Roll on 2004, I suppose.

If I manage to do anything constructive with the day it’s setting up Palm desktop, iSync, iCal and Address Book (why isn’t that iAddress?) on my computer. I fail to get any CA tracks uploaded, thus scotching Ben’s promise that there should be files there. I do try, though. You can’t fault me for not trying, even if you’re as free as the air to fault me for not succeeding.

iCal could be incredibly cool. Well, it already is but all that synchronising could be world-changing, though I’m not making any promises for the world it will change into.

Someone who is, or was or will be is John Titor. I wonder if anyone’s told Ken Campbell about Mr Titor, particularly his references in his recent show to time travel (at Damanhur) and subatomic particles (at CERN, just down the road).

I try to throw IMing into the mix, but I don’t actually know anyone’s screen names, so I don’t suppose that will help.

Oh, and 2003 came to a close. It’s been quite a good one, particularly the bits in Spanish-speaking countries. Roll on 2004, I suppose.

mostly not paying attention

I have enough whatever-it-is to do a sitting, which feels good apart from the fact that my legs have forgotten how it’s done and fall asleep.

I settle down to watch a Miss Marple mystery, now redolant of a kinder gentler age (let alone the 1940s in which it’s set, it reeks of the time it was made, when BBC productions were awash in American money, given them in return for a Quality Product. The Americans are now able to make their own Quality Product, of course, and the BBC have lost the knack).

Chicky calls to tell me that the message she left on my the other day (which I thought said “you can come to the jam if you feel like it”) actually meant “please come to the jam, we might be short-handed tonight”.

And then Vinka calls for a chat, promising me dulce de leche, which could be my downfall (it’s so nice that I think I could just sit and eat a whole pot with a spoon before collapsing with nausea and the diabetic coma I’ve managed to induce). Mmm, dulce de leche.

And then I go to the supermarket where I stock up with fruit in a small way.

I get to the jam at 8:25 and set up. It will be a slow night, I can tell. However they are not short handed so I’m a bit of a fifth wheel. I’ve taken the Godin and the VG88 because… well, why not, eh? I try a different patch on each tune and even play one of the guitar synth patches on Sunflower. This is pissing Tim off, but I can’t work out why. Mike has his own trial with a ringer bass player who plays on a few tunes but is too busy – he can’t get into the same groove as the other players, which is a bit of a let-down for a bass player.

I play a lot of solos, but far too many of them have bits where I stray off-key or fluff a run or miss the strings altogether and make a clunk noise. In fact all of them. I really need to work on that. It’s partly not knowing the material, partly not being able to hear everything and getting a bad mix, but mostly not paying attention.

After the jam is finished, Chicky instructs us to stay behind as we’re playing on. So we do lots and lots of tunes, with Lee, the soon-to-be-ex-landlord singing in an enthusiastic but slightly imprecise way very loudly. I’m still trying different patches and getting lots of solos (because all the other soloists have gone home, but then so have the audience). Lee’s like a Teletubbie – “Again! Again!”. There’s also a chap who wanders in off the street who Mike convinces to play drums, which his does very loudly even with brushes.

Towards the end I sing My Funny Valentine and Night and Day and give Ain’t Misbehaving a shot, although I seem to have forgotten the words.

Lee disappears and I we are released. I get home at 1:30.

which isn’t going to help really

Golly. Another day of no real productive value. I mean really. I promise to do more with tomorrow (that’s it, I’ll be dead embarrassed now, when I just spend the day sitting here again).

I identify the fact that I’ve put on 3kg over the last couple of weeks (quite a lot, really) and then eat a loaf of bread and a pot of jam, which isn’t going to help, really.

And I don’t make it to the Ken matinee, so that’s my Ken ration for the time being.

I find websites about the Enneagram. I should read more about the Enneagram, though not its if-you’re-a-type-five-person-then-you’re-like-this manifestation. It seems to have a lot to say about the nine-step process of change that Robert covers in Discipline and the Act of Music.

It’s that between-Christmas-and-New-Year time, folks, that time of good intentions and a reality of pathetic indolence.

I quite enjoy the magic tricks chart programme. Just like the other lazy top however-many programmes except that everyone on it seemed to be genuinely enthusiastic about magic tricks. It’s a strange thing – genuine enthusiasm (even if it’s for something that one has not knowledge of or interest in oneself) is interesting and engaging. But fourth-rate cynicism and half-baked wisecracks are easier and more readily mistaken for entertainment, so that’s what’s usually programmed. Besides, only nerds are enthuiastic about things. Cool people sneer.

I will take a lot of convincing that David Copperfield is actually groovy, but I respect their respect, if you see what I mean.

beginning to win out over the static

Sara takes me to Andover station where I wait in the waiting room for the next train. When it arrives it’s predictably oversubscribed. I find myself standing in a luggage storage section. There are seats, but these have luggage on them, put there by a woman who obviously believes that her luggage should be comfortable, or who hates to share the seating with anyone. For the record hard stares don’t do any good. I go and sit on the floor by the door and then when enough people have got off (Basingstoke) get a seat to myself. By this time, also, the radio is beginning to win out over the static.

If only I could win out over the static.

I get home in the early afternoon and crash completely. My original intention was to go to the Ken Campbell show at the Drill Hall again, but instead I watch The Fifth Element on Laserdisk along with whatever rubbish I can conjure up on the television. There’s quite a lot of rubbish on the television, including Top 100 Musicals (another of those havens for worthless, meanspirited talking heads who think repeating something’s name and then saying “hello…!” in that awful arch way is equivalent to critical analysis or indeed an opinion of any kind. One of these is referred to as a Style Commentator, who is, presumably, someone who discusses people’s shoe).

Today’s crime against nature or something is to eat a box of chocolates. What am I doing?

wander around the stones

Boxing Day.

The hightlight of the day is a visit to Avebury. This is a very short visit actually, but then it wasn’t a very eventful day. Sara and I drive to Avebury, park in the car park and begin to wander around the stones. We very quickly identify that it’s cold and about to rain. So when it starts to rain we get back in the car.

It then begins to rain in earnest and we’re very grateful to be in the car.

We stop by at Ma’s house to try to start her car (Sara attempts this, unsuccessfully, but I know nothing about cars and won’t comment).

Getting back to Sara’s house, with the kids at another Christmas dinner, we watch The Two Towers.

And then far too much chocolate and staying up watching A Very Peculiar Practice on BBC4. Yes, with the nuns.

cruel, uncharitable, libellous and possibly blasphemous

It takes an inordinate amount of time to organise myself enough to leave.

Eventually I get to Waterloo Station, where there is an insane crush (I have to keep reminding myself that this crush is wholly predictable and promising myself that next year will be different – I’ll leave earlier or, if possible, ignore Christmas altogether, perhaps in an exotic clime). I join a queue for one ticket machine, but it transpires that that machine (although it gives every impression of functioning) is refusing to give out tickets, so I join the (longer) queue for the machine next door. Every so often someone will try to use the broken machine and behind them a queue will form only to dissolve when the ultimate joylessness of the situation becomes evident.

My queue is plagued with couples. Couples need to discuss everything, so not only do they have to buy every ticket twice but they need to discuss every nuance of the ticket buying procedure. I have almost reached the machine when the girl in front of me – Oh joy! – summons her boyfriend from another queue, and they set into a lengthy discussion of the ticket-buying procedure.

The train is similarly packed and I have to stand all the way from London to Andover. As a seasoned bus traveller, this isn’t anything new to me. I’m listening to Joe Frank’s Eye in the Sky on my PDA – tales of worse travelling conditions than I could possibly imagine sandwiching some calming talk from Jack Kornfield.

As we are just about to reach Andover the ticket inspector comes and I realise I’ve lost my ticket (which was a return). Luckily he doesn’t notice me, as I don’t want to have to buy a ticket for that journey twice.

Sara collects me from the station and drives me to Devizes for an uneventful (unless you count watching A Very Christmassy Father Ted and a quite good Hollywood Jackie Chan movie as an event, which to be honest I don’t, no matter how much fun it might be). We pass cruel, uncharitable, libellous and possibly blasphemous comment on the choristers of the two (!) televised carol concerts.

And Eastenders seems to have turned into a dumping ground for superannuated sitcom stars. It would be good if they had to hang on to their old characters, though. That’s Miss Brahms talking to Corporal Pike, while over there, isn’t that Wolfie Smith’s girlfriend’s mum?

Bah, humbug.

And if any ghosts appear this evening, I’ll just tell them to bugger off.

mostly lights and screaming

My attempts to get Amazon to deliver presents to Sara’s in time for Christmas gone Horribly Wrong (still undispatched, let alone delivered), I make a trip up to Oxford Street to get replacements. Why do I do this every year? Is there some karmic debt I’m paying off? If Hell is Other People, all the other people in question are in Oxford Street today, milling around, standing still at the top of escalators and generally making nuisances of themselves.

I even go to Hamleys. I don’t scream, no matter how much I might want to. I realise that even if I found something appropriate I wouldn’t want to stand in those queues for the period of time it would take to pay for them.

Please remind me to stay away from Hamleys and Oxford Street just before Christmas.

Some time is spent practising the part that I need to do at the Monique session next month and listening to the CD of the rough mixes. Some of this stuff is very strong, and I’m surprised to be a part of it. Some of it really ought to be done again (the original guitar track for the song that the new part is being designed for falls apart after the first couple of verses. They could patch it, but it would probably be better for me to play it all again. Similarly the sonic-landscape part on Rouge This really needs to answer the part that I overdubbed on Sunday. And the solo on Douce France goes mushy in the middle. I can do better and given the time I hope I will).

Later on I go over to Pa’s to drop off and pick up presents and then get a Vegetarian Thali for myself, my own indulgence of choice. I watch the extended laserdisc version of 1941, or at least chunks of it. It never really gets that coherent at the best of times. As with my shopping expedition it’s mostly lights and screaming.

a terrible thunk noise

My getting out of bed time is drifting noonward, and I get to Walker later than I’d wish. A quiet day – many people take the Christmas Party as the official end of term and have organised their holiday to start the holiday early. I remember that.

At lunchtime I find myself talking frightful nonsense about something, except it isn’t nonsense in essence. Nothing useful is coming out of my mouth. I find this all rather embarrassing. I should be more judicious about keeping my mouth shut and when I’m in a hole, stop digging.

Getting home I find that Polly&Brendan’s Christmas card has arrived. I was getting worried. This is one of the highlights of my Christmas. I should put a web-page together dedicated to them. If I can find them all. Generally fewer Christmas cards this year, as I’ve been on fewer supplier lists (since almost all the work I’ve done has been either Maisy or Yellow Sub and since I’m in the office, I don’t get a card from Walker as that would be silly. Apparantly).

I take the Steinberger guitar and the Trace Eliot amp (a very small guitar and a very large amplifier) to the Three Stags jam. Generally I feel like I’m getting in the way – both physically and musically – although it’s quite gratifying to be at a volume that allows me to hear myself. Mike (bass) doesn’t need real books,so I find myself trying to play by ear. A couple of good solos, usually spoiled by bits where I miss the strings and make a terrible thunk noise. There is often a sense that other people are wondering what I’m doing there, and I sometimes share their confusion.

In the studio at the weekend and tonight, I notice bursts of manual stupidity when manual intelligence is required – I’ll do a long run and then land on a very wrong note, or misjudge the fretboard (a problem with the Steinberger) and play the right chord shape in the wrong place.

curlicues and niceties

Back to Wimbledon and from thence to Kingston.

Today it’s finalish vocals and guitar overdubs. There are a couple of guitar tracks that I want to replace (though in the event the original tracks are kept and I put a more organised guitar over the top) and other curlicues and niceties to jolly up various tracks. There is one particular nicety and curlicue (on African Sun) that I’m incapable of playing right now so I have to take a CD away to practise with. There’s a solo on Douce France that… well… it’s not perfect. But then what is. If Monique and Nigel and Barb can live with it, then I can. And if they can’t and want a second opinion from another specialist … I can live with that.

It’s fascinating watching Barb working – it’s the first time I’ve done sessions with an actual producer (a role that Pete sort of played on the middle two Jeays albums, but barb is much more hands-on and has instincts that are spot on. It’s very exciting and a bit scary trying to keep up. I hope it’s not to blood-from-stonish from her when I’m scrabbling around trying to pick up guitar ideas).

Something that was also an issue yesterday, and is even more pressing today: I’m only able to find a space for myself that is actually uncomfortable – I’m by the door to the control room with the VG88 at my feet and find that I’m occasionally recording overdubs with Gurjit darting past and Monique and Nigel talking to each other and me. I’m not reporting this as a complaint, but it was only afterward that I thought “perhaps I could have organised that better…” Perhaps not though, and it does present itself as a wonderful metaphor for life.

You remember life, don’t you?

We’re done by 6:00, so I catch a train from Waterloo to Honor Oak Park and drop in on Della’s Christmas Do, still with the electric guitars. Eventually I plug into Della’s small amp and finally achieve my childhood ambition to be David Gilmour on a rendition of Comfortably Numb, though sadly I’m too tired and bewildered to really do it justice. I sing three songs (Unison, Little Games and Iodine, againaffected by the tiredness) and cadge a lift home with Vicky and Neil. And then I’m home.

And, yes, v-e-e-e-e-r-y tired.

For separation purposes.

I get up and do the extended Sitting, getting in touch with the other crafties and then catch the train to Wimbledon, where Monique and Nigel pick me up to take me to Kingston and Gateway Studios. There we meet barb (the producer), Steve (the engineer) and Gurjit (the assistant engineer). Also Eugene (percussion) and Julie (double bass). There is some setting up and positioning of microphones and placing of the rhythm section in their own discrete boxes. For separation purposes. I’m playing throught the VG88.

We rattle through seven numbers (Mr Harrod appears for a while to do a couple and then disappears) by 6:00 and I’m deposited back at Wimbledon station.

Back at home I buy junk food and go in search of mindless entertainment. The TV does not provide so I put on my Father Ted DVD, which still doesn’t fail to leave me helpless with laughter. Also the repeat of Have I Got News For You, with Gyles “Tommy Two-Ways” Brandreth. Didn’t he used to be an anti-filth campaigner?

I find it difficult to stay awake. Even perfectly straightforward rhythm guitar can be tiring stuff.