Autumn afternoons, classical music, Dutch, and impromptu trips to Italy

Autumn afternoons, classical music, Dutch, and impromptu trips to Italy

Before you begin reading this (if indeed you begin at all), please do me a favour and humour me with this small little request. Click the link below, load the video, allow the music to begin to play, and then continue reading this post. This way, you’ll be reading along to the same music that I heard when writing this, and we might be a little closer to being – as it were – on the same page. Worst case scenario, you lose 4MB of bandwidth. Best case scenario, you discover a newfound piece of beautiful music and add a new dimension of depth to your life. What’s the downside? Here you are:   (For the musos and/or Francophones amongst you, feel free to read the music and/or lyrics before the rest of this post, or just leave it on in the background. Either way, it’s an incredibly beautiful piece of music.) Listening? Great. Let’s plough on. As I write this, the only sounds I can hear are Lauridsen’s “Dirait-on” (see above) and a gentle murmur of wind rustling the leaves in the trees outside, with a low-level of distant traffic as a calming white noise in the background. I just returned from a walk outside, where the air is fresh but not yet acerbically sharp, and the last of the autumnal sunshine glows between the golden leaves still clinging to the trees. The Japanese actually have a dedicated word – komorebi, or 木漏れ日 – for this particular phenomenon of the interplay of sunlight through the leaves, and it always makes me think of the more subtle differences between different languages. It’s this almost enigmatic quality about experiencing different...
Christmas in Rotterdam

Christmas in Rotterdam

Just a short one today, folks. I’m posting this from a little pub in Rotterdam (as the ship internet isn’t working at all at the moment, and even when it was, it was terrible) but I have to head off in a second so I’ll keep it brief! I took a few photos of Christmas on the ship, mostly for family to see – you can find them here. I’ve spent the last few minutes trying to find a decent plugin to embed the images directly into the post from Flickr, but it’s a bit late now. Another time! It’s the 29th of December today, and our contract finishes on the 6th January – I’ve got to say, this is the first contract I’ve done where I’ll be quite glad for it to finish. Nothing personal, it’s a fun gig – but I’ve been gigging solidly every single day since November 3rd (with one day off, which was Boxing Day), and had two weeks off before that after a month-long Scandinavia tour, and then had 45 days previous to that on a boat – so whilst I’m very glad to be busy, I’ll enjoy the time off! I’ll be home by the 7th, and then on the 9th I’m flying out to Germany to visit some relatives of mine (who I haven’t seen in waaaay too long). I get back on the 16th and I leave literally the next day for France to visit my dad and stepmum. Then I’ve got a few days off and then back up to Newcastle to spend the entire of February on a...
Backups, redundancy plans and kaizen – Part 1

Backups, redundancy plans and kaizen – Part 1

I can’t pinpoint exactly when this started, but over the course of the past few months, I’ve noticed myself getting more and more fascinated by the way people deal with the unexpected things in life. I suppose there’s a direct connection here with the fact that I’ve also begun to notice that I’m trying, more and more, to start attempting to build redundancy systems into my life in an attempt to mitigate for the fact that when life throws inconveniences your way, it always seems to be at the most inconvenient moments (of course). It’s at times like this when I always remember the phrase “Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst”. It seems to be a rather solid philosophy upon which to build one’s life – a sort of practical, realistic optimism. More and more, I’m beginning to feel that the more prepared you are for the multitude of inevitable misfortunes that crop up throughout life, the more the outcome actually begins to get better – just as much, in fact, as directly trying to improve the outcome. It’s very much a reflection of Charlie Munger’s philosophy that doing the smart thing is, in fact, very often actually more a case of avoiding the stupid things. If you try to avoid the stupid things, you manage to guarantee some sort of baseline set of results upon which you can build in your pursuit of getting the eventual smart result. When I talk about dealing with the unexpected, I’m not necessarily talking about huge problems, either. I really do believe that an accumulation of small irritations can be just as...
Accelerating Language Learning

Accelerating Language Learning

I just wanted to write a quick post about some of the language experiences I’ve encountered in the past month or so, in the hope that it might be useful to the one or two people that might perhaps read this. Unfortunately – or fortunately, depending on your perspective! – this post has turned into a bit of a behemoth, and currently stands at over 3,500 words. If you’re learning a language – especially if you’re in the very early stages – I hope that my experiences might help you to accelerate your learning and get you on track at a faster pace. Even if you only learn one or two things from this post, I hope it can still be useful to you in some way. This is several years of reading, learning and my own personal experience condensed down into a single post. Please enjoy! The Initial Challenge   In the two months since I last wrote a post, I’ve been playing on a ship sailing back and forth between North Shields (near Newcastle) and IJmuiden (about 30-40 minutes from Amsterdam, in the Netherlands). As I was fortunate enough to have a decent amount of free time during day, I made sure to keep myself busy with several different projects and learning experimentation. Specifically, towards the end of the contract, I resolved to make a more concerted effort at properly attempting to learn Dutch, compared to the meagre few words I’d previously attempted to learn. It seemed like a shame not to start with Dutch, actually – being in the country every other day and only being able to grasp the absolute bare minimum of what’s...

First post, and back from France!

Hi folks, After successfully procrastinating for a good four years, I’ve finally managed to get around to setting up my own blog! This may, however, have been poor timing as I’m going to have to migrate across to different hosting in a couple of weeks, so with any luck my tech skills will be up to the job. If not, I’ll have to re-create from scratch… I actually created a good 80% of this site whilst on a recent trip visiting family in France, but the tidying up is now (mostly!) done and the site is live! I’m wondering if there’s a decent way to embed a lightbox-enabled Flickr plugin into blog posts so that you guys can view photos without having to move anywhere, but in the meantime, if you’re interested, you can see a selection of some photos from my trip to France here. I created the blog for a couple of reasons: I’m in the very fortunate position right now where I’m able to play music, travel, and get paid for it. (Right now, I have a few weeks free until I get back on the boat at the end of July.) Rather than have family members asking the same questions all the time, I thought it would just be easier to create a blog where I can upload photos and videos of what I’m doing, and also write about anything cool that happens on the way. That way, they can keep up to date on a daily basis, and I’ll also have a future record of what I’ve done so I can look back myself and...