Friday, 13 December 2013

A couple of great videos

Firstly the new Transatlanic single - this is just a beautiful song off the forthcoming Transatlantic album which I'm clearly going to have to pre-order now!


Secondly - the genius that is Jon Gomm and the fantastic song Wukan Motorcycle Kid - which has a great back story as to the influence that led to him writing it.
Enjoy!

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Book Review - Dominion by C J Sansom

Another brilliant book!

Never read any of C J Sansom's before, most I believe have been set back in medieval times and are detective novels with a twist - well that's what I've assumed they are.  Anyway I've not read them as they looked large and I was so far back in the series I didn't think I'd catch up, who knows they might make it onto my reading list some time.

Anyway - I saw Dominion whilst browsing in a book store and then again on the Kindle store (I read almost everything on my Kindle these days) and thought the premise for the book really clever.  So imagine that in May 1940 as Neville Chamberlain is forced to resign after the defeat of the UK forces in Norway that instead of Winston Churchill leading the coalition war cabinet into the Battle Of Britain and onwards but that Viscount Halifax had in fact won the upper hand and followed a policy of appeasement.  The start of the book is slightly off beat from what I believe is the actual facts of the crisis but essentially the outcome is the same - What if Halifax had been PM and Britain had sought a negotiated peace in the early summer of 1940 rather than continue to the war against Hitler's Germany?

Interesting premise.

The book is set actually 12 years later in 1952 in an England that exists in an uneasy peace with a dominant Germany still very much under the control of the Nazi party still led by Hitler despite his failing health.  England is very different from the England we remember post war - Police Auxiliaries patrol the streets stamping out dissent, Germany demands England follow much of its own policies regarding how Jews are treated etc.  The British Union Of Fascists still led by Oswald Mosley have a prominent role in government and Germany has a massive presence housed in it's embassy in The Senate House in Bloomsbury.

In all this background we're introduced to some people who are fighting back, spies in the civil service, Churchill forced underground with Atlee and Bevan to run the Resistance with a mandate of fighting against the puppet regime in parliament.  The spies and espionage parts of the story are really good but it is the "What if?" premise that really makes it a really good read.

Full double thumbs up on the FTUBRS.  If you are looking for a late stocking filler for someone I thoroughly recommend this one.

BTW - silly little thing... I've set a schedule for this post to go live at 09:10 on 11/12/13 - see 09,10,11,12,13 - it'll be nearly 90 years until I can do something similar...  stay tuned ;-)

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Blues America BBC4

I’ve just finished watching the two part series shown on the BBC; Blues America.

An interesting view of blues and how it moved from black sub-culture through to mainstream white/inter-racial acceptance.

Some points I found interesting – like probably many European white boys I always saw the Blues as this folk music of the Southern USA black culture.  However it was interesting to note that even in the early 20th century people like W C Handy were actually taking the raw plantation blues and turning it into a successful commercial genre just that was still for the black audiences in the southern USA states.  Some of what I’ve previously thought was authentic roots music was still produced with a commercial bias. Interesting.

The re-explosion of the blues into the mainstream following the cross over of Elvis singing blues inspired rock n roll whilst Chuck Berry was singing white country inspired rock n roll was interesting.  By then of course the blues had migrated from the South in the depression of the 30s with the migration from their to the north, Chicago especially where much of what people would now recognise as modern electric blues came from.

Of course by the time Muddy Waters took to the stage at the Newport Jazz festival in the early 60s blues was old hat for many young black people but the electric style is what of course many of the English musicians picked up on.  Here is my one criticism of the programme, they did talk about The Rolling Stones bringing the blues to mainstream American consciousness but there is a whole other programme’s worth of material missed here – in the early 60s the blues explosion in the UK was immense, with artists who could barely make a living in their home country being lauded as total genius’s in the UK.  That re-injection of the blues back to the USA white audience was I think not given the importance it should have been – but there again it was Blues America – maybe I’m overly critical here.  However Chris Barber should be mentioned here he arranged for tours by Muddy Waters, Big Bill Broonzy and others which led to the likes of The Stones, Clapton, Peter Green etc. in switching on to this music.

Still it was a very interesting view of the migration of blues from South to North, from black culture to mainstream and from roots acoustic to big band and electrification.  There was a funny aside which talks about Alan Lomax, one of the blues hunters of the post war era who ended up in a fist fight over the Paul Butterfield Blues Band performing at Newport since he felt any electrification was fundamentally a betrayal of the blues roots.  

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Charity Single Release

Dear all readers...

It is nearly Christmas - must be I've seen reindeer at the shopping centre.  Now some people are not having a good time Kenward Trust helps alcoholics and addicts to begin and sustain their recovery - they helped over 150 people last year in their residential rehab in Kent.

So listen to my new Christmas Single "On Christmas Day" here - then go straight to JustGiving and donate £2 - just £2 please to go to this worthy charity

Thank You

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Out bid

...thankfully.

I got right back into Jimi Hendrix after watching that documentary I blogged about the other week.  So I have a Strat (my venerable old 1962 JV series Squier which is over 30 years old now) but seeing Jimi at the Isle Of Wight with the Flying Vee got me slight Vee obsessed for a few days.

I ended up searching for a viable "copy" option.  I came across the Vintage V60 - which is an excellent take on the Vee but with an interesting twist.  See the photo below.  Note that the bottom bout is a bit shorter, similar to the Randy Rhodes signature model that has spawned many modern copies. Also note the little lump to help it stay on your leg - actually that reminds me a bit of the Burns Flyte.  However it still retains very classic hardware set up.  I've seen variants of this model (black V60) as low as £135 - which strikes me as a bargain real bargain. My Vintage acoustics are both super instruments.

However fatally whilst trawling on eBay I came across a Graham Oliver version (the photo below) which is more like a '67 than a '57 and has better woods used, i.e. all mahogany.  It had a little crack in the finish so was a second from the importers.  So I bid.  And to within about 5 mins I was the winning bid!  Luckily I was outbid - to be honest I DON'T need another guitar and it was a frivolous few minutes and a warning to you all be careful when you see a bargain and think "I'll stick in a silly bid"... you might just end up winning the thing!





Thursday, 21 November 2013

great albums

I've been thinking on GREAT ALBUMS recently.  This has been due to me pulling out of the CD cupboard Steve Earl Copperhead Road - now that is just a blinding album. no duff tracks, Steve at his best songwriting and singing and playing. 

Others...

Living Colour - Time's Up
Fleetwood Mac - Rumours
Paul Simon - Graceland
Supertramp - Crime of the Century
Rush - Moving Pictures
Joe Satriani - Flying with the Alien
UFO - Strangers in the Night
U2 - The Joshua Tree
John Martyn - Grace & Danger
Yes - Relayer
Marillion - Season's End

All these albums - there are more out there too, but these come to mind are ones that when I dropped then on the turntable for the first time (apart from Time's Up which arrived on CD probably... Season's End was a cassette as was Crime of the Century possibly) and they just blew me away and I had to put them back on straight away.

If you don't know these do yourself a favour and try them out... also what are your list of Great Albums.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Gordon Smith Volumax and Blacklab Booster

Found this on the Gordon Smith web site.




Not only do you get to hear the very brilliant Steve Fairclough play you get to see his absolutely gorgeous 1981 Gemini - which he has had recently upgraded with the latest gizmo from Gordon Smith.

Enjoy...

Now I'm wondering about a retro fit to my Graduate!!!

Friday, 15 November 2013

Dario Franchitti forced to retire

I have more than a touch of admiration for Dario Franchitti.  He without a doubt in the top 5 drivers to come out of Britain since the likes of Damon Hill etc.  Probably in the top 3 actually.  Now it is difficult to do a straight comparison as the people I'd put him up there with are Lewis Hamilton (1 F1 world championship), Jenson Button (1 F1 world championship), Dan Wheldon RIP (1 IndyCar title, two Indy 500 wins) and Alan McNish (3 Le Mans 24 hours, 3 ALMS series championships).

Alan McNish had a brief F1 career with Toyota which whilst the biggest budget possibly in the paddock never seemed to have a car and engine that could be regular podium let alone winner material.  But you could say Lewis and Jenson are better than him as they succeeded where he didn't maybe.  Dan sadly never really got an F1 break and did turn down a chance to be a test driver however Dario's record arguably puts him ahead of Dan as they fought side by side in IndyCar for a while.

Dario failed to get to F1.  He had a chance with the Jaguar team which later mutated into the all conquering Red Bull that has dominated the last 5 years in F1 but politics played a big part in him not getting the drive, even with accusations that the test he had was hampered deliberately by people inside the team with their own agendas.  Shame I would have loved to see him in an F1 car.

Today in the UK this story isn't even making the main broadcast, the retirement of an Indian cricketer being deemed more newsworthy. Which is a real tragedy as the guy has a record that is mightily impressive.  Just look at some of the F1 refugees who've gone to Indycar and not shined like Barrichello for example - there was a guy who just missed out on a World Championship only a few years before and he was running around mid-field.  The front guys in Indycar are very much as good as the front half of the F1 field. I was privileged to be at Rockingham UK in 2002 when Dario won the CART race there through a great drive and brilliant pit strategy.

So Dario I salute you, you went to the USA and took them on and came out a hero.  It is such a shame that in the last two years we've lost the two best Brits in the series with Dan Wheldon's sad death and now this.  Justin Wilson is doing a fine job and I hope he can step up and start to win like Dan and Dario did before.

The BBC have reported his retirement today.

Here is the reason why he cannot continue - his legs just can't recover from this one.


Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Two Brothers - Ben Elton

I'm revisiting this book having finished reading it yesterday.

I was really, really impressed with it.  It is a super read, challenging at times and not a light hearted jovial read but I thoroughly recommend it.

The scenario is two boys born on the same day in 1920. The same day the Nazi party was founded.  One was born a jew, but his twin brother was still born.  The hospital ask the Jewish mother if she would raise the second boy who is an orphan his mother having died in childbirth.  Two boys, one Jewish, one not but both being brought up in a Jewish family in the 1920s and 30s in Berlin.  Some of the book is written as a retrospective from the point of view of one of the brothers, the one that survives WWII in 1956.

Cleverly written which plenty of twists, some of which I did suss out but the book is no worse for that.  However being put into the shoes of these boys and their family and friends during those times has brought alive to me some of the horrendous nature of that atrocity.  It is also a book about love, the sacrifices some will make for love and the manipulation others will carry out in the name or love.  It is also reflects on how do you deal with the pain of resentment that injustice can bring to you.

I'm very lucky.  I'm male, I'm white, I was born in England and have lived here all my life.  I take all the freedoms and benefits I have just through those three facts about me which are simply luck of the draw very much for granted.  This book reminded me that should remember that gratitude more often.

Ben Elton comes himself from Jewish stock that fled from Germany during the pogroms.  He has links to family there still - so some of this he has based loosely on family accounts - that makes it all the more compelling as well.

I do totally recommend it... anyone remember the old Furtheron Thumbs Up Book Review (FTUBR) scale?  No ... not surprised... anyway... this is a double thumbs up with a grin and a "read this it is really good" - the highest accolade on that scale I've ever given a book.  Only Stuart: A life Backwards by Alexander Masters has bettered that!


Sunday, 10 November 2013

Steve Rothery Auction's off one of his Squier Strats.

Steve Rothery - guitarist with Marillion is auctioning off a Squier Strat to raise money for a friend who has a brain tumour.

NOT the very famous black SQ series one with the large headstock and Kahler trem as used for many many years up to around Anorak etc. but an E series model with some mods on it.  But it is one Steve has used as a backup on tours etc.

Here is a video of Steve Demoing it.  As I write this the bidding has got up to £1,120.


Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Jimi Hendrix on the BBC

There was quite a good Jimi Hendrix on the BBC the other night that I recorded and got around to watching.

It did a good job of showing a little bit behind the image - the flamboyant showman on stage grinding his guitar into the Marshall stack or smashing it up after setting fire to it.  The famous scene from Monterey where he did just that with his psychedelic painted Strat was shown again for the millionth time.  But one good thing was showing the reaction of some in the crowd - he really shocked a lot of Americans that day.  I suppose from England where The Who and others had made obliterating your gear a bit of a angry young man statement a few years before it wasn't so shocking, in mainstream America then I guess it was.

Like I say though a few glimpses of the shy quiet man behind the image.  Also some great bits with Eddie Kramer talking about some of the recordings he did with the man.  Of course the legend lives on due to his untimely death due to a mistake with some sleeping tablets - Hendrix was not killed by a drugs obsession like some others and as many I think mistakenly still think he did.

I dug out and dusted off my old VHS copy of "Hendrix live at The Isle of Wight" one of the last gigs he ever played, the last on UK soil anyway just 18 days before his death.  On late in the middle of the night, sound and tuning issues but some of that stuff is sublime and you can see he was still an artist with a huge amount ahead of him, we should be grateful for what we've got.   I can't find but somewhere on my old blog I had a photo of me holding the very black Flying Vee he played on Red House, Dolly Dagger and Freedom in that set - it is at the Hard Rock Cafe in London and I luckily got to hold it on a tour of their vault some years back.

That's made me look at the Vintage V60 as a very cheap flying Vee!   My daughter just said "Dad you aren't Hendrix"... she is soooooo correct!  haha

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Recent Reading

Bernard Cornwell - The Pagan Lord

I've just finished Bernard Cornwell's "The Pagan Lord" - I bought this for my Kindle with a birthday Amazon voucher my sister kindly gave me.  I like Cornwell's stuff and have read most of his books except any of the Sharpe series for some reason.  This latest one was the continuation of his Warlord series with Lord Uhtred the pagan lord of the title.  Uhtred has had an interesting life - a fictional character set against the reign of King Alfred and then afterwards.  This is afterwards with Edward on the throne of Wessex but a move by the Danes in the north of Britain to push south and take the dream of a united England away again.

Uhtred has been banished after a disagreement with the Christian church has led to him kill an Abbot.  But with a small band he disrupted the Danish plans and becomes again the hero of the Saxons.  Great read with much terrific research by Cornwell in to a time when little is truly known of what went on in our country.  At the end you think that Uhtred is dead but Cornwell does leave a teaser about a follow up novel in his final notes.

Ben Elton - Two Brothers.

I'm still reading this but I think it is going to be one of my reads of the year.  Set against the backdrop of post WW1 Berlin two brothers are born to a Jewish mother.  You then fast forward to 1956 to meet one of the brothers no living in London and there is a dark past waiting to come out.  I like Ben Elton's writing, many of his novels have had a degree of lightheartness about them but some are brilliant works, I think this will be in the latter category.  I thought his book "The First Casualty" a really really brilliant read.

Ken Follett - Triple

Another great Ken Follett thriller - I really love his thrillers and have been working through the back catalogue when I see them cheap in the Kindle store.   This is a great one, based on a small report from the Daily Telegraph that pointed to the suspicion that Israel agents probably hijacked a cargo of Uranium in the late 1960s this fictional account intertwines a group of old friends from Oxford University into a web of espionage and  intrigue.  First class stuff with high degree of believability in it throughout.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

RIP - Gypie Mayo



I've put this up as tribute to Gypie Mayo who was long term guitarist with Dr Feelgood replacing original 6 string slinger Wilko Johnson in 1977.  This is the Feelgoods most successful single ever - the only one that made the top 10.  Whilst many of us feel that the Wilko period was the golden one for the band with the first few albums up to the incredible live Stupidity it was with Gypie in the band that they were their most commercially successful.  In later years he stepped into the legendary shoes of Clapton, Beck and Page when he was guitarist in the reformed Yardbirds in the 1990s and 2000s.


Tuesday, 22 October 2013

The best motorcycle racing nation in the world.

Anyone watch Pointless on BBC?  Whoever thought that up was a genius.  Quick side bar for those that have no idea what I'm on about, those that do, skip to next paragraph.  A teatime quiz show where you have to get the answer to a question the least number did in a survey of a hundred people before the show.  The ultimate aim to get to the last round and get a Pointless answer - i.e. a correct answer but one that none of the 100 people surveyed did.  Brilliant.  Recently I'd have won the jackpot with my ability to recognised T-Bone Walker in a set of five guitarists and knowing there is a George Washington Bridge in New York.  Pointless - so well named on a more than one front... subtle.

To the point(less) in question.   If I was to ask the 100 people "The most successful motorcycle racing nation in the world in 2013".   I would suspect the highest number of people would say "Spain" as we watch Lorenzo, Marquez, and Pedrosa slogging it out (sometimes literally) on the global glory stage that is MotoGP - the blue ribboned motorcycling series.

However I contest M'Lud that the answer is the UK.  World Superbike Champion this year after missing out last year by only 1/2 point is Tom Sykes - lovable Yorkshireman who has simply ridden his heart out this year on a bike that probably shouldn't have a champ on top of it - no disrespect to Kawasaki but no other rider is close to Tom on that machinery, Aprilia, BMW they are the two teams that looked likely to prevail with all their riders normally near the front but annoyingly there was Tom continually banging in results on the green Ninja.

World Supersport champion (feeder series to World Superbikes) - Sam Lowes a young guy from Lincolnshire, and in another odd twist that will be a Question of Sport question one day no doubt - his twin brother, Alex, won the British Superbike championship this year too!

Now I was going to hang off writing this in the hope that Scott Redding would win the Moto2 crown (feeder series to MotoGP) but sadly Scott fell off at Philip Island last week in a cross wind and broke his wrist so has fallen off the lead of that championship.  Shame.  He may get back and beat Pol Espargaro to the title yet which would be a great result and would seal it for the UK to claim to be the best on two wheels.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

New and Old.

One of Fender's classics from the 1970s that had so far missed the re-issue bandwagon was the Fender Starcaster.  Whilst we've had all the various Telecaster versions featuring the wide range humbuckers the large bodied, and even larger headstocked, Starcaster was missing.  Until now.  No doubt due to Killers guitarist Dave Keuning use of a Starcaster in recent years Fender have brought it back, and currently retailing in the shops at about £610 it looks a really tempting proposition.

My only minor gripe is that there are a few significant changes from the original.

Here is the reissue (courtesy of GAK.co.uk)


and here is an original... (via Ebay where this one is up for sale at the moment)


So the differences? 

No master volume control - like good old John Birch you could wind down or up a pre-mix setting with both pickups on.  Not a great loss but you're a knob down on the deal!   More for me a shame is that the original followed the Fender tradition of through body stringing using a modified strat hardtail bridge - similar to a Tele Delux or Tele Thinline (2nd version).  The use of tunamatic bridge on the re-issue no doubts keeps the costs down as they don't have to tool up for a special bridge plate but...  it loses a lot of the Fender character to me.   Still nice to have it back at all really so I'll not moan too much.

Music Shops

Sadly earlier this week one of my local music shops closed its doors for good.  Mid Air Music of Chatham is no more.  :-(

* 1 minute silence *

Sad days - I've bought a few things out of Craig's emporium over the 6 years it'd been in existence, notably my PRS CE22 (huge bargain) my Hughes & Kettner Statesman Dual 6L6 combo (another bargain) my Yamaha CPX 500 and some mics, pedals etc.

Sadly all too many shops on the High Street are closing, my favourite hardware and ironmongers store closed down.The last time I was in both the writing was on the wall. Stock levels down, things you'd expect not for sale and just me lonely punter wandering around with little money to spend in them.

But it is a complex issue isn't it.  Craig at Mid Air tried to have a quality music shop for our area - i.e. he stocked things like Blackstar amps, H&K, Carvin, Vigier guitars, Mayones guitars, Warwick basses etc.  Now I applauded the effort but...  how many people need a 100W stack?  How many can afford one!  How many people will pop in and just go - "oh look a Vigier at only £1,800. I'll buy that".   Sadly if you have money like that London is only 45 mins up the line and you can hit several shops with a wide selection to make your choice from.

We still have Manny's Music in Chatham.  Manny's is a mix of new/secondhand CD store on the ground floor and guitar emporium upstairs.  Now Manny does stock some good stuff, Ltd's, Ibanez, Fender's (normally from the cheaper end) and a good selection of Tanglewood acoustics, cheaper Martin's, Yamaha etc.  However, it is normally all lower to mid bracket - I understand why ... that is simply what he can sell to the punters in the area and therefore Mid Air and Manny's complemented each other to a degree.  Will Manny now look to stock Vigier?  I doubt it there sadly just isn't the money in it.  I do hope Manny's continues though - you need local shops like these to ensure that people locally have access to instruments, advice etc.  If they all die what then?   Oh yes - bargain of the moment at Manny's he has an LL11 - like the one I just fitted the Fishman in - going for about £275... I bet he'd be open to haggle on that.  Frankly a bargain that I can't believe has been on his wall already as long as it has - people ignore the second hand bargain whilst eyeing up a respectable new Tanglewood which I guarantee the Yamaha could see of with one hand behind its back!

Big Big Train Make Some Noise




I've really enjoyed Big Big Train over the last year or so with their two releases English Electric Part 1 and ... Part 2 (you saw that one coming didn't you!).  Now they have re-released both of these in a double album version with four previously unreleased tracks.  This is one of them "Make Some Noise" - this is probably the most "pop" these boys are ever likely to get.  Top stuff... flutes, rickenbaker basses etc.  yes it is British prog at it's best!

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Rush - Clockwork Angels Tour


Here is Rush playing "The Garden" the closing track from their excellent Clockwork Angels album live on the Tour they've been on across the globe this year promoting the album, complete with a full string section.  Now if you know me you'll know I love Rush, they are up there in my favourite three bands of all time, so I loved the album and the tour and the book that embellishes the album.

A DVD package of this tour is due out in November - put it on your Christmas list now!  The gig was up there as one of my best ever, alongside Led Zep at Knebworth etc. for me.

Now - click on the video below and enjoy - oh yes and about at 4:30 one of the best guitar solos comes forth from the fantastic Mr Lifeson.  The lightshow is flipping ace too - the whole thing is just flipping ace!!


Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Touched

A colleague just really surprised me.  We'd been talking about favourite foods and stuff the other day - we had a charity cake bake competition underway... I didn't bake, just made a donnation and eat!  She just came in and said "I've some Biriani I made last night left over - there is enough for you".  Simple little acts like that stun me at times do you know - they really do.  Largely as I often fail to perform such acts myself.

Darn - should this have been on the other blog... whatever.  Remember I'm in two places now - the split personality coming to the fore!

Monday, 14 October 2013

This blog and that blog

Right ...

this blog here will become more mostly about guitars and music and all that.

My other blog is going to focus more from here on about the life part of the title.  To that end there is a new post about my life over there... go read, follow etc. over there...  ta

New music... and isn't Amazon clever

Some new music I've been listening too.

Alter Bridge - Fortress.

Hello did I put on the wrong album?  The first few bars are a really nice acoustic guitar solo, a bit Spanish in nature and I was wondering what was going on...  but then Cry of Archilles kicks into the drums, bass and heavy guitar riffs.  Oh yes Alter Bridge on top form - Miles' voice soars in and this is all very good territory.  On the whole a little heavier than their normal fair to my ears, with one track The Univited reminding me of the music Metallica should be producing.  Highlights... hmm - too many but probably Waters Rising is the stand out track for me - following a well worn Alter Bridge formula, nice finger picked intro with laid back drums and bass that kicks up when the chorus arrives.  Yes they nailed this as Creed with the other singer but hey if you have a formula that works why break it?

Queensrÿche

Right - this is the version with the new singer... like Alter Bridge is to Creed, but they kept the same name... but then so did the singer - so there are two bands with same name... confused?!

Ok so this is the one with the new singer again.  And much better I listened to both albums and this is a Queensrÿche album of old, La Todd is a great singer and fits in well.  I really like this album and if you turned away when DeGarmo left and think they went down hill after Empire try this out - I think it is their best album since that opus probably.

Highlight - In this Light - just a mega track, great arrangement, guitar playing and the vocals are superb!

Newton Faulkner - Studio Zoo

The big lad with the ginger dreadlocks is back.  And is he back, this is the best album since his debut I believe.  Excellent production, writing and playing throughout.

This is him warming up in a basement before a record store appearance with Treading Water which is one of the highlights off the album.  Note the Gomm/Legg like retuning - but note that young Newton doesn't use Banjo pegs just his ears... astounding!





Finally aren't Amazon clever.  I bought two of these albums with a voucher my sister got me, along with a new book for my Kindle.  Now if you buy a physical CD from Amazon (I'm old school!) they give you an MP3 download for free!  Better still log on to their Cloud player and everything you've bought through them before is available for you to play - I've loaded this on my phone and whilst conscious of data charges where I have wifi I can listen to anything in my library.  Also most you can download again - so remember that album I got rid off 'cos I wasn't sure - I can try it again.   I know they want to trap me in and kill off Manny's in Chatham but sorry it is flipping clever isn't it.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

I sometimes wonder...

Reading the news today there is a big story about the UK e-borders scheme.  The bit that really made me chuckle was the statement from Immigration Minister Mark Harper - who says...

"We have the best coverage of any country in Europe but we are working to improve our coverage further."

I think his title should be Minister of the Bleeding Obvious.  Could it be that we have the best border system in Europe as we are pretty much the only country that has a border?  The map below shows the Schengen Area - those countries with no border controls between them (those in green are going to join those in blue in due course)

The Schengen Area
The Schengen Area

Still Mr Harper will no doubt be pleased to see that quote over the press in a time when the press continually seem to tell us we should be concerned with immigration...

The other immigration related story that caught my eye was - Jack Wilshere says only English players should play for England.  Mr Wilshere is stating only people born in England should play for England - but that isn't what the rules say live here for 5 years continuously and you are in, my son could have been elligble to play for Wales on the RFU rulling of 3 years).  I suggest Mr Wilshere looks at other sports - we have been celebrating Mo Farrah's success (born in Somalia), Chris Froome's Tour De France win (born in Nairobi), a bunch of Rugby Players (Brad Barritt - Durban, Alex Corbisiero - born in USA, Vunipola - Australia, Marlon Yarde - St Lucia)...   I won't go on I'll be here all night...   These people come to the UK and settle here and chose to be here and part of our country, they have every right to represent us.  I just don't understand this way of thinking - we're a multi-cultural society, we have been for 100s of years - I mean the monarchy has routes from France and Scandinavia via good old William The Conqueror, Scotland - King James I (or VI) when the crowns of Scotland and England united, Germany via the Hanoverian's blah blah - I mean the Duke of Edinburgh is Greek and he seems to represent the country.  When Mo won at London I think the one thing it showed about the UK is that we will welcome, support and nurture those that come to us from places of real hardship in the world and we will embrace them, rightfully, as one of us when they pay that back to us with success in any field be it sport, science, art or simply being a cog in our wheel of commerce in some way.

I get annoyed with all this stuff - people are people, some come from here , some from there, we feel an allegiance to where we live and where we are brought up etc. however at the end of the day this is all just artificial nonsense, the lines on a map that denote my town from your town, my country from your country are just that - arbitrary lines drawn by someone for convenience they mean nothing in grand scheme of things.

Monday, 7 October 2013

Fitting a Fishman Rare Earth pickup


I've fitted the Fishman Rare Earth Pickup I got as a birthday present.

I was fitting it to my trusty old Yamaha LL11.  I bought this guitar brand new in London in the old London Acoustic Centre, which was based down in Wapping in those days, it was in the mid 90s at some point.  So this is heading for 20 years old now.  It is a lovely guitar, most of my recordings have featured this guitar via a microphone.  However live I've used a CPX500 for some time or I have used the LL11 with a Dean Markley soundhole pickup but whilst that sounds ok it isn't the best solution.  Recently I bought a Vintage Gordon Giltrap that has a Rare Earth Blend pickup, that was really impressive when I used it live and I thought I'd get one of them, but the blend (which has a magnetic humbucking pickup and a small gooseneck mic as well) is £250 vs about £130 for the humbucking only model.  So this is the non blend model I'm fitting here - which the darling Mrs F bought me for my birthday.

Ok whip the strings off and gently twist the old strap button out with a pair of pliers and here we are ready to go.

The only real modification needed is to enlarge the strap button hole so that the combined output jack and strap button can be fitted.  I bought this reamer cheaply (i.e. £30) from a local hardware shop earlier this year as it was closing down.   It should have been closer to £100!  This is hard slow work but worth it to get a neat looking hole.


This is the fitted output jack being pushed in from the outside to check the hole is large enough.



This is how I got the jack socket into the right place as my arm is too tight to fit right inside the body to the strap button!  Feed a cable with a jack socket on it through into the body.  Push the jack home and ... viola you can just pull it all into place.  The hole in the end of the socket assembly is to hold it all steady with a small allen key whilst you tighten up the nut with a size 13 spanner.



The pickup is easy to fit in place.  Slacken off the clamps on either side, slide into place a the front of the soundhole and making sure nothing gets in the way of the clamps tighten them back up.



Here she is all finished and re-strung up.  You can see the new jack socket/strap button in place.


And here is a quick audio test.  This is via my Zoom A3 processor giving a Yamaha style body back into the sound, a little compression and some reverb.  Recorded on my BOSS BR600 with no effects etc. on board that.  I'm more than pleased with how it sounds.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Birthday booty!

Some of my booty from the family. A new Fishman pickup which is destined for my Yamaha LL11, a really neat neck support from Crimson Guitars, Alter Bridge's new CD and Allsorts!!!

Birthday

Can you believe it... another orbit has passed with Furtheron sat on this lump of rock going around a small star in the Orion Arm of the Milky Way.  A year - is is funny that we get preoccupied with this stuff isn't it, we divide up things into seconds, minutes, days, weeks, months, years.  All of these are just to a point arbitary constructs we use to make sense of our planet and it's place in the cosmos if you think about it.  A day is only a day and a year only a year because of where we are in the solar system.  Anyhoo I've managed to sit here on the planet we call home for 51 of these orbits around the sun.

Now if you want to really feel inconsequential in the scheme of things consider this.  The solar system is gracefully swinging around the centre of the galaxy at around about 514,000mph (puts any land speed record into context doesn't it!).  To complete an orbit like this known as the "Galactic Year" will take around 225million years or so.  Therefore if you break up the Galactic Year using the same constructs as we use on earth - i.e. 365 days, 24 hours, 60mins, 60 secs... you find out I'm just a smidgen over 7 Galactic Seconds old.  Even the oldest living person (approx 116 years) is only just over 16 Galactic Seconds...

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Meeting a fellow blogger...

I've met a few fellow bloggers over the years - but never one who's travelled thousands of miles for the meeting.  Well that isn't strictly the main reason for Pandora Viltis' trip to the UK, her husband's stunning achievement of swimming the English Channel was probably higher on the trip itinerary I suspect.

Anyway I had the chance to meet up with PV (nee Vicariousrising) and her husband today.  It is so odd in some ways to meet someone who you already know so much about via their blog but who you've never met before but we sat in a lovely cliff top café's garden nattering away like old friends (which we are) over a cup of tea.

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Bedknobs and Broomsticks

Not much to say...

A quite time for me.  Unfortunately the course I was planning to start hasn't started in the way I'd hoped for. I'd planned to do an intensive one day a week course starting in September, which would have meant cutting a year off the overall study time.  But sadly at the last minute the company running the course had too many drop outs/non payers and had to cancel that.  They run a less intensive evening course starting in October and I should have a place on that but it is a little disappointing and frustrating.

This issue has sparked off some irrational brain activity as well since I'm not earning as much as we generally pay out each month.  Now I knew this when I went part time, although one of the principal reasons has gone i.e. the course is no longer a day time commitment the studying around it is still needed and I need to look for some relevant voluntary work once I start.  But the fear of economic insecurity has not left me - I'm not really financially insecure anyway we have a reasonable sum in the bank, it just it is now begin to go down, which I knew it would, but once it starts happening my brain goes... This is it, you'll soon be destitute and on the streets.  Negative projection - it's a bummer at times really is.

I've been busy on some other things though, we've been reconfiguring Son-of-Furtheron's old bedroom now he has moved out.  It has been long over due really he has had for many years a cabin bed, bunk bed idea with storage and a pull out desk underneath, but even until very recently the desk has been a necessity when he was home doing course work etc.  But in particular a small bunk bed isn't ideal when he visits now with his partner.  We offered it to my nephew for his son who apparently had already been nagging him for something like this, so big dismantling operation and transport to their house over the weekend and we've seen the pictures of it all re-assembled and the little chap looking ever so happy about it. 

I then ripped out the old and disintegrating carpet and got a new one fitted. We're going to get a sofa bed thing that pulls out in to a double bed from Ikea which will be a better solution in there now, even offers us a more "guest room" as well - although we've never had guests like that really!

Sunday, 15 September 2013

There's a parakeet in the tree

We went on another university open day with Daughter-of-Furtheron yesterday.

Usual stuff, registration queue in the rain, rubbish coffee machine, accommodation tour by students who tell you it is all "awesome", daft questions from some parents, getting lost finding a room, talk in a different room to that advertised and lecturers who may be top in the subject but drone on and on in the subject pitch - all of which now have the same format regardless of institution.

However I stupidly noted a parakeet in a tree outside during one of these and pointed it out to Mrs F with a whispered aside that titles this post who then only paid attention to the gathering of others nudging me throughout with an updated count! (post publishing update - I looked them up and they have a page on Wikipedia no less. It claims at least 6000 of them nest near there. One fanciful theory blames Jimi Hendrix for it all!!)

Still it was a nice place and Daughter-of-Furtheron liked one of the courses so tis on the list to apply to.  And it seems to have wild parakeets in the trees!

Friday, 13 September 2013

Gardening Successes

I'm not a knowledgeable gardener and to be fair not a very good one.  In my old drinking days I had a massive resentment with gardening, you'd plant something, it died, you'd prune something to a neat shape, it'd grow up in an odd shape, you'd mow the lawn, next week it'd grown back.  I had no concept that it is a constant work in progress it is a journey and wherever the garden is is wherever it is on that journey but you never reach the destination.

Now I don't mind pottering about in the garden.  This year I cut back an old Hebe that had got way too big and had gone rotten in some places and planted some new flowers there - that has been successful, both those took and one flowered well.  I planted a Buddleja which flowered and attracted butterflies to the garden.  I also got our sweet peas to grow tall and flower.

Finally two I'm really pleased about.  First a Passionflower plant we've had for a number of years, well I was sure it was dead after the winter, I'd never seen it looking so bad - it was frankly just a twig, and an unhealthly looking one at that!  Still my wife said to give it some time so I cut back the dead leaves etc. fed and watered it and look at it now!


Then lastly I cleared out a bit of the garden long over taken with weeds etc.  I moved this little old fuchsia which I also thought was dead, it had been over shadowed by a large Hydrangea next to it and last year just was a bunch of twigs.  I moved it to this new cleared patch and fed and watered it, given I moved it in the middle of summer I again thought most likely I'd be writing it off... but no look - a red bud has appeared and all those leaves too.  Looks like a potential success as well.


Quite chuffed with myself.



Thursday, 12 September 2013

11th September

9/11 - you only have to say it and people know - they go right back to that day, where they were.  One of those days where millions of people across the world can remember vividly the events, the weather etc.

I happened to actually be in NYC that day.  My old job required a lot of travelling from time to time although mostly to our divisions HQ which was in CT and I normally flew via Boston.  However one of the projects I was involved with was holding a big meeting with people from all over the company and NYC seemed the place to hold it in one of the building on 42nd street that formed the hub of the overall HQ for the company.

That morning the Brits - there were about 10 of us as the entire development team had flown over - this was a big meeting to nail the initial prototype for a new global system.  I was programme manager for the whole thing.  Also several from the business side of our European customers were with us - hence the large Brit contingent.  But we had people flying in from Japan, Michigan, California and many from New York and surrounding areas like Connecticut as well coming in.

We decided at breakfast not to visit the world trade centre although I agreed to take one of the crew there later in the week to go to the observation deck and see the city from there.  With hindsight that was a smart decision.  We all headed into the office to set up, the tech guys needing to get themselves all set for a late morning kickoff once everyone turned up.

We couldn't see downtown from our meeting room but our host came in and said "Just so you know there's been a terrible accident a plane has hit the World Trade Centre so things will be a bit mad around here, people may well be late arriving".  One of the guys brought up CNN on his PC and projected it on the large screen just as the second plane hit.  I knew then "This is not an accident this is an attack".

The day was a right off workwise obviously and finding where people were became a nightmare - we had people in the air all over the place.  One called from Grand Central and I walked up to meet her.  It was a surreal place to be, people heading in and out of the city, but all just looking totally shocked.  A look of numbness I hope I never see in such a large collective again.  As I walked back with her we looked down one of the Avenues at the smoking towers and watched one of them collapse. 

Late in the afternoon we decamped to the hotel.  We were stuck there pretty much until the weekend when we got out to CT and then home on one of the first UK flights back from Newark.  The city was surreal - almost deserted.  I walked around one afternoon, the Thursday I think and past a car hire place with a queue around the block and watched a lady drive off shouting "I'm out of this city for good!".  When we landed we all came through into Heathrow T3 arrivals and there was an old boss of mine to make sure we were back and in cars to get us home.  We all gathered in a huge hug, most of us crying just feeling overwhelming release to be home.  A press photograph tried to take a photo but was told by security to get lost in the most impolite terms.  My kids didn't know I was coming back as there was every chance the flight wasn't going to happen so only when the woke the next morning did my wife tell them to come in to find me. There is no better feeling that being with the ones you love.

Flip back to the 11th - my wife was working in school.  She came dashing out at the end to pick my daughter up from the other class she was in.  A friend of hers said "Isn't it awful what happened in New York".  She went white and nearly collapsed as her friend told her then saying "don't tell me Graham is in New York".   She tried to call my phone - no answer as there was no network in NYC.  She rushed home - luckily a friend of mine was decorating my sons bedroom at the time for us - I'd just managed to get a message to him that I was safe and ok.  But it wasn't until very much later I spoke to her from the hotel when I could finally get a line to the UK after the city emptied.

This recollection is because to other bloggers have posted their reflections of that day.  runningonsober and byebyebeer  Both of their reflections talk about the events in relation to thier alcoholism.  Well I think I can safely say that day was the beginning of the end for me, I was still a drunk at that point although given I was "senior bloke in charge" I actually didn't drink that madly, apart from the last evening in NYC where I remember drinking way too much vodka and lying in the bathroom throwing up for a long time afterwards. 

When I got back home my drinking escalated.  I was angry and destructive not thinking how lucky and grateful I should have been.  I was a bit messed up about it, especially my then boss who I had a bizarre conversation with where frankly I knew he was lying to me through his teeth to try to make himself look better.  Boy was that a resentment I have struggled to deal with. 

Less than 2 years later I was embroiled in my year long battle to quit/control on my drinking and inside 3 years I was at rehab beaten and broken and finding a solution that so far has kept me sober to date.  A lot of people died and went through much much more than I did that day however, even though the recollection of it all is painful to me, there is that part of me that has to admit to being grateful that it accelerated my decent into lower depths of alcoholism and that finally it helped bring me to my knees and admit defeat.  And still as I finish typing this that awful taste I'll never forget of the acrid smoke and dust that swirled around the city that week is in my mouth.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Why have one blog when you can have two!!!

I created a Wordpress blog a while ago, more to grab http://guitarsandlife.wordpress.com before any bugger decided to impersonate me!

Recently though I've seen most people are using Wordpress, I've also seen some very impressive sites with huge functionality developed in Wordpress and finally - it is the blogging tool of choice at my employer and we have a new web site launch in the offing with a desire for us to blog more about our work.  So I started to play around with it.  Then a friend asked whether I could help them set up a web-site.  After a chat I thought a blog was the best kind of site for them given the plan for their work.  So I agreed to show them what to do to set one up.  In the end I've learnt a ton of stuff being pushed by the person new to it, which has led to me improving my own Wordpress blog although it has still much room for more improvement.

But now I'm stuck with a dilemma - continue here or move and direct everyone to there or just have two blogs and play a game of "guess what post will appear where?"...

If you are a regular follower and use some form of RSS aggregator like Feedly or follow people on Wordpress you might like to add to your list...

Saturday, 7 September 2013

London Acoustic Guitar Show

I went to said show today - lock up the credit card!!!  A good show, these days trade shows like this are on a much smaller scale than the old days but plenty of the big names there like Yamaha, Taylor and favourites like Lowden and Avalon with others like Vintage Cort etc. Other than buying some strings I was restrained. Got to try out a load of guitars. Yamaha were universally good. I liked the Tanglewood I tried but thought it a little overpriced to the Vintage models I compared it too.  I didn't dare try the redwood topped classical on Lowden's stand the £6000 price tag worrying my clumsy hands!

I tried out some classical guitars firstly Ortega which were nice but I was really impressed with Sandarac a new company to me they were good prices and a model with walnut back and sides really sounded nice.

Saw great performances from Tom Baxter and Antonio Forcioni as well as Dan Walsh's brilliant banjo playing over my lunch.

Good day out!

Here is a picture of the goodies I collected!

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Geddy Lee - Slipping

Been listening to this album and this track in particular a lot lately ...  Enjoy


Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Gripping TV dramas

Currently there are (have been) some gripping dramas on TV.  I watched the very dark Southcliffe recently, it was slightly disappointing as there wasn't a really good conclusion and really never got completely under the motives of the killer but then given he killed himself I suppose it reflected real life in that sense, how can people come to terms with the loss of a loved one to a random act of madness?  Exactly - I pray I never have to discover that personally.

Now I'm gripped by "What Remains" which is another murder mystery with a body found in the loft of a block of flats and you follow all the occupants on the flats with flash backs as the poor detective who is carrying on with the case even though it's not official and he is retired.  Frankly almost everyone has now displayed enough to be a serious suspect.  Well written and gripping stuff.

Top Boy is great as well - I only saw part of the first series but this second one has me hooked from the start.  It is not pleasant viewing but the acting and the characterisations are very well executed.

All these are much more my stuff than Lark Rise to Candleford etc.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

What is the point of advice if you ignore it?

There is advice given by NICE (National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence - the people who advise the NHS on the most effective treatments to be applied) that states. "...should routinely provide people who misuse drugs with information about self-help groups. These groups should normally be based on 12-step principles, for example, Narcotics Anonymous and Cocaine Anonymous".  Mark Gilman who is the Strategic Recovery Lead Substance Misuse working for Public Health England states in a recent interview that this advice has "been roundly ignored".

I read this with an ironic smile on my lips, indeed a small mirth-filled chuckle may have escaped them.  The irony of good advice like this being ignored by the health professionals supposedly helping people who spend a great deal of their energy in avoiding/ignoring/countermanding the advice from those around them that care, family/friends/colleagues, that they should really do something about their problem is far from lost on me.

I'm not surprised the advice is ignored by the professionals since AA's programme of recovery is hardly based in the statistical evidence based world of modern medicine. There are some learned papers out there that support with some evidence the AA can work but still to those brought up on "outcomes management" there isn't enough.

I commend Mark's efforts as in Britain the whole addiction treatment landscape has changed to now being devolved to the responsibility of the local authorities so now is the time to implement new strategies.  There is an issue at play here however... AA has certain traditions which are based on hard learnt lessons of the early pioneers in the fellowship.  Some of these brought into focus here include ...

...
6. An A.A. group ought never endorse, finance, or lend the A.A. name to any
related facility or outside enterprise, lest problems of money, property, and
prestige divert us from our primary purpose.
...
10. Alcoholics Anonymous has no opinion on outside issues; hence the A.A.
name ought never be drawn into public controversy
11. Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion; we
need always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio, and
films.
...

So AA can never be seen to be intrinsically linked with other organisations (Tradition 6 above).  We can support the local authority in providing them with details of meetings in their area and helplines etc. but we cannot be linked to them.

We have no opinion on outside issues, e.g. local or national policy on drug and alcohol misuse - so again we have to be separate from that, any government can't insist that a meeting is run in a particular area for particular people etc.  It couldn't set one up on it's own.

Finally we have to attract the member on their own, many people come along to meetings with "back problems" - i.e. they've come to get the boss of their back, or their spouse, or family etc.  But once they come they have to stay of their own volition.

AA can't report on a members attendance (outside of some simple attendance certification options), can't report on participation, quality of recovery etc.  We are not like that and it would completely break all the traditions above and more.

It waits to be seen if Mark Gilman can move those that matter to make the recommendation of 12-step fellowships to those in recovery a more regular option by health professionals across England.  What ever we need to move from where we are - The Centre for Social Justice has produce a report that describes Britain as "the addicted man of Europe" whatever your opinions on it if that statement is based on any amount of fact there are an awful lot of people ruining their own lives and those of many around them with their addictions.

Disclaimer - I don't speak for AA anything stated in this post and any replies to comments by me is purely my opinion and my interpretation of AA traditions etc.

Monday, 2 September 2013

Jon Gomm - Sittingbourne Avenue Theatre 1st Sept

Last night Mrs F, I and a couple of friends went to see Jon Gomm at the Avenue Theatre in Sittingbourne.  Firstly the Avenue Theatre is a great little intimate venue available for community hires etc.  It was an ideal venue for seeing Jon up close, we were in the back row but still closer to him that you'd be in many venues on the first row.  Sound quality was superb throughout.

Jon started with a couple of new songs off his new album "Secrets Nobody Keeps" firstly the excellent opening track "Telepathy" and then the superb instrumental "Wukan Motorcycle Kid" - which has an interesting tale behind its inspiration.  If you want to know... go see Jon on the tour!! HAHA!

Jon was a bit nervous starting with new songs as clearly they aren't so engrained in the memory bank as his older material, but he needn't have been they were executed in his unique style with total aplomb.  Jon then ran through a set of older material and newer material off the album including a couple of duets with Natasha Koczy on saxophone and vocals on one song, "There's no need to be afraid".

Jon gave us a lesson on how to play percussive acoustic guitar showing how to bring a whole drum kit then bass and finally guitar and vocals to create a track... much accompanied by many musician gags about drummers like "they only need to count to four to count in the songs and also so they can't work out what percentage their fee should be"...  boom boom.  His lovely big bodied Lowden shows the many many scars on its body of his attacking playing style.  He introduced the guitar as "Wilma" which is the name she has had for a long time, someone shouted back "Hello Wilma" and Jon pointed out "It's only a guitar you know".  That just shows the lovely interaction and banter that Jon has with his audiences.

Jon closed his set with his "big hit" Passionflower which was the song that brought him to mine and many others attention before an encore including a complete unplugged number which would put pay to anyone out there who would dare to say his sound is all due to the electronics... it isn't!

Fantastic gig - Jon's Facebook page has his tour dates up do yourself a huge favour and go see him it'll make your day.

A quick word for Sam Little who was the support act - Jon picked him from a competition to find local support acts for the tour. Sam had good songs and a great vocal style.  Worth checking out.

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Music I've been listening to.

I stopped doing "reviews" on here a while back when I realised some of my top read posts were title "Album review of..." and realised that maybe people were reading these confused I was a real critic.  Problem is, I'm not, I'm a fan therefore my reviews are somewhat biased from the word go as I've already probably spent my own money on the album - also ashamedly a few promoters, indy labels actually emailed me asking me to review their artists - I thought then - Hang on I'm not a professional should I really be risking an artists reputation with my blathering on.

Anyway now we're going to have occasional - "What I've been listening to" posts.  This is one...

Big Big Train - English Electric.  I'll mention this as it came out as two separate CDs and I latched onto after both were out.  It was I think a Spotify recommendation and normally I click one track and move on but this captivated me.  Now I'm an old school prog rocker at heart, as well as liking many other genres but prog is where the heart is, where the heart is there is prog - and this is spot on for me.  If you like old Genesis, early Marillion, Yes, Barclay James Harvest etc. you'll probably like this.  I mention it as the band have announced releasing both as a double CD package with an additional EP of tracks recorded in the sessions.

Jon Gomm - Secrets Nobody Keeps - hang on you say, this isn't released yet?  True but I was a "pledger" who stumped up his money early to help pay for the production and got an MP3 download into the bargain before his promotional tour starts.  Some stuff is already known if you have followed Jon's EP releases over the last couple of years but many new tracks to.  Super super playing and heart rending vocals - if you like Passionflower just pre-order it now!!  Gig review will follow soon as we're off to see him on one of his tours early dates at the weekend.

The Civil Wars - the eponymous titled sophomore effort from this stunning Americana/Country duo.  What a record!  This is darker, harder edged than The Barton Hollow début.  The singing is no less impressive, indeed even more so in many places.  But... but... they have already broken up, well at least they are not even speaking to each other currently - no wonder there was so much pain on the album.  I do hope they bury the hatchet and can work together in the future as this is just too good to be let go.

Black Star Riders - All Hell Breaks Loose.  It's 1976 and Jailbreak hits the turntable of our old stereogram at home, my brother had bought the album by that band who'd done "Boys Are Back In Town" and we were both hooked.  This album propels me back there!  Thin Lizzy have toured without Phil Lynott for some years, I saw a version with John Sykes in some years back, but they never recorded again.  Scott Gorham revamped the band after John Sykes left and this new band started writing material.  After some thought they didn't want to taint the Lynott legacy and so here are Black Star Riders - but frankly this sounds so much like a 1970s Lizzy album why did they?  Even Mrs F spotted in the first three songs saying "Is this an old Thin Lizzy album you've bought"...  No but it is the nearest thing you'll ever get.

Black Sabbath 13 - a good album by the reunited trio (minus Bill Ward, there is mountains to read about that feud if you want to) and it is a good album.  Not brilliant, a long way from as good as Heaven and Hell's efforts with the late great Dio and at times you cringe as Ozzy doesn't quiet make it and some of Iommi's rifts sound slightly too familiar.  To be honest I'm not sure why this made number one in the charts and probably more down on it following that than I would be if it hadn't.  That also says too much about what is missing in new bands sadly - or more about people not comparing new bands on face value maybe?

Deep Purple - So What!?  Now here is an album by one of rocks legends that does deserve to climb the charts, whilst Sabbath claim all the headlines with the feud, Ozzy back drinking and first album together since Never Say Die the Purple have been knocking out albums since they reformed in the 80s.  Blackmore had to depart and now is playing medieval ditties with his new wife and sadly Jon Lord who left a few years ago has passed away.  This album is dedicated to him and I know he'd be proud of that.  It has a couple of slightly cheesy up tempo tracks but when Purple are on song on the longer more progressive tracks they are simply superb.  Don Aiery fills Lord's boots with fantastic Hammond Organ sounds and Steve Morse is a brilliant guitarist but it is the rhythm section of Glover and Paice that provide the Purple backdrop for Ian Gillan to rise above.  There is a man who has not lost his voice.  Check out Uncommon Man as one of the highlights - terrific album, possibly my favourite of the year so far.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Medical emergencies, bad light and football woes

That sort of sums up the Bank Holiday weekend.

Son-of-Furtheron and his girlfriend arrived at ours on Friday evening for a brief one day stop over as they were scheduled to fly out of Heathrow on Sunday morning to attend a PhD Summer School in Budapest.  Why it is in Budapest is a conundrum that will keep some of the most intellectual brains in the world occupied.  It is being organised by a prof from Sheffield, everyone attending is from the UK and all their host unis and funding councils have now had to pay for flights and hotel accommodation to/from/in Hungary.  Go figure, why not host it in Sheffield using empty student accom?  Whatever, maybe the fact the Prof arranging it is actually Hungarian may have had some bearing on it...  I'll leave you to consider.

So after getting drenched in the rain fall down on Saturday when I popped to the shops for something on the way to Mother-In-Laws we spent the afternoon there topped up on tea and biscuits watching the Rugby Challenge Cup Final - enthralling match even if not a great one.

Sunday morning up at 5:30am to run to Heathrow, now that is the time of day to drive around the M25 frankly, no holdups at all and I left there with the students through into departures.  I got a text later saying "We have landed" - I thought, funny I thought they'd be there earlier than that.  My son called later to explain that as they taxied out at Heathrow the guy sat next to them who had been chatting away suddenly slumped forward and couldn't speak.  There followed a few chaotic and tense mins with paramedics called to the plane on the apron.  The guy had a severe stroke - only in his 40s - I hope he is ok now and on the road to recovery, I guess we'll never know.  My son and his girlfriend were praised by the crew for helping and given free champagne.  I think they were ok about it - but it is a shock when something like that happens in front of you.

Later on Sunday I realised that the Ashes test was heading for a dramatic conclusion, I'd given up on it after Saturday's wash out expecting it to play to a boring draw but after watching the feast of motor racing on the TV turned on the radio commentary. Fair play to Australia in trying to win the match by declaring early, even better kudos for England matching the run rate needed and slogging it back at them in an attempt to beat them too.  Sadly the farce with the bad light decision at the end was a disgrace - why can't we have the old rule of just offering the light to the batsmen, if they say they are happy to play on.. then play on...   Would England have won?  Who knows but it was a shame that we were denied that chance to see - also cricket is again getting popular then they do that - what a PR disaster.  If it had been a draw because they run out of overs I doubt people would have complained and Australia had just got Bell out anyway so were working through the England batting order.

Monday we trooped off to see Daughter-of-Furtheron's boyfriend playing football - he has moved up to the men's league this season, a significant jump for him, he is still only 17 but now mixing it with the big boys in the Southern Counties East League.  Sadly not a game to remember, they had some good spells on the ball, esp in the 1st half but lacked decisive attacks, one chance fell to our favourite (he is the centre forward) but sadly he couldn't connect.  The defence however did look shaky and only by a couple of excellent saves did they get to the break still at 0-0.  Second half the manager decided to change it up front early on and our lad was substituted but it went down hill after that and the 4-0 defeat was a bitter pill to swallow esp as they'd given away 2 penalties, become a theme of the defence this season and of course once a team is known for it other teams will exploit it.

So that was the end of the summer - well felt like it walking to the station in a cold clammy mist this morning.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Fantasy Signature Guitar

I got this from IHeartGuitarBlog who got it from the Seymour Duncan User Group Forum

Here are a set of questions to answer about your own fantasy signature guitar...

Q1: Which company called you?
Q2: Which standard model in their product lineup do you base your sig off of?
Q3: What specs do you insist upon that make it uniquely yours?
Q4: What other customizations do you make to the guitar?
Q5: What special piece of “case candy” goes with it as a collector’s item?

Right here goes...

Q1: Which company called you?
Fender

Q2: Which standard model in their product lineup do you base your sig off of?
Strat.

Q3: What specs do you insist upon that make it uniquely yours?
Ash body, rosewood fingerboard 12" radius, large 70s style headstock but four bolt neck joint. Non trem! Twin humbuckers, with tone and vol each and coil taps on the tone controls.

Q4: What other customizations do you make to the guitar?
Locking machine heads - not really needed but make string changing quicker in a live environment.
Schaller locking guitar straps buttons.

Q5: What special piece of “case candy” goes with it as a collector’s item?
Ernie Ball strap - the cheap one!  Just like Jimmy Page uses for his hugely valuable guitars!!!

For those of you who know me... this sounds like my Nunostrat... my home built twin humbucker Strat.




Alternatively ...

Q1: Which company called you?
PRS

Q2: Which standard model in their product lineup do you base your sig off of?
The discontinued CE22

Q3: What specs do you insist upon that make it uniquely yours?
As original spec when made but the pickup selector whilst still the knob only has 3 settings as I only use three!! Bridge pickup, Outside coils in Parallel and neck pickup.

Q4: What other customizations do you make to the guitar?
Schaller guitar strap locks

Q5: What special piece of “case candy” goes with it as a collector’s item?
Cheap Ernie Ball strap with strap locks fitted.


I've included this one as frankly it is really frustrating that PRS discontinued the CE range some years ago - I love it!

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

When will I learn to live life in the moment?

I had a revelation last night driving home from one of my regular meetings. I'd listened to a good friend talk about his experience on the road into drunkenness and back out of it on recovery. He is a man who enjoys his life, by his own admission his is a bit of a loner and is off on a motorcycle ride to Austria on his own in the next few days. Once there he will meet up with others from a club and lead them on a ride through Slovenia where he once nearly ended up in gaol through his drinking. How things change?

There was one person in the group in the middle of a major turmoil in their life, a marriage breaking down, violence, money worries etc. After talking to them and then driving home I suddenly thought - hang on that negative projection they showed - that is what you're doing currently. That reflection on past events similarly - that's what you're doing.

I'm still in transition - in limbo between the working full time as I was until a few weeks ago to working part time and studying part time - the studying doesn't start until September anyway. Already I'm considering the financial implications of my decision, i.e. I earn massively less than I have done in years. However I have money in the bank that is earning sod all in terms of interest now it's become apparent interest rates will take years to return to anything about a fraction of a percent. So why worry... because I'm thinking "but in 20 years time I might have nothing left" - but in 20 years time frankly I'll probably be dead (all my close male relatives Dad, Granddads on both sides, Uncles etc. have all died before getting to 60 so statistically that isn't too outrageous a thought). But the point is I will have money tomorrow and the next day, next week, next month, next year. I'm lucky to be in that position anyway! Do I show the gratitude I should? No!

Yesterday was a reflective day - it was the anniversary of Mrs F's father passing away. We went out for the day, just not to be moping about indoors with her thinking about it. We ended up close to my old company where I worked for 19 years. We drove past. Large chunks of buildings not 25 years old are being pulled down as no-one has been found to buy up the old place. It made me sad and reflective of old memories etc.

So as a friend once said eloquently to me - "One leg in the future, one leg in the past. All you do is piss all over today"... You know that is very true I need to be more cognitive of the now, now is ok it is good but I run a risk of pissing all over it if I don't make the most of it right now.


Saturday, 17 August 2013

Squier Strat birthday

It has been remiss of me to miss this auspicious occasion!

On 8th Aug this year my Squier Strat has been a member of my family for 30 years.

When I bought it it was harking back on a golden age of guitars i.e. It was modelled on a 1962 Strat and was part of the leave the awful 70s behind us movement of the early 80s. Now you see people paying daft money for 70s Strats many were awful and this Japanese new comer blew them away.  Just cos a guitar is old don't make it good!! It itself is now much older than the age it echoed when new. However still Fender make many classic guitars on a similar theme to this day - the latest from Mexico have period correct finishes which this didn't being a modern more robust type.

I'd have to be desperate in some way now for this to ever leave me.  It is such a part of me even if now I use a PRS more.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Way down in Alabam'

Another obtuse 1970's lyric reference... Ram Jam from "Black Betty" - which probably is a song that no self-respecting label would put out now given it's colour references.  Anyway - the line before the totally off topic title of this post is "She's from Birmingham".   Luckily it was via my interest in music that I learnt there are (at least) two Birminghams in the world - one in Alabam' (sic) and one in the West Midlands, which I knew about already, Jasper Carrot supported the football team there that didn't do as well as Aston Villa.  Funny to look back on stuff like that but frankly that was probably how I really did learn stuff like that in that way.

So why is that in my head today?  Because Son-of-Furtheron and his better half have moved to said fair city to start the next phase of their lives PhD studentships!  They are both starting PhDs in the next few weeks, S-o-F will be commuting to Leicester and doing something to do with the magnetosphere of Saturn and his girlfriend working at Birmingham on Helioseismology.  They collected the keys and moved in yesterday.

So what does this mean for yours truly?  Well firstly I'm off in a van tomorrow to deliver a flat load of various goods, clothes, books, kitchen utensils, guitars, amps, surround sound systems, TVs, Computers... you name it I'll have it in the van!

Secondly this is it.  This is really him moving out - before he's gone off to uni but always kept the main base as home.  For example the surround sound was something he got as a present maybe 10 years ago or so for games, films, playing music through.  It has always stayed at home until now and it was carefully disassembled the other night ready for the move.  He will no longer have the long holidays when he'll be "home", now he'll pop in when he is "visiting".  Time to get used to a step change in our lives, even though this year of course he was fully away up in the Arctic for nearly 6 months.

Tomorrow will also be AS results day for Daughter-of-Furtheron which will guide the decisions about A2s and what universities she'll be applying to later in the year.  This time next year I'll be blogging about her (fingers crossed) getting the place she wants and then a month or so later I'll be telling you about moving her into her first university accommodation etc.  Well that is the expected plan and hopefully it'll all come together well.  But then it'll be mostly just me and Mrs F at home for long chunks of time.  I think our 4 bedroom family house might start to feel a little big for just the two of us.

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Man Inside Review

I got a great review off a site called Red Label Reviews.  I submitted my album a while back but you know it has sat in the queue waiting, part of me thought, "Oh they listened to it and binned it" that negative self-defeatist bit of me.  But not a bit of it ... it got a really good review.

Read it here...

But here is the verdict section...

"Graham Hunt’s music is different in a good way. He clearly has worked well to add his own creative edge to acoustic music, by incorporating many different styles and techniques from other genres, yet keeping a firm acoustic feel present. For that reason, I highly suggest you check this album and his other music works."

Not only was it a positive review the selection of tracks they talk about in detail they have clearly listened intently and picked up on things I know are there either intentionally or simply by happy accident etc.

So please go and read the review and if you want to listen / download the album then go to my Soundcloud area where the album is available to listen and download... https://soundcloud.com/grahamhunt-1/sets/man-inside

Through this I've had contact via Twitter with a local store of a national high street music retailer and they have expressed interest in stocking my album in physical CD form.  All needs clearance from their management but it is a hopeful sign as well.

Monday, 5 August 2013

Holiday

Well away for a couple of days. This summer has turned out quiet hectic with Son-Furtheron leaving uni and moving also Daughter-of-Furtheron is working in the swimming school so we didn't plan a holiday. Mother-in-law needs to go to hospital later this week so in the end we're off to Hastings for a couple of nights. Oh the glamour! ;-)

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Okay I'm maybe the only person who remembers this...

The song referred to in the last post is this...





And here is a photo of the old lads singing it on the tv - sadly I couldn't find the legendary performance I remember as a kid. 1970 eh where's it all gone!

England team 1970 singing Back Home

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Back home...

... they'll be watching and waiting...

(Now - no prizes, but extra points for anyone to get that odd lyric reference)...

We have a full house again, after a few days of just Mrs F and I with Daughter-of-Furtheron back from Spain and Son-of-Furtheron temporarily with us until he can move on to his new "apartment" in the Midlands it is a bit like the old days with a full house.  To be honest this'll be one of the very last times like this as when S-o-F moves out that'll pretty much be it, that will be him moving out really.  According to the Royal Mail which we used to check his address details it is an "apartment" not a flat he is moving to... honestly it becomes more like America everyday with the "season finale" replacing "last of the series" etc.  Soon we'll have "overtime" on the football - heaven forbid that becomes soccer!!!  Anyway I digress this wasn't intended to be a rant about the Americanisation of the English language.

S-o-F has been trying to sort his room out - he is a genetic hoarder a bit like me, he seems to just gather stuff about it, clothes, shoes, books, magazines, computers etc.  He has done a good job so far really.  Once he has decamped to the Black Country we're planning to revamp his room, now his is a man in his 20s the old cabin bed seems a bit out of place so we're planning on getting a sofa bed which will be better for when he and his girlfriend come to visit.  It'll be quiet  a good little project as well, we're going to replace the carpet which has seen much better days as well - I think we put that down soon after we moved in well over 20 years ago now.

I was talking to a friend last night who was made redundant from a job earlier this year - they'd been with the same company about 28 years, in a couple of different locations etc. but essentially the same thing in retail.  They started a new job yesterday, they are training into a totally new field in the care field.  They had a lot of the same reasons I've started to make the move I'm making with the counselling course.  They realised that they only were doing the job they were doing because they'd always done it and that it was the easy option but they've taken a brave and bold step into something new that they hope will give them greater inspiration.  Whatever that conversation both inspired me regarding my move but also raised the fear of  "What is I fail?".  Well as ever that is the old negative projection talking, I've not started yet and I'm concerned about not doing well where the centre I'll be attending have a 100% pass rate... for those that stick the course... don't start that again!!!... ;-)

Friday, 26 July 2013

A Chapter Closes

I've hired a small van for the weekend so rather than celebrating our 28th wedding anniversary with Mrs F I'm off to empty Son-of- Furtheron's flat in Wales. After 5 years of him living there this is the last time I'll go there. Apparently there is a carnival procession through the town on Saturday possibly in recognition of this momentous event ... Or maybe not ;-)

Daughter-of-Furtheron is home from a week long watersports trip to Spain. Frankly not the best experience. The coach broke down in France on the way there so a 12 hour wait in a layby didn't cheer her up them coming back they missed their ferry slot through another coach problem. She is hoping to go again (third time!) in 2 years time by persuading her teachers to let her go as an instructor. She no doubt will succeed!

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Royal birth and how it complicates my devious master plan

So we have another heir to the throne, although I'll never see his coronation given I doubt he'll be south of 70 before he accedes to the throne, thus I'll have to be older than 120 probably to see this event.

Now - you know they changed the law so if the baby had been a she they would still have remained 3rd in line to the throne even if the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge had a subsequent male child?  Well they did; however this was not retrospectively applied.  This means Princess Anne, whilst being the Queen's second child, is actually lower in line to the throne than Andrew and Edward, her younger male siblings, and all of their offspring.  I think this is a travesty for woman's rights and should be corrected forthwith!!!   Actually the main reason I have this interest is that it would elevate Zara Philips (Princess Anne's daughter) from a lowly 15th in line to I think 9th.  

Why is that important?  Simple.  Zara is married to Gloucester rugby star and former England Captain Mike Tindall (the man with a nose that can smell around corners) and I can't help having silly desire to see him as HRH The Prince Consort to HRH Queen Zara.  Can you imagine Mike greeting various heads of states or going on tours to the Commonwealth?  Having to dress up in all the regalia etc?  Come on I bet it's just brought a smile to your face.

The new baby therefore adds complication to my master plan which is clearly to see all those preceding Zara in the line of accession meeting an untimely and sticky end so that my devilishly funny plan to see Mike alongside Zara in full regalia at the State Opening of Parliament can be fulfilled.   Brrrrhahahaaha  (That's meant to be a demonic maniacal laugh btw.).   So if I can get the female accession act amended to be retrospectively applied I reduce my task by 6 and spare both Andrew, Edward and their offspring meeting suspicious ends.

BBC Royal Family Tree showing accession and titles etc. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-23272491