The last few days I’ve been thinking about England. (Last week was the 19th anniversary of coming to this country to live with Kelley.) Usually when I daydream of Ye Olde Countrie it’s of West Yorkshire, where I grew up, and North Yorkshire, where I spent leisure time by the sea or hiking (and sometimes hiking by the sea, particularly around Whitby). But today I’ve been thinking of Hull, in East Yorkshire, where I lived for 10 years doing many fine (and many more regrettable) things (and people). And, yes, I wrote a book about it.
Oddly, until yesterday I had never Googled the band I used to be in (Janes Plane) or the city itself. Why? No clue. But yesterday I was looking at the search terms people use to find me on the web and saw that someone had been looking for ‘Janes Plane’. (And they were not using the apostrophe: whoever you are, gold star!) Anyway, it prompted me to do my own search, and I found this.
Whoa. I knew half the ‘famous people’ in that article.
Let’s start with Everything But the Girl.
Once upon a time, in Hull, there was a dinosaur of a department store on Beverley Road, called Turners’, that sold “Everything but the girl!” The tagline was a big joke in the city’s women’s community (the store itself was a big joke; something left over from the 1950s–cavernous, always empty, sales associates standing at their stations while ‘The Girl from Ipanema’ played from the celing). At this time, the women’s community was tightly connected to Hull University’s drama department (and the English department, and the Sociology department–anywhere there were pretty girls who liked extracurricular adventures). I certainly was, anyway. One of my lovers, Heidi, was a student there. She’s now a Big Cheese in the New York theatre casting world. But I digress.
Heidi was friends with Ben and Tracey. It’s a long story (my way of saying I don’t remember the details; too many illegal substances) but the very first time I put in contact lenses was in the tiny bathroom of Ben and Tracey’s flat while they noodled on a song in the living room. (H, I think, was trying to impress me by taking me there, but failed: I had no clue who they were and cared less. My guess is that Ben and Tracey felt the same about me.)
I don’t think I met Philip Larkin, but if I had I’m sorry to admit his name would have meant nothing to me: he wasn’t pretty; he wasn’t a girl. I did know Roland Gift. We had some mutual friends. Our band supported his early band, The Righteous Brothers (oh, yes, they really did call themselves that), at the Wellington Club. Or maybe they supported us. It’s a bit fuzzy.
I’m pretty sure I met John Prescott, MP, who went on to become Deputy Prime Minister. I have vague memories of a pub in the Old Town, drinking bitter with Rob, my boss at Hull Unemployed Advice Centre (Rob was a County Councillor–the equivalent, perhaps, of a State Senator), and the appearance of a baggy-faced middle-aged creep, a real skirt-lifter. One of those men with very, very low self-esteem who covers it up by pretending a bluff heartiness. He left me alone, though. He may have been stupid in many ways, but not that stupid. I liked Rob. He drank too much–lots of English people did–and knew lots of dodgy people (union people and politicians) but he was essentially kind. Not like Prescott. I couldn’t believe it when he acquired such a huge cabinet portfolio in the ’90s. There again, look at Bush. Emotionally crippled people seem to rise like cream in politics.
Before I go off on emotional cripples and politics, I’ll stop. I hope you enjoyed the trip to my previously forgotten corner of Olde Englande. If you want the soundtrack, go listen to some of the music we made long ago, here on my website.