Friday, April 25, 2008


I am twenty-six years old and one week. Last Thursday I began celebrations that ended when I got into bed last night. I am shattered, but determined to make this coming year the best yet.

On my birthday, at eight in the morning, I met my parents and my sister Alex at a hotel in central London. I opened my cards and generally felt special as we sipped fresh coffee and picked crumbs off the pristine white table cloth. My Mum presented me with a package, brought back all the way from the Parisian paws of my other (impish little) sister, Sophie. It was a lovely, summery cotton dress, with great swathes of bright colour leaping from it and a swishy skirt for swishing. I immediately imagined myself, be-freckled and be-flip-flopped, wearing it walking through the dusty, sun-streaked streets of London in summer. Sophie later told me that she had bought it for herself but then suddenly just knew how much I would love it and so sent it on a journey to my grateful hands.

After breakfast Alex walked me to my office and we chatted energetically, fueled by caffeine and sunshine. She wished me a happy day and I skipped up to the office.

I whiled the day away with cake until it was time to go and meet people in Soho, for a night of reckless consumption of gin and tonic which culminated, rather embarrassingly, in an earnest karaoke session in the downstairs of a sticky pub in the West End. I got the night bus home, head still spinning from renditions of Summer Nights with gin mixers, and sank gratefully into bed at three in the morning.

The days that followed flew by.

On Saturday I hung out at my Grandmother's new house in Manchester, and we had a delicious cocktail while my parents walked the dog. Then the three of us made our way down to the theatre to see Ben's one man show, which was wonderful. Beautifully written and energetically performed, it grabbed the audience's attention from the start and didn't put it down until it was time to shuffle out to the bar at the end. He had a bike on stage with a dynamo connected to the lights, so that whenever the pedals stopped going the lights faded. In order to keep the lights working Ben's central character had to find a willing audience member to come and pedal while he adopted character after character to tell the story. Within the context of an all-new pantheon of Gods, the play sensitively explored ecological and human rights issues, managing adeptly to teach rather than preach.

So, yeah, I was impressed. It is touring so I suggest that you see it if you can.

Over the next four days we were busy. I met some lovely people and some delightful children (I do love children anyway, but these were simply ace). We watched films and had drinks and coffees and lunches and dinners and breakfasts. We went to the cinema to watch Persepolis, through which I sobbed continuously but absolutely loved nevertheless, and to the Students' Union to watch a film called "On The Verge" which is about the Smash Edo campaign in Brighton. The film itself was banned by police when it was initially supposed to be shown in Brighton, ostensibly because it didn't have the right certification, but it is obvious upon watching the film that the reasons are much more sinister. The police are depicted as behaving in a ludicrously biased manner towards the protesters, at one point man-handling a man of eighty into a police van. I'm glad I saw the film, and am very keen to go down to the major protest in Brighton on June 4th. Perhaps, as was tentatively suggested, in my cheerleader outfit.

I was showered with lovely, thoughtful gifts (including this wonderful book by a woman called Anna Deavere Smith). On Tuesday night I was taken out for a surprise birthday treat. We turned up at the place and I realized we were at the Manchester leg of the Buena Vista Social Club tour. We had some of the choir seats, which meant that we were over looking the band and could see the intricacies of the playing. Choir seats do not mean you get to sing with the band, although I might well put that on my CV anyway. It was in a huge, formal hall with nice seating and shiny walls, but despite this everyone was, by the end, dancing along and having a wonderful time. It was a great present and I loved every minute of it.

I got the train back to London very late last night. The journey was dull, bar a bit of entertainment from a middle aged couple who were refusing to pay the full price for their tickets. The husband seemed to be quietly pleading with his wife to just pay, but she refused, claiming that she should not have to pay that much and it was ridiculous, this is England, sir, etc etc. She was quite irate, telling the ticket inspector in haughty tones that she did not usually travel by train and was appalled by the level of service, which was met with a blank and weary stare. She only just stopped short of whipping her Waitrose Partnership card from her bag and demanding to speak with that nice Mr Branson. The last I saw she was orating animatedly to a couple of amused-looking police officers on the platform at Euston. I would have loved to have stayed to see whether she was slapped with an ASBO, but I was simply too exhausted.

I am still exhausted. I had five days of laughter, fun and loveliness and I am a bit sad to be back at my normal post. London is cloudy but warm, and it sticks to me as I walk through it.

One week of being twenty-six and I am tired, but I strongly suspect that this year holds adventure, and if being a bit tired is the pay-off then I am prepared to take it head on.

Monday, April 21, 2008


Last night I lay awake for what felt like hours. My alarm clock glowed an eerie green, and through a gap in the curtains a street lamp threw an orange spike. I pressed my eyes shut but still felt too excited let sleep wash over me.

I do have a lot to be excited about. Tonight I am going to see Gone With The Wind (the musical) for the pre-press night. More exciting than seeing the show itself is the fact that the ticket is free! I probably wouldn't make an effort to see the show otherwise, because I prefer to spend my money helping out poor people and saving puppies from burning buildings (those doggy gas masks aren't cheap). It feels good and wholesome to do something I wouldn't normally do. (That rule only applies in certain situations, of course. I wouldn't normally kneecap old people with spanners but that doesn't mean I'm going to start hanging around retirement homes glowering menacingly and clutching a tool box.)

Tomorrow I am taking a day off temping and going to a free event called 'Women in the Music Industry', which is a day of sessions and talks from women involved in all areas of the industry. It's to be held somewhere in Hackney, so in the morning I will skip over there, clutching a pen and paper (pilfered, no doubt, from a nearby stationery cupboard), eager to learn stuff, meet people and generally improve myself.

Wednesday I will be back temping, but looking forward to an evening meeting with Nyika about the gigs we're organising for the summer.

What, Thursday? What's happening on Thursday, you ask?

Well, on Thursday it is my birthday! I will turn twenty-six years old. I am going to meet my parents (and perhaps one of my sisters) for breakfast at a fancy hotel, where I will stuff myself with breakfast delights before lazily heading in to work. Once five-thirty meanders gently around I will dart out of the door and over to Soho for a happy hour cocktail or two at Balans before heading on to a nearby pub for cheaper and simpler drinks.

On Friday I will have a hangover, but it will be alright for I will be cheered by the thought of my new pony (which I assume someone will have bought for me as a gift, perhaps with a ribbon on her head) who will be grazing ponyishly in my back garden.

I might go out on Friday night, but I might not, because I on Saturday morning I will make my sunny way up to Manchester to visit this person and watch him do his one man show.

I stay in Manchester until the following Wednesday, as on Tuesday I am going to a Birthday Gig! That isn't what it's called, but that is as much as I currently know about it. It is a surprise. I very much looking forward to it, but I am also slightly wary because if it isn't 'Charmed: The Musical (On Ice)' I will be very disappointed.

Can you see why I couldn't sleep for excitement? The prospect of more than a week of fun, birthdays, cocktails and music is surely enough to have anyone staring happily into the dark.

Admittedly the week didn't start off as auspiciously as I had hoped, what with an awkward moment in the gym this morning when I accidentally took another woman's towel into the sauna with me. (Actually it was a fairly spectacular breach of gym etiquette. She looked so horribly aghast when I eventually presented her with her damp, limp, sauna-fied towel that I was forced to stay in the shower until I saw she had left the changing room, and was consequently very late for work. I am considering changing gyms out of sheer humiliation.)

Despite all of that I am still buzzing with what can only be described as excited glee. This time last year I was working in Luton, the year before that I was man-handled by a urine-drenched tramp and the year before that I was at diaryland, and apparently obsessed with the fact that I had dared to go out in a see-through dress.

Today is Monday, but it doesn't feel too Monday-mundane. I have some chocolate buttons in my drawer but I am too excited to eat them. I am wearing great shoes. Life seems alright here on the brink of twenty-six.

Twenty-six seems like a nice age to be. I plan to enjoy it as much as I possibly can.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Music To Get Concussion By

At the gig last night there were about nine singers who were to perform with the house band. The venue was small with two floors, although the upper floor was more like a mezzanine. It was narrow with a spiral staircase curling up through the middle. There were plants, pictures on the wall and brightly-lit fish tanks throughout. The band was set up on the upper level in a room with a glass panelled roof. Round tables were placed throughout, chairs angled towards the musicians, with just narrow gaps for people to move around.

Some friends had been going to come but it was a Sunday and people had to work the next day. I didn't push it, ten pounds is a lot of money to most people I know. Anyway, sometimes it's easier to just have to worry about the performance without having to concern myself with whether other people are having a good time or not. Upon arriving yesterday, though, I had mixed feelings. On the one hand I would have liked to have a conspirator with me, someone to share the nerves with and whose face I could rely upon to be friendly. On the other, ten pounds really is a lot and it seemed unfair to guilt my friends into coming. When I arrived, though, I felt suddenly very alone. I was exhausted already, having been in the studio the day before and then partying until four in the morning. I felt like my reserves of confidence had been tapped out and I was more than unusually intimidated by the crowd.

The place was packed. Full of loud, confident people with friends. People who had a sheen of wealth about them, who are all either beautiful or just have that expensive glow about them that confuses the eye into suspecting they might be. I stood in the corner, having waved my arrival and been handed a glass of wine. The room was warm and the windows were already beginning to steam up. I sipped at my wine. Another girl was singing so I listened with interest, occasionally pressing the cool glass against my face to ease my burning cheeks.

A woman was sitting with her friends at a two tables right next to the band-area. Those two tables and fifteen chairs she had reserved seemed to take up a considerable portion of the room, small as it was. She smiled warmly at me introduced herself to me as Carmella, one of the other singers. I was relieved to meet a friendly person, and began to feel more comfortable. Slowly the fifteen chairs began to fill up as her friends arrived, shrugging off coats and bags, acquiring drinks and sitting down.

Within ten minutes of my arrival the place was heaving. Not a spare chair in sight and people crowding to fill the space around the furniture. As the temperature rose I felt my cheeks growing pinker and longed to sit down.

Eventually it was my turn to sing. I stood and took the microphone after I had been introduced ("the jazz party débutante!") and, after turning to the band, started to sing Black Coffee. I stood straight, looked into the faces of the sheened strangers and felt myself relax.

Almost immediately some more of Carmella's friends arrived. Standing less than two feet away from me they clattered in, talking and shifting chairs about with a screech. Carmella herself stood up and began loudly directing members of the group and seeming to try to rearrange the whole seating arrangement. I was jostled and stepped on numerous times, singing all the while and attempting to see through to the people who had been watching. The chatter exclamations continued as I struggled to be heard through the noise and seen through the bodies. I tried not to glare too obviously at the interrupters and Carmella bustled around the table, handing out wine glasses and welcoming people extravagantly.

They sat and quieted down eventually. By the end of the song I could once more see the people to whom I was performing, but I felt angry to be so ignored so I think I over-sang the rest of my set. It's difficult in those sorts of situations (it was not the first and I am sure it won't be the last) to keep the anger out of my voice. It went well on the whole, but I just felt that the rudeness was inexcusable, particularly coming from another performer. It wasn't my gig so I resisted making a sarcastic comment asking everybody pointedly whether they were finally sitting comfortably. Perhaps I should have done.

When I had finished I went to the toilets, and saw that my cheeks were scarlet and I had an attractive-looking heat rash creeping across my chest in a sinister fashion. Positioning my hair to try to hide it, I took a deep breath and stepped back into the foray, resolving to talk to people and make friends. I lasted about another hour, getting increasingly hot and tired. I also managed to crack my head hard on an air-conditioning vent whilst standing precariously on a chair, causing most people around me to embarrassingly check whether I was alright and leaving hot tears welling up in my eyes. After that I just threw in the towel and went home, leaving the rich and heat-immune to their party.

It was an interesting sort of gig. I'm glad I did it, but it was quite stressful. The recording on Saturday went really fun and was in a great studio, so my high from that has not yet quite ebbed, despite being back in office temp costume today (the most important accessory for which is my patented "Mask of Boredom").

Each gig is different. Some are unexpectedly great, but at other times it just takes one person to take the shine off the whole thing. I don't like having to fight to be heard, and I don't like to over-sing as a result. Neither do I enjoy hitting my head dramatically in public whilst standing on a chair, but I suppose these are both things that just sometimes have to be endured.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Self-promotion? On a blog?

This weekend holds some recording on Saturday and a "Spring Jazz Party" on Sunday, at which I am part of "sensational line-up of singers".

It's at Holland's Wine Bar, 6 Portland Road W11, (near Holland Park tube station), and I am going to be on at about 8.30pm.

In case we haven't met, got drunk together and swapped embarrassing stories, I am at the top on the right in that collage. It is a ludicrous picture as I am never that happy. I can only assume someone was either forcing me to smile at knife-point or else was about to put on a Charmed DVD.

For more details look here.