Were I to draw up a pie chart of the week’s activities, the big lime green segment taking up most of the circumference would be labelled “Shouting At Computers”. It has been internet hell, folks. The first inklings of this came, as they always do, with an angry bride’s mum on the telephone asking why I’d not responded to her email request about the Shakin’ Stevens medley for the first dance at the upcoming nuptials of her daughter Kelley. As such emails normally leave me with a small degree of mental scarring, I knew for a fact that a response had been lovingly crafted and sent off immediately, and that when, eight minutes later, a second and more turbulent call from the same lady about the same subject erupted down the iPhone and spilt into the home office, or shed, like a burst water main, nary seconds after I’d hit the resend button, I knew that something was up.
I don’t really understand computers, and especially the internet. I have some vague notion that there is a load of electric spaghetti linking the world up, but, like electric spaghetti would be, I find it impossible to unravel, and there is something about its very nature that scares me off. I have a very low tolerance for absorbing unfamiliar jargon, you see. As mastery of unfamiliar jargon (or UJ) is a core skill in the digital era, I find myself firmly at the back of an increasingly elongating pack. It was this same lack of UJ skills, by the way, which led to my disastrous demise in 1984 as an employee of the Nat West bank in an unseemly incident involving a charming picture of a lady and a horse, and some nuns. I’m saving that story for a quiet week, mind.
What I do know though is that I’ve only been able to transmit data on an occasional and intermittent basis without knowing which bits have gone out. Even though the computer clearly saw itself as a kind of digital Norman Collier, at least I still had the emails on the phone, which permitted that most masculine of activities- the necessary prevarication and apathy over important issues to continue. I finally decided that Something Had To Be Done when I’d sent last week’s Plog off to Phil the Web Man last Friday, written Kate Adie-like on location on a BBC sofa in the marble-lined offices of Friday Night Is Music Night. Phil works like lightning- it normally goes all up on the web within an hour or two of me sending it in, but when it got to Sunday and nothing had changed, the final straw had come- the iPhone had thrown its chips in with the computer and had ceased transmitting as well. Bloody secondary picketing! Eventually, Phil got the unwilling machinery to once more grind to a start, and I was able to extract last week’s Plog from the phone. Let’s travel in time folks, back to last Friday, and see what was occurring…..
February 21 2014
I really really hate my body. Not in a teenage angsty self-harming immersed in Morrisey sort of way, but in the rather more direct manner brought on as reasonable reactions to the unending symphony of inconvenience and discomfort which it foists upon me on a daily basis. Last week saw the end of the four month toil on the big Irving Berlin project, and as much as I enjoyed it, I was looking forward to some really hardcore quiet time in the home arts studio, or shed, really getting cracking on some serious axis powers seaplane action.
Unfortunately, the body had other ideas. Despite my having fed it during the tour on luxury nosh in Indian restaurants the length and breadth of the nation, and keeping the fluid levels maintained well above the factory limits as set out in the manual in a magnificent selection of Britain’s watering holes, it began a slow campaign of hate against me, starting with aches and pains in my left shoulder last Friday, which largely kept on with a constant low-level shimmer of hurt to the occasional and sudden Aurora Borealis of searing agony that was so hideous I could swear I could actually hear it. Proof positive that my body, the sod, was doing this on purpose came on Monday when it changed its mind and replaced shoulder fun with giddiness, nausea and fatigue. But absolutely no shoulder pain. I managed to get through an evening with the big band at the London University of Motivational Musical Direction, or shouting thinly disguised as education but by this time the body had really got the hump.
Once the Volvo and I had got it back to a The Gables, there ensued a considerable Upping of the Ante. I’d gone to bed as soon as I got back home, trying to head of the brewing assault of fatigue at the pass. Just after lights out, the enemy attacked and I just managed to get it to the Thunderbox before the battle got going in earnest. I was exhausted anyway, and the main thing I can remember from going eleven rounds with myself in my own personal Rumble in The Jungle was feeling really annoyed that the next day was meant to be a quiet day in the shed, and one I’d looked forward to for months. At best it looked as though I was now going to have to spend it in bed, and that would only happen if I could dispense with, er, the need to be in a tiled room.
Miserable sodding Tuesday came and went, eased in part by Her indoors administering Broth and Grapes to the needy of Hertfordshire, and as if the clouds had lifted to reveal a blue and sunny sky, the vile body had decided that it was bored of hurting itself and I awoke for the first time in months without being either tired or with some bit or another emitting pain of some kind. Hello Flowers, Hello Trees!
Whilst on the tour and driving down the M4, the innuendo fans amongst you will be delighted to know that our car got trapped behind a lorry proudly emblazoned with the trade name of the midland’s premier baked produce purveyor, Bumble Hole Foods.
Some frantic in-car googling revealed that Bumble Hole is a small village up that way. Quite how it has managed to stay out of the UK league of Carry On Place Names is beyond me- let it be placed proudly in the pantheon of Cockermouth, Upper Dicker and Twatt. You can’t help feeling that somewhere in a drawer in the Bumble Hole parish council offices there is a brown envelope full of wrought iron B’s, L’s and E’s to repair the inevitable daily defacing of the eponymous “Welcome to..” sign. I do hope it’s twinned with somewhere like Urps-Am-Gurgl. Is anyone who is reading this a resident? Please get in touch.
In other news this week, there was an amusing gig at Ronnie’s on Wednesday when the target For Tonight was to attempt to warm up Al Jarreau’s audience of 1980’s hipsters, some still sporting the original hair, with my clarinet and the universally loved gift of Bebop. Although I did no better than you might expect, I did no worse either, and I believe that the trio and I were able to cow them into a grudging semblance of acceptance before the great man came on.
Right now, it’s Friday, it’s five o’clock, and in 1973 it would have been Crackerjack. As it’s 41 years on, I’m in the green room at the BBC waiting to play The Pink Panther with the BBC concert orchestra. Thanks to the Beeb, every so often, I get to let a hooter off over a real live string section, and, as an extra added bonus, they send me money. This time I’ve got to stand out the front and do it, miles away from the bass and drums. Let’s hope I don’t fall off the beat and make an absolute arse of myself- I like it here.
CUE- wobbly harp music, and Plog going into soft focus-
Well, here we are, back in Wednesday afternoon. A couple of days after the evening of Pinkness at the Beeb, in which, you’ll be pleased to know, I didn’t fall off the beat and made no more of an arse of myself than normal, I was subject to ‘Dark Sight Of The Year’. I know we’re only half-way through February, but this is going to take some topping.
I was booked to play in a big band doing 45 minutes of cocktail music at a 60th birthday bash thrown by a Russian Gazillionaire. I’ve done these before, and it would be fair to say that restraint is a rarely a feature. A large conference venue in central London had been completely rebuilt internally to resemble the palace of Catherine the Great. I reckon the entire global output of white roses for the next tax year was in there. One of our lads mused that our whole band was cheaper than one of the table decorations. I reckon he was right- the Russian Gazillionaire and his mates certainly didn’t seem to notice that we were there, even when going at full tilt. Non-celebrity music is the new disposable commodity, you know.
However, in itself, there’s nothing particularly dark about any of this. It’s just rude rich folk getting drunk. The darkness occurred as I was being walked by one of the clipboard-wielding girls (Why are they always called Kirsty or Beth, by the way?) from the front door to our changing room. On the way was a thirty strong troupe of dancing lads in vests and tracky bottoms going through some street dance moves. Just behind them, I noticed a load of rubber heads on sticks. It looked a bit like Traitor’s Gate. Drawing closer, I noticed that it was multiple repetitions of the same head. Rather beautifully and obviously expensively done too. Kirsty-Beth confirmed my worst fears- all these dancers were going to be made to look like the birthday boy! A 60-year old Russian Gazillionaire in a Cloned Buzby Berkeley Rap Flash Mob. At his own do! Worse still, it was the birthday boy’s idea. I reckon even Narcissus himself would have baulked at that one. I wonder what he does when he’s being nasty.
It’s my birthday in a couple of weeks. I’m going to make photocopies of my face, put them on bits of elastic and ask all my mates at the Swan to put them on. Maybe even jig about a bit together. That’ll make me feel nice.