Pal George, he of our regular man-dates, has got us all guest tickets to see his uncle, singer of 90s indie gods James. They are playing the Academy, supported by Echo & the Bunnymen, self-proclaimed Best Band in the World Ever.
When we get there at 8pm, they’ve already started.
“This is the best fucking song in the world,” slurs Ian McCulloch as the glissando first notes of The Killing Moon drizzle down our spines. The class of 1984 are here in force, filled out and worked over by time’s cruel bullying. But before we know it, the Echo has faded, leaving just some weird Kabbalah cursing in the toilets and a lake of tepid piss traversing the cubicles, looking for something 30 years too late.
James’ appearance on stage summons up unheard-of acts from men I would cross the street to avoid. In comparison, McCulloch’s lairy bravado was just a childish front, and now the soft underbelly of a thousand blokes can wobble in lovely sentimentality.
The only way I can see the stage is from the far corner of the balcony. Here, the floor shakes with drunken stomping, and tipsy men gyrate with 12 pint grins.
I eavesdrop a text convo between a fan and his absent wife (perks of being tall).
“Has he told you to sit down yet?”
“Nah. He’s played our album though, and some new ones what are good.”
Our album. Bless.
These hard men are united by soft anthems, as Tim Booth wiggles his metrosexual hips, a luminary in loon pants.
With Just Like Fred Astaire, (which he sang at George and Demi’s wedding), Tim walks among his people like Ben Kinglsey as Ghandi, a forest of arms sprout cameraphones along his path. He is their skinhead poet, their Singing Counsellor who listens while they softly weep of neglected boyhoods and the hard shell the world made them wear. This is Rimbaud, not Rambo, and the mad jesters of Madchester recite his poems with chest pounding love.
This is an armistice on machismo, a peace corp of men wearing flower t-shirts. Sit Down vs. The Killing Moon: I never thought such an anthem of domesticity and inaction would win devotion over such thrusting, masculine yearning, but tonight I glimpse my part in the phalanx of the phallus and it is just like everyone else’s.
“It’s weird”, Tim tells me afterwards, “but our fans are different everywhere we go. In Mexico, it’s teenagers; in Greece it’s 30 something women. And here it’s big blokes.”
As we leave, I make the mistake I always do, and try to pat Tim on the back and get some sort of friendly validation even we’ve only met once. He doesn’t turn round.
I’ve been referred to a Mindfulness course by my doctor. Mindfulness is like Buddhism, without the silly Buddha bit.
I manage to be 10 minutes late to the first one today.
There’s about eight of us here, and we all say our names, to ease the tension. It so happens that the two women either side of me are called Sharon. I can’t help myself.
“I’m in a Sharon sandwich!” I blurt out, leaning forward conspiratorially. Both Sharons stiffen in their seats.
After a few seconds of awkward silence, one of the women running the group forces out a chuckle and says,
“Ho Ho, well done!”
The Sharons start to relax again.
I can’t stop thinking about a practical joke involving a rubber glove, with one finger smeared with Nutella. It would fall out of your victim’s bag at a crucial point, like an interview or first date.
They might lick it to prove it wasn’t poo, but that would be even worse.
Why do really camp men always look like their faces are in a wind tunnel?
Summer is here. We’ve had 1.5 hours of sun and already the air is choked with BBQs, and a boy has cycled past me in a zebra onesie with a zebra face mask. He looked right at me, the face of something symbolic. No idea what.
There’s a man in the pub. He’s so average. I wish I was average. He’s small, and cutely proportioned and he has a normal length neck. He is so healthy & taut that even the skin of his inner ear shines.
I’m off to interview funny Welsh artist Bedwyr Williams for Flux Magazine. His gallery are paying for me to go by train to his studio in Caernarvon. I’ve spent all week trying to come up with questions. I’m bricking it. I’ve tried to think of some really serious questions. And I’ve got my usual childish, inane ones that right now I am embarrassed of.
I have 20 minutes to get from one station to another in Warrington and I can’t resist going in a charity shop. Madonna is playing on the radio. I find a pair of big 70s sunglasses and try them on. About time for an Acid jazz revival, I tell myself. I get myself a red silk shirt too. When I get home later, I’ll realise that I was slightly delirious.
Bedwyr picks me up from Bangor station. Within seconds, I know the silly questions will work. He really reminds me of someone I used to know, but I can’t think who. Maybe this boy that we called Sexual Sam who played Thirteenth Floor Elevators on vinyl and I was sick in his garden after a bong.
Every so often as he’s driving, he turns to me with an impish Malcolm McDowell grin. We seem to get on pretty well. But then he tells me he’s already had people from The Times, Observer and Guardian to see him, with their witty anecdotes about famous people. All I have is a silly hat which I bought from Oxfam and now think was a bad idea. All the best material happens when we’re chatting on the way there and back- as soon as I turn on my Dictaphone, things go a bit stiff and formal.
But time flies and he drives me back to the station with only seconds to spare. “I’ll wait in case you miss the train,” he says, which means he gets to see my silly run where I have to pull my skinny jeans up every 3 steps of the way because my belt won’t work. Mine is the generation who can’t run anywhere.
Finally, on the train, I devour the pasta salad that I didn’t eat on the way in the hope that Bedwyr would feed me something interesting. I start reading the book of performance scripts that he gave me, and it makes me manically grin and choke on laughter, so I have to put it away. Still flush with the overfamiliarity of interview, I text him about laughing at his book, like he’s a drinking buddy.
He doesn’t reply.
The thought police have declared an armistice.
“Give up your most dangerous ideas,” they say, “and you’ll come to no harm.”
I can’t think of anything worth handing in.
There’s a pair of gay ducks in the stream on my way to work. Sometimes a moorhen hangs out with them like a fag-hag.
I submitted a short story about Taylor Swift for discussion in my writing class tonight. It leads to the immortal line;
“You know the bit in your story that starts ‘She pushed me against the big tit…’?”
I may never beat this moment.
I’m so sick of walking Goldie in the park and hearing hundreds of birds who somehow manage to totter round the other side of branches when I look up. But I have a plan. If I can weaponize some rohypnol, I can fire a canister into the trees and take my time catching them in a net and ruffling their tummy feathers, before setting them back in their roosts.
I sit down on the grass for the first time this year, enjoying the sun
while Goldie eats grass like a sheep. I feel nostalgic, and remember when Russia used to be called CCCP. That was weird.