I Never Meant To Stop Drinking

‘He went to bed with a rich and glorious evening, and he awoke at seven to find that it had gone bad overnight, as it were (like milk), and was in his mouth – bitter and sickly. He had not, after all, had a great time: he had merely been drinking again.’ – Patrick Hamilton, The Midnight Bell (1929)

I never meant to stop drinking, it wasn’t something I consciously ‘gave up’. Not like the times I participated in ‘Dry January’ for charity, where with support we could collectively draw strength for the arduous task of ‘giving up’, for ‘abstaining’, until with a last gasp of the month we could all pile back in on the 1st February. Back to our bottles of wine and pints of beer, congratulating ourselves of a month of abstinence and a few saved pounds in cash and a few lost pounds in weight. Then everything was back to normal. That morning malaise that heralded every morning like an underlying current of depression. The ideas of morning gym sessions, Saturday Parkruns and Sunday morning long runs that disappeared into the haze of a massive hangover after a Friday night on the town. I had so much to lose, weekday wine was a hard earn reward for the day worked. Friday night beer was a reward and a good time out with my friends. Saturday night beer because there was a band on at the local. Tuesday night beer on the way to the shops that ended with a closing time pizza and the food still un-bought. This was the merry-go-round life I was leading. Alcohol wasn’t a problem, it was just a fact of life. Dry January proves it’s not a problem, we can give it up, stop it, anytime we like. Of course, we don’t want to as that what makes life fun right? Who wants to be one of those boring teetotallers? Don’t drink, no fun.

I never meant to stop drinking, my life started to change subtly, a career break, working for minimum wage for a summer season on a campsite, working fifteen hours a day, tending bar, taking bookings, cooking fry-ups. Evening wine dwindled and disappeared, Friday nights were different on the other side of the bar. The season changed from summer to autumn and a nightly bottle of cider became the norm and then that dwindled and disappeared. Mornings became clearer and something finally registered. The cognitive dissonance of having a good time of which most of it becomes a blur of good time followed by some sort of down, the down of lacklustre sleep, the down of a few beers and a midnight snack of pizza and chips, the down of a massive hangover the lasts until 3pm. These don’t feel like good times, but sure as sure, by late afternoon I’m looking forward to a glass of wine with my dinner, maybe two. May as well finish the bottle. Somewhere that all disappeared.

I never meant to stop drinking, it just happened. It’s not an effort, it’s not a hardship, I’m not even ‘giving up’. Last week we dropped by the local pub for the quiz night. It’s something we do occasionally to stay in the social loop, have a beer and amuse ourselves by how many of the answers we don’t know. This week we stayed for the whole quiz. For reference, the quiz is three beers long. From eight o’clock to ten o’clock, three beers and two packets of crisps. I was awake at 4am, all that beer has to come out at some time. Disturbed night sleep, queasy morning, skipped the gym. Life was interrupted. This is when I realised that life had changed, no longer was I celebrating the night and accepting the consequences of the next morning, this time I was regretting the loss of my clear morning, the freedom to be on top form and for anything to be possible.

I never meant to stop drinking, it just happened. Like now when I’m in the supermarket and decide I want a glass of wine with my dinner and head to the wine aisle and remember, actually, I don’t. That was just a memory glitch, my old life bleeding through into now. And then I walk on with my life.

Learning Frailing Banjo Week 19

It’s week 19 and I’ve been practicing a new song ‘John Hardy’, one of the key priorities for me on the banjo is to learn the tunes and the words rather than having to depend on tabs and song sheets to remember them as I seem to have to do with the guitar. I have been practicing the first three lines of each verse (CC FC GG GG) and started by just playing the first string as the melody note for each chord. Once I had this cracked, as in I had learnt the order of the chords, I then looked again and practiced the melody strikes for each of those chords ie string 21 11 12 34 for each of those chords above. Looking at the tabs in Patrick Costello’s ‘The Outlaws and Sealawags Songbook’ there’s some funky hammer-ons and single note strikes at the end of each line to add in as well as soon as I am comfortable. That’s the great thing about learning these songs, they can be as simple or as complex as you like for your own stage of learning.

In this week’s video I also talk about making the melody notes sing and the twin trails of learning to play fast and also learning to play accurately as I fumble for the F chord.

Clipped Wings

At a summer camp celebrating the freedom of child-led education, attendance at the mandatory Monday morning recycling ‘workshop’ was announced by megaphone. ‘Clipped Wings’ is our response to that contradiction, the 3 chord tune provided a soundtrack to loosely rhyming contradictory statements which we threw onto some paper, this is just one version of it.

Learning Frailing Banjo Week 18

In week 18 I’m back at home again after our visit to Cleckheaton Folk Festival shown in the last video and also some time spent in Ceredigion, Wales where I recorded the guitar on the beach videos for ‘Ride On’ and ‘Say Goodbye To Me Gently’. I’ve submitted ‘Say Goodbye To Me Gently’ to the Lichfield Arts Song Writing Competition, so fingers crossed for the composition in the competition.

Today I talk about being able to pick out the melody notes from the general noise that I make on the banjo and also the start of the process of migrating another of my guitar songs, ‘Woman Without Dog’ to the banjo. We had a slightly lost and stressful morning of trying to figure out how many beats in the bar there were for each of my guitar finger picks for each chord in the song to then compare to a banjo strike/strum/thumb of which there are 2 sets to each bar. We had to start with the assumption that the song was in 4/4 time and came out with the probable timing of:

D – 4 or 5 or 6 bars
She’s up in the park every

G – 3 or 4 bars
day…………

C – 4 or 5 or 6 bars
Walking her dog at least that’s what she

G – 3 or 4 bars
says…………

IMG_2032

And finally my other project of learning the yoga headstand of Salamba Sirsana continues as a reminder that improvement is learnt and is achieved through regular practice.

 

Eating A Wrap On The Beach

Aberystwyth, the beach, the sun was hot but the wind was cold or at least cool. The temperature had dipped from the high twenties we had been been acclimatised to down to perhaps the low twenties now. The beach was pebbly but they were so small that with a little more effort and perhaps another million years it could be a sandy beach.

Entering the shade was much like visiting the dark side of the moon and with bare feet, the sun soaked pebbles underfoot felt burning hot, so we sought out a compromise and hotfooted it across the beach towards a concrete bastion that we hoped would shelter us from the wind.

Next that classic beach move of trying to change into your swimming trunks whilst in full view of pretty much everyone on the beach, and also those on the esplanade behind, with only a towel the size of a flannel to hide under. After a furtive few minutes, and now with bathing costumes weighed down with innumerable small pebbles that had snuck into every accessible and inaccessible nook and cranny, we made for the sea.

Entering water that is at a vastly different temperature to the ambient air temperature is always an experience. Yes, it will feel cold, yes, it will feel ok once you are in, and yes, once you are in you won’t necessarily want to get out. Remembering the hundreds of times I had swum in the river the year before last never helps, remembering the last few times I had swum in this sea, only the day before, for example, in fact that morning, didn’t help either. The process is always the same, expectantly and excitedly stripping off, and optionally changing into swimming attire, before plunging in up to the ankles or perhaps knees and thereafter inching in up to thigh tops. Then it’s a waiting game, each new millimetre of flesh that touches the water screams out in complaint and then is silent. That wasn’t too bad was it, but to plunge in, chest down, into the water? Not yet, let me think about it. Let me think about it a bit more. Perhaps I should just get out. But the water, and I know I’ll like it when I eventually get in. Ok, here goes. In a minute. Now. Hold on. Now. In a minute. Take a breath, pull a face and I’m in. yes, this is great, watch out for that jelly fish. What’s that? Ok, not a shark, just some seaweed. And I’m swimming, out to the end of the breakwater, and back in again, and out again, and along parallel to the beach and back again, and backstroke and breaststroke and just flapping around for bit. And then, all too soon it’s time to get out.