27.1.11

The Cookie Diary - Part 1

My daughter Freya asked if we could make some cookies some weeks ago. I agreed and we dished up a batch of shortbread cookies with hundreds and thousands in them. Two weeks ago we made up some similar shortbread cookies but this time adding cocoa powder instead of the hundreds and thousands. We got the recipe (basically flour, sugar and butter) from a DK baking book someone bought for her last year.

Last weekend we tried out a lemon biscuit recipe form Jamie Oliver's Ministry of Food book. This involved zesting a lemon, which Freya found odd but fascinating. The biscuits spread so far on the baking tray that what we actually made was a single, giant lemon biscuit that I then had to cut up into smaller ones.

Freya (who is three and a half but believes herself to be much older) and I decided it might be fun to make cookies/biscuits on a regular basis. We've now agreed to try and make as many different kinds as we can and I hope (if I remember and have enough time) to record some of our efforts here.



The first lessons I have have learned: baking is great fun and baking with an interested small child is enormous fun.

17.1.11

Not my space any longer

In a move that will surprise no one I'm going to say goodbye to my MySpace account. I've tried updating it but despite this the 'bio' remains stuck with out of date information. I'm not going to delete it though. It might still serve a purpose. For anyone interested in my musical activity please check here for information (or follow me on Twitter) and go to Bandcamp for the actual music. All the appropriate links are down and to the left.

I hope to have some news of musical goings on very soon.

14.1.11

Room

I do read quite a lot of books but I’m a slow reader and there just isn’t enough time in the day to read as much as I like. Once in a while a book comes along that makes me make time. A book that, to use the clichĂ©, I can’t put down. Books like this always connect at some deep emotional level that makes them more than a good read. There are books that are so affecting the resonance they create stays with me for days and reality is coloured by it.


For Christmas I got a copy of Room by Emma Donoghue. It’s the story of a boy and his mother, their imprisonment and their freedom (I don’t want to give much more away because part of the excitement of reading is the uncovering of the story). I don’t usually manage to read a 400 page book in two days but Room made me do so.

If you’ve been looking around for something to read that will leave a mark and make you cheer for good writing, read this book.

10.1.11

Hacking and harping

Health update: cough, cough, cough, cough, cough, cough, cough, cough, cough, cough, cough, cough, cough, cough, cough, cough … sigh.


Other news: I have two ongoing musical projects for this year. I expect both of them to be realised slowly and simultaneously. The first is the voice/music project which is now just a few anecdotes short. I have to ask one person to re-record their contribution and I have a little, subtle nagging to do to get the remaining voices. This is a project that’s been stopping and starting for years now but, as far as I can tell, this won’t hurt it. The big completed section still sounds good and the remaining parts are sufficiently written out that there should still be a workable sense of coherence. If there isn’t and it all ends up sounding like a horrific hodgepodge then we’ll have to see if it needs a re-think or simply a quick trip to the rubbish bin.

The second project is the supposedly more straight-ahead next Spingere album. This has a title, track names and enough completed music for a full album. The problem is that I’m not convinced the music suits the project. I had a clear idea about the overall shape and sound for this one and what I have so far belongs too much to what I’ve already done. It would provide a nice consistent Spingere feel, but it wouldn’t be right. So, for the first time (for me) I’m keeping everything except the music and starting again.

On another level I’m having huge fun learning to play the harmonica. My guess is that, if I’m to avoid the usual harmonica pitfalls (always sounding like I’m just breathing through the instrument, not really playing it) I’ve got to get a lot better at playing individual notes. I can do this quite well but want to be a lot better at it before learning the mystic art of bending notes. This seems to be the key to playing in a blues style. I’ve been trawling YouTube videos for hints on bending notes but all I’ve found so far is a selection of people explaining how to do it, but not being able to demonstrate that they can do it, or people demonstrating they can do it, but not being able to explain how. Advice and top tips always welcome.

This will be a lot easier when my stupid cough goes away.

4.1.11

2010

Happy New Year. I’m at home, sick, surrounded by sick family members and I sound like Robin William’s gay brother in Mrs Doubtfire, but enough of that.


I don’t usually do best of lists at the end of a year but 2010 has been so rich and diverse I wanted to share a few things with those of you who may not be aware of them.

Firstly, my favourite novel of the year was ‘Zero History’ by William Gibson. A taught thriller packed into weaving threads of ideas and devices so cool there are still people who think this is a science fiction novel.
In pop music one album was miles above any others, although I suspect I’m slowly growing out of pop music generally. Canadian Steven Page released Page One this year and it is a sizzling, mixed metaphorical gem of a record. If you loved the wit and intelligence of Barenaked Ladies but had the nagging feeling you were being sidetracked form the good stuff, well, here’s the good stuff. The song ‘Over Joy’ should be a single and it really should be a hit.
Very late in the year I found the song ‘Fuck You’ by Cee-Lo Green, which I somehow missed when it was number one. I loved this song. Simple, witty (despite what you might think with a title like that) and extremely good to sing along to when driving home in the night.
The Christmas compilation album with BBC Music Magazine was stunningly good. It’s so good I’ve already lost my copy, so if you like beautifully sung choral music with a Christmas theme but without the cheese, try and get a copy of the December issue.
I was torn for best album between Trey Gunn’s epic Modulator and Llyria by Nik Bärtsch’s Ronin. Two very different albums but both sublime. I came to the Ronin album through the recommendation of the excellent Sid Smith, who was already aware of this group and had seen them in concert earlier in the year. I was hooked from the first few bars and felt I had discovered an album that had been made for me. Trey Gunn's Modulator is a monster of an album. A 50+ minute improvised drum solo which Trey has written and played over but which sounds seamless. I've listened to it over and over yet keep finding more detail to enjoy.
Gig of the year – easy. The Adrian Belew Power Trio in Islington. One of the top three gigs I’ve seen in my life.
I managed another NaNoWriMo novel this year and finished the ‘Rising and Falling’ album with the inspiring John Marcell. This was a project that didn’t go to plan, that had the disadvantage of him being in Texas and me being in the UK, and none of having access to top of the line recoding studios. And yet, the result is something I’m terrifically proud of. Finally and album I’m on that I can listen to!
Finally, in late July, late at night, my son was born. That helped make it a special year too.