MY LITTLE TOUR DIARY. Day Fier - Bremen

I don’t know if any of you were up late enough to catch my spoken word moment on Janice Long’s Radio 2 show a few weeks ago, but if you did, you will remember that I chose to read from a collection of Raymond Carver writings that are very dear to my heart. Raymond Carver is very dear to my heart in general, and I first met him (sadly long after he had shuffled off this mortal coil) during my S Level English exam about a hundred years ago. (Do they still even have S Levels? Am I showing just how ancient I am?) I never imagined that I would find myself in tears during an exam for all the wrong reasons. Hitherto, my exam experience had involved tears doing my THIRD re-take of my Maths GCSE when I couldn’t tell a rhombus from a hexagon and frankly couldn’t give a toss if Jane had three apples and gave Bob two how many she might be left with, and who needs Algebra in Sainsbury’s anyway? I had shed plenty of tears in exams over the years, but here I was, sobbing my heart out over what was, to my tiny eighteen-year-old mind, the finest piece of literary writing I had ever encountered. It took me years to find the short story in question – this was long before the days of Googling stuff in an instant – but when I did find it, in a collection of stories called What We Talk About When We Talk About Love I started sobbing all over again, this time in Waterstones on Oxford Street in London. ‘Popular Mechanics’ is its title, and to this day I have still never read a piece of writing as effective or affecting.

 

This was not what I read from, however, on the radio show the other evening. I chose an excerpt from an essay called ‘Fires’, in the book of the same name, and, as some of you might know, the title I gave to my second album. I’m thinking about this today, because I am writing from a launderette in Hamburg (city of my long snuffed it Great Grandfather who I never had the chance to meet) while on a tight schedule with only a few minutes to do our family laundry before we get on another train and carry on touring Germany, toddler in tow.

 

And already I am playing the laws of the Laundromat, hovering over the only remaining dryer while I wait for our washing to finish and vowing that if someone comes over and nicks it before I get my wet washing out, I will stab them with a gnarly hairbrush (the only implement of torture I possess in my handbag). I didn’t know Dryer Number 14 on Hansaplatz before this afternoon, but now she is a mine and woe betide anyone who attempts to claim her before me. She is mine. My old friend, who will get our babygros and Marks and Spencers underwear ready in time for their next adventure in Bremen.

 

This is not the life of touring I imagined. And this is what Carver was talking about. Nothing ever is how you imagine it will be, and this is what shapes us. Domesticity, the mundane, all the un-glamorous things that make up our days, the things that seem furthest removed from the excitement of the stage or a song, suspended in time.

 

But these are the things I like best. Does that make me weird? It reminds me of something my sister posted on Facebook recently, and at first I thought, Gawd, Sentimental Much but actually, today I get it.

 

The best things in life aren’t things.

 

Today, the best thing in my life is clean laundry.

 

 

MY LITTLE TOUR DIARY. Day Drei - Hamburg

I’ve been in Hamburg since Tuesday, but since tonight’s the actual gig in Hamburg I’m going to call this the Hamburg blog. I’m not actually going to say very much about Hamburg in this one, because it’s chilly and grey and I haven’t been inclined to go out and explore much apart from a brief trip to my favourite German chain restaurant, Block House. Some of you will remember I was for a time what is commonly known as a Pescatarian and for an even briefer time, a vegetarian. (Although never a vegan, that requires a commitment I can only reserve for collecting shoes.) I have, unfortunately, fallen so far off the veggie wagon it’s not funny and I do feel ever so slightly ashamed about this, but in my defence I can confirm that I do not eat lamb - ever - because sheep can recognise other sheep from photographs. Whether the same can be said for chicken, pigs or cows, I do not know, but until such time as someone confirms that they too have sentimental attachment to photographic representations of their livestock kin, I shall just pretend they don’t. Still, I never eat venison because that would just be wrong. I don’t want any part in making Bambi even more miserable. (I wonder if I’m pondering my own bizarre reasoning for eating meat because I am being subliminally influenced by the city of the hamburger…)

I have never eaten a horse, but I bet David Cameron woke up this morning wishing he had. Frankly, I think we should all be grateful he was just riding Raisa and not Rebecca because Lord knows what kind of s**t storm might ensue if it had been the latter, and I wouldn’t fancy his chances should Grant Mitchell pop round to duff him up. I think it’s quite sweet really. If you’re the Italian Prime Minister, it’s all about sex parties and bribes and fast cars; if you’re an English Tory politician you get some old mare to either ride around on or marry. And we’re not even a defaulting economy. 

I’m really crap at blogging because I haven’t done it in so long. So I’m not entirely sure what I should be talking to you about. I am reading ‘Q’ by Evan Mandery at the moment, but don’t know what I think of it yet. Will report back soon. What is one supposed to do in a blog? Can someone remind me please?

It is almost three o’clock and I have yet to consume my daily chocolate allowance. This may well be the reason for the pedestrian nature of today’s blog offerings. I shall remedy this almost immediately and then go to soundcheck. I feel like I have put my brain in a jar somewhere and can’t find it. 

Let me go and look for my brain and get back to you.

MY LITTLE TOUR DIARY. Day Eins - Flensburg

It’s been quite some time since I put pen to paper, fingers to keyboard, brain in gear bla-di-bla-di-bla and wrote you a blog. Almost a year, in fact. The last time I wrote to you I was trotting out some well-worn metaphor involving cars and careers and offending Rover Maestro drivers at the same time. I’m not going to talk about cars today. This is because I am writing to you while sitting on a very nice German train. This train is so nice they even give you a little train menu, a Reiseplan, involving specific arrival and departure times for each stop along the way, exactly where to stand on the platform so that you can hop straight into your reserved seat, where to buy chocolate and beer and which compartment to go in and talk loudly on your mobile phone if you really want to piss off fellow passengers. On the front of my Reiseplan there is a picture of a very nice German woman, aged somewhere between 60 and 80 (you never can tell, everyone’s awfully healthy over here what with their climbing mountains, eating Bircher muesli and going for a sauna all before 10am) staring wistfully out of the window. At first, I presumed this was an advert for why you should take an ICE train (because I myself am staring wistfully out of a window) but upon closer inspection, I realize it is an advert for a charity who will help you make your will. *

 

This is why I love Germany. It’s a specific mix of function and existentialism that you don’t get anywhere else in the world. And it reminds me why, way back when I was a teenager (and even more pretentious than I am now), I went through a Goëthe phase and ran around the house screaming “you’ll never understand the Sturm und Drang at the very core of my being!  at my bemused parents. I think this was the same year I learnt the words Schadenfraude, Pferde and Pumpernickel and thought it made me sound really, really intelligent when I used all three in conversation. On reflection, I have never met anyone remotely intelligent who mentioned pleasure in the misfortunes of others, fancy bread and horses in the same sentence.

 

It occurs to me that in Switzerland, they might have this advert on their form of Reiseplan, except that it would be for assisted suicide.

I won’t be going to Switzerland until the end of the month, but my journey there will involve a ferry and a train so I will keep my eyes peeled for adverts and report back. But that is some time away, friends, and tonight marks the first date on tour with Rea Garvey, who is a big star here in Germany for those of you watching at home in England. Our first show is in Flensburg, a city about two hours north of Hamburg and very close to the Danish border. It’s quite foggy from my train window, but as we near the city I can tell you that the houses have very pointy roofs.

 

I regularly ponder the pitch angles of roofs in different countries. I find it fascinating. You know, how did the first man who invented a roof in Flensburg decide that it should be quite pointy, with some nice filigree work on the eves and why did he decide this? What part of his psyche had a proclivity for sharp ends and curlicues? And how did this relate to his sex life? And if you compare this first-roof-man-of-Flensburg to first-roof-man-of-Damascus, where the roofs are generally quite flat, what does this mean about the Syrian roof psychology and corresponding bedroom activity? Don’t you find these things absolutely amazing? I know I do.

 

Well, that is all for now meinen Freunden (that means Chumz in German). Trains, assisted suicide and roofs. Quite enough excitement for one day, but until tomorrow I bid you adieu and Tschuss! (That’s German for LATERZ!)

Nerina xx

*I mean, I think it’s about making a will but my German doesn’t extend past GCSE level and it could be about trains after all and I might have read something rather more meaningful into that melancholy gaze out into the sunlight.

And here is a frog from Flensburg on a Wednesday.



 

No, I’m Not Canadian

If this is your first time reading a Nerina blog, can I suggest you put the kettle on and make yourself a cup of tea. If this is not your first time, you probably already have your beverage and biscuits at the ready. This is gonna be a long one.

It feels a bit like the old days. 3 AM and I am plugged in, scribbling away while all is quiet and sleepy around me. Except that I will not be breaking off every ten minutes to smoke one of those ‘only five a day’ cigarettes out the back door and have run out of rosé so this should be relatively coherent. It’s been so many, many months since I wrote anything longer than my name that I am periodically clearing my laptop screen for bugs or bits of food that have become stuck to it. It’s akin to firing up a mothballed 1986 Rover Maestro. (Was there ever a car more resolutely pointless? I saw one the other day on the Holloway Road and it made me want to cry. There is little to recommend one – all heft and functionality, constructed by someone who probably dreamt of working for Skoda and bought by people who thought Volvos were safe but just a little on the racy side. They’re like the Anne Widdecombe of cars. Interesting too that the only ones I see on the road these days are in pristine, virginal condition and driven by someone who wishes that nice Jimmy Young would once again rule the airwaves. They are nearly always a metallic mint green in my experience. Please, if you are reading and have one, do not take offence. But I’m right, aren’t I?)

Actually, who am I to cast aspersions on other peoples’ motors? I have been driving a Beetle for the last decade. But hang on a moment. My motor could serve as a nice metaphor for what is to follow. As is the circular nature of this great big messy thing called life (fuck, I sound like Dr Phil) I am now signed once again to the same record label that I started my career with. Thus it’s no accident the only car I have ever bought is a Bug. When 2012 has long been and gone, and Armageddon but a dim and distant memory, it will be a VW Beetle that comes careering over the parched, post-apocalyptic landscape and not a Porsche Cayenne. Which is like me, innit? Of course it is. I can weather a storm. I may look slightly tragi-comic with a melancholy smile that comes from either too many bad drugs or just a general world weariness; I may have quirks and rattle at inappropriate moments. BUT I HAVE A VASE WITH A FLOWER IN IT ON MY DASHBOARD. And well after the novelty of this year’s latest model has faded, I’ll still be here, doing my thing, requiring only the odd oil change but with windscreen wipers that last at least ten years. (I am looking at this paragraph and wondering if what I am really saying is that I am the equivalent of a musical cockroach.)

So, let’s get some housekeeping out of the way, and then we’ll get on to the fun stuff. I’m going to bullet point it because I just discovered I have Word on my laptop.

• Yes that is both my speaking voice and music on the Jersey Tourism advert currently running on UK telly.
• No, I did not cover a Joe McElderry song
• No, I am not Australian, even though I am currently the background-musician-in-residence on Home and Away  and Neighbours
• Yes, Kylie is very tiny in the flesh.
• I did indeed have a very lovely little baby boy in September 2010, and he really is called Wolfgang Amadeus.
• No, I am not Canadian
• Since we last met – around the time I released The Graduate on my own label, Idaho, I have found a new home for my next creative excursion with Geffen, a Universal Music label, and am back working with the first A&R person who ever signed me. It’s like we got divorced and are now back together for the sake of the kids.
• The new album is not called Better Than Porn.
• It is called Year of the Wolf.
• It was produced by the brilliant Bernard Butler, and directed entirely by using Arsenal metaphors.
• I’m not just saying this for the sake of saying it, like people do when they are trying to flog you something or getting you to vote for them, but it really was the most satisfying recording experience of all my albums. WE MADE AN ALBUM. I didn’t do it piecemeal, waiting ‘til I had saved a bit more money to do the next batch of songs, or having to beg steal and borrow studio time or musicians, or until I had enough material to finish it. I played Bernard my songs on guitar or piano (I never played him demos if they existed) and we decided which ones to record. Then we rehearsed a band, got the wonderful Sally Herbert to work on the strings; went into the studio and cut almost the entire album in a few weeks. We did a lot of things live, in one take; perhaps most magical of all to me was cutting Grace with everyone in the room the night before I had my son. I was at that point where the excitement of being pregnant starts to dissolve into pure terror and fear of the unknown, and although I wrote the song about someone else incredibly dear to me, singing the words “You’re my blood and my baby and we’re going to fly” completely choked me up. The vocal sounds a bit wonky to me when the strings come in, but we left it coz I know I was having a little cry at that moment since everything felt overwhelming, scary and beautiful, all at the same time.

• I have never seen Avatar and I’m not sure I plan to either.

I promised you fun stuff earlier on this blog and now is the moment where I fail to deliver. I was once a prolific blogger, as some of you may recall, and then the advent of Twitter, coupled with an intense period of (academic) essay writing for my degree, meant the blogging took a back seat until it disappeared entirely. On occasion I would think about blogging but would write a song instead; but really, I fell in love with Twitter and the feeling that it was a two-way conversational street, flowing in real time and meaning that I couldn’t just spout my befuddled pronouncements and not be challenged. I’ve learnt loads from these exchanges – about you, about the world at large, about what music means to you, what film to see, what book I shouldn’t waste time reading, what Simon Pegg has for breakfast and why Kanye West is a bit of a dickhead – and that I don’t need to be lonely unless I want to be. Being a songwriter for so long means I have lived in my head a lot, which is quite an alienating thing when you do it for ages. It also means that you risk being up your own arse a lot of the time if you’re not careful and sometimes I read old blogs of mine back and cringe. Nobody could ever accuse me of having used five words when five hundred would do. (Oh and look! here I am doing precisely that again…)

Or maybe I just condense everything into songs these days. More than I ever did. Since I had a baby, song writing has become a luxury commodity in my world again. It’s like when I had three jobs on the go and my weekends were my only time for dreaming of being a professional songwriter.

So look, I had an idea. I’ll blog a bit more, but only if you help me decide what it will be about. How about you pick one of the following possible subjects and I will oblige:

• Feta cheese is the work of the devil.
• A day in the life of Jordan Katona.
• Are cats better than dogs?
• What do you think really happened to Tony Soprano in that diner?
• How long will we stay a Con-Dem Nation?
• Is Nick Clegg’s hair better than David Cameron’s?
• Where is Lolly?
• 1000 words on the brilliance of ‘Dancing Queen’ by ABBA and why it will be played at my funeral.
• 1000 words on the brilliance of the entire career so far of Nellie McKay and why I walked down the aisle to her song ‘I Wanna Get Married’ (true story).
• If Danielle Steele and Dan Brown were to co-author a novel, what would it be called and what would it be about?
• Should Piers Morgan be made illegal?
• Is Julian Assange a scapegoat hero or self-publicist?
• Why was I the only woman in my ante-natal class who did not have a Louis Vuitton handbag and is there something wrong with me?

• Why don’t people use bullet points all the time?

So knock yourself out, kidz. Of course, I’m sure one of you bright sparks will suggest something even more tantalizing and I will not be able to resist, but you get the gist.
Please, under no account, ask me why I decided to dance on The Charlotte Church Show. You will be met with a stony silence.

Love as ever to you all,

Nerina x

P.S. I was meant to tell you formally important things about important things I will be doing but just look on the important news section of www.nerinapallot.com and my official Twitter feed, www.Twitter.com/NerinaPallot and http://www.facebook.com/NerinaPallotOfficial
Bugger me. So many portals, so little time, dahlink.