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...

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


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.

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.

Monday, September 27, 2010


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.

Thursday, September 23, 2010


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.
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.

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

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.

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!

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!

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.

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.

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.

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?

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...

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.