|Kate Bush or bust! Being given the "diplomatic" treatment |
by Karen and Colin for the ride to the airport.
Me: I'm here to see Kate Bush.
UK immigration officer: That's a very good reason. [Stamps passport]
The exchange with the immigration officer after I landed in London was a good sign. To be honest, I had been sweating this trip because, out of all the visits I've made to the UK in the last 19 years, this one was the most important. I would finally see my muse Kate Bush live on stage - not once, but twice. I was scared something would happen to stop me from going: the Icelandic volcano (I had already selected an alternate route to Spain and a series of train trips), terrorist attacks (the threat level in the UK was raised to "imminent" the day I left) or I'd be hit by a car. I wasn't going to be able to relax until I was in my seat in the Hammersmith Apollo and Kate Bush was onstage in front of me singing.
But I shouldn't have worried. The flight over was uneventful and I finally got to see Jim Jarmusch's Only Lovers Left Alive with the brilliant Tilda Swinton. Since I was planning to make a pilgrimage to Derek Jarman's cottage in Dungeness, watching his muse from such films as The Last of England and Edward II, seemed like a bit of synchronicity.
|The view from Agnes' flat.|
After a nap, we jumped on the bus to Islington and the N1 Centre opposite Angel tube station. This is where Agnes introduced me to her favorite writing space – a coffee house called Tinderbox. Baked goods, incredible iced tea and coffee and fabulous warren-like booths underneath the stairs made for the perfect place to write. We went to Tinderbox four or five times and each visit meant I got a solid two to three hours of writing done on Leaving Paris. As a matter of fact, I finished the last chapter at Tinderbox. It seemed only appropriate that I started the novel in London two years ago while staying with Agnes and finished it with her, too.
|Derek Jarman's Prospect Cottage at Dungeness.|
We drove on to the end of the peninsula to see the two lighthouses and the giant, humming Dungeness nuclear power station. The landscape is truly like something out of science fiction. On the shingle-filled beach, we watched the ocean crash and searched for shells and talked about the upcoming Kate shows. It was a beautiful day with friends in a wild, amazing place.
|Outside the Hammersmith Apollo to see Kate Bush at last!|
|With BFF Donna in the lobby of the Apollo before seeing Kate.|
On Sept. 3, I travelled out toward Greenwich to visit another friend and fellow poet, John, and we talked about the concerts, literature, film and our projects-in-progress. Before long, it was time to head back to the Hammersmith Apollo for night two with Kate. This time, I was "up in the gods" on row Z of the circle. It was a million degrees, there was a 30 minute technical delay in the show, but Kate was once again in great voice and the audience was totally with her. During the finale of "Cloudbusting," even Kate was taken aback (and obviously pleased) at the gusto in which the audience was singing along.
|Writing with Agnes at Tinderbox.|
On Friday, I headed back over to the Hammersmith Apollo area to meet up with my friends Louise and Stuart, who had taken the train down from West Yorkshire to see Kate. We had lunch at a pub and talked Kate for two hours. Then it was back to meet up with Agnes for another writing evening at Tinderbox. As a side note, Agnes and I always rounded out our writing evenings by watching trashy British television - silly gameshows, ridiculous murder mystery dramas and crap reality TV. We had many laughs.
After a morning with Mrs. Woolf, I headed over to Victoria Station to meet my friend Dave for another trip down to Rochester for an evening watching the new series of Doctor Who. We happened to run into fellow Kate fans Sean (creator of katebushnews.com) and Thomas at the station before we caught our train. I got the chance to explore some of the shops along Rochester high street (where every other shop is named after its most famous resident, Charles Dickens, or one of his books) before Dave and I met up with Peter, Krys and Donna. After our Who fix (Peter Capaldi is amazing as the new Doctor!), Dave and I headed back into London where he was DJ'ing at a club called East Bloc. He was spinning Kate Bush tunes all night and the place soon filled up with those just out of the concert. It was great to catch up with Mike, Tarsem, Neil and "other" Collin and sing and dance along to our favorite songs. I finally stumbled back to Agnes' flat around 2:30 a.m.
|Foyles on Charing Cross Road. A cathedral of books.|
That brings me to my final full day in London and my reading at the Polari Literary Salon at Southbank Centre. Host and author Paul Burston had graciously asked me back when he found out I was over for the Kate shows (he's also a big fan of her music). I met up early with Krys and Donna (and finally had the garlic dough balls from Pizza Express I had been craving all week) and then it was time for the show. Polari was sold out, so the Level 5 Function Room with its awe-inspiring backdrop of the London Eye and Big Ben was full.
|Me reading at Polari (Photo by the brilliant |
And then it was over. On Tuesday morning, I headed to Heathrow, got upgraded to "economy elite" on my Delta flight, had a row to myself and watched four movies (including the fabulous Grand Budapest Hotel). Before I knew it, I was home (thanks to swift pick up by Colin) and unpacking. The post-trip comedown set in almost immediately. I'll be back in London in the spring, but until then I am counting down the days. And still trying to win the lottery or find a rich British husband.