Is it Autumn yet?

On a more optimistic note it’s now (pretty much) the end of summer. Hurray! No more sunburn, no more heat stroke, no more having to remember to pack sunscreen and hats for the children. True, the wind and rain and cold are now here but that does mean the fag ends dropped in the gutter by the family who live around the corner from us have all been washed away. Yes, I have been drinking coffee.

October is closing in, which means a chance for the children and I to make and bake things for my wife’s birthday. It also means November is not to far away. November = NaNoWriMo, the event that has helped me write two (not very good) novels and improve my fiction writing muscle to the point that I’m thinking about writing another one. The novel must be written in November and because of this there is no time to revise, tweak or tweeze the text. The upside of this is that there is little time to read back what you’ve written, lose heart and stop. I love it.

Then there’s bonfire night (fireworks, molten spuds, etc.) and Halloween, which isn’t much fun as a grown up but does annoy the sort of hard-line Christians who I don’t mind annoying.

All this before the winter really kicks in.

Rain (again)

This weekend was a good mix of ups and downs. Again.

Saturday morning stated well with the children and me running around the house getting washed, dressed and fed just in time to discover we didn’t have a key for the car and were effectively stranded in the village (if that makes my life sound a bit like an episode of ‘The Prisoner’ then that’s fine). We made up for this by making biscuits, jelly and even a trailer for a non-existent horror movie.

I went to the hospital yesterday to see my dad. He had been looking better and making some improvements but yesterday he looked worse and seemed quite despondent. He has to eat soft foods because of problems with his throat, but the joy of puréed meals has swiftly worn off. He needs to eat to build up his strength to help fight the cancer, although it is beginning to look like the cancer is getting the upper hand. It does seem like he might not have long to live, but my dad has surprised me before.

Death, as we keep saying, is a normal and understandable part of life. Suffering is fairly normal too, just a lot harder to deal with.

Today the weather has done its best to be bleak, with unending rain, dark clouds and wind. But I love the rain and have to remain optimistic.

Saturday Cookies

Saturday Cookies by WJCruttenden
Saturday Cookies, a photo by WJCruttenden on Flickr.

Shortbread with organic peanut butter. And yes, the organic version of peanut butter does make a difference.


The Computer is Listening

Today I am trying and experiment. Instead of typing a blog entry I am speaking it using the Mac… Mountain lions dictation service. It is possible this doesn’t make complete sense because it’s just a computer trying to understand human voice and this particular human voice isn’t as clear as it could be as I had a glass of whiskey. This is probably a good time to stop.


One for the computer music nerds

Some weeks ago my much used laptop died. Everything was rescued that needed rescuing and I was lucky enough to get a shiny MacBook Pro to replace it. With my non-musical life being rather busy at the moment I’ve found it hard to do any recordings but yesterday I had a few hours spare, at home and alone.

So, as ever, I got out my bass, some cables and the laptop and set up some beats on Ableton Live to play over. And then it all went wrong.

For starters the new 13” MacBook Pro doesn’t have an audio in socket, as I told it had. This is a very recent change to the computer’s specs and, although annoying, wasn’t a big deal because the audio in 1/8th” jack sockets you need don’t carry a great signal.

So, I dug out my USB interface, plugged it in and… nothing. Ableton didn’t recognise it anymore. I tried Garageband with the same result. Some checks online revealed that Tascam (the makers of the interface) hadn’t updated the drivers yet. Grrrr.

So now I have a lovely computer with top notch recording software and the only way to record anything is through the tiny, tinny microphone.

Now I have to wait for new drivers or buy a new interface. So, off to the music shop this weekend.


More Music

6th September 2012 by WJCruttenden
6th September 2012, a photo by WJCruttenden on Flickr.
This last week has been a tough one. My dad has been in hospital with a problem relating to his cancer. A few nights ago I was preparing to say goodbye. Tonight things look a little better.
While this is going on I've been keeping the momentum of some new musical projects going. One band has a gig looming and we are required to play covers for some of it. This being the drum-free trio we'll be putting an interesting spin on things. Another band, still forming and growing is giving me a place to play music that has only existed in my head (and in demos on Garageband) until now. This is very exciting. But last night, having read as much as I could, I picked up the oud and attempted to play something meaningful. What I actually played was badly intonated and sloppy, but it showed me how poerful this quiet, delicate instrument could be when I finally get more experience with it.
Driving to and from hospital and the dayjob the piles of CDs that act like an emergency reserve of emotional strength, keep me company.


Past, Present and Future

At this moment my past, present and future are all colliding like too many overweight people trying to get in a small car.

The present is in control. A broken fridge has made meals and drinks problematic and also made me ill (my fault for assuming a veggy burger would still be safe a day after it turned toxic – and warmer). The present also features a lot of trips to see my parents and journeys, with them, to hospitals. It seems there are two kinds of cancer. There’s one where surgeons pep you up with optimistic chats about procedures, survival rates and what you’ll do with your life once you’re free of the disease. There’s the other one though, where a nurse gives you leaflets and basically tells you not to expect too much from what is left of your life. One of my parents has experienced the first kind, the other is probably at home right now, not reading the leaflets.

The future is being projected by the present. Uncomfortable decisions. Money, paperwork, options for how to live and maybe where to live. A stair-lift, which was fitted yesterday, features in this future, but no one know for how long. I can’t help but have selfish thoughts about my future. My dad suffers from chronic arthritis in his knees and doctors recently found I have some low grade arthritis in mine. Maybe one day I’ll be making my way around the house by holding on to chair backs and mantelpieces. The difference a month can make is frightening.

The past is a whole other matter. My daughter’s memory of her granddad will probably be coloured by the experiences of the next few months and there isn’t much I can do about that. For once I’m hoping that my memories will be more governed by my happy childhood and the years when dad and I really got to know each other, rather than this, not always dignified, final stretch.



I spotted a conversation on Twitter about releasing demo of your music and it got me thinking about some work I did last year.

I had sat down with a friend and written a song, starting with four chords and a title then building it up, transposing, extending and editting. What I had also done was record everything from the first note to the completed song.

Then, some days later I thought I would edit it into a kind of audio documentary showing the birth of a song. But as my pal on twitter said, roughs are called roughs for a reason, so I deleted it all and have put the song aside for the next album, when I'll record it properly.


After I got back from my holiday my laptop, which had had a rest for a few weeks, groaned back to life as I demanded yet more from it. As the days moved on it got increasingly sluggish until last week when the startup screen was replaced by (what looked like) an Italian futurist painting. My laptop had had enough.

Luckily I managed to salvage the years of writings, photographs and music and I even had a chance to export the bookmarks from the three different browsers I used, just before the machine gave its last wheeze.

I was also lucky enough to get my hands on a replacement laptop. But when the time came to set it up I began to question why I had three browsers. Why, indeed, did I have about five hundred sites bookmarked? Why, since we’re asking, did I have all those esoteric programmes and a huge collection of clipart?

So, being in a mood for change, I didn’t export the bookmarks. Instead I got a pen and some paper and wrote down the sites I actually visit regularly. I Have gone from 500+ sites to under thirty.

Then I made some brutal choices on software. I ported Ableton Live (a fabulous music making programme) across, but left almost everything else. Since I’m using a Mac, most of my needs I catered by the on-board software. iPhoto, iTunes and so on.

The huge library of clipart is gone too. The fact that it was a surprise to find I still had it was the excuse to delete it. Does anyone use clipart?

The only thing missing is Microsoft Word, which I couldn’t port over and will need to get a copy of, pronto.

The real test will be trying not to fill the new machine with so much junk. Fingers crossed.

Balloon mood

On Saturday I had a fabulous few hours in Oxford with my children. We were there to buy my daughter some school shoes but we managed to squeeze in some other, more exciting adventures too.
Freya put up with a trip in an overheated car, then a bus journey, waiting in the shoe shop, trying on several pairs of shoes, queueing at the bank (credit card disaster) twice, a long 'phone call to sort out the credit card disaster (the bank had mistakenly reduced my credit limit to £40), some shopping for the grandparents and sundry other things. Amazingly she did all this without complaining. I was stunned and rewarded her good behaviour with a helium balloon.

She did her best to look after the balloon and not let it slip away as we visited one more shop, got on the bus, found the car and drove home. When we got out of the car I reminded her not to let it go so she wrapped the ribbon around her arm and walked to the house. The front door was open and she ran the last few steps to show her mum the balloon.

Sadly, the balloon snagged on the door frame and escaped into the air, leaving Freya with a length of ribbon and nothing else. It's possible I felt worse than she did.

Anyway, enough of my middle class ramblings. There is music news. The Eclipse Trio has a soon-to-be-confirmed gig which will call on us to play a mixture of original and cover tunes. This requires a brand new set list and many songs to be learnt in a short space of time. I love these sort of gigs.

Another musical project could be taking shape over the winter. I'll post details once it becomes more real.