Magical Mystery Tour

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My place in Weißensee is a building site (evidence later!), so Callum very kindly offered to let me crash at his, since he was yet again not in residence for most of the three days. Very handy. It’s always a mystery adventure, finding out where he’s staying his particular month, getting the keys. This time it was a detailed phone call of where his new office was, the building layout, and the door they don’t have keys for… which in the end, was superfluous, as a totally different plan was hatched… 3 photos arrive in my message window. Ah ha. Yup, I get it. Sorted. >:-)

The apartment is very handy to Tegel airport. Sadly, I fly into Schönefeld… late, yet again. This time it seems ATC at Berlin was partly down, as was the boarding pass recognition system for just the Berlin flights. When I did finally get in about 2pm, I found the card payment system on the BVG ticket machines was also down. As I heard from my friend Sarah later, it seems some failure across a variety of public systems. I blame those pesky IT types, myself. Some update gone horribly wrong….  I didn’t get to test my new prepaid Visa debit/cashcard until later on at the Geldautomat (happily exempt from IT disaster). Anyway, I got to Wedding, got the keys, got in, sorted, hooked up to Wi-fi…

Small mission out for yoghurt and grapefruit to keep me going, assemble guitar for a minor twiddle, sort out my agenda. Met up with Andrew, the pleasantly crazy Canadian friend of Kev’s for a post-work beer, “Burger wie immer” and chat at Jagerklause. He’s off to a small invite-only stoner rock festival at the weekend, so we chat about that, about Berlin, learning the German language, saunas, downhill mountain biking, Canada, bands, apartments, life in general –  and Finnish people. Of course. What with the national trait of uncomfortable silence (and being uncomfortable with themselves) the culture of keeping all feelings repressed, high alcohol consumption and long long dark winters – I muse that it’s perfect conditions for songwriting –  it’s no surprise that the per-head incidence of (often fabulously gloomy) metal bands is higher there than anywhere else. Great fun, then we part ways about 8:30 – Andrew to pick up his camping stove from somewhere WAAAAAAY out in the eastern sticks, me to meet Sarah out in P’berg after her mission to drop off a karaoke DVD at Blackland.

Sarah’s new job has her very tired, but once we settle in the kebab shop with some food and a couple of beers, the sparkle comes back into her eyes and we have a great chat about life, the universe and everything. The power of music and of singing together. The complications of relationships. Plans and hopes. What we’ve both been up to since last we met. It’s great, really great – such a good end to an already good evening.

Berlin, and the people I know here are very special to me. I feel I could belong. That in some ways I already do.

Normal Service Will be Resumed

Blank fuzzy TV screen

Or maybe this is normal service. Been a strange weekend so far, mostly in a very good way – but Sunday has hit me with a rubber mallet. Not too hard, but still … still. German Council Tax (at a guess), NOT fixing my bike lights. I appear to be sulking at inaccessible design meaning that a 2 minute job will be hours. Still no damn excuse for not doing it. Phone AND Fonepad file issues (internal card and SD card respectively). Mild backache. Not using my non-bike-fixing time to do anything useful except all the washing (which ain’t nothing, I don’t suppose). I should be out in the sun at least if I am not moved to do anything useful, but it’s after half 3 and I am still in here.

The restless energy is much abated – or rather, has changed to a darker tone.

I illogically want to be on a boat. I have aborted looking – it’s not financially or practically sensible to buy one that’s in good nick, and I haven’t sensibly the time to take one on that’s not. I have my plan for next year, things are proceeding apace. I’m both impatient and a tad nervy. I think I am learning German okay – but I can’t even read bloody official forms — brings me down. It’ll pass. it’ll improve. I will get there.

Have had mainly a great weekend, Friday night out that was a bit random but turned out really, really well. Booked a couple of gigs too! Parental visit to London that was very chilled. I have a couple of volunteers for vocal coaching (just must make sure to follow up and make sure it happens). The re-mortgage money turns up tomorrow. The web dev course stuff is coming along fine, more than fine. I am going out to Berlin for a few days on Wednesday… It’s just the background pain and that’s not even that bad.

I’ll be fine, I’ll be fine.

Whispering ones and zeroes

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Couple of the new men in my life. Some dodgy website I signed up for, full of videos that are keeping me company, keeping my mind and fingers busy – all in work time. What you didn’t know that software development was all rainbows and awkward body language? Shhhh, don’t tell, they’ll all want a piece of the action.

“You might think of programming as whispering ones and zeroes to a machine or using some dark magic to bend computers to our will…”  Precisely, precisely…  and these new CSS3/HTML5 black arts are sooooo cool…  Completed the “Build a website”, HTML and CSS modules, now on Javascript – which is the 4th of 13 in the Front End Web Dev course… and I want to do at least 3 more courses after that (Rails, Python, maybe PHP, maybe Design then maybe Android… ) Slog, slog, slog. Big skills update. Finally seem worth doing – it’s caught up to the point that it won’t all drive me mental with obligatory hackerishness.

Found a new lunchtime sunbathing spot. Dried up pond, bushes with huge brambles, really close to the office. I’ve managed some workouts, a few guitar practices, both lessons and my own stuff, decent though not spectacular amount of German. I’ve got a case of the Summer Manics. Surviving on too little sleep, fizzing with slightly edgy energy, suffering odd deep steep (and mercifully short) trough – but full of the desire to be doing. Maybe it’s doing a little bit of creative work as part of the training. Maybe it’s seeing that I can do this front end stuff , that I will be able to do genuine proper freelance. That I can enjoy software, I don’t need to write it out of my life entirely – that would be a criminal waste. Maybe just is.

But I nearly bought a Very Project Boat for Dog’s sake! That’s a sign of something not quite right. Or maybe it is right. Or just cos the remortgage money is coming in soon. Or that the move to Germany is so far away. OR it’s The Next Plan After that. Whodafuck knows. Didn’t do it, in the end. Too many doubled frames. Like most of them. Not the way to do it…

I was looking back at photos this week. Me smiling with my friends in various places. Damn, I do actually have a great life. Even though there are quieter/lower patches, mostly there’s so much good stuff going on with so any good people… I thought it needed saying. Sometimes we can all forget. I try to pay enough attention in the moment, but in the practical movement and noise of it all, the underlying feeling can get a bit lost. So I make note to remind myself – and should do so more often. We all should.

But but but… I am deeply uncomfortable in the Comfort Zone. This explains me almost entirely. If you look at all the things going on in my life it all seems good, ticking along, more interesting than average – all that. Wish I could wrestle that into feeling like enough – but it just doesn’t, and I don’t know how to fix that. Doing my best. I think. Trying.

Guilfest: Sunday Afternoon

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Still avoiding the festival blues, still warm today – if not quite so sunny. The acoustic tent was garland-hung flower-bedecked and big-paper-butterfly-infested beyond the spaced out dreams of the most unreformed hippy. With straw bales to sit on. Peaceful. But hot. I ended up in the very corner of the “punk” tent as there was a very pleasant through breeze and some strange (Scandinavian? Latvian?) band to keep me amused whilst I pondered.

Guilfest, as compared to any other festival, was notable for 2 things.

  1. No queues for the toilets. At all. Despite plenty of people and not all that many portaloos. My theory is dehydration combined with very high beer prices. Otherwise a total mystery.
  2. Virtually no dropped litter. Can’t explain that one. Very pleasing though.

Wandered round in a general fashion, following the noise, seeing the sights. Caught up with Jason, a jamming bassist I know, watched a few bands (lack of front person charisma being, we agreed, a common fault) and shared a bemusedly philosophical Sunday afternoon conversation on  “How the hell is life and love supposed to work when you are over 40?”.  We had no answer, and no firm conclusions, beyond agreement on the shallowness of the internet dating experience. Hmph! Still. There’s always rock and roll… and Papa Smurf. Apparently.

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Immortalised on the T-shirt! In the same egalitarian font size as all bar the very top headliners.

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Graphic design straight outta 1974 – that’s how I roll… We came, we played, we rocked out, we amused and entertained the Sunday hangers-on, those with the stamina for a full 3-Day weekend, the valiant leftovers. And an utterly gorgeous Slash-near-lookalike with the hair and the shades, the tight jeans and the cowboy boots who turned up for what would have been our last number “Whole Lotta Love”… Well, a girl can dream, can’t she? The last band was a no-show so we stayed up, but Jimmy (guitarist) was suffering from a broken thumb and maybe just to much weekend, between mountain biking and festival-going, so we packed it up after a few more.

I could have gone all night – as those that know me also know.

[Photos of Blackspires on stage by Garry Coles. Design and editing by me].

Guilfest: Saturday Night’s Alright

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It’s not a festival without a fryup. Surprisingly, there were more than a few Guilfest-looking types in – despite the cafe being a mile or more away, and not anywhere obvious. Internet research? Usual high skewed gender ratio – if I was into builder-type blokes, that place would be a chat-up-possibilty goldmine. Sadly, I am not especially – and they, like me, have their minds firmly on their stomachs. The guy in the 3-piece suit entirely made of bubble wrap – including shirt, hat and tie – is NOT a regular occurrence, however. He must have been dicing with death by overheating/dehydration on yet another hot hot day…

Wayward Chile – an unexpectedly good 80s style start to the day. Heart of a Coward – heavy and great. An inflatable pub…. My friend Chris showed off the “metaller” version of his hairdo and what is clearly his Serious Face for our visit to The Big Cheese Rock Cave. A heat-mitigation strategy rather than a fashion statement, I think, but hey, whatever works.

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Hung about with Chris, Peter + Sally and their drummer son Andrew most of the day. Young Andrew had a gig playing cajon in a 3 piece in the acoustic tent, later on.  In true middle-aged fashion we’d all brought our own picnics. Except Andrew, who as is only right and proper for a teenager, swigged ludicrously sugary drinks and raided his mum’s. We vegged out near the beer tent and enjoyed our feast whilst watching The Fabulous Fez Heads and their stunning lack of ability to avoid pointing mics at their PA speakers… Entertainingly, they once provided a large chunk of the audience at one of my Sabbath tribute gigs (there are about eleventy-billion of them). I believe I have a recording of Time Machine which features one of them drunkenly playing along on tambourine…

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“Stop the Alien Invasion” – too late, I am aready here….. 🙂

Nylon Sky – vocalist is Not Right In The Head – but has tons of charisma. Enough to get the audience to obey him and kneel by basically calling them (literal) c*cksuckers – and accusing the non-compliant of racism against his Asian guitarist. Can’t climb for shit though, and very awkwardly makes it just about to the top of a PA speaker (whilst almost destroying the lighting) in the time I’d take to get up and onto the cross gantry in the middle of the stage – wouldn’t fancy the drop though… He’s actually good-naturedly loopy and clearly Has Something. Just hope it’s not catching… I’m immune, of course, being really not terribly compliant, obedient or crowdy. Later, I find myself tagged on in a shot taken by one of the gig photographers – my friend Andy Pye, who I did not notice or see, then or later! Sneaky buggers, photographers… It’s the companion shot to the one in the top left above – I know because I can see myself holding up my phone in it… “If you don’t want to clash, hug “- it wasn’t like that back in my day…

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Soulfly sucked me in and made me headbang, thrash and take my clothes off. Caught up with Craig (Blackspires drummer) and his GF Sophie. Young Andrew and Sophie were in the thick of the circle pit (very joyous and civilised modern form of moshpit, methinks). There was a guy in a motorised wheelchar there, and everyone was running round him whilst he exchanged high fives as they tore past…. The youngsters don’t headbang (mostly don’t have the hair) but it’s a great loud hot sweaty experience. I notice that I haven’t had any festival blues yet, none of the lost empty alone moments that have haunted them all. Good, good… Then all over, steady red, time to go…

“Off now to get drunk and high”

“Just remember you have to play tomorrow. Don’t get too drunk. Actually don’t get too stoned, it fucks with your timing more… ach, fuckit you’ve got 19 hours…”

Guilfest: Friday on my Mind

These entries are going to mostly let the pictures tell the story. Maybe I’ll wax a bit more lyrical on he last one, summary and conclusions, all that. But for now, Guilfest…. a festival not taken very seriously – and that’s just fine. One I have never been to in my (gulp!) 9 years in this town (that is far, far, far too long, even with most of a year out sailing… Must Do Something. Am Doing Something.)

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Good company from my bassist, Garry. Good stuff going on in the side tents (local bands and one “punk tent” – at least it’s 90% punk/ska with some big names [Buzzcocks, Vibrators, Sham69]). Terrible sound for the Fun Lovin’ Criminals. Weird, weird clouds. Good headline set from the Boomtown Rats – I fell in love with the rhythm guitarists sound – and that he wasn’t playing anything I couldn’t :-). Unicyclist….

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I swear it’s a shorter walk back to my flat from the site than it is from the main area at Donington to the campsite /bus stop/ car park…

Blur

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Don’t ask me what I’ve been doing this week, it’s all a blur… Been up and down. Seems unfair, eating well, exercising a bit, dunno what’s going on in my head. Work, music on unexpected days, trip up to enjoy the sights of Epsom … er to see my friend Ferdy (of the London/Harrods adventure). Passing probation at work. Confirmed I wil get my re-mortgage money (time to blow the lot on something exotic…no, not really). Formally delaying the next year of my vocal course (mainly too much of a stretch financially, and on my holiday allowance, but will talk about that later). Getting my new Asus Fonepad set up (excellent deeeeeevice, will get its own entry soon). And this…

PhotoGrid_1406052801831My headlights on the bike lost both dipped beams pulling out of Ferdy’s drive – doublebloodydamnbollocks. After thought/reading/lunchtime poking (steady!), I think it’s the relay. Though they share a fuse (looks fine, swapped with spare to check anyway), dip and full beam have separate relays. I already tried swapping a bulb on the very unlikely chance that both had blown at once (well, they are identical and both went in new at the same time) or that maybe one had blown earlier in the week/last week and I hadn’t noticed cos I haven’t been out in the dark on it. Nope. So something else that requires taking tank, fairing bits etc off. Triplebloodybaldydanglybollocks. I have free Guilfest tickets this weekend… due to playing there on Sunday with Blackspires…