The morning was mild and breezy, as we drove to the lake I noticed Blackthorn and Gorse flowering on the embankments. After an easy row down river, Isaac and I were fishing, for Pike as usual. For some reason he’d forgotten how to cast today but he got his baits out far enough. We both caught fish, I had the most but he had the biggest. After a gruelling row back upstream we were back in the car by lunchtime, we have a full schedule today.
Into Town, the hairdressers first. An old school friend has the scissors and the chat is nearly as fast as the snipping, during which he confirms what I already suspected, the young people today are consuming coke with the same nonchalance that we smoked weed.
Onward into my dirty ol’ home town, at least that’s how it looks in miserable January, lots of shitty shops and vacant units. It’s a far more multicultural place nowadays and this divides opinion. It doesn’t feel as friendly, to me at least, but this isn’t down to skin colours as much as the vibe I feel. I can’t help looking at the young women and not for the reasons you might expect. I’m fascinated by the eyebrows, they look a bastard. They’re all obviously drawn on, possibly by an infant relative and so obviously fake. Then there’s the lips, all puffed up and pouty and yes fake. As is the spray tanned skin tone, fake. But I expect it all looks good on the social media portrait and that’s where they all mingle these days. It occurs to me that they are trying to look like black women and they probably don’t even realise it. Somewhere a fashion executive is saying “we got away with the eyebrows, what can we get the stupid bastards to do next?” The other day at work I overheard a young woman say she’d spent “…nearly a grand on my lips…”, I know this will sound nasty but it was like spending money double glazing your shed.
Later, in the garden, the unidentified bush that squats in the Beech hedge is flowering. There are some open daffodils too and the Snowdrops I transplanted from a waterside location are still surviving but definitely not flourishing. I don’t know when the buds appeared on the Beech trees, they may have been there when the leaves fell off. Spring is slipping in but winter hasn’t finished with us yet.
Evening. I’m going gigging with the architect, well that’s what I’m calling him today. As usual he is driving, the soundtrack is interesting, the conversation flows and spirals and goes off at tangents but fishing at the special place is an ever present theme. We hammer along the A roads; A14, A11 then M11 and the further you go the more the concrete looms in and envelopes you before all the green has gone and everything is grey concrete or red London brick. London. What a shit whole.
We keep going, deeper into the labyrinth of bad manners that is the London road network. The cars in front jump the lights and roar off. We don’t but we catch up to the jumpers at the next set where it all repeats. What is the fucking point?
We end up in Kilburn, parked a short walk from the high street. All these London ‘Towns’ look the fucking same. There are a few medium priced chain restaurants, loads of locally owned burger/kebab/pizza places and plenty of bookies. A few grocers of various descriptions and maybe a Tesco express for those who don’t want to think. And pubs, loads of pubs. They all look grotty as fuck on the outside and our destination doesn’t disappoint but actually once inside I feel comfortable.
The bar is long and the Guinness is drinkable. It’s a small room and it begins to fill until there are just enough people to make the gig not seem silly and the room retain a comfortable feel. As usual we are the oldest people there, around us is a clientele that considers itself well trendy. They look like students, not the cool bright ones, these are the misfits on the fringes. Everyone gets hugged, except us two old fuckers of course. There are several women with crap haircuts; long and straightish with high fringes that look like they’ve been self cut in the mirror using kitchen scissors, at 2 am whilst pissed. Beside us at the bar the alpha male is wearing a tight, fluffy pink jumper beneath a black leather jacket. He’s very demonstrative and has fastened onto a girl. Everyone in the room knows these two will be fucking later and her mate looks like she wouldn’t mind joining in. And there he is! The bloke who’s always in a crowd like this; Pixie boots, a long dark coat and shoulder length dark hair with a bit of a curl. He’s the one with the funny face, looks a bit like Jim Kerr from Simple minds, you know him, he's always at the gig. He's cool, he's different, he's quirky and he always leaves alone. I know blurring the genders is cool these days and there’s lots of things I’m not sure about in this room. This is not a comment, merely an observation. Who am I anyway? The oldest cunt in the room with my equally uncool and almost as old scrote of a friend.
The first band comes on and almost straight away I wish they’d fuck off. There’s a bloke standing on the left with smart hair and a tracksuit twiddling knobs and poking things. Sitting in the middle is a shaggy haired kid and he too is twiddling things, with such concentration he can’t raise his eyes towards the audience. And on the right another lad who looks like he may in the past have fallen into farm machinery is merrily thrashing a guitar and growling into a mic.
I don’t know what the fuck they’re trying to do but it’s painful. At first I thought someone might have spilled beer on the equipment and the one sitting in the middle was some kind of engineer trying to keep everything working. Then I thought maybe the guitar player was actually a puppet on strings being controlled by haircut on the left which meant the lazy bastard sitting down was still the engineer. Then I sussed it. I was actually watching Scooby doo. Fred was standing up on the left, Shaggy sitting down in the middle and Scooby was playing the guitar. I couldn’t spot Daphne or Thelma in the audience but still my revelation meant I enjoyed the show on a different level. Fair play to them for having the balls to give it a go but the noise they made was crap.
The next band on was the one the architect had dragged me to see. The line up consists of two members of his favourite band doing what they call a side project. ‘Jade Hairpin’ were very good. I suppose I’d expected punk as that’s what they usually do but this was nothing like. If anything it was more like the guitar Indie/dance music that I have loved since the nineties and I really enjoyed it tonight. Mike and Jonah are brilliant and were in their element. They know they are good, they ooze confidence and swagger and are totally comfortable in this environment. I don’t know who the other two musicians were but they were good enough to keep up in talented company. Jade Hairpin may well disappear soon but they may have a better chance of radio play than the band from which some of them came. The architect has converted and convinced me; Fucked Up are a truly great band. Hard core punk will put many people off but beneath the waves of sound Fucked Up have guile, intelligence and variety. ‘Dose your dreams’ is a masterpiece. But they weren’t playing tonight, Jade Hairpin were and they were bloody good.
The final band of the night was called ‘Hi Viz’ and they were angry, shouty punky people with heavy metal guitar solos thrown in who I also enjoyed but to be honest they didn’t leave an impression that will last. They were good at what they do but for me had nothing that made them stand out.
Back in the car, it’ll take a couple of hours to get home. On the way out of the capital again, in the dark the shopping villages glow out with their illuminated signs screaming. ‘Buy Stuff! Buy Stuff! Buy more stuff! Have you got enough stuff? NO!? Well you can buy more here… Buy buy buy.’ Then a bit further a sign advertises storage, ‘Store the stuff you’ve bought here’, and then a bit further’ Insure your stuff here!!!’ And when you’ve done buying or have run out of storage you can hire staff, ‘Plant hire & stuff’. All of them are saying the same thing. “Give us your fucking money”.
And nobody questions it. Wherever we go we are bombarded by it. ‘Buy Stuff!’ We get home and switch on the box ‘Buy stuff!’ The postman stuffs stuff through my letter box; it says ‘buy stuff’. It’s probably printed on recycled paper which is kind of ironic because within seconds of scooping it off the mat I’m dropping it into the recycling bin. (Which I didn’t buy, it was an old kitchen bin I recycled.)
The roads get bigger and quieter; London is swapped for the great concrete ring fence that encircles the jungle with a wall of pollution. The signs try to swindle us with a road closure but we ignore them and sneak through before the cones go down. We leave the city glow behind us and head off into the dark, it’s a starry night out there, clear skies so the temperature is dropping fast. We’re sitting comfortably in this warm metal box on wheels heading deeper into the countryside and what we call sanity. I’m going to be fucking knackered in the morning.