Brian Robert Pearce
|Brian Pearce busked the streets
and bars of Europe between the years 1994 and 2000. In addition he
busked in New York while participating in the TIGHTROPE musical, a play
written by Ken Post [ with Bonnie Burns].
The journal exists, at present, as approx. 750,000 hand written words formatted in about 55 segments
|Some of my sites:
Music and photos
Music and lyrics
Virtual High Street
Basic Site Plan
COMPLETE ONLINE JOURNAL SEGMENTS:
Tortoise & Hare
New Clear Winter
Monster in NY
Things we must do
The online Labyrinth Busker Journal consists of hundreds of pages ranging from busking to a wide variety of topics and articles.
If you have a clear idea of what you are looking for, then use the search box (above) to find it.
My 'flash' sites are unlikely to be included in results from the search, so it is best to visit them directly.
My flash sites are:
I hope you enjoy the experience of the Labyrinth Busker Journal
|THINGS WE MUST DO
The complete text from book one of the Labyrinth Busker journal
IT IS 17/01/96 AND FOLLOWING MONTHS OF EMOTIONAL UPHEAVAL I DECIDE IT MAY BE INTERESTING TO START KEEPING A DIARY ON MY LIFE AND THOUGHTS. SO BEGAN THE LABYRINTH BUSKER JOURNAL - HANDWRITTEN, WHILE BUSKING, TRAVELLING, LOVING, SURVIVING IN SEVERAL COUNTRIES.
THE JOURNAL IS AROUND 750,000 WORDS LONG AND REACHED THE END OF ITS LIFE WITH MY RETURN TO ENGLAND AND THE CHANCE OF SEEING MY DAUGHTER REGULARLY.
ONE - After all...that age old question...why are we here?
TWO - After all...that age old question...why are we here?
THREE - in which the question is asked: Am I a Muse?
FOUR - besieged by Winter complete
FIVE - .in which the focus turns to Stef Carlens
SIX - in which the middle of Winter plunges Brian into crisis
SEVEN - a card from my daughter and emotional windows
EIGHT - why did an American, a Brit busker and a French film producer in Geneva talk about Antwerp and Belgians?
NINE - in which cynicism rides to the fore
TEN - the first book of the journal concludes with a cat's tail
17/01/96 Weds - ANTWERP - Oblique, increasingly abstract thoughts. But ok...so using the birth numbers system initiated the concept of the 'family'. The 'family' is far from proven as a reality yet...but that we have something possibly durable relies in many ways on how we can direct our thoughts increasingly oblique and abstract.
After all...that age old question...why are we here?
Are we here to grow up, learn as much as we can from our parents, peers etc., do what we think is the right work or existence as an adult...have children...grow old and die?
Our children will just do the same.
For most people that is basic reality.
Most people also accept ( conscious or indoctrinated) various religions or beliefs about the outcome of our existence...the aftermath. Some believe we re-incarnate - others that we are judged on this life alone - while others, mainly atheists, simply believe we are born, we die...and that's it...oblivion, nothing else.
So, given this, why not use oblique thoughts?
What does a child believe before conditioning influences them? I would say a child naturally believes the Earth is flat. Cultures of various times and places have actually believed this too. It seems that animals do not see the issue as a matter even of curiosity.
But the reasoning facility of the human mind is equipped to question reality - and so it has.
Through the simple system of observance, aligned with the human ability to memorise and calculate, 'crazy' people were able to prove the Earth is round and that the Earth travels around the Sun...not vice versa. They then looked at small stars and, in time, they were able to work out that these 'small' stars were actually very large suns etc....etc...
What were the most lethal and dangerous creatures in Medieval Europe?
Not even close....
Only as a vehicle...rats were more a nuisance than a danger.
But what killed entire villages and 50% of certain populations?
Nothing more spectacular than a flea exporting itself from somewhere like the remote reaches of the Nile.
Of course, I am not even considering small microbes we call germs or bacteria.
So understanding where, or what, we are takes original and profound analysis. How do we advance in thought and knowledge most effectively?
Well, it seems we have to consider original theories. There are few people who are able to first theorise... and then prove and conclude all the aspects of the theory. Other people usually take on the mantle and expand from there.
So...why shouldn't I be 'crazy'?
Was my arrival here in Belgium inevitable?
In 1964 - I developed my first real friendship. We both loved music, chess and other mutual interests - and through this it can be said we loved each other. In addition, Anthony (his name) had a dog called Lucky. I used to take it for walks. It fair broke my heart when Anthony had to emigrate to Australia, because Anthony would be gone - and because I loved Lucky. It was a devastating hole in my life - and my mother wouldn't allow me to have Lucky (who would not be able to go to Australia) move to our house. It was my first experience of acute love and its loss.... the first time I shed tears for the souls of others.
Anthony and I shared mutual love.
Do animals love?
I think it nonsense to say they don't.
Anthony left for Australia in 1965. I never discovered what happened to Lucky.
In May, 1966, my future wife was born.
1972 - an experience of intense love that confused me so much I had to question my sexuality. Benoit, son of a Belgium/English father and a Welsh mother. I was 18 and forced to wonder whether I was gay, but...no...I felt nothing like this for any other male and it was physical closeness, not sex, that I craved. It confused me greatly...but really it was just a question of souls, I believe.
1973 - Gerhard was born.
What was happening in 1974? My first love in a boyfriend/girlfriend environment. Puppy love maybe, but mutual and deep. Jane was her name.
May, 1975 - Char was born.
So voorwaarts...1975...what was I doing? Why, I was going out with the love of my life Judy. I ceased to be sexually virgin around June that year.
March, 1976 - Ruana was born.
Incidentally - and not quite in the same pattern as above - I went with my brother, Benoit and his parents on a motoring trip to Benelux and Germany in the summer of 1972. We spent a day in Antwerp - my only visit to the place until 1994. Char's brother Pierre was born in that summer of 1972.
Anything else? um..well..Benoit, Jane and Judy were all four years younger than me. All born around 1958. How old was Lucky the dog when I knew her?
I don't know..maybe she was seven. Who knows?
So what does this all mean?
I don't completely know!
I'm at the mere observance level.
Benoit, Jane and Judy (maybe even Lucky) are all born near the same time and with all of them I shared a form of mutual love. If Lucky is placed in the same package as her owner Anthony we have a pattern. A year, or less, later than these relationships reach significant points a child is born...Paula, Gerhard, Char and Ruana.
What is obvious?
A man and woman copulate - a sperm reaches an egg and is able to penetrate. A child is born from the union of two separate, physical bodies.
Thousands of sperm had no idea how to penetrate the egg - but one did.
So...timeless love...is it a question of souls?
Do you believe in souls?
Well, I do...so shall I theorise a little on souls?
If it's possible for organic material to blend together an essence of two separate parts into one profound and distinct whole...then why not something similar for souls? Two souls, encased in separate, material bodies, find mutual, natural love. On a spiritual level is it possible for souls to perform the equivalent of making love? If so..do they produce an entirely separate soul which will be born into this world?
When Paula and I conceived Rachel - all was whole. Rachel is the outcome of a physical union AND a joining of souls.
But my soul link with Benoit, Jane, Judy, Anthony and Lucky were unproductive physically for obvious or differing reasons.
But..if two souls CAN nerge and reproduce where would the offspring go?
It's really cranky, this...isn't it?
Shut up, Brian..and theorise!
1/ Two souls of any gender or description find mutual love and the souls reproduce...but the physical bodies do not, could not, would not etc...
2/ Two physical bodies - male and female - copulate and the bodies reproduce, but the souls do not.
3/ Two physical bodies copulate and the bodies reproduce, with both souls also finding mutual love and reproducing.
Three different scenarios.
In the case of 3 the outcome would seem to be an offspring (child) complete..with body and soul originating from its parents.
In the cases of 1 and 2 it would appear as though the soul produced from 1 would need to find a body produced from 2.
You're getting crankier, Brian!
Of course I am! But to theorise you have to look at oblique and abstract angles! I'm trying to follow the line of Fate! Why Belgium? Why Gerhard, Ruana and Char?
Why do strangers meet and have the feeling they know each other? What causes love at first sight? Conversely, does hate reproduce? That doesn't bear thinking about.
So, cranky Brian...on to the 'family'. For some reason we all care for each other. Somehow, I think we always will. That's not unusual on this world. People link up into mutually loving groups all the time. It's just they rarely feel the need to explain the reasoning behind it, let alone investigate it.
I feel the need. top
Things we must do - Chapter Two.
...in which Cranky Brian completes his theorising on matters the Journal will seek to answer and the live commentary on the Antwerp scene around me begins.
17/01/96 - Weds - Antwerp - People were perfectly happy to go on believing the Earth was flat until economic needs drove someone to see if it really was round as some cranks claimed.
Some cranks claimed even more bizarre things which were proved completely untrue. But, at least, they did try to find an answer.
What was the result of a culture discovering the Earth was round?
Economic wealth and knowledge?
I'd say so.
So how would this theory affect my own beliefs? Not about the Earth, but about souls?
It would shake it to the foundations, because I believe in re-incarnation and life after death so I would have to manipulate my continued existence (in my mind) through some inter-woven theory. But really, I feel confident in the immortality of the soul so I'm sure there is an explanation.
Hope you have as much fun reading this as I did writing it - and when you've stopped laughing...mine's a Bolleke (a Belgian beer if you didn't know).
But one strange thought! If this theory is true...then who was born last year (1995) for the soul union of Char and I? And who will be born this year for (1996) for Ruana and I? And who was born (1995) last year for Ruana and Char? I may never meet them, but maybe Rachel will.
Back to Rachel...last year I could feel our souls blending in my short five day visit to her in Ireland.
So who will be born in March/April this year (1996)?
What happened in 1953 - the year before I was born? In Belgium? In Germany? What is the origin of my soul? What is a soul?
Why don't I stop asking impossible questions?
Where do I look now for creativity? On the face of it the 'family' is fine. Char claims it is different now with Bennie. I have my doubts there. I really can see nothing in Bennie aside from an over-sized child, but then he probably has his reasons for not communicating with me. Anyhow, while this tiresome 'second chance' runs its course I am not going to be inspired to write songs about Char.
Yeah, she loves me, but she's not around - she's with Bennie, who, if the truth be known, hates me. So..no inspiration there.
Ruana has severely dented my faith in her despite her talk of 'moods' to explain away the last few weeks. Our friendship is on a very low level at the moment while the poison and the resentment seep out. Once a week I will call her, but she is not inspirational to me for creativity.
I need to believe the songs I'm writing.
So...Char is tied up and Ruana remote, but the 'family' holds together in a sort of limbo state, which could develop into a stagnant state if things remain the same over too long a period. I'm already bored here in Antwerp.
I find it hard to find the energy and incentive to do things and my will to carry on is still low...
AMIDST THE SWEET SMELL OF TRIUMPH
HANGS THE FAINT WHIFF OF DEFEAT ....I need a smile...
18/01/96 - Thurs - Gerhard has been around town the last two days. Last night Kat came into the Muziekdoos and asked me whether I had seen him...
"No, I haven't," I replied, " As far as I am aware, he's rehearsing and playing with Sven and Karston."
She sighed and went off on her own somewhere.
So...who is Kat?
I felt very pleased to see her walk into the 'Doos and I feel she is special in some way. Well...she is very special to Gerhard...so maybe that's it.
She came to visit me when I moved into Gerhard's appartment and for about four hours she questioned me about the 'family'. When I used the birth numbers system on her she didn't directly relate..but, as I told her, neither did Pierre, Char's brother. The system is only a guideline for me, not a religion.
It has helped me isolate Char, Ruana, Gerhard and Ophelia as somehow significant here in Antwerp.
Each of these people have their own cliques and associations, many of which, like Bennie or Bart, have no great relevance to me. But Pierre has. Kat may do, because it is not really birth numbers that guides me, but my inner senses, my subconscious, my soul.
I feel empathy and affection for Pierre and Kat, so they may have a place in my path...however large or small. When Kat and Gerhard slept together in our appartment a few days ago I found the awareness of their presence in the other room warming. When they woke up I felt entirely natural with them both.
Meanwhile,I still wait for Char to call round or 'find' me as she said she would, but now I do understand, through Gerhard, what must be achieved between Char and I. We must eventually (or I must) learn how to completely relax in each other's company. Gerhard and I are totally able to do our own thing in the enclosed space of the appartment, which means that when we talk it is relaxed, not contrived. At the moment ( and even last Spring) , as I see Char so little I feel I must always keep her attention. I talk too much, probably.
The psychology behind that is straight-forward. Char's tendency to disappear the moment you concentrated your attention elsewhere and her shutting me out - real or imagined - has left a scar on my confidence with her.
A situation must be found where we have time to NOT talk - as with Gerhard and I, or Ruana and I in Balazuc.
This is important, because Char, Ruana and Gerhard are all Flemish speaking. That is their first language. Ruana has an excellent facility for English, but Char and Gerhard need to concentrate their minds a bit more when they speak to me. So the spells of silence, private thoughts and activities in between conversation are really quite important. Although we may be concentrating on different things we will be able to feel each other's presence...and in a state of togetherness unspoken we can relax, knowing that we DON'T have to say anything until we similarly relax into conversation...because we have found something we both want to talk or joke about.
I have come to some private decisions about Char. I feel fairly certain what I hope will be between us. But it may take a great deal of patience before what I want to happen will happen. If I'm lucky, maybe the chance will come quicker than imagined. To achieve my hopes with her it would help greatly to travel with her. We half- talked over that possibility last Friday. I hope it will come together.
Meanwhile, Gerhard said he would like to travel with me to the south of Europe...but, really, his mind and intentions fly every which way and probably tomorrow he will be saying he's hoping to go there with Sven or whoever. So the most likely scenario is me heading down there on my own.
Ruana is likely to remain mostly distant to me until, at least, late June...when she finishes her exams. I really don't know if we will ever regain the closeness we had last Summer. Her mind races every which way also. I don't especially feel inclination to see her too much at this moment...and I'd guess she is of the same mind. But a weekly call will keep us in touch until we find the right time and mind for closer contact.
Meanwhile, January stays boring and worse: uncreative still.
19/01/96 - Fri - And so it goes....with Ruana and Char, separate or together, have we agreed or spoken of projects or things we must do.....and so it goes....
Gerhard, I think, is much the same. Most of the way it all comes to naught - and while we're saying this I must appreciate that I am just as bad as any of them.
So far...there's been a change of pen, a "we must play a set down the'Doos", a "we must go to Switzerland etc." thing and now a "we must form a band".
Well...all these ideas are great, but "we must" needs to become "we will", which then needs to become "we have".
So the line of Fate leads me to Char, Ruana and Gerhard. Why? So I can just drift into the sunset with nothing of relevance achieved?
Gerhard said," You write good text and melodies and you have a good voice, but you need musicians to back you up and thought out arrangements."
Well, yes.... I'd say that is a fair assessment. My musicianship is still under development. My voice is not what you would call a clean, precise voice like Helen or Stef. It's a shade rough round the edges, but it has a sort of power of its own...and I've seen many females melt at the sound of it, from elderly to schoolgirl.
So...although I personally get annoyed at my voice misbehaving and being erratic...I DO know it has power - and I use that power to keep me alive. top
Things we must do - Chapter Three
...in which the question is asked: Am I a Muse?
19/01/96 - Fri - Antwerp - Gerhard is speaking of a three way thing here - where we all put our ideas and expression into the songs. This could be a very powerful thing indeed, given my songwriting, Gerhard's innovative genius and Sven's sharp musicianship.
The other option, as Gerhard states, is to find musicians to back me who would probably be workhorses with no great feel for what's being done. The chief advantage of this, of course, would be that my songs remain essentially mine and how I would imagine and feel they should sound.
But...no input leads to stagnation. 3 minds, with 3 different spheres of talent, must surely come up with highly original sounds and ideas. Yes...it would be good - and yes...it should be tried, but two of the three are 'family'. Ruana and I worked together musically last Spring and early Summer - we've done nothing since, much as I have wanted to.
That Gerhard and I will work together musically looks highly likely, but like the Flemish/English thing...should it be rushed and hurried?
WE WENT TOO FAST AND THEN WE WENT TOO SLOW
THAT'S NOT THE WAY TO FIND OUT WHO WE ARE
AND SO WE NEVER GOT TO TRAVEL FAR Pastures of Indifference: B.Pearce
It seems some of this may be coming from Tom or Stef or their management.Gerhard and Sven seem to be attracting their attention recently.
Well, that they are both talented musicians is hard to deny. Gerhard, of course, underestimates himself considerably, in my opinion. I suppose, to ease him into realising that, it would be handy to be working musically with him.
But it would take time to integrate our styles. It would not be clever to go out as a support act in front of a thousand people with a half-baked set. So what is the time structure for this project?
Personally, I don't like to talk myself up but I'm in a situation where modesty could be damaging. So looking at my songwriting...I firmly believe in my songs and I know the general public's re-action. There is a market for what I do. What holds me back is lack of money or any professional back up.
I don't know what Tom, Stef, their management, or anyone else thinks of what I'm doing. I do know that Tom stood up to shake my hand down the 'Doos a few nights ago and that Stef has been looking and acting strangely toward me...as though there is something he wants from me. I don't know their management at all - or who runs it....but, frankly, it is their loss if they choose to ignore me.
Europe is a large continent. I will find someone to support me somewhere...and if I succeed - and I think I will - my songs will translate into real money. Musickness is a business. My songwriting is a business in that it keeps me alive. Could I turn out to be the one they missed? The one that got away with a song that could have breached the UK/US market bigtime?
So...the text, the melody, the voice, but shame about the guitar. Well, if I do make it and I'm able to concentrate on finding and promoting new talent...I would not hesitate in bringing in someone with good text, good melody and distinctive voice.
And so it goes...with Ruana, Char and Gerhard...in various ways have we agreed or spoken on projects or things we must do...And so it goes....
20/01/96 - Sat - I suppose if this is to develop into a diary then life must be pretty boring right now - because all I do is analyse and philosophise.Another dull day yesterday.The 'Doos was empty. The Cathedral pitch was cold, but going well. Milligan was booked in after me and I never really felt in the mood to return to the pitch later. Too cold.
I went to the Hopfast to see Kevin and Sven play. Gerhard was there with three of the 'Doos crowd. Mainly, conversation was in Flemish...and from what I could understand, not greatly interesting...so I left.
So...what to do for creativity? Everything is so stagnant.
Char has not materialised, but then she may have called when I was out. It wouldn't surprise me, however, to find her sinking into the same old rut with Bennie. Well..I suppose there will be a 'honeymoon' period first, but then things will very quickly re-balance to where they were before.
I think travel is still in Char's blood. She enjoyed her excursions south last year - and I was pleased to hear she had been creative on them. So, with Ruana not about much until June, maybe Char was fishing when she said to me,
"I don't want to go to Switzerland on my own."
I replied, without hesitation, that I would go with her and that she can be sure of that.
But...what to do for creativity?
Well...one thing I think may be true about the 'family' is that we are all 'Muses'. I have no way of knowing this for sure about Gerhard or Ophelia, but I think Gerhard may spur many a female to find their pen. That Char and Ruana are muses is self evident.
That I am would not be quite so obvious from my viewpoint.
Judy once said to me, "I've written pages and pages of stuff about you, but I shan't show you them, because you will probably get swell-headed."
Char has written much on me...that is certain.
Who am I?
I am invisible most of the time, then highly visible, but erratic in thought and actions....never really knowing my own mind and therefore, generally relegating my personality before someone who does know their own mind. So people rarely see the real me. I rarely see the real me. My perception of myself is distorted.
So, if Char and Ruana are both unusable as muses, why not use ME (another muse) for inspiration?
Thus, I looked at myself today and wrote:
YOU SAY YOU WANT TO BE LOVED
BUT YOU DON'T SAY HOW
YOU SAY YOU'RE SEARCHING FOR FRIENDS
BUT HIDE AWAY NOW
YOU RUN FROM A SMILE LIKE YOU RUN FROM YOURSELF
YOUR WORTH IS FORGOTTEN AND PLACED ON A SHELF
YOU SWIM IN SELF PITY 'TILL YOU SINK LIKE A STONE
JUST TO DROWN IN A LAKE THAT YOU MADE ON YOUR OWN
AND NO RESCUE CAN STOP YOU FROM FEELING ALONE
NO ONE OWES YOU ANYTHING SO NO ONE REALLY CARES
SO YOU DRIFT THROUGH LIFE LIKE A BUTTERFLY
HAVING SWEET, BUT BRIEF AFFAIRS
YOU SEARCH THE PATHS OF NOWHERE
THEN COMPLAIN THEY NEVER END
BUT YOUR BACK IS TURNED TO WHAT YOU NEED
AND THAT IS LOVE AND FAITH AND FRIENDS
Whew!!! How depressing!!! Even if it is turned into the third person.
Where is the light and shade?
Where is the subtle mix of optimism and pessimism?
Where is the positive amongst such negativity?
But then...what DO I say when I'm talking about myself?
YOU'RE WONDERFUL! YOU'RE GREAT!
AND I'LL LOVE YOU FOREVER?
It's only a first try, but if the second try is just as dismal I would do well to seek more fruitful avenues.
OK, the text will do for one song, but I wouldn't want a whole string of songs like that. The key to what my songs say is related more to compassion than to emotion. I find it hard to be compassionate with myself, but...I suppose...it does reveal something of myself. It tells me how much I hate myself...how little I love myself...and how low my will to live and fight on has sunk.
But...to every negative angle there must be a positive one.
Let's reverse the meanings and see:
I'm not ready for a relationship just yet because I have a lack of confidence, which will pass when the time and mood is right. Gerhard aside, there is no one who specifically stimulates my mind directly at this time...that also will pass. My broken tooth is a physical block to my confidence and a major source of my withdrawal of energies. I can do nothing immediately about that, but soon...maybe.
Self pity is not a bad thing, because it shows care for yourself a bit and that you are capable of directing that feeling outward in empathy with others.To know how you suffer can mean...to the astute...that you'll understand how others suffer.But, having accused myself of self pity in the song, I confirm it by distorting reality in a negative way with the following lines...some of which are simply not true.
Just as well really - it is best I can't believe it. If it turns out a song I can imagine it's me berating someone else.
Meanwhile, it is bitterly cold and yesterday was not pleasant for busking. I stayed in most of the day and was rewarded with the writing of TWO new songs. In one day...that's not bad.The first was putting music to my second text concocted in Switzerland: 'Will you sleep with me tonight' - inspired by my casual affair with the German girl I met there.
The second one ( and don't laugh) was putting music to the words I had just come up with yesterday. Well, despite my criticisms, it seems after all to be productive. It was very early in the morning that I composed the song, but to be sure of remembering it I taped it on the cassette recorder by Gerhard's bed. Placing the sheet of music with the words on Gerhard's mattress I sang the song and afterwards listened to it and concluded it might be a good song.
I then went to bed. It was 6 or 7 in the morning. top
Things we must do 4
...besieged by Winter complete
21/01/96 - Sun - ANTWERP - I had the usual January 'hard to get to sleep' thing, so finally woke up about half past noon. Twas then I heard Gerhard coming home - he'd been floating around town and other people's appartments as is his wont. I could hear him coming into the other room...then, all of a sudden, he was completely silent, which mystified me a little.
Eventually, he did appear at the door to my room and, exchanging greetings, he came to sit near my bed. He said, "It was a strange thing! I came in and when I came to my bed I saw a note on it. So I thought someone had called and left a message. But then, when I read it, I saw it was in English..."
Mystified, I said, "What did it say?"
"Something like...you say you want to be loved, but you don't say how..."
The whole imagery of this just made me burst into laughter. It seems these words are going to haunt me.
But, back to reality - now the latest plan is for Gerhard and Sven to form a band, calling themselves the 'Strawberries' or whatever. With this band they want to team up with people of their choice. So it would go Brian Pearce and the Strawberries - Herman and the Strawberries.
Well, that's as good an idea as any - so let's see if the Strawberries come to FRUITion.
Today, being Sunday, means phoning Ruana and (like the weather scenario on the last page) our relationship is having its own Winter with Spring a long way off in this case also. She would have got my 'angry' letter I sent last week, so let's see what her re-action will be. At least, with Ruana, we generally have been able to argue and debate healthily. In fact, the problem that's disjointing us is the lack of arguing and straightening things.
So...I don't know! Maybe she'll bite my head off about some things I'd said in the letter, but, as she claimed last week, letters are like songs. You catch the mood of the moment.
Nonetheless, though I detect a shade of reluctance to speak to her because of my guilt mixed in with my hurt (stirred in with indecision and confusion) I shall call her and keep on doing so - if she wishes it.
After all, she is 'family' - and I love her.
22/01/96 - Mon - Famous last words! I did call Ruana - and she was out. Gone to the theatre with her mother.
Jeez! Talking until 8 in the morning with Gerhard. Twas a wonder I was able to get up as early as 3 in the afternoon. Added to other delays and a visit to the library it meant getting to the Meir too late for effective earnings.
Now it's 9.50 pm and I need a shower. We got food from the G.B., so am I going to get out tonight? Well...if I do there won't be much to be earnt. Time now to start thinking of next month's rent. Worse still! February is not only a short month. It is a poor one for money. I feel truly trapped economically.
Letter from my brother enclosing an entry form for a 'Buskers competition' in Derby.Representatives of a festival in Aarschot (in October) were in the 'Doos handing out entrance forms for their 'Buskers competition'.
Well...I've never been to one, but I suppose they might be fun if you don't take them too seriously.
If the weather this October is as good as last year then I would be better in Switzerland - maybe I would be better there anyhow. Coming back for this one little show would be expensive, but I'll just wait and see.
Not the time or money to phone Ruana today, so maybe it would be best left to next Sunday.
23/01/96 - Tues - Well, there has been two nights staying in as the cold continues.
Last night, looking at pictures taken of Rachel in the first months of her life, set me to thinking of her and missing the experience of seeing her natural progress through life. I said to Gerhard that it gets harder to find true delight in the small things and experiences I undergo. Even the beautiful mountains of Switzerland and other exotic variations of last Summer failed to inspire me as it might once have done. But, to be with Rachel and then to take her to the Cathedral Square to see Jack performing his juggling act would be a truly rewarding experience for me - because I would be seeing everything through her eyes and her mind, knowing she would be viewing it as a magic and exciting taste of life.
My first holiday abroad was a coach trip with a football team to Austria. Even basic, uninteresting scenery made impressions, because I was aware that this was another culture where people behave differently and speak strangely.
My most clear memories now are of a football pitch on a hot day in Linz, the youth hostel and a bar where our team and an Austrian team met and drank together...exchanging cultural information. Then there was David (a team mate) being helped to the youth hostel completely drunk...and then me pleading with the hostel warder to let him in.
The more spectacular visit to the salt mines in the Tyrol left little imprint.
But now, I find it is the more spectacular scenery and images I need. The fairy tale image of Bern from the Bundeshaus. The Munster gardens and its view over the indecisive river below. It is harder for such things to excite me - they just help instill a sense of calm or thoughtfulness.
Through Rachel, however, I would experience entirely different perceptions of Bern. The children's play area in the Munster gardens and the water powered cable car going from the valley to Bern proper. These would be her memories of Bern.
So...frustrated here in Antwerp, I wait for the time when I can see Rachel more and have private quality time with her. I know the day will come, but this Summer coming I must make sure I finally break out of this financial Winter trap pattern.
24/01/96 - Weds - Woke up today with only 10Bfr to my name. Even had only two cigarettes. Well, if I was to get some more cigarettes and if I was to get into De Klamper for a coffee and to write this, I needed money. Nothing for it but to busk Offrandestraat. Luckily there weren't any other buskers along it. So, with a croaky 'first thing' voice I broke into 'Help u thru the day' and then 'Will ye go' - and found I'd made 5Bfr for the effort.
'A subtle spark' didn't take fire, but it did make 40Bfr - a little bit better. 'Uptown Suzy' and 'Know that's not really me' really got things going a bit, especially with the black people (Zaire,Congo). It seems extra flattering when they give something because it suggests my style of singing appeals to their cultural views - and that I like, because their culture is based very much on emotion.
'Fairy Tales are real' was the star song. I think because I actually sang it with a smile, much expression and using eye contact. Even muslim schoolgirls were charmed enough to walk back and put money in the hat.
I peaked then as I shortened the next song. I couldn't put anything into it. My last song was an attempt to strum through 'Will u sleep'. My voice felt good on it, but it's the sort of song that needs the correct atmoshere. So...280Bfr...I could get my cigarettes...and here I am (De Klamper).
Yesterday was just too cold. I can't sing effectively or play the guitar well in conditions like that. Halfway through a song my strumming fingers would go numb. So I found myself with hardly a franc and relying on Gerhard last night to buy the beers on his slate down the 'Doos. So I feel the need to repay him as soon as possible.
After doing a few songs on the Meir yesterday I decided that I would phone Ruana. It's something I can't control. I just HAD to speak to her and I couldn't wait until next Sunday, as I had planned. I said to myself, "Only 10 to 30Bfr and that would be long enough," but no....I must have put in 60 or 70. As I had only 200Bfr before calling - it left me short for food, but it was worth it.
After the first 30 seconds of "How are you" s etc....I span into top gear: talking,talking..."...sorry! I seem to be talking too fast." "Oh no, I can follow you"....talking, talking..."sorry! I seem to be talking too much." ....."Oh no, I quite like it."...talking, talking..."Oh damn!".. the money's run out again - 'I'll have to put 10Bfr in, because we haven't said goodbye properly'...and so..."Hello again!"...talking, talking..."Oh, and did you get my letter?"..."I did! It was beautiful!"..."Beautiful!?!"....."Yes, I'll show the letter to Char.."....Aah! Talk quick, Brian..."Ah! But when I wrote the letter I..." ....money ran out...."Dammit!"....I never did get to say 'Goodbye' properly...and she likes to say goodbye properly too....C'est la Vie.
In between my 'talking' Ruana said some very nice things. She said that people in Antwerp actually like what I do - and many of them don't see me as the sort of 'nuisance' they might pin on most other buskers. I need these comments at a time when other musicians are pressuring me to be this or do that.
Sometimes I think it would be nice to be able to do my own lead on top of my strumming, because it seems I'm the only person around here who truly understands what is needed with my music. First...you seek out the melody of the song...then you improvise from there. To play entirely random, indistinct and unpatterned lead detracts severely from the potential of my songs.
Where is the crux? Does my music have the capability to help musicians who, in their own right, are forever seeking fulfillment? Or is my music more suited to people like David Lloyd and Ruana, who (like me) would tend toward an investigation of the melody?
Sven came around last night - and, as Gerhard wasn't in, we started rehearsing on my songs. 'Will u sleep with me' took us one and a half hours of work and, really, the ammount of work that needs to be done to integrate innovative musicians would seem to indicate one song per session. Sven and Gerhard have their own ideas and concepts about how best to use that 'voice'.
For fruitful interaction, as Gerhard once explained, they would see the pattern as an equal input of contribution to the musical whole. Well, I can see that the concept would be good, but maybe it will work out better if Gerhard and Sven plan out their instrumental creativity with a free rein by extending the middle, beginning or end of a song.
I'm not the world's greatest musician, so to ask me to do things I haven't got my mind and reflexes round would leave me confused...and somehow, the idea of 'talking' spontaneously is something I might find hard, not to mention the pretence of it. Jim Morrison (Doors) used to do that and...in the end...probably believed he was a font of wisdom. I am perfectly capable of falling into that trap. To me, my music is something I share with those in the audience who need it. top
things we must do 5
...in which the focus turns
to Stef Carlens
24/01/96 - Weds - Antwerp - To me, my music is something I share with those in the audience who need it. The fewer musicians down the 'Doos the more I like it, because the general public are more likely to understand my music than musicians.
Imagine it...someone spending months, years learning different, specialised techniques on the guitar and then they see me go on stage to play a song in a way that claims that the technique he has painfully learnt has no relevance or interest to me....because, to me, the guitar is just there and, really, if you have to rely on the guitar to make a song work then that song is weak. My technique is concentrated on text, melody and mood - with the optimum use of that 'voice', despite its imperfections.
To me, a good song is priceless. Sven and Gerhard appeal to me not so much because of their musical ability, ( in actual fact, that is a bit of a drawback because their musical philosophy is fairly alien to mine) but because they are innovative and creative in their own right. Also, of course, Gerhard is 'family'. But so is Ruana. Co-ordinating 'family' together is problematic because we're all so fixed in our minds one moment to the next - although the end result of successful co-ordination would be greater than any external influences. I think I'm right in saying that because it just came straight from my inner senses.
Hey! It's time I got myself together - otherwise the day will be lost.
But it's nice to close on something that warms me. I really felt good when Ruana said she thinks of me in this cold weather and hopes I'm somewhere nice and warm. To know that she thinks of me means a great deal, as the chorus of a song about her relates:
I WONDER DID YOU THINK OF ME WHERE THE RIVER SAW US PLAY
AND I WONDER DID YOU THINK OF ME WHEN I TRAVELLED FAR AWAY
I WONDER DID YOU THINK OF ME THOUGH WE HARDLY MET THIS FALL
THEN I WONDER DID YOU THINK OF ME AT ALL
I really miss her, but I know it's not the right time to see her. I also know there will be a right time - a time when it will be right for us both. I need to improve my personal confidence level (I think) before I'll be ready for meeting her. It all seems so long away, but I shall stay patient - and sort of lonely...because that is the present requirements of my Fate. It is all a case of 'one day'...
25/01/96 - Thurs - Really, this weather is impossible! It's bitter cold and straightforward busking is also impossible. Aside from the fact that the cold dries and cracks your lips it also softens the fingernails and I tend to damage the skin beneath while I'm strumming. I'm sitting in the Cafe Centrum on the Groen Platz. I did 5 songs on the Meir for about 100Bfr and changed my few Guilders and German marks for another 150Bfr so I could have a Smos, a coffee and cigarettes. That summarises it, I think.
There is no artistic satisfaction to be had and the bars are basically empty. If I was in Switzerland I could be saving money, but here? Forget it! So I must ensure I never find myself stuck like this next Winter.
I despair of the situation regarding professional development here. There's just too much imagery, back biting and basic ignorance about true creative art. It's a place obsessed with the cultural niceties of the didgeridoo, bongos and (to my mind) obscure, worthless, cacophonous sounds. However did Stef and Tom manage to break through this herd of sheep, who are scared of looking too deeply at themselves and so escape into plastic and abstract imagery?
Simple, I suppose...they formed a group.
But I can see, from Stef's mannerisms and attitudes, that it has not been easy for him either. He knows the problems I face, because he has had them - although being Flemish is surely an advantage for him. Some people have said Tom Barman and Stef Carlens are arrogant. To me, that is rubbish.
Stef is someone who has a very clear view about certain aspects of life, but stays a little confused about other things - especially regarding himself. In many ways he is the equivalent of Gerhard, Ruana and maybe even me.
Despite what he said about "giving up playing and bringing on new younger talent" I can see that his real joy is getting onto stage and playing. But (unlike me) he has pressure on him every time he does. Last Spring, he played the 'Doos on Mondays and Tuesdays - and, for some reason, there was just him and me doing that. It was enough to see that he actually loved playing the 'Doos, because the place is a part of his life. Possibly he broke in his new songs there just like I do now. But he knows that when he does play there he puts his reputation on the line.
How many people in Belgium would like to say," Oh yeah! I saw him play one night. His voice was terrible..." - or "He played this song really bad" - or whatever. Of course, most of the time, everyone would clap because of who he is...but he would know how well he can play and sing...and if he knows he has played badly it will grate with him.
Then, one day, Stef said, " I don't think I should be playing here."
"Why not?" I asked.
"Well, I found it hard to put emotion into the songs tonight. It didn't feel good."
Strangely enough, I was more particularly impressed by the emotion he had appeared to put into his songs that night. To my mind, if he felt he wasn't being emotional, but still gave the simulation of it automatically in his voice?
Well..that is excellence!
I told him this, but he just seemed down on himself...on touring with dEUS...even (it appeared) on his eating at that time. Maybe one explains the other. Being vegetarian and existing on the odd cheeses smos sandwich might eventually cause the mind and body to get depressed.
But, as far as I'm aware, he didn't play the 'Doos again...until a few weeks after the new premises had been opened - and, at that time, there were no microphones, which made it difficult to do anything except noisy songs (for all of us). Then he didn't play it until this Winter, but then he has been busy with Moondog Jr and associated projects.
Somewhere, along the line, a rift developed between us. It seems someone jumped on one of my comments and distorted it to Stef, because after Ruana and I had just finished a set in the 'Doos I met Stef on the way to pick up the hat. I asked him, "What do you think of our duo?"
"It's ok," he answered, bitterly.
I then asked about the projected Moondog CD and he replied, "It's out in October. But you don't like my music anyway."
It is not true that I said that and in such a negative fashion. I don't think EVERY song dEUS or Stef do is great, but you show me someone who likes everything an artist does and I'll show you an inner denial. It's true (also) that I think the audiences that would go for that style of music is narrower than...say Cliff Richard, Rod Steward etc..- but that is NOT an insult. In fact, it is a tribute. It is people doing what they want to do and doing it successfully, despite the narrower range of general appeal. My music is aimed at the wider range of the market because I need to stay alive - and the wider the appeal of a song, the more money I get.
So...in Belgium Tom and Stef are famous in the eyes of most of its young, but to the middle-aged accountant and the grandmother they are barely understood images, glimpsed occasionally on TV or magazine, or half heard on the radio. Nonetheless, they have broken through. That is great for them.
But I can see Stef (I don't know Tom well enough) moving on from one field of music to another. He can do that, from now on, because he'll have the money and (in a year or two) the time to explore. He's a great talent.
A couple of weeks before Xmas I was telling him about that strange experience of seeing that 'part of yourself' there is in your daughter. That startling,unreal surprise you get when you see your daughter for the first time in months. Stef looked very intensely at me and said, "Can I borrow your guitar?"
"Of course," I replied.
He went onto the stage and then, for the first time, I realised he was left handed. I am right handed. I was truly impressed by him playing a set of 6 songs with a right handed guitar - and if you want to go up and down the fret in barre style? My guitar is a pig for that, because it has medium strings and fairly high action for volume.
But the thing which strikes me most about him is the superb control of his voice. One of the songs he played appealed especially to me - and it seemed to augur a subtle shifting of style.
For a few days after that Stef and I were repairing a friendship made uncomfortable by his friend Bennie and my 'soul mate' Char. Somehow, almost unspoken, the uncomfortable distance re-emerged from the moment Bennie gave his rather tepid apology to me. I really don't see that there is anything in Bennie that is of the slightest interest to me. We don't communicate well and I felt uncomfortable sitting with a group of people that includes him.
My Fate is too uncertain to plan too much ahead, let alone pretentiously, but maybe the time will come when Stef and I can co-operate in some way. I seem to feel that very strongly on a subconscious level - and I think mybe Stef does too...because his manner tends to be 'something, but what?' to me.
Meanwhile, a letter from Chriss today. I don't know how I can relate the the full details of 'what I am', or what I've been doing, to him. A strange tapestry is my life at the moment. Someone who works 9 to 5 and spends the evening having a beer, listening to records and smoking the odd joint in a fairly ordered routine might not understand.
You can understand the product of my life - that is my song. But the source behind it? Even I get confused.
26/01/96 - Fri - It just gets colder! 4 short songs was all I could manage on the Meir - and even that left my fingers dangerously exposed. Gerhard and I are both troubled by money at the moment. I am fairly penniless...just hanging on until it gets milder. Having said that, Gerhard and I had good fun over the 'Inge' thing today, amongst other amusing topics.
Last night I managed to break in my two new songs down the 'Doos, but there was only a handful of people there. Playing the Cathedral was virtually impossible, but I did 2 songs - got 150Bfr. I spent the evening perusing my private literature.
PS Had a great dream last night! Dreamt Ruana was sleeping next to me. Had this really great warm feeling as I snuggled up to her and then...dammit...I woke up. top
Things we must do 6
....in which the middle of Winter
plunges Brian into crisis
26/01/96 - Fri - Antwerp - Heide was in the Musiekdoos also - and after 20 months she finally opened up on conversation with me...it's taken a long time. My effort last week came to little. Well, maybe we can communicate more effectively from now on - maybe she will even fire the Muse. I certainly need something.
No sight, nor sound, of Char. Although I'm thinking very warmly of Ruana at this time there is a feeling of unobtainability about it all. But there's something uniquely sensual about the thought of Ruana caring for me...and loving me...that I can get from no one else. Some sort of charisma about her. I sort of wish I was perfect...but I'm not even partway that.
I'm just Brian. Nothing special. I wish I was!
Ruana and I last Summer....facing the world together....aah...it was so sensual!
27/01/96 - Sat - If there's anything worse than it being cold...it's landing yourself on the wrong pitch at the wrong time. Quite aside from the lack of control your voice suffers from (due to the cold). So...a whole hour for just 200Bfr.
I'm literally surviving on bread and jam! The weather forecast predicts east winds and cold at least until Wednesday. There seems no end in sight!
Last night was Friday, but the bars were as empty as a Monday. Do people really want to go out in this weather?
I don't! If I had money enough I wouldn't! But all I have is 5Bfr!
There are times of the year when you feel free, feel good and money is always there to be earnt. There are also times of the year when you wonder if you'll actually survive....money is ridiculously hard to get. Cigarettes, coffee, even toilet roll, become luxuries you simply can't afford.
The last time I had to put up with not buying cigarettes was on the aftermath of my journey with Jim Druid and Vered to Basel, but the moment I got properly into the swing of working Basel that passed away.
Here, though, the ONLY option would be to play bars. Gerhard and I haven't worked out a set yet and I have a real fear of doing them on my own.
Is this the time to face these fears?
After all...I played bars in France and Switzerland.
Gerhard, in similar problems, has been let down by Sven and Karson. They were going to play Gent today and Gerhard's home village tomorrow. Is it coming time for him to face HIS fears?
He is very good as an individual performer, both for busking and bars, but he is very reluctant to attempt that.
Such is the way of struggling artists on the sharp end of the business. I am perfectly comfortable in my independence most of the year through my self-reliance, but then come times when all my options are closed. Then I wish I had a duo or trio to play bars with. Gerhard has got a trio to play bars and do gigs, but he relies on them too heavily. He hasn't worked out he can be self-reliant too. It wouldn't be a massive advantage to him at the moment...as it isn't to me at the moment...but, most of the time, it's a sense of true freedom.
Last night the 'Doos had 6 people in it. No money there. Played the Cathedral, but it was so cold! Gerhard joined me and we sang snippets of 'Will ye go, lassie go' everytime there was actually someone about to walk by.
Went to Rooftop, a posy bar, where Gerhard and Heidi took up a Flemish conversation...while I sat there wondering what the hell I was doing in such a place.
28/01/96 - Sun - Well, 350 Bfr from 7 songs means I can treat myself to a Smos in the Cafe Centrum. So it's 'hit and run' - out...struggle through 4 or 5 songs and dive for cover. It's handy to pick the right places at the right times, but who knows what in this weather?
Gerhard phoned Sven and found Sven was still ill, so he asked me if I wanted to go with him to his mother's village, "Cooked meal...spend nothing!"
Yeah, but we'd only just got up - I felt in need of a shower - I had only 70Bfr and today there was a bit of sunshine - so...need to work; people give more when they see a bit of sun.
I really feel rusty at the moment. Playing extensively in the Autumn I really developed an edge to my style. But now I don't play in public enough and when I'm in the cold my fingernails wear down and break easily. If this cold weather lasts too long I'll be down to skin only and then, of course, that rips.
Playing then becomes painful.
This is not art! Singing is the same. After 5 or 6 songs you feel it in your throat.
What to do? Well, jump into the river is out! But, quite often, my will to carry on just fades. But carry on I must! Because of the knock-on example of it:
Greg told me of a family he knew in Salford. The daughter was raped and suffered from trauma. Her mother tried always to be close by her, but, one day, the daughter committed suicide. The mother was torn by grief and guilt, because she just happened not to be around to stop it happening. One mournful day...she threw herself into the river.
The son was very badly affected, but kept together and married...had a child and even made a comfortable living. But, one day, his marriage went wrong. He lost everything...and his answer was to suffocate himself with exhaust fumes in his car.
The daughter 'inspired' the mother and the both 'inspired' the son.
Knowing the instability of the 'family'....Char, Gerhard and I do not need bad examples. But we are capable of leading each other to bad answers as easily as we are to good answers.
This may sound morbid, but chain re-action is very much a tool of Fate...or the tool which thwarts it. Only my firm conviction that suicide is wrong stops me from actually experimenting with it at this time, because, inside of me, there is a despair so deep. A strengthening wall to my conviction is my responsibility to my real family in Ireland...and to my 'spiritual' family here in Antwerp.
In some ways...the bond between Char and I has the recipe for tragedy.
How strange! 'I'll keep holding on' is on the CD player...Nothing had the chance to be good - nothing ever could....I'll keep holding on....
Getting the rent and the electricity money is problematic, but getting the money for dental treatment is impossible at the moment. Getting the money to do anything but survive...and even that on a subsistence level.
It's so annoying when I think of those brilliant busker friendly shopping streets in Bern and those lucrative trams in Zurich and Basel...not to mention the bars.
It's true that the competitiveness of Antwerp is healthy, but this time of year I can't compete because I haven't the development outlets. If I could think of a way to make a few hundred pounds...but how?
The last two weeks have been bad, but the first of them was more the winding down after scraping this month's rent. The second has been a problem because of the severe cold. Now this is the last week of a long month coming up. People are gasping for their monthly pay cheque. So...next week I'll have to work, work, work and hope the weather allows it. Social life must stay at a minimum - work must take priority.
Get away from here, Brian, as soon as you can. Make it to Switzerland.
29/01/96 - Mon - Woke up feeling wrecked. But all I did was stay in last night and go to bed early! Perhaps it was because there were no cigarettes or coffee. Looked in the mirror. What a state! All pretense, grandiose plans and senses were stripped away and made to look ridiculous....
'Family'? There is no 'family'! It's all in the mind! So....Gerhard may be right in what he presented to me two evenings ago....
"Do you think it's not especially Fate, but two girlfriends you dated who hold fond memories?"
Of course, the 'friends' thing is common after relationships. If I had wintered in Switzerland, then what of the 'family'?
And think of it....where is Char? Not seen her since that Friday two weeks ago. Ruana is becoming a faceless voice on the end of a phone.
But...I suppose my subconscious is a bulldog. It bites and worries at situations until it squeezes out answers. Maybe not a bulldog. Maybe more a pitbull terrier. It makes an overkill. A simple growl or bite could be enough. But a pit bull goes all the way...black and white.
But, gradually, even a pit bull tires of its worrying. A withdrawal of energies inward is the result of January and Winter on me. Even a pit bull may be cowed when faced with obvious superior force...or sheer lack of confidence.
Last night my dreams were of Heidi. I don't know why!?!
There is no continuity of mood or mind, except my tendency to just hide away. I suspect Char behaves similarly this time of year. Last Wednesday and Thursday it seemed I felt Ruana very strongly. By the weekend that was gone.
But what do I feel now?
Almost indifference - and pretentious.
"So what do you want to happen with Ruana? asked Gerhard, that same night.
"I don't know!" I replied.
And I don't! Although Gerhard has similar attachments to Kat and Inge he still has his youth and natural talents to work with.
What could I - at 41 and in a state of total disarray, with uncertainty about my future (even my present) - truthfully expect from a 19 year old schoolgirl with looks, charisma and high potential for the future?
At this moment...I can expect nothing from anyone, except myself (to reconstruct my life). I can be everything I want to be...I can be nothing. At this time...I am nothing. In 6 months, a year, two years? Who knows...?
Money is now the key.
With money...I can move forward professionally and socially. All my creation and social links have been achieved without money here in Belgium. What can be done with money? top
Things we must do 7
....a card from my daughter
and emotional windows
29/01/96 - Mon - Antwerp - Last night, other dreams were of my wife - we met, we embraced...and I asked for Rachel...but she was somewhere else - and I wanted to see her.
With money I can do decent demos of my best songs...get the equipment I need for gigging...even get transport. But money is something I don't have and, unless I get to Switzerland, something I will never have around here. The only assets I have are my songs, my guitar and my voice.
Meanwhile, aside from Gerhard, I am probably relieved no one needs witness my helplessness and despair. At this time I do no greatly love myself. I just pray for some financial miracle to help me break out and repair my confidence. But...life is not like that.
30/01/96 - Tues - Just thought I'd go to the 'Doos, about midnight, to read the English paper and find out how the football was going. Never expected more than 5 or 6 people there on a Monday, but when I got there I saw two table loads of 'ordinary' people...not trendies....plus a half dozen other people littered about. Asked Marie to play - she said "yes".
I started with Graham Nash's 'Wounded bird', followed it with 'Dirty old town'...then on to my own latest 'Will you sleep' - on to 'Help u thru', but the capo didn't seem to behave so I cast it aside and did 'Fairy Tales are real'...and finished with the traditional Irish song 'Star of the County Down', which left Ettienne wildly applauding. The groups on the table were all still there, so they were the kind who liked my sort of style. Took the hat round and EVERY person on those tables gave...and not just 5Bfr. I ended up with just over 600Bfr. Very satisfying!
Of course, it was sheer luck. Most musicians would have given it a miss down the 'Doos on a Monday, because it was cold, the end of the month and usually quiet there. In addition, Moondog Jr were playing in Antwerp last night, so the trendies would probably be there.
Moondog are playing again tonight so maybe I can strike lucky again.
But there is one thing that has emerged out of this. The general public have a good percentage of people who like what I do, caring little for image.
Most of this Winter I have been playing the 'Doos, which seems increasingly to be a 'trendy' haunt. dEUS, Kiss my Jazz, Evil Superstars all turn up in here, so it's 'star' spotters most of the way these days. As there is an 'anti-Brian' faction around I find it difficult when the 'abf' is concentrated of an evening.
But, all the same, this is good on a competitive level, because I must try and work harder. What I mustn't do is lose sight of reality. The reality is I am facing audiences consisting of the cream of Belgium's most promising rock talent.
Open a paper, a magazine...and I'm likely to find a picture, an article or general blurb about one of these people. So I am playing to people in, or breaking in, the music business...and, no doubt, if I was a crawler and pandered to these people's ego I would be involved in some way with them.
But, no...I want to break through on my own terms as much as is possible. That I will have to compromise eventually is inevitable, but that I hold my integrity as long as possible is, personally, important. Yet I still get fazed by a lot of things....
Two young girls, maybe only sixteen or so, looked into the 'Doos window and came in. They sat themselves on a table near mine. I was sitting on my own and it would have been nice to talk to someone. I just kept reading the newspapers and they kept on talking to each other...and I was wondering,'Are they waiting for me to say something?'
Frankly, that is what fazes me. I don't, as a rule, talk to strangers from cold (some sort of fear of getting trapped into uncomfortable dialogue). Here, in Belgium, the girls usually never talk to you first - you have to talk to them. This means that I don't get to talk much with most girls...even ones I've known for months. Usually...the girl has to tire of waiting and approach me.
I suppose, in a way, there are benefits to that. At least I'd know the girl who approaches me has some kind of interest in me. Lots of girls don't approach...they just give really sunny, come on smiles.
But I find that a little suspicious. Like the come on smiles you get from girls when you're sitting with Stef. It's the image they see - not the reality...and it's probably Stef they are really interested in. So...if a girl approaches me I know they have SOME interest in me. Ophelia and her friends approached me,,,and from that I recognised a kindred spirit.
Yet the last time I saw her (in November) she said, "I didn't want you to think it was Stef I was interested in and that you were just a way to meet him."
See what I mean? But, I feel, even with Ophelia it was the image of "that voice" and "that song" (Separate shields) that drew her to seek further. Hopefully, our friendship will develop a bit more this Summer (if I'm here) - or, at least, within the next few years. The whole point of my 'family' is that this happens - and naturally.
Back to the two girls. Anyhow, I saw no sign that they were stealing glances at me, but I heard one of them mention Milligan, which told me a great deal. I had bought some food in for dinner and I decided it was time to head home. I packed the guitar and put on my coat...and the two girls simultaneously got up to go also. This really made me nervous! What were they expecting from me?
I said general farewells, stepped outside and stood there temporarily until I heard behind me the girls coming out. As they were reaching for their bikes I started to walk home...turning over my shoulder to say "Bye!" - in its way a big compromise to my shyness.
Sometimes it's hard to be lonely and shy...
31/01/96 - Weds - Well, I guess I got a lot I need to say today. What has added to it all is a letter from my wife enclosing a Xmas card from my daughter, Rachel. In it was written "to daddy love rachel" - the first time I have seen her writing words, though 'seen' may not be the right word. Also, there are four up to date photos of her in her school uniform.
Tears of emotion came unbidden to my eyes. Paula sent a letter with it telling me about what Rachel received for Xmas...including a twin pushchair for her dolls ( so she can be just like Carmel, her Auntie with twins). With the money I sent Paula bought Rachel some boots. Rachel started school last September and enjoys it, especially (I'm pleased to hear) reading and writing.
My wife also noted that I should write to Rachel on a regular basis (once a month), because it does more to re-assure her than all the talking they do about me. So I must make sure I do that! I shall get onto it tonight or tomorrow. Also, Paula says I should send a recent photo. That's harder! Though I could send one of the photos from Helen's party, but...it's not recent. In fact, I've seen Rachel since then.
I suppose much of what I'd planned to write today is inter-related to my desperate haste to find my professional feet, so I can see Rachel more...and as much as possible - and also to contribute more money than I have been able to. People here do not comprehend that! They are conditioned to think of themselves...of their egos.
The poison and the resentment I spoke of earlier in this diary between Ruana and I is beginning to seep through.
"How would you feel about playing some bars one night, Ruana?"
"No! I do not want to play bars. It puts me under pressure! I think that we'd need far more rehearsed songs. I don't like the pressure of 'well, from 2 months we shall play this or that'...it makes me run and hide. I would like to learn more chords and stuff..."
"Fine! Then why don't we just play privately and relax? Without a timetable or pressure?"
Half a cake is better than none. But none seems my lot.
I suppose the seed has been relaid, but it doesn't seem likely we'll be getting together yet for awhile. The poison and the resentment runs deep.
That I put pressure on her musically is probably so last Spring, but to do anything in this business you have to remember the stiff competition of people the world over putting pressure voluntarily onto themselves to get an edge. My subconscious desire to do things quickly in this field is fed by Rachel. That is important to me.
Ruana said, in Balazuc, that she picked up my burning urgency and tried her best to meet it. Of course, when you make such concilliatory gestures eventually you have to buck against it. So she did!
When you're uncomfortable with something...sooner or later you snap. So, from a musical perspective, though she liked performing with me she felt pressurised by my professional ambitions. Well, my ambitions are professional! I know I'd get nowhere fiddling about self consciously in a private room. You need the edge an audience gives.
Having said that, I am hopeful Ruana and I will start again on our music. It's just that I am aware that I can not count on her to be an important facet to my professional aspirations - at least, for the time being.
It was a bit hard to write properly what I freely want to say, because Gerhard was with me in De Klamper. Now, having done a busking stint for a hard earned 500Bfr I have just had a Smos and can relax a little by writing this in the Cafe Centrum.
Unexpectedly, Heidi came in briefly. I showed her the photographs and when she saw the card she exclaimed, "Rachel!! That's my name!!"
"But I thought it was Heidi....erm Heide (hedder)"
"Yes!! But Rachel is my middle name!!"
Incidentally, I saw Vered yesterday. She was saying that Charlotte was asking after me ...gulp!! Vered has just arrived back from Israel, where she had that bad experience of having your mother die. Two years ago, almost to the day, my mother died too. Empathy....we sang the Melanie song 'In the hour' at the Cathedral as a mutual tribute.
Oh yes! The duo arrangements Ruana and I worked out have been utilised by me on occasion. I had been introduced to Josie (an American) in Zurich. By sheer chance, a couple of weeks later, I met her in Geneva, where she had been seeking to busk acapello. We teamed up to busk the terraces and restaurants for an intensive 24 hour period. She had a great voice and it was almost like having Ruana with me. In a way it was a shame she had to go to Paris and on to Zurich to catch a flight home. She was a very fast learner. She picked up melodies and harmonies swiftly and took a liking to many of my songs and wanted to sing them. She liked the words to my song 'What I am' so much she copied out the words. top
Things we must do 8
...why did an American, a Brit busker
and a French film producer in Geneva
talk about Antwerp and Belgians?
31/01/96 - Weds - Antwerp (recalling my Sept.95 visit to Geneva) - Funny really! I sort of placed Josie at about 22. She was actually mid-thirties. She must have been, because she had a seventeen year old daughter back in the States. We played a sparse cafe terrace, but so impressed a French film producer that he wanted to buy us drinks..
Because he was the producer of a film called 'The sorrow of the Belgians'.
So, without a Belgian in sight, we talked about his filming in Antwerp (where I live) of a film based on Hugo Claus (a Belgian) and the producer's pleasant surprise at the quality and enthusiasm of his Belgian actors/actresses...while I explained about the songs 'Little bird' and 'Baby', both written by a Belgian girl (Ruana).
Josie referred to the girl sitting with him as "your daughter" and I was privately thinking ' Whoops! What if this girl is his girlfriend?'
So...as Josie and I finally walked on our way...I said, "Are you sure that was his daughter?"
"Oh yeah! He introduced her as his daughter."
Phew! I missed that bit.
What might have been with Ruana I'll never know. What may be is still open. I'll keep my fingers crossed. Anywhere in Europe becomes habitable with a well rehearsed duo. Ruana aside, however, the chances of a male/female duo must be explored. It's going to be hard to find someone as special as Ruana, but, last year, I set out my stall to find a male/female duo and I got one with Ruana. Maybe if I advertise my requirements once more someone will turn up. But I want Ruana!?!
Stop moaning, Brian! You can't always get what you want, but, sometimes, you can get what you need. Those were the words I said to Vera on the Thursday after Char left me for Spain. Within an hour I was walking into the Musiekdoos and seeing Ruana waiting there for me. I got what I needed.
Vered has a true enough pitch and a feel for harmony, but she has no real power in her voice. That can be worked on. But it would not be easy.
DaveR annoyed me last night. Competitiveness is one thing, but it shows a true weakness when you have to disparage your rival's act. So I returned the favour. I didn't disparage. I wouldn't do that. I just didn't applaud. I always applauded him whether he was crap or not. Now I shan't.
He is basically a walking ego. There's nothing he likes better than the sound of his own voice. Might be ok if he had something original to sing - and sometimes he has, but mostly he just churns out the same old stuff. "Just play all your hits!" is his simple philosophy.
To me, the 'Doos is not especially for that - unless you are particularly chasing money or there is a big, big crowd there and you feel under pressure to play it safe. On quieter nights the 'Doos is a springboard for untested new songs. I'm of the same mind as Stef in this.
Once, I said to him, "I don't know! Maybe I played too many of my own songs for this crowd."
"That's what the Muziekdoos is for! Playing your own songs!"
I think Dave's problem is that not only can't he be himself on the stage, but also he can't be himself off it either...because he's forgotten how. He hides behind his humour and his image. Behind the facade there resides a very sad and lonely figure. To him, sensitivity is weakness. A case of tunnel vision.
01/02/96 - Thurs - On the way to De Klamper I dropped into the newsagents for cigarettes. Twas then I saw a picture of John Reilly (an Irish busker) playing on the Inno pitch..."Muzikanten hoeven geen badge te dragen". The narrow minded powers are trying to introduce a badge system for busking in Antwerp. Well, there already is a permit system, but from talks with other buskers it is a hard thing to get one....because they probably want unobtainable documents, with a red tape syndrome. A badge would be instantly seen and Antwerp (unless they made the badge easier for foreigners to get) would would effectively stifle busking in the town. That is if the police actually bother to enforce it.
The world of music relies heavily on interaction between cultures. It is difficult to go from your private bedroom, where you have been developing what is probably a tepid set, to a gig situation in a bar. The system in Antwerp has been to partly develop your art on the street. A lot of talented musicians busk the streets, but won't busk terraces (generally, terrace playing is not interfered with by the authorities).
But look at the music scene in Antwerp! dEUS, Moondog Jr, Kiss my jazz, Stephen Duncan and the Recipe Hour, DAAU. All of these have members who develope, or have developed, their art through busking on the street. Only a handful would qualify for, or seek, a permit. The brilliant promise in Antwerp would be stopped dead.
28 songs have I written and developed on the street here in Antwerp. If the authorities make life difficult? Well, then I will just go elsewhere in Europe with my 28 songs. It would be in this new place that any money from any success I may achieve will go. If a song makes big that could be a million pounds going into that town instead of Antwerp.
The above mentioned groups may choose to disband rather than fulfill their promise, because several of these musicians still rely on busking the streets...and several may not be able, or willing, to get this badge. So Antwerp, on the edge of becoming a true MODERN centre of music, will retreat back to obscurity.
In addition, tourism relies heavily on street performers. Antwerp is pretty (ish), but basically unexciting. The tourist wants to see LIFE in Antwerp, not just bricks and mortar. Children get bored and need the stimulation of street performances to make them feel this is not just a fun day for 'grown-ups'.
Antwerp's brochures, promoting the city, actually put special emphasis on street performing.
Take away the spontaneity of street life and the bar entertainment (because the one relies heavily on the other) then Antwerp will become an empty shell.
Tourists will graduallyreduce in number. Bars and restaurants will fail and close. The people who work there will be out of work. New money will not be encouraged to invest in the town. The blossoming music scene will implode and become stagnant. It would cost the city a great deal of money. Then, of course, the city will look at other defenceless people and blame them.
The centre of busking will move elsewhere and elsewhere will get the financial benefit.
In addition (an important one), what do tourist centres really aim to do? Well, to get as much money from tourists as possible and improve the money circulation and general wealth of the place, Consider how much money tourists put into the hat of street entertainers - and then consider what these entertainers do with the money. They spend it in the bars, in the restaurants, in the shops, on their rent, on their electricity or gas.
On a tourist friendly day...if 10,000 people put, on average, 20Bfr into the hat of the various street acts littered around Antwerp then that would be 200,000Bfr extra introduced into the city that would not be there without the street entertainer. So, go ahead, Antwerp...shoot yourself in the foot.
Meanwhile, last night in the Doos (a busker's bar) there was only me playing it. Fine! Now I'm chasing the electricity money. I was on 900Bfr after yesterday - another 1500Bfr to go and then 5450Bfr for the rent.
It's going to be a hard couple of weeks. But there was even some heat in the sun today...around midday...
I tried "calling" (telepathy) Char last night, because I haven't seen her for three weeks and I guess I worry. I tried to catch Pierre yesterday, but he wasn't in. So I'll wait to see if my "call" was successful.
Evening - After that long tirade about permits and badges I discovered, upon getting back and reaching for my Nederlands-Engels Woordenboek, that the powers that be have given up the idea. It's a no go. Getting worked up about nothing.
But then, I'm good at that.
Meanwhile, as I sit here in the Cafe Centrum (I must make sure I put the name down - it pleases John, the owner), I think of ways of getting the 11,000Bfr minimum I need for dental treatment. The only assets I have are my songs. My problem is the way my style is so different.
Ken Post was always saying, "Stef is a business man!", but then, people said that about Ken. Three or four weeks ago, however, Stef confirmed it himself, "This is a business, man! I treat it as a business!"
My songs are my business but, I'm afraid, I'm no businessman. But Stef is....
Would he know ( or want to know) how I can get money from (say) selling one of my songs? Maybe, if he's a businessman, he can take his percentage for the deal. The only problem is I don't know what side he is on. Is he with the clique or independent of them?
My impression, from the things he says and the manner in which he says them, is that he is completely independent of thought and action. But whenever I've spoken of 'getting someone' to do my songs he has usually said, "You don't need to! You do them fine!" ...or something like that. If I see him I'll have to test the water, because I need money to break out of this trap and out of myself.
Sometimes, we all need a little help.
02/02/96 - Fri - It's two in the morning (Saturday). Haven't really had time to settle down to write today. I've probably made about 25% of the money I need for bills. 8,000Bfr I need. 2,000Bfr I've got. Last night I did a pitch on the Cathedral and then went to check out Pierre (Char's brother). He was in, with his friend Filippe. I ascertained Char's well being through him. She had been around there to pick up some of her stuff from her ill-fated previous apartment.
On my last meeting with her she had told me that she (and Bennie) were trying to get the deposit for a new appartment from the 'social'. Well...it seems they got it, because they've got somewhere. How long they keep it? I don't know. I can't see them getting the rent together. Is it a case of another defaced room and them charging down south again? Probably. What worries me is that she will look on it as 'home' and put up with unreasonable behaviour because of that. She told me she had doubts about sharing an appartment with Bennie.
Well..so do I.
Ruana sees it fairly black and white,"She's chosen her bed. Let her lie in it. She must expect that people eventually learn to live without her." Perhaps this is a sticking ground between Ruana and I. Seeing me would remind her of bad things with Char. top
Things we must do 9
...in which cynicism rides to the
02/02/96 - Fri - Antwerp - I had a pretty good night last night for a change. Pierre and Fillipe said David Lloyd was playing Mollys so I thought, "Why not?"
It was one of those nights when you say to yourself you'll go after this drink - and, all of a sudden, find someone has bought you another one.
But I woke up late today...about 2.30pm.
The Muziekdoos was crap tonight. I caught the bad time on a Friday..around midnight...didn't play that good anyway. Not really in the mood much tonight. The Cathedral got me 500Bfr, but I wasn't in the mood that much.
The story about the badges was clarified by Gerhard a bit. Some sort of compromise. You are supposed to have a badge, but you don't have to wear it. What bullshit!
Can't concentrate my mind too much at the moment. Seems Pommie is really getting into being domesticated...
"Gonna get married soon! Gonna re-decorate the bedroom for my baby! Gonna work every hour I can!"
Well, I'm gonna stop writing for now, because this is basically uninteresting. Maybe I'll be more inspired tomorrow.
03/02/96 - Sat - Woke up by the doorbell going. Gerhard had got himself lucky for the night. But I'd been alseep...having one of those paranoid dreams where suddenly you feel insecure - and you want to wake up in order to see who's intruding. In my dream I was forcing myself to wake up and opening my eyes to see white curtains with loosely laid out floral patterns.
Then I'd think,"Ah, I'm awake,", but then I'd stumble around the room and I'd realise I wasn't awake.
That made me vulnerable, as I sensed someone else was there and that they intended harm. So I felt defenceless, because I wasn't awake...yet I kept walking the building seeking the intruder and trying to force myself awake.
I was so disorientated by it all that when the doorbell rang I couldn't get a sense of where I was laying...or even which building. I got up and walked into the front room, instead of the kitchen where the bell phone actually was.
This is the second time I've had this sort of dream since moving in here. But every now and then I have one like this. Anxiety?
The girl Gerhard had with him seemed a shade cliche, "I don't think I'll live much longer."
"Oh? How old are you then?" I asked.
"Well then, you're doing fine! Once you get to 30 you can say 'I'm not going to live until 40' - once you get to 40? The same about being 50 and then for 60, until eventually you're 70 or more and lost the ability to count anymore."
"40? Ugh!!! That's too old!"
As I said...cliche.
Meanwhile, I wonder would I feel comfortable bringing a girl back to this appartment? I don't know.
Do I subconsciously dismiss the idea, if only for the sheer bother of it all? Well..on the whole Gerhard tends to be (at least) out until late most nights and sometimes, fairly often, he doesn't appear at all....in which case there is no problem. But the idea of bringing a girl back and arranging the right level of privacy deters me a little. I can only remember once having sex with awareness of others sleeping close by. In a caravan which housed four guys (including me) on an archaeological dig in Somerset.
Mind you...that was great sex. She was red hot.
Whatever, I'd say it would work out ok.
04/02/96 Sun - It was good hunting today. Two busking pitches yielded well and so did the Muziekdoos...despite a string busting on me. If you count the Guilders it's a 2,000Bfr day, but it could have been more. I left the 'Doos about half past midnight to get my spare E string from the appartment. I just couldn't fancy walking all the way back to the Cathedral pitch. I had eaten only a Smos all day and a cup of 'Winnys' coffee ( a diabolical Arabica coffee brand Gerhard had bought) made me feel quite ill.
Maybe the coffee is specially blended with choice camel dung, but its aroma is that of exclusive and distinctive puke. It is probably an excellent purgative.
A wave of tiredness swept over me, but it took several hours before I actually slept. Stress? Anxiety?
I have the electricity money. Now it's the rent to get. I'm impatient to get as much of it as possible as quickly as possible so that I can have it for next Sunday...my target.
We have no hot water at the moment. The water heater is leaking gas, so Friday night I had to ask Vera to use use her facilities. I hope the heater is fixed quickly. Simple things like having a shave become problematic.
Meanwhile, I think I should be more sympathetic to people's distress, real or imagined. Ingrid "I'm 23" said very little to me...and, it seems...very little to Gerhard. In the'Doos last night I saw Gerhard after I'd been out working....
"She was a strange girl, don't you think?" asked Gerhard, with a serious, puzzled demeanour.
"Yeah, she was! She didn't speak much. Did she speak much to you after I'd gone?"
"No, but she stayed until I had to go out. So I said to her 'look! I must go out now...you can come with me if you wish' "
One assumes she went her own way.
That she was depressed over something was obvious. She spent a good deal of time with her head slumped on her hands. Well, impressions are important to girls around here. She must have seen something about Gerhard that promised to ease her distress (aside from the sex). But Gerhard is not yet capable of dealing with that kind of situation. His sister and his mother both present different emotional dilemnas...as did Inge. I think it would take a special girl to penetrate his emotional boundaries. Probably someone like Ruana.
Last night I was thinking about ceasing the weekly calls to her...and thus placing my own emotional boundaries into free fall. The 'family' is stagnant. It may be time to leave further contact, or lack of it, to Fate. I need to open myself to other possibilities.
That is difficult when you are chained to the past. Remember Orpheus...
Orpheus had a wife, whom he much loved. But, through ill chance, she died. Grief stricken, Orpheus determined to enter the realm of Hades itself to try to bring her back. Orpheus was the sweetest lyre player the world had known. He disregarded the fact that no one may re-emerge from Hades...and so he set forth. By the use of his music he so charmed the Guardian and his minions that the torture of the damned was suspended for awhile.
The Guardian agreed to release Orpheus's wife, but made stipulations, "You may walk out of here and she will follow, but you must never look back to see if she is behind you until you are beyond my boundaries."
So, thus agreeing, he set forth out of Hades and his wife followed. But Orpheus, driven by a seed of doubt, forgot the warning and looked back. Thus was his wife lost to him forever.
Heart broken, he wandered the world of men a sad and lonely figure, but his music charmed them. But eventually, a God's jealousy caused the Wild Maeneds to rip him apart limb from limb.
Is phoning Ruana looking back? The Mythic Tarot identified me as the King of Fishes (Orpheus). Shouldn't I be looking forward to new contacts and trusting that situations already initiated will stand or fall without my attention?
As for being torn apart limb from limb by friends and enemies alike....such is the path I have chosen. Such has been my Fate. Such is the source of my strength.
At the end, there is only me - and Rachel.
05/02/96 - Mon - Got the electricity bill in my pocket. I shall have to make sure I get it paid today. The hardest bit now: the rent. Maybe I've got about 500Bfr left after the electricity. My target needs to be 500Bfr a day and then 1,000Bfr a day over the weekend. It is achievable, but it's going to be a hard week because I need to earn living expenses as well.
Meanwhile, while Ingrid was in the appartment last Friday, Gerhard and I teamed up well on an Elvis song we'd learnt. Since then I have learnt two more. Doing Elvis songs is not exactly my bag, but a CD Gerhard played me has three songs with Elvis and his guitar only, which are short, while also saying something I can (or feel I may) relate to. My favourite is 'In my way' - a beautiful song of farewell. Another is 'Lonely man', a perfect image of busking town to town. The other one is 'Forget me never'- a bit more sugar lumpy, but may come in useful.
As these songs are so short I can put them into an atmospheric medley. One problem with that is the song 'Forget me never' - my voice pitches too high in the key which suits the other two.
Yesterday, I woke up fairly late...went to my coffee 'fix' in De Klamper...and when I came back Gerhard was gone...I assume to his parents. So I haven't seen him since Friday night.
Went to do a pitch on the Meir about 5.30pm, usually a good time. But although there were plenty of children around it was too difficult to create an atmosphere. It seemed to be some sort of orthodox Jewish outing for kids and, unfortunately, the old Spike Milligan joke (Jewish piano = a cash register) seemed to hold true. Little money to be had.
So I remembered my stomach. I went into Mcdonalds (why?), forgetting all about the far tastier Sharra Pizza only waiting there across the road.
The Diamant phone didn't work. It took my first 5BFR and seemed perfectly happy and content with that - refusing to accept any more of my generosity.
Determined, however, to be generous I tried the station phone, which was more amenable. In fact, the background was freely supplemented with the musical (maybe it's shamanistic) drone of machinery, with occasional rapping from the railway station announcer. From the sound of it, Flemish announcements are as unintelligible as English ones ( and, come to think of it, as unintelligible as most rapping songs). I wonder what they're really saying...
"The train that was standing on platform 6 was the last train to Mechelen, so, tough shit! You've missed it." ....or..."I'm so depressed! You know? My wife doesn't understand me. But then, neither do you..."
Things we must do 10
...the first book of the journal
concludes with a cat's tail
05/02/96 - Mon - Antwerp - Or how about, "Good evening. As you can't make out a word I say let me just call you all bastards."
People say all the world needs is peace and understanding. I get neither from railway announcers, especially when I want to have a cosy talk with Ruana.
Jeez! Am I getting as cynical and cold as Ruana?
Ruana said she would have done the same as I with Ingrid.
I was telling her of my receipt of the new photos of Rachel. One of the disadvantages of cutting out other people's problems is the loss of perception over things you have no immediate understanding of (like railway announcers). Seriously, though, her suggestion that I go to Ireland to see Rachel BEFORE going to Switzerland was not thought out, because if it was just that then I would have gone several times. But this is a separation situation. I wouldn't dream of going to Ireland penniless. To do such a thing would be to put extra strain financially on my wife, instead of supplementing Rachel's upbringing. In actual fact, it would be preferable, despite the cost, to have them visit me here, because at least I can still be earning.
Probably, I will have to go over there, but first I need money; enough to say "here is something toward Rachel's upkeep."
Ruana has well coloured perceptions of situations that have passed her way - or on those where she has felt the need to study. But, beyond that, her perceptions drift into black and white. All in all, however, it was nice to speak to her...and I never got around to cancelling weekly calls. She finished with a "big hug".
Well, maybe I can use my imagination.
But my imagination is not too good with 'real life'. Last night, there were three girls all offering smiles of interest in the Muziekdoos. I really don't know how best to deal with this, because I need new female contacts.
The only thing I can do is say,"...the next girl who smiles at me I shall approach and say something."
What? I don't know. It really is time to toss the dice. I can't say no girl is interested in me. An awful lot of girls do seem to be. It's only me that's creating my loneliness.
I must think, 'Ruana and Char are my past. Who is my future?
It really is time to toss the dice.
06/02/96 - Tues - So, predictably the bureaucrats show their small minded teeth. Yesterday I was stopped on the Meir as the police began a clampdown - a month earlier than I think they would normally do...because of politics.
"Do you have permission to play?"
"Then I'm afraid you cannot play here until you have a permit."
"And are these permits easy to get?"
"Oh yes! The building is down by the Grote Markt,"
"I've heard they fling red tape at you."
"I don't know! he replied, and probably didn't, "but if I see you playing along here without a permit...then I will have to take you to the police station and..." he pointed at the guitar..."you will probably lose that."
So...this could be a few tricky days, while the issue of busking is still on political minds, stirred up (no doubt) by the week long debate in the newspapers.
But this makes life difficult for me. They could have had this two weeks from now - it would be close enough to the terrace season to head south. But, as it stands, I still need the rent money and not being able to busk the Meir makes it especially hard...unless I seek out some alternative.
I saw Gerhard down the 'Doos in the evening. He is Flemish, and can get permits as a result, without any problem So I suggested I went to the bureaucrats with him. It's possible that if we claim to be a duo or trio or something it will circumvent the racism of this town's busking laws.
Compared to the Swiss the Flemish are far too tolerant of their town councils. In Switzerland, there is even the possibility to change unwanted laws through the system of 'petition'. In Switzerland a petition is not just an empty system of protest to be ignored by bigoted politicians. If you are able to collect 10,000 signatures to your petition then bye laws can be introduced or overturned. Thus was it made possible to busk the REAR carriages of trams in Geneva.
Here, the Flemish seem to think, "Oh! That's the law, is it? That's a shame!"
They make little attempt to challenge unjust laws. They make a big show of thwarting the Vlamms Blok and its open rascist policies, but condone by their acceptance Fascism in their laws.
This is a natural consequence of their voting system. With this, everyone who has the right to vote must, or face a fine. But registered foreigners (Dutch, German, French, English, whatever) have no right to vote...even though, like John (Dutch) at the Cafe Centrum, they have run respectable businesses in the town for years.
So the Vlamms Blok got almost 30% of the the vote...and people were horrified enough to have 'anti fascist' marches.
The Vlamms Blok DIDN'T get almost 30% of the population of Antwerp's support. They got almost 30% of the Flemish peoples' support. So almost 1 in 3 Flemish people believe that their own inadequacies and difficulties are caused by foreigners.
No doubt, if voting in England was restricted to 'pure blood' English you would get similar results. In the end, once you reach the exteme, then Croations can blame the Serbs (and vice versa) for economic problems...or more likely because they want a bigger slice of the cake.
Cultural interchange creates wealth. Cultural protectionism creates stagnation and small minds.
While I was sitting in De Klamper yesterday I felt inspired to write lyrics about my lifestyle...its 'freedom' and emotional limitations. I went back to the appartment and instantly composed music round it...and thus was born "Boundary Lines" . I played it down the 'Doos in front of a small, but quiet audience...and they liked it.
Another song. Another step. Another addition to my overall artistic strength.
I think it is very likely that these songs, written in Antwerp, will break through elsewhere in Europe, because, frankly, I find myself getting annoyed by the town.
Talking to Everts...he feels very much the same. It is a shame, because there are a lot of fine people in this town and the potential for growth in the music business is promising. But if the interchange of culture and the importing of foreign talent is discouraged...then the lack of competition and new ideas will create stagnation - and any growth will be checked. Even now the Belgians have not truly cracked the European market.
Really, it is about time they did! The Dutch have.
This Summer I need to find my cultural homes. The places where I should be. They need to be places that show interest in creativity and where the speaking of English is fairly widespread. Bern seems promising....and I think, maybe Luzern. Some towns in southern Germany may be promising - who knows?
French areas can be good, but I really want people to understand, as best as able, my lyrics. In the end, of course, it will have to be Britain and Ireland...the home of my culture.
Hopefully, this Summer will produce for me what I really need. An established act.
Meanwhile, I piece together the jig saw. I don't really know myself what the sum of what I've done so far ammounts to. But, as it is, I probably overplay the 'Doos - at least according to those who don't listen. The latest I heard, from Gerhard, is that Maria the landlady is a fan and listens to my lyrics quite carefully, but that Etienne thinks I play the same songs.
To those who don't listen that will be the impression, because you can do 3 new songs in a set and 2 well trodden ones. Those who don't listen will hear the latter two and not the former 3.
Annoyed (generally at the moment), I felt this needed a defence, so I went into the other room with a piece of paper and drew a cat. I then folded the sheet so that only the last part of the cat's tail showed. I returned to Gerhard and his friend Kris, saying, "Right now! Tell me what this is!"
Gerhard turned the light on to it and said, " I don't know! A snake?"
Kris said, "Um...is it a tail?"
Ah! "That's perceptive!" I replied.
I unfolded the paper to show the cat. I then said, " When I play the Muziekdoos all you will hear is that equivalent portion of the tail. What my repertoire is? That's the cat! One day people will see the whole cat and then understand."
But, of course, not everyone. Just those who are waiting to see the cat, because they already recognise the tail. top
THINGS WE MUST DO...Book one of the Labyrinth Busker Journal ends here.