[the stars of track and field]
Isabel is sort of laid there, on a bed or a table, I don't know which, and she fixes me with one of those looks and says 'Why didn't you ask her then?'
I get a bit nervous, I go 'What do you mean?' and Isabel says with that exasperated laugh of hers, 'You know, why didn't you ask Jo when you spoke to her at break?'
I'm really nervous now, and am positive I am red (I never used to blush, I think I only started when I became a teacher and was around children all the time), but try to remain composed with a 'What are you on about?' To which Isabel goes 'Jo Orton '.
Of course I know what she's on about, and I say 'Yes I know what Jo you're on about' (could it be any other?) 'but what am I meant to have asked her?'
Isabel is just giving me a look. Sixteen year olds have so many subtle looks, and I'm really not sure what this one means. Nevertheless, it seems obvious I have to say something more. So I go 'Well I did ask her to do extra work for me.' I did, and I blushed then too. 'As a favour.'
Isabel has raised herself up and rests her head in her left hand. 'I didn't mean that. I know about that. I want to know why you didn't ask her what you really wanted to ask her.'
I try to look confused but really all I look like is the startled teenager when they discover that their closely guarded loves and obsessions were not so closely guarded after all, that all their peers have been laughing for weeks at their inability to make action out of desire.
Isabel just fixes me again in the eyes and says simple as you like 'Why didn't you ask her to go out with you?'
I wake up.
[the boy done wrong again]
Later, I dream that Jo is kissing me. She has her hair down and is wearing pale red lipstick. Her hair drifts between us like a veil and gets caught between our lips. I wake again and want to bawl.
[get me away from here I'm dying]
I read the sleeve notes to 'If you're feeling Sinister' and I go all creepy. I've had the CD for ages, but the record shop couldn't find the cover when I bought it, so it's only today when I bought that Reuben Wilson LP that Mike goes, 'we found that Belle & Sebastian cover upstairs last week.' And there it was. I read the lyrics in the Boston Tea Party coffee house, and I found that I could sing every last one of the buggers in my head, right off. This despite the fact that I had the Beth Orton (no relation) record on my headphones. The latte was sweet, there were only three other people in the big open loft space, and I felt fucking weird. There was a couple who looked about twenty four, they were maybe students. They weren't talking much, but they were looking at each other a lot. He had a copy of The Guardian open beside him on the beaten brown chesterfield and she was playing with her hair. It was auburn hair. The other customer was a bloke who looked about sixty, he had those funny half moon specs on, and a cardigan. A grey cardigan with a hole in the left elbow. He was reading a collection of Rilke poems and sipping what looked like an espresso.
But I was feeling fucking weird, reading these lyrics and sleeve notes. Something about Casuals in Dalry. That was bloody scary. Reading that, it was bloody scary. I used to travel through Dalry all the time, on the train, on my bike. Never stopped unless I could help it. Only once, to get chocolate after coming over the moor road from Largs, which is on the coast. Oh and once in the station coming back from Paisley where two drunk women touched me and Scott up in the Bakery. Digby had to catch a train home to get to evening work in the South Beach gardens, but it never helped because the train we got on went to Stevenston instead, so we still had to ride home from there. At least we never paid. Scott died in a car crash two years later and Digby got lost taking pictures in London last I heard. Not that that's of much interest to anyone of course.
[me and the major]
Belle & Sebastian are in the Face magazine this month. They get the kind of smirkingly flattering attention that other non-trad-rock groups get in the Face. They get begrudging attention because someone suspects that Belle & Sebastian may well be the best group to have strolled nonchalantly up the avenue of British Pop since some bloke in a big blouse wafted out of Manchester waving a bunch of gladioli. They'd be right too. Shame they have to couch their admiration in cheap shots about anoraks.
Do Belle & Sebastian wear anoraks? Does anyone wear an anorak these days, and if they do, do they wear anoraks without a due sense or irony and a truck-load of nail-polish?
[if you're feeling sinister]
Deliver flowers to a house by hand at five in the morning and give them to the father who opens the door in his dressing gown. Embrace the romance in the river's colour on a March morning and in the breath of air that blows over your cheek as you stand on the top of the car park tower and gaze over the city. On expeditions to the roof of the world, dancing and eating ice creams laced with tequila. Kissing in back of the multiplex, watching Frank Sinatra double bills and strolling home laughing at comets.
I'm making it all up.
Belle & Sebastian are the prettiest poets this land has to offer us, and we'd all be either dim, dumb or dubious to ignore this fact. Carve their names on your arms with your fountain pens.
[judy and the dream of horses]
Someone somewhere is playing the Velvet Underground on a portable cassette player in the sun. Snow is on the ground. They really do think of horses all the time you know.
© Alistair Fitchett. March 1997.