Sorry for the misleading name but you will find some posts that are specifically about walking in London. The rest is the other stuff I get up to.

Monday, 17 November 2014

Noise 2014

You've guessed it! Another stub from Walking in London. I will finish this post soon - I promise! Leave me a shitty comment if you care enough.

I used to love going to gigs.

It felt like we found some awful band to see every spare night, until we finally put a band together ourselves. I wish my memory of that time was better, but hey, it was a long time ago.

Anyway, I've been making a special effort to see lots of live bands over the last couple of years. So far in 2014 I've been to fifteen gigs with tickets to five more already bought. Here's a rundown with a mini review of each, an although I shouldn't make rash promises, I try to update this at the end of the year to make it a definitive 2014 gig list.

28th February Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, and Old Man Malarkey at Shepherds Bush Empire, or O2 thingy... Whatever. I'm a huge fan of the band and the gig was good but I was with Brian who I hadn't seen in years so we ended up near the back getting pissed and chatting instead of moshing up the front. The band were great and I had a lovely night but the two things might not have been linked. Highlight was Jolene, which we also used to cover in our band. A five-star night, but only four of them for the gig.

9th April Halestorm at the Forum
I'd seen Halestorm once before, supporting Bullet For My Valentine. To be honest I preferred them to the main act so getting to see Lzzy and crew again was a treat. The noises she can make are astounding; singing, screaming, wringing metal from her (now signature) Gibson Explorer. Four-stars. I highly recommend Halestorm - great fun.

1st May Clutch at the Forum
We first saw Clutch on the in-house TV in a Hard Rock Cafe, and they look like the sort of thing I'd like, so I was very pleased when I saw them coming to the Forum. I took Ant with me, who's a metalhead. The crowd were interesting - loads of check shirts and neck tattoos for the ladies and massive beards for the men. Music was very good, like a single barrel bourbon; smooth, strong, serious. Solid four-star performance. Recommended.

7th May Bo Ningen, The Wytches at Heaven

9th May Nick Lowe at Union Chapel

27th May Paul Heaton and Jaquie Abbot, Cherry Ghost at Shepards Bush Thingy

3rd June Desperate Journalist, Terminal Gods at Aces and Eights

16th July Franz Ferdinand at Somerset House

23rd July Bert Bacharach at Royal Festival Hall

30th September Weyfest. The Feeling, The Undertones, Ian Anderson, Chaz and Dave

25th September Andrew O'Neill's History of Heavy Metal at the Garage

2nd October The Jim Jones Review at the Old Market, Brighton.

1st November 10cc at GLive Guildford

7th November Difford and Tilbrook at Union Chapel

14th November The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing, The Cesarians, False Flag at The Garage
This gig write-up should get it's own post. I knew it was going to be good, and had planned to stay in town for the night which is a first for me - but the freedom of not worrying how I was getting home might have led to little more drinking than normal, which in turn led to me hitting a wall at about 11pm. Yeah, I know, I'm getting old.
We had a couple of pints in the Famous Cock to start, and by 7 it was starting to fill with the interestingly dressed. We headed over to the Garage early, and I'm glad we did. Andrew O'Neill introduced False Flags, encouraged everyone to get down the front, which we did, and then came around and moshed for a minute. Oh, and if you're reading this Andrew, and you thought your hair was particularly glossy Saturday morning, that was my Guiness.
False Flags were interesting - a bit "shouty Metal" which is not really my thing, but fun; I hope they go far.
Next up The Cesarians. Check them out on Youtube, particularly She Said. Really like the sound... Except... Didn't work for me in context between the other two acts. I'd like to see them headline somewhere.

Still to come...

26th November Bryan Adams at Wembley Arena

5th December Bring Me The Horizon at Wembley Arena

6th December Fields of the Nephilim at Hammersmith?

13th November Paul Heaton and Jaquie Abbot again at the Roundhouse

21st December Me First and the Gimme Gimmes again at Brixton Acadamy

Friday, 3 January 2014


This is a stub. One day I'll get around to finishing it.
In fact this trip ti Iceland was a year ago! We're going back tomorrow!

Ok, quite a big pause between visiting Iceland and getting to write it up here. I've had a lot on.
I know I'm not alone in having always been intrigued by the idea of visiting Iceland. In my case I can trace this to about 1989 when my then girlfriend went on an expedition for her Duke of Edinburgh award. I helped her train a bit - mostly by hiking round the surrey hills with her to get her.
Anyway - fast forward 24 years and I get the opportunity to go there with Mrs G. Only when we thought about it did I realise that it was a place I really wanted to see. I wouldn't go as far as to say it would lay a ghost to rest but maybe I was jealous of that old girlfriend's trip more than I realised at the time.
We actually went to attend Iceland Noir - their first English language celebration of crime fiction, and even the build up was interesting, as we were invited to the Icelandic Embassy in London for a drinks reception.

The first night we met up with Sarah Ward of in a Reykjavik bar. As always at these events, knowing someone who knows someone else makes the whole thing more special, both Quentin Bates and Ann Cleeves joined us at our table.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Messing about with my electric guitar

And when I say messing about with, I don't mean playing it.

My guitar is a Hamer Solid ArchTop Quilt in Transparent Black. Yes, the snappily titled SATQ/TBK. It's the Taiwanese model rather than the "proper" USA job, but it's a pretty decent guitar. When I bought it about eight years ago I changed the Duncan Design pickups (basically made by someone else to an SD pattern) for original Seymours. I also had a couple of chrome pickup surrounds laying around that I put on.

All of which leads to this before picture - quite different to a standard one which would have cream plastic pickup rings, chrome covered pickups and gold knobs:
Hamer SATQ Upgrade
And looking at that picture now I notice that at some point I've put the bridge on upside down. Muppet.

The Seymours I chose weren't a very good match for each other - the bridge postion was a Duncan Distortion and had a considerably higher output than the Classic in the neck position, but overall it was capable of a couple of convincing Gibson-like tones - somewhere between SG and Les Paul.

I hardly ever actually play the guitar anymore - it hangs from a hook in the study - which is where it's been ever since.
Then over the last couple of years I've been seeing a lot more live music, and that always gets me thinking about playing, and that in turn gets me to thinking about guitar mods...

So first thing I did was research what was available. I sort of liked the idea of P90s but I always use loads of gain, so they'd have to be humbuckers, and the guitar has full sized humbucker routing, so they'd have to packaged in that size.

Eventually that led me to the Seymour Duncan P-Rail. These are very interesting pickups - a humbucker, but instead of two standard sized single-coil pickups wired together, they have a full sized Soap-bar P90 pickup as one half, and a very slim single-coil like a hot-rail as the other half. The wiring is all open, so in theory, you can have P90, Hot-Rail, Series Humbucker and out-of-phase Humbucker. If you've got enough switches!

And thinking about switching, and how to add some sort of multi-way switch led me to the Seymour Duncan Triple shot:
Hamer SATQ Upgrade
This is basically a standard black plastic pickup ring that has two micro switches on it, that each have two positions. Allowing for the maximum four positions required to get every posible sound out of each pickup.

The triple shot attaches to a pickup with 2 screws and springs in the normal way, and has a ribbon cable leading to a small PCB that sticks to the back of the pickup. You then solder the pickups outputs to PCB and wire the PCBs outputs as if they were a standard humbucker. Very neat and simple. I say that bearing in mind that I re-wired the whole thing three times because I'm a bozo with a soldering iron.
Hamer SATQ Upgrade

Here it is in situ with the P-Rail, you can clearly see the P90 soap-bar with the adjustable screws and you can also make out the black bar above it which is the hot-rail. Also notice the two micro switches built into the left hand edge of the surround.
Hamer SATQ Upgrade

What's also clever about this set up is that the two pickups themselves are in series, meaning that you get a humbucking effect with both Hot-rails selected or both P90s.

The after picture. I thought the change would be subtle, but actually it seems to have given the guitar an entirely different look.
Hamer SATQ Upgrade

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Catalina Flying boat experience

Other than this preamble I'll keep this post to just the Catalina Splash-and-Go experience, maybe another time I'll tell you about what it's like to do a round trip on Easyjet Southend to Amsterdam, Amsterdam itself and Netherlands public transport and taxis. The Aviodrome aviation museum at Lelystad is excellent and definitely worth it's own post.

Lelystad is a town about an hour from Amsterdam. Five minutes out of town there's a small airport from where the "friends of the Catalina" operate. Not the Aviodrome museum, mind, but from the small terminal building itself.

We watch through glass screens as the plane is towed to the terminal building. On first seeing it I realise just how old this aircraft is - I mean I'd seen the figures, designed in 1933, this actual plane built 1941... But in the steel there is no ignoring that this aircraft is 72 years old.

Catalina Splash and Go

Once the plane is on stand the motley collection of passengers are called for the safety briefing. In Dutch. Luckily they cater very well for English speakers - the short film they show has English subtitles and everyone involved speaks excellent English.

And then it's time to board. We filed through the terminal building in silence, up to the metal steps that had been placed against the aircraft. My mouth had got a bit dry, probably because I'm slightly claustrophobic, and the inside of the vehicle looked more like a submarine than any plane I'd been on before. You enter through one of the two large glass blisters on the rear fuselage, one at a time, moving to the smart modern seats so as not to unbalance the plane.

Catalina Splash and Go

The steward says a few words before we taxi out, he explains that the engines are very loud so we won't hear him once they have been started. And they will run for a bit before we take off as each of them has 220 litres of oil that has to get up to temperature before take-off. The main thing to note, he says, is the Seat-belt signs. Where they're on, stay in your seat with the belt done up, but when they are off, get up, wander around the cabin, take photos, look out the windows...

Catalina Splash and Go

We are sat in the front compartment, the pilots in full view. The engines start with a huge bellow that settles to a roar, somehow exactly the noise you're expecting to hear from a World War II twin prop. And then we taxi away from the terminal building where I see a small crowd of spotters has gathered to see this old bird take flight.

Catalina Splash and Go

Take off seems completely effortless without the modern trust of a jet or the whirring and crashing noises that accompany flights these days. I mean it might make those noises, but you can't hear them over the din of the engines.
And in the sky it feels just as effortless, steep banks are graceful, and the seatbelt light is out already and the Steward is on his feet gesturing us to get up and look out the windows.

Catalina Splash and Go

The view from the observation blisters is surreal and fantastic, giving 180 degrees of view.

Catalina Splash and Go

And then the Steward is pointing at the seat belt lights which are on again, and we're already losing height, seeing the water come in to view. One of ground crew had spoken to me in Dutch as we boarded, and when I said "Sorry, I'm English" he shrugged and replied "You will enjoy... on water... very smooth."
I can only assume that he didn't really know what "smooth" means, because the water landing was ferocious.
On the other hand, what's the fastest boat you've been on? I'd guess 10 knots or so, unless you've been on a proper speed boat, in which case maybe 25? Well the Catalina landing and take-off speed is around 70 knots. On the Splash-and-Go run, it hits the water at 100 knots.
Our pilot says that they cannot land on water if the waves are bigger than 2 feet. He then says it's a good job no-one was measuring the waves today.

Catalina Splash and Go

The return to the airstrip is just as exhilarating, and the experience is rounded off with another short briefing while the Catalina sits on stand in a puddle of seawater that's drained out of her hull.

Catalina Splash and Go

The flight with them was quite easy to arrange - check their calendar on the web here and then email them with details of the flight you want - they'll give you the details for your money transfer.

At first glance the ticket price might seem expensive, but I assure you, it's the bargain of the century.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Wilko Johnson

I was lucky enough to get a couple of tickets to the Wilko Johnson gig at Koko last Wednesday.
i should probably point out that I'm not a huge fan - I love guitar music and I know Johnson is a hero to many of the players that I consider my heros, so it had to be worth a look.

Also I had the pleasure of going with a colleague who is a real fan, and that always helps to get full enjoyment out of a night I find.

Koko is a great venue - will certainly look out for for anything interesting on there - good bars - but serious prices. Probably best to start in a pub nearby. Which we did - meaning we only saw one of the two support acts. Eight Rounds Rapid. Good tight music from the band and I'll just say that the singer wasn't to my tastes, and leave it at that.

Wilko Johnson. It's odd seeing one of the true greats on stage, who appears to have lost none of his skill; who seems in every way to be happy and heathy, and to know that this will be the only time I will experience it.

Wilko Johnson at Koko

The crowd loved every minute of it, and Alison Moyet joined him on stage for encore and was also great. Brilliant night - lovely to see a man sharing his talent.

Wilko Johnson at Koko with Alison Moyet
And what a talent. I feel genuinely blessed and humbled to have been there.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

OUTRAGE! vrs You Can Say Anything You Like on Twitter

I'm a big fan of Twitter.
I think it's a really great way to keep up to date with a whole host of different sets of interests and friends and hobbies and family.

It's not perfect however, through no fault of Twitter itself.
There are cultures forming that are quite opposite that are both equally irritating.

1) Faux outrage(!)
At least a couple of times per day I'm now seeing someone outraged at something they've seen in the media. Get a grip. If you read something on the internet that starts your hackles rising, ask yourself these two questions before you wade in with your own comments.
a) Am I actually offended by this myself, in person, on behalf of a loved one or professionally? Imagined offence by an unknown third party doesn't count.
b) Am I being trolled? There are many people out there who just want to cause offence. No, I don't know why either, but there you are. If you've been offended by something a Troll has said, ignore it. An angry reply is exactly what they want. An example is the Daily Mail, any page you like, or online. Its whole purpose is to make you outraged - don't let it. Right, that's outrage dealt with. Now the opposite.

2) You Can Say Anything You Like on Twitter.
I don't understand why otherwise sensible, clever people feel the need to make outrageous comments on the web. It happens everywhere, but Twitter is worst, maybe because its limit of 140 characters can lead people to edit all the facts out of their insightful comment before it's posted. The nature of retweets doesn't help. Don't assume you can make a whole big point on twitter in twenty consecutive tweets, coz someone might take the middle one and retweet it out of context. You know the one, it's the tweet that looks like a soundbite with no facts in it.

I had a fairly mild disagreement with a fellow tweeter last night. If I'd followed my own advise in point one above I would never have commented, and if he'd followed my advice in point two then it wouldn't have happened anyway.

So, to sum up, can we all please try to avoid offending anyone, and being offended.

Want do you think? Let me know in the comments.

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

That was 2012

Well, 2012 certainly seemed to be a celebratory year for Britain, and London didn't it? I'm glad that we played our part and have many great memories, particularly of the Olympics.

How did I do with my targets?
I can't imagine getting my Walk, Run, Swim, Cycle annual figure up to the year, but I beat 2011s 1,550 miles by about 60, having intended to add at least one mile per week. That seemed a sensible improvement, so same again I think, meaning effectively a target of about 1,700 miles in 2013. I can't say this is having much effect on my weight, but I'm feeling fit and strong-relatively, at least, and the pool on Ironmonger Row is open again so fingers crossed for more swimming.

I'm getting quite an online presence now, although I probably don't need to tell you that, as your reading this. The blog gets an update now every couple of months, which is fine. Certainly not about to start daily updates.
I've relaxed into Twitter, going from just a handful of followers this time last year to over 300 today. I tweet a couple of times a day on average about anything and everything.
I did quite a lot to keep my Gooedreads account up to date, finally doing all my comic books in the last couple of days. It's getting to the point where it's an accurate representation of my library. It thinks I read 15 books in 2012 but it missed a few due to the way it works - ill be careful in 2013 to add them properly so we get the real figure. It will never be more than 1 a fortnight, so I'm guessing 25 for 2013.

No other specific targets for e year other than enforcing the one I didn't do very well last year - at least two days per week with NO alcohol.

And I've been writing almost all year and some of it is actually getting quite good.

2012 was a pretty good year on reflection, here's to hoping 2013 is better for YOU, regardless of how good your 2012 was.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Music. Mostly in London.

I've been a bit busy with all that crap that fills your time between the fun stuff lately, hence no blog posts - but I though I'd put a quick one together.

I've always liked music - I was in a band for what felt like 5 minutes in the early 90's and around that time I went to every gig I could get to. I've pretty much completely fallen out with the guys I used to go to gigs with, and other than the odd notable exception, (like Motorhead and Alice Cooper at Brighton a few years ago) I only go to gigs with my wife. Not that that is a bad thing in itself, but it means I don't get to the louder, grubbier gigs, you know, the good ones.

This year is different though - somehow, and I'm not sure how, I've ended up booking six gigs in November and December '12. Here's a rundown, with my hugely biased thoughts.

Jack White - Alexandra Palace
Venue was interesting - not been there before. Huge space with loads of bars and food stalls inside.
Support was The Kills - interesting, pretty good - the seven kettle drummers was an interesting touch. Ultimatley they were a bit lost in that massive venue.
Jack White was fabulous - an all girl band (mostly from Nashville apparently) were tight.

Evanesence - Wembley Arena
Agreed to go with an old friend to this one, and damned glad I did. Wembley Arena is much too big as a venue for my tastes, but at least we had standing tickets. We got pretty close to the front.
The Used were support and they were ok - although not as good as they thought they were. IMG_0244
The Headliners were much louder (and therefore better) than I thought they would be. Recommended.

Squeeze - GLive Guildford
Took my lovely wife Suzi to Gulidford's rather nice GLive to see Squeeze. We see them most years and they can be a variable.
This year they were supported by Paul Heaton who was superb - great voice still and a calm but confident stage presence. Highly recommended.
Squeeze was very good, although a little heavy on the new songs for my liking.

Adam Ant - Shepards Bush Empire - Friday November 30th
Venue was excellent - 2000 capacity, plenty of bars with a decent selection of drinks, great sound, clear and loud. We were standing, quite close, maybe 8 rows from the stage.
Support Act: Geogie Girl and her Pouissez Possey. Oh dear. Basically an all girl rock act in the spirit of... I don't know... Heart? Bangles? Lots of Latex and glitter. Music was enthusiastic but terrible.
But, then the main show, and I'm pleased to report that Adam Ant has still got it. The whole band did a creditable job reproducing the classics - and it's been a long time since I saw a band with two full drumkits (maybe 18 years!) and I still don't know why ALL bands don't do that, the sound is truely fantastic.

Redd Kross - Borderline - Monday December 10th
I saw Redd Kross at the Marquee in about '94 when they were my favorite band.
So about 13 years later and 300 yards down Charing Cross road I saw them again.
Back in the 90's Redd Kross always seemed to be on the edge of being massive - but they somehow never quite got there. Having a drink at the bar in the Borderline before the support act came on I felt a little sad that such a great band were playing such a tiny venue (Capacity is only 275) and said support act 'The Sharp Tongues' seemed to fit in great - the set seemed short and sweet and I'll add something of their's to a wishlist.
For the headliners I got myself to the front row and then spent most of the set trying to avoid having an eye taken out by the headstock of Steve McDonald's bass, but honestly, the boys still sound fabulous and I can only show mild bewilderment that these guys are playing a one off gig in a sweaty basement rather than an arena tour. They played tracks from throughout their long career, right up to a couple from the new album, and everything was loud, perfectly formed and delivered with style and a smile. It turns out I still love Redd Kross. Oh, and did I mention their shoes? The McDonald brothers definitely have the best shoes in Rock.

The Damned - The Roundhouse, Camden - Saturday December 15th
I'm a regular at Damned gigs, although I missed the 35th anniversay tour last year.
The Damned have the ability to be fantastic and full of energy... But not always. Bad Damned is depressing and annoying. Hopefully this'll be a good night.
I was let down by my friend who was supposed toc ome with me - which was disapointing although not entirely unexpected.
So second gig of the year that I went to alone.
As with Red Kross, I got myself a couple of stiff drinks and then went and stood at the front.
The Dickies were support and I'll skip giving you a review as my mother said if I've got nothing nice to say...
But the Damned were on brilliant form - The Captain's guitar work was so well done that I'd think it was getting help from a recording - except of course that it stopped when he fell on his arse.
With 36 years of work to call on there were a few surprises in the set, but really, everything was as good as it possibly could be.
I can also highly reccommend the venue - the Roundhouse in Camden is well organised and beautiful and the sound quality and volume were spot on.

I should apologise for the photos in this post I suppose - in my defence I'll just say they were all taken from the crowd with an old iphone.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

The 'Walking in London' Olympic Experience

So, you might have noticed that London has had a bit of a thing on over the last couple of weeks.

Olympic walk over Tower Bridge
I've really enjoyed the whole experience, from the fantastic opening ceremony - through the cycling road-race in near-to-home Dorking - we were lucky enough to get Hockey tickets in the Olympic park and Womens Modern Pentathalon in Greenwich.

Here are some of my photos.

Tower Bridge with its Olympic Bling necklace.
Olympic London 2012 Greenwich

Which is clever enough to fold away when the bridge rises...
Olympic walk over Tower Bridge

An odd view of masts among the towe blocks in Canary Wharf
Olympic London 2012 Greenwich

Cyclist on Dorking high street...
Men's Cycling Road Race

...including some Team GB lads
Men's Cycling Road Race

And off they go towards Box Hill in the distance
Men's Cycling Road Race

We got into the Olympic Park for some hockey - so we did at least see the outside of the main arena
Day at the Olympic Park

The Riverside arena - the hockey venue
Day at the Olympic Park

Day at the Olympic Park

Day at the Olympic Park

Day at the Olympic Park

Day at the Olympic Park

Day at the Olympic Park

Day at the Olympic Park

Day at the Olympic Park

Day at the Olympic Park

Oddly, this is maybe my favorite sports photo of the whole set
Olympic London 2012 Greenwich

Greenwich for the Modern Pentathalon
Olympic London 2012 Greenwich

This is what it looks like to be inside a Mexican wave
Olympic London 2012 Greenwich

Not the best way to get around the showjumping course
Olympic London 2012 Greenwich

Although some of the ladies made it all look so effortless
Olympic London 2012 Greenwich

Others just seemed to hang on
Olympic London 2012 Greenwich

Running and shooting combined came next
Olympic London 2012 Greenwich

Olympic London 2012 Greenwich

Olympic London 2012 Greenwich

Olympic London 2012 Greenwich

Olympic London 2012 Greenwich

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Bridges on the Thames

Ok, so here is the start of a post that is going to turn out to be massive. For now though, its just a list of the bridges across the Thames - I'll be adding photos to each name as I take/find/post them.
This is initially just the bridges, so I've not included ferrys, tunnels, cables cars or the Thames Barrier. It's correct at Spring 2012 and does not include proposed new bridges.

So starting from the estury and working towards the source:

Queen Elizabeth II Bridge 1991

Not a Bridge, but the Thames Barrier. A crossing of sorts I suppose, if its shut!
Thames Barrier

Cutty Sark and the entrance to the Thames Foot tunnel.

Tower Bridge 1894
Tower Bridge from the Tower

London Bridge 1973
London Bridge

Cannon Street Railway Bridge 1982

Southwark Bridge 1921
Southwark Bridge

Millennium Bridge 2000

Blackfriars Railway Bridge 1886

Blackfriars Bridge 1869

Waterloo Bridge 1945

Hungerford Footbridges (Golden Jubilee Bridges 2002)

Charing Cross (Hungerford) Bridge 1864

Westminster Bridge 1862
Westminster Bridge

Lambeth Bridge 1932

Vauxhall Bridge 1906

Grosvenor Bridge (Victoria Railway Bridge) 1859

Chelsea Bridge 1937

Albert Bridge 1873

Battersea Bridge 1890

Battersea Railway Bridge 1863

Wandsworth Bridge 1938

Fulham Railway Bridge and Footbridge 1889

Putney Bridge 1886

Hammersmith Bridge 1887

Barnes Railway Bridge and Footbridge 1849