Brenda’s Unfortunate Record #27
This Saturday DC is throwing a party. She’s doing it upstairs at The Haggerston & although technically my only responsibility is to turn up & play live, I can’t help but feel anxious. I want it to go well for her.
You see a few years ago we tried to promote a night together. The first couple were so-so, up in this weird bar in Stoke Newington. We’d invited some ‘names’ but only ever managed to amass a handful of attendees. Thinking we might do better at a different location, we moved to a basement on Broadway Market.
Back then I was just emerging from a lengthy stint of ‘hermitsm', barely poking my head out of a time I now affectionately consider the ‘dark years’. I’d lost touch with a lot of people, lost a fair bit of confidence & was still suffering the odd bit of social anxiety. I remember proclaiming at 12 that I would try everything once just to know what it was like, and this self-inflicted isolationism fell neatly into bracket.
‘The more troubled waters one sails, the better navigator one becomes …’
It goes without saying that I relied heavily on DC to get folk down to our events.
The first night at ‘Below Broadway’ was no roaring success, but it went well enough to convince us to stick with it. Falling on a cold, rainy night at the tail-end of January, it was nothing short of a miracle that anyone turned up at all. Surely things would improve, the more the year creaked open.
Only DC was off to LA for a month.
Before leaving, she insured the artwork was sorted. We had our guest booked & were both hopeful they’d bring along a few pals. Despite this, I was still a little bit apprehensive and roped in an old friend to play too. I didn’t know Guest DJ well & was worried I might come across as too awkward on my own.
In the final week leading up our soirée, I had a brain-wave. My birthday was around the same time so I announced on the FB event that I would also be celebrating it, hoping this might sway any indecisiveness in our favour.
Day zero arrived. A few hours before the party was due to start, Guest DJ texted to say there was a family emergency and they had to cancel. I took it in my stride. My old friend would still be there. We’d still have fun and I wouldn’t have to worry about making a stranger feel (un)comfortable.
I guess I’d tagged the place in the FB post cause when I turned up, they’d obviously seen the birthday thing. ‘B-day Special!’ was written on all the chalk boards. They’d even concocted a shot in my namesake to mark the occasion. As I got myself set up & began playing the first few records, the apologetic messages started to roll through. As if by clockwork, one by one …
‘I’m so sorry but I’m working late and not going to make it’
‘My big-boss has just flown in from the States and I’m stuck out West’
‘Hey won’t be there tonight but know you’ll have a good-one! Have a drink (or two or three) for me!’
Now having spent the past few years blowing out all sorts of engagements, I wasn’t exactly in the best position to comment. I’d earned my rank as social pariah for sure, fair and square. As the hours crept by, it became more and more apparent that it would be me, my pal, his girlfriend & two confused barmaids in the room. The atmosphere was beyond awkward; a delightful cringe of a fail I was already wetting myself over.
Lifetimes before in an uncharacteristic moment of madness / bravery, I’d walked into La Forcetta on Bethnal Green Road with a little candle and the idea of ‘dinner for one’. When I ordered my dessert, I asked the waiter if they wouldn’t mind sticking it in and singing happy birthday so I could make my wish. Despite the restaurant being full and all eyes on me, I managed to hold it together and endure the moment. The place erupted with applause and I was genuinely touched when they comped my pudding off the bill. The fact I had a friend waiting over the road with £40 if I went through with it all might have helped the nerves, but still, I’ve always held a fascination with uncomfortable situations.
So here I was in the midst of bonafide flop; a complete washout, with the writing literally on the the wall. All that was missing were the deflated balloons and limp party blowers ‘mehn… mehn … mehhhhhhhhhhn’
As if it couldn’t get much worse, just before I finally threw in the towel two more guests arrived. About a month before I’d become reacquainted with some London step-family and my new cousin appeared with one of his pals. I was mortified & still wince at the thought of him stood uneasily at the bar, not wanting to leave out of politeness.
These days things have perked up. I’d like to think I’ve made some progress on the social-front, that I’ve re-established enough solid relationships to avoid a repeat-performance, but you never know! I’m still a bit of a loner (a characteristic not so conducive to promoting) and as much as I love and value my friends, I’d never take their presence for granted.