Candles

“What is it with Christians and their obsession with feet?” Kane asks me.

Surrounding us in a neat semi-circle are a range of framed photographs of people washing other people’s feet. It looks like these photos are from some kind of evangelical mission to various countries around the world.

“I think it’s a Jesus thing”, I say. “I remember somewhere in the Bible that he washed people’s feet, to get the dust of the road off the travellers or something. Maybe that’s why this young lady loves washing so many feet.”

“Either way, this is the weirdest photo gallery I’ve ever seen.”

We move past a large rack of coat hangers into the cathedral’s small courtyard again. A slight cold breeze whistles in between the stone arches to greet us. Kane, wearing a grey track suit (or, the Jeremy Kyle tuxedo) wanders off to a discreet corner where a family are placing candlesticks in a pot filled with sand. He asks me if you have to, like, donate to the cathedral or something if you want a candle. I shrug and drop the only coin I had with me, a shiny 50 pence piece, into a small wooden box secured with a padlock.

“This can represent our love for each other”, Kane says after he digs his candle into the very centre of the pile. “I’m not gay, though.”

Hmmm. I light my candle on one of the outside ones and add it to the collection, making sure it doesn’t fall over. I step back and admire my handiwork – my candle becoming swallowed up in a sea of other white candles the further we get from the display.

Outside, we have a look at the food on offer. I would buy something, but I seem to have spent my last 50p.

My Unlikely Pilgrimage

“I’m going for a walk,” I say to my flatmates. It’s the first truly sunny day of the year, and it has driven everyone in the city insane. Outside my flat, I pass a group of people playing cricket with a bat smaller than a rolling pin, the batter clumsily stumbling after a tennis ball when she inevitably misses it. She’d have better luck hitting it with a toothpick. The strain of running is taking its toll on her denim shorts, which are being slowly devoured by her body folds.

My original intention is to go to town and wander around aimlessly by myself, but as I reach the high street, a bizarre sensation comes over me. I’m not satisfied with simply walking to town. I’ll go up to that arch over there.

Yet as I get to it, I still feel like it’s not enough. Now, I’ll walk to that post box, and if that isn’t enough, I’ll go to that shop over there. Soon, the little way-points I set for myself meld into a pointless journey. I begin making my way up further, thinking only of walking; no real direction or destination, just making it up as I went along.

The warm sun is shining in my face, so I make a right after this junction, another right later to put it behind me. The road begins to slope uphill, gradually at first, then increasing sharply. The sun is setting and the air is getting colder when I finally stop after hours of walking. I find myself on a small green in the shadow of the cathedral, without really meaning to.

I’ve picked a spot on a wall to perch myself on to observe the world. My journalism lecturers always say to be constantly vigilant of everything happening around you – which is difficult for someone like me, who finds the view of my tan shoes a far more attractive option than eye contact.

Well, it’s never too late to try.

A group of children near the wall seem to be enjoying a game of pelt-grass-at-your-face, yanking clumps of it out of the ground as if they were making snowballs. One of them spits out a lump of grass and rescinds the offender’s right to cookies. I chuckle at their blissful ignorance, longing to return to a time where my needs were as simple as theirs. Now, the surface area of my tiny brain is constantly occupied by various and meaningless worries, prejudices and concerns – which makes for great paranoid writing, but isn’t exactly stellar to live with.

When I finally returned to the flat that night, no one was in, leaving the living area in a state of eerie silence. Just the way I like it.

The Spice Guys Make Their Debut

I’ve just received a call for someone who represents Madison Square Garden – they want to book the Spice Guys to perform live after listening to our performance live on radio.

It’s comic relief week at Siren FM, which has prompted the breakfast team to get together and form the greatest Spice Girls tribute band in history. On a cold Monday evening, we prepare to make our debut to raise money for charity.

Ginger Spice looks less ‘ginger’ and more like the victim of blunt force trauma due to a red hair spray mishap, causing it to stain his face more than his hair. He has told me (Baby Spice) to bring something baby-related to dress up as. The only problem is, he has assumed that I’m some kind of fetishist who just happens to have some nappies lying around. I make do with a piece of tinsel, fashioning it into a necklace.

I feel severely under-dressed next to Nial, who has made the most effort out of all of us, arriving in a full suit and tie for his role as Posh.

After a brief practice of Wannabe, we head into the studio to live our fifteen minutes of fame.

“Who wants to harmonise with me?” I joke.

Ginger introduces us to his listeners halfway into the show. As we stand up for our big moment, I hear muffled giggling coming from outside, as we seem to have attracted a few onlookers. Onlookers with cameras. I’m informed that this will also be broadcast as a video on Facebook Live, as Ginger rushes around frantically trying to sort out our microphones for us. Might as well give them a good performance, then.

The song is over quicker than I anticipated, but I’m satisfied with our efforts. I attempted to lend some of the high-end notes to the song – with mixed results. Hopefully our contribution to the Red Nose Day spirit brought in some donations to the charity.

What to do when your friend wants you to get your face painted

“I dunno, wouldn’t the girls think I’m gay?” I ask.

Kane has been trying to convince me to get my face painted for a few minutes now. We are standing in the sticky foyer of Kasbah Nightclub, Coventry in front of two women perched atop of piles of old brown cushions. Surrounding them are tiny pots of paint and glitter, which they have used to apply a large sparkly blue butterfly to Kane’s angular face. I’m surprised they didn’t cut themselves on those sharp edges.

My efforts to resist a good old face painting are futile, due to the fact that my lanky friend has already bought me fifteen drinks already, I did say that I would get one if he did and most people think I’m gay anyway.

I have to admit, it did make me feel beautiful.

Out of nowhere, my other equally lanky friend appears, having disappeared for a few hours. Kane and I immediately hound him to get a matching butterfly with ours.

“It makes you feel so delicate, Joe. We’ve both got one so you’re basically obligated to get one,” I reason.

Joe is extremely apprehensive, but sits down on the round cushion anyway, shooting us a severe look of distaste. The woman on the left with long blonde curly hair leans into me and whispers: “Shall I do a penis on his face?”

It was a moment so profound it felt like an epiphany, awakening a previously untapped childlike glee at this prospect. Yes, that would be amazing. God has given me my task. I now had the power. This man’s face must become the scrotal Sistine Chapel. I stand back, giggling. How amusing! He thinks he’s having a butterfly, but really he’s having a hilarious practical joke played on him, the fool!

I’m informed that not only will a phallus be drawn, it will also look like a butterfly. Now this stupid joke has actually become interesting.

The result is far better than I could ever have hoped. I marvel at the artistry that went into it; a glorious, veiny, sparkly, blue penis with wings, sketched into the side of Joe’s face. A slow look of realisation dawns on him when he notices everyone’s obsession with his butterfly in particular.

“What have you done?” he says.

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Public Embarrassments

The traffic lights are taking so long to change it’s virtually an epoch, the shining red stick man standing in his little round hole inside the light, a stoic sentinel safeguarding the crossing. Smug bastard. I take a contemptuous sip out of my McDonald’s Fanta, which has been diluted by the ice inside, muting the flavour into something barely tolerable. Out of the corner of my eye, I’m acutely aware of two people standing to my left, who are the reason for my overpowering desire to be as far away from them as possible, if the red stick man plans on turning green any time soon.

It doesn’t take much to ruin my day. Almost anything can eke a foul mood out of me; most of it stems from other people having too much fun. I’ve long since accepted that my mood will permanently be somewhere in the realm of ‘mildly ticked off’; therefore, it takes a special kind of person to push me into the territory of genuine disgust and horror.

Horrified, I was. A man and an older woman pushing a pram stand next to me, blissfully ignorant to the pain they are inflicting on the rest of the world, as only people with zero self-awareness can do. Stuffed inside the balding man’s grey tracksuit hoodie sits a rectangular Bluetooth speaker, the end of which is precariously hanging out in the open. Blaring out of the speaker are blasts of the most offensively boring and generic EDM. He seems to catch me glaring at him as he takes a swig from a Strongbow, and for a minute, I think he has a moment of clarity where he realises how much of a nuisance he’s being, but – to my amazement – he actually turns it up.

The woman, who has dyed red hair to match the colour of the pram, can barely hear him speaking. Down the side of her wrinkled face are a smorgasbord of small star tattoos. At this point, I’m lamenting for the future of the child in their care, whose eardrums have probably been blown out by Mr. Jeremy Kyle Show’s deejays.

Finally, the traffic alleviates enough for us to cross, but it comes far too late to salvage my mood. Perhaps I’ve been too judgemental, I think, until the man drops his cider can in a bush. First impressions are often entirely correct.

What to do when you are forced to describe yourself

I’ve taken to jogging the short distance to volunteer at Siren FM‘s 07:00 breakfast show in the mornings because it helps wake me up and give me some energy. It’s definitely not because I’m late, I swear.

Before every show, we decide on a theme for song choices. Today, we’re tasked with choosing a track that describes ourselves. God, this is going to be impossible. How can I possibly choose a song that perfectly sums up and describes something as infinitely complex as a person? Is it even possible to cram an entire person into four or even three minutes’ worth of time?

I pick a blue office chair to swivel in circles while I contemplate who I am as a person. To my horror, I see that a couple of people on our team of six have already chosen their songs and are queuing them up on the playlist. There’s absolutely no way they put an adequate amount of thought into choosing a song; now everyone will get the wrong impression of them. It’s like it doesn’t even matter to these barbarians! I refuse to let that fate happen to me. I’m going to do it right.

Unfortunately, time (the cruel mistress) has other plans for me, and I’m forced to choose something before the show starts. In a moment of sheer panic, I settle on Michael Jackson’s Off the Wall, because I’m laid-back and well-loved, or some other nonsense like that. It’s not a perfect choice, but one I’m happy for coming up with on such short notice.

Wait.

“Chris, I just realised something,” I say later, while we are taking a break. “What if, when we play Michael Jackson, people will think that I’m a child molester?” I’ve ruined my life with one simple mistake.

Chris assures me that people won’t think that, but how can he be sure? I spend the next hour pondering what my new identity should be while the dreaded moment approaches. Typical, you wake up to do a harmless breakfast show, and end up having to become a fugitive. I’m in the process of learning Russian by the time my song is next in the queue, only to find out that 10 seconds of the song is actually aired, before being cut off by the news. I guess it’s a relief, but now I’m annoyed that my song didn’t even get played.

Recording Music in the Small Upstairs Room of a Theatre.

The moment I finish recording, the drummer lunges to the window to stick his head out. “I can’t believe I’m drenched after one song,” he gasps. The stale smell of sweat is already permeating the room, but we can’t have the windows open during recording because trains like to pass by whenever we decide to start. A lilac curtain has been drawn all around the room in an attempt to reduce echo, and the black scuffed floor is a result of so many instruments being dragged across it over time.

Max, the vocalist, turns to me and tells me to get rid of what we’ve just recorded and start again. A few moments of fumbling with the macbook pass, and I nod back to him. He brushes his blond hair out of his eyes, scratches at an even blonder beard, and stands poised grasping a bright red electric guitar. All is silent for a few seconds, and I start the recording.

It lasts about five seconds.

“Max, I’m sorry mate. I just cant hear you.” The drummer has missed his cue. Now, we have to come up with a solution. For my first day on the job as a sound technician, I’d say it’s pretty normal. Currently, our elegant solution to recording an electric guitar is jamming a microphone right next to the giant amplifier, which thankfully comes on wheels, making the act of turning it towards the drum set easier. Problem rectified, Future Theory begin playing again.

The room becomes awash with their rich, old-school sound. I really like how they’ve made the instrumentation the main focus of the music, including large instrumental sections to really let the music breathe and to make the vocals feel like the icing on the cake.  I’m impressed. I might ask Max later if he would want his band’s music to get a little air-time on my radio show. That might be a good way to buy their respect.

When the song is over, I (very professionally) leave a pregnant pause at the end before stopping just to make sure all the guitars have fallen silent. Now, I pass out massive grey headphones to everyone so that they can listen back. They decide to do another take, so I begin setting up another recording while everyone else takes their place. Max, glancing at me, sees me nod and begins his guitar intro.


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Having the opportunity to work with local bands, record their music for them and get paid for it is really a dream come true for me, and barely even feels like work at all. In fact, I loved every second of it, and I’m notorious for hating everything. It took us an hour to set up all the equipment, but the band waited patiently and politely. At least, that’s what it looked like. They could have been silently dreaming new and exciting insults to hurl my way for being such an amateur. I’m sure they weren’t, but you can never be too careful.