Monday, 30 November 2009

A hand on my shoulder

I can always tell when there's something bothering me or just on my mind, since my subconscious tends to cast my dad in a cameo role in one of my dreams. Usually this is unsettling in itself: no matter what he's doing, his very presence nags at me and tells me there's something not right, all isn't as it should be.

The reasons for this will be obvious to those who might recall previous writings about my dad, namely that he's been dead for well over a decade, in fact closer now to a decade and a half. So whenever he appears in a dream scenario, especially if he appears alive and well, then the residue of feelings I have about him tend to resonate with a disquieting plangency.

It reminds me of another dream I sometimes have, that of a loved family cat. In the dream, the cat is sitting purring, contented, on the hot coals of an open fire. The cat looks well, and happy, but I know it shouldn't be, and I have a sense of dread for what must surely be an inevitability.

Last night, my dad was in my dream, but it was different...very different. I was unsettled by my own circumstances, and here was my dad just nearby. Before I could start to think but...hang on, aren't you come you look healthy? or such like, he stood over me, and put a hand on my shoulder.

A very comforting hand on my shoulder. What was communicated from him to me, powerfully but wordlessly, was, it's ok, don't worry. It'll be alright.

This has never been my dream-projection of him before, and on waking this morning, I was quite startled.

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Unmitigated disaster

I've realised that I've got a ritual, particularly the day before I'm due to play a gig. Wednesday saw me enact such a ritual: on getting home from work I plugged everything in and did a final run-through of my set.

Once was enough, I knew it was too late to make any changes. Besides, I was happy enough with what I was playing, particularly after the relatively last-minute adjustments I'd made the previous day.

Thus complete, I put everything away, and then set about giving the bathroom a good clean. Then I set about giving the kitchen a good clean. Then I set about giving my living room and bedroom a good clean. Then I took a few bags of stuff down to the nearest recycling point, then I came back and did some more cleaning and tidying. At the end of the evening I sat down and relaxed with what felt like a couple of well-earned beers before heading off to bed.

Now on the one hand there are straightforward reasons for all these post-rehearsal chores, in that I would be entertaining guests, plus the place was ready for a clean anyway. On the other, I think what it serves to do is to soak up some of the nervous energy by spending time on straightforward tasks which have a clear beginning, middle and end. It gives me a sense of calm solitude which I really appreciate.

The gig itself went well, and I was glad I'd put in all the extra effort to tailor my set to be more suitable for the atmosphere of the event. Just teasing then, in calling this post Unmitigated disaster.

I don't feel particularly vulnerable when I'm on stage: the focus required - not to mention the volume levels - tends to take care of that. (Even so, I can only bring to mind one occasion where I was so relaxed and immersed in what I was doing that I more or less forgot I was on stage, and that was some years ago.)

No, I feel vulnerable afterwards: after all the preparation and the build up, then to play a gig which goes well (and I was pleased with the response I got) is initially a relief and a good feeling. But then, something else sometimes kicks in - a day or so later - in which I feel a bit lost, maybe lonely, certainly in need of some kind of reassurance. That's definitely been the case this weekend, and in some ways I'm looking forward to the normality and the routine of work.

Still, I now have to continue my preparations in earnest for the next gig. There isn't much time and I want to try and get two new pieces finished and ready. I've just done two hours of work this evening and it was very unsettling: back in the mode of feeling like I face an uphill task, like I was starting again from scratch, even.

But then, I have to remind myself: it's ok, and if I don't get all the new stuff ready, it's not the end of the world. I shall resume with it tomorrow, at which point I should be in a more suitable frame of mind for such things.

Thursday, 26 November 2009


1. Apart from the temperature, one clear indicator of the fact that it's turned a bit cold round here is that, mysteriously (and maddeningly), the windows on the buses are open. Whereas during the few really hot and humid days in the summer, people kept them closed. Despite the heating being on.

2. I passed an elderly gentlemen earlier who was in conversation with someone. "It doesn't get any warmer, does it?" I heard him say. I was very tempted to march up to him and call him a climate change sceptic.

3. I'm onstage in a few hours.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009


Or preoccupied, more like. I play later this week and I've just reached the point where I'm sufficiently ok with the material I'm going to play. Whilst in a waiting room at the eye hospital today it suddenly occurred to me that the final track I'd been working on just didn't quite fit in - or it had something missing which needs to be resolved. It's been bugging me.

In a flash I remembered a track which was in a similarly unfinished state (and has been for some months) but which would sit so much better with the rest of my set: as a result it's been comparatively light work to reach a point of resolve with it, and now I can actually look forward to the gig. At last.

So don't mind me, I feel a little bit neglectful of recent bloggy comments and so on, but I'll pay more attention round here after the gig is done. I'll let you know how it went, too (unless it's an unmitigated disaster).

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Fun sized chunks of anxiety

Sort of sums up my week, though not in a negative way: I've an extra gig coming up very soon, and as a consequence I have a set of material almost ready - much of which didn't exist in any usable or meaningful form this time last week.

I also have a slightly changed attitude towards my tinnitus (again, not in a negative way).

The gig will be a very different - and more mellow - affair to the other one that I've been planning for, hence the decision (a very daunting decision it was, at the beginning of the week) to work on material which will be, at least to a degree, more suitable for this particular occasion.

I've a couple of days away from all this though, my grandma turns 94 next week, so I'll be wishing her happy birthday this weekend.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009


Just after I passed by a woman who was selling Big Issue magazine earlier, I heard another woman say loudly (and clearly within earshot of the vendor),

Fucking hell, she's got a gold tooth, and she's selling the Big Issue? How do you work that one out??

Well, where to start?

How about something like, gold teeth and homelessness aren't mutually exclusive?

Yep, that'll do. Not too difficult, was it?

Friday, 13 November 2009


These are not the bananas I'm looking for.

The ones I'm looking for were in focus, for one thing. No, these are a new purchase, in order to address the mystery banana-deficit which recently occurred - and which has yet to be solved.

And (as well as starting a sentence with such a word) I ask again the question (only this time with swearwords as a necessary intensifier):


In bold type, as well.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Misreading the signs (6)

(Mis-)Spotted earlier:

Free Poignancy Test Available Here

- and one I recall from a few weeks ago,

Working To Save The Livers Of The Elderly

(for those who have found my blog only recently, these are examples of the many times when I glance in passing at adverts, posters, signs, headlines and so on, and somehow manage to misread them and give them a rather different meaning).

In other news, I bought a bunch of bananas along with the rest of my groceries the other day. Can I find them?

(sorry for shouting)

Monday, 9 November 2009

Torrential brain (or, snatching jaws from the victory of defeat)

Nothing like a modest title for a blog post, I tend to think. Yes, this one is definitely nothing like a modest title for a blog post.


I've been in a pretty dark place the last few days. Not a bad place, I hasten to add, but a dark one nonetheless. Do excuse me the indulgence of quoting myself from a previous post, but this is the key to what it's been all about:

I've been spending a lot of my evening time working on more music. New stuff, and brushing up some existing ideas. I've already found myself with a little bit of insight into the near future, knowing what my mental processes are like when developing such ideas: they feel exciting and fresh and worth pursuing right now, and I'm pretty sure that in a couple of weeks time I'll think they're all nothing more than various grades of absolute tedious shite, and that's when I'll start worrying, as the time gets ever nearer.

Yep, and that's hit me with full force in the last week or so. This time a couple of weeks ago I was doing just fine, to the extent that after an evening's work hunched in front of laptop, guitar, keyboards and whatever else, I would then listen to a recording of the set I played at the end of August: feeling perhaps a little elated I would grin as the recording played one song and then the next (not least at the fact that there was applause), thinking to myself, I can't fail!

The ideas have been filling my mind, and any spare time at work - or anywhere else for that matter - has seen me immersed in their flow. In some ways work has felt like an anchor, or something to keep my feet on the ground. Last week I spent plenty of time working on these ideas, allowing for happy accidents, twists and turns into unplanned territory, keeping the whole process elastic and fresh, feeling constructive about it all.

Until Friday. I was just tired on Friday. I usually am, and I'm hardly unique in that respect. I was going out in the evening anyway, so when I got home I just sort of flopped for a while before heading out. Which meant that I'd already taken a step back from the music. Which meant that at the back of my mind were rumblings of disquiet searching around for an outlet, a means with which to bother me.

The feeling built over the weekend. For a change, my drink of choice on Friday and Saturday night was red wine (as opposed to beer) and that also seemed to foster a completely different mentality. The very fact of standing chatting to friends with a glass of wine rather than a pint of Abbot's informed all sorts of subtle variations on what would be the norm: in terms of the way the wine affected me, in terms of the different pace at which I drank, in terms of the after effects. Whilst I didn't get any further than being merry and enjoying both evenings out, then by Sunday I felt rather low and washed out, and also felt more removed from the previous sense of sheer immersion in the music making process.

That plangent rumbling of disquiet at the back of my mind found its outlet with full force between the hours of 3 and 5am this morning as I lay unable to sleep, being taunted by the very opposite of the spirit that had caused me to rhetorically ask, how can I fail? so recently. Now I was just as immersed in self doubt and panic, thinking what the hell have I been doing these last couple of weeks? It's shit - complete and utter shit! I've wasted too much time, I won't be ready for the upcoming gigs, I'm unprepared and my ideas are all terrible and I don't know what the fuck I'm gonna do though it's obvious I'm going to completely show myself up and I'm going to fail and then where will I be and so on and so forth.

I got back to sleep.

This evening I was more tired than Friday. Thankfully today has been pretty hectic, which soaked up some of the strange negativity that plagued even my better moments over the weekend - and which definitely stopped me from succumbing to the after effects of a poor night's sleep. Back home I sat around for a while, then quite begrudgingly I dragged myself over to the laptop and various other bits of equipment.

Fuck it, I thought. Just do something. I resumed work on something I'd left alone for a couple of weeks. Don't expect anything, I thought. Just go through some of the mechanics needed to take it a stage further, and see what happens. No, don't even see what happens, it's going to be shit anyway. I mean, really shit. It doesn't matter.

Expectations thus reduced, it took minutes before I was immersed once again and spent the next three hours seeing the realisation of this particular idea begin to take more definite shape: suddenly the pendulum has swung the other way again and I'm seeing things in terms of possibility. Three hours of editing and converting sound files, altering tempos, adding filters, removing filters again, and then just turning the volume up and playing.

Sometimes I wonder why on earth I put myself through all these processes: and then I remember, this is just how I seem to deal with stuff.

Friday, 6 November 2009

Miswriting the Signs

Yes, I read the sign correctly for once.

The sign was in the window of a furniture shop, which purportedly sells

Chester Draws

Must pop in there one day and see what the hell that is.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Olive dream

I dreamt I was in an old - no, a positively ancient - building, where archaic rituals took place and where creaking doors were opened as part of these rituals, seemingly as though they were portals to the very past itself.

I was there with a co-conspirator, we were infiltrators, out to cause serious havoc and mischief. We knew what to do: we were armed with a jar of pitted olives and some toothpicks.

Monday, 2 November 2009

Heavy duty

I was in the supermarket yesterday morning, on the last day of a long weekend well away from work and anything related.

The cashier, as she was scanning my items through the checkout till, said

Do you want me to give you the heavy stuff?

My immediate (but thankfully unspoken) response, was to wonder whether I should ask,

What's going on? Is everything alright?

...and then I realised she was just referring to the stuff I was buying, that it would make sense put the heavier things in my bag first. At times like this I wonder if there's a part of me which never quite truly leaves work behind.

Still, I also remember the time when a cashier had to give me all of my change in coins. She apologised as she did so.

I'm sorry, I've got no notes.

I'm not sure quite how I resisted the temptation to say Well, how do you smell?, though it was probably for the best that I did so.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Sunset, sea and sand

There were plenty of people around, and the muffled throb of music emanating from the pier. Somehow, though, I just remember connecting with the silence, and feeling blissfully far away.