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Life with Lavendar in London town

Thursday, 17 March 2016

Natalie Merchant - Paradise is There - Royal Albert Hall, March 16, 2016

There are definitive albums (yes, let’s still call it an album) that are mark out periods of your life. One such album for me is Tiger Lily, by the American artist, Natalie Merchant. During my twenties, the plaintive tones of Ms Merchant were often found on my Walkman (for those of you who don’t know what that is – Google it) and then later, my Discman (Google) Her appeal as a singer songwriter came from her sparse song arrangements accompanied by deceptively simple lyrics which evoked complex worlds within which characters spoke of their day to day lives and served to draw me in.

Last night Natalie Merchant played her only London show as part of her worldwide 2016 tour, Paradise is There.  The tour commemorates the twenty year anniversary of Tiger Lily’s release. The tour showcases re-recordings of the original eleven songs with different arrangements, reflecting the passage of time and its impact on both songwriter and song.

I had managed to score a ticket to the show which was at the Royal Albert Hall. An email from the venue had stipulated that there would be no support act and that Natalie would arrive on stage at 7.30pm.  In my seat by 7.20pm, I watched as the half empty venue slowly filled up. The audience demographic seemed like they would appreciate an early start so they could be back home and in bed by 11.00pm.

Soon Natalie arrived on stage as promised and launched into her first song. Halfway through, she forgot the words. So she started again. And then again. Apologising for her nerves, she re-commenced the song and by its end, she could have recited the alphabet or read the dictionary. By flubbing the lyrics, she had won us over. As she started to hit her stride it became clear that her songs have not diminished with time, nor her voice. 

As she played through her first set, Ms Merchant visibly warmed up as she sang her old tunes, dancing on the stage like a flamenco whirling dervish. She was dressed in the manner of a ballet teacher in a black ballet wraparound top, black leggings and black chiffon skirt.  Her hair manifested itself differently for each song. Sometimes up. Sometimes down. Sometimes being held by her hand and sometimes being whipped along to the beat of the music. Her hair had a show in its own right.

As she danced to her own music, it seemed that she was invoking the songs through her dancing.  The more she danced, the warmer she got. The warmer she got, the more relaxed she seemed.  And the more relaxed she became, the more powerful her performance.  It was as much a visual treat as well as an aural one. By the end of the first set, the audience were all warmed up too and reluctantly let her go for the compulsory intermission as dictated by the venue so it could make more money from the audience at the bar.

Even though she said her touring act were unaccustomed to taking intermission breaks, there was no sign of mid show lethargy as Natalie and her band plunged us into the second set post intermission. Relaxed, she bantered with the audience and weaved her way through the aisles, mixing singing with improvisational dance. Remarkably she managed to create an atmosphere of intimacy whilst performing in such a cavernous venue. It was extraordinary and even though my seat was far up in the highest circle, I did not feel far at all.

In fact, it felt like I was in my twenties again. Listening to her on my Walkman while walking down the streets of my hometown.

Friday, 11 March 2016

Mother to Child

I'm baacck....

And to kick off my re-entry into the blogging world, I'll post this which I wrote many moons ago when I was nowhere close to being a mother:

Dear Child,

Life? What can I possibly tell you about life? I am no expert. I can only tell you what I have felt and seen and learned so far. So what I am telling you is only my story, for you to take or leave as you so wish.

As you grow older, you will become more aware of time. Not time as in the real sense, meaning those handful of  moments in our lives which really matter. No, in this case I mean time as in the clock ticking time. You will notice yourself becoming more preoccupied with this notion of time and how Time is Short.  How you may not be able to fit in everything you want to do as You Have No Time.

If you can, I would say ditch this approach immediately. Do not make yourself a willing slave to this idea of time. Because in the end, it is only an idea. A powerful one, but an idea nonetheless and as with all ideas, they exist only in our minds eye unless we give them the power to live in the world.

You see, it is not true that time is short and that you have no time. In reality, time is what you make of it and if you choose to make time for something or someone, the time will be there.  Do not trust people who tell you constantly that they are so very, very busy and do not have time for you. The truly busiest people that I know always find a moment for what is important.

Be generous. Be a generous person not only with your time but with your thoughts, your actions, your money, your mind and your heart. Be someone that is interested in other people. It is always possible to find something in common or something interesting about another person no matter how different they may seem to you. Fight against the urge to think too much about yourself and instead, focus on others. Extend your perspective outwards.  There is a big wide world for you to explore with all its magic and wonders and it will open itself up to you if you choose to look at it rather than looking at yourself.

It is important in life to have discipline. I hope that I have instilled some sense of that within you. When I was a little girl, your grandmother put me in ballet classes. I hated them. For nine bitter years, I endured these classes. They were hard and tough and I hated my teacher. My mother (your grandmother) would not give into my pleas to stop.

She used to say to me, 'You don't understand now what this is giving you but you will when you are older. It is not just about learning ballet, it is learning about discipline and how to hold yourself in the world. ' 

When I was fifteen, everything changed. I became mature enough to realise how useful the discipline I had learned from ballet was. I was able to apply it in so many different sectors of my life. This discipline helped me become the woman I am today and the mother I am to you. So discipline is important. Keep some in your life at all times. It will help you through a lot in life.

Surround yourself with positive, loving people. Do not be too proud or too scared to listen to what others have to say and share in their experience of the world. We all have a lot to teach each other. Try to avoid pettiness and also do not hold yourself to impossible standards. Perfection is an illusion and a hard taskmaster. As long as you do your best in what you turn your attention to, be happy with that. Be happy with flaws.

Cultivate humility. Do not confuse humility with false modesty. Be confident and proud of yourself and your achievements but do not boast or brag. You do not need to parade yourself constantly to others.

For some reason that I cannot understand, we are encouraged in society to strive to be happy. As if Happiness is a state of being that we should all reach. Well, that is not my view. If you were happy all the time, it would drive you and everyone else around you mad. Learn to realise that happiness in life comes in moments. It comes and then it goes. Appreciate when it is with you but do not long for it constantly. Life is about so many emotions and states of being. Embrace them all rather than being fixated on only one.

There are so many more things that I wish to write and share with you but I think you will find your own way. The last thing I will leave you with is love. There is a lot said about love and so there should be as it is important. If you wish to have love in your life; be a loving person. It is a mistake to 'look'  for love, for if it is not within your own self, you won’t find it anywhere else.  For love is a reflection of your own humanity upon the world. Love is a muscle that you must constantly flex. It is not passive and it does not 'happen' to you. You create the love that you want.

I helped create you and you are my love.

Your Mother.