Heart of stone

Today is full moon, looking out bright over sleepy Dar es Salaam, riding the flying clouds like the first, soaring bounds of a long journey. Will it take me along? Can I develop the heart of stone to keep on moving?

Why is it full moon today, when 20.5 years of marriage finally ended (end of RCR or restitution of conjugal rights period)? I had thought I would celebrate freedom with champagne, but tonight I feel a lump like cold stone inside me. The lyrics of  “Ground Control to Major Tom” buzzing in my head. Three years of living alone taught me strength, resilience, enjoying my own company, that I like to travel and to write. And I already knew some of that. But far from sureties, I wonder if I am floating in space, sitting in a tin can, drifting slowly out – “Planet earth is blue, and there’s nothing I can do”.

What does she think tonight? Maybe the same?.

We once promised to love each other always, that’s still true, even if we can’t survive living with each other. The Bible that man would only have one wife and she would only have one man. My ex changes the world when she talks; she bore and brought up our children and shaped me: “Tell me wife I love her very much, she knows”.

But my journeys will be mine.

Wherever the moon calls, I have to seek.

I wish you only the best of everything and many more years of happiness and success.

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Fast track to heaven with high speed rockabilly

Rockabilly: the singer’s first note drops the handkerchief, the tar starts scorching as guitar, bass and drum hit full freight-train speed in two beats and the ride rocks at increasing, breackneck speed the way up the track. Flourishes on lead guitar, whoops, hollers, wild vocals and hard driving from the percussion, no wonder the audience can’t stay still. Obscuritones (www.theobscuritones.com)  brings back hunger, energy and surprise to rockabilly, and from the opening notes of “Tear It Up” gave us a great night at the Glad tonight.

Very lively and enjoyable lead singer Joey (Joanna Hill), dives straight into a whirlpool of flair and excitement, belting out tracks, changing accents, adding a few dance steps and shaking it down. Hugh Byrne leads and sometimes sings some excellent numbers with some fine rockabilly and rock’n’roll guitar, while drummer Phil Casey looks as if the music has taken over every pore and even the hat lets off steam as he builds a breakneck beat. Andy Bavington keeps the chassis rocking on double bass and giant sideburns while Samantha Kidman adds “surf” guitar.

Many of their songs are old favourites, set to get the house hopping (or remembering 1 or 2 rockabilly dance moves if they are of a certain vintage). “Johnny B Goode” was fast and hot, and had the audience shouting for more. There is also lots of promising new material, including a great “Stop Playin’ with my Heart” and “Hoochie Cooch”.

You can catch them this year at the Blues Kitchen in Camden as well as some great events and festivals across UK and Europe, let alone France’s very own weird festival of Americana, rodeo, Nascar and rocknroll. There is also a CD which is gaining some good reviews here and here and you can get lots of excellent tracks here on Soundcloud, including a classic “Brockwell Beach”


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Music night in Mauritius

I was exhilarated by an amazing sunset run. Port Louis is like a bowl surrounded by steep mountains. As I headed uptown to the hippodrome (oldest race course in the world? or at least the southern hemisphere?) I realized it was not the usual crowds of joggers and walkers, but full-on the practice parade for independence day the following Monday. Heading up the steep slopes to the fort to get some overview of the city, my heart lifted at the golden sunset pouring light into the bowl and bathing all in blessing. Aerial view onto marching bands of police and army, military helicopters flying almost below me in formation and even reversing past each other.

Down again watching the clock, past side streets full of sport clubs waiting to join the parade, karatekas, soccer players. Rushing through darkening city centre streets already abandoned as most of Port Louis seems to be at night, back to wash at hotel. U called to say he’ll be a bit late so headed into bar of hotel, which seemed remarkably full and lively for once, it is Friday. Start chatting to one of the musicians and soon a couple of the staff wearing traditional dress, an incredibly elegant black girl in a grass skirt and a white guy in a blouse start joining the joking.

Into the interior in a fast car, R is waiting in an restaurant in a bleak South African looking shopping centre, the large parking area jammed with good cars. The food is Indian and the red wine flowing well as the conversation wanders.

The evening cannot stop now, so we head to a quiet place R knows where there is apparently live music. Its an old estate house, surrounded by quiet dark forests, with only a few tables filled with discreet people. We start hammering the rum, different flavours. The music is a saxman (Chinese) and a singer with a guitar. It turns into our private performance, we dig out from the singer that he’s also a composer and soon the soppy cover ballades are replaced with Mauritian blues. The rum thuds in your ears like the jungle that presses all around, giant insects hopping onto the path as you walk, the empty house full of interesting rooms as my natural curiosity unleashed by the alcohol I wander back corridors and rooms. U is waxing lyrical about the meaning of life and past lost loves, as he does so excellently, and R adds his usual blend of sage wisdom.

Back at the hotel after U and R head back to families, the bar is pumping now with disco sounds. A big Asian style guy asks me to dance with his sister “with respect”. Would she ever think of living anywhere else, I ask. She looks at me bored and asks why should she want to live anywhere else, if she can live in Mauritius?

The next day heading across the island to the airport, the taxi driver gives me the same story. He has relatives in UK but can’t imagine anywhere nicer to live. We chat on the road across about religious tolerance and bridging differences when Hindus and Muslims fall in love and run away from their traditional families to marry (the tolerance usually kicks in when the babies arrive, he says), and huge family sunday picnics. We cruise past nature preserve forests full of bursting, tumbling, wild trees and, he tells me, pigs and deer introduced by European settlers.

Its pre-arranged, I need the sea before the plane back to Johannesburg. He knows the perfect beach behind the airport. I head through a small shady park and out into the bright sand, already wearing sunblock and swimshorts under my other shorts. I reach the beach and lying there are two incredibly langorous dark ladies in bikinis. They are so content with their Saturday and how could I improve it? Plus it would feel like starting to chat to a long legged and curvy Gauguin painting so I try to lock the image in my memory (this blog helps) and head into the warm seas. I’m watching the clock so swim as far as I can in the time, parallel to the shore before back for a quick and halting shower and then, still dripping and sandy, into the airport to check in.

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Downtown in Dar

The East African coast is full of mystery and history, the guys here have been trading as far as India and Yemen for 4,000 years according to my guide book and I love looking at the sea and dreaming of the past lives and traveller adventures. Work has been too much to go far during the last week, but Sunday the rain let up and I put on running shoes and headed east, ending up for the first break at the peaceful botanical gardens, admiring the quiet tranquillity, the smooth lawns and beautiful trees and almost tame peacocks striding around, or hopping over the wall to head across the road and check out the pavements opposite.

Further East I hit Ocean Road and turned north past greenery and palm trees, past the Gates of Eternity (how did the two stone posts get that name?) and past crowds eating fresh coconuts. A Chinese girl gave me a beautiful complicit grin as she tucked into an icecream. Tanzanians are invariably friendly, welcoming and don’t make you feel like a stranger even if you are behaving strangely (jogging for instance).

After the bridge I ran out of steam and walked along Kenyatta Drive, past the high commissioners and ambassadors’ residences, admiring their views of skyscrapers 5km or so south with the breeze drifting off the sea. Then on to Coco Beach, crowded with fun seekers including mother and child groups with ladies fully covered in black clambering down the coral rocks to the sand to watch their happy children, saw 2 happy African dads snapping small daughters with neat hair in front of the waves, the beach restaurant full of life and soccer fans going wild at the final goals.

Getting lost on Haile Selassie road was a drag, the road signs have given up by here and few of the poeple walking along the road knew the street names or places I was asking for. Eventually I was back on track but it was dark and time was running out so had to negotiate a bajaj back to town, the wind helping to dry some of the non-stop sweat. Starting to feel more at home.

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Fair Trade Christmas – People Tree sample sale today and tomorrow

People Tree sample saleGet gorgeous organic woollies and glam fashions from top international Fair Trade fashion pioneer People Tree (www.peopletree.co.uk).
Sample sale is TODAY (Friday) from 6-8pm and tomorrow (at) from 11am-6pm.
It is at People Tree, 5 Huguenot Pl, 17A Heneage St,E1 5LN (off Brick La, tube is Aldgate East or Liverpool St).
Low, low prices, plus Christmas drink.

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Gift wrapping the traffic

Cycling east one windy Sunday morning on Tooley St, SE1 (London) a red and white barrier tape leapt out in the wind and wrapped around my bike, especially front axle. The full roll jumped from the pavement into the road and the tape end wrapped around a passing white van, with the driver struggling to clear it from windscreen as it wrapped around wing mirrors.
Metres of tape unrolled from fast-spinning roll. It would have made a great video to watch it wrap all the traffic going up and down the street (it was still 2 ways then) as the roll unravelled fast like a festive red-and-white Santa spider spinning a Christmas web.
Unfortunately pedestrians were also in the road, including woman with small children, as the contractors (for James Glancy Designs) had closed the pavement off by wrapping the same tape around lamp-posts, leaving a gap too narrow for pedestrians, with no signs or protection for pedestrians. Gave the roll to worker who refused to give his name or firm or apologize for wrapping around bike. Tried to contact managing agent for Hays Galleria (CBRE) and owner (Kuwaiti St Martin’s Property Corporation), both seem indifferent to concerns of mere residents.

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Rumours of my death.. dealing with British Gas

After reading about gas and electricity price confusion this month, I wondered if I had the best tariff with British Gas. Their website on tariffs was difficult for me as a layperson (I have maths and business qualifications). I phoned and had a friendly chat with Andrew and took his advice to switch to monthly variable direct debit, from the previous system where British Gas fixed the debit amount in advance at more than the amount used each month and then stored my cash for a year or more. So far I have received six letters, each posted separately, dated 7 and 8 December, from two managers, with no mention of recycled paper although the envelopes are “sustainable”.
One letter says the amount to be paid would be worked out quarterly in advance, the opposite of what I was informed on the phone.
Another, addressed to me, informed me of my death. EXTRACT FROM LETTER, sent because I had switched from one direct debit to another, not even terminated the account.
“Dear Mr WideEyes,
We understand this is a difficult time and we don’t want to cause any further distress. However, we need to let you know that we have been unable to collect payments for the late Mr WideEyes’ gas account as the Direct Debit payment has been cancelled. Please pay the outstanding balance of £1.65..”
It is good to know that insanity reigns among senior management entrusted with our national gas and electricity supplies, but frustrating for us to have to put up with them.

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