November 12, 2017
The luxury of a 1pm leave today, so brunch in a greasy spoon with me ‘ol man, and Vinny was at my door by the time we get back, on the hour.
There has been some accidents on the motorway so we were diverted through villages I don’t know.
I opt to go straight to the theatre.
The Cliffs Pavilion, standing as it does on the esplanade, is well known to me.
I, born to Basildon, a few miles along the A127 arterial road or the A13, WNW of Southend,
was always in its thrall, and Southend was a veritable city to kid me.
It was like a glamorous maiden aunt in rabbit fur. Both fine and weather worn
It was here as children that we were driven in the dark to wonder at the lights and share chips on the back seat.
It gave me a place to study foundation music in its technology college.
It lent me books.
It provided venues for my young bands to play, and those where we could watch others.
It gave me my football team.
It made me an honorary Doctor of Letters.
Here in this very hall.
This was the venue which hosted Christmas Pantomimes and an array of circuit stars and spectaculars.
Once, when I was 11, our local play group got a few tickets to see Frankie Howerd here.
I don’t remember the show, just that we were to meet him at some point, which seemed very important at the time.
He came out afterwards to the front of the stage for this purpose and even at that age, I could tell it was wearisome for him.
He bent to chat a little while with the youngest boy amongst us, but he didn’t look at me.
It was an anticlimax.
I though there might be some kind of reason of matter to it all.
Doing a similar job now I have every understanding.
Post gig the head is a jumble and you have kind of vacated your body.
I love to be with and around people, but always prefer my alone when I leave the stage.
The focus you are, in the end, able to let go, empties you like a small and welcome death.
Adrenaline renders me simple minded.
I could do a meet and gurn.
I prefer a fleet and turn.
I know where my dressing room is.
I know where catering is.
I know the accent.
I sound check and it is better than I remember it.
This is a theatre that shows its years but in a way that is delightful and ties me to my own history.
Everywhere architects seek to imprint themselves and their years on the landscape.
Here, little looks different.
It keeps me connected.
The stage has a rake.
Another detail that sets it in time.
It makes me always a little frightened that I will fall forwards, slip, set on my toes as it is, on my stage heels.
It could be an optical illusion but the front stalls look like they are raking down too, before those at the rear tip up again.
The lights work with this space very well. Later I will feel that benefit.
I have family in.
Not all anymore, as it once it was.
My parents are noticeable for their absence.
I both miss them achingly, and feel the weight lifted of the self-consciousness their presence evoked in me.
My brother is here with his wife.
My nieces and their spouses.
I enjoy tonight’s concert more than any other I have played in this town as the act that I am. Beyond the wild joy of freedom and promise that my teenage turns provided me.
I leave relieved and gratified and grateful.
On my way to Cambridge, I stay in a Basildon hotel.
I find that ache of abandonment again.
So near. So far. So old.
I sleep better than I have in weeks.
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