Wednesday, 6 December 2017

The coincidence.

I'm at a gig in Herne Hill on a Wednesday night, hiding behind a coat stand so the band can't see me. How did I get here? To explain that I must to rewind... 21 years.

My eldest son is in a band with someone he has known since he was six-weeks-old because his mother and I met at postnatal classes. We had the same distinctive pram, when everyone else had plain blue ones, ours were green with white spots, so we started chatting, which is how we discovered our baby boys had the same name and were wearing the same striped outfit from Gap. Of course we had to become friends after that and so we saw a lot of each other when the boys were little, but then she and her family moved to a different part of south London and what with her full-time job and my filming, and now the MA, you know how it is, sometimes you lose touch with people and I haven't seen her for ages.

By another amazing coincidence, despite living miles apart, our boys ended up in the same class at secondary school, which is where they started playing music and writing songs together. I like to think of them as the Lennon and McCartney of Cornwall because now they go to the same university, in Cornwall, which is yet another coincidence, and they are in the same band and that band just made an album, and is in London for one night for a gig in Herne Hill.

So, anyway, back to Wednesday evening in a pub in New Cross Gate, where I'm sober, of course, and proudly showing some of my new student friends pictures of my sons on my phone and telling them this story of serendipity: two mothers meeting, discovering they have boys with the same name, years later those two boys being in the same band, now playing in London...

"That is a lot of coincidences!" Says one of my new student friends. 

"Yes it is," I say. "Life is full of weird coincidences, or fate, perhaps."

"So, you're going tonight, yeah?" Says another of my new student friends. "To see your son and your friend?"

"Oh no." I say. "He doesn't want me to go to the gig, in fact he'd kill me if I turned up, and I don't think my friend will be there anyway; I reckon all parents are banned."

"But you have to go," says another of my new student friends. "Go!"

Yeah! I think. Too right. I gave birth to him. I brought him up. I bought him that first guitar, arranged guitar lessons, played him all that inspiring music. Why shouldn't I go? I have to go. I'm going!

So I text my husband to meet me there and order an Uber from New Cross Gate to Herne Hill.

When I get to Herne Hill my husband is already waiting outside, talking to the friendly bouncer. "They're on at a quarter to ten," the bouncer is telling him, "so if you don't want to be seen you'd better go and sit in a pub nearby or something until then." So we do.

At a quarter to ten we return, and as we're walking across the room we suddenly see our son - with his band - heading in our direction, so we dive behind the aforementioned coat stand until he passes, then hover at the very back of the crowd so we can watch him on stage, singing his heart out and playing his guitar, but he can't see us.

I squeeze my husband's hand. "It's like that time when he was five and he was an elephant at the Royal Festival Hall and we went to watch him dance," I say.

Before the band reaches the end of their last number we sneak away so he won't see us when the lights go up and he gets down from the stage. We bump into the bouncer on the way out. He insists we have a photograph taken, with him. "Proof!" He shouts, squeezing between us and throwing his arms round our shoulders. "Or he won't believe you were here!"

Next morning, I receive a text message. "Sorry you weren't at the gig last night, Liz! I was there and you would have loved it!"

Turns out that by coincidence the friend I haven't seen for ages was also at the gig with her husband, but they were in the mosh pit, jumping up and down.

Love E x

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

The Sonnet.

I'm on a walking and boozing holiday in the Cotswolds with six mum friends. The cottage we've rented is fantastic, the weather is stunning, and there's lots of booze, some of it kindly left for us by the owners. I stick my head in the fridge and stare at the selection. 

"I'm renegotiating my relationship with alcohol," I tell my friends. "So I won't be drinking any of this. I've given up for a while."

"Since when?" says one of my friends.

"Since last week," I say. "Since I woke up with a hangover and a bad back on Friday and read an article about how bad drinking is for the over 40s."

"You're not including this weekend, though, surely?" says my friend.

But I am. I'm trying not to drink for a month, until Christmas. 

"If I wait for an opportune moment it'll never happen," I say. "And I don't want to cave in after only a week."

This is all true, and I feel pretty good on it, but mostly I just feel pleased, with myself.

So, as another of my friends lights the fire in the 'drawing room' and the rest tuck into the lake of alcohol, I sit on one of the plush sofas and sip fizzy water and try to read a collection of sonnets. It's part of my homework for the MA.

It's hard to read poems just to yourself so I start reading them out loud to my friends, as we all pull our knees up towards us, and the fire crackles cosily in the grate. Here's a racy one they rather liked, by Jo Shapcott...


When I kiss you in all the folding places
of your body, you make that noise like a dog
dreaming, dreaming of the long runs he makes
in answer to some jolt to his hormones,
running across landfills, running, running
by tips and shorelines from the scent of too much,
but still going with head up and snout
in the air because he loves it all
and has to get away. I have to kiss deeper
and more slowly - your neck, your inner arm,
the neat creases under your toes, the shadow
behind your knee, the white angles of your groin -
until you fall quiet because only then
can I get the damned words to come into my mouth.

Before dinner we allocate bedrooms using pieces of paper with names we have invented for the rooms written on them, placed in a hat and pulled out at random. There are seven bedrooms. One we call fish because it has cool fish wallpaper; one we call cold because it's a bit colder than the rest; one we call green because it doesn't have pretty wallpaper but is painted green, and is tiny, and has two single beds, and so on... I don't mind sleeping in any of them except for the tiny green one with the single beds.

I get the tiny green one with the single beds; and it is small, so small that I bang into the wall at the bottom of the bed when I get up in the night to go to the loo.

After dinner, which is very boozy, we retire to bed but I can't sleep. I put the light on in the green room and read about sonnets for a while. I read about the Italian sonnet (or Petrarchan) and about 'the turn' in the sonnet, and about 'the golden section', which is all to do with maths, apparently, and that Italian geezer called Fibonacci. "The golden section is a mathematical ratio of (very) approximately 8:5, or expressed as a decimal, 1.618... It can be defined as follows: if a straight line is divided at the point where the ratio of the smaller part to the larger part is the same as that of the larger to the whole, then that point occurs at the golden section." (Don Paterson.)

This makes my brain hurt, so instead of reading about sonnets I put the book down and try to write one, at 2am, sitting in a single bed, in a tiny green room, where the walls appear to move closer each time I look up at them from my laptop, like in a cell.


It's harder than you might think
to keep refusing boozy drink,
while those around you knock it back
and chide and tempt and give you flack.

But I decide I must steer clear
of wine and fizz and pints of beer,
opting instead to polish my halo
for having the strength to actually say 'no'. 

As night wears on and glasses drain, I sit
at the table feeling strange - and oddly clear headed - 
watching my girlfriends getting totally shredded,

Thinking: it's not a holiday for me but for my liver,
I'm stone cold sober and a winner:
the only one standing after dinner. 

Love E x


P.S. Mine's rather more Pam Ayres than Jo Shapcott.

Wednesday, 22 November 2017


I'm at Brixton Academy 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 a 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.