Thursday, May 31, 2007

Oh wow, oh wow, oh wow!!!

I'm don't know if it comes across in this blog but I'm a very childlike and simple sort of bloke. I get excited by small things and struggle with deep stuff like the meaning of life and cooking. Having said that I am learning lots about the meaning of life at the moment. Not cooking though.

But, at a time in my own life when some very big and exciting things are going on, I have just experienced a moment of excitement, a bit of pure joy that will take some beating even by my own high standards, for years to come.

Let me explain; I was in Tesco a short while ago, buying my lunch, the usual healthy option of Ginsters chicken and mushroom slice with some microwaveable rice. As I passed through the fruit section I glanced sideways at the "exotic fruit" bit. I did a second take, something that I'm very used to, being a drummer. Then, on even more familiar ground, I did a third take. Yes, I wasn't dreaming, or no I wasn't dreaming I should say. They had Rambutans there. Packs of four.

My favourite fruit of all time, the fruit that I would happily foresake all other fruits for, the fruit that I can never find here in the UK apart from that one time I saw it at Tesco a few year ago. They stared at me, the little red juicy beauties were calling my name out

"Rhythmic, rhythmic, come and buy us, all of us.....please" I heard them say in high pitched tones. I had some thoughts. If I didn't buy them there was every chance that some sudda would buy them and eat them without understanding their special taste and flavour. The sudda would casually think that they were nice but not as nice as Lychee and then eat his Mars Bar.

So I did the only thing that a man could do. I bought them all. There were only twelve of them, in packs of four for £1.49 for each pack. So I paid £7.47 for twelve Rambutans or 62p each. Or, just to make me feel really bad I paid about 132 Sri Lanka Rupees per Rambutan.

You know what?

I'd pay double that, they're lovely!

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Child Of A Sri Lankan Doctor?

I read this post by Sach and discovered that she is the daughter of a Doctor. I did the clever mental processing required and figured that the medical parent is probably Sri Lankan. Like I am prone to do about wholly irrelevant things I pondered for a while. Not for that long, just long enough to think that I could write a post about the subject.

I realised that I know quite a few people who are the offspring of Sri Lankan Doctors, myself included. Both my brothers are too, these sort of coincidences always intrigue me. But are you a Sri Lankan Dr's child (SLDC)?

If the answer is a resounding "yes" I wonder whether you grew up in an environment of "overcare" or "undercare". I know of some SLDCs who get little attention from their medical parent, on the medical side that is. They may be suffering from a seemingly chronic illness and Dr Dad will, after months of ignoring the symptons, take a cursory look and then announce that there's nothing wrong with them or it's all their own fault anyway for wearing the wrong colour trousers, or trouser, as any Sri Lankan would say. If the SLDC went to their GP they would immediately be put on a dose of antibiotics and given all kinds of treatment, but the illness would clear up pretty damn quickly. Perhaps these Doctors get so used to dealing with and seeing sick people every day that they need some at home too, just to feel comfortable.

On the other side there are those Doctors who go for the overcare approach. This is what I grew up with and still face. I live in a state of constant fear. Fear of coughing in front of my Mother, or of expressing any sort of physical discomfort. Or mental discomfort for that matter, but that's another issue.

A faint sneeze in front of my Mum can easily result in several specialists being telephoned, favours called in and local hospitals put on one of those alerts that only actually happen in plane crash films. Of course this stuff has advantages, massive ones. I have learnt to control my sneezes over the years and can now squeeze one out with all the volume of a Englishman complaining about poor service in a restaurant. And I don't need to go to the Doctor's very often, unless Liverpool are playing of course. My Mum would be hard pushed if one of us were taking ill during a Liverpool game. After some thought she would do the right thing and put her loyalty and sense of duty ahead of life's less important things. Then, at half time, she'd take a look at the ill son in the corner of the room.

These Sri Lankan Doctors are an abundant resource aren't they? I was travelling to the motherland last year with my brother and there was an announcement over the plane's PA asking if there was a Doctor on board. There were scrums and fights as most of the passengers went forward and volunteered for the task of saving the poor suffering passenger's life.

My brother, a fit bloke, won many of the fights and stepped up to save the fellow. At this point he faltered. He is indeed a Doctor, but of something other than medicine. Something like Geography or an ology. He stared at the patient for a while, then started to write a paper on the impact on the aircraft's aerodynamics of his choice of brown trousers with a green flowery batik shirt. This didn't help the poor bloke, who couldn't breathe, so one of the other 378 Sri Lankan Doctors stepped up and did that resucitation thing. All was okay. Except the fact that the green flowery batik shirt survived.

Sri Lanka has the highest ratio of Doctors in the general population out of any country in the world. The latest reported statistics claim that for every 100 Sri Lankans there are at least 95 Doctors. Only India can come close to this remarkable statistic with a figure of 92.7 per 100 people in its population.

But how about you? Any medical parents? Or are you the child of a Doctor and have also chosen medicine as your career? Are you a lucky lady who has two medical parents?

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Gigs, Bands, Days.

I feel like a real musician this week. I've got a band practice tonight with Mimosa, then we've got a gig on Friday night. Then, on Saturday night, I've got my first gig with the new covers band. It's all go around here!

It's the first time that I've ever had two consecutive gigs in two days and it's something that fills me with excitement. I've never been one of those angsty musicians who throws up backstage seconds before running on and giving the performance of their life. My pre gig thing is more about doing as much practice as I can in the weeks leading up to the event and then, come the day, I feel quite relaxed and can't wait to get on with things.

I've never felt as if I've actually done enough practice, there's always the feeling that I could have learnt that song a bit better, that I could have really nailed that particular fill more or that I should have spent that extra five minutes doing paradiddles instead of scratching my arse. But I've also always had good gigs, never perfect but always good.

I know there are a few musicians who read this and I'm sure they'll agree that playing live is an unbeatable feeling, the adrenalin rush and pure excitement is the epitome of pure passion and raw energy. It often doesn't matter whether you're playing to an audience of two or two thousand, the act of playing is all that matters.

So, if you're around the Ascot way on Friday and you like a good funk, then come and see Mimosa. Leave a comment, drop me an email or whatever and I'll let you know where it is. Well, it's at a place called Jagz in Ascot actually.

But I hope we get more than two people.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Painfully Beautiful

I was out for dinner with a friend the other night. We were sat there talking about women and song, the normal kind of topics that two fellows like us talk about. It was a nice restaurant but the sort where the tables are a bit too close together for comfort, rather like the seats on a Sri Lankan Airlines plane. One of those places that most people wouldn't choose for a date or a romantic meal, as all close by would hear the sweet nothings being whispered into ears and other orifices.

This didn't stop the couple who were placed near us. They sat there and me and my mate couldn't help but do a tad of eavesdropping on their conversation. The guy was an average looking specimen but the woman exuded an air of sexiness, of poise and confidence. She was a bit special, he wasn't. As often happens in life, but perhaps he was hung like a horse, or an animal of similar proportions.

As a couple though they looked good together. They clearly weren't on a first date, or a second or a third for that matter. I'm not sure if they were married but they had the feel of a couple who had been together for about ten happy years. Familiarity with fun and laughter and total relaxation in each other's company. As they conversed and had some fun the chap said something to his partner that had a great effect on her. It was a word combination that described the way she looked brilliantly, but also had an effect on her. He merely said:

"You look painfully beautiful tonight".

And actually he was right. Me and P, my friend looked at her and talked about this afterwards. It was a perfect choice of words to describe the way she looked. Very beautiful, very sexy, very sultry and all in a way that most fellows would have found to be painful. Of course I mean nice pain, not that kind that happens when you staple your tongue to a wall or something.

We left them to continue with romancing and we carried on talking about whether Mitch Mitchell, Jimi Hendrix's drummer, was overrated or not.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Bags, Bags, Bags!!

In the last couple of weeks I have become the proud owner of three, yes three new bags. I'm not talking about Tesco carrier bags here, I'm referring to quality ones, the proper stuff, the real McCoy. I've never been a bag type of bloke in the past. I've made do with suitcases bought for fuck all from the Pettah, I've carried around the dodgiest of fake designer label rucksacks bought from House of Fashion (real Diessel you know) and I've ventured into manbag territory but only really dipped a toe in the water. Toe dipping's all well and good but sometimes you have to hold your breath and dive into the water don't you?

The first of this trio was my new "Crumpler" rucksack thing. I bought this lovely MacBook, from which I type now, and realised that I needed a good quality backpack effort to take on any trips. One which would hold my camera, my new MacBook, iPod, about 9 drum magazines (essential for the average drummer on a long haul flight) and a pen. These are more or less the essential items for a long haul journey, in my case most of these journeys are to Sri Lanka, hence the requirement for pen space; I need a pen to fill out the immigration form thing that gets handed out just before the meal is served and I have now got so sad that I can think about these things when choosing a bag. The carefree days of wind in the hair, devil may care attitude and excuse me can I borrow a pen are long gone, replaced by a man of responsibility and respect, a fellow who carries a pen with him, albeit one of those cheap transparent disposable ones.

This rucksack is a piece of design in itself. It's the sort of bag that unscrupulous fellows would nick even if there was nothing inside it, just to get the bag. So I'll probably get a cheap Tesco carrier bag or similar to carry it around in. It's got all sorts of compartments, a special filling on the bit that goes against your back to make it feel comfortable, a compartment for the MacBook, with it's own "sock" thing to put the MacBook in. You can probably even put a PC laptop in this although I wouldn't recommend such a crime against fashion.

It's also got a rather fetching and distinctive lime green and black colour scheme, it doesn't even look gay. All I need now is somewhere to go, avec Macbook, and I'll be sorted.

After all my fears and trepidations over the whole manbag issue I'm now a bit of a manbag convert. I can carry one comfortably, feeling at ease with myself and I don't worry about being mistaken for a Frenchman or one of those Italians from Italy. Frankly they're bloody practical these manbags, us blokes can carry a magazine or two, a wallet, some keys and all manner of other things and we don't have to worry about bulging pockets or losing things. Unless we lose the manbag of course. I've rapidly advanced to the level at which I look at "nice" manbags in shops. I look at them and wonder whether that one will suit me, whether the brown will look better or if the black one will bring out my youthful good looks.

So there I was the other day. A normal day really. I was in Camden Market desperately attempting to keep control of a group of fourteen thirteen year old girls. I'm not used to this type of thing. Thirteen year old girls are evil, they've got attitude and they're not afraid to use it. In the midst of the chaos and pandemonium I left the pack. I strolled around Camden Market for a spell and got captivated by a little Chinese bloke selling bags. Before I knew what was happening some money had changed hands and I had become the proud owner of a trendy multi pocketed manbag, replete with leather bits, labels, zips and functions galore.

I rejoined the pack of evil female hormones and got dragged off to an all you can eat Chinese buffet place, where the group proceeded to put the restaurant into liquidation.

The last bag is the one I'll use the least, yet the most expensive. It's a sexy Samsonite suitcase. I don't know why I bought it. One of those whim things, or because I've never owned a decent suitcase before. Someone recently called me a "Pikey" because I don't own quality suitcases. My air travel life has consisted of living out of suitcases bought from the Pettah. You know those ones, pockets everywhere, wheels that almost work, a strap that says "Olympic" and a combination lock with no instructions. And, if they did have instructions they'd say something like

"Try to set the number, it doesn't matter because the lock won't work and can be broken with no force whatsoever if required. But, if you own one of these suitcases no one will break into it. They know that the only thing inside will be frozen lamprais anyway."

But I reckon this Samsonite one cost me about sixteen times the price of a cheapo Pettah one. There's little chance that it will last sixteen times as long, even if it does I doubt whether I'll still use it by then. I must confess to a sad fascination in the quality of its zips, the feel of something that hasn't been stuck together with sellotape and the sheer novelty of a combination lock that both works and has instructions.

There you are. Three new bags, all a bit extravagant and all highly practical.

Now I just need to go somewhere!

Got The Decorators In!

We're in the middle of a big refurbishment at work. We've spent a few quid on getting virtually the whole place refurbished and redecorated. It was long overdue and, as we've just signed a lease to stay here for another ten years, it looks to be a good investment.

In the short term it means some discomfort. while one office is being done we have to squeeze like sardines playing a game of sardines into another office, then all move around the next week. My office this week is a room the size of that pothole on the Galle Road the other day. That is to say it's pretty supermassive for a pothole, but as offices go it's not up in the same league as an average Sri Lankan cabinet for sheer size.

The ceilings are not all put in place yet. The interesting result of this is that noise travels around from office to office in the gap above where the false ceiling will eventually go. Eavesdropping never been either so easy or so much fun. I can listen to conversations happening on the other side of the building with remarkable ease. Sadly none of them are interesting or even worth the effort.

I have noticed something that makes me smile and laugh, in a wholly boss like condescending and patronising way. Most of the office staff are women, no reason, no sexism, it's just the way things have turned out. I could tell tales about them being ugly and unattractive, but I shan't, that's not my style.

What I've noticed is the effect that a few manual worker types, all muscle and swear words, rather like myself except I don't have the muscle, have had on the gaggle of women. These women, who I have worked with for years, have suddenly become like supercharged sex symbols. There are high heels appearing where trainers used to be the norm, there's make up, trendy and stylish clothes and even laughter and smiles. I can live with most of it but laughter and smiling in a place of work is appalling, can you imagine the effect on productivity?

Women readers help me please. What on Earth is it about these manual worker types that makes women swoon and go all wobbly kneed? Why does a few days with a bloke that gets his hands dirty for a living make these women turn to putty in their calloused hands?

Most importantly; How does one go about getting one of these jobs?

Monday, May 21, 2007

How Many Can You Keep on The Go?


I was talking to a fellow the other day who only ever reads one book at a time. He only starts the next book once he has completed the current one. So, if said fellow is reading a crap book, he won't put it back on the shelf until it has been finished and he can move onwards and upwards. It could even be a reflection of the chap's character, but I'm not sure on that bit.

Me? I tend to have several books on the go at any one time, but right now I'm at some sort of peak in my reading career. There's about five non fiction works, two works of fiction (neither of which I'm keen on) and there's a backlog of about seven drum magazines that still need to be read.

On top of that there's also maybe ten books that I've bought but haven't even started. It's quite the mini literary festival round Rhythmic's place these days. Well, sort of.

The thing is, once a backlog begins, it just keeps going. I need to take some time off, go to a tropical island and sit around and read for a while.

It's a plan, just not a good one. I'll do the tropical island bit but I've no intention of sitting around and reading for the whole time.

What to do?

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Instinct, Gut, Decision Making and Stuff

Gut feeling is a fascinating concept to me. When I was younger I used to be very much more conscious of my decision making process than I am now. I read books on the subject, I studied it in detail and I did everything I could to try and make myself a better and more effective decision maker. Of course, this was only after I had made the decision that it was a subject I wanted to improve upon, which took me a while.

For many years my decision making process was very deliberate and regimented. I'd write down the facts about a pending decision, I'd draw all kinds of charts, some of which I understood, then I'd sit down and come to a decision. It was a highly objective process, one that didn't often give the results required.

Then, a few years ago, I read a book about gut feeling and instinct. The book was a memorable one, sadly its title wasn't. It told stories of firefighters who could "sense" a disaster about to happen, the chaps who had evacuated their men from a building only to hear the roof come crashing down a few seconds later. Yet after the event they would struggle to figure out what made them realise the impending danger. This book talked about how we all meet people and sometimes take an instant dislike to them but can't figure out why, or we can take a huge liking to someone at a glance but not figure out why either. It explained that gut feelings and instincts are manifestations of our cumulative knowledge and that the brain often comes to that split second decision before we consciously think of all the facts and reasons behind the decision.

Apparently one of our common mistakes is to ignore the gut feeling and try to rationalise things too much, to use logic and reason where emotions and feelings should be relied upon. I thought about this and figured that it may be true, in my case at least. I thought of the many occasions when I had interviewed someone and given them a job, only to discover after an expensive year that the person coudn't do the job and would have to be fired. We all make mistakes and that wasn't a big problem. The problem was that I would realise that my very first thought on meeting the person was usually a very negative one. But, I always ignored that thought because it didn't appear to have any foundations. I realised that it was a big example of not recognising my gut feeling.

So I embarked on a bit of a mission. It was a mission to learn how to get in touch more with my instincts and to try to act more impusively. It was a mission to trust my feelings more and it wasn't anyway near as mad as it might sound. The key to it was to believe that my instincts were actually okay, based on a few years of experience and knowledge, and that they weren't going to get me into any big trouble.

I've had fun with this, I continue to enjoy it too. It's helped me become so much more confident in decision making. When I know that I'll come to a decision then I don't rush it. I spend time and effort in assimilating all the facts and figures, I invest whatever is needed into getting the advice I need. But then, I do the hardest thing. I wait. Sometimes I wake up in the morning and an important decision has just appeared in my head. Sometimes I spend a few weeks or months fact finding but then put all those facts to the back of my mind, safe in the knowledge that my mind will do its thing in the background, leaving me free to concentrate on paradiddles and bass drum technique, life's important things.

Last week I had a major thing to decide upon. I spent some time getting together as much information and expert knowledge as I could, I even tried to force myself to make a decision, but it just wouldn't appear. Or at least one that felt right didn't appear.

The answer was simple, sit back, relax and wait. Sure enough, after a couple of days I woke up in the morning and the answer was sitting there in the forefront of my mind, it seemed like the most obvious thing in the world yet it wasn't the solution that many had advised me to use, it was the one that I was comfortable with.

And this is what happens to me with increasing frequency now. I ponder for ages, I sleep on things, often for many nights. Then my mind comes to its own conclusion. That's the easy bit. The hard bit is to have the confidence and to really trust that my mind will make a decision, then I have to try to acknowledge it without letting logic, reason and straight line thinking get in the way.

It's fun, it's a release and it's different. It goes against the grain too, it's pretty hard to have to try and explain a course of action to someone using logic and common sense when you've actually decided on it because of feelings.

The key is confidence. Self confidence.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The First Set List

So I've got my first gig with the new covers band I joined coming up in a couple of weeks' time. The music is a little bit too "white rock" for my liking if it was my only band, but I've still got the mean machine that is Mimosa to get my fill of fantastic funky feelings from. Here it is and, because I'm so kind, I've put the names of the original artists by each song.

1. Do You want to - Franz Ferdinand

2. Spitting Games - Snow Patrol

3. Vertigo - U2

4. Holiday - Green Day

5. Golden Touch - Razorlight

6. Last Nite - Strokes

7. You get what you give - New Radicals

8. I Predict a Riot - Kaiser Chiefs

9. Dakota - Stereophonics

10. Rock 'n' Roll Star - Oasis

11. Suffragette City - David Bowie

12. Take me out - Franz Ferdinand

13. Chelsea Dagger - Fratellis

14. When you were young - The Killers

15. Tennage Kicks - Undertones

16. She Sells Sanctuary - The Cult

17. Creep - Radiohead

18. Brown Sugar - Rolling Stones

You like?

Friday, May 11, 2007

Sri Lankanisms - Number 5

So far in this series I have covered the more obvious Sri Lankanisms I can think of. Words like "chee" and phrases like "What to do" have been discussed and pondered on.

Now I must instigate a movement away from the obvious and on to slightly more obscure choices. Cynical types might point at me and say

"Ah, that fellow has run out of stuff and he's now scraping the barrel"

They'd be right, but barrels can be useful. Where would the fun lie in rolling over Nigara falls without one? Chaps would just die immediately. How would pubs take in their beer deliveries? Brewery lorries would pull up and there'd be lager, bitter and all sorts of yeasty things leaking all over the pavement. So I'm sorry, but I make no apologies.

But, you know the old "So what are you doing now, are you still studying?" conversation. Not so much a conversation as a series of questions thrown in your direction, the answers will be forgotten as soon as you have left the room, sometimes even before.

At the age of forty I have now got to the stage where most of my old Aunts and Uncles don't ask me whether I'm studying, after twenty something years they have finally realised that I work, raise children and do other adult type stuff. Of course the fact that I have a brother who is an academic, and therefore thirty something and still studying, confuses these olds big time. I'm not entirely sure whether it counts as still studying or what.

The smarter and more "with it" people remember what I do and listen to my answers. With others I just repeat the answers I gave them a few months ago to the very same questions. In recent years I've discovered the turn of phrase to take care of everything, the choice three words that satisfy their curiosity yet actually say nothing.

Here in England, when asked the question, I have to answer in some detail. This is particularly tiresome as I am involved in an industry that lacks glamour. International Mail is just not high up there on the list of options for the glamorous and adventurous. On the scale of excitement it falls some place between Chartered Accountant and Formula One driver, slightly closer to one than the other. But here, when asked what you do, it's usually because the other party is interested. So the answer is quite detailed, maybe incorporating some facts about the company as well as the industry.

Things in Sri Lanka are very different. When confronted by someone of a higher generation and an inquisition comes your way, you are faced with some options. You can engage in a full scale two way conversation. This has the possible advantage that the old Uncle may just remember it next time you meet and ask you how the Brain surgery / motor trade / arms smuggling business is going these days. The disadvantages are untold, but include endless advice along the lines of "you must speak to so and so who's a good friend of mine", etc.

You can choose not to engage. This has a high risk factor too. Specifically the danger that the Uncle will think of you as rude or he'll just take a disliking to you. Something no young man wants to risk when starting out.

But, if you use the three magic words wisely, all the problems disappear as if by magic.

"So what are you doing these days?"

"I'm in business Uncle"

I know, that is actually four words, but I added in the "Uncle" for effect. I can do these things, it's my blog.

The principle is there though. Those words "I'm in business" just seem to cover anything in Sri Lanka, you can be up to anything, from driving a Tri Shaw to being Chairman of an international organisation. As long as you work for yourself the words cover it, no further questions will be asked and the conversation will go off on a different direction.

In business. I love it!

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

What Would You Rescue?

Here's the scenario. Your house is on fire and you can rescue three things. For argument's sake let's forget people for now and assume that most sane people would rescue their loved ones above all else.

What three things would you rescue?

I would grab one special snare drum, my Craviotto Lake Superior, number 37 of 100, I'd grab my cymbal bag, hoping that all my cymbals were inside it and I'd get hold of my laptop.

The snare drum and cymbals are irreplaceable, no question about it. Cymbals all have their own unique sound and feel and, unlike drums, aren't tuneable, so every one is effectively a one off. My laptop is wholly replaceable but its contents are what I'd want to keep.

So, what about you?

What would you rescue?

Monday, May 7, 2007

Grills and Boys

I stayed at my parents' house the other night with the girls, so that I could see the parents off in the morning on their annual pilgrimage to Sri Lanka. One of the good things about retiring and getting old is the fact that they can prance off for a few months every year and go wherever their hearts desire, which is always Sri Lanka plus at least one other destination each year. Of course, the downside about doing this as they get older is the fact that they can remember fuck all about it. This may also explain why they do it every year, perhaps forgetting that they went there last year.

There I was, I woke up at about 7.30 and loaded my parents into a cab, complete with more baggage than Britney Spears at a counselling session. I know you Colombians have some tough times at the moment, what with air attacks, flash floods, that massive pot hole on the Galle Road and, worst of all, the squash ball in Glichrist's glove business, but I was still rather envious. Even with all the crap going on I would have loved to have been on that plane heading towards Colombo. But I wasn't. Such is life.

Then I had a brainwave. I thought that I'd cook a full English breakfast for me and the girls. A simple idea, one which even a simple man like me should be able to accomplish. The kids had surfaced and were busy doing what they love, surfing music channels and looking for interesting videos. At one point they had settled on Natasha Bedingfield's latest offering, that one about having babies or something. I watched for a while and I think I paid some attention to the music. My attention span didn't last for long though, Natasha B dancing around in a distinct lack of clothes and looking quite sexy is enough to put any chap off the music and I was no exception.

So I waltzed over the road to the Tesco Metro thingy, complete with its full quota of Sri Lankan staff, and bought the necessaries for the aforementioned breakfast. Eggs, bacon, sausages, baked beans and fresh white bread. An English breakfast is second only to a string hopper breakfast for me. It has to be greasy, it has to be unhealthy and it has to be hearty. Muesli and cereal and all that yoghurt stuff is fine for people in Switzerland but my Britishness comes through as far as breakfast is concerned. I don't normally eat any breakfast but, when I do, it's got to be a full E, complete with a mug, not a cup, of tea. It's one of the pleasures of British gastronomy and frankly I don't think there are that many.

My plan was advancing nicely, the ingredients were purchased, I managed to retrieve the various frying pans and saucepans from the dark recesses of my parents' kitchen and it looked like all systems go. Until I encountered the grill. Or oven grill combination I should say, complete with turbo function too. My Mum had said to me, before they left

"Rhythmic, if by any chance you need to use the grill all you have to do is....." then she went on to give me detailed instructions and point out all the features of this marvel of modern technology. Unfortunately, like most sons, upon receiving any kind of instruction from their Mother what I had heard was this

"Rhythmic, if by any chance you want to use the grill blah blah blah blah blah blah......." I think I may have also heard the drum part to the introduction of "Do you want to" by Franz Ferdinand, but I can't be sure of that, it might have been "Take me out".

There's me, a grill oven with turbo feature, lots of raw food and several knobs, none of which have clear markings. If I were an oven maker I'd put real writing above the knobs. Real writing that said things like "Grill" and "On" or perhaps "Off". Not pictures, pictures that look like nothing that exists in real life. Stupid pictures that only can be understood by cooks. I turned a knob and waited. I know that grills, the electric type, take a little while to come on, so I was ok with the whole waiting principle. But after twenty minutes I realised there was a technical issue; no heat. I returned the knob to its previous position and tried the next knob. Fifteen minutes elapsed this time and by using that tried and tested method of touching the element with my finger I discovered that this knob was not the right one either. As lunchtme was fast approaching I figured that there was only one solution. It goes against the grain for a man and I'd appreciate it if you kept this quiet, what with my reputation and all, but it was RTFM time. Yes, it was time to Read the Fucking Manual.

I managed to find the manual and located the page that explained how to use the thing. I then turned the correct combination of knobs to get the grill started. I had discovered that, instead of using just one knob, what was involved was a cunning combination of two of the things, one to activate the grill, complete with turbo function, and one to select the correct amount of heat. It defies logic I know, clearly this isn't a Apple grill. If it had been I'd have had it up and running within seconds and by this time I'd have been tucking into my full English and wondering why all other grills weren't designed with the user in mind.

Anyway, the grill started its grilling and I put the sausages and bacon underneath it. After a few minutes I wanted to turn the things over, as I've seen Delia do in her more advanced lessons. But there was a snag. There was no handle on the grill pan. It had one of those things that clip on, with gravity and the various other laws of physics being the things that make it work. I located the handle. It was inside the grill / oven combination so taking it out involved some burning of fingers, an occupational hazard I presumed. Then, as I was taking out the grill pan, the whole contraption collapsed on me. Had it not been for my lightning reactions I could easily be talking to you now from underneath a pile of hot sausages. Luckily I managed to tilt the thing towards the oven so they all fell, one by one, back into the oven. I fished them out, put them back on the grill and concentrated on frying some eggs. That's not easy either is it?

One daughter doesn't like fried eggs and the other eats several plateloads of anything that's put within striking disatnce of her so I only had to do one fried egg for one daughter plus whatever I required. I started to fry the thing. I managed to turn it over without breaking it then I had to do the really tricky bit. The distance between the frying pan and the plate is one of those optical illusions. It can look to be a matter of inches but in actual fact it's 26 miles and 385 yards, or thereabouts. As the egg hovered in the gap it decided to plummet towards the work surface. It landed and my perfectly fried yolk promptly exploded and leaked everywhere. Bummer, I thought as I deftly picked it up and put it on the plate. I hid the broken parts underneath the burnt parts, an idea I was pleased with. I added all the extras, the sausages, the bacon, the baked beans, which are quite easy to burn, and presented the dish to the ten year old. She's the one that will eat lots of anything and she wasn't going to break the habit of a lifetime so she just steamed in and enjoyed herself.

I continued with the rest of the preparation. It was relatively easy as I made more eggs for me, assembled the rest of the stuff for the elder sister and put things on plates and we all steamed in quite contentedly.

At this point my academic brother appeared. He had come for the weekend and was looking on at my endeavours with interest, and scorn. I ranted at him about the lack of logic involved in the grill operation and he laughed, in the way that younger brothers do when sympathy towards their elder sibling is in short supply. He had analysed the situation and come up with his diagnosis of the overall problem

"Basically Rhythmic you're just not used to cooking are you?" He summed up.

Never a truer word, I thought later on, as I dipped my bread into the yolk and dreamed of string hoppers, chicken curry and pol sambol.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Stages of Blogging

I was trying to explain the Product Life Cycle graph to someone the other day. I failed. It's hard to do over the phone and I decided I'd wait until I saw the person face to face. Of course I'll have to remember top take some graph paper but, even with any other paper, it will be so much easier to explain in person.

Management chaps will probably know what I'm talking about. They learn it in a half hour lesson on a Tuesday afternoon at management colleges. It took me about twenty years, but I had a shitload of fun in the process. It's a graph of the demand for a product or a service over time and it goes through five very distinct phases. The wikipedia explanation of it is here. if you want to know more. I believe that's it's a vital tool in helping to sell and market any product or service to maximise and sustain profit. It's also invaluable in helping a Company know when it should be developing new ideas and products.

But, whilst thinking about it, my mind strayed onto the topic of blogs and how it appears that most popular blogs go through their own product life cycle, a very quick one too.

So here's my blog life cycle:

Stage 1 - Initial ignorant enthusiasm.

When I started my blog I didn't have the faintest idea where it would lead, what I wanted to achieve or who, if anyone, would read it. I didn't know what I'd write about, how it would come across or even if I'd continue with it. I remember the thrill I felt when I got my very first comment, from someone who had randomly come across it and wished me luck. All was new, all was sparkly and the stage probably lasted about two months.

Stage 2 - The ball starts to roll

Now the enthusiasm has that rush of adrenalin injected into it. I had a big stroke of luck and got listed and linked on the web page for "The Apprentice" because of a post I had written about it. I started to get a few regular readers and commenters and the rate of increase in everything, views, comments and posts rose rapidly. At this point I began to try to write posts I thought were going to be about topics that people would find interesting and I became what Darwin would call a "comment whore".

Stage 3 - Levelling out

This is where I feel my blog is at the moment. I know I have some regular readers, I don't know who they all are but many of them I do know. I post as frequently as takes my fancy, I write about whatever is on my mind, whether that's some kind of pseudo intellectual thing or about something totally trivial. I still like to get comments but I am not worried about a post that gets no comments nor am I pleased about one that gets loads.

The best aspect of this stage is that there's no element of writing for an audience. I believe that the best music is that whch is written by the songwriter because he or she actually likes it. It's not written purely to be commercially successful but it still can be. Bands like Muse, Pearl Jam, System of a Down etc are examples of this. The best pieces of writing, whether blogs, books or anything are those that exist just for the love of the writer's craft.

I guess for a blog this state of being can last for anything from a day to a lifetime. I'll keep you posted!

Stage 4 - Legendary Status

I think blogs like Naz's and Java Jones are at this stage. It can come quickly or can take a long while but, once it arrives, the blogs have regular readers and commenters and appear as a leading light amongst their peers. Java has his unique and schizophrenic blog, the only one I read that is clearly inhabited by two very different people. Naz's is the blog that so many people must check out from time to time just to see what's going on in the Barefoot related world.

Tiny Little Fractures is another one at this level. N chucks out some brilliant comments on life and some random thoughts and always gets a shitload of interest.

Stage 5 - Fading Star

I've seen lots of blogs at this stage. The writer still posts and writes, but the frequency decreases rapidly. Often it occurs as the writer gets to a new stage in their life. Their circumstances change, perhaps they don't have the time available that they used to or the "E" key from their keyboard has been stolen. It can happ n you know just not oft n. Lanetop looks to have gone this way recently. I don't know if Yo has been busy or just gone a bit quiet for a while but all seems fairly inactive on his blog. I do hope it returns with a vengeance.

Stage 6 - Dead and Gone

This stage doesn't need a whole load of explanation. It's when a blog is dead. And gone. Indyana's Married with Kids looks to be dead and gone. It was a blog many enjoyed and disappeared almost overnight. Hot Chocolate went the same way. It still exists but hasn't seen much activity for many moons. It was one of my favourites too.

And, so endeth my stages. I read some chap somewhere who said that a blog, if not updated at least every three days, will die very quickly. I must agree. Bloggers and blogs can last if updated less frequently than every three days but us readers have short attention spans and soon forget. We move on and, like everything in this magnificently virtual world, we move on much more quickly than we do in real life.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Seizing the day.

I made a comment on Sach's blog the other day on this post.

I told her that she should "plan for tomorrow but enjoy today".

I read Nazreen Sansoni's post for the New Year, where she quotes something similar.

I thought.

I came to a conclusion.

I probably should not start so many sentences with the word "I".

I came to another conclusion.

The New Year is a time of reflection for many of us and I've done some, to realise that way too much of my life is spent chasing deadlines and working towards targets, I've let things go too far in the way of planning for the future and investing for tomorrow.

Why is this?

Simple really. For a good few years I've done many things that have been targetted, whether it's learning a new drum part, trying to find a new band, achieving P + L at work or waiting for an upcoming holiday.

The irony is that all these different targets, goals or objectives have actually got in the way of letting me enjoy the current day. Because I haven't set my targets properly, I haven't paid attention to the management speak I learned all those moons ago.

I haven't been SMART. As a young management trainee I was taught that a good target is a SMART one. It was one of the few things that stayed in my head. That means it is:


I've been doing it too half baked for too long. I've sat down with myself in a meeting and said

"I'm going to try to learn some new drum fills" or

"I'm going to work harder" or

"I'm going to spend more time with the kids".

But, those kind of things don't really fit in with much of the SMART principle. The result is that, in many avenues, I have felt as if I am continually striving for something, as if I'm on an eternal quest for something. It's not a frame of mind that is all negative; it's good to look at continual improvement, but it's also vitally important to enjoy the present time.

The "work for tomorrow" mindset is one that is so, so common amongst people in the Western world. We put bucket loads of time and energy into working hard to gain promotion or earn more money, so that we can buy the dream house, have the 2.2 children and live the "idyllic" existence in ten year's time. Many people I see and know in Sri Lanka appear to do the same but also manage to live the day and enjoy things as they are. You may say that the people I am judging things by are not a representative sample of the populace of Sri Lanka. You'd be correct.

This all affects me and the way in which I want to live my life though. The significant change I want to make is to try to enjoy the present more. By setting "Smarter" targets I think I'll do this. I'll know that I have achieved things and I'll get more satisfaction from those things.

PS - I actually wrote this post a few months ago and never published it. That's common for me, I write a lot of posts and file them, occasionally I read one, marvel at my wit and chuck it out for public consumption.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Out On The Lash

Saturday night saw me and my brothers on one of our rare nights out together. It's not often these days that we get to spend time together, particularly brotherly time when there are no wives or girlfriends around. So, on this particular one, circumstances had been favourable and we had decided to hit the town. The academic brother, who you already know, was in town for the weekend. The music business brother was available and I was, well, as available as I ever am, which is rather a lot.

The parents were excited as we were all going to stay the night at their place. It meant that my Mum would get all motherly and the old man would pretend to be as calm and collected as ever, while secretly feeling a bit chuffed that his three sons were around. Saturday afternoon consisted mostly of myself and Tarquin trying to set up a wireless internet system thing in the olds' house. It eventually worked rather well, but only after about two hours' worth of calls to AOL. We learned a lot about Indian call centres, my fellow, called Hash, had been working there for three and a half years but was worth his weight in gold, not that I actually know how much he weighs or how much gold costs to be honest.

Then, music biz bro turned up, in his slow moving four wheel drive thing, the sort I thought people under fifty weren't allowed to buy. After the usual splashes of cologne and that men's thing of spending ages getting ready so that we looked as if we hadn't spent ages getting ready, we set off for Richmond. The evening was a glorious sunshiney one, Richmond was going to be packed full to the rafters with its normal mix of chavs and beautiful people and they'd mostly be out by the river. So we headed away from the river to a bar owned by one of Tarquin's friends.

It's a pleasant place, we know a few people there and it seems to attract a slightly older clientele than many of Richmond's other places. So we got there, got some drinks in and settled in to fend off the women, enjoy the ambience and shoot the shit about life.

Music biz bro has a best friend, who is a friend of all of ours', who's a total legend. We all grew up together and used to play football, cops and robbers, cars, bikes and you name it with him and his brother. He's also a drummer, one of the first people that I used to watch playing in detail, and a fine bloke. Oh, he's also a bit of a love god. He's got boy band looks and always has some kind of blonde stunner hanging onto his arm, invariably she's about half his age with very rich parents. His name is Weston.

We'd grabbed ourselves a table by the window and the window was one of those massive french type things that was open. Suddenly there was a flurry of activity outside the window and a noise that sounded like an old scooter without an exhaust screeching to a halt. You've guessed it. It was an old scooter without an exhaust screeching to a halt, with Weston riding it. He dismounted, then got off the scooter, then jumped through the window. Fortunately it was open.

Now, without trying to sound big headed I think it's fair to say that me and my siblings are three reasonably good looking blokes. We get our fair share of looks from the opposite sex and the odd bit of conversation now and again. But, as Weston jumped through the window and proceeded to remove his crash helmet and gloves, we felt like the ugly supporting actors in Happy Days when the Fonz turned up. Even before he had removed the gloves there was some kind of blonde apparition at our table telling him how great his band were last week. With my usual man's intuition and knack for reading people I knew immediately, from the way she ignored me and my brothers, that she was a lesbian.

Weston joined us for a few drinks before going off to a party somewhere. It was reminiscent of Flashart in Blackadder as women swooned at him and he exchanged pleasantries with almost every person in the bar. Rik Mayall was brilliant as Flashart and many would say that his was one of Blackadder's most memorable characters. Lines such as

"You treat your woman like your kite............get inside her at least 5 times a day, and take her to heaven & back!"

Pure genius!

Flashart left us. We told him where we were going to be later that night, at our local curry house, he made a spectacular exit through the French window and we watched as he attempted to wheelspin away into the sunset. I gather that wheelspins on a scooter with an engine about as powerful as a glass of warm water aren't that easy so Weston actually just rode off, narrowly missing a bus that he hadn't spotted whilst waving to us.

We stayed at the wine bar, drinking and chatting about the usual topics that three brothers talk about. I asked them who their perfect woman was, in terms of looks alone. We chatted about this for quite while, in the amount of detail that only a man would fully understand. Music Biz bro said Kelly Brook, that brunette woman. I can't remember what Tarquin said but I, of course, said Jennifer Aniston. We perused the whole subject of women for a while. After the perusal we concluded that they are indeed strange creatures, perhaps you know one, or maybe you went to school with one.

We left the wine bar and headed off into a taxi to the local Indian restaurant. It's a bit of a legend this restaurant. My family has eaten there for about the last twenty years and takeaways to my parents' house are one of the restaurant's regular activities. My parents are convinced that one of the chefs, a Sri Lankan, makes a "special" salad for them. It is special, only if you consider tomatoes, onions and lettuce special though. We ate our way through way too much food, a particular hooby of mine, we did the usual chit chat thing with the manager / owner of the place. You know the score, when you tell the bloke how your parents are, how many kids you've got and what you do for a living, only to have to answer exactly the same questions to the same person the next week.

The restaurant gradually emptied and before long we were the only customers and the door was closed to new customers. The waiters were doing that waiter's thing where they scuttle around in the background to make you well aware that you're required to go as soon as possible. Then, there was a knocking sound on the locked front door. We looked, the waiters looked and we all saw a bloke in a crash helmet outside. It was Weston. He had done his night's partying and womanising and decided to come and meet us. Music biz bro had kindly got all our food put in a doggy bag for Weston, he's probably the type who often doesn't eat for days at a time. We had a laugh for a while and then headed home.

I remember Weston riding around the pavement on the scooter with Tarquin on the back of it, then he deposited his passenger and headed off into the night, doggy bag of Indian food hanging from the handlebars. I imagine the weight of the bag would have about halved the speed of his scooter, but he seemed not to mind.

We walked the short walk back, I left my brothers to play carrom and I went to bed. As I fell asleep I though of life and how it must be for a fellow like Weston; an endless stream of gorgeous blonde women hanging on his every word, wild sex without any commitment or inhibitions, continual partying, singing in one band and playing the drums in a few others.

What kind of like is that?