Issue #34: June 13th - 19th, 2003
Rebecca's Birthday (part one)
The Job Application
Who is Mr Gavin James Mcgregor Dunbar?
Reality, with Sister Janice
Hello my little universes of unity,
I'm not answering letters this week, I've got something else to show you.
Put on your helmet, strap on the oxygen tank, and come with me. We're going.... nowhere.
Nowhere. Nothing. We're a million miles from the nearest star. The only light is that which emanates from within The Space Shed - the shifting, falling blue glow of a lava lamp which casts little illumination on our exploration. You can barely even see your hand in front of your face. Now, step out of the airlock (I got some friendly mechanics I met in a Saturnian bar to fit that. Its very useful) and onto nothing.
You won't fall, at least not straight away. The harness holds you to the space-craft. Hold the rope, and try and remain the right way up. It doesn't matter - it'll just make you feel better, for the moment. In a few seconds none of it will seem important.
This is where you feel like panicking. This isn't quiet, this is silence. Silence like you've never known. In fact, as you're only with me in spirit, you can remove your helmet. Observe the void in your mind as it rushes in to the places you try so hard to fill. Imagine it full of air. You can breathe.
Now, forget about the air. Forget about everything. For a moment, just be here. no sound, no light, no feelings except those which occupy your inner self.
Now, let those go too. Let it all go. Imagine it being sucked into the vacuum. Everything you are. Everything you strive for. Everything you have ever been. In this state, in this nothingness, you can be anything you want... but why would you want to be anything at all? Don't accept the trials of trying to form an identity. Right now, you are beyond such limitations. You can be the universe, you can be a speck of dust, and you can see them both as essential parts of the same whole.
Or rather, they can be seen. You cannot see anything, for there is no 'you'. That idea is a construction that was made on Earth, formed of barriers created by the past.
Those barriers are gone. There is life, in the void. It flows into and out of your body the way it always has. Only here, in this place of placelessness, the life is not yours. It doesn't belong to you, although you are part of it. Do not presume to claim it for, in attempting to own, we are owned.
Are you frightened? The first time can be terrifying. Any liberation can be traumatic, if you aren' t ready for it. You have to be careful not to fight the experience. Just let it take you. Become free.
And now.. float. I will be silent.
A tug on the rope. Our time is up. We must go back to our lives. Back to the shed. Back to the noise, and the colour, and the sensation. Suddenly, it seems richer, fuller, complete. Why stay in a void, when there's beauty all around you? Put on the music, play it as loud as you can. We're in space, nobody will hear you.
Here's an old one - a disco classic, much overlooked. Throw your hands in the air, and wave 'em like you just don't care. After all, what have you really got to care about? You're alive. Its a beautiful universe.
Can you feel it? Can you really, really feel it?Oh, the redemptive power of retrospective dance! There's a whole new galaxy in that soaring melody, in the notes that glide through you. The life flows through the music, as the music flows through us.
If you're having trouble understanding me, I know of a very good teacher that may be able to help you.
For a leaflet, and instructions of how to sign up for a class when I next head towards your planet, write to:
Sister Janice Slejj
The Space Shed
(You might like to supply payment in the form of a rare twelve-inch disco record. Just a suggestion).
Just for a while, leave your troubles on the ground, where they belong. I guarantee when you come back from your journey you'll wonder why they ever seemed so huge.
Love, and peace
Rebecca's Birthday (part one)
Rebecca closed her eyes as tightly as she could, held her breath and wished Odin would stay forever. When she opened them again she saw her mum, her dad, her auntie Grace, her cousin Amanda and Tom (the boy who lived down the street) all looking at her expectantly while Jude was looking at the cake expectantly so she quickly blew the candles (one didn't go out at first and she had to try again). She blushed a little and sighed a sigh of relief when they stopped looking at her.
She didn't think they could read her mind. She was pretty sure Odin was the only one who could do that but then again you can never be sure. People never stopped surprising her and Rebecca didn't want to risk it.
Later on when everybody had left - her mum was doing something in the kitchen, her dad was pretending to be reading a newspaper in the front room and Jude was trying to digest the large amounts of cake she had devoured - Rebecca opened the front door and slipped out. She walked around the house until she got to the east, quiet side, where her grandmother's room once had been and where now her mum piled the laundry she didn't feel like ironing along with a lot of other stuff she didn't know what to do with. That was Rebecca's favourite place to hide in the winter. But in the summer - and now it was undeniably summer - her favourite place was right outside it.
This had been the way for a long, long time. Rebecca vaguely remembered the time her grandmother was alive, a time before Odin came to her and Amanda was born, and she remembered sitting at that same spot, right outside the window, or, rather, below the window. Because at that magical, half-forgotten time when her grandmother was still alive and spent her evenings sat in the dark listening to her radio Rebecca was small enough to fit between the windowsill and the ground.
That had long ago stopped being possible - it stopped soon after her grandmother died, the radio stopped playing, Amanda was born and her dad said Rebecca was old enough to go to school. He made it sound like a very special thing you earn when you've grown up enough but Rebecca wasn't sure spending half of your day in a classroom is the best thing that can happen to you. That of course didn't change anything - she had to go to school anyway - but she didn't really mind.
Rebecca had Odin, and you can't mind with Odin around. Odin is the promise of a better world - no, no: he is proof of a better world - and he was hers.
So she sat down on the ground, leaning against the wall, she hugged her knees and looked around. She saw the same green hills and the same mountain and the same moon she always saw. The sun had set but it wasn't quite dark yet and the sky was a purple shade of blue. Everything seemed to be a shade of blue that night - everything but the moon which was silver. Rebecca thought of how pretty Odin would look in this light and wondered how she looked in her birthday dress which happened to be purple too. It also happened to be meant to be worn on warm sunny days and not chilly purple evenings. Rebecca was cold but she was decided to stay there for as long as possible. Or at least for a while.
She was going to wait for him.
She put a wisp of her dark brown curly hair in her mouth and bit it gently. She made faces to herself as she looked at the hills and the mountain and the moon some more, and she waited; and while she did so she remembered the time she had first seen Odin and the way he was making faces to her then.
Now Rebecca wasn't the sort of girl to mull over the past - she had too much going on in the present - but that day was a special day and being retrospective and thankful seemed fitting. It wasn't only her fourteenth birthday but also ten years from the day she had first met Odin.
To be continued...
The Job Application
I'm writing to you in the hope you will consider me for supervisor position you advertised in the girl's big papery thing.
You state that you require a reliable person to be in charge of the quality control of the chocolate you produce. Although I'm not actually a person (and don't you think you could be being a little doggist by only advertising for one species), I would be very reliable. Each mealtime I ensure my girl's meal is good enough quality for her to eat. I also make sure that she doesn't eat my inferior canned food by licking my plate very clean in five minutes flat. I have had a great deal of experience when it comes to tasting chocolate and despite my tender years and have managed to eat two whole boxes of chocolates in my life. This is quite an achievement when you consider how carefully my girl guards her chocolate and you can see it would be no problem at all for me to test unguarded chocolate!
Please find attached my application form for the vacant job. I look forward to hearing from you in the near future (as I'm sure you have no better candidate for the job!)
Love and kisses,
The old man walked with a rickety gait before sinking into his dilapidated chair by the window that he still cleaned every Tuesday morning, rested his tea precariously on the arm of the chair, and waited; It was important to keep in touch with the world, he felt, although a lot of what he saw today shocked him. Girls as young as fourteen carrying another girl inside their wombs. Babies breeding babies. "It isn't right" he thought aloud, as a sharp and uneasy pang of sadness shot through his weary chest, "what's the world coming to?." He lifted his mug of tea with his hands shaking, trembling the way that they had done now for as long as he cared to remember. He hated having the bloody shakes, but I suppose it's a consequence of being old. "They never warn you about it" he thought "just as they don't warn you about haemorrhoids, and pissing your pants, and shitting the bed and forgetting where you are. They never tell you." He wasn't a bitter man, but he would have preferred a bit more honesty from others- the government especially- about what getting old actually entailed. "If I'd have known the fuss and the bother that you get yourself in, then I mightn't have bothered getting bloody old" he said aloud, and was quite surprised to do so. He took a sip of the tea then, using the remote control pad that he always had on the other arm of the chair, he switched on the TV. Nothing. Nothing at all. Absolute drivel. Just some cooking programme or other. On the other channels there was a) some kind of talk show, where people confess to cheating on their wives and the presenter tries to convey a sense of meaning and empathy to the proceedings ("even I can tell she's bloody fake, not bloody bothered in anything but her fee"), a programme devoted to North American sports ("they call THAT football?") and ("bloody hell") another cookery programme. He switched it off. Loneliness engulfed him. Longing suddenly burned inside the pit of his stomach. He was thinking about his wife. He couldn't help it. She had been dead for eight years now. He had tried to get over it, my God, he'd tried. He had listened as others spewed half-empty proverbs about time being a great healer. The truth is, time wasn't a great healer, each day got worse, each day he missed her more in some way, each day he sought to claw his way through time bolstered by memories of her. Each day, he wondered why he was still alive.
He remembered, without really trying, the first time he met her. It was just after the war, and he helped her haul the her case off the latest train pulling into the city, brimful with demobs and warmth. "Let me take that for you, love" he'd said. "But you don't know where I'm going" she'd replied with that glimmer of a smile, a chance, that these days crushed him. "Ah, we'll find it" he'd grinned.
And that, as they say, was that.
Two days later they'd made love in her bedroom whilst her mum made tea downstairs. He recalled the ecstasy of youth, their groans and sighs muffled by pillows and a rain that pounded the roof as if it as determined to get through to the life below. And, as he came, he remembered thinking "there's no going back now." Six months later, there wasn't. She was pregnant. He'd got a kicking of her old man, then a kicking off his old man, after which they'd both shaken his hand and congratulated him. Their mothers, meanwhile, made plans for an immediate wedding.
The baby was beautiful, life-giving, life-enhancing. A figure of supreme devotion and adoration. "I loved that baby" whispered the old man as the tears fell along his leathery cheek. "I loved him." The old man, not old then, and his child would play football together in the garden, they'd have mock fights- he'd never hurt him- and his wife would yell at them both for ruining the grass, but when they both shuffled towards her with a sheepish look on their faces, then that was enough- they were forgiven. Penance. After all this, the old man would take the boy upstairs with him, and they'd bathe together. He adored his boy and, sometimes, in the bath, he'd touch him, just to make sure that he was real, just to be sure that his own existence wasn't lived in a dream. He'd soap him up, and clean him from head to toe. He loved that kid. "No doubt, these days, the authorities, bloody high and mighty that they are, they'd accuse me of something or another. Can't they see it was just out of love for my little boy. Can't they?"
The old man hadn't seen his boy, now a man of course, for years. The boy had just packed his bag one night and left. He was about sixteen at the time. The old man still loved him, and it still hurt to high heaven that he no longer communicated with his boy. He didn't know what he had done wrong. "I might've been strict with him, a bit too much sometimes I suppose, but everything I did was in his own interests. Everything I did was out of love, pure bloody love, for him."
It was a quarter to twelve. Almost dinnertime. The old man was hungry. The distant memories had taken their toll on him. Not to worry, he thought. If he could hang on until twelve he could get one of the schoolchildren to run a little errand for him. He really fancied fish and chips. The kids don't mind, the young ones, they're really helpful. They do all sorts of things for him. "I love those kids" he said to himself, counting down the minutes...
Who is Mr Gavin James Mcgregor Dunbar?
This is the place where I am supposed to answer that question but I'm lazy, so I let him do it...
What is the first thing someone who has never heard of you should know about you?
There are seven of us, we're from Glasgow, we play music, kind of sixties...
I meant you not Camera Obscura, but okay...
Me. Right. I'm from Glasgow. My favourite band is New Order. I support Partick Thistle. and I like vodka. Actually I don't drink it much these days, forget that.
If you haven't guessed by now, Gaving plays in Camera Obscura. He also plays in a band called Stabiliser, he works at a record shop and runs The Whinchester Club along with some other people... How cool can one be?
Is Glasgow the best place to live?
I love Glasgow, I've lived here all my life and I don't ever want to live anywhere else. It has its problems like any other major city, but the good points about it outweigh everything else. It does tend to rain a lot, but I can't think of anywhere I'd rather live.
What's working in a record shop in Glasgow like?
It's probably much the same as working in a record shop anywhere. It always seems like such a fun job, and then you realise its 95% filing and you have to sell horrible records to horrible people, as well as good records to nice people.
Did you dream of being in a band when you were young?
Pretty much, I've always loved music and always wanted to play it.
And how did it come true?
I started playing in bands with friends (including kenny form the obscura) and we just messed about did covers, occasionally wrote songs, and once in a while played at parties or in pubs in 96 I met Tracy and John and we started Camera Obscura with David Skirving, and we've developed from there.
How does it feel when the band you made while messing about with your friends becomes popular?
It's nice, we didn't expect it. We just started playing together, and we liked what we were doing, but never had any expectation of what we would do... Then and moresound asked us to make a single with them, so we did that, and then another. It took a long time for us to realise that we could actually make an album.
What's the best thing that has happened to you because of being in a band?
Getting to play at festivals like Bowlie and Primavera Sound was great, and getting to do a Peel Session and play live from John Peel's house was a real pleasure. I still have a scar on my back from getting burned whilst drumming on Little Donkey at Peel's christmas party (Lee and i had swapped instruments).
And what was the worst?
The waiting for records to come out once they have been recorded always seems longer than it is, although it was a long time with biggest bluest hi fi, it had been finished for about 10 months before it came out.
And what would you like to do with a band that you haven't done yet?
Just keep making records, play more shows, we haven't really played that much so far. We're keen to get working on another record already but we have to get this one out first.
What about Stabiliser?
We're just finishing off the album at the moment. It's taken a long time, cause we've all been working on other things as well but we're almost there, and we're happy with it. It's nice and varied. Some of it is really fast and loud, and there are other quiet electronic songs.
One thing I forgot is: who are your heroes, who do you admire? who inspires you?
Favourite band has to be New Order (Joy Division). I taught myself to play the bass by playing along to New Order records. Factory is my favourite record label, I really love the way they did things, the way they packaged records as art, the way they ran the label (pity they ran it so badly it went bust, but you know...) I think its great that a band like the Pastels has been going for 20 years now, and they are still making records. To be in a position that you can still make good records after 20 years doing it is some feat.
What's the last record that made you jump with joy?
I'd been waiting for the new order box set for ALONG TIME when it finally came out I was well happy but I think the most recent one is the Hector Collectors single, Celebrity World War, cause I produced it with them, and I was really happy to have got to work on it. It was nice to do some productionry stuff. I'm going to do a bit more with them for their new album. It's nice to have a different hat on. At the moment, I've been recording some harmonium for the Dudley Corporation from Dublin, which has been fun, cause I'm not normally a keyboard player so its been a bit of a different way to think.
You're very good at this you talk a lot!
And finally daddy, or chips?
Before I go, I would like to thank Ken Chu and Gayle Anderson for running around in #parkandride while Gavin was dusting it and I was asking questions, and especially Patrick Doyle for donating the black & white photograph and the indispensable last question. Bye!