“This dream is in a telescope now”.

It was early March when the cracks began gathering. Spring had yet to arrive, and the grey bitterness of winter’s last gasp bit hard and true as I ran the southern bank of the Thames pathway. The Joy Formidable’s, The Greatest Light is the Greatest Shade, pulsated with venom through my earphones, and my feet found rhythm with the beat of the kick drum. “This dream is in a telescope now”, she kept singing, and each word struck home.

 

After a half mile or so I came to a stop at Putney bridge, catching my breath and casting my eye back up the river and through the early, cold misty air of the morning. It is funny how you can listen to a song for years, blissfully unaware that at some stage, one line is going to cut through all the humdrum with a sudden poignancy, and glorify its genius by ironically summing up a moment in your life. The dream of being able to sustain myself as a performing songwriter was nearly all but over and the bright-eyed idealism of yesteryear gone.

 

It has been a challenging few months, but such has been the nature of the beast I have decided to call it a day and find another profession. The very pitfalls that the music business is famous for, from 250+ people standing up to leave as you stand up to play, unpaid gigs, rude promoters, to underhand behaviour from people you think you can trust, at some stage all came out to play. I expected this would happen, but I also had the naïve perception that the “beauty” of creating music and performing with others would outweigh the negatives. Sadly, corrupted side of the business grabbed far more of my time than I shall care to remember. Reality is always different from hindsight, and always bites hard.

 

The new EP, however, did not take off and this was the defining nail in the coffin. I gauged this a couple of months before the launch following very few responses from those in the business I sent it to. I put everything into Blood & Treasure and I’m very proud of it, but it has not clicked in the market and therefore it cannot have been good enough, it is as simple as that. The admission that “it hasn’t worked”, has proved a particularly hard pill to swallow, given how much I put into it and how much I believed in my own ability. It inevitably leads to a lot of questioning of oneself and there have been many times of late I have been left with my head in my hands, before looking up to the sky to try and find an answer. Life is about these experiences though. Whether you get burned or not, it’s all about how you come out the other side and I can be jolly proud of what I have created and how I have conducted myself; the same will not be said for others in the industry.

 

I shall finish my last Songwriter’s blog with expressing my sincere thanks to everyone who has helped me along the way, come to see me play, cajoled, heckled and bought my music. It’s certainly been an adventure and if some day one of my songs connects with someone at 7:30am on a chilly Tuesday morning, that will be a silent victory. That is sometimes the way of things.

Yours,

ADR

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Masters of the Sun

Masters of the Sun

Stand fast young Apollos!
Masters of the sun,
The flaxen-haired few on steely steeds,
Who seek the rising hun.

Upon these weathered plains.
A weathered dust doth blow,
And whips up an age-old song,
Of death on weathered stone.

And scourged are aged eyes and minds
By stories of ages past,
Where spilt and torn on rusty fields,
Bloody bodies an empire cast.

So stand fast m’boys, stand fast;
When the time comes,
When shadows taunt,
And sweat runs on.

Yours indeed will be the sky,
And all the innocent air,
You young Apollos,
Masters of the sun.

 

Copyright 2014: Antony Raine

Prayer for the Generals

Prayer for the Generals

The sky was blue the day he came,
Just like every day from 5 months past,
A day for hobnobbing and the old charade:
That challenges remain but progress is fast.

The yarn choked to the major chime,
And spun another turn of the overture,
I’m wanted fit for the General’s visit:
“Make sure you tow the party line”.

So “sideburns up and shoulders back”,
And “don’t forget to smile for the hacks”,
And “You can say what you want, just don’t say that”,
I said to my lads who just stared back.

Then young Simnet, ever the cheeky chap:
“There’s no point in shimfin’, how will they crack:
The Afghans suck stones, for fucks sake,
Who can explain that?”

“Like the boys in the Dardanelles” I silently offer,
So to make their ‘dry mouths water’,
I read in my fading Anthem of poems,
On another bygone bungled slaughter.

And then late they arrived in a flurry of hats,
The General, the Brig and his travelling quack,
Stars on their shoulders as the cameras flashed,
As the sun beat down on the desert black rats.

I’m sure I’ll get to say my piece,
I’ve been here 5 months, this is my niche,
He’s here to hear what lies beneath,
Maybe I’ll matter for minute or three.

The General approached caked in sweat,
His overhang bulging in his uniform fresh,
“Good morning, good to see you,” he sprightly said,
As the lads looked on half-worn, half-dead.

“So mail getting through, everything fine?”
His eyes danced everywhere but avoided mine,
And then forth his ADC, “General, it’s time”,
And off he trotted, to the flight line.

“Sir, did you say it? Did you say how it is?”
The lads let on as the Merlin dipped,
Over the horizon to Bastion, as anger bit,
I glanced to my chest and my measly two pips.

And praised be those minds of that old Doomed Youth,
Who wrote in mind for future’s fruit,
But now roll in your graves and curse our fools,
The new mules chasing the honours loot.

Copyright 2014: Antony Raine

Blood & Treasure

For the last few months I feel I have been a bit like a Regent’s Park Zoo baboon: cooped up, scratching my head a lot, occasionally venturing out to perform……… recording, and most lately ruining a Burns Evening for people following a disagreement with Glenmorangie……..

“Blood & Treasure” has been all consuming for many months now, but the new record is finally done. I have put my complete heart, soul and the pithy remains of my increasingly thinning pockets into it and whatever happens, I am incredibly proud of what we have produced. For those of you who kindly bought my last EP “Farewell to Arms” (FTA…..), there is more artistry and maturity to the writing and production.  Over the months of writing prep, 8 days of recording in Harrogate and 1 in London, my overriding thoughts extended to wanting to create music that had vibe; something with a real sense of identity and instrumental and lyrical integrity to make it stand on its own as a piece of art.  I’ve worked pretty hard with some amazing people to make it so, but as ever, the jury commences when I release the EP independently in April.

“Blood & Treasure”, started it’s growth in a Fulham art studio in October 2012 before I’d even recorded the first EP.  I was on a period of leave, and my friend and artist Freddy Paske met up at his friend’s studio to do a bit of painting and writing, and discuss artistic ideas for FTA. Before long the topic drifted to the War in Afghanistan.  We lamented our expectation of political disengagement from that campaign in readiness for the next UK election, the missed opportunities for a settlement, referring to the age-old poetic expression of vast expense of blood and treasure to the nation, or put more simply, lives and money. “You should write something about ‘Blood and Treasure'”, said Freddy, casually applying careful brush strokes to a canvas of an Afghan soldier being treated on a helicopter. “Catchy title and has a lot of meaning”.

At the time, I was unwittingly writing the bluesy riff that opens the title track of this new EP whilst we chatted, not really concentrating on what my fingers were doing, but just jamming away semi-consciously while we exchanged thoughts and ideas.  When I left the studio later that day, I knew I had something and parked it away for the time being. It was not until I went away to Laos in March 2013 and re-visited the idea, that it properly started to take shape.

When I look back now, that period of travel was a remarkable time. I waited 4 or 5 days from setting off from England before putting pen to paper, initially noting down figurative ideas, before finding whole songs born in the most haphazard of places. From shacked rest stops to bohemian indo-chine cafés, to muddy banks and charming guesthouses on the upper reaches of the Nam Ou River, I was akin to a passing stranger absorbing every smell, sight and sound, seeking to unlock thought and reflection in the most earnest way I could.  It wasn’t until I got to Bali’s upper South-West coast though, that what I was writing really started to excite me. The isolation there was the captain of my mind, binding together gentle solitude with its earthly, unspoilt beauty and my heavy reading list that aided and abetted a flourish of pieces that now make up half the EP. Of the songs, “Barricades”, is a nod to both Jack Kerouac’s, “On the Road”, and Hermann Hesse’s, “The Wandering”, (given to me by a friend and is a great read) and both these connected with my wanderer’s mindset. “The Whipping Tail”, originally a poem of 11 verses now cut down for the EP, was later written on Gilli Meno. My girlfriend, who joined me for my last two weeks, took a photo of me writing the latter without me knowing, so engrossed I was in the sudden explosion of thoughts I had.  Though it has now been shortened, what you will eventually hear are the exact lyrics I wrote last May on those sands; I have found no reason to edit them.

Gigging in Streatham

Gigging in Streatham

The rest of 2013 seems now to have passed in a flash. It was a great summer and autumn of writing, but aftermath of the first EP launch was a professionally trying period. Hundreds of magazines, bloggers, labels were written to with personal notes and CDs to accompany, but the interest back from the music industry was frustrating.  I still had no money coming in and was doing a lot of scratching…… What does one do then? You go and create something ten times better and this is what I have done.

I have a lot of people to thank who have helped keep me focused and to whom without, the next EP probably wouldn’t have been made. My parents firstly, for their amazing positivity and continuing support; my sister Chiara; my flatmates Chips and Bryony for your generosity and sense of humour(!); James Ottignon, Giles Rolls & Mike Tench, for your wise words; Rory Gill, for your taste in literature; Freddy Paske, my friend, artist and for sowing the seed for the EP title;  Laurence & Jenny Whittingham for putting me up during recording, Harry Hood for the mattress, Paul Gamwell for a bed in the Sergeants’ Mess; Dan Mizen for your sofa (!) and incredible talent in the studio; Miriam Wakeling, for your beautiful cello playing; Frank Mizen, for your genius; Dave Dunn-Birch, for your lungs (!); George Stewart-Lockhart my graphic designer; the QRLads, the Titans and anyone who has ever come to see me perform, I thank you; and lastly H, because you are my constant inspiration.

In the meantime, I will leave you with a teaser of what’s to come…………Teaser: Blood & Treasure

Much love,

AR x

Aside

The Whipping Tail

Lyrics from track “The Whipping Tail” from forthcoming EP “Blood & Treasure”.

THE WHIPPING TAIL

Silence breaks on scarlet sky

Scars at dawn born eye for eye

Black foot, white foot morning wail

The wind she lifts her whipping tail

 

Down in the ganglands garlands bud

Load up the gangplank to kiss the mud

An ivory switch-knife to cussing blade

A skyline shifts from white to grey

 

The city breathes sinewy gales

Smoking, choking she still inhales

The thrashing ends of a flashing hail

From the hounds misled from the whipping tail

 

Deadbeats, meanstreets, city slums,

Homeless, shameless, single mums

Big time goldmine bonus mile,

The big fish feed with a shark-toothed smile

 

Cold winds gather

Gonna race and howl

 

The old guard languish on polished floors

The vanguard’s graveyard keeping score

How the enemy waits at our hallowed gates

Please all upstanding the whipping tail

 

England waits on English blood,

Cask up in oak and drape in colours

The old girl creeks and starts to bale

And Britannia lists from bow to tail

 

Cold winds gather

Gonna race and howl

 

For a line is slowly slipping

They’re listening in and out

Ain’t no smoke up on high now

Without fire flooding down

 

And so I hope you find your freedom

In god or hope or love

So pour yourself to Jesus

Or whatever keeps your door

Copyright: Antony Raine 2013

Latest on the “Grand Plan”………

IMG_3732

You feel like you’re climbing a wall and just when you feel like you’re getting to the top of it, some bastard lays another line of bricks.”

Dan Mizen

It seems strange to think that my EP launch gig was just over two months ago.  The golden summer of 2013 was still in full flow, the underground, a sweatbox at the best of times, was a constant furnace I feared whenever I ventured down there, and barely a day went by when I wasn’t in shorts and flipflops. Now the ominous sign of yellow leaves lazily dusting the streets and pavements is everywhere. Autumn is here with a vengeance, Winter is pressing and that wonderful summer is now a fading memory.  As I walked home yesterday with the wind biting, the night sky darkening and my eyes tiring, I reflected on the months since the gig and more pertinent to that evening, my earnings after an hour’s busking on the Southbank: 1 pound.  And so I then bought a tin of chopped tomatoes………

Despite that meagre profit from street performing, there is plenty to be pleased about. The EP initially hit 12 on the iTunes singer/songwriter chart, the artwork (by my pal Freddy Paske-look him up!) is fantastic, visually evocative and completely hit the nail on the head of what I wanted.  I’ve also managed to get some plays on local radio, BFBS Radio and on a BBC Radio 6 Introducing Show , which is great, but they have limited ceiling of exposure for the moment. The aftermath however, has felt a little frustrating: I feel there is more I could have done, but yet I’m at loss to pinpoint exactly what.  People are kind to say I should be pleased with what I have achieved (re the EP), but in the age where the daily uptake on Facebook inevitably includes someone posting about a new house, their dog, engagement, pregnancies, new bambinos, career acceleration etc, I feel the acceleration of time catching up to achieve greatness/idolatry/security blahblah, as a I approach the age of dare I say it 29…….err maybe err 30……….

Laying down a demo for future recordings...

Laying down a demo for future recordings…

And so trying to figure out what to do next is proving tricky.  Not that I didn’t expect it to and indeed it would be boring it there wasn’t a challenge, that’s part of the excitement in taking risk. I’ve spent more time recently combing the social media waves than I do playing my guitar annoyingly, sending stuff off to the industry and researching until well gone midnight.  The modern musician has to be more than just a guy/girl playing a guitar in club sadly because there is so much music out there, too much, I even heard a prominent radio DJ say recently on an online seminar.  Each day often feels like a mix between trying to win the lottery and applying for a job; to the hundreds of journos, record labels, radio producers who just don’t get back to you.

This then leads you in to thinking several things; either the music is not quite good enough, perhaps they are unexcited by the whole ex-army thing, or anything I send them was wedged and lost amongst the thousand other pretenders.  I suspect it is a mix of all three, but much as though I wouldn’t like to admit it, it perhaps lies for heavily with the former.   I am never going to write pastiche pop, something that is immediately accessible for the industry dons, but if I am going to make it, someone is going to need to get behind what I’m trying to do. And this is the bugger: finding the bastard………

98% of commercial radio music comes from a database and to get on that database, you need to have a decent mainstream radio producer or DJ on board.  To get to that producer or DJ, unless you have an amazing contact who will help you out, you usually need a radio plugger, and for a good one these bastards usually charge between £3-5000, but, there is no guarantee it gets on air.  For the big labels this is ishmish money, but to a small independent artist like myself it is currently out of reach.  So, I’m trying to work outside the box to get to these “DJs/Producers/god-like beings” and whilst I’ve managed to get some reasonable contacts, so far most has been to no avail.  It can unsurprisingly be a little deflating when you have worked so hard on something, poured so much of your own money into it, and the industry is just not interested.  For example, a while back I’d emailed a couple of songs to a guy who managed a serious mainstream artist; he said they were ok but to come back again when I had something more.  When it was ready, I sent him “Silhouettes”, to which his reply read, “to be quite frank, disappointing”.   I sat with my lips pursed, in pretentious contemplation, feeling like a rebuked schoolboy wondering how he could possibly be disappointed with a song that has the ‘nouse’ to subtly reference Shakespeare? “Who else does this?” I was shouting angrily at my laptop.  When I came down off my high perch, I realised maybe he didn’t notice or even care, but quite probably, just didn’t rate it as a song.

It feels now more than ever like being a small fish in in sea of sharks, and yes, no-one likes getting nibbled, but to quote that paragon of stubborn, pig-headed resilience Winston Churchill, I’ve got to “keep buggering on”. If I want it as much as I say I do.  So, I acknowledge mistakes made (there were plenty), I knuckle down, keep plugging the EP where I can, get better and bring out better music.  It is a hard business, and like any tough venture, you have to be thick-skinned to surpass all the shit and hope that inevitably a good slice of luck will come your way.

Studio time is now booked for a week at the end of November to record the next EP and I’m currently trying to decide which songs to put on it. The shortlist is about 10 and the aim is to continue the next EP in the same vain with Freddy again doing the artwork.  I’m also looking to put out a live album of the St Pancras gig, so for those that were there in August and wish to hear it again, I’m hoping it will be ready in time for Christmas. I’m also hoping to do some sort of UK tour in the New Year before the next release.

So, if you’re reading this and wish to help my cause,  spread the music among friends http://www.soundcloud.com/antonyraine (to stream) https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/farewell-to-arms-ep/id687330213 (to buy) or if you really feel like jumping on board, come and say hello at my facebook page http://www.facebook.com/AntonyRaine.uk 

Yours aye,

Antony

P.S If anyone would like to be involved in any way, whether it’s offering PR ideas, interesting places to play on my tour, or who knows any eccentric, philanthropic person who might wish to sponsor my crazy dream, please drop me a line at antonyraine@hotmail.co.uk Maybe I can write you a song in return 🙂

FREE DOWNLOAD: https://soundcloud.com/antonyraine/silhouettes

My song of the week: Aretha Franklin   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pxb-9p5hdRY

Penis Drawings, Wagner and a strange Vietnamese man………

It’s been a while since my last blog and things are starting to gather a bit more pace.  I am still writing daily on one thing or another and fixed on trying to push “my music” to any contact I can find in preparation for my EP release.  I was recently reminded, however, not to take what I am doing too seriously when I discovered several penis drawings left by some obvious dear friends in my moleskin songwriting note book.  Yes, that joke never goes away no matter what age you are! Dicks…………

One three 'members'

One three ‘members’

So, what of the release of what I’ve been harping on about for months now? Well, the EP (for those not in the know, essentially a record with 4 songs on it) is now mastered following a rather drawn out process and it is now with a distribution company for release at the end of summer.  Yippee.  I have listened back to it endlessly, trying to objectively (and therefore quite probably impossibly) figure out whether the songs will be good enough to grasp people’s imagination. I hope so. Despite at times wanting to throw the thing in the Thames, it was a great learning experience and whatever happens, whether I end up falling on my sword or rising to dizzy heights of musical Valhalla, I think I can be proud of what has been created.

Robert Frost said, “I took the road less traveled by and it made all the difference”.  However, whilst this poetic quote serves to inspire the intrepid, here the one certainty is that there are so many people travelling my road and not only do I have to be better than them, I have to be luckier.  Like the Army, music is proving to be a bit of a game albeit of a different nature.  The main difference now is that I have fewer people to trust and it is already abundantly clear that this is a world full of flakiness, smiles, “false yes’s” and money-grabbers that does not ride easy with me.  Whilst I knew this would be the case before I jumped, and there is little worse than hearing the ‘armchair general’ raising an eyebrow whilst quietly thinking “I told him this, etc“, that is rarely ever helpful when you set out on your own to try and start a business/venture.  You are not part of a company that can train and develop you to meet your potential, pass exams and progress up a ladder that is defined; you are your own engine creatively and you are your own drive to get yourself there.

I smelt my first rat when some poor devil unsuccessfully tried to smoke me out of 2000-odd quid for some spurious venture which he’d failed to fully read up on; it ended up  being me interviewing him and I almost felt sorry for the bugger when he walked out of the cafe with his tail between his legs.  I have met all sorts so far, usually at gigs I’ve played or gone to watch; the eternal musical martyrs in their mid-30s, brain cells shot, somehow eeking out a living reeking of stale ale and weed to those in their early 20s, full of enthusiasm, hustling the stage in the hope that someone out there is going to believe in their art and help them reach a larger audience.  Trying to figure out where I fit in is proving challenging, akin to perhaps being a bit of an outsider who turns up late to the party with the wrong kind of booze in the wrong kind of shoes.  However, I’m not about to metamorphose, kit myself up in some ball-crunching skinny jeans, hand over my testosterone and start calling everybody “man“.  The music world inherently lacks integrity, but if I want to be successful, my own identity must remain. And whether the trendies think I’m worth mulling things over with or not, maybe I shouldn’t care. I probably don’t………..

I’m certainly in a very creative phase currently.  I’ve been to see random gigs by small bands, to Gypsy swing in a very quaint Parisian-chic bar south of the river, to Wagner’s 6-plus hour Opera Gottendamrung at the Royal Albert Hall.

At the end of 6 1/2 hours of German singing......

At the end of 6 1/2 hours of German singing……

And while I’m not aiming to write Wagner-style epics (it took the old bastard 25 years to write this 3 dayer……) or start learning gypsy swing, you never quite know what can suddenly push you into writing something………

Recently, we’d been receiving a number of telephone calls to our flat asking for a Mr Midgley. Despite our insistence that Mr Midgley quite definitely did not live here, the calls continued.  My flatmate and I mulled over one night who this character could possibly be, inevitably concluding (albeit slightly drunkenly) he was a sweaty, devious and disgusting figure of a man with a bulbous growth and who worked for the CIA…….. For a bit of fun, I’d fiddled around with some riff to go with this “character”, inventing a tune for him, but by 2am the moody sound that it was had become something more substantial.  The next day I developed that riff into a dark and bluesy song that had over 23 verses, called “The Fall of Billy Mather”, about a homeless guy who killed his wife and is on the run.  I’m now in the process of editing it down, so for those coming to my EP launch gig you’ll be able to hear it that night.  Just in case you’re reading, CIA, the song isn’t actually about you………

I’ve also had a gig since my last entry.  It was quite last minute and at The Troubadour in Earl’s Court, where I have played many times before and, though to a smaller crowd, it was probably one of my better performances.

Performing at The Troubadour

Performing at The Troubadour

After a few drinks at the bar upstairs, my flatmate and I went very late to Nam Long on the Old Brompton Road, which for those who know it can either be very shit and stuck up or just very, very good fun. This night was definitely of the latter and, though initially I wasn’t sure the eccentric owner was going to let us in or not with my guitar, we persuaded him we were “cool” and he obliged.  Before long this Mr Chow-esque character was motioning to me “you play or die”, and so I played.  So there I was at 3am in this pissed reverie playing Brown-Eyed Girl to a packed bar who all joined in singing, thinking it would be just one song before the requests came and I relented.  We soon had “American Pie” rolling and I had a happy owner who wasn’t going to kill me and a rather toxic glass of some concoction I can’t remember as a reward.

So if you are reading this, thank you! My EP will be released at the end of August, available on iTunes and coinciding with a launch, where I will be performing at what is a beautiful venue at St Pancras Old Church on the 30th August.  Ticket information will be available soon via my Facebook page, facebook.com/AntonyRaine.UK, and my website, antonyraine.com.

Antony x

“The Times They Are a-Changing………”

The times they are a-changing” sang Bob Dylan: a song that aptly came up on my iTunes the other day as I was sat pondering at my desk whether I’d been a blithering idiot to quit my previous profession for the sake of chasing a dream.  Just over a month since arriving in London, the pendulum shift from life as soldier to songwriter is in full swing and full of changes.  The stomping of marching troops and screaming sergeants every morning has been replaced by the significantly more sedate sound of the Thames lapping gently up the side of the embankment wall outside my flat, and I’m now re-discovering that cooking is no longer restricted to boil-in-a-bag rations or the microwave dinners I’d have to resort to if I didn’t feel like eating from the Officers’ Mess kitchen.

So how is this big change? Am I pining yet to be back under the military jackboot?  Well currently it is a very easy ‘no’, though I am sure there will come a stage when there will be some severe head-scratching.  I’ve only been heckled once with “You’re shit!” from some hooded viper on the boardwalk below my balcony and despite a massive drop in income, it has so far been completely liberating.  I am free to take charge of my own life for the first time in 6 years and pursue the thing that has run a riot of questions around my head.  Well thankfully I’ve got the balls to give it a go, and I will until it is clear I can survive no longer and my flatmates have kicked me out and I’m residing underneath Wandsworth Bridge……

Some people have said that it is “a pretty brave call” what I am doing.  Some inevitably will think “error”, given how fickle, difficult and soul destroying the music world can be, and I would be a foolish man not to acknowledge that the odds are stacked against me.  After all, everyone’s seen the demise of the reality TV hopefuls and graduates on our front pages, so why give up on a career with reasonably promising prospects for the sake of chasing a pipe dream?   It could prove fruitless and result in financial ruin, but ultimately I would hate to look back at 40 and say “I wish I’d just had a pop”.  I’d wanted to join the Army since I was a schoolboy but the romanticism it once had is lost.  Sadly, I feel I have left one of Britain’s last remaining bastions of tradition in the twilight of its own decline, reeling from bad foreign policy decisions and sapping morale, no matter what the ‘yes-men’ bigwigs might preach in the media.   Last week, the Ministry of Defence announced nearly 5,000 redundancies.  Whilst getting rid of people is always sensitive, what is interesting is that in this tranche a large majority volunteered for redundancy.  I suppose people don’t want to be part of an institution that is quick to send them into harm’s way and eager to dispense of their services when it suits them……….

It has been 4 months since I have worn my army fatigues and I do not miss them, though I must admit I occasionally put on my old beret for a giggle just to see if still fits with my ever growing mop of hair.  Not having to shave every day has been the most provocative novelty I am casually re-acquainting myself with of late.  This is likely a most banal subject for those of you reading, but after 6 years of thinking that failure to shave each day is a failure in leadership, a failure that can result in a ‘charge’ for ones soldiers and unthinkable for an officer to be found guilty of, it is an enjoyable slip of discipline.  This ‘slip’ is currently on an 11 days’ growth; needless to say my father is disgusted………..

"The Beard"

“The Beard”

I shall finish this entry by saying that so far things are slowly building musically and I’m enjoying the readjustment to life as a civilian and trying to build a new career from the bottom up.  Writing is coming on well in general, now that I have sufficient time to focus on it and the EP is currently in the final stages of mastering which will hopefully be on iTunes later this summer.  So yes Bob, I have started swimming and god knows whether I will sink like a stone.  Only time will tell……..

Regards,

Antony

A Poem – Black Sand

BLACK SAND

Black sand, black sand

How you sit so long and slender,

Before me like a velvet cloak,

Basking under blazing sun,

With no-one here to love you

But my weathered young heart,

And the old wrinkled fisherman,

In his faded shirt and withered hands,

Saddled with nothing but the salty air,

Hacking coconuts on your black sand.

 

And how black sand you are freckled;

Speckled and heckled even!

By crackling shells and coral stone

From the womb of your mother ocean,

Who whips and spits,

A ripping wail of white foamed cloud,

Flailed to your black sand shoreline

And buries me;

An island on your island

In the bosom of your black sand.

 

Black sand, oh black sand,

Will you soon forsake me?

I sit in the mouth of Eden,

Amongst the palm tree groves

In a symphony of a silent hour

When only the sound of the tide

Shall hear my murmuring,

And only the curling hood of crashing waves

Shall see what my eyes see;

Before me not a soul but a sight,

Of a naked blue horizon of glittering sea.

 

For today she is all mine to love,

And today her song is mine alone,

For she is asylum from my island,

And I hear her siren play for me alone

‘Til the breakers yield and my lungs surrender,

And the ocean and I are of one breath,

Safe from the flight of a whispering breeze,

And the mournful call of minarets,

Over paddy fields wrung with sweat and smoke,

And the haunting dirge of the ocean’s depths.

 

Black sand, my black sand,

How do you not desert me?

When the ocean roars her thunderous spill,

Her riptide full,

Yet her sorrow tender,

For the throne I burrow,

With my bare hands spent,

In my empire of solace,

This velvet cloak of ugly splendour.

 

Copyright: Antony Raine 2013

The Pink House Over Yonder…………

So my travels hath ended. Well, for now anyway………….. After 5 planes, four trains, 4 boats and many various variations of automobiles, I arrived back in England on a beautiful bank holiday weekend slightly jetlagged and with a bittersweet realisation that  somehow my trip was at an end.

The last destination in my journey was Bali; an island much acclaimed for it’s paradise-like qualities, friendly people and fantastic surf.  I last visited two and a half years ago after I returned from Afghanistan, and it is fair to say a lot has changed since my last visit.  Though it cannot be wholly put down to the film “Eat, Pray, Love“, many places on the island have become overdeveloped with the influx of tourists, but, that does not mean you cannot find the charm that Bali was originally famous for, because if you look hard enough it is still there.  I however, had no plans to hang out in the usual tourist spots and through another blog I came across on the internet, I had decided to drag my pretentious ass immediately up the West Coast to a place called Pulukhan, next to the small town of Medewi.  From what I had read, it was an idyllic place that apparently had great waves, very few tourists (as it is so far out of the way and awkward to get to) and what Bali probably looked like before the infestation of tourists…………and Australians……………….

I passed through Arrivals at Denpasar airport, guitar strapped to my pack and fully expectant (and now thanks to Laos, well experienced) of the elongated negotiation that would await in getting a taxi to some far off place.  It was literally seconds before a gang of taxi drivers crowded around me, offering me outrageous prices to get to Medewi. I had done my research, knew what an acceptable price would be and so refused outright to pay their prices much to their visible disgruntled discontent.  However it is all part of the game.  Though protracted, it is almost insulting to them if you do not haggle, and though the poor guy who finally accepted initially seemed annoyed, we settled at my still inflated price and Indo equivalent of £30ish.  I buckled, he buckled, and we both knew he was still the winner.  In any case, after 24 hrs plus of travelling without sleep, I was content and buckled up for a hair-raising 2 and a half hour drive that at times resembled scenes from Days of Thunder.  And if you haven’t seen this film, shame on you……………….

I had little idea where I was staying and decided to leave it up to the gods of fate.  My Lonely Planet offered little, save for a few names of places with little insight on how to actually get there. So I figured where I would stay would find me.   Fate found me when driving through Pulukhan I recognised a name on a dusty sign pointing down a lane.  It was a place in the Lonely Planet that I had initially ignored because it was about a Km from the main lane where the surf break was.  CSB Guesthouse. Doesn’t sound like much of an enticing place does it, but because we had been looking for what seemed like an age, it was the first place that rung a bell so I thought at the very least I’d check it out.

As we slowly drove down the track towards the sea, the locals studied my ride all with puzzled faces, probably asking what on earth has an airport taxi come all the way here for.  However, they were all quick to smile at me as we passed their homes and after about 300m we pulled into CSB Guesthouse. I immediately had a good feeling about the place. It was a pink building with 18 rooms that looked down and out onto the sea 150m

Top Floor facing to the left of the photo was my room

to its front, littered with palm trees and had that welcoming smell of incense that is common in every Balinese dwelling.   I was greeted by Maday and her delightful Hindu family who ran the place, and offered me the best room in the guesthouse that had the most incredible view of the sea, and it had the most incredible view of any place I stayed on my entire trip.  With that alone, I had decided this would be my retreat, where I was going to find some peace and write.

I was predominantly the only guest during my stay there, apart from one very brash Australian who stayed one night, and being low season there were few tourists even down by the surf break when I ventured down that way. I’d be up most mornings by about 8am, head down to a terrace where Maday would prepare a delicious fruit salad of banana, papaya, melon and pineapple and a jaffle, or toastie as we would call it.  I would also often have a coconut; cut fresh from one of the trees in the garden by one of the garden boys and it would never fail to be the most wonderful refreshing drink you could ever taste.

Coconuts

Climbing for Coconuts!

I would then retire back to my balcony for an hour or so, write prose, a poem, a song, or simply survey the idyllic Eden that lay naked before me.  I almost felt a bit like a king considering his small kingdom, because my arcs of view from the balcony overlooked lush rice fields than ran all the way along the mile long black sand beach that rarely had anyone on it save me, the odd fisherman, rice farmer and on one evening a group of local boys who had ventured down on their mopeds to play football whilst the girls looked on.  I only saw two other tourists on this beach for the week I was there, and so I really felt it was just mine to look at and walk where I wanted without my thoughts and footsteps being interrupted by anything other than the crash of the waves or a sudden gust of a cool Indonesian sea breeze.  It was my own paradise.  And though a black sand beach it was, it had in itself it’s own ugly beauty; isolated, vast and bare that aided me in my quest to delve into my own writing in a way that been less forthcoming in Laos.  Several times a day I would walk up and down the beach with only my bag of books, notebooks and guitar for companions, but that self-imposed isolation was utterly blissful.

On occasion a fisherman would come and say hello, eager to talk about where I came from, teach me a few Balinese words and discuss the bizarre make-up of my travel guitar.  In Indonesia or South-East Asia, often you will be pestered by the locals approaching you to offer something, whether that be a trinket, bracelet, marijuana, magic mushrooms and the like, but for the only part of my trip, this was the only place where I felt part of its make up which I think is very rare.  The friendliness here to my white face was therefore quite overwhelming.  They didn’t want anything from me, just wanted to know whether I surf-answer: “yes, but I’m not here to surf, I’m here to write”, to puzzled looks – where I was from and smile a lot at me when I would say “Apakabar?” (how are you?).  The low season obviously drains the place of visitors, with the other half of Bali and the Gilli Islands drawing the vast majority of crowds, so it was an absolute joy to have this experience.

View from the balcony

The place possessed such a serene quiet that I would comment on it silently to myself each day and it was only ever disturbed by the odd cockerel, the hum of a moped engine and in the evenings when the Mosque would call its followers to prayer.  It was a sound I heard every day in Afghanistan, and so there was something oddly reassuring about it, mainly due to the beautiful voice I would look forward to hearing each evening.  It can often sound like a bit of a drone, but the Mosque close behind my guesthouse emitted a sound that was so sweet and soothing I think even the most ardent bigot would have succumbed to its beauty.  If I was in my room when the call to prayer sounded, I would go to the other side of the house just to listen to that voice such was the magnetism of its tone.   Though the number of Mosques might suggest otherwise, Islam did not seem to be an omnipresent factor there, and apart from some girls wearing head scarfs it very much seemed to be a very unobtrusive thread adding to the fabric of Balinese life, just like surfing, the small warungs (shops) and fishing.  The Hindu family had been there for over a decade and said there was only one other Hindu family in the vicinity, to which I immediately drew the assumption that there were problems. I was immediately redressed, and that the same open friendliness offered to me was the same among everyone regardless of ethnicity.

Maday and her family

Maday and Family

It wasn’t all peaches and cream though. After two days there I was struck by a debilitating bout of chronic D&V.  On my second night I had wandered up the main road in search of a restaurant.  I suppose I ended up eating at the equivalent of a roadside cafe, but the Nasi Goreng I ate there was delicious and only cost me about £1.  After a month of eating at similar places in Laos, I thought (wrongly) my stomach was adjusted so I didn’t think anything of it.  When I woke the next morning I knew something wasn’t quite right.  I had planned to surf that morning and after breakfast I walked down the beach 900m west to where the surf point was to rent a board.  No sooner had I got there I was turning back feeling the vomit monster starting to churn his wheel at the pit of my stomach.  By the time I got back to my place, I was immediately sick and then began two very unpleasant days when the bathroom pretty much owned my soul.  Before long I was hunched up, continually hugging the loo, with things coming out both ends, my nose and by nightfall I was vomiting blood.  From previous bitter experience in other foreign climes I knew I needed to forgo eating and stick to water but I pretty much couldn’t stomach that either.  I’d also used up all my Diarorilite sachets and Imodium by the end of the first day. I ventured downstairs only to get water, leaving Maday very worried and suggesting a Doctor, to which the stubborn Englishman replied he was absolutely fine and knew what to do……….  The lack of food for two days led my brain to some interesting places and if I wasn’t lying on my bed sweating the bug out in nauseous fits of spasm, I was hunched back over the lavvy or I’d sit on my balcony and simply watch a very peaceful ocean with not a soul on it.  At the very least there is something to be said for the effect of sunshine on one’s spirit and I suppose I couldn’t have picked a more beautiful place to be ill.  What brought me back to being a human again was in fact coconut water (which is actually better than a banana believe it or not) and Maday had her nephew cut me down as many coconuts as I wanted without charging me a nickel.  By the third day I felt much better, though I still didn’t feel like eating much and didn’t have the strength to surf.  My writing on the other hand was the beneficiary which I was more than happy with.

"My" Black Sand Beach

“My” Black Sand Beach

Often people ask how I write a song. It is not easy to explain because I don’t sit down and say “today I am going to write a song” and try and think about a topic.  Somehow it is just something that comes to me one way or another.  On my first morning in Pulukhan, I woke up with a beat thumping in my head and despite going down for breakfast with a bit of a hangover having drunk too much of the local moonshine (Arak) the night before, I was humming it without knowing it.  I was set on surfing that morning but as I ventured down the black sand beach to the surf break, it kept on repeating in my head and would not leave. I knew with certainty that as I continued along towards the Point, I would not surf that day and that I would write an entire song in one sitting.  I reached the end of the beach where it suddenly became rocky and though it was high tide, I could still negotiate the rocks and boulders and work my way round near to where the main surf lane and civilisation lived.  About half-way along there was a cemented horseshoe of rocks with a palm tree growing from the middle, and it was here under the guarded shade of this palm tree that I sat for two hours and wrote this song whilst the locals (and a few intrepid foreigners) would surf with expert aplomb the long left-handers that would roll out in front of me.  Maybe I should drink moonshine more often……..

Originally I planned to stay there for 3 days before gradually make my way further East passing through other surf spots, but such was the raw beauty of the place, my duel with food posioning, and progress with my writing, I ended up staying 6 nights.  I was reluctant to leave because of what I was achieving there, and from what I understand as a fledgling writer, any spot that gives you that clarity in vision to seek what you are looking for, you’d be a fool to spurn it.  I was on a time scale however and I had a friend to meet to spend another two weeks on the other side of Bali and under the tranquil spell of the Gilli Islands.  This shall therefore be my last entry of my trip as those two weeks will be for my memory and my companion alone as they were decidedly different to the rest of my travels.

I will finish this entry by saying that my 6 weeks were a great journey.  I was not looking to go on a quiet bender or run riot with the “gap yahs” and the “gap garys” having an undeniable hoot of a time in Asia. It sounds pretentious but I enjoyed my own company and was way past them in what I was seeking, but I will say, each to their own.  I was not looking to fill my mind with the plethora cultural offerings of the spirituality, tosh and temples one finds in abundance there; much as though I enjoy history there are only so many statutes of Buddha a man can take.   Was it a journey of self-discovery then? I don’t think so, and I should think I should bloody well know who I am by now.  To be honest, I don’t think I learnt anything more about myself other than I now love coconut water and fried noodles with chicken.  Oh, and I find Australians extremely irritating.  So, does this all make me a bit of a pretentious shit?  Maybe a little, but nobody is interested in vacuous boring people.  I went away for two reasons; firstly, I was probably not looking for anything other than a beautiful setting to write in, echoing my literary heroes who sought out exotic places around the globe to write.

Caught unawares writing - Gilli Meno

Caught unawares writing – Gilli Meno

I achieved this finishing 9 songs, 3 more in mental draft, and a few probably terrible poems.  It sometimes takes a year or more for someone to write an album and I’ve practically achieved this in 6 weeks, so I’ve done OK.  Secondly, I think I went to help the mental separation from being Capt Raine, to becoming Mr Raine.  Perhaps upon reflection, I think the latter reason was probably ill-founded as that separation is not as clear cut as one or I might think.  You can never completely cut that cord.  And though I am a very happy soul at now being free, letting my hair and sideburns grow and for once getting a Bank Holiday Monday, I, with probably every individual who has served their country for better or worse, know that there is a bond to that service that will always remain with us until we are old and grey and finally knocking graciously on St Peter’s pearly Gates.  So there will always be a small part of me that is still Capt AD Raine of the Queen’s Royal Lancers, and I will always be proud of the time I had the privilege to wear that title, whatever has been the weather.

And so just as I left England still an individual under rank and file of HM Government over 6 weeks ago, I am returned back as a civilian of this country.  I am now unemployed, without a salary but full of hope about what I have declared I will do.

As my father welcomed me home with the a delightful first pimms of the season, he reminded me that this very weekend 6 years ago I was traipsing off to Sandhurst with an ironing board tucked underneath my arm, bright-eyed and bumbling, just as another crop of bright young, idealistic twentysomethings will have done this weekend past and will continue to do so every year on the first Sunday of May.  Fittingly, a WWII vintage Hurricane suddenly appeared in the sky above the Chilterns; it’s sweet and reassuring Rolls-Royce Merlin engine purring as it barrel rolled west, almost as if in memorandum to my 6 years in what is now one of Britain’s last remaining bastions of tradition.  “I organised this especially for you,” my father said jokingly with a wry smile as the Hurricane continued on it’s flight path and eventually out of sight.  And it was a beautiful sight at that.

Thanks for reading,

Antony Raine Esq.

Bali Reading list: The Wandering – Hermann Hesse      

                                  The Iliad – Homer

Bali: Songs that rocked me:

Your Hand in Mine – Explosions In The Sky

 Start a War – The National

 Storms in Africa – Enya

The Promised Land – Bruce Springsteen

Old Pine – Ben Howard

Take the Right One – Bombay Bicycle Club

Wish You Were Here – Pink Floyd

Blood – The Middle East

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