It’s left me queasy in the stomach and cut-up and physically very knackered but I had a brilliant, totally different day today: up on the steep-sloped Sussex downs, clearing back brush and cutting it down to the roots for the Sussex Wildlife Trust. The company for whom I write charidee fundraising guff organises a staff volunteer day and invited me to get in on some rural hard labour action. Couldn’t resist. The SWT also has more seasoned volunteers who work every week on clearing miles of the valley. So far it’s taken four years. But they regularly chuck groups of slack-handed city corporate types and students up there as well for much needed fresh air. Voluntary? If Michael Caine is going to bang on about national service (pay your taxes mate, contribute properly yourself before you start barking opinions on sorting the kids out) then what about making this kind of environmentally sound contribution a compulsory part of the curriculum? Or the whole curriculum? But, in the words of Ronnie Corbett, I digress. Apparently the staff at Brighton Amex went along with a huge Waitrose picnic hamper, packed beer instead of water, were totally fucked up by lunchtime.
Anyway, the work involved chopping and sawing brush away from its roots, creating huge thorny balls of unhooked plant, roughly the size of a small cottage, then rolling them down to the bottom of the slope like a giant snowball, where they were chucked onto a big bonfire. Basically, since the war and mixymatosis in the 50s, no animals have grazed the southern downs properly. Now the whole thing is becoming a National Park, they’re trying to recapture what downland should be like. First get rid of the overgrown nonsense, then bring the animals back to graze. SWT have their own sheep and cattle already on the job – however apparently regular farmers can get paid to allow their livestock to graze on the downs.
If you know Sussex, we were up behind the white cliffs of Lewes.
While I was there, sawing away, the details of next year’s single, album and tour all got remarkably smoothly ironed out and fell into place during an email conversation between the guys at ITB and Xtra Mile. It was weird because the normal music industry organisational discussions all took place with me joining in on email while actually rolling around in sheep shit and getting thorns in places thorns should never ever go. I even got the iPhone covered in rabbit droppings at one point. Although it was tempting just to stop and concentrate on music things, I would’ve looked a right dick sitting on this gorgeous piece of empty downland tapping away at my phone.
Now, I’m the right kind of tired. Don’t get it very much, certainly not at home. 95% of my life, my brain gets tired by the end of the day but I haven’t really exerted myself. Even on tour, when we’re carrying gear around or performing or what not, it’s not truly heavy exercise – and comes in small doses. But spend a day doing reasonable (not even particularly extreme if I’m honest) physical labour and the kind of tired I feel at the end is so much better, so much healthier and more balanced, it’s a stark reminder the depth of the koyaanisqatsi we find ourselves in most of our days. I don’t watch Hugh Fearnley-Wotsit very often because of how much he loves to eat everything alive. But I hadn’t realised he was behind the land-share project, where people who have spare land let other people make positive use of it. Genius. Let’s connect younger, hipper companies and collectives either to the kind of volunteer projects I sweated on today or, even better, get them involved in sharing land and putting it to good use.
A campfire micro-tour circuit. Create a series of spaces across the country where small gatherings take place through summer to share unamplified music, like tiny miniature folk festivals. Keep them responsible, fewer than 50 people, nothing like an actual festival, and base the whole thing around a campfire. Make it a “between ‘proper’ festival” tour circuit. Include stand-up and storytelling and non-stage theatre… but make it tread lightly, take its litter home and don’t fuck up the land. Could be epic.
So anyway, I got home as inspired as I was cream crackered.