Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Secret Heart

Last night my friend Anna and I went to see Feist playing at Shepherd's Bush.

As we walked to the Empire the place was packed. The stage was filled with instruments and microphones, a sight that always makes me feel sick with longing. A disco ball glittered promisingly overhead, and swathes of multi-coloured lights were draped from the flies. Clutching squishy pints of over-priced lager, Anna and I manoeuvred our way to the front to find a good vantage point, discussing as we went the particular songs we were each looking forward to hearing.

When she came onstage, Feist was alone - a small dark-haired figure amongst a sea of lights and instruments. The disco ball started twisting, casting bubbles of light across the hall. She began to sing. Her voice was at once delicate and powerful, stronger than it sounds on any of the tracks I've heard. She used a loop pedal to record and playback, both for her guitar and for as-you-go backing vocals. Given that, recently, I have been writing everything with washes of vocal tracks, I was fascinated by the ease with which she built up a song like that live.

After a while she introduced the rest of the band, who all emerged from the wings with trendy insouciance. They played my favourite Feist song, Secret Heart, filling it with rock riffs and huge sounds. It was amazing. The concert began to really gather momentum.

Then Feist went and sat down at the piano. She turned to face the audience.

"So" she began. "Do we have any great pianists in the house?"

Nobody much responded, confused by the question.

"Anyone who, when they start to play, everyone just stops to listen? Somebody who can really, really play?"

Just in front of where Anna and I were standing a group of people had started to cheer and jump up and down, all pointing at one guy. The whooping and cheering got steadily louder and more enthused, and eventually Feist invited this maestro up to the stage.

"You'd better be good." she said, jokily. "When we were in Pittsburgh some guy's friends all said he was, like, the best thing ever, then he got up and was like..." She sat down at the piano and played a jerky version of Chopsticks.

By this point the bloke in question was standing nervously on the stage, all trendy glasses and lime green skinny jeans.

"Everybody! May I introduce to you.." Feist leaned over to him and he whispered in her ear. "Camden! Camden?" She looked at him and he nodded. "Ladies and gentlemen, Camden on piano!"

We cheered as he sat down and moved the microphone to his mouth.

"I wrote this for my mother."

"N..no, I really did!" he said blinkingly, in response to the laughter that swept throughout the hall.

He began. Anna and I looked at each other in shock as he played the most beautiful music. It was atonal and strange, but sweepingly gorgeous. As he finished the crowd erupted with warm cheers. Feist stood up from where she had been perched on a speaker and walked over to a mic.

"I think that Camden would like to say something now."

He walked up to the front and adjusted a different microphone. He stared straight ahead and started to speak.

A poem. About London. About nothing making sense. About nothing making sense without her.

It became clear to me only moments before he said it.

"Lauren. Will you marry me?"

Please forgive me for indulging in such tired cliché, but, just then, the crowd went wild.

People were jumping and cheering. Everyone laughing and clapping and craning their necks to see the reaction of this woman, Lauren. Her friends we hugging her and she was lost in the collective enthusiasm of hundreds and hundreds of people.

"What's she saying?" asked Feist from the stage, peering into the darkness in front of her. "Is that a yes? Oh, she said yes!"

Camden launched himself back into the crowd to fall into the embrace of his new fiancée.

"Oh!" continued Feist. "That's so great. We had a little meeting today after he called here earlier on. He really didn't think she'd say yes. She's supposed to be going home to South Africa in a few weeks, this is the only way he could get her to stay! Oh, how fantastic!"

Anna and I both paused in our celebrations and glanced at each other.

For the rest of the show we were both tense. Standing on tiptoes to see this newly engaged couple, wondering what the real story was. How could she possibly have said no in front of that many people, and in the face of such bravery? They were standing, watching the gig, he smiling with his arms around her and she, staring at the stage, face frozen with the smile of one who knows they are being watched.

As the gig finished, Anna and I walked to the tube station, discussing the events we had just witnessed. We had both, it turned out, been immensely cross with ourselves for moving so quickly from delight to cynicism, and for doubting that his gesture and her acceptance had been out of anything other than pure love.

It soon became clear, though, that we both wondered whether, Lauren had a choice. If she had been going to go home to South Africa, maybe now she was going to resent him now for having taken that option away from her. She could not have said no. We decided between us that we had both picked up on something in that girl's face, some sense of forced happiness as they stood being congratulated by strangers at the end of the gig.

Perhaps both of us are programmed not to believe in the happy endings, and perhaps we are unfairly transferring our own disappointments onto the face of someone who has just been made the happiest woman alive. Perhaps she simply hates the attention of strangers, and it made her tense and nervous. Perhaps.

Whatever it was, Anna and I both felt that our sense of intimacy with the gig had been broken. Thinking through all the possibilities: that she wants to go home, that she would have said no if it hadn't been so public, that she now will have to hurt him more deeply than if he hadn't asked in the first place. All of these are painful to contemplate.

Worse, perhaps, is the possibility that none of these are the case, and that instinct tells us not to believe that anything is as it might appear on the surface. That happy endings do not exist. Not for other people, and not for us. Maybe we are both so deeply skeptical about love that we simply cannot allow room for the possibility that two people have wholeheartedly decided to spend the rest of their lives together.

After that moment the rest of the gig is a blur. Which seemed a shame, as I had been looking forward to seeing Feist in concert for ages. Perhaps in future I should call in advance to make sure that nobody ruins my enjoyment of the music by calling into question my belief in the Happy Ever After.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Various Things Of Little To No Interest

A Few Of The Ways In Which I Have Made A Cock Of Myself In The Last Twenty-Four Hours:

This morning, on my way to the train station.
When I slipped over on my (admittedly impractical) heels and grazed my knee, laddering my tights in the process. I was back on my feet with the type of startled rapidity that only happens when one stacks it dramatically in a public place. Blushingly brushing aside the amused concern of the onlookers, I marched off quickly as if to demonstrate that, usually, I am capable of moving from one place to another without making a complete cocking spectacle of myself.

Yesterday, at Temping.
A man I had spoken to a few times, and who just happens to be rather attractive, smiled twinklingly at me from across the office. Instead of smiling elegantly and demurely back, I grinned boisterously and did an exaggerated double thumbs-up sign. I am a cock.

Just Now.
When I told someone I had only just met that I fell over this morning on the way to the station and that's why my tights are laddered a bit, look just here on my knee, just in case you were wondering. She quite palpably didn't care and had by no means been wondering, and therefore thought (and some might say fairly accurately) that I was a bit of a cock. I trailed off and probably cracked some terrible joke, before skulking off to sullenly pick at the scab forming on my knee.


A lady just now said "Ooh, you're a singer? Have you been on That X-Factor then?" before following it up magnificently by asking "So does anyone else say you're a singer? Or is it just you? Ha ha ha! You wouldn't want to face That Simon Cowell now, would you? Ha ha ha!"
I ha-ha-ed politely back at her before making a swift exit, during which you will be pleased to find out that I maintainted an almost wholly upright position.


I still have not lost my phone again! It has been more than two weeks. I am improving. Perhaps I am finally growing up.


As a direct result of writing the above statement I am almost certain to lose my phone within the space of the next three hours. How annoying. Brace yourselves for the inevitable post of phone-related panic, despair and self-loathing.

Friday, September 14, 2007

I Am Drunk So Have To Number Stuff

I have just got home from a place deep underneath London Bridge station called Shunt Vaults. I am drunk and tired, and am temping in the morning. Tomorrow I go to Manchester for the weekend. I hear that is Up North. Apparently there is still heating and things so it is not so bad. Also there is someone super nice to escort me around.

Now, though, I write things in no particular order!

1. I saw some graffiti the other day. In the ladies toilets in a bar. Someone had written in pained and anguished tones:


It was angsty.

Someone else had written interestedly underneath:

Do you think that if I got her the wool she'd make me one?

I liked it.

2. Just now I impassionedly tried to persuade a young lady not to become a recruitment consultant. She likes tap dancing. I encouraged her in that direction.

3. I went to an erotic reading tonight.

4. At my current temp job there is a whole bookshelf of good books to read at lunchtimes. Also there is good coffee.

5. One of my favourite people in the world is leaving for New York on Saturday. He will not be back for six months. I am going to miss him an awful lot. I know it'll be great, though, and he'll have an amazing time, and Chris, if you don't email me LOTS I will never abuse your friendship again and then you'll be sorry.

6. I'm drunk. I'm going to bed.

I don't think drunken-blogging is a good idea. It's perhaps the virtual equivalent of me staggering up to you, throwing my arms around your neck and making us both fall over. If I then try to snog you we can blame the drink and laugh about it tomorrow.

Good night.

Monday, September 03, 2007

In Which I Have Nothing To Talk About, But Nevertheless Persist In Talking

I have had a haircut. I am not sure which part of me decided to do it, as I have been happy with my hair recently. My brain certainly was against the idea, as was my hair. I blame my upper left ventricle, or possibly my mother.

I have felt recently that, like me, my hair is a touch on the messy side but generally well-meaning. Armed with the knowledge that I really didn't want it cut, I took myself off to a hairdressing place down the road, where a very short lady wielding scissors did exactly that. It is now neat and normal, and I am neither of those things.

I am sad about my hair. However, I am aware that there are things going on in the world which have an even more profound effect on our civilisation and its future, so I will talk about them instead.

I think I have seen every single episode of Charmed. In short, this means that there is no mystery left for me on this Earth. I haven't been watching a lot of Charmed recently, but I have been thinking about it and have come to the conclusion that maybe I've seen all of them. I had always hoped in my heart that one day I would be delighted by a vision of those implausibly pneumatic sisters battling some new evil in their impractical shoes and smudge-proof lip gloss. If you have never watched Charmed I strongly recommend you don't, as your opinion of me may well plummet irreparably once you experience for yourself the object of my obsession.

The tube strike is very annoying. I appreciate that the workers must fight for their cause, I really do. It's just that I do so like the Victoria Line. It's quick and endearingly bouncy, and it saddens me to see the black slashes of tape over the entrances, even just for a week.

I think I have some kind of illness-bug. I feel sick and there is considerable pain in my stomach. I hope this goes some way towards explaining why I am rambling incoherently about terrible television shows and bouncy public transport. I am worried that it is foot and mouth disease, contracted in Norfolk the other weekend when that big bull licked me on the leg. Does anyone know the symptoms? In a minute I shall go and scare myself senseless on the NHS website.

The music on Sunday went brilliantly. Within about an hour the stuff we were doing felt better than it has done after spending months in studios. The reggae version of one song sounds ace, and I have lots to be getting on with before we next meet. We're creating tracks but also live versions, so that I can perform my own stuff properly very soon.

Also I was wondering whether anyone could help me. I have been setting myself writing/music tasks everyday to practice being more prolific and also escape the belief that every single thing I record must be perfect. I would quite like to be able to post the results up here so I give myself some kind of goal and also to track my progress. I probably wouldn't post every single one, but if I posted my experiments a few times a week I think it would be a good incentive for me, and also I could perhaps get some feedback. It's ever so lonely being creative on my own. In Charmed at least there are three of them.

Does anybody have any ideas as to how I can do that? If you do please comment or email me, I would really super-appreciate it.

I am off now to wonder whether I have a stomach bug or whether in fact I am just being punished by God for kicking all those kittens, but not before I have spent a little bit of time moaning to myself about my certain and imminent death.