Sunday, 11 November 2007

Breathe... something I haven't been able to do for the last fortnight - through my nose, that is. Turns out my "bit-of-a-cold" that I'd had while up in Inversness has mutated gloriously into full-blown sinusitis, which is the main reason it's been two weeks since I last inflicted my ramblings on the world. Having finally got the kids in bed, I sat down at the computer last Sunday evening, fully intending to regurgitate further choice anecdotal witticisms regarding music shops I have known and loved (i.e. where the long-suffering staff tolerated me on a regular basis), but after several abortive attempts at an opening sentence, I succumbed pathetically to the lure of a comfy Ikea chair (one of those slightly odd, 'bouncy' ones) and thought-process-free television. (Oh, the privations I suffer for my art! ).

Trying to understand this interruption of my usual logorrheic flow, I originally came up with a (deeply uninformed) theory that the incredible pressure in my sinus cavities was somehow pressing on the brain itself, causing an impingement in the areas most closely associated with creativity, language, and drivel-related hormone levels. A whole five minutes' worth of careful research, however, demonstrated that this hypothesis was, in technical terms, "total bollocks". More likely it was just the amygdala, (due to intense irritability), lashing out and giving Broca's & Wernicke's areas (speech/language) a bit of abuse, resulting in it being served with an ASBO (for the non-British out there, that's the generally-ineffectual "Anti-social Behaviour Order", widely regarded as a 'badge of honour' amongst the Neds they're mostly handed out to. For those unfamiliar with the term "Neds", it is acceptable to substitute "Shuggies", or "Jaikies", instead, as in the common expression, "They Weegie Jaikies is aw monged oan ra Buckie, man!". Not, it must be stressed, to be confused with, "Gadgie", as in "Yon gadgie's a barrie radge, man!". That would just be silly), by my orbito-frontal cortex (inhibiting socially-unacceptable behaviour) acting as a cranial police officer. Or possibly not.

Anyway, as any singer will tell you - well, any singer who has half a notion of what they're doing, and roughly how to control the process (which is a frighteningly small proportion of all the "vocalists" out there)- sinusitis is a right bugger, since it completely screws up your resonance and pitching (quite apart from your face hurting - a bit like trying to play a 38+1/2"-scale, no-dot-markers-fretless, plastic bass that gave your fingers a small electric shock every time they touched the strings). Not that I'm doing any proper singing these days, I just felt like whinging a bit more . If I were still involved in recital stuff, by now I'd almost certainly have fallen-back on the old favourite cure-all, gin-and-lemsip...which works, but you really do have to concentrate a little harder....

Aside from the obvious (sore, tired, irritable, nose doing Niagara impressions - and thanks to the joys of hayfever, I've done gigs where I knew my nasal excretions were streaming steadily down onto my instrument, but couldn't stop playing to do anything about it - always nice at a wedding ), the biggest problems I've had are losing the senses of smell & taste (which makes cooking for the kids slightly tricky - just how many chilis did I put in this stuff, hmmm? Reckon it could do with some more...). On the other hand, no.2 son's nappies have been far more pleasant to deal with (how come we never seem to fully acclimatise to that particular odour?), and I can afford to indulge the "I-feel-ill-so I want-ice-cream" cravings with the really cheap stuff that would otherwise taste like petrochemical run-off. See? There's always a bright side!

Mind you, the more I researched sinusitis and its possible causes, the more I wished I'd left well alone - reading about all the tiny things that can go wrong with your mucociliary system, (the mucus that lines/humidifies/protects your respiratory bits, and the movement & drainage thereof - do blogs get more exciting than this? I mean, do they? ), is enough to turn anyone into a raging hypochondriac - I'm currently convinced I've got nasal polyps. Or non-functioning sinus cilia. Or both!

Seriously, though, the weirdest thing I found out was the huge economic impact of nasal/sinus conditions - I could only get stats for the USA (i.e. I had a brief look elsewhere, but rapidly lost interest when it became obvious that effort might be required), but I think (hope) you might find them as interesting as I do (N.B. I have no life/friends):

* Sinusitis affects c. 14% of the US population annually.
* It accounts for c. 28.2 million visits to the doctor per year.
* Almost $6 billion (!) p.a. is spent on sinusitis, of which c. $2.2 billion goes on medication.

Which just goes to prove the old saying - "Where there's mucus, there's brass!"

Finally, before anyone starts thinking I'm as obsessed with my nasal passages, (and what comes out of them in a multi-coloured form first thing in the morning - aren't you glad I shared?), as that old quackmeister Sigmund Fraud - definitely not about to try his cure-of-choice, cocaine - I'm going to lurch unpredictably off in a completely different direction. Now, anyone who knows me at all is aware that I don't dance. It may be slightly ironic that I spent 8 years in ceilidh bands persuading semi-drunk strangers to cast off their inhibitions and fling each other around by whatever came to hand, but I was never one of those callers who jumps onto the dance floor at the merest sniff of an opportunity to show off their twinkling footwork - giving instructions (and talking a load of old shite into the bargain ) was the full extent of my involvement in the enterprise. Nor, it must be said, have I ever had any great interest in, or experience of, "Latin American" music, except for what cropped-up in the odd bit of Jaco Pastorius / Weather Report.

Which is why discovering the incredible gorgeousness of Lidia Borda's voice and music took me completely by surprise. No disrespect to all the other vastly talented, original, brilliant, amazing, etc,etc (will that sycophancy suffice?) artists on my "friends" list - you're all fabulous, too, but you work within genres that I'm at least reasonably familiar with, styles that feel pleasantly comfortable, like a good pair of well-worn-in Marks & Spencer boxer shorts. Ms. Borda and her sultry tango songs (drown your ears in the vocal equivalent of molten 72%-cocoa-solids chocolate!) are an utterly new experience to me, and one which I cannot recomend highly enough to anyone reading this. Not that I understand a word of what she's singing, of course, but when it's so beautifully expressed, who cares? And the four tracks on her site are all available to download - for free! This could, might I suggest, even be the ultimate music for, er, "impressing the ladies", shall we say, chaps? Try slipping one of her cd's on in between the (more traditionally blokey) speed metal, obscure prog, and free jazz, and see what happens...

Not that I'd know anything about the noble arts of romance & seduction - just ask my wife!

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