- Personal Page - something about me - the usual...
- Sailing Pages - mainly development boats...
- Railway Pages - mainly the Great Western Railway...
- IT Page - various open source snippets and utilities.
- Tunes book - a collection of tunes, mostly played at the Ewell Sessions.
These days you could say I mostly spend time studying and writing. Formerly an IT techie... I'm Australian born and nationality, UK raised and resident. I went to school at RGS, Guildford, Surrey, UK, briefly attended Imperial College, London, and studied IT at NESCOT, Surrey. I mainly write about boats and railways. In IT Identity Management, Networks and Infrastructure were my chief thing, although I do a reasonable web site (of the simple, fast and functional variety) as well. Out of the office I tend to sail, play music or just sit in front of a PC. The surname is French in origin.
Here's some thoughts on ways I've passed the time. I seem to rotate three main pastimes, with emphasis on a different main hobby for four or five years at a time, then switch to the next one in the cycle.
Its been mainly racing Sailing Dinghies. Most recently very casually sailing a 1970ish (well originally) International Moth, which is profoundly unsuited to my waistline. Its a sweet little thing though. The most recent serious toy was an International Canoe. The Canoe appeals these days because its quick and interesting but with a relatively modest sail area. The rules have recently been changed to reduce weight and open up hull design, and the class is surely the most interesting design proposition in unballasted racing. The spinnaker equipped AC, on the other hand, is not my thing at all. (Much) more about sailing on my domain home page, www.devboats.co.uk/sailing
Some years ago I designed and part built a new boat, intended as a single hander for club sailing in my middle age, and in the past I've been involved with training at my home club Island Barn SC, Molesey, Surrey. I'm also involved with the RYA Portsmouth Yardstick Advisory Group.
Although I would never dare call myself a competent photographer, I do a lot of very amateur event photography at Island Barn, and a good number of the photos scattered round this text are mine.
As a (very) expatriate Aussie - some 3 decades in the UK - I consider the major date in the sporting history of the world to have been the 26th September 1983.
I've been known to mess about with motorbicycles, having a particular affection for 60s and 70s Jap light to middleweights. Favourites that I've owned have included the Honda CB72, CB250RSA, Yamaha YDS7 & DT100 and the totally wonderful Honda CB400F. This affection wouldn't prevent me gratefully accepting the gift of (say) a Manx Norton or a 350 Ducati Desmo single however...
I wish I still had the RS - the perfect commuter bike and to my mind the best 250 Honda ever made, but it was vandalised and destroyed a few years ago. My current toy/work transport is a Yamaha YBR250. This isn't, unfortunately, quite a replacement for the beloved CB250RSA. What with catalytic converters, oil cooler, noise regulations and goodness knows what, the poor thing is slugged down to around 21bhp, as opposed to the 26/27 claimed for the old RSA. I sound as if I've got a down on the thing don't I? Actually I rather like the little beastie. It's just that its a mistake to think of it as a 250(!) In my youth a 250 was the smallest bike that you could realistically mix it up with full speed traffic on motorways and the like, smaller bikes were really happier away from the 70mph limit. Things like 175s or 200s were what I guess I'd call urban/suburban bikes: great in traffic, fine in 50 or 60 limits, but it really wasn't kind to run them for hours at motorway speed limits. So really the YBR250 is a successor to things like a CD175 or CB200 Honda, and put in that context its a damn nice bicycle - especially if you compare it to the rubber swing armed CB200! Don't get me wrong, it will do 70mph down the motorway if you ask it to, but there's a definite feeling that its rather hammering the poor thing. As it was as a suburban/urban bike I bought it, with my eyes open, so that's just fine. One of these days the YDS7 in the garage needs to be restored too: maybe in faux race configuration: I rather fancy that!
Musically I mainly play Bass guitar (an exceptionally nice Tokai Jazz) with maybe the odd texture on mandolin and anglo concertina, but not as much as I ought to. It's probably about time I went looking for a new band. I've play mainly around the sort of general borders of rock/folk/blues/country, so if you need a bass player... I like playing in Barn Dance bands, and used to play with Cup Hill when that was running. I've also played contemporary Church Music quite a lot, notably at St. Johns Church, Woking, Surrey.
"What that awful happy-clappy stuff?"
Some people might call it that, I don't. I like good recent music, and I like good older music. I dislike poor music, and will pontificate at length on the subject!
I also play about with Sonar, Cubase and so on on the PC, more of that below, but don't claim to produce anything special. There's a bit of my programming, bass playing and [shudder] even singing on Simon Barden's "The Men they Couldn't Wash" CD which is a friends only recording for folk who did Spinnakers cruises on the Norfolk Broads. If that means nothing to you don't worry!
... and Tunes
Just for a bit of fun, here are three sequenced dance tunes I put together to use as ringtones. FWIW the arrangements are all mine, with obvious Fairport/ Albion/even Pogues influences. Funny how body memory brings stuff back. When I was working up one of the tunes I was trying to work out what the comments in my tune book meant, picked up the bass and played along (having not played the tune for 25 years) and realised... Anyway, for your amusement, Foxhunters Jig (A slip jig, familiar to the Fairport audience), Dingle Regatta (a jig in the Pogues songbook, but utterly unlike their arrangement ), and Swallowtail Jig (the "Autoharp" use is stolen from the Pogues, but I can't remember which track). All Trad arr. Jim Champ ©2015/6. Feel free to borrow for personal use in the unlikely event you feel so inclined!
As it happens those are all jig tunes, which leads me onto a thought. Why is it contemporary music is almost entirely stuck in 4/4 time? There's no reason why: Thin Lizzy, as is not inappropriate for an Irish band, often used 6 and 12 time, and I defy anyone to listen to, say, "The Boys are Back in Town" and say that jig time doesn't rock... And then Joe Cocker's immortal reworking of "With a Little Help from my Friends" demonstrates that triple time has soul.
The wonderful Sandy Denny was not averse to reworking a song into three time either. Compare the four time original of Silver Threads and Golden Needles with Sandy's three time version for another great reworking. The version on the Fotheringay 2 Album is best I think.
Also on the subject of sequenced traditional tunes, here's another bit of pure pretentious indulgence. At the end of a long session trying to sort out a music hardware problem (Thank you very much Sal at Focusrite) I needed to do some extensive testing, so had a go at writing some incidental music for a slideshow of photos. Something I've never done before and I'm sure even I could do better another time. Anyway, here's Epsom Common: The Coming of the Seasons, a medley of three traditional tunes to a slideshow of photographs of Epsom Common, which I am lucky enough to have close to my back door.
Old Musical Friends
They were by far the most organised and regular gigging of our local bands, playing mostly a Christian Music circuit, but a fair few pubs and things as well. I never played in the band, but was involved with them a bit, especially in their earlier days :- I "produced" and "engineered" their first demo tape when they were still (wonderfully) named "Mervyn Sprocket and the Crankshaft Assembly". Folks who remember them with affection might like to know their music is available for download from singer Martin Day's pages on the band. Standout track IMHO is "The Day In Between" a *wonderful* duet featuring Helen Jayne which I think stands up in any company. The downloads on Martin's site even include that first demo. The cassette Martin copied it from has, I hope, suffered over the years: I don't remember recording that much distortion! Sadly the master tape seems to have disappeared over the years: I bought a second hand tape player to see if I could run off a new copy, but the tape no longer contained what the label said... Shades of the BBC and their old tapes.
I've never danced a single step of Morris, but for a while back in the 80s there was an associated Barn Dance Band, which I played electric bass in. Without doubt the most fun band I've ever been in because the "audience" is there to dance and have fun, not look cool to their mates, which is the curse of rock audiences... More of that elsewhere!
Folk dancing, by the way, is great, I recommend it to everyone. Beecham, in the notorious quote, which some say he stole, was talking from an inappropriate organ, and not for the first time...
Cup Hill Moris are sadly diminished at the moment, and the annual May Day dance on Hydon's Ball mainly features Fleur de Lys Ladies' Morris. One of my old Cup Hill mates is currently Squire of East Surrey Morris, and we did do a dance together last year - 35 years after we last reheased together!
I've also been turning out at the casual pub sessions in Ewell, trying to get those fingers unrusted. Its about time I played bass in a band again...
Also on the theme of traditional dance music and the sessions, I've put together an index of dance tunes we play at the sessions. There are of course a thousand and one such pages, but what makes this a little more unusual is firstly a presentation in which you can choose several tunes in order to play in a set, and secondly that the tunes are also presented in my idiosyncratic and non standard chord charts as well as having the dots presented from abc files.
Doug, now Helen's manager and husband was another old mate. As well as Salt Solution "Decibels" McKellar also played drums in at least one band I guested in. But from the first time I heard Helen sing it was quite obvious she was in a different league to the rest of us. You can buy Helen's recordings off the site. Give a demo track a listen and if you like the style then get them.Top stuff.
Lead Holler Andy was a mate at a previous office. Its got to be said their brand of balls-forward punk flavoured rock'n'roll isn't normally my style, but they make a bloody good noise, and for whatever my opinion is worth Andy is an exceptional vocalist. Well worth getting out to see, but if your ears are suffering with the years and drummers like mine are then you might want to bring a bit of ear protection because they ain't quiet!
Top rated in my iTunes playlist...
- John Tams - American Dream (Girl in Texas)
- All About Eve - Are You Lonely?
- Fotheringay - Banks Of The Nile
- John Tams - Bound East for Cardiff
- The Byrds - Chestnut Mare
- Dave Swarbrick & Simon Nicol - Close To The Wind
- Sonja Kristina - Colder Than A Rose
- Richard Thompson - From Galway to Graceland
- Mary Chapin Carpenter - Goodbye Again
- The Albion Band - Gresford Disaster
- Mary Chapin Carpenter - He Thinks He'll Keep Her
- Ashley Hutchings - I Dreamed a Dream
- Linda Thompson - I Live Not Where I Love
- Bruce Springsteen - Jersey Girl
- Jay Turner - My Grandfather's Eyes
- Kate Rusby - Old Man Time
- Fairport Convention - One More Chance
- Gregson & Collister - One Step Up
- Mary Chapin Carpenter - Passionate Kisses
- Dave Swarbrick & Simon Nicol - Si Bheag Si Mhor
- John Tams - Somewhere the Sun Is Shining/Hold Back the Tide
- Dire Straits - Telegraph Road
- Ashley Hutchings - To Ireland I Made My Way
- John Kongos - Tomorrow I'll Go
- All About Eve - Wishing the Hours Away
- John Tams - Yonder (Down the Winding Road)
Those who know me or are interested in any of the above can reach me with the link above. Spam, yes, even including SEO spam, is most unwelcome. I'm quite happy with default google page ranking thank you.
GNU Sandy Denny, Clare Pierce, Nigel Maltby, Steve Dyer, Colin Champ, Terry Pratchett