OK, in truth I did have a long standing arrangement to meet up with my mate, Libido Boy, to go out and paint the town a middle-aged red. As someone said on the show the other morning, "when given a choice of sins, you choose the one that gets you home early". This baffled producer Dr Strangelove, as did another suggestion from you: "You can dress as young as you like but you will be found out by a flight of stairs"! His face was a picture.
Yes friends, it is true that sometimes people’s mouths just drop open as they struggle to comprehend what is going on. Still, he can always beat me with his encyclopaedic knowledge of Madonna, Westlife and Elias and his Zig Zag Jive flutes.
So leaving the DL howling in pain....
OK, she was in some discomfort as the healing process has started and her vertebrae are starting to fuse following the removal of a badly slipped disc in her neck.
Her son Jamie had pointed out (somewhat unhelpfully) that - as it was Halloween - she could go Trick or Treating with him and she wouldn't need any make up as she had a Frankenstein scar on her neck. He will go far that boy. Not sure where but certainly a long way. The scar, by the way, is fading fast; my suggestion of a tattoo by it reading "Cut here" didn't go down that well, though.
Odd as I have seen that tattoo many times on blokes over the years. Never women though. Although I have seen cat paw marks tattooed onto their breasts which must have seemed mildly amusing at the time; thirty years and three children later it may not have seemed such a corker of a wheeze.
DL gave me her blessing and waved a misty-eyed and stoic goodbye as I left to meet L_Boy and she rushed inside to catch X Factor and Strictly, her two guilty pleasure TV thrills.
We had arranged some time ago to go and see Mary Chapin Carpenter. One of the draws was that she was being supported by Tift Merritt who we had seen and enjoyed with Teddy Thompson a year or so back
We had to get to London's Barbican Centre. Being the weekend a lot of the Tube lines are closed for maintenance work, so we decided to walk. We strode out towards the Thames and, after an hour, arrived at the Embankment when I realised that perhaps the Barbican was not really the Festival Hall; I had become confused as we had been to both in the past. So we needed to be.....erm, in fact, some long way further North-East. In truth, not all that far really from our original starting point. Doh!
We were also running out of time as the concert was due to start at 7.30. We needed a cab. Everyone else had the same idea as we wandered fruitlessly round Euston and Kings Cross stations surrounded by young people in fancy dress off to Halloween parties....mainly it would appear by cab!
Then by a supreme stroke of good fortune we found one, leapt in and off we went at breakneck speed (11 mph, this is London - home of the traffic signal and grid lock). Arriving with seconds to spare we threw ourselves out of the taxi, hurtled up the stairs, past a display featuring a De Lorean car for some reason and a smiling usher. Libido Boy was convinced that he said "Hello Alex" when we came in and that he knew me. There was no look of contempt on his face so I doubted that was the case and he must have misheard.
In keeping with our rough, tough, hard men out on the town image we stopped at a concession stand and selected a bag of sucky sweets and arrived at the door just as it slammed shut for the first song by Tift Merritt. We waited and then in we went. We had seats high up in the gods so the figures on stage were in plain view, but with no discernible facial features. Whatever happened to opera glasses that you rented by popping 6d in the slot and removing them from the bracket in front of your seat?
Not sure what has happened to Tift Merritt either but she seemed to have gone all introspective and was given to agonised vocal swoops and mumbling which was a shame as I love her records.
Barbican is a very civilised venue with polite applause, little whooping and - strangely for these times - few people trying to record the gig or take pics with their mobile phones.
The headline act came on and we settled down for some quality music and more sucky sweets. Neither of us had seen her before but we knew her stuff. She didn't disappoint. Great band, wonderful songs brilliantly sung and some interesting and amusing introductions to the tunes, including one about kissing a dog which provoked a resounding "eeeeewwwww" from the refined crowd.
We enjoyed it a lot but it was a somewhat detached performance.
During a quieter song I was aware of the man sitting next to me. Obviously a music journalist who had been taking copious notes, had stopped his frantic scribbling and was snoring gently head back notebook about to slide to the floor.
Wonder what his review read:
"After a cracking start with some old favourites Mary moved onto tracks from her new alb..........................................................................................."
Once the show was over it was town painting time which meant we had to get from The Barbican to Camden in order to cram ourselves into the Elephants Head pub with the bright young fashionistas, all trying to look like Lily Allen, whilst older and eminently more sensible people played Reggae, Ska and Rockabilly on the Wheels of Steel.
First we needed a cab. The streets were thronging with Devils, ghouls, zombies and Draculas. Never realised that Transylvania’s most popular mode of transport was the Hackney carriage!
Plunging a stake through the heart of the nearest…well, we learned that drunken vampires don't move very quickly, we managed to flag a cab and off we went at breakneck speed (between 5 and 11mph due to drunken ghouls flinging themselves in front of the vehicle trying to flag it down, not realising the yellow hire light was unlit)
As we disembarked the driver looked at us smirked and said, "You'll be lucky to get a quiet drink here tonight, Camden's always mad on a Saturday but this being Halloween as well..."
This is the part of the evening we particularly enjoy in true middle-aged fashion. Libido Boy is addicted to crisps and has to have a packet with every pint. So we stand there waiting for a seat to become vacant, guzzling beer and eating crisps as he worries about his salt intake and I worry about my units of alcohol.
He is also very gregarious and will talk to anyone as he is genuinely interested in people. On one occasion he tried his halting Spanish on a Catalan couple who seemed interested in his efforts, albeit nonplussed as they spoke perfect English.
In between sets he struck up a conversation with the woman DJ. Didn't catch her name but she was from San Francisco originally so we knew a few of the same Radio guys out there. She was also an artist who found her most creative period was at night and so listened to the show which was nice to hear.
Then it was swap over time and tall thin DJ came over to chat and we talked music and the radio whilst Libido Boy continued to worry about his salt intake. By this time I had forgotten about my units.
We were satisfied to note that by the time last orders came round at 1.00am we were the only people left; all the Lily Allen and Pete Doherty clones having tottered off to bed...or so we thought. A blow for the stamina of the middle aged man! However we soon realised by the bedlam in the streets outside outside that they were in fact all going off to clubs or parties.
Nothing for it but a burger from our favourite street corner vendor with L-Boy asking for "English Mustard", as usual, from a baffled man whose first language isn't English. He pointed to the two sorts of dressings on offer for his burgers; "red stuff" and "yellow stuff". Two Cheeseburgers with red AND yellow stuff, hang the salt intake!
Then a lonely walk home through the deserted streets with one rock and roll thought in our minds.
"Wonder if there is a bin to discard the wrappers on the way home"
Also, still keep your Listener's Library suggestions coming in. As we are approaching Christmas, maybe your favourite Christmas song or - even better - you favourite anti-Christmas song! Or maybe a nice dedication for 'im or 'er indoors, awww. Visit here, I look forward to seeing - and hearing - your suggested records.