It’s hard to start any article written on the day I turn 60 without resorting to clichés and platitudes, so I thought I’d try a different approach. After spending a fair amount of time reflecting on life on a recent sojourn to Greece, I thought that I’d actualise some of those reflections and put myself on the casting sofa and attempt a few ‘Q&As to self’
How do I feel?
Pretty good. In fact I've probably never felt better. I still have a burning flame and I’m very much a man on a mission – to connect and enthuse, to question, to learn, to live life to the full and not stand still, to find inner peace and balance and to work for good. I’ve just started doing some yoga while in Greece and I’m already experiencing a shift in mindset and is already giving me a sense of inner strength and flexibility. I feel fit and realise the importance of exercise as a balance to being sedentary on the computer or constantly checking my phone. I’m enjoying the fresh air, sunshine, wind and rain, whether around the UK in spring and summer or recently in Greece.
How do I spend my days?
In the moment. The last year has been a major lifestyle change as I’ve not had a house of my own to life in while I’ve been in the UK, the first time that’s happened since age 25 when I first moved to London. I’m lucky that I have my motorhome and also lucky that several friends have offered me space to lay my head and three boxes and a suitcase. Generally, I’m up by 8am and I tend to try and balance my day so it will include a good proportion of time working through essential housekeeping, emails and social media messaging (so many sources these days, it’s confusing remembering where I read a particular message) and writing. I’d like to do less admin and more creative stuff, such as working on the Campfire Firecasts having just done the first one this week.
Also, meditation and exercise are both essential daily as are walking and thinking creatively and good nourishing food. I haven’t turned a TV on in months so I like to read, whether it’s a book (George Monbiot’s ‘Out of the Wreckage' currently). When I’m in Greece I’d try and finish desk work by mid-afternoon and go for a swim, followed by an ouzo and sunset, putting me in the mood for the evening, which would be food, conversation, writing, reading and bed at midnight. A good friend joked that I have the ability to “take my batteries out” on cue and fall asleep pretty much immediately. If I miss midnight, I often stay awake much later.
What’s my current perspective?
It’s largely about mindfulness and gratitude. Giving thanks for health and every day that I’m alive, giving thanks for people around me, their unique characters and spirits, those invaluable moments of laughter, stories, celebration, motivation and passion. Campfire is centre stage for me and I find that if I’m on a Greek beach that’s usually where my most creative ideas spark. I had the idea for Campfire on Voutakos beach and wrote the concept for what I consider to be my best song ‘State of Grace’ there too. It’s fertile ground for ideas and soul searching.
So it’s case of having notebook and phone to hand for recording those thoughts so I can put them to pragmatic use later. It’s important to find the space to take oneself out of the humdrum, the everyday. That’s the plateau where true inspiration can often manifest itself if the conditions are right.
How has life changed recently?
Life without possessions has brought about a definite shift in what’s important in life. Noticing stuff around me. I haven’t really missed home comforts much at all aside from craving some space, a decent sound system and a fireside occasionally as the colder nights set it. But I’m now in the mood for unloading ‘stuff’ after already purging my belongings when I moved out of Braunston in January.
Politics has become more and more important to me, but it’s a new kind of politics that is about choices and everyday living for all of us. We’re all politicians, whether we know it or not. It starts with the self and promotes the idea of what can be achieved with self-improvement, through community and realignment, moving to the sort of taxonomy that recently started to legitimise words like ‘love’ and ‘empathy’ as part of politics rhetoric, for example. It’s about moving to a mindset that’s more about intrinsic values – how can we work for the good of all? how can we be kind to the planet? And putting those issues above profit for shareholders, notions of celebrity, fame and private wealth.
There’s a new sense of collectivism - building resources and assimilating collective wisdom. Gathering together at local level really does seem to be giving people a sense of engagement and empowerment and that’s important. Politics will shift to a viewpoint based on commonality rather than tribalism, true democracy has to emerge in ways that aren’t based around the tribalism that currently predominated in major party politics where you’re either right or ‘the enemy’. Brexit and Trump have been a blessing in heavy disguise, as they’ve pushed the boat out to a point where everything is up for grabs as we enter a post capitalist and post neoliberal era – they’ve galvanised people into action, prompted and legitimised a whole raft of new ideas. We’re already seeing the fruits of those ideas and new ways emerging, as well as the backlash against what Trump and the mistakenly over-simplistic binary choice that was the Brexit vote stood for.
My own life is even more about trying to find common ground rather than retreating into tribal warfare, anger and resentment. And I find that this mindset brings a more meditative approach to my life in general.
The ten years or so, post Big Chill, has been about working towards what we now have with Campfire. I’m lucky I’ve had the space to do that without having to go out and get a day job. It’s a social experiment in many ways and up to others where it goes from here.
What am I passionate about?
People, equality, exchange of ideas, conversation, exploring sexuality, change and progression, healthy living, being out there close to nature and feeling the direction of the wind, watching the world turning and delighting in sunrises, sunsets, birdsong, colours, leaves on trees..
And music. It was central to my working life for decades and friends still ask me when I’m returning to the music business. What I usually say is that I’m able to enjoy music on a different level, more on its own terms without constantly thinking ‘how can I programme this?’ ‘does the artist want a festival slot or a review or a DJ play?’ Recently I hooked up with my friend Bruce for some music listening sessions on my terrace in Paros – those nights are always a delight. We usually play one on one and talk about the tracks, late at night with a widescreen starry nightscape in front of us. It’s hard to better those moments.
There’s work to do. Campfire can play its part in being a hub for change, a hub for good. Our Beacons are just beginning to get sparking. It’s important to keep the real-life elements in flame alongside the online activity. I’m hopeful that people will use it as a network for inspiration, engagement and collaboration. And it’s set up so that I don’t have to be tied to a desk or appeasing shareholders, it’s very DIY and will follow its own path and hopefully once it becomes profitable it will benefit those who invest the time. It’s as much about a mindset that rewards those who give to it rather than question ‘What can I get from this?’ If I can travel and visit family and friends, be out in nature and enjoying this fragile life to its fullest. whilst furthering the Campfire spirit and ethos, I can’t think of a better way of spending my time at the moment.
It’s less taboo these day, it’s being talked about more and more. My mother died when I was 15 and my Dad wouldn’t even let me go to the funeral. With death parties, sites like Advantages of Age and more and more contemporaries passing on, it’s never far from my mind. It’s an essential part of life. I admired Eno’s positivity when I read somewhere that he reckons he’s got until 85 at least, which gives him another 16 years. You have to admire that level of positivity, whilst recognising that it’s hard to guess how much time we have left, but at 60, each day becomes even more precious when you wonder how many more autumns you’ll experience. It’s a small number. As I say, I’ve got work to do yet!
What would I say to my 30 year old self?
Chill out, calm down and be thankful. Have grace, believe in love over all, listen to and respect others, travel when you can, be thankful for the healing powers of music and conversation, follow your gut instinct and do what you want to do. The rest will follow.