Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The Last Post

Every now and then you hear a song that sticks in your head and you feel the urge to play it again and again. Union Street (Last Post) by Show of Hands from their Witness Album is my current one.

(You can hear an all to brief sample of it here.)

It is a slow ballad with piano, guitar and also a mournful Trumpet (or perhaps a Cornet) with a recurring theme fragment of the last post.
It tells a story, both starkly clear and enigmatic. It is in the form of two etters, voiced (and sung) by a man and a woman. It was written by Steve Knightley (who sings the male part) and Matt Clifford who plays the piano on the song. Also, Paul Downes plays guitar and a woman called Miranda sings on it (& also plays Double-bass & Cello on other tracks). I assume that Miranda is the woman seen in the Roots video doing the blogosphere rounds.

(As an aside, when I was in Saudi, you couldn’t get Coca Cola (as they were on the boycott list) so alternatives to Pepsi were Bhuna Lemonade, Afri Cola and …Miranda Orange.)

Here are the lyrics. Steve sings this bit and Miranda speaks most of the first two lines quietly.

B.F.P.O. 14th of December
Time to write these words then we’re on patrol
Guess who says “hello”? as if you don’t remember
The clown who set off the fire alarms and wound up on parole

That Friday night on Union Street
Last place on earth I thought I’d meet
Someone who would see into my soul
Amongst the broken glass the drunks and fights
Captured there in your own light
You shine a path before me no matter where I go

What does this tell us? BFPO stands for British Forces Post Office so we know that he is in the armed forces. It is approaching Christmas. He is stationed away somewhere and is writing a letter to the girl he is in love with. He met her unexpectedly on an apparently raucous boys night out. We don’t know where Union Street is but it is obviously downtown. And likely to be in the West Country.

Second verse. Miranda sings this and Steve speaks most of the first two lines quietly.

Crown Hill 18th of December
An hour before the taxi comes to take the girls to town
Ellie’s 21 today single since September
He really missed his chance with her by acting like a clown
He’d been drinking half the week
As we were dancing cheek to cheek
He was taken by the shore patrol the night before you sailed
Leaving us alone at last
Two shipwrecked lovers who held on fast
And one year down the line our hold has yet to fail

Less than a week later, she has replied. He is a sailor, she probably lives in Plymouth (which has a Plymouth Stret and a Crown Hill). They met when he and his friend were on shore leave a year ago, his friend failed to cop off with her friend because he was pissed up and acting like an idiot. ModPlod got him which gave them the chance to get together. Clever nautical metaphors in the last two lines.

Third verse- Miranda with some backing from Steve

He’s coming home the last day of December
The plane touches down an hour before the dawn
June 14th ’82 I’ll always remember
That day the Falklands fell the year that he was born
This life on the ocean wave I will mourn

Two weeks later he was back in the UK for a loving re-union. In the early Summer, he lost his life in the South Atlantic and she found out she was pregnant with a Son. For her, the Falklands war was a pyrrhic victory.

Was it 1980 that they met in Union Street? Which life on the ocean wave is she mourning:- His, or possibly her Son who has also joined the Navy many years later? I don’t think any British men died on June 14th which was the day the Argentinians surrendered. Maybe she found out she was pregnant that day. Did anyone die? I think so, because of The Last Post interjections.

Regardless of the subtleties, this is a beautiful song and Miranda has a lovely folky voice.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Funiculeee, Fuculaaa...

This is the pier at Saltburn by the sea.

When I was young, we sometimes used to take a trip to Saltburn which is south of Redcar, Cleveland's seaside. The North East has beautiful beaches even if the North Sea is generally freezing! No trip was complete without a ride on the cliff top railway, otherwise known as the funicular.

I went there with David last Summer so that he could enjoy it, riding up, walking down.

One thing I used to be fascinated by was a joke sign about how the thing worked. Blow me down with a feather, it was still there!

Saturday, February 24, 2007

More theatre...

Our Wakefield Theatres guide showed up today.

More shows from the excellent Wakefield Musical Youth Theatre coming up- A Chorus Line in April and High School Musical in September. David is really looking forward to the latter, he has the Disney DVD.

We also received the We Love Theatre newsletter. In it is the quote of the season:

"we are going to be spending the next 7 or so hours together"

Ken Dodd.

I've yet to see him but apparently it is a comedy marathon. It could have sold out twice when he came and he isn't getting any younger so maybe we will keep an ear out for when he is next in the area.

T'internet connectivity

Having dug into my Sky setup, I've now realised that I'm getting 12.5 Meg download speeds via this really useful speed test. Also, having now sourced a 108 Mbps wireless card off t'ebay, I'm getting the same via the laptop as well. (It was a paltry 4 Meg over my inbuilt 802.11b before).

Alas, the real internet speeds depend on the Server you are connecting to and how much traffic is around.

Hat tip to the unofficial sky support forum that has loads of good tecchy stuff in.

horror and nice jugs...

David had a vitamin treat this afternoon, a visit to the York Dungeon. We have seen the queues outside the London one and York is the same.

I'd advise you to pre-book as they let a group of twenty in every ten minutes and having a ticket puts you in the next group. It isn't cheap (£10.99 for adults on the door) but vouchers can be found with a bit of looking.

It is a cross between a museum and a haunted house walkthrough with a number of set pieces led by actors in costume & makeup "celebrating" the bloodier parts of York's history such as the black death, the Romans, Vikings, Judgings & Torture. The Gunpowder plot is also re-enacted along with the hanging of Dick Turpin. Some of the actors were suitably deprecating along the way and a highlight had to be the future ghost exhibit consisting of an empty room with only a brush in it, referred to as the broom of doom.

A trip to York isn't complete without a visit to Lakeland, the kitchenware store with lots of great gadgets. I particularly liked this jug that you can fill without having to squint at it from the side like our other ones. They also sell Aussie Licquirice, so we stocked up with green, yellow and dark brown.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Back on the information superhighway...

I noticed earlier that my DSL light was back on on the Internet router- miracle of miracles, I've been activated a day early!

SKY Broadband looking good so far, the router reports 15323 kbps down and 764kbps up. In practice, I'm getting 6-7 Meg download which is rather pleasing.

I now have no excuse to start Blogpowering properly again!

Six CDs in the car player...

1- Chitty Chitty Bang Bang- original London cast recording (for david)

2- Lindisfarne- here comes the neighbourhood. A superb album from their later years post-Alan Hull

3- The best easy listening album ever- Disk 1. My Dad would have loved this one. Put in for my mum for the journey to Newcastle last Saturday.

4- Disk 2 of CD number 3

5- Show of Hands- Witness. Several powerful songs on this newly acquired album

6- Song of Steel- see previous 6 Cds in my car post.

Broadband back tomorrow, fingers crossed...

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Closer to being back online

The Broadband router has arrived. It does three flavours of Wireless- 11 Meg (B) 54 Meg (G) and 108 Meg (Netgear special).

I can almost smell the internet dial tone, fingers crossed for Friday activation...

Tuesday, February 20, 2007


I've now received a letter from Sky telling me my provisional activation date is Friday 23rd February- but not to count on it and allow up to three working days as BT are very busy...

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Over the winking bridge

Gateshead has an Art Gallery right next to the famous winking bridge. Housed in a former flour mill, it has five floors of galleries with scenic glass elevators, as well as a striking (and slightly bouncy) steel staircase the full height of the building (the stair-well of which has also been used as exhibition space on occasions).

Last Friday, Grandma Pat, young David and myself passed an hour or so in the space. David and I had visited previously and it was interesting to notice how the exhibits were completely different, but yet, something of the same in their resonance.

Starting as high as the lift normally takes you to level five, there is a balcony looking over into the highest gallery on level four. (There is a Restaurant on level six but it is reservations only). There is also the viewing box- a large projecting window out towards the five town bridges of the Tyne, namely the Gateshead Millennium Bridge, the Tyne Bridge (the one like the Sydney Harbour one), the Swing Bridge, the High Level Bridge (both rail and road), and Redheugh Bridge. (There are two more beyond, the Metro tramway bridge and the Western bypass bridge which used to be near the Chain Bridge and then a Box Girder replacement that had to be dismantled when they all started collapsing).

On level four, the exhibit was by Brian Eno (of Roxy Music) and was called Constellations (77 Million Paintings). The visitor is presented with 42 plasma and LCD screens of various sizes arranged quasi-symmetrically on a black wall in a darkened gallery. The screens appear to show static images but if you stay there long enough, they can be seen to imperceptably change accompanied by something described as interwoven sound ambient music.

Two couches and three benches across the centre of the gallery provided a suitable position to watch the ever-changing slides. I expected David to lose interest rapidly but he was fascinated, pointing out shapes and patterns that were gradually coming or going. Me being me, I worked out which screens were showing the same image in a different orientation and what hardware the computers probably had installed...

Moving down through the building, the next level had very large photo portraits by Brazilian Artist Vik Muniz. He photographs the faces reconstructed using differing materials (sometimes related to the topic), such as soil, toy soldiers, diamonds, berries, chocolate and even blood for Bloody Marilyn.

Below on level two, there was a smaller exhibition by American Artist Joseph Havel (the rest of the gallery was closed off beyond). the theme was night and the exhibits included a sort of suspended draped sheet made up entirely of cloth labels with the word "dream", a curtain made up of stars cut out of American Flags and bent wire wrapped in shirt material and shaped into words. There were also a large number of shallow boxes arranged in a rectangle that also appeared to be full of cloth labels but it wasn't clear what they said (or what the idea was).

Down on level one, a rather curious Marcus Coates exhibition of audio-visual impersonated birdsong was in progress, blogged about in another post. This was occasionally funny as well!

At Ground level, Indian Artist Subodh Gupta had created a new work which consisted of hundreds of stainless steel pots stacked in various sizes and groupings, slowly inching their way around a long endless track zig-zagging across a large square table on a mechanism not unlike airport luggage belts and a layout reminiscent of queues in large post offices. There were two other installations in the room. One was a heap of sacks, the other some sort of rubbery rods drooping drom the wall three-dimensionally.

The Baltic has a large gift shop with some unusual items that you won't find in your municipal museum, including a range of Danish rubbery household items in vivid colours and an artistic flair such as washing up bowls and dustpan & brush sets. You can also buy a DVD of the famous installation where thousands of people got their kit off and stood on the Millennium bridge. David found this a bit disturbing because of all of the boobies and wasn't overly convinced that it was OK because it was being done for artistic reasons. And no, he couldn't take his clothes off and lie on the bridge, that would be silly...


For readers who are not familiar with the levels of child protection paranoia prevalent in the UK, it must first be realised that all men are potential child rapists and all women potential child abusers (or vica versa). In order to protect children (or vulnerable adults) from harm by predatory adults, everyone who works with children has to be "checked out" against the Police National Computer database. A noble aspiration in itself, until it comes to the implementation.

The scheme is run by an outfit called the Criminal Records Bureau and most of the actual legwork is carried out by the large outsourcing organisations such as Crapita. They produce a document called a Disclosure and there are two varieties of them, the more penetrating version being known as an enhanced disclosure.

Teachers require them in order to stay in a job and if they move jobs, they can't start work again until they are re-cleared- even if their most recent one was indeed very recent. Everyone who works in a school now needs them and it is now a budget line in every education establishment balance sheet.

It isn't just teachers of course. I know someone who does mountain rescue and is involved with the Scouting movement. He tells me that he has four current disclosures as different bits of the movement require their own checks and they don't accept checks made by others. As there is only one database, why is this? Well, the procedure involves producing various bits of personal information as part of the process to prove who you are and an organisation cannot be certain that another did it entirely correctly, better to be safe than sorry and all that.

I'm now on to my third disclosure with "Right to Read" and whilst they are supposedly good for two years, the mileage is more like 18 months (as passports with only six months to go will not get you into some countries). Of course, they are only really good for the day they were issued as you could get convicted the day afterwards...

What does a disclosure look like? It is a green watermarked long sheet of paper A4 width with purple printing. It has an eight digit number and a twelve digit reference as well as stuff about the applicant and the registered body approved for submitting disclosure requests. Further down are five important boxes, headed as follows:

-Police Records of Convictions, Cautions, Reprimands and Final Warnings
-Information from the list held under Section 142 of the Education Act 2002
-Protection of Children Act List information
-Protection of Vulnerable Adults List information
-Other relevant information disclosed at the Chief Police Officer(s) discretion

Fortunately, mine all have the words NONE RECORDED apart from the fourth, which says NOT REQUESTED. Each time I have waited for the new form, I have always had a small doubt in the back of my mind that I may have been convicted without my knowledge and the whole sordid truth will erroneously appear due to computer error...

The back of the form has stuff about the legal aspects, a disclaimer from the CRB about how it isn't actually responsible for the accuracy of police records and how to contest errors.

Why do I think it is such a waste of time? Well, apparently, three million of these things have now been issued, at £45 or so a pop. This is frequently public money in the public sector merry-go-round or often funding that could be better spent in voluntary organisations. There are mechanisms for getting "free" disclosures in the voluntary sector but it isn't straight-forward and at the end of the day someone pays for it.

"But it is all worthwhile if it protects the children..." the bleeding heart liberals cry, but does it? The scouting movement has a crisis of grass-roots volunteers as far too many people just can't be bothered with the hastle and the unspoken implication that you must be dodgy until proven otherwise. (Most Akelas and Baloos in Cubs & Beavers I have come across are women these days which is an interesting turn-around as the converse is not the case in Rainbows & Brownies). The disclosure is seen as a means of delegating potential future blame by those in responsibility, rather than using common sense and instinct. The Disclosures are also occasionally wrong, both in blaming the innocent and exonerating the guilty.

There is also talk of subjecting school Governors to disclosure. School Governors are volunteers from various walks of life who make the strategic school decisions with the management team (as much as the Local and Central Government permits them to within the somewhat prescriptive system in Britain). Currently, Governors are checked on appointment against something called List 99, otherwise known as the sex offenders register. Fortunately, our Chairman of Governors is shrewd enough to realise that this would be a waste of school budget as Governors are not put in a position where they would be left alone with children and would rarely see them anyway outside of assemblies and Year visits. I am a school Governor and found myself doing another four year term recently in order to help out as part of the new Head Teacher selection process, despite wanting to stand down and give Karen a chance. However, if Disclosure becomes mandatory, I am pig-headed enough to tell them where to stick their stinking gringo disclosure, even if I've got another one in the drawer at home (which they probably wouldn't accept anyway...)

Dawn Chorus

When I was about sixteen, I was introduced to a friend of a friend of mine. He wanted to talk to me because I was going down to London to stay with a fellow young scientist for a lecture and he was looking for a bed for the night (or two) to tout his portfolio to Arts College. He showed me his collection and explained his current meme. He was good at drawings & cartoons, the artists thematic joke being that he drew Irish workmen with spanners, all of which were too big for the nuts & bolts that needed adjusting. He explained it very well and I found it both entirely different from my own experience and rather clever, once it had been explained to me

One all-night bus journey a few days later, we landed at my friend's house in Penge, South London. He was called Robert Spackman and had the proverbial brain the size of a planet. I had met him a year or two earlier through Young Scientists and we got on well despite our dispirate backgrounds. He listened to my friend's friend's meme with a wry impatience of the easily unimpressed and this was my first stark demonstration of the "so what?" style of assertive disinterest so useful in getting rid of those who want to sell you snake oil (or IT solutions). I watched as the confident artist eventually ran out of patter and visibly wilted. He left with his tail between his legs and I never saw him again...

Why had the simple act of polite indifference been so caustic? Probably because the artist had been constantly told how clever he was and how original his ideas were by all of those "modern parents" arty-farty types at school and college. A bitter reality pill effortlessly applied by someone massively better informed than him had brought him down to earth with a big bump.

The Spackman world view introduced me to a healthy skepticism for modern art. Skills in crafting the actual work of art are to be much admired (as I am personally strongly lacking in them) but many of the memes are contrived, contrary or just kidology.

However, after my recent trip to the Baltic, I've now realised that I might have the makings of a contemporary artist. Consider the following scenario:-

First of all, I'd go to a quarry somewhere in Northumberland with some sound equipment in a camper van. As the birds started chirruping the dawn chorus, I'd record as much as possible with a set of fourteen micrphones. I'd document this very accurately so that I had identified what each bird was and when it was singing. Not content with this, I'd visit other locations and repeat the exercise so that I have amassed hundreds of hours of birdsong.

Now, on to phase two. I'd need to identify a number of singers willing to impersonate birds. To help them, I'd slow down the original recordings so that the sounds were in human range, record them and speed them up again afterwards. For some birds this would be very straight-forward, but for some birds such as the blackbird, it would be incredibly difficult as they have two windpipes. The technique wouldn't just be singing, it would require grunts and clicks.

Stage three would be to film the singers performing their bird impersonations, but for the twist, I'd film them in their own natural habitats such as bedrooms, living rooms, waiting rooms, cars, baths and sheds. I'd also film them in the room not singing or the empty room as well. As I'd have to film the entire song and speed it up, an hour's worth of filming would equal about four minutes on the screen.

Then for the installation. I'd find a suitable darkened space in a gallery of contemporary art, say the Baltic in Gateshead. I'd lay out fourteen screens around the gallery in the same position as the original microphones were in the quarry at head height or above. I'd wire them up for multi-channel audio to play the re-created birdsong and arrange multiple video projectors to show the footage. I'd plan a performance cycle of just over eighteen minutes and then have fun arranging the show to entertain and amuse visitors.

Would you come and see it, especially if you hadn't heard of me? You probably would if it was on in the Baltic and the £3 suggested admission fee was optional. The other niggle with my future potential success as a Young British Artist to rival Tracy Emin is that someone else has thought of it first, the British Artist Marcus Coates.

From the exhibition catalogue...

"Marcus Coates' practice has continually questioned the ways in which we relate to other species. His films and performances address definitions of humanness through the investigation of cross species consciousness. Metamorphosis through voice and sound is a state that Coates has long been exploring, and he has established a reputation for producing fascinating films in which the human voice accurately mimics complex and beautiful birdsong. Dawn Chorus is the latest and most ambitious project in this series."

Oh dear, this is where I would fail miserably as a contemporary artist, having the effect of an inverse shit sandwich. I could quite merrily carry out all of the planning and implementation for a project such as the above. The trouble would be that I lack original creativity. Armed with a proverbial blank canvas, I would have an equally blank mind. (My strengths come in reflecting and expanding the sparks of others). The other point where I would fail miserably would be at the end, where I had to come up with some equally deep, trite and credible bluster to justify the installation and also justify the large sums of money I would have to tap someone up for (probably the Arts Council, a bit like our Town Coiuncil in that we spend other people's money but it doesn't really make any difference either way). Why would I fail miserably? I'd have trouble keeping a straight face...

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Commercial Break

Wilsons of Crossgates- Quality Butchers' Delicatessen & Champion Pie Makers.

Pork & Chicken sausages- very low fat, recommended by Slimming World. £5.60 a Kilo, so about £2.60 for eight links (In Morley, anyway!)

Also Burgers to the same recipe, 70p each.

Not cheap- but tasy, tasty, very very tasty...!

62a Queen Street Morley. Web site HERE

Always and for ever...

On Tuesday, David (Aged 9) and I were in ASDA for our mid-week mini-shop.Noticing a particularly large collection of flowers, David immediately suggested that a large bunch of roses would be an appropriate present for Karen (Wife, Mother & Chief Cook). I explained that the flowers were for valentine's day and it was for lovers, not for parents. I also pointed out that the roses were £30 which was nearly 8 weeks pocket money and Karen would consider it a bit of a waste of money, whether his or mine. (She isn't from Yorkshire but she has a Yorkshire atitude to wasting money, i.e. short arms, deep pockets).

Yesterday morning, I came in to work early in order to oversee a change-over from mains to generator and consequently missed the opening of the cards. As a consequence, Karen had to explain what my pyramid of kisses meant, with the suffix "with tongues..."!

Later in the day, when I picked David up, I suggested we should nip round to a florists in Queen Street and buy a small bunch. He wasn't to keen, especially if it involved going back to ASDA. (He regards shopping as the world's most pointless activity and ' sreelyboring, unless there is something he wants.

Anyway, we ended up at Morrisons Supermarket behind the Town Hall and David immediately gravitated to the sumptious red roses, £29.95 this time. On my rejecting these as being still overly expensive, he chose a small bunch of small sprig of white tiny flowers that are otherwise used as decorative padding in flower arranging. (I don't know what the term for that is but in catering, the word is garnish.) I decided on a bunch of red roses (with garnish) for a more sensible £9.99.

In the meantime, David had noticed a large display of chocolates and champagne nearby and decided that he really, really, needed to buy Mum a box of Thorntons and would happily sacrifice the pocket money for the next three weeks but please could it start the week after as he was off to Myreka* tomorrow and wanted some spends for the gift shop...

(*Eureka is a really good hands-on Children's museum located in Halifax, West Yorkshire).

I looked at the display- Chocolates £10.99, Champagne £23.49, Both together £15, a saving of £19.48. OK I said, the plonk can go on the rack...

Returning back to the car, I explained why I had bought the champagne as well due to the big saving. Now David sometimes struggles with sums, but he had enough nous to realise that if we had saved £19.48 and we went halvies, then his pocked money owed was only £1.25 and if he ate some of them himself we would be quits as he doesn't have to pay for food or drink out of his pocket money...

I explained that life doesn't work like that but I suspect that the pair of us are far too soft to stop the debt out of his pocket money next week.

One downer- whilst Karen was trimming the flowers to arrange in our big vase, she noticed that we had a stem that had been de-headed so that we only had eleven, not twelve. Still eleven roses are good for a few snuggles...

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

I got dem broadband blues...

I'm in the process of moving ISPs, having been on Broadband for several years, originally on BT then subsequently PlusNet. Plusnet moved my service to an unbundled facility via Tiscali at some point last year for their own purposes.

Technical note- In the telephone exchange, there is the equivalent of a home splitter where the telephony continues on to the phone system and the data is sent off to a rack of broadband kit called a DSLAM, a Digital Subscriber Line Access Multiplexer. Unbundling is when the data gets sent off to an entirely different rack of kit belonging to a Company other than BT elsewhere in the exchange (which BT call an OLO Hostel, OLO being Other Licensed Operator). BT's 6000+ local exchanges were never designed with this in mind so the big frame where all of the wires terminate is apparently a bit of a mess these days!

I was reasonably happy with PlusNet, getting about 6 Meg download speed and paying £15 a month for a low end 2 Gig/Month package. However, I have noticed that my usage has been slowly creeping up, mainly due to watching such things as 18 Doughty Street TV (which appears to be sick today- the curse of Ken Livingstone!)

Anyway, being a Sky Customer, I can supposedly get up to 16 Meg download speed (although I imagine <10 Meg is the most likely) and unlimited download quantity for £10 a month. The down side is that as I had been unbundled, there are no processes in place to move between suppliers so I had to do a full cancellation and wait until it was stopped before I could apply to Sky.

Anyway, this has now been done and I await my activation date with a certain amount of frustration. It can take up to 15 working days so that is potentially three weeks of being off-net. That is a long time for a Blog junkie!

As a stop-gap, I'm plugging my laptop in to broadband elsewhere to synchronise & keep up to date, but the inherent offline timeshift means that I can't readily post comments or spend the time embedding links in my blogposts.

Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible...

Sunday, February 11, 2007


I came across a rather strange sight in the lounge this evening. Karen was armed with a pair of nail cutters, David was primed with a torch and Gizmo was wrapped in a towel on Karen's lap. Gizmo is a Guinea Pig of the Abyssinian variety and needed a claw trim. You have to be careful with Cavies as they have blood supplies into the upper parts of their claws. (He has his very own styptic pencil just in case.)

Needless to say, Gizmo wasn't overly keen and blood was drawn. Fortunately, it was Karen's!

He didn't seem particularly traumatised afterwards, and wheeked away as normal whilst I was cutting the celery and peppers later for our packed lunches.

Being responsible pet owners, we have to ensure he is looked after if we are away. We are going on a short "mini-cruise" (i.e. a ferry) later in the year and scouted around, eventually finding a small-pet sitter not too far away. The name of the business? the rather delightful pun- Wheeks Away!

I'm a bit of a wordsmith...

Your Vocabulary Score: B+

You have a zealous love for the English language, and many find your vocabulary edifying.
Don't fret that you didn't get every word right, your vocabulary can be easily ameliorated!

Hard to hat-tip this as it is popping up all over the place.

I'm not certain serendipity is any of their three offered definitions personally.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Song for England?

I saw a link to this powerful song called Roots, by a folk/rock band I hadn't heard of before called Show of hands. You can find a link to a blog featuring the video & lyrics here. It seems it is taking the download charts by storm as well.

(Via Daily Referendum).

It makes a change from saying how religious or like George Bush we are, the current circulating quizzes!

I like this Show of Hands, their lead singer reminds me a little of Alan Hull in firebrand mood. Oneclick is calling...

Friday, February 09, 2007

When it hits the fan...

I've been away At the CMA annual conference, see previous blogs for background. This year's after dinner speaker was Michael Bland, he of the article title.

Normal blogging will resume shortly.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Without a city wall...

Hearing a Gospel version of "There is a green hill far away" suddenly reminded me of a show I saw at the Eighteen Plus Easter Holiday, many years ago.

The comedian had primed the band and at an appropriate point, they started playing the solemn tune in the backbround whilst he asked us to reflect a moment on this being Easter Sunday and how we should never forget that Jesus gave his life on a cross to save all of mankind. As the verse finished, the tune immediately sequed into a jolly singalong, whilst he let a quick chorus of...

"For he's a jolly good fellow..."

(You had to be there!)

Monday, February 05, 2007

Hidden treasures

Kingston upon Hull is a place we regularly pass through on the way to & from the P&O North Sea Ferries that go to Zeebrugge and Rotterdam.

On Sunday, however, we were there to revisit The Deep, the Millennium Aquarium project in the landmark building at the mouth of the River Hull which opened in 2002. We went there shortly after it opened and it was horribly crowded. This time, there was room to breathe although it did become much busier after lunch.

The highlight of the deep is a walk through a short tunnel through the deep tank (the surface is 30' above), followed by a scenic lift ride supposedly through the tank itself (in reality separated by huge thick semi-circular acrylic windows).

Being interested in Engineering as well as architecture, it is a challenge how to work out how this building fits together as it doesn't have too many walls inside that are vertical and parallel to each other. The exhibits spiral themselves down various ramps and platforms, the tour starting and finishing on the third floor.

I also noticed that an extension has been added to the building in keeping with the style giving them much more queueing space, a bigger gift shop and a new gallery opened by Kingston's prodigal Son himself, the Deputy Prime Minister, Chipolata Prescott in 2005.

The prow of the building is actually windows in the Cafe and there is a viewing gallery above, sadly not open on to the great unwashed. The £3.50 building guide book informs me that it is not a prow, but a nosecone. It also informs me that it is the world's only Submarium, but the world has been quietly dropped from the Deep Website apart from a context metatag.

Even lingering, the museum is only a two hour distraction, so we took in the opportunity to visit some nearby museums which were all free (although they didn't open until 1:30pm, locals presumably being leisurely risers).

Our first port of call was the Hands on history, located in an old school building. As well as lots of stuff you could touch and feel, there was also an Egyption exhibition with reproductions of Tutunkhamun furniture (made locally for the British Empire Exhibition at Wembley in 1924) their featuring very own Mummy.

We then moved on to the Streetlife Museum, a combination transport and street scene exhibit with a world exclusive- the Hull-York Mail Coach ride simulator!

Our final port of call was the Hull & East Riding museum, a combination of Natural History and Local archaeology. What I wasn't prepared for was the stunning collection of roman mosaics, one of which is shown here. Of interest was a panel of how they remove them- they essentially roll them up like a carpet after documenting them and glueing laminate sheeting to the surface.

Kingston also has a lightship and a Trawler to visit, but they are open seasonally. However, four museums is enough for a day out...

Saturday, February 03, 2007

LCGC in action

I found this on Flickr- this is the "home" action for

Swing Low Sweet Chariot, coming four two carry me home...

Hat tip to Skip the Budgie.

Have you booked tickets yet?

(I have vague recollections of a rude rugby club version of this song with different actions...)

Music is the message- part 2

We went to see the London Community Gospel Choir in Wakefield yesterday.

I have previous form on Gospel. About 20 years ago I went to see the New Jersey Mass Choir on spec at the London Dominion Theatre, as a poster outside made the point that they had been the backing singers for Foreigner's I want to know where love is (vid here). What I didn't expect was a full-blown Negro Spiritual with preachers, Hammond Organs, Cassocks, Praise the Lord!!!/Allelujah!!! interjections and dancing in the aisles. It was strange and a little bit scary feeling like an interloper (there were maybe 4 white faces in the capacity crowd and there were coach parties from all around London) but the music was superb and it was good fun, even if I wasn't moved enough to testify that night. The other annoying thing was, they didn't sing any of their secular hits. Whenever I watch the Blues Brothers, I'm reminded of that night in the James Brown big Gospel number.

So, I hoped that I wasn't dragging David and Karen to a similar event and it turned out my fears were unfounded. I had got hold of a cheap LCGC CD on Amazon a couple of days earlier and whilst I enjoyed it, I felt that the sound was a bit thin and the arrangements twee. However, that was an early recording and they have come a long way since then.

LCGC are now the de-facto Gospel TV choir, performing on Circle of Life (Disney's Lion King), Madonna's Like a Prayer at Live8, the Love actually movie and even backing Ben on X-Factor. There about thirty of them, but they don't tour a choir that big.

The stage was set with a Grand Piano, a Roland Keyboard, another keyboard behind the piano and ten Mic stands, tastefully back-lit in blue. The front row had five, the back row four and there was a solo mic at the front.

The show started (15 minutes late) with Bazil (actually the Rev Bazil Meade) on the Piano and Ayo, the Musical Director behind him. The choir consisted of nine singers, all dressed in red tops apart from Wendi, the Director who both sang and conducted from the front row. (Wendi, Bazil and Ayo were dressed in black).

From four bars into the first number I was captivated. Basil was a cracking soul pianist and the singers had a rich layered harmony where the voices blended seamlessly into a cogent powerful whole. It was loud, smooth and increasingly funky. It was hard not to clap, or indeed dance along to the up-tempo numbers.

It wasn't preachy but there was a message- Gospel unites all.

David wasn't entirely certain if he liked them, but he did like the T shirt, which reads:-

not a black thing
not a white thing
not a colour thing
It's a gospel thing

Why does he like it? The T shirt is black with white text but gospel is in orange, his favourite colour.

Go out of your way to see them, they are highly recommended (by me) and you won't be disappointed. Tour dates here!

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