Saturday 13 January 2018
Today was a new uke day. Jane and I visited Thame and one of the aims was to see what Vintage & Modern Guitars had in stock. They got us sat down in the ukulele corner, lent us a tuner and let us get on with it – popping over to offer us a hot drink but not hassling us at all as we compared six or seven concert sized instruments.
In the end, we settled on about the cheapest of the bunch, a Makala Concert MK-C model. It wasn’t the nicest looking and it only has cheap looking, open tuners but we liked the way it sounded. Our particular criteria was the tone of the C string, the thickest on a regularly tuned uke (gCEA). Some we weren’t happy with, some sounded okay but the Makala had a beautifully round, bell-like tone.
We also got them to fit a couple of strap buttons and picked up a gig bag. Our existing concert ukulele, on which the C string tone has been beginning to irk us, probably hasn’t been helped by carrying round in a bag which only just fits it, so we’ve gone for more generous dimensions on this (technically a tenor uke bag but it fits well). Thumbs up to the shop, which sits alongside Camden’s bass specialist, The Gallery, as an example of top notch service and time to get on with some playing.
Friday 12 January 2018
Are you still using your Christmas pressies? Some research suggests that only 1% remain in use six months after sale. I wonder if that is overblown – a high proportion of the gifts I get and give are things like books and music which have longevity even though not in frequent use. However, there is a lot of tat around – for example, the typical output of ‘Secret Santa’ games and certainly almost everything I’ve ever got in a Christmas cracker.
Christmas is now past but, as birthdays come up through the year, you are likely to still be giving and receiving presents. Might be worth having a quick skim through George Monbiot’s article, ‘The Gift of Death‘, before your next opportunity comes up.
Thursday 11 January 2018
Lunch at work normally involves leftovers – something from a recent meal at home either sandwiched in bread or suitable to eat with a spoon or fork. Every now and then, after last night when dinner was itself reheated leftovers from the freezer, there isn’t anything left so, this morning it was onto plan B: using up some of the raw, shredded savoy cabbage in the fridge instead.
I duly prepared it with some chopped up gherkins and Wensleydale cheese, a bit of mayonnaise and a dash of red wine vinegar. Come lunchtime and it turned out to be more delicious than I’d expected; not just something to keep me going but something I wanted to eat.
I think the magic ingredient was probably the vinegar – enough to add a pleasant edge but without overpowering the salad. Mind you, the texture of the cabbage, the flavour nuggets of gherkin and cheese and the way that oily mayonnaise serves to bind a dish together beyond the sum of its parts probably helped too. Certainly something I’d choose to make again.
Wednesday 10 January 2018
Galaxy in a Bowl
Not the far reaches of the Universe but my bowl after a breakfast of bran flakes and kefir. The bowl itself is a thing of beauty, purchased from a pottery we visited in Devon last year. It has been enhanced by the patterns formed by the kefir. With this batch, I had strained it through a loose cheese cloth, creating not curds and whey but a thin version and a thick version; this was the remnants of the thin version.
I took the photo with my iPad and have done a little processing with The GIMP.
Tuesday 9 January 2018
This seems to be my week for finding wee beasties in the house.
On Sunday evening, Jane and I were watching a DVD when I spotted something on the floor walking towards us from near one of the boxes containing logs. Was it a spider? No – was it a fly? No – it turned out to be a wasp! I wonder if it had been hibernating in some of the wood, which I had replenished earlier in the weekend? Fumbling around trying to find an empty glass and a bit of paper, we temporarily lost it before tracking it down again and relocating it outside. The poor thing probably froze to death but I would be quite happy if it found a shelter around the compost bin where I released it. Wasps aren’t ideal to share a space with but they have an important ecological niche and their numbers are a fraction of what I remember from the past.
Then, today, I was emptying a dehumidifier in the kitchen and saw an odd protuberance on the top, which turned out to be an errant snail. I’m not sure where that came from or what on earth it was doing in that location. I relocated that too although, in this case, I then quickly squashed it. Snails also have a place in the natural ecology but I haven’t noticed a shortage of them in my garden.
My eyes are peeled now, wondering what our next visitor will be!
Monday 8 January 2018
I had another rehearsal with Mudslide Morris last week, getting ready for a gig later this month (from 8:30pm at Jack and Alice, Thame on 25 January) so I had prepared by making notes on the songs we played in December based on recordings I’d found on Spotify. Apart from one song with a 16 bar form, they were all either 12 bar blues or just chugged away on one chord.
In the rehearsal, it turned out that we were doing some of 12 bar songs as a one chord chug and some of the chugs as 12 bars. As long as you know which is which, it really doesn’t matter! If some music is like baking, involving carefully handling of ingredients, quantities and temperatures, blues is definitely like cooking up a big bowl of stew; throw it all in and let it mellow on down.
From a bass point of view, this makes it very easy to play along with with; the challenge comes more from finding ways to differentiate each song so that I’m not just playing the same thing each time. However, I can often lift a distinctive riff from a recording and work with that even if the form is different. We will be doing some songs that build on other patterns but it is shaping up to be a good gumbo, whatever exactly goes into it.
Sunday 7 January 2018
Today, I’ve knocked up a quick label for the latest batch of Myrtle Gin:
Myrtle Gin 2017
I transferred it into bottles on Friday but picked the berries and set them marinating in gin along with some sugar and various spices in mid-December. For this batch, I reduced the sugar content to about a third of the bottle rather than about half and used cinnamon, cloves, allspice and mace. It is a paler colour than last year but less syrupy. I wonder if the sugar extracts more colour or if I used less berries (according to my notes, I picked more but I can’t remember if I used a 75cl bottle or a full litre like I did this time).
I created the label by hand using the Procreate app on my iPad – like hand drawing but instantly digital and thus avoiding the need to scan and allowing the circles and lines to be added as a simple overlay.