The Phonetic Alphabet - sorted at last!

I have been fascinated by the TED talks ever since I saw my first one some years ago. Typically for me I felt an irrational desire to be on that stage, showing the assembled audience my amazing idea. Without an actual amazing idea though, I wasn’t likely to do this.

Until now.

Of all the world’s serious problems surely one of the biggest is the Phonetic Alphabet. What? Not a problem? Well of course it is. For a start there are two phonetic alphabets. That can be confusing enough but hen factor in the problems with explaining either one to a four year old. “What does Alpha mean?” “What is a Foxtrot?” “Why do they say Sierra?”

So, to combat this problem I have created the (admittedly Cruttenden family-centric) phonetic alphabet. My gift to you.



























Now, where’s the number for TED?



Many years ago I ordered a guitar from Mark Warr. It took a year to build and it arrived around the same time as my daughter, so I named it after her.
This instrument is a touch guitar and is designed to be played by tapping the strings against the fretboard, although you can play it in any style you like. I had previously owned a Chapman Stick, which is a purely tapping instrument and turned out not to be right for me. I didn’t like only being able to tap and, over time, I realised I did not like the tone.
The Warr Guitar is a wonderful, beautifully built, gorgeous sounding instrument, even when it isn’t amplified. But there was a problem. Not having anyone to teach me the instrument I felt my way and developed plenty of (probably) bad habits. I recorded it for bass and lead parts on my Spingere project and played soundscapes in front of audiences before Eclipse trio gigs. I even recorded the bass line for a country song on it.
The one thing I had never done was to play it, full volume, with a drummer in a band situation. At least, I hadn’t done that until last week.
The Band With No Name (soon to be revealed) tried out some new material and I felt this might be the place to let the Warr Guitar loose. I began with my back to everyone and the more comfortable I felt the more I turned around.
It wasn’t perfect. Getting consistent volume took a while and, as I was alternating between by bass and the Warr (both are tuned in different intervals) there were a few brown notes. But, overall, I was pleased with the sound and no one asked me to put it away and pick the bass back up.
The next step is to gig with it.



Thank goodness for the i newpaper and its five clue cryptic crossword.

I'm learning to solve cryptic crossword clues as part of my 50 at 50 list. I've tried before and got nowherr. I read Colin Dexter's book and got a tiny bit further. Now I can attempt these small but fiendish puzzles and feel seriously good when I get three out of five right.

Sometimes I don't understand the answer even when I have it in front of me. But I'm getting better and enjoying the difficulty. Time to read Mr Dexter's book again.



Just in case you're one of those people who follow my 365 project on Flickr, you may like to know I've worked out what the bug is that was causing photographs to appear many times over. It's all fixed now and can be seen here.

You may like to play the game of 'guess which days Will totally ran out of time and/or inspiration'.



Warning: this post contains ‘parent feeling proud about child’ content.

When my daughter was a few months old we started taking her to a ‘babies go swimming’ class. The idea was to get her to be comfortable in the water and eventually learn to swim. It half worked. Freya loved being in the water and especially loved diving in. We would go every Saturday morning and follow it up with a trip to Borders. [pauses to remember Borders].

In all the time we did this she got happier and happier being in the water and better and better at diving in. What she never did was learn to swim. I used to joke that she would make the most tragic Olympic diver; executing a perfect dive and then drowning.

Years went by and nothing much changed. I tried to teach her but got nowhere. We hired a swimming coach and she made a tiny bit of progress. She made a fine job of swimming underwater but not that all important, lifesaving, swimming on the surface. On holidays in Wales we’d be in the sea every day, sometimes twice a day, but she never moved on.

Learning to swim isn’t the most vital thing in the world. We live a long way from the sea and tend not to go boating. It frustrated me though that she loved the water so much and at seven years old was still unable to do the thing that would make her love of water make more sense.

On Sunday we went to a pool in Oxford and I decided to give her one more try myself. I nagged and cajoled and, just about to give up, asked her to try one more time with the technique the swim coach had suggested. She gave up after four strokes and then so did I.

Then she swam across the width of the pool. I couldn’t believe it. I told her I was very proud of her and praised her effort then I shut up and waited. She did it again. And then again and again. We’d been in the water for a while at this point so I suggested getting out for a snack. No, she said, I want to swim more. She kept going and going. Twelve widths before getting tired.

Of course, this isn’t really a ‘isn’t my child great’ post. She’s seven and most of her contemporaries picked up swimming a long time ago. Part of the reason things took so long is because she has a lazy and stubborn streak in her, just like me. That said, I’m still delighted to see her enjoying something so positive.


50 at 50 - at last

Since I turned 50 in March I have been trying to complete a list of fifty new things I could do this year. Finally, after a lot of procrastination, I have a workable list. These are a mix of things I really want to do, things other people would like me to do and things I'm going to do just to get further out from that pesky comfort zone. Quite a few ideas came from my fabulous daughter, Freya, who would not let me swap No. 25 for 'learning to make things from loom bands.' Thank you Freya.
1. Spend a day with J
2. Spend a day with Jude
3. Spend a day with Freya
4. Watch all six Star Wars Film in a day
5. Play an entire gig with the upright bass
6. Write some cheerful music
7. Finish reading Dante's Divine Comedy
8. Finish reading Milton's Paradise Lost
9. Release a book of poems
10. Learn a formal dance
11. Learn more of another language
12. Take some street photography
13. Try snowboarding
14. Sort out my awful posture
15. Make a short film
16. Play tag somewhere unusual
17. Learn to use a sewing machine
18. Improve my music reading skills
19. Learn to cook some new dishes.
20. Climb a tree.
21. Fix my dodgy tooth
22. Go drunken knitting
23. Apply for the LRPS (distinction with the Royal Photographic Society).
24. Read a self help book all the way through.
25. Go on a rollercoaster.
26. Try Archery.
27. Visit friends more.
28. Extract my own DNA.
29. Meet a tardigrade.
30. Eat more fruit.
31. Don't get a vasectomy.
32. E publish my two finished novels on Kindle.
33. Go to a new Oxford venue.
34. Send some poems to Poetry Magazine and The New Yorker.
35. Learn to recite a favourite poem.
36. Start a magazine (probably on Flipbook)
37. Start a picture of the week on Tumblr
38. Sing O Solitude all the way through in Andreas Scholl's key.
39. Be a forensic scientist for an hour (with Freya).
40. Have a pillow fight.
41. Finish preparing my poetry course.
42. Make an album with [The band with no name whose name is soon to be revealed].
43. Make another album with The Eclipse Trio.
44. Go to a play I haven't seen before.
45. Go to an opera I haven't seen before.
46. Go to an exhibition of paintings or photographs I haven't seen before.
47. Go see Les Miserables (Noooooo!).
48. Improve my chess skills.
49. Complete a cryptic crossword.
50. Do more.

[Update: I will be scoring through items on the list as I do them]


34 Strings

Russ, the guitarist and songwriter in the Eclipse trio has written a full-on Country song. It has everything except references to cars and an unfortunate dog. Russ recently visited Nashville and was inspired to write the song to see if any of the big names in country music might want to record it. This is obviously a long shot, but in a spirit of ‘if you don’t try you don’t get anywhere’ Russ pulled together a makeshift band to record a demo.

When I arrived it was clear that a song like this wouldn’t work well with fretless bass, which is what I play most of the time. Both my fretted basses were in storage so I used the only fretted instrument I had to hand – an eight string Warr Guitar (or touch guitar) tuned in fifths, like a cello. This turned out to be a good choice. Mark Warr’s instruments have an incredible bottom end (and top end) tone and being tuned in a way that a normal bass isn’t meant I wasn’t as tempted to play the usual root/fifth country cliché bass line.

Our drummer was Russ’s son, currently doing great things in his band Port Isla. We were later joined by Richard from my band who laid down some sizzling electric guitar lines. Russ overdubbed a twelve string on top of his six string, put a vocal on and we were done.

It’s a good, catchy song and I hope someone picks it up. Either way, this was another new musical experience.