ferocious dog

Drop Foot Murphys..

Drop foot. The bane of my life at the moment.

Well, last post I said it was set to be the year of the Dog – but clearly not the year of the Blog as it’s been almost a month since I last wrote anything.  I have already taken in a Ferocious Dog gig this year though (and another to come on Saturday!) so at least my post back on the 2nd wasn’t lying!

I have been holding true to my photo a day promise – I’ve been posting them on Facebook and I suppose really I should have been posting them on here as an excuse to keep the blog live, but well, I haven’t.  So if you’re not my friend on Facebook and you’re really curious about what imagery I’ve used to represent each day you can look at the pictures via iCloud by clicking on this link.  I might do monthly summaries on the blog.  Or I might not!

One thing I do want to do is include the captions I used on Facebook on my iCloud images – I will get around to doing that sooner or later.

Since last updating I suppose there are two things that have loomed large aside from the usual suspects of work, football and music – one is the commencement of ‘bastard foot’ – basically, without going into tedious detail, I’m suffering from ‘drop foot’ – which is caused my either a trapped or injured nerve either in my leg or my spine, and it means I can’t lift my foot upwards (dorsiflex), and have lost sensation in my upper foot / lower shin.

An odd sensation for sure – and deeply frustrating as it makes walking awkward and running nigh on impossible meaning I can’t play football, most frustrating.  Through various means I’ve consulted with an Osteopath, my doctor, a neurologist and a physio and frustratingly the prognosis is ‘be patient and it will sort itself out’ – for an impatient person like me that’s the last thing I want to hear!

One positive though is something I’ve taken up in the new year doesn’t require me to be able to run – I bought a guitar to try to challenge the negative perception that “I can’t do music” I’ve always reinforced.  I’ve been making slow but steady progress – admittedly I’m learning “String x, fret y, finger z” rather than notes and chords, but I can chuck out a few familiar riffs and things which has given me pleasure.

Initially I wanted to go it alone and see how I got on – so I’ve been using Guitarsmith – a game for the PS3 into which you can plug a real guitar, as well as looking up tabs on the Internet.  At the moment aside from a few songs I’ve taken to I’ve been perhaps rushing through the game elements, so at some point I’ll need to add a bit of structure to learning, particularly around chords and movement between them – but I’m in no rush, and I’m enjoying myself!

… also the new Dropkick Murphys album is dead good 🙂

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I kept them with me, babe. I put them with my own.

December photo

Where’s Wally (aka Alan?)

I’m not quite sure how 2012 has gone through quite so quickly – it’s bloody Christmas Eve already (well, it’s five minutes old).  Christmas Eve isn’t my favourite day of the year these days, so it’s perhaps apt that I’ll be off to work later ostensibly for a normal day’s slog.  It should be quiet, which is good as it’ll give me a chance to get stuff finished off.

So as 2012 draws to a close without the world ending, it seems a natural point for pausing and reflecting a bit.  I ended the year in style on the musical front, as well as lots of Ferocious Dog gigs there’s also been Levellers, Wonder Stuff and New Model Army at the back end of this year, not to mention The Crazy World of Arthur Brown and The Moulettes.  Some damn fine awesomeness upon the stage, and indeed, I made it backstage for the Levs!

On the football pitch Forest have undergone rather a few changes in this last year too, and well, probably need to undergo a few more to kick on to try to claw their way back to the top flight.  I must admit that whilst I have many excellent friends thanks to football, I’ve found the experience of going less motivating this last year.  I’m not quite sure why, but it quite often doesn’t quite live up to the exuberance you get from live music – maybe that shift in emphasis has given me an obvious basis for comparison.

Maybe it’s also that increased exposure to music that seems to have awoken that stark regret I’ve always harboured that I never picked up any musical ability at all, aside from my half-arsed didge-playing ability.  Our school had some really talented musicians in it, right from primary school and through secondary school and I either never really showed much interest, or perhaps somehow missed out opportunities to learn.  I’m not sure.  Knowing me it was probably my own doing, though!

I do remember embryonic guitar lessons courtesy of an enthusiastic primary school teacher and an acoustic guitar borrowed from my Grandad, but I don’t think the club lasted very long owing to a few genuinely talented players who perhaps understandably drew the focus of the teacher with the remedials being left very much behind!  I’m really tempted to buy a guitar and see if I can learn to play it a bit though – not to live performance standards, but for my own indulgence more than anything.

We shall see.  If there’s anything I’m very good at then it’s procrastinating!  I am watching a guitar on eBay though, and can be quite an impulsive so and so when I want to be.

Speaking of indulgences it was over the middle of 2012 that saw me drop from a 16.5 stone behemoth to a snake-hipped 12.5 stone dude.  It’s true a few Christmas pounds have already snuck back on but that’s something I’m not too fussed about, once 2013 is underway I can get back on to being sensible and shedding any results of over-indulgence.  The trick isn’t total denial, it’s not letting things slide quite as badly as they did last time!

Work too has changed at the back end of this year too, so there’s some adaptation and consideration to put in to there.  Sufficed to say I’m pleased to be preparing for a healthy slug of time away from the place to relax a bit, and eventually to start to think about some degree of future planning for my career.  I’m not very good at that, so I really do need to work out how to go about doing that.  It’s tricky when work itself has been so busy.

Still, one more day of that to get through then ’tis officially the season of good will for me.  Once Cat and I have shifted our confounded colds then it should be ace.  Rich and Em are hosting Christmas this year, so for me it will be the first ever time I’ve not been at a parental-hosted Christmas Day, having said that, the family will all be present – I’m really looking forward to some quality time with them before Forest inevitably bring me back down to Earth on Boxing Day!

But to be positive, there’s two Ferocious Dog gigs in the bank for next year already (including one they’ve kindly agreed to play on my birthday in the Rescue Rooms (for those wanting to ‘come dogging’ for my birthday, then tickets can be acquired here!)), and we’re off to Krakow at the end of February for Paul’s stag do which will be awesome.  So a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to anyone bored enough to have read to the end of this introspection.

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We can share our endorphins..

It’s probably not escaped the attentions of many that I’ve been a bit of a grump of late – changes at work have been troublesome, and I succumbed to illness which I’m probably still coming out the back end of in terms of recovery.  That said, there’s been a plenty of good things too – live music aplenty, meeting the Levellers and other such things.

But something else that passed me by a little bit was that I haven’t been playing football for some time – I’d been carrying a thigh strain for a while, which was – despite my best denials – getting worse.  It had started out as something that might ‘go’ at the end of a game, developing to something that ended up with me not being able to kick the ball properly from the start of the game right through to hurting when I walked.

Having admitted I needed to rest it fate conspired to force the issue – I was ill, then the Nottingham branch of Powerleague where we play flooded and combined with a clash of diaries (which involved using going to see Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds at the Arena on Tuesday – which was AMAZING) it’s forced my hand into not playing ’til today.

Running around – admittedly in the freezing cold – felt good, and as I took my first tentative ‘substantial’ kick at the ball it was great to not feel that frustrating pang of pain in my right thigh – it was fine.  Indeed, despite warning the chap that picks the teams that I was a few weeks out so not fully fit, I didn’t struggle as much as I feared in keeping up and we managed to snag the win in a close fought game.

I’ve read before that your wellbeing (not just physical, but mental) can be enhanced through exercise – and I think I’ve been missing my football more than I’d realised.  So it was good to get a game under the belt, a few goals and a good win.  With Christmas party season upon us there’ll be a few more games that I’ll miss out on – but at least that’s for positive reasons rather than negative ones like injury, illness or floods!

Tomorrow I’m off to Derby to see Simon Friend’s Seismic Survey (Simon’s one of the Levellers) with some friends and staying over (so decadent, Derby ain’t exactly the other end of the country) and Saturday sees a trip to the City Ground, a Christmas dinner with my Forest friends and a trip up to Warsop to see Ferocious Dog finish off Dogfest, which is already a rather splendid sounding weekend before we factor in Masterchef finalist Michelle Burge coming round to consult us on food she’s going to cook for us a week tomorrow!

In an unusual move I’ve actually elected to organise a birthday party next year too – okay, when I say organise, that’s over-egging it – Ferocious Dog are playing the Rescue Rooms so I’ve just invited all my friends to grab a ticket and celebrate with me in the finest style I can envisage!  Rock and roll!

Whilst I’m focusing on the positive it’s good to not have a bloody ridiculous moustache any more!  Below is a half-arsed montage of Movember 2012 from my point of view!

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Levelling the band..

I like the opportunity to combined my interests, and last night was a chance to combine my under-stated obsession with the Levellers and the BBC Children in Need charity.  Cambridge 105 ran a charity auction for some Levs related swag which I won – and rather than post the stuff to me tour-manager Phil clocked I was in Nottingham, as were the band, in the next few days.

So through the lovely Claire at Cambridge 105 an aftershow pass had been arranged at Rock City for me to collect the goodies straight after the gig.  Still feeling a bit under the weather I had the interesting experience of watching the Levellers barnstorming set completely sober – it certainly didn’t spoil it.  They’re on as good form as I’ve ever seen them at the moment, blending a nice mix of old and new, well known and more obscure – it was a great selection of songs performed awesomely.

It was also great to see some familiar faces join them on stage to play über-catchy ‘The Recruiting Sergeant” at the end.  I had thought I was recording it for posterity but well, a technical glitch means I either deleted it or never recorded it in the first place – grr.  Post-gig I found tour manager Phil who led be back stage where he handed me a bag of stuff including a signed drum skin lovingly artified by Jeremy, a customised satchel, a Truth Is vinyl and some cufflinks.

Being a bit of a merchandise whore for Levs stuff there’s some duplication, but that’s okay!  It felt a bit strange accosting people who are frankly heroes of mine for photos when they’ve literally just finished an intensive set of performing – but they were lovely and very gracious.  Of course all I could think of to talk about was the kind of banal crap they must hear after every show, thankfully that probably consigns me to a non-specific memory bank of gormless fans for them!

Which means in one fell swoop I’ve completed my collection of ‘pictures of me with Levellers’ which had been standing at 3 over a few year period.  Big thanks to Claire and Phil for organising the opportunity and of course to Simon, Matt, Charlie, Jeremy, Jon and Mark for indulging me when they probably wanted to get down the pub (and to Chris for the lift home).  I think perhaps I might have been better off getting leathered beforehand!

Back on to a dog-tastic weekend of Ferocious Dog action this weekend – it was great to see lots of fellow doggers in the crowd (not least Dan who was on stage for the last song).  We’re off to see them play in Beeston on Saturday night and then in Derby on Sunday night.

For now, I can admire my bag of swag – and think what I can do with my awesome (used) drum skin!  I must be one of a select group of people who now owns two pairs of Levellers cufflinks too!!

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And the devil sends the hell hounds for me..

I know I mention Ferocious Dog quite a lot, but watch the video below, then go and check out their tour dates – and go and see them.  It’s awesome that Nottingham has an artist at the top of the album charts this week, but there’s more to local music than just Jake Bugg – we should embrace it, support it and propel our talented musicians into the prominence they deserve.

Also recommended is their debut album and forthcoming EP – because they’re as good recorded as they are live (but you can’t quite beat them live, in my opinion!).  Get yourself some awesome local music now from this link!

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In the land that calls my name, can’t you see we’re all to blame?

It’s testament to what went before that watching Forest limp to a disappointing defeat to Derby on our own ground couldn’t really do anything other than put an unsavoury finish to an awesome weekend.

I plan on keeping this brief, this was my Friday night:

And this was my Saturday night:

So Sunday’s disappointment and a slightly underwhelming impulse trip to the Speedwell Cavern near Castleton can be merrily consigned to the memory dustbin leaving a weekend replete with musical splendidness courtesy of The Levellers and Ferocious Dog.

I’ve even managed to add Oscar and Rich to the ranks of fans of Ferocious Dog along with Chris – so we’re already availed ourselves of tickets for their next gig in Southwell in a few weeks!

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So I’ve got my iPhone 5.

I’m very pleased with it indeed.  I wasn’t expecting a revolution, I was expecting significant evolution from my previous phone that was 2 generations older.  That’s what I’ve got, and it’s splendid.  Once the Three network resolves whatever gremlins prevent me sending MMS messages, I’ll be sorted – even then, I don’t send them that often.  Three doesn’t have a great signal at home though, so I might be lured into spending a bit more on Orange who do have decent coverage here – and of course offer the promise of 4G in the future.

In terms of the silly hype that comes with Apple devices, I won’t deny I was excited by the prospect of the phone – but it seemed to me that there was more fervour from people who laud other devices to disparage it.  Odd behaviour.  It reminds me of the kind of ‘banter’ we indulged in as children when some of us had Amigas and other kids had Atari STs.  Of course, back then it was excusable as after all we were children.  And Amigas were clearly vastly superior and if you had an ST you smelled of wee.

Anyway, I digress.. I was excited to get my nice shiny iPhone 5, and having had a week of using it I feel that excitement was justified – and if anyone wants to try to piss on that particular bonfire then that’s their prerogative.

To build upon this excitement I’ve got an awesome weekend lined up – tomorrow Cat and I are off to Buxton where I’ll hook up with lots of my Levellers friends to see, unsurprisingly – the Levellers – play an acoustic gig at the Opera House there.  We’ve booked lunch on the way, and got a hotel to stay in once we get to Buxton.  They’ve just played Exeter and Salisbury cathedrals – I kinda wish I’d made the effort to get down to one of those, what a great opportunity to see them in an unusual and dramatic setting!  Mustn’t be greedy, though!

Saturday is a return to Nottingham, and with Rich, Rich and Chris and assorted Ferocious Dog friends I’m off to see Ferocious Dog play the Bodega which will be awesome.  I’ve seen them rock that venue before when supporting 3 Daft Monkeys, now they’re headlining it and it’ll be brilliant.  Then of course there’s the small matter of Forest hosting our dear neighbours Derby County on Sunday.

Hopefully good things come in threes and the Reds can get a favourable result to make amends for last season!

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Planning, plotting, geeking..

I’m having a strangely geeky evening.  Along with the usual over-geekery with what I’m eating since project fatty has been underway (which now sees me tantalisingly close to weighing 13st rather than exceeding 16.5st as I was at the beginning), I’ve been geekifying other areas of life.  Not to mention being a professional geek as well.

Because of the foibles of the fixture computer, I’ve been busy with Forest lately.  I had said to myself with my resurgent interest in music that I’d need to cut down on away travel with the Reds a bit, so focus on grounds I hadn’t visited before.  Cue the first two league away games to be the only two grounds I’ve not ‘done’ in the league, and the cup draw to be away at Fleetwood.  So tomorrow I’ll have been to my third Forest away game, which is all of them so far.  I will be cutting back later!

But in updating the list of grounds on FootballGroundMap I started to lament the simple “count the distinct grounds” method they use – it includes Wembley, the Millennium Stadium, clubs who have either always been or subsequently become non-league, it counts the old and new grounds of a single club as two.  The ‘holy grail’ if you will of football fans is to complete ‘the 92’ – ie, visit all the league football clubs homes for a match.  I say holy grail, I’m not that bothered personally as I only really want to go and watch Forest.

Still, it’s interesting – thanks to some Excel geekery I worked out that I’ve visited 66 of the 92 distinct clubs currently in the league, because I’ve doubled-up on some clubs who’ve moved house that equates to 74 distinct grounds (with at least six who have moved since my last visit to add to this).  Six grounds I visited as league grounds have become non-league, two were always non-league and two are national stadia (one of which was of course completely rebuilt – I’ve been to both versions).

If you took it too far you’d go mad – the very nature of the football pyramid is that it changes – teams drop out, they come in – I could’ve been up to 72 had it not been for the misfortunes of Mansfield Town, Stockport County, Chester City, Luton Town, Rushden & Diamonds and Wrexham!  My biggest opportunities for new grounds like in League Two and League One – so sympathetic cup draws aside, I’m happy for them to remain unvisited!

The other thing I’ve been doing is realising that the aforementioned resurgent interest in music has run the risk of me double-booking myself more readily, so I’ve added them to my Google calendar which I suspect I’ll be using more now which makes my social life more like work – which is a bit depressing in a way.  However, it’s a cunning plan.  With Ferocious Dog, the Levellers (a few times 😉 ), Simon Friend and New Model Army gigs lined up I don’t want anything to end up inadvertently clashing with them.

Nothing else to report really.  Apparently Prince Harry – a single 20-something bloke – cavorted around naked with friends in Vegas.  Oh.  Yeah.  It’s not that interesting really is it?  Shame on anyone who pays money to a publication attempting to profiteer from something so banal.

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Who let the Dogs out?

It’s been a pretty exciting time of it for albums lately – Nick Burbridge and Tim Cotterill’s ‘Gathered’ was swiftly followed by ‘Static on the Airwaves’ courtesy of The Levellers.  In the same bracket of anticipation for me was the first album offering from local band Ferocious Dog – who, if you follow me on Twitter or are a Facebook acquaintance I’d be surprised if you’ve not seen me mention – because they’re ace.

They’ve been around for bloody ages in some shape or form, beginning in the late 80’s and undergoing a number of transitions.  Their current incarnation began life in 2011 shortly after I was lucky enough to happen upon them, and they are going from strength to strength.

I became aware of them through my friend Jen who mentioned them after we’d been to see Mark Chadwick in Nottingham.  A few months later and Mark was due to play a gig in Warsop, supported by Ferocious Dog.  I excitedly got in touch with violin player Dan to get tickets, chuffed at the chance to see Mark play locally again.  I’d checked out Ferocious Dog fleetingly on YouTube and got lost in poor sound quality recordings from gigs and kind of left it there.

So, Dan lives opposite the house I grew up in in Mapperley, which was a bit freakish – upon grabbing the tickets he naturally asked if I’d heard their stuff.  I probably bluffed a bit that I’d checked them out on YouTube and MySpace (not a lie as such, but I didn’t pay as much attention as I should have done), and he kindly handed me a CD – embarrassingly I literally had the right money from the tickets, so headed off sheepishly to my car, at that time one without a CD player, and headed home.

Once there I ripped the CD to my iTunes library and synced them over to my phone to check out in the car on the way to work the next day – and was blown away, four tracks (all of which feature on the album), all full of power, great lyrics, great music.  The ticket I’d bought to see Mark Chadwick at the Black Market Venue in Warsop promised to be rather better than I had hoped!  So I’ve seen Ferocious Dog a number of times since that day.

They’ve supported such luminaries as Mark Chadwick – as mentioned – of the Levellers fame, Miles Hunt and Erica Nockalls from the Wonder Stuff, troubadour Dan Donnelly and Levellers fiddler Jon Sevink and 3 Daft Monkeys down at The Bodega in Nottingham in a raucous evening of debauchery – and top gigs they all were.  They’re also making a stir on the festival scene, playing Bearded Theory and six others – and are now starting to reap the benefits of their live experiences in the studio.

Earlier in the year they released Hell Hounds as a single, with On The Rocks as a b-side – a re-recorded version of the track from the EP – they’re available on iTunes and highly recommended – but it was with considerable excitement that I and their fanatical fanbase anticipated their first album – and it dropped through the post today and didn’t disappoint.  The only minor quibble you’d have is that it’s too short – but for six quid and the promise of more studio time to come, you can almost consider it a tease.

The signed CD that dropped through the post today and made me very excited!

For me it had the comfort of old familiar faces on there – all four tracks with which I’ve become indelibly close to over the last year and are there – Mairi’s Wedding Part 2, a sequel of sorts to the traditional tune is brilliant, Quiet Paddy another barnstormer, Criminal Justice charts the systematic destruction of the mining industry and, once the concept was proven on the miners, further civil liberties by Thatcher and co, and then On The Rocks – which, well, speaks for itself!

Then we have the slightly-less-close-friend of Hell Hounds, another tune I love – a slower start for the opening track of the CD but it soon kicks in to the kind of energetic ruckus that leads to the considerable moshing sessions you’ll see at the front of any Ferocious Dog gig.  There’s a couple of tracks I’ve heard at gigs, Too Late shows a more sensitive and delicate side, starting acoustic and quiet but inevitably gaining in energy, and the final track Lyla is an epic six minuter starting slow and changing energy throughout.

The new one for me was Freeborn John – always going to pique my interest because it’s inspired by John Lilburne, one of my heroes.  A different-to-normal bass-laden start with pretty haunting vocals and snatches of other instruments mingling with the dominating bassline eventually capitulates to more harmonious sound then powers on into an almighty fiddle-driven jig.  It’s cracking.  I can’t wait until 29th September when they’re playing at The Bodega again – it promises to be a top top night.

You can avail yourself of the album from the Ferocious Dog website for the bargainous fee of £6 plus £1.50 postage and packing, or pick it up at one of their festival appearances or gigs.  If you still need convincing to make such a modest investment in such awesome and hard-working local talent then get yourself on to their Last.fm page (which I inadvertently seem to have found myself in charge of!) and have a listen to their stuff on there.  Then go and buy it.

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