Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Single-Sided 78 rpm Record

Over the Christmas break we got out of the house for a bit and visited one of the local antiques warehouses, G.B. Antiques in Lancaster. I wasn't looking for anything in particular but I always have an eye out for old records (which usually means 78s) or old books, or really anything from my past which can give me a nice nostalgic kick.

Finding records in places like this is easy, Finding records in good condition and particularly finding 78s that are not just old collections of classical music is not always easy.

So I was pleasantly surprised to come across three different stalls that had something I could bring away with me. I even bought some 45s, though generally they are in much worse condition than the 78s. 45s didn't break - but they scratched much more easily!

The 10" record pictured dates from 1909. Unbelievable almost that it should be in its original sleeve and that the sleeve was in excellent condition. It was a bit faded and the colour was turning brownish at the edges - I've edited it in the scan to restore the colour.

It is Peter Dawson's rendition of Queen of The Earth and on the B side is... nothing. Many of the very early records were single sided. On the back of the record is an engraving of the Zonophone record company logo.

Altogether I spent £20.80 and came away with 24x 78 rpm records and 5x 45 rpm singles. Not too bad considering they were from antiques stalls, which tend to overprice stuff. The other trouble with antiques stalls is that they tend to think of records as "tat" and plonk sticky labels over them where they will ruin the record label or original sleeve.

I was lucky enough to get the sticky price label off this 1959 Marty Wilde record, but the damage over the record company's name is clear and permanent and caused by the desire to label it at 50p! It has J Mills written on it in pencil, which is harder to spot but in any case only serves to show that the record was loved and valued by a former owner.

I liked the look of these old bottles with the light shining through them, but records were the only things we bought on this visit. So to finish with, here's just a few of the rest of the day's findings.

The 45 rpm singles were in absolute mint condition, though most were in wrong or very tatty sleeves. Buying second hand vinyl is an extremely risky business and I never buy stuff that looks as though it has been given to a dog to play with!

Creeping Bentgrass in Darwen

On Friday 27 December we were out in wildest Darwen. It was the weather that was wild, not the inhabitants, I hasten to add. We were blown about on the road a bit on our way there, but we arrived safely and played for a private house party for our hosts Christine and Brian.

We have played here several times before - we usually play both a garden party in summer and a Christmas house party for Christine and Brian and have come to know many of their regular guests and neighbours. A nice relaxed gig for us too. It's a good place to try out new songs and this time The Tremeloes' Suddenly You Love Me got an airing and went down extremely well with its sing-a-long chorus!

Friday, 27 December 2013

Andre Rieu in Leeds

On the 19th December we picked up my Mum and drove over to Leeds where we had tickets to see Andre Rieu and the Johann Strauss Orchestra.

The Leeds Arena opened this year and wasn't even built when I bought the tickets. It's a great venue more or less right in the middle of Leeds and we were three of 11,500 people heading there for the night.

It could do with a few more restaurants around it, as the ones we came across were hopelessly inadequate for the number of people in the area. We ended up snatching a meal in a very basic MacDonalds - any more basic and I'd have to call it "grotty". The venue itself could do with some feeding places, as otherwise too many restaurants in the area would be without custom on nights the venue was closed.

Anyway, the concert was absolutely wonderful. Carmen Monarcha sang my favourite aria, O Mio Babbino Cara by Puccini and melted every male heart in the place - and probably for several hundred meters around it... Certainly my camera seemed to want to take more photos whenever she was on stage!

Carlos Buono from Argentina played a couple of numbers with Andre on his bandoneon and brought a Latin touch to the proceedings. He cut a very dashing figure too in his pinstripe suit and with a white hat.

The most emotional and inspirational song for me was the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel's Messiah, just stunning. But there was plenty of fun too in the sing-a-long songs, the snow falling on the audience during White Christmas. We just missed it. The final deluge at the end of the song reached the row in front of us, but left us dry!

We did manage to grab a couple of balloons when they were released though. Then halfway through the night Mum turned to me and said "I've lost a stone from my ring!" She had been clapping so hard that a yellow sapphire had fallen out. At the end of the night when the lights came up, against all expectations I saw it glint from the floor below us under the seat in front of me. So by waiting until the place had almost emptied I was able to go down a layer of the terrace and get it.

A brilliant night. It was always going to be a brilliant night - Andre does not give mediocre concerts! Plus the fact that out of 11,500 people, someone recognised me as a member of Creeping Bentgrass in the queue outside! The concert could have been cancelled and I would still have had a good night...

Monday, 23 December 2013

Engagement Party Performance

A good afternoon yesterday, playing at a house party for an engagement. Luckily it was a big house!

Many thanks to our hosts and best wishes to the happy couple who were the reason for the party in the first place!

Monday, 16 December 2013

Some Larger Sketches

The vast majority of my sketching is done on a A5 sketch pad. This is held within a little leather folder, a souvenir of a work conference two career moves ago from the mid 1990s.

This goes abroad with me, it goes on cruises, it goes on trips around the UK. It's been up ancient Iron Age hillforts and it's seen some of the most awesome sights in Europe and even outside Europe. It holds not only the pad, but my old trusty propelling pencil which I use for 99% of my drawings, a few old sketches on the left that haven't yet found a home or been filed, a few cards for the band (Creeping Bentgrass, very reasonable rates and a good time to be had by all), and a few ephemera souvenirs - a Piraeus bus tour leaflet and a card from a restaurant in Positano plus some ferry tickets from Lake Garda, currently in there. Just occasionally I try something on a larger bit of paper. And that's what this article is all about.

In 1991 we had been camping in North Devon and whilst I sketched a few bits down there, I brought some postcards back with me also and sketched a couple of A4 drawings of Clovelly from them.

These are both of the same scene, but one from the top of the hill and one from lower down, looking up. This was quite early on in my sketching, so any trace of humans or animals was wiped out. This is Clovelly as seen on a winter's morning around 4:00am!

Bolton Abbey is a romantic ruin on the side of the River Wharf in Yorkshire. This was drawn from a photograph I took in the 1980s. By the time I drew it, that youngster being helped over the stepping stones would have been in her late teens or twenties! Drawn on an A3 sheet, this hangs on my living room wall, flanked on either side by the Clovelly drawings.

Also drawn on A3, this started out well, but any train enthusiast will soon spot the faults with it. No engine has a boiler plonked on a box on top of the - what the heck is that called - the foot platform thingy! Ok, credibility doubly shot down now. Sorry to all the railway buffs... I'll leave the topic alone in future I promise...

So we'll finish with this one, which is a really rare thing for me. Colour and A4 size. The subject is an eagle that I saw on a much better work of art. I just took one close up detail and let fly with coloured pencils. I used almost every one on the eye alone, but it paid off I think. It's the rest of it that's rubbish lol.

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Thursday, 12 December 2013

First Sketches from Outside the UK

Over a couple of entries I've shown the first sketches I did in the 1990s. These were all of locations in the UK, but by the end of the 90s we had started to venture out into other parts of Europe and the pad and pencil came out occasionally in foreign climes.

The first one was of a barn in Niederau in Austria. We were on a coach holiday and there wasn't a great deal of time for sketching, but one night I walked up the road from the hotel and found this log-built barn. It was the home of - of all things - a llama! A couple walked by and started to chat to me, but my German is just a touch rudimentary I'm afraid and pretty soon I had to admit I couldn't understand them. They didn't speak English either so after attempts at sign language, semaphore and mime, we grinned and parted company.

A couple of days later we were in Rattenburg and had a free hour or so. Fran and I had visited once before and knew of this back alley with the covered staircase and an inn next door. The couple that came to sneak a peek this day turned out to be Dutch and they spoke English well!

Another trip with the firm Leger, but this time we had flown out to northern Italy and were staying at Riva at the north of Lake Garda. I think of Riva anyway as the most picturesque of all the towns around the lake, though it's a close run thing. This shows the town from the lakeside mooring point for all the ferries.

We had a day trip to Venice during that week and this was drawn from the side of the lagoon near the gondola station by St Marks Square. I had quite a crowd around me at one point but not all of them sniggered so I was ok.

It was on this holiday that I solved my hang up about drawing rocks. This took ages, but on this particular day we had walked from Riva to Torbole and staggering back in the heat we sat on a bench and I drew this before we were compelled to find something to put out our smouldering clothes... Nice weather though...

The year after we went to Sorrento and I did this one in Amalfi, standing by the quay, waiting for a boat that was to take us up and down the coast for a bit. I'm not sure that the rocks came out quite as well on this one, but this time I wasn't as worried about attempting them!

These were all drawn on an A5 sketch pad. For the next sketch entry I'll scan some of the slightly larger ones, that have never appeared online before. (Doesn't mean they'll be any better lol)

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Monday, 9 December 2013

London Bus Ride

Sunday 1 December 2013. We left the Museum of London, happy and with a high wow factor after our morning searching its exhibits.

We made our way back down to St Paul's Cathedral, chatting about the museum and what a find it was and circled round to the front of the cathedral.

The statue in front of St Paul's is of Queen Anne - not Queen Victoria as many think. Queen Anne was on the throne at the time of the completion of St Paul's rebuilding after the Fire of London. The statue was first erected in 1712, but was badly weathered and was replaced by the present statue in 1886. Figures around the base represent England, France, Ireland and North America - all of which she had some claim to.

We caught a bus to the Tower and spent some time uhmming and ahhing, wondering whether to eat or to head back into the centre of London. We decided on the latter and just took time to take a few photos before heading back to the bus stop.

Whilst there we were visited and scrutinised by some of the locals, one of which is pictured here. We were totally devoid of food at this point though and they quickly discarded us for better prospects elsewhere!

We waited at the bus stop opposite the massive memorial to Merchant Navy crew members lost in the World Wars and were rewarded with the appearance of a 1950s Routemaster. London has got rid of most of its Routemasters now so this was a stroke of luck. However the new buses that are replacing the ridiculously inappropriate for London single deck bendy buses are a sort of homage to these, being double deck buses with an open platform at the back that you can jump on at your own peril. There is a conductor on them too - hooray for London Transport willing to employ people!

Anyway we took a seat on the lower deck near the back and admired the heater controls at the front of the bus with 3 settings from off to on to roasted. We also admired (actually this was me only - Miss Franny was slightly amazed that I should even notice it) the design classic of the original seat covering, below.

Then the rather excitable party of women got up en masse and we took the opportunity to move up to the front of the bus where we noticed the driver was wearing leather driving gloves for warmth - I suspect a distinctly 1940s lack of heating provision for bus drivers! It was quite nostalgic watching the driver wrestling with the long arm of the hand brake too!

We rode the bus to Charing Cross and jumped off to have a look in the Waterstones on the corner of Trafalgar Square. Didn't find a single copy of that classic: Blackpool Then and Now, but London readers should feel assured that it is available to order or from numerous outlets online. Click the book image in the column to the left. You still have time to get it before Christmas!

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Crafting Record Sleeves

Task for today... Miss Franny is a bit of a dab hand when it comes to crafting. Cards, shopping bags, gift bags and all that. Today though I have taken over the mantle of master crafter...

I keep going through all these 78 rpm records and finding ones that either have no cover at all or that once had a cover that is now two or more pieces of decidedly limp and tatty paper...

I had a look on t'Internet and found that with the amount I'm likely to need I can't afford the snazzy reproduction sleeves with some of the old designs on. What? Yes I know I said I'd feature some and I will. Just don't hold your breath ok? And if you were holding your breath I suggest you release and take a few fresh ones... I'll get round to it. There's a few more shop advertising sleeves that I've come across too.

Anyway I decided to have a go myself so with a roll of brown paper and a roll of double sided tape, I'm off and running. I started out trying with a glue stick. They are just as blooming useless now as they were when they first came out in the 60s... They are ok if you want to stick something on a firm surface for no more than 30 seconds. For anything longer than that, forget them. Plus they are incredibly messy anyway. Still, in 30 seconds or so the pencil should just come off the table...

My first two efforts! Just another couple of hundred should do it...

Thursday, 5 December 2013

A Morning in the Museum of London

Sunday 24 November 2013. We left the hotel after breakfast and hopped onto a London bus heading for St Paul's. We had decided to have a look at one of London's many museums, but one I had never visited before.

The Museum of London is behind St Paul's Cathedral (assuming wrongly that the side facing the Thames is the front!) and is approached over a walkway from the first floor level of a building on St Martin's Le Grand St on the corner of London Wall.

There's not a great deal of London's original city wall left, but here's a good view of it from within the museum itself.

The museum has a huge collection of items from prehistoric to modern times. The auroch's skull from a huge bison-like animal is awesome and there's a large collection of stone clubs, hammers and knives, before the days of metal. Which itself is well represented by a staggering collection of long pointy prodding things and a display of skulls with holes to prove how well they worked...

The photo is from a slightly later collection of clothes in a display recreating the old Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens which existed in the early 19th century on the southern side of the Thames near Vauxhall Bridge.

This is a pair of virginals - yes, a strange term given that there's only one, but that's how they were described. This was a 17th century stringed instrument played on a keyboard. A bit like a harpsichord in that the strings are plucked, not hit by hammers, but they are plucked near the centre of the string not at one end like a harpsichord. This makes for a smoother less harsh sound. They were immensely popular and Samuel Pepys noted how many of them were to be seen in boats during the Great Fire of 1666. They were not heavy and were expensive, so a good thing to save from a doomed house! This one was made in 1656 by James White. It, like many other exhibits, is displayed in subdued lighting, but the camera has dealt with the low lighting resulting in being able to see it clearly here.

This looks like the granddaddy of all grandfather clocks and I've positioned a passing waif to give some idea of scale. [THUMP!] Ahem... I mean I asked the scrumptious Miss Franny to pose next to it...

There's a street of shop fronts with window and sometimes internal displays of the goods they sold. The toy store had a set of picture cubes. Described as a Victorian toy, these simple forerunners of jigsaws for very young children lasted until the 1960s. I remember having one myself and, unless my memory is playing tricks, the pictures look very familiar too... Each side of every cube had a part of a different picture, so you could make six different pictures altogether.

This was gorgeous. A bronze art deco lift from Selfridges store on Oxford Street. It dates from 1928 and apparently the uniformed girls who operated them were as great a novelty as the lifts themselves! I fell into a conversation with one of the museum's staff about it.

So much so that I had to catch up with Miss Franny who was ready for a sit down in the museum cafe. This was a fun place to be also due to a large video wall that showed different scenes of London with greatly speeded up video. Cars and buses zoomed about and crowds of people weaved in and out of each other at bewildering but hypnotic speeds. I came out of there without a thirst but with a crick in my neck! Brilliant!