Monday, 29 October 2012

Championship deciders.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, 25 October 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, 19 October 2012

Gordon Giltrap and Oliver Wakeman - Brook Theatre Chatham

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, 15 October 2012

Reminding me it is only a short time...

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

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

UPDATE!

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

Friday, 12 October 2012

Updating lists and listening, reading and learning things

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, 5 October 2012

Newcomers

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

It was 50 years ago today

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

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

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

How amazingly cool!