Drum riser.

Drum riser.

After so long in a variety of sealed human cattle devices, the week before last, I guess it shouldn’t have been a surprise that I caught something. Kids and germs and fatigue and blah. Or bleugh. But I haven’t had a cold in over 18 months and the first ickoo tickoo in the back of my froaty on Thursday did seem odd. Especially in August. Then it moved beyond odd to proper, raging Man Cold. So, as you can imagine, I’m lucky to be alive.

I soldiered bravely on through Friday, but fairly unproductively by tea time, and then just wiped out on Saturday. Sunday I managed to do some washing up, I recall. But spaced out like I was doped after an operation.

The boring yet vaguely stressful point here is that I started Monday morning with a stupid list of things to get through creatively. Once again, I somehow survived meetings and deadlines but by being grouchy and short-tempered. Little tip for those of you thinking of going into business for yourself: don’t do this. Polite is profitable.

Still, as I prep for another ruddy day out of the studio, unable to eat into the work in front of me, I do at least have the very happy memory of sitting in a little studio in Poole lastnight, watching Mark A through the booth window bash the skins for all he was worth. His brow-beaded grins as we laid down some drum tracks for The Golden Age was infectious and uplifting after a sad, stressy, uncreative time. And, oh man, hearing him kick off to the d&b; section of Disfunkshun was a golden little moment. Buff-diff, baby. Mark’s hard-working enthusiasm is a lift.

A drum riser, if you will.

It’s this stuff that keeps me sane. Keeps me going. It’s the stuff I creatively day-dream about. And the last few weeks, I seem to have been listening to the mixes more and more.

I’ve not written about Wednesday because, truth be, I didn’t feel able to do it justice. And I didn’t feel sure I was fully there, looking at photos of my friend and trying to understand that – in our part of space and time – this was all we had of him now. Just three weeks before, I’d hugged him goodbye in a very casual way. Sure we’d get more time.

I couldn’t take in the full emotion of the tracks he’d been listening to in his last months. But Pearl Jam’s I’m still alive never seemed more meaningful.

I couldn’t take in the significance of the snapshots of life, slideshowing past us from Jon’s casual portfolio. But the simple views of the river, the shoreline, the mountains, never seemed so important to capture. To hold on to.

I couldn’t process the sense of loss that each testimony tried to tackle. But seeing how many people were in Russel Park Baptist that afternoon in Bedford, and seeing the surreal mixture of laughter, colour and stunned incomprehension, I felt a little humbled by the effect Jon had quietly had on everyone.

..I can’t process all this now. In the stupid schedule roller-coaster, I felt again like I was doing a lightning costume change and trying to hastily get into character as we drove up the M3. I felt this way for Dad’s funeral. For David’s. The people we’ve lost this year. The way we’ve needed eachother. The inability to ever take in their absence properly. I couldn’t function in our current life if I didn’t turn them all over to God fairly swiftly. Whatever it means for quiet moments in the future, right now it means the same message on each mental memory tree: ‘See you soon, mate.’

I wish I could measure the thing. The losses I’ve witnessed in my average life over the last four years. Have I ever understood my cousin Melanie’s death a few years ago? What her mum went through nursing her? The palsied loss written across the faces of her friends from Switzerland as they looked down at the wreathes outside the cemetery chapel?

How can I? How can I sum up whole lives? How can we understand the absence of our friends and family? We simply can’t.

We have to close it off and pretend. Or we have to surrender to it and be washed away for a time. Or we have to pray – pray as someone who trusts, bizarrely – and get on. Certain we’re on the same road. We just have a slightly different time frame to work in. I’m not sure how much we get to choose each of these options, with each individual grief.

Once again, looking around the room that day, I just wanted to hug the good number of people I seemed to know there and tell them thanks for being there. For Sarah, for Gill, for Wes, for Mark. For the bloke on the perifery, me.

We have such little time to enjoy eachother. Such little time to make eachother laugh. Make eachother see things differently. Inspire eachother to be creative.

Jon, mate – see you soon. And thanks for getting so many good people together last week.

Going to keep daydreaming about uplifting rhythms until we’re next at the same party, if you don’t mind, mate. It’s a tiny fore-taste of then. Got a strong feeling it is.

Love you, man.

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