Saturday, January 03, 2009

Testing, Testing...

Oh, not the old "testing, testing, is this thing on?" joke? The one that's wheeled out every time some dormant blogger comes out of the web work to try to revive his or her online persona? No, surely?

Yes, I have sunk to such depths. It is tricky to know how to start the first post of the year. How about this:

At the dawn of 2009 I have many ambitions.

Hmm. I'm not sure. Maybe an exclamation mark to denote excitement and/or positivity? I have many ambitions! No, too peppy. How about caps for emphasis and meaning? I have many AMBITIONS. God, no. Maybe those caps were in the wrong place? I have MANY ambitions. A touch psychotic, perhaps. No, I think I might just leave it.

Still, though. It's a bit pretentious. Alright, a lot pretentious. True, yes, but that is neither here nor there.

Before Christmas I kept sitting down to write, but collapsing slightly at the prospect.

There are too many things to say. Too many adventures to recount, but also whole boring snow-drifts tales of self-doubt and uncertainty.

Christmas was, as always, a whirlwind of present-anxiety and family. My most memorable day took place in Milton Keynes Shopping Centre on the day before Christmas Eve. My Dad had to buy some presents for my little sister, and I wanted to buy some complicated and confusing kitchen equipment for my complicated and confusing boyfriend. Within five minutes of parking the car both of us were crouching, terrified, in the coffee shop at the top of John Lewis, staring out of the window at the miles of bare, grey horror that is Milton Keynes. Feeling myself start to wonder whether the window was, in fact, bolted shut or whether I could make I leap for it, I decided to act, and promptly stole a pen from an old lady. Having written a comprehensive shopping plan, we embarked on a six hour journey through the whirling torment, held up only slightly by the fact that I had decided to wear four inch heels for the occasion. My Dad bought excellent presents for my sister, hindered only slightly by the fact that he sometimes had the audacity to disagree with my expert judgement. I came away empty-handed but for a thermometer and a huge, completely useless, terracotta tile.

(Actually my most memorable Christmas occasion was my surprise present from Ben. He took me for a meal, and then to a gig. As we walked into Manchester Academy I had no idea who we were seeing, and we headed for the bar. Ben ordered the drinks and turned to me. "Oh" he said. "You might need this." He handed me the ticket and I looked at it, and saw the words JOAN AS POLICE WOMAN written across the top. My jaw dropped, I looked at Ben's smiling face and jumped a bit. I first saw Joan and her band three years ago, and have loved her since. Her music is incredible, and her presence on stage is captivating. She is bewitching, funny, unpretentious and supremely gifted. I watched the whole gig standing in front of Ben with his arms around me, mesmerized. I know the first album, but the songs from the second are wonderful (I couldn't believe she would be able to out do the first, and in fact they are more like a complement to one another). Afterwards she was signing autographs, so we queued and spoke to her. During the gig I had shouted out "I LOVE YOU JOAN" (I am not cool) and she said she loved me too, in her liquid New York drawl. When I spoke to her I told her it was me who had shouted that (God, I am really not cool) and she said, "yeah, I said I loved you too!". "I know" I said, pushing my new CD towards her. "But I want it in writing." She laughed and wrote it. "I'm a singer, too!" I chattered, excitedly. She looked at me for a moment and smiled. "Yeah, I can see that." Oh, she might just have been being kind, but if I choose to believe she saw a kindred spirit then I will, and you can't stop me.)

I had two gigs over the Christmas period. One was in Pizza in the Park jazz club in Knightsbridge, and the other was yet another excuse to experience the delights of Milton Keynes. At the former there was a full jazz band, complete with grand piano and a variety of different microphones. I sung a short set, finishing with Santa Baby, for which I was forced to wear a shiny, over-sized Santa hat. Both the hat and I made another appearance at the end of the night, singing Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas with two other singers (n.b. the hat did not sing). Afterwards Ben and I stayed with my sister Alex and her boyfriend Andy, and the following day we all went for a lovely walk down the canal near her house. Sitting in a cosy little pub in muddy jeans and trainers, eating chips and pretending to work the slot machine by pressing the buttons at random and occasionally letting out a plaintive sigh, I had no desire to get re-vamped up and do another gig. Nevertheless I had to, so I said goodbye to them all and trekked to South London, where I was collected by two chaps called Ed and Eddie (a pianist and a saxophonist, respectively).

Up the motorway we trundled, discussing the last time we had met (in Paris, 2006) (can I say that again, please? It makes me feel well glamourous. Yes?) (in Paris, 2006) (Sorry). We played together then, having met through my sister Sophie, and I had called on them for this gig. We eventually pulled up at the house in Milton Keynes, and I jumped out to ring the doorbell. The door was opened by two excited-looking seven year old girls, who bore sticky labels, pens, and eager expressions.

We were asked to set up the equipment in the corner of the rather capacious living room, and as we did so we met the woman whose birthday it was and were handed drinks. Strictly birthday party stuff, so no Christmas songs or hats here. As we began to play our first set people edged into the room, clutching wine glasses or bottles of beer and watching us with a mixture of interest and trepidation. I encouraged people to dance, and some did. The rest stayed firmly where they were, avoiding eye contact in case that in itself was some kind of signed contractual agreement obliging them to dance naked with their underwear dangling over one ear for the rest of the night.

A couple of hours later and we had finished, having played for two hours with a break in between (during which everybody cheerfully started wiggling away to Let Me Entertain You and a selection of ABBA classics). My Mum came to pick me up, which delighted me no end. I said goodbye to Ed and Eddie and hopped into the car, to be whooshed back to my parents' house, in which were waiting my Impish sister Sophie and her boyfriend Tomas, who were over from Paris for Christmas. I sat down with them and started upon what was to be the first of many, many cheese-and-wine binges of the festive season.

The rest of Christmas whistled by in a blur of wine, cheese and actual real life games of charades. Charades was conducted on Boxing Day, when Ben and his Mum were over, to be confronted with the extent of the family for the first time. I hoped that alcohol consumption would mask the fact that we were playing games that people only play in sitcoms from the fifties. Although trying to convince my thirteen year old cousin to act out Sex and the City in front of twenty family members sticks out as a highlight. (He refused. Free Willy was also, apparently, a no go.)

For New Year Ben and I came back to Manchester. We went out with a few friends, danced and drank, then came back to Ben's house, where we set up an elaborate sound system involving two amps, a microphone, a loop pedal, a bass guitar and a rather baffled-looking cat and made drunken "music" until about seven the next morning. This was roundly looked upon as an excellent thing to do, in spite of the terraced house thing and the fact that everything we did sounded like loads of drunk people going LA LA LA (with a bass part).

Now all the festivities are over, and I have not started my diet/detox/life-improvement that I am sure everyone else is well into by now. Everyone else, I bet, has rejected all offers of extra toast and has gone to the gym at least eight times. I have been hiding, putting off all the things I had put off until after Christmas. I have not experienced any epiphanies, or found any magical serum that will make me less nervous about this process (at least, none that last) (or are legal). I had hoped this would happen, and am disappointed that no ponies have trotted up to me with magical, life-sorting scrolls between their sugar cane teeth (I could probably find a serum to help me imagine it, though).

I am on the dole and my life is a blank canvas. I have a new coat that is black and furry and makes me feel like Liza Minnelli. I have two woolly hats and an excellent collection of cheap, shiny jewellery. A roof over my head and the great opportunity of having absolutely nothing to stop me doing whatever I want.

2008 was a year of change, and I am hoping that 2009 is going to be another such. I am intimidated by how much I could do, but also how much I might not do.

I am scared by 2009. There is so much to be doing, and all I am doing is sitting at my computer, wearing a huge hat for no reason, and talking about it. I think I need another slice of toast, and then I will definitely start.


Blogger justme said...

Nice to see you back. Happy New Year! And glad you had a good xmas, it sounds like great fun.
Actually, I think it is allowed not to start the New Year lifestyle till monday the 5th. Friday was not a real day and then the weekend came
Certainly I have not yet been to the gym or stopped eating vast quantities of food yet, but I will! Honest!

10:33 am

Blogger Devil's Kitchen said...

Happy New Year to you and, let's face it, if you don't get anywhere with anything else, you should definitely try your hand as a writer.

Your missives are not the normal fare for a angry, politics-obsessed Devil but, nevertheless, I find myself fascinated by your reports, glued to the words until the very last syllable.

Best of luck,


4:33 pm

Blogger Clarissa said...

Don't be scared.

And don't abuse the tile. Terracotta tiles are never useless. You can always put a hot pot atop them.

Big hugs to you in the new year.

London misses you. Really.

5:32 pm

Blogger Ys said...

Sounds like a great time was had :)

I understand you're feelings about 2009 as mine are pretty much the same. For some reason I'm terrified of this year and what it may or may not bring.

11:03 am

Blogger Fishwife said...

Nice to see you back again! Never underestimate the importance of party games at Christmas - Boxing Day found me surrounded by 18 members of my boyfriend's family, playing Articulate (you have to describe the person, place, action, etc on the card against the clock to teammates, in case you don't know), yelling, "He was in Pirates of the Caribbean, you morons", and going slightly red in the face from frustration, until it was pointed out to me by an opposing team member, who was looking over my shoulder at the card with mild hysterics, that I was confusing Captain Jack Sparrow with Captain Kirk.

3:41 pm

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've not made any efforts to 'do' anything either...but then i'm a lazy so-and-so! Happy New Year x

10:49 pm

Blogger Miss Devylish said...

Well you got further than I did.. at least you're writing about it. I've still not started.. but maybe I'll backdate and no one will be the wiser. Except for you cuz you're smart like that.. and I think you wear nice hats. Happy new year sugar! Here's to change that's good and oh-so-much hope! xo

11:00 pm

Blogger Léonie said...

Justme - I read your comment at the weekend and felt comforted, safe in the knowledge that on Monday I would certainly start being good. Then Monday came and went in much the same vein, to everyone's surprise. It'll have to be next Monday, now.

DK - Thank you! That's excellent to hear. If only I could write about something other than myself, I would give it a shot. O, to be an informed blogger rather than a narcissistic one...

Clarissa - Does London miss me? Did it really say that? Thank you. I'm sure I will find some use for the terracotta tile. It was intitally bought to bake bread on, but is too big. I will smash it, and then we will be able to proceed. Thank you for your words. xx

Ys - Yes, it does feel momentous, doesn't it? Seven days in and I still feel intimidated.

Fishwife - Ha! Well, the most important thing in these situations is to have confidence in your convictions, even if they are totally misguided and often out-and-out wrong. Also any use of the word "moron" in a family game-based situation is fine by me.

PinkJellyBaby - I don't believe you're lazy, not for a second. We must get to these things in our own time, yes?

Miss D - Hello! Yes, backdate the posts! But then I suppose you might as well just write your memoirs and be done with it... Actually that's a great plan for 2009! Write your memoirs. You could call it Memoirs of an Angel. Love to you xxx

11:08 am

Blogger Curly said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

4:59 pm

Blogger Curly said...

Don't be scared by 2009, it'll be okay once you get to know it. Be excited by 2009 instead!

I like all the verbs you've use for moving around, 'whooshing' and such. x

5:01 pm

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