Monday, May 31, 2010

A good start

It is a beautiful sunny morning in Adelaide. I was up at dawn and have had a good start to my day, and my week. It is just about 9.00 and I have done the washing and hung it out, tidied the front garden, fixed the flat tyre on Lynn's bike, answered a bunch of emails, and had three cups of tea. I have harvested some beautiful, fresh, green spinach from the vegetable garden, I think we will have palak paneer for tea. I also brought in some mandarins and lemons.
I am about to have my breakfast while I watch last night's Giro d'Italia highlights.
Then it will be time for me and Monty to go a-walking.

Beats working!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Unchained malady

After a fairly easygoing Thursday, it was entirely appropriate that I put a bit of effort into my weekend. Unfortunately I woke up on Friday in no small amount of pain. I'd done something mysterious to my hip and anything more than standing and walking represented a huge challenge. Just getting my right sock on was an exercise in agony, although it probably would have looked hilarious to anyone (un)fortunate enough to see me rolling around on the bed, like a fish out of water, yelping with pain. And all for a sock!
Still, time waits for Norman and, my name being David, I couldn't afford to let the grass grow under my feet. Excessive physical labour was out of the question, so it was a few days of writing articles and reviews, developing a set of 100 quiz questions (that's another story), doing some music administration, and playing FIFA Football. Oh, and there was the small matter of watching three hours of the Premier League Darts Final on Friday.
Given that I could stand OK, I did manage to do a bit of cooking and a few house/garden chores. I have cleaned up the music room; June stands a very good chance of being a musical month. Shabby Road Studio is ready to go!
My copy of the new album from Andy White (that's him, on the left) arrived, so at least my standing around was accompanied by some mighty fine music.
I am pleased to report that my hip is much better today, and that I hope to be stretching and crouching with the best of them, come tomorrow. We shall see.

Oh, and RIP Dennis Hopper. What a ride...

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Kind of Blue

Some things in life are just brilliant. This morning, as I settled into my early routine, I looked for something to listen to. I selected Miles Davis' Kind of Blue. Wow.
What a fabulous record. Now, I know almost as little about jazz as John Howard knows about grace and humility but, as the saying goes, I know what I like. If you wanted to explain jazz to visitors from another planet, you'd play Kind of Blue. Or, at least, I would.
It made me want to crack open one of my Kerouac books and just read along. Which would have sounded awful, but there you go. I wanted to put on my sharpest, darkest suit, smoke Gitanes and drink strong coffee while I appreciated the beauty of ordinary things.
But I just made breakfast instead.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Stuff. And nonsense.

Days come. Days go. Repeat. Again. Joy.
It is another normal week in the suburbs. The bins have been collected and we can all sigh a sigh of relief as our collective waste has been shipped off, spirited away to an undetermined location - another mountain of rubbish somewhere. The postman has been, unwittingly delivering goodness and/or despair to householders. Somewhere, who knows, milk may have even been delivered. Whatever happened to the bread man?
I am here, just chipping away at things. I've managed to wrestle a few more chapters of Ulysses into submission, watched some cool films, and rehearsed a bit. I've been shopping for vinyl, Beatles DVDs, guitar stuff and other things. I am eagerly awaiting the delivery of the mod revival book that I contributed a great deal towards, as well as the brand new Andy White album ,to which I contributed nothing. I've been for a bike ride, mowed the lawns, and continued in my quest for perfect household order. Me and the dog are tight. I played the blues last night, we had home made gnocchi tonight, and I am off to perform in half an hour...
It's Lynn's birthday tomorrow, so 24 hours of celebration are planned!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Talking about the weather, who says it's boring?

In a little over two weeks it will be winter. The days will be short, skies grey, the wind will bite, and the rain will surely come. Adelaide will become increasingly more miserable, and its denizens will follow suit.
Right now, that's hard to believe, given the glorious weather I have been enjoying for just about the entire duration of my leave. Blue skies, sunshine and birdsong. I go walking most mornings, sometimes with the dog, sometimes solo, and it is impossible to put into words the joy and goodwill that is almost palpable as I pound the pavement.
Leaves are turning various shades of orange and dropping to the ground, but that only adds to the autumnal glory. The grass is often damp underfoot in the early part of the day. The nights are getting cold, and the heater has become a regular, and welcome, evening guest. It is usually about six degrees when I get up in the morning. All of this is quite acceptable when the days are so magnificent.
I know the cold, bleak days aren't far away, but I am making the most of this. Sitting under the front verandah in the afternoon sun, accompanied by a glass of wine and a good book, I watch the honeyeaters dance around the feed trays and the birdbath.
I think they, too, are enjoying this weather.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The days just melt away...

As the autumn sun sets on the third week of my break it seems appropriate that I reflect on my experience thus far. In the last few days I have shifted, probably in the wrong direction. The initial sense of euphoria of not being at work has subsided, giving way to a very familiar feeling - that I have so much to do, and so little time to do it. The hours slip by. I am battling a sense of failure, no matter how much I get done. This is my next challenge - to accept that on any given day it is realistic to expect that maybe a couple of things will get done. Not everything. This lingering feeling of inadequacy is a legacy, I guess, of the way we members of 'normal' society are programmed to chase achievement after achievement and acquire all we can...
The roads are filled with cars, charging in and out of lanes. Frustrated drivers heading from one dissatisfying aspect of their lives to another. Shops are crowded. No-one says hello. If something stops working we simply throw it away and buy another one. The bins are full. There is noise everywhere. People race from home to work and back again. Pushing food into our faces as quickly as possible so we can get to the TV in time for Idol. Wishing it was the weekend. Wishing it was summer. Wishing it was Christmas...
I am going to consciously slow down, smell the roses, and try and remain true to my reasons for running away from the madness in the first place.
This too shall pass.

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Young Ones

I have been watching The Young Ones on ABC2 over the course of its current run. I mainly tuned in because I wanted to see if these versions would be uncut. There have been numerous changes, for either music license or pathetic sanitisation reasons, to some of the DVD releases. I am happy to report that these current broadcasts seemed to have been spared the Nanny State's butcher knife.
Anyhow, that's all an aside. Despite the fact that I watched the show to death when it came out, I can honestly say that these 12 episodes are as good a comedy show as anyone, anywhere, will ever see.

Well done to all!

And please guys, resist any urges to try and recapture the magic. The last thing I want to see is a 30-year reunion. Especially you, Elton, because you've been found wanting ever since.

It's great, but it's gone.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Musical notes

With more time on my hands I am slowly orienting myself towards making music. I am still spending too much time grappling with the seemingly endless range of tasks around the house, but I think I am really just attempting to clear the decks (and my mind) so I can concentrate on music.
I have completed one new song, Wish I Was You - my first new piece since Shining Light, which came into being last August. That's far too long between songs, but not as bad as I have been in recent years. Something to improve on.
The open mic circuit has kept me honest in terms of performance. Once or twice a week it has been a great joy to take the stage and present some of my songs. I have some full length performances planned for the next couple of months, including a SCALA gig on 10 June.
I have received a set of lyrics for a potential collaboration. It's not something I do often, but the discipline might be healthy. We'll see how it goes.
A friend of mine has joined me in knocking out a few covers on our guitars; I generally only play originals but from time to time it's good fun to belt out some old faves. Probably healthy too. Apart from the beer.
My blues excursion has stalled a bit. Lindsay have done a couple of songs on stage recently but we are definitely overdue for a rehearsal, and some new additions to the setlist.
Songwriters Workshops and SCALA meetings come and go; they take up quite a bit of time in terms of organisation. I hope that people find the workshops valuable. It appears that they do.
The local newsagent has a basket of older magazines available at heavily discounted prices. I find guitar mags in there for about a third of their normal cost. Guitar mags are horribly overpriced so I generally avoid them, but getting three for the price of one is pretty good. There's always something useful in them, whether it be new styles, new chord structures, or simply a good article on a favourite guitarist... and it all provides a degree of inspiration.
As autumn turns to winter, and the days get colder and darker, I'm sure I'll be spending more and more time with a guitar around my neck. Rock on.

Friday, May 14, 2010

This Sporting Life

Holidays, cable TV and football. What a lovely combination.
I have sat in my armchair for a good few hours this week, watching football. I haven't played competitively for many years (see photo - a 'never-was' at work), so this is as close as I get these days. Beer, remote control, and Sky Sports.
The excitement of the English Football League Championship play-offs is reaching its peak. The gripping two-leg semi finals have been played over the last seven days, and I have been thoroughly absorbed. The Wembley final is on Saturday week and, at the final whistle, either Blackpool or Cardiff will be rewarded with a berth in the Premier League in 2010-11. Said to be worth around 100 million pounds to the successful club, it is not a match to be taken lightly.
The League One semi-finals are being shown next week. More nail-biting stuff.
This Saturday sees the Premier League's bankrupt wooden-spooners Portsmouth take on triumphant champions Chelsea in FA Cup Final. A classic top versus bottom encounter. Something magic could happen. Chelsea will probably win 8-0...
The Europa League Final was yesterday, with Fulham being defeated by Diego Forlan, and the European Champions League Final is May 22. Which happens to be the same day as the Football League Championship Final.
Late nights, early mornings, and comfort food.
And, of course, there is the small matter of the 2010 FIFA World Cup looming.

Football, eh? Bloody Hell...

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Something approaching mindfulness

It has only been a week and a bit since I started my long break, but I can already sense a change in the way I am thinking. The big difference, unsurprisingly, is in the amount of time I now have available to complete my daily tasks. This means that instead of racing to cook a meal as soon as I get home, doing the gardening while I am planning my next job, squeezing in a rehearsal between ironing and answering emails etc, I can now completely focus on whatever it is that I am doing at the time. Walking the dog is no longer something to avoid, or to do under sufferance. Reading a book has ceased being an exercise in how quickly I can finish a chapter. These are now things to be savoured. Even household chores are much more enjoyable, not to mention done more effectively, when I am not rushing through them. I am happy just being in the moment, concentrating fully on the task at hand. Peace of mind, the scale of which I have hitherto been unable to achieve, may be just around the corner...
Nauseating, isn't it?

How will I ever manage to go back to work?

Monday, May 10, 2010

A liberation, of sorts...

Good old Microsoft.
Late last week, I fired up my laptop with the intention of doing some work. I'd recently installed Windows 7 and I had found the upgrade a pleasant experience. It is much easier to find your way around than when using Vista, and it is better looking than XP. But I digress. It was time to press my nose ever so gently to the grindstone. I gathered my thoughts, shuffled some papers, made a cup of tea and went to load my word processor. Not there. I looked around, followed links, clicked my icons... nothing. I was most disappointed to eventually discover that, after taking advantage of the 'Vista to Windows 7 upgrade' offer, that my laptop no longer included the free office suite, Microsoft Works, or Microsoft Mail. These free base-level equivalents of Outlook and Office respectively have served me well on my second machine, and I was dismayed that not only were they not included in Windows 7, but that this fact was not pointed out in huge red letters on the front of the upgrade disk.
I could have chosen to install my versions of Office/Outlook 2003 onto the laptop and continued in that vein, but such was the depth of my annoyance that I decided to look elsewhere for alternatives. Besides, those programs are pretty big and I am trying to keep my laptop as light as possible.
After some searching, I discovered Mozilla Thunderbird and Open Office; both are non-Microsoft products that are available online for free. I have been happily using Mozilla Firefox for some time, and I use Open Office on my Linux Eee PC. So I had some idea of what I would be getting.
Open Office and Thunderbird are easy to find, simple to download, and a breeze to install. They run well, and are straightforward and pretty. And Thunderbird is a pretty cool name.
I can't believe I've waited this long.
I am still running a largely Microsoft-based environment on my desktop but it won't take much, one tiny glitch, one moment of frustration, before I consider switching there too...
The truth is out there. You just have to look for it.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Wednesday musings

You are only here on Earth for a short while so you'd better make the most of it.
The Metro last night was another cool & groovy experience. Long may it reign.
Unforgiven is a pretty good film, thanks to the efforts of Clint Eastwood.

My dog might be a little bit soft in the head.
Winter is nigh. Long may it rain.
We all have songs within us. You just have to make the effort to write them.
The chap in our local op shop is a nice fellow.
Brian Wilson was right - you can be quite busy doin' nothin'.
Drivers only indicate when there are other cars around.
Wine is my friend.
John Cooper Clarke should have made more records.
I need a haircut.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

In praise of older vinyl...

Playing a record is one of those rare things - an action that never fails to please me. Like getting into a warm bath, or having the first cup of tea in the morning, putting an album onto the turntable is something that I love. As soon as the needle hits the vinyl, announcing itself with that reassuring bump and crackle that has been with me for some 35 years, I am in paradise. CDs, shiny, pleasant and convenient as they are, can't hold a candle to that fantastic black plastic.
My first album, The Essential Beatles, was part of a swap deal with a mate. The first LP I actually paid money for was Touch Me by Gary Glitter. A title which, given Mr Glitter's recent history, could be construed as being a little creepy now... My collection grew after I helped myself to my father's collection of original Buddy Holly, Fats Domino, PJ Proby and others' 45s, and was further augmented with astute purchases made possible by Christmas monies. As a Beatles' fan I spent most of my disposable income in my teenage years on fab four records, before having my head turned by punk, mod, soul and blues recordings. I missed a few years when the compact disc arrived, but it wasn't too long before I was trawling around the second-hand shops, looking for vinyl treasures. Something I still do.
The joy of artwork, lyrics, inner sleeves, the warm crackle, the jumps and scratches, are things belonging to a bygone era, never to prevail again.
I still have all my records, hundreds and hundreds of them, and I love them. I play them often.
Sometimes I like to just hold them. Joy.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Welcome to the working week!

I've been free for a few days now and to say that I have been keeping busy is an understatement. I don't expect this blog to be a simple inventory of what I've accomplished each day but I have been pleased at my work rate. The lawns (well, grass and clover, actually) have been mowed, I've bought and assembled a new office chair, and a whole bunch of around-the-house type chores have been knocked off. I've baked vegetarian 'sausage' rolls (twice), made pumpkin, carrot and potato soup, cheese and tomato damper, and palak paneer. All of my software installation seems to have gone well, and I think I have my iPhone clone working at last. I've watched two Ingmar Bergman films, listened to loads of my old records, and bonded with the dog. Now I just need to get on with my music!

I could get used to this.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Day One

OK. It's for real. I'm on leave, and for a fair chunk of time too.
For the next few months my house is the centre of my universe.
Plenty to do. The vegetable garden needs preparing for the winter planting. I need to record some demos for songwriting competitions, and pretty quickly. Which probably means that I should write some more songs. I must finish reading Ulysses before Bloomsday. There are concert and album reviews to complete and send off. Cooking, yeah cooking. Loads of time to spend in the kitchen. The weights bench is calling me and there's an old Vespa that needs a good ride. And I haven't watched Apocalypse Now in years.
My brain is fizzing...
It is a perfect autumn day. Sunny, calm and blue. The birds are singing. I suspect I'll be outside for a while. And why not?