My boyfriend decided we weren’t compatible on the Wednesday, and I was due to play the harp at a friend’s wedding on the Thursday. I felt like crying throughout the whole ceremony. To make matters worse, I couldn’t even stay to drown my sorrows with free champagne, I had to drive to London. Southward bound. Bound for a heavy weekend of rehearsals.
I arrived at the hotel at about midnight and slept as soon as my head hit the pillow. There could be no room for thinking about how I felt, for I had work to do. The gig was a collaborative affair. Me and two people who were to become dear friends.
Most people bemoan having to stay in hotels, but I love them. Too many times have I slept on a manky couch in the spare room of a well intentioned promoter. To stay in a hotel is pure luxury, and that weekend I had a room to myself.
My favourite aspect of hotel living is the breakfast. Not the food, but the chance for voyerism and strange conversations. I always wear my pyjamas to breakfast when I’m in a hotel, but some people get dressed right up. This is beyond my understanding, how can you eat breakfast in your proper clothes? That’s more like a very early lunch.
The Barbican hotel was particularly busy that weekend, I reckon. It was hard to even find a table, there were so many people. Whilst I was queuing for the melon I asked people questions about the various kinds of croissants on display, how to work the rotating toast machine, what flavours all the juices were and where the coffee was. Most of the time I was just making excuses to talk to people. I could easily work all that stuff out by myself.
Staying in any hotel is an exciting affair, especially when you have to be up at the same time the corporate folk. It’s like another world, theirs. As a musician, you’re almost nocturnal, and you’re usually travelling when everyone else is working, and you’re working when everyone else is not. You get this feeling that you’re living outside of normality. It’s enough to send you crazy. There is no chance to settle, in any sense of the word. You have to create little ways of making yourself feel at ease. Trust me, it would send even the most straight minded person a little bit strange.
I sat there in the hotel watching families who were obviously on tourist trips. Crying babies and small people running about. I watched businessmen snaffling their muesli. I saw couples eating in silence and I wondered if they were happy together.
Everyday, after breakfast, it was off to the rehearsal room. A hot, soundproof room with no windows. Just the ticket to help you keep your (already loose) marbles. There were lots of musicians to rehearse with. Aside from us three and the musical director, there were harp, woodwind, trombones, a tuba, strings, singers. There was even a chistal bashcet and an ondes martenot. I suggest you google those two things because we’d be here till Christmas if I explain them.
The days were long and hard work. By the Sunday I was about to cave in so I was sent off shopping for the afternoon. I went to Oxford Circus. Oxford Circus is not a good place to relax. I got well stressed and bought something I didn’t need or even like. I tried to make myself feel better with a fruit smoothie. I lost track of time and was running late for the evening meal with the band.
I’m a pretty good map reader but someone had moved all the roads on the way back to the hotel. Luckily, I just made it. “The best fish restaurant in London” was our eatery of choice. I can’t even remember what I ate. It can’t have been that good.
I’ll never forget that hotel room. It was exactly the same as every other hotel room I’ve ever been in, but I will never forget it. The rehearsals were joyful, full of fun and challenge and people and music. Once the days were over I’d retire to that room, tired out. I’d think about what had just happened back home. My sadness. But I couldn't let it get in for on the Monday, I was due on stage at the Barbican Concert Hall.