I'm always amazed at the way people suddenly become survivalists. They act like those militiamen in America who store up food supplies in secret hide-outs for the day when the Government falls and there is nothing left but anarchy. Except that we're only talking about one day when the shops aren't open. ONE DAY!!! And yet, if you visit Sainsbury's or Waitrose or any of the big supermarket chains on, say, Christmas Eve, you'd be forgiven for thinking that the end of the world is nigh. Fat people, some so fat you'll stand there wondering why they even need to eat for the next month or so, are standing in the queue for the check-out with a shopping trolley full to the very top with all manner of foodstuffs – bread, booze, buns, biscuits, baloney, you name it, it's in their trolley.
Once it's all over, like it is now, we enter a strange, timeless period when it's pretty easy to lose track of what day it is; the television schedules are all over the place, nobody appears to be working, the streets are deserted and in my case I just slob around doing as little as possible. As the light fades (as it is now) the house darkens as nobody switches on a light – not yet at any rate – and I, like now, bask in the halogen glow of my computer screen wondering whether it's time to pick up Bruce Dickinson's autobiography, a valued Christmas present. I've been dipping in and out of it ever since Christmas morning when I unwrapped it just prior to roasting some potatoes.
Dickinson (lead vocalist, Iron Maiden, if you didn't know) intrigues me and it's a lot to do with his multiple talents: rock star, fencer, writer, airline pilot. He is of a similar age to me (he's about seven or eight months younger) so there are elements of his life that are familiar to me, certainly his early life: the bands he admired and so forth. He's one of those people I would definitely invite to 'my dream dinner party' along with Will Self, John Lydon, Julian Cope and Mark E Smith, all of whom 'have books out' (Self has a lot of books out) and I'd like to read all of them. Equally good is they are all alive; I've noticed that a lot of people, when asked for the Q&A page of any self-respecting Sunday or Saturday supplement, often bring in to play people long dead when asked who they would invite to their dream dinner party.
I admire Dickinson for his determination and enthusiasm. Perhaps I envy him those qualities. Like a lot of people, I have often dreamed of being in a rock band. If I was in one, I'd play bass purely because it's a cool instrument and I used to play violin in the school orchestra, it's roughly the same strings. The violin is GDAE and the bass is the reverse, EADG. But things get in the way. Money for a start; there's never a spare £500 floating around to buy a Fender Precision bass, or spare cash for a few lessons. Other things get in the way too, like work, sleep and general living, although I think I could fit in the time. I'm tempted to make playing the bass something I undertake in 2018, but I'm wary of new year resolutions as I never keep them. That said, today marks two months since I 'gave up' drinking. The phrase 'gave up' is in inverted commas because I haven't given up for any reason; it's not because I drink (or drank) too much, it's just that I've started 'not drinking' and now I'm thinking: how far can I go? And don't get me wrong, I'm not climbing the walls in desperation; the truth of the matter is that I don't need it. I can go without. And that's the best way to 'do things' in my opinion: don't say 'right, I'm going to play the bass guitar this year', just buy one and start and see how things go.
With Dickinson's autobiography, I haven't yet reached the bit (if it exists) where he talks about learning to fly, but I hope he devotes some space to it. I caught an interview with the great man on BBC Breakfast a few days ago in which he told Charlie Stayt that he trained with British Airways and flew commercial airliners in the early noughties. He also captained 'Ed Force One' and flew the band around the world on tour – I remember watching that on television. You simply can't get more rock and roll than that, can you?
The weather outside is cold but not frightful. There was still ice on the windscreen of the car late in the afternoon and the grass on the front lawn was crunchy. Christmas lights in front gardens illuminated my route to the store where I bought various things. I was following part of my cycling route along Church Way and then I walked through the churchyard, light fading fast, headstones silhouetted against the night sky. It was now that I remembered people did go to work today. There was traffic travelling hither and thither as I moseyed on down the high street, hands in pockets to protect them from the cold.
|Walking through the churchyard en route to the store...|
Little Women is being serialised on the BBC and it's on now as I write this. Yesterday it was followed by the final part of The Miniaturist so tonight I'm not sure what will follow, but I love this time of year. I just love the laid back, chilled air of everything, the fact that I won't be getting up at the crack of dawn to go to work or even on an early morning ride, although I might go out later tomorrow, possibly for an urban ride to mum's or Woodmansterne Green, who knows? Right now, I'm just going to chill out, have another peppermint tea (not very rock and roll, I know).
One thing that Dickinson makes crystal clear about being a rock star is this: it's not an easy life. Yes, it's great fun – I'd imagine – and exhilarating too, not to mention creative, but it's hard and challenging work and while mega-rewarding in all possible ways...who am I kidding? It must be incredible, all that flying around the world, tour buses, sound checks, studio time, the fans, the hotel life and to top it all, imagine being an airline pilot too! Hats off to Bruce Dickinson, not only for being the archetypal rock star, but also for writing a great rock autobiography, which, fortunately, I've yet to finish.