Well, it’s been an exhausting but exhilarating few months. I’ve had a lot of people tell me recently that they are busy, too busy to do something they are required to do, have said they would do, or wanted to do. In only a few cases did their assertion stack up. A recurring conversation between me and HeyGamal recently has been that truly busy people always seem to have the capacity to be busier, but those who have never hit the heights of being ‘truly busy’ find just ‘busy’ a challenge. If you aren’t accustomed to running at speed you rarely get up to speed.
I don’t think we’ve seen each other since we mixed #TheBreedingGroundOfVile double album at the end of May. I’ve been headlong into my day job, cramming in projects and tasks both for my own business and for clients before next week’s well earned break to celebrate my 60th birthday, and HeyGamal’s schedule has been divided between work here in Manchester and down in London. A week ago we set up our own Whatsapp group just to keep the album promotion on track, but have rarely had chance to use it, and if I’m honest I keep forgetting anyway.
So how does it feel to be on the verge of being 60? Actually not much different to when I was on the verge of being 30. If you keep your mind active it’s half the battle. I am also just over half way through a 12 week food intolerance programme. I am apparently intolerant to both yeast and dairy, and egg yoke. I am also to avoid anything with citric acid (vinegars, processed food) and am not to drink alcohol. Take a look at food labelling next time you go shopping and you will get an idea for the challenges the test has created.
In November 2016 I went on a business trip to Mongolia. I was training export consultants there for three days, one day shorter than the combined journeys there and back! For five months after that I was acutely short of energy. I would do a relatively straightforward task and it would floor me for a week. I was concerned because I had co-organised the first Viva Musica at The Fuse in Manchester for May 2017 and Matthew and Kristen (The Lewinskies) had trusted in me enough to fly over to be with us for the first time. Before then I had further business trips to Ukraine and Moldova, between which I was floored again. I was getting increasingly stressed about it, but somehow by the time they arrived in Manchester I was largely recovered.
My incapacity at the time wasn’t a stress thing, although I think I probably need a fairly high element of stress to live my life the way I do. The doctors mused that I must have picked something up on one of the long flights to or from Ulaanbaatar, but we never really got to the bottom of it. Fast forward to today and I am looking back with some satisfaction on the Lewinskies second trip over here to gig with us in May, the completion of the album which has been more than two years in the making, and an intensely busy period of work during which I also managed to squeeze in music rehearsals.
The food intolerance thing wasn’t planned. I started work with a new client whose business it is to test food intolerance. So I took the decision that if I was going to be involved in helping the company to promote their product into more export markets, I should take the test. The results have been astounding, both physically and mentally. Physically I have lost a stone in weight and my energy levels are much improved. In the past week I have spontaneously started running and chasing Ozzy on his walks on the field, in the woods, or in the park. I haven’t broken into a jog for about ten years. Mentally I feel more clear headed, more positive and forward looking, and I am dealing with stressful situations so much better: things that would previously either have made me upset, angry or put me under extreme stress. I can be a very emotional person at times. It has been a game changer, and has increased my capacity to be busy. I am now contentedly looking forward to my first birthday without alcohol since childhood.
So whether you’re 16 or you’re 60, you can still be busy and live life to the full. “Some people do. Some people don’t. But we just did!” pretty well sums up my and HeyGamal’s lives right now. We plan to get together again soon, to make a video, drive out, or just jam in his studio. It feels strange to not have a specific music project to be involved in, but I feel achieved and positive about the way the new album will be received. That is out of my hands now, but I do have somewhere around 50 unrecorded songs to start working on, and an idea is afoot to co-write new material with other musicians in The Folded Arms, with plenty of live shows to look forward to.
Someone once asked me “What is the secret of your success”. It made me laugh, because I don’t really believe I’ve ever been too successful, but I thought about it and replied “Define success.” So when someone tells me they are too busy to do something, I should probably use a similar retort. “Define busy”.
Enjoy the album. It is available now for pre-order at https://johnreed.bandcamp.com/album/the-breeding-ground-of-vile-vol-1-calling-out-vol-2-the-reckoning There are 24 tracks over two volumes, and it’s a 90 minute listen in total, but if you don’t listen through each song, you will miss the twists or the special instrumental or vocal moments that have been contributed by the various members of The Folded Arms. If you love folk music and like to hear it taken up to and beyond the limits of the genre, then please make time, however busy you may be!