Sunday, 30 September 2012

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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


Monday, 17 September 2012

Stumbling toward 50...

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, 14 September 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, 13 September 2012

The other two...

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




Andy McKee, Jon Gomm and Preston Reed in concert

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, 7 September 2012

Surplus to needs...

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

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Hero

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

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

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

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Is it Autumn?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Edinburgh

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

Here are a few snaps from the trip.


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


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


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


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