Sunday, 20 September 2009

The light that dances.

My very first encounter - of several - with what I propose to call 'angels' occured in the early 1990s. There were no wings, no trumpets, no heavenly bodies. But it was an event so heavily laden with symbolism, metaphor, the metaphysical and the spiritual that it changed my life irrevocably. For the better? I really don't know... but here's hoping. I find it hard to talk about it with any certainty, other than to say that it happened in a timely fashion and solved a very particular, rather serious dilemma for me at the time. So thanks for that!

It's much easier to tell my second angel story. This was the most spectacular one, anyway: it makes for a better tale.

I was sat at home in Mellon Street, Newport, reading the book 'Ask Your Angels' by Alma Daniel. It could be argued that I was asking for it. I looked up from my book and - KAZAM! - there in front of me, hovering like an air hockey puck hovers above an air hockey board, was a button-mushroom-sized ball of golden yellow light. It was the colour of a Crunchie wrapper and floating with aerodynamic perfection. I gasped and smiled, and it swept this way and that, teasing me with its agility before sweeping around the back of my head, back around to the front of my face, then out of the living room via the closed window.

It was like having a super-agile firefly in the room. The warmth and colour of that ball of light was tangible, but not oppressive or too bright. It looked a little like Jupiter does through a medium-sized telescope. It was accompanied by a strong feeling of 'fun'. Whatever that light was, it was playing with me and I was being gently teased. It's kind of like it saw the book I was reading and decided to give me a playful poke in the ribs.

I was impressed, of course, and I think I was lucky. Not even my closest friends know this bit, but shortly after this event I appeared on a chatshow with Alma Daniel - the author of the book I was reading. We both discussed our experiences, and Alma concluded by saying that she had 'kind of moved on' from the whole angel thing. It was like the angels had made their point by making their presence known. And now it was time for them to move on.

That's kind of how I feel, too. I'll try to explain this a little better in a future 'Letter from Claptonia'.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

The two Isabellas

I've just come from a great weekend away with the whole family. Everyone: no apologies for absence tendered at all. The occasion was my niece Laura's wedding. It was a splendid, romantic, fun, inventive affair in a rural country house location. It was unusual - a themed wedding, based around the V Festival where my new nephew-in-law Scott proposed to Laura and she said 'a'ite'.

It was a wonderfully sunny Sunday: a chance to catch up with everybody in a spectacular location - to take new photographs, to be photographed, to re-affirm the bond that we all enjoy as a family unit. I'm very lucky to be part of a clan that is close, and seemingly getting ever closer with time.

Among the guests was the newest member of my family, Isabella. She's a darling little 16-month old - so full of the excitement that new life brings. She walks very well, grabs things, watches, learns and absorbs everything within her grasp. She's been blessed with her parents' great looks and her face exudes the hope of a future that will stretch beyond mine. It's almost - almost - possible to catch a glimpse of the future and envisage her as a stunning half-Sicilian, half-Devonian grown-up. And that's unusual for babies. Usually they all look like Winston Churchill...

A day earlier, I took a drive ten miles out of town to a tiny hamlet called Clyst Hydon in search of another Isabella and another wedding. It took a little while to find a villager who could direct me to the tiny off-road church where Isabella Maeer married William Newton, 111 years ago today. Happy anniversary!

Isabella was 28 when she took the hand of William, a groom gardener three years her junior, on September 8, 1898. I had their wedding certificate in my hand as I snooped around the churchyard. As luck would have it, the church warden was stood under the eaves of the church door with his alsatian, taking a break from lawnmowing duties. "My great grandparents were married here," I blurted out. He let me inside to have a look around. I stood at the same altar where Isabella and William exchanged their vows; the start of a union that would lead to my grandfather, my mother, my sister, my niece and ultimately to another Isabella five generations and 111 years down the line.

I found out that the couple came from Aunk, a very tiny community a mile away from the church. Aunk consists of just three or four cottages, a farm and a sprawling manor house estate. My great grandparents could have come from any of those. Perhaps William married the archetypal girl next door? Maybe they both worked at the manor house? I had a look through the imposing railings at the entrance gate and wondered.

A day later I was in another manor house at the opposite end of South Devon, enjoying Laura's fantastic wedding feast and watching baby Isabella toddle about. The day was quite rightly all about Laura and Scott's future together, but as Iwatched Isabella I found myself thinking about the deep past too - and her great great great grandmother with the same first name.

So on this very special 111th wedding anniversary, I propose a toast. To the future! To the past! To the two Isabellas!

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Remembering Jon Eydmann

There will doubtless be many people far better qualified to pay tribute to Jon Eydmann. But that's not going to stop me devoting a little 'Letter from Claptonia' to his memory.

Jon was born four years and two days behind me, and I first came across him some 28 or 29 years into my life. By then, he had already managed Suede and Spitfire and had moved into a life of A&R-ing at Fire records in London.

I was in Wales and I had my rather grim day job as a journo to occupy me, as well as my shadowy second life as a fanzine writer. I had to keep the two apart - as much as I could, anyway. The paper I worked for was not keen on its staff engaging in forms of expression that it could not profit from. But, looking at it from the other side, the office did have a photocopier, a stapler and a telephone. I was able to make my little desk a base for some pretty effective fanzine operations. The photocopier took a right hammering.

Into my life came Jon, with record upon record of great stuff for me to review. There was some seriously dodgy stuff too, of course. The funny old mid-90s. In there somewhere would have been the occasional call to interview some of Fire's roster. Gigolo Aunts got a cover piece in my zine (it was called 'Frug!' by the way), and there must have been more that I can't quite remember. I do remember Jon badgering me to interview a band called Supermodel. I did it - but I can't remember if I ran it or not.

Then local band Novocaine signed to Fire, and things started to get more interesting. Their guitarist, Richard Jackson, shared my house with me and the 'phone calls and contact with Jon hotted up a fair bit. I remember him coming to Newport a few times on Novocaine business, or perhaps to check out other bands in the (hey) New Seattle, and somewhere in my fading memory is an image of Jon walking down the street with a ridiculously over-sized parka on - hood up, an' all. I also remember sharing many beers with him at a number of gigs and festivals. He was one of those people who would always be around. And he'd always be fun to be with.

One time, Jon suggested that my fanzine and his label should hook up on a joint release. A 7" single that could be given away with the 'zine. Great idea! The deal was that I would chip in £100 towards the mastering and pressing, Fire would take care of the business and pay for the rest. It was a good deal for me. I got to choose the tracks...

"Play the CD and just pick your favourites and we'll go with that," said Jon at the time. And so 'Frug on Fire' was born - a shiny black piece of 7" wide circular plastic with Everclear on one side, Fitz Of Depression on the other. It went down well and that particular issue of Frug! in 1994 or 1995 or something, with 60ft Dolls on the cover, sold quicker than my pirated work photocopier could bash it out.

The day the singles arrived in a big box at my house, I called Jon to say thanks and to confirm delivery. "Had a good look at it have you?" he asked. "Yep. Looks great. Just playing it now. Sounds good, Jon!"

"Have a good look at it," he said. And was gone.

When the record had finished playing, I plucked it from the turntable and examined the run-out grooves. In the window light I picked out the words, etched onto each side of the 500 singles. It was a message from Jon. "To The Bard", it said on one side. And on the other: "Don't forget the hundred quid mate!"

I notice from his Facebook page that Jon was planning on seeing The Joy Formidable at the Garage in London in a couple of weeks. If he hadn't died in an accident on holiday in Italy this week, I would have seen him there and, doubtless, we would have clinked glasses at some point. We might not have remembered much about each other, but that Everclear/Fitz of Depression single would surely have come up in conversation. Ironically, I've got one on eBay at the moment. A little piece of Jon that will somehow fling itself to some afficionado or other of mid-90s alternative rock music. Hopefully it will find a good home, somewhere in the world.

I've got a copy for myself still, Jon. And you got my hundred quid eventually, didn't you?

God bless.