Sunday 26 November 2023

The Sunday Reflection #1 - Change is a good thing

 For the last decade or so, I've had a little Sunday ritual. I get up, make the missus breakfast, then do the "Tweets of The Week" blog, then go to Mass. When I finish, I go oo Boucherie Gerard, get what I need for Sunday Lunch. I then return, make lunch, watch the football and generally (if we are not seeing a gig), have a relatively early, chilled night. Last week, I did this for the last time, well the Tweets of the week, you can click here to read here why I'm not doing that anymore. I woke up this morning and realised I'll miss doing it. I had a ritual. I made a note of any during the week that caught my eye, then I'd search on all of the areas of the Borough such as Burnt Oak, Edgware, Cricklewood etc to see what I'd missed. This was actually great. I came across all sorts of wonderful Tweeters and many interesting things that fascinated me. A few of the Tweeters that I randomly found and became people I met and admire deserve a mention as I wrap this up

@Superfast72, @Time_NW - Mark Amies - I think I first noticed Mark through his support for the Railway Hotel campaign. Mark became a friend and we made several videos together. He is a top bloke and I could always rely on him to provide a good tweet or two. In fact I probably discriminated against him in the end, not posting great tweets in the list, because I felt I had to widen the net! Thanks Mark. 

@Finchleybirder - Samuel Levy - Samuel's work documenting the wildlife of Darlands is amazing. He contributed a guest blog concerning the proposed power station next to the nature reserve. He also helped me enormously when I contributed a chapter to the West London Wildlife book (a great present for any Londoners who like wildlife and exploring). Thanks Samuel 

@Milepost13 - Robin Morel - The local Network Rail infrastructure man. A great source of info on matters Thameslink. He's kindly arranged for me to have a look around the Cricklewood train maintenance facility on a couple of occasions, which has been fascinating, as someone interested in the Borough and London's industrial history and architecture. Thanks Robin

Thanks to everyone else I featured. I will still be keeping an eye out. I should really have included this in last weeks blog, but better late than never.

Change. It can be difficult, but it is a very good thing as well. I have had three massive changes in my life recently. Two of these have been extremely difficult and I have and am struggling to deal with them. 

In August 2022, when attending my nephews wedding in |Crete, I turned my ankle over and badly sprained it. It has not been the same since. In March, having played football all of my life, I made the decision to stop playing until it healed. I currently still am wearing an ankle support. It hasn't healed. I am getting my head around the fact that I may well have played my last football match. Football kept me fit and was a big release from the stress of life.  Stress is the biggest killer of all. I haven't really worked out how to fill this gap.

Also in March (could it be related to the stress of stopping football), I learned that my prostate cancer had flared up. I found myself faced with the awful choice of ignoring it, having radiotherapy or surgery. In August, I had surgery. The effects have been life changing. I'm lucky that I am continent, but currently I have no sexual function. I find this to be a very difficult thing to deal with. My major fear with regard to surgery was losing this. I seriously thought about just ignoring it and letting the cancer take its course. There are times when I wish I had. Another few years of normal life, enjoying myself and then a trip to Switzerland when the pain got too much. I may have been hit by a bus before it got to that and I'd have had a far better time. As this would not really be fair on Clare or the kids, I discounted the option, but it will also be a what if. I am struggling to pick a positive out of this change. I wish I could see something good in it. I've been told that things can take three years to return (if they do). Maybe in thee years time, I'll be writing a blog about how good a decision I made, to encourage other blokes that there is a future.

Now reading this, you may be thinking that it's all gloom and doom. It isn't. There has been one massive positive for me, that came out of a very tragic situation. I've been playing guitar in The False Dots  for 44 years. I've always enjoyed it. The band has always had a vocalist. In early 2021, when we still had lockdown, the band started rehearsing as a three piece. There were no plans to do anything more than 'get a few numbers together'. I had written a song that I wanted to try and get Lee Thompson of Madness (who is a mate of mine) and Jenny Bellstar to sing. I did a rough recording and my kids said "Dad, it sounds good, you should sing it". I was surprised to say the least, but this inspired me. I started to write songs that I could sing. I've always been a prolific song writer, I have hundreds in my unused song book. Most have been written with other people in mind and simply didn't work. 

Anyway, cut a long story short, last September, we did a gig at The Dublin Castle. It went down a storm and we've been given a residency. By the end of this year (God willing), we've done more gigs than any year since 1984! Whats more, I now feel that I can call myself a singer, not just a bloke with a guitar who does a bit of vocals. Don't get me wrong, my style of vocals is very stylised. If you like Ian Dury/The Clash/Madness/The Specials you may enjoy it. If you prefer Whitney Houston or George Michael, I'm sure you'll hate it. I have come to the conclusion that I'm a good band frontman. It is actually beyond me that I didn't properly try and do the job previously. Well actually I do know. I was kicked out of the choir for being "Tone deaf" at Church. Every time I opened my mouth I was told "You can't sing" so I believed them. Even the liberation of Punk rock in 1977 couldn't break that curse. Furthermore I wrote songs that were intended for people who could sing more conventionally.

With our new material, the songs are very Ian Duryesque. They are more stories than songs. They tell tales. They have characters. They take you on a journey and the music paints a picture. I genuinely think it works rather well. I had always dreamed that The False Dots would find an amazing singer, write them some brilliant songs that suited their vocal style and the band would get a degree of recognition and do brilliant gigs, make some amazing recordings and  get a record deal. We've done two of the three, to be honest, we will probably release the record ourselves!

But the point is that at age 61, I have discovered a new talent and have something that is making me feel good about the future. I guess that none of this is how I thought things would be at the start of the year.  I know not everyone shares my beliefs, but I strongly believe that if you work hard, God gives you what you ask for in life. Not when you want it, in the way you want it or how you imagined it. But if someone told me that at age 61, I'd have a band playing the Dublin Castle regularly, and in the words of Talking Heads 

And you may find yourself in a beautiful house, with a beautiful wifeAnd you may ask yourself, "Well, how did I get here?"


Have a great weekend. Here's the song that inspired this blog today! And please come down and see the band on the 23rd December at The Dublin Castle - Tickets here

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