“Up? I know no Up. All I know is prone

The human mind and the human body are, of course, at constant war. The mind organises all sorts of delights and the body decides that it’s a good time to go to sleep, then after lights out when the schedule says it’s time to sleep, the body comes to the conclusion that it wants to go on a five mile run. The mind organises a complicated timetable of demanding activities and the body decides that it’s going to succumb to some debilitating disease. Oh, alright, a mild ‘flu isn’t technically a debilitating disease; I realise I’m going to get an award for Hypochondria Above and Beyond from the Royal Society of Drama Queens and a stern warning from the W.H.O. for saying that, but you know what I mean.

Which is my way of saying that the Lurgi continues to develop into something deeper and more satisying while at the same time I need to be several quite widely spaced places throughout the course of the day.

Firstly, I was going to go into Walker extra-early to try to finish the Maisy job, which is in danger of turning into a life-time vocation. The bod vetoes that by the simple expedient of refusing to move when I ask it to. “Up?” it says, “Up? I know no Up. All I know is prone“. So I scrap the early rise and leave the bod to its own devices.

Eventually I struggle out of bed and enlist the help of the Aged P to get me, the Will Q bass, my amp and a rucksack across to Dave’s for a Jeays rehearsal for the Vortex gig tomorrow night. We do tea, tunes and biscuits for a bit.

The biscuits are often the most important part of a rehearsal. Ms Coffey, for example, provides us with Jaffa Cakes.

From there, over to Walker in a state of Lurgi-induced zombification, where I work my way through the rest of the preparation for print. I get it to some state of togetherness, but not what Est-ers would consider completion. Anyway, I’m not needed for a few days, apparantly. Now I have to drag the Bass gear over to the Three Stags (on the way home, thankfully) for the Jam. I’ve missed the run-through, but that’s all right, because for a while it seems that we’re going to have to do a different set because the drummer’s late.

I have played worse. I have played better. At least I was able to count the bars successfully, but then in cases where everybody has their own idea of where in the song they are, the strongest personality wins. For example, Albert the Octogenarian sings the lines whenever he feels like it and the whole band has to jump to follow him. It’s very educational.

Anyway, we were a bit raggedy… no, wait, I was very raggedy indeed, which might have had an effect on the other players. Or perhaps the raggediness was all in my head.

Then I drag the equipment home, find a place for it, check my email and the Bod can reacquaint itself with prone.

I met various people. Some of these were children.

I wake up early but am still feeling Lurgesque.

I do the supermarket thing and then set off for King’s Cross – I’m going up to visit Ben and Sally in their rural idyll. There is some confusion as to which which trains are going where and whether they can be bothered to send them there at all. So we are sent from one platform to another until a train eventually manages to struggle in. I get a seat (after all they’ve had to condense the passengers from about three trains onto this one) and pass out, remaining semi-conscious all the way to Cambridge. I have the radio on, and a performance of Mahler’s Fifth flickers in and out, resolutely out for the Adagietto, which was the bit I wanted to hear, of course. Good trumpety parping, though.

On reaching Cambridge I’m feeling very poorly, buy a ticket for the village where Ben and Sal live. I look for the right timetable and find that it’s having the “Cambridge” line highlighted in dayglo yellow. The chap who was doing the highlighting asks if he can help, I tell him where I’m going and he directs me to platform two at 12:28, but it transpires that if I took the train that was at that platform at that time I would have been taken back to King’s Cross. Another chap says I want a train from the same platform at a slightly later time, and it deposits me at the right station. The general air of chaos during the journey leaves me feeling that the fact that I reached my destination was more a lucky accident than anything that the railway companies might have attended.

Ben meets me halfway between the station and his house and guides me there where in addition to Sally, Nat and Will are Liz, Ant, Claire and David . We have all met every so often over the last few years at one couple’s house or another, but not mine, because you couldn’t get that many people in my flat, let alone feed them.

(A bluffer’s shorthand for the last paragraph might read: I met various people. Some of these were children.)

A very pleasant day follows, that includes lunch, ice-cream, collecting horse-chestnuts and eating fresh walnuts (which I hadn’t done before and will do again) and generally hanging out in bucolic splendour.

David and Claire give me a lift back to Bounds Green and I take the tube from there. have to get my strength back – complicated few days coming up. Why do I have to deal with complexity while I’m ill?

But I Have A Bus Pass [slight return]

[I accidentally overwrote the original entry for this day, which is a shame because it was very long. This one will inevitably be not quite as good, or at least not quite as long, which I admit might not be the same thing.]

Just as I’m wondering what to do with my Saturday morning, at home with my lovely new Lurgi, I get a call from Mr Buzzo, who is In Town, as we say, to check out a gallery so that he might display some of his Big Pictures. He suggests we meet for coffee, which sounds agreeable, and implies that he will be in the Piccadilly area despite stating explicitly that he’s heading for St Martin’s Lane. Or perhaps I infer the Piccadilly thing. Anyway that’s where I set off for.

I originally intend to get a bus pass for the day, but don’t seem to pass any shops that sell them, and it’s such a nice day that I walk over Westminster Bridge and past Horseguard’s Parade. Usually when you’re ill, going out at all is a terrible, terrible idea, but occasionally it bucks you up hugely and this is one of those one-in-a-million chances.

Around the Houses of Parliament, I have to dodge a vast number of photographers – it must be one of the most photographed bits of quasi-neo-gothic gingerbread kitsch in the world. It strikes me that if the belief of people in traditional cultures (that being photographed steals part of one’s soul) is correct, that might explain a lot about the calibre of leadership we’ve had since the introduction of the box brownie.

On the way up to the Mall, I eavesdrop on a conversation between a couple of tourists, one of whom (the Pete in this particular Pete and Dud relationship) is explaining Horseguard’s Parade: “They have parades with horses in traditional costumes of the Queen” which is as good an explanation as any I’ve heard. Then the conversation seems to drift to the little cottage in the shrubbery. I must have missed something, because they’re talking about vermin now – “No, they don’t have those, but they do have spiders, and I’m pretty sure they have rats”.

Dan calls and puts me right re his current location and I veer off across Trafalgar Square, where the anti-war protesters are already congregating.

We chat over long stemmed glasses of coffee (I don’t know whether that’s a french thing, or whether the only receptacles they had were long stemmed glasses), and then Dan goes back to his car and I wonder whether I’m going to wander around before the NotBBC Meetup or go home. I quickly plump for going home, and go to get a bus pass from one of the machines in front of the Shakespeare’s Head on Kingsway. It takes my money alright. It has no problem with the money-taking aspect of the transaction, but the ticket-giving bit seems a trifle over complicated for it. I thump it a few times, but it was obviously designed to withstand people much more brutal than me. I do feel like kicking it anyway, just for the catharsis of it but don’t. I am ill, after all. So I buy a pass from a shop and wait for a bus.

Getting home, I have some lunch and the ‘flu creeps up on me again. I check out the messages on the NotBBC forums, and wonder whether I’m going to go to the meetup – after all, here I am, at home and I really ought to rest and … ah, what the hell: I Have A Bus Pass.

So I wait at the stop for a bus that is going all the way there, but they all seem to be stopping at Waterloo. No, no “seem to be”, they all are stopping at Waterloo. Now I’m all in favour of peace in principle, but it’s messing with my already-fairly-untidy social life. maybe aven “social” life.

But I Have A Bus Pass, so I catch a bus to Waterloo and walk from there. As I’m crossing Waterloo Bridge, a backpacker walking in the opposite direction lets fall a shiny object from his pocket. It makes an audible “k’ching” noise on the pavement. It is a coin. He stops, looks at it and walks on. I stop, look at it and pick it up. It is a five Kroner piece, with a hole in the middle. When I was small the notion of coinage with holes in the middle was hopelessly romantic. These Scandinavians with their distain for currency. Or possibly these student backpackers with their distain for other people’s currency, I’m not sure. I put it in my back pocket, and walk up to the Shakespeare’s Head, where the NotBBC meetup is already underway.

This is the first time I have ever worn a name badge with a pseudonym on: I am SE1. The first time I posted to a NotBC forum (the SOTCAA forum as it was then), I posted as “Disgusted of SE1”, the next time as “$something_else of SE1” and so on. I very quickly realised I wouldn’t be able to keep it up and settled on SE1.

In attendance are Jeanette (who I read a message on the board just before leaving the house, which said that she too was just about to leave the house, so this is the first sign of the strange confluence of life and text that is unfolding here: until this moment, the whole thing could have been a very involved fiction written for my benefit); The Bean (not Bean is a Carrot, who is an Australian woman. The Bean sets to training me not to say “Ah”, which I suspect he does quite a lot. Very successfully, I must say – within the hour, the formation of my lips into even a semi-ah shape invokes a sense of guilt. It’s disturbing to realise that I’m so suggestable); flamingkitties and smirkz (sitting at a pair of stools slightly apart from the alcove that has been designated the NotBBC alcove with signs and everything. A sort of observational platform); Rob S of the Red Name (the Great Architect of the Forum); various forum dignitaries – Gralefrit, Jon, Lady B, ribbit, Ailie, Tim-e, Squidy, Moss, Al M – sort of like mingling with the stars. I feel honoured. Radiator Head Child suddenly appears in a swirl, bearing luminous pink biscuits, and proceeds to beat everybody up.

Reaching into my back pocket I find the Scandinavian coin, and get a “bit” about how if I had another identically sized coin with no hole in it, and a toy gun, I could confuse dim people. Leave them muttering things like “what a shot!” and “but he did the gun noise with his mouth!”.

At 9:30, my body reminds me that I am ill, my already tenuous link with coherence snaps altogether and I decide to go home before I fall over. Outside I wait for a bus, catch the first one that comes along, but only goes a couple of hundred yards down the road, then wait for another one, because damn it, even if it would have quicker to walk I HAVE A BUS PASS. Reaching home, I finish some Nick corrections and email them over to him.

trying to jump on the Lurgi bandwagon

I do get up at 7:00 and sit, but I feel terrible. I also semi-successfully Pick Stuff Up. And manage to get into Walker’s for 9:30.

I am ill, but the degree of illness only dawns on me throughout the day. Many people have the same Lurgi, so there’s no sympathy, merely contempt for trying to jump on the Lurgi bandwagon, a mere wannabe in the illness stakes.

A question that recurs – if everyone has the same hat, it’s considered to be a popular hat. Why, therefore, if everybody has the same cold is it not called a popular cold. Number one in this week’s chart rundown of the hot new illnesses across the nation.

And at 40 with a bullet: anthrax.

I linger at work until 7:30, pausing on my way out only to disturb a fellow worker who very much needed to be finished tonight, thank you very much, and to chat to Amelia.

Hi, Amelia.

Then home to write today’s and yesterday’s diary entries in a sort of lurgi-induced hallucinogenic haze. This is why the last couple of days haven’t seemed to make very much sense. Although, come to think of it they didn’t make that much sense when I was living them.

I turned up the DVD of The Fellowship of the Ring yesterday when I was looking for something completely different, so I watch it again before I give it back.

Drip activity is getting more frenetic – I set up a second plastic bag to direct water into a pan in the bedroom, and then have to get to sleep listening to the tap tap tap of water on polyethylene (or whatever it is that Tesco’s bags are made from). Somehow I don’t find the rhythm calming in any way.

Of course I tell myself that I’m researching the use of modern plastic in small interior irrigation projects. Of course.

(And hello Sue, as well).

the spook gets my vote each time

Awake at 6:00 again. I can’t hear any drumming (drops of water, not Ginger Baker), so I put it down to my unconscious. But when the alarm goes off and I get up, there’s the tapping again, but a lot quieter than yesterday. There’s nothing I can do about it, it’s all up to the woman upstairs, or possibly a different flat altogether. That’s the problem with seepage: you can never really be sure where the water’s coming from. Maybe it’s even a seperate building, in a totally different city. In another dimension.

It’s easy to see why people want supernatural explanations for things – sometimes supernatural explanations are so much more straighforward than natural ones. Given the choice between believing that water is leaking somewhere up there, creeping down walls, along joists, around wires and goodness knows where else to end up in my spare duvet or positing some malevolent spirit who wants to send us screaming and dripping in equal parts into the night, the spook gets my vote each time.

Tim from Scholastic (Time Magazine’s Ruthless Tyrant of the Year) suggests that I look into the history of the place to find out if there might be a midshipman with a grudge in the annals of the building. An interesting idea.

Or I could just ask the woman upstairs to get her boiler fixed.

Then back to finishing off the Pirate Pete bits that Ben needs for Frankfurt. This takes the rest of the morning. Then I have a long bath and go to reacquaint myself with Maisy.

It being into the afternoon, I stop off to get myself some sandwiches. First I try in the Newsagent, but there are none ready-made that I can eat and the woman behind the sandwich counter seems to be ignoring the world, so I nip into the official sandwich shop next door. There is one woman behind the counter there, moving very slowly indeed. The shop fills up with men in hard hats and orange waterproofs and I realise that there being no queuing system means that I could be waiting a long time for my sandwich (I have very little competitive instinct in the first place, and hardly any when it turns out I’ll be fighting large men in hard hats for the right to an egg mayonnaise sandwich). So I go back next door, where she is now accepting customers. She does the usual trick of putting salad in and charging 15p for the salad. I do my usual trick of saying nothing about it.

Then into Walker, where I get straight into the Maisy corrections. I am hoping to have them done today, but that hope turns out to be forlorn. At 6:30 I decide to leave it, come in tomorrow and go to Shinay. Which I do..

The problem at Shinay is that I’m wearing jeans (not something I thought about this morning) and so I can’t really bend my legs properly, and I imagine that my feet go the same colour as the trousers – at the end it takes a few minutes for the blood to return to my feet.

At home I plot and (possibly) plan for the gig tomorrow. And Kath Tait calls up with another (future) gig, which is nice. And I drink cocoa and go to bed.

Should I get the place exorcised?

I am awoken at what turns out to be 6:00am by the tell-tale rapping of water on bedroom. It appears to be coming from the wardrobe (which has the water tank above it. Mmm.). So I blearily go into the bathroom and remove the panel in front of the tank. The water is, in fact dripping from upstairs. I get a bucket, which won’t go under the drip on account of the water tank, so I have to rig up a plastic bag to function as a funnel.

All this before 6:30. I go and lie down again for a bit. There are all sorts of water-related problems, all from different sources, and not all of which can be put down to crappy plumbing. Perhaps it’s a malign spirit, the aftermath of some tragic 19th Century drowning incident.

Should I get the place exorcised?

And then the alarm goes off, so I get up and Sit and Tidy (I’m not sure whether the running around trying to fight dampness counts as pre-emptive Work Around the House) and breakfast and write this.

And then I have to spend an inordinate amount of time in the company of Mr Sharratt’s illustration, in two flavours, delightful as it is. It’s one of those curious things that in retrospect one has spent something like ten hours at those jobs (they’ve been sort of shunted by ongoing Maisiosity, hence the panic make-up-time session) but it doesn’t seem like it. Hence the tendency to think when shown a new one “Oh, it’ll only take a couple of hours”.

This is interrupted by a call from that notorious martinet known only as Tim from Scholastic (and that name alone is enough to cause some weeping and moderate gnashing of teeth. Although I’m not sure that I have ever got into a state where I could fairly be described as a gnasher, tending towards a mild grinding. I prefer to bottle up rage until it spills out in a bloodbath. More dramatic that way) with more of his unreasonable demands. This distracts me for a couple of hours.

At 9:00 I have chips. I have a theory that it’s possible to chart my state of mind by reference to my consumption of takeaway food. It’s only a theory, mind.

After reaching a point of… not completion, certainly or ending or… well, a point … with the Pirate Pete I decide to unwind by fiddling with some code. What is the world coming to when you do PHP to relax?

(not that I do relax, because the code incomprehensibly refuses to work).

And contrary to what you might be thinking, a martinet is not a small Martin.

someone took the Steptoes’ house and shook it

During the Sitting it appears to me (perhaps due to the astonishing mess that is intruding into my peripheral vision) that if I put the timer onto fifteen minutes I should spend a quarter of an hour after the Sitting picking things up and generally being useful around the house. I could perhaps even make a habit of it, though I realise that doing something once does not a habit make.

Anyway, this is achieved and I sit down to breakfast sporting a nauseating air of smugness, surrounded by accomodation that looks like someone took the Steptoes’ house and shook it.

I fail to get to the Bank to do the money for GC, which is a slap-on-the-wrist-able offence and leaves me no better off, karmically speaking.

The mouse thing, of which I usually speak.

Work goes on later than I’d hoped it would, meaning that I get to the jazz Jam very late and miss the entire run-through. I feel oddly unbothered by this apart from the fact that I have carted the bass amp up the stairs and then have to cart it down again.

Although the house PA has turned up (in the possession of Morley College, as a replacement for their in-house PA, which has been half-inched. Oh, the irony), it is not here and the owner of the karaoke PA has made it quite obvious that they don’t want us to use it. So there is no PA. So only Merman-esue singers tonight. There’s also a new horn line-up, which will be fun, and a lot of quite fast tunes to play. I’m throwing myself into these with some abandon.

The downside is that a bongo player appears next to me and starts tapping away (there are two such percussionists – one of apparantly mediterranean extraction, the other afro-caribbean. It is the former that I’m whining about). He has that style which involves making some kind of noise on every quaver with occasional ill-judged rolls. People with small drums seem to think that they don’t count some how, that their infernal (and in this case astonishingly groove-less) tapping automatically enhances any performance they accompany and that because the instrument is unpitched it is somehow unobtrusive. The truth is in each of these cases almost precisely the opposite. Particularly with jazz or latin tunes (and we’re not playing our Krautrock or Rockabilly repertoire tonight) playing in time isn’t enough – the rhythm breathes, has swing. Hopefully. I have little enough swing as it is, the last thing I need is to be sat next to a typist with attitude.

A couple of people even brave the lack-of-PA situation, including the God Bless The Child man, which I get well into.

Ah, well. We finish with a very fast (as fast as possible is what I request) version of Milestones. The good thing about modal tunes from the point of view of the bass player is that if you get lost, you just keep going.

Staring – into – space – drooling – from – the – left – side – of – your – mouth Sunday

They call it Staring – into – space – drooling – from – the – left – side – of – your – mouth Sunday. Occasionally I tilt my head so that the drool drips from the right side of my mouth. For a little variety, you understand.

For the record, I’m supposed to be trying to get some exercise and doing some Pirate Pete today, but in fact, apart from the aforementioned saliva management all I do is play a lot of bebop guitar (that is to say it’s (a) Jazz and (b) fast, which is about as musicologically accurate a description of bebop I feel I can subscribe to).

When I was a child, of course, we had proper Sundays – huge tracts of tedium punctuated with meals. In the summer there would be visits to National Trust properties, but in the winter one would either have to make ones own entertainment or choose between the Audie Murphy movie or the Big Match.

Of course this gave me a lot of time to improve my award-winning (no, really) Lego technique.

There were cakes and BBC adaptations of classic children’s books in the late afternoon, and that was about it. I remember days when I’d just ride my bike around and around in circles for the want of something to do.

No wonder Punk happened.

one of the mysteries of the new century

I don’t get up until 10:00, which is a hideous ingulgence, that I won’t be able to allow myself when the At A Distance starts. I think I’ll choose the Samye Ling as my recipient of any Pay Not To Play monies that might accrue if that’s allowed.

Much of the day is spent playing guitar along with Band in A Box playing from charts I’ve nicked from the internet. In fact it’s so engrossing that it’s early evening before I notice. I do hope I wasn’t supposed to do something important today. Perhaps soon I’ll get that solid burst of woodshedding I’ve been promising myself.

The mondays and the work with the sextet have been doing me a lot of good, I think. It certainly feels more fluent, particularly the comping (though why someone would want to comp for a computer program may be one of the mysteries of the new century).

Then suddenly it’s 11:00 and I’m writing this, with little achieved other than that I’ll feel more comfortable the next time someone calls Softly, As In A Morning Sunrise or Cherokee (something they never do on Mondays; quite understandably, I think).

As I type I watch, or at least listen to, Bringing Up Baby which is probably one of my favourite films of all time.

Who knows where I’d end up?

When I was I school, I had a German teacher. Actually I shared this teacher with the rest of the school. I can’t remember his name, but he had the most remarkable haircut, that stuck up on the top of his head, at the bottom of which was a more than normally pointed chin. Consequently he was known as The Mekon.

All I remember of The Mekon’s lessons (largely because however good or bad a teacher he may have been I was an appalling pupil) is two pieces of advice he dispensed, perhaps over-regularly:

  1. The lynchpin of learning any modern language is knowing what the words mean.
  2. Learning a language is like a running track: it gets longer as it gets towards the end

Large jobs, such as the one I have been at Walker to do recently, are also like a running track in that respect. And I have not yet reached the metaphorical tape.

After work to Hammersmith. The tube station is rumoured to be closed, so I check on a bus stop to see whether there are any buses in that direction. Apparantly not, but from the local map on the bus stop it appears they are building a bus station in the middle of Vauxhall Cross. Someone somewhere has a master plan. I hope they’ve shared it with the people who are doing all the building work everywhere, because to the untrained eye it looks like total chaos. People are digging holes in the road, thinking better of it and then wandering away to dig more holes.

Thence to Polly’s studio where I chat with Polly, Brendan, Denise, Terry, a filmmaker called Kevin (hello Kevin) and several others. One major topic of conversation is Chuck Jones as Moral Philosopher, another is Denise’s experimental approach to job application and yet another is the excitement to be derived from database driven websites, which is considerable if you can get the state of mind right.

Terry gives me a lift home, which is very kind, especially considering when we get to a junction and he asks “left or right” I say “right” very firmly and it turns out to be absolutely the wrong direction. I must try not to give directions in the future. Who knows where I’d end up?