R.I.P. Kengineer

Ken Latchney, Adrian Belew's engineer has died. Anyone familiar with Adrian's work (especially those following his recent touring) will know of Ken. It's a sad loss.


Wednesday night fun

A good rehearsal last night even though it was so humid I felt no benefit from being next to an open door onto a garden. I played with composer/pianist Mark Denton and the project's guitarist so we could check basic arrangements before a further rehearsal with full band in a few more days. It went well principally because of the positive atmosphere. It's fun to be the hired gun bass player (usually) and I'm looking forward to hearing the songs with drums, horn section and singers.

The drive home was entertaining. Someone was having a fireworks display. Or were they? Actually no. I turned the radio down and started hearing the crash of thunder. I seemed to be driving into the heart of the storm and watched the surrounding countryside flash in and out of view. When I got home J had enough presence of mind (bearing in mind she was 98% asleep) to say she had left her car's sunroof open. I went back out and remembered that one of the safest places to be in a thunder storm is in a car. Fine. But one of the least safe places to be is by a car or under a tree. I was by a car and under a tree, trying to do what I had to do quickly while the lightening illuminated the scene on a scarily regular basis. I was back in the house very quickly and literally soaking wet. All this before searching for the cat.



Originally uploaded by Roostar.
A hot day at work today. I came home to learn some songs and play these guys. The Stick (especially playing it along with 'The Joy of Molybdenum') rebalanced my mind after quite a lot of pop music. Thank you Trey Gunn.


Speaking parts

What do Captain Pugwash, Zippy, Martian Robots, Mr Turnip, Bill & Ben and the Daleks have in common?



Not to be used

Not to be used
Originally uploaded by Roostar.
This is me at work on a hot and heavy Thursday. I've always loved this sign (what's not to be used?) but today it summed up how I felt about myself.



I went for a walk up the road to fetch the veg box. Usually nothing weird happens. Tonight I was accosted by a nice man who engaged me in conversation.

Him: Hello. Have I met you before?

Me: No, I don't think so.

Him: I didn't think I'd met you before.

Me: I moved here about six months ago. Hi, (puts out right hand) I'm Will.

Him: (Puts out left hand, making shaking hands tricky) Are you busy right now?

Me: (wilting under the weight of the veg box and high temperature) I am a bit, yes.

Him: Oh, Would you do something for me, 'cause you can't be that busy.

Me: What?

Him: Would you punch me?

Me: (After thinking "I'm on telly") No.

Him: Why not?

Me: (tactful silence)

Him: Won't you do what I've asked you to do?

Me: No. (I walk away).

Him: I've just asked you to punch me. Won't you punch me?

Me: No. (Keeps walking, doesn't look back).

I've linked this to MIND's website and wished I knew more about these sort of issues. I'm worried someone might grant his wish.

Sometimes too hot the eye of heaven shines

A baking day at the day job. Our department lives in a 1960s tower which, in weather like this (it's still unbelievably hot in/for England), is unbearable. Our computers had all crashed too so we couldn't send emails, go on the net or perform another jolly work-related activities. After clearing through a pile of paperwork I read some notes on John Milton and then grabbed paper and pen and wrote a sonnet. It's all good practise.

Yesterday a tape of twenty songs arrived in the post. I have to learn these by the end of the month and so I made start before J returned from her nightshift. Playing the bass was the most satisfying thing I had done for days. However, cassette tapes don't have the appeal they used to. For one thing the song I'm learning might not be in the key it seems to be in as tape has a tendency to stretch. For another, I've grown used to the convenience of scrolling though playlists on the iPod and calling up exactly the song I need to be working on. Tape is feeling terribly old fashioned.

If you're reading this at work, in England, it's too hot! Go home and write a sonnet.


Just for fun

Here's a puzzle I found in a recently bought second-hand book. Post your answer(s) in the comments box and I'll reveal all in a week (unless everyone gets it right).

A man is looking at a portrait. Someone asks him who it is of and he replies "Brothers and sisters I have none. This man's father is my father's son."


On Wednesday J and I drove to Cardiff to visit family and to get some things for the house. We were stuck for a while on the motorway behind the mayhem caused by a burning lorry carrying (now very charred) grand pianos.

On Friday we went to Oxford and had breakfast in the newly opened Carluccio's. I had the 'bread tin' option, causing J to wonder just how I could eat that much bread. Well, not only could I put all the bread away I also polished off a Krispy Kreme doughnut before we even got back to the centre of town. Luckily we walked a lot and had a chance to stroll around the university parks. As the sun was out the parks were alive with picnickers, children playing games, impromptu football games and sunbathers. J and I rounded off the walk with a visit to Browns and then came home to flake out and enjoy the last few hours of our week off together.

Unfortunately the neighbour problems flared up again robbing us of a chance to have a proper night's sleep. This happened again yesterday morning and left me feeling a little zombie-like for my day of musicking (and camera research) in London with Richard Guitarist. We did manage to sit on a bench by the Thames and have a good complain though; fulfilling our stereotyped roles as potential grumpy old men.

I may have given the impression that J and I are moving house soon. This was probably a case of too much wishing. Actually we are just working on the house so that when the time (and money situation) is right we can find another home. The problem with the neighbours is a complicated one but the upshot is that I never know if I'm going to get a good night's sleep and this is slowly driving me mad. I am a person, after all, who once had a policeman knock on the front door (at the last address) to apologise for the noise a helicopter, pursuit car, policemen and dogs had made while chasing a dangerous suspect past our front garden. Much to the policeman's surprise I had to admit I'd slept through the whole thing. Anyway, more on this later.

There is likely to be an appearance of Semi-Beaver (a possibly horn section free version of Soul Beaver) in September. I've also been asked to play at the Ash Bash show again this year. I played bass in the house band of this end of year drum clinic student... um, bash and enjoyed it immensely.

Sports Relief did well last night. It certainly put my silly problems into perspective.



Over the past weekend I've been enjoying a restful stay at Chez Inlaws and some top class sports action. Wimbledon supplied two great finals, making it hard to cheer for any individual, whether Swiss, French, Belgian or Spanish. On Sunday J and I enjoyed the world cup with Chelsea playing France. It was a good weekend to be European.

This week J and I have some days together to get our house in a better shape for selling and to maybe have some fun too. In the past two days we have cleaned rooms, had a carpet fitted, sanded the staircase, primed and painted it, had the chimney swept, cleaned out the shed, made cakes and biscuits and generally got quite tired. This is really satisfying work though.

Some of the upcoming days are scheduled for 'fun.' I'll keep you posted.

Work 3

Originally uploaded by Roostar.
The proper reward for days of slog. Home made biscuit/cake things. These are snickerdoodles from Nigella Lawson's Domestic Godess book and they went down very well with coffee.

Work 2

Working man
Originally uploaded by Roostar.
A portrait of sanding man. Note musician tee-shirt.

Work 1

Cleaning the shed
Originally uploaded by Roostar.
Cleaning out the shed. Strangely theraputic.


We're having a heatwave

I've been a bit slow with my posts recently. The heat (it is uncharacteristically hot in southern England at the moment), hassles with the neighbours and the intensity of the day job have been keeping me away. This being England the summer can only be here for a few more days though and work at the day job is about to slow down.

Expect lots of jolly photographs of rain, the world outside my office and (possibly, hopefully, probably not) J and I moving house.


Sunny days

According to the back garden thermometer it is 24C in the shade and 43C in direct sunlight. This is officially too hot for me (a person who turns crispy and red the moment spring has stopped springing). Luckily for me, my weekend task to to attack the staircase with a power-sander. I can imagine better ways of passing the day (burying myself in manure, etc.) but will sand away until all traces of the previous owners' bad painting and dodgy colour schemes have gone.

On Friday night J and I went to the local Volunteer Inn to watch Lisa Mills. She's a bluesy singer and guitarist in the style of Bonnie Raitt and was performing a range of originals and covers with a double bass player accompanying her. It was a stunning performance considering the small audience (not much room for a big audience to be fair). All the way from Mobile Alabama to Faringdon.

I'm writing on Sunday morning having witnessed England's defeat at football and Andy Murray's success at tennis. Both matches made watchable because they weren't walk-overs.

One more week of teaching, then DIY craziness, then I can get my teeth into some music projects. There's an album to be recorded with Richard Guitarist, more songs of my own to put on tape and a chance to play at the Jacqueline Du Pre music room in Oxford. Exciting stuff.