Wednesday, 18 November 2009
7. Sometimes It Hurts, Tindersticks (2003)
The summer of 2005 was a very special one for me. It shouldn't have been, really. Me and him had broken up the previous Autumn, and the months that has passed were often unbearably awful – that afternoon he came round and told me he was going to New York with her, the weekend he went, the long, sleepless nights holding onto my phone wanting him to know exactly, precisely, what pain I was going through. By March, Kathryn was moving out to live with her new boyfriend, and Ms Miserable Rogers needed a new housemate. I vaguely knew a friend of a friend, who was travelling around the world, having met him at a pub quiz some time ago, and thought he might work. I sent him some pictures of the flat over e-mail – the February snowfall making Lower Clapton Road look much more inviting – and six weeks later, Andrew Denney popped round.
Andrew and I had a connection straightaway. He came round early on a sunny afternoon to have a look round the flat; we went to the pub at 4; he came home with me at 8; and at 3 in the morning the swine was still there, drinking me under the table, in the highest of spirits. He was perfect. He was sweet and funny, he liked to give others their space, he made good cups of tea, and – my God – he loved Kraftwerk. And this would've been the perfect beginning to a story about two people falling in love if we'd fancied each other. Instead, we became the kind of close friends that you only get very rarely, the sort that Enid Blyton and Judy Blume tell you about when you're little. But as we were sort of grown ups – not desperately into Sindy Dolls, or spending hours re-reading Forever – we drank cornershop lagers instead, watched Tindersticks videos, invented our own private worlds as our real ones fell apart.
By that summer, our respective love lives started to get a bit complicated. I was starting to get back together with my old boyfriend, while Andrew was in a bit of a pickle that I won't repeat here in case he reads this and kills me. We'd spend hours talking about our respective messes on the sofa, staring at a poster Andrew had tacked to the living room door. It was a poster for Waiting For The Moon from 2003, a Tindersticks album Andrew had recently played for me, which I had recently fallen for. I particularly loved a song called Sometimes It Hurts, a duet about two people wondering if there was "something new going on", old loves climbing walls, old songs running through their heads. Even now, I still catch my breath when I hear Lhasa De Sela's vocals – like a warm summer breeze cutting through clothes to the skin – that complement Stuart Staples' baritone so beautifully.
But back then, for us, everything was about Stuart. Given that so many of his songs were about indiscretions in bathrooms, and terrible affairs, we had him marked down as the ultimate rogue, someone very well-placed to give us unsuitable direction. What Would Stuart Do, Andrew asked me one day, and he soon became our own inappropriate personal Jesus. This joke ran and ran. We talked about getting ourselves W.W.S.D wristbands like evangelical Christians, and even extending the range to take in coffee mugs and tea-towels. The logic was this: wherever we were, Stuart would be there, pushing us towards much more exciting adventures. How could it fail?
Not long later, something unbelievable happened. As a young writer with not much experience, I managed to blag an hour-long interview spot with the great man himself. The interview was for the sadly-missed Comes With A Smile magazine, and you can see my cover interview with Stuart here.
The night before I met him, Andrew was away with work. I didn't sleep a wink. I was meeting Stuart at Hither Green train station in South London, and I had grand designs about our boy sweeping me up when I got there, taking me home to purr at me forever. The reality, of course, as it always is, was very different. Stuart was a happily married man with four children, after all, and, even more strangely, I didn't fancy him in the flesh. On stage he was my cigarette-smoking, dashing chanteur; in the real world, he was a gently grinning sweetheart with a natty taste in suits. Even though we caught the same train back to London after our time together – oh, God, Brief Encounter, just imagine the sequel – and although we shared many warm words, the dream had died. Hell, I didn't even mention the tea towels.
But two years later – you'll never guess what – I did. Dispatched to his new home in rural France by The Guardian, I spent a day with Mr Staples and his bandmate, Dave Boulter, followed by a long, boozy night in a small, local restaurant. Stuart's wife Suzanne also joined us – not the raven-haired, silent beauty I'd imagined from those exotic songs, but a short-cropped, wisecracking Northerner who I couldn't get enough of. We ate massive steak bleus, drank gallons of vin rouge, and got completely, thoroughly, exhilaratingly, rat-arsed. And then I couldn't hold it back any longer. I told Suzanne, and then Stuart, about W.W.S.D..
I can still hear the laughter rattling through Limousin, and the beep of my mobile phone when Andrew texted me back the next morning, not quite believing what his old housemate had done. When I hear Sometimes It Hurts now, it takes me back to that night, but it also reminds me of that glorious summer, of the friendship that began, and will continue, in the pub, this weekend. Thank you for helping me live and laugh again, Andrew Denney. You will always be my second favourite rogue in the world.