Saturday, January 31, 2009

Guitar Gets a New Home

It's been another work dominated week. I'm heading toward my deadline now and, as tends to be the case, I'm now doing 7 day weeks to get it all done. As I mentioned last time, I went up to my mother's last Friday night and cleared out all of my old stuff that she'd been storing as she's moving to a smaller house next month. One of the very few things I brought back was the second guitar I ever owned. I bought it nearly twenty years ago and as I graduated onto better instruments a few years later it has sat in its case at my mum's for about sixteen years. My plan was to bring it back, fettle it up into playing order again and give it to someone who was wanting to learn the guitar.

How it had sat quietly in its case

When I actually got the case open I found that two of the strings were missing, not a problem as I was planning to swap them all anyway, but it made me wonder what I'd been doing to the poor thing all those years ago. It was also fairly filthy, had creaky machine heads and trem plus when I plugged it in to see if it still functioned electrically the horrid hum and buzzing told me something was wrong somewhere. When I had got the remaining strings off and opened up the guitar the source of the hum became clear: my dreadful soldering at age 15. I had feared this might be the case and so I dutifully went through the guitars' innards and resoldered any of the dodgy connections afresh. I am still not good at soldering but I'm a damn sight better than I was back then clearly. After that I cleaned up the front, oiled all the mechanical parts and restrung the beast. This is how it looked after some surgery, a clean and a fresh set of strings:

Back up and running

Once the strings were on I fixed the intonation which was so far off I wondered how I'd managed to think anything I'd played back then was in tune and then plugged it back in. This time all was good. It's actually a really decent guitar. I had a play for a few minutes as a last goodbye and then put in into a gig bag ready to take into work.

I haven't played this guitar in 15 years

Once it was safely stored in the studio I sent a message to the company news group to the effect that I had a guitar to give away and wanted to give it to someone who'd always wanted to play but never had - I wasn't going to give it to someone who already had an instrument. I got twelve responses and randomly picked the name of the receptionist. I was a bit surprised she'd asked to go into the draw as she didn't strike me as the guitar type. When I gave it to her she explained that she had two sons who desperately wanted a guitar and that made me feel very good. It had done me proud in my early teenage years and now it was going to get the chance to do the same again.

Long live rock and roll.

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Saturday, January 24, 2009

Goodbye to all that.

After a busy week failing to get shots finalled for Wolf Man (and hence why I'll be working on Sunday) I left work yesterday, walked up to Euston Station and headed north to my mum's. The last time I did this the journey took 5 hours thanks to engineering work. They must have finished as yesterday the feat was achieve in an hour and a half: much more respectable.

The reason for the whistle stop visit is that my ma has decided to move house to a smaller cottage and therefore she had decided that she could no longer store some items that I'd left at her current and previous houses over the years. So after a quick bite of supper I set to work. There were many things which I had forgotten about and some which I never knew were technically mine in the first place. Elderly relatives of mine had a habit of leaving things to me in their wills but I was never explicitly told that they were now mine. Then there were the things such as my "birth spoon". Until yesterday I had no idea that such things as "birth spoons" existed let alone that I was the proud owner of one. This is what I have discovered: If you have parents who are keen on the whole antiques schtick (big yes for my folks) then to celebrate the birth of their offspring they have all the details of the happy event etched into an ornate silver spoon. And I have one, well had one; I told my mother I had no use nor for desire to keep it (never having known of it before) and so ownership has reverted to my mum who couldn't bear to see it got rid of.

Having sorted through the stuff that came as a surprise to me I set to throwing away reams of letters from friends and ex-girlfriends that for some reason I'd stuffed into an enormous jiffy bag. Whilst I'm a big soppy romantic, I'm not very sentimental about stuff and so the letters went into the trash along with years of old photographs and all the artwork I made at school and college. I don't have the space to keep it in London nor frankly the desire. By midnight I had several distinct piles: items to go into the recycling bin, items to go to the local tip, items to go to the charity shop and a tiny pile of items I actually wanted to keep and bring back to London on the train with me.

After breakfast this morning we loaded my mum's car and took the load destined for the charity shop. Having delighted the lady in the store with her haul of very decent china we returned to my mum's and loaded up for the tip. Upon our return from there all that was left for me was to load up my rucksack with my keepsies and get the train back. The items I kept were mostly out of print books, a couple of comics and 4 Victorian cartoons by Rowlandson that my dad bought and gave to me when he ran out of wall space. The final item to carry was my second guitar, bought nearly twenty years ago by a long-haired pimply 14 year old Mr Atrocity. I shall write a piece about that guitar and its destiny in a follow-up post soon. By 2 o'clock this afternoon I was back home in London, exhausted but relieved that I'd finally sorted through the last vestiges of my formative years that had been in storage for so long.

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Sunday, January 18, 2009

Busy Weekend

It's been a bit of a frantic weekend up until today, hence the lack of posting. It all began on Friday night with a Visual Effects Society meeting to help decide the nominations for this year's awards. It's the first time that the UK chapter has got to have a say so we were all on our best behaviour. It was actually quite stressful. After work those of us who'd volunteered to vote turned up at one of the London VFX houses where we were given an extensive briefing on what we were and were not allowed to do. I'd been allocated to the group selecting the shortlist for "Outstanding Supporting Visual Effects in a Motion Picture" and so having had a coffee and a Coke to keep me awake off we went to our screening room.

It was all incredibly strict. We weren't allowed to discuss any of the entries until after the voting process had concluded so we all sat in silence watching presentations from the long-list of nominees and taking notes. It was almost exactly like taking an exam. The hardest part came at the halfway point where we went and had a little dinner still under instruction not to talk about what we'd seen. This, as you might imagine, was incredibly difficult as it was the only thing on our mind and had had our undivided attention for an hour half. After eating our pizza and talking about the weather, what our plans for the weekend were and anything to keep us from discussing the work we went back to the hot, airless screening room for part two. After the screenings had finished we had to place our votes and then sign the envelope in which they were placed. Once the ballots had been checked were we free to talk. The relief was palpable, partially because we wanted to talk but also because we had so much caffeine and sugary drinks by this point to keep us alert that were all wired.

After this it was about 9 p.m. and I went home had a shower and felt really, really awake. At that moment I decided to install the new pick ups that had just been delivered for my guitar. I am not the neatest solderer on Earth but after an hour of careful work the deed was done reasonably tidily and most importantly it all still worked.

Saturday I worked until late afternoon when I wandered down to Waterloo and took a train to Twickenham to watch London Wasps play Leinster in the Heineken Cup. It was not a classic game of rugby union but I did see Josh Lewsey make an incredible run to set up the only try of the game scored, eventually, by veteran French player Serge Betsen. The game outing was organised through work so I met up with lots of work chums and that made the whole experience more fun. I did manage to lose them all in the walk back to the station after the game so I travelled home alone and did a little recording with my newly fettled guitar, the fruits of which I may post in due course once I've fiddled with them bit.

Today T and I did pretty much nothing. T made us a spiced toasted bread covered in mushrooms in cream thingy for breakfast and then we we took a mooch in the West End to get a couple of odds and ends for the kitchen, I for one can't wait to cook with baking sheets that don't warp at the first opportunity in the oven, tipping your food over the bottom of the oven. And that is it. I think an evening of reading and listening to music is in store. Yay.


Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Deja Vu

Right, that's it. T is no longer allowed in bathrooms. I know it's going to be difficult but that's how it's got to be; she's jinxed you see. You may recall back in September she became trapped in a bathroom in our hotel in Florence? Well it happened again yesterday at home. That's right, in the safe, comfortable bosom of Schossadlerflug another saboteur bathroom door lay in wait waiting to pounce. And yesterday morning it pounced. Poor T, trapped in our tiny windowless bathroom with nothing but a collection of lady washing, conditioning, moisturising, cleansing and toning products to keep her company. I was dozing when I realised that she's been gone a little while and then came the little wail of distress. The door opening mechanism had just failed with her trapped inside. You turned the handle and the magic did not occur. The lock worked perfectly but the actual latch? Not so much. In fairness T was much calmer than I, though I am going to put that down to her enforced passivity in the circumstances.

I intend to track down the architect of our flat and give him or her a piece of my mind. Though I hadn't realised until yesterday, because I'd never had cause to look before, the bathroom door in our flat essentially seals itself into the door frame. The old dodge of pushing a credit card over the latch to disengage it doesn't work because you can't get at the edge of the door. I also was unable to pass any cards, tiny screwdrivers or such under the door to T as that too was sealed against the door jamb. It seems to be less of a regular bathroom door and more of an airlock.

A couple of shoves with my shoulder failed to jar anything into working again so I set to work prising the front of the handle cover off and then unscrewing as much of the mechanism as I could get at. Eventually I got the handle off and was able to use a pair of pliers to turn the latch spindle much further round than you could just with handle. This, just, did the trick and we were able to pop the door open, a relief for a freed T and a relief for me as I really needed the little boys' room quite urgently. Needs must when the devil drives as they say.

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Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Cold

Well it's new year and we finally have a proper winter in London. For the last three or four years it's been overcast, not very cold and mostly rainy for months, and spring and autumn seemed so similar to winter. This year however we have an actual discernible winter. Now I know by the standards of those of you living in colder and more varied climes our winter here is nothing to write home about but to me it's been a delight. I

like a proper British Winter, where the weather hovers around the zero degrees Celsius mark for days on end. We have even had a few of my favourite sort of winter days, those where the sky is cloudless and the air crisp. The views over London Bridge as I do my long walk to work have often quite taken my breath. The photo above was taken in The Regent's Park. It had been below freezing for a few days by that point and it was possible to see the dominant wind direction as one side of the fountain urn was covered in ice whilst the far side was clear. The energy of the flowing fountain water was enough to keep it liquid but as it got blown about drops stuck to the sides of the fountain and froze. It was quite beautiful. The icicles dropping down from the lip were merely the icing on the cake.

Thank you all for the kind comments on the previous two posts, it was very sweet of you all. I'm going to try more regular blogging again as my real-world web site is up to date, though there is still work to be done, and I have negotiated my frantic last few weeks of 2008. Hope you all managed some kind of holiday and I'll try to write at least one a week for now. I'm working long hours and six days a week on The Wolf Man for now so I may be a little short on bloggable material. I'll transcribe it as it comes to me.

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