Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Off The Bench

For the last week I have been sheltering in Hertfordshire, having had too many plans in the London area to merit coming back to Manchester in between.

During that time I have been for dinner at a friend's house, gone to a discussion on IT and climate change at the House of Commons*, gone to see some friends in a production of Rent, slept in another man's bed (he was gay, but still! Scandal!), run another party for five-year olds whilst dressed as a princess (got chatted up by one of the Dads, most disconcerting), gone to my cousin's eighteenth birthday party (got chatted up by a sixteen year old, even more disconcerting**), laughed so hard at some toys in a shop window that I had to pretend I was crying, laughed even harder at some middle class marketing manager-types trying to breakdance on a very slippery floor in a bar in Clapham, felt suicidal whilst being flapped at by pigeons in Victoria Coach Station and generally had a jolly good time.

*I would love to just nonchalantly mention this as if, oh, yes, I go to interesting and socially pertinent discussions at the House of Commons all the time, don't you? The truth of it was, though, that I only went because my Dad was doing a talk and I spent most of the time wondering whether the man to my left was asleep or just mentally ill.

**James introduced himself to me whilst I was once again taking advantage of the limitless Champagne bar. "Hello James" I replied, amused. "I'm Katie's older cousin". He tilted his head, looked at me and said "How old? Like... twenty?". I told him, no, twenty-six, and he looked a little aghast but quickly covered it. He then leaned in close and told me "I am sixteen, but can be however old you want me to be, baby." I am not that ashamed to say that I laughed. Later on I was chatting with my sister and was most alarmed to feel a stealthy hand creeping onto my left buttock. Horrified, I looked up to see James standing there sporting what he clearly assumed to be an alluring smile. I snatched his hand away and exclaimed "James! Stop that at once!". Apparently being hit on by teenagers makes me think I am Mary Poppins.

I am back, now. In Manchester, that is. Yesterday I had a meeting with a lovely lady from Music Leader. Music Leader is a government-funded organisation which supports people who want to work with young people in a musical capacity, one of the (free) services they offer is a one-on-one meeting with an experienced advisor. You discuss what you want to do, your goals and experience, etc, and they advise you and guide you towards training or networks to join, etc. Since doing the children's parties in London I have been more and more convinced that I would like to develop music workshops for schools, as something to do alongside composing and performing my own music. I went bravely into Central Manchester yesterday and found my way to the office, where I met Sue. She took me to a nearby café and bought me a coffee, and we chatted for about an hour. At first I felt like I felt for the first five sessions when I had that therapy, like I should have been saying "anyway, how are you?", but then I relaxed, stopped making incessant "jokes", and managed to establish that I just want to do everything, now, please. As we talked, I felt my enthusiasm levels rise to an embarrassing, screaming pitch.

An hour later I bounced out of the café, fueled by caffeine and unachievable dreams, and went to meet my friend Lorna, who had spent the day auditioning at the Royal Northern College of Music for a post-graduate course in opera singing. It had gone well, so we we were both in good spirits as we hunted around for a bar to sit in for an hour or so before she caught her train back to Birmingham, where she was staying that night.

As we sipped our drinks (blackcurrant and lemonade for Lorna, who is preserving her voice, and a beer for me, who will no doubt eventually be preserved by the alcohol levels in her bloodstream), Lorna asked me about my impressions of Manchester, compared to London, where she still lives.

Well, I said. I still think of Manchester in relation to London, I suppose, because I spent so long coming up to visit, and then trudging back down to whatever face-meltingly awful temp job I happened to have shackled myself to at the time. So perhaps I am still in my honeymoon period with this city, despite the initial shockwaves of bench tears-inducing newness. But I moved here because I don't think Manchester crushes a person in the way that London does. There is arguably more going on in London, but London is expensive and I felt constantly like I was just living to pay the rent and so could never be involved in all the cool stuff that was happening. Maybe other people could hack that, and be happy and fulfilled. I couldn't.

In Manchester it feels more acceptable to be an artist, and be enthusiastic and passionate about what you do. In London all anyone talked about was how much rent they were paying. Everything happens in London, and you are told this every single day, but you have to be really lucky, or really rich, to access it. I feel that in Manchester it is not like this, and so far I think I am right.

In Manchester I am luckier and richer, of course, because I live with my Grandma and already have met loads of artistic types through my boyfriend, but I still feel that even if this were the case in London it would be harder. It is harder.

Lorna listened to me spout all this unsubstantiated crap, and nodded. "Yeah" she said, thoughtfully. "I can tell even by your voice that you are happier already."

I am happier. Because in London I wouldn't have said any of this for fear of sounding like a pretentious twat. Up here, I am still a pretentious twat but am somehow more comfortable with it. It is a nice feeling.

Today I woke up, did exercise, ate something. I wrote a list of what I needed to do. I emailed. I wrote quite a bit of one of the three songs I need to have written by Thursday. I received an email from Sue from Music Leader, with some details she had mentioned she'd send and a promise to send me a full summary of our meeting as soon as she can. I arranged to meet a girl called Sarah, with whom I am going on a blind friend date this evening. I spoke to another girl called Thea, who invited me out on Friday. I have investigated means of earning money, steering well clear of any office work, and made plans on top of plans. I know that if I just keep exploring all avenues then things will work out.

I have spent the day feeling lucky to be here, and growing increasingly certain that I am finally in the right place at the right time.


Blogger justme said...

Fantastic! Am so happy to hear you sounding so positive and optimistic. Sounds like you are settling in really well up there.

4:59 pm

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow! Sounds like you're doing better than me, and I've been here since April!!
You're brave with the blind friend date. I've only made two friends here...and they're best friends with eachother so i'm the spare wheel. It's hard and does make me miss home. I think you're doing a wonderful job though and I like how positive this post is!!

6:48 pm

Blogger Huw said...

James is my hero.

7:03 pm

Anonymous Lily Dumont-Pony said...

I wish I could say something profound to show how happy and pleased I am for you. All I can say is... I love you, pony. I shall email you soon. xxx

12:33 am

Blogger Clarissa said...

Oh, James ....

8:06 pm

Blogger Léonie said...

Justme - Thanks. I am trying to be positive and optimistic.

PinkJellyBaby - Where are you? Are you Manchester too? I'm sure you're not really the spare wheel, they probably love having you around. It's not easy making friends from scratch, though, I know.

Huw - Yes, that's what worries me.

Lily Dumont-Pony - Hello! Thank you. I love you, too. Hope Brighton is good. Say hello to the sea for me.

Clarissa - I know. But I don't think he needs our sympathy. I'm sure he confidence will carry him through.

12:07 pm

Blogger Ys said...

Up here, I am still a pretentious twat but am somehow more comfortable with it. It is a nice feeling.

You made me laugh when you said that :D

I'm glad things are going so well now. It's great when you're right at the beginning of new projects, isn't it? :)

4:28 pm

Blogger Hải Nguyễn said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

7:15 am


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