Disaster relief

I've been staring blankly at the television, shocked at the events following the underwater earthquake. Shocked too at the BBC's insistance on keeping us up to date on how many Brits have died. Does that really matter?

To the BBC's credit though they have been active in spreading details of how we can help. I'll pass those on now.

In the UK you can Phone: 0870 60 60 900

or visit the Disasters Emergency Committee website to make a donation.

In other countries I suggest contacting your local Red Cross/Crescent.


The holiday has been a mixed bag so far.

The band's gig on Christmas eve was tarnished by the landlord who tried to get away with not paying us. This is a long and dull story but the upshot is that we did get paid but we won't be playing the Chester Arms in Oxford again until the landlord leaves. I don't expect this to take too long after the way he treats people. I should add that the bar staff are all excellent people, as were the customers who enjoyed the live music.

Christmas day was spent (for the first time) with the inlaws, who treated us to a fabulous meal, complete with wine spillages, children shouting and general mayhem. What was particularly good was that, as the only vegetarian I wasn't made to feel out of place. Christmas evening was with my mum and dad. This was an altogether calmer, though no less enjoyable experience. My folks also know how to enjoy themselves. Calls to friends in Cornwall and Stoke, a roaring fire and maybe too many shots of whisky rounded off the day.

Since Christmas I have celebrated Richard Guitarist's birthday with other friends at a Chinese restaurant. This was a lovely night with excellent company. Something of a theme for this holiday period.

The beard, which I intend to shave off just before going back to work, has past the itchy stage and is covering up my new scars.


Susan Sontag

The ever fascinating Susan Sontag has died. I clipped the following from the LA Times.

"I sobbed and wailed and thought [books] were the greatest things," she recalled. "I discovered a lot of writers in the Modern Library editions, which were sold in a Hallmark card store, and I used up my allowance and would buy them all."

She remembered as a girl of 8 or 9 lying in bed looking at her bookcase against the wall. "It was like looking at my 50 friends. A book was like stepping through a mirror. I could go somewhere else. Each one was a door to a whole kingdom."



Originally uploaded by Roostar.
I have no idea how this will come out on your screen but anyway, here is a spillage of berries from our neighbour's tree onto our back yard.


Another new experience this morning. I had my stitches out. Oddly, I was more apprehensive about this than the operation. The doctor was very understanding though, keeping an eye on me throughout the procedure. The 'procedure' turned out to be nothing more frightening than having someone pick splinters from your face.

Teaching is now over for two weeks, although I have plenty of lesson planning and marking to catch up with. Can't complain about two weeks off though.

Last night the band had a positive rehearsal despite (or maybe because of) my not singing again (not wanting to aggravate the stitches). We played through some songs that had been languishing in the vaults for years, as well as the super cheesy Christmas songs. Super cheesy but sounding good now we all know what chords to play.

The Soul Beaver t-shirts have arrived too, and very fetching they are. Now, all I need to do is figure out how to stop identity cards becoming a reality.


Blood, beards and ... euch!

This is a mini-post as very little has happened since last time. Lots of coughing caused some problems with the stitches. Today the coughing seems to be disappearing but there is blood on the bedsheet and I have grown a beard as shaving is a bit tricky. I do look a little like the victim of a fight but feel a lot better having had my first good night's sleep in over a week.
So no, no pictures just yet.


Science Fiction Birthday

I'm at home. It's raining, the sky is grey and I can't go to work.

On the bright side I love the rain and it's a chance to catch up on some reading.

Today is also the birthday of Arthur C Clarke and Philip K Dick. What is it with science fiction writers and their middle initials? I'll have to ask Iain M Banks.

I like PKD's saying "Insanity is sometimes an appropriate response to reality."


Christmas Cheese and the numb faced man

I've just come back from having some facial surgery. Nothing extreme but it was my first ever operation. My mouth is still numb and the stitches are buzzing.
As it turns out the aneathetic was quite powerful and, not only can I not teach tonight but I'm not supposed to go anywhere or do anything tomorrow.
I have to keep my head up, not eat solid food and not fiddle with the bandages. The solid food thing is the toughest since I haven't eaten much today.

Last night the band rehearsed some Christmas songs for the gig. Pure cheese but I'm sure they'll sound wonderful on the night. At least the ones Emma sings will. Because of my throat being so sore I had to mime mine.

That's enough self pity for one night. I'm going to have another smoothie through a straw.


It's not the cough that carried him off...

No excuses. I'm using the blog as a dumping ground tonight. I have had a persistent cough for three days and it has been robbing me of sleep. I know that many people have small children that rob them of sleep and that others have terrible illnesses that make my cough look like a splinter in a redwood tree - but I feel like poop and I have to share!

The good news is that, illness allowing, I get to rehearse with Soul Beaver again soon. We have a gig in Oxford on Christmas Eve which should be a lot of fun. The Beaver web site will be properly updated soon. It's not as easy to access or update as a blog. If you are a fan you may like to know we'll be offering a high quality t-shirt for the first time ever, in the new year.

Day work (teaching) is fun too although the cry I hear from all my colleagues is a wish for the Christmas break to come soon and a wish for more time to catch up on paperwork. I know nobody has sympathy for teachers because we get these long holidays, so this is probably a good place to sign off for the night.



Originally uploaded by Roostar.
An unusual gig this Friday night. Half of Soul Beaver - cunningly re-named 'Half Beaver' - performed at the Nuffield Orthapedic Centre in Oxford for their Christmas party.
It was a chance for me to play my double bass, which hasn't been gigged in years. The full band is going to be playing at The Chester Arms again, on Christmas Eve. You're all welcome.


Something for the weekend

This has been a busy weekend. On Friday I was away from work so I could attend my uncle's funeral. My mum's brother was a big music fan with a pleasantly sharp sense of humour. This was reflected in the funeral service which opened with 'Moon River' and ended with 'Swinging Safari.' The contrast between the sadness of loss, highlighted by the curtains closing around a flower bedecked coffin, and the sudden jauntiness of 'Swinging Safari' was enormous. Almost everyone present giggled and left the hall with a bounce in their step. I got to meet members of my family I hadn't seen or spoken to in many years. It felt as if everyone was looking forward, rather than dwelling on the occasional division that is typical of any family. I even got to spend some extra time with my folks on the drive to and from the cemetery, which was enjoyable. In short, a positive occasion.

Despite being positive the day was quite tiring. It didn't end with returning mum and dad to their house though. I drove to the railway station and took a train to London. There I met up with friends to see Barenaked Ladies playing a Christmas show at the Shepherds Bush Empire. The support was Boothby Graphoe; possibly the funniest man I have seen on stage in years. The band themselves were on terrific form, mixing holiday songs with their own hits and some improvised music as well. A real treat.

Being the top quality friends they are Alison and David drove me back to the house and then spent the night. On Saturday, after some Christmas shopping I had a gig of my own with Soul Beaver. This went better than any of us expected and gave us the opportunity to say goodbye to our trumpet player, Gaynor, and to celebrate the engagement of our ex-guitarist, Richard.

Gaynor will be greatly missed and the hunt to find a replacement trumpet player (especially one with such a great personality) is on. Alison, a regular attendee of ours from the band's first gigs made it to the show with her husband and was rewarded with some new songs.

Next weekend I have an acoustic charity gig to play at which gives me the chance to play my double bass again. Hopefully some photos will be up soon.