Notes On Wanderlust

Managed to get up at 9am this time, though I think I spent most of the morning reading things on the internet, which is still no good.

For some reason, much of today was reading about male writers who moved to different countries. I stumbled on the blog of Karl Webster this morning. He pretended to be that ‘Ugly Man’ blogger a few years ago (I do find confessions of internet fakery fascinating). Right now, though, he is having adventures living with cats in a French forest.  Or at least he says he is.

(I don’t think anyone’s accused me of making up my own persona to write this blog. As it is, I already look like a fictional character in real life. Even my hairdresser said my too-long hair was like a bad wig…)

I also started reading Geoff Dyer’s Out Of Sheer Rage, and found myself laughing aloud on the Tube as a result. It’s his account of trying to write a book about DH Lawrence, and failing, and details all the procrastination and dithering and hindrances that occur along the way. At the start, he has the chance to move house to write the book, and can’t make up his mind where to go. Not just which area, but which country. This makes him sound quite privileged and fortunate, but his experiences are far from blissful. Early on he goes from Paris (too pricey) to Rome (too hot) and then spends six weeks on a beautiful Greek island, only to discover that after the first few days all the beauty puts him off writing, or doing anything at all. Apart from killing wasps. It’s very funny, and the procrastination thought-processes feel very familiar (Of course, I’m reading this book instead of getting on with my own writing).

I also read a Paris Review interview with the Cloud Atlas novelist David Mitchell, another British writer who’s lived in different countries: Japan and Ireland in particular.

So naturally I found myself thinking about how I’ve only ever lived in the UK (Suffolk, Bristol, London) and wondering whether I could or should give living abroad a go. I don’t have the immediate financial means to do so, but that never seems to stop people I know. Once determination takes over, they just find the money and get the sort of work which can be done on a laptop anywhere, or they take an English teaching job in the country they want to live in.

I don’t think I could do it alone. It would have to be through some external opportunity – such as the decisions of a partner (Dyer’s girlfriend in the book is an American with a flat in Rome). But I’m not the partner sort of person… (and if this were a film, the great relationship of my life would start in the next scene).

Tangier is one place I’ve thought about a lot, having gone there three times and being an ardent fan of its bohemian history. The summers would be difficult, though, given my aversion to heat – I even find London too hot in the summer. Stockholm is another favourite city which I’ve had some happy times in. So if we’re talking sheer fantasy, I’d quite like to try ‘dividing my time’ as they say on book jackets, between Stockholm and Tangier.

But who am I kidding? I’m such a Londoner. One thing I love about London is how I can suddenly decide to see a recent-ish film in a proper cinema and know it will be playing somewhere. Today I fancied seeing Midnight In Paris, the Woody Allen film. It’s been released on DVD now, but there was still one cinema showing it this evening – the Odeon Panton Street. About 50% full, too.

Quite apt to see it so soon after The Artist, given it’s another love letter to the 1920s. The Owen Wilson character is a  gushing fan of Paris during the Jazz Age, with its writers and artists – much like I am with the Tangier of the 50s and 60s. Through a bit of handy time-travelling, he gets to meet all the great names of the era before deciding which timezone – and which woman – he truly belongs to. Pure wish fulfilment (and the story is not entirely unlike the premise of the TV sitcom Goodnight Sweetheart), but a lot of fun. The actor playing the young Ernest Hemingway is particularly good, and in his brief scenes he threatens to steal the film.

Any film that expects its audience to get the following joke is fine by me:

“Wow, was that Djuna Barnes I was dancing with? No wonder she wanted to lead!”

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A Windowless Peace

Friday night.

Prior to showtime evening I am interviewed at the hotel by a young man from a web magazine. He says he met his girlfriend at a Fosca gig, and asks for an autograph. I suppose I’m flattered to be considered a kind of very minor cult figure, though as ever I wonder if I’ll ever be able to turn this so-called ability into something approximating a modest day job.

Passionate fans yes, but never quite in serious number. I’m told the last album has still to break even (though it’s close). Though weirdly, they’ve completely sold out of Fosca t-shirts. I wonder if it’s because you can’t download and copy t-shirts like you can music.

It’s odd to think of Fosca as a t-shirt band, given the lead singer prefers shirts and ties. But clearly t-shirts are still a perennial indication of affection for a band (or a sci-fi TV series). They’re a kind of declared vote, a register of passions, a joining of a club, or even a ‘Would Like To Meet’ advert.

Stage time in Stockholm. Backstage, I pick up the guitar that’s been kindly lent to me, strum it tentatively, and promptly break the top string.

Thankfully a replacement (for the replacement) is found at once, courtesy of the band Days, and Fosca go on to play a well-received if slightly sad-feeling set.

Days, the guitar and amp-lending band on after us, turn out to be a group of extremely lovely and frankly jaw-droppingly beautiful young Swedish men, with a soulful line in jangly Echo & The Bunnymen / Chills style songs. I stick around to watch their set, then walk back with the others across the snow-lined streets to the hotel.

The huge and trendy Scandic hotel is teeming with people and noise when we get in. Some kind of Eurovision ‘Song For Europe’ event, apparently, complete with red carpet on the pavement outside. Maybe not the selection contest itself, but certainly a tie-in party. Both Charley and Rachel ask the hotel to switch their rooms, so great is the interruption to their sleep.

But I’m fine. My room is two floors underground at the opposite side of the building. I sleep perfectly. For someone who suffers from being easily distracted, windowless rooms are perfect. If I need daylight, I just go upstairs and loaf in the artily-decored lobby area.

The morning afterwards, the lobby is rapt to groups of tell-tale burly men in  padded North Face jackets, with laminated Eurovision crew passes dangling from their necks.

Off to Norrkoping today. The very last Fosca gig.

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Backstage diary

Am typing this backstage at Debaser Slussen, Stockholm. Fosca are due to go on at 10.30pm. We are three: Rachel S, Charley S and self.

Arrived at Heathrow thinking something was missing. Racked my brains…

Passport? Check. Plectrums? Got that. Wallet, cash card, guitar pedals, pedal connector leads, guitar leads, laptop, laptop audio lead, laptop power lead, mobile phone, mobile phone power charger, European plug adaptor, toiletries, make up, shirts, ties,  clothes brush, underwear, socks, contact lenses, lyric sheets, notebooks, pens, reading matter…

Ah. Guitar. Oops.

So I now have to borrow a Swedish guitar for the gigs, turn it upside down, and be careful not to knock the volume knob while strumming – the lot of a guitarist who learned to play left-handed but with the strings reversed. Still, if I’d learned to play a normal left-handed model the right way up, emergency instrument borrowing would be so much harder.

It’s a third rather obvious sign that my subconscious is trying to tell me something, what with my missing one rehearsal altogether, then arriving over an hour late for a second (having overslept in the afternoon – woken by Rachel calling from the rehearsal studio). I definitely am not meant to be doing Fosca any more. Just as well it’s our last gigs.

Email today:

From: venice italy
Message: Dear Dickon, as a fan of fosca may i ask you if a day you and your group will come to italy?

Ah well. Sorry. Perhaps in a different incarnation.

Another email posits one possible reason why Fosca have a following in Sweden:

From: Gothenburg/Stockholm
Message: Dear Mr. Edwards,
Why Sweden? you ask.
I know.
We are always sad, we are always a bit confused, we always long for something more beautiful, more real, and we always want to dance. And you seem know the soundtrack of that feeling.
See you tonight.

Stockholm is snow-covered, but thawing. God bless the staff of Debaser Slussen: food and drink for soundcheck, then a proper dinner. And they even found Charley headache tablets. Bar has cocktails named after Pixies songs.

Charley Stone, on stage clothes: I think tonight I’ll be Nick Rhodes, but with breasts.

Me: An upgrade!

Ah, time to go onstage.

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