Wednesday, July 24, 2019

I'm No Dog Hater...

..but it's the owners who sometimes get on my wick.

So I'd arranged to go out with my mate P the other evening. I've known him for years and I suppose I'd probably class  him as my best friend, though I'm not sure if 53 year olds are allowed to have "best friends" these days.

And P has this dog, one of the small furry ones, called Robert (not his real name). Now really and sincerely I mean it when I say I'm not a dog, or any other animal for that matter, hater. No, they're okay to me. I don't go all gooey eyed with them, but nor do I treat them with scorn and derision, the way I treat lead singers.

Most of my relationships with cats and dogs have involved the two of us looking at each other with vague disinterest, perhaps the occasional stroke or pat on the head. And I'm quite happy and content with the status quo.

One of my business partners has owned (or been owned by) a dog for years and in our early days he used to bring him into the office everyday. I confess I remember that dog, Taffy, with some fondness.
We'd often kick a ball around together or I'd give him a slightly fond stroke, maybe tell it a little joke or anecdote or two.

But the thing I struggle with is these fellows who treat their dog as if it's a human. Or worse, as if it's a highly intelligent child. Let's face it, surely any animal that can be trained to sit or heel or that can get endless hours of fun from fetching a stick can't actually be very bright.

The average cat, a species I reckon is pretty bright, on attempting to be trained, just looks at you with a "fuck off, I'm not doing that" demeanour, then slopes off to its lair, like Jeeves but with a bit more attitude.

So anyhow, I digress. P emailed me yesterday to say that he had Robert with him so he suggested we take the mutt for a walk along the river then go for something to eat. Like a typical Brit, about 30 seconds later I'd replied saying that sounded great. Then I spent many hours afterwards thinking that I should have cancelled, for P with his dog is like a dog with a bone.

He turned up, with Robert on his tail, though P hasn't got a tail, but Robert has. Robert sniffed around my apartment, I assume because it was new to him. To be fair Robert is a pretty well behaved dog. There was no barking, histrionics or running around with saliva dripping everywhere. I managed to keep my cool, as did Robert.

After some chit chat we set off to take Robert for the walk before getting some dinner for ourselves. Now I hadn't decided that I wanted to join P and Robert on this walk, nor had I been given a choice, it was just assumed I'd happily go. This is what I mean. If I want to go for long walks with a dog, one who yaps at cyclists and all that, then I'd get myself one.

You know me. All those thoughts were going on in my head, but the rest of me just went along with things.

Dog owners have this thing, a way of interracting with each other and each other's dogs that freaks me out a bit. And every time we came across another dog, or its owner, there'd be that mutual admiration, laughing, smiling and "ooh look at us being members of the same tiny little club" thing going on between P and the other person. I was worried that the other owners might think I was the owner of Robert and therefore would expect me to join in the shenanigans, so more often than not I kept a suitable distance.

At one point Robert decided to have a shit in the grass, as I'm told animals do. I was pleased that P got out one of those dog poo bags from his pocket and did the decent thing, putting it in a nearby bin afterwards.

Finally we found ourselves in a dog friendly restaurant on the river. Waitresses were cooing over Robert and one brought out a bowl of water for him. P was very much the proud father and I sat there trying to look cool yet doing my utmost so that people didn't think me and P were a gay couple with their dog. Perhaps that's a bit homophobic, but I'm giving you some honesty, so please don't judge me too harshly.

For the next couple of hours P continued to fuss and fawn over Robert, as did quite a few staff and fellow diners. I just don't understand it and, though he did quite like some of the attention, Robert didn't really seem too fussed about it either. It was warm, he had a bowl of water and P told me that he had trained Robert not to be one of those dogs that drools at the table waiting for scraps of food.

I was very jittery at one point when P decided that we would share a mixed starter. It was all pitta bread and humus type stuff, you know, that mush that they serve in Lebanese places. I'm no hygiene obsessive but I was very concerned about the dog shit situation from earlier. Fortunately, with only seconds to spare, P announced to me that he was going to wash his hands so I exhaled happily.

We ate. Robert did his thing, which was pretty low maintenance, and then we left to go back to my apartment for a cup of tea, as our rock 'n' roll days are over.

Robert wandered around my place cheking things out for a bit, then settled on my doormat and lay there whilst P and myself drank tea. At one point P started to play with Robert, which resulted in him yapping and making dog noises and getting all excited about life. P was impressed with this, as if his only son had just been asked to head up NASA before he'd left school. I didn't share the enthusiasm and looked on trying my hardest to sound a little bit impressed.

And they left.

All in all I have to say that Robert was about as low maintenance as dogs get.

He's not my enemy, but he's not my child, and I just don't understand the fuss these fellows make.

Besides I don't think I've ever treated either of my kids the way these people treat dogs. Honestly.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

I Want To Be A Nationalist

Whichever direction I glance in it seems that Nationalism is on the rise.

Be it Sinhala Buddhist Nationalism over your way, the good old US Trump flavoured Southern fried variety out West or the drink tea and keep calm we're British and let's get rid of all the foreigners and fuck the country in the process kind that we have over here, it's all the rage.

Of course, the intelligent types will tell you that it's always happened historically whenever there has been mass migration of people and I'm sure that's true. Hitler, Castro, Napoleon, Boris Johnson, all these truly powerful and mental leaders have used it as one of their weapons of choice.

So I was thinking the other day that I might give it a try. I'm fifty three and open to new ideas. I bought my first ever pair of raw denim jeans the other day so it must be true. To tell you the truth they do still hurt my balls a bit after about a month of wear but I'm persevering, with the knowledge that after merely a year they should feel like a second skin.

But the thing is I've realised that I don't think I can qualify to be a nationalist. Here in the UK I'm brown. Well I'm brown wherever I go but you know what I mean. I'm brown, with a proper South East England accent, the kind that no one understands in Sri Lanka.

If I was white, apart from my name, people here in the UK would never think I was a foreigner. But I'm brown, which I love by the way, and it means I can't really enrol into the whole Nationalism thing. Thai is somewhat counterbalanced by the fact I can wear many colours and I never look pasty and washed out and I have a decent sense of rhythm.

Then, in the motherland, I'm half Muslim and half Tamil, which well and truly fucks me up on all fronts.On top of that no one there ever thinks I even look Sri Lankan. I continually have arguments with tuk tuk drivers and the like when I tell them I'm Lankan and they insist that I can't be; that I must be Thai or Nepalese or something. 

So I'm a bit stuck on this one. Nationalism, that club that everyone wants to join, is not going to let me in.

But, the good news on thinking about it, is that my balls are hurting a bit less from these jeans now.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Too Many Books....

Ever since I was very young I've loved reading. I'm quite good at it now and able to recognise most words I come across, occasionally even knowingwhat they mean.

I'm also a firm fan of the Kindle app on my ipad, something I blame squarely on divorce. You see I owned hundreds of books. Some were bog standard high street fiction, cheap in production and cheaper in quality, for I'm definitely no snob in my tastes either, and others were of the lovely coffee table variety, many about Sri Lanka.

When the divorce happened I was faced with book issues, amongst other far more serious matters too. I didn't have the space for all the books, didn't want to give away the nicer ones, but also knew that many of them I wouldn't read again.

And so I moved over to ebooks. I now have a sizeable library that is happily stored in the cloud. I can annotate them to my heart's content, carry the whole lot anywhere on any of my devices and don't have to worry about taking up many cubic metres of storage space at my office.

I'm not one of these evangelist types though. I like the Kindle app for most books; the coffee table ones are always (to me) better to read and feel as real books and I draw the line at sitting on the toilet with my ipad. A man must have standards. It's just me, if you like to read real books that's fine by me. I have no desire to convert anyone or get into some sort of argument over which is better. All reading is good I figure.
The thing is, I've realised that I'm currently reading too many books.

I used to be a one book at a time person, with very occasional forages (not to be confused with "Farage" - a British word for lying wanker) into two book territory. But that would be strictly one piece of fiction and one of non fiction at any time.

The trouble with ipads, tablets and probably computers in general is the whole switching thing. Chaps sell it as a feature; switching between tasks and functions easily and seamlessly, but I'm starting to think it's too easy.

And so I've drifted into an existence in which I read several books at the same time. I noticed it at first when I was reading two or three. No big deal I thought, I can handle it, I can give up any time.

But I glanced at my current being read books this morning and counted seven. Fortunately only one of them is fiction. I think my mind would struggle to keep track of more than one story at a time. But I'm not sure if six others is too many. Can I keep track of where I am in each one? Do I have to read a good chunk of words to get back into the swing of things every time I go to one?

Or is it good to be able to choose a different book according to my mood? To switch quickly if I'm not 'feeling it'?

Us oldies grew up listening to whole albums. We'd sit there for half an hour listening to a record, then turn it over for side two. We'd be familiar with the flow of an album, the sequence of tracks and how  one song led into the intro for another. I can't listen to the end of Breakout by the Foos now without expecting that snare hit and hearing Learn to Fly immediately afterwards.

But you kids can barely listen to a whole song, let alone an album, before you're looking for the next thing to treat your ears to. And I fear that I'm going that way with books.

Should I just focus on one at a time, digesting every word and chapter, or should I flick channels?


Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Loving The Lotus Tower

At first I was afraid, I was petrified.

I'm no Rajapaksa fan by any stretch of the imagination, so my first thoughts were wholly negative.
It was / is downright ugly; that hideous green and purple Chinese erection soaring into the Lankan sky.

For some time I've thought that Sri Lankans just don't do subtlety. From the delicious food, chock full of every spice and flavouring known to man, to clothing crammed with more colours and patterns than an accident in a rainbow factory subtlety is just not a fundamental Sri Lankan trait.

The Lotus Tower is the biggest example of this; massive, mutli coloured, flashing lights and, well just everything about it screams for attention. It's so gaudy I suspect even Singaporeans might object to it. Or Americans.

Most cities have a few iconic buildings, the kind that are recognised by people all over the world even if they've never been to the place. In London we've got the London Eye, the Houses of Parliament, the Gherkin. New York has the Empire State, the Chrysler Building, the apartment from Friends etc.

Colombo did have its twin towers, which have now been dwarfed by all the new ones coming up and I think the Altair, though residential, will prove to be a bit of an icon. But other than those I feel Colombo, though it has a damn good size portion of gorgeous buildings, has lacked in landmarks.

And the Lotus Tower in all its garishness is starting to change things.

You types who live in Colombo and know your way comfortably around won't appreciate this, but for me, a chap with the sense of direction of a singer without a decent drummer behind him, it's become a bit of a guiding light. Not a guiding light in the way C is to me of course, but a pretty important one nonetheless.

Pretty much wherever I am in Colombo, and parts of Europe, I look up and see the Lotus Tower and can figure out roughly which direction I need to go in. The other day it surprised me by popping into my eyeline as I came into the metropolis on the Expressway. It's there, lurking like a Sri Lankan Mother, permanently watching and making its presence felt but without calling every evening and asking silly questions.

It's still hideous, garish and attention seeking.

And I rather like it.

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Test Post


Monday, May 20, 2019

Hanging and Influencing.

Recently I've become aware that these two words, as nouns, have become things. I don't know how they crept into everyday usage, but what the hell?

Maybe it's a muso thing, but every day I see muso type 'friends' of mine talk about what a great 'hang' they had with someone. And that someone is invariably a (slightly) famous sort, which makes me think that there's some kind of grovelling going on here.

It's that whole Facebook / Twitter narcissistic thing going on again. A desire to tell others that they spent some time with Tom Jones' guitarist or Will I Am's drummer, coupled with a need to let the famous person what a good bloke they think he is.

And influencers?? Seriously, I know it makes me sound old, which I am, but from what I can see an Influencer is someone who has a large enough following on some social media platform to influence their readers to buy something. That's it.

Said thing doesn't have to be good, said influencer often gets paid or gets a free house or something in return for their endorsement and said readers go off and spend money on a diet thing, a pair of trainers or an operation that they don't need and probably wouldn't even want were it not for one of those Kardashians telling them how good it is.

It's all gone a bit mad.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019


It was a normal Saturday morning in September 2015. Normal except for the fact that my Dad had just died. He actually passed at around 6am but, by the time all the official declarations had been done and the undertaker had arrived, it was around 9.30 when we carried his body out of the house into the hearse.

There was myself, both my brothers and the undertaker, who was giving us, the shocked sons, instructions on exactly how to negotiate two flights of stairs as well as a grieving wife, Granddaughter and daughter in law. My parents moved into that house when I was twelve, I know those stairs pretty intimately, as do my brothers, but that was the most challenging time I've descended down them.

Their house is opposite a small local shopping parade with a little car park attached and the hearse was parked directly in front of the house on the street. And one of the things I remember vividly is how, as we loaded my Dad into the vehicle, I looked around and saw people arriving in their cars, parking in the car park and walking to do their shopping.

I saw others come out of the shops with their goods, getting in their cars and driving off, maybe a bit pissed off because Tesco didn't have their favourite brand of butter. A few cars drove past us. We had just lost our Dad / Husband of fifty years / Grandfather and everyone else got on with their Saturday morning.

It has stayed with me; that massive lesson about perspectives and how every individual has their own universe that they inhabit. Some of us have overlapping bits, others don't.

The recent bombings in Sri Lanka have also illustrated this phenomenon in full. I got back to London last week on Thursday evening, four days after the attacks. In Sri Lanka, though thankfully I didn't suffer any loss of loved ones, I felt the pain and heartbreak that so many of you did. I still do.

But the mixed reactions I've had from different people in London have been another eye opener about perspectives.

Even the media seems to have largely stopped its reporting of the situation there. There are articles, obviously lots of us have our feeds tuned into Sri Lanka anyhow, but last week's attrocities in a brown country have become the electronic age's fish and chip wrapping very quickly.

Some people have been genuinely interested and empathetic with me about the situation. A few though, on hearing what happened and after expressing interest have then said "apart from that how was the holiday?"

Others, like a band mate last night, have listened and then just moved on to talking about the new guitar pedal they've got, as if what I was saying was just a topic of conversation, which it clearly was to them.

One person said to me that it just means that Sri Lanka is off his list of potential holiday destinations now. That was all it meant to him.

And that's the thing about the whole perspective business. Hardly anyone is wrong. They're all just different views of the same thing.

Makes me think though.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Thoughts from Colombo

I’m currently in Colombo, probably feeling like most people; a mixture of heartbreak, confusion, loss (for the many lives as well as the peace we’ve got used to) and, I’m sorry to say, relief that myself and my loved ones are okay.

I’m old enough to have lived through many terror related incidents, from being here in July ‘83 to living in London during the height of the IRA’s reign of terror to witnessing the more recent attacks in London, Christchurch and Paris.

C and myself were with some friends at The Kingsbury on Saturday evening. They were staying there and at one point we were having a poignant discussion about the Central Bank bombing, as one of them was working right there when it happened. It was the past. We felt like we were talking about a different Country. I took that picture from the rooftop bar of The Kingsbury looking at the Shangri La, with the Cinnamon Grand lurking somewhere in the distance. It was just another hot Colombo evening and I was just another person taking another picture.

We woke up yesterday morning to see news of the bombs, mixed with that early event confusion about exactly what had happened and where. Our friends messaged and told C that they were late for breakfast at The Kingsbury because she had been hiding Easter Eggs in their room for the kids. They were safe and had jumped into a taxi and escaped to the haven of his parents’ house.

That’s the thing about these events; so many of us have stories of close calls. A few months ago I was staying at the Shangri La, for a few days C and I had breakfast in that room. We were having dinner in the Cinnamon Grand a few nights ago. I was here with my Girls last year and we were doing the full on tourist trail. These events could have happened at any time, to anyone.

It feels to me like most Lankans have an old wound from the civil war. For each person that wound has healed to a differing degree. Yesterday’s events poked at that wound. Some people feel huge pain, some remain as stoic as ever and others want to sleep, just so that they don’t feel anything.

My best friend, a Brit in the UK, had his birthday on Saturday and, in the course of happy birthday messages, told me that he has decided to finally visit Sri Lanka next year with his wife and daughter. My youngest daughter K, whom you know well, is planning to spend a month here in July.

I just don’t know what to advise them.

I so love Sri Lanka. If anyone reads this blog anymore I do hope you understand that one thing.

I’m British, I’m Sri Lankan. And I feel the loss.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Off for a bit

I'm heading off to the Motherland for a sojourn. Nothing too spectacular, just a couple of weeks in the metropolis with C. I expect it will be pretty empty because of most of you fleeing to the more scenic areas for the new year.

We will talk when I'm back, or if I whack out a little post or two while I'm over there.

Bye then!

Tuesday, April 9, 2019


I went off to watch a gig with a good friend on Saturday. My friend, we'll call him P, has a son who's a very good drummer and his band was playing in this kind of grungy indie festival.

I'd never heard of a festival taking place in a hotel before, but this was the score. This hotel, the kind in which you would normally see business people staying in, had been taken over by a mostly young crowd of middle class crusty kids.

I feared I would walk in looking like someone's Dad, which I both am and did, but it wasn't a problem as half the musicians looked the same; that old rock 'n' roll look with more creases on their face than in their jeans and giving off an air of "I nearly made it in the 80s you know".

And, worst of all, it was in Croydon. I need say no more.

So me and P trundled over to Croydon in his car. It's one of these Prius things, that I hear all the trendy people now drive, and I was fascinated by the tech in it. It's even got a camera that operates when he reverses, that's how bang up to date it is!

We got there, parked in a car park and walked out onto the street.

Within about 3 seconds of getting onto the street we heard a woman's voice saying "excuse me".

To our left was a slightly scary, extra from Game of Thrones type looking woman, heading towards us.

"Can you help me please?" she said.

Me and P are both old salespeople and any salesperson will tell you that the easiest person to sell to is a salesperson. Why? Because so often we end up buying crap we don't need simply because the salesperson has sold it to us well. You normal people think about details like whether you actually need something. But sell to a salesperson, give them a good ice breaker, some good questions and a decent presentation and we'll buy all sorts of shit we don't need.

And one of the things I learned as a young whippersnapping teleseller was that if you ask the receptionist or gatekeeper for help they will rarely refuse, as it's human nature to attempt help a fellow.

She was off to a good start, asking for help got our attention along with our sadly sexist old fashioned attitude of helping a woman in distress. Honestly, had it been a man, I think we both would have been less amenable. But I think I'm ok with that too.

Her story went something like this:

"I'm pregnant and was with my boyfriend but we had an argument and he's driven off and left me.

I need to get back home to Hove and have got no money on me and need £19 for the train fare. I wouldn't normally ask but I'm really desperate, do you think you can help me?"

P was quicker to respond that I. My mind was full of cynicism, sympathy, slight fear and also sheer confusion.

P said "I'm sorry I haven't got any cash on me", while my mind was thinking that if I.just give her a few quid that might suffice.

Her response to P was as quick as a tuk tuk driver turning off his meter when he sees me

"There's a cashpoint just there" and pointing about 20 yards away.

So she overcame P's objection and P caved.

He walked to the cashpoint, took out £20 and gave it to her.  I tried to contribute half but P wasn't having it.

On the short walk I asked her what exactly had happened to find her abandoned in Croydon. She explained in some detail that she'd been in the car with the BF, his phone had rung and it was a girl. She, being pregnant and hormonal (honestly that's exactly what she said) had reacted and slapped the BF. At that point he'd thrown her out of the car, saying that otherwise he was likely to punch her, and driven off.

She, who didn't look at all pregnant by the way but had some sort of long coat on so might well have been, took it, said some thank you I could kiss you thing and walked off.

P said that he wasn't sure if we'd been conned but even if she was just a local junkie, he'd done a good deed for the day and was ok with that.

Of course with hindsight I'm as sure as can be that we (or P if you want to split hairs) was totally and wholly conned, albeit rather beautifully.

A lone abandoned pregnant woman, needing help, asking for £19, conveniently not actually £20, telling us that she was hormonal and a bit violent. Then knowing that we were a short walk from a cashpoint.

Truly masterful.

Thursday, April 4, 2019

I don't Need No Invitations

Or reminders.

I don't want my reincarnated blogging life to consist entirely of mini rants, so I'll just write this one and slope off and try and think of something more jolly to publish for next time.

But seriously what is it with these people and institutions who insist on sending Outlook and Google calendar invites, followed by fourteen reminders as you approach the meeting time?

As far as calendar / meeting type stuff goes I reckon I'm pretty British. Despite my Lankan blood I am almost always early for things. And I mean properly early, like half an hour or more. The rationale is that by turning up early I avoid any chance of the loss of control lateness involves, that hustle and bustle of trying to rush and all that goes with it.

The non rationale is that I'm a bit obsessive about it, I just feel better for it.

Talking of calendars does anyone else have an issue with spelling the word? I always have a moment when I wonder if it should be "calandar" or "calender" before settling on the right way forward.

As I was saying, I reckon I'm quite well behaved and organised as far as my time management goes. I arrive early, I run my calendar on three different devices, all of which are synced (in theory), I play in three bands so have to make sure I know when I'm doing which gig with which band.

My life is totally governed by my calendar and task list. There are few things I have to do that aren't stuck into my task list and marked as completed when done.

I'm sure I could improve but I'm quite happy the way things are.

So, if you and I make an appointment, I put it in my diary and it stays there.

I don't then need you to send me a Google or whatever calendar invite. As the septics say; I've got this.

I don't need you, like my Chiro clinic and most places these days, to send me a reminder the day before. I know I've got an appointment with Nisha tomorrow at 3pm, I know I've got a hospital appointment on Friday at 9am too. They're in my diary.

Got to go, I'm running late for a meeting I'd forgotten about.

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Those RIP People

I wonder if it's just me, or do you have any of these types as well?

I'm talking about the Facebook friends who are madly keen to spread the news that someone, famous or not famous, has died.

I've got two in particular, both musicians, who, usually within about half an hour of a death announcement, will put up a link to an article with a little post saying "so and so RIP".

I've surmised that they are desperate attention seekers, a conclusion that would tie in with the rest of their FB posts; all crap minutiae about the lives of their kids and dogs, kind of trying to turn their lives into some sort of sitcom.

And this is a continuation of that behaviour.

It's all a bit too desperate for me, thank god for the snooze for a month feature.

Friday, March 29, 2019

How To Make £1000

I was being chatted to by my sort of mate the other day. I say 'sort of' because he's one of these fellows who falls in the cracks between 'friend' and 'chap with whom I have a professional relationship'.

I say 'being chatted to' because that's more or less how things are with him and I. He talks, I listen, with the rare and occasional interlude in which he might ask me a brief question.

I'll give him a pseudonym; I think Brian Barry will fit the bill nicely here. As David Bowie said in the demo before he came up with a more rock and roll name, Barry plays guitar. He's not the best guitar player around, but he can get by and he's keen, interested and evidently tries very hard at it.

The conversation went something like this:

Barry: Guess what, I made £1000 last week.

Moi: Oh wow, how?

Barry: Well I've got this new guitar (at this point there was a rather long and even more boring story about his new guitar, why it's so good, how it's made, where he bought it etc. I'm a drummer, so I confess I didn't listen and wasn't really interested anyhow. The salient fact is that he paid £1100 for it. I'm going to close the brackets now, if that's ok with you)

Moi: I see. (more brackets, sorry about that)

Barry: And I was playing at a jam session the other day. After I'd played this guy came up to me and started asking me about the guitar. He asked if I wanted to sell it. I said ' well I paid £1100 for it, how much are you offering?" And he offered me £2000 for it.

Moi: Wow. (For I say that a lot. Thinking that is £900, not £1000, but hey let's not let truth and accuracy get in the way of a good story)

Moi (again I know): So did you sell it to him then?

Barry: Nah. I didn't want to.

Moi: Right, I see.

I suppose, had he started the narrative with something like 'guess what? I almost made £900 last week, but didn't', then it wouldn't have had quite the same ring to it.

But still, I mean, these people.


Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Last Week

Voted online in the revoke article 50 thing, because if there are enough votes I believe it means it will have to be discussed in Parliament. Brexit is messing up the UK. Most people seem disillusioned, fed up and just want to know what will happen, anything. And I don't think that's a good way to look at it; that any news is good news.

The whole lot of British politicians have behaved like a shower of self serving tossers. There doesn't appear to be a single one who has put the interests of the country ahead of their own. or their party's.

Two Band Practices, two gigs, one of which I played in and one I was an audience member in.

Vintage Trouble; what a brilliant band from musicianship to showmanship.

Finally Apple announce a new Ipad Mini, which I'd struggle without, so I bought one. Now have to wait.

Wrote some blog posts. It's interesting how trying to blog a bit has already started to impact how I look at everyday things.

Finally got the new battery fitted in my car. I was scared to try it myself in case of losing all the settings. Turned out my trusted bloke didn't really have a clue either, but all was good.

Listened to the much awaited and anticipated new album from Sleeper, one of the best 80s Britpop bands. Great songs, strangely fuzzy production.

And I'm reading a book. That is written in short sentences.

Can you tell?

Thursday, March 21, 2019

A Men Only Post - On Farting and Peeing


I've noticed that the older I get the greater the likelihood is that I'll fart when I pee.

In my little experience of such matters the average ladies toilet is a place of calm, tranquility and perhaps even pleasant smells. I know, I've seen them on TV.

On the other hand the average gents convenience, especially in a good old British pub, is a shit smelling, urine riddled arse end of nowhere room that most men only visit if they're desperate.

Anything is allowed, from farting to drug taking, often at the same time and it's perfectly normal to see a chap standing peeing at the urinal whilst holding a pint in one hand and his equipment in the other hand.

If any ladies managed to slip past the warning then you should know that no man whatsoever comes remotely close to batting an eyelid on hearing another man fart whilst peeing, it's done, it's accepted and it's often encouraged.

Not so many moons ago I used to be far more sporadic in my pee farts than I am now. Regrettably I didn't actually do a full statistical analysis, with a spreadsheet or whatnot. But I reckon I used to drop one every once in a while when standing at the urinal, perhaps once every two or three visits.

These days I've noticed that I can hardly even begin to strain before I've emitted a burst of arse vapour. I confess the lack of control between the front and rear bits of me bothers me slightly. I might now be forced to do a more objective study but I fear that we're looking at a one to one ratio of farts to peeing. It's never two to one or higher though, you'll be pleased to know.

I reckon it's just yet another symptom of getting older. Are there any exercises one can do to stave it off?

It's literally a bummer. And you know I don't use that word lightly.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Good Things About Being Short

At five foot five, living in the UK, I think I fall firmly into the category of 'shortarse'.

In Sri Lanka or Singapore I feel distinctly taller and, to my surprise, last year in New York I felt a bit taller too when I'd fully expected to feel like I was in a land of giants. It's all relative, and I do blame it on my relatives, even though it's not really their fault.

Frankly, and it's something I've put quite some mindwork into, I can't think of many advantages of being short. It's harder to buy clothes that fit decently, which I suppose means that I've got quite friendly with the very nice people at my local tailor shop.

I have a vague notion that short people  make better drummers, but it's entirely anecdotal based on an unproven thought that shorter limbs means we can move around the drumkit more easily.

But really my list of pros reads as follows:

1. We can fit into Economy Class aircraft seats more eaasily.

2. We are better at Hide and Seek.


Monday, March 18, 2019

Pick Me

You know those niggling desires you have in nether regions of your mind? Those thoughts that pop up now and again until you put them to bed by doing the thing or somehow exorcising it.

Well for a while I've had one such thought and it's been about picking locks. I wouldn't say I've been fascinated by the topic, more that I've had a medium level of interest, a bit like a Madras curry to most Brits.

It's not even that I've considered shifting my career into burglary, merely a rumbling of a thought that it would be a nice and mostly useless thing to be able to do.

So of course, a few weeks ago I bought myself a "learn how to pick locks" kit online. It wasn't very expensive and the blurb promised me an extensive easy to understand written guide, two real locks made from transparent plastic to practice on as well as a sexy little tool kit with all the things an aspiring lock picker might need.

The package arrived. Somewhat ironically I found it quite hard to open, but once I dealt with that hurdle I got on with reading the guide. I'm that rare breed; a man who likes to read instructions before I start to play with the hardware.

At this point I realised that the instructions were most likely a literal translation from Chinese. Not only was the language nigh on impossible to figure out but I suspect it was running from back to front pagewise. I'm not one to be beaten easily, except when I give up, so I got on with things, trying my best to decipher the text, flick from page to page quickly and then start on the practical side.

The first half hour or so was a painful struggle. I'd translated sufficiently to figure out roughly what I needed to do with one padlock, but the instructions gave me very little idea of which actual tools to use out of the quite large number supplied. After much trial and error, mostly the latter, I got to a stage where I could open the padlock within around 30 - 50 seconds. I was quite pleased with this, even though it involved two tools and a little bit of brute force occasionally. I resolved to practice a bit every day before trying it out in a bank on my front door lock.

And so I did. For the next week or so I spent a small chunk of time every day working on my skills and I'm happy to tell you that, should the need arise, I can comfortably break open a clear plastic padlock, as long as I have the toolkit and some reading glasses with me, within about 10 seconds.

My mind evolved to the inevitable and I reckoned I was ready to try a real lock; one that isn't transparent and that has a door or similar attached to it. I had already put some thought into which specific lock would be my first real world attempt and had realised the only two options were my own front door or my neighbour's.

I suppose I'm old fashioned, or perhaps my neighbour is, but I figured he wouldn't be too impressed if he caught me practicing on his front door. There are not many ways I could think of to explain this one away and the truth seemed the worst idea. So last Thursday, whilst doing that 'working from home' thing that you kids do all the time, I went for it on my own front door.

I got the lock picking kit out, lay everything out on the floor, opened my front door fully, so to any passer by it would hopefully look like I was doing work on my door, and set to work. Confidence was oozing out of all my pores. After all if I can pick a clear teaching padlock in a few seconds every time surely half an hour, perhaps an hour for the virgin flight, would be wholly achievable.

Like fuck was it.

I tried every combination of tools. There are usually two involved; one to twist the twisting bit and the other to wiggle and move the wiggling bits, and I tried them all. Nothing, I mean sweet FA, I mean absofuckinglutely nothing, would budge even a fraction of a millimeter.

I kept at it for some time, maybe half an hour,  but nothing made any difference. As I told you earlier, I'm not one to be beaten easily, except when I give up. So I gave up. I reckon that's the end of my lockpicking career. If I'm honest the signs were there right at the beginning when I had such a struggle opening the package in the first place.

I'm just unsure if the career is fully over or whether it's a mere hiatus while I gather my thoughts, perhaps retrain. Hmmm....

Friday, March 15, 2019

Those funny People; the Fake Clowns

I reckon most people think that they have a wonderful sense of humour. A bit like most men think they're fantastic drivers.

Or is it just men? I wonder, as I write this I've had the thought that perhaps women aren't as bothered about their own sense of humour as a man is about his. Could it be that us men are just ego driven chimps who strive to be better than the next man? How ridiculous, I can hear David Blacker saying!

I digress, which is one of that things that I'm finding fascinating now that I'm trying my damndest to get my blogging mojo back.

Obviously, being a man, I consider myself pretty damn funny. I read somewhere (I think it was by Edward De Bono)  that a person who is funny has the ability to jump off the road that a conversation is travelling on, to get to a different place, then take his co conversationalist to that place too. The unexpected, combined with someone else guiding us there, is usually what makes us laugh.

I don't know, but it seemed like a very good rational explanation of a tricky yet instinctive concept. How does one analyse something that just happens to us naturally? We don’t hear something funny then assess its pros and cons with our rational mind before deciding whether to laugh. We just hear the funny and spit coffee everywhere, perhaps applying the rational mind afterwards to try to figure out what was funny.

What about those people who just try too hard to be too funny too much of the time? Do you know any? Have you observed any and do they get on your nerves like they do to me?

I have a friend, someone I'd describe as one of those fringe friends, who acts like some kind of clown. He's constantly messing around, either physically or verbally, and any conversation with him seems to consist of him trying to find something funny to say.

And he fails abysmally IMHO.

There are times when he genuinely cracks a witticism, when one slips through the cracks and makes me laugh. But generally I just think "WTF?" to myself and wonder if it's all about attention, like with Chandler and his childhood.

I'm one of three brothers and when I'm with both my siblings we put a lot of effort into making each other laugh. It's how we are and I suspect many sets of brothers are like this. But it feels natural, never forced, to us. Or that might be my inherent bias, I'm not sure. But I don't think any of us seek to do this with other people all the time, especially to the extent that it gets on their nerves.

So what on Earth is is with these fake clown types?

Are they compulsive attention seekers, probably because of childhood issues? Or are they people who genuinely are funny and it’s just you and I who don’t find them funny?

Or what?

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Waiting Rooms, Bells, Bands, Cars and Chocolate.

Have you ever seen that quite famous experiment?

The one where a chap goes into a waiting room. Said chap thinks it's a genuine waiting room, perhaps for a job interview or hair transplant consultation, but in actual fact it's a fake one.

So he goes in and finds three or four people already seated and he takes a vacant chair. After a few minutes a bell rings and all three or four of the others, who are all in on this, stand up for a few seconds then sit down again. Our chap looks on with interest, wondering why they're doing this.

Then, some minutes later the bell rings again and the same thing happens; the actors stand up and sit down after a short time. You've probably guessed the next bit. After a while our chap follows suit and stands when the bell rings with the others.

Then, one by one, the people who were in the room already start filtering out as they get called to whatever it is they are there for. And new fellows have started coming in too, all of whom have joined in with the standing for the bell thing. These are new fellows who are as ignorant as our chap, but have joined in because they think it's what has to be done.

Eventually we are left with our chap and a waiting room full of new people, all of whom stand up when the bell rings and then sit down a few seconds later. Yet none of them have the foggiest why they're doing it, they've all just been copying the people who were in the room when they arrived.

I've seen it used by Derren Brown, the very famous hypno / mind manipulation bloke, as a means of identifying people who are more likely to follow the herd rather than think independently, as there are some who don't join in and stay seated looking with bewilderment at the others.

But it's an age old demonstration of how humans and animals will often follow the herd or adopt a learned behaviour without knowing for themselves exactly why.

Why are many of us instinctively scared of snakes? I don't know about you but I shit myself at the thought of snakes. I've never been attacked by one, I've only ever seen a few, but my skin is slightly crawling even as I type this. Well take it from me, it's because of that waiting room with the bell, or something along those lines.

There's a band here in the UK that I'm quite keen on called King King. I came across them a couple of years ago and they're largely a good old fashioned Blues band who, in recent times, seems to have veered towards more middle of the road rock (think Whitesnake in their prime). I'm down with the kids me.

As with most music I discover my initial attention was grabbed by their drummer; a magnificent groover by the name of Wayne Proctor. And I've sought out lots of his other music and would go so far as to say he's influenced my playing rather a lot in the last couple of years. I've been trying to nick his blues licks and triplet based grooves as much as my meagre ability will allow!

King King are a 4 piece band, led by a guy who sings and plays guitar and woud appear to be the main man. And shortly after I got into them the keyboardist left, to be replaced by someone else. I really like the first guy, a rather brilliant Hammond player, but that seemed to be that.

Then, maybe a year later, the bassist, as far as I know one of the founding members, also quit. This was just after the announcement that the band had signed a big management deal for the US, and it looked like big things were on the horizon.

The talk on the forums and Facebook fan pages etc was that the bassist had left because he had family committments and didn't want to be going off doing stateside tours with everything else in his life. Quite understandable and he was replaced by another low frequency thumper.

Lo and behold a few weeks later and very surprisingly our man Wayne announces he's left. It seemed sudden and I know not what the story is but I suspect there may have been a falling out of some sort. A new drummer has yet to be announced.

So now we're in a situation where, out of four people who were in the band when I first came across them, three of them are different. And it got me thinking. If the singer / guitarist was to leave and be replaced (which I admit is almot unthinkable), would it be the same band?

Thin Lizzy, may all time favourite band, are currently out on tour. But there is not a single one of the original members in the current line up. Admittedly Scott Gorham, their longest serving guitarist who joined in the very early stages, is in, but he wasn't in the band to start with. They go out doing gigs, playing the same old songs that they used to play but as far as I'm concerned they're not Thin Lizzy.

If Brian Downey, the original drumer was involved, I'd see then happily, though probably accept them as nearly Thin Lizzy.

I was chatting to a friend about this last week and his response was that it's like branding. These days there are very few consumer items that contain their original heritage or product DNA. Sure you can buy Cadbury's Dairy Milk or a Mini Cooper, brands that are as British as The Beatles or Colonisation.

But they're not British are they? Cadbury is owned by Mondelez International, an American F+B Company and Mini is a wholly owned subsidiary of BMW.

Minis all over the world with Union Flags covering their roof and rear lights cleverly made to look like Union flags make all of us think of the swinging 60s and the Kings Road but it takes the Germans to rescue the ailing brand and make it profitable.

We support a football club yet everything about it may well be totally different to when we first started. Different players, different manager, perhaps different ownership or stadium. The name stays, but everything else moves on.

Where do your boundaries lie with this sort of thing?

The only thing I know for certain is that there are no objective rules. Except I suppose, there must be legal limits. I'm sure Scott Gorham somehow has the legal right to tour with the Thin Lizzy name, as Mondelez International is legally entitled to use the Cadbury name.

Is it as simple as that now?

If you own the name you can use it!!? It kind of makes me sad.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Hair today, gone tomorrow - Part Two

In my quite bald head it only seems like about one, at most two years ago when I told you that I was investigating the idea of having a hair transplant here.

But no, on rereading that post I've now realised that it was over 5 years ago, which might explain a lot!

I promised to keep you posted, so finally I am, with a post.

For some months after February 2014 I did exactly what I committed to do. I made appointments with about  4 or 5 of these hair transplant places to see what the possibilities were for me.

And not a single one of them inspired any level of confidence in me. One in particular, the Private Clinic in Harley Street would you believe, gave me downright incorrect medical advice. I've put their full name here as it's all documented and was never resolved to my satisfaction.

But the gist of it was that the nurse who was giving me the consultation said that they wouldn't go ahead with a procedure as I was type 1 diabetic and the Doctor would not operate on a type 1 diabetic. She steadfastly refused to accept that I am actually type 2 diabetic even though I take insulin and got quite shitty with me when I argued the point.

"In all my twenty years of nursing I've never come across someone taking Insulin who's not type 1" she said at one point. 

The clinic refunded me the £100 or so for the consultation and, when I complained, offered me another free consultation with a different nurse, but never really dealt with the issue that a nurse had got her medical facts wrong. I'll be bolloxed if I'm going to go to a clinic that demonstrates its medical "expertise" like that, then fails to deal with it.

To be fair the other clinics did not demonstrate medical incompetence, more just an air of snake oil salesman trying to close a deal regardless of whether it would result in a happy customer.

One bloke kept calling me for some weeks afterwards reducing his price every time and trying to get me to buy that way. Another called a few times saying that they had had last minute cancellations and gaps to fill so could offer me reduced rates because of that.

Not once did I feel that I had been given decent impartial advice with my best interests at heart. Perhaps I had been naive in my expectation but that was what I wanted and felt I needed in order to make a good decision.

So, what with life getting on with itself the way it does and things being busy, as well as the fact that my Dad rather selfishly passed away a little after, I decided to put it all on the back burner as it just didn't feel right.

Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago. For some algorithmic reason an ad popped up on my Facebook page for a clinic with what seemed to be an excellent reputation and was also local. I bunged an enquiry in and got myself another consultation and off I went.

The very nice Doctor, and it actually was the Doctor, not a nurse or salesperson, started off by asking me why I want to have a hair transplant. I immediately told him that I'm not sure if I do, but that I want some good advice on my prospects.

He took some photos of my head, did some computerish stuff, then gave me the news.

If you're bored and want to skip the details let's just say you can't polish a turd or you can't grow grass on a busy road.

He refreshingly and I assume honestly told me that I simply don't have enough hair left on the donor area to fill in the rather large empty bit and give me a full and flowing head of hair. There would be patches left on the donor area and I'd end up with a head of hair looking like it did around 5 years ago, not like it looked in my "are you Shehan Karunatilaka?" days.

One option would be to have a transplant and combine it with scalp micropigmentation, when they effectively tattoo fake grade zero hair on your head. I'd had a look at this anyhow some time ago and decided against it because you have to keep your hair at around grade zero constantly or you look like a total arse. Clippering my hair twice a week is way over my vanity boundary.

I pondered for some minutes and came to a decision. First of all I figured that there was no motive for the Doctor to be lying to me. Then I realised that his advice had made things clear; I simply am not that bothered and don't want to spend around £6k to look like I did 5 years ago. If he'd promised a full head of hair things might be different. But even then it's only a 'might'.

My feelings, for I know lots of you are interested in these feeling things, were mixed, in a surprising way.

Rather than feel massive waves of disappointment I felt about 10% disappointment. The remaining 90% was a sense of relief, of putting the whole thing to bed and getting on with life. It was good to feel that I'd finally got good quality information and made an informed decision.

Embrace the slaphead I guess!

Anyone want to buy some nearly new hair gel?

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Setting Some Objections

Yes yes. I know it's objectives. It's just one of those things that wind me up; when people get the slightly wrong word.

Like when they say 'pacific' instead of 'specific'. you know the fellows. The sort who spell dictionery wrong.

Anyway. some months ago, in an attempt to inject a stronger feeling of purpose into my existence, I decided to experiment by setting myself some objectives at the start of every week.

When we are younger and surrounded by young kids and engrossed in all the day to day busyness that a young family involves we rarely have time to pause and think, let alone set objectives for ourselves.

But, as time has progressed, I detected a sense of, or rather I didn't detect, a sense of purpose in my day to day life. Overall, in terms of the bigger things, purpose was still lurking around for me, but a bit in the background and only revealing itself at random times. I've always got the Girls, C, my work and drumming, but sometimes they can be physically absent for differing lengths of time and I became aware of drifiting aimlessly through a week.

So now every Monday morning one of my first things is to set out my objectives for the week. I do this on a mindmap, because my life is largely run by mindmaps of different sorts. And I'm sorry, but I make no apolgies for this but I love mindmaps.

All the books, the self help ones, constantly extoll the virtues of goal setting. I know you've probably read them and I'm not giving you some huge nugget of wisdom or knowledge.

I've set myself targets for my blood sugar. Us diabetics have to do this sort of thing, though I suspect you didn't know I'm one, as I just realised it happened in my last blogging hiatus. Some weeks I've beaten this admirably (even if I say it myself). In other weeks my Sri Lankan genes have risen to the forefront and I've eaten more rice than a white person would consider decent. But whichever it's been I've had the target in my mind and I'm sure it's making a difference.

Every week I set a few drumming related goals; get that set of fills up to 80bpm, get myself ready for that gig on Saturday etc.

Reading, a massive part of my life, features heavily. Finish that book, get halfway through that other one.

And money. In a sort of attempt to consciously and proactively save some wedge I've been target setting. Doing it on a weekly level has been so much more impactful than just saying to myself that I'd like to save x by the end of the month.

I've noticed that when an objective is written down it really does feel more powerful. Even though they are private, the very act of writing or typing them out seems to form a kind of contract for me, one that is more binding than if it's not writtne out.

And in trying to stretch myself I've also made a very conscious effort to not be too anal about needing to achieve every single obejctive every single week. I want to fail. I want to be beaten into submission by a few targets, so I know I'm pushing my own boundaries however close they might be to other people.

So far it's been good. It's given me a nice sense of satisfaction and a definite better feeling of purpose.

I promise to keep you posted.

Monday, March 4, 2019

If you want my advice....

....ignore most people's advice.

I was browsing Facebook the other day, as most of us over 35s tend to do, and came across a FB friend wishing her Dad a happy birthday.

This friend is a muso who I know pretty well, as is the specific father in this story.

So said friend wishes the Dad, then goes on to tell people that her father gave her four valuable lessons in life as follows:

  1. Everyone is stupid unless they prove otherwise
  2. Most people that complain are fat and ugly
  3. Don't look forward to a gig coz it will be shit if you do
  4. The best gigs end in a fight.

I read this and thought 'seriously?'

Now I've met the bloke and he seems like a nice chap, but rarely have I seen a more cynical and negative set of parental tips.

For starters, assuming anyone is stupid until they prove themselves otherwise might well be your attitude. It might be the way many look at life and new people. But it's cynical as fuck and I don't want to approach newcomers to my life with that mindset.

Nor do I want to do the opposite; to assume they're NOT stupid until they prove otherwise. I just like to enjoy every new encounter with a positive and open minded mindset. Perhaps, within four nanoseconds, I will decide I think the person is stupid, but I certainly hope I give people a chance. On top of that the likelihood is that they will think I'm stupid also.

The next one; most people who complain are fat and ugly is hardly worth discussing. I just hope I have never instilled in my girls that anyone's worth or validity is based on their weight or attractiveness.

As for number 3, well we're back to cynicism and negativity. I suppose the word 'gig' can be substituted for almost anything. And it's basically saying that one should always have low, maybe zero expectations in order to avoid disappointment.

There might well be a grain of truth in this. How many times have you watched something that someone else has raved about and you've come away feeling let down? Or gone to your favourite restaurant expecting your taste buds to feel like they've, well been to your favourite restaurant, only to feel that perhaps a Big Mac might have been a better choice?

In my case I've played many a gig that I was looking forward to only for it to fail to fulfil my expectations.

But, I'd far rather approach gigs and events with a nice feeling of calm optimism. I suppose that means I may well run the risk of feeling a bit disappointed but it just feels better to me. If one does everything with the expectation that it will be a bit crap then why bother in the first place?

And the final nugget; that the best gigs end in a fight.

Yes that is very true. Particularly if it's a fight between band members.

Friday, March 1, 2019

Either / Or

Some months ago I read about the concept of using the words "either" and "or" as a tactic to get the behaviour you want from someone, or to frame a discussion or argument in order to win.

I'm sure we're all aware of people using either / or in everyday conversation and I'm equally sure we all use it ourselves.

"What are you, a man or a mouse?"

"You're either a lover or a fighter"

"Are you an optimist or a pessimist?"

"Are you pro Rajapaksa or against him / them?"

"You're either with us or against us"

Ad infinitum.

The point is that these force the unaware receiver into choosing between the two options and the smart user can choose his or her language to get a desired result. The "two types of people" statement is a powerful related method as well.

"There are two types of people; those go out and take action and those who sit around doing nothing and let crap happen to them."

I mean, faced with that sort of statement most people are going to take action just for fear of being branded as the doing nothing type.

As in life awareness is at least half the battle. Once I became aware that these sort of ultimatums can be used deliberately I have become much better at spotting them and cutting them off at the pass.

I saw a Twitter exchange between Stephen Fry and someone, in which the someone asked Stephen Fry if he was X or Y and Mr Fry responded with something like

"Gosh are those the only two choices?" which I made a mental note of to use in the future.

When I notice it being used on me I also like to just call out the person for it, saying

"'ve framed it as an either / or but actually it can be both."

This has been massive for me, as it can change the whole direction of the conversation and lead to a much more open and less aggressive type of conversation than how it might have been heading.

Just saying.

Have a good weekend out there!

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Love me, love my recommendation

I discovered a new comedy on Netflix last week. In the little thought I put into this post prior to writing it I contemplated not telling you what the programme is called, simply because then you won't accuse me of doing the very act I'm criticising. Then I realised that I'm criticising myself for doing that thing anyhow, so it kind of doesn't matter.

On top of that I don't think anyone reads these blog posts these days anyhow, so to hell with it.

The programme is called Norsemen.

It's set in the Viking Age in Norway and I started watching it purely because someone I follow on Twitter mentioned it and I tend to like most things Scandinavian. It was potentially a win win for all, as fuckwits who don't understand that that is what a "win win" is anyhow and who probably go around saying 'safe haven' too would say.

The thing is, I started watching it because I thought it was one of those serious, gory and adventurous Viking drama series. Instead, about five minutes in I realised it's a comedy. It's a dry, dark comedy mixed in with quite a lot of gore. I've seen it described as the bastard child of Game of Thrones and The Office (obviously the proper British Office, not that American trash). I don't suppose it could be a bastard child with two parents, but that's another matter. Other than that the description seems accurate.

It's one of those "hang on, did he really say that?" type of comedies, not in your face hilarious but think on it afterwards hilarious. There's oodles of subtlety to it and I apologise to all Sri Lankans here for I know you don't have subtlety there.

I binged on it big time and watched both series in about three days. 

The thing is I've been telling everyone I know about it.

"You must watch this."

"I know you'll love this, give it a try."

"I've found this brilliant programme."

And, though I've come across a surprising number of people who have already watched it, all of whom loved it, not one person I'm aware of has watched it following my recommendation.

You know me, I ponder and cogitate on these things. It dawned on me that it's important to me to try to get people I value to respond positively to any recommendations I make. I know it's entirely my ego and I'm quite sure it's human nature, not just one of my idiosyncrasies.

But yes, I want people to listen to a song or band I have told them about. I want you to watch Norsemen because I suggested it and I want you to read that book I recommended.

It matters doesn't it?

We all want to be that person, that wise counsel who discovers something and spreads it to the masses. Influencers I think is the word. Yet it's all about the ego.

As they said in Friends.

"It's not love Monica, it's just food".

Monday, February 25, 2019

A WTF Moment!

Ever have stuff happen to you, or perhaps just things you encounter, that make you wonder if you are getting old or whether the world is losing its head?

There I was, casually out with my brothers a couple of weeks ago, off to a rather pleasant gig as it happens.

Musicbiz bro gets something out of his pocket and puts in his mouth.

"Do you want one?" he said to me.

"Hmmm what is it?" I asked.

"It's a chewing gum" replied he.

"It's actually bubblegum flavoured chewing gum" he adds.

"What? Bubblegum flavoured chewing gum?" said moi.


"Erm, so it tastes like bubblegum, feels like bubblegum, only you can't blow bubbles with it? I asked.

"Yes that's about it" he responded.

What next?

Apple flavoured oranges.


Maybe I'm getting old and the world is losing its head.

Friday, February 22, 2019

What makes a good Teacher?

I'm lucky that in over 20 years of playing the drums in London I've been able to study under a multitude of teachers.

I'm currently with a fairly well known guy who is out around the world on tour with someone for most of his time, but teaches when he has some downtime. He teaches just because he loves to do so and is absolutely brilliant.

It suits me as well that I go to him say once every six months and walk away with a mountain of things to work on, that might take me another six months, a kind of point and shoot approach. He gives me guidance, points out things that might just need a little fine tuning, then gives me wads of manuscript paper about what we've done and sends me off into the big bad world.

He can cover things in a reactive way; when I say I want to address a particular issue and he helps me to solve it. Or he can be proactive; when he looks at my playing and improves things that I'm unaware I had a problem with.

I've had teachers who have been good at one or the other before; the proactive or the reactive, but there have been few with this mix of both approaches.

But I saw something the other day; someone who is a "professional" in a field who has no practical expeience in said field and it got me thinking about what makes a good teacher.

I made a list of my drum teachers recently and it consisted of a motley crew of the good, the bad and the ugly. There were two who, as teachers, were downright useless to me. I say 'to me' because it may well have been the case that these people were fantastic mentors to different students, that they just didn't click for me. But also I think a truly good teacher should be able to adapt to the differing learning styles of students.

One of these useless to me guys was / is a top drawer internationally rated player. He has gigged, and still does, with world class artists and is hugely liked and regarded in the music business. And in the one (maybe my sample size was small here) lesson I had with him I got the distinct feeling that he had decided that he would do a bit of teaching in between gigs just to keep some money coming in with next to no thought put in to how he woould approach things.

Lovely bloke. Crap teacher.

The other baddie was a well know London player / teacher who I studied with for about six months. He was only my second ever tutor and I think I was a bit green. I did learn some useful titbits from him but there came a point where I looked at the picture and realised that I felt worse about my playing and abilities coming out of every lesson than when I went in.

Maybe some students get motivated by feeling like this, but I don't. So I moved on.

When I look at the most impactful teachers I've had I notice that they are the ones who have given me confidence, who have positively inspired me. There have been a couple who have been okay, but seemed rather bitter about their own lack of success, about the fact that they were sitting teaching idiots like me rather than out gigging with the Foo Fighters. We all want to feel wanted, not a poor second best or a fallback because Plan A turned out to be filled by Taylor Hawkins or Craig Blundell.

Maybe I'm also a bit shallow, but I've picked teachers to begin with based mostly on what I think of their playing but also on their reputation; who they've played with and what they've done.

Then, very quickly, it becomes all about how good a teacher they are to me.

With practical expeience comes knowledge, but one needs to know how to get that knowledge into your student in the best and most positive way.

Two things are definite; just being a top level player is not enough and just knowing the theory isn't enough. The best ones are those with a mix of gigging / playing experience with teaching ability. It needs to be the right balance, but I suppose one can't really have too much teaching nous.

Just for the record; I can't teach to save my life!

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

On Menstruation and Religion

I saw a rant by a friend on Facebook recently on the subject of menstruating women not being allowed in certain religious sites in some parts of the world, specifcally Sri Lanka.

It's mildly embarrasing to admit this, but it's a subject I've been wholly unaware of until I saw this. Though  I'm immensely proud of my heritage the fact is I've been born and brought up here in the UK and largely with a "western" attitude towards religion, whatever that may be.

One of the things I think that involves is an 'opt in' rather than 'opt out' mindset, but that's a topic for another day. Another thing it involves is no mention of women having to cover up much and certainly no mention whatsoever of women who are menstruating not being allowed to visit certain sites.

So when I heard about this in Sri Lanka I asked a few people. I was told that it's just a normal part of everyday life there and many accept it without a second thought, though many think it's archaic and sexist too.

I now know that it's considered 'unclean' by many, that it might invite the wrath of the Gods. Well it seems to me that it's mostly priests blinkered men rather than anyone else who is bothered by it.

I mean, if I were a God or a deity I'm sure I'd be focussing my efforts on helping poverty and suffering, sorting out wars or providing new snare drums to needy drummers, not whether some women are on their monthly cycle when they decide to worship me.

Fucking ridiculous. Just saying.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Gig Rant. Slightly

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rant over.

Friday, February 15, 2019

The Rules of I Love You...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who said romance is dead?

Monday, February 11, 2019

My name is RD and I'm probably lost.

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

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

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

So, how are you?

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

Do you even still exist?

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

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

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

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

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

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