Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Dave Davies: Satsang II: April 2012: You Only Live Twice

So we decided to have this once-in-a-lifetime experience twice. Starting to remind me of a title for a James Bond movie.

I’m not going to write a complete blog as I don’t want to repeat what someone else might do or has done. Instead, a few snapshots of the weekend, in words. Plus ruminations on the nature of faith.

‘I'm all about denial/But can't denial let me believe’ (‘Pavlov’s Bell’ – Aimee Mann)
I suppose that’s how I would categorise my feelings for Dave’s credo and in fact, any religious doctrine or spiritual creed. Simply wanting to believe cannot make it so because logic, reason, a natural propensity for scepticism often triumph over need and desire. They’re the Spaniards in the works as Lennon might say. Ok, I’m not the world’s most logical person but I do tend to ask too many questions.

So my beliefs bear more resemblance to superstition than anything else. I pray to St Anthony for lost items and to St Jude for lost causes. For me, faith of any kind is a triumph of will over common sense. Dave is obviously very well read and has done his research but me, I judge by results. If it works, I do it again. (Talking of ‘Do It Again’, have just seen the documentary so a review will follow shortly.) I’m not someone who ponders on whether the tree falling in the forest makes a sound kind of thing. Life’s too short; let’s not go there.

Say you watch a fantasy series, you need to suspend your disbelief in order to accept that vampires exist, that Buffy can kill them, that Sunnydale is the Hellmouth, etc. My attitude reminds me of something my Dad once said, while watching an episode of Smallville (I’ve long since stopped worrying about my Dad’s unerring interest in US teen dramas); one of the teens with meteor powers uses them in a destructive way, so, in order to control this, she’s forced to wear a bracelet made of lead, which prevents her from accessing her powers. My Dad is up in arms over this: ‘Ridiculous! As if a lead bracelet could do that! …’, etc. He’s happy to believe that a meteor shower could give people special abilities, that an alien arrived from the Planet Krypton and is living as a Kansas farmboy before becoming Superman but he draws the line at the efficacy of a lead bracelet. Now, whenever we’re watching something that does invite the suspension of disbelief, and we’re tempted to question an event that seems even more unlikely than the general tenor of the film might dictate, we call it ‘having a lead bracelet moment’ and laugh at ourselves – why is this one thing less credible than the rest? But we all have them, I think, those moments, however spurious, the lines we’re not willing to cross, either out of reason or out of fear, the bridge too far. I’m not sure Dave has them though and that’s what makes his outlook and his conversation so fascinating. It could lead anywhere.

Dave doesn’t discount or disavow other religions, mentioning Christ, Ganesh and Buddha – he’s inclusive and accepting and has cast his net wide in search of enlightenment. So, we’re looking at a patchwork quilt of different philosophies, so that, as well as a buffet lunch, we can partake of a spiritual smorgasbord (always wondered if I’d ever get a chance to use that word), with some options for the more refined palate, or those who have acquired a taste for something relatively rare, and others more easily digestible to the spiritual novice.

It’s the sort of thing I’m perfectly at home with, although I don’t accept that any of it is necessarily true or real; I have a similarly inclusive mentality. Why shouldn’t it be so? Although I’ve never seen an angel, I believe Dave when he says he has. At the risk of sounding facetious, I always wanted a visit from the Blue Fairy.

Perhaps my problem is that I’ve never particularly desired enlightenment. I’m more at ease with confusion. Should the divine be explicable or should it remain a mystery? Transubstantiation, the Trinity (such a beautiful word), reincarnation, all lovely ideas that might fall apart under analysis.

What seems contradictory though is the rejection of the ritual of established Western religions (vicars, communion, incense, kneeling to pray and so forth) and the embracing of concomitant rituals in Eastern faiths, such as gurus, types of breathing, mantras, chanting, meditation, all of which to me are just symptoms of the same kind of mind control. Why should chanting a certain phrase be any more effective than saying a Hail Mary? I’m sure Dave would say it wouldn’t be, that they would both have value.
Maybe I harp on about this because I find being instructed, however gently, when and how to breathe extremely stressful, partly because of my complete inability to comply, and thus, while for others, it is inducing a sense of peace, the perfect prelude to meditation, in me, a state of panic is rising and the very opposite is achieved.

[In the ante-room, there’s a statue, a Buddha or an Indian god, I can't remember, with a bowl of satsumas in front of it. I was just about to nab one before I realised that possibly they were an offering to the deity – I’ve been on a Buddhist retreat so I’m a little wise to this sort of thing – I do see someone else take and eat one later though but I won't tell on them.]

Who’s to say what’s real, whether the voices people hear are those of spirit guides or demons or aliens or the result of drug-induced psychosis? If the latter, does it make them any less valid? Maybe it’s simply another way of opening the mind, of looking at the world? Perhaps it’s how we react to them that determines our fate, whether we consider them friend or foe. I know many people who have, sometimes as the result of a bad trip, sometimes through stress, developed what used to be diagnosed as schizophrenia. Some have never returned to ‘normality’ (whatever that is – I know the way I live would not fit most people’s definition; as Dave says in Kink, ‘What’s normal, anyway?’), some are fine for a while on medication, then relapse, some just cope with the existence of a certain amount of what could be deemed ‘unreality’. Just watched a documentary on Peter Green; his experience with mescaline is a good example.

Dave copes well without his spiritual helpmeet, Rosina, absent through illness but the schedule suffers a little – I wanted to hear about the UFOs but, for some reason, we never got round to this.

Without the constant rain of last year, we were able to appreciate the location. Although not far removed from town, there was still a sense of remoteness, of cut-off-ness, ideal for a retreat. Plus this time we took the Magic Bus (some of our number having been on the real ‘Magic Bus’ that I had only read about in novels and didn’t imagine had actually existed), so the length of the path we were on felt emphasised as we were driven through picturesque chocolate-box villages on our way out to sea.

That connection with Dave, not as pronounced this time, but he certainly felt my breathlessness, as an asthmatic without an inhaler, when I entered the room, asking ‘Are you having trouble breathing?’ I was suffering from a sense of disquiet too that I hoped I hadn’t communicated to him (or that he hadn’t communicated to me) as a friend thought he seemed more relaxed than last year. I thought he was pretty relaxed last year.

I was more in awe than last time, perhaps because then I had only liked the Kinks for two months and had had only a little time to absorb the huge amount of material they had produced over their thirty-year career, not to mention all the solo stuff. I knew they were amazing but hadn’t really absorbed the scale of their talent.

Highlights of the gigs: Dave on acoustic ‘Are You Ready, Girl?’, ‘Fortis Green’ a stormer both nights, ‘Milk Cow Blues’ a rousing finale, the new songs, ‘Green Amp’ and ‘Remember the Future’, which he did when requested. Dave, ever obliging, sang, when asked ‘Visionary Dreamer’, with a member of the audience and delivered ‘Dead-End Street’ almost word-perfect although it had not been rehearsed. Surprised by how much I enjoyed ‘Hare Krishna’, even the singing along and ‘Creeping Jean’ which used to frighten me. Loved dancing to ‘Sea of Heartbreak’. I had requested ‘Imagination’s Real’; they had rehearsed it; but Dave didn’t seem to want to play it so I said I didn’t mind if they didn’t. Listening to it now and it’s so darn pretty, I wish they had played it.

As Molly, our lovely yoga teacher, was about to leave, there were calls for ‘Good Golly Miss Molly’. Thank God Dave had the presence of mind not to comply; the lyrics would have been a little inappropriate ‘Good golly, Miss Molly, Sure likes to ball’ for this remarkably prescient young lady.

Band personnel (as last time but minus Kristi – we missed you): Jonathan Lea, David Nolte, Frank Rawle. And Dave of course!

People: There were fewer of us (due to some last-minute cancellations) so it was great to see some familiar faces and get better acquainted as well as meet some new recruits. Last year, there were some people I only spoke to on the last day and wished there’d been more time. With fewer people, it was easier to get to know each other. Although the instant sense of camaraderie wasn’t there – that first time was different probably because it was the first time – they were all lovely, like- and open-minded folk.

The artwork: I did manage to add something to it this time; last time I never got round to it and thought any addition I made could only detract from the general effect. So I went with words instead of images. As Jackie (Leven) was very much on my mind, I used an album title of his. Luckily, writing with a paintbrush looks sort of artistic.

Mementoes: There was a raffle and I got a copy of The Aschere Project: Two Worlds, which is probably ‘prog’ enough for my Dad to like. I’ll have to lend it to him. Interesting and actually much more listenable than I expected. (Actually two days since I wrote this, I woke up singing the title track - it's a grower.)

Also managed to scalp a setlist that the band was kind enough to autograph and received another special memento, courtesy of Jonathan (it’s nothing inappropriate).

(Sorry to quote Ray here but he does have a way with words)
For all of us there, I can only say follow Dave’s advice and ‘Trust your heart’. Surely any issue or disagreement can be resolved if we simply allow love, compassion and respect to prevail.

On our last night, members of the group said they were going to reconvene at the Anchor in the evening and gave us very specific directions to reach it. We passed these onto the rest of the party. Left Dave’s house and tried to find the pub. Came across another one, the Crown, but had somehow missed the Anchor, I thought because we’d been talking, and walked past it. I was dispatched into the pub to ask. The natives were friendly and happy to engage with me on the subject of the mysterious Anchor although they listed all the pubs in town (which I already knew) and could only surmise that we were expected to go to a nearby town (we’ll call it ‘Mordor’) where there was a Blue Anchor. Mordor was a long way away, down a very steep hill. I said ‘I’m not going to **** ing Mordor!’ Then my sister came in, and noticed people waving at us from the back of the room, the people who’d told us to come to the Anchor. Even now, they had no idea this was the Crown. Girls! Anyway, then I went back to the bar and asked the regulars to pretend this was the Anchor if anyone else asked. Sure enough, another group arrives, puzzled too that here’s a pub at the exact location but it’s not the right pub. So they ask a man smoking outside – ‘Do you know where the Anchor is?’ and he replies, ‘Apparently, it’s here tonight’. It was a lovely pub though, with a turntable and we could choose our own music from a box of records on the table, so we started off with a Kinks greatest hits, so inevitably there was dancing; the backroom looked like a record library. What an amazing collection. Plus they stayed open till 1 a.m., still serving one of us. How welcoming.

So the tale of how we renamed Dave’s local for one night will make us legends in our own lunch hour.

Picture is of the sunrise after a
Sunrise from the hotel
‘Sleepless Night’
Had a strange experience in bed that last night. I take a lot of medication to help me sleep but suddenly I found myself thrown off the bed so violently that I bit through my lip, causing it to bleed and swell up. I’ve never fallen out of bed in my life before and this was a double bed, much bigger than mine. Now, if I’d bitten my tongue, I could have taken it as a sign … . Annoyingly, we were going to meet someone we work with the next day, for the very first time, so he’s going to think I’m a bit of a bruiser, like the young Dave, picking fights in bars. I did notice that everyone was very friendly to me on the train home, no doubt anxiously wondering what the other guy looked like.

Anyway, it was great fun but it feels weird to blog about it because it’s a little like going to stay with friends then writing a report afterwards ... what they said, what you ate and so on ...

Booked tickets to see Ray now but can't imagine it could compare to being a foot away from Dave when he’s performing. If only Ray were playing some more intimate venues. Looking forward to it though.

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