Stick updates

A breakthrough. I took the Stick along to a freind's house last night. He played acoustic guitar and I accompanied. At first (after the usual "what the hell is that" questions) I made an embarassment of mistakes. Most of these caused by my brain (still) not getting the difference between 'ordinary' fret markers and the Stick sytle linear markers on fourths. On bass when someone calls 'G' I know where to put my fingers without thinking. On this instrument I'm not yet on automatic.

Anyway, after twenty minutes of sounding terrible the veil lifted, inspiration struck or, more as is always more likely, I stopped trying so hard. I stopped being a bassist and began playing lines above and below my friend's guitar work. This was much better.

While he made coffee I turned on my pedal board's humble looping patch and produced some pretty decent groves. Guiatr friend comes running back in at the sound and we jam over the loops.

Now, on Saturday I'm playing with two very serious and highly talented musicians. Do I have the nerve to bring the Stick. Oh yes.


Pictures from the holiday

OK, still no Stick pictures (I'm too busy playing it). These are from Berwick on Tweed and Bamburgh.


Late night discoveries

I should be getting my sleep before going in to work tomorrow morning but I've just discovered how easy it is to plug the Stick into the PowerBook and record it on Garageband. This is not the most sophisticated music software in the world, but it could well be the easiest to set up and use.

Keep the Stick names coming in by the way. Be sure that, when the time is right, I'll come up with something obvious, or at the very least, pretentious.

Screech and tap

Back home for a few hours before getting back to work full time.

I bought 'The Essays: A Selection' by Michel de Montaigne. I had read his essay on cannibals when teaching 'The Tempest' and hadn't realised how wonderful his other writings were. I got the Penguin selection, which is edited by M A Screech, a great name as well as a top notch translator. These essays, along with John Cage's 'Silence' should make good reading in between the mad demands of work.

Big news: The Stick has arrived. It's an eight string tapping instrument (pictures are bound to follow) which regular readers will know I was having problems naming. Good sense has prevailed and I shall get on with the important business of learning to play it before giving it a name. Don's suggestion (see previous comment) was one of my early ideas and, I think, a fine one. Since Don's chess improvement blog has ended I've updated the link to his current one - Once a Fat Guy. I recommend a look.

The Stick, (SB8 to be accurate) is a beautifully crafted instrument. Hand made in Emmett Chapman's garage in LA, it has the potential to sound fantastic. At the moment, having had limited time to practise, I've been concentrating on getting a good tone and playing scales. I have played it with a band, but only for one song. It provoked a stunned reaction - an actual gasp from one of the musicians - and lots of questions. Once I can play it properly and confidently I'm sure it will open up all kinds of exciting musical adventures.


Weekenders & more Stick news

It's been a wonderful weekend. Stayed at Brough Towers where we were treated to fine food and extended conversations about Chick Corea (what was his band's name?). Plenty of inspiring ideas were conceived for the new Cruttenden home, most of them of a musical nature I admit.

Came home to find local cottages smoldering. Five homes, two of them only recently moved into, had caught alight in the early hours of Sunday and the village green was swarming with fire engines, tents and concerned villagers. J and I counted our blessings and went for a long walk in the woods.

Two new musical projects. I have a rehearsal tonight playing (I'm told) a cross between Tom Waits and Chris Rea in a jazz style. In December, thanks to Andy C, I'm part of the house band for Ash Bash 2; Simon Ash's drum clinic end of term event. Rehearsals for the new extended Bridge Street should start soon and Soul Beaver will be learning some new tracks from next week.

The Stick? Well, I'm writing this from my parents' house and the delivery is imminent. I've tracked the package to a town about half an hour's drive away and the UPS site says it has gone out for delivery. Have decided not to call the instrument Godot after all, as pedants (of whom I'm one) will point out that Godot never turns up. I had been toying with a few ideas but have now settled on Virgil, the poet who guides Dante through Hell and then up Mount Purgatory. And yes, Virgil was also one the clunky puppets in Thunderbirds. Maybe I'll call it Bob.

So the naming of things has been (almost) settled. The next question is - can I play the thing?


Going out in style

It's good to see Hunter S Thompson getting his final wish. If you read the article (link in the title) you'll notice this was a private event. But ask yourself, how private can something this spectacular be?


Shopping lists & 'Where's the Stick? Part II'

OK, back to happier things. On the radio this morning I heard a suitably batty article about people who collect discarded shopping lists and do interesting and creative/insane things with them. Find more here.

The Stick is now in the UK but won't be delivered until Monday. Which is torture, especially as I now can't show off my inability to play this new and exciting instrument to my friend this evening. On reflection, that is probably a good thing. He can hear me when I've mastered 'Autumn Leaves' or 'Tutu' or, more likely, 'Chopsticks.'


Mo Mowlam dies

The death of politicians is not always followed by serious reflection or genuine sadness. But I bet Mo Mowlam's will be.

The Stick gets closer

The Stick (the new instrument I have been goin on about for the past year) has made it from a workshop in California, to Philly and has now arrived on these shores. It's in Derby though, which could mean and agonizing wait as it trundles down the motorway. Stay tuned.


Beach Tractor

Beach Tractor
Originally uploaded by Roostar.
OK, I'm rushing through these a bit, but this is my favourite shot of the holiday. On a deserted beach on the Scottish mainland we found this tractor, looking like it was waiting for Edward Hopper to turn up.

Cottage on Harris

Cottage on Harris
Originally uploaded by Roostar.
This is where we stayed for the bulk of our time. There are ruins of other cottages near but this is the only habitation for a long, long way. In a week we only saw one person hiking past. Later I'll post the view from the cottage, which is notable for the amazing transport device engineered to get coal (and furniture apparently) up from the loch.

Everywhere I looked...

Everywhere I looked...
Originally uploaded by Roostar.
On the way up to Scotland we encountered increasing numbers of Citroens. Cars, vans and lorries passed us as we went north, all ridiculously proud to be Citroens. This was a fairly typical example, seen in a car park near Inverness.



Back from Scotland, the new instrument is on it's way and I'm very excited... and tired. Updates and photographs soon. But in the meantime:

The Dali Lama goes to New York for a visit. As he walks down the
street, he sees a hot dog vendor, and gets a little hungry. So
he walks up and says "Make me one with everything".


Return to Ullapool

... and here we are back in Ullapool. It feels like a luxury being able to type this on a keyboard rather than a phone keypad. Having said that I'll a bit tired after the three hour crossing and an invigorating walk in the (heavy) rain. So it's time for dry clothes and maybe a wee dram. More news, including (I hope) some interesting music news, and some pretty decent photographs in a few days.


We just walked past a place called the 'Coffee Pot' which is part music shop, part chip shop. It sounds great until you see just how bad the food in Stornaway is.


Still blogging from the phone. We are heading back to the mainland and looking forward to a meal at the Ceilidh Place.



Originally uploaded by Roostar.
Don't be scared . It's a midge hat.


Have seen a seal, a dolphin, an eagle, millions of midges and the most isolated tennis court on Earth.



Mellon c

Mellon c
Originally uploaded by Roostar.
The other place called Mellon.


Originally uploaded by Roostar.
Mellon Charles

Chilling at the Ceilidh Place

We've settled in at the Ceilidh Place and have banished the horrible memories of dodgy pizza and smelly rooms. Our room here is rather lovely and (if it weren't for a couple of trees) has a great view over the loch. Having accidentally wiped the email address that lets me blog photos from the phone I am now back and ready to pester you all with grainy pictures taken by a shaky camera phone. Decent pictures will get up loaded when we get back.

In a change of plans we're not going to Edinburgh but will continue the chilling out process here when we get back from Harris. There is no shortage of events and happenings here, but frustratingly, there are no music events at the Ceilidh Place's own venue this week. Luckily for me J makes her own music wherever she goes.

More soon.


Arrived at the Ceilidh Place after a night at the Just Bearable Motel. We had pizza disguised as cheese on toast (the only veggy option) and a smelly room. Should be a lot better tonight.



Rain, grey skies and Eddie Stobart lorries. Yes it's holiday time! More exciting reports soon.


Houses and holidays

I had a call last night from a very good rfiend who I had somehow not talked to for over a year. We had a good chat, caught up and promised not to leave it so long next time. Summarising the past year reminded me of all the good things that have happened recently and, possibly, there might be another to add to the list. J and I have found a(nother) house we like and are in the middle of an attempt to buy it. In our typical fashion we are going on holiday tomorrow, but in the knowledge that there isn't much more we can do while we're gone.

Keep checking the blog over the next few weeks. I hope to post some pictures from our journey (probably from the phone as I don't know how to get the camera to talk to 'strange' computers yet) and if it doesn't rain every day the scenery should be rather wonderful.

The title of today's entry links to an interesting piece from Chris at the Yellow Box. Have a read and remember... vote Eugene!