On the late night train out of Victoria with Magic Sam. We’re heading back to what were once the suburbs, but now is just the thin wedge of south London, Croydon: the bogie smear of Surrey.
The train has taken so long that we have ended up in the past or a version of a past: the train carriages have those heavy 1960s slam doors and sliding windows where there is no warning about sticking your head out – I suppose however tempting it is in nineteen sixty-something you just don’t need to be told not to do it – or, as Sam says, “I wouldn’t need telling twice.” He will live to rue these words. He is from the future.
I am wearing black suede shoes with a crepe sole. As the train begins to slow into west Croydon I see that the lace of one has come undone. In fact, it is missing altogether. I have a collection (or a spare at least) in one of the many cases that are up in the overhead luggage racks. I try to remember which one. Magic Sam brings his head back in from the open window. His hair is all over his face. He says, “I need a new home. I’m living beneath myself.” He lives with his folks in Thornton Heath – which bleeds into west Croydon one way, Streatham the other. Always has done. It has, over the years, over many lifetimes, been a place of affluence, a place of poverty: ecoutéz et répétez.
The train slows. He puts his head back out the window…
A 1960s version of south east London – Catford/Lewisham. Leslie R, Gavin T & myself are wandering through a dilapidated & dusty department store or second-hand bazaar. Due to some clerical error I am presented with a bill for £26 – a shocking amount of money. I read through the thin, stapled pages of the A4 receipt and realise at once that I have been charged for multiple repeated items: mostly tiny bottles of sewing needles of various sizes, etc. I begin to explain to the sales assistant that I obviously don’t need all these items, but he won’t listen. He is a tall and scruffy grey haired man in a warehouse coat (Jack L, my landlord from nearly 35 years ago on Wellesley Road). He only says, “Deal with it or deal with the police.” I pay the bill and we make our way down many staircases to street level. Motes of dust in the air & shafts of sunlight pattern the concrete floor.
Philip A and I are talking while we wait for a bus (?) to take us into south Croydon. We are stood on the grassed roundabout at the top of Sanderstead. The traffic ensnares us. A strange, angular RV comes trundling down the road. It has an orange and white stripe running down its side. The glass cabin almost rhomboid in shape and high off the ground. As it passes I see that Jodie J is the driver. She wears a Thunderbirds outfit and nods hello. “She’s off to pick up the boys,” I say. Philip A tuts and phones his girlfriend for a ride home. She will come from the south coast (if she comes at all) – I sit on the grass and wonder who suffers whom the most – him or her?
In a flowered meadow by a river recording a version of my song “Receipts’; Magic Sam, Nick P, Alaster G, Tasty B, Aimee G & yours truly. The trees are decked with tiny microphones, as is the river itself – they float on the fast running water, attached to wires like lures. The idea being to capture something natural sounding within the lo-fi recording. So concerned am I with the mic placement that I keep forgetting to sing the words and one by one each of the gathered become disenchanted.
(Black crepe soled suede shoes again!)