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.


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!


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!


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.


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.


Thursday, August 19, 2010


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.


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.


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.


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!


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...


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.


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.


Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Room at the Top

We arrived in St Ives, Cornwall on Monday night after a pretty easygoing travel day. Rubbish newspapers, Coca-Cola, and home-made rolls.
We said farewell to Peter and Bernard at The Luna around 10.00 AM and, after a short detour, boarded the National Express at a very crowded (as usual) Victoria Coach Station.
Our journey took us out of London, onto the M4, and then onto the M5. We passed through Reading, Bristol and Exeter, where I saw the racecourse. We stopped at Plymouth and changed coaches for St Ives.
It was drizzly when we arrived, but we managed to find our small hotel without too much trouble. The chap let us in, and showed us to our room. From the window we could look out over the coastline to the north, and the views would be spectacular on a fine day. It is supposed to clear up this afternoon - fingers crossed.
It was nice to have a change of pace after the rush of London. But it is all relative. The streets are very narrow here, so four pedestrians can almost be as hard to negotiate as 444 mad tourists in London.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Wembley Way

Wembley. If you'd told me ten years ago that I'd get to watch United there one day I wouldn't have believed you. Two years ago I was lucky enough to do it, and we managed a repeat performance last Sunday.
Getting out there was an easy tube ride from Baker Street. We were pretty early so getting into the stadium was similarly simple.
Our seats were in the second to back row behind the goal at the United end. The science of modern stadium design meant that we weren't too far back from the touchline, just quite high up. I'd never seen football from that perspective before and, to be quite honest, it was very enjoyable. You can actually see the game unfolding. even if you can't see the whites of the players' eyes...
There were only about three vuvuzelas in the whole stadium and I think that they were all around us. Whoever thought that they were a good idea should have one inserted into their person.
The game was terrific. The good guys won, the bad guys lost, Javier Hernandez scored in his first proper United match, and Paul Scholes showed why he truly is the footballers' footballer. Apart from his first attempt at a tackle.
Getting home was the expected well-organised but crowded affair. It would have been tolerable except for the two fat lads who decided to board our already packed carriage just as the doors were shutting, ensuring that the trip back to Baker Street was an enviable mix of sweat, alcohol fumes, swearing, and body odour. I'm relieved, to some extent, that stupidity and inconsideration appear to be universal.



In the footsteps of John, Paul, George and Ringo. And Brian.

On the weekend we took a wander through the streets of London, seeking and (mostly) finding Beatles-oriented landmarks. On Saturday we visited Manchester Square, the site of EMI House, where the iconic photographs of the boys looking over the balcony (twice) were taken. We also saw Ringo's leased flat in Montagu Square, where John & Yoko photographed their Two Virgins cover, and also were busted in 1968. The Apple Shop at 94 Baker Street was a disappointment, as it was shrouded in scaffolding. We finished off with a visit to Marylebone Station, one of the locations used in Hard Day's Night.
On Sunday we visited Chapel Street, and saw the house in which Brian Epstein lived (and died). It is also the place where Paul met Linda. From there it was on to The Beatles' flat in Mayfair, and we also visited the Apple Corps building in Savile Row - the site of the rooftop concert. We went to Trident Studios, where Hey Jude was recorded on 31st July 1968. Some of the tracks appearing on the The Beatles and Abbey Road were recorded here. Our final destination was the flat where Paul McCartney sat in the attic and composed Yesterday.
What a great way to spend time in London!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Swinging London

On Saturday afternoon we caught up with a mate of mine for a drink and a feed. He lives out in West Kensington and we were in Victoria, so we decided to meet in the middle. Lynn and I walked through Chelsea and along the Kings Road strip to get there, taking in a bit more of London. It rained most of the way, so we were a little damp upon arrival in (not so) sunny South Kensington.The sun came out and we dried off nicely while we waited for Richard at the tube station.
We had a few pints at the Zetland Arms, before enjoying a very satisfying meal at the Bangkok. I'm not sure the second bottle of wine was the best idea, but what the hell. You only live once.


Saturday, August 7, 2010

Soho Strut

On Friday we had a bit of a mod odyssey in the morning. Proudly sporting my Stark Raving Mod t-shirt, we set off to have a lovely walk around Soho. Highlights included a stroll down Savile Row, a look around Merc and Pretty Green in Carnaby Street, a wander through Wardour Street and, of course, a coffee at Bar Italia.
I saw some great gear, but didn't buy anything. Bloody weight restrictions. Next time I'm coming over with an empty suitcase and only the clothes I am wearing. 'Clean living under difficult circumstances', indeed...
I even managed a few beers later in the day at the Scooter Caffe down in Waterloo, with our friend Amanda.


Friday, August 6, 2010

Abbey Road

Late afternoon in London. As we were wandering around St John's Wood, it occurred to me that we might not be far away from Abbey Road Studios. A quick look at the map confirmed this but, as we rounded the next bend, it became obvious that looking at the map had been an unnecessary effort. The place was teeming with people; all ages, all nationalities, and all kinds of cameras. All intent on capturing a perfect shot of themselves, but impossible, as there are simply so many people. We joined in the fun, and after a few attempts Lynn captured a pretty crappy shot of me making the crossing, to go with the pretty crappy one we took in 1998.
My advice to anyone wanting to get a really good shot is to go down there at dawn.
It was nice to walk down the road though; over the zebra crossing and past the studio, reading the graffiti along the way. Made me feel like a Beatles' fan!


A nice afternoon at Lord's

Our first few steps in the big smoke provided a mighty contrast to our rather countrified life of the previous couple of weeks. London was, as you'd expect, teeming. We wasted no time in getting to the hotel, dumping our stuff, freshening up, and heading to Lord's.

We'd never been, and I felt that it would be irresponsible to pass up the opportunity of seeing a match at the home of cricket, so off we went. It was an easy tube ride, and before we knew it we were sitting in the afternoon sun, enjoying a snack, and politely applauding the Northants batsmen as they smashed the ball all around the ground.

We stayed for a few hours, had a nice walk around the ground, and then said farewell. Another great moment in sport.


Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Belper Town 1 v Derby County XI 1

Last night I made my only trip to Christchurch Meadow for 2010. Last time I was here I watched Belper Town play on four occasions. This time it hasn't been quite so easy, with Belper's away fixtures, our other commitments, and general timing issues all getting in the way.
Despite the singularity of the occasion, I could not have picked a better pre-season match to attend because the visitors were a representative side from Derby County. It was in no way a full-strength County side, but I recognised a few names on the team sheet.

Although music is the central plank of my life, it is fair to say that I have quite a lot of enthusiasm for sport. The big occasions are exciting and attractive, but I reserve a special love for grassroots events. Watching Belper Town is one of those things...

It was a good size crowd of 810, probably something to do with the visitors. It was a pleasant, warm evening, which also would have helped. The first half of the match was an open, skilful affair, and we saw two goals. Chris Wood scored a cracker for The Nailers after being gifted the ball, before Rob Hulse equalised for the Rams later in the half. Nailers' goalkeeper Danny Hancock made some good saves to keep the scores level. Conor Doyle shone for Derby, and I will be very surprised if he isn't signed permanently. The second stanza was a little more scratchy, with both sides making five substitutions, but still an enjoyable way to spend my evening. I walked out of the ground and into the dusky evening, surrounded by good Derbyshire banter. I was very glad to be part of it all.

I caught a taxi home to Bargate, and I was surprised to find that the driver was the same bloke who'd picked me up after my last night game, two years ago...


Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Packing our bags

Our time in Derbyshire is rapidly drawing to a close. On Thursday we head to London and it will seem like we are in another world. It will be a little sad to leave friends, family, birthplace and beautiful countryside behind, but we both quite like London. We have friends, Soho, Tate Modern, Carnaby Street, Wembley, the chance of a 'Beatles Walk', and cricket at Lord's to look forward to, amongst other things...

People have been so kind to us since we got here, whether they are family, friends, business proprietors, fellow musicians and/or folk in the street. I can only hope that this continues.
We've had an absolutely belting time thus far, and hopefully there's a lot more to come.

Monday, August 2, 2010

My old house.

We caught a bus out to Borrowash on Monday to see if I could locate my old house - my last home in England - on Kimberley Road. I'd managed to track down the name of the boy who lived next door way back then; to say he was surprised to receive my call is an understatement. But he was very happy to provide me with the number of his old house, which obviously helped me work out mine. Both my parents were unsure.
We weren't there long, but the two of us enjoyed a nice 45-minute walk along the street, stopping out the front to take a few snaps, hoping not to alarm any residents. I allowed myself to spend a few moments thinking about what my life might have been like, had we not emigrated. Not that it matters... The sun was shining, and it was all very pleasant.

Another chapter of my personal Who Do You Think You Are? has been finalised.


Mod Crop!

We went to Nottingham on Saturday to watch a play called Mod Crop. I'd seen the flyer in the Derby TIC and managed to get what were just about the last two available tickets. The people at the Lacemarket Theatre were very helpful and our tickets were waiting for us when we arrived for the Saturday matinee.
The play is a worthy effort; it borrows quite a few settings and affectations from Quadrophenia but stands alone as a good story. It is written by Steve Wallis and Alan Fletcher (who wrote the novelisation of Quadrophenia). There's two shiny scooters (one of each) that are put to good use, there's video footage, and there's recorded music in addition to the live renditions of sixties' classics. The actors were convincing, and the band did very well with the music. I felt old.

Songs included The Crying Game, Lazy Sunday, Substitute, Catch the Wind, The Clapping Song and the classic All or Nothing, amongst others.

We are the mods!