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Jerez ~ home to Sherry & Bike Racing!

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Jerez, Spain ~ MotoGP & the home of Sherry

As I lean back and contemplate these words as I write, I realise that it has been nine days since Jerez in Spain hosted round four of the 2017 MotoGP circus. And what a fine spectacle it was. I also realised that in Spanish the J is pronounced gH so Jerez becomes gHerez and from there it’s not a quantum leap to Sherry. Now, Jerez as the home of that tipple beloved by so many, Sherry, has a unique position in the history of wine and wine-making combined with Motor Racing.

To quote Wikipedia; “Circuito de Jerez, formerly known as Circuito Permanente de Jerez, is a 4.428 km racing circuit located close to the city of Jerez de la Frontera, 90 km south of Seville and deep within the sherry-producing south of Spain.”

What Wikipedia also tells us is; that “the track hosts the following annual racing events: Formula One, both the Spanish Grand Prix and the European Grand Prix whilst also finding calendar time for the MotoGP Spanish motorcycle Grand Prix as well as WSBK or, World SuperBikes which visit Jerez in August.” There’s plenty of time for you to get your tickets!

That this juxtaposition of technologies can live cheek by jowl is a never-ending source of fascination to me. You see, Sherry is not just any old wine put in a barrel to mature and then bottled for sale. It’s produced by an ancient method using something called a Solera – in Spanish it means “on the ground” – which is a stack of barrels one feeding the other by gravity. The youngest wine, which has to be at least three years old, goes in the top, it filters down through the layers of the Solera, usually five, and the average age wine comes out of the bottom. Voila! There we have a bottle of Sherry produced in the time honoured tradition of Solera. No wonder the good Spanish Sherries cost what they do given the time required by this traditional process.

And talking of age, one of this year’s favourites for the MotoGP World Championship is the evergreen Valentino Rossi. Born on 16 February 1979 he is at an age when retirement is top of the agenda. But, after a total of nine World Championships, 1 each in the 125cc class and the 250cc class with Italian manufacturer Aprillia he then went on to the Premier Class and won his first World Championship on a 500cc Honda on 2001, only his second season at the top. Since then he has gone on to record six further World Championships in the new premier class, MotoGP. At age 38 Valentino Rossi is not over the hill, he’s just coming of age! Just like a fine red wine or a Solera Aged Sherry, albeit he is an Italian.

Whatever your choice, motorcycle racing or a nice sherry – and why not both? – enjoy the weekend and remember. Don’t drink and drive! You might spill some!

Ends: content –  484/564 words

Ω Copyright Notice © Peter Mark Wells-Garnett 17 May 2017; all rights reserved

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Friday the 13th ~

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A study of paraskevidekatriaphobia & its adherents . . .

Paraskevidekatriaphobics; wow, there’s a word for your next pub quiz if ever I saw one! Its definition is as simple as the word is complex. Or so I thought initially. Simply put this tongue-twisting piece of lexicography means; “Person or persons suffering from an irrational fear of the date Friday 13th

Many are the superstitions that are attached to this innocuous date on the calendar. It’s supposed to be a harbinger of doom; a bringer of misfortune and malicious happenings. Throughout most of Western Civilizations, that is. History has it that the Great Rossini, composer and writer of opera died on Friday 13th. It is a pity then that in Italy Friday the 17th is the bug-bear date. It’s also more frequently encountered, occurring in every month which begins on a Wednesday which would have given us three months to fear and not just the two that we have with Friday 13th.

Trawling through this year’s calendar I notice that we are blessed – or cursed – with not one but two causes for paraskevidekatriaphobia. The one which I have already mentioned happened on Friday 13th January and the second of these plagues is set to befall us in October. That’s five months away yet. So get prepared, whatever it is that one does to prepare for a Friday the 13th happening. Funny how paraskevidekatriaphobic just doesn’t roll off the tongue as easily as “Friday the 13th happening”.

I just avoided the first Friday the Thirteenth of this year by hiding behind Thursday the 12th and then adroitly skipping to Saturday 14th. I don’t think anyone noticed which is a relief! Explaining the intricacies of these occult manoeuvres can be quite embarrassing.

But why are we in Western culture – if you can still call it that – still so obsessed with medieval superstition? It’s not as if it’s driven by the “Hallmark” Brigade of greetings card manufacturers in the way that they shove February 14th down our throats every year. I ask you; St. Valentine’s Day? Famous only because a bunch of American gangsters massacred a group of rivals by shooting them with Thompson sub-machine guns and the event has since been known as “The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre”. And here we are in the 21st century spending billions of dollars, dinars, Pounds and Rands on greeting cards and flowers for our paramours to celebrate the day! Little wonder then that marriages don’t last.

But I digress; this is about Friday 13th and not Valentine’s Day. It would appear that Fridays have long been held as inauspicious days whilst the number 13 has both fans and detractors alike. But, sometime in 1955 something happened, which is unclear, and Friday and the number 13 were lumped together as being harbingers of bad luck. Like black cats and witch’s hats, walking under ladders and any one of a host of other superstitions. But, there is no empirical evidence to support these superstitions so I say “Bah! Humbug!” to the lot of them.

There is one anecdote about Friday 13th which I wish to leave you with. There was a gentleman, let’s call him Joe Bloggs, in Britain around the 1970s or so who had accumulated such a procession of misfortune on Friday 13th during his lifetime that he decided to do something proactive about it.

So, on the following Friday 13th Joe stayed in bed, thermos of tea by his side and decided that he was going to have the final say in the matter. After all, what can go wrong whilst lying in bed for the day?

Quite a lot, it would seem as the unfortunate Joe discovered. The roof of his semi-detached house collapsed and Joe was crushed to death by the beams and hot water cylinder which had been located directly above his bed! Now, was that just random bad luck or Friday 13th having the last word?

Peter Mark Wells-Garnett © 16 May 2017; all rights reserved

 

 

 

 

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Lessons in Life & on Poetry ~

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I’ve long been told by family, friends and the occasional oddball chatting in a bar, that I should write a book. That seemed to be a bit out of my reach. I started thinking, “What can I write about?” “Who’s going to read it? How can I possibly write a whole bloody book? Are you all mad? Do you know how much toil it is writing a letter? Never mind a damned BOOK for goodness sake.” And there I left it. To moulder and die amongst the cobwebs of my ambitions.

But the seed had been planted. Gestation took a while and then I was writing articles for magazines. Writing poetry for myself and a few trusted friends. And so the process began. In drips and drabs, like a faucet with a dodgy washer. None of it, to my mind at least, fit for anything but the doggerel heap and a safety match. In point of fact, I wrote in pen or pencil on paper for ages. Still do sometimes. And, truth be told, I did set fire to a lot of the stuff and I can’t even remember how it all went. Goes to show how shit it must have been!

One day some years ago a friend of mine named Mario showed me how to write a poem. Just like that . . . out of the blue. In ballpoint ink on a paper serviette in the bar of his restaurant. He titled it “The Great Eternal Leapfrog” and I’ll never forget it. It was published in Mario’s anthology of poetry titled “Banana Crates & Wire Mesh”. With Mario’s permission I include it here for your pleasure:


“The Great Eternal Leapfrog”

We die so that others

may live

the dying

transcending the living

who in turn

die

so yet others

may live

death

transcending life

life transcending

death

on and on

in an eternal continuum

so that

THE ONE SEED

may remain

intact

Mario D’Offizi ~ 2001 © – all rights reserved


With that Mario handed me the paper napkin and turned away to the kitchen. I had never been so awestruck in my life. We still chat and cajole one another with the telling of this story to people who are not familiar with it. I hold this instant in time close to my heart as it was this expression of unbridled camaraderie and generosity of spirit that got me onto the writing path. He believed in me then in 2010 and he believes in me still. Ever encouraging me, scolding my tardiness and slothfulness. He praises my work which is a source of immense pride but an uncomfortable pride as we are all our own harshest critics.

Working with Mario with his record of two published works is a labour of blood sweat and tears of the nicest kind. I know that he’ll never praise a piece of sub standard work by me and that’s what a real friend will do. Tell you the truth! I still have doubts about my work even though I’ve taken the plunge and posted numerous anecdotes and experiences from my life’s journey so far. I’ve posted some poetry which I am told is “good” but am not too sure of. Most of all, I’ve worn my heart on my sleeve and taken a chance. Isn’t that what living this life is all about? Give it your best shot and hope for the best.

I’ll post here as regularly as I possibly can. I’m not making any promises right now as experience has taught me that “the road to Hell is paved with good intentions” – May the road that I follow on this blog be a road of truth and discovery. May this journey of reflection expunge the ghosts of my past. I believe it’s a process called catharsis. Which, if good for my soul and psyche, I trust will also provide interest and entertainment for you, my dear readers. Without you, my Blog posts are meaningless and I trust that you enjoy my story on whatever level that resonates with your life experiences. Look for the similarities in our experiences and not the differences. For we are all the same in the end albeit with slight variations in shadow and light.

Thank you, dear reader, for coming by today. I hope that your visit was a fruitful one. And, even if it wasn’t, please leave your comments for me to read. Many heads are far better than one when trying to tell a story of life on the byways and roads less trodden.

Peter The Celt, Cape Town 27 April 2017 © all rights reserved. “The Great Eternal Leapfrog” by Mario D’Offizi © 2010 reproduced by kind permission of the Author.

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Transformation: – the Making of A Little Christian

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You can’t sew

A sow’s ear

Into a silken purse

Is what we were taught

In Church school classes

Like putting a

Round peg into a

Square hole

Or was it

A square peg?

Was it a sick

Attempt to inure

Children with the

Brutality of

Being different?

Under the guise

Of teaching metaphor

We were brainwashed

With the idea

That different was bad.

Dare to be different

At your peril!

Even if it’s Heaven-sent

They’ll say it was the devil

Who twisted you bent!

Now bend and meet the cane

And no chocolate for Lent.

Bad, bad Boy.

 

Peter Mark Garnett © 22 April 2017

I’m Comfortable At My Age . . .

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Or, cocking a snoot at convention and judgemental people. The ‘grizzlies” declare war on the svelte & skinny brigade!

I’m beyond caring about an image. The important people in my life all love me and anyone else can just go and jump if they don’t like me. If they bothered to get to know me they’d soon change their tunes. But hey, I’m not worried!

I was thinking shit up in the very early hours of this morning and this is the result of my sleep-deprived mind which is, to be kind, addled at the best of times. Enjoy the ride.

How often haven’t we seen, heard or even been personally involved in the mocking and ridicule that is so rife in our society? It’s not just downright fucking rude and insensitive. It’s also a sad indictment of state of our moral compasses.

The snide comments overheard in restaurants, shopping centres and even in offices and public streets are a cancer eating away our last vestiges of compassion and empathy. And the targets of this pathetic abuse are usually the older bullets in the area. Now that I have reached the age of said “older bullet” I feel qualified to comment on this nastiness. At only 62 I have suddenly been referred to as “the old fart” and the “useless old codger” and these epithets are terms of endearment from my children! You should hear what people who don’t even know me say about my belly. And my extinct hairline with tonsure-like bald spot. Then I hear total strangers mumbling to one another about my brightly coloured, mismatched socks. I do it to amuse myself. Then there are my red Veldskoen with Kawasaki-Green laces, my collection of zowie bow-ties and braces for my trousers. Oh God, and when I wear jeans you should hear the jibes. “What is he? A hippy stuck in 1969?” Goddammit, I’m younger than Howard Hessman* and he still sports a ponytail! Geesh, I should be so lucky! If it was 1969 again I’d have the chance to go to a Hendrix, Joplin, Doors, Who concert/s. Why don’t these blasted busybodies mind their own business and fuck off & leave me alone? I think I’ll retire to Fish Hoek beach for the day where nobody bats an eyelid at my garb, my “boep” or my lack of hair.

My Gran is 105 years old and besides being half deaf and more than a little blind she’s as fit as many women half of her age. About a month ago she joined in a party of the old folk from her retirement village on an excursion to Fish Hoek beach. She was thrilled to be able to paddle her bare feet in the gentle surf that is the hallmark of Fish Hoek’s seaside. Fish Hoek is a wonderful beach with its gentle surf, flat sandy beach and a restaurant cum tea room cum ice cream parlour right at hand. On any given day there are lots of folks to be found lazing in the sun, sitting on the benches chatting to one another or taking a refreshing dip or modest paddle in the gentle surf. People of all ages and backgrounds are to be found at all times. A smile and a simple hello will probably land you a friend for life, such is the community of Fish Hoek beach. It is a fabulous fresh air and sunshine facility second to none. And the people are fabulous too. They care not a jot if you are rich or poor, man or woman, young, old or any age in between. Thin, fat, dumpy, lumpy, flat or rounded, all body shapes and sizes fit in perfectly. Simply because nobody cares about such trivial things as shape and size.

That’s why I have always loved Fish Hoek beach for its spirit of inclusiveness. No-one will be impressed by fifteen hundred rand bikinis or onesies in the latest of fashions. You can swim in your old Scout khaki shorts for all anyone cares. There are no airs and graces on Fish Hoek beach. The only rules seem to be not to litter, not to scream, shout and behave in boorish fashion. Polite and unobtrusive is the order of the day and a smile will get you a million miles.

There’s a plan, Stan . . . I’ll go pick up Gran and my three-year-old grandson and we’ll all go to Fish Hoek together and build sandcastles. Nobody will dare to bother us. As long as we’ve got Gran with us! Truth be told, I don’t give a flying toss what anyone says or thinks. My Gran & Grandson love me!

*Howard Hessman was Dr. Johnny Fever, the Radio DJ on the hit TV show WKRP in Cincinnati

Peter Mark Wells-Garnett © 22 April 2017


 

Memories of Army gyppo tactics on the ‘Border’

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A reply to an army anecdote published by a close friend . . .

Yeah, Mario old friend . . . what does one say when the only ones who understand are the dead and the wounded?

I sometimes wonder, from my experiences “Up North” how many of the ous who went off like flash bangs were really “bossies”. How many were having the rest of us on for a bunch of cunts. We were the stand-up guys who just stayed on and bit the bullet because someone had to stay? We were all shit-scared. So why should some gyppo their way back home and leave the rest of us to “face the Rooi Gevaar*” on our own?

I know one guy from my CF – Citizen Force – unit, who must remain nameless, who bragged about his “Plan” to hoodwink the brass into sending him home as a MedEvac ⱡ. That’s all we heard about on that interminable train ride to Grootfontein. Day after day of bullshit that I never for a moment thought he’d get away with. He started the shit shortly after we set up in our new digs at Camp Buffalo, home of the famed 32 Battalion, on “the river” in Caprivi.

He would wander about naked and stop and stare at people without speaking. I was convinced that he was acting but it looked so genuine that he got escorted to Runduβ and then onwards from there. When he left he came to say goodbye and to shake my hand. I can’t remember what I felt at that time. Perhaps I’m blocking it out. Whatever, I said nothing to him and I ignored his proffered right hand. I was so disgusted and jealous that I couldn’t bring myself to even meet his eye. I saw him again in civvy street but just avoided any contact. What lives with me the most about this is the shame that I feel for being jealous of his departure for home. It makes me a coward by complicity and I have a problem with living with that. We must talk about these things lest they drive us even madder than we already are. We are all casualties of war with hidden wounds. The mentally fucked-up trying to get through life with what one soldier described as “a secret burden” which we carry out of sight but never out of mind . . .

I’ve never related this story before. I try not to think of those times and the horror and fear and guilt of being a “survivor”. No-one wants to hear these stories of what happened and how it fucked us up. All we need and want is an nonjudgmental ear and sometimes a shoulder to cry on. But hey . . . we’re a bunch of rejects so we get told to shut up, suck it up and get over it. Yeah right, like those arseholes with their two cents worth know what we went through. And how many of our buddies died in that white desert hellhole fighting an ideological war for a bunch of twisted pricks who didn’t even notice us when we needed help. Fuck that and fuck them!

I wish I’d also gyppoed my way out of that shit and gone overseas. Even Bulgaria would have been a better option, I’m sure. But the past is passed and there’s no going back in this life. So, on with my “game face” and on with the race that is life. C’est la vie!

 

*Afrikaans for Red Danger, the supposed “Total Onslaught” of communism on our borders as espoused by the Nationalist government of the day.

ⱡ Medical Evacuation other than as a casualty of war which is a CasEvac; Casualty Evacuation.

β Place in Namibia with a huge military base,  airfield etc. A Forward Ops Centre in the Angolan War.


Peter Mark Wells-Garnett © 22 April 2017

How Music Influenced My Being – final edit 20 April 2017

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Perceptions, insights & influences, they’ve all played a part . . .

Whilst giving some of my older posts a reread, so to speak, I’ve realised something important. I need to put the post in context for you, my kind readers. Not to do so would be crass and unthinking. And until now, I wasn’t thinking. Now I am . . . perhaps a bit late but at least I’m considering the consequences of my omissions. The nice thing about this forum is that I can readdress matters at a later date with a revised, rehashed or simply repeated message from the Roads & Trails of My Life. So here goes.

Much like most people who lived their formative years in the sixties and seventies music played an enormous part in my development. My cousin, many years older than I, introduced me to Cliff Richard and The Shadows in 1962. Nice but not a lasting impression did it leave. I felt that there was too much hysteria which I found embarrassing in an odd kind of way. At age 5 or 6 I was already showing signs of a nascent musical taste and a modicum of whimsy. Trini Lopez and his Lemon Tree didn’t do it for me either. Elvis left me cold too as did the Dave Clarke Five, The Monkees, The Archies and a plethora of other radio airplay singers and groups. My mother had a collection of hundreds of 78s which we never listened to because we hadn’t a record player that would play them. Then my folks splashed out and bought a Gramophone – an RCA with turntable for 45s, 331/3rds and 78s. And yours truly began to play the records and to listen to them. From one-sided 78s featuring Dame Nellie Melba singing Home Sweet Home to Enrico Caruso, Bing Crosby, The Ink Spots, Pee Wee Russel, Louis Armstrong and countless others whose names elude me in the mists of time.

It was a beginning yet I hankered for more. I was yearning for music that Spoke To Me like nothing else had up until then. That’s when I met my friend Gary who turned me on to The Beatles. Then through a neighbourhood girl I met the Rolling Stones. From there it was a blur of new introductions. Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce & Ginger Baker as Cream, Black Sabbath, the MC5, Pink Floyd, King Crimson, Jefferson Airplane, Bob Dylan and so on and so forth until music became my raison d’etre. I spent pocket money, birthday money, Christmas money and holiday work pay on records, records, records and yet more records. My world had changed and it would never be the same again.

My late friend Neil once asked me what different bands meant to me. Funnily enough, the first band that came to mind was Santana. This all started with the thought . . . what, who, is, was Santana in my life? And then it ran away with me. Besides anything else Santana was the one band that had an indelible influence on my youth. There were others too, but Santana stands out with its colour palette of moods. Black ‘n’ grey for Black Magic Woman to Red and Orange for Oya Coma Va . . . to the sultry Purples, Blues and Vermilion of Samba pa Ti with its redolence of seduction. Santana taught me to feel colours and to taste feelings.

Santana is more than a name to me. Santana is more than a band or even a man. Santana is a unique experience, being something different to me on each playing of their albums. I am of the view that one experiences Santana, for to me, Santana is not simply music to be listened to. It is a band of brethren manifesting their communal vision under the spiritual guidance of the guitar player extraordinaire, Carlos Santana. His sound is unique, immediately recognisable and inestimably “Santana”. From “Evil Ways” featured on the 1969 self-titled debut album, through all of the 30 odd albums recorded and released over the four decades since, there is; That Sound – That Guitar – That Man . . . ever painting colours to be felt and emotions to be tasted.

Here I borrow from the liner notes of Santana IV . . . “The instantly recognisable “sound” is a meld of signature elements of Afro-Latin rhythms, soaring vocals, electrifying blues-psychedelic guitar solos, and irrepressibly jubilant percussion work. Combine this with widescreen hooks and melodies and you have the sounds” . . . that will lodge themselves in the thicket of your senses and stay there. Forever.

Santana is the band of the 60s and 70s and that continues to this day. One could say that Santana is probably the first band to become a brand! All bands seek this musical Nirvana. The certainty of musical immortality, if you like, or even if you don’t! Very few achieve this elusive goal. Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, The Doors, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones are some of the bands that managed to be “different” in their sound. Instantly recognisable as to whom they are. The tragic truth is that a whole bunch of them are dead too early. They are the “members” of the mythical and oft mentioned “27 Club”. And the rest make up a pretty short list. Thank heavens for the technology of sound recording because without that even The Stones songbook would end up on the scrapheap of forgotten tunes. Imagine, if you will, what a Rock Star Antonio Vivaldi would have been had he had the benefit of recordings that could be packaged and sold to eager customers!

This technology is what ensures that seminal bands like Santana, The Beatles, The Stones, Nirvana, Roxy Music, Pink Floyd and a plethora of others remain ‘alive’ to new generations of music lovers. The whole “27 Club” would have wilted into obscurity by now if not for the miracle of this technology. Imagine, if you can, never being able to hear the guitar virtuosity of Jimi Hendrix ever again. Imagine the Blues voice of Janis Joplin forever silenced! The beautiful guitar accompanied poetry of the amazing Nick Drake confined to the darkness that is silence. I do imagine it and it freaks me out. Because music is part of the essence of my being. Not that I am a musician of any import. It’s just that I listen voraciously to the recordings no matter what they may be of. I’m genre neutral when it comes to music. I prefer to give it a listen a few times and then post it into pigeonholes in my mind. And I often move them as time dictates and my tastes mellow.

Oh, I do have preferences but they range from the Baroque classical music of J.S. Bach right the way through to the most esoteric of Frank Zappa’s experimental music. And everything in between, from the instrumental guitar genius of Leo Kottke to folk music, rock in all of its guises, to electronica a la Tangerine Dream to even some C & W like Blake Shelton and Lady Antebellum.

But, thanks to that very recording technology not only does it survive but The Santana sound now forms a part of the soundtrack to millions of lives across the world, not just mine. At the age of 14 I danced my first ‘real slow-dance and get-off session’ with a girl at a ‘hop’ in Rondebosch Town Hall, Cape Town, to a Santana cover by Omega Limited. Oh how we danced! I even ‘smooched’ her, tongue and all for the first time! The song title eludes me but the experience I will recall forever!

At first glance the appeal of Santana could easily have been lost in the Tex-Mex bodegas and bars of the American South West. But, fate dealt a winning hand, commencing with the fledgling band’s unforgettable performance at the seminal “Woodstock Music & Arts Fair” of August 1969. Right the way through some 40 albums culminating so far with 2016’s Santana IV the fan base has simply grown. Fans of Santana don’t defect to other artists or “different genres”. Rather they live on or pass on. Nothing in between.  When Santana took to the stage in upstate New York on that muddy August day 48 years ago the band had not yet been signed by a record label! They had recorded precisely nothing as of that time, playing clubs and pubs to eke out a living.  The symbiotic relationship with “Woodstock Festival” as the embodiment of the Youth (Hippy) Counterculture and the fledgling Santana as its theme song was formed. Success was assured and neither the Band nor the fans would ever be the same again.

It is to Santana’s sound that my generation swayed, smooched and shuffled on that rain-sodden field forever “Woodstock” but more accurately described as Max Yasgur’s farm in upstate New York.

We went on to military service.  Vietnam, Angola, Rhodesia, Congo, Afghanistan and Iraq were all fought and died for to the sounds of Santana and their peers in music. The Doors, The Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Joe Cocker . . . the list goes on and made up the soundtrack to the unforgettable movie experience that was “Good Morning Vietnam!” And, if we survived our military service, most of us went on to attempts at love and marriage, starting families of our own. Our generation were determined not to make the same mistakes that our parents had made. We swore that no son of our generation would be sent to fight another war in another country. And we failed miserably. But the music played on. With our generation resolutely teaching our children what our fathers and our mothers didn’t know how to teach us. Although most of us have failed to bring our children up differently to how our parents raised us we cannot blame the soundtrack of our lives. Genetics is a powerful influence.

All the while Santana and the sounds of Woodstock and beyond were with us. To illustrate my point, in 1981 I tried playing Oye Como Va and Samba Pa Ti in the delivery room in the nursing home when my son was born. I was ejected for my troubles. But my son was bitten and he’s now a fan of the Santana sound. And a disciple of the Carlos Santana style. As well as a sometime guitarist and all round music lover. I’m so proud of him I could burst. My three-year-old grandson was at our house a few days ago. Out of nowhere he yanked a CD from the stand and said to my wife; “Ganny, play Bob Mahly for me please.” And blow me down if the CD was anything other than “Confrontation” by Bob and his Wailers. I did mention the power of genetics?

The music of that time is etched into my psyche but most of all, the sounds of Santana. And now, although I appreciate and listen to virtually everything that is categorised as music not a fortnight goes by without me putting on a Santana album from my collection. As Carlos’ opening guitar licks wash over me I find myself in a transcendent state, all at once, in the Fillmore West, LA with Carlos Santana’s beautiful and beloved notes tingling in my ears, cleansing my troubled mind. That irrepressible sound uplifts my soul whilst allowing me a tear here and there in memory of comrades who didn’t make it this far.

Full circle is how everything in Nature works. From the unimaginably long periods that make up the precession of the equinoxes to the fleeting life cycle of some butterflies everything goes and eventually comes back in a ceaseless cycle that you can count on.

From my late Mother’s record collection which ran into the hundreds to me as the music fanatic that I am, through my son’s equal zeal and around to my three-year-old grandson, the circle continues.

Santana is no exception to the rule of cycles. Just consider the line-up for the latest offering being the brilliant Santana IV CD of 2016 which sees original Santana Blues Band members; iconic guitar player, Carlos Santana together with Gregg Rolie (keyboards & lead vocals), Neal Schon (guitar, vocals), Michael Carabello (percussion) and Michael Shrieve (drums). The album signifies the first time since 1971’s multi-platinum classic Santana III that the original five band members have recorded together. The line-up is rounded off by extant Santana band members; Karl Perazzo on percussion with Benny Rietveld on bass. Legendary vocalist Ronald Isley of The Isley Brothers makes a guest appearance on two cuts. The cycle continues as remorselessly as the sunrise.

One day when my final page has been read and I too am dead and cold I’d really like it if someone says, “What should we play at Pete’s memorial service?” I hope that they look no further than Samba Pa Ti. I’m listening to the second album, Abraxas as I write. I wish you happy listening and the experience of, the feeling and the colours of emotion that IS Santana.

Thanks for reading. Ciao

Abridged version first published here on 25 January 2017 Peter Mark Wells-Garnett © 19 April 2017

 

 

Wondering Aloud . . .

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Where But for Fate Would We . . .? My original thoughts

I got to thinking just the other day, as I’m wont to do, and it led me to Wondering Aloud. Or, to put it in plainly; talking to myself. This state of affairs prevailed for a while and then I got to wondering what it meant when I answered myself. Mmm, that’s something worth pondering. Especially in the light of the fact that I was answering in the voices of a whole cast of characters. Out loud! Little wonder, if you’ll excuse the pun, that the nice-looking woman outside the store was looking at me strangely. It’s just as well I’m weird otherwise I’d have felt quite self-conscious. Alluding to Jethro Tull, my mind blunted by the gigantic doses of Risperidone that I take to stave off psychosis. But, I’ve been taking it for so long it has the same effect on me as a single whisky has on Ben Trovato. Bless his pointed little head. Ah well, it’s Jefferson Airplane this time.

And then, as suddenly as it started, I was off, flitting off on yet another tangent. This time it was back to England and a little-known song from the sixties popped into my head. Quite uninvited, I might add, and proceeded to play with my senses. All of this Progressive Underground Hippy Flower Child Instrumental Interference was really quite strange. “Strangely Strange but Oddly Normal” is the title of the ditty that filled my head. Performed, oddly; there’s that pun again; enough by a British outfit called Doctor Strangely Strange. They were one of the earliest signings to the then fledgling Island Records of London. Chris Blackwell, if my memory serves me, was the driving force. I have an Island Records ‘sampler’ from 1969, or was it ’68? This various artistes offering was titled “Nice Enough to Eat”. This one is volume 1 in a slew of “Nice Enough to Eats” and was compiled of a track from some thirteen Island Records LP releases then current. As my vinyl collection is not presently to hand I’ll have to give you what I remember. Side one, track one kicks off with a lively little number off the “Unhalfbricking” album by Fairport Convention, titled “Cajun Woman”. Upbeat Louisiana Swamp Music Made in England by a group of English upper class ‘hippies’ with Sandy Denny on vocals. This tune then segues into something else and then into something else, etc.

There’s “Time Has Told Me” by Nick Drake off of the album “Five Leaves Left”. He’s dead too at age 27 or so. Nick was yet another addition to the seemingly endless roll of sorrow that is made up of great sixties and seventies musicians all of whom died too young. One blessing is we’ll never see him go to seed and wither with age and infirmity. But that’s a double-edged Katana if ever I saw one!

An alarming number of these prodigiously talented young musicians upped and died at age 27. The list includes the Bluesman who influenced Eric ‘Slowhand’ Clapton, Robert Johnson; “The Doors” frontman, Jim Morrison; the incomparable Janis ‘Little Girl Blue’ Joplin; the ‘Man-With-The-Guitar’  Jimi Hendrix; the Rolling Stones’ Brian Jones and ‘Pigpen’ of “The Grateful Dead”. Later additions to this bizarre ‘club’ have been Kurt Cobain of Nirvana fame and more recently, that lady with the awesome voice, Amy Winehouse.

Where have all the flowers gone? So sang Peter Paul & Mary of a generation of American youth who perished or were maimed in that steamy South East Asian hellhole which was Vietnam. Well, none of the ’27 Club’ died in Vietnam. They didn’t even die of natural causes. Everyone succumbed to the excesses of drugs and booze which fuelled the creative spirit of the 1960s and 70s. Robert Johnson died much earlier, but also at age 27, a victim too, of excess. He was kind of a founding father of the ‘club’, so to speak.

There I go again. Off on a different tangent and I’m not even warmed up! If you’re confused and exhausted you should see the view from my perspective. Man, it’s an amazing sight, this Bizarre Bazaar that is in my head!

Manic depression is not just a condition, Jimi Hendrix wrote a song about it and all that I can add is; it’s A Helluva Drug! But you gotta hold on tight. To your dreams. And come what may!

Until next time, thanks for coming; it’s been a blast!

Peter Mark Wells-Garnett © 22 February 2017

Autobiographical Creative Writing on TheCelt58Blog.WordPress.com

 

My Need to Live Naked; literally!

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Living with an uninvited guest; the onset of madness?

When I was about eight years old I desperately wanted to be a nudist. I used to wander about the house, an upstairs flat at the time, in the altogether and stand at the windows wondering if anyone could see me. In my nakedness. My prepubescent body would tingle with electricity as I imagined being spied upon. It was always most exciting when my parents were home. I had to get bare, evade my parents and simultaneously expose myself at windows with open curtains.  My mother was an unabashed prude. Nakedness was somehow dirty. Like a peep show in Victorian England. Probably pornographic in her estimation. And because she didn’t like it I felt all the more titillated by the act. Then one day I was spoken to very sternly and it was explained to me that such behaviour is unseemly, somehow indicative of unfavourable mental health issues. I was exhorted to desist forthwith. And that was how my career as a nudist was nipped in the bud, so to speak. I was terrified of being shipped off to some ghastly Asylum to be experimented upon by the Dreaded Psychiatrists.

Going about fully clothed seemed like a good trade off. Phew, I’d had a close call there.

I was very taken with the exploits of Biggles in his WWI Sopwith Camel. Biggles was a flyer with the Royal Flying Corps in the 1914 – 18 war in Europe. He cut an heroic figure in his leather flying helmet, gloves and fur-collared flying jacket. Goggles and a scarf topped out his sartorial splendour as he dispatched Boche Fokker Triplanes and the like with admirable aplomb.  These stories came in picture comics, nowadays called Graphic Novels, brought in from England by Central News Agency, now known as CNA. My father had served in the Royal Air Force and he indulged me with these story picture books every week. I became an avid collector and worshipped every fibre of the Biggles character. I lived in my imagination vicariously connected to Biggles through the pages of my weekly comics.

Looking back, with the benefit of hindsight, I wonder if my parents noticed this. Probably not if truth be told. Dad was orphaned at an early age and Mom was the youngest of six in a well-to-do family in which alcoholism was rampant. Neither one of them ideally suited to the raising of children. But then, I’d been a mistake; my mother was told by doctors that she’d never have children. So their lives were sorted, no offspring to worry about and just the pair of them to do as they pleased. And then, WHAM! After five years of connubial bliss I arrived to spoil the party. And what a party it was if the stories that I’ve heard are to be believed. But that is their story and it’s not for me to tell. Well, not here, at least.

So, there we were a wee family of three muddling along at a steady rate. Well, for the parents at least. I was experiencing a winter of discontent although I didn’t know it yet. And winter was about to get a whole lot worse. But that’s for another time.

Thanks for popping by. It’s been fun.

And the Lunatic is in the Room . . .

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Marching to a different drummer & the sounds of madness

I’m convinced that I’m weird. I can always hear a different tune no matter what’s playing on the stereo, radio or tannoy. I’m very apt to march to a different drummer than the regular beatniks of day-to-day life. Lastly, I happen to think too, in alternative voices. Yes, characters who I’ve never met, engage in conversations inside my head.

Go on, be honest. The PC Police aren’t listening and I’m so far past being offended I’ve forgotten how. So, you CAN say it . . .

“You’re freaking nuts!”

Okay . . . That’s a bit harsh. I’m just a little weird. What’s so wrong with that? In the army I was tormented for being out of step. For writing fiction in letters to imaginary girlfriends. Well, real girls, just not my girlfriend per se, just in my imagination. I paid a price for it mind you. And it wasn’t value for money, I can tell you! After all, it’s not as if I was there out of some perverse sense of duty. I was there because the alternative was prison. Unthinkable. Just like the Army. What we call Hobson’s Choice, where you’re damned if you do and you’re damned if you don’t. Anyhow, I saw no real harm in embellishing my account of the drudge that is army life. After all, surely we were entitled to at least one fringe benefit in return for our indentured servitude. Really, force a teenager out of his parental home, fuck him around unmercifully at the hands of psychopathic sadists, and put him in Mortal Danger. Just for starters! And then; pay him R2.00 per day and expect normal behaviour from him? Who are the weirdos in that little scenario?

This is the life, for the foreseeable future; until November 10th at least, instead of prison. I was beginning to doubt my sanity. But there was more to come.

First thing I got told by some geezer with an insignia of rank on his arm was; “You’re from Cape Town! I know all about you! Smoking drugs and taking dagga! Just try your kak here and see what happens! I dare you!”

Well, did I take that as hot air? As a challenge perhaps? What to do? No too much as it turned out. Remember that fear I mentioned? Well it came home to roost and turned my bowels to jelly and me into a survivor. I didn’t care that some of the guys called me a chickenshit and many things worse than that. My mind was made up. I was going to apply for one of the cushy clerical jobs on the base and I was going to make myself indispensable to whichever PF (permanent force member) I got to work for. It didn’t matter what I had to do to get it, I was determined that I was not going to be sent to the Border where I stood a greater chance of being killed or maimed. It was the South West Africa border with Angola where all the unpleasantness, shooting, land-mining and the rest was taking place. And I wanted no part of the action.

Getting killed or maimed in a senseless conflict on foreign soil appealed to me about as much as being gang-raped in prison. I did mention Hobson’s choice, didn’t I?

The army was not my alma mater & I hated every minute of it.

Taking a Trip Through Love Canal: The Residuum

Jack Caseros makes numerous telling points about what we are really facing on Planet Earth. Once you’ve read to the end of his blog post reblogged here (thanks Jack) you’ll think differently to what you did before reading this. The horrible truth is it’s accurate.
PeteG

Jack Caseros

About 2.5 years ago, I heard Lois Gibbs speak. Her story, as a resident affected by the environmental disaster at Love Canal, NY, served as a touchstone for the work I do IRL—as an environmental scientist, a large part of what I do is contaminant remediation. As I mark five years of doing my best to reduce contamination and the risks it poses, I see Love Canal rise in the news again.

People often hear “environmental scientist” and automatically translate this to “environmentalist” (I need a whole other post to explain what’s wrong with that misnomer). Moreover, people usually think my main focus is climate change. To the wary public, I am the guy who wants ‘everyone to live as if we were in the stone age’.

I have very little defense to that, besides sighing quietly to myself.

I am not of the inclination to hold…

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Words, words & more words . . . WTF?

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Explaining Spiritual Concept Words

I mentioned the other day the spiritual context of the noun forgiveness and its verb, forgive. I failed to elaborate and this is my best shot at explaining myself.

Firstly I have to put the story in context. The whys, the wherefores and the intentions. The last twelve years of my life have been devoted, to a large extent, to my work towards Recovery. Why the capitalisation of the first letter? Well, Recovery is connected directly to Forgiveness insofar as spiritual concept words are concerned. They live alongside versions of Surrender, Powerlessness, Acceptance and Responsibility. Much of what I’ve learnt in Recovery is rooted in the principles of the 12 Step Programmes that we know as AA and NA to mention only the ‘big two’. Yip folks, I refer here to Alcoholics Anonymous and to Narcotics Anonymous.

Rest assured, this is not an evangelical crusade to promote these fellowships. The fact is that membership of and adherence to the principals of AA and NA has helped to save countless lives around the world. But, sadly, many who enter the rooms do not make it and they fall prey to the cunning disease of addiction which will eventually take their lives. I mention the debt of gratitude that I owe to these Fellowships purely to reference my life experience and ultimately as a component of my story. The Traditions of the fellowships state that anonymity is at the core of their values. The decision to break anonymity and reveal myself as having belonged to these Fellowships is mine and mine alone. If my decision has offended anyone in or out of The Rooms I apologise. However, my process of healing and Recovery has led me down this path and I will see it out to its conclusion.

With this in mind, I must say that I thought that I knew words and their meanings. How wrong I was and it took me a bunch of years and a slew of failures in my quest to realise that it was impossible to understand the processes required for Recovery unless I opened my mind, emptied it of ALL of my preconceptions and became willing, no; desperate, to review everything that I needed from a spiritual perspective. To fail this time, with the prize almost in my grasp, was not an option. The alternatives were too terrible to contemplate. But contemplate them I did. And this made my decision simply. But never easy. The consequences of failure were certain to be degradation, isolation, institutionalisation and, if I were lucky, a swift death. What frightened me the most was what the downward spiral into insanity, institutionalisation and death would undoubtedly do to my faithful and long-suffering wife and to my sister, my son and my father and mother. The easy way out was to give in to my demons and to hell with everyone else.

Thankfully, I’ve never been one to take the easy way out of anything. So, I had to accept that I knew nothing. And that I had to be reprogrammed from scratch. This meant it was out with the old words and ways and navigating the tricky path to a whole new paradigm. One where up was left and right was down and the Earth was shaped like a doughnut. Talk about suspending belief. And finding The Restaurant At the End Of The Universe next door to your local Chinese laundry.

What was needed was a vocabulary overhaul, an attitude adjustment of legendary proportions and a blind leap of faith into the abyss. So I ditched the dictionary, altered the altitude and took a Kamikaze leap into uncharted territory. I’ve not been so terrified in my life. I had everything to lose and nothing to lose at the same time.  More on this tomorrow. Thanks for coming by.

Peter Mark Wells-Garnett © 31 March 2017