Sunday, 19 April 2015

Listen To The Birds

'You cannot step twice into the same river, for other waters are continually flowing on.'

It's probably my favourite rock 'n' roll moment ever.

By the time the 'Ziggy Stardust' tour reached London's Hammersmith Odeon on July 3rd 1973, David Bowie had been on the road for over a year with practically no breaks. During that time, he'd gone from being the curly-haired folky guy who sang 'Space Oddity' to an extra-terrestrial sex alien and an international superstar. His Ziggy Stardust character had become a glam rock icon, and teenagers - both boys and girls - all across the world had his poster on their walls. Bowie's manager, Tony DeFries, saw no reason to stop. He had plans to take Ziggy all over the globe in 1974. But Bowie had other plans.

As that July 3rd show drew to its conclusion, Bowie stepped forward to speak to the frenzied crowd of 3,500 space cadets.

'This show will stay the longest in our memories,' he told his fans. 'Not just because it is the end of the tour, but because it is the last show we'll ever do.'

Amidst the hysterical screams, Bowie then turned his back on the audience and walked towards the back of the stage. The Spiders From Mars launched into one final song, 'Rock 'n' Roll Suicide'.

Folklore has it that audience members, so upset by news of Ziggy's retirement, sated themselves by indulging in a mass orgy in the seats.

The NME front cover - 'BOWIE QUITS'- became one of the most iconic of all time.

Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders From Mars never played together again.

Just a matter of months later, Bowie - bleached quiff, smooth suit - started recording an album of 'blue-eyed soul' in Philidelphia, Pennsylvania.

In September 2007, Anton Krupicka wrote his first blog post. Entitled 'Now', it began with a single question: 'Why does one blog?' Why share a life on the internet when one could simply write a private journal?

His conclusion was interesting:

'There is no reason to post one's life on the internet, other than to feel as if you have some sort of agency as a human being. That is, that your actions - and posts - are meaningful to someone other than oneself and that they affect other humans in some way: to inflame, inspire, degrade, invoke joy, etc.,etc. That is the only - yet incredibly crucial - difference between maintaining a meticulous Word document on one's hard drive and posting to a public blog of one's own creation. The internet allows others to see you - provides an audience - and this helps tremendously to validate one's own existence.'

I came across Krupicka's blog in 2010. I'd just joined Facebook. I bought into Krupicka's philosophy. My life needed validating. Not long afterwards, I started my own blog.

My blog was never an on-line training diary or a self-aggrandising list of achievements. I worked hard to make it more than that. In retrospect, it's a body of work I'll always be proud of.

And what started out as a means to validate my existence - to make me a star in a movie about myself - became so much more. Through the words of this blog I was able to talk of things I'd shared with almost no-one: childhood abuse, self-harm, directionless self-pity, an over-dependence on stuff that's no good for you - all the bullshit, basically, that most of us encounter and eventually have to find a way of confronting and laying to rest. Our methods vary. Writing was mine.

As a young man, I was an avid diarist. For hours each week for the best part of ten years, I'd record a life that wasn't really being lived. I get those blue hard-backed books out now and again and scan through them, marveling (and cringing) at the person I once was.

Then, during a night in an Ingoldmells club during a particularly shaky spell of my life some years back, my oldest friend took me aside for a few drunken words of advice. 'You need to stop writing in those books of yours,' he said. 'Stop thinking so much. Start living a bit more.'

It was a turning point. I've never kept a journal since.

When one lives one's life according to the dictate of 'Self-experimentation is the key', there'll always be turning points and crossroads. For months now, I've been approaching another.

Although it's been a long journey of trial and error, the path I've chosen - the one that just feels right - seems to offer promise in terms of giving my existence the validity it needs now.

The bricks this path is made of are numerous, inter-connected and important. Detachment. Simplicity. An immersion in the outdoors. A fuller appreciation of the love of family and friends.

I've almost found what I'm looking for.

There's a few things, however, that need to fall by the wayside: competition, gossip, back-stabbing, false friendship, social media, more possessions than I need, more money than I need - all of the bollocks, in fact, by which one defines 'Modern Life'.

Blur got it right.

Blogging, too, is on that list.

It was always something that really bugged me: a favourite blog gradually fading into non-existence by means of less and less frequent posts, and finally no more at all. I always thought I'd do it differently. Do it properly.

That's why I'm bringing my blog to an end with this post.

The same old friend that took me aside in that nightclub all those years ago, sent me an e-mail recently. It was a link to an article about the marathon monks of Mount Hiei. In my reply, I talked to him about the idea of 'secular pilgrimages'. I told him of my weekly Friday 12-hour walks. I mentioned listening to podcasts on these walks.

In his response, he ended his message with a simple instruction: 'Listen to the birds on Friday'.

It's a phrase I've thought of almost constantly since. Not only good advice for a long walk, but an ideal for living.

And so, I go.

To the anonymous amigos who have clocked up those 40,000 page hits since the start of this blog, I thank you and leave you with a corruption of Micah True's guide to happiness:

Jog Free, my friends xx

Me? Well I'm off to listen to the birds. 


  1. Shame it's your last blog Chris as I've always enjoyed them. I don't think it's necessarily self-validation either as they make a lot more sense than a lot of paid columnists drivel. Think of yourself as a modern man of letters with blogging your outlet rather than a literary periodical. Good luck with everything. Ben P

  2. Thank you so much Chris. I've enjoyed retrospectively reading your blog more than I have most books. All the best with whatever you are getting up to now.

  3. Thanks for all your comments, Ben.
    Cheers, Chris.

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