So this weekend I toddled north up to the Lake District for a little festival called Kendal Calling. I say toddled – I dozed in a van while Ventriloquist and the Tongue Fu band drove us the 6+ hours all the way up there on Saturday. I’d had to get up bright and early to get the train from Cambridge, so I was a tiny bit pooped. During my brief periods of consciousness, I read TV rent-a-skeptic Richard Wiseman’s pop-psych book :59 Seconds, full of lots of little ‘quick fix your life’ tips and descriptions of interesting research. It’s pretty good, except when he attempts humour. I try not to read too much pop-psych these days – as I wrote about in Astronauts, when I was younger I got quite addicted to pop-psych books. I used them as a form of escapism, imagining that I could supercharge my heart and mind and become immune to all the painful knocks and burns of life. I think consuming a diet of aspirational literature quickly makes you feel knackered. It’s funny how many books on relationships talk about engagement styles and negotiation but seem to leave something as simple as love by the wayside. Self-improvement is all very well but I don’t think it’s defeatist to practise a little self-acceptance too. It’s difficult, when you see a friend stung by disappointment or hurt by self-destructive behaviour, not to start dismantling their actions and identifying the things they did ‘wrong’, because you want to protect them and see them happy, but this kind of habitual micro-criticism can backfire when it’s your turn in the barrel. You’ll be lazy some days, you’ll forget things, sometimes you’ll feel insecure in a relationship, you’ll lose your temper, and you’ll act in whole host of other suboptimal ways. This will never end. It doesn’t make you a bad person and no amount of beating yourself up about it will prevent you from doing it. Instead of feeling blue about your own perceived shortcomings, it’s best to acknowledge them and draw on them as a source of compassion and understanding when dealing with others’ shortcomings. We’ll all live our entire lives doing less than the best possible. That can be a source of warmth and community and love.
And because I’m human I only sometimes put the above into practice. And I feel a bit sanctimonious for coming out with all that. Ah well. I forgive myself. A bit. Heh.
Talking of imperfection, at Kendal Calling I performed my most spectacular stage exit yet, hallucinating an extra section of stage after my set, catching my foot on the hazard tape and falling, faceplanting into the dirt. Fortunately the damp weather had turned the ground the consistency of Playdoh, so I merely left a big reverse imprint without hurting myself. I lifted myself onto all-fours, put my specs back on and looked up to see Howard Marks stood in front of me, looking down, asking if I was all right. ‘Mr Nice’ – not just clever branding, apparently!
I had a really lovely time travelling with the Tongue Fu crew, who seem like a thoroughly friendly bunch of people, and it was good to see Berkavitch and Kate Tempest with Sound of Rum at the festival. Kendal Calling seemed to be doing a lot to support local bands, which I can only doff my invisible hat to. You get to imagine what type it might be. I’m imagining a black felt tricorn with a single quail feather tucked into the brim. Your model may vary.