Photo diary: When in Rome
August 27, 2017
Posted in View from the table
I took myself and my girls off to Greece to meet up with our family, already over there warming their bones. I’ve never been before, it’s so beautiful. Why have I never been before? Green with cypress trees and enormous cacti, impossibly turquoise blue seas and beaches you can imagine Odysseus washing up on, bits of his wrecked boat around him, coves where I’m certain Sirens haunted, luring men to their deaths with their impossible-to-ignore song and sea monsters whipping up the waters, swallowing vessels whole – well me and Lil totally imagined that. And a couple of Cyclops wading across the shallows too, for good measure. But she’s nine, and I drink too much.
I loved the watermelon seller carts by the roadside, cicadas at night, astonishing even myself at my ability to do absolutely fuck all but lie stock still, headphones on, tanning my lazy, lazy butt, wandering around in teeny bikinis – my ass has seen more daylight this week than it has in the last 40 years, vertiginous winding roads, ancient olive trees, eating grapes picked and handed over by the farmer – my mother can charm anyone, in any language, checking for ripe figs, watching the cousins getting on; messing around, the bigger ones twisting arms for cocktails not mocktails, flocks of swallows and swifts swooping all around us, the food, spending quality time with people I love – quality time with my sister is insulting each other, flipping the bird at every available opportunity and her reminding me that I’d forgotten to get dressed, again. Quality. And we met such nice, kind people. I did not love the fact that being a single woman with two children it wasn’t possible for me to visit Albania without written permission from my girls’ father. Forgot what century I was in there… That itch to make a run for it that’s been ever present of late is scratched though, for a little while at least.
And on Friday I saw that a singer I love, Ryley Walker, was playing in a little pub in a city close to me, so I went because I am trying to be braver and more spontaneous, you know, just doing stuff, not dithering about it. And I’m so glad I did, it was nothing short of brilliant. Big swirling jams, old-school jazz and big slabs of the blues, off on a seemingly random tangent until a recognisable melody and vocal are pulled out. I was mesmerised. He’s different every time he plays, I was told. Jamming until they’re kicked off stage to reflective and intense with a twelve string guitar.
Three guitars, keys, bass/double bass (double swoon for me), percussion and a voice that was almost too big for the room does something to you, well it does something to me. I got talking to a guy, “where’s your boyfriend? I don’t mean to be sexist but women don’t usually know or like this kind of music”. Hmmm. Sexist and not true, though he meant no harm, that much is true.
Now, you’re going to have to bear with me here, there’s a substance that is used to plug holes in central heating systems, it’s called Radweld, it’s pumped into a radiator and it expands once it’s in there to fill up the gaps and holes. That, it occurred to me, mid-gig, is exactly what music does, especially live music in a little pub, it gets into your chest, smack under your ribs and it fills up all the holes and empty spaces, the big gaps. I wanted to tell the singer that after the gig, but I didn’t. I wish I had. Instead we had an accent competition, it turns out I do a good Chicago and he does a pretty passable Yorkshire. And we compared neighbours, mine grow prize veg and bring me flowers from their garden, his smoke crack, scratch their sores and try to nick his car. I’ll save my Radweld epiphany for another time.