Friday, October 11, 2013

Eight hour daze...

Photo: Kristy Hoare
The Labour Day long weekend often throws up a fair bit of work for me and this year was no exception. It proved to be the culmination of a couple of busy weeks.

On Friday night I sang and played on stage as part of my role as an Ethelton Entertainer. I also played in the show band. The Entertainers are a variety troupe that raises money for Camp Quality and also for the local school. As well as crooning, I get to play bass for a couple of weeks; a rare thing these days.

On Saturday  afternoon I played a show under a marquee on Semaphore Road as part of the fabulous Semaphore Music Festival. It was all pretty informal but it was loads of fun. I didn't quite know what to present to the mixed bag of punters so I just did my thing. Nobody threw anything at me so I guess it was a decent enough selection of songs.

Saturday night saw me complete my Vaudevillian duties as we wrapped up the nine-night season of the Ethelton Entertainers. So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, goodbye...

On Sunday morning I rose after four hours' sleep and ambled down to the Adelaide Showground Farmers' Market where I sang my heart out for three hours, looking at the world through gritty eyes. It's a great vibe but I probably should have plumped for a lie-in instead. Oh well, I can sleep later.

From there it was back down to the Music Festival for a gig at Semaphore Garden & Pets. It sounds like a weird place to present music but it is actually a lovely environment. Tropical birds and brightly coloured hens wandered around as I ran through my hour-long set in front of a few friends and some passing plant-oriented patrons.

On Monday we took a trip out to Tarlee where I played two brackets for visitors to the Annual Community Market. I rattled out an hour's worth of originals before switching locations and belting out a stream of hits from the fifties onwards for a couple of hours.  I seemed to prove quite popular; not least with the flies. Summer comes quickly once you head north.

Nine shows in seven days. Keeps me out of mischief I guess...

I slept pretty well on Monday night.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Is there something wrong with me?

The personal highlight of the year thus far, musically speaking, has to be my success in SCALA's Festival of Original Music (FOOM) competition. I entered one song in one category - the prestigious Live section.
The song in question, "Is There Something Wrong With Me?", is my newest composition, and I had a bit of faith in its worthiness. But would others feel the same?
I entered, hoping simply that I would get through my heat, if for no other reason than to have something with which to update my songwriting CV. 1997 is starting to look like a long time ago.
The heat went pretty well, I enjoyed performing the number, and the judges obviously saw enough merit in the song to place it in the Grand Final. I was pretty chuffed, to say the least.
Playing at the Final
Photo: Bryan Foley

My guitar, unlike many others I hear about, has never responded poorly to new strings so I replaced mine on the day of the Final. I switched back to using lighter gauge strings - for the previous few months I'd been using slightly heavier strings that I'd snapped up cheap from Allans when it looked like the store was going under. I'd finally run out so I took a walk down to Derringers. I thought I'd revert to my usual 11-52s.
On the night of the Final, I waited patiently to play. I was lucky number 13. There are so many things to set nerves jangling; is it better to perform earlier or later in the evening? Who am I following? Who is on after me? I actually think that these things rarely matter or, if they do, they can work for you as often as against you.
My time came. I played my song and, despite feeling pretty relaxed and happy about the whole affair, the guitar sounded pretty odd. I repeatedly failed to nail one of the chords in the chorus; strings were ringing everywhere. I should have spent more time getting used to my reversion to lighter gauge strings - I thought that I might have shot myself in the guitar. Oh well, there's always next year. Or the year after...
After the 16 performances were done, the judges retired to deliberate while the big crowd was entertained. Then came the raffle draw, then the announcement of the winners in all of the other categories, then the big one.
When I wasn't named in the three "Highly Commended" acts, I figured it was over. The judges then announced that they had selected three winners, and I almost fell off my chair when I was the second person named.
I felt surprised, honoured and over the moon. It was all a little unreal. It took a few days for my feet to touch the ground.
Being a FOOM Live winner is something I will remember forever. Thanks to all concerned.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Mods and Rockers

I don't drive a car. Never have. I don't think I ever will. I'd like to, but the notion scares me a bit. I'm a nervous enough passenger; Evan knows how I'd manage behind the wheel...
I do, however, own two motor bikes. One is a 1979 Honda, the other a 1963 Vespa.

photo taken in 1982
I bought the Honda back in 1984 when I moved into a very dodgy block of flats in Brooklyn Park. The denizens were desperados; many were up to no good. Each night, as I tried to sleep amid the cacophony of breaking glass, yelling and burnouts, I worried about my cherished ex-postie 1977 Vespa 150 Super. I'd owned the bike for three years and nurtured her back to health after a crash one Friday night on Seaview Road. Adorned with mirrors, chrome and aerials, the Vespa was a perfect target for vandals as she sat under the shared carport. Scooters weren't part of normal culture. I feared the worst.

photo taken in 2013
After a month or two of living at the new place, it was with a heavy heart that I decided that it was best for both me and the Vespa if we went our separate ways. I sold the Super on consignment at Sharp's Motor Cycles in the city and asked the affable owner, Bert Sharp, to see if he could source me a motor bike. He came up trumps with a near-mint 1979 Honda CB 250T.
I rode the new bike home at about 30 kmh; it was a whole different concept to riding the Vespa. I wondered what the Dickens I had let myself in for. Gradually, though, we became friends and everyday companions.
The Honda stayed with me, through times of constant use and times of absolute neglect, and it is to her credit that she is still here.

photo taken in 2013
A few years back I decided that the time was right to rekindle my love affair with scooters and, after getting lucky through some friends of friends, I managed to pick up a 1963 Vespa 150 GL. It looked pretty rough around the edges, resplendent in hand-painted purple and grey livery, but it was in pretty good condition overall. Many months, and many dollars later, the restoration was complete and the GL looked just as she would have when rolling off the production line back in '63.

They don't get a lot of use but they do get a lot of love. A quick ride around the local area is about the best we manage these days. None of us are getting any younger. The arrangement seems to suit us all, and I expect our relationship to endure.

Just don't ask me to choose.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

A period of consolidation

Since arriving home in mid-June after completing my most recent trip, playing songs on The Overland, I have very much enjoyed the experience of staying at home - or at least in Adelaide. It's fair to say that I'd had enough of traveling, as mind-broadening as it might be, and all I wanted to do was stay at home for a while. And so I did. I've assumed the dual roles of man about the house and musician-for-hire. It's been fab.
Each day has seen me add another dimension to this new regimen. What started as something of a holiday had evolved into days spent with a full program of work. My willingness to embrace the (Tom and Barbara) Good Life has had me learning, planting, harvesting, cooking and baking. There's been plumbing, stacking, building, keeping fit and the art of motorcycle maintenance too.
I've played loads of shows and, as is fitting for a man with a "never say no to a show" policy, venues have come in all shapes and sizes. Pubs, football clubs, restaurants, markets, bowling clubs, Race Day marquees and more. The most unusual of all my shows was down at the South Road Superway Open Day. I was playing in the middle of the road, entertaining all those who came to walk a stretch of Adelaide's latest engineering marvel. Thankfully the only vehicular traffic was the odd golf cart, ferrying VIPs and/or the infirm from one spot to another.
I've also been into Shabby Road, my home studio, and helped a pal record the theme tune for his podcast. It was great to get back behind the wheel and learn a bit more about the recording process as I went along. And I got to play banjo on a recording for the first time. Regrettably, I couldn't quite work the Stylophone into the mix.

Hello! Hello! It's good to be back.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Outback Odyssey - The third third

We were only two weeks from winter, so it wasn't a huge surprise when the weather turned ordinary again for the first two days of the last section of the Odyssey. We encountered fairly serious, impassable mud on the way in and out of Quorn. It was a case of picking up your bike and walking, or trying to push through it. It was similar on the way to Hawker.
I had an extra dimension to my trip. As I was leaving Quorn, in the early morning rain, my bike got stuck in a muddy patch. I couldn't turn the cranks. I couldn't remove my shoe from the pedal (mud build up) and I had a cleat fall, landing solidly on my left side. It hurt a fair bit, but I was resolved to riding this thing out. Especially as I had come so far. So I swore a little and carried on. Despite the fairly lousy weather, the rides to Quorn and Hawker were still enjoyable in the main.
The weather brightened a little for the penultimate day, and our big ride into Rawnsley was largely unaffected by damp or mud. I could, however, have done without the headwind as we rode the rocky, climby and seemingly endlessly juddering Moralana Tourist Drive though. Me and everyone else.
The last day of our adventure took place under blue skies, and the breeze was negligible. I finally recalled just how good the Odyssey could be. Even with sore ribs...
It's been a long time since I was so happy to be anywhere, as I was to be in Blinman. I was slower in 2013 than on other Mawson rides, but I'd expected that. It didn't affect my happiness on finishing, that's for sure.

I went to the doctor once I'd gotten back to Adelaide - it turns out that two of my ribs were broken in the Quorn tumble. No wonder it hurt.

Time for a rest I think.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Outback Odyssey - The second third

The second chapter of the 2013 Odyssey was a vast improvement on the first. Not only was I feeling better, fitness-wise, but the weather was a significant improvement on what had come before. My back had improved considerably after the rest day.
The ride from Burra to Hallett was long but enjoyable. Close to 100 kilometres, with the last stretch being the toughest, but I made it without drama.
The short burst to Spalding on Friday was fun, even the massive climb up through the wind turbines. I had a sense that my body and brain had clicked into gear.
Saturday's ride to Laura was also pretty good. Ups and downs, in and out of the Bundaleer Forest, and some sketchy stuff early.
On Sunday we enjoyed another sunny day as we made our way to Melrose. A shortish day, but with some decent climbs on the way into Melrose.
On Sunday night I spent a couple of hours with my guitar entertaining those who were happy to sit around the campfire. It was a late night, but my performance went down well.
Monday was a rest day. I slept in until 9.20 and missed breakfast. A day of chores (not many) and rest... All very pleasant.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Outback Odyssey - The first third

I was a long, long way from being anything like prepared for this year's Mawson Trail adventure. Overseas travel, the associated jet lag, a head cold and a cracked rib conspired to put paid to any plans I had about getting fit.
The first four days were pretty hellish for me. Due to bushfires we (somewhat thankfully) dodged the Castambul climb on Day One but still endured some decent bitumen ascents through Kangaroo Creek and also on the approach to Lobethal. It hurt.
The second day was the usual hell on wheels. The middle stretch of the day, on the way to Steingarten, was very tough. As was the undulating ride into Tanunda after the super fast downhill. I was very happy to see camp. That is the understatement of 2013.
Day Three was filled with mud, rail trails and some decent riding into Riverton. I was still struggling to find my lungs and my legs. It was all about getting there.
The ride to Burra on Day Four was OK. More mud, rain, climbing and a bitumen detour. My back also decided to play up which was exactly what I didn't need. It's an old injury that barely affects me these days but, if it does, it is generally when I am riding.
The rest day wasn't good. My back felt terrible and I thought I might have to go home. I decided that I would try and tough it out and visit the pharmacy. I placed my faith in drugs. I went to bed hoping that I'd feel better for Day Six.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Holly Bush

My second performance in England was at the iconic Holly Bush Inn in Makeney. The pub was recently featured on Tony (Baldrick) Robinson's series 'Walking Through History' and is a popular place for locals in search of decent real ales and/or a top-notch Sunday lunch. It is quite close, about five minutes' walk, from another of my favourite Derbyshire pubs, The King William in Milford - so it means I get double the fun whenever I visit the area...
I saw an advert for a Thursday night spotlight evening as I left the pub after enjoying an Easter Sunday pint, so I quickly fired off an email when I got back to my digs. "Can I play?"
Sometime on Monday, I got a response. Affirmative.

We caught a taxi down on the Wednesday night. If anyone needs a taxi in Belper or nearby I can recommend Steve's Taxis. Nice car, top fellow, fair tariff.
We got to the pub and I ordered a beer, as you do. A real ale named 'Halcyon'. It wasn't until I'd paid for it that I realised it was a strong one - 7.4%
"This is like wine", I said to the barman.
"Yeah I know, I probably should have pointed that out..."
I nursed my pint for what must have been a world record duration. The chap running the venue, Howard, was a nice guy and kicked things off with his take on a few timeless classics. A bloke named Gordon assembled what he called a Djembe from some pieces of wood stored in what I thought was a laptop case, and he provided accompaniment for performers, if they wished. Very good it was, too.
The small room filled with performers and punters of all ages.
When it was my time, I explained to my new mate Gordon that he wouldn't know the songs, but I thought he'd manage them without any danger if he wanted to play along. Gordon nodded in a quietly confident manner that suggested I'd not needed to say anything.
I did my set, calling (once again) on songs I've known and loved for years. I didn't have the luxury of rehearsing so it was a case of diving straight in with another borrowed guitar. I managed to get through my short set without resorting to making up lyrics or fudging chords. I guess I know my songs pretty well these days. Somebody has to, I guess...
I'm not sure if it was the novelty of coming from 12,000 miles away (as introduced) or something else but I went down a treat. Again.
We hung around for a while afterwards and watched a few more of the performers. I drained my Halcyon and plumped for a pint of the exotically named 'Jesters Ferrett' - a much gentler 3.6% abv.
It was a shame to leave but time waits for no man, nor does a late night cab booking. As we rose and made our way towards the door my understated attempts at saying farewell and thanks were trumped by spontaneous applause and wishes of goodwill from all and sundry. One lad yelled "Epic!" and I knew my night had peaked.
Well played, Holly Bush. I hope to see you again soon.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Beer Hunter: 20/3/2013-20/4/2013

One of the joys of visiting England is the opportunity to drink a decent beer or two. I am a fan of real ales, from the cask, and here is my 2013 list.
This does not include repeat beers in the same pub, but does include repeat beers in different pubs. If you know what I mean.
There's one beer on the list that wasn't a real ale. See if you can find it.

  1. Ruddles 'Best', Standing Order, Derby 3.7%
  2. Falstaff 'Zsa Zsa Gabor', Spotted Cow, Holbrook 4.0%
  3. Welbeck Abbey 'Henrietta', Dead Poets, Holbrook 3.6%
  4. Ruddles 'Country', Dead Poets 4.3%
  5. Timothy Taylor 'Landlord', White Hart, Bargate 4.3%
  6. Lincoln Green 'Tuck Porter', Dead Poets 4.7%
  7. Ringwood 'Filly Drift', Dead Poets 4.7%
  8. Kimberley 'Best Bitter', White Hart 3.9%
  9. Sharp's 'Doom Bar', Dead Poets 4.0%
  10. Dancing Duck 'Ay Up', Dead Poets 3.9%
  11. Sarah Hughes 'Dark Ruby', Dead Poets 6.0%
  12. Wells 'Bombardier', Smith & Jones, Belper 4.1%
  13. Marston's 'Burton Bitter', Eaton Farm, Long Eaton 3.8%
  14. Marston's 'Pedigree', Eaton Farm, Long Eaton 4.5%
  15. St Austell 'Tribute', Ye Old Dolphin, Derby 4.2%
  16. Nottingham Brewery 'Centurion ND', Ye Old Dolphin 4.9%
  17. Sharp's 'Doom Bar', The Lion, Belper 4.0%
  18. Courage 'Best Bitter', Smith & Jones, Belper 4.0%
  19. Oakham 'Bishops Farewell', Black Bulls Head, Openwoodgate 4.6%
  20. Wadworth '6X', Queens Head, Belper 4.3%
  21. Ringwood 'Boondoggle', Nags Head, Borrowash 4.2%
  22. Marstons 'Pedigree', Nags Head 4.5%
  23. Marstons 'Black Boy', Black Boy, Heage 3.9%
  24. Falstaff 'Phoenix', Hop Inn, Openwoodgate 4.6%
  25. Courage 'Best Bitter', Smith & Jones, Belper 4.0%
  26. Marston's 'Pedigree', The Wheel, Holbrook 4.5%
  27. Navigation 'Lepus', White Hart, Bargate 4.3%
  28. Oakham 'Sweeney's Revenge', Hollybush Inn, Makeney 4.1%
  29. Theakston 'Old Peculier', King William 5.6%
  30. Peak Ales 'Bakewell Best Bitter', Red Lion, Bakewell 4.2%
  31. Caledonian 'Deuchars IPA', Hurt Arms, Ambergate 3.8%
  32. Lancaster 'Blonde', Coach and Horses, Ashbourne 4.1%
  33. The Scottish Borders Brewery 'Foxy Blonde', Hanging Gate, Shottlegate 3.8%
  34. Thornbridge 'Halcyon', Holly Bush, Makeney 7.4%
  35. Oakham 'Jester's Ferret', Holly Bush, Makeney 3.6%
  36. Sharp's 'Doom Bar', The Devonshire, Belper 4.0%
  37. Vale Brewery Co 'Conspiracy', The Telegraph, Bridlington 4.1%
  38. Theakston 'Best Bitter', Ye Old White Hart, Hull 3.8%
  39. Tetley's 'Extra Cold', GW Horners, Hull 3.6%
  40. Jennings 'Cumberland Ale', Stirling Castle, Bridlington 4.0%
  41. Theakston 'Best Bitter', Stirling Castle, Bridlington 3.8%
  42. Timothy Taylor 'Landlord', Stirling Castle, Bridlington 4.3%
  43. Thwaites 'Nutty Black', The Plumbers Arms, Belgravia, London 3.3%
  44. Hogs Back Brewery 'Rip Snorter', The Plumbers Arms, Belgravia, London 5.0%
  45. Fullers 'Brit Hop', The Old Pack Horse, Chiswick 4.1%
  46. George Gale 'Seafarer', The Old Pack Horse, Chiswick 3.6%
  47. Fullers 'London Pride', The Old Pack Horse, Chiswick 4.1%
  48. Thwaites 'Daniel's Hammer', The Eight Bells, Dover 5.0%
  49. Sharp's 'Doom Bar', The Bell, Aldgate, London 4.0%
  50. Timothy Taylor 'Landlord', The Bell, Aldgate, London 4.3%
  51. Fullers 'Chiswick Bitter', Red Lion, Westminster, London 3.5%
  52. Samuel Smith's 'Old Brewery Bitter', The Angel, Covent Garden, London 4.0%
  53. Samuel Smith's 'Old Brewery Bitter', Chandos, Trafalgar Square, London 4.0%
  54. Nicholson's 'Limehouse Cut', The Cambridge, Cambridge Circus, London 4.5%
  55. Portobello 'VPA', The Cambridge, Cambridge Circus, London 4.0%
  56. Fyne Ales 'Avalanche', The Crown, London 4.5%
  57. Shepherd Neame 'Spitfire', The Barley Mow, Westminster, London 4.5%
  58. Harvey's 'Sussex Best Bitter', The Barley Mow, Westminster, London 4.0%
  59. 'Jester Jack', Zetland Arms, South Kensington 4.0%
  60. Butcombe's 'Bitter', King William IV, Totnes 4.0%
  61. Dartmoor Brewery 'Jail Ale'', King William IV, Totnes 4.8%
  62. Hunter's 'Half Bore', Queen's Arms, Brixham 4.0%
  63. St Austell 'Dartmoor Best', Queen's Arms, Brixham 3.5%
  64. Marston's 'Single Hop - Pacific Gem', The Vigilance, Brixham 4.0%
  65. Banks's 'Cereal Thriller', The Vigilance, Brixham 4.0%
  66. Nethergate 'Bowler', The Vigilance, Brixham 5.0%
  67. St Austell 'Trelawny', Blue Anchor, Brixham 3.8%
  68. DBC 'Jurassic', Blue Anchor, Brixham, 4.2%
  69. Bridgetown Brewery 'Whaler Ale', The Dolphin Inn, Dartmouth 4.3%
  70. Otter Brewery 'FBI Bitter', Ferry Boat Inn, Dittisham, 3.6%
  71. Sharp's 'Doom Bar', Ferry Boat Inn, Dittisham, 4.0%
  72. Otter Brewery 'Amber', The Steam Packet, Dartmouth, 4.0%
  73. Wadworth 'Henry's Original IPA', The Steam Packet, Dartmouth, 3.6%
  74. Rudgate 'Pursuit of Hoppyness', The Vigilance, Brixham 4.0%
  75. Orkney '1878 Strong Ale', The Vigilance, Brixham 5.5%
  76. Vasileostrovsky 'Siberian Red', The Vigilance, Brixham 6.0%
  77. Celt Experience 'Continental Drift', The Vigilance, Brixham 5.9%
  78. Hunter's 'Pheasant Plucker', Maratime Inn, Brixham 4.3%
  79. Palmers 'Copper Ale', The Poole Yacht Club, Poole 3.7%

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Queens Head

I'd been trying to make contact with The Queens Head in Belper for months, hoping to get a gig there while I was in town. I particularly wanted to play at the Queens Head because Andy White seems to appear there whenever he tours England, and because it's close to "home".
I'd received no responses to emails and the website contact form, and the pub was shut when I visited, so I'd pretty much given up any hope of playing. Just before I went to sleep on Wednesday night, I made one more effort, using a Facebook link I'd discovered, to contact the Queens Head about playing there...
It worked. There was a reply waiting when I awoke. All hail Zuckerberg.
We arrived at the pub after walking up from the marketplace, cold and uncertain. I had a pint. Lynn had a half. After asking around, we made our way upstairs to the venue. I introduced myself, and got sorted out. Everyone I spoke to was warm and friendly. What a great spot. Because of the last-minute nature of things, I had to borrow a guitar from a fellow performer. I'd had to do exactly the same in 2010 when I played in Derby. This time though, I didn't have plectrums, harmonica, capo, tuner etc. I, who have nothing. I had to borrow a pick.
With a sense of joy outweighing any anticipation, I took the stage around 9.45. I was wondering how I'd go down with the crowd. Everyone seemed to be up for a good time, so I rattled out a few of my favourites. The banter was good; I trotted out some of my travellers' tales between songs. It was great fun and the time flew. I finished with Say Goodbye and then said goodbye.
Audience reaction was positive, and feedback was good.
Now I can add The Queens Head, Chesterfield Road, Belper to the list of venues played.

Long Eaton

As part of my slightly absurd search for my roots, we went out to Long Eaton to have a look at the first house I ever lived in. It is still standing, and it sits on the Nottingham Road on the outskirts of Long Eaton itself, just over the railway bridge.
It was another cool morning, I was pretty happy that we managed to navigate the buses and find the house without any dramas or wrong turns. It was a nice moment, standing out front. I resisted the temptation to knock on the door.
Long Eaton itself looks to be a pleasant sort of place; it  is on the border of the Derbyshire/Nottinghamshire counties and, despite its Notts post code, it is most definitely part of Derbyshire.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Listen, snow is falling...

The last thing people want to see in spring, after enduring a long, cold, lonely winter, is more winter weather. Luckily, we are on holiday and the weekend's snow was a terrific experience. Looking out the window on Friday morning we were like kids on Christmas Day. It was like something out of a movie. Everything was white. Neither of us have ever experienced snowfalls so our trips out to the local shops and pubs were great fun, if a little challenging.
Walking down the street, treading carefully, throwing snowballs and marvelling at the views, we must have looked like loons to the locals. Not that we were bothered...
If it keeps snowing, it might affect some of our walking and travel plans, so it can brighten up anytime it wants now.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

50-year-old delinquent

I was born in the Queen Mary Maternity Home, Duffield Road, Derby on the twenty first day of March, 1963. Spring Day in England. The hospital isn't there anymore, but some of the buildings remain, fronting the pleasant-looking housing estate on Queen Mary Court. It seemed appropriate to head out for a visit last week, as part of my 50th birthday celebrations. It was a bitterly cod, but dry morning, and it was a good adventure with which to start the day. We had a nice wander around and took a few photos.
It's not every day that one turns 50, so I thought I'd make the effort to mark the occasion in memorable style. After my pilgrimage to the hospital site, we went into Belper and bought a copy of the Derby Telegraph (to preserve) before heading 'home' and receiving some greetings, cards and presents from friends and family, near and far.
Three of us went to The Spotted Cow at Holbrook for lunch, where I enjoyed mushroom stroganoff, roast vegetables and yorkshire pudding. Washed down with a pint of the rather curiously named Falstaff's 'Zsa Zsa Gabor' ale.
I was lucky enough to receive some more gifts, and a birthday cake, in the afternoon. I'd also had some internet purchases waiting to be opened so I was able to thumb through some 1970s Richard Allen novels.
The whole day was brilliant, and obviously quite different to my usual birthday minimalism...

This old man was happy with his lot.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Half the world away. Again.

Here I am again, back in the Old Dart. The flight over was surprisingly easy; we were very well looked after by the good folk of Singapore Airlines. Only having a short layover in Changi helped too.
Passing through the UK Border at Heathrow is always a nice moment - it's good to have the journey (almost) done, and it's great to be back in England.
We arrived in Belper around tea time on Tuesday night and were quickly settled in and enjoying not being on a plane, coach or taxi.
Our first couple of days were spent finding our feet in Derby and in the local village. The weather belonged more to winter than it did to spring. Undaunted, we braved the elements and had some fun.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Stone Roses - I Wanna Be Adored

When I heard that The Stone Roses were coming to Australia I booked tickets straight away. It didn't matter that I had to pay for a full festival ticket just to see a one hour gig - this was The Stone Roses, for heaven's sake. I booked the tickets five months before the band arrived in Australia; I spent weeks hoping that Ian Brown and John Squire wouldn't fall out and break the band up (again).

Such is the pace of this crazy life that I parked the emailed tickets in a folder and just kept on doing the things I do. I didn't even think about the fact that the Roses might play some sideshows. Therefore, I missed the chance to travel to the east coast and see them play a "proper" concert. Never mind...

I spent the day of the gig listening to my Stone Roses CDs. Despite only releasing two "proper" albums, there's (at least) four compilations, the remix record, and a few bootlegs. It had been a little while since I'd listened so it was a pleasant way to spend a hot day.

We arrive at the Future Music Festival about an hour before the gig and set about locating the stage. It is obvious to me that many of these people have had a long, hard day. Sunburned bodies, staggering and slurring seem to be the order of the day. Tattoos and underpants are prevalent. Not the greatest advertisement for youth, vitality and beauty, but I guess we've all been there. Some of us have lived to tell the tale.

Dusk provides some relief from the heat as the band walks onto the stage to warm applause. Some of these folks have waited years for this; myself included. A perfect setting; warm but not hot, a starry Adelaide sky, an easygoing vibe running through the crowd. No prizes for guessing the first song. I Wanna Be Adored. I am in pinch-myself territory for a few moments. Here I am, watching the Stone Roses. I'd seen Ian Brown at The Gov a few years' back but this is the real deal. I hope it will last forever.

Reni, resplendent in bucket hat, and Mani are solid, with the occasional flourish, and John Squire's guitar is faithful to the original Roses' sound, perhaps showing what he's picked up since, every now and again. King Monkey's voice is spot on (in Roses' terms), although the last couple of songs seem to take a few seconds before the sounds mesh. Perhaps it is an imbalance with the lead and backing vocals.

The set progresses through familiar and expected territory; I don't know why I'm surprised to hear Sally Cinnamon but I am. Of some interest is the performance of Don't Stop; a song that is based on the reversed recording of Waterfall. Life imitating art. Everybody loves Fools Gold, even this 10-minute version. Made of Stone and This is the One take me back to another (life)time. Unsurprisingly, only one song from the second album gets a run out. Love Spreads. The Second Coming album is a guilty pleasure of mine, and I prefer quite a few of the album tracks to Love Spreads. How Do You Sleep, anyone? Oh well, it's their choice. The Roses return to earlier days with She Bangs the Drums; a great singalong tune. The lengthy, applause-baiting, finale of I Am the Resurrection is classic. Have they finished? Yes? No? More! All done!

Ian Brown has said almost nothing through out the set. His farewell consists of a few repeats of the phrases "Stone Roses" and "Thank You". All four join hands and thank the audience. Lovely boys, all.

And then, they are gone.

And so are we. Back to the car, dodging the dodgy t-shirt sellers hiding in the parkland shadows. $20 for a t-shirt? No thanks boys; the one I'm wearing cost me five quid in the HMV Store in Derby in the nineties and it's still going strong.

Setlist:  I Wanna Be Adored, Sally Cinnamon, Waterfall, Don't Stop, Fools Gold, Made of Stone, This is the One, Love Spreads, She Bangs the Drums, I Am the Resurrection.

Thursday, March 7, 2013


I've never worn optical glasses. Before now, that is. My eyes aren't too bad; a test I performed a few years back confirmed that my eyesight was as good as most. However, I think I've been fighting a losing battle in recent times - reading tiny fonts in poor light is a challenge, as is identifying the numbers on football players' backs when they are on the other side of the ground. A few weeks ago I decided it was time. I'd had a test done in October so I had a current prescription. Specsavers were offering the cheapest glasses so off I went.
I picked them up on Tuesday.
Hot damn, there's a whole new world out there. The closest comparison I can make is that it was like switching from analogue to high-definition TV. They don't look too bad either.
I doubt I'll be wearing them all the time, but I do expect they will usually be within reach.

Monday, February 11, 2013

An interesting time of it

The last week and a bit has, I think, proven to be a pretty good example of how my new-found musical life will pan out over the coming months. Feast and famine, sunshine and rain.
I have returned to the Sunday Markets, and it has been worthwhile doing so. The vibe is good, people are kind, and I get to run through songs old and new, usually doing so until my fingers are too sore to keep playing with any real passion. I should probably get the action lowered on the Taylor. It is usually a three and a half hour shift, so there's plenty of time to work on new songs and different arrangements.
My gig at The Irish Club on February 1 was a good night out. The place was filled with 30th Birthday revelers so I took the sensible option and dotted my set with a few popular covers. I'd gashed my head on an overhanging blind-spot bougainvillea on the way to the gig so I was happy it all turned out well in the end. I wasn't so sure as I waited for the tram into the city with rich, red krovvy streaming down my face.
I played a gig last week where I would have been close to the oldest person in the room. A sign of things to come, being the oldest in a group of 50 people. Reality bites. Oh well, I went down OK with the bobby-soxers; there's life in the old dog yet...
On Wednesday I played to a near-empty pub and took the opportunity to play every Beatles' song I could think of for my second set of the evening. Help, Cry Baby Cry, I Feel Fine, Mull of Kintyre (yeah I know), Things We Said Today, Chains, Yellow Submarine, Working Class Hero, You've Got To Hide Your Love Away. I forgot to play Rocky Raccoon.
I played The Astor on Thursday night - a short set in front of a healthy crowd. I met some of my fellow musicians and feedback on my original songs was favourable. A very pleasant evening.

So there's been lots of playing, continuing the solid effort of 2012. The regular gigs are showing signs of drying up though, so it might be a good time to focus on writing and recording. Especially with the travel I have planned for the next few months - that makes it difficult to commit to any offers. I am hoping to get opportunities to play in Canberra and England while I am away; we'll have to see what eventuates.
I plan to record my next LP sometime in the second half of the year. I have enough songs, but I'd like another half-a-dozen or so to ensure a strong product.

And the band played on...

Thursday, January 24, 2013

It's life, Jim...

Watching the International Space Station pass silently overhead is a wonderful thing. I don't know why it makes me feel so good, but it does.
Is it the notion of solitude, of separation from this crazy place? Is it admiration for the work of the engineers, the scientists? Or something else?

A flashback to sitting on the floor as a young lad, the whole infant school watching the grainy, flickering image of Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon on what must have been a 20-inch black and white screen. It was our telly. My Dad had bought it to school. This meant I was a pretty popular kid, for a few days.

This tiny but bright object, arcing through the heavens. At 28000 km/h. With people on board. Wow.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

The first week of the rest of my life...

Now that Christmas and New Year are done, and people are finding their way back to work, my newly-acquired vagabond musician lifestyle is beginning to feel a little more real.
If the last week is anything to go by, I will be busier than ever, now that I am standing on my own two feet.
I've played three shows, with one more this evening, so public appearances have been healthy. I've also spent so much time on other aspects of my music it's not funny. I have managed to tee up a few shows through January and February, sorted out my public liability insurance and a few other similarly boring grown-up things, completely revamped my music site, reorganised the music room/studio and rehearsed some new songs. I've had another article published in a national glossy music magazine, and have set up a series of review gigs for Fringe time.
My new-found role as full time squire of the house and land has also seen me gainfully employed in gardens, kitchens and storage facilities alike. All good fun - it's nice to potter around the property, doing the old man shuffle.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

looking back

Last night I waved goodbye to the busiest year I have ever had, musically.
In the first half of 2012 I played 24 times. Not too bad, I guess. About a gig a week.
From July 1 until New Years' Eve, I performed 96 times. Ninety Six. In just 184 days. Wow. I made my mind up mid-year that I was going to play more and I certainly made it happen.
No wonder I'm tired.
Memorable gigs included playing at the Irish Club for the first time, appearing at the Balaklava Races, launching the Yours Truly CD at the Grace Emily, playing at The Union in Sydney, singing my songs at the Semaphore Music Festival on the Busker's Stage, doing my thing at the Tarlee Community Fair, playing a Hank Williams tribute show, surprising Ken Stewart at Bondi Beach with a set of Urban Guerillas' songs, appearing at Shimmering West during the Fringe Festival and, of course, entertaining folks across five states and territories as I rode the rails on Australia's great trans-continental trains.
I've put two CDs out, and appeared live on Three D radio and Radio Adelaide. I've run a series of songwriters' workshops, had poetry published, and a bunch of my other writings have appeared in local and national magazines. I've played in a few duos, learned a ton of other people's songs, and met some brilliant folks along the way.
It's been a hoot, and I can only hope for more of the same in 2013.