Thursday, 20 December 2012

The Comeuppance.

If only The Comeuppance had Comeup at Christmas, it would have provided a lovely poetic symmetry to my thirty year-old tale of love, betrayal and loss. But perhaps that would make it all too pat. In fact, my comeuppance came in the sultry August of 1985. It is commemorated by a single sentence in my diary: "Vidal Sassoon disaster followed by M disaster."

I had graduated from University a few weeks earlier, having felt quite ready for the last few months of my academic life to flee the confines of student-hood, which had come to feel repetitive and suffocating. I'd read all I wanted to read (for the time being), been on all the demonstrations I felt passionate about (ditto), taken all the drugs I'd ever want to take (pretty much ever), and shagged everyone I'd wanted to (more or less). Student life had nothing more to offer me, and though I cried on the way home for the end of my youth, I was actually ready to enter the Next Phase.

Quite why I felt that 'entering the Next Phase' should mean 'grotesquely altering my appearance' I still do not know, but the urge was upon me to reinvent myself in any way I could, and this meant a radical change of hairstyle. I'd been blonde throughout University (as I am now, and intend to remain), and it had served me well, but as part of my reinvention I took myself off to Vidal Sassoon one afternoon and begged an eager young man to 'change my image'. This he did by dying my hair the colour of a rotted plum, and by hacking into it with psychotic abandon, shearing off my fringe so that my head at the end resembled a hand grenade. I remember staring at my newly-ludicrous appearance in the mirror, mute with shock and horror, while he repeatedly asked me "are you ok, Kolley? Are you ok?". Of course being English I numbly insisted that it was all fine, and tipped him a fiver while my eyes filled with tears.

On the Tube home I kept my head bowed at a 45 degree angle, trying to hide his dreadful handiwork and redundantly tugging what was left of my butchered fringe in an futile effort to make it grow back. I knew my mascara had run in black rivulets down my face, but felt spitting on a tissue and dabbing at it - my only option for any sort of removal - would render me even more pitiful and crazed in the eyes of anyone watching than the 'post-lobotomy chic' haircut already had. It wasn't until I stood up to change trains at Stratford, and briefly brought my swollen eyes up from the floor, that I noticed M had been sitting directly opposite me for the whole journey, and had stood up like me, to change trains. For the first time in years, our faces were six inches from each other again. I looked up into those lovely brown eyes, that were visibly widening as they took in the full grotesquery of my appearance, and saw the lightening spread of vindictive, schadenfreude-driven, completely justified pleasure there. I couldn't utter a word; he didn't need to. The doors opened, we both got off, and I shot to the far end of the platform like the Hounds of Hell were chasing me. Which, in a sense, they were.

And I haven't set eyes on him since. But if he's reading this I'd like him to know that my hair looks lovely now. Really good. And I weigh exactly the same as I did at nineteen (which, if gossip is to be believed, he certainly doesn't. But let us not dwell in vengeance.).

I think there's a certain tenuous Dickensian Morality flavour to this whole fable, so maybe I can rope it in at this point, link it loosely to Christmas or whatever it is you're celebrating at this time of year - if you feel the need to celebrate anything at all - and counsel all readers to try and be nice to each other in the year ahead. Because it'll come back to bite you if you're not, you can rely on that. I'm the living proof.

Thank you to those who still read my crap, mysterious lurkers and bold commentators alike. I'm buying you all a virtual pint (of whatever you like best, be it beer, blood or beetroot juice), and I'm raising it to you. Mwah!

©Kolley Kibber 2012. MY drivel. 

Monday, 10 December 2012

No Tears (The Final Chapter)

Thurs December 9 1982

Just had my last seminar of the term and it was really good, though we all smirked a bit when Prof B broke off mid-sentence to wax lyrically about the beauty of winter sunlight on wet brick (we were on the 14th floor of Big Tower, so I suppose the view IS quite good from up there, but still, really). I'd got caught by the rain walking in, and my hair had been completely flattened so I wasn't really feeling the beauty of it all very much (that funny little Brummie who looks like Sting came up to me and said "yow look like a drowned rat, yow do." What a comedian.). Prof had brought in sherry and mince pies, which was nice of him even though we all had to force down the sherry a bit as it's disgusting. We were all polite though. He's a sweet old prof.

I was coming down in the paternoster later on when this Glaswegian bloke got in and looked me up and down, then pulled a copy of 'An Phoblacht'* out of his bag and waved it in my face. He was going on and on about "you're Irish, you should buy one of these, and you should be coming along to the meetings"... He really got on my nerves. The one thing I'm not going to miss this Christmas is listening to those bloody rebel songs as Dad gets drunker and drunker on Christmas night. It might sound awful, but even though I'll be missing Dad terribly I won't be missing Christmas with Kevin Barry or bloody Sean South of Garyowen. And that stupid paper just reminds me of all that. I've seen this Glaswegian bloke around a lot, he seems to fancy himself as Bobby Sands' reincarnation. I'm giving him a wide berth. And how he knew I was Irish in the first place is a bit of a mystery as I'd never spoken to him before today. Wanker.

Anyway I'm off out later - it's the Hall Christmas Ball tonight and Dr Feelgood are on so it might be quite good. I wish Gill** was here so we could go together, but of course I've no idea even of where she is now. I'm going to dress up a bit tonight, and give the children here something to talk about.

I'lll give M a quick ring if I get time after my bath. I had a letter from him this morning where he said he'd love to come up at the start of next term "although the last thing I want to do is come between you and your studies." We'll see. Maybe we can sort it all out when I go home (in four days! Oh no! I've just started to enjoy myself!!).

Friday December 10 1982

I'm lying here starving because I missed breakfast due to my pounding head. I don't know what time I got to bed. The Ball was great - Dr Feelgood were pissed out of their heads and looked rough (they're so old now), and they'd brought along these really slaggy women who were all sitting on the edge of the stage chewing gum in their lurex halter-necks (boobs everywhere), and glaring at all the girls in case we were going to try and take their lovely men away (you must be joking!). But despite being so pissed they still managed to play well (no shades of the Teardrop Explodes*** last night, thank god) and it was a really good gig - even the maths boys were dancing, though some of them really shouldn't have. I wore my gorgeous yellow dress and was very amused when one of the posh Longcoats tried to talk to me (the only one of them who's alright, really, but I'm not getting involved with any of them.). I was with Richie a lot of the time, having a laugh and annoying the DJ by asking for Theatre of Hate and Tuxedomoon, and then I ran into N, the "hearty lad from Halifax" who I met in the first week at the Freshers Ball. Shows how much I was listening to a single word he said back then, as he's not from Halifax at all but from Chester near Liverpool (which is the other side of the country and these things matter if you come from the North, apparently. Ha ha.).

Anyway he was completely different to how I remembered him. Really nice, in fact. He's in his third year doing Chemistry, plays bass in a band, likes all the right music, and looks a bit like Billy McKenzie. He ended up coming back to my room with a few others and we all finished off the bottle of vodka that K had been saving, then the others all drifted off to bed and I don't know why (yes I do know why, I really fancied him) but I let him kiss me. It hadn't been in my mind until right before it happened, and I had a split second to block out all thoughts of M before I went ahead and did it. Then I got upset, and he was very sweet and said he'd better go but he kissed me again for a while before he went (walking back four miles to his house in the freezing cold.). I sat up for ages after he'd gone, smoking and trying to make sense of what I was doing. In the end I went downstairs and tried to make tea without making any noise, and eventually J came into the kitchen as she couldn't sleep either - she'd finally got off with T, Richie's friend (the one who uses Sun-In!), and had persuaded him to come back to the house and have a bath with her, which he did, they ran the bath and got in (bit of fumbling first, apparently), then he suddenly burst into tears because he remembered his girlfriend at home. J said she sat there for ages watching him crying and feeling the water getting cold, and thought it might upset him more if she topped it up with more hot water (not sure why), so she ended up freezing and miserable. He apologised in the end and got out of the bath and left. She'd been after him all term so felt completely stupid, and I was feeling guilty and confused, so we sat up in my room for an hour being miserable before we crashed out.

J also told me that poor B, Debs' smelly room mate, had ended up in hysterics after some wanker from  another hall pretended to get off with her because his stupid friends had dared him. Apparently she was a bit drunk and was all over him in the middle of the dance floor, and Debs (who had seen what was happening) had to rescue her, which at first she didn't appreciate at all and then when she realised what he was up to was broken-hearted. I detest most of the boys here, I really do. He wasn't exactly a catch himself, in his horribly acrylic jumper. I hope someone does it to him some time.

It's the last night of the JCR tonight, and I know I invited N and I know he said he'd come. What am I doing?

Monday December 13 1982

I can't believe I'm writing this at home in my own room. The whole term is over and I would never, ever have predicted I'd be crying like I was as the car drove me away from the house and the Hall and everyone. It wasn't so long ago that I never thought I'd last a term there, that I couldn't survive without London and even more so, couldn't survive without M, and now I can't wait to get back. I suppose everything just started to come together in that final three weeks, just at the same time things started to go wrong with M, and I suddenly had this great feeling of how unique this time is, and how I'm living a life I'll never get to experience again, and for all its ups and downs how amazing that is, and how I need  to involve myself in order to get the best from it all.

Which may be how I justified 'involving myself' in going to the JCR on Saturday night and meeting N there. And justified letting him come back to my room and stay until three in the morning (I haven't been totally despicable. We didn't do anything too terrible. But we didn't do nothing. He asked if I wanted him to stay and then answered the question for me by saying he didn't want it to be 'sordid' if it was going to happen between us, which I thought was really sweet, so off he went on his four mile freezing walk home again, though I have a feeling he won't be doing that next time.). Richie and his friends were all raised eyebrows and theatrical tutting at me the next morning, but I ignored them, though of course they're right - this is not good behaviour. But by then I was blocking my eyes and ears, and was focusing on the Simple Minds gig last night instead. It was the perfect way to end the term - they were absolutely brilliant, the best I've ever seen them, and once again I managed to get right to the front, this time with my camera, so I hopefully got a few half-decent shots of the frighteningly skinny but strangely alluring Jim Kerr. I did feel quite odd when they did 'that song' from New Gold Dream, and it got a bit painful for a while. but the rest was so incredible that I was able to put M aside from it all and just enjoy the gig totally. My ears are still ringing 24 hours later (is it only 24 hours?). It could have been the best gig of my life so far.

I now have the task of phoning M. It's ten days or so until Christmas (not that his family particularly celebrate Christmas - maybe that will help)**** and I'm just about to chuck him for the second time in a month. I may be making a terrible mistake here. But I can't mess him around any more. It's just not fair.*****

* Irish Republican newspaper/propaganda rag. Not something it was advisable to read in public at the time.
**My best friend from school. We used to listen to Dr Feelgood a lot together in her house in Romford.
***Terrible gig earlier in the term. The Teardrop Explodes were touring as a three-piece and Julian Cope was too fried to care about anything much. A lot of the gig was taped. They were awful. 
****This has to be the most crass comment ever written. I was going to remove it for reasons of shame and embarrassment, but decided it had to stay in. Forgive me, I was young and utterly stupid.
*****It wasn't fair. Nor was the way I mucked him around for another month, blowing hot and cold to him before he finally saw sense and gave up. Dearie me, I was awful. 

©Kolley Kibber 2012. My past, my embarrassment, my writing. 

Thursday, 6 December 2012

If only you could see me...

Gentle reader, I promise you this sorry chapter of my early life is drawing towards a conclusion.

Weds Dec 1 1982

We seem to have arrived at an uneasy truce. I cracked and phoned M on Sunday, and we were both a bit wary and awkward, he presumably because he's now regretting pouring his heart out on paper to me, and me because I'm not sure I trust him anymore. It was hard to talk properly as there was loads of noise outside in the kitchen - Charlotte and K were having a childishly loud 'conversation' about which of their boyfriends is best in bed (don't know much about the ferret-faced weed who's squiring Charlotte, but R's certainly the noisiest, if that's anything to go by) - and then a bunch of idiot boys from Digby Hall turned up drunk and singing carols. So all we managed to agree on is that we won't be able to see each other until I get home on the 13th, as there's just too much on here. I've got two essays to finish and there's a lot happening socially, would you finally believe it. He sounded disappointed but too bad. It struck me as I put the phone down that if this keeps going I could be in for three whole years of this, feeling torn and distracted, and not quite knowing where my real life is. I'm not saying Robin was right when he gave me that lecture and I still think he's a prat, but there may have been something in it.

Saturday December 4 1982

I've had a great week! I'm getting really good marks for my essays, and one of the tutors took me aside after the seminar I gave on Thursday and said he thought I had 'the germ of a Phd thesis there' (he's a bit slimy, actually - thinks he's a lot better looking than he is and has been known to get a bit over-friendly in the Union bar (why would you want to go to the Union bar when you're about 32 and one of the staff, anyway?)  - but still I was flattered. Then in the evening I finally got talking to Karen's friend Richie* who I always thought was a bit of a joke (single row studded belt, pixie boots and cheap Bowie trousers, like a tall but cheap version of Marc Almond) and we got on like a house on fire. He's got an amazing record collection, full of really rare 12" Japanese imports (I was very impressed with his 'Dignity of Labour', which I've been after for ages), and he's really, really funny - he made me laugh for hours, like I haven't really laughed since I got here. We seem to like all the same things, although we disagree on virtually everything politically.  He's from Portsmouth which is a bit of a shame as it sounds like the sort of place you'd get beaten up for wearing eyeliner, and is desperate to come to London and go to the Camden Palace (he couldn't believe I'd been there! And that I didn't think it was that great!). I told him to come down one weekend and I'd take him there, and to Kensington Market if he likes. He'd be so easy to impress. Karen got the hump a bit as she could see how well we got on and she sees him as 'her' friend but what was I supposed to do - pretend we didn't really like each other? Anyway we all went to the Poly last night as John Peel was doing the DJ bit - it was brilliant. The Poly is like another world, it's where all the art students and designers go, so everyone looks fantastic and has made an effort. I was amazed I hadn't found it before. We danced a lot, and it was great to be at a student event where you knew you weren't going to hear any Shakin' Stevens or Eye of the Bloody Tiger. Today I went into town with Richie and bought a fantastic suede jacket** in one of the second-hand shops, then we went for a curry. We were laughing all the time. I'm so glad I've met him and he's so jealous I'm going to see Simple Minds next Sunday.
Some of the girls are on the landing singing 'Merry Christmas War is Over'. It sounds lovely***.

*He would become my very best friend. And no, we never 'did'. 
** I've still got it, and still wear it. 
***I hate that song beyond measure now. 

Friday, 30 November 2012

Communication Lost

Saturday November 27 1982

Everything here has gone slightly insane. Sharon is threatening to move out of the house into one of the blocks, because she's had enough of A (her room mate) bringing creepy blokes back and having it off with them in the bed six feet away from her. It's hard not to agree that she has a point. A doesn't exactly look much of a temptress with her little pug face and rat-tail perm (not to mention her line in nylon babydoll nighties), but she seems irresistible to a certain type of boy - the type with a bumfluff moustache who wears one of those ties with piano keys on it, judging by the one I surprised on the landing last night. It must be so embarrassing for poor Sharon, but A doesn't seem bothered in the least. She's a bit rough round the edges really.

Meanwhile, Little C has had some sort of emotional breakdown and withdrawn into her bedroom, only coming out for immediate bodily functions and hot water bottles. It's Day Four now and nobody's actually had sight of her, we just hear her creeping round like a ghost. I tried getting her to come out the night before last but just got some single-word grunts through the door, none of which sounded friendly. I suppose she'll surface when she's ready, and there's music coming from her room (endless replays of Carole King's 'Tapestry' from what I can make out, how drippy) so at least we know she hasn't hung herself. Vegetarians are very sensitive types.

Debs Barraclough has pissed off all the girls downstairs because she won't leave her bike outside and keeps bringing it into the hallway, where they've all fallen over it in the dark at least once. She calls the bloody thing 'Sebastian' and talks to it like it's a pet. And she's got a boyfriend! He's one of the Indian medics called Viraf, very polite and quiet, and he looks like Jack Sprat alongside her. I've got a feeling they might have 'done it', which is hard to imagine. I'd have expected her to stay a virgin forever.

Speaking of which, I'm up writing this at 6.30 on a Saturday morning not because I'm so keen to document my fascinating life, but because I was woken up half an hour ago by the charming sounds of R having it off very loudly in the room below me with K (Jo's room mate. I assume Jo is staying with her boyfriend at Beaumont Hall.). She's a top-volume groaner and he's a panter/puffer, you might like to know. And he shouted 'oh god' at the end. What a surprise. They got off with each other at the JCR Bar Games last night - a horrific night out that showed up student life at its worst. Pint-drinking contests (halves for the girls!  Pathetic), leg-wrestling, a Chunder Race*, and them something stupid where you got put in pairs and had to do press-ups with your partner lying underneath you. I wasn't getting involved in any of it, but R and all the sports boys were loving it as were Charlotte (naturally) and K, who ended up lying under R. I suppose it was bound to happen after that, who could resist such seduction? They waltzed off together and Charlotte came up to me and made a point of asking if I'd seen them. What a bitch she is, not that I'm actually bothered. Though I bet that's the end of my chats with R**. Ah well. K's his type, and I'm not. And he's not mine. But he was nice to talk to.

I've still heard nothing from M though he must have got my letter on Tuesday or Wednesday. I thought he might have phoned me but I was obviously right in the first place and he doesn't care. I'm just going to get on with my work and concentrate on that. I'm fed up of trying to socialise with these kids and pretending it's fun. They're all either mad or immature. I'm hungry.

*Footnote from 2012 - Chunder Race. A selection of the most socially inadequate boys lined up to devour, at top speed, a selection of particularly discordant foodstuffs such as a tin of pilchards, cup of marmalade, large cube of lard, Mars bar coated in Marmite, pickled egg dipped in Angel Delight, etc. They were then spun round rapidly several times and made to run round a circuit. The one who did it in the shortest time and without chundering into the bin placed in the centre of the circuit was the winner. The food was provided by the Hall of Residence. We were all on grants and only paid thirty quid a week for accommodation and three hot meals a day. No wonder people hated bloody students. 

**It was. Though we made contact via Friends Reunited a few years ago. He'd just moved back to Basingstoke after several years of living in Berlin working for a multinational. Still conflicted about whether or not he'd sold out his roots. 

Saturday November 27 1982 ( about two hours later)

I'm going mad now, madder than anyone else in this stupid place. I got up, washed my hair (ran into R coming out of the bathroom, he looked embarrassed ha ha) and went over to breakfast early. There was a lot of post in my pigeonhole. Among them a letter from M, and a letter from JA. The only thing I could think of was they had both agreed to write to me at the same time, to tell me they're seeing each other. I don't know why I opened hers first. Trying to put off reading his version, I suppose. But what she said was that she'd gone to the R club on Tuesday night, and M was there. "M asked if you'd come home at the weekend and I said I didn't think so as you hadn't rung me, but then you're not very good at ringing people as we all know. He told me there had been some sort of misunderstanding between him and you (have you met someone else? Is it the sports hero? Do tell!) but he said he was going to write to you and sort it out. He seemed very confident that he could explain it all and get you to reconsider, I must say." And then two pages of the usual gossip and nonsense.

So I opened M's letter. Four pages in which he poured out his heart and practically begged me not to finish with him. I've never seen anything like this written by a boy ("that weekend with you was the best in living memory... I wouldn't have cared if you said you didn't want to go up West, I'd rather play records in  your room and talk to you than ever go to the Wag club again..." My God.).  He'd been expecting me to phone him (which I'd definitely never said I'd do - it's too embarrassing if his Mum answers), and when I didn't (because I was waiting for him to phone me like he'd bloody said he would), he assumed I'd cooled off. Apparently he spent the evening with Bob sitting in the garage with the guitars, Bob trying to persuade him to pick up the phone. Now he can see he was being stubborn and proud, he reckons. Yes he was, or he's a liar. He even put lyrics from that song* at the end "to remind you of what we've had and to ask you not to throw it away over a misunderstanding." I've got his letter and JA's letter here on my desk and I keep looking from one to the other. I hate what she said about him feeling so "very confident" that he could get me back by writing. If I fall for what he's said in the letter, he'll think he's got me on a string.

I'm going out for a walk.

©Kolley Kibber 2012. Mine, all mine.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

The Siren and the Ecstacy

MONDAY NOVEMBER 22 1982 Well, that's that. The 'Dear M' letter lies signed and sealed on my desk next to this notebook, and in a minute I will run down to the post box on the corner and send it - and him - on their respective merry ways. And he's brought it all on himself, he absolutely has. I don't feel one bit guilty and I know I'm right to do this.

 My birthday was difficult, as I knew it would be - the first one without Dad, and not even able to hold a phone conversation with Mum as she keeps bursting into tears every time I ring her, so no comfort for me there. People here were very sweet, though - some of them people I would never have expected to take the trouble. I felt really guilty when Silly Soppy Sarah and Weird Kez (the one who smokes a pipe) hunted me down in the library to give me a card - I have been a bit mean about Sarah with her Lady Di blouses and ping-pong ball eyes, plus she's a Tory so we've clashed in some of the seminars, though at least this goes to show it doesn't have to get personal. M did send a nice card that was full of how he 'couldn't wait' to see me at the weekend, and of course I rang him in the evening and he sang Happy Birthday to me, which actually made me start crying which I know confused him but it doesn't justify his behaviour afterwards, in fact it makes it all worse. We agreed on the phone that I'd see my family for a birthday meal on Friday, and then we'd spend Saturday and Saturday night together and do something special, so I was quite bright when I got off the phone to him and headed down to the JCR with the girls from the house.

It was an odd evening, not least as people kept buying me rum and pineapples (not Robin, who is pathetically ignoring me) so I got quite drunk quite quickly, and so did Sharon, so much so that she finally got up the nerve to fling herself at the little Welsh dwarf she's been mooning over for weeks (he's about four feet tall! A typical Beer Boy in my view, getting togged up in a white shirt and ball-strangling pale jeans for his nights out and thinking that constitutes "making an effort", but Sharon really goes for that type, god knows why.). Anyway, she ended up in a really heavy conversation with him about relationships, and he told her that he doesn't really want one, what he likes doing is going to "discos" (he's Welsh!) and having one-night stands with "bad girls" (he really is WELSH!). She ended up getting really upset so I took her outside and we sat under a tree, and ended up in another heavy conversation about the stars and eternity and the fact that this Welsh bloke and actually all of us will be dead in a hundred years (though the same stars will still be there) so actually it didn't really matter that he didn't want to go out with her. It seemed to make her feel better, anyway. She is quite an intense girl, and very mixed up about men and sex. Hark at me, though - the expert.

Anyway, it ended up with people back in my room, then most of them went, then it was just me and R. We talked for ages again, this time about our backgrounds (his Dad's a gas fitter and he's like me, the only one of his family to have ever gone to University.). He said he feels like it will all put a rift between him and his family and old friends, and how he feels he doesn't really fit in here either as there are so many posh people (we really slagged off the public school Longcoats who hog the top table at dinner, especially their disgusting conversation topic that night*) but he can't go back to Basingstoke. I do know what he means, actually - when I look forward I still see London, but not a return to Crapville. He's quite deep underneath all the football stuff. Anyway, it was 2.30 when I went to bed and I woke up with a headache. Charlotte was in the kitchen when I went downstairs, and made some stupid remark about not having heard R leaving last night and was he still upstairs, in one of her silly little voices. I can't bear her. I couldn't wait to get on the London coach on Friday morning (I bunked off Politics and Ideas.).

My birthday dinner with the family was fine I suppose, and I was glad at the time that I hadn't invited M along to be interrogated by my sisters, or have John making stupid jokes about eating pork. Though of course I can be sure now that he wouldn't have come anyway, because he's obviously decided I'm not that important after all, as he never phoned me like he'd promised. The phone just never rang. I waited in until 6pm on the Saturday, biting poor Mum's head off all afternoon, and then I went out with L. It was an awful night and I'm sure I was terrible company, but she was ok about it - some bloke took her number in this pub we went to in Hampstead, so she was happy enough. I was rude to his friend though. I got the coach back yesterday and rang C over at Concrete University in the evening to ask her what she thought I should do, and she said I should ring M as he might have been in an accident, but I wasn't going to do any such thing so she started singing "A Little Bit Me, a Little Bit You", which I didn't find funny.

Anyway, that's it, it's over. I don't understand when or why he stopped caring but he obviously did and if I find out JA has had anything to do with this I will kill her. Though she's welcome to him. I don't mean any of that. This is awful.

*A top-volume account, by the Head Longcoat, of how he had 'bummed' his girlfriend the previous night, with every last muscular spasm vividly and biologically described.  Delivered in fearless, cut-glass Home Counties bawl. Ghastly.

©Kolley Kibber 2012. You can look, but don't touch. 

Friday, 23 November 2012

The Whirlpool of Warning

Thursday November 11 1982. 

We've got the first performance of the play tomorrow so I've been really busy with that, and my essay on the Attlee government (I really need to get a good mark for this one, given all the extra time B**** has given me - a whole hour's extra tutorial, it was great - he's brilliant.). Last night's rehearsal was cancelled because Jane was waiting for the result of the ENTS election - Steve F* was running, but he lost. I think he's a bit of a wanker anyway so wasn't bothered.

So after dinner I went over to R's room again and we did a couple of read-throughs, though we mainly ended up talking about other things (like his ex-girlfriend, who chucked him over the summer holiday a week before they were due to go camping in St Tropez.). At first he pretended he'd been relieved because he hadn't really wanted to go to St Tropez - too full of poseurs, he said - but then he admitted that she'd destroyed him and of course she was - is - the subject of most of the poems he writes. He got out one or two more that had a lot of stuff in them about knives and hearts (better than the insane poems Colin used to write about having dinner with his pet rat because he'd been stood up, but still a bit baffling, really.). Anyway I was there until 1.30 and for some reason he shook my hand and pecked me on the cheek as I was going, which was a bit strange! Of course the next morning at breakfast all the wankers on his corridor were acting like apes, giving us both a round of applause when we arrived (separately) and going on and on about how we didn't have to pretend we hadn't spent the night together. One of them who thinks he's a particularly fine wag made some comment about "method acting", so I had to remind him that as R's actually playing my father in the play and I'm supposed to be a lesbian in it anyway, he was talking crap. These boys are idiots.

Sunday November 14 1982
Well, we didn't win the play competition, but it was hilarious and a real laugh. I'm so glad I did it. The first performance in the JCR was hardest as the whole of Hall was there, meaning all the stupid boys, so there was loads of catcalling and general overexcitement when C and I had to kiss each other (which never got any easer, to be honest - I can't stand her.). There was also some predictable muttering and hissing when I had to deliver the line "Oh, it's all just 'the North', isn't it?", so I imagine Julian was skulking round the back somewhere, obviously unable to understand that it's only a play and I was ACTING. It was much easier last night, in the actual theatre on a proper stage with lights so you couldn't see the audience, and we got a lot of good laughs and applause but not enough to win. We all went to the bar afterwards, all in a really good mood, but unfortunately Robin got very drunk and started grabbing my thigh, which was embarrassing - I asked him politely to stop and he wouldn't - he said he was "out of control" - so in the end I told him to fuck off, which I hadn't wanted to do, and then he got really angry and said I was a "callous bitch", and stormed off. R went to look for him after a while and eventually found him running round and round the track at the sports hall, in a right state. R took him back to his room and put him to bed, but it put a bit of a damper on the evening. I'm angry with Robin for being so stupid. I hope it hasn't made people think worse of me, as I never gave him any indication I was interested in him like that. I hope R doesn't think it was my fault. It's not that I'm interested in HIM like that either, but he's really nice.

Tuesday November 16 1982.
I'm lying on my bed in my green bathrobe. The record player's on, it's "Big Sleep" from New Gold Dream and I've just been reading (again) the letter I got from M this morning, which is very sweet..."I went to phone you on Saturday night, but then realised you'd be out receiving your thespian acclaim" - that made me laugh. I've been down to the JCR and had a couple of vodka and limes, then we nicked some bread and came back here for peanut butter on toast. I also did some washing. The record's just ending so I'm going to turn it over, and by the time the other side's finished I shall no longer be a teenager. I shall have attained the ripe old age of twenty, and shall consequently have one foot in the grave. I am recording all this minutely boring detail so that I can remember what I was doing in my last teenage moments. Ok. It's 11.47pm. I'm going to turn the record over, stick on my headphones, and be damned. If I don't die of old age overnight, I shall face my twenties in the morning. And I SHALL age gracefully!

*He's an editor on the Financial Times now, so it did him no lasting harm...

©Kolley Kibber 2012. All memories and depictions thereof my own. Geddit??

Thursday, 22 November 2012

I'm back...

...and straight into a dose of norovirus. Normal service will be....oh excuse me a moment....

Monday, 12 November 2012


I've come away somewhere remote to celebrate/avoid my 50th birthday at the weekend. The good news is, we got an upgrade to a swanky villa; the bad news is, the Internet connection there is down. I can only log in while back at the main site over breakfast, as I'm doing now. This means that despite all my good intentions to finish the tale while I'm away (I even brought the source material with me, folks!), I won't now be able to do it until I'm back in a week or so. Bear with me, as they say everywhere these days when they're being a bit inept.

Have fun in the meantime, everyone. I'll be doing my elderly and decrepit best.

Friday, 9 November 2012

Slipping Back on Golden Times...

Monday November 8 1982. 

I'm supposed to be writing an essay on Marxist Theories of History, but I need a break from Dialectical Materialism as it's giving me a headache. Fortunately my broken bedroom window - smashed during the party by a stupid grob* who decided he needed to open it in a hurry so he could be sick, so put his head through it - has been mended so I just had the one night of sleeping in a freezing wind tunnel. I tried so hard to find out which grob it actually was, but they all stuck together in silence and wouldn't tell me. Wankers. 

I suppose it was a typical student party, not that I had anything to compare it with. C came over from Concrete University, and L came up from London (L told me JA had asked why she hadn't been invited and she'd made up some story about lack of beds, ha ha. I'm sure she found something else to do, and as long as it didn't involve M I don't care what it was.) so I had a couple of good friends on hand, and as I was holding the drinks kitty along with little C from downstairs, we all trooped down to Woolco on the Saturday morning to buy the stuff. No wonder the locals here hate students - little families all doing their weekly shopping, while the four of us held up the queue with a trolley loaded with booze and crisps, and then counted out a hundred and ten quid in cash (£110!!) to pay for it. They'd have hated us even more if they knew that 'the organisers'  (me and little C) were keeping back a bottle of Malibu as our reward for doing all the organising. 

We all got dressed up far too early. I put a few colours in my hair and Debs got upset over the length of my leather skirt - she couldn't believe I used to get on the bus in it to go out for the night. She knows nothing. Sharon looked fantastic as a Playboy Bunny**and K looked a bit fat as a Pierrot but at least most people made an effort. Jo went as Paddington Bear and still managed to look quite pretty and cute. As we were ready and waiting, little C and I opened the Malibu and made a start on it (she copped out a bit with her outfit, just wore Pink.). Skinny Paul was the first boy to arrive, all in white so I asked him if he'd come as a Pipecleaner, when apparently they were surgical theatre clothes and he was supposed to be a Physician. Apparently he was offended by that!! Andy C came as a Priest, and then Robin arrived at the door in his normal clothes but with his mouth full of milk, which he then spat all over the floor and said he'd come as Premature Ejaculation. We weren't sure whether or not to let him in but then little C keeled over backwards from the Malibu and started vomiting. We had to drag her by her feet into her room, and prop her up with pillows while she was sick, then we had to leave her to get back to the door but most people had just come in anyway by then. The house was overrun and the punch vanished in about ten minutes. I made sure there was some decent music on, but of course that didn't last long once Charlotte the Harlot*** got her hands on the tape deck. Blondie, Blondie and more Blondie. How boring.

Things got worse. L had finished off the Malibu, and decided she didn't feel well and needed a bath (trust her...). So she went off and had one, which therefore meant one of the bathroom loos was out of use as well, so disgusting boys started pissing in some of the sinks (mine being one, from the smell in my room.). When L had had her bath, she apparently opened the window wearing just a towel, and a grob that was leaning out of a window opposite spotted her, climbed out, and started clambering across the pitched roof to get her. She had to slam the window and get most of her clothes on in seconds. While all this was happening Robin was giving me a lecture on how I'd only ever have half the real University experience because of having a boyfriend at home. He got really mouthy and accused me of being a coward and just playing at being a student, which made me really angry and then really upset. I ended up hiding in Debs' room with Jane, who was crying because she and Paul had had a row. I was sick in K's bin, although Jane told me I did it very elegantly. Next thing Paul appeared, she burst into fresh tears, he scooped her off the bed and carried her out. What a pair of poseurs. I fell asleep there and woke up feeling terrible with poor K clinging to half the bed. She hadn't had the heart to move me. 

I'd arranged for M to ring me yesterday at 4 and made sure nobody else got near the phone, but he didn't ring. I hung round for fifteen minutes, but then Sharon needed to ring her Mum so I had to give up. I thought about phoning him, but he'd said in his letter that he'd ring me as it saves me having to keep a stack of 10p bits to hand (though he has to tell his Mum that he's on the phone to Bob.). If it hadn't been such a lovely letter I'd have worried a bit, but it was full of amazing things ("you are about a thousand times more stimulating than anyone I've ever met"!!!). So I suppose there's nothing to worry about and I'm just tired. I expect I'll hear from him in the week. I'm not phoning him though, why should I?

I'd better get back to the essay. Got my ticket for Simple Minds next month at Municipal Hall today! I'll have finished a whole term here by then, assuming I don't leave. 

*A local corruption of 'grebo', used to disparagingly describe any white male with long hair who sported a leather jacket.
**It was an 'Anything Beginning with P' party. Ho ho bloody ho. 
***Public schoolgirl daughter of a Neurosurgeon. Did 'baby voices'. Small and spiteful. I hated her. Probably still would.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Antique Agony

Monday November 1 1982

I'm so brave for coming back yet again, especially given the mood I was in when I left for London. The Bauhaus gig last week really lulled me into a false sense of optimism - they were so fantastic I almost wish they'd been two thirds as good, and then I wouldn't have gone along with what happened the following night. But it was a great gig. We got there early (me, K and C from downstairs; the funny little Scouse girl and the hippy vegetarian girl with huge boobs), and got right down the front, up against the stage which is nice and low at Municipal Hall. When Bauhaus came on it turned out we'd judged it just right and we were perfectly placed right in front of Pete Murphy. He was cavorting just inches from my face! I could see every bobble on his black tights. And they were wonderful from start to finish, his voice is brilliant and even the slow ones managed to sound thrilling live. I was so cheered up. It was the first time I've felt excited since I got here.

When we got back to the house Julian had turned up and was drunk in the kitchen with a crown of leaves and foliage round his head. He kept saying he was ' The King of the North' which got really boring and irritating very quickly so he was asked to leave, but said he'd be back the next night to take us (TAKE us!!) all into town for a nightclub crawl ('even you stuck-up Cockney bitch', the stupid prat. How can you be a Stuck-up Cockney??). Nobody expected him to remember the next day, but he did, and somehow my guard was down and I said I'd go along. Five of us plus Julian and his three tit mates.

It was so horrific. We went somewhere called Adam and Eve's first, that had a circular metal dance floor which you couldn't dance on without falling over (but it didn't matter because everything they played was horrible crap like Tight Fit and Shakin' Stevens, so you wouldn't have wanted to dance anyway.). It was full of sweaty married men in nylon shirts, and meatheads in denim waistcoats who all ended up getting together in the middle of the floor at one point to do Ace* to Status Quo. I wanted to go after one drink, but Julian and his prattish friends made us all stay until 11 when we went on to another hole called Granny's, which was slightly less terrible as the oldest person in there was 'only' thirty rather than fifty, but they were still all dancing away to Musical Youth like it was the best thing ever. Lots of perms, too, though only about half of them on the women. Two more drinks and then on to Prohibition, which is tragic as it's themed like a Chicago speakeasy but it's more Bugsy Malone than anything else. Some old wanker came up to me and told me I was 'very exotic', which made my night, honestly. If it hadn't been 1.30 when we got in I'd have phoned M and begged him to come and get me. The only good thing about the night was finding a chippy that was still open.

So of course I couldn't wait to get back to London again and of course it was just what I needed. Well mostly. JA came out with M and me for a drink on the Friday night and she was winding herself round him like a boa constrictor. It really got on my nerves. I know it's been hard for her being left behind when we all went off to our various Universities, and she was probably only doing it to make herself feel better, but I really got the impression she was throwing it at him, but aiming it at me. She kept trying to have little private conversations with him about things that are going on at the R Club, which of course I'm not party to now because I'm 100 miles away. She's probably lonely but it's not my fault and I haven't forgotten what happened with S six months ago.** She knows how much I like M. So on Saturday he just came over and we stayed in my room chatting all night (his Mum still won't meet me. My Mum's quite polite to him but can't resist making snide remarks about noses and Dustin Hoffman after he's gone. Cow.).We talked about whether he should come up for the party next weekend and I said he shouldn't as it will just be embarrassing, a load of drunk students in fancy dress. I can't get out of it but I won't put him through it. And the following week is the play, so I might not be able to get back down for three weeks! Three!! How will I cope... I don't know why but I asked him what he thought of JA. He said she was alright but always looked very miserable. I felt better then.

I've got to cope up here for three weeks now with no fun whatsoever. At least there's a play rehearsal in  a minute. That'll pass a couple of hours. Must go.

*Ace. When blokes would get together in a circle with their thumbs in the waistband of their jeans, and do that 'up/down/side-to-side' thing very fast. No dignity to be had there.

**What happened with S six months ago? I went to a party with a bloke I'd met the week before (another beautiful Jewish boy, as it goes. I clearly had a taste for the forbidden.). When we got there it turned out we had absolutely nothing in common and though we spent the night talking it was all a bit painful and awkward. My friend JA had a car and offered us both a lift home. She dropped me off first, then took S back to her Mum and Dad's house and shagged  him on their bed (they were on holiday.). She rang me next morning to tell me. I thought it was rather a breach of etiquette. Amazingly we're still friends. 

©Kolley Kibber 2012. Mine, all Mine.

Monday, 5 November 2012

Meanwhile, back then...

Monday October 25th 1982. So much has happened. I ran back to M the weekend before last, and soaked the shoulder of his Johnson's shirt from crying on it as we said goodbye on the N98 back from town. It was 3am and we'd already walked around the West End for an hour after coming out of the Wag Club, trying to find somewhere else to go so we could put off the final moment. Coming back up here on the Sunday was awful, really unbearable and I know I was in a surly mood with everyone. It was so hard to make the effort to fit back in again, as I'd had a taste of London again and felt very distant from all the dullness up here.

They're all so room seems to have become the meeting place to watch Top of the Pops from every Thursday as I'm the only one with a portable telly, and this week we had shrieks of outrage from Debs when George O'Dowd turned up on the show (that awful band! They've come a long way from the Regency in Chadwell Heath!). She started saying that she'd 'get up and leave' if he sat next to her on the bus but when I asked her what she thought would happen if she stayed put, she didn't have an answer. Silly cow. Mind you I felt sorry for her this week as she ended up having to tell her room mate that she smelt. The girls who've had to share rooms are already falling out with one another - I let Y stay in my room when I went home as Lin had her boyfriend staying over and apparently it was all a bit embarrassing having the two of them in one bed and Y on her own in another. Y gave me some flowers, which was nice of her. She's the only one who shook hands with everyone she met on the first day. Quite posh.

 And C has finally split up with Brett!*I had a very tearful phone call from her last Sunday night, but I can't help thinking that it's partly her own fault as she slept with another bloke in her first week at Concrete University. Did she think B wouldn't mind? Anyway, it's over after almost a year of being joined at the hip. She wanted to come over and see me this weekend but I had to tell her M was coming up to see me without making it sound like I was crowing about it ( I suppose I was, a bit. Ha ha.).

I've got a part in a play and have been rehearsing for that which is fun, really. It's called 'Trevor' and I'm supposed to be a fashionable young lesbian, living in secret with her girlfriend. Which wouldn't be a problem except the girl I'm supposed to be in love with is a big noise in the Tory group; a real plain Jane from one of the 'Shires' with a cut-glass accent and a load of clothes 20 years too old for her. We have to kiss briefly in one scene and I'm sure it's as bad for her as it is for me. Still, the rest of the group are ok. J who's directing is very glam in a Page Three kind of way, a bank manager's daughter who doesn't look as though she's ever had to worry about anything. She's going out with the one called P who looks like a Bee Gee and thinks that's acceptable. We did some reading-through in my room the other night and everyone stayed chatting till about 1am. I ended up getting my photo albums out and showing them all the old Blitz pictures. R said "you must really hate it here," which was sweet of him. Last night I did a bit more reading-through with him in his room, and he read me some of his poetry (which was a bit of a surprise as he's captain of the football team and really sporty, so not your typical poet. The other football boys call him 'Wordsworth' but they also look up to him a lot, you can tell.). I didn't really know what to make of his poetry, it was lots of stuff about the sea crashing down on him.

Anyway the real event of the week was M coming up here. It was wonderful. Actually spending the whole night together is incredible...we fell asleep listening to New Gold Dream.  He was so nice to everyone here he met, even P with his ridiculous Bee Gee hair and ball-strangling jeans. Though of course he stood out like a sort thumb in the bar - all the rugby boys were in there, in their stupid blazers, and there was M looking wonderful in his Johnson's stuff. I saw one of the meathead youths make a pretend head-butt at M as he was queueing for the bar, and then he caught me looking at him and didn't know what to do so sucked at his pint like a turd. I just kept staring at him. M gave me his Foundry shirt to wear for the night and I felt great in it. We walked all round town the next day and discovered some quite nice bits, then we had lunch in the Wimpy and shared our table with a couple and their two kids. M said they were 'a nice little family' and I got the impression he'd eventually like to have a nice little family himself. Oh god!! Imagine the complications. When I got back from seeing him off at the coach station I was in a terrible mood. Louise whose room is on the ground floor saw me coming in and must have read my face as she came out into the hall going "Someone needs a brew". She meant tea. She's from Lancashire or Cumbria and quite funny. Very sweet but in some ways she seems about forty. According to her room mate Julia, she wears a hairnet at night that she keeps on with Kirby grips. Her father is something big in Nuclear power so apparently for that reason she says she can never vote Labour!

I'm going down to the bar in a minute to probably drink a couple of vodka and limes in the boring bar, watching the silly boys making fart jokes and talking about what they ate for lunch. It's just how I thought I'd be seeing out my teens, it really is.

I'm going back to London again on Friday. I can't be away from M too long. We can't be away from each other.

•BF from home. At another University 25 miles away. A very complex friendship...

©Kolly Kibber 2012. Find your own inspiration.

Monday, 29 October 2012

Sparking Off

I will return you to tales of 30-year old angst very shortly, but first a quick diversion into a different past/present interface. When I was nine years old and sitting wide-eyed in front of Top of the Pops one evening, being gently blown away by a weird man who sat behind a keyboard looking like Hitler while his pretty, falsetto-voiced younger brother strutted around him like a baby cockerel, I never had the presence of mind to think "I'll be going to see them live in forty years' time." How could I have ignored the signs?

There has never been anyone quite like Sparks, though their influences are legion (take a bow, Pet Shop Boys, Associates (R.I.P Billy) and others I'm too pushed for time to remember right now.). Why should they ever think of retirement when they still have Ron's weirdly arch lyrics and ever-evolving melodies, and Russell still has that amazing voice? There has been no significant loss of energy or curiosity in either brother, and while Ron's look is now more age-appropruiate and slightly 'Howard Hughes before the onset of psychosis' as opposed to 'early 20th Century Austrian fascist dictator with ennui', Russell still skips neatly round the stage like a bantamweight boxer, as light as air while never once straining over those amazing high notes.

Seeing them last week in  Brighton was an evening of pure joy, especially as a) I'd bought the tickets back in April so managed to get second row seats and b) it was just the two of them, the keyboard and the voice, taking an energetic, perfectly nuanced stroll through the rich pastures of their immense back-catalogue. For two individuals who don't engage hugely with their audience (they are incredibly private - you won't find out much about the personal life of either one, which takes some doing), they managed to be hugely engaging, and the audience was on its feet applauding wildly by the end - I've never felt more love in the slightly anonymous Brighton Dome, and what's  more it felt like something bigger and warmer than just nostalgia for when we were all nine years old. I honestly don't think we all expected them to be quite that good.

My favourite moment of the night was when they did 'Sherlock Holmes', my most-loved song from the Angst in my Pants album. The strangest, most affecting love song I've ever heard, delivered beautifully by a 63-year old man with bizarre hair and wearing what looked like one of Bryan Ferry's old hunting outfits that had shrunk in the wash. Unforgettable, beautiful, brilliant Sparks.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

New Gold Nightmare (81,82,83,84)

I think I may have been avoiding writing this blog entry because, frankly, I won't come out of it very well. But I feel a strange obligation to complete the Story of M, possibly in the vain hope that it may just help some confused first-year student somewhere, struggling to straddle the great divide between adolescent and adult brands of romantic idiocy (not such a great divide, as it turns out.). So, on the strict understanding that I won't be judged as a shallow self-obsessed airhead (despite the fact that I so clearly was one, thinking I was Cosmo when I was really still My Guy), let me take a deep breath and proceed.

It is October 1982 and I am a full week in to student life. The following extracts are from my diary, unedited  (apologies for poor punctuation and lack of paragraphs. I was young and in a hurry.).

October 12. "I've got a routine that suits me - I make sure I'm up first in the house so there's enough hot water for me to have a bath and wash my hair every morning. I'm not going over to breakfast bleary-eyed and smelling of bed the way a couple of the other girls do (poor Debs Baraclough has been cursed with a room mate who has the worst B.O in the world.).... They feed us enormous amounts of food and some of the boys get really over-excited about the cooked breakfasts, like they'd never seen a sausage before. The maths boys all play cards while they're eating and there are a bunch of wankers from S***** House who all went to minor public schools, so think they're Anthony Andrews, sitting there eating  Weetabix with a bloody cravat on. One of them's quite nice looking but they're awful. There are a lot of Northerners (you can tell the boys by their gigantic collars and flares) and they seem to be led by this bearded one who won't talk to anyone with a London accent "on principle".  He's called Julian which isn't exactly a solid working-class name so I suspect he's really a wanker anyway. A few people have made a great show of getting off with one another in the first week and start the day by snogging on the bus, which is just pathetic....

I've actually begun working now and it's a great feeling to get my brain into gear again. The course is brilliant and the lecturers are really relaxed and friendly, and seem very committed. I bought my four volumes of Marx from the Union bookshop, and the Politics and Ideas tutor came up behind me at the till and said "the best thing you can say about those is that they're cheap". I said we should discuss that in the next seminar and he laughed.  My academic tutor is really nice and from Glasgow, he's about 25 but he knows Simple Minds which was a bit of a surprise. His name's B***. I didn't ask him if he was going to see Bauhus in a couple of weeks (I can't WAIT). Maybe he is. Ha ha.

My mood changes about once ever half-hour; on the one hand I'm Ms Enthusiastic Student, yeah, like I'm really into this Uni thing, and then within minutes I'm reflecting that I'm stuck here with a bunch of overgrown school kids who think water fights are funny and exciting. That's unfair of me of course because they're not ALL like that (they can't be, can they). I've just been used to such a different life. Though I do think back to London as though it were years ago and remember dreadful nights at the Padded Cell getting insulted by Pineapple Head* and listening to Barry Banal** shrieking about his new Scottish dancing shoes, and I'm quite glad to be away from it all for a while. Though I miss M every day. He wrote me a lovely letter*** last week (I was amazed and so pleased) and I'm going home to see him at the weekend. I probably shouldn't be doing it this early in the term but I don't care....

                   *                                                    *                                                *

Oh my word this is worse than I thought. One single diary entry and I am cringing with embarrassment, and yet I have to complete this. I'm clearly going to have to do it in small segments. I can't take very much of it and I'm fairly sure nobody else could either. Do bear in mind that I'm not the same person now,  I'm really not.... not quite.

* Obnoxious early-80s New Romantic clubber. Probably fat and bald by now. I hope so.
** Poor Barry, he was quite sweet but...
*** I've still got all his letters, tied up with blue ribbon, in a shoebox. You can't do that with emails.  

©Kolly Kibber 2012. Don't nick my stuff. Write your own.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

University Challenged

In town earlier this week I was stopped by an anxious-looking young woman of about eighteen, who was desperately trying to work out which bus of the hundreds of bus stops near the seafront would enable her to catch the service back to the University. "I only got here on Saturday, you see," she said a little tremulously, "and I just can't work out where anything is." As I was going that way anyhow and she looked so genuinely lost, I escorted her to her stop and chatted with her for a few minutes before her bus arrived to scoop her back to the safety of her little single room at the student halls ("it's a really nice room but the walls are SO thin.."). "I'm going home next weekend," she told me, "I'm really missing my boyfriend and I can't wait to see him." I told her light-heartedly that she'd be referring to the campus as 'home' by Christmas, and she looked at me as though she didn't believe me.

 Of course this chance encounter set me on track for an afternoon of pointless reminiscing, as it was exactly thirty years ago that I embarked on three years of student life, crammed into the back of my brother-in-law's car with my record collection, beanbag, portable black-and-white TV and three binbags full of Kensington Market's finest clothing (including three brand new oversized mohair jumpers in hot pink, electric blue and of course black, of which I was extremely proud.). My mother cried most of the way up the M11 and all the way back (we'd only lost my father a few months earlier, so the double-loss of her last child, me, was an especially heavy blow for her) and I scowled and sulked because I'd had to say a Celia Johnson-like goodbye to my adored boyfriend at 3AM that morning (though I didn't go as far as intending to throw myself under a train. I just got ungracious and grumpy with my family instead.).

I had managed to fall wildly in love for the first time in my life with Shakespearian timing, a mere two months before I was due to leave. M and I had prowled shyly around one another for a good two months prior to that, if one can 'prowl shyly', me thinking he was far too beautiful to notice me and he apparently thinking much the same. When he finally revealed to a mutual friend how much he liked me, adding "you can tell her if you want.." (the message was delivered within minutes), I literally dropped my drink, and something rather like the ballroom scene from West Side Story followed (except that we were in a dark Rockabilly Club and I think Pigbag was playing in the background.). From that night on it was sunshine and bliss all the way, a heady blur of alcoves in dark London clubs, night buses and snogging in Green Park, all intensified with the exquisite inbuilt tragedy of my imminent departure at the end of the summer, of which we didn't speak.

Oh, and crowned by the fact that neither of our mothers approved. To enhance the Montague/Capulet parallels of the story, little Irish Catholic me chose a lovely Jewish boy to fall in love with, albeit one with a superb quiff who sported a full set of Johnson's threads. After meeting him - and oh, he was so immaculately polite - my mother began to make dark noises about "dat actor with the big nose... Dustin Something his name is..", which had me screaming accusations of antisemitism in her face and flouncing out in the door-slamming, time-honoured teenage tradition. His own mother, when I rang for him, would pass the phone over with the same three-word announcement of "it's the shikse", and of course having just discovered blonde hair I was indeed the predatory shikse of her nightmares. Quite recently, a very longstanding male friend who knew us both at the time, described us as 'The Bridget Loves Bernie Couple 1982' (which won't mean anything to you if you're under 40.).  Anyway, it made for perfect poetry, M and me against the narrow prejudices of world and against the heartless tick of the clock.  On that Sunday in October, driving away from London, I felt as tragic as I believed was humanly possible.

Hence my judgement of University life in that first week was heavily skewed to the negative, and I have my diaries to confirm it. Let me read to you. "They (my family) left (awful, crying) and I put on Scritti Politti and listened to 'The Sweetest Girl' like I'd promised,* unpacked and then didn't know what to do. I've got a single room in an old house with lovely gardens thank god - some poor girls are sharing! There was a fat girl in the corridor trying to heave a huge boarding school trunk into her room, and the name on it says 'Debs Barraclough', have I landed in an Enid Blyton book? Either way I bet we won't be listening to Scritti Politti together. She looks like Rosemary Leach but is only 18 and so posh! At dinner I couldn't get anything down and fumbled with my slice of melon, my hands were shaking too much to eat it...there was a lot of fuss down the end of the table when it got sent back uneaten. "Who hasn't eaten their melon". I wanted to tell them all to stick the melon up their arses, then some stupid bloke in a cravat started asking if there was a local hunt nearby he could join - what a cretin! Everyone looks very straight, lots of terrible haircuts and ugly blokes, only a couple of people look interesting. They stare at my hair! They should have seen me a year ago, they'd never have coped. I think I'm going to hate everyone."

And witness me trying to make sense of my first few days. "To show goodwill and not look like a stuck-up Londoner (!!) I agreed to go along to the Fresher's Disco with the girls from the house... dear god, it was like going back in time to something I've never wanted to go back in time to, namely the Campion** Discos of my youth". (I was nineteen when I wrote this, so youth was obviously far behind me.) "A hideous cattlemarket full of over-excited sixth formers thrilled to be out of school uniform and finally allowed to buy real beer (though it is amazingly cheap compared to the London clubs - 50p a pint!!!!). I was duly seized upon by a hearty lad from Halifax who was pleasant enough but uninspiring company, and befriended by a nauseating little tit from Wales on the walk home, who started a spurious political argument about 'feminism', presumably because we're students now and that's what students do, and whose final desperate gambit was to demand to come back to my room with me so he could "see my posters"(never heard it called that before.). I may have been a little bit cruel to him. But he was a cretin. I cannot get M off my mind and the fact that I cannot be with him is driving me to distraction. "

I imagine that the young woman I spoke to earlier in the week may just have gone through something similar, recording her anguish carefully in a hard-backed notebook so she can look back on it thirty years later and laugh at herself. I'd love to know what she might be writing in it by Christmas. I certainly wouldn't have predicted what I ended up writing. But that's the wonderful thing about the voyage of chaos, excitement and self-discovery that University should be. You really can't predict how it will all end up. Or you can, but you'll probably be proved wrong, as I was....

More follows....possibly.

* Feel free to barf.

**Campion Disco. A horrible 1970s mid-teen ritual in which female pupils from certain Convent schools are permitted to fraternise with male pupils from the neighbouring Jesuit schools, culminating in a bit of badly co-ordinated groin-grinding to 'Three Times A Lady' (if you're one of the popular girls. I wasn't. I  only ever danced with my best friend.). The grounds outside are patrolled by nuns and priests with torches, probably getting off on it though we didn't know that then. 

©Kolley Kibber 2012

Friday, 5 October 2012

Big Cringe

Here's a parable about why you should never behave impulsively just because you're having a good time. Read and learn. My cheeks have only just stopped glowing red.

On Tuesday evening I attended a very agreeable gig, which I've documented in tiresome detail on another post. Among the audience was a bloke about my age, who I've been seeing at gigs ever since I moved here over twenty  years ago. He caught my eye in the first place all those years ago because I recognised him from my old University; a fairly quiet, shy, bookish lad who hung round the fringes of the trendy sub-set I was part of, always visible in his oversized, off-the-shoulder black mohair jumper and pipecleaner legs, topped off with a mop of Neil Arthur hair that was quite the acceptable look at the time. He was known to be 'a nice bloke but really shy', and I never spoke to him beyond the occasional nod at parties or gigs. When I saw him down here it was a real surprise, and in due continuation of the established form between us, we restricted our exchanges to looks of mutual recognition and cautious silent friendliness. Having marked him down as a bit of a shy loner, I always felt reluctance to invade his space with a 'hello', especially as a shy person myself - I mean, what would I say after that?

He was always at gigs on his own, and only certain gigs - the more obscure, cosmic kind, say Moebius and Roedelius, Neu! or Damo Suzuki. I wasn't surprised to see him at Wooden Shjips, and even less so to see him at Moon Duo over the summer, his thatch of hair now clipped as befits a middle-aged man, frowning slightly as he always seems to do while watching a band. But when he turned up at the Flaming Stars the other night, I was surprised, very very surprised. Not his sort of thing at all, you see.  And as the night was going so well and everyone was having such a lovely time, it all seemed to portend well for me to march over and finally speak to him. Which, with no preparation at all, I did.

"Sorry to bother you," I said, landing suddenly in his line of vision and making him jump, "but I've been seeing you at gigs for over twenty years..." He nodded and peered a bit oddly.
 "And before that we both went to Middling University, didn't we?" I said confidently.
He peered a bit more oddly. "Not only did I not go to University in Middling," he said, "I've never set foot in the place. Which is I suppose a bit odd as I come from Near- Middling." (a town twenty miles away from my alma mater). "So wherever you know me from, it isn't there. I must have a doppelganger."
My face was turning crimson as twenty years of mistaken identity and all those hesitant half-smiles I'd been delivering and receiving flashed horribly through my memory. "I am so sorry," I said, wanting to run the length of the country to get away from my twenty-year mistake. "I just thought...I mean you go to a lot of the ones I go to, were at Wooden Shjips..." gabbling now, all filters gone...
"I've never seen Wooden Shjips either, I'm afraid. I must have a tripleganger..." he said, by way of a final blow.
"I'm so sorry, " I said again, dying.
 "Yes, I hear they're quite good live," he replied, totally missing the point. "Anyway, see you..."he turned and headed for the exit, no doubt relieved to be getting away from The Nutter.

See me? Oh no. Not if I see him first, he won't. Twenty years of avoidance now follows.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

My Pet Band

By the time you've notched up thirty years of dogged gig-going (like what I have), you will almost certainly have ended up with your own Pet Band; the one you keep going back to despite or because of the fact that commercial success continues to elude them, the one who produced at least one perfect, era-defining album and provided you with opportunities to attend obscure gigs in small sweaty venues you'd never otherwise have known of let alone visited (Club 4AD in Diksmuide, anyone?), and the one you watch getting ever so slightly more grizzled and frayed as youthful edginess gives way to wry middle-aged cynicism, knowing that it's actually your own reflection you're seeing in their ageing faces (well maybe I don't look quite as grizzled as this lot, not yet.)

 My Pet Band are called The Flaming Stars, and will almost certainly be unknown to you. They're a North London garage combo, a sort of louche dirty suave flat-pack Rat Pack, doggedly championed by John Peel from the mid-90s onward after forming from the detritus of several other bands to produce their first, peerless single "Bring Me The Rest of Alfredo Garcia." I remember the first time I heard this song on Peelie's show, standing in the kitchen of our old flat scrabbling for a pen so I could write the name of this amazing band down and buy everything of theirs I could lay my hands on (which involved a complex detective mission in those innocent pre-internet days.). When I found out they were coming to Brighton shortly afterwards to play a gig at the late lamented Free Butt it was the start of a long, sweaty noisy love affair which goes on to this day, even though they only seem to get together and play every few years or so now. An occasional assignation with your own past can, of course, be quite pleasant.

 So when last night they came back to Brighton after a gap of fourteen years, to headline appropriately for John Peel Night, I rounded up as many chums as I could coax out to the Green Door Store on a wet windy Tuesday night (eleven, which isn't bad going given that five had never seen them before.). We didn't quite double the door numbers but we certainly helped them along a bit, and after a slightly hesitant start the band kicked in like it was the Old Days and a fine old sexy gig was born. Joe Whitney remains the best drummer I've ever seen, there was some furious thrashing from guitarist Mark Hosking, singer Max Décharné's nicotine drawl remains as languid as ever, and there were even a couple of smiles from the legendarily unsmiley bassist Mr Dempsey. Some of the wedding-reception dancing down the front was a bit distracting, but the band actually looked like they were enjoying themselves and safely behind the dancers I had a whale of a time. Good also to see so many decent quiffs in the audience; my view is that for a chap, if you've got to forty and managed to keep most of your hair it's really the only look worth adopting - trust me, every woman loves a Dirty Rocker. This one certainly does. Anyway, it may be years before I see this lot again but they'll always be my Pet Band and I'll always have a marshmallow spot in my heart for them. Here's a taste for you, and if you have a Pet Band of your own, remember to get along and support them whenever you can.
These things are important.

Sunday, 30 September 2012

...of Freud and Falco...(3 - People)

It's really not a good idea to generalise about the native population of an entire capital city, is it? (Apart from Paris, where I think you can confidently say you will find a higher concentration of startlingly snotty people than anywhere else in the world. That said I've also met some very nice Parisians. Three, I think.). So what can I possibly tell you about the Viennese? Well, 'they' (and I use the term to mean 'a conspicuous number') seem to be doing very nicely for themselves. Austria is one of the 12 richest countries in the world, fact fans, and it shows.

As in Munich, the signs of prosperity are everywhere in Vienna - plenty of very new, very expensive German cars on the roads, lots of healthy-looking, robust elderly people out socialising and spending their money (not cooped up indoors counting their coppers for the Care Home Fund, yellowed from lack of vitamin D and too many fags like in the UK), and - always a source of great amusement for me - the visible presence of comfortable-looking nuclear families in their late thirties/early forties, out for a Saturday stroll with their two small sons Moritz and Andreas, who are dressed as miniature copies of their father in cords, sweater and soft-collared shirts, their hair neatly parted and clipped in a faithful but terrifying twin facsimile. These kids look like they're off for a snifter at the golf club before a game of bridge despite being no more than six and eight years old, and there seem to be hundreds of them, trotting obediently and silently in their parents' wake while the adults select a suitably smart restaurant for a spot of lunch or fuss over the family Labrador (my god, do the Viennese love their dogs. Watch where your feet may end up.). I've only ever seen this strange child-ageing phenomenon in German cities and now in Vienna, and I don't understand it. Maybe a kind Viennese reader will stop by and explain?

As far as the natives I met went, everyone apart from the dreadful (but very funny) maitre d' at Glassis was helpful, friendly and pleasant - though you sometimes have to wait a while to get a smile (which I'm more than used to doing, living in a country where people actively often actively glorify in their negativity.). There was also a notable absence of darker skins, which for a capital city surprised me, and made me wonder how rare it must be to see black or Asian faces in the outlying districts if there are so conspicuously few in the capital itself. Tourists - like me - were abundant and predominantly American, with a fairly high number of Japanese wrestling tinily with the huge meaty gravy-drenched platters of food - as far away from delicate sashimi as you could get (though sushi and sashimi joints are everywhere if all that meat gets too overwhelming.). The streets are clean, well-lit and quiet, and it all feels very safe, even taking short cuts through the parks at night time.

My favourite encounter took place in Loos American Bar, a tiny, perfect, frozen-in-time landmark to Vienna's gloriously louche heyday as a European hub of sensual pleasure. Swinging by for an early evening cocktail we bagged the last free table, adjacent to an American man of about forty. He was sitting with his father who he resembled strongly in every way but demeanour, Son maintained a broad but slightly strained smile while Dad glowered angrily at his Sidecar as though he'd discovered a small scab floating in it. Seated on the other side of Dad was a smart woman in her sixties - a good fifteen years younger than him - who was obviously his wife, but equally obviously not Son's mother. They seemed frozen in an odd tableau, Son beaming mutely at the unengaged scowling Dad, with Wife sucking anxiously on her straw in the background while watching them both. I began to count silently to myself, knowing that Son would engage me in conversation well before I reached 'ten'. I got to seven.

"The Daquiris are remarkable here" said Son, taking my cocktail menu from me gently but firmly and turning to the appropriate page. "I can really recommend the Chocodaquiri."I thanked him and went back to flicking though the other pages, though - dammit - I'd been thinking of ordering a Daquiri anyway. "You from the Uk?" he continued. "I was in London a few weeks back. Business, not the Olympics, in case you were wondering. Have to say, it was a big surprise that you guys managed to pull it off. I mean, who'd ever have guessed? The transport was fine, the venue was fine, the crowds were, well fine - even your opening ceremony went fine! Who'd ever have guessed you could do it?" he mused, shaking his head incredulously and chewing thoughtfully on his olive. I wanted to ask him if he worked for Mitt Romney, but thought better of it, wondering as I did so why I was being so bloody polite.

"And the Paralympics went brilliantly as well," I said, thinking that this might be news to him. It was. He shook his head. "I don't think so," he said. "Nobody ever watches the Paralympics." This was too much. "Actually every event was sold out, and they pulled in record TV figures, " I told him. "The events got full press coverage too. It was great, a real boost for the athletes." He looked like he really, really didn't believe me but had graciously decided to let it go.

"My father and stepmother were just in Paris," Son volunteered, gesturing over to the glaring parent and his timid spouse. "Yeah, and I'd have headed back home with the rest of the group six days ago, if I hadn't had to head over here instead and see him," boomed Dad. "His son gave a shriek of hyena-pitched laughter that sounded like a sob. Dad fixed him with his sub-zero stare, while his wife fished desperately in the bottom of her glass for a stray maraschino cherry. "When do you fly back to the States?" I asked Dad. "Tuesday," he said, injecting the word with no small amount of rapturous longing. "Must be great to have family living in such a beautiful city," I ventured. "Pah," replied Dad, at which point his wife stood up suddenly and announced her need for the bathroom.

"Anyway, where are you folks staying?" asked Son, breaking away from Dad's death-ray eyes. I named the hotel. "Oh yeah, I stayed there," said Son confidently. "That's a Best Western, right?" I told him politely that it's actually a small independent hotel. "AND it's a Best Western," he added, poking out his lower lip like a petulant four-year old.

What IS the etiquette in a situation like this, gentle reader? I know perfectly well that the hotel I'm staying in is a small independent hotel because I found it, booked it, checked into it and am staying in it, and so far the Best Western logo has been satisfyingly absent from all transactions. How far should I be prepared to go to state my case? In the end I did the classic British Fudge, mumbling that if it's a Best Western I certainly wasn't aware of it and am rather surprised to hear it. I could hear my accent getting more English with every word I uttered; by the end of the sentence I sounded like Joan Plowright. But no matter, things were moving on to my left.

"HEEEEEY, Dad, you're looking like you're ready for another!" exclaimed Son, watching Dad sulkily twist his empty glass. Son turned to me. "There's no telling where he'll end up if he has another on of these babies, but hey..."
 "I had enough," said Dad, darkly and loudly. "When Marilla gets back from the bathroom, I'm heading back to the hotel." The air seemed to drain out of Son, along with any remaining will to persuade his father to enjoy himself. "Sure, Dad," he agreed. Dad already had one arm in the sleeve of his jacket as Marilla rejoined the unhappy pair. They were out the door within a minute, Dad's parting shot to us over his shoulder as he followed his defeated son a loudly whispered "Well! Three more days.." We had another cocktail each, and talked about the trio.

Back out on the streets of Vienna a busking festival was in full swing. We slyly photographed a group of quizzical-looking policemen watching a enthusiastic crusty playing a plastic didgeridoo to a terrible backing track (give them their due, they lasted longer than we did), then passed a terrifying, silent clown who was traumatising a small child by trying to place a balloon animal around the kid's neck while the kid clung desperately to his mother's leg. The child's screams were clearly disturbing the clown, who looked almost as scared of the nipper as the nipper was of him, but he'd decided on a course of action to pacify him and he was damn well going to see it through. I felt like giving Mum one of my cards and advising her to send the kid to me in ten years, when the full phobia embedded by this trauma will emerge, but it's a bit of long way to send him and I hear there are already one or two therapists practicing in Vienna.

In the end we spent half an hour watching a jolly round American man juggle a couple of chainsaws while balancing on a twelve-foot high unicycle, in the beautiful grounds of St Stephen's Cathedral. There's nothing kids across the world love more than the spectacle of a fellow human being putting themselves in severe and unnecessary danger of a spectacularly gory accident, and there were quite a few five Euro notes in the jongleur's hat at the end of his performance, quite deservedly. The man thanked the applauding crowd in a blend of English and German so fractured it was positively pulverised, as we took a slow measured walk towards the Cathedral steps pretending to be Ultravox in the closing frames of the 'Vienna' video.

It was after midnight by the time we headed back to our hotel through the Palace Park at Schonbrunn. The park was quiet though there were plenty of people around; teenagers snuggling up on the benches, groups of clubbers heading out for the night in their finery, well-dressed diners emerging from the Palm House Restaurant. On on of the lawns, picked out by the moonlight, an elderly couple were waltzing silently to a tune only they could hear, guiding one another lightly and gently through the turns and twists of the dance, like they looked to have been doing for fifty years or more. Late summer in Vienna.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

...of waltzes and Waldheim...(2 - Culture)

There are things you simply have to do when you visit Vienna, and I didn't do any of them. You must take a ride around the city in a horse and trap (there are hundreds to choose from, most of them driven by unhappy-looking men in bowler hats, and pulled by poor nags that stamp neurotically and repetitively at the cobbles beneath their hooves, while waiting for their next heavy load of strudel-stuffed customers. No thanks.). You must go to the opera (shrieking reminders of the ghastly three years when the house next door was occupied by a professional soprano who practiced her scales for up to six hours a day just might provoke a Manchurian Candidate response in me, so not worth the risk, or the money.). You must go to the Spanish Riding School (not comfortable with training animals to pose and trot unnaturally for entertainment, thanks, though I did get great fun from putting a wig on my dog years ago.). Oh, and you must eat cake at least once an hour (as mentioned in the previous post, my sweet tooth departed long since, but hey don't let me stop you. Tuck in.).

Instead, I did what I always do when I visit a new city; I walked the length and breadth of it by day and night, stopping to try new food whenever possible, I watched people like a hawk and came to unjustified and unprovable conclusions about them and their internal lives, and I went to as many galleries as I could bear. Vienna is relatively small as cities go, but is packed with such variety and riches that I left with a third of it barely explored, and a further third of it not seen at all. You can't rush a place like this. There are a hundred museums alone,  and not all of them in the Museum Quarter though this area makes a good place to start. First on my list and highly recommended as a building alone is Mumok, the Museum of Modern Art, which houses all the off-the-wall art wackiness you could possibly need, stuffed to the rafters with the likes of Klee, Rauschenberg, Warhol, Picasso, Duchamp, and (inevitably) a huge helping of shocking and confrontational/juvenile and childish (depending on your own personality) masterpieces by the Viennese Actionists, who seemed to be rebelling against most elements of Austria's past using anything they could lay their hands on (including each other's bodily fluids, genitals, leftovers from supper etc - you probably get the idea.). I spent almost three hours wandering around enjoying myself, and cast sly glances at the home-grown visitors sporting sharp geometric black outfits and expensively treated geometric hair as they peered coolly at the artwork. So many looked like extras from a European language film about the highly-repressed collective neuroses of the over-cultured affluent Mittel-european intelligentsia. So don't go there if you hate this sort of thing, that's my advice. I had a great time though.

The main feature at several of the other large museums at the moment (and for the rest of 2012) is the work of Gustav Klimt, those dreamlike, erotic, pagan, neo-Byzantine images of ecstatic women cradling severed heads, or lovers embracing awkwardly under a golden cloak (just me I imagine, but I always thought the Kiss looks like he's got her in a head lock. Don't read too much into my interpretation.). The main exhibition is sited at the beautiful Belvedere palace, which is worth a visit in its own right, a stunning baroque iced cake of a mansion built specifically as an proud statement of obscene wealth by Prince Eugene in the early 1700s. It was busy on the day I went, but not packed and there was plenty of time and space to get a long look at the paintings, which pack far more of a punch in real life than I was expecting. I'd always been a bit dismissive of Klimt as an 'early 20s artist', which is my snotty way of saying I saw his work as the sort of thing you send postcards of to friends when you're about 23 and keen to demonstrate that you are now mature enough to admit to a taste for beauty and romantic pan-European imagery (but you're way above all that heavy, over-literal Pre-Rapaelite nonsense like 'Flaming June' with her great big thighs and coarse hair.). Seen in real life, the canvasses are stunning, mesmerising things that you want to take time over and appreciate slowly, to notice every tiny curlicue and detail and fleck of light. I took the Belvedere exhibition very slowly, and later on lingered in the beautiful Secession building over the crazy Beethoven Frieze, noting how much the redhead who is supposed to portray 'lasciviousness' reminds me of Farah Fawcett in the famous 'red swimsuit with nipples' pinup from the Seventies. Someone had obviously been taking notes about the enduring power of certain depictions of female pulchritude.

Less endearing but equally interesting was the vast collection of Klimt's pencil drawings and sketches in the Vien Museum at Karlsplatz (not to mention his actual death mask and post-mortem sketches by his enfant terrible chum Egon Schiele.). One huge wall is given to a spread - in all senses of the word - of 'intimate studies' of his female models, a sort of pen and paper equivalent of a giant 'see everything' jazz mag.  When you read more, and discover that sex with Herr Klimt was one of the 'privileges' of getting to model for him ( and he was known for being fairly forceful in his conquests, which were legion), and consider the fact that several of his subjects were young girls of fifteen or so, a whole other raft of questions emerges about his attitude towards women. Of course the art eclipses it all... doesn't it? I'm not so sure. But in any case his work deserves to be viewed thoughtfully, and not just through the dazzling veil of his delicately applied gold leaf. There are far darker layers beneath. And take it from me, you won't want to see The Kiss again for a while once you leave Vienna as it is emblazoned absolutely everywhere in the city, from umbrellas to teacups to duvet covers. You can overdose on anything, but there's far more to this commemorative Klimt beanfeast than that one canvas so if you're passing through you'd be daft to ignore the show.

Outside of the official galleries Vienna is one great show in itself, a city whose eighteenth-century redevelopment was born of a blatant effort to rival and beat Haussman's 'new' Paris. It's hard to judge who won overall. The best I can offer is that Paris, through it's pale stone and open, light boulevards, retained a femininity in its aesthetic whereas the centre of Vienna is indubitably, robustly, stockily, masculine. This led to a well-documented 'action and reaction' sequence in the progress of its architecture, with the beautiful, delicate Art Nouveau blocks which emerged by the Nachtsmarkt in the late nineteenth centrury, in turn succeeded in turn by the clean lines of the  Secessionists, Deco and Modernism after that. This all means that just walking around the city and looking up every so often (or down, as I did at one point to see a small brass tribute inlaid in the pavement, to several residents of the district I was in who were taken off to the camps by the Nazis.) is an education in itself. There are nooks and crannies everywhere that will lure you off your chosen route - just let yourself be lured.

If it's shopping you're after, too, the place is teeming with small, independent retailers offering to reset your avarice levels to 'critical'. Freihaus and Spittelberg are the best to explore on foot; take your time and restrain yourself if you can. My big regret was that there was no time to get to the railway arches along the Gurtel, which is apparently the cosmic centre of Euopean electronica, and packed with live venues, clubs and bars. But there's got to be something to go back for, has there not?

Anyway, I've gone on far too long as usual. No wonder I couldn't get on with Twitter. After this, Vienna Part 3 - The People. May or may not contain Midge Ure.