Away

Last Saturday I drove to Scotland, spent an hour in a place, then drove back home.

Then late Wednesday I drove down to Hensol, which is west of Cardiff.

And on Friday afternoon I drove back from Hensol to Nottinghamshire.

Although a bit knackered, because I don’t sleep well away from home, both trips were interesting and, in their own way, educational.

More about the Scottish one in due course, if it all happens as planned.

But the Welsh one was an annual company conference.

The conference wound up with a light-hearted moment, a musical pub quiz.

When this was announced I thought I was quids in, obv.

Being a music geek and all.

How wrong I was.

How very wrong.

The focus of the quiz was a sortov mashup of 17 songs across an Ed Sheeran song.

When I heard the words Ed Sheeran my heart sank quicker than than a quickly sinking thing.

But we gave it a go, our little group.

The object of the exercise was to name the songs – and the artists – of all 17 songs that were performed by The Vamps across (mercifully) just a few bars of an Ed Sheeran song.

Give it a go, and let me know – out of a potential score of 34, one point for each artist and one point for each song – how many points you get.

But play the same game that we did.

Blank out the screen, because all songs and artists are listed on this video (they weren’t on the video we saw):

Blogathon 24/17: It’s the weekend!

There was a day this week when I woke up and was hit by an overwhelming feeling that it was a Ferris Bueller kind of bunking off sort of day.

But I didn’t.

Even though the feeling had an almost irresistible force, I stayed away from the dark side.

There was a time though…

Anyway, that’s not the point of this post.

Yesterday evening four of my colleagues and I had a scratch band practice after work.

Two acoustic guitars, two vocalists, and me, trailing along, hashing things about with my G&L plugged in to a small amp.

My own acoustic is out on loan.

In a mildly disorganised way we ran through some familiar numbers, and later on they worked through two songs I am unfamiliar with.

I got a round of applause for my lead vocals on Lindisfarne’s Meet Me On The Corner, but that was probably a sign for me to shut up.

For a couple of hours we had a good time, but it made me realise how out of practice I am.

We’ll see how many turn up next week (how many I’ve scared away).

 

 

Blogathon 18/17: Wise and foolish virgins

The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway

The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway

You know that ‘wise and foolish virgins’ parable?

Mathew 25, verses 1-13?

Well this post isn’t about that.

Although, here’s a bit of wisdom to be going on with.

Do you have any premium bonds?

I have a fistful of them.

Some were bought for me as a Christening present, and I’ve added to them when I felt wealthy.

And yet I’ve never won a bean on any of then.

Have you on yours?

I saw a statistic a couple of weeks ago, that broke down the earning potential of premium bonds in to an easily understandable fact.

The overwhelming odds are that if you bought £50,000 of premium bonds at the completion of the Stonehenge circle, by now you would have won a £10,000 jackpot.

Once.

Makes you think, huh?

Right.

Back to those wise and foolish virgins.

1974 was a year in which the musical tectonic plates of the planet shifted, broke up, drew apart and, amidst the cataclysmic breakup, brought a new and wonderous thing.

The breakup was of possibly the finest prog rock band ever to come out of the UK.

And the new and wonderous thing was the last studio album which that band gave us, on the eve of their breakup.

Genesis: The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway.

Which contains the following phrase that my mind keeps wandering back to, at odd periods of time, in a track called Carpet Crawlers:

Mild mannered supermen are held in kryptonite
And the wise and foolish virgins giggle with their bodies glowing bright

(If you would like to read another person break that album down in to a summary format, you could try this link)

And straight away people will say that Genesis didn’t break up in 1974, and that the band went on to continue receiving critical and sales success with other albums and stadium performances for many years.

And those people will be wrong.

Genesis died the day that Peter Gabriel left.

They went on to become an AOR band, then a pop band, and then a dad band.

I’m not sneering.

There’s nothing wrong with any of those things, and nothing wrong with Genesis being any/all of them.

It’s just that while Genesis changed course, and became those things, they stopped being the prog rock band that Genesis used to be.

I often wonder where Genesis would have gone if the band had kept the faith with their original drummer, the very amiable Chris Stewart, and not allowed Jonathan King to bring in Phil Collins.

Anyway, back to those wise and foolish virgins.

Sortov.

Later this year Sam and I will be going to see Elbow.

They acknowledge that the early Genesis played a significant part in influencing the way Elbow developed their art.

So like a wise (not foolish) virgin, I am being calm about the long-awaited visit to Elbowland.

And keeping my lamp trimmed.

Managing my own expectations.

But still looking forward to the gig.

Meanwhile, here’s some Elbow:

Dazzled by the night

No, not blinded by the light. Dazzled by the night!

 

Hot on the heels of my discovery of ‘Lucy‘ this weekend, I have just deployed Shazam to find out what the end credit song is.

Dazzled by the Night.

Or, in its native language, Eblouies par la Nuit (but you knew that, of course, non?).

Anyway, I’ve just contributed 99p to the singer Zaz (or, more accurately, to her record label), in gratitude for giving me something rather lovely to listen to.

The song needs proper audio equipment, laptop speakers just don’t do it credit.

But the cattens and I love it.

Music hath charms…

On my continual quest to bring light and understanding to the up-and-coming generation, this evening I have been spreading the love of music and pop video.

The journey through the world of music videos started with the awesomely creative and wackily amusing OK GO! videos.

Then there was a quick detour to The Hives (Tick Boom).

And then, briefly entering the world of musical history, from the historically synth-pop genre-defining Alphaville (Big In Japan), to the outrageously awesome Oxford threesome Zurich (Alone).

Then a quick flip over to the shamelessly mainstream Evanescence (the Fallen album).

The 7yo really enjoyed the OK GO! videos.

The 10yo liked The Hives.

None of them really got Alphaville, but the 42yo really got Zurich (and their previous incarnation, The Scholars, which I briefly aired).

Gotta love Zurich’s Alone:

The 10yo liked about two Evanescence tracks.

And now they’ve all gone upstairs to get ready for bed.

So I listened to Mark Knopfler’s Local Hero/Going Home theme.

Earlier we watched Swallows And Amazons, which was a lovely piece of time-travel.

I read the book many times as a schoolboy.

It moved me to buy a dinghy and learn to row and then how to sail.

A charming film, it deviates from the original Arthur Ransome story, but still preserves the feel.

I had a lovely time and I hope everyone else enjoyed it too.

Time passes.

I’m now filtering though some old TV themes, because it’s time I updated my personalised ring tone library.

I’m thinking of assigning this one to Young Masher (for no other reason than it’s a cracking piece of John Barry composition:

Busy doing… well, everything really

It is a truth universally acknowledged that…

 

I  have been stupidly busy.

My aspiration to do less remains just that.

An aspiration.

I have many demands on my time, yet the amount of time I have available to service these demands seems to be on a diminishing curve.

Work continues to be busy, which is great.

But being busy at work isn’t helping with the ‘do less’ thing.

Not having horses in my life should be – and is – helping, but I actually found myself looking at a rather tasty 5yo mare last week.

That would be totes bonkers.

*steps away from the horse-buying thought*

Motorbike time has been limited, due to the awful weather.

But I did trundle out and about for three hours on Saturday, in the freezing cold, and as a result I was given this:

Enhanced Rider Certificate

Enhanced Rider Certificate

I think this means that I am now officially licensed to scare professionals, or something.

Actually it means that I am now a Blood Biker.

I have already passed the Controllers training; now I’m able to go out on the bikes too.

Umm.

I have a new guitar.

Well, actually I have almost two new guitars.

After encouragement from top muso and ace bloke Ash, I sent my SG away to be professionally set-up.

It came back, a week later, feeling like a new man guitar.

Seriously, it’s a different guitar, in terms of playability.

But Ash started me looking for another guitar, something with a different neck design, to the SG.

I’ve been looking at Fender Strats, having played one of his.

But after an unplanned visit to a guitar emporium in Leicester, I accidentally bought this:

G&L Legacy

G&L Legacy

The Legacy is a different animal to the SG, and it feels very Fender Strat-y.

But in terms of playability, it’s a significant step up from the SG (even from the newly-feeling, professionally set-up SG).

Unfortunately, the new-and-a-half guitars haven’t lifted my playing ability from the crap zone, but I have got a lot of practice in this week.

I have got a lot of practice in this week because Sam has been in Dubai, UAE; Dhaka, Bangladesh; Yangdon, Myanmar; Bangkok, Thailand; and Saigon, Vietnam.

She’s on her way back from Saigon to Yangdon, then to Dubai, then EMA, then home.

So while she’s been away I have played guitar.

I have also babysat the two rescue kitties and the two rescue kittens.

I have done a bit (not much) of laundry.

And cooked and eaten like a singleton.

And worked.

When not working I have fallen asleep during TV watching.

Actually there’s a topic.

I don’t seem to watch ‘live’ TV any longer.

I have watched the first two episodes of The Grand Tour (or, to give the show its real name: How To Look And Act Like Top Gear Without Actually Calling Yourself Top Gear).

My three word review: Trying too hard.

I fell asleep during both episodes.

I have also successfully fallen asleep during three episodes of The Man In The High Castle.

And an episode of Lucifer.

I quite liked Preacher, and didn’t fall asleep through any of that.

There are other TV programmes that I have fallen asleep through, but their titles have been as memorable as the watching experience(s).

I recently got a Fitbit (there will be a more detailed post about this, soonish).

It is interesting, wearing a piece of medical tech.

I have become slightly addicted to checking my heart rate, but this shows me that I have an odd pattern of fluctuation.

I checked my heart rate before taking the ZX10R out for the three-hour test on Saturday.

90bpm.

I checked my heart rate after the journey up to the Blythe meeting point.

78bpm.

So, when slobbing about at home, my heart rate is higher than yours (probably), but is in the average zone for me.

But, contrastingly, a fairly swift trip in, frankly, some pretty hairy weather, and on one of the world’s most rapid Superbikes, actually lowered my heart rate to what is (probably) average for you, and is below average for me.

All of this is a bit bonkers.

Indeed, sitting here typing this (and watching the Blessed Sandra Bullock in ‘Gravity’ at the same time), my heart rate is currently 99bpm.

Which is also a bit bonkers, obv.

Anyway.

I shall try to be less busy, and make more of an effort to hang around here.

Ah g’day Bruce and Sheils

With deepest apologies to anyone who, you know, might actually be Australian

 

[rising inflection on every sentence please]

Awight mates?

So t’day I bin torkin’ ‘Strine.

An’ doin’ Strine things.

In a good ol’ Strine fashun.

For lunch I had a koala burger.

With a side order of spiders.

Big big Strine spiders.

Not them tiny wingeing pom spiders.

Nah mate.

Anyway.

I thort I’d just leave some top quality Strine music in yer earoles.

Here’s Missy.

She sings a bit proper and a bit posh, but she’s as Strine as a gnat on a dingo’s left bollock.

Yeah.

I really need to socialise with some people during the day.

Fender (no bender)

There’s a new guitar emporium in Nottingham.

PMT has been open a week.

I know this because when I went there today, I tried three Fender Stratocasters, and I asked how long they had been hanging on the wall.

One week. Since we opened (was the smart reply).

Anyway, this is a MIJ Fender:

MIJ Fender Stratocaster

MIJ Fender Stratocaster

And this is an American Fender:

American Fender

American Fender

And this is another American Fender

American Fender

American Fender

You wouldn’t get much change out of £1,000 for any of these three.

I’m not going to buy any of them, I was just checking them for ‘playability’.

Ash said (in not so many words) that I would do better playing with a v-shaped neck Fender Strat, than I would with my Epiphone SG.

And then he let me play one of his v-shaped neck Fender Strats.

OK, so Ash’s Fender has been professionally setup, so the action is much lower on his Fender than it is on my not setup SG.

But notwithstanding this detail, the shape of the Fender Strat neck fits my hands better than the shape of the SG neck.

And I found playing Ash’s professionally setup, v-shaped neck Fender Stratocaster much easier less difficult to play than my SG.

However, all three Fenders felt the same to my inexperienced fingers.

I can tell the difference between the Fenders and my SG, but I can’t tell the Fenders apart.

Anyway, the bottom line to all of this is that I’m looking to sell my acoustic guitar, get the SG professionally setup, and buy a used MIJ Fender.

I’ll try some more this week, but I think all this will do is to reinforce the difference between the SG and a (any?) Fender Stratocaster, to my uneducated fingers.

So much, so little

The thing is, the cats have been sapping my energy levels with their innate cuteness.

And then there are the many broken nights of sleep during this heatwave.

But the truth of the matter is that I have not been practising guitar as much as I should have.

As much as I need to.

And no matter how much I blame this on the cats, or the lack of sleep, or whatever, it’s just pretty pathetic of me, really.

There’s a music festival this weekend in Charlbury, Oxfordshire.

And I fancy being there next year.

With my guitar.

And in the company of a few friends.

On stage.

But based on my current levels of rehearsal, I wouldn’t even get through the gate as a member of the audience.

Let alone get onstage.

Pathetic really.

My intentions are good, I just lack the willpower (or whatever) to get myself going and give it a good session every day.

Like I said, pathetic.

For example, instead of getting over the far end of the room and picking up a guitar and getting on with it right now, I’m sitting here banging words out on this keyboard.

Yep, pathetic.

It’s like one of the far-too-frequent school reports I used to get at the end of every term.

‘Could do very well if he applied himself’

‘Lacks application’

‘Doesn’t do homework’

‘Easily loses interest’

Ho hum.