Thursday, December 04, 2008

Of rats and rock stars

I was stashing my plumbing stuff in the shed on Monday afternoon when M came out to empty the mixing bowl of compostables into the compost bin. He took the lid off the bin and then yelped. He yelps rather fetchingly, but it's always hard to tell whether it's something serious (eg he's fallen off a ladder while holding the electric hedge trimmer) or not (eg there's an episode of The Simpsons on that he hasn't seen yet).

It was a rat, rapidly disappearing into the cabbage leaves and coffee grounds. And no, we have never added any meat, fish, bread, or cooked food to the compost, nor, for the last couple of years, any egg shells. And still we are infested. I blame the cold. And the students. Most things are their fault.

Our local council offer a free rat management service (which gives you an idea of the extent of the rat issue in these parts) so, after a little vegetarian soul searching, I booked a visit from the rat man. Those who have already met him claim he is exactly what you would expect -- "there's something medieval about him" -- so I'm kind of looking forward to it in a life's rich tapestry sort of way. But also oppressed by having vermin to deal with as well as a leaky roof and a global recession. No fair.

And it's absolutely freezing, and I've got a cold coming on, so the next day I was beginning to wish I *hadn't* agreed to go all the way to sodding Birmingham to see Jarvis Cocker on a school night. I just wanted to stay in with a hot water bottle and a good book and forget about the world out there.

But, as my Significant Ex used to say, it's amazing how wrong one person can be. For it was a near-perfect gig experience, despite being held in a Carling *spit* Academy, where there is no proper beer and they won't let you buy water in a bottle, never mind take it in, and the annual toilet paper budget is used up by the middle of February.

Against all odds, we found the venue and managed to park close by, then bought our Guinnesses and found a spot that was acceptable for me (5'4"), for P (boyfriend of one of M's daughters, who is something like 6'6"), and for our respective companions (both somewhere in between). The place filled up benignly around us, the support band were pretty good, we gradually warmed up and then on he came.

For the first half of the set, he bore an uncanny resemblance to Mr W, the man who taught me Physical Geography in the sixth form. This was quite confusing, as I do not recall finding Mr W remotely attractive, though he did unknowingly play a cameo role on the day of my deflowering.

By the end he looked much more like the beardy one out of Parts & Labor, or indeed several other beardy geek noise merchants, and calm was restored.

And from start to finish, he rocked, in a funny, clever, cool, Northern, totally right on but not at all earnest sort of a way. I don't think there's anyone else who can do that. I was completely into it, in that rest of the world falling away, nowhere else I'd rather be sense. I don't get that feeling very often, but it's up there with the best feelings in the world when it happens.

And it was even better because it was unexpected... we have a copy of Jarvis in the house but I've never got into it. Seeing it live, it all made sense.

The first encore ended with Don't Let Him Waste Your Time, which is a beautiful song to hear a rock star singing. I was suddenly reminded again of Mr W, and had a little vision of him shrugging off his anorak and flinging himself around the playing fields singing it to me as I blinked back my first 'was that it? And why is he ignoring me?' teenage tears.

I don't think I'd have listened to him, though. You have to find some things out the hard way, and thank god we have music for when we do.


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