Friday, May 30, 2008

Decisions, Decisions.

Parallel universes exist. Every time a decision is made, every possible consequence plays out in an infinite number of realities. (A premise not dissimilar to that of the nineties hit movie "Sliding Doors", although in my version the difference isn't solely denoted by alternate hair styles and Gwyneth Paltrow growing a backbone.)

Say, for example, a group of people decide to start a book club. They talk about doing it and convince themselves that they will. Then they each go home to their houses, flick the kettle on, consider a small slice of toast and promptly forget all about it. To them it will remain just that conversation in the pub where they discovered they'd all quite enjoyed "Wild Swans". Elsewhere, though, in the black swirling mass of the elastic fantastic universe, up pops a circle of wooden chairs containing those very same people, all looking a touch bored as they try to form opinions about that much-hyped-but-rather-disappointing novel "The Time Traveller's Wife". All possible consequences of acting upon that decision or not and in all possible ways, they all happen.

Of course every decision we make precipitates a series of consequences. I choose to believe that for every one of these decisions, every possible consequence immediately exists, like an infinite number of eyes all opening at once.

I sat on the night bus last night. I had been working all day in my temp job and had rushed straight out to one of my other jobs (event hosting at a West End show). I pressed my head against the cool glass of the bus as it sailed over one of the bridges, staring at the sweeping view across London and engaging in some anxious contemplation.

I have four jobs, even in spite of which I still struggle to pay my rent. I aspire to musical heights, but spend so much time working that I barely have time or energy to be as dedicated to it as I want to be. When I get home from work I switch on my computer and try to work on my songs. My mind wanders as I attempt to re-capture passion that bubbles during the day in response to the steel grey walls of my office job. Sometimes I get somewhere, sometimes not.

I approach my life in the way in which I am accustomed. I work because I need money. I sing because I love it, but I approach my creative endeavours without really pushing myself, without taking too many risks. I have ideas of how I should do things, but these ideas are simply the culmination of every decision I have ever made. I am conditioned to behave in a certain way because I continue to myopically fix upon the only type of decision I have ever made. I tell myself that I am making new decisions, but actually I am only seeing the options I have programmed myself to see, and then making the choice I have programmed myself to make.

I want to widen my vision and be able to understand all the possibilities. To stop feeling my way around the labyrinth and see it from a bird's eye perspective.

I know that I sound like a first year Philosophy student, waving around a pristine copy of Kant's "Critique of Pure Reason" and talking about how, like, maybe we all see colours totally differently, like, maybe what you see as blue I see as, like, red? You know? But I sat on the bus last night and imagined an infinite number of selves, walking an infinite number of routes through the labyrinth. Perhaps there is a braver me, who isn't scared of making phone calls. A more organised me, who understands money and doesn't feel the compulsion to claw her own face off whenever she accidentally glances in the direction of her bank statement.

A more brazen me, who demands rather than asks.

I wonder whether I can embody all those selves and become a better, braver version. I want to understand the pattern of my decision-making so that I can change it. I want to take risks, but first I want to be able to see all the available risks that are mine to take.

Perhaps I am wrong in saying that the infinite versions of the self are "out there". Perhaps they are, in fact, all playing out inside each of us at every single moment. Perhaps I need to just liberate the brazen version of myself and allow her to dominate, to demand, instead of sitting back while the more timid self asks, then fears the answer.

Or perhaps I should stop with the pop-philosophy and get back to writing amusing anecdotes about mice.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

In Which I Consider Cats And Reveal Myself To Be Completely Insane

Last night I stayed in. My housemates were out, so I lounged around watching television and eating toast. When I watch television alone I invariably talk to the characters and join in with the dialogue, or (and this particularly applies when viewing something like CSI: Miami) (not that I would watch that, of course, I only ever watch improving documentaries) filling in the sound track with an exaggerated "dun-dun-DUN!" when a discovery is made. (Usually in CSI the discovery has something to do with the striations on the bullet. Not that I would know.)

(Actually my general rule is: the more I have to suspend my disbelief to get into something, the more I enjoy it. I love Charmed, because it is totally implausible that people can look that immaculate all the time, particularly when fighting scary and often laughable monsters. Also I like the peppy lines and girl power. Reality television is my nemesis.)

After a small television marathon which in NO WAY involved crying at Desperate Housewives, I wandered upstairs and plugged my microphone in to do a bit of aimless singing. Record, listen. Re-record, re-listen. Stare at wall. Re-record. Re-listen. Gaze vacantly at floor.

It was then, mid-vacant floor-gaze, that it happened.

A furry little blur whipped scratchily across the floor boards, a pointy tail streaming out behind. Scrape-scrapey-scrape went its tiny little claws of death as it flew behind the desk and out of sight.

I froze. Microphone in hand I stood, nausea washing over me. Then, in a single gravity-defying bound I sprang onto my bed and began to scream. There was nobody around to rush over dramatically and ask me what the matter was, but nevertheless I screamed. I dropped the mic and began a bizarre dance of twisting and writhing, convinced as I was that the mouse had pursued me in my anguished leap, and was now somehow On Me.

I spent at least half a minute engaging in this ridiculous charade before I managed to calm down. Then I immediately remembered the whip-scratchiness and screamed a little more. I then knew I must act or the insanity would no doubt grip me forever.

I looked at the time. Nearly midnight. I needed to call someone about this, but the person I really wanted to call was, I knew, busy. I had a little think, and called my sister, Alex. To my immense relief, she picked up.

"Hi, Laine? Are you ok?"

"No! Well. Yes. I mean, I'm not dead. But! I just! A! Mouse! Saw one! In my room! I don't know what to do! A mouse in my room! I feel like it's on me! Is it on me? Is it? On me?"

There was a pause.

"A mouse?"

"Yes! I know it sounds...well... I know. But it was in my room!"

Another pause, and a barely audible sigh.

"Alright, you're going to have to give me a minute to take this seriously."

Pause. Deep breath.

"OK. What happened?"

We discussed the events, with me taking breaks every so often so I could flip out about a bit of paper touching my foot, or my hair touching my arm, or some air touching my face.

The main source of my panic was the possibility of it somehow getting in my hair, a situation well-documented by the lovely Nutty Cow a while back. Alex told me in soothing tones that a mouse wouldn't want to be in my hair ("there's no food in there, is there?") (answer: probably not) and reassured me that the risk of it "sneaking back in the middle of the night to get me" was fairly unlikely as well. I knew for a fact, however, that if I woke up and it was on me I would die. Literally and completely die. Then it get a load of mouse-pals together and have a big corpse eating party, which would be only partially ruined by the look of abject terror on my cold, dead face.

(Alright, maybe I had been watching CSI.)

After we put the phone down I gingerly edged myself to the side of the bed and reached for my gym trainers. After shaking them to evacuate any refugee mouse families that could be lurking within, I put them on and tied them up tight.

Stamping was, as far as I could see, the only answer. The floorboards in my room have big gaps between them so there was no way of stopping up the holes, so the only tool I had was stamping (the vibrations, I was certain, would intimidate the rodents and assure them that I was not to be toyed with). Around my room I went, crossly moving things and stamping at furniture. At one point I went and got the hoover, although I'm still unsure as to quite what I planned to do with it. There is no way I would be able to get close enough to a mouse to suck it up a hoover spout (possibly not the right word), and even if I could then the noise of it (I imagine it would be a scrabbling, then a whooshing, some squeaking and then a dull thud) would almost certainly send me into a horrified coma.

At one point in my stamping crusade I began to talk to the mice, as if they were characters on a bad American television programme. Telling them to stay under the floorboards, attempting to incite in them a sense of respect for my deep-seated (and, as by now I was beginning to suspect, not hugely rational) fear of their mousey little ways. This went on for a while before I picked up my microphone and hit record.

And that is the story of how the first whole song I have written in about three months came to be about a mouse. I also may or may not have rhymed "mouse" with "house", with flagrant disregard for most of the rules of good lyric-writing.

I really hope that if it is a big hit I won't start receiving demands for royalty payments in the form of huge wheels of cheese. Perhaps I will get a cat.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Friday Fairies

It's Friday and I am celebrating by eating some Dairy Milk chocolate. I break off a square and nibble it until it is melted between my fingers. Then I put the remainder in my mouth and take a sip of coffee, swirling it around to properly taste the delicious mocha combination. I am listening to a compilation CD made for me years ago, and watching the numbers slowly click by on the bottom right hand side of my screen.

This week I have been out for dinner with my Mum, met up with friends for pizza in Soho, done a gig at the Dorchester and gone to see the Vanity Fair exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery. At the Dorchester my pianist and I stood around after we played and sipped Champagne from impossibly delicate crystal glasses. At the Vanity Fair exhibition I marvelled at the photograph of Tom Cruise, Katie Holmes and their daughter. They are sitting atop some wild-looking, windswept hills. He is holding the child and behind him sits his wife, arms around him and Suri. Both Tom and Katie have their eyes squeezed shut and their mouths fixed in identical beatific smiles. The child stares at the camera, expressionless. I'm sure there is a touch of desperation in her eyes, a despair that comes with the realization that she is bestowed with more common sense and sanity than both of her parents put together. The pictures were amazing, but the one that affected me the most was one of Hilary Swank (here, although it is a tiny thumbnail). In the picture she is running, elevated above the ground by the sheer force of her physical and mental strength. Her body is rippling with muscles, but more impressive to me is the incredible focus in her eyes as she looks ahead. I see in that portrait an air of self-sufficiency and passion that overwhelms me. I would like a copy as I found it really very inspirational. The gift shop, unfortunately, was rubbish, and had hardly any postcards, so I must satisfy myself with the memory.

Tonight I am heading up to Manchester. I packed hurriedly this morning after a few glasses of the house white last night, so I am not entirely sure what I have to wear. I vaguely recall putting in a pair of gold stilettos (featured here) but after that my memory fades. I can only hope that I put in at least one set of actual clothes.

I am very excited about venturing Up North again, although I am somewhat exhausted after my week, particularly given that I have been peppering it with some ill-advised early morning trips to the gym. If I wish, however, to fully enjoy the delights of in-the-mouth mocha I must force myself to brave the cross-trainer and the blaring confusions of MTV.

The only other thing I have to say is the following.

I should not be subjected to people snogging on the tube first thing in the morning. It's bad enough to talk to each other when I am attempting to pick my way through the jumble of bad grammar and highly-dubious spelling that poses as journalism in the free papers, let alone suck each other's faces off and rub noses like cute little bunny-wunnies right in front of me. Carry on that way and I will vomit on your faces. Let's see you pash through that.


Have a lovely weekend.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Just One Day

When will I be able to escape office drudgery?

It's a question I pose to myself every hour of every day. In weary tones, I roll out my usual self-consolations. I am building a sustainable career. I am singing more now. I am writing and rehearsing a lot. I shouldn't be ashamed of needing to earn money while I do it.

Sometimes this works. Some days I can just accept the inevitability of menial office work because I have such a clear understanding of why I'm doing it.

Other days (like today) it does not.

I can feel my resilience ebb away as I am patronised and condescended to. The loss of self-esteem is not irrevocable, I know that, but it is enough to make hot tears of self-loathing bubble up and temporarily blur my ability to visualise a time when life will not be like this.

Yesterday I was wearing a red dress and I was singing. The sun shone as we played and then, in our breaks, lounged on the grass under the azure skies. In my capacity as a singer, as a musician, I felt happy. Natural.

Today, once again, I am sombre in black. I grudgingly do work I hate and feel the thrill of yesterday fade away. I am not natural here. I do not belong. I try to cajole myself out of my stupor by mentally compiling the set list for the gig on Wednesday, then focusing on what I would like to achieve from the rehearsal tomorrow night. Tonight I must finish off some lyrics and record some songs in preparation. I trudge through the repetitive, vacuous work and try think of places to sing, people to contact.

It doesn't help today. I am sucked back to the monotonous, grey world I inhabit against my will and the ache in my stomach returns. The ache grows from whatever passion it is that will not allow me to give up. It is a passion that can also turn sour and angry.

I resent my introspection, knowing it has no value. London is an expensive city, and I do not yet earn enough through music to properly be able to take part in its splendours. I can and do reason it out all the time, both to myself and to others.

Today, though, it doesn't work. I don't want to have to endure the sombre anymore. I hate it, and it hates me.

My energy ebbs, and I wait for my self-esteem to return.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Under the Weather

It's an old cliché that the Brits talk incessantly about the weather. Well, we do. Whether it's due to innate social awkwardness, or just because we're just meteorologically-inclined, I'm not sure.

The beautiful sunshine is, at the moment, a constant source of material. Whether we're complaining about being inside on a day like today, or reassuring each other that the fine weather is supposed to last until at least Tuesday, or just rolling eyes and doing an exaggerated fanning motion, it is everywhere.

We're probably a bit relieved. Weather conversations alleviate the pressure to ask real questions, or to have to cope with those dreadful awkward silences while we shuffle past each other in the office kitchen, waiting for the kettle to boil and staring at the cupboards. We have shared experience, and that experience is constantly at risk of fading away, so the conversations must continue for the duration.

I have a friend from Equador, and she said to me that it's true that they don't discuss the weather as much where she's from, but only because it would be a really repetitive conversation. It is, she says, nearly always sunny in Equador. If they talked about the weather the whole time the interchange would go something like this:

"Oh, weather's nice today! Nice to see the sun out, isn't it?"
"Oh yes. Lovely. It's supposed to stay like it, too."
"Oh really?"
"That's what I heard. Weekend should be glorious. And next week."
"Yep. And the next weekend. And the week after that. And the week after, as well."
"Um. Oh! Rea..."
"And the weekend after that. And the following week. And the one after."

Or so I imagine. Unusual weather is our very favourite. We all rush out after work and at lunchtimes, descending on the shops to scavenge gleefully for flip-flops and sunglasses before sustaining rather dangerous sunburn and then getting drunk on a combination of false-exocitism and Pimms.

The best thing about the weather-talk, though, is that we can all agree on it. You can start a conversation about how warm it is and be guaranteed that your fellow converser will nod enthusiastically and, if you're lucky, launch into a lengthy anecdote about how they saw someone faint from heat exhaustion on the Northern Line.

I feel a definite sense of Britishness when taking part in these interchanges (which I do, with enthusiastic gusto) but perhaps we could shake it up a little. Next time someone brings up the weather I might just completely disagree with them. Perhaps in place of a "oh, yes, beautiful, isn't it!" I might throw in a "Christ no. God it's cocking horrible out there. I want to vomit just thinking about it." Or instead of "I know! Everyone just seems happier, don't they?" I will grimace horribly, look them in the eye and then growl "It makes me want to eat babies."

Or I might just move to Equador.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

London Summer (and some photos)

Here are some photos from that gig a few weeks ago. That one where I nearly died of heat exhaustion and then managed to sustain a rather humiliating head injury. In the following photos you will witness the boiled look I was sporting that evening.

London bakes today. People in the office are pushing boundaries by wackily eating ice-lollies at their desks. Sometimes they pause between licks to make the obligatory hilarious comments about global warming.

This week I am going to go Belated Birthday Shopping with my Dad. I will try to steer him towards the pony shop, but if that fails I am going to settle for a microphone and P.A. As in public address, not a personal assistant. Actually, though, if I could combine the pony with the personal assistant I would really feel I'd hit the jackpot. Then I could give it orders down my microphone. "Eat that hay!", or "Swish your tail!". Stuff like that.

Impish Sophie Sister was over from Paris this weekend, which was delightful. She stayed with me in Brixton, something I am very keen for her to do on a more regular basis.

Anyway, here are some pictures. Please remember that it was eighteen hundred degrees in there. I am not normally that neon.