Can’t sing, can’t dance, can’t play an instrument properly. But can pose!

I blame my entry into guitar playing on John Harris, a fellow student at Bristol university back in 1974. If I remember correctly John was studying mechanical engineering. We were in the same student accommodation (Baddock Hall), and were on the same corridor. He played rugby, had tidy long hair, good looks, was chased by the girls, and most importantly taught me a simple Status Quo riff on his acoustic guitar. Hooked!
After university I joined the Royal Navy as an instructor officer, but bought (i.e. had to pay) myself out within one year.

You could say “that I could not take a joke” (Royal Navy in-joke). But there was some money left over which I spent on an Antoria “Jazz” bass which I bought from a music shop near the Bull Ring in Birmingham. After about 8 months in Birmingham I went to Liverpool where, sometime around 1981, I found myself working in a large department of telecommunications engineers which included 3 similar aged lads with an interest in music:
Nick Trickett-Bell: rythym guitar (a big Status Quo fan)
Steve Dunwoody: a damn good guitarist
Dylan Jones: from north Wales, spoke Welsh at home and hit the drums. Dylan’s wife was the source of my first daughter’s name, Nia.

To be honest, they could play and I could not. But they tolerated me and we used to get together either in a former fire-station in north Liverpool that was converted to music practice rooms, or at the Plessey Social Club in Huyton. I used a McGregor solid-state 200 watt amplifier with about 10 channels of equalization, feeding in to a no-name cabinet with a single 18 inch speaker.

In about 1981 /82 I bought an Ibanez Blazer electric guitar, a “Stratocaster” look alike. But somehow it never captured my heart.

Some time around 1984 Nick and I were practising in my kitchen at 113 Milton Avenue and he kept pushing me to sing (no way!), and threatened that he would not go home until I had sang the accompaniment to a Status Quo song (Claudie). I sort of gave in.

Today I still can not sing, but I do not let that stop me like I used to.

So in my opinion, blame John and Nick!

Since then I have increased the range of instruments that I can not play.

In 1985 I moved to Stuttgart, Germany. There were about 40 expats doing software for Alcatel’s System-12 telephone exchange. One of the expats had completed his doctorate (Physics) in Cern. Whilst in Cern he saved as much as he could of his overseas living allowance and eventually bought a Yamaha Super Flighter 1000 guitar. He (Dr John McG) told me that he could not play, and had simply asked the salesman for a good guitar. Around 1988 he sold it to me. Thanks Dr John.

I then sold my Ibanez Blazer to a colleague at Alcatel in Stuttgart, along with a small practice amp.

In 1991 my family and I moved to the UK, but I could not get any work. Then a ex-colleague from Stuttgart (Piet Oosterhaven) who had moved back to his home in Den Haag contacted me. He needed someone to help him run his software department, so off we went to Den Haag. If I remember correctly my wife and kids went off for a few days to visit my wife’s sister in Stuttgart, and it was my birthday. So I went into Den Haag center to treat myself, and came home with 2 mouth organs, a simple blues harp and a chromatic harp.

I am deeply impressed by the blues harp. Light in the hand, light on the pocket, and I found it fun to play. But I kept getting sore throats so I stopped.

In 1992 we returned to Stuttgart.

Nothing special about this acoustic, but I am happy with its tone.

I think it was Christmas day 2000 when I broke my acoustic guitar, well actually my wife’s guitar but she had never learnt how to play. So I trundled off a few days later to a small instrument shop in Bad Homburg near Frankfurt, Germany. The salesman let me take the guitar home to try for a few days before paying, he did not know me, or ask for a deposit. No, I did not rip him off, I paid.

Some time in the early summer of 2017, I was with my wife on shopping in Bonn. Just for the hell of it, I called in at a small music shop in the city center, flirted a little with the saleswoman, and bought a ukulele. Look out George Formby!

Actually I had been impressed / touched by Joe Brown and Paul Mc McCartney playing ukulele at the tribute concert to George Harrison. I just had to buy one.

Another of my whims. I was in Tenby, Wales for a few days in August 2017 (well, I was born in the area, and had lived there until I was 18). In a very small music shop in Tenby owned by a well known music and amateur dramatics gentleman (Laurie Dale), I saw this lonely mandolin hanging in the window. I only intended to buy strings for my ukulele but somehow the salesman (Ritchie) and I got talking and then I walked out with the mandolin.

Never played one before in my life. But I have always loved the Irish folk band Planxty, and their version of “Follow me up to Carlow”.  May they forgive me for being such a lousy player.

In February 2019 I finally decided, due entirely to “Planxty”, that I must get my hands on a Bouzouki. So I sent off to “Thomann” in Germany for a “Irish Concert Bouzouki” (with a built-in pickup).

I have grown to love the song  “Sweet Thames, Flow Softly” by Ewan MacColl, which is also on my favourite Planxty album.

I admit to a element of overkill, but the Bouzouki is very similar to a mandolin. Four courses, 2 strings per course tuned to the same note. The Bouzouki is tuned one octave lower than the mandolin.

Anyway I already have a “beginners” mandolin (from Tenby in 2017), so I contacted “Thomann” again in November and treated myself to a Ibanez M510E-BS Mandolin. I am not as happy as I had hoped because the tone is a bit “thin” but I am hoping that new strings will help.