37 Open Mic

How to Talk to Musicians at Open Mic

I stopped by my favourite pub a few weeks ago for an after-work pint or two.  Halfway through a glass of Downland’s I noticed all the new arrivals turning up with guitars.  Some customers had ukuleles and one had a banjo.  Halfway through my third pint I had my first go on a cajon.  I loved it.  Now I want a cajon*.

I’ve been to a few open mic nights since, chipping in on a borrowed cajon and sometimes on full drum kit.  It’s good fun; you get to meet like-minded people and see some proper talent.  But there are some rules to stick to if you fancy giving open mic a go.  Here’s a useful guide on…

 

How to Talk to Musicians at an Open Mic Night (more…)

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36 American Gods

Why I Won’t Be Watching American Gods

I first read Neil Gaiman’s American Gods in my late teens.  It was winter time and I fitted it in between college classes and bus stops and it struck such a chord with me.  The book is full to bursting with rich imagination, and images from that first reading that have stuck with me ever since.  Which is why I won’t be watching the new TV adaptation of the book. (more…)

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34-the-resolutions-2017

The Resolutions: 2017

Well, as per tradition, it’s time to plan my New Year’s Resolutions for 2017.

I’m a great believer in self-development, which is why I like to take this opportunity to look back on what I tried to achieve in the last year – and to see how far I got!  I think that setting clear, quantifiable targets and letting others know you’ve done so is a fantastic motivator for actually doing them.  But it’s by seeing how (or if…) I’ve achieved them that helps me see where I’d like to push myself next. (more…)

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Resolutions: Redux

Around this time last year I wrote this post about New Year’s Resolutions, and what I was hoping to achieve throughout 2015.  Without even looking at those resolutions I can already say I’m really happy with the past year and what I’ve accomplished.  I’ve done things that, if not life-changing, are certainly milestones for me in my life.  Let’s take a look at my resolutions of yesteryear… (more…)

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23 What I Learned from the Super Blood Moon

What I Learned from the Super Blood Moon

This morning at the unsocial hour of 3:47 am, the Sun, Earth and Moon were arranged in perfection alignment in space.  The Sun’s rays, distorted and coloured by the Earth’s atmosphere, beamed upon the Moon – itself orbiting close to Earth as the Autumn Equinox approaches – and turned it a glowing red.  This is a fairly rare astronomical happenstance – it last happened in 1982 and won’t happen again until 2048.

I hauled myself up at half three in the morning to have a look at it, and I’m glad I did.  Here’s three lessons I learned from seeing the Super Blood Moon:

 

Getting out of bed is always a good thing.

Actually, I’ve suspected this one for a while.  If I didn’t have to sleep I wouldn’t – you don’t even realise when you’re asleep that you are asleep.  So there’s very little to take from it besides the obvious physical and mental recharge.  As soon as you’re awake you can appreciate the sleep you’ve had – or, in this morning’s case, didn’t have.  Which is endlessly preferable to not being able to appreciate either.

So I learned: don’t wait for the sun to rise – get up and experience something else.  The Earth is only going to turn so many times with you on it – don’t waste any of those days.  Everyone needs to sleep, but don’t feel you can’t miss one of your forty winks every now and then in order to experience something different.

 

There’s more than the main attraction.

The Super Blood Moon of this morning was the A-movie.  But from my vantage point on my driveway as I looked into the night sky, I could see the vast scope of the universe arcing above me.  Further to the east were brighter, slightly coloured stars that turned out to be Venus, Mars and Jupiter.  Three planets for support acts and a headlining supermoon?  Plenty of bang for your buck.

So I learned: there’s always more to the experience than the thing itself.  Just like seeing a band is about the atmosphere, the audience, and the ringing-eared train journey home as much as hearing your favourite songs live.

 

Some things make you feel deeply.

As I basked under the vault of space above me (well – as much as anyone can bask wearing only a dressing gown and a pair of Crocs on a cold gravel driveway) I became intensely aware of the Earth and its place in the universe.  The sky was absolutely clear – not a cloud in sight – and every inch of the star-studded sky was visible; far-flung planets and solar systems all part of an unimaginably vast cosmic composition including our own Sun, Earth and Moon.

So I learned: every now and then a moment happens, and you feel something more than what you might on an ordinary day.  For me, those moments happen when I think about the universe or the depths of oceans, and it’s somehow a frightening and comforting feeling.  It’s a sensation of knowing there’s more out there, that no one understands, so it’s not a problem that you don’t either.  It humbling and amazing at once.

So definitely worth getting out of bed for.

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18 Bruges Amour

Bruges Amour

Wake up.

 

But it’s four in the morning.

 

We’ve got a train to catch.

 

…Bruges!

 

It’s even light on our way down to the station, despite the hour.  Spirits are high.  There’s a bit of a cock-up when we arrive in London; the underground trains are delayed and diverted.  But, having arrived on the first train of the morning, we’ve got plenty of time to get to the Eurostar at St Pancras International, and to admire the fantastic architecture of the Grand Midland Hotel.  Not sure what to expect from the Eurostar?  It’s like catching a train at an airport.  Take your reference number and feed to the machine that spits out your ticket, and then join the queue.  Head through two sets of passport control and a metal detector then wait in the boarding lounge for your gate, I mean platform, to flash up on the monitor.  The Eurostar is like a normal train but it has a bit more leg room and you don’t have to fight for a seat.  By the time you’re leaving London’s most beautiful rail station behind you’re already hitting the kind of speeds that can cross three countries in two hours. Join the adventure…

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07 New Year’s Resolutions

New Year’s Resolutions

I had a wonderful Christmas time, thank you. A minor mishap when I forgot everyone’s gifts notwithstanding, everything went as smoothly as a sleigh ride: presents were opened and well-received, Christmas dinner was delicious, and much merriment was had over a few games of Articulate. My favourite present? Maybe my set of four antique canopic jars – not something you see every day, but something very much suited to my mildly macabre tastes. Anyway – Christmas is passed, but not forgotten, and it’s time to look ahead to the New Year, and to plan those resolutions.
On to the resolutions…

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05 A Mean Tagine

A Mean Tagine

This one’s a recipe.

Two years ago, I couldn’t have told you what a tagine was. All that had changed by Valentine’s Day 2013. My relationship with my girlfriend had been ‘Facebook-official’ for just a couple of months by that point – long enough, importantly, to warrant some romantic obligations. I decided simply to kick my flatmate out for the evening and invite my other half round for an amorous evening of gifts, candles and a homemade meal. I offered her an invitation and enquired of her: what would she most like to eat that night? Nothing too difficult, came the response. A tagine?
On to the recipe…

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