Serious Thinkin’

Steve Wright-In-The-Afternoon (that is his name isn’t it?) has a rather baffling item on his show where people text in saying what they’re doin’ only without the g at the end.  The item is called ‘serious jockin’ – at least I think that’s what it’s called – and I’ve never quite been able to understand the point, but maybe that’s because I lack the necessary brain cells to completely comprehend Radio 2.  But I like most of the music they play; it being the aged version of Radio 1 which has, so to speak, moved over and taken the listeners with it.  But in fact it’s a lot better than R1 used to be because it’s not restricted to a playlist of the top 20 plus up-and-coming tracks with a few oldies thrown in: R2 plays a wide variety of music and treats its audience with a great deal more respect.  Even so, I used to have R1 on all day long because it was virtually all we had.  On a good day when the wind was in the right direction you could get Radio Caroline, a pirate station broadcast from a boat somewhere in the North Sea, and eventually in London we got Capital Radio which featured the wonderful Kenny Everett who had been sacked from the BBC more times than I’d had hot dinners.

Nowadays I’m mostly a Radio 4 person, but there are times in the day when I need music: when I’m driving and don’t want to put a CD on, or when I’m doing the washing up or the decorating. Nowadays there are a thousand channels you can listen to on your iphone or tablet or laptop or sound system – but back then it was very restrictive.  One of the ways people got round the restrictions was with CB radio.  CB (or Citizen’s Band) radio was very big in the States and had its own language, as shown in this terrible song:

But it was illegal over here, I think because it interfered with police frequencies.  This did not stop enthusiasts from installing them in their cars; the big giveaway being large twin aeriels sprouting from the car.  One such nutter was stopped by the police:

PC Plod:  Excuse me sir, is this your car?

Mad Eddie:  Ay, so what?

PC Plod:  It’s equipped for CB radio

Mad Eddie:  Well I’m equipped for rape but I don’t go out and do it

Soon afterwards it became legal and therefore much less fun (CB radio I mean.)

Kirk out

Advertisements

I Think You Ought to Know

The character known as the paranoid android, aka Marvin in the Hitch-hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, was fond of saying ‘I think you ought to know I’m feeling very depressed.’  Eeyore has similar conversational openers although he is more adept at emotional manipulation (‘we can’t all have houses’, ‘very natural, and it was only Eeyore’s tail.  But still I wondered.’)

But when I’m feeling depressed I have a dilemma – to talk about it or not to talk about it?  I’m only too aware from certain miserablist individuals of my acquaintance of the total downer it can be when you subject others to your own depression; I’m also aware of the potential value of thinking and acting positive.  But then again there’s the need to talk about it, not to be in denial.  So what to do?

It seems to me that there’s an optimum amount of expression required.  Naturally I tell my dear OH when I’m feeling down and OH is always concerned and wanting to help.  But whilst it’s a relief to get it off your chest I’m aware that feeling better is largely down to me.  Fortunately most of the time I can find something that works: watching a comedy, digging the garden, going for a walk, reading a book.  Equally important is avoiding things that bring me down: listening to the news, reading Facebook, thinking about the future.

Food and drink can also help: eating good, fresh food gives you energy but there’s nothing to beat chocolate.  I avoid alcohol as it’s a known depressant.  Sleeping properly also helps; unfortunately this is not under my complete control and sometimes everything I try fails – or at least only succeeds partially.  I can drink my chamomile and swig my herbal sleep mix and put on my sleep CD and still stay awake for ages.  It’s very annoying.  It’s as if there’s a part of my brain that resists all efforts to put it to sleep.  This part of my brain is like a recalcitrant toddler and insists on being awake no matter what I do.  

In my previous incarnation as a yoga teacher I used to teach groups of depressed people.  I would always focus on active postures; plenty of movement, no contemplation or meditation and some high-up music like this:

video removed on request

High notes seem to reach a part of the brain associated with euphoria; there are better tracks than this but I don’t know what they’re called so I can’t find them.

I’m off now to buy some salad stuff and chocolate biscuits…

Kirk out

Rasputin on Sousaphone, Gorbachev on Tea-Tray…

Sometimes this blog goes a bit whimsical and it seems that today is one of those days.  Pausing only to have an inconclusive conversation with OH about the correct spelling of Gorbachev (there isn’t one because it’s in Cyrillic) we head off into the wardrobe of my soul, in the section labelled ‘shirts’.  Yes, we are in the wonderful country of the Bonzo Dog Doo-dah Band:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bonzo_Dog_Doo-Dah_Band

In the original song Adolf Hitler played the sousaphone, but it is entirely in the anarchic spirit of the Bonzo Band to have Rasputin step onto the stage and be accompanied by Gorbachov (or ‘ev’) or anyone else you fancy.  Let’s have Marie Curie on drums, Mother Theresa on bagpipes, Billy Connolly on backing vocals (‘if it wasnae fur yur wellies’)  Let’s have the Vicar of Dibley on pipes and Pope Francis on the tin whistle; Martina Navratilova on keyboards, Boris Johnson on trombone, Jamie Oliver on piano-accordion, Clarissa Dixon-Wright on cymbals, Sue Barker on vocals and John Humhrys on doo-wops.  We can have whoever we want, because it’s our fantasy bonzo-dog doo-dah band.  We’ll have Harrison Ford on the wurlitzer, Theresa May on the mixing desk, Maggie Smith on the hosepipe, Michael Fish on thunderboard, and of course a special appearance by Donald Trump as the wind in the bagpipes.

It’s that sort of day…

Kirk out

 

ArtBeat, Why Do You Miss When My Baby Kisses Me?

It’s Artbeat season again, from June 15th until 25th at Clarendon Park:

http://www.clarendonpark.net

Sadly in the years since I helped run the festival there has been trouble at t’mill – or whatever the CP equivalent is (t’deli?) – and the people who used to run it are no longer in evidence.  The current festival is a valiant effort but really it needs a whole army of people subdivided into regiments, each dealing with a particular area.  Kudos to those now taking up the reins, but it is sad to see Artbeat a shadow of its former self.  Still, we enjoyed Greenshoots Ceilidh Band (playing not ceilidhing) a scratch classical guitar concert (very good) and a beer festival at the club.  I had a half of Tiny something followed by a Blind Badger (or similar) and a third (good idea to do thirds of a pint) of Witch’s Milk.  That’s not remotely accurate by the way because I became totally befuddled by a veritable feast of deliciousness at Chettinad and immediately forgot the names of the beers: I should’ve kept the programme.

If you haven’t been to Chettinad I urge you to rectify this immediately.  It’s run by the same people as Shivalli and the food is utterly exquisite.  For starters we had plates piled high with paneer in a sauce with a small dosa on the side (for me) and something with chicken in (for Jan.)  These starters were so huge they could almost have been a main course and I was beginning to regret having ordered a thali.  Fortunately there was a long gap between courses, during which I finished my mango lassi and we talked about Germaine Greer (don’t ask: I may get to her in another post).  Then came the thali.  Oh my god, I thought.  Am I going to get through this?  The answer was of course no, but I did have a great time trying.  There were the usual selection of curries, ranging from mild to hot, plus chappatis, saffron rice in exquisite shades of orange and yellow; and to follow, a gulab jamun.  I asked them to pack up what I couldn’t manage and I will tackle it this evening.  The service, too, was a delight, full of jokes and anecdotes about Tamil Nadu where the cuisine comes from, and such a refreshing change after the corporate smiles and generic conversation of the average restaurant chain.

http://www.chettinadrestaurant.com/restaurants.php

Back to normal today: Quaker meeting followed by gardening and of course the episode of ‘Casualty’ that I missed.

Kirk out

Chitty Chitty Dig Dig

Gardening can be very therapeutic.  It’s been depressing not being able to get out into the garden lately, but today I bought a few early potatoes and got them chitting; then I headed out to the shed and extracted a fork.  Rolling back the carpet mulch, I began to attack the soil, not knowing how much I’d be able to do.  But instead of getting tired I became more energised and managed to dig a square patch which felt like a good start.  I’ll do some more tomorrow and bit by bit I’ll get the garden dug.

After that I headed indoors to watch the Old Grey Whistle Test (or Old Grey String Vest, as we used to call it) – a special 30th-anniversary edition hosted by none other than Whispering Bob himself and featuring Annie Lennox, Andy Kershaw and many, many more.  It is impossible to list all the artists they had on; from Alex Harvey to an amazingly young-looking Peter Frampton; from Kiki Dee to Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull, and featuring the competition winner, Bob Marley and the Wailers.

You never know what you’re going to get with OGWT.  Literally anybody could be on it; from the New York Dolls to Led Zeppelin, from John Otway (and Wild Willy Barrett) to Gary Numan; from Joan Armatrading to Dave Stewart (of Eurythmics) – and the commentary was neither bland nor fawning but serious and minimal, allowing the music to speak for itself.  The programme was a great mixture of old clips, live performances and chats on the sofa: if you like rock music at all I urge you to watch:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b09scfnb/the-old-grey-whistle-test-for-one-night-only

They’ve also made this retrospective available from 2011:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b014vzy3/the-old-grey-whistle-test-70s-gold

Aaaand – what about the Archers, eh?  Didn’t see that one coming:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b09rzxh3

Silent Music: Leonard, Prince of Paradox

Today I am spending the entire day honouring the memory of Leonard Cohen; poet, singer, guitarist and songwriter (1934-2016).  Although his death wasn’t announced until Nov 16th, he actually died on 7th, so it was one year ago today that we lost him.

Here’s how I found him.  It’s 1972 and I’m in a schoolroom in West London.  We are awaiting an English lesson when in comes a student teacher followed by a caretaker carrying a record player.  Great excitement: we rarely have music in class.  The teacher puts on the record and says, ‘we’re going to listen to this song and then discuss the lyrics.’  The guitar sounded, the voice began – and I was lost.

In those early days his voice haunted me like a busker on the underground, seeming to echo from afar down a long, dark tunnel.  But from the first inoculation he was in my blood, and there was no getting him out.  Vast wastes of emotion opened up in me: here was a way to link god and sex (which the church had cast asunder) here was a landscape of sublimity and pain – above all, here was one who was not afraid to stand and open his heart for all to see.  I loved that in him, as so many did.

Leonard was not a whole man, and he was unafraid to tell us so: the word ‘broken’ seemed to resonate through his early work where despair often won out over exaltation.  Whirled by winds of ‘deep distress’, he landed on Mount Baldy, a Zen monastery outside Los Angeles where he woke before dawn and walked through the snow to sit, silent and shorn, in meditation:

https://www.google.co.uk/url?sa=i&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=images&cd=&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwiU7abRqKzXAhXiK8AKHWReAKYQjB0IBg&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.leonardcohenforum.com%2Fsearch.php%3Fst%3D0%26sk%3Dt%26sd%3Dd%26keywords%3D%252Bnovels%2B%2B%26fid%255B%255D%3D3%26ch%3D-1&psig=AOvVaw2SGymFgp4TNEmDg00wdVSE&ust=1510139077994737

Since he never spoke, the other monks knew him only as zhikan, ‘the silent one’, having no idea that outside the monastery he was a famous singer.  But then, Cohen had so many incarnations: poet, Cuban revolutionary, Scientologist (‘did you ever go clear?’) Jew, Zen Buddhist, prophet and guru – and those are only the ones I know about.

And as for me, what can I tell you, my brother, my killer?  How can I possibly explain what Cohen meant to me?  I loved the openness in him, the way he never put on a front or pretended to be other than he was.  I loved the way he pursued each line of a song, even to the point of crawling across a hotel bedroom floor at 3 am trying to get it right.  And most of all I loved the way he treated his audience.

For Cohen, tours were not so much a way of promoting a record (though they were of course that) as a kind of reconnaissance, a way of experiencing the zeitgeist.  He had a great respect for his audience and in concerts he gave his all, dispensing with a support act and doing encores which sometime stretched out as long as the main set.  The last time we saw him, though he looked so much older, he skipped off the stage at the end: he was then 75.

And yet in those early years I suffered for his art.  Like other disciples before me I was pilloried in public for my allegiance to Cohen; I was mocked and jeered at.  The ‘grocer of despair’ was too easily dismissed as the bard of the suicidal (‘one hand on my suicide’) by those who never glimpsed his beauty.  As for Cohen himself, in those early years he was described as having ‘the stoop of an aged crop-picker and the face of a curious little boy’ but with meditation the stoop went and by and large he aged well, still looking good right into his sixties:

 

Image result for Leonard Cohen

(image removed on request)

In public Cohen was courteous and dignified, refusing to hit back at his critics or fight rudeness with rudeness.  But, though many consider him a sort of guru, Cohen was no saint; and his Achilles heel was women.  He did go through a period of celibacy at Mount Baldy, but in general seemed unable to stop pursuing women; and not limiting himself to one at at time either: Jennifer Warnes once sadly remarked that she never had a relationship with Cohen because she knew it wouldn’t be exclusive.  From the outside it appears that he never found lasting happiness or stability in relationships: his early affair with the Marianne of the song seemed a brief oasis in a stormy life; a storm which escalated into a crisis when his agent Kelly Lynch stole $5m and left him penniless.  Cohen showed remarkable public forbearance in the face of such devastation: all he would say was, ‘we understand that these things happen.’  But though we felt for him we were also delighted because a career which had seemed dead and buried was resurrected: Leonard was on the road again.

He continued recording almost to the day he died: his final album, ‘You Want it Darker,’ was released just 19 days before his death and recorded with difficulty.  In the end his son Adam had to stick a mic on a desk and into this Leonard breathed his last songs.  They do not, of course, have the vigour of his earlier work, but are nonetheless infused with a bleak beauty.

No, Cohen was no saint: but he was a prophet of sorts and for me a kind of paradoxical guru.  Leonard never would have wanted to be anyone’s guru: I never wanted to have a guru.  It’s the perfect relationship; and for me he will always be a guiding voice; bleak, sublime, courteous and above all, to his own self true.

If you want to know more, here’s the official site:

http://leonardcohen.com

and here’s my blog post about that concert in 2008:

https://lizardyoga.wordpress.com/2008/07/20/songs-of-leonard-cohen-170708/

RIP Leonard, we love you.

Kirk out

I Have A Dead Ringer

Yes, it’s all too horribly true: my phone ringer is dead.  Or maybe it’s sleeping; either way on any of the various occasions when it is supposed to make a noise – alarm, text, call, facebook message, facebook update, reminder and god knows what else – it is content to make a sudden purr like an intermittent cat.  In other words it does everything it should do when it’s on silent, but it isn’t.  I have checked and double-checked the settings; I have (in the time-honoured way) turned things off and on and on and off again and still it persists in purring.  So I must perforce consider the meaning of the term ‘dead ringer’.  Jeremy Irons (once my favourite actor) plays twins in a film of that name, Meat Loaf sang about it and the Radio 4 programme features it.  So what is it?

The origin of the phrase is apparently from horse-racing: ‘dead’ meaning ‘exact’ (as in ‘dead heat’) and ‘ringer’ meaning a horse falsely substituted for another which it resembles.  Hence a dead ringer, meaning an exact lookalike.  At least I’ve always understood it to mean a lookalike, which makes the radio 4 concept somewhat paradoxical don’t it?

https://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/dead-ringer.html

Still it’s a fun programme: Tom Baker is a staple and they do Boris Johnson brilliantly:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b007gd85/episodes/player

Here’s the Meat Loaf song:

 

and here’s the film:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0094964/

A short one today but what do you expect?  My ringer is dead…

Kirk out