Practising What I Preach?

I’ve lost my way with this blog, partly due to … someone being much quieter this year, for one. And now my muse has escaped me.

The past several weeks has been all change, on a personal note.

I fly out to Sydney in two weeks time. We move to Glasgow on Friday. And if I don’t have enough with those two things going on, I’m still conscious of the blog just…lagging.

I don’t really have any kind of regular thing happening with it. In the past I’d have something going on, be it Kerrsday Thursday, the Weekend WhirliGIG, the “Why I Love…” special posts, Lyric Of the Day – when the art was happening on a regular basis. There was also some kind of weekly or regular post. I’ve even let my weekly Spotify listening stats (posted under Tweekly FM) slip by at times lately.

So, I might find it a little awkward until the New Year to commit to something fully regularly, I will at least commit to putting a little more life into the blog at least in the next couple of weeks.

As I say, as if I haven’t enough to be getting on with!

I do want this blog to be an interesting thing. I had such plans for it at the beginning of the year. And it really started well with my interviews with Jaine Henderson and Bruce Findlay, and then it kind of fizzled. All the best laid plans, eh?

Let’s see what I can salvage to end 2019 with a bang!
(P.S. He isn’t convinced 👇🏻)

As Birthdays Go…

It couldn’t have been more exciting, nerve-wrecking and slightly unexpected as this! The house-hunting has officially come to an end. No more searching required. My trip to Glasgow last weekend led me to view this…

A rather traditional style 1930s built 3 bed semi-detached house. Not a house I would have ever envisaged myself living in these past several years for varying personal reasons.

Growing up in a 3 bedroom bungalow in Sydney’s south-western suburbs, I was used to space all on one level. When I moved here, the downsizing took a while to get used to but it was okay. It was all on one level, still, exactly what I was used to. We weren’t in a bungalow, but a maisonette – deemed a maisonette, I guess because access to the rest of the property was on the ground floor and the stairs to the first floor (along with a foyer) were only privately accessible and that usually is not as a flat would be. We also had our own front garden and partial back garden.

We moved four years later and downsized again to a one-bedroom “cluster home”. The building contains six houses in a rectangular block. Three either side. We’re in the middle house, facing the road (but we’re slightly off set from the road by about 8 metres or so). So, downstairs is an open plan living room and kitchen, and upstairs a bedroom and bathroom. That’s it, really. No back door. No back garden and just a small front communal garden. We’ve been here 16 years.

We (not very) affectionately called it “The Rabbit Hutch”. While it drove us stir-crazy, of course we were ever mindful to count our blessings. It was an abode. Shelter from the elements. Efficient and affordable to run being sandwiched between two other houses. It meant our heating costs were low. But lack of space has always been an issue.

The premium for space required for elements of our hobbies and pursuits we have that keep us sane. Me with my art and drumming, the OH with film photography and the like.

Visiting friends would always bring home to us the lack of space we had. And we never felt able to entertain and have guests around as there is just no space for dining and nowhere to really accommodate anyone staying.

When this all came to pass (my partner’s parents both passing away within the space of 12 months), the serious consideration of a move to Scotland took shape. We had always planned to move out of here (Luton) if ever and as soon as the opportunity availed itself. Not because we hate Luton. My partner is Lutonian born and bred. It is pretty much all she’s ever known. But we’ve been aware that because of its proximity to the commuter belt of London and the proximity to the airport, Luton, at least in terms of its transport links, has been affected by the property boom that was going on in the early 2000’s. Prices went up and up and up and never really dropped. It saw a marked increase not only in house prices to buy but on the rental market too.

Several times we looked into moving further north. To Peterborough and its surrounds. But in the past several years, Scotland became an ever increasing pull. Politically, socially and also financially. If ever we found ourselves in a position to buy (and we NEVER thought that day would come in all honesty, short of a lottery win), we would get so much more for our money up there. And the political state of the UK over the past few years has meant we have felt much more aligned with the views of the Scots as a whole. Where socialism is not deemed unsavoury but is sacrosanct and intrinsic to the makeup and identity of the people.

And so it was to Scotland where we decided to pin our future hopes. And of the places, I personally felt I wanted to base myself in, Glasgow was the place that won my heart upon my very first visit. I’d been to Edinburgh but not felt that same pull. It was kind of down to … aesthetics … or perhaps a lack thereof and a sense of belonging. In Edinburgh, I didn’t feel drawn to the city the first time I visited it many years ago. Nothing really spoke out at me. Other than…I dunno…a kind of sense of “pretension”. Sorry Edinburgh folks! No slight on you guys. It was just how it felt to me back then.

Glasgow felt different. I can’t explain it. I just felt like I belonged as soon as I got there. And that feeling has gotten stronger with every visit. So for me at least, it was strong on the agenda for moving to. But, that’s the beauty of the west side of Scotland…well, all of Scotland, I guess, is how easily accessible everything is. Unless you’re further north or in the Highlands or on the islands, most things are within reach. A short car journey, train ride, bus ride away.

Our new house is in an incredibly connected location. It is just one stop down the line from Glasgow Queen Street station. For example, when I go to see King Creosote on March 12th next year, I’ll be making my way back from seeing Simple Minds in Copenhagen. We fly in to Edinburgh at about 2pm and then (obviously) have to make our way back to Glasgow. All being good, we should get back to Glasgow no later than 5pm. So there will be time for me to go home, have a sit down, take a shower and get changed. Nearer to show time, I can leave the house a few mins before the next train is due, grab the train and be at the RCH for the gig in 15 mins.

But besides that…on top if that…SPACE! More space than we ever imagined we’d have. Space neither of us had felt in places we’ve lived in for 20+ years.

And it’s HOME. Not an investment. Not a retirement plan (in the sense of selling it on at a future date) but the rest of our lives.

We were nervous. We spent more than we initially wanted to. We had put in an offer before on a property in the southside of Glasgow near Giffnock (Jim! You’ve had a reprieve. I won’t end up living “just down the road”:from you after all. NOT that that was the first house’s appeal in ANY way, shape or form! Just to clarify!) but it was a lot smaller than our actual new home. Not much bigger than the place we’re currently in, in actual fact. And we thought we wanted it. I thought *I* wanted it. It was linked up well transport wise. Thornliebank station was just a short walk away and there was just three stops to Glasgow Central. And, you know…the southside seems to have all the desirability. Either there or the west end. But we went north. And access to the city centre and to the west end is great.

In hindsight, the Mansewood house was obviously not meant to be. Our offer was blown out of the water by another buyer. I hope they feel the money they paid for the place was worth it, because they paid considerably MORE than what we were willing to. They actually paid around the same figure we have for our place. We weren’t prepared to pay that much for Mansewood. Well, actually, for the Mansewood area itself, yes! But not for the property it would have bought us.

All the things for this place rang much truer for me. It really did become “the one” very quickly. I felt I didn’t even need to see the place with my own eyes but it would have been rather rash and churlish to believe it. The reality was…I was right though. But viewing it compounded everything I initially felt about it. And with viewing it, you get a definitive feel of how much it is worth to you and how much you want to chase it.

And so later on Wednesday afternoon, I got a call I had convinced myself I was not going to get. I was SSSOOO nervous. I wanted this place SSOO much. I really loved it and I was trying to remain detached. But I was already mourning something I didn’t feel was going to happen. I don’t know why. All that bad luck you think you’re going to have. Stuff just not seemingly going your way. I was trying to be philosophical, “que sera sera”. If it happens, it happens. But I was preparing myself for another knock back and the potential of us searching and searching and it stretching into the New Year or longer. Like trying to find that elusive “needle in a haystack”. I’d found it. But could we afford our “needle”? Would it actually be ours?

After I had gone to view the place, I went to the Flying Duck for a bite to eat before getting the train back to London. As I walked in they had some Talking Heads playing. And as I took a bite into my burger, Cities started up. I saw it as a omen. I had found myself a city to live in…but how long would the search for a home IN the city be?

On Tuesday night just as I retiring for bed, I had Jim be custodian of my train ticket I brought back with me. One that took me from Queen Street to Ashfield station to view the property. I wanted him to work a charm. I have a photo of him at Heathrow airport that Virginia took in 1981 framed on my bedside table. I just nestled the train ticket in the corner and said to the pic of Jim “please be a charm?!” And he was….

Making Plans For Scotland…

This week I have been mostly…working out which gigs I wanted to go to…and then making the plans for a preliminary reccy to Glasgow.

I started with the UK first and working with the notion that Glasgow will be a local gig so grabbed my soundcheck experience there first. After that, the next nearest UK venue would be Leeds, so that was booked. Then I really wanted to get myself in a smaller venue and I looked at venue sizes. I considered other factors too. How early the gig would be – date wise in the tour – and how easy it would be to get to the city from the nearest airport and how well located within the city centre the venue would be. Based on those factors, I decided to plumb for Copenhagen. It’s a gig in early March. Copenhagen is further south than the other European cities with dates before it, and hopefully less susceptible to suffer any inclement weather. Also, the city is relatively small and easy to navigate. Plus the venue itself is small with only a 1700 capacity.

La Seine Musicalé as an architectural structure looked stunning to my eyes. And, with it being on the Seine, it quickly became a favoured option. I tried to book it next but when I went to choose the seats on the screen on the laptop it said there were no seats to choose. So I went and booked my Dublin ticket instead.

After I had secured a Dublin ticket, I tried Paris again on my iPad, this time the site seemed to allow me to choose seats, I grabbed to two, one for me and another for a friend.

I was done with my choices and happy with my lot. Time to relax! At least from the anxiety of making ticket purchases for SM gigs anyway!

So now today while everyone else scrabbled to secure their tickets in the general sales, I was booking flights and hotels – those flights including a trip to Glasgow in the next week or two on a reconnaissance mission of rental properties…and perhaps maybe one or two actual views of houses on the market.

It all hit at once!

The timing really could not have been more perfect!

I still have some things to consider. When to go home and see mum, for example. For several weeks now I have pretty much had February in my head. I’ll get there soon enough. I’ll work it out.

In the meantime, here’s to pastures new!

It’s Not Personal…

Can’t help feeling I’m “persona non grata” BIG TIME right now.
Oh, well.
Let’s still go to a few gigs, eh? I still love him even if he disnae love me.
Leeds ✔️
Dublin ✔️
Glasgow ✔️
And… one mainland date… but which one?
And I need to bear in mind my King Creosote gig on March 12th, so…
I’ll mull it over for the rest of the day.

A Little Peace…

Recently I have been told by a few people that I write very well. One suggested I contact a music magazine and lodge an application to work for them. This person had written articles themselves for the magazine in question and they gave me the email address of the editor.

I didn’t do anything about it. I would fear pursuing it. It is one thing to write at one’s own leisure your own thoughts and feelings or to write your own musical reviews and share that content on a blog that you have sole say over. It’s quite a different thing to work for someone else and work to a deadline. I’m not sure I could do it.

Just today a person asked me if I write professionally. The answer is no I don’t. There is one minor thing I do in which I write small pieces of text, but I don’t work to a deadline and my “boss” for the most part gives me free rein over what is written.

But could I ever write like this?

That, I strongly doubt. Granted, I have not spent over 40 years of my life writing professionally. And for many years prior to that most likely being quite good at English, enjoying the language and writing stories. Jim did.

I never had the imagination to create imaginary places. Never felt I had “the gift” for that kind of thing. Compared to what I’d hear from others in class, my stories sucked. So as a consequence I guess I felt like writing was just “not my bag”.

Until I read Anne Frank’s diary. To read her diary is to find that, no matter how insular you feel. No matter how insignificant your world may feel to you, you are living a life and you have your own dramas, hopes, fears and dreams. And yes, ultimately her story was so much bigger than what was going on in that tiny annex…but the way she made the minutiae of that circumstance feel is just SSOOO compelling!

Could I have worded how I felt about her diary like that as a 13 year old reading it for the first time? NO WAY! But it was an impetus for me to keep a diary myself. And YES, my life was far, FAR more insignificant (in no way suggesting Frank’s was). BUT…I was writing. I was using language. Trying hard to teach myself a level of expression that was escaping me from not being at school. I just kept wanting to teach myself.

I read books. Not sweeping epics of prose, just regular novels. I tried with Shakespeare. Lord knows I tried. But I attached myself more to James Joyce and Oscar Wilde. I read the poetry of Henry Lawson and Banjo Paterson and children’s books by May Gibbs and read the 87th Precinct detective novels of Ed McBain. I read “trash” too. Sidney Sheldon novels and Anne Rice vampire novels. I went from Anne Frank to Anne Rice.

I asked for a concise dictionary for my 15th birthday and read it like a novel.

At the library, I would look at the encyclopaedias and VOLUMES of dictionaries and wish to have them at home. You weren’t allowed to borrow reference books. I could never understand why.

To be asked in recent times whether I write for a living is amazing. To be told by others that I have some kind of “flair” or “way” is wonderful. And just maybe on the odd occasion I allow myself to accept such compliments and think I am worthy of them. But for the most part? No.

Beyond Jim’s beautiful way with words and expressing himself was this…

How could someone believe “an eye for an eye” is good? Because, isn’t that ultimately what war is? An eye for an eye? Fighting fire with fire? Two wrongs don’t make a right, do they?

Why is it such a childish thought to want peace? Not to have wars? And why do we never learn? Why are we destined to make the same mistakes over and over?

How is pacifism NOT the answer? How is love not the answer?

I want to end with this. Because it is just so beautiful in its simplicity. No big words. Just the basics and the question of “why”?

Say Who You Are!

The album that did it for me. The one that, during my exploration of the Simple Minds back catalogue, “sealed the deal”. Empires And Dance put me into a state of…I dunno…suspended animation. I quite literally could not believe what I was hearing…that the band responsible for Don’t You (Forget About Me ) – subsequently I learned how much involvement there was in that, obv. – Alive And Kicking, Sanctify Yourself, etc, had also made stuff LIKE THIS?! It just blew my tiny frigging mind. I’m not holding up the songs mentioned to belittle them or say they’re inferior in ANY WAY….it is just a fact that Simple Minds within a 5 year period became a very different band musically and that I had NO KNOWLEDGE of how they sounded in 1980.

So, again for me personally, in 2014 listening to Empires And Dance for the first time was like discovering an entirely new band. And with the anniversary of its release this week, I just wanted to talk about it a bit, share some of my art inspired from the tracks and just give it and its content some praise.

I wouldn’t be the mega diehard (but has she earned her stripes yet?) SM fan I am now without this album existing, I don’t think.

Today I share what is at this point possibly my very favourite live version of Thirty Frames A Second. Jim stalking around that stage like a freshly uncaged animal. Leaping about like a jack rabbit…never faulting vocally…but being raw and emotive and just….GGRRRRRRRR!!! I love it!

Will It Be? Can It Be?

Well…it’s a theory…

I had to ask. Anyway…my passport is ready. And the money will soon follow…

My passport photo STILL sucks! Lol. Can we see supermodel passport photos? I mean, if even Kate Moss or Naomi Campbell’s passport photos look shit then I won’t feel so bad. I mean…geez I know I’m no stunner and I’ve got only slightly less blubber than a minke dolphin – but I can scrub up okay if I make an effort (or get a TV make up artist to do me up)…so why ARE passport photos so shit?!

If anyone is willing to say I look 35 (or younger!) in my passport photo than 48, you’re on my Christmas card list. Lol