This is a great guitar which I was given to me, buy a local Irish musical instrument shop many years ago—for free!
As Han Solo once said of his ship Millennium Falcon, “I know it doesn’t look like much, but she’s got it where it counts, kid.” In fact, my friend Ben Prevo even made a few modifications himself!
It was an amazing stroke of luck really. I was at the music shop counter, in the late 1990s, and my eye was caught by the book-matched flame-maple back of a blonde, parlour size guitar. The rib/side of it was flame maple too, and the neck was pale to match. It stood against the wall behind the counter, facing the wall. The conversation with the assistant went something like this:
“Oh, that’s an interesting looking guitar. What is it?” (I’d been very interested in old vintage parlour guitars, and I was a gigging acoustic blues player at the time)
“(pfft) That? Yeah, someone left it in to see if we could do anything with it, but it’s in bad shape and not really worth fixing.”
“Can I have a look at it?” (not expecting to try to buy it or anything, just very curious)
He picks it up and plonks it on the counter, face up. It’s pretty ugly from the front. The top looks like a plywood spruce door and it has a horrible lumpy mess of old varnish all over it. The Bridge is the worst. It’s cracked from left to right and is lifting up from the soundboard, under the tension of the strings. Actually, there might only have been a bass E and A on it. There was even a screw driven though it, I think, hence the split wood. The area around the bridge looked scarred and awful as if a bridge tore off from it, with the glue pulling a layer of spruce with it.
I think I remarked that it didn’t look as nice as I expected but that it was “still pretty interesting.” Then the assistant surprised me:
“You can have it if you like. The owner left it in ages ago and has lost interest in it.”
Strangely—for me—I didn’t immediately jump at the chance of a free guitar. It was in a terrible state, but I said, “Maybe I could fix it up and give it to my nephew.” Because it’s about 3/4 size.
“It’s all yours.” He said. I think he might have even added that he thought they’d never get rid of it.
I brought it home and thought about what it might be like for my nephew to play. Gingerly, I tuned up the couple of strings, fearing the bridge would fly off. Then, I plucked the bass E string—or maybe half of an E chord. My God, the sensation! The guitar vibrated through my whole body, starting with my rib-cage. And it sounded big and deep. Bigger and deeper than I expected a 3/4 guitar to sound.
I thought, “I don’t think I’ll give this to my nephew.”
(My dad, John White Sr. hand-wrote the following notes about his own dad, for his grand-daughter’s school essay)
A Serbian student assassinated the Crown Prince of Austria. This gave the Crown Princes and Kings of Europe a chance to fight each other. These Kings and Princes were all cousins:
- The King of England
- Kaiser Wilhelm and
- The Tzar (YAPb) of Russia
Needless to say, these royals did not want to get their hands dirtied whilst they sat warm and snug in their palaces. They left their dirty work to their ordinary citizens. One of those citizens was Jack White.
He joined up in the Royal Horse Artillery, in the 51st Highland Division. He was 16 years of age. He was to take part in the Battles of Ypres (‘Wipers’), Mons and Paschendale. He was to be far from warm and snug. His main concern was to keep warm, that his mother would send him a food parcel from home and that if he was to be wounded it would be enough to get him sent home to England, but not leave him too disabled. (Called a ‘Blighty Wound’. John Jr.)
Well, he certainly was not warm. He bore the marks of frostbite on his fingers and toes until he died.
If he got a food parcel from his mother it would be set upon by his comrades like ravenous dogs. You see, the warm snug Princes and Kings weren’t too worried about about their soldiers and feeding them.
When Jack was wounded, his leather belt stopped the shrapnel from making too big a hole in his back. It wasn’t big enough at 4 inches for him to be sent home. Nor when his foot was smashed crossing a river frozen river when one of his horses slipped and fell on him was the damage considered enough to send him home. He died at 85 years of age and the smashed, distorted bones in his limping foot were still plain to see.
Jack had many painful memories, like when Ginger, a 40 year old cockney who had taken him under his wing, was mortally wounded. As Jack nursed his dying friend, with his head in his lap, Ginger asked for a Woodbine. Jack lit one for him and put it in his mouth. Only when Jack smelt the the cigarette burning Ginger’s lips did he look down to see that his father figure had died. (Jack’s actual father had died when Jack was very young. John W.) Ginger left a wife and children behind him in London. His wife would receive a 1 and a half line telegram to the effect that “The (warm and snug) King regrets to inform you that your husband has been killed in action.”
Jack had to bury another friend, or at least, his friend’s leg, for that was all that was all that they found of him after a German shell landed immediately in front of him and his horse. Jack said you couldn’t tell what was man and what was horse.
Not all Jack’s pain and discomfort was caused by the enemy. Like the night he spent tied to the wheel of a gun carriage for swearing at an officer, or being put on a charge for being muddy along with his horses when some big General had come to the front line to inspect the troops. The reason why Jack’s horses and their horse-brasses were dirty was that he had spent the whole morning from dawn, running ammunition up the line. This involved, on each trip, a mad dash across a clearing so that every time Jack appeared in the clearing with his team of horses and ammunition carriage they would would him have it.
After Jack was charged, the big General presumably back to his warm snug head quarters.
These are some of the memories of Jack White, a teenage soldier of the First World War.
When Jack came back to his home town of Liverpool, the country he had fought for had no work for him. He was unemployed and penniless.
One day, still wearing his uniform, he was thrown off a a tram because he didn’t have the full fare. Jack might have expected that the horrendous experiences of only weeks before might have gone unrecognised by his King but not a tram conductor!
This final story sums up Jack’s attitude to war: The ones who cause them never suffer, the ones who fight them soon have their efforts forgotten.
The lesson to be learned, so Jack was always saying is this: Before you fight a battle at the request of a King, President, Prime Minister, Taoiseach, politician, terrorist leader or whoever, check to see if they will be getting their hands dirtied (bloodied) too.
— by John Arthur White (my dad)
Here’s another artistic/Design process article for you; showing how I created this illustration with pencil, paper and Photoshop. (See more of my illustrations at my portfolio: johniwhite.com)
Where Did the Idea Come From?
I wanted to experiment with pencil drawing – and Photoshop. So: no inks and no graphics tablet for the drawing phase. But what to draw?
The subject idea probably popped into my mind after walking through Knocksink Wood, near Enniskerry, County Wicklow here in Ireland. There was lots of ivy all over the trees, and it reminded me of tentacles (and snakes, which I can’t bear!).
How Did I do it?
There’s a children’s programme on these days which is just… horrid. It’s called ‘Yo Gabba Gabba’. I can’t even begin to tell you how annoying it is. Johnny likes it – now and again. It’s like 12 horrifying hours of repeated nightmares that you might have had when you were young, enduring a delirious hell-night with brain fever or something. Charlie Brooker tears it apart at 5.53 mins into this:
The rest of his brilliant shredding of bad children’s TV starts at 2.25mins. Don’t watch it from 0.00 as it’s a tribute to the Chuckle Bros.
After watching Pixar movies like an addict since Chrimbo – Johnny discovered the much simpler Peppa Pig and ‘Ben and Holly’s Little Kingdom’. Wonderful – genius animated programmes. Seriously, they are pure gold. I like them as much as he does. The design is so simple, the animation so rudimentary (though perfectly executed) it’s a wonder that the characters feel as real and funny as they do. But they do. Amazingly good little films.
Have you ever thought about your soul – can it be saved?
Or perhaps you think that when you’re dead you just stay in your grave
Is God just a thought within your head or is he a part of you?
Is Christ just a name that you read in a book when you were in school?
When you think about death do you lose your breath or
do you keep your cool?
Would you like to see the Pope on the end of a rope
do you think he’s a fool?
Well I have seen the truth, yes I’ve seen the light and I’ve changed my ways
And I’ll be prepared when you’re lonely and scared at the end of our days
Could it be you’re afraid of what your friends might say
If they knew you believe in God above?
They should realize before they criticize
that God is the only way to love
Mel Brooks once quipped about the difference between comedy and tragedy:
“Tragedy is when I cut my finger.
Comedy is when you walk into an open sewer and die.”
Is that ‘Shadenfreude’?
Forget ‘Men in Tights’ – his film ‘The Producers’ is to my mind, the funniest film ever made (except maybe for Monty Python’s ‘Life of Brian’). Featuring tragic comedy genius Zero Mostel. I say tragic because he was blacklisted during Continue reading
Cowen and Co. say it won’t precipitate a general election but at least we get to give them a good kicking. Who knows though… the Greens might finally do the right thing and walk.
So I’m eagerly anticipating my chance to cast votes tonight. The downside of election day is the absence of media coverage (for good reason) and the wait for the results will be painful.
Whoever you support, go out and vote. You don’t know how hard it was to write that.
Using the famous example of the rubber mat – with objects of differing masses. And to think that I was so bored in Physics class. My teacher J.R. Lynch would be proud of me now.
I suppose I should have said “Deliver us from…” but no, I so dislike exaggeration. Ha ha. Many people – both the smart arses and the depressed – often shrug and exclaim:
“What’s the point? I’m not voting for anyone. Sure what difference does it make?”
Then my wife says:
“At least you have a vote. Be grateful – and use it!”
OK, our democracy might not be perfect, yes, it can be manipulated outside of the electorate’s control; but Irish people fought and died for the right to vote (yep, dem lads in de history bewks). Be thankful and perhaps, like me, you’ll look forward – with relish – to giving this shower in government a bloody nose on June 5th.