One year ago today I was sit in my room, hungover, on a comedown, confused, upset, worried and generally “not in a great place”. On the fourth of July last year I spent the day with my friends; enjoying the sunshine and getting very drunk. It was a great night which I blogged about – but I missed out some of the background details of that time; details that were not fun, or joyous, or celebratory, and therefore had no place on my blog.
September marks the end of beds. The fall of rain. The switch to darkness when I wander home from work, the start of lights on for motorways. The end of laughter down the hall and protein shakes in the kitchen. The sunglasses are out of my bag, instead replaced with an ever-present umbrella. I remember a younger me who came to relish September, the promise of fresh starts, breakfast in coffee shops. New pencilcases, walnuts in salads, poetry readings, looking forward to winter coat weather and frosty hands on playgrounds. I do not relish those things anymore.
This September is different. Journeying halfway across the world to solve a dilemma I do not fully understand. Sifting through my belongings and photographing them in the hope that some stranger may want them in their hands instead. Confronting the cold in my heart, the grit that has not really lodged since last November. The long game of scheduling when I would rather just write songs all day, songs I can not write because nobody wishes to hear. The pain sure to be stirred by the arrival of orange on the trees. Committing my frenzied, troubled thoughts to tape and airing my hard-won work to a discerning and unwilling audience. Worrying about fronting poorly-attended gigs. I’m restless, and there seems to be little left to come. Maybe this is the danger of living constantly in the moment, or just a comedown from summer, or just spiralling thoughts on a rainy Tuesday night whilst the boys move out.
PeteFest is a festival which was created in honour of my friend Pete who died last year. I’ve posted quite a lot on Pete so long-time readers (thanks both of you) will be familiar with this part of my life, and if you’re following me on social media you probably saw me posting bits last weekend.
Pete’s wonderful parents had already told us: no sadness. The weekend was not for mourning, for grieving, for tears and choking up. The weekend was for celebrating, for smiling, for fun. For embracing and for making a lot of noise. For beer, for sunshine, for cake and for getting involved.
Everything there has said repeatedly; it was awesome. The music was diverse and interesting, the sun was shining, the people were friendly, the pints were flowing. The theme was orange; orange bunting, orange shirts, orange and ginger cake, ginger beer, orange balloons, orange ribbons. Even on an aesthetic level it made the whole weekend brighter; my camera got confused by the higher than usual levels of orange and tried to contort everything into being sepia.
Pete’s family are to be hugely commended for the festival as a whole. Their attitude and determination really dictated the whole festival; I don’t think a single minute passed without seeing smiles and hearing laughter; people dancing, joking, making friends, catching up or sharing a moment. To have a space to meet people we otherwise would not have met without having to outright make a big emotional deal out of it, is amazing. The organisers put in months of work and it really showed.I lost 3 people close to me last year, all unexpectedly and all in their 20’s. Pete’s passing is the only one that has caused people to come together; creating festivals, awards, legacies. I’m not done posting about it or figuring it out (will I ever be?) but that’s not what PeteFest was for. PeteFest was for being happy.
For me, it was a weekend of confronting truths and being surrounded by friends. I intersected with the festival in a lot of ways and it was hard not to see what was happening through those multiple filters: I attended the festival, I played a (small) part in organising it, I performed several times under several guises, I helped promote it, I manned the social media and I made a small attempt to document it with my camera. I was a weak link; I turned in some truly awful performances which I subsequently felt disgusted about, and I also got very drunk. Luckily I had all my friends around. Besides, any festival that ends with the barmen buying you a pint is a success Pete too would have approved of.
I wrote so recently about my wonderful friends and they were all there at PeteFest. I had my closest friends from school days. I had James and Danilo, the remaining pillars of my personal and irreparably broken triumvirate. I had the people I think of as family and I had my actual family, however that goes down. I’m perennially the one with my crap least together, but for my part I fell asleep surrounded by all my oldest and dearest friends; all the people who know me best and care for me most sleeping in the same tent. I remember thinking as I fell asleep; if I don’t feel safe here and now, where and when will I? And that was PeteFest.
Alongside the festival there is also an award set up in Pete’s memory. You can read more about it here. I know a couple of you have written to me in the past that you were so moved by previous blogs that you decided to donate, and I can’t tell you how much that means to me. That I have readers I have never met who are so kind and generous and giving is really incredible. Thank you so, so much for your support and for your love.
Pete further discussed in these posts: 1, 2, 3, 4.
I’ve shared mostly photos of my friends and myself on this blog as I thought it would be weird to share photos of people I don’t know on a personal blog; but it’s weirder I feel that way as a) all the photos are mine and b) they’re all publically on the internet anyway. So if you’d like to see more they are all up on this page. If you’re in one of these photos and don’t want to be – please let me know and I shall remove it immediately.
The Summers that Shaped Me
Today I thought I’d tell you about some of my summer holidays in years gone by, complete with a lot of dodgy pictures. Let’s time travel! This post is part of a collaboration called #WeBlogSummer, set up by lovely Sophia – read more here – and the theme this week is summer holidays, but as I’ve actually already posted about my thoughts on summer holidays and my “goals” for this particular summer I’ve decided to cast the gaze back into years gone by.
Summer 2005 is the last summer prior to this one I spent entirely in the UK. I was underage back in 2005 and my friends and I were at that awkward level of teenager life where you’re too old to go for dinner round somebody else’s house, but not quite old enough to go clubbing or to the pub. I mean what are teenagers meant to do? No wonder they just congregate in parks and shopping malls. It’s tough. My friends and I spend the summer alternating round each others houses. We went to my house every Thursday, which we titled “the gatherings” and… I don’t know what we did? Played Playstation, had water fights, climbed trees, had sleepovers and barbecues I guess.I started learning the guitar on one borrowed from a friend (still in my bedroom ten years later). I think at one point we were writing a film and shooting bits of footage? Or maybe we started a band? That’s the kind of thing you can do as teens.
2005 was also the summer 6 of us went on a trip up north; we spent 1 day at Alton Towers and 2 days chilling out at home, watching the Saw films, “cooking”, learning to tango, god knows what else but the time passed. I tried to find some non-awful pictures to show you, but 2005 is the year I attempted to grow my fringe out. Although shout out to that brown skirt – it was made from this weird stretchy fabric that was exclusively sold in Camden during 2003-2007 and I adored it. It was the summer I enjoyed the lazing around and the joys of just bedding yourself in with people; as a teen my life tended towards fast-paced and busy but that summer was my most chilled out time on record. I just spent about half an hour going through old photos and now feel very nostalgic for that mundane time. We didn’t even have facebook to distract us!
The early part of Summer 2007 was magnificent. Although tragically this was my second attempt to grow out a fringe (why didn’t I learn), study leave seemed to start in about March and I lose count of how many breakfasts, shopping trips and garden parties happened up until June. It was somebody else’s birthday every weekend and house parties became our default social scenario. I suffered a huge blow in my life quite early on that summer and that ended up being quite traumatic. It’s actually one of the very few incidents in my life that even today I can’t laugh off or joke about. I went from the best period of my life to one of the very worst and I just really unravelled; I was way too young to even begin processing what had happened to me and although I had a lot of friends, I didn’t really have the capacity to properly talk to anybody.
The reason I’m including this in my summer round-up is because I stayed in a lot and started just writing song after song after song. I filled notepads with songs and most importantly they started to improve. One of the songs from this time is still in my setlist now. I feel like summer 2007 is when I just sort of ceased developing and my gears stopped changing. Growing up is a gradual process and it sounds ridiculous but I feel like most aspects of myself and the way I operate can be easily and directly traced back to that event and that summer, especially when examining the way I deal with things and create things today.
Summer 2011 was such a big summer for me it kind of split into two parts. It was the year I left university and I had absolutely zero plans for the summer and zero plans for the year after. The first part of summer was spent completely surrounded by all my friends; I saw a lot of my friends from back home, I saw a lot of my theatre friends and I even got to reconnect with my old school friends at a party which was wonderful. I spent a lot of time with all the friends I’d made over the last 3 years, a long and drawn out goodbye to my degree and the corner or South London that had become my home, as well as all the years that had come before that. I leapt at every opportunity and ended up with plans that would take me far across the country for the second half of the summer. The first part of the holidays culminated in one of the best and most emotional nights of my life; flanked by my best friends Danilo and Pete it was the night I left London.
After I left London my summer was spent surrounded by completely new people who had no link to school, university or anything I’d done before. I had leapt at every opportunity that turned up in the last few weeks and ended up spending the second 2 months of summer running around between two different music courses and a month-long run with a show at Edinburgh Fringe. I didn’t know anybody on any of those projects but ended up making lifelong friends with a lot of people I still work alongside today (such as the company I just toured with, half of Quizcats and as you can see from the pictures, James). I’ve written about how it was the summer Amy died and I started singing; finally finding an outlet. That first time I got onto the stage and stood in front of a microphone, as myself, it was literally like the world had shifted in front of me. It was in some crappy venue with about 12 people but I just thought “I knew this is what I wanted”. If I hadn’t met James and we hadn’t been in Edinburgh that may have never happened. So the whole summer was an amazing way to learn that even with no plans and no idea of what to do, life works out for the best. That even if the worst happens, friends are to be found everywhere.
So there we go! I hope you enjoyed this nostalgic look back. There are lots of other awesome bloggers taking part in #WeBlogSummer – if you head to Sophia’s blog you can read everybody else’s posts, and if you enjoyed this delve into my early years I’ve written a couple of other “growing up” posts here and here.
Lately I’ve been feeling grateful for my friends. Friends who know you inside out. Friends who pick up on the quirks and mannerisms you haven’t yet observed. Friends who see your patterns and sequences and lay out the formula for you. Friends who tell you when you’re being too much, and when you’re not being yourself, because they know you in more ways than you know yourself.
Friends who tell you when you should make a move, and when you’re just being you and this will pass in two weeks. Friends who can’t quite tell because they see you every day, and your perspectives start to overlap. Friends who pick up when this is a big thing, and when this is the real thing, and when you need help, and when you’re holding back.
Friends who listen to your one problem and patiently analyse your one situation, although you already did this last week and nothing has changed. Friends who let you stumble grumpily into the sofa where they wordlessly provide you with breakfast before going back upstairs to get ready for work.
Friends who pop up once a year and manage to fill in the last 12 months, sharing your heartaches and high points, even though you’ve only got an hour, and the traffic was bad, and they’re out of Pimms. Friends who won’t remember that stuff by the time we meet again.
Friends who play music for you. Friends you play music with. The kind of playing where you don’t need to stop and communicate why you’re crying, because they’re crying too, because you hit the same point and you’re sharing the same memory and you’re on the edge of the same sadness, and you had to say goodbye together then, and you’ve got to hold each other up now.
Friends who stay on the line until you fall asleep. Friends who call you up half-drunk and even though you were about to go to bed, you go and make a full curry for them, because you love them, and one day you may need a curry of your own. Friends who pass by for a few months, suffusing your life with newness and laughter. Friends who stay, no matter how difficult and antisocial you get. Friends who love you, more than family, because how could family have possibly observed all the tiny things friends see? We grow up with our families, but we live our lives with our friends. Friends who endure.
There’s a lot of these types of bucket list posts going around and I’ve been inspired! This is what I’d like to do this summer…
1. Complete the album I’m currently on. It keeps getting delayed!
2. Make cocktails with fresh fruit. Last night I did drunkenly throwing fresh raspberries into whatever gin-based drink I happened to be holding, but a bit of forward planning would probably result in something more pinterest-worthy.
3. Go on holiday.
4. Try out lots of new bars and clubs. There’s so many cool places in London that I’ve never ben too as I always end up in the same places!
(Beachcombing and Tiny Islands)
5. Have people round for dinner and barbecues a lot more. We’re pretty good on regular house parties but we should start incorporating more intimate nights as well. We’re lucky that we have a garden and we should exploit that more!
6. Write a lot more songs using loop pedal. I’m genuinely too lazy to set everything up whenever inspiration strikes!
7. Go to the beach! I’ve already done this but why not go again?
8. Get my second passport sorted out! I’ve been “going to do this soon” for about a year now.
9. Spend a lot of time with my housemates. They’re the best! Our current line-up is the best yet; having a happy home environment makes such a difference to your outlook.
All these photos are from previous summers! I wonder what photos I’ll be looking back at next summer…
Last summer was the first one I was really working. Even on my holidays to Egypt and America I was working round the clock, grabbing wi-fi where I could. I came back and went straight back into work, going out where I could, on Fridays and the odd morning off. Summer stretched on until October, but in a vague, disconnected way. I was aware of summer happening but I wasn’t really partaking in the same way: I didn’t go to Glastonbury, I didn’t spend the month working in Edinburgh, I didn’t spend hours lazing around my parents house listening to music with a hangover.
This year summer has sprung out of nowhere; it was 2015, I was working, I went on tour and then BAM. I’ve come home and it’s summer. This is the first summer since I was about 14 where I don’t have any real plans and everything feels a bit aimless. I’m a bit nonplussed about this summer – I’ve been ill for about a week, I don’t have any real plans (for work or holiday) and things always feel a bit sketchy when I’ve not confirmed a proper income over the summer, traditionally a rubbish time for private teachers like myself. I’ve also been thinking a lot about leaving London, so I’m going to treat this summer like it’s my last one in London. I have no big bold plans, I’ll just try and make the most out of each week and see what happens. And work hard. And say yes. And get involved. Those three always serve me well.
P.S. Does anybody watch Orange Is The New Black? Let’s discuss Series 3!!
Temple Square is a huge complex in Salt Lake City where most of the headquarters for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints are based. I think Salt Lake City is best known as a Mormon town and so naturally it’s a place with a lot of history and somewhere I wanted to visit. The grounds were very beautiful; I was really taken with the gorgeous flower arrangements everywhere. We were lucky enough to be there on a beautifully sunny day; the huge white temple literally looked like it was glowing and the soft breeze amongst the flowers helped to create such a feeling of tranquility.
We were able to go into each of the buildings to look around and learn more about the history of the area, and even hear the renowned Mormon Tabernacle Choir rehearsing which was pretty magical! Given how busy my trip was overall I really relished being able to just wander such a calm and peaceful area freely and have some time to reflect by myself.
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