I am not a big fan of any sport, but over the years, I have watched some formula 1 motor racing. To be quite honest, it’s a great way of being sent to sleep on a Sunday afternoon.

I remember the good days of Senna, Prost, Mansell, Piquet, Hunt, Hill and others.

When Michael Schumacher was driving, he was so good he won pretty much everything. Commentators and others said it was all a bit boring, predictable. Now Lewis Hamilton wins everything (well almost, he has had some penalties), but no-one says it’s boring, predictable, even though it is. I wonder why?

Sometimes things do happen to make it interesting, but usually it goes:

  • qualifying: Hamilton first, Bottas second then the rest
  • the race: Hamilton goes into a quick lead, changes his tyres, still leads, wins
  • it’s a procession of the rest

I’m not trying to say that Hamilton does not deserve to win, or is not good. Just that generally, it can be dull stuff. Even the Sky commentators say that.

The lockdown

I am trying very hard to not write about the virus, but it seems it cannot be ignored right now. So many people, months ago, warned us that the virus would be back, erm bigly, in the winter. Here we are in autumn (fall) and it has already begun.

The government in the UK, maybe elsewhere too, uses a number called the R value. It indicates how many other people a person with the virus will infect (on average). Zero means no-one gets infected, which is good. One is a kind of steady state. More than one means it is growing. The aim was to be less than one, but now it is above.

I don’t know what they use to calculate this number. I assumed there would be a formula, but I am sure someone once said, when asked, that they take into account a whole load of factors (in other words, anything they can think of that’s relevant), and then estimate it (ie they guess).

We now have new rules. Pubs close at 10pm (so people can pile out together into the streets, into off licences or public transport to spread the virus). No more than six people can meet.

The dog

When I was young and collecting LPs, that was an expensive hobby. Yes, an album was indeed under £2, but when your pocket money was just the equivalent of 50p per month, that was tough.

Very few bands produced more than one album a year, and we were always on the hunt for new people to explore. There were several factors we used to decide whether an artist might be of interest:

  • word of mouth
  • appearances on John Peel, Old Grey Whistle Test or other shows
  • reviews
  • comparisons with similar bands
  • friends having copies
  • sampler LPs
  • anyone in the band who had been in other bands we liked
  • the record label
  • the instrumentation of the band

One factor that often swung it for me was the use of the mellotron. There was a style of music I loved that was well suited to this machine, and many of my absolute favoutites even now used a mellotron (King Crimson, The Moody Blues, Barclay James Harvest, PFM…). One band I found that had at least two mellotron players was Pavlov’s Dog, from St Louis.

The band’s first album… no, let’s come back to that. The band’s first commercially released album, on two different record labels, was called Pampered Menial. There were three guitarists, two keyboard players (both using mellotron), drummer and a strings player.