overall.  I have to say though I'm struggling with the commitment to it, I keep thinking that the level of energy especially emotionally that I have to put in to dealing with the above is not worth the effort really. 

Now before people leap in with comments about leaving the job - I know all that etc.  I'm make one observation, my wife often says "You'll never be happy where you work".  Frankly, she has a fair point, I've always bitched about it, always taken probably too much to heart my need to be seen as this or that or the other and to deliver what I believe is the right result and my vision of my expectations it probably far too high to be healthy.   I come back to the AA thing about acceptance.  It is a good job, a very good job, with a very respected employer, in fact the place is pleasant to work in the majority of the time, the people nice enough it is just me wanting the unobtainable.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Best bit of the Olympics so far...

Ok London2012 fever is here!  My daily journey to work takes me on the train right through the park, underneath it in a tunnel apart from the station!  I sadly can't see anything but the traveling has been ok, I'm getting up earlier to get in by 8am so I can leave and get the train back before the crowds heading in for the evening events... the athletics start on Friday that may make life more difficult!

Anyway the best bit for me so far was the Men's 200m  Butterfly final.  Phelps beaten at his last meeting in an event he has not been beaten in for 11 years - and in the last few cms as well.  Amazing.   Then the BBC interview live with his overcome Dad was just pure TV gold, hats off to the BBC for doing that - I doubt a non public funded broadcaster would have taken the risk.

The BBC has a great story about it.  Watch the race then the interview which is on there as well...

Monday, 30 July 2012

And then more come along...

As you'll know regular readers my album The Man Inside is now available.  (Note gratuitous plug there - seriously folks this is so cheap it's painful and I'm extremely grateful for any sales :-)).  I thought I'd probably sit back and think about some other musical directions etc. for a while - but surprisingly or maybe not I've found myself inspired to write a couple of new songs!  One is an old chord pattern that has been lying around for a long time - donkey's years actually - that I was playing through and suddenly a couple of lyrical lines hit me and fitted so well that I've sat down and written a complete lyric for it.  I get the feeling that it is one of those that'll need some additional work to get the lyrics really where I want them but it is at least 90% there after this weekends work. 

The other number is a very typical one to my recent output on The Man Inside (second gratuitous plus :-)) and started as a little chord pattern that sounded good, I slightly reworked and then again a lyrical idea fell into place and after a little more refining and finding some additional "bits" for a bridge/breakdown section again I'm really pleased with that.

So maybe this is telling me to carry on with where I am and what I'm doing and not look too far ahead for anything else.  I once was at a workshop hosted by Gordon Giltrap where he said more than once that you need to focus on one stream to push for success - that has recently been ringing true in my head.

Friday, 27 July 2012

It was 27 years today...

That Mrs F walked up the aisle and stood next to me.  She'd insisted I wasn't to look at her as she walked up, and I stuck to that promise.  When she drew level I looked at her and whispered "You look beautiful". 

Today - day off!!!  We're off out somewhere to celebrate.  No doubt our thoughts will be distracted from that as Daughter-of-Furtheron has been on a swimming teachers course all week and has her exam today so part of us will be mentally with her hoping she does well.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Gratitude lists - the secret is out

I have been doing gratitude lists since my early days in sobriety. They were suggested to me at a meeting on bank holiday Today in August 2004 I just remember shit like that at times, shame I can't remember what Mrs F said a moment ago!  Anyway I did them daily for ages I had books of them. I do them less regularly now but they are a great leveler and reminder.
Now some guru is letting the secret out of the bag :-)  good to see the rest of the world beginning to catch AA up. :-)

Monday, 23 July 2012

Putting on a play and bad behaviour

On Thursday last week we went to see the play Long Day's Journey Into Night.  My daughter mostly wanted to see it and given it's content (centred on an alcoholic family) and the setting (a house in a part of CT I know very well through my old job) we decided to go and see it. With David  Suchet in the lead role that was another incentive.
I had actually taken the day off and Daughter-of-Furtheron, Son-of-Furtheron and I went to London for the day with the play as the climax. However after about 40 mins there was an odd noise and a light at the back of the set went off followed quickly by all stage lights and then we could hear a fire extinguisher going off!
The play was stopped and after a few more mins we were asked to wait in the foyer. After about an hour it was clear they couldn't restart sadly. However some people were now quite angry and rude. Why? They were going to be at the play all evening so this wasn't upsetting their plans, the staff were clearly busy trying to fix it or get an answer. The best bit was when another announcement to wait was made one angry American lady shouted "you can't go on the ambiance is ruined!"  what!
In the end the ticket agent has booked us for a another performance but the best thing was the people watching really :-)

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Blackout

Finally catching up on some TV watching after a busy week.  Blackout was a fantastic 3 part BBC drama with Christopher Eccelston playing a city politician (Daniel Demoys) who is an alcoholic.  Basically a story about corruption and deceit it also deals fantastically well with alcoholism throughout.  Demoys wakes from another hellish day of drink to find that someone who he was involved in underhand dealings with has been killed.  He has marks on his fists showing he was in a fight the night before but it was a Blackout.  Now alcoholics reading this will be familiar with that feeling of "What the hell happened yesterday?"  This is that problem as Daniel has flashes of what happened but is not sure exactly.   Then in a moment of bravery he is shot protecting someone else.  He determines not to drink.  A nurse at the hospital helps him - telling him he has had a "moment of clarity" and then to call her when the moment he wants to drink again comes... "and it will come".

Super script, great acting and brilliantly researched on the alcoholic point of view - so AA was not mentioned, not surprising based on AA's official position of attraction not promotion but so much was the AA programme, the talking to another alcoholic whilst staring at a glass of scotch, the moment of clarity, the phrase repeated a few times of "your secrets will kill you".  Highly rated, if you are in the UK and didn't see it you have a few days left to see the whole series (3 hours in total) on iPlayer and I would thoroughly recommend it.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Analog man in a digital age

This morning I am typing this post on my new Sony Android phone.  Yes folks I am joining the mobile revolution! So I am so far struggling with the keyboard but it does seem to be learning how useless I am and providing suggestions to help me.

I hope to be able to use this to stay in touch more on blogs etc.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Is happiness in the destination or the journey?

I've read a few blog entries from other bloggers in recovery talking about where they are in recovery/life/etc. at the moment and that plus other things have prompted me to come up with this post.

It is good every now and then to have a moment of reflection a look back.  The last few months have been a little bit turbulent for me.  The job I'm now in has been an interesting journey - I'm just over 9 months into it and now through my "probationary" period, which is in itself interesting since when I joined the department was in the middle of the third phase of a major departmental restructuring, my hiring was into a new position created as part of this restructure itself as part of the management team.  However it took longer than originally anticipated for the next phases to complete to I've continued to be in limbo longer than was originally hoped.  This was good from some points of view, I've had plenty of time to get to know various people and gain some understanding of the institution, my department and my responsibilities.  I've been getting used to the commuting, it isn't a bad commute compared with some about an hour and a half door to desk with about 50mins on the train, the rest walking to station etc.  Mrs F has been fantastic picking me up pretty much every evening on my journey home about half way back from the station.  However I do find it tiring the traveling everyday to be honest.  The organisation is very large, hugely complicated in structure and with many diverse missions and goals, people who have been in it for many years find it like that, you have to carve your niche and work within that you cannot try to encompass the breadth of it all.  Again I need to accept that of the organisation and myself and do what I can within those limits.

I've been a bit focused on the album musically, I made the decision probably around Christmas to get a second album out but I needed a few more tracks etc.  That meant making time for writing, practicing, recording etc. which has all had to be fitted in around other stuff.  I did have a start at a band project but I just had to let that slide a bit whilst getting the album done.  There was the tax scare that I'll not bore you with again...

However now looking back - I've worked on the issues around work.  Some I can change some I can't, of course I have this incredible ability to set myself a very high goal and feel I'm not perfect and doing as well as I could.  The imposter syndrome - I've done some looking into that recently - you know it isn't just me, lots of people suffer that!  Also recently a couple of people have given unsolicited feedback on my performance and commented that I've had a good start to the role I've got.  Again a new role, underlying department reorganisation, new governance structures as well and one of the people who was to hand some of his work over to me going on long term sickness (at least a year) almost within a couple of weeks of me starting.  And I still think I should have all the problems fixed for everyone in a few minutes!  I know I need to go easy on myself but I don't a lot of the time.

The tax thing was interesting how I dealt with that.  Ok when I opened the letter and saw an amount I thought was the helpline phone number then realised that they wanted that to be paid in a week I had a meltdown.  For a few minutes I was distraught.  But after an hour I'd spoken to the helpline told them there was a problem, with help from them figured out where the error was and put in place my complaint about the error.  I followed that up with letters and more calls, not getting angry and mad just working the issue.  One really bad sleepness night, a couple of minor ones then - "Let it go" I thought "I've done what I can now and when they reply I can take the following next steps".  And I just got on with it. Now that is progress in sobriety - "We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us" (AA big book Chapter 6).

The album I've written, rehearsed and recorded is out - I've sold internationally again!  (Thanks to those who know who they are, my gratitude is great).  I've got the download available which is very cheap £2 - blimey you can barely buy a coffee in the High Street for that these days!  Whatever I feel it is a success in terms of the growth in my song writing, my singing (still rubbish but there you go) and my playing and recording skills.  Next stop?  I would love to get more gigs but I don't think I'm pushy enough, I need a plan of action to address that. 

So I find myself actually quite happy with things.  I'd love the commute to be shorter, London to be less hectic and crowded, where I work to be simpler to understand and work in - it is big and complicated with more than its fair share of clever people!  I wish I could sing better, would love the CD to be selling like hot cakes and gigs to be flooding in so I could chuck in the day job and be a professional singer songwriter but let us face facts - that isn't going to happen.  So I continue to be happy on the journey feeling really that it is all generally in the right direction and that has to be a good thing.