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 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 a 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 www.fluteboy.co.uk 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 www.fluteboy.co.uk, 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 www.fluteboy.co.uk - 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?

A design for life

1:48 pm : Sunday, 3 February 2019  |  , , , , ,


I only learned to use a computer in 1998. Prior to this I had no interest in computers. Maybe it was the rising popularity of the internet that got me to wanting to learn - along with the fact that my then-favourite talk radio host Nick Abbot had a slightly unhealthy number of tribute websites made for him. Whatever it was, I had to learn to operate one of these things. This would involve a computer course and visits to internet cafes. How could a 26 year old not know how to operate a computer? My mum only learned to type at 50! I had best set an example here.

1999 was an interesting time for the humble internet cafe. Some bloke called Stelios - who just so happens to run a bright orange airline company - decided to launch a chain of bright orange 24-hour internet cafes, with each one providing a good 400 computer screens. Whereas your typical cybercaff charged between £3 and £6 for an hour, the orange one would allow numerous hours overnight for just one little sexy pound. Yes the computers all ran on the delightfully unstable Windows 95, and viewing the web involved - not the highly popular and very cooperative Internet Explorer - but the thoroughly niggly and downright unstable Netscape Navigator. Those "Illegal operation" error boxes were a frequent occurrence. "Illegal? It's only Nick Abbot!"

Having discovered the personal website of a former classmate and professional computer molester, my next desire was to have my own website. This involved signing up with Geocities. - just before they were conveniently swallowed by Yahoo. From memory, the address of my 1999 website was: www.geocities.com/CapeCanaveral/Runway/6091. Talk about memorable. It even looked like this - resplendent in your finest green and complete with obligatory clip-art platypus.

Years passed and though my site had numerous addresses it remained in some form or another, with differing designs bestowed upon it. Despite the advent of blogging and social media, my site continued to share humourous audio clips and rather brave poetry. Somehow the blogging aspect stuck the most, and what was once published on LiveJournal or Myspace has gone and found its home here. You know where to find me and my rot. You are most welcome. A net-nerd for 20 years. Wahey!

Double it up

8:10 pm : Thursday, 27 December 2018  |  ,


In 1983 the Electric Light Orchestra released their album Secret Messages. Originally conceived as a eighteen-track double album, it was ultimately slimmed down to a single volume with a miserly ten tracks - or eleven if you bought the cassette or CD. This was allegedly due to the economic situation of the time. It was a fate that befell the band Squeeze too - their 1981 album East Side Story would have been a double, but wound up being a single album. Thank you Margaret Thatcher.

Only 35 years later do we finally get to taste the double album, on vinyl too. Never mind all this compact disc nonsense. Downloads? Now you are just taking the mick!

Seventeen tracks are present. OK, so one of the originally planned songs is absent from this release. Side two of the album was supposed to feature this horridly fawning number that was embarrassingly titled Beatles Forever. It's absence leaves that side of the album four minutes shorter than the others, but that's all very well. Believe me, it was a dreadful song. Lennon was shot in 1980, and in 1981 ELO paid tribute to him by incorporating a Lennon medley into their live set. Come 1982, it was no surprise that Jeff Lynne would take it upon himself to write a song about the band that ultimately gave ELO their sound. The song was shelved, and years later he would come to work with the three remaining Beatles. Is it any surprise that he grew to dislike that song? It is drearily slow, it essentially just name-checks various Beatles songs, and tells us how he wish he could write a song like they did. Ho-hum.

Nevertheless, it is most satisfying to see the long-awaited release of the song Hello My Old Friend - Jeff's tribute to his home town of Birmingham. Sad canals with green-black water, skinny dogs and beer crates - this song has it all. A near eight minute masterpiece which was criminally cut from the 1983 original. Jeff poured his all into this song - the most intriguing drum machine pattern of all time, early 70s Moog synth, full string section, kiddies singing Frère Jacques - you could not want for more! And it took a whole 35 years for it to finally reach the general pubic... er, public.

The best flipping Christmas present I have ever received.

Break and enter

11:43 am : Wednesday, 14 November 2018  |  


Early this morning we suffered an attempted burglary. Attempted, but quickly aborted. Possibly due to my loud voice coming at them from the next room.

Because of her health needs, my partner has the big bed in the main bedroom all to herself, while I have a small bed in the spare room. Given that I sometimes snore, I will sometimes take to the sofa in the living room, and make my Neanderthal noises in there. Last night was one of those nights. On the sofa with a couple of cushions and a v-shaped pillow, tucked up and dreaming of Manchester or something other, whilst making ug noises.

At 3:50AM I hear shuffling which I assume is my partner in the hall about to go to the bathroom. I am then woken proper by a humongous bang/crash from the kitchen, and my immediate response is: "FOR CRYING OUT LOUD!" Assuming the cat has knocked something over and broken it, I go into the kitchen to see the window wide open, having been forced. Call it foolish, but my next instinct is to go outside with my phone blaring its torch light, and a saucepan in my hand should there be any need for combat. No one around. We had a visit from the Police about half an hour later, though this did little to chill my partner's nerves, or calm me down sufficiently for sleep.

Someone I knew once described being burgled as like being raped. Your own home is violated, and your possessions are fingered. The last time I suffered a burglary was in 1992, when £1100 worth of audio equipment was taken. Since then I have lived much of my life with relatively little, knowing full well that I would have little, if anything, to lose. Funny how, having only just finished building a decent audio system, someone makes an attempt on our property. Coincidence? Or just some opportunist scum c*nt from Corby or Peterborough?

These properties are reserved for the elderly or the disabled, so will sadly attract the attention of the lowdown and filthy. Clearly they did not expect a loud voice to immediately serenade them from the next room.

Gone but not forgotten

12:53 am : Sunday, 4 November 2018  |  , ,


In 1992, in the race to replace the humble compact cassette, Sony launched the MiniDisc format. This was in competition with Philips and their Digital Compact Cassette (DCC) format, whose players were back-compatible with the good old analogue cassette. Trouble was, these DCC decks were pretty sizeable, even in comparison with a standard cassette deck. That just put me off. Even in 1996 when DCC was dying out, and its decks and prerecorded media were being offloaded cheap, I was still not interested. In 1997 Sony decided to give their minidisc format another push, and this time it was a very attractive proposition.

In 1998 the cost of a minidisc deck fell to £150, and I was persuaded. I was now convinced that the cassette could be replaced. The discs were smaller, had instant access (ie. no winding or rewinding) and sounded terrific. What could possibly go wrong?

The new millennium then brought us recordable CDs at an affordable price, which could play in almost any CD player. Solid-state technology then brought us the MP3 player, and these advances in music storage technology only served to hurt the minidisc format, which would eventually be declared gefrunk by Sony in 2013.

A couple of days ago I took delivery of a Sony MDS-JE510 minidisc deck. The very model I owned between 1998 and 2000. Well worn and missing its remote, it was still a pleasure to own one again. There were a couple of issues with the deck. The audio contacts on the back needed a good clean, the disc-loading mechanism is a bit tetchy with cheapo disc brands like KAO, and the display is a bit dim after all these years. The record head was also getting stuck, but I managed to free this up. The fact that it records and edits without any trouble is a triumph in itself.

All that is missing from this audio system now is a pair of speakers. Trawling eBay for a suitable pair is thoroughly amusing. You see a pic that shows a yummy-looking speaker at a wonderful price, only to realise the person is selling just the one speaker. WHY SELL JUST ONE SPEAKER?!? Others offer ripped woofer cones, blown tweeters and chipped veneer for unreasonably steep prices. Many people expect you to collect in person. Come guys! We don't mind paying £20-30 for delivery on top of the price - just put them in a fricking box and offer postage! My original choice of Mordaunt-Short MS10i speakers is proving hard to come by, and I was highly tempted by their very radical-looking MS812 models, though they probably would be a slight too radical for Her Ladyship! So I am currently watching some Gale 3030 floorstanders. There is the option of postage, but let us hope the bidding doesn't get too steep.

The spirit of radio

5:24 pm : Saturday, 27 October 2018  |  , , ,


Another item joins the music system, and this time it is a good old-fashioned FM/AM tuner. The model is a Denon TU260L, and dates back to 1993. Originally selling for £120, the tuner can still sell on eBay for £30-45. I bought mine for £12. Cannot be beat. Near immaculate in condition, and working as you would expect - given that there is little to go wrong with a radio tuner.

Unlike London, analogue radio isn't exactly plentiful here in Northamptonshire. On the FM band we have BBC Radios 1 to 4, BBC Radio Cambridgeshire, Classic FM and Heart FM. That totals all of seven! On medium wave (or AM as our American compadres will call it) there is BBC 5 Live, talkSPORT, Smooth Radio and BBC Asian Network. Long wave gives us BBC Radio 4, and whatever now broadcasts on 252KHz - formerly the home of Atlantic 252.

So why an analogue tuner and not a DAB one? Well, domestic DAB tuners are few and far between, can cost a lot, and do tend to look somewhat ugly in comparison. One somewhat affordable model here by a brand called Tibo does not tend to get many good reviews. One niggle is that everytime you switch it off, the volume defaults to zero. This begs the question - why have a volume control on a tuner? Isn't that what the amplifier is for?

Given that we tend to be Radio 2 listeners, we are catered for. Saturday afternoon with Liza Tarbuck is always a delight. She has such a soothing, mumsy voice, and I can just imagine her stroking my hair as she talks!

With a bit of luck I may have a minidisc deck coming shortly. There was a format that I loved. While it did not succeed in replacing the analogue cassette, it was tremendous, and there is just enough space in the cabinet for it.