Monday, 26 March 2012

DIY Fretwork

See this guitar here

That is my "Nunostrat" - as I call it.  It had been about some years before that name stuck which was when I stained the body the colour it is now and due to the hand staining and teak oil finished neck, Strat look and twin humbuckers I thought it a bit like Nuno Bettencourt's (Extreme) famous N4.   However it's origins lie in about 1981.  I decided building my own guitar better (cheaper?) than buying one.  I was young and foolish.  Now this was in the days before lots of DIY guitar stuff was available but inspired by Brian May, Stephen Delft (magazine articles in International Musician) and Adrian Legg (Customise your guitar book) I bought a body and a neck from Touchstone Tonewoods and hardware from all over the place.  My Dad helped the initial assembly which was good since at the time I'd have probably made a complete hash of it!  Why a strat with two humbuckers?  Well in 1981 you couldn't buy one like that and Allan Holdsworth played on a little like this at the time, which was another part of the influence.  Originally it had DiMarzio PAFs on it, like Allan's.

It has had more than one facelift in it's life.  Possibly because the neck is only oil finished and therefore not sealed totally it had developed some high frets cause chocking of notes etc.  So I've done a fret dress on it to level out the higher frets.  I have a fret levelling file and a fret crowning file both bought from StewMac in the USA. 

I taped up the neck with masking tape. Got an aluminium straight edge and credit card to determine the worst offending frets and got filing.  Using the right tools helps!  The fret file doesn't need much effort at all.  After that the crowning file restores the shape and gets rid of the worst of the burr on the top.  I then used wire wool and a lot of elbow grease to polish all the frets.

Result?  A much more playable guitar no chocking out of notes and better bending etc all round.  In fact I sat playing it throughout an entire rugby match on the box and was more and more pleased with it as it went on.

Fender have just announced a limited run of hand finished ash bodied strats - which could almost have been my signature guitar based on this old workhorse, funny I must have missed them calling to suggest my scrawl was on the top of the headstock ;-)

Currently it's spec is for the Nunostrat is

Body - Solid one piece Ash
Neck - Canadian maple with skunk stripe on rear, rosewood fretboard, 21 frets, 12" radius (i.e. a lot flatter than any Fenders).  Bullet style truss road adjuster.
Bridge - chrome plated Mighty Mite hard tail unit, through body stringing.
Tuners - Spertzel locking tuners 6 a side
Two Swineshead pickups (sadly now defunct bespoke pickup maker from Lincs.  These have mahogany bobbins that match the body well) - 2x vol 2x tone with coil taps on each pickup
3 way SG style pickup switch
Schaller strap locks

Book Review This Time Next Year - Liz Hinds

It is with immense pleasure I'm able to write this review.  Liz is probably the longest running / surviving reader/contributor to this blog and the one that went before it.  Liz can be found at her own blog over at Liz and Harvey.  Liz is a brilliant person she is a conscientious Christian working hard in her own community, she visits prisoners, helps all sorts of people at Zac's, is a proud Mum and Grandma, she writes the brilliant and very honest blog afore mentioned, she makes the best Christmas Puds known to mankind since my dear old Mum passed away (according to Mrs F anyway) and now she is a fully signed up published author.

Now I'll be honest This Time Next Year is probably not what I'd normally read it probably falls into the Chicklit category.  I'm very sure Mrs F will love it and she'll be reading it soon.

It is a book about a 50 year old recently divorced mother, Alison, and her trials and tribulations in life.

The book is written in the first person from the perspective of our heroine Alison Turner, in the form of a diary/journal.  Liz's personable style of writing and hilarious humour shines through.  There are several points in the book I wonder how close the fiction is to real elements of Liz's own life - although she is happily married and her husband has not run off with a 28 year old "bimbo".  However some incidents during a dog sitting operation make me wonder how much George Liz's faithful companion has influenced here.

There are many many elements of great humour within the book - a couple of embarrassing laugh out loud moments which draw the stares of my compatriots on the 7:20 to St Pancras.  You accompany Alison as she tries to get to grips with life alone as a 50 year as her son moves to university and has to endure her friend and family's best intentions of trying to "find her a man".  In the end Alison doesn't need any help and romance is around the corner - although the timing of it was a surprise to me.

Excellently written in a funny style I'd thoroughly recommend it.  So a double thumbs up on the Furtheron scale of book reviewing!

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Book Review - Glenn Hughes, The Autobiography

Glenn Hughes - a bit of an enigma to me until recently.  In our house musical interests were a little partisan between my brother any I.  He bought the Pink Floyd, Black Sabbath, Steppenwolf, Deep Purple records.  I bought Supertramp, Rush, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Led Zep - just the way it was.  I listen to his stuff and he listened to mine.  So Glenn Hughes was the bass player and second singer in the later versions of Deep Purple to me.  He then disappeared off my radar for years, although I remember Hughes/Thrall, his collaboration with Gary Moore and that he was briefly the singer for Sabbath during the wilderness years for that band sadly.   The rest of Purple I knew about - I'd been into the early Whitesnake stuff where Coverdale, Lord and Paice were and of course there was Rainbow with the revolving door on lead singers trying to work with Ritchie Blackmore.  But Glenn Hughes...  where'd he go?

About 3 or 4 years back a friend in the USA and I were talking about music we liked, he worked with me and was a recovering alcoholic (which bizarrely my wife picked up on first before me when we went to a meal with him and his family and some other colleagues).  He also was into a lot of the same music as I.  I was talking various bands etc. and he suddenly said "Hey - you should listen to Fused by Tony Iommi".  On trust of his judgement I bought it on spec in a record shop and found that whilst under the Iommi banner it was really a collaboration with Glenn Hughes who sang throughout and had had a significant input to the material.  I was impressed and through my friend found Glenn was a man who had walked the dark path of addiction and come out the other end.  Skip a year or two and I've found and really got into Joe Bonamassa in a big way.  I then hear on the internet and in guitar mags that JB was forming a "super group" with Glenn Hughes, Jason Bonham (son of the legendary Led Zep drummer) and Derek Sherinan (ex Dream Theatre).  They have banged out two really good albums in two years, the second one especially being very very good.  Classic heavy blues tinged rock at it's best, really noone has done it so well since the legendary midlands bands from the 70s in the UK.  The name Black Country Communion is a nod to that heritage.

So we arrive at me picking up Glenn's autobiography.  Firstly it is a miracle the guy is here - he fully admits he has put more than enough cocaine up his nose to kill anyone, add to that crack, ecstasy, speed and a lot of drink and this lad has pushed the boundaries.  In a way the book is very like Slash's story where you keep wondering how much worse it will get - well it did get to a heart attack but even then he didn't totally stop.  Several rehabs and many mad situations with people with guns and stuff.  Here Glenn lays it all out.  One thing that shines throughout however is his total devotion to music, it is a real real shame that a lot of years through which he really should have been productive he was too loaded to achieve anything and slowly through disasters like being so ill, and having been beaten up by the tour manager and therefore broken bones and internal bleeding in his head, he was fired from Black Sabbath in the middle of tour.  But frankly he should never have been in the band - it isn't what he is good at, he and others knew it but that band itself was in bad shape then anyway.  

His recovery story is interesting and I give him credit as he outlines a bunch of slips through his early sober years which he admits were pretty secret and he could have kept it that way but he shares what he did, what he felt at the time and my congratulations to him for doing so.  Finally he ends up again in an ambulance heading to A&E and is abused as a "low life addict" but the paramedic.  You can argue that health professionals should be professional and also would treat addiction as a disease but we all know the truth out there - they are generally sick to the back teeth of wasting time and resources on people who simply don't really want to shape up themselves.  Anyway this guy tells Glenn to shut up and suddenly Glenn realises what and who he is has his final rock bottom and final moment of clarity - to date at least and I hope it continues that way.  This got me thinking...  

My rock bottom was in the middle of stupid row with my wife that was all my fault through again drinking way too much.  I gave up, lay on the floor, curled up and cried and cried.  I just wanted it all to end I couldn't fight any more.  My wife said in the row and then gently as I calmed down afterwards that she couldn't go on like that and I needed to sort myself out.  I've always maintained that I was so beaten then that I was already in my heart committed to a recovery.  Glenn's assertion that this guy bawling at him made him see clearly made me re-evaluate my side of that story.  I think my wife feels her threat to me got me to sober up - I'm now thinking it was probably 50/50 - I'd had enough , she had too and that combination got me to the steps of a rehab days later.

Back to the book.  A fast and good read if you are into recovery stories or interested in the music - I have to say it is probably of limited interest outside of those categories.  A thumbs up on my review scale.  However I have to say I was a little deflated at the end of it - I read this story and was pleased for Glenn and I should be pleased with my recovery but I can't deny the jealous little monkey on my shoulder looking at this guy who is now in his 60s - probably looks 10 years younger than me, has an amazing singing voice and bass guitar skills and has formed one of the best bands on the planet... there is that little thought "Well you would think everything is great"...   Jealousy not a nice trait of mine, and also the ingratitude.  I'm sober, healthy, have a fantastic family, write my own music, have a job that pays very well etc. etc.  I have much more on the positive side of the scales to worry that my life didn't give me the opportunities his did... and let's be honest if I'd have been that young guy in Deep Purple with all that money and fame ... I'd have been dead a long long time ago and totally forgotten about.

Battle of the bulge

Any really long term readers out there remember this post from 2009 about the bulge on my 12 string guitar?  Thought not, well I have a bulge on my 12 string or a belly as it is also known.  My recent read through the excellent Haynes Acoustic Guitar Manual introduced me to the JLR Bridge Doctor.  Now the Haynes book shows one where it is fitted without any new holes etc. by a brass pin that screws into the device replacing your normal bridge pins.  After that installation though the guitar isn't strung conventionally but as like an Ovation / Takamine pin less bridge through the replacement brass pins, which seems less than satisfactory to me, you might remove your bulge but the tone may well drop off given it was never designed to be strung like that.

Hmm - that method saves a drilling game through the bridge which given the installation in the book is on a rare 1930s instrument is probably not a bad idea but...
a) I'm not keen on the strings not being strung normally through the bridge
b) mine is a 12 string and they only seem to do 6 string versions with the pins and ...
c) it's twice the price of another version.

The other version is simply screwed in by drilling an additional hole through the back of the bridge.  With this version the whole thing was under £20 including the postage for the USA so I've ordered one and it is on it's way across the Atlantic to chez Furtheron.  I found a video of a guy fitting it to his Yamaha 12 string on Youtube which has a lesson built in - he ended up having to drill twice so I now know one thing to look out for!  His Yamaha is a slightly different model to mine but from the same series so I'm sure with care this will work.

Bottom line is I thought to myself the guitar is a nice but cheapish guitar, second hand in good condition worth about £100 probably.  Given the bulge and the high action I'd struggle to sell it anyway unless I was to lie about it's current condition, and I'm not like that - I even point out repairs that people can't see on cars and guitars when I sell them. So I spend £20 and do it myself and either I get an improvement or not, I've nothing much to lose really.  I will report on this once it all arrives and I have a go at installing it.  BTW if this works I might take the saw to the guitar and install a permanent pickup to make it a stage 12 string again inspired by the Haynes book - which I said before I totally recommend.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

The Power of the Group

I like going to AA meetings - in general now it is no longer a daily struggle to stay away from a drink, I've been away from one a number of days, weeks, months, years now and new habits are there.  Those habits have replaced entirely the old behaviours that revolved around drinking, there is nothing of the ritual left.  That helps obviously, but also I do react differently.  I get stressed over something at work, a meeting I have to chair or what have you and I don't run off to the pub to "calm my nerves" I walk through the anxiety.  Sometimes better than others but over the years now I'm learning that frankly in most of these things I fear all I really fear is being shown to be lacking in some way... to be seen to be human!  When I celebrate I don't have to drink to do it - and best for me as much of my worst drinking was triggered by situations that would call for a celebration I don't feel the need to destroy the celebration with my drink filled self-pity that no matter what was supposed to be celebrating I could always find a few dozen more aspects of my life that were below the expectations I'd set for myself and therefore I'd hit the "actually my life is still shite" button and hit the booze.  Now one of my new rituals is that I go to AA meetings, I rarely even think about it, it is Monday go to the meeting - if I wasn't moving out my seat by 7:15 my wife would no doubt say "You going tonight?"  That would be the queue, she doesn't get AA at all, she is a very private person and doesn't understand group therapy (when I was in rehab for a month she never told anyone other than very close family, finally a friend of hers said "What is going on?" and she finally told her.  That is her way, I don't interfere).  However her experience and evidence is that I'm a totally different person since going to AA so I think if I ever backed off she might have some point of view on it - but as I say she doesn't need to, I go and actually I enjoy going normally and sometimes I really enjoy going.

Last night I was at the regular meeting I attend on a Monday, actually last meeting in the room I have known for 8 years as the church has asked us to move to a smaller room from next week - ironic, it was completely full last night and has been pulling good attendances for a while now, but frankly we pay a peppercorn rent so can't complain.  Three people collected sobriety chips last night.  One a young (isn't almost everyone to me now!) man at his first meeting and his first 24 hours without a drink.  Then two more both have been into AA and back out but are back in with a bit of a purpose, a spring to their step, that certain sparkle in the eyes that you see when someone is back from the dark place.  They both collected 1 month chips.  There was much clapping and cheering.  It was fantastic - firstly for these people that they are pulling back from a hell on earth for them, no doubt for those around them outside AA, family, friends, colleagues, neighbours etc.  But also for the group - this shows AA working, forget the steps for a moment, the traditions, the concepts, conference, the arguments raging about whether AA money should buy these bloody chips in the first place (I pointed out at region that we all troop off to buy our tea, coffee, milk and biscuits from supermarkets flogging beer at prices cheaper than water it seems and we have no issue with that supposedly...  I'll let that resentment go... one day) but this is about people not drinking who couldn't stop drinking for whom alcohol consumed all their energies - where were could they get money for it, when could they start to drink, hold their drink, hide their drink, lie about their drink, avoid being somewhere to drink, be somewhere to get a drink, avoid someone, manipulate someone etc. etc. etc.

A great meeting - the chair was a friend who's story is frightening close to mine in so many aspects, so he is a man I have huge empathy with.  And in this group of 30 something drunks people with experience in so much of life, in drink, without drink, in literally the first day without drink to tell me how good it felt but how frightened they were, some with a few months, a year or two, or five or eight or 10 or 20 or 25.   Doesn't matter how much you pay any analyst, how much money could be poured into the NHS for alcohol reform - you simply couldn't buy that level of experience in one place for me to tap into and continue my journey on the back of all those people simply "going to AA and not picking up a drink".

Friday, 16 March 2012

Book Review - Pantheon Sam Bourne

I believe I've read all of Sam Bourne's previous novels and he has been one of my favourite authors in the "cracking thriller" genre. 

This is an interesting novel on a variety of levels.  The story centres around an Oxford academic, his wife - also an Oxford academic and an Olympic swimmer and their child, a young boy.  The novel starts out in the early days of WWII the time of the Battle Of Britain when Britain stood pretty much alone against the might of the Germany army camped a mere 23 miles away on the French coast when everyone expected an inevitable invasion.  Through a series of flash backs you are introduced to the romance of our two main characters and realise that these are principled people - they met at the People's Olympiad which was an attempt in 1936 to present an alternative Olympics for those boycotting the official games being held in Berlin.

To cut to the chase our learned academic returns from an early morning rowing session on the river to find his wife and child have left leaving no details of where they have gone.  Almost instantly sinister goings on are afoot as you know that mail is being intercepted and feel people who should help our hero don't appear to be doing so.  The tail moves quickly on to America and introduces plenty of vilians in the form of an anti-Jewish group within the UK who are hoping to strike a peace deal with the Germans, various Oxford and Yale administrators and a young American who is working in the US embasy and clearly is up to much no good.  This is all good stuff as you are drawn into how will all these disconnects finally be connected.

The tale moves on with again lots of blockage of our man trying to trace his family in the USA.  In trying to find them murders are committed, evidence removed, he is arrested, attacked and tailed.  What ties all this together is actually eugenics.  "What?" you might ask. Eugenics was a brand of scientific study which looked at how through selective breeding particular qualities could be bred in or out of humans.  Eugenics was pretty mainstream in the early 20th century and is something I've recently looked into a bit as the institution I work at is linked to it through really the initial founder of the movement Francis Galton.  Today, due to it's association with the Nazi regime it has been discredited to a large degree and to have someone today say that mass sterilization of low achievers would be unthinkable.  However you look back to the early 20th century you find luminaries like George Bernard Shaw, Maynard Keynes, even Winston Churchill himself were supporters to a greater or lesser extent in the UK.   And this is in part the point of this novel to bring that topic back into the popular public spotlight - I'm not sure to what cause - but it does make one wonder if things had gone differently between 1939 - 1941 what would have happened both in Europe and the USA with these beliefs.  Of course our greater understanding of genetics now makes us know that it is impossible (currently) to predict a random mutation the gene code anyway and so even with the most rigorous selective breeding programme you can still get significant mutation from the planned out come so in essence the major underlying philosophy in Eugenics is largely flawed.

So lots of true fact weaved into a really good thriller - this isn't the break neck paced Hollywood screen play slanted sort of book but a slightly slower one with fewer characters encountered in more depth and as a book it is all the better for it having you think and use your imagination more.

Really good book, with a good climactic ending and some interesting observations about Eugenics in the early 20th century.

Complete double thumbs up on the Furtheron book review scale.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Musical progress

... slow musical progress ...

I played at the regular (every 2nd Wednesday of the month) Songwriters Open Stage at the Nags Head in Rochester last night.  The long suffering Daughter-of-Furtheron came along to support me - although to be fair she was reasonably enthusiastic.  Mrs F was having a hair done!

Last time I was there was back in December or January I can't remember, December I'm sure and it was cold, snowy etc. and there was only a handful there.  Good news is that it has picked up as the lighter evenings have come and it was a reasonable crowd in.  Rules are simple, first come first served for a slot - 15min slots from 9pm onwards and original songs only.  This latter stipulation setting it apart from many open mic nights and to me adding the greatest asset of it - original music, stuff people have crafted themselves exposed to the world, often for the first time.

I played a new song "In Your Eyes" that I've been working on over the last few weeks - a nod to the fact that some regular bloggers who read this blog actually were instrumental in the inspiration for some of the lyrics.  Once I get time and figure out a more elaborate instrumentation for it I'll record it and then I'll explain on here in a subsequent post probably.  It is another "recovery" song of mine without any doubt.

One other act really caught my ear - two guys, acoustic guitar and vocals and a fretless bass (an old 80s Westone no less, which is odd as a mate had a photo up on Facebook only yesterday of his old 80s band with.. a Westone bass in it - like London buses they are...)   Anyway nice tunes, catchy lyrics etc. however just the addition of the bass from the typically solo acoustic guitar and vocals most of us performing really caught my ear.   I've an old colleague and friend who lives near by who is a bass player and we talked a couple of weeks back about getting together after he'd heard my stuff up on the web and declare it "Paul Wellerish", which from him I took as a real compliment.  I WILL now contact him - maybe if only for him to be my partner in crime at future open mics like this.  Also my brother-in-law, another bass player, is interested in a band get together and I have a friend who has been learning drums who says she needs to get playing with others to stretch herself.  I'm not sure if that'll just be a covers thing or what at all yet.

So I'm really blogging here to get myself off my arse and getting with other people.  The solo thing is good as I have total control over the material and no issues with booking rehearsals and all that hassle but it has a limitation sound wise I ought to look to move in other directions on.

Here is a photo taken by the official photographer for the night... Daughter-of-Furtheron!

Monday, 12 March 2012

Does is take longer to get better?

I was reflecting this weekend.  In a couple of months time I hope to be celebrating 8 years sober, don't want to count the chickens and all that, and I need to remember the programme is only a day at a time but at the moment I have no hint of any compulsion to drink and I intend to keep on the same plan for recovery that has been working so far.  8 years - suddenly this seems to become "a while", if you get my drift, it was "I've only be sober xyz" now I suddenly think, there is some real time served here.

I had a phone call from the guy who I shared a room with the most whilst in rehab.  He called out of the blue around Christmas and we reconnected and I had been thinking I ought to call him, but I'm terrible at that stuff.  Then he calls me Saturday - sadly he has been drinking again, and clearly it was out of control quite quickly, otherwise why was he calling me and also saying he'd looked up local AA meetings?   He moved a while back out of London to a new area in the country and broke any connections he had with meetings then.  He was asking me things we've spoken about in the past "Do the groups work for you?"  I explained I go to the 2 regular home groups and others as and when, I do some service and really it is just habit.  It is Monday I will go to my local meeting - I just do, I rarely think about it.  Having a wife who expects a certain regularity in life as well helps if only as she says "Are you going tonight?"  The answer is always yes, it is a prompt for me, maybe others in other situations don't have that family support and encouragement.

We talked and I said it was almost 8 years since we'd met at the rehab.  Got me thinking... I drank badly for about 25 years, from the age of 16 to 41.  I have looked back and start about 16 when I used to go to the pub with friends on Friday and Saturday nights.  By the time I was 18 we had my 18th birthday do in my regular pub - so let's face facts my drinking wasn't right already...   So going on that by the time I was 8 years into my drinking life I was 24.  I'd been married a couple of years and had moved to working in London at a publishing company.  I was drinking badly out of control by then really - I know I was making excuses to drink on my own, had spotted one young Irish guy in the team who liked a few and made a b-line to be with him at anything we organised out of work etc.

So 8 years sober - I wonder if my recovery has progressed as much as my drinking had? Do that makes any sense?  Probably an odd thought but it was there.  It is roughly equal to a 1/3rd of my drinking time that I've now been sober and like I say I have only just thought I ought to stop thinking of myself as a newcomer. I am lucky and my local groups do have several people with 20plus years in so far and maybe I'm judging myself against that.  Judging against others... wouldn't be the first time would it?

Also the disease is progressive - at least that is the belief in AA, my own experience in a year of trying to control/stop on my own I did find that my drinking ratchet up another level everytime I started again so I don't doubt it for myself and many who I've seen go out there again it does seem to get back to ridiculous situations bloody quickly, or maybe that is just an artifact of having already acknowledged being an alcoholic so when the damn is broken the response is "I have to drink like this, I am an alcoholic after all".  Who knows different for each person no doubt.  But this progression probably means recovery from drinking is longer than the degeneration into it.

Whatever after 8 years I still often think I'm none the bloody wiser really.

Rest of the weekend was good.  I have a new pupil for guitar lessons and he seemed happy with the first one which is always key to getting to know what they want, what their level and likely speed of intake is and setting the stage for "if you learn this we'll be heading in this direction with it".

The swimming on Friday was brilliant - Becky Addlington's 800m was a fantastic swim to watch.   Here is a picture my wife took - my daughter reckons she looks like me in this one... 

I said "What you have that have-I-had-my-breakfast-yet bewildered look about you then?"  :-)

Have a great week everyone!

Friday, 9 March 2012

British Swimming Championships

Mrs F, Daughter-of-Furtheron and yours truly had a great night last night.  We went off to the British Swimming Championships at the new Olympic Aquatic Centre.  Firstly if the experience we had last night is anything to go by the Olympics will be a great success.  Loads of helpful, friendly marshalls, good factilities - the Aquatic Centre is superb!

The racing was brilliant.  I think the mens 200m IM was my favourite of the night as James Goddard was just beaten by Joe Roebuck and the 100m Women's Free with another close finish and the ever effervescent Fran Halshall taking gold.

Nailbiting finishes, Olympic qualifiying times a plenty and then to cap it off in the disability swimming session Ellie Simmonds broke the world record in the 200m IM - the first world record to be set in the venue!  There weren't many dry eyes as Ellie took her medal.  Straight after that excitement the truly inspirational Lyndon Longhorne broke the Bristish record in the 150m IM in a fantastic solo effort - he was the only competitor in that final.  The crowd cheered him on and against the clock he hit his new record.

We're back there tonight for another round - I can't wait!

Here is a picture of the girls as we took our seats whilst the warm up was underway.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

It must be Thursday

Seems to be a bit like that at the moment, not really sure what flipping day it is.  I'm definitely sleeping well at the moment for one thing - Mrs F was out on a works girlie night out at the cinema to see the Hotel one with Maggie Smith, Judi Dench et al in it.  I was in bed when she came home, I remember her talking to me, can't say I responded well, if at all, since I was already out for the count and then for the second day running the alarm really does wake me from my slumber, often I'm awake and dozing for the hour before it goes off.  Not recently. Usual routine of up, make pot of tea, eat corn flakes, have a wash, get dressed, walk to station.  Only once I'm on the station do I start to sort of wake up and I'm stood there today thinking "It is Thursday isn't it?"

And it is!!  First off my good blogging friend of many years and maker of the greatest Christmas puds since my Mum passed away, Liz, is launching her book today.  I think it is likely to be in the chicklit category but I may well buy it out of loyalty and give it a read.  I will pop over to hers later for the virtual launch party she is hosting on her blog today.

Secondly my phone buzzes and I know what it will be at a few mins to 9 in the morning.  My daughter had spent a little of yesterday evening already softening me up with statements like "I apologise for my Chemistry result now".  Clearly she needed to she only got an A!  Biology was 100% and an A*!  My daughter and her inherited low self-worth issues - I blame the father entirely, he's a useless tosser!

The next whoopdy whoop (whoopdy whoop who the hell do I think I am?  I never whoopy whoop)... okay the second reason to break my generally permanently blank or scowled expression into something close to a smile is that we are off to the British Swimming Championships this evening.  We get to go to the new aquatic centre built for the up coming 2012 Olympics - which I might add have the temerity of opening on the same day was our wedding anniversary, I mean they could have checked with me first.  We've watched some of the weeks action on the BBC red button service - last nights Women's 200m Fly final was brilliant!  We are so looking forward to tonight and tomorrow as we back there again then... that'll be a Friday that will, I'll check that again tomorrow morning...

Right - leave you with this.  I went on about this band last year when I first heard them, Mrs F got me their d├ębut album "Barton Hollow" for Christmas.  This is the simply fantastic The Civil Wars with Poison and Wine.  

Tuesday, 6 March 2012


I was reminded at a meeting recently how fortunate my life has been.  Despite my years of drinking I remained what many call "a functioning drunk", i.e. I got up every morning, got dressed and got to work.  I did enough at work not to get sacked and therefore the money continued to come in.  In fact I was very fortunate that I was in an industry and a job that paid very well indeed and therefore the money I needed to feed my habit wasn't difficult to find, I could drink enough and not have to squirrel money away for that from the bills, the shopping etc.  I was lucky too that I found recovery before I started to lose the things that really matter - family in particular.

Others tell stories of true horror, of ending up in places and conditions I cannot begin to imagine what it must be like to have to live day in day out like that.  It is vitally important that I listen to these people, "listen to the similarities not the differences" they say.  I do, and I realise that; but for my extremely good fortune I would indeed have had to face the hardships some of them did.

Recently I've also been reminded through reading the blogs of partners of addicts and alcoholics what damage is done on the other side of the fence.  It is a startling truth that I can relate more to stories of street drinking drunks than I can with those of a woman who is the partner of an alcoholic in much the same situation as my wife was with my drinking.  I still often feel no matter what I do I can never repay the debt and "make amends" for all the harm I caused.  I was not a physically abusive drunk, worse I was an emotionally abusive drunk - often in total ignorance but still it is true.  I have to be honest given it was a default engrained behaviour for so long I can't deny that there are still elements of that behaviour in me today and I have to work hard at that if I know it is surfacing. 

My children - again look at how fortunate I am, my son had great university exam results last week.  The first person he called to tell was me - I am blessed that he did.  My daughter often will text me straight after a GCSE to let me know how it has gone - all fantastic stuff that I'm so glad I'm here to receive that - I wouldn't be if I was still drinking, at least I wouldn't acknowledge it I wouldn't have an iota of appreciation for what those acts really mean.

I find myself drifting a bit at the moment in many things.  I feel unsettled.  I don't feel centred, grounded or with a purpose.  I feel I'm "going through the motions" on many things.  There is a passage in one of the stories in the book Alcoholics Anonymous (version 3 I think) that talks about living life on life's terms, accepting what is and not what I want it to be - I need to dismiss these restless thoughts and focus on living my life today in the best way I can.

The funny thing is if you were to say "so why the restlessness?"  I couldn't give you a straight answer, I'll come up with something that sounds really plausible no doubt and some excuse or rationale about why it is impossible for me to correct right this instant, but in truth I can't see what it really is other than simply not accepting what a terrific life I do have and that I should stop watching it go by and live a bit more in it in the moment.


Monday, 5 March 2012

Book Reviews - Haynes Acoustic Guitar Manual & The Alchemist's Secret

Hello - book review time...

First up Haynes Acoustic Guitar Manual by Paul Balmer.

I already own the Les Paul and Stratocaster Manuals from this series but have to say the Acoustic one is the best I've had so far.  I bought this on a whim in WHSmith after a quick flick through.

Ok Mr Balmer goes through a quick history of the acoustic guitar and then delves into the major types and issues you may have.  Lots of very detailed DIY tips and like all the Haynes Manuals the photography really sets it apart from many many other guitar manual type books.  There is stuff about nut work, saddle work including making custom compensated ones using a neat little gadget to determine the ideal break point for the string.  There is some stuff on dealing with a bellied acoustic, my Yamaha 12 string which is approaching 20 years old I think has this issue.  I'm now seriously thinking about having a go at one method shown in this book which uses a brace you insert, attach to the bridge and brace against the end block.  This might stop you needing an expensive neck reset - frankly for my Yamaha that is not cost effective but is it a shame that guitar isn't as playable as I'd like.  An installation of an under saddle piezo system is shown as well.  And a top class luthier does show in great detail a complete neck reset on a 1930s Kalamazoo.  But frankly not for a DIYer but helps if you ever get to having a conversation with someone, might help you to judge their level of knowledge.

There are then several case studies of guitars from cheap student ones through to top level concert level classicals and limited edition Martins etc.  Much of this section is a bit repetitive however but again great info and inside view of how these are put together and what to look for when buying esp second hand etc.

If you have any interest in DIY acoustic guitar maintenance / repair I'd thoroughly recommend this book to be an addition to your bookshelf. 

Double thumbs up with a smile!

The Alchemist's Secret - Scott Mariani.

A thriller in the - centuries old secret protected by religious zealots that a single lone wolf hard man uncovers.  Ok so the story is that there is an elixir of life that the Cathars of old had found before the Crusade against them.  This was handed down in a very small group of initiates until into the 1930s where the trail goes cold with a Nazi connection thrown in for good measure.  Enter Ben Hope - a real good guy - although the body count in his wake has to make you question that frankly!  He is employed by a mega rich guy to find this and help save his dying Granddaughter.

Fast paced, with mystery about Ben's past, romantic entanglements, totally loony killers from a hidden Catholic sect and a corrupt Archbishop.   The book reads like it was originally a Hollywood screen play, gates "breaking like Balsa wood", glass shattering around him... etc.  It is ok if you want a fast paced thriller which as little believability ... however Mr Mariani claims at the end that this is all well researched.   Maybe on the key points of the story but then it is let down by poor research and other non believable stuff.   We're told Mr Hope only ever deals in cash which he gets from a safe deposit box... once...  but he buys a car, a motorbike, rents numerous hotel suites and villas etc.  all I can say is Mr Hope must have a jacket with bloody big pockets!  Also sadly for a real nitpickity sod like me a Citroen 2CV car is made an unlikely hero in a scene involving a level crossing... the 2CV is mortally wounded in this encounter as we're told the water is pouring from it's radiator... funny 2CV only ones I've ever seen were air cooled!  I know a silly little thing but really if it had been a Clio I'd not have thought - couldn't you have wiki'd that to be certain?

A couple of level thumbs with a shrug of acceptance over the 2CV continuity balls up.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

RIP PC Rathband

Around the web on blogs, newsites, twitter etc. there is an outpouring of tributes to Davy Jones of The Monkees who sadly passed away this week.  However sad his parting, and really 66 was too young, spare a thought for PC David Rathband who also was found dead this week.  PC Rathband is the man who was shot in the face and blinded by Raul Moat.  (Sad isn't it that the person who committed the crime against him is a more known name than the man left so badly injured.)

From reading the reports it looks like PC Rathband took his own life in some way.  How very very sad.  I read things like that and I instantly feel so sad.  This guy went to work one day and just because he was a policeman in the wrong place at the wrong time ended up horrendously injured.  Since his injury he had set up a charity to help serviceman like himself injured in the line of duty.  However there are documented interviews with him where he stated that he was frustrated by the blindness and having to relearn to live again.  He was angry about losing his job through his injury etc.   Sadly he had parted from his wife late last year as well - you can only speculate whether that was directly or indirectly related to his injuries - and I mean much more than the physical scars he had to bare.

I cannot begin to get close to the trauma PC Rathband went through both initially with the injury and then subsequently trying to come to terms with his lifelong disability due to a single act by a very dangerous and callous individual.  How would I cope if I lost a limb or two, my eyesight or some other significant long term injury like that?  To be honest I have no answer - I don't know.  It is easy to say you should embrace the life you have and be grateful for that and not resentful for the injury and incident that caused it,  easy to say - but just think of you having to say that face to face with someone like PC Rathband ...  exactly easy to say when not in that situation or face to face with it.

Makes me stop and think about how bloody good really my life is, how lucky I am not to have been hit by the bloody bus driver who clearly wasn't looking as I crossed at the pedestrian crossing this morning etc.  Every day we take risks in our lives, some more than others poor PC Rathband seems to have had to pay far too higher price for his misfortune to my mind.

RIP PC Rathband.