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Notice! This is an archive version of Last Hours. It is no longer maintained or updated. Emails, addresses etc. may not be up to date.

I haven’t written for ages because I had to finish my masters dissertation and then move to Berlin the very next day. In classic Chris style I coordinated this epic manoeuvre with working at summer camp the whole of August, moving out of my flat in London, making a new zine, trying to battle a pest epidemic in my house and trying to actually squeeze some enjoyment out of the minuscule selection of sunny days we had. I managed to have a successful leaving party which I thought might not work out too well when I realised it was August and everyone seemed to be away. But somehow around 25 of us terrorised the Sam Smiths pub, nearly drinking it dry, before a group of us went on to rent a private karaoke booth in the tradition of wonderful drunken brainwaves. “It doesn’t matter what it costs! We’ll take it!” My happiest memories of my leaving party were robbing the fridge to compensate for the high costs of renting the room, harassing the owner to give us free time in the room and a load of my oldest friends singing Limp Bizkit ‘Rollin’ while jumping off sofas and spilling stolen beer all over the floor. A good night. So, why Berlin, you might ask? I’m trying to turn my year of negatives ‘B’s – broken leg, bed bugs, break up, bronchitis, bills, into one single positive – Berlin! Things got off to a bit of a rocky start because my internship wasn’t quite what I was hoping it would be, as in, instead of being anything to do with communicating with people it is dominated by analysing data and Excel spreadsheets. Plus I’ve been struggling with asthma since arriving, but I’m on the up as Berlin is a great place to live. It has all the perks of London but cheaper, grungier and infinitely cooler. I’ve basically been eating myself into happiness and drinking beers like they are going out of fashion. Vive la dog on string! However, this arrangement is temporary, so if anyone has any suggestions about what I can do with my life afterwards, I’d be glad to hear them!

Last weekend I went to see Dead to Me, played table football, got fully into bouncing around in the pit for the first time since my accident and made friends with some moustached Germans who were free flowing with the shots. I feel like this was a typical night out in Berlin, where the possibilities of adventure are infinite and time ceases to exist in the dark recesses of rock venues. As this is the mainland and everything starts later than planned, it is not uncommon to go out for a ‘quiet night’ only to emerge blinking in the sunlight and covering your face like a groggy vampire. The morning after the night before, crawling out of my crappy bed in the ‘House of Nations’ where I live, I remembered I’d promised to go on a bike ride with some friends from England who were visiting. I can strongly advocate the bike ride as the best hangover cure there is. I met them and climbed aboard this vintage Dutch bike and prepared to attempt Berlin bike paths for the first time. We cycled along the Spree, down past East Side Gallery, through Kreuzberg and down to the old Templehof airport on the South side of the city. Templehof was built pre-WW2 and was once one of the largest buildings on earth. It was closed in 2008 and now stands desolate, grey and ghostly. A few old military jets sit discarded by the sides and the cracks in the runways are punctuated with weeds. The public can ride around on the runway, roller skate, play and fly kites, which gives life to what would otherwise be a barren landscape.

As I was riding around feeling rejuvenated, I got a text message reading something like this, “Hey, it’s the wrestler! You’re still on for tonight right? I’m putting you on the guestlist.” This doesn’t happen to me too often anymore, but I sat there and looked at the words on my screen as if they were written in French. Wrestler? Guestlist? What? I reflected back on my evening. I could remember inviting loads of people to play table football and throwing around 50cent coins like I was that kid from Blank Check. I could remember giving the doorman a lecture on English grammar because he kept saying people had to be quiet because the neighbours were ‘fucked up’. I remember sitting on the U-Bahn on the way to another party at 4.30 and then suddenly deciding I was hammered and stumbling down my road with my key in front of me like a medieval lance, as if it contained a magnet or homing beacon that would draw it directly to my lock. I remember all of that, but I don’t remember anything about a wrestler. I text back, putting on my best British politeness, and asked what time I should get there and where I should go. Why not? Some hours later I was standing in a line of wrestling fans with my friend Cat wondering what the hell I was doing. My new friend had got us pretty good seats, so we rounded up a few beers and prepared for the wrestling ’show’. I was unsure whether this was going to be ‘real wrestling’ or the kind of wrestling I’d been brought up on, the type with theatrics, chairs as props and ridiculous costumes. Fortunately, it was the latter, and before long I was picking up the German wrestling charts and standing up next to a child with a full length mullet screaming “FINISH HIM!” Amongst the wrestling concepts on display we had a straight edge wrestler, which was my new friend, The Vampire, a father-son tag team and an English street punk who would scream ‘BOLLLLLOCKS!’ every time he was thrown on the ground. Afterwards we stood chatting with the guys and I realised some kind of childhood fantasy as these muscled ‘heroes’ told me the secrets of their trade. 15 years too late, but still appreciated.

Other highlights of my time here in Berlin have been regular meals at Yo Yos, some casual tourism, Dead to Me and Jeff Rowe playing acoustic at the Ramones museum, Astpai, RVIVR and Offshore Radio at Subversiv (a squat venue with a huge banner reading “Refugees Welcome! Tourists Fuck Off!”, helping out with the Berlin Bombshells roller derby, Sundays walking around the big flea market near my house, sometimes preceded by the all you can eat breakfast buffet at Cafe Morgen Rot and late night wanderings on the streets of Berlin. It’s always tough moving to a new place and trying to integrate with new people, especially when you are ill all the time, but I’m trying to make this work for me and have some awesome fun before figuring out where I’m going to go next. Until next time.

* If you want a copy of Once More, With Morphine, my new zine, you will have to wait til I am back in the UK in December as I only got 40 copies to start with and they are all gone. However, let me know you’re interested and I will see what I can do!

chris 12-o-5 | Blogs, Prancer | November 3rd | 1 comment

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“We’re gonna OWN THAT BITCH!”
My friend Jon is sitting braced in the back seat of a car filled with people and various musical equipment. It’s a Sunday night and we are racing down the main road in Putney chasing the number 37 nightbus so that we can get ahead of it and I can jump on it. Eventually it pauses, we overtake at high speed and screech to a stop at the next bus stop. I stumble out into the road with my crutches, sleeping bag and backpack as someone in the car, I don’t know who, screams “GO GO GO GO!” I scramble onto the bus, waving goodbye while the three other people on the bus stare at me, and sink into my seat. I’m exhausted. I spent the weekend in Southampton at Homestead fest drinking cider, making new friends, dancing on one leg, eating cake and being so sickeningly positive I don’t think I should elaborate any further for fear of making you vomit. There’s something about those weekends, the ones which start with street drinking and late night dancing to 90s pop punk with your friends in East London and end with you crawling home on Monday from a Hot Water Music gig physically ruined from having what can only be described as too much fun. What’s even better is starting it all again the following weekend with a camping trip, seaside, animals and scrumpy cider.

Since I’ve been able to walk a bit better I’ve been trying to compensate for the amount of fun lost in the months where I stayed in my room crying and thinking about how much having a major injury sucks. This period of activity has reminded me that I love my life, I love my friends, I love driving with the windows rolled down in the West country with my friend looking for a place to camp wild on the moors, just like I love swimming in the cold British sea and getting changed on the beach even though men come up to you and say things like “I see you” when they catch you doing it. I love a new friend inviting you over for cakes before a gig where people actually talk to each other and the walls are practically shaking with the impact of everyone singing along. I am fully aware that it’s totally cliché to talk about living each day as if it’s your last, but right now I feel like time is limited and I want to enjoy every second of it. Although I’m the first to admit excessively DIY positive folky stuff that preaches about bikes and friendship can start to wear a little thin and become repetitive, I can’t help succumbing and gushing like this on a balmy summer’s evening with no one to reign me in with a healthy dose of realistic cynicism. It’s sunny in England and that rarity is something not to be wasted as it’s going to feel like another century before it happens again. And, as Jon Bon Jovi rightly put it, we can sleep when we’re dead. Or at least, we can save it up for a bed day with good company or for the boss’ clock.


I’ve been thinking a lot recently about growing up. I’m at another point at which things are ending and there’s uncertainty about what I’m going to be doing six months from now. All around me my friends are moving in together, unlikely marriages are being announced and school friends are pumping out babies left, right and centre. Whenever I meet with old friends or family I am faced with the questions, “So, what are you doing next?”, “What jobs are you looking for?” and “Is there a special man in your life?” as if it is a biological certainty that I should be doing *something*, whether that be looking for well-paid employment or finding someone to impregnate me and settle down with. Even people who I thought were the epitome of unconventionality have made passing jokes about my lack of direction or their own shift to conformity. I find it all very troubling as I (immaturely?) can’t figure out why having no real plan except to enjoy life can’t be considered a viable mentality by the general public. Although I accept an element of inevitability in all of this, coupled with the fact that my inability to adequately support myself right now will force me to accept some of these realities, I just can’t trace the moment when we all grew up. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think I’m Peter Pan, just as I don’t think I’ll never become one of these people, I just can’t stop wondering what record I was listening to so intently that it made me miss these transformations. When did everyone get promotions and pension plans? Was I too busy listening to The Steal and making fanzines?


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I’ve just come back from a really nice barbecue with really nice people in the really nice suburbs. People talked about their new flats and their jobs and it was all really nice. It was genuinely a really nice time. Unfortunately I spent a bit of the time feeling like a balloon set adrift from the bunch. I felt like if someone asked me what I did at the weekend, the answer “Well, I drank six cans of Strongbow, crammed into a sweaty living room while people crowd surfed on ladders and other household appliances, then went into a room where my friend Richard smashed up hundreds of old VHS tapes and then me and twenty odd people wrapped ourselves up in the tape while drinks spilled everywhere and people wore stray masks picked up from the floor and others climbed inside a wheelie bin” would not quite match the answer “We picked out wallpaper for the new flat.” This year I am celebrating approximately ten years of going to gigs in London, ten years of making zines and ten years of having conversations where you try to explain how a night out doesn’t have to be a wine bar in central followed by a kebab and a taxi home, but can entail sitting on rooftops drinking beers, climbing on top of a pile of your friends while your favourite band plays or riding home as the sun comes up singing Blink 182 at the top of your lungs. It doesn’t bother me that I’m doing the same things I was doing ten years ago as I’m constantly moving forward and as long as I still enjoy going to gigs and my friends want to indulge their inner kids on week nights and weekends, then I’m still in.


That was too posi. I should definitely go and listen to some Fall of Efrafa now and think about the plight of the rabbits.


PS – Doing a cut’n'paste zine about accidents/injuries/illness/hospitalisation in general.. would love contributions! Get in touch!

chris 12-o-5 | Articles, Blogs, Prancer | July 4th | 3 comments

I’ve been leaving the house recently… It’s really quite exciting.  The best part of having a broken leg is that people feel really sorry for you and come over and do nice things like cook, shop, watch TV, take you to the pub, help you onto the bus and get you involved in weird boredom projects such as auditioning for a role on an Australian soap opera.  That last part was serious.  Since I’ve been sitting on my bum all day for the last eight weeks I’ve been able to keep up to date with the goings on at our favourite Australian suburban location, Ramsey Street.  I’ll pretend at this stage that I wasn’t already up to date with the daily happenings on ‘Neighbours’ before I broke my leg.  You know the truth.  I saw that they are running a competition for a new character called ‘Poppy Rogers’; a twenty-something headstrong vegetarian from a village in England.  Hello? Are you describing Chris 12oh5?  I got in contact with my fellow soap opera buddies and those with technical skills and arranged an afternoon for us to hang out drinking cider and preparing to make a public fool out of myself.  Kim came over with a video camera, Paul with a dodgy Australian accent and a lecherous interpretation of Karl Kennedy and Jaynie with stylistic advice to help me channel my inner Poppy Rogers.  All in all, I’m quite satisfied with the results of the audition video and am ready to put myself for public ridicule.  I had to make a cringe-worthy piece to camera at the end of the audition explaining why I should win the role on Neighbours.  Such gems as “I’ve had a bad run of luck recently” before gesturing to a pint of cider and my crutches did not make the final cut.  Instead we went for the tear-jerking, “when I am able to walk again, I’d really appreciate the opportunity to get back out into the world and have an adventure”.  Cue sobbing and sympathy.  Other than the pure amusement of appearing for a month on my favourite TV show, the incentives for embarrassing myself in public include a free holiday to Australia, a very entertaining afternoon while making the video and the inspiration to write something new (I think I can’t spread out this roller derby/crap life/broken leg/boo hoo shit for much longer).

Other recent adventures have involved Bridge and Tunnel at The Windmill, which included much alcohol, revealing the ‘nasty side’ of my personality to Tom Fiction (expressing my increasing distaste for mediocre acoustic folk punk acts), hoisting up on one leg on the bar to glimpse about one fifth of the bands’ foreheads for the duration of the set, and multiple great people out to have a good time.  Yesterday I went to Punk’n'Bowl, which other than an altercation between an incredibly over-rated band and one of their fans, was a fantastic day.  Surprisingly awesome bands included Caves and Above Them, who may have listened to a few too many Lawrence Arms records.  It’s so good to be back in London and see the scene revived with great promoters, good turn outs and mega fun.  I’ve also been overwhelmed by the punk rock support since I broke my leg, small stuff like people giving up there seats, holding open doors, asking me how I’m doing, offering to drive me, carrying my drinks, etc.  It all adds up to make me think people are in fact great.  And whatever anyone says about Londoners being shit and unfriendly, although this might be true in some places (like these shit bags who wouldn’t give me a seat on the bus even though they evidently did not need them AND those craphounds who think I shouldn’t get incapacity benefit even though I can’t work due to accident), I’ve seen evidence to the contrary.

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I have a sneaking suspicion this blog isn’t really about anything.  Ever since moving from print zine to online I’ve noticed how I can get away with writing bad stuff because it’s not being enshrined in an eternal document.  Plus there’s always an ‘edit’ button.  To conclude, did I ever tell you about making a record last summer with my (then) boyfriend Zock?  You can’t buy it or anything because it’s super cool limited edition (one copy made).  On my list of things I have to do in life: Have fun, make a record, perform on stage, get on Neighbours, become a culinary genius, write a fantastic masters dissertation; I’m doing OK.  I did just make that list now, but whatever.  Items one to three are now done, which brings me to a little known Chris 12oh5 fact: When I was 14 I went to see the Mad Caddies at the LA2 and their singer had a throat infection, so they asked members of the audience to sing some of the songs.  I got up on stage and sang ‘Preppy Girl’ for them.  That’s right.  True story.  Apart from owning the karaoke booth in Japan, I feel that will be the only time I sing in public.  Anyway, mine and Zock’s record is under the name ‘Fallen Species’ and we made four songs in his very sweaty rehearsal space in Wiener Neustadt.  I actually learned to play bass on one of the songs but we lost the recording, so all I do for this is sing and Zock plays all the instruments so we’ve had to turn down our only show offer to date due to the impracticalities of this set up.  Well, that and geographical impossibility.  One of our songs is about Jörg Haider who was an Austrian racist politician who was very popular, particularly in the 90s.  He died in a car crash because he was drunk driving and we felt a poor-taste song in honour of this event was just what the doctor ordered.  We even put a clip at the beginning where he talks in an interview about the dangers of smoking cannabis and how he is careful when drinking.  Oops!  Is that what the kids are calling a ‘palm on forehead’ moment? Or is ‘palm on face’?  Or ‘face-palm’?  Anyway, another song is about our favourite Austrian beer, Murauer, which comes from a town called Murau and is made from water from the river Mur.  It has a very light hoppy taste and leaves the palate feeling refreshed.  I had the pleasure of spending some time in Murau last summer and found it quite agreeable.  There was a Stadtfest where people dress up and jump into the swollen river from the town bridge after drinking a lot of beer.  It confirmed my suspicion that small-town Austria is mental.  No more Murauer for those guys!  Another song is a tongue-in-cheek ‘folk’ song about the struggle of the red squirrel against the evil grey ones.  This can be seen as a metaphor for issues of race and immigration.  Or a silly song about squirrels.  As you like.  The last one is about pistachios and how pistachios are better than racism.  I sense a downward spiral in lyrical content here…Anyone else?

I just realised the sun is shining AND I actually have 18,000 words to be writing at this very moment about race, surveillance, the media and postmodernism.  Facepalm.

chris 12-o-5 | Blogs, Prancer | May 3rd | 1 comment

It took me a long time to mentally prepare myself to write this post. The irony of the last thing I wrote being about roller derby was not lost on me as I sat for seconds and minutes and hours and days and weeks on end on my bum with an elevated leg and a frown on my face. Until recently I had never broken a bone, but I can say unequivocally now, having so far lost a month of my life to sloth and an expanding waistline, it totally sucks.

It all started on a Monday night. I had the opportunity to switch shifts at work so that I would be opening instead of closing. Despite the early start this would offer, it would enable me to go to ‘Rookie Tuesdays’, an informal roller derby training session run on Tuesday nights in an outdoor space in South London. The last minute nature of this plan meant I didn’t have a chance to buy the outdoor wheels I needed, but I put an order in before leaving the house in excitement. It wouldn’t be a problem… right?

I don’t know how it happened, whether it was the wheels, the outdoor space, the early start taking its toll or just sheer bad luck. All I know is that I lost my footing and one part of my leg did one thing and the other part had different intentions. Vigour Mortis, who was organising the practice ran over and said “Can you get up?”, to which I replied surprisingly calmly, “Nope. I broke my leg” before I screamed a lot in that human to animal metamorphosis way you see during pregnancy sequences in films. The next part is surreal conversations, pain, shock, people running around, people goggling…and me staring at a patch of concrete with an intensity that can only be achieved when one is trying not to think about the fact that you no longer know how to stand up. I desperately tried not to look at my leg, just in case a bloody alien bone was poking out through my tracksuit bottoms, but a sneaky glance confirmed that there was no way the skate should have all four wheels on the ground with the leg at THAT angle.

Shit.

Laughing gas, scissors, rolling over, laughing gas, feel quite drunk, it only works if you breathe it, rolling over, don’t touch the leg!, it only works if you breathe. Ambulance. I sat in the back of the ambulance with a skate buddy, Snoop Dodge, while watching my rogue skate roll around and tap menacingly against the closed doors each time we turned a corner. It was taunting me, I’m sure. My heavily gassed voice sounded unnaturally deep so I kept telling the paramedics that I sounded like I was on a phone sex line. They indulged this weird area of conversation until they left me in the hospital to sit and wait and quietly freak out while pretending it was OK that my fat leg was wrapped in a giant splint and I was in a place with pictures of bones all over the wall instead of sitting at home with a cup of tea. Snoop tried to maintain non-disturbing areas of conversation while my eyes darted around and my leg got fatter.

After what felt like days a doctor told me that an X-Ray showed my tibia and fibula bones were broken and displaced, leaving the only option – to manipulate them back together and then have surgery to hold it in place. Not having a great deal of choice in the matter, I accepted the nightmare scene of people holding my arms while he snapped it back together and I screamed and screamed. Hanging out on my geriatric ward I got to know the other old ladies with broken bones who kept repeating themselves and making weird noises during the night. I didn’t sleep at all. The next day: an epidural followed by 3 hour surgery in which they hammered a nail directly into my bone while I chatted nonsense and tried to ignore the blood splattered apron of the surgeon and the dozen or so people who watched me piss myself without saying anything, although I didn’t know I was pissing myself because I was numb from the waist down. Still not that pleasant. At first I kept asking if I was going to feel anything because surely an injection can’t remove all feeling in my body, but then I saw a man holding an iodine soaked leg in the air somewhere far away, before realising it was my own body. Upon release into the recovery room I pissed myself some more and puked every time someone gave me a sip of water, before being lulled to sleep by the monotonous beeps of monitoring machinery.

For the next weeks I had to become accustomed to the throbbing pain in the leg, doing everything on crutches, how complex putting on a sock could be, relying on everybody for the smallest favours. Not only did I lose my job, get passively threatened with the suggestion I should move out the flat, lose my internship, miss weeks worth of university and jeopardise my masters, cancel my holiday and essentially lose the ability to do anything for myself, some friends found sending me a get well text message a little too much effort. The frustration mounted amid piles of paperwork and documents. Fortunately, I am surrounded by absolutely awesome people, both old friends and new, so I was flooded with visits and posi-post of books, CDs, food feasts, box sets and other reading material. I nearly went blind reading copies of Pick Me Up and Heat, not to mention the brain rot instigated by watching series 1-4 of Prison Break, including the feature length ‘Final Break’, in the space of two weeks. I started to believe I too was incarcerated in Fox River Penitentiary and Wentworth Miller was going to break me out, until he had his tattoos burned off and then I was indifferent to the prospect. I read The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, an epic tome at the best of times, in about four sittings. I read the Josef Fritzl book in one day and had weird dreams about basements and foreign language court proceedings. I procrastinated about essay writing for the entire duration and didn’t touch my books, then went mental when they closed the library on the day I decided I would travel there. I cried at least once a day for the first week… Out of pain, out of self-pity that I was sitting in my parents’ house, a giant baby, while the world kept turning without me, out of loneliness. I laughed at least once a day at the thought of a grown girl breaking a leg roller skating and sitting in a hospital full of pensioners and the inability to piss effectively into a bed pan. More than once I put too much weight on it and spilled the ripe contents all over my bed sheets and lay there cursing the day I heard the words ‘roller derby’ until a long suffering nurse rolled me over and changed the sheets.

When you can’t walk without an aid and your life becomes about the four walls surrounding you, you become incredibly self-absorbed and over-contemplative. I started to freak out about asking people favours, about something happening to me while the house was empty, like falling in the shower and having to lie naked, slippery and broken on the tiles until someone came home and could help me up, about people forgetting about me, about the first night sleeping on my futon bed and whether I’d ever be able to get up out of it. I ran over countless scenarios in my head of falling down the stairs or trying to catch a bus somewhere and stumbling out into the road.

The concerned phone calls have subsided, the novelty worn off.

Yesterday, as I tried to change my bed sheets by myself, I fell over with the pile of washing, smashed a statuette and lay splayed on the floor with crutches akimbo. All around was deafly silence and I lay with my cheek pressed against the laminate floor boards thinking how pathetic this scenario was before peeling myself up and crawling pitifully towards my futon.

Today I walked five minutes to the bus stop in a T-shirt because the sun was shining. The cherry blossoms are blooming and the bite of winter has well and truly left the air. Although I was drenched in sweat upon reaching the bus stop, I felt like I was emerging from hibernation. My pale skin soaked up the warmth of the spring air and even though my hay fever was almost unbearable and my leg was throbbing, I was smiling… Really smiling. Since I left the house last Friday and voyaged with crutches to Kingston to see the Lawrence Arms I felt like things are getting better. Although I’m still scared of people knocking me over, I saw in the way people rushed to free a chair for me to sit on and offered to help me travel around that this earth is not a cold dead place. There’s still a fiery heart beating and a concern for the fallen individual, at least with a healthy degree of piss taking. I know now who I can count on and what I can do if there’s a friend in a similar situation…I just hope that there isn’t one.

I’m not sure I’m going to skate again. Ask me when I walk.

chris 12-o-5 | Blogs, Prancer | April 6th | 1 comment

People keep asking me about this roller derby sport I recently started, so I’m posting something I wrote for a zine being made by girls from London Roller Girls.  It’s about the rookie/beginner boot camp which started in January of this year, which took place over four weeks and was designed to determine whether we could continue with the LRG training programme.

In January all the new wannabe rollergirls headed down to CoLA in Bermondsey to see if we had what it took to participate in the London Roller Girls rookie programme. Although that part of South London might seem like an unlikely destination for a Saturday morning convergence of women of all ages, shapes and sizes, armed with wheels and helmets, around forty of us stormed the changing rooms and filled it with the smell of brand new skates and nervous chattering.

We came from a range of backgrounds; people who hadn’t skated since they were kids, others who had been unsuccessful in the last rookie in-take and were trying again, and some who were proficient at the roller disco jam skating style and wanted to branch out into new territory. We all wobbled down the hallway in our squeaky new skates and into the gym to have a crack at becoming full fledged rookies. I personally felt sick to my stomach when I put my mouth guard in for the first time and looked around at all these girls gliding across the smooth floor effortlessly and with grace. I felt like a lumbering hulk with two left feet and an oversized head due my ill-fitting helmet. I had the distinct impression that I was making a big mistake.

Once we were all in the gym and warmed up, we were split into groups and taught the basic derby skills we were expected to master over the coming four weeks. These included the t-stop, the plough, the one, two and four point falls and derby position (which is basically people skating as if they are taking a shit in a toilet at Reading Festival, as someone helpfully put it). For the next hour the room was exploding with the sound of pads-on-floor and laughing. Every time I threw myself onto the boards my peripheral vision caught multiple other girls throwing themselves down in kamikaze fashion and springing awkwardly back up. It felt like an extreme army boot camp. I can only speak for myself, but having not done much sport except cycling and skiing since school, I felt like I aged about ten years in that two-hour session. My thighs and back were screaming with the exertion of constantly throwing myself up and down and and my legs were beginning to stubbornly resist any attempt to form the required t-stop shape. I looked around me and dozens of other girls were sweating and red-faced, but equally determined and good-natured about the brutality of the first rookie practice.quad skate

After learning the basic derby techniques we had to do an assessment in front of all the judges to determine whether we had grasped enough to be able to continue. It felt a bit like I was in a bad high-school cheerleading film with all of them sitting there in their skates with notepads while the uneasy beginners tottered around the track for their perusal. Of course, during my turn I fell flat on my face and lay there for what felt like an eternity before getting up to the sound of some girls clapping and encouraging me to carry on. At points I wondered if I really needed to put myself through this kind of stress, but the experience of learning something new and meeting a whole host of different people convinced me that the balance tipped far more to the positive side than the negative.
Read more…

chris 12-o-5 | Blogs, Prancer | March 7th | Comments off

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Statistically this past Monday, the 18th January, is the most depressing day of the year. Normally I don’t buy into this kind of hype, but this year I’m a fully paid-up member. Aside from the chest infection, not seeing the sun in weeks and being dumped in the rain in a city I didn’t want to be in, outside of my own selfish spectrum, there isn’t too much to be thrilled about. Natural disasters, families crippled by post-Christmas debt, the depressing fact that the sun won’t come out for many more weeks, the lack of prospects for young people, the lack of consideration for old people, the grim prospect of an pre-determined electoral choice between tweedle dum and tweedle dee and all the surrounding circus. The new year hangover is officially gone, the residue from fireworks are moulding into the hard ground and everyone is too broke to wash away the misery with cider and revelry…Right? Right? RIGHT?

I woke up this morning with the intention of writing down something self-indulgent and positive, so here it goes. The following three things are stopping me from being sucked into a vortex of self-loathing and agitation. They make me feel like this city might have taken my money, but it will never take my optimism.

1) Roller Derby. I wanted to start a new activity and meet some new people in London. Roller Derby had been on my mind for ages because it was just starting up in Leeds when I was leaving. What’s not to like about a sport practised by tough girls on quad roller skates? My attempts to become awesome at this are still in the fledgling stage, as I’ve only attending one session of boot camp so far and my epic crash landing during the assessment stage may mean I don’t get invited back for the second one.. However, it feels good to be getting out on Saturday mornings and Monday nights to skate around strip clubs (really) and roller discos with friends. Learning a new skill, especially a physical one, seems to become scarier with each year I get older. The shame of making a fool of yourself or simply not being good enough is far more daunting for an adult than a child, in my opinion. But when I was lying on a gym floor smelling the sweat and failure, having fallen over doing a demo of possibly the the easiest derby stop in front of about 50 people, no one was laughing at me. In fact, a couple of people clapped and some laughed with me. Today every single muscle I didn’t even know I had is hurting. Leaning over to pick up a pen requires groans and a gritted jaw… Maybe my body can’t cope with this…But I feel like my body is flexing, re-assessing itself, measuring the possibilities... And the possibilities are endless.*

2) Lawrence Arms coming over to the UK. I love the Lawrence Arms. I haven’t seen them in quite some time and the last time was a bit average because they were touring with this Fat Wreck package and no one seemed to really give a shit about them. The time I saw them which still makes the hair on my arms prick up was the The Verge in Kentish Town with Jerry Built. The band were really pissed and had drawn all over themselves, but they somehow managed to blast out shambolic renditions of some of the finest melodic punk rock I’ve ever heard. The night ended at The Underworld with snakebite, Bon Jovi on the PA, a near bar brawl and a euphoria which lasted for weeks. I don’t care if melodic punk songs sung by gruff Americans are a dime a dozen: Lawrence Arms did it early and they did it the best. When I hear the beautiful simplicity of lyrics like ‘all these words trip over cracks in the side walk’ and think of all the times I’ve tried to express myself and failed, or the anthemic chorus of 100 Resolutions, I feel like my ribs are going to burst out of my chest. Needless to say, I am pretty stoked about seeing them for the first time in five years.

3) Everything Sucks club night in London. If you haven’t been to this yet, shame on you. Since Sublime and Take Warning club nights died and Nasin remained shit, there has been a dearth of club nights playing punk rock in a dingy room surrounded by all yours mates. On the negative side Everything Sucks is on a Tuesday night, so a lot of my working buddies are eliminated from attending unless they can hack the brutal sleep deprivation and sore limbs at the office desk the morning. However, the guys who run it are friendly and took the best elements of premier Leeds club night ‘Juvenile Hall (Juvi) and applied them to this format. The barman is a wanker, the drinks overpriced and all the obscure melodic hardcore punk you thought you’d never hear over a PA again is being blasted out while movies are playing on a projector behind you and a guy you haven’t seen since you were still listening to Reel Big Fish daily is sat on a chair in the corner. Obviously, with it being London, loads of people don’t dance and they stand around being incredibly cool. However, my motto has been and shall remain that one should ‘dance like no-one’s watching’, so if it doesn’t have a beat – make one up! you feel uncool? Have another beer… you’d be surprised how instrumental a beer can be in crossing the line from tapping your foot on the sidelines to pulling your T-shirt over your head and jumping around with some sweaty topless men to Kid Dynamite. It also ends at a reasonable hour, so you can be home and civilised (super noodles + Scrubs and/or Simpsons + underwear) before 3am. On my journey home in the snow, I saw three urban foxes and pissed in some shrubbery in Peckham. Good night out? I think so.

So statistically speaking, my life should be shit right now and I should be checking into the Priory with the post-Christmas blues along with Amy Winehouse and Les Dennis. Things might not be looking good on paper, but I’m certainly pumped about the future. Now excuse me, I have an Alkaline Trio gig to mentally prepare for.

* The Steal, ‘Bright Grey’

chris 12-o-5 | Blogs, Prancer | January 24th | Comments off

A rental van, rented family members and a day spent in the steamy polluted airs of South London. My post-Austria life crammed into boxes, bags and crates. My new home in the organic oasis of East Dulwich echoed emptily as my brother and I lifted furniture up the narrow stairways and along the hall. I loved Austria. That shouldn’t be a past tense as I love it still. I think I left a little part of my heart along with my ski equipment in my friend’s basement, but let’s not talk about Austrians and basements. Let’s file away countries and histories in the drawer of this desk. The view out the window has changed and maybe so has the person looking at it. I haven’t written prose in so long, it seems like I’m just one hyperbole and metaphor after another today. Excuse the cheese, i’m selling dairy-free cakes and organic coffee for a living now.

PigeonsHere I am. The big city. The bright lights. Post-graduate education. It’s all falling into place…right? A luke-warm welcome was offered by this city, the city which I used to call my own. It’s been five years since I wasted week nights and weekends outside the Underworld, The Verge, the LA2. Things have changed and it ain’t just the venues! I spent the last two years telling kids how big this city is, how more people live here than in the entirety of Austria. Here I am, surrounded by people, but I’m still feeling a little lonely. Certain things have become apparent during my various journeys to visit friends who live in the same city as me. A train, a tube and a bus at the cost of five pounds is what it takes to stop at a friend’s house for dinner. An hour-long journey to grab a beer with a mate. Meetings planned weeks in advance to fit around the gargantuan demands of a London diary. Nothing seems impromptu. No local bike riding buddies, no hiking trips, no afternoon tea. A simple night out becomes a mathematical nightmare – which bus numbers go there? Which ones are 24hours service? What time do we have to leave to be home before 4am? HOW much is going to cost? Then there was the night I was woken up by the ringing of my phone… I had a moment of confusion when I felt cold glass against my face and unfamiliar sounds reverberating in my head. I looked up and saw foreign place names being announced on the screen on the upper deck of a London bus. Scrabbling off, I found myself on an abandoned road at 4.30am in Forest Hill, deepest South East London and not a place I wanted to be at that hour. As I crossed the road and sat at the bus stop to wait half an hour for the night bus to come back the other way, a drunk guy in a tracksuit lay passed out on the bench. I woke him up when the bus came and he said he would stay the night there because he had no money. I didn’t give him any…I’m a Londoner now and a bus fare is nearly half my hourly wage. A three hour journey home from a friend’s house party, a party which I left at a reasonable hour, becomes a lonesome cross-country expedition of epic proportions. Is this what I signed up for?

phone boxDoes this whinging mean it’s all bad? London is a cesspit and I am doomed to be swallowed whole? Well, no. There’s been the days spent drinking cider and wandering around the Tate, hours hunched over a desk in the rammed university library placing hold orders on books that ten other people are also trying to get hold of. There’s been the pleasure of punk shows back in my life, except I don’t really know the faces any more. There’s been vegetarian feasts, movie nights, wonderful trips to Brighton and opportunities to see my family. I have many new friends from university and feel motivated to learn. These are good things. I just think after being the alien for a couple of years, I forgot that to London I am just another wanderer. Coming back expecting the city to open its arms to me rather than shrug and belch and turn away. A little mistake on my part and perhaps a symptom of arrogance…or deluded importance…or excitement about coming ‘home’.

So, I’m doing an MA. It’s stolen my soul a little bit because free time seems like a concept that I shelved in a dusty cupboard under some stairs, which will only get dug out at christmas and public holidays…Oh wait, we have the lowest number of public holidays in Europe, so scrap that. I digress. The MA: Pseudo-intellectual conversations, real intellectual conversations, insurmountable piles of reading, a vegetarian café on campus and countless new faces to remember and love. My parents, while being many wonderful things, are not rich. This means academic grants, savings and part-time employment has been the name of the game. Within of a day of moving into my new place I had a job lined up a local bakery selling organic and gluten-free products to the Dulwich hoards. Nestled amongst bewildering take-aways and a cobbler, it draws customers from all over. Most customers appear to be pregnant, which indicates this is either a lovely place to live, or we’re putting something in the dough. I leave work caked in flour and coffee and I smell like hot milk. My hair is plastered to my head by a wonderful mix of smoothies and mayonnaise, but hey, at least the dishwasher gives me a free steam facial. Aside from the early mornings and massive pay drop from my last line of work, bakery life is not so bad. Olive bread, rosemary loaf, pumpernickel, spelt, fruit loaf, poppyseed bloomer, multigrain…You name it and it’s going in the basket on my Amsterdamer along with an organic smoothie and envelope of tips.

Recently we’ve started building fires in the old fireplace and getting tips from ex-Brownie leaders on maximum flamage. The pyromania, a side effect of this new interest, helps wile away the hours buried beneath stacks of cakes and pies. The smell of bread, the scent of coffee, the aroma of burning wood filling the air each time the door blows open and closed. It’s not so bad. Another benefit to the job is getting to know the local characters, like the man who gave us his fire poker and then looked mildly embarrassed when I saw him talking to himself at the train station, or the guy who comes in wearing his bike helmet with halogen lights blinding me while he stops to have a chat, or even the lonely divorcee who savours a green tea and polenta cake for hours as he tells me about his troubles. What about the sounds? I am taking a whole module on sound and music this semester, so let’s not forget the auditory experience of the South East. Buses thundering past, sirens screaming, drunks stumbling past our house at all hours, the ‘crazy man’ who sits in the street all day with a can of Strongbow K shouting incomprehensible nonsense, the sound of coffee beans grinding, the ding of Oyster cards being validated, laughing, moaning, street talk, posh talk, accents, baby talk, religious talk, blasphemous talk… it’s all there.

After a few months, when I come out of my house, I’m not always swallowed by the people and the din of the city, I can make out faces and places of things that seem familiar. I may not have friends within biking distance of my house, but perhaps the view outside the window isn’t so bad after all.

chris 12-o-5 | Blogs, Prancer | December 13th | Comments off

It is customary for traditional Austrians to have what is called a ‘Stammtisch’.  This means a table in a bar or restaurant that is reserved for the same group of people at the same time every week or month.  When I first came to Graz I thought it would be a great idea to have a Stammtisch for the English language teaching assistants so that we could drink, exchange lesson ideas, plan trips together and get to know each other better.  During the first week here I was hoping that someone else would organise it because I was dreading having to speak German to anyone at the point, especially a drunken Austrian pub proprietor.  However, no one did it so I decided to bite the bullet and ask in the dingy restaurant across from my building if we could have it there.  I understood approximately 20% of the conversation, but it seemed we had the table reserved for every Thursday for the rest of the year.  And, so that was it, Alt Wien was to be our Thursday night home from then on.

bavaria 016Alt Wien looks from the outside like it has gone out of business.  Net curtains hang limply in the window, turned yellow from cigarette smoke.  The sign, written in old German script, looks out across a busy urban crossroads, but is so faded it seems unlikely to draw in any passers by.  Upon opening the door the first thing you become aware of is the smoke.  Your eyes water and your lungs close up as you look around and see battered old Austrian men in faded jackets clutching their thousandth cigarette in work-worn hands.  The smell that lingers in the air is a combination of old cigarettes, burned schnitzel fat and stale beer.  It is a uniquely Austrian smell.

The two people responsible for running the joint are Joanna and Herr Karl or ‘Herr Charlie’ as he liked us to call him.  Joanna is approximately fifty years old and a life-long waitress.  Portly and broad faced, she is virtually impossible to understand, but always smiled and welcomed us and told me on more than one occasion that my face ‘shines’, which is a compliment.  I think.    Herr Charlie turned seventy during that year.  He is short with white hair framing a smooth, smiling face.  He always told us stories about horses stolen by the circus and about the war, stories he would tell with completely disregard for whether we could follow them or not.  I was always quite fond of Charlie and made a point to ask him how he was.  When I missed Stammtisch on a few occasions, he’d ask if I was ok and would feign jealousy if someone said I was out with a male.  I thought this was grandfatherly affection.  At Christmas Charlie gave us schnapps, at Easter he gave us eggs, on Abi’s birthday he got his drunken musician friend to sing a song and play harmonica for her.  Actually it wasn’t her birthday, but we just said it was when it seemed likely she would get an embarrassing song, but I digress.  We thought he was a nice, slightly eccentric, old man.

bavaria 024At one of the last Stammtischs we noticed Charlie sitting perplexed at a table with an iphone.  We asked him what the problem was and he explained that he was totally frustrated programming all the old stuff from his old phone onto it.  We sympathised, returned to our beers and thought nothing more of it.  Some minutes later Charlie came up to my friend Josh and nudged him on the shoulder.  He gestured that Josh should watch something on his phone.  Josh watched the video with a bizarre expression on his face, Charlie burst into laughter, slapped Josh on his back and then walked off.  Josh lowered his forehead to the table, his shoulders visibly shaking with rising hysteria.  Eventually he lifted his head and explained that the video had been hardcore, full frontal, no holds barred pornography.  In some way it was funny because he chose Josh, the most ‘inappropriate’ one of us to show the video to, which demonstrated a real understanding of our characters, but at the same time it completely changed our perception of Charlie from a kindly old man to an ageing porn addict.  From then on whenever he smiled it looked like a seedy ‘what are you wearing under that jacket’ smile rather than a ‘welcome to my humble establishment’ smile.

Those Thursdays at the Stammtisch were an interesting time in my life.  The mix of characters; high brow American intellectuals, vulgar English comedians, harmonica-playing regulars and the odd Austrian who came along with us for the ride, meant it was rarely dull. The dowdy interior, including a broken disco light suspended in one corner, doilies on all the tables and bizarre temporary art exhibitions like the one of nuns and another about the Middle East, gave it a certain charm.  The terrible service, the bonding over 0,5 glasses of Puntigamer, the telling of off-colour jokes, the awkward silences that would fall over the table when it became apparent that some characters are not supposed to mix, even though anything was possible in the fantasy world behind the doors of Alt Wien…That is the stuff I remember when I cycle across the crossroads and see the net curtains hanging limply in the window, turned yellow from cigarette smoke.  Thursdays will never be quite the same again.

chris 12-o-5 | Blogs, Prancer | November 15th | Comments off

Have you ever tried to trace your life back to one single moment? One point in time which helped define you as the person you are today? It’s easy to get caught up in the past and pondering over “what ifs”, but sometimes I am fascinated by looking at the friends I shared certain experiences with and what became of them. Considering that I spend a large amount of time going to shows and I killed a lot of time at school writing up interviews with bands or trawling internet forums for the latest gig information, I would say that punk is a huge part of my life.

I probably wouldn’t have got into punk if my friend from primary school, Robbie, hadn’t been sitting in one of the classrooms at school playing Offpring’s Americana to try and impress a couple of girls from our class. I remember peering through the window and seeing them; legs crossed on the floor, laughing as ‘Pretty Fly for a White Guy’ blasted through the crackling school stereo speakers.

I was 13, jealous, and wanted a part of it. I went straight out to the shops and bought a copy of Dookie and came in the next day showing it off. The CD was my VIP pass to the world of punk rock, although it would be a year or two before I could tell the difference between what was ‘good’ and what was ‘bad’. (Incidentally, none of these people listen to punk anymore, but if it wasn’t for those days spent sitting on the floor or dancing like idiots in the music rooms at school, I wouldn’t write fanzines, I probably wouldn’t be vegetarian, I wouldn’t have moved to Austria… You get the idea.)

I had a really good girl friend at the time, let’s call her ‘Boo’. Boo was learning the guitar but after some months of practice the only song she could play was Kicking Pigeons by that terrible UK ska band called [Spunge]. Despite her complete lack of skill, we were convinced that we should enter the school battle of the bands competition, the logic behind this decision being that ‘bands’ never actually played at the band competition.

It was always nice girls singing ballads by Mariah Carey or the Korean kids, who had been released from the music school dungeon for the day, playing spectacularly long pieces of classical music. We were 14 and pissed off about everything. We were pissed off about that.

I was listening to a lot of Papa Roach at the time because I had just been on holiday in California with my parents and it was all the rage over there. Boo thought she could learn how to play the Papa Roach classic ‘Last Resort’ in time for the competition. I convinced myself that I would be able to sing it. We had a goofy friend in class, let’s call him Radley, who could play the bass and we convinced a seriously good drummer, Squeak, to join our cause.

Rather than putting any thought into practicing or learning the songs, we were mainly concerned with what we were going to call our musical act. Eventually we decided on the fantastic name – R.O.T – which stood for…wait for it… Reign of Toads. Once we had the name we went straight to the music director and asked him to put us on the list for the battle of the bands. We were really excited for about 24 hours and then we totally forgot about the whole thing.

A couple of days before the competition we noticed that our drummer had defected to another band, so we went to the music director and asked him what was going on. He explained that as R.O.T could not really play the song, had never been seen practicing the song and would not be able to learn it in time… We were booted off the bill. Most people would have given up at this point, but we were convinced we could play the song once, perfectly, and would be allowed back on. So this was how me, Radley and Boo came to be standing in the music hall in front of the director battling through a terribly slow and tuneless version of Papa Roach’s ‘Last Resort’. I remember looking up while mumbling “Cut my life into pieces / This is my last resort”. Boo was looking uncomfortably at Radley as she tried to make the right chord shapes while Radley had his mouth hanging open in this big toothy grin. Somewhere into the first verse the whole thing faded chaotically out and an awkward silence filled the room. We looked at each other and then at the director. We knew in our hearts that the dream was over. And so ended my musical career.

Nearly a decade later I was sitting in my bedroom in Graz, Austria. It was 4pm and I had only just woken up because the night before I had been at a party in Puntigam which had involved a lot of alcohol and a lot of fun. My head was pounding and sunlight was streaming in through my window. It was one of those days when it’s so hot that it doesn’t matter if the window is open or closed, if you are naked or dressed…It’s just hot. You sit and sweat.

I saw my phone had been ringing, but I guess I didn’t hear it through the banging in my ears. The number on the screen was a friend of mine from school who was not the type of person who would phone me under normal circumstances, especially not at international cost. This struck me as strange. I sent her a message saying “Hey, it’s me… Did you mean to call me?” just in case it was one of those things where she had called me in her pocket by accident.

She phoned me back immediately and her voice sounded really weird. “Radley is dead” she said “he went out, partied at a club in town and didn’t wake up in the morning.” My ears were still roaring and I couldn’t think of a single intelligent or comforting thing to say, so I said goodbye, hung up the phone, got into the shower and sat on the floor crying as the hot water splashed against my body.

It couldn’t wash away the strange guilt I felt that I had woken up feeling crappy from my hardcore night out and complaining about it, but Radley would never wake up from his. I hadn’t spoken to him in a few years, we only had a few mutual friends by this stage and I couldn’t say that I knew much about his life these days. The news of his death struck me hard because here I was, hundreds of miles away with blood rushing through my veins and music making me feel alive… These were things he would never experience again. The injustice of the world bubbled up inside of me like a volcanic eruption. I sat in my shower crying for Radley, for his family, for his friends and for all the people who stopped living way before their time.

Thinking about the days of Dookie and R.O.T and ‘Last Resort’ make me happy because they had a huge influence on the direction my life took. Since hearing about his death, these things have also taken on a new meaning because his memory lives on for me in the songs of our childhood. I often wonder if he ever managed to master Papa Roach’s bass riffs..?
*I changed the names in this story for personal reasons.

chris 12-o-5 | Blogs, Prancer | October 30th | 2 comments

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Chris 12-o-5 gravatar imageName: Chris 12-o-5
Bio: Chris studies, drinks, cooks, rides and writes. Currently in London, but who knows where next?
Email: christinasophiadixon@gmail.com

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