Thursday, 29 December 2011

That was the year - 2011....Last entry of 2011

I love my blog.  I started this blog because I was going travelling and I want to savour it and then remember it Writing a blog seemed to be the ideal way to do both and let my friends know what I was seeing at the same time.  Whilst travelling I felt I was sharing the sight sounds and smells with a mythical audience and I liked that.  A year or so later and I'm still doing it.  No one reads it but I write it for me.

So the last year...  I've had some busy/mad/unbelieveable years in my time but 2011 is probably the most remarkable of my life.  I retired.  I lost a major girlfriend.  I travelled independantly and alone across Europe for 2 months.  I replaced my car, my motorbike, and most of the interior of my house and all of its contents.

A year ago, when I made my first post, I sat in a cold empty house.  I was skint and hoping that my medical retirement would happen.  I was on no pay and because I got so fit in a swimming pool I got free swimming in exchange for some life guarding hours.  My girlfriend had just left me after spending 5 weeks here before she went off to live with the girls.  I was really, really fucking sad.  Dreaming of getting away was the escape - that and getting my beaten up body ready to do it.

Sitting in my living room now things are completely and utterly different.  It is incredible what can happen in a year and how much your life can improve in what is a very short space of time.  After a massive and emotional roller coaster ride i'm retired.  I have wonderful memories of a trip of a lifetime where everything went flawlessly with plenty of nice surprises on the way.  When I returned I changed the house.  It was cold, dirty, primative and felt like someone elses.  There was not an ounce of me anywhere in it.  Now it is warm, comfortable, fresh, functional and mine.  I've got all the "mod cons" and I really enjoy spending time at home and I can't remember the last time I genuinely felt that.  I cook nice food to!

Ok, the year is over, and for me 2012 will be different from 2011.  2011 was a year of change in every respect but there was also a strong life plan playing out to.  I've done the big things and it is now time to consolidate and concentrate on sustaining myself in the long term and that means being tight on my out-goings so I can afford my goings-out!  So it's goodbye to Sky and my mody contract is a very cheap SIM only job.  The wood I burn in my log burner is free and the central heating is new and very efficient.  My hot water is on economy 7 and 1 charge lasts all day and my LPG hob has used half of bottle of gas since August.  I live well and cheap and I need to, I am a pensioner after all.

So it's learning to life within a limited budget is the plan for next year - I want to see how it feels.  As I have said, I live for next to nothing considering I have a 3 bedroom cottage and I have no debt other than my mortgage.  I don't need to save.  So how much money do I need to have a decent life?  Answering that question is my plan for 2012.  Or to put it another way; being tight and trying to make the most out every pound spent - and I'm looking forward to the challenge.  Gonna start working out again - I'm getting flabbing but i'm the same weight as I was a year ago and I'm please with that.  There could be some travelling in the spring.  It would be good to do it fit.

Love life has been interesting.  A year of extremes.  I'm all right now.

I got an interesting Christmas prezzy from Sonia, my lovely girlfriend.  It is a DVD called "Julie and Julia".  Give it a go.  It's a must for every blogger who loves France and cooks from the great book "Mastering the Art of French Cooking".  Cool prezzy babe!

So, from me, the Rat, to all of you (one or two) I hope you have had a great Christmas and I wish you every happiness in 2012.

So it's time for the You Tube link.  This was a tune that kept me going for most of my trip across Europe.  6 months on and it makes the hairs stand up on the back of my neck - did I really do all that in 2011?  And the answer to the question the song poses?   I FUCKIN ANSWER AND YOU BET I DO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Happy new year and if you need it may your god go with you. 


Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Bathroom - Oct, Nov and Dec 2011 Pt 3

New Bathroom!

God.....the thrilling life I lead!

So, inevitably it is to music.  The end of the year is coming and traditionally we all look back, then look forward.  Stretching this theme to it's limit here is a few songs that I idiolised when I was younger....all seems a little cheesy now doesnt it!?  Still....I was there and it was fun at the time.




(Post gig on the Girlschool Hit and Run Tour, Fart and I met the girls backstage and I had each girl on each limb signing their name at the same time.  Why wasnt there mobile phones with cameras then?  Answer:  Because there were no mobile phones!  Hit and Run = 1981.  Denise was thin and I was 15 years old!

Remembering Girlschool reminded me of the one above.  When Diamond Head toured in the very early 80's Fart and I went to see them (at a shit hole) and, as ya do, we helped the band with their gear when they finished.  We were obviously trying to get an invite to the post gig party (at that stage probably in the back of a transit van) or something.  Anyway, one of the "Roadies" was a small, scandanavian gobby bastard who kept on telling everyone what a shit hot drummer he was.  Pissed, we ignored him.  He still plays for Metalica.

The Band! - Oct, Nov and Dec 2011 Pt 2

Regular readers - if there are any left - will know I play the drums.  Of all instruments the New Orleans 5 Piece Drum Kit should be played with other instruments.

So with the house well advanced and my travelling out of the way for 2011 an unexpected e-mail from a guitarist chum of mine came at the right time and 6 week in we are playing well and developing our style and learning the harsh lessons that come from distilling what you can play from what you want to play.  We are a focused lot and the energy is there to get us playing live paid gigs and the talent is probably there to.  In the studio:

We are a 5 piece (Joolz, lead guitar, joined after these pics) covers band but the choice of songs is very interesting and varied and I don't think there is another band on the local circuit that plays our sort of stuff.  This is a very good sign and if we can get good I think we will get lots of bookings.  I'm a pensioner!  I need the money!

So....for the second time in as many hours it's music time.  Last time you had the sad laments of the Foo Fighters and Dave's powerful lyrics.  So if the part 1 songs chart my personal life in 2011 then I guess, with tongue firmly in cheek, Part 2 "end-of-the-year songs" charts my travels this year.  Again, I have seen all of these bands at various times over the last 30 years or so....or bits and pieces of them at most!.

Early 2011:


2011 Generally:

Long Time No Write, The House - Oct, Nov and Dec 2011 - Part 1

Hi everyone!  It's been a long time and lots has happened.  I've had several nice weekends away, Ive joined a new rock band and the house is nearly finished.  To right this up will take a few attempts so forgive me if I jump around a little.  In no apparent order therefore....

The House - The Living Room

If you have read my blog before you will know that I am adjusting to a young retirement.  Part of this process is my house.  What to do with it, why and when.  Given the economic climate and the depressed housing market I have decided to renovate my little 3 bed Wiltshire Cottage.

A lot of planning, a lot of money and time and been expended on my house in the last 4 months and the results are starting to come.  What you look at are new walls, new ceilings, new floors, new hot water and new heating.  The house has been structurally strengthened in line with modern guidelines and special attention has been paid to building insulation and sound proofing into the house.  As a deaf musician the sound proofing is necessary to maintain good inter-neighbour relations!!!


This Morning:

Seating by Mark and Spencer.  Watercolours by Marilyn Allis and Rob Saunders.  AV by LG, Yamaha, Marantz and Monitor Audio.  Marble by Robert Bines (excellent local stonemason).  Wood (light Mango) by Oak World of Westbury.  Pain, prep and pain by me. 

This is only part 1 of this post and I'm doing it bit by bit as I'm starting to get memory issues on this blog site so the photos may not make it on.  don't know until I try so here goes!  More to come over the next several days and enjoy the tunes.

Finally music.  It is impossible to think it possible (if you get me...) to go to a Foo Fighters gig and they are not the headline act.  But when I saw the Foo's were not the headline act.  Oasis was.  That was 2005 and it was the first major gig I took my then 14 year old daughter to and we had a great time at the Cardiff Millennium Stadium.  Here is several of there songs and they all have great thought provocing lyrics, Ive put the songs in order that kinda sum up my year in certain respects - What a year!  10th Dec 2005 - It was the best though.


March, April, May

May June

July onwards

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Cranbourne Chase Woodfair - 8th/9th October 2011

This kinda sneaked up on me.  I've been so wrapped up in my house and my lovely girlfriend that I largely forgot I had arranged with http://www.guitar-stool.com/ to work this arts and crafts fest at the Larmer Tree Gardens in Dorset.  As per the Larmer Tree Music Fest in July I was selling (rather unsuccessfully) high quality stools and other staff made out of fine timbers that have a guitar theme.  Roger Cox is my "boss" and he is a mate and furniture maker.

Christmas is coming and Guitar stool could do with the business so if you have an interest in guitars or love fine solid timber why not indulge yourself or make someones Christmas morning.

Working these things is great fun.  This wood fair closes at 5pm and then all the stalls close then the traders entertainment - a talented rock, folk and blues outfit - play informally in the small beer tent.  Sounds great doesn't it?  I froze my nads off all day.  I had 2 post-work beers with Roger went back to my tent, had a smoke, got warm in my double sleeping bag and fully clothed I fell asleep. 12 hours later I woke up!  Get my rock and roll lifestyle.

I knew several of the other traders from the Larmer Tree fest in the summer.  Marilyn Allis was there http://www.marilynallis.co.uk/ and I bought another one of her paintings.  Check out the link.  Christmas is coming and Marilyn is a great human being and an exceptional artist.  Her work is an absolute bargain.

There are 2 loose groupings:

1.  Craftsmen and women who did the odd festival before the kids and now combine the both.

2.  Festival goers who sought a way to fund their "festivalling" by selling something whilst they are there. (This is me and most festival Cafe owners strangly.  Why?  Who knows.)

Both get along famously and join in with the banter and take the piss out of hectic customers.  I could do this for a living.  If I could get £7k a year I would be happy alas I have only the ability to talk not to create from nothing.  All the traders are under stress however and only just making money if at all.  They work very hard and contribute more than is immediately apparent to the festival scene and vibe.  Most of what they sell is original in design and handmade so you buy a one off.  These "one-man-bands" take simple materials, apply some skill and imagination and create something original.  I think this needs to be encouraged on the use it or loose it principle?  Please check out the websites I have given and shown in the pics - prices are cheap, it is a buyers market at the mo.

To round off the weekend Son and I got together for a late Sunday supper at my building site house.  Some organic bread, quality sausage, apple smoked cheese, duck egg and red onion salad finished with a Whiskey and Ginger Liqueur.  She had been off to a Devon retreat doing her thing whilst I was working.  Perfect end to a great weekend.

To music then. Every link I post I have seen live if you get me but this one is different.  I've played this live dozens of times and I had my biggest thrill as a gigging drummer after playing it.  The Devizes Beer Fest is 1200 semi pissed, largely middle aged, beer drinkers and it takes place alongside the Kennet and Avon Canal.  We played on the flat bed of one of the sponsors lorry (Wadsworth's naturally) in the early July afternoon and its warm.  The teen thrash band just got off to polite applause.  After reaching, because it was the biggest crowd ever played and I was scared, we played a version of this Neil Young behemoth for our first song.  It's was our best song and our studio version link is below.  If you look on the photos bit of my old bands site you will see me in the studio doing a poor impression of Ozzy Osbourne.  And I have dyed hair!  Anyway the cheer that afternoon was similar to what you here at a football crowd and I nearly shit myself there and then on my drum throne.  Lucky I was wearing shades to.


And the Neil Young version that I had the pleasure to see:


Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Soni, Sea and Sand. Poole - Indian Summer, Oct 2011

I was there as well.  As you can see I was kissing the prettiest girl on the beach.  More to follow as the house is getting there after a few dramas.  Big post then if I'm not bankrupted by it first!

Music!  Ok.  A very old friend contacted me this evening and this one is dedicated to her.  I saw this band on their Number of the Beast Tour at Reading 1982 and Mags you were so jealious! Here is to you Mags Glad to hear to you made the jump and are tearing it up.  Remember this?


Thursday, 22 September 2011

I'm still Alive!

I haven't written for a while and there is good reason.  The only way you know how lucky you are is to be reminded that what I have, simple as it is, is so much more than so many others have.  When you are simply moving on with your life and improving your lot it is easy to become complacent and forget to say thank you and really look at and enjoy what you have.  In the fortnight since returning from France I have had to witness and help where I can in several important and life threatening situations that I can't detail here.  Everyone is alive and the sick are healing.  I have started to say thank you again.

There are no photos on this post because I am saving them for the post I will write a fortnight hence when most of my house will be complete, decorated and furnished.  It's looking well smart.  So far all of downstairs has had new floors, walls, electrics and ceilings.  The walls and ceiling have had their suction coats and are brilliantly white.  It looks like a hospital.  The house is wired for Freesat, data and phone.  The doors are off and the massive back door has been brought back to the wood, deeply sanded and primed.  The door furniture for this little piece of history has cost a small fortune but it will be a work of art and to a lesser extent so will all of the downstairs doors.  They are all the original cottage doors and over a century old.  Yup, getting to love this place.

The clear up is coming and I think it will be inevitable that means doing the gardens as both are currently covered in rubble and old timber.  I'm not prepared to spend money on this so it's going to be slow progress through the winter but hey, it will be a good work out and I can work at my own pace.  Initially I'm going to level the garden with my old plaster from the kitchen and living room.  Then work out what to do!  I need somewhere solid to park the Mazy and my Kwacker.  I guess I will start there.  A paved, covered car port.  As for the timber?  It will be a warm winter!

So time for the delve into You Tube and after a number of up beat tunes this one is a little different.  Probably because i'm tired and in pain (poor little love).  Anyway, this is a rock masterpiece.  I saw The Who play this in the pissing rain ironically.  Rog made a real good fist of it too, gawd bless 'im.


Wednesday, 7 September 2011

France and Soni. 1st - 6th September 2011

I'm just about to watch the England Wales game after eating a Chinese and I'm shagged.  The drive back this morning was a nightmare with horizontal rain, gale force winds and an high windy road exasperating the whole thing.  Tough 60 miles or so.

Let's return to the 1st of September and the first day of my Autumn travelling programme..  I met up with my travelling partner - Martin, a very close friend, on Thursday and we went out to have a curry and "shoot the shit".  With a gentle hang over and Delhi-belly we set off.  Martin on his 2008 Triumph Speed Triple and me on my 2002 Kawasaki ZX9R.  On the ferry crossing we passed the time speaking to a fellow English biker Jon who lives in France and was returning home after touring England - interesting role reversal! It made the boring 3 hr channel crossing an enjoyable experience.  Jon is a bit of character and this 60 year old gentleman explained to us how much he was looking forward to see his 34 year old beautiful French girlfriend.  We liked this.  We swapped e-mail addresses and went our way.  Martin and I hit the French roads in bright warm sunlight.  I didn't realise just how much I missed travelling independently and, for the first time in a long time, on my motorbike.  Bliss.

It's slow going through Le Havre but then the road opens a little and the Pont Du Normande comes into view.  This is a fuck off bridge!  It's in two "bits" one lowish and the second over the river and it needs to be high enough to allow large ships to sail up the Seine River.  Up and over we go and and the road clears as the Nationale to Caen goes into open country.  With an 80mph speed limit and an excellently maintained and clear road we cruised at a safe 85 to 100 mph.  Obviously popping in the decidedly unsafe "above 130" as the road demanded, as you do.  If you are a biker this is great stuff and you can hold these speeds for miles.  You get into a real rhythm.  We were travelling really light too (just clothes) so we stretched the legs of these excellent motorcycles.

From Caen we stopped off in Falaise for a beer and first use of schooldboy but well rehersed French.  From there to Mont Ormel which is where the gite is.  Those of you who are sad and bored enough to read this blog you will be aware of the gite in question from posts earlier this year.  It's idilic, quiet and the bar close by is the place to have a few cold ones, admire the lovely view, take in the sunset and shoot the shit.  We ate here for 2 nights and it's a little gem.  "Bar-Restaurant Le Montormel" is a family owned bar that does excellent home cooked food.  The owners have Armenian discent and at the weekends the plat is a Russian or Armenian dish.  This is a small place and quiet so you don't have much in the way of choice but go with it and you will get tasty homecooked food with reasonably priced wine.  You can't go wrong and they are good people.  We loved it. 

We shopped for our fresh food, bread, pate, cheese, beer, wine, cidre, more beer and then yet more beer, mostly in Falaise.  This gave us the opportunty to do the coffee culture thing and buy from the Saturday market that seems to fill every open space in the centre of this historic Norman town.  This was the birth place and home of William the Conquerer and also the site of bitter fighting in the Second World War.  Schrapnel damage can be seen on the older buildings.  Fortunately enough of the Norman town and castle remain to make this site important to the history of both Britain and France.  It's a nice place to chill in.  It has a slow but steady pace and everything you need (see list above) is here from the plethora of small shops.  Sharpens up your French too.  You have to ask for stuff and deal with numbers several times a day.

Then it started raining.  The last two days were wet and my shoulder - yeah that one - start to play up so we were grounded and went up the bar.  The way home was uneventful and then we got on the ferry.  I shouldn't laugh but you see I have never suffered from sea sickness on a ship...  It was rough.  Really rough.  You couldn't walk around the "Fastcat" passenger spaces because this fast catamaran was bobbing like a cork.  About 20% of the passengers hit the chunder button and the number of others, who looked like Martians (green), was the same again.  The crew were flat out dealing with full sick bags and slippery floors.  Martin and I had a can of Stella and a Ginsters Cornish pasty and looked on pointing out people who were throwing up to one another whilst trying not to chuckle too openly!  Wicked? yes, but you couldn't help yourself really!!!  As we docked and went down to the car decks the stewards were still hosing down the outside prom deck where groups of the unfortunate had gathered.  The "Fastcat" had become the "Vomit Comet". (I'm giggling as I recall this!)

We disembarked, said our goodbyes and set off on our onward journeys.  Martin had a 2 mile ride home and although the sky was angry, it was dry.  I was off to Poole and had a 50mile or so blat along the English south coast to get there.  An hour, and some rain later I arrived at Soni's for shower, dinner and cuddles.  What an Angel and Soni is alright too.

Right, music time.  The music links I place on here are all from acts I have seen live.  This is an unusual one but falls within that bracket and is one for the purists'.  Give it a go.  This is a bona-fide, top class professional singer at her pomp.  There is not one thing about this performance, from the phrasing of the words to the dynamics of her voice, that has not been worked on and perfected.  The power is amazing and the song tells a story.  It was written by George Harrison and is a cover of The Beatles (yuk!) hit.  There are many versions of this on You Tube and this one is the best I think.  I give you the one, the only, Dame Shirley Bassey.


Sunday, 28 August 2011

Budget Busting and an interesting week - Late August 2011

Hi all!  Well, next week will be fun.  In terms of the house I will be well past the half way mark and I'm off to France on Thursday.  I've included some pics of my lounge and one of my kitchen in a pretty advanced state - just to tantalise you.  I've also ordered my new table.  It is small but I have chosen the plank of Olive Ash that it will be made from and I will be beautiful once the maker works his magic.  Having a hand made table to my requirements may sound extravagant but Roger is a mate who I work for from time to time and therefore the price will be affordable.  The chairs however.....

That brings me nicely on to my modernisation budget.  I allowed myself a generous 20% contingency fund for my rebuild and as these things tend to it disappeared pretty quickly.  In order to completely finish the house in the way I want therefore requires me to do some of the work.  I'm going to do all of the living room with some advice from my builder.  Like most DIYers I can lay bricks and work accurately with timber but the art of plastering and other finish work is something most prefer to leave to the pro's due to the high quality finish they give.  I'm going to tank, render and plaster my lounge and lay the new floor.  This work has to be done correctly and my builder will supervise whilst he finishes the kitchen and moves on to the bathroom.

This is an intriguing house.  Lifting the floor - probably the first time since the last fire in 1904 - revealed charred brick and tile and showed more evidence of the building phases going back some 200 years.  The last house I owned was built in 1720 and this one is more interesting and worthy of respect.  This is partly why my budget has grown.  Removing timber lintels and "over specing" the new lounge floor are examples.  The lads from (my old) work who read this know only too well that in any project you can usually trade time for money.  I am over spending therefore I need to reduce the time/money spent on paid labour to bring the project back and get all that I want for the money I have alotted.  So I have asked the builder to give me the last 10 days on my own.  4hrs a day, 4 days out of 7, I have worked on the house.  This together with keeping my old kitchen floor has saved me about £1000.  I'm getting entirely fresh kitchen, bathroom and lounge for £12k.  I think this is good value considering the quality and completeness of the work being performed.  No short cuts here and the electrics and heating are state of the art and have some innovation applied to them.  This will be an interesting home designed just for me and it should deliver exactly what I want my house to do.  Can't wait until it is complete - October?

My blog posts tend to centre on several recurring subjects:  travel, fitness (or lack of it), festivals and the plethora of minor shit that equate to building my new life.  There is one other subject I tend to write about and there has been some changes here.  Early days and caution is present but I'm smiling more.  Thank you.

Ive got that "Buckle up your seat belt Dorothy'coz Kansas is going bye bye" feeling.

My beautiful daughter returned from travelling this week so we went out and got shitfaced - as we do.  Some parents my be shocked at this but Lizzy and I are great friends and I would just like to ask what do you do with your friends when you haven't seen them for some time?  Anyway, Friday was a great night where travel stories were exchanged and I benefited from from hearing her insight.  Lizzy spent a month in Cambodia and a month in Thailand performing voluntary work with orphans.  She is 20 in September and off to Uni in October.  I would say this wouldn't I but my daughter is quite a gal.  Given all that has happened she is honest, straight and ambitious in the right way.  She is also a thinker, beautiful and funny.  I hope you can see why I'm so proud of her.  We had a great night and crashed at a close friends flat that is blissfully located not 30mtrs from the pub.  I slept on the freezing kitchen floor whilst Lizzy and her (quality) boyfriend had the lounge.  I woke up stiff as a board and shivering, clear signs of a successful, good ole fashioned alternative piss up.  Here's to you Lizzy, welcome back kid.  Love ya.

This was going to be a simple post but actually I really enjoyed writing this one!  Lots of things have happened and more to come next week when I leave for France and the lounge gets it's new floor.  The bike is ready for France and in touring trim (as opposed to "all out, fuck off, mad dog, turbo charged nutter bastard" trim) and I hope I am ready as well.

So it's music time.  I saw the Goddess that is Flo perform this twice at Glastonbury a year ago and it was emotional.  It was the only time I have seen the entire Pyramid Stage area crowd (full by the way), the Solidarity bar punters and all the fast food traders stop doing whatever they were doing and climb on tables, chairs, turned to each other and put their hands in the air.  Everyone, together, at once, sang the great lyrics and smiled.  A true "moment" and I was there.  Even if you have heard it a million times treat yourself one more time.  Grab the hair brush, plug your laptop into your hifi, volume to 11, think of someone past or present and let go.  I bet you can't play it just the once!  This is what I saw, listen to what I heard. This one is for you:


And this is the equally excellent official vid of the studio version without Dizzee