No sugar update – day 29

Today is Day 29 of my 30-day reset of not eating sugary snacks and treats. It’s gone surprisingly well.

When I started my mission get back into my no sugar lifestyle, I imagined that I’d slowly cut out one day’s treat over a period of several weeks and that by the end of it I’d be back on track. My first steps were to make sure I had something else to eat in place of my Monday afternoon snack, to remove any cash from my wallet that might make it easy to buy something I didn’t want, should I accidentally wander into a bakery or coffee shop.

After a couple of weeks of this I found that, even on the days I was allowed to have an unhealthy snack, I didn’t want to, so the 30-day reset began. In contrast to previous attempts at this, I’ve found the last 29 days to be quite easy and I haven’t really missed the cakes and chocolate.

I wondered why this was, because in the past it’s been really hard and I’ve struggled.

I think that because I’ve had several long periods where I haven’t eaten sugar, my body knows that this is my “normal”, so once I made the decision to go back to this and started to not eat cakes and chocolate, my body accepted it quite easily. I guess it knows that I am someone who doesn’t eat refined sugar, which is exactly the person I want to be.

I know some people think that cutting out something is a bit extreme and that most things in moderation are okay. The theory goes that if you completely deny yourself something, you’ll feel like you’re missing out and you’ll end up binging on the [forbidden thing], which would be worse for you than allowing yourself to have it occasionally.

Gretchen Rubin discusses this in Better Than Before. She says that some people do better by completely abstaining, because they find this easier than having the [forbidden thing] in moderation – for “abstainers”, having just a bit is almost impossible. Once they have opened the biscuit packet they’ll eat the whole lot. They won’t have one, and put the packet away until tomorrow.

As an abstainer herself, Ms Rubin notes that when abstainers deprive themselves of the [forbidden thing], they “conserve energy and will-power because there are no decisions to make and no self-control to muster”. They don’t have to decide whether to have (or do) the thing, then decide how much of the thing they will have (or do) and finally make themselves stop consuming (or doing) the thing. The decision is already made, and they can go on with their day.

She notes that someone can be an abstainer in relation to some things, but can be a “moderator” – someone for whom “everything in moderation” works well – for others. I might be an abstainer in relation to sugar, but a moderator in relation to alcohol, for example. So I’ll eat the whole block of chocolate, but I can have one glass of wine at lunch time and not spend the rest of the afternoon drinking. Unless I make a conscious choice to.

Ms Rubin notes that successful habit changes involve coordinating multiple strategies, and she gives an example of how she combined abstaining with other strategies to change her eating habits. For me, I can see how I have combined the strategy of abstaining (from sugar) with the strategy of identity (I am a person who doesn’t eat sugar) to change this particular habit. (I mentioned this strategy in this post.)

So this was an easy 30-day challenge for me – but it was only easy because of earlier work I’d done. I imagine that I’ll have more slip-ups in the future, but I hope that this experience of quite easily falling back into a healthy pattern will mean that the slip-ups aren’t frequent and aren’t as long-lived as this one was.

And here’s an unrelated picture of one of my chickens, as I contemplate what my next 30-day challenge will be.

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30 days of undone things – days 2-6

I’m now six days into my challenge of doing 30 annoying little things that have been on my to-do list forever and that are mostly pretty easy to do, which which I just can’t seem to get done.

Day 2 (Friday): I put everything away off the bench top and cleaned it off (Number 2 on the list), and I put the instruction book and receipt for the new whippersnipper into the folder with the other instruction books (Number 11).

Day 3 (Saturday): I labelled the new jar for the marjoram and put it into the jar (Number 34 – it wasn’t on the original list) and I washed the fruit and veggie bags (Number 21).

Day 4 (Sunday):  I cleaned the cutlery drawer (Number 29)

Day 5 (Monday): I confirmed my blood donation appointment (I AM going to do this – Number 15) and I went to get my identity documents verified (half way to Number 13).

I also learned why we shouldn’t put little things off.

One of the things, that wasn’t on the original list but is on a list somewhere, was to get a plastic tub for the Christmas decorations instead of having them in a Huggies box in the car port (let’s call it Number 35). I went to get them out yesterday to put up my “…. days til Christmas” countdown tree, only to find that rodents had got into the box and destroyed several things, including my beautiful wooden Aarikka elves that I was given when I left Finland 27 years ago.

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I’ve always loved these as they are so cute and they remind me of the year I almost had a white Christmas. I was devastated to see them like this. I was also shattered to find  some of Kramstable’s hand-made decorations from school had suffered a similar fate.

Don’t procrastinate about the little things or you might lose the chance to do them at all.

Day 6 (today): I mailed my change of identity documents to the credit card bank (the other half of Number 13). I cleaned everything off the couch (Number 22). I bought the new tub for the Christmas decorations. (Number 35. Don’t ask whether I put them in it…)

How are you going with your #30undonethings? Reply here or tweet me and let me know!

30 days of undone things

In December 2011, Amy wrote a blog post about making a 2011 mix tape of what she was listening to (right here). She said:

In 2009 I made a Mix Tape (CD) of my favourite songs from that year. Not songs that were necessarily released that year, but my favourite songs for the year. I burned a copy for a friend and he vowed to send me his… I’m still waiting. Sad face.

I sat down last night and went through my iTunes and found my favourite songs for 2011 and I’ve compiled a 2011 Mix Tape (CD). And I thought we might like to swap. What do you think? If you think this is an ace idea, and I really hope you do, leave a comment here and I’ll contact you for your postal address. Then we can swap our 2011 Mix Tapes (CD) and all enjoy some new music.

And I said: Me me me please!

And so it was agreed.

And I sat down and I compiled a 2011 Mix Tape on iTunes.

And I wrote out some liner notes for it because I wanted to explain my choices.

But I had too many songs for a CD and it was too hard to figure out which one (one!!) to leave out.

So it sat there.

And sat there.

And every now and then I’d see the 2011 Mix Tape for Amy in iTunes and feel terribly bad about not having finished it. I even added it to my list of 100 Things to do in 2013 (it was #40).  And we all know what happened to that list.

And it was November 2016 and the 2011 Mix Tape for Amy playlist was still sitting in my iTunes. And every time I saw it I thought that I really had to finish it and send it to her.

Two weeks ago I was inspired to make a Paul Kelly mix tape, and knowing how much Amy loves Paul Kelly, this reminded me I had to finish her mix tape too.

And so I completed the liner notes and made the Mix Tape CD. I contacted Amy, got her address and sent her the CD. The whole process took about 20 minutes.

Yes, it took me five years to do something that I got done in 20 minutes. And I crossed another item off my “100 things to do in 2013” list.

I’ve gone in and updated the list, and I looked at all the little things that I could do fairly easily if I just went in and did them. So, I thought, why not make my next 30-day challenge “do 30 annoying undone things”? That is, do 30 things that won’t take long to do but that I’m putting off because even though they’re niggling things that irritate me for not having done, they require just a little effort to complete.

Sew on a button. Throw something out. Clear off a table top. Book in a skin check. And a blood donation while I’m at it. Burn a CD.

The first challenge is coming up with the list, so that will be item number 1.

If you want to play along, that would be great – let’s see how much unresolved stuff we can clear off the decks in 30 days. I’m going to start my 30 days on 1 December, because there’s nothing like the start of the festive season to make me want to take on a new project.

Ha.

I will post my list of 30 things on Thursday. (There, I said it on the Internet, so I have to do it.) I’m trying to think of a catchy hashtag. I think #30undonethings will be fine.

Join me!

Make your list. Share it with me and we can be accountability buddies! Tweet me (@straitlinesgirl) or Instagram me (@straightlinesgirl) and let’s get those annoying undone things done and off our to-do lists.

Death’s Dateless Night

St David’s Cathedral, on the corner of Murray and Macquarie Streets in Hobart, is a building I see almost every day and, consequently, have become immune to its presence.

Originally it was a replacement for the wooden St David’s Church that was erected in St David’s Park over the grave of Lieutenant David Collins, and which blew over in a gale a few months later. Construction of the second St David’s Church commenced on the present site in 1817. When Hobart was granted city status in 1842, St David’s Church became St David’s Cathedral.

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The foundation stone for the current cathedral (the third St David’s Church) was laid in 1868, and the building was designed by the Victorian architect George Frederick Bodley. It was completed in 1874 and the old cathedral was pulled down. The final stage was the construction of the cathedral tower, which was completed on 1936, 68 years after the works started.

But I digress.

Much as I love finding out the history of Hobart’s old buildings, I wasn’t there on Tuesday night to look at the cathedral. I was there, as were a lot of other people, to hear the magical music of Paul Kelly and slide guitarist extraordinaire Charlie Owen come to life as they performed their Death’s Dateless Night show.

As I mentioned in my last post, this tour is a tour of the album, Death’s Dateless Night, a collection of songs that PK and Charlie have sung at funerals over the years. They are accompanied by PK’s daughters Maddy and Memphis Kelly, on backing vocals.

Not having been to a show at the Cathedral before, I was advised to arrive early to avoid getting stuck behind a pillar and not being able to see. We stationed ourselves at a bar across the road before 6pm to suss out the crowd.

  • Rookie Mistake Number 1: Believing that the doors would open at 6.30 as advised on the website.
  • Rookie Mistake Number 2: Not seeing a crowd outside the closed Murray Street door, assuming that this was because it wasn’t 6.30 yet, and assuming no one was waiting. They were waiting. Inside the Cathedral, having gone in the Macquarie Street door long before 6.30.

Ooops.

We found a pew, sort of behind a pillar, but which gave us a relatively unimpeded view of what we hoped would be PK’s mic.

We sat and waited for an hour, admiring the pillars, until the support act, a lovely duo called Sweet Jean, took to the stage. Sweet Jean is Sime Nugent and Alice Keath, who was one of the guest vocalists on PK’s Seven Sonnets and a Song album that came out earlier this year. Slabs has played some of their material on his radio show.

I enjoyed their music and it set the scene really well for the main story.

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Our view. We could just see PK!

The first “act”, as PK called it, was a play through of the Death’s Dateless Night album, minus Track 7. I couldn’t figure out which track had been missed, but it all made sense later on.

The standout for me was “Good Things”, written by PK and Charlie’s former band mate Maurice Frawley. I felt Charlie’s intense guitar during this track really captured a sense of grief for the loss of his friend. (Maurice Frawley died in 2009.)

The ‘folk song from the British Isles’ (“Let It Be”) has never been a favourite Beatles track of mine, and though I appreciate the work that PK, Charlie, Maddy and Memphis put into this, I’m still not a fan. Nevertheless as versions go, this wasn’t bad.

PK mentioned that he had seen Leonard Cohen work up close, and his version of “Bird On A Wire” was very moving, coming so soon after Cohen’s death.”Angel Of Death” was the end of Act One.

The second part of the show was a selection of mostly older material that PK had chosen because it fitted the theme. First up was two of the Sonnets from Seven Sonnets and a Song – “Sonnet 60” and “Sonnet 73”. Before Sonnet 73, PK pointed out all of the guitars and instruments Charlie had played on the new album, including his Bakelite guitar, which he used in this track.

Later: “Everyone’s so quiet in here,” said PK.

“It’s a church,” whispered someone in the audience.

“I know!” PK replied.

Next up was a Tex, Don and Charlie song, which I wasn’t familiar with, called “Postcard From Elvis”. It appears on their 1993 album Sad But True. This was followed by “Pretty Place”, originally on PK’s 2001 album … Nothing But a Dream. He spoke of how the title was inspired by Banjo Clarke, and the Pretty Place was where he used to go to get away from everything. (I googled Banjo Clarke. He was born in 1923 at the Frelmingham Mission in Victoria, on his family’s ancestral land and his mother was originally from Bruny Island.)

A concert of songs with the theme of death was never going to be complete without the one PK song that never fails to make me cry, “Deeper Water”, and this time was no exception. I was in tears from the very first riff. A song of love and of loss. Dammit I don’t even like the song, but I’m drawn to it like the people in the song are drawn to the deeper water.

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Spring and Fall from 2012 is one of PK’s albums I’m not super-familiar with, so I didn’t recognise the track “Time and Tide”, but he told the story of its origin, around a campfire in the Kimberleys. The one new song he played was the poem “Life Is Fine” by American poet Langston Hughes.

So since I’m still here livin’,
I guess I will live on.
I could’ve died for love-

But for livin’ I was born

The next track needed no introduction – well actually it did, because it’s not a track that immediately comes to mind as a funeral song. PK explained he’d been asked to play his Christmas song “How To Make Gravy” at the funeral of Melbourne AFL player Rob Flower. It’s one of his best-loved songs. This rendition, with Charlie’s guitar, gave me a new appreciation of this song, especially towards the end, where the guitar amplifies the protagonist’s fear that his brother is going to steal his wife while he’s in prison, how gutted his is that he can’t be with his family at Christmas, and he’s so very sorry for what he’s done and for hurting his family. I could hear the anguish in every note. This song made me cry too.

It wasn’t quite the end though, and we were treated to a solo performance of “Meet Me In The Middle Of The Air”. The missing track from the album. And then, an encore, “I Wasted Time”, with the appropriate words:

I see old friends at funerals now and then

It’s down to this – it’s either me or them

Charlie returned to the stage for another moving track, “They Thought I Was Asleep” (from Foggy Highway), and Maddy and Memphis reappeared for the last song of the evening, a real oldie, “Cities of Texas”.

And then they were gone.

It was a serene, contemplative evening. Unlike many other PK shows, there were no loud talkers and no drunken calls to “play To Her Door” – although I didn’t expect there would be. There was an air of solemnity about the show, and complete respect for the artists and their music.

I am grateful to have shared in this experience. Thank you PK, Charlie, Maddy and Memphis. And thanks Slabs for buying me tickets for my birthday!

Paul Kelly

I love Paul Kelly.

He’s my favourite artist of forever. The last time I saw him (other than at Hobart airport when I had to move Kramstable, who was dancing round, totally oblivious to the fact that he was between most people and the bathrooms, out of Mr Kelly’s way en route to said bathroom) was in February 2011 at the Theatre Royal when I caught the final of his A to Z series of shows with Dan Kelly.

I’ve missed the last couple of tours he’s done in Hobart for various reasons (I can’t remember, probably something lame, I don’t like crowds or big festivals) and said to Slabs that next time he comes, I don’t care what the show is, I’m going.

One thing I love about Mr Kelly is that he is constantly changing his act. if he’s not making new material, he’s reinventing old material or someone else’s material to make it his. He’s made soundtracks (Everynight Everynight, Jindabyne); he’s turned his music bluegrass (Uncle Bill, The Stormwater Boys); he’s made up bands to experiment with different styles of music (Professor Ratbaggy, Stardust 5); he’s been in a musical (One Night the Moon); he’s performed his material with a band, acoustically, and then with another band, and then another one. He’s done soul music (The Merri Soul Sessions); he’s combined with Neil Finn to produce one of the most divine musical experiences I have ever witnessed (Goin’ Your Way). He’s even put Shakespeare to song. He has collaborated with too many musicians to count on their albums and on his own.

He has been part of my life since late high school when I discovered Under The Sun for the first time, his 1987 follow-up album to Gossip. These were the days of cassettes, and my friend Graeme lent me his copy. These were also the days of the double cassette player, so I’m sure you know the story here.

Funds were limited, and Gossip was a double album with 24 tracks for only a couple of bucks more than the standard length Under The Sun, and in those days my focus was on the number of tracks I was getting for my dollar, not necessarily whether they were my favourite tracks, so I dutifully purchased Gossip on cassette for $13.99.

I didn’t actually have a double cassette player. I remember wanting one, but the budget I had for a portable stereo allowed either for a double cassette player or a single with removable speakers and a graphic equaliser. (These babies were expensive back then too, not $50 like they are now.) Rationally, I figured that removable speakers were much more important because I’d be able to set them up around me, and several of my friends already had double cassette players, so I didn’t actually need one.

Graeme was kind enough to lend me Under The Sun, even after the previous cassette he’d lent me, one of those Hot Hits of 198X or 198X with a Bullet compilations, had been shredded in a double cassette deck after being unable to cope with the strains of Baltimora’s Tarzan Boy. Most people would probably not see this as a bad thing, but I still went out and replaced it for him, thereby parting with the money I could have used on Under The Sun in the first place. That’s karma for you right there.

Needless to say I am now the legitimate owner of Under the Sun on CD, along with most of Mr Kelly’s back catalogue of released work, with the possible exception of some limited edition material I never quite managed to justify getting.

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My PK shelves

His most recent release accompanies the current tour. It’s called Death’s Dateless Night. It’s an album he recorded with Charlie Owen, slide guitarist extraordinaire, conceived out of a discussion they’d had driving to a friend’s funeral about songs they had played at funerals.

To anyone who isn’t an avid collector of Mr Kelly’s music and is mostly familiar with his more commercial work, this album might not appeal. It’s very mellow, as you’d expect. Contemplative, reflective.

Only two of the songs are written by Mr Kelly – Nukkanya (from the 1994 album Wanted Man) and Meet Me In The Middle Of The Air (from Foggy Highway, which he recorded with Uncle Bill in 2005), so if you’d hoped for a reinterpretation of his own songs you’d probably be disappointed. The album includes some classics, like Don’t Fence Me In, and Leonard Cohen’s Bird On A Wire, which seems particularly appropriate, given Mr Cohen died last week. There is a lovely track called Good Things, which was written by former member of Mr Kelly’s band the Dots, the late Maurice Frawley, as well as a version of Let It Be, which is a Beatles song I have never liked all that much.

It’s not a big “jump out and grab you” album. It’s one that sits there, grows on you and subtly reminds you that (in the words of Kasey Chambers) we’re all going to die someday. It’s deliberately understated. Mr Kelly says:

We kept the sound live and sparse, just the two of us, except for the occasional vocal by family members – my sister Mary Jo and my daughters Maddy and Memphis. I stuck to singing and playing acoustic guitar. Charlie was the swing man, playing dobro, lap steel, electric guitar, synthesizer and piano.  I managed to talk him into singing some harmonies too.

So this is the show that I’ll be going to see next week. The shows are all being played in churches and cathedrals, and not having set foot in one of these places since possibly a wedding I attended in 1999 (and a couple of minor churches in the UK, you know, like Salisbury Cathedral and St Paul’s), I think it will feel weird to sit in St David’s Cathedral to see a show.

I’ve been listening to the album over the past few days so I’m familiar with the material when I see the show.

Speaking to someone earlier in the week who said they didn’t really like this album inspired me to revisit Mr Kelly’s back catalogue and create my own playlist of alternatives to the greatest hits that people who are mostly familiar with his better-known material might not have heard. That is, my favourite songs that you can’t find on Songs from the South (Volumes 1 or 2).

I tried to include at least one track from each Mr Kelly’s albums, and the only criteria were (a) I had to like the song and (b) the song (or the version of  it in a couple of cases) wasn’t included on Songs From The South. I haven’t included work from soundtracks like Funerals and Circuses, Jindabyne, Conversations with Ghosts etc as I haven’t listened to these enough. I did look at his work with the Dots (I know he has disassociated himself from this work, but I do like some of the songs. They are very much of their time.)

This is the playlist.

  1. Want You Back (Paul Kelly and the Dots, Talk, 1981.)
  2. Alive And Well (Paul Kelly and the Dots, Manila, 1982.)
  3. Blues For Skip (Paul Kelly, Post, 1985 – I can remember hearing him play this live at the ANU Bar in the 1990s and not being familiar with it at all. It really struck me.)
  4. Gossip (Paul Kelly and the Coloured Girls, Gossip, 1986 – I love this song but it was left off the original CD release.)
  5. Forty Miles To Saturday Night (Paul Kelly and the Messengers, Under The Sun, 1987 – this evokes memories of the end of school. A great time and one of my favourite of his songs.)
  6. You Can’t Take It With You (Paul Kelly and the Messengers, So Much Water So Close To Home, 1989. You really can’t.)
  7. Don’t Start Me Talking (Paul Kelly and the Messengers, Comedy, 1991 – a follow up to Gossip perhaps?)
  8. Little Boy Don’t Lose Your Balls (Paul Kelly and the Messengers, Comedy, 1991 – this is about exactly what the title says. Probably don’t play this one to your mum unless she doesn’t care if you say fuck. It has a hidden track at the end on the album.)
  9. Hey Boys (Paul Kelly and Mark Seymour, Garbos Soundtrack, 1992 – this is just great! I know I’ve seen the movie. I can’t remember it. Mark Seymour is of course, former lead singer of Hunters and Collectors.)
  10. Reckless (Paul Kelly and the Messengers Hidden Things, 1992 – Hidden Things was an album of rarities and previously unreleased tracks from 1986 to 1991. Reckless is a song by Australian Crawl. In this version you can understand the lyrics.)
  11. She’s Rare (Paul Kelly, Wanted Man, 1994 – Mr Kelly’s first album post The Coloured Girls/Messengers. I like its funkiness.)
  12. Maybe This Time For Sure (Paul Kelly, Wanted Man, 1994.)
  13. Anastasia Changes Her Mind (Paul Kelly, Deeper Water, 1995 -this track is cool. The “kiss on the mirror” line was inspired by a time Mr Kelly’s then wife went on a trip and left a lipstick kiss on their’s daughters’ bedroom mirror that stayed there fore months. Fascinating to think that a little thing like that could get mixed up with a a girl who fell in love and cancelled her travel plans. The title track of this album makes me cry.)
  14. Madeleines’s Song (Paul Kelly, Deeper Water, 1995 – written for his daughter Madeleine.)
  15. Beat Of Your Heart (Paul Kelly, Words and Music, 1998 – this song includes vocals by Renee Geyer and Rebecca Barnard, as well as musicians that Mr Kelly had either been working with and/or continued to work with with over the next few years including Bruce Haymes on keyboards, Peter Luscombe on drums, Shane O’Mara on guitar, Steve Hadley on bass and Spencer P Jones on guitar. I love the beat of this one.)
  16. Saturday Night And Sunday Morning (Paul Kelly, Words and Music, 1998.)
  17. Sydney From A 747 (Paul Kelly and Uncle Bill, Smoke, 1999 – a mix of old and new Paul Kelly songs given the bluegrass treatment with Melbourne band Uncle Bill. This song was originally called Sydney From A 727 when it appeared on the 1991 album Comedy. The plane got bigger over the years.)
  18. Taught By Experts (Paul Kelly and Uncle Bill, Smoke, 1999.)
  19. Coma (Professor Ratbaggy, Professor Ratbaggy, 1999 – released at the same time as Smoke, this was a side project with Steve Hadley, Bruce Haymes and Peter Luscombe. This song was written by all four band members, as were most of the tracks on this album. It was released as a single, but it was Love Letter that made it onto Songs from the South.)
  20. One Night The Moon (Memphis Kelly, Kaarin Fairfax, Paul Kelly, One Night The Moon, 2001 – from the movie One Night The Moon directed by Rachel Perkins, which tells the story of a missing child (played by Paul Kelly and Kaarin Fairfax’s daughter Memphis Kelly), the indigenous tracker (Kelton Pell) who searches for her, and her parents played by Mr Kelly and Ms Fairfax.
  21. This Land Is Mine (Paul Kelly, Kelton Pell, One Night The Moon, 2001 – explores the difference in attitude between the missing girl’s father, played by Paul Kelly, who “owns” the land, and indigenous tracker Albert Yang (Kelton Pell) who is “owned” by the land.)
  22. I Wasted Time (Paul Kelly, …Nothing But A Dream, 2001)
  23. To Be Good Takes A Long Time (Paul Kelly, Ways & Means, 2004 – the backing band was called the Boon Companions and included Mr Kelly’s nephew Dan Kelly, Peter Luscombe, Dan Luscombe and Bill McDonald.)
  24. Your Loving Is On My Mind (Paul Kelly, Ways & Means, 2004.)
  25. You’re Learning (Paul Kelly and the Stormwater Boys, Foggy Highway, 2005 – a bluegrass album featuring some old Paul Kelly songs and some new ones, as well as this cover version of a song by American country artists Charlie Louvin and Ira Louvin, which features Kasey Chambers on vocals.)
  26. Zoe (Stardust Five, Stardust Five, 2006 – a side project of Paul Kelly, Dan Kelly, Dan Luscombe, Peter Luscombe and Bill McDonald and this track features the vocals of Mr Kelly’s then-partner Sian Prior as well as (I think) Dan Luscombe.)
  27. The Lion And The Lamb (Paul Kelly, Stolen Apples, 2007 – the last album to feature the Boon Companions and is described as having a “biblical” theme. I don’t know this album very well but I like this song.)
  28. For The Ages (Paul Kelly, Spring And Fall, 2012 – this album came after the 2010 release of Mr Kelly’s epic 8 CD live box set of The A to Z Recordings and his 500+ page “mongrel memoir” How To Make Gravy, and a lot of tours, including the show I saw in 2011. This album features Dan Kelly on guitar.)
  29. Before Too Long (Paul Kelly and Neil Finn, Goin’ Your Way, 2013 – This was a series of concerts that Paul Kelly and Neil Finn did in March 2013 where they performed tracks from their careers and re-interpreted each other’s work. One of the concerts was live-streamed and it was one of the most wonderful events I have ever seen. I love this version of Before Too Long, and Zoe Hauptmann’s bass is just magnificent on this track. There is a fabulous version of For The Ages as well.)
  30. Hasn’t It Rained (Paul Kelly, The Merri Soul Sessions, 2014 – an album recorded with artists including Vika and Linda Bull, Dan Sultan, Kira Puru and Clairy Browne, with Paul Kelly rarely featuring on vocals. I loved this album, but apparently during the tour some people were disappointed because they were expecting a “Paul Kelly” show, and they got Merri Soul. It always pays to check, because a Paul Kelly show might not be a “Paul Kelly” show.)
  31. Sonnet 73 (Paul Kelly, Seven Sonnets and a Song, 2016 – again one that wasn’t for everyone. This was Mr Kelly’s tribute to William Shakespeare, and was released on the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death in April 2016. It features Paul Kelly and a collection of musicians including Vika and Linda Bull, Lucky Oceans, Alice Keath, and his band (Peter Luscombe, Bill McDonald, Ash Naylor and Cameron Bruce) singing seven sonnets put to his own music and Vika Bull singing Sir Philip Sidney’s “My True Love Hath My Heart”. I found it curious and compelling.)
  32. Good Things (Paul Kelly and Charlie Owen, Death’s Dateless Night, 2016 – and here we are back where we started with Maurice Frawley’s song, although he wasn’t with the Dots for their first album.)
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PK’s 2016 releases

I could have kept going, but I had to draw the line somewhere, so it’s 32 tracks. One hour 46 minutes. It’s a bit long for a mix tape so I’ll have to cut it down so I can dub it on my double cassette deck. Ha.

I’d love to know what you think of my choices, and if you have your own alternative (to the) Paul Kelly greatest hits playlist, please share!

Challenge 4: Activities 21-27

I think I missed a few days after Day 18 (Thursday) when I did three activities (18-20) and learned about the Edamame Threat.

Day 19: I was home with a sick boy, so the thing I had booked to do that day didn’t happen. I had to reschedule.

Day 20: That was Saturday. I can’t remember what I did on Saturday.

Activity 21: Approach someone I met once a few years ago and reintroduce myself.

This was an opportunity activity, because I hadn’t planned to do it, but the chance came up so I went with it. I was at an event and saw someone who I follow on Twitter and who I’d met several years ago, but I wasn’t totally sure it was her. I kept staring at her to try and figure it out, and felt really awkward. Finally she and I were in each other’s vicinity so I took a deep breath and said hi. Turns out it was her and we have a brief chat.

Fearometer: 5/10. I was pretty nervous.
How I felt before doing it: Nervous and that only built up the more I thought about doing it.
How I felt while I was doing it: Awkward at first, but we had common interests so it was fine.
Would I do it again: I have introduced myself to random Twitter people in the street if I’ve interacted with them a bit, so probably. Depends on the person.

Activity 22: Get an outstanding medical check
Won’t go into details here, but in 2013 I was asked to get medical clearance so that I could do something I’d wanted to do. It has taken me this long to make the appointment.

Fearometer: 2/10 I was only slightly worried that maybe there would be some issue that had cropped up that I wasn’t aware of
How I felt before doing it: Just wanted it to be over. Doctor was running late. I had 30 minutes to get through. (Lesson for #fixwhatbugsyou – the doctor will always be late, even if you call to ask whether they are on time and are told they are. Take a book. Write a blog post. Don’t waste time with the trashy waiting room magazines. They will rot your brain.)
How I felt while I was doing it: Fine once it became apparent there wasn’t anything to worry about.

Would I do it again: Yes

Activity 23: Have a Tarot reading
This has been something on my wanna do list for ages, but I never knew how to go about organising this or what to expect. I know a little bit about the Tarot but felt very awkward about having a reading because I’m not an expert and had no idea what I might find out.

On Twitter earlier in the week one of my friends said she had had a reading and that the person doing the readings, Jodi, was giving away 20 free readings (she still is – click the link to get in touch!) to help her make sure what she was doing all worked before she went into business. I felt a bit awkward asking someone I’d never interacted with before if I could be one of her guinea pigs, but she was happy to sign me up and, striking while the iron was hot- before I could chicken out –  I set it up for the next day and we connected over Skype.

It was amazing, and I’ll write a fuller post on this a bit later because it’s inspired an upcoming challenge. The thing that grabbed me was the insight into my situation that Jodi and I read into the cards – she calls it a ‘collaborative reading’ –  and it left me feeling like I was completely on the right track with what I was doing. There are so many things that are coming together about this situation right now, I feel like a little step I took about a month ago has started to build momentum. Ad it also manifested in an unexpected way a couple of days ago, which assures me I am doing the right things and is pushing me to keep going.

Fearometer: 6/10
How I felt before doing it: Nervous about what might come out of the reading. Scared about connecting to someone online I’d never interacted with before.
How I felt while I was doing it: More and more relaxed as time passed. Jodi was very easy to talk to and I was really grateful to have had this opportunity.
Would I do it again: Absolutely

Activity 24: Go to the accountant and get my tax done
Oh the dreaded tax time. I’m not sure what I was worried about. I keep good records and most of the information gets downloaded into the ATO site anyway, so it’s really no big deal. I mainly needed to go to the accountant to get some advice on the disposal of some assets. That sounds serious. It’s not. It ended up being under $50 on a section of the tax form I never knew existed. It’s all done now and I’m expecting my snappy $80 refund any day now.

I’m almost embarrassed to put this in as a year of fear activity.

Activity 25: Ask someone for something they have no obligation to give me or expectation that I might ask for

Fearometer: 4/10. I always get a bit nervous asking this person for something
How I felt before doing it: Nervous

How I felt while I was doing it: A bit more anxious as at first they didn’t know exactly what I was asking so I had to explain myself again
Would I do it again: Probably if my desire for a thing outweighs my nerves

Activity 26: Ask to exchange a product I bought that’s the wrong one
This is a silly thing to be anxious about doing, but I always dread having to go back to a shop and ask to exchange something. It’s not as bad if the product if faulty but if I’ve stuffed up and bought the wrong thing because I didn’t check what I needed first, I feel like a bit of an idiot.
Fearometer: 2/10
How I felt before doing it: Nervous that they would say no, you got it wrong, suck it up buttercup
How I felt while I was doing it: Fine once they said yes
Would I do it again: I guess so.

Activity 27: Secret squirrel!
Activity completed. I am annoyed to have been put into the situation that made this activity happen, but it’s done now.

Photo of the week. Me 10 years ago. Who needs a professional when you have a self-timer and a black velvet sheet to throw over the book case right? Seriously I wish I had had some lovely pregnancy shots done, but it didn’t occur to me at the time, and less than three weeks after this picture, boom, all over.

BW1 huge_retouched

 

 

Book 23/24: Changeling

You’re probably sick of hearing me say, “I didn’t know much about [author of the book of the moment] until I read the book”, so I’ll simply say Mike Oldfield’s story was nothing like I’d expected.

I remember when I was in Grade 7 one of the older kids at school talking about the experience of listening to Tubular Bells, and I’d built it up to be this amazing piece of music that would completely alter my mind. After that build up, I don’t remember when I first heard it, or even if I actually heard it before listening to Tubular Bells II, which was released in 1992. What I do remember is that around the time I was listening to Tubular Bells II, there was one of those end of the world rapture prophecies floating round. I hadn’t quite weaned myself off my grandmother’s religious views at this time, so I wasn’t too sure whether to believe this or not, but I clearly remember thinking if the world was going to end, that was the music I wanted to be listening to when it happened.

Also around this time I went to see the musical Hair (at the Theatre Royal), which I loved, and I had the cast recording on high rotation along with Tubular Bells II at that time. When I was reading the book I thought it was kind of cool that Mike Oldfield had been in the orchestra for the original production of Hair during its West End run in the early 1970s. Strange grooves.

And for with that rather long and rambling introduction, here’s my thoughts on the book.

It’s broken up into five groups of three chapters, and begins with an intense description of a rebirthing process Mr Oldfield went through in 1978 (the Exegis seminar), where he faces his demons and survives, an experience that he describes as resulting in “the huge blood-crazed demons that had been stalking [him] for the previous 20 years suddenly disappeared”.

Book 23 - Changeling

Most of the book is about his life from when he was born in 1953 to 1981; the final chapter covers the period from 1990 to 2006, and there are four short interludes written in 2006 and 2007 that cover his thoughts on Family, Spirituality, Fame and Rebirth. I liked the structure. It was hard not to feel the pain of the little boy who never fitted in, and whose family gradually fell apart as he grew up.

He writes of Christmas 1960:

My dad had made me a beautiful model of the Ark Royal aircraft carrier [he was into planes]. It was complete with little tiny planes, each on individually painted. I remember that Christmas like it’s locked in my brain because of that model. The fact that my father made it and hand-painted it himself really impressed itself on me. When I was later to write music, maybe that was part of why I wanted to pay great attention to detail, to make sure it was something really special. To be worthwhile, I knew it had to be really big, epic and important, not something to be thrown away. Perhaps those feelings go back to that wonderful Christmas present.

As a child, Mr Oldfield came to music as a release from his problems at school and at home. He writes of how he would listen to records and spend hours trying to work out how to play a certain piece: “It was like a switch went on in my head: I’d finally found something that I really liked and I really wanted to do. . . . I must have looked completely obsessive, but for me it was a way of escape.”

At the age of 12 he started playing regular gigs at the Reading Folk Club. His older sister Sally was playing in the clubs as well, with her friend Marianne Faithfull, and he says of the time that he he wasn’t really socialising, as most of the people he was around were older. He was using his guitar as a means of communication and escape from school, his mother’s mental illness and family problems. He writes:

I understood music like other people didn’t. I felt it and saw it very deeply, with crystal clarity. When I listened to a piece of music I could see all its components, its parts and how they fitted together. I didn’t just sit back and think, ‘oh that’s nice.’ If someone said something like that to me I would be furious with them, ‘What do you mean, can’t you see what’s going on? It’s brilliant!’ Music to me was something different, a vast kaleidoscope of magic and wonder. To this day my mind boggles at how superficially some people listen to music.

In music, he had found a way of coping with life. He writes that it was a sanctuary where he felt safe, it was something that he found interesting – and it was something that made him socially acceptable.

Mr Oldfield recalls his first music class at school after his family had moved from Reading to Harold Wood, where he had to conform to the rules. While he created beautiful harmonies, it wasn’t what the teacher had wanted, and he found the whole experience boring. However, he credits this teacher for introducing him to one of his favourite pieces of music, Sibellius’ fifth symphony, and he says that the beginnings of Tubular Bells started from him wondering how he could do something like that piece.

It was at this time that he was introduced to LSD and hash, and he explains that things wouldn’t have happened the same way without drugs:

That first experience might have flipped a few switches in my brain that led to the utter paranoia I experienced later, which left me feeling incapable of doing much at all for years and years. Through all of that came my life as it is, Tubular Bells and everything else. I wouldn’t put it all down to my drugs experiences but they made me who I am and made the music the way it was.

His experiences with drugs were relatively short-lived though. Following a horror trip in 1970 when he saw reality as it really was, which was the beginning of a decade of panic attacks, he says he’s never touched LSD again.

By this time he was waiting for his 15th birthday so he could leave school. In the meantime he recorded some demo tapes with his sister Sally, under the supervision of Mick Jagger. They ended up recording an album together under the name Sallyangie, but eventually Mr Oldfield felt as though he was in his sister’s shadow and he wanted to do his own thing.

The book continues to tell the story of Mr Oldfield’s first band, Kevin Ayers and the Whole World, which he joined at the age of 16. He notes that he felt like he was the young boy in a band of much older guys, and he didn’t think they took him seriously -they tolerated him, but he wanted to be as good as them. It was with Kevin Ayers that he first started drinking, which he says helped his guitar solo in the show become one of the wild points – like Angus Young of AC/DC (who actually doesn’t drink!).

After this band disbanded, Mr Oldfield continued working with Kevin Ayers and eventually ended up at Shipton Manor, owned by Richard Branson, having been given the chance to work on the album that would become Tubular Bells.

This was recorded over two periods in 1972 and 1973, and the book describes the huge amount of work he put into this album that became a monstrous hit – and how he signed a contract with Virgin that in the end committed him to 17 years and 13 albums with the label. On becoming famous, Mr Oldfield writes:

Eventually I realised that I couldn’t have any true friends any more, because I couldn’t trust why they were being friendly. . . . It’s horrible but I couldn’t see any way of avoiding the feelings of mistrust. To succeed in the music business you have to be very savvy and worldly wise. If anyone can rip you off they will, without a second’s thought. . .  The paradox is if you become strong and tough enough to deal with it, you could lose the sensitivity needed to create whatever it is, the music, the art.

Mr Oldfield goes on to describe the difficulty he had following up such a successful album (Hergest Ridge, the difficult second album), his increasing dependence on alcohol, and the release of his more successful third album Ommadawn in 1975. As the 1970s progressed the world of music was shifting to punk and Virgin, which was essentially a one-artist label, was feeling like a laughing stock, debating whether to drop the “progressive” label and focus on punk. Mr Oldfield writes that he wasn’t marketable at that time, and was constantly attacked in the music press. Consequently he lost his spark and music became a chore to him. It was around this time he attended the Exegis seminar, after which he felt like he was floating on a cloud. He decided he needed a new way of living and working – he writes that it was like starting a completely different life.

He writes of becoming a father, losing his fear of flying then learning to fly, and even going on tour, which he had refused to do in the past.

The final two chapters of the book cover 1981 to 2006. He writes of the settlement agreement with Virgin and another breakdown he had at the end of the Discovery tour in 1984, the break up of his relationship and the albums he made in a more commercial vein with actual songs on them (this was the Moonlight Shadow period). He writes that that last album he made that was full of songs was Earth Moving in 1989. His next album Amarok, was another instrumental album. Richard Branson had wanted him to call it Tubular Bells II but he refused. He said he wanted to do Tubular Bells II, but that wasn’t it. As a result, he says, Virgin didn’t promote it, and it didn’t sell well. He says this is a shame because it’s probably one of the best things he’s ever done.

It’s a single 60-minute piece, which was probably difficult to isolate a piece for radio or release from, and has been described as Mr Oldfield’s protest album against Virgin, and apparently includes Morse Code spelling out “FUCK OFF RB” about 48 minutes in.

Mr Oldfield finally did get to make Tubular Bells II, released in 1992 on his new label Warner. He describes working on it as a joy and that it, and therapy, helped him get through the break-up of his family, his second relationship break-up involving children.

The book ends with Mr Oldfield’s musings on “now”:

I’ve had to learn what I am and it’s not a musician, it’s something else. To me, a musician gets out his instrument and just plays or entertains. That’s not me at all: What I can do is transfer the essence of a feeling or emotion, express it in music. … I’m an interpreter, a sonic mood translator if you like. I can take the beautiful feelings you get in life, and the horrible ones as well, and I can turn them into aural sounds, give form to them in music . . .

From now on my music is not going to be cool, it’s not going to be hip or sexy. It’s going be hand-played and mathematical; it’s going to be as complicated as I feel it needs to be. I’m not going to care if anyone likes it or buys, it, which is exactly the way I felt when I was 19. . .  If I can somehow persuade people how to play again properly, to stop concentrating on how good they look on TV and really start to do interesting things with music, then I’ll try to do that.

I found Mr Oldfield’s story fascinating and knowing the stories has made me want to track down more of his work. I’m currently listening to Ommadawn, which I love and have on high rotation. I think I’ll figure out the Morse Code in Amarok next!

Post script: As I was putting this post together, I learned that Mr Oldfield’s father, Raymond Oldfield, passed away last week. In the book Mr Oldfield says that he has tremendous respect for his father, and that he’s learned how important it is to accept your parents the way they are. He learned in the Exegis seminar that “we look at our parents like gods” and that “if you don’t grow up and see them in their proper place, as proper human beings, you can carry on your whole life looking at them through the wrong perspective”. I think I know what he means there, and it’s a good lesson to learn.