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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Joe And World Domination

Joe has joined me in the yellow room and is busy working on his various projects and assignments for school. He's far more diligent than I ever was at his age.

Reading through his business studies project I discover he's planning to set up his own record label. The label would seek to provide rehearsal and recording facilities for its users and generally take over the world with a pungent blend of death metal and prudent commerce.

When I was a teenager I think my business acumen extended to er...nothing. Come to think of it, I didn't have anything remotely resembling acumen of any kind.

I think the extent of my understanding of business studies was to learn to play bass so I could join King Crimson.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

A Change Of Programme

Chris T called round today and brought with him a few tour programmes. I don't think I ever bought any myself (or if I did I certainly don't have them now) but Chris is walking archive of memories and memorabilia.

I gather we saw Tangerine Dream in December 1974 somewhere between Phaedra and Rubicon. I can't recall that much about but Chris tells me we sat at the back where we could see the much-trumpeted laser light show (it was rubbish apparently) and the quad sound.

Sometime in 1975 we saw Al Stewart headlining at the City Hall with the legendary Brinsley Schwarz as support. I don't remember anything about the concert at all.

At the time, Stewart was touring in support of Modern Times which I think I really liked at the time. Listening to the album now, I struggle to hear what it was that attracted me to the music back then.

Whilst Past Present & Future still gets attention, I can't hear anything on Modern Times that connects any more. Needless to say, anything by the Brinsleys gets my toe a-tapping and my pulse racing.

This next one I remember as if it were yesterday - honestly. The newly reformed Van Der Graaf Generator were on cracking form that night in December '75.

Not long after this gig I got my head shaved and took to wearing clogs and white boiler suits just like Peter Hammill! I blush now but it all made sense at the time.

I remember our party of dazed VdGG fans walking home from Newcastle singing selections from Hammill's In Camera at the top of our voices at about 1.00 a.m.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Light At The End of the Carpe Tunnel Syndrome

I don’t think I’m very good at doing several things at once.

Sometimes when I’m busy I let all kinds of things slide. I mean I still do chores, I get my kids up for school, put food on the table and all that kind of thing.

But I obsess around the task in hand so much so that I generally don’t leave the office except for bladder breaks or bed time.

As Stakhanovite as this might sound, it isn’t always productive. Sometimes the best work occurs far from the desk and computer.

Usually, for me this means getting fresh air, talking a short walk, hearing waves breaking, traffic rumbling past me or, best of all, hearing the lonesome drone of an airplane echoing across from heaven’s dome.

Last week I took on a rush job that needed to be turned around in short order.

Before I knew that short order turned into five days without crossing the front door. Although I’m hardly the brightest button in the box, even I can work out that this isn’t the best way to be doing things.

So today, the rush job now out of the way I took a walk outside - the first time in five days - and joined Debra as she walked up to the bus stop on her way to work and took in a few lungfuls of the good stuff.

After saying our fond farewells I veered right...

and walked past the singing wall. Why the singing wall? The ivy creeping over half of the house is packed with of birds and what looks like dozens of nests. They make a mighty racket when they all get going. Think Beethoven's 6th. In quad!

And over to the right...

Then into South Parade where lots of (mainly) young people come at weekends to wet themselves, discard red cabbage on the pavement and generally make merry in this street of pleasure palaces.

One the things that gives me a lot of pleasure these days is being able to take a walk around Whitley Bay and bump into my sister, Lesley (That's her in the distance looking out to sea).

I know I’ve said this several times before, but I’m ever so glad Lesley and Bernard decided to leave Milton Keynes and relocate up here.

We crossed over to take in the view of the beach....

and from the lower promenade heard the voice of our neighbour from heaven, Jude, setting off to walk her dog...

as were quite a few other folks this morning...

a little bit further up the beach the beginnings of Seaton Sluice can be seen in the morning sun...

Oh, and there's Jude again...

As Lesley and I sat looking at the beach, bathed in the morning sun, the topic under discussion, as it so often is, was parenting.

Sometimes, you have to remember not to paint your kid into a corner and understand that in the long term, the quality of the peace you have with your kids is more important than scoring victories, pyrrhic or otherwise.

It’s these kind of impromptu meetings that really make the day. After days being stuck in the house it was marvellous getting out and more importantly, getting out from under my tunnel vision.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Putting The Force Into Parcelforce

In my line of work I get a lot of deliveries through the week.

From where I sit in the yellow room, I can see the delivery men (and they are all men) coming down the street which gives me time to get up, go downstairs and have the door open before they get halfway up the path.

I do this because delivering stuff is hard work and the people who do it are usually under a lot of pressure to get in and get out as quickly as possible.

Today I saw the guy coming but was so quick, I was only able to get as far as the bottom of the staircase when through our lovely stained glass door I saw him loom up and start hammering on the glass.

Just like in a movie I lunged toward the door in slow motion yelling "Nooooooooo" but too late.

The glass cracked under his fist.

Whisking the door open, I said to the bloke " Good day, my fine fellow on this wonderful sunny morning. I do declare that in your haste to provide me with the untold aural delights contained in the package in your other hand, your undoubted enthusiam for your job has inadvertantly broken the expensive stained glass in our door!"

OK it may not have those exact words or indeed any words even vaguely resembling those but "What the fuck do you think you're doing? You've just broken my front door?" sounds a little too coarse.

He replied that he hadn't knocked at all hard, implying perhaps that the glass which had previously been unbroken was somehow defective and thus ready to split at the tiniest brush of a bee's wing.

I gave him a look and to be fair he backed off that one straight away.

I asked him why he didn't use the knocker. He replied he hadn't noticed it.

Here's a picture of the knocker just moments after the delivery man hadn't noticed it.

Here's the panel in a bit more detail.

Names and numbers were taken, apologies exchanged and now, because of Parcelforce's policy in these situations, I'm required to find three quotes for someone to replace the glass and fix the door.

Have you tried gettting any tradesmen out to give you a quote for work to your house recently?

Lots of fun.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Nostalgia 77 Sessions featuring Keith and Julie Tippett

Steady As They Go...
Nostalgia 77 Sessions
featuring Keith & Julie Tippett
Tru Thoughts

When producer Benedic Lamdin - the man behind Nostalgia 77 - first heard Septober Energy by Keith Tippett’s 50-piece Centipede project he was hooked by the audacious nerve and creative spirit it represented.

Lamdin's sleeve notes remark that working with Keith and Julie Tippett was anything but a nostalgic trip. Yet the results are easily the most retro-sounding release bearing the couple’s name. Unlike the epic and turblent improvisations for which they are best known, here they are cast in more restrained, moody soft-focus light.

Beautifully produced, with the kind of studio ambience heard on 1960s Impulse recordings, this is Julie Tippett as brooding blues singer and husband Keith as a daredevil accompanist with an emphasis on straight forward jazz songs and blues. Although there's the odd outburst of free-jazzing here and there, none of it has the off-the-map intensity embodied in Couple In Spirit or the work of Mujician.

The backing from drummer Adam Sorennsen, trumpeter Fulvia Sigurta, and bassist Risan Vosloo is reliable rather than racy and one wonders how many more sparks might have flown had players of the calibre of Louis Moholo, Mark Charig or Paul Rodgers filled those positions instead. Mark Hanslip’s perfunctory tenor makes a jazz noise for sure on the fast moving bop-scat fest Sketch For Gary/ Billy Goes To Town but doesn't exactly raise the stakes or up the ante.

Of course, anything that brings the Tippetts to a wider audience is undeniably a good thing and would be churlish to doubt an album as amiable and easy going as this one. Film Blues has an earthy charm, Rainclouds is both mesmerising and soulful, and the clean vistas of New Inner City Blues rattles and rumbles with the pianist's athletic runs.

However, like Benedic Lamdin found with his discovery of Septober Energy, it’ll be the back catalogue or a crop of new compositions, rather than this album that will provide the real white-knuckle excitement you normally associate with Keith Tippett.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

A Close Shave With My Son

So there I was yesterday morning, tapping away at the computer when I turned around and noticed this spectre creeping up on me!

Closer inspection revealed this to be my son, Joe, ready to travel to Leeds with his rugby club.

Why the ninja costume? It's the done thing apparently. Everyone attending (including the accompanying parents) does the fancy dress thing.

When he returned this evening, he revealed the new look - apparently getting a mad haircut is also the done thing.

"Glad to see you're half way to having a hair cut like mine!" I told him. I have a sense Joe was disappointed that I didn't explode into parental apoplexy at the site of his shorn locks.

Parents, eh?

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Bread Head Required

Another busy morning yesterday working on various Canterbury Sound related projects which included a telephone conversation with John Greaves. We're going to speak later over the weekend about his work with National Health.

Elsewhere in the house, Tom wanted to make ciabatta bread and required my presence.

Tom is going through something of a cookery kick at the moment which is a good thing. My mother taught me to cook from an early age and it still amazes me how many men I come across that can do little more than burn a pan of water.

On Thursday I taught Tom to make a basic cheese sauce using a roux from which he can then make other dishes. In the past he's helped me in my bread-making endeavours but yesterday he wanted to go solo with me hovering in an advisory capacity.

As we waited for the bread to rise we went into the backyard where Debra was busy restructuring the yard.

Then back inside to retrieve the loaves from the oven.

Tom was especially pleased with the results and with good reason. Dear reader, the bread was delicious.


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