Today was making music day, and what a restorative racket it was.

Making music is a great way to clean out the synapses. For me, it’s a connection with something that goes to my core. Sometimes I do not give sufficient attention to the extent I miss it when it’s not there.

Earlier in the week, I was thinking about FX pedals when I read this piece at The Sobriety Collective.

It says ‘It’s easy to start feeling like you, not the drugs, are the problem. You’re not.’

I get where this view comes from, and what they’re trying to say here. The idea of drugs being an ‘extra helping of self-loathing’ is a true one, I think. A useful analogue (it occurred to me as I packed my practice bag) is thinking about booze in particular as a sort of FX pedal. It takes an existing signal and alters it, and in different ways depending on which dials are doing what (dose, scene, setting, so forth).

It is difficult at the least to get a handle on what your brain is really doing and thinking when you are putting drink in it. One of the reasons I have kept drinking for so long is because it so reliable at tuning out the noise. A pedal I have needed to get the sound I want.

So, going for a ‘clean signal’ is a useful way to hear what’s going on more clearly. For me, certainly, though, those feelings of anxiety, and alienation, and other associated mental health problems, do not simply disappear when I take substances out of the equation. Yes, they’re much more manageable, but they’re still there.

One might easily question one’s own contribution.  ‘If not the drugs, then, well, what is it?’ Yet that falls back on the self-blame that TSC correctly counsels against. In which case, if it’s not you… what is it, the ways you’re doing things?

No straightforward answers, really. There is music though, and that really, really helps. 1-2-3-4!

Finally a week’s holiday arrives at school, with parents’ evening bringing a long day at the end of a long week closing out an interminable half term.

Yet the busyness was actually a boon, and we seemed to end for the break all feeling a positivity at odds with the stresses of the preceding days. Time can seem to go quicker when it’s packed with tasks. On top of the inspection that took up three days, I had the good fortune to be able to participate in some Continuing Professional Development (CPD): two days of training on mental health and well-being issues facing children and young people, alongside intervention strategies.

The training provided some personal insights as well, with several useful reminders of processes, situations and responses from my past that seemed directly relevant now. It was a week in which I found myself having a fair few mirror conversations about drink, anxiety, motivation. Taking private moments to talk through feelings and frustrations, signs and symptoms.

Had a good word with myself today, the executive washroom summary of which is that I am feeling resolute.

Resolute in the face of a familiar triad of exhaustion, release, and relief, all of which had by the end of the day nudged forward an oasis mirage of a refreshing trio of beers. I was in the washroom taking a few minutes out from talking through exam grades and chances and personalised targets. I was thinking about beers. Beers that would probably have acted as a prelude to a continuance of drinking, lasting probably all weekend and – given the onset of half term – probably into the middle of the next week.

It would not have been hard partying but, if past practice is any guide, a determined slow chug from each mid-afternoon and on. For days. Each new day an accumulation reinforcing an old and tested pattern.

Dear reader, it is the pattern this set of writings is intended to chart! A pattern I have resolved to explore, trace out, colour in…

Reflecting on this resolution, the urge to give in, to allow myself that reward, to get home, kick back, have just a few and then applaud some kind of strength in so doing… was easier to overcome. Yes, I damn well amn’t, I thought, washing hands and inspecting my face. The beer bottles dissolved in the blast from the hand dryer.

Yet… I know the booze is just one of a number of factors here. Overcoming the sneery interior voice critiquing this positive affirmation as a tad self-congratulatory, a bit simplistic, was on this occasion a matter of pistol fingers and a silly face before leaving the washroom. But it was interesting to hear that tone make a slight return.

Pew-pew-pew!

Shit, they might have got away.

Right, so, April 1st, A, and it’s got to be fool-related, surely? Surely. The Birthday Book quotation of the day comes from Edward Young:

Nothing exceeds in ridicule, no doubt,
a fool in fashion, save a fool that’s out.

This got me thinking about getting older, trying to keep up, to be the man of mode, when the fashion boat has sailed and tootles its mirth at you, across the harbour, hopping on the quayside. Happily, working with young people (secondary school teacher) reminds me often enough that kids can be blunt in their brutality, especially if you’re perceived to be making a move on something that ain’t yours, old timer. Although I’m so far hip enough to not attempt the sort of classic try-hard, embarrassing dad gambits (‘Hey, what’s this? It’s got a good beat…’) at school, with two preschoolers at home, I’m sure it’s just a matter of time before my irrelevance is made evident. Hip… replacement.

My view on keeping apace with the musical Joneses takes a big cue from Mad magazine, who once did a section on ‘It’s scary to think that…’

Tomorrow’s kids will have invented bands that offend people who grew up listening to the Beastie Boys.

Insert your current pop nightmare… As I said, just a matter of time!

We conclude with the wonderful Guided By Voices: ‘A Good Flying Bird’

“Fools and kings decide
ways to live your life
This is just the way we want to be.”

One of the many positive aspects associated with my new job is the commute. I spent five years approaching the same spot in the centre of London (Fetter Lane, just off Fleet Street) from different boroughs, using different tube and bus lines and cycling combis, and can’t say I ever really enjoyed it, a year and a bit of giggling on the District Line with J aside. All things considered, a 20-minute drive through Yorkshire is quite an improvement.

(This is all relative to ‘not having to commute at all’, of course, but we’ll gloss on over that, as well as the fact that the A1079 is not the winding up and down glee suggested in the opening credits of ‘All Creatures Great And Small’ but a frustrating not enough dual carriageway split into speed-restricted sections to avoid the massive pile-ups when cars stop to take sharp rights down Storking Lane to Fangfoss or whatever. Without wishing to get all Jeremy Clarkson about it, there can be too much prescription. In the last few days I seem to keep getting stuck behind the driver who has misinterpreted the national speed limit on A roads (60mph) as being ‘about 48mph’, which makes sense seeing as they think ’40mph’ means ’32mph’, and given that they just left a 40mph zone and there’s a 50mph zone coming up in 100 yards and 48 is the mean of these… My apologies to Europeans for the imperial measurements, and mathematicians for a possibly erroneous use of ‘mean’ and the other numeracy issues.)

Among the great thingery of this commute is the actually having to have a car, something it has taken me 19 years of being able to drive to arrive at. Even then I swithered. One doesn’t need a car in central London, where we was, not really. York is pretty notorious for the snarl-ups on its inner ring road. If school were nearer, in the same city, I’d get the bus, or walk. However, for where I work, walking would be a step too far. A bus ride would mean being up, out of the house and on the bus at 06.37 to get to work for 7.10 (simply, no), or getting to work at 08.45 (a capital ‘L’, underlined three times, in the register). There is no train – up yours, Dr Beeching! – so car it is.

The car is not just a necessary evil for commuting, of course. A comment J and I have made frequently in the short while since we got it is the classic new car owner observation that while it was not something we had particularly missed having previously, now we’ve got it… why, its a whole new world! A hundred thousand things to see. Etc.

Brimham Rocks, for example

Another great thing about the vehicle is the capacity to listen to CDs, which never seemed to get played in the house any more. Last year, or jings, it might have been the year before, anyway, recentlyish, some friends and I did a compilation club, where themed CDs were lovingly put together, covers made, distribution to contributors, lovely lovely lovely. I’ve been enjoying those immensely, driving along at 44mph, periodically flicking on the wipers and generally mulling whatever morning mull issues, to a diverse and occasionally deranged set of sets.

Today I re-found a completely classic City Slang promo compilation, a freebie picked up in a record shop in 1995. I’ll scan the cover, which has the band names transliterated into Cyrillic. This reminds me of being about 11 and making a sign for my bedroom door reading ‘No entry!’ in six languages, including a heroic and entirely nonsensical HO EиTPY. The sign must have lasted at least five minutes ’til my dad took it down for my cheek, as well as the inaccurate Russian. I think I’d just seen a documentary about Berlin or something.

Anyway, this CD was a great drive home tonight, so hurrah for City Slang. In the spirit of sharing, and there only being seven tracks, here is that 50 Years City Slang Tuesday night play list for your edification and entertainment:

Built to Spill – Reasons

I think always preferred the track ‘Girl’, and ‘Car’ would of course be appropriate, but this is good Spillage,, with a single still image ‘video’ that just made me start giggling.

Superchunk – Hyper Enough

YASSSSS! Su-per-chunk! Su-per-chunk!

Seam – Tuff Luck

It’s not much of a vid on the ViewTube, a mellow tune though, which does call to mind slippers and sheep, now I come to think of it.

Guided by Voices – Motor Away

QUADRUPLE YASSSS! One of my actual all time top ten desert island back of neck tingling life changers. A nice video tribute here too.

Freakwater – White Rose

Simply cannot find this anywhere, so here’s ‘Drunk Friend’ instead. Let me know if there’s a vid I’ve missed…

Lambchop – The man who loved beer

Drily heart-breaking sentiments, only to be improved by getting full of beer.

Tortoise – Along the banks of rivers

A lovely tune to close. Particularly effective at 44mph with the windscreen wipers on, evening sun trying to get out over recently-ploughed fields, seagulls rising and falling.

Ladies and gentlemen: цитъi cланг!