Thursday, 31 May 2012

I got angry...

... and I'm annoyed with myself over it.

Another post by a brave soul out there has prompted me to post this.  I snapped yesterday getting heated in an argument with a person at my place of work I find infuriating.  That is no excuse frankly is it.  Well I don't think so, I only have to work with the person, they really in my grand scheme of life have a tiny tiny corner of space just at this moment and that will pass and they will move on or I will and that will be that gone, not important.

This person though is a black belt in obfuscation.  Ever issue grows and grows around him, he has a knack for over complication never simplification.  Yesterday I told him something that I'd understood pretty much from day one of the eight months I've been here - the next financial year is a zero based budget.  i.e. even if you have a project that is continuing you have to rebid for the money, any money not spent this year goes back into the pot to be redistributed.  Use it or lose is really the phrase - or write a damn good case to get it back next year.  He insists to me that is not the case and that he can "roll over" a bunch of money.  In the end I got the Director to back what I was saying up.  This lead to a 40minute phone call with him bitching about this - unproductively it was just going in circles.  He then suggested doing something I'm not prepared to countenance, I might be wrong but in my experience I'd even suggest it is possibly illegal.  He then said again he needed confirmation and didn't need someone "guessing" about it.   At that point I lost it and snapped back raising my voice and pretty much slammed the phone down on him, I wasn't guessing, in my experience of 20plus years of some form of budget management the guidance I've always seen explicitly states against what he was suggesting.  It maybe different here but frankly I doubt it and I'd have to be explicitly told to do it by someone in authority.  And actually if they did I'd still question it and probably refuse to action it.  It just is plain wrong to me.

People, places and things.  Is a phrase often said at AA meetings or between members often with a wry smile as the speaker sees the look of recognition in the person bemoaning about something.  Yes I cannot change them, they will affect me, all I can change is my interaction with them, my reaction to any provocation etc.  The adopted prayer of AA is the short version of the Serenity Prayer written by Reinhold Niebuhr.

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.

There was something of a very notable lack of any serenity yesterday in that exchange I'm sad to say.

Still ... progress not perfection...   Furtheron....

Monday, 28 May 2012

New Guitar - Gordon Giltrap 12 String

Ok - having admitted defeat on trying to fix the old 12 string.  I bought this today a Vintage VE2000GG Gordon Giltrap signature 12 string.

I tried the new Paul Brett Parlour 12 string which was hugely impressive, but the 14th fret body join, general dimensions of the Gordon Giltrap and the superiour (to my ears) plugged in sound meant I had to get this.  Give me a week or so and I'll do a bit of a review...

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Rugby, Recording and F1

Well the summer does seem to be here - two days of cloud free skies, the Furtheron family braved planning for BBQ for Sunday lunchtime.  All went well and a lovely alfresco meal for the three of us.

Yesterday (Saturday) afternoon I sat glued to the box watching the culmination of the Premiership with the championship final between Harlequins and Leicester Tigers.  Now whilst I don't avidly support one particular rugby club I have to acknowledge a place in my heart for Harlequins - I've always liked them and there are one of the closest top clubs to my home as well. Anyway a great final and a tense last few mins as Leicester seemed to be likely to overcome a significant points difference in the last few secs with them camped on the try line a converted score would have pushed it to extra time and possibly drop kicks to decide but luckily Quins held on.  Surprisingly for such an historic club they have never won the big one before and also given they finished the season on top before the playoffs you do feel that the right team won on the day.

Today was F1 - the Monte Carlo GP sadly has few chances for passing if the weather or something else doesn't play a part and today was the same - although having all the top 6 running so close together was terrific, if the rain had been heavier, if someone had locked up and run wide etc. etc. it was more exciting than many previous races.

I did some recording yesterday - trying to get everything in the can for the next album release.  I'm keeping a couple of songs back now that will only see the light of day on the album launch and it was one of them that I getting done.  Reasonably happy with how that one is sounding.  Another one is all but written at the moment, I was adjusting the middle bridge bit on that as well and thinking about recording options and arrangements.  Watch this space for coming news of my sophomore release.

As I write this Son-of-Furtheron should be watching the Olympic torch arrive at Aberystwyth where he lives.  In the last few days he has seen the Halfords Tour bike race around the streets there, photographed dolphins in the sea off the beach there and today and tomorrow gets to see the torch parade right past his flat... He has a good life doesn't he...

Daughter-of-Furtheron enters her last week of GCSEs this week, her subjects were all packed into 3 weeks which was a bit stressful but in some ways good, it is all over quicker and no chance to get distracted really.  This time next week that will be it all done and dusted.  Seems so odd that I'll no longer have a school child any more but a two students as she enters 6th form.  We were talking about my 50th later this year... 50 how the hell did that come along so quickly?

Friday, 25 May 2012

The cork has popped

Just like a cork shooting out of a champagne bottle my post the other day has released a lot of bottled up tension.  Firstly thank you to all who commented etc. your kind words meant a lot to me.

Here is the thing - see I often get to the point of taking it all inward that it is only me who gets like this etc. etc.  I internalise, I don't see the wider picture, I get on a downward spiral of negativity and find it difficult to break out.  But I know the things like "first things first", "don't try to fix all your problems in one day", etc. etc.  I tell this stuff to others enough in the rooms of AA or on their blogs!  But can I easily do it myself - er... in a word NO!  But as I say the release of finally getting it out there has been a real help to me.

So a new attitude etc.  Almost instantly there has been a meeting about funding and projects and at least one of the big ones has biten the dust.  On the other ongoing work I had two meetings that very day - one of them was described by someone in it as "strangely productive" - he saw my look and he said "we need more people like you who come in here and shake it up and just try to get on with it"... notice he said "try to get on with it"... I was reminded of my old bosses joke at times about "activity not achievement" I should be measuring myself on what I have done to try and get something done even if it fails due to other reasons.  Frankly I think the leadership might regret this as I'll be bombarding them with lots of recommendations, plans for approval/endorsement etc. If they want this stuff done then I want at least a part of their anatomy on the block alongside my neck :-)

So the answer is as I swelter here in the lunchtime heat of a late May London Friday that I'm in a much much better space than I was a few days back.  Alright I'm not skipping to work but I'm not having that awful emotional dread I was experiencing for the last week or so.

Again to all those who commented/emailed etc. much much appreciated for making me see that I'm not the only one and that I need to turn the things around into positive actions where I can.  Plus also I shouldn't take myself so seriously either.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

If I could I would...

... disappear. 

Honesty time folks.  Boy...   Here I am again, hugely troubled by work.  It really bugs me this, it pervades the majority of my thinking, it makes me sick inside, I get snappy with people close to me, go distant and isolate etc. 

So what the hell is up?  Me - I'm "struggling" at work.  I seem to be using that word too much "struggling" - what do I mean by it?  See above this doubt, this taking over my conscious state too much.  I started here back in September last year.  There was/is a big reorganisation underway in my department.  Therefore when I started I was a little bit out on a limb, shunted to the left a little for want of an analogy.  I said to people then, I should relish this time to get to know stuff.  I've learnt some undoubtedly but I don't feel it is enough.  I picked up that there is loads and loads to do, actually more than realistically we can achieve with any real sense of completeness, this is the public sector in the time of the biggest austerity drive in known memory after all.

About a month back the new structures for half the department kicked in.  Suddenly the atmosphere has changed, my honeymoon is most definitely over and I feel more than a bit bombarded on several fronts for results and delivery but I'm afraid I've not learnt enough and I feel I'm flailing about.  In the water no life jacket no life boat kind of feeling.

Now here comes the know character defects I have... 

Impostor syndrome - Had this for years and years, today will be the day they realise I'm no good and kick me out. 
Self-Reliance - Belief that to be "worthy" in life you need to get on and do it all yourself.  This leads me to delaying on things when I actually don't know what to do etc.
Isolation - like all good alcoholics I know once the going gets tough my instant reaction is to retreat into myself, say things like "I'm fine", "It'll be ok", etc.  rather than honestly unburdening myself.
People pleasing - I don't like saying "No" to people, I'll give the impression of being able to take more and more on.

My friend put this on his Facebook feed a few weeks back - boy does that describe me at the moment

Grr Grr Grr  - See that is me angry about it and angry about me at the moment. 
What has really concerned me is that seriously this week a couple of mornings it has been a real emotional journey to get into work and I've seriously had two thought sessions about just walking away.  But I really don't know if that is the right thing or not?  My over expectation of myself based with my eagerness to try to please all people all of the time.

So finally I've blogged this, I'll hit publish now before I doubt about it.  I need to share and work it out - plus as ever the situation is far worse in my head no doubt than it is in any sense of reality.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012


I've been to a meeting this evening, my regular Wednesday night group which is a small group.  A girl who on Monday celebrated 3 months sober was there, crying, drunk and repeating over and over how she had "fucked up".

My heart went out and I was nearly in tears with her too.  She said to me "I've struggled every day".  Oh my do I remember those early days of recovery - 9 months it was for me when every day I had those thoughts and that desire to drink.  Why didn't I?  Frankly at times I don't know, fear, totally mad stubbornness, great support from those I was talking to in AA, making myself share, going to loads of meetings, telling people all my movements so I couldn't escape etc.  but I still know often in those months drinking would have been frankly so much easier in that instant to quell the pain I felt inside.

I can be ungrateful, full of self-pity still these days, self-reliant to a point of craziness but drink doesn't these days often cross my mind.  Tonight was a reminder of why I'll always be an alcoholic and I can't take my sobriety for granted for a moment.

Often the person with the least time from a drink - in this case only hours, can tell me more about recovery than someone with 20 years of it.

I am grateful for that tonight.

Friday, 18 May 2012

The results are in...

Remember that Daughter-of-Futheron and I did the Swimathon?  Well I don't for one!  I've only just today ventured back to a swimming pool for the first time since then and the pain of that last 20 lengths will be with me for a long long time!

Anyway the offiicial results are out and yours truly managed to be 2,219th overall!  Yes thank you; thank you I was 1,236th Male and 263rd in my age group. 

However D-o-F was 288th overall, 95th female and 19th in her age group!  In the top 100 women over 5K in the largest swim in the UK - you have to be pleased with that...   Yes she was out, showered, changed and collected her medal before I'd finished! 

My goals for next year?  Still to be under 2 hours, to complete the whole 5K and to live... not necessarily in that order :-)

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Post birthday blues

You know how it is - there is a special thing coming up, there is the build-up, the anticipation of it, then the day is here the fanfare briefly sounds, there are smiles and all that and then, it is over and it is the next day, or the next and it all seems a long time ago and a bit of an anti-climax in retrospect.  And that is how I am a little bit at the moment - post "birthday" blues.  I remember having this big style on my 1st sobriety anniversary.  I was presented with my 1 year chip from my home group, another friend in the fellowship is a month or so younger than me in sobriety gave me a very precious gift that I was very touched by and then back to daily grind...  I then suddenly knew that I was off kilter, because?  Because I'd been up to then thinking back to the year before, my first year I kept thinking - oh this time last year I was... blah blah and I could see the change if not any growth.  The beginning of that second year was very hard for me.  I don't feel exactly the same at the moment but a bit flat - probably not helped as I'm not the greatest proponent of celebrating my belly button birthdays but have bowed this year to family pressures since I'm turning 50 in October.  50!  I barely think I'm out of my 20s in my head a lot of the time.

Also just now is an odd time in the house as well.  Son-of-Furtheron has end of year exams, Space Plasmas today - yep I thought that too!  Daughter-of-Furtheron left compulsory full time education last Friday!!  She is in the middle of GCSEs, food tech this afternoon I believe.  So there is a deal of parental stress around that - as ever I'd love to just fix it for them, just take the pain away but I never can.  I hate that feeling - one of my biggest defects of character.  I can only be here, wish them well and send my hope to them in the ether.  They will both do brilliantly I am sure - well they must do better than the lacklustre performance of their father!

This too shall pass - I always think of a lovely lady I used to give lifts to meetings when I was first around AA.  She didn't drive any more.  She was very instrumental in my early recovery often telling me stuff I'd rather not hear like... Keep it Simple, Time take Time, This Too Shall Pass...  however she was always right.  I miss her greatly she died suddenly some years back now - shame.

Monday, 14 May 2012

8 years

Today is my 8th sobriety birthday.  I suppose different people have different definitions for that day - I know some for who it is the day they first had without a drink at the start of their recovery, for others the day they first attended AA.  For me it is actually the last day I ever drank.

Here is an extract from the My Drinking Story page on this blog...

... (Mrs F and I) had some good news and my wife texted me a simple line "tonight we can celebrate". I saw that last word, considered this great news and thought - "My life is still utter shite" and I went off on an all day bender. At home that evening my long suffering wife instead of ignoring me finally bit back and we had the most almighty row which is not how our relationship functions - we don't row. In the middle of that with the swearing and threats etc. I gave up. I lay down and cried and cried. I just wanted it all to stop. That was the moment I made the decision that I had to do something dramatic about my drinking I couldn't continue in this way.

So that is why my sobriety birthday for me is on this date - this is the day at which I had my "moment of clarity" (as it is sometimes referred to).   If you know my story or read it, I'd been trying countless vain attempts to stop for a year seriously.  It had been a battle for many years before then as well.  But in that last year I'd stopped, restarted, changed drinks, kept diaries, read widely about controlled drinking etc. and frankly ended up confused, bewildered and baffled by my singular lack of ability to simply not drink to excess.  I kept coming back to the same place, drinking too much, out of control as that last day showed it was a mess of the first order.  I remember vividly feeling like I just wanted it all to end, I couldn't kill myself but if I could I'm sure I would have at the moment just stopped living if that had been an option.  Luckily though there was a voice inside saying - you need to really really get help this time.

8 years - one day at a time - as they say.  Originally I was only going to stop until I could "drink normally".  I soon sussed that I couldn't do that, i.e. "drink normally", as I never had.  I had to stop for good... that seemed a tall order, so I loved the "day at a time" element of AA.  I still do, will I never drink again in my life?  I cannot possibly tell you, and certainly I'd never promise anyone that. However, at the moment, I'm reasonably confident I won't drink today, and that is enough, I'll worry about tomorrow when tomorrow is here.

Anyone who reads this who is a friend of Bill W's in anyway - my eternal gratitude to you, without the fellowship I wouldn't be here sober today.  Anyone who reads this who has a problem with any addiction and wants to stop I implore you to seek help, it can be overcome.

Saturday, 12 May 2012

My son is a famous photographer!

Son-of-Further on is now a famous photographer!   His photos of Starlings over Aberystwyth have been the basis for a feature in the online version of the Daily Mail!!!

There is the article.  He gets credited on all the photos and a mention in the article!  Fantastic

Competiton Time - How would you describe my music?

Right folks you are all much better with words than I.  I'm looking for a novel, new, insightful description of my music - up to 4 words let us say.  Something different to make people prick up their ears and and want to listen.

Below are a selection of my songs.  Listen to these and others either on Reverbnation or SoundCloud and then enter your entry as a comment. 

The prize?   Well I'm working on a new release at the moment - I'll use your slogan/phrase/description on the artwork for that and send you a free signed copy!!!

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Presenting new songs to the world

To be honest after writing the post yesterday about my drinking dream I felt a bit better.  Later in the day I had the chance to call two of my good good friends in AA and talked about it.  Funny one of them I know had shared at a meeting a couple of weeks back he'd had a disturbing drinking dream - it knocked him off his balance too and he is over 20 years sober.  It never leaves us, it is an insidious thing gnawing in our heads and hearts - the compulsion to drink may be lifted whilst I work the programme of recovery, I may have the desire to stop drinking but in my head and my heart it stills weedles away trying to find a way to catch me out.  Non addicts and alcoholics can never probably fully appreciate that or the feelings associated with it.  It was a sharp reminder to me to stay on the right path. "Cunning, baffling, powerful" - Bill W could not have found any other 3 words to better sum it up.

Feeling less "unbalanced" and having had a "family" discussion about it, I wanted them to know where I was mentally and emotionally we then headed out and had a great evening at the regular Nag's Head (Rochester) Songwriters Night.  I debuted a new song written only last Sunday when in one of my "noodling sessions" I hit on a nice little chord pattern and a vocal line and lyric hit me almost simultaneously - the planets must have been in some conjunction.  It was a "work in progress" right up until we left for the pub with me rewriting the last verses lyrics minutes before departure!  I described it as a bit of a "new born babe" of a song, normally these things have much longer gestation periods in my head, hands and private rehearsal before they are introduced to the ugly world out there.  It is in C as well - I have been wracking my brains but in 40 years of song writing of those I remember - I do still play for my own pleasure stuff I wrote when I was 15 or 16 you know!  Songs about King Arthur in Em and 5/4 anyone?  I thought not.  Anyways,  I cannot think of any another song I've ever written in C - clearly I'm too sharp for that or feel a need to flatten the mood...    *Pause* ... *Watch tumbleweed roll down street*...  Right even old musos among you probably didn't get that awful gag. Moving on...

Last night was a great night - an incredible eclectic mix of stuff.. Me playing my brand of Acoustic Rock (that reminds me I have a competition for you all I need to set up), then a jazz trio (old school, two guitars, straight comping rhythm and an improv lead and a female singer), my great mate Porlie Eidolon (who defies description but is simply an undiscovered genius), a guy who was a fantastic solo harmonica player and human beatbox (I kid not! D-of-F was highly impressed with him) and a rapper playing solo acoustic guitar accompaniment with brilliantly pithy topical and locally relevant lyrics - sorry his name was in my head... but now gone :-(.   Sadly mid-week, early starts for work, GCSE revision needs etc. meant we had to leave before the end but a great night out.  So - stop watching the fake poseurs on The Apprentice, look up where you  can find a local open mic night and get out there and be amazed at the depth of talent out there.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Drinking Dream

I had a bloody awful drinking dream last night.  It has been some time since I had one, but since I clambered out of bed this morning it has been replaying in my head and that isn't good.

So what was this dream then... okay here is the unlikely scenario... I was sat on a table in a very spartan room, just two tables in the room which was just a very grey plain room.  The tables were black topped steel legged things.  One table had two chairs - similar to the tables the other table had just one chair.  I was sat at the table with one seat on my own.  The other table was about 10 feet away at most.  Sat there was Ewan McGregor and someone else - unknown, not relevant...  I was just focused entirely on Ewan.   Ewan and his buddy were having a whale of a time laughing, slapping on the back all the bonhomie stuff you'll be familiar with Ewan for if you've ever seen his travelogues on the bikes etc.  They were drinking vodka, loads of the stuff.  "Have another one, isn't this fun" type atmosphere.   I was watching him crack the bottle open, pour a large tumbler full and down most of it in one gulp - and he'd have that huge McGregor grin on, like he is on top of the world, shining smiling eyes and all that.   Another drink etc....

I was sat alone and miserable and wanted to join in the party.  Now I know I was opening a bottle thinking it to be water but the cap was a vodka bottle cap not a water bottle cap... that is when I think I woke up.   Whatever it was 4:45am and I was disturbed and didn't really go back to sleep at all as this was on the replay loop.  Did I taste it? Did I drink it? Why would I want to drink it? And a dozen other questions flying around my head....   Never once did I think - "Ewan McGregor?  What's that about?"  Well I have now as I'm writing this.

Right - it is out now.  I didn't physically take a drink, but you know sometimes with dreams like this it almost doesn't matter as you know your head was there in the dream in that space and for someone like me that was/is scary.  I feel "wobbled" frankly, knocked off equilibrium a bit - not centered.  

Lots of reasons no doubt, went to a meeting last night where there was a lot of talk about old drinking patterns, I'm only 5 days from my 8th sobriety anniversary, etc... these things happen - it was just a dream but at the moment it still doesn't feel to be "just" that.

Book review - The Turin Shroud Secret, Sam Christer

The Turin Shroud is one of the great enigmas of religious history.  Rarely viewed in public and even more rarely examined by experts who have largely declared it to be, if not an outright fake, at least not what it is claimed it is.  Even simply the age of the cloth appears incorrect by carbon dating for example.  Its very secretive early history adds to the mystery.

This novel is actually a murder mystery with a totally unique rewriting of the Shrouds origins underlying the modern thriller.  I don't want to spoil the plot for you but there are two threads to the story and you wonder how they will tie together at the end.  When they do, it wasn't in the way I expected them to.  As a thriller this ticks all the right boxes, competent cops battling against sinister forces with long histories of murder to protect their secrets.  Some globe trotting to add to the fun, a series of murders you feel must be connected with the other line of inquiry and a reveal of the Shroud's secret that was a big eyebrow raiser for me - Roger Moore style!

This book is very much in the Dan Brown genre of thrillers but very much better written in my view.  There is just one mistake the author has made - stating very clearly this is all a work of fiction, I wonder if there had been much press about how this was based on "fact" a la the Da Vinchi code whether this would reach the daft interest levels that book did?

One point I must make for the squeamish.  This book does include a couple of scenes about necrophelia which whilst important for the plot line I found extremely uncomfortable reading, if you are of a weak/nervous disposition don't say I didn't warn you.

A double thumbs up on the FITUBRS - cracking read.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Rochester Sweeps and a night out in Folkestone!

Yeah I know I know, living the dream or what?  You must all be so jealous of my luxuriant life style.  Seriously though compared with 90%plus of the worlds population what the hell do I have to be ungrateful about?

We went to the Rochester Sweeps Festival on Monday.  This is a bit of an odd event combining ages old May Day celebrations with maypoles, morris dancers, Jack-in-the-Green etc. with an old holiday the chimney sweeps of old were granted.  According to Medway Councils site...

Festival origins
The sweeps’ holiday was traditionally held on 1 May each year. Locally, they used to mark the occasion by staging a procession through the streets of Rochester.
Medway’s annual Sweeps Festival recreates the joy and laughter enjoyed by the chimney sweeps at their traditional holiday: the one time of the year the sweeps could leave the soot behind and have some fun.
Their fun continued with the Jack-in-the-Green ceremony, a seven-foot character that they used to waken at dawn on Blue Bell Hill, Chatham. The Jack-in-the-Green would walk with the chimney sweeps in their parade. When the Climbing Boys’ Act 1868 made it illegal to employ young boys to carry out the trade, the traditional procession gradually began to fade. The final May celebration was held in the early 1900s.

Whatever it is a good day out.  Watched some Morris Dancing in the streets - not my thing but I appreciate the skill in it, typically I end up more watching/listening to the musicians accompanying these groups - my favourites are The Wolf's Head and Vixen Morris - who have an interesting look.  Totally black makeup, all wear dark mirror shades and black clothing.  The ladies don't have the make up but similar look - a friend described them as Goth Morris Dancing.

Moving on we listened to some music acts - a mismash as ever on these things.  One group that frankly sounded like Metallica's next collaboration but rather than with Lou Reed with Bellowhead, honestly it was like Metal with Folk over the top - odd... just didn't work for me.  I think it could have but needed more consideration in the gelling of the parts - i.e. the guitarist was thumping out barre chords throughout with too much distortion from a 100w Laney stack.. buy a smaller amp, find the crunch and clean channels and play some open chords and some arpeggios - that would have worked better for me for a start.  

So to the find of the day... Rosie Eade who describes herself as a Folk Pixie.  She was brilliant, despite being on an open stage in a increasingly damp and drizzly conditions and with the resident nutter (Bob the Drunk) cavorting in front of her throughout her set she was stunning.  Beautiful voice, great songs with a wide range of influences including even a Who cover towards the back of her set.  I bumped into two friends drawn to her performance, in a car park which doesn't sound grand but with the backdrop of the castle and its walls on one side and the cathedral on the other - if it hadn't been raining it'd been lovely, they too both thought her brilliant and the best of the acts they'd seen.  So impressed was I that Mrs F and I are planning to see her again in June when she next returns to Medway - I'll do a gig review of that in due course.

Total change of tempo for the evening, Daughter-of-Furtheron and one of her best pals were of to see Rizzle Kicks (I've tried to educate her musically I really have...) at Folkestone.  Mrs F and I had a slow drawn out 3 course Indian meal to wile away the time.  We were pretty much the only people in the place for much of the time - not much trade in Folkestone on a wet Bank Holiday Monday night then.. felt like I had to give the guy a tip just to make it worth their while staying open for us.

Friday, 4 May 2012

Paradise Lost - Tragic Idol

Those of you who pop by here regularly will already know I rather like the doom/death/heavy metalers who hail originally from Halifax.  I saw them on the recent UK tour and you can read a review if you care to.

Having seen the boys in concert and heard three new tracks off the forthcoming album at the gig I pre-ordered the CD from a well known web retailer that has no direct connection to South America.  It duly arrived through the letterbox on the day of release and has been a regular listen since.  Ok so what have we here?  Firstly this is very typical Paradise Lost, the vocals are delivered by Nick Holm in commanding style, I like that he has a variety of delivery, this isn't all shouty or growly or whatever - he sings, he growls etc. as appropriate to the track.  All delivered on this with great aplomb.

This is probably the most "doom" that Paradise Lost have been for many years, their early material was in this vein but then they branched out including offerings like Symbol of Life which has many techno overtones - think Pendulum when live only a bit heavier without the MC... not helping - go listen to it...  Back to Tragic Idol then, this does follow on from the direction that they have been following with In Requiem and Faith Divides Us Death Unites Us - the last two new studio releases.  There are head crushing riffs - both guitarists over the last few years have moved to using 7 strings and that is very evident on this.

We kick off with Solitary One - setting the scene nicely with a fantastic riff and pounding rhythm section a slow heavy riff laden track with Mr Holmes holding forth - a nice little plinky piano motif filling out the aural spectrum.  The telltale signature Paradise Lost lead guitar sound is ever present via Greg Mackintosh and his wah-wah(s).  Track two imploding drums and a crushing guitar intro lead to the faster heads down feel of Crucify and the pattern for the CD is in play.   We plough through another 7 tracks ending with The Glorious End and bang all over in about 45mins - actually I prefer a great 45 min album to a tosh filled out 90 min one - hats off guys there is an fluff or duffness on here at all.  Highlights are the title track, Fear of Impending Hell and In This We Dwell.

Top top stuff...  one of the best releases so far of 2012 to my ears.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Tough stuff

Recently a few events have led to me looking at some stuff - some stuff that had been swept by me back under the carpet - but the carpet was lifted, I could have just laid the carpet back down or swept the stuff further under a bit not lifted but I didn't this time.  This is tough stuff for me.  Some people talk about the onion of recovery, you peel of one layer only for another to be underneath needing peeling - I like the onion analogy as well since when I peel onions I cry - this stuff has a similar effect on me.

Firstly - my Dad.  A couple of times recently relationships with fathers etc. have come up and caused me to look at my relationship with my Dad.  My Dad retired early (in his late 50s) when the local dockyard was shut by the Tory govt in the 80s.  He had worked there 42 years - gave his bloody life to the service of this country did my Dad.  He had major issues with his hips through work stuff, he'd had a nasty fall when I was very little and I believe that gave him the problem.  Anyway now retired and enjoying pottering about in the garden and his shed he went in to have one of them replaced.  I saw him on the Friday night a couple of days after the op - he was happy, looking forward to coming home and planning to do stuff he'd been putting off.  He was talking about possibly getting the other one, which wasn't as bad, done as well. He died the next morning in the hospital from a massive heart attack.  I had just turned 22 years old. I bought my first house a few months later and was married less than a year after that day.  My Dad never saw that house, the house I have now, the wedding, he never got to know my kids at all, never saw my career move on or anything I've achieved as an adult.  In rehab I talked a lot about my Dad - but then out came that broom and back under the carpet it all went.

So recently I've been looking long and hard at this relationship with my Dad - he has been dead well over half my life now but still this huge presence.  Why?  Well for one I think I've spent a lot of my life dissatisfied because the one person who I wanted to make proud of my achievements wasn't there to acknoweldge them.  People can say "Your Dad would have been proud" etc. but it isn't the same is it.  Also my Mum passed away a few years back and I don't feel the same with her - why?  Because my Mum wasn't the demanding one - in my perception.  Frankly my Dad wasn't that pushy but I always felt he wanted me to do better for myself - but that "better" was never defined, hence this continual dilemma.  I've got to another recent consideration on it.  My son says we're middle class, due to income, financial position, education levels, blah blah.  I refuse to acknowledge this, I'm working class.  You know I've realized this is all because of my Dad - he was Labour through and through, union man, his father before him too in the 30s was on a national exec of a union.  I can't move on to accept that I probably have done better for myself and should call myself part of middle Britain now - because, I don't know how my Dad would feel about it.  Proud?  Or ashamed a son of his had betrayed his heritage?   Daft but there it is - the crux of my relationship with my Dad today.

Secondly - what I did to the family while drinking.  Last weekend my daughter recounted the last days of my drinking and my wife joined in.  I've heard this before from my wife - rightfully she has told me how I treated her.  I've spoken with my son at times about issues from then - he is too ready to take too much of the responsibility onto his side but we are cool with it all I believe.  My daughter however is an area I've not gone too deep into.  She is now 16 - she has a right to tell me what I did to her.   To be told how she locked herself in the bathroom whilst I was drunkenly raging and that her brother came to check she was ok was horrific.  I never hit my daughter but some scars frankly hurt more than the physical ones don't they - it doesn't in my eyes make my abuse of her as a scared little 8 year old girl any better.  It really fucking hurt when she told me this, she is relaxed about it, she is a pretty level headed young lady and I'm sure she has processed this all through.  I know she is proud of my achievements in not drinking - she has had forthright conversations with peers of hers who have perhaps a more stereotypical tabloid views of what an alcoholic is as a testament to that. 

I spoke to her about "the Promises" which are in the Alcoholics Anonymous big book about page 83 after the discussion on Step 9.  In there it says "... we will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it...".  I'm only just ok with having that door back ajar in some instances as regards this stuff but the phrase"not regret"?  Sadly for me I'm a long way from that as I do very much regret the past.  However being told how my actions hurt others that I deeply care about is a huge incentive, probably bigger than the hatred I have myself for the old me, to continue trying to stay sober another day at a time.  To me this is Step 9 - this is living it, there is no point me saying sorry and then still acting like an arsehole, drunk or sober, I have to live a better life and particularly treat those I hurt in a better manner day in day out.  This is not something I can say that I've ever finished it has to be continual action and I have to learn more as I go along the road of recovery.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

A bunch of book reviews

Hi all... bit behind on book reviews, hey hardly anyone comments but they get some of my best reader stats so here are the three I owe you.

Devils Elixir - Raymond Khoury

This continues with the main characters from Mr Khoury's previous two "Templar" novels (Last Templar & Templar Salvation) namely Tess Chaykin and Sean Reilly.  This time something/one from Reilly's FBI agent past comes back to haunt them.  Reilly gets a call from an old flame in desperate trouble.  The body count grows rapidly as chaos ensues as an evil drug baron believed to be long dead by the authorities tries to get his hands on a potent drug formula derived from an ancient South American Indian recipe.

One thing to say is that the style of this book is odd, many of the chapters are written in the 1st person from Reilly's point of view but then others, where he is not present in the action, are written in a typical 3rd person narration style.  I can't remember any of Mr Khoury's others being like this, I found it a bit disjointed at first frankly flipping the position of the reader as it were from participant to observer.

There is a really good twist at the end and it gets a strong single thumbs up on the Furtheron-International-Thumbs-Up-Book-Rating-Scheme (FITUBRS) - not as strong as previous Mr Khoury novels.  I'm also not sure using the main characters worked as it doesn't in anyway relate to the previous Templar novels - I'd have invented new protagonists... however I wonder if the Templar novels vastly outsold his other works and a pushy publisher was involved in that decision.  By the way - his best book by a long long way is The Sign - brilliant book, read that in preference to this.

Mozart Conspiracy - Scott Mariani

Ben Hope is an ex SAS major now retired who spends his time helping retrieve kidnap victims.  An old army buddy of his dies in Austria in a supposed accident but it seems out of character and riddled with suspicion.

Ben is drawn in by an old flame who is the sister of the dead guy when she too suddenly feels in threat of her life and soon they link it all to an old letter, reputedly written by Mozart, that her father found many years before and which her brother had been researching.

I enjoyed this one better than the first of these novels but there's a format here that I think I may tire of in the rest of the series if I do go further.  Also the ridiculous body count in these books is overly high for me, on two fronts, it is like those Hollywood action movies where the good guy seems to have to kill every bad guy on the planet before the final act and also you are led to believe Mr Hope is a sensitive soul who is one of the good guys, now most of the bodies are those of the "hired help" not the real perpetrators of the crimes but there is not a moment of hesitation or remorse in his actions.  That to me just doesn't ring true.

The underlying historic twist is an interesting sideline which deserves a bit more depth than this gives it.  A single thumbs up on the FITUBRS.

The Key - Simon Toyne

Second in Simon Toyne odyssey about the mythical Citadel and The Sacrament.  The Citadel is a fictional holy place in Turkey established virtually at the dawn of civilisation and which has guarded the secrets of The Sacrament since then.  This book picks up exactly where Sanctus (vol 1) left off, which it had to as that book didn't exactly leave you on a cliffhanger but almost ended mid-sentance, let alone mid-scene - so in some respects I doubt you can pick this up and read it without having read Sanctus before hand.

Liv Anderson finds herself in  hospital with several others but forces want them silenced as no-one has ever knowingly left the Citadel ever with knowledge of The Sacrament.  The plot focuses on religious zealotism, greed and corruption in the highest reaches of the Vatican.  Now that is interesting, The Citadel must out date Christianity by nature of it being so old - therefore why is it The Vatican who now hold the keys to this?  Surely it'd have to be an old religion, Judaism possibly, but I suppose there isn't as much mileage in corruption in Jerusalem as much at the Roman Catholic church. 

There is one other flaw in the plot line that leaves me confused - or at least having to stretch fitional credulity a little too far for my scientifically inclined mindset.  I'll try not to plot spoil folks but the final climax is based on a particular premiss, but that premiss is massive flawed by the timescales of nature.  So we have to assume that the Christian Bible is fact for the plot to work - that means the earth is 5000 years old appox, ok even if we stretch that and say the timelines are longer but look at the fact we know humans have only really been around what 200,000 years.  However what the baddies seek takes millions of years to form, therefore the timelines just don't compute.  Sorry Mr Toyne, it is a clever idea given the ruthlessless of characters in the middle of this but for my little head I was laughing as it is just frankly (to use my word to dismiss stuff these days) tosh.  But hey, this is fiction folks so roll with it if you can.

Not as good as the first book I didn't think but very good none the less and again you are left with another twist meaning you just have to buy the next book in the series to carry on - very clever this trilogy lark (I'm presuming it will be the classic trilogy there),   Gets a Thumb and Half on the FITUBRS.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Busy Day

I had a day off yesterday.  I'd screwed up the leave request as I meant to have last Monday off, which I did but I thought I'd canceled this Monday until my boss pointed out last week I was off on a Monday again... he thinks I'm unable to get to work on a Monday at the moment!  I could have canceled it but decided having had the Swimathon I'd have the day off anyway.  And there were a few things to do, including that flipping tax return that has been sat there gnawing at my mind.  Do you know I should give up work I had a fantastic day.  Here is the list of things achieved

  • Went shopping - the weekly grocery shop to help out Mrs F - I don't like the "new" Tesco, they changed it just over a year ago when I was just getting back to work and stopped going regularly, it isn't the right layout - the fruit and veg are at the back in the middle, the dairy in the far corner, booze as you first walk in - which I thought was against the voluntary code of conduct anyway...  whatever I found most stuff but a Monday morning isn't the best time as half the aisle are half stocked and the the other half full of "cages" and staff restocking after the weekend.
  • Finally nailed how to fill in my tax return completed it and posted it.  It was for the year I was made redundant in - so a touch more complicated than I'm used to having to deal with, plus when I was with the Kent office they stopped needing me to fill in returns, now my "local" office is Liverpool since I'm public sector in London (she said that with the definition of undeniable logic when I asked if I could have an appointment - so I have to fork out to travel to Liverpool to talk face to face - what a joke).  Anyway this time the "on hold" was so long I re-read and re-read all the notes and figured it out myself.  Maybe that is why the "hold" is so long!
  • Replaced the rest of the smoke alarms in the house so all new ones now
  • Lagged a small water pipe to the outside tap
  • Mowed the lawn - actually yesterday was a break in the incessant rain and warm and sunny until I'd mown the lawn!
  • Got into my "studio" and recorded "In Your Eyes" - mixed and mastered that.  Luckily I've been playing with an arrangement in my head for ages on that and it all came together pretty easily. If you've not listened it is the post before this one that has a player link to it, please give it a listen and post your thoughts/comments
  • Put the dinner on for Mrs F and D-o-F
  • Went to an AA meeting

Fantastic day!