Sunday, 29 January 2012

Admin, admin, admin

Well, the first month is nearly over, and I've realised that I'm not working on this project as muchas I should be. There's a number of reasons for this

1) TFL have yet to give it their full support/blessing/go ahead.
Now, I don't want to get tied down in the debates about freedom to do what you want and red tape/beaurocracy, etc. But I do respect the transport system and don't want to do anything that might p them off. So I'm trying to get at least somewhere with that first which will then make me feel better about doing this challenge.
2) TFL have yet to issue a permit to film
Maybe partly due to point 1. Considering there's meant to be a documentary about this, it's meant that I'm reduced to video diary footage. Also means none of the vids I've seen the guys make can be used until they sort this out. All footage needs to be cleared by TFL before being shown. More admin. I'd like to be able to get some authorisation to go with the film crew and let them follow me around. It'll be great footage, but alas, still waiting. If anyone from TFL/anyone who knows people at TFL are reading, please help. I'm certain that what I'm doing puts the public transport system in a great light. But alas, everything needs clearance. I've also written to Boris about points 1 and 2 (see next post)
3) We don't have the venue.
I hate to let this dictate the challenge, but it's a pretty big part of it. If we have nowhere to show, it's over. We've got some meetings coming up and I'm confident this won't be an issue, but what happens if all of the venues do turn out to say no? Should the challenge stop? Can I change the venue? How much does this matter? Any thoughts anyone?
4) It's 11 months away
Well, less. But I'm realising that it's a snowball effect, so it's something that most people are tentatively providing details, saying they're interested. It's a long way off. And I guess a lot of people aren't certain where they'll be.

So I'm not putting 100% into finding people right at the moment because of these four main reasons. There's a few other reasons too (out of town, busy performing/writing, feeling low, etc) but in general I'm trying as much as I think I need to. once these 4 points (well, three really) disappear, I'll be on the case.

So much admin! So much organising! I just want to meet musicians on the tube and play music (not on the tube, TFL, I know this is not legal!) :)

So, it's all admin and no fun for me at the moment. But at least it's keeping me busy. And I'm confident that this will work. Just with a LOT more work.....onwards and upwards!

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Musicians, venues, the long hard weekend ahead

Well, first things first. Some of the venues are booked. It was always going to be the case and unfortunately it is my own fault for misunderstanding and thinking I had assistance with booking for these. But alas, as with the rest of the challenge, it's a one man show. So I'm scrabbling around trying to find a venue before it's too late. Imagine! I get an orchestra together, suffer the ups and downs and the months and month of finding all these strangers to bring them the cold with no venue!!

So, bad news first. The following venues appear to be already booked:

The Royal Albert Hall (Christmas season, innit)
Hammersmith Apollo (99% certain to go)
The Barbican (London Symphony Orchestra & Valery Gerviev performing here -

So, that's 1/4 of the venues gone. 75% left. I guess my focus has to change and instead of focusing on finding musicians I'm going to have to go into admin mode for the next few weeks. I also have a lot of legal gumph that's been left for me to sort out (I really am on my own with all this!!) so sadly, musician hunting takes a backseat.

So....Good news now! What this challenge does more than any other, is give me the ability to work at any point in time. Being a Londoner, I travel on the tube at all hours. And often, when I'm going from one place to another, I bump into a musician. So I'm actually working 24/7. It's quite a nice feeling to always have something to look for. Like a Panini football sticker collection, finding the needs, the really really needs and the gots (maybe a reference that young English boys will get, I don't know).

Example of this - I was on the way to the cinema yesterday, and low and behold I saw a large bulky case on the floor of the tube. Upon closer inspection it was a double bass case. I approached the guy (very friendly man called Dave) who expressed interest, gave me his number and asked a lot about the challenge. I was so engrossed in conversation I nearly missed my stop. Running off, I realised that some people around us had taken interest in this story. And it starts to enforce that this really is a challenge that can bring people together.

I will find a way in the future of getting more people involved, not just musicians. We're all a lot closer than we realise. It would be nice to be able to show this however possible.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Another week, another adventure

I have decided to slow down my blogs, as it isn't that interesting hearing about my ramblings on a daily basis. Plus, it means I can give you the creme de la creme of good musician/venue/film hunting.

This week, I have mostly been speaking to people about venues and also to TFL about legalities of filming. There is a documentary now being made about this, and they have to work out the wonders of how to film me on my adventures, when they take me all over London. I'm sure we'll get it sorted but having to assist with this, and with the venue hunting, has taken it's toll on me and I'm finding myself not looking for musicians as much. To be honest, that makes sense. There would be no point getting musicians if they have nowhere to play.

I realised this week also that it's going to be a very long year for me, and I've been travelling down to Winchester to film and talk about some of the more emotional stuff going on. That's always fun....

I have currently seen an average of nearly one musician a day since doing this, ranging from :

saxophones (which I haven't planned on having in the orchestra, but may sneak into the woodwind section as I have written for them before)

I am still going to be struggling to find certain instruments but I am confident I have a masterplan to get all the instruments needed. I just have to have the strength and belief to carry on. Even though if I'm honest, all I want to do this week is have a holiday!!


Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Day 10 - Easy to number when you're in January....

Well, it's been a fun and hectic time doing this. I recently had my first real turning point in the way I do things. I saw a guy just before going into the Underground station and made a real snapshot judgement of him. I thought "he's carrying an orchestra instrument but he doesn't look like he'd be interested in this type of music". So I walked on and think about whether he's going to come into the station.

As I'm waiting at the platform, he comes down the escalator and goes to the other platform. I consider going to see him, then think to myself "there's no point". No point? There's always a point! So I get on my train and sit down. But I couldn't excuse this feeling that I'm being a coward and making excuses. At the last minute, as the doors were closing, I ran back out and onto the other platform. Spoke to the person and they actually seemed interested. They knew other musicians too who would love the project. I spent a good few stops chatting to this person.

I was nearly a coward. But realised just in time that you never regret the things you do in life, you just regret the things you don't do or give away.

Friday, 6 January 2012

The first week - Ups and downs

Well, this first week has been a fairly crazy one. I always struggled with the lack of sunlight this time of year, feeling a lot more run down. And dealing with heartache and loss at any time isn't easy. But this combination, coupled with the amount of challenges and tasks I set myself, really took it's toll. I'll be honest. There have been times I've thought about giving it all up. Just not bother. But throughout my entire life, through all the different pieces of excellent advice I've received, the one thing that stands out the most to me is the simplest:

If your head and your heart agree, never give up

I guess it's common sense really. But something we all forget. Sometimes, quitting is good. But if you really believe in something, hold onto it and try to make it work.

I have had to have this mantra many times this week. I have fallen on more than one occasion. I've struggled to get out of bed, not really wanting to face the day. But when I do, I always realise how awesome things can be. And these challenges have started to give me the discipline I'd forgotten I had. I am starting to feel more like myself, and even through all the bad and low points, I've never stopped believing that this thing is possible.

I love realising your dreams and aiming to fulfil them. The journey is by far the best payoff. I've been contacted and had support shown from people all over the world, strangers I never knew, and without me really doing any marketing. I've had The London Symphony Orchestra show support and tweet about it. I've had film-makers want to make documentaries (lucky old Mr Barnett for getting there first!), had people want to help sort out shows on The London Eye, been given good contacts at the top venues in London, had The Strad magazine do a story on me. It seems everyone is spreading the word for me. I can't be grateful enough for this. It's truly humbling. And whilst I may be trying to climb this mountain alone, it's heartwarming to know that there's a sea of people willing me on and helping me. I truly hope I don't let you down.

So, moving to the weekend, and a vast array of musician-hunting, I have learned the following:

Don't approach strangers and ask where they live. It's creepy.
Don't search for ANYTHING during rush hour.
A flute is going to be like the holy grail. It's hidden in bags and almost impossible to find!
I need to get something laminated. Everyone trusts a laminate.
I am glad I went into this journey unprepared. The learning curve is brilliant.
Sending physical gifts to people is really rewarding. I will do more of this.
The internet and social media are a great tool
However, I rely on the internet far too much in my day to day world. So I'm writing letters again.
My handwriting has become atrocious. Lucky I'll be practicing lots.
Breakfast is good. It is my friend.
I never needed to bite my nails.
It's ok to stumble and fall. It's the not getting up that's bad.

Onwards and upwards. I look forward to meeting some of you on my travels.


Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Mini-challenge update

OK, time for a quick update on these challenges. I won't give a big update that often, but just want to show that even within a week you can do so much if you apply yourself.
1. Have breakfast 90% of the year
I've done 2 out of 4 days. 50%. Rubbish stats! But hey. I woke up late on New Year's Day (who didn't!) and I forgot the next day. I've really struggled with my appetite recently, so this is actually tougher than I thought. Wait a minute. I sound like a toddler. It's just breakfast. I will do this. So, expect 50% to turn into 70% by the end of the week. I aim to be on track by the end of the month.

2. Stop smoking tobacco
I've not put a cigarette to my lips since New Year's Eve. You see, because I have developed this amazing contraption using McDonalds straws and just suck the smoke through them! Not really. I've actually given up properly. I haven't smoked and won't. But I'm stressed. And it feels like this isn't helping. But with all the heartache and grief and other stress, it's actually hidden quite nicely. Like one of those bills they put through in the senate, stapled to another bill....

3. Meet 5 friends I've not seen for over 1 year
I have already arranged to see one family of friends I've not seen in a long while. I have to spend the evening with these people. It's not just a "say hi" moment. We have to spend the whole evening catching up. I look forward to doing this with some amazing friends. A little gutted I'm doing this part on my own, but I know I'll feel much better about this soon.

4. Learn German fluently
This one is too soon. I will start it in April. After I've done challenge 11.

5. Exercise 3 times a week
I have exercised once this week. I ran to the pub. I don't care what you say. I was out of breath. It counts! Looking forward to more swimming, badminton, cycling and football. My brother's helping me with this one. I'll be done some more exercise this weekend and tomorrow.

6. Perform on Jools Holland
Not got the first clue how to start this yet. I'll have to work this out soon I guess. C'mon I have 12 other challenges on the go!

7. Do archery
I have a great friend and musicians Gaz Brookfield who it turns out is qualified to teach archery. And our other musician friend Shed Judd is also up for doing this. I think I might form a small band of merry men. Will sort out a visit in February to an archery course.

8. Finish the new album
Scheduled a trip to Sweden to work on this mid February. Looking forward to this a lot.

9. Tour with full band (12 musicians minimum) for at least 1 week
I am in talks with a few promoters across the UK about playing, possibly in June or July. I want to do this when the Olympics are on, because the underground is out of bounds for me during this period (too busy and no filming). So I'm confident something can occur with this.

10. Stop biting my nails
I've bitten one nail - when it split, and just to remove the bit before filing it down. I actually started this a week before NYE. So I'm doing good. I actually have nails growing. It's weird. I feel like a bond villian, tapping my fingers on the tables.

11. Perform on the London Eye
I am in talks with a few people about looking to do this in April. Watch this space.

12. (Secret challenge to be revealed later)
I've probably talked about this a lot to some friends, and to the one who it affects most. It's still happening. It makes for a good story. They're worried for my mental health but I feel I will be fine. Just once in my life, I want to do something daringly heartbreaking and romantic. And funny. Set in space. It's not often you get all of those characteristics floating together, so I have to do this.
Right, there we go. Only halfway through the week, but as you can see, other than one challenge, I have really got on the case with all of this. I feel pretty proud of myself. But stressed. Now where's my Mcdonalds straws....


See, now I'm stuck calling them by days. I'm an idiot.

The problem with writing a post after the event is you're entirely dictated by your emotions. I suppose a good writer can tap back into the feeling they had and find a way of expressing them to conntact with the reader. Yeah. That's not me. I've woken up in a foul mood. I had a horrid dream about beef jerky and it's made me feel sick. It was a massive hall filled with all manner of jerky and I got a bucket free. I continued my dream eating from this bucket and as I got about 2/3 of the way through, I realised it was quite running at the bottom. Jerky juice. Not a nice thing. SHUT UP BUSWELL!! TELL THE STORY!!!

Alright. Let me try to cast my mind back to a far gone time, and write as thought I am there. It was a time called yesterday....

I have to be honest. I'm in the worst frame of mind to do this. I actually can't be bothered and I'm feeling really low. I walked onto a train earlier and for the first time since starting, I thought to myself "please don't let there be any musicians." I just felt really shy and foolish doing this. Imagine. Being in a bit of a low place and having to talk to strangers and not feel like a weirdo. It's not easy. I went home that day and did the video diary. Whilst filming, I made a bit of a pact with myself - if I see a musician I HAVE to talk to them. Yeah, that'll help with the shyness. Pile on more pressure, why don't I! But I've done this for a very valid reason. After a few seconds, the negative part of the brain kicks in and tells you all sorts of reasons why not to do something. So, by having a backup to push you through, it keeps you more positive. It's about discipline.

With this new found rule, and feeling a little more positive, I went back to the lines and tried a different approach - travel on more than 2 or 3 lines. Before I would go onto a couple of lines and kind of travel back and forth. So now I went from the Circle to Hammersmith & City to Metropolitan to Northern to Victoria to District to Jubilee. Yeah. I did a lot of travelling. Half the way round London. And finally, on the district line -success! I saw a musician!! Finally!!!

There she was, like a beacon of light with her shiny white cello case. A beautiful sight. I felt a mixture of relief and fear. It was finally happening! So I walked towards her. Then.....Yup. Nothing. I just stood for a moment not knowing what to do. Brilliant. I'd spent all this time working out how to find musicians and very little time what to say to them.

I finally plucked up the courage to speak (well done new rule!) and sat down beside her. I panicked and said "sorry, can I bother you for a quick minute. Don't worry, I'm getting off at the next stop" (I wasn't planning that initially but I suddenly felt like a pest). Then proceeded to;

- Ask if she lived in London (no)
- Ask what grade she was (professional)
- Ask where she lived (UK but not London)
- Mumbled something about a project I was doing

Then handed her a piece of paper with the website address on and went "oh, and I have to write all the music and not read a note of it. Bye!"

I walked off the train feeling properly moronic. So I made new rules to myself.

1) Don't ask where people live. It's creepy.
2) Don't ask what grade people are. It's embarrassing and not relevant at this time.
3) When they give you a vague answer, don't ask more specifically where people live. That's serial killer talk.
3) Don't mumble and feel stupid and not get the point of the challenge across.

I have to remember this is a great idea. That lots of people would want to be involved with. One of the points of this challenge is to bring people together. To make them realise we're all closer than we think, and that with a little bit of care and respect in this world, anything is possible (well, not anything. Don't get too carried away, Shaun. It's not Field of Dreams). But I have to remember, this is a good idea. And I'm doing a good thing. Stop mumbling and feeling like a pest. Offer a little nugget of something special to people, then move on. You're not trying to do anything but good.

So, with this new found liberation, and the desperate need to erase my embarrassing behaviour from my mind, I set out again. Got to Westminster and saw a girl with a violin case. So, I approached her (well done new rule). I told her what I was doing, fairly eloquently, explained the rules and asked if she was interested in getting involved. She said yes! And she mentioned she has a lot of musicians friends who would be interested. She was even happy to go on camera and have her face shown. Wonderful. So, I have my first musician! I know it's 343 days until the gig (thanks countdown on the website, ebbing my life away!!) and she may not be around. I understand how this works. But she has shown interest, and given me her number and I will be in touch shortly to give her more info.

I would like to put this new found luck down to my positive attitude. But I think I have to just face facts - the girl was really lovely and open-minded. And I'm blessed to have met her within the first few days of doing this, as she's given me faith that musicians are interested in this, and I'm not just wasting my time.

I said my farewells, and feeling full of hope, I walked proudly down the platform. Then, I suddenly spotted someone with a case. It looks like it might be a bass clarinet case, or a big violin/viola case. Wasn't sure which. And it reminded me I really need to do the test for this and learn my cases. I approached her and, sure enough, it was two violins (yes! mad skillz!). I mentioned the challenge and said all I needed was any contact details. She looked at me like I was a potential pervert (which, to be fair, is a prudent move when someone's contacting you on the Underground) and instead asks for the website address. Not a complete success, but not a failure either.

So, happy with my progress, and thinking maybe I was some kind of mad skillz instrument case guru, I approached a guy I was sure was carrying a french horn. Not english horn. Or cor anglais. Nope. Positive it was a french horn. A little too excited, I approached him and said "is that a horn?". The only thing worse than saying to a guy "Is that a horn?" is then repeating the same sentence when they say "what?" Clearly the "what?" pretty much implies the answer is "no", or requires more clarification such as "is that a musical instrument known as the french horn?". Nope. Not me. I just went "Umm, is that a horn?" He looked at me with eyes I think will become all too familiar during this challenge, and said "sorry, mate. I'm not your man".

After apologies and explanations (me just going "Oh, I thought it was a french horn. You know, like the instrument" what? "Like" the instrument. What was wrong with me!?!) the guy explained it was his work gear.

I didn't have the heart to say to him, well to a French Horn player, it's their work gear too.

Monday, 2 January 2012

Day 2

OK, I'm not going to do a blog every day. So I immediately regret titling these "Day 1" and "Day 2". Foolish schoolboy error. Regardless, I should at least take comfort in the fact that these are blogs done on day 1 and day 2, so technically are correct. Yeah! In your face, fact!

Anyway, second day, second failure. No musicians. Ah well, screw it. I give up. This is clearly a rubbish challenge. Maybe instead I should actually just try to eat breakfast 90% of my waking life. Imagine that. Eating some form of breakfast produce for about 14 hours a day. I would treat coffee, tea and orange juice as breakfast beverages but would be mildly annoyed at being out and speaking to someone, and having to pause to stuff a mcmuffin or something into my gob.

OK, clearly I have nothing useful to say. I want to give up. I actually feel really depressed by this. I'm optimistic I can do it, but I'm lonely at the thought of having to do it alone. Not alone in the physical sense as I know I have a lot of support from friends, family and fans, but alone in the emotional sense. I have lost my partner, and the person that drove a backbone of support for me when I did these things. There is never a good time to grieve, and your mind can be consumed by all the things you had. My mind, whilst travelling through London, is haunted by memories. I wake up and for a moment still feel her with me, then she's gone. And I'm alone, having to face this world and this ridiculous challenge that I've set myself.

I guess, in some ways, I understand things do happen for a reason, and the loss I feel now will toughen me up for the year ahead. It's also one of the driving forces to do this challenge. I will honour her memory and the memory of our love, and do the thing I set out to do. Her love actually made me strong enough to finally succeed at the things I wanted. Now I have to realise that this love comes from within me, and that her love will always be a part of me, moving me on through the ether.

OK, clearly I have nothing useful to say. Onto day 3. First I have to overcome solitude (actually finding a musician), then I have to overcome rejection (statistically, most of the musicians will probably say no). I also understand I probably look and seem like a mental patient when I go up to these people.

Oh, and don't get me started on actually finding a venue!!!

Uuurgh. Whose idea was this again????

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Day 1

Well, as much as it's a symbolic day to start this challenge, it's also the worst day to do it. Everyone is busy, hungover or still on holiday, so I pretty much know there's no point going onto the underground to look. But yet I still feel compelled. I think in some ways it's going to be my coping mechanism to deal with the grief. I don't mind this too much, and understand I'm going to want to throw myself into something, but I am concerned it could take me over, especially when the one I've lost was so woven into the challenges I am doing.

Nonetheless, I get my head together and with my friend Sonny, visit a few stations and trains. As expected, not one instrument. Not a single musician seen. I don't think I'll realise how hard this is until at least the end of January, but I like the fact that this month is like a training ground for me. I can start to learn what works and what doesn't. Today I learned the following:

1. Actually being on the underground - If I'm not doing it, I'm not going to succeed
2. Carrying a notebook/pen - If I do bump into anyone, having a chance to either jot down their details or provide mine is essential
3. Filming - Taking a small video camera and documenting this is going to be very important, even just for the evidence in court...

1. Looking like a thief or a rapist - Standing around stations and shiftily looking into carriages doesn't make me look like a man on a challenge. It makes me look like a criminal.
2. Being desperate - I know I'm in mourning and not in the best place, but still having that look of sadness and desperation in my eyes isn't going to help. I know I can't just remove it. But at least I can be aware of it.
3. Saying things like "it's like a football sticker collection, except I'm collecting strangers" - see point 1.

So, first day down. No luck on the main challenge and with the other challenges, I've managed to stop smoking and biting my nails. That's at least two started. No onto the other 10....