I must let you all into a little secret… before I was a cancer guineapig I was, well, a guineapig. Hush!
I was going to write this blog about food – a major wow factor in my life – and a little guide to all the different confusing dietary advices out there for people in the pursuit of Plato’s ‘food is medicine’ accreditation when I was reminded about the imminent arrival here in London of an old East German herring trawler called the Motorshiff Stubnitz (or gamal ostyvk skorv as the swedish anti rave authorities and media called it in 1999). And please, any swedish friends reading feel free to correct the ostyvk word as my past life as an elephant is not on channel at the moment).
I have a stable and well established fish phobia, dead silver fish in particular. Some markets are particularly traumatic for me. So were school dinners and my worst nightmare would be to have my guineapig run in the garden next to an ornamental pond. With giant carp in. So it would seem a tad peculiar that I would have fond memories of a factory death fish ship hailing from the land that was formerly East Germany.
Twinned by year of birth (!) localities (Southampton) and a stream of fish narratives, myself and the Stubnitz were still an unlikely pairing, yet I had the chance to run away to sea when escaping a relationship breakdown in the late autumn of 1998 and rehabilitation was offered in the guise of playing drum and bass on a big old metal ship by my friend Lardy Cake, a lancashire lad who had left london to become a salty sea dog on the Baltic coastline.
I arrived in Rostock with a bag of records, a hardwon dyke identity and a suitcase of inappropriate clothes and crystals. I say inappropriate as it was bitterly cold both in the ship and off the ship. The crew was small at that juncture as I remember it, a curious mix of 2 or 3 old school weather beaten trawler men, an oddball Swiss genuis with a herring boat obsession, and 6 or so youngish serious counterculturalists. A strong english presence was also discernable despite the recent exodus of LSDiesal, whose name was still being muttered or cursed in strange reverence in broken english.
The spartan fart smelling kitchen was ferociously guarded by one of the original ships chefs with the tool of his trade – a cigarette – permanently attached to his person and who begrudgingly let me prepare my vegan organic food under his dismissive supervision. I had a tiny cabin with the narrowest of bunkbeds and memories. And the metal. The metal was everywhere, hard and unyielding and absorbing and reflecting all the hums and whirrs of the ship and the fullsome waves of electronic soundclash that pounded incessantly and ricocheted from floor to ceiling, hull to stern, port to starboard. It actually was like living in a steel drum played by a computer generated viking intent on going to Valhalla. And of course, in Chinese medicine, the element metal is associated with the lungs and the emotion of grief so I’m sure it was no co-incidence that me and my broken heart, wounded ego and recent non smoking status resonated with this magnificent hulk of saved scrap metal.
I spent about six years 1998 to 2004 being a visiting part of the mighty Stubnitz experience in Rostock, Hamburg, Stockholm, Bruges and Rotterdam where not only did I dj drum and bass and dubstep but also held overtone rituals for the souls of dead fish gutted in the bowels of the ship, and the occasional esoteric sound workshop.. the most notable being Goddess chakra chants for a major Catholic convention in Hamburg. This was interrupted mid session by the dramatic entrance of a young punk crew member who for all intents and purposes looked like an extra from Thriller, testing the prejudices of 60 devout catholics who didnt know her part paralysis and one step a minute walk were the results of a recent near fatal car crash and not drug excesses.
I also fondly remember an introduction to Iyengar yoga and the golden voice of Jagjit Singh in Rostock (of all places), having headlice in Stockholm – not funny with dreads – I slept for 8 weeks or so with a nightly hair drench of maximum essential oil action and a plastic bag on my head, and also meeting lots of wonderful creatives and musicians and doers and dreamers.
Clearly Guineapigs as well as Herring trawlers can be dredgers, in my case, of memories, yet a lot has changed since my virginal paw alighted on the Stubnitz 14 years ago. Like myself, the Stubnitz has vastly improved by age and I would like to think my squeek and its’ creak share the narrative of a certain kind of upward mobility. We have also both shed a few skins and in the process become vehicles for cultural experimentation. I would thus like to confer the worthy honour of Guineapig status onto the Mother ship of all ships and enjoy the potential prospect of seeing her berthed in London if can get past the hoardes of excited shipsters and hipsters. Bless the Stubnitz and all who sail in her