Sunday, 25 May 2008

Wedding Gig

Last night we were out in the beautiful countryside of the Trough of Bowland, playing at the wedding of Lee and Gail in Oakenclough.

We were glad of the SatNav as it would have been a job to find it otherwise! We were playing in a couple of marquees put together in the grounds of a country hotel.

"It'll be in tents tonight..." said David as we glimpsed them from the car. ("intense" - puns don't always work written down...) Then he said it again as we sat in the bar waiting for the speeches to finish. Oh yes, and again over the mic later on. Likes to get his money's worth out of a pun, does David! Ha! "That's what I like about you, John..." he'll say after reading this, "...nothing!"

It was a breezy night - apparently the marquee had had to be re-erected that morning after it blew down the previous night and it was certainly getting up a bit as we say up north! (note to southerners - we don't say oop for up in the northwest!)

We played for a couple of hours, filling the dance floor, then handed over to a disco. Then - disaster - the disco had technical problems. Their amp blew and we had to set back up after having almost broken down completely and we gave them another hour and a half whilst the DJ drove back home to bring another amp. Our amp didn't have enough phono inputs as we use standard jack plugs for everything except the mics.

We were wearing matching white t-shirts with suits instead of our usual black shirts and I thought it looked quite professional too! Anyway the bride, groom and guests were very complimentary about the band's performance and our willingness to step in after the DJs' technical problems. Poor couple, it's every performer's worst nightmare!

Saturday, 24 May 2008

Stress Test

Yesterday was a stress test. Part of the ongoing investigation into my heart attack. I wondered whether they wired you up to a monitor and then told you about Gordon Brown's latest plans for tax but no, it was a wiring up and then a journey to nowhere on a treadmill which went a touch faster than I am normally wont to walk...

I was starting to have visions of flying backwards as the legs stopped of their own volition but one of the nurses said "You look very professional up there!"
"What the heck does that mean?" I asked (gasped). Apparently the majority of people who have this test don't seem able to co-ordinate putting one leg in front of another to match the rate of the machine and so do a sort of hop, skip, run-to-catch-up routine.

"Can I still lead a debauched sinful life?" I asked. The doc looked a bit surprised.
"Why? Do you?"
"Well no... but it would be nice to know I could, if the opportunity came along..."

Anyway I bravely stuck it to the end, manfully resisting the urge to drop exhausted over the grab bar at the front to let the feet dangle and be dragged along the treadmill.

I now have little bald patches all over my chest where a very young and pretty nurse shaved them to stick on the ECG contacts. I might sell pictures on Ebay...

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Fast Track To Edinburgh

Here's a first!

Updating the blog from a moving train! I'm on my way to Edinburgh and so far there seems to have been hordes of rugby fans travelling today. (Sorry!!! Footie fans - I don't follow it as you can tell!) Thankfully they all seemed to be in a good mood, though I'm not sure that the young lady felt all that tranquil getting off the Blackpool train at Preston for what sounded like a very raucous male voice choir singing or chanting "Bouncy, bouncy!". Herd mentality - everyone of them would have been appallingly affronted had the young lady been their girlfriend or wife or sister...

Anyway, all quiet on the Western Front. Or West Coast line anyway.

We played a gig at Witton Park, Blackburn on Sunday, setting up in our usual spot in the courtyard which was set out with straw bales for the audience to sit. Quite a number turned up. It was a nice day (until later - see below) and we ran out of straw bales but thankfully not out of songs!

There was a lot going on besides us. There was some chap dressed up in a duck outfit collecting entries for a duck race. I couldn't resist the temptation and called to him over the mic - "Collect a bit for charity, there's a duck..."!

From lunchtime we kept hearing thunder rumbling in the far distance, though it remained warm and sunny through the afternoon. Then as we were considering calling it a day and just as we were halfway through the last chorus huge raindrops started to fall. We finished, yelled "Thank you, goodbye!" and yanked plugs from sockets and dragged the equipment into the shelter of the ex-stable that we use as a base.

Almost immediately the Heavens opened and thunder, lightning and hailstones the size of marrowfats were bouncing all over the place.

A great day with none of the usual requests for "just one more", as the audience dived for cover too!

Up until then though it had been so sunny I couldn't read the LCD display on the keyboard which led to this rather unfortunate necessity...

For now we are still rattling on. Carlisle has just faded behind us, a mass of greenery against blue skies and sunny enough for a man to be sunbathing in just a pair of shorts on a grassy bank against a wall.

There's a relaxed air on the train. In fact I've been having to put up with the barely restrained antics of not one, but two sets of lovers in the seats before me and diagonally opposite. I noticed them first (the diagonally opposite ones) as his hand slid casually down the (admittedly splendidly inviting) rather loosely fitting back of her jeans.

Then there was a somewhat frenzied slurping noise coming from the seats directly in front and the sight, between the seats of two sets of lips locked in mortal combat. Lucky sods.

Only once have I undertaken a long train journey with a member of the opposite sex who was mutually attracted to me by way of being something of an item. There's something about the motion of a train apparently that makes couples who share an attraction experience deeper feelings.

On that journey long ago, my friend and I sat across a table, holding hands whilst both reading. Without stopping the reading every now and then she would raise my hand to press it against her cheek whilst I would occasionally pull hers towards me to gently kiss the fingers, knuckles, armpit...

This teasing continued until she came to sit cuddled next to me and it was a dreamy wonderful journey that really train companies should anticipate and provide a drop down set of curtains, sound-proofing and a plushly cushioned horizontal surface.

As we cross the border into Scotland (it could be just in front, just behind or a long way away right now) the view is of rolling low hills and bright green grassy fields with rows of trees or hedgerows hinting at streams and rivers that remain out of sight.

A herd of cows - heard of cows? Of course I've heard of cows! - is sitting in their field chewing the cud and probably passing polite conversation amongst themselves. "Mildred dear, you're drooling" or "What's wrong with Daisy? Off stomachs?"

Does it mean rain if cows sit down? Or just that they're fed up of standing?

The first set of lovers got off at Carlisle, walking out under the arched exit, locked in each other's arms to an extent that looked as if it made walking difficult.

The second set in front of me have disengaged and from the faintly heard conversation I've deduced she is an Afrikaaner and he is not. She trotted off towards the end of the carriage and I half expected him to follow after a discreet interval - though sex in a train toilet can't be all that satisfying I would have thought. Anyway to my surprise and possibly to his, she returned with a little food bag. "That's not what I was hoping for!" he could have protested, but he managed instead to look as though that's what he had had in mind all the time - so now I'm back to the slurping noises...

By now the streams and rivers are coming close enough to see - The Clyde I imagine is the tranquil stretch flowing lazily by. Not now - quite fast this train! There's a half dome of moon up in the deep blue sky. Somewhere... Perhaps we've changed direction? Ah yes, there! I knew it wasn't my imagination even with all this romance on my mind.

The cows have now turned from black and white to brown or brown and white from which I deduct, Watson, that we are indeed in Scotland, even had I not seen a river that could be the Clyde. I'm ignoring the fact that due to the lack of handy signs and information hoardings it might well be the Severn, but if that's the case then the train has most definitely changed direction.

Ah, the last set of cows had a red plastic bucket to drink from. "Ermentrude! Come and look at this! What sort of bloody pond do they call this then???"

Now we have entered a land of endless Christmas trees and a large lake or loch or tarn stunningly blue under this reflected sky and complete with a couple of boats with fishermen/poachers. We swept by too quickly to see if they were using rods or dynamite...

Well, I'll pack the laptop away in happy anticipation of arriving at Edinburgh, where hopefully Clive will be joining me to run a workshop tomorrow. We must be getting somewhere close. Just passed through a small station called Kinkerton or Kinworton or even possibly King's Scrotum - something beginning with "Kin" anyway. Train stations just weren't named with trains in mind that might speed through at over 100 miles per hour without stopping!

The cows have now turned into horses - which in conclusion I have deduced is no mean feat...!

Thursday, 8 May 2008

HMS Victory and Sketches

My God, it's like buses! No blog entries for ages and now three at once! So, I'm just in the mood I guess.

If I've not been writing the blog what have I been doing?

Well those of you who keep an eye on the Flickr account will have seen a few
sketches appear recently. That was prompted by a posting on the Billy Fury website.

Also on that site, it's my month to be included in the Hall of Fame. You'll find my musical biography there linked from the main index linked above. My entry in the Hall of Fame also includes two songs, both from Creeping Bentgrass albums, although one (Great Balls of Fire) is one of my solo pieces and the other one (Up Around The Bend) features David and Bob also.

Our entry in the Billy Fury Sounds Special feature this month is a live recording of Johnny B Goode and a few of the residents and holiday makers at Larbreck Hall Caravan Park may recognise their whoops and hollers and general joining in of the chorus!

I've also gone back to scanning the still massive pile of negatives from pre-digital days that still need to be scanned. This example was taken (despite the blue sky and sunshine) in February(!) 1996 and shows the famous warship, HMS Victory.

Not Nelson's ship, as Captain Hardy should have that honour, but it was on this ship that Nelson received a musket ball in his shoulder that passed down through his lung and broke his spine. He was taken below where he knew full well that he must die from his injuries.

"Not the side, Hardy," he said, forbidding Captain Hardy to perform the traditional ceremony of burial at sea. With the problem of how to keep the body from rotting and smelling, the ship's surgeon had the body placed in a large barrel which was then filled with port wine.

The spot where he died, in the ship's orlop below the waterline is as close to a shrine as the Royal Navy has. A ceremony is held there every year on the anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar at which Nelson was killed.

Oh yes... and the Sally Geeson photo has gone on to new levels of fascination for the Internet public as it has now reached a viewing count of 1473, racing for the 2000 target and achieving daily viewings that peaked with an amazing 66 views on the 3rd of May. All of this without a single comment on it!

A Stupid Name For a Caravan

As part of the new slower more restful me, I was sitting snugly in a deserted railway carriage (just me and a young chap opposite shouting "fuck!" into his mobile phone every two seconds) whilst I headed from Blackpool to York.

The Trans-Pennine Express is what the train company lovingly call it but I sometimes think they are the only people who lovingly call it anything... (I do like it actually - see here)

Anyway the train ambled its leisurely express way past a couple of caravan collections. I presume they were at a place of sale rather than the collection of a collector but I caught a glimpse as we crept (sorry - flashed!) by.

The model name was printed on each caravan and it was "Chastity".

Now call me cynical if you want, but I would have thought that caravans were the sort of places where your wife hardly ever wanted to go so either you meet your mistress or lover there or your kids go with their boyfriend/girlfriend for illicit sex. So "Chastity" is probably the last name you would ever go for in a caravan...

PS - I don't have one... (I don't have one called "Lust" or "Nookie" either...)

PPS - At last! A blog entry with "sex" as a tag!

Let's Have a See - Whoa! I Don't Like The Look of That!

Ah yes, catch up time again!

Well it's been a funny old few months really and other things have contrived to become more important. Health for one.

Now here's a comedy of errors for you.

I've been asthmatic since the age of seven and it's been well controlled for so long that if there's even a hint of a wheeze Miss Franny's head shoots up to fix me with an accusatory stare. "What are you wheezing for?!?" she'll say, as if it's something I've done deliberately to wind her up.

Anyway, once a year I have a medical where they do various things like take my blood pressure, ask me about my general health and lifestyle (there's always some surprise at the latter for some reason) and measure my breath output and send me away for another year.

At the asthma test last year they called me back and said "Your blood pressure is up." I didn't even know it had to be renewed...

Heck, with a lifestyle like mine I need my blood pressure to be up! But I went back and am now happily on pills for the rest of my life. They took a blood sample.

From the blood pressure tests they deduced that my thyroid was underactive. Aha! An excuse for the weight, the tiredness, the generally being just plain bloody dopey on some days. I was relieved to find it wasn't the onset of early dementia and was booked into a specialist who would do further tests for the thyroid.

At the thyroid test they weighed me, measured me (height, pal, don't get silly!), asked me lots of questions, did an ECG, sounded me, tested all the reflexes (stop hitting me with that thing!) and said out of the blue "You've had a heart attack."

So now I have even more tests lined up and am wondering what the heck they will find at those!

A few people have said "How could you have a heart attack and not know?" Well in my opinion if you have to have one, then they are the best sort...! Although I can probably remember the incident but I thought I'd just pulled a muscle in my chest (really badly I have to admit!) and I was on the verge of wondering but then it cleared up and didn't recur so I just got on with things.

Now though I have to endure everyone saying "It's a warning!" and "You'll have to slow down..."

I've cut down the driving so now I don't have to worry that this huge queue will mean it could be midnight when I get home and instead can let the train take the strain and just worry about simple things like "will I make that connection?" which is the same as "will I get home at all tonight?"

Tests over the next few weeks so will see whether there needs to be any life change I suppose. It's hard being a rock 'n' roller... Can you pass me the remote, Darling, I can't quite reach it and mustn't exert myself!