A tale of angry people and wonderful music

Where has the year gone? One day I am writing stuff on my shiny new blog. The next thing I know it’s October and I haven’t posted for so long. It’s not due to having nothing to say. That has literally never happened to me in my life. It’s more a case of having too much to say, and not being quick enough to catch the thoughts, feelings and experiences and put them into words before they fly off to wherever they go.

I often wake in the middle of the night with many things, many observations ready to go onto the blog but I am too sleepy to move. Then when I wake up it’s gone, or floating around somewhere in the general porridgy mess that is my morning brain.

I don’t think this blog post is going to be very coherent to be honest as there are various threads that are tangled up. The first thing I want to write about is anger. Not mine, but everyone else’s.

I just have this feeling that outside my safe zone (ie my house) people are angry and miserable. A few weeks ago I was engaging in my most hated and stressful activity -trying to park my car in a tight space on a busy road. Unfortunately I misjudged and slightly biffed a big chunky car (why do so many people have big chunky cars nowadays? I genuinely don’t understand it -they are hard to park, expensive to run and really ugly, anyway, I digress….) I stopped, apologised, and asked if there was any damage. I couldn’t see any damage, thankfully, but there had been a scraping noise. I hoped any scrape had been to my car, as it has plenty of scrapes so another one won’t hurt. A very sullen woman came out, looked very pointedly at me, then at the car, then back at me, and said “can you see? Are your eyes working?” I would have thought she was making light of it but she was scowling. I repeated “I am so sorry, is there much damage?” “Can you see, love? Are you blind or are you just f***ing thick?” she said. So I repeated “I am so, so sorry, is there much damage? I will pay for any damage.” She walked away very slowly while her husband came out of the house. He walked over to me, also very miserable and scowling “can you see love? Do you need glasses?”. Again, politely, pleadingly I said “I really am so very sorry, is there much damage?”. Then he turned and walked away slowly. They both got into the car and drove away. And that was that. An odd, surreal experience, like we were existing in parallel universes, like that film where actually he’s dead (The Sixth Sense? Do I mean that one?) and some of the conversations have a slightly unreal feel to them.

I don’t think there was any damage to the car, but their hostility still hurts when I think back to it. I find these days that if something happens, like I bump into someone, or I knock something, or I inadvertently queue jump due to misinterpreting/not concentrating/being overwhelmed by information, which are things that often happen with me, the rage this sparks is off the scale. It always used to be that as long as I own up, apologise and offer to rectify things, then that is all that’s needed. We all make mistakes, but it’s how we deal with them that counts. But I find nowadays people are disappointed with this, they want to get angry, or just they want to react a certain way and my apologising and being nice thwarts them. I feel like this country is full of sullen, miserable, petty, angry people ready to burst at the slightest thing. Thank goodness our gun controls are strict (knives are another matter, mind). 

In all these incidents it starts out I am 100 per cent in the wrong, but by the end their reaction has rendered them as guilty as me. But they don’t see it that way. One mistake, however well you’ve dealt with it, gives them the free rein to be nasty and rude to a fellow human being, which in itself is an offence and a wrong, one of the worst, and usually worse than the original offence. 

People are so disapproving of my autistic 8 year old and his meltdowns, but I daily encounter worse from neurotypical adults. My dad, who is in his 70s, thinks people have “forgotten how to behave”. I first thought he was just being an old curmudgeon but what he means is that people no longer feel that they are supposed to be nice or calm or kind, that they think having a strop and giving someone a piece of their mind is something to be proud of. 

This reminds me of another incident that happened to me since I last wrote. I was staying with friends in Birmingham and we had to catch buses across the city every day (an experience that confirmed me in my fears of public transport and reminded me why I don’t use it). We waited for a bus, and as usual there was no obvious queuing system, people just piled on from all directions. This seemed to be the norm from all the bus trips we had done. It didn’t really matter as everyone got on eventually. As I boarded the driver said to my friend and I that the same number bus was behind us and that it would be leaving before this one. In my head that translated as “be quick as it’s going to depart”. So, my friend and I got off the bus and raced to the one behind, I legged it onto the bus only to find it was completely empty. I turned round and my friend was standing well back, as was everyone else. I realise there was actually an orderly queue and that people had not yet started boarding the bus. Then it happened. A man who had been waiting starting shouting the most horrific abuse at me. “You c**t, don’t you have any manners? You f***ing ignorant cow!” etc. etc. This went on for a very long time. I tried to get off the bus but the driver just waved me on. So I went and sat down at the back. And people came on. I opened my mouth to apologise but everyone was giving me such stares of cold hatred, like they had just witnessed me beating an animal to death. Thankfully the abusive man went upstairs and my friend came and sat next to me. She said that it did look like I’d pushed in but that that was no excuse for that man saying those things. “But there’s never an actual queue, I protested!” But that was that, end of conversation. My life is riddled with such incidents. You think you know the rules, you think you ‘get it’, but then suddenly the rules change, and everyone else seems to know this. I never do. But I was so upset, so stung by the injustice of it, that it festered for many days afterwards. This is RSD, of course. Anyone else would have let the incident go from their mind, but I couldn’t. I silently but determinedly resolved never to come back to Birmingham ever again. I dissed a city of a million people based on one incident. It was a good few weeks before my RSD had abated enough for me to properly accept how silly I was being. 

But speaking of Birmingham…. I was there to attend the Moseley Folk Festival, my friend having invited me many times over the years (and I could never make it due to life stuff and lack of funds). It was my first experience of live music since covid, so I was glad it was at an outdoor venue. I had three masks picked out for the occasion but nobody else was wearing them so I soon forgot. It’s many years since I’ve been to a festival and it was utterly exhausting, taking out a whole weekend in the process. I don’t think I can muster the time/energy/money to do it again anytime soon, but I’m glad I went, partly to see my lovely friend again, but also as I discovered some new artists. There were many good ones, but for me the standout acts that I had never come across before were Frank Turner and Stick in the Wheel. This week’s music will be dedicated to these fantastic musicians. Frank Turner in particular keeps me going on bleak days, his music is so raw and truthful. 

Honestly, I feel like if I have music in my life I can survive anything. Music, books, nature, family and friends. They are the essential survival kit. But if everything else is gone, then music would be the one thing that holds me back from the abyss. Maybe that sounds like I’m over-egging it! Maybe I am, I just feel very grateful right now as I have since been to two gigs. Yes, that’s right, two actual live indoor gigs and both were superb. 

Wolf Alice at the Cheese and Grain was a particular treat. They were playing small venues as part of a campaign to get live music going again and it was amazing seeing them up close in such an intimate venue. I was only about three rows from the front and the atmosphere was properly electric.

Then a few weeks later I saw the Manic Street Preachers at Bath Forum. It was a great gig but I admit I was not in the best headspace. I felt so self conscious on my own. I got there early as I like to do, so I could be up near the front, but, not having anyone to talk to, the waiting was unbearable. I had to play games on my phone to stop myself from going mad. I had bought a face mask for the occasion which says “Libraries gave us power” on it but of course, when the day came for the gig I couldn’t find the damn thing anywhere. In my stubbornness, it had to be that one. I have about seven face masks in total but because I couldn’t find that one I didn’t take any at all! So I was face mask less. It bothered me for quite a while, but then I guess like everyone else, I forgot, and for the rest of the gig and the whole of the way home, I forgot covid even exists. And this is worrying. I have become part of the problem. 136 People died in the UK that day because of covid. It hasn’t gone away, we are just in a phase of denial, of compassion fatigue, of helplessness in the face of something awful and scary we seem powerless to do anything about. I think it’s the same psychology involved with climate change. We’re not powerless in either case, but it’s easier and more convenient to believe that we are, because that means we take no responsibility. 

Getting home afterwards was like a special ADHD version of Squid Game. Although I quite like multi-story car parks (because the bays are clearly marked and there are always spaces) I can never remember where I parked my car, so I usually take a photo of the location and the floor number, but this time in my pre-Manics enthusiasm I forgot, so I was left wandering about aimlessly looking for my car whilst simultaneously trying to look like I was walking with purpose and not lost and confused. Then when I finally got out I was confronted by two road diversions, one preventing me from getting to the M4 and the other preventing me from getting to the A4. So I kept driving round the city in circuits, thinking I was following the diversion, but then ending back at the same spot again, and realised I must be getting the symbols confused. Was I following a circle or a square? The experience managed to combine my three most hated things about driving: 1) lots of signage (my processing speed and prioritisation skills are not good enough, so my brain just goes “argh, lots of things!” and then I have passed the signs and have no idea what’s going on), 2) Driving in the dark (don’t know why this is such a problem but it is, maybe there are subtle things I notice and rely on that can’t be seen in the dark), 3) city centres (because they have things like one way systems, cyclists and pedestrians; I can’t concentrate fully on so many things at once, but they all require full concentration). I was very close to just parking up somewhere and sleeping in my car, so I could head home at 6.30am when it got light. But it occurred to me that’s probably not the done thing in Bath and I couldn’t afford a parking ticket. So on I went, eventually just picking a road that looked like it headed out of the city, even if it was going to entirely the wrong place. Finally, an hour and twenty minutes after walking out of Bath Forum, a country road led me into a small village I recognised, and the A4. An hour and forty minutes after exiting Bath Forum, I was home and managed to sleep for 5 hours before getting up to go to work. 

It was worth it though. Absolutely worth it. I love this band. To understand why is a tale stretching back to the 90s, a period of my life where I credit a small selection of musicians with saving my life. Most of the artists from that select group are dead or disbanded (or disappeared), but that the Manics (three quarters of them anyway) are still going, and still making relevant music, is a source of joy and inspriation. 

I have noticed that Seth Lakeman is playing the Forum in November, and Frank Turner is playing there in February. But I have nobody to go with. My friend from Birmingham can’t make it and there is nobody else in my life who would like or even have heard of them. Most of my friends don’t do live music. There are one or two I can go to the theatre or a classical concert with and that’s great, because those are enjoyable things, and there’s my friend from Birmingham who likes folk music. I also go to a gig every year with my sister but they are always bands that are more her thing than mine (Keane, The Killers, Travis, Stereophonics, Turin Brakes). I like these bands, I am happy to see them live, but they are not things that I love. I have loved the Manics for 25 years and have seen them live 3 times (I think, will have to double check that, my memory being shit and all) but always on my own. I have spent a fair few years wanting to see Green Day or The Libertines but all my friends hate them so I never went. I would love to see the Arctic Monkeys but none of my friends like them either, or at least not enough to be bothered with going to a gig. I saw Skunk Anansie were touring and tried to get some of my friends interested but they conceded that it wasn’t really their sort of thing so I gave up. At the moment I love Fontaines DC and Idles, but nobody else in my life sees the appeal. Sigh. I mean, if I can’t even muster someone to come to the Manics with me, I think I’m doomed to a lifetime of going to these things alone. And hey, maybe I should just make my peace with it. The only thing worse than that experience of driving home would have been doing it all with a passenger in the car.

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