A little job occupied an hour or so of my time on Friday morning. An older couple had recently moved into an apartment on the Promenade and had wanted a faulty shaver unit replacing. The work was quite easy to do and only made slightly difficult because of the electrical connection method in the rear. As ever I managed and got it finished in thirty minutes. Prior to my starting the work I was offered a drink of coffee which I kindly accepted. We sat talking for ten minutes and then I did the work. Just as I had finished I was asked if I would like another coffee and as I was in no hurry to go anywhere else I again accepted. It was then as we sat in the lounge that I learned the man was learning to play the ukulele and was keen to find a local group of other players to join with. I couldn’t help him in that respect for I know of none in my area but I did tell him of a local pub, one only a few hundred metres away, where they held live music nights. Apparently they encourage new musicians to join in too. He might find the information useful. He told me he was also learning to play the banjo and guitar. He said he had been playing these instruments for about two years and I asked him to play something on the ukulele. He was quite good. I asked if I could see the guitar after I had mentioned I play. It was a small instrument but had a wide neck like a Spanish guitar would have. I tried to play a couple of tunes on it but I found it difficult because I am used to playing guitars that have a narrow neck as my own does. Still I managed to play reasonably well considering I wasn’t used to the instrument. I mentioned that I had bought a small mandolin some years ago but never managed to master it. I had intended to keep it for my granddaughter but she is learning to play a keyboard and has little interest in the mandolin. I asked if he would like to have it. You can see it standing against a covered guitar next to the organ in this picture taken a few years ago. He was interested so I returned home to fetch it and I gave it to him. I didn’t ask for payment. It hadn’t cost me much when I bought it so I didn’t want anything for it. On my return home I found a couple more bluebells in the front garden flowerbed and dug them out before going indoors as the tools were in the garage nearby. I had received one envelope through the letter box…….it was from the Inland Revenue Service……my tax-return form had arrived (see yesterday’s post)
From about Wednesday evening I have been suffering with a muscular back pain in the lower Lumbar region or more precisely the buttocks. At worse it makes standing from a sitting position awkward and a little painful and at best doesn’t really affect activity. It is more a nuisance than anything else but I know that if I don’t rest the muscles it will only prolong the agony so I have been doing my best to do just that. At the same time I have been doing some work on our current project though I don’t consider painting to be strenuous. Nevertheless I have been taking it easy. I had an electrical job to do on Friday morning which entailed checking a reported fault on a power outlet which turned out to be a faulty grinding machine plugged into the circuit. I had to then rewire a couple of lighting switches that had been reconnected incorrectly by the owner of the house after he had removed them during redecoration. None of the work was strenuous and in fact I remained in a standing position whilst I corrected it. One thing I did find wrong was the wiring and installation itself which had been last rewired back in 1938! The place wanted a complete rewire. Wooden fixing boxes for the light switches are a potential fire risk and that is what I found behind the switches. I could only make it as safe as was possible but at least the switching now works properly. After I had done the electrical work the guy got out his electric guitar and amplifier to check the power outlet was still working. He and I and his wife had been enjoying a little bit of banter whilst I was doing the work and during the conversation I learned that he had dabbled at playing the guitar back in the 1960’s and had been in a couple of local bands. He admitted that they weren’t that good and could only play a few songs. He gave up playing after a short time and had only recently taken up playing again. He is three years younger than myself and would have been in his late teens in the mid-sixties. I mentioned that I play an acoustic guitar and he invited me to try his electric one. This is my acoustic Fender guitar….I played a few songs and then asked if I could hear him play. He was reluctant as he didn’t think he could play well. Nevertheless he did play something and he wasn’t as bad as he said he was. I asked jokingly if his wife played the drums so that we could jam together! Alas she didn’t but she was the type of person who would give it a go! I drove home but I had no intentions doing any work at home for the rest of the day, I wanted a rest. I wanted not only a rest to ease my aches and pains and allow my muscles to recuperate but I wanted a rest from work. I have been doing a lot of that lately and there is still more in the pipeline to do. Anyway the remainder of Friday just seemed to have passed without notice and I looked back and wondered where the time had gone. One nice highlight of the day was receiving a telephone call from my friend in the US, G, who calls me quite often for a chat. Mind you, she does most of the talking. She was bringing me up to date on events in her life, her recent move to an apartment with her boyfriend and well, girly things. I love G.
It has been quite some time since I sang anywhere. I once sang in a couple of choirs at school and later, much later, at church. The latter being so later was that I didn’t believe in God and therefore I didn’t go to church. Since leaving the church about fifteen years ago and for reasons I won’t explain here, not at this time anyway, I have not sung anywhere. The last time I sang solo and accompanied myself on guitar in public was at church at times when I led the congregation in worship. When I left the church I ceased playing the guitar for almost five years then took it up again about eleven years ago. In total then I have played guitar for twenty years since 1990 when I first started. I am self-taught with no formal training but people say I am quite good. I am not so sure myself but who am I to judge? Once in a while I might take my guitar (shown in the picture) with me when I go to work, usually in the summer and it remains in the van until I take it out if I am taking a break from work or have finished work for the day. I have been known to sit outside of a pub and just play for my own pleasure. I digress. I had two jobs to do on Monday morning, I wasn’t sure I would be able to do the second for I wasn’t sure how long I would be at the first. As it turned out part of the work I was to do at the first job had to be cancelled and that left me time to do the second job. Unfortunately the customer at the first job had bought two new outside light fittings to replace what he thought were two faulty ones but in fact it appeared it was only the lamps that were faulty. It would have been impossible to fit the replacement fittings in the same position without some major alterations to the existing wiring so it was decided to leave the old ones in place. The remainder of the work was inside and was completed without any problems. I had an idea that the lady in the apartment I was to visit for the second job would be interested in hearing me play the guitar for a couple of reasons. I have worked in her apartment a few times in the past so she knew from our conversations that I played and wrote Christian songs. She had hinted on those occasions that she would like to hear them. She is also a Christian and a fellow ‘Scouser‘ (from Liverpool as I am). I thought I would surprise her on this visit and take along my guitar. I completed the work she had asked me to do and something extra that was non-electrical too but I had to return to my van to get my battery drill to do it and whilst there I brought my guitar back inside with me. We sat down and had a coffee and a chat before I took the guitar out of its case and played a couple of well-known Beatles songs which thankfully for me she immediately recognised! I played a few more and then some of my own compositions. Even though I have written a few songs I sometimes forget the words but I made an attempt and sang some for her. I guess she liked my playing for she has invited me to return again. Maybe next time I shall be singing for my supper?
On Thursday I got up very early, around five-twenty and by six forty-five I had a shower, got dressed, had breakfast and had hung up the washing I had placed in the machine before my shower. I had an idea I might get some electrical work but none came in during the day. Around eight-thirty I was out in the garden drinking coffee and playing my guitar on what I call my favourite bench in front of the patio. It more or less faces eastward and the sun in the morning, though at that time the sun is hidden behind the large trees growing at the end of the garden. I was bored, not because I was playing the guitar, no that relieves the boredom but having nothing else to do. I struggled toward noon and at that time E had decided to go out. I found out later that she had gone to see her mom but only by chance as I drove past her mom’s house some time later and saw her car on the drive. I had decided to go for a drive, nowhere in particular but it was a nice day, only one of two we expected all week. I like driving but I seldom just go out simply for a drive. I drove out with no idea of where I would go, I just drove. I realised I would pass by E’s mom’s house after driving along the route I had taken but it didn’t matter. I drove around for an hour and surprisingly there was very little traffic about, just one or two idiots who flaunt the rules. The video starts about half-way through my little excursion and shows about one quarter of it. Oh and by the way it isn’t the year 2046 as the video timer indicates. I haven’t been able to reset the time on the camera not thinking it needed doing until now. That’s a job for another day. One guy in a large van looked very impatient as he drove behind me for a couple of miles not being able to overtake. Finally he did overtake but drove over hash markings to do so at about 84 seconds into this video.
The hash markings show hazardous areas where overtaking is forbidden, at road junctions for instance but it made no difference to him, he simply ignored them. I kept to the local speed limit and was still in a 30 mph zone when he overtook as you can see at speed. Soon after I was in a 40 mph zone and about two miles ahead pulled up behind him as he was stopped in a small queue of traffic at a junction controlled by lights. He need not have driven so carelessly and aggressively, he had gained nothing from it and he might have placed others in danger instead. I had reached the point in my pointless journey where I wanted to turn homeward and so I did. For those who are interested the video starts just before I reach Rufford on the A59 having driven through Halsall, Ormskirk and Burscough. I continue through Rufford until I reach Tarleton at the A565 junction, through Tarleton and on through to Hesketh Bank where the video ends. It was after one o’clock when I got back home and I prepared lunch. E evidently hadn’t stayed out long herself as the gates to her garage drive were closed as I arrived back.
Nothing was planned work-wise for Thursday but even so I arose quite early at the same time I would normally do if I had a job to go to. I had a good night’s sleep so didn’t feel the need to extend my time in bed. I find it hard to lie there doing nothing anyway and have to get up. What was I going to do all day? A year or two ago my youngest son persuaded me to let him have an acoustic guitar of mine, not the one which is my favourite, the one I play almost every day but a quality instrument nevertheless. It was bought for the tidy sum of £250 in or around 1992, a lot of money at that time and I had bought it at the time when I played in the church music group. I bought my present instrument (shown here), a Fender, later. I had a hard guitar case in which to carry either instrument in if I was taking one of them away from home. My son persuaded me to let him have the case too! Well to be fair he was short of spare cash at the time and couldn’t afford to buy a guitar or indeed a case. He had a Spanish guitar which he used to practice with but the one I gave him is far superior. So that left me without a case for my guitar and I couldn’t safely transport the instrument anywhere if I had wanted to. I had been thinking of purchasing another case at some point so after breakfast I visited the large music shop we have in town to see what they had on offer, taking my guitar along with me. I had wrapped the instrument in a sheet to prevent it getting damaged. I needed to take it along so that I could buy one of suitable size for there are quite a number of sizes and shapes in guitar cases. Unfortunately they hadn’t one of the right depth for my guitar but I chose the style from what they had in stock and ordered one, paying for it at the same time, a penny short of £80. It would be in the shop the following day, Friday. I would call and collect it after my work commitments. I drove off to buy some materials for my business before returning home. On taking my guitar out of the van I noticed that the plectrum I usually leave beneath the strings was missing, not a major incident I have to say as they only cost a few pence each to buy. I do have spares. Whilst I was paying the salesman for the case his assistant, a young American girl took an interest in the guitar and I asked if she played too. She did, so I offered her the opportunity to play it whilst I was attending to business. She played very well. Anyway by the time I had returned home it was still only 10.30. I had just made myself a coffee when my phone rang. It was a job but it was located just a little further than where I had just been shopping! If only people would call me earlier or the night before! I went along and did the job which went a long way to offset the purchase of the guitar case. Again it was such a lovely and warm sunny day on Thursday and in the afternoon I spent an hour or so out on the patio playing the said instrument whilst E had gone out to do the weekly shop with her mom. It has been many months since I was able to sit out on the patio.
Much of my latest posts have been about my work but it is fair to say my work occupies a lot of my time and is full of interesting occurrences. Well last week was such a busy time for me so by Friday evening I was very happy to forget about the work and think about other things. I was tired too! Earlier on Friday I had two jobs to do at two different locations. The first job went well as did the second though the second one was in two stages. I had to remove two light fittings from one house, replacing them with something else then transporting the lights I had removed to another address before installing them there. The guy was moving home but hadn’t yet done so which meant all his belongings were at the first address. There was a beautiful piano in the lounge together with a lovely acoustic guitar. Naturally I asked if he often played them and he gave me a wonderful rendition of the Simon and Garfunkel song ‘Bridge over troubled water’. He then told me that he wasn’t as good on the guitar. When I had finished the work at that address I asked if I could play something on his guitar. I played a couple of my own songs and he told me that I play well. He asked what instruments I have at home and I told him. We then travelled to the other address and I installed the lights there. It must have been about one o’clock when I was back at home cooking lunch. The rest of the day and the weekend was mine. Late in the afternoon I received a call from the lady in whose house I had worked on Tuesday and Wednesday. There was a problem with an appliance which was causing the new electrical panel to trip off. I called to her house immediately and spent an hour sorting out the fault. It proves just how effective new safety measures are in modern electrical panels. Sometimes though they can seem to be too sensitive as far as equipment protection is concerned, not so for our own protection. Anyway I solved the problem for her without charge and was back home just before six o’clock. Now all I wanted to do was relax and after my evening meal that is just what I did. However I got a call around nine-thirty but didn’t respond thinking they would leave a message, which they did. It was an older guy from the sound of his voice, asking how much I would charge to fit the two wall lights he had bought earlier and that if I was interested could I give him a call. Well I thought to myself what a cheek to phone at such a late hour, reasoning that if he knew he wanted the job doing, as he had already purchased the lights, why didn’t he call earlier? I decided not to return his call until Saturday morning. On Saturday morning the house phone rang at nine o’clock and woke me up. I resisted answering and began to drift off again for a spell. A few minutes later my mobile phone rang and by this time I was feeling a little annoyed at the audacity of the caller ringing so early on a Saturday morning. I thought it might be the same guy who had phoned the night before and I was right. Now I can understand someone calling in an emergency but fitting two lights isn’t an emergency. When I had gotten dressed and was now downstairs I called his number only to be told that he had found another electrician to do the work. What was the urgency? It seemed he had purchased his lights late on Friday afternoon or even early evening and then expected there to be someone instantly available to fit them. Such audacity and I could tell from his voice that this guy thought the world revolved around him. Well it doesn’t. I was polite with him but hung up. Some people are unbelievable.
I had one electrical job to do on Wednesday for an elderly lady living in a village about three miles distant. I had called there last week to assess the work over a cup of coffee. I mentioned this in a previous post a couple of days ago (God's mother?). I knew I would be in for a nice time whilst working there. I was installing three under-the-units light fittings in her kitchen for she had complained that there was insufficient light in the kitchen with just the ceiling light. She had a point. Now that I have completed the work I don't think she will be complaining about a lack of light any longer! Each unit is fitted with its own switch so that she can have any combination of lights on at any time. She was a chatty woman, something I have found with many women her age, in fact I tend to be just the same. The problem with folk who have employed me to do their work is that sometimes they don't realise that I need to get on with the job. I have to tread carefully and be patient but in the back of my mind I am keen to get on with it. Fortunately after about fifteen minutes of chatting and drinking coffee I was left to my own devices to get on with the work. She interrupted me twice in order to make me a drink and then left the room. All the work had been done but I had to make a final connection to an existing circuit which meant isolating that circuit. She thought I was going to switch everything off but of course that isn't necessary. She watched as I made that connection then reinstate the supply. I could hear the 'Oos and ahrs' as the lights came on. She was excited that the lighting was so effective and thanked me for what I had done. Once again she chatted away but this time it didn't matter, I had finished the work. She began talking about her family, her sisters and the husband of her granddaughter whilst showing me pictures of them. She mentioned that the young husband of her granddaughter was into 'Heavy Metal' music though she couldn't remember the term. I hinted and she remembered. Evidently he played guitar in a band and was so happy that he had married into her family for it appears many of them play instruments and get together occasionally. Her sister is a singer and is still active in the older club scene in Liverpool and she is around eighty years of age! She told me that she could play the guitar too and showed me the instrument she had bought recently. It was a three-quarter sized acoustic guitar partly strung with nylon strings more usual on guitars playing country or folk music. One of the steel strings was missing, bottom E. It was way out of tune but nylon strings do tend to drift out of tune more easily. She offered me the instrument to play and I tried to tune it as best I could for I am wary of tuning someone else's instrument in case the strings break. I told her as much but I made an attempt at playing some of my own compositions. I could just about get the songs out and had to sing along for them to sound reasonable, a little difficult with a five-stringed guitar that is woefully out of tune. She asked about my own guitar and how long I'd been playing. She told me she had been playing for forty years but that she couldn't read music or play chords and demonstrated how she played. Well I have to say I was impressed as she only used the bottom strings whilst strumming out a song. Essentially she was holding down just a couple of notes but it sounded good. I said that I would like to bring my own guitar if ever I was to go there again and we could have a musical afternoon. Maybe I will get such an invite sometime.
I hadn’t worked particularly hard on Friday but I had been quite busy during the week with my electrical work. Nevertheless I was very tired on Friday and though I had been up at around five o’clock in the morning it was after midnight before I went to bed. Needless to say I had a very good night’s sleep. I usually find that tiredness catches up with me a day or so after working hard and not necessarily the day after. The same seems to apply to aching limbs. With nothing planned to do on Saturday it was going to be another day for rest and relaxation. In any case I didn’t think I would be able to do much on Saturday because my hands were swollen by early evening on Friday, especially my left hand. If you remember I was diagnosed with osteoarthritis a few weeks ago and my hands swell up sometimes and are painful. After applying my prescribed gel the swelling is reduced after a few hours, indeed if I am using my hands I don’t seem to suffer much with swelling or pain. As it happened my hands were perfectly all right on Saturday, as well as they could be anyway. It was just as well for with the morning’s post I received the new Union flag and I wished to fly it. The day was blessed with a little wind so if I were to hoist the flag it wouldn’t be in vain. I had been flying the flag of St George during the latter half of the week after the more extreme winds had ceased. Previously we had been flying a Union flag that unfortunately wasn’t up to the task and had begun to shred. The new flag is much more robust. So I lowered the flag of St George and hoisted the new Union flag in its place however I had to lower it again to make adjustments to the loop that holds the lower corner around the flagpole (see previous recent posts) for it had tightened around the pole. That in itself was a problem for it took quite some time to lower the flag as a result. Finally I got things sorted out with a little help from E. That was it, nothing else but rest and relaxation. I have been able to play my guitar despite the problems with my hands though I have to exercise my fingers by playing simple chords for a few minutes beforehand.
In some ways my condition has helped my playing for I am encouraged to play alternative chord shapes more often, especially barre chords. I never tire of playing my guitar though after so long at the instrument I am forced to stop anyway or wear my fingers to the bone!
And today, forty-three years ago, though at that time the date fell on a Saturday, I met E for the first time. That’s got to be a great excuse for dining out and hopefully we will be doing just that this afternoon for the first time since early December.
Many years ago, twenty-four to be precise, I had recently become a Christian, the year before in fact. It was now 1990 and I became involved in children’s ministry at church. The group of children I was working with ranged from about seven to about thirteen years of age. When I took on the role there had been two women working with the children so my presence allowed each of us to take a break on a rota. Neither of the women were musical in that they couldn’t play an instrument so in order to introduce the children to Christian songs they used taped recordings. I couldn’t play an instrument either but after joining the group I decided to learn to play the guitar. I had an old instrument at home which was really a beginners instrument but it sufficed for me to learn to play a few chords. I soon learned a few simple songs using less than six chords but I was determined to learn more and so over the next year I began by buying a proper instrument and teaching myself as many chords as I could. If anyone reading this has experienced the learning curve themselves or have endured the endeavours of someone else they will know what I am talking about. For a younger person learning to play an instrument is a much easier affair, I was around forty-five years of age when I started and it took some time accordingly. I became reasonably good when after a year or so of playing I was invited to join with the other musicians in the church services. I spent almost ten years with them and learned much. However I left the church and for five years didn’t pick up my instrument.
I began to play once more for personal pleasure about ten years ago and ever since I have improved much. I can now play many chords and especially those which, though basic, can be difficult to master, some of the ‘barre’ chords like E flat at the first fret for instance took me a while to get to grips with. Of course some chord shapes are so involved it is a wonder how anyone can play them but as I said the younger one is when learning, the better. One area I have found difficult is in remembering songs and I mean by that which chords. Gradually over the years I have built up a reasonably sized repertoire most of which are the songs of Lennon and Mc Cartney but of other artists too. I have also written many songs myself, around fifty of them but those of course I have no difficulty in remembering. I play as often as I can which is usually every day for at least a half-hour but more often an hour and I vary what I play each time. I try to learn new songs occasionally and those I once thought I would never master or play reasonably well are not the impossibility anymore. It takes time and practice and dedication, lots of it though if one likes music it isn’t a chore but a pleasure.
It’s been a while since I mentioned my guitar and for those who might be interested I do still play it every day. I try to spend an hour at least each time if I can. I remember the first time I picked up a guitar, probably too late in life to start playing I thought at the time for I was 44 years old but as people have often told me, it is never too late. Actually, I don’t agree, yes you can learn to play when you are older but it takes longer to master and of course you will never attain the same capability as someone who started playing when they were young. I can say that I am not as good as many but better than most and I keep learning all the time. I am self-taught, never had a lesson in my life and I sometimes regret that as my style of playing is limited to playing chords and improvising. A local guy I know plays exceedingly well. He plays both electric lead guitar and acoustic guitar but he has been playing for many more years than I have. Although it has been 24, almost 25 years since I first started to play I did have a break of 5 years when I abandoned the idea. I was having a rough time in those days and just didn’t want to know. I am glad that I resumed playing about 9 years or so ago and I have improved quite a lot during these latter years. This is my guitar…. Holding down chord shapes is very difficult for the beginner and some shapes seem totally impossible (like E flat and D flat at the top end of the guitar neck for instance) but with practice they get much easier in time. I remember having to avoid playing some songs because the chords were so difficult but now I find them easy. One or two I am still grappling with but I am improving. It is nice to be able to play and it is relaxing too. When I first played E would make herself scarce and I didn’t blame her. She still avoids entering the room if I am playing and she is never encouraging. She wouldn’t dream of joining in to sing along with the songs she knows and I think that is a shame. She will make any excuse rather than join in. A year or two ago we had an indoor barbecue because the planned event was marred by the weather but we still enjoyed the time and at that time I played a couple of songs. Some of the guests joined in with me but E kept out-of-the-way. I don’t know why she is like that but she has always been the same. So I play with only myself for company most of the time. In my early years of playing I was in the church band and learned quite a lot about music and I began to write songs myself. To date there are about fifty of them and I play them along with other songs as the mood takes me. Yes, I am still playing and enjoying it.