To Birmingham/ Day Off
The infernal chirruping of my phone alarm pokes me into resentful consciousness. It’s 11am but I could cruise the halls of sleep another few hours. We stop early en route to Birmingham so I can do a phone interview to promote the Wakefield show. I’m fucking useless at interviews, as boring as a drunk gardener. The thing to do, to make them entertaining, would be to lie. Lie about everything – the songs, the band, the “career”. But I get sucked into the classic old duffer thing of droning on about the fucking music industry, which I know nothing about. But it’s hard to lie because it feels like dreadful disrespect to some poor professional who has diligently read the press release and scanned Wikipedia. In Nashville in 2014 the record company were so bereft of promo bookings they foisted me onto some poor DJ live on air at what seemed three minutes notice in a bar during a big college football final. He had no clue who or what I was but quite brilliantly got my name up online on his tablet and grabbed questions from his screen as I was answering the previous one. I was terribly sorry he didn’t get the other Justin Currie, Canadian wrestler. Those are questions I could have conjured with.
Ophelia has spun herself out and the road is shining sliver in the angled southern light. We draw up to traffic on the approach to the Empire’s Second City and the ribbon of raised concrete flying into its skyline feels thoroughly American. Satnav dumps us at the wrong hotel and we don’t take receipt of our credit-card room keys until five. I have a pleasant enough box on the 14th floor. Things get thrown into rough position before I take the evening air. I’ve no idea where I’m going. Eventually I drop into a noodle joint frequented by the semi-successful and wholly sad. I’m proud to join their club. In the rude pink of the sunset I weave into an Odeon. I buy a ticket from the hot dog vendor, box offices now historical oddities. I join the demi-monde of singletons studded around the seats in screen number one and am quickly asleep. The film, Blade Runner, has sufficiently frequent explosions that I’m denied a truly satisfying slumber. I regain full consciousness for the sentimental denouement and yawn at the pointlessness of it all. God knows what just happened but I think Ryan Gosling was a robot. On the way back I have to skirt round a cherry picker. I lift my head to see a necklace of Christmas lights being stretched across the street.
In the morning I go for another brief foray into the jumble of Birmingham. I take the lift to viewing deck of the new library. You’ll have seen photos of this building. It’s the one that looks like a Blue Peter make-your-own toy. A tugboat perhaps, made from a serial packet, a toilet roll tube and covered in barbed wire. I’m directed to level 9 by a friendly official who also recommends I check out the secret garden. There’s nothing very secret about this – I think he tells everyone. I end up both mildly impressed and vaguely underwhelmed, like a depressive at a beheading.
A text lights up in my palm. Leaving time, load-in time. Get back on the horse, George, playtime is over.