Today in culture

Feeling that I may have exposed my daughter to a wide but limited range of music, I decided to expand her experiences with something new (for her). So, today we listened to, and enjoyed music from West Side Story, The Pretenders, Prince and Nirvana. Ever seen a six year old hear 'Smells like Teen Spirit' before? It's a wonderful thing.

At bedtime we did the same. Freya had been reading poems from her book, so I read her poems by Maya Angelou, Philip Larkin and whoever wrote 'The Song of the Loch Ness Monster.'

There will be much more of this.

Handing back the drugs

Even though it’s been nearly seven months since my dad died, there are still little bits of fall-out. While clearing through a locked cupboard I found bags of drugs which had been proscribed to him in his last months. I had locked them away to stop any visiting child getting hold of them, then forgotten all about them.

So, the other day, I took the three bags of medicines to what had been his local pharmacy to dispose of them. I stood there, sorting through the boxes with the pharmacist, looking out for needles and separating out the low level meds from the seriously dangerous stuff. As we got to the last fews boxes the pharmacist found a label with my dad’s name on.

“Oh, Mr Cruttenden.” She said, with a heavy sigh (meaning dad, not me). Here was someone who had remembered the stages of the medicines, the initial ones for breathing problems, the more serious ones for the cancers and the oral morphine, for when things got bad. For whatever reason she had remembered him through these boxes but never heard of his fate. Until now.

We talked briefly and I got to thank her for the part she had played in helping dad, then it was time to go again.


Building the periodic table out of biscuits

My daughter attends a school where they stress religion. She is, of course, free to make her own choices but already she is a believer. More importantly, an unquestioning believer. I’m all for tolerance, but asking questions of your belief system is a good, if scary, idea.

So, imagine how happy I became when I discovered the school has, for the past few weeks, been highlighting the joys of science. The daughter has latched on to the wonders of the universe, not to mention the wonders available just from being alive. We watched a programme about the sun and she was hooked from beginning to end. This week her class has been constructing the periodic table (a thing of beauty to me) out of biscuits. This can only end well.



While I've been playing bass in the Eclipse Trio, doing the same in the other new(ish) band (more on that soon) and trying desperately to get my own Spingere release finished, my pal Lee Fletcher has done something rather wonderful. Together with the gifted vocalist that is his wife Lisa, and uber touch guitar hero Markus Reuter, Lee has made a cover of the Mike Oldfield song Islands.

There's a host of talent on the song, providing lush strings, Uilleann Pipes and other delights. The bass guitar parts are played by talented newcomer Tony Levin. No, what am I saying? If you don't know Tony Levin's work you probably do anyway. He's played with John Lennon, King Crimson, Peter Gabriel and just about everyone else on the planet who ever recorded a song.

It's a beautiful piece of work and the production alone is a call to raise the bar on sound quality when releasing songs rather than compressing everying into a mush.

It's available on bandcamp for a very reasonable price and I'd urge you to go and get a copy. Then check out Lee's album 'Faith in Worthless Things', which deserves much greater recognition.


Out in the fields - a goodbye

Last week I finally took my dad’s ashes to a final resting place.

I drove, with my mum and the rest of my family, to a small hamlet where my dad had lived with his dad after the Second World War was over. Dad was born and had grown up in London during the 1920s and 30s and had joined the Royal Navy as a teenager to serve in Italy. When he came home his mum and dad had left Kensington for Kent. My gran, who loved the city, found herself living on a small tenant farm with no running water and was not a happy woman. Granddad was happier but he suffered the after effects of a gas attack he received as a Grenadier Guard in the First World War. This had triggered all kinds of physical responses which he dealt with my working hard and drinking. My dad, meanwhile returned to England as a young man, unsure of what to do next. He worked on the farm for a few years until his brother convinced him to join the police.

My dad told me many stories of his years on the farm and of how happy he had been. My mum had visited the place many times, even when dad was stuck in hospital (still a young man) with TB. My grandparents, and the original farm house are long gone, but this seemed like a good place to scatter my dad’s ashes.

Mum and I found a spot overlooking a pasture filled with buttercups and dandelions and I did my best to fling the ashes in a respectful way. It took a few goes and looked, to my rational eyes, a little odd. The green and yellow of the field nearest us, was now wearing a grey coat of ash. The final fling produced a cloud of ash that caught a light breeze, moved up in the air and travelled back to my mum and then me, falling gently at our feet.

We didn’t say much but got back in the car with J and the children. While mum and I were fairly quiet, J said a goodbye to dad as we drove off and I had a little cry. Which is what I’m doing now.


Yet another Eclipse Trio update

The new Eclipse Trio album is still being mixed and in the next couple of weeks we should all be sitting down (or pacing around) to hear it and to make notes on anything that needs changing. Promotion is something we have to take seriously since, as you all know, the world is saturated with people’s musical projects and it’s not enough to just be good. To this end we have started working on a few ideas for making people aware of the album and, needless to say, there will be gigs.

But one idea that’s been around for a while is to make a video for one or more of the songs. There’s been some preliminary storyboarding and Russ, guitarist and songwriter, has been out and about shooting footage. Last night I found myself sitting in the middle of the road, shooting video of him riding his motorbike and trying really hard not to get run over or mess up the shot. I’ve always enjoyed the experience of editing video (from the days of running two VCR’s to using a Mac) so this will be another chance to be creative. If the finished product is an embarrassing mess though, we will promote the album with a round of drinks at the pub.

The other thing we did last night was to make a rough mix of the other album we’d be working on. This one is a much more live-sounding, stripped down affair and, on listening back to the tracks it became evident that we had to take out all the ‘fake’ instrumentation, such as string parts played on keyboards. The parts were lovely, and played to perfection, but they sounded out of place on this more organic record. So, although it’s going to mean more work, we now need to call in a violinist, an accordionist, a mandolin player and possibly a familiar looking bald guy on oud. One songs will be re-recorded in a pub and will feature the regulars on backing vocals. Now there’s an exciting prospect.

Since this album wasn’t due until much later in the year, there is no rush. But I’m keen to hear how it will sound.