Thursday 31 December 2009

New Year's Eve 2009

Another fun year with lot's done and more not done. Preparing to wind down for the last day of work , get some Fizz for the Party, and have a good time. Amazingly the bin men came this morning so they must have been putting in double shifts this week , good on them. Anyway here's a short vid of some of the snow, soundtracked by some of my white noise guitar:

Wednesday 23 December 2009

Blair Dunlop - A Real Christmas Treat

We've just returned from watching the Albion Christmas Band finish up their 2009 tour at the Sage in Gateshead , and the concert was , as usual , a resounding success with Ashley Hutchings leading proceeding in between selling and signing CDs outside the hall and engaging with the audience ably supported by the rest of the band , Simon Nicol on guitar , Kellie While on gorgeous vocals somewhere between Sandy Denny and Joni Mitchell , and Simon Care on various squeezeboxes and Morris dancing. An excellent run up to Christmas while promoting their new CD "Snow on Snow".

As if this wasnt enough they had brought on support , the 17 year old Blair Dunlop , and prodigious guitar talent who played 4 pieces and held the audience spellbound throughout. There were two songs the ominously titled "Road Beneath My Wheels" (I was thinking "Wind Beneath My Wings" , mercifully Mr Dunlop was in a different universe) and "Why Georgia" a John Mayor composition.

These were complemented bu the percussive instrumental tour de force "Drifting" and finishing with the Trace Bundy arrangement of Pachelbel's Canon which can be seen here:

Blair Dunlop's website is here. As yet there are no official releases. Just like General Fiasco when I first saw them , and in his field just as impressive.

Tuesday 22 December 2009

Winter Solstice 2009

The Winter Solstice was yesterday, Dec. 21, 2009, the day when the Earth tilts farthest away from the sun.

The solstice marks the shortest day of the year and the official start of winter. The word "solstice" comes from the Latin "sun stands still" and celebrations of the solstice pre-date Christmas, though you wouldnt think so the way some Christian Fundamentalist go on. Anyway the days get longer from here and I've put together some winter images backed by Jethro Tull's "Ring Out Solstice Bells" which can be downloaded here:

Sunday 20 December 2009

The Snow Has Arrived

The snow has arrived managing to curtail all my weekend travel including parties and visits to friends. Friday I managed not to slip on all the snow and and ice , though vertical continuation was curtailed by a combination of marble floor and spilt coffee on Newcastle's Central station. This capped a bad end to a really good day which started to go bad when I caught a bus to Darligton Station which went for a one hour journey round a dodgy concil estate before dumping me back where I started. At the beginning of the journey I asked the driver if the bus went to the station , he replied in the affirmative. Hmmmm....

Darlington seems to be the only place where busses with the same numbers going in the same directions can have completely different destinations!!! This happens with the 11 and 14 in Darlington . They also have timetables with huge important chunks missing . This one opposite the station has no information between 0718 and 1301 !!

Anyway to on a more cheerful note here's some of the snow that kept us housebound this weekend soundtracked by the excellent "Alan Parsons In A Winter Wonderland" by Grandaddy , which you can get here:

Wednesday 16 December 2009

Killing In The Name Of ... The X-Factor??

I must say I tittered more than once when I saw the Facebook Group "Rage Against The Machine For Christmas Number One" , which wants "Killing In The Name" as Christmas Number One to ensure that this years's X-Factor winner , Joe McElderry, doesnt hit number one. There are quite a few flaws in this, which are in no particular order:
  • While I have every respect for Rage Against The Machine , they're not exactly the embodiment of Christmas Spirit.
  • RATM are the current number one (at this point in time 16th December 2009) but Joe McElderry's single The Climb is not released til next week and is only 30p on Amazon!!. The Facebook group membership is about 750,000 worldwide while the X-Factor audience is 15 million in Britain alone . Thats a quarter of the population.
  • If you're a RATM fan why don't you have all their albums , especially their eponymous debut?
  • RATM are on Epic . Joe McElderry is on Syco (appropriate contraction for Simon Cowell's Label) . Both these are part of the Sony empire so whichever you buy , Sony profit!!!
If you want a proper Christams number one go for Holly Golightly's "Christmas Tree On Fire" or The Muppets' "Bohemian Rhapsody"


Tuesday 15 December 2009

Is It Christmas?

Every other record on the radio is a "Christmas" record. Some are good , some are absolutely atrocious. It's obviously Christmas, it's still dark and rainy outside.

Sadly it's Terry Wogan's final week before retirement and they reckon the listership for Friday's show will top 14 million!!. Thank god they got young Chris Evans to take the reins rather than that Jonathan Ross. They reckon that after Brian Matthew's Sounds of the Sixties on a Saturday a third of listeners turn off when Mr Ross makes an appearance. Here's Terry doing his "hit" , hilarious!!

Anyway I saw Moonpigwere doing some excellent cards like this Mr T spoof!!!

Monday 14 December 2009

I Smell Winter

It's dark and rainy , all we need is snow and then winter will truly be here. I was hoping there'd be a video of teh Housemartins' "I Smell Winter" but it wasn't to be so I've put in "Build" instead. A truly wonderful band.

Sunday 13 December 2009

Pickering To Whitby by Steam Train

In October we decided to try the steam run from Pickering to Whitby on the Nork Yorkshire Moors Railway. This turned out to be excellent , with proper compartmentalised first class carriages , though the steam seeping through the floor was slightly disconcerting . Here's a short video of the journey soundtracked by the Kinks "Last of the Steam Powered Trains" , which you can download here.

Leonard Cohen and Wireless Connections

While on holiday I tend to use local libraries for internet requirements and usually these are adequate for what I need. However I was shocked to find that Stratford's main library , which was free last year , now charges £5 an hour!! Local residents don't fare much better with 30 minutes a day free then £2 per half hour after that. Not too good if you're unemployed or on a low wage. One of the reasons for the rise in library usage is the provision of internet access . It seems that Stratford are trying to drive people away.

We signed up for the library at Pershore which was free , this follows the one in Helmsley which is a very reasonable pound an hour.

BT Openzone is not much better with £6 for 90 minutes which has to be used within 24 hours with no comeback for slow connections and the like.

As an alternative I got a Starbuck's card and availed myself of their free wi-fi. I know I spent a fortune on coffee , but the surroundings are pleasant , the coffee is good and I could get stuff done. When watching "True Blood" a remark was made that the proliferation of these sort of Coffee Shops (Starbucks, Costas, Cafe Nero etc) has resulted in a decline in general calcium deficiency due to the amount of milk that people are drinking!! Maybe an urban myth , but a good one!

While in Stratford we discovered that the excelent Pub "The One Elm" give free wi-fi access with any purchase , and were extremely pleasant , and seemed to have an excellent menu as well. That's one to try the next time we are in Stratford.

Across the road was one of our target restaurant , Bernadettes , named after the Leonard Cohen and Jennifer Warnes collaboration from "Famous Blue Raincoat" - "Song of Bernadette"apparently, a video is below...

It's a Champagne and Oyster Bar but does does excellent if slightly expensive food . The fish and chips is recommended and the service excellent!! Here's a video of one of their cookery schools.

Saturday 12 December 2009

Kings Heads and Staddle Stones

Just back from another week in Worcesterstershire , managing to discover several new restaurants, and the secret of the ubiquitous mushroom shaped stone structures that seem to be everywhere down the there (there's three on the farm).

Apparently they're sort of foundation stones for barns that were used to keep rats away from the harvest. Thanks to Julia for putting me out of my misery on this one, more info can be found here.

Also discovered the rather excellent Kings Head in Aston Cantlow, the speciality food being their Duck Suppers , the explanation from their web site is:

"After the war most food was rationed , however the landlord of the time had a smallholding at the rear of the Kings Head where he reared his own ducks! This excluded them from rationing!, even some locals supplied a few for the pot, as during the war vehicles could only be used for deliveries, so this was a great excuse to visit the pub using rationed petrol!

Even after the war popularity grew and it was not long before the well heeled brummies visited in their droves. The Kings Head was at one time serving up to 10,000 duck suppers a year!"

My personal experience is that the food, service and surroundings are top knotch and well worth a visit. On leaving the pub we saw a three legged dalmation , with a very friendly owner. A great pub in a very nice village.

Saturday 5 December 2009

A Very Odd Week

A very odd week this has been culminating in a bloke with a bright green beard walking into the newsagents as I was buying the papers. I didn't ask!!

This week I've had people speaking in tongues and other weird stuff , but the other night , around midnight I heard noises on the roof . Scraping and shuffling and finally something halling down the roof , before hitting the decking with a bang. It was dark , wet and coled , so I left it til the following the day. In the graden I found the blue item on the right. It looks like a dustpan that's been chewed by a dog. I reckon a seagull picked it up and dropped in on our roof while it was sitting on one of our chimneys!!!

In the olden days I reckon that people would hav said we'd been visited by God or The Devil warning us to clean our house or we'd go to hell!

These days Derek Acorah would make a whole TV series on this and manage to work Michael Jackson in there as our saviour.