Frankfurt

Frankfurt. Click - click - click - ping… marked the short sharp micro-seconds between the thing working and the thing breaking. I held in my hands a small piece of snapped metal no bigger than a matchbox - just one of those little padlock keys everyone has in a drawer somewhere. They probably punch these things out a billion at a time inside huge and likely terrifying machines onto well greased conveyor belts before raining down into bottomless skips full of identically glinting little keys that all fit the same travel sized padlock. Looking at it in that moment, it really was a slight little thing. I bought it for the grand sum of two euros from the reception of the hostel in Frankfurt just this afternoon. Without a great deal of force being applied, it had twisted and snapped in the middle, leaving the thick end still between my finger and thumb while the naughty end remained decidedly in the choppers of the lock. The break was flush to the metal of its captor and there was no way the thing was wiggling or shaking out. It was just my luck that the lock, now stuck in its locked position, separated me from all the possessions, clothes and money that I’d been travelling with for the last three weeks, not to mention my passport and ticket home. That was, I remember thinking, until some typically ruggedly handsome member of the hostel staff joins the morning shift with short-dreads and a hacksaw and undoubtedly well versed in cutting free the odd failed lock. I’d only been in Frankfurt a day. I’d swooped in for the night to meet up with a couple of friends and was due for take off again in the morning - early in the morning. I was going native and using the German ride-sharing scheme which had so far worked a treat for getting around cheaply and easily. My ride was booked in and due to leave from out front of the main station at 6.00 am and, as you’d expect for the region, sharply. I was going back to Aachen and finally homeward bound - as detailed meticulously on stapled paper now lying redundant inside a metal locker under my bunk bed.It was 2.00 am when I shuffled into my hostel bedroom after a meander around a flea-market in the afternoon (I’ll live to regret not buying that Mallard telephone), and ending the night at a Paper Aeroplanes show. By torchlight I had padded into my dorm room - quiet as a mouse - where I kneeled low on the floor underneath the snores and murmurs of sleep in the small space. For ten minutes I stared at the shrapnel in my hand as the cogs crunched slowly and silently, formulating the next few moves. It was tempting to just climb up into my top bunk and forget about the whole thing. The hunk with the hacksaw would free the lock in the morning. I’d miss my connections but I’d get home eventually - though at a cost. This would certainly be the route of least embarrassment. Well bugger that! I have a plan - an itinerary, I thought. And I thought of the afternoon I spent putting it together - down to the most appropriate typeface, copying spares and stapling in the top left. I needed to get moving. Should I just go and get help now? I didn’t know any of the people in the room and I knew I’d probably never even see them again. So it would wake them up and they’d each hold me for eternity in memory as the twit who locked her bag under her bunk - but they’d surely get over it? Who even cares what they think, I thought.But wait. What’s longer than 85cm and won’t fit into the overhead space above a Eurostar train seat and forces its owner to rattle around in the luggage compartment of the train with the curious looks of those who pass through as well as a biting draught? Cool points scored for the cumbersome tool of my trade, my guitar - the longitudes and latitudes of which prevented it from fitting, and also, rather crucially, into the locker under my bunk. I was wincing - hoping to the eyeballs that nobody stirred awake to see me do this, as I carefully flicked open the four catches on the case. Looking only out of the eye-corners in the already low light, I gently lifted up the neck of the instrument to feel about for the velour fabric encased square of ply which gates a storage pocket useful for keeping things (plectrums, capos, you name it). Left to right, and right to left, my fingers crabbed around until they found it. And there they stopped. Cold and hard and weighty in my grip - I curled my fingers around the ingot and promised to myself I’d never ever let go again. I love you… Swiss Army knife - you marvel - you wonderful thing - you Leo to my Kate - you jump - I jump… you, with all the tools necessary for a speedy string change, for trimming a rogue finger nail, for cutting up oranges in the park in the sun… and now for tweezing out a broken key and picking the mechanism of the world’s worst padlock.  Scratch - scratch - ping… the shard of metal flew out with a little Swiss persuasion. Click - Click - Click - clunk… we were in. Swiss Bliss - if only for a moment. I climbed up into my top bunk, face burning hot and with that acidic ‘what if’ feeling crawling all over me. What if I’d forgotten to pack that little red knife that had saved my bacon in the twilight of that heady little space? Or what if I’d deliberately left it at home - the thought had indeed crossed my mind that Customs officials might whip it away from me at the airport quicker than you can say 'stupid bloody crap padlock’…  Furthermore, what if I’d not got the deluxe model? Supposing I’d listened to my instincts that questioned whether I would ever have any great reason to need to sew any leather or pluck a barbie doll’s, or perhaps a mouse’s, eyebrows… the posh knife was a heavy bit of kit and some would say stupidly complicated - and how uncharacteristic it had been that I would have owned that one instead of its simpler, cheaper brother, with fewer tool and skin-saving options.The facts remained however, that the overly swanky Swiss blade had in the end defeated the cheap padlock, and for all my budgeteering in booking the cheap hostel room in the heart of Frankfurt’s red-lit neighbourhood - no sleep was had whatsoever. The economy of touring is a curious thing… somebody get me a bloody croissant!NB: I took this picture last November in Berlin… but I though it suited the story ;-)

Frankfurt.

Click – click – click – ping… marked the short sharp micro-seconds between the thing working and the thing breaking. I held in my hands a small piece of snapped metal no bigger than a matchbox – just one of those little padlock keys everyone has in a drawer somewhere. They probably punch these things out a billion at a time inside huge and likely terrifying machines onto well greased conveyor belts before raining down into bottomless skips full of identically glinting little keys that all fit the same travel sized padlock. Looking at it in that moment, it really was a slight little thing. I bought it for the grand sum of two euros from the reception of the hostel in Frankfurt just this afternoon. Without a great deal of force being applied, it had twisted and snapped in the middle, leaving the thick end still between my finger and thumb while the naughty end remained decidedly in the choppers of the lock. The break was flush to the metal of its captor and there was no way the thing was wiggling or shaking out. It was just my luck that the lock, now stuck in its locked position, separated me from all the possessions, clothes and money that I’d been travelling with for the last three weeks, not to mention my passport and ticket home. That was, I remember thinking, until some typically ruggedly handsome member of the hostel staff joins the morning shift with short-dreads and a hacksaw and undoubtedly well versed in cutting free the odd failed lock.

I’d only been in Frankfurt a day. I’d swooped in for the night to meet up with a couple of friends and was due for take off again in the morning – early in the morning. I was going native and using the German ride-sharing scheme which had so far worked a treat for getting around cheaply and easily. My ride was booked in and due to leave from out front of the main station at 6.00 am and, as you’d expect for the region, sharply. I was going back to Aachen and finally homeward bound – as detailed meticulously on stapled paper now lying redundant inside a metal locker under my bunk bed.

It was 2.00 am when I shuffled into my hostel bedroom after a meander around a flea-market in the afternoon (I’ll live to regret not buying that Mallard telephone), and ending the night at a Paper Aeroplanes show. By torchlight I had padded into my dorm room – quiet as a mouse – where I kneeled low on the floor underneath the snores and murmurs of sleep in the small space. For ten minutes I stared at the shrapnel in my hand as the cogs crunched slowly and silently, formulating the next few moves. It was tempting to just climb up into my top bunk and forget about the whole thing. The hunk with the hacksaw would free the lock in the morning. I’d miss my connections but I’d get home eventually – though at a cost. This would certainly be the route of least embarrassment.

Well bugger that! I have a plan – an itinerary, I thought. And I thought of the afternoon I spent putting it together – down to the most appropriate typeface, copying spares and stapling in the top left. I needed to get moving. Should I just go and get help now? I didn’t know any of the people in the room and I knew I’d probably never even see them again. So it would wake them up and they’d each hold me for eternity in memory as the twit who locked her bag under her bunk – but they’d surely get over it? Who even cares what they think, I thought.

But wait. What’s longer than 85cm and won’t fit into the overhead space above a Eurostar train seat and forces its owner to rattle around in the luggage compartment of the train with the curious looks of those who pass through as well as a biting draught? Cool points scored for the cumbersome tool of my trade, my guitar – the longitudes and latitudes of which prevented it from fitting, and also, rather crucially, into the locker under my bunk.

I was wincing – hoping to the eyeballs that nobody stirred awake to see me do this, as I carefully flicked open the four catches on the case. Looking only out of the eye-corners in the already low light, I gently lifted up the neck of the instrument to feel about for the velour fabric encased square of ply which gates a storage pocket useful for keeping things (plectrums, capos, you name it). Left to right, and right to left, my fingers crabbed around until they found it. And there they stopped. Cold and hard and weighty in my grip – I curled my fingers around the ingot and promised to myself I’d never ever let go again. I love you… Swiss Army knife – you marvel – you wonderful thing – you Leo to my Kate – you jump – I jump… you, with all the tools necessary for a speedy string change, for trimming a rogue finger nail, for cutting up oranges in the park in the sun… and now for tweezing out a broken key and picking the mechanism of the world’s worst padlock.

Scratch – scratch – ping… the shard of metal flew out with a little Swiss persuasion. Click – Click – Click – clunk… we were in. Swiss Bliss – if only for a moment. I climbed up into my top bunk, face burning hot and with that acidic ‘what if’ feeling crawling all over me. What if I’d forgotten to pack that little red knife that had saved my bacon in the twilight of that heady little space? Or what if I’d deliberately left it at home – the thought had indeed crossed my mind that Customs officials might whip it away from me at the airport quicker than you can say ‘stupid bloody crap padlock’…  Furthermore, what if I’d not got the deluxe model? Supposing I’d listened to my instincts that questioned whether I would ever have any great reason to need to sew any leather or pluck a barbie doll’s, or perhaps a mouse’s, eyebrows… the posh knife was a heavy bit of kit and some would say stupidly complicated – and how uncharacteristic it had been that I would have owned that one instead of its simpler, cheaper brother, with fewer tool and skin-saving options.

The facts remained however, that the overly swanky Swiss blade had in the end defeated the cheap padlock, and for all my budgeteering in booking the cheap hostel room in the heart of Frankfurt’s red-lit neighbourhood – no sleep was had whatsoever. The economy of touring is a curious thing… somebody get me a bloody croissant!

NB: I took this picture last November in Berlin… but I though it suited the story ;-)

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Football Metaphors

Football Metaphors.“Now I’m doing football metaphors, I fucking hate football metaphors” - Chris T-TThere are two vital lessons I learned during my short-lived spell playing football for my university team almost a decade ago - the first is that I once had the skills and the motivation to lead a team. The second is that perhaps after those years of crashing, flooring and stacking it on AstroTurf or threadbare grass pitches - I do have very thin skin on my knees. I was, oddly enough, made team captain in my final year - wearing the band, making the calls, shouting and yelling and we did almost win a game… once. We already boasted an excellent first-team. And with each new term bringing in new and talented players it was exciting to see from the sides - the subtle evolution in the workings of what was always a well oiled machine. By the third year of uni we had enough fit and enthusiastic players to start up a second team and I was made captain of our reserves side. Rest assured I brought no beauty to the beautiful game. I was terrible. I doubt also the responsibility of captainship was mine for any great organisational skills I lead anyone to believe I possessed. I can remember many a game where pre-match warm up was me doing my best stunned expression and “I can’t believe they forgot our booking” - acting for my Oscar against the weight of knowing I’d yet again forgotten to book the pitch and / or referee. Nonetheless, it turns out I was motivated to motivate others. I would give anyone their time on the pitch so long as they put the effort in and turned up to training. After all, I was hardly in a position to pass judgement over anyone’s ball skills! We wore a faded and well worn kit in various shades of blue - and turned out on a Wednesday to simply do our best. Looking back, there’s actually quite a bit of beauty in that. Almost ten years on, I’m in the upstairs toilets of Norwich’s award winning live music venue and arts centre with blood pouring down my shins faster than I can mop it up with scrunched balls of toilet paper. I’d played it down at first saying nonchalantly that I would just ‘tidy things up’ with a quick swipe of an alcohol wipe from the front desk. And I skipped up to the ladies’ loos and slid the rattly bolt safely across into its collar, locking me neatly inside the toilet cubicle. On closer inspection, my tights and the skin on my knees were jaggedly gashed open and I was leaking bright red blood at a minor yet inconvenient rate and the taking on the beginnings of an unusual on-stage look. I could imagine that ripped clothes and a decent splish-splash of half-dried blood could be seen as taking the role of opening-act to an alarmingly visceral level. A gig on home-turf is a wonderful thing for so many reasons and it’s a lovely thing to to be able to walk to and from a show. Unfortunately the rain had just started to drizzle that afternoon and was coming down in a medium-ish flurry by the time I was walking across the city to St. Benedict’s street for sound check. It was dark and wet and though safe under an umbrella and a woolly hat, disaster struck on the slight hill that curls down past Macawber Tavern and siphons into the alley by The Ten Bells. Nothing fancy. I just fell over. I was glad firstly that nobody had been around to see, and then that, despite a hard and somewhat scratchy landing, my arms and hands were fine. I knew my knees had taken the brunt of the inglorious tumble but it was too dark to see the damage. I wasn’t sure I believed in karma or fate, and as for comeuppance - surely that’s just the justice of storybooks, I’d decided. Thought provoking stuff though - the juxtaposition of bad behaviour and sudden accident - and when married together with such impeccable bite, it’s hard not to wonder if the former is mysteriously linked to the latter. I was picked up and dusted down now and heading once again in the direction of my night’s work, walking in the the rain with my guitar and bags across my back and strapped to me like buckaroo. I had been offered help that day. But like so many days when I am offered help - whether it’s carrying things, paying for things, talking about things - the proudest part of me speaks first and firmly and I always seems to say 'no thank you.’ That day, I’m ashamed to say I might have even turned down the offer of a helping hand with one of my more acute negatives - served with a side of mild daytime sarcasm… I can be dead nice like that.There’s a real glory after all in being a one-woman show - doing things for myself and managing without help. Being self sufficient is a wonderful thing after all. So it is tempting to keep on running with that torch like it’s the only way to get around… until you fall over, that is. Being autocratic to the point where you feel someone carrying a box of CDs for you may in some way undermine your self-sufficiency as an artist or business person - is just deluded.I hope this will serve as a cautionary tale and a reminder to anyone proudly flying solo that you don’t always need to walk out of the tunnel yourself. If people want to play on your team - let them. Tackling everything yourself may just lead to a set of unfashionably bloody knees.Man of the Match went to the former sub, who played on through the rain, made a run past my house to pick up a spare pair of tights, zig-zagged to the shops for plasters, bought me a big glass of wine and carried my stuff home… well some of it…I carried some stuff too.Ok. [NB: door picture taken in the beautiful city of York - the scene of so many crimes against football.]

Football Metaphors.

Now I’m doing football metaphors, I fucking hate football metaphors
– Chris T-T

There are two vital lessons I learned during my short-lived spell playing football for my university team almost a decade ago – the first is that I once had the skills and the motivation to lead a team. The second is that perhaps after those years of crashing, flooring and stacking it on AstroTurf or threadbare grass pitches – I do have very thin skin on my knees.

I was, oddly enough, made team captain in my final year – wearing the band, making the calls, shouting and yelling and we did almost win a game… once. We already boasted an excellent first-team. And with each new term bringing in new and talented players it was exciting to see from the sides – the subtle evolution in the workings of what was always a well oiled machine. By the third year of uni we had enough fit and enthusiastic players to start up a second team and I was made captain of our reserves side.

Rest assured I brought no beauty to the beautiful game. I was terrible. I doubt also the responsibility of captainship was mine for any great organisational skills I lead anyone to believe I possessed. I can remember many a game where pre-match warm up was me doing my best stunned expression and “I can’t believe they forgot our booking” – acting for my Oscar against the weight of knowing I’d yet again forgotten to book the pitch and / or referee.

Nonetheless, it turns out I was motivated to motivate others. I would give anyone their time on the pitch so long as they put the effort in and turned up to training. After all, I was hardly in a position to pass judgement over anyone’s ball skills! We wore a faded and well worn kit in various shades of blue – and turned out on a Wednesday to simply do our best. Looking back, there’s actually quite a bit of beauty in that.

Almost ten years on, I’m in the upstairs toilets of Norwich’s award winning live music venue and arts centre with blood pouring down my shins faster than I can mop it up with scrunched balls of toilet paper. I’d played it down at first saying nonchalantly that I would just ‘tidy things up’ with a quick swipe of an alcohol wipe from the front desk. And I skipped up to the ladies’ loos and slid the rattly bolt safely across into its collar, locking me neatly inside the toilet cubicle. On closer inspection, my tights and the skin on my knees were jaggedly gashed open and I was leaking bright red blood at a minor yet inconvenient rate and the taking on the beginnings of an unusual on-stage look. I could imagine that ripped clothes and a decent splish-splash of half-dried blood could be seen as taking the role of opening-act to an alarmingly visceral level.

A gig on home-turf is a wonderful thing for so many reasons and it’s a lovely thing to to be able to walk to and from a show. Unfortunately the rain had just started to drizzle that afternoon and was coming down in a medium-ish flurry by the time I was walking across the city to St. Benedict’s street for sound check. It was dark and wet and though safe under an umbrella and a woolly hat, disaster struck on the slight hill that curls down past Macawber Tavern and siphons into the alley by The Ten Bells. Nothing fancy. I just fell over.

I was glad firstly that nobody had been around to see, and then that, despite a hard and somewhat scratchy landing, my arms and hands were fine. I knew my knees had taken the brunt of the inglorious tumble but it was too dark to see the damage.

I wasn’t sure I believed in karma or fate, and as for comeuppance – surely that’s just the justice of storybooks, I’d decided. Thought provoking stuff though – the juxtaposition of bad behaviour and sudden accident – and when married together with such impeccable bite, it’s hard not to wonder if the former is mysteriously linked to the latter.

I was picked up and dusted down now and heading once again in the direction of my night’s work, walking in the the rain with my guitar and bags across my back and strapped to me like buckaroo. I had been offered help that day. But like so many days when I am offered help – whether it’s carrying things, paying for things, talking about things – the proudest part of me speaks first and firmly and I always seems to say ‘no thank you.’ That day, I’m ashamed to say I might have even turned down the offer of a helping hand with one of my more acute negatives – served with a side of mild daytime sarcasm… I can be dead nice like that.

There’s a real glory after all in being a one-woman show – doing things for myself and managing without help. Being self sufficient is a wonderful thing after all. So it is tempting to keep on running with that torch like it’s the only way to get around… until you fall over, that is. Being autocratic to the point where you feel someone carrying a box of CDs for you may in some way undermine your self-sufficiency as an artist or business person – is just deluded.

I hope this will serve as a cautionary tale and a reminder to anyone proudly flying solo that you don’t always need to walk out of the tunnel yourself. If people want to play on your team – let them. Tackling everything yourself may just lead to a set of unfashionably bloody knees.

Man of the Match went to the former sub, who played on through the rain, made a run past my house to pick up a spare pair of tights, zig-zagged to the shops for plasters, bought me a big glass of wine and carried my stuff home… well some of it…

I carried some stuff too.

Ok.

[NB: door picture taken in the beautiful city of York – the scene of so many crimes against football.]

Bathroom Door

Bathroom door - If you pardon, we will mend.I’ve never hit anyone in my life. And I’ve met real-life monsters, it’s true. I’ve been
two-timed, I’ve been to Morrisons on match day, I’ve even canvassed for Oxfam on Oxford
Street in heavy Christmas shopping season. Even when I wound up in an impromptu scuffle
in the loos of the pub where I was playing my second ever gig, I failed to throw even one
punch. The incident only served to sober the cartoon myth that when a head is slammed
hard against a condom machine, the subsequent silver lining comes by way of a windfall of
free prophylactics, which flurry down in abundance like a novelty, glow-in-the-dark or
extra-safe tsunami. It doesn’t happen. I’m sorry.
So naturally it beats me - how I caused so much bare-knuckle damage to my best friend’s
bathroom door on what should have been an ordinary April morning last year in London.
We’re in Walthamstow - the nice, village-y bit and crucially planted on the Victoria Line and
a handy few stops from Kings Cross St. Pancras and the den of the Eurostar. I’ve been
travelling this way for while now and it’s my favourite route out of the frying pan. I’ve
dabbled in the cheap flights - the disapproving looks of passengers and stewards as you carry
your guitar on the plane. The ripple of a bendy knife in your back as one by one your
favourite airlines sell-out to the 85cm rule. So my general rule now is that I’ll fly if I have to…
but if I can avoid the cheap shot of being penalised for my guitar having a neck, while some
of my fellow passengers conduct themselves appallingly and incur no extra charges; I’ll neatly
sidestep it.
“Welcome ladies and gentlemen on board this Typical Miscellaneous Airline flight. We
would like to remind you that this is a light fabrics flight and we do recommend that
passengers wear chinos at all times.
In the event of a loss of irritating noise a mobile phone will be lowered from that panel
above your head. Please raise your voice and continue to say incessantly wanky things as
loudly as is possible. If you are travelling with any women on children, please do not waste
your time talking to them.
Armrests to your left and right and available for your use. We cannot recommend any
consideration of the comfort of other passengers. Similarly, if you are travelling with only
one suitcase today speak to a member of the cabin crew who will be happy to provide you
with a second suitcase so that you may casually disregard the luggage restrictions.
As you exit the plane today please take care to obstruct the line of people waiting anxiously
to exit the aircraft for as long as possible while you adopt the ‘slow coat fold,’ ensuring you
take the maximum time possible to gather your things, entreating children to become
distressed in the exhausted arms of their mothers and beads of sweat to gather on the
foreheads of those with connecting flights.”
A few years back I attempted to shave off a few bucks from the travelling budget by taking
the coach from Victoria to Cologne. It was the same story twice - on board toilet broken
and when the coach eventually stops at Brussels Bus Station in the twilight or dusk the
driver forbids you, in a lilting but stern Eastern European accent, from seeking out the
restrooms here. You want to yell out a petulant “you’re not my real Dad!” while trying to
force back a snake-dance that highlights how much you’re busting to go. Essentially, these
men of few words have in my experience, been kind, and have handled a guitar taken on
board like a baby. You can’t help but trust them in what they forbid, but arrive at the end of
the line needing to pee so badly that you’ve felt yourself age 10 years.
By contrast there’s rarely a queue for the ladies on board the trucker ferry from Dover to
Dunkirk. It was night time and pretty cold too. I’d found a little corner to hole up in and was
watching those Rodeo Drive mean girls give Julia Roberts a dressing down, on my netbook.
Two thirds of the way through the movie something caught my eye, perhaps the glowing end
of a North Sea roll-up, and I turned to see five or six hairy blokes through the window
behind me evidently watching Pretty Woman with me.
Eurostar however, trumps all of the above. St. Pancras is a slick concourse of shops, bars
and restaurants where small, smart wheelie suitcases are on parade like dogs doing parklife
in noontime Paris. Someone is eccentrically bashing away at the keys to the free piano
nearest you. Sometimes it’s someone who can really play and it can be really quite beautiful.
I’ve not found myself face to face with an unoccupied eighty-eight as yet. Chances are
anyway that I’d never have the nerve, being neither piano-pro or urgent-fingered eccentric.
But scroll back a few paces and a few tube stops, and leave the bustling and tinkling St.
Pancras in a hush for now. Still in Walthamstow where my good friend has kindly lent me a
couch for the night, I’m getting myself ready for the day. It unnerves me a little, this whole
close the door behind you and leave business but I’m getting used to it. The mental image of
my passport and tickets, phone, keys and all of my underwear - lying left on the breakfast
table as I pull the door irreversibly shut, haunts me. It’s driven me to become a hideous
checker and double-checker, rifling through bags and pockets in the wake of ajar doors, the
world over. The checking routine is a good few minutes off yet. My friend has left for work
and I have the flat to myself. The mechanism is in motion, I believe, for an on time departure.
My route through the flat on the way from being asleep to being on the other side of that
front door - pulling it very very slowly to a final click of the latch, is mentally itinerised and
idiot proof.
The inside of the bathroom is tiled in white. It’s a boy’s bathroom which means there is a
range of bottles skirting the edge of that bath each with little or no product inside - green
and blue gunk marketed to men as the 'ultimate’ in 'fresh’ and 'cool’ 'wake-up’ slaw. Lying
untouched is a rather prissy wrapped soap - that mum brought with her when she visited.
Last year.
I locked the door - absentmindedly. I’d had the place to myself all morning. And that’s when
it happened. With the panic that followed I have no picture now of the shape of the lock -
whether it was a key or slider or one of those little round buttons that you twist. I think it
probably was once of the round buttons that you twist. Regardless, without any ceremony,
as quickly, effortlessly and needing little human contact to do so - the thing yielded at the
touch. Without friction, or clatter or noise - back sprung the inner and the outer halves of
the doors lock and everything fell to the ground like a heroine in a Shakespeare play -
swooning and slim of wrist in her white flouncy gown. I saw it from the inside, the metal
casing slid down the inside of the door while something weightier drew back, down and
landed with a dull pang on the floor outside. Locked in.
The first few blows are just for testing - to see how truly firmly locked the door is and
whether it will wiggle itself unlocked or if those inside bolts will come loose like the rest. It
won’t. They won’t. I’m stuck. Taking a step back I laughed to myself, picturing my friend
coming home from school and finding me still there having been locked in the bathroom,
suddenly feral and foaming at the lips - having had to eat the fancy soap for sustenance. Then
I remembered the long day my friend said he had been dreading, the
Parent-Teacher-Association meeting and then maybe meeting his girlfriend after that. As my
cartoon thoughts turned to grim possibility, I felt the coolness of the temperature, looked
down at the skimpiness of my pyjamas and became increasingly more aware of the
boyishness of the bathroom, old hair and poor aim.
That was when the beating really began. Punching, kicking. Kicking, punching. The door was a
boheomoth but at several points it looked as if it was going to give in, so I continued,
working up a rhythm of arms and feet, palms and heels, ignoring the pain and the futility. I
saw its brute blockishness ruffle, cracks appearing with each contact, but after a combination
or two, my hands started to swell and a pulse beat through my arms and legs that said this is
just silly. I was eccentrically bashing - and it wasn’t good music.
Sitting back off the edge of the bath feeling defeated, I took a minute to really breathe. I
brushed my teeth. And let the water tumble from the cold tap to ease the prangs on my
hands. Under the cool running water I turned my hands right over left, left over right and
turned over the situation in my mind, until eventually the intro to its b-side started to play.
Here was a second wind, and it spoke in a way that was sharper, more switched on and
beyond flailing limbs and hitting and kicking. It was like tape two of a Now compilation -
streetwise, stripped of the obvious pop and a month or two down the line you end up
wondering why you ever even bothered with tape one. Like Firestarter, or a cheeky reggae
record with the dubious message that stumbled into the top forty and stayed, a devil of an
idea appears.
All I have to do is cross the line between good houseguest and naughty one, which is not a
transition I’m keen on making lightly as someone so reliant on kind people and their
couches. Still the whisper on the second wind says do it. Cross the line. Bathrooms are full
of tools it says. Sin. Open up the mirrored cabinet and have a root around. Golly.
Then suddenly, it’s happening. I’m justifying the violation as I go - turning over objects, rolls
of tape, tubes of stuff. This friend and I go way back. We’ve lived together. We’ve pinched
each other’s milk, probably heard each other having sex… I’ve just beaten some undeniable
shit out of his bathroom door.
Bingo. Nail scissors. Skinny enough to poke into the hole in the lock but so fashioned to
expand into the space and clasp onto whatever moving parts are in there and hopefully
manipulate them. Turn, turn, turn and yes… that’s it. As the slightly buckled but still
substantial door creaks open I stand with the scissors in a little disbelief. Am I really free?
The same tingling feeling of a near miss stays with me out the door, underground, drowning
out the tinkling of the pianos and the sheen of the concourse. It fades a little - as the train
stoops low unto the depths of the English Channel. I travel facing backward – face on and
locked in with the track that leads back to the dishevelled bathroom door, the metal jigsaw
swept into a pile by the skirting board, a scrawled sorry-note left on the kitchen table.
But soon it’s only black space. The track and and the way slip from my mind as my eyes start
to close. Luminous orange B&Q vouchers will be in the post by way of apology and now I
am far, far away from the scene of the crime.
And this weak and idle theme, No more yielding but a dream.

Bathroom door – If you pardon, we will mend.

I’ve never hit anyone in my life. And I’ve met real-life monsters, it’s true. I’ve been two-timed, I’ve been to Morrisons on match day, I’ve even canvassed for Oxfam on Oxford Street in heavy Christmas shopping season. Even when I wound up in an impromptu scuffle in the loos of the pub where I was playing my second ever gig, I failed to throw even one punch. The incident only served to sober the cartoon myth that when a head is slammed hard against a condom machine, the subsequent silver lining comes by way of a windfall of free prophylactics, which flurry down in abundance like a novelty, glow-in-the-dark or extra-safe tsunami. It doesn’t happen. I’m sorry.

So naturally it beats me – how I caused so much bare-knuckle damage to my best friend’s bathroom door on what should have been an ordinary April morning last year in London.

We’re in Walthamstow – the nice, village-y bit and crucially planted on the Victoria Line and a handy few stops from Kings Cross St. Pancras and the den of the Eurostar. I’ve been travelling this way for while now and it’s my favourite route out of the frying pan. I’ve dabbled in the cheap flights – the disapproving looks of passengers and stewards as you carry your guitar on the plane. The ripple of a bendy knife in your back as one by one your favourite airlines sell-out to the 85cm rule. So my general rule now is that I’ll fly if I have to… but if I can avoid the cheap shot of being penalised for my guitar having a neck, while some of my fellow passengers conduct themselves appallingly and incur no extra charges; I’ll neatly sidestep it.

“Welcome ladies and gentlemen on board this Typical Miscellaneous Airline flight. We would like to remind you that this is a light fabrics flight and we do recommend that passengers wear chinos at all times.

In the event of a loss of irritating noise a mobile phone will be lowered from that panel above your head. Please raise your voice and continue to say incessantly wanky things as loudly as is possible. If you are travelling with any women on children, please do not waste your time talking to them.

Armrests to your left and right and available for your use. We cannot recommend any consideration of the comfort of other passengers. Similarly, if you are travelling with only one suitcase today speak to a member of the cabin crew who will be happy to provide you with a second suitcase so that you may casually disregard the luggage restrictions.

As you exit the plane today please take care to obstruct the line of people waiting anxiously to exit the aircraft for as long as possible while you adopt the ‘slow coat fold,’ ensuring you take the maximum time possible to gather your things, entreating children to become distressed in the exhausted arms of their mothers and beads of sweat to gather on the foreheads of those with connecting flights.”

A few years back I attempted to shave off a few bucks from the travelling budget by taking the coach from Victoria to Cologne. It was the same story twice – on board toilet broken and when the coach eventually stops at Brussels Bus Station in the twilight or dusk the driver forbids you, in a lilting but stern Eastern European accent, from seeking out the restrooms here. You want to yell out a petulant “you’re not my real Dad!” while trying to force back a snake-dance that highlights how much you’re busting to go. Essentially, these men of few words have in my experience, been kind, and have handled a guitar taken on board like a baby. You can’t help but trust them in what they forbid, but arrive at the end of the line needing to pee so badly that you’ve felt yourself age 10 years.

By contrast there’s rarely a queue for the ladies on board the trucker ferry from Dover to Dunkirk. It was night time and pretty cold too. I’d found a little corner to hole up in and was watching those Rodeo Drive mean girls give Julia Roberts a dressing down, on my netbook. Two thirds of the way through the movie something caught my eye, perhaps the glowing end of a North Sea roll-up, and I turned to see five or six hairy blokes through the window behind me evidently watching Pretty Woman with me.

Eurostar however, trumps all of the above. St. Pancras is a slick concourse of shops, bars and restaurants where small, smart wheelie suitcases are on parade like dogs doing parklife in noontime Paris. Someone is eccentrically bashing away at the keys to the free piano nearest you. Sometimes it’s someone who can really play and it can be really quite beautiful. I’ve not found myself face to face with an unoccupied eighty-eight as yet. Chances are anyway that I’d never have the nerve, being neither piano-pro or urgent-fingered eccentric.

But scroll back a few paces and a few tube stops, and leave the bustling and tinkling St. Pancras in a hush for now. Still in Walthamstow where my good friend has kindly lent me a couch for the night, I’m getting myself ready for the day. It unnerves me a little, this whole close the door behind you and leave business but I’m getting used to it. The mental image of my passport and tickets, phone, keys and all of my underwear – lying left on the breakfast table as I pull the door irreversibly shut, haunts me. It’s driven me to become a hideous checker and double-checker, rifling through bags and pockets in the wake of ajar doors, the world over. The checking routine is a good few minutes off yet. My friend has left for work and I have the flat to myself. The mechanism is in motion, I believe, for an on time departure. My route through the flat on the way from being asleep to being on the other side of that front door – pulling it very very slowly to a final click of the latch, is mentally itinerised and idiot proof.

The inside of the bathroom is tiled in white. It’s a boy’s bathroom which means there is a range of bottles skirting the edge of that bath each with little or no product inside – green

and blue gunk marketed to men as the ‘ultimate’ in ‘fresh’ and ‘cool’ ‘wake-up’ slaw. Lying untouched is a rather prissy wrapped soap – that mum brought with her when she visited. Last year.

I locked the door – absentmindedly. I’d had the place to myself all morning. And that’s when it happened. With the panic that followed I have no picture now of the shape of the lock – whether it was a key or slider or one of those little round buttons that you twist. I think it probably was once of the round buttons that you twist. Regardless, without any ceremony, as quickly, effortlessly and needing little human contact to do so – the thing yielded at the touch. Without friction, or clatter or noise – back sprung the inner and the outer halves of the doors lock and everything fell to the ground like a heroine in a Shakespeare play – swooning and slim of wrist in her white flouncy gown. I saw it from the inside, the metal casing slid down the inside of the door while something weightier drew back, down and landed with a dull pang on the floor outside. Locked in.

The first few blows are just for testing – to see how truly firmly locked the door is and whether it will wiggle itself unlocked or if those inside bolts will come loose like the rest. It won’t. They won’t. I’m stuck. Taking a step back I laughed to myself, picturing my friend coming home from school and finding me still there having been locked in the bathroom, suddenly feral and foaming at the lips – having had to eat the fancy soap for sustenance. Then I remembered the long day my friend said he had been dreading, the Parent-Teacher-Association meeting and then maybe meeting his girlfriend after that. As my cartoon thoughts turned to grim possibility, I felt the coolness of the temperature, looked down at the skimpiness of my pyjamas and became increasingly more aware of the boyishness of the bathroom, old hair and poor aim.

That was when the beating really began. Punching, kicking. Kicking, punching. The door was a boheomoth but at several points it looked as if it was going to give in, so I continued, working up a rhythm of arms and feet, palms and heels, ignoring the pain and the futility. I saw its brute blockishness ruffle, cracks appearing with each contact, but after a combination or two, my hands started to swell and a pulse beat through my arms and legs that said this is just silly. I was eccentrically bashing – and it wasn’t good music.

Sitting back off the edge of the bath feeling defeated, I took a minute to really breathe. I brushed my teeth. And let the water tumble from the cold tap to ease the prangs on my hands. Under the cool running water I turned my hands right over left, left over right and turned over the situation in my mind, until eventually the intro to its b-side started to play. Here was a second wind, and it spoke in a way that was sharper, more switched on and beyond flailing limbs and hitting and kicking. It was like tape two of a Now compilation – streetwise, stripped of the obvious pop and a month or two down the line you end up wondering why you ever even bothered with tape one. Like Firestarter, or a cheeky reggae record with the dubious message that stumbled into the top forty and stayed, a devil of an idea appears.

All I have to do is cross the line between good houseguest and naughty one, which is not a transition I’m keen on making lightly as someone so reliant on kind people and their

couches. Still the whisper on the second wind says do it. Cross the line. Bathrooms are full of tools it says. Sin. Open up the mirrored cabinet and have a root around. Golly.

Then suddenly, it’s happening. I’m justifying the violation as I go – turning over objects, rolls of tape, tubes of stuff. This friend and I go way back. We’ve lived together. We’ve pinched each other’s milk, probably heard each other having sex… I’ve just beaten some undeniable shit out of his bathroom door.

Bingo. Nail scissors. Skinny enough to poke into the hole in the lock but so fashioned to expand into the space and clasp onto whatever moving parts are in there and hopefully manipulate them. Turn, turn, turn and yes… that’s it. As the slightly buckled but still substantial door creaks open I stand with the scissors in a little disbelief. Am I really free?

The same tingling feeling of a near miss stays with me out the door, underground, drowning out the tinkling of the pianos and the sheen of the concourse. It fades a little – as the train stoops low unto the depths of the English Channel. I travel facing backward – face on and locked in with the track that leads back to the dishevelled bathroom door, the metal jigsaw swept into a pile by the skirting board, a scrawled sorry-note left on the kitchen table.

But soon it’s only black space. The track and and the way slip from my mind as my eyes start to close. Luminous orange B&Q vouchers will be in the post by way of apology and now I am far, far away from the scene of the crime.

And this weak and idle theme, No more yielding but a dream.

Introducing The Doors Project

Introducing… my story project - Doors.Last year I got addicted to taking photographs of doors - interesting doors, shabby doors, beautiful doors… I had to give it up because after a while it became noticeable that I really wasn’t getting anywhere on time and a lot of the time I was just getting in people’s way. Thanks to a lot of encouragement after the American Travel Journals from readers of this blog, I’ve decided to keep going with the stories and to see if I can come up with a collection on the themes of doors, locks, locked in, locked out, small spaces and a likely morgan-sized dose of peril. The first story is written and It’s called FRANKFURT… because it takes place in Frankfurt. I’m running before I can walk. I hope you like it. Read here.Then there was FOOTBALL METAPHORS a story from York.Then came BATHROOM DOOR from a nice bit of Walthamstow.

Introducing… my story project – Doors.

Last year I got addicted to taking photographs of doors – interesting doors, shabby doors, beautiful doors… I had to give it up because after a while it became noticeable that I really wasn’t getting anywhere on time and a lot of the time I was just getting in people’s way.

Thanks to a lot of encouragement after the American Travel Journals from readers of this blog, I’ve decided to keep going with the stories and to see if I can come up with a collection on the themes of doors, locks, locked in, locked out, small spaces and a likely morgan-sized dose of peril.

The first story is written and It’s called FRANKFURT… because it takes place in Frankfurt. I’m running before I can walk. I hope you like it. Read here.

Then there was FOOTBALL METAPHORS a story from York.

Then came BATHROOM DOOR from a nice bit of Walthamstow.