Jonathan: We didn’t do singles at my school. They were for the girls next door at Westwood School. At Stoneham – certainly in my peer group, it was albums that were brought to school to show off or discuss. Not that I had anything to contribute: others had pocket money, I just had fluff. It wasn’t until I was in the new ‘mixed’ sixth form (thats boys and girls, not race – built between the two schools) with a common room equipped with a hi-fi system (yes, really!) that began to hear and appreciate a variety of contemporary music. Serious music. It was by then 1973 and Ziggy Stardust was already nearly two years old. Other albums on the turntable during breaks and lunch time included: Led Zeppelin I, Pink Floyd – not least Dark Side of the Moon, Emerson Lake and Palmer, Roxy Music, Wishbone Ash, Jimmy Hendrix, Allman Brothers Band, Rolling Stones, The Who. Heavy, man! Okay, sometimes we’d have to let the girls spin a few discs – Carpenters, the sound track to Love Story … But standing out from all of these for raw energy, musicality, sheer talent, mind-blowing breadth of vision was the music of David Bowie. And as a visual cue to that time – the cover of Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust (and the Rise and Fall of the Spiders from Mars), with the K.West lamp. My office Hi-Fi system has been out of action for a bit, but today on the day of David Bowie’s death I received the new tweeters for my big Wharfedale speakers. I fitted them, ran a few tests. Put the re-mastered Ziggy Stardust in the CD tray, and then, in obedience to the instruction on the back of the original vinyl album’s cover “To be played at maximum volume”. Well, not quite, as I can’t afford another pair of new tweeters, and as to the bass – well we’ve only just finished renovating the house. ;~)
Jonathan: Today, as we made the final finishing touches to the re-surfaced drive down to the house, we also finished – after 4½ years of worry and hard work – the renovation of An Gàrradh Mòr – house, drainage, outbuildings, drive – everything! Well, there’s odd jobs to finish, and a few refinements to make, but nothing requiring the help of anyone else, and only the sort of thing one might tackle when the mood takes one, and ticked off after an hour or two – or perhaps a couple of afternoons – of pleasant busy-ness. (Well to be truthful I’m kidding myself – some tasks will take quite a bit more than that!) As anyone with building experience would know – the drive is the first thing to get messed up and the last to be put right (or should be): so now, after pick-axing away the 4-year high mound of cement where the mixer stood, laying drainage, regulating the old beach-gravel surface, and finally dressing with 17 tonnes of 20mm-size crushed gneiss (and all that by hand I have to say!), we can now arrive at our own house, or invite others in, with style and satisfaction. We no longer live on – or in – a building site! We no longer have any building work -anywhere, not even for clients! Here’s some photos of the drive taken over the years: January 2003 – a few weeks after moving in ; 2004, re-tiling the roof (we broke up all the old tiles, by hand, with hammers, to form soakaways and the base layers for paths and parking) ; 2009 – when we were busy building Carrick, in Eriskay ; 2011 when we’d nearly finished the extension and just started the renovation ; 2013 during a lull in renovation work (look – no mixer!) ; 2015 – the final phase, completing the new front ‘sun-room’ and finally the work on the drive itself. Goodness, it almost makes me feel nostalgic!
Jonathan: Renovation of our house here at An Garradh Mor stumbles fitfully towards the finishing line. As time allows, various treasures that have been stored away for years, or moved countless times from one nook or corner to another, are being installed in their old locations (albeit fixed to a completely re-built wall!) or have been found new ones. This morning Denise came across this framed cross-stitch sampler, that’s been returned to the just-right-for-it space in the kitchen it was first put up almost ten years ago shortly after my Mum passed away. I don’t know whether this sampler was to a bought pattern, or whether Mum designed it herself making reference to patterns for individual motifs, but certainly there’s a fair amount that’s entirely her own design, that portrays elements of her family life at the time. At the bottom are the three cats we had then: On the left and right are siblings Porgy (with his distinctive dark whiskers) and Bess (with her paler ginger fur and white bib). In the middle is Polly (sometimes Polly Perkins) the little tortoishell, who had come into our lives only recently. Above the line of flowers is a somewhat simplified representation of our canal boat High Sparrows – a design characteristic of boats built of wood in the 1950s for the inland waterways. Mum clearly wanted to show her distinctive neatly painted white water-line, though that seems to have resulted in the boat apparently soaring over the waves below! The three groups of flowers above the boat represent the sprigs of roses as seen in traditional painted canalware. The rest of the work is probably generic in generic cross-stitch motifs. 1974 was the year we took High Sparrows on our longest ever family canal holiday: from our home mooring at Burghfield Island on the River Kennet, we headed directly north via Braunston Continue reading →