Manifesting Magic on the Plane of Pure Potential

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First of all, may I start this by saying a tremendous thank you to everyone who has shown their support for my Busted in Bangkok record. Inevitably, it has also had its detractors, you can’t please ’em all, but the … Continue reading

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To Thine Own Self Be True

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I will admit it; I have done some crazy things for love. Some of these things have been for my current love at that moment. Others have been part of the journey along the way in my quest for true … Continue reading

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Capturing Those Elusive Butterflies of Happiness

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As I write this, I am laying in the sun, wearing a white bikini, feeling a perfect breeze through the trees, in a beautiful park by a river, after a morning of yoga and meditation, having just eaten a Salad … Continue reading

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You Will Be Recognised by the Fruits You Bear

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Me, bearing some witty mind fruit to some of my friends at Japanese St Valentine’s Battle Royale Midnight Steakout The ground is thawing, the birds are singing in the morning sunlight and there are buds on the trees; this can … Continue reading

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Ha! Hold My Brain; Be Still My Beating Heart.

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‘Ha! Hold My Brain; Be Still My Beating Heart.’ – (William Mountfort’s Zelmane, 1705) My life has been filled with love. I have been fortunate enough to have already had three major loves, and a generous handful of loves who, … Continue reading

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Home is Where the Heart is Hung

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Florida, Florida, Florida (shakes head): land of palm trees and strip malls and oranges outside abandoned homes with bank foreclosure signs and southern fried chicken and pick-up trucks with gun racks flying confederate flags outside strip malls and old people … Continue reading

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To Baby Or Not To Baby…

When I was a child, my mother once told me, that when she was young, she dreamt only of getting married, having children, and devoting herself to her family. I can recall thinking, even at that time, that the life my mother dreamt of for herself would never be enough for me. From as far back as I can remember, I dreamt of hopping on the first train out of the one-horse town I grew up in. I would be the small-town girl who went to the big city to make good. First there was the modeling and then the acting. It would not be long before I tired of these, there wasn’t much substance there. Music came into focus not long after, probably around the age of 15 or 16. And all along I have been writing, always writing. My mind has long been set on making something beautiful, making something that means something, making something of myself. This is not to say that I have never thought of having a child of my own; many people have told me that a child is without a doubt the most meaningful thing they have ever created. I have been fortunate enough to witness both my mother giving birth to my brother Adam, and my sister Hayley giving birth to her son Cain. My father, who is an incredibly talented musician, once told me that my siblings and I are undoubtedly the most amazing creations he has ever had a hand in shaping. This is the single-most meaningful thing anyone has ever said to me.

The men I have loved, and have been loved by, have over the years inspired me to nurture thoughts of babies that would, so far, live only in my dreams. There was my first love, Love 1, the beautiful, skateboarding, guitar-playing fishmonger with the Ramone’s style bowl haircut and the golden streak in one eye who sold his car so he could leave Seattle and come live with me. Initially I harboured fantasies that we would make a baby together and live happily ever after. Once, in my dreams, I even met a baby boy with a golden streak in one eye. But, Love 1 found pregnant woman repugnant and disgusting. Eventually, we parted anyway… when Love 2 came along. Love 2, when we met, was a Pre-Raphelite painting come to life, with a cutting, sardonic wit that would mock, like the eyes of a painting following you down the hall in an old house. Just 17, all black hair and eyes, with rosebud lips and porcelain skin, he was Spring’s bud, fresh plucked anew. I was intrigued from the start and was desperate for him to look at me the way he looked at his guitar. And boy could he play that guitar. The day came when I had to decide whether I wanted to have this baby boy’s baby. We were 21 at the time. Love 2 supported my right to choose and offered his support in whatever I chose. This confusingly joyous moment became simply confusing when his elder sister offered the sage crumbs of wisdom which she had collected while being led astray by the hand of motherhood. I chose to continue following those crumbs of wisdom deeper into the woods, my dreams playing the role of the starving Hansel and Gretel, still searching for home or at least somewhere warm. So far, there has never been a moment that I have regretted this decision. Nonetheless, the desire to have a baby resurfaced the next time I fell in love. This love was true and deep and all-consuming. He was Love 3 and I would have thrown everything away in a heartbeat, given him a baby and shared my life with him. Love 3 was the brightest spark. His flame could burn if you stood too close; but once you had gotten close enough to feel that heat there was no way you could go back out into the cold. He had it all: Roman nose, ice-blue eyes and expressively articulate hands. A gorgeous writer from the North of England with a passion for everything. An intricately intertwined intellect, laugh-out-loud, howling sense of humour and a poet’s sensitivity. Love 3 had the beauty, the brains and talent literally dripping from his fingertips. I longed for our young love to culminate in the most wonderful of all physical manifestations. I would have forgotten whatever I was doing just to run away to the country with him and grow vegetables and babies. But alas, it was not to be. Perhaps the flame that burns so intensely is doomed to consume itself. Or, perhaps your dreams have self-protective instincts of their own. May be there is an infinite wisdom that organises the universe that knew the time had not come for me to give up on what I had long hoped for. Only time will tell.

As I sit writing, at this very moment, my best friend, Jesse MacDonald, is going into labour and preparing to give birth to her first child. I am so amazingly happy for her, and, am hopefully being named godmother of what will be a perfect baby girl. Jesse is the earth mother in full bloom and looks as if her reason for being here is about to be discovered. Although I expect there will be some excruciating moments in this next harrowing night of agony, when morning breaks and Jesse stares into the eyes of her new baby, I suspect she will know the answer to the question of why she is here on earth. However, seeing this look in the eyes of my best friend makes me believe even more strongly in my conviction that I am here to make something that must be made in a womb that is more metaphorical than literal. Maybe it is just greedy to ask of life to fulfill this expectation and to dare to hope for the actual womb to bear fruit as well. To tell you the truth, I am terrified of getting pregnant (even with that fundamental ingredient missing) before somehow managing to make something I am truly proud of. And equally humbled by the notion that cruel old mother nature may have deemed me past my sell by date by the time I get around to committing myself to the tasks that nature possibly intended. Sometimes I want to throw my hands up in the air in a gesture of surrender. To baby or not to baby, that is the question.

Posted in written by A. Grace Johnson | 7 Comments

That Long and Winding Road

It may have happened because I put the pillow in the middle of the floor to meditate and never got around to it, yet still managed to trip over it every time I walked through the sitting room. It may be because all I managed to eat all day was a mushroom omelette. I have a feeling that these things were not cause, but yet another effect of the overall manic atmosphere of stress pervading my life recently. Why in the world I would choose to host and organise a little gathering of 50 friends and strangers friends, a simple 3-course meal with drinks, in an outdoor covered courtyard, where there is no kitchen and everything must be brought it… and then get up to sing my new songs. There really has not been time to stop to ask myself, ‘I mean, really, what were you thinking, exactly?’ If I had stopped to think I believe the answer may be beyond me. There is definitely a reason people do not do this more often. Anyway, I digress. I was trying to tell you what happened yesterday. So, I’m on my way to do a couple things in the East End before band rehearsal. After recording earlier this month I ended up with Jasper’s bass drum pedal and also a bag of efx pedals belonging to Owen, plus a couple bags of assorted items for Midnight Steak-Out that needed to be carried over. I board the bus on Waterloo Bridge and place my heavy bags in the luggage racks and sit down nearby. As the bus starts to fill up, I offer my seat to a couple who want to sit together and find a seat in the back. My phone rings and I become engrossed in the conversation. Its only when the bus turns unexpectedly do I realise I am not on the bus I need to continue my journey on. I hop off one stop late. I happen to be in front of The Grocery where Nancy is preparing the food for the night. She has been baking meringues and we admire her work and the sheer quantity of that many meringues on mass. We walk out together towards another bus stop. I begin to mention that I have found the napkins we need when suddenly I remember where I have left them and can feel all the colour drain from my face. Oh no! no no no. No!!! The bags. On the bus. With all of that expensive music equipment. The boys are going to kill me. The bus we are waiting for arrives. We get on it and I ask the driver what would happen in such a case. He tells me the name of the bus company and I go online to try to contact them. When I do get through I am told by a machine to call during office hours. I am really starting to panic. Some women on the bus tell me there is a bus depot at the end of the line and maybe the driver will leave it in lost property, if its even still there. I decide this is my only hope of recovering the bags in time for rehearsal and gig, long shot though it may be. I pawn my errands off on Hannah and furiously try to scramble into a black taxi. The first two refuse me, they are heading home. Third time lucky, I find a willing cohort for this madcap journey, and we set off to Wood Green bus depot. This is very far from where our journey commences. And black cabs are incredibly expensive. I call the boys to tell them I will be late for rehearsal. They ask where I am going. I say I will explain it all late. No point in worrying them as well. In between stressfully organising things for tomorrow on my phone with the rapidly depleted battery, I tell the taxi driver about what we are putting on the next day. He is a kindred spirit and declares that he is ‘optimistic’ I am going to get those bags back. We finally arrive at Wood Green to discover that the 243 bus terminates there, but it lands at Tottenham (yes, land of looting, riots and fire) bus depot. This is only half as far as we have driven already and I am starting to really worry about the meter as I see its red digit constantly climb higher. Any anxiety I am feeling about the taxi fare though is compensated by the fact I could do this journey in no other way that would not be a complete pain in the neck. Finally we arrive in Tottenham. I run up to the guys standing in yellow and orange reflective jackets. I explain the situation. They go inside to lost property. Nothing has been handed in. They radio through to the drivers. There is a shopping bag one of the drivers of a 243 has spotted. Could it be mine? He has begun his trip back south already but he might be passing down the road in a minute. I say thank you so much to the guys. They look perplexed. The bus had apparently passed by minutes earlier. My taxi driver shouts ‘come on’ and we leg it back to his car. I am struggling to keep up in sandals with my bad ankle but he is running full speed ahead of me. We know the registration number of the bus and we know the route. We high tail it in the bus lane for some time. Every time we spot a bus my heart somersaults. The taxi driver offers me some hot tea from his flask. Finally we spot the bus. The bus. The bus 243 with the 44xl tag. We overtake him. I catch the bus driver’s eye and shout something that somehow works. He gestures to pull over. We stop ahead and I jump out and run back. When I board the bus and see my two red bags still sitting there so innocently, my face crinkles and I am flooded with emotion. The bus driver seems to get quite emotional too. I get back in the taxi. My taxi driver asks me if I am crying. I reply that I am just so tired. And so happy to get the bags back. We drive back to the rehearsal studio. The meter reads sixty something pounds (over 100 dollars US). I suggest to the driver that perhaps he would like to come for dinner and music in lieu of taxi payment. He says he would like to see me play. A deal is made. I hand over a MSO ticket and a tenner and make my way inside to band practice. Sometimes things happen that instill you with great faith in humankind. John Oakley, I salute you.

Posted in written by A. Grace Johnson | 3 Comments

Happy, Happy Birthday Baby

Oh, birthday birthday. Day of sweet joy and bliss and friends and, and, and self-doubt and confusion. This day, not unlike the turn of every year, gives us a chance to pause for a moment of personal reflection to assess how far we have come and how far we still have yet to go. And least we could do that. Or, it could be an excuse to lose your mind on alcohol and try to forget that every moment we are edging closer to the precipice at the end of this mortal coil.

Last year I spent my birthday much closer to the latter example. If you promise not to judge I will tell you the entire, gory story. If you have a weak constitution, please turn away now. The day began happily enough. A handsome young math genius that I happen to share a birthday with, and who I had been dating, had come by the evening before and spent the night. We woke up, had breakfast and he went off to meet his father for the first time since the recent and sudden death of his mother. I went to meet a good friend who was taking me out for an extravagant oyster and champagne lunch in a fantastic restaurant in Borough Market. Other than this indulgence, I had resolved not to celebrate and to do my best to ignore the passing of another year; after all, past thirty you really shouldn’t care about your birthday any more, right? Well, lunch went on for several hours and really was amazing and perhaps I should have cut my losses right then and there and walked home and had a nap to sleep it off. But, by now I had a head full of champagne and was beginning to feel like celebrating. Apparently, it is not the done thing to ring people up, drunk, on the afternoon of your birthday to make plans. Luckily, out of the blue, another friend did ring up to see what I was doing and invited me for a drink on the Embankment. My lunch friend informed me that he had to get to a meeting, but he would drop me on his way. I found my friend and she and I sat through the afternoon and into the dwindling evening drinking Prosecco and were eventually joined by a couple of her friends. Eventually, it started to become obvious that the oysters were not substantial enough to line the old stomach against such an assault of booze. The beast started to emerge and the change began to be discernible. I recall asking things of people that they really were not prepared to fulfill, the details of which it is just too embarrassing to recount here. My friend had to get home as she had to work the next day and left me in the charge of her two friends. We decided to walk out of there, they were going to go to a gay club in Soho, I had made arrangements to meet my birthday sharing lover back at my place. As we began to walk up the hill away from the river, they wanted to stop at a pub to use the toilet. Once they had come back outside, I decided I needed the loo too. Well, I was wearing a silk, all-in-one romper suit and a short kimono and high-heels, and may have taken some time to emerge again, but by the time I did make it out again, my new ‘friends’ were gone. Pretty cold, ditching someone on their birthday. Maybe this is the reason you should spend it with friends, as no one else will want to put up with you when you get so annoyingly drunk. Anyway, no matter, I continue my climb up and over Waterloo Bridge, full champagne glass in hand. Everyone I passed who looked at me strangely was greeted with a tip of my glass and a, ‘Its my birthday’. Made it safely over the bridge but, as drunk and ravenous as I was, couldn’t make it past a certain burger joint in Waterloo Station without picking up a disgusting late-night snack. This was where I was stood when the call came from the lover saying he was outside my house and where was I. As I was wearing heels and crawling at a snails pace it was decided that the quickest path of least resistance would be for him to come to collect me in a black cab. Next scene, back at mine, burger in hand, look of horror on his face; having thought about it, I believe it was the first (and last) time he had ever met the beast. He had spent the evening having a somber and sober meal with his dad, sadly musing over his mother’s recent death. The beast was just too much for him to bear at this point and he made his apologies and left. What happens next is more than a little hazy. The next thing I know I am waking up, with the lights on, face down on my bed, still wearing all my clothes that are now covered all down the front in mustard. The strongest emotion in the mix of many conflicting tides at that moment: deep relief that is wasn’t my birthday anymore.

This year’s birthday (thankfully) turned out a little differently. I spent the week recording the songs that I had begun to write the preceding summer whilst in so much suffering misery. This process had brought those things that were gathered from the darkest depths out into the brightest light. Having been let down by someone who mad a lot of promises but obviously never intended to deliver on them, me and the guys found a way to record these precious gems carefully gathered from those diamond mines. We begged and borrowed all the necessary bits of equipment, dragged it to the countryside in every available inch of, even on the roof rack of Owen’s car, and cobbled it all together a make-shift studio. Somehow by day three we were, as Dave said, ‘cooking with gas’, and managed to get seven songs recorded in the remaining three days. The day of my actual birthday, I was treated to a special breakfast, complete with smoked salmon and buck’s fizz, and a happy birthday sing song cake time with friends at the end of the day. Birthdays still bring up all sorts of conflicting emotions, as does live recording. The real birthday moment time for me was the Saturday after we had finished recording. It was a buck full moon with accompanying meteor shower. Some good friends had gathered around a fire in a beautiful garden in the countryside. A wonderful cake had been baked by two of my oldest and loveliest friends and happy birthday was sung, not once, but five times, to each of the birthday people. My band was jamming sing-songs. My friends asked if I would sing some of my new songs. I stood up and belted my heart out to my beloved friends. I basked in their love and shared my stories of love and heartbreak with them. In between songs a note was hand delivered to me. It was from the little girls, playing in the upstairs room above the garden. It read simply: keep on singing, keep on singing, Love Sofia and Lucy. I am holding out hope that this note, and the memory of my friends going to the ends of the earth to help me to record my songs, will rouse me from the depths of self-doubt and confusion on my darkest days, perhaps even save me from acting like a baby on my birthday.

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Why, I do despair!

Me and the folks, laughing and crying in the face of despair

Fact: we have long lived in a world where the player is king (has anyone ever heard of Bill Shakespeare?). In this world, a land ever-increasingly populated by screens made for watching, the majority of its inhabitants have, until recently, been watchers. This means that the few who have managed to rise up to lift their heads above the herd and play their part upon the major stage have been watched by many. In recent times there have become many mini stages upon which the players can play the part of the watcher as well as the watched. Sort of like the actors in the recent production of Mary Shelley’s ‘Frankenstein’ at the National. We can now all take turns inhabiting the roles of creator and monster. The observer becomes the observed. This, however, is not my point.

This is the point I would like to make. And, it must start with a confession. Here goes… I, Amanda Grace Johnson, on this 22 day of June, 2011, wholeheartedly admit that, often and deeply, I despair (v.) of this life. Whew. That was harder than I thought it would be to admit. Not to say that I do not also discover joy and beauty in the most unlikely of places, or experience actual elation in response to the simplest of life’s pleasures, but that is another story altogether. Obviously, sitting around wallowing and moaning about your own struggle constantly could rightly be considered churlish or downright ungrateful in a world where half the population is living without clean water for drinking or sanitation (more on that here). However, it seems to me as if we are all trying to make out as if we are all living the life of jewel-encrusted rappers. Why is it that everyone seems to be trying to perpetuate the myth that they live, surrounded always by friends and lovers, eating only perfect morsels, experiencing dream holidays and weekends away, constantly stimulated, inspired, busy and loved, and all this whilst sporting perfect hair? I for one am not buying it, and I refuse to continue toeing the party line. Life is not simply one big bowl of M&S cherries. Sometimes I feel blue for no particular reason at all. Sometimes this darkness envelops me past the point of inspiration and I am unable to produce from my lips one word at all, much less a word that could be considered a step forward on the long and winding road of creativity. There are days when I feel such utter anguish I am unable to motivate myself to do anything on my to-do list, or even to get up out of bed to change the programme and just lay there in a stupor watching repeats instead. I own up to the fact that I have gone to the supermarket and bought only special-offer items on their sell-by date and their last legs, even once finding an avocado on a bus and taking it home and hungrily devouring it. I have cried out at midnight, at sunset and at high-noon, wishing and pleading with the universe to bring me someone to love and to hold me. Entire Sundays have passed with nothing to do, no place to go, no one to see. The news that you do see is horrifyingly depressing, and that is saying nothing for the news that never reaches us. The consensus seems to be that these sort of thoughts are best kept to yourself. If you shared it with your parents they might worry. Your friends might have you sectioned or stage an intervention, or worse yet, feel sorry for you. This is definitely not the sort of thing you divulge to a new lover, and an old one may have already started to tire of you anyway. Sharing these thoughts online on social networking sites would just seem like a desperate cry for help and a virtual suicide note. And anyway, isn’t that the main forum for sharing with everyone how fabulous your life is? How cute your dog’s haircut is (its weird and your dog looks unhappy), what an amazing holiday you are having (if you are using social media whilst on the beach, you are not having the time of your life), what a perfect couple you and your new partner make (posing for online couple photos is psychopathic behaviour), lookie here: my dinner, my child, a song that defines me. Whoooooo! Aren’t we all having such fun!!! We are all players playing the main stage of the world stage. We are wearing the latest fashions, sporting the happening make-up colours, have friends and holiday homes and baths and showers on every continent. Aren’t our diamonds sparkly and mobile phones current? That said, I hope I do not give the impression I think I’m above it all (or beneath). I do not. I know I’m guilty and this adds to my intermittent despair. Admittedly, I want the world to think that I’m a contender, that I matter, that I am different and I am likely to make or do something great (or doing something great already). But I know that I am only human, and I suffer from the human condition, just like everybody else does. Therefore, I know I am not alone when I stand up and say this. Why, I do declare, that sometimes, I do despair! That is all. There is nothing to be done. Please do not write me to ask if I am alright (though I would be happy and comforted to read your evidential anecdotes proving I am definitely not alone here people), or to check to see if this is a desperate cry for help. It is not. I am mostly happy, healthy and well, with running water, electricity and the use of all my faculties (sometimes anyway). I have many friends and family and great hair and all the latest…

I’m just saying. Gawd.

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