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.)