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.

Fun, skill and knowledge in the creative endeavour

May 20, 2017

Well, I have now played 1556 shows in Second Life since 3rd January, 2008. Today I played (as my avatar, Fyrm Fouroux) at my little virtual venue, Terra Fyrmusica.

A friend of mine in MeatSpace said that one of his mates who played in an amateur rock band was used to having small audiences for pub gigs. He used the term ‘audient’ for the situation where you play to just one solitary person. Today, I played to an audient at my gig (my good SL friend, Ferdy). Actually, between songs we chatted about the concept of fun and explored its relation to knowledge and skill. Some people have expressed the view to me that I should only do my music if I am enjoying it or having fun. I think it is much more complicated than that, when it comes to the creative endeavours relating to playing an instrument or, in art, sketching and painting.

Of course, it is possible to have fun with minimal skills and knowledge. In terms of song-writing with a guitar, that kind of fun is summed up in the somewhat dismissive analysis of a song as being little more than a three-chord trick.

With music, the fun of playing the instrument might be experienced at different levels, depending on one’s skill and knowledge of the musical genre. My point is that to get from one level to a higher plane, sometimes takes a lot of concentration, hard work and loads of practice; this is not always fun and it often requires discipline and strength of mind.

Anyway, let’s get back to fun. It might be possible to experience fun at all levels, but the nature of the fun could become more sophisticated as one moves up the levels of skill (with musical instruments, this would be rather like the English grade system which goes from 1 to 8). If one remains at a low level of skill for too long one might simply become bored, and boredom devours fun with a voracious appetite.

I enjoyed talking about this with Ferdy. I doubt very much whether I could have had that kind of conversation were the gig to have had a larger audience. I learned something today: playing to a single ‘audient’ can be as enjoyable as playing to a small crowd (I never play to large crowds, they just don’t like me).
Speak to you later, my dear blogophiles.

My recent Internet gig : link on website

May 16, 2017


This is a quick note to let you know that I have placed a link on my Website Homepage that will let you play the audio from my Internet show in the Second Life virtual community – this is the address –

I played the gig on Saturday 13th May (2017). There is no visual element, but it should play in whatever app you use to play music on your computer/tablet/phone/washing machine/ whatever.

I also need to apologise for lack of blogs this past year. I did eventually finish my book of illustrations for lyric fragments taken from my original songs. I am currently working on a new book of sketches, but it might take me a year or more to finish. So far I have completed about half-a-dozen sketches that I think will work.

It is 04.30 a.m. in England and I got up to do a bit of piano practice. I had better get on with that. Then I shall probably roll back to bed for a bit before breakfast. Speak to you later, my dear blogophiles!

John & Fyrm’s recent Trump cartoon

December 22, 2016


This is a brief note to say that I have recently made a Donald Trump cartoon which you can find on my website:

Trump cartoon

I hope that this link works for you and that you enjoy the cartoon.

Speak to you later, my dear blogophiles.

The Bagel of the North

August 27, 2016

Well, I wasted some time this afternoon on what can only be described as a displacement activity (instead of getting on with some graphics for my forthcoming illustrated book about my songs).

I get fed up having to drive past Gormley’s sculpture ‘The Angel of the North’ every time I go up the A1 from Sunderland. so I decided to make my own fantasy sculpture, which I hereby call ‘The Bagel of the North’
Bagel of the North





Speak to you later, my dear blogophiles 🙂

Chemical warfare song

June 27, 2016

It has been a while since I have posted here. I seem to have been very busy refurbishing my little music studio. Anyway, be that as it may, I have heard that BBC TV Channel Four is going to do a programme about chemical warfare and the UK establishment known as ‘Porton Down’. This is due to be scheduled on Tuesday 28th June 2016 at 2100 GMT. Well, it occurred to me that I wrote a song about chemical warfare back in the early 1980s. I released it in 1983 (the copyright # is ISRC GBGHU0300005).

A version of this song is up on my Bandcamp site:

The fyrmusica site is so named after my Second Life avatar (Fyrm Fouroux) but you don’t really need to know that.

Anyway, I thought I would tell you about this. Speak to you later, my dear blogophiles!

‘Trip to the tip’ now up on Bandcamp

March 25, 2016

Hello! This is to let you know that I have now placed a digitally orchestrated version of my song ‘Trip to the tip’ on Bandcamp