Blogged into touch

Chris's Blog Archive: June 2021

Very warm temperatures and sunrise happening here before 5 am played havoc with my fragile constitution this month. I was not a happy bunny.

Want to add some new music to your collection? Want to do so for free? I release an album a month on Bandcamp these days with songs that range from pop to prog, from ambient to spoken word, and from mellow piano ballads to shouty post-punk. The latest addition to my discography is a selection of music I wrote during April for the Fifty/Ninety: The Prequel songwriting challenge, and as the results were—in my humble opinion—rather good, I've called it A Decent Harvest. As with its predecessors, it's a pay-what-you-want deal and that includes free.

My most recent commercial album Oneiric Tulpas is available on Bandcamp! You can also check it out on Spotify, Amazon Music, Apple Music, Tidal and all your other favourite streaming services. My previous album Beyond is also on Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music, Tidal and the rest as well.

My earlier albums Generator and Fort are also available at Bandcamp, together with a large collection of other music from me.


I'm pleased to report that the going this week has been somewhat easier than it was last week. The nights have been cooler, so I've not had such a struggle to get to sleep (or to stay asleep, rather than waking up again every couple of hours, which is what my nightly regime has ended up as recently, and let me tell you, there are few things that can lay me low quite as rapidly as not getting a good night's kip). A brisk walk around the village yesterday evening with some decent gradients to raise the pulse, followed by two pints in the pub on the way home definitely helped matters, too. As a result I don't feel quite as drained today; my mood is definitely lighter.

I even recorded some new music yesterday, and as it's in 7/8 (which I tend to reserve for occasions when I'm feeling particularly creative) I think I can safely say that my mojo seems to be returning.

It's about time, too. The songwriting challenge known as Fifty/Ninety gets under way again on Sunday, and this year I intend to really go for it.

Now all I need is for the pollen that is setting off my allergies to go away, and I'll be all set.


I noticed this morning that the Virginia Creeper has switched to its annual phase of rampant growth, so I think I'm going to have to get the ladder out next week and give it a trim before it covers the front windows of the house completely...


...I've had a rough few days this week. I was feeling under the weather when I wrote last Monday's blog entry but it turned out that things were just getting started. Sleep proved impossible on Monday night because I found myself experiencing one PTSD flashback after another. That left me feeling sick and wretched. At least the CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) I had a few years ago meant that I had enough presence of mind to recognise what was happening. Oddly enough, just doing something like acknowledging what was going on by tweeting about it helped to dial things down a little bit (mindfulness as social media praxis, anyone?)

I felt slightly better on Tuesday after going for a decent walk and beating my step goal (and a couple of pints in the pub with my buddy Paul on the way back was definitely what the doctor ordered), but on Wednesday night I woke up at half-past three in the morning with an excruciating pain in my right kidney (and that isn't the one with the kidney stone in it...) A couple of paracetamol eventually numbed the pain to the point that I could get back to a sort of restless doze, and thankfully the pain has not returned since.

This morning I woke up at quarter to four, shivering. When I realised that wrapping the duvet more tightly around myself wasn't going to work, I got up and retrieved a fleece blanket from the airing cupboard. After I'd warmed up, I lapsed into an unsettled sort of half-sleep. And so once again I woke up today feeling more tired than I did when I went to bed.

For the past few years the lack of darkness at night around midsummer has really made my life uncomfortable. This year seems to be affecting me much more than usual, even though I have both a venetian blind and blackout curtains over the bedroom window.

It's also the height of the hayfever season for me at the moment, and don't I know it. I have to just grit my teeth and endure it, because antihistamines really don't play well with the meds I'm on.

So yeah. I need more nights where I sleep like I did last Friday. The sort of sleep I've had this week has left me feeling pretty grim.

And my mental wellbeing is not being helped by the fact that this country appears to be sliding inexorably towards some sort of bumbling Nazi clown dystopia. Are there no grown-up, competent people left in politics any more?


The blog was 18 years old yesterday.

I'm finding it difficult to accept that I'm still writing it.


It was the Summer Solstice at 4:32 am BST this morning. Not that you'd have been able to see the Sun here; it's dull and grey and it's been raining, off and on, for most of the morning.

Last week's heatwave broke on Friday night here, and I have gone back wearing a hoodie inside the house. The weekend was much cooler and sleeping has become much easier. I needed it, too: I slept for almost eleven hours solid on Friday night! The thunderstorms that were forecast for the UK, which had triggered a yellow alert for torrential rain arrived, but only further East. Whatever the noise was that I heard in the early hours of Friday morning, it wasn't a lightning strike. The sferics for the Bristol area didn't show anything at all.

When I did my Sunday night live stream the temperature in the room was a comfortable 23°C. That's rather different from the 29°C it had been on Thursday, even though I'd had most of the gear in the studio powered up since lunchtime. The whole of the house's upstairs has cooled down significantly from last week and last night I was able to sleep the sleep of the just, with my watch reporting this morning that I had spent a not-too-shabby 43% of it in deep, restorative NREM sleep.

I wish I could report that I feel better as a result, but I'm in quite a lot of pain this morning. I don't know why; perhaps if I was sleeping deeply last night I may have stopped moving about for long enough that the stone in my left kidney was able to settle into a different, more painful position, but combine that with the fact that hayfever is making my life miserable right now, and maybe you'll understand why I'm just going to write off the rest of today.


I'm sticking with my decision to stop editing my Twitch livestreams in order to upload them to YouTube. Apart from anything else, this means that I have freed up almost an entire day of my time each week. But I have also discovered that stepping back from YouTube has also helped to reduce my stress levels.

It wasn't just the unpleasantness of the recent SODRAC copyright claim which put me off the platform, or the stress of having to (successfully) dispute it; my experience earlier this year with the record producer douchebag who ripped off my photographs of Motörhead and then told me that it was my fault for letting him do so—which, incidentally, is an absolutely textbook narcissist move—has left a sour taste that has not gone away. Needless to say that nothing Mister "Produce like a pro" subsequently promised would happen to make amends has actually come to pass. That's another typical narcissist strategy: promise anything in order to divert attention away from the thing that's making them look bad, wait for the heat to die down, and then pretend that it never happened at all.

Yeah... I've worked with people like him in the past, so how things played out didn't come as even the faintest of surprises; if anything, it was all depressingly predictable Dark Triad bullshit. I don't have a thick skin at the best of times and since I got sick, I've lost any resilience I might have had in the past. I can't just shrug it off and put it down to experience, because it's left me feeling stressed, manipulated, and very angry. Being gaslighted like this is deeply unpleasant. And I didn't get paid, either.

Nasty experiences like these tend to colour your feelings very strongly when you deal with a business, and this is what's on my mind when I use YouTube these days. It has just become too damn toxic for me, so I'm staying away.

But over on Twitch I had fun with last night's show. It ended up being loosely themed around using the sounds of insects for musical purposes. Yes, really. It will be available on demand on my Twitch channel for the next sixty days if you want to watch the results.


I was up and dressed by six this morning. A loud but distant noise which sounded suspiciously like a rumble of thunder woke me up at just after 5 am and after trying—and failing—to get back to sleep for the next three-quarters of an hour, I gave up and got up instead. Outside, it was a balmy 14°C (that's just 57°F) so I spent the early hours of the day enjoying a respite from the hot and very muggy weather that we've been experiencing this week.

Given the state I've been in for most of the past couple of years, this morning's early start was quite an achievement. Although my sleeping patterns have been suffering badly as a result of the UK being both at the peak of the grass pollen hayfever season right now and in the grip of a heatwave since last weekend, I am going to view my early rising as a sign of an improvement in my health rather than a decline.

On Tuesday I even managed a few hours' gardening, gave the lawn its first cut of the month, and made a start on clearing the corner of the back garden that has been growing wild since I had the leylandii hedge taken out. Despite the heat, I kept going until the green bin was full. Even though it took me a couple of hours to recover from my exertions, I was feeling chipper enough to go for a five-mile walk around the village that evening (an excursion which ended up in the local pub, so I can't claim that I've been entirely virtuous this week...)

I mentioned here in the blog last month that I've started a very gentle exercise regime of using dumbbells and increasing my daily step count. This week I think I have started to feel its effects. I'm feeling much less sore this morning than I did last week, and I managed to get out of bed without the twinges of pain that have been making my life a misery lately. I have also begun to change shape: I have visibly started to gain muscle tone and mass in my upper body and arms. I have biceps and pecs again! All this, of course, has made me feel better mentally. In an effort to encourage this virtuous circle of feedback, yesterday afternoon I climbed up into the loft to retrieve my old multi-gym. It was filthy and covered in cobwebs, which was hardly surprising as it's been languishing up there, unused, for at least fifteen years. But after reassembling it and carefully checking it over, I have concluded that it still seems to be usable.

I will continue to take things extremely gently, because I know too many tales of men in their late fifties who had heart attacks and died after deciding they needed to improve their fitness and suddenly taking up working out at the gym. That's what happened to my cousin Peter, who died at the same age as I am now. And it can happen to much younger guys, too: Douglas Adams was only 49 when he died, which was much younger than I thought. That was a very sobering discovery, and it emphasises just how careful I am going to need to be about getting fit in safety.


Two episodes in, and I've decided that Loki is rather good. Owen Wilson makes a splendid foil for Tom Hiddleston and their scenes together are a delight.

But it was a tweet from Jonathan Frakes this week that sent me into raptures.

I need it to be 2022 NOW, please.


...for my new audio interface. I got an email on Thursday afternoon from my supplier letting me know that it hadn't arrived at their shop on time and they didn't know when it was going to show up. My order is currently showing an estimated delivery date of June 16th, but given that the M4's product page on their website now says that it's "available to order" with projected delivery dates at the end of July, I'm not holding my breath.

MOTU products are built in the USA, according to their press releases. That, at least, reassures me that my interface will not be part of the multi-million dollar shipment of consumer goods that is currently stuck on the MV Ever Given, which has yet to leave Egyptian waters. It's been impounded by the Suez Canal Authority, who are seeking compensation (a lot of compensation—the amount of money that makes piracy look positively amateurish by comparison, if you ask me) for the chaos caused when the ship blocked the canal for a week back in March. Instead, I suspect that it's the continuing shortage of DAC chips that is causing the delays. That's the consequence of a fire at the manufacturer's plant last October and the manufacturer in question, Asahi Kasei Microdevices (AKM) recently announced that they still have "no clear prospect for identification of the cause of the fire or for restoration of operation of the plant."

Nevertheless, I've been back in the studio working on music this week. After taking a break, I've realised just how important it is to me to be doing something creative. I also think I've made progress in my songwriting already this month. But my Native Instruments audio interface continues to fall over every fifteen or twenty minutes. It's even started doing it if I play too loudly! Despite this, I'm afraid that I'm just going to have to grit my teeth and wait for its replacement to show up. It's not the optimal solution by any means, but it's all I can afford to do right now.


It's been nearly two weeks since I had my second dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine, so I should be approaching fully-vaccinated status. But the Covid situation in the UK is looking as uncertain as ever. Johnson's continued dithering about taking action has let the Delta variant take a firm hold in the UK; despite the figures of new cases mounting, he is still refusing to say whether or not lockdown restrictions will be lifted as planned on June 21st. That has been looking like a very bad idea for several weeks now but his paranoia about being seen as a spoilsport rather than the successor to Churchill which he imagines himself to be continues to paralyse him.

What this means for me is that I still haven't heard about getting my kidney problems fixed. It was last April when the surgeon suggested that it would be a good idea to "Wait until all this blows over" before committing to doing something about them and when I typed that just now, I did so while laughing bitterly.

I've had a rough week, physically. I am having great difficulty sleeping. It's not just the discomfort, although last night that was bad enough for me to use the word "pain" to describe the sensation instead without feeling like I'm being overly dramatic. I suspect that a small piece of the stone may have come loose and is now in the process of making its escape—and believe me, I can follow its progress, even when I do something like turning over in bed. But at present it gets light here at 3:30 am. It's also been hot enough this week for me to switch to the Summer duvet (last year I was still using my Winter duvet in July!) What this means for me is that I am resigned to feeling exhausted all the time until at least the tail-end of August: nautical twilight starts the sensible side of 05:00 here on August 30th, although it'll be astronomical twilight a good 38 minutes earlier at 4:12 am. For comparison purposes, nautical twilight here tomorrow morning starts at 02:49 am. It's astronomical twilight all night, too. It doesn't get properly dark at night here at all at the moment, and it won't do so again until the early hours of July 22nd (for a glorious 37 minutes).

Can you see the problem?


In such circumstances you can either feel sorry for yourself and do nothing, or grit your teeth and focus on getting on with what you can. I choose to do the latter, so I'll be firing up OBS this evening at 21:00 BST and going live on my Twitch channel once again.

And from now on, as I won't be spending most of the following day editing the broadcast and uploading it to YouTube, if you want to see what goes down as it happens, Twitch is the place to be.

I hope I'll see you there.


Even though I was awake at four in the morning, I had that rarest of treats last night: a decent night's sleep. It makes a change. I've really struggled to settle at night recently and I'm in enough pain that if I move the wrong way once I've fallen asleep, the discomfort invariably wakes me up. This morning I dozed pleasantly until I felt like getting out of bed, something which I have grown to appreciate more and more since I stopped working. It's beginning to dawn (aha!) on me just how bad for me waking up at 5:30 am used to be. By the time I left my last job, I was completely burned out. And I'm certain that spending four hours a day sitting in the car during my commute had a lot to do with my current illness, even if it enabled me to keep up to date with all the podcasts that I subscribe to...

I suspect that one reason I slept better was the fact that my calendar of engagements for the next three months is now completely empty. I have no trips or appointments which can trigger anxiety, no social events of any sort, and the only gig I've booked a ticket for doesn't happen until November. Another reason is that after a week or so of really bad sleep, I definitely needed a good night. I felt very tired yesterday, although that may also be thanks to Thursday's second Covid vaccination kicking in. So I am just going to stay here at home and wait for my replacement audio interface to be delivered. If all goes according to plan, it should arrive on Friday and if it performs as expected, I will resume my live streaming activities on Sunday night.

In the meantime, I will be chilling out here at home and catching up on my reading.


My current audio interface continues to misbehave. Last night I took part in a Zoom call to wish the legendary bass player Tony Levin a very happy 75th birthday and the Komplete Audio 6 Mk2 that I use fell over four times in less than ninety minutes, turning all the sound I could hear out of my speakers into a fuzzy, bitcrushed mess. The fault happens regularly and it's putting me off making music, which is a major inconvenience.

But at least I know that the fault occurs without my system pulling lots of audio off any of my hard discs. I had been wondering whether that might have been a contributing factor in setting off the fault, because the studio PC spends most of its time doing this when I'm using it. That's clearly not something that happens during a Zoom call, so there's something more fundamental going on. I just wish I knew what it was.


Yesterday afternoon I headed over to the Covid immunisation centre at Bath Racecourse once again. And I got a sticker this time, look:

Second Shot

It's a relief to have got both vaccine shots. I will feel a little less anxious about going shopping where people aren't as focused on social distancing or where they're just being dicks. But the pandemic is far from being over and even though Boris is desperately trying to convince us that everything is okay, it clearly isn't. The new Delta variant is causing a lot of epidemiologists a lot of concern at the moment. It's spreading rapidly and schools and colleges have been "a major source of transmission" according to Professor Christina Pagel, who is the director of University College London’s clinical operational research unit (so I'm inclined to believe what she's saying a lot more than I'm likely to believe our buffoon-in-chief. Hey, do you remember when the Government told us that they'd given schools detailed guidance to keep schools safe, and then dropped the requirement for pupils to wear masks?)

I'll be staying at home as much as possible for the foreseeable, thanks.


Dear god, Instagram and Facebook have become cesspits of spam these days.

Not a day goes by when I don't get a message from an account—which almost always has a user ID with a guy's name, but whose profile pictures invariably and mysteriously feature photographs of scantily-clad young women with extremely large breasts—which consists of little more than the single word "Hello". This is probably about the only level of interaction in English that the spammer is capable of, judging by the garbled nonsense the user describes as their aspirations on their profile page. I sigh in exasperation, block the user, and move on.

They are, of course, scams. Indonesia seems to be the nexus of the activity at present.

But does Instagram crack down on these scammers? Far from it. Several of them have even started to pop up in my "people you should know" feed there recently, which should tell you a lot about Zuckerberg's priorities when it comes to protecting his user base. And none of it's good.


May redeemed itself at the last minute yesterday. Helen popped around for a coffee and we sat in the back garden and chatted about old times for the rest of the day. She was most entertained by the local bird population, who turned up mob-handed, ignored us completely, and spent the afternoon clearing up the food I'd put out for them on the bird table and the lawn. It was a really lovely day, but I was so surprised and distracted by the fact that I had a visitor that I completely forgot that it's not far off midsummer and didn't wear a hat or put on any sun block; bad move. I looked about the same colour as a beetroot last night and despite applying liberal amounts of after-sun lotion, I am still rather tender this morning.

After yesterday's morose blog entry (I was clearly feeling rather sorry for myself) I feel much more positive this morning. Having company (and being outside in bright sunshine all day) has done me a power of good. I did drink rather a lot of coffee yesterday, though. I was still buzzing well after midnight.

Today the weather continues to be very good. By ten o'clock the temperature in the back garden was edging towards the twenties, and the only cloud cover is a high-altitude layer of aircraft contrails. If I venture outside later I shall make absolutely sure that I apply some sunblock first...