April 12 2016 (North Shields)
6am. Cycle to the lighthouse. The tide is low and it is a bright morning. Photograph the seals and some rocks and come home. Breakfast and play guitar all morning – After The Gold Rush, We Three, Starlings On the Slipstream and my new one (Jackdaws & Witches). I wonder if I have reached a plateau with my playing.
6pm. Dinner and pack and walk to the venue. Mike W is on holiday. Set up in the corner of the pub on the little makeshift stage. Alan Mc., George, The 2 Johns, Mike P and me. The pub fills up. George plays well, as does Mike P. My set is marred by a bad case of nerves brought on by not being able to find a sound. My voice is thin.
Because there are fewer of us playing this week Alan Mc. suggests that we all go round again and play another couple of songs. I feel that I will sit this out but when the call comes I take to the stage and plug in. Alan Mc. joins on drums and this settles me. For some reason I ditch my plectrum and play through a relaxed Tangled Up In Blue, Receipts, After The Gold Rush (again) and debut Jackdaws & Witches – which, taken by a great wave of calm, I begin in the chapel style!? This time around I am more relaxed; my breathing is easy and I have control of the mic.
Alan Mc., what a great guy: kind and professional and talented. He is always very encouraging. We chat briefly between sets about work and holidays and aches and pains! He talks quite freely about his two sons’ plights (divorce & drunkenness). He is very complimentary about Jackdaws & Witches and suggests that I try it with a capo on the 2nd fret as I may find my voice settles in a little better.
Midnight. Home and happy: the second set saving the first! Glass of wine. I play around with a capo and the whole thing shifts into a more pleasing shape. It is the sound of bronze (?). I think about the upcoming Onomatopoeia 10th anniversary gig in New Cross. It’ll be good to catch up with all those old faces.
April 12 2019 (Banstead)
Queen Elisabeth Foundation. It is a great shock to see dad. The door to his room has a sign that reads William. I have never heard him referred to by this name, but the nurse tells me that he insists. He is so thin and is scrunched up in a ball at the wrong end of the bed-cum-cot. His legs poke through the slats and his feet look soft. He wears a nappy and a nightshirt. The bedsheets are spread with ripped up pieces of a calendar, the curly spine of which remains on the wall above his pillows. I think he recognises me.
His words are slow and jumbled. He tries to explain that he wants me to pull his legs further through the slats. But to what end? After some minutes I try to help him back up the ‘right’ way of the bed, but this makes him angry and confused. Sometimes his no means yes. Eventually, a nurse comes in. He pleads with her in a strange, alien voice – “Please. I beg…” His nappy is wet. “I will change him,” says the nurse. It is all very upsetting and I leave. She will not be able to change him back to how I remember him. As I pull the door behind me I hear him say (to her? Of me?), “What a waste.”
There is only so much to say in the car back to Whyteleafe. I am, I suppose, in shock. Mum turns on the radio and R. Stewart’s Maggie May begins. We both start to sing. Quietly at first. I ask her to turn it and soon we are singing at the tops of our voices.
April 12 2021 (Penn Beacon)
Back to work for the first time since late December. I am booked solid for the coming fortnight. It is always a surprise to me, a delight, that people, making quite an effort, return to have me cut their hair. Matt X is first at 8am. It feels odd to be back in my shop. Odd to be the hairdresser again after so long being…not.
There is a tone of voice, confessional, guilty, that people employ…”My partner cut my hair during lockdown…” It does make me giggle. Clipper sales must have gone through the roof this last year. I will see many disasters over the coming days. Generally, home haircuts have a spirit to them (in my eyes) that I admire or at least find reassuring in their shittiness. Sides are shaved, never balanced. Fringes are brutalised. Napes and hairlines dug like graves. Whole areas are completely missed or abandoned in panic.
One woman arrives and quite boldly announces that she will only need half a haircut as she has managed it herself. This kind of nonsense has to be quashed immediately. “Can you just fix the hairline for me at the back. I couldn’t quite do it myself.” A cursory inspection reveals a red and sore looking line, poker straight, running at a 45 degree angle from her nape to her occipital. Beneath the line her skin has been razored to resemble a chicken’s, above it is as if chewed by rodents. I laugh.
She tells me (in all seriousness) that she applies a strip of masking tape to her neck and that this enables her to use a razor/clipper to create a straight line. I have to admire the DIY nature of the English cheapskate. Of course, I tell her that I only do full haircuts as there is no way I could equal her work!
I have all intention of keeping back an hour for my lunch, but sometime around mid morning Janet arrives on a brief and rare visit to the town and wonders if I have a space for her. I tell her to come back at 1pm – thus cancelling my own lunch. Blahblahblah. I leave for home sometime around 8pm. This will become the pattern for the near future. It may not be the popular opinion but I look forward to the next wave…