Weeknotes #28 – yearnote

Weeknotes

Time for a longer look back.

2019 will be remembered as the year that the UK officially went bonkers.

Personally, I finished my MBA – a degree I never imagined myself pursuing, and yet one which I found nourishing in many ways. A longer post about that experience will follow in due course.

Work-wise, I successfully eased up the work as I eased down the study, and am now about 95% booked for the first three months of 2020, with a healthy roster of varied, interesting and international clients. I feel lucky to have got to this stage through hard work and through a valuable network of talented people.

With and without work, there was more travel than ever, including trips to New York, Washington D.C., Mumbai, L.A., Auckland, Wellington, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Singapore, Hong Kong, Johannesburg, Cape Town, Trondheim, Valencia, San Francisco, Helsinki, Brussels. I am exhausted just looking at this list.

Lots of tough stuff though, too. A few health wobbles (although thankfully in 2019 I didn’t break any bones in my feet, which is more than could be said of 2017 and 2018), and some family pain.

And, crucially, not enough reading. Sure, I read loads of academic stuff, but not enough fiction and other nurturing things. This has to be high on the list for 2020.

Goals for 2020? Survive it. Be kinder to myself and others. Look after my own health more. Live less ruinously for the planet. Continue to do weeknotes to gather thoughts and reflect.

Weeknotes #26&27

Weeknotes

It’s the start of two weeks (mostly) off – a different set of plates to spin (mostly full of delicious things), and a different set of humans to navigate.

The last couple of weeks have seen a lot of travel, a lot of work, some singing, no Christmas prep at all, a cold, and familial challenges, and of course an electoral exercise that late-stage-capitalism, late-stage-western-democracy history scholars will write reams over in years to come.

The biggest news, though, is that I found out I’d passed my MBA.

With merit!

I’m very, very relieved about this – and, on reflection, surprised at all I’ve learned through the process. Not just about business, but about being critical, about being organised, and about myself. I think I’m a different, more thoughtful and more confident person as a result of undertaking the study. And whilst I’m glad to have a bit of time back, I’m also going to miss hitting the books on a regular basis.

There’s a giant retrospective blog post about the master’s degree brewing, but that’ll do for now. And, importantly, I have to measure my head for a pointy hat to wear in March.

Now: taking the niece to see Peter Rabbit; buying a little Christmas tree; reflecting on the year with close friends.

Weeknotes #25

Weeknotes

Entirely full weeks at the moment – 100% capacity with work means a few things spilling into the weekend: not ideal, and a reminder not to do this very often. But, the work is interesting and rewarding and I am very thankful for this. The coming weeks involve a fair bit of businessy travel: Manchester, Brussels and Helsinki. Somehow all before Christmas. I’m not used to it, and I’m a bit intimidated.

In other news I’ve been trying (with a few others) to find a rehearsal venue for my choir and it is hard work. The number of spaces suitable for artistic groups in London is vanishingly small and often eye-wateringly expensive. We are trying out some creative routes (how about those giant office spaces that sit empty over the weekend in the city?) but it’s tough and time-consuming work. I wonder if there’s an opportunity in here somewhere to link corporates with small groups that need affordable space; perhaps it already exists.

Vegan Christmas dinner at Stem & Glory on Wednesday night with some old friends was a total delight and the food was sensational. We also shared a bottle of English red (Bolney Estate Lychgate) which was surprisingly good, and a reminder to eat local and lower carbon as much as possible.

I finally fixed my bike up and have been zooming everywhere on it this week; still the fastest and healthiest way to get around London (even if the air is crap).

Weeknotes #23 & #24

Weeknotes
Escape from Planet Trash

If there’s one thing that brings a beaming smile to my face it’s a bunch of queers doing clever cabaret and Escape from Planet Trash was my jam this November: a fun gender-queer space-romp by Ginger Johnson and the crew, plus fantastic music (including an Elvis-style Mysterious Girl) from my musical-crush Sarah Bodalbhai.

Elsewhere, life is happening apace: a lot of singing, including a workshop with barbershop performer extraordinaire, Dale Kynaston; arranging band parts for the upcoming Pink Singers concert; somewhat nervously awaiting the MBA result; preparation for the impending winter festival shenanigans.

Work-wise I’m back into full swing for the foreseeable with Britten and Mozart taking up pretty much all my time, and a bit of Sibelius is scheduled for later in the month as well as some exploratory calls with Glass. It’s good to be busy.

Weeknotes #22: on music discovery

Weeknotes

Back in grey London, via Gloucestershire/Suffolk/Norfolk, and feeling energised and ready for a packed few months of interesting work.

A (musical) stream-of-consciousness

Been thinking a lot about music discovery of late (partly due to some interesting conversations in Suffolk with someone who has worked in this space a lot).

While writing my dissertation I listened to a LOT of music and needed all kinds of discovery mechanisms to keep things interesting and to sustain the long spells at the computer.

One of the most rewarding routes involved reaching into the depths of last.fm to the first time I was writing a dissertation (late 2004) to rediscover what I was listening to back then. It was a true delight to listen, uninterrupted, to albums that I was listening to back then. Soundscapes that keep you in the zone for an hour or so, that tell a story. That evoke a time. It was great too to inspect the more recent work of those artists.

There were a few elements of this that struck me: so much modern music discovery is choppy, with a chaotic stream of genres mashed together in the hope that something sticks. I know that musical release length is in some part defined by the format (EP/LP/Cassette/CD etc) and so I understand this transition but soaking in a particular artist for a bit seems to work for me. Perhaps because of the era I grew up in. Perhaps just because my brain can’t handle the context switching (when I do a lot of this in my ‘day job’).

Anyway: I decided to pick a few of those rediscovered artists and start actively recommending them to people so they can share the joy I’d experienced. In San Francisco I recommended a couple of British artists to our lovely friend and host. She loves American female singer songwriters and the recommendations I made were on constant repeat in the days afterward.

The next few months I’m going to actively try and expand out what I’m listening to in ways that go beyond 6 music and discover weekly (my limited means at the moment). A post-masters treat will be to spend several hours exploring the new Ishkur guide to electronic music, for example.

And perhaps, the back catalogue of the joyous Kinsey Sicks, who I got to see in California.

Weeknotes #20 & 21

Weeknotes

Two weeks slipped by without me visiting this place to have a little write, but here I am, better late than never.

It’s sunny in San Francisco and the temperature is a very pleasant 19 degrees, so inevitably I am exhausted and want to sleep the whole time.

Last week was a bit of a blur, with visits to Manchester (work), Liverpool (Keith Haring exhibition); delivering a workshop in less time than I thought I had (calendarial oversight). loads of fun culture stuff (We Dig @ Oval House), marching for the People’s Vote.

By far the stand-out was Cher at the O2, who was simply incredible, at 73. Countless costume changes, superb voice, sassy chat. A joy from start to finish. And basically everyone I knew, and their dogs, were in the arena somewhere.

This week has been mostly rest, a bit of work, meeting new humans (welcome Heston), and dodging wildfires. Predictably the body has decided to have its post-stress meltdown with lots of weird aches, pains and lurgy taking over. I’m hoping it’ll work its way out soon and normal service will be resumed.

Noteworthy reading this week

Are index funds communist? – this broke my brain a bit, but there’s some sense to the suggestion that capitalism and the free market become redundant once technology becomes the smartest way to assign capital

Do voters really want another general election? December 12 is the next general election (to quote Brenda, “Another one?”). When asked, though, this time voters would actually prefer another referendum if given the choice – a view I agree with. It’s the least messy way of putting Brexit to bed once and for all. But it’s obviously polarising leave / remain voters. Sir John Curtice, we’re going to need you in the coming weeks. Incidentally, Twitter’s decision to stop taking paid political advertising is shrewd and well argued. Which is a bit of a surprise.

Weeknotes #19

Weeknotes

A week of goodbyes

The last week was dominated by not one, but two funerals – unusual, unless you’re an undertaker, right?

They couldn’t have been more different. One for a tour-de-force, tattooed hero and icon, taken too early. Soho came to a standstill for her send-off and I think there are still a few revellers eking out the wake in The Ship. See you on t’other side, Cherie. The second, for a friend’s father, was more distant but equally intense: an intimate ceremony in the cavernous architectural stunner that is Coventry Cathedral, with emotional speeches and song.

A complete loss

The dissertation finally got submitted and so the post-study reflection begins in earnest whilst I await the result which should come in December. I’m feeling a strange mix of relief and, oddly, something akin to loss? I’ve heard of graduate blues before, but was honestly not expecting them after a part-time degree – and so I am unprepared for their effects. I’m not experiencing anxiety due to an absence of work (as is often a contributory factor) – in fact, the last part of the MBA has been pivotal in securing a decent pipeline of work. So perhaps the absence of a distant goal to strive towards is triggering this feeling? I need to keep revisiting this. In the meantime, I’m looking up some other distinctly different learning activities to pick up, starting with (hopefully) jazz piano lessons.

What now?

This week: shifting the inevitable stress cold, a bit of work, catching up with barbershop arrangements, and getting ready for a break next week. And hopefully a fair bit of sleep.

Weeknotes #18

Weeknotes

Life feels a bit a bit dramatic right now, like a penultimate episode of a multi-season drama.

In the world: Trump impeachment. Hong Kong riots. Extinction Rebellion ramping up. Brexit crunch weeks.

In life: sideways rain, giant end-of MBA deadline, the aftermath of loss, a lot of lost sleep and diary backflips.

But there’s a lot to be thankful for. The chance to study and reflect deeply. Singing on a Sunday. A solid work pipeline. A break from the intensity on the horizon. Health holding out (just). A trip to the local theatre for a double bill: the breathtaking Sound Cistem and A Haunted Existence, both sharing stories deserving of bigger stages.

Weeknotes #17

Weeknotes

Life and death this week. A new nephew, L, and a passing of an acquaintance. Both making quite an impact on the mental capacity and time-space continuum. L’s favourite pastimes are wriggling and hiccuping.

Sleep-deprived, work and study continue. The final push on the dissertation has begun and the end of the tunnel approaches rather quickly with its blinding light bringing everything into sharp (and sometimes too sharp) focus. The writing continues in earnest, accompanied by a soundtrack of albums I was listening to when completing my first dissertation in early 2005 (who knew last.fm went back that far): Bjork’s Vespertine, Nitin Sawhney’s Beyond Skin – and more to come this week.

Work-wise: Britten begins in earnest again in November and the first light week in a few months beckons with just a little Mozart to cover off. Copland and Sibelius proposals out, and if there’s time this week a little bit of branding and marketing development will get underway. Time for the consultancy to grow up a bit.

Hardly any leisure funs but did sneak out to see A Midsummer Night’s Dream in the basement of Ally Pally which was lighthearted fun although I’m not sure the space and the import of the place added anything in particular to the performance of a play that, shockingly, I’d never seen. I’m now making it my mission to fill in the Shakespeare gap in my life.

Weeknotes #16

Weeknotes

Going in reverse this week.

  • A solid couple of days work on the dissertation – grounded analysis of interviews and first draft of the introductory sections. This will be the mainstay of my life for the next 18 days.
  • Saw an incredible one-person play, A Generous Lover, at the Camden People’s Theatre by La John Joseph. A real triumph of humour, storytelling, sound design and music. A must-see. Which also reminded me to work harder to beg/steal/borrow tickets for Burgerz again at Southbank Centre)
  • Spending a lot of time looking at rehearsal planning, warm-up techniques and the like for the Barberfellas. Five new songs to learn in the coming months (three of which I need to arrange)
  • Four days working at Mozart and one at Britten this week, plus a call with Sibelius and a draft proposal for Copland.
  • I’ve rejoined the Pink Singers this season and, well, it doesn’t half make me glad. Short rehearsal on Sunday and a lovely cycle in the autumn sunshine were both extremely restorative.
  • Restarted a fitness programme although so far I’ve not managed to make it to the gym because there’s so much on. Food habits are beginning to change again. Will hopefully get a couple of short sessions in this weekend. Needs must.