Got my mojo back…

I’ve  always loved music. I was fortunate to grow up with parents who played lots of different music in our family home. Blues, jazz, rock, folk and a lot of other sounds besides. I can remember going to my village newsagent when I was young and buying 7 inch singles with my pocket money at the weekends, and my favourite thing that I spent my birthday money on when I was ten was an album by Ian Dury and the Blockheads.
Over the years I bought lots of albums and singles, most of which I still have stacked up in the attic. I love having music on vinyl, and have started collecting vinyl and cassettes again recently. At present, I’m really enjoying listening to The Stupids from my college days, and new discovery (to me anyway) Mammal Hands. I love all kinds of music.

About 5 years back, I really got into actually making music, as well as listening to it. It was great release, and I felt that I had found a missing piece of myself. Making music was also good for my mental health, as it always lifts my spirits. That all changed a while ago, when I had a breakdown, and the thought of even listening to music, let alone make it, was the last thing on my mind. 

Over the last year, music has starting creeping back into my life, first by going through my collection of vinyl, thanks to the kind gift of a stereo from old friends. This also sparked my buying of music again, on vinyl, and also cassette. I started digging through Bandcamp, finding new sounds to complement my older ones. Then I bought some new harmonicas. Slowly, I started playing music again.

In the last few months, I’ve been working on new sounds, enhanced by GarageBand on the iPad, and in the last week, through a new amp onto a new digital recorder. Some of them are fast punk tunes, some slower jazz pieces, and I’m really happy with how things are coming along. I don’t intend on rushing myself, just taking time and enjoying playing and learning to play better and with more feeling. When I’m really happy with what I play, I may just release them through Bandcamp.

Music is very strongly linked with mental health, and it’s really making a difference to mine. I definitely feel as though I’m coming back to myself.

You can hear my progress here: https://soundcloud.com/ruke-622656462/free-fall

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Got it on tape..

I bought a new ‘boombox’ today, as my old tiny one is starting to wear out. You can hear it on tapes, that weird slowing down when a tape is being stretched. As a cassette collector with OCD tendencies, I want to make sure my tapes stay in good condition.

I’ve loved having music on tape since an early age, my favourite Christmas present when I was 12 was a bright blue Sony Walkman. I was into electronica then, with lots of Vangelis, Tangerine Dream and Jean Michel Jarre. Oh, and hip hop too…

I got through so many Walkmans in my youth, wearing them out on a regular basis. I loved making mix tapes, and taping new albums from vinyl, so they stayed in pristine condition. I carried on making mix tapes up until a few years back, until I had a big clear out and got rid of my tape collection, which I now regret. I loved having music on tape, loving the sound you can only get from cassette.

A couple of years back, I got into a few record labels, namely Riding Easy and Strange Famous, both of whom release amazing music on vinyl and cassette. I bought a tape from Riding Easy, the amazing Red Desert, and then starting buying tapes from Strange Famous, starting with B. Dolan’s ‘House of Bees Volume 3’. I tend to get obsessed with record labels, tending to collect most of their output. Strange Famous are really generous when they send out orders… I have been sent extra tapes, stickers, posters and badges when receiving packages from them. Stuff like that just makes me love a label more.

So coming full circle, I am starting to build up a tape collection again, and have a Sony to play them on, not a Walkman, but a boombox. Here’s to plenty more releases on cassette, and having a decent collection again, keeping my tendencies in check!

Taking a leap…

I’ve taken a big leap into the unknown today, and had my first ever zine published. It’s the first  time I’ve actually paid to have my work printed pin this way with the aim of selling it to the public.

Not only have I had Milk Stains printed, but I have launched an Etsy store to sell it too! I don’t want to bombard you with plugs for my wares, as that’s not what this site is about. There won’t be masses of posts pleading with you to buy my stuff, but I’m darn proud of what I’ve done.

You can go to the store here: https://www.etsy.com/uk/listing/549942511/milk-stains-issue-1?ga_order=most_relevant&ga_search_type=all&ga_view_type=gallery&ga_search_query=milk%20stains&ref=sr_gallery_1 

I plan on making more zines in the future, and my second one is already planned out, but for now enjoy the heavy metal kitty mayhem that is Milk Stains issue 1!

A fanfare for harmonicas… 

After struggling with depression and anxiety this morning, I planned to spend some time this evening playing my harmonicas, just seeing where the music took me.

My default setting for the harmonica is the blues, I mean, harmonicas just make me think blues straight away. Most of my favourite harmonica players are blues musicians, and slow blues and heavy rock seem to be the kids of sounds I make.

Making music is great therapy, whether alone or with others. Playing music gives me a great lift, and the upset of this morning was blown away like autumn leaves whilst I came up with riffs and solos today. I am much calmer and happier now.

I came up with a couple of pieces this evening, one a more rolling bluesy track, the other riffing on my favourite composer, Aaron Copland, and his wonderful piece ‘Fanfare for the Common Man’. Copland is a family favourite, our mum loved Copland, and we played some of his ‘Appalachian Spring’ at her funeral earlier this year. Copland also scored the 1930s film version of John Steinbeck’s masterpiece ‘Of Mice and Men’ (another of mine and mum’s favourites – I still have her copy). Lots of connections.

I plan returning to ‘Fanfare’ later, blending Copland’s score with a bluesy touch, but for now, here is my first take, I hope you like it…

https://soundcloud.com/ruke-622656462/fanfare-in-g-take-1 

A meditation on fishing…

I spent most of yesterday at the pond I ‘found’ two years ago. It’s a lovely spot, surrounded by trees, and quite overgrown. The vegetation surrounding it means that when you’re in there,  you can’t be seen from the outside, making it a palace of solitude.

Managing to get up early yesterday (oversleeping is an issue at present), I got down to the supermarket and tackle shop to pick up supplies for the day. It was so nice to be by the water I the early light, and to fire up the stove to cook breakfast. Bacon and beetroot rolls with coffee cooked outside taste so good. 

Setting up my rod for float fishing, I cast out with bread crust to try and catch some fish off the surface. I might as well not bothered, as I fell asleep, and snoozed through the whole morning! 

Waking around midday, I sparked up the stove for another brew, and recast my rod. Bingo! I had caught a small Roach, no bigger than my hand, but it was my first fish of the year, and I smiled as I unhooked it and released it back into the water. I packed up shortly after, and headed home, planning to return later in the day.

Returning that evening, I switched spots, casting out towards the centre of the pond, where the fish were congregating. After a few casts, I caught another Roach, again, no bigger than my hand, but the hard work was paying off. Throughout the next few hours, I caught three more Roach, all around the same size. 

Whilst I was at the pond, separated from everyday life, I was completely in the moment, all that mattered was watching the water, looking at the spot where the bait was, and seeing the fish knock at it, trying to dislodge it from the hook. It’s the first time in a long while that I have been so at peace, and disconnected from everyday worries. All that mattered was being there, surrounded by nature, enveloped by greenery, with clear blue sky above.

Anger is an energy…

Today has been a difficult day in terms of emotions. This morning saw me in deep depression, which only sleep would cure, through to anger this evening. 

I think the anger rose from a feeling of frustration that I cannot solve all of the issues around me, and my temper exploded through kicking cabinets in the kitchen to aggressively making dinner, which I was still too angry to eat.

I had already planned to go fishing in the morning, so all of my gear was packed and ready. It seemed logical to remove myself from the home environment, and to reduce the stress that my anger and frustration was causing. I gathered my kit together, loaded it into the car, and headed for the canal. 

Nature has a calming effect on me, and it didn’t take long for the sights, sounds and smells of the natural environment to dissolve the feelings of anger, and to restore a sense of calm and peace. Firing up the stove for a coffee, and getting stuck into the meal I had made earlier made a world of difference. So did setting up my rods, retying one of them, in the hope that a fish would take the bait.

Calmer later, I headed for home, even though I planned to sleep outdoors. I have supplies for the morning, and plan to be out first thing tomorrow.

I’m calm now.

https://youtu.be/Vq7JSic1DtM

Skateboarding is good for your health…


I’d planned on going skating early this morning, whilst the park was quiet, hoping to have it to myself. Skating solo is good for me whilst I’m learning the basics again, and I didn’t fancy swimming against a tide of scooters. There’s a really nice feeling being on your own at the park, especially early.

Well, I overslept, and wondered if l would actually go skating at all, with the call of artwork and life in general tugging at my sleeve. After a tasty breakfast (my wife and I take turns making breakfast on Sundays), chilling seem  in order, but after a chat, I decided to get up and get to the park after all.

Pleasantly surprised by finding the park empty, I set to learning how to flow more, and relax on the board again. (My biggest issue last week was being too stiff.) Rolling in, I started to carve more naturally almost immediately, and began to loosen up, standing lower, and feeling at home on the board once more. I’ve still not quite managed t flow all the way around the park, but I’m close.

Sitting atop the funbox, I was aware of nothing but my breath and the wind around me. Calm, centred and happy, I picked up my board again, and began to put in more circuits of the park. Still not reaching a full circle, the flow was definitely coming back, and I felt more relaxed than I have for quite some time. Rather than worrying about tricks and speed, the feeling of flowing seems more important to me now. Everything else will come with time.

Keep rolling…

Tripped up…

Mental health is a tricky bugger. One day you can be fine and on top of the world, the next, down in the dumps wondering how you will ever get through the day. 

I am fortunate to know that my depression and anxiety aren’t so bad that I cannot function at all, but my brain will sometimes get caught in a negative spiral, with logic and illogic chasing each other’s tails, making concentration and happiness elusive. On the whole, I am okay most of the time, but small worries can easily mutate interest ever larger ones, and depression and anxiety can take hold.

Take returning to college, for example. On the day my mum died earlier this year, I made a decision to get back to my counselling course, get qualified and become a really good counsellor, working preferably with children. There are certain things that need to be in place before returning to college, BACP membership, insurance, and most importantly, placements. I knew about these things, of course, but this year has been tough, and getting my act together has been hard. So, when my return interview didn’t happen last week, my brain spiralled down into panic overload, and I was sure I wouldn’t be able to get things sorted and return to my studies. 

Stepping back, making a list, and taking some time has allowed me to overcome my anxiety, and I have now got a referee in place; drafted my letter asking for placements; and have applied for my insurance. I also have someone in mind for my sponsor, and feel more positive about my return to college in September. 

As I write this, I am calm, centred and focused. Onwards…

Zen and the art of till jockeying…

Today has been a bit of a rollercoaster, with the morning seeing me slightly out of sorts and snappy with my lovely supportive wife. I wandered off to catch the bus to counselling in a bit of a haze of unsettled feelings…

Clearly tired, I half read and half dozed through the journey, trying to stay focused on what was going on around me. Still, I made it to town and appointed session in good time with a clearer head. Sleep helps sometimes.

Counselling today gave me time and space to explore and examine the feelings I’ve had over the last few days, trying to work out why I’ve been feeling so unsettled and out of sorts. I like the time I have in counselling, as I feel as though I am thinking on a higher level, able to clear my mind and understand my thoughts and feelings.

So after a refreshing coffee and a late lunch, I caught the bus home in a much clearer frame of mind, able to focus on the days ahead and what needs to be done.

Yet, it was while I was putting in my hours at my part time supermarket job that a sense of real calm and awareness came over me. Suddenly, life made sense and I had a real understanding of my place in the world. The feeling has stuck with me now, and everything seems clear.

Om.

Back on board


Has it really been over a year? Gosh. Mental health really battered me last year, and its only now that I feel more myself than I have for a long time.

A lot has happened in the last year, which I’m sure I’ll talk about later, but for now, let’s talk about skateboarding…

I’ve skated on and off since my mid teens, with the last big blast around my 40th birthday. Now, at 47, I’m taking skating on again, having just bought a new board last  week.

I’m happy to say that my basic skills on a board haven’t deserted me, having rolled around my local park, pulling kickturns and rolls, and today have started conquering my fear of dropping in, which has always been the big one for me.

I found a really good video which went through the basics, and that really helped me today, as I can now drop in from the small fun box… still a way to go, but it’s a great start after not skating for years.

Cue happy face!