Colin Ross – fiddler, piper & master pipe-maker passed away recently. Amongst many other sets of pipes, he made both of my main chanters which I’ve played for the last 20 years or so and passed on his pipe-making knowledge to my family.
The ‘super-extended’ F chanter or ‘geet lang walking stick’ as it’s sometimes called is what I now play most and it is a masterpiece for which I am very grateful. I was on holiday when I heard of his passing; this tune came to me whilst reflecting on various memories – and playing his instruments. I always loved the way he played the fiddle and particularly the energy he applied to the big fiddle slow airs – this tune always knew it was going to be in D, use the extended range (a little) and use the top B. The original instruction was ‘Unmawkishly’ – but this was changed to ‘Slow & vigourously’ to be better understood!
Here’s the recording I made in the cottage kitchen on my phone shortly after I’d finished it:
Here’s the second of the decision charts for new pipers – one of the most frequent questions I am asked is ‘what keys should I get?’ There is no perfect configuration – everything is a compromise – and the most common one is ‘standard 7’:
Note that this chart only applies for F & G pipes – on a D set the chanter stick is much longer and different restrictions apply.
The cooking and serving of a breakfast bap is not I think a difficult thing. The Real Food Company at Newcastle Airport have however demonstrated how wrong I can be.
At 8am in the morning facing a hard week of work I decided to treat myself, not having time for a sit down breakfast, the ‘breakfast bap’ looked like a good compromise consisting of sausage, bacon & egg. At £5.99 it was expensive – but this was in an airport. The catering assistant reached behind him and pulled out a pre-cut roll, my heart sank a little. One sausage was picked up and placed on the bottom half and the tongs returned to the dish .. but no .. it was not a second sausage but two pieces of bacon. Imagine my reaction then when the tongs are opened and the two rashers returned to their home. A second dip in and single solitary folded up sliver arrives to join the lonesome sausage in it’s flour encrusted home. By now my expectations were significantly reduced but as it turned it out the culinary highlight was to be the egg – which was at least cooked on the spot. The bap now assembled was handed across and I in my pre-breakfast fog actually paid for this.
I sank into the faux leather seats and examined the construction before compounding my error of buying it by attempting to eat it. The ‘bread roll’ had the consistency of cardboard – must have cost 5p at the most. The sausage tasted like it had a good helping of ingredients from the same cardboard factory. The bacon and egg had in effect no taste whatsoever.
Now a roadside butty van will produce you a sausage, bacon & egg butty for about £3.50 – it will be overflowing with sausage, have at least a couple of rashers and you’ll be catching egg from the moment you get hold it. If I’m going to get charged double that and you want to me to be happy about it, I’m going to want a seletion of fresh rolls to choose from, sausages with at least three accurately named flavours, bacon from a pig with a double-barrelled surnam name and invitation to tea from the chicken that lays the eggs
Unless of course there’s a worst butty in the world competition – in which case Newcastle Airport is going to win.
Last night I sat down with my son as he started reading book 4 (Dog Days) of the ‘Diary of a Wimpy Kid’ series. It was quite a harrowing experience.
The ‘diary’ has a relentlessly negative message – we had absolutely nothing in common with any of the characters (and wanted nothing to do with them). From the opening sentence where we introduce to an unhealthy and irrational concept of a guilt:
“For me the summer break is basically a three month guilt trip.”
By page six we’re on to spreading a message about ‘perfect’ body images in a book targetted at pre-teens. 20 pages later and there’s no let up, we’ve gone through the merits and attractiveness of media gossip, re-inforced the body image thing, promoted the benefits of familial distrust and watched a horror movie.
Opening a page at random (p88):
“I like to cut to the chase on my birthday and get right to the gifts so I told everyone to gather in the living room. I took my time with the cards, just like Mom asked. It was a little painful, but I got a good haul, so it was worth it”
Now every kid might think like this or act like this at some stage – but that’s what parents are for. There’s nothing in the book to expose an alternative idea or instil a change in these warped values. It’s just left with the main character thinking about ‘my parents lousy idea’ – and your children are supposed to identify with this diarist?
Fundamentally we found no humour in this book. I’m not even going to give this one away. I might keep it in store as an example of a really bad book; when the lad’s older and has the experience to understand I can explain just why it’s so bad. In fact if you’re doing book reviews for GCSE or A-level and want to hand in something to contrast with all the glowing eulogies from you classmates, here’s a good candidate (… the only other option is tossing it on the fire.)