I’ve been listening to The Bedsit Poets; they seem to have spent far too long (if such a thing were possible) listening to Pink Floyd, Jacques Brel, John Martyn, Roy Harper and Lou Reed; fuzzy soundscapes dotted with the poignant ruins of success.
For some people an overgrown path is perfect, no steel structure is fully complete until it has been colonised by rust, and a hardback book found in a junkshop – sans covers and titles page – is unbearably romantic. Which reminds me; I recently finished writing a report for work about the progress of salt-spray corrosion on an electrical enclosure. Various bits of the structure had started to develop red rust; but I wasn’t allowed to use the ‘R’-word. Instead I had to adopt the phrase ‘red ferrous corrosion’, which is accurate but lacks drama and so is less precise. Or vice versa.
Rust never sleeps. The compelling triumph of entropy.
Back in 1981 I bought a copy of ‘Bedsitter’ on 12-inch vinyl, one of the highlights of Soft Cell’s brief output. This duo had a nice line in bleak lyrics matched to jaunty tunes, and manages to depict the boredom of living in a bedsit flat. Back then one would not have expected Marc Almond to still be around thirty years later, recording and performing torch songs; he has always been infatuated with the music of Jacques Brel, and I recently went to see a band called ‘Dead Belgian’ who perform only that writer’s songs. ‘In the port of Amsterdam / There’s a sailor who drinks / And he drinks / And he –‘
But alas, I never learned what he did next because I had to dash away to catch the last tram home. I bet the trams in Amsterdam continue running well after midnight, in order to let people enjoy their cafe culture. Here in Manchester we are grimly protestant, and the city’s nightlife is recognised as being a vital part of the local economy – but the idea of actual enjoyment is seen as vulgar and sinful.
It’s grim up North; the compelling triumph of pessimism.
Perhaps everyone should try living in a bedsit for a couple of years during their twenties – it’s a good way to decide which of your treasured possessions are really vital, ‘cos you won’t have room to keep everything.
Journal Entry, Sun 4 Aug ’96:
Well, it’s about ten years since I left Leicester Poly with a degree in Chemistry and a few belongings. And now here I am in a rented bedsit, working in a paint factory for a salary below the bottom tenth in the RSC survey.
Called in at the Energy Shop (cookers, fridges etc) to ask about having electricity reconnected. The woman behind the counter said ’you’ll have to see the Elec Board’. I asked for their number and was told she didn’t have it. I ask you!
Tonight went to Freddie’s Bar and was reading the small ads in Boyz one of which was for a hirsute ‘tasched Asian guy. Then two blokes matching this description walked in together.
Young Steve (CAMRA) came in wearing a lime green shirt (oh, you fashion victim!), ordered half a bitter, took three sips and walked out again.
Robbie is supposed to have written to me with his new address and phone number but haven’t yet received his letter.
Journal Entry, Sun 1 Sep ‘96
Robbie – fool – had sent me a letter addressed to No.1 Macklin St, so the Post Office had opened it (No.1 had been demolished in the seventies) before tracking me down. It read: “Dear Mavis, At Last!!! I’ve moved I’ve moved I’ve moved I’ve moved I’ve moved! This is it, Never Again!!! Love, HRH LK, The La in Laphroiagh.”
Journal Entry, Sun 19 Oct ‘97
Thursday night stayed late at work to make sure two batches of white paint were finished and I could leave at lunchtime on Fri with a Kleer Konscience.
Went to Telford, stopped at Asda to buy decent shoes, carried on to Much Wenlock. Found myself on the correct B-road (wonders will never cease) and ended up at Wilderhope Manor.
Fri night ate and drank, went to pub, came back in moonlight (how did those cattle grids get there?)
Sat morn woke up, dense fog everywhere, couldn’t go on run (everyone else doing eighty-plus) so made my own way to pub. A5 to North Wales, a one-horse town with 40 screaming queens and huge bikes.
Sat nite disco, had t-shirt pulled off. ‘There were nine topless men on the dancefloor’ said I. ‘Yes, and you’ said Robbie.
All in all, the best weekend ever.
Journal Entry, Sun 15 May ‘05
Went to Astle Park for NABD Rally. Tony had already arrived by 12.00 and erected the yellow marquee. We did a brisk trade in enquiries and membership forms. Bands – Beers Monsters, superb, wandered into crowd and handed guitar over to players in audience.
Rick introduced the strippers (both female) and made some comments about the ‘sad faggots’ who weren’t watching them.
MCN gave the event big promotion and even mentioned that a mobile lap-dancing bar would be on-site (which probably explains why there were 2000 punters at the event and why we ran out of beer).
Perhaps ‘Minus one Raver’ should produce an LP called ‘Square Route’, the path through life taken by orthodox individuals who deliberately cultivate a stable career avoiding any contact with people from different backgrounds.
Mister Average. ‘Making Plans for Nigel’.