Monthly Archives: March 2008

I wandered lonely as a cloud..

Personally, Wordsworth doesn’t really do it for me – but I can see why he was so taken with the Lake District having spent the last few days there, another birthday surprise this time courtesy of my folks.

We stayed at two places overlooking the very scenic Ullswater lake, and generally did a lot of relaxing, a lot of eating nice food, a lot of sight-seeing, a bit of walking and a bit of horseriding in driving wind and rain – all of which made for some much-needed rest and relaxation, as well as more pleasurable exertion compared to the day-to-day strains we put ourselves under.

Certainly at this time of year you’re taking your fate into the hands of mother nature – and indeed, we experienced pretty much any weather conditions you could imagine in the UK whilst there, but since we had suitable attire to deal with that, it didn’t spoil the trip at all – if anything it made it more interesting as you get to see the environment you’re in differently depending on the climatic conditions.

Photos uploaded here and here in two parts, all in all, if you like a bit of walking and varied and brilliant scenery then I’d heartily recommend the Lake District!

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A Corrie chav is making my site go mad!

Who would’ve thought what a chav on Coronation Street was randomly singing on a Wednesday night would have an impact on this very blog?

Well that’s what happened this week! I had been trying to wean myself off shit soaps as, well, they’re shit! But on Wednesday we were at a loose end before dinner in a hotel in the Lake District so did partake – and the cafe worker lass was singing ‘When I needed a neighbour’ which has, of course, been subject to a previous post on this blog.

She was singing the ‘I was cold, I was naked’ bit, somewhat bizarrely. Anyway, clearly this stirred a lot of memories for people who immediately turned to Google who pointed them at this post on my site that has the lyrics to the hymn on it. Funny, eh? I spotted an unusual spike in my hits on Wednesday and sure enough, it was that post driving it, and caused by searches on Google for the lyrics to the hymn – the power of Corrie, eh?

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People always dredge out the old adage that you should never meet you heroes, and I’ve some experience of this in the past – I’ve come up with another one following my experiences of last weekend, and that is that irrational fondnesses for a cheesy 80’s film isn’t always best shared in the company of friends in a private cinema screening!

To explain further, my dear brother Rich plotted a surprise for my 30th birthday, which involved me being blindfolded and bundled into a taxi by Cat, after a short journey (which I was trying to keep track of, but lost myself somewhere in Carlton) saw me guided into a room and unmasked to be faced with a load of friends yelling ‘surprise’ – which quite took me aback, and to complete the job of bewilderment Rich arrived in the room clad in a ‘David Bowie as Jareth the Goblin King from The Labyrinth’ costume!

It transpired that he’d been conspiring and beavering away for some time to organise a surprise private screening of The Labyrinth – a film that both myself and Rich, and coincidentally Cat too, have an unnatural soft spot for, in the Paul Smith designed Screen Four at the Broadway Cinema in Nottingham.  It’s easy to say that you have a cheesy favourite film to people, it’s a strangely uncomfortable experience to realise that particular part of your soul is being laid bare on a silver screen infront of you all!

Still, as Hoggle would say, you can’t take anything for granted!  A scene in the film which is very familiar to me caused peals of laughter from all assembled, self included – it had never occurred to me watching the film through a veil of familiarity that when Hoggle falls to his knees in fear at Jareth’s feet, that he ends up eye-to-eye with Bowie’s very prominent ‘trouser aubergine’ (which Rich recreated disturbingly for his costume!), and could, perhaps, have been contemplating a quick toot on the Goblin King’s ‘pink oboe’…

With the film over there were further drinks and a rather splendid buffet a chance to have a proper chat with the tremendous array of folk who’d travelled from near and far to join in my festival of embarrassment – complete with some particularly choice photos of my childhood that Rich had picked out to be festooned around the bar area in time for our return from the film – cheers, Rich! (My favourite, which I’ve included here, is me clearly showing that I paved the way for Pete Doherty’s look!).

It was great to catch up with so many folks I don’t see enough of, though, and once the initial shock of it all (contrary to the perception of many, I absolutely abhor being the centre of attention so it took some time to adjust to this way of being), I had a really good time and it’s really quite moving that folks are prepared to go to such an effort to organise and take part in a surprise like this.

So thanks to all concerned, not least Rich and Cat who were largely co-conspirators on the day, but to everyone who came too – it certainly beat the day of loafing I imagined I was going to enjoy on my birthday!  There’s more pics on Rich’s website, I’m not sure why I’m linking to it as they’re awful!

I am now very much in the market for ideas for some suitable form of revenge for Rich’s 30th in late 2009, so do feel free to send me any ideas you may have… although I already have a couple of things winging around my head!

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Old fart..

.. I’ve now somehow reached the ripe old age of 30 years, I’m not quite sure when that happened!

It’s the early hours, so there’s been no presentage or owt as yet – although my lovely colleagues did force me to have a night on the town on friday to mark the occasion, a night I’m still feeling the after effects of after imbibing a little too freely over the course of the evening.

We started in the Bell, who do a really rather nice Extra Pale Ale should you ever be passing – indeed, we were in the Bell until it closed.  I had decreed, you see, that we go to ‘old man’ pubs, and well, being old and a bit lazy we never quite managed to move on, until kicking out time, at which point the night becomes rather hazy as I was onto the shorts by then!

Still, I made it home unscathed so I think it was probably a good night – the first bit I can remember certainly was!

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Circular arguments..

.. I’ve been practicing Didgeridoo-related things, particularly circular breathing, a technique that enables you to play continuously whilst still breathing (which is pretty essential in the grand scheme of things!).  Colin taught us the concept whilst down in London, but it’s fair to say neither Rich nor I got very far with mastering it!

The basic premise is you blow from your lungs, and as you ‘run out’ of air, you puff up your cheeks, and use your cheeks to expel air – maintaining the flow which keeps your lips vibrating – whilst taking a sniff of air, and resume blowing from the lungs again.  You have a very natural mental block which prevents you from doing this – because generally there’s no reason to!

Colin recommends going outside with some water, and putting water in your mouth and expel it using your cheek muscles, when you’ve done this, do it again whilst inhaling through your nose… essentially this is what you need to do.  So far I’ve been able to keep a constant stream of air coming from my mouth whilst taking breaths with my nose, but still seem to suffer from a mental block when it comes do doing it with the didgeridoo in place.  I’ll get there, though – which is reassuring!

I might even try the water trick – I read another method of getting over the mental stumbling block, which was using a straw and a glass of water, use the straw to blow bubbles in the water, and maintain the bubbles using the concept above of circular breathing – pretty easy… it’s just getting the timing right to take the breath before the cheek-pressure stops your lips vibrating… still, it’s progress!

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Play your didgeridoo, Blue..

It was an interesting weekend of randomness for me and Rich, which started early in the morning with him picking me up in order to head down to London.  Unfortunately the SatNav decided it didn’t want to work in Mum’s car, so we ended up opting to drive to Hendon and get the Tube into the capital rather than driving straight to our destination as had been our original plan, and thus encountering the dreaded phrase “rail replacement bus service” as part of the Northern line was closed for maintenance.

The first port of call we had was the Aboriginal Arts studio in Stratford, East London – due to the travel issues we were a little later than planned, but our genial host Colin was completely non-phased by this.  We headed down into his basement studio for me to have a didgeridoo lesson – which was a present Rich bought me for Christmas!  Rich cunningly managed to get a few goes on the didges as well, and proved to be pretty much a natural when it came to getting a good drone going!

Colin is an excellent teacher, patient and assuring as I struggled my way through playing – it was great to get a chance to play some of his excellent and authentic instruments, all of his didgeridoos are sourced via fair trade and made using the traditional methods of the Australian Aboriginal people – ie, they find a tree that has been hollowed by termites and use this as the base of their instrument, rather than a mass produced one.  So in a way, it as a mixed blessing that my own didge (a teak mass-produced one) had to stay in the car rather than come with us on the Tube, as we got to have a go on plenty of probably the best quality instruments available in the UK.

Reassuringly the basics I’d taught myself were okay, but Colin wasted no time in teaching both Rich and I a few rhymic tricks as well as using our voices to create all manner of peculiar sounds – some of which were quite pleasing!  So that’s made me decide to put some time in to practice some more now, and also to try to master circular breathing – which I can actually do, but seem to have a mental block when it comes to doing it whilst actually playing the didge – this is just a case of practicing to force your mind into realising it’s possible – as it defies logic in many ways.  Circular breathing enables you to play constantly rather than just whilst you have breath!

So yes, watch this space – if I can make some decent progress then I may well opt to revisit Colin for a bit more guidance and potentially get myself a new didge – as the spectacular array of instruments he let us play were so much easier compared to mine, and the sound quality of them was something else – but I don’t want to go splurging money on something without knowing if it’s something I’m going to be able to get much better at.  Hopefully that should be the case!

Whilst there we both also picked up a jaw harp each, which is a traditional Vietnamese instrument and makes some great sounds – and rather pleasingly is made from an old gun cartridge which has good karma – the reconstruction of a mechanism of destruction into something that can be used to create great sounds is something that feels quite a nice thing, I think!

After the didge lesson, and a fantastic breakfast at nearby Cafe Mondo, we hotfooted it back onto the Tube to head over to Dagenham where the Daggers were taking on Peterborough – two form teams in League Two – it promised to be a good game, and it was a ground neither Rich or I had been to before.  So after a beer in the members club attached to the ground, we opted for the open away end with the Peterborough fans and looked forward to an entertaining game, which wasn’t forthcoming!  The most exciting moment of the first half was the till-roll assault the Posh fans chucked onto the pitch, and the Peterborough players then clearing it up!

There was a mental queue for the tiny tea bar at half time, but I was rewarded with a tasty burger with bacon and cheese, and a cup of Bovril, whilst Rich had a pot noodle and some decent chips with curry sauce!  After the Posh had snagged a couple of goals we decided to leave early, as it was frankly a dull match and it made us less scathing about the dull football we watch at Forest – it transpires we missed three more goals!  I’m not sorry, though!

I’ve had a didge practice today, I still can’t work out how to ‘toot’ on my didge at all – but some of the other rhythmic and voice things are going quite well.  Colin has very helpfully recorded a number of tutorials he’s uploaded to YouTube, so when I get a chance to spend a bit of time I shall be going through those and trying to develop my skills a bit more, and pick up ideas from some of the footage he has also added of numerous notable didge players practicing their art.

Rich has uploaded some photos here.  In the meantime, Forest limped to a disappointing draw away at Crewe, which all but destroys our fragile-as-they-were aspirations of automatic promotion.

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Mirth and merriment was caused by this at work today…

If your monitor screen is looking a little bit grubby, click here and get it sorted instantly!

Arf.  Earlier this week I took a drive up to Warrington with Ma, for the rather splendid occasion of picking up her new dog, Heidi – who is ace (as I wrote about previously).  We took Milly with us as well, who will now have to tolerate not being the only dog in the house at parentland – and to say she’s a little highly strung at times, she behaved herself very admirably indeed!

We took ’em both to Burntstump on the way back home, Heidi’s really well behaved on walks (except when on a lead – she’ll need a bit of training there).  She zooms around like only a Collie can, but returns pretty much instantly when called or whistled – unlike a certain stumpy-legged little monster who has developed a fascination with the prospect of squirrels lately.

Early signs of her acclimatising to her new home are good – and Milly is gradually getting used to the idea too, it bodes well – she even ran the gauntlet of meeting Sam and Digby too and passed with flying colours!

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Any excuse to get the pirate outfit out…

Particularly when I can blame someone else!  As part of his teacher training, Rich wanted to take advantage of the pirate themed work his school are doing, as well as link it in with his pet parrot Doris – which involved constructing a story around Doris having a past-life as a pirate’s pet, who was fortuitously rescued by our heroic teacher!  (Bear in mind his intended audience are 5-6 years old!).

As well as dressing up in a daft costume and cavorting merrily with Doris and a sword, I also got to turn my hand to my technical skills – one of the pictures in the series involved Doris ‘playing dead’ in order to fool the pirate.  One of the cool things about Senegal Parrots is they are one of the few birds around who are happy to lie on their back (fnar fnar), although in Doris’ case she wasn’t keen on doing so and being photographed on a tabletop.  So we were able to get a picture of her in Rich’s hand in a suitable pose – which meant that obviously his hand was in shot.

Thanks to a bit of fiddling with Photoshop I was able to remove the background, put a picture of our table surface in the background as well as a bit of a drop-shadow to make it look like she is actually on the tabletop.  Finally, the only thing the ‘green curmudgeon’ wouldn’t do (and why should she?) was close her eyes on the shot – so I also made an attempt to shut her eye digitally by over-painting her open eye with grey and then applying some texture from her plumage to make it look a bit more realistic.  I was pretty chuffed with the results if I do say so myself!

Should you want to see the full photo-story Rich is planning on unleashing upon his unsuspecting classmates, then do feel free to click here.

In other news, last week Rich and I went down to The Approach in Nottingham and had the pleasure of meeting former-Forest legend Steve Stone, and the legendary mullet-bearer Chris Waddle – which was a giggle, for sure – although my question to Stoney about what he may have got upto in a Biffa bin behind Ritzy’s was disappointingly not answered other than by an awkward pause!

He’s got no hair, but we don’t care, Stevie Stevie Stone!
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