backstory – moshpit

Manchester, night. Far too many stories could start this way, I concede. Platforms 13/14, waiting for the last train of the night, so-called ‘vomit rocket’ among train staff. To be specific, then; Manchester, night, in a bar with complete strangers.

To being with, most of what happened on this particular night has been long since sorted out and forgotten. Misunderstanding and on my part perhaps too much exasperation rather than reasoned questioning. I did stay for about an hour, crouched and cross-legged, with a bit of a sulk, but otherwise looking like a drug-dealer whose sitting down was far more subtle a positioning than standing-up, active and obvious. Who was I there to review, originally? I forget. I shook the hand of one of the band’s members, who looked like Preston College’s former SU head, hair all over the place like fireworks, only black.

Before this, then, the strangers, of whom I counted four. Two of them I cannot bring to mind at all, I just know they existed. One bloke was clearly gay without ever saying anything to prove it; the fact just sat alongside him, unremarked. The woman was quite attractive, and funny, with the dry irony preferred by indie-kids. We made refuge in her (or their?) flat, eating pasta. I used up all my usual jokes and anecdotes until the problem on the door. Like me they had names on lists, open doors, pleased-to-see-yous. But all this has been sorted, now. I had been a little angrier than I should, all told. In the drizzle, on the street-corner, I must have looked like a runaway, only one with a mobile phone.

If not this story, then “Manchester, night”, could introduce the walk I had to make from the Academy to the Roadhouse with one leg of my jeans torn knee-to-boot. Without any context the image must have been totally hilarious, or else the effects of a fight. I had, in fact, been reviewing (I always say this, as though I am an inspector. I’ve heard other journalists say “assignment”, which doesn’t do it for me. “Other journalists”, have you heard?).

Alexisonfire, it was, and a very good gig it was too. I would go on to interview Dallas Green, who was attractively geeky and deadpan. The kids around me were a bit of a muddle, though. Some had clearly not revised how best to act at gigs, so did their best to be violent. I can hold my ground very well – many a bus and train commute behind me – so am not pushed to either side very easily despite my frame. I fold my arms, hold tight. Some gave up ultimately, watching the gig through their mobile phones, or muttering something about me while barging their way to the front by other means. At some point there was a foothold made, a successful push ahead, resulting in a small tear to my jeans, opened up like a wound within minutes. I walked out to the streets as proud and unaffected as a man could with one jeans-leg tied into his sock.

(Incidental memory – Fightstar, who I have seen three times now, Preston. Not much drink inside me. Actual moshpit ‘action’ is not my scene, all things considered, but close proximity can often suck you in like tiny flecks of hair sucked down the plughole after shaving. I left with bruises and a stolen hoodie, lost in the clump of shirtless men and angry, grit-teethed girls with sharp-fringes)

This is not entirely about how this old man has grown awfully cynical about the behaviour of younger people at gigs, although there is something to be said. To show that even folk like me get things wrong, I could either make reference to the night I nearly fainted during a Jack Penate gig (that is, at the gig, not at him); or when my jeans fell down during Coheed and Cambria.

But never violent. To my memory. Yet.


backstory – family wedding

“Church”. To my family, to all Wiganers truth be told, it should rhyme with “first” and “worse”. And so it did, at the wedding for people I cannot recall by name, in a year lost in memory. The church was blue, Methodist, in Bryn. The wedding between a man I had never met before in my life and a woman who was the daughter of the daughter of the sister of somebody else.

This being Wigan, you could walk from house to house meeting relatives with no more struggle than if you were setting out for a ‘paper and some milk.

(Incidental memory: my grandmother, finger running down the small print of a phone directory tapping, running through the names of people who had died, to her knowledge.)

What did I wear? Cannot remember. A school-shirt, possibly, one of dad’s work-ties. Hair cut no doubt. My sister? A blank too. I recall only very specific things, like watching a video late at night with the sound down.

What I wore then cannot be recalled. I stood next to my grandfather with his booming singing voice in fine form. My voice was muted, slightly scared. The whole atmosphere was stifling, maybe it was the weather. It wasn’t just the weather, it was the service, which was quite fervent and traditional. The service was led with some emotion by a man, who was old, I remember that. Or do I remember it? The view I have through my memory is of the wall behind him, which was blue, and on which was painted a caption, the only word of which I can recall with any certainly is “JESUS”. Maybe it was “SAVES” although that doesn’t sound very Methodist at all.

He was saying – the man, not Jesus – that essentially the happiness of the wedding was all well and good but didn’t we realise that in the eyes of God we had pretty much failed Him and there was not a single pot of jam more we could sell or apology we could pray that would save us. We’d just have to work bloody damn hard every single minute of our lives until we died. He didn’t say “bloody”. He sure as Hell said “damn”.

(Incidental memory: my grandmother wearing the same dress as another guest. It was my sister who spotted this, I remember.)

This was my only family wedding. Which is unusual, given the closeness of the upbringing. I have had two funerals, only one of which was family, although close (to me) family members have died. The closeness of the family unit is as odds with geographic elements. And other elements too, which are easily resolved, if either side of us took the time to resolve them. I wish I could recall more than just trivial highlights, though. We must have had drinks after – did I have a drink? Such things were frowned upon, small “c” conservatives. The Methodist element of the equations were, for want of a better word, diluted.

We must have had drinks, then.

(Incidental memory: a distant relative, near the Bryn railway station. A garden, square, with birds. Something fleeting runs through my long-term memory, as though I am staring at a photo album on top of a camp-fire, photographs flicking and turning and racing up through the heated air.)

backstory – jumper

Preston College Students Union office, before “the troubles”. A friend of mine has suggested I am in someway showing off by turning up, head to toe, in clothes bought that weekend with my wages from my first ever job. Maybe I was. No, scratch that: I was not. Assuming it was a joke, (it was a joke), showing off was the last thing on my mind, given I was wearing a fisherman’s hat, skin-tight army-print t-shirt and a corded jacket. Jeans, certainly, but they were old. Or so I assume.

But purchasing clothes, then and now, is not something I do with great haste or enjoyment. It is something of a chore, like buying shoe-polish or replacement lightbulbs. I remember the incident with a grey jumper really clearly, not least because my mindset (behaviour?) remains fairly similar now.

The store was Officer’s Club, which exists today but not where it once was. The original store was tucked away in another part of the Fishergate Centre, above what once was the cafe (what was this called? The Station? No…The Platform? No…It was called, WhistleStop, I remember now. There was a miniature train which ran along a track fixed to the ceiling. It did not whistle. Or stop.)

So, then, Officer’s Club. It was from there I bought a blue jumper, sky blue, with a design like a jagged rainbow on the front. “Oh Jesus,” said my dad. “Oh God,” said my sister. My dad was not one for bothering with the purchasing of clothes, with the kind of attitude suggesting that any bloke who spends more than a few minutes down the market buying a jumper is showing the kind of behaviour which would have him expelled from the army. At the back of my mind then and now such a forceful piece of Wiganer logic remains. Absent-mindedly checking out the fabrics and prices of every rack in the store is a worrying trait in anybody not a grandmother or teenage girl.

So, the jumper. I had walked in, spotted the familiar sense of feeling ‘watched’ and ‘scrutinised’, and how awkward I felt being in a clothes store, even if it was Officer’s Club with its constant discount offers and endless sales. I would have liked a grey jumper, found one, bought it, left. On discovering it was sleeveless, a kind of tank-top affair, my mother did not take “It’s fiiiiiine” for any kind of excuse, taking me back to the shop to exchange it for something more suitable. She actually said to the guy behind the counter, “He thought it was a jumper”. Maybe I looked away at this point, studied my shoes. Else I was already looking away.

Lessons have been learned, but not heeded or remembered all the time. Only two years ago I returned from a retro clothes store in Manchester with a yellow-and-blue Adidas top (and very nice it was too), in the size “oh eck this is a bit tight”. Refusal to try clothes on in store (for fear, and it is fear, of resembling someone who wants attention from staff) will forever be my downfall.

Dad was right, though.

interruptions from history

FC Utd. Bank. Exploding lightbulbs. There’s a lot to remember after some time away.

And I’ve not, technically moved anywhere.

You need to listen to the Empire State, they’re very good.

I made it to FC Utd, for a very good struggle but ultimately a 2-0 defeat for the mighty Berske. For the first time I was, all things considered, the target for “You Scouse bastards” chanting. “They’ve got a Liverpool postcode, that’s enough for me,” commented a bloke on the tram back to Victoria.

Two days later, at home, normal service is not quite resumed, ending up 8-0 victors against a clearly hastily thrown together Durham side. Two goals disallowed (one for “pushing in the area”, which in non-league surely isn’t an issue?)

The Bank are getting testy. I haven’t been chased for the c/c so often before. I think it’s just the mood of the nation, such as it is. But they’ve got an increase in minimum payment, that’ll do for now. Covered tracks, sort of thing. Then I go and see a bloke on BBC News talking about how his wife and he managed to pay off some multi-thousand debt during the credit-crunch “which now is gladly over” or some such dribble. Balls to it, I say.

Woke up this morning (no, this ain’t a blues song), all my lightbulbs blown out. Need to get a torch. No, revision: I /have/ a torch but no batteries (damn Maplin). So may have to hot-foot it to Argos. Or buy matches. I’ll buy matches, probably.

I have limited time on this computer. Darn it! I must get internet access at home….


The Empire State – "There Was A Hero"

Gender testing athletes, pan-Continental legal kerfuffles, banning festival flags, and demonstrations against equality in healthcare; just what on earth is going on in the world these days? Some common sense, that is what we’re after, sitting down to observe the world from a sedentary position away from the madcap, the panic of for-the-hell-of-it news print, the rise in unnecessary worries.

And while you’re sitting there world-watching, listen to some Empire State, the Lancashire band with a heavy dose of Turin Brakes and unplugged Manics about them. The mood through “There Was A Hero” is essentially contemplative with “Found Me In Your Photographs” a typical example of their mature take on topics so often wrung dry. Your standard indie band the Empire State are not, this EP is sober in all senses of the word. Its title track is a genuine and moving song not too far removed from “Local Boy In The Photograph” for those Stereophonics fans still around to admit such things.