10 More Things I Have Learnt Since Living Alone.

This week is three months since I moved out on my own. It’s been tough. I’m still learning some valuable lessons and thought it would be only fair to share them in the hopes they can guide you through your life.

Utilities are expensive
I can remember my parents always going on at me about leaving the lights on or for having every TV on in the house because it made me feel like I was at a noisy party but I didn’t realise when they said it was expensive, that they actually meant it. I thought it was just one of those things parents say like “don’t pull on it, it’ll fall off” or “smoking is bad for you”. I have come to realise that everything in this life costs money and it’s utter bullshit. I’ve even had to stop flushing the toilet before I go just to make sure there are no crocodiles in the pipes. If I go missing, you know where to search first (u-bend).

Constant washing
Doing the washing or indeed the washing up is a thankless task which is why I make sure I stand in front of the mirror and say “thank you for doing that Paul” three times like I’m trying to call up Bloody Mary to do the housework. There’s always something that needs to be done. You cook an egg, there’s a frying pan to wash up. You eat the egg and get yolk down yourself, there’s a t-shirt to wash. It’s utter bullshit. 

Food is becoming a luxury 
It’s the weekend before payday. I’ve got enough to survive but I would be embarrassed to tell you what I’ll be dining on until Wednesday.

If something is broken, I have to fix it
I’ve realised that I have to treat my things well or I am fucked. I dropped a frame, shattered the glass everywhere. It’s still on the floor. “Someone will deal with that” I thought. Fuck, that someone is me. I have become a dab hand at fixing things though. This week I’ve fixed the blinds in my bedroom which someone managed to derail. I’ve also fixed my toilet although the handle is now angled like it is performing a constant Nazi salute.

I probably need a vacuum cleaner
You’ll be disgusted to know that I don’t have a vacuum yet. There’s one that I have been told that I can have, but it’s almost ten miles away, and it’s only been three months. What’s the problem? I imagine you think the flat is a state. You’re wrong. It turns out that if you leave it long enough, a little bobbed elf will come round and painstakingly dustpan and brush the whole flat for you while you’re at work. I am getting it sorted though.

I have proper conversations like an adult now
Last weekend I went to a housewarming/birthday BBQ at my friend’s new house which was brilliant. We were stood in the garden, nursing beers and talking about cavity wall insulation with no sense of irony.

There are some things you can’t be cheap about
Toilet paper and bin bags are the immediate things that come to mind. If you buy poor quality of either, you’ll end up ripping through it and getting shit on your hand.

If people come round, you have to offer them a cup of tea
I wouldn’t drink tea if it wasn’t for other people turning up here. I wouldn’t wear clothes if it wasn’t for other people turning up here. As soon as people step onto that welcome mat, I feel obliged to offer them tea. Where did that come from?

I have to consider expiry dates
There is nothing more humiliating than a hand covered in cobweb-like bread mould. When I buy a loaf it becomes a race against nature to get through it before Alexander Fleming turns up to swizzle it about in a petri dish, the Nobel prize winning fuck. Don’t even get me started on avocados.

I’m happy
Despite what one of my best friends told me about my mortgage stifling my creativity, I feel in a very good space. I’m hard at work to the sequel to The Stamp Collective as well as putting the final touches to Yallah! It’s a lot of hard work to maintain the output I do, but being alone and having time with my thoughts are essential. I’ve got that where I am at the moment and I feel very lucky for it.

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Then you put the boot in…

So Team Sticky Bandits are now just four weeks away from our 10K Marine Commando Challenge. We have booked a hotel, which was so much of a bargain I still worry that I might have done it wrong and we have now started getting our kit together. From the off we said we wanted to have team t-shirts printed up, which we are in the process of doing but last weekend, we concentrated on our boots.

The website suggests that you go to an army surplus store and get a good pair of boots with noble ankle support and then take the time to break them in effectively before the run. We should just have enough time to get that done based on our recent shopping exploits. We met (eventually) at the Army & Navy store in Southend and were guided through our options by a man I imagine to be a fan of both nuclear warfare and Warhammer. He showed us their UK Army Assault boots which are the actual boots worn by the actual army. Not only are they the actual boots worn by the actual army but the actual boots they had for sale were the actual boots worn by the army, as in, the army had worn the available boots. They were recycled, they were second-hand, they were the boots of babykillers. We were enthralled.

‘So where have these boots come from’ asked Luke, trying to find out if they had been in the shit as it were. The guy refused to give us a straight answer and our minds ran away from us. Luke and I each goth a pair and I made quite the parade of marching up and down the shop. They put a spring in my step and elevated me a couple of vital inches above my usual six foot. As the guy declared Luke’s new booties to be slightly more scuffed than mine, he got them at a discounted price. On the drive back, Luke sat riding bitch and goaded me about his new boots, claiming they had been in ‘Nam and that he had found a tooth stuck in the tread.

There are three of us training for the run together as a unit, although at the moment the unit is probably only centimetres.
Note: considering it’s seven in the morning and I have a hangover, that’s a really clever joke.
The third of our party Luke B, refused to buy actual army boots off the actual army and is in the process of getting a better deal elsewhere. As punishment, we tricked him into running 9k with us. You wonder how that’s possible. Well, he doesn’t use a run tracking app (like the brilliant one provided by Nike) so relied on us to tell him the distances we had covered. We lied and then took an extended route on the way back so what he thought was 5k was over 9. Luke and I then ran laps of the car park until we ticked over to the 10k mark.
We are getting there. We are almost ready to take on the world, just give us a chance to get matching camo trousers first.

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Advice for life.

In recent months there have been a number of changes in my life. I find myself drawn to taking advice from other people as if it is gospel. What I really wanted was some advice for myself that I can turn to and so I created the below list. It is by no means complete but I can’t imagine that any list of its ilk ever should be. Here is my advice for my life.

1. Write about what you know but remember you know your own imagination.
2. There is nothing that can’t be solved by listening to The Beatles or a strong dose of antibiotics.
3. Wear all the black you can.
4. You don’t owe or own other people.
5. Cold hands, warm heart.
6. A weekend wasted is not a wasted weekend.
7. Floss.
8. You will never get today back.
9. Cut out poisonous situations and relationship for your own good.
10. Never regret. It got you where you are.
11. Imagine a string emerging from the top of your head and keeping you up straight.
12. When wearing headphones it is best to imagine you are in a music video.
13. Season to taste.
14. Layers are important.
15. If it doesn’t bring you joy or serve a purpose then let it go.
16. Make mixed tapes for specific journeys. They deserve the attention of a soundtrack.
17. Always tell people you love them, especially as you leave.
18. Dog-ear the pages of your books to track down quotes you loved later. There is nothing a book appreciates more than being physically assaulted.
19. Take the time to appreciate both architecture and nature.
20. You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you just might find you get what you need
21. It’s okay to be scared.
22. It’s very hard to get a good bagel in an airport.
23. Just remember, that body of yours is on loan.

Californication.

For the past few months my life has been consumed by thoughts of Hank Moody, the foul-mouthed, womanising, near-alcoholic anti-hero at the centre of Showtime’s Californication. From the start I was hooked and have told almost everyone I have since been in touch with that it is indeed the series of the gods.
What Californication does so well is to take the story of a writer, or as far as I am concerned, a writer who doesn’t seem to be able to get a lot of writing done, and ramp it, to make it cooler, sexier, more worthy of screen time. It has genuine heart and wonderful character and you will the action along because you are just waiting for Moody to get his shit together and realise what has been waiting for him the whole time.
if you are yet to witness the power of Californication then I can assure you, you are missing out.

Obersting at the seams.

In the summer of 2006 I was in my friend’s car. It was the kind of warm that in retrospect you can never recall surviving through. He put on an album that he told me I was wrong. It opened a door that it was impossible to close. That album was I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning by Bright Eyes.

During Bright Eyes set at Glastonbury in 2011 I cried when they performed Poison Oak. I have no idea why but the moment and the rain and Conor Oberst’s beautiful Elvish cloak took me and ravished tears upon my cheeks.

Last week I managed to secure tickets to see Conor solo at KOKO in Mornington Crescent. Of course when you see Conor play solo there is a band onstage. That band was Dawes who had the pleasure of not only being Conor’s backing band but also being his support act. It’s fair to say that they won the audience over, particularly when we were advised they weren’t just a hack support act and as such had been handpicked by wimp rocker’s Jesus, Conor, himself.

I stood just five heads from the stage in the smaller-than-I-could-remember venue with my friend Sam who has covered more Bright Eyes covers than I could ever remember and awaited the arrival of the man we put on a pedestal. Fortunately he wasn’t knocked off of it when he took to the stage in a wide brimmed black hat and matching suit jacket and jeans.

Thrown into the mix of songs were Bright Eyes classics including Lover I Don’t Have To Love, We Are Nowhere and It’s Now and Hit The Switch as well as a number of songs from his newest solo album Upside Down Mountain. With each slither of downtime between songs it was impossible to tell where the set was headed and what we would get to experience. When introducing Governer’s Ball, Conor asked if we minded if he played something from the new album. From deep in the throngs came a voice.
“I love that album. It touched me.”
Without missing a beat, Conor simply said “no comment” which was met with giggles from the crowd.

The back line left for Lua before returning together for an encore of No One Would Riot For Less, Cape Canaveral and Another’ Travelin’ Song. It was an incredible set to witness and one that left me wanting answers to questions that had yet to form. He is a hero to me and a huge influence and I hope I never meet him.

Conor and his band played:

Time Forgot  
Zigzagging Toward the Light  
Moab
We Are Nowhere and It’s Now
Hit the Switch
Artifact #1  
If The Brakeman Turns My Way
Lover I Don’t Have to Love
Governor’s Ball  
Double Life  
Danny Callahan  
Firewall
Desert Island Questionnaire
Poison Oak
Old Soul Song (For the New World Order)
I Got the Reason #2
Lua
Encore:
No One Would Riot for Less
Cape Canaveral
Another Travelin’ Song

Village Green ’14

I often write about the smorgasbord of talent that Southend and the surrounding areas has to offer. It seems that all of my friends do a thing whether it be music, art, poetry, stand up, juggling, improv, DJing, yoga, script-writing or anything else. What an incredible thing Village Green is therefore for being able to represent these things and even better was my invitation to perform as an alumni of my college along with Adam and Lance aka Charlie’s Hand Movements who I wax lyrical about at every given possibility and will no doubt continue to do so later on in this post.

I turned up early to collect my trader’s wristband, have a cup of tea and wander around the site as the last items were set up and the hordes descended. How different the place is, how serene and noble before there is anyone in it but the vendors, traders and artists trying to batten down the hatches. I watched the sound check on the main stage, ran into an old friend and waited for the clock to tick over to 12 before enjoying my first Red Stripe of the day.
Beside our performance area (because I’m that self involved) was a face painting table set up by SEEVIC. I considered a Stipean (or indeed now Stampian) band of colour across the top half of my face but instead just shuffled around pretending I had important things to do and hiding behind a tree to practice. The invite had been a little ad-hoc and last minute. As such I didn’t have any idea when I was on, how many songs I would be doing or what songs they would be and it was only when sat with Sam, Cat and Freya later I jotted ten songs down on a post it note. After watching Mikey, Adrien and Jack it was my turn. The face painting table was packed out. It was going to be good.
I played:
Good To Dream
An Oblivion I Own
Listen Up
Charlie
Broken Record Love Song
What Katie Did
Scratchings
Coming Down
Don’t Expect To Hear From Me

Wandering back offstage in a hot flush I sat and watched Charlie’s Hand Movements pull it all together. They played a blinding set including Missyerface which they assured me would be ropey at best. It remains one of my favourite songs of theirs because they pulled it off with such aplomb. There were also a couple of new tracks much the anticipated second album.

I loves Village Green. The complaints about the ten pound ticket fee should be laughed out of the park. Just think what you are getting for that ten pounds. Think where that is going and don’t forget the sunscreen.

My thanks to people who came to watch and to Cat and Sam for filming. Thank you to SEEVIC and especially to Charlie’s Hand Movements.

The Libertines – Hyde Park.

On a walk to school in 2003 my friend Mike bought a copy of the NME. On the cover was a bulb-eyed, shaven-headed young man who was apparently the coolest thing that had happened that week. His name was Peter Doherty. He had been arrested for stealing from his bandmate’s flat while they were on tour without him in Japan. Something about the image stayed with me and I resolved to give this band a listen. I got hold of Up The Bracket and fell in love.
Last night, The Libertines played together for the first time in four years. I was there at Reading. I was here now. Watching them walk out onto the stage in their ragamuffin finery took me back to where I originally got my faith for love and music. It was an incredible thing to be a part of. There was none of the distance or animosity that fans encounter from one another in most gigs, everyone dug in and became the stylish kids in the riots. I screamed lyrics into the faces of people I had never met and would never see again. We smashed into each other, twirling in Converse and Chelsea boot trampled circles as we became the boys in the band. Sweat ran down every face and contorted spine. It was absolute bliss.
Personally it was incredible for being able to share the gig with a friend that I have loved The Libertines alongside for a number of years. Their fans tend to be drawn towards each other, there’s a brothers in arms mentality when it comes to being a Libs fan, especially when you have to throw all the tabloid hoopla out of the way of anyone who dares query their greatness. Part of what makes them so good is that everyone is aware that the whole thing can implode or explode at any moment. It was only two songs into their set before they had to stop because people were being crushed into the barriers at the front.
Through Up The Bracket and What A Waster, two fans stripped stark bollock naked and clambered onto the lighting rig to my right. Soon a hundred other begging men and women had followed after them, mangled bodies pressed together, a number beginning to head up the rigging itself before the band were stopped once more and they were forced to climb back down. This left the band with the opportunity to take things down a notch and after a failed plunge of France, Peter took up the call of Albion and the crowd adored it, Carl singing a verse of the Babyshambles song in solidarity. The set ended with I Get Along and a reading of Sassoon’s 1918 poem, Suicide In The Trenches. There was no encore. There could be no encore. They had done what they needed to do. All that was left was the announcement of two shows at the Ally Pally in September for which we have already secured tickets.

The band played:
‘Vertigo’
‘Boys In The Band’
‘The Delaney’
‘Campaign Of Hate’
‘Time For Heroes’
‘Horrorshow’
‘Begging’
‘The Ha Ha Wall’
‘Music When The Lights Go Out’
‘What Katy Did’
‘The Boy Looked At Johnny’
‘Can’t Stand Me Now’
‘Last Post On The Bugle’
‘Love On The Dole’
‘Death On The Stairs’
‘Radio America’
‘Don’t Look Back Into The Sun’
‘Tell The King’
‘Up The Bracket’
‘What A Waster’
‘France’
‘Albion’
‘I Get Along’

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