28-Sep-2014 Keeping The Devil At Bay

Posted September 28th, 2014 by jivauk and filed in jiva

You’d think that five days in a row without a scheduled gig would see us revelling in the ‘spare’ time that we’d been given. Hah! Not a chance… let’s see…

Sunday: a SWAP-NE rehearsal session in the early evening. Having already sent out an mp3 of the latest group play of the Could’ve Would’ve Should’ve song and a PDF of the lyrics we spent time on Sunday printing off copies of the lyrics for all rehearsal attendees and yet again playing through our own parts in the arrangement as it then stood. Then, of course, there was the rehearsal where an arrangement was eventually generated and rehearsed. Following the rehearsal we worked on producing an mp3 of the best run-through from the rehearsal and re-doing the lyric sheet with who does what and when hints, and then we emailed it out to all group members.

Monday: in similar vein to the SWAP-NE collaboration we were acting as information hub and communicators for our Songwriting class at Newcastle College. We produced an mp3 of the best run-through from the rehearsal along with a full set of lyrics which we had revised to fit the agreed groove and chord structure. We then worked on a bridge section to diversify it a bit. Then we recorded what we’d done and emailed that to the group too.

Tuesday: we made sure we had rehearsed our parts for the Songwriting class song (working title “No More No More”) before heading off to class. Then there was the actual class, lyric presentations, discussions, agreements (not exactly unanimous), more rehearsal, arrangement worked out, and then off home for a bite to eat before driving to Tesco to do the shopping, and home by just gone midnight.

Wednesday: We produced an mp3 of the best run-through from the Songwriting class rehearsal along with full lyrics for the song the group are working on, and also (as requested by the lead singer) we made our own recording of Jimmy’s rhythm guitar and Val’s U-Bass atop a drum track. And then we emailed all that to the group… do you see a pattern emerging here?

Thursday: we had the pleasure of the company of Anthony John Clarke, and we had a super time putting the world to rights and recording some backing tracks and checking progress and plans for his DVD project.

Friday: after bidding adieu to Anthony John we embarked on a 3-gig day (morning in South Shields, afternoon in Ryton and evening in Hexham).

witham-acoustic-cafeSaturday: a trek down the A1 to perform a 60-minute show at the Witham Centre Open Day in Bishop Auckland. This was an interesting set up – the Dispensary Cafe has the kitchen, counter, and tables on the ground floor and we were performing from the gallery on the first floor, a walkway looking down over the ground floor… and this meant people having to lean back to look upwards to the minstrels in the gallery.

Of course, throughout the week, in addition to the above, Val was doing her usual sterling work organising jiva’s future performance schedule into next year (five new gigs added this week – more on the way). Add to that tons of emails to wade through on subjects ranging from Allan Taylor’s birthday celebration at the Troubador to organising the next SWAP-NE meeting, discussions on strings, software, computer hardware, app updates and everything else in between. Oh, and not forgetting the ever-present jiva computer helpline sorting out modems, routers, security certificates and a few web projects crying out for responses from clients.

Sunday: and so, here we are today, writing the blog and catching up on filing and editing and all manner of things that we somehow never found time for through the week. So much for five days without a show being a rest… but, you know, we wouldn’t have it any other way. What is it my Gran used to say?

“The devil finds work for idle hands”

We’re certainly keeping the devil at bay.


Jimmy & Val (jiva)

21-Sep-2014 Timing Is Everything

Posted September 21st, 2014 by jivauk and filed in jiva


Runcible-Spoon 2014-09-20Two 60-minute spots, 20 songs, 10 instruments, 5 hats (and a headband), 2 voices, 1 great night!

A music and pot luck food night at the Runcible Spoon, a super cafe restaurant with jiva providing the evening’s entertainment for the lucky diners.


A quick update on last week’s cancellation status…

T-Mobile sorted, at last… we think.

Val’s singing and vocal coaching class well and truly cancelled, so Val has now permanently joined the Songwriting class along with Jimmy.

Amazon returns all sorted, no problems.

It’s great to get things sorted, even if some take considerably longer and require much more effort than envisaged. However, and this is something most people don’t share often enough, it’s also great when things are done early and items can be ticked off the list ahead of schedule. We’ve recently had two instances of this happening, both involving computers – one of the laptop variety and one desktop.

And then

For us, Dell laptops have performed faultlessly over the years, and on September 9th we ordered laptop number 5 (laptop 1 was for Jimmy way back when he was working in IT and Quality Management, laptop 2 was for our Blue Room recordings with external sound interface and state of the art DAW software – 3, 4 and 5 have all been ordered for friends who’ve sought out our recommendations and acted upon them). This one arrived three days ahead of the original estimated delivery date and we were kept updated with progress so the early delivery wasn’t a problem. The machine is now set up and installed in its new owner’s home and is working well.

Desktop PCs have been a bit of a mixed bag – we enjoyed three Fujitsu Siemens PCs but when the time came for Val’s latest replacement PC we couldn’t find an FS machine with the appropriate spec, so decided to give Dell a try. For 12 months it performed impeccably and, just out of warranty, the hard drive failed… zonk! Gone! But, fortunately we keep very little data on the PC, our files are shared through a networked server so all devices can get at them. Hard drive replaced and it’s going strong again. So when it was Jimmy’s turn for upgrade we bought a Dell for him – great specifications, superfast, expandable with whizzy graphics and sound cards etc. But (there’s always a but) it had a problem with audio playback that neither we nor Dell could solve and so, even though it works well for video and audio editing, the playback seems to stutter a lot. Hmmm… after months of frustration we decided that there really was no option other than replacing the whole thing.

After much research we settled on a whizz-bang beast of a machine by Lenovo, but we didn’t really have time to spend setting it up, loading all the programs onto it, adding extra hard drive and blu-ray writer etc – we’re just so busy that we don’t know whether we’re coming or going sometimes. We spotted the very machine on Amazon, and noted that it was currently out of stock with delivery estimated at between one and three months – and so we ordered one at a very good price with the expectation that it would arrive maybe November or December. On Thursday Jimmy arrived home at 9:30 am having dropped Val off at work to find a note from our local courier saying she’d tried to deliver our Amazon package but no one was in to take it. Bemused, Jimmy made a cup of coffee before settling down to web editing and the doorbell rang – it was our delivery lady who, having made other deliveries in the area, called back on the off-chance. Well! How’s that for service?

The PC was duly unpacked, checked that all the bits were indeed in the box, and then left it to acclimatise before switching on – it has now been ‘acclimatising’ for three days and we don’t know when we’ll find time to switch it on to see if it actually works! But we can’t wait too long, just in case there’s a problem and it has to go back as DOA (hopefully that won’t be the case). Something has to give, something that was priority will have to move back down the queue into the big big backlog, but what?

Now what ?

Gigs to perform, songs to rehearse, songs to record, editing (audio, video and web projects) to do – all manner of stuff competing for our time… and, through it all, the new Lenovo sits there crying out for some attention… it wants to join the family and be part of the mayhem that is jiva. Val says “Tonight’s the night, after dinner”… ooh, err.

Must stop now, things to do… and, timing is everything.

Jimmy & Val (jiva)

14-Sep-2014 Cancelled

Posted September 14th, 2014 by jivauk and filed in jiva

cancelledMonday - a text message arrived from T-Mobile admitting that they’d got our final bill wrong, but they still haven’t sent a revised bill. We cancelled the account months ago…

Tuesday - a phone call from college advising Val that her evening class for that night had been cancelled (tutor unwell). However, it gave Val the opportunity to sit in on Jimmy’s class instead – a bonus!…

Wednesday - phone call from an insurance company asking whether we’d received our renewal quote/documents for Public Liability Insurance. Yes we had, and had phoned them the previous week telling them we did not wish to renew and had cancelled our Direct Debit…

Thursday - turn up for a pre-booked performance to be met with blank stares. Apparently the person who booked us months ago has been on the sick for a while, and their replacement hadn’t turned in on the day we were due to perform. Even though we were clearly displayed in the What’s On noticeboard in the foyer, there was no way to allow us to play if the correct person wasn’t there to oversee things. Fifteen miles there, fifteen miles back, and no play! Rather than waste the rest of the day wasting energy on being negative we expended energy by getting on our bikes (literally) and we had an enjoyable few miles pedalling and freewheeling in the sunshine…

Friday - we were surprised when our local postlady handed us two packages saying “These have been in the sorting office for a while”. Both had stickers attached indicating that cards had been left following unsuccessful delivery attempts – no such cards had been posted through our letterbox. Both packages were from Amazon, and both were so long overdue that Customer Services had arranged to have replacement items shipped to us – too late to cancel, the replacements had arrived before the originals turned up…

Saturday - “network connection lost: scheduled backup cancelled”. Ah well, 195,000 files uploaded amounting to just over 1 TB. Clear cache, shutdown, re-boot, and (as they say) “Job’s a good ‘un” – Zoolz is merrily continuing its uploading from where it left off…

Sunday - for some time now, Val has been promising (or should that be threatening?) to trim Jimmy’s hair, and today was to be the day. She brought a smile to his face by announcing this morning that she wasn’t going to cut his hair after all – but we suspect that’s more of a temporary reprieve, a postponement rather than a cancellation…

Val has a few day’s temping scheduled for next week (it’s been re-arranged due to a cancellation of holiday arrangements). Wonder if that will be cancelled? Probably not…

Jimmy & Val (jiva)

07-Sep-2014 Rock Enrol

Posted September 7th, 2014 by jivauk and filed in jiva

You know the saying “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks” – that may be true, but we’re not old (less of the guffawing in the back there) and we’re always keen to learn… it’s not so much learn new tricks, it’s more about developing and improving the things we enjoy doing. How so? You may well ask, and indeed you will be answered.

Friends, fans and regular readers will know that we are singer/songwriters, performers and techno-geeks. On the music front we’re out and about on a regular basis performing in care homes, village halls, community centres, folk clubs, festivals, cafes, etc etc etc – and our enjoyment of technology is often called upon to design websites, record albums, make videos, design posters and flyers, fix networks and printers, resurrect seemingly dead PCs, set up blogs and email accounts, be available 24/7 to give advice on what to buy or (more often than not) what to do if having ignored our advice the wrong item has been bought and doesn’t perform as wished…

Quite often the jivacoustic blog contains snippets about techno-whizzery in relation to hardware devices as well as PC and mobile device applications, and we might publicise our upcoming shows or share a thought or two on recent performances – heck we even berate or praise customer services of companies that we deal with. This week we’d like to share two development and improvement avenues for our music:

swap-ne-small1. SWAP-NE

After a jiva-fronted songwriting symposium at an emerging North Shields arts centre in August 2013, attendees agreed that we should meet regularly with the aim of members sharing, learning and improving our craft. Song Writers And Performers – North East (SWAP-NE) has been holding get-togethers since then and we meet on the first Friday evening of each month. To quote from an early SWAP-NE blog post:

Song Writers And Performers – North East

That’s us. SWAP-NE

  • A place to SWAP ANY thing related to songwriting and performing.
  • A place for members to share their songs.
  • A place to share experience, ideas, feedback and any resources that might be useful to aspiring and experienced song writers and performers alike.


ncl-college-logo2. Newcastle College

Visitors to the SWAP-NE blog/website will have seen the post “Newcastle College Songwriting Course” (a 15-week course on Tuesday evenings) – many thanks to Steve Gray for bringing this to our attention. Naturally, our curiosity and keen interest in music and songwriting led us to investigate further. In fact, having perused much of the Newcastle College schedule and information, we drove down to the campus to enrol. We decided that, rather than both of us take the same course, Jimmy would do the Songwriting course while Val would do the Singing Techniques course… that way we can compare notes and share hints, tips, techniques etc from both courses.

OK, it does mean that we will be unavailable for Tuesday evening gigs for the rest of 2014 – but we’re sure that the loss in that department will be more than compensated by the benefits gained from committing ourselves to these opportunities to develop our musical abilities further.

As Animal (the Muppets drummer) almost puts it – “Rock Enrol !!!

Jimmy & Val (jiva)