The reason is that I've created a new website and new blog that takes up where this one stops.

The new site and blog is at: www.thewriterandtheriver.com

I hope to see you there - where you can follow my adventures as I travel around Europe in 2013 as a singer-songwriter/troubadour.

Thanks for reading this far,



Update February


Cafe thijssen, corner of Lindengracht and Brouwersgracht, Amsterdam.

I set off with Kyrian to find a music store where I could buy a neck-brace for harmonica. I've got two songs with harmonica parts, and I  have the intention of writing more, so this is a necessary investment.
We headed for the Rosengracht. Bought my brace (17euro), and we walked through the side streets to look for a suitable cafe where we could write.
Kyrian has some theater texts to work on, among other TtheaterTroep" work... I just want somewhere to write. There's so much playing around in my head, I need to get it down. So after  a little wandering we ended up here. It's a popular destination, close to the Noordermarkt. Last time I was here was 5 or so years ago... in a summer if I remember. After 20 years its  surprising how much of Amsterdam I still don't know - the result of a limited (poor) social-life.
But being here now is inspiring This is a typical brown-cafe - brown smokey ceiling and green woodwork. An old piano opposite our table tells of the good old days of local singalongs...no longer a part of the culture. This is the Jordaan.. the heart of the city, the soul of its history. The piano is just a place to dump newspapers onto now - it would surprise me if it ever gets played. The bar is distinctly low with tiny stools for a child's format - or a dwarf's. Only seen one place with this sort of low bar.. The Nieuwe Anita where I played a couple of weeks ago.
I stood outside to smoke and had an idea... while I'm still in Amsterdam, and to make the most of the opportunity, I could visit a different cafe everyday.. take a picture, describe the atmosphere... a nice little series before my farewell. And since I'm going to be visiting many cafes across Europe this year, it could be the start of a continuing series. A red line to bind my travels together... if I could play every piano I came across, well that would be nice too... but I'm not a piano player unfortunately. Still, there's always the chance of singing. I realized after this week away, that I may not have to look for venues to sing in... just as with the Nieuwe Anita, and the Kuhstal, I could get all my invitations from other people.
This ski-trip has been more important than just an opportunity to take a holiday in the snow. I had a discussion with Geert the morning we left, in a little cafe in Pec Pod... we touched on some existential points, and I'm having trouble trying to define them. They were important because they summed up what it is I'm actually doing this year.
The point we came to is that its not about the music, or the travel, or the money, or the album, or even the songs... it's about the exercising of self-awareness. I'm a minstrel, on a pilgrimage of the soul - that's as close as I can get to a good formulation.
It's about discussion and questions, learning to ask the right questions and stimulate answers and further self-examination. The music is a means to come into conversation, the album is a trade-middle. Through my meetings and discussions, I will gain insight into myself and others... and be part of the awakening of others to themselves. I can function as a storyteller (in song, poetry and prose) and these stories will serve as a reflection of life that causes people to think about their own stories. This is the way Geert functions - he doesn't provide advice, he never says how things must be done - instead he poses questions, often without planning, which spurs people into self-reflection and understanding. And he does this by carrying out his own self-examination, and sharing his findings.
Geert is quite a phenomenon in this area - for me a sort of mentor for the philosophical questions - and I'll possibly be referring to him often.  He isn't limited by judgement of others by age or status.. everyone is truly equal and he talks to everyone in the same way, undaunted and unintimidated by any personal traits or factors of his discussion partners. This is an enviable trait of his, which I hope to emulate in the course of my development.
Most people are confined within their insecurities, and project a persona that serves as protection... I would really love to break free of this. Maybe this is my true purpose this year.
I have an enormous amount of creative freedom before me - sometimes I feel overwhelmed. I want to write, to tell stories, to write songs, to develop my performing skills and my social skills, I want to develop my musicianship, I want to inspire people, to meet people, to gather the stories of others, to be inspired, and to live an adventure worthy of a book... and I want to secure  a situation that will enable me to continue as such into next year and beyond. And I want to learn to have complete trust in this happening for me. I also want to improve my physical state considerably, and improve my eyesight. So much to do.
And this is where I come back to the existential point of it all - break free from "wanting" to do things, and discovering what happens by  "doing" without any end in sight...
Geert has the ability to put these thoughts into a well-formulated whole - I really need to capture this on video for study and  clarity... because I'm not yet ready to read Steiner religiously just yet (HIS mentor).
I was reminded of my father during one of my langlaufen trips last week. My father was a plasterer and loved his work. Proud of his smoothly finished walls, a real craftsman. But what I always admired was his tempo - he worked steadily at his own tempo, while others raced to get as much work finished in as short a time as possible. His tempo enabled him to guarantee a steady standard without ever tiring. His work was a form of meditation, and it's enlightening to understand why he loved his work so much.
On my langlauf trip, I was part of a group, and we were pushed to our limits this day. Climbing for three hours before we could rest in a restaurant, because the half-way stop was closed. I was shattered, had to take off my skis because I had strength no longer in my arms to help me up those slippery routes. I wasn't the only one. But two of the group combated their tiredness by going faster - racing ahead to reach a destination we couldn't see, desperate to shorten the agony. But then you have Geert, again, as an example of zen-spirit... Geert doesn't seem to tire. He doesn't hurry, doesn't change his pace. Just continues at his own "steady" tempo. If you just keep going, you'll get there eventually, and anyway, it's not the destination but the journey that is the goal. Geert approaches and carries out all his activities, whether in work or play, with the same attitude.... just as my father did.
I understand this, but I have to keep reminding myself that this is how it should be. Even on this project, where  have a whole year ahead of me to do all the things I want to do, without deadlines, without time-limits, without expectations, without competitive elements, without goal other than just to "do"... I still feel the pressure to get there fast... but where? I ask myself. Why is it so difficult to find a tempo and stick to it? Why am I in a hurry to find out why I feel hurried?
Just another line of thought that springs up when I let my mind wander:  People are  strange... the energy between people can be so confusing - it's worth an examination.
I come back to Geert. He appears to intimidate a lot of people. He doesn't do it himself, and it's not his intention. You have intimidaters who do it purposely for the power-trip or as a form of defense for their egos. Geert doesn't intimidate people... people are intimidated by him. That's a different thing altogether. And the reason is that he is a very good mirror. His questions jolt the status-quo of peoples illusory lives. And not everyone (and I would say most people) are happy being jolted.
But I've never felt intimidated by Geert. How can that be so? Whereas I "AM" intimidated by many others - especially those who are adept at using intimidation for their own good. I an even be intimidated by people who feel intimidated in their turn by Geert. Strange indeed.
But I do believe it is an ego thing. Geert doesn't feel any need to protect or enforce his ego - this gives him the security to just be himself, and to interact with everyone on the same level regardless. I find this to be an enviable trait. I don't like to "feel" intimidated - so this is an important area of examination for me this year. And the only way to exercise this as a developing trait, is to talk to people - many and often... I think I'm going to be surprised to discover that I've had no reason to feel intimidated all his time. And I can imagine just how freeing it will be to be released from this self-induced belittling character trait.


Live At De Nieuwe Anita

Yesterday evening I performed a few songs from the album live before an audience for the first time, The venue was a music cafe in Amsterdam West called DE NIEUWE ANITA. 

This is the first time I've performed for a long time (with the exception of the one time I sang at the Mezrab), so it was pretty exciting for me. I was nervous but managed to subdue that for the day - luckily I wasn't playing alone, this gives me moral support and helps me get over the worst of my anxiety... I've got to be honest - I'm not at ease performing, but I have to get over it if I want to share my songs with people. A small performance like this is a perfect start.

De Nieuwe Anita is also a perfect place - a cute little cafe with the atmosphere of a lounge. Bookcases along the walls, and a low semi-circular bar which doubles as the stage area. This is a really intimate setting, where the audience is close enough to converse with, and respectful enough to listen when some-one is playing (it's also the rule). The atmosphere is friendly, and so are the owners. It's like a little piece of ... home!

There were three guest artists, and I was booked to play at 22.15. I could've had use of a microphone, which may have suited my soft vocals and guitar, but it's also important for me to develop "presence", so I stuck with the "acoustic" flavour of the event. So how did it go? Well, despite the fact that my hands were stiff due to my nerves, and that I forgot a few lines and mixed up words (which no-one seemed to notice)... it went pretty well. Geert, Marcel and Martin (accompanying me on bass, harmonica and ukelele) were all pleased with the performance. A few people came over to thank me and tell me how much they'd enjoyed my songs and singing. The management said I was loud and clear enough. And the colleagues and friends who turned up were enthusiastic. What more can I desire?

Some pictures or video would have been nice to place here, but I'm a bit too self-conscious to arrange that yet. But I'm a step further now... and looking forward to my next opportunity to sing live - and that's going to be on my skiing holiday next week, where I will definitely get it on video and photo so there'll be some proof of my achievement.

I've got the bug now - and that's just what I needed.

If you're in Amsterdam, check out "De Nieuwe Anita"... it's definitely worth a visit. Here's a couple pics to give you a taste of the atmosphere.


Just A Saturday Morning

When the sun shines I can't stay inside, no matter what my plans were from the previous evening. One of the most important things I want to learn this coming year is to free myself from the feelings that I "have" to do things... check off my list, and fill it with new things to do - as if everything is important - shuffling things around as to what has priority and what doesn't.
I don't like deadlines, don't care too much for commitments - I want to simply experience the day as it comes...the "moment" as it is. But I am programmed like many people to follow a schedule, in order to get all the things done in the "too short a time" to do them in. But this is an illusion as is everything else.
I don't have to "check-in" or "check-out" at the beginning and end of a day. I don't have to feel like I'm procrastinating if I put things off. I don't have to live with the pressure of "having to achieve something". Who cares if some things take longer than they could? What does it matter if some things never get done? Who's keeping tabs? Who's holding me responsible? 
I could clean the house, do some shopping, get my administration in order, practise those songs on mandolin, check my mail and Hub comments, work on building my connection with the Hubpages community, do the design sketches for the album cover... there is always something to do. But I've got the whole year - my whole life, to do these things. The sun is shining.
Instead I can go for a walk in the park, enjoy the people milling about, the warm rays of the sun that promise the spring, the life that is going on around me... and let my mind drift in the freedom of being able to do nothing, except just this.
And follow this walk with a coffee and some writing in a cafe, then go back home for a midday snooze, and then just see what I feel like doing the rest of the day.
There is enough time to do the other things... there's always enough time - really!


Update January 2013

Already into the new year, already at the end of January - still in Amsterdam, still working on the album. It's taking longer than hoped but I sort of expected that it would. But it's a learning process and a discovery process...and part of the adventure. We've found our style and sound based on acoustic guitar and mandolin, and the results are exciting.

The way things are going, we should be finished by the beginning of March - with the CD design completed and the CD's printed ready for sale. 

I've not spent much time on storytelling, but I've been doing a lot of poetry-writing which I publish on Hubpages - that's been my major publishing and community platform for the last months. Once I start my travelling I'll be putting most of my content on this blog. At the moment it's still sparse because my daily-life isn't that interesting... that IS going to change.

One performance evening coming up in February which I'm looking forward to - to start the ball rolling. My following on Hubpages is growing with a lot of good reactions to my poems. Even got a couple of surprise followers on YouTube. I'm still very much at the start of the adventure though, still very much stuck in my old patterns too - can't wait to get on the road and really start doing what I've been dreaming of for so long.

The finances are sorted; the camper is in the garage, getting fixed up for purchase and the journey; I know most of my songs by heart now too. I've got some interesting "writer"-contacts lined up to visit in Germany and Spain - but before all this I'm taking a week in the Czech Republic to do some skiing at the end of February... I'll be testing all my songs on my fellow travelers there too.

The excitement is growing, I'm ready for the adventure, and this "River" blog is going to get busy shortly.

Bye for now


Update December 2012

It's been a busy time and I've finally got all the songs written for the album, but I can't relax yet.
Now begins the next part of the project - making the album. We've spent one evening a week in the studio to get used to the feel and sound, but the real work is just about to start. We've listened to a lot of professional albums to get some ideas how we want this one to sound, which has been an interesting journey of its own. I'm playing the songs solo at home every day because that's how I'm going to be singing them on my travels - so the basis needs to be tight. Now I'm trying out different instruments that can add some decoration to the sound - mandolin, harmonica, flute, piano among others.
The serious studio work begins in January and shouldn't take too long if we're well prepared. Got some ideas down too for the album-title and the cover artwork, and we've been researching the costs of getting the cd's made locally... more info shortly.

One more thing... I've decided to do most of my daily writing for a while on Hubpages. This is a writing and community platform that's international... a good way for me to build up some pre-launch interest in my songs. Take a look there too - I'll be posting links on this blog for every article I post there. Just started a new series there in which I post the songs from the album with some relevant notes on the story behind them.

And I've finally got my own simple recording program so I can make some simple solo-version videos of the songs. Time to put them out there for feedback.

I'm on schedule and the project's looking and sounding good!



I've let things lie a bit too long. My head is so full of things I need to do, want to do and plan to do when I finally get to travel, that I find myself getting overwhelmed and end up doing nothing. Well, not exactly nothing - the songs are still getting written and this is the most important thing I have to do since the songs, and the album, are the basis of this whole project.
So, to catch up, this is an update on... everything. Just to clear my head and find some order. You'd think I wouldn't have any problems seeing as I've got all my time for myself, but having the freedom to do your own thing each and every day brings its own problems - self-motivation being the key word here. I can be so lazy sometimes, other times so inspired and creative - maybe I shouldn't worry, but just ride the wave of my creative energy... let it all happen in its own time...

I've written 12 songs of the 18 I had planned. I can get the last 6 done over the next week or so. I've been playing them often - that's productive work too. But I'm eager to get into the real work in the studio. Spent an evening with my partner Geert last friday - we played through the songs using different instruments: flute, mandolin, two acoustic guitars in harmony, harmonica... it's given us some ideas for the production and mixing. With influences ranging from Nick Drake to Eddie Vedder via Steven Stills, I'm confident this is going to be as good an album as you can make in an attic studio. It's great for me to leave the technique in Geert's hands - I do not want to get into that side of things at this stage. And believe me, writing the songs requires a lot more input than you would expect. I'm not writing cheesy love songs or laments of heartbreak or "clap your hands and dance" ditties... this album is a somewhat historical document - I have to do a lot of research about the subject I'm writing about. And THEN I have to condense that information into rhyming sonnets. Having a catchy tune is only part of the process - this is literature man! This is poetry!

I finally got the courage up to get out in front of the crowd at the Mezrab. I'd done my Mezrab song and an introductory poem a few weeks ago - and I was nervous as hell. This time I made it a little easier for myself. Took Geert and his wife along for moral support, and a camera to record my performance. After a few regular storytellers had done their pieces I got up there on the "Orator's chair". I had a story worked out as an introduction, but I changed my mind about doing it at the last minute - instead I just improvised my intro to tell people about my project and the two songs I wanted to sing. It was a strange experience - one part of my brain is consciously communicating with the audience, and another part is consciously observing myself in this situation, and talking to me like a miniature angel on my shoulder - "He Mike, this is going okay - you're connecting - they're laughing and cheering - this is not so hard or scary after all..."
It worked - I looked at the video later and I can say I didn't do too bad. But the most important thing is that I've finally broken through my main obstacle - I enjoyed it and I know I can do this now, and I never have to fear it again... and it was a kick!
The video is rubbish though - the light was low and my camera didn't record it well so I'm NOT going to post it here. When I've got the technique sorted, and I think I've got it sorted now, then I'll start filming all my "performance" experiences. There are some evenings I want to get to in December... and I'm fired up now and can't wait for my next chance to sing and tell a "real" story.

I've been re-defining what my goal is with this project - apart from the obvious one of being free to write songs and travel. And it's about sharing the experience of storytelling and helping others to see what telling stories can do for them, for their self-confidence, their understanding, their relationships with the people around them. I want to get people as enthusiastic about this as I feel... get them writing, and opening up, and telling, and writing poems and songs, and singing and celebrating the wonder of being human and living life...
And I hope to inspire people through MY story, THIS story: me, quitting my job to follow my dream travelling and meeting people everywhere. When I told people about this at the Mezrab I was greeted with loud cheers and whistles and applause... obviously it makes an impression on people - maybe it lies at the root of everyone's dreams.
So, with this clearly defined "purpose" I can stop thinking that I have to do this to sell lots of albums so I can make enough money to carry on doing this - which is the conditioned mindset that smothers me from time to time - but instead look forward in anticipation to a journey of discovery that is sure to bring a lot of surprises.

I bought myself a new laptop - a notebook. It took so long for the old laptop to function that I never wanted to start the thing up. But this is a good laptop so I can get online quickly, onto my blog and get stuck into writing. But I don't write every day, which surprises me because I always thought that I would. I still write every day in my personal journal - with a pen on paper, and when I'm typing at the computer I enjoy the process...but sometimes I think my days are not eventful enough yet to share. When I'm travelling I expect to have lots to tell - but here, now, in Amsterdam where I spend most of my days at home... well that's not so exciting is it? But yesterday I wrote a short piece for Hubpages (an online writing community that I was active on a few years ago)... and that fired me up again. So I hope I can get back into regular posting, and step up this project into the next gear. The songs are nearly finished, we'll be starting the recording soon, my preparations for the journey are moving along, I'm getting a buzz back, personal obstacles have been conquered... and Christmas is on the doorstep. I'm surfing the crest of a high wave at this moment, and I don't want to lose this momentum.

I'm getting my first smartphone soon - a friend has an old Samsung he can sell me cheaply. This should give me more options for video and photo documenting on my travels. An ex-colleague from the school is still wanting to sell his camper - I think it would be a good solution for me, but I need to get it sorted soon. I've been tentatively researching the "storytelling" scene in Europe... might be a good idea to base my travel route around these venue locations... at least to start off with. And I've actually started to get my house in order - in preparation for leaving it all behind!

And that's it for this post. I think it's time I tried my hand now at videoblogging... hmmmmm!