Friday, October 29, 2010

I Am

For the first time in a while there's a new kid in the Lankanosphere, one that I'm captivated by and excited about.

It's less of a blog, more of a project, one that is accessible via a blog and is listed on Kottu.

Kannan Arunasalam, the maker, is a friend of mine. In the short time I've known him I've been bowled over by his still photography. In fact he's rapidly becoming one of my favourite photographers. Most of his images give me that butterfly in the stomach feeling, the one that's my first point of reference in deciding whether a photograph is brilliant or not.

This project, called I am, is a combination of photographs and audio. Here's what Kannan says himself:

"I wanted to find out whether there were people around who still remembered that time or spoke in those ways. My journey took me to Jaffna, Kandy and Galle, where I met a generation of Sri Lankans who helped to shed light on these questions.

"wise men and women"I captured their stories in sound and pictures and the ‘i am’ oral history project was born.

‘i am’ tells the stories of 36 Sri Lankan elders, about their lives and work, and their connections to their hometown. These wise men and women also reflect on the positive and negative changes that have taken place over the years.

With the movement of people away from their hometowns, particularly from Jaffna and Galle, I also spoke to the so called ‘internal diaspora’, about their longing for their hometowns and their sense of belonging to their adoptive homes.

I found storytellers who were willing to share their lives with me, and from the collection of narratives, I chose 36 characters to showcase on this site. I also wanted to encourage those I met on my journey to tell others about the project, and in turn, encourage them to tell their own stories.

Over the coming weeks, I’ll be posting these narratives three at a time and take you through my journey.

I want you to engage with these stories of community, identity and coexistence, to see how different or similar they are, and to think about what we can learn from the past, and take forward, and what is better left behind."

Check it out, it's rather brilliant, very fascinating and makes a chap feel proud of his heritage. Well, if the chap is me, not some random fellow from Uzbekistan. There's even one about a drummer, though it's not me and I'm guessing he can't play anything by the Killers or Muse.

This was a public service announcement from RD, with slightly messed up formatting because of a combination of copying, pasting and ignorance.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Adventures Of A Sri Lankan Son

Picture the picture; there we were last Saturday night. It was my Dad's birthday soiree and most of my parents' good friends, those that are in London at least, were there.

They're getting older these people and I find it poignant, disturbing and worrying to think of the people who would have been there a few years ago and who are no longer alive. It reminds me of how lucky I am that my olds are still around, even though they're both more mental than a bag of psychotic extra strong mints.

On top of that there are a number of their long term friends who've now retired to foreign climes, foreign that is, if you're based in the UK. Many have returned to the motherland where their sterling goes a bit further and some have brightened other areas of the world with their presence.

The crowd was very white with a small smattering of Lankans and other internationals, yet the flavour of the evening was distinctly British. I couldn't help comparing it with how it would have been if my parents had been in Sri Lanka and held it there. Even in their seventies I reckon there would have been much more alcohol, music and generally joyous behaviour. Music played very much a tertiary role in this party. There were some notes wafting around randomly in the background but the volume was so low that I can't tell you what it was.

The conversation was decent and polite. In my case there was lots of telling people about A and K, what they're up to (at least the bits I know about) and quite a bit of telling people about C too. One or two more adventurous types even asked about me.

Much amusement was had by me and Academic Bro as we witnessed some of the older crowd thinking we were each other, or Music Biz Bro, who couldn't be there because of a work thing.

Through all this polite Britishness my Mum managed to produce one of her more golden moments, a chunk of pure Sri Lankan motherness that, for once, I wasn't on the receiving end of.

There was myself and Academic Bro talking to Uncle K. You know Uncle K, he's the oldish retired lawyer with three grown up daughters. Nice bloke, very into cars and most captivating to chat with.

Well we were chewing the cud about something, with my Mum hovering dangerously on the fringe of the conversation when it veered towards the matter of A, one of Uncle K's daughters. Strangely I've never met any of these daughters but I know a bit about them. I believe they're roughly the same ages as myself and my two brothers and that they're mainly married and have kids and that sort of stuff now.

One of uncle K's daughters, the one called A, appeared, not in real life but as subject matter in the conversation. I mentioned that I'd never met her and Academic Bro mentioned that he had met her, though didn't know her very well.

At this point my Mum decided to do some damage and pounced.

"Yes you remember A, you used to quite like her didn't you." she accented the "quite like her" bit.

Us men exchanged glances. Uncle K, the father of the girl concerned made a polite attempt to shift the conversation, but my Mum was wise to this and planted it firmly back on course.

"Yes yes, remember you used to fancy her" she said, just to clear up any doubt.

Uncle K and Academic Bro, had they entered a competition at that moment to find the most awkwardly embarrassed people in the world, would have come joint first. If, at the same time there had been a competition for smug git, I reckon I would have been in with a good shout and, had there been one for most blissfully unaware of what she'd done, my Mum would have been making a thank you speech.

Academic Bro had a sheepish look on his face. This made me wonder if he might have slept with the girl and added to my feeling of smugness. He was in a seriously precarious position. What should a fellow do when faced with this scenario?

Does he deny all? Perhaps saying that he wouldn't have touched her with a bargepole and thereby incurring the wrath of the father. Does he admit to things and say that actually she liked things a bit kinky? Or jump out of the window.

He's not called Academic Bro for nothing. Actually in reality he's not actually called Academic Bro at all. His large brain ticked over, recalling his years of study, critical thinking and knowledge gathering. Then he came out with his response. It was a brilliant example of lateral thinking, pushing the envelope and running fish up the flagpole to see if they swim.

He pursed his lips and made a hissing sound. A bit like a child making spit bubbles when they've just discovered the concept. Then, as a follow up, he did it again.

Uncle K, quite a diplomatic sort, moved the conversation on this time. I haven't a clue what about as I was laughing inwardly too much.

Later on, as I dropped Academic at the station he said to me:

"Just for the record I never fancied A you know."

We chuckled and he said how relieved he was that his newish wife wasn't part of that conversation. Both of us knew that our Mother would have said exactly the same thing if she'd been there.

It was a close escape. I almost felt for the fellow.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Man's First Car

I saw a friend on Facebook the other day who had bunged up an old picture of his first ever car. It was a beaten up mini with character, memories and no doubt oil too, oozing out of every pore.

Said friend had written a little thing talking about the car; the parties he used to go to in it and the good times, stuff we can all relate to. Then, he'd rounded off with the all important sentence, the one that made me think and made me write this post, not that I've written it yet. He said

"And it was surprisingly fast, it went like a bomb."

I did a double take at the photograph. In fact I did two double takes, then thought "hmmm". No way did this little Mini, with its engine that probably wouldn't be sufficient to power the fellow's hairdryer these days, go "like a bomb".

And said fellow is bald as a coot these days too.

But I chuckled, for this isn't a criticism of the particular fellow, it's more a prod at all men, for we all do this. When it comes to cars, driving and men there's some sort of link to our ego that doesn't apply to women.

You'll never catch a man (and I include myself in this) tell you how his first car was actually a heap of crap that would get overtaken by bullocks and milk floats. You'll never hear a man tell you how his first car was cheap, nasty and devoid of all character. You never hear a member of the male species tell you how his first love car was old and unreliable.

Oh no. The correct way in man world to put across these points is to say that the car went like a bomb, that it was full of character, probably with a name, something only women continue to do with good cars. And old and unreliable becomes "I used to do all the work on it myself you know, in those days you could work on a car yourself".

Somewhere in the recesses of the automotive world, is a hidden fleet of crappy cars. Things like old Minis, Beetles, Ford Fiestas, Nissan Micras, in fact any old Jap cars, and they've all been secretly fitted with Ferrari engines. No one knows about them openly but, when a chap buys his first car, nature's car fairies covertly supply one. I'm not sure what the situation is with gay men though. I can see that somewhere within the framework of car fairies and gay men is a very funny joke, I just can't pinpoint it.

Women never get given one of these car, except Vicki Butler Henderson, the exception to every rule about men and cars.

As we men get older, usually increasing our wealth and buying cars that are better, faster and more damaging to the environment, our first car becomes more legendary, faster and more stylishly full of character.

Women use cars as a means of getting from A to B, always doing it more quickly than men because, mysteriously, they think it's perfectly acceptable to stop and ask for directions within a few minutes of getting lost. Yet every man without exception thinks he's the next Lewis Hamilton, Mark Webber or Benjamin Button's brother just waiting to be discovered.

Mad no?

For the record my first car was an orange VW Beetle, registration HRY 113L. I never had to do any maintenance on it, I called it Henry and it was a beauty.

Oh, and it went like a bomb.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Dominic Sansoni - Simple, My Arse!

I was checking out Dom's photoblog the other day and came across this post. In his reply to some complimentary comments the Honourable Mr S says:

"Very simple, fly over something nice and just point camera out the window"

I read and made a noise. The noise went like this:

"Pah" though I was on my own watching a football match on TV and no one heard me, so I could be making it up, or exaggerating, something I do all the time.

My "Pah" was because his "blah, blah just point and shoot" comment reminded me of a story my Grandmother used to narrate. You know how Grandmothers, in between their sporadic outbursts of total madness, can pass on nuggets of wisdom that stick in your head waiting for the appropriate moment to show themselves.

In my experience the nuggets have a tendency to sleep through the one point in my life when they should have revealed themselves and helped me, then they wake about a month later and find they've missed the boat entirely.

Well this story, as told by aforementioned Grandmother, went like this:

A chap, we'll call him Alphonso, as it's a name I like, have heard often but never come across in real life, well, apart from in the world of mangos of course, goes into a garage. He's accompanied by his car. I don't know exactly what car it is as my Grandmother never told me and I wouldn't want to make things up. There's a knocking sound coming from the engine.

The mechanic asks if he can help. Alphonso tells him that there's a knocking sound coming from the engine and he wondered if the mechanic could take a look. You already knew about the knocking sound but the mechanic didn't, for he didn't read my blog.

He looks, he hisses, tuts and takes a good few sharp intakes of breath, the first things they teach you at semi skilled tradesman classes.

"Can you fix it?" our hero asks.

"Yes I can"

Alphonso instructs the mechanic to do the business. Our skilled manual labourer walks over to his tool kit and grabs a hammer. He heads to the engine bay with it and smacks a part of the engine just once, then asks Alphonso to start the car.

Alphonso carries out the instruction and finds the noise gone and the engine sounding sweet as a nut. He's pleased about that, though wonders why the saying exists as nuts aren't really sweet, and asks the semi skilled labourer how much he is owed.

"That'll be a hundred pounds" he says assertively.

"£100! You're joking aren't you?" Alphonso says. It's interesting to note that Alphonso always said numbers in digits whereas the mechanic used the full written words.

"How can it be £100? You only smacked it with a hammer, anyone could have done that"

"Well that's the price and you're paying it"

"Okay, in that case I want a breakdown of the bill, there's no way you can justify that price"

The mechanic ambles off towards the office area, does some stuff with a pen and paper and returns a minute or two later. He gives the paper to Alphonso. It's an itemised bill, it says:

"Hitting engine with hammer - £5

20 years experience, knowledge and training to know exactly where to hit with hammer - £95

Total £100"

Alphonso paid the bill. He was faced with a mechanic with a hammer after all.

The moral of the story. Well there are two; Firstly that when these fellows say something like "just point and shoot" they're actually being bashful. The difference between them and us is that they've put in all that effort, work and practice into knowing exactly where to point, when to shoot and which settings to use.


Never take your car to Dominic Sansoni to get it fixed.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Of Cards And Mothers

A fellow I know, definitely not Academic Bro, definitely not him at all, who got married recently told me a story that made us chuckle.

His mother, definitely not my mother you understand, forwarded a congratulations card, specifically a congratulations on getting married card. It was from a friend of the fellow's mother, a friend the fellow has met only a couple of times, whom the mother plays bridge with.

The mother, and I do hope you're managing to keep up with the complex character mix here, forwarded the card and enclosed the address of the sender, presumably so the fellow could send a thank you to the bridge playing bloke.

Mothers, Sri Lankan ones in particular, are like that aren't they?

"Did you ring Aunty X and thank her for using your toilet?"

"You must call Uncle Y and thank him for letting you lend him that money."

"Are you going to call Uncle Z and thank him for coming there for dinner the other night?"

And on it goes. Feel free to add your own ridiculous but totally true examples. It's all because the mother feels that the behaviour of the child is a reflection of her. Fathers, in my experience don't really think like this.

I have a mother, though I won't identify her specifically, who often tells me, when I complain about her treating me like a child, that I'll always be her child. I was always stumped by this, until about a year ago.

Then I came up with an answer: "Yes, I may always be your child but that doesn't mean you have to treat me like a child."

But I digress. The thing is that this thanking people business can go on to the nth degree. Thank you cards are statistically proven to be the fastest growing seller in the UK and Sri Lankan card industries. Last year more were sold than birthday cards and the growth is expected to continue.

I'm going to capitalise on this and get in on the ground level, at the beginning of the product life cycle graph.

Before you know it you'll see the launch of the RD "Thank you for the thank you card" range of cards. Of course, after that there'll be a further generation, because one can't receive one of these cards and not thank the sender.

Remember you heard it here first.

PS - Some of the statistics in this post might be total bollocks, made up entirely.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Open Minded Parenting

I reckon I'm fairly liberal and open minded in general, but also in terms of parenting. I'm unsure which way round it is but I think, in order to parent A and K, one has to be, the alternative is just not worth thinking about.

Things can be a test at the best of times. That boy Z still sticks to K like some sort of extra strong glue and I have to to try to draw a line between allowing, disallowing and not being in a position to stamp my authority down anyhow. A has now started college and is busy trying out tobacco and God knows what else and I'm lucky to get more than "fine" as an answer to any question these days.

Their time with me consists of me providing food, money, shelter and of course power; power to juice up their laptops so they can be online and talking to their friends, the ones they've spent all day with.

There are the occasional moments when we come together in a meeting of interests but, truth be told, they're few and far between. The last one was going to see Muse about a month ago, when we all got into the moment and had a blast. The next? Who knows.

But, these are mostly the things that all parents have to deal with at some point. I do feel a little bit sorry for myself when I dwell on my theory that it's not only different for Dad of girls, but that's it's even more different for Dads who don't live with their daughters.

Everyone I talk to says that I shouldn't worry, that all daughters have a special bond with their father. Well yes, I know that and I've seen it, it's just that it takes a while, usually once they grow up and hit adulthood. Teenage girls and their mothers are as close as a President and his war winning army commander, that's just the way things are. Even when I was living with them I often felt like I was a male teacher in a girls' school who'd accidentally found some of the pupils having a slumber party.

These are just things I figure I have to deal with and get on with.

But yesterday my tolerance was pushed and tested to the very outer edge of of its limit. It was a casual phone conversation with K and went along the lines of:

"Hello Miss K, what are you up to?" said I.

"Well, I've got a whole list of jobs to do before Mum gets back from Sainsburys" she replied.

"Oh okay, that sounds nice, where's A then?"

"She's at work" she said.

"Oh yes, I'd forgotten about that." said I. A has started her first job, at a local garden centre on Sundays you see.

We had some more chat, about her new contact lenses and how she's getting on with them, detail that I'm sure won't interest you, and then she hit me with the bombshell.

It's hard to prepare a chap for a bombshell, particularly a surprising one like this. I thought I'd brought up A and K as well as I could, to be respectful and "normal", to operate within the parameters of decency and be content.

"And in a minute" she continued.

"In a minute I'm going to walk down to the shop"

All well and good, you're thinking. You'd be right, so far.

"And buy myself a.......


"Buy yourself a what?" I asked incredulously.

She repeated the P word, one I'm reluctant even to type here.

"What? What's wrong with Coke?" I pleaded.

"Well it's just that Pepsi's got, kind of, well, a bit more bite to it" said K sheepishly, as sheepishly as she ever gets, which is not much.

I could tell that she was aware of my disappointment, though I did my best to disguise it. I've tried to teach them that life is about perspectives, opinions, more about different realities that right and wrong.

But I must admit I'm struggling to come to terms with this. A daughter of mine thinking that Pepsi is better tasting than Coke?

Whatever next?

Thursday, October 7, 2010

RD is.....

...putting a status update in the wrong place.

...rather enjoying the speed and smoothness of Google Chrome, even compared to Firefox

...playing with another new bass pedal

...pining a bit

...singing Cheryl Cole's new song's chorus, thanks to PseudoRandom for telling me the words!

...learning and practicing some great sixteenth note fills

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Auf, The Guru, The Diaspora And The Sex Shop.

And so it came to pass last weekend that I found myself sitting in a workshop, a serious one. It was about the role of the diaspora in the rehabilitation and development of post war Sri Lanka and, being the serious minded person you know me for, I was primarily concerned about my choice of footwear for the thing.

I'd gone for my white Converse Jack Purcells, a nice variation on the more traditional and common Chuck Taylors that all the world and his wife, as well as their kids, are wearing these days. My worry; that I wouldn't be portraying a serious enough image to fit in, dissolved as soon as I saw the state of the other people there.

Scientists have established that if you took a sample of about a hundred academics only one of them would be trendy in his appearance, probably Academic Bro actually. If I owned a university I'd have some kind of dress code, one that didn't involve long gowns and hats that are only good for pigeons to land on.

My second major concern was the correct pronounciation of the word "diaspora". I mean, what's going on here? It's "dee ass porer", it's "die ass pora", it's "dee ass pourer", in fact it's any combination you can think of. These things should be sorted out when words are invented to avoid confusion.

Honestly, I really don't know how I came to be invited to this thing, but I was and it was a highly interesting day, with a bunch of quite diverse and thought provoking people. There was even a Professor there, giving a presentation that I found very informative.

I sat next to The Auf, a nervewracking position to be in. It was like going to a new school, being placed in the gifted and talented class because of a clerical error, then finding myself sitting next to the brightest kid in the room. Not only that but The Auf's mate, The Guru, was one of the people speaking.

At one point The Auf mistook my doodles for mind maps and thought I was busily making notes and taking it all in. I let it pass and then hastily started to do some mind maps to keep up the pretence.

At the end of it I found myself wandering the streets of London with The Auf and The Guru, heading to a bookshop the former was keen to investigate. You can imagine my consternation. As the fast living rock 'n' rolling type of chap that you know I was reluctant to be spotted by one of my fans walking with these two rather serious looking fellows.

The Guru, having just landed a few days earlier, was entirely unused to London life and spent much of his time strolling into the path of oncoming vehicles because he hadn't heard a horn, leaving shop doors wide open, that sort of thing. The Auf, having been here for a few years, has morphed into a Londoner of sorts. Of course he still dresses like one of the blokes in Machang going for an immigration interview, but apart from that he's more or less a cockney now.

We strolled, me feeling like I was auditioning for a weird film, them feeling, well, probably like they were auditioning for a weird film. At one point we stopped to take some pictures, doing that whole grabbing a passing stranger and asking him to take a picture then wondering if he might run off and nick the camera thing. Unfortunately I managed to look gay in one, putting across a slightly mincing impression that I hadn't intended.

After a visit to another bookshop, in which I found a little treasure of a book on drums and the other two bought all sorts of serious works, we parted company. I confess that I was surprised and startled, nay disappointed, by their intention and felt the need to leave, to distance myself from their frankly sordid influence over me.

A dinner invite, perhaps a non alcoholic drink, a museum or an art gallery would have been perfectly good for me. Maybe a meeting in a club to discuss some serious issues, perhaps more about the diaspora and its involvment with Sri Lanka would have interested me greatly.

But no. The Guru and The Auf, formerly my heroes and role models, had decided that they wanted to go and visit shop. I wasn't going to be part of this, sullying my own good reputation for the sake of seediness and dirty, filthy stuff.

Would you adam and eve it, as The cockney Auf would say. You just never know.

Monday, October 4, 2010


I saw this over at DD's place and it reminded me of a post I've been meaning to write for a while. I hear it a lot, from my kids and many others who are younger than me, a vastly growing group!

It's when someone makes a mistake and people tease and mock them and say something like:

"a ha!"

The "culprit" then feels suitably embarrassed, crawls into a nearby hole and is never seen again. It was a long time ago but I'm sure that we didn't tease people with this particular word and strain when I was younger. And, by younger, I'm talking about people in their twenties as well as teens.

You see, I'm a believer in failure. I'm a fan of it. I reckon all great bands and musicians make mistakes when they play live, that it's their ability and musical greatness that enables them to get out of things seamlessly, so seamlessly that often it's only the artistes and not the audience who even know what's happened.

It's the way a band fucks up and gets out of it successfully that shows they've pushed the boundaries, made mistakes and learned from them in the past.

A and K now mock me when I say things like this

"Oh here goes Dad, 'mistakes are good, it means we're pushing ourselves' blah, blah, blah" are the kind of things they say.

But I mean it.

Repetitive mistakes are a bit crap though. We must learn and improve.

I used to have a friend who boasted that she was always right. At the time I admired her for it, thinking that I'd love to be an always right person. Twenty odd years later I feel entirely different. Always right signifies a person who isn't stretching themselves, who isn't trying new things and is always operating within their own circle of safety.

In my humble O it's far better to be a person who's sometimes wrong, though I'd prefer not to be always wrong!

So I challenge you. The next time you hear someone say something like "ha ha ha...epic fail" just ask them what's wrong with that. The next time you're about to tease someone for "failing" themselves, just pause and think on it.

Failure is good.

If you don't believe me ask Michael Jordan:

Friday, October 1, 2010

The Sexiest Car Ever!

The Ferrari Dino that is.

RIP Tony Curtis, one of life's true geezers.

You've Got To Have A Dream

If you don't have a dream how are you going to make a dream come true?

So the song goes, though I think, if I was being picky, I'd say "how you gonna make a dream come true?" But I ain't no American fake gansta kid so we'll stick to the Queen's English in these parts.

The thing is I'm a firm and ardent believer in objectives, aims and goals. From work to drumming to even writing this blog I have objectives and goals. Often I lose sight or forget about them, sometimes for months, and lapse into a state of "being" in that specific area of my life, just existing on autopilot and wallowing in the current.

And that's where I also face a quandary.

Goals are good, objectives are obligatory and aims are all important. Yet I've realised that they can be barriers, barriers to enjoying the moment.

In recent years, while gigging, I've got into the habit of enjoying playing a song and looking down at my set list to try to mentally prepare myself for the next song. I'm sure it's something many musicians do. While playing one song I switch into "autodrummer" mode, which many might say is an oxymoronic term anyhow, and start to think of the groove, tempo and feel of the next song.

The result is that I'm better prepared for what's to come but that I also lose out on some of the enjoyment in playing that song that's going on at the time. It's a small scale example of the life quandary I'm referring to; that of being so focussed on what's in front of you, so set on achieving the target that we forget to relax and enjoy the now.

But how do we strike the balance? It seems to me that enjoying the now is pretty much in direct opposition to planning for the future.

In the drumming thing I've started to try to leave my glancing at the setlist thing to the last possible moment, to enjoy the current song as long as I can before I then look down and plan the next one.

Is that the answer?

And a merry weekend and a merry October to you out there!