Wednesday, April 30, 2008

But Is It Art?

Java forwarded me the petition about this sickening and despicable "thing". I must admit that I'm neither a dog or an art lover but I cannot find anything in my brain, either the left side or the right side, to justify why someone would put an animal through this.

As far as I'm concerned it doesn't "highlight the plight of stray dogs" and it doesn't do anything other than get the "artist" some cheap publicity.

There's little excuse for this sort of behaviour and there are very few who would disagree with me on that.

Over the years I've pondered on the question and issue of what is art and what isn't. I've seen many a painting, photograph or other piece that has made me wonder about the definition of art. I'm sure if I were to look up the word in a dictionary I'd easily get myself a proper explanation, proper in the way that these things can be.

I've come to my own conclusion on the subject. Which is, that if we talk about it, if we think about it and if it interests us, either in a negative or positive way, then it IS art. I like, no I love music, and in the same vein for me there is no such thing as bad music. There's lots of music I don't like, there's lots that I do like, but it's all music nevertheless, even dodgy stuff like OK Computer.

For me, the objective of art is to get our attention and to gain our interest, to stimulate the mind and to make people stop and stare. But it's entirely subjective too. Tracey Emin can put her bed on display as a work of art and people will pay good money to go and see it and stare at it for hours on end. My bed is in a similar state to hers. There's less fag butts as I don't smoke, there's less womens' clothing but I beat Tracey hands down on the number of drumming magazines and books that have something to do with Sri Lanka around the bed.

Yet somehow I doubt people will pay good money to see it. Tracey's is art, mine is a bed. It's a shame because otherwise I'd be a multi millionaire. And I hope she doesn't mind me calling her by her first name. Recently I saw a picture of a piece by Damien Hirst. It was a series of evenly space coloured circles on a white background. It looked pleasant enough and I have a strong feeling that it was worth a lot of money.

My opinion is that anything is worth the money that someone will pay for it, I'm not questioning the worth. But, the talent in coming up with the piece was clearly in Mr Hirst thinking of the idea and in being Damien Hirst. One could justifiably argue that he came up with the concept and I didn't. One would be right of course. But if we compare the talent required to paint the piece with the talent it must have taken John Constable to paint the Haywain then you can probably see what I'm getting at.

It can't have been easy for Mr Hirst to draw those perfect circles, though I'm not sure if he used a compass or perhaps a series of jam jars to do them, but the skill in creating that particular piece was in thinking of it and in being called Damien Hirst, as well as creating all his previous work, which is what has made his name so valuable now. Give me a few compasses and some jam jars and I could knock up passable copy of Mr Hirst's piece but give me a paintbrush and some cans of Dulux and there's little probability of a perfect copy of the Haywain being conjured up.

In music there's that famous piece called 4' 33" by John Cage. It's basically four minutes and thirty three seconds of the musicians playing nothing. The idea is not that it's four minutes and thirty three seconds of silence but that it's four minutes thirty three seconds of hearing the other sounds in the environment. If I remember rightly Java and Theena were the only two people in the world to buy the extended version.

It's not my kind of thing, Mimosa did once try to cover it, in a funked up style, by I kept coming in at the wrong time and the brass section overcomplicated things so we abandoned it. It's considered to be a serious piece of music by many, including myself. Simply because this chap, John Cage, came up with the idea of using a total lack of music as music. It could lead to a related post about whether he gets royalties if there is four minutes and thirty three seconds of noise without music anywhere in the world, but that's for another time and place.

Back to the original question and the original dog.

"But is it art?"

Sadly the answer's a resounding "Yes".

It's also crap art, it's sick art, it's art that should be banned, it's art that should never be bought, art that should never be celebrated. It's art that should be illegal as well as immoral and it's art that should make the artist an outcast. It also should never be written about. Because when people write about it they make the artist more famous and more successful and his work will become more valuable in the future.

I'm too smart to fall for that though.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Shall We Dance?

You know when you're walking towards a chap and the chap is walking towards you, it might even be a girl but they glide more than walk. Then, as you approach each other, you both veer in the same direction to avoid a collision, then you both veer the other way to overcome the problem and you make it worse. Then sometimes it happens again, you both laugh and invariably one of you cracks a joke about dancing. Something like

"Shall we dance?"

I think we're all familiar with that scenario. Well I seem to have started to do it on the phone, as weird as that sounds. It's becoming a nightmare and one of those things that just gets worse as I get more aware of it.

What happens is that I'll be having a perfectly happy and jolly conversation with someone, usually when I'm at work. Then, as we get to the end of it, that's when things go pear shaped. For so many years it's been second nature to me, this whole thing about saying goodbye, but now I'm struggling big time.

In the past I, or the other person, would have said "bye", "see you later". Then I, or the aforementioned other person, would have reciprocated. These two little bits of talking would have been done while the other on the line listened, or pretended to listen, quite happily. I suspect you get the idea, one of us talks and the other stays silent. Then the silent party talks and the talker stays silent. It's a simple concept and you may even have done it yourself.

But lately I've started going into a state of panic, as if my years and years of experience of this telephone goodbying have been forgotten and my confidence has been shattered. Frankly I'm a shadow of my former self and I don't know where to turn and how to pull myself out of the slump.

Usually the conversation goes perfectly well, unless it's my Mum of course. Then, when we go through all that is needed to go through, things like prices, giving the person a quote or saying "Mum have you tried turning off the power and turning it on again?" we get to the final few words. That traditional time to say goodbye and get on with other things.

I pause, momentarily hesitating where I used to have confidence and just go for it. That pause is fatal, like letting a dog know that you're scared. Then the other person thinks that I've paused to let them talk, so they say

"Ok bye then"

But they say it at the exact same time that I've oversome my fears and remembered my lines. At least I think so, but I'm never certain what they've said because I can only hear myself saying

"Bye then"

"Sorry" we say in unison, partly because we're both confused and partly because rule one in one of my favourite books, "How to Speak English for the British" says that it's important to use the word at least four thousand times a day.

Rule one in another of my favourites, "How to speak English for Sri Lankans" says that the word "Aaaaah" can be used as a response to almost any question, but the intonation used can give it about fifteen different meanings, ranging from "Pardon me" to "Yes that's fine" to "No darling I wasn't asleep."

Then, just like in the walking towards each other thing, we both go for the same space again, after a brief pause. What I hear is something like

"mmm I blah then"

The mishmash of sounds, the confusion and the high pressure makes the words go funny. It's bloody annoying. Usually we go through the motions once more before there's a bit of laughter and we get the phasing correct. Eventually, after much time wasting and a bit of annoyance we bid farewell. I go off and write a post about it, the other person thinks bad things about me.

It's happening more and more.

Is it just me or does this happen to you too?

PS - Brought to you from the sunny climes of Singapore.

Friday, April 25, 2008

A Vacancy

Like a bit of a pillock I quite zealously guard those spaces on the left hand side of my blog, the ones that come under the "blogs I read" category. Why?

Well firstly because they genuinely have to be blogs that I read, and they are. Every day, or thereabouts I check in to see what's been happening on them. I'm not up to scratch with RSS feeds, readers and things so that, and Kottu are my main reference points. Secondly it's because I feel as if I'm providing a bit of a service to you, my reader.

If I'm reading a blog and it has a list of hundreds of other blogs down its side in the "blogs I read" section I tend to pay scant attention to those blogs. I might have a quick scan but usually I can't be bothered and the sheer volume of titles makes me lose interest. So, on my blog, though I don't have a maximum number in mind, I keep the number of blogs to a level that I think might retain a person's interest.

I also have my own policy of adding new ones to the bottom of the list, with the remainder in anything but alphabetical order. Darwin's and Cerno's go second and first respectively, though that sentence would have been much cleaner if I'd written it the other way round like this:

"Cerno's and Darwin's go first and second respectively"

But, once the linking had been done I just got lazy. Sorry about that.

Either way, they go first and second, or second and first, because they are the last two years' blogs of the year, admittedly awarded by only me, but around these parts that means something. Then we have Java, whose blog just demands to be read. After that the order gets a bit random, loosely based on a combination of how frequently they update, how sexy they are, their taste in music and what I think of their writing.

It's important that I don't have "dead" blogs or dodgy links there too. As much as I like a blog, if it's not updated regularly I, and most others, lose interest rapidly. Lady Luck seems to have gone quiet and I don't know if she's stopped blogging or is just inundated with patients or something. It's a sad and disappointing state of affairs if she's now putting her work, that whole looking after people and curing them thing, ahead of blogging.

So, after some rambling, I've got to my point. Which is that N of Tiny Little Fractures is in retirement from blogging. As much as I like reading his archives this means that my link to his blog is going to go. It's harsh but fair and it's for the greater good. I have a few ideas on which blog I'm going to add in its place.

But what do you think? I guess you know a bit about what I like. Are there any blogs out there that you think demand to be included in my sidebar? Do you even care?

Answers on a postcard please.

Or a comment.

I'll be away for a week or so but I'll check in and be back before you can say "Yes, I remember that blog"


Thursday, April 24, 2008

Men, Women, All You Need To Know

I went through my usual blogs the other morning and saw Dinidu's post about girlspeak.

Sometimes the onset of age and experience is a wonderfully liberating thing. There's many a thing that just can't be taught but has to be learnt through empirical evidence, if that's the phrase.

Understanding women is one of them. As we men get older we discover things about the fairer and smarter sex every day. We occasionally learn a bit about women too. (only joking there!).

But, if you ask an older and experienced Adonis type, I reckon he'll back me up on this; that we don't really learn or get to understand women, we just learn that they're impossible to understand and we understand that we have so much more to learn.

I feel qualified to preach a little on this. As you know I'm renowned for my fearlessness and, well my lack of fear. I'm prepared to speak out on behalf of my species; men. Just don't mention it to any of the women in my life if you know or meet them.

Allow me to present my credentials; I have an ex wife, two scary almost teenage daughters (whom you know well), a Sri Lankan Mother and I once kissed a girl, not on the lips though. I think I can be safely considered as an expert.

And young Dinidu has made two big errors in his attempt to understand women, or girls as he calls them. It's understandable because he's a man.

We men operate through a simple yet beautiful system, one that can make us easy to read, easy to predict and easy to understand. The system is called "rules". We have them, we use them and we live by them. If a man says that he likes a boiled egg for breakfast then that means he's happy to eat one everyday for the rest of his life. At breakfast time too. If a fellow likes a certain pair of jeans then that means he's happy to own a wardrobe full of the exact same jeans and wear them whenever he wears jeans, which of course is all the time.

There may be different rules that apply to different men. I have heard a theory that just because Man A likes beer it doesn't necessarily mean that Man B does. I'm happy to go with it even though proof does not exist. Most men would agree. We are men. We like to eat, drink and fart. We like cars and blondes and scratching our balls. We like to watch films that are either violent or funny and we like loud music. Simple. Like us.

Dinidu, like a very talented youngster who has suddenly been called up to play cricket for his country and has dropped a crucial catch becasue he was waving to his Mum, has made a schoolboy error. He's assumed that there are rules that apply to women, that the behaviour of a female is governed by a set of laws.

Let's continue with the boiled egg scenario. As I said before, a man who says he likes an egg for breakfast will be happy with one on his breakfast plate every morning, for the rest of his life. If a woman says she likes an egg for breakfast it means nothing whatsoever. Do not base your future behaviour on her apparent liking for a breakfast egg. Ask her what she wants for breakfast before you present it to her and expect the unexpected.

Dinidu's second error was to apply logic to the female mind. As if dropping the catch because he was waving to his Mum wasn't enough he's now let the ball hit him on the head too. Logic is a man thing. We think in straight lines, we make assumptions that are correct if they're about other men. Logic is like scratching your balls, it's not a female thing. For the sake of fairness I should point out that all men are crap at cartwheels and women can do them naturally. Maybe it's because they never have to think about the pain involved if you crush your balls when you land or something.

So, just to recap. The rules for understanding women are as follows:

1. There are no rules

2. Logic doesn't apply

3. Never try to understand them.

It's that simple.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Women, Know Your Place.

As a keen Lankaphile I pay regular attention to the available online newspapers, whether crap ones or good ones I like to read them to be able to formulate my own opinions. I have an ongoing debate with someone who tells me that a person has to live in Sri Lanka to really experience it and know about it. My side of the coin is that these days, with blogs and other online content, we can learn much about day to day life there compared to the days before the net was such a part of our lives.

Of course living on the island gives anyone a better perspective than that of someone who hasn't lived there, but a person can be pretty well informed through other means too. Enough of that, it's just padding and a bit of an introduction. And lately my padding and introductions have led to two and three part posts, which you're getting a but pissed off with I reckon.

I'm continually surprised by some people's attitude towards the roles of men and women in society, more specifically I'm often shocked when I hear people talk of women as being the home maker and the child rearer. It's not that women, or men in my opinion, shouldn't do those things or assume those roles if they want to. If people are happy then I'm all for that. I just have issues with society expecting things of the female species that the average female may not want to do.

I suppose I'm a bit of a women's libber in that sense, perhaps because of my background. My maternal grandmother was very active in that sphere and even tried to emulate Emily Davison, the woman who threw herself under the King's racehorse here in the UK in 1913. Unfortunately she attempted a copy cat thing and threw herself under a bullock cart on the Galle Road in 1948, which probably makes it a copy cow thing. The event was seen as a failure, mostly because my grandmother had forgotten that bullocks travel at about 2 mph, so the driver steered around her, shouted something in Sinhala about my grandmother's breasts and life carried on as normal. I have heard that the bullock suffered from post traumatic stress disorder and had to have several weeks off work, but cannot verify the fact. It may only have been a few days.

My thinking is also that women in Sri Lanka are less free to pursue careers and their desired paths than they are here in the UK., not because they don't want to but because of the expectations of society. There are many, many career ladies in SL but the mass media and much of Sri Lankan society expects women to fill that "wife" and "homemaker" role. Sometimes I get annoyed and angered by this and sometimes I laugh, in a dreadfully patronising and condescending way, about this specific example of Sri Lanka playing catch up with Western society.

Then I read the women's section in a Sri Lankan newspaper, like here and I realize that this is what much of Sri Lankan society expects of women. Sod the career thing, forget about an identity and any thoughts of success that don't begin with

"isn't she married to......?"

Oh no, the important things for a modern woman are to keep a house ready to receive an unexpected guest. If you'd like to save time and not read the article I'll give you some highlights:

1. Keep a jar of iced tea ready in the fridge and have a plentiful supply of lemons around.

2. Have a load of cookie dough in the fridge at all times. Then, when the doorbell rings, you can make cookies for the unexpected guest and clearing up only takes about 15 minutes.

3. Set aside a place in the house, ideally a whole room, that's always tidy and presentable for entertaining.

4. Keep a nice CD ready in the CD player at all times. Then, when that doorbell rings, you can press play as you walk towards the door and the visitor will be greeted with a nice soothing blast of Mimosa when they walk into the special room you've set aside.

I'm sure you'll agree that these tips are useful and practical for today's busy woman. After the guest leaves you'll have plenty of time to cook dinner for your husband too. Later on girls, if you're lucky, he may let you have sex with him too.

Monday, April 21, 2008

The Evil Child

By now K, my eleven going on eighteen year old, is reasonably well known to you. You've heard about her antics, her liking for My Chemical Romance and similar and you know all about her advanced negotiating skills. As do I.

You'd think that I'd be ready for her to pounce at any time. A bit like Kato against Clousseau, that I'd lie in hiding in a permanent state of alert in case she attacks. That I'd be be ready for her to metaphorically jump out of a cupboard and Karate chop my head off. In fact in many ways I wish I was ready, but that would take away the element of suprise, which is fun in an "oh God what's she done now?" sort of way.

Picture the situation. I was chilling at home, having bought some new jeans and a couple of polo shirts in Kingston. In a slightly girly way I was apprehensive about buying the polo shirts but they were from Gap and the little bit of writing made me err on the side of spending the money. It said:

"Made in Sri Lanka"

I'm weak like that.

So I'd got home and was looking at the blog, publishing a few comments and browsing through some new books I'd bought. For a while I've had a Mac version of MS Office on my Macbook but haven't installed the MSN Messenger part of it. I bought the software to use Excel and Word and it came with an MSN thing. I've no real desire to begin my MSNing but there is one motivator.

K spends a lot of time on it, as do most of her friends. For some reason A, the thirteen year old, isn't that interested but K is to be seen most nights chatting away to her heart's content. Her Mother and I both try to police this activity as much as possible but it's an ongoing battle to decide where to draw the line between security and letting them do what all their friends do. A battle that I'm sure other parents have all the time, just ask Dinidu's Mum.

I know that joining up won't help a huge amount but I had thought that I'd sign up to MSN and make K a friend, so I could have a bit of an eye on what she's talking about, without prying too much. Sunday afternoon with a bit of spare time saw me installing MSN, staring at my Macbook and wondering what the fuck was going on, a normal occurrence when I install anything on anything.

Then, once the installation was done, I attempted to make K a friend, my only one. I quickly found out that this wasn't as simple as I had hoped. It involved some kind of email going in her direction and me asking her for friendship. You can imagine my trepidation. Putting K in a position of power is asking for trouble. A bit like putting your brother in charge of defence, you know it's going to cause problems but you just don't know the exact nature of them.

Well my problems came back to me within half an hour in the form of this email:

Dearest Father,

I am afraid I declined you on msn I told you I wouldn't accept you so I haven't! Mwuhahaha

Well I accepted then deleted you... Bye Bye


Evil Child x

There was a smiley in there somewhere but it hasn't come out when I copied and pasted.

Need I say more?

Sunday, April 20, 2008

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Friday, April 18, 2008

Lately In The Sri Lankan Blogosphere....

It's been a while since I wrote one of these, so here goes.

The regulars that I read have been going through mixed times. Some have been as quiet as Mervyn Silva on a stag do and others have been as loud as a churchmouse who has lost his voice.

The big news, sad and all is the blog retirement of N, of Tiny Little Fractures. He's off and I'm among the many who'll miss following his life and the adventures it holds.

A couple of posts caught my eye recently because of the sheer quality of wirting they exhibited. I'm no literary critic or expert, my English "O" level probably doesn't give me the necessary qualifications to judge writing and literature in terms of the correct use of nouns and verbs and things. But I can read a thing and like it.

The first one was Java Jones' stunning little storyette "The Ultimate Freedom?" The first time I read it I had to remember to breathe when I got to the end, it had captured me so much. Since then I've lost count of the number of times I've re read it. It's one of those clever and thought provoking pieces that I'm sure will stick in my mind for longer than a Sri Lankan Airlines flight delay.

The second little gem was this beauty by David Blacker. It's about Cologne, the city not the fragrance stuff, though I reckon he could write just as vividly about the splash on thing too.

His writing is so crisp and descriptive that I was drawn in immediately and felt as if I was out drinking with him within about three sentences. He really should write a book or something!

I often say this but I hold on board so much admiration for these writing types, their power over words and language continually amazes and delights me.

Dinudu De Alwis, everyone's favourite sexual rights activist, has been going through some heartbreak and pain. It may in part have been caused by his post on the issues he has with Islam, nicely written, well presented yet probably not one that's going to win him any awards at the next Islamic literary festival. This comment to the post seems to be an equally eloqently written and rational response. Overall though Dinidu's blog continues to pull in readers. I think it's the wide range of topics covered and the honesty he portrays that attracts us.

After many weeks of almost total blogging silence Sach has launched herself straight back into the SL blogosphere with a bit of a stunner. It's a clever move of her to head the piece with that photograph of her and Theena running through the wilds. Her review has very probably had a massive positive effect on the viewing figures for the film she's mentioned too.

One of the most read via Kottu posts had been this by Pissu Perera. It's a girly one, all about losing and gaining weight and getting fit, but the way she talks about getting to the age of forty sure as hell makes me feel old.

T, her from Dance In A Triangle, the blog that changes its name more often than a Sri Lankan politician changes parties, has got clearance from Super Dad for her trip to SL in the summer. I sure hope my girls call me Super Dad when they're older, it would make a nice change from the names I get called now. There's vague talk of some kind of Sri Lankan bloggers meet up in July or August too.

Amila Salgado, not to be confused with Amila Delgado the Spanish midfielder, has yet another of his fabulously photographed posts up. The pictures of Dragonflies and other winged beauties are truly inspiring. I asked him how he manages to take these pictures and he told me that it helps if you kill them first. That way, if you're clever, you can staple their wings and legs to the leaf and have unlimited time to get a good picture.

The Missing Sandwich put out this highly readable post. She lists some of the things she has done in her life and some that she still wants to do. Ironically she calls the post "Never been kissed", but it's clear from the things she's done that kissing has been done, even some same sex stuff. What a girl!

As for the things she wants to do I have some comments;

"Bartending in Britain" - Why?

"Understand my parents" - Impossible, particularly if they're Sri Lankan

"Be swept off my feet" - see below

"Visit a dentist" - see above

"Have sex tied up" - see above

In other parts the Rumbling Lankan continues to regale us with endless, or needless, posts on how to attract eight million readers a day to your blog and what widgets you should include if you want to be the king of the bloggers. It's not my thing but I'm sure the Rumbler gets an infinitely higher amount of readers than I do.

Finally everyone's favourite Domestic Goddess has been out giving relationship advice. This is in between mouthfuls of chocolate swirl shortbread, which looked mighty fine to me.

That's about it for now. There is this painting exhibition on at Barefoot. If I were in Colombo I'd be there checking it out. Academic bro is off there tomorrow and I'm dead jealous. If you bump into him give him a kick or something and say it's from his better looking eldest brother. Thanks.

Have a good weekend and a belated Happy New Year to all.


Thursday, April 17, 2008

What's Your Slightly Embarrassing Secret?

We're not talking about big drastic ones, like confessing to the Sri Lankan blogosphere that you once had a little game of hide the sausage with your great Aunt. No, I mean "slightly" embarrassing.

I'll start the ball rolling by telling you that I can't whistle. Never have I been able to do that whole pursing of the lips, making some movement with my tongue and chucking out a pleasant sounding melody thing that Otis Elevator and all those other chaps can do without having to even think about it.

I can do one where I ram two fingers into my mouth and attract the attention of some stranger on the other side of a medium sized town, that's easy enough. It has its uses but it's no good whatsoever when I feel a need to casually get out the melody to Sweet Caroline by Neil Diamond, or perhaps Song Sung Blue.

But, get me to make that pointy cone shape with my mouth and, try as I might, with all the different tongue positions I can think of, it's just a stream of silent air that comes gushing out.

What's your slightly embarrassing secret?

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Goodbye Tiny Little Fractures

I genuinely feel a bit sad as I write this. Child of 25 is bidding us farewell, doing a runner and fading off into the outside world.

Why do I feel sad? It's only a blog isn't it?

Well it's because it was one of the first Sri Lankan blogs I stumbled upon and began to read regularly. I followed N's progress from pretty much his first post. I've never met him in person but we've exchanged emails and things and, even though he likes Snow Patrol and James Blunt, he strikes me as one of life's good guys.

I suppose all of us who've read his blog have been part of his life, in a funny way. We've read about him settling in the US, of his trips to the Motherland, his growing fascination with photography and of course his ongoing search to find Mrs Childof25. I've enjoyed each bit, each insight into his life and existence.

N's writing is quirky too. There are some blogs that are side splittingly funny. There are some that are hard hitting and edgy, like an Ikea bookcase. N's is one that has always made me smile, but with a warm smile and a quiet little chuckle. His way of putting things across just does that.

On top of all that his was the first ever blog to link to mine, a grand occasion that feels a bit like losing your virginity. I'd like to thank him for that, the link bit not the virginity thing.

Good luck and thanks for the words Childof25.


Monday, April 14, 2008

Lovers Are For Old People?

I was engaged in a discussion the other day and the question found itself in the midst of the conversation. What is a lover?

That feeling hit me. You know when you meet someone face to face, a person you've spoken to and got to know quite well over the phone or perhaps by email. Then you meet and, if you're like me, you think to yourself

"Fucking hell, she looks nothing like I'd imagined"

Yet you hadn't built up any kind of conscious mental image in your head before the meeting. You hadn't thought that she would have blonde hair and a bum like two cats in a bag. You hadn't thought that he'd be the spitting image of Ranil Wickremesinghe only with a beard and bad acne. No, you thought that you had no preconceived notions, but on meeting the meetee, you were shocked and surprised anyway.

The feeling hit me because the definition of a lover is something I've never pondered on before, it's always existed in the back of my mind, whenever I've read the word I've understood it and carried on with life. But, all of a sudden I was sitting there and scratching my chin, wondering exactly what a lover is.

Of course it's not a word used much in everyday conversation now anyway. I can't think of many people who I can imagine saying the word. There are a few oldish Aunts who I can picture telling another oldish Aunt about two of their younger contacts who

"Used to be lovers you know"

But that's about it. It's an old fashioned word mostly bandied about in films and in print.

To me it implies a sexual relationship that was more than a one night stand. Although it's not wrong to describe two people who once had a one night stand as "ex lovers", it's also not quite right.

It also doesn't seem to apply to a married couple, even though a married couple are usually lovers too, which could open up another discussion altogether. I can't picture a husband introducing his wife to someone and labelling her as his lover. The French use of the word, or rather the British image of the French use, throws up images of a French fellow, married to some average looking middle aged woman and having a glamorous and sexy girlfriend on the side. She'd live in a plush apartment overlooking the Seine and the chap would be her only partner.

A relationship with sex, of an ongoing sort.

Black and white people in old films would have been labelled as lovers too, as would the actors who played the people. Marilyn Monroe and JKF were lovers, Antony and Cleopatra were lovers and even Kylie Minogue and Jason Donovan were lovers. Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton were lovers for sure, but had they both been alive and married to each other now I don't think many would label them as lovers.

Whenever I hear the words "to take a lover" my mind conjurs up slightly romantic and sexy visions of a glamorous older woman deciding to "take a lover" rather like picking out a new pair of shoes or a postcard from a rack. As a younger and far more virile man it was perfectly normal for me to think along those lines but now I'm the age of the older women and still coming to terms with my loss. I'm told that many men go through this sort of phase in their life and deal with it by buying a Harley Davidson or joining a band or something. You wouldn't catch me doing that kind of thing!

But to "take a lover" gives me that older woman image. The woman would pick out some sort of stud, then use and abuse him on a regular basis. There'd be no mental connection, just ongoing physical stuff, very possibly with her paying him money or "keeping" him. It's hard to see why many young men would be attracted to this sort of thing isn't it.

What do you think? Is the word "lover" an old fashioned one that no one uses anymore? Would you describe your girlfriend/boyfriend/husband/wife as your lover? Or is it only the French who have lovers?


Thursday, April 10, 2008

Mixed Routes - Three Plays And A Sri Lankan Actress

(pic by Dhammika)

So there I was, sitting in Camden People's theatre, about to watch this trilogy of plays about mixed identity. I'm no great theatre lover to be honest. Obviously I've seen the classics like Lion King, Starlight Express and Mamma Mia, but plays aren't high up on my list of things I must do.

I was there because Ian's Aunt was here, the play was about mixed identity and it had Nimmi Harasgama in it, who I hadn't seen or met before, but I knew of.

On this occasion instead of being early because I was afraid of being late and had over compensated, I was early because I had intended to get the train up and do some strolling around, a bit of shopping, browsing and general mooching. My plan went pear shaped and after an hour of standing on my little local station platform I gave up, got in my car and drove. The resulting time of arrival was too late for mooching and shopping as all the shops were closed, yet still about two hours before the play started. As a man who likes adventure and trying new things out I was pleased that my excessive earliness was for a new reason.

I went to the theatre first, just to recce things. As I opened the theatre door I almost ended up slamming it into someone's face. I did the gallant thing and held it open for her, then I walked in behind her. A win win situation; I could be gallant and also check out her bum without her knowing. The girl turned out to be Nimmi, I introduced myself and said the usual Sri Lankan hello thing, that one where you say who you're a friend of and marvel at the whole six degrees of separation thing, the fact that for the average Sri Lankan it reduces to about one degree, two on rare occasions.

We went our separate ways and about an hour and a half later I was back in the foyer of the place milling around with more Sri Lankans than you can fit in a private bus. One of the first people I met was old Dhammika himself, him of Thinkfreed. We chatted and I met his wife and, in that degrees of separation way again, we found that we're half brothers or something like that.

The time came to take our seats, so all were ushered into the theatre. Camden People's Theatre is a lovely and basic feeling place, a fringe thing that is vastly underfunded but evidently doing a fine job under difficult circumstances. It's fair to say that we took our chairs, rather than seats. They were nice chairs with a little bit of padding, a back and everything. On the stage were two shopping trolleys. One was covered with bits of paper that had names of Sri Lankan specialities written on them. Things like mutton, buriyani, vadai and what nots.

The other trolley had similar pieces of paper but with names of Carribean things on them. I can't remember the things to be honest and my knowledge of those parts isn't good enough to make stuff up, but probably things like Bounty bars and the like. After about ten minutes I realised that the trolleys were most likely props for the play. My conclusion was aided by the chap, the director I think, who came on and talked a bit about the forthcoming trilogy.

You know something, I'll tell you a secret here. I've always been an ardent admirer of chaps and girls who can get up and talk confidently and calmly in front of people. As a salesperson I've done a bit of it myself but frankly I crap myself every time. This fellow got up there and chatted to the audience as coolly and calmly as if he was having a casual tete a tete with his Mum, not that I know his Mum. If she's anything like mine then the whole simile goes flying out of the window quicker than you can say "scary Sri Lankan mother". Give me a drumkit to sit behind any day.

The first play was the one with our heroine, Nimmi, in it. It began with her and the other lady, also an actress, doing some shopping in a supermarket. Cleverly they made use of the trolleys for this bit. Nimmi was very Sri Lankan in appearance. Her hair was up in a bun and she had a sari of sorts on. The other woman was wearing what I must assume is Jamaican "street" clothing and their respective acting made it clear that they were in their own separate worlds. On catching sight of each other they both took off bits of garment, changed hairstyle, shuffled around the contents of their trolley and did everything possible to make their appearance as "British" as possible for the other. They both mouthed the word "fuck" as they caught sight of the other too. A nice touch for the less educated in the audience, like me.

The ensuing twenty minutes or so was captivating and eye catching. They started and continued a dialogue that was based on their own lives. At times the dialogue became a monologue and the other person froze, or perhaps just forgot their lines, and the featured artist spoke as if in their head. One of the most captivating things for me was the way they did so many accents. Nimmi presented us with strong Sri Lankan accents, with middle class English accents, some Sinhala and some Tamil. It was all authentic but I can't claim to be an expert in Tamil and Sinhala accents.

The piece was a reflection on the mixed identity of each of the artistes, of the feelings, frustrations and many different accents each of us mixed race kids are used to and sometimes not so used to. I'm all too familiar with the feelings, being mostly a drummer but also a blogger.

It led nicely into the next piece, performed by a mixed Hong Kong Chinese English lady called Christina. This was less direct in its visual references than the trolley one. Where the trolley one showed people in a supermarket with very clear and vivid imagery this one left more to the imagination with visual metaphors and similes that forced us, the audience, to come to our own conclusions about what was going on.

It told the story of how Christina was brought up in an apartment in which her English Father and Chinese Mother would often communicate through her as they had little in common in the way of language. It was a solo piece and Christina did lots of writhing, that looked particularly painful as well as some painting on the floor. The painting on the floor was a bit of a technical issue as most of us couldn't see what was going on, only that there was some floor based crouching down activity happening.

We discovered, when it was projected up on the wall as pictured above, that she was drawing the image, half in Cantonese or Mandarin (sorry but I can't recollect which it is) and half in English. At the beginning of the piece it said "I am not English" with the equivalent and opposite statement on the other side of the image in the other language. It's confusing to explain it in writing but I reckon I just might have got there.

Towards the end of the piece as the actress talked us through her thought patterns and development she did some more crouched down floor painting. The image changed to one in which she had crossed out the word "not" and what we all assumed to be the same on the other side of the world. It hit me like a bargepole, one that hit me sideways and not just on its end. More of a resounding smack than a painful prod. It's the exact way I've been thinking for the last few years. Not the Chinese bit, the Sri Lankan and British bit.

For so long I felt I was neither a Brit nor a Sri Lankan yet now I truly feel both, with a sense of abundance that I'm proud of. It's taken me many years to get here but I like it now. I'm brown, I've got a Sarf London drawl, I'm Sri Lankan and I'm British and I'm ok with that.

There was a bit of shuffling around with the sets, though there wasn't much in the way of sets to shuffle, then the next playlet started. I must admit that it was bit too ethereal for me, but the salsa dancing performed by the leading lady was startlingly spectacular, which was good enough to keep my eyes rivetted to the stage. I was told afterwards that it was about Guantanamo Bay, which made things clearer, but it was the first two pieces that caught me.

Nimmi Harasgama's one pulled me in with its acting, its defined and vivid imagery and the feeling of lightness it left me with. Christina's piece stuck with me because it felt as if it had been written about my mind and my mindset. It felt heavy instead of light, but it was a nice heaviness I was left with. Probably like a chap would feel after eating too many shuttlecocks not like that heaviness caused by way too much rice and dhall.

A load of us ended up in a nearby pub, then an Indian restaurant, then a quick drive home after dropping Old Aunt Onetruecoolguy and her husband where they were staying. I think it's safe to say that a good night was had by all.

Maybe I could do this thespian thing a bit more!

23 Boxes And A Long One!

What's happening in the Rhythmic life?

With thanks to David Blacker I'm living up to the "pimped up diary" thing. It's a perfect description of LLD and has given me a strange desire to chuck out a few words now and again to tell anyone who's interested what's been happening in these parts, which of course I always did, but now it's formal.

Two things happened to me yesterday that made me smile, chuckle and laugh, a bit like a supermarket own brand of Rice Krispies. The first of the two actually happened at the supermarket too.

Lunchtime was jam packed with my usual; a stroll over to Tesco and a sandwich of some sort. Wednesdays is my night to have the girls so the lunchtime stroll also involves buying the necessary ingredients for the evening meal.

The girls at work had suggested spaghetti bolognese for dinner so I found myself standing at a checkout with the necessaries and a sweets shop's worth of chocolate biscuitish things for the girls (my home ones) to munch on in the evening. My basket had eleven items so I was of course standing in one of the longer queues, not one of the ten or less items ones that I could have so easily have smuggled myself into were I that way inclined.

Then I saw it, or him, or them. It was the contents of the trolley of the chap in front of me that caught my attention. You know Cadbury's Flakes, not the ones we eat as chocolate bars but the half sized ones that ice cream men use in 99s? Well I learned that they are available in boxes of around twenty or thirty. I learned this from the fact that the chap in front of me had twenty three of these boxes in his trolley. I knew this was the case as I surreptitiously counted them. He also had one long French bread loaf in the trolley, which tickled me, though not in that smutty way you're thinking. That was it, there was nothing else in the chap's trolley.

I studied the chap. He was a Sikh, perhaps an ice cream man, but the French Stick was the sticking point. Twenty three boxes of Cadbury's Flake and a French stick was the type of trolley content that a good episode of Miss Marple could be made out of. I was mystified. Then the lightbulb moment came. Which reminds me, I wonder if the bloke who invented lightbulbs had a light bulb moment.

He must have been one of those weird food types, the sort who can only eat jam or who live on the contents of used tea bags. Only his particular fetish was French bread sandwiches made from Cadbury's Flakes. Presumably the sandwiches had to be cut down to size, which would explain why he wasn't using full sized Flakes. 'tis indeed a funny old world and I studied his complexion. There was no vast array of acne nor any visible evidence of his strange taste in food. I guess he was just lucky. I carried on with my day, content with the knowledge that I had figured out this mystery.

Then I picked up the girls in the evening and K came out with one of those phrases that made me proud and laugh.

We were walking along my road, heading back after popping to the local shop. K and A were in seriously high spirits. I think it's partly because they are still getting used to the whole new way of life and they're often a bit over excited when I collect them or drop them back. In time I'm sure they'll calm down.

As we were walking the excitement reached a crescendo of sorts and I asked both of them to calm down. A had been skipping like a strangely jerky Kangaroo and K had been squeezing a cuddly toy thing that was making a squeeking noise, as I'm sure it was designed to do. I asked them to calm down with some choice fatherly words:

"Will you two just calm down a bit now please?"

"Ok Dad" said K. "We will"

"In fact look at us now" she continued.

"We're now as calm as two monkeys in a baby's bath"

"You what? What did you say?" I asked.

"I said we're as calm as two monkeys in a baby's bath."

"That's whatI thought you said, where on Earth did you get that from?" said I.

"You know me Dad, I'm surprisingly clever, these things just come to me sometimes." the too smart for her own good eleven year old continued.

Well I do know her, she is too smart for her own good sometimes, but she makes me smile.

And those were two of the things that happened yesterday.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Anyone Lost One Of These?

Guess whose it is and you just might win a prize.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Comment Sense

Comments on blogs are an interesting phenomenon aren't they? I'm sure we've all been through those early blogging days when we chased readership, comments and links to our blogs. I've got to a ripe old age in blog years and am at the stage when I jot words down as and when they come to me, some get published straight away and others languish in draft form for months, maybe never to be published.

I guess I think of myself as quite wise in blog knowledge too. I'm not one of those geeky fellows, the ones who can tell you all about the latest tricks and ways of getting millions of readers with every word you write. RSS feeds are a thing I know nothing about, not even which animals eat them. But, I know some basics. I can spot the cynical blogs, the ones who are chasing readership at all costs, from about half a mile away.

Most of the old regulars in the Sri Lankan blogosphere are quite mellow too. People like Java, the Domestic Goddess and Mrs Sansoni operate their blogs just as they wish to do so, without chasing readership and writing all sort of rubbish about young naked girls and ways to make money from blogging.

Yet, despite my "knowledge", a term I do use loosely, there's one nugget of wisdom that alludes me. It's the ability to predict whether a post will get no comments at all or if it will attract more interest than a quiet month on the Mihin Air balance sheet. I never can tell.

I'll happily chuck a post out thinking that it's an innocuous one that people won't react to, only to find comments coming at me quicker than tuk tuks heading towards a German tourist standing outside one of CMB's five star hotels. Or I'll type out a long thought out pseudo intellectual post and expect to kick off some serious debate among my reader and find that no one is vaguely interested.

Acceptance is a wonderful thing and I'm now content with the knowledge that I publish something and it may or may not get comments galore. I have a friend who will often tell me what will get comments and what won't, she's usually right too. But it does baffle me.

What about you? Do other bloggers know what's going to attract comments like flies or are you as clueless as me?

I suppose it would be ironic if this post got no comments too.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Sunday Morning Perusings

Here I sit on Sunday morning. Sam's Town by The Killers is blasting out at a level that only a half deaf drummer could deal with comfortably. It's a few months since I've listened to this album properly and it suits my energised mood right now.

I went to bed with a smile on my face, a feeling of excitement and discovery in my left brain and a stomach jam packed with way too much Indian food. It could have been a dangerous night but all turned out nice and peaceful.

You see old Aunt Onetruecoolguy is down here in London for a few days and I trotted off with her and her husband last night to see that play thing, Mixed Routes, with Nimmi Harasgama. I may try to do some kind of review of the play, rather that trio of plays, later in the week. For now I'll just carry on telling you "pimped up diary" kind of stuff. I will tell you that the plays were rather entertaining and seriously thought provoking.

Being a bit of a thicko I didn't really get the last one, but it did have the most sublime salsa dancing which I was quite content to sit and enjoy. That's one of the good things about being me. Luckily old Aunt Onetruecoolguy's husband explained to me afterwards that it was about Guantanamo Bay and all then became clear. I think he was in a kindly mood towards me because I had bought a packet of watermelon flavoured jelly things before the play and the two of us fairly demolished them.

Java, I passed on your regards to Nimmi, she returned them in that dramatic way that all these acting types do so well. And I finally met Dhammika of Thinkfreed. It's true, he is rather huge and had to book two seats for him and his pot belly. Nice chap though and I wanted to talk more to him afterwards but he was nowhere to be seen.

As any of us would predict the audience was largely made up of Sri Lanka Diaspora. Everyone knew each other and there were only two Sri Lankans in the theatre who weren't related to each other. I guess these things happen sometimes, rare as it is.

Then, when I woke this morning I did that lazy sarong clad trek to the bathroom for that early morning pee, you know the one when you rub the sleep out of your eyes and feel a bit curious about what the world's going to hold in store for you today, all the while trying to tie the old sarong. And, as I walked past the long window at the top of my stairs I did a double take at what I saw.

White powder, more than I've witnessed at some of the more dodgy band practices I've been to, was fluttering in a downward direction and there was lots of it. I went to another window, as my dodgy rented house has more than one of them, and saw pretty thick snow covering the ground, with a sky that looked full of it. A couple of hours later as I peer out it's still falling and still settling. I must admit it makes me a tiny bit sad. It brought back memories of the girls when they were younger. Of how a flurry like this would make them jump out of bed and run out to have a snowfight and build a snowman.

I'm not sure if they're too old for that kind of behaviour now. They may well be staring at it with wide open eyes, or they might be just blase and matter of fact about it. I might even find out when they reply to my texts!

We'll see!

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Many Happy Returns To Kottu

Cerno tells us that Kottu is three years old today. I'm happy to take the esteemed blogger at his word, even though he makes a lot of things up for effect and attention! For example you probably thought all the Google Earth images he posts are real screen shots didn't you? But no, Cerno actually does a convincing job of drawing them in his front room, with a large pack of crayons that he got for his last birthday. Keep that to yourself though. If you want further proof just have another look at his posts and you'll see that none of them have got any purple in them. Well that's because he lost the purple crayon some time ago. I think we can safely consider the matter proven.

But I'd like to take this opportunity to wish Kottu the best and to thank Indi for his efforts. Like so many other bloggers Kottu is my first port of call when looking at Sri Lankan blogs and I love the way he lets it run and keeps things all smooth and slick.

So Indi, great job, turn around and give yourself a big pat on the back, and thanks from me.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

I Just Can't Find The Words

I've loved music all my life. I think much of that is a Sri Lankan thing and that many of us have been brought up in an environment in which music was continually in the background. Maybe it's the same for you, maybe not.

But, I've never been a fellow who pays much attention to lyrics. I know chaps who listen to every word of a song, who can recite the vocal line to every one of their favourite songs at the drop of a hat. Then they go home and talk to other chaps about the deep and meaningful second verse of the song that they heard earlier. Well, that's not me, which could explain partly why I play the drums rather than ponce about with a microphone flicking my hair and being late for every band practice.

These days when I learn a song I often use the lyrics as signposts to get my drum part right. I pay attention to the words to learn that, when the singer says that bit, I have to go to my ride cymbal or change my part to a different groove, or whatever. Of course this is a poor substitute for learning the drum part properly, which involves ignoring the lyrics and concentrating on the feel of the song and the structure of it and whole signpost principle is only as good as the singer's ability to remember the words. Most of the singers I've played with always remember the words but aren't always sure of the order.

Yes I know that songwriters cite lyrics as being vitally important to the success of a song, but they remain something I pay little attention to. The norm in the music industry is that half of the royalties are paid to the lyricist and half to the composer, so they are clearly held in high regard by others.

I was watching a slightly fantastic jazz funk band the other night in the regular gig at my local that I told you about here. They were a bunch of twenty something guys, all brilliant musicians, the type that could easily have filled me with envy and jealousy and, well, they did. Bastards.

The drummer was a bloke that I've read about in a few of my drum magazines, quite well known in the drum world and this was the first time I'd ever seen or heard him play. He looked to be an unassuming sort of guy and walked casually aruond the pub beforehand as if he was a tad on the shy and nervous side. But, as soon as he was behind the kit, he was a changed man. I understood. He looked as if sitting behind the kit was the place that made him feel the most comfortable and not just because his drum stool had a lot of padding.

The band was great, a bit more on the jazz side than the funk side for my liking but I could appreciate their immense musicianship. The guitarist did most of the talking and introduced one song along these lines:

"This song's about a date the drummer had a while ago"

I was surprised at the whole concept of a drummer having a date but other than that all seemed normal. They played the song and I listened with baited ears, thinking that I'd ask him later how to get a date.

The next song was given another introduction by the guitarist:

"This song's called 'Dinner with Dave'. It's about a dinner that our drummer had with a famous drummer called Dave Weckl."

They kicked off, in a musical way. Another good song followed. Bastards. Again. One word sentences. More.

I decided to leave after their first set. I was a bit knackered and had made a spectacularly nice mince curry the night before. The leftovers were calling me, the rice was cooked and I strolled home with a nonchalent air and a slightly rumbling stomach. As I strolled past the Teddington kebab shop it hit me, like a raspberry jelly falling out of a plane.

What hit me was the indisputable fact that none of the songs the band played had any words. They were all instrumentals. Words were not involved, not even a random "the" chucked in or a stray "love" anywhere.

Even with my disregard for lyrics at the best of times I struggle with this concept, particularly considering the introductions and stories behind the two songs I mentioned. How the hell can a song be about a dinner that the drummer had with Dave Weckl when it's got no words? How can another be about the drummer's date with someone when it doesn't tell us anything?

Perhaps the quiet bit in the Dave Weckl song reflected the few minutes when Mr Weckl went off for a pee during dinner, maybe the loud and thrashy bit in the date song was about the argument that the drummer and his date had about the merits of BMWs compared to Mercs. Frankly I don't understand.

I understand if an instrumental is called "Song 1" or "Song 3". If one were named "Song 2" that would be a rip off because Blur have already done that and it's got words too. But the whole long story behind an instrmental, the whole "this is what it's about" thing and the plot and background are mysteries to me.

Call an instrumental "Beethoven's ninth" or even his seventh by all means but all this story stuff baffles me.

It's probably me being simplistic I'm expecting an avalanche of Javas and Theenas to come up with complex and detailed examples of instrumentals with highly involved plots and sub plots.

But I just don't get it.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Last Of The Two Parters

My recent spate of two part posts has been unplanned and unintentional. I don't want LLD to be some kind of soap opera, nor do I want my life (as wittily portrayed by me) to be one. The main reason for the flurry of two parters has been simple; I started to write each one and realised that it was going to be a huge long thing so gave up at a reasonable point with some dots and the intention of finishing later. Sorry about that, I don't want to make it a habit......

But the next episode of K, Me and the Poo has to be installed, because it was funny and because it followed where we left off, as next episodes usually do.

Remember we'd dropped off the poo infested Converse Allstar at the girls' mother's place, much to her chagrin. We headed off to Kingston, our fairly local shopping centre / town / chav's place. The only regular reader that I know for sure knows Kingston is Lady Luck, but she hasn't been heard of since about 1942.

At 11 and 13 the girls still fight for the front seat of my car. It doesn't matter if the journey is a quick half mile trip or a mammoth one, the fighting is still the same. It involves both of them arguing about who sat in it last, a run down of recent journeys and who sat where, then a furious two way sprint in the general direction of the car with some shouting paternal type things from me. Sadly the combat isn't about the pleasure of sitting in the seat next to me, it's simply about who gets control of the stereo and therefore, in theory at least, who gets to choose the music.

I've noticed something with the two of them in the last few months that I hadn't expected to be so marked and, well actually I hadn't expected it at all really. It's that they're suddenly forging out their individual identities in that big thing called life. With slightly less than two years between them they've always been best buddies as well as worst enemies and, when not at school, they've pretty much done everything together, sharing things in that way that a pair of siblings often do.

They've listened to the same music and had the same taste, they've worn clothes similar in style, though never in that Sri Lankan way when you see siblings dressed in identical clothing.

But they're now branching out on their own and finding themselves and it's quite fascinating to watch. K, the younger one who you know so well, is going down that grungey route. She's listening to the music and dressing the part. It's all angsty American bands and skinny jeans, Converse (s) and dark clothing.

A, the elder statesgirl, is more English yoof in her approach. It's one of hoodies with expensive labels, trainers and Timbaland CDs and other R+B types. More strangely she's a huge Luciano Pavarotti fan (honestly) and no one can figure out why. She's got CDs and videos of him and drives everyone around her crazy with this unusual fondness for the late tenor.

As time rolls on I know that they'll separate even more in their likes and dislikes and in their strengths and weaknesses too.

It reminds me of myself and Academic Bro, the way we have gone through similar experiences. These days he's the lucky and gifted one. He's got the intellect and sheer brainpower that I would give my right and left brain for. He writes things that people read and then they go off and write about what he's written and he's got letters after his name. I've been the one who merely got shallow and lightweight qualities, of no use in everyday life. All I have is my good looks, a brilliant sense of style, my charm and my captivating sense of humour. One has to make the most though.

K had won the battle fot the front seat this time. I think her determination had been the deciding factor and most of that was because, for the ten minute trip to Kingston, she had grabbed two CDs from her bedroom that she wanted us to listen to. It's one of those touching warming things actually, that K really wanted me to listen to the CDs and to like them, some sort of approval thing. Well we spent the journey flicking through the tracks, A already knew them inside out because they had been inflicted upon her incessantly.

The CDs? One was an old My Chemical Romance album and the other was by some American sounding band called Paramor (sp?). I listened and told K that Paramor wasn't my bag of chips, too straight sounding and not even the slightest hint of funkiness present. My pleasure at the fact that they both love music and already have a passion for it far outweighs any negatives about what either of them is currently listening to and I think they both know that. I get a dichotomous sense of satisfaction when I try to reverse out of their drive and can't get the car in gear because the front seat occupant has already got her hand on the iDrive thing and is "sorting out" the music. It makes me proud that they're so into their music and a bit pissed off that I can't get the car into gear.

We got to Kingston. The trip was littered with a selection of tracks from My Chemical Romance, Paramor and Muse, yet had only lasted about ten minutes. After being bombarded with the first two bands I had pulled rank and insisted on Muse, probably the one band all three of us like, which explains why they let me pull rank.

Our first task was to get some new school shoes for K. Her previous ones had broken, probably from moshing or something, and the requirement was urgent. As I was led into the first shop by the two of them I looked around at its customers. They were all youngish girls and women, the sort that chaps of my age feel uncomfortable looking at for fear of having "sticky" eyes and then getting arrested.

A diplomatic way of putting it would be to say that this shop didn't look like a borough approved supplier of school uniform. The first part of the shop my eyes had fallen upon was one full of bras, flimsy ones at that. I averted my gaze and peered at a bigger part of the shop. This one was full of thongs and brightly coloured G strings. You know me, I believe that pants should be subdued and kept private, so I was distinctly uncomfortable.

"Come on Dad, the shoes are over here, at the back" said a daughter, probably one of mine.

I was like one of those hypnotised people. I was fully cognisant of what was going on but I couldn't control it and I felt uneasy about it. At some level in my mind I knew I was in the middle of a scam, I just didn't know what was going to happen or how it would reveal itself.

Part 3 will follow..........