Got Up, Had Cup Of Tea, Looked At Stuff.
North Manchester is freezing, and I am listening to Billie Holiday. These two things somehow match, in spite of the fact that the recordings of Billie are crinkly and infused with dusty heat. My favourite Billie track is God Bless The Child, closely followed by her delirious version of Summertime. In Billie Holiday's voice every song sounds like a torch song. I daren't listen to Gloomy Sunday too much. Strange Fruit is wonderful, but is so eerie, and fills my thoughts with blood.
This blog has turned a little more diary-like. Everything around me is new, so I feel I need to document it. Writing it down in the same place where I have written about every other stupid detail of my life makes it more manageable. What I mean is: I have become rather more gotuphadacupofteawalkedthedogsawamusingsquirrelhadaspotoflunch recently. Apologies if this is dull. Go and read better blogs.
On Saturday morning I was awoken by the sound of children. I shifted on the sofa, adjusted the small duvet and squinted at the clock. Ten o'clock. Thea and her children came down the stairs. Audrey (two-and-a-half) and Baby Ben (eleven months) were in good spirits, and Thea seemed to be feeling no ill effects from the night before, which had lead to us sitting on her kitchen floor at two thirty in the morning, talking earnestly and causing her husband to hear us from upstairs and chuckle, before slipping back to sleep. I had met Thea at eight o'clock in central Manchester, under the bus stops. She was grinning, and looked radiant, pleased to be out and dressed up. Her escape from her children coincided with my escape from friendlessness, and we were in high spirits. The prospect of a shared bottle of wine in Manchester's famous jazz club shimmered on the horizon, and we chattered as we made our way there.
An hour and a half later we left the club set off for the train station, to meet her friend Jo from the train, as well as my friend Luke and his boyfriend, yet another Ben (this blog is rapidly becoming riddled with them). I was so happy to see Luke, particularly as he had promised me a present, apropos of nothing (apart from my wonderfulness) (I might have added in that last bit). As it turned out he had forgotten it - "Oh, don't worry! I am just happy to see you!" I lied - but asked whether I wanted to know what it was. Which, of course, I did.
Luke and I met at University, in rehearsals for a production of The Wizard of Oz, in which he was playing the scarecrow and I was playing Dorothy. I look back on that time with very fond memories, not just because I got to wear real ruby slippers and hold Toto (a hand puppet), but because I made some really good friends. Although standing on stage singing Somewhere Over The Rainbow in a plaintive voice whilst making Toto stare questioningly at members of the audience was probably the most fun I have ever had.
Luke had bought me a big print of the Lion, Tin Man, Scarecrow, Dorothy and Toto as they are setting off down the yellow brick road. What an excellent present! I was, and am thrilled.
Thea, Jo and I set out once again to another bar, agreeing to meet Luke, Ben and his friend Grace later. We stayed out late, and Thea said I could sleep on her sofa as Jo was in the guest room.
The next morning, after extricating myself from the clutches of their (really very comfortable) sofa, went to meet Luke, Ben, Grace and her friend Sam at the Famous Manchester Christmas Markets.
Unfortunately the rest of Manchester had woken up with similar ideas. I wandered around looking for them, nose to nose with the entire population of the North West. My phone had run out of battery, so after a wrinkle-nosed phone call from a phone box that smelled of wee and drug deals I launched back in to the fray. I have never seen so many people forcing themselves to be merry in one place. It is difficult to feel any genuine Christmas cheer when you have just been elbowed in the back by five seventeen year old girls attempting to take pictures of a singing moose, then tripped over a push chair the size of a tank and ended up with mulled wine in your hair. Eventually I found them, looking relaxed, sipping cups of afore-mentioned hair tangler. I grimaced, and spent the rest of the time glowering like a slightly hungover and agoraphobic Grinch.
The next morning I was on a coach at six thirty in the morning, heading back down to London to run a kids' party in Hammersmith. I stayed the night before at Thea's again. Nathan, Thea and I drank red wine (un-mulled) and constructed a gingerbread house, using the sweets provided as well as many, many Haribo sweets. We listened to reggae and then electro music. The endeavour was a roaring success, not least because it caused Thea to utter the following, historic sentence: "Oh! I was so busy robot dancing that I forgot to hold the frogs!". I do love a sentence that makes no more sense in context than it does out of it.
The Sunday kids' party was a difficult one. The kids ripped bits of my dress, pulled my hair and demanded sweets at every juncture. The birthday girl, unfortunately, was not particularly interested in the Special Magical Princess! that had been ordered for her birthday, and was in fact far more interested in my iPod than she was in me. I sat on the tube afterwards, exhausted and sullenly eating the leftover sweets, and wondered whether it really is necessary to travel for five hours just to dress up in ridiculous clothes and have children demand to sit on me and attempt to press my nose stud further into my face whilst refusing to pretend to be a naughty goblin (again, context doesn't help). Almost as soon as I got home my phone beeped with a text. From the guys whose band I auditioned for last week, for whom I wrote three songs (two of which were alright, one of which was utterly shit).
"Hi Leonie. Thanks for coming down, we liked your lyrics and melodies, but we're going to carry on looking for a singer. Sorry to waste your time. Good luck with everything."
Tears of rejection and humiliation rushed to the backs of my eyes. Then I forced myself to think about it rationally, dismissing my hurt pride. They were nice guys, but I sensed that they were after a salt-of-the-earth Northern band. They kept quizzing me about my jazz background, concerned expressions fluttering underneath their artfully-positioned fringes. I tried to sound confident as I assured them that I could write and sing in a less jazzy style, but I don't think any of us were convinced. Remembering how I had almost sprinted out of the rehearsal room after singing them my songs, how I had called my friend to express my uncertainty, and how my first thoughts had been "well, those lyrics and melodies could be used elsewhere", I knew that the rejection was no surprise. The hurt pride dispelled and I composed a gracious text reply. Then I paused, allowed a little hurt pride back in as I realized how short-sighted they were to be so insistent on being like every other male guitar band in the North, and snuck in a little passive aggression. Then I took a deep breath, deleted the text, and got back on with what I was doing.
The following morning I went to Upper Street and met Ms Robinson for a couple of hours and a couple of coffees. It was brilliant to see her, she was on great form. Sparky and entertaining, and full of wit and straight talk. I came away feeling energized and happy. Happier still when I made it to Euston, collected my train tickets and realized that something excellent had happened and I had accidentally booked myself a first class single back to Manchester.
I reclined in the big seat and was astonished to find that, in First Class, not only do you not have to squish in next to a spotty, deodorant-shy teenager listening to stadium rock as loudly as possible on a poor quality mp3 player*, but that they actually give you free stuff.
*This is invariably who I sit end up next to. It is like magic.
I wasn't hungry, but when the man came around I ordered a glass of Chardonnay. Free, please. He looked at me askance for a moment, before asking "are you old enough, love?".
I looked at him and smiled. "I'm 26. Is that old enough?"
He blushed a bit and poured me the wine. "Yes, love."
The next time he came round he topped up my glass. "Sorry about that, love."
I watched him fill a spare glass with wine and put it down next to my already-full first one. "No problem" I said. "I'm flattered."
I did have to keep reading my book very intently for the rest of the journey to avoid conversations with him, as he then got a bit chatty. A first class train journey on a Monday afternoon, though, complete with an empty carriage and free wine, was so much better than sharing a seat in a Megabus for five hours in the early grey-black hours of a Sunday morning.
This week I have been busy. Writing, and trying to convert the kids' parties thing in London to one in Manchester. Also I have to sort out my website before the 19th December, when I am doing a gig at Pizza in the Park, one of London's most well-known jazz venues. I am going to a gig in Chorlton tonight with Sarah, the girl I went on a blind friend date with last week. Tomorrow I have a guest ticket to go and see Sam Sparro, with Thea.
Billie has just started singing the blues, but I am not. I am going to go now and write those songs into my style, ignore the rejections that I will inevitably face, have a nice cup of tea and then look at some stuff.