Monday, December 31, 2007

Men Dressed In Women's Clothes!!!

Coming to you live from Edinburgh. A city that I like the feel of, yet don't know why. It's like London in many ways; full of eastern Europeans and Indian restaurants, packed with expensive cars and aesthetically pleasing architecture.

But I've spotted something very disconcerting, something no Sri Lankan will understand or feel comfortable with. I've seen quite a few men on the streets already and have checked and double checked but there's no doubt about it. They're wearing skirts up in these parts.

Can you believe it?

Not like us Sri Lankan men, they're actually out and about in these things. Kilts or something like that they're called.

There'd be an outcry if we did it, if we went out in such attire, but they get away with it up here.

And as I type this on New Year's eve I ponder of the events of the last year, too many to list and too many to mention but you've probably read about them on this blog anyway.

Funny how things pan out eh? I'm sitting here with theonetruecoolguy's godson about 2 feet away from me. Who would have thought that would happen?

Big Happy New Year to all.

RD

Friday, December 28, 2007

Hogmanay!!

With a tinge of embarassment I must confess that I've never been to Scotland in my life, until tomorrrow that is.

The festive season is fading fast and giving way to New Year sales and queues in department stores, the conversation is moving rapidly away from thoughts of peace and goodwill to thoughts of how much money was saved in Zara on that leather bag. Every year it's the same, the build up to Christmas day, the drama of last minute shopping and wrapping and the couple of days of good quality family time. Then life gets back to normal quicker than you can say "I wish I was going to the Galle Literary Festival".

But tomorrow sees me heading North for the New Year. I mean proper North too, none of my proper London attitude about Watford being up North. I'll be driving up to Edinburgh to witness Hogmanay there and see what the fuss is about. I'm sure I'll bump into Darwin, I know Scotland's only tiny so we're bound to meet.

The drive looks like it will be a lot of fun. I've got some playlists organised and my camera is at the ready. Sat Nav, rear wheel drive, some cool grooves and some cold, hard cash. What more could a fellow want?

See you later then.

This year Edinburgh, next year Colombo.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Too Much Turkey

5.44 PM on Christmas Day.

My Dad is lying slightly dazed and mellow on the chair close to me, at any time in the next few minutes his eyes will close and he may well be gone for the night. In the next room the old, old Sri Lankan photo album has made its appearance and my Mum is showing it off proudly.

Pictures from the early 1900s, black, white and sepia. Batticaloa, Jaffna and days gone by. My Grandparents in the days of old, wearing hats and looking as if they're negatives from a PG Wodehouse novel. Lots of pictures of people called "Daniels".

I gave my Dad two remote control tuk tuks, one in red and one in yellow. I think I may have succeeded in finding him the perfect present, they've got horns and crowded street noises and everything.

It's been a big year, next year will be even bigger, it always is.

Friday, December 21, 2007

So Here It Is....

Merry Christmas All!!!

It's 8.00 AM and I'm at my desk for my last day at work before the festive break. I know that today's going to be just a little bit mental. Handovers to be done with about 5 people, last minute shopping, some serious list making and then the girls at my place tonight.

I'm not sure if there'll be much in the way of blog posts from me over the holiday, but these things can be played by ear. Either way I'd like to wish anyone that has read my blog a big merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

It's been an honour!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Now That's Got To be Irony!!

That woman Dilini Algama, the journalist, writes an article in Lakbima News. Read it here if you desire. Did you see what I did there? I inserted a link to her article, it's quite easy and I think it's a pleasant and courteous touch, don't you? If I didn't know better I'd think she'd had an argument with a blogger and had an axe to grind.

She finishes her article with the conclusion that bloggers should be taken seriously, but asks if it's unreasonable to expect ethics from bloggers.

Call me old fashioned, in fact you can bugger me backwards with a large portion of Chocolate Biscuit Pudding, but I detect the faintest hint of hilarious irony and pot calling the kettle black, or brown in our case.

Lakbima News, that bastion of journalistic ethics, lecturing the Sri Lankan blogging community on ethics.

As we say in London.

Oh fuckinel.

'Tis The Season To Be Jolly

Java tagged me with this post. He doesn't know it but it was a mental tag. I read his post and thought that I'll use it to do one of my own. I think Java will be ok with that.

What does this season mean to me?

It's one of damn cold weather, nice frosty stuff but cold too. This morning it was minus 3.5 deg as I drove in to work. Either that or the thermometer thing in my car isn't working properly.

It's a time to get lots of things finished for the year, of closing a few deals, of finalising some invoice queries and shaking some hands.

It's enforced, but also a lovely way to spend time with loved ones, to watch the girls' faces as they open presents and get excited about things.

It's a time to go out for a Xmas drink (or 2) with my brothers and Weston, which we did the other night. To get a bit lashed and have a dodgy Indian, to reminisce about our childhoods and talk about old school friends and who's heard from who, what they're doing now. To chat about who shagged who and listen to Weston telling us that he did. To know that he was only slightly exaggerating too.

It's working through the list I made the other day and getting a bit panicky, but then relaxing because it's that time of year. Realising that it's not a matter of life or death whether I've bought enough orange juice or not, then realising that I've bought none yet anyway.

Thinking back to Boxing Day 2004, a day that no Sri Lankan will ever forget for all the wrong reasons. Where was God on that day?

To feel the whole of a Country get ready for the seasonal break, to be aware of the collective suprise that we're nearly there, then to notice the rush of activity, then to see people and businesses start to wind down and begin the rest and relaxing.

To be very aware that there are always people worse off and always people better off then oneself.

Oh yes, to wonder if Father Christmas will leave me anything nice this year.

Darwin, Cerno, The Missing Sandwich, consider your good festive selves as tagged. Take the title "'tis the season to be jolly" and do with it what you wish.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

I've Got The Feeling

A couple of years ago I read a book that had quite a big effect on me. I can't remember the exact name of it but I'd like to share a bit about it with you. The book was about gut feelings, those instincts that we all have and all feel deep within our stomach, the ones that aren't caused by indigestion or Christmas spirit.

The book told stories of firemen who have evacuated a building just because they have "felt" an imminent danger, to see the roof cave in seconds after, of scientists who have followed a hunch and made world changing discoveries. Frankly that term "world changing" is one that I have come up with and I'm not sure about it, but we'll give it a try and see if there's any feedback.

Aforementioned book told of all these kind of examples, in which people have reacted to a set of events, in which they have sensed things and acted accordingly but usually without having the time to rationalise their thoughts and to figure out in a logical way what the mind is doing.

Like when you're crossing a road and you hear a car horn (ok, this bit isn't really applicable to anyone is SL!). So you hear the horn and just move the fuck out of the way, or stop in your tracks. You don't consciously think "That's a car horn, I better react by stopping or jumping"

No, you just react in a split second and it's automatic.

The book told me that we all have gut feelings, these natural instincts, but we're not all in touch with them and we don't always acknowledge them. As I thought of myself and my own behaviour and thoughts it dawned on me that this is very true. There have been so many occasions when I've had a hunch or a feeling about something but I've then thought things through, looked at logic and facts or figures and negated my feeling.

These gut feelings, the theory goes, are powerful cumulations of all our life experiences and knowledge. Our subconscious mind stores all this stuff and uses it as it feels is necessary, but our conscious mind is still wondering how to deal with that morning's erection in a sarong. Sometimes we act impulsively and just do things, other times we stop and think consciously about the situation and use logic and ridiculous things like that.

The biggest example of this in my life is interviewing people, something I do a sizeable amount of. Salespeople specifically. For many years I went through a pattern. It was a pattern of interviewing someone, feeling that they weren't right for the role, then being talked out of that feeling by a combination of my business partner and logic. Then, in far too many cases, we'd take on the person, try to give them everything they needed to succeed but end up parting company after considerable expense.

I saw that, in so many of these cases, I was going against my gut feeling because logic and rational thought, or things written on a CV, would override my instincts. You know, I'd have a hunch that a person couldn't sell, but everything on the CV indicated that he could and I couldn't really explain my hunch.

One of the things I've tried to do, and am still working on in a very large way, is to pay far more attention to my gut feelings, to acknowledge and recognise them and then to act on them. Because the fact is that I do have a certain amount of experience in life and the bits and pieces that go with it. A lot of it's about trust, about trusting my own judgement, which is often wrong yet often right too.

This all came to my mind because I did an interview yesterday for a salesperson and the chap had all the right qualities, both on paper and in the way he came across. The me from a few years ago would have offered him the job. This me however was different. As soon as I shook hands with the bloke and introduced myself I thought he was a twat. I can't tell you why, not because of confidentiality or anything, just because I don't know. So he wasn't offered the job. But the feeling was there in me and I felt rather pleased that I've grown enough to be able to acknowledge it and also that I acted on it.

That's it for now, I must learn how to do endings.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

10 Good Things About Being Sri Lankan

  1. We know all about rice
  2. We know how to wear a sarong
  3. We've got rhythm
  4. Name a country and we've got an Uncle there
  5. We can laugh at ourselves
  6. We can hold hands with other men without being gay
  7. We understand that it's ok to watch the world go by
  8. Queueing is not an option
  9. Nor are road rules
  10. We know the true meaning of inflation

Monday, December 17, 2007

Some Random Bits

My head, heart and other bits are filled with a mixture of excitement, apprehension and panic. It's Monday morning, it 7.39 AM and it's close to Christmas, which you probably know.

I've booked myself a bit of time off over the festive period and this is the last week in which I make a vague, some might say businesslike, attempt to get a few bits and pieces organised at work, to hand some things over before I go.

This year will be a big Christmas for me and for the girls. Our first one apart and I'm sure it will be trying at times, but for very positive reasons and there will still be a lot of smiles and joy to be spread.

Last week I wrote out a list of things that I need to do before the holiday starts and puzzlingly the first three items on the list were to write lists, about other things. It was one of those moments when a chap sits there and does a bit of Laurel and Hardy head scratching, saying things like "WTF?".

Isn't it rather fascinating how we all say to each other every year that the year has flown and we can't believe it's Christmas already? One would have thought we'd be used to it by now, what with it falling on December 25th virtually every year. I might, a bit sadly, actually try to count the number of times I have a conversation along those lines just for one day. I've already had one today.

Here in London we've got that pleasant crispiness in the air. Temperatures are cold, below freezing and there's ice on windscreens, frost on the ground and thick woolly jumpers on torsos, not that I really have a torso. The sky is a clear blue and there's a continual feeling of "will it snow?" All a bit Dickensian without the snow, the interesting stories and the buckets of excrement being thrown over you in the street. Except in some parts of Kingston.

And rear wheel drive in a slightly powerful car is a lot of fun in these conditions too. A few slides with the back end hanging out in a very Stig sort of way have been brightening up my journeys to and from work on occasions.

In what seems like a bit of irony but probably isn't I've been wearing my new favourite scarf for the last few days, the irony (?) being that I bought it at Odel in the summer.

It's interesting to think of you lot in Sri Lanka and other hot places at this time of year, but I'm confident that George W and a few others are doing their utmost to let you experience snow in Sri Lanka very soon. As long as the American economy grows who cares about "foreigners" anyway!

The week before Christmas always has these mixed sensations and atmosphere. Last minute shopping, wrapping and tidying, desperate attempts to get loose ends tied together and preparations finished. All surrounded by that slightly false but sometimes genuine air of goodwill and warmth.

Here we are in the cynical and materialistic world we've made for ourselves yet we can somehow, out of the madness, conjure up a bit, just a bit of Christmas spirit.

Maybe we're ok after all!

Happy week before.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Of Mothers And Daughters

Although I'm in the thick of it, for obvious reasons, the whole divorce situation is also a mammoth learning experience for me and those around me. Not a learning experience that I have any desire to repeat but one that exists nonetheless.

I've got two daughters, most of the regulars here will know that. They're scary, young and I love them to bits and I know that they find things trying and hard at times. If I ever feel sorry for myself, which does happen quite a bit, I think of how it must feel for them and that always knocks me back to Earth and helps to put things in perspective.

The dynamics of a nuclear family is something I've never paid a whole lot of attention to until this year. I've just accepted it and got on with life. But this year I've been thinking and trying to learn about the relationships and the interactions, mostly to try to help the girls through this difficult time. I've always been a fan of all those self help books and this year the Rhythmic bookshelf has not only moved to a different house but also been swelled by the addition of about three hundred and forty seven books on how to be a divorced Dad and all sorts of related topics.

One of the biggest discoveries is the way in which I, and their mother, have to try and play the roles of both parents when we have time with the girls. Although I get far less time with them than I used to I now have to try and cram much more into that time. No longer am I the father figure in a household where there's a mother figure too. Instead I'm a bit of both.

Yet, as I've tried to evolve into this new way of behaving I've observed that I can do many of the functional things. I can try to cook, not that I'm saying it's a mother's role, just that's how the things used to be. I've even tried to talk about periods and "women's" things. Admittedly that was possibly the most squirm inducing conversation I've ever had, probably for all parties too, but I tried and can still remember the looks on the girls' faces. But there are some motherly roles that I find very hard to fill. Dustin Hoffman may have been able to do it but we all have different skills. I bet he's pretty crap on the drums for a start.

I've realised in a short space of time that the relationship between a mother and a daughter is a unique and special one. Out of all the combinations of parent and child I think the mother / daughter one is the most fluid and seamless, maybe even the one with the strongest bond.

I've got two brothers, both of whom you know; Academic and Music Biz, we have no sisters, thank god. The dynamics of my nuclear family there are very man centred for obvious reasons. But the relationship between a father and his sons is wholly different to the mother / daughter one. We joke, we talk about cars, about music and often very flippant things. It's not that we're not close, we're just differently programmed.

Over the years I've noticed that mother / daughter relationships (let's call them MDRs) are a combination of friendship and sistership as well as parent/child.

I was in Kingston on Saturday taking the girls Christmas shopping MDRs were bombarding me from every direction. At each corner there was a MD out doing Christmas shopping. Me and the girls were happy as Larry but our conversation was largely built around

"What time shall we meet?" "what did you buy?" and "Dad can I have some more money?"

Yet each MDR was laughing and joking and chatting quite happily as if the shopping was merely a minor distraction that had to be done whilst talking and hanging. I was standing outside New Look, a girl's clothing shop that has become our regular meeting place, waiting for the girls who were late as usual.

As I stood there and watched pass by I saw a MD come out of the shop laden with bags. They were clearly enjoying the moment but, as they got out of the shop, they stoppped in their tracks. They both lifted their feet and took off their shoes, then swapped so that each was wearing the pair that the other was wearing, then walked off without a care in the world.

I was amazed and puzzled. Puzzled because I couldn't figure out why they had done. Amazed because if it had been my Dad suggesting it to me I would have first looked at him in total bewilderment, then asked him what the hell he was doing in women's shoes.

It just wouldn't have happened between a father and a son but, although puzzling, it looked very natural for an MD and they evidently didn't care what anyone else might have thought. To be fair they may have thought differently had they known that their behaviour would be splattered over the Sri Lankan blogosphere a few days later.

Us men don't talk to our parents in the way that girls communicate with their mothers. Ravana's post here on telling his mother about his blog made me laugh heartily. His description of his mother talking "at" him was not just a perfect narrative of a Sri Lankan mother and son relationship. No, it described every mother and son relationship that has ever existed.

If Ravana was a girl his mother, or her mother, would talk to him rather than at him. He (she) would go there every Sunday and they would have joyous conversations about everything that's happening in their lives. They'd laugh and bond and joke and listen.

Father and sons just exist in a happy state of equilibrium really. We get on, we joke and laugh but it's so different to an MDR. The father and daughter situation, one which I know well, is special in another different way.

We're almost like some sort of father figure to a daughter. We sort of hang around in the background and do a lot of watching from the sidelines, ever ready to run onto the pitch and sort things out but usually not until we're asked. We're often fixers and facilitators more than everyday operators.

Now I'm rapidly finding out more about the everyday operator's role, though not everyday.

It's an intriguing and steep learning curve.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Mmmm.. you smell like..??

Mahinda!!

Well, it won't be long.

I was watching TV the other night and saw an advert for a new "Kate Moss" perfume of some sort. Now frankly, like many chaps, I think Miss Moss is an incredibly sexy and beautiful woman. I don't normally go for models, largely because they don't normally go for me, but Kate Moss can have a go on my drum kit any day she chooses. Except Tuesdays because that's Mimosa's band practice night. And Wednesdays, when I have the girls, but any other day would be fine.

But I stared at the screen and pondered on what type of person would want to buy her perfume. Do people think that they'll actually smell like Kate Moss by buying the perfume with her name on it? Do they even think that she wears it herself, indeed does she? I would imagine that Kate Moss smells pretty rough after a night out, although her own nose probably hasn't got much sensation left in it these days.

Then, in the same ad break, up pops a little "arty" thing with Christina Agui bloody lera looking about as seductive as a steak and kidney pudding without any chips and I realised that the world must have gone stark raving fragrance crazy.

David Beckham's got his own line of perfumes or eau de whatever it is. As has Michael Jordan, Cliff Richard, Paris Hilton, Jennifer Lopez, Maria Sharapova and Calum Best.

And after way too much reflection on the matter I've concluded that the only people who buy these things must be fans who want their boyfriend or girlfriend or partner to smell like their idol, with the rare person who just buys it because they like the smell.

So I've come up with some tag lines and ideas for Sri Lankan celebrities' fragrances. What do you think?

Eau de Mahinda - "The Smell Of Fear - Expensive, dangerous and stops traffic.

Ranil's Revenge - "Makes you feel like a man"

Anura's Aroma - Only available in extra large bottles.

Murali's Magic - "Makes Your Balls Spin"

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Can We Be Taken Seriously?

I did it at some earlier point in my blog and I think most of us go through very introspective spells, during which we ask why we have a blog, why we write about the things we do and what we want to achieve through it. At least most of us with a blog do.

Now, as one of the "old timers" in the Sri Lankan blogosphere, which means that my blog has existed for over 4 weeks and that it's read by most of my family, I smile inwardly when I see someone else put out a "why do I blog" post. It's almost a right of ritual, invariably saying the same things that many of us have said, or thought at the least.

Lately though there's a lot of talk about Sri Lankan bloggers, seemingly ignited or fuelled by the session scheduled at the Galle Literary Festival to talk about bloggers and whether we should be taken seriously. I'm rather gutted that I won't be able to go to the GLF in a few weeks' time as I've spent many hours perusing the itinerary and have picked out many sessions that I'd dearly love to be at.

I hope that there'll be a GLF in 2009, it's a bit anal to plan that far ahead but I'm giving it a go anyway and have all but booked my flights.

My thoughts on blogging versus literature are like the average Sri Lankan politician's commitment and dedication to their party; confused, muddled and easily influenced by other people and money.

The Missing Sandwich put out this post recently that got my attention. Our red haired heroine asks

"I pose this to you - is a blog not a place for personal expression? Can I or can I not express my thoughts and musings on what I see/hear/read around me?"

And, even though she has asked a question, to me it summarises what so many blogs really are; merely a means of expressing our thoughts and musings, whatever they may be. The Missing S asks the question in the context of her post about a seemingly harsh attack on something she wrote. I think her question is an interesting one and my answer to it is simple; we have blogs and we (usually) allow anyone to comment on them. Therefore we have total control over what we write and what we publish but we give others the right to criticise us. We don't have to but we choose to.

But, back to the subject of writing and blogs. There are many that I read regularly, you can see links to most of them at the left of this post and their variety is one of the things that attracts me to each of them. Frankly I always feel in awe of people like Sach, Theena, Java and Lady Luck. These chaps have proper writing styles and techniques, they've been to colleges and Universities and learned how to write. Of course Java and Theena have had some chemical and herbal help as well.

I read the little nuggets that they post and marvel at their use of language and the way their minds work and the vocabularies they possess. My blog isn't one of those types at all. I'm like so many out there who just type words as we think them, I don't have a style of writing and I just write things as they zip into my head, largely in the same way I'd say them. Fortunately I'm occasionally a fucking funny bloke with childish tendencies, otherwise things would be pretty dull around here.

Since I started blogging all the things that I paid scant attention to in English at school have started to come back to me. Well they would have if I had paid any attention to them but it's just bits and pieces now. I do remember being taught about planning what you write, about beginnings and middles and those things at the end, I just don't know how to do them. So I think of something and jot some words down and see what comes of it. My blog currently contains about 35 posts that are at various stages of completion. I just bung words down when they come out, sometimes they get posted but often they don't.

Can we be taken seriously?

It's just inappropriate to categorise all blogs within one group and ask the question of the group. The quick answer is that some writers are good and some are crap. We take the ones that we like as serious and reject the others.

The bit I love about blogs, blogging and the blogosphere is also the bit I hate; that anyone can write anything and put it out there for all to read. It's all about choices.

I suppose we all have different aims and ideas for our blogs. Some may see their's as a stepping stone to getting published or to getting a "proper" writing job, some may see them as a means of advertising their services online, others may use it as a restrospective diary, some folks like to stimulate political discussion and intellectual debate. The fact is that blogs are brilliant means of achieving these things for anyone with access to a PC.

Mine is just an online outpouring of thoughts. I started it with one thing in mind; to keep things positive and not to slag other people off, which is two things I know.

In the back of my mind is a vague idea that, at some point in the future, some ancestors will stumble across my little piece of me in cyberspace. They'll read it and learn about me, my life and those around me.

I wish I'd listened to Mr Whittekind in English when he taught us about good endings.

Monday, December 10, 2007

The Sound Of Silence

I had a really weird experience the other night. It was Sunday night / Monday morning and I woke at around 2.00AM. I did what all men do when we wake in the night, I went off for a pee, scratched my balls a bit, that kind of thing.

Then I climbed back into my bed. After some time I realised that I wasn't falling asleep. You know that sensation when you realise that sleep is not forthcoming, when you become conscious of the struggle to lose consciousness. Then everything gets magnified, every movement feels big, every itch feels like it the biggest one you've ever had, every tiny sensation in your body gets amplified and accented.

My Grandmother used to tell me that the easy way to fall asleep was simply to feel every part of your body relax and then just drift off. Well I loved her to bits, but that's one of the least useful bits of advice she dished out. She never explained exactly how to do that hard part; to actually relax.

But there I was, aware of not sleeping, aware of every speck of light shining into my bedroom, aware of each little spark of electricity running through my body. I wasn't plugged into the mains or anything, that was just me trying to be a bit poetic, sorry about that. I played with my new alarm clock, the one that projects the time on to the ceiling. Even a highly tuned and inquisitive mind like mine gets bored with that after a while and I did.

That's when it started. The whole "am I ever going to get to sleep?" thing. When you worry about the few hours left before the alarm actually goes off, when you begin to think that you might stay up for the rest of the night. When you know that you'll actually fall asleep but it will be about four seconds before the alarm clock goes off.

Then I listened. I was startled. This was in Teddington, the heart of suburban West London. There's a main road that is about fifty yards from my house, there's Heathrow, a reasonably large airport, nearby. There's a railway line within earshot and a chavscum house just opposite that's always got some kind of wife beating or fatal commotion going on inside or outside

I heard nothing, absolutely nothing, not a sound. Not a dripping tap, not the distant rumble of a bus nor the howl of an angry wind. It had been raining all night but there were no raindrops falling on the window.

You know, some people inherit skills and intelligence from their parents. Like Malaka Silva or George W Bush, who have clearly picked up their coveted intelligence and supreme diplomatic skills from their respective fathers. In my family we've got Academic Bro, who got a huge amount of brain power and boy band looks from my Mum, who is often mistaken for one of the chaps from Take That. Then there's Music Biz bro who got more than his fair share of dancing skills and sporting prowess from my Dad.

None of those nice but totally useless attributes fell my way though. Oh no, I've been the lucky one, the Jose Mourinho of the family. I got a skill, a talent that astounds and amazes people, that will always stand me in good stead in life, no matter what tragedy may befall me. Like Harry Potter or the Incredible Hulk I sometimes don't even know when my power will reveal itself, particularly as I get older. Yes, I can rustle up a good loud fart at a moment's notice as if from nowhere, a talent I definitely get from my Dad.

I tell you that merely to illustrate the stillness, the silence and the tranquility that prevailed. You see, even I didn't want to fart. The night was so quiet and so still that it felt as if one trumpet would cause most of the residents in my road to pound at my front door and complain, in very hushed tones, about the noise.

Except the chavs from the chavscum huose opposite of course. They're not bothered by noise and, in the very unlikely event that they had been, they would have just torched my car, or stabbed me. Or both.

All I could hear was total silence and I felt engulfed by it. I've never been aware of a moment like it before, but as a drummer that may not be too surprising. I don't know why but it struck me and startled me. I know I've woken at that time of night many times before and I can't believe there's always been background noise.

I listened to the silence for a while, the novelty wore off and I started to get annoyed at not sleeping again. I remember looking at the red numbers on the ceiling at 3.30 and thinking that I'd be up in just over two hours' time. Then I must have fallen asleep.

As predicted the alarm went off about four seconds later. There was a lot of trumpeting to be done....

Friday, December 7, 2007

Yet Another Gig Report

But this one was a little bit different.

The 11 year old plays the piano and the violin, not at the same time, but she probably could if asked. She's one of these high achieving kids, good at most things she tries and willing to try almost anything.

Qualities that any parent will understand are very worrying at times to see in your child. We all want our kids to be good at everything but, when they display bravado and chutzpah, the potential for them to attract danger at a later age is very real. It's also important to tell you, my fond reader, that I'm pleased with myself for the use of the word "chutzpah" in the previous sentence.

It's almost definitely the first time in my life that I've used the word and I've now done two of the little "chutzpah" chaps in quick succession, well that's three now I suppose.

Anyway, once a year the 11 year old, I'll call her K, has a little concert thing at around Christmas time at the house of her piano teacher. It's a small affair, only about 6 or 7 kids and a few parents and all quite informal and pleasant. In the past her mother has done the duties and taken her but this year she couldn't do it and I was asked. What with the divorce and everything I must admit to a little tug of the heartstrings when K asked me if I would come anyway, even if her mother could come too. But that's girly emotional stuff and we don't do that around here do we.

So, I arrived at the house to collect the performer and her big sister decided to come along too. K was dressed up in typical attire for a gig, a Muse gig, perhaps not this type of thing. She had on her new skinny jeans, converse allstars and one of my jumpers. I felt proud and slightly edgy. Proud because she looked like a trendy rock chick, edgy because I've been looking for that jumper for about 6 months and my joy and relief at finding it was mixed with the knowledge that I'll now never get it back.

Her piano teacher is one of those very English, very proper, very nice and very religious people and me and A, the 12 year old, sat in the dining room waiting for the kids to finish their warming up and the gig to start. There were some Mums there and I felt as out of place as usual in that environment as they talked about kids, school runs and the like and me and A talked about drums and music and clothes, normal stuff.

We were ushered into the "concert hall", which was the room with the piano in. It's a garage that has been converted into a room, so about the size of a garage, only with a piano in it. We squashed up, me, about 4 or 5 mums and some kids. It was clear that K, my scary 11 year old, was one of the older children there and the rest were all about 6 or 2 or something, I do have big problems identifying the age of these youngsters but I knew they were young.

To start with the teacher gave a short speech, which did rather touch me. She said that this was to be an informal thing to show what they have been learning and that they might have to do some things again just in case anyone went wrong. The idea of it was to give the kids an idea of the joy of performing and sharing music with others, that music is a treasure that can be enjoyed on its own but can also be so much more gratifying when shared with others.

I smiled quietly and agreed with the teacher. I also wondered how on earth any person, as nice as she is, can be born with absolutely no sense of fashion. Clearly she had fallen out of the untrendy tree and hit every branch on the way down. And I was full of understanding about the kids making mistakes and having to start again, as long as it was one of the other little bastards and not my daughter.

They kicked off, or ivoried off or whatever way pianists begin, tinkling I guess. It was quite sweet and the little kids got plenty of applause from all the mothers and me. These kids were cute, in a childish way. They were all school uniform, scuffed shoes and mischievous grins. K however, is skinny jeans, converse allstars and proper teenage attitude. No Sir, there's no childish stuff going on with her.

After a few tunes K came on and did her first one. She played it very well and I was astonished at how much I could feel myself willing her on. It was a surprising mentality that I found myself in. I normally pride myself on being liberal about making mistakes when I'm playing live, treating them as part of the performance and learning curves. But, stick one of my daughters up on a stage and I was uttering a silent prayer for her to play the piece flawlessly.

After that a boy of about 8 or 9 did a piece and managed to play with more aggression and steely determination on his face and actually in every visible part of his body than even Dave Grohl displayed in the video for No One Knows. I urge you to google that video and have a look, then imagine a young kid playing a slightly mellow piano piece with that amount of resoluteness and firmness in every note. He was mesmerising to watch and I was as fixated as I was when I once witnessed an incident at Barefoot involving a twig, Naz Sansoni's navel and some of her young admirers.

This kid, the piano one not one of the navel ones, was so rivetting that I don't think any of the mothers or myself actually breathed while he was playing his piece. It was handy that he was only playing quite a short little song and not Dazed and Confused or Paranoid Android.

Watching these other children is all sweet and parenty but frankly I was only interested in K and her skill and talent. She came back and did another piece, something by Beethoven or Mozart and I watched, as did her sister, silently willing her on. She was totally brilliant. There's a natural love of performing in her and her sister and I know not where they get it from, but I knew that she wallowed in the moment and luxuratied in the brief applause.

I also knew, not that it matterred to me in the slightest of course, that she was so much better than the others. Even mental kid, who came back on later and played some sort of slow number with the feel, sensitivity and subtlety of Mervyn Silva paying a courtesy call to the Canadian High Commision, wasn't as interesting to watch.

It was nice, a bit warming and a bit Christmassy. We finished up, I dropped them back to their mother and went off to a Mimosa band practice.

As I drove into the night I reflected on the words of the piano teacher and thought about how very right she was.

Music is such a joy to have in your life, but it's so much better when you can share it with others.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

What Happened to Darwin?

This story has caught the imagination of most of the British public.

John Darwin, who had been missing and was presumed drowned for the last five years, walked into a London police station a few days ago and said "I think I'm a missing person".

Apparently no one, including him, knows exactly what happened to him. His canoe was found smashed in heavy seas in 2002 and, although his body was never found, an inquest into his death was held a year later.

I heard the story on the news on the way in to work and was immediately captivated by it. Normally I pay scant attention to the news but this piece just drew me in and grabbed me. It's one of those relatively trivial news items that crops up every once in a while but grasps the public by the scruff of the neck.

His wife has claimed "in good faith" on his life insurance and moved to Panama only six weeks ago.

This morning I heard that he's been arrested and there are rumours, or allegations, that a photograph was taken of the chap with his wife last year in Panama. So the insinuation is pretty clear that some dodgy stuff has gone on.

I reckon the truth behind it will be revealed very quickly and all will be forgotten by most of us shortly after.

For now though we're all talking about it. My money's on a planned disappearance, an insurance payout and a move to a life of luxury which then went wrong.

Ok, so I'm hardly going to pass the lateral thinking section of the becoming a detective exam. But it makes sense!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Puzzled About The Video

I'm occasionally stumped at certain differences between the Sri Lankan and the British psyches. Sometimes I approach things with a Sri Lankan viewpoint or attitude and am surprised when I hear the British one and sometimes I take a British view and struggle to understand the Sri Lankan one.

One of the things that I have a very British attitude about is death and bodies, that kind of thing. I'm not sure if it's a typically British attitude or if it's a Western attitude but it's vastly different to the Sri Lankan, or maybe the Asian one.

Sri Lankan culture presents death and grief in much more matter of fact ways than is done here. When a dignitary dies the newspapers usually show pictures of the body, of people paying their respects to the person. They'll often show members of the family in the peak of their grief and there's little or no sense of keeping things private.

Over here a picture in a newspaper of a dead body would probably signal the end of many newspaper people's careers and images of a widow at her beloved's funeral in the throes of her grief would be considered a massive intrusion of privacy. Perhaps it's to do with the British stiff upper lip, the need to maintain a public image at all times, maybe it's to do with differring religious beliefs although I can't quite see how that would be so.

Over the years I've come to accept the contrasts though. There's not necessarily a right or wrong way to behave, just different ways.

But I've been puzzled and perplexed about this video that's doing the rounds. You probably know the one I'm talking about, it's the CCTV footage of the LTTE suicide bomber at the EPDP offices.

I'm amazed at the way in which this has been published and put out for all to see. I have watched it, which maybe makes me part of the problem, and the fact that it's out there makes me feel unbelievably uncomfortable.

The Sri Lankan blogosphere has been awash with the predictable types adding links to it and insulting whoever they want to in the process. I even had a comment on this blog which gave the link and said something like

"Have a look at this link, you can even see her head bouncing off the wall"

I deleted the comment, which is only the second time I've ever not published a comment deliberately. I just find it a bit sick to be honest. It's not so much the principle of seeing a suicide bomber in action, there's a certain part of me that thinks that's what the assassin wanted. It's the rubbernecking element of watching other, innocent people, getting hurt and dying.

I take no pleasure in watching the suffering of these people, yet I admit that I did watch it. The other morning I saw that it had been put out on the MOD's website and this totally dumbfounded me. These days everything gets on Youtube one way or another, but to be on the MOD's site shocked me. Then I saw stills from the footage splashed across the front page of one of the Sunday papers.

I wonder if the family of Steven Peiris had any say in the broadcasting of it. Perhaps they did, I really don't know, but I strongly suspect that the others who were injured and their families didn't have any say in the whole world being able to watch their suffering.

Maybe, by making the footage available to all, the GoSL hopes to gain some public sympathy, a totally way out and radical idea but one that isn't beyond the realms of possibility!

Where am I left in this confused post?

I just don't know.

Is it good to put these things out there or should they be kept in private?

Is it disrespectful to the dead and the injured, to their friends and relatives?

How hypocritical is it that I watched the scene and added to its "popularity" by that very act?

All these questions remain unanswered, any thoughts?

Monday, December 3, 2007

I Should Know Better

I guess we're all the same in many ways. We must all have some secret thoughts, some secret fantasies that lurk in the hidden, or perhaps not so hidden, depths of our minds.

Maybe we don't blog about them though. But, I was thinking recently about the things that I really, really, really like, but probably shouldn't admit to. From dodgy women to dodgy cars to blogs. You know what I mean don't you? Stuff that just isn't good for the image but you can't help feeling fond of.

Here's mine, in no particular order:

The Maserati 3200 GT - I love cars. This is just car porn for me. I believe, though am not sure, that this was the first Maserati to be launched when Maserati fell under the stewardship of Ferrari. The chap in the petrol station behind my office has just bought one and I gaze at it lovingly through my office window at regular intervals. The car is fundamentally crap, worth about the same as a rice packet and most didn't last as long. But, the early ones have got those curved upside down L shaped rear lights, that were replaced with normal shaped ones because Americans don't use L's or something. The original ones are little nuggets of automobilic beauty. If I could fit a drumkit in one of these....

A Voice In Colombo - A blog like no other. Old VIC doesn't blog as much as he used to, but every time he puts a post out I'm inexplicably drawn to what he says. Why inexplicable? Because I disagree with just about every word he says. But I'm drawn to his words nonetheless. He's got passion, something I admire.

People falling over. - I can't help myself on this one. Videos like this are just plain funny. Sympathy? Me? No way. Tears of laughter and slight winces of sympathetic pain are all you'll get from me.

Rice - Plain and simple, but it doesn't have to be plain. Like any good Sri Lankan I love the stuff. You can read more about it here but you're probably Sri Lankan and we don't really need to learn about it do we? We love it, we eat it, then we eat more of it, then we get those "rice guts" that white people get from beer. Is there anything good about it? I know not, but I continue to eat it.

Barbara Windsor - She may well be Peggy Mitchell, but she'll always be just like this to me. As British as a good curry or, well a carry on film, I'd do some very rude things to her even now. Let's go camping.

Hillary Clinton - I think there are a few people who think she's mighty cute. Well I'm one of the few and, just like Bill and Monica, I'd love to not have sex with her. I googled her and couldn't find any topless pictures or anything in the least bit sexy. Well, apart from some stuff about her being a lesbian. That's hardly going to turn a boy off is it?

What about you? Any skeletons that you'd like to share?

Saturday, December 1, 2007

The First Running Update

Last weekend I had that flash of inspiration during which I decided to start running. I told you about it and no one appeared to show much interest. But, I've been out doing it.

It's now Saturday morning in London, the sun is out and the sky is blue and I'm about to hit the road for my fourth, yes fourth, run this week. I've got a "regular" route which is probably only about a mile or so, you know the one. I go out of my house, turn left, turn left again and keep turning left until I find myself back at my front door. I've even got myself a vague plan of sorts.

Currently I can't run the whole circuit without stopping for a break so I'm working on going a little bit further everytime until I can run the whole thing non stop. Then, once I get to that stage, I'll try to run a bit longer and to bring my time down. It's fairly deep in the barrels of winter here so I'm out in the cold and the rain and it does test one's determination to actually get out and do it.

The first time I went out, armed with new Adidas shorts and "special" socks that I'd bought that morning, I had a slightly awkward encounter with a woman and pushchair. It was dark and I was running up the road as I saw this lady in front of me and walking in the same direction as I was heading. As I approached them I suddenly realised that I was totally knackered and would need to stop for a rest soon. And, for a fellow like me, being totally knackered, running for the first time in some years and cold weather, manifests itself in the form of deep panting and heavy breathing. I'm sure an experienced runner wouldn't have been that knackered but also would have sailed past the woman and child and slowly become a dot on their horizon.

Not me though. The closer I got to them the more my legs felt like jelly. The more my legs felt like jelly the more apprehensive I felt as I knew she could hear me behind her and I saw her walk get a little bit brisker and faster. I knew that I couldn't stop and die just behind her as it would make her feel a bit nervous, but I knew that I couldn't do it ahead of her either. I'm considerate like that, I really didn't want this woman to think she was about to be mugged, or jogged. Or maybe the term is "jugged".

I overtook her, it took a long time as her walking casually with a pushchair speed was remarkably close to my running at full pelt speed. I passed her, I could feel her tense up a bit, women often do that when I'm nearby so I'm used to it. Then, from nowhere I had this renewed sense of energy. My legs just kept working and what was better was that my lungs did too. Maybe it was some sort of male pride thing that made it happen, I don't know. but I suddenly kept going and turned the corner about a hundred yards in front of her. Then I sort of died.

I stopped, bent over and deep breathed. After enough time to make many local residents consider calling the police I went on my way, feeling chuffed as I got in the house.

On Wednesday evening the girls witnessed my fitness effort. They were here, watching TV and I presented myself to them in my running gear. It will surprise you to hear that they laughed at me, quite viciously in fact. I had thought that I looked quite dashing in my garb, like one of those 100m Olympians only slightly less muscular, perhaps like Brad Pitt in Snatch, just with less tattoos and a bit more brownness to my complexion. But the girls, when they had finished laughing, decided I looked just like Mr Kohli in Bride and Prejudice, when he was doing his fitness stuff. He's now in Eastenders you know. They've just about stopped laughing.

I trotted off, leaving them to pretend to do homework. Once I returned they eventually let me in to the house. I had hoped for encouragement and words of praise and motivation, perhaps a bit of admiration for my efforts would have been nice too. What I got was slightly removed from that.

"Dad, that was quick, how far did you go? I could have done that?"

"You can't have gone far, why are you so knackered?"

"Can you do it again and I'll come with you this time?"

The last one scared me very much. It came from the eleven year old and she was wearing her school uniform. For the couple of nanoseconds in which I considered it I saw the dangers. I'd be in my kit, she'd trot off next to my in her uniform and school shoes and very probably run further and faster than me.

All parents know the great feeling of kids doing things better than we can. It's a feeling of pride mixed with a slight bruise to the ego.

But there are limits. So I said a firm no.

Must go now, I'm off again.

Happy Saturday all.