Mid-Month Slow Bit Blog

18 May 2013

Not too much to report this week on the saxophone-operating front this week, as we are in the usual mid-month slow bit. On the kitchen wall at The Gables there is one of those year at a glance wall calendar thingies, made, I believe, by the rather splendidly named Nobo corporation. Upon this is put the mighty display of the year’s engagements partly as a backup for the diaries held in crash able form on various hand-held electric devices around the home, and partly so that we don’t organise an appearance at the Bell and Sideboard in Gripton with the local trio on Her Indoors’ Mum’s birthday or similar. After a few years of keeping the engagement schedule in this way, you get to notice trends, and for reasons I cannot fathom, beginnings and ends of months tend to be busy, and the middle weeks are, in the main, rather slacker. Maybe it’s just the way people think when they are organising a do- I suppose you often hear the expression “We’ll aim at having the Dockets Inwards Department Cocktail Party at the end of June”, or similar, but rarely “Do you know, I’ve always had a thing for the number 17. Let’s have the reception then”.

Blohm&Voss However, in The Shed, or Home Studio, things are seldom quiet. Taking advantage of not having to spend the usual seven hours a day in the car in order to play Days Of Wine And Roses, I got really very busy on the Seaplanes Of The Axis Powers Diorama. I actually finished the pair of Blohm & Voss 138’s I’d been fiddling away at since Xmas, and commenced work on the large and exciting Blohm & Voss 238. I’ll stop this now, as I can feel a cloud of e-tedium building up on your end of things and I don’t want to lose my audience. Suffice to say, there was a great deal of Geek Musk in the air. The lull in proceedings also permitted a spot of work to get done on the forthcoming “Benny Duke & Peggy” album, where the idea is to present the songs of Duke Ellington and Peggy Lee in a sort of Benny Goodman-ish way. Why? Because a client asked us to for their annual do (On the first weekend of a month, I hasten to add,) and we liked the sound of it so much that we kept it on. As you’d expect, it largely features Her Indoors singing songs with me in the role of The Dennis Thatcher Of Jazz sorting the band out and operating the clarinet. There have already been some free clips of this on the Plog, and these are nestled away over on the Benny Duke & Peggy section of the Band Directory page of this site. Tempted though I am to put another track on today, I’d have nothing left to sell when the CD finally emerges, and I’ll need to get some dough in to pay for the bloody thing in the first place!

It’s always exciting when you enter the final stages of a project. Instead of various tracks in various states of completion lying around in the highly organised infrastructure of the various laptops in The Gables, there is now a finished fully mastered CD, where the tracks come on in the right order one after another, just like on a real record. I’m particularly jubilant about the first looks I’ve had of the sleeve design from my man Phil. Phil is particularly good about boiling a concept down until just the original zeitgeist remains. I’d asked him for a spot of late 1960’s chic to sort the mood of the jazz on the disc, and when I saw what he’d come up with I could swear that I was back at the record counter in Woolworth’s in Oxted in 1971! Won’t be long now, folks. It’s Phil who’s done all the work on this site too. Have a look around- he’s a very clever boy!

My best friend at primary school was called Dave. Dave was Australian and therefore, in terms of an eight-year old from Croydon, impossibly exotic. He knew about stuff like Vegemite, poisonous snakes and spiders and had different words for wee and poo, and a very liberal un-British attitude to fizzy drinks. In 1973, we were just out of the Austerity years, in real cultural terms. I know we’d had the swinging 60s and the Summer Of Love, but I reckon that that only happened to about 800 people around Chelsea. For us down in Croydon it was The War, Rationing, Austerity and then all of a sudden, aspirational 1970’s chic as personified by Bob and Thelma in the Likely Lads. Round my neck of the woods, you got one can of fizzy pop to share with your sisters every other Friday. Dave, coming from tropical colonial areas, had a supply of the stuff virtually on tap. It was like the introduction of whisky to the Navajo, I can tell you! His mum was the first woman I ever saw in culottes, and his sister had a cello. Aside from the recorder, and to quote Molesworth, “The old skool piano wot go clang”, Dave’s sister’s cello was the first musical instrument I’d seen up close and personal. Extraordinary droning sounds emanated from it whenever she operated it with the stick thing. I was fascinated. It was also the first time I’d seen anyone in my peer group doing something other than playing on bikes, making Airfix or eating, and so it came as quite a shock. It was the first time I’d seen someone my age doing something grown-up. It’s just dawned on me now that eating, Airfix and musical instruments is all I do now. That’s quite a shock as well.

Back to Dave, though. Co-incidentally, at the end of primary school in 1976, Dave’s dad got transferred back to Oz and so that was the end of Dave, Vegemite, Coca-Cola cut 2/3 to 1/3 with orange squash, and the hypnotic sound of the cello. Thanks to the gift of the World Wide Facetweet thing, Dave appeared out of the interweb ether to say hello about a year ago. It would appear that he’d survived the ravages of all the domestic creepy crawlies he’d waxed so lyrical about as a lad, and appeared to be quite normal, despite ingesting as a child (as we all did) enough sugar to keep the south American economy afloat for a year. More excitingly, two weeks ago he got in touch to say that he was coming over to London on a business trip, and would I like to meet up. It would, after all, be our first opportunity to have a beer together.

Naturally, as any right thinking chap should do when faced with a visitor to these shores, I whisked Dave off to Mr. Kong’s for the standard menu. It was odd in a good way- we were still the same mates, but with a 36-year gap in the conversation. Dave is now an accountant, and I’d guess a pretty good one if they can send him over to the other side of the planet to drum up trade. Evidence of this was the terrifying memory which a financial chap needs to squirrel away all the tiny minutiae of their craft- he could remember virtually everything about our Primary School, right down to the names of the dinner ladies! Apparently, one of them had tattoos. I wouldn’t even have known what a tattoo was then. A very strange phenomenon, talking in great detail to someone about stuff you’ve not even thought about for all that time, and then not having to pay them and book another appointment! Hopefully it won’t be another 36 years!

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