Sunday, 30 June 2013

The Millionth Kiss/The Bottle.


Stella spins on the floor, round and round, her victims sat in a circle awaiting her to decide their fate. Her long thin neck is the barrel of a gun, lining up innocent, if tipsy, bystanders and firing affection mercilessly at them. Forced affection; my least favourite thing, even surpassing public displays of affection. Sloppy drunken kisses decided by a bottle on a hardwood floor. Is there anything more ridiculous?
I realise how cliché this moment is. A house party, the party guests all students who have lectures the following morning and thus are downing pints and mixers with foolish enthusiasm. Hiding in the corner, refusing to acknowledge my own presence in this hideous game, one I’ve only ever played at high school parties – are we really not grown out of this yet? Is Spin The Bottle a hardship we must endure for our entire adult lives? It certainly seems that way. Luckily so far I haven’t been ‘spun’. The majority of outcomes are the boys sharing kisses, which of course is oh-so hysterical, because two boys kissing is lunacy and two girls kissing is sexy. I’m sitting and stewing and contemplating the remote possibility of an escape to the kitchen – it’s risky, as to get up and climb over my teammates to the living room door would not only draw attention to myself but also the unwanted questions of why I’m refusing to play. I’d think it would be obvious, though; there are people here that I don’t want to kiss, and there’s one person I don’t want anyone else to kiss.

I can’t escape the fact that he’s kissed most of the people in this room, but I can escape the room.

The girls are kissing now. Two girls whose friendly self-deprecating banter is not fooling anyone, and whose fierce rivalry on the pitch is mirrored perfectly in their personal lives – those screams of stalling are real, as are the smacks of discs and venomous competitive eyes. It’s funny, watching them kiss. They giggle, and then break apart. Eyes are averted. Leers and jokes are thrown around the room, the atmosphere grows more unfriendly. I feel tears in my eyes, and know I need to excuse myself NOW. However, Stella has other plans. Her gaping mouth settles on me, and I freeze. My legs go numb, my lips quiver with fearful anticipation and the sadness in my eyes is threatening to spill out at any moment. Everyone will know. All I can do is wait, petrified and paralyzed, for the poor doomed soul who will be sharing a kiss with me to be chosen. She takes her time, does Stella. I already know, but she’s keeping me waiting.

Of course it’s him. It had to be. Fate is cruel sometimes. As if the rain and nausea of the earlier evening weren’t enough to shatter my spirits, now I must endure the warm familiarity of his kiss and the harsh, knowing jeers of my friends and foes surrounding me as it happens. He’s already on his feet and crossing the small space between us; my mouth is frozen in a frigid line and my hands are twisting in my lap. He walks with purpose; he smiles ever so slightly, no doubt thinking he’s doing me a favour. As I finally manage to cry out “no, I don’t want to...” he has his hands on my face and his lips are on mine for the millionth time.

And I remember.

I’m sitting on my desk chair, the curtains are drawn and my laptop is open on the watchseries page. He’s sprawled out on my bed, my friend, my TV partner of choice. I’m laughing at something or other, we’re catching each other up on what we’ve missed for the past month we’ve been apart. Christmas came and went; he somehow bedded a lesbian, and I a rugby player; we were both lonely on New Year’s Eve. He kissed his male friend when the clock struck midnight. I would never tease, it’s too easy.
“What’s the date?” I squint at my laptop screen. “The fourteenth? Wow. Y’know, I actually didn’t get a kiss on New Year’s Eve. I haven’t been kissed at all this year.”

“I’m on it!” He exclaims, proud and excited, springing off the bed, crossing the floor between us and cupping my face in his hands, all in one swift movement. Before I can even giggle or protest, he’s kissing me for the first time – the first time sober, anyway. It’s a nice kiss. We start laughing while our lips are still pressed together. Two friends, too simple. All too simple, back then.

Now, he takes his hands away, he moves back across the room, and he’s laughing. The shouts of “awkward!” and “what a surprise!” are subsiding into general drunken babble, and the feeling is coming back to my legs. The other feelings, of familiarity and of past longing, are less welcome and always lingering. I wonder how long it will be before they, too, will pass. Subside into something more worthwhile. I finally find my feet and head for the door, and as I do, I allow myself one more look at his smiling face – and I know, then, that these feelings will be here for a while.

Friday, 7 June 2013

What If You; Hi again, Joshua.


Joshua Radin. The beautiful whiskey-drinking songwriting hat-wearing man who has, without even knowing, been the soundtrack to the hardest and best times of my life. I've seen him perform live four times now, the night before last (Tuesday 4th June) being the fourth and most wonderful time. His voice has the power to hush an entire room, his lyrics spell out our own troubles and triumphs, and his words ring so true. The immense care he takes in every song he writes, records, then performs, can be heard and seen when he's on stage. I've been seeing him live every year since 2010, and now the idea of a year without attending one of his gigs seems almost insane and impossible.

Having taken my then-boyfriend (Brighton, 2010) and parents to his gigs before (Shepherds Bush, 2011/Camden, 2012), I thought this time I'd take my little sister. I just love sharing the experience of Joshua live with those closest to me; Joshua is one of the few things I desperately want to share, which is great because usually I stick my headphones in and keep my favourite bands a secret from everyone. My sister and I met up (along with the parents) in London; Islington to be specific, getting off at Angel station and walking to Union Chapel, a beautiful old church now used almost exclusively for acoustic gigs.
   It was beautiful. A traditional English church, although more rounded than others I've been into. Usually a church is a narrow long building with an aisle, sets of pews either side and an altar right at one end, and of course a high ceiling and stained glass windows. Union Chapel was more of an octagonal shape if anything, the altar/stage was wide and featured a pulpit right behind where the mics and amps were plugged in. Upstairs, there was a bar area (no drinks allowed in the chapel itself, however!) and more seating on a balcony/mezzanine kind of thing. It was chilly, intimate, and charged with energy. Sitting on pews, squashed in amongst fellow fans of all ages (although mostly in couples, Joshua's music is definitely couple-friendly), watching the sun go down through stained glass windows surrounding us, one in particular right above the stage looming large and intimidatingly beautiful. This was the best place I've ever been to for a gig. It bypassed Concorde 2 (under the pier in Brighton) easily, and just about topped KOKO Camden, Joshua's port of call last year. What was even more lovely, is that Joshua himself made no secret of how much he loved the venue.




"It's so quiet... I can hear my thoughts!"

I seem to have a more intense emotional reaction every time I see Joshua Radin. He starts singing, just a few feet away from me, and I feel something very rare, something honest and real. It's not a fangirl crush, by any means, it's a respect for him and a love purely because he is able to write what's in my heart and what I need to hear.
He came out shy and reserved as always, to shouts, screams and echoing applause that bounced off the walls of the chapel until it rose to such a level we could barely hear ourselves think anything else. Then, silence. 'What If You'. Joshua's face is a picture of humble concentration, of dedication and peace, as he sings this song from his very first album. My eyes are filled instantly with hot, happy tears. Something catches in the back of my throat.

"What if you, spoke those words today?"

Something I love that Joshua does live, more so than any other artists I've seen, is his variation in pitch, rhythm and tempo, his changing up of his music just for the benefit of those seeing him that night. 'When We're Together', a pretty upbeat and sunny-sounding song off his new album 'Wax Wings', is slowed down and super-quiet. The melancholy self-confessed sad song 'One Of Those Days', one of my old favourites from the 'Simple Times' era, is played louder and builds to a mighty conclusion. 'You Got What I Need', his 'baby-making song' that he wrote for his friends (who now have a baby girl, all thanks to the song of course) starts slow 'n' simple and becomes more sincere and urgent. He makes his more acoustic songs slightly more full-bodied, and tones his bigger ones down. He mixes his new with his old. Why? I like to think it's so we as an audience get to experience the music as we haven't before; all those times listening to the albums at home were in no way like what we're seeing now, and that's perfect. Who wants to go and see an artist, if they're just going to play their latest album track-by-track, in perfect keeping with the recording? Mixing it up and surprising us is what Joshua does best. That, and making us cry. No, just me? Okay then.


You are lovely tonight.

I met Joshua Radin in September 2012. I paid extra on top of my ticket, which was a birthday present, to go to the venue (KOKO Camden) early to see Joshua rehearse, and have a 'meet and greet' with him. There were maybe ten of us, all female of course plus one girl's (very understanding) boyfriend, and we all got to shake his hand, have a chat, get some photos and generally soak up his undeniably understated charismatic presence. I didn't think twice when the opportunity to meet him arose; money is no object where Joshua is concerned. Buying his albums and paying for tickets has put me further into my overdraft on more than one occasion, and I regret nothing. It was worth every minus figure on my bank balance.
So, this time, Joshua mentioned while he was between songs that he'd be around after the show to meet "hopefully everyone" and thank us for coming. He loves the 'intimate gig' - and to be honest I could never see him playing a large London theatre, let alone an arena - because he has a chance to get to know his audience and make a connection.
He was true to his word. After the show, he and the two members of My Name Is You (who may just be my new favourite band) stood and signed and posed and smiled for what must have been ages. My sister and I very subtly fought our way to the front, and that's when my hands began to shake uncontrollably. Just like they did when I met Frank Warren, John & Hank Green, and Joshua the first time, of course. Just like they do when I meet people who are important to me.

My second encounter with this magical man consisted of him laughing slightly at me saying too loudly "my hands are shaking!", me extending a (trembling) hand, saying "Hey, I'm Grace, I've actually met you before..." at the same time as him saying "Hey, you look familiar..." I introduced him to my sister, she grinned like nothing I've ever seen before, we had photos taken and he wished us well. We left with our parents and skipped back to Angel, dizzy with happiness and on a high from the night; the best night of my life, easily. So thank you Joshua, for giving me yet another unforgettable experience; for making me cry the second you appeared and strummed the first chord, for offering me your hand to shake and putting an arm around my waist, for making music that has been making my life better for the best part of my life. A thousand thank yous.

'Please tell me if I'm wasting my time'; Because, just because.


I'd like a song, sang just for me, inspired by that feeling you get when we wake up in your bed and the sleep is still fading away. I'd like a perfectly mixed whiskey and Coke, a cigarette out the window, a mischievous smile and a promise for tomorrow. Watching your hands work, smiling at the back of your neck, feeling your arm around my shoulders and the warmth of your gaze. Those brown eyes, that smile in your voice, the feeling in knowing and the wonder of hoping. I want somewhere to stay in the morning, the taste of coffee in the air between us, no rush to leave and no harm in being. Last night's clothes and fresh apple hair. Cappuccino and latte. Perfect compliments and complementing perfectly, never needing anything more or ever having to settle for less. Taking leave of my senses and being pulled back to the shore, staring at the waves out the window and deep into my cup. Hearing a song, wondering if you hear it too, if you know how it reminds me always. Feeling drunk, being fed doubles, freaking out in the toilets. Dancing without care, feeling your eyes on me, blushing at nothing, not stopping myself ever. Kettle boiling, gentle pulling, dark outside and warm within. Friends teasing, while all the time hoping I'm done being dumb, that finally I've found something worth hanging on to - or someone who might hang on to me. A tiny patch of beauty in this ugly old town, perpetual May Day in the colder months. Walking along to nowhere in particular, happy as we go, going home to one another and always on an adventure. That's what I want.

Thursday, 6 June 2013

20.

Hi, my name's Gracie. I enjoy coffee coolers way too much, I fancy Jensen and Jared equally, My Name Is You are my new music obsession, I'm spending the summer in Winchester, I've met Joshua Radin twice, writing is my release, being let down and left behind happens to me too often, I'm moving house soon, T'ing D is my new daily activity, I have my guard up 95% of the time and it's not enough, I have a habit of Twitter/Tumblr-stalking, I NEED to go and see Carrie in Les Mis, my new job is going really well, I miss hearing his voice, I have a tattoo, I can't make up my mind, and sometimes that's okay.


I do one of these posts every month.

Not quite PTSD.


Yesterday, I found myself standing in that tiny downstairs bathroom. The pencil was still on the floor, the books were still on the sill, and the hurtful screams, thankfully, had long since escaped out the window - but the echoes were there in the air.
I stared at the wall opposite the door, willing myself to see past your contorted angry face, spitting and shouting back at me. I tried to stifle the harsh words, to swallow them down and stop myself saying them, but it was too late. All I heard was "shut up", "fuck off", "I don't give a shit". I saw your hands gesturing, stopping me whenever I opened my mouth, then turning into frustrated fists.
Something stuttered, then sped up, and I felt the pain in my chest, the jolts in my stomach, the slipping on ice, and the tears burning my face.
I heard the words we couldn't take back. I saw the hurt you couldn't hide in your eyes. I felt the finality in the air that neither of us could deny.


I shut the door behind me, I rested my head against it, and I whispered "never again". I made myself believe it, as I have done before. Let's never go back there again.
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