So, as a result of some random digging around last night on twitter, I discovered that 13th September 2016 was exactly 1000 days before my 50th birthday.
This gave me some cause for concern.
But it also was kind of focussing. One should never let a good mid-life crisis go to waste, and so it’s time to work out some stuff, take action on other things, and shake off a fair bit of inertia after a 2015-16 that was all a bit disempowering and meh really.
So what do I want to have achieved by the time I’m fifty?
I joined the Dubious Brothers just over two years ago, because of lead singer Monty’s own looming 50th. Apart from a few small gigs with my lovely friend Des, I’ve not really played much in ages – and this was something I loved uncontrollably when I was younger.
These days I’ve got two-ish little music projects with other people going on. For one I’m “Richard Vranch at the piano” to a lot of songs from when I was much younger, for another I’m possibly the widdly-widdly cape-wearing prog soloist. And Des will always have his spontaneous things he’s doing to rope me into.
But I also have decided to do an album of my own, about the things I know about. My home life is – in general – pretty ok. That doesn’t make for good music really, and I don’t want to pretend to be miserable for the sake of it. But people sometimes ask me to do talks about my job…and I can’t be bothered. Other people will do it better and have more polished professional soundbites. But I do think I’m good at telling stories, and talk about how my work feels – so perhaps some of my experiences and journeys will make for good songs. And hopefully you can enjoy even if you don’t know much about my job, in the style of Jonathan Coulton.
So this is me going public that I’m doing that. And I’m going to have done it by the time I’m fifty. Hopefully on the stage at the Mind the Product conference.
Building a room of one’s own
I’m getting a new shed.
It’s going to be quite a shed. A place to work on some of the above, freeing the house of outdated barely-working synthesisers and other music gear. But it will also be part of clearing the clutter of the past from my loft and my head.
My early online career was going swimmingly, and then very very suddenly wasn’t in 2002. It was a huge shock to not be doing what I thought I was great at any more, and there was never really a satisfactory explanation as to why. It was a pretty grim six months before I started work again (thanks to a lovely man called Nick), and at the time I just kept everything – because when you’re feeling like life is fragile you hang onto everything that might be useful. It’s taken an extremely long time to get over that, watching my friends carry on with the career I’d previously had, while I reinvented time and again outside of that world.
(Of course, you compare your inside to everyone else’s outside, and I know their own journeys were full of struggles and disappointment among the BAFTAs. And I’ve done OK out of making continual reinvention a reluctant career choice. But perhaps that’s for a more nuanced post later.)
So now I think I’m finally able to get rid of directories of mobile suppliers from 2005, Vlad Cohen’s interactive TV design guidelines from 2001, tins of near-solid paint and countless other things that ‘might have come in useful’. It’s quite traumatic, but it’s time. And perhaps as the cruft of lives past is discarded I’ll be able to talk about them – how we got to now.
And alongside that, starting to build a space to make the music above, and start thinking about…
Building a world
OK, despite all the grumbles and some pretty lean times over the last three decades, I’ve managed to do all right for myself. Nice house, two great kids, lovely wife who still seems to think I’m passable, health is largely ok but I could eat and drink less, that sort of thing.
But I do worry about where we’re going.
Aside from all the post-truth politics, I’m genuinely concerned that the economic trajectory has completely broken down. I don’t necessarily think that tax avoidance and growing inequality are the cause – they’re symptoms of something else. As we make more and more of life automated mechanised and algorithmic another question is becoming increasingly pressing:
What Are We Going To Do With, and For, All Of These People?
So I’m on a mission to better understand economics, society, culture and more because I’m now old enough that I can’t afford the luxury of finding other people who are experts and saying I agree with their opinions…because I don’t entirely believe they exist any more. People who are certain are often younger than me, and I can remember being that idiot.
It’s time to start being one of the grownups.
This blog is going to be about that as well.
But hopefully not too pompously. As Victoria Coren said, “in my house it was seen as slightly shameful to say something serious if you could have made a joke of it instead”. Words to live by.
Tune in tomorrow?