Thursday, June 30, 2005
A call from Anne's brother, Keith, changes my plans. He's bought a small MP3 player from Amazon but can't work out how to convert his CDs to MP3 or get any MP3s onto his player.
After some fruitless attempts to help him over the phone, I take my Creative Jukebox Software and drive over to his house - he's off on holiday tomorrow so time is tight.
Within an hour I'm on my way back home having loaded the software onto his PC and shown him how to use it. It works pefectly with his player and I feel good I've been able to help a friend in need.
Now I know how Craig must feel sometimes - though I realise it could become frustrating if you were to be being called on by people on the slightest computer-related pretext.
Back home I resume my surfing as Anne watches TV. At 10:30 we watch "Question Time", featuring Tony Benn, Otis Ferry, the new young blonde female Tory hope (can't remember her name), the LibDem MP who's married to weather presenter Sian Lloyd and a coloured female TV presenter from, I think, Channel Four.
It's a refreshing change to have no-one on from the Government and the discussion is lively, entertaining and thought provoking. Unfortunately for him, Otis comes a cross like an upper-class twit, while the LibDem, Tory and TV Presenter talk sense for most of the programme. Tony Benn is his usual intelligent, thoughtful self. He is the only Labour politician for whom I have any respect.
The panel agreed we are heading for a Police State here in the UK. This is something which would have been unbelievable fifteen or twenty years ago but seems now to be all too true. Where did it all go wrong - oh yes, I remember now, May 1997...when a party was elected which was interested only in power for power's sake.
Following on from the programme comes "This Week" with the strangely likeable Andrew Neil (whom I used to detest) and the unlikely double act of Michael Portillo and Diane Abbot. This is a programme I catch occasionally, and which is always entertaining. It was strange, though predictable, to see Diane Abbot's usual swingeing attacks on her own party cease completely during the recent election campaign.
A black female American playwright, currently resident in London, presented a telling report on the US-Iraq situation pointing out that, while we in the UK have much information about the US, we have little knowledge - citing the recent burblings in the press that G W Bush is in crisis over Iraq.
Turns out he's not, the American People support their Commander in Chief almost unswervingly in times of war when troops are at risk overseas, no matter the body-bag count. This made a refreshing change from the naive nonsense we see and hear time and time again in this country regarding Bush.
He is certainly in control and he is, unfortunately, not stupid at all. He has made a mistake in going into Iraq but the USA is living with this and they fully recognise they won't be able to leave for probably 10 years, possibly many more, if at all....
Wednesday, June 29, 2005
So as not to get all maudlin over this, my mum has invited Anne and I out for dinner at a restaurant which is, coincidently, directly opposite the crematorium where my dad was cremated....
The restaurant was recently subject of some complaints for insensitivity. A banner describing some of its fayre had been hung up across the entrance.
It read "Roasted to Perfection".
The meal is good and we have a good night out with my mum, no doubt helping take her mind off what happened two years ago.
Back at her house the reminiscences start but not particularly of my dad, just life in general as it used to be back in the late sixties, early seventies....
We didn't have a fridge until around 1970 because, in those days, people did their shopping down in the High St every day and everything was fresh and there was a reasonably cold cupboard in the kitchen....
We got a colour TV in January 1972 apparently.
This news is a weird coincidence as, last night, I'd been telling Colin and Nigel that I distinctly remember staying up late in 1970 to watch the Italy v Germany game being beamed from Mexico during the World Cup and I maintained I'd seen it in colour....
We leave my mum to her thoughts - who knows what it feels like to lose your partner of over 50 years suddenly one Sunday morning....
Back home Meg the Black Cat comes trotting (as she does - even though she's not a horse) to the back door and is very pleased to see us.
She's a great wee cat and, hopefully, she enjoys living with us.
Behind the door for me today is a 5CD set of a "live" recording of Dutch Trance DJ, Ferry Corsten playing some records in Montreal in April. So far I've listened to the first two hours and it's already up there in my top ten for the month....(http://www.monthlytoptenalbums.blogspot.com/)
Tuesday, June 28, 2005
It's Anonymous 4's recording of music from the 13th and 14th Centuries entitled "Love's Illusion". You can find it here http://www.anonymous4.com/. I'm pretty sure I have another of their CD's somewhere but I can't locate it.
It's called "Voices of Light" a piece by the composer Richard Einhorn http://www.richardeinhorn.com/. It was written to accompany "The Passion of Joan of Arc", Carl Dreyer's 1928 silent film masterpiece and is quite stunning - recommended if you can find it.
Jamie also arrives as I've called him just before leaving home. We have our usual chat re music and setting the Edinburgh Songwriting Community to rights.
Also in the audience is my ex-Landlord from my old Reptile Records days, who I see around town from time to time. A very pleasant chap, as landlords go, and I never had any problems with him so we remain on good terms.
The show is the usual hit and miss, with Jim for me ranking a very commendable 3rd out of the five comics on offer. His potential is the greatest though, in that he's been doing stand up for the least length of time of all five.
I give Jim a lift home and we chat over his performance. Then I head home myself to the strains of Anonymous 4....
Monday, June 27, 2005
I've also agreed to check out a possible glitch in the CD burning programme that Craig and I both use and, in the process, come a cross a problem of my own which prompts an over an hour long phone call with Craig, during which he has to (quite rightly!) point out to me that he's not a computer support service.
In the end we're both able to solve each other's respective problems and remain on speaking terms!! He describes me as "Mr Go Raj If It Diznay Work In Two Seconds" to which I respond that, when you get to my age, every second counts...
Once again though, almost the entire evening disappears down the black hole that is our PC...here's a picture of the dust disc around a black hole....
Sunday, June 26, 2005
Off to Ian Sclater’s for 10 and his first guitarist, Tom, is already there having driven down from Crieff – that’s dedication....
We work on two of the three songs Ian wants him to play. Unfortunately, due to other demands on his time, Tom’s not been able to make himself familiar enough with the tunes and so much further learning is required and many breakdowns ensue. We manage to salvage a much spliced and edited version of “Candle to St Valentine” though....
Ian’s second guest guitarist of the day, Ian Pettigrew, who’s worked on the album previously (in fact did a version of “Candle to St Valentine”) arrives around 1:30 or so. He’s here to re-record another track he did last time, “This Time Around”. Unfortunately, he’s not quite au fait with it....
So while Ian S is off with Ian P running through the latter’s performance, I try to record Tom playing “Country Boy”. This breaks down and so Ian P returns to do “This Time Around” while Ian S takes Tom off to run through “Country Boy”.
After laying down the basic track and providing an overdubbed slide solo, Ian P makes his exit around 3:45 and Tom returns to record “Country Boy”. We abandon plans for him to record “She Paints Landscapes”, as he needs to get back to Crieff.
All in all then, after six and a half hours of work we have three more recordings. A hard grind but, as it turned out, a lot of fun....
Ian’s invited a piano player to record two more backing tracks for the album. I’m hoping the piano player will have learned the pieces before his session, which should be sometime next Sunday...
Back home and Anne and I relax in the sunny back garden listening to The Durutti Column’s first album, then indoors for a healthy salad and to watch the second half of Argentina v Mexico in the second Confederations Cup semi-final which Argentina win on penalties after extra time.
After watching Joey and Two and a Half Men, two very funny programmes on Channel Five, I have a quick chat on MSN with me old mucker Grantyboy – the biggest Alice Cooper fan I know (apart from me of course...) , while I continue to back up my Jukebox to the computer - now up to nearly 2,000 tracks...
Yet another reasonable day....can't complain really
Saturday, June 25, 2005
So I sleep in a bit this morning, getting up around nine and, by ten, we are on our way to a Garden Centre near South Queensferry for breakfast and for Anne to buy some more plants for the garden...
When we get home, Anne goes to the garden to plant plants and I fully intend to find my notes re the studio settings for my album "Anotherhappyday" with a view to making a start on the follow up, "Deeperdown" but, of course, I have to open the computer first and it sucks me in again...
I’ve got my first session for a couple of weeks with Ian Sclater tomorrow at 10 so I need to prepare for that...he has two guitarists coming round to work on some songs so I’m hoping for a productive day...
I read Robert Fripp's blog/diary and see how mundane a world famous guitarist's life on the road really is...you can link from this blog to Robert Fripp's Diary...it was this that inspired me to blog myself to prove how normal and mundane my life really is despite the pretence of glitz and glamour of a so called musician/artist - not that I experience much of that of course...you can see from this blog that I actually spend very little time at all either making music or art....
Some readers have said they find my blog almost voyeuristic because I put in so much detail – it’s a bit of a conversation stopper when we meet up as they generally already know everything I’ve been up to before they even arrive...Anne is of the same opinion - sometimes it's a bit embarrassing - but it's really just a diary. I am contemplating toning it down a bit though...we’ll see
Ian Sclater, I think, gets a bit frustrated at the recording method I use – which is basically recording actual performances, one on top of the other – meaning that each take has to be perfect or as near to perfect as possible – there’s no remixing or dropping in and out to correct mistakes – it’s the way I’ve always recorded since the days of two mono portable cassette decks back in 1977.
I have Cubase and Sound Forge and Wave Lab and all manner of computer recording, mixing and editing programmes but have never got round to learning them.
In an MSNMessenger dialogue with Craig this morning, he reckons Cubase is suited to me because I have midi on my PC, so I should be able to record straight into Cubase and edit directly from there - no more layered recording... record straight onto channels and rework if necessary..
Of course he’s right BUT he’s forgetting that while he creates music by using myriad downloaded samples (he doesn’t actually play any instruments into his system) I need to spend a hell of a lot of time learning how to use the system - I need to get out of my comfort zone of course...
It seems daunting because of all the graphics and buttons but Craig reckons if you just look past that and stick to the basics initially, the rest will fall into place – again I argue that since I am creating everything from scratch it may be a bit more laborious for me - or maybe I should change my music to suit the software...
He wants to know my favourite Bowie album – he’s in the process of downloading them all via BitTorrent – I advise it’s “Low”....
You can't imagine how that sounded when it was released...of course, it sounds pretty normal now - people have caught up..
Bowie’s trilogy of “Low”, “Heroes” and “Lodger”, recorded with Eno and Fripp have got some amazing music and outlandish techniques involved - listen to the guitar solos - mostly by Fripp and Adrian Belew - both of King Crimson – listen to “Boys Keep Swinging” from “Lodger” - listen to the guitar solo - imagine - there had never been anything like that in pop before.
Not only that but, using Eno's Oblique Strategies Cards (chance instructions) the drummer played bass and the rhythm guitarist (Carlos Alomar) played drums - that's why the drums sound so strangely and “badly” played...
Whilst chatting to Craig I’m transferring more tracks from the Jukebox back to the computer – all 8,000 odd had to be wiped when the computer was being rebuilt...I’m back up to 1,500 so far....
We lunch in the back garden basking in the sun with Meg the Black Cat lying on the back step....I’m listening to disc 4 of the new King Crimson box set I got via e-bay – it’s a 12 track live set compiled from performances from 1973/74 and it rocks...so I need to keep the volume down re the neighbours of course! Here's a collage - that's not Caviar by the way, rather it's mushroom pate...
By this time it’s around four and I head back upstairs and work on Ian Sclater’s project, and e-mail details to him of where we are and where I think we’re going. We’ve spent 28 hours on it so far plus quite a bit of pre and post session work from me on my own back at Crispycat (hey, I have been working on music after all...) – we’re probably less than half way thru and Ian wants to finish by the end of July – so I think we need to up the ante somewhat...
I update the blog and go back downstairs and flick between Andy Murray’s Wimbledon adventures and the Confederations Cup semi final between German and Brazil – in the end both my “teams” lose as Murray goes down 3-2 after winning the first two sets and Germany lose 3-2 to Brazil.
And so it’s eight o’clock and time for a curry, then CSI New York, then pack up the studio for tomorrow and then...bed..or back to the PC....a reasonable day...
Friday, June 24, 2005
Another CD arrived - an early Udo Lindenberg effort from Germany called "Free Orbit" - seems to have been recorded in the late 60's - it's listed on his website but the CD I've got appears to have been recorded off of an LP...
We got the bus into town to hand in the holiday photos for developing then lunch at the Muang Thai, where we went a few weeks ago for Anne's friend Lynn's birthday. As before, the food was excellent - and their lunch offer of two courses for £7.50 was spot on...
I bought a new pair of jeans to replace the ones I had on - the ones with the big hole in between my legs (in my jeans madam, in my jeans...)
Back home I fell asleep as we watched the tennis, then spent another few hours on the computer updating the blog with tales from Germany. I'm on MSN Messenger now (obviously I'm only 14) and Craig sent me a great wee programe which tags MP3s properly - seems only to work though if you have the tracks in the correct order?
No tea tonight as we're still full from lunch. At 9.30 we watch the Karen Dunbar Show then last week's Criminal Intent which we videoed whilst away - it's the last in the series - Aaargh!
Anne slopes off to bed as I head for the computer again but only after after witnessing the White Stripes at Glastonbury - they must be one of the worst acts I have ever seen....truly terrible....and this from a man who buys CDs by Udo Lindenberg recorded in the 60s....taste is a wonderfully subjective thing....Mark Radcliffe and that blonde woman with the smiley face (Jo Whiley?) are just too smug for words....make me want to puke....I hate the whole festival thing - it's pish - the worst form of corporate rock posing as indie - the people there deserved the drenching they got - who in their right mind pays hundreds of pounds to stand around in a field watching shite like the White Stripes....
Of course I was at Knebworth twice in 1978....
Thursday, June 23, 2005
Here's Craig making Anne and me a lovely cup of coffee each, and one for himself for good measure...thanks Craig...sorry for cutting the top of your head off...
Spent most of today re-loading all the programmes and saved data onto the computer...very boring stuff....
After a pre holiday e-bay flurry, I returned home to parcels containing:-
King Crimson - The 21st Century Guide to King Crimson (4CD)
Grand Funk - All The Girls In The World Beware
Grand Funk - Born to Die (hmm... it appears I have this CD already!!)
Emerson Lake and Palmer - Best of the Bootlegs (2CD)
and the latest issue of The Wire which has a free disc with it of some Australian Noiseniks...so probably won't be listening to that more than the once...
In the evening we drive out to Armadale to pick up Meg the Black cat from Julia, her ex-mum, who's been looking after her while we were away. Julia's dog, Dylan, is very excitable and so proceeds to pish all over us when we arrive....which is nice...
We sit in the garden for a short while drinking red wine, before the midges drive us back inside.
Good to have Meg back...and the computer
Wednesday, June 22, 2005
I listen to Miles on shuffle play. I have around 70 of his pieces on the jukebox, mostly mid-late sixties which is probably my favourite period for his stuff. I continue reading his biography and am up to the late 40's early 50's - the heroin addiction years....
I go back to bed at 6:30 and wake again at 8. We listen to Boccherini and Brahms as we pack the bags before breakfast.
After breakfast we go to the bank for money for petrol and stroll back up to the flat through the town. I buy a fridge magnet - I have a collection. It's on the fridge.
I also buy a new watch, my fifth. I didn't used to wear a watch until I inherited my dad's when he died. since then I've bought a couple more and Anne also gave me one at Christmas.
We pack the car, hand back the key and head along the inland road and wind up back at Traben Trarbach, driving past the house we stayed in two years ago.
From there, it's up the river to the town of Zell. Our holiday has just missed their wine festival. The preparations are being made in the town for what looks like it's going to be a helluva drinkfest - except the Germans, unlike us, can handle their drink. I suppose it goes with the upbringing...no bingeing here - no need for it.
We walk through the pedestrianised streets of this "Black Cat" town (that's their mascot) then back along the river bank watching ducks and swans and their young swim along beside us.
In the town we stop at a cafe and try to order their much-publicised-in-the-window Erdbeer Becher (Strawberry Bowl) only to be told they don't do a Strawberry Bowl - a bit strange considering all the signs.
After five minutes, the embarrassed waitress comes back and says yes they do have a strawberry-bowl?? So we get one each and they are very good - fresh strawberries and ice cream and cream..mmm mmm.
After driving 600km on the trip, we need to fill up with petrol then it's inland again. I'd been wanting to visit Simmern. This is the town where the families in the famous German TV series "Heimat" lived. So we drive there.
But it's not a small village - it's a good sized, fairly modern town. We take a walk round then settle in the main square for a couple of drinks. Here we finally find one very small reference to the series which describes the various locations in the town where scenes from "Heimat" were filmed.
It's still very hot. Children are playing in the fountains. They are falling over because it's slippy. This is simultaneously funny and scary...we don't want to see any cracked heads, but you have to laugh at anyone falling over...
We head back towards the airport and decide to go past it to a place called Morbach. But we never get there because we see a sign for Traben Trarbach and decide to go there instead for one last time.
We park near the river and take a seat on the bank watching the world go by. It's such a peaceful spot - I think I prefer it to Bernkastel because it's smaller...you can just see the seat we sat on on the bank opposite from where this picture was taken
Finally we drive to the airport and go to the Mexican restaurant out in the middle of nowhere. We ate here last time too before we left and I came here back in 2002 with Alan Brodie when it was an American Sports Bar.
The meal, which we eat al fresco, is great despite the attentions of a maurauding fly. Then it's to the Hertz office to hand back the car. We must have driven a good 75 further kilometres since filling up earlier but the dial still points to full....
I hate checking in. It's probably the worst part of air travel and I always pick the wrong queue if there's a choice.
We get through security and partake of one last beer before sitting in the waiting hall. As people with kids (always travel with a child if you want on a plane first!!) head to the gate, one woman has obviously lost it and gets up and almost runs to the gate dragging her poor husband behind her. This sets off a stampede and soon, despite no announcements having been made, the departure point is swarming with people.
We remain in our seats.
Here's a tip. If you want to get to the front of a queue, just walk calmly up to it and start saying "excuse me". It works everytime. Noone ever says "no".
Accordingly, we make our way to the front of the queue and are amongst the first non child accompanying passengers.
The flight passes without incident and we're soon back at Prestwick and on the bus to the car park. I find that I have left the passenger window open for six days. I hope it wasn't raining!!
We drive back to Crispycat Towers in under 75 minutes, and another holiday comes to an end.
Tuesday, June 21, 2005
Today we drive down the river (or south anyway) to Trier passing village after village on the riverbank, all of which are beautiful, picturesque and have some kind of wine fastival either going on or about to be going on. What a place this is...
We arrive in Trier just over an hour after leaving Bernkastel and have a quick walk around, refamiliarising ourselves with the main thoroughfare and the market square surrounded by stunning medieval architecture.
We were here in June 2003 when we stayed in Traben-Trarbach - our friends Jorg and Yvonne drove down from Kassel with their two kids, Xenia and Anselm and we came here by train.
"Like the slightly larger Heidelberg, Trier (population 100,000) has a venerable core. It's even older than Heidelberg's, for this was Augusta Treverorum, 'the Augustus City of the Treveri.'
Established probably in 17 B.C., it was named after the local Treveri, conquered by the Romans. From 286 until the German invasions of the late 4th century, Trier was an imperial capital and the residence of emperors including Constantine.
It also flourished as a wine center after the second century, when the Romans introduced the grape and no longer had to import wine. The local vineyards were celebrated by the poet Ausonius (310-395), whose Latin words were among the last pagan ones to be spoken in this part of the dying empire."
This time we find quite a few places we didn't see last time round. For example the large square in front of the magnificent cathedral - where we have a sit-down and a refreshing bowl of fruit and ice-cream - did I mention it's hot? It's very hot!!
After the ice cream we go in search of the Roman Amphitheatre and stumble across, first of all a huge brickwork Basilica which inside is Spartan to say the least (it's obviously not a Roman Catholic church - no gold, no statues - very bare), then, behind it, the bishops' palace and gardens which are superbly landscaped.
Again we take a much needed seat and watch the ducks playing around in the pond, including one solitary duckling, which appears to be the subject of some kind of custody dispute involving two mother ducks and a father duck...
After the rest we continiue on to the amphitheatre - it's further away than we imagined and, by the time we arrive, we are dripping with sweat due to the blazing sun and total lack of wind...
There's a show happeing in the evenings just now at the amphitheatre and so there is theatrical staging covering most of the ring. Despite this is still easy to imagine the splendour this place must have had when it was more than a ruin.
We walk back to the Bishops' Gardens and sit at the outdoor restaurant overlooking the water and order food and drinks, Apple Juice and a toastie for Anne and Apple Juice and water to drink for me, accompanied by Fried Eggs and Roast Potatoes (yes I know it sounds weird but, for some reason, they couldn't give me a vegetarian toastie). Anne takes my side salad to accompany her ham and cheese toastie....tasty
The duck custody battle continues in front of us - we'll never know the outcome... A quick walk round the shops, without going in, and then back to the car-park. The drive back seems quicker than coming here but it's just psychological I suppose.
Before we get back to Bernkastel we make a stop off and find a shady seat by the river and just sit and watch the boats and the swans glide by....
It's our last night of the holiday so we head back to the flat to shower and change and for another wee rest - did I tell you it's hot? We just sit and read for a while listening to german guitarist Michael Rother and some Miles Davis and enjoy a glass of wine.
Tonight we go to the pizzaria in the main square and the food is delicious. Garlic bread, mozzarella and tomato salad, a veggie calzone pizza for me and german sausage pizza for Anne and, of course, a bottle of Mosel wine.
While we're there, there's a huge thunderstorm outside with the rain bouncing off the streets - despite this, rather strangely, the sun continues to shine. By the time we emerge, the storm is over and the streets are practically dry. It's still hot...
We finish off with a visit to the nearby ice-cream parlour for a bowl of strawberries and vanilla ice-cream with, just for good measure, some cream on top! Then a last stroll by the river before going back up to the flat where we watch Germany draw 2-2 with Argentina.
I can't sleep tonight because it's too hot....
Monday, June 20, 2005
Then we set off in the car for our third visit to a third castle in three days. Today it’s Burg Eltz, which Anne spotted on the internet when researching potential day trips from our base at Bernkastel Kues.
There’s an excellent website here : http://www.burg-eltz.de/
We take the motorway today, rather than the winding road up the riverside, then make our way through the countryside and several small towns and villages on the way.
We park the car and have to walk around half a mile or so to reach the castle – when we do, it’s one of those situations where you turn a corner and all of a sudden it’s there. A quite stunning sight, as the castle sits on a rock in the middle of a small ravine with a river flowing around it.
It’s the one castle in the region which seems never to have been destroyed by anyone, thanks mainly to the craftiness and diplomacy of its owners over the years. In fact it’s still in private hands of one of the three original families who built it.
We opt for the English tour rather than the German one and are joined by a group of American school-children from North Kentucky. They are not the lookers you see on Dawson’s Creek or the OC. They are in the main, very ugly, and look to be the result of some serious in-breeding. The tour is good despite the kids standing around looking vacant and yawning for most of it. Their teachers are interested though…
We have lunch for the third day in a row on a castle esplanade and it is good. Anne opts for brastwurst and chips and I opt for potato salad and ..erm chips - washed down with a nice glass of dry white wine and a shandy respectively.
We take a longer, alternative route back to the car park, walking through the woods. The weather is roasting and the trees give some welcome shade.
On the drive back to Bernkastel we avoid the motorway and head back to the riverside route making a couple of stops on the way. A Coke at Treis-Karden and then on to Cochem, where we’d been on Saturday.
We have a look round the shops and I buy a new hat. Then we take a tour of the town and the surrounding area on a motorised train. The tour provides some excellent views of the castle and the town from the opposite bank of the river. We pass a digital clock/thermometer sign which advises a far-too-hot temperature of 38 degrees celcius!! The ticket to the tour entitles us to a free wine and we get to keep the glasses too – so we can’t complain…
We leave Cochem and take the Autobahn route back to Bernkastel and relax in the flat for a while drinking water to cool down and listen to some Vivaldi String Concertos while Anne reads and I make notes for the blog.
We head back to the Herr Dillinger’s winery for a bottle of his finest and sit out again in his courtyard enjoying the sunshine. An old lady joins us at our table. She appears to be slightly confused in an old lady kind of way, in that she makes the same repeated comments about events in her life, the wine we’re drinking, asking if I am a priest and whether or not she’s paid for her sparkling water (which she did as soon as she ordered it).
Eventually the poor old dear heads off, only to reappear a few minutes later to ask Herr Dillinger whether she paid for her drink or not….
We walk to the building owned by our previous landlord as we want to try the food in the restaurant located between the nightclub in the basement and our erstwhile flat.
Anne goes for the jaegerschnitzel with all the trimmings and I opt for the widely advertised asparagus special. The food’s okay but the best part of mine is the boiled potato side dish.
It is absolutely boiling, even though we are on the verandah, as the sun is belting right into the place where we’re sitting. My head and arms are dripping with sweat – I’m sure Anne enjoyed her meal all the more for that!!
We walk to the shore for a small ice cream to round the meal off and then back to the flat at the end of another enjoyable day…
Sunday, June 19, 2005
Not content with the unrelenting thump thump thump of dance music all night, at 8 am, the lawyer who owns the house commences to play loud piano music which pervades our rooms from above...it’s the last straw.
During an open and interesting discussion, he insists he heard no music last night and that I am the first person ever to complain about noise from the club in the basement (perhaps all previous occupants of the flat have been deaf??)
We decide we will leave – it’s such a shame as it’s a great flat – but the bouncer had told me last night that the club is “only” open till 2am on a Sunday....there are "only" so may sleepless nights I can take – especially since I am supposed to be driving us around during the day...
So I take a reccy into the town looking for another flat while Anne repacks all our stuff. I come back with a few ideas and with some fresh bread rolls so we can at least enjoy breakfast in peace before leaving the flat...
Unbelievably, after we'd briefly discussed with him the possibility that we might leave, I just catch the owner by chance as he’s about to leave for the day on a hunt! He agrees to our leaving and expresses his disappointment that we won’t stay. I tell him that if he told us in the first place there was a noisy club in the basement, we’d never have taken the flat....
He returns 75% of our payment which we’d made in advance. I thought it might be harder, him being a lawyer and all...
After checking out a few places to no avail, we head to the Tourist Information where a very nice lady makes a couple of calls and secures a flat for us up in the town – it has free parking (we’d had to pay the lawyer to use his space) and breakfast is included – and it’s slightly less for the remaining three nights than we got back from the lawyer.
By midday we are in the new flat, unpacked and ready to resume our holiday. The flat has a great living room, a large double bedroom, a kitchen and a shower room – it suits us fine, though no view of the river – but it’s also very quiet!!!
We head back to the river on foot and along to a bike hire place we’d seen the day before but it’s shut on a Sunday so, instead, we catch the bus up to the Castle which overlooks the town and, for the second day running, we lunch in a Castle overlooking a town and the river – it’s not lunch so much as Kaffee und Kuchen though, as I have warm Apple Strudel with Cream and Ice Cream while Anne has a large slice of Apple Cake with Cream – we are both treating our bodies as temples of course....
With this in mind, we walk slowly back down to the town rather than taking the bus back. Once again, it is very, very hot – not a cloud in the sky and around 35 degrees. After a quick stop back at the flat, we walk over the river to Kues in search of an internet café – I have to conclude two deals on e-bay and I want to check for any respose from Tiscali – not surprisingly there is none....
Over the last three days, there’s been a Medieval Festival taking place on the banks of the river so we go along to that and enjoy the strange music and the weirdos dressed in armour and various types of medieval garb...
After a Cherry Beer for me, a White Wine for Anne and sharing a medieval flat-bread with cheese and onion (a small pizza I suppose) we head for the Viking Boat which takes people up and down a stretch of the river for free, as long as you’ve paid to enter the festival that is.
We are in the queue when the boat arrives – but the “sailors” proceed to dismantle the sail – it turns out that that was the last voyage – disappointing since it’s only around 4:40 and we’d been told it would sail till six...
On the way back to the flat, Anne buys a new ring from a silver-smith's shop which seems to be her own front garden. We enjoy some wine at the flat as we watch the end of the Japan v Greece game (1-0 to Japan) then I fall asleep having been awake since the previous morning at Hahn Airport...
A couple of hours later Anne wakes me and we go for dinner to the restaurant next door to our flat, which is owned and run by the same family from whom we are renting.
The food is excellent, Anne settles for Pork Medallions in a cream sauce baked with a cheese and pepper top and I have a vegetable pfane – a kind of risotto dish served up in a small cooking pan – we share the Dauphinoise potatoes. Delicious.
After the meal we take a walk back down to the river – it’s still amazingly warm at 10 at night. On the way back we come across a winery where we can sit outside in the courtyard enjoying our drinks as the sun goes down. It’s too hot for wine though so we choose Apple Juice but will return for some wine. The man who serves us is the owner of the winery....seems he does everything...
Back at the flat and again we catch the last ten minutes of a Confederations Cup game, as Mexico surprisingly defeat Brazil 1-0.
I fall asleep as soon as I hit the sack, happy to be in a quiet room at last...
Saturday, June 18, 2005
It’s a round a two hour drive to Cochem and we arrive at 11:20 – it’s roasting hot, over 30 degrees. We make our first stop at a supermarket type place to get some basic provisions for the flat and I buy a pair of sandals – the Birkenstocks I got recently don’t seem to fit me despite apparently being my size – this is somewhat typical of many things which happen to me (I think anyway...)
After an initial look round the town we head up to the overlooking castle which has an interesting history and you can find out more here : www.burg-cochem.de
The tour of the castle was great, secret passages, tales of monks getting drunk on five litres of wine each everyday (the nuns were only allowed three) etc etc.
The castle was originally built around the year 1,000. 300 years later it was pawned (along with Cochem itself and another 50 or so nearby villages) to the Archbishops of Trier by its owner, King Adolf of Nassau, to pay for his coronation as German Emperor. Neither he nor his descendants could ever afford to get it back.
Then, when Louis XIV’s troops invaded the Rhine and Moselle in 1688 the town was completely occupied and the castle was set alight and blown up on May 19th of 1689.
The castle remained in ruins until 1868, when a Berlin businessman, Louis Ravené, bought the ruins and the surrounding land and began rebuilding it in the then popular Neo-Gothic architectural style.
It was seized by the Nazis from his family in 1942 and then was owned by the state after the war. In 1978 the castle was bought back by the town of Cochem.
After the tour we had lunch on the castle terrace overlooking the town before leaving Cochem and heading down-river to Traben-Trarbach, a little town we stayed in two years ago. We took a break there and enjoyed a drink at the Alte Zunftscheune, a restaurant we’d been to on our previous visit.
We arrived at Bernkastel just before 4 and found the flat. The owner, a lawyer, owned the entire building, letting out a restaurant below the flat. It was brilliant with a huge front room with a breathtaking view over the river, and a pleasantly cool back bedroom. We were introduced to Thiero the dog who lived in the back garden, which we were free to use as we pleased (the garden not the dog...).
We couldn’t have hoped for a better place.
After unpacking, we went out for a wander around the town – we’d discovered it last time on a boat trip from Traben-Trarbach. We stopped off in the main square with its 600 year old statue and fountain and enjoyed a drink at the Rathaus (Town Hall). It was 32 degrees.
We went back to the flat and had the wine and water we’d bought earlier at Cochem then went round the corner to an Indian Restaurant for dinner. The conversation of our four American co-diners was intriguing but I still can’t work out what they were doing in Germany. Three girls, two of whom looked like extras from Happy Days while the third was a dead ringer for the asian girl in Charlie’s Angels, and a guy who looked like he might have been in the army..
Anyway, the food was great and afterwards we walked down to the riverbank and bought some ice-cream.
On the way back into the flat, I noticed a bouncer at the door to the basement of our building.
I didn’t think anything more of it and we went upstairs and watched the end of a game in the FIFA Confederations Cup – all the winners of the various championships plus Germany (hosts of the next World Cup) and Brazil (World Champions) – there’s probably nothing about it in the UK because England aren’t involved...
On switching off the TV we noticed thumping music. As the night wore on, it got louder and louder until it got to the stage where we could hear every note the Crazy Frog was singing...
At 2:30 I went down to discover there was indeed a club in the basement. The bouncer told me it was open till 5 in the morning.
At 5:15, the thumping finally stopped. I’d had no sleep...
Friday, June 17, 2005
Tiscali sent an e-mail to my Tiscali address on 14 May alluding to this - just the one mind you, followed by loads of happy-go-lucky-things–you-can-do-on-broadband type mails – I’d told them they should reach me via my hotmail account.
Of course, they manage to send my bills there and an e-mail this morning, one month into the hacking marathon, to let me know I’d breached my 2GB download limit for the month. It’s just they couldn’t be bothered sending the one vital e-mail, which suggested I’d been hacked, to the address I actually look at. Great.
What makes it even more annoying is that, today, I don’t even have a computer, the hackers are just using the router, which had inadvertently been left switched on after I gave our hardware to Craig on Wednesday for rebuilding. So it stopped at 7:29 this morning when I switched the router off. So I guess those bastards are just going to have to pay for their own access now like the rest of us law-abiding surfers…or find another schmuck like me to use….
And this was all going on in the background while we thought we’d returned the computer to its original pristine state following the balls-up in early May re the great “what’s a firewall again, oh shit” disaster. Just as well there was one final little problem nagging away which we finally decided deserved a complete disk wipe and rebuild…
At lunchtime a package arrives with Ben & Jason's "10 Songs About You" CD. Very tuneful...
Anyway, today we’re off on a short holiday to the Mosel Valley in Germany...here it is...
We are flying from Prestwick (or as Ryan Air refer to it, Glasgow), so first we head to Glasgow and stop off at Byre’s Rd for a quick snack for lunch, a shop (I bought a biography of Miles Davis from FOPP for three squid) and then dinner in a little French restaurant at the end of Ashton Lane.
Then the drive down to Prestwick, which has been made even more quick by the opening of the new M77 Motorway. In the departure lounge I start the Davis book whilst listening to his album “ESP” on the jukebox.
Such is the boredom prevalent in Departure Lounges, I can advise that I saw one man sitting reading the wrapper of a Crunchie which he’d just consumed…
Then, a flight to Alicante’s imminent departure is signalled by the arrival of several people dressed in white tracksuits…
As we take off I realise that, recently, I have become aware that I am afraid of flying. It’s the realisation that, if anything does go wrong, my chances of survival are virtually nil…but I wonder why this has started now after nearly thirty years of air travel..
Despite this I settle in for the two hour flight (in the event a very acceptable 95 minutes) and become lost in the early years of Miles Davis rather privileged life whilst listening now to his “Seven Steps to Heaven” and “Miles In The Sky” albums (I prefer the latter)…
We are in the front row on the right hand side of the plane, opposite the second row on the left hand side. In the front left row a man sits for the entire flight playing what looks like some kind of bagpipe chanter which is plugged into headphones…behind him in the second row, an American woman sits doing needle work…during take off (before being told to cease and desist by the stewardess). I find these two entertaining…
At Hahn Airport (or as Ryan Air refer to it, Frankfurt), we form a team, with Anne waiting at the baggage conveyor belt to collect our bags while I head through the Passport Control and to the Hertz Desk to collect our hire car.
The man there wants my mobile number. Rather than telling him my mobile’s so old it doesn’t even send texts, never mind work abroad, I just say I don’t have one. He takes my home number instead, which I’m sure will come in useful….
A five minute drive and we’re at the hotel – it’s midnight so, rather than driving to the Mosel, we spend the night near the airport. I’ve stayed at this hotel twice before, once with Alan Brodie on our way back from the Documenta Arts Festival in Kassel in August 2002 and once in June 2003 with Anne. So that’s two nights in total, the last over two years ago….pretty weird then that the receptionist recognises me!!
The room is cool, quiet and comfortable and we enjoy a couple of bottles of Bitburger Pils before retiring.
Despite having been up fairly early this morning, I have difficulty in sleeping…
Thursday, June 16, 2005
Wednesday, June 15, 2005
Tuesday, June 14, 2005
Second and third, I met up with Anne and her friend Debbie for dinner and a concert. We went to Rusticana on Hanover Street and shared a bottle of wine, some bruschetta, garlic bread and each partook of a tasty pizza.
Debbie had procured tickets for a concert by the Orchestra of the Scottish Opera in a beautiful old church (St Andrew’s and St George’s) on George St. The first half consisted of pieces for a thirteen-member wind ensemble, of which Anne’s cousin’s husband happened to be one of the clarinet players – Anne’s cousin plays bassoon in the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, so quite the musical couple…
The first piece was the overture from Gilbert and Sullivan’s “Iolanthe” which got things off to a bright start. Then a Concert Waltz by the Russian composer, Glazunov, who once counted Prokofiev amongst his pupils and who fled the Soviet Union to France in 1928.
Gabriel Faure’s “Dolly Mixture” was next – it’s one of those pieces, which you immediately recognise as soon as it starts, but you’d never have guessed it was going to be that just from seeing the title in the programme.
A piece by Mozart written in the year of his death, 1791, followed. This was his “Fantasia For A Mechanical Clock” which was based on the tune played by a mechanical organ, which was situated in a mausoleum.
The first half ended with a stirring and bawdy arrangement of Handel’s “Arrival of the Queen of Sheba”.
At the interval we descended into the Undercroft of the church for a cup of coffee, which was provided free of charge – a nice touch and a welcome refreshment.
When we re-entered the auditorium, the stage had metamorphosised from one containing a smallish wind ensemble into one housing a full string orchestra with timpani.
The first piece of the second half was Sally Beamish’s “The Day Dawn”, originally written solely on the white keys of a piano as an exercise for beginners but revised in 1999 for professional orchestras. For me, this was the highlight of the evening. A quite beautiful piece representing the calm start to the day of a Shetland woman’s daughter’s funeral and the gradual coming out of a week of gloom and doom following the girl’s death.
Sibelius’ “Rakastava” was next up, a three-movement piece concerning lost love, unusual in that the opening and closing movements were slow, sandwiching a fast 2nd movement – which, incidentally, provided the triangle player with his six notes of the evening!
And to close, back to Mozart as the conductor, Sir Richard Armstrong left the stage to listen. This piece is described as being for two small orchestras and timpani. The first small orchestra however, is actually a quartet comprising two violins, viola and double bass and they are accompanied, concerto style by the remainder of the orchestra.
Of all the pieces played tonight, this is the only one of which I have a recording and I am listening to it again as I type.
A superb evening’s entertainment then and all for a measly £5 (with free coffee thrown in!). Apparently, the orchestra performs a season of concerts like this each year from September to June (around four or five in the series) so I’ll be watching out for next years “gigs”.
Driving home we listened to Eno’s album in the car and, when we arrived, the fourth good thing was that there, behind the door, was the latest Madredeus CD, “Faluas do Tejo” which you may recall I bought on e-bay from an Argentinean dealer on the night of their concert at the Usher Hall a couple of weeks ago.
A quick initial listen reveals it to be as good as I expected. You can read my opinion of this Portuguese band back at 28 May.
After tonight, the hunt is on for recordings of the Beamish and Sibelius pieces….
Monday, June 13, 2005
I added some, shall we say "not-great" vocals to the six songs I started recording last night and then, just for good measure, some organ…
The last of my Uriah Heep CDs, “High and Mighty” arrived today from Japan. It’s not their best album by a long chalk but there’s at least 30 minutes of decent stuff on there (if you like Uriah Heep that is), and some of the previously unreleased material is interesting (if you like Uriah Heep that is)…
Ah, a bit of excitement at last as Michael Jackson is cleared of all charges. I said all along he was innocent. However, I doubt if he’ll ever recover from the ordeal of the allegations and trial. One in the eye for the exceedingly smug Martin Bashir though, which has to be a good thing.
Congratulations Mr Jackson, you may be a weirdo but you’re not a child molester…which is good.
It is my sister Pam's birthday today - so happy birthday to Pam!!
Sunday, June 12, 2005
We went to a nearby Garden Centre for breakfast as Anne wanted to get some more plants for the garden. Back home around midday, Anne was outside planting while I was inside surfing and mucking about with some more pictures from the new camera..
Following the Deeperdown EPs (all seven of them) the next Crispycat release will be the CBQ Anthology mentioned here sometime back in March I think. So today I spent some time learning chords and words for around six of the sixteen songs (there are also twelve instrumentals) included on the 2CD set. I don’t recall ever playing these six live before but I should be prepared to – hence the work today.
Then I ran through all sixteen songs then watched an old episode of Dr Who then back upstairs to practise the six "new" songs again. Then I set about recording acoustic versions of them...
"The Dream Has Gone", "I Thought You'd Stay", "Terra Nostra Epilogue", "Baby Please", "The Price You Pay" and "Every Bridge Takes Me Closer to Home".
The rest of the night was spent backing up all the files on the computer to DVD...
The picture below is a collage of the Garden Centre and our own garden (the fish, gnomes and ducks are at the Garden Centre...)
Saturday, June 11, 2005
David Bowie - "Heroes"
Coldplay - The Scientist
Brian Eno - Always Returning
Yes - Awaken
Dido - Here With Me
John Wetton - Battle Lines
Pink Floyd - Comfortably Numb
Fripp & Eno - Evening Star
Alice Cooper - School's Out
King Crimson - Starless
Jellyfish - The King Is Half Undressed
Roxy Music - A Song For Europe
Tangerine Dream - Mysterious Semblance at the Strand of Nightmares
T Rex - Children Of The Revolution
Peter Gabriel - I Grieve
Roger Waters - What God Wants pt III
Roy Harper - When An Old Cricketer Leaves The Crease
UK - Thirty Years
Uriah Heep - Stealin'
Cockney Rebel - Tumbling Down
Rush - The Spirit Of Radio
Procol Harum - A Whiter Shade Of Pale
Michael Rother - Sonnenrad
New Order - Regret
Craig Armstrong/Evan Dando - Wake Up In New York
Soft Cell - Say Hello Wave Goodbye
Dar Williams - February
David Sylvian - Before The Bullfight
Pet Shop Boys - Shameless
Lou Reed - Sad Song
Simple Minds - The American
The Blue Nile - Let's Go Out Tonight
Moby - Porcelain
Jane Siberry - Love Is Everything
Electric Light Orchestra - One Summer Dream
Alice Peacock - Some Things Get Lost
The Cure - The Figurehead
Neil Young - Cortez The Killer
Rainbow - Stargazer
Joy Division - Decades
We listened to disc three in the car as we went to Patisserie Florentin for breakfast just after nine. As usual, this made for an excellent and relaxing start to the day.
Then I dropped Anne uptown as she had a few bits and pieces she wanted to get. I was going to drive home to start preparing to download everything off the hard drive to DVDs in preparation for the Big Wipe, which will happen next week, when I remembered that I'd wanted to go and have a look at Digital Cameras in Jessops....and so I did.
Despite the salesman's best attempts to dissuade me, I went for a completely basic £25 job (Praktica SlimPix) which doesn't even have a viewing screen. It's all I need at the moment....
I met Anne outside HMV where I'd nipped in and bought a 2CD set of Grant Green's complete quartets on Blue Note, recorded over December and January 1961/62.
Then back home and started mucking about with the camera with Mr Green playing in the background. Results posted below.
In the afternoon we'd been invited to a barbecue at my friend Lorna's house up in Morningside. A couple of beers and a couple of Diet Cokes......that's what I should've had to drink but no.....I had to quaff copious amounts of Red Wine and then top that off with several very large portions of Gin and Tonic/Bitter Lemon /Anything Else That Was Left......
Consequently, I don’t remember much of the later stages of the party (e.g. me playing football with several small children – despite my sore leg, which appears to have been anaesthetised by the alchohol), or of Anne driving us home.
I do remember watching Dr Who (another Dalek episode, the first of a two-parter), then fell asleep and broke my sunglasses when Anne woke me up for CSI:New York and Law & Order:Criminal Intent….
So kids…don’t drink…you know it makes sense
Friday, June 10, 2005
Bad news today too re the computer. Internet Explorer has been goosed by something called optimiser.exe. There’s no trace of this or any other spyware now on the hard drive but the damage has been done….so I’m afraid it’s time to completely wipe and reformat the hard-drive.
I suppose when the system was so badly infiltrated after going broadband, I always new there’d be a chance it’d come to this.
So this weekend I will be mostly backing up files....
On a more upbeat note, I got the new Coldplay album today and it’s very good indeed but I can’t put my finger on exactly why that is. Most of the songs stick to the usual Coldplay quiet-loud-falsetto-vocal-bit-anthemic-chord-sequence formula – so maybe that’s a formula that I like?
It seems so.
Their drummer appears to write specific parts to play on each song and has a very distinctive style, while the bass player’s lines are, to say the least, rather simplistic, mostly sticking to the root notes of each chord – a bit like the easiest job in rock – being Adam Clayton of U2.
I also picked up remasters of two Emerson Lake and Palmer CDs, “Brain Salad Surgery” from 1973 and the, at one time, triple LP set (now 2CD set) “Welcome Back My Friends…” recorded on the world tour which followed the release of “Brain Salad Surgery”.
It’s hard to believe that this music once regularly sat at the top of the charts on both sides of the Atlantic – music which challenges the mind just to keep up with what’s going on. These two releases represent ELP at their peak and I’d certainly recommend “Brain Salad Surgery” if you were just going to try one of their albums. A classic.
My copy of "Uriah Heep Live" arrived from e-bay today. It's a great live album, up there with Deep Purple's "Made In Japan".....
Today, Norman Lamont from the Out of the Bedroom committee e-mailed me a questionnaire which, along with my answers, will shortly sit for posterity on the OOTB website. I had to answer eight questions which I was allowed to pick from twelve or thirteen possibles. One was “Your favourite song(s) of all time ?”
Of course as soon as I’d mailed back my answers more songs popped into my head but these are the ones I chose….
David Bowie – “Heroes”
Coldplay – The Scientist
Brian Eno – On Some Faraway Beach
Yes – Awaken
Dido – Here With Me
John Wetton – Battle Lines
Pink Floyd – Comfortably Numb
Fripp & Eno – Evening Star
Alice Cooper – School’s Out
King Crimson – Starless
…I then proceeded to burn them to a disc and am listening to it now…tasty!
Thursday, June 09, 2005
I dropped Anne off in town where she was meeting up with Lynn for a few drinks and to, no doubt, set the world to rights. Then I made my way back to the local private school where the MBFives play their football, indoors and out.
What an error of judgement to have applied to play football with the guys for a second night in a row!
This time it was outdoors.
I had convinced myself that, following my performances over the last two appearances in the Wednesday night indoor game, I was ready to return to the outdoors fray.
But I’d forgotten how much I don’t enjoy the outdoors game. It’s too “bitty”, the pitch is too big, the ball is just too heavy and hard (especially with my ongoing toe problem).
To add to all this, after last night’s game I was experiencing considerable amounts of pain in both my legs in the thigh and knee areas.
As you might imagine, my performance can only be described as pathetic. Much of it spent in goal, occasional forays upfront and hopeless attempts at chasing back. My team quickly went 5-0 down but, in a spirited comeback, managed to claw our way to 5-4 only to end up losing by something like 11-6 (no-one ever keeps the scores properly in these games, goals being lost or added almost everytime someone shouts out their opinion on the up to date tally).
Our team’s finishing was particularly dire and our awareness of team-mates in clear goal scoring positions as we thundered another hopeless shot wide, seemed utterly non-existent.
To add to the misery, no one seemed to have any idea of the time and so we rumbled on for an hour and twenty minutes…
I headed back home for a shower and a quick change and then drove back uptown to the Arcade Bar in Cockburn Street (where I played a few gigs in late 2003, including the famous ”25 Years in 63 Minutes” set. How I ever imagined anyone would be interested in hearing songs I wrote in the early eighties, played badly with just one acoustic guitar, I’ll never know).
Anyway, tonight at the Arcade, there was a comedy evening, at which my good old chum Mr Jim Park was doing a short set.
It was a small but appreciative audience with a few tourists/migrant workers amongst us and we soon warmed to the host who had some good stories to tell related to his job on the complaints desk at the BBC in Glasgow.
Jim was first on and, although seeming a bit nervous, put in a good show and his slot was over before we even noticed – I’d have liked to have seem him do a bit longer as the other comics were getting ten or fifteen minutes, but I suppose he’s still on the bottom rung of the comedy ladder.
I especially enjoyed Jim’s piece on his stint as a “carer” in an old folks’ home where he organised a building wide game of snakes and ladders using Stena Stairlifts as ladders and refuse chutes as snakes. After a couple of fatalities he was sacked….
I picked Anne and Lynn up around midnight and we headed home – I was entertained but sore…
Wednesday, June 08, 2005
After a few seconds, I could see it wasn’t dead as its little heart was still beating in its chest. I quickly grabbed a piece of paper towel from the kitchen, picked the bird up and headed out into the back garden looking for somewhere to put it, realising I might have to put it out of its misery.
Then it started to come back to life and sat in my hand, blinking and looking around with its wee beak opening and shutting. I made my way out into the street but couldn’t find anywhere to put it where it might not be found by another cat.
I went back into the garden and Anne suggested I take it to the nearby college grounds. I went back out and along to the fence but it seemed too high a drop for the tiny bird if I were to toss it over the fence.
A neighbour’s wall opposite the college fence was around six or so feet tall and had some foliage growing on its top surface. By this time the bird had flapped its left wing a couple of times but seemed unable to open the right wing. I laid it gently on top of the wall and it was now standing upright on top of the leaves there. As I made my way back to our garden, a little yellow and blue bird flew over my head and made off into the distance.
I hoped this wasn’t just coincidence and that it was the same bird I’d saved from Meg the Evil Black Cat. Tonight I checked the wall and there was no sign of the bird so I’ve convinced myself it had recovered and flown off…..
Tonight I played fives again – I forgot to mention that last Thursday I made a return visit to the podiatrist for more work on my toe. I’ll probably need to have it “seen to” now every eight weeks or so ongoing, as I’m too squeamish to get the surgery and I’m not convinced it’ll work. Plus I have a good laugh with the podiatrist…
Anyway, I wasn’t quite as good as last week – I was fairly pathetic in goals although I made a few saves to start with. Goals-wise we were 4-1 up but went from there to 10-5 down. Final score was 11-7. I think I scored four of our goals, one of which included some pre goal jinky dribbling which brought out a high five from one of the younger members of our team. Having said that, I did miss a number of one-on-one scenarios with the opposing goalie.
Jim Park was in my team and he advises he’s playing a comedy gig tomorrow night in Cockburn Street at 9:30 so I may go along to that. Anne and I are also off to see the Scottish Opera Orchestra play at a church in George St next week where they’ll be performing, amongst others, Mozart and Sibelius….
I finished off the day surfing e-bay looking for a digital camera, inspired by an e-mail from Stu Cobley to which were attached some photos he took on Monday (see below) – of course his camera cost over £1,000 and I was looking for anything under £25 so the quality might not be as good…in the end I gave up.
I’ve now transferred all the number one singles onto one DVD – Gary’s discs must just be normal CDs. Total time is 57 hours. The history of British Popular Music from 1960 – 2004 on one disc…
Finally, my new Creative speakers arrived today, what quick service, and they’re brilliant - a great clear sound with plenty of bass – and they’re tiny…and cool!!
Tuesday, June 07, 2005
Of course I bought them on e-bay, saving around £10 on the real price – I’m also looking for my third manual shredder in as many weeks after procuring one for us, one for Anne’s sister, Jane and now the search is on for one for Anne’s mum.
You may remember Gary the non-karaoking man from a few weeks back. Yesterday he loaned me another set of DVDs he’s got from his brother. They contain every number one hit single from 1960 to mid 2004 (in fact all No 1’s bar the last 35 and he has more discs covering the 50’s which he’s promised me).
So, tonight, apart from watching CSI Las Vegas, I’ve been listening to nothing but number one singles – and discovering that quite a few I hated at the time, I now find quite acceptable – as I write I'm listening to Lt Pigeon’s classic “Mouldy Old Dough”, followed by Gilbert O’Sullivan’s “Claire”.
You can’t hide class I suppose….
I also tonight downloaded for free, the rare Brian Eno soundtrack to the Derek Jarman film, "Glitterbug" and three mystery tracks by Yes' Jon Anderson which it's rumoured he recorded for the Lord of the Rings trilogy. I already have a version of "Glitterbug" which I transferred from the soundtrack of the video quite a few years back - turns out the downloaded version is exactly the same apart from the opening track which i've never heard beofre and which wasn't in the version of the film which I saw....
Monday, June 06, 2005
A reality check regarding the possibility of good weather in this region actually coinciding with our arrival, put paid to this plan, and so I redirected my attention to the Italian lakes – flying to Milan (well, Bergamo actually).
The search goes on….
The boys from Creek came round to Crispycat tonight – Craig had put together three new backing tracks for us to work on and, while he retired to the computer room to try and sort out the last of our problems there, Stu and I fired up the machines and got Creeking with some decent results.
It should be noted for posterity that Craig's moby packed in, involuntarily, at around 21:04 - he was distracted for the rest of the evening by this turn of events and our thoughts are with him at this difficult time....
Count Brodski could not make it but may add overdubs at a later date…and so it was that the 10th Anniversary 2007 Creek album got underway…
After we shut down for the night, with Stu having taken some fairly revealing behind the scenes photos and some portraits of a rather startled looking Meg The Black Cat, I retired to e-bay and secured the last remaining 1970-76 era Uriah Heep CD to complete the set of newly-remastered-with-extra-tracks discs…
The country can rest easy.
Sunday, June 05, 2005
Today’s session broke down after two hours but we did manage to get good recordings from scratch of one track we’ve been working on for the last three weeks and a new intro recording for “Back On The Good Earth” before we called it a day.
Back home, Anne and I start the search for a new holiday destination for later this year. We had a great time last year in the French Pyrenees and so we’re looking to France again but getting the right deal takes a lot of research. Booking holidays is one of Anne’s fortes, along with gardening and cooking.
We went Anne’s mum’s for the fortnightly Family Tea. I managed to make my nephew, Ollie, cry by putting him head first into the washing machine – it wasn’t switched on or anything and he was laughing and enjoying it until I told him to stay there while I fetched his mum to see – by the time we got back he was bawling his head off. Hmm, kids – a mystery to me….
Watched a bit of telly tonight – Corrie, the new David Attenborough show re British Landscapes which have inspired artists (Lake District this week0, a new “Have I Got News For You” type comedy show, “Mock the Week” which was piss-poor but it was only the first episode so we’ll see.
Then a documentary on the McLibel people – whom McDonalds sued for libel in a two year long court case costing $10,000,000. McDonalds won and were awarded £40,000 (reduced from the original £60,000 on appeal) of which they still haven’t received a penny.
The pair also took the UK government to the European Court arguing that as Libel was the only offence for which Legal Aid is not available, the Government was in breach of European Law. The McLibel Pair won that case.
What a heroic duo I thought as I sat and watched.
After one last look at e-bay I went to bed at 1 am.
Saturday, June 04, 2005
We took a wander into Stockbridge where I indulged my obsessive compulsive disorder by once again trawling the shelves of discarded CDs at the Oxfam Music shop while Anne took a more cosmopolitan view of the verb “to shop”.
For a mere £2.99, I acquired The Palladin Ensemble’s release “An Excess Of Pleasure” which, according to their website, but I personally can’t remember, was Gramophone "Critic's Choice" of 1993 and won the Diapson D'or award that year after being released to unanimous praise. It featured in the UK classical charts throughout 1993.
So it’s quite a good record….it features music written by a variety of composers during the 17th Century and the ensemble is a four-piece band featuring one of my favourite instruments, the viol da gamba.
Then it was down to Leith and the Ocean Terminal Mall. We’ve been here a few times recently, mostly to go to the cinema but today we were here to shop. As you might expect however, I got caught up in HMV for an hour or so and after much deliberation finally emerged for a quick stroll round the rest of the centre with a copy of “The Best of The Shangri Las” and the new remix CD single of Yes’ 1983 hit, “Owner of a Lonely Heart”.
Anne had had a good time shopping for clothes and made a couple of purchases, one from a designer shop called “Jane Norman” which had a delightful sideline in fluorescent green bags. The skirt contained therein certainly passed the test of loveliness in my book.
I had been swithering in HMV whether to partake of their cunning marketing campaign encouraging innocent classical music lovers to buy 5 Naxos CDs for £20. Seeing as how Anne had spent as fortune on new clothes and, thus far I’d parted with £9.97, I decided it would be only right for me to even up the score a little (despite the fact that I have been shelling out willy-nilly on e-bay recently). So I returned to HMV and bought five Naxos CDs….but I chose carefully, looking for items which interested me in particular.
The first was a disc of three violin concertos composed by Joseph Boulogne Chevalier de Saint-Georges (1739-1799). I was surprised to see a coloured 18th Century composer and this sparked my curiosity. His is an interesting story indeed and you can read it here (http://www.naxos.com/mainsite/default.asp?pn=Composers&char=S&ComposerID=1843) - I think it’d make a good film…
The second was a disc of Piano Concertos by Giovanni Paisiello (1740-1816) whom I’d not heard of before but, apparently, he was among the most important composers of Italian opera in the later 18th century. Again, if you’re interested, you can find his biography under “P” on the Naxos site (http://www.naxos.com/)
The third disc was one of Naxos’ latest, “Spem in alium“ by Thomas Tallis (1505-1585). I’m pretty sure a version of this was included in the recent disc I bought of music by Tallis and John Sheppard. The disc included a free compilation of Early Music from the Naxos catalogue.
I love the oboe and so for my fourth choice, I couldn’t resist a disc of oboe trios by Beethoven (1770-1827) and his contemporary, Anton Wranitsky (1761-1820).
And last but not least a disc of 20th Century music by the American composer, Michael Daugherty (1954-) who’s written pieces with titles such as “Hell¹s Angels”, “Spaghetti Western”, “Time Machine”, “Jackie O”, “Bizarro”, “Motown Metal”, and “Niagara Falls”. I must admit this was another composer I’d not heard of but the disc is quite stunning and features the excellent percussion of Evelyn Glennie in one of the pieces, a suite entitled “UFO”.
So all these discs are recommended by CBQ.
We drove to The Shore looking for lunch and ended up at the small but interesting Leith Market where we bought some French grey bread and some olives (which I don’t like but Anne loves). At a nearby deli I picked up some egg, cheese and salsa to eat with my share of the bread and then we headed home, stopping off at Sainsbury’s for Anne to get some Goat’s Cheese to accompany her olives.
It had been a bit changeable weather wise but sunglasses had been used at the market. By the time we reached home however, a downpour had started and we were glad to be back inside where we relaxed with our “home-made” lunch listening to the Saint-Georges disc.
The rest of the day was spent buggering about on the computer, mainly transferring all my recent purchases to the jukebox (and another Uriah Heep disc secured on e-bay) interspersed with bouts of guitar playing and telly watching – Dr Who (looks like another Dalek episode is coming up next week – it’s been a great series); CSI New York; Law & Order Criminal Intent and the highlights of Scotland’s glorious 2-0 trouncing of the mighty Moldova.
Then an early night for me at 12:30 am…
What a good day!
Friday, June 03, 2005
Phil (Dr Prog) is just back from a well-earned break spent with his wife, Jacquie, near a lake somewhere in Europe. Rather embarrassingly (but not as embarrassing as my underpanted attire) he cannot recall the name of the lake (they flew to Geneva if that’s any help, but no, it wasn’t Lake Geneva…). A good time was had by all though – no TV, no computer, just relaxation, walking, sun and the lake. Great.
Phil was here to collect our old computer screen which we’re giving him in exchange for a to-be-arranged slap up feed round at his and Jacquie’s. His own screen has died the death of a thousand screens and now sits motionless (and light-less) in the middle of his living-room floor, no doubt being kicked at regular intervals...
Whilst I help Phil out to his car with the screen, now dressed in T-Shirt, underpants and a fine pair of black Chelsea Boots (hey – it was raining or I would’ve worn my slippers), a strange man has arrived at the front door and is invited in by Anne to carry out a survey on our newspaper reading habits.
Whilst he taps on his laptop and asks Anne questions which she responds to on a keypad, I continue to wander around in my pants, spouting “we don’t read the papers” to which Anne’s response was “I do”. Then I remembered she gets the Edinburgh Evening News every day. The man is unphased by the presence of middle aged man wandering around in his pants....
I retreat to the kitchen with the phone and order an Indian Takeaway to be delivered and then head upstairs to the computer, leaving Anne to it with her survey. I’m surfing for more CDs on e-bay but find nothing. I go back downstairs when the Indian arrives and we watch Eastie. Then a gardening show comes on – this is Anne’s passion but it holds no huge interest for me and so I head back upstairs.
I am facing a lack of storage for the ever increasing pile of CDs I’m buying and burning and so, while I was up in the attic getting the screen for Phil I brought down, in rather a dangerous fashion, an old blue Ikea CD unit which takes around 120 or so CDs.
This should give me some breathing space – and there’s another one up there, though it's a rather unappealing yellow and there's probably no more space for it in the "music room". I fill the blue one with some classical discs freeing up some space in the main “CD Wall” for more recent purchases.
Then it's back down for a cup of tea and to watch, “The Karen Dunbar Show” - funnier than I’ve seen her for a while, especially the strange cabaret duo rehearsing Kelisha’s “Milkshake” song in their converted transit in a Motorway service station.
A repeat of “Grumpy Old Men” has them discussing the nanny state. I too am a grumpy old man and of course agree with almost every sentiment expressed. The nanny state doesn’t want to help you, it just wants to appear to help you whilst really just stopping you from being an individual. “Fuck Off”, as one of the aging contributors put it, quite succinctly I thought….
Then “Have I Got News For You” hosted by Des Lynam who, at one point alluded to having slept with the Queen in 1987??? A good jibe at that arse Geldof too, pointing out re his call to schoolkids to play truant to come to Edinburgh to protest about G8 (which is happening about bloody 50 miles from Edinburgh – why don’t they just have video conferencing and give all the money saved on security etc to Africa??)..anyway Geldof said “what’s more important? Two days of Geometry or doing something you’ll remember for the rest of your life?” – he maybe doesn’t realise no-one actually sits doing geometry all day at school – maybe 40 minutes of geometry then some French, some history etc etc.
Perhaps if Bob spent a bit more time in Africa ensuring that the billions of aid which is sent there year in, year out by governments and ordinary citizens donating to charity actually made it to the people who need it, rather than being siphoned off by admin and dictators and despots, we wouldn’t have to suffer his stupid pop concerts and the ridiculous pish he continues to mouth off at any opportunity (despite always wanting us not to forget he’s a “musician and artist” and not a charity guru).
Finally, “Tonight with Jonathon Ross”. Fern Britten was no great shakes but proved a sexual foil to JR’s more outrageous comments. Motley Crue were hilarious and amazingly enough, even managed to get a member of the audience to bear her breasts to the camera! Quite extraordinary…while Jane Fonda was stateswomanlike, discussing her autobiography.
Live music from Coldplay who performed their single, then a track from their last album and, finally, one from the new album, out Monday. For the record, I think they are very good indeed. Chris Martin managed to fit in impersonations into two of the three songs, of the Crazy Frog, who beat them to the number one single slot this week…
And now I’m back upstairs writing up the blog and it’s 2:15. I noticed Norman Lamont (a local song-writer who shares my birthday) has added my blog to his as a link – so I’ve now added the blogs I read regularly, Norman's, Jim Park’s, Impossible Songs’ and Richard Herring’s, to my links. I encourage you to check them out.
As I type, I’m listening to another Medeski Martin & Wood CD, “Notes From The Underground” which arrived today via e-bay and the Talk Talk CD I received earlier this week – all great stuff….
Thursday, June 02, 2005
My set consisted of three quite downbeat songs, in my mind, true Cloudland Blue material. “The Beauty of a Foreign Land” is one I wrote around this time last year during the rehearsals for the two full band gigs of 2004 at which it was slotted in as a closing solo performance from me after much loud stuff with backing tracks interspersed with some crazy Creek electronica (now available of course on the Creek album “Somewhere Between”).
In fact if I remember correctly, I ended up not playing it at our gig at The French Institute on 21 June as the night was over-running so badly that we, as the last act of the evening, ended up starting our set quite a bit after we ought to have finished and been on our way home. It was one of those executive decisions you make as leader of your own band, just to not play a song and end the set early. Those two gigs were two of my favourite ever performances, it was great to be in a six piece group playing loud music through a big PA.
Anyway, back to last night, and my second song was “Still We Doubt You” which is track 3 on the 1st “Deeperdown” EP. I wrote this as a reverse protest song when all the other earnest young writers at Out of the Bedroom were getting their knickers in a twist about the Iraq war and writing songs from the perspective of people serving in Iraq – pretty ironic considering they’re living in snug little Edinburgh without a cat’s chance in hell of ever coming face to face with conflict, the closest they’ll get is perhaps smashing McDonalds’ window during the Geldof-inspired mass march against the G8 summit next month. Ironically, I played this at the “Songs For Change” concert on the night of the US elections last November – slotted in amongst many of just such earnest young (and not so young) hippies.
Of course I was against the war in Iraq the same as they were, as it was plainly illegal – what I’m railing against here is the mediocrity of the songwriting it inspired….very little irony involved from what I heard…and when it came down to it, the soldiers they were singing about were, in the main, professionals doing the job they’re paid to do. Hmm, controversial spouting from CBQ….
Lastly, I played “Where Are You” which was probably one of the last songs I’ve written and I’ve only ever played it once before. This is likely to be the closing song on the album. Like most of my songs, when I was writing it I had no clear idea what it was about, but in singing and recording it, I’ve come to think of it as being sung by someone who’s long term partner has left them, perhaps even died. It is a very sad song.
A recent e-mail from an old friend now living in France to whom I recently sent the free “Calling Card” 80 minute CD Sampler (plug, plug) commented on the sadness of my material…in comparison to the mainly happy go lucky nature of this blog….and I must agree with her. I am fairly happy go lucky, but when I write a song, it’s uncanny how I always veer down a depressing path. I can’t remember actually writing a happy song. Many of my, ahem..”upbeat” numbers are undermined by a seriously downbeat sting in the lyrical tale – a good recent example being “The Crocodile Song”.
My set went down well and I was personally much happier with it than the previous two – I was more relaxed and calm tonight. A fellow performer who was a first-timer tonight at OOTB, Debbie, made appoint of telling me how much she enjoyed my set and indeed bought a couple of CDs. It’s these moments that make it worthwhile. And Debbie’s one song “squashee” set was pretty impressive too – she told me she’s just back from living in America for three years and is looking to get into the open-mic scene in Edinburgh. She should have no trouble judging by her performance tonight.
It was a particularly strong group of players tonight and I can reel off some names which will probably mean nothing to you unless you live in Edinburgh and/or frequent the songwriter scene here…Hannah O’Reilly, Dave MacGruar, Tommy Mackay, the very impressive Lisa Paton (who, along with Iona Marshall performs as SoulAlba), William Douglas, Lindsay West and even our very own Mr James Jamieson turned up at 10:30 and slotted in a rendering of “Fairytales”. There were also a couple of people I’d not seen before but there was no-one who played who I wouldn’t have wanted to hear again.
All in all I think, though technically less proficient than most (e.g. I can’t finger-pick), I held my own amongst this very strong field.
An enjoyable night.
Back home I drifted off to sleep listening to “Tonic”, a live CD by Medeski Martin & Wood” which arrived today, another result of my recent flurry of bidding on e-bay…
Wednesday, June 01, 2005
After the game I gave the Comedian, Jim Park, a lift home – he’s been doing quite a few gigs recently and has more lined up before presenting his own show at the Edinburgh fringe in August. Check his site at www.toecurler.com.
Outside his flat we have a conversation about the work going on at his building at present. He’s not noticed before but the portaloo which sits right outside his gate, is on hire from a Mr Pugh. Oh how we laughed (or chuckled, anyway…)
Today three CDs arrived from my recent forays onto e-bay, The Tubes’ 1977 album “Now”, a CD (“From Time To Time”) of demos and out-takes from Uriah Heep’s erstwhile keyboard player Ken Hensley and a disc of Talk Talk rarities “Missing Pieces” recorded for their last album “Laughing Stock” from 1991. The first is great, the third is good and the second is, I'm afraid, merely ok and unlikely to be listened to again after today...so it goes.
Tomorrow I’m hoping to play my third set in recent weeks at Out of the Bedroom.. I’ll play “Where Are You” the lead track from the seventh and final “Deeperdown” EP and “Still We Doubt You” and “The Beauty Of A Foreign Land” the two second tracks from Deeperdown which featured on the first and second EPs – if you follow me….Of course I’ve not rehearsed them…
Jamie’s going to try for another squashee slot as he won’t get there till later on, as his wife, Suzy, is off to Prague first thing Friday and he’ll need to look after their kids, Madison and Conrad, while she gets packed etc.
He’s been writing some new songs and sales of his album have been good so I hope he can make it along to entertain the masses – heaven knows they’ll need it after CBQ’s three dirges (ha ha)….