12 May 2003
Everything is weird, but some things are more weird than others. One reason - one of the many, many reasons - why I've always regarded with deep suspicion the rural life and those who choose to live it is that whole early-to-bed, early-to-rise philosophy, farmers who drag themselves out of bed at dawn for first milking and are knackered by sunset. What is that all about? Nobody should willingly do that to themselves. When I was at my most creative, in my twenties, I was entirely nocturnal: work or party all night long, bed at five or six or seven in the morning and don't bother to get up till three next afternoon. It was my friends and their new jobs that forced a compromise, if I wanted a social life I had to adjust to fit; but my natural inclination has always been towards the darkness, and as ever I am deeply distrustful of people who don't want to live the way that I live. I mean, they've got to be pretending, haven't they...?
Except that the more I get into this gardening lark, the more stuff I set to grow, the more in fact that I ape a rural lifestyle in my little city fastness, the earlier I wake up and the sooner I want to go to bed. This morning I was wide awake by seven, and I've been struggling tonight to stay up till midnight. Where is the life that late I led, où sont les neiges d'antan? (Actually I've always intended to write a story called Ici les Neiges d'antan, but that's a divagation). This horticulture thing, it's insidious, roots get in your brain. (Ick - scary image, or what? I remember a picture from the long-late, long-lamented Science Fiction Monthly, a screaming man with grass growing in his mouth; I hated it then, and it haunts me still. And all those films where plants are malicious, those are deeply troubling to me. Still haven't seen Little Shop of Horrors, and I'm a man who loves musicals...) It's sapping my will to resist. I already have earth under my fingernails; soon I'll develop a strange yen to follow foxes. Easy done, these days; the urban fox is a fine animal, and a sign that evolution is not dead.
These oddly curtailed nights did at least not stop me going to the jazz on Saturday. David Restivo was playing at my favourite N'cle venue, Live Theatre. He's a Canadian pianist, for those of you who don't know, tho' his mother lives in Sunderland and is friends with friends of mine. David is fabulous. There are more pyrotechnic keyboardists, and more avant-garde, but those excite more technical interest than emotional engagement; David's is the kind of music that I come home to, to touch base, to say that this is where jazz resides. He was playing with a couple of local musicians, a drummer and a bassist, whose names I confess to having half-forgotten, on account of not having seen them written down; but they led me down paths of fascinated admiration even outside the music, because I don't understand how they can do that, play so comfortably with someone new after what must have been minimal rehearsal. Some of the repertoire was classic, Cole Porter to Charlie Parker, but some was David's own compositions, and how the hell do you learn to play a new piece, with only late and limited access to its originator? If you're a drummer, and the whole pulse of the piece is percussive (the piano, let us never forget, is a percussive instrument), and you sound like you've been there since the beginning, like no one but you has ever played it with him, like it could never be played any way but this...?
I love music, but I really don't get how it happens. Weird stuff. But the world is full of weird, and for the most part that's okay. If I wasn't bewildered all the time, I'd have no reason to write. We tell each other stories to explain the world to ourselves, and a perfect explanation would be the perfect end to fiction, and then I really would have to retire to the country and grow chillies.
© Chaz Brenchley 2003
Reproduced here by permission of Chaz Brenchley, who asserts his moral right to be identified as the author of this work.