William's Study (Diary Of A Hyperdreamer)
Saturday 3rd January 2009 -- 6:00 pm
For the last seven days, I've not been out of the house. And for the first five of those, I haven't been out of pyjamas or dressing gown...and for the first three of those, not even out of bed.
Yes, I'm laid low with a nasty 'flu bug again, the third I've succumbed to since the completion of Nelsonica 08. I feel as weak as a kitten.
Each time I've caught a different type of virus. The first one, in late November, early December, seemed to be focussed on the chest area more than anywhere else. It was pretty rough but the worst of it vanished after a couple of weeks, leaving me feeling drained.
Not long after, Emiko suffered an inner ear viral infection which caused her to lose her sense of balance. She found it impossible to stand up or walk for a couple of days and couldn't go to work. A visit to the doctor and some prescribed medicine helped her to recover over a period of a week and she was back on her feet sooner than expected.
I then, (typically), developed similar symptoms...dizziness, moments of panic whilst out and about. These subsided after a few days but I suspect it was exactly the same viral problem as Emi's, though not quite as acute.
All this illness put us way behind with our seasonal preparations. The last couple of weeks before Christmas became a frenzy of dashing around, trying to find gifts for family and friends and then the last minute posting of cards. Far too stressful...
Also, Emi had managed to secure a temporary and much needed job at a gift shop in town, so she wasn't available to help with Christmas duties, therefore it all fell to me, though that has been the situation for the last few years, even before she was made redundant from the flower shop.
As readers of this diary already know, my childhood Christmases were magical, traditional affairs, (as they were for most children of my generation). I've faithfully attempted to preserve that vintage Christmas spirit for my own family, but I have to admit it becomes harder to maintain as time goes by. Perhaps I'm getting too old, or too cynical.
This year, our own decorations didn't go up until a few days before Christmas and I didn't find time to display any of the cards we'd been sent until Christmas Eve. That was when I finally dragged the stepladder from the cobwebs of the utility room and pinned the Christmas cards to the wooden beams of our living room ceiling.
This has been the first Christmas since my stepfather's death, last January, so I was naturally concerned about my mother being left alone. It's been a tough year for her, one way or another.
Emiko and I had been invited by our friends, Julia and Steve, for Christmas dinner over at their house. It's become something of a tradition as we've (very splendidly), dined there just about every Christmas Day since we've lived in the area.
I'd explained to Steve and Julia that I felt I should look after my mother this Christmas but they generously suggested that we bring her along to their house for dinner too. Mum can be a little shy with people she doesn't know so well, so when I brought up the subject with her she seemed, at first, a little uncertain. I assured her that she would be made very welcome and that our friends had three splendid dogs for her to pet. My mother adores dogs and this seemed to tip the balance towards the positive and she agreed to accept the invitation.
I drove over to Wakefield to pick mum up on Christmas Day morning, then drove her back to our place before setting off down the lane to our friend's house for dinner.
As usual Julia and Steve had prepared a huge feast...traditional fare with all the trimmings, a warm welcome and their family and friends along to share the day.
Mum ended up being adored and fussed over by the dogs and I ended up in our friend's music room with their children and Julia's mum, (who is a talented pianist). A fun filled hour or so followed with me jamming on guitar alongside Julia's two youngest sons, (Eddie and William), on the drums. Then a run through of some old standards and evergreens with Julia's mum leading on piano and me trying to spontaneously figure out the melodies on guitar. A very mellow, woozy, enjoyable Christmas Day afternoon.
My mother stayed over with us that night and then on boxing day, my daughter Elle and son Elliot came to our house for food and drinks and gift-giving. Another pleasant, warm family occassion. We took my mother back home to Wakefield later that night. She seemed to have really enjoyed herself.
The following day, I began to feel out of sorts. I had developed a sore throat and sensed the onset of yet another 'bug.' The day after that, it shed all pretence of being an imaginary condition and revealed itself as a fully blown flu' virus and I felt so rotten that I couldn't get out of bed.
Today, (one week on), I'm far from being free of it but I think I can finally sense a minute improvement, even though my body still seems pre-occupied with the mysterious manufacture of endless amounts of vile green alien goo.
Nights are spent coughing and retching and days are filled with perpetual nose-blowing and throat-clearing interrupted by moments of vacant staring into space, numbed and distanced from the wider world by dull aches and sudden shivers.
Emiko has caught this latest bug from me too, for which I'm feeling most guilty. Django and Tink, our telepathic cats, look up at us, concerned, then curl up in our laps like living, breathing hot-water bottles.
Emi went back to work today which was, I think, a foolish thing to do, considering the state of her health at the moment. In fact, she's just now telephoned to say that she's about to come home early as her cough is so bad. I'm not surprised.
These viruses seem to be everywhere and virtually unavoidable. The pre-Christmas crowds were full of people coughing and sneezing. It's impossible to stay clear of airborne germs in tightly packed shops.
One other side effect of this latest flu bug is that I haven't bothered to shave for a week and am now sporting a full beard. It's several years since I last grew a beard but this time I've been surprised by its colour. My bristles are no longer dark but are now what I think is referred to as 'salt n' pepper,' (with the balance tipped far more towards the 'salt' side of the equation). Strange this as the hair on the top of my head shows relatively few signs of grey.
I'm now trying to decide whether I should keep and maintain this beard. In the mirror it gives me a rather scruffy, tramp-like appearance, a sort of Dharma Bum persona, a ragged, crazy Zen monk look, even a bit Bukowski, which is quite at odds with the 'glam' image of my early career. Yeah, maybe I'll keep it for a while and see what music hides in it!
I need to record here some of the other events of the last two months as my previous diary entry was October of last year.
Nelsonica 08 was the main event during this time. The stresses and strains of getting everything in place had dramatically built up during the few days before the event. When the actual day arrived I was feeling totally drained before I even drove to the venue. I was little more than a bundle of nerves when I first took the stage but the audience, (the biggest attendance so far), were warm and wonderful. The live performances, (both solo and band), were extremely well recieved despite some hilarious mistakes due to the amount of material the band and myself had tried to learn in the two days available to us.
There were some onstage technical and sound problems too, which caused a certain amount of confusion but none of this seemed to matter somehow. I felt shattered but happy at the end of it.
Everyone commented on the quality and scale of the convention's decorations, which really transformed the room. The whole thing was run professionally with thought and care and a lot of love. I've said it before but Nelsonica feels more like the gathering of an extended family than a mere fan convention. This fact has very little to do with me but everything to do with the good people who attend the event and the organising team themselves. I just tag along with my guitars...and chat a bit.
Anyway, the day was considered to be a great success and the best Nelsonica yet. This is extremely gratifying to know but always puts more pressure on the team and myself to come up with something to top it next time...which is never an easy task, bearing in mind how much we pack into the event as it is.
I'm always super-critical of my own input anyway and usually find fault with my performance regardless of how well received it is. I suppose I have to accept that I'll never come up with a performance or recording that will satisfy me 100%. But that doesn't stop me from trying.
Another feature of Nelsonica 08 was that it doubled as an early celebration of my 60th birthday. Fans were extremely kind and generous, bringing cards and gifts which I took home and saved until my actual birthday rolled around on the 18th of December. I've never had so many birthday cards in my life. Amazing!
On the morning of my birthday, I had an enjoyable time unwrapping the thoughtful gifts I'd been given at Nelsonica. Such perfect gifts...it would be unfair to name just a few of the people and too time consuming and complicated to name everyone, but I'm attaching a photograph of all the gifts alongside this diary entry. There were some absolute gems amongst them too, things which I'll treasure for a long time.
Emiko had bought me, (for my birthday), an Airline Lap Steel guitar in red with a black pickguard. In Japan, when you reach sixty, it is traditional to be given something in red, so this guitar was an appropriate gift. I've already got a track part completed which features the Lap Steel. I added a vocal too, before the flu' kicked in.
All this helped to make my birthday a special one, even though I'm still having problems trying to grasp the fact that I've actually reached the venerable age of 60! Seems like only yesterday that I was unwrapping Christmas presents as a 1950's child.
Another post-Nelsonica, pre-Christmas task was the making of a special, seasonal audio-visual piece for the Dreamsville website. This one was titled 'The Silver Bells Of Christmas Valley' and, whilst being quite simple, it turned out to be a charming little video Christmas card for fans. Seems to have been well received.
I also wrote and recorded a single which I gave away as a free download on my site, a Christmas gift from me to everyone who has supported my music this last year. It's called 'I Hear Electricity.' Has a nice vocal too, as does the 'b' side: 'Kiss You Slow.'
And, whilst on the subject of downloads, I'd also recorded another new song, titled 'A Million Whistling Milkmen' which I've donated to 'Sara's Hope Foundation,' a very worthwhile charity run by a good friend of mine who is also a loyal member of the Nelsonica organisational team. If you haven't already done so, check out the following website to find out more:
The 'Milkmen' song has been made available as a 'flac' lossless download, and can be obtained in return for a modest donation to the Foundation. It's a nifty piece of pop music and won't scare the horses.
And now it is 2009, already rushing towards 2010. We should be in science-fiction land, enjoying the shining, clean, peaceful future we were promised in the fantasy comic books of the 1950's...but the reality is a continuing bloody conflict in the middle east, threats of religious wars and terrorism, the ongoing collapse of the global financial system and a very bleak midwinter to get through...and whatever dark clouds may lurk beyond. So much uncertainty.
Music and art may seem, to some, to be a frivolous luxury in such difficult times. But art at its best helps us to transcend these things, to slip through the cracks to a place where regeneration dances amongst blasts of electricity. Here is a landscape of hope in a world of eternal beauty. Here is the best of us, the most worthy of our endeavours. These bright dreams, I'd venture, are worth preserving.
Diary Of A Hyperdreamer wishes its readers a HAPPY, HEALTHY, PEACEFUL 2009!
The images accompanying this diary entry are as follows:-
1: Bill's photograph of Django the cat, admiring a minimal flower arrangement created by Emiko.
2: A vintage pack of 'Monopole' guitar strings, retained by Bill from his 1960's guitar playing days.
3: A previously unseen polaroid photo' of Bill playing live in his very early Be Bop Deluxe 'glam-rock' days, probably at 'The Fforde Greene' pub in Leeds or 'The Staging Post' pub in the same city. Possibly early 1973 but certainly no later.(Nick Dew in the background on drums. Note Nick's stage makeup, quite some time before Kiss did something similar!)
4: A few of Bill's favourite guitars photographed in the rehearsal room prior to Nelsonica 08.
5: Some of Bill's 60th Birthday cards on display in his home.
6: Bill's 60th birthday gifts from fans and the Airline Lap Steel guitar that Emiko bought for him.