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Two wheels on my wagon

November 9th, 2021 · Posted by Skuds in Life

Today I reached the end of a long and double-delayed journey when I passed the road test to get my full motorcycle licence. It took nearly four years, but I got there in the end. [Read more →]

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The pleasures of pre-ordering

August 11th, 2021 · Posted by Skuds in Life, Music

In the last year or two I have been discovering the joys of pre-ordering stuff online. I know that some pedants have issues with the term ‘pre-order’, but we all know what it means: ordering something before it is released. I guess you could call it ‘pre-release ordering’.

In general I do not actually buy physical product very much, certainly nothing like the way I used to. I tend to use Netflix/Prime for watching movies, Spotify for listening to music, and e-books for reading. This is partly for convenience but also partly for reasons of space.

The exceptions are mostly; films I want to watch now and not wait for them to end up on streaming services, old TV shows that are unlikely to end up on streaming services (for example, Shelley), music that has 5.1 mixes on SACD or Blu Ray Audio, books by a few select authors, and CD box sets that add something you aren’t going to get by streaming.

This may only amount to about as many books or CDs in a year that I used to buy each month, but when I do get these things it is usually because it is something special  that I am anticipating and so it is available to pre-order well in advance. If possible I will get them from place like Burning Shed or Cherry Red or the artist’s own website rather than Amazon, even if it costs a little bit more.

The best hting about the pre-order is that it is like a little present for your future self. And if you are as forgetful as I have been getting it can even be a surprise present for your future self. It is fantastic when you get a parcel and at first you think “I didn’t order anything, I wonder what it can be?” and then you open it up to find that new Rick Wakeman album in pop-up packaging that you had ordered 4 months ago and forgotten about, or the box-set re-issue of an old 70s or 80s album with a little booklet, disc of videos and various extras.

I know I am spoling the surprise for myself by reminding myself now (but I’ll probably forget again soon enough) but I think I have four things ordered a while ago that are due to arrive some time this year: Toyah’s new album Posh Pop, the new Ambrose Parry novel in hardback, volume two of the Genesis story (the Phil Collins years), and the album of new material from Yes.

It probably would have been nice to have had some of these in the last month or two, to see me through hospital stays and recoveries, but I still have 4 happy days to look forward to this year.

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Autobiographies

June 6th, 2021 · Posted by Skuds in Life

Back when I was younger, say 18 or before then, I really didn’t read autobiographies, or even biographies come to that. Mind you it does depend on how you define ‘autobiography’. I did enjoy the Gerald Durrell books and the James Herriot books when I was at school and they are certainly autobiographical. But times change and we change with them, unless we are Nigel Farage and we try to get the times to change back again, and over the years I have got to appreciate autobiographies and memoirs more, along with some other categories of book that didn’t appeal to the teenage me, like travel books.

Just this year I have read and enjoyed autobiographies by John Lydon, John Cooper Clarke, Pete Paphides and Lee Mack. Thinking about it, most of the memoirs or autobiographies I read tend to be by musicians or comedians or at least people associated with music or comedy. Not for the me the worthy reminiscences of important politicians and statesmen; I will be more likely to be reading about the schooldays of Andrew Collins than the early career of Obama.

Anyway, this is all in my mind right now because I was reflecting on how insanely detailed some of these books are when it comes to the early years. The thing is that I now do not remember much about my time at primary school. I reckon I can only remember the names of about five fellow pupils at primary school, and two of them were my sisters! I can only remember the name of one teacher, and have some flash memories of a few specific incidents. Some books will manage to fill up entire chapters with these early years and I was wondering if those people just have exceptional memories or if I am just very forgetful. Or did they just have more memorable childhoods than me?

Or do other people just care more? I have preferred to look forwards rather than backwards and do not have huge stacks of old scrapbooks, and every now and then I have had purges of such things. I do not have a box full of ticket stubs for every concert I have been to, for example. I have never been at all interested in tracing family trees. Now I am reaching an age when I do look back a bit more because I have a lot more past than future and regret not paying more attention.

I am a bit better, but not massively so, when it comes to secondary school, college and so on, but could never fill up a memoir with the sort of detail that others do. It does not help that I have never kept a diary, and I know some people do record all their various doings obsessively, especially in the political world, but surely hardly anybody keeps such records of their primary school years? When I read ridiculously detailed accounts of some celeb’s activities aged five I alternate between being impressed and suspicious.

It probably doesn’t matter too much. If I can’t remember much about my childhood I can at least read about everybody else’s.

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Can’t get you out of my head

April 7th, 2021 · Posted by Skuds in Life, Music

Having an earworm is a fairly frequent event for me, but I have had a really strange one today, even by my standards.

Earworm is defined by the Collins Dictionary website, rather unsatisfactorily, as “an irritatingly catchy tune”. I don’t think that captures the full quality of an earworm, which is not just a tune that is catchy, but one which has lodged itself in your brain and keeps looping around and around. As soon as you drop your guard you realise that you are whistling or humming it.

It is often not a tune you would have chosen to have on repeat. For me the earworms are likely to be a 70s tune that I have heard too many times on the nostalgia TV channels I like to leave on for background. Sometimes you can’t get a tune out of your head, but also can’t quite work out exactly what it is, which can be frustrating.

Anyway, today’s earworm is something that doesn’t even exist, as far as I know. All day I have found myself internally and unconsciouly singing the lyrics of Tammy Wynette’s Stand By Your Man to the tune of Gary Puckett & the Union Gap’s Young Girl. Quite an acheivement, as I’m sure I couldn’t do it deliberately.

What I will say is that at least the lyrics are less dubious than the actual Young Girl lyrics. I do wonder why that is still being played, many times, on the Now 70s TV channel. As if the lyrics were not bad enough (a creepy story about lusting after an underaged girl) the video has the band draped in confederate flags.

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Irony narrowly averted

March 3rd, 2021 · Posted by Skuds in Life

I went for a walk today, which is quite a big deal for me because I haven’t been able to really appreciate a long walk for ages until the last few days. Its all to do with Raynaud’s phenomenon, which makes my fingers go white when its cold. Oh, and paradoxically they go numb and also hurt like hell. It feels like what I imagine frostbite to be like. I have tried woolly mittens, leather gloves, compression gloves, motorbike gloves and those handwarmer things and nothing really helps. I don’t think there is anything that can be done about it, apart from winning the lottery and retiring to somewhere tropical.

Anyway, the point is that the weather is warming up a bit so I can go out for decent long walks now. During last summer I was doing 10,000+ steps every day for about three months without any gaps and I have been missing that. I like to put on a podcast to listen to while I walk. Its the best way to listen to podcasts.

Today I was making a start on the backlog that built up during my hibernation. It was about an hour long but finished while I was still on the way back. I was close enough to home to make it not worth starting another podcast so I listened to some music. Rather than decide what to play I just went to one of those Spotify daily mixes and whacked the volume up a bit.

With the music loud and ANC turned on I make an effort to pay a lot more attention when I cross roads. I make a point to stop and look properly in all directions. Twice. Unfortunately the junction closest to home is a real bastard. It has an extreme blind bend in it that makes it quite hairy to drive on and even worse to ride on. You really need to be careful driving round that bend so, of course, most people are not. They take it far too quickly.

I stopped. Had a good look. But by the time I was two steps into the road there was a car coming round from the right. I saw it just in time and stopped, but it was a close thing because I was only doing the stop and look bits of the Green Cross Code, and not the listen bit.

And the ironic aspect? Well had I not clocked the movement of the car in the corner of my eye I could well have been run over while listening to an extremely appropriate song, because at the precise time Spotify had chosen for me Aztec Camera’s classic… “Oblivious”.

Maybe it is about time I make a compromise and turn off ANC and turn on ‘hear through’ on the earphones?

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Playing catch-up

February 8th, 2021 · Posted by Skuds in Life

During the last few days I have been doing some catching up with watching some things I have been putting off for a while, with mixed levels of enjoyment. [Read more →]

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2020 – Automation

January 2nd, 2021 · Posted by Skuds in Music

It is that time of the year again. The time when I add another track to my Spotify playlist, the one that has one song for every year I have been around. I have now added a 59th track to it, which makes me fell a bit old.

While this might have been a bit of a shitty year in many respects (and “might have been” could be a bit of an understatement) it has been another decent year for music, and it was really hard to pick out one track to represent it. [Read more →]

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Sheep Farming In Barnet

December 31st, 2020 · Posted by Skuds in Music

One of my presents this year was the box set re-issue of Sheep Farming in Barnet by Toyah. A bit of a nostalgia-fest, but actually I don’t think I actually had this LP despite being a fan. Actually I don’t think I had this LP because I was a fan. [Read more →]

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Christmas 2020: a matter of perspective

December 25th, 2020 · Posted by Skuds in Life

I am going to have a fantastic Christmas this year! I know. There is still covid-19 going on, our area moving into tier 4 on Saturday, Brexit, and all sorts of other general unpleasantness, but it is all relative.

For example, two years ago, Christmas 2018, I was in the middle of chemotherapy treatment and still getting most of my nutrition through a tube sticking out of my stomach. In the evening I collapsed in the hallway and had an ambulance ride to hospital, where I stayed on a drip until being allowed home on boxing day. I’m not even sure that counts as my worst Christmas.

This year I am feeling well, and will be spending the day with my favourite person. Just the two of us plus cat and dogs of course. There will probably be a nice long walk with the hounds during the day, so we will be having a happy Christmas and I hope everybody else manages to enjoy themselves as well, in their own ways.

 

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Time for a #HIGNFY re-vamp?

October 4th, 2020 · Posted by Skuds in Life

Have I Got News For You is celebrating its 30th year now and although it has its moments it really is showing its age now. I have watched it from the start and do still watch it, but that is at least partly through habit. A lot of the time the regular members do seem to be on auto-pilot and a lot of the jokes are very obvious, even when they are funny. I would not like to see it disappear, but I think that it really could do with a re-vamp or re-launch after thirty years. [Read more →]

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