2015–2016: The Soundtrack (Part IV)

In case you missed it, the full year in review can be found below, yo.

How many thousands of words of drivel are we up to now on the last 365+ days — I could calculate it thanks to Medium and math(s) — and I, recently very dark haired, black eyeliner applying, black on the outside / inside wearing… I haven’t even mentioned music.

Specifically, the scene that celebrates itself (Steve Sutherland, Melody Maker circa 1991), the stuff I grew up listening to and frankly still do: new wave, punk, and of course, britpop.

And if you have five seconds to spare
Then I’ll tell you the story of my life

Fear not, whoever you are reading this, we’re not doing a deep dive on my entire life. I was born in 1977, that would take fucking forever.

It’s day 371 of my big apple departure, and if described chronologically these words would be about an empty picture frame outside a castle in Cardiff…

… or the time I was a token unicorn in an Italian medieval fortress town alongside my former boss, editor, mentor, “no sci fi in the newsroom, we already seem geeky enough” rule breaker and friend Aron...

But Thom Yorke just drawled on my stereo, “I’m on a roll, I’m on a roll this time.” Deal with it. Part IV is here, and it’s britpop whilst walking the streets of London bumping into Britishese.

The Smiths

In case you weren’t aware, “The Smiths were an English rock band formed in Manchester in 1982.” [citation given]

Play a song that opens with the line, “Call me morbid, call me pale,” to a teenage goth/punk type and you’ve got an instant Smiths fan.

Me in Greenwich Village around age 17.
Sixteen, clumsy and shy
I went to London and I
I booked myself in at the Y.W.C.A
I said “I like it here, can I stay?

These lines, from Half a Person, are pretty damn close to describing the first time I went to London. It was the late 90s, I was slightly older than 16, but clumsy and shy? Check. I liked it here, but I didn’t ask to stay.

Elvis Costello

A quick hop skip and jump over to All This Useless Beauty. We’ll get back to The Smiths. I always do.

You’ll see me off in the distance, I hope
At the other end, at the other end of the telescope

Have I mentioned how I met this guy a couple years ago at the end of back-to-back speaking engagements, the last being Hacks/Hackers London, where I turned out to go on last, after several speakers, intermissions, an open bar and many glasses of wine? That guy was Iain Collins and after being at the other end of the telescope, across the sea, intermittent visits back and forth, lots of airplanes and bleary eyed mornings in Heathrow, if we were going to give this relationship a chance, we had to at least live in the same time zone, preferably, the same city.

Love led me to London.

Shall we agree that just this once I’m gonna change my life?

Sure. I changed my life. Let’s do a quick recap of how:

I quit my job at The New York Times, the once dream job, the place I’d sometimes skip through the lobby on my way to the elevators feeling like Mary Tyler Moore.

Found footage from the newsroom at my former desk.

I moved out of my crazy but excellently located apartment in Brooklyn. I fucking left Brooklyn!

I filled in massive amounts of paperwork, going through so many hoops I had forgotten what a hoop was when it was finally time to mail my passport to the British Embassy on a lark that they’d give me a visa… for an unknown amount of time.

You’re half-naked ambition and you’re half out of your wits

I mean, I figured it’d be good for a few years seeing as I was entirely changing my life, taking a (not-as-well-paying) job at a highly regarded global news organisation — there’s the ambition for you. From here to Lyse Doucet. Half out of my wits, though, as I was joining an organisation that, as I had read back in 2012 in The New York Times, was “already known for its bureaucracy became even more unwieldy (the editorial guidelines are now 215 pages long).”

But hey, I loved the World Service and I figured every organization has its problems. And I loved The New York Times, sure, but I was leaving after a particularly brutal year. You may have heard about it.

So my passport arrived and I was given about a year to legally live and work in London at the BBC. It was time to experience London’s Brilliant Parade.

Just look at me
I’m having the time of my life
Or something quite like it
When I’m walking out and about
In London’s brilliant parade

My daily commute brings me to “the occidental bazaar they used to call Oxford Street.” While I don’t have much use for posh Kensington, Camden Town is nearby and only yesterday I bought some trainers — Britishese for sneakers — there. And, you know what, Elvis Costello was right with his concluding line to that song:

The lovely Diorama is really part of the drama, I’d say.


Back to The Smiths, Sort Of

Or, okay, solo Morrissey. I know, I know, it’s not the same.

Why do you smile when you think about Earl’s Court?

Earl’s Court is a tube station and was also one of the venues in the 2012 London Olympics. I’ve been to Earl’s Court. Why the fuck would you even think about it let alone smile while — whilst, fucking fine — doing so?

Really, The Smiths

A dreaded sunny day so I’ll meet you at the cemetery gates

Surprisingly — given my nature, my interests, location and overall style (if you can call it that — this song, “Cemetery Gates,” has only very recently become significant in, relevant to my life. That’s a whole other story involving, um, “The Pearly King & Queen of Hampstead.” Trust me, it’s too much to go into here.

Brompton Oratory

Nick Cave is indeed originally from Australia, but he’s certainly lived and written about London enough to qualify here. On his album “The Boatman’s Call” there is a song called “Brompton Oratory.” And one day, I stumbled upon it, in west London. It’s a real place.

Outside I sit on the stone steps
With nothing much to do
Forlorn and exhausted, baby

I resemble this remark. You should check out this track if you don’t know it already — a ballad, a crooner.

My ex-husband’s parents apparently were married there, but I still like the song.


Who else could I close this chapter with besides David Bowie?

Iain and I in Brixton next to Bowie’s mural, now memorial.
Though nothing, will drive them away
We can beat them, just for one day

Brixton, in south London, is worthy of several gazillion words — I’m a bit enchanted by the area. This is where David Bowie is from, of course.

The Dog Star, Brixton, Barking Mad.

“Blame it on the black star,” a la Radiohead, or go down the rabbit hole with The Dog Star? I think I know what’s next.

Show your support

Clapping shows how much you appreciated Jacqui Maher’s story.