Category Archives: Thoughts

My Guitar Lies Bleeding In My Arms

Back in December 2014 I declared that “The Drums Are Back!” and waxed lyrical about how I was looking forward to my journey back behind the kit.

Well, fast forward fifteen months or so and I have to hold my hands up and admit I made a mistake. As great as the electronic drum kit was – and it was a superb tool to play along to tracks from my music collection – I found that as time passed I became frustrated by the relative restrictions of being a drummer. Sure, you can play drum solos and ad-lib to pre-recorded music rather than following the recording, but not having any way of playing alongside other real life musicians meant that after a while it all began to get rather boring.

Roland TD-11K
Roland TD-11K

The simple truth is that although I am a far better drummer than I ever was as a guitarist I realised that I actually got more pleasure from playing the guitar, no matter how limited my skill may have been.

Son number two has a natural affinity for the guitar, and his progress has been superb to hear (even if I’d rather not hear it at times, such as when I can’t hear the TV over his playing!) and that, combined with the above and the usual mooch around the local music shop when my mate comes over meant that I knew what had to be done.

So, it was a case of goodbye electronic drums – sold to an enthusiastic returning player (after a decade away from drumming) from near London who wasn’t able to have an acoustic kit in his new home – and hello new guitar.

Much thought and research went into my chosen instrument. Having had a Strat copy, Epiphone Les Paul and, most recently, a Squier Telecaster what make and model should I go for?

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Epiphone Les Paul Standard Plus Top Pro

In the end the tones and simple good looks of the Les Paul won out, and this week I took delivery of my Epiphone Les Paul Standard Plus Top Pro, finished in cherry sunburst – and what a beautiful instrument it is! It came with a very nice hard case at no extra cost too.

Vox VXI
Vox VXI

Alongside the guitar I have invested in a nice little practice amp, the Vox VXI, which is a programmable modelling amp with eleven amp models and eight effects built-in. Some really good sounds come out of the fairly small package, that’s for sure.

This time around, though, I am determined to actually learn to play the thing to the best of my ability – whatever level that may be. I’m not expecting to hit the levels of some of my favourite Les Paul players, such as Joe Bonamassa, Gary Moore, Warren Haynes, Jimmy Page etc. etc., but want to be able to play bluesy rock to a reasonable standard, and be able to jam with other musicians too!

So, alongside my usual leisure diet of music listening, book reading and film watching (not to mention getting back into the saddle MTB-wise once I get my fitness levels back after a long lay-off through illness) will be a concerted effort to learn the guitar. The guitar may not bleed in my arms, but I suspect my fingertips will bleed before too long! Time to start building up those calluses…

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Christmas Or The Winter Solstice?

Some folk may be aware that in recent years I have moved away from my Christian upbringing and become more interested in the natural world around me and developed an interest in esotericism, the occult and paganism. With the annual celebration that is Christmas almost upon us, I thought it was a perfect time to have a look at the origins of this particular Christian festival.

Pope Gregory I
Pope Gregory I

Looking more generally to begin with, there’s little doubt that paganism influenced early Christianity as the Roman Catholic church implemented a system of “Interpretatio Christiana” during the time of Pope Gregory I, whereby the church adopted pre-existing pagan rituals and declared that they were now undertaken in honour of the Christian god. Indeed, there is a school of thought that says the Catholic church used syncretism to incorporate and blend elements of pagan religions and practices into its own belief system and associated practices.

Woden
Woden

Christianity began to spread into Anglo-Saxon England from the late 6th century, steadily replacing their paganism, a belief system that allowed for many gods rather than the Christian approach of a single god. As well as adopting native pagan practices, the Christian church also used many existing sacred pagan sites to build their own places of worship.

Turning to Christmas, then, where can we find its origins? Let’s take a look at some of the things that we associate with it this time of year…

Druids With Trees
Druids With Trees

Christmas tree – trees were sacred in many pre-Christian traditions. In Celtic and Germanic paganism the oak tree was particularly revered. Evergreen trees, garlands and wreaths were symbolic of eternal life and elements of tree worship survived the Christianisation process.

Odin With Speipnir
Odin With Speipnir

Santa Claus – originally a different figure to that known as Father Christmas, Santa’s appearance owes something to the Norse god Odin – the hooded, cloaked figure with a big white beard who rode through the northern sky on his eight-legged horse Sleipnir.

Yuletide – this is a term used in connection with the Christmas period and comes from a pre-Christian festival held over twelve days from 21 December. Jölfuðr, one of the many names given to the aforementioned Odin (Woden to the old Anglo-Saxons), means Yule father. Obviously the yule log comes from this too.

Druids Collecting Mistletoe
Druids Collecting Mistletoe

Mistletoe – the druids had a ceremony in which they used mistletoe to aid fertility and vitality and this seems to have led to its incorporation into Christmas decorations as something for lovers to kiss beneath.

Saturn
Saturn

Holly – again this dates from druid times, when it was worn in a wreath upon the head, being connected with the winter solstice. In pre-Christian Roman times it was associated with the sun god Saturn. The Roman festival of Saturnalia, which ran from 17-23 December, was in honour of this deity.

Saturnalia
Saturnalia

Candles – during Saturnalia candles were used extensively as a symbol of the search for knowledge and truth. The festival led up to “Dies Natalis Solis Invicti” (the birthday of the unconquerable sun) on 25 December. It’s worth noting that present giving, drinking, feasting, singing in the streets and general debauchery were essential parts of Saturnalia.

As we can see, there are a fair few elements of the Christian Christmas that have no origin in Christianity at all. Even the date of Christmas Day itself as the birthday of the “son of god” seems to have been appropriated from the birth of the “new sun” of the pagan winter solstice.

Mithras
Mithras

It was also the birthday of Mithras, another ancient deity worshipped in the Roman empire. Perhaps it’s understandable, then, that Christmas was banned by the Puritans in the 17th century because of its pagan origins.

For many people today who are embracing modern paganism or druidry, this time of year is a celebration of the winter solstice. Advent (again, pre-dating its Christian connotations) is a time to prepare for the coming of the light. The new sun. From this point on the days will get longer and the earth will get warmer again.

A Pagan Santa?
A Pagan Santa?

Damh The Bard, a pagan musician and practising druid, wrote a great piece on the question of Christmas vs. Solstice, here, and what he has to say makes a lot of sense to me. I personally feel that the season lost its charm some time ago. Maybe that’s partly the result of growing older, but is I think also a reaction to how materialistic and commercialised the whole thing has become.

Ultimately, whether you celebrate this season in honour of a “sun god”, or in honour of the “son of god” (and maybe that’s just a different spin on the same thing anyway?!), it’s surely better to celebrate it honestly in accordance with your beliefs, with the best of intentions and to enjoy the time with family and friends ahead of the coming year, that’s what I’m fully intending to do…

Winter Solstice At Stonehenge
Winter Solstice At Stonehenge

Wheddon Cross… Part Two

Following on from yesterday’s post about our family week away at Wheddon Cross, I thought that today I would share a little more about what we managed to get up to last week…

On Dunkery Beacon
On Dunkery Beacon

Having settled into The Travellers Rest once we’d arrived on the Friday afternoon we headed up onto the moors to have a look at Dunkery Beacon. At least, that was the plan, but wet weather and lots of low cloud / mist meant that visibility was rather poor. Still, we did manage to get some idea of the promise that the area held!

Saunton Sands
Saunton Sands

Saturday morning saw drizzly rain, but we’d decided to head to the coast – and hence lower ground – on the basis that the weather may well be drier and more holiday-friendly than up on the moors. Having picked Saunton Sands we made our way, via my hometown of Barnstaple (and a trip to Tesco), and set up camp near the dunes on the beach.

Rescue Helicopter Over Saunton Sands
Rescue Helicopter Over Saunton Sands

As the day went on the weather got better and, even though it wasn’t bright sunlight, we were still lovely and warm. The kids had a fantastic time in the sea and the puppy seemed to enjoy her first encounter with the sea too – though leaping up onto the backs on the two youngest kids as they lay in the surf every time a wave came too near her feet! The rescue helicopter was overhead regularly throughout the day – presumably going through training exercises.

Unfortunately, despite the lack of direct sunlight I had managed to succumb to sun stroke necessitating hitting the sack early on Saturday evening.

Hollyoaks
Hollyoaks

As a result Sunday morning (and the wet weather that came with it) found me crashed on the sofa catching up on my occasional Sunday morning guilty pleasure – the Hollyoaks omnibus whilst the kids played on their respective gadgets and my wife headed to Tiverton for some supplies.

Porlock Beach
Porlock Beach

Later in the day the weather brightened and we took a scenic drive up over Dunkery Beacon and down into Porlock, where we enjoyed a leisurely walk along the pebble beach – another first for the four-legged member of the family.

Tarr Steps
Tarr Steps

Monday started dryish, so we headed off to visit Tarr Steps. Having parked we walked down the long pathway to the actual steps, crossed over and took a walk along the west side of the river for a while.

Tarr Steps
Tarr Steps

Returning to the Steps we watched, along with a growing band of spectators, as our puppy tried to join in with a larger dog as it’s owner threw stones into the river for it to retrieve. The water was a little deep and fast for our canine, but she gave it a good go and had great fun leaping up at the other dog each time it came back to shore!

Evening Sky At Wheddon Cross
Evening Sky At Wheddon Cross

Later on a red sky during the evening back at base promised a good day for the following day. Tuesday morning, however, was very wet! We’d arranged to meet number one son (keen to drive his new car down to show off) at my parents’ home and spend some time with our nieces too. We did manage to get a short walk in during a break in the rain but overall it was rather a wet day. Nonetheless, it was good to catch up with the various relatives (not convinced any of them are particularly fond of dogs though as our delightful puppy failed to elicit the usual reactions that she gets most places she goes – oh well!).

At Exmoor Pony Centre
At Exmoor Pony Centre

Wednesday was MTB day at Winsford for me (which I’ll cover in the coming days). Our daughter really enjoyed a lovely long trek on the moors on a pony from the Exmoor Pony Centre whilst my wife took the two boys and the puppy for a wander on the moors on foot. This was followed later on by a trip to Minehead for a well-earned fish and chips from the Alcombe Fish Bar.

Dunkery Beacon
Dunkery Beacon

On Thursday we revisited Dunkery Beacon (in dry and clear weather!) to exercise the puppy before heading down to Dunster to explore the small historic town.

Dunster
Dunster

A gentle walk up the main street to the castle in shirt-sleeves weather was lovely. Less so was the sudden and unexpected downpour that saw us beating a hasty retreat to the car and heading to Minehead and a decidedly kid-friendly lunch from McDonald’s!

Kite Over Dunster Beach
Kite Over Dunster Beach

After lunch, during which the weather had returned to hot and sunny, we made our way back along the coast for a visit to Dunster beach where puppy features made the seemingly exciting and tasty discovery of a quite large fish spine(!), the youngest played with his newest vehicular acquisitions (a Subaru and a VW camper van from a Minehead gift shop) and the remaining members of the family managed to achieve some pretty impressive kite flying. Great afternoon had by all.

And that was that, really. Friday morning was filled with packing up and cleaning before hitting the road back to the Forest of Dean and our own beds. A great break away from home and thoroughly enjoyed by all!

Wheddon Cross

First post in a while as my wife and I got back yesterday from a week’s holiday away on Exmoor, with the kids and the puppy.

So, with lots of washing etc. to get through there’s not much time to spare for my blog straight away, so just a quick update today, really…

The Travellers Rest
The Travellers Rest

Despite some rather variable weather we spent a great week at The Travellers Rest just outside the small village of Wheddon Cross.

The house was very lovely and clean and we were provided with a fantastic homemade victoria sponge upon arrival. There were two bedrooms plus a pull-out sofa bed in the dining area, and a first floor lounge area with superb views out over the valley behind the house, plus two bathrooms (one with a bath and the other with a walk-in shower). It’s safe to say that we were all very comfortable and enjoyed the facilities very much.

Places that we visited during our stay included Saunton Sands near Barnstaple, Dulverton, Tarr Steps, Dunkery Beacon and Dunster.

The View From The Back
The View From The Back

I managed a MTB ride based on a route taken from MBUK magazine from Winsford whilst the rest of the family visited the Exmoor Pony Centre too. So plenty to catch up on.

Added to that are a number of new music releases that I will be wanting to digest and talk about over the coming days and weeks, including albums from Ahab, Bon Jovi, Butcher Babies, Deep Purple, Grace Potter, Iron Maiden, Motörhead, Nile and Spock’s Beard, as well as more movies and books, so stay tuned…

Fear Of A Blank Planet

So, it’s August, the sun is shining and it’s about half way through the school summer holidays. Not that you’d know it if you stood and looked outside our house – no kids playing in the garden and enjoying the weather to be seen.

Forest Of Dean
Forest Of Dean

In fairness, that’s a little harsh on two of our kids. Although they have spent a huge amount of time virtually attached to a variety of screens they have also managed to spend some time outside and find other things to do with their time.

The teenager in the house, though…

Porcupine Tree - Fear Of A Blank Planet
Porcupine Tree – Fear Of A Blank Planet

Back in 2007 the progressive rock band Porcupine Tree released their ninth studio album “Fear Of A Blank Planet”. Frontman Steven Wilson stated that the record was primarily a concept album told from the perspective of an eleven year old boy who was, in Wilson’s words “…this kind of terminally bored kid, anywhere between 10 and 15 years old, who spends all his daylight hours in his bedroom with the curtains closed, playing on his PlayStation, listening to his iPod, texting his friends on his cell phone, looking at hardcore pornography on the Internet, downloading music, films, news, violence…”

The title track alludes to this in the lyrics when he sings “Sunlight coming through the haze, no gaps in the blind to let it inside. The bed is unmade, some music still plays. TV, yeah it’s always on, the flicker of the screen…” – and that pretty much sums our teen up.

A Gaming PC Setup
A Gaming PC Setup

OK, the curtains aren’t closed (because I open them!), there’s not much in the way of texting mates and music only seems to enter the equation during rarely enforced breaks when the rest of the household are then “treated” to a variety of guitar riffs played (admittedly pretty well) by said teen on a seemingly endless loop. If we’re really lucky he may play through a whole song, though that’s rare, but essentially it’s a case of twelve or thirteen hour stints in front of the PC talking / shouting with people he’s never met and is highly unlikely to, with occasional and as brief as possible breaks for food.

Blogging
Blogging

Worryingly enough, these doesn’t seem to be at all unusual these days. Although I believe I do have an addictive personality myself and can get caught up when I’m writing something for this blog, and my wife can be hard to separate from her mobile / tablet sometimes, we do still manage to do lots of other things in our daily lives and looking back to our own childhoods and teenage years this phenomenon is completely alien to us.

Social Media
Social Media

We appreciate that the world appears to be a more dangerous place for kids these days. Is it really? Do more bad things happen to kids these days? Or is it just that with wall to wall news via TV and the internet / social media that we are all so much more aware of the bad things that happen?

In any event there is an element of wanting to protect your kids from the dangers of the physical world and try to keep an eye on what they do in the virtual one, but I do worry that kids are becoming detached from the real world too much.

So what do we do? We’ve tried numerous strategies to manage the amount of exposure our kids have to screens. All have met with varying degrees of resistance. It seems that unless you’re willing to physically take them out of the house and entertain them or there’s money in it for them (and that is often not enough of a motivation!) then there is zero interest in anything apart from their various computers / mobiles / tablets / PlayStations. Yes, maybe we, as parents, should be tougher and keep it that way – but it’s incredibly hard work in the face of such apathy for real life.

Some Books
Some Books

I remember playing out in the woods near to my home in my teens, riding my bike, reading books, drawing etc. Kids these days just don’t seem interested in anything apart from instant entertainment without having the leave the house (or preferably their room).

Exmoor
Exmoor

I haven’t been able to get out and about as much as I would like myself during the holidays so far – due in no small part to making sure that our beautiful puppy is able to get the rest that she needs during the day to develop properly (especially as the kids are too busy with their gadgets to take much notice of her) – but we’re off on a last-minute family holiday to Exmoor before the kids go back to school so it will be interesting to see how things go then…

All in all it makes me wonder how are today’s teens, who seem unable to relate to real life for much of the time, going to be able to cope in tomorrow’s grown-up reality – let alone manage to repopulate it? Is this nature’s way of implementing a cull of the overpopulated planet? Given that the cause is entirely man-made that seems unlikely, so perhaps mankind truly is doomed. Humanity won’t go out with a bang, it’ll just waste away one addict at a time…

Speech House Family Riding Show

When my wife was a child her passion was for horse riding. Suffering from Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, type 3 – hypermobility (EDS) means that because of her health issues she never thought she would be able to ride horses again.

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My Wife & Her Horse

However, following a brief tentative pony trek on holiday a few years ago, she has gradually got back into riding and it has, luckily enough, turned out to be good physiotherapy for her and helps to keep her as active as possible despite her chronic pain and unstable joints.

11403086_945981538800910_2077326133144272582_nAnd so it was that yesterday she took part in her first organised horse show since getting back into the saddle after so many years away from all things equestrian.

The show was hosted by the Forest of Dean Riding Club, and held at Speech House near Cinderford and had 17 classes including sections dedicated to dressage and to showing.

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Dressage

First up was dressage. My wife and her trusty steed were entered into the first two classes, which were British Horse Society tests BHS Introductory A and BHS Introductory B. A very nervous pairing set off into the arena for the first test – with husband, children, dog, parents and friends looking on and rooting for them.

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Revision Time!

Feeling that it had gone reasonably OK, it was then time for a quick revision session before undertaking the second test.

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Second Place

Afterwards there was much anxious waiting around before the scores came in. We were delighted, and very proud, that she achieved Second and Sixth (on equal points with fifth) placing respectively for these tests (there being seven and eleven entrants into the two classes).

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Cyril Hart Arboretum

There was then some much-needed downtime for both horse and rider to recover, during which I took the dog for a sightseeing wander around the adjoining Cyril Hart Arboretum.

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Hunter Showing

Then it was back into the saddle and into the ring for the Hunter class of the showing section. Despite a very strong showing only Fourth place was awarded this time but both myself and others felt that a top three placing would have been a fairer result.

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Showing Off The Rosettes

Nonetheless, my wife was very pleased with how things had gone and the rest of us were, again, very proud of her efforts.

Ahead of the show a good period of preparation and organisation was required, and now an equal period of recuperation will be needed as so much mental and physical energy and strength will have been used. I would be very proud of my wife’s achievements anyway but with the pain etc. that she has to deal with each and every day I am extremely proud of her and pleased that she has been able to take part in today’s show…

A Super Pass

Momentous day today as number one son passed his driving test! Having passed the theory test some weeks ago he managed to pass the practical test with just a few minors.

Number One Son
Number One Son

He’s already on his second car, having sold his first days before taking the test and replacing it with something much more boy-racer like. Now road legal, thanks to his driving instructor at Superpass, I wonder how he will take to driving solo…

I remember way back in 1986 when I took my driving test. I also passed first time, but back then there was just one test which involved both driving and answering questions on the highway code.

Vauxhall Chevette (The Same Colour As My Parents')
Vauxhall Chevette (The Same Colour As My Parents’)

I can only hope that number one son’s early driving experiences are better than mine, as one of my earliest driving memories once qualified was borrowing my parents Vauxhall Chevette one evening to go on a cinema date with a girl from Gloucester. Inexperienced driver + unfamiliar city roads + pre-date nerves = turning right at a set of traffic lights into the path of an oncoming Transit van and getting hit squarely on the passenger side of the car.

Naturally (!) I carried on to my destination, had the date and then returned home to Bristol, trying my best to sound casual the following morning when informing my parents that I’d had a “slight” bump. Turns out the car’s sub-frame had been damaged and it was declared an insurance write-off. The fledgling relationship with the girl from Gloucester didn’t fare any better either!

Ford Escort Mk I (Same Colour As Mine Was)
Ford Escort Mk I (Same Colour As Mine Was)

The first car that I owned was a 1971 green Ford Escort Mk I that I bought for approximately £200 in 1987. It turned out to not be in the best condition as when it rained water collected in the passenger footwell through a hole in the front wing and it wasn’t too long before the brakes went. In the time I had it though I managed to not only make completely ineffective repairs to the water leak, but also install a sports steering wheel and electric radio aerial.

I can vividly recall driving from Bristol to Bath via Keynsham listening to A-ha’s “Scoundrel Days” album on cassette. Not entirely sure why but it may have had something to do my fascination with a girl who lived out that way. I’m pretty sure I slept in it, reclining in the driver’s seat, at a motorway service station one night – but haven’t got a clue why!

Opel Manta B (Same Body Colour As Mine)
Opel Manta B (Same Body Colour As Mine)

Car number two was better. A white 3 door Opel Manta B 1.6 hatchback, I can’t remember the year, with red upholstery and dashboard. It also had very cool doors that had no frame around the windows so when the windows were wound down and the door was open it felt even more like a sports car and allowed me to indulge in my Sonny Crockett (“Miami Vice”) fantasies. OK it wasn’t a Ferrari Testarossa, but still…

Vauxhall Cavalier CDi (My Actual Car)
Vauxhall Cavalier CDi (My Actual Car)

Next up was a 1982 brown 5 door Vauxhall Cavalier Mk II 1.8 CDi hatchback. This one had luxuries like front spotlights, headlamp wipers, electric mirrors etc. and felt like a real step up to (what was to me) a luxury car.

Having the Cavalier enabled many more hours driving round the roads of Bristol, the country roads and lanes surrounding the city and up and down the motorways – particularly at night – and included numerous trips to Gordano service station on the M5 for hot chocolate (phew, rock ‘n’ roll eh?!!). Night driving is something that I still enjoy, though responsibilities and the cost of fuel do restrict this somewhat. The Cavalier also saw me up and down to the Birmingham N.E.C. and other venues for numerous concerts before the advent of a significant other etc. saw its departure for pastures new.

Ford Capri 2.0S (Same Colour As Mine)
Ford Capri Mk III 2.0S (Same Colour As Mine)

Those were the cars that got me through my early driving days – many miles covered and enjoyed every one of them!Next up was a green Ford Capri Mk III 2.0S…

Out Of The Shadows…

When I started this blog I had no set plan, and was under no illusion that anyone would be remotely interested in my musings.

I write first and foremost for myself, and with no agenda, so always write as honestly as I can, whether that means being positive or negative about something. As a result I have always been pleasantly surprised when someone has “liked” one of my posts. I never expected to have any kind of communication or feedback from anyone, but I do appreciate any and all comments that anyone reading anything here makes.

Given the above you can only imagine my surprise to find that in some cases what I have written has somehow come to the attention of the subject of my words.

nevill blogI wrote back in March about a book I had just read – Adam Nevill’s “No One Gets Out Alive” I was amazed to find some days later that I had received a comment from the author himself, thanking me for my review!

gorgoroth fbThen, after I’d rambled on a bit about Gorgoroth’s new album “Instinctus Bestialis” I was bemused to see a sudden huge spike in the number of visitors to my blog. Turns out that the band had put a link to my review on their own Facebook page. That seemed really bizarre. How did a black metal band from Norway stumble across my blog?

kix fbAnd then, just today, I found that another of my posts, covering the Lechlade Music Festival, had been shared and commented on by Welsh rock band The Kix on their Facebook page.

I suppose this demonstrates in some ways how small the world can be when something you write can be picked up on my someone anywhere around the globe. It’s really rather humbling!

As time has gone by I have tended to write more about music, film and books than anything else. That will probably remain the case, as I love all three. Music especially has been a major part of my life for as long as I can remember and life without it would be a very odd thing! But I would like to expand what I write about, as and when inspiration strikes.

In the meantime, I am really glad when someone enjoys something that I have written, and very grateful when someone that I have written about takes the time and trouble to acknowledge it in some way. I’m sure that they have a million and one things to do that are more important than shining any kind of light on my insignificant ramblings, so would just like to say thanks to them for dragging my blog out of the shadows a little…

Four Years On…

Fours years ago today my wife and I got married…

There had been months of planning and preparation. Lots of things to do. Finding and booking venues for the ceremony and reception. Designing and making invites, orders of service, table decorations, seating plans etc. Booking a honeymoon. Getting the right suits for the boys and I, and most importantly the right wedding dress for the bride!

Our Wedding Invitation
Our Wedding Invitation & Stationery

We had gone for a pink and black colour scheme, the beautiful bride wearing a fantastic pink dress and groom all in black (except for a pink tie).

Theme wise, we went for music and marbles, with old 7″ vinyl records complete with new labels used for invitations and also for table markers, and marbles adorning all the stationery and on the tables in large glass bowls.

Marbles Table Decoration
Marbles Table Decoration

The day before the ceremony we had enlisted our children and some friends to help us cart stuff to the village hall, that we had booked  for the reception and evening do, to set up tables and chairs and all the table decorations etc. etc.

Village Hall
The Village Hall

The wedding day started early for the boys and I, as we headed back to the village hall to set up the laptop and sound system for our personalised playlist (that took a lot of work to choose!) and photo gallery to be set playing by our eldest before the newlyweds entered the building.

Putting Out The Floral Decorations
Putting Out The Floral Decorations

Then it was off to the church to put out floral decorations and for the two younger boys to distribute the orders of service.

We were fortunate in that it was a beautiful sunny day. The children (ours plus our two wonderful nieces) all looked great and were brilliant in what they each had to do – best man, ushers and bridesmaids – and the arrival of the bride at the church ensured that the day continued throughout the ceremony and reception as perfectly as we had hoped.

During the ceremony itself, we had chosen lyrics from Bob Dylan’s “Wedding Song” for a reading, which I think are worth reiterating today:

“I love you more than ever, more than time and more than love
I love you more than money and more than the stars above
I love you more than madness, more than waves upon the sea
I love you more than life itself, you mean that much to me

Ever since you walked right in the circle’s been complete
I’ve said goodbye to haunted rooms and faces in the street
In the courtyard of the jester which is hidden from the sun
I love you more than ever and I haven’t yet begun

You breathed on me and made my life a richer one to live
When I was deep in poverty you taught me how to give
Dried the tears up from my dreams and pulled me from the hole
I love you more than ever and it binds me to this all

The tune that is yours and mine to play upon this earth
We’ll play it out the best we know, whatever it is worth
What’s lost is lost, we can’t regain what went down in the flood
But happiness to me is you and I love you more than blood

It’s never been my duty to remake the world at large
Nor is it my intention to sound a battle charge
‘Cause I love you more than all of that with a love that doesn’t bend
And if there is eternity I’d love you there again

Oh, can’t you see that you were born to stand by my side
And I was born to be with you, you were born to be my bride
You’re the other half of what I am, you’re the missing piece
And I love you more than ever with that love that doesn’t cease

You turn the tide on me each day and teach my eyes to see
Just being next to you is a natural thing for me
And I could never let you go, no matter what goes on
‘Cause I love you more than ever now that the past is gone”

Although my wife has often commented that Dylan sounds like an old drunk when he sings – and let’s be honest, his isn’t the smoothest voice around – there is no doubting that the man has a way with words!

The Woods
The Woods

Later in the evening I was able to surprise my new wife by joining the live rock ‘n’ roll band that we had booked, The Woods, on stage for a rendition of The Kinks’ “You Really Got Me”. This was great, except for the fright I got when I realised that, as they were missing their lead guitarist that night, the band were expecting me to do a solo (thankfully handled instead by the singer/guitarist) and the fact that my mind went completely blank when it came to what chord to start the intro riff with!! Fortunately, a further performance with the band on Neil Young’s “Rockin’ In The Free World” at the end of the night was less stressful!

The Drums Are Back…

To borrow from the title of the late, great Cozy Powell‘s 1992 album, “The Drums Are Back”!

In my youth I played the drums in a Salvation Army brass band, and with a few mates in informal jam sessions (with vague aspirations of rock stardom) and playing along to various rock albums via my Sony Walkman!

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7 Piece Drum Kit

At the time I was able to use the drum kit that belonged to the Salvation Army band, which was a beautiful black 7 piece Pearl kit. However, when I started to move away from the religious side of things, it followed that, no longer having access to the kit, or the funds (or space) to get my own, I decided to give it up in the early 90s with the intention of learning to play the electric guitar.

Well, here we are, 20 years down the line. I have been through a pale blue Strat copy, a cherry sunburst Gibson Epiphone Les Paul (inspired by Luke Morley of Thunder and the much missed Gary Moore amongst others), and, most recently a butterscotch blonde Fender Squier Affinity Telecaster (Bruce Springsteen). However, in all that time I never managed to get to grips with the instrument further than a few open chords, and strumming along to my music library using barre chords.

When our youngest came home from school one day a few weeks before Xmas with the weekly newsletter, as some of the children were taking drum lessons after school, there was mention that one of the parents was selling an electronic drum kit. Around the same time, said child – although not wanting to take drum lessons at school – was expressing an interest in learning to play, and added a drum kit to his wish list for Santa.

From this small seed, the desire to play again began to grow within me, and after much soul searching and deliberation, the aforementioned Telecaster was sold off to part fund a drum kit – for all the family to use, should they wish to – for Xmas.

We live in a small cottage in a small, quiet village, and so the space saving and volume considerations pointed us very much in the direction of an electronic kit.

Roland TD-11K
Roland TD-11K

So it was, on Xmas eve, I found myself unboxing and putting together a Roland TD-11K drum kit, whilst the family were at a carol singalong, in preparation for Xmas morning.

The children were all suitably wowed, and each had several goes on the day – whilst us grown ups were much too busy sorting out Xmas lunch etc.!

I got my chance on Boxing Day, and spent a few hours sitting, headphones on, with the music library connected to the kit, banging away to a selection of songs that I could vaguely remember having played along to all those years ago.

Although the pre-set kit sounds need a bit on tinkering with (some of the 25 kits already set are somewhat on the novelty side) it didn’t take long to get a workable representation of a decent acoustic kit to be able to play to your heart’s content – and with barely any noise for the rest of the family to have to suffer. Oh how my parents would have loved something like this when I was learning in my youth and using a small – but noisy – kit in my bedroom, directly above the kitchen / dining room!

Granted, the electronic kits don’t have the same visual appeal as their acoustic cousins, but for our needs they are perfect.

I have now managed two several hour long sessions on the kit – and have three fingers taped up on my right hand due to the rather sore blisters that I have obtained as a result! It’s going to take a while to get my chops back, so to speak. I may not be in the same league as Cozy (or Neil Peart of Rush, Led Zeppelin‘s John Bonham, or any one of hundreds of brilliant drummers that I could bore you with a list of), but my wife is already amazed by what she’s heard and I am certainly going to enjoy this musical journey!