It’s a crisp autumn day. Dad and I went out last night for the first time and left BB with a babysitter (my mate with five kids who has furnished our house with all the baby stuff you could possibly need. BB couldn’t be in safer hands). I got called at the last minute to play a gig with our old band. It was a long setlist with three new songs. I hadn’t played the old ones for a year and a half. This morning, though slightly groggy, I feel suddenly light on responsibility. What a wonderful feeling! I guess since I was asked last Tuesday my mind has been full of when am I going to find time to practice, how will I make the rehearsal after teaching, coping with suddenly not going to bed at 9 but still getting up at 5. How am I going to organise cover for BB and make the incredibly early soundcheck. BB is quite demanding, she’s becoming a toddler and needs fresh air and continuous entertainment! Apparently me playing an hour of accordion doesn’t count. She does let me play a bit of piano if I keep giving her cheesy grins over my shoulder.

Yesterday was quite intense. Making sure I had all my stuff ready, trying to snatch a bit of essential practice in here and there of the tunes I hadn’t yet managed to play through, taking BB to ‘baby stay and play’ at the children’s centre (what a joy – more about this later), doing the washing, the battle that lunch has become. Taking BB on the bike to buy snacks for the babysitter and a quick dinner for us, the battle that dinner has become. Dad back covered in dust, quickly jumps in the bath, handover, I run out to the car, speed outrageously along the A40, set foot on stage at KOKO, Camden for the soundcheck at 5.30 on the dot. I made it! What a beautiful venue. Looking out at the round, tiered theatre from the stage, all dark wood and red lights is enchanting.

Inbetween having dots painted on my face and doing some sneaky last-minute practice on a piano backstage I give Dad a ring. Everything’s fine! Except he has to confide that there was one point at bathtime when staring exhaustedly into space, he looked down just in time to see BB suddenly slip under. An image of her panicked little face beneath the water was burned into his memory, and she was completely freaked out for the rest of the evening. Oh dear. Poor BB, poor Dad.

It’s fair to say Gabby pulled out a few stops for this one. Apart from us Other Animals, there was a samba band, a large brass band, a troupe of dancers and two aerialists spinning around on silks above our heads. Gabby wore a dress like a little salt cellar. Halfway through she changed out of this, into a dress like a large salt cellar. I (who had said to Dad beforehand, ‘I won’t let them backcomb my hair’) had my hair backcombed into a large bun on the top of my head. The gig went really well. I wasn’t on top of my game, but managed not to completely embarrass myself!

Dad, who in the days when he was the bass player railed against the gigs ‘becoming a circus act’ enjoyed it immensely from the audience and said it was all wonderful. Driving home together on our well-trodden route back from many a midnight gig in the past, he told me about his journey to the venue on the tube and the shock of being out late. ‘The people you see at night are a completely different animal to those you see in the park at 7 a.m.’ At Kings Cross he had looked around, feeling a little vulnerable and bewildered and saw a bloke in full combat gear, limping along like he’d just stepped out of Vietnam. He was closely followed by a man in rugby shorts and two bleeding knees.

Back home to relieve my fantastic friend, who sped off towards Ruislip, leaving one sleeping child to get back to her five. What a trooper. Before she left, I enquired, ‘Did Dad tell you that he nearly drowned BB before you arrived? ‘Ha, I’ve nearly drowned all of mine in that baby bath at one point or other’.

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