Monday, 16 July 2018

Llandough on time

This afternoon we took Rachel to the coach station to start her journey to Kenilworth, where she'll not only be staying with big sister Kath this week, but making some song recordings with brother in law Anto in the attic studio where he composes his own sound track music for AKM Music and has recorded their own Sonrisa band albums. Getting quality recordings done in the USA would be not only more costly but maybe also a more chancy process, where you can't be sure that the people you're dealing with want to help you or take advantage of the fact that you're a foreigner. Working on home ground has its advantages! Unfortunately, her coach suffered a door closure malfunction, leading to a departure delay of over two hours.

Clare and I went to Llandough Hospital after dropping Rachel at Sophia Gardens, as I had a first examination and briefing about having an endoscopy inspection. I'm impressed by the improved way the hospital appointment system now works, checking and rechecking by text message, that you still want and can keep the appointment. This strategy aim to cut down on time wasted by those who fail to notify of their need to cancel or postpone. 

For good or ill, there are always reasons why a scheduled booking has to be changed, or cannot be taken up. While there's little excuse for not letting the hospital know in good time, I guess with a range of older, less capable patients, some of whom may be supported by busy careers, additional effort to communicate and obtain a response is worthwhile. I was also impressed by how everything ran to time. We were on our way home again within three quarters of an hour of arrival.

I was interested to find the specialist I saw wasn't entitled Dr or Mr but Lt Col, a military surgeon, not in the reserves, but on active service. As a ranking officer, leading or managing a team he spends time in a civilian hospital alongside military duties to maintain his level of professional competence when not on operations. That's a comforting thought now.

Over the weekend, I started watching a series of French crimmies called 'Dead Beautiful' on More Four Walter Presents. They feature Thierry Godard, who plays the Parisien flic who co-stars in the brilliant long running 'Spiral' series. Instead of being a team member, he's Le Commissaire in this series with the usual complex personal and family life which seems to be built in feature of the narrative in so many police dramas, representing the exacting demands on the individuals who serve in law and order roles.

As the generic title suggests, this is a series of stories about women who are victims or perpetrators of violent crimes. Wealth and privilege also part of the scenario, and the power politics surrounding the judiciary aren't really a feature. Each is a two hour watch, quite tough going, and each has a few surprise twists in the past ten minutes. Best of all, my comprehension of movie mode French seems to have improved, perhaps because I have been using the Duo Lingo app to revise French this year, in addition to maintaining my Spanish. Half to three quarters of an hour's language drills daily is a quite a routine to maintain, but I'd rather that than doing Sudoku or crosswords. It seems a bit more useful, while I'm still able to travel and live abroad for decent periods.

Sunday, 15 July 2018

Duty free time in view?

Yesterday morning, Clare and I drove up the A470 to Trelewis to visit Claus and Anna, the Fountain Choir director in their hillside Valleys home. Their back garden is on a steep terraced slope, which mounts as high as the roof of the house. The highest level contains his and her sheds. Claus's is an arts and crafts workshop and Anna's is her private practice counselling room. In between they have a table and some chairs, under a large umbrella, with space for a barbecue behind. This was where we had lunch al fresco, and then sat and chatted all afternoon.

Meanwhile back at home Owain arrived to see Rachel, and they went together to Penarth, as Owain was very keen to visit the sea. He stayed the night, so when we returned, we were able to spend the evening together.

This morning, I celebrated the eight o'clock at St John's and then the ten thirty Eucharist at St Catherines's. Emma Rees begins work as Team Vicar in the Benfice the week after next. I have two more rounds of midweek celebrations to perform, but these were my last Sunday interregnum duties in the Parish for now. Next Sunday, all three churches close and the congregations attend Cathedral worship, as Fr Mark is Canon in Residence. The Sunday after is a united Benefice service, and I'm not required for either of these. Two free Sundays in a row! I've had two other duty free Sundays this year so far, it's been that busy. 

I learned this morning that my former Team Vicar colleague Jenny Wigley retires today. I've done locum cover for her in Radyr on several occasions in times past, and preached Holy Week there. I wonder if I'll be recruited to help out for this interregnum? I've nothing lined up for when I return from Montreux, but I'd prefer to wait and see what comes to me. Much as I enjoy what I do, I think I may benefit from a change of pace, and maybe would benefit from a little more leisure time - if only I could think what I'd really like to be doing that I'm not doing now.  

Friday, 13 July 2018

Video labours

Slowly but steadily over the past few days, I've edited the footage from Rachel's gig last Friday into separate videos of all sixteen of the songs she performed. Technically speaking they're not perfect, but, the sound quality is excellent and the performances are remarkably good, well worth uploading to her YouTube site for a wider audience of fans family and friends. The first one to be published 'Bubble Trouble' is here. It's a song from ten years ago, and there an audio recording of it on her site, but the live video is value added in my opinion even if it's not as polished as a studio recording. She will release one song video a week on YouTube and publicise the series on her Facebook page. Good for getting her work a wider audience.

Yesterday morning I celebrated the Eucharist at St John's again. There were just seven of us as some of the regulars are away, which is only to be expected at this time of year. In the afternoon, I had an GP appointment to find out the result of last Friday's blood test and ECG. I was relieved and glad to hear there are no anomalies requiring further investigation, clearing the way for my next round of duty travel to Montreux, in three weeks time. Having said that, I have an endoscopy appointment next Monday to get through first, and optimistic about the outcome of that.

I was driven over to St German's church for today's funeral, and was pleased to be able to drop in and say hello to people in the old people's day centre in the hall beforehand. As expected there was a big attendance for the service, as the deceased was a well known member of Millennium Centre staff. The organist played us out to a largo version of 'There's No Business like Show Business', but I'm not sure if any of the congregation recognised this, as people were chatting on their way out. Ah well, it was still worth the effort.

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

Vale visiting

Yesterday, we took Rachel for a visit and lunch at Dyffryn Gardens via Tinkinswood and St Lythan's burial chambers, at her special request. Last time we visited, five years ago, Jasmine was with us and she was in a stroppy mood, refusing to return to the car with us from the Tinkinswood site, as she wanted to stay on top of the capstone and play, which rather spoiled it for Rachel. Here on her own, she was free to indulge in communing with her primaeval forebears, while I took photos.

I got some super bird feeding shots from my usual spot in the Dyffryn front cafe window, also some good dragonfly photos at the the ornamental pond in the grounds. It's looking great there at the moment. These photos are here.

This morning I celebrated the Eucharist with five others at St Catherine's, and then spent the rest of the day working on video song edits. I've done sixteen of Rachel's original songs which she sang last Friday.  That's an impressive achievement. There were a few 'cover' songs by other artists as well, but these are not for upload as there's always possible performing rights issues involved. Best avoided. Amazing to think that we have two song-writing performing daughters. Rhiannon seems to be following the same path, being interested in acting and making music. She passed her grade four flute exam this week, something we're delighted about. Jasmine is learning musical instruments in school too, saxophone and guitar.

Monday, 9 July 2018

Follow up and check up

I spent the morning completing work on the second half gig video. This plus the audio recording is for Rachel to keep and study her own performance in detail at leisure. The next task, which I then started on is making short self contained videos for each complete song she's written. These can be uploaded more easily to You Tube in a release sequence, separately publicised via Facebook, giving optimum exposure to her full range of live performance material. Useful as a musical CV for any booking agent interested in what she can do. It's a long and fiddly job however, and will take a few days of spare time, considering the mistakes I'll make, weeding out recording glitches which evade initial attention - a product of not being able to record continuously on the same memory card. 

I've discovered today that a relatively slower card has latency glitches. When the maximum video file size is reached, a new file is started automatically but the swapover takes marginally longer and can leave a gap in the data stream which shows up in playback. That few seconds gap can be edited out easily if you've not missed it, but it's annoying to find it post production. It makes sense of needing a larger faster card, matched to the speed at which the camera's video processor works. For the first time the technical details printed on SD cards make practical sense to me.

This afternoon, I walked to UHW Heath hospital for an appointment with an ENT specialist to look into my occasional nosebleed problem. It's a matter of eliminating the possibility of anything out of the ordinary going on in my nostrils. Nosebleeds a common place enough, and I told him that understand mine are usually a result of sleeping awkwardly and constructing blood vessels in my neck. Then when I turn over, pressure buildup leads to a surge that ruptures a minor blood vessel. I've had less bleeds since I started using a shaped neck pillow. They're not so frequent or copious as in year past, but it's been a continuing problem for about fifteen years, so inevitably my GP thought it best to get it checked out. I've been on the waiting list since last December, so it's a relief to get this out of the way. I must return for another specialist check-up in October.

Next week, another appointment I've waited for since last December, this time for an endoscopy, occasioned by chronic haemorrhoid condition. I know I need this hi-tech inspection. I've coped with discomfort and occasional pain for a long time without improvement, but can't say I'm looking forward to this - no least because I dread the follow up interfering with my locum visit to Montreux next month. Well, we'll find out soon enough, I guess.

I got the bus back to Western Avenue from the hospital and walked home through the Fields, which look parched and golden at the moment after weeks of sunshine and little rain. I then had to drive out to St Mellons to meet a bereaved family to plan a funeral in St German's I'm taking this Friday. The traffic across town was very slow moving due to an M4 carriageway closure beyond the A48, and I had trouble finding my way to the street due to a wrong turning shortly after leaving the A48, which meant that I went all my way around the poorly signposted housing estate ring road, before identifying the correct turning. It's not a part of the city I'm at all familiar with.

The deceased in his last job and afterwards as a retirement volunteer had been on the staff of the Millennium Centre, and loved being involved in the hospitality side of productions. He was a fan of musical theatre, and his son showed me me the garage cum storeroom, whose walls are decorated with posters for all the shows presented there since it opened. He'd wanted the exterior of his coffin to be lined with playbills, and arranged for copies so this could be achieved. The family was none too keen about this, so the playbills will go into the coffin with him, all rolled up, as a compromise. Rod, a former member of St John's City Parish, now a St German's regular is a good friend of the family, and was there to greet me. From the way he spoke, I could tell that he'd been there for his terminally ill friend, accompanying him, ready to listen and discuss with him about the impending end of his life. Lovely to know such lay ministry goes on quietly when us clergy are so thin on the ground these days.

Sunday, 8 July 2018


Despite the extra stimulus of yesterday evening, I was awake at six, and walking to St Catherine's early to celebrate the eight o'clock, and later the ten thirty. This past week I've been enjoying the exceptional warm weather and bright sunlight, but strangely it had its impact on my this morning, as I started to develop a migraine aura once I switched on the pulpit reading light to preach. My eyes deal reasonably well with sunlight and high contrast, but certain kinds of artificial light and natural light mixed seem to trigger a reaction. I've noticed it happens when I go into shops during bright sunny weather. It doesn't last long, about the length of a sermon in this case, even though I switched off the reading light immediately and carried on. It was a somewhat unnerving experience.

It was lovely to have a family lunch with Rachel afterwards, even though Owain was unable to join us, and Rhiannon wasn't with us, staying home for a teen sleepover with friends. Kath and Anto left fairly soon afterwards, and I devoted the rest of the day to audio editing and learning Movie Maker. The audio only recording was OK, but colourless in comparison to the stereo video sound recording, as it was mono only. I've got the first half gig video stitched together with minimal audio. Without editing redundant material out, it's fifty minutes long, as is the second half. That's quite long for a solo performer. And Rachel next stops smiling or looking happy while she makes music. Bless her.

Saturday, 7 July 2018

Gig night

A visit to the GP surgery yesterday morning for a routine set of blood tests and an ECG. Apart from that, and sermon preparation, the day was taken over by Rachel getting ready for her gig practicing and organising her set playlist. Because of the unique way in which she uses different tuning settings for her various songs she needs to have at least two guitars set up ready to use. The one she brought with her we felt didn't really fit the bill, so we tried without success to hire one, but to no avail. Clare and I separately had the same idea, and an instrument fit for purpose was borrowed from Diana's husband Pete and fitted with a brand new set of strings. Rachel has bought lots of packets as she found a special offer in town. In any case, it seems they are less expensive here than in the USA.

Kath and Anto arrived with a car load of equipment for the gig, including a PA system leads, to add to the guitar brought last weekend, and a few essentials Rachel brought with her from AZ. At six we accompanied Rachel to the Apothecary Tea Room on Llandaff Road, and got the place ready for the gig. My role was to make a sound and a video recording. The sound job was entrusted to Clare's iPad voice recorder plus a substantial mono microphone of Rachel's, positioned on a boom stand at the back of a room about 6 metres square, with my Sony HX300 next to it mounted on a tripod on a table. This gave me opportunity to alter position and focus if required.

Disappointingly, given the effort we made in advance publicity, only a dozen friends turned up, but they were a warm and supportive audience, nevertheless, and Rachel shone, performing tirelessly, answering questions from the audience, at one point coping with the invasion of a small escaped puppy dog and a noisy avalanche of empty bottles being added to the recycling bin by the bar next door. Kath added backing vocals on a few Rachel songs she remembered from ten years ago. It was good to see them reunited in music again. The last time was when they sang the specially composed duet celebrating our Golden Wedding anniversary celebration two years ago. We are so blessed!

The recordings turned out quite well, despite the need to swap out memory cards, and the camera running out of battery near the end of the second half. Thankfully I'd been taking still photos with my Song HX50, which has an identical battery, so I was able to swap them around, without losing too much of one song. The challenge now will be to edit sound and video into a useable form which Rachel can publish on several different web platforms. But first, there's the small matter of having to re-learn how to use Windows Movie Maker. So forgettable, unfortunately.