Monday, 31 December 2007

Virgin Media Customer Service

First, a traditional merry Yuletide joke:

Q. What, pray, is the difference between Virgin Media's Customer Service effort, and a bucket of sh*t?

A. The bucket. (Aha, haha, ahaha: Your Grace is more than witty this fine afternoon.)

And what, you ask, has brought this on?

Why, when my aristocratic breeding demands good manners, am I writing the Dreadful Anglo-Saxon Poo-Word with a mere asterisk to (hardly) spare the blushes of my more delicate readers?

Well: would you like a blow-by-blow, line-by-line, minute-by-minute account of why I am so cheesed off with Mr Branson and his fine, fine company? Would you, perhaps, like me to tell you where exactly - with regard to the person of Mr Branson - I would currently like to put his undoubtedly splendid V+ box?

No, me neither. So let us instead retire to the Bullet Point Conservatory and dismiss the matter briefly over a pleasant cup of tea:

  • Broken appointments and major time wasting for my family and me;
  • Lots and lots and lots of very, very annoying phone calls;
  • Something which may be lies but it might be more courteous to describe as a tendency towards chronic inaccuracy;
  • I can teach a Border Collie to stick its head through a gap in the stairs on the command "Gargoyle!" In fact it was quite easy. I cannot, however, teach Virgin Media to call me on the correct telephone number, no matter how much effort I expend. Perhaps I am using the wrong sort of biscuits?
  • Most people there to whom I speak to seem to be pleasant enough and perhaps aware that they are not, actually, providing me with a good service. Indeed one apologized this morning, which was an exciting first. Thank you - that really was much appreciated.
  • Others, though, are pathetic and defensive and hide behind their company's dreadful inefficient procedures, or what they claim are those procedures. It would be nice to think that such people could be rooted out and sacked but in reality they are probably more likely to be promoted.
  • The nice and competent-sounding person to whom I spoke second today has arranged the second attempt at an installation, which - assuming it takes place as planned - will be a mere fortnight after my family started wasting its time and my blood pressure started its present climb.
  • The first person to whom I spoke today - well, I diskard her, as Molesworth sa.
  • Finally, a moment of light relief which cheered me up immensely. This morning while hanging around in Telephone Purgatory I was told (by Not Good Helpline Person) that I was being put through to the right people to help. A silence then ensued, then a strange recorded announcement, about quotas, which was clearly not meant for my ears. Finally a man answered with something technical and incomprehensible and asked if he could help me. I explained my quest. There was a thoughtful silence then, in tones of almost radiant wonderment, "are you a Member of the Public?"

Great stuff. I do of course look forward to seeing this exciting device in and working - though not all that soon - but, frankly, if I had a real choice I would not touch this company again with a long, disinfected, Teflon-coated bargepole.

But do please have another cuppa, and try the Christmas cake: it is rather fine. And a very good afternoon to you, too.

 

Update on 13th January: well, the machine in question is now in and working. The appointment made by the second customer services person did work out, hurrah, and a really nice engineer came on Friday and fitted the box. The whole business of the complaints procedure and so on has never really worked out. They've rung up once or twice (having finally understood how to do so) and said they would call back when I was in, but it has not happened. In a sense I can't really see how this would now benefit me - they already cut the price in half as a result of their error and I cannot imagine they are offering me anything more than that, so it would just be the satisfaction of hearing them say sorry, and I can probably live without that. The box, by the way, is superb. So I will give them two rousing cheers for the bits that went well and for how good their device is, and one rousing raspberry for their uselessness in other ways, and call it quits.

Sunday, 30 December 2007

Van Hire Heroes

Let us just suppose that your Christmas arrangements had become a "touch complicated", and that, due to the brilliance of a certain local government person called Sally, your eldest daughter, who may or may not be a Crown Princess, is getting a four night midweek away weekend super duper intercity boutique accommodation winter break in the very swish Highgate Nursing Home over the said festival of jollity.

Let us further suppose that, while the Manchester-London trip is laid on and delivered courtesy of two utterly fabulous blokes from the North West Ambulance Service, the return trip cannot be provided in the same way.

Let us further further suppose that the Crown Princess in question isn't going to be too thrilled if, having gone as far as reaching Hornsey Lane, she's then stuck there. Not unreasonably, she might like to visit Schloss Neustadt and indeed the Grandparental Mansion, which is where the Monster Extended Family Christmas Dinner will take place. Which is about x % of the whole point, really. Where x is a positive integer - quite a big one, ack'shly.

Let us further further further suppose that the family car is not up to the present task. Despite its fine performance in Ingestre (qv) it can't accommodate a wheelchair with person in it, and even if in some alternate reality it could, I'd still cheerfully bet you a Christmas pud that this particular wheelchair, being something of a long wheelbase model, would defeat pretty much anything you could arrange that involved something that looked even a touch like a family car.

So, basically, everything is fine, but everything is about to fall apart without the right vehicle.

Who ya gonna call?

AVH Ltd, that's who. (Adapted Vehicle Hire, geddit?) They are:

Adapted Vehicle Hire Ltd,
Stanford House, Station Approach
Greenford
UB6 0AL
0845 257 1670
http://www.avhltd.com/

This wonderful, genius company does exactly what it says on the tin: it hires out adapted vehicles. If you look at the website you'll see that they do vehicles with driver adaptations; but this was not what we were after in this particular case. So they hired us a massive great VW Transporter van with wheelchair tiedowns and a tail-lift. This was just superb. And I thought that the lift would be all "attach trunnion A to bearing bracket B" and "tighten clamp P before installing torque dihedral flange Q" - but, er, no. It has an on/off switch and then four buttons on a wired hand control - deploy - down - up - stow. And that's yer lot.

The van seemed pretty much brand new and drove like a dream. I quite like driving big vehicles so that was OK (though the parking at Highgate was pretty scary, requiring much threading through backwards in a car-park sometimes terrifyingly full of semirandomly parked cars - no straight lines). The van did many local trips, including facilitating the all-important dinner on December 25th, and then we used it for the return trip to Manchester on Thursday.

It's not cheap and AVH is not a charity. But you get what you pay for and what we got here is superb people, vehicle and service. If/when I need this kind of hire again I will be straight back to this brilliant company without a moment's hesitation.

Finally, my Inner Nerd insists that I point out to you that it's exciting because it's based right next to Greenford station. Greenford has Central Line tube and national rail trains to Paddington. It's interesting because it has what seems to be the last remaining wooden escalator on the whole network. Oh and the BR (or whatever) trains come into a weird little terminus platform in a bay between the two Tube tracks going through. Satisfyingly odd. Oh yes I mean it has good access from London too, sure, so it is nice and convenient for here, but that's not what the nerd in me liked so much. Ahem indeed no.

Thursday, 13 December 2007

Getting there

Well, I got the main news file in for print last night, on (the much-revised) schedule as agreed. And now I've just sent in an extra file with two late stories. It would be lovely to think I am finished, but I am still not quite there:

  • My friend and neighbour JF may sooner or later send me a line or two to add to an obituary. If this happens soonish then I still want to try to add it to the print version
  • I still have to do the photos for print, but that's easy

When these two things are resolved, that's the current news file pretty much done. Woo, etc.

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

Jabnaas - just a blog not an authoritative source

Or, how to learn to relax and go with the jabnaas.

JABNAAS - just a blog not an authoritative source. Since shortly after its first known appearance in December 2007 it has tended to be used in all-lowercase, thus: jabnaas.

Usage:

  1. To remind the reader that a blog is, after all, just a blog. Unless it makes very clear and verifiable claims to some sort of authority, it is not to be taken too seriously on such subjects as:
  • Meissen porcelain
  • French painting
  • Bartók’s string quartets
  • Satellites
  • Ant and Dec
  • William Harvey
  • Anything at all
  1. To remind the blogger of much the same thing: to wit, it will not directly and immediately cause the Thames to freeze over, and ninety-six species of butterfly to become extinct, if you leave some fact unverified or indeed unknown. In fact, it will cause not even the merest ripple in the basic rate of income tax should you get Ant's birthday or Dec's shoe size wrong, and not bother to check it, and it then stays wrong for a decade or more till someone with real OCD checks, or someone who knows happens along, or maybe Ant and/or Dec pop in to say hello and enlighten blogger and blogreader alike.

So: Jabnaas - leave it, get over it, it doesn't matter that much. (Yes Vogel, pay attention, I am talking to you dear boy.)

You see, ever since the tragic disappointment of "blognorance", I've been racking my several remaining brain cells trying to think of a witty neologism, partly as a shorthand for use in the blog, and partly (well more so really, to be honest) to try to make myself feel better over the previous debacle and the 83 gun-jumping swine (now there's an interestingly mixed metaphor) who have selfishly and irresponsibly used my word, without a care for my feelings, before, er, I thought of it.

I wanted, as I say, a witty neologism but jabnaas is what I got instead. Oh well. It'll have to do. Maybe I will grow to love it, like Brussels sprouts. I sort-of concluded that acrostic or acronym (or whatever - jabnaas!) was probably the only way to go, short of just plucking a word absolutely out of thin air, because all the cleverisms like blognorance or bloglectful had been bagsied years ago. And anyway there's only so much pleasure to be had from flogging a dead horse and this one seems pretty much all flogged out, poor old thing.

I did look at some other possibilities:

  • jabasynteb
    just a blog about strawberry yoghurt not the Encyclopædia Britannica.
  • jabnteb
    just a blog not the Encyclopædia Britannica
  • jabnae
    just a blog not an encyclopædia
  • jabnarf
    just a blog not a reference library

- and their fouler-mouthed variants (cover your ears, Tamsin):

  • jabasyntefb
  • jabntefb
  • jabnafe
  • jabnafrf

- but as you see they are all a bit rubbish (OK, quite a lot rubbish), and jabnaas, the best of a bad bunch, at least has the advantage that it is almost pronounceable, that it sounds vaguely funny, and that it might, seen in the right light, be a slightly threatening description in some English dialect of, perhaps, a medical procedure of some sort – who knows?

Anyway, for better or worse, jabnaas it now is. I intend to refer frequently to this page in the course of trying to save myself from a nervous breakdown while obsessing about how much to put in about the West Coast Main Line or (depending on definitions) which car · I · owned · first. Jabnaas.

As of right now, Googling it does not work. Hurrah, huzzah, a half-holiday and a commemorative basket for the peasant children.

Remember: jabnaas - just a blog not an authoritative source.

You know it makes sense. (Perhaps)

I know it makes sense. (Almost definitely.)

Ant and Dec - well, they probably don't care. Hah - more fools them.

Jabnaas!!

Monday, 10 December 2007

Backblog

Service is a wee bit slow at present: sorry. I've written a few little things but I need some time to finish off, sort out photos, and the like, and this "time" is what I don't currently have, hence the backlog.

I am having a Trumpet News Deadline Crisis (TNDC) right now but once it is over - in a day or two, nervous breakdowns permitting - I will try to get back to the blog a bit.

Note that the current TNDC is the second-and-a-halfth-last ever: I have another one due February 1st but after that I hand the half-cooked file, betwixt deadlines, to my successors. along with the web pages, and lots of goodwill and positive thought-beaming.

Yay and woo, ahem yes. It's now 123 days to go.

Onwards and upwards!

Friday, 7 December 2007

Christmas List (tragic)

I have just had the sad (in both the trad and pejorative modern senses) realization that one of the things I'd really like for Christmas is:

Four days alone in the office, no-one knows I am here, phone and internet disconnected, doing nothing but RUTHLESS tidying up till there are no piles of anything anywhere and just clear surfaces as far as the eye can see.

I can't tell you how sad it makes me feel that this is something I really rather covet and would prefer to several nice jumpers and pairs of socks. (But not a train set.)

Of course, this is not the only thing on my list. There are, believe me, larger and smaller things, more and less tangible both, but as you know this blog avoids serious thought at all costs so we shall stick to trivia. And I am here right now and this is what suddenly occurred to me as something I'd really quite love. The reason this came up now is I am on leave but in the office, because I am on my way to Manchester to see the Crown Princess, but my train goes a bit later so I came in early and have sneakily been working for a while with no-one knowing I am here, and it is marvellous.

Basically, there is something wrong with pretty much my entire Weltanschauung, really, isn't there? Oh well.

Thursday, 6 December 2007

Blognorance, and the Software of the Blogging; the splendidnosity of the technical installation

Blognorance

Dammit! I thought I had perhaps invented the term "blognorance" but Googling it brings up 83 references already. Probably about 82 of those people think they invented it too: indeed you can even see such a claim in one of the teeny random Google summaries ("we show you bits of random misleading text in order to save you time on getting randomly confused on the interwebnet - get randomly confused faster and better on one page!")

Sigh. Is there nothing new under the sun?
(Answer = no, lard boy, there is not.)

Software

Othergates: Windows Live Writer, despite its being a Micro$oft product, is something I have rather liked. Now, however, I can no longer save drafts to the online blogging server computer box device: it says it's saving a draft but it actually publishes it, which is a bit dirty-washing-in-public, if you ask me; oh you didn't, well never mind. (Update on 1st January: they have fixed this so save-draft-to-server now once more works like a charm. Hurrah.)

In the profound depths of my ignorance (would've-been blognorance, tsk) I do not know whether this is WLW or the server side playing up, nor do I know how I would find out. But one thing that strikes me is that my depending only on WLW or the web interface is going to help preserve this state of ignorance well past its sell-by date because I have no alternative to check against.

So ... what other blog client PC software, that would work well with this blog, should I look at? It doesn't have to be free, it does have to be good. Idiot-proof would be handy, too, as I work in computers and am therefore disgracefully and utterly rubbish with them. All suggestions gratefully read, and rewarded with chocolate where practicable and affordable. (Exceptions may apply, offer not available in all territories, your mileage may vary, close cover before striking.)

Note: I also did not invent "othergates", though I love it very much. I am pretty sure, though, that I know who did: it was my slowly mutating, interesting and amusing (and occasionally worrying) friend Verlaine from LiveJournal and before that from Monochrome, eee them were t'days. But if you think you invented "othergates" please do not hesitate not to write and tell me about it, ever.

... Update: of course, I am wrong, and it was an older word that went out of favour. Maybe Verlaine has reintroduced it? Sigh - I don't know, and certainly don't have time to research it. Isn't it annoying the way almost everything you "know" turns out, sooner or later, to be incorrect?

Splendidnosity of the technical installation

Some nice chaps are drilling holes at the office. Eventually this will lead - next week I think - to the installation of permanent LCD projectors for the seminar rooms. This in turn leads to the death - three rousing cheers - of the practices of grovelling around on the floor, running cable, installing safety strips and other bl**dy ludicrous wastes of time. I know it sounds trivial but I have spent HOURS - not one of them pleasurable, satisfying or worthwhile - doing this over the last almost-decade and it's a great pleasure to think that we will in future be perhaps just that tiny bit more professional and sorted. This is all the initiative of Jonathan, IT geezer for the cancer folk next door, and I would hug him were it not likely to be embarrassing. Yup, yup and yuppity yoooo!

Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Historical or Geological?

Having been all inspired by going to Paris (read: Orsay + Louvre) last weekend, I thought I should look for an art history book to try to fight a rearguard action against my tragic levels of ignorance. I wondered about just getting Gombrich (as in "you can't go wrong with Gombrich") but thought perhaps one should look at other possibilities so I visited the online shopping emporium of my friend Mr Amazon to see what I might see.

So I went :

Books >
Art, Architecture & Photography >
History of Art & Architecture

- which seemed reasonable, and there at NUMBER THREE in the list - which contains just over 42,000 titles but I am sure you know that - is this book:

Cliff: An Intimate Portrait of a Living Legend
by Tim Ewbank & Stafford Hildred
Virgin Books (6 Sep 2007)

Erm ... ermm ... ermmm ... most odd. In fact, Cliff's not even the only oddity in the Top Ten that I am seeing right now, though he is certainly the most surprising.

What goes on here? I mean, I could guess, but I'd love to know.

Update on 9th January 2008. If you do the same thing today, the list in general makes more sense. It is still a little odd, given what it says on the tin, but not, mostly, wildly off either. Cliff has gone - or at least he is no longer near the top, which will do. However, the no. 3 slot is now occupied by this:

Somebody Else's Kids: They Were Problem Children No One Wanted! Until One Teacher Took Them to Her Heart
by Torey L. Hayden
Harper Element (1 Oct 2007)

- which, although I am sure is a jolly good book, also seems on the face of it to have fairly little to do with "History of Art & Architecture". So ... two theories. (1) Slot no 3 on the list is haunted and this is the result of poltergeist activity; (2) some art student type is working as a product editor at Amazon and this is an elaborate piece of site-specific art they are doing as a project called "What Is Art History Really?" Next week the number three slot will be occupied by a book about aircraft carriers and then one on sheepdog trials. Eventually they will have at all put together as a nice slide show and we can all laugh at the sheer wackiness of it.



Unless of course you have a better explanation??? :)

Gig-a-behaviour-o-Blog™

I've just discarded - as excessively mad and angry even for me - two attempts at a gibberation about concert behaviour, inspired in part by Monday's lunchtime at St Anne & St Agnes. Here's a third try with fewer words and less passion.

Lunchtime concerts are special and different and it's reasonable up to a point to expect more noise, more comings and goings, and so on: one should be more tolerant, sure. I very much like the somewhat informal atmosphere. Nevertheless there are a few things which I feel would generally help:

  • Money. Don't touch any, ever, while music is playing. Just don't. At all.
  • Plastic bags. Ditto.
  • Applause. A tricky and highly specialized skill. If unsure, seek professional assistance.
  • Overrunning (lunchtime-specific note for musicians). Don't do it.

There. I almost feel better.

Tuesday, 27 November 2007

Gig-a-Blog™ (Anima String Quartet, St Anne & St Agnes)

Monday, 26 November 2007

Anima String Quartet. Haydn: String Quartet in C, Op 74 No 1; Bartók: String Quartet No 6.

A most enjoyable and interesting concert with the Haydn's cheerfulness contrasting strongly with the complexity and tension of the Bartók. Great ensemble playing throughout, and a wonderful solo viola start to the Bartók from Carolyn Ichinose.

I ought to be able to say a lot more about this excellent concert but, sorry, I'm exhausted and didn't feel like writing - so please feel free to ask for a refund. Thank you.

Monday, 26 November 2007

Lunar Landing

I was interested to hear, in a comment from Joel Garthwaite, that the Lunar Saxophone Quartet have a London gig coming up: it's on Tuesday 18th December, 7.30, at The Warehouse in Waterloo. If you have a look at the LSQ site, linked above, you'll find full details and ticket ordering and stuff.

To see why I am telling you about this please read my previous write-up of an LSQ gig at St Anne's. They are excellent. Nuff said.

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Strawberry Yoghurt - Onken Wholegrain Strawberry Biopot

A delicious, interesting and high-quality yoghurt in a great big pot. Difficult to imagine what could be better really.

The yog's USP is that it is bitty; it is full of bits. Bits is what is has got. And no, these are not strawberry bits (though I think they may also be present), but lovely grainy bits: wheat, oats, and stuff. Look:

"Onken Wholegrain Strawberry Biopot is made with wholemilk, three bio cultures and five different wholegrains of barley, oats, wheat, rye and rice. This combination works together to give this delicious yogurt it's mild, fresh and lovely chewy taste."

And you can't say fairer than that really. I'll be back to you about that apostrophe in a minute or two but just for now, yes they're right, it's delicious.

The texture - well, the texture is of course wonderful, and it's basically like you're chewing your way through a nice chunk of complicated granary bread. The colour is a very slightly troubling darker pink - I assume that that's why beetroot is listed in the ingredients. I guess that the manufacturers don't like the way it looks with just yoghurt and strawberries and feel that it needs to be, well, pinker.

Ratings:

A fabulously delicious yoghurt-meets-porridge delight. In a big pot!

Texture: 10

Pinkness: 8

Grelltt: 6

Apostrophe management: 0

More please now: 8.17

Sploorn: 9

Overall: 8.1

The OC:

500g

Strawberries 10%

112 kcal in a 100g serving

Ah yes ... just to return to the question of the apostrophe, I think it would be undignified to make a big silly fuss and go on about proofreading and illiterate graphic designers and everything , so I'll just say:

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRGHHH!

Thank you.

IP Address.04 – a week at Ingestre Pavilion: Part the Fourth

Which involves Mrs von Neustadt getting down and dirty - ooer indeed, missus - some stiles which lack style, and a windmill which is perfectly 'armless. A Daughter of the Nobility makes a rendezvous with her Doting Parents at a Railway Station on the West Coast Main Line.

Sunday, 26 August 2007

One of the main things today was collecting Martha from Stafford station, she having left Reading and its festival some hours earlier. Before this, Deb and I took Daisy for a somewhat more substantial walk, round the village of Bradley, that I'd downloaded from the Country Walking site. This walk was called Moats and Maidens and should have been 10.5km.

The walk was nice in many ways but a touch disappointing in others. The silly, self-inflicted bit was that we were short of time, which isn't good when you're meeting a train. It was also quite heavy going in a couple of ways:

  • Undermaintained stiles and gates, some hard to negotiate
  • Places where unavoidable stiles were overgrown with spiky, stingy, hurty stuff to the extent that it would have laughable were it not so ouchable
  • Routes diverted or unwelcoming - very obvious places where people had come over all NIMBY about the path, having first built their BY over the said path. Hmmm.
  • Because of stuff like this the map and description were sometimes wrong, or difficult to follow. You do expect this to an extent - things change! - but this had it more than usual.
  • Scary moo moos making life a touch too "interesting" once or twice. Funnier now than it was at the time.
  • A very unpleasant bit of walking up the side of an area growing strawberries. This wasn't field, path, verge nor quite a linear rubbish-dump but some weird amalgam of them all. Rough and tricky to walk on and difficult to believe that anyone could see it as a legitimate public footpath. Oh well.
  • I messed up the navigation once we'd realized we stood to be very late for Martha. We had to cut across country and make a much shorter loop than the plan, but like a twit I chose the wrong exit point and we had to relocate and go back. Oops.
  • And of course that means it wasn't anything like 10.5km, probably more like 6 or 7.
  • A ridiculous place where the map didn't work, a bridge seemed to perhaps be missing, and you simply couldn't continue without following the only possible path through a nasty flooded dip containing the Official Mud Reserves for the entire county of Staffordshire. We weren't really equipped for this. I got through it relatively dryshod till the last couple of steps when it all got a bit unstructured: Deb's more practical approach was just to charge through the mud barefoot which seemed yuk at the time but did involve her having drier feet for the rest of the walk. I'm like yeah, woo, babay.

I think, to cut a long story short (and Heaven knows I should sometimes) that we were suffering from this not being the Cotswolds! There, the tourist economy is clearly much bigger, the stiles are new, shiny and exquisite, and any nettle or bramble that dares show its face within five metres of the path is offered counselling and a fresh start. (Probably in Staffordshire, come to think of it. Aha - it all makes sense now...)

On the other hand this was, griping apart, a very pleasant landscape in which to be wandering. There were:

  • A gorgeous path up through a cornfield. Pre-war cinematic: really very nice. See photo at top.
  • Some lovely open semi-upland bits in the vicinity of ...
  • ... a very impressive ruined windmill on Butter Hill. This is wonderful as it is, but when you are staying in a Landmark you cannot help having Certain Thoughts.
  • Nice ambly bits with little woody/hedgy field-edge places, tiny plank bridges over ditches and the like, all feeling very small-scale and intricate.
  • Bradley's extremely pretty village centre where we started and finished the walk, right by the exquisite old church, just along from the exquisite old pub, and overlooking the exquisite old parish hall car park which would, if there's any justice, have topped the Readers' Poll in Exquisite Old Parish Hall Car Parks Monthly.

So although this walk certainly had its tricky moments it was far from a disaster and was generally enjoyable. Daisy had a dogologically excellent time too, being blissfully immune to many of the concerns expressed above, and preferring to concentrate on the dashing-about element of the walk, barking threateningly at groups of large and mooey animals, and other items thrillingly high on her somewhat specialized agenda.

After that it was a bit of a rush to get into Stafford and collect poor Martha, who ended up having to wait a while for us. Tsk bad parenting. But soon all was well and we were back on our way to the Pavilion.

I've got no further notes or photos for that day so I assume we just messed around at home. But it was great to have the Infanta Marfs added to the team and completing the family count; and it had been good to get Daisy out for a proper(ish) walk.

Revelation II

Revelation the second: in my trumpet news editing job I am sometimes too nice, and this can be a bad idea. (Yes, Colin: "Duh" indeed. You funny little chap you. See me afterwards.)

Here's the background:

  • Story submitter sends me an interesting email, but it is not a finished story.
  • I write back and say this is great but needs writing up... I can do it from what I've got here or you can do it.
  • He replies saying that I can do it, but then goes on to specify a change of emphasis, supplementary sources and so on. Huge long list of what he wants done. Like an idiot I fail to explain/protest/clarify/whatever so now, instead of editing a more-or-less finished story, I am writing and researching on his behalf.
  • So let's get this straight. I don't have time even to do my normal editing job properly and I almost never have time for my own writing (c.f. the Proms saga and its loooooong gestation, and many others like it [Morgan, Balsom et al]). Due, however, to my brilliant negotiating skills I am now in effect a commissioned author writing to the story submitter's specification, but unpaid. And cheesed off.
  • The story, far from being a finished object, is currently a kit of parts, a shopping list, and a sheet of assembly instructions.
  • Gah!!
  • This is NOT what I'm meant to do!
  • Have I mentioned that I'm an idiot?

Now. I've been here before. The only difference is that this time, having been ill several days and with the looming risk of a backlog developing (cue distant long low moaning sound), I've actually had the sense to call a halt. Ahem. Hurrah. Yes.

So ... I wrote to the story submitter and explained that I can't/won't work like that, and it's either going to be written by him or me - either is fine - but not by me under his direction.

I hasten to add that my email doesn't put it as bluntly as the paragraph above. I worked very hard to keep it very positive and nice, and couched it in non-resentful terms concerning how to get the story done well - also perfectly true. I cc'd my dear friend and supereditor Gary M in, and he kindly assures me that it reads OK and that what I've done is reasonable. (To be truthful, I know that it is, but, given my multiple personality defects, the reassurance is of course extremely welcome.)

Why have I hardly ever had the sense to do this before? It's sensible, it gets the job done, no-one gets hurt. I think my anxiety to please and to be seen to be "nice" has not done anyone any favours here.

Some other semi-random thoughts:

  • It's kind-of-my-fault anyway, in the sense that if I'd ever published clear guidelines then this issue would be in there. So some people would see the guidelines before they wrote in and it would be nipped in the bud, and then even if they did send a non-compliant story in I'd be able to point to the guidelines as a standard reference rather than writing long, late, defensive emails.
  • (Actually something like this did happen with the other almost-guidelines concerning content. They are not good, finished or appropriately presented yet, but even in their current grotty state they are a gigantic help.)
  • Yes, I do still intend as one of my pre-leaving acts to get some better guidelines up. Indeedy doody.
  • It's good to discover some clarity (even at this past-eleventh hour) but it does not need to be inflexible. I have in the past gone to great lengths for a story and this can continue, but only if the story is worth it, and that's the crucial difference. Of course if Maurice André sends me a story in then I'm not going to quibble about who's translating it. But that's the difference - I have to learn to recognize what is important and how to prioritize it, and not treat everything as if it were the Crown Jewels. It doesn't mean being nasty about "lesser" stories but just deciding where I can target the most limited resource, to wit: me.
  • You won't be able to work out which story this is, by the way: I don't think that would be fair. Details, timings, whatever, may have been altered or obfuscated to render identification impossible.
  • Why've I suddenly decided to be a bit more brisk in defending my own position/sanity/whatever? (And, indeed, the quality of service, to take a slightly longer view!) Isn't it a pity I've taken five years to do this? Is the timing a coincidence? Well I suppose it's probably, as you've guessed, that I am getting demob-happy (1, 2) to some extent. It's not that I don't care any more, far from it, but obviously as I am leaving in 143 days then my perspective has necessarily changed and I am perhaps learning some detachment, or impatience, or something, all of which I should have acquired earlier but was unable to. It's not exactly that I was that anxious to please or concerned about keeping the job (especially given the pay!) (goak here) but yes, something along those lines. I think what I'm doing now, the way I'm thinking, is perhaps a bit more grown-up. I like the job but do not have to bust a gut for it unless it is really worthwhile, and this particular case was better dealt with otherwise.
  • (Yes, I do know the exact number of days to 11th April 2008. Spreadsheet spreadsheet. Sad? Don't care!)
  • I cannot help but be strongly reminded of when I left my previous (day) job in IT/learning-centre support for students in an FE college somewhere north of the Thames. (This was an incredibly stressful time, about which I might write one day when sufficiently medicated and/or whiskied!) Once I appreciated that I was really leaving, and that it didn't exactly matter in the same way any more, I suddenly became the most efficient learning support manager - in respect of that dreadful bugbear of student behaviour - ever seen, because I really didn't care whether I was their friend or not, and as a result things actually got better. I suppose that I stopped worrying about whether I was "nice", and became more professional as a result. It was a good lesson but one which I seem to be chronically slow to learn: a pity.

And that's pretty much it. As I get closer to 11th April I suppose that things - these things, other things, just things - are bound to become clearer. I will just have to try to use the information sensibly, both in what I do for, ahem, posterity with the editing job (documentation, guidelines etc) and in what I do with my other work and life. Sounds a bit idealistic for me, doesn't it? Oh well ... onward, and, indeed, upward!

Revelation

Stand by for a major scientific insight:

  • I know that I run much better on sufficient sleep. Not just a bit better but personality-transplant, transfigured-night better.
  • At the moment I get far too little sleep almost every night. To say this is bad for me is a serious understatement.
  • Yes, I'm an idiot. But you knew that.
  • I can't get up later. The very set, OCD-ish nature of my mornings is how I cope with the grim reality of being a Sad Old Fat Commuter. It's not negotiable.
  • If I can't get up later and I am getting insufficient sleep then I need to go to bed earlier.
  • QED.

Phew. I'm glad I got that sorted out. Onwards and upwards!

Gig-a-Blog™ (Rupert Luck & Daniel Swain, St Anne & St Agnes)

Monday, 19 November 2007

Rupert Luck, violin, and Daniel Swain, piano; Parry: Sonata in D minor for Violin and Pianoforte. Adagio-Allegro; Andante; Rondo: Allegro con fuoco. Walton: Sonata for Violin and Piano. Allegro; Variazioni [in nine bits all of which I can't possibly key in or we'd be here till Wednesday: Ed.]

I've been off sick for nearly all of last week and even before that I'd recently been to fewer concerts at St Anne's than I'd like. So it is frankly blissful to be back here; even more so because it is another concert of Parry-Plus from the dream team of Luck and Swain. The only thing to slightly temper my delight is the awareness that this is the last concert in this very fine series, as he wrote no more sonatas: chiz.

Parry:

  1. Beautiful, flowing, impassioned. I simply love these people's playing.
  2. Simple gorgeous song-like melody giving way to exciting piano-in-flames stuff before the sprinklers cut in and cool it all down for a calm, meditative ending.
  3. Wow! Can a rondo be majestic? This was. It's a fantastic big meaty tune given full measure on its every appearance, with all sorts of wonderful stuff going on in the, er, between-bits as we advanced musical scholars like to call them. But perhaps the most brilliant, symphonic moment was just near the end where the piano borrows the big rondo tune, knocks seven kinds of h*ll out of it, and in so doing is accompanied by the violin playing a frenzy of, er, nanoquavers as if there's something very alarming going to happen really quite soon. It's incredible. And Luck and Swain just zoom effortlessly through with their usual warmth and precision.

Fabulous. I do hereby declare that, following this sonata series I will never underrate Parry again. Oh and I really, really want my CD now please!

Walton:

Sad story regarding its composition for Menuhin. I wasn't sure exactly this tale was to be taken: depending on how you read it Menuhin was either a staunch friend and support to Walton in time of trouble, or a bit exploitative. Walton was in desperate straits with a very sick friend and Menuhin's commission paid for medical care and added an incredible piece to the repertoire. On the other hand, surely, Menuhin could have just given him a big bag of money and said "let's sort it all out later"? Or maybe Menuhin knew that Walton needed the act of wrlting, not just the money? If I'm missing the point here please do write and tell me.

  1. Hesitant, unsettled and I even thought I detected a slight moment of Waltonesque loucheness - almost too knowing at times as he can be. It does seem to get very anguished - but then is it tempting to read too much into this piece once you know the story?
  2. I then got pretty disorientated among the thickets and undergrowth of the many variations. I hate it when this happens as it makes me feel thick and inattentive. Both perfectly true of course but that's not the point. I found myself again wishing for the score: but would that look awful, like a nerdy music student type? Hmm.

Anyway.

Later on I seem to have defogged myself sufficiently to say:

  • Wonderfully spooky disconnected bit with violin pizzicato accompaniment to somewhat fragmented piano tune - unsettling - stays thus till the violin retrieves the melody and imposes a greater shape and continuity. (But I prefer the mad disjointed tick-tock version)
  • Absolutely beautiful broad muted melody.
  • Sizzling finale.

And that's your lot. It was an amazing work and it received a superb, committed performance. I didn't exactly go out whistling it but it was pretty exciting. Another case where I think I'll be needing a recording, to build on this brief acquaintance.

This has been a really good concert series. I'm sad that there's no more Parry but I do hope we'll have more of these great players.

Monday, 19 November 2007

Thank Heaven, Carruthers, the magma dome has subsided over the last four years ...


... tell the villagers that they may move back in.

Erm.

Erm.

Erm. Oh never mind; I should probably get a life shouldn't I?

Disappointment

I was reminded this morning of a bit of a disappointment and I thought I would mention it in case it interests you.

As the attentive reader will know it was my 50th birthday (sob) this year. I haven't written much about it, not out of serious disinclination but just because it was a very busy time and the birthday itself was soon in the background as we had our joint 100th party coming up very quickly afterwards. So I had forgotten something important...

Today Martha and her friend Ben S and I met for breakfast at a café, indeed the nice café in Whitecross Street, "Sliced and Squeezed", which I mentioned some time ago. Martha and Ben were on their way to LSO St Luke's to participate in a quartet coaching thing where they were to get some Quality Time with a nice LSO viola player working with them on some Beethoven and Joplin (that well-known quartet composer) before doing a little performance-ette. All very nice and yet another reflection of the wonderful Special Relationship between the LSO and Camden which has been such a benefit to the school. (Ahem and the orchestra too no doubt.)

I happened to say in passing that we were just round the corner from Herbert Grönemeyer's record label's London office (if you'll pardon the nested possessives) which, being a huge fan, I find very exciting. I was unprepared for the tirade from Martha which then ensued.

The thing I'd forgotten - old fool - is this: that on the morning of my birthday, during the traditional festivities and eating of croissants et al, Martha mentioned that one present she had tried to organize had not worked out as she hoped. She'd written regarding my birthday, and asking for some kind of greetings or response or something, to all three of my very favourite non-classical musicians:

And the results?

Total musicians approached = 3

Total responses received = 0

Now I find this a bit sad. To be precise, I am not really surprised but I am still disappointed. On the one hand I do know that these are busy people and they probably get 8000 requests a day from people with 50-year-old dads, sick kids, golden weddings or whatever. Fine, it's difficult, I should have such problems. On the other hand they are successful wealthy people and the reason for that is fans buying their music, and you'd think that a little bit of effort in this might pay dividends. But perhaps this is not so and they know that we will stay loyal even if annoyed with them ... and indeed I will probably not boycott their next albums because they cold-shouldered Martha. So the ruthless economics of it - it's not worth being nice to individuals - do perhaps just work and make commercial sense: but it's still not pleasant. Ignoring people never is, and ways to avoid it do not, I believe, have to be catastrophic for any organization. I think you could get a lot of goodwill benefit for relatively little outlay. But hey.

If asked I think I would have forecast that it would not work, but of course Martha wanted it to be a nice surprise so naturally I was not asked. I think she thought that by approaching all three of them she'd improved her chances of getting maybe one reply but this was not to be.

  • I wrote to Herbie what I hoped was quite an interesting letter some years back, after I'd been to his gig in Düsseldorf, but had no response: my hope that an English fan writing to him from England might garner a response was not correct.
  • On Herbie's message boards it seems to be well-accepted that he and his people will never respond to anything.
  • I wrote to Peter Gabriel years ago about a matter of (to me) great profundity, i.e. boring routine fanmail for him, and did at least get a polite reply from some functionary. Clearly the accepted standard has changed since then.
  • I have not tried writing to Nick Cave but, d'you know, I think I might just not bother getting round to it now. Let's be honest, he's probably not losing sleep over me.

It's not - at the risk of stating what I hope is obvious - that I am upset on my own behalf, although a Happy Birthday Vogel note from Herbie, Nick or Peter would, indeed, have been a Pretty D*mned Fine Thing To Have. I am, on the other hand, very cheesed off at the discourtesy towards Martha and the way she's been left feeling let down by my idols, whose feet of clay are now somewhat more obvious than before. I felt angry and embarrassed and somewhat guilty, and if that is not reasonable of me, well hey, I do have these defence mechanisms in respect of my children and they are not easily governed by commercial logic.

There's no great discovery here, no huge reason for astonishment. It's just a bit sad, and makes me feel a bit sad, is pretty much all. I think it is utterly fantastic that she tried, and a really brilliant and nice idea, and yet I almost wish she had not tried as she'd have been saved the disappointment.

The rest of my birthday was better than this. Well done the Infanta Marfs for the attempt, and boo sucks to famous people, no matter how much I love their tunes.

If I am ever a famous author (hahahahahaha) or whatever and I forget this lesson, please boot me up my fat *rse. Thank you.

Saturday, 17 November 2007

Would you please ...

... stop messing around and just throw the d*mned ball? Thank you so much.

(Coldfall Wood playing fields, yesterday afternoon.)

Monday, 12 November 2007

IP Address.03 – a week at Ingestre Pavilion: Part the Third

In which we discover a Philosophy of Visiting, A Shugborough, some Persons Confused about the Date, a Splendid Stone Bridge and a Plashy River.

Saturday, 25 August 2007

One of the joys of this kind of holiday is the Sussing Out of the Possible Trips. Sure, everyone wants variety and interest and may have their own agendas, but at the same time it's self-limiting to some extent - after all we're in a historic building near Stafford, so activities like, say, scuba diving on a coral reef, or dancing drunkenly all night in a karaoke bar, are probably marginally less likely than outings involving, say, things owned by the National Trust, and/or a nice cup of tea. (Admittedly it's only ten minutes into Stafford town centre so maybe the karaoke is achievable. But you get my drift.)

If you then factor in one of us using a wheelchair and another who prefers to get around on four furry feet, and if you prefer to keep the group together as far as possible, then your options do seem to become somewhat fewer. You don't have to actually draw the Venn diagram to perceive that the intersection, that bit in the middle there, might not be exactly overcrowded.

What this boils down to is that this was The Holiday of Garden Visits. I mean, if you look at it, a garden visit is pretty near perfect for this kind of jolly. As long as it has some kind of access and the pooch is not totally unwelcome then you're in business. If it happens to have a nice café, and that café happens to have an outdoor bit, and the weather happens to be (perhaps atypically and unpatriotically) good, then you are cooking on gas. And so it was for us: very lucky with the weather, lots of gardens found in a nice leaflet, a few phone calls and hey presto!

You do tend to miss out a bit on certain dog- and/or wheelchair-unfriendly bits but it's amazing what a bit of compromise can achieve. I have toyed with the idea of trying to pass Daisy off as an assistance dog but I feel it could be tricky...

Meanwhile back at Ingestre we've decided that gardens are, like, where it's at, and off we go to Shugborough.

This was a fantastic day out at a truly excellent house. In order to avoid recounting the day in more-or-less realtime, here are some bullet points:

  • It's owned by the National Trust but run by the county council, and a very fine job they do too.
  • It's the ancestral home of the Earls of Lichfield, hence Patrick Lichfield the photographer. But you can read all that stuff on the website.
  • I quite like the house itself but others, including my Dear Wife Bless Her, think it's somewhat ugly. I think Coadstone comes into this somewhere but am not sure. Webbity website.
  • The estate is fantastically complete, unsundered, together, and other such adjectives. One of the council sites mentions it as "the UK's only complete working historic estate".
  • They do some pretty advanced boasting about this on a long series of signboards as you drive in. You can't blame them, it's terrific. So it's not just the house and parkland but loads of other stuff like the farm, mill, dairy, kitchen garden and the like...
  • ... and some splendid follies!
  • We parked in their clever, newish parking setup. Because masses of parking right by the house was ruining the look of the place, they moved it some distance away, created a new entrance building, and laid on accessible shuttles and varyingly accessible walks to connect it all back to the house. We judged this whole thing to be a monster success and a great way to approach the house without seeing it begirt with the fine products of Messrs Ford et al.
  • Just after the entrance thingy is a walled (kitchen?) garden thingy peopled with horny-handed sons and indeed daughters of toil doing gardenistic things. Signs warn you that they think it's 1805, so please don't be an *rse and ask them if they have an iPod (in effect).
  • The ones to whom we spoke did it very well and, if the conversation did threaten to stray into the undiscussable, coped with it well using probably-stock responses: "Oi wouldn't know nor not nuffin 'bout that, Zur, Oi've nevurr bin nor not nor foive moiles frum our Mam's front door Zur." OK so my accent seems to have slipped a little (funny when I am so good at the dramatic arts in general) but you get the drift.
  • Actually I think it would better if the 1805 people were allowed to react a bit more when some inevitable p*ll*ck starts baiting them on, I don't know, the internet, my dad's salary, Freud, nuclear weapons, cars, pole dancing, Ant and Dec. The staff should be allowed to start hitting the malicious anachronist with their historically-accurate 1805 shovels while shrieking "Witchcraft! Burn the witch!" Word would get round, I'm sure.
  • Eschewing the very-accessible tarmac route we chose the slightly-less accessible way across parkland. This, however, was bone-dry so actually it was pretty good, and a beautiful way to reach the house. We passed a rather gorgeous folly en route, too.

Erm what else? Ah yes:

  • Nice lunch in the splendid outdoor bit of the café.
  • Truly excellent wander round the grounds, which are beautiful.
  • Lots of very clever sculptures: insects, made out of bicycle parts. Brilliant. Hiding in the grass, up trees, all over the place.
  • More follies, including a Chinese house, a pretend ruin, and other excellent nonsense.
  • At one corner we escaped out of Shugborough's grounds to a very pretty place where the narrow but substantial Essex Bridge crosses the river. Lots of fun, dog swimming across the river, paddling, and more. Really extremely pleasant.
  • After that there's a very nice canal bit with a lock and beautiful narrowboats moored. We left Lottie trying to sort out an accessible cup of tea while we went back for the car, via the rather jolly accessible bus thingy ...
  • ... but that didn't work out due to the timing so we just picked her up, did a little shopping, and had a scenic drive home via the other Landmark in Tixall. I think we probably got our cuppa once back at the pavilion.

In the evening Deb and I took the dog down to another (but connected) canaloid place and had a lovely walk. This, to my great excitement, included Tixall Wide and I should explain sometime why this is a Big Deal for me.

The walk was quite hard work once or twice. A lot of the boats have resident dogs so this made Daisy nervous. Quite a lot of boats were cooking or eating outside which made Daisy nosy and greedy, and us nervous! It was a great walk and a fascinating area though: I think the blacksmith's boat was perhaps the most impressive that we saw.

All excellent stuff - a good day out and a nice walk. Thank you and good night.

Bad choice of music for rushing down the stairs at Bounds Green tube...

... the escalator being hors de combat and me being late due to an, er, alarm clock programming mishap...

That would be Shostakovitch Symphony no 10, second movement. By the time I reached platform level I was not only moving at approximately double the safe speed for a gentleman of my years and build hem hem, but also ready to start a punch-up.

Memo to self: on safety grounds stick to first movements of early Haydn quartets for the next such descent, and amble down beaming. You know it makes sense.  

Sunday, 11 November 2007

The Last Post & Remembrance Day

Update: if you have just come here to find out how to pronounce Reveille or Rouse then you might want to jump straight there if you're in a hurry. Or stay and read through; you're very welcome ...
I was on the bus home in a slightly grumpy mood on Friday night, thinking that it was a pity I didn't have a Last Post gig for today. I enjoy this duty and feel that it's something that it's important to do as a kind of community service thing. I don't think it is necessary to be religious or militaristic to hold this view (though regular readers will of course be aware that I am fanatically both), merely to recognize that it's a moment when trumpet players have something to offer that has this unusual and very specific application to the wider community, or to our sense of history, or obligation, or whatever. I could expand on this at length but, you'll be relieved to hear, I shall not. Not right now anyway.

Anyway, the mobile telecommunications device interrupted my gig-less gloom. It was a nice man called Joel who is Director of Music at St James Muswell Hill, seeking a trumpetistic person to do the Last Post on Sunday. My pal Pete D had put him onto me. I discussed it at home then called him back: well, yes actually, I was free, so we sorted out times and stuff and discussed my fee - which fee (it now being Friday night and the gig being Sunday, and these facts endowing me with colossal negotiating power) would of course be massive.

Oh alright. But I would much rather you thought I was a ruthless moneygrubbing swine: it suits my image. Actually what happened is that Joel politely offered me some money and I politely declined, and both of these things are right and proper and just how it should be. My quasi-moral stance on this is complex to say the least (and probably does not bear too close an examination) but basically I would charge the church in Chelsea who've had me do it there, and I would possibly not charge something which is my local church or close thereto, which St Jim's is, or where I have a personal connection, which is also true there. It's nonstraightforward. This issue is discussed endlessly on TPIN and elsewhere (often apropos of the Last Post's US equivalent, Taps, but it is effectively the same debate), and no satisfactory conclusion is ever reached. Among the issues that are often raised are that we have an obligation; that the vicar, organist etc are not doing it as a freebie; that we have a living to make too... You can imagine that it's a tricky area to discuss calmly and that terms like Weekend Warrior and accusations of dilettantism and profiteering get cheerfully chucked around as if they did not hurt. The Taps situation is certainly more acute (separate article needed here!) but as I say the arguments are similar.

I showed up at the church around 10 on Sunday having been called for 10.30. The previous service was still on so I wandered around a bit and said hello to Lesley and John at the Children's Bookshop.

Eventually I got in, unpacked, taped the music to the stand (yeah, you bet, see PPPPPP and anyway it was disposable music!) and met Joel. He's nice and he, the organist (whose name I did not catch) and the vicar, Alex, are all very clued-up so it was easy to get a good briefing and be very clear on cues etc. Joel had initially been uncertain as to whether I was playing anything after the silence but he'd checked and it turns out they wanted Reveille, which usually means that they really want the Rouse. What? Yup, that's right. There is terrible confusion about this and if you ask too many questions you just upset people and cause unnecessary brow-furrowing. So I did Vogel's Standard Operating Procedure 11a and grabbed the most senior and clued-up- and nice-looking ex-military person there and said "when you hear Reveille at the end, is this what you're expecting?" and played him the start of the Rouse. He nods, no more is said, we both go off happy. This is discussed in boring and confusing detail at this Last Post page which is desperately in need of sorting out and updating. (I will try to have a word with the lazy slob responsible for it.)

And orf we went. We stopped halfway through the first hymn, and the vicar and British Legion people processed down to the West end where the war memorials are and did wreathy things. Alex the vicar did the "we will remember them" poem/prayer thing, a terrible tearjerker but fortunately I was thinking about the Accursed Bugle and was therefore immune. I played the Last Post. I was surprisingly nervous - I'd forgotten that this is quite a pearly moment and there's not exactly an orchestra to hide behind. I cracked one note a bit - fortunately not the full horrendous splattering treatment, but more of a quick ricochet - and then had to try very hard to keep all the rest of it under control and not let that trash it (Inner Game!) Apart from that I think it was reasonably OK and may have sounded alright. After the two minutes (timed and cued by Alex, thanks) I did the Rouse, except that only you and I and the church's music staff know that, because everyone else thinks it was Reveille. Muahahaha knowledge is power (or something).

After more prayerfulness it was back to the hymn (slight crash gearchange back up to C from my Bb but hey) for its remaining three verses so I played along, I mean what else would you do? Stand there like a lemon? No thanks.

Joel had very kindly said - unprompted - that I could snurgle off once I was finished playing rather than stay for the rest as I was at the back and pretty much out of sight except during the actual remembrance-specific bit. I hung around till there was a tactful exit moment (two-to-eleven year-olds and trumpet players may now leave) and then zipped off and had breakfast, having had neither time nor inclination to eat beforehand. No-one was home so I treated myself to that comfy cafe just the other side of Sainsburys. Very nice.

I felt that being at St James to play was a pleasant and not totally unimportant thing to do on this particular morning.

I should add that I am indebted to Martha for talking me into saying yes when I was vacillating over orienteering, which I missed. As she points out, this event just happens once a year and I would have been furious with myself had I declined it.

Useful pronunciation note: please do not, ever, get caught trying to pronounce "Reveille", in the context of the bugle call, as if it were a French word. Mais non! It isn't. Not any more, not in this particular little corner of meaning. As the warm-hearted simpleton at lastpostbuglecall.org.uk puts it:

"Reveille" is one of those Franglicized words that now has an accepted UK English pronunciation. If you try to say it sounding French, people will raise their eyebrows and think you a mite pretentious. The standard English pronunciation is something like "ruhVALLey".

- So there you go. What he said.

Update: while I'm at it ... apparently some people also want to know how to pronounce "Rouse". I guess it's not a word you usually get to say all that often, or something. It is pronounced as if it is the plural of "row" (in the sense of an argument not a collection of things in a line) which gives us: I have been having terrible rows with the IT people = I have been having terrible Rouse with the IT people. (Uh??) If you prefer, rhyme it with "cows", at least in RP, Oxford English etc, but go too far north and all cow-pronunciation bets are off!
I watched the Cenotaph service on telly later and have taped (or whatevered) the Festival of Remembrance from the Royal Albert Hall for later dissection. It's always trumpetistically interesting.

Vogel out.

PS Some time I would like to write more on:

  • Remembrance and military funerals
  • Taps, Last Post and other calls
  • The excellent Doug Hedwig, and art-music vs utility in trumpet and horn calls
  • Suitable instruments
  • Bugles Across America and why we don't (as far as I understand it) have this problem in the UK

... but goodness knows when!

PPS Picture courtesy of The Royal British Legion.

Getting things right - does it matter?

Does accuracy actually matter, and should I bother to get cross when people are sloppy?

I suppose the mental-health-correct answers are No and No. However, I would just like to go AAAAAAAARRRGGGGHHH for a moment before directing your attention to a page at Musicroom.com where you can buy the music for the Last Post, a topic back to which I shall come.

Here's their description of what you get when you buy this music:

  • Calvary Last Post
  • Calvary Reveille
  • Infantary Last Post
  • Infantary Reveille

Just tell me - how hard is it to get this right? I do find this pretty pathetic.

Just in case you are at sea with these spellings, and to try to be helpful through my gritted teeth:

  • Infantry is foot-soldiers
  • Cavalry is mounted soldiers, formerly on Dobbin, now mostly in tanks
  • Infantary is just garbage
  • Calvary is the place where Christ was crucified

I am going off in a grump now, as soon as I have emailed Musicroom.com. Gak!!!!

Tuesday, 6 November 2007

Influence-o-blog™

The splendid fiddleist Rupert Luck (1, 2) wrote very nicely to ask if he could quote from this blog. I am absolutely bowled over with flatterization (or is it flatternity) that someone should wish to do so. Presumably he will have to avoid letting on that it was written by a knuckle-dragging brass-player who cannot count over ten without shoes and socks off and who occasionally wears (metaphorically speaking) a Pickelhaube with semi-comedic intent while editing. But hey.

Clearly my master-plan is working and this blog is becoming massively influential. It is now only a matter of time before I have strawberry yoghurt manufacturers coming grovelling to me, begging to be allowed to buy me out or to bribe me, before I bankrupt them with my scathing reviews. Muahahaha, as they say, ahahah.

Mark O'Keeffe

A nice and eminent trumpet player called Mark O'Keeffe sent me a CD, Apocalypse, of some of his work. I had written him wide-eyed fanmail because this video clip from a 2006 theatre production is so wonderful and brilliant and extraordinary that when I came across it late the other night I thought my head was going to explode with amazement. He is a proper, good, skilled classical trumpet player doing weird*rse theatrical stuff that gives me goosebumps, against a sort of Cosmic Synth Disaster backing peppered with quotations from Kennedy's inaugural speech. Now don't get me wrong - I have nothing against mainstream trumpet playing and I like to hear the Hummel as much as the next man or woman (as long as it it not me who is playing it). Indeed Mark is the principal trumpet with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra so I imagine it's not like he doesn't do Mahler 5 if you ask nicely. But, sheesh, this is something else.

The reason I looked Mark up on the interwebnet was that I heard someone on Radio 3 a while back raving about his solo new trumpet music album Knight Errant. I'd give you a link if I could but it's on the excellent Delphian label. The R3 person admitted that he'd normally rather swim through a sewage farm with his mouth open (I may be paraphrasing a little here but to be honest the presenter's slight superciliousness about trumpet music did leave a touch of an unwelcome taste in the mouth) than listen to such an album - but then hit his unsuspecting listeners with the revelation that this one was actually rather good. Certainly, the bit I heard was excellent - I think it was the Peter Maxwell Davies piece Litany for a ruined chapel between sheep and shore, which I've heard a few times recently. So ... that CD's on order, I've got a bee in my bonnet about the Apocalypse video piece, and I am now the proud owner of a CD of that one too. I am a happy bunny, and very pleased to have stumbled across the work of this innovative and excellent player.

Forgot-the-gig-a-blog™

I was in the common room at lunchtime yesterday when Deb (Mrs von Neustadt to you) rang and said inter alia "didn't you go to the concert?"

I am deeply embarrassed to say that I forgot. It is baffling to me to admit that but it is, sadly, true. Work was and is very very difficult right now, but I don't blog about that much so hey. Anyway I had had my head down all morning in the most serious way and was not really aware of what day it was, and simply forgot to go. I am very very annoyed with myself. (Yeah makes a nice change eh Vogel?)

This is what I missed:

Monday 5 November:  Mary Pells viola da gamba Martin Knizia harpsichord.  J S Bach: Sonatas in G Major, BWV 1027; in D Major, BWV 1028; in G Minor, BWV 1029

Dammit! I'd have enjoyed that. What an idiot. Oh well: there is always Friday.

Looking and leaping

The regular, riveted reader (hello?) may have noticed me wittering on about tidying up, structurally, on the trumpet news web pages after which I currently look.

I started last night and it's been a disaster. As I write, the PC at home is grinding away downloading the whole blessed subsite again - squillions of zetabytes - because the local copy is now such a pig's ear that it's unrescuable. Well done that Vogel. Naturally I did not back the whole site up before I started as that would have taken time and been intelligent. It is only good luck that prevented me from wrecking the online version too: I realized what was going on early enough that I was able to stop it uploading before utter disaster overtook me. There probably will be some pain-in-the-neck consequences but not much compared to how it could've been.

Things to note:

  • It's sometimes quite a good idea to take a backup before carrying out major change. Yeah really. Even if you are sure you know what you are doing.
  • In fact, being sure you know what you are doing should always be taken as a portent of disaster round the next corner. Especially if you are me.
  • Dreamweaver can tell you that it's OK to move or delete things when actually it's not. How so? It's usually very reliable on this: one of the reasons I love it so much. But when the links are inside scripts, maybe not! The old pages which I was trying to sort out were written using NetObjects Fusion (nb nb this is not Cold Fusion!) and contain eight billion lines of JavaScript. Dreamweaver doesn't see links in this so it will quite happily let you move or delete files that the scripts need. Oops. As in: big oops.
  • I don't know if Dreamweaver is better about links in scripts which it generated; nor whether perhaps there's some way of turning on the more detailed checking that could have saved me from making this terrible Horlicks out of everything.
  • I apologize for the pejorative use of Horlicks. It's good stuff and I love it.
  • I don't think you can easily edit pages generated by NetObjects Fusion unless you have it. Certainly, Dreamweaver has no idea how to display them and shows you a gigantic mess. If at this stage you had the Dreamweaver "automatically fix errors on opening" feature turned on (which I never do), then you'd have just wrecked the page. Maybe if you were a script guru then you could just work directly on the code, but if you want to use a nice editor (yes that would be me) then I suspect that there is no alternative. There's no point at all in buying NetObjects Fusion at this stage, no matter how good it is.
  • Interestingly, something similar came up on the SocPsych subsite I manage for one the bits of the "Medical Research Centre" (thank you Kia) where I work. I was able to do minor changes by hand but as soon as anything bigger was required I couldn't get near it without Fusion. Since we didn't want to buy and learn this we just redid the whole thing in Dreamweaver, and have not looked back.
  • Redoing these ITG pages isn't really an option. They are just an archive of old stuff going back to 1998 and should just be left, not have endless effort expended on them.
  • I think I am probably going to have to give up on most of the intended restructuring. I can do some minor admin bits but the moves of these old stories and graphics - which I thought were of minor difficulty - are now almost impossible without acquiring software or spending a lot of time tweaking code by hand. I feel too old and tired to do this latter. It is a pity that the pseudo-root of /news is littered with all this historical garbage but it is not actually causing harm.
  • There is an argument that says that as I have tolerated these somewhat messy structures for five years I should just shrug and walk away. It would certainly have been nice and friendly to sort it out for my successors but as it is it may be wise to just make sure they understand the issues, and leave them to it.
  • There's one bit of restructuring I could still do that only involves moving some graphics files so that they are closer to the html files that need them. This would make editing far easier, and I know that in the last five years there has been no script involvement here. I might do this (having taken a backup) as it is almost guaranteed safe and free of consequences, other than the intended ones for the convenience of the editor.
  • Oh dear, I am generally a bit narked. As usual, it was self-inflicted, and well-intentioned, which does not make it less annoying, believe me. Tsk.

Friday, 2 November 2007

Newsy news: nearly up to date

I can't believe that I am writing this but I am sort of, nearly, almost up to date with my trumpet news editing job. This is so fantastic - it's simply wonderful to be typing those words. This morning I printed out and put in the post a letter relating to the most recent story and that is pretty much all that can be done directly with stories at present.

Nothing, of course, is ever quite that simple so there are one or two caveats which, until they are dealt with, will probably prevent the opening of champagne:

  • I've lost the paperwork on a non-story which I am currently struggling to resolve. This is pretty annoying. I have written them a nice letter but I cannot post it without some detail I need from their letter, and I cannot carry out a promise to pass some music on to Gary for them until I find it all. It has been around for months and for me to mislay it now causes rage of apoplectic proportions.
  • If/when I resolve that one, that really is me up to date with all current story-submission-type entities. This would be jolly good. Sure, there will always be a few lurking around that are semi-current, marked BITC (Ball In Their Court) but that's fine and perfectly healthy. I only have to feel guilty about the ones where the said ball is in my court.
  • However that still leaves two tasks I'd like to see done, or at least studied and some decision taken, before the corks go pop ...
  • ... The first of these is some work tidying up inside the news directory structures on the web. I can't remember if I have told you this before so forgive me if I have, but it's all a bit of a mess, having grown organically rather than really being planned. So some directory names and structures are illogical, the news pseudo-root, which should be almost empty, is badly littered with ancient individual news stories and graphics files, and so on. It would be good - and a gift to my successors - to tidy this all up a bit. Various levels of tidy are possible and there are, of course, issues about the disruption of existing URLs and how the effects of this may be ameliorated. But if at least I sat down and thought it through properly, and maybe moved an ancient story and graphic or two, this would be a lot better than doing nothing.
  • The other thing is to write some decent guidelines for submitting stories. Again, sorry if I have already droned on this topic. But it causes massive waste of time, for both story submitters and the editorial staff, that we don't have this. It wouldn't be that hard to do, and the part on "what it is OK to submit" already more or less exists. It needs that part tidying up, and the practical bit adding - how many words, how to send graphics, how to not drive me insane (refrain from embedding your graphics in Word [gah!!] or using some cute cheapo photo album editor to embed them WITH NASTY COLOURED FRAMES in horrid HTML email messages) and so on. Eminently doable. If I can do something - almost anything - about these guidelines then I will be very happy indeed.

So really it is just those few bullet points that are standing between me and the champagne'n'pies that I crave. If I can just keep my head above water, keep the current momentum going, keep dealing with new stories as they come in, keep at it when BITC changes over to BIMC, make some progress with these last few ideas, and find that d*mned letter then I might just make it through to 11th April 2008 in something like a happy and almost respectable state.

Onwards and upwards!

Thursday, 1 November 2007

Aargh! Please proffred thnigs more caerful.

In connection with a tiny projectette (which will show up here sooner or later) I recently bought some G&S online from MSN Music UK which for some reason (whose name may well be laziness) has become my music supplier de choix for use with Wretched Young People's Online Netweb Web Net Interweb Music Digital Download Systems That Communicate With The Pocket Phonogram.

(Exactly why am I buying G&S? Long story. Now not Tamsin.)

Anyway, I just wanted to tell you how MSNMUK let the Year 10 Work Experience kid do the data entry here, as indeed they do with most of their classical repertoire. How do I know this to be the case (aha, anticipatory pun setup)? Because I am now the proud owner of eighteen tracks called various titles, but all beginning "Trail By Jury: "

Arf, and arf again I say.

Clue for the Bewildered: Trail by Jury is not the name of a G&S comic opera.

Diesel

The smell of a diesel engine running sometimes has an odd effect on me.

It says two things and nothing much else:

I don't quite know how this operates. I only notice the association when it is positive, that is, I never catch myself thinking "diesel engine but no ice-cream/Saltburn association" so I don't know if it is only some subtype of diesels that does this, or what. Certainly, when I was a young child I possibly did not come across diesels much apart from those two delightful instances, and the effects of subsequent encounters (including living in the Big Smoke for 28 years and indeed the fact that one of our extensive fleet of near-wrecks is diesel-powered) do not seem to have had much influence on that very early connection, which is still very strong. I walked past an Agrekko generator powering building work at Florin Court last night and as it exhaled over me I was instantly transported about 220 miles northwards to a land of childhood bliss.

In other news, yesterday was the 33rd anniversary of my Dad's death. I don't usually blog about very personal stuff so we may as well stick with Saltburn and you can try and guess if there's a link. It does make me feel quite old, though.

Hubris punished

I am pretty annoyed right now.

Having been told last night of someone being nice about this blog I suppose I was probably feeling smug and deserved punishing.

As I think I have mentioned before, nearly all of this blog is written on my HP Ipaq PDA while commuting. This morning I was "working" on some more of the Ingestre Pavilion stuff (1, 2) which is somewhat overdue for fettling and display, it now being more than two months after its marked shelf-life, oops.

I got an idea which I was quite enjoying writing about, indeed so much so that I skipped swimming (fool) and continued working on it through breakfast, writing pretty continuously from 7.00 to about 8.20. I should not be immodest as it clearly invites more punishment but I was really quite "into it" (whatever that may mean) and even chuckled once or twice at my own scintillating wit. Fool, Vogel, fool.

At 8.20 I tried to save it and encountered a problem with Word on my PDA which has happened annoyingly often recently, and it would not save. I have a workaround for this so I implemented the said workaround and then found to my horror that I had suffered a Procedural Accuracy Excursion and that every word I had written had vanished.

At this point, I was not at all happy.

I am well aware that it is only writing, that it does not really matter, that this trifling accident has not affected worldwide starvation or persecution, gun control, the next Olympics, or even the price of strawberry yoghurt. Despite this effort to take several deep breaths and then several more, and retain some sense of perspective, I am really quite annoyed. I don't usually get so enthusiastic about writing something that it would keep me going like that. Ironically, less enthusiasm would have saved it (in both senses) as with the usual interruptions I would have kept having to save (aha) the file and would thus have encountered the problem earlier or even several times - I could simply not have destroyed the entire document with one mistake.

I have been working in or with computers for around thirty years and the sort of baby mistake I made is the sort of thing that makes me sigh at the naivety of users, as long as they are not me.

Despite the unimportance of what has happened I do feel a sneaking sympathy with the unfortunate Stephen Thrasher, he of the "laptop helpdesk tape" that went round the world in a trice some years ago and was much included in songs and the like. "And everything I've been working on for the past two ********* ****** years of my life is gone!" Poor Mr Thrasher. I've only lost a few pages.

A mature attitude would call for me to say that I will simply rewrite it and that it will be better the second time round, a well-worn writers' cliche if ever I heard one. Unfortunately I do not have this mature attitude and am still busy being angry, especially as there is really only the one person with whom I can be angry, stand up Vogel. As for writing it out again - well, I don't know. I felt fairly inspired while I was doing it. I am not sure I can recreate that nor that my rather hopeless memory will be much use in recapturing the feel. I now have a day's work to do and plenty else to worry about. I am reminded of the truly, deeply appallingly dreadful words of the song MacArthur Park concerning cakes, rain and recipes. (If you do not know them please look it up somewhere. They are so dire that I will not quote them here, even in the extreme of rage which I now embody.)

So, to summarize: bother.