I lost my membership card to the human race – 17th February 2020

It’s amazing how one emotional event can soon be overshadowed by a larger one therefore putting the first into more perspective. On Friday I fought for what I believed and ended up in a cloud of destructive self doubt. On Saturday it all became irrelevant.

I try to clear my mind. Breathe in and breathe out. Focus on it. Thoughts come charging, running across my imagination. Focus. Re-focus. But they come too quickly, from all sides. Emotions rising from my belly, adding to the darkness inside.

I started writing a diary in 1994 after my best friend Steve Burgess passed away aged only 23. I kept that up for the year that saw me move from England to Australia. I continued writing bits and pieces over the years and then in 2018 I decided to start this blog and document another transition moving from Australia to Thailand. The final move date was decided by my mother’s passing in February 2019.

Now I have to write again about another best friend passing away, this time not significant of anything. Just another Saturday. He was 36 years old.

I’m shocked and devastated. I don’t have many people I would consider as close friends and now another has gone. Rationally I know it happens, it happens to everyone. Everyone you know will be gone. Everyone you love. But I’m not feeling rational again yet. Just let me be like this for a while. I’ll be ok.

I love you Kimi.

I’m starting to see why people find comfort in religion. Their faith counters our natural fear of death. If it all boils down, that is all it is. And that’s fine. I have to learn to deal with my fear of death by living now. The fear of death should make us happy.

It was Four Tops all night with encores from stage right – 24th-27th February 2018

It’s becoming obvious that I’m not going to be able to keep up with regularly posting updates here as time seems to slip on by.  I’ll do my best to keep note of things and get to them when I can but not sure how I’m going to be able to keep them concurrent with events from 1994, of which there is still a mass of writing for that year in my diary.

If I just limit myself to a paragraph per note I’ve made this post is going to get quite long.  I’ll try and be more concise.

So, our final morning in Dorset sees me going through some boxes of things my mother kept over the years.  I’m interested in the photos more than documents such as birth and death certificates and old school reports.  In particular are a couple of school photos I’m guessing from when I was 12 and 13.  You can just see my hair starting to get more punked up, for which I got so much shit at school at the time, from teachers and older kids who nicknamed me Sid.  I never got on with that nickname as I was more into Johnny Rotten but it was difficult to tell kids that as they were kicking and punching me for their random pleasure.  The thing with these two photos is you can still see the light in my eyes, just starting to dull in the later one.  These years were the start of what later would be diagnosed as mild depression.  The transition from middle to high school was particularly traumatic as I had a whole new bunch of older kids to pick on me though I soon found some allies.

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Before we know it we’re up the motorway again, back to other old haunts in Southampton.  We’re staying with Amy’s cousin Ting, who has been in England so long she has the thickest English accent I’ve heard for a while – so much so that I barely recognise her on the phone sometimes.

Amy heads off with Ting to do some shopping as they are cooking together at a friend’s house that evening, whilst I head over to see my old pal, Chrissy.

Chrissy was the wife of Steve, whom, if you’ve been following so far, was the inspiration for writing the 1994 diary after his untimely death the previous year.  I caught up with her briefly in Sydney a few years before as she was attending someone’s wedding there, just a suburb or two away from where I was living at the time.  It was good to catch up again and talk shit like we did in the ‘good old’ days.

The afternoon is made more pleasant by the arrival of Steve and Chrissy’s daughter Rebecca, who was less than a year old the last time I saw her.  I am shocked at the resemblance to Steve and can’t stop looking at her face.  It’s like he’s right there again.

I also make quick friends with their dog who despite being somewhat shy took to me for some good pats, strokes and ear rubbing.  But soon enough it’s time to leave.

I head back to drop the car at Ting’s and get out the maps app so as to walk to the pub where I will meet more old timers and down a couple of pints.  The air is very cold but the exercise warms me and I look into people’s houses as I pass and wonder what their lives are holding for them today.

I stop off for some hot chips as I’ve not eaten much today and it would be preferable to line my stomach with something traditionally British and stodgy to soak up any alcohol intake.

There are some bands playing tonight, including some old friends but I’m not so interested in the music as I am in talking.  Rich introduces me to his partner Geraldine and later Rob and his partner Emily turn up.  A couple of other hopeful attendees find themselves busy elsewhere so they’ll just have to come and visit me in Thailand one day.

A jovial atmosphere and pleasant conversations quickly end this all to brief meet up but it’s much along the lines of that last night in Sydney, with certain friends you can just pick up on conversations with even years of interruption between.

The following morning we’re off to London.  Amy wants to go shopping.  I’m not particularly thrilled at that idea but I’ve set myself a task to track down a book I’m looking for.  We’re also booked for a dinner in the evening at the Shard near London Bridge.

I’ve always enjoyed London as a place to visit but never, when living in England, felt the urge to live there.  So, even rush hour tube trips have some sense of adventure to them.  I’m constantly reminded of the Clash as we pass by certain stations and wonder at the motivations they had as they went from small house suburban London city to mega hotel New York city.  Man, they wrote some tunes.

One thing I immediately notice is how much more multicultural London is than Sydney.  Although not so used to hearing the English accent anymore it seems that in many places we visit and pass by that people aren’t speaking English at all.  It’s a little unsettling and really cool at the same time.

This point is highlighted even more as we head for a pub lunch and I’m annoyed at myself for not understanding the bartender’s accent.  I forget to apologise for my difficulty as her’s is a Lubjiana accent, so I ask her more about her country.  She’s busy though but I think she wasn’t offended at my ignorance in the end.

We pop into Waterstone’s bookshop and finally I find the book I’m looking for, ‘Churchill’s Secret War’ and take this final chance to pick a couple of books about The Fall.  I wasn’t going to buy these originally as I figured I could find them digitally but they were there, I was shopping, this was possibly the last day I’ll ever be in England and so they ended up in my luggage.  Amy felt the same and bought a couple of massive cooking books which definitely means a rejig of our bags later tonight.

We’re starting to flag now and consider changing our plans for dinner tonight.  It’s another beautiful sunny cold day, particularly bitter when the wind rushes through small side streets.  We decide to head to the Shard early and see if we can just go up and take some pictures.  We end up on the 34th floor at the small bar there and decide to splash out on a bottle of champagne and 6 oysters.  These kinds of expenses usually bother me but I decided to relax again and enjoy this indulgence despite the fact the cost could probably build us a swimming pool in Thailand.

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We reflect on our lives as we stare out across this old city and talk about how people think we are lucky to be able to do this and that.  But we have worked hard, had a plan and always pointed our way towards it.  I guess those comments are somewhat driven by the social media construct where friends generally only see you having fun, what appears to be, all the time.  We know we have made the right choices along the way, the choices that have got us where we are now.

The following morning we are greeted with snow.  What a nice surprise.  The Mexicans we meet at the breakfast table in our guest house are equally thrilled and we watch them as they step out to take funny photos.  We do the same a little later as we stuff our suddenly heavier re-jigged bags into the car and head to the drop off point.  Unfortunately, our phone direction finder leads round in frustrating circles and we decided just to figure it out following the signposts instead.

Amy decides on one last shop at the airport, so I get in the mood and pick up another book about the rules of being English, something I mentioned to Amy when she smiled happily to the guy in the take away the previous night. I told her it was not usual for someone to smile at other people in England and the guy probably thought she fancied him.  This is overplaying it a bit and is also the exact thing that attracted me to Amy in the first place.  That was in Sydney though, where smiling is an everyday occurrence.  I’m sure the English can often go a whole week without a smile.

The English confound me more on the plane to Bangkok.  It’s another A380 but this time jammed with ‘bigger’ English people looking for thrills in the ‘land of smiles’.  Despite leaving at midday, it’s an overnight flight as we fight against earth’s rotation and the English are up and at the crew galley all night long refilling on free booze.  I did this once when the experience of flying was still new to me.  Free booze must not be missed but I found it impossible to get drunk and to drink enough to be able to sleep.  I would just end up with a frustrating headache at the end of the flight, so I never drink on planes now.

And then occurs the most English thing I can imagine.  There are two meatheads sitting directly in front of Amy and I and they were constantly bouncing in their chairs at every toss, turn and minor readjustment.  I glance the Sun in the lap of the one who is coughing consistently and roll my eyes.  Midway through the flight, Amy needs to get out to go to the toilet so I get up and step into the aisle.  Being half awake I was a little clumsy getting up and knocked the chair in front of me where the now angry boofhead looks around and proclaims, ‘Was that on purpose?  I think it was, wasn’t it?’

I’m perplexed.  My only reply is ‘Sorry?’ and I look behind me to consider if he’s actually talking to someone else because his words just don’t make any sense to me.  Amy is bewildered too but trots off to the toilet as I stand and wait.  The two meatheads decide that they’ll settle themselves down with more whiskey and the event passes.  I still can’t imagine what leads to the guy’s question, if I knocked his chair on purpose, what was the reason?  We’d had no previous interaction at all.  It just seemed a typically antagonistic English response, a show of never back down, one-upmanship.

Those two guys ended up rushing off the plane to get to their destination of my more booze, sun and you can guess what else.

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Our day has only taken 12 hours and we transfer at Bangkok for our flight home, finally my last flight for this period.  There has been so much travel and rush over this month that it has been almost impossible to sit and relax and reflect.  Probably for the best.  Even mum’s funeral seems like something surreal and dreamlike that perhaps didn’t even happen.

This final flight is curiously filled with French and various Middle Easterners and I watch on as people struggle to find their seats.  It’s a little strange really – it’s not that hard, is it?  The numbers ascend and the letters go across.  It seems to take an age for some people though.  I wonder if their brains are wired differently, something that will soon be confirmed as I adjust to life in Thailand.

 

 

Back in Chiang Rai, we rush to sleep, eat, advise our builders, eat and sleep again.  Another day disappeared into the mosquito-ridden night.

I want to be stereotyped, I want to be classified – 28th December 1994

Today reminds us to count our blessings, it being one year since Steve passed away and it sure don’t seem like all those 365 days have gone by without seeing or talking to him. Each day has been recorded here for my benefit, each day busy with preparations and plans, so much done and said, it doesn’t seem possible that he hasn’t been here with us (all of us who knew and loved him). His life and actions still strong in our minds and hearts, an inspiration to us all, forever.

And typically, me and my beloved sweetheart are so damn busy today we don’t get much time to dwell about the past, today we’re running around buying ourselves a car and organising financial support from the bank in order to do it. a severe strain on our monies – in fact we are nearly broke at the end of the day, but shit, money isn’t everything and we know we’ll manage and as if we are being looked after by some other force, our next door neighbour offers us the lend of two chairs so now we have somewhere to sit in our lounge and then C_ and P_ lend us table and chairs so we have somwhere to dine and our house is turning into a home – with a car in the drive!

All week long you’ll fret yourself – 25th November 1994

What’s your problem Shaun, hey? One minute you feel so big and happy the next so small and sad. Is that brave face crumbling under the pressure? Are all the good things dissolving? No I don’t think so. But maybe I don’t get to see those good things so clearly sometimes, we recognise that it is easier to see the bad things don’t we? Me and you, old buddy.

Ok, I’ve been a bit grim these last couple of days, grim as in Steve Burgess ‘grim’ with a big growling ‘jee-arh’ and a quick to finish ‘im’. Reason? Oh, usual stuff, you know, just missing people and missing that security that I used to have (ha, the security I wanted to get rid of, of course, like my shitty job!)

I find it difficult to describe, I think I said I feel a bit directionless at the moment and wasn’t so sure who I was, man that is the worst thing in the world, not knowing who you are, don’t you think? Most of us like to think we know who everyone else is without ever knowing ourselves, easier to judge others than to look at ourselves, oh but that’s a big generalisation and really I’m talking about myself.

But today I feel better about myself, more able to cope with the difficulties I face each day becuase they are not difficult at all, you can make a big deal out of them if you want to but why waste more energy? I think I’ve talked myself round to feeling good, hmm, excellent!

Not much to recall about the past few days, I went into the city one day which was good fun but I’m sure I choked on some exhaust fumes that has now brought on this minor cold I’m suffering with, cities are dirty, shitty evil places, even nice ones have some lurking dark corners or maybe my eyes were more open to accept that train of thought on that day, there’s something to think about.

Found this photo at http://fabsydneyflashbacks.blogspot.com – There were a lot of holes in Sydney in 1994 – I think most of the filled by 2000 and the Olympics – World Square seemed to come later.

Something’s gonna crack on your dreams tonight – 16th November 1994

Woke up this morning all excited because last night was the first time since Steve died that I’ve dreamt about him. Not some mega fantastic meaningful dream with some deep message (well, maybe not) so this is what happened.

I’m in the front room of a wooden shack type house and the front wall isn’t there, it’s like a big verandah and immediately outside it’s like a BMX dirt track, all rolling mounds and hills and there’s Steve riding on his bike up and down and around. We say hello and talk to each other like nothing has happened and I’m really pleased to be able to talk to him again.

It’s time for lunch and I turn around and Chrissy and Broni are sat at the table with lunch all prepared so I go to sit down grabbing an extra plate for Steve on the way. Chrissy realises what I’m thinking immediately and says “Steve’s not really here, you know”.

I woke up then and thought about getting up and writing it all down but opted, in my laziness, to try and get some more dreams in, which I did but no more about Steve. It could mean something, it could mean nothing but it felt great just having a moving image of Steve in my mind again.

This was after an exhausting day yesterday which involved us going to the pool, which we found is only a quarter of a mile away, to practice that thing I’d vowed never to learn some years ago, thinking why would you need to know how to swim in England, not knowing then my future and heading towards such wild and pretty beaches and rivers and ocean in Australia.

So for an hour we swam up and down and under and round just having fun, getting our bodies slowly into shape, not some long haul 100 length job, god forbid, I can’t even manage one length in one go yet! But I will, just you wait. And maybe all that exercise jogged my subconscious that Steve used to play football and do some weight training and always looked incredibly strong. In fact I’ve got some lead for taking up indoor soccer (yes, it’s called soccer over here) which I may persue when I get a bit more stamina.

Now I can’t show you all the things I’ve seen and I can’t make you feel anything, certainly not what they meant to me – 2nd September 1994

It’s an exciting life. When Broni gets home I have a delicious meal prepared for her and sit yummying as we talk about our day.

Broni has been very busy at work and soon falls down dog tired but after some rumination we take a gentle stroll into the park as the sun slowly descends somewhere behind some cloud or other. We sit and watch the ducks and swans and talk about belief and good things. We realise how lucky we are, to have each other, to have this adventure and to have the future.

When I get back I have a long chat with Rob on the phone, which involves more shit flying in the Fatty department, which will bore me to death to repeat here and particularly as I am making great pains to forget all about that sad part of my life and to look towards brighter things. It is sad for me to carry a thorn in my side but now I feel able to let it go (haven’t I said this before?) Now feels different though and my future is absolutely soaring away from everything I know here, all the things I like but all the things I dislike too.

Later Broni and Kerry are talking and I join them in the bedroom, Kerry is talking like a maniac, high on life, full of herself because she finally feels comfortable with who she is and recognises her place in the world and realises her worth. She says it’s taken ten years but if you could see her bright chirpy cherub face you can see ambition and content. It was so good to hear her talking positively about life especially after my talk with Rob which dealt more with clearing out negative emotion.

So the cloud over me soon disappeared and I felt a wave of enthusiasm for life come over me and a little bit of loss for not having Steve around to talk to. Broni has me sussed pretty well though and reflects all my good points which make me feel much better and soon we are wrestling and playing in our makeshift bed on the floor.

Before we know it we are awake again, missed our dreams and she is off to work as I get up and cycle around the harbour taking video memories every now and then, through the park to the quay and back along the circuit, catching glimpses of beauty and depths through the cameras eye and hell, I feel so good inside myself today.

It is so easy to forget just how lucky you are to be alive and mornings like these bring it home that no matter what goes wrong, will still be okay.

Now is what’s happening, now is real, live for the now. I will see the sunset over a beautiful peaceful world.

On Steve – 25th August 1994

The pub is vibrant, people are smiling and dancing. It’s New Year’s Eve 1992. I don’t recall the circumstances that took us there, where the place is or what happened there. Our circle of friends were gathering to welcome in the new year in style. Myself, Fatty and Paul Simmons, we were the outsiders travelling up from Dorset to join the Hampshire crew of Rich, Rob, Steve, Chrissie, John, Selina, Dave and Holty. Our connection was music, whether performing, promoting, or watching.

Tonight, however was a celebration of friendship. While everyone was rolling around drunkenly, at about 11 o’clock Steve and I agreed it was time to leave. We wanted to get away from the gaggle, have a quiet space in which to exchange ideas. We just said to each other let’s go back to the house and talk. We both knew what we meant. It was a poetic moment, we both wanted to thrash out ideas and ideals and open each other up in a way that I’ve never found with anyone else, lay ourselves bare, vulnerable, emotions visible.

So we walked back through the empty dark streets, each house and home having their own little private celebrations for the new year. We got to Holty’s house where everyone would be coming back to after the pub shut, we walked in to the living room, I sat on the sofa lounging back slightly drunk. Steve sat crossed legged on the floor, a fine upright muscular figure, I can see his silhouette now. He took out some hash and rolled up a fine joint of skunk weed as we set off on our journey into each others souls.

While not invasive or offensive, we voyeur each others thoughts. We find truth and beauty in what each of us has to say and our relationship develops into something special. He tells me how he used to look up to me when he saw me years ago at gigs and I say I can’t believe it, not understanding that I might affect people in that way. I don’t even remember him from then and even when we toured Europe together with our respective bands I didn’t get much chance to make friends, though I was probably too wrapped up in myself to have noticed anyone else.

I don’t recall the reasons that he looked up to me and they are not so important now anyway. But right then, right when he told me, the roles reversed and I started to look up to him. I loved his bright enthusiasm, the relentless energy, on later occasions at his house we’d talk everyone, to sleep, then sit up til 4am when I would protest that I needed rest but he said no, we must carry on talking. Sleep is the enemy, a favourite saying from Kerouac.

At midnight, we welcomed in the new year, I’d rifled Holty’s varied collection of CDs and played Madonna, Half Man Half Biscuit and Mud, me trying to convince Steve they were ahead of their time and probably one of the very first punk bands, it all seemed to make perfect sense at the time – hey, I was a little drunk and stoned!

A while later the rest of the circus came back from the pub in very high spirits, a party erupted around us and we gladly joined in. Paul was the first to puke (I’m not sure if anyone else did, and Rob eventually fell asleep under the chair of the three peice suite before everyone dumped him in the cupboard under the stairs (or did he go there of his own accord, I forget now?)), his socks left to turn to ice in the freezer (or were they Rich’s?).

One clear memory is Steve reprimanding me for being out of order when I must of said something insulting about someone, I was a very sarcastic son of a bitch back then and thanks to him I changed my ways slowly over the next year or so. I began to respect him even more.

His few letters to me reflected our conversations and I once wrote a six page letter of thoughts and ideas at his request, it was regarding an article he sent me from a newspaper. He was amazed at the huge amount of points I’d raised that he said he would never have thought of, from then we would make demands of each other, more and more, we had to know each other’s ideas and then bounce them around. We were grasping at life, getting a hold on it, looking for meaning, looking for happiness. Steve found it too a lot of the time and slowly I did as well, trying to emulate his outlook and zest for adventure. He loved and married Chrissie, took on the role of father to Chrissy’s daughter Amanda, and then to their daughter Rebecca. He was a real role model for me, changing over the years from a wild youth always in trouble to the most gentle, caring man who loved life to the full. And you know, that sounds just like me.


Steve is giving us a quick conducted tour of the bedroom. He’s keen to show off his pride and joy, daughter Rebecca, sleeping softly wrapped in blankets in the cot. Her 3 month old tiny lungs take short shallow restful breaths.

While Steve is pointing the camera at tiny Rebecca’s face, his hand comes into view and he points his 24 year old finger at her and then sticks his 24 year old thumb up. Proud father, lucky child.

The tour is a glimpse into a private life, not really a show for friends but the capture of a moment trapped in sound and vision for that old age memory loss time, a reminder of beautiful things that affect life profoundly.

Continuing on our tour, lots of short dialogues (excerpt ends)

It’s going to be a fine night tonight, it’s going to be a fine day tomorrow – look at the sky – 19th May 1994

Yum yum yum – life’s here for eating up. Not that I’d lost any faith in people but had I done so it would’ve been restored by last night’s events. Well, start at the beginning somewhere.

Last night was another trip up to the Joiners and this time we took John and Sarah and some records to sell. John was in particularly enthusiastic mood – jeez, that guy is enthusiastic about everything! Well, I was in a bouncing mood tonight that’s for sure and found it difficult to stand behind my records for long periods so hell, I didn’t.

The atmosphere reminded me of Green Day’s gig there a couple of years back. Everyone was happy and everything was cool. The Thirst single was here for sale too – great job Tony has done and a fine tribute to Steve. Chrissy was in cheerful mood too along with Selena etc and me in charge of photo opportunity (dropping it while pissing!).

Thirst played a great set and are coming on really well and I gave them not too much stick! Wow! There was lots of pissed French punks here too – where did they come from!? (France! – ha!) The Harries played of set of Ramones style riffing – fun but unexciting. Everyone was happy though – it was that kinds bouncy music. Much chat and record sales (!) later, Rhythm Collision played a reasonable set of hardcore tunes, the guitarist later buying a Lemonheads LP from me and then us having a way cool conversation, me telling him about Broni and our love affair and plans for Oz. He knows Greg from Spiral Objective in Adelaide too which was cool coincidence. This dude was way cool anyway which is what I’m trying to relate, ok.

Eventually we got away and home at 1.15am and all today I feel proud to be a part of such good, honest fun things that friends across continents can organise for each other and it really feels like one big family with all sorts of diverse influences and anything goes and respect comes first. Today I love life and remember where I am in this world.

Every day would get thrilliner and thrilliner – 5th May 1994

sidenote: Remember this mad bad blues band?

It’s all a blur of frenzied activity but here’s the gist. Stocktake over and it’s a glorious sunny day. I get drunk and talk to lady next door while Broni is off talking jumpers and work with Rosemary (getting good possible offers of work). I’m asleep drunk, tired and sun-scorched. Broni returns and we, with John, opt for Indian fool and blues music but we flake it early on and it’s back to dreamtime.

Next glorious sunny day and it’s down to Bournemouth and the record fair to see our friends Barry and Gary, being their usual fun selves. Happy and laughing we came out richer in pocket and in heart. Checked out the beach half searching for cynical Rich in his sandwich board. Back home to our sunny backyard before mad motorway dash once again to watch grown men run around with a football for 90 minutes. This being Steve’s memorial football match. Me, I’m grumpy but enjoyed talking to Chrissy and Karl Barry. Soon home again via mothers and back into bed.

Early morning rise and straight to the beach for early morning coffee (I actually pack for parcels of records before we leave – up very early today). In search of decent food, we spend a fortune at Safeways and proceed to drink away the day in the backyard, with brief excursions into football and kite flying with John and Sarah and Morbaina (this cool Zimbabwean dude). On into the night and we barbecue with our new roommate Simon and we drink and drink. Phew!

Up at five next morning to get Broni on the bus to London and then into work – I’m really pissed off and run off a series of poems before I start to feel very ill and decide to come home. I talked to Broni and tell her I miss her (very much). Hightail highway again, this time to go see Rollins Band in Portsmouth with all the crew. Tony buying beer and Selena not drinking?! Dig play and impress, Rollin’s music doesn’t impress but his presence is awesome. Not totally overawed though!

On return to Eastleigh, me and Rob fight sleep and talk about life and its people till three or so. Rich and Rob go off to work and I read magazines and play records to my aching heart’s content.

Broni rings and seems happy and I hope to see her later in London. I go off to Chrissy’s and try to keep Amanda busy – she is in a particular spoiled brat mood – dear girl. Rebecca is a beauty though! Ah! Chrissy feeds me and I must dash off to collect Rob for another roadbuster to mighty city to see old pals Victims Family. I talked my goddamn head off in the fat London traffic while Rob directs. Soon there inside gig we sell poetry to eager punters and watch Victims Family plough through their last set of their tour. I talked to Ralph for a while, he says they hope to get to Australia someday. I also meet that old dude Rob from Corby and chat before we exit during Grotus’ set.

On the streets, everyone’s celebrating Arsenal’s European victory and I ring Broni at Piers’ and organise a quick visit. Down the road, we enter this huge house and into Piers’ cool yuppie type flat, adorned with great obscure works of art. Broni is a bit self-conscious but that’s okay – soon on again then and coffeed up we drive any old ways out of town. Twice awake and half asleep. A great conversation on the way home reminds me of talking to Steve again! I dash straight to Poole after dropping Rob and back to beautiful bed! Soon awoken by beautiful Broni’s early morning call and knowledge that she returns tonight.