The Church Of Me
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Kissing in the churchyard, I know a righteous woman

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

In the first instance it is probably best just to list the high water marks of what has been without doubt the greatest week of my 42-year-old life. The news is well known, and Petula Clark’s song “Gotta Tell The World,” rings true and clear and resonant and relevant (“Ring every bell in every steeple now!”). I will not term them memories, since memories imply something that has passed, whereas this week was only the beginning of a relationship which both of us want to last forever. It is a glorious prelude to a majestic future.

Lena, running to meet and embrace me at the airport, addressing me in French. I hugged her and it felt like hugging Heaven.

Both visits to Plath’s house in Chalcot Square, Primrose Hill; horrendously expensive now, but rundown and cheap when Sylvia was living there. Her aura remains and the cat in the window and on the ledge was inescapable.

Everything on Camden High Street, even (or especially) the Reject Pot Shop, the Misty Moon pub, the crappy band names listed on the Barfly noticeboard, the street’s indelible sunniness.

And, of course, Marine Ices up at Chalk Farm, the greatest ice cream in the world, and not half bad pasta either, and the place where I made my pledge.

Walking up from Marine Ices on Wednesday afternoon after she’d said yes, eating ice cream cones in the rain, and it felt beautiful, as though all the pain and hurt had been washed away, leaving grace and light and love.

Keats House in the depth of Hampstead; a quiet and reflective place indeed, and you know immediately that the people who run it do so out of genuine love, as opposed to the bustling tourist industry that is Haworth and the Brontës, much as I adore the latter. Lena taking a picture of the front of Keats House, reminding me so much of the Brontë Parsonage with all the blackness (and death) eroded, again to leave the light of welcome.

Parliament Hill Fields on an overcast day, but the skyline still resplendent. Us looking at each other and smiling and giggling and KNOWING that we OWNED London…the city spread out below us was OURS.

Knightsbridge, opposite the Barracks, where the accident happened; she embraced me forever and healed the scars.

Taking her to Picasso’s for breakfast; feeling warm and secure. Proceeding up the King’s Road to the internet café; sitting beside her, nestling beside her, as she typed her blog and Diaryland entries. Feeling a lovely quiver all the way through my body.

Playing her The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn, and Easter Everywhere, and Derek Bailey, and Forever Changes, and Cassetteboy, and the Shortwave Set, and so much else; her palpable excitement listening to them, her subsequently buying these and many other CDs, the ineffable loveliness of doing things and living life together.

Our rather fine strategic thinking and enterprise when at 4:45 pm on the Thursday, at Oxford Circus, two-and-a-quarter hours before we were due to start our Resonance programme, we realised that we would have to go all the way back to Streatham to pick up the CDs and bring them all the way back out again to Denmark Street. And we did it, with three minutes to spare!

The absence of panic and fear when I’m with Lena.

The radio broadcast itself. We were both nervous as hell, we were both winging it on the turn of a dime without any script, but the feeling was good and the show was superb.

The deflating crappiness of the tourist restaurants of central London and Brighton.

But the moonlit walk from Charing Cross Road to Victoria Station via Westminster was a translucent delight. How splendid it is to walk through central London in the cool of the evening when there’s no one else around.

The especial joy we derive from doing everyday, routine things together, like grocery shopping, or cooking.

Oxford. To Headington Cemetery for the final reckoning, the passing of the flame from the old life to the new. Lena with me all the way.

Sitting in the Carfax Chippy, thoroughly content, gasping with disbelief at the antiques show being broadcast.

Over floater coffees in the Mitre pub in Oxford High Street, “Loving You” by Minnie Riperton comes on. A signifier which can’t be denied. “Stay with me while we grow old.” I break down in indescribable tears of joy. Lena understands immediately. She understands and accepts me like no one else has ever done.

Brighton. The Ted Hughes book Lena had been looking for, there in a remote second-hand bookshop, as is Diary Of A Rock ‘N’ Roll Star by Ian Hunter in the original cover which I had likewise been looking for. It is as if we were fated to go into that shop on that day.

Also in Brighton: it’s late afternoon, it’s pouring with rain, and we’re in one of the record shops in The Lanes. “Young Folks” by Peter, Bjorn and John comes on and we both agree that it’s a piece of magic. And I buy the album.

Brighton Pier, tacky as heck, and The Best Of The ‘80s blasting out Kelly Marie and Kajagoogoo as we proceed down the pier’s planks. But also “Geno” by Dexy’s Midnight Runners, which Lena hadn’t heard before, and liked a lot.

The jewel-like greenness of the Brighton sea.

Later that same evening, back at home, listening to Tim Westwood, which Lena hasn’t done before; we’re lucky because it’s a classic show, Westwood raving as only he can (even with a very evident sore throat) about barbershops in Dalston, a new kebab shop in the Walworth Road which he greets as though it were the new Jay-Z album (“Old school bagels! New school bagels!”), his wonderful and gentle joy on playing OutKast’s “Hollywood Divorce,” the brilliant shouting incoherence of the Sincere/Mr Tibbs live freestyle session.

Turning over to Radio 2, and Steve Lamacq is playing an hour of requests about songs named after animals in the zoo, and there is “Fly Like An Eagle” by the Steve Bastard Miller Bastard Band, and we both know the difference between life (Radio 1) and death (Radio 2).

So we switch to Radio 4, and Lena gasps in disbelief at this quiz show/parlour game X Marks The Spot which sounds like Chris Morris remixed by Luis Bunuel. They have to find treasure through a series of geographical clues, and the treasure turns out to be the Royal Shakespeare Company. There is a round where they ponder on colour/water connections – the Red Sea, the Blue Lagoon, rose water, On Golden Pond – which is as surreal as anything heard on Radio 4 since the salad days of Milligan. In its clenched way it is as irrepressibly BBC as the Westwood show.

Sunday morning strolling down sunny Streatham, Lena loving it, recognising streets and bus routes, and telling me that it feels like her home. It does, too.

Her uncanny reproduction of the Christopher Walken routine to Fatboy Slim’s “Weapon Of Choice” (though obviously sans flying) in the record shop at Gatwick on Monday morning.

Being with her, knowing that it is so right.

Living with her, knowing that it has only just begun.

Loving her, and her loving me.


I love her to the Moon and back.

posted by Marcello Carlin Permalink
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Thursday, August 24, 2006

Suddenly, he arose from his sopha-bed and exclaimed at the incoming flood of light from the Heath. It was as if he had been visited by an abrupt but deep miracle and had been cured. The blood and pain had ceased; he had scarcely found it easier to breathe in at least two years. In this world he grew up, and stayed with Fanny Brawne, and lived to encounter both Dickens and the Brontes.

His mouth open and aghast, his coat bloody red, he plugged his fingers into the wound and the life flowed back like chariots of redemption. The eyes. The infinite compassion their clarity entails. It was all he had wanted; the strength of patience and selflessness to allow him to wave the white flag of defiance, in the face of unwarranted death.

That doubting has been evicted through kindness and a generous fullness.

She alone could look into my eyes and glimpse the troubled and willing soul beneath. She did not fail in her persistence to salvage that soul, or to cherish, nurture and develop it to even profounder heights.

She, who is not simply the only one who accepted me, but also the only one who was so ready to accept me and understand instinctively that redemption was the glowing inverse of the dull coin of ruination.

She who loves me, and who is loved in unending return.

The lavender blueness of Plath's house, in Chalcot Square. The white blueness of the ice cream parlour and restaurant, not ten minutes away from her soul's domain by foot, and where, at about 2:30 yesterday afternoon, I proposed to her, Lena Friesen, and she accepted with surprise and joy.

We are thus now engaged to be married. We recognise that the road towards realisation of our fully realisable permanence will be a long and complex one. But the road has to be travelled. She is my salvation, the angel who brought my life back to me after five years of gradually decreasing spiritual imprisonment, and she nurtures me and tends to me by my side as I am writing this pledge.

The story here has therefore reached its long-desired ending. This is not to say that there is an end to The Church Of Me, for altars of true worship are by definition and principle endless, its corridors to be delineated by the experiences we are yet to have, and to which we look forward with unbounded happiness and expectations.

We stand at the summit, atop a cloudy Parliament Hill Fields, the city beneath us so inextricably ours. This world now ours, these souls now united.

I thank those who have shepherded me through the many and treacherous footholds encountered upon my disabled climb back up to that summit; their names are well-known and need not be repeated here.

Lena, however, is not merely my conquering sherpa, but the companion I want for the second halves of our lives. We intend to remain on that summit and turn its icy surface into a tender and colourful garden of oceanic and Arcadian splendour.

The life lost has been regained. That first life went into suspension five years ago tomorrow. Now it has been resuscitated, defrosted, and, quivering but utterly confidently, it rises once more to live the life it, and we, deserve.

Marcello Carlin
Born: Dennistoun, Glasgow - 25 January 1964
Suspended in limbo: Oxford - 25 August 2001
Reborn: London - 21 August 2006

Her memory will remain undiminished.

But our life together will make the world a brighter and fuller place to inhabit.

All of these words were intended for only one pair of living eyes. I am honoured and humbled by the gracious, lucid and wondrous pair of eyes which saw me, and to which I now pledge eternal fealty and devotion.

posted by Marcello Carlin Permalink
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Tuesday, August 15, 2006

I think Laura would have been pleased and satisfied with The Church Of Me, albeit a little bewildered. By its very nature it is not a project which could have been entertained in her lifetime; there are two preceding decades of writing which only Laura ever read, and indeed was meant only for Laura to read (only two of the more relatively objective pieces have found their way into the present blog).

Now I sense that there are decades of writing to follow which are likewise intended only for private consumption, by one other. The recent inactivity of CoM must not be mistaken for a personal exhaustion with writing, either physical or emotional; the writing continues, possibly more fervently than ever, with hundreds and sometimes thousands of words being produced daily. But it's all private writing, since a new audience of one has come into being, and in the end it is - or, more accurately, she is - the only audience I now want, or need.

So the circle of grief and regeneration has been completed; and maybe there isn't much, if anything, left for me to say here. This is not to say that CoM will shut down, but that any publishing here will necessarily become far less frequent. It is not a question of writer's block, but of changed priorities.

That having been said, if, for instance, ILM doesn't return online, then I will have to do something about archiving all of those Pick Of The Pops pieces. I also owe continued apologies to Bunnybrains and fans of Judee Sill for not yet writing those articles I promised at the end of last year; as with everything, life and circumstances have conspired to delay those and other pieces. Therefore, realistically, it is very likely that more writing will appear here sooner rather than later. But the holding of breath is not to be encouraged.

In more general terms I also feel an increasing shadow of melancholy when dealing with the music of 2006. These days I am very rarely moved to write anything about current music, even the best of it. I'm not sure whether this is a symptom of general fatigue or simply my own; but compared with the fecund nature of this blog three or four years ago, when I was prompted to write about nearly every record which came my way because nearly every record seemed to propose a new and exciting route down which music could travel, 2006 from conventional viewpoints seems to be a dour and lean period comparable with 1986 or even pre-punk 1976. It may be that I am far from alone in thinking this, but also that other, younger writers are better positioned and better qualified than me to analyse the likes of the Horrors or that Aguilera double album.

One sizeable exception, of course, is the contemporary Canadian music scene; and there are of course substantial extra-musical reasons behind my passion for that. Yet it seems to me that there is a whole wave of interconnected bands, from the Constantines to the Bicycles, via the Arcade and the Social Scene, who have genuinely fresh takes on familiar musical memes and entire new ways of producing them. Collectives like Islands and The Most Serene Republic produce the altered perception sense of newness which we used to expect from our own bands. And, as also used to happen with British music in the '60s and early '70s, these collectives are loose-limbed and generous; membership of bands frequently and gladly overlaps, and there is a deep-rooted improvisational ethic at work which makes every song an adventure, every second exciting. It is something very near the ideal I once cherished for British indie music before C86 came along and instituted the concept of pop as heritage museum.

I am unsure how much of this we can readily or usefully express in the course of one hour, but there will be a Clear Spot broadcast (how appropriate that name, given the recent non-debates about Beefheart) on Resonance 104.4 FM on
Thursday 24 August in which we'll do our best. This programme will, strictly speaking, be a Stereogirl/CoM co-production, but the Stereogirl will definitely be taking the lead. It will be almost exactly five years to the day since the circumstances which gave rise to CoM came about. The sentence has been served, the gates are now open, the new life beckoning ahead.

posted by Marcello Carlin Permalink
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