Living for joy: notes on my trip to South Africa and return to London 

I forgot why I am came to London. I came here to live for joy. I want to withdraw everything from life’s joy register. “I might not be rich for money, but I’m a millionaire. I debonair with no cares” sang a sultry singer once 😉. 

But honestly, I’ve become tired. So damn tired. Immersed in exhaustion and worn out to my bones. Withdrawn and shriveled up. Large and fast-paced cities can tear strips from a person. 

You see, I am a workaholic. This is the first time that I’ve said it without any overtones of pride. I work to blackout. More than any other addiction that I’ve been blessed with, this one, is moerse bitch. I work to avoid feeling the anxiety that plagues me. “You’re running out of time, falling behind, you’re wasting time, you’re going to end up under a bridge, you’re not doing enough, you’re almost 40 and you’ve fucked up, no money, no nothing...” 

It’s quite simple: I use work to avoid these feelings. 

During my first week in South Africa, I crashed. I had no routine, no schedule and it shook my inner world like a magnitude 12 earthquake. Routines are my guardrails. They’re the steel mesh fences keeping the wild animals at bay. Nasty beasts gnashing their teeth. The fences are control. 

 

What will happen if I lose control? Am I less of a person because I decided to check out of the rat race? Because I structure my day around doing what I want and not what someone else wants from me? If I could do whatever I want I would: be 100% unfocused. I would wake up, do a little work (to pay the bills, of course), read, play piano, learn something new and arbitrary (probably about renaissance music or British royalty), visit a coffee shop and talk to people, then people watch, What’s wrong with a life like this? I don’t owe society anything more than what I take from it. 

What if I am happy just getting by? 

Ah! What a thought. 

 

You’re a millennial. Check your phone. Check social media. 

** Opens Instagram ** 

!!!MUSICIANS EVERYWHERE DOING WHAT YOU SHOULD BE DOING!!! 

Cue Britney Spears: you want to look hot in a bikini? You better work bitch! 

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 

** Hyperventilate ** 

** Panic ** 

** Stress ** 

“Look,” says my mercenary ego with knife to my throat, “either you get on a damn plane and go back to the rat race or you enjoy the time off!” 

Choice is so simple when the stakes feel overwhelming. And what choice did I have? I couldn’t afford to change my flight and I knew I’d be furious at myself. I chose to lean in to the moment and enjoy it (and keep off social media). 

My final week in South Africa was just glorious. EXACTLY what I was craving: to feel joy again, to be curious by life, to have deep thoughts. My creativity was super charged. I reflected so much ON creativity. I found lost thoughts and ideas. Some of them just needed dusting off. 

And so, I found some perspective. It’s funny how perspective changes everything.  Allow me a moment of surrealism: I’m holding on for dear life to a horse, petrified and hurtling towards a cliff. Obviously I can see this. A random pterodactyl swoops in from nowhere and grabs me, lifts me up a little (and keeping up with the horse). I look down and realize, OH SHIT! I am NOT the horse. Then the lizard-bird drops me back onto the horse and pisses off back 65 million years ago. I gently put my arms around the panicked horse and whisper in its ears “whoa boy, whoa. It’s OK.” 

Did you know that the silence of nature cleanses the ears? I’m telling you! It does! I discovered this whilst visiting a friend who lives on a fruit farm far outside of Cape Town. So much noise had accumulated in my ears from London that I couldn’t hear my own thoughts anymore. So the silent choir of fruit trees sang to me so sweetly that the gunk and grime clogging my ears just fell out. 

So now I’m back and what do I do with all this perspective? 

Well I’ve come to realize a few things. 

I accept my inner world and all its turmoil. I can’t always explain it. I don’t mean any harm by it. They’re there and they impact me so much. Regardless, I am not a bad person or a failure. 

I’m doing the best that I can in a world that actually wants me to be a mediocre human being so that it can exploit me and sell meaningless shit to me. And I’m doing this sober, which is quite something. I made mistakes and that’s OK. I’ve mostly done the work necessary to forgive myself so that I can focus on the present moment. 

Most importantly, I DO NOT want to write shit music. Learning techniques and ways to not write shit music takes a lot of time and energy.    


Home always felt so far away.

But lately, it feels closer. 

Only seeing the massive grin on my face when I arrived in Cape Town could do justice to express how happy I am in Cape Town. 

There really is something magical about the mountain. 

It gathers all time towards it. 

My heart is in South Africa and my life is in London. 

For now that is. 

I came here to live for joy 

And ended up working for fear 

I remember now. 

I am addicted to my thoughts 

This must change. 

In August I will start busking and will take another step closer to doing what I enjoy: more than anything, I love performing and making people happy. 

I’ve also just finished a course on music composition and will apply what I’ve learned to my next song, Too Many Pieces. 

I’ve come away from South Africa feeling spiritual (even though I don’t believe in spirits). 

I’ve climbed out that pothole in a puddle and a puddle in a pothole. 

I am addicted to my thoughts. 

That doesn’t make them real. 

Remember that. 

I want to work to chase joy. 

I want to live for joy.

Notes on seven months of sobriety 

Waking Up on a Hotel Room Floor in Manchester 

29 August 2021. 6am. Wake up. 

WTF? I’m on the floor. 

DOOF DOOF DOOF. Last night's party's still going on. Please kill that beat!!!! 

Ugh my head! Lord have mercy on me. 

Sigh. 

"am I in a brothel or a hotel?"

Jesus this place is ugly. Booking.com did a number on me!

Turn over. 

Breeeeath. Stare at the ceiling. 

Right. If it's the last thing I do, I’ve got to get away from this non stop banging. I need to go home. now.  I will not die in a hotel room!

Water. Gulp. Gulp. Gulp. Ah! 

Food/Salt/Grease/Black coffee/Anything to be honest.  👄 🥘 🤤 

"ok. you're not dead."

Dragged myself to the train station without vomiting all over Manchester city center. 

I picked the wrong train. WHY???? HOW??? Of all the trains to pick in this moment, I picked the (doof doof doof) one with longest trip back to London. 3 hours of dehydrated thudding ag-o-ny. Try not to projectile vomit on the lady eating her egg mayo sandwich in front of me. 

Finally. Home. My hangover routine hasn’t changed, even after 100 days of sobriety. Get soup, chocolate. Slurp slurp slurp. Sleep. Sleep. Sleep. 

zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz(doof doof doof)zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz  (doof doof doof)

Next day. thank fuck. ok. time to think,. 

What happened?? How could I do this to myself? 100 days of sheer bliss and I top it off by doing the one thing I absolutely should never do again.

zzz

(doof doof doof)

I must have had about two bottles of wine over the course of that day and night. Honestly, I have no idea. I didn't even look at my bank statement. couldn't deal with the horror. All I can remember is being at my aunt and uncle's 50th anniversary, little bits and pieces of being back in Manchester, and then waking up in the whorehouse of a hotel i was staying in.

Aside from the physical agony, spent the next 3 weeks recovering emotionally and psychologically. am not being hyperbolic here, but (doof) CLAUSTROPHOBIAANXIETYDEPRESSIONLETHARGYCONFUSION. it was my condition for  21 days. 

20

one

days.


I put up with this shit for 20 years??????? NO wonder i became a nihilist.

my sssslittle...slip, shall we call it, was rather illustrative. I'd tasted sobriety and now I also had a reminder of what alcohol does to me when it's inside me. 


The choice was stark and bare. Black or white darling, no greys.  

 

Something in me snapped in those three weeks like a brittle ruler. I was shattered and there was no putting me back. I'd gone up and down that measuring stick of insanity and now it was well and truly broken. Going back to booze is just not an option for me. 

 

Adonis. Adonis 

1 January 2022. I love the underbelly of life. Loves it. I get electrocuted with joy and elation when I read Marxist literature and party in the bowels of london. Those are my kinks.

I'd heard about this fabulous queer party called Adonis.Adonis and decided to check out what was supposed to be their final party (it wasn't, naughty! 😡). I hadn't had a drink since that abominable evening back in Manchester on 29 August.

To be honest, I was rather nervous about going. Parties like these...well, parties in general, are associated with wine for me. lots of it. Understandably, i was apprehensive. 

However, their marketing had me and I decided to check it out. 

The funny thing is is that once I decided I wasn't going to drink; once I walked into the venue, stared down a bottle of wine and asked for a soda water, my apprehension just went away and I knew I would be alright. 

I pushed through those big black doors and was confronted with a sight: silhouette of hundreds of people dancing against a backdrop of red laser lights whizzing around, lighting up people's faces, bodies, COSTUMES! The sound was earthly and cellular. 

Now, I am not religious. I'm not even spiritual. but I worshipped the DJ that night, completely 100% certifiably sober.  

You need to understand, I thrive off rebellion and counter culture. This was everything I'd been craving in my life. 

I danced and smiled non stop for three hours. I don't think there's a metaphor available in the universe to describe the elation I felt. All I can say is that I cried when I left and I cried several more times in the days after Adonis.Adonis. i was so happy.

This kind of high was totally alien to me. It abducted me and did all sorts of weird experiments on me and now I feel like one of those people running around talking about their encounter of the fourth kind and no one believes them. This was an encounter of the fucking 40th kind!

I knew, after 3 hours of dancing, I was satiated. Wanted more. But I didn't WANT!!! MORE!!! I didn't need it. I'd had enough and that was enough.

So I left.

went home.

Showered.

Walked the dog.

Lay on the bed.

Read a book.

Posted on Facebook.

Cried (with joy).

went to bed.

it was disorienting in how remarkably ordinary this was and yet so extraordinary in its newness to me. By this point, at any point in my drinking days, I would have been utterly blackout wasted and stumbling home to a world of agony. Yet, for the first time in my life, I could remember everything, savor the high (which lasted about a week), and wake up refreshed and rejuvenated the morning after. And the beat was still going on in my head (doof doof doof), bouncing and tribal.

This was far better than any booze ridden high I had experienced.

 

Death in sobriety

My friend died two weeks ago. I was profoundly angry and, thanks to my sobriety, still profoundly present for it.

No amount of anger could change what has come to pass. Something in that brutal reality, like little flowers pushing through the cracks of cement made me realize that there was nothing I could do to bring my friend back. Nothing. And when I realized that, I let go. Yeah, something happened to me. we're just blobs of energy, here in one form and then we're not.  

I don't need some grand narrative to make meaning for me, string all these empty cans and bottles together and make a nice jingly outfit with. I can perceive with such clarity and acceptance all the little pieces of reality that are connected, disconnected, jumbled, ended, not started, this way, that way and which have all that have coalesced into something that resembles my life. It's kind of like my writing style, broken and all over the place. 

A lot of people experience anger, rage, and sadness in their early days of sobriety. i think it's because when we realize there's no going back, we have to say goodbye to a part of ourselves. to let a part of ourselves that once meant so much to us, die. it's sad. very. but you heal and discover and completely new person. 

I experienced death in sobriety and I accept it. My friend's passing gave me a way out of that never ending loop of anger and rage. The death of my old self has given me a way out too.  

Start. Something. New!

Catharsis. I love that word. Apt word for my life right now. Reality is much less rigidly defined now. it's more like a shimmer. silky. i'm ok with that. the sheet of silk that is my life constantly forms and reforms, ruffles, flattens. what's is a fold today is just a crease tomorrow; who knows and who cares anymore? I feel like I'm constantly in touch with reality now, even though I'm beginning to perceive it rather differently than previously. i'm totally enthralled by how strange it is. I'm so hyper aware that I will die one day and all that will remain of me is the choices I made. 

Alcohol calcifies the parts of you that need to grow as a person. I want to make better choices. Can't do this when you're a pile of calcium stuck to the toilet bowl of life. The little particles that make up each of us crystalize like limescale when we drink. sobriety is a great delimescaler. FLUSH TWICE!

 

I've found a way to break the loop, the never ending merry-go-round.   That song is tired now. 

I can see in color now.

I am human again. 

Life is not a GIF or a meme anymore.

A performance becomes reality. 

Death is rebirth.

Now I have a chance at life.

My great start to 2022! 

Happy new year! How has 2022 started off for you? 

It's been an awesome start for me. First of all, I'm 5 months sober today!! 🥳 I really didn't think that I would be able to do it. But I have. And even though I have my moments when I hate it, I have to admit that the benefits of sobriety are worth it. 

Secondly, I've booked some shows for you! You can check them out here. There are a couple shows left for January. MAKE SURE YOU PUT THEM IN YOUR CALENDAR!! I've left some space open in February because I want to go home. I'll take my piano with me so I might add some shows in Cape Town and online ones.

August is when I decide whether to stay in London or go back home to my beloved South Africa and I want to make sure that I've given it everything I have. So I'm putting myself out there and it's paying off in bookings and exposure! 

I'm also a lot more confident as a songwriter (thanks to sobriety). And with this new found confidence, I've been reworking an old song called Oliver. I am so happy with the result. I'm in the editing phase now, so it should be ready to send out in the next couple weeks. You'll hear the difference. Trust me. 

I've finished the scratch track for Too Many Pieces, which is gonna be my next song for Songlines. I'm going to test out at open mics and am doing my first one tonight. I did a quick sound check of it before I performed at the Midnight Magic Festival on Thursday. You can check out the sound check here.​

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