The Naked Karaoke Singer
Run out of London on a rail
25th September, 2003
Going away parties, who can like them?
Like most men, I choose to see myself as a hell of a chap, a cross between Errol Flynn, W.B. Yeats and Genghis Khan -
a natural leader of men. Film star looks, the soul of a poet, and a hidden wish to see my enemies' heads on a spike - and on an
ordinary day I maintain this self-illusion suprisingly well. I stride to the bus stop with decision; my microwaved potatoes
would move a nightingale to tears; I change channels like a hero.
It's the big events I fear. That's when the image meets cruel reality. On my last day of work (it seems I've spent a full year thrusting forward into the future of mobile telephony: as much
of a suprise to me as anyone) we gathered to wake my still warm corpse. There were no grinning mongol warriors feasting from skulls; no pouting starlets;
no lines of police to hold back the crowds. Just a little knot of engineers, crowded against the side of a pub with stained carpets,
screeching women and short dark Welshmen flirting with girls in the only way they know - sullen angry stares washed down with pints of bitterness.
In the corner, a short bald middle-aged man, inflamed, sensed his moment of glory had come.
He threw off all his clothes down to the thong and performing a short, bald
naked karaoke. Women, screeching.
This party was for me, but I didn't want it. Who could? There is so much I could say to these friends, whom I may never see again,
so naturally we spend
our time discussing mobile telephony (such a thrusting future) and make up even more foolish names for company bosses. There
are rude stories, I teach them spoof, I lose at spoof, we offer to sell one of our women to the Welsh.
It's disappointing. to have spent so much time building friendships, only to throw them down and
have to start again; to wish them into existence and then let them crumble back to dust.
It's even more disappointing to realise that, after I leave, my friends will not remain frozen in attitudes of loss and admiration,
but will somehow even manage to carry on their seperate lives. Somehow the universe does not revolve around me after all: how did
that ever come about?
Another home to leave. More friends, won through such effort, to be cast aside, in the name of some urge I can't even name. To
move forward. To find a destiny made of fire and heartache. Isolation.
It was time to go anyway. I was attracting far to much attention to myself again.
It was the creative part of French class that did it. Where we were to make up conversation and practise speaking like a sensible being for once.
The question: what are your most favorite foulliasses - your favorite little nothings. I hoped, I hoped someone would say something
crazy, something wild and unexpected. I wondered who would say anything interesting. Please don't let it be me.
"I like saying special things to people who really matter." oh no, please let someone else be daring.
"I like walking in the country." Oh God spare me. Don't make me into the class clown again.
"I like cats." Christ. No help for it
I don't like attention. I don't like to be rendered, naked and singing, before any crowd.
No longer one among equals, but a performer and an audience. No longer a complete human,
but a seperate thing, an object. A dancing plastic shape. A naked karaoke singer.
So why do it then? Because we have only do many breaths in this life and I hate, I hate wasting any of them being unnecessarily
mundane. Predictable. I am not going to say in anwer to the class question, now, that I like the smell of babies or the colour of the
sky on a summer's day. But it doesn't always have to be me. Today I wish it were not. However:
"I like the look on a man's face when you've made him look small in front of his woman"
What is the price this flouting? I burn myself, cast seperate, alone in a crowd of friends: a destiny
of fire and tears. We go forward, naked, to the sacrifice.
Sometimes I wish it wasn't me, naked in front of the world. Sometimes I wish it was.
Grande Ville, Grande Ecole
We lived in London . We complained about it; we boasted about it. About the greatest and worst in the world.
About the infinite choice available to us: the great museums, the exciting nightspots,
the theatre. About the imperial grandeur of the capital. About the immense legacy of architecture and engineering and achievement left
by countless prior generations. All ours now.
We talked about London. And then we went home and did the same things we would have done anywhere else.
We had a couple of drinks, talked a little, and watched Suburban Envy every night on TV
(Sascha's just bought a discarded crofter's latrine in Wales and has spent £100,000
doing it up in open plan nchoccy chunks? But will the market live up to her expectations?)
We eat curry. We read the papers. So why go on about London? We might as well be in Rochedale.
Because despite all that, and despite our Northern Pride or Irish disdain, London enters into us.
We live in the great city, the grande ville. We are proud of it, even we bastard sons
and passing foreigners. We did not make London, neither the greatness, nor the decline, yet we are proud of it.
The majesty of the buildings, the triumphs of engineering, the world museums. The thought of them enters us and our heads lift. "Yes - I used to go there.
I stayed there for a while. It was... great."
We complain about the transport system and we stand to the right, sneering at some tourist so foolish to stop on the left of an escalator.
We mutter aboout the size of it all, and show off our inticate and hard won knowlege of the best little pub in Islington, or the back streets of Chapel
We dissolve into London and it into us. We lose ourselves, and are made up again, larger than life.
We are the Parthenon room, and the Turner sunsets. We are the Hammersmith bridge, and the Naval College. We are
Kerry-Marie, aged 18, pouting at you naughty boys. We are each other, 12 million across and 2000 years deep. London lifts
us up, raised higher than mortal men, until each breath can count for more.
We are the naked karaoke singer. Slightly ridiculous, daring to stand up, and trying to sing along.