Dear Friends

DF 16 - Over Siberia (April 2000)

4th April 2000

Dear Friends,

Back on the road, or in the air, even if it's only for a few dates. Japan and Korea so far, how good it is to be in this band, riding the Bullet Train from Tokyo to Nagoya and then to Osaka, and now in the skies over the wild terrain of Northern Mongolia.

The Bullet Train is as impressive now as it was thirty years ago. You buy a ticket and stand on the platform amply served with stalls loaded with goodies for the trip. The train very cleverly stops in the right place so you can get on through the door nearest your seat.

Ask at any English station where your seat is going to be and they look at you as if you're an idiot. This always results in people (other than the regulars who have figured out the system) dashing up and down the platform with luggage and children. Blindly getting on through any door at the last minute as the train draws away, and then lugging same kids and stuff in an arbitrary direction, past sniggering, pious or ambivalent commuters until seats are found, only to have been taken, and a period of standing ensues. Of course this doesn't apply to most occasional travellers, as it is well known to be impossible to pre-book or reserve a seat on any train in England for a cross-company journey.

The train arrives early at Tokyo station and a team of uniformed cleaners efficiently sweeps through the carriages. We are left with a spotless, fresh smelling transport, which is parked one inch from the platform and, miraculously, on the same level. So, you can wheel on and off without negotiating the dreaded (English) gap, or the great step up and down; designed for the benefit of grannies and parents/shoppers with arms full of kids/bags. How do they do it?

Oh baby it's cold outside, minus 65 degrees centigrade (-85f). We're over Irkutsk at the north of the Tibet Plateau, wanna dance? I glance at the video screen, the opening sequence of 'The world is not enough' gets nods of approval all round the cabin. It reminds me of my vacation in '69 on the Thames with Paicey and Blackmore; Ian and I were in an old hulk called the 'Gay Joker'. Good title for a song? Maybe not.

It's hard to find any lettuce in a salad these days. Lots of bright looking, foul-tasting weeds with pungent flavour, barely disguised with dressing and the need to be fashionable. 'Nice provender' I remarked to the cheerful Lufthansa lady. 'Hmm', she replied, doubtfully.

Meanwhile Microsoft (sic) is charged with and convicted of 'abuse of power'. I wonder where all this is leading. Could it be (slap my bum and call me a heretic) that our erstwhile leaders are setting an agenda for a reversal of the recent shift of power away from their grubby governmental fingers back into the fat-arsed seat of the establishment (rhet). I've been aware of some high emotions in the world of IT, pro and con Bill Gates, but so far it has seemed no more than a Man Utd. v. Liverpool type of thing; with a general feeling that there was room anyway, for anyone to compete, quite simply through the expansion process.

We're looking at a gold rush right now and, to a large extent, the prospectors are young and making up their own rules as they go along. Old money, politics and the establishment have, refreshingly, been left standing and belatedly woken up to the fact that they are no longer in control. This has given rise to the usual reactionary behaviour and it won't be long, no sir, before we are all nicely back in line. The pioneers will be edged out and the suits will move in. Progress, of course will stop, in the name of law and order.

I remember some bloke once saying 'laws are made to be broken'. Well that is patent rubbish, both literally (they weren't) and philosophically (anarchy), however there is a load of really stupid laws that seem to serve only the legislators; laws that keep us physically, spiritually and intellectually hogtied. 'Twas ever thus……

In some African countries there are villages full of witches; women who have been expelled from their communities. A suspect is asked "Will the chicken fall on its side when killed?" The poor woman knows no way that a chicken can stand up for long, after its head has been chopped off and it has done the obligatory fourteen laps of the yard. And, as she has never seen one voluntarily roll over onto its back or do a shoulder stand, she nods in the affirmative. The chicken is duly slaughtered, does the break-dance ritual and falls on its side. "Oooh" goes the crowd. "OK, you're a Witch, bugger off!" commands the Headman, and the unfortunate girl must say goodbye to kith and kin, living out the rest of her life in exile. Incidentally the 'Headman' used to be a 'Witchdoctor' but, as we always knew, he is a self-serving populist.

We used to have a similar thing in England during inquisitions, out-of-wedlock, er, difficulties, crop failures, barren cow syndrome, et cetera and so on. It was called the 'Ducking Stool'. (Later to become known as Joseph Heller's 'Catch 22').

"She's a witch" they would cry pointedly when something of the aforesaid nature happened. "Take her to the Ducking Stool" ordains the wise Magistrate, "in the name of justice we must give her a fair trial". The Ducking Stool, as I'm sure you all know, was like a seesaw. One end, upon which the accused was placed, would hang out over the river. With few burly Christians acting as a counterbalance, and upon the given signal, the woman would be lowered into the water and held under (being tied on she had no choice) for an hour or so. If she died it was obvious that she held no magical powers and she was therefore declared innocent, acquitted and immediately released. If she survived the opposite was true and they stoned her to death for being a witch. Of course that was a long time ago when rumours were a way of life.

A word of advice, be careful not to make any travel arrangements for DP shows until tickets actually go on sale. I heard a sad case of a fan buying tickets to travel to a non-existent concert. "No refund" was the loud reply. Oh yes, one more thing, I heard a rumour that we (DP) are breaking up after the summer. Whoever started that one needs a spell on the Ducking Stool. Puhleeeeese.

Must run, got a cold to catch.

Peace & love,
Ian Gillan
Copyright © Ian Gillan 2000

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