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

Wednesday, August 30, 2006
TO THE MOON AND BACK, or: GOODNIGHT SOMEBODY

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.

Paradise.

I love her to the Moon and back.


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