HEAVEN IS A FIVE LETTER WORD

“I’m telling you, heaven has got six letters. Any fool can see that. Even a six year old can see that: H.E.A.V.E.N. Six letters.”

Kevin couldn’t be bothered explaining it again - if his brother couldn’t see that it only had five, that was his problem. What was important here was the message itself.

Heaven was not everything it was supposed to be. It was only pretending to be more than it actually was.

WANTED. DEAD OR ALIVE.

This running thing. It's tough. My knees are objecting a little but I must persist as it's part of a bigger plan... and if I can't run 5km without having my lungs hang out of my eye-sockets, I may as well abandon all hope before I start.

Earlier this week, the running track was full of people at rugby training which threw a brick through the window of my plan but across the road, there is a park. A kids park, general park - you know the kind of thing - just a big patch of grass really and there was nobody in there. I parked up, went through the gate and ran. It wasn't too dark when I went in but as the songs passed by on the playlist, it was kind of getting that way, but no big deal.

I had finished the scheduled run, went back to the gate and found it locked. No problem - there was another gate a little further along. Also locked. Down at the other side of the field there are some tennis courts but those gates were locked too.

Hmm. Not even nine o'clock and I find myself locked in a field. I'm not particularly inconspicuous and I wasn't running in the shadows but whoever it is that's in charge of the security of the field didn't give a damn either way and strapped those babies up good n tight with their industrial padlocks.

What's a man to do?

Close to the tennis courts, there's a house where I thought this security person may live. It's the only house within the field so it made sense. I looked around some and then shouted up at the only window with a light on:

"Hey motherfucker! How about letting me out!"

Action behind the curtains and I see a man looking down on my wearing blue pyjamas. You know what he did? He closed the curtains against me and did nothing at all.

Maybe I went in too hard a little too early.

The field, all the way around, is circled by one of those fences you find protecting schools. Metal rods about ten foot high with arrow-head spikes to stop people climbing over. The kind that, when you're in school, there's always some story about a kid who impaled his testicles on them when he went to get his ball. That was the first thing that crosses my mind while I was standing there looking at them.

To hell with it. What does a man need testicles for anyway in an already over-populated planet. 

Using the chain and padlock around the gate as leverage, I hauled myself up onto the top, teetered around between the spikes for a few seconds and jumped. 

Not so bad. The landing was not so good and my knees complained a little but I was out. If nothing else it might make a humorous story...

The following day, I took the dog out. To make a change in the mini-heatwave, I figured I'd take him to the park with the river running through it - there's not much he likes better than jumping in during the summer and getting cool. 

We parked up, crossed the road with some other people who were hanging around and found that over the winter, somebody had moved the gate and replaced it with a fence, though there was a sign saying to use the other gate maybe fifty metres along the road. Simple.

"Somebody moved the gate," I said to one of the guys who had crossed with us and was looking confused. This guy looked mid-thirties, maybe forty at the top end - certainly a fair whack of years younger than me anyway - which is important because then, he looks up and down the road and says:

"You're young enough to just jump over the fence."

And I stood there for a moment wondering if a) I suddenly looked a lot younger now I had been running for one whole week and/or b) pictures of me escaping from the playground had made it onto the internet without me knowing. 

Or maybe the old guy in the house had put hundreds of those blurry CCTV posters up around the place of me like when a cat goes missing. 

The universe sure does have a weird sense of humour. 

DREAM - 39 STEPS

I killed a man on a train with a knife, except when I look at the knife after the event, it's a pen. Then I run away. Not a sprint down the carriages but a real 39 Steps in the making.  

I open the carriage door, jump out while the train is crossing a bridge, plunge into black water, rise to the top gasping for air and find myself transported from a stretch of water nobody should ever find themselves in - possibly the Thames - into a clear shallow stream somewhere in the Highlands of Scotland. 

I drag myself out, a heavy coat dragging behind me and sit on the bank next to a man who looks like Tom Waits but I know is supposed to be my old man. 

We exchange pleasantries. 

“Did you do it?” 

“I did not. Did you?” 

“I think I did.” 

“That’s a real shame,” he says.  

The next time I look, my father has turned into Tom Waits for real. He pulls a full size piano from his pocket, a stool from the other and plays my favourite song of his, New Coat Of Paint, on the riverbank.

THE BREAKFAST CLUB

8am. Little does she know it but for one of the women waiting in the queue for coffee this morning, life will change dramatically and it will turn on the spin of a coin.

The woman in front of her in the queue - the one who still can't decide whether or not to add a pastry to her order - woke up this morning believing it would be her. The job interview is in one hour and it will turn her whole existence upside down in a good way if she succeeds but she won't. She is dressed for success, has done her homework and she knows her hair is immaculate because she checks it in every reflective surface she can find.

The woman behind her in the queue balances on a walker. She is old now - or at least she feels old. Four months ago, she couldn't walk at all. This is a Neil Armstrong sized step for her. She knows she has been written off in the eyes of those who look at her but right now, her biggest concern is how she is going to carry her coffee and move the walker.

But today, it is the woman in the middle we are focusing on. She checks her phone for the umpteenth time. Nothing. She holds it close to her face to see how many bars of signal she has and checks the battery while she's there. Both are looking good but still the phone doesn't ring.

The woman with the job interview has decided on a pastry after all. She pays and goes to sit by herself. Now at the front of the queue, our subject orders a latte and slips her phone into her bag as she fishes change from her purse. The phone rings! She drops the change into the barrista's hand and grabs for her phone - as her fingers find the slab of glass, she looks quickly at the display and it stops ringing before she can answer it.

The display reads: 

UNKNOWN CALLER

She sighs, drops the phone back into her bag and notices the woman with the walker standing behind her. Things could be worse, she tells herself, but they couldn't really. She just doesn't know it yet.

SIGN O' THE TIMES

Today, the Prince corporation (I'm not sure what else to call the people that have been left in charge of his catalogue) have released the original version of Nothing Compares 2 U in various guises (notably here - where I can't find it at all yet but I guess they may add it soon, and here).

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I'd never heard the story of what the song was about before (you can read that here at The Guardian) but right at the end of the piece, there's a quote from his sound engineer, Susan Rogers, who says this about him: 

"He realised he had to socially handicap himself to be the artist he wanted to be, and that to do that without being an asshole he had to be a complete enigma"

While I don't have the inclination to be anything like a total enigma, this rang with me. Any creative field at its core has to be about doing whatever you want to do (or not as the case may be) and at the extreme end of that is accepting responsibility for failure as well as success... but you can only do that inside your own head. The only way to be authentically creative is to ignore both praise and criticism and keep working. Your only role in the grand stage-play that is your life is to produce the work regardless.

And if there comes a day when The Angels are too busy looking after some other shit to fill your being with inspiration, so be that too.

I guess the hard part of being fiercely independent is making the money part work for you... then again, as Prince said of the whole affair regarding the dirty stuff:

"Money?! It’s not about money!"

Because when it does start to become about money, you're screwed. You're better off working in a petrol station and writing/recording/drawing whatever the hell you like than you are being at the beck and call of a 'company' whose very existence relies on whether you're commercially viable or not. 

You can learn a lot from Prince - particularly about how to write good songs.

Stand By For Pain

Where my head has been for the last six months I have no idea. Maybe I burnt out a little. Hell, maybe I burnt out a lot. I put on some weight, went back to my legendary smoking crutch and wandered about the place like a lost soul. Pathetic.

I blame getting my hair cut back at the end of November - for the record, it was just broken and I needed to start again. Six months on it seems have come out of the shock, woken up from its coma and with Spring in the air, it's doing what it's supposed to. To help it along, earlier this week I started training for a 5k run. 5k is not far, but the last time I ever ran 5k was ummm.. 1991 perhaps. My breasts don't quite swing in the wind from a lack of activity but when you're a man, it's best to arrest these things before they get out of control. If you're on Apple Music, you can share my running playlist here. If you're on Spotify, you'll have to make your own. These are the two camps we have been forced into. It ain't about politics, race or gender. You will now be categorised by which music streaming service you use and given those other alternatives, that's a good thing.

A few weeks back, I discovered something called Live From Daryl's House. The main site is linked up there but you can find most of it over on YouTube - natch. Every episode is wonderful and makes me think this is the way forwards for many, many things. It breathes life into everybody. There are no losers in scenarios such as this. You don't even have to be a particular fan of Daryl Hall to enjoy it but if you weren't before, you will be after. Inspiring is what it is. Imagine a similar show from Alice Cooper's house... Nancy Wilson... Brian May... visited by other musicians who 'got it'. Sheeran... Randy Crawford... Bernie Taupin... Trent Reznor. 

It would only be a matter of time before fools decided they would like a slice of the pie but it would be great while it lasted. Anyway, if you have time for a taster, here's the entire episode in which Cheap Trick turn up at the door:


Meanwhile, I have decided to step away from and close down the Big Bear Rescue project - if you happened to buy one of the shirts we had out there or threw some coins into the digital jar, thanks a million. Really. I learned many things from trying to help the world out in a small way. Things like, how hard it is to be heard in a sea of voices all saying similar things. Things like how 'busy' huge organisations can be when you ask for their help with a little social media leverage - and if you read between the lines, you can read that as 'not very helpful at all. Ever.' There are other factors along the way and it makes me feel sad that I couldn't grow it how I wanted to. Truth be told, it feels like a huge failure but I can shoulder it.

If I was Neil Gaiman, the whole thing would have taken off at such a rate of knots that healthy bears would be roaming the earth like some acid-tinged remake of Planet of the Apes but I'm not and it didn't. A little part of me thought I might have some leverage with the magazine readership but back at the ranch, The Boss kindly used some of his own cash to spread a post about it to our 1.5+ million followers and you know how many shirts it helped to sell?

None.

Down, but not out. I figured out that my time would be better spent as a small wheel within a much larger wheel. More on this in the next few days... I'm waiting on some confirmations coming back and fingers crossed, I can get my hands dirty again... or my feet wet as is actually the case.

I guess there are life lessons to learn here. Maybe one day I'll figure out what they are.


Finally, no resurrection of my blog would be complete without The Hound having the last word...

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