Monday, 12 November 2012

Sunday, 28 October 2012


After much umming and ahhing about what to do today, and wondering when we would get around to watching the new bond movie we decided to combine the two. Clever huh.

I've reached the halfway point between joining the gypsy orchestra and our first gig. So by rights I should know about half the set backwards? Well I don't. I know 2 songs well and another 1 if I follow the other guitarists. Better get rehearsing.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Well that's gone and done it

Apple have just released the iPad mini. I have an iPhone 4 and a 2012 iMac already. When I bought the iMac I wanted a big screen for working at a desk. The cost of the larger Macbook was prohibitive. However I access the internet largely on my iPhone, even when at home because the iMac is in the spare room. I write my notes on the phone, I carry my phone everywhere, I record rehearsals on the phone. The only thing I don’t really do on my phone is make calls.

What my iPhone needs is a bigger screen.

A couple of years ago I noticed an interesting trend amongst film and visual artists. They had Macbook pro laptops and old Nokia dual band phones.

I have no pretence to needing pro equipment. What I need is something to use garageband, the internet, and write on that can go in a small bag or jacket pocket. I don;t make films like I thought I might but I do make music and write. I rarely use my phone for calls... would an old bulletproof phone work? Can I justify the iPad mini instead of an iPhone.

Monday, 22 October 2012


Tonight I went to the leaving do of a friend. After many years of military service he decided he'd done his 'duty' and decided to leave for a civilian career.

Just after I met him I joked that any job that involved firearms and body armour was the wrong job. He joked that in most of his jobs he'd been reassured by both. An uncomfortable silence followed.

I then said 'yeah but you've put that behind you?'

'Yes thank god'

He ranked as captain and was kept on the reserve list. Not ideal but he taught tactics at the TA, got weekends away with other men obsessed with military paraphernalia.

Tonight he's been recalled for a year in Afghanistan.

What is the point of sending a man finally socialised in normal society to kill for a reason none of us understand.
The afghans don't want him there. The British army won't be impressed by his years going 'soft'

His allies, the locals and the Taliban will all try to kill him.
His crime? He's done it before.

My friend the ex-submariner was deemed unfit for work and pensioned off. Yet when G4S screwed up he did convoy duty for 6 weeks so the regulars could patrol the Thames during the Olympics.

Bunch of arse. Hope you get to come back with the humanity you've developed and a your body parts attached. The British military has a survival rate to challenge cancer.

Why are we even in these places?

Cheap petrol, US policy, idiocy and the inability to learn from history.

Friday, 19 October 2012

LGO... the story so far

Weird how musicians from different disciplines find different things difficult to adapt to.

Many a time I’ve wished I had learned one instrument classically to give me an understanding of theory etc. Only to meet a classical musician absolutely baffled by folk/blues/roots music.

I thought I’d been having trouble adapting to the music of the LGO until I spoke to the other new members. Everyone finds the changeable nature of the arrangements tricky. Most challenging however is receiving a score that:

a) May be the part you are playing.
b)Might be the part you need to harmonise with.
c) May have no dicernable relation to the tune you can hear people playing.

That said I’ve still got a month before the gig at the union chapel... Plenty of time to get it all right in my head.

Guild M-120E

After much umming and ahhing I finally got round to buying a new guitar. I’ve looked at all sorts of different makes and models, each with a different specialty and each with different short comings. The problem is that whilst I am by no means destitute, I’m not a middle aged man with Guitar Acquisition Syndrome (GIS). You know the guy trying out yet another Taylor or Martin at the back of the shop to add to their collection... 

I need a guitar that I can play at home. A guitar that I can use for gigs. Use with the Buskers on Bikes. Take on the tube. I realised that I needed a small guitar (smaller than my 80’s dreadnaught anyway), with a pickup (I record and play live enough that I’d want this for convenience), and it had to be built to last.

Finally, the last criteria, was that I needed a guitar for playing in the London Gypsy Orchestra which I joined a month ago. Lots of Capo use and frantic strumming. In the course of my search I narrowed it down to  a Seagull grand parlour, A Simon and Patrick woodland folk, a Martin 001X, Various Sigmas and the Guild M120E.

Both the Seagull and the S&P are made at the same factory with Laminated back and sides. A cedar or spruce sold top and a proprietary pickup system (Godin). They played beautifully but the seagull headstock I found fiddly and the S&P body cut into my arm. They would also need drilling for an extra strap button.

The Martin had me sold from the moment I picked it up. It may have been made out of plastic and fibreboard with a solid spruce top, but it sounded like a Martin. It had a Fishman Pickup and the additional strap button for playing standing up. 

Thing is the neck is Stratabond (Plywood), and the body is made out of HPL (high pressure laminate3 or fibreboard) with a digitally printed grain. This is a guitar that whilst the top would age well the back and sides would get tattier as time went on. This guitar is like the Epiphone Les Paul. Great until you pick up the real thing.

The Guild M120E is all mahogany and looked like the Sigmas. It has the same pickup as the Martin and came in a hard case designed for it... not a gigbag. It is also solid woods all the way through. Solid mahogany top, back and sides. Satin neck and high gloss body. Money has been saved making it in China and there is no binding or ornamentation (except for an abalone rosette).

It immediately struck me as a budget players guitar... Sure with no binding i’ll need to be careful with the edges. With a thin mahogany body I’ll need not to bash it or let it dry out. However it should last me . It came in a case, with the pickup... It’s designed to do all the things I wanted and it’s the new model of the guitar that Nick Drake used. It even says on the side of the case...” Built to be played”

Bought from the lovely guys at Wunjo Guitars

Friday, 5 October 2012

Lovely bike

This morning I noticed this little beauty at the station. You might not be able to see from the picture but it's a vintage ladies frame, restored with a mix of vintage and velo orange parts. Very pretty and very practical. You could ride long or short distances in style on this.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Strange beginnings...

Today I auditioned for and joined the London Gypsy Orchestra. I've never played with more than a handful of people at the same time, save for my recent playing-bestival-with-people-I'd-just-met thing. They are booked for the union chapel (a venue I dearly want to play) in November. Lots of work to be included in the line up in two months. They sound amazing though and I really hope I can add to it,albeit in the now odd (to me after two years of ukulele and mandolin) role of rhythm guitar. Weirdly the rhythm section is guitar, accordion and drums. We are the only instrument asked to just chug out rhythm and not tunes. Tonight we practiced one tune in 7/8 and one in 11/8 plus a more normal 3/4 and 2/4.

Hope this all works out.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Random stuff from over the summer

The olympic park

Whilst I posted some pictures from the triathlon event in Hyde Park... At the Paralympics I got to go to the Olympic Park itself. The whole thing ran suprisingly smoothly (Although I regret not taking a photo of the elderly couple having their photo taken by a cheerful Japanese lady as the "smoking area" was right next to the "Dog comfort zone")

The buildings were frankly all that they had been made out to be and the whole park looked like something we could be proud of (as a nation, and as a city)

One really nice point is that the Paralympics was truly amazing. I've never been so moved by sporting events as I was watching the paralympics... and I say that without meaning that I felt sorry for the athletes, sure there are levels of Cerebral Palsy and spinal injury I didn't know it was even possible to ride a bike with... but no that's not what I mean't. I mean that as an event, the public coming to the games cheered on their respective countries, grappled with the catagories and generally treated the whole thing like an enormous fun family day out. Watching athletes perform at the highest level is something to behold and I had never really seen it before.

We were lucky enough to sit (by chance) with the extended family of the current world champion longjumper, and the emotion as he was at the last monute beaten into silver by his rival was enough to bring a lump to the throat.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Long time no post...

I've not posted for a while as I have been in the final stages of planning the "bike to bestival" ride for Cancer Research UK. We had a seperate blog running for that which can be found here.

Needless to say I have had a lovely time Riding, Making new friends, dressing as a bee, wondering what a gorrilla in a barrel-being carried by a man in a boiler-suit costume might look like. Finding out what a gorrilla in a barrel-being carried by a man in a boiler-suit costume does in fact look like.

100 miles, lots of fig rolls and vegan power bars, 44 sore bums, ferry trouble in both directions, nobody making it back in time to pick up the bikes. So pretty much a great holiday in fact.

What a lovely bunch of people we met.There is an article in The Times which can be found here with a lovely little video.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Bike stuff

Whilst we were out on Sunday a couple of things occurred to me about cycling that I thought it might be good to share. I appreciate some of you regularly do long rides, but some of you might not

False flats
This is the name given to sections of a road race course that were you watching it on the telly box, or indeed riding it, you would assume are flat but are in fact not. Going from the flat to a hill in open countryside (where you have a horizon, objects to work out scale and distance against) is one thing. You can judge your speed and gear selection before making a measured approach.

On slightly more closed in roads (overhanging trees or high hedges) you will often get a false impression of the incline/decline of the road. On occasion you will be convinced that you are going down a gentle incline to a little hill at the bottom when in fact you are already climbing and it's about to get steeper. Your eyes will only tell you so much. You need to trust your legs.

A short section of the ride on Sunday conformed to this type and it gets really tempting to try and work it all out. In reality a better approach is to relax and see what happens.

Bottomless puddles
Water collects in depressions in the road to form puddles. During a rainy part of the ride several cars went through the same puddle at speed. Each one of them made a crunching/slapping sound as they grounded the bodywork into the water. Under the puddle was a pothole the size of a car wheel.

Where possible avoid riding through puddles on roads you don't know, especially those on un-edged country roads as who knows how deep they'll turn out to be.

Never pass up the chance to use an actual toilet
You never know where the next one will be. Ditto for filling up water bottles, buying extra fig rolls etc. If you get a chance...take it. I went on a ride to Brighton and spent ages looking for the perfect pub lunch... only to find they'd all stopped doing food and I had to go to a tearoom instead as it was all that was open. Hardly a hardship, but in Holland I very nearly missed the chance to eat for a whole day by forgetting to buy food before I joined a cycle route through the middle of nowhere.

Anyway... That's all for now


Monday, 6 August 2012

Olympic triathlon

This saturday morning we got up at 05:45 to get down to Hyde Park and pick up Tickets for the Lido Cafe breakfast/triathlon event. As you can see from the pics, this particular part of Hyde Park was fairly uncrowded as it was a private event.Like much of the olympics, you got what you paid for.

A great time was had by all, which extended to watching Team GB's greatest ever athletics session and a bit of world class cycling.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Bike to bestival

I am starting to get very, VERY, Exited!

On the 27th it will be a year since weset of to do our Land's End to John O'groats ride as Buskers on Bikes (we raised a total of £10,000 for Cancer Research UK - so thanks a million to everyone who donated). This year Warren, Sophie and I have tried something a little different.   - this September we're organising, the inaugural Bike to Bestival: a 2-day, musical 90-mile ride from London to the Isle of Wight with 35 other cyclists…

All the riders have already paid to go to festival, and have stumped up the costs of the ride out of their own pocket. All sponsorship monies go straight to Cancer Research UK. We've set each of the riders a target of £200 which we're hoping they'll exceed, but as one of the organisers I've pledged to do the same.

You can read all about the planning for the musical and cycling parts of the ride on our blog and Facebook pages

You can see our event on the festival website in the news section. If you'd like to sponsor me then you can find my justgiving page here:

Anyway... This Sunday we're meeting to play together as a band for the first time!! Very Exited!!

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

My new(to me) guitar

Back in the late 80's or early 90's I scraped enough money together to buy a useable guitar. What I bought, much to the amusement/approval of the owner of the store was a late 70's early 80's harmony. Little did I know that this was a name of some weight, used latterly by a far eastern company.

When I moved to London I became friends with Rob, who explained that harmony had been a mass producer of instruments that real people could afford. It seems appropriate that they are now a vintage instrument that real people can afford.

Years later Rob decides to sell his 53/1. Needless to say I bought it. If Rob says it's in good nick then it is. It plays better than any guitar I've owned and is very pretty indeed. Better still it begs to be played, smells like an old blues bar and already feels like an old friend.

WNBR Brighton 2012