Thursday, 30 April 2009

Thirteen posts in April

...just feels appropriate. Therefore, this is the thirteenth post in April.

That's all for now. See you in May.

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Ce soir

Here's but a mild taste of some of the dramatic stuff we've been experiencing for the last half an hour or so round these parts. It's still going on, too.

Monday, 27 April 2009


I was rummaging through a box of old stuff I'd forgotten I had, and I found this. Yes, they're a cast of my own set. The front (broken) tooth had been shaved down ready for a porcelain veneer to be fitted. In the interim, I remember just how delicate and excruciating an operation it was just to clean my teeth without screaming.

Well, if I were to meet my demise in some grisly blogging-related accident, at least you'll be able to identify me via my dental records.

Saturday, 25 April 2009

Misreading The Signs (5)

My own post from a week or so ago:

Thoughts and bollocks

Talk about shooting oneself in the foot.

A certain level of wanton derangement

Days before Christmas, I was stood in a friend's recently-acquired studio, in apprehension of a large painting he was working on.

He was rightly proud and pleased to have a studio, finally, to be able to invite me to see. I was pleased for the same reasons, and also because I was full of my own pride and sense of fulfillment at having played a central part in the creation of a huge mural for a project with the art group at work. I had my laptop with me, and was able to show him the photographs of the various stages of the project, and of its successful completion.

We were both, in many senses, in a good place.

Yet there was something that was daunting me a little: I wondered, since it had been far too long since I had been in such a situation, whether I would be able to gain anything of any worth or meaning from standing in front of this painting and its associated works? Could I, furthermore, impart any comments, criticisms or insights into the same?

The painter in question is, after all, one of my closest friends. That (for me) rare breed, the sort of person with whom I can fiercely disagree, be angry with, express frustration at, lock horns with: because we have for 20 years had sufficient mutual respect and understanding - both tacitly and overtly acknowledged - to be able to do those things, because we know it's ok to be able to. Of course that leaves so many omissions, in terms of the kind of values we share and the strength, support and unconditional acceptance we can give each other, which hasn't been without its most severe tests.

Anyway. I stood there feeling a little daunted, as mentioned, as my friend departed the room for a few minutes and left me alone in that space. I looked at the work. I moved up close to scrutinise the detail, I stepped back to view (quite literally) the bigger picture. I wondered whether the painting was matching the intentions he had expressed on preliminary works and related studies...I considered whether he might need to modulate this area given that it threatened to unbalance various other aspects of the composition.

I began to consider the implications of certain elements of what he was doing, and began to piece together a sense both of process and of meaning.

Then he walked back into the room and I debated his work with him for a good hour, leaving no stone unturned as we both relished some rather intense discourse. We gesticulated, pontificated, and even said some big and clever words and stuff.

It was exhilarating, not least because suddenly I was in the throes of something which used to be like bread and butter to me, that of being actively exercised within a critical and creative context. It also felt - and my friend agreed - like a missing jigsaw piece of one's mood and mental processes fitting back into place: an exaggeration, surely, but we both wondered as to how we'd managed to retain a sufficient level of sanity over the years with such restricted access to the kind of thing we always found to be not only fulfilling, but of fundamental necessity.

There is a converse, as I've remembered this week with all the hours that I've worked on my music. To be able to undertake such creative ventures in the first place, it feels as though one needs to be able to tap into a certain level of derangement within oneself. It also feels that it's healthy and necessary to be able to tap into such things, to channel them and to facilitate expression of them.

I know I'm not saying anything new or original by any means here (or that such a notion hasn't been viewed with cynicism), it's just that everytime I do engage afresh with such processes, it seems ever more apparent that this is the case.

It takes me back to the years in which I would wake in the middle of the night and realise that I'd neither switched off my mind (which would still be fitting melody lines into odd time signatures running concurrently) nor my computer, which would still be quietly playing cycles of music I'd worked on in a neverending loop. Or when I had to rearrange all the furniture in my flat while I was working on something: I can't even remember why now, but it had to be done, and until then I couldn't progress.

I also remember the occasions when a musical collaborator (the same friend above) and I would get hideously drunk and spend the night hours working on music...then there'd be a click of the tape machine as it got to the end. The sound would wake us up with a shock. Disorientated, we'd rewind the tape, listen back and look at each other with an expression which said, did we really just record that?

Not that such occasions are any real reflection of the sense of derangement of which I speak. They're purely surface, and even sound a little juvenile to me now: I would hope that any real glimpses are to be gained within the music itself.

Such derangement feels like a friend to be ignored at my peril, and I sometimes wonder about that.

Thursday, 23 April 2009

Light and shade

I've been working consistently on the music this week. As well as the benefits of immersing myself in that and getting back in touch with all the good things about it (as well as giving my poor ears a bit of a battering), I think it's also lessened the blow of going back to work after a couple of weeks off.

As in, I feel ok, as opposed to feeling really pissed off and like I've got the weight of the world on my shoulders and everything's wrong and so on.

No, at least at the moment, I'm alright.

I really should take heed of such things.

Here are a couple of photos I took at the end of last weekend (and a fabulous weekend it was), they capture some of the mood and - if I may say so - I think they turned out rather well.

Oh, and somehow I've managed 250 blog posts on these here pages.

Monday, 20 April 2009


Although I've had plenty of time off work recently - firstly through illness and then through taking annual leave for my birthday week - I haven't allowed myself much time to work on music.

Which has been fine, since I've had plenty of other things to be doing: most enjoyable they have been too.

But which hasn't been fine, since I've another performance-related deadline looming ever closer, which has been nagging away at me, and giving rise to thoughts and feelings such as the following:

I don't have enough time.
I'm not happy with what I've done so far.
It's going to be disappointing.
I'm not confident: with my work so far, with my abilities.
Maybe I'm just not that into it any more.
Maybe I haven't got that spark.
I'm letting myself down.
It feels like a chore.

Then I spend an evening like this evening - spending plenty of time, as much as anything, getting myself into a suitable frame of mind: not least doing what I can so as to try putting the above kind of thoughts to one side. One thing which seems to help, is to repeat to myself the following phrase:

I don't give a fuck.

The less pressure I put on myself to produce anything which sounds good, or which sounds like something someone else would like or even give a fuck about, the better. It's a mixture of a defensive posture and also a liberating one.

And yet, even as I loaded up the computer software and gathered my haphazard array of instruments and devices, it seemed like it wasn't going to be fun. Again, a chore, a reflection on what I wouldn't be able to achieve.

Time to tell myself something yet again: it doesn't matter if I spend an hour producing something terrible, embarrassing or appalling. Just spend the time doing it all the same.

And so to work.

Hours later, I've re-emerged, having had a whale of a time, and having made great strides in one particular piece I'm working on, seemingly effortlessly. With confidence, with playfulness and with an eye on how to take it further and make it even better.

I feel energised, I feel it's part of my language again, I feel a great sense of possibility.

I feel none of the things highlighted above in red.

At times like this (even after my first day back at work today), I love it, and I feel in touch with something utterly, joyously nourishing.

I'm going out for a walk for a short while, then maybe I'll calm down and be able to get some sleep later. It's still a lovely evening out there.

Saturday, 18 April 2009

Top Tips (the first in a probably non existent series)

I treated myself to some rather delicious spiced lamb burgers earlier.

It's amazing, as you can see, just how much fat drips off them when they've been done on the grill. One feels so much better and healthier as a result. Still, for a delicious, flavoursome drink, simply pour some hot water into the drip tray and then transfer the contents to a cup or mug.

Thoughts and books

It's the booze, I remember thinking to myself as I walked home from the pub last night.

Which is interesting really, because I'm not entirely sure now what the it in question actually was. I wasn't anywhere near drunk, in fact I'd made sure I limited my alcohol intake to a small amount. Nor had anything actually happened during the evening that I was reflecting on, that I might feel any need to blame on any amount of booze. It had been a more than pleasant evening spent watching a couple of bands play, whilst slowly supping away at my beer.

So I'm led to wonder if it was in fact a general sense of tiredness and boredom with alcohol which was coming to the fore.


I've had a few travels during the week as part of my time off work, and one place I was very pleased to visit was the small village that is Cromford, which is very scenic. I have memories of passing through there on Sunday afternoons as part of family excursions during childhood. Also in my late teens and early twenties I used to drive out there on spring and summer afternoons with a friend who lived in the vicinity, when we still hadn't gotten over the novelty of smoking extremely strong French cigarettes whilst talking about art and music.

We used to spend a lot of time in the bookshop there, it's one of the nicest places you can visit: a real cornucopia. I didn't get the chance to go in there the other day, but it was enough to see that the place was still there and to take this photograph.

Monday, 13 April 2009

Three and nine doesn't equal twelve

For several years I didn't really celebrate my birthday, except in the most perfunctory of ways - a day or two back at my mum's, the opening of a few presents and so on. I suppose part of it was the attitude of not wanting to make a fuss, and whatever was informing that.

Throughout my twenties it was easy enough to celebrate anyway without making any kind of fuss: it was just a case of, as with everyone else's birthdays, heading down the pub and, er, that was it. But a few years after that, and when the regular crowd had dissipated somewhat, then a certain amount of effort and planning had to be undertaken just to get more than a handful of people in the same room/pub/cinema.

I think part of me really couldn't be bothered with making all that effort (which wasn't exactly that much effort in itself), but I wonder if some of it was about feeling somehow unworthy, or at least uncomfortable with such attention being placed on me. And then I'd invariably feel flat for not having really done anything to celebrate.

I became dissatisfied with this state of affairs, and so made sure that my friends and I at least went to the cinema, or went for a curry and then for drinks - the first couple of years of doing this, I was almost hilariously tense, and more than a little relieved when it was all over. Whether I was worried about making an idiot of myself, or just wanting the event to pass and to just be ok, I'm not sure.

Well I got used to it anyway.

This year I've already done some celebrating, I went out with Fire Byrd (it was her birthday late last week) and Queen Vixen at the weekend, for a marvellous night of curry, a few drinks and some fantastic conversation. They proved once again to be more than genial company. In fact I could converse with them candidly about many things which I would find difficult to talk about with non-blogging friends I've known for years.

Today I'm heading out with friends for lunch at a pub out in the countryside, and I feel very relaxed about the prospect. All being well there should be around ten of us, but I don't feel any pressure to do anything other than just enjoy being there.

I've got the week off work, too, and I'll be spending a couple of days away in the middle of the week.

I can hear the birds singing, and the sun is doing its best to make an appearance.

So, Happy Birthday me.

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

The enemy within

If I had the patience I would find, and link to, a clip from the original Alien movie. In particular, to the famous scene in which John Hurt has to be held down on a table whilst wracked with violent shakes and spasms until a terrifying and malevolent creature bursts into the outside world (well, spaceship anyway) from his stomach...I assume we're all more than familiar with that scene in all its grisly detail.

But no, I don't have the patience or the energy right now.

Still. Never one to get grandiose about my own mercifully rare bouts of ill health (well, maybe sometimes I do exaggerate just a little), I would have used that link as analogous with my own current trials and tribulations. No, I don't quite have alien creatures bursting agonisingly through my stomach walls, but I have had three days of rather violent and explosive disagreements with my digestive system - hopefully, I'm showing signs at last of being on the mend from the worst stomach bug I've ever had (most emphatically not an exaggeration, in case you wondered).

I've probably given far too much information already. I'm just glad it's happened at the start of this week, since I break up from work on Thursday (if I actually feel up to going back to work by then) for just over a week - by which point, fingers crossed, I'll be fighting fit once again.

Saturday, 4 April 2009

I, Precarious (2)

The dreams I've been having have gotten weirder and more vivid (vivider? or even vividerer?) over the last few days, it's almost like there's a real clearing out going on up there - or a kind of stocktaking at least.

In one, I was having a cup of tea (told you it was weird), sat at a table with someone I knew, and my brother was hovering around nearby. The atmosphere and the conversation at the table were fine and the whole setting seemed relaxed enough in itself. I remember looking at the table with the various cups and plates on it, it was a table like those used for outside seating at cafes, with a shiny surface which seemed at once plastic and metallic.

We were indeed sat outside, and there was a little bit of a breeze. We seemed quite high up too. The nearby skyscrapers - well it was interesting to be able to look down on to the top of them, though I don't think my brain's dream-engine conjured up any imagery so obvious as a a bunch of execs playing rooftop golf on specially fitted turf or anything like that. No, they were just the tops of skyscrapers.

Hang on - if we could see down onto the tops of skyscrapers, then we were indeed high up - very high up (notice that for a change I haven't used an expletive for an intensifier, I could have easily said "we were very fucking high up" but I didn't). I suddenly became aware that our chairs and table weren't like normal chairs and tables. Their legs were rather long - we were taller than the skyscrapers, but the chairs and table reached right down to ground level.

My movements, which up until this point had been relaxed and, well, normal, were suddenly tense and frozen, I was in a state of rapidly increasing uneasiness - how on earth was I going to get down? Hugely aware of my own precariousness, and utterly vertiginous. And how did we get up here in the first place? I gripped onto the edge of the table for dear life, the same table that up until now I had been casually leaning on and drinking tea from.

Every movement felt like a trial - one wrong move, it seemed...I clung on and contemplated the terrifying prospect of shinning down the chair legs to get to the ground.

At this point, predictably enough, I woke up, and thought thank shitting crikey for that.

Please note the accompanying diagram, which is merely a guide rather than an accurate representation - I didn't draw it when I was asleep either, just in case you were wondering.

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Frail Polo

My alarm clock clearly knew it was April frigging Fool's Day.

My alarm, on weekdays, goes off at 7.01 am: for that, reasonably enough, is that time at which it is set to go off.

Beep beep beep beep beep (etc).

Wha...uh? It was still dark, and the clock said 12.00. I pressed snooze all the same, then thought, WTF? I pressed on the alarm setting, and the alarm was set at 12.00 also.

Hmm. I found my mobile phone, according to which the time was 1.54 am. Charming - so my clock had somehow managed to reset itself to 12 am. Fortunately I was sleepy enough for this not to be a major disturbance, I was back to sleep within minutes of setting it back to the proper time.

Beep beep beep beep beep (etc). (You should hear an alarm clock say etc, especially when it's parenthesised.)

12.00, said the digital display. I sighed. It was still dark outside. I switched the alarm off, and checked the real time again, c/o my mobile. 3.10 am.

I reset it again, doing the same for the alarm time, and back to bed - and thankfully back to sleep just as quickly as before.

My clock has never done this before. It had better not bleeding well do it again tonight.