Thursday, 17 March 2005

"Just A Song Before I Go" - Crosby, Stills & Nash, 1977

In case I have any regular readers, I thought I should tell you that I'll be offline for awhile. We're going on vacation, as we say in the States, and on holiday as they say here. I'm really looking forward to reconnecting with friends in Houston and with friends and family in New Mexico! Perhaps there will be some tales to tell when I return...we'll see!

Meanwhile, the only good stories from this past week involve my time at John's house, while I was teaching in London. John's home is near the BBC studio and set where the series "EastEnders" is filmed. If you keep your eyes open while around town and at the train station, you can often see some of the actors and actressses from the show as they go to and from work. I actually saw two this supposedly dead, and the other very much alive. John and I saw the actor who was just killed off (for the second time on the show) as the character Den Watts while we were on a Thameslink train out of London, and we even went through the turnstiles at John's local train station with him! Then, yesterday, I saw the young actress who plays Stacey Slater when I got back to the train station after my day in London! That's two "sightings" in two days -- a new record for me!

More as I can...


Saturday, 12 March 2005

"All Shook Up" - Elvis Presley, 1957

I'm loading even more music onto my laptop today, for two reasons. One is so that it'll help fill up my 40 gig iPod. I don't know how I'd travel without it to keep me company. The other reason is because of my Netgear MP101. I have to admit that I actually have two of upstairs and one downstairs here in the house...each connected to a different stereo system. Using the Netgear box, I can play music from the laptop through the stereo. It's incredible! I'll bet John would agree that it's our best discovery of 2004.

Through both the iPod and Netgear box, I've discovered the pleasures of using "shuffle". I never used to listen to music like that. I was a musical purist, you know, preferring to experience music the way the artist intended...songs all in the correct order, throughout an album, even if it wasn't a concept album in the first place.

But through shuffle, I've discovered that sometimes you can hear a song in a whole new way. It's out of context. It's highlighted. It's presented to you against a completely different background. Sometimes I even find myself hearing something that I could swear I don't even own. But I do. It's coming from my own laptop. So I must have put it there!

Sometimes shaking up things in life can make them look and sound fresh and new. And that can't hurt. And it can yield some nice surprises.


Friday, 11 March 2005

"(I Hang) On Your Every Word" - Michael McDonald, 1985

I realized this morning that the way I'm writing in my blog here is strongly inspired by the writing style of the editor of a favorite weekly newsletter, which can be found archived here on the "Cloudcroft Online" website. Cloudcroft, New Mexico is one of my favorite places on the planet, and John and I will be making our fourth trip there this year. I was introduced to its charms years ago by my aunt, and I'm delighted that John loves Cloudcroft as much as I do.

Take a look at Cloudcroft Online when you have time. It's a really nice place to hang out for awhile each week...whether or not you ever get to go to Cloudcroft in person!


Thursday, 10 March 2005

"Sleepless Night" - Kinks, 1977

Isn't sleep a mysterious thing?

When I was a kid, one of my little friends was afraid to go to sleep. She thought it was like dying. I suppose it is, in a way...temporarily, at least. I think she'd lost a grandparent, or somebody else close to her, and thought they were asleep when she saw him or her in the casket.

All my life I've had a problem sleeping in public. Now that I travel so much for my job, I wish I could sleep better in planes. I'd be in better shape when I arrive at my destination if I could get more in-flight sleep. I suppose it has a lot to do with the fact that I don't want to be unaware of what's happening around me in a public situation. (It's the same reason I've never liked to drink too much in public...and lose control.) Of course, the fact that I'm squeezed and squished into a seat in the cattle-car section of the plane doesn't help.

Getting enough sleep affects every aspect of our life, doesn't it? And so many complications of life affect our ability to get a good night's sleep. It's all so incredibly interconnected.

When I was young, I had a fool-proof way of getting enough sleep. I simply crawled into bed. That was it. Easy as pie, as we say in the States. Head on the pillow, and I was out cold for at least 9 hours! Sounds nice...

Now it's not so easy sometimes. We recently read something about making your bedroom a "sanctuary" -- clutter free, nice colors, etc. That does help. So does nice, soft bedding. So does the proper room temperature. So does not eating dinner too late.

But all those things just aren't enough sometimes. And it seems that the more you worry about not getting enough sleep, the worse the situation becomes.

I don't have the answer. But it helps to talk about it here.


PS I'm open to any ideas!

Wednesday, 9 March 2005

"Who Are You" - Who, 1978

We're about to have a new "Doctor Who" series here in the UK! This is really big stuff for me! I love "Doctor Who", and Tom Baker was my favorite of all the doctors. I loved his child-like innocence and sense of wonder.

There's an interesting coincidence in the choice of
Christopher Eccleston as the new doctor, though. He's well known here as DCI David Bilborough from ITV's series "Cracker", which starred Robbie Coltrane as a psychologist working with the Manchester police. Eccleston's character tragically died in a famous episode called "To Be A Somebody" episode that launched two things. First, that episode launched the acting career of Robert Carlyle. Second (and most importantly to me), it was directly responsible for launching the relationship between a woman named Janet in the US and a man named John in the UK.

It's funny how things link up sometimes, isn't it?

By the way, Eccleston will be the 9th Doctor Who! Wow...


Monday, 7 March 2005

"Teach Your Children" - Crosby, Stills & Nash, 1970

Last Friday, I had two very interesting encounters with little in Oxford and the other in the village where I live.

In Oxford, it involved a little blonde girl. I walked right by her as I was heading for the bus, having just left the office. She couldn't have been older than 4 or 5. She was standing in front of Starbuck's with a woman I assume was her mother. And I'll bet that her mother is a Blondie fan. The little girl was obviously off in her own world...swirling and dancing and smiling...and singing "One way...or another...I'm gonna find you...I'm gonna get ya get ya get ya get ya..." in a really beautiful little voice, at the top of her lungs! I couldn't help but smile. It's just not a song you typically hear a child sing!

The second encounter occurred as I walked from the village food store back to my house, after going over there to pick up a few things for the weekend. I walked by a row of wonderful old ironstone cottages, and one of the residents and her young girl were getting out of their green VW. I've seen them before. The little girl looks like a child model. She has bright red hair and freckles and is very pretty. She's probably 7 or 8 years old. As I approached, she shouted out "Hello!" in a friendly tone. When I returned her hello, she then exclaimed in the cutest little British accent I think I've ever heard, "And GOOD EVENING to you!". Her mother got out of the car about that time, made eye contact with me, and said, "Well, at least she's polite!"...and we both chuckled.

I feel so much at home here!


Thursday, 3 March 2005

"Western Movies" - The Olympics, 1958

I didn't know until this morning that Chris Curtis, drummer of the Searchers, died a day or so ago. I also didn't know that the band was named after a John Ford Western. I had always wondered where the band's name came from. It had never occurred to me that the Searchers might have been named after an American movie.

Reading some of the obits about Chris -- whose real name was Christopher Crummey -- I noted that after leaving the music business, he had worked for about 20 years as a civil servant for the Inland Revenue Service. That's the UK's equivalent of the IRS. He was forced to retire due to ill health, and he was 63 when he died in Liverpool yesterday.
It sounds like he had a rather troubled life.

He's not the only member of the original Searchers to die. Tony Jackson apparently died penniless in 2003. He was also 63 when he died.

I've found the
Searchers Official Website, with information about the previous and current line-ups of the group. I'm surprised to see that a band called the Searchers is still actively performing...although it appears that the only original member of the group is John McNally. It looks like they have just completed an Australian tour.

This is really depressing. Little by little, the musicians who dominated the memories of my childhood and youth are disappearing...


Wednesday, 2 March 2005

"Straighten Up and Fly Right" - Diana Krall, 2003

"Fly Tipping". It was one of those terms I didn't understand at all when I first heard it used here in Britain. What could that actually mean, I wondered? Surely not a bug gratuity????'s something dreadful. It's a term which refers to dumping trash and discarded furniture, building materials, dead appliances, tyres (note the British spelling) etc. in illegal locations. Here, that's often a "layby" on a roadway (a small parking area), in a park, on farms, etc. It's a big problem...and apparently costs the public about £100/hour to clean up.
Here's a news article about it, from the BBC.

But the term continues to sound very peculiar to my ears. I'm having enough trouble remembering that here it's called rubbish instead of trash or garbage, and the garbage collectors are known as bin men...because what we put out at the curb once a week is a wheelie bin!


PS -- Oops! I just noticed that I misspelled "curb" in that last sentence...because in the UK, it's kerb! Excuse me...or SORRY. as they'd say over here!

Tuesday, 1 March 2005

"Give Peace A Chance" - Plastic Ono Band, 1969

Here's a little follow-up to "Birdland", which I posted on the 26th of February, about the white doves that make their home in the end of my house.

Early this morning, as I was leaving the house to walk to the bus stop in the middle of the village, I noticed that my white doves had all abandoned their cubby holes at the end of the house and were all over in my neighbors' yard. They were very noisily flighting around the neighbors' "bird table" -- a bird feeder, to my US family and friends. Some of the doves (the younger ones) were scrapping over which ones would get a spot on the table, and the rest of them on the ground were fighting over spilled food. I wish I'd had a digital camera with me, as it was quite a display!

So much for the idea of "peace doves", huh?