Sunday, July 29, 2007

Two Weeks In A Life (A Belated Part Two)

I want to write about the Latitude Festival before it slips out of my brain for good, before the photographs start to take the place of actual memories.

My friend Kirsten is a stage manager for various theatre companies in London, and she had been asked to accompany a comedy troupe to the festival so she could do, like, lights and sound and stuff. As a lure they offered her a free guest pass to the four day festival, so she invited me.

We arrived late on Thursday night after a somewhat traumatic car journey which involved an unnecessary detour via Ipswich. Eventually and after a lot of peering myopically at small dark signs, we pulled up at the performers' campsite. I stood and guarded our bags and tent while Kirsten parked the car, then we trudged over to the corner where the others had already begun setting up camp. We joined in, and soon we were all standing around admiring our work and clutching frothing cans of Kronenburg.

The days that followed were brilliant. We hung out in the sunshine, meeting people and watching music, comedy, poetry and theatre. I saw Joan As Police Woman for the second time in as many weeks, and was completely blown away once again. I didn't quite rush the stage but I might have done if I could have leapt that far. Kirsten and I spent a lot of time with these boys and this one too.

There were woods, in which was hidden a stage, and a lake just next to it. On Sunday morning Kirsten and I went and lay down by the lake, just to regroup and gather some strength. Kirsten was lying on her back, eyes closed to the sunshine, and I sat next to her idly putting on lip balm and watching a couple of costumed folk frozen like statues on a little platform on the edge of the lake. As I continued to watch, more figures in costume joined them, and soon there were about ten of them, all with classical instruments and headed up by a man with a voice that was part Jeff Buckley and part Anthony and the Johnsons. It was beautiful. Kirsten sat up and we watched this group (The Irrepressibles)upon whom we had accidentally stumbled, in awe. After their set I went and chatted with one of them for a bit, trying not to gush in too embarrassing a fashion.

A similar thing happened with Middleman and with Rodrigo y Gabriela, who were astonishing. I didn't go and see Arcade Fire, as someone persuaded me to go and see The Gotan Project instead. I'm sure Arcade Fire were great, but I prefer smaller venues/tents/arenas, and The Gotan Project was fantastic.

We sat around a lot. Chatted aimlessly, drank warm wine from boxes, celebrity-spotted in the performers' bit. Made friends and listened to plenty of incredible music. The atmosphere was so relaxed and non-stressful, and I met so many ace people. I had no phone (it accidentally got itself lost in Portugal) but even so I never found myself without friends.

I am going up to the Edinburgh Festival in a few weeks. I'll be sharing a room with my good friend Lily to split the expense of accomodation. There is some singing to be done, and plenty of opportunity to meet people and find places to perform. So for the next two weeks I will be counting out pennies, making lists and doing as much writing (of music) as I can before my head explodes with the effort. I am, of course, not temping, so I am not anticipating that the counting of the pennies will take more time than it takes to say the word "one", but it means I have some time to prepare. Like, musically, and stuff. I'll also be in the studio during that time, too, and I have a couple of gigs as well. As long as I can scrape together enough money to actually get on trains and things I should be alright. At the moment I am casting around for things I can sell on eBay, but apparently the dog won't fetch too much money so I am a little stuck.

I will now slink back to the lab to devise short term money-making schemes and write songs about how one time I had one pound fifty, and oh it was wonderful, but then I spent it on shoes and now I am poor and sad. Or maybe I'll have to think that one through slightly.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Two Weeks In A Life (Part One)

For the past few days I have been wandering around feeling that there is something I have neglected to do. On some occasions I pause in my task (see: needlepoint; pony-building or light physics) and have a little think about what that elusive thing might be. Then I remember. I have entirely forgotten to blog about the last two weeks. I understand that, of all the things to forget to do this might be one of those with the least serious consequences in the long term, but I also know that if I don't record my experiences somewhere I will forget them and have to pretend I remember them next time someone else brings them up.

So, in short, I must write them down.

In the last few weeks I have been to Portugal and to Suffolk. I have danced and surfed, hung out with old friends and made new ones, sung emphatically to "Living On A Prayer" around a large marble table and attempted to talk intelligently about "the music scene" with people who really know some stuff.

Portugal was wonderful. Our villa was implausibly large and rambling, with lush green gardens, a small but perfectly adequate pool and its own personal lemon orchard. We even, after some enthusiastic searching of said orchard, managed to find some limes with which to construct the perfect gin and tonics.

There was a large and bountious terrace, with an impressive-looking barbeque at which the boys took it in turns to stand wrapped in floral aprons, brandishing tongs in one hand and clutching an ice-cold beer in the other. The rooms and bathrooms were lovely. The kitchen was large and marbled. There was a spacious windowsill that seemed to have been specifically designed for storing bottles of alcohol. A coffee maker. Some pans and things. It was marvellous.

The holiday seems ages ago now. There were eleven of us, five girls and six boys. Four iPods, twenty-eight millions tubes of suncream (of varying factors) and only one minor argument about room allocation.

Most days we drove down to one of two beaches, where we lay in our group pretending that we didn't stand out as being the palest people within a fifty mile radius. We joyously complained about having sand in the suncream and suncream in the sand, chatted, slept and read books.

Someone bought a large inflatable killer whale, someone else just couldn't stop eating ice-cream.

Every so often a small group would peel off in search of a beach bar and sit on sticky plastic chairs watching the waves crash on the gilded beach, unable quite to believe we'd actually made it to this holiday we'd all been talking about for so long.

As the sun began to dim (but only slightly) we would all gather our towels, sand-encrusted bottles of water and half-buried sunglasses and make our way back to the villa. We'd all make drinks and sit around for a bit, discussing our evening plans before taking ourselves off for showers and evening preparations. Living with girls for just a week made me realize how much I miss being around girls. I love the rituals of swapping clothes and accessories, lightly gossiping and ego-boosting, sipping gin and tonic as we exchange hair tips and war stories. My living situation at the moment affords no such solidarity, and I hadn't noticed how much I missed it.

On the few evenings that we stayed in, we invariably ended up dancing on the tree-lined terrace, music turned up loud and empty gin bottles strewn around wantonly. Other nights we ventured out into towns, for meals and drinks, negociating the taxi journeys back in a dubious mixture of Spanish, French and English, with only a light sprinkling of ill-pronounced Portuguese. The nights were warm, although sometimes rather windy, and we all savoured the fact that we were missing monsoon season in London.

It was a loud holiday. A no-rest late-nights joke-littered week of exuberant fun. At times I felt a bit overwhelmed, but only because I have a peculiar panic mechanism that doesn't allow me to truly enjoy something unless I have felt truly shit about it first. Saturday to Saturday was excessive and group-orientated, but then seven got on a plane and only four of us were left.

We drove inland to a place called Evora, a small town with a university, a pretty cathedral and a lovely big main square. The coast had been warm, but in Evora it was hot. Chris and I went to park the car while the other two loaded the stuff into the hostel, and on the walk back we both nearly expired from the heat. That night was wonderful. We had red wine-fuelled discussions over pizza for three hours and finally went to a student bar, where we talked to locals and engaged in some highly-competitive table football.

The following day we headed to Lisbon. On the way we stopped at a tiny village on a hill, encased in white walls and encrusted throughout with cobblestones. In the centre the ground fell away to reveal a bull ring, complete with dusty hoofmarks in the sand and steep inclining steps. I sat on a wall and recorded the boys re-enacting a bull fight in the dust, with my giggles as the soundtrack.

I loved Lisbon. We stayed in the Bairro Alto district, which we likened to a hillier and more graffitied version of Soho. We touristed our way around on Monday: caught a tram; wandered around the castle; took in the views. We sat and drank beers over looking the city, then wandered back to the hostel for a nap and a shower, then out we went to eat steak and explore the night-life.

The next day we caught our flight home. Slightly weary, but buoyed up by the amount of fun we had managed to squeeze into our last few days. I arrived home late, and, after dumping my stuff in the hall to deal with the next day, fell into bed.

Portugal was wonderful. I was exhausted the following day, but could not rest, as I had a gig to go to and a festival to prepare for. It seemed a little implausible to me that after such a week I was expected to spend four days in a tent in Suffolk, but it did happen, and it turned out to be equally amazing as the week just past, albeit in a slightly different way.

Those stories, though, are not for this post. Now I must go to bed, as I am preparing for my next adventure and I need my sleep while I can get it.