mardi 30 avril 2013

Not Constantinople: Istanbul mixtape

To bring back a little bit of my holiday – especially that morning at breakfast when they randomly switched off the Turkish music and started playing our all-time favourite songs, and our lovely Turkish rock n roll café…

Tori Amos – A Sorta Fairytale
The Cardigans – I Need Some Fine Wine and You, You Need to Be Nicer
Leonard Cohen – In My Secret Life
Bic Runga – Sway
Elvis Presley – Heartbreak Hotel
The Breeders – Istanbul
Nicki and The Dove – The Fox

vendredi 26 avril 2013

The Perfect Suicide

My brilliant friend Lotte Worth has written an amazing book called The Perfect Suicide.

I have been meaning to write about this since I first read it a little while ago – as I totally loved this book.  It is dark, clever and beautiful.  I had been putting it off as I am hoping to conduct a little mini interview here with the author herself – but I could wait no longer, so you can now read the book first and look forward to the interview.

The Perfect Suicide tells the story of Emma, a girl who is struggling to fit in at her new university in the aftermath of a family tragedy. The only person who seems to understand her is her new flatmate Pete - who is sympathetic and attractive, and seems so much more grown up than the other students. Pete is a mysterious character, but we are given an insight into his life in the form of flashbacks to his childhood.

I know Lotte (also known as Charlotte) because we share our lovely literary agent, Caroline Hardman of Hardman and Swainson.

You can buy the book here and check out Lotte’s gorgeous website here.  I highly suggest that you do, because she is awesome and her book is (seriously and all bias aside) a new favourite.  I look forward to lots more.

jeudi 25 avril 2013

Before Facebook

Imagine being Jesse and Celine.  Well, one or the other, probably – you can’t be both.  Pick one.

OK, you’re Celine and it’s 1993.  When you meet a hot American boy on a train in a picturesque European city, you can’t just look him up and friend him on Facebook.  Because there is no Facebook.  There is no email and there is no texting.

When you agree to meet at a certain place in one year’s time, you have no way of seeing what he is doing in the meantime – no ugly drunken photos to put you off, no photos of him with girls for you to obsess over, no ambiguous quotes to drive you fifty shades of mental as you ask all your girlfriends ‘but what does it MEAN?’.

In fact, one year later you would not even have any way of knowing whether he actually turned up.  You couldn’t just send him a quick text to explain that your grandmother was really ill and you weren’t actually standing him up on purpose.

Nine years later, you could casually meet him in a bookshop in Paris as if it was just fate – without having seen a million links and ‘so-and-so is going to this event!’ and ‘please come to my book signing in Paris [insert emoticon here]’.  You could pretend it was organic with some credibility.

If the same thing happened now, one of two things would happen:
1)   I would become an online stalker; or
2)   I would never see that person again.

Either one is not quite right, even though it’s not like 1993 was perfect.  I don’t miss trying to find a phone box and 10p in the rain in London.  I don’t miss having to make reverse-charge phone calls to my parents if I needed an emergency lift at an odd time, like the time I spent all my money at Reading Festival and my mum had to come and collect me from outside TGI Fridays.

I like the future, I just don’t like it.

mercredi 24 avril 2013

Mixtape: Songs to greet the dawn

I once stayed up for an entire night with Nirvana’s Unplugged session on repeat.  I never got bored of it and it was perfect music to stay up all night to, but also perfect music to meet the morning.

When I stayed at the Chelsea Hotel in New York, I actually didn’t listen to much music.  I had thought I would; cued up loads of pertinent playlists in advance.  When I was actually there, though, I found I didn’t want them.  I would walk the corridors of the hotel and the streets of Manhattan, and leave my iPod back in my little balcony room.  I didn’t want anyone else’s voice in my ears – even voices I loved.  I just wanted to soak it all up for myself without outside influence.

However, of course, the first morning I woke up there – late May, after an epic thunderstorm that had lasted all night, the sun rising grubby and already hot over the city – I had to do a little dance around my room and run out onto my little balcony that overlooked the famous sign, listening to Chelsea Morning.

Wherever you are, there is something special about the music that wakes you up in the morning even when you have already been up all night.

Chelsea Morning by Joni Mitchell
I can tell you, if you have never been yourself, that while at night it feels like an untamable beast, a borrowed space of ghosts and ghouls, yes, the place where Sid did kill Nancy – waking up on a sunny morning at the Hotel Chelsea feels exactly like this song sounds.

Suzanne by Leonard Cohen
It’s not my favourite of my hero’s songs, but I think it’s the best one for these purposes – and of course he is a famously early riser.  There’s something perfect about the images of ‘sun pouring down like honey’ and the ‘children in the morning’ who are ‘leaning out for love and they will lean that way forever’.  Bonus: nearly everyone can play this on guitar, so I’m sure you can find some ragamuffin troubadour to do it for you on some lost early morning.

Son of a Gun by Nirvana
Again, maybe it’s just a sunshine image that makes a morning song for me.  This is a cover and it isn’t on that perfect Unplugged set list but it brings me joy in the mornings.  ‘The sun shines in the bedroom, when we play/The rain always starts, when you go away.’

Central Reservation by Beth Orton
I adore this song.  Even thinking about it now makes me feel all goose-bumpy and excited with the possibilities of it all.  The opening line, ‘I’m walking down the central reservation, in last night’s red dress’, conveys perfectly that morning-after feeling, when it’s a lovely one rather than a sad or a grubby one.  ‘This time, this time, this time – it’s fine, just as it is.’

Waking Up by Evan Dando
A tad literal, perhaps – but can you think of a nicer voice to wake up with?  When my mum drove me to school as a teenager, we always used to listen to the Lemonheads in the car – the only music we could agree on – so perhaps I will always associate Evan Dando’s voice with the early morning.

vendredi 19 avril 2013

My disappearing day.

One Sunday, last summer, I decided to disappear.  Not in any big, dramatic way – just for a few hours.  I had been visiting my family for the weekend, and my boyfriend was at home in Brighton with his band.

There had been a party on the Saturday night and I was tired and slightly hungover.  I woke up early on Sunday morning, as is my habit, and left quietly.  I walked the half hour or so to the station in an early Sunday-morning, deserted town.  It was a beautiful day, getting hot already.

I took my usual train into London, buying an Observer on the way.  The weekend coincided with the release of Sun – the new album by Cat Power that I had been eagerly awaiting.  There was an interview with her in the newspaper, talking about being brave and with a photograph of her with her new short hair, floating in a Miami swimming pool; the water was a perfect light blue but her clothes and eyes were dark.

I don’t know why this provided a trigger but it did.  A small one, but a trigger nonetheless.  I ripped the page out and stuffed it in my bag when I threw the rest of the paper away.  When I got off at Paddington and onto the tube, on a total whim, instead of staying on as far as Victoria and getting on my final homestretch train back to Brighton, I jumped off after only two stops.

I exited the tube at Notting Hill Gate and the day had become hot and sunny and perfect.  I headed towards Portobello Road – an area I used to hang out in quite a bit a long time ago, but hadn’t been to for years.

I didn’t do anything very exciting at all.  I walked and walked in the sunshine streets.  I perused the stalls and ducked in and out of vintage shops.  I tried hard to find something to buy, to keep for myself to remember my lovely little afternoon, a necklace maybe – but I found nothing and that was fine, maybe even fitting.  I wandered around until some of the stalls started packing up.  I feel like I had a bottle of Corona, sitting in the sunshine on a metal chair on the street outside a bar, but I can’t be completely sure – I want to be accurate, and there is a chance I have made that (almost too fitting?) detail up.

Nobody knew where I was.  My boyfriend thought I was at my family’s house.  My family assumed I had gone back to Brighton.  Usually when this thought hits you, it’s with fear – nobody knows where I am, anything could happen to me.  On that particular day, it felt safe and friendly and fun.

I felt relaxed and brilliant and soaked in sunshine by the time I made my way back to the tube.

I got back to Brighton that evening feeling like I had a secret, but an entirely benign one.  That rare thing, perhaps – a secret that hurt nobody and brought me a little bit of joy.  I still have that picture of Cat Power from the newspaper as the screensaver on my computer.