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>Travellin’ Blues

19 December, 2009 Leave a comment

>Today’s soundtrack:  Hindu Love Gods – Hindu Love Gods

Phew, what a week that was!  So much to talk about, we might have to split this blog over a couple of days.  I might even revert to daily postings over the Christmas break.  Or I might get a life instead – who can tell?

Firstly, the important stuff.

Matt was in hospital for six days in total, they let him out on Wednesday in the end.  After optimistic predictions of a Monday release were dashed (to his great disappointment) things moved on steadily until he was able to make good his escape.  I believe there is a half-dug tunnel behind one of the gent’s toilets, if any current inmates are interested…

I got to see him on Sunday, when he was still in some discomfort and the drains from his neck were still draining steadily – and a lack of sleep was making him probably feel even worse than he was anyway.  But by Tuesday, when I got over for my final visit, the ‘old’ Matt back was again, one of the drains was out and the other was likely to follow imminently.

The body is a marvellous thing – cut it up, take bits out – but give it a couple of days and it steadily makes itself better, re-routing fluids and joining ends of cut flesh back together again.  Let’s hope the self-healing process continues – with a bit of a nudge from the radiation in the New Year!

At the time of writing, Matt is back home, Facebooking and chilling.  Half the staples are out with the rest to follow on Monday.

Oh, and everyone who’s emailed or otherwise passed on their thoughts, prayers and best wishes for Matt – thank you all, it’s much appreciated and good to know that people – even complete strangers in some cases – have such generosity of spirit and goodwill.  You look for positives where you can at times like this, and this is certainly one of the biggest for me.

The stresses of the week were not confined to me – the car has been complaining more and more about the miles I have been subjecting it to, what with the weekly Staines run now augmented with a diversion or three to Bath.  Finally it spat its dummy out big time on the Tuesday night run to Bath and back.  An intermittent misfire now became permanent, preventing me getting above 2000 rpm and more pertinently – above 60 mph on the motorway (50 mph on any sort of uphill slope).  With my plans of nursing the car through the Staines project and getting it sorted in the New Year dashed, I had to get it fixed – and quick, otherwise I wasn’t coming home at the weekend!

So – Wednesday morning, and I’m trawling the internet for local Nissan garages.  The nearest was in Shepperton, about 15 minutes drive away (or half an hour, with the car limping along at its current pace).  My plan was to leave Staines the following lunchtime.  What were the chances of getting it booked in, diagnosed and fixed within 36 hours?  Slim to none, I assumed.

But no, thanks to the good people at West London Nissan (free plug, chaps) the car was booked in Thursday morning, checked and fixed by lunchtime and I was checked out of the hotel and on the road by two thirty.  The rapidly arriving snow, coupled with my nervousness that the ‘fix’ may prove to be temporary, caused me to change my plan to detour across and see Matt so I headed home.  And got back without incident, thankfully.

Stress levels still hovering around the ‘about to blow’ indicator, I got in to see that in my absence, two parcels had been delivered and left a) with the neighbour and b) behind the bin.  Went out to the bin.  Nothing.  Looked in the bin.  Nothing (well, a load of rubbish, but you know what I mean).  Mrs W arrives home, not to a lovely welcome, but a tirade about the potential loss of half my Christmas shopping.  Bless her, she could obviously see I was on the verge of complete and utter breakdown and resisted the temptation to punch my lights out.  Instead, she knocked on the neighbour’s door to find that not only did he have the parcel delivered directly to him, but had also taken in the parcel lurking behind the bin.  Panic over.

Mrs W then – sensibly – went out to another Christmas do, leaving me to slump in front of the telly, with drink and curry, to watch the Everton Under-11s take on the mighty BATE and slump to a creditable (but wholly irrelevant) 1-0 defeat.  It was nice to see the kids getting a runout, hopefully the experience will spur them on to fight for a regular position in the men’s team in due course.  Adam Forshaw, Shane Duffy and Jamie Bidwell caught the eye of the new starters, and the old man, Carlo Nash, looked comfortable in goal.  They might not – yet – have the stature of the Arsenal kids, but they did not disgrace themselves either.

Today’s soundtrack comes courtesy of the Hindu Love Gods, a one-off ‘supergroup’ comprising REM without Michael Stipe, but with Warren Zevon.  A drunken session of blues standards and other covers led to the album, which sounds like what it is – a group of mates relaxing (suitably refreshed) and having fun.  No classics, but ‘good time’ stuff  that brings a tap to the foot and a smile to the face.

Tell you what, you search for ‘Hindu Love Gods’ on YouTube and you get some funny stuff coming up.  What you don’t get is any drunken blues.  So let’s try something else!

Click on the DivShare player that should have mysteriously appeared below, and you’ll hear the HLG’s take on Prince’s ‘Raspberry Beret’, and very fine it is too!

http://www.divshare.com/flash/playlist?myId=9831955-995
Oh, Kev – I’ll get to the Depeche stuff over the weekend – I promise!

Categories: Car, Everton, Hindu Love Gods, Matt, rem

>Day 185: Know Who You Are At Every Age

16 September, 2009 Leave a comment

>Today’s soundtrack: Cocteau Twins – BBC Sessions

Sound advice indeed for the birthday boys today and tomorrow, from today’s cover stars the Cocteau Twins, about whom more later.

Spent most of today out of the house, finishing off yesterday’s chores – but being a good son, I spent the first part of the morning slaving over the breadmaker, making a loaf of bread for my mum.

Showing off, basically.

Then it was off out, first stop the Post Office to post Son No 1’s birthday card and to – finally – get my Latitude pics sent down to Simon. Got there in the end mate! I have such a busy life at the moment, as you’ll appreciate…

Then back to Bathers, to collect my new tyres. Now I’m not one of those people who insists on using small independents to the exclusion of major high street chains, but it is nice to be able to support a small, long established local business – especially when they do offer a great level of service. I turned up, tyres were there, two guys working together replaced both front tyres, checked pressures in the back tyres and I was sorted and on my way within fifteen minutes. Coupled with a decent price for the tyres – still not cheap, but less than I’ve paid elsewhere – and I’ll be back there next time.

After the tyre service, it was off to my folks, to drop off my nephew’s birthday present (a new England shirt) and my freshly baked loaf, still warm from the oven. Naturally my mum had to cut the loaf for lunchtime sandwiches (method in my madness, you see!) and I came away with a big bag of home grown tomatoes, ready to be turned into soup of some kind (recipe tomorrow, foodies!)

Then back home to see what havoc, if any, the cat had wrought. Thankfully, no corpses or indoor interlopers that I could see. I think he saves up his naughtiness for the weekend, when Mrs W is around. He’s good as gold with me!

And so The Cocteaus on the soundtrack today. Another group that helps put the lie to the notion that the ’80s were a barren period for good music. Wispy, ethereal, unintelligible, but ultimately incredibly beautiful music with layers of guitars and effects, topped with one of the most idiosyncratic (in a good way) voices in popular music.

Today is yet another of my BBC session albums, but the quality is as good as on any of their wonderful studio albums. Cocteau Twins produced many good sessions for the Beeb, on Peel of course, but also for David Jensen and Richard Skinner, and this album perfectly complements their even more polished studio work.

Where to start with the Cocteaus? Probably ‘Heaven or Las Vegas’ is their most accessible album, although ‘Treasure’ or ‘Head Over Heels’ might be the better albums. The compilation albums are good, but really their albums sit better as complete works for me.

Here’s ‘Heaven or Las Vegas’ – absolutely beautiful. And no, I’ve not a clue what she’s singing about. And I don’t care either.

Categories: Car, Cocteau Twins

>Day 184: Tyres are Knackered, Knackers are tired…

15 September, 2009 Leave a comment

>Today’s soundtrack: Lou Reed – Coney Island Baby

So, any chance of a quiet day today? Well, yes and no. I had a few things to see to that would keep me out of the house today, but I had no Exploding Plastic Inevitable in the kitchen to deal with today, and The Hunter spent most of the day in sleeping, rather than hunting, mode.

Even genocidal killers need their beauty sleep.

So it was out early, to pick up a birthday present for my nephew and birthday cards for him and for Son No 1. Their birthdays are a day apart, a source of great consternation to my Son just before Nephew was born, as he did not want to share his birthday with anyone! Luckily fate intervened and their birthdays are a day apart. Which also makes them easy to remember.

Birthday stuff sorted, a quick dive into M&S to give Mrs W a few options for tonight’s tea, and after a very quick (and free) turn around HMV, it was off to Rock Ferry to sort out a couple of tyres for the car. I’ve been putting this off for way too long, to the extent that I’m pretty well driving round on ‘slicks’ at the moment, which is highly naughty and getting more unsafe by the day. Finally grasped the nettle and, eschewing the big tyre chains, took the car to Bathers, an independent (and cheap) tyre company that’s been in business (although God only knows how) since I was a small boy, and probably for many years prior to that as well. They had to order them in, but they’ll be waiting for me tomorrow at eleven.

Called in on the ageing parents since I was in their neck of the woods, but they were out…what’s that all about? Turns out they were in my neck of the woods, over in Warrington – but hey ho. I’ll call in tomorrow when I pick the tyres up.

So back homewards, but not before stopping off at the pet store to pick up some flea stuff. The animal kingdom is taking its revenge on Pedro by infesting him with a bunch of tiny critters dedicated to eating him. Fine, but not when the same critters think they can take chunks out of Mrs W and me as well!

So – Frontline for the cat, spray for the furniture and upholstery and – when the Frontline has worn off – a flea collar (plus bell!) for the beast. Maybe the merry tinkle of the bell will alert the frankly sluggish local wildlife that they ought to get their skates on if they don’t want me chasing them round the bedroom with a Tupperware box…

A welcome spot of Lou Reed to listen to today. Coney Island Baby was released in 1976, and showcases Lou in relatively mellow mood, in stark contrast to the album that precedes it, ‘Metal Machine Music’, a contractual obligation album consisting of an hour of feedback and white noise. Coney Island Baby is a far more listenable piece of work, although some might find it a bit lightweight compared to the likes of Transformer, Berlin and Street Hassle. And they’d be right, but there are a few gems buried in the album, not least the title track.

Here’s a stunning live version of Coney Island Baby, probably from the mid ’80s. Lou’s tinkered a bit – a lot more about the ‘glory of love’ than ‘playing football for the coach’ but some lovely guitar work towards the end.

Categories: Car, Lou Reed, Pedro

>Day 148: Well it felt like work!

11 August, 2009 Leave a comment

>Today’s soundtrack: Anita Baker – Rapture

Well I spent most of the day working today – not working for money you understand, although I suppose I was in a way…we’ve got to the stage where the mortgage insurance kicks in, so I was preparing the first claim for submission. That involves a touch more than filling in a simple form, I have to provide clear evidence that I am not only still out of work, but that I am actively seeking work as well. So I spent the best part of the day collating and printing emails and application forms, rejection letters and the like, summarising all my recruitment-related activity onto three or four pages and cross-referencing the lot to the ‘source documentation’. It was actually quite a satisfying exercise in that a) there is actually a lot been going on – a lot more than it feels like sometimes and b) it’s brought a bit of order to what, i suppose, has been a pretty disjointed process.

If I was half as organised as I should be, then I’d have kept things in order as I’d gone along, but that’s not really my style (out of the formal work environment anyway). I now need to get the paperwork signed off by the Jobcentre, then I can send it off to the insurance company, hopefully in return for a big fat cheque.

In the midst of all this I had a long chat with Simon down in Southampton, who called for a natter. We put the world to rights for a while, reminisced about festivals and swapped details of new music purchases. And I remembered that I still have to send him the photos and music from Latitude that I promised him! Good to catch up with him – it’s a pig that he’s in the same boat as me but it’s good to have someone to compare notes and experiences with as well.

After all that exhausting labour(!) it was time to relax with a session of Footy Manager. To my delight (and to the indifference of the Board) I beat Chelsea in the final of the League Cup on penalties – so back in Europe next season, something that was never going to be achieved through my league placing!

Unfortunately reality intervened after a while, I had to go and ‘rescue’ Mrs W, whose car has been playing up for a while – a ‘burning smell’ that seems to appear when she uses the car, even on short runs. A strange one, in that no warning lights are coming on to suggest oil or water levels are low, and no evidence of any electrical faults. Anyway, we swapped cars, and took the poorly one to the garage for a check-up. Diagnosis tomorrow!

Rapture is one of my favourite ‘smooth’ albums, a combination of excellent songs, and wonderful, understated singing, delivering an album for those times when the mood is relaxed and the lights are low. Anita Baker really knows how to sing, in an understated way that the Whitneys, Celines and Mariahs could learn from – no vocal gymnastics, no desire to fit ten notes in where only one is needed – beautiful.

This is ace. This is how to ’emote’, girls!

Categories: Anita Baker, Car, insurance, Simon

>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