Beetroot, Dancing, & Hitler

One of the things in this crazy old life is that you never can tell when you’re going to come face to face with a Nazi hoard. I was round a mate’s house for supper and she was baking beetroots from scratch for a puy lentil salad. Yes that’s right. I do health now. But I put cheese on almost all of it.
We’d been having a Michael Jackson dance off with her son on the kitchen tiles and I’d come the closest I’ve ever come to doing the moonwalk. Which was about as close as the moon actually is to my feet. So still quite far but not as far as, say, Mars. Or Uranus. Never has there been a more felicitous way to kill time before the beetroot’s done. Four women attempting the moonwalk arm-in-arm while a seven year old watches shaking his head. (He can do the moonwalk easily, see. Maybe it’s just something some people are born with. Like a full head of hair, or six toes.)
It was a long-awaited girly catch-up night and we’d been dashing from topic to topic like dragonflies, skimming lightly across the tops before moving on to the next thing. Work, love, food, romance, garden furniture, T K Maxx. 
There was a natural lull.
“Ooh! Do you want a glimpse into my dark past?” My friend and host suddenly offered out of nowhere.

“Er. YES!” We shrilled back as she dashed out of the room.
She returned moments later with an old biscuit tin. She laid it on the table, and opened it up. It was packed to bursting with old cigarette cards of movie stars from the 1930s. Gold embossed things little bigger than the face of a matchbox. The colours were turned up to technicolour, vibrant emerald greens and corals and peacock blues, eyes blackened, vermilion lips, coquettish little smiles and beaming gleams of white teeth. Some character types in big quirky costumes, with knowing looks as if that was what had made them famous enough to be on a cigarette card and they were damn well going to keep wearing it. Most of them were strange names we’d never heard of. Mostly Germans, though some were your usual suspects. Gable. Dietrich. Garbo. You know the types. And, oh, was that…Hitler? Yes. That looked a bit like Hitler.
Then she pulled out the piece de resistance. An album of photos once owned by her German grandmother. From 1933. “Aw!”, we all cooed. Then she went to the page she had been meaning to show us. And there was a Nazi rally. Hundreds of German soldiers lined up in a great expanse of concrete doing the famous salute under billowing flags. Under the photo was written in a cute old-fashioned hand – ‘Heil Hitler’.
We all went a bit quiet. I think the sight of a swastika will always cause a chill in the blood for years to come til this small phase of history is as obscure as Ghengis Khan or the Egyptians – if humans make it that far – but you’re usually used to seeing it in books and documentaries, not in an old biscuit tin on your mate’s kitchen table. I pointed out that the album was from 1933 and that Hitler had not perpetrated any of the world-changing havoc and cruelty at that point and had been seemingly the one who would save Germany. He had been…a hero. He had been Hope.
We went back to the cigarette cards and soon began chatting about something else. 
Would I keep souvenirs of a terrible part of history, or would I throw them out in disgust, as though there is a dark complicity in the keeping of things. But sometimes it’s the tangible items from the past that make us think. Sometimes a biscuit tin in the attic wields more power than a lesson.
And it just goes to prove that you can never tell where an evening will go. Conversation moves on. The world moves on.



Post Festival Blues

So I’ve got post festival blues like you wouldn’t believe. I’m sloping around at home, leaving a trail of woe like a hormonal slug. The dog is staring at me balefully from the sofa, wondering what happened to his mummy, and I have no answers for him, just an intermittent stream of sighs into his soft ears. If you collected all the sighs that have ever been exhaled chestily in every period costume drama that’s ever been made and played them all in a row, you would pretty much be in my lounge with me right now. My dog would probably give you a ‘get me out of here’ look. I’d let you take him. I’m not cruel. 

I suppose it’s just your usual comedown stuff. No biggie. But it feels bigger when you’re in it, doesn’t it? Like you’re stuck in an opaque orb of emotion that you will never emerge from. Will you ever see the same world again? Is it all changed forever? It’s the same kind of potent comedown you can get from an amazing holiday or strange head-flipping experience, like an evening of talk with people who light your brain up like fireworks. The dancing rushes of adrenalin, oxytocin, and serotonin, all the madcap science that makes it worth being alive. I’ve just had a whole month of that. The ‘break’ away, the fun, the booze, the people, the brain-lighting, the chemicals of being human. I’m not ready to let it go, to subside, to settle. I’m mourning it.


Don’t get me wrong – I do feel suitably pathetic and am laughing at myself at the same time. I am not so self-indulgent as to be gracing this mess with the romantic glow of actual tragedy. Life is not one long festival, I do know that. I’m not a moron. But also – I am a moron. Half an hour ago I tried to tell myself that a month in Edinburgh had managed to wrest from me the same emotional response as leaving my high school after seven years. One month does not equal seven years. It doesn’t. And yet, today, it does.


I miss my friends.


They were the important part. I lay on squishy sofas in bars with some of my dearest friends, some of whom I hardly ever get to see, and there we all were together. And there I was, watching them all meeting and getting on like a house on fire, with so much love in my heart I don’t know how I didn’t shatter the optics with telekinetic energy.


We were all fun and vulnerable together. We were Funerable. That’s it. We were all there, being vulnerable together, talking, being honest and real and broken and silly, laughing like drains, and crying and hugging, and now we are apart, and we will never convene in quite the same way again. We will all change and have new stories to tell and won’t be in the same bars at the same time in the same combination with the same feelings in our hearts. That was that time, our time.


Everything is ultimately about the people, isn’t it? It’s not really the place, or the play, or the bits that go into the writing of the play, or the reception of the play, or even the feeling of success that can come from doing a play well, it’s the people. Your ego is there, but it’s not there for you. People are. That’s what it’s about, and that’s why it hurts when things come to an end.


And I’m no good at ends. At goodbyes. If I have a recurring theme in anything I ever write, it is probably that. Well, that, dads, suicide, and being a general twit in life. You’re all probably terribly bored of me. I’ll write about something new next week, I promise. But in the meantime I’m a twit huffing about in my pyjamas and I miss my friends. Give us a cuddle.