Made it through another year (2nd on from diagnosis) more or less intact!
I am prone to compulsion. I become single-minded in pursuit of my goal.
I've developed an unhealthy interest in the history of the drum kit. How did it get to look like that? What led to that configuration?
More or less like this:
|Generic Drum Kit|
It starts with the demise of the marching band where Bass Drum, Cymbal, and Snare Drum would each have been played by individual performers. Not having to march means the three elements could be combined and played by one person. Probably the same person who plays the drums in most young people's cars.
Into the early part of the 20th century the sit-down kit starts to appear in the form of the 'Contraption' or 'Trap' kit which augments the basic three elements with anything that would make a noise.
Many of the anythings seem to have been Asian in origin. The toms appear to be traditional 19th century Xiao Tanggu or ceremonial hall drums annnnnnd, temple blocks.
I bought a cheap (poor quality) temple block from eBay to add to my collection of things that make good noises. It wasn't enough...
Just for the cheap-thrill of bidding to lose I bid on a set of four 'antique' temple blocks. I was convinced some drummer would spot them and snap them up so I only bid £20 knowing it was a ridiculously low amount for items of such rarity..
So, I won four 'antique' temple blocks.
Here's what the seller had to say about them:
Four genuine Chinese Temple Blocks with 3 beaters, complete with original Chinese cardboard box. I bought these items from an antique shop in Zhouzhuang, an ancient residential area of China which has a profound cultural background, during a tour of mainland China in July 1999.
The blocks are carved from wood and each have a distinctive emblem carved on the top and bottom surfaces that looks like two fishes.
The sizes of the blocks are 120mmWide/ 300mm deep, 100mmW/95mm D, 80mm W/ 80mm D and 50mm W/55mm D.
The four temple blocks each have a quite unique sound, ( a recording of the sounds they make can be emailed to you on request ) and they are a dream find for any discerning percussionist. As well as being a fine addition to a percussionists kit, these items could equally be acceptable as a bric-a-brac fine collectors item.
One of them has a sticker on it that reads '¥12'... hmmmm.
Of course, for them to be used to their full effect, they needed a dedicated stand to mount them in.
They now look like this:
These have been the source of much hilarity for both Linda and myself.
Here's what they sound like...
A full set of five 'pro' temple blocks costs £150....
I 'missed' the check-up appointment I was supposed to attend in February. It was during the dark-age of my tenure at the college. My non-attendance was unintentional. I simply forgot about it.
I attended an appointment today. This appointment was arranged for me, by my nurse, after a recent 'episode' that caused me to take a week off work.
The examination was routine. Testing of reflexes and responses to stimuli. There was a good deal of laughter. It's refreshing to know I still can't stop myself laughing when someone tickles the soles of my feet.
I was 'pricked' all over with 'a sharp object', which I was not allowed to see, which produced another bout of laughter.
I had an ENORMOUS tuning fork applied to various areas. This wasn't as amusing, especially when it got to the tops of my feet and my toes. I couldn't feel it.
So, I can still feel small, sharp things, but not larger, flatter things that vibrate.
Examination over we do the talking bit...
I was asked why I'd cancelled my appointment at the disease modification therapy clinic. I was asked if I'd reconsidered my objection to a lumber-puncture. It was pointed out that I still hadn't given the blood samples I'd been requested to supply.
I cancelled my appointment at the DMT clinic because it seemed a bit of a waste of time. The treatment options are all ludicrously expensive for the NHS and, because they only prevent around 30% of relapses, not appropriate for the way things are going for me at the moment. My last serious relapse, I have to remind myself, was 2012.
The lumber-puncture was always a non-starter. Epidural, needle up the spine, 3 hours laying flat on my back drinking water so I don't get the ice cream headache to end all ice cream headaches. Not only that, but the results of the procedure may confirm the MS, or they may not, even if one has MS. One Consultant Neurologist insists that the procedure should be carried out on all newly diagnosed patients, but most seem to think it unnecessary.
The blood samples... yeah, I must get them done. The consultant was very good about it really. She pointed out that she could end up treating me for something that might turn out to be as simple as a vitamin B12 deficiency, but she wouldn't know because no blood tests.
I've had two very distressing collapses this year. One whist I was at the college and another more recent event that triggered this appointment. While MS didn't help the situation it was not responsible for either of them. What, in retrospect, I appear to have had were nervous breakdowns due to over-work and stress.
I posted about depression. I thought it was an arbitrary morbid phenomenon. It's not. It's brought on by over-work and stress.
The consultant asked me if I'd like help in dealing with stress. If she'd have asked me anytime before the dim lights of realisation started to glow in my mind about 3 weeks ago I'd have said 'no'. The answer is still 'perhaps'.
I've grown up with stress. I know no other intoxicant like it, It sets my mind on fire, and I fan the flames till it consumes me.
If I'm honest, this explains a few things.
Annnnd, we're back in the room...
I was rambling on about stress quite nicely when, out of the blue, the consultant asked me 'are you in denial?'
I was bit surprised by the question. No I'm not in denial, I've got multiple sclerosis and I'm learning to live with it mate! I'll tell anyone who'll listen about how I've got multiple sclerosis.... problem is, multiple sclerosis is the least of my worries at the moment...
I've got targets to meet, I've got staff issues to deal with, I've got a mind-manglingly complex payroll to sort out every two weeks, I've got a 'mobile' support cleaner who's not allowed to drive a car in the UK, I've got to find staff for a site in Littlehampton where they stand a very good chance of physical attack from the residents who tend to be either 'newly released', just plain mad, or a combination of both. I've also got to wash my van... the list is endless.
I don't have to go back for another year. I like my consultant neurologist. I think she understands what I'm trying to do and we laugh a lot.
Watch this space...
No, this one, here...
I've become interested in what would, many years ago, have been described as 'contraption' devices. Sound makers included in the early drum or 'trap' kits.
I already own several of these instruments. Duck call, siren whistle, cuckoo whistle, ratchet, wash-board, a temple block, and various other hilarious novelty sound makers.
I wanted something that went 'POP!'
A professional orchestral 'Champagne-Popper' would cost around £130. I'm mad, but I'm not that mad.
Having thought about the subject for a couple of days I realised an old bicycle-pump with a cork stuck in the end would probably do the trick.
Down the market I bought a pump for 0.99p:
I sawed the end off:
I stuck a cork in it:
It needs a better fitting cork with a restraining string fitted so I don't spend inordinate amounts of time retrieving the cork from under various items of furniture.
I've not been avoiding monitoring my M.S. Its just that nothing really significant has happened since earlier this year while I was managing the college contract.
Looking back it very nearly killed me.
I first assumed I was having a relapse, but I was wrong. It was my first real introduction to the world of fatigue.
I've written about the effects of fatigue before, but now realise the 'mild' episodes I'd experienced weren't even a '101' for what was to come.
I hope don't have to write that again in another 6 or 7 months!
A few weeks ago we experienced a strange phenomenon here in Blighty, the sun came out, stayed out, and bestowed it's radiance in abundance on our perpetually damp island.
I now know that when the temperature rises above 20C (sorry, can't find the degree symbol on my iPad) my body goes into shut down. I'd have an uneducated guess at Uhutoff's Phenomenon. It doesn't effect some with M.S., but that's M.S. for you... individually tailored, bespoke.
I can't actually begin to describe what it feels like. Some over on the M.S. forum have tried, but analogies are just that, analogies.
The lack of energy ain't the half of it. There's the background nausea that's suppressed my appetite. My mental functions are greatly impaired, which leads to lack of motivation, which leads to frustration, which leads to depression, and I'm back in the cycle.
I still dose myself nightly with 15mg of Mirtazapine, which was prescribed to help my sleeping. It's also an anti-depressant.
I'm somewhat underwhelmed by the varity of anti-depressants I've been exposed to over the years and now believe, much as it grieves me to admit, I probably do have some kind of cognitive problem.
I've always found it easy to think myself into a ditch, It's thinking my way out that's the tricky bit.
I don't really need the Mirtazapine as sleeping aid now, I could sleep for England at a needle match between Man U. and Liverpool FC., but, considering the levels of depression I've experienced recently I worry about what new gates of hell would open up if I chose to stop taking it.
6 weeks ago I began trying to get a grip on what was happening to me.
Using a scale from 1 to 10 (1 being 'normal' and 10 being 'OMG. Kill me now!'). Most days were in the 5 - 6 range (with one anomaly of a 2 on a cooler day). The last two weeks have been in the 7 - 8 range.
The amount of sleep I get seems to have no baring on the level of fatigue I experience. I can sleep for 8 - 10 hours and wake feeling like I haven't slept for a month... or two.
My hope is this will be a temporary situation and it will improve as the cooler weather arrives, but I'm not holding my breath.
There is another, rather more worrying aspect of this current situation..
In my head, when ever I find my mind drifting, when ever I close my eyes to sleep, a huge red neon sign lights up in my consciousness. It reads...
"IT'S THE JOB!"
Do you think I could be trying to send myself some kind of message?
There comes a time when every stringed instrument player 'knows' it's time for new strings. Some change strings on a regular basis, others choose to ignore the necessity and solider on.
I tend to be in the later category.
When I played the guitar I ended up on the expensive new string treadmill round about every six weeks. I favoured Elixir strings with Nanoweb coating at £10 a pop. Boy, am I glad those days are over.
The stings on my resonator uke are the same ones it came with when I took possession of it... I'm tempted to change that line to 'when it took possession of me'.
The stings on this uke are anchored in slots on the body and, on close inspection, to my horror were beginning to stretch-out to thin strands. Considering how hard I thrash this instrument it's a wonder I've managed to get away no broken strings.
N.B. string breakages happen at the most inconvenient moment, usually mid-performance, usually in public, usually when you don't have spares, and will usually have a detrimental effect on the tuning of the remaining strings.
It's time for change.
On removing the old stings it proved to much of a temptation not to open the uke up...
12 small screws later... Inside we see the aluminium cone c/w 'biscuit' bridge assembly. I found the 'biscuit' was bolted to the cone. I'd assumed this would be a 'floating' assembly which would allow some intonation adjustment. On further inspection I discovered the cone has a good bit of 'elbow room' in it's housing, so I suppose that's the intonation adjustment...
On removing the cone...
A disappointing stick self-tapped in place with two struts linking it to plywood discs placed against the back of the chamber. Crude, but effective?
Then there's all the dust a fluff. I found a spherical 'pill' of fluff had formed inside the body..
Cleaned up, reassembled, and re-strung..
Now the annoying bit starts...
New strings need stretching till they stay in tune. I use the ubiquitous Aquila Nylgut strings. I stopped experimenting with uke strings the moment I first threaded a set of Aquilas on to my baritone uke. They have the astonishing capacity of improving the sound of any ukulele they're fitted to. Most new Ukes seem to come fitted with them as standard nowadays.
The initial tuning I make is 3 semitones above the normal tuning of G C E A. So, that's Bb Eb G C. I 'hammer' away at a few chords, adjusting the tuning as necessary until the strings stablise and hold tune, then tune to the G key.
3hours on from the change over things seem to have settled down nicely.
To be honest this instrument's intonation isn't entirely correct, just that little bit 'off' that makes it sound interesting. (it's not a good idea to drift above the 5th fret BTW) All my favourite instruments have an endearing 'quirk' like this, the slightly 'broken' sound appeals to me.... that and it's 'BARK!'
So now I don't have to worry about changing strings for another 5 years, or so.
What would this ukulele sound like with steel strings?
It certainly seems built to take 'em.
During recording the demos for 'The Green Eye of the Little Yellow God' I became somewhat facsinated, if not obsessed, by the sound the tin-box-&-broom-pole bass was making.
It's a difficult instrument to record. It has a built-in piezo microphone, but plug it into an amp and you've got feedback only people with names like 'Jimi Hendrix' could control. It's not a subtle or, in fact, particulaly loud instrument either which makes using an external mic tricky. It ends up being a trade off between volume or horrible string scrapie noise.
'EQ to the rescue then?'
Errr, no, not until the track is recorded. I just try to get as close to the sound I want in the finished product.
That's all well and good, in theory. In practice, well... it didn't happen. The string buzz won the day.
Yes. Now EQ.
I haven't the faintest idea what I set the various parametric EQ controls to, but I ended up with something that fit the overall sound of the track.
I wrote in the original post about how I'd managed to make the bass sound like a crumhorn: http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crumhorn
It was the only thing I could think of comparing it to and yet I knew that wasn't 'it'.
To avoid rambling on like this... I eventually, through subsequent recordings and re-recordings, boiled it down to the harmonica family.
I can not play the bloody harmonica!
I've tried, I can't, and don't have time in this life to sit around learning how to be a medioca player.
and... while I'm on the subject of the 'tin sandwich' and the players thereof...
The bane of the open-mic events I used to visit in my old home town were bad 'blues harp' players who would leap in with 'wotkeyzzitinmate?' whilst juggling pockets full of slobber encrusted 'organs' before I'd had chance to plug my guitar in let alone decide what I was going to play or what key it might be in when I played it and then the endless metal calculations of 5th above, or 5th below, 'E' would be great, 'ang on I'll try this one...
My God, the bollocks were endless.
To be honest I'm not really into Blues Harmonica playing. Enjoyed it when I was about 16, but now the thrill is gone.
There are however, Harmonica players I really like. They have names like 'Larry Adler' & 'Max Geldray'.
So, I typed 'bass Hamonica' into the interwebs and eventually found "The Tombo Pocket Bass Harmonica' which, after studying various YouTube videos and establishing even I could play it, I bought.
Since banging the button on 'pay-now' I've bored anyone who came within 10ft of me to death about it.
It arrived today.
The manual has the mandatory 'Engrish' hilarity:
"Many thanks for purchasing Pocket Ensemble Series. We, Tombo musical instrument Co.,Ltd., are a serious manufacturer specialized in producing harmonicas consistently since1917
Pocket Ensemble Series are epoch-making Ensemble Harmonicas innovated with new concept for players to enjoy the harmonica ensemble with much ease..
Both Bass Harmonica and Chord Harmonica consist of C-key and the other keys which are used frequently for the pieces in Am-key. For the pieces in the other keys, you can enjoy playing a wide variety of the pieces by transposing to these two keys.
Small, lightweight and easy to carry, so, these do not pick the place. Why don't you take them along freely and enjoy the harmonica ensemble anywhere and with anybody?"
(The manual covers the Tombo Pocket Chord as well.)
Cut to the chase...
Oh, I'm going to have some fun with this.
On a lighter note..
I've just been told I've got the job and am no longer an Interim Mobile Supervisor, I'm the real deal.
Just when I thought the day couldn't get much better, Her Majesty gave me back £300 tax she didn't need.
I now look like this:
I have no idea what possessed me to make a small stuffed person.
I need a pattern.
'Can't you just draw one?'
Yes, I could draw one, but I want it to look recognisably humanoid.
If you were to type 'small stuffed person' into your interositor viewing screen the consequence may be having your name added to a list.
I found the shape I was looking for under 'Voodoo Doll':
I printed it on to card, picked up the scissors, stuck my tongue through my thined out lips, and cut it out.
On my return from A&E...
I decided that a sort of banket stitch might do the trick... whatever 'blanket stitch' might be.
I have a vague idea that 'blanket stitch' maybe related to blankets and spend sometime examining all the blankets we possess.
My findings were inconclusive.
I consulted the interwebs, studied various confusing diagrams, and decided I had reached the confidence level required to attempt 'blanket stitch', or some variant thereof
I pined the two halves together - actually I did this before I cut my tongue out - and set about 'blanket stitching'.
I've, up till now, sewed and then unpicked it 4 bloody times now.
To be cont. as sone as I get 'blanket stitch' together a little better than is currently the cas.
The 'Kevin Turvey' sketch in the previous post was the first time I became aware of RM.
I actually thought his name was Kevin Turvey.
This video was the next time I saw RM, this time with AE. This clip has several stand out moments...
I'm pretty upset about the passing of Rick (Rik) Mayall.
I still think this sketch, in the character of Kevin Turvey Investigative Reporter, is one of the funniest pieces of television He ever did:
Thank you Rick.
I've had a great holiday.
I seem to have forgotten the recent past.
The txt/img postings were to record ideas that seemed important at the time and will become more interesting as time goes on.
I was Illprepared for the work I agreed to carry out. I went in like an idiot. I glad-handed everyone. I gave people my contact details.....
Really, really, really... errr, misguided strategy as it turns out.
They know where to find me...
Toward the end of my tenure, every time my mobile phone rang, or pinged I began to feel Ill.
My 'strategy', in the beginning, was to head straight for the darkest corner of the contract. I found it in the agricultural college:
'Bout sums it up.
Anyway, enough of all that, it's all in the past!
I am sat with my director in her office. 'So boss, what y'got?'.
I sort of had an idea this might be the offer. The surprise was where the position became available from. The guy who signed me up last October. He leaves on Friday.
I have about 3 days to get his job understood.
On a lighter note...
My pay remains the same.... hang on, that means I was doing a contract manager role on a mobile supervisor rate.
That stings a bit.
I was afraid I may have got the quote wrong in the Worthing Anti-Fracking post, but no...
I received a message from Bamboo Band HQ. We are requested to perform at a consciousness raising event in support of Greenpeace's Anti-Fracking campaign.
I have a vague idea that Fracking maybe a bad thing, especially if one lives in the beucolic biss afforded in the folds of the South Downs.... It would wreak havoc with the golf and may frighten the horses.
I'm against Fracking because it just seems like another dead end in terms of powering the future.
I like windmills. I like great big white windmills. If there's one thing I like more than great big white windmills it's hundreds of great big white windmills standing in the sea with ships weaving in and out of them.
Linda's a Greenpeace supporter and will stop to talk to any of the dreadlocked-crusty-trustifarians that occasionally leave their Hobbit holes in Brighton and come to do Eco-missionary work on the streets of Bognor Regis.
I'm generally sympathetic to their cause, but, having joined more than my fair share of crazy cults, I can spot one when I see one.
We arrive in a car park some short way from the rendezvous point outside Worthing Railway Station. I am in rapture. Teville Gate....
And was dystopia builded here...? As Jonathan Meades said in his series on Brutalism, "the sheer joylessness is thrilling'. It certainly is. I think it maybe because I grew up in the countryside, and thereby developed an unromantic view of the place, that I find this kind of completely urban environment endlessly fascinating. I'd have done the gig right here.
The multi-story car park is another wonder, but the sun was behind it, so I didn't take a picture.
We are early. I didn't known what to expect, but was somewhat relived not to find baying hordes of balaclava-clad Eco-warriors manning the barricades against the forces of repression bent on carving up the planet for the shareholders.
I took a picture of Linda:
I didn't notice the horns.
We went for a coffee in the cafe over the road from the station. It was as 'tradition' a British cafe as one could hope to visit... In fact it was over the top British, right down to the proprietors handlebar moustache.
I drink what I used to call a 'milky coffee', but now know I should refer to it as a 'latte' if I don't want to be taken for an unsophisticated dullard.
I read the Sun 'newspaper'. It's filled with bile about the odious PR Guru Max Clifford's fall from grace. Watch out when your hand becomes the only food left to feed the monster with.
Lord James Bamboo turns up and we decamp to the event.
We look around, can't see much going on, then I notice a small group of middle aged people in kagools shuffling leaflets. Guess who?
The activists activate by doning Greenpeace tabards and hold up a large sign reading "Stop Fracking!". The Bamboo Band twang into action:
We play for two hours solid becoming most animated when ever a train unloads it's passengers.
Then the forces of repression make their move. The station manger tells the organisers that 'the music can't be playing on Southern Rail property'. Southern Rail property seemingly defined by the perimeter of the station entrance canopy. We step outside the perimeter and start playing 'Can't Beat The Bamboo Band'.
I am upbraided by a callow youth of a protester who suggests that it was politically incorrect of me to describe the station master as the 'Fat Controller'. I explain that I am an unsophisticated dullard and know no better.
There's a more convincing protestor type with us now. He is wearing a pink hat and, I'm told, was at one of the really big protests where some nice middle class people got in a bit of a tizzy about the possible intention of a company to maybe consider Fracking in their back gardens.
I don't mean to be cynical. These are committed people that want to stop our planet being exploited for, relitively, short term gains.
Here's the thing though... I worked on an oil rig. My employers were contracted to clean it. It was a German rig, highly efficient, required high standards from the contractors.
I cleaned it to with in an inch of it's life 3 times a week. One of the crew was a Texan. He looked like he was wearing a Stetson, even when he wasn't. 'God damn!', he said at me, 'this is a oil rig sir, an' you makin' it look like a high class whore house'. And yes, he really was that stereotypical.
Why is this relevant?
It's relevant because that drilling rig was in woodlands in the Sussex Downs. Right in the middle of one of those bucolic folds. They were drilling about a mile going down and then about a mile going along.
The site puts out just over 100* barrels a day. If they got the hole right that should increase to 300+*.
(* I may have got these figures wrong, but I think the differential is about right.)
No one, but no one even raised an eyebrow.
From the Worthing Herald: Worthing Against Fracking
Text Source: Tumblr 'We Miss You'
Image animation: Morfo app.
Post production: 8mm Movie Camera app.
I have been on 'holiday' for nearly a week...
I haven't had a drink of coffee for over 24hrs...
I feel better now..
I really do...
Imagine, if you will, whilst going about your goings on, you detect, high above you the unmistakable sound of something desending a great velocity toward the ground...
That'll be me then... at the end of my catapult ride.
I handed back the throne to it's rightful occupant during last week. The handover was smooth, easy even. It's almost like he'd never been away.
It's been a very interesting experience.
To cut a long story short...
I find myself sitting in my Director's office. It is my intention to tender my resignation.
'You thew me in at the deep-end' I say.
'Yes, I did', replies my Director.
'So what now?' I ask.
'Go on holiday for a week', then come back and see me' she says.
I hear and obey.....
I can't remember when the idea of visiting The Margate Shell Grotto entered my head, but it's been there quite a few years.
So, to Margate, the shell grotto, and the paper guide:
The Grade I-listed Shell Grotto opened to the public in 1838 and has remained a privately-owned attraction since.
As yet, no documents that mention the Grotto and pre-date it's discovery have been found: no correspondence, no maps, nothing to date the construction of the Grotto beyond doubt.
So, for the time being, theories on the Grotto's origins are just that: theories, .
We do not know who made it, when or why.
A walk through:
I couldn't resist applying some spooky organ music to the film.
Margate's... certainly living through 'interesting' times.