Archive for October, 2017

Guitars and PJs

October 18, 2017

I seem to be permanently behind with things at the moment. I am slowly emerging from the remnants of my head cold, although I had to finish my gig a little early at Cafe Musique on Tuesday.

My four main guitars are now hanging nicely on the wall, thanks to my good friend Patrick Vercambre who knows his way around hammer drills and so forth. This has generated yet another clear-out episode. I have transferred a load of stuff that was in a cupboard under the roof tiles in the rafters, to various other hide-away holes; I now have a further bunch of stuff waiting to go for recycling. Ideally, I will get it to a charity when they are collecting in my area.

So, my piano practice took a dive during the head cold and I had hoped that I would sort that out today. However, other things took precedence. Firstly, I popped down to our local B&Q store to buy some packets of spring bulbs (I am a bit late but if I get them planted by the end of this month it should be ok). Then I drove to the Metro Centre (free parking at that mall) and set out to buy some warm stuff for the coming winter months. I bought a new dressing gown, some PJs and a fresh set of long thermal underwear. I feel sure that most stuff is not made to be as warm as it used to be. I think manufacturers assume we all live in houses with the central heating racked up and swan around indoors as if it were a summer’s day. I have a huge problem with feeling the cold nowadays; I think it is because I lost a large amount of weight over the course of last year (3 stone 10 lbs, in Old-English money).

Oh, yes, bloody B&Q refused to accept my circular pound coins as legal tender. So, I had to make a special trip to the bank and get them changed. Why the banks could not just withdraw the coins as they come back to them through the shops and so forth, I really do not know. I can tell you, B&Q put me in a really BAD mood and so I shall try to do any garden shopping elsewhere for the next few months. Actually, garden centres have to be avoided like the plague until next February. In England they are already kitted out with fireworks for Guy Fawkes night (5th November) and Xmas decorations. It is enough to make anyone sick – I mean it’s October! Actually, I think I might physically puke the next time I see a Santa’s Grotto. As I move through the years, I think I am becoming more and more like Victor Meldrew; Bah! Humbug!

So, this evening, instead of getting back into my piano practice I spent the whole time testing out 25 banks of 4 guitar effects per bank (that amounts to 100 in all) using my Gibson 335 Knock-Off. I found some very nice sounds, although not too many were suited either to my guitar playing or for accompanying my vocals. Still, I do think I have made some progress. I will double check this Behringer FX selection against my Tadcaster home-made guitar and my Mick McConway electro-acoustic – sometime tomorrow, unless I get distracted. Oh, did I tell you? I fixed the hum on my Washburn guitar yesterday. So I have placed that in an open D tuning and might try and find a couple of songs to do on slide guitar with it.

Well, I have a hundred and one things on my list of things to do. Still, I figure that eliminates boredom as a feature of one’s existential being. The trick, I suppose, is to manage it all without sliding over into the stress zone. On that note, I shall leave you to ponder. Speak to you later, my dear blogophiles.


Cold: cough, cough, cough…

October 11, 2017

I felt very much under the weather yesterday with this ghastly cold that is going the rounds in England. I tried to sing a song earlier this morning and it was impossible. I have been to my local supermarket and picked up some more pills to deal with the symptoms (it being a virus they cannot provide a cure, of course) and I bought a packet of Jakemans’ Honey & Lemon Menthol sweets which seem to help a little.

I didn’t do much reading yesterday but I have generated a new set of random numbers for my 3rd Post-It bookmark. The experiment seems to be working fine. It does turn the reading into something of a problem-solving exercise. So far, it is probably not quite as enjoyable as the bland, passive way of reading that involves steady page-by-page progress. I have not been able to work out how it compares with reading novels that contain plenty of flash-backs.

I think, by the time I am able to sing again, I should be able to do a cover of Richard Thompson’s 1952 Vincent Black Lightening. I watched him playing it on You Tube (presumably a video recording) and noticed that he was playing it in open tuning. I definitely do NOT want to play my guitar in that style, so I guess my version won’t sound much like the original.

I felt so rough yesterday I did not play any piano at all. That is very unusual for me. I’m not sure about today. I think I will do some more work on the level-crossing sketch I am doing in pen & India ink. That has been going rather slowly (also due to the bloody head cold) and I would like to get it finished by the end of the week. Speak to you later, my dear blogophiles.

Weird reading & winding folks up

October 9, 2017

I have two things to talk about this morning. Firstly, I will give you a progress report on my Random Page Number approach to reading a novel. It does feel very strange. In terms of pages read, I am about a third of the way through the book. So far, I have read (in order of reading): 225-251; 96-108; 345-to-The End; 87-89 (supermarket queueing); 37-68.

The experiment is a bit of a failure in terms of my original plan. I had intended to put this to the test with books that I had already read; it turns out that I have not read this current book. I think I must have bought it with a few others and put it on my fiction shelf intending to get around to it at some point but then forgot to do so. I have to say that the novel I have chosen is definitely not a ‘feel-good’ read. If anything it is a ‘feel-pretty-depressed’ read. I don’t think this has anything to do with randomness, and the author can write good English. It is probably written for a younger reading audience. Folks who have recently left university might be the target, especially women. Oh, and they will ideally have been on a ‘gap’ year travelling the globe to Thailand or wherever. I can’t stand the concept of ‘gap’ years and I hate travelling. So, I am undergoing a bit of light-reading torture.

Moving on, I watched Graham Norton’s chat show at the weekend on British TV (BBC1). The music towards the end of the show was provided by Noel Gallagher and his band (I believe he was once famous in another band called Oasis). Anyway, Graham Norton had brought him (Gallagher) over to the sofa for a short chat, in the course of which he enthused about the fact that he liked to ‘wind people up’.

I found it a little difficult to understand why he (Gallagher) should enjoy doing this. The Concise OED defines the verb to wind up as: irritate or provoke a person to the point of anger. Why might anyone wish to do that? I can think of a few possible reasons:

  1. The Winder-Upper may actually enjoy the other person’s discomfort
  2. The act may make the Winder-Upper feel powerful or superior
  3. The Winder-Upper can use the event as a way of grabbing the Windee’s attention

I think the most likely explanation is that the Winder-Upper lacks the minimal social skills needed to gain the attention of the other folk(s) in any constructive or meaningful fashion. I think this is rather unfortunate. When all is said and done, the Winder-Upper is likely to end up being regarded a something of a sad, attention-seeking asshole. I would never seek to be voluntarily exposed to the company of anyone whom I regarded as an asshole. Indeed, I would avoid them like the plague.

Of course, winding someone up might be a not-so-distant relation of the German phenomenon of Schadenfreude: the malicious enjoyment of another’s misfortunes. One might be forgiven for thinking that this might be the sort of thing a bully might be good at. Being a skilled bully could be a useful prerequisite for anyone who actively seeks to irritate or anger other people for their own enjoyment!

I’m sorry to have drifted into such a negative topic. I am generally feeling a bit off-colour with a head cold. Having a cold does not sit well with my style of singing and I have a lot of music that I want to get done. Talk to you later, my dear blogophiles.

A slightly bizarre experiment in reading

October 6, 2017

When I retired, some 10 years ago, I decided that I would no longer buy ‘airport’ novels. By and large, I prefer to relax by turning the pages of a not-too-demanding novel as opposed to watching TV. I have read loads of whodunnits and lots of general fiction (I tend to avoid anything that has been reviewed in the quality press). So, it came as something of a blow to me when my city library (Sunderland, UK) more or less closed down. There is just one single room with a few shelf stacks around the place. You could probably ask and get something if you specifically knew what you wanted, but that precludes the enjoyment of browsing.

Incidentally, I do find it interesting that Sunderland is attempting to be designated as the English Cultural City of the Year (I think Hull is for 2017). Sunderland doesn’t have a proper public library and there is no shop in the city where you could buy a decent piano.   Pretty much says it all, I feel.

Anyway, I have to turn to my own situation. I have over the past year bought around 40 doorstoppers. My local supermarket sells these for around 2 GBP per read which is amazing. However, I am now moving on to a new phase. Rather than passing these books on to the charity shop, I am thinking of ways to get further reading pleasure from them. I  am about to start on an experiment (I once tried something similar to this many years ago – I am hoping to take it a little further this time).

The first step is to find a number between 1-38, using a random number generator I frequently use on the Internet ( think it is called So, the number I have been given is #11. I’ll just go and find the book that identifies (the 11th one along the shelves)….

OK. This has brought up a paperback book; I don’t think I shall tell you the title because I don’t want this to turn into a book review. The novel starts on p.5 and ends on p.374. It is not immediately obvious how best to proceed. I need to establish the rules of my reading game, as it were.

  1. Each session will start at a page chosen by the random number generator.
  2. I shall need to carry a list of 5 unused random numbers that can be taken in order, in case I am out and cannot get to my computer (e.g. on the Metro train). I can keep a pencil note of these.
  3. I shall need a simple way to record pages that have been read. I will start by ruling tabular lines across the blank page at the start, to record pages read within clumps of 50 page boundaries (so: 1-49; 50-99, and so on). I won’t know if this will work, but it is an experiment and I shall have to suck it and see.
  4. Any random number falling on a page already read will be deemed null and void. If this becomes a problem as I get into the readings, then I will come up with a more sophisticated approach to the selection of random numbers.

I don’t know how this will work out; it is an experiment. It should give the novel a slightly post-modern feel. I think it will be a bit like watching a DVD film you have already seen through once, but dipping into various scenes at different times the second time. Of course, students studying English literature at school do this all the time with Shakespearean plays, for example.

There are 43 chapters in the book I have to read (rather a lot IMHO). Still,  this averages at a mere 8/9 pp per chapter. This means that on most reading sessions there should be a reasonably self-contained section or two that I can plough through (although I do tend to fall to sleep on a book in bed).

If this experiment works, I do have some further things to try. In my live music performances, where I stream my songs up to the Internet virtual community known as Second Life, I have sometimes combined two songs in what the U.S. folks refer to as a ‘mash-up’ (and this is not the same as a medley). So the possibility would be to read two novels in parallel taking page start numbers randomly across both novels (a coin toss could determine which novel was to be sampled at any given reading session). Well, I guess I have to learn to walk before I can run.

OK. So, I have written 5 random numbers on my green post-it bookmark. These are: 225, 96. 345, 87, 37. This is so exciting – wish me luck with this somewhat bizarre experiment in reading! Speak to you later my dear blogophiles.

P.S. My first mistake: I have started on two sessions (p.225 and p.96) only to find that I have not read the book before. I had intended this procedure to apply to re-reads. Never mind, I shall just press on.


The Great Tidy-Up

October 6, 2017

I can’t tell you  how many hours I have spent on trying to tidy up old stuff. It was mainly 4-ring binders, lever-arch and box files. I never actually counted the number of A4 sheets of paper I took down for recycling but the pile, when neatly stacked, measured 8″ high. Now, for my continental friends, 8″ stands for eight inches in England which is ‘old money’ for about 200 mm, I think. When are they going to bring back L.s.d. (and that is not a drug reference, btw)?

I had been wanting to write a few blogs just recently but I forgot my password to get in to do it. Then they sent it to an email that I haven’t used for about a decade and I had forgotten my password to get into that email. Passwords are driving me nuts, at the moment.

Anyway, I am getting into playing my friend’s Fender Telecaster through a Behringer virtual amp and it is sounding very good. I feel a purchase coming on… Talk to you later, my dear blogophiles.