Archive for the ‘Depression-bipolar’ Category

Fear of Climate

Pink Floyd

What comes between fear and sex?
Funf
Geddit? Vier Funf Sechs. More of a verbal than a written gag i guess and one that probably appeals to the Modern Linguist in me (French and German with subsidiary Norwegian – but that’s another story). I’ve been thinking quite a lot on and off about Fear over the last few years and have a sense it’s a massively important subject.

Nick Baylis of the Well-being Institute at Cambridge spoke about it the day before yesterday at the Channel 4 Education spring conference entitled In the Wild, exploring informal learning from the starting point of the current state of well-being of children in the UK.

The conference got off to a cracking start with Richard Reeves, author of Happy Mondays, who writes and presents on making work more fun. Smoothly and entertainingly he presented a couple of graphs indicating that beyond a certain relatively modest point money doesn’t make you any happier (apparently the modest point being about the average wealth in Portugal) and showing the comparative duration of happiness prompted by different life events (marriage, etc.).

Then things really took off with a fabulously disheveled, natural, impassioned semi-rant from Nick Baylis. He spoke with great conviction about the way just keeping your head above water is the default state for most of us these days; how the pursuit of happiness (as per the constitution of the good ol’ US of A) is a misleading goal – it’s a question of living life well; how emotions are neither intrinsically positive or negative – it’s how we ride them that counts, pain and anger being rocket fuel for creative expression, by way of simple example; how loneliness (stemming from rampant individualism) and exhaustion underly so much of our being; and how at the core of all this is Fear.

One of the principal antidotes to this fear and isolation he identified as “Beautiful Partnerships”.

His study of Positive Psychology focuses on lives that go well and he encourages us to get better at living life.

“Beautiful Partnerships”. The distance between people within which they can touch, embrace, kiss – really connect. A phrase and space that were the inspiration and focus of the day for me.

A few hours later I found myself only slightly further away – about 12 to 15 feet – from John Paul Jones of Led Zep, Roger Waters of Pink Floyd, Captain Sensible of The Damned and the great producer of Nick Drake et al, Joe Boyd. A few inches to my right was my best friend from school (from the days when you had a few less than 864 ‘friends’). [The photo above was taken on a phone with no zoom – we’re talking close.]

Before I get sucked into psychedelia let me swing by a man who loathed rock’n’roll – Frank Sinatra. He had this to say on fear: “Fear is the enemy of logic. There is no more debilitating, crushing, self-defeating, sickening thing in the world – to an individual or to a nation.” Ol’ Blue Eyes had some real insight (Pete Hamill’s Why Sinatra Matters is a recommended read).

Back on Planet Syd, Madcap’s Last Laugh was a tribute to Syd Barrett who died last year. Joe Boyd (whose Whitebicycles is also recommended reading) helped pull the gig together with added enthusiasm from Chrissie Hynde of The Pretenders fame.

The connection, beside the circle of 12 feet and the Cambridge base of both Syd and Nick, is several references during the course of the evening to Syd as “fearless”. He was the experimenter and catalyser of creativity. Roger Waters appeared solo and said without the inspiration of Syd’s fearlessness he would probably have ended up as a property developer.

Dave Gilmour, Nick Mason and Richard Wright also pitched up to sing Syd’s Arnold Layne. I remember being introduced to the Relics LP by same said friend on my right in our school daze.

Damon Albarn provided one of the highlights of an evening that still has me high after three days with a rendition of Words from Syd’s Opal record. At the end of the song he handed me the lyrics he had been using – which was nice! The Enfants Terribles were well impressed the next morning – they love Blur.

Among the gals, Chrissie Hynde was her usual charming, laid-back self; Vashti Bunyan had a delightful delicateness as she re-emerges into music (I only came across her a year or so ago at an IDEASFACTORY Northern Ireland workshop on music & film, thanks to Kieran Evans); Kate St John (who I first came across thanks to Van) provided spot-on oboe accompaniment on Words and one or two other songs; Martha Wainwright and her mom (Kate McGarrigle) did a fine See Emily Play, all the more impressive as the former had been on the raz since her gig the night before and the latter only learnt it a couple of hours before coming on stage.

John Paul Jones played mandolin (cue flashbacks to Led Zep 4) – I’m now in awe thanks to having had my eyes opened to the sophistication of Led Zeppelin by Chris Cawte, the Jimmy Page of the impassioned Letz Zep tribute band and the composer of the music on all my films and productions from 1993 on – I never fully realised how talented he is as a musician until I first saw him as Jimmy.

Captain Sensible clearly found Syd a huge inspiration and paid tribute with gusto and joy. Since my sid is more Sid (Vicious) than Syd (Barrett) his contribution was a thrill.

During the In The Wild conference I chaired a session including Pat Kane of Hue & Cry, who in talking about play and its importance in learning invoked the spirit of Punk. At its heart Punk had a wild fearlessness which has provided me and Pat and the Captain with inspiration and Simple Pleasure for 30 years (1977 was the Big Year for me thanks to The Buzzcocks, Siouxsie and The Clash). Next time I hear See Emily Play I’m going to think Syd and Sid – a beautiful partnership free of fear.

It sets your heart on fire

How you listen to music

“I can never hear lyrics. I’ve got a real dyslexia with lyrics.”
Paul Abbott, scriptwriter of Channel 4’s ‘Shameless‘ on Desert Island Discs

It was interesting to hear this throw-away remark (I missed it when I listened to the first broadcast last weekend), interesting because I have a similar relationship to song lyrics. Strange for a lover of Dylan and similar but I really struggle to engage with lyrics in a whole or analytical way. They’re more like part of an audio collage to me. Glints of light, a diamond spinning in the dark.

A good rounded choice from Mr Shameless punctuating a raw, honest, insightful and illuminating interview:

1.Good Vibrations
Performer The Beach Boys
Composer B Wilson-M Love

2.Ode to Billie Joe
Performer Bobbie Gentry
Composer Gentry

3.Sweet Soul Music
Performer Arthur Conley
Composer Conley/Cooke/Redong

4.Imagine
Performer John Lennon
Composer John Lennon

5.Children of the Revolution
Performer T Rex
Composer Marc Bolan

6.Town Called Malice
Performer The Jam
Composer Paul Weller

7.Video Lullaby
His son Tom Abbott with his band Kid4077

8.The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face
Performer Roberta Flack
Composer Ewan MacColl

Record: Town Called Malice
Book: Complete works of Arthur Miller
Luxury: Writing pad and pencils

Particularly like his One Record – it’s an explosive song, brilliantly exploited in ‘Billy Elliott’ – a kicking the wall song. Yes, really kicking. He zooms in on it as an expression of creative anger, constructive shouting, exactly as his writing is.

Touched by Fire

Van Gogh self-portrait

Stephen Fry’s programme the other evening on BBC2 on bipolarity/manic depression (The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive) was astoundingly honest and brave – both on his part and pretty much all of the contributors.

There were some jolting moments – the revelation the mild mannered egg-head had been in prison, the notion of taking coke to calm down, his reaction to hearing he was way up there on the bipolar scale of the Cardiff research doctor – and there were moments of lightness – the picture of the art deco bar with the barmen in white jackets which he saw as a delicious nut house.

What was the heart of the programme was the question of whether the various suffers featured would erase the condition from their life if they could. All but one opted to keep it in their lives – as the ex-Royal Navy commander said – the suffering is worth it “when you’ve walked with angels”.

I’ve always been impressed by how people manage to live with such suffering and depression. I remember as a child listening to my old colleague Phillip Hodson in the dark on his LBC radio phone-in. Phillip would quickly establish what the Real Problem was (as opposed to what they started talking about) and it was humbling to hear how a woman managed to live day-to-day with extreme agrophobia or whatever the huge boulder the wretched caller was rolling up the hill day after day after day…

It’s truly a wonder so few of us take an early bow. But on the other hand, we have the miracle of birth and parenthood, the power of Love, and the Simple Pleasures of life to balance that out. Not to mention Jeeves & Wooster and Oscar Wilde.

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