Sunday, 14 February 2010

Out There...

We played in this cave in a bar in a town called Le Dorat last night. The acoustics were a bit difficult but the owners were great, a Scottish couple with good sensibilities. Most of the audience were English and a lot of them were what you might call old, meaning about our own age. There was a woman psychologist turned copywriter who' d seen me in Portrush, Northern Ireland in 1978. There was a man from Lincolnshire who saw me at The Village Bowl in Bournemouth on the second Stiff tour - he told me how he got lost in the suburbs of Southampton on his way home and I was able to console him by pointing out that at least he wasn't in Lincolnshire.
I met the eighteen year old son of an avid fan who last saw me in 1979 at the Limit Club in Sheffield and a girl called Liberty wearing spiked cuffs and bondage trousers - she's been here for twelve years or so, a good deal more than half her young life. She told me that fluent French was a poor exchange for the tedium of being a teenager in the Limousin. Words to that effect anyway.
There isn't much to do here. French kids get little mopeds at fifteen so they they can ride to neighbouring villages and sit with other kids in different far-flung bus shelters for what Amy likes to call a change of pace.
It was a lovely evening - I almost completely forgot my dyed in the wool loathing of retired English ex-pats. Even when a septegenarian asked me during the intermission if we'd had a technical before we started. You need to turn down your instruments by a third and raise the level of the singing. I thanked him for his advice almost as diplomatically as I could and explained that our amplifiers weren't designed to turn down any further. It transpired that this man's claim to fame was shooting the cover of a Rolling Stones album - the one with the broken glass on the front cover... I'm none the wiser either. I pointed out that the Stones were never as good as The Who (because I always do) but he told me he was unable to offer any comment because he had no musical ear.
I met a woman who went to school in Seaford in Sussex where my daughter, Luci, lives and where I formed my first band at the age of fifteen or so. I heard tales and complaints about the weather conditions - I'll probably have to leave before you finish, it's like an ice rink out there... And I came through it all in a great mood.
I wish there was a bar like La Petie Fontaine in Le Dorat in our village.
This morning I went to the supermarket and put some posters up here and there for next weekend's concert at the Lawrence d'Arabie. Then I went to a bar in a neighbouring village. The street was empty except for a monstrously weather beaten man struggling with a satellite dish. A group of middle-aged people with a scattering of young children, probably grandchildren, sat round a table in the middle of the cafe. Apart from that there was no one.
The middle-aged people were English. It was obvious. One of them had a craggy, pioneering face - fifteen years ago, had I met him in England, he would have asked me how I find it out there. Now if I talked to him (which I didn't) I'm sure he would have told me how long ago he moved out here. You see the shift?
The English are obsessed with a place called out there. If there's anybody out there who... You here it all the time on the radio. I'm perversely thrilled every time I hear it, that and people who say quite frankly I've had it up to here. You can't see the neck level gesture on the radio so it doesn't make sense.
We've been out here for four years now...

For God's sake, we're not on fucking safari.
There's no going back - we're in deepest, darkest rural Fraarnce and don't I fucking know it.
...bald head, grey ring of hair culminating in a half-hearted grey pony tail. Approaches the bar - lar mim shows (la même chose) meaning the same again.
At least he made the effort but I hate how he makes me feel - smug about my superior ability to speak the language. He has no right to make me feel like that. I wished he'd just spoken in English. The barman would have understood perfectly, his wife's English.
Outside the street is still almost empty. The satellite dish mutant's been joined by a couple of others. They're discussing the weather. Not much to discuss really - it's grey, it's cold, it's probably going to snow again.
I head home intent on making the house saleable. I'm going to spend the afternoon stripping wallpaper. There's got to be more to life than this. When I get home the heating's broken down again, for the fifth time this winter. I light the woodburner and write this instead.