Tuesday 7th February – Neal Casal – Leicester
Weird day. We weren’t sure until late if we were even going to go, and if we were going to go, how we would get there. But by late afternoon something resembling a plan had come together…
So there was my mother and I utterly overexcited and giggling like teenagers at Bedford Train Station. Mummy tried to use her student card, but apparently because she’s a ‘mature’ student she has to have a letter from her college, to prove she’s a student. The NUS loosing sway I guess. But the guy was really nice and let us buy both our tickets at a disabled passenger rate. Of course that prompted lots of jokes about her helping me and debating which one of us actually needed the most help. The word ‘spaz’ recklessly banded about, glowing with good humour and affection, as it frequently does between us.
Then as she floated off to get cash out the machine and pretend she can read the platform information screen and isn’t too blind, I wandered towards the barrier. Still laughing over something and not paying too much attention to my surroundings, I heard someone call my name.
I looked up and my best friend was stood there. Which shocked me rather a lot! He’s at university up in Sheffield, and I had only spoken to him the night before, and he hadn’t mentioned anything about being home.
He called my name again. He couldn’t believe I was there either. He had been at a funeral of a family friend. He was wearing a suit. He took me all up in his arms and we cuddled. We hadn’t seen each other for quite a while, and I’ve been going through a lot, and miss him being near.
It was such a shock to see him. It always throws me. I love him so much. And I hardly ever see him now. He is the most amazing person in the world. And my god does he look hot in a suit!!
But we were running late, and our train was pulling into the platform. We hardly had time to say anything. Held his hand briefly and hard, trying to convey it all, then ran for the train.
Sat there wishing I could have stayed or that I at least had my phone. I broke it at Christmas. I wanted to be able to tell him I loved him, and he looked fucking sexy!! Like I always do.
Excitedly I told my mum about him. All the stuff I’ve probably told her a hundred times before about him, and how amazing he is and how beautiful he’s become over the years. What an honour it’s been to watch him growing up, from a schoolboy to a young man.
Then somehow my mother and I got talking about how she and Daddy had got together. Though I’ve heard it before she told me the story, shining slightly that way that people always do when they speak about the moment they found love.
They had both been temping at an office in Croydon. My darling mama had somehow managed to cram up the shredder, and was working herself into a panic. At the sound of her worried squeaks a passing young man stuck his head around the door and asked ‘Are you a damsel in distress?’
Smooth talking fucker!! I could just picture it in my head, my mother all gorgeous and in outrageous stilettos striking a bimbo pose of panic next to this cranky old shredder, and my dad all long hair, sparkling blue eyes, and seventies cool dangling through the doorway, coming to her rescue.
In between managing to save her from destroying office property, and suggesting she stuff less in at a time he somehow won her over totally. Not long later he invited her to go to the last night of the proms with him and his friends. Funnily enough she agreed!
Her parents were not overly impressed with the idea of her going off to London with a BOY and refused to let her go. In an attempt to win them over however she suggested they meet him before hand.
This bit of the story had me in fits of giggles. The thoughts of my stern grandparents all protective of their precious daughter, and my dad turning up all long hair and a Nikon round his neck. Hehe!! Apparently my Granddad told him in no un-certain terms that he was a ‘Canon man’!
Of course wrapped in the flow of narration, I was panicking that their love would be thwarted by the archetypal evil parent!! But somehow she convinced them it would be ok and managed to go to this night at the proms. Cheers all round!!
So her him and a group of friends, some of which we still know and love very much went out to London. And in true romantic teenage boy style my dear Daddy took my mum out to Wimpy to eat!!!! Much giggling all round at that of course!!
So of course me being very much of the twenty-first century generation wanted to know when they started going out properly and kissed. But rather boringly they didn’t really. Mmm though I may be remembering that wrong, it’s been a long month between now and this night.
Basically they stayed friends because she was just about to leave to go to uni up in Glasgow. That, of course, made me think of Adam again, all the way away from me in Sheffield. I could relate. She came back to see him though, on the sleeper train. She told me how when she got to a station she used to hack and cough so people wouldn’t come in the carriage so she could have it to herself! So naughty!!
I asked her if she’d had a boyfriend at university. Rather cheekily thinking of all the fun I intend to have when I go. There had been one chap apparently called Derik, or something equally awful. I didn’t hear a lot about him because we were both giggling far too much about his name, in a rather juvenile fashion. I’m sure Derik was a lovely person, and it’s not that bad a name, but you have to admit at times it is rather easy to giggle at!
Though I must admit I got the impression he was a bit of a twit and it didn’t go far or last long. The fact her little heart was already taken by a gorgeous boy with long hair down in Croydon was a rather major factor too I think.
Still laughing we arrived in Leicester and wandered off the train. My head went a bit scattered at this point. My friend Nic lives in this town, and every time I’ve come here has been to see him.
Nic…humm where to start? This is not the place to even try to begin explaining him and everything he is to me. But to cut a VERY long story short he has changed my life utterly, and stood beside me and held my heart and my soul together over the last year, as I’ve gone on a long hard journey to find the person I used to be before I fell in love.
Walking out my head was expecting him to be there. All languid and cool. Baggy jeans and an Oakley t-shirt. Reserved and controlled. Me over excited, hugging him and doing my standard response of ‘holy fuck I forget how insanely tall you are!’
But he wasn’t. Walking out the station it got worse, as my mind went into automatic ‘wander down to get the bus to his’ mode. When actually it was a case of waiting for my dad to pick us up.
Sure enough he arrived in his (well Mummy’s) shiny silver Landrover, to rescue his damsels from the distressing cold of a Leicester street.
So to the gig. Mavis the ravis the crimplene queen. Otherwise known as smart nav, did her smart nav thing and directed across the stupid one way system of doom, down a dark dark street (where skeletons lived) to a funky little place called the Musicians Pub. We were a little early so sat outside and waited for a while, before heading in.
We were still a bit early and ended up waiting in the corridor. My mother eyed up the Neal Casal poster on the wall, debating whether she should acquire it now or after the show. For once she decided to be good and leave it on the wall. But we had a good reminisce about the more amusing things we’ve ended up with mysteriously in our possession over the years, such as the ‘Marillion- Dressing room’ sign.
The chap on the door. Oh my god! The guy on the door!! This is the start of what has fast become a standing joke between my mother and me. This delightful gentleman had to take our money and draw a tally on his piece of paper to count everyone in.
Three attempts later of explaining how much money we had given him, how much change he had to give us and nearly five minutes of getting him to draw a third tally on his piece of paper, we finally made it through the door!
We went straight to the front. There were tables and chairs, it really sweet and we all thought it was frightfully civilised to be sat down! Much more used to dying of spiky heel induced diseases after standing for hours at gigs I think! Daddy wandered off to the bar, and came back quite a while later.
When he did come back he told us he had gone back to the chap on the door, who was also in charge of selling CD’s and asked him if he could buy a copy of the new single. Only to be informed very seriously that he couldn’t sell the CD’s at the moment because he was cleaning the table.
Now this is the point where my narration falls down a little, and I think the ensuing hilarity will be slightly lost because you cannot see exactly what I mean. But as my dad told us this story of how this chap cleaned the table he did a demonstration on the surface of our table.
Imagine if you can, someone very stupid, concentrating VERY hard and staring intently as they slowly wipe in tiny neat little circles. And your dad doing an exaggerated and amusing impression of it! Which my mother and I echoed as we giggled hysterically.
Right gig time (finally you are thinking!) Must all be quiet and serious…
The first support act came on stage. A gentle unassuming man called Kreg Viesselman. He sang beautiful sad songs that made your heart ache and your soul want to wander round the deep country south of the good old US of A. I had no real connection to anything he sang about, yet was moved by the beauty and simplicity of his work. And as if that wasn’t enough he had one of the most gorgeous little acoustic guitars I’ve ever seen, with this pretty mother of pearl inlay dancing across it. A very talented gentleman, my recognition of him here, is but a trifle of what he deserves.
Unfortunately his set was a little marred by a technical problem that in his words ‘sounded like a mouse was chewing his cable’ – this becomes relevant later on!
The second support (ooo weren’t we spoilt?!) Danny George Wilson, of Grand Drive. Mmm. Wasn’t too convinced. He kept singing in a false American accent which annoyed me. And sang songs about his exploits as a young lad, which made him sound like some sort of nasty common little boy racer. Only he didn’t have the image to fit, largely because he was singing folk songs, wearing a check shirt and was a bit tubby!
I get cranky when people don’t fit their nice stereotypes. Rude-boy racers should live in Kappa shell-suits and only shout words along to scratched up discs spinning in the back of over decorated Novas, with stereo systems bigger than their engines. So I rather rapidly came to the conclusion he had actually been the really annoying tag-along brother, who had horribly embarrassed his ‘cool’ older brother for years!
But then he sang a track that he and his brother had written called ‘Track 40’ and I forgave him it all. It was basically a story about him and his brother as kids out playing on their BMX bikes. (BMX hehe how 80’s!) Setting fire to stuff, getting into mischief and wild adventures. You could just see in his eyes the races they had had back in the day, him covered in mud and scrapes on top of some hill holding up the ultimate BMX champions cup having come to a screaming win on the dirt track and then of course the obligatory mad run home in time for tea at the end of the day!
Having recently returned home after six years of being away I could relate. I grew up running around the woods in my garden. Slaying dragons, building bases, climbing trees and being gone on wild adventures for years (otherwise know as hours) at a time saving my kingdom. And now six years on I have come back to my woods, and they all seem small. Trees that scaled into the sky I can scrabble up in seconds, hell my legs are the height of branches that used to be miles off the ground. The furthest edges of the woods that seemed SO far from home and full of danger are now actually just two minutes from the house. And it doesn’t look the same. There is some depth and some richness that has leaked away while I’ve been gone.
So having gone through all the songs of the first guy that made me feel quite melancholy and on an evening where many things seemed to fill my head this song got to me. Just that tightening in the throat and the slight sting at the eyes. Not quite tears.
Break between artists. Some diligent table cleaning hehehe and then all seriousness as a very unassuming Neal Casal wandered onto the stage.
Believe me from the first note to the last ‘blown away’ does not come close. This boy is so unbelievably gifted. Every single word sliding across the heart like silk, every last note perfect un-wasted and accentuating.
Like I said I had literally only heard about two tracks by this young man before I came to his gig. And it is VERY unlike to me to have even gone. But I felt like my little heart had known every single one of these songs even though I’d never heard them before. Just so perfect and beautiful almost like Beatles tracks, where you swear you’ve known them all forever.
There was so much going through my mind. I am in the middle of what could be considered something of a massive life upheaval at the moment. And everything he sang seemed to echo within me and find some resonance of sadness and memory.
So many memories of the last six years in my head.
Meeting Bryan, falling in love, and then it all sliding apart. Being home.
Flashes of the wedding. The woods. Adam. Nic. Dan. Being in love. Selfish anorexic bitch. Jonathan.
Being home. New life.
Jake, my baby Jake so far away. The memory of how is fur feels in my hands, his teeth biting my ankles, the tug of him playing with the bottom of my jeans. The way he looks as he runs across grass. The feel of his long spaniel ears all squashed against the side of my face when I cuddle him. The way he looked the day I brought him home. The feel of his fat little puppy tummy when he slept. The feel of his claws against my arms when I have him pinned on the lounge floor and the grin he gets on his face. The sounds he makes, all mock death but always far too cute to ever be convincing! And him so far away. Me missing out on his life.
Gabriel and Jessica. Gabriel and Jessica. Gabriel and Jessica.
Being scared of cf. Doesn’t happen often. But six years have gone by, and I’ve come home, and I’ve realised quite how serious it is. I didn’t notice all that lung function sliding away from me. But now I’m back in the room I left when I was fourteen and I can feel it. I can see how far I’ve fallen into this stupid stupid genetic fault.
The wedding. White gold. Sat at the coffee table. It’s over. It’s over. Stood at the top of the stairs. Taking my ring off. Knowing at the time the moment would hurt me over and over again. Here it was. 10th October. It’s over. It’s over.
Phone call sat in Oxford. Decide. Jonathan holding my hand. Decided. Always comes back to fucking Jonathan doesn’t it. Never did. EQ came first. He never came at all. New years eve 2005. Decided. White gold. Prefect flawed paradox. Grooved down the inside. Flawed. White gold. For the land. Sonnet 73.
Sonnet 73. Came true. It came true. The wedding. There is so much love in this room. So much love in this room. So much love.
Nic. Adam. Dan. The woods being too small.
‘Have you seen Shellie and Crispin?’ ‘They are over by the bar’ – the start of it. The moment I fell asleep six years before. Six years that passed like a dream. Running out of time. So much I have to become. SO fucking ill. No time. No time. SO fucking ill. So much to become.
‘I’ve got more dreams than I can take, at one time’ The single line that convinced me to come to this gig at all. Sung more beautifully than I could have thought possible. Full of every thing it was meant to be filled with.
I came out of my head; my face was streaked in tears. I looked across the table. Both my parents were crying too. Some music just does this to people I guess. So many dreams. Sunk back into it.
‘I can’t wait to be Mrs Fernandez’ laid in the dark. Rain against the window. ‘Will you do me the honour of being my wife’ on his knees in our too pink lounge. ‘Can we sing? Are we allowed to sing?’ ‘It’s OUR first dance, of course we can sing’. Only us in the whole wide universe. Whole wide multiverse.
Sat at the top of the horrid yellow stairs. Looking at the crack down the wall that is there. ‘It’s just a mask, you’re the only person that’s ever seen the real me’ Looking at the crack. Thinking. Oh dear God. I don’t like the real you. I don’t like the real you. Oh Dear God. ‘I could just lie there and let you rape me’. Took him up on that. Selfish anorexic bitch. Coffee table. White gold. Too much love. Too much love.
Stuff this polite emaily bollocks what’s your addy? Hey hows moo? If moo is me I’m fine. Does he even know how much he’s changed in my world? How could I have never done this if he hadn’t reminded me who I am? Thank you. I must tell him. Thank you Nic.
Transitional phases are always the hardest. Transitional. I feel like the word shatter. I want to be with someone. I want to be with someone. YOU CAN’T FEEL LIKE A WORD. Sleeping in this bed is like a fucking lie. Climbing the walls. Aww honey you sound like you’re in so much pain. Shattered. YOU CAN’T FEEL LIKE A WORD. You make me feel like that. Swung it round blazed size 24pt text across the screen. This is how I feel. I feel like the word shatter. Like the sound of water run around the edge of a glass. That sound of loneful mourning and screaming. Tension held. Because of you I’m holding it in. So I can stay here I’m holding it in. I feel like I’m going to break. This is a marriage. This is a marriage. Can’t give up on a marriage. I did. I did. Now the ring is just a band of gold. Shattered.
If I can find a way back to you I will. If. I won’t ever leave you I promise. Don’t be afraid I won’t ever leave. You have to make a decision. Decide. Decided. It’s been great. Tell the fucking truth. Ok so it’s not all been great but I’m trying to take the positive. For now and forever.
A last wander round my lovely three bedroom house that I was supposed to have a marriage in. Holding Jake’s blanket to my face trying to commit the smell of dog and earth and love into my mind. Staring in his room. Looking at the bed I lost my virginity in. That I cried myself to sleep in alone again and again and again. Running my hand over the dining table. Along the fireplace, gently stroking my fingers down the green dragon that sits on it. Thinking this is the last time I will do this while this house is mine. Once I walk out that door. All this life will be over. Feeling the odd sensation in my soul as it detached itself from a life I thought I’d have. Shutting the blue door. Jake’s toy chewed and tatty in my hand. If I can find a way back. I need a decision. Decide. Decided. No way back.
Ever Quest? Ever Quest? Ever Quest?
The last song ended. I sat shell shocked. Never been to a gig that’s dragged up so much. Not even Marillion. Technically I hate crying in public. But there I was my throat hurting, my heart fluttering, and my eyes all puffy and horrid. With that funny feeling all in my head that you get when you’ve cried lots. It had been such a casual trip up. Giggling and silliness with my mother. Neal politely thanked his audience. And said thank you to some people who I assume were the crew at the venue. But the way he did it, he said a list of names and then slightly separately said thank you Bob.
Recovered from my crying fest, I looked at my mum grinning. And said that I would bet anything the guy cleaning the table was called Bob!! Giggling she agreed, and so it stuck.
Then just to make it all more silly I asked her if she’d ever read ‘Of Mice and Men’ and she had. For those of you that haven’t there is a character called Lenny. He’s very simple but very big and insanely strong. And there is this one incident where he has a pet mouse, but because he cuddles it too hard he manages to squish the poor thing. So I joked that perhaps the mouse at the start in Kreg’s guitar cable maybe in fact belonged to Bob. And so the tale of Bob and the mouse began. Was to become something of a reoccurring theme across the tour.
So I did an impression of Bob cleaning the table, and then stroking his pet mouse, and then squishing it doing squeaking noises. Hehehe! Well it was funny at the time ok, I think it helped that my Dad was rolling his eyes at us by now for being silly!!
Somehow in this recount there seems to be a very strange jar between the insanely emotional music bits, and all the silliness that surrounded it. But trust me it all flowed at the time.
Then Neal came out, was stood chatting to some girls at the side of the room. My mother decided that she would have to steal the set list. I told her not to!! But she snuck up onto the stage anyway and took it, as I stood there cringing!!
On the way past Neal my parents said a quick hello to him. He recognised them from last time he had been in the UK which was sweet. I just squeezed his hand and said thank you and that it had been really beautiful.
Then back into the car. On IV’s. Fun. So made my dad wait until I had all of the drugs drawn up. I can give them in a moving car, but don’t really want to have to fiddle about with all the needles poking them in and out the bottles at speed is just not a good plan. About five/ ten minutes later I was set to go. Drip bag hung off the side of the car. You know on those useless hooks on the useless handle bars above the passenger seats. Well I’ve found a use for them J giving colomycin at eleven at night as you drive home from Leicester.
Only because my stomach was throwing a hissy fit (because the failing lungs are clearly not enough fun) there was too much pressure in my system for the small height I had the drip bag at to work. So I had to sit there and slowly squeeze the bag and push it through.
Believe me colomycin is enough of a bitch, and makes you feel like crap even when you can just hook it up and try to ignore it going through. Let alone when you have to sit there and watch every last drip of it go through, just so you can make sure it doesn’t go in too fast or too slow, and checking that you don’t get blood back flowing into the line. Psychosomatic I know, but it makes me feel SO much worse if I have to think about what it is I am actually doing to keep myself alive. It’s much less painful and less sick making when I can just get on with it mindlessly.
And somewhere on the way back, half falling asleep, half trying not to just puke everywhere I decided that it would be really cool to write to Neal and say thank you for such an utterly amazing gig. I actually felt that moved by what he had sung. Besides writing in my head helped get me home.
So when I got in, despite it being about two in the morning I got out some paper and sat at my desk in my room and wrote to him. Not a long letter. Just a thank you. Maybe the first thank you letter I’ve ever written without being under sufferance hehe!
Then collapse into bed!! EEEeeeek! Had to be up to do my IV’s at 7 in the morning…fun stuff.
Ah well not a bad way to kick off the acoustic Neal Casal Tour of 2006.