With a Little Help From My Friends

Dead coffee jug

RIP coffee jug - it was fun while it lasted!

I brought this on myself, didn’t I? That last post about how helpful Heather is was just tempting fate, wasn’t it?

Sunday morning, I was filling up the coffee maker (Christmas present, 2010) and Heather decided she had to join in. So, over comes her little stool and up she pops. We count the scoops of coffee into the filter (she’s not bad at counting, although appears to have a bit of a blind spot for 5). So far so good. It’s when as I’m re-wrapping the coffee that it all goes a bit pear-shaped.

Heather points at the jug and says “water in there”. Maybe at this point I should see what’s coming next, but I don’t. So I turn back to wrapping up the coffee, and next thing I feel Heather move past my leg and SMASH!

Believe it or not, it’s moments like this when you realise you’re a parent – I’m too worried about her cutting herself to be mad. Especially when your daughter looks up at you, points to the glass shattered all over the floor, and says “fix it… sticky tape?”

So RIP coffee pot. It wasn’t an expensive machine, and I can get a replacement easy enough. What’s annoying, though, is that I don’t think I can replace just the jug, I’ll need to get a whole new machine. And ditch the perfectly functional existing one. Not exactly good for the environment, is it Logik?

This autumn I'm running/cycling in a 30km duathlon and a half marathon, to raise money for Breast Cancer Campaign. You can read more about my challenge here or support me here. All donations, however big or small, gratefully received!

Help!

Now, where did I put that stethoscope?

Now, where did I put that stethoscope?

Yesterday marked 39 weeks into our current pregnancy, so one week (ish) to go until Baby 2.0 arrives, and we’re back into Meconium poo, midnight feeds, baby sick and all the other joys of being a new parent. Yay!

Of course it will be different this time around, because we’ve already got Heather to contend with, and we’ll have to adapt all sorts of things to suit having two kids instead of just one. Two seats in the car is an obvious one, but less visibly I’m expecting the time it takes us to get out of the house to triple this time, rather than double like it did with Heather.

One thing I’m not too worried about is how she’s going to cope with having a new baby brother or sister. We’ve made no secret of the fact that there is a baby in Mummy’s tummy, and plenty of kisses and hugs have been sent that way. I think it will still be a surprise, though, when Baby actually makes an appearance, and we’ll need to make sure that there’s no room for jealousy to creep in.

Fortunately, Heather is a very good natured girl, and very helpful with it. She loves dusting and sweeping the floor, whether it needs it or not, and at bath time she’s more than happy to give the tiles or the shower screen a wipe. Recently she’s become insistent on putting her dirty washing into the wash basket, dropping used nappies into the nappy bin, and helping me make my sandwiches in the morning (although I think as much to do with the bits of bread/cheese/pastrami she can scavenge as anything else).

Yesterday, her “helpfulness” reached new heights. Gem had a check up at the mid-wife in the morning, and when they got home Heather started pulling toys out of her toy box, scattering them everywhere. She was obviously looking for something, but wouldn’t say what. Eventually, though, she found it – her medical bag (thanks again, Ruth and Andrew!). And so, Mummy had her blood pressure and heartbeat checked again, by Dr Heather. Over and over and over again.

So with all that in mind, I think Heather’s going to cope just fine with life as a big sister. Which can’t begin soon enough as far as Mummy and Daddy are concerned!

This autumn I'm running/cycling in a 30km duathlon and a half marathon, to raise money for Breast Cancer Campaign. You can read more about my challenge here or support me here. All donations, however big or small, gratefully received!

Artist of the Week -> “New” Artist

When I started this “new artist every week” project at the start of the year, I thought it would be a fun way to expand my musical horizons. And it has been – I’ve really enjoyed listening to a bunch of people I’ve never paid much (or any) attention to before. But what I’m starting to find is that it’s becoming a bit of a chore – there’s only so many hours in a day (that’s working day: I listen to music mostly when I’m working) – and devoting most of them to exploring new music doesn’t leave much for things I already know and love. Or, for that matter, new stuff by singers/bands I already know and love.

And what happens when someone new is so good that I want to stick with them for more than just a week? Which is exactly what happened with last week’s two three weeks (and counting) ago’s artist, a certain Mr Robert Zimmerman.

Add to that our impending new arrival (we’re up to 38 weeks today!), our existing bundle of energy and everything else that goes on in my life, and it becomes hard to see me catch up.

So I’m going to admit defeat, and say that my original idea of listening to someone new every week just isn’t practical. But I’m not giving up – I still want to seek out new music and boldly listen to what I’ve never listened to before. Which is why my ‘Artist of the Week’ series is becoming my ‘”New” Artist’ series. Consider it a re-branding, one that’s going to make this fun again, instead of (sort of) work.

Who knows, some weeks I might even squeeze two artists in. I wouldn’t hold my breath though!

This autumn I'm running/cycling in a 30km duathlon and a half marathon, to raise money for Breast Cancer Campaign. You can read more about my challenge here or support me here. All donations, however big or small, gratefully received!

Sequestered… in Glasgow

Having kids can make planning outings complicated. Having unborn kids, especially when the finish line is in sight (37 weeks and counting) makes it even more tricky, with the knowledge that things could kick off at any time. And so it was that I found myself without ticket, paying at the door for a gig I’d been looking forward to since it was announced last year.

Knowing I wouldn’t make doors at 7, I’d emailed the ABC earlier in the day to find out on-stage times for the evening: “Approx time for hold steady : on stage 8.15″ was the reply. Arriving at the venue at just after 7:30 (why is it impossible to find a parking space when you’re running late?), I fully expected Wintersleep to be near the end of their support slot. It was a welcome surprise, then, to discover that they weren’t due on until 7:45, with the Hold Steady coming on at 9. That’ll teach me to plan in advance!

I first saw Wintersleep in the Captain’s Rest last September, and have been listening to them since then, so I was looking forward to their set, and they didn’t disappoint. Weighty Ghost is probably their best known song, and it was presented mid-set, sounding a bit harder than the recorded version I’m used to hearing. The slowly filling venue seemed to like them, although I still think closing with a 10 minute instrumental track was a bit risky and over-indulgent. You can do stuff like that as a headliner, but it doesn’t really work when you’re the support.

And so to the Hold Steady. As a relative newcomer to the band, I’m still working at learning the words – and there are a lot of words! – so although just about everything sounded familiar, there are very few songs I could definitely say they did play (and the interweb is drawing a disappointing blank). Sequestered in Texas, possibly my favourite Hold Steady song, was definitely played though, and gave me an early example of something that bothered me for the rest of the gig – no keys.

Other than the odd YouTube clip, I’ve not seen the band with Franz Nicolay or any other keyboard player, so I don’t have much comparison. But I definitely felt some songs really missed the piano/organ parts that I’ve grown so used to hearing over the past year or so, and that’s without taking into account Nicolay’s stage presence. A lot of the time the show felt like it was Craig Finn and his backing band, an effect which seemed much less prominent in the -with-Nicolay clips I’ve seen before.

This is starting to sound a bit negative, and that’s not really fair – Finn is as engaging a front man as I’ve ever seen, and the band sound great and the songs are great and the interaction with the crowd is wonderful. I just hope that next time there’s someone bringing the keyboard parts to life again.

Because there will be a next time. And surely that’s the best compliment of all?

This autumn I'm running/cycling in a 30km duathlon and a half marathon, to raise money for Breast Cancer Campaign. You can read more about my challenge here or support me here. All donations, however big or small, gratefully received!

“New” Artist: Los Lobos

I’m not even a month into this project, and already I’m falling behind – not with the listening, but with the writing. I’m hoping to get back on track this week, maybe next at the latest. We’ll see…

I bought my first record when I was 11 years old. That’s as in *I* went into a shop, and with my own money, purchased a piece of music, rather than having something bought on my behalf. I can remember thinking long and hard about what that first record was going to be – I knew that this was a defining moment in life, and didn’t want to be saddled by something lame. It had to be something classic, something that was going to stand the test of time.

I bought La Bamba, by Los Lobos.

Could have been much worse, I guess, not least because I still like it, but it’s not exactly the coolest record of all time.

But that was over 23 years ago, and although I’ve been vaguely aware of Los Lobos’s continued existence, they’re not a band you ever hear played on the radio, and I never felt compelled to seek them out. Until I was checking out Social Distortion, whose current drummer is the David Hildago Jr, the son of Los Lobos singer/guitarist David Hildago.

And so, this week’s “new” artist is actually one whose product I bought 23 years ago!

The band have been releasing music since the 70’s – 19 albums and counting – there was no way I could hope to cover everything in one week, even assuming I could get hold of it. And with no-one to guide me, I opted to start with a compilation album. Wolf Tracks is a 2006 best of album, which was where I began, but with only 20 tracks it didn’t seem comprehensive enough. Having noticed that it only contained 3 tracks beyond 1992’s Kiko album, I quickly replaced Wolf Tracks with 1993’s 2 disc collection Just Another Band From East L.A.

What surprised me was the variety of musical styles the band seem to cover. Old school rock n roll I expected, Spanish/Mexican musical styles I expected. I didn’t expect much blues or country though, but all of these and more were represented.

I realise I need to start taking better notes – relying on which song you’ve loved on last.fm doesn’t really cut it if you don’t love anything! And as I’m falling behind on this little project of mine, I’ve not got the time to go back and re-listen. But I do remember liking Kiko and the Lavender Moon, and thinking I should check out the entire Kiko album. Other than that, though, I wasn’t particularly inspired to delve much deeper into the Los Lobos back catalogue.

I keep threatening to make an effort to learn a foreign language, and Spanish is at the top of my list. One day I’m going to do it, and I think the Los Lobos will sit alongside Shakira in my “learn Spanish” playlist. Until then, even though I quite liked what I heard, I don’t see them being played much.

This autumn I'm running/cycling in a 30km duathlon and a half marathon, to raise money for Breast Cancer Campaign. You can read more about my challenge here or support me here. All donations, however big or small, gratefully received!