As the carousel ceased it’s squeaking and turning, the inevitable became apparent – they had left my bag in New Jersey. They’d been right shirty with me at the U.S. boarder as I transferred flights. “step back from the line miss” had spoke the large security man as my big toe fell but one inch out of line. ‘I’m not a terrorist and even if I were there’s no need to be so rude’ thought I, in my very English manner. And now America was responsible for me arriving in Mexico City at midnight with nothing but a harp and a toothbrush.
The previous week had seen me in a recording studio in North Wales with a bunch of Scots. They were ill, really ill. I used to have this notion that you can’t catch colds and flu off a person if it wasn’t your time to be ill, so I never went down the “stay away from that ill person or else you might become ill yourself” route. Perhaps this was the altruistic spirit in me, but I’ve since become wise on this matter. As soon as I returned from recording, I packed two bags and headed straight off to London.
The first bag was for a trip to Milan for a massive celebration, of a kind, in a stadium just outside the city. I arrived back at my friend’s house in London afterwards, tired out completely. The next morning I woke up hallucinating. I couldn’t move and the bed clothes had turned into sandpaper. My temperature was mirrored by the inferno of a bonfire that the neighbours seemed to be having. My nose ran like a tap and all I could eat was cornflakes.
The second bag was for Mexico, and I was due to fly there that day. Miraculously, I dragged myself across London, checked in, boarded on time, to the news that my vegetarian meal hadn’t been booked. I prodded a piece of dry chicken but couldn’t bring myself to eat it, not with the state I was in and all. I hadn’t eaten meat for 15 years, and this wasn’t the ideal circumstance to start doing so. I think I must have had a bun and a cake during the whole journey.
So by the time I got to Mexico, I was not in a good way. I’d worn a flowery number for the flight, and fate had it that I would be wearing the self same flowery number for many days post- flight. I went through the whole rigmarole of filling in a bag tracking form and the man at the desk said they would ring me when it arrived. That night I tried to sleep but it was day in my body and night in the streets and I had weird dreams and felt all at odds with myself.
Now I’m not too familiar with the ‘who’s who’ and ‘what’s big’ in the Mexican Media world, but it seemed that they’d all turned out to probe me with questions and take photographs on my first day there. They asked me things like ‘what made you decide to become a folk musician?’ To which my jet lagged answer was ‘I’m not a folk musician’, and ‘do you like any Mexican music?’ to which my brain addled answer was ‘I’m a big fan of the Buena Vista Social Club actually’ (n.b they are from Cuba)
I dread to think what I looked like on the photos of me standing in El Parque de México, in that god forsaken flowery dress, hair all nest-like, face like a wet weekend in Wigan.
My nose bled a lot due to my state of health and the altitude of the city, and I stayed in the spare room of a couple who lived in the posh end of town. The woman could not believe that I was still alive without my toiletries.
I spent the next few days roaming around aimlessly in the intolerable heat like a vagrant. I managed to buy myself a pair of jeans, some underwear and an eyeliner. Worry was creeping up regarding the lack of phone call from the airport, so I decided to ring them. “Sorry Miss that isn’t a valid bag tracking code” came the answer. It turned out that the genius man on the missing baggage desk had accidentally missed off a digit, rendering my bad untraceable.
I pondered this at length. I pondered again and pondered some more. Once the pondering became tiresome, I got in a taxi and went to the airport. I wasn’t leaving until I had my bag. God knows how I did it but I managed to talk security into letting me go the wrong way into the baggage claim area, and there it stood, my little green bag, packed with precision and care just one week ago. To add insult to injury, they searched me on the way back out of the baggage area.
The next few days came as a bit of a blur as my tiredness surrendered to adventure and I had a proper shower for the first time in days. I changed to sleeping in a different house where more people lived, so I had to make less effort to create conversation, which was a relief cos I was at the end of my tether. Luckily I didn’t have a gig until I’d gotten over the worst of the jet lag and sampled the questionable delights of Mescal.
A deep love of the Jacaranda tree became apparent in my heart. Apparently they bloom twice a year, and the week and a half I spend there saw them dropping petals all over the pavements and cars. It looked a bit like purple snow.
I couldn’t say when it happened, but during the days I spent there, a large sense of freedom happened upon me. I suppose that having no possessions, not knowing where I was, who anyone was, what anyone was saying or how to steer clear of very spicy food is quite liberating. I found myself still alive and able to be happy and I even managed to get my hair cut.