Wednesday, 22 November 2017


I'm at the O2 Academy, Brixton on Thursday night to see Blondie’s Pollinator tour, standing about ten feet away from the stage with a perfect view of a central slice of it between the heads and shoulders of the crowd before me. I was worried I might be a bit old for concert going now, but looking around I see there was nothing to worry about: lots of people here are older than I am, and lots are gay men, and lots are older gay men.

Deborah Harry appears on stage wearing a bee hat, sporting a cloak that when she turns her back to the audience we can see reads: ‘Stop Fucking The Planet.’ It's part of the band's campaign to raise funds and awareness for BEE Connected, to help stop declining bee numbers. She starts singing One Way or Another and the crowd goes wild. She looks amazing; she's 72. 

An attractive young couple - she dark, he blonde - suddenly appear in the space in front of me; they turn apologetically. "Sorry!" she says. 

"Can you still see?" He says. 

"It’s fine," I say. "Just don't snog. If you snog I won't be able to see."

They laugh.

I watch the concert - which is amazing - with the heads of this young couple flanking my view, like pillars. They know all the words to all the songs, everyone does. Each time the first few bars of the next song begins and they recognise it they look at each other; each time a driving beat begins, which is often, she gets excited and starts to bop up and down, then so does he. As the concert nears its spectacular finale and the tracks become faster and louder and more recognisable (if that's possible) they jump up and down in unison. During the last track, Heart of Glass, he turns to kiss her and they kiss for ages so that all I can see is the kiss and not Deborah Harry and the huge screen behind her with three rotating glass hearts. On the final note they part and the hearts shatter into a thousand sparkling pieces.

When the concert ends they turn back towards me to begin their ascent up the slope to the doors. With the lights up I can see how young they are. "You guys are so cute!" I suddenly say, on a post-concert high and without considering, until the words are out of my mouth, that this might sound horribly patronising. Fortunately they don’t seem to mind, in fact they seem delighted. 

"Thanks!" He says, while she beams.

This emboldens me. "How old are you?" I say.

"We’re 19!" She says.

"19!" I say. "I have a son who's 19 tomorrow!"

"Wow," he says. "You don't look old enough!"

They smile and say goodbye, then disappear up the slope holding hands.

I turn to my mate as we head for the exit. "My lower back is killing me," says my mate.

My back is fine, I think. And I don't look old enough to have a 19-year-old, and I'm actually old enough to have a 21-year-old. Hooray!

"That couple were so cute!" I say. "They had the most amazing chemistry. And do you know they are only 19?"

"They'll probably have split up by the weekend," she says.

But I don't think so.

Next day I wake to find I am every inch the mother of a 19-year-old, and a 21-year old, and a 15-year-old, because I am in agony. My back's gone and I can hardly move. 

Love E x


P.S. And I know he was only being polite.

Btw - the son who is 21 has recorded an album with his band - The Melanies -  link below. He's the handsome one, middle back: lead guitar, some vocals, songwriting. Please play it. Thank you.

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

The Whispering Gallery.

One of our friends who is the same age as my husband has just had a baby. I don't mean it emerged from his body, although with modern medical advances that possibility might not be far off, or perhaps even already here but The Man is keeping it from us because if women the world over discovered we could hand over pregnancy and birth to men we would make them stay at home, barefoot and pregnant, and sally forth into the world to have fun ourselves, and then sexual assault would all but disappear, and the newspaper industry would have to fold. But I digress.  I mean that his wife just had a baby, a girl, his fourth child and her first. 

On the day I'm due to meet the new baby I go on a recce to St Paul's Cathedral. I have to queue to get in, along with all the Spanish and Italian tourists. I have my bag searched at the door, then walk purposefully towards the nave but encounter an obstacle there - Evensong, about to begin. A woman holding copies of the order of service asks if I'd like to take part and for some reason I say yes, and take a copy, and then a pew among the congregation, and then think: strange decision.

I don't believe I've ever been to a church service that wasn't a wedding, a funeral, or a christening. I've certainly never been to one by myself. A friend once asked me to be her child's godparent but I felt I had to politely decline because I wouldn't be able to say all that stuff in church without everything crossed. And now here I am, alone in St Paul's Cathedral, on a Saturday afternoon, listening to the choir boys' song reverberate around the walls of the Whispering Gallery, and it brings tears to my eyes because it's so beautiful, and because a woman fell from here a few weeks ago and looking up at the precarious railings I can't help but think about that. What was going through her mind? Why the Whispering Gallery?

After the service, walking from the cathedral to the Strand, it's eerily quiet because the roads are closed in preparation for the Lord Mayor's fireworks display. Without traffic noise I can hear my own footsteps echo along the pavement and snatches of other people's conversations as they pass. 

At my hairdressers in Covent Garden I tell Sergio about the service in St Paul's. "You're Italian," I say. "Do you believe all that stuff?"

"Oh no," he says, twirling his scissors. "Not anymore."

I tell him about going to visit the baby and when I mention her name - Fallon - he mishears and thinks I say phallic.

"That's my religion!" he laughs, which is funny, and not true because he later tells me a long and involved story about a car accident in his twenties when he was sure his life was saved because his patron saint was looking out for him, then he shows me a picture of him in his office before I leave.

At our friends' house later I meet up with my husband and cradle our friends' baby in my arms. She's like a tiny mewing kitten. My husband pours the champagne he brought for the occasion. The three of us sip it as the baby's mother unfolds the tissue paper enclosing the tiny outfit, with matching tiny shoes, that I took great pleasure in choosing after I left the hairdressers. We all stare at the newborn baby in silent contemplation for a moment.

"So," says the baby's father. "A guy in a shop thought I was her Grandad; and I'm going to regret telling you that, aren't I."

"What's it like being a Daddy again, Grandad?" I ask.

He smiles, and says... 

Actually, I don't remember what he says, I'm too busy looking at his baby.

Love E x