Youth feels infinite at the time. When you’re very young, the moment is everything. How endless the six-week summer holidays from school seemed, how boundless the possibilities. At that age, the simplest, tiniest thing can fill your heart with joy, or break your tiny heart.
A pink balloon moment
On Wednesday this week (14 February 2018), I had the privilege to do a very small good deed for a very small person. I tweeted that evening:
“Today has not been the greatest day ever. But it was dramatically improved when I was out at lunchtime and was able to run after and catch a pink balloon that’d been blown away by the icy wind, and return it to the tiny girl who’d just lost it.”
The little girl’s harried mum was so kind as to thank me – in between keeping a pushchair with a baby on track with one hand, while with the other keeping the now-reunited-with-her-balloon little girl from straying towards the busy road. I’m sure my returning the pink balloon to the little girl was at most a gesture that might’ve averted a few quickly forgotten tears. That moment probably erased itself from her memory almost as soon as it happened. And that is how it is meant to be. But it meant the world to me.
Youth seems all too finite once you’ve moved past it. When you’re a little older, the moment might sometimes need a small helping hand into its most vivid focus.
Coffee heightens the senses, sharpens the moment and makes everything just that little bit more vivid. It’s helping the words flow out right this minute, as I type away in the dark and quiet early hours of this frozen Saturday morning. Coffee sharpens the right now.
My wife melted my heart this week by buying me a quite gorgeous pair of London-themed espresso cup and saucer sets. One depicts the olde market stall holders of Covent Garden, the other is emblazoned with the brightest, loveliest picture of Piccadilly Circus at Rush Hour. The image on the latter once again bears out my contention (which I once tweeted to the great Rob Baker – tweeter of stunning images of London over the past half-century or so) that there are no bad pictures of Piccadilly Circus.
It’s all worth it
At any age, music can connect or reconnect you to the most precious moments, past or present. Last weekend, I came across a perfect phrase from author Neil Gaiman about music’s peculiar power*:
“Music slices you in time.”
Gaimain writes beautifully about the uncanny ability of music to return you to the moment you first fell in love with it, to connect the you of now with the you that was back then:
“People change over the years, and we hope that the we that is us never changes. Yesterday we were kids, and tomorrow we’ll be old, and we think we’re the same people we were, despite all evidence to the contrary. But sometimes we play music that lets us be us then and us now and us still to come, and it’s all worth it, every minute, every aching second, every gaping now.”
In which the Phantom Flan Flinger is sighted
I tweeted last Saturday (10 February 2018) that it was somehow 29 years to the day since my first ever gig. I remember it so vividly. The first band I ever saw was UK thrash metal band Acid Reign, supporting San Francisco thrash legends Exodus at the “Pitz” – a venue that was actually a small sports hall in the corner of a leisure centre (namely the Milton Keynes Woughton Centre**).
“Good friendly violent fun” said the backprint on the t-shirts Exodus were selling on that tour. That was what it was all about.
Introduced by a gent dressed as the Phantom Flan Flinger from Tiswas***, who squirted silly string at the audience, Acid Reign took to the stage. Nothing can prepare you for how loud your first band will be. I was so delighted and exhilarated by the combination of daft, childish humour, unbelievably loud music, and the crowd all around me erupting into thoroughly good-natured stage diving and slam dancing (people would always stop to help up anyone who fell, and take the time to make sure they were OK before returning to a moshwardly direction).
Acid Reign were so kind as to respond to my tweet by digging into their archives and – quite unbelievably – pulling out a bunch of photographs from that very night. It’s all there. If you look very closely, you can even see the hand of the Phantom Flan Flinger spraying that very can of silly string (see Exhibit B, below). The photographer must have been only a few feet from me.
The moment felt infinite at the time
Those pictures are an incredible, completely unexpected tunnel through time. The music and the moment feel like yesterday. But they also feel like they were 29 years ago.
I was 15 going on 16 when I attended that first ever gig. I didn’t realise it at the time, but it looks like Acid Reign themselves were probably only two or three years older than me.
The moment felt infinite at the time. Youth felt infinite at the time. Tomorrow we’ll be old. We will all still be smiling then. The sun will still rise. And that is how it is meant to be.
* These words are from Gaiman’s essay on The Breeders.
** Looking back, that was such an odd venue. Being a leisure centre that also boasted a swimming pool, you would always get the strange sight of families with wet hair nervously picking their way through the assembled gig-going longhairs as they mingled and drank pre-show. It also boasted this deeply odd – and absolutely huge – mural, poetically depicting the endless rolling concrete underpasses of Milton Keynes.
*** The Phantom Flan Flinger was a masked flinger of custard pies, who appeared on anarchic kids’ TV show of the late 70s and early 80s, Tiswas. Here he is, taking on Motorhead.