The Smith's Journal - July 2008

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Garden Party #2 [CANCELLED]

Tags: Music, Drumming

The second Garden Party at Chez Malc was due to happen on Saturday afternoon July 5th, but was cancelled due to lack of people and poor weather.

Hell On Earth

Tags: Eco

On July 6th 1988, 167 men were killed and 61 survived, in the world's worst offshore oil rig explosion. I was too young then to realise the scale of the Piper Alpha disaster. A shocking Radio 4 documentary and Drama on 3 recalled what happened twenty years ago. Here are some excerpts from Wikipedia, licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License.

At the time of the disaster the platform accounted for around ten per cent of the oil and gas production from the North Sea. [...] Gas lines of 140 to 146 cm in diameter ran close to Piper Alpha. Two years earlier Occidental management ordered a study, which warned of the dangers of these gas lines. Due to their length and diameter it would take several hours to reduce their pressure, so that it would not be possible to fight a fire fueled by them. Although the management admitted how devastating a gas explosion would be, Claymore and Tartan were not switched off with the first emergency call.

The blazing remains of the platform was eventually extinguished by a team led by famed firefighter Red Adair in which he claims he had to battle 80 mph winds and 70-foot waves.

The radio programme describes how a helicopter pilot setting off for the rescue attempt was disturbed to realise that he could see the fire from his position, still 100km away. He eventually had to call off his rescue because the extreme temperature of the fire was melting the steel sides of his helicopter.

A survivor described how he had the choice of going into the cold North Sea or staying aboard as fumes and flames engulfed the place. He looked up at the 200ft-high structure towering above him as another explosion tore it apart, sending huge 1m-thick pipes flying like matchsticks in the inferno. Luckily he made it into the water and survived both the fall, the falling debris and the burning ocean.

Of the survivors who managed to get off the rig, some climbed down ropes and dropped into the sea, five men jumped from a height of 68ft, fifteen jumped from 131ft, and five jumped from the helideck at 175ft.

Another survivor was blown off one of the rescue ships by the force of this massive explosion. Tragically his lifejacket was keeping him afloat, when he really needed to get under the surface to escape the heat. Another described it as "like being under a grill". The water was now unusually warm, uncanny for the North Sea. The flames were by now 600ft-high, due to gas still being delivered from the neighbouring Tartan rig, who had not yet received orders to shutdown production, their radio links (routed through the Piper platform) having been destroyed by the first explosion.

Had this catastrophe occurred on land in an urban area, the death toll would have been thousands. The Buncefield oil depot fire was a mere bonfire in comparison. Besides the human cost, the environmental impact of the Piper Alpha event must have been massive, considering the vast amounts of oil and gas involved, truly beyond our comprehension.


The Naked Truth perform at Bedford River Festival [CANCELLED]

Tags: Music, Drumming

The Naked Truth were due to be live and direct to the people of Bedford, at 11am on the Acoustic Stage during the town's weekend of music and culture. Sadly due to inept organisation (quite unforgivable for a council-run event with salaried staff), they didn't even have the decency to reply to us or send any details after inviting us to perform, so in the end we had to cancel our gig :-(


Secret Bass perform at Codicote Fete [CANCELLED]

Tags: Drumming

We've unfortunately been let down by organisers (again!), who have cancelled our Secret Bass performance and drum workshop, just two days before Codicote Village Day :-( We're not having much luck with events recently; hopefully the sudden increase in local UFO activity will have positive effects...

[ Vitae Drummers playing in Steve's barn ]Steve's Barn Party

Tags: Drumming

Vitae Drummers knocked some more sense into Steve's Barn; sadly I couldn't make it this time.


Vitae Drummers perform at The Chilterns Show

Tags: Drumming

Vitae Drummers were invited back for a third time to perform at The Chilterns Show near Amersham. We played two sets, one on the Main Stage and then later in the Chiltern Arts Forum tent.


Early Russian colour photography

Tags: Art

Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky was a pioneer of colour photography a century ago. Check out this exhibition of his amazing work which has been digitally restored. These remarkable images bring a bygone era to life, no longer wrapped in sepia tones or hazy black & white images of yesteryear.

Let there be Light

Tags: Art

If anyone still has any money left these days, you could always invest in some Light. We all need light in our lives, especially in these troubled times.

The more creative types among you without thousands of spare Euros might like to try making your own versions out of tinfoil and sticky-back plastic :-)

Dream Girl

Tags: Art

And this is just totally awesome!!! Proof that there are still real people left in the world who can remember what fun is :-)


Visit churches

Tags: Places

To try and wean myself off my obsession of exploring the fantastic architectural palaces and castles of Doom in my computer, I decided to return to my fascination with medieval architecture. So I've found some nearby redundant churches to go and visit:

I could do with getting more exercise too. Perhaps I should try swimming, rollerblading and cycling.

Recording at Saint Mary's church: Day 1

Tags: Music, Studio, Places

Putting the above into practice, along with our love of olde musics, Dafna and I drove out on successive days to the first two churches listed above, in search of time travel. We crept inside and of course found the place completely empty, the musty air conjuring the spirit of long-distant centuries. We'd come armed with minimal equipment, as I didn't want to be seen lugging large flightcases suspiciously in and out of holy places. So we just had a DAT recorder, M&S stereo mic and stand, plus a case of vintage singing bowls and my old analogue SLR camera and tripod.

After we warmed up with a duet of vocal improvisations, Dafna sang some medieval music, aptly in homage to Saint Mary. I accompanied her with singing bowls. Sometimes we were static, and sometimes wandering around the sound space. The rich resonant acoustic was a joy to play in, and gazing at the ancient stained glass windows inspired thoughts of wonder at the amount of people who had sung in this building through the ages. I hope to use fragments of singing to create a tape piece, and some of the stuff we improvised will hopefully find its way into Tunnel Visions.

We left after two hours of creative music making, disturbed by nobody except the odd loud aeroplane. I planted a few gold coins in the collection box as payment for our studio time, in thanks to the celestial guardians. Hopefully we can return to this amazing sonic place to make more recordings, both sacred and profane, but I'll always be sure to keep the music cosmic. Now that I've revealed the secret, I'd better pray that this doesn't catch on and next time I arrive to find a queue of bands rehearsing...

[We did in fact continue our mission the following day in a different church, also named after Saint Mary.]

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike v3.0 Licence © The right to copy is left with the user copyleft Malcolm Smith 2008-01-01 - last updated 2008-08-12