never quite the same after the first time

I get up, though somewhat belatedly (does that mean anything these days with my schedule all shot away and flapping in the breeze?) with several tasks to get out of the way. broadly this means finishing up and sending the MeFiSwap CDs. before which I have to buy some double-sided sticky tape. I fantasize briefly that all card covers are held together with D.S.S.T. applied with vigour in sweatshops, but realise that this isn’t the case. The amount of discarded protective backing alone would be unfeasible.

So covers finished and disks burned and card stiffeners cut out (before when I sent them I used stiff card envelopes from the shop downstairs, but this is, of course, closed today.

There’s also a disk for Nick S. to be sent, so I have to do it today.

While I’m at it I get a call from Yuka who’s in the country temporarily, and playing tomorrow and Monday. I know that I can’t go to see her on Monday (and am certain that I can’t play for her, which is a shame) but will try to make tomorrow, if I can.

I stroll up to Trafalgar Square via Rymans for the padded envelopes and spend a long time browsing. It’s only my iron self-control that stops me from spending all my time in the local stationery shop comparing different kinds of envelope.

Sorry, have I told you about my stationery fetish?

Anyway I manage the putting-things-in-envelopes and buying stamps and posting things (various) and when I’ve deposited the envelopes in the box I discover that not only do the close at 5:30 on saturdays now, but the last collection is noonish. So it could have waited ’til monday. Except that it was important to do it before the end of the month.

After that I stroll down the Strand to buy socks (which sounds like it could be a failed song from the 30s (30s songwriter: “#Strolling down the Strand to buy socks/I’m going to take them home and put them in a…# Oh, sod it…”).

Ah the thrill of acquisition. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it before, but I came to the conclusion some time ago that were I to mysteriously become hugely rich the only rich-person’s indulgence I can think of embracing is only ever wearing new socks and throwing the old ones away. Socks are never quite the same after the first time.

Bus home and a vague evening in.

Or, as it has become over the last few months, The Pile

Again with the Walker, but in the evening I just veg in front of the TV, or at least veg by the computer with the TV on. I’ve been trying to finish the MeFiSwap CD and put together the covers before realising that I’ll have to wait until tomorrow to finish them on account of my not having any double-sided sticky. Or if I do they are in a pile somewhere. Or, as it has become over the last few months, The Pile, since distinctions between different piles are starting to blur. That is something else that I have to address.

Anyway I listen through the comp and cut the covers out (since I started buying CDs in spindles I never seem to have any jewel boxes, so I just make card sleeves for things like this, like mini album sleeves). I also put off the actual burning of the CDs until tomorrow – I always want to tweak things, so that tends to be the last thing I do.

I manage to miss the karaoke, which can only be a blessing, but catch HIGNFY with Boris Johnson in charge. At one point he makes an impassioned speech about the return of the Tory party. The delivery is Woosterish, but the sentiment is pure Davros (I’m surprised that he doesn’t end up with “…and you will be ex-ter-min-at-ed!“). Merton does ask at one point how on earth someone that bumbling can edit a magazine. Well, quite.

Nothing overwhelming on Later (see how I’m being sucked back into habitual goggling). Moby, who seems like a decent enough chap, I suppose, but I don’t like is records very much. Dave Brubeck, who is incredibly old now. That’s a bit scary, because in my mind he’s perpetually the age he was in 1960. It’s a bit like that bit in Zardoz where they age John Alderton.

I lose patience with Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Perhaps I will never understand the appeal. Perhaps the Buffy-heads, and the Trekkers and the Seinfeldians like myself will just have to be content with our own compulsive all-day viewing sessions and learn to live together in harmony, different but equal.

Stifled snort.

The story concerns some geeks turning her life into a sort of game, a rather clunky commentary on the whole fan thing. It appeared to be mocking the show’s own audience, but they can always distance themselves from it – “Oh, no, they were X-Files fans. We’re Buffy fans. It’s a different thing altogether.”

running, as it were, on vapour

Back into Walker during the day.

In the evening there is a rehearsal of the sextet at the Three Stags. Although tonight it’s just a trio – John and Maria and myself. We go through some standards and also a couple of my tunes (Little Games and a go at Mr Wrong). As usual in these circumstances I realise how much more complicated they are than I imagine – a lot of Mr Wrong pootles along in 12 bar blues mode, then goes all bonkers at the end of the chorus, or refrain or whatever it is.

I take along the Power Engine and use a SansAmp acoustic DI, which makes for a perfectly pleasant noise, though not as good as the Trace. Much lighter to carry, though, which is a boon.

Most of my actual playing is terrible. Since I spent most of my down-time recently unconscious and fighting off the infection I didn’t have much of a chance to stock up on technique (I find that I do an awful lot of practise, then the improved technique sort of dwindles away and I’m running, as it were, on vapour at the moment). Still, getting out to these practises and the Monday jam help a lot.

I promise to deliver a CD of the songs and some songsheets, but I’m not sure when I’ll have the time to do them. Apart from work I have some important dithering to do.

It’s the only way my legs bend

Into Walker where I do the Maisy thang once more.

After work I nip home, pick up the money that I promised to pay the Samye Dzong and deliver it before going to shinay. They do not realise that I promised to pay it (it’s an offshoot of missing practise sessions in the Guitar Craft At A Distance thing that recently finished) and am slightly nervous that I will be asked what I’m doing. I have a horrible feeling that I’ll tell them it was a bet that I lost (which isn’t strictly true, but…). Even though they are supposed to avoid judgement, I’m sure they’d balk at that.

I have a terrible time staying awake during the meditation, or rather I find it all too easy to slip into unconsciousness. I also, sneaking looks at the other sitters, realise that I am sitting in completely the wrong way. It’s the only way my legs bend, though, nothing else seems to work. I cast sideways glances at people, trying to work out what they’re doing. It wouldn’t do to stare at people’s legs, would it? It does explain why I find it so uncomfortable, though.

Perhaps I should take an evening class in sitting down.

I return home more relaxed though hardly blissed out, try to do a couple more things (though I’m trying to put an embargo on working in the evening after a day in-house as I end up slightly mad. Madder) and slip off to bed.

It might be a good moment to mention that the water is still dripping into my flat from above and that I have become sort of used to changing the buckets twice a day. The power of habit and all that.


My last day of… well, not freedom exactly, but I go back into Walker tomorrow. That said a lot of it is spent catching up with other work. So. Not a vast quantity to say about anything. (After a week of dithering I can’t remember what on earth I spent the time not working doing and am drawing a blank, which is disturbing.)

It might always be something else.

The day is spent attacking work, or at least jabbing pathetically at it with a spoon going “Uhnn! Uhnn! Uhnn!”. The work fails to give in to this unscary attack.

Back to the Three Stags in the evening for the Jam. I’m dreading it slightly – not wanting a confrontation with anybody, but then I just offload the confrontation onto Glyn and I’m sure he doesn’t want to do it any more than I do.

As it turns out, three other bassists appear – the ringer, Maria and a chap with a double bass who only wants to play on a blues. So I end up sitting most of the evening out anyway. Hmm. I think I’m being generous, but who can say? I wonder if it’ll be like this all the time.

It sounds very boomy tonight, or perhaps it sounds very boomy every night and this is the first time I’ve noticed anything. Or perhaps it’s that I’ve put the bass amp right in front of the mike for the piano. That would do it.

Or it might be something else. It might always be something else. In fact it usually is.

I need to find a way to think bright and cheery thoughts, perhaps by giving everything up and sitting at the top of a mountain meditating for thirty years. That said, though, if I get pins and needles after twenty minutes, what would it be like after thirty years?

Apart from edging slowly away.

Much of the day is spent watching another Seinfeld video. Perhaps it’s possible to tell a lot about someone from what television programme they stare at for hour upon hour. What does one make of the Buffy obsessive or the Whovian (as I believe they are known).

What, most relevantly, is the correct reaction to the Seinfeld obsessive? Apart from edging slowly away.

This tape contained the final season of Seinfeld and I must admit that there didn’t seem to be too much of a diminution of quality, certainly relative to other things from U.S. television. The finale was a particular high point. Perhaps there was a certain sheen of facility, a formula that wasn’t there to the same extent earlier in the series (compare The Finale to The Pilot for example, but the scripts are still sharp and many of the performances wonderful.

I find an episode guide which is very useful, though I should mention there are many many others. It’s possible they just copy all the information from each other. I haven’t given it that much thought. Now I have to make a list of all the episodes I don’t have yet. No, really, I must. I also ought to label all these videos. I have no idea how I’m going to find any of them again.

I also, for reasons unfathomable, find a site dedicated to the band Kissing the Pink and for the hell of it follow that up with finding a Young Marble Giants site.

To bed too late, for no good reason.

It’s probably the latter. It usually is.

Have I told you about the Virgin Helen?

Probably not. She wasn’t really… well, I have no idea, but I met her husband and… let’s not wander down that lane, shall we? The reason I refer to her is that she was the model in a Virgin Megastore Christmas campaign from about five years ago, while I was working at the design company that was working on the campaign. She was working in the accounts department, I suppose they just thought they’d save a bit of money, or have a model on hand. It was quite freaky because they’d have all these posters and cut-outs in various stages of completion all around the studio and then the real woman would be walking around. It doesn’t take a lot to freak me out.

I mention it because I think she’s turned up in the Christmas campaign for the Post Office. There’s one of the posters with her in up outside my house. This means:

  1. The same company are doing the Post Office campaign, and are pulling the same stunt.
  2. The Virgin campaign launched a lucrative modelling career for the V.H.
  3. It’s somebody completely different.
  4. Other.

It’s probably the latter. It usually is.

Other than that I spent the whole day scanning a Real Book… um, I left my Real Book behind at that gig that turned into a jam a few weeks ago and picked up the other bass player’s book by mistake. It’s full of great tunes. 500 pages of them. That’s a lot of scanning: Approximately twice as much as I managed to achieve all day.

It’s one huge displacement activity, replacing the millions of other things that I really ought to be doing. I’m constantly amazed at the meaningless things I’ll end up doing when I’m really pressed for something useless to do. As I mentioned to someone the other day, when I was doing my O levels I coloured in a street map of Oxford. Oddly since so much of my income now stems from colouring in, this was probably more useful to my later life than the O levels themselves.

I get a vegetarian thali from the Indian Takeaway. It was very nice. We need these boring details to add substance to a life. No, honestly.

a dwarf who wants to go to the bathroom very badly indeed

The bulk of the day should have been spent moving the stars around (I still love saying that), but in fact was dedicated to the database for Phil. Now, with any luck, he can enter his own gig listing, or at least when I write clear instructions on how to do it. And that could take a while…

In the evening I wander up to the Drill Hall to meet up with Jeanette and Tomcat for a taping of Boothby Graffoe. More free entertainment, which is good.

Boothby’s very funny – I’ve not seen him from the front before. Oddly, the show is done with all the stand-up bits (which will be links in the show) in the first half and all the sketches in the second half. This is good, since breaking up stand-up often kills the energy. There are also musical sections with Antonio Forcione, the king of tap-n-twiddly.

Afterwards, we chat in the bar and deconstruct a Danbury Mint catalogue. A bizarre confection of sentimentality with potentially cryptofascist undertones (the bulldog or St George’s flag rings). There’s a statuette of the Late Queen Mother looking more animated than the real one did since the heyday of Max Miller’s career. There’s a statuette of the Pope, whose proportions and facial expression are such that he looks like a dwarf who wants to go to the bathroom very badly indeed. There’s a set of reproductions of james Bond first editions with a note to say that they are 5″ by 7″ (in case anyone thinks that the pictures in the catalogue are actual size), while on the other hand they are a bit coy about the size of a full set of British medal (which turn out to be about the size of a penny each). None of these gems, sadly, are available on the website. My theory is that it’s aimed at retired gangsters and their wives (well, mainly the wives) living in Malden, but that might be uncharitable. It think the people who make this stuff should be forced to live in a living-room full of it for a few months.

The demands of the bar staff become less and less subtle – first they turn on one brighter set of lights,then a set of flourescent lights, then they remove recently vacated tables and stack them up in the corner of the room. Which counts as a hint, which we eventually take.

I walk home through the drunks.

which sounds rather profligate and, I suppose, is

Today I set to the corrections to the other job that I’m doing for Walker. However soon after opening time there, Claire calls me with problems with the spreads I emailed over last night so I have to repackage and resend them (my mistake? To use “Save For Web” with CMYK images, since that command converts everything to 72dpi RGB images. Which any fule kno, of course, and I bet you’re wondering how I could have been so incompetent). So that done and back to the corrections.

There’s an email from the people I ordered the guitar case from – the company don’t make them any more, but they can supply a slightly different order for the same price. Not surprising, really, since the price of the substitute is four pounds less. I make some joking reference to this in the email I send cancelling my order and immediately feel guilty.

Tyrannical Tim calls up asking for a cover I did the other day, so I take it as an excuse to do something else for a while and deliver it by hand, then scoot off to Denmark Street. I pootle around looking at guitar cases and then think to ask about the Tech21 Power Engine 60, which might be a useful addition to the VG88 (essentially it’s just the make-it-louder bit of an amplifier without the preamp that colours the sound), and they happen to have one. I spend a few minutes testing it and then buy it anyway, which sounds rather profligate and, I suppose, is. Still, although it won’t have the sound of the Trace I’m using at the moment it will, at least, be carryable to and from rehearsals and gigs.

I also get a sort of semi-hard guitar case, which is essentially some expanded polystyrene packaging in a bag. It won’t protect the guitar from (for example) a bus or rampaging rhinoceros, but will, hopefully, keep it from dings on the underground and is quite cheap and mercifully light.

Looking forward to the next Purple Turtle gig when I get to confuse the sound man all over again. Hurrah.

Getting home, John calls to call off the sextet rehearsal so I spend the evening doing more of those corrections, playing some Bach Cello music on the Guitar Craft guitar, failing to do those Jeays forms again and… stuff. It feels like “free” time, in the same way that if you found a hundred pounds down the back of the sofa it would be “free” money and you’d have every moral right to spend it all on chocolate, no matter what the state of your finances.