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I’ve said it before and I’ll definitely be saying it again; dishwashers make me seethe. The invention is emblematic of our generation’s expectations of instant gratification, only (as is so often the case) the quest for easy living will always be undone by that same idleness which begat it. I know people who stack their dishwashers full of dirty plates encrusted with the dried and stuck on porridge or melted cheese of previous meals, creating a malodorous atmosphere in what should be a clean and hygienic environment.

So what happens at the end of the wash cycle? The machine is opened (invariably by myself) only to reveal burning hot plates, still covered in the crap with which they went in, only now the dirt has been sealed into the very porcelain and I have to spend the next 20 minutes washing everything again properly. Glasses are smeared with the remnants of last night’s Angel Delight, wine glasses tipple boiling water from their concave bases as I extract them, spilling down the front of my trousers making me look incontinent as I walk my son to school.

I could go on about individuals using up all the coffee cups in their bid to fill the machine instead of just re-using one cup with a quick rinse. I could go on about me being the only person who actually cleans the filter out or adds the salt or rinse aid. I could mention the double amount of stacking time in loading and unloading the machine on top of the under-tap pre-rinse which I do before filling the machine, the fact that its all too hot or wet to take out, that I can never get a cup of coffee without having to go into the stinking machine and wash one out.

I could mention better days when families washed up together in the kitchen and the conversations that were instigated. Anyway, today’s musical offering is inspired by the situation which brought about this diatribe and I was still bristling as I played.

I guess its a common feeling among creative artists; the occasional wave of ennui that creeps over one to take root in that part of the brain where doubts lie sleeping; the insidious feeling that it all amounts to nothing or at least, very little.

I had a dream that I was in a black bird suit, sitting in my garden in one of those Victorian iron gazebos. The dreaming me had memories of being able to fly but in this dream I chose to remain grounded, imprisoned, looking out and up towards the sky. I think there was a fear of failure, a shrinking away from anything astonishing; a feeling that perhaps I didn’t deserve such happiness and freedom.

This feeling is the opposite of how it is to improvise, which involves sudden decision-making and bold steps. Interesting how our musical selves can be so unlike our out-in-the-world personas and yet during this improvisation there are moments when I am in the crow suit, not quite daring to take that extra leap in case it all goes tits up. Still, I’ve heard it a few times now and I do think I’ll be nicking bits of it in the future.

I never was one for football, either as a spectator or player, much to my dear father’s chagrin. At school we were also made to play rugby for which my interest was similarly lacking. Poor father made the logic-defying leap of harbouring dark fears for the young Lectern’s sexuality as a result of the apparent absence of the football gene in his son. As if it mattered.

So instead of knocking a ball around the playground, Lectern junior would spend his break times at school holed up in a practise room with a piano and some mates belting out songs by Madness, The Sex Pistols, Dexy’s Midnight Runners and ... erm, Elton John, which apart from being warmer, was infinitely more fun. At home, we had the problem of the piano being in the lounge – the same room as the TV of course, so weekends involved some compromise, as Grandstand vied for position against proto-Lectonian instant piano concertos. Occasionally, if the planets were aligned the two could happen simultaneously and Grandstand would be soundtracked by my piano excursions.

Father’s doubts lessened for a while as the maturing Lectern showed some sporting prowess as an oarsman, and the relief was palpable when the first girlfriend came round to the house. However the older man’s doubts remained as weight training and the body beautiful took over Crayola’s time more and more. There was no porn in Crayola’s bedroom, only bodybuilding magazines, posters of Barry Sheene, men in make-up like Robert Smith and prints of lithographs  by M.C.Escher.

The unfortunate Lectern Senior was often reminded by his wife of his own musical ineptitude and tone-deafness which must have created some kind of an attitude to music in him. As I played the instant composition below I was thinking about him and how he once said to me “Can’t you play something different? It always sounds the same.”  He wasn’t entirely wrong on this count as I do recall familiar themes and motifs cropping up quite regularly. Ah well, plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose!

A feat of some daring this time, possibly foolhardiness, not musically perhaps but let me set the scene.

It is 8.15pm on Wednesday; I have to snatch precious moments to play the piano at the best of times but on the evening in question I am home with sleeping eleven week old daughter whilst my better half (and milk provider for said infant) hastaken the train over to Brighton for Rona's birthday drinks at The Albert.

No milk has been expressed and the piano backs onto the wall of the room containing sleeping baby. I can't not play something though, sitting here after a day at work alone with the piano - the temptation is unendurable and so I do a quick risk assessment of the situation and decide to go ahead and play something which will hopefully not awake the child.

Hence today's more tranquil offering. Every note played aimed to soothe and not to disrupt a sleep. There's hesitancy there for sure and a little fear but no dissonance. Mary doesn't do dissonance yet, unlike her brother who, at that age, was happily nodding off to Faust IV in his carry cot.

Last week I read the sad news of Lux Interior's passing - I loved The Cramps and they were a significant influence in much of the music I've made here and there (actually not here!)

60 isn't so old. This news was in my head when I played the piece below. For me it charts a life starting with innocence, marching through adolescence and towards middle age (which hits around 4' 40"). After this there is a period of realisation which eventually blends into death.

I don't believe in heaven or hell but I like to think there is a spirit within us. The spirit departs the body in the last minute or so of the music.

Another winter-themed improvisation of a piano and voice; Icicles is an apt title for a song today as the last two days have seen snow across much of England which has come over all the way from Russia. This piece is of some interest to me because listening back I can visualize the outline of a song and start to hear other instruments and harmonies.

As with most of my improvisations there are bits which could be improved, whittled down or extended were I to turn them into bonafide songs. The piece consists of three obvious sections, the first illustrating the crystalline features of ice followed by a repeated motif which builds its way into the robust final section with the tremulous voice of a man who is bloody freezing.

The title and theme were not intended at the time of playing but are created retrospectively.

Fantasias of yore were free musical compositions which were structured according to the composer's fancy and tended to be wonderful sprawling journeys, less organised than symphonic or concertato forms. Possibly an early version of what much later became known as (whisper it) prog.

My piece below is similarly in the Fantasia (non)-style. Recorded onto a minidisc recorder in my lounge, played spontaneously on a Kemble minx piano in the winter. One of the few other pieces of any note which I often play by heart is Mozart's Fantasia in D minor and my ears can hear places where Queen might have found some inspiration back in the day.

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