Monday, 28 December 2009
47. The Ocean, Richard Hawley (2005)
Oliver and I in the Scala, a warm night in September, a man with the lungs of a crooner but the tongue of a sailor, romancing us, cossetting us, shaking our bellies. The humour and sweetness of his songs and his banter showing how much they could move us, in such very different ways.
I first met Oliver in 2001 when he convinced the gullible, drunken me, at Barry's 25th birthday party, that he used to be in 911, but was sacked for being too tall and too fat. He was from Sheffield, and a year later he started going out with my friend Kathryn, one of the Liver Birds from E8, and we'd spend hours together as couples talking nonsense, watching talking heads nostalgia shows, dancing to Britpop on the carpet after too many drinks, and talking about music until our throats were rubbed raw. We made countless mix-CDs for each other, and Oliver and Kathryn also introduced me to Richard Hawley, especially Baby You're My Light, which memory tells me was their song together.
By 2004, things had changed. Kathryn and Oliver broke up a week after Barry and I did, and the great house swap experiment of that late winter began quickly after it. I left the flat I loved so dearly in Archway to head to Hackney Wick, sharing a double bed with Kathryn for a few months; Oliver heading west in a cab for four sofa cushions on my old living room floor, just as I headed east. We all survived those strange weeks, and it still makes me happy that our friendships have too, as time has spun on, and our relationships have changed – my on-off-on-off-on love-life with Dan finally reaching peace; Kathryn meeting Rupert, doing national tours of charity shop record collections in his driving instructor's car, and getting engaged to him this summer on a journey through Eastern Europe; Oliver getting together with Hyun-Sook a little later, marrying her in 2008, and their four-week-old daughter, Juno, having just had her first Christmas.
When I think of these friends, I still think of Richard Hawley, and The Ocean is my favourite song of his by far – so shamelessly romantic, so eye-wateringly lovely, that I can never resist it. It reminds me of that night in the Scala when Oliver and I stood in raptures, then getting into the aftershow party where Oliver asked Hawley for matches for his cigarette, and whether he loved Wednesday or United ("Wednesday, for fuck's sake", being Hawley's correct reply"); of my lovely holiday alone in Barcelona in late 2005, rambling us The Ramblas to the sounds of a very different city; and of the romance in his music in general that keeps glowing on, however our circumstances as friends of people have changed. More than anything, it reminds me that all this time was for us, and we loved each other just because.