Different Families

Tuesday April 12th: Ms Kirsten calls me out of the blue and takes me to lunch at Cafe Rouge, Highgate. A schoolteacher, she used to live in Crouch End, but has since relocated to Cheshunt, just north of London. She’s bought a house there and is now trying for a baby with her girlfriend, with help from a clinic. Not quite IVF, but it’s something similar, with similar initials.

Ms K misses London and is a little worried how her new neighbours will accept a lesbian, mixed-ethnicity family: Cheshunt is not quite the groovy California of the film The Kids Are All Right. I forget how easy it is for a dyed-in-the-hair Londoner such as me to take the city’s tolerance for granted. Though I know I quip about being stuffed into a Wicker Hermaphrodite the moment I step outside the M25.


Wednesday 13th. A grim joke: my job advisor is losing her job. This is the NHS Working For Health service, which provides job-seeking support for people with mental health problems (in my case, depression). Like a lot of public services at the moment, the whole department is being closed down.

It’s very hard not to get enraged about this, in a country with more millionaires than ever, which can still find the money to keep one controversial foreign war going (Afghanistan) while starting a new one (Libya) without a second thought. Brent Council this week pushed through its plans to axe half its libraries. I do wonder if there’s going to be some great change coming. Perhaps not an actual revolution, but one does yearn for a shake-up of the way things are. It’s certainly hard to watch Messrs Cameron & Clegg piling on their unctuous insincerity every time they appear on television, without dreaming up scenes from the life of Robespierre.


Wednesday evening: Another memorable Boogaloo night. It’s the wake of John and June Parkhouse. An older gentlemen, John was the regular at the bar since it opened in 2002, and he was a regular for a long time before that, when it was known as The Shepherds.

(Note to some websites: John was a regular, not the owner of The Shepherds – I just confirmed this with the Boogaloo. I can just about remember the old owner myself, and his enormous dog).

Every evening at about half past ten, John would very quietly and very slowly walk in and take his seat at the bar, regardless of whatever loose decadence and noise was going on that night (such as Libertines secret gigs). I remember he was kind enough to sign my nomination papers when I ran for council election in 2006.

John’s wife June died two days after he did, and apparently they left behind little in the way of family or funds. But there are different kinds of family: tonight the Boogalo staff return the favour with a memorial and benefit night for John and June.

The host and DJ is Crouch End’s own Simon Pegg, who knew John  from the Shepherds days. The special guest performer is his friend Chris Martin from Coldplay, who’s come all the way from New York just for this.

Mr Martin performs a few solo acoustic numbers. One (‘Green Eyes’) has Mr Pegg on harmonica. Another is a brand new song – called ‘Wedding Bells’, I think. He also plays the Oasis number  ‘Wonderwall’, after a request from a woman in the audience. It’s not clear if she was joking or not: I rather like the idea of going to a secret gig by Mr Coldplay and asking him NOT to play a Coldplay song. But he says to her, ‘I’ll do it if you join me,’ and they sing the Oasis hit together.

Though I’ve never been a great fan of Coldplay’s music (mainly through its sheer ubiquity), Mr Martin is perfectly sweet and funny, while Mr Pegg is a rather good harmonica player. And a top DJ to boot – he spins ‘Duel’ by Propaganda along with lots of 80s pop.

I also say hello to Matt McGinn, the Coldplay roadie who’s set up an army of acoustic guitars for Mr Martin to choose from (CM makes a joke about his false modesty). I last saw Mr McGinn when he was the roadie for Kenickie, and my band Orlando toured with them.

James Walbourne’s here too, playing a set with his own group The Walbourne Bros. He’s the dazzlingly good guitarist who’s been in several Boogaloo house bands over the years, as well as the Pretenders and Edwyn Collins’s band; the latter alongside my brother.

At least one of Ant and Dec are at the gig, though no more than two.

I chat to another regular about my decision to do a degree at Birkbeck College. He tells me that before it was The Shepherds, The Boogaloo was originally known as… The Birkbeck Tavern. All these years I’ve been going to the pub, and I only find that out now. Maybe it’s a sign…

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