My last post actually brought about a response from a (probably not so) avid reader. Ian Raisbeck, a good friend of mine over many years – and an extremely talented musician (player, conductor, composer, teacher) – got in touch regarding my compositional dilemma.

Ian suggested that sitting staring at Sibelius (or your chosen compositional programme) and typing in via the mouse can sap your creativity. His suggestion was to get a cheap keyboard and just play about with ideas So, with that in mind, a cheap midi keyboard has been ordered to plug in and play with.

I guess we’ll see what happens!

Fear of The Blank Page

The title of this post sounds like either a horrendous book, or a really terrible straight-to-DVD film release.

And to be honest, the content is probably as scary.

I launched this blog in a blaze of hype that I would be aiming to write one piece of (admittedly simple) music per week. Over the summer holidays last year I managed it. However, I haven’t managed to compose anything this year.

It’s not for the want of trying. It’s the Lions Youth Brass organisations 25th anniversary this year, with a big concert in June. It’s my aim to write a piece for the Beginners that commemorates this – Silver Fanfare, perhaps – but everything I’ve done has been firmly rejected on playback when I realise it sounds, well, pretty rubbish.

I open up Sibelius (my music writing software), open the ‘template’ file, stare at the screen for a bit, watch it stare back at me, then close it down. It’s not even as though I’ve got no inspiration for pieces; a railway journey, the silver fanfare idea, a village green, the top of a peak. The inspiration is endless. Yet the ideas are not forthcoming.

I wonder if Beethoven struggled like this?

It’s Just Not Cricket.

The English assault on the Cricket World Cup is officially over. It was probably over before it begun in all honesty, but after the defeat to Bangladesh the other day, their campaign is now totally over. In five games so far England have beaten just one team. Scotland.

Just let that sink in.

Defeats to Australia and what is an exceptionally strong New Zealand team were expected. Beating Sri Lanka was probably a slightly more realistic aim, but they got smashed in that. They then did what they had to against Scotland by making sure they won the game, before capitulating to a 15 run defeat against the Banglas.

So what went wrong? Put simply, everything. Muddled team selections. Muddled build up. Jettisoning the captain two months before the tournament. There’s just a few.

First of all, team selection. James Taylor had played at 3 in all the build up games prior to the tournament and made a super job of it. Fast forward to the first World Cup game and Taylor is dropped to 6, with Gary Ballance (a fine player, but with no recent games under his belt) placed at 3. Therefore England went into the tournament with two ‘proper’ test players in the top three; Ballance and Ian Bell. Ballance barely made a run and was dropped for the game against Bangladesh. He was replaced by Alex Hales, a man most people wanted in the team and an opener through and through. Where did he bat? 3.

The build up wasn’t great either. Having four years to prepare for the tournament would lead you to assume, quite rightly, that the management would know who their best leader is. Alistair Cook is many things, but he isn’t one of the best 11 one day players in England. So why stick with him for so long? Dropping him two months before the tournament and replacing him with Eoin Morgan (a good replacement I believe) was hardly an indication that the management did know their best team, or strategy. This was duly born out by the results, performance and selections.

So where do they go from here? Well, home, initially. After that, back to the well-worn drawing board. They need to catch up. You can’t look to just rotate the strike. The top teams are rotating the strike off good deliveries now and hitting anything that isn’t a ‘jaffa’ out of the park. England are too ‘classical’ in approach, generally spending their time rotating. A clean sweep is required, with new faces brought in.

This leads to the obvious question; If I was in Peter Moores’ shoes, who would I pick? Well I’d look for something like this…

Alex Hales
James Vince
James Taylor
Joe Root
Eoin Morgan (c)
Jos Buttler (wk)
Ben Stokes
Scott Borthwick
Chris Jordan
Stuart Broad
Mark Footitt

I’d also have Moeen Ali, Alex Lees, Chris Woakes and James Harris around the squad too. It’s perhaps hardly revolution, more evolution, but surely it has more attacking intent to it? It’s just my two pence worth anyway.


A case for the defence.

In my ‘We Can Be Heroes’ post I spoke about heroes, or role models if you’d prefer. I also intimated that there are many people in the public eye – particularly in the sporting arena – where I would be less than impressed if any future child of mine asked for their name on the back of their shirt. I also specified that the football world was full of these characters.

Well, today I feel the need to set the record straight.

Today, through work, I have spent an hour of my time working with a professional footballer. He – I won’t name him but I know some people will know who he is – agreed to give up his time to come and work for a session with a girls football team that I help to run. He proceeded to jump in at the deep end, happily running the whole session, focusing on goalkeeping, and at the end of the practice every girl went home happy, vastly improved and caked in mud!

Furthermore, he then asked if he could come to the remaining sessions and said he’d even bring some session plans! Needless to say, both myself and my fellow coach were delighted and were extremely quick to take him up on the offer!

It’s such a shame that some footballers give the rest of them a bad name, as this gentleman was a credit to both his profession and his club. I’m already very excited for next Monday!

We Can Be Heroes!

Some of you may have been watching the Real Housewife’s of Cheshire. When I was a child, Dawn’s (on that same programme) husband, Ashley was my hero. Ashley Ward, prior to big money moves to Norwich, Barnsley and Blackburn was Crewe’s star striker and my boyhood hero, the player I pretended to be when I played in the backyard.

Now, at the age of 30+, I’m not so much into having heroes as such, but would certainly say there are people I admire, particularly in the sporting world.

However, in sport there are people who you would say are good at their chosen sport, but you don’t particularly admire because of the way they carry themselves away from the game, or sometimes even during games. I won’t name names, but I’m sure you can all think of plenty who fit that bill, including several recent England football captains.

Most people would probably admire someone well known; the Steven Gerrards, Frank Lampards and  Michael Vaughans of this world. However, the person who I look up to the most is a ‘normal’ county cricketer.

Step forward Derbyshire captain, Wayne Madsen.

This is a man who, over the past few years has pretty much led the way as the perfect example of how to carry yourself in difficult circumstances – both personal and performance based.
In 2012, Madsen and his wife, Kyla, lost their first child when his wife was 21 weeks into the pregnancy. A few days later, Wayne (also in his first year of captaining the club) went out and racked up a century against Gloucestershire, admitting to tears in his eyes when he brought up his hundred. He finished the season by leading Derbyshire to their first title win since 1936, leading them back to Division One.
In 2013 he was chosen by Championship sponsors LV Insurance as the beneficiary of a sponsorship deal that saw him wear their stickers on the back of his bat. However, he gave the money to the Derby branch of Sands, a Stillborn and Neonatal Death Support Charity. Later that year he received the inaugural Christopher Martin-Jenkins award for ‘walking’ when given not out. The most remarkable thing about this was how much his team were struggling in the game but he walked off and declared that it was a matter of principle. Meanwhile, whilst Derbyshire struggled in 2013 (and ended up getting relegated), Madsen led from the front, being the first player to 1000 runs, and finished with 1221 in total. This resulted in him being awarded the Championship Cricketer of the Year by the Cricket Writers Club.
In 2014 he galvanised his team when their young wicketkeeper, Tom Poynton, was involved in a car crash that resulted in Tom’s dad, Keith, losing his life. He also added another 1000 runs to his tally and once again, gave the money he received for bat sponsorship (this time from the Holly Hush Inn) to Sands once more.
To me, he really is quite a man, a perfect role model for anyone. Put it this way; if any future child of mine wanted his name in their shirt I would be delighted.