December 1, 2017
Arriving in Southampton we are aware that this is the last UK show in our current world circuit of #TheOtherTour.
Here, sadly, we part with half our crew, and with Hannah Peel too.
It has come upon us quickly, though it has been an age in the wardrobe, Narnia time.
I have arrived at the venue earlier today than is usual, in order to sort out my half of this actual wardrobe case for our final tour leg in Europe.
I have decanted some of its unfailingly black items into a suitcase that I can forget about, left in the bowels of the tour bus.
I hope this will mean I can find the few bits I actually use more readily.
We are going to be country hopping again.
I need to prepare for potential train delays, albeit that they are not so par-for-the-course in mainland Europe.
We have once found ourselves cast off a broken train in rural Germany, G and I, with neither phone signal nor grasp of the language and a show waiting some 2 hours drive away.
I remember, just before it refused to muster, that the train did an outstanding microwave Spaghetti Bolognese. In a bag.
Win and lose in every eventuality, if you’re being even handed.
The venue in Southampton is attractive in the way that old school buildings are when you first arrive, excited. And I was excited to start school.
I loved coat pegs and their animal stickers that declared them yours.
Having blue pants for P.E was our first uniform.
How could I not be a fast runner when look, I own Kit.
That’s my name.
Older, I felt important too, moving up into Juniors and the stubborn mid-wars built-to-stay grandeur that was all high ceilings and imposing facades and stern interiors.
I am thinking Twin Sets and rotund suited men and clicking heels on fishbone parqueting.
I liked the heavy radiators before they were archly fashionable and enjoyed carbolic soap when it never was.
I was bemused when any kid whined.
Surely nothing was as scary as Dads.
This building reminds me of that.
This Guild Hall.
Bright autumn sunlight squeezes around a haphazardly drawn curtain high on my dressing room wall and all here looks term time.
I have my case open and my things are sprayed around my space arbitrarily, like tom cat urine, all in a hurry to get the job done.
Weaveworld is getting nasty.
Shadwell is a shit.
I think of Trump.
The salesman with ambitions of deity.
All coat lining.
I get ready earlier today.
We have a late soundcheck because there is a sound curfew, but G has brought in her camera equipment so that we can have a company group photo.
Truck drivers and caterers and merch girl and crew and Hannah and band and all.
G sets up the timer delay onstage, and we occupy the centre of the first three rows, trying not to blink with the flash.
I am in a fine mood for a show tonight.
I have 4 days without a sing after this so I feel no caution.
The auditorium, long and high and wood panelled, is accommodating.
The stage has a slight rake and that inhibits my movements a little but it is not too great a tilt.
We go on.
I feel good.
The sound is good.
I am pleased with the level of control I have over my voice.
I am congratulating myself that I have now turned in over 40 shows of a big sing, in a row, and I have not had to see a voice doctor.
Stronger than I was in my 20’s.
It’s going so well.
We get to Only You.
Into the second verse and John has a finger slip and a bum note sounds out.
That’s not tragic.
It’s what happens to all of us at some point when we play live.
The spell is broken though.
I stop the song and ask to start it again.
This is not unchartered territory.
I am laughing.
Not at all put out or annoyed.
Mostly when I stop a song it is for my error.
Everyone knows it is not something that bothers me.
We start again.
I, soon into the song however, find myself lost.
No words are coming to my mouth.
I stop again.
This now is beyond an occasional no-problem occurrence.
This time, I discover it is not so easy to laugh off.
Do you want to leave it for a bit? John speaks into my earpiece.
No. I want to do it now. I say into my mic, speaking out into an audience that has not heard the rest of the conversation.
I think they look puzzled.
Now I am feeling strange.
I feel like Lucy, the drug mule in the Scarlett Johansson film.
Only without the super powers.
Just the hyper awareness.
I feel everything in and on my skin.
I hear every sound.
I have no filter.
I am speaking what I can hear are odd sentences, like my random thoughts have direct access to my mouth
Next to me Sean is tuning his guitar lightly.
Same as he ever does.
Tonight it cuts into my head so that I can’t hold the thought I am already struggling with.
Can I hear guitar? I say into the room
I feel like I’m having a break down.
I feel naked and unbalanced.
I am trying not to cry.
‘Other’ is next.
And Other is what I am feeling.
I swallow my way through it.
It is an honest recital.
Here on I hang in.
I am pulling pieces of myself that are floating away and press them back into my body like spilt entrails.
Pressing them in.
This is my truth.
I muscle-memory my way to the last bow which feels apologetic.
I go to my room shaken and confused.
G does not look alarmed.
She shows no anxiety.
She says she didn’t see.
They say they didn’t see.
Their faces read true.
Modest Management CEO, appears.
He is smiling and he is warm and he shows no anxiety.
No one is looking at me disappointed.
When I have organised my things, in somewhat of a daze. I call for wine.
2 fat glasses and I am of the earth, chewing words and hearing the slur.
Sean and John bring in a plate of cheese from their dressing room and we speak I know not what, but it is dissipating, the shroud.
Hannah joins us.
She has gifted me a musical box that plays out Only You from a length of white card into which she has hand punched the holes that will catch its keys.
I am heart warmed and touched and glad we have had this time.
We talk our experience of women in music, and share our stories of the battles and the walls, the dismissals and the indignations, and we celebrate together that this tour which has been such a sterling success, at the box office, in the creativity of song and its outward expression, is of women and speaks loud our resilience.
Old and young.
Reassembled, I head for home.