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At the beginning, I thought that by now I might be wanting to stop wandering and settle again.
I’m not thinking of settling again just yet.
It’s working. It’s working for me, it’s working for the people closest to me. I don’t hear anyone saying “please, stay here and do this thing”. There are plenty of people saying “please, stay here, we like having you around” but that’s not the same and it’s not what I’m doing. I need to be keeping useful and it’s becoming clearer that the impulse to settle for a while is most likely to come from a longish-term project rather than anything else.
At least that’s what I think today.
Firstly, I have to say that I continue to have a fantastic time. I had thought that by mid-September, I’d have perhaps had enough of hobo-ing around but on the contrary, I’m looking forward to carrying on – I see no sign of settling for a while now.
The tweak I’d like to make is that I’d like to be doing more work-work – but the definition of work-work is a bit muddy for me, perhaps I need to explore that here.
So I have had lots of lovely rest time, time where I’ve just been able to be with people and take part in what they’re doing. I got to get sun-tanned in Cornwall while busking every day.
Then there have been the opportunities to help out with more than day-to-day chores and child care – painting a fence, clearing a garden of brambles, taming an overgrown budleia, shopping and cooking for my aunt who’s ill.
And I’ve done stuff like the album with Martyn et al, creative stuff that doesn’t have money attached but creates value in other ways.
I’ve also been employed to host a couple of conferences, do some creative consulting and help out some hyperlocal bloggers with improving their sites. Next month I’ll be doing a performance of the show I developed about the American trip.
It’s this sort of thing that i’d like to do more of. I suppose it’s really stuff that someone else has come up with or else something that I’ve done before. But it’s also a bit bitty – much as I love facilitation one day at a time, I’d quite like to get my teeth into a project that’s a bit meatier. It would be nice to do something over a longer period of time that has a bigger outcome or effect.
My costs are much reduced at the moment so I can afford to do things for lower fees in other parts of the country than i’ve been able to countenance before – I’m also up for stuff that includes staying and/or working with interesting people.
So have a think and give me a shout if someone goes “Hmmmm.. we could use a Lloyd for that”
I just accidentally read an article in the Daily Mirror about George Osborne failing to pull off a funny at the GQ awards last night. I was sitting in a cafe and it happened to be open next to me (that’s my excuse).
My first question was “how could he be awarded Politician of the Year?”
And then “why do I care about who gets the approval of a magazine?”
And then “why am I looking at the Daily Mirror?”
Politicians, glossy mags, tabloid newspapers – a whole ecosystem of irrelevance.
Do you understand what I’m doing at the moment? I mean, beyond the material thing that I’ve given up my flat and am on the road living and working with people as required, being useful and moving on.
No, neither do I.
Except it seems to have something to do with living differently, with experiencing other people’s lives and hearing their perspective on mine. It seems that this is something important for me to do, it’s not a choice I came to lightly, it took me a long time sitting in a flat in Fulham wondering why things didn’t work well and hankering for a way to be doing more, having a variety of experiences and meet with more diverse groups of people. It’s one of those things that I can’t say I chose to do, it feels much more like it chose me.
I woke up this morning with paranoia, the idea that everyone hates me and thinks I’m just being a dick, spongeing off the goodwill of my friends and occasionally writing pompous self-indulgent stuff on the internet. I know that the cure for this is writing about it, talking about it, getting it out of my head, because that’s the place it comes from. It isn’t based in any real evidence – I am making it up. In fact, since I poked my head above the parapet and wrote something yesterday I’ve had several very friendly and loving messages enquiring into my well-being. If anyone does think that stuff, they’re not letting me know.
What is different (I hesitate to say, “not working”) about this current journey is that I’m being challenged to involve others in my life. If the people I visit don’t feel involved then it does become a bit like spongeing, it all feels one way, but I’m still not sure how to do it. I’ve always found this involvement, openness, personal connection, difficult. I’ve found it hard enough to identify in the first place – I thought I was doing it, I think I’m doing what’s required, and yet from time to time I find myself having a conversation that shows me that the other person doesn’t feel involved, they feel shut out and cut off. I don’t really know what to do about this except talk it around some more and see what other people think. It feels like it’s in my blind spot. What does it look like? How would I know that I was involving you more in my life? If I’m always telling you what I’m up to, what I’m thinking, what I want to do, how does that differ from self-obsession?
I wrote this sitting in an upstairs room in a pub in Bude, Cornwall. I sat and reflected that I was watching a little part of the world slowly die. I was at the Bude Jazz Festival which annually celebrates the music as it was being born just about a hundred years ago in and around New Orleans. It’s not the music that’s dying. That will carry on. It is immortalised in thousands of recordings already and even though there may only now be a relatively small number of musicians interested in keeping it going we’ve learned that all sorts of genres are much more hardy than their original proponents.
No, what’s dying here in front of me is a generation of British people, the oldest of whom may just remember hearing Mr Chamberlain on the wireless telling the world that we were now at war with Germany. The youngest of them didn’t see anything of the war except it’s aftermath, growing up with bomb sites, cities being rebuilt, rationing and parents who were tired, fed up but stoically carrying on despite living through a horribly violent patch of our history. They are the lucky ones. They have had perhaps the best of the welfare state and social progress and reform that happened here in the second half of the twentieth century. They sit in rows hearing renditions of the songs and tunes that they danced to as teenagers. They’re alive, kept going by the National Health Service, most of them with small but bearable pensions. Many of them are here as venerable couples, they’ve been together now for forty years (or more). They’ve all amassed stuff, stuff and more stuff. I doubt that many of them have an empty attic or garage. They may have let their cars go as they became less able to keep driving but the majority will have made their way here with room for others on the back seat. They’re all likely to have inherited something from their parents, property, or cash or just belongings but they’re less likely to leave anything behind for the next generation except funeral expenses. If they hve wills they’ve probaly passed things on to their grandchildren rather than their own kids.
They remember a gentler time. Do they long for it? Do they wish things could just go back the way that they were? What do they really think? About anything. They look like Daily Mail readers to me, but that probably says more about my prejudices than about them. They won’t be here much longer. Or perhaps they will.
Postscript 1: When I got up from scribbling in my notebook, the people sitting behind me said “You were writing a lot, what are you writing?” Gulp. I said “I’m writing a lot about uncivilisation at the moment about how society is de-evolving” They didn’t ask any more questions. No I don’t understand where the words came from either.
Postscript 2: What if they’ve done their job, that generation? They were part of a pattern that created the free thinking and doing of the sixties. They helped create an antidote to capitalism and now they’re dying off, taking the remnants of the old system with them. Some of them kept a counter-culture alive that had been around since the industrial revolution and made it a little more mainstream, a little easier for the rest of us to do something different. I guess “thank you” is what I’m trying to say
I’m really pleased that one of the few bits of “proper” work I’m doing in the next couple of weeks is to MC the Community Day for my friends at Learning Pool next Wednesday (14th). I caught the tail end of a similar event last year and wished I’d been there for longer. I’m very lucky to get to dip into things like this and help people have conversations that they might not otherwise have – the Poolies really understand how to engage well with their customers and stakeholders in my experience.
There’s lots going on through the day, I love the idea of “hero” stories and I’m pleased to see people are being given a choice of seminars and support clinic sessions in the afternoon. I’m also sure there’ll be some serious fun to be had afterwards :)
And I hear that the lovely Dave Briggs and Paul Clarke will be there – hope there’s some time for some backstage nattering…
If it’s your kind of thing too sign up for a place here
I wrote this while attending Uncivilisation a couple of weeks ago. It became clear to me that uncivilisation is an ongoing process, rather than a state of being. It’s a process of unlearning, removing complications and reversing out of evolutionary dead-ends. It’s about unticking boxes. It’s a process that I’ve been going through for about 10 years now and it’s entwined with other changes that I’ve chosen to make.
Once upon a time, I had a wife, a house, a job with a pension. The idea was that i would live with my wife who would meet my emotional needs, we would live together in a house that met my physical need for safety and shelter and it would all be paid for with money from my job for now and in the future by my pension. This is “normal”, “civilised” life. It’s what most people do. It works for lots of people. It worked for me for some time, but then it began to unravel.
I didn’t have to think about what I was doing at the time – it was what everyone else around me was doing, it was what I’d always thought was the best thing to do. And I believed that if I kept doing these things and acquiring more stuff and maintaining this structure, then it would all make me happy. If I wasn’t actually happy at the moment then perhaps I needed a better wife or a better home with more stuff or a better job with more money now and in the future.
On the whole I was not happy. I had periods or moments of happiness derived from getting something that I wanted, but it never lasted for long. I had two beautiful, mostly healthy, intelligent children. Being with them gave me haappiness when I got out of the way and focused on giving them something, feeding them, taking them out, playing with them, watching them learn. I thought they brought me pain when they didn’t do what I wanted and when their needs encroached on my time and resources.
Now, I don’t have a wife, I have no home and I have no job. I guess I still have my pension, but I am no longer contributing to the fund in the way that was expected. When I reach “retirement age” it will not fully support my financial needs unless they are significantly fewer and lower than they have been for many years.
I am consistently more happy than I have ever been. I’m experiencing a new form of freedom that comes from moving around. I’m just starting a relationship with a woman that requires far more emotional honesty and intimacy than I’ve been capable of before. I’m working a lot but not necessarily in ways that look like work as I’ve previously defined it. I’ve become illegible to some people.
When I meet people I worked with about 10 years ago, their reaction (once they recognise me) is “What happened? What the fuck happened to you?”
This is a very interesting question. What the fuck *did* happen to me?
More clues: In 2001 I weighed about 20 stone (280 lbs) and was drinking alcohol most days. My health was not good. I felt ill every weekend, I had chronic headaches and I knew that my knees and back were suffering from being overworked. I’m now 14 stone and haven’t had a drink since early 2002.
It’s also interesting to me that I’m much more comfortable focusing on the externals here, much less on what has been going on internally for me, mentally, emotionally, spiritually. Although I do believe that the stuff on the inside was what made it all happen. I think it might be an interesting task to try to write about that a bit more.
I’m in Bude, Cornwall and perhaps unlike much of the rest of the UK, it’s very much still summer here. When I poked my head out of the tent this morning, all I could see was mist and the sort of cloud that quickly gets burned off to reveal a glorious sun-shiney day. Hurrah! Pass the factor 57!
I’ve had a tremendous time down here for the annual New Orleans Jazz Festival. I had a jam with some friendly folk down by the canal this morning and when I’ve posted this, I’ll be busking in the High St – it’s all go and my ukulele fingers are a bit numb :)
I’m coming back to London tomorrow. I’ll be staying in Epsom with the kids tomorrow night but then I’ll be looking for somewhere to stay & something to do from Sunday night onwards. At the moment, I have nothing else in the book until 14th September when I’m MC-ing at Learning Pool’s Community Day. So get scheming folks and find me something useful to do for 10 days till then (earning some cash wouldn’t go amiss).
Primary need at the moment is somewhere to sleep in London on Sunday night (I’ve some stuff to do in town on Monday) but thereafter the sky (or perhaps the borders of the UK) are the limit! Think about it, come up with something that’ll knock my socks off!