23.1.15

Cricket

Cricket

It's been a long, long time since I have had any active involvement with cricket. I played at school and enjoyed it far more than football or rugby. In those sports I would be a grudging addition to a team and would spend almost all my time running around the field, avoiding the ball and thinking up ways to avoid the dreaded post match shower. A teacher once berated me for not getting covered in mud like all the others. He insisted I had to shower with the others anyway but I snuck off and went to the library. It wasn't that I was anti-social, I was just fed up with being forced to do something I did not enjoy.

At our school you were not taught the rules of any sports as you were supposed to know these already. If you asked a question you got ignored. This meant you instantly did not fit in which meant when teams were being picked you were always in the last two. No one would pass to you and no one would discuss tactics with you. After a few weeks of this I gave up and subverted the games as much as I could in the hope they would just give up on me completely and let me do what I really wanted. In those days that meant, read in the library, make movies with the school's cine camera or hang out in the music block, trying out the instruments.

But cricket was different. I knew the rules, just, and I liked the pace of the games. My bowling was execrable but my batting was pretty good, so I could just about manage to feel part of the game. As a fielder I was a dreadful waste of space, having seen someone get a high velocity ball in the face. I went as far out as I could.

School did nothing for my love of sport. Once I was out though I slowly began to appreciate playing squash, fencing and tennis. My mum was, and is, a huge rugby and tennis fan so I had someone Who could pass that excitement on to me. It just took a while to shake off the bad feelings school helped set up.

Last year I was watching a video for a Neil Cowley Trio tune which features a cricket match. The appeal of the game returned and, frankly, all that shitty schools stuff was a long time ago. So now I have something new to enjoy.

13.1.15

Piano (part two)

The piano has arrived and I am in love.


I am working my way, slowly, through a set of exercises and painfully highlighting my shortcomings on the instrument. But, I am having huge amounts of fun and can sit there working out chords and melodies all night. Let's see where this goes.

12.1.15

Peter Gabriel and The Security Project


I’m going to see the Security Project band next month. They play the songs of Peter Gabriel from his first four solo albums. I’m mainly going because the person in the bass role is Trey Gunn (playing his ten string Warr Guitar) and this will be my first chance to watch him live. It doesn’t hurt that the rest of the band are top notch musicians, many of whom have played with Gabriel.

Being a research orientated sort of person I went back to the albums Gabriel made post Genesis but pre So. Over the holidays I’ve been listening, sequentially to them and it’s been an interesting journey.

The first album, officially called Peter Gabriel but known as Car, was a blistering, energetic piece of work which, while being great to listen to, reminded me of why I didn’t enjoy Genesis. This feels like he’s burning the old band out of his system.

The second album, officially called Peter Gabriel but known as Scratch, was described by many on its release as darker and less commercial. I suspect what they really meant was that it didn’t have Solsbury Hill on it. Robert Fripp is a welcome presence and there are places Gabriel explores here that seem different from all his other releases. I didn’t know this very well when it came out but feel like I’ll spend a lot more time with it.

The third album, officially called Peter Gabriel but known as Melt, is the one I know best. It’s full of songs I remember from the end of my school days and although I never owned a copy at the time, I must have had a friend who did.

The fourth album, officially called Peter Gabriel but know as Security, I knew a little. Hearing it again now I find it full of great songs but I don’t enjoy the instrumentation so much. This is what makes the prospect of seeing The Security Project play these songs live such an exciting one.

Just before I posted this I went back to the band’s web site and noticed they are also playing selected songs from The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, which many suggest is the best Peter Gabriel album ever, despite being by Genesis. I did not enjoy Genesis and I still have huge reservations about their music, but I am considering giving this PG written, double concept album a go.

The last thing to add is that, as I’ve been playing through all these albums in the car my children have been commenting. My youngest loves Sledgehammer and asks for it to be played regularly. My eldest, currently seven years old, is intrigued by No Self Control, from the third album. I am trying not to read too much into this.

P.S. If you’re reading this an you know The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, let me know what you think of it.

31.12.14

End of year, part two

The more poetry I read, the less I want to write it.

The more photography I see, the more I want to be out with my camera.

I always want to play music.

End of the year

Thanks to my pal,  Russ, wanting to demo a country song he had written earlier in the year I found myself reaching for my Touch Guitar. I have had this instrument for at least seven years but never got to grips with it. Since I needed a bass instrument with frets I used it on the song and it sounded great.

My new band, New Accelerator got going this year with me playing fretless bass.  But memories of this Touch Guitar session stuck and I decided to give it another go. The door opened and my wonderful instrument started to come to life.

Of all the musical highlights this year (a new and better oud, enjoying songwriting again, fabulous gigs and inspiration everywhere) the return of my Touch Guitar (which is the only instrument made for me and which I named after my daughter, Freya) has been the best of all.

Now, in 2015, I need to work at improving my technique and having more fun with it.

happy New Year.

15.12.14

Sovereign (again)


After a few months of relatively normal life our neighbours have decided to make our lives miserable again. They have been turning up the music and, crucially, turning songs up and down many times during each song. That’s important because it doesn’t suggest someone playing loud music to dance around and have fun. What does it suggest? Well, I’ll leave that to you. Imagine someone playing a piece of music very loud, then turning it down, then up, then down, over and over again. Then imagine them doing for the next song and the ones after that. Why?

Worse than the neighbour’s behaviour is the terrible attitude from the housing association that they rent their house from. After a seemingly positive meeting in the summer we were given all sorts of promises to make us feel better. There has, sorry, had been progress but nothing was in place to deal with what has been happening recently. Nothing stops the neighbours behaving how they want.

So, if you felt you could act with impunity and you had not much of a social conscious (let’s just dump this pizza box and its contents in the parking area, no one cares. Let’s drive our neighbours crazy and wake their children at three in the morning, no one cares) what would you do?

Sovereign, as a company, have shown no respect or social conscious. I will be posting more about this.

14.12.14

Piano

Many years ago, in my late teens, I was starting to play bass but I had a needed a keyboard to work ideas out on. What I really wanted was a piano, or at least an electric/electronic piano (so I could plug headphones in). My bandmates at the time talked me out of this and into buying a Yamaha DX21. This was great fun with hundreds of sounds and an algorithmic programming language that I still don't fully understand. The downside was it had too many sounds and the keys didn't respond like piano keys and, most importantly, it wasn't a piano.

The DX21 got used to create crazy tunes and even got hauled on stage a few times. Then it slowly sat there, gathering dust until I traded it in help fund a decent bass amp.

A few months ago I was walking down Denmark street with my wife and we were talking about pianos. We were on our way to see the incredible Neil Cowley Trio at the Barbican and had been listening to a lot of piano playing. I went into one of the many music shops, asked a few questions and tried a number of keyboards out. In our house we could never have a real piano but the electronic version could work. It turned out that the price of one of these was just within our grasp. Excitement was generated.

Today I ordered the piano.

Obviously an electronic piano will never sound as good as the real thing. But knowing we've got 88 weighted keys on an instrument with only a few sounds is a wonderful thing. I can't imagine a better present for our family (except maybe a house somewhere else). Let the piano madness begin.


24.11.14

Flake Bake - the complicated truth

This weekend my great pal, Alison and I celebrated our twentieth anniversary of being friends. We met at university and shared a flat for many years. In our first year as friends we also shared this recipe. It's a deeply complicated but highly satisfying concoction that I would like to pass on to you now.

First, find the cookbook you had all those years ago.

Then gather together all the various ingredients.




and check the recipe before beginning...




Step one...

Step two...

Step three...

Then serve and eat.


What we found was that the dish wasn't called Flake Bake after all and that if you couldn't find Flakes, Twist bars came fairly close. A rare moment of nostalgia and a great excuse to tell some old stories.