Crashing Down (part 2)

 It is about time I updated everyone on how things are going. My Dad is still in hospital: it’s been eight weeks already. He has been moved twice now and is back in the original hospital he started in. The move away was because they thought he would need an operation, but it was decided that wouldn’t be necessary, even though he had been as far as having a probable date for it and going nil-by-mouth on the day. So he’s been moved back nearer to home. It’s only a few miles difference, but the rush hour isn’t as horrific, and visiting hours are better for avoiding the worst traffic, so there’s a little less time pressure. I still haven’t met Hugh Laurie or his glamorous team…

We think Dad will be in hospital over Christmas and New Year now; they have identified the cause of his illness and he’s being monitored pretty closely to make sure the antibiotics are winning. We don’t know if he will fully recover, though, and his state can vary a lot between visits.  I’m the optimist and my Mum’s the pessimist. I’m looking at the good days and thinking that he could be nearly back to normal as soon as this infection is beaten, even if it does take a few more months; Mum’s looking at the bad days and talking about the worst-case outcomes.  Of course, either is possible, but Dad is a pretty determined individual, and given enough hope, he will fight this thing.

Doughty's Oil Mill in Lincoln will feature in the video for Run, by Manipulant, feat Stoneygate.

Sneak preview of the video for Run by Manipulant feat Stoneygate. Extra atmosphere provided by Doughty’s Oil Mill, a Grade II listed building in central Lincoln, UK.

I’ve been really tired myself, and am missing my creative work.  I have taken a few days respite, though, and have been working on a video for Manipulant’s track Run, which I contributed vocals to a few months back. I can’t share it with you yet, as it’s not quite finished, but will do once it’s up on YouTube.  It’s a bit different to the other videos I’ve made so far, because it’s a ‘straight video’ rather than an animation or being made from stills.

Just in case I don’t manage to post again in the next few days, please do have a lovely Christmas and New Year! I’m quite intrigued to find out what Christmas will be like in the hospital. All the wards seem to be making a big effort with decorations.  We are having a family get-together as normal, it will just be a bit different.

Spring Gardening & A Blackbird Update

Today was Easter Monday, a Bank Holiday in the UK, and I felt oddly inspired to get out in the garden, soak up some vitamin D, and get vicious with the pruning loppers.

I think I’ve said it before but I really am NOT a gardener…  My garden is more about trying to stop the weeds and fast-growing plants from completely taking over than anything truly creative.

One of the lovely things today was that the bluebells were out that I’d sown seeds for and forgotten about until about 3 years afterwards.  They weren’t a surprise this year, but are one of my favourite spring plants.

It was actually colder than it looked for most of the afternoon, which meant I managed to keep working for 3 hours rather than the single hour I had thought about doing. Just as well, as the weeds (i.e. most of the garden) were really starting to take off, dandelion clocks and flowers everywhere.

Trying to Banish the Buddleia

There are several self-seeded elder bushes that I want to eventually take out as they smell weird, grow super-fast and grow into trees, plus a buddleia that self-seeded itself in the patio several years ago.

I’ve been trying to make the buddleia disappear ever since it arrived, but unfortunately, the more you hack buddleia back, the more it grows, so I’ve been entirely unsuccessful in removing it thus far. It’s not all bad, buddleia attracts bees and butterflies, but there are already two more in my garden.

Today’s efforts with the patio buddleia were more brutal than earlier attempts, and eventually involved a hacksaw and re-homing dozens of snails, to try and cut it as close to the ground as possible…. Hopefully I’ll be able to get the slabs up and dig it out, then, before it has a chance to grow back. (Don’t hold me to that one….)

The garden feels a lot bigger for cutting the unwanted bushes back, and feels like it could be a pleasant place to sit out now, if I do some more work to tell it who’s boss.  Preferably this week, body permitting…. it may protest after today’s efforts, though.

Blackbird Update

During my tea-break, my friendly blackbird came and sat in next door’s tree, bringing both Mrs Blackbird and Blackbird Junior. The whole family landed about two metres from my head and didn’t seem particularly bothered that I was there. I was also able to confirm that the squeaky-wheel sounds I’ve been hearing from the tree are from the resident blue tits.

Guerrilla Snowdrop Temptation

This is not a great photo of snowdrops.  I left it too long before I went outside (it was cold, I’ve been avoiding it!). The snowdrops have, as a consequence, gone over, so most of the white flowers have disappeared already and been replaced by green pods, presumably containing seeds.

When I first came to this house, there were only a very few snowdrops that appeared, but every year, there have been more. In addition to the ones in this picture, there are a couple of other large clumps of them in the middle of the lawn which were not there before. (I admit, I did use a bulb or two to plug a gap in the lawn where there had been a large weed that left a hole when I pulled it out – I’m really not a gardener).

Given how easily they are spreading around my garden, it should in theory have already been full of them, but the previous owner had turfed the grassed area, so maybe there were more that were lost when the lawn was redone. Or maybe it is because I don’t look after the garden very much, so they have more chance to spread.

I feel tempted to dig up a few spare bulbs and start a new cluster in the public land nearby, which already has a lot of daffodils every spring. It would give me something extra to look forward to seeing when the long winter months haven’t quite given up the ghost, and I’d be able to smile to myself, knowing who was responsible, and that this act of green vandalism would be there for far longer than I will be.  I’ve always liked the idea of yarn-bombing but not the idea of how it would look after it had been there a while.  Maybe I will sneakily plant some bulbs beneath a few trees… I am managing to convince myself it is a good idea…

Blackbird Singing in the Dead of Night

Digital StillCameraA couple of mornings in the last week, I have had the privilege of hearing the dawn chorus start, and listening to the incredible singing of our local blackbird. (I haven’t actually checked it is definitely a blackbird, as I’ve been listening from the comfort of my bed, but I’m fairly sure…)

It all starts about 6am when the birds in the nearby city centre park start up, and then quickly spreads to the back gardens of our street and the next.

The song has repetition, variations and a call and response like structure, as if he is competing with a rival that is too far away for me to hear from indoors. Or pausing for breath. The song’s structure starts with a simple repeated motif, with the variations becoming more and more complex, his virtuoso performance sounding almost effortless. But singing with his whole being.

And this particular bird has an intonation like the Swedish chef from the Muppets through certain sections of his song. Really, no kidding.

Pick Myself Up & Start Again

The last few weeks have been a little rough. I worked fairly hard through January, then after helping out at a local community event on 4th Feb (just in the kitchen, no music involved) I was super-tired. I took the Sunday off to recuperate, but had a sore throat all day Monday, and then got ill for a couple of weeks with some sort of lurgy which just didn’t want to shift. The glands on my neck were up, my brain wasn’t on full power, and even simple tasks were wearing me out quickly. I was starting to wonder if I’d somehow managed to contract glandular fever* when things suddenly started improving and I began to get my life back again, just slowly.

Anyway, the reason I’m telling you all this is to explain why I vanished off the face of the internet for best part of a month now, bar a few random tweets. I’m working again, but it’s taking a while to get back up to my normal pace and have the energy to communicate. (Spot the introvert?).

I had wanted to work on what should become the second album this month, a set of instrumental tracks based on a well known novel. The aim was to write ten more minutes of music, give or take, to finish it off. I did make a start, but found I needed to do something where I was making more definite progress, before I move onto that project.

Mushrooms with brown top and white underside

So, there’s this song called Thieving Autumn which I have been working on intermittently since the end of September, and which I want to include on the third album, whenever that happens. I’m still not sure about all the lyrics, but I’ve gone ahead and started to work out instrumentation and parts for a recorded version, because that was more straightforward than writing something completely from scratch when my brain was still woolly from the lurgy.

Somehow the recorded version has ended up with a substantially different chord set to the guitar version I worked out in January, which is odd, because I have sung along to both. I haven’t figured out what’s happening there yet – some of the guitar chords may be alternatives, I may have accidentally taken it into a different key for the recording, or just not noted using a capo when I wrote down the chords in January.

I’ve got most of the backing track roughly together now, and need to work out how I want it to end. Then the main thing will be to do some serious work on developing the lyrics, trying to put into practice what I learned from the Berklee-based lyric-writing course I followed on Coursera last autumn. Off to the rhyming dictionaries!

*Glandular fever is called mono in the States.