Thursday, 1 September 2011

Nightmare On Divorce Street

Well, it's a long time since I updated my blog with anything other than the 30 Day Song Challenge (which in my typical style, I started late and didn't finish.) But a lot has happened since then.
At the beginning of 2011 I decided to finally give in in my increasingly unpleasant divorce and sell my home. My soon to be ex husband left me nine years ago when we lived in Kent, far from my family home. I had followed him around the country for ten years as he moved from job to job, and had ended up in Tunbridge Wells. He left me two weeks after my thirtieth birthday. I had been registered blind two years before in 2000 after losing seventy percent of my eyesight in a couple of seconds in 1996 - it was downhill from then on and the vision that was left deteriorated. I've got some left in my right eye but not a lot.
When he left I was miles from home with very little support. A friend of mine called Louise thankfully stepped in and picked me up, helped me claim income support to pay the mortgage, eat, pay the bills, and keep the roof over my head, and for a few years I waded on. If it hadn't been for her I would have honestly sunk, both financially and mentally. She literally saved my life.
Unfortunately I was not able to do the same for her and due to her crushing bipolar depression my dearest friend committed suicide in 2005. I decided that I had nothing to stay in Kent for and every reason to leave, so I approached the absent ex and explained that I would like to sell the home we had formerly lived in together and move back to Norwich, my home town. I explained he could have a large part of the equity in the home if he were prepared to guarantor a mortgage for me on a new house in Norwich, with the express assurance that he would never have to pay for it or any support to me whatsoever (which he hadn't been doing so far anyway). I would put my share of the equity into the new house. He agreed. It was pointed out to me by a solicitor that he in theory should have been paying me maintenance and was likely not entitled to this money in view of a divorce court, because he was gainfully employed, happily housed elsewhere and I was blind and unwaged with little chance of supporting myself except via disability benefits, but I knew he was in thirty grand's worth of debt and could use the money, so I gave it up.
So he got thirty grand and I got to move back home where I could have some sort of support.
Fast forward to 2008, when I decided to pursue a divorce (I had tried previously, twice, but had been persuaded, shall we say, out of it.) As soon as it was apparent that he couldn't bully or threaten me out of it this time, he refused to cooperate with the divorce, dragging his feet with requests for paperwork at every opportunity, refusing to answer letters and going awol from contact from even his own solicitor. Three years on and he has tried to make me sell my home and give him money from it - which he has never lived in nor paid anything towards. He is happily housed elsewhere (where I don't currently know) and gainfully employed, rather amusingly considering his total lack of moral fibre both past and present, as a police officer. I tried to get him to talk it over when it got really nasty, despite being previously advised by my GP to break contact with him for the sake of my blood pressure and sanity. Any attempts to contact him to discuss a solution, whether it be via official mediation or me trying to contact him personal have been rejected via solicitor's letters.
So, two and a half years of someone who previously purported to care about you trying to take your home away tends to wear you down. Although I should have expected this - he left me after all and was not exactly a nice character when he was with me - but I was at first dismayed and upset that he would seek to cause me pain and chaos in this way, knowing that I was severely unwell, virtually blind, and flat broke, all because I wanted to legally cement what he had done emotionally and physically years before, namely end our marriage.
At the beginning of 2011 I decided to give in and sell up. My fibro really turned up the heat in September 2010 and has not let up since, and I can't manage on my own anymore, it's plain. The constant stress was killing me, the house is in a less than happy state of maintenance as I've had neither the money nor the energy to do it, and my neighbour has caused me no small amount of distress with his aggressive behaviour. And I love my fiancé, who is prepared to take me in and care for me when I can't look after myself, and give me some semblance of a normal life where your partner isn't cheating on you, emotionally abusive, occasionally violent or getting into massive amounts of debt behind your back. Thank God for him. With all this I figured why fight it ? Just sell it and pay the ex off even if he isn't entitled to the money and hopefully he'll leave you alone.
So, now we are in September 2011 and I have managed to get soon to be ex to agree to getting £22,000 from the sale of MY home (I will get much much less than that due to the property crash), and have agreed to waive all rights to his extremely adequate pension and any other capital claims. Basically in order to obtain a divorce from a man who abandoned me without a penny to my name nine years ago I have had to give up everything I have and pay him a very large sum of money. All in all he'll have had £52,000 out of the sale of both houses, past and present, and keep his pension. I pay the mortgage off, estate agents and conveyancers and I'll get £12,000. By the time the credit cards debts have been paid (running a house is expensive when you own it and survive on benefits - it owns you !) there will be around four grand. Then there's my matrimonial solicitor's bill, whatever that is likely to be. Ah well, it's only money.

There are a few lessons to be learned from this in my experience.
One - the legal system in this country is not, as people would suggest, weighted towards an unwaged (and disabled) wife on legal aid. The legal help coffers are so squeezed these days that solicitors who undertake publicly funded legal work are often not prepared to take your case to court even if you will win (and arguably my solicitor should have taken my case to the court as soon as the ex tried to get me to sell up) because it costs money. And by the way, legal help still isn't free - anything over about £900 in charges and you will pay the rest if you recover property or money from the settlement. This is called the "statutory charge". I have that to look forward to after it's all over. My ex of course is paying his solicitor from the word go - which makes her much more invested in getting what he wants.
Two - if you hang on in a fight with a pig, the pig will enjoy it and you will just get dirty.

Sometimes it's worth it to fight. But sometimes for the sake of your health and sanity it's better to give the bastards what they want and walk away. Once they're gone they can't hurt you again.

So here we are - the contracts are about to be signed on the house (first ex has to do this, which he will doubtless fuck about on so I'm not holding my breath) but in theory if ex is prompt in his return of the paperwork we could complete the sale by the 16th of September. I will then move in with my fantastic fiancé who despite seeing me in absolute pieces several times over the last four years (and a couple of times in the last few months !) that we've been together still, for some unfathomable reason, wants to take care of me, love me, and eventually marry me.
The nightmare is nearly over.

Saturday, 16 April 2011

30 Day Song Challenge - Day Eighteen ... An instrumental song you like

Does this mean a song without words, i.e. any piece of music which does not involve a vocal performance ? Or an arrangement of a song which is instrumental but is better known as having a vocal ? As I like instrumentals of all sorts I could have my pick here. I like classical music, I like ambient, I like acid jazz. I like Einaudi. I like The Hilliard Ensemble. I like Jon Hassell. As a teenager I was well into Sky and Mike Oldfield ("Incantations" is my favourite of his works and I still listen to it regularly. "Tubular Bells" I can take or leave.) I would probably say that at least a third of my iTunes library is instrumental. But I especially like film scores.

My favourite film of all time is "Bladerunner", but to pick something from that would be boring and predictable. And although nobody is taking notes or keeping score, I like to amuse myself by finding stuff like this challenge to blither on about. And if I'm going to blither on then I might as well spend some time thinking about it.

Earlier this year one of the greatest (in my opinion, and I'm not the only one) film score composers of all time went to the big auditorium in the sky - Mr John Barry. Famous for several Bond scores, music from "Out of Africa", "Born Free", "Indecent Proposal", "Dances With Wolves" and many more. All great stuff and amazing films. However I think my favourite piece of his is from a film I've never even seen, starring Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour, called "Somewhere in Time." When I first heard the main theme from the film I had been very recently bereaved, and to say it resonated with me is an understatement. To be fair to the piece, as I recall it fairly grabbed me by the heart and struck me dumb on the spot. I had not seen the film but the idea that somewhere in time we are reunited with those we love can't help but be attractive and comforting to us when we have lost someone. Apparently when John Barry was asked to score the film he had recently lost his father, and he drew very heavily on his emotions when writing the music. I only recently found that out however, but I should have known really. Being the master of his craft that he was, I think that the main theme does not need vocal interpretation to make the emotion felt by the composer obvious, although I understand there is a version with lyrics (I'm not interested - it couldn't possibly add anything to the instrumental version in my opinion.) I believe the music already truly speaks to the heart through the ears.
Whilst looking for YouTube versions to link to I found this performance by Chee-Yun Kim, which in my opinion goes a long way to being just as good as the original score version.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

30 Day Song Challenge - Day Seventeen - The last song in your mp3 folder ZZ Top's "Rough Boy." For me, a song associated with teenage love affairs. It's one of the few songs I have ever requested and had played on a radio station (Radio Broadland, on a Sunday morning, way back when I was a hormonal schoolgirl.) The object of my dedication didn't even know about it as I recall. Aaaw. ;)

Thursday, 7 April 2011

30 Day Song Challenge - Day Sixteen - The first song in your mp3 folder

I am so far behind in this now (having started it on March the 2nd) as to nearly qualify as being ahead for March 2011. Heh heh. ;)
Well, my mp3 folder is organised by iTunes, as I use macs and iTunes and I have several iTunes libraries that are all shared. But if I actually look in the Finder on the primary machine and go to the first folder (which is just named "_" for some reason) in iTunes Music we have a recording from radio of a reading of the book "I Am Legend". But I'm not sure for the purpose of this musical challenge that counts. So the next folder if viewed alphabetically has a number in the filename and contains "In Your Room" by Depeche Mode. This could have easily been a Day 12 song.

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

30 Day Song Challenge - Day Fifteen ... A song you liked in high school

I'd say all of the songs I liked in high school I still like. I might have gone off the boil for some of them but I still like them.
When I were but a teenage bimbet I was listening to Mike Oldfield, Sky, Queen and Long John Baldry. Probably not the usual teenage taste of the time. However, I wasn't above a bit of rampant musical commercialism either (anyone who thinks or says they are is a liar who is trying too hard to be cool or interesting, in my experience) and I remember really liking Billy Idol's version of "Mony Mony". And I still do. He may be a bit of a prick now and then but he done some good'uns and you can't argue with his sales figures. Particularly, IMHO, the live version of this, a big hit in 1987 when I was fifteen. This is the official video which doesn't feature the audience participation that has become a tradition at Billy's concerts. ;)

Monday, 28 March 2011

30 Day Song Challenge - Day Fourteen ... A song from the year you were born

When I looked this year up I found that some of my favourite tracks come from this year and I didn't even know it. When I was born (13th October 1972) a song called "Mouldy Old Dough" was at number one in the UK charts apparently. I've never heard it and something tells me that might be a good thing. The charts that year had Alice Cooper, Chicory Tip, America and Gilbert O' Sullivan. And Led Zep's "Rock and Roll" was released as a single. It also had weird floaty prog rock oddness in the form of "Lady Eleanor" by Lindisfarne, which I have always really liked. I like my weird floaty oddness. So there it is - my chosen track from 1972.

Saturday, 26 March 2011

30 Day Song Challenge - Day Thirteen ... A song that you sing in the shower

This could be anything. Anything I have either heard, or am learning or experimenting with, or like, or sometimes don't like and can't get rid of the earworm. So I guess for a singer this question isn't quite as revealing - I'm guessing most people don't sing on a daily basis so if they sing in the shower or car it's because they don't wish to be observed whilst singing. I don't have that, so I can't show a revealing part of me with the answer to day thirteen's question. So should I pick a song that I sing in the shower that I have never sung in public or would be unlikely to sing in public ? Or would be embarrassed to sing in public ? I'm not sure there is a song I would be embarrassed to sing in public as I have no shame (or at least no shame that would actually stop me from singing, anyway ;) )
I think the nearest I can get to the point of the original question is a song I have never sung in public (though I would like to) because I sing this one when nobody is watching. I grew up with songs like this thanks to my grandfather who was a major fan of the goddess that is Dame Shirley Bassey (all hail the sequined diva !) I've never had the opportunity to sing anything like this in public (not sure this is the Secondhand Band's sort of thing, lol) but would love to get all dolled up in something very glam with feathers and sequins and make like the Shirlster. If I look that good at that age I will count myself as extremely fortunate ! But so far the shower is the only place I've ever sung this. Hey, Big Spender ! :)

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

30 Day Song Challenge - Day Twelve ... A song that make you want to have sex ...

Fuck, I'm so far behind ! Ah well.

See, here's the thing. Let's not be bashful about it - for a lot of us, music and sex are wrapped up all together. You can bet your house that the first songs ever grunted by cave men were about two things - their prowess as a hunter and that sweet little bit of cave girl tush they wanted to drag off by the hair. All my big crushes as a teenager were on musicians (and none you'd likely expect either.) My first two boyfriends I met at school because we were into music and involved in musical projects at school. First long relationship was with a dj. My fiance is a guitar player. All of my important relationships have been with people who were musical in some way (or who wanted to be). So you see where I'm coming from - attraction is fairly entwined with a shared love of music for me. I don't think I could get it on with someone who didn't love music. So it follows that music, being linked to attraction for me, is also going to be linked with sex.
I can totally see the attraction groupies (of either sex) have for musicians - I know some of them are in it to get bragging rights and further their own careers, but in the sense of the word "groupie" meaning "person who loves the music of an artist and wishes to encounter them sexually", I totally see why. Just as well I a) wasn't born in the sixties, when groupies really got serious and were more often than not actively encouraged by bands because I'd have probably been a total slut and b) happen to be musical myself, so I don't need to hang around with bands as a groupie to get close to musicians. And of course most importantly c) already have a musician of my own to encounter sexually, ta very much. ;)

So, back to the plot. I could pick most anything from my mp3 collection and say it would likely make me want to have sex should the opportunity be presented and my man be around (and sometimes even if those two criteria are not met ---- I can always wait until they are. ;) ). I think as far as genres go, ballady country music, oompah bands and happy hardcore are big turn off for me, but I don't own any tracks featuring the last two genres (but I do have a bit o' country hanging about). So - what to pick ? I could pick a hundred blues standards. They certainly seem to do it for me. But that would be boring because anyone reading any of these entries will know I like the blues. Or pretty much anything by Jeff Healey or Gary Moore (thought a fair bit of that would be blues standards). So I am going to pick something in a different style from a band who I'm not a big fan of otherwise and I wouldn't even know in the street if they slapped me - but it is mostly the guitar that does it for me on this track (the feedback squeal at the end of the first verse in particular - dirty !) so maybe I've not made such a different choice at all.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

30 Day Song Challenge - Day Nine ... a song that reminds you of an ex

Ah well, what a cornucopia of tracks I would have to choose from here. Fortunately, bad exes (I've had a few) don't necessarily means bad songs associated with them. And I can hardly refer to "good" exes, for two reasons - one, I don't actually have more than one or two (those that I would count as good exes - i.e. people I wouldn't want to hit with a brick - hark from many years ago when I was in my early teens) and two, the smart woman does not speak too highly of her past beaus in front of her new man if she knows what's good for her .... and I certainly know that my man these days is about the best thing ever for me.
Most of my exes don't feature in my thoughts on a daily basis - except for the most annoying and tiresome one, my soon-to-be-ex husband, who I unfortunately have to consider now and again due to still being embroiled legally with the ratbag. I have been trying to divorce him for two and a half years (third time of trying), after he walked out on me over eight years ago. Somehow I must be more important to him still than he is to me however as he insists on making the divorce about as hard as it can be and generally has the morals of a bout of amoebic dysentery. However amoebic dysentery it easier to get shot of and would likely have disappeared by now !
So here it is, a song that could have been written about my feelings for him, such as they are. I'm sure there is a song out there somewhere called "Sign The Papers And Just Fuck Off" or "Ode to a Scumbag", but I don't know such tunes so this will have to do. Ugly Kid Joe's "Everything About You."

Friday, 11 March 2011

30 Day Song Challenge - Day Eight ... A band the popularity of which you will never understand.

This has got to be the easiest one for me so far, and I imagine my choice will get me chased up a tree and shot down in some circles, but there it is. I have never understood the appeal of the Rolling Stones. Granted, they have some good tunes but that's not hard. Granted, they have been going for years, but that's not hard when people will keep paying to see the same old same old. But personally I find that they often were absolute shite live in the early days (IMHO) and Mick Jagger is someone who minces about in such a way that I want to punch him not shag him. I just don't get the appeal.
Rolling Stones songs are, in my opinion, best done by bands and artists other than the Rolling Stones.
I'm not going to bother with any YouTube links (I'm tired) but if you really want to you could go and find some of your own, anything by them will do. I could pretty much say that I don't like it very much.
I'll get me coat ....

Thursday, 10 March 2011

30 Day Song Challenge - Day Seven ... One band or singer you are ashamed to admit you like.

Well, I'm not ashamed of any of my musical likes. I was a dj for many years and this gives me a free pass with regards to being allowed to have crap in my collection. When you've done children's parties, weddings and village hall Christmas discos as well as club work it is acceptable to have stuff by Black Lace and Jive Bunny. :) Whether it is publicly acceptable to like (or at least be able to tolerate) that shite is another thing, but I don't care anyway.

So you can imagine - there's lots of stuff in my mp3 folder that many people would look at me oddly for. I'm not ashamed of any of them so I'll have to settle for the thing I think people would most give me ribbing for. I did hover on a little known album release from Bruce Willis (yes, the actor) called "The Return of Bruno" which has gotten me some raised eyebrows in the past, but although I really like it most people don't even know it exists. So public shame isn't really a possibility there.
In the end I've gone for a track that anyone dj'ing the chicken in a basket circuit at the time seems to universally hate, but I still like. It was at number one in the singles charts for sixteen weeks. I must have had it requested a similar amount of times every gig I did. It was guaranteed to get the Erection Section off to a drunken stumbling start and is unquestionably the artist's biggest hit (and he's had some bigguns). From the film "Robin Hood - Prince of Thieves", I give you "Everything I Do (I Do It For You)" by Bryan Adams. You'll have to take your own sick bucket over to youtube because the artist has declined to allow embedding of this video. ;)

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

30 Day Song Challenge - Day Six ... Your favourite band

I am well behind now on this. But hey, no problem. I'll just do what I always do and plough on regardless. ;)

I'm not sure if my choice counts as a favourite band. "Band" implies "all parts equal" or at least "all parts necessary" to me. But quite honestly, the other musicians in the band with the man from which this band takes its name could have been replaced by any other competent musicians (sorry, guys) and it would not have matter one iota to me. I would have to settle for favourite artist instead.

I first heard of this artist when I was in my late teens. I saw him in a film that had been out a few years by then, had a bit of a "Hello NURSE !" moment, and at the time had no idea that he pretty much played himself in the movie - this was a time when the internet was not available to the likes of me so the only way of gaining information on artists or celebs was through tv or the newspapers, or writing away to a person's fan club. However a troll of the local HMV's cd section turned up his first album, and off we went down the road of fandom.
Apart from the fact that I have to admit to a large measure of lust at first sight (I like 'em blond and I like 'em blind, it seems, which wouldn't surprise anyone who knows my fiance ;) ) I was pretty blown away by the talent of the man. I have been accused of only liking this artist because he is blind and being visually impaired myself, it seems some sighted peeps assume we will all cling together (us blindos) in some sort of incestuous mass where we only appreciate other visually impaired people. Which is plainly bullshit. And I wasn't visually impaired when I first became a fan - that was a housebrick that the bicycle of my life would hit somewhat further down the road.

Anyway - big fandom here. I never did get to see him live (Darryl did, the lucky git). I'm mostly a fan of his blues rock stuff (though I have heard his jazz material, and like it), and when he died in March 2008 I was genuinely bereft. To be honest I am still. I recognise that unless you meet a person, you can never really know them (and even if you have met them and feel you know them, some people you can never really know at all.) But the musician - the good musician - bears their soul every time they play. Why do we make music in the first place ? To show the world what we are thinking and how we feel. Perhaps this is why I like the blues the most. If one genre can be said to be primarily about the state of your soul, it's the blues. These days blues is a broader genre than it was in years gone by, and often this artist sat on the edge of the genre with his feet sticking more into rock than blues (IMHO). He often said that he did not look kindly upon his earlier work (despite that being the more commercially successful) and that he preferred to be an interpreter of other people's songs than writing his own. I get that entirely. But whatever he did, it still speaks to me. And I am extremely sad that the man is no longer among us and that we will never hear anything new from him. All that talent, all that life, all that joy - all gone. From the tear inducing song ("Rachel's Song") about his daughter (even more heart wrenching now that he is no longer around) and the brave choice of Diane Warren's "I Tried" (string-y ballad which one might expect to find covered on The X Factor), to the utterly brilliant "See The Light" and the total ye-haw joy of his version of "Jambalaya", whatever the man did was fine by me. There is nothing I have heard from him that I didn't like. Not one thing. I never got to see him live but the footage of his concerts and interviews show not only his guitar genius, but his easy stage presence and his wry sense of humour too.

I could go on all day (really) but I should get around to picking my favourite tracks. I'll be here all week if I start to really think about it so I am going to pluck two off the top of my head and be done with it. The first is a live for tv version of the title track from the "See The Light" album. This shows the man at his best I think - utterly unencumbered as a stage performer by his blindness as people often blind from birth often are. Watching him play the guitar .... swoon. Had I ever got the chance in years gone by, I would have climbed all over him like a vine. Ahem...
The second is "Rachel's Song", from the album "Get Me Some". Ignore the addition of someone else's visuals - it's the only online version I could find of the song. Just turn your screen off and listen.
For the uninitiated, may I present to you the late and extremed lamented Jeff Healey.

Monday, 7 March 2011

30 Day Song Challenge - Day Five ... Your favourite female singer

I forgot I was doing the challenge yesterday. Oops. So I will do two today as penance.

As I don't tend to listen to female singers as much as I do male singers, there isn't really going to be much in the way of deliberation for me. And the female singers I do listen to are from an era much more glamorous than this one, where a cool female role model was elegant and bodacious, not dressed up in clothes made of meat and wearing a satellite dish in her hair. So there really is only one choice for me - Ella Fitzgerald.
Greater writers than I have waxed lyrical about her career, her amazing vocal range, her purity of tone, and her life. She had a hard time in her early years, seemed to be attracted to dubious men, and suffered from diabetes, which rendered her visually impaired in her later life. Although she was cool (not in a frosty sense) she never seems to me to be affected or false, and she was known for being extremely shy off stage. And any singer who can forgot the lyrics (my personal bete noire) yet improvise with such style and then win a grammy for the recording (her version of "Mack the knife" from "Ella in Berlin") has my automatic respect.
Oddly, I wouldn't say I am a great fan of jazz as a genre (although I do have quite a bit of similar stuff from similar artists), but Ella seemed to transcend genres even as she had her feet (or at least one of them) rooted in jazz. Of all her work, currently this track is my favourite. I say currently, as I really couldn't narrow it down to a favourite, I'll have to settle for the track I like best right now.

Saturday, 5 March 2011

30 Day Song Challenge - Day Four... Your favourite male singer

How do you define a "favourite singer" ? Ability, range, studio work, live work, charisma ? Or is it merely a numbers game that defines "favourite", meaning the person you listen to the most who sings and is male ? (In that case, it would tie between Jeff Healey and Gary Moore for me, but they are better known as guitarists obviously.)
I don't tend to listen to female singers much, looking at my most played items in iTunes, and I think there are two main reasons for this.
One is, I like the sound of a gee-tar, and I like the blues, and there are not many women around playing guitar and singing the blues (Joanne Shaw Taylor being one exception I can think of however).
The other reason is, I tend to listen a lot to the tracks I am singing in bands (either because I'm learning them or I like them and have suggested we do them), and usually they are rock / blues tracks, which don't have female singers, or at least, the well known hit versions don't have female singers. In fact, looking at the set list for our recent gig , only one of those songs is known for having a version with a female singer (Tina Turner's version of Proud Mary) that was a hit.
So I've got a lot of male singers to choose a favourite from. Being a singer myself I'm going to have to plump for vocal ability and performance being the main criteria for my choice, although as some of my female friends have pointed out "I wouldn't kick him out of bed for eating biscuits" is also valid reasoning, though not applicable (IMO) with regards to any of the people I whittled my choice down to, incidentally.
Choices were-
Nat King Cole. I like that genre, those songs which have now became standards, much to the surprise of my dad, who thinks I only like "that nasty rave music" ;). When he heard I had bought an Ink Spots cd, he almost fell off his chair in surprise.
If I want to stop right in my tracks and be immediately transported to a more civilised and glamorous time, Nat King Cole's recording of "Stardust" is guaranteed to do it every time.
Paul Rodgers. One of the few people who could even look at Freddie Mercury's shoes, let alone attempt to wear them (notice I didn't say "fill".)
Will Young. The boy's got pipes, imho, alright ?
And finally, the person I chose as my favourite male singer - Freddie Mercury. He had it all - style, ability, charisma, and was someone who never let go of life even at the end of it. When I heard "Bohemian Rhapsody" for the first time as a very young child, probably aged about four or five (in the car, very likely on tape, probably travelling to the supermarket on a friday night I imagine), it made me cry. Even at that young age. So I asked for it to be played again. And again. And again. And once more, with feeling ... And so began my fandom.
Watching Queen at Live Aid on tv - blown away. Utterly blown away. By the time I was old enough to be going to big gigs in far flung places (anything outside of Norwich was far flung according to my mum), Freddie was dead and I had missed out on going to a live gig by one of the greatest performers of my lifetime. I wish I had gotten the chance.

So - what track to pick to link this day's post to ? As we're talking about a favourite singer, rather than one single track, I'm having two choices (so, sue me !) that I personally believe to give an inkling of the sheer scope of the great man's talent.
The first is "Take My Breath Away". From their album "A Day at the Races" and recorded in the days when Antares Autotune and Melodyne didn't exist, and what a better world that was too. This performance always gives me goosebumps.

The second is "Somebody To Love", also from that album. If you're talking about sheer vocal range, this really shows Freddie's talent. I love this song and would like one day to record it, but I fear it is a pair of shoes far, far FAR too big for me to ever put on ! I respect the singer and song far too much to do a cover and make a total arse of it, that would be shameful. This version is from their 1982 concert at the Milton Keynes Bowl. In my opinion, this illustrates a perfect example of how to take something that was extremely complicated in the studio with masses of production, and do it live.

Friday, 4 March 2011

30 Day Song Challenge - Day Three ... A song that makes you dance

Years ago when I were a non-fibro'ed dj, I would pretty much dance to anything - banging a stick on a tin tray, the rhythm of a washing machine on spin cycle, dogs howling - anything at all. But now my energy is severely depleted I'm a touch more choosey with how I expend it.

I thought about a few tracks from my dj days which moved me. "Cubik" by 808 State is one that used to do it for me, and I like a bit of Basement Jaxx. But in the end the choice could only be one thing, as it still makes me shake my booty, even if I may fall over when doing it. "Jump In The Line" by Harry Belafonte. I can't help but break my face into a massive grin every time I hear this song. These days my only dance partner is Otto the guide dog (who will jump up and let me hold his paws to dance), as Darryl would rather stick his dick in a blender than jig about to anything. But even though the song invites you to jump in de line and shake it all the time (what you should shake is up to you, but as Penny from "Dirty Dancing" said, "Come on ladies ! God wouldn't have given you maracas if he didn't want you to shake 'em !!"), you can enjoy it just as well by yourself :)

Thursday, 3 March 2011

30 Day Song Challenge - Day Two -- a song that makes you cry.

Well, there would be about a hundred of those. I've never been stingy with the tears.

I have been going through music this morning trying to figure out which track to blog about. Music holds a powerful emotional connection for me, as it does with many people. I remember what I was doing when I heard a song for the first time, and often even songs I've known for years can take on new significance if they happen to be heard at the time of an important or deep felt event, or indeed if they just happen to make up part of a strong memory. After all, that's the premise this whole challenge works on.
I have many very sad memories - I've been married, had that break apart on me, been treated horribly by people who I loved and trusted, lost a great deal of my eyesight, fallen in love with people I shouldn't have, had that break apart on me, had my parents marriage split and lost the close relationship with my father as a result, lost my best friend to suicide, and lost my first true love when he died in my arms (more on that later, it's not as you would think.) So there's generally been a lot of loss going on, and nothing brings on the waterworks like loss. So, again, I am faced with a wealth of choice when it comes to sad songs (o, lucky me !)

But in the end I plumped for a song that I heard around the time of great gain for me, when there were actually many happy tears in my life for once. As is often the case, it evokes bittersweet tears as it reminds me of that gain, but also of profound loss.
1998 was a year when my life changed beyond all recognition, because it was the year I met and fell in love with Brin, my first German Shepherd Dog. Now, if you're thinking, "Fuck me - she's chosen a song about a fucking DOG ???" then you can fuck off right now. I have zero time for people who don't like animals, and zero time for those people who don't understand that a companion animal can be loved to the same depth as a human companion (hopefully not in the purely physical sense, - I mean, not in a perverted way ! - but certainly emotionally.) Often it is the case that the companion animal is loved more than any human influence. Yes, get used to it. A dog, in particular, loves you unconditionally. Treat him kindly and he will do anything for you, show you love, and generally give you everything of himself that he can. It's your job to uphold the other end of the partnership and do the same.
So - if you don't get this concept, then stop reading now and go and do something else. Ok ?

Ok, they've gone. You're still here, so, here we go.

Brin, or Bindi as he was more commonly known, was my first true love, no question. Yes, I was married, but as I will explain - that relationship paled in comparison. I adored him, and he adored me. I watched him grow up, and he became the centre of my life. Maybe this was because the person I was married to at the time was a cheating, lying scumbag, maybe it was because the dog was just better at loving me than the husband was. Whatever it was, Bindi was it for me.
This song was doing the rounds when he first came into my life. He was a bundle of fur, feet, ears and little teeth. He drove my husband and my best male friend nuts by hanging onto their trouser legs when they walked around the house, and nothing the said or did prevented him from doing it. I would have to come and physically remove him as he swished along the floor at their feet. He never did it to me. He was wilful, destructive, and barked at people who were afraid of him. I laid a linoleum floor in my hallway one day, inch by painstaking inch, only to have him rip it up literally five minutes after I had finished. He wasn't the brightest button in the box, so "sit", "stay" and walk to heel took him a month of sundays to learn (unlike my younger GSD, Jalen, who learned that within a day.)
But on the other hand, he was loving, protective, funny, happy and all he wanted in life was to be with me. Which was fine by me as all I wanted was to be with him, every second of every day. "The more I know of men, the more I love my dog." Damn right. He grew up to be my constant companion in a dark marriage, he gave me constant emotional comfort, and at times physical protection from my husband, and all he wanted in return was to be by my side. When my marriage ended (to be fair, it had ended long ago, but when the man finally walked out on me), he was the only thing that kept me sane. I lived for him. When I got my younger GSD, Jalen, I lived for them both. I've never wanted children, so Bindi and Jalen weren't child substitutes as some psychobabble would have people believe - they were it; they were (and are) my family.
When I met Darryl, my fiance, and his guide dog, Otto, we were the perfect family. Darryl feels the same about Otto as I do about my boys - and we have accepted and bonded with each other's dogs as we did our own. All my friends told me I'd never meet anyone who loved dogs as much as I do, and one (no longer a friend) even told me that my devotion to my boys was something I should get rid of, for fear of scaring men off. Fine - I didn't want a man who didn't get that anyway.
We had one amazing perfect Christmas together in 2007/8, all five of us, which I will remember forever as the best days of my life. Then Bindi got ill in the summer of the following year - cancer, with a very sudden onset of symptoms that alerted us to anything being wrong at all, and four weeks after the diagnoses (which was, basically, nothing to be done as the cancer was everywhere by that point - spleen, heart, liver, brain), he died in my arms late one night. He would have been eleven on his next birthday.

When he was first in my life, I didn't want to miss a second of watching him grow up. As the song says "I don't want to miss a thing." I was enchanted by everything he did (if bemused by some of his antics, and often annoyed by the destructive streak, which luckily he grew out of). When we found out he was ill, I stayed with him until he died - I didn't leave the house for the whole four weeks, I slept downstairs next to him because he couldn't make the stairs (as did Darryl, Jalen and Otto), I barely left his side for a second - and if I did, it was to use the bathroom, and more often than not he would follow me in there too. I held on to every second at the end of his life as I did at the beginning. I cherish every second we had in between.

Today all that I have left are the memories, hundreds of photographs and hours video footage, his ashes and some fur in a mourning locket around my neck. I miss him every single minute of every day. Every time I hear this song, I remember him lying asleep on my chest when he was a puppy, feeling his little puppy breath on my face, I remember his face looking up at me with anticipation of what we were going to do next, I remember how proud I was when we went on our first walk and I let him off the lead and that he came back to me the second I asked him to, I remember the joy he felt when we rolled an old bike wheel down a hill for him to chase, I remember him standing in front of me when I was cowering in a corner, baring his teeth to protect me from a man who wanted to hurt me, I remember him lying on my feet when I was standing at the stove, I remember the feel of his fur on my face when I put my arms round him, I remember him still bringing me his toys to play with the day before he died, I remember all those things. I'll never do those things again, only in dreams and in memories. I'm not a religious person, but I find myself wanting to believe there is a heaven and that I will see him one day, again. I can't cope with the idea that I won't, it's just unimaginable. Love ... love is the thing that makes me cry when I hear this song.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

30 Day Song Challenge - Day One ... Your Favourite Song.

So I have to pick just one. Only one ? Can't I have two ? Or possibly, five. Or ten ? Wait, no .... twenty ?
I couldn't figure this out, so I thought if it looked in iTunes to see what was played the most, it might give me an idea.
Well, I have several instances of iTunes. But the main two show oddly different things - and neither of them indicate songs played the most often that I would consider my favourite song. The first (my upstairs machine, where I am sitting now), reckons the track with the highest play count is "My Baby Talks Dirty" by The Knack. Now, I do like that song, and very much too, but it ain't my favourite. Downstairs machine, which I use more when I am cooking or doing housework or whatever, says the song most played is America's "A Horse with No Name." Ditto - like it, but I don't think it's y' know, da bomb or anything. I did wonder if the highest play counts would be of songs I have recently sung in bands (and had to learn, by rote, by drumming into my addled brain over and over), but although there has been talk of the Knack song, it hasn't been done. And the little ditty about the un-monikered equine hasn't even been suggested.

So what's it to be ? Well, if pressed, I would have to say that my favourite song is Jeff Healey's version of "Hoochie Coochie Man." Anyone who knew me would not be surprised by this. It's an oldie but a goody, and Jeff puts a dirty spin on it that as a singer I could only ever hope to aspire to. I don't have the added talent of being a brilliant guitarist --- or indeed being tall, blond and gorgeous either. We do it in the band, and out of all our current set list, it's the song I probably enjoy singing the most. I think this may be a dead cert for Day Twelve too. ;)

30 Day Song Challenge !

Ok, everyone's doing it. Or at least, everyone I know and are interested in. So, here's the gen.
There's a list. It has songs on it. In fact, there are a few lists, and you get to pick which one you want to follow. So it seems. Every day for thirty days, you blog in accordance with the criteria of the list. The list I'm following is as follows;

Day 1: Your favorite song.
Day 2: A song that makes you cry.
Day 3: A song that makes you dance.
Day 4: Your favorite male singer.
Day 5: Your favorite female singer.
Day 6: Your favorite band.
Day 7: One band/singer you’re ashamed to admit you like.
Day 8: One band/singer whose popularity you will never understand.
Day 9: A song that reminds you of an ex.
Day 10: A song that reminds you of your father.
Day 11: A song that reminds you of your mother.
Day 12: A song that makes you want to have sex.
Day 13: A song you sing in the shower.
Day 14: A song from the year you were born.
Day 15: A song you liked in high school.
Day 16: The first song in your mp3 folder.
Day 17: The last song in your mp3 folder.
Day 18: An instrumental song you like.
Day 19: Your favorite love song.
Day 20: Your favorite breakup song.
Day 21: A song that makes you want to break stuff.
Day 22: Your favorite song from a movie.
Day 23: Your favorite duet.
Day 24: Your favorite cover song.
Day 25: Your favorite song from 2010 or 2011 (so far)
Day 26: Your favorite music video.
Day 27: One song in your mp3 folder you’re pretty sure no one else has.
Day 28: One song that needs to never be played again.
Day 29: One song that gives you the creeps.
Day 30: A song you’d like played at your funeral.

Being a total music junkie and all, I think the only difficulty will be choosing just one song each day that meets the criteria. But then again, the other problem may be finding youtube links (as seems customary) to my chosen tracks, as, to not put too finer a point on it, I've got some weird fucking shit in my music collection. I'd be interested to do this list again in a year's time and see what's changed. Perhaps everyone who is "doing it" should do that too.

Friday, 25 February 2011

Rock, Paper, Scissors ---- or, three more things that are useless to me.

I've been trying to think about what to blog lately, after the epiphany (heh) of late that this thing needs to take a different direction. It should have been obvious really, as almost two years have passed since my failed matching visit with Quasia from guide dogs. Looking at the past posts, there have been more about accessible tech than there have been about guide dog stuff. Well, the best laid plans of mice and men, so the saying goes.
So, broadly speaking, what's it all about (Alfie) ? Well, since September of 2010, the fibromyalgia has really turned up the heat for me. It is well known that those of us with chronic pain conditions suffer badly through the colder months. To add to that, I took it upon myself to go on a diet and lose weight in December 2009. I lost three and a half stone all told, over just under twelve months. According to my gp (and from my own online research), estrogen is stored in fat, and when one loses fat cells, estrogen is dumped into your blood stream. This happy little hormone is well known for increasing sensitivity to pain. Apparently my gp thinks this is why I have been having the winter from hell fibro-wise. However, I stopped losing weight and thus fat last October, so if the estrogen is still flying around my system by now it must be strong stuff. When I embarked on my diet, I was comforted by the conventional wisdom that told me losing weight would put less strain on my joints and muscles and would make me less prone to pain overall. What a crock of shit that turned out to be.
I recently insisted my gp refer me to the rheumatology department at my local hospital, who tested me for thyroid problems (I have anti thyroid hormone levels that are way outside the norm, but apparently I do not have an over or under active thyroid), lupus (which I do not have), and vitamin d deficiency, which I do have. I also have Raynaud's. I have yet to get to the doctor to get the script for the vitamin d. Blame the agoraphobia. Last time I saw my gp she took me off my high blood pressure which I had been on for three years. It seems my weight loss took my bp right down and so I came off the meds. However the last few times the hospital have taken it and I have taken it here at home, it's been up in the stratosphere again. I fear a script for vitamin d isn't the only thing I'll be leaving the doctors with after the next visit.
The rheumi bods gave me gabapentin, which is about a useful as a chocolate teapot pain wise, but if I take 300mg of it before bed, it helps me sleep. I am supposed to take 100mg three times a day, which just makes my throat sore and dry (one of the side effects I painstakingly explained to the rheumi doc that I did not want to risk, being a singer) and makes me slightly dozy. I am fairly dozy anyway these days however, but it doesn't help the pain at all.

Visiting doctors and consultants seems to be a game of rock, paper, scissors - we meet, we both throw out our ideas as to what's wrong with me and see if they match, or if one of us can get one up on the other. So far, in the last four years, the rock, paper, scissors game has thrown up constant corneal erosion syndrome to explain my constant dry and painful eye (that was from "their" side), thyroid eye disease (ditto), blepharitis (ditto), Sjogren's (ditto) and now we're finally back to it begin down to the fibro after all, which is what I suggested in the first place. My pain and fatigue issues have been suggested to be thyroid disease, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and that old favourite, depression. I don't doubt I am depressed. Most people who are in constant pain are depressed, oddly enough ! However, fibromyalgia is a diagnoses of exclusion, and maybe finally everything else has been excluded and I now have a definite, for sure, yes-this-is-your-problem diagnoses. It only took eight years.

So here I am, looking at March looming large upon us and hoping desperately that the warmer weather will alleviate the Raynauds, the fibro pain and the muscle weakness. I fear if the effects carry on at this level I wouldn't be able to handle a guide dog when the time finally came for me to have one. I can barely hold a knife and fork to eat some days, let alone a harness. Which would be pretty ironic ! And not to mention pretty shit.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Monday, 21 February 2011

Been a long time...

... not since I rock 'n' rolled. But since I posted.

I originally started this blog when I went on the list for a guide dog. That whole adventure is documented in past entries, and because of how that turned out, the focus of anything for me isn't going to be waiting for a guide dog for a long time now. So I got to thinking today about what my life really was all about right now - and basically, it's all about two things.
One - the band I am in - or, the band "proper" as I have to call us. As I'm in a few, talking about them to people calls for a way to differentiate between them. My main focus musically is the rock / blues band I am the lead singer of, The Secondhand Band. We have our first full gig at the Brickmaker's in Norwich a week tomorrow (1.03.11)
Two - coping with the increasing effects of my fibromyalgia and associated conditions.
A close runner up third thing would be how my visual impairment interacts with the above, but it interacts with everything, so there's no point in giving it a separate focus. To be honest, the fibro is becoming like that too. It's like swimming in glue. I've been in a flare since September last year. Sometimes the pain has felt like it is going to drive me genuinely insane. I now know exactly what people mean when they describe pain as a living thing, eating you from the inside out.

Those two things in my life are constantly at odds with each other. Along with fibro (for me) comes chronic agoraphobia, panic attacks, and social phobia. Trying to explain that someone who is the lead singer of a band suffers from those things is like trying to nail jelly to a wall. Nobody understands it - they see me, singing, fronting the band, and they just assume I am either exaggerating the agoraphobia or just plain making it up. So far we have only gigged in one pub, and so far, only half an hour slots. I coped with those - although I have to admit i was so nervous and scared that I actually remember nothing about either occasion at all. Not one thing.

The fact of the matter is, I have a hundred and ten foot garden which I hardly can bring myself to go into. I can't empty the bin, because it involves going into the garden further from the house than I can manage, unless Darryl is with me. In the summer, I sit as close to the back door as I can manage. I moved my veggie patch down as near to the house as I can get it when really it should take advantage of the space further away from the house. I would rather put recycling in bags outside the back door than go into the front garden, walk ten feet from the front door and put them in the recycling bin. Then when the collection is due I have to muster up the courage to collect the bags and bring them through the house and take them to the bin at the front. Or keep the bins round the back and drag them through the passage before collection day- painful and means more going outside.
My fiance lives five hundred yards away and has done for over three years. Yet I can count the times I've been to his house on the fingers of my hands.
I cancel doctors and hospital appointments for very important things if I can't get transport to the surgery, and sometimes, if I can't face it, even if I can get transport. I can no longer travel on the bus. This has been a recent development, I used to be okay if I was with Darryl, now I can't get on a bus at all.

I can go exactly five places without a panic attack - the rehearsal studio, the social club for the blind, the association for the blind building, the Blueberry pub, and the Brickmaker's pub. Although with the last two I have to be with the guys in the band, or at least Darryl and one other band member (the other guitarist, Rob). I can't go if it's just Darryl and I, and I couldn't go if it were just any other band member, it has to be Rob. As long as both he and Darryl are there, I'm okay.
And none of these places I can go to unless I go in a car, I can't take the bus. Walking anywhere on the street is absolutely impossible. I used to be okay if I went with Darryl - but these days I'm not.
The last time I went to the doctors on foot (a twenty minute walk), someone the other side of the road sneezed, and I had a fully fledged panic attack and burst into tears. I was a total wreck. I can't go to any of these "safe" places in a car without Darryl.

So why is this ? Well, I've always tended towards agoraphobia even when I had all my eyesight, but I fought through it and did stuff anyway. Many visually impaired people are afraid to go out - understandably, as for someone who can't see shit, the world is a potentially dangerous and unfriendly place. I am not able to have a guide dog for now, which I was pinning a lot of my hopes on. That really took me back some steps, agoraphobically speaking. I hate walking down the street with that fucking white stick - it's all people see. Holding it hurts my hands and arms. I am bad at using it because I have weak grip in my hands. And with the stick, you make contact with obstacles. This can sometimes be a painful shock if you're not expecting them.
Anyone reading this blog from way back will also know that my neighbours are also arseholes, one in particular is aggressive and horrible. So that might explain my reluctance to go into the garden. Darryl also had some issues with local kids last year who were giving him and Otto shit, and with people trying to give him grief in the street as he went about his business. They are ignorant twats, we all know this, but it has made me afraid for his safety as sometimes they've been aggressive. As a result I get the shakes every time he travels between my house and his. I feel sick and get scared. He has to call me the second he gets to his house. I am becoming agoraphobic by proxy !

I am in constant pain and constantly fatigued with the fibro, which makes one not want to go out. Or I am so drugged up with pain meds a lot of the time that I am too confused to go out. My one saving grace is that I can go to places I feel safe in, and with people I feel safe with, if I go there in a car. Performing on stage at the Brickmaker's happens to be a bearable thing. I am surrounded by four guys I trust, and of course Darryl is one of those. How I could quantify that I can do that but get the shakes when I have to take the bins out to anyone else, I just don't know, so I don't bother trying to explain anymore.

So I think in retropsect this blog will more likely be about those things. One day I hope to get a guide dog. When my Jalen is no longer with us, which I hope will be in many years from now. I do wonder these days if I will be able to cope with the pain well enough to handle a guide dog, and I have promised myself that I will fight the agoraphobia when the time comes and just do it, like I used to when I could see properly. With a guide dog by my side there will be no excuse. I won't allow myself to have one.
But until then I'm just going to have to come to terms with my weird existence - I can't go to the corner shop and I burst into tears at loud noises in the street, but I can do a gig at the Brickmaker's. And if I can somehow stop beating myself up about that, everyone else will just have to accept it too, and anyone who doesn't understand that will just have to go fuck themselves.