Simon's diary

Northumberland Tour 2007



Day 1

I was showing Michael, a semi-famous friend from college, around my new house. As we got to the top I took him out on to the roof, it seemed like the whole neighbourhood were sitting up there, as if they were watching a tennis match, looking out in to the distance, talking to each other, laughing.



I walked over to the edge of the roof where there was some loose chicken wire acting as a fence, as I got closer to it the floor of the roof seemed to give way a little. It was scary and fun too. I wanted to look over the edge but it just didn't feel safe so I stepped back. Most of my neighbours had trotted off now. It was just me and a woman, Michael had disappeared, he often does that, sometimes for years. I spoke to the woman about getting the roof and fence fixed and walked back in to the house.


* * *


Larry, my friend from the US, has come over to give a talk at a conference, he's speaking about Barbie and her sex life, which is slightly apt as last week a friend and I were going to sing the Barbie song, only to find our guitarist chickened out.


I woke from my rooftop dream because the proprietor of the gig was calling to see if I could perform again on the 15 th . I said I was away “touring” right now – a bit of bullshit can go a long way. Well I am touring but I left what type of touring to his imagination. Hopefully he thinks I'm an up and coming star!


* * *


Before I got up, I lay thinking about why I hadn't done one of these diaries for so long now. Among the multitude excuses there was one which out shone the rest. Life!


For the last few years I've had to get on with living, and in comparison these adventures are far easier. The big adventure, life and love, is such a struggle that if anything these are a relief, an escape. An escape for me and an escape for those who read about them too. And so I thought, as I finally kicked off the duvet, how true that cliché about normal life being the hardest struggle to endure is. Hastily I put on my Indiana Jones costume, trudged to my Saab convertible, laptop on my back, and a Tescos carrier bag full of food that won't last til I get back.


* * *


This will most likely be a mini adventure, 5 days in all, setting off from London, stopping off in Barnsley, Newcastle, Seahouses, Lindisfarne, - shit Larry's just told me we're not going to Edinburgh – oh well the Scottish hate the English (allegedly) so they'll be relieved -.


* * *


England is suffering the wettest June for many years, with flooding in the North. The main motorway through England 's centre is the M1 and it had been closed for a few days due to floods. As I drove up it we were ushered through limited speed zones where they use those really unfair average speed cameras – unfair because I forgot about them and sped through at about 10 mph above the limit, so that's another expense I'll probably have to handle when I get back – can't wait!-.


About 3 hours after setting off I arrived at Lee's place in Barnsley . He had accompanied me on the first of these diaries to New York , just after September 11 th . We've been friends since we were 13, got on as soon as we met, and apart from a few major fall outs along the way, we now chat on a weekly basis and when we meet up it's as if we haven't been apart. What is it that makes some friendships like that?


And so as we sat in his office, he showed me photos of how far up the garden the water had risen a few days ago, and swapped music, as you do, and talked about those we know, knew, or are just getting to know, the minutes swept past and the two hours were gone. I got in my car, we said goodbye, we don't shake hands, rarely send each other cards, or God forbid presents!!! And yet he is among a few very close friends.


I had recently been to a philosophy meeting in a room via a tiny staircase, above a bar in a pub. There we talked about friendship and technology and in it we discussed some of Plato's ideas about “true friendship”. He said – reportedly – that if there was some gain to be had out of being with someone that that could negate the possibility of true friendship. For instance if you won the lottery you may suddenly find yourself surrounded by new friends. Secondly he said that if someone played a role to you, such as being your boss, a family member, or even your partner then because you couldn't tell them everything / anything, that again you couldn't be “true friends”. Many people say their partner is their best friend, but one has to ask: “Could you tell your partner absolutely anything, including who you fancy etc.. ?” In the meeting it was also pointed out that our best friends often don't share similar political views and other value systems. We also felt that true friendship, like true love comes with out conditions.

Speeding up memory lane

As I drove up the spine of the country each signpost off of it pointed to people I had met and stories we had shared, they may not have been true friends but each one had played their often important parts. In Northampton , my friend had found her true love after years of being unhappily married, a year later he was killed in a crash in Malta . In Leicester I have relatives – they've just had a baby -. I hasten to point out that they are not both blood relatives, that might be a bit dodgy, one is a blood relative and the other is related due to being married to him – Ok we're all happy about that now then? The Loughborough exit – my car caught fire once, a long time ago, as I drove and I pulled off there. Derby – a friend of mine was a vicar there – now he's some special envoy and is disabled too. Matlock – I spent time at a religious camp nearby, and I nearly drowned there when I was a child -. Barnsley – I have friends there and lived there for a time -. Halifax – I worked there and made some friends too – Julie has learning difficulties and has men trying to take advantage of her, Robert lives in the middle of nowhere and I got him in to computers, now he's always online, a thorn in the side of his local council. Leeds – My girlfriend at the time introduced me to her friends, I got on well with Mike but one day his girlfriend seduced me and mine then went back and told him so that ended that friendship. In Middlesborough I made love to a gangsters sister. In Newcastle I have friends I've known for 23 years but I've lost their number – I will knock on their door while I'm here -. The journey was symbolically fast and furious, the rain pelted my car, we aquaplaned a few times. And then – finally - in the pouring rain Larry was standing at the side of my car, helping me out with my stuff.

And so the adventure begins