So as several of you out there may have noticed, the Sex Farm was quiet over the last few weeks. This of course, was due to me going on a trip to the UK. First to see my old hometown of Lerwick in the Shetland Isles for the Tall Ships Race, then to London to visit my brother and several friends, then finally to see ma mutha in the Wirral. So what did i get up to on my trip. well sit back, break open that Laudanum, and i shall begin…
Now despite having been born and brought up in this barren frozen rock in the far north of the UK, i hadn’t been there in ELEVEN years. I suppose I was just getting on with my life to be honest, i never really gave the place much of a thought. But with the arrival of the Tall Ships race to Lerwick meant that was a reasonable excuse to go and see m,y old stomping grounds again. So what were my thoughts on the place?….
SHIPS: Yes there was a Lot of them. They were all over the shop. As if they were all in a race or something. But once you’ve seen one ship, you’ve seen them all really…
THE WEATHER: I hate hot weather. I live in Iceland, for chrissakes, i love the cold. But even living near the arctic circle didn’t prepare me for the flesh stripping cold that assaulted me. On paper the temperatures were supposed to be 13-14C, but heavy clouds, rain and a blustery gale from the north meant the wind chill factor brought things dow to near freezing temperatures. Man i’d completely forgotten just how bad the winds were there. It passes right through you and can freeze you heart if you don’t keep moving. And of course they placed the two main music stages on the towns harbours, the most exposed places in town.
At one point, I was standing in a harbour on a Friday afternoon, shivering holding a beer and with icicles forming inside my skull. A single tear from and i thought “i spent all my money… for this?” But hey, it builds character!
THE PEOPLE: Another reason to visit was to meet up with friends and family, Yes it had been a while. In fact there were a lot of people with whom i actually had problems remembering who they were (and vice versa probably). i stayed with my aunt and uncle and their kids. Well i say kids. They’re adults now, big adults. also my Uncle ripped into me and my Mohican haircut, yet he has the most lovely bouffant lions mane of hair imaginable! He looked a bit like Rambo on a high protein diet. Pot and kettles and all that.
But they were brilliant hosts and kept me well fed with beer and sausage sandwiches and stuff. Couldn’t have asked for anything more really. I also went to a birthday party where i met more family relations. Despite sweating pure alcohol for most of the visit (it was the house of my 90-year-old great aunt so, triple glazing and heating on Red alert), i managed to eat my first sausage roll in 5 years. I wept tears of joy.
And then there was the numerous double takes of people i used to know at school/work/rugby club etc, which i was spending time enjoying the festivities. Many people thought i had died or joined the foreign legion for something. I also managed to meet up with a lovely Whitechapeler named Keith who was a total gent to get absolutely hammered with. Cheers man!
THE MUSIC: Now one thing Shetland is generally well-known for is the music scene there, specifically the folk scene. I remembered a lot of decent bands from Shetland in my youth and i hoped to see more of the same.
And the result was…. not quite what i hoped for. According to my friend Stevie, the live music scene was no longer what it used to be. Many of the small country halls that would host many live bands of all shapes and sizes stopped doing a lot of gigs, apparently due to health and safety. that was not really what i wanted to hear.
My main day for music was on Friday when i saw the Young Band and Heavy Rock showcases, Many of the young band members were only 14-16 years old, so i’m not even going to rip into them. One band (Casino Feet) had at least heard of indie music that was made over the last decade and had a few poppy tunes. Another band, an all girl group called Mercury Rising, had only played something like 2 gigs beforehand. the best though was a band called Organised Chaos, who had a drummer with two left arms, and a guitarist that looked like a cross between Angus young and Carrot top who was one of the most ridiculous guitar shredders I’ve ever seen. Fair play to them all.
But the heavy rock showcase sucked a fair bit. I actually bought all their CD’s during the showcase as they were only 5 quid a pop, i was drunk, and partially because i thought it might be good to get some local music for a change. But the sound quality for all 3 bands on the day was very iffy (due to the wind) and their CD’s weren’t much cop either. Hidden Agenda are a 4th Generation Blink 182 clone. You can almost hear their sound and the chord changes before you’ve even heard them, can’t you? They bounded and played hard, but you’ve heard it all before and they looked a little like a beefy version of McFly. Ten Tonne Dozer were very, very good technically and were a bit enjoyable, but their sound was a meat and potatoes heavy rock/ thrash metal sound from 1989 that practically ignores anything that has happened in metal over the last 10-15 years. The Brothel Corpse Trio at least had an air of danger, looking like complete deviant scuzzoid bastards that had spent their times picking up scurvy and scabies hitching across the US. All tattoos ripped clothes and pierced body parts. Their 4X4 punk sound also had a rockabilly element to it that at least had a modicum of feeling.
And as for the folk music. Well don’t expect anything contemporary. Shetland folk is very fiddle and accordion reel based. If you’re into that sort of thing then you’ll be like a pig in shit. Otherwise you might think of it as (in the words of one family relation) “Awful heutcher tcheuchter shite that we think the outside world and tourists want to hear.” Ouch. Some of the more slightly contemporary stuff sounded a bit like this, a local band named Fullsceilidh Spelemannslag…
And the rest of the bands were either really bland, rickety old blues and dodgy covers bands. It kind of confirmed my suspicions that a lot of music in Shetland seems to have sort of gone up a cul-de-sac and hasn’t moved on or taken any new direction for many years.
But it wasn’t all bad. there were some really good acts to be seen. The Inge Thomson band has a dark eastern ethnic edge to the traditional folk, and The Revellers (a Levellers covers band, geddit?) was actually as good as the real thing. It was ironic as they were on the night before the REAL Levellers played. And hey i remember having all their albums from the early 90s (“Battle of the Beanfield” etc). And they haven’t changed at all. Well a little maybe. The lead singer seems to have morphed into an eerie likeness of Stewart Lee, while the Bass player just looks like your dad (if you dad wore clowns clothes and had dreadlocks down to the back of his knees). And guess what… they were great! I’m not ashamed to say that at all.
For me though, the real highlight was watching my old mates reunite for a gig with THE RED VANS. Now these guys were important to my music history and knowledge base. While i was listening to indie, Techno and the odd bit of metal, these guys played a mix of country and soul that turned me onto other area of music. It made me listen to Van Morrison’s “Astral Weeks” and Gram Parsons for the first time. And I’m glad to say that they were absolutely amazing. Despite some apparently serious sound and monitor issues, they never missed a beat. I got absolutely hammered with them afterwards till 5 in the morning and I’m glad i didn’t miss it.
Listening to country and soul when i was 15? Yeah, so what? FUCK THE HATERS!
THE LIFESTYLE: Now having lived in London and Iceland, I’ve become used to a different pace of life with its own set of rules. But in Shetland they live hard and play harder. This is a place where the seagulls eat fish suppers, 14 year olds have beards, people’s skin looks like an albino mole rat baby, and everyone lives on a diet of solid chip fat coated in sugar. And Gin. Lots of Gin. Oh, and Rum and Whisky. And Bacardi Breezers for lunch. They take no prisoners up there.
The pace of life took a day or two for me to get used to. For example i usually won’t have a drink till fairly late on in the evening as i would be out till 4-6am. But as the pubs in Shetland close at 1am, expect to be in the pub a LOT earlier. I forgot about the lovely “Family Sessions” in the Lounge bar. I even found myself doing things i wouldn’t normally be doing, like having a dozen gins on a Sunday afternoon. It was like taking a knuckle duster to my liver. It was just like being back in Eistnaflug again! alas i forgot that in terms of Lager, almost everyone and every bar served only Tennants, one of the crappest beers in the history of mankind. i had to find a specialist off license that sold some decent beers.
Overall, my time in Shetland was a blast and i will probably go back there again. A family member asked me if i would eventually move back there. God no! It’s nice and everything, and it was great meeting my family again, but i could never see myself moving back there. I’ve moved on way too much with my life. Beside, i would probably pick up a few nasty habits there. Such as a smack addiction. Or Gout.
So here are a few things i did in London
– Lazed around in the humid heat.
– Met a whole bunch of guys from Whitechapel and got seriously drunk in the Ten Bells. Good times
– bought some clothes and a massive pile of books. How massive? Well this should keep me going till October probably…
Basically while i was there i helped my mum, Granny Sex Farm move into her new house, while My Wife and I took it in turn to decimate the shelves at Primark. I know I’m probably ensuring that some poor 8-year-old child in India will be kept in debt servitude by me buying several black T-Shirts for work, but frankly the world is cruel and i need new clothes that has to be bought on a meagre Icelandic budget.
Oh and i ate more fish suppers. I’m starting to hate them now.
And…. erm…. that’s more or less it really. Yup i had a ball, but the fact that i spent just about every night of my trip n an air mattress meant that i was desperate to get home and sleep in my own bed. and by the looks of it i managed to get out of London just in time before it tried reenact the battle scenes from Death Wish 3.