Saturday, 5 January 2013

From Bhutan to Baby Reggae...

Enough of all this think-speak - a blog should surely, on occasion just say what I am doing. So, what am I doing?

Well, I moved out of my beach-front bungalow and into a wee little room at the back of a wonderful little reggae bar tucked away on a backstreet of the main drag of Koh Tao. It's quiet there, completely chilled out in standard rasta style and I get to live with Thais instead of tourists which is infinitely more interesting and fun. The bar is built around an old VW campervan, from which there spirals a web of miraculously woven planks, boards, bamboo and driftwood that all interconnect to make something akin to the Ewok Village in Star Wars. If I attempted such an intricate and ad hoc build, I'm certain it would crumble. I sometimes wonder whether too much pressure on one secret node would bring it all tumbling, but it is resolutely solid. It's called Baby Reggae.

I also play in Baby Reggae. I had a feeling that coming out of Bhutan and into Thai travel culture would bring me back to music, and it has not disappointed. I met a French guitarist of the gypsy tradition who has the devil in his fingers but doesn't write or sing, so its perfect. We've played for an hour or two in the bar for the last 4 nights and jamming is a true pleasure. After each little foray into mutual musical warbling we utter a quiet thank you to each other, without really noticing - I only noticed it last night. But I think we are both grateful because we play so easily together. Stubborn as I am, I'm still playing mostly my own stuff and throwing in a few crowd-pleasers, but to my delight, the punters are asking for my songs. And last night, I made somebody cry with them. Twice. I think she was in an emotional place.

By far the best aspect of 'travelling' is of course meeting interesting folk that reaffirm how diverse life can be and remind us that life is full of possibility, something I easily forget when I'm ploughing my furrow somewhere. I met Erik and Kristn from Switzerland. It's not polite to ask a lady her age, but I ascertained that he was 56. Eight years ago they left home for what they anticipated would be '4 or 5 years' on their bicycle. Eight years later they've covered 61 000 km, been through Africa, up through the Middle East, a year through India, into Tibet, Mongolia, looped around China and stabbed through Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia to reach Koh Tao where they finally sat down, had a drink with me and graciously answered all my questions. Jordan was tricky - the kids threw stones at them. In Vietnam, they 'Hello' in an aggressive way. 'GRRRRRello'. 

Last night I met a guy who had just come back from Portugal where he was visiting his friend. This guy lived in the hills by the coast and made a living spear fishing. The guy reckoned he earned on average about a Euro a day, but he was happy firing his spear and sleeping beneath the stars that found their way through his rickety cobbled-together roof. I'm so pleased that these people exist!

Then there was Linnea, a young Swedish woman that I became close friends with over a day of snorkelling with sharks and riding the bike up hill and down dale. She was a goat-herder in Israel for 2 months. A goat-herder. In Israel. Wwoofing apparently.Brilliant. And her account of it tallies with every romantic notion that has ever cropped up in literature... whistling along a path, singing to the goats, sleeping beneath the stars, a trusty canine companion yapping alongside. I was sad to see her go, but it was her room I took in the Reggae Bar, so every cloud...

What next? Well, it looks like I might have negotiated a deal to stay in The Atlanta in Bangkok as a sort of 'writer-in-residence'. I explained that I've learnt much about the art of scribbling, but I still have a very significant, nay vital, aspect to master.... discipline. Whenever you read about the habits of good writers they're characterised by exactly that - habits. Rise at 5am, swim for an hour, take a stroll around the same park every day, eat breakfast... WRITE.... take lunch, stroll to same cafe every day, have a beer, eat (something steaky and flamboyant), do a little dance, make a little love... you get the idea. I've never been able to sustain anything approaching this way of life, so I'm going to use this tie to find out firstly if I can, and secondly, if it works. I've got two books to finish, but the priority is to finish 'Jacks', the funny shaped fugue-type little creature about a man who falls apart and puts himself back together in ever-increasingly strange of places. 

Then there is 'The Boy Who Drank Light', or 'The Boy Who DID NOT Drink Light', or simply 'Soulstreamers', which is a far more merry affair, a quixotic adventure full of optimism in adversity along the well-trammelled lines of the hapless Candide.

And finally there's the small matter of completing the reworking of Music of Maninjau, now perhaps to be called simply, 'The Musician'. I'm a long way into this (no doubt to the despair of all who know me), but a book of that nature written at 24 years of age is always going to be a bit flimsy in the legs, not to mention pretentious at times. 

So there we go.

I should put some pictures up of Baby Reggae. I will do sometime soon. But now... I have to fill in my Self-assessment Tax Form. A sobering thought, and in some ways, a welcome prospect at this time, if for no other reason than the ludicrous juxtapostion of what it represents and my life here in da Reggae Bar. One Love.              

1 comment:

Jeff said...

Envious, relax and enjoy after last year's hard work. Looking forward to reading finished books.