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Tuesday, 9 July 2013

So romance is bad, like limp wrists?


It began with What the world needs now, is love sweet love and I nodded my head while shaking off the deep voice that says, DO NOT BE VULNERABLE.
Last night I was invited to see Burt Bacharach play at the Royal Festival Hall. It was a hot summer's evening with no trace of Sunday about it because of bare shoulders + pink wine. Sitting there, somewhere within my favourite hour of seven pm, it was easy to decide there was going to be no tomorrow.
gone is the grey
I waited for my friend and my GF on the balcony overlooking the Thames
guarding a warm plastic chair with my hand from the bird-like eyes that kept finding it, checking over and over.
'Are you using that chair?'
'Yes, sorry.'
'Can I have that chair?'
'No, sorry.'

'Why do birds suddenly appear, every time you are near?'
angry fish face

The South Bank has long been my pal. From years ago when my Nan used to take us on the river cruises along the Thames, followed by a rest in a pub where she would be stared at for being a woman and not a man, to years later when I would spend hours of solitary pleasure in matinees at the Film Theatre. I was waiting to hatch into the light; merely an egg of a person. The place became a setting for a flight of romance between my protagonist and her student date in my first novel. If you wander along the promenade you'll see the Victorian lampposts with two curling, angry sturgeons around the base of each of them. I think of them as the guards of pleasure, open mouthed warning off the London from getting too world-weary. Angry for a good cause. They get hot in the sun; they stay warm into the night.


The sunsets here are some of the best in London and sometimes go flamingo and panoramic. Film and reality mix readily, so it is no wonder I chose the British Film Institute bar for all of my blind dates.
All unsuccessful (though highly produced with me in the opening frame on the bench near the bridge, with a thoughtful face dipped in a telling novel and a glass of wine).
I went on blind dates because I believed love couldn't see me. But on that stretch of Thames, where people wander and stop, everyone can be part of the parade and visible.

Just like me, they long to be, close to you.

As I write this stuff I am beginning to feel shaky. Romance is rarely spoken about as if it can be a force for good. It is seen as a cul de sac for teenagers and naive people because it renders the person vulnerable, soppy and waylaid with the trivialities of the heart. And we all know what happens to the soft-hearted? Their hearts turn to pâté. But whose voice is it that bellows so strongly against the music and the expression of love? Who is this cynical grown up voice that says things have to be cool?

fuzzy Doris
I used to plug myself in daily to Shirley Bassey and Doris Day. Andrew Lloyd Webber knows a thing or two about yearning. The soaring voice, the dreams of pain - on a clear day, take a look around you.
I once spoke to Ali Smith about Doris Day and she told me I should listen to the lesser known song, 'Put 'Em In A Box'. I was shocked, Doris Day attacking love? Did she really think it was worth living without the dreams that ruin your sleep?
You can hear it here:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NAwfDJ3HXDw


A view from the box
But back to the South Bank where I am with my friend who is grieving for his mother. He is taking me and my GF out for a night of romantic, soul-stirring melody written by a man who is now eighty-five, but going strong. Wants to perform new music because it is important. My friend has champagne in his bag which he pops as I cough. He has paid for us to sit in the box next to the Royal Box. And after the songs have stopped, we sit out front with a bottle as the sun sets. He brings out three plastic containers containing portions of a summer pasta dish. There are fresh peas which he explains he shelled whilst watching Andy Murray play tennis.

Is a chair a chair?

"A House Is Not A Home"                                 
A chair is still a chair
Even when there's no one sittin' there
But a chair is not a house
And a house is not a home
When there's no one there to hold you tight
And no one there you can kiss goodnight
Woah girl
 A room is a still a room
Even when there's nothin' there but gloom
But a room is not a house

And a house is not a home                              
When the two of us are far apart
And one of us has a broken heart

I still love looking at these lyrics of Hal David's, trying to figure out the complexity of them, as they are a kind of philosophical puzzle.  
You can see Dusty and Burt perform it here:

Burt, 85, in trainers and a sharp suit
A big Doll. Ode to Cindy Sherman.
As Burt takes his final bow, I feel light, relieved of the stagnant water that collects in my tear ducts.
This is summer.
I am in love with London and my friend and my GF.
The South Bank with its obsession of oversized green figures and objects, is glittering behind me. I am a giant of emotion.
It reminds me to protect myself from my own cynicism or that of others, because what the world really needs right now, is love sweet love.

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