Monday, 30 November 2009
19. Let's Push Things Forward, The Streets (2002)
A kitchen in Dalston that we'd painted yellow, a dodgy CD player gathering dust, and the skinny half of the pair of us flailing around between the spaghetti bolognese he'd take four hours to cook, and a sink full of dishes – my skinny boy with sideburns and a Seventies shirt, a ladle in one hand, a tea-towel in the other. When anybody mentions The Streets, l hear the opening horns of this song, and the years peel away. I'm taken back to Barry, the 26-year-old boyfriend of 24-year-old me, and the flat that we shared on the dark side of town.
We thought Ridley Road was wonderful. We lived in Regal House, a white and blue building that would've looked spick and span if was on a sunny riviera, had been rubbed free of griminess, and had a view of bobbing fishing boats rather than the North London Line. But it was ours, it was cheap to rent, and we loved it. We loved the noise of the stalls on our street and the cheap food we would buy from them; the calypso that would soar from the food vans and record shops; the buildings we'd see rising up from the gloom of the city, including the Gherkin transforming from a root to a rocket; and even the rumble of the nuclear train every night at 10.30, drowning out the telly with its rattle and hum. We also loved the way the empty marketplace looked at night-time, a forbidding, shadowy avenue strung with tiny, glowing lights. For some reason, It made me think of Spaghetti Westerns, and I would often stride through it, in the dark, on my own, pretending I was Clint Eastwood (Good God, I was braver then). Although I'd have a Mr Bagels' veggie special between my teeth at that time, probably, instead of a toothpick or a sexy cigar.
Original Pirate Material was an album that we couldn't stop playing over that perfect year. It whirred as we painted our new home in all sorts of silly colours, and it entertained the mice that we hadn't known about just as much as us. It was also a great place for parties, and the best that we held there was on that New Years' Eve. The fancy dress theme, as these parties always had then, was the album sleeve. I went as the girl on Saint Etienne's Foxbase Alpha – my sign immaculate in red and black fit tip, before my rosé bloody ruined it – while Barry, a fan of The Wedding Present, went as George Best. There were two Live Through Thisses, two Parallel Lines (one male Blondie, one female), a couple as the White Stripes, an Aladdin Sane who fell asleep and smudged her zig-zag, a Meat Is Murder who kept looking at someone she shouldn't have, a Wish You Were Here who filled the flat with orange tissue paper, an inventive Sticky Fingers – with a literal large carrot down his trousers – and a blonde female friend transformed into Craig David with a goatee, headphones and beanie.
The costumes I remember most fondly, however, were the Original Pirate Materials. Guy in a t-shirt covered with yellow neon stickers – a lit-up block of flats disguised as a real human boy – and Lucy walking around in a big cardboard box, windows drawn on her sides, a pirate hat on her head, a peacock on her shoulder. I remember Guy drawing a scary rabbit in one window, and Lucy tapping her fag on him, before everything got a little hazy. Apart from us all flailing around to Let's Push Things Forward, half-drunk, half-asleep, without a care in the world.