Thursday, December 22, 2011

A Very Merry Christmas

Time seems to be getting more and more scarce these days. Which is weird, as when I last looked, there were still twenty four hours in a day. Perhaps they're making the hours shorter or something.

Still, I thought I'd write a quickie to wish you and yours a merry festive season. It's been a big year, with lots of good stuff and some not so good things.

I wish you well and will return stuffed to the brim with turkey and all the trimmings.

RD x

Monday, December 19, 2011

Spitting Games.

As if to remind me that I haven't been blogging enough lately I sign in to Blogger to write this post and discover that everything's changed. It's all a bit weird and all sorts of nice friendly features that I'd grown accustomed to have vanished. Progress is good, but these people, Google, Facebook and their counterparts could do a far better job in keeping us informed about how to deal with it.

Anyhow, that's my little rant over and done with.

Oh, no it's not. Fuck me, I've just signed out of Blogger, signed back in and it's totally changed. What the hell is this? Five minutes ago I was presented with a page that I was pretty familiar with, just with some things missing. Now I've got a new one, all shiny and glitzy, with the things that were missing from before now present but in scary positions. Dare I click on any of it? No, I need to get my confidence first, do some baby steps, maybe a bit of easy spellchecking to start with. Irony MUST be exemplified by the fact that the word "spellchecking" that I wrote about fifteen words ago has been underlined in red, presumably to indicate it's wrong. Ha! I bask in my own rebelliousness!

So anyhow I was at a friend's gig on Saturday night. It's rare for me to get out on these social things here so I rolled up at the pub, got myself a drink and tried my utmost to look as if I do these things all the time. I found a table, one of those elbow height ones, and lounged at it casually. After about five minutes of standing there I realised that I'd chosen a location about as practical as a one legged man at an arse kicking party. It was bang smack in the middle of the path to the toilets and every few minutes I was required to move and breathe in to let people past. This being England it was all done with plenty of excuse mes and sorrys, but still, it left a lot to be desired.

But, I had perceived coolness at stake so decided not to move, coupled with the fact that there was nowhere to move to.  I stood my ground. If these polite bastards wanted me to move, well, I was just going to jolly well move. That's the way I saw it. Sometimes there's just no moving me.

The pub was the one that The Breaks, my covers band, consider to be our home venue, so there was some competitiveness going on in my head, mostly to do with the size of the audience. They were all about average height, so that was okay, but I was a might perturbed to notice the place was rammed full of people, quite young ones at that. I decided that it was because it was a band full of quite old blokes and most of the young crowd were the kids and their friends of the bandmembers. Yes, that was it. Definitely. Here, out of interest, do you always have trouble typing the word "definitely"? I do, usually getting it wrong the first time, just thought I'd ask.

Anyhow, the band kicked off and immediately the audience started to dance. Pfft. I thought. And frankly I meant it. About two bars, perhaps four, into the first song my friend M arrived with his son C. C is one of these teenagers who can play the guitar like some sort of demon. He must spend about twenty nine hours a day locked away in his bedroom practicing his guitar and will probably be a rock god before we know it. At his age I was locked away in my bedroom practicing too. Only my "practicing" was a very different instrument and involved lots of posters of Debbie Harry and copious amounts of tissues.

We chatted for a bit. C is going to play a few songs with us on our gig on Thursday and, truth be told, I think I'm far more nervous about it that he is. Then another fellow, I'll call him R, mooched on over to us. I said hello, as one does, and he introduced himself to me. I find introductions to be a bit of a downer when they're being done for the second or third time. I'd met this chap at least twice before and he's even see me play a couple of times, but no, he had no recollection of me whatsoever. I think I need to work on my personality, or get a silly hat or something.

Still, he's a guitarist, so these things are to be expected.

We embarked on one of those "muso" conversations, about jam sessions, venues in our neck of the woods, that sort of thing. Of course I'm a drummer, not a real musician, but I can usually bluff these chats, unless the subject turns to tones, when things start to get out of my depth. If semi tones come up then I'm totally out of my depth. I know that there are two tones in a semi tone, but that's my limit.

As we were in a pub with a band playing we needed to be quite close together in order to hold a conversation, so there was only a few inches between us. Then, bang, or rather splash, it hit me, a small globule of saliva from R's mouth landed just below my bottom lip. No big deal I thought, these things happen occasionally. I was faced with that mental quandary of whether to wipe the spit away, thereby running the risk of insulting R by drawing attention to it, or just leave it, perhaps making me look like a bloke with egg on my face. I went for the latter, but ordered a small portion of spit instead of the aforementioned egg dish.

A few seconds later I felt another little globule hit me. Again I gave R the benefit of the doubt. It was clear as  daylight that he had been wholly unaware of the propellants leaving his mouth and I carried on like a gent. You, being smart, have figured out what happens next. On the night I didn't. Well, I did, but only after it happened.

Not eight seconds later another one hit me. One can be random, two can be coincidence, but three is the beginning of a trend. And a trend it was. As the conversation continued, none of which I can recall, the shower just got busier. If I was a deer I would have started to sing a song about splish splish splosh little April showers. But I'm not a deer and this was no jolly little April shower. All I could think of was that episode of Friends, the one in which Joey has to deal with the spitting English actor. It got to the point that I could see these missiles leave R's mouth, but couldn't dodge them.

I saw the globules depart, felt them land and was defenceless, like Bambi's mother being shot by the poachers (surely one of the saddest cinematic moments of them all).  I couldn't move away, couldn't stop the conversation as it was only me and R who were involved and the only possible thing I could think of was to launch a counter attack. I mulled the idea over, like wine, but then decided against it. R was blissfully unaware of his actions and a counter attack ran the risk that he would walk away thinking I was an accidental spitter, maybe writing a blog post about me or something. Imagine that.

I battled through, bravely, like a brave chap. Some hit my eyes, making me glad I don't wear contact lenses anymore, the rest of it landed on random spots on my face, perhaps some hit my hair but I couldn't tell, hair being not that sensitive. Or plentiful in my case.

I thought of Joey and of the kebab I planned to purchase for my dinner on the way home. I absolutely HAD to remember to wash my face when I got in prior to stuffing it with kebab. God alone, well god and the kebab makers that is, know what goes into one of these things but I had no intention whatsoever of adding R's spit to the experience. It probably helps with the digestion and all but I'm a firm advocate of the using my own saliva not someone else's school of thought.

After some time R and C discovered each other and their mutual interest in guitars. They set off on a conversation about flying Zs or something and were lost in their world. I sloped off to watch the drummer, as there was much to learn from his rather tasty playing, and all was good. Except for young C, who no doubt face the same spit barrage that I did.

When I got home, kebab and chips in hand, I did remember to wash my face. The kebab was deliciously disgusting as always and I went off to bed with that disgustingly satiated feeling that only a kebab can create.  I'm thinking about carrying some sunglasses around with me in case I ever meet another chap like R. Or even better, those joke ones with windscreen wipers attached. Yes, that just might work...

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Christmas Joy And Whatnot

I was asked earlier why I haven' t written a blog post for such a long time. I cobbled together some sort of answer, along the lines of "I've been busy...I haven't got many things to say about Sri Lanka at the moment....Yes, yes I must write something soon....but none of the 'regulars' are blogging much these days anyhow".

And it's all true.

But I must write something, or else you'll think I've given up blogging totally, then you'll move on, like people do.

So. Vut to say?

Ah yes, it's Christmas time here.

I suppose it's about what we're used to, but Christmas for me SHOULD be cold. I've had festive seasons, well days at least, in Sri Lanka and Singapore and, nice as they are, they just don't feel quite right. Heat doesn't work at this time of year, not that I like the cold, but it's just so, well, so right for Christmas.

Every morning I dress myself in a scarf, some layers and my new dark red gilet thing with duffle coat style toggles. Of course I don't wear anything at all from the waist down. I like that approach as it surprises people when I get out of the car or get up from my desk.

I jump in the new car and the kindly dash display tells me that the outside temperature is around three degrees. At that time in the morning there's mist and darkness and it all feels just like it should. Random houses are decorated with lights, the odd house has that totally over the top lighting that's usually featured on houses in American Christmas films starring Danny Devito and lots of artificial snow.

But, this being England, we tend not to have much of the wholly over the top lights everywhere thing that seems to feature so heavily in Lankan and Asian Christmas lights. Somehow here it all (mostly) seems to hit the right balance of subtlety and garishness. At this point, if you're a Sri Lankan you may not be aware of the word "subtlety", but I urge you to look it up, perhaps even using the concept some time.

This year has been quite a big one for my family because of my Dad's cancer. Things continue to progress nicely. He's now just about to finish his fifth cycle of chemotherapy and we wait to hear whether he'll be having another one or not. He's infinitely fitter and healthier than he was five or six months ago, but he's also a shadow of the fellow he was a year ago. We all make the choice on whether our glass is half full or half empty and I always like to go for the optimistic approach, but at times it's hard. The approach I mean, not the glass, which is a metaphor.

I've been gigging like a proper musician in the last few weeks. The season does that for you, with a few Christmas parties and a few birthday parties thrown in for good measure. Last week we did a gig and there was one of the blokes from Spandau Ballet there. You have to be of a certain age to have the faintest clue what that means. I'm not, but have been told by much older people of course.

Oh yes, I put up my parents' Christmas tree the other day and learnt something new. My Dad normally does this, but I'd never realised that he was so totally obsessed with how it should look. I'd assumed that, like most things at my parents' house, my Mum made the decisions and he just did the physical work involved in facilitating those.

But no, as far as the Christmas tree and lights went, it was his personal domain and I very nearly walked out of their house in a hissy fit about twelve times. First, at the age of forty five, after being married for so many years, I had to endure him instructing me on exactly how I should hold the lights so they don't break.

Then I was trained on where to place them followed by where to move them because they didn't look good. Then we argued about the need for a second set of lights on the tree because he thought that it needed more colour. I convinced him on the grounds of the need for subtlety, saying that it was all the rage these days. I say "I convinced him" but it wasn't one of those resounding victories, more like a narrow points victory made by a dodgy ref.

After it was all done, as well as some other lights over their kitchen doorway, the old man stared at things with an air of disapproval. He wasn't happy with the dodgy ref and things were compounded when Academic Bro turned up. I told him about Dad's possessive obsessiveness and he laughed with me sympathetically before turning and saying to him:

"Dad, the tree looks a bit bare, it could do with some more coloured lights I reckon."

"Wanker", I thought to myself, possibly saying it out aloud.

I'll be off then. I'm sure we'll speak before Christmas day.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Some Miscellany

1. This Southern Expressway thing. I worry about it. Really. 'cos let's face it, you lot aren't up there winning prizes in the best driver in the world competition, are you? The only rules of the road most Lankan drivers adhere to are the ones in your head. And you each have a different set in your head. This is bad enough at low speeds. At high speeds things are going to get nasty.

2. Things are getting all a bit Christmassy here in London. Every town has its Xmas lights on, the shops are full to the brim with festive goodies and I saw a real life Coca Cola forty foot Christmas lorry the other day, like in the adverts. I was so excited, I texted A and K to tell them about and they understood. No one else did really.

3. I played at Wembley Stadium last weekend. In a suite, the Royal Suite no less. Okay, it wasn't on the pitch itself, but it was a highlight so far of my musical "career". I have stories to tell.

4. I've decided that I don't like the normal "Drive" setting on the auto gearbox on my new car. I only really use it when crawling in traffic. The rest of the time if feels as if the car is being driven by someone's Dad on an economy drive. I spend most of my time with the gearbox in "sport" mode or just using the flappy paddles. Driving that way things are a bit wicked.

5. I just finished reading that Man Booker nominated book called Jamrach's Menagerie. It's brilliant, fantastic and I'd thoroughly recommend it, though it took quite a while for me to get fully involved. Once I did, I was hooked, like a fish. Or a hook.

6. My Dad's progress continues. He's now in his fifth cycle of chemo and things are as positive as can be. It's hard work though, not least in trying to keep him and my Mum motivated and happy.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Fat Germans And Aircraft Seats

Hello, sorry about the recent radio silence. Things have been madly busy at work and play and that looks like continuing for a while. So please don't go getting your hopes up by thinking "Oh great RD's back with some regular posts so I'll have something to smile about during my day".

I must start by saying that I've got nothing against Germans per se. Okay they can lack a sense of humour and fun, but that Posingis fellow, the good looking photographer one, is as funny as they come. Sometimes I've even wondered if he might have some British blood there, he can be that funny.

And, if you want a fellow to wake up early and get you the best deckchair by putting his towel on it, then let's face it, you wouldn't ask a Sri Lankan or a Brit. The Lankan would amble over sometime after brunch, find an already occupied deckchair and grab it when the occupant nipped off for a minute. The Brit would look at you weirdly then swear and headbutt you. Or something. No, your Germans are perfect for this sort of thing.

There I was, on the plane flying back from Serendib a few weeks ago. At check in I asked, as I always do, whether it was a full flight and received an affirmative answer. It was one of those SriLankan flights that stop at the Maldives, usually pretty full from both Colombo to Male and from Male to London. Fucking tourists!

Just so you know I put that exclamation mark at the end of the last sentence very deliberately so that you saw I was using the word "fucking" as a swear word against tourists, not as a verb along the lines of tourists doing things along the sexual path. I always find witticisms are so much better after a full explanation.

But there I was. Sitting in my seat with a woman who seemed to have won first prize in the most boring companion on a long distance flight competition. ( I came second, before you ask) At first glance she wasn't worth a second glance. Practical and untrendy clothes that wouldn't have looked out of place on Mr Small, my Design and Technology teacher when I was at school. Comfortable trainers with velcro fastenings, a fleecy type of top and a similar hairstyle to Mr Small too.

No, she wasn't going to be a companion who I'd strike up a sparkling conversation with and then stay in touch with for the rest of our lives. Our brief chat confirmed this, with her telling me that she'd just been on a cycling holiday to Kerala, had enjoyed it but the only thing she couldn't abide was the whole eating with the fingers concept. It turned out that there were a few of her fellow Kerala cyclists scattered about the plane and they all looked as unappealingly square as my one. As if to confirm all my suspicions she had her cycling helmet attached to her hand luggage by some kind of special clip.

I settled myself. I've now got to the stage with flying these long distance journeys that I have some routines in terms of hand baggage, what I take out of my bag and what I put in the seat pocket etc, that make things much more comfortable and easy for me. I knew I wasn't going to introduce myself to the next door neighbour, that would have been deadly.

Not long after take off the Sri Lankan woman in front of me decided to recline her seat, fully. I've come to some conclusions about the whole reclining seats concept. If you turn left when you board the plane, as I've been lucky enough to do a few times, then you can recline your seat all over the show without even remotely affecting the person behind you.

However in Economy we're scum. That's pretty much the definition. We have no rights, no luxuries and are wise to have no expectations, particularly if we're flying with SriLankan Airlines, on which just having a seat that isn't broken with an entertainment console that functions are things that they'll soon be charging extra for.

And also, in Economy, there is no space. That's how it works. Yes, the ticket, for most Brit tourists who don't really have that much money, costs a lot of money. But that's a reflection of the distance travelled, not the luxury one should expect.

So, when the person in front of me reclines her seat fully and I only have a centimetre in which to move instead of the five centimetres when it wasn't reclined, I just make my own positional adjustments and get on with life. If I'm too tight / poor / stupid to fly Business Class then that's my problem.

As a kind and considerate chap though I always try to recline my own seat gradually, not that sudden press the button and whack it fully back thing that some do, often creating bad feeling. I tend to put mine back a bit, then a bit more some time later. Feel free to use this method too if you want, though it is my invention.

That's what I did. I did it partly because of the woman in front, partly because of a desire to recline and partly because the seat is made to do so.

There were two fat Germans sitting behind me. I knew they were fat because I'd seen them and I knew they were German because I, along with most others on the plane, had heard them. They were a couple, in the male and female way, and were exhibiting all the characteristics of a couple who'd never been on a flight before; ordering drinks continually and talking excitedly about plane related crap.

Not a few seconds after I'd put my seat back came German shouting along with a hard smack on the back of my seat. All of a sudden myself and the cycling woman were as British and united as can be imagined. A German! Shouting and banging just because I've reclined the seat that's supposed to recline! Good God! We both thought.

I knew that I couldn't let this lie. I was doing this for my country (Britain on this particular occasion) and there were principles at stake. I had to think quickly and come up with a retort that would shut them up and win the battle. My considerable years of experience, wit and finely developed and honed conversational skills came into play, all in a few quick seconds.

I turned round, glared at the fat woman and fired my weapon. So to speak. It wasn't a real weapon you understand, nor a willy metaphor.

"Sorry". Then I turned back and sat down.

But I'd said it with a lilt so it kind of went "Soh oh reee". It positively oozed with sarcasm, wit and intelligence. I'm pretty sure that it reminded my cyclist neighbour of Oscar Wilde. She didn't say so, but I could tell. It was the way she looked at me, smiled and made a face.

I kept my seat reclined and heard nothing from the fat Germans for the rest of the flight. Though the cyclist wasn't too keen on putting her seat back I made a point of doing it at least once, perhaps twice, during the flight.

And incidentally we used to have a girls' PE teacher at school called Miss Dexter who was tiny, probably about four foot tall, though quite fierce. She got married to another teacher; Mr Small.

Seriously. I kid you not.

But really, if the airline gives you reclining seats then why on earth do some people get so upset when a chap reclines it?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Am I The Only One?

Who doesn't find that Typo In Colombo thing that funny?

Some of the mistakes are quite side splitting. But, in general, it's something that makes me roll my eyes (not all the way round the back mind) far more than it makes me chuckle in a good old fashioned way.

What do you think?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Miscellaneous And Random

So I'm back after a week's R + R in the motherland. It was good, with a capital S, but this monsoon business is a bit of a dampener isn't it? Grey skies and rain should be banned, does anyone actually like them?

There's much to tell you. Firstly I can't believe that it's Thursday already, that last Thursday I was in Colombo thinking my week was about to end. Time never passes as we think it should. I've come to conclude that it always feels quicker or so much longer than we think it should be. We spend much of our lives saying that something rushed by or that it seems like only yesterday that it happened. Rarely does anyone say "you know what? It was two months ago and that's exactly how it feels to me."

I caught a chest infection last week, quite possibly I caught it in London, but it reared its head in Colombo, who knows?

But, I enjoyed the self medication aspect of Sri Lanka, steaming down to a pharmacy, buying antibiotics as if they're only available with a Doctor's note here in the UK, then promptly dosing myself up with it all. And I bought supplies to keep me going in the future. Bargain. But, don't tell my Mum.

There was also THE conversation that I had. It was big. Not long, just big.

LD's often talked in her blog of how people have remarked on the rather sexy huskiness of her voice but, despite all of that, I wasn't prepared. I immediately adopted my best Jason Statham impression, which was somewhat spoilt by my spluttering and coughing every ten seconds or so, and tried to think of interesting things to say.

It is weird to speak to bloggers. I've done enough and never have got used to it, when you feel as if you know them really well from their written words, then hear the voice and think the total opposite. I hope that I'll get to meet LD at some point, ideally with DQ, though I'll be apprehensive about the cakes, cats and dogs that DQ will have her.

But, it was quite a thrill to finally speak to the legend that is LD.

Seeing the girls last night was lovely. I bought them each a little silver tuk tuk and they loved them ( I think), as well as a small armful of friendship bracelets that they never seem to be able to get enough of. Our evening was filled with its usual and lethal mixture of arguments, laughter, fun and farts. All good.

My Dad's progress continues at a pleasing pace. He's so much more like his normal self than he was a few months ago, which brings its own set of "issues" too. All though is looking good and, were I a religious person, I'd probably be thanking my God or Gods.

I've got a new car too and have been having fun with that, mostly with the gearbox. I think I'll write more about that another time, but it's a steptronic one, so I've been mixing it up a bit with the flappy paddles, pretending I'm Jeremy Clarkson on the test track in a properly fast car. There have been a few awkward moments when I've hit the wrong paddle or found that it's quite hard to operate them when in a corner. The rest has been good.

And I'm getting increasingly pissed off with that retro ring tone, you know, the one I've got that you've got too. I never used that "famous" Nokia one, but now everyone's got the retro one, with the result that you hear it in public and see just about everyone scrambling around to see if their phone is the guilty party.

It's so right and oh so wrong.

That's it really, I'll bid you a good weekend and jot some thoughts down next week.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Thoughts From A Stormy City

It's about four months since my last visit and it feels good to be back. Even in those four months there's a noticeable increase in prices, prices of just about everything. I wonder about this, on one hand it's good for the country, on the other it's not good for the people, the ones who have to pay the prices.

I was talking to an intelligent lady about profit the other day, about people being driven by it, by the pursuit of profit above all else. What do you think? Is it a stage that many go through, only to grow out of it with age and discover the joy of other more meaningful values? Or is it a sad sign of the times and the world we live in today?

As I write this rain and thunder lashes Colombo with that warmth and wetness that we just don't get in England. I'm looking over the city's skyline, from ten storeys up, and can see the sights and hear the sounds of the city. There's the continual horning, the splash of tyres on wet road and the distinctive two cylinder engined sound of the tuk tuks as they go about their business. Why do they call them Tuk tuks anyhow?

It's funny how rain affects the lives of people here so differently to in London. Here it's wet and it impacts the infrastructure much more, but the temperature means people don't feel physical discomfort so much. In the UK the rain is cold as well as being wet, but people wrap up more and go about their business. I guess a lot of that's to do with prevailing conditions and what have you.

I was talking to a Dane the other day and comparing British winters with the Danish versions. I told her that it's all a bit shit in England when it snows, whereas in Danmark they're geared up for it and things continue more or less as normal, just with snow as a backdrop. It's the same sort of thing I suppose.

This week I've been wearing a lot of Paul Smith, just saying. And Superdry of course.

I've been pondering on the missing "the". And how Sri Lankan English omits the word from everyday use so frequently. People here "go to office" instead of "the office" and have many other situations in which the "the" has gone missing. Why? Where is it? I suspect there may be a stockpile of them, probably somewhere on the way to the airport there.

That's it really, I'm sure I'll see you around in the next few days.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Dodgy Dress Code Dilemmas

I had to look up the spelling of "dilemma" for it's a word that has foxed me for some time. Well, the thing is that it hadn't foxed me, I always knew how to spell it. Every single time the need arose I'd whack it our effortlessly. And then I saw it written somewhere, no doubt by one of these proper writers, and realised that I'd been spelling it incorrectly all along. I'd been throwing in an "n" instead of the second "m". It's a good thing I don't make that kind of mistake elsewhere. Bumner though.

But it goes to show my newest mantra; what you don't know you don't know. It sounds like bollocks to many, but it's been accompanying me on a daily basis in recent weeks and it summarises that fact that many chaps, me included, can exist in a happy state of mind, not to be confused with an empire state of mind, in which we just assume we know things and do them correctly because we've never investigated whether they are correct and true.

I digress. To get back to my original point, the one I never started, I wanted to tell you a little story about a couple of dress code issues I've encountered lately, and to seek your advice, for you may know about these things.

My regular attire for work these days is pretty much what I'd wear at home. Not sarong mind, I mean jeans, trainers and casualish short. If I'm going to see a customer then I'll smarten myself up, with a suit and tie, though nowadays in London ties are becoming rarer than they used to be, even with a suit.

But, a couple of weeks ago I was due to go on a training course, just a half day thing. Being the dutiful employee I read the itinerary and figured out where to go beforehand, as well as checking what the dress code was.

"Business casual" read the dress code information. I stared at the screen for some time. Despite my stare the text didn't change, not one bit, not even a letter, into something that was less confusing to a man. Well, I say a man, I mean me. I figured that the term "business casual" to a woman would be quite straight forward. Just anything really, but not jeans and trainers and not a smart suit.

But for a man? WTF?

Clearly wearing a full business suit with a tie would be erring on the "too smart" side, but of course for a man "too smart" is never a problem in the way "too casual" might be. What if I wore a suit without a tie? It might still be too smart.

Okay, so then I considered the option of jeans with some leather shoes and shirt tucked in. That evening I even tried on some combinations but the shirt tucked in thing made me look like a wanker and the smart shoes with jeans bit made me feel like I was scratching my nails down a blackboard. Besides I only really have about three pairs of jeans that could be tagged as "smart" and none of them felt quite right.

Perhaps chinos and a shirt might do it, you're thinking? But chinos are really more for the summer months and it's quite chilly and autumnal here. Also I don't do that hooray Henry look very well, the American student, man at Gap look isn't my thing.

Hmmm.... what to do?

In the end I settled on the looking like a wanker look; the smart jeans, smart shoes and shirt tucked in. I took out the appropriates the night before, hung them out and even ironed the shirt.

The next morning I got ready. I strolled around my apartment for a bit, looking like a wanker. I couldn't get comfortable with the choice so switched to the suit with no tie option. Perhaps I'm old fashioned but a suit without a tie just doesn't hang right for me, it always feels as if the shirt collar is gaping and that I look like a pissed Uncle towards the end of a wedding reception. Still, I went with it.

I arrived at the course and met the others. The trainer was suited and booted as if he was about to do a modelling session for "Smart man in the city" magazine, in their special smart edition. That was okay for me, that's what these training types do.

There were only three others there. I remember all their names perfectly, that's one of the things we covered on the course, but I won't reveal them to you. There was one woman and she wore what can only think were her mother's clothes for when she goes to church. They were drab in the way that some women of a certain age think looks good. There was nothing wrong with them, nor was there anything right.

Then there were two chaps. One was German, so obviously lacking in any sense of sartorial style. He wore jeans, ironed with creases in them (for fuck's sake!!), some brown leather boots that would have been perfectly suitable for a long walk in the countryside and a black leather jacket that was seven sizes too small for him.

For the whole morning he kept the leather jacket on, leaving me to wonder if perhaps he had nothing on underneath or if the tightness of it was such that he'd need powder and a few friends to remove the thing.

The other guy was a middle aged Irishman and he did a good job of wearing the very British country casual look. Cord trousers, a thinly striped Oxford shirt and brogues seemed to give a decent illustration of the aforementioned "business casual".

It looked to me as if all of them, with the obvious exception of the trainer, had just worn what they felt like wearing. I even asked them if they'd been as confused as I was about the dress code. They mostly just looked at me as if I was a weirdo. It was okay, I'm used to that.

I sat through the morning's training, feeling overdressed but happy to be the one who was. I think I now know that "business casual" is really just wear what you fancy, unless you're German. Live and learn I say.

On top of all that, I've got a gig coming up with the covers band, quite a high profile sort of situ. It's a ball for some posh school, held at Wembley Stadium, though in one of the suites, not actually in the stadium, and there's a sit down dinner beforehand.

I got an email from one of the organisers the others day, asking for car registrations and generally stipulating in rather stern tones how we, the band, should behave and whatnot.

And the dress code. Which said: "Hollywood Glam".

Oh my giddy Aunt, what the hell is "Hollywood Glam"?


Thursday, October 20, 2011

Every Time....

...I watch this it makes me grin like an idiot. There's something so optimistic and joyous about it.

I challenge you, see if you can watch it without it putting a smile on your face!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Fuck Me....

You know how to make a Muslim name don't you? Simply take the letters K, R, Z and F, throw them in a bowl, then add some vowels and a few random consonants, remove a handful and the result is a name.

Most of my family on my Dad's side have names that follow the methodology, including my very own one.

I've got a cousin, fifteen times removed, twice added back and then tangentially attached via a flux capacitor, which is to say that she's pretty damn close in Lankan terms, who lives in London with her relatively new husband. She's actually the generation below, so calls me "Uncle", which galls me slightly, me being the rock 'n' roll geezerish cool Dad that I like to think of myself as. For the purpose of this post we'll call her "S".

And then, on the other side, the husband, truth be told a nice enough bloke, doesn't call me "Uncle" and that slightly annoys me. He's been in England a few years and clearly doesn't deem it necessary. I even whipped his disrespectful little brown arse at Carrom some months ago, twenty nine nil no less, and despite that he continues to address me on first name terms!

So anyhow, I have to tell you his name in order to tell you the story, but I'd be eternally grateful if you'd keep it to yourself, you'll understand why by the end. Yes, his name is "Falik". It's a normal sounding Muslim name in many ways and when my family met him we just accepted it and used it accordingly.

It was only some months later that one of us (me) realised there was a large dose of humour to be gained from it, what with it actually having a decent sexual meaning and all. You can imagine the joking that went on for quite a while, all behind his back of course. In fact, it continues.

The other day I was sitting round at my parents' place, just casually shooting the breeze with them as one does. My Dad, who is getting much better at a pretty good pace, was doing his usual thing of ignoring most things and making random comments related to the conversation before the one before. My Mum was doing her usual thing; that lethal mixture of questioning blended with narrating facts about all sorts of people, the questioning carefully designed to make you listen, unless you're my Dad.

"Oh S is pregnant by the way" she said.

"Ah right" I responded. It wasn't really a surprise to anyone, except perhaps S.

"Yes" continued my maternal unit.

"Fuckme and S came round the other day"

"Ah okay" said I, your narrator.

At this point an interesting thing happened. You know about probability trees, the way that events can take an infinite amount of possible outcomes, depending on the minutest of details? Well if you're a religious person or someone who believes in fate then you may think differently, but I favour the probability tree scenario.

And, soon after my Mum had called him "Fuckme" the conversation started to proceed along one path, that of the three of us not realising that that wasn't his actual name and just carrying on with our chat. But something nagged at me (I'm razor sharp like that) and I dragged us back to the intersection on the probability tree.

"Hold on, that's not his name is it, he's not called 'Fuckme' is he?"

"No he's not" said my Dad

"No, now what is his name again?" retorted the mother.

We sat there thinking for what seemed like minutes. It was in fact, minutes. I'm certain that what was going through our three heads was the same sort of thing, an extremely rare occurrence when my Dad's around, as you know. It was something like:

"What the hell is his name? It's something crammed full of sexual innuendo, but it's not 'Fuckme'?"

Then my Mum remembered.

"Ah God, it's not Fuckme, it's Falik, yes that's it"

"Of course" we all thought and said.

And continued talking rubbish.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

In Praise Of Lady Divine

LD, as we all like to call her, is five years old. Well, her blog is. And she deserves a whole post.

There are blogs in the Lankanosphere that come and go, there are neeky (a word I got from the girls) ones, Action Man ones, photographic ones and those that say "come and stroll through life my with me and see what goes on". A Glimpse of Lady Divine's World is the market leader in the latter group and I'll be bolloxed if I know why.

But it's my first call blog. It's the one that I check every day, just to see what's happening. How's our LD doing in her new job, has she been to have her eyes tested, her teeth checked or has she gone and lost her bloody keys again?

What about her Mum? She sounds scary, but scary in that Sri Lankan mother sort of way; hard to define and explain to anyone who hasn't experienced one first hand.

And that tattoo? We all thought her Mum would go mental about it but she seems to have taken it pretty well, all things considered.

There's poetry too, I won't link to any because I'm scared of poetry, it confuses and perplexes me. Put me in a room with just a poem for company and we end up backed into opposing corners staring at each other nervously.

And men!!! My God, I wish cupid would just get a move on and sort things for our LD, ideally getting a fellow that both LD and her Mother approve of, which may prove impossible come to think of it.

We know that LD misses her Dad tremendously. But, from what I know, I reckon he'd be mighty proud of her and her achievements so far. If she was my daughter I know that's how I'd feel.

I've never met her, but I thank LD for all the words and posts in the last five years and raise a glass of something to her and to the next five years.

Happy five year blogoversary LD!!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

On Decisiveness...

........or should that be "On Indecision"? I'm not sure.

I read a quote the other day from Brian Tracy, the less well known brother from International Rescue. It was a quote that struck a chord with me, enough of a chord for me to write it in my Barefoot notebook, on the newly created quote page. It goes like this:

"Decisiveness is a characteristic of high performing people. Almost any decision in better than no decision at all."

How true. Or is it? Which is ironic, I think.

You see, at first glance I fully agree with this statement. At a guess I'd say you do too. But then I go a bit deeper and think that "high performing" people, whatever they may be, aren't chaps or chapesses who go out and make quick and snappy decisions willy nilly. No, they're fellows who make quick decisions, but decisions that are also good ones, most of the time at least.

A fellow who makes quick decisions all the time but who makes bad ones won't usually be seen as a high performer. Unless he's a politician of course, when all logic goes flying out of the window.

Is a quick bad decision better than no decision at all?

It becomes a hall of mirrors type of question. It's perfectly legitimate and allowed by God and his cronies to make a decision not to decide, which counts as a decision. Dithering and faffing about aren't generally good. However, a chap who says "I'm going to gather some more information before I make my decision" or "I'm going to wait until next Tuesday, to let the facts mull over in my mind until then" is, in many ways, being far more decisive than the one who decides in half a nanosecond that he's going to invest all his money in Lalith Kotelawala's latest venture.

What do you think?

Is any decision better than no decision, or is a decision not to decide a decision anyhow?

Or are you like me on this one, a bit undecided?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

On Dead People

Hello, long time no post. Just saying.

I was driving along in the RD mobile the other day and listening to a phone in show on the radio (who said men can't multi task eh?).

The main topic on the show was to do with Michael Jackson, as the trial of his Doctor was beginning and big in the news. Rather, the main topic was a tangent of the MJ Doctor trial, triggered by something that the Sun, that bastion of all Great British journalism, had published that morning; a photograph of Michael Jackson lying in the hospital as dead as a Dodo.

Apparently some of the British tabloids had made the decision to publish the picture and some had presumably decided against doing so. There was much discussion on the radio about the wisdom, ethics and respect (or lack of) involved in this publication and I listened with interest, it being something I've pondered on for many a moon.

Being brought up in the UK with Sri Lankan parents means that I sometimes find myself with mixed mindsets. One example is the way in which I thought the word "advertisement" should be pronounced. I spent probably close to ten years thinking that it was "add ver tizzment" until I discovered that it's actually "ad vurr tis ment" and promptly changed my approach. Of course Michael Meyler and coves like that would no doubt argue that it matters not, that they're both correct, just different ways of saying it. All well and good but the aforementioned coves probably didn't have their ten year old mates taking the piss out of them.

Another example is in the approach to dead bodies. The traditional UK mindset is that a corpse is rarely seen by the average person. I must admit that I don't know if that's a mindset shared by the rest of the West, though I reckon it probably is.

There are people here who deal with the dead; funeral directors, medics and close relatives at funerals. For the rest of the populace dead bodies are not part of our everyday existence, which is mostly why the publication of the picture was causing such an uproar.

Yet in Sri Lanka and the East dead bodies are much more a part of everyday life. Open a Lankan newspaper and it's a common occurrence to see a photo or two of a mourning family around the open casket of a sadly dead relative. During the conflict it was quite common to see pictures of dead people. Was that to do with the conflict, with death being so much more a part of everyday life that people became slightly immune to the concept?

Or was it because that's how things are there?

As I listened to the radio most of the callers shared a theme; that they weren't upset or offended by the photographs, but that it was highly insensitive and disrespectful to Michael Jackson's friends and family to publish them. Which is kind of where my opinion sits too.

I'm not in the least bit upset or offended by the sight of a body, but I consider it disrespectful to the person's relatives to show one. But, in Sri Lanka, I genuinely don't know if the relatives concerned are bothered about it.

Is the sight of a body, of grieving relatives and an open casket such an everyday thing that people just become immune and desensitised to it?

Or are people in the West too protected and shielded from the one thing that awaits every one of us?

Or is it none of the above?

What do you think?

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Loneliness Of The Drummer

I've got a whole half baked theory about the different types of personalities that play different instruments and, as it's only really half baked, I won't bore you with the finer details. But everyone I've shared it with agrees with me; there are definitley very specific personalities attracted to each instrument.

And, by "each instrument", I mean each proper instrument; drums, bass, lead guitar and vocals. Forget about all those keyboards, wind and what have you. They're decoration, fitting in in between the others. Is it okay to say "in" twice like that anyhow?

The thing is, there are undoubtedly traits that are shared by pretty much all of the players of each of the four instruments. Where Dave Grohl fits into this theory I know not. But I care, for I care about everything to do with Sir Dave.

Us drummers are the quiet responsibility driven fellows in the band. We want to be part of a team yet need a role with a semblance of individuality. Most of us put in a shed load of hard work and effort into our craft. We put in hours and hours of practice, working on the little things others would find simply stupid and unnecessary. If you're a singer reading this you'll be lost now, but that's okay. The rest of us are used to singers getting lost while reading the words.

One of my first teachers used to tell me that the drummer's job was to make the band sound good. It might seem an arrogant thing to say, but he didn't mean it in that way. It's more about the fact that a good drummer does make a great band, but almost never gets the credit. But usually that doesn't matter, we're not that fussed about credit and applause and all that. We leave that for the lead singers and lead guitarists, that's their thing.

If a band does a gig with a great drummer the audience usually thinks that the band was great. If the drummer is poor then usually the crowd thinks the drummer was poor, that's how it works.

And usually we're okay with that.


There I was on Thursday evening. The covers band were doing a gig and all was going swimmingly. The pub wasn't as packed to the rafters as usual but that was to be entirely expected because of the entirely unexpectedly sunny weather we had, as had been forecast. Few people want to go to a hot and sticky pub to see a band when things get like they did here last week.

But, it was all good. We got them all dancing, there was whooping and hollerin' galore, there was that dodgy middle aged dancing that I seem to see a lot of and there were a good dollop of mistakes made by us on stage, largely unnoticed by the audience.

Still, we rocked. And at the end of the first set left the stage to mingle with the common people and soak up the adulation.

I caught sight of B, our lead guitarist in conversation with a friendly looking fellow whom I didn't know. I ambled over expecting some praise, perhaps a little chat about how the stranger loved that song we played, maybe asking how long we've been together or about my own influences as a drummer. It's rock 'n' roll and things can go crazy, as I thought in the middle of one song when I glanced over while everyone was dancing and saw our sound man sitting at the desk reading his newspaper.

B introduced me to the chap. He was called Roger. He probably still is for that matter. In a rare display of sense, maturity and willpower I resisted any attempt at an Airplane style joke using his name. Oh yes, I can do the serious stuff too. Introduction done, B left Roger and myself alone and went off to sign a girl's breasts. Or order some coleslaw, I forget exactly which it was.

Roger turned to me, I looked at him. I don't mind admitting to you, dear reader, that I felt slightly smug. It had been a good first set after all. I'd grooved and the band was tight and on it. There was a pause. I wondered what Roger would say. I could sense his indecision, but finally he made his mind up and said

"So RD, did you catch any of the first set then?"

Fucking wanker.

He turned out to be quite a nice bloke.

But still. I mean. For fuck's sake. There are limits, even for the drummer.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Naked Dancing Report.

You first read about it here and I promised to tell you what happened. Well, here's the story. I give it to you a matter of moments after the event, with the playlist that was used continuing in the background and my breathing still a bit heavy after the effort. It was supposed to be freeing, liberating and all that, but the fellow forgot to mention the word "knackering".

It's now four fifteen on Sunday afternoon as I narrate the story to you.

I'd meant to do this whole naked dancing thing several days ago but K, the fifteen year old, has managed to lose my ipod speaker thing, so the plan was delayed. I even told her why I was so keen to get the speaker back, the real reason, the one about naked dancing, but even that hasn't motivated her to find the thing.

So a short while ago, after watching the Singaporean Grand Prix and deciding that the only person who could actually stop me from feeling a bit sorry for myself was me, I decided to give it a go. I had to dewire another set of speakers and move that into my bedroom and generally do some prep.

First I drew my blinds, paying careful attention to whether there might be any cracks big enough for people to see in through. This involved several goes at the blind drawing thing until I felt happy to move on.

One of my important considerations was volume level; if I risked going too loud, what with living in an apartment, there's always the chance of someone complaining. It's only ever happened once before and that was a drum related thing, so I knew that chances were very low, but a neighbour knocking on my door and complaining when I'm fully clothed and looking good and pretty stylish is very different to one greeted by a naked, somewhat out of breath and panting me.

But of course, this is all about being free, letting oneself go and having a blast, so the volume had to be loud enough to let me do all that. Surprisingly therefore, I went for a medium type of output, after a bit too much thought.

Hmmm.... then it was the setlist to think about. As this was to be my first time I didn't know how many songs it would go on for. Choosing one good funky song involved the risk that, once finished, I'd rush to the ipod, scroll everywhere to find the next one and lose all the momentum and sense of continuity. So I reckoned I'd have to look for a playlist that would give me a few suitable songs together. A bit of a hunt and I found the "energetic" one I'd made some time ago. It looked perfect, though some of the songs were perhaps a bit too rocky and not quite dancey enough.

The last question was the actual getting naked issue; do I take my clothes off first and then start the music or approach things with the music on? I pressed option one.

The first song was "I gotta feeling" by the old Black Eyed Peas. Perfect, I had thought. I started the ipod then took off my clothes, being careful not to look like some kind of male stripper practicing in his room on a Sunday afternoon.

Before I knew it there I was; stark butt naked, except for my watch, a leather bracelet thing (all the metrosexuals are wearing them here these days), and my Havaianas flip flops. I'd been in two minds about the flip flops, but it was an unusually warm day and I love wearing them, that's the Havaianas, not flip flops in general, so had pressed option two on that.

I felt a tad nervous and apprehensive as I started. I've got one of those decent length dressing type mirrors in my bedroom and I'd never realised how distorted the image in it is. It makes my stomach look much rounder than it is in real life and my willy curiously smaller, hardly bouncing at all as I danced. I figured it's probably to do with all this Einstein and speed of light thing that's been in the news lately. Perhaps all mirrors are now fundamentally flawed, let alone windows.

The song wasn't a good choice, something I realised that about halfway through. You see, I couldn't help but recall the video. All those images in my mind, of sexy good looking people, of Fergie and them getting ready to go out and party, just didn't sit comfortably with what was appearing in my mirror. And I still wasn't fully relaxed anyhow. The song finished and the playlist moved on to something that felt really perfect from the off; Mr Slim performing this number, a favourite of mine but much less well known than his big hits:

And I got on down to it like the dancer that we all think we are in our dreams. I shed the Havaianas to give better traction and proper boogieish dancing was the order of the minute as I piroutted, thrusted, swivelled and flung myself about as if, well as if I was dancing naked in my bedroom with no one watching me. It was fucking great it was.

I suddenly realised why, about twenty years ago, a young girl family friend had asked "why does Uncle RD dance like a jelly?" I'd spent twenty years thinking that it was a childish and stupid question and, in a moment, I understood how wrong I was. Still, I went for it some more. I discovered that I could wander down the corridor and watch myself in the bathroom mirror too, though this was only a waist up view, it was only the bedroom mirror that gave the willy and arse view.

I was glad I'd been to the gym the day before, the upper body looked okay if I'm honest. My stomach needs more work but I'm happy to say that it's not a full Sri Lankan rice belly by any stretch of the imagination yet. And of course there's that mirror fault to bear in mind.

I guess it would be the same for anyone but, when doing naked dancing, one can't but help throwing in way too many of those hip and willy thrust and swivel movements, so much more than we'd all do if fully clothed. It's just natural, it has to be. I've got to tell you, if you've never tried it, it's fun to make your willy go in circles, then change direction and make it go the other way; anti cockwise, as I now like to call it. In my case they were very small circles, but circles nonetheless, ones that would never have been apparent had I been wearing trousers or pants. Or "a trouser" as you Lankans would say.

Obviously for women this wouldn't happen, but I figure for them there's always breast swivelling to be done. It's clean, it's fun, it's healthy and their man would love to watch it too. What's not to like?

I was getting well and truly knackered by now but the third song came up and it was this one, one of my favourite ever No Doubt songs:

You'll know that it's more of a rock song and it encourages less funky and more rock star stage dancing. I continued, striking poses during the mellower bits and giving it more Mick Jagger than the previous song's cross between Michael Jackson and Michael Douglas.

By the mid point I was so tired that it became like the last few minutes on the cross trainer at the gym, when I concentrate on finishing and nothing else whatsoever. Looking at myself in the mirror was a thing of the past, though I did manage to sneak in a small amount of glances, probably only about forty or forty five.

It finished, I finished and sharply grabbed my clothes and dressed myself. As I sit here now, telling you about it, the playlist has moved on to some Audioslave.

My verdict?

I loved it. I hadn't anticipated the tiredness and fitness side of things, which may be a bonus if I do it more. But the lightening up, the freeing and relaxing sides were brilliant. As was the willy swivelling.

I intend to repeat it, though probably won't tell you about it every time. You know how I like to keep these things private.

Ah yes, I must get that mirror fixed too.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

This And That....

LD's post of the same name inspired me to whack out a quick one. I've been building an uncharacteristically slow list of posts to write, on "bigger" topics, but this is an update type of one, a what's been happening around these parts snippet.

Well I've been seriously busy at work, and that's busy in all senses. I often think that one can be "bad" busy or "good" busy and they're two entirely different concepts. The "bad" one is when I'm busy because of a lack of staff or structure, when sales and revenue are low or normal and it's the other operational things that are causing my own increase in activity.

"Good" busy, as you probably realise by now anyhow, is when I'm busy because of high revenue and sales, hopefully profit too. It's oh so satisfying compared to its nemesis. Was that correct usage of the word "nemesis"? I'm unsure.

I've been mostly "good" busy, with a touch of the other mixed in. It's been challenging and continues to be so, and is largely the cause of my recent blogging hiatus. My helicopter has been flying up and down like a yo yo and I've sometimes struggled to figure out where I should fly it. Long may it continue, the main thing being that I'm enjoying it.

Music has also come back with a vengeance. The covers band has now started school again after our "summer break" and we've got a quite large handful of gigs coming up in the next few months. A band practice on Tuesday found us all in good musical form, something musos are often superstitious about before a gig, but I liked it anyhow.

The drum lessons continue, thus pursuing the learning and developing side of my playing too, and I've been trying to put myself out there as a dep for any friendly covers bands that might need a drummer to fill in for the odd gig or two. It's a bit scary but I've decided that, if someone who know me thinks I'm up to it, then I should just say yes and do it, even if I don't think I'm up to it. If it goes all wrong then it's better to try and fail then love and lose, or something like that.

My Dad's progress continues in all the right directions, just slowly. He's in the middle of the third cycle of the chemo out of five and getting more fit and able by the day. And more mental, but that's usual.

Consumerism fasting continues for the month. The main thing I've suffered from is on the music side. I now have a list of albums that I "desperately" want, which I most likely wouldn't be in the least bit bothered about had I gone out and got them as normal. Top of the list is the Foster the People one, though I've been listening to it on Spotify anyway.

Michael Ondaatje's new book; the Cat's Table, is truly addictive, possibly because it reminds me of the journeys my parents made when they came to this country. Not that I can be reminded, because I wasn't there, but, well you know.

I've been wondering about shoes, specifically how long it takes until a pair is properly worn in, but not worn out. I reckon for me it's after about two weeks for most shoes. It takes that long for them to mould to my feet and to stop looking like I'm wearing brand new shoes that my feet aren't used to yet. Is it the same for you? Or are you just not bothered about deep and meaningful things like this?

Enjoy the weekend. I know I won't be posting tomorrow.

PS - I don't really fly a helicopter, that was a metaphor.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Naked Dancing

One of the books I'm reading at the moment is a self improvement one entitled "How to get a grip". It was billed as a self help book that mixes humour with practical advice. So far, as the Americans would say, I'm liking it. It's been making me LOL, as well as have several OMG moments and a few ROTFL bits, mixed with some good advice.

The chapter I'm on right now talks about how to not take oneself too seriously, something I'm told that we all have a tendency to do. I know I do, though I'm pretty good at the humour thing too, even if I say it myself. If I could only figure when to do which, things would be easier.

On day one, aka tomorrow, I plan to do what he suggests; to dance naked in front of a mirror. Fear not, it won't be one of the full length mirrors in the mens' changing room at my gym, nor will it be a random one in the Bentalls shopping centre in Kingston. No, it will be in the privacy of my own bedroom, avec the blinds well and truly shut, so tightly shut that there'll be no way anyone outside could get the slightest glimpse, of that I assure you. I take health and safety seriously.

It will also be done alone. I hope to buggery that my cleaner or Brian, the slightly too nosey for comfort concierge guy, don't choose the moment to let themselves in. I might leave a a sign on the door telling them that I'm naked dancing so not to be disturbed actually. That would help.

So the thing is, and it seems to make sense to me, that a spot of naked dancing helps a chap to hang loose, quite literally. I've got to take all my clothes off, that's the naked part, put on some good funky music and dance as if nobody's watching. I will be "celebrating my imperfections", not worrying about my "stubbly legs and love handles".

That's the plan. Apparently it's very freeing.

I'll let you know how it goes.

PS - If you know me I sincerely apologise for any images this post may have conjured up in your mind. Really, I'm sorry.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Sorry, Stuff and A Bit Of Lately In The Lankanosphere...

We all do it now and again don't we. The old I'm sorry "I've been neglecting my blog" thing. Well, I'm not really, these things happen. I've been really busy, that's why. And frankly there's been fuck all to write about.

The new super sharp and sweetly sexy Kottu has been interesting to see in recent weeks. I like the language selection bit, of course my opinion is heavily influenced by my almost total lack of Sinhala. But, I'm disappointed in what appears to be popular; cricket, politics, some shit about Michael Jackson and Katy Perry and the Sanjana vs Indi show Groundviews and Indi's blog.

Can anyone tell me what a chili is, in the new Kottu context. Please.

And what is going on with Sanjana and Indi? I'd consider them both as friends, of me that is, not of each other, but it appears that Sanjana is blurring boundaries between personal and professional.

Sanjana, if you read this, for what it's worth I reckon you need to take your issues with Indi onto a platform that's separated from Groundviews and the CPA. It's just my humble O, but I think you're not doing anyone any favours at the moment. But I'm no TED Fellow, so what do I know anyhow?

I frequently disagree with Indi's opinions and politics, but I think he's an honest and open sort of chap and wears his heart on his sleeve blog multitude of social media platforms.

This post of his got me thinking a bit. I love the convenience of tri shaws, the jump on and jump off thing and the fact that they're usually easy to find. But they're supposed to be kind of street transport aren't they? There's something going seriously wrong when the average tuk tuk costs so much more than calling a 588 or 688 cab. That just doesn't make sense. It's like a two star hotel charging more than a five star hotel because it's worse.

My consumerism fast has reached its halfway point and is proving to be more interesting than I'd expected. I've been good, hovering around the excellent point, with the only exception being the purchase of a self help book called "how to get a grip" on the Kindle, yes seriously. I pondered on the purchase for a bit, then went ahead, figuring that it was good for the mind and therefore excusable.

I started reading it immediately and currently think it was one of the best five of the Queen's pounds that I've ever spent. Though I can't actually remember how much it costed, so the figure might change. I think you know what I mean though.

The lack of shopping has meant that I've been doing a few other things when normally I'd have gone for a browse around the shops. More drum practice, more reading and more enjoying without yearning for things I don't have. Do you know the only thing I've struggled with? It's been not being able to buy the Foster the People album. I've been listening to it online a lot and would love it for the car, but no, that will have to wait another couple of weeks.

Oooh I've been reading and learning about marketing too. That's proper marketing, not the buying meat and vegetables at Food City and moaning about the price of American cheese thing. You probably know all about marketing. I don't and am finding the whole subject fascinating. I'm seeing a world of opportunity in which to go out and implement my new found knowledge.

Things with my Dad are progressing slowly and positively. He's just begun the third cycle of chemo and all the results are looking good so far. It is slow and it is painful, mostly for him, but we're getting there.

Here in Londinium the weather's turning as Autumn kicks in. Random days of good weather and sunshine interspersed with grey wet stuff are the norm, but there is no norm. I almost wore my Timberland boots the other day, then realised that the best attire was the light trainers and T shirt that I'd gone with. That's how mad and bad it's been.

My current choice of fiction is Mr Ondaatje senior's latest offering, entitled "The Cat's Table". It's about a boy's sea voyage from Sri Lanka to England in the 1950s and so far I like it a lot. I struggled with Anil's Ghost and never really got in the flow with Running in the Family, but this has affected me differently. Fucked if I know why, just saying. So far there's not a single cat in sight. Be warned if you're cat lover and buy it expecting to read about the feline things building furniture.

That's about it really. What have you been up to? Or, as I've heard these youngsters say; WUUT?

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

On Self Publishing

Indi's post here reminded me of one I've been meaning to pen, or keyboard, for some months.

It's hardly a brilliant shaft of insight when I say this but the internet has revolutionised and totally transformed publishing as we knew it.

There used to be professionals and amateurs of every type of creative person;
writer, photographer, musician, journalist, film maker, documentary maker etc.

Then, this truly wonderful thing we know as the internet came along, took about twenty years or more to develop to what we now see as normal and spawned the platforms most of us have come to know so well. We've got flickr and facebook for photographers, youtube for film makers, myspace and soundcloud for the musos, blogs for journo types and epublishing, in all its guises, for authors.

Each of the respective platforms gives all of us the opportunity to write, take pictures, make music and make our contribution instantly available to everyone out there. No longer do we need to get ourselves a publishing deal or to spend years building up our reputation and learning things the hard way. All we need is to hit the publish or the share button and the job is done. As Pink Floyd would have said, had they been talking about a different thing altogether and in a different time, we don't need no publishing deal.

No, there are no such things as amateurs and professionals any more. Instead we have different people making different levels of income from their publishing.

This phenomenon has got massive positives and a significant amount of negatives. Come people, let's look at them. As a chap who (tries to) take(s) photographs, make music and also write I feel I'm reasonably well qualified, on a strictly amateur basis you understand, to talk about such things.

I started taking photographs when I was about fifteen and my Dad, in true Sri Lankan fashion, got me my first ever job working in a camera shop owned by a friend of his. I learnt how to take pictures the old way; developing films, bracketing exposures, struggling to understand hyperfocal focusing and using Kodachrome 64 and having to wait to see the slides to know how they actually came out.

I don't claim to be a good photographer now, but I do claim some degree of knowledge about the subject.

So I must admit it irks me somewhat when I see these people who wouldn't know a roll of 35mm film if they got attacked by a gang of, well, rolls of film, and they open a facebook account, stick the word "photographer" after their name and decide that that's what they are. Back in the good old days, when men were real men and wore dresses, it wasn't just anyone who could call themselves a photographer, you had to earn the moniker.

On the musical front, as a drummer who invests and has invested a lot of time trying to get better at that side of things, I also get a bit rankled when I see kids, some as young as thirty five, spend half an hour in their attic and then whack a song up on soundcloud or myspace (if it still exists), the likes of which I couldn't even hope to write.

Am I old fashioned in that I'm one of the sort who still gives credence to "experts"? I still rate the old school "professional" journalists, the "professional" photographers and the real musicians who've properly learned their craft.

But, despite my moanings and after much consideration, I've concluded that the positives far outweigh the negatives, most of which are related to my own pride anyway.

As a firm fan of the Kindle I now see that self publishing in terms of the written word is the way things are going to be. A quick glance at the Amazon book charts will show you what I mean. Yes, the world of the self published word gives us, the readers, some total tosh and utter piffle. But, us the readers are also us the writers and we're able to publish our own piffle too.

And much of that tosh and piffle isn't actually tosh and piffle, it's actually great quality writing. Writing that probably wouldn't otherwise have been published. Writing that, were it to be printed, edited, physically distributed, with all the extra cost involved, would almost definitely have never been accessible to us.

For every five people opening a facebook account and putting the word "photography" after their name, there's a few great talents getting exposure. Ha, "exposure", did you see what I did there?

Among all the idiots writing blogs and thrusting their stupid and idiotic opinions upon us, the innocent readers, there are some who show wisdom, intelligence and sound judgement that many simply would not have read if their only other outlet was "professional" journalism.

The technology that goes with all of this; garageband, photoshop and the like has raised the bar. There's no doubt in my mind that the levels at the top have got better, that people are now able to pick up and learn these things so much quicker than in those dark, pre internet years. In turn we've also seen the dramatic increase in people being involved at all. The digital age has seen more "photographers", "musicians", "writers" and "film makers". And more quotation marks too.

More volume means we have to accept the crap and dross at the bottom of the foodchain. We need to accept the negatives in order to take advantage of the positives. Overall the increase in activity gives us more good things.

A bit like life really.

Thoughts on a comment if you have the inclination.

Monday, September 5, 2011

That Italian Style

My first ever visit to Italy, albeit only for a long weekend, left a lasting impression. Yes, there was architecture, fancy stuff with twirly bits and statues with large penises and voluptuous breasts all over the place. Yes, there was that tower, leaning as if gravity were merely a man made invention to be treated with contempt. And yes, there was food to die for, if you like Italian food that is. Of course they just call it "food" there.

But it was none of those that impressed me the most. C like the architecture, that cathedral thing in Florence and the hues and colours of the buildings. Fair enough, girls will be girls, intellectual sorts will be like that.

I was struck, nay, bowled over, by the sense of style and trendiness of the Italians.

I'd heard it said that these Italians were ever so stylish, that they're all incredibly sexy and filled with more panache than a warehouse selling the stuff cheaply on the outskirts of Paris. But it wasn't quite that aspect that grabbed me. I've waited a few weeks to gather my thoughts before I tell you about it, as I was a tad confused and needed time for them to settle. Well, they have and I've realised what it was all about.

You see, these Italians, well it wasn't that they actually looked good, not by proper London trendy standards anyway. Women in Paris, to me, are the most chic looking I've seen anywhere. They exhibit a certain sophistication and sexiness that can only be beaten by some of the best looking types in London. Yes, I'm biased there. But Parisienne women ooze this sophistication as if by default. That is to say, most of them have it. In London we're confronted by chavs and common people on every street corner.

The bits of travel I've done in France outside of Paris indicate that the normal French person is somewhat lacking in the style stakes. It's only these women with their poodles in Paris that have the thing.

And what I saw in Italy is that a huge percentage of the population have this style consciousness. On many occasions they were dressed in clothes that would either get them beaten up or laughed at if worn in London on an average day. Perfectly suitable for wearing at a nightclub on a Saturday night, or for a launch party for one of Madonna's new children, but wear them while going shopping round Kingston or the like and it would be a different story.

Whilst walking to our platform to catch a train there was a woman in front of me who caught my attention. Fortunately C didn't see my attention go off on one. This lady was wearing the shortest of skirts, something on top that left not much to the imagination and high heeled espadrille sort of shoes. It was one of the many moments during the weekend when I'd wished for "manly" company, like DB or one of these fellows. We would have gaped and made "phwoar" noises to our hearts' content.

But, this woman was par for the course, or par for the Italian course. No one even looked twice at her. If she'd been dressed like that in England, going about her everyday business, just about every male passer by would have copped a mouth load of abuse from his partner for staring too much and gawping. Builders would have been wolf whistling like even wolves don't know how to do and there probably would have been camera crews out to take advantage of the situation and film a quick advert for hairspray or ladies' shavers.

In the very same station, the main Florence one that was as crowded as Fort station on a Monday morning, we walked by two men. One of them was wearing a t shirt and speedos, I kid you not. I couldn't help but stare, yet the rest of the Italians didn't even notice.

That was the thing. Lots of these fellows, by London fashion standards, looked like idiots, but it just seemed that everyone in Italy, at least most of them, was incredibly conscious of their appearance. And I liked that a lot. I don't consider myself some sort of model of trendiness but I like to think that I put effort into my clothes and appearance. Style can be bad, but it's better to put effort in than look all plain and dowdy.

What I love about these Italians is that even the ones out shopping with their grandmothers, even the grandmothers actually, seemed to be bothered about how they looked.

Just look at the bloke in the picture. He's a dustman for god's sake! I tell you. With his Aviators, tattoos, the tan and the physique I must admit that for the first time in my life I wondered what being gay might be like.

As it happens I'm almost entirely heterosexual, so all was okay.

Friday, September 2, 2011

One Month Of "Fasting"

It's okay, worry ye not, for I haven't gone all religious after spending too much time hanging round with The Auf.

I have however, decided to go on my own type of fast, for a month, that of September. Yes, in an attempt to show my devotion to the god of consumerism and to cleanse my body and soul I'm going to abstain from buying things this month, starting today, which will be yesterday by the time you read this tomorrow.

If you're a regular around here you'll know that I'm one of those rare types; a bloke who likes shopping. Really. I still think I shop like a man, choosing quickly and not faffing about trying on things left, right and centre. But the fact is I like shopping. There's nothing better than mooching around Kingston, checking out things, buying bits and pieces and seeing what the latest fashions are.

I say "I like nothing better" but something that comes close is to browse and buy stuff on the internet. Internet shopping was invented for people like me. People who sit at a desk all day with a credit card hovering only inches away at all times and a large expendable overdraft.

I guess it's fair to say that most of us are fortunate enough to not have to worry about the things we need. We have food, we have water, shelter and clothing. Usually when we buy things it's all about buying the things we want, rarely is there the slightest worry about affording those we need.

And, in an attempt to save a bit of money, I've decided to go for a month of abstinence, buying the things I need, not those that I want.

I've drawn up a little list of the things I'm allowed and the exceptions to my "fast". It goes something like this:

Food - Takeaway food is permitted. I contemplated banning them but:

a) A fellow has to eat
b) Cooking for one is often a soul destroying pastime
c) I find I often spend more when I cook than when I get a takeaway

Music - None permitted. There is one exception. If Muse release a new album then I'm allowed to buy it. Everyone will understand that.

Clothes - No clothes at all. Even Superdry stuff. The only exception will be total emergencies, like if someone breaks into my apartment and nicks all my twelve pairs of jeans or sets fire to my pants or something. Unlikely I know, but it's always best to consider the possibilities.

Shoes - I have plenty, more than that even. No shoes whatsoever. I even include Superga, my new favourite brand. It will be tough, but I'm a resolute bloke.

Books - I thought that reading matter would be excluded from the fast but decided against it. One of the well known symptoms of owning a Kindle is a strange compulsion to buy ebooks. As a result I now have a queue of about eight or nine on the Kindle waiting to be read, not to mention a whole shelf's worth of those old fashioned paper books that I believe some people still read in poorer parts of the world, like Wales. So, books are out. I've allowed myself the "luxury" of newspapers though.

Gadgets - Nope, none whatsoever. But, if Amazon launch their new iPad beating tablet that's being talked about, then of course I'm allowed to buy one of those. That goes without saying, though I said it.

Magazines - None. Not even Viz. The two drumming ones I subscribe to are excepted for practical reasons.

Gifts - I'm allowed to buy presents for the ones I love. Though I don't include myself in the list of ones I love. But I do love myself. Not too much and not in a pervy way you understand.

That's about it really. As I write it's mid afternoon on the first day of the month and I'm doing okay. I'll keep you posted. I predict that weekends will be the hardest, those times when I might casually nip out a buy a T shirt or two, perhaps a London fit Polo shirt like the one I got on Saturday. At work, in between blogging, Facebook chatting and surfing the net, what am I going to fill my time with if I can't click on "buy it now" or "checkout now"?

Will I actually notice the money I'll save? We'll see. I'll keep you posted. Breaking my fast should be fun at least!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Facebook Deletions

Recently I've spotted a couple of Facebook related things that I think, for pretty obvious reasons, are a growing trend. Firstly there's the phenomenon of people leaving comments and statuses (or should that be statii?) then deleting them shortly afterwards. Secondly is when people "untag" themselves in photographs, after being tagged by someone else.

I'm one of those types who likes to watch people, to try to analyse how they behave, hopefully to use that information in my future dealings with them. Man management, something I try to do every day, is all about that, about trying to find the buttons that need to be pushed to get an individual to respond the way you want.

So I find it fascinating, often amusing, but always revealing, when someone "says" something on a FB wall and then promptly retracts it.

Now I'm no expert but I do know that the virtual world doesn't work like that. In real life, or IRL as those gamers say, we can say a sentence to someone and then retract it and, unless we've been recorded on camera or have put pen to paper, it's only our words and other people's memories that will bear testimony to the fact. I can call you an insulting name, then apologise and make friends and usually we move on and all is okay.

But the virtual world has both evidence, like google cache, backups and all that sort of malarkey, as well as a dubious and dangerous lack of emotion; a potent combination at times. Let's face it, most of us are severely limited in the way we choose to portray our actual feelings online. There are those emoticon things which you kids throw around with gay abandon and there's "LOL". That's about it.

So when someone leaves a slightly dodgy status on Facebook the rest of us rarely know what level of emotion is attached to that status. We don't know if the person is being sarcastic, deadly serious, full of pathos, or any other of the three musketeers.

I saw many pretty vitriolic comments a few weeks ago referring to the recent riots in the UK. Harsh, but fair enough I thought. If people, many in Sri Lanka, feel that way then it's up to them. I find them offensive and puerile, but that's merely my opinion. Others will, and did, disagree.

But I was amused to see a couple of these get deleted by their writers shortly after they were published. One person left a comment on my wall saying "I really feel for the millionaires trying to understand all this anger" in response to a jokey status I'd written about Boris Johnson and David Cameron flying in from their holidays.

I thought the comment was a weird one, strangely bitter but not such a big deal. The fact that the author deleted it shortly afterwards ensured that it left a far more permanent mark in my memory than if it hadn't been deleted. Ironic I know. And, being the author of the original status, I've kept the original FB email notification that I received.

I also saw one person leave a status along the lines of "serves the UK right for the damage it's done to Sri Lanka", which was removed a little later. I sniggered at this. Because if you think like that then at least have the courage of your convictions. Or is that on reflection you suddenly realised that you might upset your friends in the UK?

Some could say that when the writer deletes a FB comment it's a commendable action and they'd have a point. I've seen people remove remarks that perhaps they've thought about and deemed to be offensive or too insulting. My view though is that the bigger way to behave would be to leave the comment up but to follow it up with an apology, so others can see that you think you make an error and you accept it. Far better than deleting, in effect pretending it never happened.

As for people untagging themselves on pictures, well I risk facing a backlash here, but have only ever seen this done by women, and assume it's vanity. Us men, even vain as hell ones like me, don't care that much. I've had pictures published of myself when I've had my best and most strenuous gurning face on, usually whilst drumming, and though it does bother me slightly, never have I untagged myself.

On the flipside I've seen photographs of some women in which they've had one strand of hair out of place, one face looking a bit ugly, and they've promptly got rid of their name so no one can see who it is. It's a fact that it's only women who do that whole "don't take my picture" putting their hand in front of their face thing. Ne c'est pas?

And a happy September to you. Did you know there are only one hundred and fifteen days to go until Christmas now?

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

A Nice Little Bit Of K Time

I'm sure I'm not the first or the last divorced Dad to wish I could have some more time with my kids and, now that they're fifteen and seventeen I'm also aware that, whether their parents are divorced or not, the last thing they want to do is to spend time with either of them anyhow. No, the only thing that matters, mostly, to teenage kids, is spending time with their friends.

Four years down the road though, I still find myself pining to be able to tuck them up, to say goodnight and to have them around to get angry with. Except on Wednesdays and alternate Fridays of course.

But one of the positives is that I appreciate time with them that much more, with every hour and snatched minute feeling precious to me. More often than not the girls just take things in their stride, though I can see that it's also hard for them at times. I'm sure it's hard in different ways for their mother too, such is the shadow of divorce and its after effects.

As they've got older the time they spend with me has become less organised and official. These days the "official" days happen when they're free, or they're mixed with them seeing their friends. Often they won't come to mine because of social stuff they've got going on and, though it's a bit of a bummer for me, I figure that's just part of them getting older.

The other side of that coin is that they pop in now and again and we can occasionally get to do things on an ad hoc basis if it suits. Fortunately for me their mother is very easy going about these sort of things and lets them do things they want to. Sometimes I hear horror stories about the behaviour of ex wives and realise that I'm quite lucky.

And another thing I've realised is that it's important to try to get time alone with each of the girls, as well as time with them both together. When you're all living together you never think about this sort of stuff, it just happens. But post divorce I've begun to see that the dynamics when I'm alone with either A or K are very different to when the three of us are together. It's important to try to nurture the one on one time without taking away from the three of us time.

This weekend A had gone off to the Reading festival, which is a music festival in the town of Reading, not a get together when they read books. Just so you know. So, on Saturday I texted K and asked her if she wanted to come with me to visit my parents on Sunday. She replied in the affirmative, which pleased and slightly surprised me.

I drove over to collect her at almost the appointed time. It was confusing. I had said twelve, then texted her to say twelve thirty, then arrived at twelve fifteen. She wasn't ready and my experience suggests that she wouldn't have been ready whenever I'd arrived. I waited around for a few minutes while she "did her hair" and then we set off.

She'd asked if we could stop off at two places en route; a friend's house to deposit a jumper and then a shop where she could buy a sketch pad for her art homework. We did both, then finally headed off to my parents'. The short car journey was punctuated by K's constant flicking through the radio stations in search of music that she approves of. It's incessant with her, even when she finds a song she likes it's unusual that she listens to the whole thing before changing channels in search of the next.

It's also a reflection of her approach to life; a continuing search for the next thing to see or do. Or eat. There's no rest with her, it's all go, go, go.

Our arrival was a surprise for the 'rents, a pleasant one I think.

We got comfortable and settled ourselves. It was to be a few hours of general hanging around, nothing special, just some sitting there and spending time with each other, hopefully all happy in our respective worlds. K googled for some pictures of Rambutans to draw for her art project and proceeded to draw, I sat and fended off the usual line of interrogation from my Mum and my Dad did his usual and ignored everything.

Some lunch was consumed, more hanging was done and, at around four o'clock we started to say our goodbyes. We set off again, this time heading for my office, as I had my drums in the car and wanted to leave them there. It's a few years since A or K have been to my office and I was quite excited about the prospect of K being there again. When they were small they used to come there fairly often and both have memories of the people, of going to Toys R Us, which is just opposite, and eating McDonalds for lunch.

The journey comprised of more radio channel surfing and a farting competition. Frankly I think it was unfair, as farting whilst driving is actually quite hard, well the lifting your cheeks thing to let it out is. The smells in the car were pretty repulsive, even if I say it myself. I lost, but took the loss with maturity.

We got to my work and K went into the warehouse and began to "scoot" around it on one of the big cages on wheels we have there. She's fifteen, but this was like uninhibited childishness. I liked it, yet was slightly wary on behalf of the contents of the warehouse, a worry that proved quite worthwhile when K collided with a large table and I had to readjust things rather rapidly.

After some more messing around and some unloading of drum kit we set off again, this time heading to drop K home. The half hour journey was punctuated by yet more channel surfing but thankfully no farting competition. We didn't talk much, both being a bit tired and happy to not say too much. We pulled up, kissed goodbye and K went in and I went home.

I spent most of the evening feeling nicely content, something that was a bit of a surprise. I'd really enjoyed the mellow chilling with K and felt happy that she was happy to spend the time, that one on one time, with me.

My day was complete when I got a phone call from A a bit later on. She was at the Reading festival and calling me so I could hear Muse, one of our favourite bands, start their set. The sound was too muffled for me to pick out anything, but I'd heard A talking enough to know what it was. I was chuffed that she'd thought of me.

All in all it was a damn fine day.