Monday, 30 April 2012

Swimathon and Band Jam

Hello - busy weekend... again!

Firstly on Sunday evening Daughter-of-Furtheron and I were in the Swimathon.  I first did this in 1989 and was a regular participant for years, but I haven't done it the last couple of years.  We were both in the 5,000m individual challenge, D-o-F for the first time.  Well we both completed it, both raised our sponsorship targets (but you can add to that if you'd like to!).  D-o-F completed in 1 hour 33min and 37 seconds... hugely impressive and betters my best ever time by a few mins.  I managed 1 hour 56 min 27 seconds - frankly to get under 2 hours was a surprise for me, I'd not trained the last couple of weeks due to the migraine issues and I pulled a muscle about 150 lengths in, I felt it go and the last 50 were difficult, the last 20 utter agony!

Link to my sponsorship page

Secondly I had a band jam with my brother-in-law (on bass) and a friend (on drums) on Saturday evening.  We had a bash through some covers - had a laugh and planned to get together again - you never know this might be the start of a band thing, we'll see.

Last I took today off on holiday from work, I've got the tax form completed and sent off, just as the next one fell through the door - can I do them for harassment do you think?

New Song In Your Eyes

Hot on the heals of the live debut of this song - here is the studio version...  enjoy


Thursday, 26 April 2012

The video! In Your Eyes

Here is the video from last Saturday




Right this one is actually influenced by a couple of people who drop by here ... I'll protect the guilty but anyway hope you enjoy this.  In Your Eyes!

The gig

Hello - back in harness.  Feeling better, not 100% but better than I was despite going back to work yesterday, the awful bloody weather (shouldn't moan we need the rain) and the 1 hr delay getting home due to a lightening strike on the overhead gantry just outside St Pancras!

The gig was a success (well I think it was).  The stage was plenty large enough for me although the large groups were a bit cramped on there.  The sound was good with a couple of good sound guys who just efficiently got on with the job and delivered really good results - impressive given the range of groups and solo artists.  Everything was running late - I never really knew why, it was already late when we got there in the middle of the afternoon, due to that I had to cut to a set of about 30mins - I was pleased with how I did that on a personal level, i.e. calmly and evenly.

Luckily the weather held and it was actually sunny for a while, dry throughout but a little chilly.  That might have kept the numbers down but somewhere around 120/150 people were there I'd have thought, which was a small village festival wasn't too shabby.  They broke even which was the main thing so the parish council didn't lose money and made a small profit whilst the community had an enjoyable day.

So here are a couple of photos my son took




I was hoping to post a video but after ages uploading it errored and being nearly 11pm I decided to sort it out another time... watch this space

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Missing in action

So the rushing about like a headless chicken has caught up with me...  Last week was two AA chairs, travelling to them and Paradise Lost gig, a bit of stress at work with some important meetings, gig preparations and gig on Saturday (went well I will post about that soon as I can) and then a drive to Wales and back to return S-o-F to university - D-o-F came along too... So I drove over 1000 miles in one week which for someone who commutes by train into London everyday and doesn't drive even to the station is fairly nuts.  Well by last night all was not well.  My Migraine Associated Vertigo is bad, couple that with a few nights of rubbish sleep, not helped by the migraine symptoms and finally this morning I went into work but had to throw the towel in straight away and return home.   I should be resting really not on here typing away so that this pain in the head goes away....

Normal service will be resumed, when it can... hopefully shortly

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Paradise Lost gig review - Folkestone The Quarterhouse 18th April

Son-of-Furtheron and I went to see Paradise Lost last night at The Quarterhouse in Folkestone.

Firstly Paradise Lost - a doom laden gothic metal band from Yorkshire, have been around a long time now but never got the accolades I think they deserve.  If you don't know them let me say if you like Metallica (esp Black Album material), Opeth and even the heavier live elements of The Prodigy and Pendulum you should go and check them out.

Secondly - venue - first time I'd been there.  Folkestone is like many old seaside towns, the holiday traffic long since dried up with the cheap package tours from the 70s onwards.  It had a large funfair that closed in the end, it has a harbour where you used to be able to get to France but Dovers dominance in the market and the Channel Tunnel put paid to that some years back... so a town in transition.  Like many the arts are seen as part of that transformation and you have a dichotomy now within the harbour area of galleries, ceramic workshops etc. around old style cafes and bars etc. The Quarterhouse is a new arts venue built as part of the re-generation.  It is a nice modern venue, not as large as I was expecting but gets pretty much a full set of ticks.

Okay the gig - two support acts from Scandinavia in the form of Bredia (I think that was the spelling) from Norway - one or two small highlights but a bit samey.  Insomnuim were on next (from Finland) - these boys looked the part - all long hair and synchronised windmills from the word go.  S-o-F had given them a listen earlier in the day and his view of them being "a bit like a heavier Opeth with a vocal style that is roary but more tuneful that many"... fair assessment.  I liked the variety in their tunes too and the guitarists had worked on complementary styles, the solos were nice and varied as well unlike many metal - lets go whiddle whiddle whiddle as quickly as possible at every chance.

To the main act - I discovered Paradise Lost at Sonisphere some years back on the second stage around lunchtime on the Saturday I think it was.  I was really impressed then - last night even more so.  They have a great variety to their writing in terms of the leads are melodic, the riffs used appropriately, variety in the vocal delivery and as I say unlying an infusion of genres from rangeing from all points heavy to include techno rhythms etc.  They played a plethora of material throughout their now extensive back catalogue and a few new ones of the new album Tragic Idol which is due out later this month.  One the strength of last nights evidence it'll pick up where Faith Divides Us Death Unites Us left off.   I can't wait to get it frankly.  The show was brilliant - a band on top form delivering a really tight driving set.  Both guitarists use Mayones 7 string beasts and more than once my son and I exchanged looks of "What the hell was that chord/riff?".  Greg Mackintosh has a very identifiable and unique sound,  I think he uses a Wah always cocked to a certain position so you get that odd sort of nasally sound - a bit like Schenker has used, but a higher frequency.  He often then uses I presume a second wah over that on his solos.  Whatever the technicalities of it you know it is him from note 1 of a solo, and his solos are very melodic and thought through - regular people here will know Steve Rothery of Marillion is one of my biggest heroes/influences and I'd liken Greg's approach to solos to that of Steve's but in obviously a heavier setting.  Trust me if you like unique melodic guitar playing search out their material.  Have I sold Paradise Lost enough yet?  I'm a big fan you may be able to tell...

I can't fail to be amazed that bands like Paradise Lost and Logan in the UK fail to get wider audiences, if Paradise Lost came from Germany/Scandinavia they'd be national heroes, if Logan were from the USA they'd be selling albums by the truck load.  Oddly home grown rock talent in the UK struggles, people still buy Maiden, Ozzy, etc. bemoaning the passing on the golden rock years but frankly guys there are bands like Paradise Lost out there banging out great music to sadly a couple of hundred people in a club in Folkestone where as they should be packing out the O2 in my humble opinion.

I was asked for a set list... oh hum - problem is I'm rubbish at remembering them.  But below is my best stab but it is inaccurate, incomplete and in a random order - apologies.

Fear of Impending Hell
In this we Dwell (stated as first ever live performance)
Tragic Idol
Lamented Shade
Faith Divides Us Death Unites Us
The Enemy
Beneath Black Skies
Erase
Forever Failure
Symbol of Life
Unreachable

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

I am just a traveller

I am just a traveller through recovery.  Last night that was more literal than normal.  I'd been asked to speak at a meeting the other side of the county.  It was a bit of rush to get there, catch the early train, Mrs F prepared with a meal ready cooked as I arrived in to serve immediately, my kids (kids!!! they are 16 and 21 but still my kids) helping with the washing up as I flew in and out the house like a whirlwind to be able to get to the meeting on time.

I'd been to that meeting some years back at a different venue and with a lady who sadly passed away some time back.  I found the new venue easily - if anyone steals my car and thinks using the Sat Nav will provide them with rich pickings from my estate of houses they will be sadly disappointed all they will find is a collection of far flung AA meeting points!  The meeting is now housed in a lovely little modern hospital - very comfortable and nice.  There were a few familiar faces there, some I'd not seen in a while, others only last week and some faces I didn't know.

It was a Step meeting - they have one a month, so being April Step 4.  I will as always advised say "yes" when asked to do a chair unless I really really can't but when I'm then politely told it is a step meeting my heart does I have to say sag a little.  I'm not a paragon of any sort of virtue when it comes to the steps.  I've had a go, several goes at them all, I live by them in various ways on a daily basis now but if you want an ABC instructional DVD on how to do them, I'm not the guy.  But then I think again "To thine own self be true" - indeed and I tell it as it is for me, my experience which has kept me sober up to now.

I first tried step 4 "Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves" in rehab, a life story guided by a workbook.  I remember in the evenings after group sessions had finished and dinner cleared away but before we could get back into the dorms we would regularly talk about our step work in the workbooks.  As I became one of the elders in there people would say "Is this right?"  - What is "right" in AA step terms?  I have no idea I do earnestly believe every person has to find the answers to the questions the steps pose for themselves.  I knew my first effort as I did it was a pastiche as my head was full of madness still and I was really struggling to disentangle the fact from fantasy from rumour from wishful thinking!  I had another go about a year later in my recovery, I tried a timeline as well to sort things out - all that showed me were big gaps where I had years where I could remember virtually nothing.  I did the columns way in the big book as well looking at resentments and my defects - useful that one.  But I hit a wall many have hit I think as well - for a while all the resentments paled into complete insignificance against just one - the one against me.  Yes I hated me for what I'd become and done or not done etc.  A friend talked about the "inventory" step 4 talks about -  if you take inventory in business etc. you are looking at what is good in your inventory and keeping that and "taking stock of it" and identifying what is bad, no use anymore or an impediment to the good health of the business etc.  So I needed to not just look at the bad side of myself but my good side too.  That took time but I got over that and learnt a huge amount about it.

Recently something hit me that I realised was an issue and I've done a mini Step 4 on that particular issue.  I looked at the underlying issues with it, my motives etc. I realised I was lying to myself and that it was clashing with the morals I aspire to live up to and decided to change my actions in that area - work in progress.   This to me is how I live the steps, they are not done and dusted, they can't be for me, I work them into my life into the fabric of who I now am.  I quoted Glenn Hughes on this where in his autobiography he says "I worked the steps, now the steps work me" - I love that simple statement about the programme.  It is something I'll continue to aspire to.

Finally - chairs... like buses they are.  I'm off to do another one on Friday again at a meeting I don't normally attend ... that luckily isn't a Step meeting or such a schlep into the sticks so my level of anxiety is less about that one... at the moment :-)  I'll just be travelling through again ...

Monday, 16 April 2012

Breaking strings and gig preparations

I'm playing a gig next Saturday.  Now this is a big thing for me, I don't play many gigs, probably because I don't promote myself enough but also I'm not sure my material is mainstream bookable stuff... my wife was commenting on an ad we recently saw for a band looking for work - her comment was "Why would people see them they are just a covers band?" is an interesting one.  Put simply, if you play original music few are really interested in listening, let alone paying to hear it... if you bang out Mustang Sally etc. regularly you can probably earn a half decent second income from it.  Anyways - I'm playing a festival... headlined by a Pink Floyd tribute band (see previous comment!).

45 minute set.  Run through my initial planned set which did have a couple of covers in to draw people in - over 55 minutes.  So I've cut it back - now I'm worrying I'll be a few mins short again!  I've decided against 12string numbers as the repair hasn't delivered the highly playable 12sting I'd hoped for, probably with unrealistic expectation.  However I was reflecting that I have enough material easily now for an hour all original set if I throw everything into the mix - for example I'm not playing any instrumentals on this one at all.  It is a small village fair for St George's Day that they have expanded this year and are billing as a fair and festival.  I notice the headliners are referring to it as a festival so I should do the same... people might be fooled that I'm playing Glastonbury or the like :-)

I seem to keep breaking strings at the moment.  I hope this is just the "it'll be alright on the night" stuff you get pre-gig.  I'm planning to spend some of this evening running through the exact order and getting the timing sorted.  I only have Thursday for another chance of that due to a couple of AA commitments and going to see Paradise Lost at Folkestone on Wednesday with Son-of-Furtheron.

Anyway - deep breaths... it'll be okay...

Saturday, 14 April 2012

The Whitstable Dream

Saw this whilst in sunny Whitstable today... The Whitstable Dream... hmm haven't got £675,000 to buy it really :-(

Good news on the Tax Form front - I found one of the important bits of paper I thought I'd lost - I think I might have a fighting chance to fill it in now!

Where's he been then?

At home - actually.  I've had a week and a half off work.  Now I seem to be busier than ever when not at work - how's that the case? 

I redecorated the bedroom over Easter then did the 12-string work but just loads of other stuff... mostly boring like trying to figure out my tax return!!  However today is Mrs F's birthday and Son-of-Furtheron returned from visiting his girlfriend in Wales last night so we are all off to Whitstable for a day out...

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

12 String Guitar - Bridge Doctor Installation

Remember my 12 string needing to have it's overbelly reduced?  Well I ordered a Bridge Doctor  from StewMac in the USA which arrived in a couple of weeks.

Here is the bridge doctor before installation


Here is the action before - about 5mm on the bass side and about 3mm on the treble.


The guitar on the workbench


Hole drilled - I got a 1/4" brad bit for the outer hole and used a cocktail stick marked at 1/8" as my depth gauge.  You get a little plastic dot you can inlay over the screw once finished - I may do that later when I get happy with it.  Luckily I have a local little hardware shop that stock imperial drills and are cheaper than the big stores... no doubt as the stock has been there 20 years!


Set the doctor to the best width - the circular plastic bolt holder has three settings - I used the widest you can see to allow string clearance on the 12 string - on a 6 string the middle would probably be best setting.


 The doctor installed - the rod needs to go in and the allen key bolt on that and you tension it there.  You need a 3/16" allen wrench - I have all kinds courtesy of my Dad's old tool collection!


Sadly after all this work - to be honest even with a fingerboard clean and oil and fret polish it was only an hour or so - the action is only marginally improved.  I tried slacking off the strings again and tensioned it more but with little result.  Possibly my poor old Yamaha is beyond saving other than a full neck re-set which frankly will cost much more than the guitar is worth and I'd be better off buying a new electro one which would be better for live use anyhow.  However, next time I restring it I'll un-tension the bridge doctor then I'll try to pull the rod down and re-tension it against that new position - which is a way I've heard of some doing it i.e. stepping the rod down the end block.

However the claim that it improves the volume and tone of the guitar definitely sounds true to my ears.

Given that the guitar isn't really saleable as is and this whole job cost under £30 and a couple of hours I still think it was worth a shot.


Wednesday, 4 April 2012

On the telly

Our local area was - John Bishop ran right past my old local and my daughters school on that programme about his money raising Paris to London thing.  If they'd have kept the camera on two seconds longer D-o-F would have been on the telly.   Now last night though Pub Dig at Chatham was aired on Channel 5.   This is a rip off of Time Team but with less people and Rory McGrath hosting it... all digs are in pubs...  nice gig Rory!

Anyway last night they were at Chatham outside The Command House - a teenage occasional haunt of mine - haven't been there in years mind.  However they were digging out the front of it looking for evidence of the first Royal Dockyard - started in 1500 something by Henry VIII and in Elizabeth I's reign it was the most important dockyard in the country and therefore in the wars with the Spanish etc.  In fact the last ever foreign invasion was in the Raid on the Medway in 1667 when the Dutch had a go and actually did sink a lot of ships.

Anyway they dug and found some evidence of Georgian store houses but there was always a lot of evidence about them - including photographs from the early 20th century.  However they did find only 16th Century shards of pottery from drinking vessels and some ships nails (difficult to precisely age) but also 16th Century bricks like those Hampton Court Palace is made from - the right time for the buildings believed to have been at the centre of the first dockyard set up by Henry VIII. 

Great programme for me as my family is steeped in local history - we've gone back a few generations and still in the locality.  My Dad, Mum, Sister and Aunt all worked in the dockyard until it's closure in the 1980s (thanks Mrs Thatcher!) and I believe previous generations did too. 

One final thing - in Sept the Antiques Roadshow is coming to Chatham dockyard (well the little bit that is a museum now) I intend to go along.  I'm not a lover of the show but my Dad was awarded a watch in 1941 called the Coast watch.  It was awarded every year to the boy from a Gillingham school who passed the entrance exam with the highest score who went on to become an apprentice shipwright.  We have the watch which is engraved, an original cutting from the local paper about its presentation and also recently I unearthed my Dad's original apprentice indentures.  I thought it might make an interesting artefact given all that and the relevance to the dockyard.  He worked as master shipwright on the last O boats (submarines) made there as well.  I have some photos of the launches I could take along too.

I'm not going to rant

I was going to rant about the taxman - but what's the point?  I was going to have another bloody rant about councils and bus passes - but what's the point?  In summary about the bus pass, we thought they had a new teenager scheme so we applied - it said "at any time" - pass comes back "valid Mon-Fri up to 9am"... that isn't "any time" in my book.  We asked for a refund as we already had that type of pass and I wrote to complain saying they didn't advertise it well.  They said my daughter could travel at half price after 9am and weekends without the pass... she can't she is 16 - that was the point...  They clearly never read my letter at all.   now the new propaganda sheet council newsletter arrives saying you can get a 16 - 18 bus pass that gives a discount "at all times"... do I start this nonsense all over again?  Have they responded to my suggestion that scheme would be a good idea (I'd put that in the letter) - if so why didn't they tell me that last month... left hand/right hand - and given previous disasters with with bus passes no doubt it'll be confiscated by the first driver who takes a dislike to my daughter. 

Oh bugger I've ranted now... next post will not be a rant promise...

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

The man in the mirror

... that'll be me that will.  Funny whenever I see myself in the mirror there is a slightly different person looking back to the one I was expecting to - do you ever find this?  The one in the mirror is a couple of years older than me, a few pounds heavier than, not as toned as me, has more grey in the beard than me... etc.  Self-image - it isn't that I have a wildly out of step self image but it certainly isn't 100% in tune with reality!!!  Today I can laugh at myself about these things, begin to accept the inevitable process of ageing and just get on with it.

I tell you the best thing though - the guy in the mirror is able to look me in the eye these days.  Honestly for years in the back end of the drinking I was so ashamed of myself that I couldn't look myself in the eye, let alone anyone else - only time I did do that with anyone else it was in a drunken aggressive manner.

"Comfortable in your own skin" - I remember hearing that phrase (at least the first time I really took notice of it) whilst on a course being run by my old company, it was on "personal skills for senior staff"... hmm you have to think about why I might have been on that one but anyways...  There was this French guy, mid thirties, very very handsome, tall, very fit, tanned, very... French.   Anyway the psychiatrist running the course described this bloke as "extremely comfortable in his own skin".  I was thinking - "He would be, bastard, if I looked like that I would too".   I didn't get the meaning around it being about him being confident in himself, having a good vision of self-worth and an acceptance of himself and his place in the world.  About a year later I was in rehab and reintroduced to this phrase and I honestly had to ask a counsellor to explain to me what he meant - he'd described me as "uncomfortable in your skin".   I'd said something about looks or build or something and he roared with laughter as he often did when I opened my mouth in the early days.

This has all come from me simply just being in the washroom and washing a mark on my cheek off that I'd put there with a pen (idiot!) - but I can look at me now - and regardless of the physical view back at me - I am comfortable in my own skin.  I wrote a song about it, it was the title track of my debut CD

Monday, 2 April 2012

Getting great milage...

This will no doubt rate as another stunningly boring post in the history of this blog but what the heck...

So the fuel crisis - unbelievable, I won't go into discussing the possibility that this is the most inept government I've ever seen in my life (and I do include the disastrous Jim Callaghan administration of the 70s in that) but you have to say the British public (encouraged by senior politicians) managed to create chaos out of nothing.  So there is no strike planned and if so there is 7 days notice but Dave Cameron says "Fill your car up to be safe" and suddenly there is a 800% increase in fuel sales and all the garages around our area are shut!  Brilliant!

Anyway I had to go to Wales to retrieve Son-of-Furtheron for the Easter break.  I did manage to find one service station with diesel before I left on Saturday morning.  I decided given I didn't know if I could fill up anywhere that I'd drive a little more conservatively.  I set a cruise at 68mph or a limit at same or 58mph depending on the road conditions and cruised a long.  I got to Wales not that discernibly later than normal and it was all more relaxed as I wasn't trying to "make up time".   I couldn't believe what my trip computer said - 68mpg!  I did the same on the trip home although the Welsh not being as flipping stupid as the English had plenty of fuel everywhere it seemed so I did top up but I need not have bothered - still said 68mpg when I got back and I reckon on a tank I could get close to 1000miles!  At least the 600+ round trip would have been doable.  For a large family estate motor can't complain can you - my last trip where I pushed more I only got 55mpg and thought that good.

Also my Bridge Doctor has arrived - so I'll be attacking the 12string when I can find a day to do so and somewhere I can buy the drill I want.  I'd rather buy a new brad bit drill that should limit any chipping as I make the hole in the bridge.  watch this space...