Thursday, December 30, 2010

Yours Truly

From the very moment I hit the first chord of Fall to Pieces, all of the mental and physical fatigue (post-Christmas malaise?) I'd been enduring began to dissipate. I felt alive again! To my right, Ken was putting everything into the song. I had the easy part in this one - just a few acoustic power chords and the odd vocal. In front of me, a room full of people watched and listened...
Ken had been in town just over a week. We'd had three rehearsals and a successful short gig at The Metropolitan to set us up nicely for the Grace Emily. This annual event - The Yours Truly World Tour - usually comprises two or three Adelaide gigs. The two of us have been performing like this for a few years now, and it seems to work. Our respective songs mesh well, and I think the same can be said for our onstage performances.
For 2010 we'd knocked together a set of around 16 songs, all originals except for one Alistair Hulett number. It was a pleasure to present each and every one of them to what appeared to be an engaged crowd.
Before I knew it, we'd played for over an hour and we were into the last few songs. I wiped off the sweat, thanked everyone for coming, and we finished with rousing renditions of Here Come the Americans and Say Goodbye.

I'm already looking forward to 2011.

www.bleakumbrella.com

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Music, beer and some of life's other essentials

Going back to work has, unsurprisingly, punched a big hole through my erstwhile daily level of productivity. Throughout the course of my lengthy leave period, I had all the time in the world to manage my life. Every day was more or less my own. Not any more. Since returning to the life of a wage slave, my challenge has been to not slacken off in any areas, so I have been very busy in the evenings and on my days off.
I have performed a few times, most weeks, playing gigs of all sizes and styles. The most notable of the recent shows was the launch of the latest SCALA album, A Guided Tour. The album features one of my songs; it is my 15th CD release. Not too shabby, especially when I remind myself that I was the wrong side of 30 before I made my first appearance on disc.
The home brew has come up well. I sampled my first bottle late last week, and I have since demolished a few more. It will improve over the coming weeks and months. If I can leave it that long. It's nice to be back in the fold.
I have been grappling with new (and old) technology around the house, riding my bike, preparing for Christmas and keeping an eye on the vegetables. The kitchen will be filled with tomatoes very shortly.

There's no time to get bored.

www.bleakumbrella.com

Friday, December 17, 2010

We are the army

My time at the cricket was thoroughly enjoyable. From the moment I walked through the Phil Ridings Gates on a glorious Thursday evening, I knew I was on a winner. I was there to attend a Lord's Taverner's function, featuring the oratory skills of Sir Ian Botham and Ian Healy.
I got to meet and shake hands with Sir Ian, after he had finished regaling the audience with tales of Ashes battles old and new. Beefy is in pretty good shape and, unlike Ian Chappell, I don't think I'd be keen to take him on in a car park stoush.
I met some great people over the course of the five days, both in the stands and up on the hill in the Barmy Army. Some local, some from 12000 miles away. It almost restored my faith in humanity. Almost...
Adelaide Oval is a beautiful place to watch cricket - I hope those members who have an eye on further "development" of the ground remember how magnificent it is right now. Commentators and spectators alike are united in their praise of the visual splendor of the oval and its environs.
The evenings in the pub were brilliant. Hundreds of people, mainly men, singing, dancing and enjoying a drink or three. And not a sign of trouble, no matter how bladdered folk were. The only overly aggressive behaviour I witnessed in the whole time was that of one of the bouncers, who was obviously bored and looking to kick something off. I guess they have a tough job sometimes, but this lad was probably out of his depth, and a smartarse to boot.
The cricket was exciting from the very first over, and was a great advert for the long form of the game. We lost some time due to bad weather, but England still managed to wrap up the match with a few sessions to spare.
The Tuesday afternoon/evening session was big. Getting to the pub at lunchtime, accompanied by the glow of victory, meant for a long day in the saddle. I paid for it on Wednesday.
As I type, it looks like the series will be all tied up going into the Melbourne Test Match on Boxing Day. How I would love to be there!

www.bleakumbrella.com

Monday, December 6, 2010

Happy days, indeed...

Another rather large day at the cricket. Followed by a rollicking night at PJ O'Brien's...

It was an early start; I was hoping to get the undercover seats so that I would be afforded some relief from the sun. I'd had a quietish night, so I felt fit & well and ready for a day's cricket. The joyous ringing of the church bells meant that it had to be Sunday. The day of rest. For some.
The morning session saw the reaching of milestone after milestone, the only blot being Alastair Cook's failure to achieve 150. Mind you, 148 isn't too bad...
It was more of the same after lunch. Plenty of runs, and a few beers. The Barmy Army was pretty quiet, leading me to think that they'd perhaps had a good Saturday night in Adelaide. Pietersen's masterful double hundred was appropriately acknowledged by the crowd - I guess they don't really hate him that much...
My mate finally turned up at 2.30, only six and a half hours late.
The rain arrived, as promised, just after tea. It meant that no further play was possible and the day ended prematurely. The Australians were happy, and will be hoping for more delays throughout Monday and Tuesday. The forecast indicates that their wishes may come true.
A few of us caught a taxi up to the pub, where we spent the night in the company of friends; chatting, drinking and singing.
Before I knew it, Sunday had become Monday and I could hear my bed calling. I said goodbye to my mates, some for the last time on this tour, and poured myself into a taxi.
Happy days, indeed.

www.bleakumbrella.com

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Curry for breakfast

The first two days of the Adelaide Test Match have followed a similar pattern. An early start and a line up at the gate has ensured a shaded seat in the Members' section - an absolute must in these sweltering conditions. Pakoras and samosas have been an inspired breakfast choice. The first beer has usually presented itself around noon, and the pace has been reasonably gentle, but on a steady rise in frequency, in terms of consumption. I've spotted Nasser Hussain, Graham Trott and James Anderson wandering around, and shared my immediate vicinity with pleasant people, in the main.
The atmosphere at the ground has been great, and cricket has been equally impressive. Especially in the eyes of England fans. The game should be England's for the taking, but I fear that the weather will rob either team of pushing for a result. We shall see.

www.bleakumbrella.com

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Turning water into beer.

This has been one of the busiest weeks I can remember; so much to do, so little time. Or so it would seem. It's all been good stuff, just too much to do. Still, you've got to keep on keeping on, haven't you?

We bottled our beer yesterday. It looked and smelled like proper beer, so hopes are high for something drinkable. The process was unhurried and untroubled, and we got 26 bottles of Dark Ale from the fermenter.
We enjoyed the whole thing so much, that we put another one in this evening. So we'll most likely be bottling again this time next week.

Hopefully we'll be singing the beer's praises come Christmas time!

www.bleakumbrella.com

Monday, November 29, 2010

Good times at Goodwood!

I had a fantastic time playing to the patrons of the Goodwood Christmas Fair on Saturday.
Firstly, it's great to play at a local, community event. It is very pleasing to be doing something for the local area.
It was also great to do a solid hour of originals. I didn't play anything I didn't feel like playing, and still filled the hour easily. No-one threw anything at me; no-one stuck their fingers in their ears. Even the weather was kind.
After the first set, I went and played for another 40 minutes at street level. More fun.
In the afternoon I got back up on the main stage with my good mate Lindsay and we knocked out 30 minutes of our old blues numbers. We were sandwiched between two sets from the fabulous Chris Finnen, which was a lovely way to spend the afternoon. We hung around for Chris' set and had a brief chat afterwards. He was genuinely happy to see us playing the old standards like Hoochie Coochie Man, Key to the Highway and Bright Lights, Big City. We were equally happy watching him play and sing. A truly great guitarist.

I think my next big gigs are at SCALA on December 16 and the Grace Emily on December 28. Let's 'ave it!

www.bleakumbrella.com

Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Ashes

So, here we are again, at the start of another Ashes series. I have mixed feelings when England play Australia. It's great to see the traditional enemies go at it, the cricket is almost always entertaining (even the 2006-7 tour), and no quarter is asked for - or given. But it can be a difficult time for an Englishman in this beautiful country.

It can be very hard work. The concepts of being generous in victory and gracious in defeat are lost on many of my colleagues and, I suspect, upon the general population. Win or lose, I am generally facing a battle to stay sane. I barely talk about cricket with others, such is the level of inanity that goes hand-in-hand with the passion. The newspapers and television are ill-informed, casually racist, and sloppy. Unreadable and unwatchable. And of course, they are the very things that shape public opinion.

All I can hope for is an England victory. At least it will keep the noise down. For a while.

Don't get me wrong - I'm sure that things are similar for the minority fans in other countries too, whether they be in England, Scotland, Pakistan or Zaire. But this is my blog, and these are my thoughts...

Whichever team you follow, whatever your level of interest, I genuinely hope that you enjoy the series. And remember, the bloke over there that you call a "dirty pommy" might just be me. And you would be wrong. I'm rather clean.

www.bleakumbrella.com

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Beery goodness

As part of my commitment to improving the quality of life around here, I have recently decided to have another crack at making beer. We used to make it at our old house; at one stage we had hundreds of litres of ale stored in the shed. I can honestly say that I preferred most of my brews to the retail beers.
We never seemed to get going here. I made a few brews, early on, but they got steadily worse in quality and I couldn't seem to work it out. Sick of pouring smelly beer into the compost, I started buying factory beers again.
Yesterday, I cleaned and sterilised all of my old gear, and proceeded to make a brew. I thought I'd had a crack at a dark ale. I'd bought the ingredients a few weeks ago. I took my time over the cleaning, and the brewing, focusing on each step as I progressed. I was hoping for success, but uncertain as to the roadworthiness of my old equipment. Nevertheless, the process seemed to pass without incident.
This morning, when I went and checked, the beer was bubbling away happily.
So far, so good!

www.bleakumbrella.com

Friday, November 19, 2010

He's our man

Leonard Cohen played at the Entertainment Centre last night. I was very happy to have snared a couple of tickets for the show. Especially as I had elected not to see him when he was here a couple of years ago; a concert now universally agreed to be the greatest gig by anyone ever. I thought I might have missed my chance...
Luckily, he decided to visit Adelaide again.
We had elevated seats, with the stage to our right, and not too far back. Around 8.00 the lights dimmed, the recorded music stopped, and the band members took their positions. Once the stage was set, Cohen walked onto the stage to a warm, affectionate welcome.
There's no doubting his genius. All you have to do is listen. He could yell his words from the stage and still be magical but the music, and all that goes with it, lifts everything to a higher plane. The band members are just about perfect in both virtuosity and personality.
The show was in two parts, punctuated by an interval and, through the course of the evening, audience members were presented with the songs that they were hoping to hear. It's difficult to select a high point, because it was all good. If I was pushed, I'd say that Waiting for the Miracle and A Thousand Kisses Deep were my favourite moments. After two sets, three encores and a shedload of highlights, this genial 76-year old left us all happy and satisfied.
The whole production was, unsurprisingly, very similar to the 'Live in London' film that is available, and probably owned by everyone who was at the concert. So if you missed the show, you can get a sense of what it was like by looking at that.

Let's hope it's not the last time he chooses to come to Adelaide.

www.bleakumbrella.com

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Such is life.

Alone on the stage,
I played three of my more serious songs.
Songs that describe how I feel
About the absurdity of existence.
People were kind
But soon found their way back to their conversations and drinks.
Better things to do.
Later on
I was asked to play a couple more.
I chose two novelty songs I'd written.
People hung on my every word.
Should I be happy
Or disappointed?

In other news:
The gentleman who took the stage directly after me performed It's All Over Now and Walking the Dog. A very tidy player. It turned out that he was Bob Metzger, Leonard Cohen's guitarist, who just happened to hear the music and wander in. Tidy player, indeed...
Hello, Bob Metzger, nice to meet you. Small world isn't it? See you tonight!

www.bleakumbrella.com

Friday, November 12, 2010

Frank Zappa is alive and well and living inside my head.

I went to The Gov last night to watch Läther, Adelaide's occasional Frank Zappa cover band. I'd had a fair-sized day at the cricket, and it proved to be the perfect entree for an evening of Zappa-esque cerebral madness.
I bowled up to the front bar for a few preparatory ales, then my mates and I headed into the gig. What fun! The band mambers were proper musicians - you have to be if you are attempting to play Frank - and the music was groovy.
The two sets offered music for all Zappa fans, the hard core and the casual. Not too many of the singalong classics, but some brilliant versions of lesser known (but more important) works nonetheless.
This wasn't as big a deal as seeing Zappa Plays Zappa (no Dweezil for starters), but it was still pretty awesome.

These guys should play more often.

www.bleakumbrella.com

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Adelaide Oval

A few months ago I was sitting under cloudy summer skies in Nottingham, watching England rout Pakistan at Trent Bridge. It was a rather lovely time. This was just before the spot-fixing scandal came to light, further sullying the reputation of our friends from the subcontinent.
Today I had the pleasure of seeing England take the field against South Australia, in the second of three Ashes warm-up matches.
Shortly after the Remembrance Day commemorations were done, I made my way down to the redeveloped Adelaide Oval. They have certainly done a terrific job - the new stands look great and they are also very comfortable. I'm afraid that the Bradman Stand looks out of place now, and I expect it will be earmarked for destruction sooner rather than later...
I met and spoke with a few people I knew, shared a beer or two and thoroughly enjoyed my afternoon.
The competitive aspect of the match was almost incidental, although there were a few English batsmen that needed to find form. It was great just to be at the cricket, having a beer, watching England. I enjoyed myself so much that I am going on Friday and Saturday too.

I hope that the cricket gods are smiling on the good guys over the course of what I suspect will be a very even Ashes series...

www.bleakumbrella.com

Monday, November 8, 2010

Scootering

It's been a while, but yesterday I had the great pleasure of taking my beautiful 1963 Vespa out for a spin. Winter, travel and laziness have kept me off the scooter for a few months. The sense of guilt I felt was becoming an issue. In recent weeks, despite being flushed with springtime optimism, I couldn't get the thing to start. I feared the worst.
On Saturday I filled up the tank, looked at the spark plug and gave things a general wipe. I'm not sure what it was, it may even have been the warm sun, but when I ventured to kick it over it sprang into life on the third attempt. A little smoky, but purring nicely. Filled with happy thoughts, I resolved to ride on Sunday.
Sunday was a pleasant, cloudy morning; perfect weather for a spin. I didn't want to venture too far from home as I was concerned that we might get into difficulties after such a long period of inactivity. I needn't have worried. I spent the best part of an hour scootering around the local suburbs. I zigged and zagged through the streets of Millswood, Unley Park, Wayville, Hyde Park and Kings Park, having a great old time. The major roads allowed me to break the shackles of the 40 kmh limits and I was able to push just a little harder on the throttle. I would have stopped for a coffee but I was worried I'd have trouble getting started again. No matter, that confidence will come. It was a great way to start my day. Mods, baby, mods.

I really must do this more often.

www.bleakumbrella.com

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Paul Weller: Melbourne

I thought I might have been being greedy and wasteful, going to see Paul Weller in Melbourne. It cost a bit, and I'd already enjoyed a great night in Adelaide the week before. Perhaps I should have been satisfied with my lot. Having said that, the quality of the Adelaide gig probably encouraged me to think that it was the right decision to travel across. What the hell, you're only here once.

Without any shadow of a doubt, it turned out to be money very well spent.

We got to The Forum pretty early, and entered as soon as they opened the doors. We had a pint, caught up with some people we knew, and then milled around the empty space. We contemplated sitting down for the show, but we couldn't help ourselves. Being early meant we could get up to the stage without any problems, and we started our evening about four people deep. Given that a few people's desire to push in was greater then my desire to fight (zero), we ended up about seven deep. No problem, we're all friends. I did take exception to one individual though. He was the antithesis of your typical Paul Weller punter; dirty, smelly, hairy, and there on a free ticket with his horrible missus. I don't mind a bit of contact in the close-quarters of a gig crowd, but this plank was out of order. The two of them were pushing in, lurching all over the place, annoying everyone and, once I'd reached breaking point, I gave him an almighty shove. This was followed by a few verbals and, although the apeman was threatening all sorts, he didn't touch me (or look at me) again all night. Tosser.
On the positive side, I met a top bloke from New Zealand who had travelled over with his wife especially for the gig, all booked and paid for a day before Weller announced he would head over to NZ after his Australian tour. He didn't care; he was made up just to be at the concert.
The show was brilliant. Loads of different songs from the Adelaide performance: Peacock suit, From the floorboards up, Paper chase, Echoes round the sun, Scrape away, and one of my all time favourites: Strange town. Heady stuff. It was good and loud, and the crowd were into it. It wasn't too mental where we were but there was plenty of good natured bumping and swaying, clapping and singing. So many Weller fans, most of which have been listening for 30 years or more. Pretty green, Start!, That's entertainment, even Art school, for god's sake. You can imagine the good vibe. And it's not all about yesterday - most of the material from the last two albums holds up very well. There was barely a flat spot in the whole performance. Maybe when the great man's chewing gum slipped from his mouth and onto his guitar...
After a prolonged wait for a third encore that didn't eventuate, we emerged, a little sweaty and a bit knackered, from the theatre. Blokes were selling knock off t-shirts in the lane outside; I decided not to bother. The pub on the corner was shut so it was back to the room and time for a cup of tea.

Deep down inside I wished I was going again tonight...

Set list- Oct 26 2010
1. Peacock Suit (Heavy soul)
2. 7 & 3 is the striker's name (Wake up the nation)
3. From the floorboards up (As is now)
4. All I wanna do is be with you (22 dreams)
5. Andromeda (Wake up the nation)
6. Strange town (single - The Jam)
7. Into tomorrow (Paul Weller)
8. Paper chase (new song)
9. Up the dosage (Wake up the nation)
10. Aim high (Wake up the nation)
11. No tears to cry (Wake up the nation)
12. Shout to the top (single - The Style Council)
13. That's entertainment (Sound affects - The Jam)
14. Trees (Wake up the nation)
15. How sweet it is (cover)
16. Fast car/Slow traffic (Wake up the nation)
17. Pretty green (Sound affects - The Jam)
18. Start! (Sound affects - The Jam)
19. Echoes round the sun (22 dreams)

1. Art School (In the city - The Jam)
2. Come on/Let's go (As is now)
3. Scrape away (Sound affects - The Jam)

1. Pieces of a dream (Wake up the nation)
2. The changingman (Stanley Road)

www.bleakumbrella.com

Saturday, October 23, 2010

One week down

At least I have a view from my window ... nice, isn't it?

I returned to work this week. It's not been the shock to the system that I expected, in fact it has been pretty easygoing. People have been kind, as well as genuinely interested in how I've spent the last six months. I have gently rebuilt my relationships, my routine, and I have come to grips with a new role.
It all seems just the same as when I left it. The only thing that might have significantly changed is me. Which was sort of the idea behind running away for such a long time.
There's been no frustration, no panic, and no grumpiness. Long may that continue. Time will tell.

www.bleakumbrella.com

Thursday, October 21, 2010

One of those nights...

Sometimes it all falls into place.

A few weeks back, I received a text message from Ronnie Taheny, asking me if I would like to support her at an upcoming SCALA performance evening. It was to be her last Adelaide performance until early 2012, as she is soon off to Scotland and will then (I guess) return to her Frankfurt base. I almost never turn down a gig, and I certainly wasn't going to pass up the opportunity to showcase my songs while on the same bill as the impressive Ms Taheny. I said yes immediately.
As the evening grew closer, it seemed as though the gods were conspiring against me. I almost never catch colds and the like, yet one week before the performance I was struck down with a headcold. It had me coughing and spluttering throughout most evenings, and my voice sounded like I was channeling Jack Nicholson. Great. If that wasn't enough, my thumb decided to split open, through dryness, and the pain centred exactly at the point where the thumb applies pressure to the pick. Double-great. Also, I was back in my day job, which kind of gets in the way of the music mindset...
I continued my usual schedule of rehearsal, rasping through my catalogue of songs and wincing while strumming. Hoping against hope that I would get well soon.
The evening arrived. I wasn't a lot better, but I was resolved to show some backbone and just get on with it. The show must go on.
Perhaps I was inspired my recent attendance at the Paul Weller gig, or perhaps it was the fact that this was a bit of a special evening, I don't know - but tonight was a night I will remember for a while.
A healthy crowd turned up early, and it was pleasing to see a couple of enclaves of David Robinson invitees ensconced in the midst of the audience.
Peter Wilson was first up, playing his own brand of pop/folk/punk songs through his amp, sounding a little like an Adelaide Billy Bragg. It was the first time I'd seen Peter play, and I hope I will see him again soon.
I hit the stage second, feeling good and ready to rock. My ailments didn't seem to affect my performance at all - my voice felt alright, and my thumb was pain-free. I launched into my set and, as usual, the whole performance seemed to pass far too quickly. Seven (and a bit) songs, all done and dusted in just over 30 minutes. All of my newer numbers, with a few of my favourites thrown in. The crowd seemed into it. I did my best to mach schau and played, sang and chatted with enthusiasm. It was a shame (for me at least) that I had to finish. I felt pretty groovy as I stepped from the stage.
Feedback from friends and punters was positive, and I got the feeling that I'd gone down well with the masses. Someone splashed out and bought a copy of A Drop in the Ocean; it's always pleasing to sell an album.
Ronnie played last, and it was great to sit down amongst friends, have a beer, and watch one of Adelaide's best exports strut her stuff. She played for an hour, trotting out many of my favourite Taheny songs.
I left Higher Ground a very happy man indeed. A great night.

If every day as a musician was like today, I'd never do anything else...

www.bleakumbrella.com

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Paul Weller: Adelaide

I went along to the Entertainment Centre on Sunday night, the last day of my rather wonderful extended break, to see Paul Weller. Weller is one of my major influences, and I'm not ashamed to say that I have been a fan for many years - ever since I first heard The Jam back in the late 1970s. I appeared on a Paul Weller tribute CD a few years back which was a great moment for me, as well as being a lot of fun. The track I chose to cover was The Place I Love, from the classic All Mod Cons album.
I've seen him once before; on the Isle of Wight in 2008. That gig was fantastic, the stuff of legend. I wasn't sure how he could top it.
I think, however, that on Sunday he just about did.
Lean, confident, happy and, above all else, accomplished - Weller looked at ease throughout the evening. This was no doubt helped by the wide-ranging talents of the band, and the collective good vibe that was exuded. They roared through a set list that was largely rooted in the last two Paul Weller albums, but featured classics from The Jam and The Style Council, as well as from other solo efforts.
At the tender age of 52, the newly-married Weller gives the impression that he is a man enjoying life, bringing his mod classics to life in front of passionate, informed audiences.
Sensational.
And I am off to Melbourne to see him again next week!

Set list- Oct 17 2010
1. 22 dreams (22 dreams)
2. Push it along (22 dreams)
3. Andromeda (Wake up the nation)
4. 7 & 3 is the striker's name (Wake up the nation)
5. Into tomorrow (Paul Weller)
6. Sea spray (22 dreams)
7. All I wanna do is be with you (22 dreams)
8. That's entertainment (Sound Affects - The Jam)
9. Aim high (Wake up the nation)
10. No tears to cry (Wake up the nation)
11. Shout to the top (single - The Style Council)
12. Up the dosage (Wake up the nation)
13. Broken stones (Stanley Road)
14. How sweet it is (cover)
15. Trees (Wake up the nation)
16. You do something to me (Stanley Road)
17. Empty ring (22 dreams)
18. Pretty green (Sound Affects - The Jam)
19. Start! (Sound Affects - The Jam)
20. Fast car/Slow traffic (Wake up the nation)
21. Moonshine (Wake up the nation)

1. Wake up the nation (Wake up the nation)
2. Pieces of a dream (Wake up the nation)
3. Art School (In the city - The Jam)
4. Come on/Let's go (As is now)

1. The changingman (Stanley Road)
2. Porcelain gods (Stanley Road)

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Lecter Factor

Over the past few days I have watched all of the Hannibal Lecter films. Some are better than others, but the concentrated experience of viewing them all (special features included) was a worthwhile pursuit. I watched them in a strange order that didn't follow the chronology of either the film releases or the central character. It made sense at the time...
I kicked off with Manhunter, the original, pre-Anthony Hopkins adaptation of the Thomas Harris novel Red Dragon. It was made in 1986, and is a pretty good effort. In a few small ways it is better than Red Dragon, made some 16 years later. I watched the 2002 version second. Overall it is better than its predecessor.
Silence of the Lambs came next, for many people the definitive Lecter film, and I followed up with the enjoyable, but overblown, Hannibal. Hopkins and Jodie Foster make the first film great, and it should come as no surprise to find that I agree with those who say it is the pick of the bunch.
I finished my marathon with Hannibal Rising, an OK film, but missing the vital ingredient that made the others, including Manhunter, so good.

A pleasant way to while away a few afternoons, helped along by a dish of fava beans and a nice Chianti. No liver though; I'm a vegetarian.

www.bleakumbrella.com

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Nose to the grindstone

I am headed back to work on Monday. It's been five and a bit months since I was last there, and the break has been brilliant. I've been much busier than I expected, and there's plenty of stuff that I am still trying to get to. I haven't read as much as I would have liked (damn you, Ulysses!), haven't written enough music, nor have I learned many new culinary skills. But these are all things that can be worked on.
Having said all of that that, the house and garden are about as well organised as they have ever been, I've been to England, written a number of articles for magazines, and toured the Flinders Ranges on my bike. I've performed a few times, and become better acquainted with my recording studio. I've watched loads of films, and listened to plenty of music. The household technology has advanced, with most appliances and applications integrating successfully. It's been a hoot.

Salad days, indeed.

I'm not sure if this blog will continue. We will see.

www.bleakumbrella.com

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Reading List

I am still wading through James Joyce's Ulysses. It is a great read, but it is taking time.
I was hoping to read loads of books while on leave but it just hasn't happened. Here's a list of some recent (and not so recent) acquisitions that are still requiring my attention:


1. A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
2. The Art and Music of John Lennon - Peter Doggett
3. The Modfather: My Life With Paul Weller - David Lines
4. With Nails - Richard E Grant
5. Tragically I Was an Only Twin - The Complete Peter Cook
6. Dream Catcher - Margaret Salinger
7. Skinheads - John King
8. All of my Moomintroll books - Tove Jansson
9. The Trials of Lenny Bruce - Collins and Skover
10. Finest and Darkest Hours - Kevin Jefferys

I suspect there's more to be added to the list. But these will do for now. I might need to hire someone to read them for me...

www.bleakumbrella.com

Friday, October 8, 2010

Beatlemania

As I type, the last strains of the Let It Be album are fading into nothingness. Earlier today I decided to listen to every 'proper' studio Beatles album in chronological order. There's 13 of them, if you include Yellow Submarine and Magical Mystery Tour, and don't include A Collection of Beatles' Oldies... But Goldies! Around 11.30 this morning I stuck Please Please Me into the CD player, and have been listening ever since...
I did take a break. I spent five hours playing Beatles covers with a couple of mates. What a great way to spend a Friday night. I'm sure there's room in Adelaide for another Beatles band, and we are just the guys to do it. Keep an eye out for The Nowhere Men. We rock. And we roll.

I guess you could say it has been a Beatles kind of day.

Tomorrow is John Lennon's Birthday. Happy 70th birthday John. Rest in peace. I miss you.

www.bleakumbrella.com

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Back in the groove.

Well, here we are then. A week has passed since I last updated this site. Time flies when you're keeping busy.
I guess I've been a little "off" with music for a few weeks. I was happier living the Farmer Giles life, pottering around in the vegetable garden and shed. Such is life. The shed and associated bombsite are looking a lot better. I was strong; I managed to get rid of quite a bit of stuff to friends, family or hard refuse. The inside requires work, but I'm hoping for a productive day on Saturday.
Enough of the mundane aspects of my life. Although, depending on how you look at it, I guess it could all be considered mundane.

I have finished the music and lyrical theme for I Never Noticed. I just need to bed down some decent lyrics.
The Metro was great fun on Tuesday night - I played a song I haven't performed live for ages, Happy Acres. It went down well..
I am rehearsing Beatles' songs with friends tomorrow night for another project.
Yours Truly (Ken & I) will be reuniting and playing in December; I am trying to tee up some gigs for this year's fun and games.
I have been booked to appear on Arts Breakfast on the 16th of this month. I always have a good time at Radio Adelaide and am looking forward to doing it again.
It looks like I have arranged two daytime shows at Goodwood for the end of November.
I have two (two!) Paul Weller concerts to look forward to in the next few weeks. I am hoping for inspiration...
The biggest and best news is that I am playing at Higher Ground on October 21st. Ronnie Taheny had generously asked me to support her at the SCALA showcase she is headlining. I'd better get on with some rehearsing!

Back in the musical saddle. Good times indeed.

www.bleakumbrella.com

Thursday, September 30, 2010

The quest for perfect order.

Today, I finally got to grips with my shed. It's a nice place to visit - you can ride on the bike trainer, throw darts, lift weights, listen to music, and see all of the jetsam and flotsam of my life. Stuff that's too good to chuck out, but relatively useless. High school yearbooks, old transistor radios, sets of children's encyclopedias, home brew equipment... you get the idea.
Space is becoming an issue around here, and the shed is the last place in the house where I can gain some space. I hate throwing things away; things that may be useful one day. So I store them, in ever decreasing pockets of available space. Our place is almost full now though, so I need to have a clear out. Ouch.
Phase one is complete. Today I removed a ton of stuff from the shed, and will spend tomorrow working out what can go back in, what can be stored elsewhere, and what has to go.
Hopefully, by the time the weekend is here, I'll be all sorted. Uncluttered shed, uncluttered mind...

www.bleakumbrella.com

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Casio

There's something about these old-style Casio digital watches that is drawing me in. Every time I see one I can't help but think how good looking they are.
I'm not sure if it is the retro styling, what with the seventies having undergone a middle-aged, misty-eyed makeover in recent times, or whether I just think that they are cool.

Either way I'm gonna have to get me one.

www.bleakumbrella.com

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Evening all...

It's far too late to be sitting at the computer.
I am tired. I can feel sleep crawling all over me.
The night is another cold one. It's hard to believe that in a couple of months time we'll all be too hot at night.
I have just arrived home. Another opening, another show. We are over the hump now, five down and four more to do. My rendition of He'll Have to Go is being well received by the audience. Jim Reeves would be proud. I hope.

I bought some new jeans today. I have to return one of the pairs tomorrow. That's the downside of not trying things on I guess...
Jeans aside, the haul from my trip into the city was pretty pleasing. I bought two vinyl LPs - Icehouse by Flowers and UB40's Present Arms for $5 and $3 respectively. The Kids Are Alright DVD was going out for $10; too hard to resist. I also picked up one of those headset/microphone things from a cheapo shop, to make Skyping easier. The September Trad & Now was out, and I supplemented my reading matter with a bunch of mobile phone catalogues as well as the latest Stack.

Life goes on.

www.bleakumbrella.com

Monday, September 27, 2010

Today

Today I woke up feeling a little out of sorts.
Today is Monday, quite possibly the worst day of any given week.
Today I had to talk to people in my office, preparing for my return to work. It's less than three weeks away. Five months has whizzed by. Although the discussions were both necessary and worthwhile, they still got in the way of me being on holiday.
Today was a day that had its fair share of minor irritations, but it was still a fruitful exercise. I started the day with the White Album. I did some cooking, some gardening, and some reading. I continued developing an article that will hopefully see the light of day in a cycling magazine soon, and also did some work on a new song.

I sat out on the front verandah this afternoon, watching the birds lark about in the garden. The pale sun was doing its best to convince me that it was spring. You'll need to try a little harder than that, sun.

This evening I watched another in the Classic Albums series. This episode looked at Duran Duran's second album, Rio. Although it's not an album I am familiar with, the show was enjoyable and informative. I'm waiting for the Classic Albums team to knock on my door, wanting to feature A Drop in the Ocean. I'm not holding my breath.

www.bleakumbrella.com

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Showtime

Wednesday evening. It's cold outside. Inside the gymnasium-cum-concert hall, 100 punters sit at their tables, sipping their complimentary sherry, waiting to be entertained. Some look at their watches, counting down the minutes. Others chat excitedly as they scoff down the snacks.
Backstage, it's a happy kind of chaos. Too many people, not enough room, and eleven conversations going on at once. Clothes everywhere. The air is filled with the scents of perfume, talc, and sweat. And wine.
Showtime.
Opening night.
Stage positions aren't quite perfect; people are clattering into each other. Microphones fail, then burst into life mid-song. Lines go missing, only to miraculously reappear somewhere further on in the dialogue. The band just about holds the songs together; it's the first time they've played as a group. The sets and costumes look so much better under lights. Raffle draws and old, bad jokes give the stage people a chance to change the sets.
It's a long night. Well over three hours of entertainment. It all seems to have gone very well, as far as opening nights go.
As the last strains of Show Me The Way To Go Home disappear into the ether, people stand, shake hands, hug, and gently wander into the chilly night air. It's way past bedtime.
I suspect they've had a good night, but that is really for others to judge.

www.bleakumbrella.com

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Another day, another David...

Tuesday arrived, as it seems to do every week, hot on the heels of Monday. With my hands still tingling and my legs still throbbing from my mountain bike hi-jinks, and with a final Monday night Ethelton Entertainers' rehearsal under my belt, I awoke to a day that promised to be different again. I chose another face from the jar that I keep by the door...
Tuesday normally means an open mic performance, and once a month it is also the night I run a songwriter's workshop. The venues are close to each other (aah, Adelaide) so it's not a logistical nightmare to get to both.
I spent the day trying not to think about the bike, tent and other camping wreckage that was piled in the shed, and trying not to think about the music and songs I still had to bed down for the show. I attempted to keep the workshop/open mic in the forefront of my mind. I responded to workshop emails, rehearsed my own songs, thought about one I could present at the workshop, found the various folders and papers I'd need for the evening... generally I kept busy in the music room for most of the day. Apart from the two hours I spent watching The Magnificent Seven in the afternoon. What a movie!
The workshop, featuring the talented John McCall, was a success. At the beginning there were seven new faces, which was refreshing. Alas, many of our regulars were missing. Still, it's their loss. It was a good night, even if we only had two volunteers for the songwriters' circle.
The open mic was also groovy. Not only did I have fun on stage, but it was good to catch up with people after being away last week.

Spending the evening amongst musical friends. There's not much that can top that.

photo: Copyright © Stewart Cook 2010

www.bleakumbrella.com

Monday, September 20, 2010

24 hours is a long time in Millswood

It's hard to believe.
On Sunday night I arrived at the front door, exhausted, dirty and sporting a week's growth. I was happy, but pretty beaten up by the Flinders. All I was good for was a bath, a pizza, and a whisky. And a decent night's sleep in my own bed.

By the time the sun set on Monday I was scrubbed, shaved, dressed properly and ready to play music as part of the Ethelton Entertainers. I was still tired, but I think I kept it pretty well hidden.

Hard to believe it was the same person.

The show starts on Wednesday night. Nine performances in 11 nights.

It never stops.

www.bleakumbrella.com

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Ride, pub, eat, sleep. Repeat.

I've spent the last week or so on a 500-kilometre cycling tour of the Flinders Ranges. It was great fun, hard work, and cold & wet on occasions. They have had so much rain up there that I doubt I will ever see the landscape so green ever again.
Generally I do at least one tour per year; this year's ride was a great opportunity to see the Flinders from the road, and in the springtime. I've been up there three times before, but always in April, and as part of an off-road trek. Something different was in store this time.
The 90-kilometre long, straight road from Blinman to Parachilna, and the dirt road from Parachilna to Blinman, have now been added to my list of northern adventures. I have successfully navigated water crossings, having pedalled through five of them. I have crossed the windy Willochra plain in both directions, and ridden the fast track from Wilpena Pound to Hawker in the morning sun.
Early starts were the order of most days and, despite the cold, I jumped in the saddle as soon as I was ready. The afternoons were spent comparing the quality of Pale Ale in the various towns' pubs, and nightfall brought about the communal meal and some fractured sleep in my tent - due to the cold temperatures as well as the sweet sound of people snoring their heads off.
I arrived home this evening, having finished off the tour in style with an 83-kilometre morning ride through Horrock's Pass. A fair climb was followed by about nine kilometres of fast downhill, the first section on smooth bitumen before giving way to a bumpy stretch of packed gravel. I barely had to pedal. Fun times indeed.
New friendships were formed, and it was great to catch up with some familiar faces. Sometimes these trips achieve a near-perfect balance between the bike-specific and the social aspects; on balance, I think this ride just about got it right.
A few spokes got broken but, apart from that, the bike and I have emerged relatively unscathed.

No matter how good your adventures, it's always nice to get home!

www.bleakumbrella.com

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Good Life II

After making a few decent tilts at the vegetable garden, I think we are now at a stage where we are headed in the right direction. The first job was the worst: digging out the soil from the beds and re-setting the sleepers. It was heavy work, and we had to do it in all sorts of weather, but it was necessary. The gaps were getting so big that earth and water were just pouring out.
We've removed all the dead plants, fed the soil, and cut back the plants that we think will go for another season. The spinach and silverbeet are going gangbusters, and we'll be eating broad beans in a couple of weeks. Chives, parsley, chillies, thyme and rosemary are almost perennial crops in our garden. We've sowed our tomato, beetroot and basil seeds, and we expect to see the rocket poking its head out soon. The fruit trees are healthy.
We are looking forward to cooking and eating plenty of our own produce over the next few months!

www.bleakumbrella.com

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Brecknock

Did you hear the one about the Irish pub that was mistaken for a Chinese restaurant?

I had a couple of pints in The Brecknock this afternoon, following a successfully navigated lunch appointment. All the talk about The Brecknock at the moment is that, after many years of serving Guinness to thirsty punters, it is being sold/demolished/replaced with a Chinese restaurant. I thought this was a certainty but, if it is, no-one has told The Brecknock. The bar staff denied that any such events were happening, and there was a notice on the bar from 'the management' refuting that anything other than much needed maintenance was about to take place.

I can state here, without any fear of contradiction, that Adelaide's oldest and best fake Irish pub (ie not actually in Ireland) might be closing. Or might not.

www.bleakumbrella.com

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Playing with others.

I am very happy being a solo artist. I can be as fervent, or as slack, as I choose about rehearsals, there's no internal politics, and I win all the arguments about song selection.
I do, however, get a real buzz out of occasionally collaborating with other musicians. This is something that I have recently rediscovered, perhaps only in the last three years or so.
Working with others is something I didn't do for many years, after playing for a decade or so in bands that, more often than not, ended in acrimonious circumstances. I'd had enough of the 'artistic differences' and the discordant aspiration so I decided that I'd be better served running my own race.
In recent times I have rehearsed and performed with others and, despite my initial reservations, it has been a great experience.
Two guitars and two vocals gives you more than double the sound; it gives you options and opportunities to completely change your sound. A little percussion often helps lift a song. And, of course, there is that lovely sense of synergy you get; that you are better because you are playing together.
So, to Lindsay, Ken, Stewart, Costa, John, Catherine and Corey, a big thanks for sharing the performance space(s) with me. Long may it continue.

www.bleakumbrella.com

Monday, September 6, 2010

In the City

Nocturnal musical adventures aside, today was my first trip into little ol' Adelaide since returning to these shores almost three weeks ago.
I had a few things to do; I was looking forward a full morning of shopping and other jobs before meeting friends for lunch.
As I walked into town, through the parklands that encircle Adelaide, the damage of the weekend's storms was evident. A few trees had been dramatically ripped apart, and branches were strewn all over the place. Council workers were toiling to chop up debris into bite-size chunks before shipping it off to the Tree Graveyard.
My morning was industrious. I weaved in and out of the human traffic, into shops, banks and offices. Buying, asking, dropping-off and browsing. As expected, the city was the same as when I'd last been in; a merging of the pleasant and the unsightly, the rude and the considerate, the essential and the trivial...
I left the centre of town with a bag full of books, magazines, mountain bike accessories and some computer bits & pieces. I was pretty satisfied that I'd successfully completed my mission.
Lunch at Citi Zen was enjoyable and nourishing, and I capped a good day's work off with a walk home.

www.bleakumbrella.com

Sunday, September 5, 2010

That was the week that was

Over the course of the last seven days I have deepened my resolve to work less and live more.
Last Sunday I went for a life-affirming bike ride down along the beachfront. It was a round trip of only 30 kilometres but it was my first ride for a few months. I also gave an unplugged performance at Burnside in the afternoon.
On Monday I baked biscuits, mowed lawns and reorganised book cases and cupboards, before attending a SCALA Board meeting in the evening. A nice meditative sort of day.
Tuesday came along and I went bushwalking around Mt Lofty in the beautiful spring-like morning. I filled the middle of the day with chores and music, before heading down to The Metropolitan Hotel for some open mic action.
Wednesday was set aside to begin the re-stack of my music room, one of those jobs that gets worse before it gets better. Uncluttering the house, and the mind. We made pizzas for tea. I finished my day watching episodes of Monty Python's Flying Circus.
On Thursday we did a lot of work in the vegetable garden, happily getting to the stage of putting a few seedlings into the rich, dark soil. I managed to sneak in a viewing of The Manson Family in the afternoon.
Friday was wet; we tried to dodge the weather and get some boring but essential stuff done in the morning, before I continued with my re-stacking in the afternoon. I watched another film, a Norwegian splatter flick called Cold Prey II. I managed to spill red wine on some of my books; this caused me to swear a little (rather a lot, actually). We enjoyed a four-hour power failure on Friday night, watching candles flicker while I played guitar.
On Saturday I got my hair cut, picked up my repaired watch, and continued reorganising rooms. The power went off again in the afternoon, this time it lasted five hours. I made a curry while we chatted in the candlelight. Once the power resumed, we managed to watch a good portion of Lawrence of Arabia before I decided that sleep was more important...

Who is it that ever manages to get bored?

www.bleakumbrella.com

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Dancing in the dark

After an industrious day that combined looking in furniture shops (my idea of hell on earth), food shopping and domestic chores, we were more than ready to spend our rainy Friday night curled up in front of the telly. We'd poured the wine, turned the heater on, and cued up David Lean's 1962 classic, Lawrence of Arabia. I hadn't seen it in years and was looking forward to it greatly.
We were 7.35 into the 220 minute epic when the power went off. The house was plunged into darkness and silence.
Via mobile phone, we ascertained that the power would be off until 11.00, so that was the Friday night film over and done with then.
We lit candles, turned as many things off as we could remember having turned on, and listened some very pleasant classical music via my transistor radio. It was actually a nice change.
After an hour or so I took a candle and went into another room. I picked up my 12-string and knocked out a few covers before working on a new David Robinson song. I played it over and over again, each time bedding it down a little more. Presently it sounds a bit too much like someone else (I won't say who) so I'll need to work it a bit. It's called I Never Noticed. Keep an ear out for it.

Every cloud...

www.bleakumbrella.com

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Lofty ideas.

Taking advantage of yesterday's warmer weather, we went walking in the hills. We chose one of Adelaide's most popular bushwalking trails, the 3.7 kilometre uphill track that leads from Waterfall Gully up to Mt Lofty Summit, the highest point in the Mt Lofty Ranges.
We weren't the only people who'd had a notion to walk; the carpark was full and we were lucky to find a spot.
As we set off, it occurred to me that I hadn't been along this route for quite a few years. Not sure why... We passed the old turnoff to Castle Rock, one of my favourite places, sadly now inaccessible. I have sat on that bald outcrop on many occasions, marveling at the view, composing crappy poetry in my head, and eating homemade fruitcake.
The walk was great. The waterfalls were booming, thanks to the recent rains. The views and scenery were awesome, and we saw our fair share of wildlife. We spotted a koala nestled in its tree, and saw red-browed firetails, superb fairy wrens, and what might have been a singing honeyeater. I was breathing a little hard at times, and my heart was occasionally beating ten to the bar, but it was a very enjoyable excursion. We did it at quite a good clip too, earning our coffee at the summit.
Coming down was slightly quicker, and a little harder on the joints, if not the lungs.
I must do more walking in the hills. It's good for the soul.

www.bleakumbrella.com

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The good life

An almost tangible sense of springtime hangs over Adelaide today. It's not going to last - there's plenty of rain forecast for the next week, with cold temperatures to boot. Still, I'll do my best to make proverbial hay while the sun shines. I will spend as much time as I can in the garden this afternoon. Our vegetable patches need work, and we need to get it done before planting our spring vegetables. The silverbeet, spinach, broad beans, herbs and chillies are thriving, but it is time to think about our spring and summer crops. In order to get to pleasantries of planting seedlings and watching them grow, we first have to shovel piles of soil, shift railway sleepers, and try not to swear while doing it. Still, it will all be worth it when I am tucking into my ripe tomatoes around Christmas time.
Growing, cooking and eating your own fruit and vegetables, on whatever scale, is a good thing.

www.bleakumbrella.com

Monday, August 30, 2010

Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere.

The Burnside Library, despite the fact that it is, well, a library, is a pretty good place to perform. It's all very low key, playing to people as they traipse in and out of the library foyer, but the sound is fantastic. There's no need for amplifiers, microphones etc; all the performer needs do is turn up and play.
I rode my bike to yesterday's performance, with my old Fender strapped to my back, not really realising how exhausted I was from my morning's 'proper' ride. Progress was slow between my place and Burnside, and I was a sweaty mess when I arrived two minutes before showtime. My fellow performers, The Imports were set up and ready, so they went first while I quickly freshened up, tuned my guitar, and determined what song I would open with.
Sometimes, library patrons will stop and sit for a while, have a bit of a listen, and generally take in the ambience. We didn't have many yesterday - just family and friends of The Imports, and organiser Robert Childs (who took the photo).
We filled the hour with a few of our tunes, taking turns to perform. We had a incessant alarm at the other end of the foyer to accompany us, as well as the occasional screaming child.
I rode home in the afternoon sun sans guitar, glad I'd made the effort, but unable to determine exactly why...
Art for art's sake!

www.bleakumbrella.com

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Something in the way

I went down to The Metro last night and had a play. I'd been struggling most of the day, trying to wrap my head around minor, but nonetheless vexing, issues. I felt like a release, and I knew that having my guitar in my hands would help.
It was a cold, rather horrible night outside, and I was somewhat surprised to find that I wasn't the only person daft enough to have ventured out. The bar was well-stocked with musicians and punters, all seemingly focused on having a good night out.
The music was groovy, the vibe was excellent, and the black and tans were, no doubt, nourishing. It was nice to be back in the fold. I did five songs, doffing my cap to John Lennon and Kurt Cobain along the way.
I'm glad I went; it would have been easy to sit in my warm lounge room and watch telly. But not nearly as much fun!

www.bleakumbrella.com

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

That's Entertainment

Last night, I braved the inhospitable winter cold and went to my first Ethelton Entertainers' rehearsal for the 2010. Good thing too, as the show commences at the end of September.
It's been running for years, borne out of a 1970s school production that has grown significantly as time has passed. What was a show put on by a small group of mums from the local school now boasts an annual two-week performance season, playing to 100 people per night, raising money for Camp Quality and the school. The troupe comprises 30-40 people, all pulling their weight backstage, on stage, and anywhere else they are needed.
Apart from treading the boards to sing a song or two, I spend the nightly performances snugly ensconced in the orchestra pit. I get to play my Ibanez Beatle bass for two weeks, which is the only serious workout it gets these days. The band comprises anywhere between four and six musicians, and all bar me are highly skilled players. I am the baby of the group, with most of the others being highly-regarded members of the local jazz scene a generation before I was born. It is a pleasure and a privilege to play with such wonderful people.

Rock and roll.

www.bleakumbrella.com

Monday, August 23, 2010

Back to reality

I have been back at Millswood for the best part of a week. It's amazing how quickly the time has passed.
I have been moving quickly from being very tired to being wide awake. It can hit anytime - in either direction. I am waking up very early. On Saturday night I was so exhausted that I fell asleep on the sofa at about 8.00 PM (must have been the gripping election coverage). I am instantly wide awake at 1.00 in the morning, processing my thoughts... Things I did yesterday seem like recollections of dreams. Like all things, it will pass.
The frantic nature of the first couple of days back at home has now subsided, and we are attacking our chores at a gentler pace. I have cooked a fair bit, in an effort to eat more healthily. Those crumbed mushrooms and fried onion rings they serve in the pubs can certainly add to your girth. I am still unpacking, the Vespa requires my help, we are looking at improving the storage around the place, and I am about to re-open my brewery ie make some beer. The vegetable garden deserves some attention and I need to rehearse.
There's plenty to keep us occupied; glad I'm not back at work.

www.bleakumbrella.com

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Home.

We emerged, tired but not defeated, from Singapore Airlines flight SQ 0279 around 48 hours ago. The intervening period has been, understandably, a bit of a blur. I refused to surrender to the jet lag, and immediately upon getting home we were tidying, cleaning and washing. We mowed the lawns and straightened out the gardens.
I'd avoided hearing the Manchester United score so I was able to watch the replay in a pseudo-live environment. The good guys beat Newcastle comfortably. Welcome home David.
I went out to the open mic and performed on Tuesday night. Probably not the most sensible decision but I was keen to play, and catch up with friends, even if I was only partly there...
Yesterday was better, but still a little unreal. We had to go down to Port Adelaide and I had the opportunity to browse the shops for DVDs, as well as do some grocery shopping.
I made puttanesca for tea and it came up pretty good. We enjoyed it with some mustard bread and washed it down with a glass of two of red.
In the evening I sat down with the excellent Sky Sports commentary team and watched Day One of England v Pakistan from The Oval. It's hard to believe that a little under three weeks ago I was sitting at Trent Bridge, watching the Second Test...
There's still quite a bit to do around here but I imagine that I will be in front by the time the weekend arrives. Here's hoping anyway.

www.bleakumbrella.com

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Captain Grumpy

Being trapped on a plane for a day or so afforded me the opportunity of reading Mike Atherton's autobiography, Opening Up. I purchased the book for the princely sum of £1.99 at the Help the Aged shop in Belper. It is the first sporting autobiography I have read since Boris Becker's effort, and it is a worthy read indeed. Atherton was/is a particular favourite of mine, and his book is an honest account of his cricketing career. He resists the temptation to play the revisionist card, is realistic about his successes and failures, and shares his opinions of many players, administrators and coaches. I am not surprised that Atherton's journalism - initially writing for The Sunday Telegraph and now ensconced in his role as cricket correspondent for The Times - saw him win the British Press Awards' Sports Journalist of the Year in March 2010.
Definitely worth a read.

www.bleakumbrella.com

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Beer Hunter.

Worthington's Creamflow, The Ibis, Hull. Marston's Smooth, KC Stadium, Hull. Greene King IPA, The Masters Bar, Hull. Abbot Ale, The Bootham Tavern, York. Rudgate Viking, Old White Swan, York. Thornbridge Wild Swan, Old White Swan, York. Black Sheep Ale, The Exhibition, York. John Smith's Extra Smooth, New Earswick & District Bowling Club, Huntington. Tetley's Smoothflow Bitter, The Manor Court, Bridlington. Greene King IPA, Imperial Vaults, Belper. Wells and Young's Bombardier, Smith & Jones, Belper. Abbot Ale, Standing Order, Derby. (Name Escapes Me), Ye Olde Dolphin Inn, Derby. Bateman's Daddy's Little Fella, The Markeaton, Allestree. Ringwood Fortyniner, The Dead Poets Inn, Holbrook. Business As Usual, The Greyhound, Derby. Pick of the Hops, The Greyhound, Derby. Marston's EPA, Rolls Royce Pavilion, Derby. Marston's Bitter, Rolls Royce Pavilion, Derby. Marston's Pedigree, Rolls Royce Pavilion, Derby. Whim's Hartington IPA, The Dead Poets Inn, Holbrook. Oakham's Inferno, The Dead Poets Inn, Holbrook. Hardy and Hanson's Bitter, The White Hart, Bargate. Wychwood Hobgoblin, Smith & Jones, Belper. Old Speckled Hen, The White Hart, Bargate. Timothy Taylor Landlord, Ye Olde Dolphin Inn, Derby. Adnams Broadside, Hop Inn, Openwoodgate. Shepherd Neame Spitfire, The Hurt Arms, Ambergate. Kelham Island Easy Rider, The Market, Chesterfield. Peak Ales' Swift Nick, The Red Lion, Bakewell. Chatsworth Gold, The Red Lion, Bakewell. Ashover Hydro, The Old Poets Corner, Ashover. Bradfield Yorkshire Farmer, The Hollybush, Makeney. Thornbridge Lord Marples, The Dead Poets Inn, Holbrook. Blue Monkey Guerrilla, The Dead Poets Inn, Holbrook. Abbeydale Moonshine, The Dead Poets Inn, Holbrook. Whim's Hartington IPA, The Dead Poets Inn, Holbrook. Hopback Summer Lightning, The Dead Poets Inn, Holbrook. Waggle Dance, Smith & Jones, Belper. Shepherd Neame Bishop's Finger, Standing Order, Derby. Falstaff Brewery Pegasus, Spotted Cow, Holbrook. Derby Brewing Company Crystal Glow, Spotted Cow, Holbrook. Tower Brewery East Mill Bitter, George and Dragon, Belper. Falstaff Brewery Fistful of Hops, The Lion, Belper. St Peters Best Bitter (bottle), Scooter Caffe, Waterloo. Timothy Taylor Landlord, Zetland Arms, South Kensington. Young's London Gold, Zetland Arms, South Kensington. Fullers London Pride, Zetland Arms, South Kensington. St Austell Tribute, The Queens, St Ives. St Austell Proper Job, The Queens, St Ives. Skinners Betty Stogs Bitter, Golden Lion, St Ives. St Austell Tribute, Longships Bar, Land's End. St Austell Proper Job, The Queens, St Ives. Sharp's Doom Bar, Scott Arms, Kingston. Ringwood Best Bitter, Chequers, Lytchett Matravers. Wychwood Hobgoblin, Chequers, Lytchett Matravers. Guinness, Heathrow Airport, Middlesex.

www.bleakumbrella.com

Sunday, August 15, 2010

last looks...

So, this is it. After four and a bit weeks, we are preparing to head home.

It's been a blast. Everyone has been so lovely. We've walked in the countryside for miles and seen some truly breathtaking sights. I've performed in Derby, and no-one threw anything at me. We've been to Lord's, Wembley, Trent Bridge and the KC Stadium and seen some top-drawer sport. Swinging London was fun, as were the additional mod excursions. We've visited Abbey Road and a host of other Beatles' landmarks. We've stood on the most western point of the island. The beer has been great and I've eaten twice as much as I've needed.
Hooray for us!

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Saturday, August 14, 2010

Purbeck country

Our last weekend in Blighty was spent on the South Coast. We enjoyed a brilliant walk on Friday which took us up hill and down dale, following the spectacular coastline for some time. There were some pretty serious cliffs around St Aldhelm's Head so I am happy that it was a relatively calm day. Ten kilometres or so of pretty good walking was capped off with a nourishing pint at the Scott Arms in Kingston.
Saturday was pretty lazy - a quick visit to Poole was the only thing that required any effort. Lynn and I popped out to the local in the evening. Our conversation centred around things we will be doing when we get back - a sure sign that we are now in coming-home mode...

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Friday, August 13, 2010

In Dorset.

Our last couple of days is being spent with family in Lytchett Matravers, a beautiful little spot just outside of Poole. On the way here we had a brief stop in Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall country - the little town of Bridport.
It is a very pleasant and sunny Friday morning here, and we are off for a long walk. Tomorrow we will have a nice day exploring Poole.
On Sunday night we climb up onto the second story of the airbus and begin the long trek home... a bit of a drag, but a necessary evil.
Being so close to leaving, it is impossible not to thinking about the tasks awaiting us next week. Washing, unpacking, cleaning, lawn mowing etc. All done with a healthy dose of jet lag.
I just hope Monty is as happy to see us as we will be to see him.

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Thursday, August 12, 2010

End of the island

The persistent drizzle had passed, but the skies were still a cheerless grey, when we woke on Wednesday morning. We were hopeful of some sunshine, at least for the later part of our day, as we headed for Land's End - the western-most point of the Great British island.
We caught an open-topped bus and sat up top for our trip, enjoying the bracing breeze, and the views, as we motored along.
Land's End is part-amusement park, part-natural history, and part-national curiosity. For whatever reasons, it certainly is a popular place with visitors.
We had a bit of a wander, taking in the scenery, and looking for good place to take a photograph or two.
We walked, we had a look in the shops, we had a pint (well, you can't come all this way and not have one, can you?) and then we walked some more. We saw the commemorations of those who have made the epic Land's End to John o' Groats trek, and saw memorials to a couple of people who had died on their bicycles while attempting the journey. Sad, and probably no fault of their own.
So, another tick in the box. Land's End, done.
The open-top ride home was very pleasant, and a bit warmer.

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