Just Above The Clouds

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Just Above The Clouds

Yesterday I got to stand atop the summit of a nearby mountain, just above the clouds. The peak was marked with a concrete bollard daubed with paint: 1470 metres it read. There was no snow on the mountain as yet; in fact yesterday was another quite balmy October day with a blue sky and some twenty-one degrees. I say twenty-one, that being the temperature indicated at sea level, but when we parked the car a couple of hundred metres from the top, the gauge was reading fourteen, so I figured that if an elevation of approximately 1500 metres equates to a drop of seven degrees, then it falls one degree for every 200 metres. Having said that, I’m almost certain it doesn’t work that way, and that it’s far more complicated and involves all kind of algebraic formulae. It would be nice if it didn’t though. I like things simple.

Continue reading “Just Above The Clouds”

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There’s a starman…

I, like millions of my, and next generations, was shocked and deeply saddened to hear of the passing of David Bowie. I heard the news in an email from my big sister, fitting really, as it was she who loved him first, back in the 70’s. A love I inherited.

I was travelling on that Monday, and not connected to social media most of the day, but in my own way wanted to write something. So I did, whilst on a ferry. On the same morning I’d seen my writing prompt for this week, which seemed oddly connected.

When I did get to see the outpouring on twitter etc., it was testament to the creative genius of the man how everyone seemed to have chosen a different track to remember him by. Music spanning genres and decades, electric and acoustic, but all crafted from the beautiful mind of David Bowie.

And to think, just two days before, my wife and I were marvelling as we listened to the Blackstar album, remarking on its utter brilliance.

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…Waiting in the sky (A short fiction)

Our protagonist sits alone in his dressing room, staring into himself. With one finger he delicately lowers an eyelid and holds it still. With the other hand he applies the black pencil. He is the best man for the job. He is the best woman for the job. Whereas other men would be clueless and afraid of such a task, he is confident, skilled, and comfortable. And he is fearless.

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Giving Thanks

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This is the practice. Sitting quietly with my breath, alone, with my thoughts. Having a special moment to give thanks – to my guides, gurus, parents, and teachers. To thank those who have helped me reach this day. Today (December 4 2015) as I practiced, I thought of some of those people, who, maybe unknowingly, have made such an impression, and helped shape my path in some small way. And I was thinking particularly of those who I encountered earlier in my life, musicians and songwriters, those creative, fearless people, brave enough to cast their souls into this, at times, unforgiving world. So, I decided to write a piece on this theme, and to give me some kind of structure, I’ve decided to work alphabetically. Otherwise, I may veer off into no mans land. I may anyway, so I apologise in advance. And to help limit me, I will include only people whom I have physically encountered and worked with, however tenuous that link may have been. I may have known them for six months, a year, or fifteen minutes, or just witnessed them from a distance, but with all, an impression of some sort was left behind. This will be a memoir of sorts, with a few anecdotes, and hopefully musical interludes inserted along the way. I’m sure that a few yogis and teachers of some form will pop into the list as well. Thank you if you’re still with me. And if it becomes a little too much for you, you can always close the window and move on. You have a choice, you know.

History: Lets start in 1982. I am 16 years of age. I have left school, (well, I kind of left 2 years before, but that’s another story) and have absolutely no idea what I want to do with the life ahead of me. My brother-in-law has told me of a job opportunity in a recording studio. Currently his own brother does the job, but he wants to leave to train as a chef. I like music. (punk & reggae) I don’t like cleaning. But that, (cleaning) and tea making are the two main requirements of the post, in fact, that’s basically it. Clean, and make tea – big stainless steel urns of tea, enough to satiate a full 90-piece orchestra on a 15-minute break. I go for an interview. They offer me the job. I take it. The hours are early morning until early afternoon. I have to take the train before six in the morning and had to have cleaned control rooms, and studios, and toilets, and corridors – all long before the first session of the day. I am part of a team of two, me and a grey-haired Irish lady, Monica, who is a very kind lady, but woe betide anyone stepping on her freshly waxed floor in dirty shoes! This is Olympic Studios, once graced by such musical heavyweights as Jimi Hendrix, The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, and David Bowie, just a few amongst numerous others to have recorded there. But now it’s a little weary, trading on memories, and catering mainly for recording film and TV scores, or jingles for adverts, (it has a couple of 35mm film projectors.)

This is where it began.

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One Year On

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How has it been over a year since my last post? I don’t really know. Summer is easy to account for, as this gentle little island is suddenly alive with seekers of sun, sea, peace, and quiet. Faces both old and new come and join in with yoga classes, or take a massage between swims.

Whenever possible I have been writing short stories. I even had two published last year in web publications. Rather pleased, I must say. Many more of course are/were returned to sender, but I (try to) find it equally rewarding when I receive an honest rejection critique from the publication. When writing one gets so inside the minutia of the piece that it’s difficult to read or listen to it objectively, as when you read other’s work for the first time. I think the advice to put it away for a few months before a final edit is great advice that I should act on, but not so practical in the short story world of comps and deadlines, of which there are so many opportunities and openings, it’s all too exciting to wait. There’s lots of great new writing available on-line to read as well! (Birds Thumb, longstoryshort, Red Line, Storgy to name but a few)

So, to strive onwards…and up.

I’m going to share some of my pieces here on the blog, starting today.

If you have time, have a gander. Let me know what you think.

Until next time,

Lee

The photo is one of Bibi’s, walking in early Spring.

 

Nightporter (a short story)

Multiple black and white screens discreetly line the bureau in the hotel foyer that has been my home from home for these past five years. I work a twelve-hour shift, six nights a week. There’s a mandatory two weeks off each summer, a holiday that I neither want or need, as I end up doing diddly-squat – except gain a couple of pounds and watch too much daytime TV. So I’m first volunteer to work Christmas, and all the other designated times of joy and frivolity, if only to spare me from a similar fate.

It’s 2 a.m., and glancing down at the register, the little drunk guy that’s stumbling into the elevator suggests the possibility that I may have a quiet night ahead of me. I’ll watch him safely to his room. He’s mumbling away to himself, or he could be singing. He jabs a thumb into the button for the fourth floor, turns around, and spies himself in the reflective aluminium that covers the back wall. He looks surprised, and somewhat shocked by what looks back at him, he’s frantically trying to make sense of his bedraggled appearance. He licks his fingers a few times till moist, and runs them through his thinning hair, gluing it to the side, probably just like he fixed it earlier. His necktie has become loose over the evening to the point of just about hanging in there, and both his shirt and suit display the crumpled evidence of a good night out. They get a perfunctory brushing down from his stubby hands, but I think he’s given up on the tie, maybe even on himself. The elevator stops and he makes good his escape. He’s still chuntering away, and given the way his legs seem uncooperative of his want, I’m amazed that he navigates his way safely into his room without a stumble. I’m left pondering as to whether he’ll hit the minibar for a nightcap, or if he’ll even bother getting the suit off before he hits the sack, and if he’ll be smiling, or crying himself to sleep. But knowing he’s safely inside, and out of view, I turn away from the screens. A double check on the register confirms that by my reckoning, all of the guests are now present and correct. But I never expect it to be so easy, and it rarely is.

I usually get a little shut-eye between the quieter hours of 3 and 6, out back, in the storage room. There’s an ugly old armchair in there, it’s shabby, has a faded green cloth that’s been impregnated over the years with flicked ash and spilt whisky. It’s probably a relic from the 70’s, but a couple of cushions and a wool blanket make it nice enough, even for all of my six-feet-two. I have to let my legs hang over the side for it to work, but it’s a welcome relief from the awkward office chair out front. I’m kinda tall, like I said, I suppose that’s the first thing you’d notice about me, and then if you look close enough, it would be my eyes, they’re blue, azure, but a translucent blue, so you can see right through them like the way oceans used to be. They’re not so strange where I come from, but I can tell people’s fascination in them by the way they sneak a furtive look at me when not wanting to. None of us can help it, even though we know for sure that they know, so when I meet their gaze, some people fire off some pleasantry or other, though most people just crack a sheepish smile, and feeling a rushing surge of guilt, avert their gaze quickly away from mine.

For work I wear a cocoa coloured uniform over my cocoa coloured skin. I blend in as seamlessly with the wood-stain of the lobby floorboards as I do with the antique style chairs of the foyer, as I do with the ornate Georgian walnut cabinet that sits right behind me. It’s a huge cabinet, beautifully crafted, in whose pigeonholes live the 66 room-keys, ringed on the finest of calf-leather fobs and embossed with the hotel’s proud Black Cat logo – 66 keys, that will forever come, and go, and come back again. There’s all kind of mundanity put in there for guests to collect, and then there’s the secret things – the twice folded hand scrawled notes, the medicines, both the legal and il- varieties, the stapled jiffy bags bulging with who-knows-what. I’m pretty sure that one time I handed over something heavy and shaped like a handgun to a tattooed Japanese guy who had a finger missing. I never ask, not me, I figure it safer just to turn a blind eye.

Continue reading “One Year On”

Deconstruction

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Many moons ago, well, maybe twenty years or so, I was a sound engineer working at the in-house studio of Island Records in London. A truly wonderful record label, of the time when independent labels would sign and develop artists over a number of years, thereby allowing them room to grow and also to make mistakes along the way. This label was the home to Bob Marley, Free, John Martyn, Grace Jones and U2, to name but a handful.

It was a home for many reggae artists and I would fortunately get to work with many of them in the studio. As is the way with art, and creation, it can take a serious amount of time and effort to finish a piece of work, every part analysed from every angle in a quest to create what you’d imagined in your head and then try to make it even better.

The time to finish the final mix in studios back then was usually decided by the clock, working through the night until we were either simply too exhausted to continue, or we had to make way for the next session. (There was not the computer technology and home studios of today) So, usually at about 4am we would lay the master mix down, something that’s been laboured over for hours or sometimes days and where everything, we hope, is as perfect as it can be.

Then all of that precision is thrown away as we get to do the ‘dub mixes’. This involves one, two or as many who want to get involved stepping up to the mixing desk and deconstructing the whole track, letting go of the entire concept that we may have spent days working towards.

We can break a track down to drums and bass, we can flash the vocals in for a split second with an echo that sends the spiralling voices deep into a canyon, explosive reverb shots on drums that blast them into space, triplet delays on a single snare drum hit, turning it into rapid machine gun fire.

Magical.

There’s a beautiful chemistry and connection between those taking part, of being totally aware of what the other is doing and responding to their moves and a whole new piece of art can be created, a completely different picture can be painted.

So I think of this as an example of ‘deconstruction,’ an example of being able to let go of all the mind stuff dancing about in our heads and to simply, ‘feel’ it. To see things in a different, new light with fresh eyes.

But do we have to make it before we can break it?

Letting go of attachment, thinking, of judgement, of discrimination, of the dualities of good or bad, right or wrong (in a creative sense).

Letting it go and then letting it flow.

And it doesn’t matter if we make mistakes, we can always edit it later.

Ritual

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Awake. Light the candle.

Put my mat down. Same place.

Childs pose. Morning aches. Connect to the breath.

Sitting comfortably. Opening Chant. Respecting this practice. Respecting my teachers.

Standing up. Deep inhale. Ujjayi breath. Stretching up, touch the sky, feet solid with the earth.

Folding in, jumping back, rolling over the toes, then Up and Down Dog, awakening the spine, five deep breaths. Stretch legs, stretch arms, roll open the shoulders.

Again. And again.

Hearing only my breath. It is my guide.

The second Sun Salutation. A creak from my knees. Sit lower, reach up higher.

Open the heart. Press the palms together. Yes.

Again. Again. Five times.

Standing postures. Stay connected with the earth. Contract the thighs.

Bandhas. Breath. Focus. I’m deep inside the practice.

Prasarita Padottanasana. Legs strong, spine long. Opening the shoulder joints.

Go for it, two more breaths.

Single leg balances. Affirm the grounding. Don’t overthink. Lift. Hold. Stay. Stay.

Standing leg, pull up on the thigh. Stay. Uddiyanabhanda. Touch. Touch and then release. Other side. Don’t overthink.

Warrior sequence. Strong legs. Arms like swords, open the chest. Sit low, lift high.

Long, deep breathing.

Down to the floor.

Pasasana. An extra breath or two needed here, find the deep twist and lift.

Krounchasana.  Salabhasana. Lift. Legs solid. Bhekasana. Push down, lift up. Breathe.

Dhanurasana. Now I’m ready for the next.

Three kneeling back bends.

Inhale. Lift up. Exhale. Float back. Keep the chest lifted. Bandha. Control. Long breath.

Ustrasana, to be here is so wonderful. Opening so much.

Laghuvajrasana, reach the knees, pull and lift the chest. Ujjayi strong.

Hold. One more breath. Go for it. You can do it.

Kapotasana, full power, full control. As one; bandha, breath and focus. Reach for the heels. Nearly. Try a little further. OK. Hold. Breathe. Stay. My mind is stronger than my body.

And come out.

With control.

Childs pose. Deep breaths filling the back of my chest, expanding and contracting.

A counter pose.

To another place now. Jump. Bakasana. Then spinal twists that my body needs right now.

Some forward bends on the floor, bringing it inward. Realigning spine, legs, hips. Meditation here. To Navasana, Baddha and Supta Konasana.

Pincha Mayurasana. Carefully placing elbows under shoulders. Spread the hands. Walking the feet closer. Lifting one leg, then the other. Hold. Straight legs, point the toes, find the balance, lift the shoulders, search deep for what is needed. Hold it, five more breaths, body shaking. Stay. Now bending legs, bending back, feet towards my head, somehow easier to balance here. Go for it….And release.

To Urdhva Dhanurasana, first version coming from Shoulder Stand. Five breaths, down, gently touching my head. Inhale, back up. Hands edging closer. Five times.

Down, a little hip rotation. Second version. Hands under shoulders, feet just hip width. Check alignment. Push and lift, come to tip toes and stretch, edge the hands closer and gently release feet down. Wow! Hold. Stay. Push down, lift up. Thirty deep breaths. Believe.

Hand Stand; on a good day like floating up, with lightness and strength. On not such a good day, feeling heavy, no lift. Let it go.

And to finishing sequence. Salamba Sarvangasana, thirty-two breaths, one for every year that you were here.

Halasana through to Utpluthih.

Padmasana. Feeling light, open and free.

Finishing chant.

Giving thanks.

I get up. I am ready for whatever this day may have in store for me.

But first, let’s have a nice cup of tea.

Music is the key

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From an early age I joined the club. The door was wide open to all, ‘Come on in,’ it beckoned. My big sister’s Bowie and Bolan fixation was the key that led to this magical world. A truly eclectic journey has ensued, with periods of loving everything from punk to reggae, jazz to hip-hop, dance to classical, soul, folk and rock, and much more besides. As I grow older, the genres and moods I want to feed me follow suit, and, as of late, even long periods of abstinence are in order. (This may also be due to having assaulted my poor little ears for many years listening with the volume at 11!)

I write as somebody who relishes listening alone, absorbed in the music, admiring the form and structure, development and layering of sound. Live music of course is more palatable or preferable for others wanting to engage in the group energy. For example I can listen at home, and really like the music of Nine Inch Nails, but once at a gig of theirs the dark energy aroused in the crowd was so overpowering I had to get out of there sharpish. Of course, many gigs and clubs have had exactly the opposite effect for me, unifying, fun and uplifting. Indeed, I have witnessed many, from festivals to bhajans.

But I’m a studio man, that’s where the magic moment can be captured and laid in stone. Forever. Those moments when we feel, hear and acknowledge the depths from which the singer or player has gone to bring their raw emotion and words to the surface, to us, these mean the most to me. It’s these moments, the ones seemingly drawn from another place.

We are so blessed that science and technology has allowed recordings (old and new) to be made available for us to savour, for allowing creative artists to have a canvas that can be explored and experimented with and to leave beautiful landscapes that can make you want to dance or cry or contemplate or heal and can find a direct path to your soul.

Sometimes a piece of music connects on such a profound level. It may have one specific moment in your life, when and where you first heard it, or mark a life-altering event in your life.

Of course it is impossible to narrow an all-time favourite list down to a few songs, but this is what I’m feeling today.

Keep On Movin’ – Soul  II Soul

Hot summer in New York City, 1989. Age 23.

Armed with a few clothes, a camera and some dollar bills I arrived solo at JFK and just about managed to survive the treacherous path through passport control. I had (maybe somewhat unexpectedly) taken up one of those offers that people occasionally throw your way of “I have an apartment on Upper Westside that I won’t be using for a while, you can go and stay a few weeks.” Oh yes! I thought, an offer I would be stupid to let slip by. At the time I was working as a sound engineer for a record label in London (which had its perks – see above!) and was due a holiday. I arrived in the Big Apple, spent the first couple of nights elsewhere (before I could head to the aforementioned apartment.) Luckily, another work acquaintance, he was then working in A&R for the label in NY, offered me a place to crash. Brooklyn, down Flatbush way. His philosophy meant he would abstain from certain activities between Monday and Friday, alas, this being Sunday, he had to clear his reserves! All I remember is listening very loudly to at least 3 Led Zeppelin albums (did they have 3?) and sleeping like a baby.

The rest of the trip was amazing; Central Park. Walking the Avenues for hours. Staring upwards. The intense heat I felt and immediate sweat when taking the Subway. Taking photos of children playing innocently in the gushing water vents in Spring Street and of legendary skyscrapers. The delicious bagels with cream cheese quaffed down with coffee for breakfast. CBGB’s (not nice.) New friends (nice).

But, the way that this tune was being pumped out of seemingly every store, every car sound system and club was incredible. The sound of London was destroying New York, the drum loop, the bass, the production and the sweetest voice ever in Caron Wheeler. It was everywhere. I must have heard the track in the UK before but it was hearing it here that propelled it to another level and secured its place for me.

You and I – Stevie Wonder

From the opening bar, he’s got me. The beautiful, melancholic synth and piano intro sets a plaintive mood. Then, in comes that amazing voice, with its tight delay effect. The substance and gratitude in the beautiful lyric, the bond that finding and being in love, that love in itself can conquer all, have no boundary and is eternal, in life and thereafter. And the way Stevie Wonder stretches and pushes his limits vocally, every time he goes to the maximum brings a rush of blood through my veins and a tear to my eye. “Cause in my mind, you will stay here always, in love, you and I”

What an incredible catalogue there is to behold in those five albums released in the 1970’s from ‘Music of my mind’ to ‘Songs in the key of life’.

Nothing Compares 2 U – The Family

This was penned by the prolific Prince and originally recorded by The Family, a group from Minneapolis, USA. I can’t remember who introduced me to this but it was long, long before the more familiar version by Sinead O’Connor. I had it in cassette format and would listen repeatedly on my Walkman (remember them!) rewinding again and again until the batteries died a death. As with ‘You and I’, it is a haunting welcome to the track, layered synths, simulated strings, the beautiful opening couplet “It’s been seven hours and fifteen days, since you took your love away” delivered ‘acapella’ and right to the source. The lead vocal delicately supported and harmonised by background vocals. Then we have the incredible sax break that embellishes the sense of loss, of pain, of heartbreak. In fact there are two saxophones there as they double track, overlap and harmonize, and the sound of them, so dry and in your face, you can hear the fingers on the keys. Breathtaking.

Resolution – John Coltrane

The way the screaming sax comes out of the bass intro with such a power that then leads you down a path. Where does it take you? The second part of the ‘Love Supreme’ recording of 1964 that was made as he found his love for God, spirituality and faith. The whole togetherness of this amazing quartet, connected as one in their performance. I hear every player, deep in their own performance and at the same time, totally aware of the others around them. I hear respect and admiration among them, magnificent musicians at the top of their craft. A record so harmonious and harmony is found on so many levels. Deep devotion.

I also cannot hear this piece without a thought for a dear friend, who left this world far too young.

So, there you go. Just four key tracks from a (back) catalogue of plenty that have been with me through the years, unlocking doors. And, for sure, there are songs being released now that may one day be part of another list.

Soul II Soul http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LEHqOfKeabc

Stevie Wonder http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vy8Vf9d-GHM 

The Family http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-LBc7-v5exY 

John Coltrane http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Xx-rawGfn8 

‘What is your soul’s medicine?’

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A dear healer friend of mine posted this question recently on her blog. It’s the type of question that my initial thought is to run as far away from as possible. It reminded me of the first day of my Yoga teacher training many years ago when sitting for our first meditation were asked to consider ‘Who am I?’ Blimey! Help!

So I quickly put the question away in some deep place, it was much safer there, let’s go to see the second instalment of ‘The Hobbit’ instead. (I liked it very much)

Two days later and as I lay awake in the early morning the question suddenly returns to my thoughts with a vengeance and I find myself needing to put down some answers.

What feeds my soul?

The sun. The warmth of the sun. The light of the sun.

The power of an almighty force, far beyond our reach, but known in our heart if only we listen.

New life. Innocent children playing noisily.

A flower, a plant, a tree.

The miracle and blessing that each life is.

The ability of those stronger than I, who by their selfless actions, eloquent words, beautiful music and art, give, and leave us a reminder that each life is beautiful, each life is a gift and that we must learn from our terrible actions in the past. That there is hope. That love is the answer.

Displays of unselfish acts.

Displays of triumph over adversity.

Knowing that I am a transient being, just passing through.

That I am not alone and spirit guides me.

That I have been able to forgive those who have hurt me deeply.

That I have been able to forgive myself for my mistakes.

That I am not afraid.

That I can send a smile to a stranger and receive one back.

Rivers, trees, birdsong, mountains, tears of joy.

But mainly…….

Walking hand in hand with the one I love.

The beautiful photo at the top is taken from the recent Novice Ordination in Plum Village.

Thank you to Pascale for the prompt.

‘Found’ in the moment

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I listened to a story this morning on the radio which included a section by a wood sculptor, of how she found that moment of pure peace in her craft, as her body, mind and concentration became one as she turned and shaped the wood on her lathe, she described herself as being ‘Lost in the moment’.

‘Lost’. Funny I thought. Does being ‘Lost’ imply an absence, of not being present, even a sense of fear, of escapism.

I think that she was ‘Found in the moment’. She had attained a moment of pureness, a joy and simplicity in her whole being, so that her mind and body were synchronised as one. For this invaluable moment nothing else mattered, she was right there, free, truly alive. There was no past to have regrets about, no future to have fears about, just the present moment.

That which can be ‘found’ in those very rare moments of pure bliss we experience in our life are undoubtedly to be cherished.

Maybe you like to go swimming, and in that repetition of breath and co-ordination of movement and concentration you ‘find’ yourself in a heavenly place, at one with yourself and nature, totally ‘alive’.

Or in the practice of yoga, when a posture (asana) is held or when the asanas are flowing with everything feeling in its right place and with the deep breath guiding us, our strong body supporting us, feeling so safe, secure and free. A stillness in the movement. Being ‘found’ in the moment.

Or by chanting in the presence of Krishna Das in a room full of energy, gradually peeling away the layers surrounding your soul before finding yourself truly ‘here’.

Either running or walking. Gardening or sitting.

Meditation.

Running mindfully. Walking mindfully. Gardening mindfully. Sitting mindfully.

Breathing mindfully.

‘The past no longer is, the future is not yet here; there is only one moment in which life is available, and that is the present moment.’ The Buddha

Bones Brigade

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Last summer I stumbled upon this movie, ‘Bones Brigade’, on the ‘Sundance Channel’ here in Greece. On the surface, it is a documentary about skateboarding. Skateboarding was not really my thing. I remember one of the early skate parks to appear in the UK happened to be quite close by to where I grew up, in Chiswick, West London. I think I went a few times, it was quite a good hangout, but the half-pipe was not for me. I couldn’t balance very well (yoga was to come later).

However, I was somehow attracted to this movie by the characters it involved. It was a recollection and (due to the availability of home video cameras appearing at that time) beautifully captured movie about a group of misfits, geeks, outcasts and loners who were brought together by a shared love of something to which they connected wholly, and through it, found their individual and collective voice, their joy and their passion. Under the charge of the ex-pro, slightly elder visionary (Stacy Peralta) and his partner, (George Powell) they were assembled and talents were carefully nurtured. They formed ‘Bones Brigade’ (named by the wonderfully eccentric art director) and they went on to dominate the scene and competitions in the USA. At competitions they were mocked and despised by all the pro-skaters who had previously dominated the scene; the leather jacketed, punk rockers, hard as nails types. The Bones Brigade were the new kids on the block.

Their pure enjoyment at the challenge, the training and the fun they had together is a joy to witness. Theirs is a story of obstacles encountered and overcome along the way, of having to learn and adapt and grow.

The most amazingly creative guy I’ve ever seen on a skateboard, (not that I’ve seen many, admittedly), was the freestyler Rodney Mullen. In simply what he had the vision, determination and ability to achieve was astonishing. On camera he revealed his story with such honesty, intelligence and poignancy; of how he would practice every day for hours, of how he gave up his board immediately on the command of his uncompromising father, who thought he should be doing better things with his life. Of how he developed an eating disorder, of struggling to connect, struggling to be accepted, wanting just that little bit of praise from his father, wanting to make him proud. He’s a deep guy who has an incredible talent.

Lance, the misfit, who always felt so inferior to these guys around him, couldn’t do the tricks, clowned about, seeking approval. He felt it was all over for him as the stakes were raised with even more amazing tricks being created. But he was an integral part of the wheel, he had something nobody else had in the group, he was as important as each and every one of the group. Sometimes we just don’t realise it at the time, we are overcome by self-doubt. We all have vital and different skills we can offer, we are all different, people could connect with Lance just because of who he was, they could do the tricks he could, they could be him, no-one could do what Mullen was doing though, they could merely aspire and be amazed.

They loved it and they lived it. The scene began small (of course), it died, it re-emerged bigger and better with videos and magazines and the guys began to make a great living out of it, but that wasn’t the objective, it was about the passion.

The characters in this film, like us all, have a great life story.

They continue to be involved and skate today. They followed their dreams. They never succumbed to the excesses of alcohol or drugs as their fame grew, as one guy said (I paraphrase) ‘It’s only when the passion and joy for what you do dies that you need to resort to such things’.

This movie resonates, it is a wonderful portrait of its characters: of life, of passions, of struggle and suffering and of being free and following dreams and finding your ‘team’, your ‘tribe’. A film about skateboarding, not really, that’s just the peg on which it hangs.

Can we try not to jump in too quickly to what our discriminating mind quickly forms as a judgement of what is placed in front of us. Be it a movie, a book, a person, a situation, a culture.

Look a little deeper beneath the surface.

It may surprise and inspire us.