Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Who stole the kitchen?

You would have thought that not having a kitchen would be a perfect excuse to eat out every night in members of that exclusive club, the Rod K Restaurant Network, but that's a lesson in bankruptcy that I wanted to avoid. When the only choices for family sustenance were to find decent take-aways (now there's a non-sequitor), or to eat in local pubs, I had hoped that we would have struck lucky more often than not.

The old kitchen, despite being a mere ten years old, was beginning to show its age and the fact that it was probably the last thing on the builder's budget when he put the house together in the first place. We trawled many of the kitchen outfits, and our plans were scaled back as the costs of our chosen lavish designs approached those of the Bank of England bullion reserves.

It was interesting that these places used wildly different techniques to squeeze all of their shiny cupboards, worktops and appliances in to our slightly strange shaped kitchen space. B and Q, who have had some quite awful press reports about the state of their installation service which ultimately put us off, went for the 3D graphics and multiple viewpoints afforded by their software based approach. This was all suitably whizzy and changes could be filtered through the thought, design, acceptance and printed parts list cycle in the time it takes Bill Gates to ship a few hundred more copies of Windows.

The other point which sank it from their point of view, was that they wanted all of the money up front, which doesn't exactly motivate them to make good job of installing it, not to mention tying up all those funds for several weeks.

Optiplan however, used the rather more last century pencil and paper design process, but Marcia, the designer, ultimately understood our needs more fully and persevered through our many changes of mind, layout and general lack of firm decision making. So technology not quite as cracked up as it makes out eh?

We finally went ahead with them and after a classy piece of work by Paul, one of their recommended installers, we are now the proud owners of a sophisticated grown-up looking space with 'A' rated appliances in which to prepare 'five star' rated food, or so we would hope.

Don't come round just yet though, it isn't finished. The only downside of going for granite as a worktop material is that there is a ten day turnaround for manufacture from the production of hardboard templates. This hampers (no pun intended) our cooking efforts as we have no desire for yesterday's bolgnese sauce to end up forever entombed in granite behind those sleek cupboards. Just imagine the whiff! On second thoughts don't, just don't.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Moving to an electronic beat

It seems my whole life has been dominated by electronic music. I was in love with the synthesizer from an early age and the sounds made by Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Yes, Rick Wakeman etc., were my favourite bands during my formative teenage years.

In the late seventies, the punk era exploded on the scene and swept my friends and me away on a tidal wave of saliva and adrenalin induced sub-three minute songs. Being a Peel devotee however, and here was a man who was untroubled by musical labelling, my safety pin years were expanded by reggae, pub rockers, obscure folk guitarists, jazz funkers and a plethora of styles. There was one missing ingredient though: the death of the concept album, outlawed by the punk police, caused synth lead music to take a back seat in the road trip of life.

There must have been electronic music in the eighties(Tears for Fears anyone?), but it passed me by, and the early nineties weren't much better with classical piano making inroads: I had got married after all and the influence of a significant other has to make a difference to your life in more ways than one. Children entered my world in the middle nineties - there I told you married life would change me - and their demands meant that music, apart from the beats of the nursery, slipped further into the background.

The pattern continued until a series of events propelled me back to where I had started. The first was when the Chemical Brothers 'Hey Boy, Hey Girl' came on the radio and the children were grooving along in the back of the car and the simplicity and repetition anchored on a receptor deep inside my brain, locked away, dormant, for many years. This was followed by The Launch by DJ Jean, a superb crescendo-building electronic-fest, which hooked me in further, and was finally cemented by a few years of preparing a delicious evening meal to the sounds of Judge Jules' Saturday evening dance show on Radio 1.

I was now completely sold on dance music: the sheer energy and euphoria created by those greater than heart-rate beats per minute which quicken your pulse and intoxicate your cerebral cortex. The latest phase of my musical development has been to discover that electronic music comes in a whole range of tempos, and that there is a tune out there that will match any mood.

Lately I have been listening to slower material like Jochen Trappe's 'Glitch', 'Leftorium' by Anil Chawla/Dale Anderson and Chris Lake/Sebastien Leger's 'Aqualight'. All these pieces can generate a beautiful calm which descends from your grey matter to your toes, relaxing everything in between. My musical education continues with new styles and new cadences: filling my Ipod with a range of material to wake up to, or to go to sleep by.

And in the words of Pete Tong, "we continue"...