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Last Friday, as I was being picked up from Mentone railway station for a band practice, I received some surprising news – that the Pink Floyd Tribute Band is falling apart. That is, the bass-player and the guitarist are quitting. Apparently the band is consuming their time and money in a way that they hadn't foreseen, and they don't want to continue with it anymore. "But we have a gig tomorrow!" I said. "Are we still going to play the gig?"
"Yes," said Leah who is the backing singer in the band. "They're just doing this one last gig, and then they're out."
Our former bass-player
It was something that I wouldn't have expected. Ben, the bass player, was sort of the leader of the band. It was he who recruited me and Vincent, and he was always the one to ring me up and let me know about rehearsal times. Ryan, the guitarist, was Ben's friend even before the band started. Together, they were the "founding members" of the band, the ones who came up with the whole idea. If the band leaders quit, you would expect all the other members to disperse.
"But we want to keep the band going, don't we Vincent?" said Leah.
"So Stephen, what we want to know is, will you stick with us?"
Our former guitarist
I thought to myself, "Do I really want to stay in a band with Vincent, when Ben and Ryan are not involved? I said I never would. But that was before Leah joined. Leah has made this band much, much better. She may be just a backing singer, but she has the potential to become the driving force behind this band, the one who is motivated enough to recruit members and organize gigs. If she can do it, then I'll be able to enjoy this band experience a little while longer. If she can't do it, then there will still be no negative consequence. I might as well stick with her."
So I said, "I'll stick with you."
Vincent and Leah were grateful and relieved. "If you had quit the band too, then it would be hopeless. You're such a good keyboard player, I don't think we'd be able to find another one like you."
And so we continued on to the rehearsal studio and met with the other musicians. During the course of the practice, three things became clear. One was that our gig tomorrow would be just fine and we would be well prepared. The second thing was that Manny, the drummer, was quitting the band too. Manny lives a long way away from everyone else and he has to drive down to practice every week. "It's too far!" he said. But he would have stuck with it if Ben and Ryan had.
The third thing was that Vincent, the lead singer, was extremely bitter. His bitterness was directed at Ben and Ryan, but he mostly suppressed it while they were around – he only talked bad about them when they were absent. He was a little angry because his dreams of musical success seemed much harder to fulfill all of a sudden – he was like a man who had been walking towards an oasis in the desert, only to find that it was a mirage. "Why did they have to quit the band now, when we've just played our first gig and we're just about to move up in the world?" he complained when the rehearsal was over. "They said they were worried about the expenses – but if they'd just waited a little bit longer, the band would have been financially successful."
"Don't worry Vincent," said Leah, who felt it was important to be optimistic. "Maybe this is a good thing. Maybe we will get a new bunch of musicians together very quickly, and the band will be better than it ever was before. What do you think, Stephen?"
Flash animation – move your mouse over the clouds. And don't forget to click on them too.
I mumbled a reponse.
"Did you hear that, Vincent? Stephen just said 'Every cloud has a silver lining'. This will all turn out for the best. Rise above your troubles, Vincent, and Learn To Fly." In this she was referencing that Pink Floyd song, "Learning To Fly".
"But how can I fly, like an eagle, when I'm surrounded by turkeys?" he said, referring to his vanished band-mates. As we climbed into the car and drove away, the pattern continued, with Leah and Vincent being positive and negative. But they both agreed that they were lucky to have me as their keyboard player. They were so grateful, in fact, that they drove me all the way home, instead of their usual procedure of dropping me off at the railway station to catch a train from there.
The next day, the band played a gig at the Barleycorn Hotel in Collingwood. It went very well and there were no major mistakes. There weren't many people there – we hadn't promoted it much. We were the middle band of three that night and we played sixteen Pink Floyd songs. Several people came up to us afterwards and said how much they enjoyed it. We made friends with some people who said they might know where we can find a new bass-player, guitarist and drummer to replace the ones we lost. So maybe we will recover from our setback very soon. Or maybe it will be a long, long time before we get organized again. Either way, this is the end of an era for The Floyd Show – we will never be the same band as we were before.
The musicians stuck around at the venue for a long time afterwards, with the exception of Ben and Ryan. The band that played after us at the Barleycorn was called Ophelia's Gun – they sounded just like Tori Amos and I liked them a lot. We earned five dollars each at this gig. I spent my five dollars on a glass of wine. Also, Leah bought me an additional glass of wine and Leah's brother bought me a third glass. So by the end of the night I was feeling very "up" and I knew that this was indeed all for the best.
I might have gone out last night to the karaoke, but it was Christmas Eve and I was too busy making Christmas cards. You know, some people buy Christmas cards at the shop in a pack of twenty or whatever, but I make my own cards and spend hours custom designing each one. I have to put that extra effort in, because I give them in lieu of presents.
A Christmas tree made of soft-drink cans
Today is Christmas Day. I went out this morning and went to the city by train. It was very quiet. When I looked out the train window at the cars on the street, there were hardly any. And the city streets, they were relatively empty too. I went into this shopping mall, it must have been full of busy shoppers and hustle-bustle yesterday, but today there was not a single person.
While it would have been nice to stay all day in the city and appreciate the peace and quiet, I had an appointment to be in East Ringwood to visit my sister's husband's family. I don't know them very well. But my own parents are out of town, so my sister's in-laws were the only family on the scene to spend time with. They have a nice house. Today, there were lots of parents and children on the scene – I don't know how many. I found it hard to remember their names.
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Christmas has very little significance to me – if I had to rank all special occasions of the year in order of importance, Christmas would be in the bottom fifteen percent. And this was not a very good Christmas compared to other Christmases in my memory. The food was above average, but it gave me a stomach ache for a few hours afterwards – I don't know why. I didn't really eat that much. There were also presents – I received some biscuits, pants, socks, pens and recordable CDs. That was fine, they were all things on my list. After the present opening ritual, there were a few hours in which nothing much happened and it was a bit boring. My sister's husband's father fell asleep in his chair. I would have liked to have fallen asleep too, but my chair was not quite soft enough. My sister fell asleep somewhere else in the house, and her husband just lay down on the floor and fell asleep there. And meanwhile, the children played and played and played.
Children are sometimes interesting to observe, the way they're always asking questions and learning how to do stuff. Not as interesting as adults. But I think the best thing about children is, when they're on the scene, everyone feels an obligation to behave well and not say anything offensive. At five o'clock, my sister and her husband drove me home in their van. I arrived just before six and I was going to watch Doctor Who, but then I looked at the TV guide and saw that it wasn't on – it was cancelled to make way for a show called "Spirit Of Christmas". So, instead of watching that, I went to bed and slept for about three and a half hours.
I watched this new reality show Wife Swap the other day – two families swap wives for a period of time and the cameras follow them. It sounds a bit trashy, but as I watched it I became very intrigued, and then I became touched to the very core. You see, there was one wife who was very hard-working and also fairly rich. When she swapped into a poorer family she was initially dismayed that her substitute-husband had a much lower income and therefore she wouldn't be able to spend as much money. But as time went on she began to realise that she was actually happier in the new family, because the husband was a much better father – he spent more time with the children and did a lot of housework. And meanwhile the other wife, who was a bit lazy but very bossy, started laying down the rules for her substitute husband and they got into all sorts of arguments but as a result the bad husband learnt all sorts of lessons about what he was doing wrong in his life. So when his real wife came back to him at the end, she was all like "You have to change from now on, otherwise I want a divorce." So after this experience, everyone learnt something to improve their lives. And what I liked most about it was, they realised that money doesn't bring happiness.
When it comes to Christmas, I'm a bit of a "bah humbug" person. But I do like to hear some nice singing. So when Carols By Candlelight was on TV, I taped it and listened to it while I was making cards. Most of the songs are lame, but they're all sung very nicely by the best singers. Actually there was one singer this year who was not so good, her name was Toni Pearen, but apart from her they were all very talented. The carols that I like best are the ones that have nothing to do with Christmas – there was one last year, I can't remember what it was called or who sung it, but I found it very deep and touching. So I figured I'd better tape it this year, so that I can save a touching moment like that if it should occur again. This year it was good, but probably not good enough to listen to more than once or twice.