Thursday, July 28, 2005

Going out on a school night

So THIS is what single life is like when you don't have kids. I'd always wondered. Scrappino is staying with my folks for six weeks, and while the cat's away….

Tuesday night I went to see the wonderful production of Les Liaisons Dangereuses at Sadler's Wells. Yes, a ballet version of the book/play/film. The book is fabulous and if you're stuck for holiday reading this summer, that's my recommendation. It’s funny, clever, sarcastic, romantic and tragic. And you don't often get all that in one book, rrp. £3.99.

The film (Dangerous Liaisons - translated from the French for American audiences who couldn't work out Les Liaisons Dangereuses for themselves) is a masterpiece, and the choreographer of the ballet had clearly used the movie as his blueprint. To be honest, if it hadn't been for the fact that the film is one of my all-time favourites, I doubt I'd have gone to see the ballet at all. It was impossible to separate the film from the dance production. Reading the programme, I wondered if others in the audience felt the same. Maybe, instead of printing "The part of the Marquise de Merteuil will be played by…" they should have said "The part of Glenn Close will be played by…"

I had planned to watch the ballet with my friend D. We booked at the last minute and could only get hold of tickets in the upper second circle, which, for someone with mild vertigo, is not ideal. On the way to find my seat I felt like that chap in "Touching the Void" as he slowly climbed to the summit. I half expected to find the abandoned bodies of ballet enthusiasts whose legs had given way, or who had run out of oxygen, before they made it to row U. By the time I found my seat I wouldn't have been surprised to find snow on my head. Unfortunately, a couple of hours before the performance, D phoned to say that she was poorly and wouldn't be able to make it. Despite a frantic attempt to sell the ticket - or bribe someone to come along with me - I ended up going on my own, which is a shame. There's only one thing worse than sitting in crap seats up in the gods. And that's sitting on your own in crap seats up in the gods.

I tried to put a brave face on it. Bought a drink, for myself, in the bar, and read the programme. Tried to look like I take myself out on dates all the time. I must admit, there was the odd attempt at a little theatre-auditorium flirting, but it was pretty hopeless. If there were any heterosexual men there, I couldn't spot them. Well, this is Sadler's Wells after all. And, let's not forget, the star attraction of the performance was Adam Cooper.

Ah, Adam Cooper. Did I not mention him earlier? Yes, the OTHER reason why I wanted to see the ballet was that the star, director and choreographer was Adam Cooper. If you've not heard of him before, he's the one who plays the grown up Billy Elliot at the end of the film. In the final scene he leaps across the screen, playing the lead role in the all-male Swan Lake, and takes everyone's breath away. And once you've seen him dressed in nothing but make-up and feathers, you simply have to see him dancing in 18th century frilly shirt and silk breeches. Even if you do have to climb three flights of stairs and sit on your own to do it. There are worse ways to spend a mid-week evening.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Blog flash

I don't normally post twice in a day. It takes me a near miracle to post twice a week. But I had a sudden moment of blog pride and had to make a comment. Do you remember how I whittered on for weeks about Su Doku, long before any one else was interested, and then suddenly it was the talk of the town? Where I blog, millions follow. Well, it's happened again. As soon as I moan about the inappropriateness of flip-floppery in the work place, the issue goes global. Do you think President Bush is a closet Suburban Hymnster?

School's out for the summer

I am now back in the office after taking a day off at the end of last week. Scrappino is spending the summer holidays at the sea-side with my parents. You know how it is. He has six weeks summer holiday and I have 20 days a year. You do the math. So I have no alternative but to pack him off for six week’s indulgence while I stay home and pay the mortgage. It’s not a bad deal. My folks love having him. He loves going. And I get to keep my job. Everyone’s a winner. Kind of.

He was off school on Friday, so, as it was our last day together before he goes away, I decided to take the day off work and spend it with him. Just the two of us. We had wanted to go to the Science museum. I say ‘we’ but obviously, it was Scrappino’s choice really. But in the end, the situation on the tube convinced me to make alternative arrangements. I wasn’t scared to take him on the tube. I am determined to carry on as usual. Unfortunately, the Piccadilly, District, Circle and Northern lines were all either suspended or disrupted and after 10 minutes trying to figure out a viable route (an exercise resembling the Mornington Crescent game from I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue) we gave up and went to the picures instead. If you have a young child in need of entertainment, I can heartily recommend Madagascar.

After we came back from the cinema I packed his suitcase ready for his holiday. Cue frantic search for a pair of tzitzit for him to take with him. We almost turned the flat upside down looking for them so that by the time the case was packed the place was a tip. Saturday was busy so there was no time to tidy up. So yesterday morning I was up with the lark, rushing about the flat in a frenzy trying to make the place look tidy before my parents arrived to collect Scrappino. I may be 32, an independent working woman and mother of a young child. But as soon as my mum arrives I revert to being 12 again, hoping that she doesn’t notice that my bedroom is a tip.

In all the excitement of tidying the flat I missed most of what is usually the highlight of my week - Broadcasting House and the Archers omnibus. I know. You’re jealous of my dizzy lifestyle, aren’t you? But life is about small pleasures. And a cup of tea, a lie-in and Radio 4 is hard to beat on a Sunday morning. (Well, it is if you’re single…) I miss the great Eddie Mair, of course. But he’s gone on to greater things. And Fi Glover is a very close runner up. It's always a pleasure to hear a woman mastering sarcastic asides aimed at unsuspecting politicians.

The nervous clean-up was worth it. No comments from my folks about the state of the flat. And Scrappino was excited and ready to go when they came to collect him. So now I’m back at work. The flat is empty and I’ll be on my lonesome for six weeks. If you know me, and we keep making vague arrangements to meet up for a drink, now would be a great time to call. Although you might want to leave it a day or so. I’ve been out of the office for one day so I’m going to need a couple of days just to clear my junk emails. I arrived this morning to find 76 new messages. Only 35 of which were work-related. Two were from Amazon who contacted me to tell me that “People who bought James Blunt also bought Willy Mason” and would I like to buy it also? I hate it when they do that. It reminds me of my primary school teachers. “If James Blunt told you to put your hand in the fire, would you do it?” There were also 2 phishing emails from Barlyes (sic) Bank, advising me to hand over all my personal information or my bank account would be frozen. I've had similar messages from Lloyds, HSCB and Bank of America. But the latest from Barclyes was clever. Here's the opening paragraph:

"Barclyes Bank PLC. always look forward for the high security of our clients. Some customers have been receiving an email claiming to be from Barclays advising them to follow a link to what appear to be a Barclays web site, where they are prompted to enter their personal Online Banking details. Barclays is in no way involved with this email and the web site does not belong to us. Barclays is proud to announce about their new updated secure system. We updated our new SSL servers to give our customers a better, fast and secure online banking service. Due to the recent update of the servers, you are requested to please update your account info at the following link."

How clever is that? A phishing email warning you against phishing emails. What baffles me is that, despite the strongest firewalls and spam filters in the business, I am still offered Viagra and dodgy university degrees on an almost daily basis. And yet perfectly legitimate messages are blocked. A friend called last night to ask why I’d not replied to her invitation to join her for Seuda Shelishit. I told her I’d not received the invitation and she explained that she’d sent it via email. So this morning, while deleting offers of penis extensions I checked my junk mail folder and found this notice from her ISP:

"NOTICE: 'Block Abusive Language': CONTENT: Body contains 'shit'. ACTION: Quarantine email and alert sender."

If you are up for that drink, do get in touch. But if you send the message by email, keep it clean.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Potter, Parties and Puke

Apologies (again…) for the long silence. Did you miss me? It’s been a busy few days and I’ve hardly had a chance to update. Firstly, I had a visit from Baldricka who’s visiting the UK for her annual shopping trip. It may sound extravagant, but I once bought clothes in Jerusalem and so I understand her logic perfectly. Then, I had my work’s Annual Summer Party and I was too drunk, and then too hungover, to blog. Finally, Scrappino brought home his excellent school report (did you expect anything else?) and I simply had to take him out to celebrate. But now, he is the proud owner of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (belated birthday present) and he is hiding in his room, nose in said book, lost in Hogwarts. He will probably not resurface until some time next week, which gives me time to catch up here.

Actually, I should make clear that he’s already finished reading the book cover to cover. But that’s not enough. He immediately started back at the beginning the moment he finished. It’s just like Simchat Torah. Only he decided not to dance round the room, holding the book aloft, singing Torat Hashem Temima and drinking alcohol on an empty stomach.

Talking of which, Friday night was my Annual Summer Party at work and I did drink a fair amount of alcohol on an empty stomach. I have been (repeatedly) advised not to mention anything about work on this blog. It’s good advice, if this is to be believed. So I will not tell you about the party itself in too much detail. Other than to say that a terrific time was had by all. And that working for a company where the MD plays guitar in a rock band and performs a two-hour set for the employees isn’t half bad. Less pleasant was the long journey home. I was originally going to get a cab home. But in the spirit of the “We are not afraid” campaign, I felt it would be a fitting statement to travel home on the tube and train. Don’t let the bombers scare us off public transport. And how difficult can it be getting home from central London on a Friday night? Famous last words; the journey was simply awful. They should bottle it and sell it as an instant hangover cure. The tube to Kentish Town was not too bad. A little overcrowded, but plus ca change. But then I took the Thameslink from Kentish Town and it was like Bedlam.

There was a Scouser (and I feel entitled to make this point) who was drunk out of his skull, singing LFC football songs at the top of his voice. Singing in the Kop is one thing. Or singing together with a group of friends. But sitting on your own, on the 23.35 Brighton-Bedford Thameslink, singing “Champiowneys Champiowneys” at the top of your voice is quite another. And to add insult to injury, he kept trying to provoke the chap sitting in front of him by asking “How many times have Arsenal won the Champions league, eh? Never, that’s how many”. I (obviously) have a soft spot for LFC. But there’s a time and a place, mate. And the night train home from Central London isn’t it. (Although I have to admit that it’s marginally better than the other least-appropriate-occasion-for-singing-football songs that I can recall. When Scrappino was born, 4 weeks early and not quite able to manage on his own, J came to visit him at 2 days old. As he (Scrappino) lay there in his little incubator, his tiny hands connected to monitors and a feeding tube inserted in his nose, J leaned right up to the glass, smiled at the sleeping Scrappino and sang “Who’s that lying in the tarmac? Who’s that lying in the snow?....” Like I say, time and place.)

As if the drunk Scouser wasn’t bad enough, there was a woman sitting next to me who had also had far too much to drink. Half way home I could hear her groaning to herself. Then she started holding her head in her hands. Finally (how unpleasant is this?) she threw up in her bag. But not in her handbag – that would be far too classy. She threw up in a plastic bag. One of those really small Boots ones that they give you if you buy a lipstick. And to make matters worse (yes, matters can get worse) there was a hole in the bag through which her alcoholic liquid sick was slowly dripping. I didn’t want to point it out to her myself. I am English and I don’t talk to strangers on the train. But the Scouser had no such qualms. He interrupted his rendition of You’ll Never Walk Alone to call across the aisle to the barfing blonde, “Yer pewk is leeekin. It’s drippin on yer shoooes.” Next time I’ll get a cab. Never mind “We are not afraid”. I’ll leave the grand gestures to those who don’t mind travelling home next to caterwauling scousers and chavs dribbling vom.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Babies and bazaars

Heartfelt thanks to all my far flung friends for the texts/emails/phonecalls received over the last couple of days. I am fine. Shaken but not stirred, as they say. (Who says that??) And life here in London is getting back to normal. I came into work this morning on the tube as if nothing had happened. There was a moment when the train stopped for no apparent reason in the tunnel between Westminster and Waterloo and I could sense my panic levels rising slightly. Then I recalled that the tube is constantly stopping in between stations for no apparent reason and took it for a sign that everything really is back to normal. When the Thameslink is delayed and then cancelled some time later on in the week (as it surely will be) I’ll know for certain that things are once again as they should be. The only discernible change is that people (especially the media) are constantly repeating clichés such as ‘life goes on’ and ‘they won’t change our way of life’ and marvelling on the united spirit of Londoners. If anyone else comments that Londoners are displaying the Blitz spirit or the courage of Dunkirk I think I’ll scream. Even her Majesty has drawn parallels between the bombing during the blitz and Thursday’s terror. She made her comments while she was visiting the wounded in Hospital – as if they haven’t suffered enough.

But , cliché or not, life does go on. And the weekend was hot and sunny and crowded with children. In the morning we had my nephew’s 5th birthday party. Scrappino is very proud of his younger cousins – especially as he’s the oldest of the bunch – and he had a great time. I have to admit though, I was less than keen. Don’t get me wrong. I love my nephew. I love all my nephews and nieces. They are terrific. It’s all the other kids at the party that I can’t stand. I adore my relatives’ kids and my friends’ children. But strangers children? Dreadful. Just can’t stand them. The only benefit I can see from spending time with other people’s children is that it reminds you just how much you love your own. Of course, life is never simple. After convincing myself that I was in no hurry to return to sleepless nights and dirty nappies I went to the second birthday party of the day – a friend’s daughter’s first birthday. No hoards of strange children. No toddlers demanding extra jelly and a bigger slice of cake. Just the (very cute) birthday girl in her party dress. It’s enough to make a girl broody.

Sandwiched in between the two parties was Scrappino’s school bazaar. Or should that be bizarre? For some inexplicable reason, I was asked to help out on the face painting stall. Odd, because I have no experience and little artistic talent. The other woman running the stall was an expert. She had her own set of professional face paints (Who has their own set of face paints??) and she’d brought books of face painting designs with her. It wasn’t long before the kids waiting in line realised that I was the short straw. As they reached the front of the queue they’d point to the “I’ve brought my own face paints” lady and ask “Can she do mine please?” Nobody wanted me to do their faces. Which is not surprising. The first little girl asked to be a flower. So I applied a light shade of pink all over her face with the idea of painting petals on each cheek. But I kind of overdid the pink so that by the end she looked like she was either back from two weeks in Tenerife or had just had a screaming tantrum. Which is fitting, because as soon as she saw her face in the mirror she had a screaming tantrum and her dad had to take her home. Undeterred, I started work on the next little boy. He wanted to be a tiger. (A tiger?? Is he having a laugh?) So I started by applying a layer of orange, with the idea that I’d paint black and white stripes over the orange. Unfortunately, the white didn’t show up over the orange and the black just ran with the base layer to make a dark orange. The poor kid looked like he’d been tangoed. I saw him later in the yard, frantically trying to wash it off. Four quid that cost him. A month’s pocket money to look like the love child of Judith Chalmers and David Dickinson. Still, it’s all for charity as they say.

Scrappino tends to be a bit wary at fairs. He likes to check out every stall before he’ll buy anything or try any of the games. He wants to make sure he makes an educated decision on what to spend his tokens on. We had to do a full circuit of the entire playground to see what was on offer before he would do anything. I took him round the brik-a-brak stall but he wasn’t sure he wanted anything. He considered buying a ticket for the raffle but decided to think about it first. He wasn’t sure if he should play ‘beat the goalie’ or try his luck at the lucky dip and I couldn’t convince him to just make a decision and do something. Finally, I asked him if he’d like his face painting. Without any hesitation he said “definitely not”. Ah well, life goes on.

Friday, July 08, 2005

The morning after the day before

I can't let the terrible events of yesterday pass without making some comment. I am reluctant to offer words of advice or wisdom. I'm not that kind of person and this isn't that kind of blog. But I was in the center of London while the bombs were going off. I do know people caught up in the chaos and some who witnessed the horror. And I did have to make a slow journey home amid the crowds of bewildered commuters. And so, in that light, here are my personal reflections.

The emergency services were staggeringly efficient. My office is next door to the Ambulance center for South London. Within minutes of the second bomb going off, the police arrived in large numbers and cordoned off the street. Soon, the road was packed with ambulances, paramedic units and mobile clinics. Throughout the day, the emergency services worked with a quiet, organized determination that was apparent to us all. Their professionalism and calm control was incredibly reassuring. I'm sure I'm not alone in feeling comforted that the professionals knew what they were doing and were in command of the chaos.

Similarly, the ordinary people of London were quite remarkable. It may be a cliché to say it - the papers this morning can't stop making the same point - but there was a real sense yesterday of everyone making the best of this terrible situation and doing what they could to help. Even if that was holding on to terrified strangers or just sitting tight to let the emergency services get on with their job. I know that much has been made today of the swift mood change overnight; from jubilation at winning the Olympics to devastation at the terror. But in truth, these are two sides of the same coin. It was the same unity of spirit and sense of community in London that won us the games that got us through the day yesterday.

Throughout the day, the Internet proved crucial. All over London, office workers were constantly updating the BBC home page, sending each other links from Sky News and Guardian Online, fuelling the rumours and the speculation that were spreading like wildfire through the City. Without the Internet, we'd not have known what was going on, where the latest explosions had been, what the travel situation was or how we were going to get home. I did wonder how on earth people coped with terrorist atrocities before the advent of the world wide web?

The mobile phone networks failed almost immediately. Rumours spread that the police had cut off the networks to prevent potential bombers using mobile phones to detonate bombs. Later we were told that it was the sheer volume of calls that caused the networks to fail. Who knows which is correct? While mobile phone calls were impossible, text messages were still feasible and all day txts were sent back and forth to family and friends. Everyone desperately trying to find out if their loved ones were alright. And updating each other on new explosions and the latest information about which stations, roads and bridges were closed.

Later, once I got home, the phone calls kept coming. From friends in London, elsewhere in the UK and abroad. By that time, it was clear that I was fine. But the calls kept coming, not because people needed to know if I was safe but because we just wanted to talk. I think we all felt a need to make contact with everyone we know and love. If only to show that we're thinking of each other. And wanted each other to be safe and well.

This morning, 24 hours on, the city is almost back to normal. I came into work, with thousands of others, on the train and the tube, as if nothing has happened. Life goes on. If it didn't, the terrorists win. Today, the calls from concerned friends are still coming. But now, it's not to find out if we're safe. It's just to talk. Everyone is talking about where they were, how they found out, how they got home. I get the sense that we all have a need to explain our part in this tragedy. What our role was and how we fit in.

And my personal feelings? Well, I made a promise not to reveal too much about myself on this blog. It's not a narcissistic exercise, after all. But I hope it's not too ego-focussed to say that I have an amazing circle of friends, and a terrific family network who looked after me yesterday, physically and emotionally. I couldn't get by without them. And when I got home last night, safe and well, if a little shaken, and secure in the knowledge that my family were all fine too, I was even more delighted and grateful than usual to see Scrappino's smiling face as I walked through the door.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Celebrating (three times over)

I went out for a slap-up meal last night. Scrappino and I were enjoying a double celebration. I was toasting my recent promotion at work. (You are now reading the blog of a Managing Editor. How grand does that sound??) I told Scrappino about the promotion and asked him if he knew what that meant. He asked “Is it a bit like an upgrade?” That’s the computer generation for you.

And Scrappino was celebrating his success at the school sports day. He came second in the running race. And, as he explained on the way home, “the boy who won is really tall and has longer legs than me, so it doesn’t count.”

It seems fitting that he should be celebrating his sporting victory the same week that London has won the 2012 Olympics. The government is keen that the Olympic win will inspire young kids to take up sport. If he does become inspired by the Olympic fever it’ll be no thanks to me. Sport has never really been my thing. Personally, I couldn’t even run a bath, let alone a marathon. I’m strictly an armchair participant. Which is just as well. My wonderful colleagues kindly pointed out that I’ll be 40 by the time the Olympics are staged here, so no hope of a medal for me.

But it’s certainly going to be an interesting seven years while the Olympic village is built. I guarantee that, within the next couple of days, the euphoria of the IOC announcement will give way to British cynicism on an Olympian scale. It’ll be the Millennium Dome all over again. The Evening Standard will list every council tax rise in every borough and attribute it to the Games. And you won’t be able to buy a drink in a London pub without someone moaning that “come 2012 it’ll be £4.50 a pint”.

But I’m determined to avoid the cynics and look forward to the Games. Try to see it through Scrappino’s eyes. He’ll be 16 when the Olympics arrive. Who knows, maybe he’ll be winning the running race then too? I wonder if he’ll explain to the TV commentators that he won the silver medal, but the person who won gold has longer legs, so it doesn’t really count?

Sunday, July 03, 2005

It was twenty years ago today...

I spent most of today in a semi-daze, due to a lack of sleep after watching the G8 concert into the small hours. Not live in Hyde Park obviously. My days of standing up in a field for 10 hours, hemmed in by a crowd of swaying teenagers and being deafened by an array of state-of-the-art amplification are over. To be honest, it was never really my thing. I’ve only been to two outdoor gigs. One was Paul McCartney Live at the Liverpool Docks and the other was watching our school Wind Band play in the International School Orchestra competition at the Liverpool Garden Festival. Not exactly Woodstock, is it? I even sold my tickets for the Cambridge Folk Festival at the last minute. In the days before Ebay, when selling concert tickets wasn’t deemed despicable. But I was intent on at least watching Live 8 on the box. If only to see if it lived up to my memories of Live Aid. It may be a cliché, but it really was a seminal moment of my childhood. I was never a huge fan of Queen, but Freddy Mecury was a demi-god in my eyes after that concert.

I mentioned this to a colleague on Friday; I told her that, ending world poverty aside, my main motivation for watching was to see how it compared to Live Aid. I asked her if she thought it would be as good.
“I wouldn’t know” she replied, “I didn’t see the original.”
I was horrified. “How can you not have seen the original?? Everyone saw the original”
“I didn’t” she said “I was two”.
Two!? I am working with a woman who was two in 1985?! If I’d wanted to work with children I’d have gone into teaching. And she’s not alone. Another colleague let slip, just before Charles and Camilla’s wedding, that she was born AFTER his wedding to Diana. How is that possible? No-one was born after Charles and Di’s wedding. Apart from William and Harry of course. And they’re hardly likely to get a job in my office. Or indeed, any office.

I couldn’t see the entire concert. I had to dip in and out as Scrappino insisted on playing Game of Life with me. And he hates pop music so I couldn’t even have it on in the background while we played. But once I’d finally managed to get him to bed at 8.00 pm I was able to sit back and enjoy the final couple of hours. It was a tremendous achievement. Normally he’s not in bed until 9.30 at the earliest. And the concert was a terrific achievement too. I know his idea of sending a flotilla of dinghies to France to pick up people to take to Edinburgh was a bit wacky. But Saint Bob’s ability to galvanise public opinion and highlight a situation thousands of miles away, that otherwise we’d not give a damn about, has to be applauded. I know the cynics doubt the concert will have much of a concrete effect. But the very fact that everyone is talking about Africa is a result in itself. The papers are full of Africa this morning. The sentence that caught my eye was this. It will cost the world 3 billion dollars to educate every child on the planet. Which is roughly the same as the USA spends every year on ice cream. How bad do you feel now?

Actually, I shouldn’t really call him Saint Bob. I don’t think he is a saint. He’s too vulgar and in-yer-face and earthy to be a saint. I was chatting to friends on Saturday morning and we decided that actually Bob is not a saint at all. He’s a prophet. In the traditional Old Testament fire-and-brimstone sense of the world. Consider the evidence. He looks and dresses a bit odd. He expects people to behave in a way that is, at first glance, either ridiculous or impossible. But on closer inspection you realise that actually he’s not talking nonsense at all, and you could emulate his ideals, if you put your mind to it. He screams at us in an uncontrollable, almost insane manner, but what he’s saying is uncomfortably true. It’s just terribly unpalatable. If Elijah was alive today I reckon there’s every chance he’d also wear ill fitting jackets, never wash his hair and tell us to ‘give me your f**king money’. Or something like that.

The highlight of the concert, for me, was seeing the ‘Who’s gonna drive you home’ video from Live Aid and remembering the horror of the Ethiopian famine from twenty years ago. When they brought on stage the beautiful woman who had survived the famine and introduced her to the crowd against the backdrop of her own emaciated face as a starving child I welled up. Granted, it doesn’t take much to make me cry. But that was a truly moving moment. Less moving was Madonna’s confession, in an interview after her (admittedly brilliant) set that she had never been to Africa. She qualified this statement by reassuring us that she knew people who had been so she was very aware of what was going on. But I couldn’t help thinking, what a waste. I mean, what is the point of earning 200 million and being the most famous woman on the planet if you don’t put that money and fame to some altruistic good? What has she been doing for the last twenty years? There has to be more to life than vogue and papa don’t preach.

My first (musical) love remains the Beatles, so I was delighted to see that Paul McCartney hasn’t lost it. His voice didn’t quite carry over the electric guitars, but I sang along, in my flat, to the Hey Jude chorus. And I couldn’t help smiling when Pink Floyd, average age 59 and with faces looking the worse for years of drug abuse, sang “What do you do when your heroes turn to ghosts?” I’d always taken the lyric to be a rhetorical question, but watching their drug addled and wrinkled faces staring at me, I half expected the crowd to shout back “You have turned into bloody ghosts”. I can’t claim to be a huge Floyd fan. In fact, if I’m honest, Brick in the Wall is the only song I really know. And I’ve never much liked it, ever since I once had a cup of tea in a filthy greasy spoon café in Manchester and saw the thirty-odd year old waiter wiping down a table and singing along to the track on the radio. As he mopped up spilt coffee with his dirty sponge and sang ‘We don’t need no education’ I remember thinking to myself, actually, an education might have been a good idea, don’t yer think??

But the highlight of the weekend for me was the return of my good friend P, who is back in the UK after her great US adventure. It’s been a long three months. It seemed fitting that she came back this weekend. She was part of my seminal Live Aid moment. Everyone remembers where they saw that concert. Well, those of us who weren’t two at the time. And I watched it, with P and her Grandma, at her Grandma’s flat. We laughed as we had to tell her who each of the acts were, and looked at each other as if to say ‘how can you not know who Paul Young is??’ I didn’t feel quite as smug yesterday as I tried to work out who the hell the Kaiser Chiefs are. Twenty years is a long time in popular music. But not quite as long as three months when your oldest friend is away from home. So you’ll forgive me if I take this opportunity to welcome P home. It’s great to have her back.