17.4.14

Some progress to report.

Last week I sat down with my great pal, Emma and we put together some interesting backing vocals for the songs we'll be recording next month. 'Interesting' means 'untested' of course, but I have high hopes. This band, still needing a name, is now taking shape to be one of the most powerful and exciting music projects I've ever been involved with.

Last night I recorded some upright bass parts for new Eclipse Trio songs and helped Russ, the singer, to record his vocals. This came after recording acoustic guitar parts for each song. Russ played a conventional part first and then recorded a second, interweaving part on a separate track. The style of the second guitar part was different for the two songs but, in each case, created a huge sound. Once the vocals were complete we did a very rough mix and liked the results.

One other thing that came out of last night's session was the need for some oud playing on one of the tracks. I've had an oud for a while now but, despite enjoying the instrument greatly, it's just not suiting me. It is a beautiful instrument but it's a traditional oud and the violin style tuning pegs and I are not getting on. Taking more than twenty minutes to tune up doesn't work when those twenty minutes might be the only practise time I have. This is my fault for not prioritising my time better and for not thinking through the nature of the instrument. Luckily, there is a solution. I'll tell you more about that later.

9.4.14

A quick update: including the latest on Soveign Housing


I’ve been a bit quiet on the blog recently. This is not because I’ve had nothing to write about but because there has been so much going on I’ve not had time to catch up. If you follow my picture-a-day project on Flickr you’ll notice that hasn’t been updated much either. Rest assured (if you weren’t already) that my camera is filling up with pictures of the day which will soon be uploaded.

In brief, the good news is that we’ve been making headway with the house. Decorating it in the hope of selling and getting away from our neighbour problem. The bad news is that Sovereign housing seem to have stopped replying to our questions and anti-social behaviour reports. We had a nasty outbreak from the neighbours (after listening to their car alarm go off for nearly three weeks), wrote to Sovereign’s anti-social behaviour report and followed it up with emails to three of their staff. This is what we got…

 

“Dear Will Crutenden

Thank you for contacting Sovereign about anti-social behaviour, domestic abuse or hate motivated behaviour.

We work hard to look after the communities where we have homes, making sure they're safe and developing the sense of community that makes a great place to live. Dealing with anti-social behaviour (ASB), and the harm that it can cause, is a priority for us and we want to deliver a high quality service to our residents.

We regularly monitor all correspondence received into this email inbox during office hours, (Monday to Friday 9am-5pm). Unfortunately, we are unable to monitor this during out-of-office hours. If you feel especially vulnerable or at risk you should immediately contact your nearest Sovereign housing office or your local police team by dialling 101 in non-emergencies and 999 in an emergency.

We will be in touch with within 1 working day to discuss next steps which will include an assessment of the situation and agreeing actions with the situation.

To find out more about our work to protect communities from harm please visit www.sovereign.org.uk .

If you have any further questions please contact your local housing office or send us an email to
community.safety@sovereign.org.uk

 

The part where it says “We will be in touch within 1 working day…” is a lie. We’ve heard nothing.

30.3.14

The Month in Music


As far as music goes this has been an interesting and worthwhile month.

The Eclipse trio has gigged and formally released the Frailty of Dreams album (available here). Now we need to gig more and promote it. Our piano player is off to New Zealand for a month so the guitarist and I intend to do some gigs as the Eclipse trio Duo, maybe with guests. I’ll post any confirmed dates here.

The recent gig was a chance for me to go back to playing upright bass and, for this band, I loved it. I’ve been putting the work in to improve my intonation and to adapt some of the more bass guitar centred songs to it.

My other band is gaining confidence and expanding its material. We are now a four piece and having a (very good) singer, with opinions, means we now have the melody lines that were missing from our original compositions. Everyone in the band contributes and the resulting songs sound powerful, fully charged and enjoyable. This is the band that started with a conversation, on a train about writing music my guitarist pal and I wanted to hear. A trip to a recording studio will happen in the next few months and then you can make your own mind up.

I don’t get out to many gigs, but this year there are two highlights to come. The first is the Neil Cowley Trio. I can’t say enough good things about this talented and astonishing band. Essentially a jazz trio (piano, double bass and drums) but with the energy and approach of a pop band. Their new album, which is being showcased at the gig, seems like a change of direction but I’m excited to see what they can do in this new territory.

The other gig is Kate Bush. I was 15 the last time she toured. Her albums are, mostly, works of art and I’m intrigued to see what brought her back on stage.

The one area of music that is going nowhere is my Spingere project. The touch guitar is in its case and the electronics and recording software sit unused. There are plenty of ideas, not to mention the Rain album which is still almost finished. But playing live with other musicians is too alluring and there just aren’t enough hours left to put energy in to anything else.

29.3.14

Photos


The one thing I wanted to improve this year was photography. I started a 365 project again as that always seems to help. I also have plans to get hold of a rangefinder style camera to see if that helps with my desire to take better street photography. I love my DSLR but it’s just too big and noticeable.

I have fallen in love with a camera I will almost certainly never own. It is far too expensive and since I can barely save money for the household bills, it’s going to be a pipe dream. Unless, of course, I come up with a cunning plan. The camera in question is the Leica Monochrom and it’s possibly one the most mad and wonderful cameras ever made.

Not wanting to sound ungrateful, I have been having plenty of fun with my trusty Nikon DSLR. I’ve shot a portrait session using the diffused light of an overcast day to good effect. I’ve also started to get used to its new 35mm (50mm full frame equivalent) lens.

Despite all this talk about gear I’m still more interested in improving my skills with what I have. I don’t need a Leica or any other rangefinder. I’m lucky to have the camera I do have and there’s a way to go before I can be happy with the majority of shots I take.

Blurry children taken on a home-made pinhole camera.
On a side note, I recently built a pinhole camera and have just received the first roll of film back. All the shots are blurry, partly because of my shaky hands and partly because… well, it’s a pinhole camera and I didn’t know what I was doing. There’s no lens, folks! He’s an example. With the help of a lot of gaffer tape and a tripod I hope to improve.

28.3.14

March


March is almost over and I’ve hardly blogged at all. It has been a month of serious highs and lows. The lowest low is the discovery that Jude has a serious nut allergy. We are all still learning how to cope and what to do about his condition. He has an appointment with a specialist so we can narrow down the things that might harm him. In the mean time he’s carrying on being a normal boy of his age. He’s loud, playful, silly and occasionally demanding. Freya, meanwhile, is reading every book she can lay her hands on and becoming more interested in science.

For the past week though we’ve all been sick. It was noticeable how bad tempered I was over the last weekend and it was put down to lack of sleep and the stress that comes with Jude’s news, the neighbour problem, work and all those other things that catch up with you. Of course, I was also just being grumpy. But by Monday the colds kicked in for J and I, then Freya got sick at school and Jude came down with a fever. The neighbours continue to taunt us with their music and now they have a new car with an alarm that goes off randomly through the night.

But, some good things are happening. I celebrated my 50th and stretched the occasion out over a few weeks. The other weekend I met a few close friends at a pub with amazing food and we spent some time catching up. I decided against a big birthday party mostly because big parties just aren’t my thing. There are certainly loads of great friends I would have invited but it just didn’t feel like the right thing to do.

I’m going to post separately about a few other updates although if you’re following this thread I’m now up to 30 things on my ’50 at 50’ list.

13.3.14

Nuts


There are some children at the local school who suffer from serious nut allergies. The school has responded by training the teachers and other staff to be aware of the problems and by informing the parents of other children, regularly, of the precautions needed. Being the parent of a child with such an allergy sounded horrific. You keep watch on everything they eat. You keep certain food stuffs out of your house. You on high alert pretty much all the time. You worry that your child is potentially a few minutes from death if they eat the wrong thing and no one notices.

My son has been suffering from eczema and we were told to keep him away from nuts, just to be safe. He had eaten a few, and bits of peanut butter but only had the mildest of reactions. A sligh flare up of the skin, nothing more.

Then, yesterday morning, he climbed into a food cupboard and ate a cashew nut. Boom. His face swelled up, his tongue too. He got scared and tried to fill his mouth with toilet paper to take away the extra saliva and, possibly, what he thought was causing the trouble. I wasn’t at home but my wife used her knowledge of medicines to give him something that would calm the reaction down long enough for an ambulance to get to the house. I suspect she saved his life.

Many, many long hours later they both returned from hospital with a bag of epipens and a lot of leaflets. Hurray, again, for the NHS.

Now we are those parents who have to watch everything our child eats or goes near. His sister is doing her best to process the information and life has become just a little more complicated.

I am grateful for all the support being offered and for the fact that our society is reasonably geared up to a problem like this. If we’re all careful, Jude should be fine.

12.3.14

Now we are 50

Well, now I am 50.

There was a temptation to use this birthday much like a new year is used for resolutions. But I am, like most people, rubbish at resolutions. I am still trying to make my 50 at 50 list, which regular reader will know has had a few false starts.

Time to do something radical and exciting.

Um...