2018 to 2019

2018 was a hard year and felt like it lasted a million years rather than just one. I spent most of 2017 travelling around for both work and pleasure, visiting the Czech Republic, Austria, Germany, Japan, Croatia, Slovenia, France and Switzerland (technically the Netherlands via Schiphol Airport too) and working at a residential course in Cambridge, which was a different kind of relentless. At the end of the year I moved back to Kent (where I grew up), to Margate, a small town now popular with artists. For the first six months of the year I was pretty much restricted to Kent due to my dad being terminally ill, which was a shock to the system after the continual momentum of 2017 (along with being painfully broke due to having to turn work down because I couldn’t travel or commit in advance). Dealing with the bubble of small-town living and the feeling of being surveilled, judged and gossiped about was also very uncomfortable after the anonymity and freedom of international living. Of course I have also met and made friends with some excellent people here.

My dad died in the Spring, and we had to clear out his crumbling house he had lived in since 1983 and sell it, which was a long, drawn out melancholy process. This meant I inherited money and was able to buy a flat, which was also a long, boring, stressful process that meant living in limbo crowded by boxes of packed things. I finally got the keys to the new place a couple of days before Christmas, which means Christmas and New Year were a mostly uncelebrated blur of frantic cleaning, decorating, packing and moving (I’m still unpacking). Becoming a homeowner due to death is a mixed feeling- there’s not the same feeling of celebration as there would be if you had paid for it from your earnings (an impossibility for me and many people of course these days).

The other main thing new thing I did in 2018 was to start putting on gigs with my friend Kevin Morpurgo as Connect Nothing With Nothing (named after the line from TS Eliot’s Wasteland about Margate Sands). We both have a lot of contacts with touring DIY bands both in the UK and abroad, and started to get them to come to Margate. It’s been a big success in terms of getting cool bands to come and play great shows that the audiences really enjoy. It’s been a big challenge in that it’s mostly been a loss-maker, and we’re still building up the audience/hunting out the people who are really passionate about this music.

For me personally as well, grass-roots music in this area is still a very unexamined boys’ club, and I’ve encountered a lot of hurtful resentment and territorialism that constantly feels like an uphill struggle to deal with (along with outdated bullshit like getting groped at my own gig). I’ve often felt upset, and like giving up, but I won’t out of sheer bloody-mindedness. Plans for 2019 are basically to keep bringing cool bands in, keep building up a genuinely welcoming community and audience and try not to lose money.

After spending the first six months of the year entirely in Kent, in the summer I went to the Tyrol and Munich for work (you can see the photos here and here) and then in September to Singapore and Australia (photos and zine still to come). It was my first time in the tropics, and also my first time in the southern hemisphere. I’ve now been in four continents, just North and South America to go.

I didn’t make any resolutions last year. I tend to stick to positive resolutions- things I want to do and will enjoy, rather than punishing myself. I also make them non-binding as fun ideas for the coming year rather than something I should beat myself up for doing. Here’s some ideas for 2019:

Have fun

I want to do interesting things I find satisfying and be around people who are good company. This doesn’t mean having to be extroverted or the life and soul of the party or have no mental health troubles- some of the best people I know to hang out with struggle with issues like agoraphobia, social anxiety, severe depression or are just really quiet. It’s about the spirit you approach other people in.

People who care so much about their image or ego or status they can’t lower themselves to enjoy anything or be kind to people are the most boring people on earth, and walking round with an attitude of “this is all so beneath me” is just a sign of deep insecurity.

Invite people over

I like having guests. My previous flat was tiny, and didn’t have room for many people. I now have enough space.

Bake

I also love to bake and cook. The oven at my old place was not very good (wildly inconsistent temperatures), and I couldn’t reliably bake things. I now have a bigger kitchen and a decent oven, so I’m back in service.

Brush up on the piano

I have a piano now, and space for it. My piano skills are very rusty, and I never had many lessons to begin with (I had regular lessons/took music exams with the clarinet as that could be practiced at home). It’s common for parents to force their children to play the piano- I was the opposite, I loved playing but didn’t have a piano at home. I can still read music with a bit of a creaking slow brain, and know all the scales, but I definitely can’t sight read anymore. When I can afford it, I’d like to have some refresher lessons to check I’m not harbouring any bad habits.

Send more post

I love sending letters and postcards. I held off for the last few months though as I was waiting to move. Now I have a permanent address I’ve applied for a PO Box (it gets delivered to your house here rather than being an actual physical box, but still has the result of obscuring your actual home address) for even more mail fun.

Write some zines & start trading again

I did a few zines in 2018. I’ve got a list of ideas for new ones. I also held off on trades while I was waiting to move.

Repair Germany zine

I wrote a zine about travelling round Germany earlier this year, scanned it for printing, listed it for sale, and when I was printing out some orders realised the scan had one master sheet twice. Then I couldn’t find the original page at all, and ended up having to refund the orders. I was hoping it would turn up when I was moving house, but it didn’t. So I’m going to re-make the missing eight pages.

Write more regularly on this blog

I’ve let it slide lately. I have some thoughts lately on blogs vs social media, but I’ll save them for their own entry

Visit London museums more regularly

London is a 90 minute journey from where I live now, so still accessible (if not a convenient commute). I haven’t been to museums this year as much as I usually do, and I miss it.

Scan my old films/do more film photography

I’ve got a new film scanner and folders full of negatives dating back years.

Get more editorial work

And hopefully book work as well as magazine spot illustrations.

Get back into the swing of online selling

I wound the shop down a little while I was waiting to move, but I’m raring to go again.

Grow some cacti and succulents from seed

My grandad used to farm cacti as a side business.

Just generally do creative projects

I only have to satisfy myself.

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Here I am

I have barely updated this blog since the summer because I’ve been both very busy and rarely home. I spent most of September in Australia (a last minute trip off the back of bargain basement flights), with stop-offs in Singapore and the Emirates, visited friends in Nottingham almost as soon as I’d come back and recovered from jetlag, stepped up gig promoting in Margate and am in the midst of arranging to move house (while also trying to make sure I meet all my deadlines in the day job). I took a lot of photos in Australia, and also some field recordings of city and wildlife sounds that I plan to use in animation, but I haven’t had time or energy to organise or post-process them. Right now I’m working on a new website for the gigs I put on locally, and that takes priority.

My work computer also died, luckily when I actually had the money to replace it. It feels luxurious to go back to a desktop Mac after five years of having so many cables going into a Macbook. On moving my files across I also discovered a load of folders of forgotten photos which are still worth editing. I also replaced my ailing scanner, so can once again scan film. I have a whole folder full of unscanned negs, and a fair few undeveloped films in my fridge, so expect a lot of photos in the next few months.

My workspace may look clean, because I can’t concentrate with a messy or dirty desk, but I feel overwhelmed by chaos in the rest of my tiny flat right now. I’m currently waiting to move, and have my workspace shoved in a corner of the living room next to a Riso machine and the laundry drying rack, and a load of music stuff filling the bedroom, and it feels like I’m swamped by stuff. The new place is much, much bigger and I don’t have to have the studio/office stuff crammed into the bedroom or living room, which will certainly be a luxury. I have a lot of projects that have been on the backburner until I have more space to work on them.

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Bismuth

 

Hello from the southern hemisphere where I have had a great time in Singapore, Melbourne and Tasmania, and am planning to go whale watching in Botany Bay (NSW) tomorrow. I won’t be back in the UK for another week. In the meantime here’s some new press shots of my friends’ band Bismuth I took a few weeks ago at the original UK Botany Bay. Joe’s sunglasses broke on the drive down to Margate, and I remembered I had these green mirrored ones in a drawer. I got them for a few euros from a vending machine in the street outside this opticians in Graz in Austria a while back. I didn’t even need sunglasses, I have prescription ones, they just looked cool and the novelty appealed. I never wore them, as they are too big for me. They’ve found a new home on Joe, who they look much better on.

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It Came From the Merch Table

So this weekend I’m putting on a little festival in Margate (more info here, and a blog post of band samples to follow). People loved the poster, so I got some merch printed up to sell at the festival, and some local friends to model it in an impromptu photo shoot. It’s currently not available online, but if we have any left after the festival it will be listed afterwards (t-shirts from 34″ to 48″ chest) . Thanks to Claire, Guy and Alex for posing.

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Bloody Head

So here’s another gig I’m helping to organise and did the poster for. This time I went for a pretty simple design. Spilt blood speaks for itself. £5.50 advance, £8 on the door.

Bloody Head

Bloody Head are friends from Nottingham, (and have some of the same members as Moloch). Doomy hardcore with a slight disco tinge. Also check out Steve’s illustration work and zines here.

Honey Ride Me a Goat

Kent experimental stalwarts. I think the first time I saw them must have been fifteen years ago, but they’re still going as strong as ever. At one time they used to do a lot of double bills with my friends Let Our Enemies Beware (a band much missed).

Allfather

Anti-fascist doom metallers from my hometown. They are also involved with running the excellent Astral Noize magazine.

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Dachau

On my way back from the Tyrol, I stayed in Munich en route to the airport, and visited the Dachau concentration camp museum- it was the first Nazi concentration camp and served as a template for many of the others. I think it’s important to visit these places, so it’s not just an abstraction in a history book, and to remind yourself that these things can happen again in “normal” places like the suburbs of a large modern European city. I think it’s especially important in the current political climate too, with the rise of the far right, and populist politicians creating scapegoats out of groups such as immigrants.

The museum is free (and compulsory for all schoolchildren in the area to visit), but you can also pay to support it by going on a tour, which I did. These photos are mostly quick snaps which I took in the gaps of the tour.

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Schwartzsee

A short train ride or couple of miles walk outside Kitzbühel is the Schwartzsee (“black lake”). It’s full of minerals washed down from the mountains that give it the glassy black effect. Normally in the summer you can swim there, but there had been heavy rain for the past few days, and so the water was too cold and I settled for a walk around the shore instead.

The lake was also surrounded by alpine meadows. I learnt the German word for meadowsweet that day (the yellow flower in the foreground)- turns out to be the straightforward Mädesüss. The Mäde part is to do with it being used to flavour mead. (Or Honigwein as they also like to straightforwardly call it in German). Since I spend a lot of time in rural Austria and Germany, I’ve been trying to build up my vocab of wild plant names in German.

Under attack!

Even train stations in the Tyrol are picturesque.

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Kitzbühel

So here’s a couple of assorted photos of Kitzbühel town. It’s a ski resort in the Austrian Tyrol, about equidistant between Salzburg, Innsbruck and Munich. It’s a very exclusive and expensive ski resort, with a Cartier shop on the high street, but I was there in the summer to run a school workshop, and the children I taught were from very normal backgrounds, being the children of local teachers, nurses, hotel staff etc, rather than the international jetset. I won’t write a lot about the town and the trip here, as I’m writing a zine about it. Most of the houses (and the hotel I stayed in) in the area were pretty chalet-style, with balconies covered in flowers, like this one.

Even the local graveyard has spectacular views. That’s one of the foothills of the mountain from which I took the photos in the previous entry.

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Beige Palace & Dead Kaczynski

Here’s another gig poster I did (this time for a gig that’s already passed, because I’ve been so slack about updating this blog). Two mates’ bands- Beige Palace from Leeds and Dead Kaczynski from Medway. There was a huge storm in the middle of the heatwave that evening, and it took Beige Palace seven hours to do the three-four hour drive from Yorkshire, and the audience was smaller than you would have hoped due to the weather, but both bands played great sets (and are keen to come back to Margate). Enjoy the EPs below.

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Hahnenkamm

Long time no see- I haven’t updated this blog in a while, due to a family death and dealing with selling the house, legal matters and other life stress. In the meantime I’ve been to Austria and Germany and organised a few gigs and a small festival. More on that later.

In July I went to Kitzbühel in Austria for work. I was there to run a workshop in the local middle school, and the mayor gave me and my three co-workers tickets for the local ski lift. The weather was pretty bad the week I was there, but was fine enough one day to go to the top of the Hahnenkamm, one of the local peaks. Kitzbühel is 700m above sea level, the ski lift takes you to 1200m and then there’s a fairly easy walk up to the 2000m height of the Ehrenbachhöhe.

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