Monday, 25 July 2011

Still here!

Blimey.  Where has the last month gone?  'I have no bloody idea' is the answer.

My blogging mojo left me yet again.  I'm not sure it's returned yet either, but I thought I'd better check in.  I shouldn't think anyone's noticed I'd gone quiet again, after all I'm not the most prolific blogger on the planet.

So what's been happening with you all, mes amis?  It's got to that time of year where those of you with mini-me's are all caught up with end of school/beginning of the summer holidays madness, aren't you?  Meanwhile, life rumbles on at its inexorable pace here at Jones Towers.  The Lovely Husband is still working and earning some pennies - which is good - at a job he's not enjoying very much - which is bad - to which he is driving the Little Car every day - which is good - but occasionally the traffic coming home is so bad it takes him nearly 3 hours to get home - which is awful, frankly.  The contract he's on is due to end fairly soon, and he's looking forward to not having to work there anymore, but he thinks there's a distinct likelihood that it'll be renewed again for another few months. And in this economic climate, you'd be an idiot not to accept the renewal.  Poor lovey, I do feel sorry for him.

And what am I up to just now?  Well, following all the excitement of joining The Fugitives and playing a couple of gigs in the last few months, no more gigs have come along (although I've been looking and sending out emails) so it's all gone a bit quiet on that front.  I've no doubt there'll be more at some future point, it's just getting them that's the problem.

However, if you can be arsed to go back a couple of posts, you'll see that I referred to my good friend Bev having a suggestion about a new musical venture she thinks we should explore.  She finally got round to telling me about it and, I believe, it has legs.  She's suggesting that we set ourselves up as a sax duo (her on tenor and baritone, me on alto), playing along to backing tracks.  We would play soul, easy listening, familiar tunes and having the backing tracks means you don't have a full band behind you, meaning that we'd be cheaper to hire than a full band (being only a 2-piece).  We could play in smaller venues and at places that just wanted incidental music, such as wine bars, art galleries, that sort of thing.  See what I mean?  It might work.  My only real concern is my actual ability to play that well - doubts that I expressed to Bev and which she, very kindly, dismissed out of hand.

I'm willing to give it a go but I will need a LOT of practice.  To that end I've downloaded about a dozen tracks so far to play over - stuff like Fly Me To The Moon, Cry Me a River, Perhaps Perhaps Perhaps, Dock of the Bay, Rescue Me - soul tunes that we play in The Fugitives but also other well known songs.  I may even sing some of them but I'll need to see how Bev feels about that.  She's heading back to Cape Verde in a few days and will back mid-August so we'll put our heads together when she returns. I'll keep you posted.

My new saxophone is still very lovely but also appreciably heavier than my old one and, consequently, is putting a much greater strain on the back of my neck when I use the standard sort of neckstrap.  It's been giving me backache and neck strain, leading to some very unwelcome headaches.  I've decided to get a harness instead so the weight is distributed across the shoulders rather than the back of the neck - like this:

In fact, this is the very one I've just ordered.  It's specially designed for women so hopefully it'll cope with my matronly boobshelf.  Bev uses one for her Baritone, but it's standard to use a harness for those because they're huge instruments and very heavy indeed, it's not so common for an alto but if it means less trips to the chiropractor for me, then that's all to the good.

Hmm, what else?  Oh yes, I had a MUCH better day at the last craft fair in Alresford that I did - the one before that I only sold one pair of earrings for £8.50 - I whinged about it, if you recall - but this time sold just over a hundred quid's worth!   There's no predicting how the British public want to spend their money and it's a waste of time trying to second guess them....  But obviously I'm pleased they're spending again (well, they were in July at least) because I'm now saving my money to buy yet another musical instrument!

Yes, I have my eye on a digital piano now.  I used to play piano and had lessons back in the late 1970s in  my early teen years, and I got up to Grade V before jacking it in.  I can remember reading not very long ago some article, though, that said many people who gave up playing the piano in their teen years come back to it at a later date, and I think that's true, at least in my case.  I may have come back to it earlier but, as far as I was aware, pianos only came in Grand, baby grand or upright versions, were big and heavy and were LOUD.  I didn't have the room anywhere in my house to put one and, almost more importantly, I was painfully aware of how annoying the sound of constant scales and wrong notes would be to my neighbours.

Then I saw the digital pianos in Chamberlains when I was scouting for a new saxophone.  And I was stopped in my tracks.  Digital pianos have no need for strings and hammers so the only space they take up is the size of the keyboard itself.  These were neat and tiny by comparison but still had a full-size keyboard. One of the sales chappies spotted me lovingly stroking one of them and wandered over for a chat.  He explained that there were several sound settings one could choose from, but the main piano sound had been recorded from a Steinway Grand.  Then he said the magic words, "and of course you can practise silently on it".  Seems there's a couple of jacks underneath where you can plug in headphones, and bash away at the keyboard as loud as you like and no-one else can hear you!  Brilliant!

There are actually quite a lot of digital pianos on the market, some of which are very expensive, but I just want an ordinary bog-standard piano, that sounds authentic, takes up little room and plays silently.  I have my eye on this little one, a Roland F-110.  It's only 1.3m long and just over 300cms tall:

With the lid closed it has a flattish top and looks a bit like a console table:

And because it's their entry-level piano, it's not too badly priced at £799 if you go to Chamberlains showroom in Haslemere (online practically everywhere else - and shops too - it's priced at £849).  Now I'm not denying that this is a lot of money, because it is, but it's cheaper than a brand new traditional upright piano and don't forget it takes up much less room than a traditional upright and it's silent! Plus, being digital, you can also record from it onto a computer via some sort of lead out the back or something, but that's TLH's domain and I'll leave him to figure that out.

We've identified 3 or 4 places where one would fit in the house so now it's just a question of saving up my pennies (I'm just over a quarter of the way there), asking for contributions instead of christmas presents and adding birthday money and it shouldn't take too long before I'm boring myself stupid playing scales but without annoying the neighbours!

Finally, I've been very slowly working on a crocheted shawl for the winter.  So far I've made cushion covers, three blankets, a couple of scarves, some flowers, a beanie hat and some hanging decorations, but my eye was captured several months ago by a Japanese flower design:

Beautiful, isn't it?  So I decided I needed one of these in my life, and then I saw a version made in mohair which just blew me away:

And so I got myself some balls of Rowan Kidsilk Aura which is made from 70% kid mohair and 30% silk and, consequently, frightfully expensive.  I'm using three shades - a plummy purple, a watermelon pink and a powder pink.  I need to make around 40 of the flowers and I'm up to 10 now, I think.  Anyway, this is what my flowers look like:

And this one gives you a better idea of the fuzziness of the mohair:

I haven't found the mohair to be that tricky to work with although undoing stitches if you've gone wrong and have to redo them is a pain as the little hairs all wrap around each other, so you need scissors to give them a trim but I'm liking the way this is going so I'll post pics when it's done.

Oh, now look, I have nothing to say for weeks and then I just ramble on.  Imma shut up now as I need to put the kettle on and deal with an ancient cat who firmly believes there's not enough cream in his life and never fails to tell me at every opportunity....


Anonymous said...

Oh, hi. Nice to hear from you again!

Anyway, digital piano - yes. I have one very similar to the one you have pictured. It truly does sound lovely (to my ears, anyway) and I do love the fact that I can practice with the earphones on so there is no disturbance to anyone else - well, I DID when I was actually taking lessons and was actually practicing. I stopped a couple of years ago because my teacher left to have a baby, but I would like to start again. Now there's a project for me for September ...

OmegaMom said...

Oooh. A Roland! Yes. Get it. I want one, too; though I also am looking at Kawais...and some other brand whose name I can't remember. That "jack in the headphones while you play Hanon's fingering exercises and scales and then repeat the same five bars from the latest piece you're learning OVER AND OVER AND OVER AGAIN" is one of the main selling points of a digital piano for me! Plus, of course, the Steinway sound. Though it would never have that looooovely butter-soft hand feel that a real Steinway grand has, sigh. (It's orgasmic; my piano teacher in my late 20s had Steinways and they made me cream when I played them.)

Mrs Jones said...

Pinklea - yes! A project! Let's start one together...

OmegaMom - Kate! y'know, weirdly, I was only thinking of you a few days ago and here you are. You must have picked me up through the ether. There was another brand - Korg, I think - that had pianos in the Roland price range but, for some reason, they didn't appeal to me as much. The one I'm after isn't as shiny as the one in the picture because the satin finish one is £799 but the shiny one is over £1000. Just for the shiny, nothing else. Bit of a no-brainer, really. The silent thing really is the main selling point, though, isn't it? As for the 'feel', the Roland range has something called PHA which stands for Progressive Hammer Action and is designed to emulate that grand piano feel. The piano I'm looking at doesn't have this but I think the more expensive ones in the range do. How exciting - everyone's getting digital pianos!!!

Anonymous said...

Lovely Japanese flowers - glad you got the pattern sorted. It's going to look amazing. I have still not sewn mine together yet, next time I will join them as I go along.