Thursday, 30 December 2010

No Longer Dreaming Of A White Christmas

In the words of Gilbert O' Sullivan I'm Not Dreaming of a White Christmas... I've had quite enough of the snow for this year thank you!

The steady trickle of rain which began on Monday evening has gradually washed the remaining bundles of ice away over the past few days...

On my trip into work this morning I couldn't help but think how beautiful and quiet the streets of Newport looked - until I got to the Duffryn - Maesglas subway and found where all the melted snow had gathered - it was either swim for it or cross the road - so as I didn't have my flippers it was over the top!

Saturday, 25 December 2010

Newport Scenes: Christmas Eve in Newport

Following some of the snowy images from earlier in the week here's some pre-Christmas scenes taken from the bridge on Cardiff Road on my way into work this morning - showing that occasionally Newport can look quite beautiful in places!

Friday, 24 December 2010

Happy Christmas!

Weather disruption this last few weeks forced Rachel and I to rethink our Christmas card sending as many people we felt would not receive their cards before Christmas.

So, we decided to give the money we would have spent on the cards to a family we support on a regular basis and instead I've drawn a card which you can enjoy online here...

Christmas love and wishes

Andy, Rachel, Seren, Jon & Tom

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Convert Your Audiobook Cassettes and Vinyl To Digital Format

One of my side projects this year has been converting some of my old vinyl and cassette recordings to audio format.

This has been known to be a bit of a laborious task in the past when finding over complicated software programmes or computers with lack of memory don't always deliver the results you would like to achieve.

Thankfully the Audacity programme is very useful for this task and so far to my experience is very useful for converting audio and vinyl to digital format but also for editing and cleaning up recordings.

I've produced two guides how to convert your old records and tapes to vinyl on Suite101:

  1. Converting Your Cassette Audiobooks To MP3 Format
  2. Splitting Your Audiobook Recordings Into Chapters

Frozen Newport

Well, it looks like the snow over the weekend hit us pretty bad in Newport, Gwent.

Monday started off a bit slippy with icy pavements as there was no snow over the weekend since the heavy dollop we had on Friday.

Around 9am, the snow started to fall again, it soon became apparent on Newport's Cardiff Road (outside my workplace) that all the traffic was pretty much at a standstill.

This image of an Out Of Service bus carrying worried passengers (hopefully) to their destinations was a common sign yesterday. A couple of my colleagues who live furthest away managed to get half a mile up the road in their cars in about two hours!

Tesco was deserted when i got there at lunchtime - people even forsaking their shopping to get home. Note To Self - expect a stampede on Christmas Eve!

Monday, 13 December 2010

Bend Me Shape Me At Burger King

Writing Christmas Cards with the Children this evening, my wife Rachel put on the Vintage TV music channel which plays those great tunes from Nineteen Hundred and Frozen Stiff. (I should know, I love all of them!).

Bend Me, Shape Me that classic 1968 track by Andy Fairweather-Low's band Amen Corner came on the TV and on hearing the lyric "You can make this beggar a king, a clown or a poet", my youngest son, Tom misheard the lyric and asked me "Why are they singing about Burger King?".

I had to chuckle thinking that Amen Corner had maybe sung "You can make this Burger King, a clown or a poet..."

Oh well, maybe not...

Further Reading:
Review: Andy Fairweather Low and The Low Riders In Concert
A review Of  Andy Fairweather Low's Concert at Newport Riverfront in 2008

Review: Andy Fairweather Low and The Low Riders @ Newport Riverfront 
Review of Andy Fairweather Low's Concert at Newport Riverfront in 2009

We Didn't Meet At Debenhams (But I Still Met Santa Anyway)

Here's a little story about a badge I discovered in my old badge box tonight. Badges probably have lots of stories... I guess it depends if you want to tell them!

Way back around 1975, a boy in my class at Richard Hind Primary School, Stockton-On-Tees called Paul Campbell - I think it was him anyway! - gave me this Father Christmas - We Met At Debenhams badge.

I don't know if Paul did meet Santa at Debenhams, but I seem to remember meeting Santa at a Church Hall just off Yarm Road a couple of times around 1975. I remember the long queue and how magical the Grotto seemed. On that occasion Santa gave me a Domino set.

Happy Birthday Father Christmas!

The next time I saw him was in Johnnie Walker square, in Stockton On Tees around 1977.

On this occasion I wished him a Happy Birthday and he looked rather puzzled.

Okay I know, it's meant to be Jesus' birthday, but I was still getting the hang of Christmas when I was 8. 

Anyhow, back to The Debenhams badge - I took it home and proudly showed it to my Mother. "But you didn't meet him at Debenhams did you?", she said. No I didn't mother, but some 35 years later, I still have the badge!

Christmas Musical Memories:

I've recently written a few Christmas related articles.

If like me you love Christmas music you might like to check out my list of essential Christmas albums: From Bing To Elvis - A List Of Classic Christmas Albums while the retrospective show Christmas With the Rat Pack reminds us of those great Christmas tunes that Sinatra, Martin and Davis provided us with for many years and brings them firmly into the 21st Century!

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Remember: John Lennon 1940-1980

It's 30 years since the passing of John Lennon.

To many people, such an event is one of those moments you remember where you were when you heard the news of his death.

I was 12, and actually ill and off school that day.

I remember sitting in the kitchen of my Grandad's Yorkshire Dales shop full of cold and tucking into a bowl of hot soup. The TV was on but the volume turned down. Glancing up to the TV screen I noticed the screen was full of images of John Lennon.

Turning up the volume I couldn't quite believe the news as it unfolded. 30 years later it all still seems ridiculous. On the verge of a comeback John had recently released a new single and album. His death caused (Just Like) Starting Over to hit Number One the following week and within weeks Woman and Imagine would give him three posthumous Number Ones.

Lennon Legend

Lennon has become legendary status now, something he would rather not have done, according to former girlfriend May Pang this week. Commenting on seeing Eric Clapton referred to as Legendary in the 1970s, John apparently cringed at the thought.

Thankfully, we still have the legacy of his music and it's always great to see Yoko keeping his memory and work alive.

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Our Missing Cat Interview and Review

Besides listening to lots of Christmas music this last few weeks my iPod has been giving regular plays to Nine Lives, a brilliant album by London Electronic/Acoustic duo, Our Missing Cat.

The album is a cool fusion of electronic and acoustic music with elements of punk,country, rock and flower power making the mix.

It's difficult to say which are my favourite tracks as I think the album is a wonderful piece as a whole (a very rare thing in these times), but particular stand out tracks are the indie sounding Something Going On and the poetic Lizzy. Check out the Our Missing Cat website for information on the album and sound bytes and follow the band on Facebook, MySpace and Twitter.

I have reviewed Nine Lives for Suite101 and Our Missing Cat vocalist, writer and musician Andrea Webster spoke to me about the band and the album.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Revisiting The Blood Donor With Tony Hancock

I was pleasantly surprised to find this morning that my interview with Rhys from Goldie Lookin Chain had been selected for an editors choice award on

If you still havent caught the interview and want to find more about GLC's new Christmas release you can read Goldie Lookin Chain Unwrap New Christmas Album here.

Moving on, I love listening and watching classic comedy, shows such as Dad's Army and Hancock's Half Hour have always been favourites. My love affair with my iPod allows me to listen to audio versions of these programmes with great ease.

The Blood Donor by Tony Hancock is still a classic nearly 50 years on from its original broadcast, and I chose to celebrate that in a new feature. Its amazing to think that since it was released as a vinyl record in late 1961 this has been available as a record, cassette, CD and now an Mp3 download. That's not to mention the TV version on Video and DVD... I wonder if it ever made to 8 track cartridge?

Saturday, 27 November 2010

A Goldie Lookin Interview With GLC's Rhys

Yesterday, I had the chance to do an interview with Rhys from comedic rap band Goldie Lookin Chain.

The band from Newport are about to release their Christmas album featuring the forthcoming single You’ll Never Be Alone At Christmas and the excellent DubStep Christmas which the band have just finished making a video for.

"You wouldn’t believe if you type in DubStep Christmas," Says Rhys, "Many other people are having a DubStep Christmas that had one last year and are planning on having another one this year. We’ll probably have a Drum n Bass new year!"

Read the full interview and my review of the new release at Suite101: Goldie Lookin Chain Unwrap New Christmas Album

Friday, 26 November 2010

Listening to Doctor Who's Audiobook Adventures

Looks like The Giant Robot has returned! Well almost - he's actually modelling the latest line of Doctor Who Audiobooks (there's not much life left in the molten metal market!).

Anyway to the point of this blog entry - One of my great passions has always been books and I must admit as I was growing up (which seems so long ago now - or am i still doing that?) I was an avid reader of the Doctor Who Target Book series.

These were an essential read to all Doctor Who fans during the 1970s and the 1980s - especially in the years before the video recorder as they allowed you to catch up on old TV adventures.

I would regularly do business in the playground with several school friends buying up their old copies of Day Of The Daleks or The Zarbi. I had quite a neat collection in the end and still have it though most confess I've not reread any of them in years.

Its been quite a boost that BBC Audio have re released several of these titles as audio books now breathing new life into the series. As well as the classic stories there are also new audio adventures featuring Tom Baker (in my opinion - the best Doctor!) and original audiobooks such as The Rising Night read by Michelle Ryan who played Lady Christina in Planet Of The Dead (and should certainly have become a regular companion!).

I've recently written some in depth reviews of some of these audiobooks and you can check out reviews and overviews at the following links:

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Father Christmas Model In Newport Market

Here's a rather grand looking model of Father Christmas the boys and I found in Newport Market today. We couldn't resist getting a few pictures with him as he checked his naughty list.

One old chap thought it was a great idea as he walked past - he probably thought I couldn't afford to have the boys take a picture in a real grotto!

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Christmas music

Christmas is coming - Rachel's got the scented candles lit and no doubt after Seren's birthday next week, I'll be constantly asked by the children to get the Christmas decorations up.

Okay, asides from my "Bah! Humbug-ness" I can't help but feel a little Christmassy.

I started uploading Christmas tracks to my I Pod last week and whenever I hear a bit of Bing Crosby singing White Christmas or Cliff Richard performing Little Town - I get snowflakes dancing before my eyes..

Seriously I do like Christmas music and today picked up a copy of Nat King Cole and Dean Martin's Christmas Album (or a variant of it) for a pound - what a bargain.

It got me thinking of what my favourite Christmas recordings are though and have compiled a list for Suite101.

Crystal Lewis' Holiday! and Jaci Velasquez Christmas always evoke Christmas memories from 2001 when Rachel and I were honeymooning in lovely cottages first in St.Ives and later in Reeth, Swaledale. I guess the warm jazz style of holiday sums up those warm memories best and remains a special album to me!

Nick B Byrne Interview and Review

I recently got the latest CD from Nick B Byrne entitled 4:15AM to review. It features Nick's new single Turning.

Nick is a former front man from Welsh Band The Evolvers and tracks from 4:15AM have been featured on BBC Radio Wales Evening Show presented by Alan Thompson a few times.

Anyway, there's some good sounds on this album which is available to download from I Tunes and you can find out my thoughts and some comments from Nick here.

Monday, 1 November 2010

Peel Your Own Spud's Interview

Here's another interview I recently conducted. This time with Rosie O Donnell, lead singer from Newport based Irish band Peel Your Own Spud's.

The Spud's formed a couple of years ago from an Irish community based in Newport and their new single Fare Thee Well has already gained some radio airplay!

You can download The track from I Tunes or alternately buy the New Boil 'Em or Bake 'Em CD directly from The Spuds website!

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Pumpkin Time!

Yes it's that time of year, when everyone gets all excited about ghosts and monsters and the only killings made are generally by the supermarkets trying to cash in on Halloween.

Yes, we have a pumpkin, which the children wanted to look like Spookily the square Pumpkin - "except ours is round", as Seren rightly pointed out!

Anyway here's the finished pumpkin posing with Jon!

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Sketchbook: Cat Litter

This is one from my National Diploma Graphic Design course which I did back at York College of Further and Higher Education between 1993-95. It doesn't seem that long ago so its hard to believe it was some 17 years ago!

The idea was to produce a collage for a magazine feature using a well known phrase and to illustrate it. I opted for Cat Litter which I thought was amusing at the time. It's mainly collage though I badly drew the wall in - I later threw in a wall pattern to give it more of a collage look.

Anyway here is the original version before I altered it...

Sketchbook: Madonna (1980s)

Here's another oldie from my sketchbook - possibly one of the first drawings I did way back in the 1980s of Madonna.

This sketch was drawn from her crucifix period (probably my favourite era for her in style and music!).

There were several sketches of 'Madge' (as she later became known) but this remains one of my favourites.

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Sketchbook: The Beatles

Here's an old pencil sketch I did of the Fab Four, John, Paul, George and Ringo back in the early 1990's. It's based on the album cover from their fourth album, 1964's Beatles For Sale.

Sketchbook: Doctor Who And The Abominable Snowmen

Going through my old art folder today - oh yes - that's a big job! I found the colour version of Doctor Who and The Abominable Snowmen sketch I featured on this blog a while back.

Starring Patrick Troughton as The Doctor , this adventure is now largely missing from the BBC television archive, in fact only Episode 2 and a few seconds from another episode actually survives in video format.

I drew this as tee-shirt design for a friend's birthday back in 1992, as the friend was a bit of a fan and this was the story that actually went out the day they were born. I probably made the Doctor and Jamie's dialogue up as I don't think those lines were uttered in the story. You'll notice the dialogues a bit tidier in the sketch having added it in Photoshop.

Happy Birthday John Lennon

Today would have been (or is - depending how you look at it) John Lennon's 70th Birthday. The man lives on through the legacy of his great music and Yoko Ono has initiated a website so fans can send their wishes to John.

Visit IMAGINEPEACETOWER.COM for further information.

By way of a small tribute, I've dug out some artwork I did back in 1984 - a pen and ink drawing of John and given it a bit of technical reboot in Photoshop. Hope you like it!

Super Ferric AGFA's , Home Taping and Tony Blackburn

I'm finally getting around to transferring much of my old tape collection to MP3 - a job I've wanted to do for years. Not so much for the quality of my tape recordings but more for the nostalgic glance back and preservation.

I grew up with the tape recorder quite a bit in the late 70s. At first I'd record my voice and make up my own shows - thankfully, I quickly got this out of my system as I actually hate the sound of my voice on playback.

I then progressed to taping television theme tunes, television programme soundtracks (mainly Doctor Who) and occasional songs performed on TV - this was all very crude with a built in microphone which caused the quality to frequently vary. I was grateful when in the early 80s my family got a Hi-Fi with a built in cassette recorder allowing me to record directly onto cassette from radio or vinyl.

Tape quality in this era was frequently dubious (and expensive) - I remember buying several tapes at that time that would have rather gone through a mincing machine than have anything recorded on them.

Recording the Top 40 charts on a Sunday was a great pastime - carefully trying to cut out Tony Blackburn's chatter between songs - and failing dismally as he used to chat over the end of them! Home taping was apparently killing music... well not if Tony Blackburn had anything to do with it, there are still wonderful examples around the Internet of Tony making these classic interjections...

When I got my own Hi-fi - I progressed to recording Radio One documentaries, particularly those on favourite bands and singers. I still have many of them over 25 years later - though of course with hindsight there's much more I should have recorded.

Woolworths did a great line in packs of five Super-Ferric AGFA's which still play well now, and I'm fascinated as to how well organised this hobby of mine was back then. Yes, I'd painstakingly fill out the track details and make intricately designed cassette covers with any media i could find - I often think the art of the home-made mix-tape was bigger than most people realised!

As college life beckoned - I got quite sloppy with my labelling and a cassette recorder that decided to chomp up further tapes only added to my falling out with the format. This left me with a clutch of unlabelled tapes of all sorts of recordings which I forgot I'd done.

So here I am now - converting old shows to MP3 (along with old albums I've either kept or picked up in charity shops over the years). And as I'm doing this I'm also reassured that I was not alone in my hobby - many people have uploaded recordings of shows they've done over 40 years ago (and in many cases much more credible than mine!). From classic radio comedy (in some cases now lost) to Radio One Breakfast Shows, Pick Of The Pops and John Peel Festive Fifty's. There was probably no other reason to record these at the time other than you could, and we did .

These days, when we are faced with loutish radio presenters and less than inspiring music its good to be reminded of an era when listening to the radio was certainly a pleasurable experience, and you didn't have to worry about finding quality programming on the radio!

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Dad's Army Website News Updates

Just been doing some long overdue additions to

This website began as a CD Rom college project in 1997 and just grew over the years, particularly fuelled by my love of the Dad's Army television series.

In that time it's outlived some of the others of its kind and been given a few accolades along the way as well as getting me some (fun!) tasks as consultant on some of the DVD extras and a documentary on the lost episodes back in 2002!

The site is pretty static these days, except for a bit of tweaking and maybe even an overhaul on its appearance. I'll add some further information as time permits, but today I've added some news on my current read - Graham McCann's excellent new biography on John Le Mesurier (Sergeant Wilson) - Do You Think That's Wise? its published by Aurum and available now.

Lucy Hume from Samuel French Ltd has also informed me of several script books produced by Dad's Army creator David Croft for the stage - ideal for amateur dramatic companies, I've added some information on the Dad's Army title here, but there are also books on Are You Being Served?, 'Allo 'Allo, Hi-de-Hi! and dear old Arnold Ridley's (Private Godfrey) The Ghost Train.

Anyhow - I've spent an enjoyable few hours doing some of these updates - so if you love Dad's Army go and check the site out!

Friday, 1 October 2010

Rain Stops Ryder Cup Play At Newport's Celtic Manor

You wouldn't think the Ryder Cup had arrived in Newport judging by how quiet the roads were around here today.

In fact walking into work this morning it was just like any usual wet miserable day in Newport, but without the school traffic (yep the schools gave the children a day off!).

From what I gather, the visiting stars at The Celtic Manor probably felt the same after seven hours of the third biggest sporting event in the world was rained off.

Even Tiger Woods looked crestfallen as the rain hammered down, never mind at least he was able to try out his new waterproof gear, something I'm sure he hardly needs anywhere else!

Thursday, 30 September 2010

How We May Have Retired 50 Years Ago...

It just goes to show that reaching the steady heights of long service with a company has not always warranted rewards of carriage clocks, gold watches and a favourite tipple.

An extract from the Barry & District News of September 29, 1960, 50 years ago this week has a classic example:

Edward Evans of Westward Rise Barry, was presented with an umbrella and a pipe on his retirement as foreman fitter at Barry Docks where he had worked for the British Transport Commission for 31 years.
Lets hope Edward got the longstanding service from his pipe and brolly...

Cyw Bus Comes To School

If you lived in Wales, you'd be familiar with S4C's Children's television output which goes out under the title of Cyw (that's Welsh for Chick).

It's a pretty good service and certainly knocks the spots off any other terrestrial TV channel's children's output. The children spend many mornings having breakfast and brushing up on their Welsh skills with Meees, Sam Tan and Nodi!

Cyw frequently visits and features many schools and today was the turn of Ysgol Gymraeg Casnewydd. Jonathan's class was recorded and the results will be broadcast on S4C on October 20th.
Here are some pictures of the Cyw bus parked in the school grounds and even Tom took time to peek in!


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