I had a quintessentially English moment this evening, standing in a seaside town, outside a fish & chips shop, in the rain, with an umbrella. Olivia and Jonas were inside ordering. It was Jonas’ first fish & chips experience. It reminds me of my first sauerkraut experience except Jonas might have fish & chips again. It was that English drizzle that makes you think you’re not getting wet when in fact it is slowly drowning you. There was a slight mist and an eerie silence, a lady parked her car near to where I was standing and she jumped out with a translucent dog, smooth and shiny. It didn’t seem to mind the wet ground, neither did the lady, she smiled as she went by as if to say “we are both getting through this”. Another parked car had the reg that spelled EAT. I don’t eat at the fish & chips shops anymore because anything vege always tastes of fried fish. We’d just been to the recycling and then to the garage shop and then to the supermarket. Outside the garage shop was a drenched black labrador with a forlorn look on its face. It looked away, ashamed of its condition. It was really sad. It was hard to know if the owner was inside or if it was looking for shelter. When the automatic sliding door opened to let us out, he/she stared inside, but didn’t move to enter.
I swam the seventy lengths again today, but the feeling is that the pool is soon going to close. It was quite empty again today which is great for an uninterrupted swim, but it’s weird. The school sessions have been cancelled and the session after mine was sparsely populated with little kids getting their swimming lessons. One of the lifeguards, Jack, I’ve known since he was a little boy, now he’s nineteen and works as a lifeguard on the Cornwall beaches and here at the pool whilst he’s waiting for the summer season to start again (he’s also training to be a paramedic). If they close, the lifeguards don’t get paid. He told me he couldn’t swim a mile non-stop freestyle, I’m the marathon man, he is the sprinter. All this is just practice like anything, like playing the guitar or writing songs, focus, concentration, some discipline and somewhere lurking inside of you is a great idea, you just have to dig it out. Treasure doesn’t sit waiting for you in the front field, you have to explore, go and find it.
In the changing room I talked to Paul. He used to be a plumber, told me some stories about how the job had changed and in the good old days carrying heavy plumbing paraphernalia had caused serious problems for his back in the later years. The swimming was the best relief. He told me that in the late sixties before health and safety guidelines, that once he was on a building site under one of those high-rise blocks and the men on the top were dismantling the scaffolding by throwing the poles off the rooftop. On landing they were sinking 4ft into the ground. When he told the foreman what was happening the foreman said ”I told everyone Friday they’d be doing this today”. Of course not everyone was there Friday to know. No warning, no signs, he was lucky not to die a gruesome death. He also wrote poetry and was interested in what I was doing. He met Olivia and took down the website address, he’s probably reading this now. Outside in the cafe he was sitting with an old lady who was so vivacious and lovely. They were both asking about my mammoth swims. I asked her her name and she said she had many but we settled on Mrs P. Nice people.
On the way up to the pool today I heard some kind of machine in the distance, some construction somewhere and I swear it was in the same key as Shine On You Crazy Diamond. I was just waiting for the guitar motif to come thundering out of the clouds. There’s that thing with the clouds where you can see the faces and heads of famous people and sometimes in the sunset the clouds look like islands in an exotic sea. I see these faces in the leaves and in the wallpaper, in the patterns in the carpet. I don’t need acid.
On the way back from the pool we ran into Gareth again, local mad record buying music lover like me. He had a copy of Donovan’s What’s Bin Did And What’s Bin Hid but the wrong record was inside, he was just rescuing the cover. He told me he just got the Dylan bootleg series Blood On The Tracks vinyl. I have the CD box set. It’s huge, I haven’t had a chance to break it open yet. It was a gift from one of my sessioneers, Vidya in the Napa Valley. She gave me a hundred dollar gift voucher (it must have been for my birthday). I could only spend it in the USA so I added some money to the voucher and bought the box set, paid some duty. Thanks so much Vidya, one day I really will get to it.
Earlier today I was engaged in a massively interesting conversation with Simeon at the Citroen coffee truck and one of his intellectual customers about the universe, the concept of electricity as a power source for all things (I think) and the mystery of consciousness and creativity. As it happened I’d straddled these two ideas in the charity store earlier where I bought two secondhand books, Oscar Wilde’s Epigrams and Leonard Nimoy’s autobiography I Am Spock. The other day I bought a collection of Gabriel Garcia books, some I’d read, some I hadn’t, but it seemed wrong to leave some behind, they were like a set.
I came into the archive after the pool and after the walk down to the shops and sat down on the couch and I thought I’m not going to move for a while. So I put on Jimi Hendrix’ Electric Ladyland CD, sat in the middle of the (red) couch that put me about six feet away and in the middle of the speakers and I listened to the whole album all the way through. Wow. Amazing.
I ate a microwave vege cottage pie in the archive because Jonas and Olivia had had the fish & chips and listened to another CD, the new Psychedelia of Sunflower Bean’s Human Ceremony from 2016. I like it.
Jonas was picking the vinyl again tonight and picked out Patti Smith’s Horses, his first experience of her. Can you imagine? We were talking about all kinds of classic groups and albums and discussed how in this age group (he’s 34) if you like Dylan, Stones, Beatles, Floyd, you got a lot of catching up to do. I turned him onto and we listened to Oh Mercy from 1989.
He then picked out Nick Cave’s Murder Ballads. He told me he didn’t really like Ghosteen, Dare said that, too. I have it, but haven’t played it yet. I saw Grinderman at the Homebake Festival in Sydney, I saw Nick Cave twice in Stockholm and I saw him in Sydney in the eighties with very few people there. I remember him being non-plussed by a girl in the crowd telling him that he looked like a rodent. Appropriately next came PJ Harvey. He didn’t know her music. Where do you start? I thought, Is This Desire? from 1998 might be a good place to start, but in reality Rid Of Me or Dry are quite different as is White Chalk. It’s hard to know how to direct someone with an artist they don’t know if they have a lot of albums.
We finished with two more Jonas choices, Leonard Cohen’s New Skin For The Old Ceremony from 1974. The album features Lover Lover Lover which you may remember Ian McCulloch covered. Plus Chelsea Hotel #2, a song about a sexual encounter with Janis Joplin. It also features Who By Fire, a duet with Janis Ian. The album sold quarter of a million copies in Europe (excluding England). Those were the days. Tom Waits’ The Heart Of Saturday Night was his second album, also from 1974, seemingly not very well received by the critics at the time. Like Nick Cave, these days Tom Waits can do nothing wrong, how the tide can change.