Sunday, March 30, 2008

A Load Of Pants


It is with great pride, pleasure and honour that I reveal my brand new pantaloon collection to you, my readership. Courtesy of Odel, that fine establishment.

My understanding is that brightly coloured pants are all the rage in the mens' undergarment world, so I have joined the thong throng.

The accountants and finance people among you will notice that there are exactly seven pairs of the new garish beauties. That could mean that I'll wear one each day, wash them all at the weekend and then start afresh every Monday. But, no, this will surprise you but I have other pairs also, so I think an average Rhythmic week from now on will see a mixture of coloured pants, or perhaps I should say pants of non white visual appearance, as well as a few plain blacks, blues and whites.

Interesting times are ahead.

What's new in your wardrobe this week?

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Absolute D.I.C.R.O.V.E

Or something along those lines.

I got in a few moments ago after taking the girls for dinner at my parents' house. Although I had heard it today I got confirmation when I just opened my mail. Yes, the decree absolute is finally through. After some minutes of staring at the "certified copy", specifically the bit where it says "marriage of......was dissolved on 25th March 2008" I really do believe it.

By coincidence this was on the very day that the window seat thief was doing her thing. For all I know at the very moment the judge was rubber stamping my divorce the window seat thief may have been indulging in her own type of watersports.

Wow, it feels big, weird and a touch on the emotional side. After almost fifteen years' of marriage that's it. Done, dusted and divorced.

I guess there must be a few divorcees out there who read this and I wonder how you felt when it happened, although I know full well that divorce is still illegal in Sri Lanka, or is that homosexuality?

One thing's for sure; the past year has been one of the most eventful of my life.

Today is certainly the first day of the rest of my life.

Friday, March 28, 2008

My Weekend (Part 2)

If you read my last post you'll recollect that I was on a plane, returning to London, with a youngish hijabed girl sitting next to me. She had quite viciously nabbed the window seat that I wanted so much, then promptly fallen asleep before take off, the result being that I couldn't watch Mother Lanka fade away as I had wanted to.

She may have been a rocket scientist, a highly successful business person or a much published writer, but whatever she was, she looked like she hadn't been on a plane before. If you fly on Sri Lankan airlines a lot you may share my glee in watching a newbie trying to figure out how the touch controls on the video screen work. You know, when you can change channels and adjust everything by touching a bit of the screen, it's now de rigeur on most phones, iPods and gadgets but many older people just can't get the idea. To most kids these things are second nature but to my next door neighbour it was always going to present some kind of obstacle course.

I watched her fumble with the screen for a while, I had been aware of her watching me as I had channel surfed at regular intervals. I never watch films on planes, I find the screen way too small and feel that I'd always rather read or listen to my iPod, but I do invariably end up reading or listening to music with the Sri Lankan variety channel on without the sound. Visions of sarong clad chaps fighting over village girls always does it for me.

This time most of my viewing of the aforementioned channel was accompanied by Muse's new live album. There was an interesting juxtaposition between the sounds hitting my ears and the images hitting my eyes. But whenever I had changed channel I noticed that she was watching me to work out what to do to her screen. I did what any person with my level of maturity and kindness would have done if they were faced with the same situation; I operated as quickly as possible and fluttered my fingers around the screen at about seven times the speed of light so that she'd just get confused.

I think it worked, when she got brave enough to try to turn her screen on she didn't have the foggiest idea what to do. I love it when a plan comes together.

At some point she lapsed into her second sleep of the voyage. I sat and did my stuff even though I did have my miracle inflatable pillow at the ready for the onslaught of tiredness. She went out like a light again and I figured that her night before must have been a heavy one. After some time I started to doze off too.

Now, this isn't the big thing, but a small diversionary one. I suddenly found myself woken from my slumber. As I opened my eyes I realised that I had fallen asleep sitting upright in my chair and facing forwards. Window seat thief was to my left and had fallen asleep facing the right, which was basically me. You know when you get woken up by something and can't figure out what it was, the sensation of confusion that lasts for a nanosecond but feels like a year. Like when you wake in a strange environment and it takes a few blinks to work out exactly where you are. Well that's the thing that happened to me. I knew where I was, but for 0.64 of a nanosecond I couldn't figure out what had woken me.

And then I did. At some point in her siesta window seat thief had rested her weary head on my shoulder. I was pretty sure that I had been woken by the thud as her head hit my shoulder, so I knew that it hadn't been long, certainly not long enough for a picture to be taken and emailed to Hi! Magazine or anything like that. Luckily the thud had woken her as well. We looked at each other and she apologised and turned away. I got all British, told her it was ok and apologised too. What for I haven't got a fucking clue to be honest but it's the correct way to behave. We both went back to sleep.

I woke some hours later. It was that spell on a long haul flight when the sky outside is dark, the interior lights of the plane are off and all is peaceful, with a mysterious smell of vomit wafting through the cabin. Most of the passengers are asleep and the air crew get a quiet period during which most of them head to the toilet for a quick line of charlie. I looked around me and saw that window seat thief was off in the land of nod. So I relaxed and leaned to the right and daydreamed of drums, Lanka and London. Come to think of it that could be a good name for a blog, it's just not quite right.

One of the things I do on any long flight is to buy a bottle or two of water to take on board. It means I don't have to drink the aircraft tap water that is bunged out and that I can also drink when I'm thirsty, always a bonus. So, in the seat pocket in front of me, was my half drunk bottle of mineral water. Now, I was facing to my right and sitting still and quietly as I dreamed. A person on my left would have seen just the back of my head and assumed I was asleep.

Now here is the big thing, the one you've been waiting for. I heard a noise, a plasticky noise, as if Michael Jackson was picking his noise. I turned my head to see window seat thief with her hand in the seat pocket in front of me, that is MY storage bit, and her hand was on my bottle of water. I looked shocked and she looked startled, though perhaps it was the other way round.

"Errmm I'm just having some water if that's alright" she said as she had my bottle of H2O in her hand. For the second time in the flight I came over all British.

"Yes, of course help yourself" I probably should have apologised for not pouring it into her mouth but I was too flummoxed.

She unscrewed the bottle and then did that Sri Lankan drinking thing, you know, when you drink from a bottle without letting your lips touch the container, sort of pouring the liquid into an open mouth. It's something I can do quite well but I never indulge in as I just can't taste the drink properly. As calmly as you can imagine she then put the top back on the bottle and placed it back in the seat pocket. She turned her head away from me and promply went back to sleep.

I felt like Bishop Brennan when he got his arse kicked by Father Ted. I sat open mouthed in my seat trying to figure out if it had really happened and if so, why? We had been on the flight for about seven hours and, during that time, the air crew had gone round umpteen times, maybe a few more even, with cups of water, apple juice or orange juice. My little bottle of mineral water was so obviously one that I had bought, not something that the crew had given out, and it was so obviously in the seat pocket where I had put my things.

She must have thought I was asleep and figured she could nick a few swigs of my water while I dozed. I just can't believe that she had made an honest mistake and thought that she had some sort of claim on the bottle, yet she didn't seem like the stealing type. That's despite the now well known fact that she had stolen my window seat so brazenly.

I'm sure if I was Darwin or one of these other quick thinking dangerous types I would have refused her request as it happened and made her feel small and embarassed, probably with a quickly thought out bit of wit that would have been worthy of Oscar Wilde, Mervyn Silva or any other iconic person. But alas, this is me and I could only stare open mouthed like Bertie Wooster caught stealing something from a room by an Aunt, then think of things after the event.

After she fell asleep I quietly removed the bottle and left it under my seat. I felt inherently uncomfortable about drinking from it again, although her lips hadn't touched it as such. I can share a drinking from the bottle experience with the best, or worst, of fellows if I know them, but I draw the line when it comes to a total stranger, especially if they're a thief.

There you have it.

What would you have done?

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

My Weekend (Part 1)

At my desk in my office with Colombo running through my head. It's becoming a familiar feeling.

The break was a quick one, four days of heat, atmosphere and people. Four days of absofuckinglutely great food, the usual dishes that make all the mouths of all the diasporic Sri Lankans drool and yearn for the taste and the texture.

This time I've made a little list of things that I could blog about. Usually I get back from somewhere with a head full of stories I could regale you with, only to find that the head has got the memory of a trishaw driver and, by the time I come to put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard, I've forgotten the stories I wanted to share. Not that many trishaw drivers have blogs, but you know where I'm coming from.

I've got to start with one of the last things that happened, because I can, it's my blog after all. It's about the plane trip back, specifically about the woman who sat next to me.

Taking a more relaxed than usual approach to my check in I arrived at the airport a mere two and a half hours before the Sri Lankan airlines flight. By my standards that's as good as arriving after the gate has closed. I checked in and was told that a window seat wasn't available because one hundred and fifty people had already checked in and there were none left. Fair enough, I thought, although I felt some bitterness at the thought of those people being package tourists with their little white box of Kuoni flowers and patronising attitudes towards anyone with a brown skin.

I took my seat, the aisle one next to a window one, and wondered what my neighbour would be like. A couple of minutes later there she was. I was gifted with a youngish Sri Lankan woman in full hijab. Much of my family is Muslim so I have no issue with that side of things, I'm only trying to describe her to you. She must have been in her late twenties and had the aura of someone who'd never been in a car before, let alone a plane. In fact she looked so green I wouldn't even be surprised if she'd never been in Odel before, Now I think I'm mature and calm enough to know that life is made up of all sorts, some have more experience than others and many go out and try things for the first time.

But, on a long haul flight I'd rather not be sitting next to one of them. And, from the way she walked up the plane and studied the seat numbers, the way she took about half an hour to put her hand luggage in the overhead rack and the way she looked around at the environment I just knew I was in for a challenging eleven hours.

After sitting down and pressing every button she could see, just to see what they do, she promptly fell asleep. The gap between deciding to go to sleep and falling asleep was tiny. There are things in nature that take incredibly short periods of time, like light travelling and the Sri Lankan rupee depreciating, but this was something else. The only thing I can think of that I've seen occur so quickly is the speed of a Sri Lankan father falling asleep after a meal a few shots, any Sri Lankan father, it's in the genes.

But, bang, quicker than you can say "bang" she was gone, out for the count. As the aircraft took off, as the Kuoni flower box wielding Suddhas looked out of their windows and watched Sri Lanka disappear I looked at my neighbour and cursed her. She was asleep and she had what I wanted; a fucking bloody window seat. I so wanted to watch as I left the country. I don't know if you get that feeling too. It's a kind of desire to say goodbye, to watch the greenery and the reddish brownness of the land slowly fade away. To see the vehicles as they progress with such disorder along their roads, to watch the waves lapping along the west coast of the island as the plane heads upwards according to the map thing on the screen.

For me it's a very nice and complete way to leave, to see things dissipate and quite literally become smaller until they go into that thing they call the memory bank. Instead I got the image of a snoring fast asleep woman who, in all honesty, wasn't up there for me in the attractivenees ratings along with Jen and Britney (in her Slave 4u days of course). Next time I'll be checking in about nine days before the flight time. I need that seat.

Once she woke the window seat thief began to watch me. I felt a bit sorry for her, as much as anyone can feel for a blatantly cruel person anyway. She was watching everything I did, how I changed channels on the video screen, how I reclined my seat, how I pulled out the footrest, you name it she observed it and learned. I was tempted to have some fun. I thought about pressing a button on the screen and farting but there wasn't enough gas, or cruelness in my psyche, to do it.

We exchanged a few pleasantries, nothing much though. Then, several hours into the flight she did the thing. The thing that flummoxed, startled and left me with a puzzled brow and a "did that really happen" thought. As I sit here at my desk I can't fathom whether I reacted wrongly or if I shouldn't even have been bothered by what she did.

I'll tell you about it later.....

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Hot In The City

Joy of all Joys, here I am bunging out a quick post while sitting in the Barefoot garden. I decided to take a quick four day Easter break to see Colombo and I couldn't be feeling more chilled and more relaxed.

The city's hot and the streets are empty, as all have gone outstation. It's a bit of a ghost town but that's ok for me. I've never seen it as quiet as this and there's an eerie stillness to the streets, particularly at night.

Rumour has it that there's snow, or sleet, in London. I've got a cold beer, some musicians setting up due to kick out some chilled jazz vibes for the afternoon and I DID make contact with Java and we have set a date of sorts for tonight.

Later I might even check out the Powercut Circus and Stigmata gig.

Life can be so cool sometimes!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Rice, Drums, Electric Violins and Social Services.

I had the girls last night and chaos reigned supreme, in a very amiable sort of way. They both had a day off school for some reason so we didn't have to go through the very tught time constraints that are normal for a Wednesday night.

School nights on Wednesdays are cut to the limit. Pick up is at 4PM on the dot, then there's a quick drive to take the 11 year old to her piano lesson. Me and her older sister then usually rush into town and to Tesco to grab some ingredients for dinner and the eldest invariably tries to buy me some fruit or vegetables, which always end up languishing on the side of my kitchen looking more forlorn than a particularly long faced horse.

Then we rush to my place, they pretend to do their homework and I begin cooking. The 13 year old has a quirky yet quite healthy desire for me to cook for them and not get takeaways or junk food in. I think it's something to do with her wanting to know that I'm cooking and surviving on my own mixed in with a desire to eat healthily for her too. To be honest it has helped my drive to learn how to cook as well. And that's how to cook western dishes that I would rarely do for myself.

At about dinner time I shout at them to get everything set, they pretend not to hear me, I shout some more and eventually they do what they're asked. We eat, the 11 year old has one of those stomachs that expands and has no limits at all, and there are no foods that she doesn't like. It would be a bad combination but her metabolism has also been made so that she's got that thin appearance going on too.

They're dropped back at 8.30 PM on the dot, so we set off shortly before, after the clearing up has been shared between us. Overall it's a fun time but it's quick and it's organised with military precision.

So a holiday night had the potential to be a bit more relaxed and a little less stressful. K, the 11 year old, still had her piano lesson but all else was going to be more easy going. Or so I thought.

To start with I had to jump through virtually a whole packet of Hula Hoops just to find the girls. On arrival at their house there was no one around and after a few frantic phone calls I managed to trace the elder sister to a friend's house and the smaller one to a different friend's house. I was given instructions on what to collect from their place for the evening, the plethora of piano books, laptops and electric violins.

At some point a bit later we finally got to my place. The piano lesson was done, the food was bought and petrol had been fed into my car. We had had a lot of fun listening to the new Muse album in the car, at volume levels that would probably get me labelled as a bad parent by many, but there were no complaints from either of my music loving daughters.

My first job was to set up the K's electric violin. She had been given it for Christmas and for many reasons this was time to finally set the thing up. She had tried with her Mother and they hadn't quite got it working so I had been pulled in as a reluctant "expert". After much investigation I found that the problem was within my realms of expertise, they had put the 9v battery in the wrong way around, and managed to get the electric violin and K on their way with screeching, wailing and other noises that most people never knew a violin could make.

I went into the kitchen and began to do my thing. The love of a parent is an unconditional love, but mine was being tested to its limits. K, the 11 year old, has been playing the violin for some years and is now quite good, but had never played an electric version before. A, the 13 year old, has been playing the drums for some years and is also a good player. I can listen with genuine pride to A playing the drums or to K playing the violin.

However, the combination that they had put together was tough on the ears of even me, their loving Dad. They had chosen to play "Yesterday", a song that K plays on her normal acoustic violin. A was playing along to it on the drums, my electric kit. Now on the acoustic violin it sounds quite pleasing, a lovely melody that most people recognise played in a subtle and smooth manner. On the electric violin, which was amplified for the first time, it sounded a bit like Jimi Hendrix playing the Star Spangled Banner but deciding to do a heavier version with more feedback and effects than the version we all know so well. On top of that was a funky little drum groove that would have fitted quite nicely on top of a Britney Spears song.

It was one of those occasions when a parent smiles and gives full marks, maybe more, for effort, knowing full well that the end result wasn't all that pleasing. I continued to chop my onions feeling a mix of pride and discomfort, as if my kids had been the first people ever to discover the effects of running fingernails down a blackboard.

I made a chili - ish mine thing with rice for dinner. Like any good Sri Lankans we all love rice, but K has a very strong love for it, even more than her love for any other food known to man. So, when the rice cooker made its "click" which indicated the rice was ready, K was in the kitchen ready to "sample" it in about half a nanosecond.

"Can I try it Dad?"

"No, go and get the plates and set the table and then you can." I responded in strict parental tones.

"No" said K. " I want to try it, if you don't let me try it I won't get the plates."

I'm wise to this behaviour, I know the way a child's mind works so I was ready for war.

"No, if you don't want to set the table then you won't eat. If you don't eat that's your problem, not mine. In fact there'll be even more for me and A."

I knew I was in an unassailable position. K, faced with the threat of no food would crumple and do whatever she was asked. As her father I know these kind of things and my superior intelligence and years of business experience and negotiation were no match for an smartarse 11 year old.

"Well if you do that I'll call Social Services."

"You what?" I asked.

"I'll call Social Services and report you for mistreating me."

I let her have the rice, then I got the plates.

It's important to know when you're beaten.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Music Making Me Merry

Music is important to me, if you're a regular then you'll already know that anyway. The older I get the more I feel that music and drumming are the things that really define me, that I'm comfortable with and I want to be immersed in. I think music, drumming and Colombo would be the three things I'd take with me to a desert island. And some white string hoppers.

But in the last week I've been surrounded by great quality music, as if it's coming at me from all directions and, in the words of Justin MacDonald, I'm lovin' it. To start with I went on a minor drummer's buying spree a couple of weeks ago when I was ill and feeling sorry for myself. I don't mean that I'm a minor drummer, although I am, but that wasn't my point. I meant that I was bored with watching daytime TV and old episodes of Miss Marple so I surfed to a drumshop's website and bought all the consumables that a drummer could possibly need. Things like new heads for all my drums, bits that go on top of cymbals and a host of other bits and pieces.

The most exciting purchase was a new book; a book specifically on playing funk, with a vast array of new grooves and ideas for me to work on. Funk is my chosen genre and in recent months I had been looking for some specific targets or goals to set myself for my playing for this year. I was drifting a bit and seeking an island to head for. Last year I tried to focus on learning new fills, with a target of learning a new one every week. The plan was going well but got ever so slightly derailed by the whole divorce and moving out and starting my life again thing.

Since I got the book I've learnt three or four grooves from it already and they really are fantastic. I know that I've stumbled upon a book that's going to give me month's of learning and new material. My drum book library is already quite full but most of them are books that don't fully inspire me, books that I'll often flick through, maybe work on a page or a chapter but then forget about it. This book feels different to me, one that I just know I'll devour and absorb, very probably over the course of the whole year. That's my first thing to be musically excited about.

My second thing is something that is almost definitely going to become my Sunday night routine, one that I like. One of my local pubs has starting hosting Jazz musicians on a Sunday night. There's a lot of history to this specific gig, it's one that has been going on for some years in another local pub and it's moved here while the original pub is being refurbished by new owners. Every week this gig has a different "star", usually someone superfantastic, but it's the backing musicians that make it for me.

Over the years this regular Sunday night event has turned into one that attracts the equivalent of royalty in terms of the musicians that play. The very top levels of pros turn up and play in a pub on a Sunday night for what I can only assume is the sheer love of performing with other like minded people. It's like turning up at your local park and finding the Manchester United team having a kickabout just for fun. Last Sunday I witnessed Ian Thomas play. You're unlikely to know his name unless you're a drummer but he's one of the most in demand players in the country. He's Tom Jones' regular drummer and played at Live 8, he's played with all the greats and I've seen him perform more times that I can count.

In recent weeks I've seen two or three really top level drummers play in this very same setting, but seeing Ian Thomas play was a sublime experience for me, a lowly dodgy drummer who wouldn't be worthy of setting up his kit. It was my equivalent of a religious experience. These gigs are often a coming together of superb musicians who, though brilliant players, often haven't had a lot of experience of playing together and therefore have to feel their way through the songs. We, the audience, see and hear them discussing what to play and then we'll see one of the band explaining the format of the song, the key changes and structure to the others.

Then bang, they play the song with more poise, confidence and tightness than any band I've ever been in can play a song that we've known inside out for many years, which may well be because of me on drums. My bands spend infinite amounts of time rehearsing our songs to get them sounding as tight and as good as possible. Then I watch people like this play and it reminds me that I've got a long way to go. The days of thinking "I may as well give up" are long gone. Music is a study that can take many lifetimes and watching experts perform motivates me to practice and to play in the most positive and inspirational ways.

The big lesson for me as a drummer, in watching this gig was how the top level players can express themselves not by the things they play but actually by the things they don't play. Many drummers, particularly at my level, think that the way to impress an audience is by hitting as many things as fast as possible. Mr Thomas' playing on Sunday was a masterclass in taste, subtlety and groove. He held back and let the other musicians get heard, he never fought for attention as so many do. Then, when it was his turn to solo, he'd come out with the most spectacular playing a drum fan could imagine. Theena, Java, Confab if you're reading this I just know you would have loved it.

My third and final bit of musical mayhem is the fact that Muse have released their new album. It came out on Monday and is a live one, complete with a DVD of the performances. The thrill for me is that it was recorded over their two gigs in Wembley in the summer, one of which I went to with the girls and Academic Bro. It was the first proper gig I've taken the girls to and the first proper one they've been to and we all loved it. I think that one of my lifelong memories will be the whole of Wembley Stadium jumping up and down in unison to Starlight and glancing at my eleven year old headbanging to Knights of Cydonia, as was I.

So to have a DVD of this gig is a superb momento for me as well as being a great performance on its own right.

There you go; three musical things that are filling me with excitement and inspiration, just thought I'd share them with you.

Of course, I'm easily excitable.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Observations At The Hairdresser's

I went to the hairdressers the other day. I mean "hairdresser" as well, this is definitely not a barber. In my shaven headed days, which are now over indefinitely, I'd go to the local barber either every week or every fortnight. I'd sit in the queue, wait my turn and then step up to the chair. Some small talk about football, the weather or holidays would take place and then I'd part with my £7 or so and stroll off into the sunset.

You're probably thinking that anyone can give a head a grade zero with a set of clippers but actually it's not that easy. There are a few places I had been to that just wouldn't do a good job and I'd find bits of extra long hair sticking out of my bonce in the days after the event. But, let's be honest here, shaving or clippering a head isn't high up on the list of skills that they teach you at hairdressing school and therefore I wasn't overly fussy about where I got it done.

But now I've joined the ranks of you hair wearers (except for my bald patch) I feel it's important to have my hair done by someone I trust, who has taken the trouble to get to know my hair, my likes and dislikes and the way I like to lead my active and energetic lifestyle. It's nothing to so with the small army of young and sexy semi naked girls that work in the salon and strut around the place with clothes that leave nothing to the imagination.

As I sat there last week I looked around at all that was taking place in the vicinity. I looked at all the people in the hairdresser's establishment and chuckled inside my head. Immediately opposite me was a female hairdresser who's always there, perhaps because she works there. She, like most of the people who work there, is an intriguing looking person. At first glance they appear to be well up there on the sexy and attractive scale. But then, when you look a bit more, they're all a touch on the ropey side.

It's as if all these hairdressers are failed models. They dress like models, everything they wear is from a page out of Vogue or Roy of the Rovers or whatever fashion mag they read. I can picture the getting ready in the morning situation in the average hairdresser's house. In the case of drumming bloggers who run a small company the getting ready time can be as little as ten minutes from being in bed to leaving the house. That incorporates a shower, a shave and all the teeth stuff. Of course if a poo is required then I have to add a lot more time into the equation, but a good crap just can't be hurried.

But, for the average hairdresser it must be total nightmare in the mornings. They must spend more time in getting ready than just about any other tradesperson. The thought and effort that is clearly put in deserves recognition and a pat on the back, but the fact is that they're nearly all ugly people. I think it's a tangent from Darwin's theory of evolution and the whole survival of the fittest concept, I'll ask her or maybe she'll explain. But these hairdressers are all wannabe models, with the clothes, the attitude and the vanity, just without the looks.

Then there's the men. The men who are barbers are as manly as one can imagine aren't they? They cut hair, talk about football and women and ooze hydrocortisone, or is it testosterone? Either way they're real men. However, the "hairdressing" men are a different breed. First they've got the walk going on, the mincing one where they look as if they're clutching something between the old cheeks. Then they've got the carefully groomed look with just the right amount of hair product to make their hair look dishevelled and messy, as if they've just got out of bed. I care not whether they are gay or straight but I think it's fair to say that most of them are camper than a field full of tents with an air stewards convention going on.

Is it worth paying the extra that a salon trip costs? No way, not if you judge it by the quality of the haircut alone. But, for the entertainment value it's a bargain. So much to look at, so much to take in and such good fun. I'd thoroughly recommend it.

Friday, March 14, 2008

God - Opt In Or Opt Out?

Well, let me start this post by telling you how childishly pleased I am with the alliterative "Opt in or opt out" bit in that title. It wasn't deliberate, I just typed in something that came to me and there it was. If I could figure out a way to chuck in the words "out of order" to the title I'd be really happy and would probably not write anything else.

No Sir, I'd sit back with a cheshire cat type of grin on my face. I'd stare at my monitor and feel pleased with my wit and humour, probably have my hands clasped together in a superior body language pose. I'd be looking at my post. It would be called something like

"Out of Order, Oh God, Opt In Or Opt Out"

It would make no sense, but it's the sort of thing that these proper writers do; you know they come up with a strange sounding title and then write a book based around it.

But I shan't do that because I do have a vague point to make or to ask. And it is about God, or rather it's about religion in general and the differences between the Eastern and Western approaches and attitudes to it. Here's my thing.

I was born to a Christian mother and a Muslim father. Neither of them is particularly devout, though the female parent is more so than the conga playing male version. My brothers and myself were brought up with the attitude and beliefs that religion is something we should be made aware of and then we would be free to make any choices, if we wanted to.

As children we went to churches, we went to Mosques and we also went to temples and Star Wars films. We were given total freedom to choose any faith, not confined to Islam or Christianity. We ended up more or less choosing nothing as so many people in the UK seem to do. It's fair to say that neither me nor either of my brothers follows a faith.

We're all quite happy like that. Academic brother continually struggles with his insecurities about my vast intellect and music biz bro has always had trouble coming to terms with my good looks but none of that is to do with religion. I've just added it in for the sake of accuracy. The fact is that we're all content on the God front.

In contrast to the UK, or the West, what I've seen so frequently in Sri Lanka, or the East, is that so many people are born into a religion. It's also something I've seen among Eastern folks in these parts, the way that children are born a Muslim or a Hindu, or a Jedi of course. Maybe it's more apparent to me because my parents are mixed, but I suspect it's not the case. I reckon I would have been given that right of choice whatever the religious make up of my parents, that it's because of being brought up in the UK more than anything else.

As I've pondered on this situation I've come to the conclusion that the Asian way is to be of the faith of your parents, then as kids grow up and become older they either opt out or maintain the status quo. That is, they either make a conscious decision to follow a different faith or they continue to follow the faith of their parents. In the western world the more common approach is for a child to opt in, to choose to follow a faith as they move into adulthood.

Of course there are many other differences between the Asian and the European worlds, like the way white people rarely cook rice properly and the way Sri Lankans have much larger gaps between the toes, but these things can be left for another more serious post.

But regarding my religion thing, what do you think?

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

A Question Of Sperm

No, it's not my idea for a new quiz show, although I do see potential there. Mystery guests, what happened next, yes I reckon it could work if applied to the world of pornography rather than sport.

Someone said to me the other day that they often marvel at how good looking many kids are when they are born to older fathers. She was talking about a fellow of about 70 who has a child of about 3 or 4. It's not a phenomenon that I've paid much attention to but it did get me thinking.

Sperm, does it mature with age? And of course I'm not thinking along the cheese and wine principle here. More about whether the sperm of a man of 20 would be the same as that same fellow's sperm when he's 70, in terms of DNA and its general makeup. Is it possible that the sperm carries a fellow's experience in some way, the experience that the chap has garnered over his years.

Of course it's unlikely and I could have googled it and got definitive answers within 0.004 seconds, but I thought it's much more interesting to chuck it out into the blogosphere and see who our sperm experts are and what they think.

So what do you reckon?

Is sperm like cheese? Does it get better with age?

Monday, March 10, 2008

The Insecurities Of A Cool Dad!

I know that a few people who read here are parents, I know that some of you are even as old as Java and many of us must go through similar trials on tribulations on a daily basis.

Now I am quite proud to consider myself as a chap with a certain sense of style about my persona. I'm no David Beckham, although I'm probably far more at ease in a sarong than he is, but I'm also not one of those square types, the sort who wears clothes because they're comfortable and buys their jeans from Marks and Spencer's superb range.

And, as the years and the pounds pile on a bit, I find myself increasingly conscious of my appearance, particularly the need to "do the right thing" for my daughters. You see I've never wanted to be one of those square types, the M+S jeans wearing, average Nike trainer toting and normal "comfortable" clothing adverts. In the days when I used to sometimes collect the girls from school I'd look at the other parents and feel that I never wanted to look like so many of them.

But then I'd spot one or two of the more outlandish parents and think to myself "What the fuck's going on there? She looks like she's just copied page 74 of one of those catalogues, without reading the title where it says that this is what all the teens are wearing in more extreme parts of Camden."

And, as a parent I believe I shoulder many responsibilities, one of the most important ones being not to embarass my daughters. So I have to find a balance between looking trendy and stylish enough for them yet not go over board and appearing like some kind of twat. Some of the other parental responsibilities involve things like counselling, guidance, education and what have you, but dressing appropriately has got to be at, or near, the top of the list.

I am blessed with a bit of a head start too. Being a drummer, in two bands no less, means I gain copious amounts of street cred points with my girls and their friends immediately. There are other Dads of their friends who are captains of industry, in charge of huge empires, there are probably some who are MPs and the like (of course being an MP actually means something over here!). But in the Dad street cred stakes there is little that beats an old man who is in a band or two. Granted, if I were famous or in Take That I'd be virtually untouchable, but I can't complain as things are.

There's nothing worse than a parent who refuses to grow old gracefully. Which is where my current insecurities lie. The covers band played a gig at a school disco / party thing the other day. It was the school of one of the kids of our lead singer, so there were plenty of adults and what seemed to be about half a million screaming fifteen year olds hanging around looking dangerous and disinterested.

I suppose I'm relatively used to girls of about that age, but boys are an alien concept. I sat there and, in between bouts of coughing, I looked at the "uniform" that these boys were wearing. It disconcerted me. For my considerable research led me to the conclusion that today's youth, at least in London, is wearing skinny jeans, Converse All Stars and a thinly striped shirt with a collar and a fitted look. You know, the exact stuff that I had on too.

Really, hand on heart, I wasn't pleased about this. I don't want to be one of those Dads who all the kids laugh at because I dress way too young. I don't want to be the cause of embarrasment to the girls because I've got a Bobby Charlton and refuse to accept that my hair is thinning. Now I'm wondering where to go with this fashion issue.

Should I start dressing a bit "older" and become one of them?

Should I stay as I am and risk the loss of face and embarrasment to the girls?

Should I just wear what I want and forget about other peoples' opinion? (ridiculous I know but I'm told some people do take this approach)

What to do?

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Changi Airport Mystery - Can You Help?


















The last few times I've been to Singapore I've got the same flight out; at 9.oo AM on Monday morning. And, on each occasion, these women have been asleep in the coffee shop at the airport. Normally there's another two people, an older woman and a man I think. In Starbucks, with suitcases and bags around them as if they're about to go on or have just been on a flight.

For the life of me I can't figure out what they're doing there and why?

Any ideas? Or have you seen them too?

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Where Have I Been?

A bit ill actually. I got myself a bit of a nasty coughing thing last week and it's turned out to be "severe bronchitis" as the emergency Doctor told me.

There are many things I love about England and the UK and I'm a believer in the good of the NHS and its Doctors, but getting to see a GP when you really feel ill is as hard as a bag of rocks with some nails in. It was February 29th so maybe they were all at Java's birthday party, that must be it. I rang my GP on Friday to be told that they had no appointments available until at least Tuesday, if I rang at 8.30 on Monday morning there was a chance I could be fitted in. Of course they aren't open over the weekend because illness doesn't happen at weekends.

I had two gigs to deal with as well, one on Friday and one on Saturday, both for the covers band. I got through Friday's one, a school party of some sort complete with an audience of screaming fourteen year olds, with a lot of discomfort. The coughing fits I had anticipated, so dosed myself up on more drugs than Keith Moon and John Bonham would have taken on a joint birthday do. My drugs of choice were Lemsip and Buttercup cough mixture, obviously no more than the recommended doses.

What I hadn't anticipated was how hard it is to keep a half decent groove going when I was sporadically coughing up what felt like the contents of my entire chest cavity. It was one of those racking coughs and, in a painful way, tested me and my playing. I noticed how the adrenalin buzz from playing helped me to deal with it too, that's a discovery that is worth remembering. I managed ok though, but can only thank my lucky stars I wasn't a white drummer, that would have been a hard task indeed!

I finished up that one, packed up and went home to sleep, cough and feel mightily sorry for myself.

Saturday's event was a bigger, more serious affair. A dinner dance thing to raise money for breast cancer. The venue was about a minute's walk from my daughters' house so they walked down to watch the soundcheck and set up, which was nice for me. It was one of the most spectacular venues I've played in; an old church that has been converted into an arts centre, huge high ceiling and more echo and natural reverb than an average airport PA announcer.

I was guilty of the proud Dad thing and persuaded my 13 year old to play on the drums for a bit, by telling her I wanted to hear how the kit sounded. It was true, I did, but I also wanted to show the others that she's a nifty drummer too. The plan worked a treat. But I also noticed my daughters pointing their phones in the band's direction during a couple of the soundcheck songs, so I have hopes that my reputation among their friends as a "cool Dad" because I play in a couple of bands remains intact. Not that I'm at all bothered by these things you understand.

The gig went outstandingly well, we played a couple of new songs including the Foos' "Long road to ruin" and my schoolboy fantasies of being Taylor Hawkins keep growing. What a great band, what a great song and what a fantastic drummer! Oh yes, those are the things Messrs Hawkins and Grohl would have been saying if they'd seen us play on Saturday night for sure.

At the midnight hour I turned into a pumpkin of sorts. It was a bit after midnight and I turned more into my road, but all else was true. I used up the last ounce of energy I had to unload my kit from the car, my head hit the sack and I felt happy, ill and relieved. I'd got through two gigs that I honestly had wondered about, that I'd thought about cancelling. I was pleased and knew that I'd get a Doctor out the next day to see me.

So here I am, all antibioticked up, lying in bed and have decided not to feel sorry for myself. Give me a day or two and normal service will be resumed.

There's only so much daytime TV and sleeping a chap can do, the energy levels are low and I've had to go into work in the mornings but this is the first time I've even felt like putting out a little blog post. I know it's not up to my usual standard of wit and intelligent insight but I feel sure you'll understand.

Back soon!

PS - I still hate Snow Patrol. And there were two different DJs at the gigs. Is there a law somewhere that DJs have to look like paedophiles and have all the social skills of Mervyn?