This post feels extremely bloated. I apologise for the lack of editing and for the self-indulgence.
Today, 5th June 2014, would have been my tenth wedding anniversary. In previous years these milestones have left me a bit wobbly but today, expecting trouble, I felt curiously okay. Divorce can be the emotional equivalent of having the shit kicked out of you and being left in an alleyway that stinks of piss. Eventually you stagger up and get back on your feet but your faith in people and your experience of the world is altered forever.
Three years ago, on the date of my seventh wedding anniversary – an actual anniversary in that case, since I was still going through the divorce process at that point – someone made me a mixtape. It was a lovely act of thoughtfulness and kindness at a time when I was struggling to keep myself afloat. After losing my home and my marriage, the tories decided I needed to lose my job as well and my mind hummed with the constant buzz of anxiety. A few months before, I had spent two hours sat in the Samaritans office, uncertain of how I could continue to put one foot in front of the other. Barely eating and resorting to self harm, I clung to any sign of hope that life could be okay again.
The majority of the songs on the mixtape were new to me but many of them seemed to have been written just for me in that way that good songs often do. I’ve listed them in a random order below. You may well be familiar with many of them but to me most of them came from this new world that I was just starting to navigate. In 1996 I was buying an album a week but after that – pretty much around the time I met the man I married – my collection had stalled and I’d been living in this curious world where I’d occasionally buy a CD to use as background music for a dinner that was punctuated by conversations about house prices and pensions. 1996-me would have been utterly perplexed by what I’d become. I remember how excited I felt when earlier in 2011, a man from Cleveland asked me what my Top 5 Singles of All Time were. It had been so long since anyone had cared about my opinion on music and I’d somehow managed to spend over a decade of my life with a man who didn’t know who Johnny Marr was.
Anyway, that mixtape in full (random order):
This Year – The Mountain Goats
Don’t Look At Me (I Don’t Like It) – The Lovely Eggs
Strange Fruit For David – The Wave Pictures
Eighties Fan – Camera Obscura
The Fear – Pulp
Never Here – Elastica
Roseability – Idlewild
Painting And Kissing – Hefner
I Lost You But I Found Country Music – ballboy
When Under Ether – PJ Harvey
Up Jumped The Devil – Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds
Lua – Bright Eyes
Come On Let’s Go – Broadcast
Roll Bus Roll – Jeffrey Lewis And The Junkyard
Bled White – Elliott Smith
If you’ve mainly been listening to background music for nearly a decade then hearing The Lovely Eggs for the first time is quite an experience! Pulp’s The Fear and Elastica’s Never Here seemed to want to remind me of the reality of what I had lost rather than the fantasy of married life that my brain had concocted up, while the refrain of This Year contained a kernel of hope that things could be enjoyed whilst also being endured. Eighties Fan’s mix of melancholia and longing for love seemed pitch perfect for the time. Strange Fruit For David with its lines about marmalade and sculpture seemed to reference Baudrillard or at least reflected the new ideas and ways of thinking that I was being introduced to. Lua called to mind a time where just seeing the word “Grimsby” on the BBC weather map could reduce me to tears (now it just makes me smile). Painting and Kissing and I Lost You But I Found Country Music both feel eerily prophetic. Roll Bus Roll became a gentle call to action.
Six months after receiving the mixtape, I was getting ready to move to Sheffield. I sometimes think that playing that mixtape must have been some sort of Indiepop Bat Signal to the North.
The last couple of years in Sheffield have been fucking ace. Not without challenges – there’s nothing like three years of living alone to make you acutely aware of your own demons and peccadillos – but in the main they’ve been fucking ace. In two years I’ve gone to more gigs that I’d gone to in the previous twenty years combined. I’ve played at drunken Indiepop singalongs in pubs. I’ve danced at the best sticky disco in town*. I don’t want to think of an existence where I’d never seen The Sweet Nothings or The Mini Skips or Velodrome 2000. Or danced in my kitchen to Town Bike and Lardpony. And the thought of never having heard of Indietracks just breaks my heart. In short, 1996-me would approve.
Some people stagger out of the piss-filled alleyway of divorce. I’m slowly dancing my way out of it with sparkly trainers on my feet. I’ve stumbled and I’ve accidentally trodden on toes in the process but I’ve done my best to keep on moving because that’s all I can do.
I’ve long since lost my belief in a god – another casualty of 2010, I’m afraid – but twenty years of Anglicanism has a habit of sticking in your head. I’m reminded that Ecclesiastes tells us that there is a time to mourn and a time to dance. Or was it The Byrds? Either way, from now on I won’t be thinking of the 5th of June as the wedding anniversary of a failed marriage. I’ll be remembering it as the date that I first heard the mixtape that led me to Indiepop.
*yeah, this is probably a euphemism.