Today I was at a playground with my children. My daughter was playing with an Italian girl and I started chatting to her parents. As the conversation progressed it dawned on me how much Italian culture I loved. We talked about films, music and art but we also noted the good things about being able to mix a love of things Italian and things British.
Earlier in the day Freya and I had visited Barefoot Books' Shop in Oxford. It is the least 'shop' like shop I have been in since the heady days of Borders. The daughter and I found ourselves enjoying cake and drinks at a table while she drew pictures and I perused books. It was an inspiring place.
In the Welsh town of Dolgellau there is a cafe called Meg's Meg is a lovely lady who was sent to England by her mum so she wouldn't end up working as a waitress.
Meg's cafe is in a building which used to be an ironmongers shop and still has the original fixtures and fittings. There are games for children to play (draughts, snakes & ladders, chess, etc.) and the most fabulous homemade cake. Even the coffee is specially ground. If you're in that part of the world, go and treat yourself.
When I was a teenager I went through a fairly predicable science fiction phase in my reading. My English teacher had done her best to kill my love of reading but somehow, Asimov, Heinlein, Philip K Dick et al kept me going. I loved the Stainless Steel Rat books by harry Harrison, even though I knew they were relatively lightweight stories. When the last book came out in 1983 I bought it but put it aside for the day when I really needed and enjoyable read. At that point I discovered the bass guitar and simultaneously discovered Albert Camus, Satre and Calvino. Last week I heard that Harry Harrison had died and so, as soon as I got back from my holiday I dug out this book to, finally, read.
I've been spending some time with the family in a tiny, but lovely flat on the South Wales coast. Get up, have breakfast, go swimming in the sea. Who cares if it rained nearly every day. One outcome of this break is that I've had a chance to put some things from day to day life into context. There will be changes. Actually, there have already been a few.
The other news for today is that the long awaited oud has arrived. The oud is an acoustic instrument with eleven strings and no frets. Being a fretless bass player this isn't quite the challenge it might be for others, more used to fretted instruments. I've only had a few hours on it so far but seem to be getting somewhere. The oud is the mother of the lute, which is the mother of the modern guitar. I don't really play guitar because I'm so hopeless with chords. That's one reason why I play bass. But with no frets the oud isn't very suitable as a chordal instrument so I'm on reasonably safe ground.
One interesting development was when I sat in the kitchen trying to improve my knowledge of why, exactly, the notes are on the fingerboard. My daughter starting playing on the laptop and the music from her game came drifting across the room. At first I wanted her to turn it off, but it soon became obvious to me that having something to pay along with was a good idea. So there we sat, video gaming five year old and her dad on his oud. As ever, the unplanned moments can be truly rewarding.
I'll post pictures of the oud (it's beautiful) and write again soon about what its future is in my music al life, soon. My musical life is, hopefully, about to take an interesting turn quite soon too.