Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Sound Of A Drummer

"You could write a book" they all told him.

And "they" all seemed genuine and sincere when they said it. They figured he was being modest and bashful when he said he couldn't. They didn't understand him like he did, which was obvious really as they weren't in his head, listening to the voices.

He devoured the written word like a fat white tourist at a five star hotel buffet on the first night of his holiday, one with a yellow all inclusive wrist band and as much alcoholic drinks, though locally brewed only, as he could manage.

The more he read, the more he realised how hard it is to write. Paradoxically, the more he realised how hard it is, the more he thought he might someday be able to do it. He knew he had a hat, a funny one, not like a clown's one either. It was the hat he wore to look at life; quite shallow and with a tendency to make him laugh at the most inappropriate times.

He was never the sort of person who could see the funny side to a serious situation and then maintain an earnest and solemn face on the exterior while cracking up with laughter on the inside. Over the years he'd developed a half smirk, half lip biting, half I don't know much about fractions faraway look that only succeeded in convincing strangers that he was in deepest thought and fighting off a sneeze and the second coming of his lunch at the same time.

Everyone else, the people who knew him, would see that look and know there was a joke, sometimes even a funny one, on its way. Overall, was a bummer. He'd never make it as a spy, a drug smuggler, a conman or a politician.

He had friends who could write. The ex soldier friend could take a picture and paint it with words to make it more vivid and more poignant. The Gypsy could write with language so deep and full of feeling that the reader felt like they're swimming in a pool of words, immersed, bathing and splashing about in them, never drowning but often swallowing a mouthful or two of the delicious and refreshing water.

All writers are rich with inspiration and he had that by the bucketload. The passions were clear; his kids, Sri Lanka and music. He had C, who made him feel as though he could do anything. He'd be happy to spend all of his time with them, talking about them, talking to them, just being, just doing. Yet there was a problem, that spark of creativity, the one that all real writers had, was missing.

He knew he could take an average story from yesterday and turn it into something humorous, not because of any great talent, just because he always saw things in that light. The thing he couldn't do was to look at tomorrow and create a story out of nothing. Imagination, they called it.

After all the years of reading, admiring, envying and wishing it hit him, like a sledgehammer flying out of a cave in the dead of the night.

Those authors he admired so much, the writers with the imagination and creativity. Well all they did was to write about themselves, their own experiences and the things they'd seen in their day to day lives. They invented characters, plots and adventures, heroes and villains but really they were the things and people they'd seen and lived through.

All he had to do was write about his own life, ideally in the third person.

Hmmm...... perhaps it just might work. Maybe he could try a short story as a start.

But what would he come up with, how would it begin and where would it go?

How about a little thing about what he was thinking, what the voices were saying?

No, that wouldn't work. Would it?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

What Would The Buddha Think?

"Is it ok for producers of the music video, to use a Buddha statue in the backdrop of that video?" asks VIC in his post on the subject here. Mr Mahasen Bandara goes on to answer the rhetorical question with "no, not at all". What exactly is a rhetorical question anyway?

Here in the UK we have rather strict employment laws. They're complicated, expensive to comply with and I'll be buggered backwards with a large fish fried in batter and a touch of chilli if I can understand them. But, the one thing I do understand is that sexist language, racist talk and most offensive behaviour is in the eye of the beholder.

I can go up to a member of my team, call them a "stupid Indian fuckwit" and, if they or anyone else isn't offended by it, then there's no issue. On the other hand I can ask a person to do something politely, add the word "darling" to the end of the question and, if that person is offended, all hell can break loose. One person's witty banter is another person's hurtful sexism.

Yes, it's all about whether one causes offence or not. Subjective, I believe is how intelligent people would refer to the matter. And it's the same, in my humble o, with regards to religion and Buddhism. Here in the west we have Buddha bars, clothing and all sorts of imagery, as documented by DD here, used for purely commercial purposes. Just about every other white person's garden has a statue of the Buddha, available from most garden centres, peering out from behind the plants.

Most of the statue buyers would no doubt be horrified if they thought they were offending Buddhists throught their actions, I doubt there's any intended malice. To them it's a nice looking staute, a cool looking bar to hang out in or a trendy pair of jeans. The kids who wear the jeans will hang a cross around their necks because they think it looks good, the parents will make every effort to get their child into a Catholic school, not because they're Catholics but because it's the best school in the area.

The west, for the main, has an opt in attitude towards religion. People choose a religion if they so desire and then practice it. The eastern way is different, most are born into a religion and then choose to opt out if they want to. When I compare Sri Lanka with the UK one of the biggest differences is that religion is a backdrop to so many aspects of life in Serendib in a way that's not so here.

Which is better, which is worse?

I have no firm opinions on this. I've brought up my daughters with the western approach, hopefully trying to create an awareness of religions and faiths and a level of tolerance in all of them. I know that the reality is that they'll probably grow up as people who don't practice any particular religion. I'm okay with that.

VIC asks in his post for a yes or no answer to the question, "is it ok....to use a Buddha statue in the backdrop of that video?"

My answer is in the affirmative, with some conditions. I think it's okay, that doesn't mean that you think it's okay. I'm not trying to persuade you either way, if you're offended by imagery like that then that's your right. If Mr Akon wants to gig in a Buddhist country then perhaps it wasn't the biggest act of sensitivity around to put that in his video.

Am I offended when people here put Buddha statues in their gardens? No.

Am I offended when I see kids wearing crosses for decoration? No.

Was I offended with the Danish cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad? No.

But those are just my opinions.

I wonder what God or Buddha would think about the matter?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Come On, Who Was It?

Who stole my moving tag cloud?

It's gone, vanished, disappeared mysteriously, probably carted off in a unmarked white van or something.

Own up. I just want to know if it's safe.

If it was you please hand it in, no questions will be asked.

It's more than just a moving tag cloud, it's been with me for a long time.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Music For Girls

I had an urge.

Not like that, this one was music related.

I felt a need to buy some newish music, and by "newish" I mean new to me, to put in the car and soak up and enjoy in the coming days and weeks. You see, one of the things about being a musician, even a lowly drummer, is that it's important to keep listening to things I wouldn't normally choose. It's all about broadening horizons and influence, being open to new ideas and whatnot.

Abandon me on a desert island, tell me that I can only take a few objects and I'd choose some funky stuff and a bit of hard rock, probably some Thin Lizzy and Foo Fighters and some real old school James Brown or Meters or similar. Those are my natural favourites, but I like to find new artistes and genres too. Although I'd be smart and just say that I'd like to take my iPod, with charger, laptop and wireless of course.

Just for clarity a desert island is different to a dessert island. The former is an island with sand, scantily clad women, Robinson Crusoe and a huge reality TV crew filiming some sort of cross between a survival show and a gameshow. These islands are always referred to in the feminine gender for, as everyone knows, no man is an island.

The latter is a free standing counter in a five star hotel buffet packed full of pineapple fluff, chocolate biscuit pudding and strange looking things featuring jelly and chocolate. Each dish is made with about fifty per cent more sugar than would be used in the west and it's Sri Lankan law that each label must contain at least one spelling mistake.

Where was I? Ah yes. So I was in HMV, desperately trying to find the chart CD section. It's a sign of the times here that the layout of music stores is now geared towards DVDs, blue tack, or whatever this new fangled thing's called, Nintendo Wiis and iPod accessories. Somewhere out of the way is the chart CD section and it's habited by old blokes like me. I should add, for the sake of credibility, that I use iTunes and the iTunes store frequently. I wouldn't want you to think I'm a luddite, whatever that actually means.

Once I saw the CD section I ambled over there, gave my id to prove I'm over forty and was let in to look around. The first thing to catch my eye was the new Gorillaz offerring. A friend was raving about it to me the other day and, as I think Damon Albarn is a musical genius, there wasn't much thinking to be done and I chucked a copy in my basket and continued to peruse. The truth is that I didn't actually have a basket so I just carried it in my hands but you don't need to know that.

There wasn't much to grab me. Nor was there much I wanted to grab. And then I saw it.

I ask you, how hard is it to spell the word "bubble"? It's pretty easy isn't it? It should have been a danger sign when I saw it spelled as "buble", but if it was then I missed it. I picked it up and read the blurb. This Bubble chap has been getting a lot of attention lately. A, my fifteen year old, loves his most recent single and the snippets I'd heard of his sounded okay, in an easy listening sort of way. Sorry about the amount of words in this paragraph with Bs and Ls in them, it just happened, I really shouldn't babble so much.

I figured that a fellow like the Bubble would probably have the best musicians money can buy on his songs so I looked at the track listing and I was right, the list of drummers; Vinnie Coluiata, Josh Freese, Peter Erskine and more was a list of the best drummers in the world. I added the CD to my basket, the one I didn't have.

I was a bit embarrassed on taking the CDs to the checkout. The trendy chap serving me gave me that look that they do to old people. It was clear that he thought the Gorillaz CD was a present for someone and the Michael Bubble one was for me. I felt that need, you know the one, to tell him that I'm a drummer, a real one in a band, and that I wouldn't normally buy stuff like that. I didn't though.

Later that day the new CDs got put into the multidisc stacking thing in the car. If nothing else I was eager the check out the artistry that I knew I'd hear on Mr Bubble's work, the Gorillaz album I knew would need some more intense listening, far less of a singalong thing, more of a listen to it loudly when I'm on my own, or driving home in the rush hour type of thing.

Well, after some persistance I've concluded that Michael Boobfuckinglay is a ponced up club singer. I'm sorry for the strong language but there's no other way I can express my sentiments, what with my limited vocabulary. There are some fantastic classic songs, like All Of Me and Cry Me A River, but it sounds as if they're all time classics being covered by a perfect singer. And that's the problem, he's too perfect. There's no imperfection, no character and no grit to his voice.

The musicianship is first class, in a Singapore Airlines rather than Sri Lankan Airlines first class sort of way, as is the production. It's just not happening for me.

On further listening I realised that this really is music for girls. I'm sorry if any girls are offended by this but it's a sad fact. If there are any men out there who like Michael Bubble, men whose name doesn't begin with "D" and end in "inidu" that is, I want to hear from them.

I love music, I suppose I collect it, I've even got the Milli Vanilli CD somewhere, but I think I'll give this one to A. I know that K will just look at it with scorn, even though she still has a strange soft spot for Celine Dion. I'll probably stick it on iTunes first, just in case.

And, should Mr Buble ever happen to be at one of my gigs and ask if he can sing a song or two, I'll suggest that it would be fine, as long as he can manage to chuck some flat notes in now and again, maybe forget a line or two or perhaps come in just a couple of beats too late occasionally.

Then, and only then, he'll be a real singer my son.

Friday, March 19, 2010

About Time

For sometime, probably about four hundred years, I've been puzzled by a phenom that I've noticed. It's about time. I don't mean that it's about time, I mean that it's about time.

You know when a chap says that 9/11 was in 2001, almost ten years ago, or when a fellow says that it was in 2005, almost five years ago, that Take That reformed? Or when someone talks about the fact that the year is almost a quarter of the way gone already and that Christmas feels like it was yesterday.

Or when you go on holiday and time passes rapidly, running through your hands quicker than a vast fortune through a couple of generations in a Sri Lankan family.

Well why is it that we're always surprised by the reality of time?

You never hear someone respond along the lines of "oh yes, it feels exactly like the ten years / three months / four minutes you say it was, my dear fellow."

No one ever says that that ninety minutes felt like it lasted ninety minutes. Or that it actually feels like it's Thursday, on a Thursday.

Why is this?

Answers on a comment please. Take your time.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Lord Of The Dance

Picture the situation. It was last week, though technically that will depend on when you're reading this, I was in Barcelona, that city of culture and Spanish miscellany, with C and she was perusing a guide book looking for things to do that evening.

"Do you want to go to the ballet?" she asked.

"Um. What?" I replied, using the old buying a bit of time by pretending I hadn't heard trick.

"Do you want to go to a ballet?" she repeated.

"Well, not really." I answered, with all the firmness and assertiveness I'm renowned for.

And so, at six o'clock that evening I was sat in a theatre, waiting for the ballet to start, pondering on my assertiveness skills.

Earlier that day the woman in the box office had told us that the evening's performance was a "children's ballet", only an hour long and "quite good". I'd succumbed, it was a rather picturesque theatre and an hour of watching blokes dancing around while dressed in tights couldn't be all that bad could it? Besides, I could change out of the tights later in the evening if I really wanted to.

Looking around at the other members of the audience made me uneasy. It was mostly women with their children, most of whom were girls. I had a bad feeling that we were about to watch a pantomime, oh yes I did. Perhaps when she had told us it was a children's ballet her English had let her down.

Two people appeared on stage. One was a woman and the other was a man, or was it the other way round? I forget, but it matters not. For about ten minutes they told us things in an animated, children's TV presenter fashion. Every word was spoken with big eyes, bold body language and more variety of tone than a xylophone player falling down the stairs (with xylophone) and having his fall broken by a couple of accordions. Sentences were littered with sporadic outbursts of dancing from our two performers as they explained through dance what they'd just explained through words.

I didn't understand the words or the dancing, which was a bit of a bummer really. But, it seemed as if the friendly couple were explaining ballet, or perhaps bad clothes and their effect on dance moves, to the children. I began to think that maybe this was it; an hour of teaching kids about ballet, getting them interested and hungry for it, all in Spanish, though it may have been Catalonian.

I'm forty four and linguistics isn't one of my things. On top of that ballet isn't one of my things. All in all I felt as if this might be one of those rare occasions when I left before the end of the show, even if it was only an hour. Then, before you could say something quick, the couple left the stage and were replaced by a group of dancers and some music.

I breathed in a huge sigh of relief. It wasn't traditional classical ballet, more a cross between that and modernish dance, clearly aimed at enticing kids into the evil, dark and murky world of ballet. It was quite good.

There were three of four more acts; one was a dance accompanied by an electro sort of soundtrack, another had a seriously groovy tribal thing going on and there was a bit of classical sounding stuff too. It was dumbed down for the kids and suited me perfectly.

The troupe performed their last number and wallowed in the rapturous applause. It was a full theatre and all were clapping enthusiastically, including me. The gang of dancers (probably an oxymoron) left the stage and ran down the centre aisle, giving it some large ones.

I was sitting next to the aisle. A dancer made eye contact with me and held out a hand. She was one of those girl dancers, the sort with a body made from chiselled flesh and probably used by Michaelangelo and other Ninja turtles as a model. It would have been rude to refuse so I countered by proffering my hand and shaking hers. I figured that I was British and a handshake, a well done, a metaphoric pat on the back were what was called for.

Well, I was wrong.

Before I knew it she'd pulled me out of my seat and I was being led towards the stage. Somewhere in my peripheral vision I could see that most of the other dancers had grabbed an audience member too. Now I'm pretty rubbish at estimating crowd numbers but I reckon there must have been around four hundred thousand, perhaps a million people in the theatre and, in a daze, I was onstage, front left, close to the audience.

The dancers were all going mental in a freeform modern dancing way. I looked around me to see the few other people from the crowd who had been dragged up there were dancing too, but all a bit subdued and mild. My dancer, her with the body, was telling me something in Spanish. It was apparent, even to me, that she was telling me to dance.

I figured that I was a foreigner in a foreign land, I was representing both Britain and Sri Lanka. It was a mad moment to consider my identity but I did, though failed to come to a conclusion. Instead I danced, like a total mentalist.

I pulled out all my moves, the ones that A and K would have absolutely cringed at, the ones that I was sure C would be cringing at. Afterwards she told me that she was watching through her hands, whilst they were covering her eyes.

I shook my legs in my best Elvis impression, I swivelled my hips sexily, I waved my arms above my head and spun around a few times, without falling over. I could tell that the dancers were impressed with me, sometimes a chap just knows these things.

Then things evolved into a slow dance, something that's slightly less my forte. And I say forte in a way that a fish can say his forte is mountaineering or BMX biking.

Dancer girl took hold of me and attempted to lead. I followed for a bit, then battled for the lead, changing my left hand position to gain control while being careful not to fondle her bum too much. Once she surrendered and let me lead I realised I didn't have the faintest idea what to do. For what seemed like hours but was probably seconds we did this weird dance. I managed to establish that the music was in 7/8 but she wanted to dance in 3/4 so we settled on 4/4 and went for it.

Then the music shifted gear again, into something I recognised; that Pussycat Dolls version of Sway with me. Again I pulled out some of my smoothest moves. I forgot to do the one when you lift up one leg, bend it at the knee and grasp the ankle with one hand while putting the other hand behind your head and shaking, but the rest were all there. I felt the spotlight on me, the eyes of the crowd and their gasps of admiration and I loved it. There's something about that song that makes everyone want to dance isn't there?

My dancing partner said something to me. I mumbled a phrase that vaguely sounded like "can you speak in English" and she told me I could go back to my seat now. Disappointedly I left my stage, for it was mine by then. I went back to my seat and the other people went back to their own ones.

As I got to my row I could see C, half laughing and half crying. She had the look of a mother who's just seen her child do really badly in the lead role of the school nativity play; proud but embarrassed, kind of hoping the child would go and sit in the row behind by mistake.

I sat down, knowing that I'd done it for my countries. It was good to find out that I haven't lost it. Well I suppose you can't lose what you never had in the first place. At least I know what it must be like to be the singer instead of the drummer now.

I've since decided that ballet's quite good. Though I did only reach out to shake the girl's hand.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

You Know You Want To...

Everybody wants to be a cat drummer.

And this.

Is.

Why.

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Case Of The Case (Missing)

Well I'm back from Barcelona and I hope you all managed to behave yourselves while I was away. Indi's back from his travels too, the issue of the Kottu popularity contest remains and we wonder if and how it will be solved.

Spain, Barcelona specifically, was rather fatabulous. I'd never visited the country let alone the city before so everything was new to me. It was a feast of colour, architecture, particularly of the modernista variety, culture and food.

Our (mine and C's) arrival in the city was marred by one thing; my suitcase didn't accompany us, just about every traveller's nightmare. We took two suitcases, we stood at the baggage belt and grabbed one of them almost straightaway, then waited while nothing much happened. I had an uneasy feeling immediately, mostly because these suitcases usually turn up together.

After a while we were left alone at a now stopped rotating baggage belt. There were two stray bags on the belt and neither of them, however much I stared at them and checked, resembled my one. I guess missing baggage is an everyday occurrence, you just never really think it will happen to you.

About an hour after the first bag had appeared we were in the queue for the lost luggage place. I was busily trying to be calm, manly and matter of fact about things whilst battling with a very problematic dilemma. We'd packed our own cases and there was only a slight bit of overlap, the toilet bag being in C's case, so she had all of her stuff and I had none of mine, bar what was in my hand luggage.

My battle was whether to feel pleased that it was my case missing instead of C's or to be a bit selfish and feel all sorry for myself that mine was the chosen one. I settled on feeling sorry for myself but pleased that, if one was to go missing, it was mine. Let's face it chaps, if you go away with a member of the fairer sex and their luggage goes missing, things aren't heading in a positive direction.

The somewhat miserable Spanish woman at the lost luggage desk punched some numbers into her computer and told me, with a certain sense of glee, that my bag was still in London. Against the odds I found myself feeling pleased, even when she added that it would be flying out in the morning and would be delivered to my hotel. As Neil Armstrong might have said, had one of his bags gone missing, it was one small step but in another way quite a big one really, knowing where the thing was.

We trotted off to out hotel, though when I say trotted I really mean cabbed. I had no camera, no fast lens and no spare clothes but toiletries, minus my can of deodorant, were safely ensconced in the lucky suitcase, the one that was with us. Miserable Spanish woman's word that all my things would arrive the next day was my saving grace.

The night would have been a test for any man, even a strong one like myself. For, packed in the stray Samsonite, was one of my top ten Barefoot sarongs, the one with the glowing bright blue squares, gold squares and the darker blue, you know the fellow. And, as I'm used to wearing a sarong in bed, being naked just makes me feel all, well, naked and wearing pants just makes me pleased I was never considered for the role of Superman.

The next morning I changed into my previous day's clothes, it wasn't a major hardship. C kindly offered me her deodorant. I pondered on the issue then declined, figuring that it was better go without than to smell like a girl. Luckily my moisturiser had made the journey in C's bag, so I maintained that clean mosturised look on the RD face, crucial when meeting foreign johnnies was on the agenda. We set off to look around Barcelona, me with the belief that I'd be reunited with the missing item of baggage when we got back to our hotel.

Getting back to the hotel in the evening was disappointing. There was no suitcase in sight and a phone call to the missing suitcase department (Spanish division) of British Airways told me that it was "out for delivery" and would arrive at an unspecified time. Later on it did, though it wasn't actually an unspecified time, it was in fact about eleven thirty.

The reunion was emotional. Me and Mr Samsonite have been all around the world and I was keen to make sure all the contents were intact. They were and the most important thing, the blue and gold sarong, was safe and sound. It was in the case exactly where I'd hidden it, in between the fast, expensive lens and the SLR.

I deodorised myself, threw on the sarong and unfolded and hung up my choice of clothing for the week. I was mightily pleased to regain possession of the clothing, the photographic gear, the shoes and all. But the thing I really had missed the most, that sarong with its blues and golds, was back.

Returning to London, our wait at the baggage carousel was tense and uneventful. All bags were present, correct and together and things went as smoothly as ever.

But I'm not sure I'll ever view the whole baggage and aircraft thing with the same relaxed attitude again.

Vut too doo?

Perhaps I'll pack a sarong in each bag, with one in my hand luggage just to be extra safe in future.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

What I've Been Seeing.





A few little snappets from Barcelona.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Hola From Barca

As you can see my Spanish is coming long nicely. I don't know the Spanish for "from" but two out of three can't be bad.

It's pretty damn cool here I tell you. The influence and feel of Gaudi is everywhere, the architecture is totally fantastic, more gothic than Gotham City itself. We've seen the Sagrada Familia once already and I can't wait to see it once it's finished, it will be bit special. I'm intuitive with these things you know.

Yesterday was C's birthday and we went to the local Picasso museum. Now you know me, I'm hardly the art aficionado. Obviously I know about Picasso from his perfume and work with Citroen but that's about the extent of my knowledge. Oh, and that he was a man who had periods too, that's some achievement.

We turned up at the museum only a few minutes walk from our hotel and were immediately confronted with a queue longer than the average one outside a European Embassy in Colombo, it was that long. Our immediate reaction was to reject the idea of the museum, save it for another day when the queue would be less. We trotted off and had a coffee in a place that was strangely similar to the Gallery Cafe in its feel, though we did get served before our flight home was due.

I've taken some pictures but haven't uploaded them so I'm going to attempt to describe things to you. How I wish I'd brought the Gypsy along, she would have been so handy to write all the descriptive bits so that you'd understand and feel things properly.

The area was one of thin alley type passages, quaint and ornate awnings, balconies and railings and a selection of pattisserie shops that felt as if they should have actually been in a chapter from a Dickens book. The weather was only about nine or ten degrees but dry and pleasant enough to sit outside providing one had layers on. I was wearing my new Superdry leather jacket, I haven't told you about it yet, but it's highly cool and trendy.

At the front of the queue, which was withing earshot of our coffee spot, was a geezer playing Spanish guitar. Being Spanish I suppose he'd be called a Jeezer, it matters not. The queue was full of excited but arty people and we changed our minds and decided to join it and wallow in the atmosphere for a bit.

The queuing reminded me of when I was a kid and used to go to watch Wimbledon, standing in line from about six in the morning until midday when we'd be let in to run to the centre court standing area, which doesn't exist these days. You see, that queuing was always good fun and everyone would chat a bit and feel nice and relaxed. This was the same, albeit for only about half an hour.

We got into the museum. C was looking forward to it in that very adult and normal way, I didn't know what to expect but was eagerly anticipating the unknown. I had read that this particular museum houses many of his early and less well known works and shows more about the artist's development as a painter, of his influences and studies.

Then I saw my first Picasso. I can't recall what picture it was, but I can recall the feeling. It was as if I'd been struck by a smallish bolt of lightening, not one of those massive bolts that Thor would dispatch, a smaller one that he'd probably get a minion to throw, but enough to make me glad I'd worn rubber soled shoes. The night before we'd been at the Hard Rock Cafe and I happened to look up and see a drum kit. It was Taylor Hawkins' kit, that for me was a massive lightening bolt moment, released by Thor himself.

Seeing my first ever painting by Pablo Ruiz, as I feel I'm allowed to call him now, was awe inspiring. I gawped at it a bit open mouthed, to be looking at something that had been made by his brush strokes, canvas that had been touched by him and colours and lines that had been chosen by him felt massive. God alone knows how these things must feel for proper art fans.

We ambled our way through the museum and it felt a bit like walking along the time line of Picasso's life. I noticed that in some of his very early works he's signed his name with the double s's that wrong way around. Then later on he started to write them normally, a good thing for sure as that backward writing just looks a bit crap.

There were a few rude pictures, which I stared at intently, pretending to be serious. I got told off by a friendly Spanish guide woman for trying to take a photograph. I smiled at her, did some kind of universal sign language to indicate that I didn't realise and then went on my way.

There were paintings of Picasso's mother and sister, his father and other close friends and it was rather captivating to read about his artistic development and influences. One set of photographs has stuck in my mind. It was a bunch of three or four taken of the great man and his wife on a balcony in the US in 1957 (I can't recall exactly where). The pictures showed him looking old but happy and rather trendy and bohemian in his attire; stripey trousers and casual sandals.

On this balcony were some birds, pigeons I think, in cages and fluttering around. It was the balcony of a friend of his.

Then, on the opposite wall in the museum were some paintings he'd done of the view from the balcony. I found this quite incredible. It was as if the photographs were true life depictions, factual representations of the scene, and opposite were the great man's artistic interpretations, with all his later life artistic weirdness and unusual perspectives.

That, I think, was my highlight in an afternoon of highlights.

We perused the whole museum, bought things in the traditionally overpriced gift shop and went off to have lunch.

In the evening we went to see a spectacular flamenco and opera performance. It even had a fat bloke in a suit singing, more about that later.

Have a good Monday out there.

RD

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Tonight's Set List

Tonight there's gonna be a Breaks gig, somewhere in this town.

The set looks like this. We've got five, yes five, new songs and a particularly rocky and kick arse feel to this one. Then, on Friday I'm off to Barcelona with C. It's all happening you know.

Here's the set, anyone who can name all the original artistes wins an old pair of pants of mine. Second prize is a night out with Dinidu.

Set 1

1. You're all I have
2. Take me out
3. Teenage kicks
4. Sufragette City
5. Last Nite
6. Fire
7. Sunflower
8. Times Like These
9. Molly's Chambers
10. Rebel Yell

Set 2

1. Tempted
2. Starlight
3. Country House
4. Uprising
5. Common People
6. Dakota
7. Poker Face
8. Are you gonna go my way?
9. When you were young
10. Mr Brightside
11. A town called Malice
12. Sex on Fire
13. She sells Sanctuary

Encore

1. Chelsea Dagger
2. Play that funky music
3. Brown Sugar

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Very, Very Advanced Cooking Lessons With RD

Continuing along the food theme started yesterday I thought I'd pass on a complex and closely guarded recipe for your pleasure.

There are fellows like Skiz who give us regular tips, recipes and advice on food, that of the Sri Lankan variety, as well as other types. I like these people, but if I was to be brutally honest, the fact is they give us the easy recipes, the ones that management types would call low hanging fruit. I suspect people who work in management of restaurants or fruit producers wouldn't use the term too much. Can you imagine the chaos and confusion?

This recipe was invented by my grandmother and it's never been revealed to the public before. If you're new to cookery I'd suggest you work your way up to this, start on some easy rice and curry dishes first.

Sri Lankan Cheese Toast.

Ingredients:

White bread
Cheap cheese
Green chillies
One Suddha
Salad

The ingredients are all important here. In some parts of the world they use brown (aka healthy) bread and top quality cheese. Well don't. It's as simple as that. Get yourself a loaf of white bread and some regular run of the mill, but strong tasting, cheddar cheese.

Begin by slicing the cheese. Use an old, preferably blunt knife, never a cheese slicer, that's what's used in some of the more bohemian European countries. The rustic approach is crucial here, which isn't to do with Russia.

Once you've done that then throw however many slices of bread you require onto the grill.

Now we can start to slice the green chillies, perhaps the most important ingredient apart from the bread and cheese. As I tour the world giving my cookery lessons I'm often asked how many green chillies one should use and how hot they should be. That's where we use the Suddha.

Simply buy a variety of green chillies, slice them and take away the seeds. Then feed them to the aforementioned Suddha and wait until you get to what we call the biting point. This is the point at which the chap can't bite anything, the point at which he says something like

"aaah fuck, that's so hot, it's burning my lips, my tongue and the whole of my mouth, I need water."

Once you get there, though be careful as sometimes the language might be slightly different and it's important to use your skill in interpreting exactly what is said, you know that the amount of chilli heat will be at just below the minimum required level for the average Sri Lankan to even vaguely detect the presence of the stuff. You're finished with the Suddha so you can now throw him away.

It's best to double the quantity, add the seeds back in and then bung a few more just to make sure.

The toast on the grill should be burning now. Grab it and scrape the burnt bits off, then turn it over, put the cheese slices on the uncooked side and the sliced chillies, with maybe a few more for good measure. Let the toast grill just long enough for the cheese to bubble over enough to make washing and cleaning the grill a total nightmare afterwards.

Then cut the slices into shapes. I like squares, each one a quarter of the slice, they remind me of my childhood you know. At this point it's good to take the salad from earlier and throw it in the dustbin. There's no need for that with food like this. Don't throw the salad in the same bin as the Suddha as they tend to eat the stuff.

Now eat and enjoy.

Put a good nap afterwards.

Next week - Why every Sri Lankan suitcase should have a chilli sauce dispenser and maybe a maldive fish compartment.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Sue She

As a firm rice fan I remain perplexed, puzzled and ponderous on the subject of Sushi.

I can tell you now, cous cous isn't my bag of chips. Rice, as far as I'm concerned, is the best thing since sliced kiribath, not that I'm a huge fan of kiribath, but Sushi just flummoxes me.

It's all the rage over here. Walk into Tesco, M and S or any of the regular places where one can purchase a lunchtime sandwich and you'll also be confronted by a range of Sushi for a couple of quid, that's two of your sterling pounds to you foreign johnnies. It's packaged in a lovely little box and comes with a fish shaped miniature splash of soya sauce, some wasabi and often a couple of disposable chopsticks.

There are lovely colours seducing and tempting the customer. There's the pretty pink of the prawns, the bright orange of the salmon, the green of the cucumber, the black of that skin stuff and the gleaming whiteness of the sticky rice.

And every time I fall foul of this temptation I eat the Sushi and feel as though I'm fighting a losing battle. It reminds me of when I used to smoke and I'd partake of a cigar every now and then. I just never understood the attraction. Every single time I'd smoke a cigar I'd slightly enjoy the taste, the aroma and the sensation, then feel like a cigarette straight afterwards.

Eating Sushi makes me feel like I need a damn good rice and curry, full English breakfast or even a McDonalds, straight afterwards.

The chopsticks are a major factor. I always use them and wonder who on Earth thought they'd be a good implement to use for the eating of rice. One can use a fork, a spoon or ideally the fingers for the task but two wooden sticks with a slightly pointy end, to pick up grains of rice, is the sort of thing these fellows use in impossible games at the fairground in order to grab all our money. No wonder they have to make the rice sticky and lumpy. It's food design gone wrong.

The vinegary and mushy texture of the good grain is sacrilege. A paella or risotto is as far as I can go in terms of cooking and serving rice in ways that God didn't intend. Rice should be served fluffy and light, not weighed down by sogginess and a total lack of flavour. Of course these Japs supply soya sauce and wasabi with the food, otherwise there'd be no taste whatsover, just that faint hint of fish going on somewhere in the deepest recesses of the palate. We don't do subtleties of flavour that well, us Sri Lankans, do we?

I carry on with my attempts to like it though. A, my fifteen year old, absolutely loves Sushi and regularly takes it into school for her lunch. Trendy people go to Sushi bars and eat, using their chopsticks as if they're easy and intuitive like something designed by Apple.

On Sunday morning I ate chicken Sushi for breakfast. I say "ate" but it would be more accurate to say that I fought bravely through it like one of those jungle chaps with undergrowth, a long crescent shaped knife and some natives who'll get killed later on in the film.

I satisfied my hunger only in the way that becoming proficient and getting high scores on Rockband or Guitar Hero equips a person to deal with a lead singer who thinks a crotchet is something to do with knitting and a quaver is a slightly weird religious sect. I was left feeling quite full but wondering how the hell it had happened, as nothing with any flavour had crossed the threshold of my tastebuds.

The questions lingers in my mind. Do I persevere with the Sushi or give it up as a lost cause? I imagine JapSach virtually lives on the stuff, he probably goes back to Sri Lanka and makes his rice and curry into little rolls with a bit of bean or maldive fish inside just to deal with the withdrawal pangs.

As for you? I bet you love the stuff.

Or do you?

Monday, March 1, 2010

K and The Boy Z

The time has come. I've been sitting, waiting and contemplating, as the song goes, not that I can recall which one. Enough's enough, even where parental discretion is concerned. Yes K, my thirteen year old bundle of feminine hormones, mood swings and an uncanny ability to wrap her Dad around her little finger, which she gets from her elder sister, has got a boy sniffing around her.

Not only that, but it seems that K likes this boy, who we'll call Z, not because he Mexican, but just because. There have been a few weeks of blatant denial from K, then at some point last week, under interrogation, she fessed.

"Yeah well I suppose we're going out yeah" were the exact words.

"What, so he's your boyfriend is he?" I said, though I was easily the most uncomfortable party involved in the conversation.

"Well, you know."

It's a scary situation for a Dad. I ventured into a brief birds and bees type of talk. With hindsight I think things would have been clearer if I'd talked about men, women and sex, but no, I'd gone for birds and bees. I ended up by having faith in K, her intelligence and wisdom and telling her that she could invite Z round sometime. She did, sooner than I was really ready.

You see, the main problem for me as the Dad is that I used to be a fourteen year old boy. I know what goes through the mind of one of these kids. It begins with S, it ends in X and there's one middle letter. And, before you get all smart, it's not a number either. I don't like the thought of one of these kids sniffing around my daughter, but it's got to be better to check him out than be all strict and ban or injure him or something.

Saturday was the day he was expected. K was on tenterhooks from the time she woke up. She tidied her room, an achievement in itself, she made herself look nice and then attempted to act calm and nonchalant. A, the big sister, was as interested in meeting and checking out Z as I was. K arranged to go into Kingston and meet him then bring him back to RD Towers later. I waited for the arrival and did my own equivalent of pacing up and down impatiently; lying on the settee and watching TV.

At some point I realised that I was nervous. How should I act? Should I play the authoritarian father? Should I look down my nose at him and give him my best "I know what your game is son and you're not playing it with any daughter of mine" look? Or should I take a quiet, Corleone approach and act cool and detached, like a fridge that's not plugged in?

There was a knock at the front door and A let the knocker in. After some grunting and shuffling in the hallway K came into the living room looking awkward. The noises from the hall were a clear indicator that one of two things had happened; either an unknown farm animal had accompanied K in and it was now grazing in the hall or Z was hanging around in that teenage way, not knowing whether he should enter the room or not. As it happens, there were no animals, not farm ones anyhow.

Z was expecting K to be the perfect host, but K hadn't experienced this kind of thing before so she wasn't sure. She was looking towards me for reassurance but I hadn't done this sort of thing before either. Well, I guess I had, but I was at the other end of the food chain as it was not that long ago when I met C's Dad for the first time. He'd decided to play it along the "I know what you're game is son and you're not playing it with any daughter of mine" way so I knew only too well how it felt to be on the receiving end.

Z sort of ambled in. In that way that teenagers, when they've just taken delivery of an adult body but haven't fully read and understood the instruction book, do. He was bigger than me, not really a major feat to be honest, but he wasn't what I'd expected. Somehow I'd anticipated a man, as if it was a scene from Meet the Parents. Instead it was a boy, one who had that floppy hair that, well, flops everywhere. He wore those skater, or sk8ter boy, or boi, trainers and he had a peculiar jowly type of puppy fat going on around his cheeks. I suspect, if I had been his mother, I'd still think of him as cute.

He shifted uneasily from foot to foot and hunched his shoulders as K introduced me to him. In the briefest of moments I realised that the poor kid was nervous as hell and I felt a bit sorry for him. He didn't know whether to shake my hand or wave at me. I resisted the urge to do something mean. I also remembered that K had told me he was a drummer. He glanced over at my drumkit and uttered that important word.

"Cool"

Immediately we bonded.

"Would you like a go?" I asked.

We wandered over to my electronic kit, I showed him around it, played him a couple of things and then he sat down and played a bit. He showed me a groove. I tried it out and was vaguely aware of the girls over the other side of the room being shut out of the goings on. Z asked me questions about the kit and I answered them. I asked him about his playing, his drum teacher and his influences and we very quickly got involved in drummers' talk, a dangerous phenomenon.

I released him and he and K went off to look at her laptop and peruse Facebook for a while. Before we knew it it was time to drop the girls back home and Z went off to meet his mate somewhere in Kingston. K seemed pleased that I hadn't been mean to him.

It's a funny old thing you know. I don't know if this will be one of those teenage romance things that's over and done with by Tuesday, perhaps Wednesday, or if it might last much longer. I wonder how it's best to be the good parent here, balancing the different roles a parent has to play. As the divorced Dad things are different too, I have less day to day contact and influence and often have to sit in the sidelines and wait.

The last thing I want to be is one of those parents who forbids their child to hang around with a boy, but I also want to do my best to ensure K doesn't grow up that bit too quickly. It's a finely balanced act, made a little more challenging by divorce and all that goes with it.

Hmmm...and I wonder what he thought of my drumming.