Much car madness over the weekend. In an attempt to get a new (secondhand) car for J which was more suitable to her we planned a foolproof trip to the garage. On the way my car broke down. The next day we tried again but this time I got flashed by a speed camera. The first time I've ever been caught speeding. Normally I'm not much for fast driving and would probably be better suited to pottering about on a bicycle.

J is now the proud owner of a smaller, more economical car and can drive to and from work as safely as anyone else on the roads.

In other news I was pleased to hear the new Branford Marsalis album, Braggtown today. I've been a fan of Branford's since I heard his first solo album Scenes in the City, my vinyl copy of which still lives with my folks. That was an exciting selection of music which I played until I almost wore it out. Branford is a great live performer (although not without his critics) and a nice guy as well. Braggtown is the latest in a long line of increasingly well made and full-on albums. It has power, tenderness, wildness and craziness. What more could you want from your latest jazz tunes?

This weekend brings a meal with J and my folks and a rehearsal this year's Ash Bash concert. I've dug out my Fender Jazz after a conversation with Richard Guitarist about what instrument one would pick if you could only have one. I picked as my ideal an early Fender Jazz which had been defretted and coated with marine varnish on the fingerboard. Essentially I wanted Jaco Pastorius's bass, but no one knows where it is. Mine is a late 1990's American made instrument with a great tone and it is high time I played it again.


Snapshot from the dayjob

Because I like my job and don't want to be sacked I rarely write about the day job. Today I'm making an exception.

For 90 minutes this afternoon I had the pleasure of teaching bright young people some of the practicalities of textual intervention theory. This is my favourite form of literary theory as it's playful, inventive and provides insight in a creative way. The principle tutor on my degree was Rob Pope, an enthusiastic and endlessly interesting professor with a view of English far wider than the average lecturer. Rob effectively wrote the book on textual intervention - no, not effectively - he did write the book on it, and being in his classes, trying out these new ideas was a thrill.

Today, I tried to get a few ideas across to my students. Somehow, though, they managed to take the lesson and transform it with odd tangents (thank you Sami), new ideas (thank you Hannah) delight in inappropriate words (thank you Jo) and a general atmosphere of silliness (thank you everyone else). What a classroom observer might not have realised was that this class - these people - generated a host of good ideas and probably pushed their understanding of the subject on much further than my simple lesson objectives could ever do.

I'm always amazed that people will pay me to sing, although it's something I'd do for free. Today I felt genuinely thankful that I can spend time with such interesting and rewarding people - and get paid.


I don't know...

I don't know what I like but I do know about art. The UK's channel 5 broadcast a programme tonight about the excellent Modern Art Oxford. This gallery, which was once the Museum of Modern Art but never a museum, is one of my all time favourite places to be. If the art is good (i.e. if I like it) the experience can be anything from worthwhile to overwhelming. If the art is bad the experience is almost always entertaining. I saw an exhibition of work by Yoko Ono there (including some pieces she did with John Lennon) which was so good I went back and then back again. I've seen giant trees made from rope and a sandscape with its own wooden corridor. And yes, I've even seen a collection of paintings.

Not everyone has the inclination to give 'modern' art the time of day, mind you. One of the people I love most in the world refused to even set foot in the building. Luckily J is willing to stroll around the place and tell me if she thinks a particular collection is rubbish or not.

If you live in the area, get along and see what you think.

And RIP Robert Altman.


More sloes

And one more of the lovely berries. Gin anyone?

Dangerous tree?

This is the local school playground. Its hard to make out in the photo but the cones mark out the area where the tree's berries have fallen. Why? To keep children away from the dangerous berries. Do cones work on children? Is there something really obvious I've missed here? Answers on some sort of virtual postcard please.


Sloe close up
Originally uploaded by Roostar.
Some beautiful sloes from our walk today.


Nearly three months ago I had a dream that J and I had a baby. I had never had such a dream before - usually my dreams involve music or wandering inside a house I haven't been to yet. Sometimes I dream that I can fly.

This time though it was a snapshot of us with a child. Our child. The most surprising thing was that it did not feel surprising or odd. Whatever was going on in my subconscious that night it had an effect on me and the dream made me feel that perhaps becoming a dad was something that might happen and that I might even enjoy.

Well now I'm going to find out. Around the time we went to see Sting's lute concert in London J revealed that she thought she was pregnant. A couple of tests proved that she was and a recently a scan has shown us the fast beating heart of the little life inside her. This, Mr Anonymous (if you're reading) was my big news. I've been contacting friends and family over these past weeks and now feel the time is right to share our good news with you.

So expect a bit more narrative to the blog over these coming months. We're about eleven weeks in (or ten or twelve depending on what or who you believe) and the due date is currently June 6th. Yes, D-Day. We had thought there might be twins but it's just the one. There is a twist though which I can't talk about just yet.

I'm hoping not to become a baby bore and I'm well aware that anything could happen in the next six months but expect me to be writing about something other than gigs and food.

Actually I'm going to do that right now. Alongside all the baby stuff J and I have been getting on with the usual business of country walks and ordering custom spray painted bins (more on that later). On today's walk J picked autumnal twigs and berries to make a display for the house. I bumped into Mark Kelly from Marillion.

Much of today has been spent writing UCAS references for students. It certainly isn't something I enjoy doing but it did remind me of my capacity to write thousands of words a day. That might be something I rely more on in the future.

Times are changing.


Change is good, as is a rest.

Our neighbours who have, intentionally or otherwise, given us a year of noise problems have gone. Yesterday a big van arrived and they packed up. They've swapped with a family who J and I met this morning. After the stressful times of the past year we are both on edge to see if things are going to be better or worse.

Today we got out of the house for a walk to a pub in the nearby village of Woolstone. Autumnal trees outside the window, a roaring fire in the grate, a family passing on horses and bikes and a good meal helped us get things in perspective. And, believe me, there's a lot of stuff to get in perspective at the moment.

I'm now 'looking forward' to hours of paperwork from the day job.


The Bruised Romantic Glee Club

I found time to have lunch with Emma and Richard from Soul Beaver today. A great meal in Oxford and one of those lovely wide ranging discussions that makes you appreciate your friends even more. We've agreed to try and make the band a little more active although there are no fixed plans as yet.

In the post this morning was a copy of Jakko Jakszyk's 'The Bruised Romantic Glee Club'. It's a thing of wonder and beauty and I recommend it to everyone.


Another day, another new link

Just very tired today. Day job was draining. Fun, but draining.

I have made a lens page here. It's early days yet but I took up Seth Godin's challenge and feel this could be an idea that could grow.

In other news, a muso friend has suggested some live, improvised shows based around the coffee-housing tunes. I'm very excited about this and look forward to getting it underway as soon as possible. The wrist has turned a disturbing shade of red, if you were wondering.


Return of the Medicine Train

I had the delight today of catching up with an old friend. Mark and I haven't spoken in nearly two years but we picked up talking about bands, family and relationships as if it had only been a week.

Mark and I were in a band many years ago. It's safe to say that Medicine Train were not the best loved band in the area, and indeed that sometimes we were not as good as we could have been. That said, some good songs were written and a lot of effort was put into a project that ultimately could not sustain itself. The drummer and I continue to work together and Mark eventually moved to Sheffield, drifting out of the writing/rehearsing/gigging continuum.

But now he's back and doing solo acoustic shows. You can find his Myspace page here and I would heartily recommend you get to one of his gigs. It won't be long before I find an excuse to get to Yorkshire and try to hog the stage.



I just added 'The Philadelphia Story' to my fave films section on my profile. Out of curiosity I clicked to see which other bloggers rate this film so highly. All of them (with only one exception) stopped blogging in 2004. Is this a coincidence? Or did hundreds of people start and stop in 2004. I know I had a false start when I began in 2003 but now blogging has become a vital part of my week.

Today J and I went for walk in the lovely autumnal air and then I devoted the rest of the day to day job paperwork and eating the delicious things that J brought out of the kitchen. We watched a staggering amount of telly too.

Richard Guitarist and I are planning a pre-Christmas trip to London and we will also be joining Andy Cross for Ash Bash 3 this year. More reports and photographs as things happen.

Oh, the burnt wrist is starting to heal. Thanks for asking.



Originally uploaded by Roostar.
And this was the picture I took while still hopping around in pain. I really have to learn to prioritize.

Fireworks again

Firework 2
Originally uploaded by Roostar.
A flock of seagulls?


Firework 4
Originally uploaded by Roostar.
The Faringdon Fireworks Night. Not unlike a big gig.

Beware hot things!

Firework 5
Originally uploaded by Roostar.
Your brave correspondant and his beloved attended a local fireworks party. The fireworks were impressive and so was the bonfire. It was while taking this picture that I accidently tipped the boiling hot soup I was holding in my left hand over my right wrist. Being a hero (or an idiot) I made sure I had the photo before mopping off the hot soup and noticing just how painful it was. It was very painful. In fact the skin was rippled and red so we went back to the car for water to pour on the wound. We stopped at a MacDonalds so I could use their cold taps but the taps in their toilets only have hot water. Sigh. The manager spotted my injury and insisted I come into the kitchen where they have knee operated cold taps. Bliss. He even supplied me with a cold compress to keep things bearable until I got home.
So there you have it. Be careful with the soup on bonfire night.