Issue #30 - May 16th - 22nd 2003
Sister Janice gets replaced
Byron's Girlfriend, (The Real) Tuesday Weld and Fosca play in Athens
Archiving the History of Loneliness
The Years (part two)
Sap Runs In My Veins
Sister Janice gets replaced
Sister Janice the space travelling ex-nun is unavailable. She is on holiday. She calls it a holiday. I'm not so sure because instead of going to the beach like sensible people she is has jetted off into the cold black unknown of space with a poet she picked up during her last stay on earth.
When she has finished travelling through the galaxies in a converted garden shed sheíll be back to answer your problems. You can continue to write to her care of the friends of the heroes and she is sure to offer you some sort of advice but until then Iím afraid you are stuck with me.
Thank goodness Sister Janice took that Roger with her on her trip to space. While she was in hospital, he played a very cruel trick on me. At first I was wary of him. In general I donít trust people who tell you they have a surprise for you while smiling evilly. When the girl does that it usually means Iím about to get a bath, or a haircut or a trip to the vets in return for a tiny, almost invisible biscuitÖ
I should have trusted my better judgment but Roger tempted me with talk of more burgers than I could imagine. I just couldnít resist. Images of piles of burgers as high as mountains (or at least as big as the hill at the back of my house) filled my mind.
He led me into a hot greasy kitchen and introduced me to a big angry man. While the big angry man was asking me questions about my schooling and levels of hygene Roger just left! I was left looking at that angry looking bald man who promptly stuck a paper hat on my head and told me he didnít normally take people with quite so much hair but seeing as he was short staffed I would do!
It turns out that Roger didnít lie about the burgers, there were millions of the things. What he did forget to mention was that I wouldnít be allowed to eat a single one of them!
The angry man got me a bit fed up with me drooling over the customers (who I have to say were not at all kind and didnít offer me one single gerkin) and put me on washing up duty. I have watched the plate licking machine clean plates on many occasions and just knew this would be a job Iíd enjoy. Unfortunately just as I was getting good at the job, the big angry man said he would have to let me go and sent me on my way.
That Roger better not think he has got away with it thoughÖ Just wait until I catch up with him!
Well enough about my problems lets look at your problems this week. As Sister Janice took her big sack of letters with her this weekís letter comes from the brand new friends of the heroes message board.
Dear Agony Dog, *
My question is about women who wear leopard-skin - fake stuff will do. I wanted to go to the pub at the weekend and no-one else did. Someone told me the women in Carluke pubs all wear leopard-skin to dissuade me but it only encouraged me. However on arriving at the Kirkton I found there was not one woman attired in this way.
I have been told that no women wear leopard skin any more due to changes in fashion. Is this true or do they still exist ?
Your biggest Fan,**
*please not that this wasnít actually said, but we all know he intended to say it. **Again, please note that this wasnít said in quite this way but it is obviously true.
Well what can I say? Of course women still wear leopard skin! Leopard skin
is the height of elegance and those people who wear it will not be slaves to
fickle fashions. They will be broad minded, highly intelligent people with a
unique style all of their own. With that said it should not surprise you to
hear that I myself have on occasion taken to wearing a leopard skin top.
I found a particularly nice
top in a big black bag when the girl was tidying up her roomÖ She had thrown
it in there saying:
So donít give up hope. As long as there are classy ladies like myself there will be wearers of leopard skin.
Love and kisses
Pop Nouveau Festival: What happened in Athens on the night of Saturday May 3rd
Byron's Girlfriend: Hey Beauty, here we go
Trouble didn't start at ten as the flyer had promised: Byron walked on stage at half ten and I can't remember how he looked, because I was still trying to decide where to sit. I ended up sitting on the floor in front of the stage which was a lot of fun: it was more like being in someone's front room rather than at a gig.
From where I was sitting at least the sound was fairly good but not great. I think the acoustic set Byron's Girlfriend played would have been better fitted to an (even) smaller venue or maybe to a better behaved (as in more quiet) audience or maybe it's the fact that -in my opinion- Byron's music would be better fitted to a band rather than an acoustic duo. Anyhow, Byron and Theo (I think) played four of Byron's songs (If, Belissa and the lovely Hey Beauty), one of which was new (called She's like a train or something similar), a Caravan cover and the Velvet's Underground's Satellite of Love (which I hadn't heard in ages and which made me smile and Mina sing it all of the next day) and then walked off to make room for...
Tuesday Weld: Though we've been burnt by it, let's still believe in love
Stephen and the rest of the (The Real) Tuesday Weld Little Big Band walked on stage looking slightly dreamy... Or maybe that's what their music made me think. As we all know I've got an overactive imagination, but then again that's not a strange thought for a band that write songs about the way daisies make their way through crazy paving, what happened when Cupid met Psyche, death, and love that is the only drug that turns the ugly into beautiful.
The music they played was magical and sweet -it made me very happy to be there-, subtle and quiet, and a bit unusual. But that's not strange either: what do you expect from someone who makes jazz/swing/big band/cabaret music today? And writes soundtracks to books? And actually does it well and makes it sound more of something like a novelty than retro?
What was a little strange indeed was the fact that halfway through the set they showed us two videos which Aleksey Budovskiy has made for their songs. They're good, but it would have been better if they were playing the songs at the same time... That would have been really interesting and quite exciting, but they didn't - instead they just sat on their chairs and they stared at the screen just like the rest of us. This made the already short show seem even shorter, or maybe it was the fact that most of the songs they played were from I, Lucifer (the aforementioned soundtrack) and almost none from the previous record. They didn't play I Love The Rain -that is the sort of song, that, used in a commercial, would make Tuesday Weld famous- or At The House Of The Clerkenwell Kid - a pretty great instrumental that sounds quite a bit like the music of a famous Greek composer (Hadjidakis), and to which Tuesday Weld owe the fact that they are a little bit famous in Athens, because of Carousel Zine and its cd. All this could be why the crowd didn't stop talking - because they didn't know the songs- or maybe the crowd was just lacking in manners...
I suppose, however, that these songs didn't suit the current line up: when the crowd called them back on stage Stephen admitted that they didn't know any more songs, and that the only thing they could do was play Le bete et la belle again but this time sang in English... Which in my opinion was not half bad an idea! Though I do hope that by the time they come back they have learnt to play more songs and play for a longer while.
All in all, (The Real) Tuesday Weld Little Big Band might be a bit too subtle to be outright impressive but they are undoubtedly very charming and good at making me smile.
Fosca: Tell me how lucky I am, I keep forgetting
Fosca walked on stage looking like pop stars... To me, this is just one of the things that make Fosca what they are, and Fosca are a little odd. To me, they are a more clever, more pop Baxendale with better melodies (or, rather, with melodies, full stop - Baxendale don't bother with such things too much). Now why this has to come with a certain solipsism and (another certain) stylistic oddity I do not know, but really, you shouldn't let this put you off too much.
Because the fact that Fosca seem to be full of themselves might not be completely justifiable yet it's not completely unreasonable, either and in any case it doesn't do anyone any harm. Though I think I should have said, the fact that their frotman Disckson Edwards seems to be full of himself - the girls seemed very nice, or should I say, they seemed rather normal to me. Because Dickson seemed nice too: he is proof that being full of yourself doesn't necessarily stop you from being nice and interesting. I mean, he didn't stop talking about himself between the songs, sure, but the things he said were fun and interesting and the songs he writes are good, and they're fun, too: synth-pop to which you can dance with witty, extremely English lyrics. That is, lyrics full of strange words, amusing phrases and implications. To further illustrate this point I thereby quote a conversation between Dickon and a random bloke from the audience:
Random Bloke: Tony [Blair] is a cunt!
Okay... maybe I quote it just because I found it amusing. Anyhow - they played a lot of songs of this sort, a bit too many, maybe: in his diary, Dickon says they played 21 (and he probably knows what he's talking about). Also, they played them impressively well, and with such passion and enthusiasm that they made me wonder, did they really think that they're what the world was waiting for? Did they really think the world had nothing better to do than wait for the day a group like Fosca would form, for the day someone would write songs like Dickon Edwards?
To tell you the truth I'm not sure why I was wondering all that because I had been thinking for quite a while "wouldn't it be nice if someone made music like Baxendale, but better?" And even though I do think that Dickon's songs reflect the eccentricity of his personality and style, I also think they're pretty perfect for what they are. Even though thinking he is the second best lyricist alive (second to Morrissey) is a bit too much he is, however, very good indeed.
By that time, I think the crowd had stopped talking. Part of it had just walked away (the place was considerably emptier) while part of the part that had stayed was bouncing ecstatically in front of the stage and made the whole thing feel quite like a party. A very good party at that too - so I stopped wondering how come Fosca are so confident and -while bouncing- I started thinking that maybe we should be like them too. Maybe we would do wonderful things too if we so effortlessly believed we could.
Archiving the History of Loneliness
This empty room with all its dark familiar shadows and shapes. The only thing that makes it bearable is the moons soft glow creeping in between the blinds. The only thing I have left are the memories. It felt like all the stars where lining up for this moment. I slip out of my bed and find my shoes buried somewhere underneath all the old books and clothes. I get that feeling that its almost too early to think. I just want to lay there and stare at my ceiling, making my eyes lose focus until everything turns black again. The moment right before you fall asleep. But its too late to turn back now. Sleep can wait. My bed can too.
God, this empty feeling of morning. The sun hasn't risen yet but I can see the sky get that warm shade of purple. I know its coming soon. I stumble down the hall to the living-room trying hard not to wake my parents. I made silent notes in my head and remembered where every creaky floor board was, where every light switch would be, how many steps to take to get to the back door. The kitchen light was on. Its always on. Like a night light for the ghosts and shadows. It was cold and dark. I stubbed my toe on the table, or maybe the chair? it was too dark to tell. I told myself to just keep walking. The door knob was cold to the touch. I lifted it as I pulled to keep it from squeaking open. And the stars all waited for me in their little rows and columns
When I lost my grandfather, I was six. He was my mentor. He was who I looked to for answers. The reason I go to that lake in the mornings. I remember all the times we would walk around the streets. Early in the mornings before going to breakfast. We would walk that same path. That same set of concrete steps. Along the bridge. We would feed the ducks and geese. And I would find tiny treasures buried under the sand. A toy car. A feather. A pretty leaf. A shiny stone. I would always ask questions. And he always had the answers. I miss him. My happiest memories are with him. So are my saddest. I remember when he fell ill. Cancer. I was too young for anyone to tell me what was happening. I remember panic. Seeing him in a wheelchair. So weak. But no matter who I asked, I was never told what was happening. I remember asking my grandfather what was wrong with him. He didn't have an answer. I remember the funeral. I was going around with a little note pad and a pencil asking people to write there names down on it. My mom always wondered why I did that. She thought it was so cute. I was going to show him. I was going to show my grandfather the list of names of all the people that where there to see him. when they let me up to the coffin, I put the note pad and pencil next to his hand. That's when I knew he wasn't going to wake up. That he wasn't coming back. I remember my mom and sister crying. I hugged them and said, "Its ok. Don't cry." I never cried at his funeral. my mom looked at me and smiled. I remember her face. Covered in tears. I'm still that boy, with the note pad and pencil. The boy that holds strong for everyone else. But inside, I feel I could fall apart at any moment.
So this is where I stand every morning. This is the happiest place I know. And the loneliest. The sun pushes his way through the trees making shadow puppets on the lakes water. The clouds follow his lead and drip their color to the lake. The sunrise slowly comes together. I close my eyes. I feel the light against my face. Bright enough so I can see the veins in my eye lids. I let the cigarette drop from in between my fingers to hear it hisssss in the water. This is my way to wish the night off to sleep. This is my way to know I'm alive.
Eastbourne has its attractions I'm sure, but they seem lost in a howling gale at 4am in the middle of February.
This was where they found him. They were on their way to Brighton at the time. Brighton was a place that his job had often taken him to and, for us all, another sorry straw to flap and grimly clutch at. But there he was, clinging to England's margins in another seaside town. They found him, battered by the tides and God knows what else, soaked to the skin, dragging his sad soul the length of Eastbourne promenade with a defeated, heavy legged gait. My brother says that he tried to run but there was nothing left, nowhere else for him to go and so, near half light, it was my brother who picked him up and carried him.
For six months after that, he was never alone. The doctor signed him off work, prescribed him treatment for depression, and arranged a twice weekly visit from a counsellor. My sister would sit with him every day, from eight in the morning until five at night. He would sit, very still at first, barely speaking except to my sister's new born kid. Later on, he would attribute his recuperation not to the drugs, nor the counsellor, but to my sister and, in particular, her baby, the next generation, a love untainted and unconditional.
When he felt able to work again, he quit his job as a long distance lorry driver and got a job as a taxi driver. A friend of the family ran the business, so not only would he have a support network at home, he would also have one at work, which the counsellor said was as important as anything. My parents also fell in love again, or, perhaps, learned to love again. Just before Christmas that year, they celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary with a trip to another seaside town and a visit to me in my remote Welsh kingdom. There we are now, still in my minds eye, in some nondescript pub or another, drinking, laughing, joking, having the time of our lives, remembering to love, a testament to hope, to family, and to a faith bound by people as opposed to priests.
These are the days, these irrevocable moments, changeless, fixed, and alive with his laughter, that I try to remember.
Not what happened next.
You can only do so much for people. It doesn't matter who they are. If they can't help themselves, if they don't want to help themselves, then you may as well watch the sun come up and let them figure it out for themselves.
He helped himself alright. To a bottle of sleeping pills, aspirin, co-proxymol, and whatever other pills he could find in the house at the time.
How had it come to this point again? A year had barely passed since those halcyon days we spent together. Did we see the signs? Should we have seen the signs? Within the year, he had stopped taking his pills. He had stopped seeing his counsellor. He claimed he didn't need them anymore. Somehow he pulled the wool over the doctors eyes who, in his professional opinion, agreed that he no longer needed his medication. Within that year, he fell and no one caught him. He would go missing for an hour or two. He'd tell my mum he had to take a customer to the airport, that was a favourite ploy of his. Then he'd spend the rest of the day in the bookies. Once he asked me to lend him £150 for a friend who was in trouble, in the way that he 'used' to be. I leant him the money. Wool duly pulled over this boys eyes too. He was my father after all- after all that he had done to us before, he would never do it againÖ
He survived the overdose and somehow, what's left of my dear mother, well that survived too. Now he is in yet another stage of recuperation. The house, their home of 25 years that they fought so hard to buy, has had to be remortgaged to pay off his gambling debts which, when added up, totalled £28,000. My mum's favourite saying is 'sorry never paid the bills.'
He is my dad.
He is my dad.
He is my dad.
Repeat it like a mantra and one day it will be true.
Sap Runs In My Veins
Thoreau went to the woods because he wanted to live deliberately. I never really knew how fortunate I was to have grown up there. My childhood was green, lush, and well watered. I never knew to be sad of the rain because thatís all there really was for me to play in, and so rain was just another playmate for me to chase through the yard, or help me build forts in the sandbox. I left the woods many years ago because the time came to find my way in the world. The summer of childhood gave way to autumn , I had grown tall like the trees around me, and the time had come to leave my forest home. Before I knew it, many seasons had passed since I last had walked along under branches and over brush lit up by the moon.
I went to the desert. I lived in the mountains. Fire blazed down on me during the summer, and snow froze me in the winter. It was there I went to attend University. Years passed, as they often do, and something burned out inside of me. I sat in halls of learning, and saw some around me who were wounded in the same way I was. We all were wounded in a way, we had taken a good look at the world, and it burned out something important in us, like staring at the sun too long. There were dedications and rededications, and tears in the night. Some of them were mine. I wept out of frustration, helplessness, love, lost love, and many other reasons, but mostly I wept because the more I tried to find my way in the world, the more lost in it I became.
I stayed and fought when I had strength, and I ran when I had to. The mountains had refuge, but they were no forest. Then, as suddenly as it began, my education was over, and I was free. Free to do what? I had been gone so long, I didnít know where I belonged anymore. On a whim, almost not knowing why, I returned home. I had family I didnít know, and no friends, but I came all the same. A new beginning. As the miles melted away I watched the mountains grow smaller and fade in my rear view mirror I wondered: if this was such a new beginning, why did it feel like an ending?
As I made my journey, mountains became desert, and desert became plains, and eventually became forest enveloping me again. It had been seven years since we had last seen each other, and it danced around me like a beautiful lithe woman in garments of green and gold. My childhood companion had grown with me, but I loved her the moment I saw her. I got out of my car, and the wind whistling through the trees was as a welcome song for me, and a leitmotif for my restoration. Rain fell lightly from the sky, moistening my cheeks again. It has been two weeks since, and I still know, as I knew then;