Week from Monday 5th July 2015

Up bright and early for an BLOOD TEST appointment with the nurse. Only then can I have my breakfast! I went to ASDA to top up on blank disks, spent an hour or two drawing Powerpoint slides that explain what GEOSTATIONARY SATELLITES do, then it's back to Belgium for the afternoon and the continuing TOUR DE FRANCE saga... Hoping that FABIAN CANCELLARA can claim some more cuddly-toy friends for HERMAN THE SHEEP... but how fortunes change!

I would never in a million years have thought I'd ever find myself writing this... but I must say that the newfangled TWITTER lark has certainly enhanced my enjoyment of the TOUR DE FRANCE this year, and helped keep me interested. In fact, I often rely on it to keep me informed about what's actually going on, given that those ruddy TV commentators (you know the ones I mean) ONLY seem to bang on about the so called 'favourites' in the race. You know the ones I mean.

This morning, I have to waddle my sweaty bloated carcass back to the Health Centre, to return the BP monitor that they lent me. Meanwhile, I succeeded in solving (with the help of a Forum or two) a couple of small 'problems' I was having, with regards to getting my old CONKY to work with the new LINUX MINT set-up. An interesting feature of this was a recurrence of "THE QUANDARY OF THE MISSING ICONS" that drove me from Cinnamon to Maté in the first place. I've also learnt of what can be fixed using the magic new $ sudo apt recommends... command. Meanwhile meanwhile, after only a week on THAT TWITTER, folks are starting to follow me of their own accord, and are even RE-TWEETING me on occasion (Gosh, I must be getting INTERESTING!). I'm also charging up the camera batteries for tomorrow's SOUTHAMPTON MELA. Let's hope that THIS year the nice weather stays around for it!
SOUTHAMPTON MELA - Flopping out in the park, soaking up some of that music we call "world"...
This wee festival has got bigger over the years, but in many ways it's just as shambolic as it ever was, where STAGE PRESENTATION is concerned. You have to make allowances for the fact that the event is still in the hands of KEEN AMATEURS and volunteers. 'Acts' sometimes don't bother to turn up at all. If and when they do there are no soundchecks as such. Changeovers between turns take forever. Musicians tuning up and sound guys setting up the microphones, it all happens in public, often between numbers. The published running order often goes out of the window.
But I churl and grump... It's all a bit of fun and it's all FREE!
I arrived and headed for the "WORLD STAGE" in time to hear the RAJASTHANI HERITAGE BRASS BAND... except that, for the first number at least, they are not a 'brass band' at all. They are sat crosslegged on the floor giving it a bit of the old "Allah Hoo", with harmoniums and handclaps and all, in fine Qawwali style... but then the marching-band instruments come out (move all the microphones again!) and they play a rumbustious set of old Bollywood chestnuts, occasionally joined by a twirlyswirling dancer or a sword-swallowing juggler...
Microphones are moved about yet again ready for the next act... here's a thought, perhaps they just need more of them?
Next up, once they'd figured out where to hang their banners, were representatives of the SOUTH ENGLAND MARATHI PARIWAR, presenting a selection of popular folk and filmi numbers, accompanied by a combination of (mainly inaudible) traditional instruments, plus a cheesy home organ and a Roland Octopad. So very Bollywood! Many of the 'locals' enjoyed a good singalong. I don't claim to be an expert on the rudiments of raga-based musical scales, but some of the singing onstage sounded a bit flat to me...
This is an event dominated by music from the Indian sub-continent, but I was personally looking forward to hearing some Chinese music! Like yer do... The SOUTHAMPTON CHINESE ARTS GROUP was represented by the pipa playing Doctor Ping Hua and some of her students. Ping gave a delightful solo recital before being joined by a bamboo flautist (the flute is made of bamboo, not the... oh! you know where I'm going with this!)... Another young lad, clearly obsessed with 'Star Wars' to the bafflement of the good lady Doctor, played several John Williams themes on the Erhu (two-stringed fiddle) during the course of HIS public soundcheck. But for his 'proper' set, he played a traditional folk number. He was then rejoined by Dr Ping, this time on the Chinese dulcimer (the name of which escapes me), and together they played one of those fast Chinese tunes that almost certainly had something to do with horses. The music was all delicately sublime, of course, and not a cymbal or gong in sight (oh ye oriental music philistines!), but every number required a completely different stage set-up, so patience was tested...
The group of Afghan musicians, who were 'advertised' to appear next, hadn't turned up. That meant that a traditional Irish band SHAMROCK KEYS (shudder! even the name...) get to play early and probably twice as long...
So I made my excuses and headed for the "MAIN STAGE" (Run away!). I find that changeover times are no better over there...
MEHBOOB NADEEM (sitar) and SANJU SAHAI (tabla) played a spirited afternoon raag. I stretched out in the horizontal position and soaked it all in. The timing is a little bit rough around the edges, but it's great stuff to lie in the sun to...
Another interminable soundcheck and set-up routine...
Next on the bill, 'Fusion music' it says here, but it never really 'fused' as far as I could hear... CHAKRA comprised of musicians who were virtuosi one and each, but they never seemed to work TOGETHER as an ensemble. You know me, I do LIKE me some Indo-Jazz noodling of an afternoon, but this never really took off anywhere (I was mightily impressed by the solid-bodied electric Sarod though. I had to take a picture of that!)...
Phew! what a scorcher. It's getting pretty warm. A lovely day is being enjoyed by all, as the mile-long queues for the food and drink outlets will attest. I had intended to stay for the Qawwali group due to play until a quarter to seven (I do like a bit of that Qawwali, me). But I'm feeling exhausted and I still have to face that long uncomfortable bus ride home, so that'll do me for this year...
Week from Monday 13th July 2015

Not surprisingly, I'm suffering from one of my MYSTERY HANGOVERS (reminder: I don't drink), but I plough on, brave little soldier that I am. Doing a couple more Powerpoint slides this morning... The TOUR DE FRANCE is having the first of its so-called 'rest' days today (flying down to the Pyrenees), so there's no excuse for vegging out in front of the telly this afternoon! I shall turn my attention to all matters LINUX, finishing(?) off the laptop's upgrade routine - I think I've more or less got everything back where it was, but I might have missed something. I was faffing about, trying to get my flat-bed scanner to work again... then it occurred to me that I've already published a detailed BLOG on the subject, with full instructions on how to do the very thing that I was struggling with! SENIOR MOMENT or what!?!
Just a brief but highly important "ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY" a couple of days late! It was on the 13th JULY 1976 that I saw GRYPHON play in CHICHESTER CATHEDRAL. My recollection is that primitive 1970s PA systems were entirely unsuitable for the acoustics of a Cathedral (Tangerine Dream had played there too, about a year earlier). The amplified sound was far too loud and boomy. Graeme Taylor was well into his fuzzy-electric phase at this point. But there was a magic moment when Richard Harvey used the acoustics to his advantage, playing a solo (Vivaldi?) recorder piece from WAAAAY up in the gallery. A Nistorick Occasion In Deed... On THIS day (15th July) in 1990, we attended probably THE BEST FESTIVAL THAT EVER WAS, the "BEAT THE BORDERS" World Music Day in Frocester, Gloucestershire. You'd be forgiven for never having heard of it. I just search the interwebs for a mention and found nothing. Only the tattered poster hanging on my wall proves that it ever happened at all. The weather was HAHT HAHT HAHT and so was pretty much all of the music (most memorably THOMAS MAPFUMO & THE BLACKS UNLIMITED).
'Tis Saturday and it's far too hot to just veg out indoors, 'Le Tour' or no 'Le Tour'... so a BIG YOMP is called for! I did the 'coastal' path to Portchester Castle, took in refreshments and a couple of charity shops... then cruised on a slow bus into Portsmouth to do some further browsage. I treated myself to the new TIM BOWNESS album "Stupid Things That Mean The World"... saw GREGSON THE PANTHER and family on the ride home...

The BBC PROMS season has kicked off... I tuned in to hear the SIBELIUS part of the opening night (his "Balshazzar's Feast" suite) and it was pretty much unlistenable. The performance itself was ropey to say the least (the BBC Symphony Orchestra, conducted by a Finn who should know better), and the TV/radio sound balance favoured the close-miked coughing of the audience. I see from the programme that there's quite a lot of STRAVINSKY and MAHLER in this year's Proms. I shall try to avoid those - it just gets too upsetting to hear my favourite composers being slaughtered by BBC orks.

Week from Monday 20th July 2015

This morning, THE DIFFICULT FOURTH CC:PP ALBUM has finally gone live on that BANDCAMP they have now. I did consider the option of allowing folks the oppportunity to pay money for it if they want to. But experience tells me that:-
(a) If I can't GIVE this stuff away for FREE, what hope is there of anyone paying? I realise that there are those out there who DO make Bandcamp work to their advantage (Hi Markus!), but my own site is a tumbleweed-strewn dustbowl. Even the 'streaming' stats are wont to flatline for months at a time. I'd reach more people on YouTube.

(b) Upgrading a PayPal account to 'business' class (so that money can flow in as well as out) is, frankly, a self-defeating, going-round-in-circles, pain in the arse and not worth the effort, given the points raised above.
Anyway, I shall dutifully TWEET and G-PLUS the news to all and sundry and hope that someone is sufficiently interested. But I shan't hold my breath. From hereon, I might do the occasional one-off track, but I'm not going to bother to do a whole album again. THIS IS THE LAST ONE. Given the hideous trickledown business model that now prevails in THE INDUSTRY (whereby many proper, professional artists can't earn a living anymore, let alone keen amateurs like us), I can never again delude myself that I have a career in the music business. Frank Zappa's phrase "NO COMMERCIAL POTENTIAL" springs to mind.

On Tuesday morning, the DIARYBLOGGYTHINGY had this to say:- "Service Temporarily Unavailable... The server is temporarily unable to service your request due to maintenance downtime or capacity problems. Please try again later..."

Thursday afternoon, and I'm reporting for duty at THE EMPORIUM OF HAIR, so that the lovely ladies can have at me with their finely-honéd blades... but first a WALKIES! I did the "RURAL" route to Gosport, making my way along the various hidden footpaths (not clearly marked, but believe me, they are there!) across the fields and Wildgrounds.

Week from Monday 27th July 2015

Last weekend of July, so that's the TOUR DE FRANCE over for another year (and the WOMAD FESTIVAL, of course, but I haven't paid much attention to that, I'm sorry to say...) As I think I said earlier, my enjoyment of this year's race was made all the more ALL-INVOLVING because of that newfangled TWITTER lark. I was able to ignore the terrible, partisan ITV commentary team (JENS VOIGHT excepted, of course - WHAT A STAR!) and get the facts and figures directly from the source, as they happened (more often than not, 'as they happened' during some interminable and inconveniently-timed commercial break!)

This morning, the first of this week's two visits to the HEALTH CENTRE. Another armful of blood for the testing of. 'Low blood count'? That's 'cos you keep stealing it, y'bastards! Leave me alone! On Wednesday, an appointment with AN ACTUAL DOCTOR, who will probably try to nag me into something else...

The BFI has in its online "BRITAIN ON FILM" archive a 1949 home movie called "A TRIP TO HILSEA LIDO" (that's 'ORLERR BAYTERR TRIPTERR ILLZEE LOYYYYDOOOOO', for those of you who speak the local vernacular). However, as Shelfy has just pointed out, for the first five minutes, the film doesn't show 'verLOYYYDOOO' at all, but the old swimming and paddling pools that once existed down in SOUTHSEA (Non-Google translation: 'DAYN ZAYZEE'). Then after some lengthy shots of a water polo match at 'verLOYYYYYYDOOOOOO', we cut to [what I'm pretty sure is] BOURNEMOUTH, with possibly some glimpses of Hayling Island thrown in for good measure... Artistic license. Life was so much simpler when everything was in black and white and silent and covered in scratches.

So I like my new DOCTOR, we have a right old larf! But I/we still have to tackle the issue of my HYPERTENSION. Today, after our appointment, I bit the bullet and bought my own BP monitor, as there is always a waiting list for the ones at the Centre. "They call me the Sphygmomanometer Kid. At least they do if they can spell it..."