Monday, February 18, 2019

Gig Rant. Slightly

I was playing a gig with one of my bands on Saturday evening. We've somehow got to do these pretty big rugby gigs at one of the largest professional clubs in the country, in which we play in the bar after the match and get a largish crowd, about 500 - 900 people depending on the match.

These things are raucous, loud and very full on. We've decided that we need to play one long set, as taking a break, even a quick one, means that the crowd start to go home and the place empties sooner. So it's two and a half hours of full on rock music (Oasis, Muse, Killers, that kind of thing), which gets knackering on the drums.

I sit there, playing my little brown arse off, intermittently checking my blood sugar to ensure I'm not on the verge of passing out and stuffing glucose tablets down my neck when needed, and listen with raised eyebrows when the singer or lead guitarist mutter between songs about how tired they are. I'm sure there is no role in a band that is more tiring but it's what we drummers do. Sympathy? No chance.

Anyhow, this gig was full of pissed people. The weather was stunning by London February standards, the home team had just won convincingly and all was good, including, dare I say it, the band.

So of course, some numpty decides he's going to get up on stage to impress his mates.

Up he gets, narrowly avoiding damaging valuable instruments and equipment in the process. The soundman is giving him those "Damage anything of mine and you'll fucking pay one way or the other" looks and the rest of us get on with things.

The bloke gets hold of a tambourine and is now topless, singing and tambourine playing (a term I use in the loosest possible way) and absolute best mates with every member of the band. At every possible moment he comes up to one of us and tells us how great we are, how he'll play anything we want. Which is quite bizarre as he clearly couldn't play, I don't know, even something as simple as a bass guitar.

We go along with this for a bit; his mates in the crowd are many and are jeering our hero along happily, but after a couple of songs he's still up there and has been joined by about four others.

I don't have the luxury of a monitor and I have to confess that I had a moment of doubt in myself. There were about four people playing four tambourines and I'm not sure any of them could have put "Tambourine playing - numerous years of experience" on their CV.

I started to think "fuck I've got to keep time here, despite these fuckers, it's my time and I don't care where any of you think you are, I'm in charge." It actually was quite a challenge. I dug in, concentrated hard and did my job, but it took a surprising amount of focus to defeat these random tambourines I could hear all over the show.

The thing is, this idiot stayed up on stage for a good half hour, until he got a bit bored, perhaps realising that it actually is a bit tiring. Another girl had decided to join him and she stayed up for the whole of the set, around forty five minutes at the end. She had the demeanour of one of those people who has a good idea but, once they kick it off, are just not going to back down whatever the circumstances.

She lasted right until the end, but at a certain point she adopted the body language of a passport control person who knows she's being secretly filmed but keeps forgetting it.

At the end of the gig she shook hands with each member of the band and thanked us. Weird, I know, but kind of sweet. I suspect she thought she was some type of guest star, without whom the crowd would have all gone home ages ago.

And I got to thinking. It's kind of okay when these fellows jump up with us, when they play a bit of tambourine, do a few dance moves and make their friends laugh and think they're the bee's knees.
But don't overstay your welcome.

We the band, work hard. We rehearse, we learn songs. We have big fights about the arrangements, about all sorts. We get there hours earlier to set up and leave hours after the crowd once we've taken everything down. We get paid next to nothing too. It really is a labour of love and we really do love it.

So do your thing, have some fun. Then please, get your arse off our stage and let us do our thing.

Rant over.

Friday, February 15, 2019

The Rules of I Love You...

Is it too controversial to start by saying that most Sri Lankans, perhaps Asians in general, don't really say "I love you" or express emotions much? I don't recall a single moment when either of my parents said it to me or either of my brothers and I don't hold any grudge or bad feeling towards them for it, I just accept that's life.

Or, come to think of it, am I being unfair in that it might be a generational thing rather than racial? Because I don't think the parents of any of my schoolmates would have been affectionate, either verbally or physically, in those days. It just wasn't done.

In the West kids these days are brought up to say the 3 magic words once every fifteen minutes. It's compulsory, like watching reality TV or having botox done. What's it like in Lanka these days for youngsters? Do they say it a lot or is it frowned upon?

The rules of I love you, they confuse me though. You may know that I have women in my life. I have my now grown up daughters and C, the girlfriend / partner. I don't like using the term "girlfriend" for her because it feels too young, too immature. But (and I'm sorry to admit this, I really am), the word "partner" makes me fear slightly that someone will think I'm referring to my same sex partner. Even as I write this I feel like some sort of caveman. It's wrong and I know it.

The thing is; should one always respond to an "I love you" with an "I love you too"?

C once told me off for doing so, saying that I don't have to respond in kind every single time, that sometimes a person just feels it, says it and it doesn't need the reciprocation.

But then my girls sometimes say it to me and will have a dig if I don't return the thing, like some sort of tennis ball flying back over the net, only I'm unsure if I should have attempted the shot or if I'm even in the game.

I've also noticed that kids say it as a variation on "goodbye" to each other but they usually miss out the "I" and just say "love you". It's bizarre, but to me it changes the whole context, making it sound like "see you later" or "cheers". Add that tiny "I" onto the phrase and it becomes proper and meaningful, like a Sri Lankan man buying a domestic appliance for their wife on Valentines day.

Who said romance is dead?

Monday, February 11, 2019

My name is RD and I'm probably lost.

I was reading Cerno's post the other day, about him being a blogger for 12 years, and it made me nostalgic.

Truth be told, I've forgotten how to write, not that I was any writer in the first place, but I mean really, I can't even get through a sentence without missing a letter or typing a double T there when actually I was going for an apostrophe. That's what mesaginn, Whatsapp and all these new fangled things do to a chap I suppose.

And, in the dark recesses of my mind, I'm aware that most of my last blog posts have touched on the subject of my not blogging very much anyhow. Well that's all a bit self centred isn't it, all a bit about me with no element of me asking any questions about you.

So, how are you?

I reckon you've got older. Been through some major life changes and done things that you thought only your parents did. You might well be a parent yourself now, dealing with the trials, tribulations and joys of raising youngsters and, if you ever have time to pause, wondering how it happened so quickly.

Do you even still exist?

I know we witneesed the sad passing of one or two bloggers, but generally I'll put my money on you still being around. Though most likely not reading this, as none of us read blogs. You might have emigrated to Australia (Hello G12!). I wonder, are you even doing what you thought you'd be doing now? Many have changed careers and are doing something they enjoy and others are wildly successful in the career they set out on.

And Colombo, how you've grown!! Every time I go there the skyline is unrecognisable. That Lotus Tower thing, that I so hated at the beginning, has now become a landmark that the whole of the metropolis seems to point at. It glares at everyone with its purple and greenness (I used a word with 3 sets of capital letters!) and for people like me, with the sense of direction of a deflating toy balloon, it gives a decent indication of which way you're going.

So, I should tell you, I'm now 53. Yes, that's getting on a bit. But it's taken me until very recently to realise that thing; that I have no sense of direction. With age comes wisdom (some) and I used to think I was normal, that I could find my way around a place as well as any man. But I can't and I admit it.

It takes me I reckon about 5 - 6 times as long as the average person to get familiar with  the Geography of a place. Satnav is my friend in that I use it to get myself to place that other people smell their way to. Then, whan I finally memorise the route, the person usually moves house or the one way system changes, not that that ever happens in Colombo or London.

It's ok. I'm dealing with it. I've stopped pretending. I've stopped thinking of mental navigation as some sort of worthiness and a measurement of a person and I'm admitting to myself and all around me that I'm as clueless about how to get somewhere as a fart in a collander.

But, if you see me, it could be in Colombo or London, looking aimless, staring at my phone and for all the world behaving like a Colombo businessman in a branch of Tesco, you'll know why.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Happy Birthday Kottu!

Rumour has it that Kottu is 10 years old. I say "rumour" because no one is exactly sure on this, but it's about 10 years old. Sometime around now.

Never one to fear a rapidly retreating bandwagon I'm going to catch the thing, jump on it and wish Indi and the thousands of staff behind Kottu's ongoing maintenance a very happy birthday. I'm told they work out of a large warehouse deep in the jungles of Colombo 7, are all permanently hunched from spending so much time bent over their laptops and sleep for a mere 1 hour per night, such is their dedication.

As a diasporic Sri Lankan I first stumbled across Kottu about 9 years ago. It gave me an insight into the lives and minds of people I didn't really know yet felt connected to. I read the blogs and wanted to get to know these people better, to become part of this rather exclusive club.

So I started my own blog, just writing shit and the wanderings of my mind. Or should that be "wonderings"? Or both?

In those days Kottu was pretty much a place, a meeting point. I got to know other fellow bloggers in person and in virtuality and I've made some very good friends from it all. It was a proper community, with good guys, (a)bad guy(s) jokers, penguins and Batmen. We had arguments, love ins, random get togethers and a massive variety of interests, from Birdwatching to music to geeky stuff, often encircled by the crazy politics of the Motherland.

It was in the height of the War and Politics, Ethnicity and all that went with it were hot topics. The end of the war was undoubtedly (in most peoples' minds) good for Sri Lanka but I noticed a shift in the topics and underlying focus of many Sri Lankan blogs. No longer could we talk about so many polarised viewpoints, though the Rajapaksas gave us plenty of juicy material in other departments.

Somewhere along the way I learned a bit about writing, though on reading my words so far I wonder about this. I started off a bit like the literary equivalent of Winnie The Pooh and I think it's fair to say that I've advanced and developed into more of a Paddington, without the Marmalade. I'm pretty sure Ashok Ferrey started in the same way so I know I'm on the right track. "Why the big paws?" I hear you say. Well, I was lacking inspiration, life moved on and I got divorced and things.

But most of what I learned was from reading other bloggers; Java with his hallucinogenic mind blowing ruminations made me think about lots of things from different perspectives,

Cerno, the elder statesman, with his totally fucking mental at times insights into how his mind works just made, and still makes, me laugh. Drama Queen, one of the many not so frequent these days but used to blog regularly people, when not saving cats and dogs from mankind, has a gift for writing with a mix of humour and compassion that makes me frankly a bit scared of ever actually meeting her in person.

David Blacker, one of those who I've become good friends with, is always there with a strong opinion and a good argument, usually for the wrong viewpoint!

Don't take my word for it thought, check out this Cerno post, click on some of the links and have a browse for yourself at life before Facebook and Twitter.

These days Kottu is more of an aggregator then a community. It sits there listing blogs that have something to do with Sri Lanka and there has been talk in Cinnamon Gardens of redundancies among its staff. People read Facebook Statii, Tweets and that other one the kids use; Instagraph or whatever it's called, as they have the attention span of one of those leery blokes at a party who keep looking around at other people while pretending to listen to you.

But it's still there, we all glance at it occasionally and look at what's going on.

So thanks Indi, you've done a fine job so far!

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Aerial Photographs Of Sri Lanka

Last week, while hanging around the metropolis of Serendib, I went to the opening night of the exhibition at Barefoot, a place you just might be aware of.

C had one of her newly christened Barefoot sulks about this. I've decided to label them because they happen frequently and laughing at your partner, particularly when they don't find it funny, is a surefire way to a healthy relationship. If you don't believe me just ask any one of my exes.

You see, she gets all moody about going to Barefoot, moaning about it as if I'm dragging her through hot coals. I mean, it's not as if we go several times a week or anything like that. But then, when we go, she always enjoys herself. It's almost as if women have a crazily irrational mind, one men can't understand. Besides I like Barefoot; it gives me a good chance to see how the other side, the common working man in Sri Lanka, really lives.

All the usual Colombo glitterati were out. Of course there were more Sansonis than you could shake a sarong at, strutting around like they own the place, Ashok Ferrey was there, being witty and managing to last the whole evening with a mere two costume changes, Java's Dancer wife was there, looking rather elegant and happy, Michael Meyler and Richard Simon were both there, bringing the average height of the evening up to around 9 foot 7 inches and naturally Jeremy Spellbinder was there and sang a couple of songs with those Musicmatters fellows.

For the purpose of accuracy, fairness, truth, justice, liberty and freedom I should tell you that I was immediately struck by the total lack of photos of aerials. Not a single one was present anywhere. There should be laws about this kind of misrepresentation. I mentioned this to Sebastian Posingis the next day. He gave me that German look; the "is he serious" one and I felt awkward, like a schoolboy whose teacher didn't believe that the dog had eaten my homework.

In place of the pictures of aerials as promised was / is one of the most stunning collections of images I have ever seen.

I was told that Messrs Posingis and Sansoni spent something like 27 hours up in a helicopter, with many hours or days of poring over Google maps and the like to gain more information and ideas of specific areas and photos to attempt to take.

I'm a chap who would consider myself to be reasonably familiar with the works of the photographers and I knew I'd be impressed, but had expected to hit about a level 7 of being impressed, like when you watch an episode of Blackadder, laughing at the brilliant lines you've seen Fry and Laurie perform before.

Instead my impressionometer hit about a level 41, perhaps even Level 42, but that would be a band from the 80s. It was like they'd written a new episode and it was funnier and different to what you'd expected, as if Ashok Ferrey had had a hand in the script and slipped in some covert Lankanisms.

I thought aerial photographs would be a variation on a theme; pictures of scenes taken from a helicopter. And they were. But that was where my expectations were met, the rest blindsided me.

The variety of types of images struck me. Nothing was cliched even though the "predictable" sites (sights) were there. Sigiriya, Sri Pada and the like were well represented, but in images that were refreshingly different to the usual sort. I hadn't expected the sheer scale of the images either, some of them have been blown up to massive sizes, not of that A4 or A2 business that we're so used to.

Then there were abstract ones; of Salt Plains (not to be confused with Salt Planes), beaches, layered landscapes and detailed shots of everyday Lankan life from afar and above.

I was talking, well listening, to Sebastian Posingis the next day and he gave me some fascinating insights into his mindset about this exhibition. I hope I don't get these bits wrong as I have a memory like a whatsername at the best of times, but he's particularly proud of this body of work. In a very humble way he feels as if Dom and him might have started something that could encourage people to see Sri Lanka in a different way. I have to stress his humility with this view, it wasn't at all a cocky one, more a hope and one that I think anyone seeing the pictures would understand.

He also would like people outside of the Barefoot crowd to be able to see the photos first hand. His vision is for schools and young people to see them, perhaps taking the show out to schools and communities in the country is possible. I got the distinct impression that making money was the last thing on his mind here, this is about something bigger, something higher up Maslow's hierarchy of needs.

My favourite, by a considerable margin, is the picture of the Flamingos above. I took a sneaky picture of it and am pretty sure I got away with it. Take a good look, it's a once in a lifetime shot, but only if you're connected to Sri Lanka. Or Flamingos.

I dream of taking a picture like that, when I'm not dreaming about drums.

I somehow ended the evening with my first ever visit to Pilawoos. Just me, C, Jeremy Spellbinder and his rather lovely Girlfriend, a very nice Suddha who was a bit too worried about getting food poisoning and some other fellow. They even brought a table out for us and set it up.

If you want to check out the exhibition it's on at Barefoot until March 8th. Trust me, it's spectacular.

Monday, February 9, 2015

On Life, Death and the bits in between - Part 2

I know, I know, you don't hear from me for ages and then two come along in a row, like buses.

I didn't intend for there to be a follow up post to my last one, but rather sadly the need arose.

Last Friday, a few hours after I'd written that post, I went to see my Dad in hospital. Thankfully he's getting a lot better and was actually sent home the day after, so on that side of it, things are looking good.

I wondered what things I could write about, what with my new found desire to blog, which usually rears its head every few months, takes a good look around then shits itself and goes back to sleep until the next time. And at some point in the wondering I realised I've got a trolleyfull of stories to tell you about my Parents' behaviour in these recent times. You of course, being Sri Lankan (which you most likely are), will fully understand the drama, pathos and total utter fucking  madness that goes with a Lankan parent being quite seriously ill.

Anyhow, where was I? Ah yes, so me and the maternal unit arrived at the hospital some hours after I'd written and published my last post. The bed next to my Dad, formerly occupied by John, aforementioned subject of my last post, was empty with a few chairs scattered somewhat pathetically around it. It didn't take a Rajapaksa Government MP's gifted son to figure out that John hadn't survived.

I asked my Dad what had happened to him and he told us that he thought he'd died earlier in the day, the curtains had been closed and all the family had been there, then he'd fallen asleep. My Dad had fallen asleep that is, not John, he'd died of course.

It was downright weird as well as sad. There we were, trying to chat to my Dad about how he was feeling, his medication, when he might be coming home etc, when the bed next to him sat there empty, reminding us of the fragility of life and sentences that begin with "there but for the grace.."

I asked a nurse and she told me that he'd passed at around 1 o'clock that afternoon, with his whole family around him.

Throughout the visit I continually glanced over at the bed and chairs, thinking my random thoughts, not all of which were drum related. Not so many hours before the family had been through the mill. Sadness followed by elation, only to be followed by the ultimate sadness.

I thought I'd let you know, I suppose there's not much more to say. I wish I could think of loads more deep and meaningful things to say, but I'm not too good at things like that.

But next time remind me to tell you about my Olds and the stairlift.

Friday, February 6, 2015

On Life, Death and the bits in between

It's been a while and, by Mahinda, things have changed! I'm one of the many who share the feelings of optimism and hope for the Motherland. The one thing I never dreamed was that the downfall of the regime would be democracy itself. A coup, an assassination or an invasion seemed far more probable to me, which is kind of sad but true.

Truth be told this post by Cerno inspired me to put finger to keyboard. I know I don't really have any readers anymore but what the hell I figured, let's think of something to write.

And then bang, it hit me, like a bat out of Belgium; an event, well a couple of events, that make me a bit teary to think of even now and I thought I'd tell you about them.

So my Dad has been in hospital lately, In terms of being alive, Cancer and all, it's fair to say he's hanging in there. I think it would be inaccurate to portray him as one of those stoic fighting chaps, the sort you see in films and on TV, but he's still with us.

And he's been in hospital for the last week or so, due out either today or tomorrow. There I was visiting him a few days ago, he's in a chest ward and there's an old Irish chap called John in the bed next to him. Over the last week we've got to know the wife and family of John, as one does in this type of scenario.

As I arrived in the ward the curtains were drawn around John's bed and there were lots of goings on; Doctors, Nurses and family. There was a bit of a hush in the ward also, the kind of atmosphere that you feel and know isn't good. It was weird, knowing something was happening yet talking to my Dad in relatively normal everyday how are you type tones.

But, as I was talking to Dad I heard a voice from John's curtained off section and realised it was a Priest giving him the Last Rites, something I'd only ever heard on Father Ted before, yet I recognised instantly. I felt sad for John and his family and sad at the lack of dignity for what I assumed would follow in a few minutes; the curtain being drawn back and the removal of his body.

I was right. Some minutes later the curtain was drawn back. I glanced casually, trying to be unobtrusive, only to see smiles and laughter all round. Something was clearly not wrong.

John was lying there not dead. By "not dead" I mean he was alive. Totally. He was smiling, laughing, chatting, snoozing and doing all the things that the other dwarves do. His wife turned to me and said rather happily that they thought they were losing him, that he'd given them a "bit of a scare" but something had changed and all was fine and dandy. I was so moved I even touched her arm in that sympathetic happy for you very British way. Evidently it had been a very close shave.

I carried on with talking about things with the Old Man, then left, as one does, feeling somewhat joyous and happy.

As I walked to the lift a young couple did the same. The husband (I assumed he was the husband but for all I know they might have been unmarried, that kind of thing is common here) was carrying a brand spanking new born baby in one of those car seat things.

I said some nice words and they both told me that the little boy was one day old and they were taking him home for the first time. It took me back to when my Girls were born, the hopes I had, the feelings of joy and responsibility, of promise and all those indescribable emotions that only parents can relate to.

Rather more poignantly it also made me think of John, of hospitals and the Circle of Life, which of course brings up thoughts of The Lion King.

One minute I'm witnessing an old chap almost finishing his life, with his grown up children, his wife and his grandchildren there, the next I see a one day old baby going home for the first time. Who knows what that child might achieve in his life, what will happen to him, what he'll make happen?

Big stuff I reckon.