Sunday, 30 January 2011

A suitable title, for once, escapes me

I was visited by an unfamiliar, almost bewildering sensation yesterday: contentment.

I wasn't expecting it. I'd gone to visit my mother for the weekend, never an unpleasant experience in itself, but one which tends to be dusted with a residue of poignancy for a number of reasons.

Adding to the surprise was that, when I arrived there on Friday evening, I felt exhausted, and imagined that the tone of the weekend was going to be set accordingly. By Saturday, I was still heavy-lidded and limbed, but my mood became paradoxically light. I was able to switch off and relax, something I never felt fully able to do when I visited over Christmas.

I embraced this contentment. I had an awareness of the reasons for its presence, which gave me a sense of quiet satisfaction - but I didn't wish to analyse too deeply in that respect, nor to indulge the temptation to view such contentment with sheer suspicion.

That it was there, was enough: it might not last, after all.

On a separate note, the month of January seems to have passed remarkably quickly. Most years I take a complete break from alcohol for the whole of the month: not so this time, but these days I generally drink at weekends only. I wonder if my lack of complete abstinence has served to make the time pass more speedily.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Liver little

Just before the New Year, I received a letter from my GP asking me to attend for what they termed a "wellness check". I rang up to enquire about this and they said it was a routine set of tests just to see how I'm doing.

I confirmed an appointment with them, and went along last week. I didn't have any particular worries.

Well actually, I did.

What worried me, if anything, was what the results would be like, given that this was so soon after the holiday season. I was a Christmas cliche, having eaten and drank in a manner which would not befit the word 'moderation'. I did put on weight during that time, but I was less concerned about that than about the state of my liver and my kidneys, which must have taken a bit of a battering.

Still, what they were able to tell me at the time wasn't too bad: blood pressure fine, waist measurement within the acceptably healthy range, overall weight 3kg less than when they last did these tests with me. They took blood samples to test for: liver, kidney, and thyroid function; diabetes; cholesterol; and blood cell count.

The test results were due today, and I must admit I did get a bit nervous when the doctor started to go through my results.

Thankfully my liver, kidneys and thyroid are all functioning normally; no sign of diabetes; blood cell count fine; cholesterol....well, cholesterol slightly high, but nothing to worry about as such. I said to the doctor that I assumed this was the Christmas effect as much as anything, though I imagine it's more due to a love of cheese and beer.

Still, I'm relieved to have had a clean bill of health. Bodily organs aside, there's been more than enough to put my blood pressure to the test over the last year.

Sunday, 23 January 2011


I was roused from some very strange dreams this morning by the muffled sound of my upstairs neighbour bursting into song. He got as far as one note and then immediately stopped himself: cognisant, perhaps, of the horrific implications of continuing.

I soon fell back to sleep and resumed my weird dreams which were caused, I'm sure, by a bout of indigestion. In one dream, every time I picked up the phone, and before I had the chance to dial a number, the phone automatically connected me to someone I really didn't want to speak to. I would slam the phone back down with a shudder.

The day, like the rest of the weekend, has been a pleasant one - but like the indigestion, the residual effect of such subconscious outpourings has remained with me all day, like a slightly bristly texture.

I've felt sleepy this evening but have still put an hour or two into working on music, though mainly listening - to stuff that I was working on rather gleefully last night, and to stuff I haven't revisited in years. Listening, listening, then listening some more, attending to a couple of technical or process-based things, then listening further.

Sooner or later, when some of these external sounds and processes have wormed their way further into the recesses of my mind, something will click and I'll be able to move them further on.

Not today though, today was mainly for listening...and digesting.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

In brief (2)

Just had a walk around some of the nicer city suburbs for a couple of hours. Pleasant and leafy, and with a slight other-worldly aspect thanks to the clear night sky and the brilliant moonlight. The temperature had dropped tangibly by the time I was nearing home, I could feel it in my fingertips - by no means an unpleasant sensation.

I heard the lovely hooting sound of an owl, and saw two foxes.

Freshened up and sat in my usual chair, a snack of bread and butter feels like the nicest food ever.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

In brief

Somebody mentioned the Panama Canal today, and it suddenly triggered off a memory of a dream last night, in which I was smoking cigars.

I don't remember much else about it (the dream), except for a vague sense of decadence. I used to be very anti-smoking when I was growing up, and then not too long after I started art college, I found myself on the cigars, and inhaling them fully.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Navel gazing alert

I suppose if I see myself as anything, it's as a thinker. I don't mean as an intellectual - whenever I have moments of that, I get a bit scared and go for the comfort of crassness instead - but rather, as a very reflective person.

Which has its strengths and weaknesses.

At the moment, in some ways, I think I'm trying to fight against that. Maybe I feel more comfortable defined in such a way (as a reflector, or whatever), but I'm better off when I'm actually doing stuff.

When I'm doing, I'm less likely to get anxious. The flip-side of this, is equally true (when I'm anxious, I'm less likely to get doing), and far more toxic.

My aim, lately, has been to think a lot less about the music that I'm working on, and just to do a lot more of it. One of the barriers that I put up for myself happens to be when I have really good ideas - the barrier being that it's far harder to put an idealised construct into practice from scratch, than it is to arrive at something good from an hour or two's messing around with actual sounds and processes, and therefore have something tangible to work with in the first place.

Of course there's a balance to be struck between such polar opposites, but at the moment it's definitely falling on the side of actually getting on with it and seeing what I can come up with, rather than have the best music ever going on in my head, and being paralysed by the sense that I'm never going to be able to adequately transcribe it.

So - what I've been able to come up with in the last few weeks is

a) a mixture of rubbish and of semi-interesting stuff which is hardly likely to go anywhere, at least in its present form

b) a few things which sound pretty good to my ears, but which need direction and focus

c) a couple of things which I'm really, really excited about.

The point is, a), b) and c) are all tangible. They all exist in some external sense, as opposed to just being in my head. All there to be built on, ignored, ripped apart or finely tuned accordingly.

The last couple of weeks, I've been putting the hours in on all this stuff. As often as not, that will mean a few hours of getting precisely nowhere. But it's still a few hours of doing, of engaging, of responding to these tangible things on some level. Such that at a certain point, something will click and will enable me to push things further on or take a different and potentially more interesting avenue.

Right now, I'm feeling - and I don't know if this is the right word, but it'll do - rather militant about all this. Working on this stuff is my escape, my nourishment, the ear-to-ear grin on my face when things are taking shape - and I'm feeling intolerant to the tendency to put my own barriers up to it. I'm feeling alive to a combination of volume, texture, repetition, layering, sculpting and happy accidents, random interventions and anything which keeps the process going.

The last couple of nights, after a couple of drinks, I've listened back to some recordings of the last few gigs I played - all relatively few and far between - and I've thought, shit, I'm actually ok with how that sounds.

This year is, I'm sure, going to be a tough year (given that I found last year to be one of the toughest I've had). I intend to make it a better year regardless, by way of the above.

That feels like a bold claim. I'll see what I can do in that respect, because doing really is the operative word.

Saturday, 15 January 2011


I spotted this stripey fellow earlier. He wasn't very well - on his last legs, in fact. But - seriously - a wasp? In January?

Thursday, 13 January 2011


As long as I spend no more than £3.10 during the daytime tomorrow, then I will have achieved an aim: the start of some serious budgeting. This week's budget for daytime spending was £12.50. I've never exactly been a profligate spender, but thus far it's been instructive to see just how much I can save without any really drastic difference to my day-to-day living.

In fact, I had an appointment this week regarding some longer-term monetary planning. I had an initial appointment last month, and this was to be the follow-up.

To be being the caveat in the last sentence, since I cancelled the appointment. Not because of a wish to bury my head in the financial sand, nor because I find such things dull, far too grown-up, and rather anxiety-provoking in equal measure. Nor because of an unconscious tendency to picture the advisor as an ogre and a bully who wants to take a jackboot to my rather laissez faire approach to such measures.

No, I didn't cancel it for any of those reasons. I would certainly have felt like doing so, since all the above reasons have weighed on my mind, but I would have been seriously disappointed in myself had I done so.

I cancelled it because work is once again at a point of precariousness. Despite the current climate it looks like, at the very least, I should still be in employment for the foreseeable future. But such details as if, when, why, what, how, who with, how often and for how much depend on a bewildering number of variables.

Thus, I see no sense in pushing ahead with longer-term plans just yet, not until such pressing short-term issues have been resolved: it will be collision time in that respect before the end of next month, I'm guessing. Plus I'd rather have just the one headache at a time, thank you very much.

In other, erm, "news", I find myself keep asking the question, "what does one do with January?". I've yet to find a definitive answer.

As well as cutting down on the amount of money I spend, I realised a few nights ago that I also need to cut down on caffeine - endless cups of tea in my case, coffee being more of a weekend indulgence - having lain awake for a good while and really not feeling able to relax. My mind was racing and not switching off, as I fervently tried to remember the name of a country on the Adriatic coast. No way was I going to get up and leaf through the book I'd been reading which mentioned said country, I had to remember without any external help.