Saturday, 28 April 2012

Falling out of Formation

Photo -

When I woke up this morning I had a positive frame of mind. The Queen classic Don't Stop Me Now was playing on the radio and I could think of nothing better and self-fulfilling to do than do some college essays, and if I was still feeling good after that I would write some more of my book or watch Back to the Future. I did not, at any point in my morning routine, envision a day stood in a cold country lane in the rain, in my pyjamas, no socks, and an umbrella.

I finished breakfast and sat down in the office, turned on my laptop and sipped a cup of coffee, making idle chat with Dad about a documentary I watched over breakfast. I was making notes for my sociology essay when my Dad's phone rang, and the frantic motherly tone of my brother's girlfriend Lea entered my earshot. She sounded worried - this wasn't just something about the salon we ran together, this wasn't a question about her computer, this wasn't a request for information or product. Dad hung up, and I heard three words leave his mouth as he flew out of his chair: 'Pete' 'Crash' 'Kids'.

Pete, for those of you who don't know, is the name of my brother. Kids, was in reference to Finley, Lola, Max and Emma, Pete and Lea's collective of kids. Crash. Crash. Crash, a horrible word that tied the other two together in a series of horrible mental images.

I rushed upstairs into my bedroom. I was wearing my pyjamas still, thin cotton bottoms and a Threadless t-shirt. My jeans, socks and shoes were on the floor, but as I reached for my socks I imagined my brother unconscious in a car in the middle of nowhere, and just slipped on my shoes - another adventure for the nearly dead Vans mentioned in my last post. I barely managed to throw on a suede flight jacket as I ran out the door to the car, looking particular under-dressed for the weather - black clouds overhead signalling imminent rain.

'When a goose gets sick, wounded, or shot down, two geese drop out of formation and follow it down to help and protect it. They stay with it until it dies or is able to fly again. Then, they launch out with another formation or catch up with the flock.'

The goose analogy slipped into my head, a relic from a documentary I watched years ago: the importance of family at times like this made any notion of University or moving away from home seem like a suicide mission, a ridiculous and unsafe fantasy. We picked Lea up from the salon, and she sat in silence in the back,  having a daytime nightmare of all the things that might have happened to her kids and it hit me - Emma, seven years old, suffers from panic attacks. As we drove, the jolly Caterpillar-Cake cuckoo calls of the radio counterpointed the anxious, serious silence inside the car. 

As we drove, I saw a black sign that stated 'Welcome to Crondall - Please Drive Safely Through Our Village'. Cars and people in the rain began stopping us, telling us the road was blocked, that there had been an accident. The way my Dad told them his family were involved gave me tingles.

We pulled up and Pete was standing, pacing backwards and forwards in a way that made me see cigarette filled thought bubbles floating above his head. A beige Volvo estate and a black Vauxhall Zafira people-carrier sat squished up against the country banks, metal intertwined like two children that had watched kissing in movies and tried to recreate it. Police, Finley and Lola's mother and now our car, were all pulled up by the crash. The kids were alright: Emma's spate of panic wore off when she discovered a packet of sweets in each pocket.

Finley and Lola got in with their mother and they drove away - 'Socks!' I shouted at my Dad as he drove away with Emma, Max and Lea: I was to stay with Pete, until the car died or was able to fly again.

Everyone on scene stalked back and forth with phones clamped to their ears, trying to work out insurance policies, a task made harder by the police not wanting to take statements, my brother having different insurance to most people (Truck driver) and it being Lea's car that he crashed. Despite police presence, the other driver recoiled fearfully everytime my brother talked to him - Note: He didn't use his polite tone. The bureaucracy seemed bizarre here, in a country lane in the middle of nowhere, and I realised that whilst rain made a good atmospheric effect in movies, it was a terrible compliment to this situation.

I tasked myself with turning away cars trying to get past - a wedding, of all things, was happening nearby, attracting a hoard of people who had no idea where they were going. I realised that this must have look amazingly suspicious, as from a distance, the scene was this: a country lane with three cars, a policeman, another man, and two Eastern-European blokes wearing trackies, a hoodie and a flight jacket. Turn away? Sure thing, that guy in the flight jacket looks like he's packing heat.

One woman however, was not on her way to the wedding, and pulled over and came out to talk to us. Lydia, who turned out to be a nurse on her way to a patient, wanted to see if she could help, which she did, by providing some good banter for me whilst I waited. 'My husband wanted me to go to a football match today. I told him No, I don't want to be standing in the drizzle for ages. Now look what I'm doing.'

A tow truck arrived, and pulled the cars out of their embrace: crumples in the metal made sad faces, and they whined as bare wheels ground against the road. Catherine Wheels were made of the mud-filled tires spinning, and we hitched a ride with the first tow truck down into town, where another one arrived, driver bitching in a Manchurian accent about the terrible job the other guy had done, even giving us the number of two men who could 'sort it out' if the insurance companies couldn't, sounding like a very British deleted scene from the Godfather.

After hours of standing in the cold, my Mum pulled up and we got in: she handed me some cookies, a flask of coffee and some socks, because she's amazing. We flew back into formation and drove home.

The moral of the story? There's two of them: if you have a good family, take them for granted - they can perform miracles for you, whether it's falling out of formation or bringing you coffee and cookies in the cold. The second thing? Take socks, and take them for granted as well, because warm feet are a blessing.

- Lewis

(Goose Info taken from Please don't sue.)

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Meanwhile, in the Year 3000

Photo - Lewis Shaw
(I don't mean to brag, but I took a photo of my shoes.)

These are my shoes. They're from Vans, a brand that despite coming and going trends I have been wearing solidly for all of my shoe-buying life, and a brand that I trust and know will be comfortable, durable, and get compliments from drunk people at parties. I've been wearing this particular pair of Sex Pistol feet covers for almost a solid two years, and they have the wear to show for it - see rips up the side from feet growth for examples of that.

I've worn these shoes through lots of different situations, some incredibly boring, and some incredibly incredible. Today was, in terms of coincidence, walking, and celebrity come-across-ing, one of the more incredibly incredible days that this pair of soon to be dead shoes has witnessed.

I woke up this morning, unlike most mornings of my time off college, with no hangover, and a plan. A certain Lucy Browett, who goes to my college, happens to be a part of the YouTube community in London, a community that I also happen to have friends in. Today she had a Gathering organised, where various nerds (Such as myself, past experiences documented here) can meet up and talk and stuff. I didn't know this until the other day however, when tiny Asian friend Fizzy asked me if I was going to this gathering.

'Yes.' I said. 'I just don't think she knows yet.'

Lucy continued to not know, up until this morning, when she arrived at the South Bank centre, not expecting to see my hobo-silhouette against the Thames, but simultaneously seeing it, alongside Fizzy, Fizzy's boyfriend, and my Russian model friend Vickya.

People began to file along and introduce themselves/recognise people they know from either past gatherings or from YouTube (People get really happy when they get recognised). Meanwhile, I was hugging strangers, making conversation, and trying to stop Fizzy from tormenting tourists with her crazy moves. The gathering wandered up the choral elevator of the Royal Festival Hall, where Vickya suggested we go to Camden to get some food.

Camden is an ideal location for Vickya, as Vickya is Vegan. For those of you who don't know, vegan's can't eat meat, milk, wear leather, or generally do or have anything that has had bad morals anywhere near it - "They put the sweet and sour sauce from the chicken on my spring rolls!"
So with a little help from Fizzy's boyfriend's travelcard (Thanks Kaiman!) I got a bus with Fizzy, Kaiman and Vickya over to Camden, the fabled town of markets, really-really-fast food, and stalls that sell any colour bong you desire. Somewhere along the way, Vickya stopped talking about her recent holiday to Israel and mentioned that Charlie Simpson was doing a secret gig in the brand new Vans shop in Camden.

Photo - Lewis Shaw
F*cking fan girls. Getting in my way.

'Charlie Simpson...' I thought to myself. 'I've been waiting since Busted's 2002 self-titled LP to bask in his gloriously manly pop-punk midst...' the fact that it was in the new Vans shop only added to this realisation of man-crush. 

We arrived in Camden, ate some fried chicken/Chinese cuisine crossover, bought some stuff, looked at some stuff - all the while I was trying to act not-excited about meeting Charlie f*cking Simpson and trying to hide the piss-stains in my corduroys because I was within a miles radius of Charlie f*cking Simpson. At some point this guy called Alex arrived, but I wasn't really paying much attention because of Charlie f*ckin- yeah, you get the idea.

We were milling around the Vans shop, having been there nearly two hours when we noticed that there were very few people around, and a lot of Kerrang-worshipping 12 year olds gathering outside the store. "Look like you're buying stuff," said a friendly security guard, who looked more excited about Charlie than I was - "Or I'll have to kick you out into that lot".

Average fan.
Gutted Abbie.

Eventually all the kids came in, and there was lots of bustling around and waiting whilst the other musicians and set their stuff up. After ten minutes of awkward waiting, there was a cry of "CHARLIEEEEEE" as I one of the fangirls saw him coming out of the changing rooms towards the back, sporting a nice new pair of OTW Vans which he probably got for free, what with him being a world-famous BRIT award winning multi-instrumentalist hunk of man-candy.

He played songs and looked beautiful, something he seems to be very good at, whilst people looked in through the windows and screaming little girls - who probably no idea what he went to school for or what the year 3000 was going to be like, and probably only heard about him from Fightstar anyway - took pictures on their Blackberries and wondered what bit of tat they had in their pockets they could get signed whilst TRUE LIFE LONG FANS LIKE ME (And that guy who got his lyrics tattooed on his chest, he was pretty cool) GET SHOVED TO THE SIDELINES you whores.

Because yeah, that's pretty much what happened. It's not like I'm bitter or anything. We fit in some nice Busted jokes, and he seems like a really nice person. So yeah, that's how I met Charlie f*cking Simpson in a Vans shop in Camden after surprising Lucy through a mutual acquaintance from London.

If that isn't enough coincidence for you, two guys who were on my train this morning were on the same train back with me, and when I got home, there was a new hawaiian shirt waiting for me. If this article wasn't enough Charlie f*cking Simpson for you, I'll post a link to a video I got of his performance in the comments once I've finished uploading it.

I love you Charlie.