Chapter Fifty: Far Away In Time

The flat has felt very empty since Fliss left to go on tour, and Marmalade has separation anxiety and has taken to mewing pitifully all night, every night. I let her sleep at the end of my bed; it seems to help.

  I didn’t want to leave the flat today, as it’s the first time I’ve been outside since February, but something was calling me, a yearning guitar riff, a lonely melody, which led me to Hazel Grove in search of my mother’s Martha And The Muffins ‘Echo Beach’ 7”.

  The weather was surprisingly warm when I left the house, but I didn’t feel reassured.  I had taken care to cover my body in clothes that were bland enough to make me invisible, but my hackles were up all the same.  A neighbours door slamming made me jump, gangs of kids coming home from Saint James’ made me nervous, so I kept my head down as I walked to the bus stop.

  On the bus, I looked out of the window as though seeing the world for the first time, and took care to mark off each district as the bus trundled along the A6.  Soon we were in Hazel Grove; the white monolithic Sainsburys building heralding our arrival. I got off opposite MacDonalds, a smaller but equally invasive monstrosity, and slowly and nervously began to walk to my mother’s house.

  As I made my way down the path to the front door, I was forced to recall my last visit, the one that had ended when I stormed out, my mother screaming after me.  I took a deep breath, and knocked on the door.

  The door opened, revealing Thomas, clad in a suit and tie and holding a piece of toast.  We awkwardly exchanged glances before he said, “Rachel’s still at work, she’s got an evening class tonight.”  As I turned to leave, he said, “Don’t go, I’ll fix you something to eat, and you can wait.”

  I demurred, but I really wanted that Martha and the Muffins 7”, so… “O.K,” I nodded, and he stepped aside to let me past.

  “I didn’t realise that you were up to leaving the house yet,” he said as he steered me into the living room and onto the sofa.

  “I’m not really,” I admitted “this is my first attempt.”

  “How’s it been?”

  “Pretty terrible” It was strangely easy to talk to him, “You don’t have to feed me you know; everyone else has been…”

  “It wouldn’t be any trouble; I’ll need to cook my own dinner anyway…”

  “Tea”

  “Dinner, tea; whichever”

  “Well, alright then, do you want any help with it?”

  “Possibly, but I shan’t start it yet, and it doesn’t sound as though you came over simply to be fed”

  “No,” I agreed.

  “Do you need Rachel for it, or can I help?”

  “Well,” I began awkwardly, “I kind of need to ask her, but… I want to borrow some of her records.  Do you know where she keeps them at the moment?”

  He shook his head, “You would probably know better than me.”

  “Well, she used to keep them in the loft, but…”

  “I’ll get the ladder; you can go up and look.”

  Later, as I sorted through the records, he confessed, “I was never really into punk, I mean, I liked some of it, but it never had the same pull for me as it seems to have done for your mum and dad.”

  I pulled out Neena’s ’99 Red Balloons’, “She used to sing me this when I was little,” I commented as I put it to one side, “I used to love it, I’ve been trying to remember what else she sang me, or played me, when I was little.”

  By the time he left to start preparing tea, I had located The Raincoats ‘No Ones Little Girl’, 10,000 Maniacs first L.P, some Throwing Muses, The Beauty Queens L.P, and a selection of Smiths 7”’s.  At last, I found the Martha and the Muffins 7”, squashed between Strawberry Switchblade and This Mortal Coil.  I walked over to the Hi-Fi, switched it on, lifted up the lid of the hardly used record player, and lined up the record.  The moment the opening chords faded in, I began to dance.

  As the record began to fade again, and the static began to crackle, I became aware of Thomas, watching me from the doorway.  He dried a mug with a tea towel as he remarked, “You’re very like her you know.”

  I stopped dancing, “I know,” I wheezed, “everyone tells me, it’s the hair and the eyes.”

  “No,” he shook his head, “it’s more than that,” he finished drying the mug, “Can you help me with the vegetables? I fancied a roast dinner, but it takes time.”

  As I peeled potatoes, he asked, “Is it normally you or young Fliss who does the cooking at home?”

  I smiled, it sounded as though he had taken rather a shine to ‘young Fliss’, “Are you obsessed with food?”

  “No, just making small talk.  I thought it might be less irritating than asking you how you’re feeling lately, that’s generally annoying when you’re depressed I’ve found.”

  I nodded sagely, “It would be irritating enough if I wasn’t depressed; it’s one of those questions that people never really want an honest answer to.”

  “It’s on a checklist of questions, yes”

  “How do you know this?” I asked sharply.

  He hesitated, and then said, in a rather less jovial tone, “I had a particularly bad bout of depression shortly after my wife left me, five years ago.”

  “Oh,” I said quietly.

  An awkward silence followed as I resumed peeling and slicing the vegetables. 

  “Why did she leave you?” I asked, cautiously, then, seeing the expression on his face, I quickly added, “If it’s not too rude to ask.”

  He sighed, “There’s never just one reason…”

  “No,” I murmured as I thought of Fergus and Terry, and of Nat and Dylan. “I suppose not.”

  “She met somebody else, but it was over before then really.”  He smiled, but there was a strong trace of bitterness as he said, “I was too plodding and boring, I think, and I suppose we wanted different things by then.”  His smile became brighter, and the bitterness disappeared, as he added, “Maybe it was all for a reason though, I probably wouldn’t have met your mum again otherwise.”

  I smiled wryly as I admitted, “I’m glad you did.  I wasn’t at first, but… I am now.”

  Mum still hadn’t come home from work by the time we had finished tea, so Thomas offered to drive me home to Heaton Chapel. “They’ll only get knocked about on the bus,” he pointed out as he gestured to the records.

  In the car on the way home, he asked, “have you talked to Fergus lately?”

  I could feel the colour rising to my cheeks as I realised, “You know what happened,” I said softly, “I suppose everybody does.”

  “I drove your mum to the house that night,” he confessed.

  I was right: Everybody knows.

  “I think you scared him,” he said carefully, “and I think that he would come back.”

  I shook my head.

  “Well,” he said kindly, “you don’t know if you don’t try, he seemed to care about you.”

  “How do you know that?”

  “He phoned for help; he stayed until he knew you were safe.”

  “He dumped me,” we pulled up in front of the flat, “I have to go, thanks for tea, and for helping me with the records and everything.”

  “Want me to help carry them in?”

  “Thanks, but… I’ll be fine.”

  He nodded.

  Later, as I sat with Marmalade on the floor in the living room, listening to records as the sun set outside, I thought about what he’d said; it was strangely comforting, “He seemed to care about you.”  It was probably true, but only as hindsight, not as anything to build hopes on, for despite what Thomas had said, I knew that I didn’t have the right to try and win Fergus back.

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Chapter Thirty Seven: Across The Years

 Mum was on the phone when Katy and I burst in, and I paused in the hallway, uncertain as to whether I was intruding; Katy, however, had no such qualms, “You’ve got the Beauty Queens L.P, Rachel, haven’t you?” she called breezily as she ran upstairs, not even waiting for a reply.  Mum raised her eyebrows in the direction Katy had run, and I saw her shake her head slowly in mild irritation as she turned around, and noticed me standing there.  “I’ll have to call you back,” she murmured into the mouthpiece, “I’ve just been invaded…” From upstairs, we could hear the sound of the ladder being put up, and the creak of feet, climbing… “Doesn’t hang about, does she?” remarked mum, in distinctly narked tones. 

  I shook my head; I felt that I should apologise for the behaviour of a friend, so I explained, “She’s not used to asking first.”  She opened her mouth to speak, but I got in first, “Who were you speaking to?”

  “Thomas.”

  My sense of awkwardness returned, as I asked, “How’s it going with him?”

  “Well, I think,” she said, not meeting my eyes.

  An invisible weight seemed to settle on me as I nodded, almost to myself; I hadn’t met him, but I’d heard her mention him a lot lately and, whilst she’s had boyfriends before, this one sounded different; for one thing, he had lasted longer than they usually do.

  There was a long, painfully tense silence before she said, rather quietly, “I would always put you first,” she gazed up at me “you know that, don’t you?”

  But it is no longer right for her to do that, not now.  “You don’t have to do that,” I told her, “not anymore.”

  The conversation ended then because Katy emerged at the top of the stairs, carrying a huge cardboard box full of vinyl.  “Give me a hand!” she yelled down to me, and I ran up the stairs to assist, my mood lightening with each step as I recalled the task at hand.

  As we hauled the last box down to the living room, mum hovered in the doorway, her hands on her hips, an expression of annoyed confusion on her face, as she demanded, rhetorically, “Do you mind telling me what this is all about?”

  “The Beauty Queens have reformed!” called back me and Katy in stereo.

  “They’re going on tour!”  Called Katy

  “…playing Manchester in a fortnight” I added, equally excitedly.

  “Oh,” said Mum, facetiously as she joined us, “is that all…”

  The Beauty Queens haven’t toured since July 1980, they split up five months later when Iona Black, Chantel Jones, Serena Llewellyn and Keeley Myerscough left and formed The Playgirls.  Mum saw them live five times in 1979, supporting various more high profile names, and she’s also the only person I know who happens to own their L.P.

  “Come on, Rachel,” protested Katy as she lifted the L.P out of the second box, “you must be at least a little bit excited; you’re talking one off experience here, it’d be like The Slits reforming…”

  Mum shook her head; she seemed a little dazed as she asked, “Original line-up?”

  “Yes,” confirmed Katy, “all seven of them.”

  She shook her head again, “I’m amazed they’ve agreed to do it; I didn’t think there was any love lost between The Playgirls and the other three when they split… I saw them supporting Rip, Rig and Panic in 1980, just before they split, and you could tell it was all about to go pear shaped…”

  “So, you’re not coming to the gig then?” demanded Katy.

  She shook her head, “As much as I loved them at the time, there are some areas of my past I think its best I not revisit.” Her expression grew thoughtful as she added, “But if they make a new record I might be cautiously interested…”

  Katy handed me the L.P, and I gazed for a few moments at the cheap black and pink sleeve, before flipping it over and gazing at the picture of the band on the back.  As is often the case with reluctant geniuses, Iona Black was hidden away towards the back of the picture, on the right side.  The more obvious charms of Lalita James, Chantel Jones, and Keeley Myserscough were posed in the centre of the picture; pretty punkettes in fishnets and stilettos, with P.V.C mini skirts and ripped t-shirts, naively slutty in their vamping.  Iona was blonde then, but her hair was short, and although she was wearing similarly slutty garb, there was something in her posture, in her expression, that suggested she was different.  She was already a minor legend by then, thanks to a brief, ill advised, marriage to Seth Kent, bassist in The Wars, when she was seventeen; it ended six months later when she woke up next to his corpse, the needle sticking out of his arm still.  Maybe that was what made her appear wary, or maybe the demons were already at work by then…

  Katy snatched the L.P from my hands, and marched over to the Hi-Fi with it. As she placed the L.P down on the deck, I noticed mum slip out through the door, and it wasn’t long before I heard her feet on the stairs, retreating, escaping… maybe she would phone Thomas again.

  Later, the three of us watched the video for our next single, ‘My Heart Is In Your Hands’.  It was shot mainly in a light, luxuriously elegant suite at one of the big Manchester hotels.  Fliss is very much the star of the piece, and is featured sitting on a white windowsill, her feet bare and resting on the sill, her knees pulled up towards her chest.  She is wearing a light sundress, and gazes out of the window wistfully as she lip synchs to the track.  She looks very sad, but very pretty, which I think is the mood that the director was going for.  It was shot in black and white, with lots of grey, lots of dissolves.  Rumour has it that it was shot at the hotel that Girl Trouble stayed in last summer, in the room that Adrienne surreptitiously seduced Fliss in.  Sandra Dee have been keen to encourage the story, but Fliss says it isn’t true.

  “It reminds me of the video to Siouxsie and the Banshees ‘The Last Beat Of My Heart’,” remarked mum.  Her expression was thoughtful and calculating as she added, “Still, she looks very pretty I must say…I only hope that Sandra Dee know what they’re doing.  Is it about Adrienne?”

  “It might be” I conceded, cautiously, as Katy scowled.  I haven’t really discussed the lyrics to ‘My Heart Is In Your Hands’ with Fliss; she’s been too busy working, or else being interviewed, or hanging out with Angel and the Razorblades in Chorlton. 

  “Poor Fliss,” she shook her head.

  Katy had her guitar with her, so we travelled back to Heaton Chapel together and I played her some new drum patterns I’d written.  The neighbours, who live below us, are away on holiday at the moment, and no one seemed inclined to complain about the noise as we played together, trying out ideas, but not jamming: We are not a band who jam.

  It seemed to work well, and the energy flowed through me as we worked, the windows in the room open against the intense summer heat.  Hours passed without us noticing, and it was nearly dark when Fliss joined us, she was humming a melody quietly to herself, but broke off to ask, “Can I join in?” We nodded enthusiastically, and she went off to find her own guitar.  We didn’t stop this informal exchange of ideas until midnight or so, and by then we had two almost complete new songs, plus the beginnings of a third.  Fliss was beaming as she lifted off her guitar; her face was flushed with the heat, and her yellow sundress crumpled and damp.  “That was good,” she said happily, “that was fun,” Something about the way she said it made me smile in turn, for I fear that Fliss hasn’t been having an awful lot of fun lately.

  I went to see ‘Igby Goes Down’ at the Cornerhouse last week, and when I left my mind was racing with thoughts and possibilities in the claustrophobic summer heat.  I was thinking about Iraq, wondering how a war can really be over when the guerrilla warfare seems to be only beginning; I feel guilty about Iraq still, and I have a sensitivity to all that’s going on; I hunger to know everything that is going on in the world, I want to know all the pain and fear, all the truth and violence; I feel as though I’m a sponge, soaking up everything I find out, yet both wanting and needing to know more, about everything: In the intense heat I feel as though my brain is on fast forward, the ideas pouring out of me like sweat… it’s exciting, but it worries me; I’m afraid that I’ll lose the ideas before I can make proper use of them.

  I was anxious about The Beauty Queens gig, but for a different set of reasons.  I spent so long getting ready that night that Katy had arrived to pick me up long before I was ready.  As I stood in front of the mirror, fretting a little as I toyed with my studded wristbands, a kind of fluttery nervous excitement welled up inside me.  From the doorway, I heard Fergus say, “Will you tell her, or shall I? You look fine.”

  “He’s right,” said Katy, truculently, “you look sickeningly fantastic, as always…”

  I pulled at the skin tight plain black t-shirt, which insisted on riding up over my P.V.C mini skirt, “I’m still not sure about this top…”

  “It’s fine…” Katy pulled at my arm, “we’ll be late if we leave it any longer, let’s go”  She averted her eyes as Fergus kissed me, and then pulled at my arm again, “come on…”

  The gig… Oh, the gig, the gig, the gig… How can you describe your fantasy gig? How can you describe your most eagerly anticipated event, the highlight of your life? It was so, so good… it was everything I had hoped for, and yet, it was completely different, both wonderfully familiar and strangely brilliant; a cacophony of noise and jagged guitars, played better, and tighter than on that old L.P… Part of me had half expected to see the audience and the band wearing bondage kecks and P.V.C, like some time transported seventies period piece… I had half expected it, half dreaded it, because it would have been predictable and depressing, yet I needn’t have worried; there were some mohicaned punters in the audience, but less than I expected, and the band were dressed down in black, hair possibly dyed yet only shades of blonde, brown, and black, make-up minimal and muted.  And at the centre of it all, for me anyway, was Iona Black, hiding behind her drum kit and a loose waterfall of jet-black hair.  She seemed largely unaware of her surroundings, or of the audience, and she wore a long brown and black top, with loose flowing sleeves, which hung well below her waist; underneath it she wore black jeans.

  Afterwards, we met up with Nat and, still feverishly excited, made our way towards the backstage area, chatting excitedly.  A tall, stockily built man planted himself in our path, “Passes?” he asked.

  I watched as Katy attempted to spin some blag about us working for ‘NME’, and I could tell by his utterly unmoved expression that he’d heard it all before.  I began to wish that I’d asked Jenny to blag me something I could use.  After a few minutes of stalemate, Nat sighed and produced a piece of paper from her pocket, “I was kind of hoping I wouldn’t have to use this,” she murmured, handing him the paper.  “My name’s Natalie James,” Katy and I frowned; Nat never used her married name, “Lalita’s my sister in law,” he looked up from the piece of paper, nodded, and then handed it back to her. 

  Soon we were flying up the stairs towards the dressing room, chattering and giggling excitedly, without a clue as to what would happen next…  “What the hell was on that piece of paper?” asked Katy, amazed admiration in her voice.

  “Me with no clothes on,” said Nat, cheerfully.

  “Seriously…”

  “Something Dylan got me,” she turned to face us as we reached the top of the stairs, “She really is his sister, you know, well, his half sister anyway… she was at our wedding, you,” she gestured to me, “sat next to her, but I didn’t talk to her until later.”

  Our nerves returned in force once we reached the dressing room.  None of us felt entirely sure as to what we should do, I mean, what do you do? Knock on the door? We couldn’t do it, none of us could, not even Katy, for all her attitude and swagger, not even Nat, for all her family connections.  Katy got down on her knees and peered through the keyhole, “What’s happening?” I half hissed, half whispered.

  “I don’t know,” muttered Katy, “I can’t actually see very much… Oh, hang on, Chantel’s having a fag, and Keeley’s putting nail varnish on a run in her tights…”

  “What’s Iona doing?” I asked.

  “Looking out of the window, she’s got her back to me… Oh, damn, I can’t see…” she trailed off, and then clambered guiltily to her feet as the door swung open, revealing Lalita.

  Lalita James, née Cain, peered down her nose at us, imperiously; there was a touch of amusement in her eyes though, and a smile twitched at the corners of her mouth.  She had been pretty, despite herself, in the picture from 1978, with messy white blonde hair, and angry, piercing blue eyes.  Now the eyes, whilst equally piercing, lacked that disdainful ferocity, and her hair was light brown.  What few lines there were on her face were fairly well disguised, and her hair appeared to be natural, not dyed.  Nat smiled, broadly, “Hello.”

  She and Lalita hugged, and as she emerged from the embrace, Lalita spoke at last, “You didn’t tell me you were coming…” her voice was as it had been at the wedding, largely accentless, but with a faint hint of estuary, eager and interested.  She turned her attention to Katy and me, “Aha, two of the bridesmaids,” she ushered us into the dressing room, “come in, come in…”

  Things moved quite quickly once we were inside, cans of beer were produced and handed around, but when Lalita offered one to me, I shook my head.  “She doesn’t drink,” said Nat, succinctly.  Lalita walked over to the corner where Iona Black stood, still staring out of the window, and gestured to a much smaller stack of smaller cans.  Iona nodded, distractedly, as she handed one to her, and Lalita retraced her steps, “Here you go,” she handed me a can of lemonade.  I reached for it, but my fingers were trembling with nervousness, and I fumbled it, Nat caught it as it fell from my fingers, and passed it back to me.  She has touched this, I thought, reverently, as I pulled back the ring pull.  I slurped the froth from the top of the can, and looked over at her.  She had turned away from the window now, and I was able to see her in profile.  Her dark hair still hung across her face, and as she reached up to brush it out of her eyes, I was able to see that her hands were pale, and that she had long, thin fingers.  My heart began to beat too fast as I was filled with sheer excited joy.  I was so close to her, so close…

  We talked mainly to Lalita, although once she had introduced us, the others began to take a polite interest and became drawn into the conversation.  Only Iona Black stayed in the background, her dark brown eyes seemed wary, her body language defensive.  I found myself staring, openly and blatantly, at her, hoping she would look up, hoping she would meet my eyes with hers, even if only to glare at me, to respond in some way… But she didn’t.  At one point Lalita glanced, quickly, from me to Iona, and I could tell that she had noticed what I was doing, even if she didn’t understand why; it was incredibly rude, I know now, to stare at her like that, but it was like I couldn’t help it.  I don’t know what was with me that night; it was like I was pushing myself, pushing the situation, to see what would happen next.

  The elation didn’t leave me as we left, I still felt very high and emotional, but it was tinged with a kind of vague disappointment, a disappointment that was as tied up with my admiration for Iona Black as my other emotions were.  When I tried to explain how I felt to Katy, she didn’t understand, but when I mentioned it to Nat, her answer was curiously straightforward, “I think she was just shy,” she said, with surprising sensitivity, “she strikes me as someone not entirely comfortable with herself.”

  Katy snorted, “What does she have to be unhappy about?” she made reference to the Renaissance Girls, Iona’s most recent band, “That album was huge! The woman can’t want for money…”

 In the awkward silence that followed, Nat said, rather quietly and pensively, “Has it occurred to you that we put these people on pedestals, and that maybe we shouldn’t?” There was no answer, and in the silence she grew more fierce, “Maybe we shouldn’t make these people our gods, because, one day, inevitably, they come unstuck, and fall off, or reveal themselves to be so breathtakingly ordinary, disappointingly ordinary, that we can’t help but feel utterly disillusioned, disappointed, rejected…”

  Katy giggled, nervously, “God, Nat… lighten up, can’t you?”

  None of us were ready to go home yet, so we headed along Oxford Road until we got to Charles Street, our destination being Retro Bar, and the last few hours of Mass Teens On The Run.  The neon lighting was particularly bright as we made our way out onto the dancefloor, and we threw ourselves into the dancing mêlée as the DJ began to play the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s ‘Date With The Night’.  Katy and Nat were soon tired of the heat, but I kept on going, driven by an inner pool of energy that helped me forget my confusion as I threw myself into the dancing.  After about an hour, I returned to the table Katy and Nat had retired to.  Nat pushed a half pint glass of lemonade towards me, and remarked, wistfully, “You know, it’s a pity you had to give up dancing…”

  My energy and sheer need to dance didn’t abate.  When the club finished at two a.m, I danced my way out, up the stairs, and along the streets to the bus stop.  It felt good, it felt more than good: it felt amazing.

  It was around three a.m when I got back to Fergus’, and the euphoria hadn’t left me by the time I climbed into bed.  He was lying with his back to me, and I was feeling particularly amorous as I kissed his neck, “I’m back,” I whispered, enticingly, and he rolled over, groaning a little as he blinked, sleepily, up at me, “Hello,” he murmured, drowsily.

  I kissed his lips, “Were you asleep?”

 He paused to consider this, before replying, “I think so… I’m awake now though.”

  “I’m not sleepy,” I whispered, huskily, as I touched and stroked him. 

  He yawned, “Work in the morning,” he reminded me.

  “I know,” I replied neutrally.

  His eyes flickered closed again, and it wasn’t long before he was asleep.  With a little disappointed sigh, I closed my eyes and tried to sleep.

Girls To The Front: The True Story of the Riot Grrrl Revolution

Reading this book was a bit like doing a jigsaw: fragments of the story I could recognise from earlier accounts of riot grrrl (most notably the riot grrrl chapter in Jenkins and Anderson’s Dance Of Days), some I remember being dimly aware of at the time, to varying degrees (Simple Machines and Positive Force I remember reading about/being aware of at the time because there was a Tsuinami interview in Ablaze! 10 and they mentioned the connection there), but they are fragments in a wider, more detailed narrative.

Before obtaining a copy of, and reading, the book I was a bit worried that it would be written for the academic market, and that it would tend towards dryness as a result, and be laden with theory (I got this impression from reading the review on Wears The Trousers) but it isn’t at all: It’s very vivid and readable. Marcus does write it from the position of an insider, which is a definite strength in this case as previous books on riot grrrl haven’t been written by insiders, but her perspective doesn’t mean she is uncritical: she is setting up the cracks as well as showing the strengths.

The analysis of the frequently contested, maligned, and misunderstood activity of writing on the body is interesting. Through Kathleen Hanna, Marcus links it to art history and artists such as Barbara Kruger and Jenny Holzer, to ACT UP and straight edge, revealing prededents and possible influences. I also like the way Susan Faludi’s ‘Backlash’ (which I read just prior to this on the basis that it was probably long overdue that I did), Madonna, and the post-punk film ‘Ladies And Gentlemen The Fabulous Stains!’ are mentioned and discussed. She sums up writing on the body this way:

a girl’s body was contested territory; this was a way to rewrite its meaning.

I begin to see more and more that the riot grrrls essentially, consciously or not, picked up the gauntlet laid down to women at the end of ‘Backlash’, where Faludi wrote, and I’m paraphrasing here, ‘This is how it’s been in the 80’s, what will happen in the 90’s?’

I also think that Marcus sums up a crisis point beautifully when she writes in the 1992-3 section “Riot Grrrl was edging its way, involuntarily, towards the cultural mainstream, and it wasn’t ready to be there.”

In terms of the way punk and riot grrrl have been fetishized and the nostalgia aspect has become damaging, I found a section of the book where Marcus discussed Seanna Tully’s introduction into riot grrrl particularly poignant: Tully became a riot grrrl in 1992, and she proudly wore a ‘Riot Grrrl; shrinky dink necklace, but was acutely aware of it not coming from the first batch of such homemade neckaces.

 “I had first-generation-shrinky dink envy,” Seanna laughed later, aware of how silly it sounded, but her comment pointed to something real: how easy it is to idealize things that happened in the past, or are happening to somebody else, as more enticing than what you could make out of your own life.

Another general strength is that the book clearly makes a strong case for music as a serious tool in feminisms arsenal: How many girls would get to tour a feminist lecture tour? and how many would attend? What would be the entry requirements to speak on such a tour? And what would be the entry requirements for a group of young feminists to form a punk band and tour?

I also like that Marcus isn’t afraid to discuss the violence bands like Bikini Kill and Huggy Bear faced, from men and women, and from some of the riot grrrls in the end. She also acknowledges the chilling impact of murder and rape within the punk scenes, and of Kurt Cobains suicide.

The decline and fall section is very good, in that she recognises the impact of burnout, sheer disillusionment, the searing impact of media intrusion, failure to address issues of class and ethnicity (I should probably say race, but the ghost of A Level Sociology lingers on…) and the subsequent battles within that ensued as a result of this, also the impact of Jessica Hopper’s breaking of the media embargo, and individual acts of profound selfishness on the various chapters and scenes. I like the postcript very much, in that she acknowledges the enduring impact and influence of riot grrrl, whilst also pointing to the fact that American society has got worse, not better, since riot grrrl.

Needless to say, the book focuses on the U.S scenes and chapters, so whilst the U.K gets a mention, it’s only in the form of London, Huggy Bear, Linus, and Lucy Thane’s film of the Bikini Kill/Huggy Bear tour in 1993: ‘It Saved My Life’. There’s a vague reference to chapters, bands, and scenes, in ‘the north of England’, but that’s it. This is to be expected though as it’s clear that the book was never intended to take a much wider view than the U.S. One day, fuller, worldwide accounts of the impact riot grrrl had on girls in Britain, Holland, Belgium, France, Brazil, Poland, Spain, Italy, Croatia, and beyond will be written, but scrappy accounts are what exist at present, and I don’t expect that to change anytime soon.

Chapter Nineteen: The Dolls House

I went to see my mum yesterday and told her about the latest developments with the band, with Fliss and Violet, Flora and Katy and me; skipping some of the details of our night out in Leeds of course.  Despite getting a manager, I’m beginning to feel a bit fed up with being in Titanium Rose to tell the truth.  Oh, not fed up with the music, but fed up with the business side of things; recruiting Jenny Malone wasn’t so bad, but you have to kiss a lot of frogs in this business before you meet the prince(ss) who gives you your record deal, and that side of things has only just begun.  There have been a couple of labels that have expressed interest in us, but, well, we haven’t been interested in what they’ve had to offer us.  She was quiet for quite a while after I had related all this, and there was a strange look on her face as she got to her feet, and instructed me to “wait here.”

  She was gone for a while, and I amused myself by looking at the pictures of myself as a toddler that were sat on the mantelpiece.  God, I was an ugly child… I look like a ferret with malnutrition in most of the pictures from that time, sort of anaemic and skinny, a sickly looking kid.  I suppose I should consider myself lucky though because, had I been the rosebud or princess type, I would probably have even more of an inferiority complex than I do already; at least I know no one could be interested in me for my body alone.

  Eventually she returned, carrying a very old looking shoebox, which was covered in a thick layer of dust.  “It’s been up in the loft for years,” she explained as she blew at the lid before removing it.

  “What is it?” I asked.

  She handed me a tape; it was labelled ‘The Dolls House, demo, September 5th, 1980.’ Puzzled, I opened the case and peered at the cheaply photocopied sleeve inside.  There was a picture of three young punks, two boys and a girl.  I read the names: Rachel, (guitar and vocals) Tony, (bass and vocals) and Steve (drums).  I didn’t have a clue who Steve was, but Rachel and Tony were my mum and dad.  I was absolutely astonished. I turned to look at her, and she met my eyes, but I couldn’t read her face; her feelings were too carefully masked.  “You never mentioned this,” I said, at last, “either of you, you both tell me these romanticised tales of the punk years, but you never, ever, either of you…” I trailed off, my thoughts in turmoil.  “You told me stories, stuff that would impress me, but you never told me anything that mattered.”

  She steered me back towards the sofa, and sat down next to me.  “It was part of the time I was with your dad,” she said at last.  Her voice was quiet, her face tense, “It was all tangled up with that.”

  I waited, but I knew that this was all that I was going to get.  “Did you release any records?” I asked, cautiously.

  She shook her head, and said tensely, “We gigged around Manchester for a bit, played the Electric Circus a few times… We were told we were good, but nobody seemed that interested.  There was talk by the boys of Factory being interested, but it didn’t come to anything.”  Her expression became thoughtful again; “We played Eric’s in Liverpool once, supporting The Buzzcocks.”

  I peered again at the sleeve.  The woman in the picture had short spiky hair and was wearing combat trousers and Doc Martens with a ripped lacy shirt.  The two men had vaselined dark hair, jeans, and leather jackets and were sneering, Sid Vicious style, at the camera.  The text on the sleeve was typed as though on a battered old typewriter, and the songs were listed after the bands names: ‘Lovesick’, ‘Everything They Ever Told You’, ‘I Will Not’, and ‘The Only Girl On Stage.’

  “Did you write the lyrics?” It was somehow important to me to know.

  “Hhhmmm, some…” she peered over my shoulder, and glanced at the tracklistings, “I wrote ‘Lovesick’ and ‘The Only Girl On Stage’, Tony and I wrote ‘I Will Not’ together, and he and Steve wrote ‘Everything They Ever Told You’.”

  I closed the cassette case carefully, and put it down on the table.  There were photos in the box, of the same three young punks, along with another cassette, which I was informed was a live bootleg.  “Why now?” I asked at last, “Why show me all this now?”

  “I don’t know why,” she confessed, “it just seemed the right thing to do.  You were so happy when you started playing with the band; I don’t want you to lose all that.”

  “Like you did?”

  She sighed, “I didn’t lose it, I gave it up: It was a conscious decision.  I wasn’t committed to music as much as I was to acting, and the boys weren’t committed at all I don’t think.”

  I put the tapes, and the photos, back in the box, and put the lid on it.  “So,” I said, “why show me all this if it didn’t matter to you?”

  “It did matter…” she explained, “Just… not so much musically, not for me.  I didn’t like a lot of the bands we played with, or saw, around that time; too often it was a load of blokes farting about with guitars and not saying very much, but you, you like all the punk stuff, God only knows why, you should have your own music…” I opened my mouth to protest, but she had moved on by then, “But you’re good at it, and you enjoy it; you shouldn’t be giving up on it.”

  “I gave up being a dancer,” pointed out, “and I was good at that, and I enjoyed it.”

  “That was different,” she said gently, “You didn’t have a choice.  Now, you do have a choice.”

  I sighed, and leant back against the battered leather of the sofa, “Thing is,” I began, “I look at where we’re at as a band, then I look at what The Girls From Mars have got, and…”

  “Success doesn’t automatically mean happiness,” she said, “and it may be a cliché to say it, but are they happy? Is Violet happy?”

  We lapsed into silence again.  I took the lid off the shoebox, and unpacked the tapes and the photos once more.  I studied those photographs for such a long time, but they didn’t really reveal anything.  You wouldn’t have known that they were a couple, not from the photos.  Eventually, I asked, “Can I borrow the tapes?”

  “If you like,” she said, warily, “but… please don’t play them here… I don’t think I could bear it.”

  So, I packed up the shoebox again and brought it back here with me.  All evening, I listened to those two tapes.  The demo wasn’t much more polished, sound quality wise, than the live bootleg was, but I liked the spirit of it, and it had the lyrics printed on the sleeve.

  I studied those lyrics as I listened to the tapes, and I pored over the pictures almost as much.  But every time I came back to that picture on the tape sleeve, and to the woman in the middle of the picture.  I would have known she was my mum, even without the labelling, partly because I’ve seen pictures of her from that time before, but also because there is an echo, in the large eyes and the stubborn line of her mouth, in her face now.  She must have been, what? Twenty, twenty-one then? Twenty-one I think; older than I am now, but not by much.  She told me that The Dolls House split up two years later, when she was twenty-three and expecting me.  Was I the reason the band split up? No, she said, definitely not; they were splitting up anyway, both her and Tony, and the band.

  Why did Tony never tell me about their band? He’s not normally shy when it comes to talking about his past.  I didn’t want to think about why he hadn’t; I would never know why in any case, even if I did ask him: He’d just make a joke out of it, which is what he always does if he doesn’t want to talk about something.

  I think I know why she didn’t want to be around when I listened to the tapes: It would bring it all back, the unpleasant memories as well as the pleasant ones.  It would be like when I saw Terry just before Christmas; an experience I could have done without, and a reminder of a time I’d rather forget.  She wrote Tony out of our lives for six years…and then he suddenly showed up, I still don’t know why.  I was thirteen before I saw him again, and he was married then… and since then, the kids… my half sister, half brothers…

  I think they loved each other once, but I’m not stupid enough to say, “What if…” I know that they would be a disaster now as a couple; they’re just totally different people.  I think she knew that then, even if he didn’t.  She knew what she wanted, and needed, and she knew it wasn’t him.

  Thinking about my own life, my own musical career, I find myself feeling rather less sure.  I know what I want, and yet… I just don’t do enough to ensure that I get it.  I want Titanium Rose, I want us to succeed, and I don’t want to spend my entire musical career, such as it is, playing to fifty people at The Gates.  But at the same time, I don’t want to sell out; I don’t want to become just another prancing pop tart, another Spice Girls, or Girl Trouble, another Britney or Christina.

  I’m listening to ‘The Only Girl On Stage’ at the moment, which is probably my favourite of The Dolls House songs.  It’s surprisingly long for a punk song, very intense, with a relentless, climbing drum sound and fierce guitars.  There’s something very lonely about her voice, and the isolation in the lyrics speaks volumes I think.

            I am

The girl at your feet

I am

The only one

I am

The girl

I am

The only one

The only girl on stage

And when we play

It’s not my fingers

On the strings

Not my fingers

Playing chords

That they watch

It’s not the way I sing

It’s not any of these things

That they watch 

I wonder how much things have changed. I don’t think that life is perfect for girls in bands now, and I don’t imagine that it was always bad for my mum, but I’d like to think our experiences are different, and that it’s easier now.  The late seventies and early eighties weren’t the dark ages, but from such a distance away, they can seem like that sometimes.  It’s a gap that is too big for me to bridge: a whole generation, and from her point of view, from that generation’s point of view… I could never understand.  Maybe I shouldn’t try to; maybe it would be cultural theft, or cultural necrophilia or something if I bought too far into it all… because it isn’t my past to buy into.

  From a more personal point of view, I think that she’s been better at handling men than I have, and I’ve been thinking about it, thinking about him…  It wasn’t something I realised until tonight, but I know now.  Not just what choices I have, but what I want to do.

  (Later)

Katy phoned just as I was finishing writing this.  She and Fliss are leaving London today and should be back tonight.  I asked Katy if Fliss had told her anymore about the break up, but she just said it was probably better if Fliss told me herself

  (Later)

I was expecting Fliss and Katy to be back by now, but I’ve just had a call from Katy to tell me that they’re stuck at Stoke train station due to signal failure.

  “Do you know anyone with a car who could come and pick us up?” she asked, “I wanted to hitch only Fliss doesn’t want to.”

“No,” I said, “don’t hitch”

“Can Nat pick us up do you think?”

  “No, she’s in Blackpool for a gig tonight, she’ll have left already.” It was then that fate seemed to take me by the hand, and I found myself saying, “I know who I can ask.”

Just because… a flashback to the atypical Manchester music scene of the 80’s

I’ve been getting very intro Carmel recently, especially this video, which was filmed in Manchester. I like it because it’s very natural, perfectly suits the song (which is an absolute blinder), and also because it’s not what is typically thought of as being Manchester music in 1984…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GpQ9VbOjqSU

This one’s great as well….

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gdohz3yTWWc&feature=related

I was discussing Carmel last week with some friends of mine, one of whom is doing a PHD in Post Punk, and discussing whether Carmel, Working Week, and the band that was the forerunner to Swing Out Sister (who’s name I can’t remember…) were a sort of jazzy/soully contrast to the New Romantic scene in the same kind of way as Sade was in London. I’ve recently been writing a lot about women and punk, and interviewing a lot of people about it, and one of the interesting aspects of it is discovering all these little bits and piece about the 70’s and 80’s that I wasn’t aware of, or didn’t appreciate the full significance of…

Chapter Three: The Red Shoes

 It’s been just under a month since I last wrote in here, and I’d like to say that it’s because our newly acquired rock’n’roll lifestyle has kept me far too busy to write, what with all the smoking crack and shagging actors from ‘Hollyoaks’, but I’d be lying.  The truth is far more mundane: Fliss and I have been flat hunting together, and the band has been rehearsing a lot.  Allow time for such necessities as eating, sleeping and, oh yeah, working, and there hasn’t been time to do anything.

  We haven’t heard anything from the guy I met at the gig at The Gates, and whilst I’m a little disappointed, I’m not entirely surprised.  We went to see The Girls From Mars last week at The Gates, and mentioned the guy to Violet, and she said The Girls From Mars have had people from record companies come to their gigs, and it never comes to anything.  “They promise all sorts of wonderful things,” she said, in her welsh lilt, “get you all keyed up and excited and then head back to London, promising to ‘Get in touch’, but never do.”  So I’m not holding my breath.

  Anyway, now that Fliss and I have finally found a flat, I’ve been far too busy packing to think about anything else.  Mum and I completed the task tonight, and it was such a strangely emotional process that I thought I’d write about it here.

  “I never realised how much stuff you’d accumulated over the years,” she shook her head as she opened my wardrobe and began pulling boxes out from inside.  “I’m amazed that you can even fit clothes in here anymore…”

  I watched her as she worked.  I’ve only been back living with her for a year, but I know that I’ll miss her now that I’m leaving home again.  It won’t be like last time, but I will still miss her.  Her pale red hair fell into her eyes as she leant forward and, distracted, she tucked it behind her ears, where it obediently stayed.  She was still in her work clothes – skirts, tights, shirt, having not very long returned from teaching an evening class Basic Aromatherapy.  Normally she wears jeans and a t-shirt, but skirts are better for work, as are one set of earrings, not four.  She picked up the first of the boxes, and carried it over to my bed.  It caught on her tights as she put it down, “Bugger,” she muttered as a ladder began to form.

  As she removed the ruined tights and sensible shoes, I gingerly unfolded the cardboard, “Oh,” I murmured, my heart sank slightly as I caught the first glimpse of what was inside.

  “What is it?” she hopped back over to the bed, her tights half on, half off.

  I lifted a white tutu from the box.

  “That’s the one you wore as ‘Giselle’.” She threw the ruined tights across the room.

  “I remember…” underneath were black lycra short sleeved leotards, shiny, and cold to the touch. They were accompanied by pale pink wool legwarmers, pale pink tights, and underneath… tapes, music that I danced to; ‘Giselle’, ‘Swan Lake’, ‘Coppalia’, ‘The Red Shoes’… it was the classics I remembered.  For tap it was ‘Wherever He Ain’t’, ‘One’, ‘Hello Dolly’, for modern, innumerable pop songs, most of which I hadn’t liked, but missed all the same, and ‘Cherry Bomb’, which I had choreographed myself.  There were pictures, clippings, and programs from various productions and performances I’d taken part in, starting with my first role as a cute child in a bear suit, aged five, right through to my last role, as Giselle, aged eighteen. It was all there.

  Mum gently lifted a pink, tissue thin, layered skirt from the box, “Fliss might like this,” she mused.

  I nodded.

  The next box had all my shoes in it, including my block shoes, some broken in, some still in their packaging.  There were spare ribbons, neatly folded, and in a range of colours, and there were my tap and jazz shoes, just two pairs of each of them.  I picked up a pair of red satin block shoes and cradled them silently.

  She knelt down in front of me, “We don’t have to do this now,” she said quietly, “not if you don’t want to, if it’s too soon, you only have to say,” she placed her hand over mine, and touched the shoes.

  “They were the last pair…” It’s over a year now since I gave up dancing, and it still hurts.

  “I know, love, I know… You can keep them if you want,” my mother had trained to be an actress when she was younger; she knows how hard it is to let a dream go.

  I reluctantly set the boxes aside, and turned my attention to the two familiar looking crates that I knew contained my records.  Well, mostly my records…

  “I was wondering where that had got to,” murmured mum as she retrieved X Ray Spex’s ‘Germ Free Adolescents’ from my stack of L.P’s.

  “You gave it to me.”

  “Only on extended loan I think…”

  A lot of my punk records once belonged to my mum.

  She smiled as she looked around my room.  Only the bare minimum was still in residence, what could already be packed had been packed.  “Do you know this is the third time I’ve seen your room like this?”  I nodded. “But it’ll be O.K this time, I can sense it.”  She must have realised that I wanted to be left alone for a while with my thoughts, for she quietly left the room and made her way downstairs.

  I find myself looking around my near-empty room as I write.  The first time I saw it like this was when we moved in, when I was seven.  The room seemed so much bigger then.  For a few minutes, I’ve been remembering that little girl, bursting into the sparse, light, back bedroom and commandeering it for herself as her mother staggered her way up the stairs with the suitcases.  We didn’t have many belongings then: we moved too often to accumulate too much, and we were never well off financially speaking.  I had a scholarship when I went to the ballet school.  I’ve been seeing the room as it was when I was seven, with all my toys, my ballet shoes on the floor, and my soft toys on my bed.  I was happy then.

  The second time I saw the room empty was different.  Now, as then, I wonder if I’m doing the right thing in moving out.  Do I know Fliss well enough to live with her? I’ve known her and Flora for less than a year, and I don’t feel as though I know Katy at all.  Am I doing the right thing?

  Mum was in the living room when I finally went downstairs; she was sitting on the battered black leather sofa, a pensive expression on her face.  The room was as eerily quiet as it was fanatically tidy.  “How come you haven’t got the news on?” I asked.

  “I did have it on,” she replied, oddly, “but all they’re doing is showing those two planes flying into the World Trade Center, over and over again.  I watched it for about five minutes, then I couldn’t bear it, so I turned it off.”

  We had been drinking in companionable silence for a few minutes when she suddenly asked, “Have you told your father about the band?”

  “No,” I frowned, “why?”

  “Oh, no reason…” she seemed distracted.  It seemed best to leave her to her thoughts and go to bed.

  The red shoes were waiting for me.  I sat down on the bed and slowly stroked the satin, back and forth, back and forth… the emotion welled up inside me, the memories, the hours of practice, all at an end now.  I slowly got to my feet and walked back out to the landing.  The other boxes were waiting for me there, and I carefully added the red shoes to my other shoes.  Aside from the pink skirt, and a few other things that have been put on one side for Fliss, it is all going, although I know mum will salvage some of the photos, clippings and programs once I have moved out.  I turned my back on it all, and returned to my room and to my drums, packed up and ready to be moved in the far corner.  I can see them from my bed as I get ready to sign off and turn off the light.

Chapter Two: Gigging The Gates

Tonight it was our turn to play The Gates.  Titanium Rose were bottom of the bill, by which I mean that we were the first of the four bands to play, and the only one of the four bands who got dressed and made up in the toilets.  Not the nicest of places, The Gates toilets are comprised of two small, cold cubicles facing one another, in which the lock sometimes works, and sometimes – when it doesn’t – you have to shove a bag or your foot against the door.  There’s also a mirror with two hand basins either side of it.  We took turns in the cubicles, hopping about on the freezing tiled floor, getting into our stage gear whilst the audience queued up by the sinks, then once we were done, we joined the gaggle of keyed up, impatient audience girls by the mirror to do our make-up.  It was a bit of a squeeze, and we were constantly being interrupted as various doors opened and shut, letting girls in and out of cubicles or letting in blasts of Limp Bizkit (Katy calls them Limp Dickshit.)  Even so, it beat sharing the dressing room with the other bands, neither of whom were the sharing type.

  Fliss was the only one of us who seemed to be making an effort with her appearance tonight.  She wore a red sequinned mini dress, red patent D.M boots, and black stay ups.  She had also used red ribbons to fasten her bunches, and was wearing cherry red lipstick.  Flora wore a dirty denim skirt with an off the shoulder tie-dyed green and black t-shirt, and black D.M boots, and Katy wore her trademark black: black boots, black jeans, black cotton shirt, black eye shadow, black eyeliner.  I wore my usual drumming gear, i.e. jeans with a t-shirt and Doc Martens.

  My best friend, Nat, joined us at the mirror and checked her make-up, “Violet and your mum are both outside,” she remarked, casually, to me.

  “Really?” I brightened.  Mum had told me that she would try to come to our gig, but hadn’t promised anything.  It would be the first time she had seen us live.  Violet was another surprise, as we’d only met a few times.  Her band, The Girls From Mars, have been gigging around Manchester for at least two years now.  Fliss saw her at Ladyfest Glasgow and, in her usual clumsily spontaneous, yet ultimately friendly, manner, invited her to our gig tonight.  None of us had ever expected her to turn up though.

  Nat finished her examination of her reflection.  Deep blue eyes stared back at her from the mirror, framed by dark, thick lashes set against a heart shaped face, with high cheekbones.  A tiny blue star pierced her snub nose, and her light brown hair, which was streaked blonde, was hanging loose down her back.  I always think of Nat as being voluptuous, never fat.  I can imagine her as a sweater girl in the fifties, or a forces pin up in the forties, one of those halter-top and hot pant clad Marilyn’s, with film star glamour, the kind of woman who can break your heart with a glance.

  Not many people had arrived by the time I emerged from the toilets into the cool grimy gloom of The Gates, and I found Fliss chatting to Violet by the dimly lit bar as, next to them, Nat talked to my mother.  Violet complimented Fliss on her sparkly dress and, in the darkness, I saw Fliss blush as she coyly looked away. I could tell that she was pleased though.

  There is one word that you can use to sum up the Gates: Dark.  Another would be Empty, or empty for Titanium Rose.  I counted about fifteen people, most of whom were members of the other bands on the bill.  From the stage I could see all the way back to the cage at the back, and the sound person.  Between the ragged gaggle of people watching the stage and the soundperson there was nothing but black floor, black walls, and the occasional scraped and beer stained wooden table and stool. 

  The audience stood about two metres away from the stage throughout the twenty-minute set, mostly wearing the kind of expression that suggested that they were wondering if the City result had come in yet, or were trying to remember just where they had parked the car.  Although they seemed sceptical, I think that some of them had been won over by the time Flora began to play the opening chords to ‘Hathor’s Lament’.  It was a tough gig, but I think we did alright.  A few other people thought we’d done alright too, including mum.

  “That song at the end had a nice bass line,” she said as we stood by the bar later, watching people pour through the doors, ready to watch the other two bands on the bill.  “And I liked the second song…” there was a ‘but’ coming, I could tell.  My mum was a punk in the seventies: She’s very disappointed that I’m playing drums in a punk band in 2001.  She believes that it shows a lack of imagination.  “But I think you need to vary your listening habits a bit more, and Fliss needs a better microphone.”

    She was meant to be helping me to move my kit offstage, the headline band having decided upon seeing it that only their own drummers kit would do, but she had spotted an old acquaintance from her days at the Electric Circus by the bar, and they were in full flow by the time I got around to moving it.  It didn’t matter too much though: I had the car keys.

  The smallest drums and the cymbals had to be moved first, then the next smallest, right down to the big bass drum at the bottom.  I was just carrying this last piece of kit down the steps on the right hand side of the stage when I heard someone ask, “Need any help there?” I put the drum down next to the others and paused to catch my breath, “You look proper knackered.”

  “I’m fine,” I replied, “thank you.”  I turned around.

  He was tall and lanky, with blonde hair, which was wavy and tied back.  There was light stubble on his chin, which, when taken alongside his ripped jeans, t-shirt and plaid shirt, added to the overall air of scruffiness he had about him.  I turned my back on him, and once more picked up the bass drum.  He picked up one of the snares.  “No, really,” I repeated as we turned to face each other, “I can manage.”  I was taller than him and probably stronger too, but I didn’t have time to argue with him.  Instead, I turned my back on him once more and walked back past the stage.  It was pretty dark back there, and the light from the desk when I passed through the doors was of great relief.  As I began to climb the stairs, I could hear him behind me.  I paused in order to scan the posters on the staircase walls for any upcoming gigs of interest.  (Red Vinyl Fur are playing at The Gates in a couple of weeks, supporting Angelica, which should be good.)  He was catching up by then, so I moved onwards and upwards.

  My mother had parked her car in Back Piccadilly, the dark alleyway that runs alongside The Gates.  It took a few trips, but soon we had moved the whole kit, and I was ready to start loading it into the car.  “Thanks for the help,” I said as I unlocked the boot.

  “That’s alright,” he tucked a stray strand of hair behind his ear.  “Your band played well, Titanium Rose, wasn’t it?”

  “That’s right.”

  “Interesting name… where does it come from?”

  “Oh,” I smiled, “from Sigur-Rós, and that Sonic Youth song, ‘Titanium Exposé’.”

  He held out his hand, “I’m Fergus.”

  I shook it, “Maggie.”

  “I run a label,” he announced, “I wanted to talk to you, and the rest of the band, about maybe doing a record.”

  (Later)

I didn’t get time to write down everything for you when I got home because I was too tired, which is why I ended my entry so abruptly.  I wanted to lie awake in the darkness for a while and think about things, though, really I ought to have written everything down straightaway, for accuracies sake, still… I don’t feel as though I will ever have time to properly document my life, and maybe that’s just as well.  For now, I can only do my best with what little time I have.

  It was starting to rain as we loaded the drums into the car, and it was so dark in that little alley that I had to feel in order to see where I had put them.  Once we had finished, we headed back inside to discuss the possible single deal that Fergus was offering with the others.

  We worked our way through the crowd by the door to the side of the stage and onwards into the dressing room.  Here we found Fliss and Violet, in quiet conversation.

  “Where are the others?” I asked.

  “Don’t know,” replied Fliss, “Katy was getting a drink when I last saw her.”

  We closed the door behind us.

  The DJ was playing Marilyn Manson as we surveyed the by now much more crowded room for Flora and Katy.  We found them at the bar with Nat, and I quickly introduced Fergus to all of them.  Well, all of them aside from Nat: it turns out that she and Fergus already know each other.

  “Let’s talk in the dressing room,” I suggested, “whilst the other bands are out of the way,” Flora and Katy agreed.

  The Gates dressing room hadn’t improved any since I had stuck my head around the door earlier.  It’s the graffiti that puts me off; it wouldn’t be so bad if it were just the names of bands, but the walls are covered in pictures of genitalia and the kind of sexually explicit diagrams that I imagine even ‘More!’ would probably hesitate to use for ‘Position Of The Fortnight’.  The walls get re-painted periodically, but they only stay clean for a couple of nights usually.

  Fergus’ proposed deal was that he sign us up to do a single, and later (finances permitting) more singles, and an album.  In the course of any time spent recording, releasing, and promoting material released on his label, (which is called One Way Or Another) Titanium Rose and/or any of the individuals making up Titanium Rose, will be free to record, release, and promote material for other labels.  As well as other liberties, we are also allowed to arrange our own artwork and we even maintain copyright of the songs.  It sounded fine to me, and the others agreed.

  The meeting broke up soon after, and we joined the crowd outside to watch the remainder of the headline band’s set.  I wasn’t that impressed with them myself, but the crowd seemed to be really going for it, and the atmosphere was generally good.  Bodies slammed into each other as hair lashed the steamy, smoky air, and the band ground relentlessly on, but I stood away from it all.  Had we not been playing ourselves, I doubt very much that I would have paid to see this band.  It’s different somehow when you’re playing a gig with them though, you feel obliged to watch.

  Soon it was chucking out time and Fliss, Flora and Katy all left for home, leaving me with Fergus outside on the dark, damp, street.  The crowd from The Gates were streaming past us as he asked, “Can I give you a lift?”

  “No, it’s alright,” I replied, “I’m going home with my mum, she’s driving.”

  “Oh, right,” he made to leave.

  “Thank you.”

  He smiled, “Bye”

  “Bye”

  As I got into the car, mum asked, “Who was that?”

  “Oh, this bloke,” I replied vaguely, “he’s going to release our records for us.”

  She watched his retreating form for a few moments, “Not unattractive…” she murmured, rather wistfully.

  “Mum!”

  She shrugged defensively, “Just saying…”

  She told me as we drove along the still busy A6, through Stockport, to Hazel Grove, that she had enjoyed the gig.  “Your band anyway, I didn’t think much of the other two.”  She didn’t comment much beyond that, and I was too tired to pursue the subject upon arriving home, but it was enough.  It is probably very un-punk for your parents to like your band, but I don’t care.  I’m still pleased.