Friday 21 February 2014

Self indulgence

Was going through some old videos I posted up on YouTube a while back and thought I'd share, just for the fun of it.

The first two were complete self-indulgences. In the case of the U2 track, it was one of those songs you find yourself listening to and suddenly realise you know all the words, so took a few minutes one Friday evening after everybody had left the office to work out the chords to go with it.

For a long time after I'd retired her from gigging, I kept my Takemine acoustic in the canteen at the office so a guitar was always to hand at odd moments through the day. A good habit, and one I should probably reinstate. She's quite past her performing days, but she's still a lovely, delicate guitar to fiddle around with.

Anyway, I seem to recall I worked out some chords to the track, recorded it on my mobile that same evening before I left for home, then have probably never played it again. Self-indulgent, in that it's not the sort of track that lends itself to the band's live set.

Anyway, U2's "One" as covered by yours truly:

In 2009, my ham-fisted guitar technique (as described by others; I prefer to think of it as "enthusiastic") finally wore through the delicate maple top of my Takemine, so I retired her from live work and replaced her with a Taylor.

A gorgeous, full throated, dreadnought of a guitar, quite a different beast to anything I'd owned to previously.

Radiohead's "Fake Plastic Trees" recorded in 2009 on my then new Taylor. Can't believe I've had this guitar since 2009. She's not looking as shiny and new any more but I still think of her as the new toy:

It was recorded on another Friday evening, this time once I'd got home; my wife being still at work, the dog sleeping on the patio (I assume) and the kids in the front room playing on the computer, the living room made for a great ad-hoc studio. And then Sam (boy_v2) crept in about half way through recording the track and settled down on the sofa behind me.

Again, quite self-indulgent, but for different reasons. This is a song I think would work in the band's set, but although I've tried to work it in on a number of occasions over the years, we've always hit a wall. The trouble is, it's a favourite Radiohead track of both Matt (the guitarist) and I, but we both hear it slightly differently, and have conflicting views as to how it should be covered.

We've never resolved them, so the song has never made it into the set.

And finally, a live recording of the band from 2008. A cover of Paul Weller's "Wild Wood" and probably one of my favourite songs to play, it's been in the set longer and more consistently than half the musicians on the stage with me here. Actually, I'll amend that. I think it's probably done more time on the stage with me than all the musicians here!

It was one of the first covers we ever did with the band, back in the day when the vast majority of the set was made up of our own songs. It's a potential victim of its own longevity, and I have to fight to keep it in. Despite the fact that it always goes down well, always triggers a great response from any audience, because we've been playing it for so many years, Jay (my brother and our bassist) is bored of the track and would happily see the back of it. He has been for years.

So yes, it's really another self-indulgence, but one I share with many of the folks that follow our band, and so one I intend to maintain just a little longer!

Thursday 20 February 2014

A four dog day

Last Sunday was very much a four dog day, two of the dogs unanticipated.

A couple of dogs fostered local to us had to be moved, fairly urgently and for a number of reasons. The new foster homes were in Newquay and St Austell down in Cornwall, respectively. In the absence of anybody else able to make the trip, I was volunteered to provide the transport. I figured for a six or seven hour round trip, leave at 9am, home for a little after 3pm.

In any case, I wasn't sailing because the lake is still barricaded with a rampart of sandbags to keep the waters in.

The pick-up from Gloucester went smoothly. Candy is a white, female GSD of about a year old; a lovely, playful temperament. Yogi is a male, black and tan GSD cross of about the same age, and came to us for homing from another rescue, Blue Cross, who put an awful lot of good work into his training and rehabilitation.

About halfway to Newquay, we got a phone call to say that one of the pups taken into rescue the day before and delivered to a foster home in Newquay called Zucky was having trouble settling in; growling at the children, and fighting with the resident dog. It was pretty clear the pup was going to have to be moved to another home. A new foster home was found at pretty short notice, we were heading towards Newquay anyway, so were volunteered to pick up the pup and come home via the new foster home in Somerset.

Candy was delivered to her new home in Newquay, we had a cup of tea and took an hour or so to settle her in with her new foster mum Linda W. and her family. Then we nipped over the road to pick up Zucky.

Through no fault of the foster home, the pup was just scared, confused and really unsettled. Another hour or so to calm him down and get him used to us, and he was into the crate in the back of our car where he settled quietly and gave no trouble for the rest of the trip.

Yogi's new home in St Austell was just up the road from Charlestown, as I've previously mentioned. Another cup of tea, an hour or so to settle him in with his new family, and we were on the road again. Yogi headed off for a walk with his foster mum Linda R. and her family; dad, their son and daughter and the couple of resident dogs, Oliver and Ermie.

Finally, our travels took us to Somerset. Dark by now, we arrived to find foster mum Kathy introducing Elsie, a lovely two-year old GSD, to her potential new family, which included a lovely collie called Cody.

We settled Zucky in, and spent a fair bit of time drinking coffee and helping out with managing the introduction of the two dogs to each other. The family were completely taken with Elsie, understandably, but everything hinged upon getting the two dogs to accept each other.

It all looked a little shaky at first, but eventually everybody was settled and content enough to go ahead with the adoption, and Elsie set off to her new home. Ironically back in the direction we'd just come from, in Penzance, Cornwall.

We finally got home just before 11pm, quite road weary.

However, the motive behind the whole story above is just to share how the rest of my week went.

From the stress of finding new foster homes at short notice and with some urgency, delivering the dogs, re-locating a stressed out pup and helping manage the introduction of Elsie and Cody, the week has brought rich rewards in what followed.

None of these photos are mind. I've nicked them from the respective families, who posted them on Facebook; I'm quite sure they won't mind however.

Candy has settled in famously with Linda W. and her household. She's getting along wonderfully with the terrier and collie that are her new house-mates, and is a real hit with Linda's two grandchildren and their dog, Jaz.

Yogi is doing us proud. A flawless house guest and pack mate to Oliver and Ermie, he's revelling in the freedom of their house, and enjoying long walks on Cornish sands. I'm actually jealous of him. He has folks due to come see him soon with a view to possibly adopting him, so we're keeping our fingers crossed. He is a lovely, lovely young lad.

Zucky is now settling in well with Kathy and her family. I think a great deal of credit is due to Kathy and the care she's given him in bringing him around. Their own GSD Arthur is a lovely beast and good company for the emotionally fragile little pup. Got high hopes for this little lad, and am expecting to see him again this coming Saturday, as Kathy has volunteered to take on another foster we've got coming in at the weekend.

Finally, Elsie.

I've got to confess, we were apprehensive about this one. Although they had little moments of peace and tranquillity, there was a degree of shouting and lunging between her and Cody as we tried to get them to accept each other.

There was a lot of soul searching before her new family decided to take her on; we thought it should work out, but couldn't be sure, and in the end, took a calculated risk, fully discussed with her new family.

It transpires that by the time they'd driven home to Penzance, Elsie and Cody had pretty much accepted the other and grown fairly relaxed in each other's company. By the following morning it seems they'd become firm, sound friends.

I think these two were just meant to be.

Monday 17 February 2014

Oportunities missed

Reflecting upon the good works and many miles travelled of the weekend
just gone, and Sunday in particular.

I now can't believe I drove all the way to Cornwall, on one of the very,
very few days this year when the skies have been blue, the winds slight
and the sun shining bright, to Charlestown no less, a lovely little
village with a fascinating harbour on a stretch of some of my favourite
coastline of the Dutchy, in the entire UK in fact, and then didn't pause
to spend a well earned and pleasant half-hour or so in a friendly beer
garden overlooking the beach for a sip of ale and a Cornish pasty in the

Yes, we were only halfway through a 600 mile round trip. Yes we had
promises to keep and miles to go before we could sleep. Though less
woods lovely, dark and deep, and more the scent and promise of sand and sea.

Yes, we didn't get home til gone 10pm and it was only fair we made what
haste we could to get back to relieve Sam (boy_v2) of his dog-sitting
duties. He did good, by the way, so was rewarded by our treating him to

But for the sake of a half hour, I foresook the chance of sitting by my
favourite sea, and instead have to content myself with the memory of the
smell of said sea on a dog's coat (the resident couple of lovely mutts
had just got back from a run on the beach with their tame children when
we arrived to deliver Yogi, their new foster dog)

What a fool am I.

So I'll torment myself further with some photos, above, of the last time
I went to Charlestown in April 2012, albeit by a different, more
leisurely route than the one we took yesterday. That was a fine spring,

What I will say....... that the guy's Engrish is infinitely better than my Chinese!

Sunday 16 February 2014

There and back again

583 miles driven in total in the last 24 hours. Down to Newquay, across to Charlestown to deliver a couple of dogs to their new foster homes, then over to Somerset to relocate another pup to a new foster home, and now I'm finally home.

I love Cornwall, especially the area around Fowey, St Austell and Charlestown. I don't recommend a flying visit of there and back again in a single day however. Quite spoils the charm.

On the other hand, I've had the pleasure of meeting three other families directly involved in the support of our Rescue and a load of lovely dogs.

And in between yesterday's running up and down the motorway, again for the Rescue, I got a lovely long walk in along the Canal with Felix, our present foster dog.

It was very wet and windy, but some lovely views out towards the Severn Estuary.

Friday 14 February 2014

Living vacariously

....through the writings and posted pictures of friends and acquaintances and old photographs of my own. It's the next best thing to actually being able to sail myself. The photo above was taken aboard Ondine in one of my favourite wild stretches of water, The Noose, just off the village of Awre to port and Frampton-on-Severn to starboard, at the top of the Severn Estuary.

I might have posted this picture here before, I can't remember. If so, apologies for the duplication.

It's as high up the estuary as the Admiralty Chart goes, and is marked with the caveat "Changing Depths", the note "The channel in vicinity of The Noose and Frampton Sands is constantly changing" and the warning "There is practically no slack water".

Lovely stuff.

The Noose is where the breadth of the estuary suddenly bottlenecks and twists sharply to port beneath Hock Cliff and the depth of the water reduces rapidly. On a good spring flood this gives birth to the often spectacular Severn Bore, albeit these days it's typically marred and muddied by the turbulence of dozens of surfers and their supporting RIBs; the only time there is ever any real traffic of any kind on this water other than us.

The tidal curve for this part of the river shows the tide rushes in very fast, but takes almost twice as long to ebb back out again. That's to our advantage when we explore upriver out of Lydney. Though we can't get
very much further than The Noose and still make it back on the same tide. Newnham on Severn, a couple of miles further up and into the neck of the river is about it.

A couple of years ago, we followed the Bore in Ondine, and in the company of a few other boats out of Lydney, eighteen miles up the River, crossed the weir at Gloucester at the top of the tide, entered Gloucester Docks and returned back down the Gloucester Sharpness Canal. At Sharpness, we waited on the next tide, locked out and crossed back over to Lydney in the dark. It was a fine adventure.

This year, I'd very much like to pick another such tide, and sail Ondine upriver with Dad to cross the weir again, only this time, instead of turning into the Docks and coming back, carry on up the river to Lower
Lode, just below Tewkesbury. It was one of Dad's favourite watering holes back when I was a kid, during those long summers when we lived on his river boat, and I know he'd like to make the trip again.

Thursday 13 February 2014

And after the rain

Turn up at the office this morning to find, of all things, a light dusting of snow on the ground.

I didn't expect that.

Still, the rain is back now on the form of slushy sleet, so I don't think it's going to lie around for long.

Funny old beast, the weather.

Tuesday 11 February 2014

Waiting walk Mum home after she finishes work and closes shop


Big shopping malls are my idea of a personal hell, second only in misery to big supermarkets.

Last night I had to give Nikki a lift to Cribbs Causeway in Bristol, because her iPhone had died on her and so she'd made an appointment at the Apple Shop; a bit like making a doctor's appointment for your poorly kid, but infinitely more trendy, I guess.

Anyway, the paragon of moral support, I sat with her through her appointment in the Apple Shop, reading a book on the Kindle app on my Sony mobile.

In the sanctity of such surroundings and with the massed company of the Apple acolytes and their dedicates swarming all around me, the act carried a pleasant taste of heresy.

The photo was of a water feature directly outside the entrance to the mall. The image caught my imagination, and oddly, put me in mind of flying.

I used to fly before my return to sailing around about 2006. Gliders, so never at night, and I never got that good at it in daylight.

However, my logbook has as many landings recorded as take-offs, so I couldn't have been that bad.

Still miss it on the odd occasion (actually,  the very frequent odd occasion) and can't believe I'm completely done with it. But there is only so much time in any given year. Even I accept that.

On discovering what I'd immersed myself in on putting the gliding on hold, a friend from my old gliding club once commented on how so many folks in the sailing fraternity seemed to be made up of "resting" glider pilots.

I think the two passions have much in common.

Monday 10 February 2014

Keeping it in the family

Going through the photos on my phone in an idle moment over lunch, and came across the above, from this year's Dinner Dance with the sailing club. And yes, we did actually arrive in time for supper in the end, with seconds to spare, and had a lovely evening.

After dinner, they presented all the glassware won by the various bodies over the course of last year. My own mug for 2014 had three 3rd places; the Spring Class, Spring Handicap and Winter Series respectively. Probably our best season to date.

I've taken 3rds and 2nds in class series in previous years, but because you're sailing against boats of your own type, the field of competition across such series is limited accordingly. Still nice beating (and more often, being beaten by) your peers, but a place in a class race will only be out of say, a dozen other friends and competitors.

The handicapped series however, which include the Winter series, are against the entire club, regardless of class, so to place in one of these is to place against a much wider field. Of course, what this means is that clearly, for the Spring and Winter series last year, the really good sailors elected to stay in bed.

I do, of course, in my mock humility risk being grossly unfair to all the other boats that raced against us. Bottom line is that I was especially pleased to get a place in two of the Club's general handicaps.

Anyway, I digress.

As the presentation ended, I breathed a sigh of relief. There is a particular trophy I've won before; the Capsize Trophy.

Club tradition states you can only ever win it once, but they've presented it to me twice now, so I wasn't terribly sure I could take shelter in the security of that particular knowledge. But the presentation ended, I had my glassware, and I'd seen no sign of the thing. All good.

And then I noticed Phil making his way over towards me from the trophy table with something in his hands. My heart sunk.

With a grin, obviously noting my discomfort, he reached me, handed it over and said "Would you mind taking this home for Ben?"

Clearly like father like son.

Apparently it was a very close run thing, with Hels and I in stiff contention for taking it away from him at the last moment, but in the end the result went in our favour and it went to the boy. They cited his efforts in October's Enterprise Open as the clincher. Apparently, it's been a while since somebody tried to actually sink an Enterprise on our lake, and his efforts in the subsequent races that day were not without some spectacular acrobatics themselves. Of which once such said instance, I'm clearly obliged to present photographic evidence of:

There is a final, delicious irony.

Although I had no hand in his near sinking in the first race of that day, I was Ben's crew for the remainder of that day, and for all of his capsizes subsequent to that first race, including the near miss pictured above.

Yes, near miss. We did actually recover from that one without going over. Needless to say, there are some benefits to all the practice we've had with irregular sailing angles.

As my first rule of any capsize is always to blame the crew, I guess it's fair to say I had no small part in the securing of the Capsize Trophy yet again for 2014.

But as helm, the final responsibility (and possession of the trophy) rests with Ben.

Damned proud of the boy!


Gratuitous shot of Boo, our token mutt, Romanian refugee, legal alien
and honourary GSD.

I sometimes also think he's also the cutest thing in my house. Next to
my wife, of course. Not that I'm comparing her in any way, shape or form
to a dog. Even a cute one, like Boo. And my daughter doesn't need to be
considered in the running, as she moved out a week ago so is no longer
officially of this household; a new job over in Oxford that includes
accomodation, all good stuff.

It does mean that in the last six months we've gone from a household of
three kids all competing for time, space, attention and food, to a
household of just one child plus dogs. Very strange, if I pause long
enough to consider it. A little less mess about the house, fewer mouths
to feed. Quieter evenings. Though approaching her mid-twenties, Tash was
spending little enough time around the house when I was about anyway,
that her now continual and planned absence hasn't been that marked a

Do still miss her a little though.

However, into the bargin, Sam (boy_v2) does seem to be enjoying his
newfound status as a virtual only child.

Don't judge a book by its cover

Or an author by his name.

Spent most of 2013 and the beginning of 2014 reading Robert Jordan's
Wheel of Time series. Picked the first up out of curiocity, then got
drawn in; the Kindle makes it seductively easy to read a whole series of
books in succession by making the next book available at the click of a
touchscreen button, whatever time of night or early hour of the morning
you finish the one you're reading.

Fourteen volumes later, I finished the last one, and was suddenly
bereft, not sure what to read next but desperate for something, anything
to fill the void suddenly left by the climactic conclusion of Rand
al'Thor's story.

I've always been a sucker for escapism and fantasy fiction. A steady
childhood diet of Tolkein and Dungeons and Dragons saw to that, I think.

I had a paperback copy of Moby Dick that I'd brought just before my wife
gave me the Kindle, and briefly tried to restart that. But paperbacks
are never to hand when you have a moment to read.

Quite keen on historical fiction as well, as long as it has the right
pace. A huge fan of Bernard Cornwall. I think if I ever realised my
childhood ambition of writing my own book, I would aim for something as
accessibly gripping as the many Sharpe books he's written, all of which,
needless to say, I've read any number of times.

Bean, our drummer, is also a total bookwork of similar tastes to my own,
and suggested I might like Conn Iggulden. Bean; a drummer who can read?
Who would've guessed such a thing could exist?

Anyway, facile micky-taking aside, I picked him up on his suggestion,
and dug into Iggulden's Emperor series, in which he writes of the rise
and fall of Julius Caesar. Even without Bean's recommendation, the
subject alone, and the perusal of the first page to guarantee the style
of writing was at least tolerable, would have been enough to drag me in.

Three books through now. Or maybe four. Lost count. But not
disappointed. Not quite Bernard Cornwall in the focus of the
characterisation or fluidity of his storytelling, but close, very close.

Discovered an interesting fact this morning. I'd assumed Iggulden, from
his name alone, was from somewhere overseas. I'd also assumed he was
older than me, as it's a name not unfamiliar from bookshelves and has
been for a fair few years now, even if I haven't previously read him.

Turns out he's as English as I am. And the same age as me.

Seems he also co-authored The Dangerous Book for Boys, a copy of which I
bought my youngest son some small while back, and a literary effort I
whole-heartedly approve of in both fact and principle.

Monday morning

After a busy weekend, the view from my office window this morning. The air is laden with a misty, dank chill, stirred only with vaguest whisper of a breeze.

Would be a pretty morning to go ghosting across a lake. There is just enough of a zephyr to carry me.

But alas, instead I'm chained to my desk here, making good the karmic balance of the weekend just enjoyed.

In other news, I'm expecting to get home this evening to find we've taken in another foster dog.

Another stray pup, out of time at the pound. I could've done with a break to restore the equilibrium of my own house and hounds now Ty had gone, but this guy would otherwise have been put to sleep today.

This one has no name or history, so the girls have decided to call him "Kahn" which I can't say I necessarily like, but what little influence I do have in these things isn't near enough to change their collective female mind once set, and to be fair, I don't think he's going to mind what we call him.

I will,  however, insist that we at least fix the spelling of the name to Khan.

Sunday 9 February 2014

The weekend is finished

With some regret.

Gig done, time to pack up, get paid and go home. Still, it's not been a bad couple of days. Two gigs, a lovely dog placed in a lovely home. Shame sailing was cancelled, that would have been all I needed to make it prefect.

Then that is a little selfish of me. Apparently, they estimate it is going to be a few weeks before the sandbags can go and we can have access to the lake again.

On the one hand, that's a damn shame. On the other hand, four homes in the village were flooded by the lake's overspill before the sandbags were placed and pumps deployed by the estate.

I wouldn't wish that on anybody. Not sailing is a small price to pay.

I think drumkits are so photogenic

Though beyond that, I really don't understand a thing about them. Or drummers, for that matter?

How can you tell if the stage is level?

The bassist is drooling equally out of both sides of his mouth.

And for the sake of balancing karma:

How many singers does it take to change a lightbulb?


1 to climb the ladder and change the bulb, 99 to say "It should've been me up there."

Pre-gig refreshment

Is hardly rock 'n' roll. The beer is the drummer's. The water, mine.

Two gigs and a weekend down and still alcohol free. Almost impressed with myself.

Slightly concerned that something so trivial should strike me as impressive.

Saturday 8 February 2014

Tonight's Venue

The Dolphin, Oldland Common, Bristol.

Forever Home

Our foster dog, Ty, went to his forever home today. We met up with his prospective new family in the woods by Chepstow Castle, to make sure he got on with their current dog.

He did, so went home with them at the end of the walk.

Above is a photo of him in the woods with his new sister, Cleo, this afternoon. There are also three young boys in the family, so he won't be short on love or attention.

Ty's idea of heaven, I think.

Always a bittersweet moment. Going to miss him, but so happy for him.

Wednesday 5 February 2014

Water, water, everywhere

Been watching the forecast, worrying about the wind.

The brutality of this mock winter stopped sailing at Frampton back on
New Years Day, as previously mentioned, and the forecast for Sunday
looks worse than it did back then over Christmas. So I was worried
things were boding ill for getting the boat wet on Sunday.

Having been too ill myself to sail a week ago Sunday, it's been a whole
four weeks since I last sailed. Too long by far. Itching with cabin fever.

As it happens, the wind isn't going to stop play on Sunday afterall.

The water will.

With gale force winds set in the south, and the lake filled to brimming
(apparently 11.1m is as deep as it can go before our cup literally
overfloweth) the wind was driving the lake up over the edge and flooding
out the village. Ironically, the lane leading up to the lake from the
village green is called Watery Lane. This might be why.

Anyway, the waters were beginning to threaten the village pub, The Three
Horseshoes, so something clearly had to be done.

So they've put a double-layer of sandbags around the northern edge of
the lake, where we normally launch from. They seem to be keeping the
waters in, and the pub is saved. Sadly, looks like they'll be keeping us

The Frampton Icicle 3 has been postponed to the following week, Sunday 16th.

In view of the carnage that seems to be happening elsewhere in the
country (Cornwall and South Devon appear to be taking the brunt of it)
it's really only a light penalty to pay for the Gulf Stream beating us
with her watery whip, so I can't really gripe.

Besides, a lie in on Sunday is probably not an unwelcome idea, as I've
got gigs Saturday and Sunday night.

Tomorrow night, it'll be a whole fourteen days since I last touched a
drop of alcohol.

Not a huge thing, but I have been drinking a little too much a little
too often, pretty much since I gave up smoking. About ten years ago. One
of the reasons I don't keep spirits in the house is that, given my usual
enthusiasm for indulging in any interest of mine to the excess of
whatever limit I can find, I wouldn't trust myself to be sensible.

I've often thought that the only thing that prevents me descending into
total alcoholism is the need to drive, and to otherwise operate at a
functional level throughout the day. Which is fine, we all need checks
and balances in life.

Not drinking was actually an accident. Very similar to the way I gave up
smoking all those years ago. As previously mentioned, I caught a bug.
Couldn't keep water down, let alone beer, so stopped drinking.

By the time I recovered enough to reliably start holding liquid again,
I'd been sobre for over a week. The masochist in me just wanted to know
how far I could get. And I haven't answered that question yet.

Even managed to pour my wife a couple of drinks last night after she
finished work, and not indulge in a nip myself. Woke up this morning,
disgusted and disappointed in myself for caving in and indulging, and
THEN realised that I hadn't. Took a couple of a hours and a couple of
coffees for me to actually believe it.

Wonder how far this can go. If I can make a month (24th Feb) I'll treat
myself to a bottle of Laphroaig.

Trouble is, thinking of Laphroaig now has me thinking of ale, in
particular my favourite, Innis & Gunn. And whilst it's easy to fall back
on the now acrued practice of a couple of weeks and resist swinging past
the supermarket on the way home for a couple of bottles, it does put
Friday evening in jeapordy somewhat.

The memory of a taste is a seductive thing.

Saturday 1 February 2014

"But I'm always ready on time!" she says

It's that time of night. When I'm ready to leave at the time planned, and my lovely wife is still far, far from such.

So I have to loiter, without looking like I'm getting grumpy or trying to rush her, because whilst I may be and would love too, I know to only pick the fights I can win.

So loiter I shall,  trying not to panic that we will be embarrassingly late for supper, trying not to get dog hair on me. Not so easy on this house.

It will be a lovely evening. And she will look gorgeous. I'm sure the investment of patience and stress will be worth every moment.

She always is.

Now hurry up already!