While having managed my move, I am still trying to re-connect my life to England. Unwrapping pieces of memory has been part of establishing a new home in Berlin and caused some sentimental feelings. With a smile, however, I always look up to a small painting I bought on the Isles of Scilly I visited right before I left England and which casts back memories of an unbroken life on beaches I was walking on my own, collecting colourful shells, and singing songs by Soko and Pixies “I was swimming in the Caribbean”. Now, the painting has found a place on a Berlin shelf overlooking my new sunny home with view into a couple of trees that make me feel quite peaceful.
When yesterday, while browsing around in a vintage shop, I re-discovered the song Somebody that I used to know, I remembered that it is a long time, in fact a very long time ago that I suffered from someone, meaning that I was in love with someone.
I feel quite sentimental about my favourite London cinema, the Curzon Soho.
Several times in my life, whenever I had moved to a new city where I didn’t feel at home yet, I resorted to cinemas as safe places of which I knew how they worked and made me feel less strange. In London however and due to language issues, it took me months before I started watching films. Thus, it was rather a special event when I finally entered the Curzon’s largest room to watch a film in Australian English I hardly understood. Yet, this was the beginning of a cinema love. The Curzon didn’t just show ‘the good films’ but also conveyed the right atmosphere. There was the café in the ground floor offering rich cakes which one could eat while watching people out on Shaftesbury Avenue, and there was the cosy café in the first basement advertising the latest films released. There were film posters opposite the toilets in the second basement, The Class, Mad World, Lola rennt and there was a large poster in the box office of In the Mood for Love which is one of my favourites ever. The months before I left London, my cinema trips to the Curzon – now taking place in wintery afternoons – intensified in frequency but also depth of experience. Strangely, I most remember the film Another Earth, beautifully shot in white and blue colours; by no means a perfect film but it somehow hit my feeling of futility. It was right before Christmas and the air dark and sweet, the Curzon café offered ginger bread men and an advertising prior the film played the overly sugary songs by Lana del Rey. I already knew it would be my last Advent season in London and it felt warm and melancholic and still reluctant that it wouldn’t happen what was going to happen.
The Curzon’s website is still bookmarked in my laptop and every now and then, I return to it and get a longing to escape my current world to its basement and feel at home.
Last night I returned from Dresden to Berlin on a two hours bus ride. While watching the sunset after a thunderstorm, I was listening to Beth Gibbons’ Tom the Model which took me back to a sad night when I was waiting on Oxford Street for bus 98 to go home to Willesden Green, listening to the same song in infinite loop. Of all places I lived in London, the one in Willesden Green was the shabbiest one, shared with a gentle guy from South Africa who carried around this relaxed sunny beach feeling and his miserable, misanthropic friend with eyes that indicated that he would have better kept in a mental hospital. The house could only be accessed from the backside via a path that came close a refuse dump. After heavy rainfalls, a giant puddle arose in front of the door; usually it was of such depth that accessing the house became basically impossible unless a friendly person had put pieces of surrounded rubbish in the water on which one could jump from one to the next. The next door neighbours led an illegal brothel and it could happen that its punters helped you getting through the puddle. – And yet, while listening to Tom the Model, I realized how much London was a genuine home to me. There is a deep wound the city caused by not allowing me to stay and settle. This is what I will never forgive London: that, instead of welcoming me, it rejected me.
But never say good-bye. A while ago, I said good-bye to my favourite London musicians. However, everything comes back – in a new shape. I’ve always loved a particular song by the bearded singer with the cowboy hat whose warm voice sounded through the tunnels of the tube; recently I discovered it was a song by Jackson C. Frank, Carnival. So the song has returned to my world.
And this is how things meet in life. They are torn apart and yet connected through time. So I trust that London will come back in my life, in a different but nevertheless delightful shape.
I wish I could discover the awesomely raw music by Jackson C. Frank again and hear his song Marlene like I did the first time. The song seemed to come from the unknown, unfolding like a long ribbon. Although listening to it repeatedly, I could not remember the tune just the atmosphere. Someone has written about Marlene on Youtube I’m stunned. Blown away like you can only be when you discover beauty for the first time. The moment I realised that the song is not a about a love story but a trauma in which Frank nearly burned to death when being a child, now being haunted by the girl he liked back then but died in the same fire made me just cry.
When I first visited Germany after I had moved to London, I survived the tediousness of Bremen by singing the then recently discovered songs by The Libertines. I proudly went through the streets thinking that I had the London feeling in my head which wouldn’t leave me wherever I went. I cant’t tell how much I am hoping it will ever stay with me like a suitcase I carry with me through the world.
What power art thou, who from below
Hast made me rise unwillingly and slow
From beds of everlasting snow
See’st thou not how stiff and wondrous old
Far unfit to bear the bitter cold,
I can scarcely move or draw my breath
Let me, let me freeze again to death.
Klaus Nomi’s disturbing interpretation of Henry Purcell’s The Cold Song.
“There must be some kind of way out of here,” / Said the joker to the thief, / “There’s too much confusion, / I can’t get no relief. / Businessman they drink my wine, / Plowman dig my earth / None will level on the line, nobody offered his word, hey” / “No reason to get excited,” / The thief, he kindly spoke / “There are many here among us / Who feel that life is but a joke / But you and I, we’ve been through that / And this is not our fate / So let us not talk falsely now, the hour is getting late”. Jimi Hendrix: All Along The Watchtower
Good times for a change / See, the luck I’ve had / Can make a good man / Turn bad / So please please please / Let me, let me, let me /Let me get what I want /This time / Haven’t had a dream in a long time / See, the life I’ve had / Can make a good man bad / So for once in my life / Let me get what I want / Lord knows, it would be the first time / Lord knows, it would be the first time. The Smiths: Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want