A week of two halves on Merseyside, (Isn’t it always?)
Crosby Beach, Liverpool.
I’m out on manoeuvres with the rest of the Hightown Pirates, sauntering along the beach, having a chat with El Capitano, aka Mick Head. Aside from Anthony Gormley’s Iron men, the beach is deserted. It’s just us and them (and after all we’re all just ordinary men?)
The Hightown Pirates you say? Never heard of ‘em! Hardly surprising considering the current membership comprises just two and Mick doesn’t even know he’s been surreptitiously press-ganged into service. Actually, there’s four of us, sailing under this particular flag if you include Tabitha,6 (nearly 7 daddy!!) and my dog Jessica, should she pass muster by becoming slightly less cute, a bit more salty AND she stops eating my furniture!
Today however, it’s just he and me as the mouth of the Mersey sparkles in early-spring sunlight, like a silver sword laid flat and a solitary ship glides out to sea. There is romanticism here; I should really call the ship a tramp-steamer? It would add more to the narrative, if you know what I mean?
“The tramp steamer, in contrast to the liner, operates without a schedule, going wherever required to deliver its cargoes”
The captain of HMS Fable, continues..
“I’ve been in a band since I was 16 and last night was one of the greatest shows I’ve ever seen mate, blew me fuckin mind mate, seriously.”
“Thanks Mick, I should imagine that takes some doing eh?”
He shakes his head,
“I’m serious mate, you fuckin’ had me there and our Joanne, she was in bits mate, in a good way, blew us away.”
The Mersey sparkles again as the sun gets the better of the low-slung clouds and my ship heads out into the Irish Sea. The Iron men are saying nothing and everything at the same time; I guess that’s what they do? They stand still at the mouth of a river that has been the beginning of countless journeys for hundreds of years. The iron men of Crosby Beach and The Hightown Pirates, tramp steamers and a sun-kissed, springtime, silver tide, what’s not to like? The next chapter of a journey can begin anytime you want it to; you just have to remember you’re not trapped right?
“When I was a kid, growing up here, we had a house up on St Domingo’s road, you could see the river when I was walking to school, I always knew there was a way out if I wanted it mate, those lads in Croxteth and Norris Green? They’re fucked mate, killing each other over a fiver ‘cos they’re fuckin land-locked mate, they can’t see it, it’s sad, know what I mean?
I do know what he means, I think that’s one of the reasons we get along so well, The Hightown Pirates are never trapped anywhere, not these days anyway.
So, last night’s show at a sold out Lantern Theatre was one of ‘those’ moments in my life when I know, without the slightest doubt, that what I’m attempting to do these days is valid. Worthy? Yeah that too. Add frightening, exhilarating, joyous, moving, funny and not just a little bit exhausting and there is a recipe for a life worth nurturing. It’s another little journey within the greater one, a path I sometimes stagger, sometimes swagger along.
Here’s the thing: It’s about connecting with others, whereas in years past, it was about trying to hide. Hide from myself and the rest of the world. The pursuit of this deluded idea became nothing more than endless, ever decreasing circles of loneliness and dis-association, an economy of negativity and despair. It’s different now, the ‘connect’ like the aforementioned potential adventure; can start anytime I want it to.
Circumstances dictated that the 60 minutes prior to show time, would see me sat backstage, alone. But I have friends who ‘understand’ that particular situation and are happy to come and say hello. Malcolm and Rachael, thank you for Monday and Tuesday respectively. A more soothing combination of wisdom and glamour, I would struggle to find, both equally effective in their ability to make that difficult hour pass without the need for me to listen to the voice in my head, screaming.
“You’re a fucking idiot, what the hell do you think you’re doing? Nobody is going to turn up and if they do, they’ll be disappointed.”
It’s not gone away, it seems to have something akin to what we once called squatters rights, in my head.
The final 20 minutes prior to walking onstage need to be spent alone though, that’s when the internal committee of pessimism sends for the fucking cavalry.
I should imagine I am not the only ‘performer’ afflicted with this pre-show barrage of self-doubt and rancour, nor indeed am I the sole trader in allowing it to overstay its (not very) welcome.
I walk onstage, completely and utterly alone, not because it’s a one-man show, but because fear catapults me to that ‘place’ every time. Like a besieging trebuchet overloaded with a combination of rotting carcasses, emotional pestilence and the boiling tar of self-doubt….it’s a fucker and it never goes away.
But I go onstage, whatcha gonna do? We’re done with hiding right?
Two hours later, the theatre erupts and the standing ovation I just about manage to come back out and take a bow to, reminds me that when you tell the truth, you are never alone.
The shabby, medieval and foul-smelling army of self-doubt, dirty secrets and ensuing isolation, has again been routed, sometimes you do indeed need to get off the battlefield to win the war, at other times though, you have to stand your fucking ground and fight. I guess the trick in my journey, is to learn where and when those particular decisions need to be made?
So a week of two halves on Merseyside? The second night of the show was also a sell out and I think it’s fair to say, went the same way as the first.
You can’t win ‘em all though and much to my dismay, the FIVE TIMES champions of Europe, were beaten by Utd at home on Sunday, fuck me! It was a long drive home.
More shows to be announced soon, ironically enough, next stop is Manchester.
See ya soon.
Justice for the 96.