Writing and Strumming

A week on from looking at playing the guitar more and how am I doing? Well, not brilliant but not all bad either. I've printed off some of the songs from the first twelve and have had two days from the last week when I've played at least an hour. Which isn't great, but it's better than I've done for many a month (year). So onwards and upwards. I will get more regular at practice.

I will.

Over the last couple of days I've not been playing, I have been writing. Following the completion of the second draft of my Infernal Clock 'DeadCades' story it is time to move on to something else. The first thing I did was edit an older Infernal Clock story originally written for 'CalenDark' which is worth considering for using for some other submission. That is all boxed off and now it's a question of keeping an eye out for a potential home for it.

Since editing that I have not written anything fiction though (other than VSS365 of course), but I have over ten pages of planning and ideas in my BuJo. It will be used to focus my next project. Maybe something more substantial - giving me a chance to stretch Scrivener a little beyond the 5500 words.
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Return to the Guitar

Yesterday I sat down to think about getting back to playing the guitar. I've two in the house; a lovely green telecaster and a semi-acoustic Takamine. Can't even remember when I last played the electric but from time to time I pick up the Takamine for a quick strum. The thing is I've forgotten so many songs that I used to be able to play and have lost the ability to play most of the riffs I used to know a bit. So I've decided to get a bit more methodical and timetable some specific guitar practice. To learn (or relearn) a bunch of songs I used to play (at least after a fashion).

Ideally I want to get to a point where I can face playing in front of someone again. In fact maybe play at an Open Mic or two. The Sanctuary pub in Liverpool being one possibility. So I need to learn a few songs from start to finish, words and chords, with appropriate strumming patterns and all that malarky.

To that end my initial aim is to learn again twelve songs, which is kinda an album length of tunes. Then from there go on to twenty four and thirty; then who knows?

Should I get into playing again then I'd like to write a few songs once again. It's been a long time since I have done that. Then that opens up the possibility of playing my own stuff at an open mic too. That maybe for next year, but learning the first of the 'twelve' should be a lot easier in theory so who knows I may end up at an open mic sometime over the next two or three months.

I've got four to six I should be able to box off relatively quickly, say over next couple of weeks. Then if I aim to learn a couple of songs a week thereafter then maybe I can box of twelve songs in five weeks or so.

First up I'm going to create a playlist of all 30 songs to practice the words and feel of them. Then I'll print off the words and chord sheets for them all and have a nice neat file (that said I probably have half of them at least already printed out in one file or other). Then, lastly, I need to get my guitar ready and begin playing the thing again. Regularly.

So in five weeks will I have twelve songs I can feel confident enough to stand up (or sit down) and play from start to finish? We'll see.

Watch this space.
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Class Song Year 2

Class Song has been progressing well with these weekly song lists. So far the artists have included a lot of biggies, but I've tried to mix it up with some smaller ones. The artistes so far have been:

  • Warren Zevon
  • Wilco
  • Counting Crows
  • Ryan Adams
  • Jayhawks
  • Frank Turner
  • Pogues
  • Chuck Prophet
  • Beatles
  • Thea Gilmore
  • Aimee Mann
  • Bob Dylan and
  • Rolling Stones

A mix of rock, country and singer songery types. Let's face it if I've covered Beatles, Stones and Dylan I've pretty much done the biggies. That said there's lots of cracking bands coming up. Next week I've got songs from Broken Family Band. A criminally underrated English band who were not big at all - so don't expect many videos.

Not sure how many people are listening to any of them. But I do know whoever is should be finding some decent tracks. And if I can introduce one new person to a band they didn't now before then the job has been a good one.

Keep listening.


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Dead Reckoning

Last week on the evening before going to Bishop's Castle I finally sent out the draft of the DeadCades story to the editor, Steph. It was great to get it out. I was given a little kick to do it when I saw Shake's Tweet that he was close to getting his done - and let's face it I didn't want to be the last one.

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Awaiting edits sometime over the next week or two. And then I can look forward to getting my hands on the book in the months ahead. With all the great authors in it (and me) it's definitely going to be a doozy.

The first two books of the Infernal Clock trilogy (the Infernal Clock and Calendark), which I am proud to have been included in, are available from that Amazon behemoth if you ain't already got them.

InfernalClock Calendark

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Gone Fishing

I've got over England being beaten by Croatia in the semi-final of the World Cup, a lot faster than I do any Liverpool result. That said if they'd got to the final I'd have bloody loved it.

Anyway away from sport there's some good TV about at the moment, loving The Handmaid's Tale again of course. But my current highlight is the wonderful 'Gone Fishing' with Mortimer and Whitehouse on BBC2.

Mortimer and Whitehouse

The banter between the two old mates cover serious growing up issues (ok, largely men's health) and features lots of drug taking (Whitehouse surely rattles when he walks), alcohol (Mortimer likes his ale, huzzah!), cooking and even some fishing. The filming of the British countryside is reminiscent of The Detectorists making it seem all low key whilst beautiful.

Behind it all Bob and Paul's friendship shines through and leaves you with a warm happy feeling and a buzzy grin throughout. And the barbel is quite a cool fish. If you haven't been watching it yet then get yourself on that iPlayer thing. It's brilliant TV.
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18 Books

Not caught up on my reading target but hey, no-one died.

18 Books

Eighteen books in and still going on. Next one may be quick (it's got lots of big pictures of maps in it).

Reading has included some cracking authors including;

  • Arthur C Clarke,
  • Bill Bryson,
  • Terry Pratchett,
  • Neil Gaiman,
  • Anthony Burgess,
  • CS Lewis,
  • Colson Whitehead,
  • Paul Beatty,
  • Kurt Vonnegut, and
  • Joseph Conrad.

All 18 Books

Reading for next six months expected to include some more of the usual suspects including at the very least;

  • Iain M. Banks,
  • Margaret Atwood,
  • Philip Pullman,
  • Mervyn Peak, and
  • George Orwell.

And, yes, I will leave some time for some writing.
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Over All Too Quickly

This weekend was hot hot hot in on the Welsh borders of Shropshire but being in Bishop's Castle it at least meant there was plenty of liquid options to keep hydrated and cool with. This year rather than just the three usual suspects camping (Toe, Ste and yours truly) we were accompanied by double figures of top ladies and gentlemen from Liverpool and beyond. Pop-up tents filled the Foxholes campsite almost as much as the snoring.

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The festival actually seemed a little quieter than usual. Not sure if that is with people staying at home and having home made BBQs and wee festivals while the World Cup was on. The England match was shown in a couple of pubs and we watched from the car park of the Castle Hotel. It was a cauldron in Samara and seemed at least as hot in the tarmac bowl. The result made it worth while.

Saw several good bands in the Castle Hotel and The Vaults over the two days. Hats of to them for their work in the heat.

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Saturday evening inevitably ended up with regular renditions of Vindaloo and Three Lions between the bands playing in the Vaults. Top night.

The weather, the music, the company and even the England match all made it a top weekend. The beer wasn't bad either. Not sure whether it was the footy in the middle of the day or the size of the group we were with but boy the weekend absolutely flew by. See you again, Bishop's Castle. You always deliver.

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Have put a selection of photos up from this weekend in an album on Flickr.

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Bishop's Castle (Again) 2018

It's Bishop's Castle Beer Festival this weekend. I've lost count of how many times I've been now, but I'm of there again camping on Friday and Saturday at the fab Foxholes campsite. There's a shed loads of us going this year from Liverpool. Well, well into double figures anyway. It's always a cracking day (or two if you go camping) and usually the weather is wall to wall sunshine. Of course with the way the weather has been in the last few weeks this won't be different this year.

There's always loads on at all the pubs and a great atmosphere (my fave is the Vaults for the live music). As well as plenty of lovely beers there will be great food and loads of bands on. What's not to like?!

This year this is happening at the same time as the World Cup Quarter Finals. Not sure how easy it will be to find anywhere to watch the England match on Saturday afternoon. But shouldn't have a problem finding room to watch the Brazil v Belgium match on Friday night I expect.

Need a decent weekend. So roll on Bishop's Castle.

Lots of photos next week I predict and a wee blog.
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England, the World Cup and the End to Agnosticism?

Been loving the World Cup so far, though I have not seen as many games as I would like. It is a strange one as an England fan(-ish). So far I've not made it to the pub yet to watch an England match. Three games in. That said, I definitely fall into the demographic that calls himself a Liverpool fan first and foremost and England gets a minor look in during a tournament (which let's face it usually lasts just a week).
Footy Venn
I've always struggled to get behind England due to the years I've grown up with them. For decades we're played beneath ourselves. Draw and boring draw for years; or defeats of course. Experts (okay, journalists) and then managers seemed to criticise the team for not being able to retain the ball like our adversaries do and so the drive seemed to be for England to play like other teams. To retain the ball and pass it around and around waiting for the opportunity to put through a key pass to a runner who never came. If the other team hasn't got the ball they can't score and all that. The problem with that is that for years we've played boring football and it hasn't actually achieved anything but mediocrity even when we've had plenty of class players in the squad. The attackers haven't had the opportunities and the defence has not been up to the task.

Watching an International match on the weekend of those awful Premiership international breaks has never been something anyone really wants to do - except to check if the manager was overplaying 'our' players and risking injuries to our stars. The product of Premiership football is so far ahead of the average international match especially friendlies when there is nothing to play for but a pride none of the footballers have these days. The most frustrating thing is that many of the shortcomings have been so obvious to anyone who watches the game that it defies belief. All our footballers are involved in teams that play exciting and sometimes innovative football, many from great counter attacking teams. Why constrain the England team to play in a way to defend and keep the ball to pass it around like Spain or Italy do or in the fashion where football is played differently because the climate dictates it! We're not Spain, Italy, Brazil or anyone else. We're England.

And what are friendlies about anyway? They are not a product anyone can value. At least back in the 70s we had the British Championship even if the results were largely predictable they were proper games, with players really playing with pride in their shirt. Perhaps now football fandom and hooliganism has changed they could bring that back. I'd rather watch England v Wales or Scotland v N.Ireland in the British Championship than England v Portugal in a friendly with below strength teams and ten changes at half time.

For years we have not played to our players strengths and it is crazy and mightily frustrating as an agnostic England fan. Why not play fast counter attacking football? Why put a straight-jacket on the teams and make players play in a way that makes them uncomfortable and stiffen them up? But for years they have. We've also tried to stuff all our best players in, even if it meant putting players in the wrong position, trying to put the eleven best players on the pitch even if they all played in the same position it's ludicrous. By doing that we created teams that couldn't play as teams. Teams should play as more as the sum of their parts (Iceland anyone?) or at least be equal. Square pegs in round holes means it's never going to work.

We have played crap boring football for decades and for no good reason and, importantly, to no good end. Play as well as you can. Let them play with freedom and without fear and okay we may get knocked out early (poor Germany, Portugal and Argentina have already gone home), but at least we can see we've tried and for pity's sake the fans may actually enjoy watching the match for a change. New fans and old fans may come to the fold and support their international team, God forbid.

And that I think is what Gareth Southgate has tried to get the team to do; get a balanced team, put players where they should be and play with the hand brake off. It's not rocket science and it's a crying shame that we've had so many teams over the years with plenty of players with obvious abilities who've not achieved their potential. Or let's face it entertained us. Sport IS an entertainment after all.

So who knows, we may go out on Tuesday to Columbia. But if we do let it be whilst playing a brand of football that shows what English football is about. Let them play with a smile on their face and all that. And maybe I'll smile too.

Come on England! (there, I said it)
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A Saturday of Some Limited Successes

The sunshine in the north west has continued solid for a couple of weeks now and yesterday was not to prove an exception. I was down for working but had one overdue issue; the courier's bane: balding edged front tyres from all those damn curbs we climb up on. It had got to a point which was borderline a potential losing argument about legality. After failing to get them sorted on Tuesday I finally got it booked in for yesterday (doing about a thousand miles a week tyre issues can quickly change from borderline to "what rubber?") This meant an increased likelihood of yet another unwanted day off, but better a few quid down that a £1000 and 6pts on the licence.

At least it meant I had the chance to take a walk in the early morning sunshine and go get a breakfast, albeit in a County Road kind of way. I had a piece of writing I wanted to work on for a competition Owl Canyon Press were running. The closing date was yesterday and I had been working a little on it on and off over a couple of weeks. Needless to say that I was only half way through but if I had to take the day off I could at least work on it and get something submitted however rushed.

Two phone calls later. A route in Altrincham if you want it; over 140 stops with a very late start? No thanks. Second call. A miss-sort route, ready now. OK. 21 drops spread all over: Liverpool city centre, Birkenhead, Ellesmere Port, Wavertree, St Helens, Warrington, Timperley, Lymm, Kirkby. Ended up being a bit of a late finish with the delayed start (and actually 168 miles), but less tiring than 140 stops in that sunshine. Oh, and driving on new tyres was a lot more relaxing not worrying about pulling up next to the rozzers or parking next to one in a car park. And relax...

Driving around whilst listening to the exciting France v Argentina match was good. Normally you can't hear much as you're in and out of the cab so much you miss more than you catch, but with 21 drops there was more driving than delivering. Huzzah! Whilst it meant I missed watching a great game there was the Portugal game to come - Suarez vs Ronaldo. So I got to watch that. And the joy of watching Ronaldo knocked out of the World Cup at this early stage made it a mildly joyous evening.

So a quick bit of reviewing at breakfast had been overtaken by work and left me fifteen hundred words short of the story with the deadline of the competition looming quicker than a German exit from the cup. The closing date was 30th June, but it was an American competition so there were more hours to play with from Blighty. By midnight I'd printed it out. Read and edited. Made the changes and uploaded by 1.30am. Yay! I got it in with over 5 hours to spare. Result. 5,500 words. All the right ones, just not necessarily in the right order etc etc.

Memo to Self: Don't leave it to the last minute next time.

Reply to Memo to Self: Yeah, right!



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