Songs in the key of life

I got to do something I almost never get to do last night. I was fortunate enough to play in a 12 piece big band ( I’m not sure if 12 constitutes ‘big’ but fuck it). It was in a field in Kent with 11 people only 1 of whom I’d met before. We had free food and a free bar and for the most part the sun was shining. As I said I don’t get to play with this many musicians on a gig that often but when I do I absolutely love it. As a guitarist it’s a joy not to be told to cover: the brass parts, the backing vocals, piano parts, string lines whilst at the same time fending off some pissed bloke who wants to get up and play Wonderwall with us.

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I want to say how much fun it was and how much I enjoyed it. But that doesn’t do it justice. The truth is; it was pant wettingly, ball bouncingly, head bangin riot, arse shakingly good fun. It was like having your arse tickled with a feather. We grooved, we rocked, we jazzed and there was even a rap. Any mistakes were quickly picked up or were brushed under the rug, no one noticed because we were cooking. There were no egos and no prima donnas. We were all there for the collective good. Making the songs sound great and making sure everyone left happy and a little sad that it was over.

With 12 in the band it meant that we all had to work less. That’s right, LESS. I didn’t have to worry about anything other than the guitar parts, as there was a piano and 3 part horn section. I didn’t have to worry about filling out the space. I just concentrated on sitting in the groove. The same also applied to the piano player. With 4 vocalists I didn’t have to worry about backing vocals, plus the singers as individuals didn’t have to worry about their voices getting tired. With a percussionist along for the ride this freed the drummer up to sit back and hold the groove down, which he did impeccably. The icing on the proverbial cake…trombone, sax and trumpet. Sprinkling musical magic everywhere we went.

It was a beautiful evening. 12 people coming together, unrehearsed, for the common good. We had jazz musicians who had studied in some of London’s finest schools playing next to musicians who couldn’t read a lick of music and who referred to musical parts as ‘the bit that goes doo de dee da da bat bat bum’. We had players that had toured the world with big name artists trading licks with people who still practice with the remnants of their children’s breakfast on their unwashed tee shirt. We were of different backgrounds. We were of different sexual orientation. But we were there playing for the song, not the individual. It is a testament to what can be achieved when like minded, focused and dedicated  people come together with a single goal in mind. And it was fantastic.  It’s a shame large factions of the world don’t adopt these principles. We have psychotic sociopaths vying for power and control at the expense of the rest of us. Carving us up into fractions, continuously pointing out our differences and forcing us to focus on our differences rather than our similarities. As part of my daily recovery from addiction, I meditate. It’s not something I profess to doing well or daily for that matter. But when I do I try to picture myself sitting crossed legged on the Moon, looking back at the earth. Watching it spin so elegantly. Gazing at the vast oceans. Watching the thunder storms in South America, the deserts of North Africa and the seemingly invariable rain in the U.K. One thing I don’t see…Borders. Flags. Countries divided by religion or race. Cities divided by sports team. Towns divided by popular talent shows. Because those divisions only exist if we let them. We and we alone have the power to eradicate them. Does that mean we should be held accountable?

I often get tarnished with ‘Left wing dreamer’ brush. I have a belief that the world could be a better place if we all put our differences aside and worked together for the common good. The trouble is we all have a different opinion of what ‘Good’ is. It’s subjective. I get tired of writing it; us coming together. I want to find something less trite, something more inspiring….but when it boils down to it that phrase sums up what I’d like to see. Less murder, less poverty, less war, more education, more love. And that’s good

Maybe you think I am a dreamer. Maybe you think that we can’t come together. Maybe you think that our division runs too deep and we will forever be a race split. But it’s out there, it is possible, I’ve seen it. It happened to me last night.

 

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Getting started..

I’m torn. I’m torn between subjects that I passionately love. I’m currently taking an online course run by the Arizona State university in Astronomy. I have burning passion for astronomy, physics and all things science. The only trouble is that my Maths is shit. Now, at 35, I wish I had paid more attention in maths class instead of daydreaming about what knickers Sandy Blake had on and  how do I get my hands in them.

I also love literature. I buy books constantly. I currently have, to name a few, titles by Orwell, Dickens and Twain sitting on my shelf not being read. It’s criminal. Not to mention a few casual books on social engineering, card tricks, a killer shark and an almost finished book about Abraham Lincoln and the American civil war. My problem is:

I want to know about everything. But the more I learn, the more I realise how little I know about a great many things.

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So I signed up to re take my GCSE/O level/High school maths. I start in October. £45. Bargain. One of the questions I have to answer to is “Where do you want this qualification to take you?” I’m tempted to answer “To the edge of the universe” but feel I might raise a few eyebrows considering I can’t do long division without a calculator. So I’ll probably stick to “Further education”

As a musician I always have the urge to set my guitar up and record. I find the hours fall away when I’m engrossed with recording. I’m very lucky, now that my children are at school, that I have a great deal of time on my hands during the day. But I fear when asked what I did today ‘Recording ideas for songs’ might be misinterpreted as ‘fuck all’

I enjoy writing. Blogs, stories, articles you name it. I haven’t written for a long time and it gets me all knotted up inside. I find it soothing, a bit like hoovering really. It releases anger and stress. So I need to do more of it.

I love to learn. I love learning new things. I love to explore. I like to say yes. Saying yes invites the possibility of new things, experiences and people into your life. Saying yes opens the door into an otherwise undiscovered world. I don’t know where I stand. I feel like I’m in the minority. I feel most people don’t necessarily want to learn new things. New skills. New lessons. I feel most people just want to reinforce what they already know. Even if it’s untrue. Maybe I’m talking wildly out of turn or maybe I’m bang on the money. I just don’t know.

All I know is I want the world. I want every taste, every sound, every emotion and every experience I can before my short time on this ball of water is over. It won’t start tomorrow because it’s already started.

Regardless of what atmosphere we are living in the conservation of knowledge must be accelerated. For without it we suffer in stagnation.

“Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known” – Carl Sagan

 

World Down’s Syndrome Day #WDSD15 and Sequins in the Bed

Down’s syndrome day

Marlo Love

My tired husband and I crawl into bed and realise that fairies must have dumped their treasure chest of sequins on our sheets during the day. We laugh as we unstick them from our legs.

In a room across the hall we hear two little voices talking partly to each other and partly to themselves. The conversation filled with so many run on sentences and gibberish that it begins to sound like they are talking in tongues.IMG_20140902_204939_resized_1

No matter how tidy our house gets, the evidence that two happy little girls live here is ever present. Glitter glue drawings, finger paints stuck to the carpet, hieroglyphic Crayola on the walls—all made by two loving sisters.

 

One of them happens to have Down’s syndrome. And that really is an after-thought.

 

I am not as politically pro-life as I once thought I was. I can’t get into the mind and…

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A world of Pain

Well the decorations are down, the cards have been packed away and the chocolates have all been eaten. Christmas is well and truly over; and aside from decaying tree in the front garden, it all seems a long time ago.

It’s been a crazy start to 2015. Apart from the wrecking of the Costa Concordia in 2012 I can’t think of a year which had a more destructive start.

There was of course the atrocious acts of violence in France. 12 people dead in a single act of barbarism carried out by Islamic terrorists/fundamentalists. A bomb being detonated outside the NAACP building in Colorado by a lone white man. A Saudi blogger was sentenced to ten years in prison,1000 lashes and a $250,000 fine. And fellow blogger and friend, Adam Pain has hung up his blogging shoes…for now.

I’m glad to say it’s not all doom and gloom.
Paul Golding, Britain First ‘Leader’, has been found guilty of harassment and for wearing a political uniform in public.
David Cameron has insisted that The Green party be invited to a televised party political debate/s in the run up to this years election.
Abu Hamza has been sentenced to life in prison by a court in the USA.

So my thoughts so far for 2015:

Nothing is above mockery. If you feel the need to murder people in the name of your religion then you are seriously deranged. When acts of violence/terrorism occur only the people responsible are obliged to apologize. Freedom of speech, freedom of and from religion are rights we should ALL possess.
A green jacket and a battered army land rover do NOT give you the right to bang on peoples doors and extort money from people.
Whatever David Cameron’s reasons are for insisting the Greens be invited to television debate/s I’m just glad he has spoken out. However my spidey senses tell me they’re insidious. Good riddance to a nasty piece of shit. After living rent free courtesy of the tax paying British public for the last decade or so you’re now free to enjoy the Grey bar motel courtesy of Uncle Sam.

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Until next time… Be cool to each other

Lucy in the sky with….fairy lights.

So it’s that time of year again. Every year it seems to go by a little quicker. It does only seem like yesterday when my daughter was having her first Christmas in her little red dress. Turns out it was actually three years ago. This year, for the first time, I shall be attending midnight mass. I’m not religious, as I’m sure most of you know… Not even a little

fairy-lights

My wife revealed to me that she would like to attend, as it was always customary in her family. (Irish/Italian living in New York) I put up my usual defense of not wanting to go and stated clearly that I didn’t want to go…So naturally after 3 or 4 minutes of silence I agreed to go. I figure 45mins singing Christmas Carols and hearing the story of Jesus’ birth was a far better option than spending the rest of 2014 with the silent treatment. But there was another reason for agreeing to go…

I watched a TED video a few weeks ago which the premise was ‘Getting what you want’
If you have a free 21mins I would recommend watching the video.
One point was trying to get out of the rut you’re in, which we all get stuck in from time to time. Getting out of your comfort zone, doing something that’s new. Going to church on Christmas eve at midnight, for me, will be new. I’m usually found propping up a bar of some description. The only way we, I, will ever grow as a human/man/husband/father is to experience new things. Getting a perspective from the other side of the fence. Breaking out of a routine that makes days fall away like the old needles of a Christmas tree. So with that in mind the four of us will trot off to church. I’ll keep of copy of Christopher Hitchens in my coat pocket… Just for moral support.

So we have our tree up, the girls are little older, which brings back that Christmas sparkle that we had as children, that somehow gets lost in the haze of adolescence. We bought a bottle of mulled wine and the cakes, sweets & chocolates are starting to roll in. Whatever you plan on doing this season, be it going to church, learning about the winter solstice or learning about how other faiths/non faiths celebrate this time of year..I hope it’s a good one.

Venom

It’s nearly 10 years since I visited Australia, a 3 month trip that will stay with me forever. One particular day sticks in my memory.

A group of us had booked a 3 day trip around one of Darwin’s national parks, Kakadu. There were 6 in total plus a guide. We hiked through the park, checked out ancient aboriginal cave art, swam in billabongs ate BBQ and drank beer..It was ace.
On the last day we were hiking back to camp we came to a small creek, about 3 feet wide which was easy enough for us to jump over. The guide went first and then we all followed; as I waited for my turn I was reflecting on what an amazing trip this was, then I heard it. A scream, a scuffle and a lot of commotion. Those of us left on my side of the creek were told to stay where we were and not to move. One of the guys had been bitten by a snake, a brown snake. After a few minutes we told it was safe to come across. At the time I had no medical training or experience so of course I was the obvious choice to help the guide, who was a trained medic, in applying a tourniquet. The bite was just above the ankle and didn’t look like much, two tiny puncture wounds…but what the fuck do I know. After the tourniquet was applied the guide had to run back to truck to radio a medevac. I was told to keep the guy talking, keep him calm and try not to let him fall unconscious.

I tried just that. Asking pointless and inane questions and up holding a blanket so as to create a little shade. I felt totally inadequate, completely useless and a little stupid. In essence I was helpless…helpless.

Now the above story is nothing more than fiction. But that feeling of helplessness isn’t. My wife, Marlo, is in a relapse. She was diagnosed with Relapsing Remitting Multiple Sclerosis.
All I can do to make things easier for her are as inane as an English tourist helping a snake bite victim who is potentially seeing out his last minutes by asking stupid and irrelevant questions.

She was prescribed a course of steroids, that in her words, rips your body apart and makes your bones feel like glass. She still finds the energy to get up, get dressed and go to work. She does all this and still looks amazing. She also raises our two children and is writing her second book…yes, second!

It pains me that there isn’t much I can do apart from make tea, hot water bottles and watch Harry Potter with her. It really is testament to her character, and anyone with a disability, that she finds the energy and strength to get through the day.

I woke up this morning with a cold…