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The life and times of james Hart: his family, his music, life in Luton and his occasional escapes onto the internet.

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Sunday, 16 May 2004


Christopher is very much into his inventions and contraptions; last month we built an 'egg machine' - a cardboard box converted into a dispenser of plastic eggs, when a handle is pulled. It was, however, a little vulnerable to the rigours of childhood, and most of it was secured using sellotape and little plastic pins, so now it bears little resemblence to the original design.
"Can we build a new contraption, please?" he asked, last weekend.
"Of course... what would you like it to do?"
"I want to put things in it, and for them to freeze or heat up depending on what button I press..." Never let it be said that small children are ever short of ideas.

Fortunately, imagination is a fine weapon in the arsenal of a parent, and I had an idea of what we could do. Yesterday, I dug out an old piece of white laminated chipboard that I'd had to remove from the kitchen when I installed the new dishwasher. It took a bit of cleaning up (I'm surprised I hadn't thrown it away) but seemed to be just right to yield the panels to make the invention. Having spent a little time discussing the possibilities with Christopher, we concluded that the most important thing for this contraption to do was to freeze things, and we dispatched ourselves to the local B&Q Warehouse for screws, hinges and an on/off switch. When I couldn't find a small fan on the 'electrical bits' shelf, it occurred to me that the current trend of 'modding' PCs might be of some use to me. We popped to our local computer shop (Watford Electronics), and I picked up a case fan with four blue LEDs for just under ?3.

We came home and started measuring, pencilling, sawing, drilling and screwing; we'd mounted and wired up the fan to a small mains adaptor by bedtime yesterday (the most exciting bit, really!) and I screwed the panels together after lunch today. I thought I had some little rubber feet for the base, but I couldn't find any - Christopher much preferred the idea of the castors that were stuck at the back of one of the drawers in which I'd looked, though.

Then it was left to Christopher to design the artwork - here, then, is the first look at the (nearly!) finished article:

Christopher and contraption
Christopher, just after he'd applied stickers to the front of the contraption

This evening, I ran some gaffer tape around the all of the outside edges of "The Freezer" as Christopher has named it, to protect the bare chipboard corners (and to conceal some of the - ahem - slightly less than square joints!) Here, then, is The Freezer in all its glory:

The Freezer - glowing blue
The Freezer - with stickers on the front, a switch on top and a finger guard on the back (hence the pattern on the wall)

How we're going to follow this, though, I really don't know! Christopher wants to be a mechanical engineer when he grows up...


While I'm here, how about a gratuitous photo of little Eleanor? With all this daddy & son business going on, she's hardly been in the blog, lately!

Now she's a year old, it's good to know that a fondness for music is developing - she loves to dance to whatever I put on (even XFM!) and, even though she can't talk yet, if we sing "Bob the builder", she responds with "Can we fix it?" - or rather the infant equivalent. She loves to rhythmically bang on any box or furniture she encounters... perhaps she'll turn out to be a drummer? (!)

This, then, is Ella and her doll, whom she has named "A" (pronounced, in a loud and strident tone: "Ah!"), in a photo taken a couple of weeks ago.

Eleanor and A
Eleanor and A. She also loves Winnie The Pooh and anything else that's cuddly.

Posted by james at 11:11 PM

Saturday, 15 May 2004


I've not really written a great deal of late - life's been full to saturation with the daily grind. As summer approaches, though, there'll probably be more going on!

For the time being, though, here's a quick entry about the music gigs I've attended in the last six months. I don't get to see a band or artist perform live very often (it often involves a fair expense or a smoky environment) but I do try and make a brief recording using my iPAQ if I can, so I can relive the musical memory.

The Bluetones

Back in December, I saw The Bluetones with my pal Elin at the Astoria in London. Like Crowded House, it's hard to recall more than a couple of songs they've made, but, given the chance to hear their repertoire of melodic, catchy tunes, it's surprising how many I recognise. It's not helped by the way they give their songs unusual (and sometimes incongruous) names, so a look at a greatest hits album wouldn't give much away.

  • The Bluetones - Bluetonic [1'18]
    [listen] (922kB @ 96 kbps)

The Keys

My friend Joanne celebrated her birthday back in March, and part of the celebrations involved a trip to her local pub to enjoy some live music. They had three bands on that night - not bad for three pounds - the first two acts being of the drab, indie guitary nature, and the headline act being refreshingly not like that at all. They were called The Keys and came from Wales. All of the music was almost painfully loud - not surprising, considering the size of the venue and the amount of equipment piled around the stage - but I managed to record a short excerpt that reminded me a little of The Bluetones and The Thrills.

  • The Keys - {unknown song} [1'10]
    [listen] (422kB @ 48 kbps)

Duran Duran

I was invited, by a generous internet friend, to see Duran Duran at the enormous Manchester Evening News Arena. They certainly didn't disappoint, with some rather impressive stage design and an excellent support act (which, because I didn't have the programme and nobody mentioned it at any time, I subsequently discovered was Goldfrapp). The sound quality was fantastic (not much of a surprise, considering the MEN Arena is the biggest purpose-built music venue in Europe) and once again, I returned home with ears ringing. Here's an excerpt of one of my favourite Duran Duran songs ..

  • Duran Duran - Ordinary World [1'30]
    [listen] (528kB @ 48 kbps)

Polly Paulusma & David Blayze

Earlier this month, Beth and I were lucky enough to get tickets for Polly Paulusma at the small Bush Hall venue. The support act was melodic and interesting, although I know precious little about him (there's not much on the internet about David Blayze at the moment, and the pen had disappeared by the time I'd made it to the piece of paper on which I could sign up to the mailing list after the gig). Polly was short, energetic and enchanting, and her performance completely transformed my enjoyment of the CD.

  • David Blayze - {unknown song} [1'10]
    [listen] (413kB @ 48 kbps)

  • Polly Paulusma - Dark Side [1'06]
    [listen] (388kB @ 48 kbps)

All this live music has inspired me - at some point this year, I'd love to do an 'open mike' performance somewhere, and Jude (the band I have recently joined) is currently rehearsing for a small performance in late June. We'll see...

Posted by james at 9:00 PM

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