This morning I wake to the sound of rain pattering on the roof above me and a drowned, grey cityscape stretching out below the high attic-room window. Wrapped up in this cosy world I can drift in and out of sleep until the need for coffee and poached eggs overrides the pleasure of just being.
In two weeks time I’ll be waking in a strange room in Ipswich and setting off to a rehearsal studio to be reunited with Nick, Neil and Steve and to begin an intensive day of laughing at each other’s hair, arguing about who’s turn it is to make tea, playing some music, trying to ignore the regular clicking of a shutter and clock watching. Then JP will arrive in Margaret, a very beautiful and somewhat retro cream and green van, to take us to a deconsecrated church where we will play our first gig in 22 years.
Lying in the steel-city light provides a rare moment of tranquillity in what has become an intense rush of emotion. It’s easy to behave like an over-stimulated child at times, feeling suddenly exhausted, tearful and with a craving for sugar, but for now I can float on a slick sea of rooftops safely distant from the rocks that might wreck me.
It won’t only be the boys that I’ll soon be reunited with; friends are travelling from all points to witness this event. I’m not sure how overwhelming this will be, though it’s guaranteed to be a strange and affecting evening. Although I only lived in Ipswich for six years I found a happy tribe to join and, despite some frustrations, had some great experiences there. I’ve been a bit of a nomad all my life, but this strangely-planned, slightly belligerent town was a good home to me for a while. Amongst the friends in the audience there will be many faces from gigs, nights in the pub and park take-overs all those years ago; will they have changed so much that I won’t recognise them? The punks, crusties and hippies of the late ‘80s must look very different now; how has parenthood, the homogenisation of popular culture and the tyranny of the mortgage altered them?
Talking to my mum about the reunion has been an eye-opener. It’s easy to think that our experiences have limited impact on those around us, but the difference that the band made to my parents’ lives was huge. How else would a couple in their 50s find themselves backstage at Newcastle Mayfair, chatting to a band enjoying chart success whilst teenage fans screamed from the other side of the curtain? My mum recalls Mark Gardener from Ride telling her how he was finding his sudden fame. I recall my dad taking the last bottle of beer at the after show party because “the boys had had quite enough so he was doing them a favour”.
I tell my son that he’ll be coming to watch me do “what I used to do”, though of course, he’s actually seeing me do something in real time. This is not an archived video. Anyone can see what we used to do any time. It’s there for you, on YouTube. What we’ll be doing in a fortnight is very different. It’s not old; it’s as new as it can be, having been pulled together that very day.
We have agreed our set list, to include a song written at the end of our time together and never performed live. I’m not sure how it will sound, but I trust our collective will to make it work. We all have ambitious plans to make this special. The name of the song? It’s called If We Are Dead. The irony is not lost on any of us.