#11 – Ride a horse.

They say that horses are intelligent creatures, don’t they?
Wait, am I thinking of dolphins? Or velociraptors?
Clever girl.

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Anyway, one of the things I really wanted to do was ride a horse. I think I was inspired by Django Unchained. I can’t think what other reason I have for wanting to do anything. Ride a horse. Become a free man. Eat some white cake.
The opportunity to ride a horse came to be on my actual 30th birthday. Clarissa had offered before but I had never committed. Here’s the thing about saying you’re going to do something, sometimes you actually end up doing it.

I don’t trust horses. I feel like they are plotting something. What do they know that we don’t? Why are they always standing about, watching everything? What have they seen? They say “oh, if I could be a fly on the wall”, try being a fucking horse.

The first thing I noticed about Bentley, my noble stead, is that he was massive. Apparently he’s small for a horse. He’s bigger than a vacuum cleaner or a Paul Schiernecker so in the grand scheme of things, I’m declaring him big. He also didn’t like me. Horses do what the fuck they want, don’t they? Unless you’re some kind of cryptic horse whisperer, threatening that they’ll become Iceland Lasagne, horses rule the roost. Clarissa made me dress him in a little S&M waistcoat and then we took him out into the ménage. That’s basically where they train horses and idiots, dressed in pea coats, who haven’t been on horses before. It’s a fenced in square, covered over in sand, so if you land on your tuchus you’re not going to die.

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I assumed I would be a naturally gifted horse rider. I quickly realised that the reason I thought I would be able to ride is that I once spent an entire weekend eating chicken nuggets and playing Red Dead Redemption. It turns out that you can’t tap A to make it go faster. Instead, you have to be horrible to him.

Basically, there are a lot of instructions to follow. I was busy trying to send pictures to my brothers and didn’t hear a lot of them. It’s sort of like riding a bike. You put your hand out to the side to make a turn. You also have to talk to the horse. This is where it becomes different to riding a bike. You don’t talk to a bike. I’ve seen people talking to bikes but they were in Amsterdam.
You are supposed to be sure of what you’re saying, which is difficult when you don’t ever feel sure of what you’re saying. I mean, how can I be in charge, he’s been horse riding a lot more than I have, and we both know it.

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After much persuasion (Clarissa to me), Bentley started doing what I wanted. He still stopped at the gate because he hated me and he always diverted off the course but other than that, we had a good time. I even managed to get him to trot.
The only harsh thing is that to do so, you have to give them a little kicking. At first I was really apprehensive because it’s like someone punching me in the kidneys to force me to run.

Basically, riding horses is excellent. Now I’m gonna go and hunt some foxes and poor people.

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#5 – Write a letter to myself at the age of 60.

Dear Paul,
As you can imagine, this is a weird letter to have to write. I mean, I’m me. You’re me. It’s asking for all kinds of disappointment for either one, or both of us. I have spent a lot of years worrying about not achieving the great things I always felt I would achieve. I don’t want to put too much of a downer on what I am hoping is a spectacular birthday for us both.

I am writing this letter as part of a challenge I set myself. I wanted to complete a list of thirty things I wanted to do before I was thirty. I achieved some of these. I am hoping that between the pair of us we managed to take that train ride across India and visit somewhere to see the Northern Lights.

So here is where I am at now. I’m thirty years old. I am working. I know I am lucky to have a job but it is not what I feel I was put on this planet to do.
I have a one-bedroom flat where I can see the hospital in which I was born from the kitchen window. This flat is always cold, especially in February. We are due to clear the mortgage in thirty-two years.

I have independently published four books (Where Did All The Money Go, The Stamp Collective, Yallah! and The Stamp Brotherhood). I have written, recorded and released an album called Workbook. My latest project was co-writing a zombie dinner show called Delectably Dead with Scott. All I want to do is write and love and travel.

Today I went for lunch with Clarissa and then rode Bentley, her horse. Again, this is something that was on my list of things to do before I was thirty.
I’m waiting for Luke, Luke, Ben, Kate and Alex to come round for pizza and games. I’m taking Clarissa, Dad and Sue to see Delectably Dead tomorrow.
On Friday I’ll be out in Southend with my friends. I wonder what you are doing and who you are with. I hope you see Robb and Edd as much as you can. Unfortunately, they know you better than anyone and should be feared and respected.

I hope you don’t let your ego step on important friendships and I hope you are still a force to be reckoned with.

I guess what I was to say is that I am proud of the pair of us. Wherever you are, it’s where I am heading and I know you have solid reasons for everything.
Just stay true to who you are and what we want.

If you aren’t still writing then now is the time to pick it up again. Go and listen to DeBussy and make something great.

I love you.

Paul.
x.

Davey Hal – Materials Logic

It would be fair to say that our little seaside town is not short of talent. That’s why I was pleased to see that one of the most prominent voices on the local scene, Davey Hal, was working on his first solo album, and enthralled when he asked me to give Materials Logic an exclusive listen.

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From the piano run on Soothe The Grey, the opener, you are invited into Hal’s world, a heady mix of late night love stories in a cocktail lounge. The harmonies present are ethereal, almost medieval in tone, grand. It’s strong without ever being overstated. The piano accompanies and underpins lyrics on royalty and death. This is immediately followed by Night Walking, a song with so much jazz club funk to its bassline that it forces a waltz quickstep into your feet as you attempt to move to the beat. It’s here that Hal’s voice is given the chance to sour, on a chorus that has been stuck in my head for at least the last fortnight.  The song that was played on TIME107.5FM last week, finally bridging the gap between those who love Materials Logic and those who are yet to hear it. It has a In The Wee Small Hours.

White Walls sounds closer to the Davey Hal you might have seen at one of the many performances he blesses upon our town. A simple guitar track, with a strange likeness to something High Flying Birds would produce. It’s a song of attempted escape, an ode to love. The album takes a moment to recover with the instrumental track, Berdou, before Davey can pick up his guitar again and ask you to Run With Me. It’s the first real pop song of the album. It sounds like an instant classic, something beautiful and familiar. There’s a Paul Simon influence in there at times and yet another chorus worthy of being sung back by thousands of voices. Album title track Materials Logic slows matters down considerably, like a villain’s exposition in a performance, Hal’s voice starting out in a low chatter that sounds like it’s creeping before he soars, showcasing his range, crying out for an answer. The key change into the final refrain is particularly chilling.

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“Head up, left foot against a wall” he begins on Fingertips before listing attributes of a lover in a seaside town. It’s equal parts affectionate and scathing, figuring that the subject is human anyway and does her hair while he’s asleep. Your Stone is close in tone to the title track, again going through the trials of some mystery woman Hal is observing and inspired by. Up Into Her Clouds is a straight-up love song, drawing on weather in the way only an Englishman can in order to explain his amore for anyone. The jaunty piano solo in the middle is reminiscent of something on Rubber Soul before Hal reveals that his admiration proved too much and turns the mood sour in the way love often does.

Dear Mary creeps in like another performance piece, sung in the early hours and utilising everything Hal has to explain the situation to his Mary to the point of his own frustration. My Senses ambles in after her, the final thoughts of a man who has given everything of his own over eleven tracks and 42 minutes. It is close to Turner’s Submarine EP in production, nothing to overcomplicate and draw from the raw talent that is Davey Hal and the showcase of this that is Materials Logic.

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Materials Logic by Davey Hal is available on iTunes now.

Blue Monday.

This week in my bizarre little double life, I have been lucky enough to stay up through the night working on re-drafts of a script, drunk whiskey in Ving Rhames’ favourite London pub and talked about guns, opera and the most effective way to simulate brain matter with a university lecturer.

We are still hard at work on the Delectably Dead project which has its opening night in about three weeks. Scott and I sat up all night playing around with the script and doing silly voices. We then read it to George and were all happy with what we had. Then I slept for the longest time.

When I came round, I caught up with one of my best friends at the OKH in London Bridge before heading to GBK and eating my weight in sweet potato fries. I have since become addicted to abbreviations. Over the course of our catch up we talked about love, money and zombies, the key topics which had changed since we last spoke. There’s something daunting about the idea of turning 30 so it was good to try and hash out some kind of plan for that with one of my nearest and dearest.

On my night off I hit the gym and then spent an hour on the phone to my dad explaining what a zombie dinner show is. Despite the fact he gets scared when Zombie Pete comes out of the shower curtain in Shaun Of The Dead he has agreed to come and see the show. I am so excited about it that I could vomit. In fact, I did, just last night, but that was because I got a little overzealous with the tongue scraper.

Scott, George and I met with a special effects director, fight choreographer and all round awesome guy who works locally and agreed to give us some pointers for the show. Without seeming pious in any way, shape or form he provided a list of things we needed to work towards pulling off as well as pulling out some of the most incredible anecdotes for us to enjoy. He has even said he is interested in coming to see the show and giving us lessons in stage combat. I’m a lover, not a fighter, but that is not to be missed.

With enough juice down us to satisfy our five a day we headed back to the unit and prepped some of the additional work required for the play. We want the project to be as immersive as possible so there are all kinds of tricks and games going on behind the scenes. I don’t want to give anything away but at midnight I was running around a car park with a Nerf gun, pretending to be a girl from above the Watford gap.

As I have mentioned recently, I am really enjoying where I am at currently. It’s sometimes surreal, often tiring, but I would not give it up for anything. Scott says you have to throw enough shit at a wall for something to stick. I’m trying to throw enough Schiernecker.

#1 – Write a screenplay.

It has to be accepted among “creative people” that it is very rare to finish up the projects we start. I have lost count of the amount of times I have excitedly started something, only to lose the passion for it somewhere along the way. Some of those things will remain unfinished forever, and I have to be cool with that as an idea. We all have to be cool with that as an idea. I have started a number of things that I will never get around to finishing for one reason or another.
I suppose it was for that reason that when my dear friend Scott asked if I wanted to write a play with him that I assumed it was going to be one of many projects that never really comes to fruition. If the percentage of things I start and finish on my own is low, then the number of things I start and finish as part of a collaboration is even lower.
The maths is quite interesting. You take the chance of you ever finishing anything and times it by the chance of the other person ever finishing anything and then do some maths and the odds are pretty low. I’m not even going to complete that equation. It’s just another unfinished thing.

Now the cool thing about Scott is that he co-owns Hide and Shriek with his friend George. The pair of them are like the odd couple. George needs numbers and calm. He works well on his own and very much speaks his mind. He’s like a cat I guess. Scott on the other hand is like a dog. He is silly and he loves people and he will do almost anything to get a cuddle. Somehow, the pair of them work together very well. George counts the beans and Scott watches YouTube videos and screams Sum 41 lyrics. Maybe that was more my influence than anything else.

The show they wanted me to help with was a dinner show. Dinner shows are popular at our local theatre, but they are mainly aimed at a British sitcom nostalgia audience. Things like Fawlty Towers and Father Ted are put on over the course of a three course meal. Hide and Shriek were contacted by the second largest theatre company in the UK to put together a zombie dinner show. I just happened to wander into their unit in Southend when Scott was putting ideas together for it. And the rest, as they say, is history. Scott told me about this before Christmas and it wasn’t really something that either of us picked up until into the New Year. It was then he told me that the first date for the show was 7th February 2017. I pretended that was absolutely fine.

In the last two weeks we have put together a script. We have redrafted and rewritten. We have spent entire days locked up in their tiny office with just electric storage heaters and a borrowed coffee machine for company. We went insane, we slept among rats and set pieces when we could. We watched a lot of YouTube videos. We danced to Avril Lavigne. We tried to work out if we fancied Josh Homme or Brody Dalle-Homme more. George would come in and poke us with a stick to make sure we were still alive, and then throw us a pack of NikNaks in the hopes it would give us enough energy to carry on.

We have held auditions, shot promo shots and a video, met with people from the theatre and considered dropping it all to write a drag show. It has been an incredible experience and we are now in a position where we not only have an amazing script and a brilliant opportunity but also an amazing cast who all immediately shone. I feel so excited to be a part of something that I truly believe in. There were tough days but I wouldn’t change it for anything else and am so grateful that I get to be involved with something that is gathering so much interest.

On top of that, Scott and George let me be the central focus of the promotional stuff. They even photoshopped my teeth.
Thanks guys.

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#14 – Research my family genealogy.

In my constant quest to get good post I sent away for a DNA Collection Kit from 23AndMe. I don’t know much about my family history. My paternal grandfather was born and raised in Amsterdam during the Nazi occupation. He never really shared a lot about what happened to him understandably. I know it was quite a hard thing to go through. He never spoke to us directly about it but he did eventually write about it. He was my last surviving grandparent so when he passed away, it left me with all these questions about where I came from. I thought I would eventually get round to addressing this.
I was actually contacted a year ago by a distant cousin, based in Holland. She had a lot of history on the family and was able to share pictures of my great great-grandfather and the Schiernecker family from the 1920s and earlier.
I have an ongoing conversation with my brothers about Britishness and what it means to be British. I describe myself as being a mongrel child of Europe. My brother is quite set in thinking he is British, which is ridiculous. Nobody is British, especially us.

The kit consists of a small pot that at first I thought meant I had to give myself a blood test. I had to go thirty minutes without food or drink which was a struggle as I had celebrated opening the box by eating a pack of Hula Hoops. I had to spit to the fill line, which they advise is two to six minutes of spitting. I then had to ship the box back, ironically, to the Netherlands.

They then send you a test result back with a percentage breakdown for each country. Before I start, I would guess that I am a quarter Dutch and there’s some Germany in there. On my paternal grandmother’s side they are English but I’ve recently been told there is some Jewish heritage in there. My mum’s family is Jewish so I guess there are eastern European links there, maybe something Israeli originally. I think it’ll be a real hotchpotch of stuff in there.

So, five weeks later I got my results through. This was following a weird incident where I took the spit speciment out to a fancy London bar and had my bag checked. I digress.

It’s quite interesting looking at what I said before and what the results showed:

screen-shot-2016-12-24-at-13-35-48 screen-shot-2016-12-24-at-13-35-36Now I’m going to assume that the 17.8% Broadly Northwestern European is going to be Dutch based on what I know of my family history.

I had to look up Ashkenazi Jewish. It’s basically the Eastern European Jewish community who spoke Hebrew and Yiddish. It’s cool to see because I’ve always been interested in my ancestry, particularly my Jewish heritage. More than anything else that’s what I am composed of. I think my father’s side is the split and my mother’s is just Jew. Jew down the line.

I also got a list of famous people who are in the same Haplogroup on my mother’s side:
screen-shot-2016-12-24-at-13-39-33Imagine them at a dinner party.
It would explain some of the bumbling nonsense that comes out of my family that we are related to Prince Philip I guess.

There are also family traits:
screen-shot-2016-12-24-at-13-41-37This is all above board. I can confirm my ear wax is wet.
My eye colour changes. It’s sort of blue and green and grey. A lovely little Spirograph.
I also have <1% chance of having red hair and am likely to smoke more if I am a smoker.

I am 2.5% neanderthal which is lower than the average of 2.7%. This makes sense as I have a higher brow, narrow shoulders, taller than average.

So I guess the point of all this is that’s what makes up me and my brothers. If you go back then that’s who my dad is and on the other side, the Jewish side, is my mum. I would be interested to get both of them to do it to see what they have given me, aside from being pretty awesome parents.

Just remember, when we are threatening to leave Europe, that we are all from Europe, or further afield and there’s nothing wrong with that. We can all exist together. There’s not some ulterior motive in people that makes them want to be here. We have it pretty good. We are pretty fucking lucky. You’re talking about people who are related to you. You’re talking about people who are only split off from yourself by a couple of generations.
People say that charity begins at home. What is closer to home than the planet we inhabit?