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>Day 52: Who needs wheels?

6 May, 2009 1 comment

>Today’s soundtrack: T. Rex – Rabbit Fighter: The Original Slider

“You need wheels if you wanna make deals
You need a tyre, if you wanna get higher
A man ain’t a man with a ticket in his hand,
If you wanna getta girl – you need wheels”

So said The Merton Parkas back in 1979, and who am I to disagree? Although I would argue that more than one tyre might be a good idea. Two at least, plus spare, if we are talking Lambrettas here (as no doubt the Mertons were, given their faux-Mod outlook on life).

And yes, that is Mick Talbot, later of the Style Council, on keyboards (and his brother Danny on guitar and vocals, I believe)!

My dilemma today (and for a while now) has been what to do with my own wheels. The lease on my car is about to expire and I have a decision to make.

Do I:

  • buy out the lease by paying the final ‘balloon’ payment and keep the car?
  • walk away from the lease and buy a different car?
  • walk away from the lease and share Mrs W’s car?

I don’t know, and have been wavering for a while. Unfortunately I’ve got to make a decision – soon!

If I keep the car, then the final payment is actually not a bad price for the car in its current state and mileage – but to that cost, I have to add MOT, insurance and tax – all of which are also due imminently.

Spending the equivalent sum (or less) on a replacement will get me a car I know nothing about, and a long and tedious surf this morning proved I’d be getting a worse deal (pound for pound) than buying my own. And I’d still need to tax and insure it.

Either way, it’s a chunk of cash out of the redundancy settlement I’d rather not be spending.

Can we get by with just one car? In the short term, probably. But inevitably it will tie one or other of us down and reduce our flexibility to do what we want to do – especially stuck out here in the sticks.

I’m not usually the most indecisive of individuals, but I really don’t know what to do for best. A trawl through the lease paperwork today confirmed that I can’t walk away completely scot-free – the MOT due this month is still my responsibility – so my current stance is to bear the cost of the MOT (happening this Friday) and see how I feel then.

Thoughts/advice gratefully received!

Out to my new Supermarket of choice today to do the weekly shop – again, a pretty painless experience done first thing in the morning, leaving the day clear for my fruitless search for a solution to the car conundrum. Still, the fridge and freezer are looking a lot healthier than they were yesterday!

Took my frustrations out on the bass guitar this afternoon (take note, Simon) and was pretty pleased with myself as well. What seems to work best for me is using iTunes with tab sites like these to find songs I know well to play along to – and I definitely nailed ‘Teenage Kicks’, ‘With or Without You’ and Joy Division’s ‘Day of the Lords’ today.

Sore fingers now though.

Well my prediction of last night’s outcome was spot on, and I enjoyed the match even though it was over as a fair contest after about ten minutes. Feel for the young kid who slipped over in the lead up to United’s first goal, but the second and third goals were pure class.

The Fletcher sending off was interesting as it highlighted an aspect of the rules that has always puzzled me – there seems to be a consensus that if a defender plays the ball before the man, then there is no foul. And as Fletcher got a slight touch on the ball nanoseconds before he took out Fabregas, there was no foul, no penalty and no sending off.

But is this right? I’m not sure it is. I think that if ‘taking the man’ is a certain consequence of the tackle then a foul may be awarded irrespective of the touch on the ball. Happy to be proved wrong, but it is interesting that whilst the overwhelming opinion on the web today is that it was harsh, those few writers who actually know what they are talking about (ie professional or amateur referees) are at least admitting the possibility that the decision just might have been the right one…

Answers on a postcard please!

Hopefully tonight’s game will be a bit more of a contest. And whilst the football purist in me would love to see Barcelona progress, self-interest tells me it would be far better for Chelsea to have a big distraction a few days before the FA Cup final. I suppose it’s win-win for me, then….

T Rex on the soundtrack takes me way back, to the time in the early ’70s when me and my mates first started getting interested in this pop music stuff – the very first album that any of us bought with our own money was ‘Electric Warrior’ by T. Rex, and they were our heroes of choice for, oh, weeks, before the next big thing came along. Rabbit Fighter is a disc of demos that came with the CD reissue of ‘The Slider’ the follow up to Electric Warrior, and the last album that we gave any attention to before dismissing Marc Bolan as ‘teenybop‘ stuff, beneath our rapidly maturing and evolving taste for the heavy and the prog.

Of course, revisiting this stuff years later, you realise just how good (and genuinely groundbreaking) it was at the time.

I mean, how good is this?

Categories: bass, Car, football, Merton Parkas, T Rex

>Day 47: Oh F*ck I’m Fifty!

2 May, 2009 1 comment

>Today’s soundtrack: Cassandra Wilson – Blue Light Til Dawn

How did that happen?

Last time I looked, I was about 25, the kids were but a far-off twinkle and Everton were winning league titles! Where did the time go?

I’m not happy about this. Who do you complain to?

And at what point do you have to start acting like a fifty year old? Do I have to start wearing a shirt and tie (under a pullover, natch) at the weekend? Blazer and slacks? Do I start having to find merit in the musical works of The Mike Sammes Singers?

Bugger that. I shall continue to grow old disgracefully and embarrass my children. It’s what they would want.

More on that later, no doubt. You all want to know how the interview went, don’t you? Well, I don’t know yet, but overall I was pretty pleased with my performance on the day.

So I turned up at the appointed place, 9:00 in the morning, appropriately suited and booted. Me and five other people cautiously eyeing each other up in the reception area. Amusingly, for an organisation that would make great play of its commitment to equality and diversity, it was six white, middle class men sat there for the day’s entertainment.

The format of the day was basically as follows. Two exercises in the morning – a written paper, and a ‘stakeholder interview’ in front of a panel of three. Lunch, during which our performance in the morning would be assessed and the six of us would be whittled down to three, X-Factor stylee. Then for the remaining candidates, preparation and delivery of a presentation to a second panel of three, followed by a final interview by that panel.

Following introductions, my instant reaction was that there were two candidates I would have immediately backed to make the final three, leaving me competing with the rest for the last place in the final. So after the morning’s work, I was pleased to see that it had panned out as I had hoped/expected – I did make the final three, along with the two initial ‘favourites’.

I was ‘first on’ in the afternoon, given 45 minutes to prepare my presentation (paper and flipcharts – no Powerpoint…what’s that all about?) and left alone to prepare. It was a relatively easy topic for me to address – the challenge was getting my presentation down to the allotted time. Eschewing the flipcharts, I went for a straight narrative presentation and, although I overran slightly, thought I did ok and got my main points across. The rest of the interview went well from my perspective, and I was out of the door and on my way home by three o’clock.

Did I do well? Yeah, I think I did. Did I do enough? Well I’ll find out on Tuesday. Not holding my breath – I suspect it was there for one of the six candidates to lose…and I’d be surprised if he wasn’t given the nod. If for whatever reason he wasn’t the preferred candidate, I’d be disappointed not to get the job. But we’ll see (and if the above sounds a bit cryptic, I’ll explain more on Tuesday….)

After insisting to anyone who would listen that turning fifty (fifty! Jeez…!) was not a cause for celebration, and that surprise parties would be frowned upon, Mrs W and I had a quiet night in in the company of Mr Gin and Mr Tonic, with a Chinese takeaway and a bottle of red to follow. And, it being a Friday, a very dodgy film, enlivened only by the presence of Modest Mouse on the soundtrack which was a bit of a surprise.

(Modest Mouse – relatively obscure American indie band. The sort of band no-one over fifty should be listening to).

In keeping with my advanced years, we have some cool jazz on the soundtrack today. I don’t actually know an awful lot about Cassandra Wilson, but the few albums I have of hers are ideal for those times when you just want something smooth and relaxing on in the background. That’s not to say it’s easy listening – it’s not, the arrangements are sometimes complex and the vocals compelling – but it is music perfect for those contemplative moments last thing at night or first thing in the morning. Her choices of cover versions are sound – this album includes tracks by Joni, Van and Ann Peebles, amongst others – and her interpretations are interesting.

Here she is doing Neil Young’s ‘Harvest Moon’. Some lovely guitar work at the beginning of this piece as well.

“Less recipes and more bass-playing stories!” they demand. Well, I’ve been a bit tardy on both fronts really. But as far as the bass playing is going, it’s not really something to brag about – yet! Still finding my way around the fretboard, and tinkering with riffs plundered from the internet. Great fun, though I won’t be challenging Mark King for the Level 42 gig anytime soon. That Adam Clayton though, I could have him tomorrow…..

Oh, before I forget, thanks to all for your birthday wishes and ‘good luck’ comments for the interview – despite me being a grumpy old get, it really is much appreciated and good to know people are thinking of me…ta muchly all.

>Day 10: Of Toads and Strategies

25 March, 2009 1 comment

>Today’s soundtrack: Various Artists – Beatlemania Vol. 2

If ever you needed proof that iTunes selects the day’s soundtrack at random, today’s choice should give you just that. The second of two freebie CDs containing cover versions of Beatles songs, I’m currently grooving to Cheap Trick covering Magical Mystery Tour. In the next hour we will be going from the sublime to the ridiculous, from Wilson Pickett’s version of Hey Jude to Harvey Averne (who?) doing I Feel Fine. With many other delights in between.

Well, the toad in the hole was probably a ‘6/10 – could do better’ last night. I should have trusted the recipe and left the (slightly runny) batter alone – the extra flour I added meant we ended up with a ‘hole’ that rose in all the right places, but was a touch rubbery in the middle. In contrast, the ‘toads’, Tesco’s finest Pork & Leek, were excellent – very meaty with just a hint of herbage on top. Onion gravy more than acceptable although the ratio of onion to gravy needs to be revisited! (That’s not mine opposite – mine looked better – especially the gravy!)

Jekyll continues to impress – half way through now, and looking forward to the rest. Will definitely keep us going until the next series of Dexter drops on the mat.

Lousy night’s sleep last night due to the wind (no, nothing to do with the toad in the hole…the wind outside), the bang of a gate keeping me awake. Cursing the neighbours, but of course it turned out to be our garden gate causing the problem – despite the bolt being padlocked across, the supporting post had moved sufficiently in the wind to dislodge the bolt from its moorings. So a quick fix this morning with some plastic cord that will hopefully keep the thing shut tonight. And hopefully the neighbours will not be cursing us tonight!

In my new role as booking agent to the gang, it’s looking like Latitude might be a goer, and also Depeche Mode in November (depending on the presale rush tomorrow). Coupled with Glastonbury, Elvis Costello and the Pet Shop Boys, it’s already looking like another good summer on the gig-going front…always assuming new working arrangements don’t interfere!

On that front, one of my fellow redundantees tipped me the wink about an opportunity in Manchester that has been duly applied for today – thanks Graeme! – so we’ll see how that one pans out. Salary somewhat lower than previous, but a decent high profile role that fits well with stuff I’ve done in the past so could be a goer.

Those of you who are familiar with the work of Brian Eno may be aware of a technique he uses in music production called ‘Oblique Strategies‘. Essentially a set of cards with gnomic instructions written on each card. The theory is that you select a card at random, and use that card to inform your work that day. Inevitably ‘Oblique Strategies’ are available online and, more specifically, as an iPhone application that I have downloaded. So let’s, just for fun, see what today’s pronouncement is…..

“Make it more sensual”

Hmmm….perhaps using Oblique Strategies to help me find a new job isn’t the way to go… might revisit this approach though!

Since it’s a bit quiet today, I’m going to bore you with the details of a newish music tool on t’internet that might just change the music industry forever. Or not. Anyway, it’s called ‘Spotify‘ and you should all download it immediately. Essentially, you download a piece of software that looks and feels a bit like iTunes, and once it’s on your desktop (or laptop), assuming you have a half-decent internet connection, you have searchable access to a vast amount of music – all on a legitimate basis. The basic model is totally free, but will interject adverts on an irregular basis. You can pay a subscription to avoid the ads, but (currently at least) they are very unobtrusive. Can’t quite see how the business model works (if at all) but enjoy it while you can. It’s like having an iTunes library with literally millions of albums in it.

Back on the bass today – happily mastered the (admittedly easy) bass line to ‘Summer Lovin’, on the Grease soundtrack. ‘She Bangs The Drums’ by the Stone Roses will, I think, take a little longer…

>Day 5: Adam Clayton eat your heart out…

20 March, 2009 Leave a comment

>Today’s soundtrack: U2 – October (Deluxe Edition)

Watched Hancock last night and the bottle of red remained untouched. Good man, Paul! Film was a load of old rubbish really, but entertaining old rubbish for all that. Without giving away the plot, there’s a twist about halfway through that’s just a touch contrived and takes what is already a barely believable premise into the outer realms of unbelievability. Even in the context of a film about a drunkard superhero with an attitude and a body odour problem. Will Smith actually manages to play it reasonably straight without the odd knowing glance to camera, and Charlize Theron is quite frankly excellent eye candy.

Up early and off to Tesco to fulfill my househusbandly responsibilities. Oh dear. Think it was half price for pensioners day today – don’t they move slowly? And why do the ladies have to bring their husbands with them – they only get in the way? Forgive the grumpiness – victim of my own fuckwittery this morning – Mrs W specifically left the Tesco Clubcard to pay for the groceries so I could use the £7 off vouchers that expire on Sunday – the vouchers that I managed to leave next to the computer. That are even now looking accusingly at me as I type. Have to watch the pennies these days!

Still, all the ingredients bought for a nice prawn stirfry tonight despite the trauma. For those of a culinary disposition, this will involve fresh (uncooked) king prawns being stirfried along with some garlic, ginger, chilli, spring onions and pak choi, flavoured with some thai fish sauce and sweet chilli sauce, and served on a bed of noodles dressed in sesame oil and sprinkled with fresh coriander. I’d give you the recipe but I tend to make it up as I go along.

No phone calls today (apart from the job centre checking I’m actually planning on turning up tomorrow) but I made some progress with one of my job applications, tailoring my cv and preparing a very detailed covering letter to meet their specific requirements. Also completed the claim for unemployment insurance, incorporating some elements completed by my ex-employer. Interesting to note that they believe the date I was informed of my redundancy was the 4th December – the date the consultation started, rather than 11 March, the day the consultation process effectively finished… What was the consultation process intended to achieve, then?

Aaaanyway…..the bass guitar. Decided that the way forward was to look up some bass lines for one or two popular tunes and was pleased to discover that this is a good way of convincing yourself that you are making progress. It helps if you choose the bass line for Ramones songs of course…and it has to be said that the learning curve for the U2 repertiore is not the steepest. Within You Without You knocked off in about ten minutes. Which all goes to prove that Adam Clayton (for it is he who plays the bass for the ‘2) is possibly the luckiest man alive.

I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for U2. I know Bono tends to get on a lot of people’s tits with his holier than thou attitude and his pontificating on the use to which our taxes should be put, whilst keeping his own tax bill as low as possible, but musically – when they are good, they are very, very good indeed.

And this is the perfect opportunity for me to regale you with my favourite (albeit possibly apocryphal) Bono anecdote. Stop me if you’ve heard it before….

Bono’s doing his starving kids in Africa bit. Onstage, silence – apart from the slow click of Bono’s fingers. “Every time I click my fingers, a child in Africa dies,” he says.

“Well stop fucking clicking, then” comes a shout from the crowd.

I’m here all week, tombola up next, you’ve been a lovely audience etc.

So off to the dole office tomorrow, then back for Everton-Portsmouth on the telly. Or on the snide Asian channel if it’s on Setanta.

Categories: bass, Hancock, Tesco, U2

>Day 3: First steps

18 March, 2009 Leave a comment

>Today’s Soundtrack: Aretha Franklin – Queen of Soul

Well, the Jobcentre called me today to complete the initial registration process, and to invite me to a meeting on Saturday morning at the Warrington branch to complete some further formalities. It seems a bit ironic that the one time I don’t actually need a weekend appointment, that’s what they give me… I would have thought the dole office was the one place that would be perfectly happy to insist on weekday appointments and to take the weekend off, but there you go.

The whole registration process seems a bit disjointed as well. Today’s phone call followed the submission of an on-line registration process that took some (but obviously not all) the information they needed from me – the questions the nice lady asked me this morning could just as easily been included on the on-line questionnaire, negating the need to wait 48 hours for a phone call at all. Be interesting to see what they ask me on Saturday and whether that could have been covered on-line as well. Mind you, I do need to see a real person at some stage as I’ve got a form for them to fill in relating to my unemployment insurance, so all’s well really.

Oh, and just to interject – Aretha’s version of ‘Young, Gifted and Black’ is surely a work of true genius!

While I was on the phone to the doley, I missed a call on my mobile. Called back and spoke to another very nice lady about a potential vacancy in the Leeds area – formal recruitment process to go through, but she sounded very positive so definitely one to push forward. But that’s a task for tomorrow I feel.

Gave the bass guitar (and my left pinky) a rest today (for now anyway – the day is still young) but in a bid to do something practical every day, picked up the ukulele for a spell. Yes, the ukulele. The uke came about as a consequence of a giddy spell on the Sunday at Glastonbury last year. The sun was shining, the music (including the mighty Amsterdam in the acoustic tent) had been wonderful and, yes, strong drink had been taken. It struck me that the one thing that would make the occasion absolutely perfect was for me to buy a couple of ukes for me and for the boy. And so I did. Not really sure (with the benefit of hindsight) that Matt was as keen on the idea as I was, but never being one to look a gift horse in the mouth, he humoured me. And so we got uke’d up. Bit of a waste of time, as we had no idea how to tune the buggers (or anything to tune them against) but we strummed happily if tunelessly until something else distracted us.

Anyway, it could have been worse. What I really wanted was a big fuck-off African drum to hit. Well, there’s always this year.

Just back from Tesco’s with the makings of a spaghetti bolognese for this evening – and a microwave. A nice, dainty, microwave to replace the stainless steel behemoth that has dominated the kitchen for the past few years. The old one will do for one of the boys if they need a microwave at any time. And if they don’t need a microwave, they could put some furniture in the thing and live in it.

And still no daytime tv.

Aretha got a bad press at the Obama inauguration the other week – and with good cause. But in her day she was untouchable. The present day selection of ‘divas’ (the Celines, the Mariahs, the Leonas) should be dragged into a room and forced to listen to Aretha non-stop for a month. To understand what constitutes a good song selection. To learn that just because you can stretch one syllable to include twenty-five notes, doesn’t mean you should. To realise that singing loud does not mean singing with emotion.

Aretha Franklin. Queen of Soul. Because she is.