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!

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…

Back in nature…

Friday evening saw me, two other leaders, one junior leader and 14 Scouts park up at Ullesthorpe Scout Camp. As soon as I headed down through the trees with my gear, I knew I was in for a special weekend. Just being surrounded by nature, no phones, no watches, just tents, food and space.

I think it took about an hour to get our camp pitched, before we got the fires lit, kettles on, and burgers and hotdogs cooking. So nice eating outdoors with our troop, surrounded by trees, with the crackle of fires soundtracking our evening. I didn’t mind that I had a tiny tent, although it was kinda funny listening to the Scouts chatting away loudly until 2:00 in the morning!

I didn’t sleep much that night, so was up at 4:00am, getting water and making sure the kettles were on for a brew. It was nice having the camp to myself  for a while, the only sound being the stove boiling water. Strong coffee brought me big smiles, as I waited for the rest of our crew to stir…

A fry up of bacon and eggs, more coffee and some fruit got everyone up and running, and we set the Scouts off on Bivvy building exercises, and making sure their fires were brought back to life. Our younger Scouts did a great job of keeping their fire going all day, which was brilliant, as we were cooking on fires that evening. I was very proud of how our younger Scouts managed over the weekend, and carried out all tasks, even washing up with a smile and good grace.

At some point during the day, I wandered back up the hill, and sat in the small open air chapel for a few minutes. It was lovely just sitting in peace for a short while on my own, surrounded by trees.

So, the bivvies never got built, but the fires were stoked up, and a water fight ensured everyone (me included) got soaked. Hey, it was fun, and the sun was high in the sky, and we dried off quickly. Dinner that night was chicken stew and baked potatoes cooked on the camp fires, damn there were good. Dessert was baked bananas with dark chocolate, I should have left mine on for longer, but it was nice and unctuous…

We spilt the Scouts into two groups and set them challenges around the campsite, which was fun, and they won sweets, which they enjoyed. We all spent time chilling around the fires, and all was good until some of the older Scouts starting mucking around, and curfew was called. Just as well we were all tired anyway… I read for an hour (Pratchett) and crashed out, happy wrapped up in a sleeping bag.

I was first up again in the morning, so got the kettles on for brews. Once everyone else was up, we got sausages on, and tucked into a very hearty breakfast… those sausages were GOOD. Slowly, we took all the tents down, washed all the pots, cleared up the rubbish, and generally got ready to go home. We were all knackered form taking everything back up the hill, but it was worth it. We had all had a brilliant weekend. Bring on the big camp in July…

Cycling makes me happy!

Today was college day, almost the end of the first year of my Counselling Diploma (man that has gone quick…), and it was really cool to cycle in.

The afternoon saw me plummet into a tailspin of tiredness and depression, and even though I had a good chat with an old friend that helped, cycling home really lifted my spirits and brought me back from the pits of despair.

I bloody love cycling!

elsa
Elsa – my trusty road bike

 

Gone fishing… again!

It’s been really nice to have a day off today. Even with being self employed, sometimes you need to take a break. The last few weeks have been really busy, as we’ve had some big projects on,but both my wife and I are so happy with how our art and design business is growing.

I spent a little time tying a new (to me) rig ready for the mornings fishing, whilst keeping an eye on the weather (it’s really windy in the UK at the mo…). After bundling my simple fishing setup into my rucksack, grabbed a single rod, my net and folding stool and headed off for the canal.

I’m experimenting with equipment setups at the mo, seeing how little I can get away with for various activities. For example, I have found that I can go fishing with a rucksack, a single rod, small net and a folding stool. My lovely old rucksack carries a stove, fishing kit in sectioned box, bait, kettle, insulated cup, frying pan, food and most importantly, coffee bags. I have a folding water carrier, notebook and mechanical pencil, and thats about it. It sounds like quite a lot, but it’s quite minimal really.

I don’t want to get too bogged down in kit lists, as I think it’s more important to write about experiences than things, but I’m really enjoying the challenge of exploring without too much stuff getting in the way. Its more fun that way, you enjoy it more if you’re not worrying about having the right knife, cup, rope, whatever.

So, back to fishing. I’ve been reading a lot in Carpology lately about methods, techniques, tips, history and so on. There’s a really interesting article in last month’s issue about baiting up and waiting, sometimes for days. It really resonated with me. Today, I started putting it into action.

Arriving at the canal, I had to wait whilst a narrow boat moved up through the locks that were next to the swim I’m fishing in at the mo.  All good, it gave me time to have breakfast and get a brew on. Once the boat moved on, I baited up, had coffee, more breakfast and waited for almost an hour before I cast out. (It was as long as I can manage at the mo… I am building my patience up again. It’s kind of a zen thing with me and fishing.)

The fish are out there, I saw them this morning, and they were definitely knocking around the bait, as my bite alarm testified, but no bites today. Thats okay. I’m really enjoying being outdoors again, whatever the weather, and the challenge of catching a fish in a natural environment. It may take longer, but that’s what I’m enjoying. Learning about fish, their patterns of behaviour, diet, hooks, line, all that. You never stop learning in this world.

TeethRename

Claw Rig

 

Let’s go exploring… Chapter 3, the conclusion!

Visiting The Pond has finally paid off! I caught a fish!

I’ve already splashed this across social media, but here’s the bigger story of a little fish that has made me really happy…

After finding The Pond (it looks good with capitals!) three weeks back, it has become my regular fishing spot, with two or three visits a week, time permitting. I got in a lovely early morning session a few weeks back with a pot of coffee, bread and cheese and plenty of bait.

Yesterday, it was pouring with rain, but I was determined to get down to The Pond and get another session in before the week was out. We have a Japanese student staying with us at present, which is a wonderful experience, but has eaten into my wife and I’s time and energy. So, weather or not, I was going fishing yesterday!

I had already decided to fish in the far corner of The Pond after seeing a decent size fish swimming out of the weeds earlier in the week, so crept into the trees and weeds and baited up with dog food and bread. I first cast out with imitation maggots, but the fish weren’t having any of it. The rain was keeping them in the fringes, and they weren’t coming out! After a couple of casts, I got a really nasty tangle in my line, so lost a lot of time sorting that out. It was better to just cut the bad section out and retie my float section. I was wet and cold, even with coffee to keep me going, so rebaited the water and my hook with bread crust, and cast out again.

The fish liked it! I had two really good knocks, with the float bobbing about, then a really big ‘take’, although the fish managed to slip off the hook as I struck… Mindful of the time, and being soaking wet and cold (my fingers were getting shrivelled!), I decided to try one last bait and cast before I went home. Bingo.

The float dropped like a stone beneath the water, and as I carefully wound in the line, I could see that a beautiful little Roach had taken the bait and was hooked, good and proper. I had caught my first solo fish! It was no bigger than the palm of my hand, but I was so proud of my first catch. Now for the scary bit…

I am a little squeamish of slimy things, especially frogs and toads, which I have been mildly phobic of since early childhood, so having to touch the Roach to unhook it and release it was a big deal. Fish care is paramount to me. I know that hooking a fish hurts it (like a nettle sting), but they wouldn’t keep coming back if they didn’t want to get caught. I quickly held the line near the fish, took a quick few photos, then very gently held it and slipped the hook out. I was so proud of myself for doing this, as I was worried about harming any fish I caught by being nervous. It was fine. I held it for a second, then moved back to the water to release it… Whoops! I dropped it, but gently scooped it up and made sure it was safely back in the water, watching it swim off safely.

I was buzzing. The months of blanking, trying baits and spots, rigs and hooks had finally paid off. I was soaking wet, cold and muddy, but very, very happy. I quickly packed up my kit and headed back to the car, grinning like the Cheshire Cat and shouting goodbye to the fish.

I called my good buddy Rolf, who has taught me how to fish to pass on the good news. It seemed only proper that he would be the first person I called, even before my wife! He was really pleased, and fought to get a word in, as I was now running on pure adrenaline, whooping and shouting! My first fish!

After a brief chat, I pulled off in the car to pick up a celebratory beer or three, and went home for cheese and biscuits with my lovely wife, who thinks fishing is very odd, but is very happy on how it makes me happy and calm…