Monday, 4 February 2019

It Was Sixty Years Ago Today

Well, yesterday actually.

I’d wanted to mark the anniversary in some way – not because anniversaries matter particularly in themselves, but more because it was an excuse to recall some Young Emotions (that was Ricky Nelson, btw) and share some superb music.

But it had to wait until today; I would gladly have shared Buddy with everyone, but it doesn’t work that way unless you’re prepared to selfishly hijack a family get-together, which I wasn’t.  

So here are the five tracks I chose for us to share this evening (you’ll have to find your own spotilinks):

  1. True Love Ways
  2. Rave On
  3. Learning The Game
  4. Everyday
  5. and of course That’ll Be The Day (That intro was the first thing I ever learnt to play, after skiffle chords).

Friday, 11 January 2019

Christmas Card Audit 2018

Executive Summary:
·         Many species of animals and birds have become extinct.  I have allowed camels to debut in this category, even though they are being ridden by magi.
·         There are a few more snowflakes than last year.
·         The continued reduction in the volume of glued-on glitter is, as ever, to be welcomed.  I expect making it illegal to be a high priority of the next Labour government.
·         I have felt it necessary to introduce a ‘Politics’ category.  One of them (self-created by its sender) says ‘Happy Brexmas’; the other is a highly sentimentalised picture of the Houses of Parliament.

The full figures (2017’s, where applicable, in brackets):

Snow/Snowmen/Snowflakes:                6 (4)
Santas/Reindeer:                                   3 (3)
Animals/Birds:                                     10 (12)
of which          
Robins:                                     3 (2)
Free-range reindeer:                  1 (3)
Horses:                                    1 (1)
Camels:                                    1 (0)
Sheep:                                      0 (2)
Wrens:                                     0 (1)
Owls:                                       0 (1)
Penguins:                                 0 (1)
Dogs:                                       0 (1)
Nuthatches:                              0 (1)
Deer:                                        1 (0)
Turtle doves:                            1 (0)
Landscapes:                                         2 (3)
Nativities/Wise Men/Angels:                5 (6)
Christmas trees/Baubles:                       4 (4)
Abstract:                                              1 (4)
Mail-letterboxes:                                  1 (1)
Booze:                                                 0 (1)
Flowers:                                               0 (1)
Forests/woods:                                     1 (3)
Cute children:                                       1 (1)
Houses:                                                3 (1)
Holly/ivy/mistletoe:                              4 (0)
Skaters:                                                1 (0)
Townscapes:                                        4 (0)
12 days of Xmas:                                  1 (0)
Everything secular *:                               1 (0)

Special categories:

Homemade/designed:                           3 (4)
Cards with glued-on glitter:                   5 (8)
Wonderfully weird:                              0 (3)
Posh yet restrained:                              5 (1)

Card Of The Year is this picture of some people walking along a footpath in the snow beside some woods:

If you turn it upside down –

It’s a goods train going over a viaduct.

* This 'Everything secular' card depicts, amongst other things, a Santa, a plum pudding, mistletoe, baubles, a snowman, a Christmas tree, bells, holly, a star, snowflakes, and, weirdly, a mug of cocoa - but no booze!!!

Tuesday, 1 January 2019

Fundaments of Music – Rhythm

Heart, Lungs and Feet.

Feet probably came first, because we tend to walk in 4/4 time (although see below for the waltz).  Breathing is two to the bar – in, out – and the heartbeat is tempo rather than rhythm (it’s no accident that the catchiest riffs are at around 120 bpm, twice the average pulse rate).

So the breathing would tend to synchronise with the footsteps, and sooner or later sounds – grunts, probably, to begin with – would naturally get uttered.  In pre-agricultural societies, there was a lot of group walking, so the grunts would get synchronised within the group.  Once they stopped for a rest, someone would still have those grunts and that walking rhythm persisting in their head, and eventually they’d start to slap their thighs, or clap their hands, someone else would laugh and join in… and you have the start of music.  The roots of rhythm, as Paul Simon beautifully captured it.

Oh, and that 3/4 – I don’t know about you, but that’s how I tend to get up a steep slope.  One leg does the heavy lifting, then it’s the other one’s turn.

Saturday, 22 December 2018

The Fundaments of Music

I was sent towards this by a friend’s quiz asking us to name some young rich musicians, which took us via a fairly long route to musical styles, which led Z to nominate ‘techno’ as one style she couldn’t deal with, which pointed me towards Underworld and then, back from there, to Terry Riley and ‘In C’, five of its intriguing 35 minutes’ worth we listened to….  And now, here I am, wondering what makes some sound into music.

I used to think there were three fundaments, but I’ve just expanded that to five.  Here they are:

1.      Rhythm
2.      Melody
3.      Harmony

and the two new ones:

4.      Structure
5.      Texture

It’s not impossible that I might expound on each of these in the future.  After all, what are blogs for if not to burble away to oneself?

Clue: ‘In C’ exploits 1 and 5 at the expense of the others.

Tuesday, 4 December 2018

Did you know that 100% of your calls last month were successfully completed?

That’s an extract from a text I received today from my beloved mobile phone provider, who are also, they inform me, consistently voted the best mobile phone provider in the universe, exactly by whom or how is less than lucidly clear.

Anyway, the above quote intrigued me purely from a semantic point of view.  To take the easy bit first, what do they mean by successfully?  Assuming they’re not actually listening in, it’s more than possible – nay, it’s probable – that my attempt to contact the right department at the local council to ask them why they hadn’t swept the leaves from their trees from the pavement outside my house, even though it’s December and the rotting leaves are a pedestrian skid hazard, was entirely unsuccessful.  But they clearly assume that the mere fact that the call had a beginning and an end – the latter not caused by them – equates to success.  They obviously don’t include the ones that didn’t even start because there was no signal.

More substantially, 100% of what?  100 is a very big number, so I could be tempted to imagine that I’d made a lot of calls, all of which were ‘successful’.  Actually, there were probably five.  100% of five is still five.

And finally, why are they so needy?  This message had zero value to me – it was entirely and only about them and how wonderful they find themselves.  Why do they need to tell me so?  I’ve met blokes at parties who do that, and I tend to nod, smile and after five minutes look over their shoulder and catch someone else’s eye.  Is that what whodavone (for it is they) want me to do?

Wednesday, 28 November 2018

“They can talk too, but they won’t.” *

Hello, remember me?  My blogging mojo has been on strike for a while now, but I’ve resolved to resuscitate this dying art – in fact, I’ve so resolved many times over recent months, but I’ve always been stalled by the lack of anything to actually write about.  Unlike more prolifically creative bloggers, I find it hard to just start writing without a topic, or a story, or both.  But this evening both landed in my lap.  I said to Z: “You should blog about that.”  She said: “No, you should.”  So here goes.

If you’ve visited the Zeddary, you may recall that between the dining room and the hall there’s a window.  It was actually part of the original Tudor fabric of the house, formerly an external window up in the roof space somewhere, which had been bricked up for many years.  It had been reinstalled where it is now, years ago, as part of a major extension/refurbishment.  It serves no particular function, apart from being beautiful and entertaining the cat.

Eloise Cat loves ducking through this internal window, flaunting her prowess at avoiding any delicate objects that might be stood on the sill.  Usually this isn’t a problem, but a while ago we put up a pair of heavy curtains on the hall side, to prevent her doing this when we were away and triggering the burglar alarm.  They’d been left closed last time, though they didn’t need to be.

This evening, as we were eating our dinner, Eloise Cat decided to investigate the corner cupboard where the best glasses and crockery are kept.  The door was open a crack, but she obviously couldn’t get in there.  But she was amusing herself, and us, by trying.

I remarked that we should open those curtains.  “She used to love going through there, and now she can’t.”

Eloise Cat turned away from the corner cupboard and looked at me.  “You reckon?” she said.

*A quote from Clive James, originally about dingos.

Thursday, 20 September 2018

The Caravan is having an early snooze

It usually gets put into hibernation in October: the site is officially closed from the end of October until Easter, although Joseph has been known to mutter, in a diplomatically deniable choice of words, that were someone to turn up during the officially closed season, ‘I probably wouldn’t notice’.  About ten years ago, his mother celebrated her ninetieth, in the January, and the site was apparently packed out.  (I wouldn’t know for sure – we weren’t invited.  Sniff sniff.)

This year, for reasons too complicated to go into here, the shutdown had to happen last week.  But for other reasons, equally complicated and even more boring to relate (think plumbing), it couldn’t completely get done, so I’m relying on Joseph to complete the job – and then, of course, reinstate everything in the spring.  I’ll probably phone him sometime before the first frost, just to pre-empt my anxiety – an unworthy thought, but which comes first: his promise or my anxiety?  I know my answer; and of course I’ll do it very diplomatically.
So that’s Pembrokeshire taken care of for yet another year.  Long term followers of this blog might recall that I’ve been going there since about 1949, so can claim to be an older inhabitant than many people who were born there.  But it wasn’t until relatively recently that I really got to know the county.  When our parents took us to Saundersfoot and Wisemans Bridge for those family holidays, it was all about the beaches of south Pembrokeshire – Barafundle, Broadhaven, Marloes and the others.  The west and north coasts were largely foreign lands.
So it was a surprise when I finally began to discover those parts, about twenty-five years ago.  They’re very different.  A bit more rugged, wilder, perhaps a bit more dangerous.  I remember randomly driving down a ridiculously narrow winding tree-lined road to emerge at a dizzy view of the Irish Sea; and equally randomly down another to fetch up in Porthgain.
If you ever go to Pembrokeshire and don’t visit Porthgain, you have missed something unique.  Is it possible to be unique in many different ways?  If so, this place achieves it.  I’d taken Z there a couple of times before, but we managed this time to climb up the steps at the end of the quay and wander across the cliff path, past the intriguing brick built industrial ruins and the disused slate and granite quarries, almost as far as the great low tide beach at Traith Lyffn, (about which I’ve blogged here before).  We didn’t go down the steps.