Flowers don’t grow up as one, each finds its own way to the sun..

Infrequent updates on here make it quite easy to gloss over things that might have happened over a matter of months let alone days, such is the lot of the infrequent blogger.

However, 2014 has been a pretty seismic year for me so far – it kicked off (almost) in a clinic undergoing a bone marrow donation and leads to here – and it was picking up a letter from Anthony Nolan last week that prompted the prose really.  It was the best letter I’ve ever had, I think – it was short, it was quite impersonal and it was non-specific – but the gist of it was that the young boy who was recipient of my stem cells is still alive.

There’s no more detail than that to report – but it’s amazing news nonetheless and hopefully my chosen inference that he continues to battle and recover from either Leukaemia or Lymphoma is an accurate surmise on my part.  Whatever extra time that procedure has granted him is a blessing, but of course I dearly hope for a full recovery.  I’m looking forward to hopefully further positive updates which are likely to arrive over probably years rather than months.

Thinking back to January is a bit strange – I was living in a home I part-owned (admittedly Leeds Building Society owned most of it, but still), in a long-term relationship and worked at the same company for getting on for a dozen years.  What a difference a few months makes as I now find myself temporarily ensconced with my ever-dependable parents on the verge of selling the house, no longer in a relationship at all and a week and a bit into working for a new company.

Sometimes I have to pinch myself a bit to make me realise quite what a shift in circumstance I’ve undergone – and whilst of course such decisions aren’t made lightly, with particular pleasure or indeed easily I do think the big picture is positive albeit deeply unsettling for someone who generally takes comfort in stability and predictability.  Oh, I became tattooed as well, which was also a special moment as I had the honour of being inked by the lead singer of one of my favourite bands (a band who continue to go from strength to strength, having just smashed the twelfth Beautiful Days festival!)

IMG_8390Most seismic of all was that I became an Uncle!  Emma gave birth to Arlo who has already packed more into his first few months than many children will in years – including a trip to Ibiza!  He’s naturally been to the Parrot Zoo already as well!  I’ve never really paid much attention to babies before but it’s definitely different when the baby in question is such a close relative – I’m really looking forward to seeing him grow up – he’s already got a Forest season ticket despite being too young to take advantage of it (or should that be be punished by it?!).

IMG_8254There was profoundly sad news in that time too – in June my (our, really) three birds became two as Phoebe succumbed to suspected kidney failure – despite picking this up quite early unfortunately the vet wasn’t able to do anything for her and she passed away having spent the night with the vet ready for further examination in the morning.  I won’t lie, it was pretty devastating not least for Cat who was estranged from her (but mercifully did get to see her shortly before the end) and Frankie who was very much her partner in crime.

So, once the house is sold and sorted and I’ve settled into my new professional life which involves trekking out to the West Midlands (and indeed, oop North quite a bit) I’ll be in a position to make a better call about what to do more permanently about my living situation.  I’m reticent to move my personal life away from the comfort of Nottingham but I’m also mindful that I’m already looking at an hour commute (with a fair wind – and the schools are off) here in Hathern, Nottingham would add half an hour or more to that potentially.

Decisions, decisions!  But in the meantime I need to get to grips with a new industry – I’ve inherited a great team which I’m really thankful for so the ‘new kid at school’ feeling has been minimised as much as possible, but obviously I need to get up to speed and settled before deciding how to settle other matters – so that’s the plan, get the house sale finished, then take the opportunity to save like buggery to try to make whatever next move I make as easy as possible and preferably with as small a mortgage as possible.

Coupled with that of course there’s a new wave of football optimism with Stuart Pearce taking the helm at Forest.  Not unplaced “we’re going to win the league” type optimism (although we might!), more a relief that the club seems to be on more of an even keel on the professionalism stakes – I find myself daring to hope we might enjoy a bit of stability and long-term planning rather than the series of knee-jerk tactical misjudgements we’ve been subjected to over recent years.

Having the chance to witness Psycho’s return to the City Ground against Blackpool was a special moment that I’m sure all Forest fans relished, especially those of us of a certain age who idolised the man as a player for both Forest and England.  He’d have to do a lot wrong to lose the backing of the fans, so let’s hope that Fawaz takes our lead and gives him time to build a sustainable and hopefully successful future for the club.

So all in all, a pretty eventful few months in most areas of my life that are important – but apparently change can be good, and I’ve been surprised at how well I’ve been able to adapt to some quite significant differences.  If you’d asked the Alan of a year ago of the likelihood of all this happening then he’d have probably laughed a bit then run away to hide in terror – but in truth as with most things I guess the thought of change can be a lot more scary than the act.

I have absolutely no idea why I’ve decided to chronicle all this beyond perhaps hammering home quite how much has happened recently for my own indulgence.  So if you’ve read this far, yes, this is a very self-centred post!

Categories: blog, ferocious dog, footy | Leave a comment

Shameless begging..

parrotsRich and I have a couple of charity escapades coming up in the next few weeks which of course we’d welcome your support for.

First up we are donning our trusty parrot costumes again to raise money for the Parrot Zoo.  Whilst wearing these we’ll endure an overnight stay in one of the country’s reportedly most haunted buildings.  Yes, come 9th August we’ll go to Nottingham’s ‘Galleries of Justice’ (formerly a prison, courtroom and site of execution) and spend 7 hours or so hunting for ghosts.

You can sponsor us by visiting our JustGiving Page, or by texting GHOS73 and an amount (£1, £2, £3, £4, £5 or £10) to 70070.  All the cash we raise goes straight to the zoo and helps the thousands of birds they take into their care who’ve been victims of either abandonment or circumstance and now are lucky enough to enjoy a happy and healthy life amongst their feathered brethren.

Fast-forward to September and we’ll both be joined by four like-minded loons in a mission to abseil down the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury.  Dressed as punks.  Obviously some time after the festival itself has disbursed!  This is an event to raise money for SOS Africa, a fantastic organisation geared up to provide education to impoverished children in southern Africa.

You can sponsor the group for this even too by JustGiving too, or alternatively you can text PUNK76 and an amount (£1, £2, £3, £4, £5 or £10) to 70070.

If you’re in a position to support either – or even both – of these events then we’d be eternally grateful as would both the charities to help them carry on their fantastic work.  Thanks all!

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Wake up and find the stars, you don’t know how lucky you are..

I’ve not written owt on here for ages, and I’m not really sure why I feel compelled to now aside from some insomnia-easing listening to 3 Daft Monkeys gave me the headline which seems to have triggered a lunchtime stream of consciousness heading in no particular direction.

Home-based upheavals aside it’s been a reasonably busy time – work’s got plenty on, and as the football season came to a climactic end at Wembley last weekend we’ve got the World Cup to look forward to.  Prior to the play-off final I actually confessed to the numerous Derby supporting friends and colleagues that I have that I did have a part of me that actually wanted the Rams to succeed.  What? I hear you say. It does feel dirty – but putting the obvious parochial disdain aside the way that they have gone about their season has been a good model to aspire to aside from the final game of course.  Young players, attractive football, not spending a fortune – contrast that with QPR who have operated beyond their means for time immemorial – part of the very problem that blights football.  I won’t deny though that come the day and come the end, Zamora finishing off a beautiful lay-off from Richard Keogh after Jake ‘Bucko’ Buxton was turned inside out was actually pretty damn funny and I think the ferocity of my enjoyment perhaps betrays my true feelings.

Plus it’s nice to have the chance to play ‘em again next year rather than either looking enviously upwards as they hone in on the reaching-12-points party.

photophotoBefore that I went to a wedding at a zoo – how awesome is that?  Jen, who I work with, married Ade – it was a lovely ceremony in the manor house in the grounds of Chester Zoo, so I got to enjoy the usual celebrations that go with a wedding with the added bonus of getting to see a load of animals too!  I have been probably rightly criticised by fellow colleagues upon returning to work that I maybe took too many pictures of animals and not enough of the wedding, but I know some more of my team were being suitably snap-happy with proper cameras so I think between us we have it covered.  Aside from the obviously awesome wedding shenanigans the two highlights outside of that of note were one of tour guides pointing out her colleague was ‘attempting to force their way in from behind’ (fnar) and a clumsy male Jaguar going from lurking mysteriously in a tree to ending up on the floor under the branch that just snapped. On top of his very unimpressed looking female Jaguar companion.

The photo to the right probably doesn’t do it justice, much as the photo on the left taken zoomed in certainly doesn’t do justice to the happy couple and their awesome wedding cake made by Jen’s aunty.  It was delicious.

Then on to next weekend through a series of fortunate events I find myself with a ticket to go and see Carl Froch hopefully smash George Groves into the next millennium at Wembley Stadium, which will hopefully still be damp from Derby County tears.  I’m not big into boxing, but ‘the Cobra’ is not only from Nottingham, he’s from my bit of Nottingham so it’s good to support him.  After the controversial stoppage of their previous fight (which is a shame really, as Froch was clearly about to take him out).  So fingers crossed for a favourable outcome there.

On a penultimate note, check out this awesome video that aired on Notts TV the other day.  Alas I’ve yet to check out the channel as I don’t have Freeview at the moment, plus being just north of Loughborough I might not be able to access it as we’re likely to point at the wrong transmitter.  Anyway, a tribute to Torvill and Dean from the good people of Nottingham.  Dancing on Ice certainly isn’t something that generally floats my boat, but their performance of Bolero was pretty special even for this immovable object, and the tribute from regular folk from Nottingham is charming:

Finally the news we had hoped wouldn’t happen was the result in the search for Elaine, she was found and sadly was no longer with us.  Her funeral was beautiful and moving, her family and friends brave and courageous – and Andy in particular deserves your support for an epic challenge that he’s undertaking to raise money for the charity ‘Missing People’ who helped him through the process of undertaking the search while it was still live.  To do that he’s cycling from Edinburgh to London – if you would like to support him, then do it by clicking here and sponsoring him: http://www.justgiving.com/findelaine

Categories: blog, videos | Leave a comment

Hey bro, take it slow..

Chance clickings on a friend’s Facebook feed found this rendering of Dolly Parton singing Jolene, but played at 33 rather than 45rpm.  It’s ace.

My favourite one along these lines though was finding out what happens to The Osmonds ‘Crazy Horses’ when it’s slowed down – it turns into some kind of grungy metal anthem!  The themed dancers are, um, interesting too.

Reminds me of a ye olde blog post I did about hyper-slowing down a Justin Bieber song which turned it into some kind of mesmerisingly beautiful ambient soundscape.  Alas the sound files I linked to back in 2010 don’t seem to be online any more :(

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I thought at first there’d been a mistake..

.. when a caller dropped me off a cake.

cake

These happen to be a words from a song I’m pretty fond of (see video link below), but also what actually happened to me on Sunday.

My Ma had arranged to pop around for some technical support related stuff which, whilst it turned out to be pretty genuine, was a front for a sneaky arrangement she’d been making.  Because she’d been clandestinely arranging for me to in so that a visitor could drop off a surprise for me.

Margaret, who runs a company called Maggie’s Marvellous Cakes has pledged to make one cake every week for somebody, and opened up nominations via Facebook which is where Ma continued the recent theme people seem to have taken up with a zeal which is making me feel awkward about the whole bone marrow donation thing.  Indeed, it was even mentioned during our company’s last balcony briefing (although mercifully the senior dude in question clearly didn’t have his notes so didn’t know my name!).

Anyway, residual awkwardness aside Ma popped off to ‘pick up her hat’ from the car and came back with Margaret who was bearing a big cake box.  I was ensconced on the settee with a laptop on my knee sorting out Ma’s iTunes and was a little bit confused even as she explained why she was there.  As she was on the way to walk her dogs there was no time for tea and a lengthy chat so the long term impression I’ll have formed will have been as a slightly shell-shocked mute.

However, the New York style cheesecake festooned with strawberries and blueberries was a visual and literal feast enjoyed by all of us.  So if you’re in the market for some rather splendid cake then you should certainly give Maggie’s page on Facebook a look, or maybe nominations are still open if you know somebody deserving of a surprise tasty treat?

Unlike in the song below by Miles and Erica, I didn’t take a slice and wrap up the rest – although I did share with Ma, Dad, Cat, Rich and Em – and we still have enough left for small slice each tonight.

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Bone marrow donation video diary #3

Post-surgery update – it was a success on all levels, the necessary amount of bone marrow has gone winging its’ way to the recipient, and whilst a bit tired and bruised I feel pretty good!

Learning that my recipient is a young boy feels really fitting, as I joined the scheme as part of Joel’s campaign – and it’s especially heartening as a child has a better chance of recovery too.

Not that I ever thought I would, but I genuinely have no regrets at all and feel very pleased to have been able to help somebody like this.

In that vein, please consider registering if you are eligible at Anthony Nolan or, if over 30, Delete Blood Cancer

I discovered today that we have a little over 500k registered in the UK. Germany have more than 4 million, and a high proportion of UK sufferers of blood cancer owe thanks to that given the genetic similarities between us and the Germans leading to more matches.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could follow their lead and achieve that kind of number of would-be donors?

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Bone marrow donation video diary #2

Just a short update this time, fear not! I’ve arrived safe and sound at the London Clinic and am currently sipping orange juice watching Deal or No Deal!

Tomorrow morning is the operation, then the deed is done!

As before, if you’re 30 or under please consider joining the register at Anthony Nolan. If you’re aged 31-55 then you can register at Delete Blood Cancer.

Thanks! And see you on the other side!

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Bone marrow donation video diary #1

Probably for the first and last time I elected to do a video blog in the run-up to my operation tomorrow to donate stem cells to somebody suffering from Leukaemia or Lymphoma.  Somehow the more human touch of talking felt nicer than trying to write stuff down, which I’ve done before anyway.

It was a one-take job so excuse the fumbling for words and errant cockatiel, but hopefully it gets the point across I wanted to.

Should you feel inspired, please visit Anthony Nolan online and get yourself registered.  Thanks!

If you fall outside of their fairly stringent age range (which I now do!) then you can also register for bone marrow donation at Delete Blood Cancer online and get yourself registered if you are 55 or under.

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’tis the season to be jolly..

elaine.. or at least it is for many of us.

Less so for one of my good friends Andy.  His Mum went missing on 9th December and hasn’t been seen since despite a very well publicised campaign for information.  Elaine Harrison was last seen in the Castle Marina area of Nottingham at around 15:30 on 9th December.  She was wearing a grey fleecy jacket with white fur trim, dark trousers and white trainers.  She’s 59 years old and has collar length grey hair, and wears silver-framed glasses.

It would be the best Christmas present ever for the Harrisons to have Elaine back amongst them to really celebrate Christmas.  Andy has already had to get through his birthday without her, and she’s also missed her nephew in his nativity play.

So please take a moment to look at the photo of Elaine and keep an eye out for her, if you have any information as to her whereabouts then please get in touch with the police via the non-emergency number 101.  Facebook users give this page a like to keep up to date with the latest information, such as there is at the moment.

Also of course have a very merry Christmas and a happy new year.

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Moulettes at Glee Club, Nottingham

Whilst thousands of people vacuously departed the Nottingham Arena having endured a JLS concert tonight Cat and I were smiling on the way back to the car having been treated to not just the headline act we’d planned to see, but two new support acts.  For the price of one JLS ticket we both had something to eat in a nearby restaurant, a few drinks and entry to tonight’s gig to see the Moulettes.  Pretty bargainous really.

I find it both sad and kinda nice that it’s this way – a few dozen folk nestled in the intimate enclave that is the Glee Club in Nottingham to appreciate what I would wager, not being a connoisseur of the JLS back catalogue, a spectacularly more significant array of talent than the multitude of arena drones, but really it deserves to be the other way around.

Georgie Rose kicked off proceedings

Georgie Rose kicked off proceedings

First on stage was Georgie Rose from our very own Nottinghamshire, Mansfield to be precise.  She immediately and confidently took to the stage with a virtuoso display of picking on a guitar accompanied by a fantastic voice.  Her ability to pick through the strings on the guitar simultaneously mesmerises me – and gives a rich sound that sounds almost like there’s a bass guitar in the mix somewhere too.

Definitely one to check out if you see her on any local billings.

Next up was Liz Green who has accompanied the Moulettes throughout their recent touring.  Initially performing with a guitar she interchanged between that and a keyboard, and played both deftly – her songs were fun and charming and energetic with some fun banter with the crowd in between to boot.  Oh, and how could I forget the mouse trumpet solo?  Another charming performance that left me feeling like I’d already had value for money out of my ticket before the headline act was even on stage.

Liz Green here behind her keyboard

Liz Green here behind her keyboard

One of the things I really like about heading out to a gig where you know the main act is the potential to pick up on some new ones – indeed, that’s how I discovered the Moulettes initially from their supporting the Levellers on their acoustic tour a couple of years ago.  Sometimes it can be hit and miss, tonight it felt like we hit the jackpot twice before the main act even came on which is always a lovely happenstance!

The Moulettes took to the stage, a slightly adjusted line up to that which I’d seen before.  Hannah Miller provides the lead vocals whilst playing either cello or guitar, Ollie Austin plays guitar, drums, glockenspiel whilst also providing backing vocals/sound effects (often three or more at the same time!), Jim Mortimore plays double bass and backing vocals whilst Anisa Arslanagic overlays her violin and also backing vocals.  They were joined for a number of songs by a harp and clarinet player who also sang backing vocals too – I’m afraid I couldn’t find her name though :(

Time for the main event - the Moulettes take to the stage..

Time for the main event – the Moulettes take to the stage..

The melodic and sometimes hypnotic strings combined with melodic and harmonised vocals underpinned by punchy and ever-changing rhythms gives them a sound that I find difficult to describe given my lack of musical understanding.  It’s awesome though, and it’s brought alive on stage by the expressive and infectiously enthusiastic reactions from the band.

Not only are these wonderfully accomplished musicians impressing with their abilities – it’s clear they’re really enjoying themselves, as they lock eyes momentarily with each other to keep time as a beat switches from a waltz to something much faster – or an abrupt silence – you catch fleeting smiles, eye sparkles and a joy to just be playing.  Each of them is mesmerising to watch if you take a few minutes to observe them during a song.

Hannah betrays nearly every feeling that runs through the songs with her facial expressions, and even the soaring temperature in the venue causing her to forget a few words didn’t throw her off stride for too long as a helpful audience member in the front row helped her get back on track.

Ollie really destroys the notion that blokes can’t multitask, switching from guitar to full on drumming in seconds, he’ll then bring back the guitar but carry on the percussion with feet and hands in between strums all whilst never missing the moments when his vocals are needed too, all delivered with a brilliantly casual and relaxed demeanour that betrays how much expertise and concentration is being demonstrated out there.

Jim gives the bassy oomph at the perfect moment when slow ballads kick in to a darker atmospheric mood or more of a stomping tune and too is on hand to lend his vocals to the harmony mix that is impressive in its own right before you consider the complex layers of instrumental accompaniment underpinning it.

Anisa’s violin gives that high end melodic accompaniment to its larger relatives in the string section – anyone who knows me will note the violin is often present in my favourite music, it gives real soul and emotion somehow to a piece of music when used well – and it is here, Anisa too adds to the overall vocal harmonising too.

Whilst nestled in the corner of the stage for only some of the set the harp, clarinet and backing vocals of the lady whose name I don’t know (sorry!) added that extra layer to the whirling dervish that Moulettes songs become.

The set was a mixture of the familiar and songs from the new album that is due out next spring.  Whilst I do like Moulettes recordings very much, they never seem to quite capture the vibrancy of their live performances (something not uncommon with many artists I like, I might add!), however, I’d recommend checking some out nonetheless.

So for a mere £8 a piece we were treated to a veritable smorgasbord of excellent music – I’ll be certainly exploring more of Georgia and Liz’s respective music and look forward to the forthcoming Moulettes album.  I quite enjoyed the Glee Club as a venue too – the seats got a bit uncomfortable after a while and sitting down at a gig is a bit, well, weird – but worked well for this more relaxed and melodic gig to those I typically find myself at.

It will be interesting to see if they opt for a seated arrangement for when we go to see The Beards play there in February!

I tell you what else is good about The Glee Club too, because they unusually insist you arrive between 7:30 and 8:00, it gets everyone in the venue and settled in plenty of time before the entertainment starts – and there was no background chatter or interruptions I could detect during the performances (something I’m normally very sensitive to and irked by) – either it was down to that or a particularly polite and attentive crowd.

Either way, it made for a splendidly enjoyable evening!

Categories: blog, music | 2 Comments

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