Willy Wonka, the Sheriff, a Mzunga and the self destructive rock star…

Time is a dangerous thing, especially when you have plenty of it to yourself. If you’re anything like me you tend to spend it thinking, and that’s a dangerous pastime, especially when you’re in the process of going through one of the biggest periods of upheaval in your life, as I am.

There’s a number of things going on just now; I’ve moved to a new continent, my family are following in a week or so, I’ve started a new job (which appears to be shaping up to be one of the most challenging of my life) and I’m coming to terms (slowly) with what was perhaps both the easiest and, increasingly as the days go, one of the hardest decisions to come to terms with that I have had to make.

The moving continent thing, though quite a huge undertaking, is something I’ve considered on more than one occasion and,having finally taken the plunge, I’m cracking on with it. In the early nineties I nearly emigrated to Kenya after spending some time there on holiday/safari. They wouldn’t take me at the time as there was a huge drive on employing the populace and that’s as it should be. Then, slightly later in the nineties I had the opportunity to move to Austin, Texas to continue working for Motorola when they summarily dispatched most of the business managers in the Scottish (or was it European?) offices of their empire. Sense prevailed at that time, or at least my partners did. She’s now my wife, and we’re happily married with 3 great children, so it was obviously the right choice. I’ve since considered Canada, New Zealand and Kenya again but they all fell by the wayside for some reason or other, until this year.

I was back in Nakuru, Kenya in Feb of this year and met some great people who I discussed emigration with and the lifestyle of ‘residents’ (as opposed to Nationals) and they advised caution, but I was still very, very interested… Fate took a casting vote on my decision a couple of months later when, quite by chance, I discovered a new post had opened up in my job as the IT Manager in Kenya for 2 years. To say I jumped at the chance would be a gross understatement.

Having had a few weeks here in Nairobi on my own while I wait for my family to arrive I’ve been able to ‘get my feet under the table‘ at work and begin to get to grips with the oddities of life in an African country… ‘Kenyan time’ for instance. It’s a fluid concept to say the least and any deadline, meeting or schedule must be taken with the equivalent of the Dead Sea rather than the usual pinch of salt.

The life of a ‘Mzungu‘ is one of huge contrasts. If, like me, you’re still in the employ of a ‘Western’ nation your salary affords you the opportunity to live in a manner well beyond that on the same salary in the UK or some other European country. A beer costs about £1.60 in a pub and, if you buy for the house, it works out about £0.50 for a half litre bottle. Beef is ridiculously cheap, a decent T-Bone, sirloin or fillet will cost £5 at most. And then there’s the matter of security. The carrying of clubs, happy sticks, batons, or machetes (pangas) in vehicles is common practice for ‘whites’, you live n a guarded compound with security on the perimeter gates and walls as well as patrolling your personal residence. There are no-go areas in town, the night clubs, bars, hotels and restaurants all have security with some even being fenced and gated… It takes some getting used to!

Strange as it may sound, it doesn’t even feel odd! During the day I’ve been out for meals, visited businesses etc and at night I’ve done the same. Despite the awareness that there’s a ‘bad element’ it doesn’t feel oppressive, yet. I’ll reserve judgement until the family arrive.

This is only in the city of course, and a very small minority of those who live there. I’ve travelled much of the length and breadth of Kenya over the years and the only trouble I’ve had so far was once, in Nairobi, when I was stupid and flaunted my ‘Western wealth’ which resulted in a mugging… the rest of the time I’ve felt comfortable enough as I would travelling anywhere in Europe.

I can’t wait until the family arrive next week. I want to show them the wonders of this country and help them understand my fascination with it.

The job? Well that’s a different story. At least for now. It’s like being an extra in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory! I can see all these opportunities to make the world a wonderful place (as far as my IT world goes anyway), but I’m not able to touch. It’s like a frontier town in the Wild West, things have run rampant since the first settlers set up camp and there’s a desperate need for a Sheriff to bring order to the place before it implodes. The problem is, I’m going to have to play the sheriff and lock a few of the troublemakers before I can enjoy life and make the place a happy one for all and sundry. It’s more than frustrating, it’s annoying, but prudence and not a little experience have made me aware that it’s ‘slowly, slowly, catchy monkey’ :o)

And then there’s the other thing…

Over the last 3 years I’ve had the privilege of being able to make more than one of my life’s ambitions come true. They were quite simple really, but they meant a lot to me and, nearing 40 I had resigned myself to the fact that the opportunity had passed me by… Then I met Pete Harwood and all that changed. In a short time we managed to write more than an album’s worth of what is, in my not so humble opinion, some damned fine rock songs, we played to appreciative audiences in England, Scotland and Wales, we had a #2 single, received an 8/10 review in Rock Hard (the biggest selling metal/rock magazine in Europe), released an EP and a live album. People recognised the name of the band across the country, we were played in pubs in London and elsewhere, on the radio in the UK, Europe and America, and appeared on (albeit local) prime time TV. And then, being the selfish git I have the habit of being, I threw it all away.

I don’t regret my decision, not at all, the opportunity to live and work in Kenya is one I could never have considered turning down, but now, this week in particular, I’m turning into the green eyed monster I had hoped I wouldn’t. You see, I mentioned above that we’d written enough material for an album. We certainly did! We even started recording it but, in a very sensible move, we (and I mean we) decided it would be redundant to release an album of music with a band’s ‘previous singer’ when the band was still very much alive and kicking with a new singer.

And then there’s this coming weekend… In order to get your name out there as a band/artist, there are a couple of avenues open to you; buy the publicity, which usually involves a label or some such binding contract, gig forever across the country, impractical with ‘real’ world jobs and other commitments or, and this is the one, play at decent festivals where you’ll be exposed to a horde of possible new fans. On Friday, at 14:35, Morpheus Rising will do the latter. Appearing on the Classic Rock Society stage at the Cambridge Rock Festival, the lads will fulfil the other of the two ambitions I have outstanding. They’ll play in front of a sizeable audience of rock fans who are there for one reason, to enjoy rock music. And later this year, or early next year, they’ll release the album…

I thought this would be easy. With the chaos of a new life, a new job, a new continent and all that goes with them I thought that what would be going on over last week and the coming weekend would pass me by. Alas, it hasn’t, and I’m torn between conflicting emotions that I find hard to resolve. I’m proud, really proud, that I was involved in everything that led up to this period with the band, the writing, the singing, the recording, the PR, the website and the gigging… and then I’m insanely jealous. In another life I would have been getting up on that stage on Friday and facing (what I hope for them will be) the largest crowd of my performing life.

If you make it to the Haggis Farm Polo Club this weekend I hope you’ll head over to Stage 2 for half past 2 and support what I still believe is one of the most promising rock bands currently playing the ‘circuit’ and if, like me, you won’t be able to for whatever reason then take a pause at that time and, if at all possible, raise a glass and wish them all the best on this, the beginning of something new.

Pete, Gibbo, Andy, Daymo and Si, I wish you all the best and I hope you knock their bloody socks off. I’ll be thinking of you and I hope, somewhere along the way, you’ll tip me a proverbial nod. I’m proud of you guys, of everything we achieved and I wish you all the best this weekend and for the future.

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One thought on “Willy Wonka, the Sheriff, a Mzunga and the self destructive rock star…

  1. Pingback: Waking the Giant! « Grae's Descent

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