web analytics

March 2014

You are currently browsing the monthly archive for March 2014.

Photo by Andy Dawson Reid“Own only what you can carry with you”

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Readers with long memories (and, of course, all who know me personally) will be aware that I carry at all times what is usually described – with more than a whiff of condescension – as a ‘manbag’. The much loved specimen of the genus that is currently my constant (inanimate) companion was purchased in Paris (pretentious – moi?) back in the summer of 2007. Though it has since required the repair that was the subject of this previous post, it really has done very well given the rigours to which it has been subjected.

As detailed in that aforementioned post this invaluable receptacle contains just about everything that I could possibly need to carry with me on a day to day basis – thus ensuring that I avoid the usual bulging pockets, broken gadgets (from having sat carelessly upon something delicate) or indeed that frenzied last minute search for keys, phones, credit cards etc – that seems to accompany some others’ less – um – organised egress into the world of a morning.

I say that the bag holds everything. Actually – that turns out no longer to be true…

Life changes. Things become more complex. I now find myself routinely toting around things that I would not previously have carried. I am sure that I could simplify things – strip them back – but at the moment, given the amount of traveling that I do daily, I would rather feel confident that I have all that I require to hand at all times.

I have for a long time now carried with me everywhere a spiral bound A4 notebook (for Canadians and other North Americans this equates roughly to Letter size). This is an essential for nurturing the creative impulse – for the harnessing of that lightening bolt of inspiration wherever and whenever it might strike (the spiral bound nature of the pad enables one to tear off and dispose of the evidence should one’s notion prove not to have been quite so inspirational after all!).

As of two years ago now I also have with me at all times the trusty Fuji x10, without which I would not be. Taking my first tentative steps into the world of photography has been a literally eye-opening experience – helping me to see this wonderful world in a whole new light.

Age dictates that I must now travel encumbered by a selection of optical devices. If I wear my contact lenses I must needs have with me reading glasses for computer work and for reading, and sunglasses should the weather be fine. If I leave the lenses at home I must carry glasses – reactive or lightweight (or both!) – to enable me to drive safely.

Finally I now also find myself carrying around an iThing of the ‘Pad’ variety. Yes – I know! I have not previously restrained myself from expressing staunchly my views on the evil-empire that is Apple (they are not actually any more evil than the other corporate IT behemoths, of course, merely richer!). The fact is that the School is meandering uncertainly in the direction of adopting a one-to-one tablet policy, and as head honcho in the world of things digital I feel it incumbent upon me to try to keep pace with the bright young things.

All these additional burdens seem now to accompany me everywhere – and I have thus felt it necessary to add to my impedimentiary armoury the new item to which I refered in this recent post – a rather splendid leather messenger bag (which is – in fact – actually a reporter bag – being in orientation portrait rather than landscape).

Either way – should this trend continue I will eventually find myself –  like the terrestrial pulmonate gastropod mollusc – carrying my entire estate on my back whenever I venture forth!

Tags: ,

Photo by Andy Dawson Reid “The whole digital enchilada – interactive, cable, broadband, 500-channel…”

Wired Style: Principles of English Usage in the Digital Age

One for the nostalgia buffs! I bet that you never thought you’d find yourself face to face with that particular rubric again…

The ever-procacious Urban Dictionary curls its lip at the moniker thus:

“Laughably outdated term for the Internet. Mostly used during the 90s by yuppies who made their own awful-looking web pages.”

…and again:

“A cheesy, ebullient, woefully outdated term from the 90’s, which means ‘Internet’. Coined when all the people were massively wowed by the sheer awesomeness of the Intertubes. Nowadays in disuse unless you use it for comedy.”

Yup – comedy! That’s the effect I was going for… How am I doin’? How ’bout now? etc, etc…

‘Holy moly!’ – you’re thinking – ‘what in the name of Al Gore is he doing raking up this sort of muck in 2014?’

Well – back in the day when it was the Information Superhighway I ordered an upgrade for our broadband connection (yes – the very same that was dead as a dodo for six weeks over Christmas!) to an all-new super-fast fibre (or fiber, as our trans-Atlantic cousins would have it) broadband circuit! And – guess what? It finally came!!!

Ok – I exaggerate the timescale slightly – for effect, you know! But by the time that we actually got to order the thing last October we had already been a target for generic flyers from the mephitic British Telecom – advertising their new fibre service – for at least a couple of years… long before it was actually available anywhere in the surrounding neighbourhood.

When our ISP eventually informed us that fibre was finally available at our local exchange I was, naturally, on the phone immediately – placing an order. The niceties observed, a date was fixed for an engineer to pay us a visit to do the necessary. Splendid!

Except – you’ll be unsurprised to hear – that it didn’t happen. It turned out that though the fibre service had been installed at the exchange it had not actually got as far as the cabinet in the street outside our domicile.

A new date for installation was set… and missed! Then another… and another…

At one point our ISP cruelly raised hopes that something was about to happen by sending us our new high-speed router. When – however – I called excitedly to check, they admitted that they had made a mistake. Bah!

In the end it was five increasingly resigned months before finally – and quite suddenly – an appointment was made and not broken… and we found ourselves on the end of an InterWebNet pipe that is actually fat enough to carry the traffic that the Kickass Canada Girl requires. For now – anyway…

This does all make me realise that we need to start checking now regarding the broadband situation on the Saanich peninsular. Having experienced a whiff of bandwidth freedom I can’t see The Girl settling in future for anything less…

Tags: , ,

Baby_feetBob:    I can’t do that. It’s too big!
Dr. Leo:    Baby steps Bob. Baby steps.

From the movie: “What about Bob?”
Written by Tom Shulman
Directed by Frank Oz

The illation of this post from January of this year – wherein I pondered the next steps in our glacially slow progress towards a new life in British Columbia – was that all depended on our being able to sell our property in Buckinghamshire… which objective would – in consequence – be our main focus over the coming months. The first landmark along this route was to be the date in March on which the tenants currently occupying our apartment could be given notice to quit –  after which we could move to bring the property once again to market.

On Wednesday this week such notice was duly served.

We are currently in discussion with several local estate agents with a view to establishing a fair and reasonable price for the property – subsequent to which we will stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood, take a deep breath and return to the affray! Fingers – and much else – firmly crossed…

Now – because selling a property in the UK is such a big, grown-up, scary prospect we have decided – instead of taking the risk of biting off more than we can reasonably chew – to sell the apartment bit by bit!

Well – no… of course we haven’t really – though just at the moment that might appear to be the case!

I’m being cryptic! I will stop at once…

We are in the final stages of selling a brick built bin store that is located behind the main house. There are four such stores – assigned to four of the seven apartments into which the original residence was divided – in a row abutting the rear wall of the estate. The roofs of these stores had – of late – fallen into such a state of disrepair that urgent remedial works were required. Naturally the Kickass Canada Girl and I were reluctant to invest further monies into a feature of the property that adds little or no financial value to the apartment as a whole, so a deal was done with one of our neighbours. She will pay the costs of the roof repairs in return for the transfer into her name of the store itself. She can use the space – we can do without the expense!

It would – of course – be really good if the rest of the sale were to proceed as expeditiously and smoothly as this. Let us be optimistic and assume that this will indeed be so.

 

Tags: , ,

Each year there is one early weekend – one glorious (if brief!) window – the effect of which is to renew afresh our faith in the continuing cycle of the seasons. However hard the winter may have been (and in terms of storm and deluge this one has been tough indeed) we can once again see the light at the end of the tunnel. We are alerted by the cry of the distant harbinger… “Spring is coming”!!

This was such a weekend…

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson Reid

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson Reid

Tags: , , ,

Photo by Andy Dawson Reid
See me, feel me, touch me, heal me”

Pete Townshend

I suppose it is symptomatic of encroaching old-age that I am unable now to recall exactly why I found myself sitting at my computer last week, searching the InterWebNet for recorded versions of The Who’s “See Me, Feel Me“. I know that this was not what I started out looking for (though of course I can’t remember what that was either!) – neither can I now call to mind the supervenient sequence that ultimately led me to Acton’s finest.

It is a sorry business – this aging!

Though I had, naturally, been well aware of The Who throughout the late 60s I did not truly become a fan until 1971 – when I heard for the first time the mighty sound that is “Won’t Get Fooled Again“. The effect that this had on me was not dissimilar to that which I experienced on hearing – for the first time – “A Day in the Life“, “Eleanor Rigby” or “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds“. I had no idea that music could be like this. In the case of “Won’t Get Fooled Again” I was astonished that a ‘pop’ song could not only have something reasonable to say, but that it could do so with such power, such brio, such… passion! “Won’t Get Fooled Again” is one of those rare tracks that sounds exactly as fresh, meaningful and powerful today as it did when heard first.

See Me, Feel Me” is – of course – a couple of years older, originating as it does in The Who’s ground-breaking rock opera – “Tommy” (the first of a mercifully modest canon!). Through the decades since the album was released in 1969 I have endured a number of different stage productions, as well as gazing slack-jawed at Ken Russell’s flamboyantly eccentric movie version. I have to say that I find the piece as a whole to be somewhat… patchy! There are – of course – familiar highlights such as “Pinball Wizard” and the finale – “Listening to You” – which apparently later found its true niche in The Who’s live set as an act of communion between band and audience.

The opera’s one moment of genius, however, is its penultimate fragment – the aforementioned “See Me, Feel Me” – a fleetingly transcendent distillation of pure longing, which hangs upon the sudden breathless air a still small voice in the eye of the hurricane. This palimpsest crystallises somewhat unexpectedly out of the preceding number – “We’re Not Gonna Take It” – and once it’s brief existence is done bunny-hops through a crunching gear-change into “Listening to You“.

The lyric comprises but one repeated line:

See me, feel me, touch me, heal me”

There is no more because at this point there is nothing more to be said.

Harmonically, “See Me, Feel Me” is also stripped back as far as is feasible – comprising what is essentially a repeated three chord pattern…

|Ebmaj7 |Fsus4  F|Fsus4   F|G

…which forms (apparently!) an Aeolian progression. The suspensions that initially render the phrase tonally ambiguous resolve at the end of each line in a manner that contrives to be at once final and infinite. This is one of those rare musical phrases that is so complete in and of itself that no development is possible. I imagine that Pete Townshend must have tried pretty hard to come up with a way of so doing before giving up and accepting this gift from the gods for what it was – a perfect representation of imperfection! Trapped within itself like a bug in amber this tiny fragment manages thus to express eternal longing. We might wish that it went on for ever. It cannot do so.

You may not be familiar with this orchestral version – featuring Townshend himself on vocals rather than the familiar tones of Roger Daltrey.

See Me, Feel Me:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

There are some pieces of music – just as there are some poems, some prose passages – that are so immaculate that one wonders how the author – having achieved this proximity to perfection – could face writing again, for fear of never being able to top – or even match – what had already been accomplished.

Wouldn’t it be nice to be in that position!

Tags: , ,

758px-The_dance_to_the_music_of_time_c._1640For reasons not always at the time explicable, there are specific occasions when events begin suddenly to take on a significance previously unsuspected, so that, before we really know where we are, life seems to have begun in earnest at last, and we ourselves, scarcely aware that any change has taken place, are careering uncontrollably down the slippery avenues of eternity.

Anthony Powell – A Dance To The Music Of Time 

The weekend recently past found the Kickass Canada Girl and I (‘me’ for the purists – though that sounds wrong, wrong, wrong!) engaged at two very different events (home and away – one might say) which – between them – gave considerable pause for thought. It does no harm at all on occasion to step back from the hurly-burly to contemplate what this existence might truly mean and how all is ultimately connected.

This post might as easily have been entitled ‘The Circle of Life’ but the chance to reference Poussin’s wonderful painting (“A Dance to the Music of Time” – a particular favourite of mine) was too good to pass up. The statue therein of the double-headed god Janus is particularly pertinent in this instance.

The first of the weekend’s events was the memorial service for a very long-standing acquaintance – my oldest-friend’s wife’s father – whom I have known for more than four decades. He was, of course, of my parents’ generation – of whom in our circle only a very few now remain. He enjoyed a good life and the occasion was very much a celebration thereof rather than being overly solemn. None the less, such acts of remembrance always invite a degree of introspection regarding the transience of our existence – this one being no exception.

The occasion was also – however – a rather lovely gathering of family and friends ordinarily these days spread far and wide. It was a great pleasure to meet again so many good acquaintances with whom we only seem to coincide nowadays on feast days such as this.

The following day we ourselves hosted a long planned gathering of friends, some of whom had also been present the day before. This convocation had a considerably lighter tone and was – as far as could be discerned – greatly enjoyed by all those in attendance (thanks in no small part to Lidgates of Notting Hill and their wonderful pies!). Amongst those present was the lovely friend at whose wedding in Hong Kong the November before last we had been guests. The couple have recently added a brand new member to our extended circle; the devastatingly cute four-month-old inevitably being the centre of attention throughout the evening.

Between them these two events pretty much epitomised the aforesaid circle of life. The passage of old life passing as the tender buds of the new start to unfurl; connections re-kindled in friendships established over the decades; new faces welcomed and – mayhap – new affinities inaugurated; acquaintanceship initiated between companions previously unmet. We rejoice in the sharing of reminiscence. We celebrate the discovery of ‘ontologia exotica‘. We revel in our anecdotage. Life is affirmed. All is as it should be…

Such gatherings have a tendancy to foment the philosophical. I watched as the Kickass Canada Girl headed for the buffet deep in conversation with my ex-wife! Oldest Friend leant over to me:

“You’re in trouble!”, he opined trenchantly…

Well – I probably am now!

Tags: , ,

To the National Theatre earlier this week to catch the inestimable Simon Russell Beale as Lear (he magnificent – the production something of a curate’s egg!). As I hurried along the embankment to meet the Kickass Canada Girl for for a little pre-show sushi I was struck by the beauty of the half-light of the Capital’s dusk. Barely breaking my stride I whipped the the x10 from my new messenger bag (of which more possibly later) and fired off a handful of shots.

What fun!

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson Reid

 

Tags: , ,

Image by Andy Dawson ReidI must down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;

And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

John Masefield

 

My first full length ‘straight’ play (as distinct from the musicals on which I had to that point collaborated) was produced a little more than a decade ago at the school at which I was at that time gainfully employed (though not – it must be said – as a teacher of drama).

The piece was not – in fact – a single play at all, but a pair of linked one-act plays – designed to make up a complete evening’s entertainment.

The setting was Hebridean – the central theme ostensibly concerned the sea – much of the material was drawn from Scottish mythology and folklore. As is the nature of such things – of course – the plays’ true themes were connotative.

When first performed this brace of plays went under the imperceptibly amusing title – “Two Scottish Plays”.  Being a somewhat younger and still relatively callow chap, I thought it amusing thus doubly to tempt the fates! The work was subsequently re-titled – taking its rubric from the second stanza of John Masefield’s “Sea Fever”.

FotoSketcher - DSCF0305Reluctant to abnegate entirely my claims to be considered a composer I wrote a score to accompany the piece – an amalgam of incidental music and songs. Once the production was over I filed everything away as usual and pretty much forgot about it.

I had thus not heard these compositions in a almost decade when I came across the sequence files in a ‘dusty’ digital archive at some point during late autumn last year.

Distance apparently does lend enchantment – which interval can seemingly be chronological as well as spatial. I found myself captivated by a score that I had – in large part – forgotten completely. It is quite startling to come across something from the (relative) mists of time and to wonder how it could possibly have been written in the first place. It may sound egotistical – but I found myself not unimpressed.

I was moved to revisit the score – thinking perhaps to re-arrange it and to re-record it using contemporary technology. My spare(!) time over the ensuing couple of months was thus duly occupied on my Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) of choice – Tracktion – and a great deal of fun was had.

On the extreme off-off-off-chance that the gentle reader might feel inclined to add an auditory experience to the literary – do find herewith a couple of the incidental pieces.

The Littoral – Intertidal:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Ciaran’s Jig:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Tags: , , ,