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 cafĂ©'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 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

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.