One continent, four years and poles apart

08 December. A bad day for music.

I’m not talking about John Lennon, tragedy and massive loss to the music world that it was.  I will instead pay this little homage to my favourite band of the 80s who, after the events of 08 December 1984, decided they couldn’t go on making music the way they had been doing, new record deal or not.  It’s not a biography: I’ve added a link for that, it’s just a few lines dedicated to a decent drummer and a few thoughts of what could have been.

Hanoi Rocks.  In 1980 Four Finns and one Swede got together and formed a band, with a look and sound winking in the direction of the New York Dolls.  They independently release two albums and a move to London where Razzle, an endearing and talented ‘geezer’ from the Isle of White replaced the strung-out Swede on the drum stool.  The band and their sound stepped up a gear.  A further two albums down the line and CBS signed them and, with a US tour on the cards in late 1984, the world should have been their oyster…

08 December.  Los Angeles.  During a forced break from touring after frontman Michael Monroe fractured his ankle, Razzle and Andy McCoy, lead guitarist with the band, are partying hard with Mötley Crüe at Vince Neil’s house (Neil being the lead singer of the Crüe), partying so hard in fact that they run out of booze.  Vince takes it upon himself to drive to the liquor store to bring back supplies and asks Razzle if he’s like to go with him.  Vince has recently purchased a 72 DeTomaso Pantera and Razzle, a bit of a car nut, says yes.

On their way back from the store, Vince hits water and slides across the other side of the road, and the passenger side of the car takes the full force of the impact.  Neil cuts his nose while Razzle dies from massive head injuries just an hour later.

Hanoi Rocks limped on for a few months but it wasn’t the same.  The man who’d come in, swept out the Swede and forged four Finns with his charm, sense of humour and talent was no more.  Within six months following the accident, nor was the band.  Their legacy lived on for much longer however, with Guns N’ Roses openly declaring the band as a massive influence.

R.I.P. Razzle.  “Give us another pint of brown mate, cheers.”

To darkness and beyond

We have just rolled through Gestnellen; I don’t know where it is, as the light from the carriage interior obliterates almost any view I may have in the darkness beyond the window: almost, that is except lit Christmas trees which to me appear premature but, in effect, probably aren’t.  In one month’s time Christmas will be over and TV programmers will be falling over themselves giving airtime to sunny adverts of faraway places as you glance out of the frost-encrusted window into the cold, grey gloom beyond, wondering if it will snow.

Four young men in military fatigues have joined the carriage.  I presume they are in the army; if not then I guess we’re in the shit.

I would like to know where we are, but I can’t see for the lit Christmas stars, snowflakes and reindeers that suck electricity to show you they’re there.  I look at my watch; theoretically I’m one hour from Zurich.

Songs, demons and general annoyance

A demon has entered my head.  It won’t come out, no matter how much I try and force the issue.

Somewhere across the mists of time, a time in which wars have been won and lost, kingdoms have risen and fallen and territories have been ceded and possessed, someone somewhere has entered by being and possessed me.  A song.  A song damn it, so dire, so horrendous that it has stuck in my head and won’t budge,  I have been zapped by the worst of 1958; that’s 11 years before I was born ladies and gentlemen, zapped by someone who sings with a voice like molten lard, yes lard.  Not lava, lard.

I want to know where the hell I heard the song “All in the game” by Tommy Edwards.  I want to know where, and who and I want revenge.  Of all the songs from that age, that year this one has stalked and found me.  I could have had anything by Gene Vincent, Buddy Holly, Eddie Cochran, anything but not this.  This is worse than hearing something slide under your bed in the darkest depth of night.

Tommy Edwards, I will now publicly attempt to cast you out.  Be gone from my head, never to return.  Go!

 

The writer who forgot how to write

It could be the title of a book, albeit a not very inspiring one. It could but it’s not, it’s a reflection of someone, somewhere. It’s a reflection of me, looking back at me from the glass with shadow-circled eyes and skin paling in the fresh autumn breeze as the rain falls while the leaves take their time to turn from green to brown and the summer (what summer?) looks around, sighs and departs.

It seems a long time since I wrote anything ‘creative’, and by that I mean fiction, my first writing love. I looked in my diary and saw the last entry almost a month ago; that is terrible! Even laying aside a brief bout of ill-health and outside stresses it’s still a long time – too long. Thi is only alleviated by the fact I’ve managed to post poetry on my writing blog since July. I would sometime use the blog to air some of my morning writing exercises, at least those that could be aired. I’ve always used those hours in the morning when I should be sleeping but can’t, to write.  Just lately, for a number of reasons, I just haven’t had that get up and go to, well, get up.  There’s a correlation between no longer writing in the morning, my most creative period, and not producing fiction.  And I have a theory:

Contrary to my fiction-writing habits, my poetry seems to take a peek behind the curtain later in the day. I feel about as disposed to write poetry in the morning as I feel disposed to go to the office… yeah, enthusiasm eh? Although the latter will change from 1st January but more of that another time. Anyway, my theory is my poetic soul picks up on the sins of the day; the tensions, arguments and darkened thoughts. Instead, the writer in me, the storyteller, likes a new white canvas, the first breath of cold, clean mountain air as he opens the window, thoughts untainted and summed up in five words.

From a jar in motion to a jarring motion

Bear with me on the title…

During the last 6 days following my last post and the reluctant concealment of my home-made pickled red cabbage jars for at least two weeks, I have to confess to feeling not quite myself.

Last Wednesday I came home early from work, sure that by the evening I would be running a fever; it didn’t happen. Looking back on it now I wish it had. Like the forest fire started by the lightning burning away the old growth to allow the new, a fever can work a treat to blast the bugs from the bod. No; this time it decided to ignore me and instead left me feeling shattered, mentally numb, unable to work (day job) and unable to work on what I like to have time to work on, which is writing.

I had about as much creative inspiration as a bunch of limp water-cress. It happens, especially when one is feeling crappy and is confined to stay at home and not infect an office full of colleagues. Ordinarily I don’t worry about it: the lack of creativity that is, not the infection of colleagues. After all, it comes and goes and I find it easier not to force it. I decided instead to turn on the computer and start researching the world of freelance copywriting; I’ve made reference to my interest in this in previous posts. However, it didn’t stop there, as soon as I started a-Googling I had all sorts of additional aspects thrown at me, such as content writing, web marketing; even, I hasten to add, HTML. HTML? It took me 10 minutes just to remember what is stands for! It does however seem to be a useful skill addition for a copywriter.

So I entered “freelance copywriting jobs” in the search bar. What a mistake that was. Suddenly a host of job auction sites flashed up at me, offering me $10 an hour in India, $15 an hour in the US, £10 an hour in the UK – My God, is this what the freelancing world has become? Are there any freelancers out there who read this blog or are reading this post (yeah, small chance I know…)?

I really enjoyed the copywriting course I took last year and I received a very positive feedback from my tutor, with whom I still in contact.I would trade dollars (or in my case Swiss Francs) for a little job satisfaction. I love the idea of freelancing;: the freedom would allow me to pursue other interests, some of which also pay (that doesn’t include selling my body…at least not yet). Teaching English, even at conversational level, is always welcome here. It would allow me to concentrate on “serious writing” also. It’s a dream to embark on a professional path which may not bring in the same wage but will give me a hell of a lot more enjoyment, challenge and sense of fulfilment. I guess the Googling, and Elnace in particular, brought me back down to Earth with a jolt.

You see, it was all in the title.

And now for something completely different: A little rap and pickle…

I’ve never been a woman, at least not in this life, so it stands to reason I’ve never been pregnant.  I do however currently nurse a craving, a food craving.  Nothing so severe as Whiskas on toast on a bed of Marmite but a craving none the less.  Pickled red cabbage.  Yep, mainstay of many an English Christmas larder.  Larder? I haven’t used that word since I was about 15… Anyway, it’s now mid September and I have this craving – pickled red cabbage with Cheddar cheese.  So what? you reply.  Go to the supermarket and buy some.  Ha!  Too simple, this is Switzerland and I can’t find any.  Anyway, what I actually want is that my Mum made years ago.  So, following a week of this craving I decided to make some…yes, you read me right, make some!

Actually it was a spur of the moment thing.  I saw the cabbage in the supermarket, thought about it for a few seconds, put it in the trolley then went in search for vinegar.  That’s another thing, I can’t buy malt vinegar for love nor money, although if truth be told I’ve only ever tried with money, so I bought wine inegar instead.  Then I thought about spicing said vinegar, and after visiting 48,324 different websites came up with the answer.  And so it began.

I'd love a shirt this colour!
I’d love a shirt this colour!

On Monday, I chopped the cabbage, laid it in a bowl and smothered it with salt and left it 24 hours.  Tuesday came round, I rinsed it well and let it drain while I prepared my spices – whole peppercorns, cloves, dried chili, bay leaves and fennel – just that which I found at the back of the cupboard.  Cutting up an old, clean tea-towel I laid the spices inside, tied itup and laid it in the now-simmering vinegar for five minutes before taking the latter off the heat, leaving the spices in and putting it out on the balcony to cool.  Then the jar sterilisation; jars in the oven at 150 degrees for 10 minutes while boiling the lids for the same amount of time.

Spice is nice
Spice is nice

With both the jars and vinegar now cool, I initiated my first pickling, ever.  Here is the result.  I’ve never been a woman, hence I’ve never been pregnant, but I can’t wait for these babies…

The babies!

The babies!

Chris’s conscience crisis, a Monday alliteration

Dionaea muscipula – the Venus Flytrap.  I have one and he’s special. I bought him back in May, when the hope of spring was upon me, and just as the weather permitted him to be left outside to his own devices.  Neither he nor I could have imagined a rain-soaked summer like this one; it’s a miracle he’s still alive and eating. Ah!  Eating.  Now it’s a fact that nature throws up some freaks every once in a while: two-headed cows, three-legged rabbits, gay goldfish…whatever.  I though believed I had bought the world’s first vegetarian Flytrap – I kid you not.  I spent weeks checking on his welfare; the soil condition, the balance of sunlight and shade, although I think this summer they seem to merge into one and the same.  I digress.  Not once did I see a trap shut, not once!

Now there are 3 (animals?) insects I detest:  wasps (bastards), mosquitoes (bitches) and flies, yep, those same houseflies that tread and throw up on your food when you’re not looking, so I started patrolling my balcony with an innocent plastic fly-swatter in my hand and, after downing a blighter, I would give it to the plant.  However, after a backhand like Jimmy Connors (remember him?) the fly would be, how can I say, very dead.  That would then necessitate an operation involving a match or toothpick to get the trap to shut.  Tonight that changed. I came home from work, walked out on the balcony and there, sitting on the table fat as fortune, no doubt bloated after a session of stuffing, stomping and spewing, sat a blowfly.  A thumping forehand, minus the swatter, took down the shining son-of-a-gun and it lay motionless on the floor.  I picked it up by a wing and deposited it neatly into a trap.  I guess it must have landed on a couple of trigger-hairs as it started moving, and as it did so…whoops!  I hadn’t actually killed it.  Well, I guess you could say I have now.

Then I had a li’l crisis of conscience.  Giving dead flies to my plant doesn’t bother me, the same as a butcher giving someone a dead chicken doesn’t bother me, but the thought that it had about a second to realise it had a trigger-hair up its arse just as its world closed in on it gave me a pang of guilt.  A little.  Well, I guess all in all about five seconds, time enough to realise that my plant is as nature intended.  Order has been restored.  Good stuff! 20140908_193744

Slightly out of focus picture courtesy of author who can’t stand looking over his balcony…

Tinkerer (n.) – Derivative of tinker

This evening I have been tinkering with this blog; changing theme, colours, title, even inserting the photo on the home page.  I tinkered, therefore I am a tinkerer.  I could have fiddled with this blog, in fact I probably did, except being a fiddler, even one on the roof, doesn’t have the same innocent charm of the tinkerer.  I guess I could have played with my blog, but would that then make me a player?

So why have I done this, especially on a Friday night?  Simply because, as I mentioned in my last post, I have plans for this blog to possibly include work-related writing, such as an eventual copywriting portfolio, instead of using it as a simple link to my writing site and, let’s be honest, that blue was fairly horrendous.  It was way too gloomy, bordering on aphotic and with a background design that seemed to lend itself to the posting of some of history’s darker fairy tales.  I hope the new look doesn’t scare people off but I guess I’ll find out when I post…

Ah yes, Friday night.  Well, I’ll put my hand up and admit that I had an extremely late one last night and I am beat/bushed/done/knackered/tired/feel free to insert your own adjective.

So, for this evening the tired tinkerer bids you good night, happy his blog turned from blue to white.

 

 

 

At the crossroads but I’m no Robert Johnson

The endless non-summer that has crawled its way across central Europe since June has now decided it would add some much needed spice by…becoming colder.  What?  What has happened to the weather?  It’s not just me; even the weather apps have given up predicting what the day’s going to turn out like.  Last week I looked at the window watching the rain, while my weather app told me no rain was forecast and it was apparently 27° C.  How many billions of $ / £ / € worth of weather-predicting space hardware is flying around in orbit?  Have things really improved since Farmer Giles put on his wellies, stuck his finger in some orifice or other, turned to the wind and predicted snow on Thursday?

Anyway, that’s not my point.  My point is the autumn is now almost upon us and I have itchy feeet, or rather hands, thinking about the long, cold, dark days of winter and what I could be doing with them (the days, not the hands).  Last year I attempted NaNoWriMo but this year I want something different, something I can get my teeth into and with a commercial slant.  I want change!

Yes, I have reached the crossroads.  I see no-one to whom I can sell my soul for a few years of playing wicked bottleneck guitar and whiskey drinking, so I think I’m going to start getting my head back round the idea of copywriting.

Last year I took a course you see, then this year I had a little success with my creative writing and I left the copywriting on the backburner whilst my poetry was presented, an article was sold and a short story competition won; however, my muse sometimes appears on my desk, kicking a pencil-sharpener, and looking at me as he turns out his empty pockets.  He’s right, wanting to be Hemingway doesn’t pay the bills and I really could use the excitement, hard graft and, ultimately, satisfaction of producing work for others.  I know I can do it, in fact I’ve done it, but gratis.  I even have a portfolio of sorts and I have discovered an all-consuming drive within me for a change where I can start making a difference for ME, yes, ME.

Now another crossroad:  should I dedicate this blog to my intended activity or start afresh, with a brand new one?  If I use this then I guess I’ll have to remove the poetry and flash fiction pieces, which is OK as they have their own blog anyway.  Ah!  Decisions.

 

The necessity of creativity

The necessity of creativity and how we find it. Creativity is spontaneous and comes naturally and it is effected by the environment in which it finds itself. Some people thrive on turmoil and chaos whilst others require peace I their lives, a stable base upon which to build something. I’ve decided I fall into the latter. Much of what I write is done in those early morning, pre-dawning hours when I should be asleep but can’t. I’ve had my 4 hours or whatever and I lie awake, feeling the pillow become warmer and warmer, then having to turn it over and lay my face on its cool cotton whilst a team of chimps start chattering and climbing about inside my head. I can do nothing except get up; get up and write or sometimes read. I just can’t lay there with my head awhir, brain in overdrive and thoughts good and bad, positive and negative, circle and crash into each other, like 10 year olds in bumper cars.
Peace in my life: that’s the one. Upon reflection, insomnia may not appear to be a peaceful, stable base and, to some extent it isn’t because it becomes host to other problems which manifest themselves later on. However, the tranquillity of a silent flat in a small, silent block down a narrow silent street at 4.30am brings a peace of its own. The thunderstorm and lashing rain of two hours ago have decided to come back.
As I lie awake and listened to the crashing rain I thought of the plants on the balcony; the hardy rosemary, which hates excessive water but this ‘summer’ shows no let up. The delicate Venus fly trap, the only thing he’s catching is probably a cold. The young, reaching olive tree yearning for the sun. If these meteorological conditions occur (and they do) while I’m in the office I just shrug and don’t give it a second thought. This morning in my wakefulness I tried to come up with a plan for recovering them from the teeming torrents of water, and only the fact that I would have got soaked doing so stopped me.
So, back to the chaos or tranquillity question, even though it wasn’t a question.
Insomnia creates chaos in my head, there’s no denying that. It kick-starts the engine of my early morning and keeps revving, whether I want it or not. If it’s feeling generous it will sometimes turn off again whilst other times I need to let the clutch out and take it for a spin. It can and does causes problems later when I should be facing the day with enthusiasm and instead I’m sat, yawning, feeling bags delate beneath my eyes. However, this same insomnia leads me by the hand from my bed to my studio next door, where peace, the true, unblemished silence, is broken only by the scratching of my Caran d’Ache 2H pencil.
We could take this down to a completely new level and discuss the intricacies of what lie at the heart of every insomniac’s problem: however that isn’t for now or this page. A this moment in time my head is full of the consequences of a self-inflicted chaos I’ve brought into my life and now must deal with.
The necessity of creativity. We all have it but sometimes life pushes it out onto the balcony in the rain to be replaced by other urgencies which need to be kept warm and dry.