Issue #83 July 30th - August 12th, 2004
Come To Norway. It will be fun!
I told you so
Spreading the love & wrestling with national power-an interview with M J Hibbet (PART 2)
I told you so
Spreading the love & wrestling with national power-an interview with M J Hibbet (PART 2)
Come To Norway. It will be fun!
It was a few days after Christmas when I decided on a whim to pick up my mobile phone and text about 6 friends with the message:
"Do you want to come to Norway with me?"
I received 6 puzzled replies asking "Why Norway? Are ballboy playing? What will we do there?"
I did research and collected lots of reasons why it would be a good idea. I asked ballboy if they would be playing in Norway in the summer. I read guide books and thought about things that we could do then armed with my new found knowledge told the my friends:
"It has fjords and stuff. No they aren't. We'll decide when we get there. It'll be fun."
7 months later three friends of the heroes met and the adventure began…
Victoria Station, London.
Victoria is a big busy station, there a lot of seconds in the day, so the odds of just bumping into someone there must be quite slim, but somehow that is how I met Grainne. At the time she was trying to find my mobile number to phone me and I was walking in search of a timetable to try to work out what time she might get in.
Having met Duncan a couple of days previously our trio of travellers was now complete: An English woman, an Scots man, and Irish woman…were we about to become a stars in a convoluted joke?
The journey from London to Oslo
Planes scare me. They also fascinate and thrill me. The child in me remains delighted by the view from the small cabin windows. Houses and trees look like toys belonging to a giant. The clouds are so soft and whimsical and not at all like the oppressive forces which block the sun from below.
I didn't get long to admire the view though because the journey to Oslo seemed to be over before it began. The clouds turned into countryside, and a two hour bus later and the countryside turned into the city and we found ourselves standing in the centre of Oslo. Feeling a bit baffled we walked to the central train station. Pointing at things like the separate bins for recycling we walked in a daze we read our instructions of how to get to our first hostel.
After an hour of buying tickets, chasing the wrong trams catching the right tram we finally found ourselves at Grefsan Station where we knew we just had to:
"Walk up Myreskgivin until the hostel."
It sounded simple enough but we soon discovered that the instructions had obviously meant to say:
"Walk Myreskgivin which is practically a mountain, until your lungs are fit to burst and you are ready to throw your rucksack in the bin"
Breathless we reached the top of the hill and found our hostel. It had rained that day and everywhere smelt fresh and new. A mist hung over one mountain and the sky was turning apricot. The horizon was punctuated by brightly coloured houses and I was immediately pleased with the amount of light considering the lateness of the day. We collapsed onto our beds with relief. We had made it. We were in Norway!
Everything looks differently after a nights sleep and Oslo was no exception. The city which had seemed like a confusing maze the night before had turned into a safe colourful and friendly environment within the space of nine hours. Having eaten a substantial breakfast and stolen a substantial lunch from the buffet we checked our luggage into lockers and we were all set to go exploring.
We spent our day walking slowly, looking at the bright yellow, and blue and red buildings that lined the streets. We watched a unicyclist from Wales and a man who was having an awful lot of photos taken beside a fountain. We fed bread to ducks until we discovered they preferred prawns and we laughed at the variety of statues which were scattered throughout the city. These ranged from the majestic statue of "Karl XIV Johan" outside the Palace to the slightly less majestic statue of a naked woman wearing only a bright red hat and shoes and lipstick.
We finished our day's exploration eating in the expensive harbour area. Eating a melon starter in one of the glitzy restaurants in this area could have cost anything over £10 and a main would cost your life savings. We ate takeaway pasta under a tree. It cost a lot less.
The overnight train to Dale (west Norway)
I love sleeper trains! I don't think I could even begin to describe how much I love them. There is something so exciting about going to sleep in one place and then waking up in another, never having left your bed. The train journey to Dale was relatively short and as we knew we'd be leaving our beds at 6 in the morning we thought we should try to sleep as much as possible before then.
Trouble was though, it is practically impossible to sleep when you are excited, and so when after a few hours I awoke to find that it was light enough to see out of the window and the scenary had completely changed I decided to stop trying.
We went past mountains filled with pockets of snow and we went through tunnels which punctuated the view with bursts of darkness.
I looked at the time on my mobile. 3.15 am. It was my birthday. 27 was going to be a good year for me.
Leiretunet (to call it a village would be an exaggeration)
After 2 hours sitting dwarfed by huge mountains at Dale Station we caught a bus. It drove through windy road past a fjord to our home for the next few days: a small white cottage in the middle the beautiful Nowegian countryside. It had everything we needed: a small kitchen, nice shower, stunning view but after a sleepless night there was only one room we were interested in.- our bedroom.
We quickly fell asleep safe
The Confusion with the canoes
"is there anywhere we can hire a boat?" we asked Annalise our hostess
Annalise was slightly surprised that we had declined her offer to be driven to hire the canoes but gave us a set of directions of how to get there. We didn't need to be driven, we were young (ish), and not that unfit. We headed off in a determined manner along the edge of the fjord.
Five minutes later we discovered that we all that all of us had a different idea of where we were going. 25 minutes of walking later and we decided to phone Annalise to check our directions. A wise decision as it turns because unsurprisingly we were headed in the wrong direction. Having spoken to Annalise again, Duncan was now confident and took the lead as we back tracked looking for a big orange house.
We found a big yellow house that was almost orange and knocked on the door. A puzzled Norwegian lady answered the door, soon to be joined by her equally puzzled husband. We were told that no they couldn't rent us canoes, but we could borrow a rowing boat for free if we wanted.
That was very kind we told them but we had already been warned that due to our inexperience canoes were probably safer for us. After a brief discussion in Norwegian passed between husband and wife and we were told we should have climbed the mountain behind our house and gone to a lake.
"ahh" we said feeling a bit embabarrased.
2 young boys, who turned out to be the couples grandchildren, arrived and more Norwegian was spoken. The boys shuffled nervously looked at the ground and then sighed and nodded.
The woman beamed at us and said;
"they'll take you for a tour of the fjord."
We protested, appplogised, then put on lifejackets and gratefully got into the boat. Our embarrassment soon melted was we breathed in the awe inspiring view of the fjord.
The day we left western Norway it rained and it rained and rained, but apart from the darkness it cased it didn't bother me excessively. Afterall that apart from beautiful fjords the rain is what the west is famous for. Besides we were moving eastwards to spend five nights in a town south of Oslo. The very region that Roald Dahl in his atuobigraphy "Boy" had written about days spent on sun baked rocks, surrounded by glittering blue seas. It was bound to brighten up soon.
I as we travelled past yet more mountains and yet more fjords I felt happy. I pictured Moss as small fishing village. I thought about swimming and sunbathing and remained optimistic that the sun would break through the clouds at any moment.
What is more when we left the train at Moss and found myself stood under a dismal grey sky I discovered it was not a small fishing village at all but a large industrial town which smelt a bit funny. My bag was heavy and the directions to our hostel were vague.
For the first time since we had started the journey I started to wonder if my romantic notions of Norway were somewhat adrift from reality. What had I been thinking in December? This was no place for a holiday! I looked at Duncan and Grainne. They were going to hate me…
To be continued...
I told you so
Mostly written on a plane from London Stansted to Stockholm Skavsta and an internet cafe in Stockholm's central train station, just because writing is quite addictive after all...
55. It was a long time ago and I don't remember much, except that June ended with a bang. When it was over I couldn't remember what it was I had been so worried about. That wasn't just because getting through it was a lot easier that I had expected it to be but also because on its last day everything happened at once - good things and crazy things, strange and unexpected things and plain old things too. I managed to meet pretty much every friend I've had or have left in my hometown in half an afternoon and an evening and as if that wasn't enough, I bumped into the bloke who had given me a Pale Fountains/Cinerama tape the last time I saw him three years ago to top it all. And did I mention he had been out of town for three years and this was his first day back? And my last day in town for a while? And that it wouldn't have happened if I hadn't been waiting for a friend at that exact spot (which I usually avoid) and if said friend hadn't been late (as always)? The amount of coincidences this has required would have been enough to leave my head spinning, if only my head hadn't been spinning already.
When I finally went to bed my head was filled with Cinerama songs and cello lines and thoughts on the mechanichs of coincidences and the odd decision to get used to the sensation of the spinning head, because that was something I needed to do. I had no idea where that had come from but I reminded myself I don't need to understand everything, all of the time.
56. I woke up with the odd feeling that even though my body had gone to sleep my mind had stayed up and was still living in the same day. "Today is yesterday in diusguise" I thought and I laughed at myself for thinking that before I got on a slow, southbound train that brought me closer and closer to Athens as the day moved towards its close. In the end we all -the train, the sun, me- made it there -the station, the other side of the world, home- and the summer started for what must have been the third time when I stepped out of the taxi onto a strange -unlikely- corner near my house and underneath a chinese jasmine plant that had been raining its flowers on the grey pavement. There's nothing like the sweetness of a warm Athenian night, really.
I picked one of them up and carried it home with me, where I soon forgot about it.
57. There's another football match and we win that too. I get rid of the quoation marks when saying we because, well, we win in a way that seems breathtakingly spectacular even to me. The whole town seems to be celebrating for a day or two or three, and when I ask Nick why they're still going on about it he seriously informs me that it is so that if we lose on the final we will, at least, have celebrated as much as possible. I burst out laughing and then we go and get a little drunk by the seaside and we drive around between the full moon and the sea while they listen to Morrissey and I listen to the Cat's Miaow songs playing in my head and smile at myself and sigh at myself and all that - all these things you just have to do if you are me.
58. When the night of the final comes I stay in my house -the only girl in the country not watching this, probably- cooking and eating and listening to the deadly silence that has come upon the neighbourhood, as if everyone's holding their breath. I listen to them sigh, then cheer, then hold their breath some more -not daring to believe we have almost made it- then cheering again in relief and disbelief and joy. It's really something and I can't help but smile and it sort of brings tears to my eyes too, not to mention I get excited about the fireworks though I can only hear them, but as time goes by the the feeling of being an outsider to all of this returns, and as I toss and turn in bed I decide I get the sort of thrills everyone else seems to get from winning a football cup out of songs and gigs and records and clubnights, which just makes me look forward to my holidays more.
59. But all this matters for one reason. It matters because it has come before that day when me and Nick and Mina buy some of the worst coffee in town ("Even I have never made it that bad" - "Oh, I have!") and go and sit on the bench some fifteen minutes away from my house, which gives you a pretty great view of the Acropolis. I can't even begin to tell you how proud this makes me feel to be living here since there is no time and there are so many other things to say: how we watched the hill change colours as the sun set, how it was wonderfully windy or how Nick and Mina sang nursery rhymes and I wrote text messages and got excited, very excited, so much I couldn't quite take it - because all of a sudden we were having the greatest times, the sort of times I'd had in mind all throughout winter and spring when I kept singling along to the Tidy-ups or repeating to myself summer will be really nice. I can't believe I ever got so lucky and even as I'm writing you this, I want to cry.
See. I told you time was on our side.
(...to be continued)
Spreading the love & wrestling with national power
Having read last week's issue you should now know who M J Hibbett is, who his heroes are, and why he likes being in a band. If that is not the case may I suggest that you read part 1 immediately and then return here without delay.
Are we all ready to move onto some more philosophical questions now? Well lets begin...
What is your favourite song that you have written? Why, how and where was it written?
I think it's one called "Easily Impressed", which I like for all sorts of reasons. Mainly it's because it's the best I've done at summarising my Philosophy Of Life - being Easily Impressed is about NOT taking the easy way out and immediately being cynical about things, but instead opening your BRANE up to, as it says in the song, "the wonders of the world". It starts of saying how, when I buy a pint of milk on the way home from work I think "I bought that with money I earnt from a job I like", and how that leads on to thoughts about my whole life, and how GOOD it is and full of exciting things that i LIKE. That whole chunk is Factually Accurate, and indeed has entered into Family Legend as one day my brother came round and found me RHAPSODISING, perhaps a bit too much, on the subject, and so now whenever he's there at a gig he gets all chuffed about it and says "Yes, I was there when that happened!" Bless.
I also like it because it was the result of a LONG attempt to write Something Like That - I do "Boom Shake The Room" live sometimes, which I love doing, and wanted to have a song in a similar vein, that was easy to play, with lots of jokes and Cool Words, a catchy chorus and a bit of Audience Participation. I'd been playing the chords of the chorus (which ... er... has a G and a D moved up to neck quite a bit) in the kitchen for years, so to FINALLY get a song to use them in was ACE, and then to have all the above ITEMS also fall in to place felt GRATE.
And I also like it because it's fun to play, I like the way the Actual Chords are pretty much the same throughout, but the band play it differently (especially when the Tumbling Bass Line comes in), I like singing "Yeah yeah yeah YES YES" over and over again at the end, I like it when people cheer at the "the trams of Sheffield" line [NB in Sheffield anyway], and as I say, I like the fact that I'm singing about how I really feel about life without (hopefully) being sick makingly pompous. I think.
What one thing do you most hope to acheive in your life?
I want to know that me being alive mattered - whether that's through Spreading The Love by writing some songs that make a few people's lives a bit happier, or by eventually wresting national power from the dead hands of the aristocracy and taking it ALL TO MYSELF, I don't mind. If i can lay on my death bed and think "That was good - well done me!" then I'll have achieved something.
If you do manage to liberate this nation's power, and I have every confidence that you will, what would you like to do with it?
Much of my plans are detailed in the song "Things'll Be Different (when I'm in charge)" and i note with pleasure that The Government has obviously been taking notes - renationalising the railways and post office, for instance, seem to be getting nearer to reality. I've also got a GRATE idea for sorting out Arts Funding, whereby everyone in the country gets Arts Vouchers to spend, and ALL Arts Funding for the next year is allocated dependent on those - it'd give everybody a chance to get out of the house and see some ART, which they wouldn't necessarily normally get to do, and it'd mean the money would be spent on things people wanted... there's a lot more details, it'll be in a song one day!
Also I think we need to reassert people's PRIDE in belonging to the public services, and we can do that by bringing back TRAINING. Our main problem these days is that we have such shit managers, pretty much everywhere. This seems to me to be because they never get any TRAINING in it - in fact, nobody seems to get trained for anything, it seems to be DEEMED to be too costly, so we just get chucked into new jobs with no idea what we're doing. A bit of short term spending would work wonders on long-term quality...
Quality would be the main thing with me, Voters - one of the many many evils of the Thatcher Years was that we got persuaded that The Small Business was the best model for a Nation, because the Thatcher government was populated by seedy, lying, two faced greedy former small businessmen only interested in the next months profits. Cheating other people out of what was rightfully theirs became a virtue, and doing a fair day's work for a fair day's pay became a MUGS GAME when you could earn more than a postman's monthly wage in ten minutes on the stock exchange. We need to reassert the value of personal pride in our jobs, for everybody, and then everything else will follow.
Yeah! Is that a bit too detailed, or what?
Do you think it is more important to be content with what you have, or dream of achieving better things?
Aha! I don't think you need to make a choice between the two. The world is a wonderful place full of fantastic things, and as soon as you learn to quieten your Inner Teenager and ACCEPT the beauty that's all around you (man), then life becomes much happier and much more rewarding, and you yourself can create better things within it. Pissed off angry people only create more pissed-off angriness, the older i get the more sure of this I become. Anyone who ponces around showing off about things they're AGAINST should be forced to provide a properly thought out list of equal or greater length demonstrating what they're FOR. Only then should they be allowed out of the house.
Anyway, the point is that once you've seen what a brilliant thing it is to be alive then you're able to REALLY think of ways to make it even better. Being happy and enjoying what you've got NOW should be no barrier to wanting to be even MORE happy in the future - anyone with an imagination can DO this, and again it's only unimaginative people who think that you can only build grooviness on a foundation of misery. So yeah, to try and STEM the hippy nonsense, it's important to be happy with your current life AND to still dream of creating something even better in the future.
This seems very wise to me and I totally agree. Have you always had this philosphy on life or is it something that has grown with you?
I've definitely not always thought this way - from my teenage years to my early twenties I was a right miserable little sod. I was one of those annoying self-important wankers who think that by saying everything around them is rubbish they will seem cleverer than they actually are, when REALLY what I was doing was holding back from INVESTING myself in anything for fear of being hurt.
What happened to change my outlook was that I read a kiddie's book, and then an interview with a Beatle. The book was "The Tao Of Poo" - OK, not exactly a kiddie's book, but formatted in that way. I wouldn't say AA Milne became my GURU or anything, but reading that book made me realise that, actually, what the old Taoists were saying was RIGHT. Letting go of ego, going with the flow, and become more at one with NATURE wasn't some hippy dippy Fotherington Thomas ESQUE cop out, it was a brave and positive move towards accepting yourself, other people, and beginning to ENJOY the world. I got convinced of this further by reading an interview with George Harrison in Q magazine, in which he talked about much the same sort of thing. I DISTINCTLY remember sitting on the top of a double decker, leaving the bus stop at Leicester General Hospital (where I worked) and thinking "Yeah, that's right". I'd just moved flat, and spent the next couple of weeks THINKING things through and facing up to some of my own worries about myself.
It was BLOODY GRATE. Since then I've tried to be as positive as I can about things - it's not always easy, and it DOESN'T mean being a mug and falling for any baloney that comes along, but it's a much MUCH happier way to live your life. As Morrissey said, "It's so easy to laugh, It's so easy to hate - It takes strength to be gentle and kind".
I shall have to stop now, i have an unshakeable urge to FLAIL AROUND going "wo-oh-oh-oh" and tipping the wink to an imaginary Johnny Marr...
We buried things in boxes you and I, didn't we? Boxes numbered, packed, and sealed, boxes full of things we'd done and things we'd do, and I was ready to grow up, grow old with you, grow into you and you into me, and sometimes if I close my eyes I imagine you next to me and you have your feet on my thighs and I am massaging your ankles and counting your veins and the other day I was watching TV and you were there and I wasn't sure exactly how, but you were there, and I remembered you dancing, and how you danced with no notion of self-consciousness and I would be at the bar drinking single malts and toasting you, toasting us, and the world could go to hell, and we needed other people as much as they needed us, which wasn't much, and somehow they, other people, seemed to understand this, and they left us alone, and we were all the happier for it, and I could watch you dance at home, and there was the one time, not long after you had agreed to marry me, when I sang a song to you- I sat you in a chair and I sang a song to you, and the room was full of other people but there was no one there, just me, you, and my awful rendition of an awful song, but it meant the world to me then and I suppose it still does because I'm writing about it now.
Box seventeen had my books in. Box twenty-two your charcoal pencils. Box twelve was a mixture of old photographs and stuff I'd written. We had twenty-four boxes in all. One for each year of our lives. One day I joked to you that I wanted to collect one hundred boxes. I wasn't joking.
I still can't go shopping on a Friday. I still can't fill a trolley because without you, it just doesn't feel right. And it's been almost a year now, and some idiot said time heals all wounds, but all time does is make me realise what has gone before, what I have lost, and I am writing this and sometimes I have to stop and there are gaping holes all over the flat from where I have punched the walls, a life of perpetual wounding, wounds that will never heal, and no penance or hail mary's will EVER make me feel better again.
I hope you are happy. More than anything else in life, I hope that, somehow, you are happy, that you have found it within yourself, or that someone has helped you find it. And me? I firmly believe that you only have one chance at happiness- not the fleeting, temporal kind that lottery winners or heroin addicts attain- but real, permanent happiness. I had mine, not yours, and I blew it. Now I shiver in the half-light, and shuffle through a half-life. I blew it. Buried in the boxes that I will never open. I blew it.
And here's the proof.