Friday, June 30, 2006

Baby's got the bends

So I've now joined the new covers band. (does anyone know the correct format when writing the word "i've"? Should it be a capital "I" or a small "i"? I am never sure).

I am really excited about this bunch. They've got a good few gigs booked over the coming months and the set list is quite varied and interestingly funky. I am going to juggle the two bands because I have grown to love playing with the other guys and gal in Mimosa, I just miss the fun of thrashing out now and again.

For a drummer, one of the challenging aspects of learning covers properly, is listening very well and trying to play the song with the feel of the original. It is only half the job to learn the actual part and to hit the correct drums or cymbals at the correct time. The other half is to copy the feel. I have seen so many drummers play covers in their "style" when the reality is that they haven't paid any attention to the style of the original.

Have a listen to Superstition by Stevie Wonder. It is revered by many drummers for being one of the greatest and funkiest drum parts of all time and it is actually played by Stevie himself. To recreate it properly you have to pay attention to the high hat part. It is a sloppy and erratic dotted sixteenth note pattern that very few "proper" drummers would have come up with, but it is a crucial part of the song.

I have heard it played by many drummers in pub bands and I have only ever seen one drummer try to play it as the original. You could hear it played by 10 different drummers and each of them could play the exact notes at the correct moments but they would all have a different feel to the original. That drum part deserves respect and it shouldn't be bastardised just because Mr Crap drummer isn't up to it or can't be bothered.

Some of the songs I am learning now are:

Psycho Killer - a classic, plods along, deceptively hard to play as it's so sparse
I predict a riot - a bit corny but good fun all the same
Dani California and Tell me Baby - 2 songs from the new Chilis album. As Chad Smith is one of my heroes these are great fun for me.
American Idiot - Sometimes one has to prostitute oneself
The Bends - Absobloodylutely brilliant song, everything good about Radiohead in 4 minutes and it will be in my repertoire soon. So much fun to play.
Spitting Games - I'm not a Snow Patrol fan at all but this is the only song of their's that I like. And I love it.

Those are the highlights and I've also got some other "bread and butter" stuff to learn. Ones like Lucy in the sky with diamonds, Purple haze, Rebel Rebel. All well known dodgy covers band songs that will be useful to have in my list anyway.

So it's a busy time for me. The funk band has a gig next Saturday and I'll need to polish up for that, I'll be learning all the new songs and England will win the World Cup.

Which is nice.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Musical differences

I had an audition for a rather interestingly funky covers band last night. The guitarist rang me last week, he had remembered me because I auditioned for them about a year ago. At the time I turned them down because I decided to go with my current band, Mimosa, and I wanted to play originals rather than covers.

But lately I have started to miss the sheer fun and excitement of playing a few well known songs to a few drunk people in pubs. So I have been keeping my ears and eyes open for a covers band that I can try to join whilst staying with the originals band too. Out of the blue I received the call last week. "Would I like to try out for this band?" I was as hesitant as can be until he named some of the tracks they do "Psycho killer, Dancing in the moonlight (Thin Lizzy, not that crap band), By the Way, Dani California, From the floorboards up, I predict a riot" and many more.

I couldn't resist, particularly when he told me that they wanted to do songs that are well known but to steer clear of the real traditional pub covers songs that can be heard every Saturday down the local.

I went along last night, enjoyed it and got the "job", if I want it. It did get me thinking about the differences between the London music scene and the Colombo scene. Here we have an unlimited supply of great covers bands and great originals bands. I can go out on any day of the week and see virtually any kind of music my little heart desires, and I'm not even thinking of the big name bands that play in London.

Live music here has had a small boost in the last few years as more people are into guitar bands now than there were in the nineties. One of the side effects of the declining state of the commercial music business in this Country is the abundance of quality musicians that are desperately seeking work. Many of these top quality musos can be seen playing in bands in every local pub you can think of. It is a sad situation with some great benefits. Sad that these guys have to prostitute themselves just to make a meagre amount of money, with the benefit to people like me of getting to see them play.

The CMB music scene is very different. The number of venues is much, much less, probably only about 5 - 10 available for rock bands. It seems to be the same bands playing in the same venues week in week out. The bands I have seen in Colombo have all been very good, guys like Wildfire and In Harmony. But they have attained a level of adulation and respect that no covers band would get here, apart from Oasis.

I have heard of the Brass Monkey band and a few others and I am hoping to discover more when I am there in September. But I have spotted the gap, the niche, the opportunity. You Colombo people need some kicking originals bands. Not nu metal, just quality music written and played by proper musicians. But they also need an audience not spoilt by the Venga Boys and Engelbert Humperdinck. (Sp?)

I shall be packing a load of musos on the next ship to Colombo. You'll know them when they arrive, they'll smell of weed and urine and they'll use the word "cool" at least twice in every sentence. Please look after them and if you can get them a gig or two that would be great.


Monday, June 26, 2006

Sitting, waiting and contemplating

Things that sit there, waiting to be used once, and once only. These objects can sit doing nothing for years and then they come to life to be used. That's it, job done, they are then consigned to the bin to be replaced by another one.

Pure genius!

Ring pull


Motorway crash barrier

The plastic wrapper on food etc (most of these still need lots of improvement)

Tea bag


My minds gone blank, I can't think of any more.


Friday, June 23, 2006

Positive stuff

Some people just can't help sounding negative. Other people are naturally positive. I know which type i'd rather be.

These are some phrases I have picked up on lately that sound positive at first but actually convey a very negative image:

"I don't disagree with you" - I hear this one a lot in various meetings. It is usually followed with a "but" and then the person goes on to explain what they disagree with. If I ever think of using this phrase now I try to replace it with "I agree with you". It forces me to think of the concept more positively.

"I'm not too bad" - The most common answer to "How are you?". The only way to answer the question and sound more negative would be to say "I'm really crap" and give a long list of problems and ailments. When asked now I always say something like "I'm great thanks". Unless I'm not, then I give a long list of problems and say that I'm crap.

"Don't forget" - Surely if you ask someone to remember something then that will be more powerful than telling them not to forget it.

"No problem" - I used to say this a lot, particularly when talking to customers. Then I realised that it creates an image of problems in the mind of the person you are talking to. It's far better to just say "yes". It save so much time too.

So there you have it. My top tip for the day is to remove all the above from your vocabulary. It will make you sound more positive and constructive. It really works.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

What the hell were they thinking of?

Love, money and hard drugs.

Are the only possible reasons for writing these songs:

  1. Lady in Red. - I am pleased to say that I don't know anyone who has bought a Chris de Burgh record. If you know me and you own anything by him then please delete me from your address book, forget I existed and move on. It will be better for both of us.
  2. Wonderful Tonight - One of the greatest guitarists of all time, a genuine rock god and a hero to untold people proves that even he can write total tosh when he is loved up.
  3. Hi Ho Silver Lining - Another of the world's greatest guitarists takes a different angle and proves that, as anthems go, maybe Stairway to Heaven isn't actually that bad.
  4. I just called to say I love you - Stevie gave us Superstition, Living in the City, Boogie on Reggae woman, Hotter than July and Higher Love. Then he messed it all up by coming up with that song. I am not sure if I can ever forgive him for it.
  5. 3 Times a Lady - they did some really funky stuff, then they needed to make some money and wrote this.
  6. I wish I was a Punk Rocker - A new law has just been passed in the UK. It stipulates that every radio station in the UK must play this song every 8 minutes. Sandi Thom, the singer tells us that she wishes she was a punk rocker and harks back to the good old days when music mattered. She yearns for revolution and talks about anarchy. She puts this to the most folky, radio friendly, put together by Simon Cowell feeling soundtrack possible. "I wish I was a punk rocker with flowers in my hair". I don't think so.

There we have it. 6 songs I hate. The only possible motives for writing them must have been love or money or the influence of drugs.

Or maybe all of the above.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Refreshingly Sri Lanka - more

I went to see what it was all about on Saturday.

I turned up, complete with 2 pre teenage daughters in tow. They are at the age when I am never sure if they really want to do something or if they are just going along to be nice. I have to be permanently on my guard as a innocuous comment from me can cause mood swings, tears and shouting. They are not like their mother one bit!! We had had about 65 arguments in the morning already but I thought that the mood might get better. It did.

Trafalgar Square was buzzing when we arrived at about midday. The band was starting to soundcheck, the usual stuff with a bloke counting into all the different microphones, the drummer doing a bit, the singer poncing around on stage trying to look natural and pretending he is unaware of the people watching him from the crowd.

I am sure there is some kind of checklist that people have to go through before they are allowed to call themselves singers. At the top of the list is the ability to turn up very late for rehearsals, followed by the complete inability to demonstrate any kind of guilt about it. About halfway down the list is dodgy fashion sense and, right at the bottom of it (in brackets), is the ability to sing. There is a similar list for drummers, but it only has two items; must have a drum kit and must have a car. The drum kit thing can be waived under some conditions and the car thing can be talked about too.

Anyway, we spent a good while ambling around. There were stalls run by Barefoot, Odel and many other well known Sri Lankan shops and businesses. There was a food stall selling Sri Lankan goodies. Lamprais, patties, cutlets, all the favourites. I think there are probably some people in Trafalgar Square still queuing for this. There was a stall selling fruit and vegetables, with Rambutan and Mangosteen. We bought loads as Mangosteens are my daughters' favourites and Rambutans are mine. Loads wasn't enough as the little buggers ate them all and I didn't get anything. Damn!

There was a big screen in one corner showing the match, interspersed with adverts for all the cultural attractions of Sri Lanka too. I saw the High Commissioner wandering around serving Ferrero Rocher to all and looking glamorous. She had even arranged for the Red Arrows and a few other aircraft to do a flypast at 1 o'clock. Those moments of sunshine, red buses, Trafalgar Square, and crowds of good natured people all looking up watching the planes were brief but memorable, particularly for pickpockets.

I would imagine the only person to feel a bit aggrieved about the flypast must have been the Queen. Half a mile down the road she was trying to have a 80th birthday party and the noise of the planes must have forced her to turn the music up.

We had to leave before the band started and, from what I have heard, we missed most of the partying and the fun. Pre teenage girls have a low boredom threshold and they get hungry and hot and bad tempered. I wasn't hungry at all and I didn't eat one of those massive steak Cornish Pasties that they sell at Waterloo station in about 3 seconds. Okay.

All in all it was great. It was just a shame that whole thing was overshadowed by recent events. There was a strange dichotomy in celebrating the beauty of Sri Lanka and trying to encourage people to holiday there while knowing that the country is on the brink of all out war.

I'll still be there in September though.

It made me proud to be Sri Lankan / British / a drummer / crazily mixed up / all.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Refreshingly Sri Lanka

Gorgeous weather.

Trafalgar Square packed with people, mostly Sri Lankans, all having a good time.

The Queen's 80th birthday.

The Red Arrows.

I give my new camera its first run out.

Refreshingly London.

It doesn't get much better!

Friday, June 16, 2006

Let's do something about it

The latest bomb blast in Sri Lanka is terrible, devastating and tragic news.

Whenever one of these atrocities is commited I am struck by the extreme views that are held by just about everyone. There are pro LTTE views and there are pro GOSL views and there is a serious shortage of anything in between. Maybe that's because people with stronger views on a subject are the ones who are more likely to comment. Maybe it's because nothing is more emotive than death. Maybe it's because many people hear nothing but propaganda, on both sides.

When I started blogging I was sure about 2 things: I wanted to stay away from politics and I wanted to take a positive appraoch to everything I wrote about. The two key points are actually quite related. I find politics, particularly in the UK, largely negative and destructive. I wish political parties could take a positive appraoach. The Labour party recently produced a party political broadcast (a term I use loosely) in which they depicted David Cameron (the Tory leader) as a laughable cartoon character. The whole of this broadcast consisted of the one theme and its purpose was entirely to create negative opinions of David Cameron. It was cheap, easy and poor quality.

As a young salesperson I was taught that the best salespeople gain business by selling the positives elements of their own product, service and company. Running down the opposition, slagging off the competition, or whatever you call it, rarely works. Yet politicians all over the world don't think like this. They spend most of their time launching attacks on the opposition. Often they are personal attacks. Did Bill Clinton smoke a joint when he was at University? Did he inhale? Does it matter? If those sort of things bother you that much then you probably shouldn't have a vote.

So I want a positive political party. One that offers solutions rather than picks at problems. One that doesn't run down the opposition. Is it totally beyond the realms of possibility that I might see a Labour leader turn to a Tory leader one day and say "Actually that's a really good idea"?

The vast majority of things I read about the situation in Sri Lanka are all negative. I read extreme anti LTTE or even anti Tamil stances, I read others taking anti Sinhalese or even anti Buddhist stances. Many say that the GOSL should launch all out war and forget all attempts to maintain the fragile CFA. Many say that the LTTE have done this already. But the majority either hate the GOSL or hate the LTTE.
The Norwegians, that nation of renowned warmongers, are the arch enemy of some critics because they are seen as biased. The BBC are evil and biased because they have the ordacity to report on the LTTE. This is the same BBC that reported on the IRA during its reign of terror, the same BBC that continues to report on Al Qaeda. The same BBC that even reports on the German football team. (only occasionally as there are limits)

I have not seen anyone come up with a solution. There must be one lurking around somewhere. It's hidden in a cupboard, it's disguised as a three wheeler, it's hiding up a tree, it's under that pile of rubbish. It could be anywhere and it could come from anyone, but it's there. Here is the one cyberplace where I have seen anyone mention looking for a solution:

Virtually everyone who travels to the island of Serendipity falls in love with its natural beauty, its climate, the wildlife, its deep rooted traditions and its people. That is despite the 25 years of civil war and all of its consequences.

So please. Come up with a solution. One that can please most of the people. It is there, it just hasn't shown itself yet. Let's get going, let's use some intelligence and compassion and think of how to solve the situation. If enough people want to solve something the solution will come.

Someone is taking an intelligent view and trying to generate some positive dialogue. We need more of that and more of that kind of thinking.

One thing I know for sure is that hate never helped find a solution to anything.

I have got my thinking cap on. I've got a feeling one of you brainy coves will think of something before me though.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Calling any Londoners!!!

Anyone going to this Sri Lankan thing in Trafalgar Square on Saturday?

It looks like it might be fun.

Monday, June 12, 2006

2 fatal car crashes and I must be the luckiest bloke alive!

I must be blessed. In the last week I have had more good fortune fall my way than most get in a lifetime. It all started last Monday when I arrived at work.

I checked my emails and, as usual, I had about 70 of the little chaps. Most of them were total rubbish but of course I had to read them to establish that fact. One of the things I dislike most about going on holiday is that, when I return, invariably after 3 weeks of soaking up Sri Lankan sun and hospitality, I have about 300 - 400 emails sitting in my inbox. The important ones will already have been taken care of by one of my partners but I still have copies. So I have to read all of them, only to discover that precisely 98.46% are junk and just need deleting. The rest are not junk, just crap, and I save them with good positive and motivated post holiday thoughts of "mmm I'll read that when I have a minute, it'll come in useful". I never do.

So back to last Monday when I was checking my emails. After I had filtered out the unwanted stuff I was left with about 10 important ones. I won't explain the work ones here, because I only have about 3 readers and I don't want to lose you. All but one of the remainder were warnings about potential fraud on the many internet accounts I have, some of which I don't even know I have. The other one was a bit of great news that i'll come to.

To start with there was a warning from Paypal. It told me that I had bought a Sony Vaio laptop for $2600 and, as it was an unusually high transaction, I was asked to either confirm it or click on a link to report it as not being mine. There were a few spelling or grammatical mistakes in the email but I guess Paypal's fraud people are quite busy and don't have time to write properly. Naturally I clicked on the link and all I had to do was to type in my account details, including my password and confidential stuff. Those kind people at Paypal assure me they will now take care of everything.

Next, I had an message from Barclays Bank asking me to confirm my account details, as they were reviewing their security arrangements. Of course I clicked on the link, submitted all my details and did what they required. I have always felt it is important to help these security types whenever possible.

Then there was HSBC. Two seperate emails asked me for my account details. One was for a security audit and the other was because someone had tried to access my account. I responded immediately, thanking my lucky stars that the criminals were outsmarted yet again.

That was it. After all this I was able to carry on with my work, safe in the knowledge that those anti fraud fellows at Paypal, HSBC and Barclays are all working away to protect me, the customer.

I think I have made a small error of judgement. I discovered today that my Paypal account has suddenly bought about $15,000 worth of goods and both my HSBC and my Barclays accounts have been totally cleaned out. Clearly the evil criminals managed to get away with the money even before the anti fraud chaps got into action.

People have asked me why I don't seem too bothered about this. Why, they ask, am I walking around with a big smile on my face? Why do I look as if I have won the lottery when I have actually lost every penny I have and a bit more?

I'll tell you, but keep it to yourself.

The other email I got last Monday, although somewhat tragic, also gave me some good news. It was from a Solicitor in London. He told me that there had been a terrible car accident in Manchester about 6 months ago. The husband and wife and children in the car were all killed instantly. The solicitor couldn't trace any relatives of the family until he came across my name. He contacted me straight away and assured me that he would be honest with me. That's good enough for me, so I sent him all my details, some blank paper with my signature on it, that kind of thing. By a stroke of good fortune the family left about £3 million and I am the only distant relative that can be traced.

And then, on top of that, I got another email this morning to say that an American family had been killed on the Sagbama Express Road in Lagos under similar circumstances, only they left $20 million. Of course, I have emailed the chap all the information he needs and I am now just waiting for a cheque.
Please keep quiet about this as it would seem that the man was someone quite high up in the army and he "acquired" most of the money through rather dubious means.
The Solicitor said it is lucky that I am so trustworthy and am not the sort to go to the Police.

So, all in all, although I have lost a few quid I still reckon I'm about £12 million up. Not bad for a week's work!

Friday, June 9, 2006

Jennifer Aniston and Vicki Butler - Henderson.........

.......... are fighting over me.
It's a tough, no holds barred type of girl fight fuelled by each woman's intense and burning passion to have me, and only me.

I have seen Jennifer sitting at a drum kit and I have seen Vicki test driving cars. I am not sure which one of them I would choose so I think the only fair thing is to let them have a fight. That is, unless they can work out some sort of deal where they share me.

The other night there was some oldish crappy American lovey dovey film on TV, featuring our Jen. It was one of those feel good ones that makes you think that every town is full of gorgeous single women, all of whom are desperately seeking a man to spend the rest of their life with and they all prefer intelligent, normal, ugly blokes. Just like real life then, apart from the normal and ugly bit. Oh, and the single bit. And the desperate bit.

Ironically the male lead in this film was played by the bloke who played Phoebe's husband in Friends. I think the film was made before he got involved with Phoebe but it still didn't seem right, not just because he played a gay bloke but also because Rachel would never try to get involved with Phoebe's man. We all know that.

Vicki B-H is a very British type of girl. That's her, the one above looking fresh faced and lovely!
She looks like that and she is a racing driver. She probably likes Muse, funk and drums. She has a gravelly, sexy voice, a wickedly naughty laugh and a cheeky and impish grin.

There's not much to say about Jennifer A that isn't known by most people anyway. Classic beauty, cute vulnerabililty, looks great in jeans and a T shirt, hangs around in coffee shops, marries Brad Pitt. You know the type.

I think i'll get on with my dreaming now. Vicki looks like she's winning but I swear she is about to have her top torn off. Go on Jennifer!! Or Vicki. Go for the bra strap, go on pull it. That's it Jen, get her G string.............................

Thursday, June 8, 2006

New words

I saw this and copied and pasted most of it. I am not too proud to confess to such an appalling crime.

ANNUAL NEOLOGISM CONTEST. Once again, The Washington Post has published the winning submissions to its yearly contest, in which readers are asked to supply alternate meanings forcommon words.

1. Coffee (n.), the person upon whom one coughs.
2. Flabbergasted (adj.), appalled over how much weight you have gained.
3. Abdicate (v.), to give up all hope of ever having a flat stomach.
4. Esplanade (v.), to attempt an explanation while drunk.
5. Willy-nilly (adj.), impotent.
6. Negligent (adj.), describes a condition in which you absentmindedly answer the door in your nightgown.
7. Lymph (v.), to walk with a lisp.
8. Gargoyle (n.), olive-flavored mouthwash.
9. Flatulence (n.) emergency vehicle that picks you up after you are run over by a steamroller.
10. Balderdash (n.), a rapidly receding hairline.
11. Testicle (n.), a humorous question on an exam.
12. Rectitude (n.), the formal, dignified bearing adopted byproctologists.
13. Pokemon (n), a Rastafarian proctologist.
14. Oyster (n.), a person who sprinkles his conversation with Yiddishisms.
15. Frisbeetarianism (n.), (back by popular demand): The belief that when you die your Soul flies up onto the roof and gets stuck there.
16. Circumvent (n.), an opening in the front of boxer shorts worn by Jewish men.

MORE: The Washington Post's Style Invitational also asked readers to take any word from the dictionary, alter it by adding, subtracting, or changing one letter, and supply a new definition.

Bozone (n.): The substance surrounding stupid people that stops bright ideas from penetrating. The bozone layer, unfortunately, shows little sign of breaking down in the near future.

Foreploy (v): Any misrepresentation about yourself for the purpose of getting laid.

Cashtration (n.): The act of buying a house, which renders the subject financially impotent for an indefinite period.

Sarchasm (n): The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn't get it.

Inoculatte (v): To take coffee intravenously when you are running late.

Osteopornosis (n): A degenerate disease.

Decafalon (n.): The grueling event of getting through the day consuming only things that are good for you.

Dopeler effect (n): The tendency of stupid ideas to seem smarter when they come at you rapidly.

Arachnoleptic fit (n.): The frantic dance performed just after you’ve accidentally walked through a spider web.

Beelzebug (n.): Satan in the form of a mosquito that gets into your bedroom at three in the morning and cannot be cast out.

Caterpallor (n.): The color you turn after finding half a grub in the fruit you’re eating.

Ignoranus (n): A person who's both stupid and an asshole.

Some of them make me laugh aloud heartily, some make me titter gently and some of them are a bit too complex for my simple mind. I may ask one of my many (2) academic acquaintances to explain these to me.

Tuesday, June 6, 2006

What are you listening to this week?

Maybe it's the warm weather, blue sky and the feel good factor but there seems to be a lot of good music around right now. That is, if you have the same taste in music as I do. In my car CD player at the moment is:

  1. Bright Idea by Orson - Guitary, poppy, boppy and great. It's a shame they're from the US as it seems such a quirky British sound. A very Summery album.
  2. The new Pearl Jam album - I almost gave up on this one. But I persevered and I am glad. Every song is a winner on this. Great driving music. Matt Cameron, their drummer is on top form as well.
  3. Mezmerize - System of a Down. A band I keep coming back to. Not your average heavy rock because they chuck in Armenian melodies and rhythms every now and again. Just as well that their origins are Armenian then.
  4. Funk Drops - A compilation of old school funk. Powerful grooves, funky guitar and corny lyrics. It doesnt' get much funkier and it never feels any groovier!
  5. A playlist - All centred around "Supermassive black hole" by Muse. The song that sounds like Prince if he tried to rock things up a bit. This CD also has "Steady as she goes" by the Raconteurs on it. I hate the White Stripes with a passion but Jack White's sideline is a different kettle of jam. Also on this are 2 live tracks by Gomez, "Get myself arrested" and "Whipping Piccadilly". A band that haven't made it as big as people thought they would but I like them.
  6. Space - An empty hole - So I can buy an album this week and bung it in there without making a sacrifice.

Those are my choices for this week. What are you listening to?

Monday, June 5, 2006

World Cup fever, hot weather, barbecues and life.

Only 4 days to go until the World Cup finals begin. Most people here are quietly confident about England's chances. No one wants to shout from the rooftops that they think England are going to win but everyone is walking around with a feeling of quiet confidence. The only negative at the moment is the question mark hanging over Wayne Rooney's fitness, but that may be the one thing that has stopped being feeling arrogant about the chances of success. One thing I am sure about is that Peter Crouch will return as a hero. He seems to have suddenly captured the Country's affection in the last couple of weeks, mostly because of his appalling robotic dancing at the Beckham's party, but he scored a hat trick on Saturday and looks to be reaching a peak in his playing and scoring.

It's a funny thing for me, the bloke with a crazy mixed up identity, or the chap with a rich mix of cultures, depending on your viewpoint. I can feel English where football is concerned. I hang a St George's flag from my car. Well I'm on my third flag in as many weeks because the first 2 disintegrated after a short blast on a motorway. That's chinese quality for you, St George would be turning in his grave!

So for football I am English, yet I have been following the cricket and supporting Sri Lanka. It has always been the case for me. An ardent England supporter in football and an ardent Sri Lankan in cricket. Of course, if England ever played Sri Lanka in football, I wouldn't have a clue which way to turn. Which would be just like the Sri Lankan football team in the match, so I'd probably support them whilst knowing that they wouldn't stand a chance.

The weather here has transformed into summer over the weekend. It all helps with the world cup atmosphere. I spent most of the weekend huddled over a hot barbecue. Barbecuing is a strange concept, if the word "barbecuing" even exists. There is very probably an ancient law that prohibits women from cooking food on the barbecue. Most blokes don't mind the fact either. Barbies our are territory. Of course we don't marinade or flavour the food, or prepare the salads or accompaniments, but we can stand by the barbie with a drink to hand and cook the food to within a whisker of its life. Or burnt on the outside and red raw in the middle if you prefer it that way.

It takes many years of practice to do that.

Yes, summer is well and truly here. The test match continues today. I'll try to have an eye on it in between sporadic outbreaks of work. This hot weather always makes me pine for Sri Lanka. I don't know why, maybe when it is cold and grey and raining here SL seems much further away. Two things I know for sure are that hot weather puts everyone in a better mood.

And women wear less clothes. Sorted.

Friday, June 2, 2006

Live music in Colombo

The authorities (wife) have cleared it and I will be in Colombo for about a week in September with my brother. He will be pretending to do some work and i'll mooch about, do some clothes shopping, see some friends and family and hopefully see lots of good live music.

Can anyone give me any ideas on the live music? I want to see as many good bands as possible so I am sure Clancys will be high on the list. Sunday afternoons at Barefoot (although I only have one Sunday there) . Where else? Who are the really good bands to see? Any recomendations would be appreciated.

I need music. Feed me.

Thursday, June 1, 2006

A non intellectual's thoughts on international economics, workforce migration, hypocrisy and the new Pearl Jam album.

First Dear Reader, let me give you a bit of background. I am not a great intellectual and I didn't go to University or study economics. So, much of what I am about to write may be the stuff of basic economic theory or it may just be plain wrong. But, it is all my own work and it is the summary of many different trains of thought I have had over many years.

In the last 30 years I have witnessed the phenomenon of the vast migration of workers from Sri Lanka to many of the Middle Eastern countries and it is something that I have pondered and cogitated on a lot. I am particularly interested in this because many members of my family in SL have done this but also because, in the 1950s, my Father emigrated from SL to the UK for the same reason, opportunity.

The jobs that have been filled in these Middle Eastern states are those that cannot, or will not, be filled by "locals", for a variety of reasons. They are often those of domestic servants, drivers, shop assistants and just wouldn't be done by many of the oil rich residents. So there is a huge demand for a cheap and willing workforce, preferably from a country with a very low cost of living. Like Sri Lanka. Many Sri Lankans see the opportunity to earn relatively massive salaries and jump at it and embrace it, knowing that the same thing is unlikely to occur in their own war torn homeland. Or "ceasefire stricken" homeland as the case may be.

In many ways the concept is a perfect win - win scenario. One country gains a willing and plentiful workforce, prepared to work for a pittance of a salary. The other country gains much needed foreign capital, a better standard of living for many of its nationals, reduced unemployment and lots of TVs and stereos carried in as hand luggage! Most of these things can clearly have long term positive effects to the country and are surely good. I have relatives who have worked in the Middle East and generated wealth for their immediate family. Much of that wealth has been invested in education which in turn can help to move people up the social strata. Naturally this can aid future generations in getting better employment, thereby reducing the need for these generations to seek employment abroad. All assuming that the work is available in Sri Lanka, which is by no means certain.

But this perfect win - win scenario simply does not exist. There are some very big negatives that should be put into the pot, to see if it swims. There are many documented cases of housemaids and servants being abused in every possible way, even killed in the most extreme cases.

There was a story recently of a maid who was allegedly raped at BIA, while waiting to get on a plane to go to the Middle East. If I remember correctly the lady was reluctant to say anything about the rape until she reached her destination, for fear of losing the employment, such is the lure of the "opportunity". There are also stories in abundance of dodgy employment agencies, trading on poeple's eagerness to secure this type of employment. Many of these agencies offer promises of jobs and riches in return for cash. By the time the poor victim has parted with their money and realised that there is no real job offer usually the agency is long gone, as is the cash.

The social impact on children who are separated from either one, or often both, of their parents for an extended period must be drastic. This will be countered to an extent by the positives provided by the income derived from the employment, but who is to say that the end result is good or bad?

Is it a sad dichotomy that many of the migrant workers will be treated as the lowest of the low in their country of employment and they will be willing to accept this in order to elevate their status at home. Several years ago whilst travelling from Colombo to Dubai I witnessed an Arab man taking a group of housemaids from Sri Lanka to Dubai. What happened to them after Dubai I don't know but his treatment and demeanour towards them from CMB to Dubai was a pathetic sight. They seemed barely more than a herd of animals to him, he treated them with disdain and showed no respect whatsoever. Maybe I am just naive but I found the scene appalling and sickening.

With all my muddled thoughts on this I have reached no conclusions. I am lucky to have had a somewhat privileged middle class upbringing, partly because my Father came here to the UK in the 1950s in search of opportunity , which is precisely what many Sri Lankans are now seeking in the Middle East. So who am I to comment or criticise? Have a read of the following post and the comments it has attracted in particular. It made me think that perhaps I shouldn't comment on anyone who tries to better themselves when I haven't known true hardship or poverty in my life.

Market forces always win in our capitalist world and eventually there will be a shortage of labour in Sri Lanka. Salaries will increase, people will stay and millions of Sri Lankans will make shed loads of money from the huge Sri Lankan oil fields. Arabs, whose own oil wells will be totally dry, will be imported by the bucketload to become servants to the Sri Lankans.

I was spurned to write this after reading the following post on another blog. It is about the fact that Sri Lankan companies are starting to employ Indian executives rather than Sri Lankan ones, as they cost less. Ironic isn't it!

Oh, the new eponymous album by Pearl Jam takes a few listens, but it's excellent.