The weekend before last, I got an email from a local(ish) band. They said their rhythm guitarist was leaving and they’d been talking about having a keyboard player instead – classic rock covers from the 70s to today – mainly weddings – was I interested? I said to send me their set list with the keys of the songs and give me a week or two.

But the singer’s more of a “now” person. He sent me 36 tracks and asked if I could go to a rehearsal on the Wednesday.

I’ll be honest. Thirty-six tracks in a few days is quite a headful. So I got him to reduce it to 20-something to focus on. We had a band practice and decided it would work. Last night, we had another practice including most of those 36, with a dozen or more thrown in for good measure.

To try and make this news relevant to this blog, here’s a quick how-to on getting your head round a big set, quickly. (It’s only the second time I’ve done this in the last few months, so could be refined.)

o Make a youtube playlist of all the tracks, while copying and pasting the lyrics onto a word-processing document

o Print out the lyrics, pages numbered, with an index at the front

o In a folder of plastic sleeves, put the lyrics on the left, with a blank page on the right

o Find a website with all the chords for all the songs you need (I’m using ultimate guitar because you can transpose the key without paying a fee)

o Play through the tracks, checking the chords as you go and writing them onto the page facing the lyrics

o Refer to youtube “How to play [name of song]” if necessary

o Listen to the youtube playlist with a glass of wine (or few) and make notes on the lyrics about where to come in, marking solos, backing vocals etc

o Play along to the playlist if you have time – as often as possible – making a note of the best keyboard voice to use

o When you turn up to the band practice/audition, play something not on the set list as a warmup. I tend to improve for a bit and then play “Child in Time” because I can sing the first part of it – and everyone loves Deep Purple

Obviously, the band might be a bit nervous that they’re wasting their time having you along. Fortunately, technology has come up with easy ways for you let them know you can play a little. I spent six minutes playing live into Garageband, which I imported into iMovie, with an iMovie stock image wibbling away in the foreground. I was in a hurry – I had a lot to do (see above). Then uploaded it as a public video to youtube.

If you’re interested, you can see/hear it here.

The glamping season’s over for this year and the first leaves are falling.

Now tomatoes in the poly tunnel need roasting with garlic and blending for Winter sauces. Courgettes need turning into gratin and garlicky sauces. We’re waiting for the mushrooms to come through (while walking past lots of possibly edible mushies on the land, which is frustrating). And the temperature has dropped enough for me to do some of this:


It’s an oak the previous owner felled at least seven years ago (and tried to burn in situ!). I had hoped it might be dry enough for this year, but some of it was still wet in the middle. One morning with a chainsaw and splitter and it’s ready to keep us warm for a few days next year, or the year after. I’ve already stashed a few weeks of firewood under tarps or I’d really be panicking. One day I’ll be well ahead of the game, but this is not that day.

Her Outdoors, meanwhile, is working on her Christmas collection:


This is her third year of making decorations and it’s become part of our seasonal pattern. Fabric tree decorations will still be available and she’s working on some paper ideas. I’ll make details of her new Etsy shop known as soon as it’s open.

Pepito, meanwhile, is mowing the grass now the guests have gone. I’m currently wrestling with a new-used iPhone and shot a one-minute video you can see on the écovallée facebook page. The above photos were also shot with the iPhone. I’m yet to be convinced by the technology, as it doesn’t work – at all – as a phone. I can’t help feeling the product is badly named.

Our steadily failing technology (first the phone – thanks for the replacement Café del Nightmare – now the ethernet port on the Mac)is forcing us to return to the Old Ways of Doing Things.

Which is why I find myself sitting on the sofa over here, typing as hard as I like, instead of perched on a chair over there, delicately tapping the keys, desperately trying not to lose our interweb connection.

I have to say, I prefer it like this.

But this is just one of many backward steps we are making.

In a few weeks, we’re moving into this winter’s accommodation of choice: a beautifully decorated farmhouse with wood-burning stove, TV, bath (we’ve just survived a year without a bath! – us! – a year! – with no bath!) that is both remote and devoid of landline.

Yes, people. If you’re friends or family, it’s time to break out the pens, pencils, crayons and paper, and rediscover the joy of writing long hand.

This seems like a good time to mention a very bloggable moment from a few weeks ago: A friend asked if we still needed a place to stay over the winter, as she knew someone who needed people to house sit. Her Outdoors said we were sorted, thanks all the same. I’ll just show you a picture of it, our friend said (this is not the picture, but this is the place):

I couldn’t help thinking about The Shining, and Her Outdoors couldn’t stop thinking about two young kids, cats, a dog and expensive furniture.

We said no.


It’s nice to be asked.

Our communications are based on a series of assumptions:

o That electricity will keep flowing into our wireless domestic over-the-internet telephone.
o That we will have enough money to replace our mobile phone when it ultimately fails (taking with it those photos I couldn’t possibly delete) – although having a friend like Café del Nightmare, who sends a whizzy new-used phone through the post, is a definite bonus here.
o That we will have the money to replace our computer when its sockets start failing and it’s too slow to run the needlessly updated operating systems that spawn the needlessly expensive software upgrades that mean we can no longer open the old-format files we couldn’t bring ourselves to throw away.
o That our online keeper of emails and other digital trivia we cannot live without will not, in a needless attempt at making our lives easier, replace their perfectly functioning system with one that does not work – without warning – days before it’s time to renew – thereby making our inbox disappear – and leaving us to ponder the untrue statement: “There is a problem with the credit card on this account”.

I’d love to have read what Douglas Adams would have said.

So if you’re ringing me on my old mobile number, please bear in mind I may never answer it. If you’re waiting for a response from an email, please understand I may never receive it. In case of emergency, you can leave a comment here and hope the computer will live long enough for me to read it.