Music, Music, Music

Music has always played a hugely important part of my life, from pretty much as far as back as I can remember (which is longer than I care to think about too much!).

I remember when I was a young boy playing my first record – a ’45’ vinyl single (anyone else remember those? I’m really showing my age now aren’t I?!) – on my little plastic record player in the garden, playing it over and over again and driving my Mum and Dad insane!

Music has seen me through tough times – still does – and has kept me (relatively) sane during particularly tough times. Although that assessment is probably up for debate!

It even played a major part in the birth of my twins Jake & Ellie. The anaesthetist-come-DJ was playing Beyonce tracks during the birth and I’m pretty sure ‘Halo‘ was playing as they emerged! It’s been my theme song for them ever since.

 

In recent years too I’ve begun playing & writing music, relearning the acoustic guitar, to the extent that I am now a semi-professional musician. I love it!  But that’s another story.

As with so many other things, listening to music seemed simpler in the past. I’d buy a record / cassette tape / CD of what I liked and play it. Simple! After the iPod turned up I started ripping CDs onto my PC or portable player – now my smartphone. I loved this and still do – all my music available in a few clicks. Then music became available to download, as a purchase or free from now-infamous piracy sites. Now we have the likes of Spotify where you can stream almost anything you like as long as you have an internet connection. Then of course there is also now the ubiquitous YouTube. It’s a Brave New World!

I’m still coming to grips with streaming tech to be honest; it’s meant a radical adjustment in how I listen to music. I listen to Spotify a lot but the bulk of my music is what I’ve bought myself, mostly on my PC. I currently have 66,000 tracks there, which I’m still adding to, including a pile of CDs I haven’t listened to yet!  I still download tracks if I want them on my ‘phone for when I’m out, but I’ve pretty much stopped buying CDs now.

I like to work from home as much as I can, not least because that means that I can listen to music that I like while working. In those simpler times my regular ‘Playlist’ would just be my CDs, but it now includes streaming & downloading as well.

So – and this is actually the point of this post! – here is what I’m currently listening to:

Spotify’s ‘Discover Weekly’ Playlist

This is a playlist created by Spotify specifically for each user based on what they listen to there. It’s usually pretty good.  My favourite this week was from a musician I’d never heard of before: ‘Soft Rain’ by Damien Dempsey. A lot of it is spoken: his wonderfully expressive Irish lilt against a backdrop of chilled and relaxing but uplifting soft electronica, with his beautifully toneful singing voice bursting in on the chorus. Give it a listen: I think it’s wonderful!

 

The BBC 6 Music Playlist on Spotify

The BBC 6 Music radio station has become a national institution, even in its short history, in my opinion. It’s perfect for mature music lovers like me, who love not only classic ‘quality’ music, but also want to hear sounds that are new and innovative. There’s always something unexpected here! My recent favourite isn’t there at the moment, but is a real stand-out track: the collaboration between Underworld (remember ‘Born Slippy’ from ‘Trainspotting’?) and the living legend that is Iggy Pop. It’s called ‘Bells & Circles’ and it’s what you’d expect: crazy, high-energy, high-octane, dancilicious* brilliance!

* yes, that is a word. It is now, anyway…

The NOW UK Top 20 Chart on Spotify

Yes, here’s where I ‘let the side down’. ‘My generation’ – whatever that is – (especially the male side) is meant to be disdainful of ‘modern music’: “what do these kids know about music / it’s all computers and bleeps and manufactured” etc, etc. Well, yes, some of that may have some truth in it, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be enjoyable, for me anyway. Also, “manufactured music” has been around for much longer than I have, and isn’t necessarily bad: ‘Motown’, anyone? I’ve always been partial to a bit of ABBA, for instance,  so I don’t have a problem with good pop, and sharing the musical loves of my 8-year-old twins helps immunise me to a lot of modern pop too! I do often skip a few tracks, but right now I’m not at all and I think it’s actually not too bad! My pick of the current bunch is the rhythmic guitar-based pop-rock of George Ezra’s ‘Paradise’. It’s great for singing and playing on my acoustic guitar, although harder than it sounds!

 

Stalking Following Facebook Friends on Spotify

I like the social aspect of Spotify and I wish there was more of it. You can see what your Facebook friends are listening to, if they allow it, and it’s always rewarding! I love having a further insight into the likes and loves of people I know in person or online; it’s also another great way of discovering new music. So what stands out at the moment? Let’s see… And the winner is: a very talented local musician called Harvey, who chose: Psycho Killer (live) by Talking Heads!  This is a great live verison: mostly acoustic, and predictably eccentric. It’s also a song both Harvey & I love to play on our acoustic guitars. Your prize is in the post Harvey! Probably.

 

‘I Know of You’: My Own Spotify Playlist

This is made up of songs I’ve heard and liked and want to listen to again, and is the latest of many. It’s hard to choose a current favourite, but I’m going for: ‘Living in Disgrace’ by John Smith. I love the chiming, rhythmic guitar & his raspy but beautifully expressive voice. A real gem!

 

Spotify Album: ‘Melodrama’ by Lorde

I first knew of Lorde from her breakthrough and record-smashing song ‘Royals‘ (another which I love to perform) but it wasn’t until I saw her Glastonbury set (just on TV, unfortunately) that I realised how amazing she is. Still a teenager, she is multi-talented: a writer, singer, producer, dancer, trendsetter. A true young auteur! Also, being from my country of birth New Zealand – and those who know me ‘in real life’ will know we also have something else in common – it’s probably illegal there for me not to like her! This is her second album and is full of more great songs, both up- and down-tempo, but always engaging and thought-provoking. My pick is the very moving, heartfelt and personal ‘Liability‘, which despite the difference in our ages, gender and experiences I can still very much identify with it. It’s a theme for the ‘outsider’, the one ‘who doesn’t quite fit in’. As an ex-pat Kiwi I also love hearing someone who sounds like me!  It’s a very beautiful song.

The sound quality on this video isn’t the best – it’s fan-recorded – but I had to choose it as it was live from my old home town! Not only that but her introducton and explanation of her deep love of writing and music is very moving. (Contains some ‘strong language’).

 

I’m listening to a lot of music at the moment! I see this is a Very Good Thing.

I’ll post about the CDs I’m also currently enjoying another time; tomorrow if I have the time.

In the meantime, “If music be the food of love, play on!”.

 

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My Bloggy Year

Totally ripping off Inspired by this post by MrsLJHall here is my year in blog posts & pages, with stats, starting with the most read.

I’ve included some posts written in 2009 or earlier from “Random Ramblings, Pretty Pictures” that have still had views in 2010.

I’m reasonably pleased with my blogs now, especially considering that this, my main one, had a 6-month gap with no major updates. I think they both look a lot better now that I’ve learnt a few tricks of the trade; & have been allowed some time inbetween the demands of demanding twin babies!

A small percentage of the worldwide web seem to have enjoyed reading them, & for that I thank you.

I hope to continue onwards & upwards for the coming year & beyond.

What a day! 88 views

20 Ways to Annoy People on Twitter 88

Knee-Deep in Nappies 81

The Gallery: Motherhood 78

You Had Me At “Agoo” 76

Silent Sunday: Learning & Loving 62

Silent Sunday: Ho Ho Ho! 59

Silent Sunday: Babies Should Be Washed Separately 58

TwinTrek: The Voyage Home 58

What a Day! continued 54

Silent Sunday: Ellie’s New Friend 52

I’m not fat, I’m sympathetically pregnant! 48

The Gallery: Emotions 43

This Blog Is Pointless 41

The Gallery: Love 39

– Huh? What are you, some kind of tramp? (a.k.a. “About”) 38

We Can See Your Halo 38

Through a Scanner, Darkly 35

Creatures (The Gallery) 35

The Gallery: Black & White 34

Alive and Kicking 34

T-7 And Counting: Gearing Up For TwinsLaunchDate 32

Gig Review: Faithless, N.I.A. Birmingham, Dec 10 2010 32

Their First Noël 28

The Gallery: A Photo I’m Proud Of 28

The Gallery: Show Me the Funny 28

Silent Sunday: A Very Jallie Christmas 27

My Favourite Music 26

Silent Sunday: It’s Cold Outside 23

Yesterday Once More? 23

The Gallery: Sparkle 22

About Me & This Stuff (Random Ramblings, Pretty Pictures) 21

The Gallery: Black & White, (The Sequel) 21

The Gallery: White 18

Drolgerg Does Istanbul #1: Why You Shouldn’t Always Listen To Your Mother 16

What’s in a Name? 12

10 More Ways to Annoy People on Twitter: A Celebrity Special! 11

The Gallery: Seasons 10

It’s been quite a year!  I’m hoping that 2011 will be even better. And maybe less dramatic 🙂

Thanks again for everyone who’s taken the time to read, & especially to those who have kindly left comments.

A Happy New Year to you all!

We Can See Your Halo

This song was playing in the Operating Theatre as Jacob & Eleanor entered the world. We chose it deliberately as it seemed appropriate & we both love it. It wasn’t until afterwards when we really heard the words that we realised how nearly perfect it was. A few tears may have been shed with this one…

For Jake & Ellie:

Remember those walls I built?
Well, baby they are tumbling down
And they didn’t even put up a fight
They didn’t even make a sound
I found a way to let you in
But, I never really had a doubt
Standing in the light of your halo
I got my angel now

It’s like I’ve been awakened
Every rule I had, you break it
It’s the risk that I’m taking
I ain’t never gonna shut you out!

Everywhere I’m looking now
I’m surrounded by your embrace
Baby, I can see your halo
You know you’re my saving grace
You’re everything I need and more
It’s written all over your face
Baby, I can feel your halo
Pray it won’t fade away

I can feel your halo
I can see your halo
I can feel your halo
I can see your halo
Halo, ooh ooh…..

Hit me like a ray of sun
Burning through my darkest night
You’re the only one that I want
Think I’m addicted to your light
I swore I’d never fall again
But this don’t even feel like falling
Gravity can’t forget
To pull me back to the ground again

It’s like I’ve been awakened
Every rule I had, you break it
It’s the risk that I’m taking
I’m never gonna shut you out!

Everywhere I’m looking now
I’m surrounded by your embrace
Baby, I can see your halo
You know you’re my saving grace
You’re everything I need and more
It’s written all over your face
Baby, I can feel your halo
I pray it won’t fade away

I can feel your halo
I can see your halo…

“Halo” written by Beyonce Knowles, Ryan Todder,  E. Kidd Bogart; C & P Sony / Columbia

 

What a Day! continued

The rest of the day is a bit of a blur now.

As my wife was being patched up in the theatre I was ushered off to a side room with my gorgeous new twin babies. In hindsight I probably should have been more worried; I was more just overwhelmed by the 2 utterly helpless but utterly beautiful tiny little sleeping people I suddenly found myself alone with & responsible for. We had already developed a huge admiration for the expertise, professionalism, humanity & compassion of the lead Obstetrician so I trusted & was reassured by her & her team. It couldn’t stop the unease fighting with the elation as I found myself alone with my 2 new helpless children while my wife was still in the operating theatre.

The main thing I remember is their frequently waking up & crying & my efforts to get them back to sleep. I wheeled them around the room in their cot; the motion seemed to soothe them. Then I kept having running battles with staff who came in, opened the curtains & turned on all the lights, then ran out again. Result: immediate crying. So I’d go around  closing the curtains & switching off the lights, resulting in peaceful sleeping babies: until the next 1 came in. Some staff did actually come in & do apparently important things, so I let them keep the lights on 🙂

I also soon found that sticking a finger in Jake’s mouth sent him back off to sleep as well.  That boy has got 1 powerful suck: he can actually hurt my fingers! Then my little Ellie grabbed my finger with her hand, wrapped her tiny little fingers around it & wouldn’t let go…

"It's like I've been awakened... I've got my angel now"

It was a moment where it felt like that up until then I hadn’t really lived.

Eventually my wife was wheeled in & we were all led off to the HDU: High Dependency Unit.  What happened there? Not really sure! I seem to remember lots of people coming & going, doing tests, asking questions, giving us bits of paper to read or sign.  At 1 point a Paediatrician tried to take blood from both babies for tests: by pricking a heel then shaking & squeezing. She seemed to take forever, & the babies seemed really distressed. After a bit she came back & told us she still didn’t have enough blood & needed to do it again. We couldn’t stand to see our helpless newborns so distressed! After finding out why they wanted the blood, & deciding it wasn’t urgent we asked them to postpone: which they did.

My lovely wife has always been keen to get them breast-feeding as soon as possible. In hindsight this was very ambitious. It’s especially difficult with twins apparently & a lot of mothers don’t even try, after her worse than expected C-Section she wasn’t really in a fit state for it.

We did seem to have some success, & their different personalities, even though newborn, were already emerging. Jake was & is never happier than when on his mother’s breast: the suction in that mouth is incredible! Ellie on the other hand mostly just wanted to sleep, & didn’t seem to want to feed much at all.  Jake’s a little trier too: he seemed determined to get his food at all costs, & my wife – although loving every second – was finding it quite painful. No photos: I value my testicles & I’d like to keep them where they are please.

I left them (my wife & babies, not my testicles) in the capable hands of the midwives & other staff to head home at around 8.30pm, very tired, very hungry & very happy.

What a day!

On Friday, in just a few hours ‘we’ went from this: To this:

We’d had a rough night the night before. For a while lovely wife had been uncomfortable, sore from internal bumping, bloated, with a constantly upset tummy, etc. She’d had even more trouble sleeping than usual though: we think she’d started going into labour, so even though it  was technically still  a week early her C-Section was timed perfectly.

At our prelim. they’d told us to be there for 730 but that they didn’t know when the op. would start. We got there fashionably late. We were  expecting the usual long NHS wait: I’d brought several books, food, drinks, a tent, a moonshine still & my guitar.  (Some of those might be made up: Ed.). When we got there though it was all go: lovely wife was whisked straight into pre-op. Before we knew it she was off somewhere being poked,  prodded & injected & I was dressed in scrubs grabbing some shut-eye outside the operating theatre.

We eventually got going at around 930. We were amazed to see a small army in the theatre: 3 anaesthetists, at least 2 paediatricians, 2 Ob & Gynae consultant/ surgeons + ‘assistants’ , a DJ, ushers, parking attendants, a PR co-ordinator, a photographer from ‘Heat’ & a man selling ice-creams.  (See previous note: Ed.). Seriously: I counted at least 12 staff there.

She had a local anaesthetic: a spinal (like an epidural), so was conscious but groggy. I was protected from the gory details by a big screen, which is just as well as I’m a little squeamish; I can never eat dinner while watching House or CSI. There were paediatric carts with all sorts of machines attached off to the left, & a very friendly anaesthetist on hand letting us know what was happening & checking if we needed anything. He’d brought his MP3 player & was taking requests, although for artists A-H only. I wasn’t lying about having a DJ! We requested Beyonce, & luckily he had her entire last album there: which we both love.

We were told that the first baby would emerge at around 10. When the time came & went it was clear things weren’t going smoothly. Without going into detail, there was a recurrence of problems for which she had had previous surgery, & both babies were awkwardly positioned; 1 in particular was down very low.

After a few minutes we heard “I have a leg”. At 1012 we had a baby boy! (I’m pretty sure ‘Halo‘ was playing at the time).

We had been told that they would lower the screen &  hold them up for us  to see when they came out.

They didn’t.

He was whisked straight onto the cart with great speed &  immedaitely surrounded by a swarm of people who seemed to emerge from nowhere, working frantically.

He wasn’t crying.

There was just a surreal silence. I can’t tell you what I was feeling: I was elated that after so long we finally had a baby delivered, but scared to death that there was something wrong. To say I was worried would be the world’s greatest understatement, although I always stayed positive; I was confident that these wonderful professionals would get the job done.

First view of our baby boy

His airways were blocked with fluid, not uncommon in C-Sections but made worse with the complications of the surgery. He was put straight onto suction & possibly ventilation, I don’t know & didn’t care: ‘cos after what seemed like forever he was being picked up, crying his little heart out & being given to me to hold.

Crying & getting cleaned up ready for Daddy

Lovely wife was still being operated on while this going on so I got to ‘skin-to-skin’ bond with him. He was put on me under my scrubs, the warmth & body smells comforting him & my heartbeat reminding him of where he’d just come from,  easing the shock of the big bad confusing world he’s just entered. After only seconds he had stopped crying & was sleeping peacefully on my chest. In his excitement he managed to wee on me, as his way of saying “hello”.

Happiest moment of my life.

Father & Son

In the meantime the surgeons were working hard to deliver twin no. 2, & while I was bonding with my son she had been brought out, treated on the 2nd cart & given to my very groggy but very happy wife for skin-to-skinning.

Happy Family

They then had to stitch her up  – usually the most time-consuming part of a C-Section – so I got to hold them both, first our girl:

Gurning like a happy idiot with my new girl

then both of them together:

Hi kids!

In the meantime, unknown to me, the surgeons were continuing to have problems. Because of its awkward postion they’d had to cut through a placenta; as that acts as conduit between baby & mother my wife had a lost a lot of blood & had to have a big transfusion.

I’m sitting there holding my beautiful new twin babies feeling like the luckiest man alive, & I’m becoming aware that there’s a problem with their mother, my lovely wife.

Babies in my arms, I watched her lose consciousness, while noticing that the floor had become very red.

I never lost hope, but for a second I was thinking “Oh my god: I’ve gained 2 gorgeous babies & I’m going to lose my wife!” This may sound melodramatic, but it was serious: the head consultant told me afterwards it was “touch & go”.

The team was incredible: they fixed her up & she pulled through. The NHS has its problems, & I’ve been critical myself at times, but these people are heroes & we owe them a huge debt of gratitude.

While she was being patched up, we were ushered out of the way into a side room, where I made the most of the time getting to know my new family.

More later: I’m heading back off to the hospital to be with them all.

Welcome to the world Jacob & Eleanor! You are adorable & adored.