Sunday, 6 December 2009
25. Finisterre, Saint Etienne (2002)
In 2007, I was starting to get sick of the city I loved. I was bored of endless bus journeys, tired of long trips on the tube, dreaming of the kind of life that I could have outside it. Less noise, less clamour, less sirens, less everything. So one day, I didn't stop at my bus stop in Hackney. I didn't run down the steps when I reached Bethnal Green either. I looked straight ahead, and I kept on walking.
I fell in love with London again by finding it on foot. I fell in love with London again by making it mine.
It was like watching the world open up in front of me. I found gorgeous places in Angel, minutes from where I had worked for four years at The Word, which I had never seen before. I looked more closely at buildings, shop fronts and street corners; I would catchy new specks of life along rivers and canals; I would find secret shortcuts along little lanes, and I felt like these were my secrets that I was weaving within. Soonafter, I started listening to music to accompany my journeys. I would dig out old albums from dusty shelves in my living room, trying to find songs that matched the rhythms of my feet, the thrum of my pulse, the soft, forward motions of my big, soppy heart.
And while I was walking, I found Finisterre again. I'd never really got on with the album it came from the first time around, but its title track made sense on those cold, wintry mornings on the way to edit pages, my earphones snug in my lugs, carrying my big belted coat through the wind and the rain. Those looping, meshing pianos and harps as it started, weaving a web of romance and excitement; that strange synthesiser melody coming straight after it, like the welcoming embrace of a '70s educational programme; Sarah Cracknell standing alone, speaking for us.
As I pounded the pavements, she was speaking for me. "Sometimes I walk home through a network of car parks just because I can", she said, lifting wonderful freedoms from the everyday. She loved "the feeling of being slightly lost/Defining spaces, new routes, new areas". Like me, she also believed that music, "in the long run, straightens out most things"; in "love over cynicism"; in skyscrapers, Electrelane, Beau Brummell and Bauhaus; the "notion of a perfect city" revealing itself.
As the song ended, Sarah would sing, "I want to know the whole of the city with you", a bright beaming sound among the noise, clamour and sirens. I would take these words with me as I walked through the city I was slowly remembering. I would watched them blaze in the streetlights, and in the dark sky, for all of us.