Monday, January 30, 2006

Number 2, Memory Lane

After looking through my old photos to find a picture of my dad for his birthday post I have strolled up and down memory lane a few times this last week. This may mean that there will be a few nostalgic trips back to the past coming up.

It's a very good word "nostalgia", don't you think? It is a combination of two Ancient Greek words; nostreo, a marvellous verb meaning "to return to one's home or country" which metaphorically speaking would almost be enough on its own but here it is linked with the noun algos (found in English for example in 'analgesic') which means "pain, sorrow, grief, distress".

Put them together and you have; a return to your (metaphorical or literal) home and the pain or sorrow that it can evoke (if perhaps it has been a long time).

This excerpt from my junior school English book does it for me...1965! Time travel back to class 3G with Miss Glover - do they still call teachers "Miss Something" in England?? Did that time really exist? I was nearly 10 when I wrote this - the kind of thing that teachers are still asking kids to write - ah...the pain, the sorrow of loss...Nostalgia House, No. 2 Memory Lane.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Must Be Doing Something Right...

One of my English groups finished last week. There were just two girls in it - one was the secretary in the personnel head office and the other a personal assistant. We were supposed to have been doing Business English all the time but we ended up talking a lot about beer and beergardens!

In the middle of the last lesson they went out for a moment and came back in with this for me...

On the left: normal bottle = 1 pint
On the right: 3 litres or 6 pints of Heineken

They said that as beer seemed to be a part of me (at this point they both carefully avoided looking at my stomach) they wanted to give me something connected with that beautiful blonde stuff!!

I have already warned the kids that they are going to have to help me drink it!

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Happy Birthday Dad...

It would have been my dad's 98th birthday today! Actually he would probably be glad not to be around...if you know what I mean.

I can't believe it's 18 years since he died...we haven't been for a pint in all that time.

Here is something I wrote at the time in memoriam...

You can say what you like about the future; you can visit some wild-eyed astrological weirdo and have your ascendants attended to or go to a palmist to get your lines read, Tarot card layer, crystal ball gazer...but there is one thing no-one needs to predict (you don’t need predicting)

The one thing which is certain, 100% certain, unavoidably and quite definitely certain about your life is that at some point (even though we might hope it will be in the more distant future) YOU WILL DIE!

Everyone knows that everyone dies.

And yet…?

Why is it so difficult to talk about, write about, mention even?

Death has produced some great euphemisms and idioms: kicked the bucket, gone to heaven, is no longer with us, snuffed it, or as Billy Connolly pointed out you can often read on tombstones ‘he’s only sleeping…! Christ, he’ll get a hell of a shock when he wakes up!’

I still treasure the phrase one of my workmates used at the chicken factory (my first job after graduating) when the papers carried the news that Bing Crosby had died. Dennis, who worked in ‘Live Reception’ where we hung the chickens on hooks and in the ‘Killing Room’ where the chickens’ throats were cut and so no stranger to death, cut through the empty sentimental rhetoric:

‘Oh look,’ he said, ‘Bing got bunged and went bong!’

We get bunged and go bong…well, that’s it.

We know it’s going to happen to us all. In one hundred years from now none of us (well, at least very close to one hundred percent of us – or should that be nought percent of none of us?) will be around…look! I’m doing it too – ‘…won’t be around…’ – WE WILL BE DEAD for goodness’ sake. But we just can’t imagine it, can’t credit it, can’t take it in. When my father died I couldn’t believe it. He was 80 and I couldn’t imagine it. He’d been ill for years but I couldn’t take it in. Even when I went to the undertaker’s to ‘pay my last respects’ (another euphemism for ‘see the body’) I saw him lying there in the coffin and thought ‘that’s not him’. I had to peer closely for identifying marks till I believed it.

He’d had a few friends down the pub over the years who’d been undertakers and he always said they were wonderful to talk to. Most of them have a fine sense of humour. Perhaps it goes with the job. One of these undertakers once told him of a woman who’d come in to pay her last respects to her husband.

They took her to the chamber where the ‘deceased’ were ‘lying at rest’ and she looked into her husband’s coffin at the body.

‘Oh dear’ she said.

‘Yes, madam. Is something wrong?’

‘Well, it’s the suit he’s wearing – it’s brown and…well, George never liked brown. I don’t think he’d be happy in a brown suit…’

Here she looked across to another coffin where someone else was ‘resting’.

‘…now he’s wearing a blue suit. George loved blue…do you think it would be possible…well, er, to change it. I’d hate to think of George going off into eternity wearing a colour he disliked.’

‘Certainly madam. Leave it to us. We’ll arrange it immediately.’

‘Well, if it’s no trouble. It’s just…’

‘Think nothing of it madam. It’s no trouble at all.’

They went to the door.

‘Might I call in again tomorrow?’

‘Of course madam. We’ll have everything ready for you. Don’t you worry.’

‘Thank you so much. It’s so nice to find people who care.’

The next day the woman returned and asked to see her husband.

The undertaker’s assistant took her to her to the coffin.

‘Oh, that’s much better. A blue suit. He’ll be a lot happier now. I hope it wasn’t too much trouble.’

‘Oh no, madam. No trouble at all,’ said the assistant. ‘It’s purely a matter of changing the heads.’

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Monday, January 23, 2006

First Steps...

Here is the first attempt at a recording with the BOSS BR 900 I got myself. Drummers will notice that I haven't yet got the hang of the drum program!

It's an mp3 about 3MBs so if you have broadband it'll be a quick download. Just click here to go to the website with the song.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Happy Birthday Jimmy!

Jimmy is in the red shirt right in the middle...

My older son is 14 today! And he is already about an inch taller than I am...what do we feed the kids on these days that they grow so tall ?

Up to the age of 11 Jimmy was the star player for the local boys' football team. Then he gave that up and started to learn guitar. I gave him a couple of lessons to begin with and he picked it up in a flash. Meanwhile he has switched to the bass and plays in a few bands, notably the school big band which is pictured above.

They gave a concert before Xmas. Now usually these school concert things are cringe-a-miniute occasions but these kids were really excellent. Under the direction of a highly committed and very popular music teacher they attempted some challenging stuff and brought it off. And there was Jimmy in the middle plucking a mean bass.

It is amazing how proud you can be of your own children! It was the same when he was knocking in the goals for the football team - I used to get such envious looks from the other parents - HA HA! (Sorry, couldn't resist that) .

Happy birthday Jimmy (have you ever thought of taking up car mechanics as a hobby...?)

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Two Minutes Before Friday 13th

Just managed to start this before the clock struck midnight to usher in Friday 13th...ooohooohooooooo...

Does anyone really worry about that? I married my first wife on Friday 13th in Denmark...hmm...maybe I should be careful tomorrow!

William and I have so far survived the week without T-M. She has been swanning about on the beach in Portugal while we have been shivering in the living room and I think she is trying to give us the impression that it's not so good so we don't murder her out of 100% pure envy when she returns on Saturday.

I have had a long night this evening learning how to record stuff on that machine 2 or 3 posts down. It is a wonderful little thing and I am slowly starting to get the hang of it...but I have to say, thank goodness for the backups I made with amazing prescience on the laptop before totally buggering up what I had been working on.

Now it's all repaired and back to the stage I got to before I became a little too ambitious. As soon as this song is done I will stick it on here for all to admire!

Time for a beer and then a snooze and then up to go and teach beginners at 8.30 in the stone cold dawn..

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Blue with Envy

Heavens above, it's bloody freezing here... -10°C and the sky is clear which makes it even colder. I was walking through one of the companies where I teach this morning at 8.30 and I could feel the skin on my face and the brain in my head turning to ice....brrrrrrrrr..

Of course it also doesn't help to get a text message from T-M in Portugal that she got a bit sunburnt yesterday and that it was 29° PLUS!!! This was not the reason she got this Xmas present flight!

What also doesn't help is that the heating has been on the blink since Xmas and almost packed up altogether yesterday....BRRRRRRRR

The gas people should be here this afternoon...I bloody hope...but that is not enough to stop us turning blue with envy.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Lyrically Waxed = Well Oiled

I could forgo the best single malts and the Irish whiskeys as long as I could still sup from the distilled soul of the vine...a good French cognac...France's (only?) contribution to a postulable heaven on earth...especially after a couple of beers and even more especially after watching my team force a thrilling 5 - 3 victory after trailing forlornly 3 - 1 in the third round of the FA Cup!


(This post was brought to you by copious amounts of alcohol)

Friday, January 06, 2006


It's Epiphany today..check your diaries. I only know because it is a public holiday in Bavaria - "Holy Three Kings' Day".

It's also the day before Tanja-Maria flies off to Portugal to visit her best friend over there who has just had a baby - leaving basically William and me here to soldier on alone all week. Pizzas, fish-fingers, hamburgers, crisps and stuff are on the menu! I keep getting visions of the Simpsons episode where Marge is in hospital with a broken leg...

No, actually I mean to make a concerted effort to eat healthily this week and not be lazy about the cooking (is this a resolution? If so we are buggered!) and I think we will do a massive clean up on Sunday and then only use one room the whole week - to keep the rest of the flat tidy.

William has already offered to cook his speciality...scrambled eggs so that's one meal sorted and I have bookmarks in my Greek cookbook...

Meanwhile T-M will be supping Portugese wine and sunning herself in the balmy 20°C climes...well, she can can kiss my Epiphany!

Thursday, January 05, 2006

New Year's Project - (NOT Resolution)...

I just had to go and get me one of these!! It's a BOSS compact home studio; a brilliant device. At the moment I am in that irritating phase of not knowing exactly how the various things on it just have to play around with these devices for a couple of weeks (months?) until all the settings and stuff become second nature.

The plan is finally to get some decent versions of all the songs I have written over the years...which I only have on cassettes in nail-bitingly awful quality. As soon as something is completed (weeks, months...who knows..) I will post a link and you can get your lugholes around the sounds.

But...don't hold your breath...

Monday, January 02, 2006

New Year's Irresolution

I was thinking, "January, huh?" and a little snippet of information came swimming up from the section of my memory which stores what I learned at school - quite possibly a rather small section of my memory. This was from our Latin lessons and it was the fact that our month 'January' is named after the Roman god Janus. This guy had a head with two faces; the one looking forward into the future and the other looking back into the past making him a pretty good symbol for what we all tend to do in January but at the same time making him extremely unsuited to play the lead in a pantomime...

Whole audience: He's behind you!!!

Janus: Yes, I know.

So, anyway this combination of Janal retrospection and...erm, what's the corresponding word for the future...'future planning' or maybe, 'futile planning'...makes January the month for resolution making. One's 'New Year Resolutions'.

Now, I don't know about you - but I don't make them any more. I used to though and it got to be a little like taking out a subscription for a magazine you don't really have time to read - before you have looked at the first copy, the next one arrives but you put off looking into the second one before you have read the first which you don't have time for....and then the third issue arrives, etc etc...
I had a long queue of resolutions going back years waiting to be implemented - so I just cancelled the lot of them and have been irresolute ever since.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Happy New 2006

A Happy New Year to one and all.

I have just come in from one of the most boring New Year gigs I have ever played! Why do people book live music if what they really want to have is silence? This was a gig with my duo and we are quiet ....just a piano, acoustic guitar and two voices but still this was not quiet enough.
It is a good thing we weren't getting paid by the decibel.

Ho hum, anyway 2005 is over...

low point: my poor old mother finally reaching the end of her time here on earth

high point: my kids writing and performing a song for me at my 50th birthday

2006 huh? Well, let's see what it has in store....