Monday, 5 January 2009

Cloud Cuckooland

I’m descended from revolutionaries and seditious individuals I found out on the weekend. As Badly Drawn Boy pointedly mused in the background, dad drank and revealed more about our potted family history, nuggets that could have aided earlier drafts of my Kenya book, nuggets that are being fried into the copy now as we speak (well, not literally now as I’m currently typing this but you get what I mean). The trick was to keep dad talking about something other than the business, which closed its doors the day before Christmas and settled in for a bleak midwinter of death. Dad’s full of regret and lists of what he should have done, he has no perspective on what has happened, instead is a shell of a man, broken, heartbroken like the love of his life has passed away tragically. So, we kept him talking about other things. Talk soon turned to Kenya and he asked both of us if we missed it. She said she missed it a lot, the sun, the beach, the simpler life. I said I missed aspects of it. We were both glad, though, to be amongst friends and family once before, despite the perilous Arctic front bracing the windows. Dad talked about two different states of emotion: being on Cloud 9 (good) and being on Cloud Cuckooland (bad). Cloud Cuckooland is a new version of kidology, one of dad’s invented words that formed the foundations for my album last year, ‘Kidologies and Amazing Fantasies.’ When you’re self-deluded, it’s a kidology. When you live a life of self-delusion, you’re living on Cloud Cuckooland. Once talk turned away from regret, we returned repeatedly to dad’s Cloud 9 state- Kenya... specifically Mombasa. Amazingly, years ago, he had never wanted to return but after visiting us there last year, he’s been going on about it ever since. Incidentally, I’m finishing my book on the whole Kenya/dad experience, ‘The Honorary Mzungu’. Publishers should get in touch here. What dad never told me was the spirit and influence our family held in Kenya. Now, without going into detail- let’s leave that to the book- let’s just say, my great uncle personally knew Jomo Kenyatta and Tom Mboya, and this was because my family had helped the Mau Mau rebellion against the British by harbouring suspected Mau Mau insurgents and feeding them.

The Mau Mau Uprising of 1952 to 1960 C.E. was an insurgency by Kenyan rebels against the British colonialist rule. The core of the resistance was formed by members of the Kikuyu ethnic group, along with smaller numbers of Embu and Meru. The uprising failed militarily, though it may have hastened Kenyan independence.

Dad also spoke of the generation above my grandfather and their dodgy dealings, their sense of pride and their places in Kenyan history. What was left unclear was why they had come over to Kenya in the first place on a month-long dhow journey. Dad spoke of his own ship journey to Killindini port in Mombasa, something he had only alluded to on our many walks around Mombasa last year. Now as he sat in a sweep of sentimentality, the memories were clearly flooding back to him. He’s slowly getting his spark back, my father. It’s going to take months for him to get back on his feet, practically, professionally and emotionally but I can only be there for him in the exact same way he has been there for me, every single step of the way.

I rediscovered Badly Drawn Boy today. I made a commitment last month after talking to two separate people about a) anally organising your record collection and b) constantly absorbing new music to the point of forgetting old favourites. That commitment was to rediscover old favourites. I pulled out ‘The Hour of Bewilderbeast’ and put it on. As the lilt and forthrightness of ‘The Shining’ came on, I was transported back to university days and being in love, and specifically a long-lost friend, Medet Ali, who I was hunting for a flat with when I bought the album. ‘Around the Block’ gave me memories of sitting in my university dorm room with friends smoking and talking about changing the world. ‘Magic in the Air’ reminded me of falling in love running across a field barefoot. ‘Pissing in the Wind’ reminded me of going to see Badly Drawn Boy in concert, standing on a chair next to Steve Knowles and screaming the words. Incidentally, this was a concert where Badly decided to sing a long pointless two-note loud-quiet song endlessly until the crowd screamed loudly enough for him to stop. It’s not an amazing album but it has its moments of surging unforgettable melody, passion and sweetness. So thank you for kickstarting my 2009, roughly 10 years after I bought you.

Lots to review this year: Alela Diane, Lowkey, Hunches etc etc etc. So much, and loads of fine books too, and we’re reintroducing the comics roundup.

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