Thursday 31 August 2006

Well, what a contrast!

Had our final pre-fun day practice tonight, back in Dominique's garage. We were mostly better rested, and volumes were a touch lower.

The difference was just amazing.

We were happy to jam together, listen to each other and generally play along.

A bit of the grace of God.

Hope it's like this on Saturday, as we're on first.

Wednesday 30 August 2006

I seem to be surfacing now.

Last night's band practice was, frankly, crap.

I hadn't slept enough, couldn't concentrate and didn't seem able to listen to anyone else (no-one apart from Rachel seemed to be listening either, so I guess we'reall quits there). I'm coming to hate many of the songs and the set list is bland, generally boring and doesn't work together well. I found myself getting irritable with the other band members, and the way there seemed to be no sonic space for my guitar. On top of that I had gear hassles when everything should have been OK.

Right, got that off my chest.

If any of you are reading this then pls ignore my rant - it's probably the pain of being moved from being the dominant instrument to just another part. Just needed to get it off my chest.

Not sure if this is funny or sad?

An email landed at my work address last night:

PayPal is committed to maintaining a safe environment for its community of customers. To protect the security of your account, PayPal employs some of the most advanced security systems in the world and our anti-fraud teams regularly screen the PayPal system for unusual activity.

We are contacting you to remind you that on 1 September 2006 our Account Review Team identified some unusual activity in your account. In accordance with PayPal's User Agreement and to ensure that your account has not been compromised, access to your account was limited. Your account access will remain limited until this issue has been resolved.

To secure your account and quickly restore full access, we may require some additional information from you for the following reason:

We have been notified that a card associated with your account has been reported as lost or stolen, or that there were additional problems with your card.

This process is mandatory, and if not completed within the nearest time your account or credit card may be subject for temporary suspension.

To securely confirm your PayPal information please click on the link bellow:
(actual address was - NOT paypal)

We encourage you to log in and perform the steps necessary to restore your account access as soon as possible. Allowing your account access to remain limited for an extended period of time may result in further limitations on the use of your account and possible account closure.

For more information about how to protect your account please visit PayPal Security Center. We apologize for any incovenience this may cause, and we apriciate your assistance in helping us to maintain the integrity of the entire PayPal system.

Thank you for using PayPal!
The PayPal Team

Notice anything slightly, errrm, unusual? Like the date my account was supposed to have been fiddled with being 3 days hence? Or the spelling of appriciate? Methinks someone was just TOO eager to make money.

Maybe I should be grateful for the decline in the quality of written English from the younger 'net-aware' generation, as it makes stupid phishing attempts more obvious.

Tuesday 29 August 2006

Well, it was a useful bank holiday.

Chris and I had a picnic and then walked for a while. I took a few pics too:

There's more in the gallery, if you care to browse.

I also built a speaker cab, but that's another story.

Sunday 27 August 2006

Y'know how I like 'special' smilies?

Well here's 2 that definitely qualify:


This is the best popcorn smilie I've yet seen.


Saturday 26 August 2006

2 days off and I'm more tired.

I had Friday from work, as Chris and I just needed some time off together. This became delivering leaflets for the Bicester fun day, then shopping for some new kitchen chairs. We wanted to give Bicester business a chance so spent the rest of the morning browsing there. Found some in Lisseters that Chris liked before, but wasn't so sure on second viewing - looked like they'd last long enough to pass them on but they just weren't right for us.

Unable to put the inevitable off any longer, we went to Ikea.

Yup, they had exactly the right chairs, cheaper than we'd have got them in Bicester.

Well we DID try. Somehow buying from that shop feels like failure to me. Ikea is great in so many way, but we wanted to support local people, and the furniture business must be difficult right now.

That was yesterday. Today I built chairs and a laundry box, replaced duff light fittings and a worn out dimmer switch. Chris attacked the roses in the garden with a hedge trimmer and we both worked to clear the debris from that and the Burberris left over from having it trimmed and a fence erected.

This evening I've been trying to adapt a speaker cab top get a particular speaker sounding good - and totally failed. Now I'm just tired and working my way through a nice wheat beer, complete wityh yeast debris. Bed may not be too far off after that's gone.


Wednesday 23 August 2006

Bed in a mo.

Well I pretty much managed it, so I'll head off to bed shortly. FINALLY sorted the wiring on that red'n'black strat: popped a Dimarzio IBZ bridge 'bucker in the tail set to run the coils parallel or series, and it's one big PU. Rich yet spanky in parallel and punchy with good depth in series.

The new strings seem a little more flexible than the previous DRs, and while this is nice for the strat, it's almost too much on the Washburn A20, where I loaded it with 9.5 instead of 10 gauge. Distinct 'knicker elastic' sensations now, although there is just about enough fight left to give something to push against. I did want strings I could bend easily, and these might prove to be just that. Maybe I'll do the JJ and the acoustic (got some for that too) tomorrow night.

Steve, Anna, Mark, Andy - if you're reading this, I'll try to get the worship team schedule sorted as soon as possible.

Think I'm better for being home.

That's it really.

We have here a surfiet of guitar strings.

I ordered some strings from a guy that's in the US. He's developed a brilliant reputation for tone and longevity (always a problem - especially if you have several guitars - they go dead and difficult to tune after a while).

He has a web site that appears capable of taking international orders, but in practice his shopping cart can't cope. So I placed my order on 14th Aug and waited.

And waited.

And waited.

Now the guy visits CMF and I was getting ready to post some questions up there, along with some slightly less charitable comments when for some reason I checked the trash folder on one of my email accounts. He'd emailed me on the 17th about an extra charge owed due to international shipping and his mail got classified as spam (probably due to using an AOL account).

Seeing that this was now Mon 21st and I've got a lot of practices and a gig coming up in the next couple of weeks, plus posting normally takes 2 weeks from the US to UK I went ahead and ordered strings from my usual online supplier.

Yesterday (22nd) there was an international mail package waiting for me. Yup, Snakeoil strings.

Tonight (23rd) there was a package waiting for me. Yup , 3 sets of Rotosound Yellows. Thought I'd give them a go as I've not used them for 25 years until my JJ goldtop arrived with them as standard fitment. They've sounded tolerable up till now.

So suddenly I've got 9 sets of strings here (1 for every guitar, near enough). Maybe I'll just keep a couple of sets as spares for now.

My mission tonight: prep for tomorrow, finish a little guitar rewiring, replace strings and play for an hour.

Ever have?

One of those days where the world kind of crumbles around you?

I think Chris had her bad day yesterday. Or maybe I just collected all her feelings and misery.

Slept badly last night. Worried about Ben, emotions battered, thoughts running on about wanting to buy something and not being happy about it, and the usual male nagging. Just crap really.

But hey ho. Like someone else said, I'm just like this for now - I'll get over it.

I just wanted to say a big thank you to everyone.

I'd hoped to get to her grave last night, but things went a bit Pete Tong when I got home and it wasn't possible. We really appreciate all the flowers, cards and wishes - your love really is very special.

Monday 21 August 2006

This week isn’t good for us, really.

17 years ago Chris was in a lot of pain, struggling to get our daughter into the world. It’s hard to think of that time and the years in between without the tiniest sense of bitterness. God’s been good to us, and children are a gift that we steward, but there is a sense of loss that is STILL there. Maybe it’s just following human thinking, and I need to give her up, but stepping back and trying to view things dispassionately only works so far.

What do we do?

You can’t forget someone existed. We’re not going to pretend it’s all fine now and we’ve forgotten. Going back to work and trying to get my head down and get on feels like a pretence sometimes, like I’m doing things that aren’t real and have no value.

Do I care really. Having a birthday recently was bizarre – in some ways it’s fun, but on another level I both want all the toys I can get yet don’t really want any of it. Seems pointless.

Enough rambling crap, I’ve got work to do.

Saturday 19 August 2006

Be glad you're not here right now.

I cooked Chinese tonight (coz I know P&A like it) and it's given the both of us an 'interesting' problem. Stir fried veggies seem excellent at diverting all those enzymes from cleaving carbohydrates into generation of methane.

Well the boy is back.

Soul survivor was probably good, as far as we can tell.

Looking forward to seeing Kita, Dan and Liv tomorrow.

Peter and Alison (my brother and his wife) were here today. Good to spend some time with them again just talking and being sociable. And that's it really. Saturday, poof, gone.

Wednesday 16 August 2006

If you have a little prayer time available

Remember Randall, Lauralea and Johanna. Ole' GWP is flitting across the pond to the land of clocks and holey cheeses on Thursday 17th Aug.

It'll be a hard time for all of them. A difficult parting I'd suspect, and a long year ahead for Johanna. I'm rather hoping she'll make it here at some stage, but we'll have to see how things pan out. It would be a shame for her to fly so far, yet not make the last few hundred miles.

Looks like we have a little trip coming up.

In September ESHRE have a meeting in Siena, Italy. My flight and accomodation (a double room) is covered by the company, so Chris is coming too. We're paying her flight and food plus an extra nights hotel room (there's no reason she should be sponsored, even if she is providing entertainment for me outside the meetings ;¬).

So we fly to Pisa at stupid o'clock on Friday morning, drive to Florence/Firenze where our hotel is for the first night, then drive on the following day to Siena. The meeting starts on Sunday afternoon and finishes Tuesday night. Wednesday we'll drive back up to Pisa, visit *that* tower, then catch the plane back in the evening. This is slightly in lieu of a significant trip away on our wedding anniversary and a good try out to see if Italy is what we really want to do next year.

The grace of God to us.

I wonder if one day we might end up living in Italy. There was a time - maybe 10 years ago - that I felt God speak about it. I've no plans to 'make' it happen, but at the right time I'm sure the doors will open and it'll be obvious. Just one of those things that's tucked away inside, waiting for the seeds to germinate.

Heard from Kita tonight

Sounds like they're having a great time.

She rang Chris earlier - sounded really full of happiness and just enjoying God without all the distractions of 'normal' life getting in the way. Olivia was cooking for everyone (who'd 'av thought it?) and Ben was awake and responding to conversation.

Love these guys.

Tuesday 15 August 2006

Good time with the band tonight.

Had another practice with the band for the fun day in September. Pete the keyboard player was out again this evening as his wife's just had a baby. Jackie the sax player was off too, so it was just guitar, bass and drums plus 3 vocalists.

Last time I found it really hard work - Pete covers a lot of space, and is one of the few players I feel happy that when I stop playing everything will hold together and carry on. But tonight, instead of doing the keyboard-heavy pieces we worked through a bunch of other stuff. The practice paid off, and it sounded, if not tight, then still pretty decent all the same. We need at least one more session to sort out starts and finishes and just run through the whole set, but it's definitely coming together.

It's interesting playing this style of stuff - largely funk/reggae/pop with a strong disco feel to some of the songs (there was a bit of YMCA going on behind 'I will survive' tonight). In fact I had to really fight the tendency to put space into rythms for 'Kiss Me', where a strong acoustic guitar feel is needed and chords all need to ring on into each other. The one problem is that I'm playing so much rythm guitar that my hands have virtually forgotten how to solo.

I used Amelia (she's the cream A15) for the first time with this band. I've replaced the pickup selector switch as the old one was so loose that 1 knock would make it change too easily. It sounds like a rich yet cutting strat, which is just the right tone for this kind of music: fat yet a little clinging. The new red and black strat does the clinging and cutting well but isn't fat enough. My No.1 strat is really fat but doesn't cut or cling enough, but Amelia does this really well - tone heading well toward P90 country. I wonder what they did to those PUs to make her sound so juicy?

Still debating which other guitar to use for the rock work. JJ is great playingwise but doesn't have the power to really push a high-gain solo. I do have some other PUs that I'm tempted to try in the R/B strat bridge for high gain. Otherwise it may well fall to the A20 (the black washburn next to Amelia) as that guitar really sings, even with moderate amounts of gain. Maybe I'll take all 3, as I plan to use the R/B strat for the rock'n'roll band (for those Buddy Holly numbers). We'll see.

Ever hear a song for the first time?

We hear new songs all the time - and rightly dismiss them.

But on the way home tonight I heard a song and an artist I've never known before. The artist was Emiliana Torrini, the song was Sunny Road from the album The Fishermans Woman. It's so good I'm going to order a copy now.

A few moments of digging found her site, and reading the background is kind of disappointing. Never mind though, if I shut my mind to memory then that voice will sweep me away.

Sunday 13 August 2006

I poxing hate

Dry solder joints.

And wires that slip out under pickguards so they don't sit flat..


Saturday 12 August 2006

Now I really HAVE got sore fingers.

Spent lots of time working through the banks of more 'off the wall' patches in the processor to find somethingt hat will let me replicate the tones I need. Then more time going back over that solo again, straining to hit those bends right. Finally spent an hour or 2 playing through all the songs - No Woman No Cry requires a HUGE amount of patience and care in timing when you're covering it alone. Did get 'Kiss Me' down nicely, sounding just like the record though.

Now, shall I pull a guitar apart tonight or do more work on an amp?

There are times I'm glad for thick walls

I've just been working through that LOAP solo. Courtesy of the web I have a very good idea of the correct notes to play, and this has made life much easier, as I'm not great transcribing solos. And like I said, it's actually pretty simple with only one fast passage that I plan to change as I don't think it sounds too impressive on the original.


My string bending skills are SO rusty and my technique so imprecise that I keep making a nasty squealie mess of the final bent notes. Clean it doesn't sound too bad, but this one needs quite a bit of drive and brushing the B string when I'm bending the top E creates some horrid noises. I'm probably also pushing down on the string too much when it should be pushed sideways too.

This is all on that red and black strat that I was working on a few weeks ago. Going to give it a go on the Dean V as that has jumbo frets that should help bends. Will also try it on the JJ and the Les Paul, although I probably should use a strat for this, as it's what Sambora plays. I don't want too many guitars on stage when it comes to the gig, as I'm worried about them getting 'borrowed'. Probably the Strat and the JJ, but the V could make it too if necessary - it's a lot more RAWK than the rest.

Looks like sore fingers will be the order of the day tomorrow.

Wednesday 9 August 2006

Playing is..... odd right now.

Funny how guitar playing goes. I can try to practice, sound like pants, yet sometimes when I’m out and get inspired all sorts of amazing things will fall out of the guitar. Like on Sunday, just started noodling and a great lick just naturally happened. Somewhat unfortunate that Az (our friend from Spain) had just started talking. It was very rude of me really, but I’m not sure I was too well on Sunday, maybe a touch of what Chris has been suffering, but as it unfolded I couldn’t seem to help follow it.

I need to cop the guitar solo to Bon Jovi's 'living on a prayer'. I never really knew the band or song. Rachel lent me the 'Slippery when wet' album. Richie Sambora's playing is quick and deft, technically great. The LOAP solo is obviously designed for a single to be sold to the mindless masses and is crass and unexciting. At least it isn't hard though, so I should be grateful. So do I blag it and follow the original or try to do something that sounds better (to me)?

I don’t seem to be doing well, writing entries for the blog.

Ever watch Blazing Saddles? I feel a little like Headly (or was that Heady) LaMarre whose mind was ‘corruscating’ with thoughts and idea, but who only ever spoke rubbish. Mind you, sometimes I feel more like Mungo – it’s a lot easier to play the strong and silent type.

It’s curious how one can be so wrapped up in your own feelings that you fail to notice what is going on with others, especially those close to you. When I got back from Canada I felt different, more determined, happier even. Chris had a desperate time the first week or 2, and because she didn’t want to spread the misery, managed to keep it from me. Nuts.

The last couple of weeks have had their challenges over Sarah. Weekend before last we were at a house warming, having already been to a wedding earlier that day. There was a lass I knew from Oxford there who asked me a question quite innocently relating to parenthood. I just folded up inside, couldn’t really answer properly at all – couldn’t even speak.

*one day after writing the above*

This morning was actually rather grim. Maybe it was tiredness catching up. Maybe just the natural down through being half way through the week. Maybe because Ben’s away for the next couple of weeks at Soul survivor.

Whatever, I just kept remembering Sarah, had all the feelings back of NOT having my own daughter (I love our borrowed ones, but it’s different for both them and me) and feeling like the future has been taken away again. Back to work with all it’s need to press on, people having unhelpful rants and having to listen so that others can drain their annoyance caused by those that should be their colleagues and helpers. At least it pushes my problems out of the way while I try to get on with stuff.

BTW I broke my rule about not using the net during work (this is lunchtime) as I needed to check if Paul (see wedding pics below) was riding tonight.

Sunday 6 August 2006

More trip thoughts

Chris and I brought some brochures back from Bicester yesterday: to be honest I'm struggling.

Not struggling in the way you might imagine. I've looked through the brochures and there are some beautiful appartments and holidays in there. No, I'm struggling with the opulence of it all. The appartments are just so far removed from the sort of stuff that most locals live in that it just doesn't sit easily for me. The stuff in Cambodia and Vietnam especially. I don't know but staying somewhere like that seems almost too much.

I'm not a falsely humble sort of person, but the further I read the increasingly uncomfy I got. I don't know - something will fall out of the woodwork. And thanks everyone for your suggestions - really appreciated.

Now, there was 1/3 bottle of sparkling wine left in the fridge from Thursday. I wonder if it's still OK?

BTW that Bluesbreakers CD has 24 tracks. Tracks 1-12 are the original recording in mono. Tracks 13-24 are the re-release from '69 in stereo. All your love is brilliant in stereo.

Today I'm feeling mostly...


I've spent too much time in the sun - went out with Dan and Nikita and Chris - Kita and Chris had a table at a farmers market today selling their handmade jewellery. Got their stall set up - mostly it seemed in the sun.

Came back, changed forks and fitted a disc brake to Dan's bike - mostly while in the sun.

Went for a (shortish ~1 1/2 hours) ride with Dan, mostly in the sun.

Church was at Linda and Andy Ridgway's place this afternoon, complete with BBQ afterward. I remember being stood out in the sun with the smoke from the BBQ blowing round my head, playing guitar, feeling the sun burning my crown, face and arm. Good company though.

So now I'm feeling a little hotter than I'd like. The house was BEAUTIFULLY cool when we got in this evening. It's been closed all day, and those 3ft thick walls have mostly kept the heat out. My skin is grateful for the cool air, and I'm sitting here listening to John Mayall's BEANO album (a birthday pressie) while typing. The 60s must have been such a cool time to be a guitar player.

Just hope I've not really sunburnt.

Saturday 5 August 2006

We have a conundrum

Where to go?

At the beginning of October Chris and I will have been married 25 years. We'd like to go away for a 'special' hol, but there's a problem.

We love mountains, but we've seen and stayed in some excellent mountains.

We love the beach, but we've spent time on beautiful beaches and swum in gorgeous seas.

We like fascinating cities but based on experience, we grew up in the most fascinating city on the planet.

It's not that we're jaded, but what does one do for something that's sufficiently spectacular to be amazing without spending stupid amounts of money? My current personal fave is to travel through Italy, taking in Firenze, Roma, Venezia and maybe a few days at either Como or Garda as a rest before returning. I have misgivings too (Roman history is distressingly brutal, and was everywhere in evidence in Torino) plus the driving could be 'interesting'. Chris would like to see the more traditional 'spectacular' sights, like the Grand Canyon, the Rockies and so on (Las Vegas gets a thumbs down). Another alternative is South America, with particular interest in the history, culture and getting out into the native peoples a little.

Oddly, neither India or China particularly appeal. That *could* change later, depending, but although both areas have culture by the shed full, neither strikes a chord for me.

As they used to say.... suggestion on a postcard to.....

Friday 4 August 2006

So she says to me....

"I hope that was really special...."

And I say to her "you've made it special".

So she says " you're half way to 90".

I call her a ratbag.

She agrees with me, grinning all the time.

Dinner at the Dashwood Arms this evening.

I have to show you

This is the card Chris made for my birthday:

I have a feeling she may understand me, even if we don't necessarily agree on *everything*.