Saturday, July 31, 2010

The gentleman's game.

On Wednesday I was thumbing through the Derby Telegraph when I came across an article alerting me to the fact that England was playing Pakistan in a Test Match at Trent Bridge. Trent Bridge is in Nottingham, and Nottingham is next door to Derby! I went immediately into planning mode and, to cut a long story short, on Friday we were headed to the match.
I'd had a difficult morning, with lots of little things getting on my tits. I'd had no peace at breakfast, everything seemed more difficult than it ought, and I felt that my efforts were being undervalued... you get the picture. It was probably just me. When we boarded the Red Arrow bus to Nottingham my complimentary copy of The Times (if you don't mind) reported that the day was almost a sellout and that we'd be lucky to get in. Great, thanks. No, really.
I rang Trent Bridge from Nottingham City Centre, and they said they had tickets left, at a cost of £35. Each. We charged down to the ground, avoiding scalpers and touts by the dozen. When we finally made it to the ticket office, the keenest tout in the universe almost carried us to the gates, showed the £55 tickets to the bloke on the door to prove that they were kosher, and offered them to me for £55 for two. I ended up giving him £40 and we were in. I was patting myself on the back when I realised that there was one thing I hadn't checked. That's right, the seats weren't together. Oh well, such is life. We weren't far from each other, and the seats were good, not to mention the saving of 70 quid on the total cost. The people around us were chatty and pleasant, and we got together at lunch and at tea. After the tea interval I bought Lynn down to where I was sitting, as there were two seats that had been vacant the whole time. It was a great day's cricket, and it is unlikely that I will get to Trent Bridge again anytime soon. We saw Jimmy Anderson, Stuart Broad and Steve Finn all bowl long spells, and Graham Swann bowled a few overs too. We saw 12 wickets fall in the day, the weather was good, and we can now add Trent Bridge to our sporting highlights album.

Friday, July 30, 2010

A pleasant tour around Derbyshire

We had a great day on Thursday, touring Derbyshire with some friends. They picked us up and took us to some lovely spots. We started off at Crich Stand, an impressive memorial to those who have lost their lives in conflict. The views from the top of the tower were impressive, to say the least. We visited Chesterfield and went to the markets, as well as visiting the town's famous crooked spire. We had lunch in Bakewell, where I bought a Bakewell pudding to enjoy later. We stopped for an afternoon pint in picturesque Ashover.

We finished our day in a couple of local alehouses, The Hollybush in Makeney and The Dead Poets in Holbrook. After bidding farewell to our pals, Lynn and I walked the short distance home, slightly squiffy but very happy after spending the day with good friends.

Thursday, July 29, 2010


It's not so much that things are cheaper across the board here, nor are they always better quality. It's the availability of specific brands and products that makes shopping in England a worthwhile pursuit for the Anglophile. I went shopping in Derby on Tuesday. Fred Perrys were £35 in the market. They are well into three figures in Australia. I didn't buy any though, as I don't really like the fit of the 'Made in China' versions. I haven't seen any 'Made in England' Freds yet – I wonder if they still make them here? I did buy a pair of Gola trainers. They are hardly seen in Australia, and the last time I did spy a pair in Adelaide they were 'on sale' at $125. My new pair cost me 15 quid. I also bought a Gola sports bag for seven pounds (try $80 in Adelaide). I grabbed a couple of groovy t-shirts and a polo as well, as my travel wardrobe needed expanding.

I can't do too much shopping though, as the luggage allowances seem to be a lot more stringent these days. 20 kg max. Boo!

Keep on walking

We went for a walk to Ambergate on Wednesday. We took a very roundabout and scenic route on our outward journey, walking up to the highest point we could see, near Handley Wood. The views were brilliant, the best yet. We shared fields with cows, horses and sheep, but we gave the young bulls as wide a berth as we could. The map book provided pretty good information but we still got a little confused getting out of Handleywood Farm. It was all good fun, and we didn't get shot by an angry farmer.

We stopped at the Hurt Arms in Ambergate for a welcome pint of Spitfire and some deep fried heart-attack food, and came back along a much more direct route. It was about a million times better than spending hours fooling ourselves that working in an office is either healthy or of any consequence.

Monday, July 26, 2010


Our first weekend in Belper provided an opportunity to stop and draw breath, to some extent. I was pretty knackered after my Thursday and Friday exertions, so I was more than ready for a couple of days of doing almost nothing. On Saturday morning we walked down into the town and got a few chores done. Then we went to the rather wonderful Fresh Basil and bought provisions for lunch. Some cheeses – Stilton, Brie and a spicy one called 'red devil', as well as some green olives stuffed with chilli and garlic. We had a lovely al fresco lunch back at the house. We hoovered up most of the food and washed it down with a nice cold shandy. I spent the afternoon and evening happily doing nothing. Drinking wine, reading newspapers, nothing...

On Sunday we went for a walk to The Dead Poets' Inn at Holbrook, via the fields. We wanted to check out one of the sections we walked on Friday as we felt that we might have missed a turn. Sure enough, we found the well-hidden footbridge and made our way to the pub along a different route. On the way home we stopped at the White Hart in Bargate. Why? Because it was there.
Apart from the trip to the pubs, Sunday was as restful as a Sunday ought to be. And not before time.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Grit 'n' Soul

On Friday night we went out with friends to see a sixties-flavoured soul band. My kind of stuff. The gig was held at the Rolls-Royce Pavillion, which was a nice place to relax after a hard week of non-work. The band was called 'Godfrey's Grit 'n' Soul Band' and they played a load of soul classics, as well as tunes made famous by The Kinks, The Beatles and the like. All very enjoyable. The hard-working DJ was great too, sticking faithfully to popular soul tracks all night. I was having Quadrophenia flashbacks with just about every song...
One solitary chap danced all night, giving it some of the northern soul soft-shoe shufflle. He was occasionally joined by others, especially once the drink had kicked in.
The music was great, the ale was both tasty and healthy, and the evening ended too soon. We went home happy, and it was great to hear some live music done well.

Rambling away...

The Public Footpath and right-of-way system in England is fantastic. Most days involve us hopping around from village to village, up hill and down dale, armed with nothing more than my well-thumbed Derbyshire map book. We barely see a road, or a car, and simply enjoy walking through fields, sharing the paths with sheep, cows, and the odd horse. Every village has a pub or three to explore, and the beautiful scenery borders on the magical. Kilburn, Openwoodgate, Denby, Belper, Holbrook, Milford and Makeney are all within easy reach, and this week we intend to add a few more places to our list.
Truly joyous.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Open mic is alright!

It's a funny feeling walking into a brand new venue, far from home, and there's just the two of you...
We arrived at Sadler Gate after enjoying an evening meal at the Standing Order. I had nachos, Lynn had noodles. Comfort food. Then it was a short walk down to the venue. The Big Blue Coffee Company was a pretty easygoing place; we bought some drinks and waited for our two friends to arrive.
I was happy to meet Ian, the chap who runs the venue, and it seemed like I'd get to play a few songs. He also organised for me to borrow a guitar. Marc, a member of Willowstree, let me use his Ovation Applause so I was sorted without any carry on.
I played three numbers to the small but appreciative crowd - Shining Light (the Facebook song), Wish I Was You, and Say Goodbye. Great fun.
We stuck around for Willowstree, and also for Vanessa Vale. Both were great, and if I lived closer I'd be going again. Before we left I purchased a copy of the Derby Singer Songwriters Club's latest compilation CD, and I gave Ian a copy of SCALA News. Then it was off to Derby's oldest pub, The Dolphin, for a celebratory pint. Wahoo!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Where the heart is...

After seven beds in eight nights we have finally slowed down a little and settled in Belper, Derbyshire, for a couple of weeks. This beautiful town is not far from my birthplace, so I feel a bond whenever I am here. We will be busy, but at least we will be 'home' every night.

I have (hopefully) organised to play at an open mic this evening in Derby, at The Big Blue Coffee Company on Sadler Gate. I need to borrow a guitar but hopefully some kind soul will trust me with their instrument so I can bash out a few songs. Of course, I bought my own harmonica...

I hope someone is nice enough to help me out with a guitar; I haven't played for a week.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Family Business

Here I am in Hull. It is sunny, a little cloudy, and a biting wind is roaring from the mighty Humber. The city centre streets are crowded, and I am constantly dodging past elderly stereotypical examples of the Yorkshireman, or teenage girls pushing prams. In the old town, I am slightly awed by the fact that these cobbled streets and busy markets featured prominently in the lives of my father, grandfather, great-grandfather and great-great grandfather, who was also called David. He was a popular character in the marketplace back in the mid-1800s. Not far away from The Land of Green Ginger we stumble across Robinson Row, and I wonder...

Is there a song in this?

(Halfway) around the world in 40 hours.

Arriving at our little hotel in Hull was like finding nirvana. Our trip had taken us around 40 hours to travel from Millswood to Hull. We were tired, becoming addled, and probably in need of a shower.
The Airbus journey from Singapore to Heathrow was OK - I was pretty shredded by the time we boarded so after enduring the staff's well-intentioned efforts to force feed me, it was a joy to put in the earplugs and sleep. I did quite well. Plane sleep isn't as good real sleep, but I was pretty much out of it for more than seven hours.
When I woke up I watched Stones in Exile, which was as good as I hoped it would be. I filled in the rest of the time with junk comedy shows.
Getting out of Heathrow was a breeze, and the National Express coach ride was pretty easy - not many passengers, and we made a new friend. A very pleasant chap called Peter, from Huddersfield.
We got our wearying bodies to Hull in time to check-in, shower, change, eat, have a pint before it was time to head out for our first adventure - the Rugby League local derby between Hull FC and Hull Kingston Rovers.
And what a good night it was!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

A poor singer in Singapore...

It is 31 degrees outside. I peer through the windows and watch the warm day turn into a warm night. I am at Changi Airport, on a five hour layover. I am trying to work out if I am hungry. Or thirsty. Gentle strains of inconsequential muzak wash over me as I sit here tap tap tapping away. This place is clean, quiet and well organised. The 1000-yard stare of the transit passenger is a common sight. There are shops everywhere; Rolex, Gucci, Burberry, Armani... and Dunkin' Donuts.
The flight was excellent, it is the first time I've travelled with Singapore Airlines and I am impressed. The service was great and the food was edible. The riesling was awful but that's OK, there were other beverage choices... I watched The Runaways movie and listened to Yellow Submarine. Also Plan B's latest album. The plane was clean, I think new, and the conditions were excellent for flying. Nary a bump.
If the next leg, the longer one, of this journey is as as good as this afternoon's trip, I will be a happy camper.

Above the clouds

Time to go. We are packed, all the chores are done, and we can leave with a healthy measure of peace of mind. Off we go, back to the place from whence I came. In a few hours I will be in Singapore, and then it is on to London. 26 hours in transit. Joy.

Farewell, rainy Adelaide. I'll see you in a few weeks.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Blue turns to grey.

When I (finally) arose this morning, I was greeted by a most fantastic day. It was warmish, and the entire sky was a beautiful springtime blue. The prediction was for ugly weather, so the morning sun was an unexpected, and most welcome, treat. I celebrated by mowing the lawns - it's the last haircut they'll be getting for a month or so.
The forecast wasn't great; I stayed outside making the most of the faux spring for as long as I could, pottering around, meditating on all manner of things, before indoor tasks demanded my attention.
The grey clouds have now crept over, the wind is getting up and, I suspect, the rain is on the way. C'est la vie - it is winter after all.
I am reminded of a little poem I wrote a few years back:

Bleak, grey canopy
The storm clouds conspire to hide
Their silver lining

Copyright © David Robinson 2002

Monday, July 12, 2010

Monday, Monday, Monday.

It's been a long day, so far.
I was up before 4.00 AM to watch the World Cup Final. I'd seen the other 63 matches so I thought I should complete the set. It was probably worth it, but I'm not too upset that there's four years until the next one.
We are striving to get everything sorted before we fly out. Installing the house sitter, and ensuring that all the other details are taken care of, so that we can leave without any cares or hassles. I told our Mexican gardener that he needs to diligently watch over our cactus plants. He hasn't moved a muscle since.
I found time to tinker with my scooter this afternoon - it's going to need some help when I get back I think... I also cleaned a few of my bikes (it's easier than actually going for a ride). I swept and tidied the shed. I packed.
I'm looking forward to a good night's sleep. And another productive day tomorrow.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Thinking of England

It won't be very long at all now. The wait is almost over. By this time next week we will have already visited Hull, York, Rudston and Bridlington. Some say that it is grim up north but I don't see it that way. Friends and family, a sense of history and, if the summer weather holds, some lovely days spent drinking beer in the sun.
I will be happy to get the grind of the long haul flight out of the way; this necessary evil can be a bit of a pain in the arsenal but I guess it's not too bad. As long as my fellow passengers maintain a moderate sense of decorum and an acceptable level of hygiene, I will be happy enough. I usually just settle in, order a drink and amuse myself with any one of my gadgets. Sometimes I even manage to sleep. Sometimes.

England, here we come!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Clowns, dunces and downright fools

I went to the football today and, not for the first time, I walked away shaking my head. I was once again left wondering how people can act so poorly, so often. The noble arts of being generous in victory, and gracious in defeat, appear to be a thing of the past. Boneheadedness seems to be in the ascendancy.
I understand fully the passions that are aroused, both on and off the field, when a sporting contest takes place. I've won and lost with the best (and worst) of them, as a player, coach and spectator. I get passionate too, really passionate, but there's ways of dealing with it that don't necessarily include making an arse of yourself. Channeling base impulses into something more acceptable is part of our responsibility as higher-thinking social animals, surely. The way people react to things leaves me wondering what are they like when addressing the issues and challenges that confront them in everyday life. Not very well, I would wager.
People get louder, and ruder when they are winning, whinge when they are losing, and go quiet when a likely victory turns to defeat. Good-natured banter gives way to ill-reasoned offensiveness as soon as the going gets tough. The amount of aggression that most of these heroes expend is proportional to how far away they are from their perceived foe, or how well protected they are. People get personal when their comments are bested by another, and everyone can tell that they have lost the argument. Today I saw defeated players getting involved with spectators after the game had ended. What a nonsense. Probably the lowest brain cell to spoken word ratio known to humanity. There is almost nothing heard at a football match that is worth repeating. Even tabloid journalists are probably, just probably, more witty and incisive.
Lighten up guys. There's lots of things in life that are worth getting heated up about, but sport ain't many of them.
Be like me - internalise everything, and turn black inside. Nyuk!

St David the Pious

Friday, July 9, 2010

tea break

Swirling circles
Appear in my tea
I don't know Oolong
This has been happening to me

Copyright © David Robinson 1995

Thursday, July 8, 2010

What, me worry?

Another day rockets past.
Thursday is payday for some, and the second last day of the working week for many. Me, I'm beyond all that. Albeit temporarily.
I spent the day watching Spain beat the somewhat overawed Germans, getting a haircut, writing an article, and then having a terrific lunch and afternoon discussing and listening to music with a mate. Ray Davies, Johnny Cash, Ron Sexsmith, Magazine, John Henry and more...
Yeah baby.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010


It is fair to say that I have been neglecting an important aspect of my life in recent months. Something that plays a big part in maintaining my physical and mental fitness. Something that is both challenging and rewarding, almost in equal measures. Something that is quite serious, but also a great deal of fun. Something important to me.

I haven't been out on my bike.

The dark and cold mornings have been a disincentive, I have been very busy with music & writing and, if I am honest, I have almost enjoyed the break. Fortunately, the wheel is turning (if you will pardon the pun) and the time feels right to correct my orientation slightly.
Even though I ride a mountain bike, the Tour de France tends to inspire. To put it simply, it is great TV. The competition, the tactics, the drama, the expert commentary and (not least) the scenery all combine to provide hours of great viewing.
I have also been asked to write an article for a magazine about a week-long bike tour I embarked upon a few years ago, so that has caused me to reflect on my cycling adventures generally.
There's a big ride in the Flinders Ranges in September, so I will need to be fit for that.
So, you could say that the encouragement and incentive is there.
I won't be riding straight away; I have to go on holiday. But the moment I return, I will be back on the bike.
You just watch me.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The rhythm of life...

The sun rises.
Get up, shower, shave, get dressed, tidy rooms. Turn heater on - it's cold in the house. Watch Tour de France for a bit. Make toast and marmalade for breakfast. Take dog for a walk in the pale sunshine. Chat with neighbours. Tidy the garden. Go to the shops for a couple of things. Listen to podcasts while walking. Start drafting a cycling article. Enjoy leftover stew for lunch. Watch an episode of The Wire. Update website. Stuff around in the shed. Fix up some cupboards. Listen to The Jam. Tidy and sort the music room. Drink wine. Chat with my brother. Become friends with Nasty Nigel via Facebook. Listen to the Happy Mondays. Make a curry. Eat a curry. Watch Corrie.
The sun sets.

Now it is time to go and make some music!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Roy of the Rovers

This morning, while attending to duties that incorporated both the joyous and the mundane, I spotted a rare gem. On sale at the newsagent, among all of the other unwanted, remaindered books, was a copy of Roy of the Rovers: The 1970s. I didn't have to be asked twice.
For those who do not know, Roy of the Rovers was one of a number of English football-oriented comics, featuring a range of ripping yarns about players and teams as they dealt with sibling rivalry, boardroom machinations, international espionage, magical equipment and, on occasion, football matches. These men became many a schoolboy's heroes...
Roy's own comic came quite late, after spending many years as the marquee character of the sport/adventure Tiger comic. Scorcher and Score, my own favourite and itself an amalgamation, bit the dust and joined forces with Tiger in 1974, with Roy of the Rovers ascending in 1976.
Scorcher and Score was so important to me. I preferred it to real-life mags such as Shoot! and Football Monthly. In fact, I preferred it to real life. I would read and re-read the stories every week, lost in the magical boy's-own world of Jack of United, Jimmy of City, Billy's Boots, Lags Eleven, Hot Shot Hamish and Nipper. Oh, for those carefree days of yore.
I was heartbroken when Scorcher and Score finished, but at least the amalgamation bought Roy, and Melchester Rovers, into my life.
Now I have a bedside book to remind me of those good times. And, in perfect keeping with my personality, I still have all my originals in a trunk.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Getting closer.

The joys (such that they are) of planning for an overseas trip are, these days, the domain of the common man and woman. No longer do people have to make semi-ignorant, on-the-spot decisions regarding their holidays while being subjected to the sterile, soulless environment of the travel agent. Ordinary folk are now equipped to do as good a job planning their journey as were the professionals of the last decade. The internet, and cheap international call rates have enabled people to be their own travel agent, if they don't mind doing the work.
Plane tickets. Check. Accommodation. Check. Tickets for Wembley. Check. Relatives and friends contacted (and warned). Check. Insurance. Check. Foreign currency sorted. Check. Plane seat allocation. Check. National Express. Check. Passports in order. Check. Rugby tickets. Check. Mobile phone enabled. Check. Train tickets. Check.
The more you get organised beforehand, the easier the trip. That's Burke's Law.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Poem for Adrian Henri and Roger McGough

sometimes in the supermarket
cash and patience almost gone
filling bags with weekly fuel
for wife, daughter, son
I wonder what it would be like
to buy dinner for one

Copyright © David Robinson 2001

Friday, July 2, 2010

Aah, sweet Friday...

Adelaide is in the grip of a very, very cold spell. Even when the sun is shining, it's not getting much warmer. It feels like old Sol is every inch of his 93 million miles away. And when there's no sun, it's even colder. So look out.
Not that anyone should be too surprised by this weather. It is the middle of winter, after all.
The sun was providing illumination, if not much warmth, when I left my house on Friday and walked into the city. I was suitably attired, so the journey in was quite an enjoyable experience, despite the freshness. Sunshine tends to make everything better. Except the wings of Icarus, I guess.
As I walked through the parklands, I was entertained by the swooping and diving welcome swallows, flying directly at me before darting off in another direction at the last second. I'm not sure if they wanted a fight, or thought I was going to feed them, or were perhaps just ensuring that I passed safely and responsibly through their home.
I had a lovely lunch at Citi Zen, an entree of battered tempura-style vegetables followed by a spicy fried tofu dish. Despite tofu being essentially tasteless (how did it ever get to be a food?) the main course was surprisingly delightful.
I enjoyed good conversation with my mate John, as we slurped down a bottle of pino grigio while lamenting the shortcomings of the England football team.
We followed up lunch with a few pints of Guinness across the road at The Brecknock, ensuring the afternoon ended on a (slightly blurry) high note.
I walked home, traversing the same route by which I'd made my inward journey. It must have been tea time for the birds though, because there wasn't a swallow in sight.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

End of Financial Year Report

2009-2010 has been and gone.
In that time I have made over 60+ public appearances, and performed my original songs over 200 times. I've probably churned out somewhere in the region of 50 cover versions too, including an acoustic guitar version of Werewolves of London, of which I am extremely proud (to have survived). Warren Zevon, a true genius.
I have collaborated with other musicians, performed as a duo (Yours Truly, the fabulous Double Blues, and others), and made many new friends. I've continued in my role as a member of the SCALA Board; I have also put together and run ten or so Songwriters' Workshops. I have been lucky enough to have some of my music-oriented articles published in magazines and books.
I have added a Taylor six-string acoustic to my musical arsenal, and have assembled a decent enough recording facility. I've even started recording in it.

I haven't written enough songs. I haven't really developed as a guitarist or singer. I don't network, either personally or via the internet, well enough. But progress, however slow, has been made, and things have picked up in the last couple of months.

Where would I be without music?
In the nuthouse, I guess.