Standing on top of the battlements, the wind blasted my feeble form. I’ve never been a sex adonis, and the elements rattle my bones without much resistance from flesh, muscle and sinew. Looking out over two wide and gaping mouths of water, teethless gums all hollow with echoing laughter, I pressed my face against cold stone and listened to arguments from before the iPod. Long before. I wandered the low walls of a chapel, the altar and windows all blasted now by the cannons of forgiven traitors. Two lovers danced in the dandelions, a mother and daughter dared the sea to interrupt. Respecting a man who deserves none such they wait as I line up a shot unaware, before giving up and lifting the barrel of my camera. Only then do I realise I am causing a scene, as they run to experience what I have tried to digitally catalogue. They apologise, when it should be the other way around.
In a coffee shop, all bluster and circumstance, a middle aged couple are on a first date. She is relaxed but puzzled as to why she is here. He has been alone for too long without company, and has a wealth of useless information bursting to get out like a bottle of shaken pop left in the sun. Unprompted, he tells her about classical music, prog rock and the state of her flapjack crumbling like sandstone walls in acid rain. She nods and agrees, searching for a connection, poking her fingers in the switchboard looking for an electric shock. She wants a lover, not a lecture. He needs a participant, not a partner.
Back in the real world, I shoulder charge a drunk and give a nod to a fellow photographer. Deranged people stumble on strange ley lines and I’m not sure where I’m supposed to walk. When I return to my car, a man is smoking drugs into the window I’ve foolishly left open. That’s nice he says, pointing at nothing specific. The car, I ask sceptically? Yeah, he says, like someone who has heard their name for the first time in years.
I’ve watched two documentaries recently – one on Kurt Cobain Montage Of Heck and one on the Manic Street Preachers No Manifesto.
Two enormously important bands to me. I sat in my History class as the strange boy next to me drew weird symbols on his hands with a biro and waved a CD case with a picture of a naked baby and slithered out the words ‘Territorial Pissings’ in the manner of Albert Steptoe picking out an exotic dancer. He grew up, but Kurt remains immortal. Watching the film, I’d forgotten how beautiful he was in the early ‘Bleach’ days. Not spiritually or mentally, just physically. He has a face that can be studied for hours. Admiring the firm protractor jawline and the classical sweep of the eyelashes. The dimples, and the smile. The squalor is offensive at times, but ultimately he loved his kid and he loved music. He should’ve stayed in the clubs with a small family.
The Manic Street Preachers influence on me cannot be underestimated. Half of my bookcase is the Manics. I wore eyeliner and eyeshadow to nightclubs and kissed the girls because of the Manics. I designed and design my own t-shirts because of the Manics. I believed and then became suspicious of sincerity, because of the Manics. Like a first love, you forget them until you hear their name again. Or a brief glimpse, perhaps as you people watch bored in a coffee shop and he or she saunters past. And suddenly you’re back there, when this deity was the most important thing in your life.
The Manics don’t mean as much to me now on a day to day basis. Estranged after a gig in 2005, I’ve only recently started buying their music again. But the old stuff still contains the components of a deadly time machine. It grabs me by the wrist and takes me back to a time when everything was black and white. When opinions were polarised between the good and the bad and there was no grey and no ugly. When I cried upon hearing the opening bars of Motorcycle Emptiness at my first gig in 2002. When my good friend Stephen Nicholas (MyRedAbyss) and I walked through London at 4am to join a queue to get tickets for an instore gig. Past the sleeping bags on the Tottenham Court Road.
These things need to have the kiss of life breathed into them every now and then. My love for the Manics could be on a life support machine but I’d never turn it off. Cobain’s beauty. Krist bouncing. Nicky’s star jumps. James’ rasp. These things keep you from being diluted down into something safe.
That first love is long gone. She’s married now, with a child and a happy life. And you’re happy for her and her partner and all the new friends they’ve made. But one day she’ll walk into your coffee shop and see you. And she’ll light up with recognition, and be friendly and polite and be blissfully unaware that she is destroying you from within, like the controlled demolition of tower blocks and chimneys imploding within their square foundations. There will be much nodding, a hug, your heartbeat thumping against her breast that you hope she doesn’t notice and yet hope she does. And then you’ll part. She will go back to her life, in wonder at what a small world this is. He will lick the wounds left by her arms, calm his organs down and remember that it can and will happen again. That today’s event is the future’s memory. That yesterday’s smile is the future’s serenity. That no event is singular, but echoed throughout life.
He will cling to this
He will cling to this.