Got the city on lockdown

8:54 pm : Monday, 30 March 2020  |  , , , , , ,

We now enter week two of this beloved Coronavirus lockdown. As Hannah is diabetic and asthmatic, she must stay indoors for another eleven weeks minimum, and I - apart from the daily walk to the local village shop - try to do the same. It is just a matter of finding things to do with ourselves. Last week I mowed both lawns - front and back - and also started painting some shelf units. Something I had been meaning to do, but now there is no excuse for not slapping on the paint and the wax. I shall even tackle that mould on the living room walls tomorrow. Seeing as this is a 1950s property, mould comes part and parcel.

I always thought ordering our prescriptions online would be a good idea. No more having to fill in and submit request slips and collect a couple of days later - but have it done for you online. So I signed up with Echo. For the large part it works well, but the recent goings on have seen me receive just one of my five medications - two weeks after I ordered them! Someone on Twitter was bold enough to actually post me their unused Citalopram tablets, as I had tweeted about running out, and emphasising my genuine fear of not having ready and prompt access to the tablet that steadies me. It is just not good. Thank the Heavens that some people are prepared to do what we are told not to - ie. not share medications. Well desperate times call for desperate measures.

In memory

4:44 pm : Sunday, 12 January 2020  |  , ,

30 years ago my dad died at the age of 57. It was a Wednesday night on the 10 January 1990 when I came home from work and was informed by my mum that he had died. The next day I went into work and did not even tell my boss. Instead I just handed her a note written by my mum requesting a day off for the funeral. I feared my boss that much.

He did not look after himself. My parents split in November 1979, with me and my sister being hauled off to Spain for a couple of months, before coming back to the UK to live in temporary accommodation. She had had enough of his drinking, and of his habit for speed and valium. She had had enough of her two kids finding his tablets on the floor and thinking they were Smarties. She had had enough of his yoyo behaviour. 1980 saw them divorce.

Since then, he would visit us at weekends, but live alone in Peckham in south London. One October Saturday in 1986 saw him not turn up at our home, and when my sister arrived home from work, she then hauled herself down to his flat in Peckham. No answer at the door, so the police were called. Through the letterbox he was visible in his bed, so the door was broken down. He had suffered a stroke, and just looked up at his daughter and the police like a puppy.

The rest of 1986 saw us visiting him at weekends at the King's College Hospital in Dulwich. Seeing him reduced to skin and bone, locked away inside and unable to communicate. My dad was not the same anymore. Laying there, eyes open, occasionally slow blinking, not responding to voices.

Progress would eventually come, and a Boxing Day visit to the psychiatric ward at King's College Hospital saw him once again jolly and talkative. Slightly a better person than before. Certainly the sanest person in that ward. There were people in that ward who were truly loopy. He just did not belong there, but he stayed there until sheltered accommodation was provided in mid 1987.

In 1988 there was a second stroke which largely paralysed his left hand side. His left hand was now useless and stayed in a glove, and his walk was a sideways shuffle. Worryingly, in his very limited capacity, and entirely without prior arrangement or warning, he would make the journey on public transport from Peckham to Finchley, and present himself at our home to visit. I found it hard to tolerate, as I was still a teen growing and learning, and here was this shadow of a man babbling about things from the long distant past. It may have helped me draw up an accurate and comprehensive family tree, but the randomness of the visits was not easy to deal with. I arrive home from school, walk up the communal staircase, and am presented with a brown glove on the step. Up more stairs and there he is - waiting outside our door for one of us to be home, and listen to him babble.

It was hard for my mum. I tried my best to tolerate his behaviour, but she broke more easily. He would be recalling some useless fact from the past, and she would respond sharply with: "Yes - so? What are you telling me for? I don't bloody care! Yes, and? What am I supposed to do with that fact?" Despite his very broken nature, in his mind he maintained this notion that he and my mum could somehow reconcile. How that would have worked is anyone's guess. It was hard enough for me to keep switching off the hairdryer and saying: "Sorry?", just because he felt the need to stand and talk at me about some irrelevant thing from the past.

When I learned of his death, I thought: "Right, OK. It is a shame, but so be it. We have to carry on." It was a sad downward spiral, but then he did drink, and that did not help when having high blood pressure. He suffered with depression, so probably saw little purpose in life. In the end he just existed. My mum did feel guilty when he died, but what else could she do? She had a son who was still her responsibility. She had her work to do. How in the world could she have found the strength to care for someone now broken? Qualifications are needed for that, and neither she nor I possessed those very qualifications. We were out of our depth.

We wish you an Abi Titmuss

11:30 pm : Wednesday, 25 December 2019  |  , , ,

Another Christmas done. Another successful meal cooked, presents given, cheese and chocolate eaten, cola and white rum drunk, feeling content. All despite the minidisc deck packing up last night. I guess it is foolish of me to expect more than 21 years of service from that battered old MDS-JE510. Bring me another model please!

The vinyl collection gains new additions. For my birthday in September I received Random Access Memories by Daft Punk, and also purchased Back To Black by Amy Winehouse and Otis Blue by Otis Redding. Her gift to me today was the 31 year old electro-fest Introspective by the Pet Shop Boys. It takes a lot to beat their song I Want A Dog, that is for sure, along with the latino-inflected Domino Dancing.

I am not the only one building a vinyl collection. Today I started hers off with a couple of her singalong favourites - the 1984 Billy Ocean song Suddenly, and the 1987 Starship anthem Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now. Old favourites that involve getting hands-on with. That is what makes a Christmas!

Once there was a way

5:00 pm : Sunday, 13 October 2019  |  

Like many I have purchased a copy of the 50th anniversary edition of Abbey Road. Not the de-luxe box set edition - just the standard single vinyl edition. Lovingly remixed for the occasion by Giles Martin (son of George), the result is something that is most different from that 1987 CD pressing.

Take Here Comes The Sun: for a start, George Harrison's vocal is exactly where it should be - dead centre. Not off to the right. I don't care if it was 1969 at the time! There is no excuse for panning the lead vocal to one side. Secondly, the harmonies of Paul and John have been brought out from the shadows. They were meant to be heard after all! The result is delicious.

Overall, the sound has been given a more contemporary air. Vocals are more forthright than before, and it is - for me at least - easier to digest. Some people may find it like eating a lasagne with all of the ingredients laid separately before them. For me it makes more sense. That hi-hat cymbal in the middle of Something has been given a stereo effect that suits it so much more than the deadpan mono example of the original. You may have to listen to both the original and the new one to really play spot the difference, but it is fun.

If you do go for the 3 CD version with outtakes, there is an early construction of the medley entitled The Long One. This sees Her Majesty being placed in its originally intended position - between Mean Mr Mustard and Polythene Pam. There it should have stayed, but then they knew best. It also includes an early working of Golden Slumbers, which features Paul becoming emotional as he sings the lines. The original is emotional enough, but with the addition of Paul's voice cracking up, the effect is amplified. It is truly phenomenal.

The Long One - Golden Slumbers

Kitty go lightly

12:06 am : Thursday, 10 October 2019  |  , ,

Three weeks ago, we had to have our ten year old ginger cat Peaches put to sleep. There was too much going wrong with her health, and any attempt to prolong her life would have been ongoing and costly.

Last Friday the in-laws decided to show up with a surprise and a half - a new kitty! While we still have a female tuxedo cat, we now have a nine week old male tuxedo to raise. So far he has been a little ball of fun and affection, and while it is too much too soon, we cannot complain about having him.

In a lather

10:10 am : Sunday, 25 August 2019  |  ,

Happiness is a new washing machine. One that arrived at 8 this morning and - with a bit of swearing - I succeeded in plumbing it in. If there is any advice that can be given, it is this - change that rubber washer on the water inlet hose if you are thinking of transplanting it from the old machine to the new one. Our kitchen has an arrangement that prevents us from using the standard length of water hose, thus requiring us to use and reuse the longer one.

'Tis whisper quiet. The old one sounded like a jet engine when it spun, all thanks to a knackered bearing. It makes me laugh to think - all it needed was a new bearing for the drum to be mounted on, yet to replace that very bearing, you have to dismantle EVERY part of the machine! All for the want of a rotary bearing. The spin noise was bad enough, but when it sounded like we were operating it with a brick in the drum, it was clearly time for a new one. And THAT is what a credit card is for. Not needless clothes or music or other frippery that brings us happiness - but the emergency purchase that cannot be avoided. The Ug in the room, grunting and farting, reminding you this must be sorted NOW.

The old soak

9:09 am : Thursday, 30 May 2019  |  , , ,

As I type this, two workmen are preparing our wetroom for a bath. It is becoming the traditional bathroom once again.

When we moved to this property, the bathroom had already been converted to a wetroom with a walk-in shower. This arrangement obviously suits a person with limited mobility. My partner however, has serious muscular issues which can only really be eased with a good soak in a good old tub. Me and my arthritis could also use a good steaming in a tub. As convenient the shower is, it does not help with our ailments.

An acceptable bathtub would start at £120 (not a fragile acrylic one), with the neccessities like feet, overflow, taps and panelling driving up the cost. Fortunately there is eBay, and a drive to a village near Northampton saw us secure a tub and associated bits for a more decent £30. A nice wide and reassuringly heavy tub too. Our joints and muscles have been crying out for this for almost a year and a half!

I laid some parquet-style vinyl last night, and we have a couple of blue tester pots to smear on the wall, just to see whether the existing duck egg shade can stay or not.

Bring on the bubbles! I've got the ducks at the ready...

I viddied right at once

11:23 pm : Friday, 24 May 2019  |  , , , , ,

If you ever visited the web address in the past, it would have taken you to a site dedicated to my 2010 album Radio Anyone. That old site can now be found here. As for, that is now dedicated to the YouTube series that I began back in March. So far there are six episodes and two minisodes for you to consume.

One thing that YouTube creators tend to do is set up a Patreon account, so that fans of the channel can contribute financially to its upkeep and its growth. My favourite channel currently has over 120 patrons who together raise him over $650 per month. Another terrific channel has over 2000 patrons. One thing is for sure - these two guys truly deserve their success. That a 20 minute video can take over a week to complete says so much. It is devotion, and if that devotion brings entertainment to people, then it is right and proper that these creators are rewarded.

When I started recording these videos, I truly thought it would be easy. It jolly well is not. Especially for someone whose every move is hindered by arthritis! There is much needed for a successful shoot:
  • A reliable camera (mine is an older iPhone)
  • A reliable microphone (see above)
  • A tripod (mine is a selfie-stick tied to the handle of a carpet sweeper, plus a mini phone tripod from Poundland)
  • Camera lighting (mine is a £13 three-colour LED disco light, plus a living room lamp)
  • A digital audio recorder or laptop for capturing audio (mine is an old, slow netbook)
All of these things cost money, and there is no harm in asking your fanbase to contribute. One channel raised an astounding $30,000 in a week, and with its first payout, bought an $8,000 sofa for the set. I am not after a sofa. I am not even after the thousands. Just anything that my fans can afford.

So how much have I managed to raise thus far through my Patreon account? As yet - zero. Not one patron has signed up. Clearly I have a lot of work to do! People need to discover the videos, and most of all, like them. I create and I wait. Let us face it - I have been a stay-at-home carer since 2012, and am therefore unable to go out and work like a normal person. Someone advised me to funnel my creative juices and try something at home. Well this is it guys! This is my brave attempt!

So I ask of you the following: visit - this will allow you to view my YouTube channel, where you can like, comment and subscribe. You can also visit my Patreon account and set up a monthly pledge to help assist with the time, effort and potential cost of recording the episodes.

Thank you.

Channeling the inner geek

2:09 am : Saturday, 20 April 2019  |  , , , , , ,

While I have had a YouTube channel since 2006, it is only recently I have decided to jump on the bandwagon and start doing my own series of videos about audio and tech matters. Others out there already do a fine job at this. South Dakota-based Oddity Archive has given us a terrific series of audio and video related episodes. Hailing from New Jersey, VWestlife soothes us with his mellow voice as he shows us his latest technological escapades. Over here in the UK we have the highly respected Techmoan, a Wigan-based chap who has this amazing ability to demonstrate some of the most obscure and forgotten audio and video formats. Finally from Blackpool there is Cassette Comeback, a man who is devoted to keeping the Compact Cassette™ alive - whilst managing to sound like Noel Gallagher.

My valiant attempt - titled Fluteboy (don't ask why) - sees me demonstrating my audio matters. Episode one involves a ball of green glop that promises to rid our vinyl records of that annoying "frying bacon" sound. Episode two goes into detail on my turntable, and why I chose a 35 year old model over a current one. The latest episode is about my speakers - two floorstanding giants that cost me less that £32. In fact, the floor spike adaptations I bought for them cost more! This was the bargain of the century.

So please visit, watch, like, comment, and share. It'll do me the world of good. I may not have the subscriber base of KSI or PewDiePie, but I have to start somewhere....

A painted smile

1:07 am : Friday, 5 April 2019  |  , , , ,

Both Hannah and I suffer from depression. We have our own flavours to deal with. Mine is (thankfully) largely contained, with usually a monthly blip to challenge me. Hannah has it a bit harder, and therefore a different method of handling things is required.

One thing that was seriously getting her down recently was the dark nature of our bedroom. It is painted a light pink, so it is not as if the walls are sucking the light out. Together we identified it as the bedroom furniture. Much of it was antique pine, with its charachteristic dark golden colour, and while it all matched nicely and looked at home in a "chabby-chic" setting, it was a little too dark for her comfort. I, on the other hand, just wished to see the back of that bloody Ikea Dombås wardrobe that was somehow still hanging together!

The solution was as follows: take those bedside cabinets, drawers and dressing table and sand the varnish off of the tops. This exposed a nice light surface that when waxed looks much lighter. The drawer knobs would also get the same treatment. For the drawer fronts and main cabinets, a layer of primer followed by an off-white furniture paint. This is then topped off with the same clear wax. It was all a rather long process but when completed it helped to lessen the gloom in the room.

Yesterday that Dumb-ass.... sorry, Dombås wardrobe was unscrewed and dismantled. It served us well for a few years, but it did not really belong! The task of wardrobing has been given to a solid pine one that is currently getting the same sand, paint and wax treatment. There is also now a large mirror above the bed to help throw some light into those darker recesses.

Light is so important when it comes to maintaining moods. I have never understood those people who paint their walls a very dark shade. Normally I see it on TV - where some lowlife has their living room painted what looks like a dark plum colour. Did no one tell them that deep colours are to be used for accenting?