Monday, 27 October 2008


What's that old twit John Sergeant still doing on Strictly? He can't dance and he looks and sounds like Jo Brand. Get him off.

It's official: Left is Best

I’m left-handed, and proud of it. And you might be amazed to know that the next US president, whether he be Obama or McCain, will be left handed. Indeed, they will be the fourth left-handed president out of the last five. How about that. The chances of this occurring are apparently 0.00009. Which one of ‘em is a rightie? Yeah, you guessed it, only the loathsome Dubya…

Given that roughly one in ten of us are left-handed, we definitely punch (southpaw) above our weight; Leonardo Da Vinci, Aristotle, Einstein, Julius Caesar, Emperor Charlemagne, Napoleon, Marilyn Monroe, John F Kennedy, Jimi Hendrix, even Jesus for Christ sake… all left-handers.

It’s fascinating to note just how many actors are left-handed. At a rough guess, I’d say it’s 50/50. Check it out for yourself next time you watch a movie… Robert De Niro, Ray Liotta, Steve McQueen, Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt – I mean, come on!

But because of the cultural imperative that in the old days you had to choose which hand you wiped your arse with – the poor old left got the bum rap. Now you know why it’s called cack-handed. Sinister (from the Italian for left), gauche (from the French).. thank goodness modern hygiene has finally allowed us to flourish without prejudice.

Considering this yesterday, led me, by a tentative left-handed path that I can’t remember now, to thinking about personality. This was my thought: without other people to reflect back to you the kind of person you are, do you actually have a personality? I know, I’m going to bang on about it again, but who is the ‘you’ that you think you are, when you’re on your own?

I find my ‘personality’ entirely portable and chameleon-like. Sure, over the years I’ve grooved a personality that like an old overcoat I grudgingly slip on when I’m in company. But when I’m on my own… wow, you wouldn’t believe the different people that I am. In fact, I find that I can let the whole personality thing go, and watch it blob and morph around like a balloon without a social circumstance to anchor it. Do you ever sit and watch your personality going through its motions? When you go out, does it go through a check-list? Witty – checkish. Cool – hmm – kind of. Handsome – err, sort of. Suffering? Worried? Angry? What’s my story again? Oh yeah, I’m a 40 something would-be writer/reader/raconteur/iconoclast/decorator/dad/football fan/bon-viveur/traveller/thinker/seeker/visionary/natural philosopher/ bastard/has-been/fuck-up/survivor/guitarist/singer/songwriter/wanker/lover/man. Aren’t I?

Well, I know one thing, I’m left-handed.


(PS I lied about Jesus, but hey, you never know.)

Saturday, 25 October 2008

..creeps in this petty pace

Yesterday, my uncle died. I'm struggling for something to say that has not been covered a million times, about death, about the experience... that is not clich├ęd and platitudinous and glib... I can't think of anything. I am mired in suffering and the constant challenge of being; I want a break, forever, from this tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury.. signifying nothing. What is it that cries, and yearns and burns? The ego, the ego, the ego... let go, let go, let go... collapse, surrender, go within... how does one do that, in London, right now? Does one shun all social life, become a hermit? Should I travel to India, seek solace, lose myself? It's the physical thing that gets me most you see. And the anger that comes with it. Why me?

And yet reality keeps breaking through. The sound of water hitting the enamel bathtub in the shower. The cool calm of autumn sunlight on still-green leaves. The whole terrible, still, beyond reckoning, sense of being. It's here and now. Always.. underneath, beyond, behind... vast.. being.

The seductive reality of the surface, that I find myself always drawn to, the rush and chatter of human daily trivia, promises solace, delivers it, temporarily. Temporarily.

Thank god one can express one's self. I feel better now.

Thursday, 9 October 2008

How many rivers?

It's been a tough week. Tough but incredible. At Shaka's wake on Tuesday afternoon, I was moved to tears several times by what people had to say about him. But also by the people themselves. I was blown away by the beauty, the openess, the courage, the depth of my friends, and how willing they were to be seen, to be open, to be honest.

The same again at Shaka's funeral yesterday. It's been so good to feel this connection and to finally release the pent-up emotion that was stuck inside me. And insights have poured into me - I have seen myself measured against others and found myself wanting. Why is it, I ask myself, that I still find myself stuck with this carapace of pain, tension, and insecurity? Is that really me? Well no, it's not. This is one insight, that despite my understanding this truth again and again, especially through the hell of last year's emotional burn-out, I'm still coming to terms with. This stuff: it's not me. So what the hell is it? Who is it? Who am I? Do you recognise a unique emotional-psychic flavour that is you? You know the one - it's the one you relate to, when you hear your name, that's who you are, that cherry-vanilla burnt acid ice-cream sundae. But is that you?

Then today my aunt called because my uncle - her brother - was in a bad way. I hastened over to see him and ended up going into hospital with him. Here's a man who has reason to want to let go - at 88 years of age, and having survived the loss of his wife, his job through modernisation (he was working up until earlier this year and received a CBE for his contribution to his field last year), he's been hit with incurable cancer. I helped him change to go to hospital. His arms and legs are shockingly emaciated. He is so much more feeble than last time I saw him 2 months ago. He didn't want to eat or drink.

In A & E as he waited on a gurney, I asked him if he wanted to die. Yes, he said, I've had enough; I want to go to sleep. After doctors came and went and procrastinated I finally managed to persuade them to put a drip in his arm because he was so dehydrated. Eureka. Half and hour later he was feeling better. Still weak. But able, eventually, to go home. And I think how often I've wanted to die in recent years. Why? Because of the immense amount of pain I've been in. Is that an excuse? Probably not. Eckart Tolle says women are closer to enlightenment that men because they have to endure more pain. Well I don't know what the fucking yardstick is - but I can tell you, in terms of emotional pain, I've ridden the hoary razor-backed monster to hell and back. In terms of physical pain... well, I guess having 50% of your body covered in thick plaques of searing, burning, crusted skin, so sore there is NO release... 24/7.... that must qualify me for some kind of enlightenment equivalent, by Eckart's reckoning. If you consider I've been enduring this torture for the most of the last 20 years...

But what of it? There is no cure in resistance, and even less in self-pity. There is certainly redemption in love. Despite, in spite, of this suffering, I have managed to feel, more and more, that I am loved. And to say to myself, if I can truly feel this pain, and be in my body, and accept this, then I can be cured. Become whole. At Shaka's funeral I felt the bonds of love, and friendship and family. In truth, I felt this: that WE ARE FAMILY.

Peace out brothers and sisters.

Thursday, 2 October 2008


Sometime on Monday, Shaka, a beloved friend of mine, died on the Harrow Road. He was 32 years old. At the moment no further details are known.

To think that Shaka died just down the road from me, possibly alone, certainly with no close friends around him, hurts.

Being with Shaka always made me feel good. He always brought a smile to my face, he could always make me laugh, even when I was feeling down. The last time I saw Shaka, just over two weeks ago in the Salusbury pub, I was jokingly telling him how I'd love to inhabit his body just for a day, just to experience what it must have been like to be him. Shaka had the moves. Shaka had inimitable style. To see Shaka on the dance floor was something else! Women and men alike adored him. I know he was troubled, and for years struggled with the dark side of his nature; something we shared in common, and would sometimes talk about... but no one was the life and soul of the party like Shaka was... his smile lit up every room he entered, and warmed every heart that was blessed to experience it.

One day last year I came out of my house and Shaka was walking past my front door. He was feeling very bad, as his relationship with the woman he was deeply in love with had broken down. To see this gentle man laid so low really touched me. At the time this was another thing we shared in common.

I hoped I was able to bring him some solace, through the experiences I'd had in life, and I know that recently he was in much better spirits.

But we had so many fantastic times together. In Mallorca. At festivals and parties here and abroad. In Brasil, Christmas 2004, we roamed the countryside of Bahia, swimming huge rivers, feasting on freshwater crabs, mangoes plucked from roadside trees and generally living it large. Shaka's love of food was legendary and boy could he cook a good steak! One of the funniest things that happened was the way he heard the Portuguese for 'thank you' - obrigado - as 'boogazzi!'. Boogazzi became the way we always greeted each other from then on. Boogazzi baby!

But now he's gone and he's left so many devastated friends behind him. My heart especially goes out to his mother.

Shaks, I miss you man.