Goodbyes of the 13th

Further to the last entry, I suppose it’s something of an achievement to be singled out for having funny hair in Camden Town. That perennially youthful hub of North London where the current fashion is for young men to wear their hair in a kind of spilt paint-pot effect. It’s as if their hair has not so much been styled as thrown onto their heads from a great height.

I do like the trend for young men wearing scarves at all times, though. Often indoors. A couple of days ago I saw a fashionable looking boy on the Archway Road with his Ugg-ed up girlfriend. Not just a tangle of scarves and skinny jeans, but sunglasses on his head too. In mid December.

It’s never a bad thing for young men to have to feminize themselves to fit in. Though I’m obviously biased. Make-up is often a leap too far, though. One feels sorry for the ‘brickies in drag’ of the 70s glam rock era, or the 60s hippies who really wanted to be lads, or those backing musicians in 80s New Romantics bands who were not at one with their eyeshadow. Scarves are more do-able.

The fashion also favours the boyish side of androgyny (and again, I’m biased). A scarf hides an Adam’s Apple, or corrects Nature’s omission of one.


Where was I? (All over the place, today, Mr E. Still, carry on.)

Yes, the last Fosca gig at Islington. It was fine, no one died (Oh do stop that!). Maybe not as many people as one might hope. Alex S says the heavy rain of the 13th definitely made some people stay at home. He quotes Frank Skinner:

‘You can spend your life trying to be popular, but at the end of the day, the size of the crowd at your funeral will be largely dictated by the weather.’

It’s so true. And it was a funeral, after all. Some kind comments afterwards: great sound, great performance, shame we’re splitting up. That it would be even more of a shame if I never took to the stage again. Well, we’ll see.

Matt Haynes says our one-off line-up and going out with a one-off vinyl single in 2008 reminded him of the equally perverse last Field Mice gig in 1991 or so. There, the band aired brand new songs which hadn’t been released then and never were released afterwards (and remain unreleased even now, I think…). Here’s to perversity.

I’m just glad we managed one last London gig at all. That’ll do, Fosca, that’ll do.

I stand around afterwards with a box of the new single and last album, in case anyone wants to buy them. And as it happens, they do. To my absolute surprise I attract a small queue. I sell all the copies I’ve brought. Including, by accident, my own copies. Oops. And I sign some, too. I’m getting good at signing things in noisy places (or if I’m feeling a bit deaf), asking people to quickly write their name on a bit of scrap paper nearby, then confidently spelling their name correctly on their book or record.

Boy H had to go back to the US (and snow) the same evening. Pretty much for good. What with him and Fosca I had to deal with two big goodbyes in one night. I plumped for my usual tactic. I got a bit drunk.

So: single again. Alone, but not lonely. All kinds of invites from friends who are also spending the festive break in London – dinner there, drinks here, a concert of carols if I fancy it. Too lucky to grumble.

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Olives and Truffles

In Charing Cross Road, a man passes me talking loudly on his mobile phone. As is usually the case, just one phrase leaps surreally out of the background chatter:

‘…bring it to Danny’s thong auction?’


Sorting out final preparations for the Fosca trip to Germany. Boy H is coming along: he speaks German fluently and is a general Germany-phile, so it seems a ridiculously natural thing to have him join the travelling party (at my own expense, though – that’s always the unspoken deal with Other Halves Who Are Not In The Band).

Boy H is part Companion, part Voice of Student Youth. Younger but wiser, he’s forever surprising me with his unexpected cultural references, shifting gear between highbrow and lowbrow worlds so fast, I feel in danger of getting the cultural bends.

In what I presume is a very modern but fairly common scene for couples who have friends and readers online, I’m typing this on my main desk computer while Boy H is across the room with my mini-laptop on his knees. He’s keeping five AIM chat conversations going at once, talking to friends in the US, Germany and Mile End, all in the same screen, and in different languages. He’s just broken off from absentmindedly singing the latest Sugababes hit to call over, ‘You know Einstuerzende Neubauten, right?’

More choice Boy H-isms.

In the V&A, glancing over at a piece of silverware: ‘Isn’t that Actaeon?’

Then moments later, as we’re walking to the tube and passing a poster advertising a popular console game:

‘Ooh – Abba Singstar!’

He’s now watching rare Nick Cave videos on YouTube. I’ve just asked him about the Eurovision contest, and what he thinks of TATU.

‘They’re horrible, imho.’

‘You do realise you’ve just said ‘IMHO’ out loud?’

(IMHO: internet chat for ‘In My Humble Opinion’. Not that humbleness is a quality one necessarily associates with comments left on the internet.)

Just come back from seeing various friends’ bands at Nambucca on the Holloway Road: The Sex Tourists (Rory, David and Jeremy), The New Royal Family (David, Charley, Richard, Jen), Richard A’s new band. Due to being busy plying Boy H with chocolates in Fortnum and Mason, I managed to miss Charley S’s Abba Stripes band, who play the songs of Abba in the style of The White Stripes.

They’re all excellent and enjoyable bands, though I still can’t fully work out how to enjoy myself in the presence of something enjoyable. Admiring a band used to mean they made me want to jump up onstage and join in with them, usually on guitar. Now that I’m less keen to play in a live band myself, I can no longer consult this handy inner Pavlov.

So… how DO I know if I’m enjoying a gig or not? Is rock music taking its place in my heart alongside, say, ballet?

‘I know you’re obviously a fantastic ballet dancer. I just don’t like ballet. And I feel bad that I don’t like something that’s unarguably good.’

(Except this has changed too. ‘The Red Shoes’ is starting to overtake ‘A Matter Of Life And Death’ in my heart…)

Tastes change. Interests change. So why do I feel guilty?

(I still don’t care for olives or truffles, though.)


As for being in a band myself, it’s the nuts and bolts side of things that irks me the most these days: the endless procuring of amps and keyboard stands, the eternal fiddling with mixer levels, and all the heavy lifting. I really like the idea of a band splitting up due to too much heavy lifting. Boy H is on roadie duty for Germany.

I realise some people think I’m strange (why continue this sentence?) for not wanting to do A Supposedly Fun Thing anymore. Truth is, if the Fun you pay to do – at up to £70 per rehearsal – now feels more like Work than the Work that pays for your Fun, something has to change.

I also keep thinking of a line from the 90s Peter Cook / Chris Morris spoof interviews, ‘Why Bother’:

‘Poor old Eric Clapton. It must be hell for him, having to play the wretched guitar all the time.’

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