Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Still Got The Blues

by Gary Moore
So long, it was so long ago,
But I’ve still got the blues for you
On his 1990 album, Moore is accompanied by such rock greats as Don Airey, Bob Daisley and even George Harrison (on That Kind Of Woman). My favourites are All Your Love, As The Years Go Passing By, and, of course, the title track, but the whole album is an absolute classic. Normally, the “absolute classic” status of a rock LP would imply that it is complete and final. That’t why I usually don’t listen to the bonus material on classic rock CDs. Now, this 2003 CD has five bonus tracks: The Stumble, Left Me With The Blues, Further Up The Road, Mean Cruel Woman, The Sky Is Crying, all of them totally worth to be included here. And so they are, complete with lyrics.

Still Got the Blues

Friday, 24 June 2011

The Island at the End of the World

by Sam Taylor

Like A History of the World in 10½ Chapters, this is a variation on theme of Noah’s Ark. The similarity ends right there though. It is just over 200 pages but it took me about three weeks to finish. I was especially struggling with the bits narrated by eight-year-old boy, due to curious spelling which quickly becomes irritating. Call me old-fashioned but I prefer to read books that actually are readable. As is the case with so many novels, this one would greatly benefit from abridgement.

Island at the End of the World

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Megabus UK

Last month, I started to look at the public transport fares to Liverpool. Man I was for a surprise. If I were to believe the National Rail website, the cheapest single fare from Great Chesterford to Liverpool is £151.50. It occurred to me to check out Megabus which I never used before. More surprises were to follow.

First, the only Megabus destination from/to Cambridge is... Oxford. Well that makes sense. Where else people from Cambridge need to travel? But wait. What if I check the travel from London?

As it happens, Megabus offered me rail tickets for £5 each. (Apparently, they are in partnership with Virgin Trains!) Plus I paid 50 pence reservation fee, in total £10.50 the return journey from London Euston to Liverpool Lime Street. Not bad, I say.

So I thought I was sorted for my trip to Liverpool this Monday 20 June. However, my brilliant plan was almost thwarted by our excellent rail system (since the privatisation of British Rail, I am never sure who is responsible for this or that particular railroad atrocity). Monday morning, the trains to London Liverpool Street were not running. Thankfully, Tamara gave me a lift to Cambridge, but I was mentally preparing to say goodbye to Megabus plan — if I were to miss my train from Euston, I would have to buy a full price ticket from Virgin (at least £35).

At the ticket office, I asked what is the fastest way to get to Liverpool. The answer was, to take a train via... Euston. The one-way fare was more than £80! The alternative was to take the Birmingham train and change at Nuneaton. That would cost me sixtysomething quid. The train to Kings Cross was about to depart in a few minutes; I bought the ticket (£20) and boarded it.

From Kings Cross, it takes less than ten minutes to walk to Euston station. I had about half an hour to spare, so I walked (£0).

To summarise. Travel to/from London cost me four times as much as travel from London to Liverpool. Still, at £50, the whole journey is cheaper than anything on offer from the helpful Cambridge ticket office. Thank you Megabus!

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Alex Acuña El Palo timbale sticks

by Vic Firth

I bought this pair of sticks nine years ago in Copenhagen, purely by aesthetic reasons. They were gathering dust until I started to play caixa with Arco Iris. After all this heavy hitting, the purple paint started to fall off. I have sanded and decorated them with acrylic paints just before the Luton Carnival.

Vic Firth World Classic® Alex Acuña El Palo timbale sticks, acrylic paint. More photos of drumsticks @ Shutterstock.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

The Solitude of Prime Numbers

by Paolo Giordano

In my post from two years ago, I have mentioned this book. Last week, I actually have found time to read it (in English).

Prime numbers are divisible only by 1 and themselves. They stand in their place in the infinite series of natural numbers, squashed in between two others, like all other numbers, but a step further on than the rest. They are suspicious and solitary, which is why Mattia thought they were wonderful.
In his first year Mattia had studied the fact that among the prime numbers there are some that are even more special. Mathematicians call them twin primes: they are pairs of prime numbers that are close to one another, almost neighbours, but between them there is always an even number that prevents them from really touching. Numbers like 11 and 13, like 17 and 19, 41 and 43. If you have the patience to go on counting, you discover that these pairs gradually become rarer.
Mattia thought that he and Alice were like that, two twin primes, alone and lost, close but not close enough really to touch one another. He had never told her that.

Of course, the tragic loneliness of the two protagonists is nobody’s fault but their own. Yet the author made me to empathise and sympathise with Alice and Mattia. Especially with the latter who must be simply unbearable in the flesh. Instead of an unlikely happy end, Giordano gives us a much better thing: hope. Highly recommended.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Leeds

I first visited Leeds in 1994. The place did not look welcoming. It was raining for three days and I saw a bit of sun on the fourth day, when I was about to go. All in all, the visit was a success: I got my first job in the UK. I came back in 1995 and spend three years there. Yuri was born in Leeds. Also, I learned a thing or two about samba and guitar-making. I saw John Abercrombie, Julian Argüelles, Django Bates, Carla Bley, the late Michael Brecker, Juan Martín, Barbara Thompson, Keith Tippett and Stan Tracey playing live. I even bought the tickets to see Stéphane Grappelli, but the maestro got ill and the concert was cancelled. After Leeds, Cambridge seemed to be a deep province. All gigs of interest were elsewhere.

Leeds is an amazing city. It was transforming almost daily when I was there and it keeps changing. Day or night, it is busy with life. It still does not look welcoming though. The pedestrianised area aside, it is not pedestrian-friendly. Come to think of it, it is not motorist-friendly either. As far as cyclists are concerned, it is plain hostile.

Leeds is not an easy city to live in, let alone love. Do I miss Leeds? Sure I do. I miss being called “love” by strangers. (At the petrol station: “Number four, love? Ta.”) Live there again? Probably not.

Central Leeds boasts a bewildering array of shops, bars and restaurants, but it is not easy to spot anything, um, idiosyncratically Leodian. Here is a good one: Pickles & Potter deli cum sandwich bar in Queens Arcade. A welcome relief from Starbucks; cash only.

I saw these pearls of Yorkshire wisdom in a shop window in Grassington. I made note of them for our very own Yorkshireman, Yuri. He especially liked the “pay nowt” bit.

’Ear all, see all, say nowt.
Eat all, sup all, pay nowt.
If tha ever does owt fer nowt, allus do it fer thissen.

Tha can allus tell a Yorkshireman, but tha can’t tell ’im much.

Friday, 3 June 2011

Moon Island

by Rosie Thomas

The characters are overdeveloped for a ghost story, not too developed enough for a novel, and generally far too passive. Things just happen to them. I thought I will like Leonie, the only person strong enough to escape gravitational pull of Marian the matriarch; in the end, she irritated me the most. Excerpts from 19th-century Voyages of the Dolphin are probably the best parts of the book.

‘Sarah, if you do find who you are searching for, what do you truly believe will happen?’
‘I will make him marry me.’
‘And if he will not? Or cannot?’
Her wide eyes never wavered. Matthias felt a shiver touch him like the first intimation of a fever.
‘Then I will kill him like a venomous snake.’
The men stood together watching as the boat carried her towards the shore.
‘Do you imagine that she will find him?’ Matthias musingly asked.
‘I am certain she will.’
‘And then?’
‘I would not be in that man’s shoes for any money.’

Priceless.