I’m sitting in the roomy bay window of Chris and Laura’s flat. It’s a jammy flat. A Lucky We Know Them flat. As Ian and Fiona’s place is to outdoor hot tubs, so this place is to air displays – handy.
Right now, an RAF Lynx helicopter is twisting itself over the end of the pier, while a Gazelle, a Scout and some French thing are aviation pole-dancing further along the bay. It’s been a weekend of plane porn. Sea Vixen’s flashing their undercarriages and all manner of other filthy things. Bournemouth is at a drooling standstill.
..On a packed beachfront yesterday afternoon, we saw a slope-shouldered individual being trudged by police through the thonged throng in cuffs, looking sort of post-furtive. Not sure if that was to do with the planes or not.
I first kind of knew it would be yet another tricky weekend to get anything done at home at precisely 10.00am on Thursday, when I heard the first crackling screech of aero thrust – a Typhoon skidding around the sky over the cliffs, opening the Bournemouth Air Show with a flashy display of vectored oomph. I kept throwing myself at windows around the house like a rabid dog. Googling eyes pressed twitchingly against the smeered glass. Of course, a real plane bore should know that the odd flash of shapely wing between the houses is probably more exciting than a sensible seat at Farnborough, but still. By Friday lunchtime I wasn’t going to be anywhere but with Chris and Laura on the deck at Aruba, bags of overnight things ready to go back to their cliff-top home for the weekend.
Yeah. I totally love planes. Get it from my mother. She’s sitting on the little balcony with everyone else as I type.
It’s turned into a stunning last day of summer today. Unexpected smell of suncream and the glitter of countless boats out in the bay. It’s like another festival here. Town below us is heaving.
It’s the umpteenth time I’ve blown up the airbed or cleaned my teeth in someone else’s sink lately, and it won’t be the last. My productivity is taking a pounding. I am being moved from one arsing about assignment to another, seemingly without ability to resist. Why? Why does this keep happening? What’s wrong with me? As I swashbuckle the studio’s schedule of pressing proper work, I’m beginning to tear my hair out in clumps at not being able to clear things.
I know. It’s largely my own fault. And there’s usually something tasty being served at wherever I end up, not to mention some good chums on hand, so it’s hardly a convincing tale of woe, I can see that. Like a cheerleader pouting at the injustice of spots. It’s not interesting. ..But here in my head, and in bed at night while my heart does something latin as I try to sleep, I’d dearly like to tick the events all off the list and get some space to think. And give my little bod some space to de-stress.
I’ve no TIME to live in the now, you unhelpful bastard.
Actually, it’s been a like this ever since we got back in July; “Hi, lovely to see you. Lovely. ..Of course, you know I’m supposed to be somewhere else…” Bed, I think. Writing lists. Working out how to charge people for meetings and be surly when I get there, while still keeping the actual work.
..Yeah, so all a bit mad. Blah. Whatever. In each case, with all the things that have happened this year, we kind of had to be wherever we found ourselves. We’ve had a whole year of not seeing many people. And just as it seems I should be with Mum, gawping at aircraft this afternoon, so I wouldn’t have been anywhere else in the middle of my stupid schedule last weekend than with Sarah in the middle of a muddy field.
If you’ve heard of Soul Survivor, you’ll know it’s a kind of big church event for young people. But surprisingly groovy apparently, despite that description. Momentum is a more recent addition to the event, being a week tacked on to the other three that’s aimed at a slightly older audience – young twenties. You know, that confident, cool, thin time of life.
If you’ve not had any real experience of church life or faith communities, this would seem a bit odd. Instead of waving their arms at a series of bands, the people who go to any one of the very many events like this throughout the UK year wave their arms at Jesus. Or at the worship band, depending on your point of view.
This is nothing I can claim as weird to me. Not officially. I’ve spent years exploring faith – at my own, limping kind of pace. Finding myself going to church as a teenager – the last thing I’d imagined I’d ever need at such a time of life – I found myself also going to a number of things like Soul Survivor. Though way less groovy. Really. And these events did a lot to help me frame a pretty positive view of life at a formative time, if I’m going to over-simplify it. They also did a lot to teach me about church culture and how conservative it fundamentally is on mass, despite the issues of freedom it explores.
So I understand these odd environments. And I can see that SS is a straight-talking, positive thing of its kind; I know how I benefited from the certainties I felt in the early days of my own journey. Yet going back to something like this after so many years was, I confess, a really weird feeling. It wasn’t my environment. By the time I left, I was fair pining for some kitsch lounge music and Channel Four News. But I hadn’t gone there for me.
On the one hand, it was an opportunity that I was grateful for to simply meet people. Talk around issues I care about – art and creativity. Hear where others find themselves and try to encourage. I’m not sure I’d get tired of debating this stuff – it matters too much. Art is about, famously, new ways of seeing. And I met some interesting people who added to the way I see things.
But, if I had an actual job over the five whole nights I was with Sarah at this particular church event, other than pretend curator, I consider it was really to be with my great creative mate.
It was a privilege. I’d have been nowhere else. And as Mark joined us and we all hung out some more, then found ourselves clearing up an art gallery together on the last morning, I just thought how strangely great it was to be on another random project with them. Normal. Despite how un-normal so many things really were.
As person after person approached us in the Art Shed and asked us about how to explore art and faith – how to ask questions and challenge life, while trying to build a safe community around some answers – I watched Sarah working with them, sharing her own experiences, and I should say honestly, I felt pretty moved. I felt pride in her and Mark. How much they’ve grown their creative outlook. And their family.
To create comfort when you don’t have all the answers; to help people find a place to fit in when they don’t try to look like everyone else – these are the marks of experience. Even wisdom. And these are the people you want around you to learn from. These are the people who help you find new ways of seeing.
This is the job of the artist. And, I think, the person of faith.
Sitting here now, the balmy afternoon is waning and we’re all a little dopey. Mum is sitting beside me, gazing out to sea as the flotilla of little boats head west to Poole for the evening. I guess restaurants will be starting to warm up around the town.
Watching the Red Arrows at lunchtime and the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight later on, I was grateful to be watching these moving examples of teamwork with some of the gang.
And grateful too that Chris had vainly tempted me to buy a new pair of trendy-ass, wraparound sunnies. I couldn’t have seen half as clearly without them.