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.

Britain’s falling carbon emissions

Sharing this from one of the best blogs I’ve come across.

Make Wealth History

A couple of weeks ago I was talking about how Ethiopia has been decoupling economic growth and carbon emissions with a friend, and commenting on how rare that story was. I suggested that Britain might also be decoupling, due to the falling use of coal. It was too early to tell, but if we waited a few more weeks we’d find out. With those few weeks passed, Carbon Brief have their advance estimates and here’s the good news: Britain’s CO2 emissions continue to tumble sharply.

UK carbon emissions have been falling for a while, partly due to offshoring heavy industry, but in 2014 we saw a steeper decline as coal power stations were closed – a record fall in a growing economy in fact, at 9.2%. Coal power has continued to decline and that accelerated decarbonisation continues for a third year in a row.

This is positive news for…

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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.