venerdì 21 settembre 2018

The Comments Post.

This will be my last post for a while because I am heading off to the Northern Hemisphere.
If you're not up with the play, I'll be in Miramar Sunday night and then on Monday I fly to Auckland and Singapore (for a night). Then it's off to Milano. I'll have my phone, but no laptop. There's a group I started, on What's App called 'Team NZ' which I may share a picture or two on.

For example...

"We've arrived in Milano. Gosh, there are some tall
buildings! Quite a bit of Italian is spoken here and
everyone seems to like pizzas. The toilets in the 
hotel are great. For some reason there are two side
by side. I guess that's just in case two people 
are desperate."

For your convenience, but why is there only 
one toilet roll holder?

I won't be able to post on Richard's Bass Bag* but I can comment from my phone. So, if I need to tell you anything, I'll leave a comment on this post.
No need to thank me.

I hope that The Curmudgeon and Robert behave while I am away.

* the original bass bagging site

giovedì 20 settembre 2018


This word has nothing to do with giving someone a glass of port.

When a customs official firmly says, "Passport." He doesn't want you to pass him a drink.
This is an easy trap to fall into when travelling.
A passport is a little book with a very bad photo of you inside.

In four days I'll be flying again. The last time I got on an aeroplane was in the early 80s - a long time between drinks, as they say in rugby commentaries.
Hence the 'port wine' joke.

Our seats on Singapore Airlines will probably look like this.
It's all about getting to Milano.


E` sempre ora.

It is always now.
That's a good thing to remember when you are travelling a long distance.

Here's a picture of Signorina Cremona to finish off.

mercoledì 19 settembre 2018

Violin transfer time.


I played my last NZ gig last night before boarding the giant bird. That means it's time to put away Signora Violina and start training up Signorina Cremona. Signorina Cremona is coming on this trip because she is cheap.
Doesn't that sound awful!
I bought Signorina Cremona a little while back at the Rock, Pop, Reggae, Rap and A Few Other Types of Music Shop. She came with a case and a bow for $450. That means Signorina Violina is probably worth about $300. I don't think the bow contributed much to the cost, God bless it. I've presently got it on Trade Me as a fishing rod.
Signorina Cremona looks pretty and plays quite well - she has also been well set up. I'm very pleased that she's coming with me.
It evidently can be tricky getting a violin into the place where you sit and they sometimes make you put it with the big bags. If this does eventuate, Signorina Cremona is young and fit...
and cheap.
A friend lamented that her son was unable to get a scateboard in there, while someone managed to sneak in with a violin.
Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but I would have thought that a skateboard is a little more robust than a violin.
There is a way to test my theory.
Try doing a Caballerial or a grind on a violin.
A set of spanners would probably survive well down there with the big bags too.
A set of bricks in a specially built bag? Should be fine but it will use up quite a bit of your weight allocation.
A cricket bat? Should be okay.
A welding torch and accessories? Definitely fine.
A collection of old phone books from around the world carefully tied up with string? Not really a problem if the string is strong.
A sheet of corrugated roofing iron? As long as no one bends it too much or puts too many heavy bags on it.
Actually, on second thoughts, you could make a case for carrying on a sheet of corrugated roofing iron when you enter the plane.
Anyway, corrugated roofing iron aside, a violin is fairly delicate and doesn't really take up too much space.
I hope that Signorina Cremona, even though she is cheap, doesn't finish up down there with the welding torch and the phone books. I think that her and I will have a nice time together.

martedì 18 settembre 2018

Restaurant playing is not for me.

I'd forgotten the reality - you play your heart out into a wall of talking.
It's no one's fault - that's what people go to restaurants to do.
I'd just forgotten.

So far rhis year:
  • 350 hours on my three instruments practice.
  • 161 hours of violin practice.

I think I played well but, after an hour and a half, I was absolutely knackered.
I made some excuses and stopped early.
I was playing to about twenty five people, in a group, who had asked for a violinist. 
"Just like in Italy." the birthday boy had said.
There were people at tables further away too.
The party I was playing to were all men. Not a single woman. I figured they hadn't had much luck getting girlfriends.
They seemed like nice people.
I got a couple of compliments when I finished. One from a staff member and one from a guest.
That sort of helps.

It's a lot more fun playing in my living room because I'm not playing into a wall of noise.

Tuesday Morning.

No work this week.
I like it.
My job this morning is to pick up a set of violin strings and four AAA batteries.
Life is busy.

Hey, I said four!

AAA batteries can be used in many things, but I'll be using them in the two little lights on my music stand.

The strings are just for standby.
This evening I'll be heading out to a restaurant.

I won't be there to eat.

Armed with this.

Note the wireless pickup.
Two hours of solo violin.
Non stop.

24 tunes.
Each 5 minutes long.

Tra il dire e il fare c'è di mezzo il mare.

sabato 15 settembre 2018

South Africa 36 - All Blacks 34.

Look, you can't win 'em all. The All Blacks staged a great fight back, but my hero Beauden had a bad night with his kicking.

That's Wade on the left and his partner's parents next to Richard (of RBB).

I read that some wise guy said he couldn't hit the side of a barn tonight.
He missed an easy kick that would have drawn the game. Still it was a great spectacle to attend.
Thanks Wade.

mercoledì 12 settembre 2018

Gig on!

Around about 5.30pm yesterday the phone rang.
I answered it and, without thinking, said, "Pronto."

Suddenly I was aware that the caller was talking in Italian.
He said, in Italian, "Hi, this is Alessandrò from Mediterranean Foods and I'm calling to check if you're still able to play solo violin here on Tuesday September 18th."
I answered, "Sì, sì. Tutto bene. Non è una problema."
Then he said some stuff that I didn't really understand so, I replied,
"Mi dispiace ma non capisco. Ancora?"
He then talked a bit in English and the conversation skipped a bit between the two languages.
I slipped in, "Chi va piano va sano e va lontano." and he laughed.

* * *

So, next week it all happens. I will play 24 tunes, each about 5 minutes long. 

I'll use my wireless transmitter so that I can move around a bit.
I'll probably kick off with Santa Lucia. I'll move it through 3 keys - C,G and D. Then back to C. 
Then I'll pull out something I know really well, maybe the theme to Black Orpheus. 
Generally, after a couple of tunes, you're warmed up and things begin to flow.

Playing solo for two hours on a violin is quite a big deal. 
Let's do this!

martedì 11 settembre 2018

Mr High and Mighty Ink.

Lately The Curmudgeon has taken a few pot shots at me from his high horse.

I don't know how the old bugger gets up there.

He was a bit miffed when I wrote a series (and a good one at that) about him and his elderly mates driving around Whangarei in an attempt to stop crimes.


"Maybe one day this blogger* will have his house or vehicle broken into and vandalised and some silly old buggers watching it happen will choose not to become involved and look the other way." he wrote.

I assume that the Whangarei Border Patrol boys won't be patrolling this far south.
I think I can live with his threat of no help. I bought a new pair of boots the other day and I haven't noticed myself shaking in them.

He'll get over it. After all, this little blogging community is about as big as a matchbox with three matches left in it and he's bound to upset Robert again soon. That will bring his regular readership down to zero.

I still check his posts but it's all a bit boring over there. 

Maybe all those Curmudgeons need to write some interesting stuff. 
I won't be holding my breath.

"Got to get back for that next The Curmudgeon Ink post!"

* Richard (of RBB)

giovedì 6 settembre 2018

Border Patrol 3 - old boys in blue.

The Whangarei District Brass Band had struggled for a while. In the 1970s they were in the D Grade competition but, thanks to a keen interest in brass playing at the local schools, they'd pulled off third place in the C Grade. The city really got behind them and they were a popular addition to many civic events. Call it what you like but, when times got tough in the early 2000s, someone had the idea that it all came down to having a snazzy uniform.

From this...

In the early days.

To this...

As the band slowly went into decline, due to the fact that very people few were interested in playing the Eb Tenor Horn or the Bb Tuba - even the once popular Flugel Horn was going through a bad patch - uniforms started showing up in Op Shops.

* * *

One day TC was out looking for cheap clothing for when he did the odd stint in the garden to keep The Old Girl happy.
He saw something.
This could work as a uniform!

Things were about to change for this particular Border Patrol squad in Whangerei City!

"Step away from the car! Step away from the car! 
I have a slug gun."

Border Patrol 2 - old men getting serious.

This particular level of the Central Parking building in downtown Whangarei was almost completely empty. Only two cars were on the floor, one at the southern end by the lifts and the other nearer the northern end, on the north eastern side. The woman in the black raincoat was aware of the position of both cars and she certainly wasn't enjoying the solitude. She cast off a long shadow that seemed to be indicating a pathway to the north eastern car. Her car. 
Her shadow was not caused by the sun - it was 11pm. The light was supplied by a few street lights and a glow from the nearby Empire Hotel. She tried to move quickly and quietly, but that was almost impossible in high heels. There was someone standing near one of the lifts. A man, she thought. Too big for a woman, but she knew there were some big women out there. Especially in Whangarei.

* * *

TC was in the bath with a glass of 2004 Misty Hall Chardonnay. He'd had it in his cellar for a while and had promised himself a special treat tonight. Later he would go onto Robert's blog and post a few comments. He always enjoyed doing that - it wound Robert up sometimes. He'd had a phone call earlier from Wally telling him that Jim had decided to quit Border Patrol.
TC had thought, "Pansy!"
Wally had talked his young nephew (the son of a much younger brother) into joining the squad. TC worried about having a green horn along for the ride, especially if things got difficult. He'd spent the last few days training. He worked with weights, small weights, and did a lot of walking over the big hills behind his property. He'd also managed to find his old slug gun, along with a box of slugs, and was pleased to find that it fitted into a cowboy holster he'd kept from his childhood. He'd taken the holster off its original belt and threaded it onto his much longer one. Nigel had popped around after their last tour of duty. He'd shown TC a cricket bat that his wife had sewn a long pouch for. It was his intention to wear it like a sword next time they were on duty. Nigel told TC that Wally had wired up an old school hooter to his battery and it sounded almost like the real thing. He'd also acquired a torch with a red filter. The idea was that, in emergencies, the guy in the front passenger seat could hold it near the middle of the front windscreen quickly turn it on and off and on and off.

* * *

The lady in the black raincoat tried to walk confidently towards her car. She was listening hard for any extra foot steps. She didn't look in the man's direction. She was half way there now and she heard a crack - like someone dropping a spanner. She dared not turn around to look.
Then the voice came.
"Sorry love, I didn't mean to spook you. My son's car won't start. That one over there. He asked me to meet him here. I'm a mechanic by trade. I don't know where he's buggered off to. Bloody kids! I was watching the rugby."
The woman in the black raincoat turned and smiled. Then she reached her car.
It started easily and she was gone, down the ramp. Into the city of Whangarei.

* * *

Sunrise. The Border Patrol squad had met for drills. The young nephew was named Joerdane and was about ninteen years old. He sat in the front passenger seat and held the torch. TC sat on the right in the back. He was wearing his slug gun in the cowboy holster. He thought, "Let that big guy come back now!"
Nigel, on his left, kept the cricket bat in its long pouch. He let his hand rest on the handle. At home he'd practised pulling it out quickly. He did this for about 20 minutes in his back yard until some neighbourhood kids had seen him and laughed.
Soon they were cruising on the outskirts of town. The first drill would be to stop the car quickly and hop out and prepare for action. The two armed men would jump out and the other two would sit in the car with the 'siren' sounding and the torch flashing. They'd chosen an old petrol station yard that had long since been deserted and that wasn't too obvious from the road.
"Okay, here we go boys!" shouted Wally as he jammed on the brakes. Joerdane lurched forward and the weight was taken by his seat belt. He flashed the torch - on, off, on, off, on, off...
Wally turned on the siren.
Nigel jumped out to the left and pulled out his cricket bat. TC drew his slug gun and remembered that he'd forgotten to load it. He used his fingers to search his windbreaker pocket until they isolated one slug. He unwound the back bit and carefully inserted in into the barrel. Anyone coming at him now would risk taking a stinging shot.

* * *

It had been a good practice and the squad felt organised. TC wondered if violin practice left a similar feeling of gratification.  They planned to practice each day before their next tour of duty. Joerdane would miss some practices because he was doing a course at the local polytechnic. TC thought that they could continue okay without the flashing light.
Wally felt a bit misty eyed and stirred up and blurted out,
"Let's do this thing."
All four of them felt a special comeraderie.
Only one more thing, they'd need a uniform.

Border Patrol!

There was a knock at the door. TC finished his toilet and went to answer it. Wally had moved back out next to his car.
"Come on TC, hurry up, we've got Border Patrol tonight. The other boys will be wondering where we are."

TC went back and quickly sprayed the bathroom, then he picked up his jacket, hat, badge and bags and headed out to join Wally.

"What are you bringing all that for?" asked Wally.
"We're only going to be out for about an hour. I went to get back for my hot cocoa and a slice of toast."
"They're just a few essentials - some tools, a few snacks and some toilet paper just in case."
Wally stopped just outside the city and TC went to fetch Nigel and Jim who were neighbours.

"Hurry up boys!"
They all climbed in the car - ready for duty.
This was work and dangerous work, so the pleasantries were quickly dealt with.
Down to business.
"We'll take a trip down Main Street," said Wally, "there have been a few problems with young larrikins pissing in shop entrances."

Main Street was quiet, but Nigel was the first to notice it.
Three youths.
TC's detective brain told him they were probably in their mid teens. Two boys were standing there and the other seemed to be urinating against a shop door.
"We need a siren." said Jim.
"Yeah, I'm trying to get one through an on line store." said Wally. "I think I could wire it up to the battery."
The car pulled over near the youths and Nigel and TC got out.
The nearest youth said, in a slow slightly rapper accent, "You want us to give you a hand to get out of that car?"
"No son, we're Border Patrol and we've got a few questions for you." TC said in a voice he'd heard on American cop shows.
"We're not doing anything." said one of the boys.
"He is." said Nigel. "He's pissing on that door!"
"Well, I just needed to take a piss. None of your business." said the urinating boy.
"We could make a citizen's arrest." pointed out TC.
One boy laughed and held up one finger.
"Okay," said TC, "We're taking you boys in for that!"
TC meant business.
Wally got out of the car. Four against three. No contest.
Then a car came down Main Street.
It pulled over near them and a man got out.
He was huge and didn't look like a guy who got jokes.

"Hi Fighther," the big guy said, "I told you boys I wanted you home by nine. What's going down here?"
"These guys are hassling us. They say we're under arrest." replied Fighther.
The big guy looked really peeved - like this was the last thing he needed after a long day.
"These are not cops. They can't arrest you." the guy looked at the four old men. "Bugger off before I lose my patience."
There was something in his voice, and his size, that made the Border Patrol squad a little uncomfortable.
Wally spoke. "No, there's no trouble here. We're just heading off for cocoa and toast. Good to see that the boys are so well looked after."
"Sheesh." said TC.
"What?" said the big guy.
"Oh, nothing. I have a blog and I often use that phrase when..."
"Shut up." said the big guy.
TC did.

The four Border Patrol officers scrambled back into their car and drove off.
"Busy night crime fighting." said Jim in an attempt to break the nervous silence.
"Next time I'm spoken to like that, I'll take him!" said TC.
No one answered.

The streets of Whangarei at night were no place for the faint hearted but, after returning home and writing a blog post, and downing two hasty glasses of 2013 Mountain Hill Chardonnay, TC thought to himself,
"Mission accomplished. There will be a few less smelly shop doors tomorrow morning."

lunedì 3 settembre 2018

For all those who write wanky posts.

Sometimes a particular set of circumstances, in this case many students breathing in a closed windows room on a very wet day, can remind one that what we search for cannot always be seen clearly. Sometimes it is necessary to open a window and let a breath of wind lead your sight forward. Two parked cars that once were hidden. Waiting patiently until it is time for them to change the present location of a few souls. They are really transporters, shifters to a different situation. A different series of events. These are beasts that know a certain path. Steel elephants and you sit in their bellies - like you have become their meal until they go to the car toilet. For me their meal is a mystery and, when home time comes, my intentions will shift to my own metal elephant. Carry me safely, oh metal and other materials situation alterer.

Off into Roma this morning.

It's pissing down outside.

Too wet to do the recycling on the way to work.
I'm off to Roma Girls' College this morning for a spot of relieving.
It should be a quiet day, so I'll do some work on my Italian.

We're off to Whanganui on Friday. I'm running a remembrance service for an old lady who died - the mother of some close friends. I'll be a bit like a pastor.
Pastor Richard (of RBB).

The service is scheduled for Saturday. I'll also play Danny Boy on the violin because there is quite a lot of Irishness in the family.

That's it, I'm off to face the weather and maybe people who haven't mastered possessive apostrophes.

domenica 2 settembre 2018

Richard (of RBB)'s Sunday Update.

I've always wondered which was correct - Fathers' Day or Father's Day.
The predictive text on my phone seems to go with the latter.
The card Shelley gave me this morning (she's not my child) seems to agree.
I guess no one really cares.

My solo violin gig is approaching. It's at Mediterannean Foods in Newtowno. I was supposed to get a confirmation email but that hasn't arrived. That could be becaise the guy who got in touch is leaving and he forgot to tell the new guy. I plan to pop in on Thursday, con il mio violino.

Broken chords and double stops are both important tools for the solo violinist, as are big sweeping dominant 7th runs. As Robert said in a comment a few posts back, tone and expression play a vital part too. I also work from the beginning point of having three types of tunes:
  • Powerfully dramatic pieces with lots of fireworks.
  • Slower, quieter tunes with a big tone and lots of vibrato.
  • Jazz tunes with a swing feel and utilising more jazzy double stops.
Variety is the spice of life.

Before you leave comments of advice or instruction, remember that I have been planning this for a very long time - I've done this stuff on double bass, then switched to violin. 
Improvisation is a very important part of what I do. Each performance is going to be a bit different, but the structure is still there. I'm also using a wireless system that means I can be amplified, but not tied to an amp. I've also memorised as many pieces as possible so that I'm not always standing behind a music stand - when I am, the stand is set low, at about chest level.

Three weeks to go.
Monteforte d'Alpone is certainly not as well known as Verona or Roma. It is a town of about 5,000 people, most of whom don't speak English. It is in a wine growing area, so they might do Cleanskins with the extra stuff they produce.

Monteforte d'Alpone
It is situated to the east of Verona. We will be staying in a B&B called La Casa del Sogno.
My friend, and language buddy, Antonio lives in this town. We will be meeting his flatmates (parents). I asked him if they speak English. He said thee only word they know is yes.
Well, that's a start.

We'll be in Monteforte d'Alpone for nine days. Then we head south. While all the places we're staying have good toilets, I've been warned that it's not always the case in bars and other public places.

I'll obviously be avoiding ones like this.

Nice and clean, and handy if we both need to go at the same time.

Well, that's my update for this Sunday.
I'm off to do some violin chord practice now - I need to have these chords down all over the violin but it's not that hard once you've worked out the science of it.

Have a good Sunday.
Ciao tutto.

mercoledì 29 agosto 2018

In 3 weeks and four days I'll be on my way to Italia!

I went to the doctor's today. He was a young Asian (Indian?) guy and charming. He said my 'Man Flu' was on the mend and gave me some back up medicine.

As God said to Moses,
"Don't forget to take the tablets."

I told him about my fear of flying but that I'd read up on how planes stay in the air and wouldn't be taking pills to make it easy. He thought this was a good idea.

So, on Wednesday 26th September ho intenzione essere a Milano a 0610.


lunedì 27 agosto 2018

Just for the record...

...the old chin rest is back on Signora Violina.

domenica 26 agosto 2018


Finally it looks like I'm booked in for a solo violin gig.

My weapon of choice.
I told the guy at the gig that I'd pop in and give him a demo in the coming week.
They have a large group booked in on a Tuesday night in September who asked if they could have some Italian violin music. The guy who took the booking said he just happened to have my flier on his desk.

So, as I said, yesterday I told the guy I'd pop in and give him a demo.
This presumably involves walking into the building, getting out one's violin and producing the goods.
I will not be going in unprepared - I have a plan.
I'll start off with some fireworks on a gypsy tune, then I'll play something really romantic. I'll finish off with an old jazz standard.

I don't think  there are many violinists around who could stand up and play for two hours, on their own, without having their head stuck in a music stand and reading like crazy.
I don't use backing tracks, as I've seen quite a few solo violinists do on Youtube. I don't need them.
Anyway, that's not really playing solo.

This gig has been 22 years in the planning, though it started off as solo double bass. Things have been refined quite a bit along the way.

This gig could very probably lead to some Testore Trio gigs if all goes to plan.

sabato 25 agosto 2018

How to wear a beanie on a jazz gig and how to use a double bass bow for jazz.

A video I made a little while back to help jazz bass players.

I might have a solo violin gig coming up.

I got a call yesterday and will contact the guy today.
It is in a very nice restaurant in Newtown. It's a big space.

Signora Violina with her new
chin rest.
I sent out some fliers a little while back and had no interest shown - you just never know with these things.
It'll be back to some concerntrated practice on the repertoire today.

venerdì 24 agosto 2018

Signorina Cremona has a new chin rest.

...and it feels really good.
So good that I'm picking up one for Signora Violina today.

You non violinists will see the difference in the next two pictures.

Old chin rest

New chin rest

You'll notice that the chin rest has moved over that little black bit with the four spots on it (it's called the 'tail piece'). My chin rest on Signora Violina lets me play in the same position, but this one seems to give more security and makes it easier to move around the violin and to perform a wide vibrato. At least, that's how it feels at the moment.*

Signora Violina has been using one that looks like this.

It has served us well
You can get all sorts of chin rests these days.

These 3 look like they might be expensive!

I'm sure that Robert will agree that small changes are the best when it comes to musical instruments.
My chin rest change is actually a small one and it only came about by luck when I went to get a chin rest like the one on Signora Violin but the shop didn't have any.
These chin rests I'm buying are not expensive ($25 each) so it's one part of the violin that you can afford to experiment with.

* you can never trust a violin to make things easy

giovedì 23 agosto 2018

The Richard (of RBB) Update.

I've had a really bad virus this week (flu?), the second this winter - I had the flu jab too.
It's definitely not man flu.
Do these things get worse as one gets older?
I'm hoping I'm starting to come right this morning, but I'll wait and see - I thought that when I woke up yesterday but I was wrong. I could be wrong today too.

Oops, sorry for being so self obsessed, you're waiting for my music practice update!

Okay, so the violin is presently the Beauden Barrett of my practise regime.
There are four reasons for this:
  1. It is so much fun to play.
  2. I seem to get the most 'gigs' on it at present.
  3. It is easy to transport.
  4. It's the instrument (Signorina Cremona) that's coming on the trip to Italia.
I've broken my daily practice plan into a alternate daily thing that works like this:
Day 1: Guitar / violin.
Day 2: Double Bass / Violin.

So, first thing in the morning I start with double bass or guitar - the violin follows.
I'm concentrating on four solo pieces on the guitar - Autumn Leaves, Stella by Starlight, Billie's Bouncs and The Theme from Black Orpheus. Obviously I also do technical practice too.
My first concern with the double bass is to work with a drum machine (or metronome) to really nail my time. Then I'll move on to other things.
The violin has its 24 tune solo repertoire, as well as technical practice.

* * *

I read a really good book over the last few days while I've been unwell. It was called Memory Man - my son gave it to me for my birthday.

It's sort of in the same vein as the Jack Reacher and Orphan X books. I think there are three more in the series at present. I don't want to spoil the story but Amos (the main character) has let himself get badly overweight. Near the end he is squashing the main villian to death and he thinks, "Thank God I let myself get so fat!"

* * *

Well that's it from me this morning. Today is guitar practice day (followed by violin, of course).
Have a good Thursday.

lunedì 20 agosto 2018

So Robert came around and played the cheap violin that's going to Italia.

I must admit he made it sound very good.

'master of violin tone'

Signorina Cremona
'the cheap violin'

Robert turns 63 tomorrow - today we exchanged bottles of wine - as we always do.
He gave me an Oyster Bay Chardonnay and I gave him a Cleanskin.*

I've just played Signorina Cremona for half an hour and will play it a bit more tonight. It is certainly true that it's the player who comes before the instrument.

Happy birthday for tomorrow Robert. Make sure that you celebrate in the usual way us old folks do - too much wine and then a bit of fighting on the blogs.


* just joking