Bedsit Disco Queen and Jeff Buckley at Glastonbury

Bedsit-Disco-QueenI’ve just finished reading Bedsit Disco Queen, the music memoir by Everything But The Girls’ Tracey Thorn. I’m not really an Everything But The Girl fan but I have a fondness for random bits of their catalogue and even knew Rob Peters, the drummer on their 1986 album Baby, The Stars Shine Bright. But as soon as I saw the book in the library, I knew it was going to be a fascinating read for anybody who lived through the era. The paperback is released on January 16 and I heartily recommend it.

There’s one story from the book I’d like to share, which concerns Jeff Buckley. Thorn was a fan of Buckley and in April 1995, EBTG played a low key gig at Sin-é, the New York café where he had recorded his 1993 mini-album. Ben Watt (other half of EBTG) randomly met Jeff while they were having their hair cut at an East Village salon, they discovered they were both playing the Glastonbury Festival and Jeff suggested they do a song together. This is all forgotten until an hour before Everything But The Girls’ midday Glastonbury set.

And now, without warning or preamble, at eleven o’clock in the morning here is Jeff Buckley standing in front of me in my workman’s hut of a dressing room, and he has come to remind me that we have agreed to do a song together. We are due onstage in about half an hour.

‘Bloody hell, isn’t it a bit late now?’ I ask. He doesn’t think so. With a kind of gauche enthusiasm that makes him seem like a spectacularly gorgeous younger brother, he produces a guitar and begins to throw ideas at us.

They decide to cover The Smiths’ I Know It’s Over and the peformance is chaotic but enjoyable. Fast forward to late afternoon when Jeff Buckley is playing the main stage and Tracey and Ben are watching from the wings.

At the end of one song he looks over to us, catches Ben’s eye and starts beckoning him onstage with furious jerks of his head. It’s the scene at the end of Spinal Tap when the band reunite onstage! Ben picks up a guitar, gamely ambles on and plugs in.

‘OK,’ yells Jeff. ‘ we’re gonna do “Kick Out The Jams”. One-two-three-FAWH!’

Now Ben may well be the only guitarist in rock music who had never heard MC5’s punk anthem, let alone played it. Still, he’s nothing if not a quick learner, and after about eight bars he has sussed it and is off and running.

And that’s why, at the end of the song, Jeff Buckley says ‘Uh, thanks Ben.’

Ashford Traveller – in action

And the good news is, it works!

Ashford Traveller – grand opening

It’s not a present if it’s not wrapped, right?

Green note: the wrapping paper is back on the roll ready for next christmas. :)

OK the photo might be slightly staged, but the delight is genuine. Especially at how many people had contributed, which was much more of a surprise than the fact that I’d been building a spinning wheel in the cellar.
The accompanying card had a felt handpuppet goat on the front. Seemed appropriate.

Ashford Traveller – double vs single drive

I mentioned earlier that this was a double drive model. It will actually operate as single or double drive. Here’s what that means.

The drive belt (special string, but string nonetheless) goes around the wheel twice. In double drive mode, one loop is on the bobbin and one is on the flyer pulley. So the bobbin and flyer are both driven directly, hence double drive.

You can see that there is a second groove on the flyer pulley. This allows a different drive ratio to be used. All this movement of the belt changes the tension but there’s a cunning knob and hinge arrangement to retension it.

In single drive mode, both loops go around the bobbin. A brake band (transparent so hard to see, but it has springs at each end to ensure tension which may be easier to spot) is put onto the flyer pulley to stop it turning. Only the bobbin is driven, hence single drive.

Specifically this is “bobbin lead” or Irish Tension single drive. Alternatively, you can single drive the flyer pulley and brake the bobbin. That would be “flyer lead” or Scotch Tension single drive.

Ashford Traveller – 4

No work on this yesterday because I was busy with other things. So a big push now to get it ready for tomorrow. There was more wax polish left in the tin than I’d thought so everything has had a second coat and, in a few cases, a third.

The first parts to be put together make up the flyer assembly. The flyer is the U shaped piece holding the bobbin. The base it all sits on (with the Ashford logo) is called the maiden board – I have no idea why.
Then the legs are fitted into the base and the treadles are fitted into the holes on the rear legs. Screws which go in at an angle hold the legs on. You have to be careful putting these in.
The wheel goes on next with the cranked bar from the treadle drives acting as the axle. There’s a fiddly pin that holds axle and wheel together, which you can just see as a black line across the hub of the wheel.
Finally the posts to support the flyer assembly, and then the flyer assembly itself, are fitted. A few finishing touches, like the drive belt, and we’re there!

I’ll take some better pictures tomorrow when it’s out of the cellar (from which Theo is temporarily banned) and in natural light which should help the lovely colour of the wood show through. The flash is tending to make it seem a bit darker and redder than it really is.

Ashford Traveller – 3

A milestone – everything is now sanded, waxed and buffed. You can still see the variation in colour, expecially in those legs (top centre). About three quarters of the tin of polish has been used. The next step is to figure out which bits will be difficult to get at once it’s asssembled and give those areas a second application.

Ashford Traveller – 2

The spinning wheel is made almost entirely out of New Zealand silver beech. It’s finished to a very high standard so all that’s needed is a light sanding with the supplied sandpaper, concentrating especially on cut ends, grooves and sockets which tend to be slightly rougher. If you were using an oil or varnish rather than a wax, you might need to treat it differently.
These are the legs. Two have been waxed and two haven’t. Can you guess which is which?

Two legs have holes through and two don’t. I’d waxed the two with holes in this picture. When I waxed the other two, they hardly darkened at all. Presumably they were made from a different batch of wood and it just reacted differently. The colour is starting to even out already, so I suspect it will hardly be detectable soon.

Ashford Traveller – 1

In cahoots with some lovely and generous friends and family, I’ve bought Theo an Ashford Traveller spinning wheel for her birthday coming up this Sunday. It’s the double treadle, double drive model in natural wood. As it needs a finishing coat (I’m using Ashford’s own wax polish) and assembly, I’m going to try to get it up and running ready for the big day.

Here’s the first, and arguably most exciting, stage – unpacking it!

The box. The wheel was supplied by alpacaspinner.co.uk and safely delivered by Parcelforce.
The box – opened, and with the top protective packing removed. All the packing is paper or card, the only plastic is the bag that the screws and fixings are in. And that’s a re-usable ziploc.
The contents – lots of wax polishing to do now. The polish is in the shiny tin at the bottom, next to the spinning wheel oil (nope, I’d never heard of that before either).

Seize The Day at Sunrise

imgp0275-cropWe went down to the Sunrise Celebration festival near Frome for the day today. You could argue that not spending the whole weekend getting messy (in all senses) rather negates the festival experience, but it was a fun day out so I say “nyaah!” to your argument.

One of the attractions for us was that Seize The Day were listed as playing. Either they themselves or other people (never quite sure) call Seize The Day protest folk, which seems appropriate – certainly the most common two word phrase at one of their gigs in my experience is “Climate Camp”. They played a fine set even though their violin player Elizabeth was obviously not well and left the stage at various points, and went down so well with the admittedly partisan crowd that even they seemed slightly surprised at the reaction.

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Easter road trip: Cae Mabon

Our Easter road trip was intended to draw some inspirations for how and where we may want to live. One of the main destinations was Cae Mabon where we planned to help for a day of their Easter working party, and also to find out just what Cae Mabon is.

cm-river

The tale starts in the early 1980s when storyteller Eric Maddern, an Australian by birth who spent the latter years of his childhood in the UK, returned from travels to California, Alice Springs and beyond to settle in North Wales.

Twice he saw the cottage in the woods above Lake Padarn but failed to secure it: the third time he made it his. And in the more than twenty years since then, he has transformed the site into a retreat and education centre – but so much more.

The site itself is very lovely, that of course is why he was drawn to it so strongly. The small cottage is at the top of the plot which then falls steeply away down to the lake (which technically it doesn’t front on to being separated from it by the Llanberis lake railway). A fast flowing stream rushes down one side of the property and there are plentiful trees.

What Eric has done to it has only added to the magic. To support its use as a retreat centre, various accommodations have been built. And what buildings they are: an Iron Age style roundhouse; a cob (earth) cottage started as part of an onsite course in cob building techniques run by Ianto Evans and Linda Smiley of the Cob Cottage Company ; a hobbit house with a round door; a swiss chalet; a straw bale hogan; a cedar cabin; and a small existing barn which has been extended and converted into the kitchen and meeting/eating area.

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