24 May 2014

How Strange It Is To Be Anything At All...

Neutral Milk Hotel have been one of my favourite bands for years. The sound of Jeff Mangum's voice always pulls me back to those late summer nights of 2005, when I would turn up 'In the Aeroplane Over the Sea,' close out the till, gush buckets of water across the coffee-stained floor, mop up the gritty grounds with bleach and hot water, and wonder where the hell I was going to end up in 10 years...

I remember those days, feeling lost. Like I wasn't doing anything useful... like I wasn't useful.

And Neutral Milk Hotel gave me something, every night, a wisp, a thread that held my heart together, those nights when I hated myself for losing time, every night, to this goddamn mop bucket.

The band had already broken up, by the time I heard of them, so I never thought I'd see them live. Jeff Mangum, for some time, seemed like he might never pick up a guitar again. 

But then he did. And the band reunited. They came to Manchester last week. Back in 2005, when I wondered where I'd be in 10 years, I never imagined the strange answers that have become the true ones: in Manchester. Working at the BBC. Married. Or married, but to someone that - back then - I hadn't even met yet.

How unbelievably my life has changed. How strange it is.

The show was amazing. It made my heart swell. It made me so glad to be alive, in this time, in this place. How lucky I am to get to see Neutral Milk Hotel in the Albert Hall, a perfect venue for them, big and beautiful, with stained glass and a huge organ.

For the past few months, I've been involved in this contemporary theatre project, called "Summer." It's not a play, but it is a performance, and honestly, I'm not really sure what it is - except that it is about being alive and about just being.

I'm one of the performers, along with about 30 other people, who are all different ages (the youngest is 18 months old, I think, and the oldest person I've met in it is in her 70s).

This is Cristina. She's in Summer, too.

Rehearsals have been strange, but in a fun way - a lot of walking around and working out how to interpret the sometimes-strange instructions they give us ("Walk, sit, run, lay down, or jump in lanes. When I tell you, you can walk, sit, run, lay down, or jump in grids.). For the photoshoot, they threw water on us. It is sometimes a totally ridiculous way to spend an afternoon... you can read more about it on Creative Tourist.

All Quarantine ask of us is to be ourselves - and the performance is based around all of our personal stories & lives. Between the Neutral Milk Hotel show and Summer, I've found myself daydreaming a lot this week - going over memories of summers past, who I used to be (quite hard on people), and who I still am (quite hard on myself).

Jonti and I have been packing all of life into our evenings. Apart from Saturday rehearsals & work, we have seen 2 concerts (Neutral Milk Hotel & Benjamin Brooker) and a play. On Tuesday, we went to Aumbry, an amazing restaurant near Manchester. We had a five-course tasting menu, and it was stunning. One of my dishes was too salty, but apart from that, it was absolutely delicious and surprisingly unfussy food.

That night, Jonti and I talked about being friends to people and building friendships with people, and being hard on people and being hard on ourselves. He said to me, "With friends, there will always be moments of good will, and there will always be moments of ill will. There will always be moments of cruelty and moments of kindness. That's what we do."

How strange it is, how lucky I am, to be married to this amazing man, who has so much empathy that he sees even ill will, even from his friends, as part of the flow of life.

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