About Me

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Stoke on Trent, Staffordshire, United Kingdom
Broadcaster, musician, song writer, tea drinker and curry lover.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Filling In The Blanks - The YFC Years 1

There are some days when there really is nothing to say, and there are other days when all you can think to do is blog about a visit to the dentist. I mean, how lame is THAT? Yeah, quite...

This morning it occurred to me that there might, just might be some people who would be interested in a little background of my brief musical career.

My parents were ardent classical music fans and heavily involved in music at my childhood church, which even they would probably agree was a pretty straight laced Anglican church. They tried to start my musical life on the piano but I was hopelessly unable to make both hands work independently -- those who know me can still attest to my inability to multi task -- so next they started me on the cello, which I kept at for 5 or 6 years. 

Only problem with the cello that it was very hard to carry around due to it's being so fragile (the bridge once snapped in half during a rehearsal), and frankly speaking, it was a terrible chick magnet, so as soon as I could, I picked up the electric bass.

I played for around 12 years in various worship bands, and had just returned from an 8-month spell as a youth worker in Mumbai, India when the opportunity to join Youth For Christ's itinerant schools' band TVB, arose.

I can't actually remember at this stage how it came about -- it may have been through a contact, the most likely reason -- but I remember feeling a little daunted at having to raise the $3000 personal support for the year, but it all came together.

TVB (The Vocal Band) was a band that spent maybe 8 months of the year on tour in schools and youth clubs, playing concerts, taking lessons, leading worship in churches etc. The band was -- I guess managed -- by Colin, a veteran of the Continentals singing group. Colin is now a U.S. based actor, and still a FB friend of mine whose most common phrase was "Know right now, there's no money". You get the picture. Zero budget! Anyway, Colin worked with us to get us sorted out that first year. learning the songs, figuring out just how we were going to do all this.

The music was cover versions. Christian songs with a message. The first of my 2 TVB years, the songs included hits by Michael W. Smith, Out Of The Grey, Kim Hill, Simply Red and even a Sister Act medley, I kid you not. We had about six weeks to learn the set by heart, along with how to teach school lessons, how to give your testimony, and stuff like that.

We were then pretty much unleashed on an unsuspecting nation, with a minibus for the team of ten and an equipment van -- a small poky red thing which we had to learn how to pack properly to avoid equipment damage. yes, we were our own roadies. How glamorous!

Of course, most of the learning process occurred on the road, but if I say so myself, this was a talented band, and we really sounded pretty good, especially when you bear in mind that school kids can spot a fake from a mile away. We had to be good at what we did.

During each of the two years I served, the band would spend several months at a time on the road, staying with host families, with the odd home break here and there to recharge. We also had a European tour as part of the year. year one we went to Denmark, and then later to Croatia (former Yugoslavia). 

My main memories of Denmark in January were that is was very expensive to buy anything, and absolutely FREEZING COLD (although I was taught how to drive on pack snow by a host in Copenhagen, which was pretty cool). All the school kids, and quite a lot of church priests seemed to smoke there, and we went to a pre-confirmation retreat where we were sad to discover that the kids were pretty much forced into it, and we were -- sad to say -- some of the coolest people they'd ever met: hard to believe, I know. We also stayed  in some quite horrible places (in one boarding school the kids smoked drugs and rioted while we stayed locked in what seemed to be cells in the cold). Happy days.

Croatia was just recovering from the effects of the Balkan War, and we arrived, thankfully in the spring, at quite a historic moment. More of that in the next installment!

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Valium Effect

Even after 3 years here in the States some cultural things take me a little by surprise. faced with the prospect of my second crown of the year, I was joking to my hygienist during my cleaning the week before, that it would be great if I could just be knocked out for the drill-fest. To my surprise, she said that I could always have a valium.

You should understand that in the UK, that kind of thing was not -- in my time anyway -- an option. Of course you got the anaesthetic (although you had to endure the injection without the numbing gel first), but nothing else was ever offered to me.

I was actually told that at one dentist office, they show movies on dvd for people, which would have been nice, but I was told that in addition to the valium, I could bring my iPod in and they wouldn't be insulted in the slightest if I listened to that as loud as I wanted to, while they butchered my mouth.

I suppose I should explain why I opted for the valium in the first place. I am not a coward, but I do have a problem with a gag reflex, while my tongue seems to have a mind of its own and wanders all over the place, generally getting in the way! The valium would at least make this less of a problem.

Anyway, the dentist prescribed one tablet - at a cost of $1.06 - to my pharmacy, and I took the tablet one hour before my date with destiny. Needless to say I had to be driven there and back (thanks Angie & Sue) and although beforehand as I sat in my living room I felt pleasantly relaxed, I can't say that I noticed a massive difference.

Overall I am definitely glad I went for it, and "pleasantly relaxed" would be a good summary of my state throughout the whole procedure - which was just as long as the previous one, but certainly not nearly as unpleasant. I was also grateful to Keith Urban, whose latest offering kept me happily distracted while the 2 girl tag drillers did their job.

All in all, while I wouldn't exactly say I could happily go through that every day, it was for sure a lot less strenuous than the last time!!

So there you go. A mundane posting maybe, but that's my life -- or as much of my life as I'm going to talk about right now!!!