Saturday, December 19, 2009

Headspin review of the year

Coming to the end of a difficult but ultimately successful year for Headspin it is a traditional time to look back and take stock of what has happened over the past twelve months.

The year started, as most years do, with the Headspin New Year party. As usual it was a packed out night which finished with the crowd still asking for more. Then Headspin's 11th Birthday party was another busy night, as most of our birthday bashes are. A few old faces come out the woodwork and we get  a chance to play some of the big tunes from years gone by.

Next up was DJ Format who has visited us around this time for a couple of years now, but he still seems to be a very popular attraction as the audience turned up in numbers and loved the seriously funky sounds he was spinning. A few residents nights followed in the spring which were good nights and we were still getting decent numbers and putting on good parties. Meanwhile we were trying to book suitable guests for future months, which was proving difficult.

We had Krash Slaughta, who can always be relied upon to put on a good show, make a return appearance in May, followed by a run of four residents nights over the summer. Difficult times for all clubs with students being away and the festival crowd notoriously fickle about club nights. We got through that though and had some great nights amongst a couple of slightly disappointing ones.

In October some of our hard work looking for good guests paid off when we had Ashley Beedle come and play. A cracking night was had and he played some of the sweetest funky, disco tunes we've heard. A full house and an amazing night for Headspin's Horrible Halloween party. The place was jumping and the atmosphere was superb. A bit of a change the following month when Jon Carter came to town. A guest we were excited about and thought would be great put on a good show, but the crowd was slightly disappointing.

If we have learned one thing this year it is that it is impossible to predict how busy a night will be. Sometimes when we have thought we might be quiet we have been busy, and when we have thought we would busy we have been a bit quieter. But that's what keeps it interesting.

The year ends with something of a change for Headspin. For the first time in 10 years, Headspin will not be bringing in the new year at the Bongo Club and will instead be having a Boxing Day blow-out. Giving the Headspin faithful an opportunity to blow away the Christmas cobwebs with a good old boogie to some proper funk, disco, electro and house music. The Headspin residents will all be in attendance, wearing their new chrimbo socks and jumpers, showing that we are the most fun family you can be with at any time of year.

A change in the plans for Headspin this coming year. We have decided to mainly concentrate on residents nights, with the occasional high quality guest to keep things interesting for everyone. This starts in January when Headspin reaches the ripe old age of twelve years old. The Headspin residents will be spinning the tunes the crowd love to hear. People tell us they prefer residents nights, especially for the birthday party. We don't want to disappoint our loyal clientele.

Check out the new flyer design for Boxing Day through to February, the first since Elph stopped doing the design. I think it's turned out quite nice but would love to hear your thoughts.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Next Level Design

In my professional life, away from running, marathons, clubs, music and any of the stuff I generally write about on this blog, I am a desktop publisher.

What I really would rather be is a graphic designer. That is to say, I would rather be employed as a graphic designer than as a desktop publisher, even though they are both pretty closely related things.

I see the graphic designer as having a more creative role than the DTP person who often will concentrate on laying out documents to fit a corporate style, rather than coming up with imaginative ideas for branding, corporate identities, logos, adverts and the like.

I do a little bit of freelance graphic design on the side which keeps my hand in the more creative side of things that I don't get so much of an opportunity to do at work. I've never really pushed it that much as most of the time I have worked a full-time job and have lots of other things going on.

Often the work I do isn't payng work. I'll help a friend out with some business cards or some promotional flyers to advertise an event of some kind.

So I do that as a favour, because I enjoy it, and they are trying to get a business off the ground or are trying to keep costs to a minimum. But the good will I receive doesn't help pay the bills or put food on the table.

So, in an effort to push for a few more paying gigs I have decided to put my portfolio online. As such, I have set up another blog where over the next couple of weeks I will be putting up a selection of my work from over the years.

Please stop by and check out the Next Level Design blog, and if you have a need for any design work, bear me in mind. Although I'm hopefully going to cut back on the free stuff and increase the paying stuff, I'm sure you'll find my rates very reasonable.

Any comments more than welcome. I'm always interested to hear what people do and don't like as it's a very subjective and personal thing.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Marathon muppet

Apologies to anyone who reads this for not keeping you up to date with the events of the past month or so, I know you will have been on the edge of your seat, anxiously waiting to hear how the Aviemore half marathon went.

Well, it went OK. I finished it, and I did so in under my target time of 2 hours

I should be really happy with my time of 1 hour 52 minutes and 10 seconds, but I really struggled for the majority of the race, and the last three miles were a nightmare.

It was a bright but chilly morning. Before the race I was feeling good, quite excited and eager to get going.

Here's the intrepid (1/2) marathon runners, Mel, me and Laura, before we started.

My lack of experience showed and I let the adrenalin and excitement of the event get to me.

We lined up at the start next to our predicted finishing time, so I positioned myself at the 2 hour marker. When the gun went off, we were a fair bit back from the start so couldn't go anywhere until the people in front of us got going, even then it was a walk to start with. As we crossed the start line we could break into a jog, then as the field started spreading out a little we could start running properly.

Now, I had positioned myself at the 2 hour mark, and this is my first half marathon, so I assume that the other people starting at the 2 hour mark probably know what they are doing. So we all start running at roughly the same speed. I'm thinking 'OK, this is the speed we need to go at to finish in 2 hours'.

I know, because I've worked it out, that to finish in 2 hours I have to do a mile every 9 minutes or faster. At the first mile marker I look at my watch and see that only 7 and a half minutes has gone. Oops! better slow down a touch. But it's hard to do that. It's hard to remember that you're not racing against these other people that are doing the same route; you are only running against yourself.

At two miles, only 15 and a half minutes has gone, still too fast, but I'm feeling alright, maybe I can keep up this pace, and I've already got 2 and a half minutes in the bank should I need a break.

I keep going and hit the 3 mile marker after 23 and three quarter minutes, so the third mile took me 8 and a quarter.

The first of three hydration stations was at 3 and a half miles. My plan was to use these as rest points; to walk for 30 seconds or so while taking on some fluids. The truth is that by this stage I was already starting to feel the pace and was glad of a rest.

During training I had started develop a pain in my hip which would come on after a while when running. I had felt the discomfort almost immediately after starting but
I had already had a couple of ibuprofen and was hoping it wouldn't come to much. At this first water stop I swallowed another couple of tablets because I knew I was in for some serious pain.

I kicked off again and was making good time when I passed Pablo, waiting to see us all. That gave me a bit of a boost and kept me going for a while but I was only four miles in and the only thing I could think about was trying to work out what percentage of the way through it I was.

I really did feel like chucking it before I was a third of the way through.

I eventually had to stop to stretch at about 5 miles, then pushed on again. At 6 miles my time was 48 and a half minutes, so my second 3 miles was only one minute slower than the first 3. That means I have 5 and a half minutes in the bank, I think to myself.

The next few miles I just bashed on, stopping occasionally to walk and have a bit of a stretch. The hip was bothering me but I was mainly just tired. The scenery was wonderful, round the banks of the beautiful Loch Morlich and through the Rothiemurchus Forest, but I had no time or energy to appreciate it at all. The sun came out and it was just annoying and hot and in my eyes.

At 9 miles I had taken one hour 13 and a half minutes, so my pace was pretty steady. If I could keep this up I would get a good time, but I was really starting to struggle. I had passed the second water point a while ago and was just holding out for the next one to appear as I rounded a bend.

I was on the long, slightly downhill stretch from the forest towards Aviemore itself. It was like I was going backwards the rate at which people were overtaking me. I even had to stop for a pee in the trees, but I was actually glad of another reason to stop for a while.

Next I started getting cramp in my calf muscle, having to walk for about 30 seconds every two or three minutes. All I wanted was for a drink and someone to tell me it's OK to stop. When it started raining I was glad. I opened up my mouth and tried to catch drops as I ran along.

The other runners were great. They would see my hobbling along, clutching my hip or rubbing at my calf and give words of encouragement. "It's not far now", and "Keep going, almost there" helped, for about 20 seconds then I lost the momentum again.

I made it to 12 miles, there was a water station, I only had one mile to go, I was on the outskirts of Aviemore. I was going to make it.

After all the pain and sweat and near tears I was going to get to the finish line. I had to make a big final push to make sure I beat the 2 hours.

The previous day we had taken a walk down the last half mile or so of the route so we would know where we were as we approached the finish. I crossed the bridge, went through the tunnel under the railway line, up the slope and onto the main road.

Summoning all my reserves of energy I lengthened my stride and picked up the pace once again. It actually felt better to be running a bit more freely, but there's no way I could have done that for much longer.

As I crossed the line I was overjoyed to see that I had smashed the 2 hour mark, 1.52:10, and was delighted to see my mate Richy in the crowd, but I was well and truly broken.

I collected my medal and goodie bag and then sat down in the first spot I could find. I think I must have looked a bit ill as people were giving me strange looks. I caught Richy's eye and just shook my head at him; never again.

Amazing how quickly you feel better though. After munching the banana and drinking the juice from my goodie bag I was able to walk again. I went to get my outer kit on then went to speak to Richy who told me Mel had just come in, just outside 2 hours, an excellent time.

I went and hugged Mel and then found Pablo as we waited for Laura who wasn't too far behind. I'm so proud of us all, if you don't mind me saying, I think we all did amazingly well.

After the race we went for lunch and a beer in Aviemore then headed back to Grantown where we were staying and had a very quiet evening including an Indian takeaway. The main challenge for the next couple of days was trying to walk, but that soon passed.

Now I'm thinking, I could definitely beat 1.45 next year....

ps Managed to raise over 200 quid for charity while doing this, so thanks to anyone who sponsored me.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Free Parking!

Quick update on the parking ticket story.

Got a letter from the council saying "Parking at double yellow lines is not permitted. Even if only part of a vehicle is parked at a double yellow line it is still liable to be issued with a parking ticket."

At this stage I thought it was going to tell me to pay up or else and was wondering if the early payment discount was out of time.

But the letter goes on to say "We can however appreciate that the vehicle was not causing an inconvenience or obstruction to other road users and in view of this the parking ticket will be cancelled on this occasion."

Get in. Make that one nil for common sense.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Park on this, bawbags

Well that's ruined things slightly.

I went out to jump in the car which was parked just outside my house in its usual spot, to discover I've been given a bloody parking ticket.

The parking bay is just long enough for four cars to fit in, with angled ends, but recently the council decided to reduce the size of the usable space by painting double yellow lines over the angled parts. I can see why they did this, to stop people parking side-on to these bits, thus having their rear end causing an obstruction on the road.

But my car wasn't causing any obstruction to anyone. I went as far back as possible to allow space for other cars to get in. The rear wheels where barely touching the yellow lines. Had I been four inches further forward they couldn't have touched me. But some over-zealous parking warden comes along and decides that I have made the following parking contravention:

Parking or loading/unloading in a restricted street where waiting and loading/unloading restrictions are in force.

Decide for yourself, I'd be interested to hear what you think. But it looks to me like I'm not doing too much wrong.

This just seems like a money making exercise to me. There's no way I'm going to line the council coffers for something as trifling as this. As Naldo said to me, I'd rather pay a bit more in a fair and equitable tax than get hit for ridiculous so-called infringements like this.

I'm gonna dispute this and take it all the way if I have to.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Half day to paradise

Innit great when you take a half day?

Walking out your work a few minutes after 12 when your colleagues still have a good four or five hours of toil at the coalface. "See ye laters, I'm on a Colonel Gadaffi!" you trill whilst skipping out the door.

"Bastard!" they say, as escape just in time to avoid the pens, elastic bands and staplers which hit the back of the door.

It's even better when it is followed by a long weekend with both Friday and Monday off.

Yes, no work til Tuesday for me, and I'm going to enjoy it. Apart from maybe Saturday afternoon, but more on that later...

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

The road is long

...With many a winding turn.

That's true, but I'm getting closer to my destination.

I wrote a while ago about my training for a half marathon that me, my bird and oor pal Laura are running. Well, I'm still training, and it's still going OK. With 5 and a half weeks to go, I'm slowly getting up to speed, if that isn't an oxymoron.

I have set myself an unofficial target of 2 hours to complete the 13.1 mile route. That means I have to run at an average speed of a mile every 9 minutes 9 seconds. That would be fine if I was running 6 miles, or even 8, but at this stage I'm not yet able to keep that pace up for 2 hours.

On Saturday I went out for a 6 mile run and completed it in 53 minutes which I was fairly happy with. But then I was kinda knackered for the rest of the day and felt a bit shabby, even when I was through in Glasgow watching Scotland win at fitba, as described beautifully by Naldo here. I managed to pull myself together and get dressed up for Biff's big 30th Birthday Bash along with Jonny Nipflick as Bros.

A lot of people had made a good effort and there were some cracking outfits. Me and Jonny were getting a lot of photos taken of us though and playing up to it terribly. I've seen some of the photos but I reckon there's more slightly embarrassing shots to show up yet.

After a couple of days off training to let the legs recover, I went out this evening and did a quick four mile run which I managed to complete in a smidgen over 33 minutes which is a new personal best for the route I took.

I'll have a day off the running tomorrow, though I might cycle to work, I'll do a bit of a run on Thursday and then head out and try and do 8 miles on Saturday morning before going to James and Lisa's wedding in the afternoon. That will be a full-on party and no mistake so I'll try not to be too done-in so I can properly enjoy it.

I still get a few aches and pains now and then, especially last week cos I foolishly played a game of football again, but overall I'm happy my fitness is getting better. I discovered I've been losing weight, about 12 pounds in the last three months, and the running is definitely getting easier.

I decided to try and raise a bit of money for the official charity of the half marathon, the Speyside Trust. As such, if you feel and generous and want to make an online contribution, however small, please feel free to do so. Any donation would be appreciated but I understand there's a lot of these things on the go all the time and nobody can give to them all.

I'll be back with another progress update before the big day.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Festival fun

I am at the end of a week off from work. I took a week of holiday to see some of the Edinburgh Festival, get out on my bike a bit, hopefully catch some decent weather, and just to chill as it's been ages since I had some decent time off.

I feel I've managed to fit a decent amount of Festival things in so far.

A few of us went to see the Tom Tom Crew at the Udderbelly on Friday night. That was brilliant. A live drummer, DJ, beatboxer and a troupe of acrobats/gymnasts/breakdancers. It was a really high energy show that at points had me just laughing in admiration at some of the stuff the guys were doing, and all with a funky hip hop soundtrack. I would definitely recommend checking the show if you are in Edinburgh or it comes to anywhere near you.

Went to the Mela on Saturday afternoon, which is a celebration of Asian culture, mainly Indian but also including other nationalities. Lots of nice food, music, family atmosphere and we were lucky and got sunshine as well. Checked out the Rough Cut Nation exhibition at the portrait gallery which is pretty impressive and worth checking out and features some work by our old chum Elph. At night I put on the festival Headspin where we had our regular DJ crew and percussionist plus Elph doing some live painting in the club and with video projections mixed and looped live. It was a good night but I think folks perhaps weren't used to the extended opening hours yet as it started to empty out a bit before the end.

On Tuesday me and Stevie D went up to catch some festival vibes and maybe a show or two, hopefully for free. Some gadge stopped us in the street and offered us to see a comedian from New York for free. We thought "yeah, why not?". We went in to this little place and there were two other members of the audience, our mate Midge and his pal. The audience eventually numbered 6 people, the show wasn't great but the guy did about as well as could be expected to such a small crowd. I can't remember the fella's name unfortunately.

The four of us headed to the Pleasance which is a busy courtyard in the middle of loads of little venues with mainly comedy shows, it has a bar, lots of people hang out and it has a nice atmosphere. We had a couple of bevoirs and were having a laugh with the people handing out the flyers for shows and we were given free tickets for some 'comedy-play' about a competition that happens in the States where people have to touch a van for as long as they can. We were going to go along to that but then we got last minute freebies for a comedian called Geoff Norcott who turned out to be pretty funny with his observations about the differences between the sexes. Not groundbreaking stuff but entertaining enough. Quite a successful day all in all which we rounded off by going for a curry.

On Thursday it was a lovely sunny day so Stevie and I decided to get ootnaboot and try and see a few more things. We already had arranged to go and see something at 7pm so we had all afternoon to fill any way we wanted. Unsurprisingly, what we wanted first and foremost was a pint of lager. We had a couple of those then headed for a comedy sketch show called Superclump which was pretty decent. A group of about 8 young comedians doing various quick-fire sketches with very little props or costumes. Not bad considering it was only a fiver to get in. We then nashed to the Voodoo Rooms for another free stand-up show, accompanied by the obligatory pint of premium lager style beer.

After a decent show featuring short sets from three different stand-ups it was off to the Henderson Gallery for the main event of the day, something I personally was looking forward to hugely since Naldo brought it to my attention last week. Unfortunately he wasn't able to make it due to having gone fishing, but he had kindly sorted out tickets for the rest of us. It was Archie MacPherson In Conversation. If you don't know of Archie, he was the voice of football coverage when I was a kid and was reknowned for his effussive use of language, punctuated by emphatic interjections such as "Woof!" when the ball rockets goalward off the boot of the attacking player.

It was billed 'In Conversation' but the presenter asked one question and then Archie was off, talking for the best part of an hour about his career, his experiences and his family. He asnswered a few questions from the audience at the end, including a question from me about the recent Scotland defeat by Norway, and that was it. An entertaining and interesting evening in the company of a broadcasting legend - I do not use the word lightly. Gaunyersel Archie.

I'm starting to show the early signs of Festival Fatigue now though. When you find it takes ten minutes to walk 200 metres along the street and you feel the stress levels rising as someone thrusts a flyer in your face for their 'comedy' musical version of The Roswell Incident or some such horseshit, it's maybe time to give the festival a wider berth.

But I'm not quite there yet. I'm hoping me and my bird can go to see some bits and pieces this weekend and I'm looking forward to a gig during the week when one of my favourite new bands play. I have mentioned The Phantom Band before as I played their album pretty much constantly for a few weeks and I will get to see them play for the first time on Wednesday at the Electric Circus.

So my week off has flown by at double-quick time but at least I've managed to do what I set out to do with the days away from work.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Keep on runnin'

A strange thing has happened recently.

I have always been quite active and - I would like to think - quite fit; but football was always my sport. I liked watching it and loved playing it. I would play two or sometimes three times a week.

A couple of years ago I started getting a lot of niggly injuries while playing footy. I went over on my ankle and did it in pretty bad, it took about 4 months before I was ready to play again. A bit after that I picked up a groin strain. I took a few weeks off to try and rest it before going back but 5 minutes into my first game I pulled it again, this time I was out for a couple of months.

A couple of weeks after coming back to playing I did my ankle again. I've pulled my hamstring a couple of times. My groin still gives my gyp so I can't run at full pace these days and I recently had a bit of tendinitis in my achilles.

Some of these injuries are things that just happen sometimes. Others may be due to failing to warm up and stretch properly or
rushing back too soon after injury. Some of them I think are happening because I'm getting a bit older - 34 last month - and all of them are now taking longer to heal.

While I've not been able to play I've tried to keep in shape, initially by doing push ups, sit ups and a little work with dumbbells as well as some swimming and cycling. Then I was able to start jogging. I got myself some decent running shoes and hit the roads.

At first the jogging was pretty hard going, I would get shin splints, sore knees and my groin would nip. I'm quite heavy for my size, 5ft 10 and
13 stone, though not fat, I would say of medium build. The weight was part of the problem, but after a while my legs started getting used to it and I would be in less discomfort.

It's got to the stage now that I'm really enjoying going out for runs. I still can't go all that fast due to the not-quite-healed groin thing and my continued love affair with food and beer which mean I haven't yet shifted any of the 182 pounds. But I'm usually out three or four times a week and noticing improvement by the week.

When my bird, Laura, Ronnie and Mary were running a relay in the Edinburgh Marathon a couple of months ago me, Don, Pablo and Wanless decided to do the same thing in next year's event. Having something to aim for has really helped, even though it is quite far away. My bird has started talking about doing the Aviemore Half Marathon in October. My progress has been good so I think I'm going to aim for that as well.

On Saturday my bird and I went out for a run. We had worked out a 7.5 mile route around the forests by her ma's house. We took it at a pretty easy pace and were both feeling fine. The track split into two and we weren't sure which way to go. Inevitably we ended up taking the wrong turn and it added and extra mile and a half onto the distance we had to run. But we both completed it and I felt great after it and could have went on. 9 miles in under an hour and a half isn't too bad, especially as I had to stop half way through to run into the woods for a keech.

So that's it, I'm now more into my running than my football. I played footy last night and today I am in some pain with my groin. I tried to go for a nice easy jog earlier and it didn't feel right at all. So I think I am going to have to knock the footy on the head for now. I'll go back to it after the half marathon, but I'm going to concentrate on trying to beat 2 hours for the 13 and a bit miles.

11 weeks and counting. Bring it on!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Paint it multi-coloured

Over the weekend I was doing a spot of home improvements.

I took Friday off work so I could get an extra day under my belt as I knew it was going to take a couple of days graft to do what I needed to do. I also had to put my car into the garage to get a problem fixed.

I got up nice and early, went and bought the paint and other bits and pieces I needed for the day, then dropped them at the flat and drove down to the garage to drop the motor off at 9.30am.

It was a nice morning, the sun was shining and it was warm with a bit of a breeze coming in off the Firth of Forth. I had about three miles to walk back to begin painting but I was quite enjoying the stroll. I took a route I'd never taken before down a small track that runs behind the sewage works alongside the railway tracks that go to the docks.

There was some kind of freight train pulling out and it had a bunch of New York subway style graff work and tags on it. Here's a photo I managed to take on my phone. I tried to send it in a text message to Big Duncs who's into this kind of thing but for some reason it wasn't working out.

I was well chuffed to see that this scene is still alive and well today, it makes stuff a bit more interesting to look at than having everything uniformly dull.

Some may call it vandalism but I think it's as valid an art form as anything else.

I'm hoping to get up to Aberfeldy this weekend or next to see the Urban Art in the Highlands exhibition featuring work by the likes of Banksy and my good friend Elph.

Elph recently taught a graffiti workshop to complement the exhibition; photos

I am also happy to say he has agreed to do some live painting at Headspin on the 8th August. He has been the man who has designed our flyers for a long time, and this is something we have talked about for a while, so I'm delighted he is going to get a bit of the limelight that he deserves for his years of service to the cause.

We're going to make it a full-on multimedia extravaganza. The soundtrack will be a mash-up of soul, funk, hip-hop, disco, electro and house, with percussive backing from Bongo Dave. Meanwhile, Elph will be painting a new piece live in the club and this will be filmed and projected onto a screen by video artist Foundlight with visual effects, film clips, live footage and animations mixed in.

So after that sublime subway moment on the last train to trancendental, I got back and started my own painting. Not quite as visually interesting, but after almost three days work I got it finished and am quite happy with the job I did on it, with a lot of help from my bird I must add.

After working on it all weekend I was almost glad to get back to work on Monday for a rest.

I do kind of think that I should really be doing something a bit more physical for a job, where I need to exercise my body as well as my mind. I come home tired after a day at work but it's a different kind of tired when you've been working your muscles than when your brain has been taking the strain.

There's something honest and rewarding about some good, hard yakka as they say in Australia. (Not sure of the spelling so apologies to any Aussies if that's wrong.)

I also want to take a moment to mention my current favourite album, which is by a Glasgow group called The Phantom Band and is entitled Checkmate Savage. It's a great mix of indie, electronica, krautrock and blues influences. The album is out on Chemikal Underground and you can see them live at T in the Park amongst other festivals. I can't remember how I came across these guys but I'm glad I did. Check 'em out.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Nuthin to say?

I'm not very good at this blogging thing.

It's not that I've got nothing to talk about. It's not that I have no opinions, no hopes, concerns, interests or life. It's just that I'm never really that sure anyone else wants to hear my thoughts on the state of the economy, the transport infrastructure of Edinburgh, the beautiful game, whisky, interior design, music, or indeed life.

Truth be told, as I'm going about my day, I'll be pondering some issue or other, and I occasionally think to myself, "Hey, I should write about this on my blog". Then by the time I get round to it, I've either forgotten what I was going to talk about, or it really doesn't seem all that important any more.

The list of topics, above, are all things I have had the intention of writing about but never got round to at the time, and then when I started doing something about it, the moment had passed and I could no longer be bothered.

I'm not so conceited as to think that anyone is really very interested in reading my every move or thought in Twitter stylee, and nor do I feel that need to impart my wisdom to lesser mortals or tell anyone how they should lead their life. But maybe that is what Web 2.0 is all about, perhaps cyberland (cyberia?) demands it!

So, I suppose the secret is, do it quickly and do it often. Too much procrastination leads to postponement and eventually cancellation.

I'm off for a lie down, that took it out of me. I leave you with a funny picture.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Nationwide is yer lot

It's never that great a feeling. The sense of impending doom when you bend down to pick up the mail from behind the door and it's an envelope with a little plastic window on the front.
I mean, how often has it turned out to be your bank offering to refund all those charges they've hit you with over the years? (Which you should be the process of reclaiming) Or the power company telling you they've decided to drop the prices of gas and electricity?

Not often I'll wager, so I was expecting something not that barry when the latest was lying on my doormat. But when I ripped open the envelope and pulled this little sucker out I wasn't too worried.

The Nationwide bank after all are the good gadgies of the banking world. They run their business properly and profitably. I like to think of them as the bank equivalent of The Guardian (when nepotism goes wrong) newspaper. They are the cats who don't charge you for taking money out or using your card abroad. Who needs traveller's cheques? Why carry your entire spending money for your trip around with you after getting it changed at M&S the week before you leave? (If you're organised that is, often it was a last minute dash to the Post Office on my way to the airport.)

And we get these things all the time, telling us that the interest rate we receive on our savings has dropped to 0.05% per annum or some other boring information about something or other.

Ostensibly it was the same as any other mundane circular, but within its folds was the news that as of 1st June 2009, the bank will now pass on any charges they incur as a result of 'transactions in certain currencies other than sterling'. The bank has, until now, covered these charges but it will now be hitting us with a fee every time we use our Nationwide Visa card on a non-Sterling transaction.

The only reason I got a Nationwide account in the first place was because they offered the free overseas transactions. Until recently they built their advertising on it. Remember of the guy from the ad saying 'Think of it as a tip'? So for them now to do a U-turn this policy is a bit rich. (Pardon the pun)

I know that the bank will point to this as a necessary measure to remain a properly run and profitable business. And I am also aware that the charges exclude the Visa Europe region where you can still get charge free transactions. But what about the rest of the world?

The main point is that it wasn't so long ago they were using the very fact that they didn't charge for using your card abroad as a marketing tool. To paraphrase another of their ads; they used it to hoik people in.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Makes my head spin

I've been promising to write about the club for a while and here it is.
It was Headspin's 11th birthday last weekend, on January 24th. A quite scary figure that I never thought we would reach. I was just 22 when I started the gig and would have been happy for it to last five or six years. I think it must be a bit like how you count a dog's age, though maybe not quite multiplied by seven. In club terms we're now surely beyond middle age and approaching retirement, so multiply by a factor of 5 and we're about 55 now. That puts us up with a few legends of Edinburgh clubland, alongside the likes of Pure, Manga, and Tribal Function.
I make no secret of the fact that I've reached something of a crossroads with regards to my own feelings about the club. I feel I do the lion's share of the work in promoting the event and lay out any cash that needs to be spent, but when it comes to who gets to play, I take my turn just like everyone else and I will always be the last to get paid when we make any profit.
The reason I started the club in the first place was to give myself a chance to play out, to let people hear the music I thought was good enough to play loud and dance to. Somehow recently it has turned round to being that everyone must get the same chance to play and I have to wait my turn like a Muscovite standing in a queue for a loaf of bread. I don't want to be a Nazi about it and insist that I always play at peak time or anything like that, but the style of music I tend to play is undeniably suited to being played at that time.
So putting a lot of work in, investing time and money promoting the thing, only to get to play two half hour sets once a month and probably not get paid doesn't really seem worth it.
My feelings were brought into focus at the new year event when I got the distinct feeling that the club has run it's course; that what we had always done had ceased to be relevant, and our attempts at keeping up-to-date by playing the most up-front and recent tunes was a bit desperate and reactionary. We've never really been about playing the freshest, most recent tunes. We've always kept up to date with what's going on musically but we've never been a slave to the trends, fashions and fads of the day. We've done our own thing and it has been an almost timeless selection that spans decades but fits together like it was all made to be played together.
Over the past 18 months or so it has become a real problem getting the guest DJs we have wanted to play at the club. Deciding upon someone we are all happy with - who we think will play across the board enough to suit the music policy, but also being a big enough name to draw a good crowd, yet still sticking within the budget of what we could expect to recoup - has become more and more difficult and we're running out of names. When we do decide on someone the next challenge is trying to secure them for a reasonable price. This has proved really frustrating recently and I've been continually let down by agents who don't respond to my emails or feel they can get their artists more money elsewhere.
No disrespect to any of the guests we have had on over the past year and a half but many of them wouldn't have been first choice had we been able to secure the people we wanted. Others who we were sure would do well and were excited about have turned out to be less of a draw than we had expected and we've ended up either losing a bit of cash on it or just breaking even.
Obviously nothing can continue running at a loss so if things don't improve in that regard the decision will be made for me.
But I don't want you to think it is all negative; if it was it would be an easy decision to walk away and finish it up now.
On the plus side, we do have DJ Format booked in for February. He has been with us twice before and is a great DJ who is usually pretty popular. On top of that he is also a really sound guy, and probably one of only two or three guests I have booked who I would say have developed into being mates of mine. So I'm looking forward to hooking up with Format again and spending a bit of time with him.
At the birthday party at the end of last month it turned out to be a really good night as well. I enjoyed it much more than at new year. There was a good, happy, party vibe; the dancefloor stayed busy all night and everyone enjoyed themselves. We played a lot of classic tunes, not bothering with too much new stuff. We didn't stick to the rostered times but instead mixed it up with each of us putting a couple of tunes on then the next person jumping in. It left me feeling much more involved and raised the energy levels of the music. At the end someone finished off with Public Enemy's 'He Got Game'. Wouldn't have been my choice but I didn't put the last one on.

In the past couple of weeks one or two people have talked to me about how important they think Headspin is and how it is one of the only clubs of its type left and that Edinburgh needs it to continue. This wasn't anyone who knew that I was considering the future of the club but still they were enthusing about it and talking about how good it was. Their enthusiasm made me feel a bit better about things, but I wish more of the clubbing population shared those positive feelings and enthusiasm.
I don't want our audience to become apathetic and Headspin to fade away, tarnishing the memory of what it once was. If I feel that is happening I will have to pull the plug.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Big Smoke

Last weekend me and my bird went to London for a nice long weekend to catch up with a few mates.
We took the Friday and Monday off work and caught the train at 11.30 am from Edinburgh Waverley. In an unusual and controversial move, we decided not to get steaming. We remained true to ourselves and didn't go to the pub at the station, didn't get a cargo for the train, and certainly didn't pay over the odds for a miniature can of warm Heineken from the trolley. I was tempted by about the time we got to York though; when the novelty of the train has worn off, you can't be bothered playing cards, and it's a bit annoying sharing the headphones of the iPod.
So we got there about 4ish and made our way to London Bridge where we then had a supposedly short walk past Tower Bridge to the pub we were meeting our mates Hilary and Tim who we were staying with. Hil and Tim came along once they finished work, we had a couple of pints with them then went back to theirs in Bermondsey, had a spot of dinner, stayed in and got a bit wellied drinking red wine and cocktails amongst other things.

Woke up in the morning feeling a tad rough but a cooked breakfast sorted us out and we all went off to the Tate Modern on the south bank. We had passes which entitled us to get into the paid exhibitions as well as the members café area. They currently have a Rothko exhibition so we went to check that out. Now I like art, I like abstract art, I like expressionism and I like surrealism; but I must say that I don't really dig his stuff. The clincher was when I went into one of the exhibition rooms and there was all these folk scratching their chins and staring intently at a large canvas painted completely black. To their right was another large canvas also painted completely black, and another to their left, and another behind. In some other rooms there were about 20 versions of a floating red frame on a red background. In his own words - I'll paraphrase slightly - 'If a thing is worth doing once, it is worth repeating again and again, exploring the possibilities'. That is fair enough, but how many versions of that do we really need? Move on to something else.
So after all that we were ready for a drink and a scran and had arranged to meet more pals so looked for a boozer to get a pint. Being a Saturday afternoon, everywhere was packed out, but we eventually got a seat and ordered some food. Our pal Louise came along and met us and a few more people were on their way. My pal from my Fopp days, Christophe, and his bird came and met us. It was great to catch up with them cos I've hardly seen Christophe for the last couple of years, and he's been living in London for 9 months or so and I haven't seen him at all since then. Unfortunately he was made redundant for the second time in 18 months recently, but aside from that he was in good form and seems to be enjoying himself in London.
Another pal, Dan, came and met us, as did Ian and Justin and Debs. Christophe and Gemma left and shortly after that my old mucker, Neil, came along with his lemon, Kate. We had a good few drinks before we decided it would be best to head back to Hil and Tim's where we could relax a bit. The usual kind of nonsense ensued, along with lots of booze. The night ended with me and Tim jumping from couch to couch like a kind of living room assault course. Mel tried it as well but fell off and landed on her arse. She's still complaining about a sore arse now, and it's not even been my birthday.
Didn't feel too bad the next day but plans for a walk up Hampstead Heath were shelved for a pub lunch and trip to the cinema. After lunch and a couple of pints we shelved the plans for the cinema in favour of a DVD and an Indian takeaway.
Next day we were traveling home on the 1.30 pm train but first I wanted to go to the Design Museum which was only a ten minute walk away. Tim has a membership so we got in for free again. They had some ceramics exhibition which was ok, but they also had an exhibition by illustrator Alan Aldridge, the Man with the Kaleidoscope Eyes. He came to prominence in the 60s and his stuff is really cool. He illustrated lyric books for the Beatles, album covers for The Who and Elton John, illustrated children's books such as The Butterfly Ball and designed adverts and identities for iconic brands such as the Hard Rock Café.
After that it was a quick lunch then off to catch the train home. Got a bottle of wine for the journey this time, having learned our lesson on the way down. Eventually got home after a delay at Newcastle and got dinner, wine, bath and bed in that order.
A cracking weekend in all, though not cheap. Even though we got into the exhibitions free I still spent about £170 over the weekend, not including travel, and my bird would have spent about the same.
This weekend I am all about Headspin's 11th birthday party which is on tonight. I'll let you know soon how it went and tell you about some of my thoughts on the future of Headspin.
Stay cool now, ye hear?