Sunday, 1 May 2011

Shopping For The Best Guitars for Small Hands

If you really wish to know how to learn guitar chords,there isn't any real shortcut to common day by day apply. Now that you recognize what you're up in opposition to you may take constructive steps to enhance your guitar enjoying with none pricey detours, remember after getting learnt one thing the mistaken manner it's a BIG challenge to re-be taught it!

I would like to show you something that can make learning find out how to play guitar a whole lot simpler. Tip: altering from C to F, keep your first finger down on string 2, and just use strings 2,three,4. Guitar corporations like Gibson,Taylor and Martin guitars have been employing some alternative techniques to reduce their impression on the atmosphere. This beautiful guitar with a narrower neck features a Spruce Top with laminated back and sides and rosewood fret board.

Some guitar manufacturers, however, will produce black guitars to market to beginners who cannot evaluate quality well. The strumming pattern is comprised of eighths and sixteenths Treat the eights as downstrokes (missing the strings on the upstroke to play the following downstroke) and the sixteenths as a down-up combination. For a teenager, when the hands develop larger, this guitar will go well with larger palms comfortably as nicely. When enjoying over extra complicated styles of music, akin to jazz, one guitar scale will not work for the entire music. Like many other good newbie songs, this one options easy, repetitive chords.

I would recommend that one fascinated in the Martin J-40 also take a look at this nice guitar by Larrivee, as the J-09 will certainly value a bit less, and won't provide anything less in value in any respect. This guitar also gets great compliments on its paint job, for it is smooth and shiny, giving it a nice touch. The sample is play one, miss is shown in the first picture - you can just use this one shape to play all the chords in the key of C, by transferring it to the suitable one step or one be aware at a time. And it takes me back to those early days when I first found the electric guitar, and all I wanted to be completely happy was a ten-watt amplifier and an affordable guitar (read this article here). When moving from the Em to Am, employ the frequent type approach: transfer the second and third finger to the subsequent set of strings in a single movement, then plant the primary finger as quick as possible.

In just over a decade the company has broken away from its father or mother company Schecter, and forged its own path within the guitar world. Some guitar strings are coated to withstand the buildup of oil and filth, prolonging the strings' useful life. While acoustic guitar players can get out and start jamming from right here, electrical players have a pair more guitar equipment to grab. Taylor is just a more recent American acoustic guitar manufacturer, and so their devices date back much less far on the calendar. In this sample, simply miss the strings on the upstroke of the primary and third beats. As soon as you notice that there is a buzzing sound or the echo is going the flawed means it's presupposed to sound, try to press more powerful on the strings. I've seen this guitar online going for about $170, however there's a risk of discovering it cheaper if you already know where to look.

A Guitar, a gig bag with strap, an electronic tuner, a guide, an audio monitor CD, a software program and a DVD with lessons. If you're searching for the very best heavy metal guitar under $500 listed here are the top electrical guitars it's essential to consider. The largest part of the guitar is the Body, also referred to as the sound field and you will discover it is available in various sizes and styles. Whether you are seeking to seize the sound of Jimi Hendrix's basic Fender Stratocaster electrical guitars, or recreate Tom Morello's pitch-shifting solos from his Digitech and Boss electrical guitar Effects Pedal rig, we will help.

Friday, 8 April 2011

I'll always have Paris...

Why does The Little Black Book of Paris sit on my desk, as well as a small, handy version of Phaidon's The Fashion Book

For the first time since coming to live in France eight years ago, I found the winter months here in the countryside to be very, very long.  Why should this be, when October is one of the most beautiful months of the year in this part of southernFrance, still warm, with the countryside, after the fierce heat of summer, a tranquil, fresher place to walk or cycle. The animals are still in the fields under brilliant blue skies in Novembe and, even though temperatures are dropping by then, we enjoy superb crisp weather. The valleys and hills look glorious, as the forests put on their amazing golden display, before the trees finally shed the last of their leaves.

As the first snow begins to fall higher up, the views to the Pyrenees are spectacular.December is pleasant too, passing without much of the fuss experienced elsewhere; the pre-Christmas madness doesn’t happen here. It is a time for slowing down, doing less outside as the days shorten to the winter solstice. 

There is a feeling of being in harmony with the earth. As opposed to the manic craziness of my old life in Ireland, Christmas day here just means a larger than usual family lunch. The 26th is not celebrated, so everyone is back to work.

January can be bleak and we sometimes get heavy snow in the hills, but, a few weeks on and bizarrely, in mid February we often have a week or two of high temperatures and blazing sunshine, when we find ourselves wearing light summer clothes and eating lunch on the balcony. Then, in comes March with its many weathers; the temperatures plummet and it’s entirely possible to be snowed in. 

The snow ploughs can get up the track to our tiny hamlet, but as ever, the advice during heavy snowy weather is to venture out only if you absolutely must.
It is April now and the last weeks have been quite glorious; long days of sunshine and extremely high temperatures.

Outside tables and chairs have been uncovered and smartened up in anticipation of months of 
Al Fresco dining. Hanging baskets, full of large green leaves for the moment, are up. These will, in time, turn into a riot of fabulous red as the tumbling geraniums, named the King of the Balcony, burst into flower next month. 

So why, with all the above excellent things to recommend it, in a place with such fantastic scenery that people swoon when I tell them where I live, did I find the last six months went at a crawl? The reason is Paris. Yes, Paris, or rather, a serious lack of it.

Much as I adore living in Ariège Pyrénéesmy heart and soul are so attached to that city that not seeing it regularly has an effect on me. My ideal life would be to have an apartment in Paris and our house here, and divide my time between the two.

For most of my adult life, I have visited Paris several times each year. When I lived in Ireland I went regularly, getting to know it really well, discovering many of itssecrets. Now, living in the same country, I seem to see my favourite city less and less. In the past year, I have only seen the City of Light once, and then just for forty-eight hours. It wasn’t enough.

I know now and must admit, that as lovely as everything is here in the Grand Sud, and as much as I adore Toulouse, the rose city, I long for more of Paris and want, indeed I will say need, to be spend more time there, especially during those winter months.

In the meantime, my well thumbed, little black book of Paris sits on my desk, with its companion, The Fashion Book for easy reference… as I work on a master plan to find myself an apartment in the 7th 

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Our local Gastronomy - Foie Gras

In the foothills of the Pyrénées, as I packed up some high quality Foie Gras destined for Ireland, I mused on how, since coming to live in France in spring 2003, I have adopted the French attitude to food.

With a substantial quantity of this gourmet’s dream piled on a sideboard in the cool hallway of our rustic old house, I pondered on the fact that here we have a product considered so luxurious, so deluxe, by people in other countries, that they consider it to be completely exotic, a bit on the expensive side maybe; a fabulous, once a year treat.

It began when friends who spend part of each year over in the glorious olive and lavender growing Provence, were keen to see our totally different – but equally stunning – wild scenery. Here they first tasted the locally produced Foie Gras, bought some to take back to Ireland, where friends tasted it at the Christmas and New Year revels. Voila, the orders commenced and continued to grow each year.

Here in the Grand Sud, Foie Gras is everywhere. People look on it as a perfectly normal food. It is part of all the great occasions of course, but equally it can and does make an appearance at an ordinary lunch. As I became immersed in French life, shopped and cooked using local produce, I fell into the French way of thinking about Foie Gras. Like the mountains, it’s always there.

Nationally, it is considered a very important product and like so many foodstuffs ­­­- the French take these things very seriously - it is protected by law. Legislation designated Foie Gras as part of the officially protected, cultural and gastronomic patrimony of the country. France produces 83% of the world's Foie Gras and apparently eats more than 90% of it.

In most of the farmhouses around me and in small village houses too, it is made for family use. Life without Foie Gras would be unimaginable. Rich, buttery and delicate, it is such a luxurious product, packed with calories, that a small piece is a feast. On a bed of salad leaves, with red winter berries, or in summer, tiny cherry tomatoes, it makes for an opulent plate.

Some countries object to the very idea of Foie Gras and several of the American states put pressure on people to stop eating it. We had the astonishing tale of it being banned in 2006 by the city of Chicago, but the ban only gave the product a ritzy glamour, a new appeal. Demand became high with crazy stories of people enjoying it in ‘Foie Gras speakeasies’. In May 2008 the City Council repealed the controversial ban; back it went on the menus and those who chose to eat it did so, in public. 

Arguments continue with stories of birds in distress, because of the practice of force feeding. Breeders will tell you that the birds simply get used to the process and are not in any great distress, adding that people have been practising the ‘gavage’ as far back as 2500 BC, when the ancient Egyptians kept birds for food and deliberately fattened them through force feeding. The subject can and does inflame passions. 

In the Couseran hills, many people still live from the produce of a smallholding. They are kind and extremely generous, but there is little sentimentality about rearing stock for eating. Memories are long and these people and their ancestors saw very hard times indeed during two world wars.

On a larger scale, David Lemasson has for fifteen years been producing the highest quality duck produce, both fresh and preserved. The ducks are sourced in the neighbouring Gers department, from three farms who maintain the highest standards of animal welfare. Here in Ariège Pyrénées David and his team create a superb range of products, from whole Foie Gras to confit de canard, conserves and pâtés. These are hand-crafted, natural products, without any conservatives or dyes and and as well as in his jewel of a shop, they are found in top restaurants, butchers and discerning outlets.

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Allez les Blues - a win in the Aviva!

Here in the hills I watched the Ireland-France match from the magnificent Aviva Stadium in Dublin and was thrilled by the French win, if only by a few points. 

As the French captain (who plays for my team, Stade Toulousain) admitted afterwards, it may not have been the match of the year, but a win is a win, never easy against the current Irish team.

What an excellent sporting day and even if the French managed only one try (scored by Maxime Medard, another Toulouse player) it was easily the best match of the three this weekend. 

And what a year in prospect... more Six Nations matches, then up to Toulouse as we watch the continuation of the battle for the top place in the Top 14 here. 

Tickets for Cardiff in May, hoping of course that Toulouse will make it through to the Heineken Cup final. If not, I have the promise of a Leinster jersey from a pal inDublin who is convinced his team will be there. Then, after a leisurely summer here, the Rugby World Cup from New Zealand and the promise of much middle of the night feasting, as we watch the games from the far side of the world. 

Not a bad old life?

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Memories of Dublin's Trocadero Restaurant

"You lucky, lucky thing!  But you absolute fiend!  And how we envy you.  The frocks are terrific; so classic my dear, black, with that lovely rich purple trim. Those gold crosses and rings. And, when you reach the top, as you most certainly will, you get to wear that fabulous Big Red Hat!"  

One of Dublin’s most beautiful men had announced his intention to join the priesthood.  His ‘goodbye social life’ party was held in the Trocadero restaurant. How we roared when one of his friends, dressed for the occasion as Oscar, complete with green carnation, began his speech with the above.  In my celebration of daft nights in this legendary restaurant, that evening was in a class of it‘s own.

Since the picture of Alan Rickman appeared, I haven’t minded if people were late meeting me in the Trocadero. They could be as late as they liked. That black coat and those eyes.  

But all the pictures are special, as I was reminded the night I was obliged to hastily leave down my knife and fork, when a walking stick was thrust in across my plate. A voice said, "Ah look, I knew it was around here somewhere.  There you are!"  

I looked up to see Ulick O’Connor grinning apologetically as his friend - Ben Kiely - tapped the photo with his stick, said "good evening" to me, and left the restaurant.

The Trocadero decor has been described as being a bit like a theatre. It certainly produces theatrical behaviour.  There was the woman who, fully intending to take a taxi home, parked her car in a tiny lane around the corner. After much dissecting, re-living and hooting at the carry-on at the hunt ball, our fearless heroine decided, at two in the morning, to drive herself home. She got into her sports car, and hey presto, found herself flying through the back door of one of the little shops which front on to Wicklow Street.

There was the night that somebody knocked over a cup of coffee and the ensuing row ended up downstairs in the gents with one person yelling at the other: "you hate me because I'm gay! You've never liked me".  Then the other person shouting back so loudly, that the women in the ladies next door could clearly hear: "I don’t hate you because you're gay. This is a very expensive suit!”  A pause, and then “Jesus, I never even knew you were gay."  

The mid-week night, and a wedding anniversary when my husband had forgotten to book a table and the staff squeezed us in, making things incredibly awkward for themselves really.  They didn't seem to mind in the least.  The atmosphere was just the same, magic.  It certainly wasn't the fault of the Trocadero that we, sadly, divorced years later. 

One evening, a worthy discussion was going on about whether a trek over Indiawould be a valuable, life enhancing experience.  One of the women, running her hand through her magnificent blonde hair said, "Well, yes. I've always wanted to do that, and I would love to go of course.  But then I think, well, what about my roots?”

I once woke up to find myself in the back of a taxi, the driver asking "which road is it now, love? The chap at the restaurant said to drive to the sea and take one of the first turns.”  Large ‘thank you’ card dropped in to Robert and staff next morning by mortified woman with big red face... 

Lord Henry Mountcharles and some friends dropped in one packed night and there were no tables available.  They waited with the rest of the queue. The people at my table were English and absolutely amazed.  They weirdly thought that perhaps someone would be moved around to accommodate the party.  We explained about Henry, his restaurant at that time, the castle, the concerts, and above all, about him being human.  Gasps from the English assembly.

A marriage loomed.  Hearing the words ‘two conventional mothers’, feeling the young bride and groom were perhaps under enough stress, and most importantly, not interested in the slightest in the whole affair, I went to the Trocadero with Bill, old friend through thick and thin. As the first bottle of wine was opened Bill remarked ”you were right; who would want to go to a wedding and miss all this?” Lutz kept the bottles coming. We ended up in the Coach and Horses - closed now - watching an Italian movie. Enough said. Excellent evening.

There was the night I met a charming individual known as Miss Candy; the two of us got tipsy together and I discovered that the only lipstick to use for staying power was Princess Marcella Borghese.  My partner, when he came in to collect me described the two of us as "looking like something out of AB FAB". He went away again and the rest of the evening remains a haze.

Trocadero stories would not be complete without Frank.  Whether it was a casual meal for two women friends, a romantic celebration, a business meeting or a noisy crowded table, Frank added to the evening, giving it exactly the right note. There he was, dressed in those impeccable black tails, the white starched dinner shirt and bow tie, his splendid white hair perfectly groomed. You knew you were in for a very special night if you were lucky enough to get a booth in Frank's section of the Troc. 

We lived near each other and I often shared a taxi home with him. Frank was inclined to issue warnings to taxi drivers not to dare to drive away until ‘the Lady has gone in her front door, and closed it behind her!’

According to the staff at the Trocadero, his spirit lives on in the restaurant. I agree. When I was leaving Ireland to come and live in France I had one of my farewell dinners in the Trocadero, at a table in Frank’s old spot. It was the best of evenings and in the early hours I tottered happily out, as I had been doing for years. This time, the friends in the taxi waited to see me safely in my front door.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Christmas in the Pyrenees

Where I live, in Ariège Pyrénées, Christmas and New Year are delightful, hearty, warm, and even quirky; just hours after dinner, we have a mid-night oyster feast.

The oysters come from Arcahon and on Christmas Eve, in our local town of St Girons, a charming, timeless picture is one of people, booted and wrapped up incoloured hats, scarves and gloves, collecting their oyster boxes before heading back to the villages and hamlets in the hills to begin the celebrations.

This being the ‘Grand Sud’, tradition is everything; life is lived according to the seasons and oysters and Foie Gras are the big ones for the festivities.

Contrary to what a lot of people think, the French may seem to work shorter hours and take more holidays, but what they don’t do, is down tools for a massive two weeks of revelry at this time of year.

Christmas begins on the 24th, with dinner very much a family affair. Foie Gras toasts are served with aperitifs and may appear again later, flambéed with fruit. Some people attend late night Mass; others take a stroll around the village. Around midnight, everyone will come together again, often with neighbours, to eat oysters and drink white wine, the feast going on into the early hours.

Christmas day lunch (magically organised, despite the midnight feasting) will have the extended family from grandparents to babies, enjoying a large and lengthy lunch that begins at mid-day on the button. This five course meal, with more Foie Gras, then Guinea Fowl or Capons for main course, will continue until late afternoon.

And that is that until New Year’s Eve. The 26th is not a holiday here, so it’s back to work.

The 31st is when family and friends get together for serious partying and for the Réveillon, Champagne is always the drink of choice. Whether a large lavish dinner or a servez-vous buffet, it is splendid, with more Foie Gras on the menu. Young or old, tradition is observed. 

We are in the Couseran hills; this is the land of top quality Foie Gras.  I love the way these customs are preserved here; the respect for old ways and for the food produced in the area.

Living in a remote part of Francethe foothills of the Pyrénées, is not for everyone. But the place has enchanted me; I love writing in my little study, with a view out over the hills.

And I’m not the only writer in the room. On my wall hangs a framed collection of notes I treasure. They are from a mega-star writer, who, in her study, takes time out from writing best-sellers to send me encouraging notes. I doubt you know her; she’s timid, not a great talker and has no opinions or advice to offer anyone, ever.

Happy Christmas from my hamlet in the hills. 

Sunday, 12 December 2010

After National Novel Writing Month - Art!

Oh, the joy of being finished with National Novel Writing Month. 

I, like all my crazy fellow writers, who hope that having written 50,000 words during the month, will go on to turn those words into something special. Hopefully a full length novel may emerge. Whatever, it won’t be for the lack of effort. 

But now, after all my efforts to write the novel, (or any book) I want to mention a really special book; it takes little effort to read because it takes the reader in straight away, and it gives massive enjoyment from page one.
I had to pack an overnight bag for someone and, feeling it important to shove in a book, I took a novel that promised a good, fast-paced read, set against the background of World War Two. Perfect.  

What if my bag needed packing, I wondered. Would anyone know the right book to pack?

There is only one book - and it’s also my Desert Island Disc book - so that’s sorted when Radio 4 calls.

I opened Professor Ernst Gombrich’s The Story of Art, began to read the preface, and a breathtaking, wonderful feeling told me that this book had been written for me. That was as a teenager, back in the seventies, when I was, at least according to my own sense of style, ultra trendy, permanently dressed in black, smoking Consulate on top of buses, beginning to collect hats and doing an Art course at night.

The book is part of my life and is always near to where I sleep. First published in 1950, The Story of Art has outsold every book in the genre, and today the Professor continues to introduce students, artists and scholars to the world of art and the artist.

One of the greatest works ever written, by one of the world’s greatest authorities on the art world, the Professor’s way of approaching his subject has enlightened millions of us, as he draws us into the world of art and the artist. Following him, our lives are enriched.

This remarkable, unassuming man, with his conversational style, his constant use of the word ’we’, gives us the impression that he too is learning, is accompanying us on this great journey.

It is a very, very clever approach and by using it, he creates a feeling that we are standing together studying the great works, as we companionably walk through the ages.

Starting with early drawings in the caves of southern France, we study the Egyptians, the ancient Greeks, travel through the centuries, through the Renaissance years, right up to the late 20th century.

We feel we are in the easy company of someone who, even though we know his knowledge is way beyond ours, is inviting us to look with our own eyes, to think for ourselves.

The Professor explains how human life evolved through the centuries, illustrating, through the world of art, how societies developed. Without ever ‘dumbing down’, he suggests how man, from our origins, lost in the mists of time, came to where we are today.

This book goes much further than merely describing works of art. Using some of the greatest masterpieces ever produced, be it a Mayan alter stone, a Rembrandt self portrait, or a Jackson Pollock action painting, Gombrich takes us on a thrilling journey,  inviting us to delve into the world of the creative spirit with a view to understanding.

While we are being educated about the lives and works of the great artists, the writer suggests that for the greater good, we might accept and tolerate the beliefs and ways of others.

My interest in art and the world increased as I studied everything from the ancient to the modern. Along the way I naturally felt an affinity to some, and found myself less than interested in others.

Professor Gombrich meant The Story of Art to be for teenagers, an age group just beginning to look at that world. He had reckoned that that particular age group would quickly detect any pretentious jargon or bogus sentiment, and so he avoided using such language. His rallying cry to students - the very reason so many found him liberating - was: ‘There is no such thing as Art, only Artists.’

Even now, years later, the Professor still nudges me to examine again some of the works I did not study in sufficient detail, to look anew at something I may have decided was not for me.

The Story of Art has been with me a long time, although the volume I treasure now is not my original. That one I foolishly lent to someone who promised to look after it carefully, saying ‘Art is my God.’ They then disappeared, trekking to the East in an effort to find themselves.  I never saw or heard from them again.

This copy is not for hire, lend or sale because I need this book near me; I read and re-read this much loved, cherished work of art (which it is) more than any other.