29.1.14

Sovereign Housing 3 (and the neighbours)

Amazingly, Sovereign Housing have arranged to do a smoke test so we can have some proof that we're not imagining the smell of cigarette smoke in our bedrooms. Well done Sovereign! That only took ten months since we first wrote to you about the problem. Ten extra months of my family breathing the neighbours cigarette smoke when they could have done the test sooner.

Of course, there's a price to pay for this. Every night since we got confirmation of the test the smell has intensified and Mr Next Door has taken to glaring at my wife or me when he sees us. For me this isn't a big problem as it just makes him look daft, but for my wife, on her own for a large part of the day, it's very threatening.

I imagine that when we finally leave this otherwise lovely place he will have to be content glaring at himself in the mirror.

28.1.14

More photography


This year started with a lot of energy and intention for photography (music too, but that’s for another post). I’ve been putting up a picture every day on Flickr but I’m not at all happy with the results. It could be because I’ve just not given the pictures my full attention or because things are so insane elsewhere I’m not prioritising as well as I could. I’m already scurrying around for potential shots at night and it’s only January.

Last year I shot almost exclusively with a 50mm lens on my DSLR. This is a tight lens but can help create some excellent results. A few weeks ago I was given a new work phone with a half decent, wide angled camera and I bought a 35mm lens for the DSLR, which recreates roughly what a 50mm would see on a film camera. The 35mm gives me a wider view but I’m still seeing the world as if through the 50mm lens so that could take a while to sort out.

Just before getting the 35mm lens I did a portrait session which went well and hope to do a bit more of that. Meanwhile I shall carry on seeing and taking pictures and work at getting better.

23.1.14

Sovereign Housing 2


A week ago a representative Sovereign Housing emailed us to ask us to call her so we could discuss their progress with the noise and smoke problems. I wrote back explaining that it was hard for both of us to be involved in the call as we work opposite shifts. I asked if Sovereign could email us the gist of what they had done and what they intended to do.

That was a week ago and we’ve heard nothing.

What has happened is more loud music through the wall and cigarette smoke in the bedrooms at night, again and again. I wonder what would happen if the executives at Sovereign found cigarette smoke leaking into their children’s bedrooms and how long it would take them to sort the problem out.

16.1.14

The neighbours have a word

So, the housing association have gone in to next door's and closed up their fireplace to help keep the noise down. We still don't know what they are doing about the smoke. But, when I came home last night, with the children, I was approached by Mr Next Door's dad who told me to stop reporting his son because I was causing him stress. Unbelievable. I asked if he thought it was acceptable to be woken by slamming doors in the early hours and he said I should expect some noise. I asked if he thought it was acceptable that my children have been breathing in cigarette smoke (this was more a point directed at the housing association than his son) and he told me it wasn't happening.

As you can imagine, I'm not happy being told not to report the problems I'm experiencing and this doesn't exactly make us feel less threatened. The neighbours are now, it seems, angry at us because their fireplace is boarded up (as per their tenancy agreement) and they can't afford to heat their house. So we are the bad guys.

15.1.14

50 things to do at 50 - or not.

I'm turning 50 soon and, inspired by my great pal, Emma who did 30 new things at 30, I decided to do 50 new things at 50.

This is obvioulsy a stupid idea but it seemed worth persuing if only to remind myself of what I've done or what I've not got around to. So, I googled for a few minutes and came up with the following list from the Huffington Post. the original list is here. I've put my responses in red after each idea.


  1. Karaoke. No.
  2. Go on a road trip with friends. Lovely idea but I’m turning 50, not 20 and I have children. Maybe I should go on a road trip with them. No wait, that’s every holiday.
  3. Dramatically change your hairstyle or look. Impossible.
  4. Learn a new language. OK.
  5. Formally learn a style of dance. Probably impossible but OK, I’ll give it a go.
  6. Get a tattoo. Not in a million years.
  7. Travel to an exotic destination. Can’t afford to and for me ‘exotic’ is usually code for all the things I hate in holidays.
  8. Go skinny dipping. No. Would require a complete personality transplant. Or is that the idea?
  9. Build something yourself (Ikea assembly, while impressive, doesn't count). At school I made the only three legged table that wobbled. Never going to happen.
  10. Help fix an issue that has always bothered you through volunteering. I applaud the idea of volunteering but with two bands, two children and a job, there is no time.
  11. Learn about your family history. Done that.
  12. Scuba dive. Can’t. Love swimming but get freaked out by having the breathing apparatus in my mouth and I’m mildly claustrophobic.
  13. Buy the car you've always wanted -- or at least test drive it. Cars don’t interest me at all.
  14. Find an old school friend. Very bad idea.
  15. Become something of an expert in something you've always found interesting. Already doing that with poetry and photography.
  16. Climb a mountain. Can’t. I have a dodgy knee.
  17. Single ladies: Ask someone out on a date. N/A
  18. Fellas: Make a brand new friend without your wife or significant other. This suggests I am joined at the hip to my wife and is therefore nonsense.
  19. Pull an all-nighter. Who, on turning 50 hasn't already done this? Pah!
  20. Splurge on something extravagant. Can’t afford to splurge.
  21. Go ziplining. Done it.
  22. Join a flash mob. Don’t like being in large groups.
  23. Take a job that feels a bit outside your comfort zone. Becuase it's so easy to get a new job. Rubbish! Happy to do that with music though.
  24. Have a meal at one of the world's top restaurants. OK. A bit hard on our budget but will start saving now.
  25. Conquer one of your biggest fears. I conquer them by avoiding them. See point 22. Although it would be nice to get over my shyness and do street photography.
  26. Participate in one of the world's most well-known festivals: Mardi Gras, Oktoberfest, Running of the Bulls and the like. I’ve taken part in May Morning in Oxford and Oktoberfest. Does that count?
  27. Tell someone what you REALLY think of them. Do that most of the time anyway.
  28. Fly first class. Sigh. See all the answers above that relate to spending large amounts of money.
  29. Become a mentor. Done that, doing that.
  30. Go skydiving. Done that.
  31. Master public speaking. Already done. I love public speaking.
  32. Repair something all by yourself. I fixed the dishwasher with gaffer tape recently.
  33. Have an honest-to-goodness adventure. Every day with young children is an adventure. If you mean naked white water rafting in the Colorado River… who’s paying?
  34. Go on a trip by yourself. Done that hundreds of times.
  35. Live abroad -- we're not talking about a week-long vacation. Done that for years.
  36. Get really good at a bar game. What, like drinking? This would mean spending large amounts of time in a bar and is, therefore, not going to happen.
  37. Read that classic you've faked having read for years. I haven’t faked reading classics.
  38. Have sex or engage in a sex act in an unusual place. This has mostly been covered in the past decades but, OK, if you insist.
  39. Throw a party that has people talking for weeks. My house is too small.
  40. Go camping. No. No. No. No.
  41. Teach someone how to do something you're really good at doing. I’m a teacher. This wouldn’t really count as something new.
  42. Get a custom dress or suit. Would love to but can’t afford it. I am getting a new hat made for me though.
  43. Gamble (but like our friend Kenny Rogers would say, know when to fold them). Lotto! Sorted.
  44. If single, go on a blind date. N/A
  45. Own something that makes you feel like a millionaire. That’s a bit vague. My children make me feel like a millionaire but I don’t own them.
  46. Travel for a concert. Hello? That’s not a new experience either.
  47. Forgive someone for hurting you. They can fuck off.
  48. Make an elaborate and wildly impressive meal for guests. Done that and it was a complete waste of time. I’ll take them to a restaurant instead.
  49. Cultivate a green thumb. By not washing? Oh, gardening. No.
  50. Participate in a movement you believe in. I already do.

So that boils down to: learn a language, learn a formal dance, eat in a top restaurant, get over my shyness (for street photography) and have sex somewhere unusual. That’s my five things to do when I’m 50.
Maybe I should celebrate turning 50 by just admitting I'm a closed down, uptight type who probably doesn't need lots of new ideas for making me happy.
Or, I could go back to Google again...

12.1.14

Sovereign Housing

Last night my three year old son Jude's eczema took a turn for the worse. I took him downstairs so J could get some sleep before setting of to work at 5:30. Around 2:30 in the morning I was just getting Jude back to sleep when the neighbours banged their bedroom cupboard door so hard the vibration knocked shoes off our shoes rack. Tonight their cigarette smoke is coming into our bedrooms again and as I write this I'm listening to their telly, which is turned up good and loud.

The thoughtlessness of my neighbours is bad enough but what has really got under my skin is the housing association responsible for their house and the faults which allow us to suffer so much form their noise and smoke. I started writing to them (Sovereign Housing) early last May and this is what they've done since. 1. Agreed to a meeting with us. 2. Sent a person round to look (just look) at our walls. That's it. The only reason we got the visit was because I wrote to my MP and their CEO. It seems my children's health means nothing to them.

From now on I'm going to be a lot more public about this.

There will still be posts about basses, poetry and my usual trivial stuff, just in case you were worried.

6.1.14

String Quartets

Here we are six days into the year and something amazing has happened.

I've had a year of farting around, trying to get the latest Spingere album to a state where I'm happy with it. First I wrote the music, then recorded it, then threw it out, then re-wrote it, then re-recorded it, then threw it out again. Since the past year has involved a lot of playing music with others I didn't worry too much about releasing my own stuff, although there was always that nagging feeling that I had run out of steam.

Then, the constantly inventive Sid Smith posted a collection of his String Quartet photographs. There are not of four classical musicians sawing away but, as you'll see below, shots of windows and rain drops.




The challenge was out to pick a picture or two and compose music as if the photograph was a graphic score. I chose movements one and two from String Quartet IV and the music just appeared. It took a few days and a trip to a friend's lovely ambient room to complete the recordings and then I sent them off. Maybe the secret was to not dwell on the music but just get it done.

When Sid has collected all the pieces together I'll post a link.

5.1.14

It's 365 time again

Once again I'm attempting to take a photograph each day of the year. This isn't a huge challenge. Taking a 365 good pictures is though.

If you'd like to keep tabs on my progress you can do so here.

4.1.14

New Year

Happy New Year to all.

Two days into the year I've had a great evening's music with a new band that is producing new and vital music. That's a good way to start.