Category Archives: Getting Old

FORTY-EIGHT COFFEE SHOPS IN LEWES (AND WHY NOT?)

Now that another high-class cafe has opened in Lewes (attached to a pioneering state-of-the-art cinema and arts venue, the Depot) it’s time to revise this little list of the town’s coffee shops.

I have counted 48. Lewes’s population is 17,297 according to the 2011 census.

Importantly, if you’re walking between two coffee shops and it all gets too much, there’s almost certainly going to be another one half-way along your route. You don’t need to wait too long! My favourite is Laporte’s (latte, full English, bubble & squeak…), but it’s great to have the choice.

Three-and-a-half years have passed since the last list: and there are changes. This time, hotels where you can ask for coffee, without the staff raising eyebrows, have been included. Many of Lewes’s much-loved pubs offer good artisan coffee; but they are not included here.

Corrections are welcome, and I apologise to any business accidentally omitted or mis-classified. In a roughly east-to-west order:

  1. Cafe du Jardin
  2. M & S at the BP service station ** NATIONAL CHAIN
  3. Costa at Tesco ** NATIONAL CHAIN
  4. The Real Eating Company ** SMALL/LOCAL CHAIN
  5. Smoketronics
  6. Le Magazin
  7. Bill’s ** NATIONAL CHAIN
  8. Riverside Cafe-Bar
  9. Riverside Brasserie
  10. Bake Out ** SMALL/LOCAL CHAIN
  11. Waterstone’s ** NATIONAL CHAIN
  12. Costa in the Cliffe ** NATIONAL CHAIN
  13. Waitrose’s coffee machine ** NATIONAL CHAIN
  14. The Hearth bakery
  15. Aqua ** SMALL CHAIN
  16. Laporte’s
  17. Ground Coffee House ** SMALL/LOCAL CHAIN
  18. Symposium
  19. The Runaway
  20. Daisy’s
  21. Depot Cinema
  22. Limetree Kitchen
  23. Steamer Trading Company ** SMALL/LOCAL CHAIN
  24. Robson’s
  25. Wickle upstairs
  26. Wickle downstairs
  27. Crumbs
  28. PJ’s@30
  29. Cheese Please
  30. Fillers
  31. The White Hart
  32. Pelham House Hotel
  33. Back Yard Cafe (Needlemakers’)
  34. Flint Owl Bakery shop
  35. Lewes Patisserie
  36. Grange Gardens
  37. Pell’s Pool kiosk
  38. Bean + Bun
  39. Caffe Nero ** NATIONAL CHAIN
  40. Beckworths (takeaway)
  41. Castle Sandwich Bar
  42. Anne of Cleeves House cafe
  43. Lewes Fish Bar
  44. Southdown Sports Club (Caffe Lazzati)
  45. Tina’s Kitchen
  46. Shelley’s Hotel
  47. Greenies
  48. Hannah’s Van (Mobile)

This is Hi-Fi

I apologise in advance for this rather extreme short essay. But it occurred to me that the processes music goes through in order to be reproduced via LP records would be in the realm of sado-masochistic novel writing if they had not already been invented.

This is meant to be comedy. But it’s not far from the truth!

This is Hi-Fi

So you’ve made this lush production, full-range sound, lots of dynamic range, in stereo. Perfectly edited, vivid, convincing audio with no noise or interruptions, and little distortion.

Oh, you’re filtering off everything below 40Hz, and mixing everything below 90Hz into mono, and dropping things above 16kHz? What on earth for? Double-basses are meant to be on the right of the orchestra aren’t they?

Now you’re going to change the frequency response of the whole thing quite madly so the high frequencies sear your ears while the low end is lost in hum? That sounds dreadful, to be honest.

You want to send it into a microscopic mechanical transducer?

But you’re not going to couple that transducer to another transducer with a rigid material, but instead attach it to a pointy thing and make it scratch its shape on a spinning piece of brittle plastic? And the plastic doesn’t stay at a constant speed, but starts around 50cm/sec but later slows down to below the speed of professional tape, maybe about 20cm/sec? And you have to put a vacuum cleaner behind the pointy sharp thing that carves so the bits it scratches away are sucked up? And the plastic doesn’t stay where it was put? And there’s dust in the room? And the plastic is affected by temperature?

Now you’re going to move that plastic into a chemical vat that looks more like a sheep-dip container than a concert hall, and you’re growing a layer of metal on it? Did I see you physically break the metal off the plastic? And you’re growing another layer on that, breaking it off like you burst open a bubble-pack; and you’re growing yet another layer on that? And after all that mess and bending and breakage, you’re squirting consumer-grade thermoplastic onto that and crushing it with the weight of a bus in the hope it might take up the same shape?

Are you sure that hole is exactly in the middle?

That thermoplastic isn’t really very hard, is it? But you say you want to take it through the open air into an average domestic room full of dust, and risk handling it outside any protective wrapping, with bare hands? What’s that platter you’re putting it on? Are you sure it’s clean?

Do you think it reasonable to force this malleable, soft, damageable, melt-prone plastic past a piece of incredibly-hard diamond kept in place by bits of rubber led by gravity and inertia, together with corrections that are almost impossibly small to determine? How on earth is this not going to damage the delicate plastic? The diamond isn’t even the same shape as the pointy thing that cut the hard plastic in the first place. And it isn’t meeting the slash in the plastic at quite the same angle the pointy thing made the cut in the harder plastic? And you balance the little diamond so carefully that it nearly but doesn’t leap out of the slash in the plastic, but it’s still deforming the plastic through friction because it’s so hard, and you’re slamming it into walls of soft plastic up to 20,000 times each second? What if you accidentally knock the little diamond?

Now you’re going to attach the diamond to another transducer the price of a house, and yet so delicate that the capacitance of the connecting cable affects the signal badly? And you’re going to roll off the top, boost the bottom so it rumbles, and amplify THAT so loudly that you can hear it but not so loudly that it, too, rattles the little diamond?

And THAT’s Hi-Fi?

Honour Railway Pioneers: Run The Service

Generations of hard-working people toiled and risked their lives on the railways when they were being developed. In all conditions and across every kind of territory, they laid rails the length and breadth of Britain, and developed the machines to provide a public service.

Workers have been killed in falls, in collisions, by poisoning, by electric shock, by enemy bombs during wars, by fatigue, and by many other causes. They laboured and sometimes gave their lives to make a public railway for the good of the nation, where all passengers are trusted and treated well according to their payment of the fare, and where all workers are trusted and fairly treated according to their contracts. Today, I believe most people who work on railways still uphold these standards. Equally, the people who develop railway technology, or who have the vision to raise funding for rail development, do this because they want to build a better service for all the public — unless they’re merely opportunist investors.

Today, the Department for Transport, Govia Thameslink and the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers have jointly shown they are unable to run a service. I see this as an insult to these workers’ sacrifices; and to the hundreds of thousands of ordinary people who pay their taxes, and who pay for their railway tickets. Today is the day to agree to stop the insults, and remember who put the railway there in the first place.

Automation—The Radio Authority Spoke Out

As increasing numbers of British independent radio stations use greater amounts of automation, or voice tracking, I was amused to read what the Radio Authority (Ofcom‘s predecessor) decided about automation only fifteen years ago.

Today’s radio market is, of course, very different. Intensity of competition, especially from non-radio sources of entertainment, is a far greater challenge compared to what it was at the opening of this century.

Who knows how the market might change in the face of the post-dotcom generation? Will leadership in forming taste become too fragmented, and the vacuum need filling? In music radio, could real presenters, experiencing minute-by-minute the music they are playing, be valued once more?

For another perspective, see the foot of this post.

♫ “You’ve yet to have your finest hour.” ♪

Click here to read the entire set of Radio Authority minutes.

Automation

Following on from the discussion at the September meeting, Members decided to set a limit on the amount of automated programming to be generally allowed in daytime on local radio stations. The general limits would be two hours a day on FM stations, and four hours a day on those AM stations which are obliged to broadcast twelve hours or more of locally produced and presented programming. Staff could negotiate different limits, on request, in accordance to specified criteria. The stations would each be written to setting out the limits and giving an opportunity for representations to be made in respect of individual formats.

This decision on automation was not made on the basis that automated programming was necessarily undesirable. On the contrary, Members recognised that automation had a valuable part to play, particularly for overnight programming and for specialist shows.

However, they felt that the “localness” of stations would be jeopardised if programming were allowed to be automated for more than limited periods during the day and also the “liveness” of the medium, a feature of radio highlighted by the Authority in its White Paper submission in July 2000.

They also considered that listeners have a reasonable expectation for presentation to be live, and that too high a level of automation could undermine the trust that exists between the station and its audience. This in turn would affect both the quality of programme output and the reputation of the industry as a whole.

It was a fundamental part of the Authority’s statutory duties not to permit such a situation to occur. Consequently, the Authority decided to impose constraints on the amount of daytime automated programming without prior consent.

Meanwhile, Andrew Gray writes about the same topic HERE.

University of Surrey Tonmeister Lecture

Thank you, Institute of Sound Recording! I was very touched by your welcome yesterday, though have never been introduced as a “Legendary Tonmeister” before. To be honest, that description is better owned by the likes of graduates such as Francis Rumsey, Mike Hatch or Jim Abbiss to name but three.

A full house of 2nd-year and final-year students, along with distinguished staff and alumni, came to hear my stories of music production, laughed in (some of) the right places, and asked a few challenging questions. If you were there and didn’t manage to speak up in the time allocated, please make contact through this blog or through the department.

Interest was expressed in being able to hear or see again the extracts of music and film that were critiqued, so I shall upload them in a way that might be useful to you in the near future.

The IoSR kindly organised some decent playback kit; my inability to see any of my lecture notes was my fault alone, so some of the material below wasn’t used in the lecture. Nevertheless, when it is written-up, it may possibly make sense.

This isn’t a blog version of my talk — you must come to the lecture for that — but you might it helpful to have notes of the recordings I used.

Each and every extract of a recording is accompanied by a critique of the performance or technique exhibited, so can be shown publicly in this context under the doctrine of Fair Use (in the USA) or Fair Dealing (in the UK, Europe and many Commonwealth countries).

Some recordings, e.g. the Stokowski, Stravinsky and Delibes early stereo examples, and the critique of the Elgar and Duke Ellington “accidental stereo” recordings, are still to be added. As is the tape of the Walter Gieseking Beethoven concerto performance recorded in Berlin in January 1945 where you can hear the bombs falling in the slow movement, again in stereo.

Index Description Date/Location Medium
1 Preussische Staatskapelle Berlin cond. Herbert von Karajan — Anton Bruckner, Symphony No. 8 in C minor, WAB 108 (III: Finale) 29 September 1944; Berlin Stereo tape
2 Michael Flanders & Donald Swann — A Song Of Reproduction (At The Drop Of A Hat) 2 May 1959; The Fortune Theatre, London Stereo tape
3 Paid in Full performed by Eric B. & Rakim, written by Eric Barrier and Rakim Allah 1985; Powerplay Studios, New York City Stereo tape
4 A Journey Into Sound — Train sequence, narrator: Geoffrey Sumner 1957, London Stereo tape via LP Decca SKL 4001
5 Under The Bridges of Paris played by Edmundo Ros and His Orchestra; Ping, Pong demonstration 1957, London Stereo tape via LP Decca SKL 4001
6 Cincinnati Pops Orchestra cond. Erich Kunzel; The Year 1812 (Festival Overture), by P.I.Tchaikovsky 1978; The Music Hall, Cincinnati, Ohio Soundstream digital + video
7 London Symphony Orchestra cond. André Previn: Images for Orchestra (I: Gigues) July 1979; No. 1 Studio, Abbey Road Prototype 14-bit stereo digital recorder
8 Something played by Steve Marcus (tenor saxophone), J. Inagaki & Soul Media 1970/71, Tokyo NHK 13-bit digital recorder
9 USA TV ad: Ronco Record Vacuum Unknown and best forgotten Unknown
10 Latin lesson April 1938; Eltham College, Mottingham, London BBC disc 870625
11 Let’s Begin played by Paul Whiteman and His Orchestra January 1933, New York City Victor, shellac disc 24453
12 Corner Pocket played by Harry James and His Orchestra 1976, Wylie Chapel, Hollywood LP disc
13 Money from the album Jazz Side Of The Moon Sepember 11–12 2007, St Peter’s Episcopal Church, New York City 24-bit stereo digital recording
14 I Can’t Quit You Baby performed by Led Zeppelin on the album Led Zeppelin Olympic Studios, London, 1968 Stereo tape
15 I Got A Woman performed by Ray Charles 18 November 1954, WGST, Atlanta, Georgia Mono tape
16 Alan Blumlein’s first stereo test 14 December 1933, EMI auditorium, Hayes, Middlesex British Library shelf mark 9TS0003378 two-track disc
17 Alan Blumlein’s first stereo test film 1933, EMI auditorium, Hayes, Middlesex Film, and two-track disc
18 Channel 9 (Australia) Today programme: Blattnerphone Restored 1992, Telstra Labs, Melbourne VHS off-air video / Blattnerphone tape
19 Preussische Staatskapelle Berlin cond. Herbert von Karajan — Anton Bruckner, Symphony No. 8 in C minor, WAB 108 (III: Finale) 29 September 1944; Berlin Stereo tape
20 Boston Symphony Orchestra cond. Pierre Monteux; Delibes: Coppelia suite December 1953, Manhattan Centre, New York City Stereo tape
21 Norelco 150 Cassette Recorder demo 1964, United States Duplicated Compact Cassette
22 Una furtiva lagrima from Donizetti: L’elisir D’amore February 1st 1904, Room 826, Carnegie Hall, New York City Single-sided shellac Victor 85021
23 Thomas A. Edison: Electricity and Progress for the opening of the New York Electrical Show October 3 1908 Edison Gold Moulded cylinder (unissued), NPS object catalog number: EDIS 39835

A Government Falls

For some reason this morning, while watching the featureless sky outside this window and waiting for Prime Minister’s Questions to start, I’m reminded of a turning point in British political history.

Thanks to the UK Parliamentary Recording Unit, you can hear the exact moment in 1979 when James Callaghan’s Labour government was challenged, by Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative opposition, to a vote of no confidence. As everyone knows, the vote was carried and thus an election was forced leading to a succession of Conservative governments.

The speeches surrounding this motion, by the two party leaders, can be heard in longer form by clicking this link.

A Lot To Learn

Today, Thursday 21st August, the GCSE exam results come out. In my schooldays, we went through the same results procedures for our O-levels and CSEs, although coursework generally wasn’t assessed. This was the first time we’d ever experienced result nerves, as the staff rifled through sealed envelopes until the correct name was found.

It was considered normal at my large, good, comprehensive school to take somewhere between four and ten exams. Today, teenagers regularly sit many more than this, and marvellous alternative qualifications are available for young people whose examination skills don’t match their real-world virtuosity.

We had most of the benefits that modern times bring: safe food and water, the National Health Service, easy transport with much cheaper petrol, luxuries spread around more classes than in our parents’ time, and lots of entertainment on record and cassette tape.

But we didn’t have the Internet with the immense, often anonymous, social pressures it brings to young minds.

A sixteen-year-old today can debate directly over Twitter with, for example, Richard Dawkins, Buzz Aldrin or Lily Allen; but he or she is also subject to anonymous and permanent criticism or attack on any aspect of their life, real or imagined, from any corner of the globe. Likewise, almost every media outlet was heavily edited: we had newspapers, radio and tv, but zines and self-published information were much more scarce than they are today. Blogs or instant social networks, outside radio hams and CBers, were just a dream. Now, teenagers must think editorially from their earliest exposure to the Internet, or be misled.

For sixteen-year-olds today, it seems to me that there’s much more to learn, and to refute, than there was for us in 1980, thirty-four years ago.