Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Back to School

Terri wanted me to expand on my return to studying, so here goes.

About 5 years ago I was offered the chance of doing a degree at the university that I work at, free of charge, with some classes in normal term time, some in the summer. This sounded like a great idea, so I signed up.

I did a preliminary short course to get me started, and then started studying properly. Everything was going well, my marks were great, and I was thoroughly enjoying it.

Then my eldest daughter was taken ill. I soldiered on with the classes, but my out of class study time was severely reduced with everything else going on. I finished the first year, scraping through my exams with no effective revision, a couple of weeks before we lost our daughter. Summer classes were out of the question, so I decided to take a year out to see how things went. By the following summer I was still not prepared to return to classes on the anniversary of my daughter's death, so I just let it slide.

Then I got talking to my head of department, who is the greatest boss you could ever want. Realizing that I was never going to be happy returning to summer classes he suggested that I switch over to just doing classes during the normal academic year, September to June. It will take me longer to finish, but at least I will be working on it.

So here I am, starting Year 2 in a class full of 19-20 year olds. being taught by someone that I have been working with for the last 17 years. Interesting, to say the least!

So wish me luck! I am going to need it, especially with those darned exams. I am too old for cramming...

Monday, 29 September 2008

A defining moment!

My daughter's taste in music has changed - gone is the girly-poppy stuff.

It is now My Chemical Romance!



Yes, I think they are great. This song became my wife's anthem in recent tough times!

Anyway, back to the story - last night she had her hi-fi cranked up and I had to ask her to TURN IT DOWN!

YES!!!!!

I told you it was a defining moment!

Madness!

Well, today is the day that I become a part-time student again! Mad, I know, but what the hell. I will see how I get on.





So, while I get ready for my first lecture, here are some photos.




This used to be a small disused factory. A recent change in the tax laws meant that the owners of empty buildings like this were to be taxed on it. The idea was to encourage the owners to rent them out at reduced rates. The real result is that it is often cheaper to demolish the building than to pay the tax. This is becoming known as "The Bomb-Site Tax",

-

The local seafront at dusk. This view always makes me feel 5 years old again.


Sunset at low tide. In the middle distance on the left is a line of rocks. Local legend has it that these were once a row of houses that lost the battle with the sea. I keep meaning to check that story out!

Back soon, have fun!

Friday, 26 September 2008

ARE THEY SERIOUS????!

As I headed back towards work at the end of my lunch break, I saw something that caught my attention.

In the middle of the shopping precinct there was a table with a parasole set up. On the table were lots of cakes of all kinds - fruit cakes, cream cakes, jam and cream sponges...

These were being sold to raise money for charity.

Nothing odd about that, I here you say!

Of course not.

Until you see the charity that they are raising money for.

It was...




















Now I have nothing against this charity, it is a great thing! But selling CAKES? Are they trying to increase their membership or something?

Maybe I am missing something here?

Thursday, 25 September 2008

NNNNNOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Another short post today.

Things were going so well.

I had it all under control.

Now it seems that I suddenly have a huge job on that I didn't expect to have.

ARRRGGGGGGGHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Where is that gun?

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

What a day!!!!


Yes, I feel as tired as this little thing!
You see I have been trying to multi-task today, which is just not a guy thing, is it!
Oh well, I think tomorrow should be a lot better, I have cleared the back-log.
That's about it, really. Looking forward to getting home and having a beer with dinner. Mmm, sweet, sweet beer....

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Emotionally scarring your children

Last night, after dinner, I was in the livingroom playing one of my guitars - the V-bass that I have done a lot of work on recently. Everyone else was in the room too, watching TV, doing homework, etc.

The boy who is living with us at the moment looked at me.

"Is that your favourite guitar?"

I paused.

"Hard to say. Each one is good at some things and not so good at other things."

My eldest son then chipped in.

"It's like trying to choose a favourite child, isn't it?"

My reply was instant.

" Nah, that's EASY!"

The looks on their faces was priceless! Will they spend the rest of their lives wondering if I do have a favourite and if so which it is? No, I don't think so, not really.

Monday, 22 September 2008

Doodling...


One of the blogs that I read is written by Marie, who has been writing a novel and her blog chronicles the ups and downs of the process. Like a lot of people, I have the feeling that I would like to write a book one day, but I doubt that I really will, especially after reading Marie's blog!

However, I then thought about trying my hand at a short story or two. I thought nothing of it for a while, but on Sunday morning I woke up with this little story bouncing around in my head. I am not giving up the day-job, but I was rather pleased with it.


Going Back

It had been years since he had seen the old place. He had not been back since he left for university, so many years ago that it hurt to count them. He had always intended to return, but life had just been too busy, and it was not as though he had any real ties there anymore, not since his mum had died.

But even though life had taken him to all sorts of places, he had still wondered, from time to time, whether this little village had changed much, and what had happened to some of his old friends there – especially Sarah, his first lover. He smiled a smug half-smile at her memory.

So here he was. Twenty-odd years after leaving, he was back, driving his custom BMW along the narrow lanes that headed into the village where he had grown up. If business hadn’t called him to a meeting only a few miles away he might never have returned.

As he took the final bend into the village he felt that he was being transported back in time. Sure, the trees were bigger, some of the houses were even different colours and hey, the gardens of the Fuller’s house now held a row of three new houses. Predictably the Post Office was now just a normal house, though some of the writing on the side wall was still just about readable.

He thought of Sarah again and wondered if she was still here. She must have teenage children by now, just like he did.

“Maybe she is still waiting for me”, he mused to himself. After all, he had promised to return for her on his final night before leaving to go to uni.

Instinctively, he turned left, up the narrow lane that lead to Sarah’s old house. Brambles and small branches stretched out to reach him as he slowly navigated along the treacherously narrow and winding lane. He half expected to meet a tractor coming the other way at any moment, but he was lucky. Well, fairly lucky. He dreaded to think what had happened to the beautiful black sheen on his BMW.

Then the cottage came into site. It looked the same as it always had in his mind’s eye, with it’s thatched roof, rambling pink roses climbing up the walls and it’s neatly trimmed hedges. The road widened near the cottage, a natural passing point for vehicles, so he pulled over and parked his car. After a momentary pause to gather his thoughts, he left the car, casually locking it with his remote key, the sound seeming incongruous in this setting. Walking to the cast iron gate, he leaned on it and looked into the garden, just has he had done so many times, so many years ago. The sight that met his eyes made a cold hand grip his heart. There, in the garden, was a woman. She was kneeling down with her back to him, plucking small weeds from a flowerbed. He instantly knew it was Sarah. The guilt that he had suppressed for almost twenty-five years suddenly welled up and grabbed his throat, preventing him moving or talking. He just looked at her. She seemed to have kept her figure, such as it was, and her dark hair had a few strands of grey.

Suddenly, before he could do anything, she turned and looked over her shoulder at him.

“Well well, look who it is!”

She stood, turning to face him, smiling that warm, wonderful smile that had so beguiled him when he was younger. She looked older now, of course, and wore no make up, her skin having a wonderfully natural glow to it.

“Come on in, then, I won’t bite! Unless you want me to, of course!” She chuckled at her own joke, and this seemed to make him relax somewhat. Opening the gate, he entered the garden.

They sat together on wooden garden chairs, in the shade of a large oak tree.

He told her about university, his career, his wife who looked like Goldie Hawne, their one child, now at university himself. Life had been a mad helter-skelter ride of projects and deals that meant that, if his next project came to fruition as planned, he would be able to retire and live out the rest of his days playing in California.

There was a pause. The sun had moved on surprisingly since he had started talking and he felt a slight chill.

“What about you?” The guilt tried to return, but he pushed it back down.

“You didn’t come back. Not even when your mother died. I waited for you, you know? On that final night, I gave myself to you, heart and soul, you promised to return, but you didn’t. What happened?”

“Like I said, life just seemed to take over, my career has taken all of my time...”

“You couldn’t even find time for your mother’s funeral?”

“I had the deal of a lifetime going through at the time, and what difference would it make? She was dead, and when you are gone you are gone.”

“I used to think that too. And what of Goldie? Do you love her? Does she love you like I did?”

“Well, we have our moments, but after twenty years you can’t expect it to be like it was at first.”

He chuckled uncomfortably. Suddenly he realised that she was standing in front of him, looking down at him just has he remembered her looking at him on their last night together.

“It would have been if you had come back for me, you know.”

She bent down and kissed him, kissed him with a passion that he had never felt before. He was standing, clutching her, holding her, feeling her. They were on the grass, somehow half naked. He was on his back, still shocked by the force her passion, transported by a sheer physical ecstasy that he had never imagined. He had no idea how long it lasted, but he slowly became aware that she was no longer on him, so he lay for a few moments catching his breath, watching the sunlight shining through his closed eyelids.

“I should have come back for you, Sarah, I am so sorry.”

A gentle breeze rustled the leaves above him.

He sat up and looked around.

“Sarah?”

He found his trousers and struggled into them, still feeling dizzy from the lovemaking.

“Sarah? Where are you?”

A car was approaching along the lane, so he hurriedly finished dressing.

The car stopped out in the lane and he could hear the sounds of someone getting out and approaching the gate. The gate swung open and a man, once tall and strong but now old and bent, shuffled through. Recognition was immediate.

“Mr Coleman, how nice to see you again!” he said.

The old man looked at him, his face switching from confusion to surprise to anger.

“Bastard! How dare you come here like this?” Heading for the front door of the cottage with surprising speed, he shouted out.

“If you’re still here by the time I get back you’re a dead man.”

“Why?” He couldn’t have seen him and Sarah in the garden…

“As if you don’t know! You broke my Sarah’s heart! You never came back! Took us weeks to find her body out in the woods!”

Friday, 19 September 2008

A walk in the park

The other day I went for a walk in the local park. The main grass areas are marked out for soccer pitches and there were a couple of games going on. One seemed to be pub teams of adults, while the other had teams of 9-11 year olds.

The game with the younger players caught my attention - well not really the game itself, but the fathers who stalked the touch-lines, shouting instructions at their hard-pressed sons. I detest this, it really stirs something in me.

Anyway, as I wandered past one of the dads was shouting "get him, tackle him". Looking over I saw the tackle - it went in hard and the kid with the ball went flying, landing face-first in the mud.

What happened next surprised even me!

The dad of the boy who had been tackled hit the father of the tackler! And it spread, until there was a mob of a dozen or so fathers pushing, grabbing and punching each other! It was amazing!

Meanwhile, the kid that had landed on his face, picked himself up, unnoticed, and watched the fighting with the other kids, many in tears at the sight of it all.

What is wrong with these people? Now I have nothing against people supporting their children in what they do, in fact I normally think it is great for kids to get support and encouragement in what they do. But this "competitive Dad" syndrome really does go too far, IMO.

So, what do you think? Would you hit another parent in a similar situation? Have you really really wanted to but stopped yourself? If you don't have kids or if they are too young at the moment, how do you think you would deal with this sort of thing?

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Well I couldn't put it off much longer...


So tonight, after work, I went out with my kit




Found a spot, tuned up and recorded the first thing I played, which turned out to be the start of a song I am writing. When finished, and recorded in the Rock Shed, it will be the greatest power ballad in Rock (Chef) history. It will!


I know the sound is rubbish (as you can see my amplifier that I carry around with me is very small) and the playing probably isn't much better, but you asked for it! Don't blame me!


Here it is...

video

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Uh oh...

I can see I am going to get some terrible ribbing about this...

The weekend went great.

I got loads of work done on the V-bass, it is all put together with the new pickups, volume and tone controls and a little row of on/off switches for the pickups. It all works great, and sounds terrific.

Yesterday I sat down in the sitting room, propped the camera up and pressed record.

I played away for a little while, stopped it and pressed play. The camera had not recorded the sound very well, clearly being too far from the speakers.

So I moved around, put the camera closer to the speakers, turned up the volume and played again, fluffing it terribly. So I tried again and all seemed to go well.

It was only when I got her this morning that I realised my problem. You see I have found that the easiest way to do a vblog is to record something in one take, which becomes a single file on the DVD inside my recorder. I then just upload this file. Easy! But with all of my messing around yesterday I had not switched the camera off between takes, meaning that all I have is one huge file with all 3 takes on in, with no way of editing it! Argh!

So I can see that at least one person out there will be rubbing my nose in it very badly today. Still I can take it! I deserve it!

PS, as if to confirm Teresa's comment to this post (that I am having a contest along the lines of "how many excuses can I make to avoid doing a vblog of myself playing the guitar"), I went out at lunchtime to do one of myself with my battery amplifier, you know the one with the battery that died on me. I found a nice spot by the river, settled down, switched on the camcorder and, you guessed it, the battery was dead! I make that number 4 now...

Friday, 12 September 2008

The weekend!


I am Home Alone this weekend. Well not quite. I am Home Alone with the kids.


My wife is off to visit her dad for the weekend, leaving me to deal with the ravening hordes at home. She won't be back until some time Monday, so I booked the day off so I can see them off, do the dog and make sure the house isn't too much of a bomb site for when the Lady of the House returns.


The kids are a pretty good bunch, really, so long as I keep them supplied with food and drink they are happy to amuse themselves most of the time.


The plan is to fend off the kids long enough for me to get the router going on the V-Bass, making the holes the right size for the pickups. Then I can do the wiring, make sure it all works and do a temporary "not-very-pretty-but functional" job on it so I can play it and see if anything needs tweaking before I do the final work of permanently attaching the switches, nobs, pickups and, last but not least, the shiny metal plate on the front to hide the holes and wires and make it look mean!


Think Phil Lynott's guitar, but V-shaped:


Hey, he stole my strap!

If all goes to plan I will be posting a vblog of myself playing the V in its "not-very-pretty-but functional" form on Tuesday!


That is if all goes to plan...


If not, I will probably be posting a vblog of myself ranting about what has gone wrong...


Wish me luck!

Thursday, 11 September 2008

I had it all planned...

Things have been a bit hectic recently as we get ready for the new year at Uni, so I had planned a nice easy, one-braincell day.

I had saved up a pile of photocopying.

Don't laugh!

I know you all know what is coming next!

Yes, the day I want to just feed stuff into the copier it has decided to be a git.


You don't really want me to take that stuff in through the auto-feeder do you?

Oopsie, mis-fed again! Ha ha, can you find the paper? No, not there, look again! OK, you got one bit but there is another piece. Where is it? Not telling!

Don't look at me, you asked for it on pink paper! Yes you did, bitch!


So you see what I am having to contend with? I used to think of it as HAL, but no it is much more malicious than that...

Anyone seen the Stephen King movie "Maximum Overdrive"?




We should be in control of the machines, not the other way around!

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Bits and bobs...

Work on the V-Bass

I have got the new pickups and found that the existing holes for 2 of the pickups are not quite big enough and the 2 new holes that I painstakingly chiselled out are not quite right. I couldn't face yet more chiselling so I have invested in a ROUTER! This is a wonderful power tool that is designed for hollowing out bits of wood and it will make my life MUCH easier. It also means that there are likely to be more modified guitars in the future...

My Blog

Thanks to Jen, I have discovered the Follow feature. This allows me to have a list of my favourite blogs at the bottom of my own blog, showing which have got new posts. It has also allowed me to create a new section showing who is following MY blog, which I have rather naughtily called my "Groupies". I currently have two Groupies...

Guest Blogging

If you are checking blogs over the weekend, I have done a guest post for The Princess of the Universe which will appear on Saturday. Check it out - it will be an experience for you, shall I say?

Update: This has been published early, so you can go to the Princess's blog and scroll down to find it, if you really want to!

That's about it, really. If you haven't yet listened to my recording of myself on the guitar, please go back to the previous post "Rock and Roll" and follow the link.

More soon!

Monday, 8 September 2008

Rock and Roll

Well I felt so bad about my fiasco on Friday that I forced myself to get something done in the Rock Shed.

This track, if you can get it, is my version of something we used to do in a band I was in - we played it at the start of gigs to get our fingers going and make sure the sound was OK.

It is very rough at the edges, I had to settle for the first "not too horrible" takes, but I think it gives an idea of what I sound like. Bass, lead and rhythm guitars are all me, drums were done by the PC.

http://www.zshare.net/download/18386507339f426c/


PS Just had a call saying that the new pickups for my V-Bass have finally arrived! Yay! I can finally rebuild it and make it even more awesome that it was before! Stay tuned for photos...

Friday, 5 September 2008

The best laid plans of mice and men..

So, I grabbed my guitar and camera and set off purposefully into the rain...

video

Thursday, 4 September 2008

Lost...

A moment of silliness while walking the dog...

video

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

To the guys who set up those traffic lights yesterday

OK, don't get me wrong, I know that temporary traffic lights are a great invention - they stop people crashing into holes in the road that have been dug so that our drains etc can be fixed. They also help to prevent games of chicken when part of a road has been blocked off for some reason.

But why were those lights there? There was no hole! There was no digger waiting for tomorrow's digging! There wasn't even a pile of pipes waiting to be connected to the sewage system, eager to transport our bodily waste to the treatment centre! In fact the protected section of road was in immaculate condition. Perhaps this is a new way of stopping our roads wearing out so quickly?

Anyway so there were the lights in all their glory, guiding the traffic around a perfectly clear section of road. But you forgot one thing.

Can you remember what you forgot to do before you went home for dinner?

I am sure you can if you think hard enough.

No? Well I will tell you then.

You forgot to tell them that they should change colour from time to time - they don't work properly when set permanently to RED!

Monday, 1 September 2008

And we'll have fun fun fun...

'til her daddy takes the T-bird away....

Well it felt like that sort of weekend, anyway - a couple of days of great summer weather. If we celebrated Labour Day over here it would have been even better. We have August Bank Holiday, which was last Monday.

Saturday saw a bit of leisurely shopping followed by my barbecue - excellent sausages from the butcher and a pile of boneless pork chops that I marinaded in Regae Regae sauce, a Jamaican barbecue sauce. Wonderful! This was eaten with my home made bread rolls, salad and waffles, washed down with cold beer, sparkling wine, Coke, etc. The dog walk was something of an effort after that, let me tell you!

On Sunday I moved my PC into the Rock Shed (as I have now called it) and did a bit of test recording. Great fun! My test piece is a short instrumental that we used to play in one of my old bands as a intro at gigs. It is about half done - should be able to post it soon!

Life has been made a little more exciting recently by the return of my older son's best friend who spent the last year living in Spain. We thought he was coming back for a holiday but he then revealed that he is back for good! He has now moved in with us while his family gets sorted out with a new house, etc. We are all really pleased to see him back and the boys have been making up for lost time, playing computer games against each other until around 3am most nights! If I had a pound for each time I was woken by a cry of "Agh, you nuked my command centre"...

PS - Did you hear about the woman whose car broke down with a flat battery? She walked into a nearby building site and shouted "Can anyone jump me?" True story.