Life away from Integra usually revolves around family, music, sport and travel. The last fifteen months has therefore been a challenging period (as it has been for everyone) but now that Sue and I have both been fully vaccinated and restrictions are easing, we can all hopefully look forward to a return to greater normality.
I have, this week, renewed my season ticket at Watford FC and hope that I will, once again, be able to attend matches at Vicarage Road. The Hornets were relegated from the Premier League but have bounced straight back at the first attempt, finishing second in the Championship last season.
I actually got to see every minute of every game (home and away) using the club’s live streaming service which was great but, obviously, not the same as the atmosphere, energy and excitement of being at the ground.
Running so many activities now using online technology has been made more efficient by the recent installation of superfast broadband and a VOIP phone system. I now have average download speeds of 285 Mbps, upload speeds of 47 Mbps and latency of 3ms. What a positive difference. It doesn't mean that I can enjoy an hour of somwthing in just fifteen minutes but the faster connectivity certainly improves the user experience.
We are now in the summer period between seasons and it will be interesting to see how the club strengthen the squad in order to better compete with the higher standard of football next term.
During the last year I only managed to attend one live, socially distanced, covid compliant gig and that was Storm Warning back in December. Hopefully, with restrictions easing, my usual diary full of gigs will start reappearing.
Sue and I have a long weekend booked at the end of May taking in a gig in Newark from good friends, Ash Wilson, Roger Innis and Phil Wilson – it will be great to experience live music again.
I also already have gigs booked to see the Nimmo Brothers, Dan Reed, Sari Schorr and Wishbone Ash between now and the end of the year.
I am hoping that it will be viable for the Wishbone Ash convention to take place in Leicester and that our Wishclone Ish fans night will be able to go ahead at the Barley Mow on the evening of Friday 19th November. It will be great to catch up with friends and musicians from around the world and share friendship and music again in a live setting.
Lockdown has seen me trying to support my friends in the music industry through buying lots of CDs as many have had their livelihoods severely hit without income and exposure via gigging.
As a “wanna-be” rock star I have purchased a couple of new guitars and some other equipment during lockdown. I bought a chrome tricone resonator acoustic guitar to try and improve my slide playing and get that authentic and distinctive sound.
I have also taken delivery of a new beautiful custom-built Emerald Guitars X10 model in black carbon fibre. This acoustic guitar combines great build quality with very modern features including magnetic, piezo and MIDI pickups that allows for a wide range of sounds to be used including this via the Roland GR55 guitar synthesiser I bought for the purpose. Lots to get my head and hands around!
I have also featured on the new Emerald Guitars website with a piece about my Chimaera double neck guitar - see here
Having seemingly been staring at the same four walls for much of the last few months it is also good to have booked a few short breaks in the UK over the coming weeks. Sue and I will be heading to Morton Manor at Corfe Castle for three nights in June, to Hebden Bridge, Haworth and Clitheroe in July and have a few days booked with the entire family (our kids, partners and grandchildren) in the Cotswolds in August at a farmhouse called Butts Farm (much to the amusement of the ruder minded grandchildren!).
My recent birthday coincided with the lifting of restrictions on pubs and restaurants and it was great for Sue and I to go out and enjoy a wonderful Italian meal on my birthday night at Rucola in Little Chalfont. Great atmosphere and great food. I also had the pleasure of my kids, their partners and my six grandchildren visiting and sharing a Colin the Caterpillar cake! More please!
One thing covid has shown us is exactly what we do value in our lives and how we feel when these relationships, opportunities and freedoms are restricted or taken away from us. Let’s stay safe but look forward to a positive way ahead.