At the beginning of 2009, I decided in a year I was going to move to London. “Decided” is a strange way of saying it, really, because it’d already been a certainty in my brain for a couple of years that I’d have to do so one day, that this city that had lured me out of North America for the very first time in 2006 was meant to be my home. But the difference was that at the beginning of 2009 I was feeling brave. Brave enough to leave for a year, tops. I couldn’t see ever living away from my people for longer than that.
Obviously things didn’t go according to plan. I didn’t even visit London for the second time until 2011. And, really, I think everything went the way it was meant to. I’m six months into living in London now, and I can’t imagine how I would feel if this milestone meant I was halfway done. It feels now as if I’ll never be done.
I write so much here about the smallest concepts, about how strange it is to be living a dream. My dream was aspirational and unspecific: I wanted to move across the ocean, to my favourite city. That’s all. When asked what I’d do there, I’d reply with a shrug. “It’s all about getting there,” I said. Maybe I didn’t go on too much about all the things I wanted to be true of my dream life because they seemed silly, impossible. I want to be known by the people I admire most, I’d think, then present it as a sort of silly thought. “Hey, imagine if I become friends with this person…?” It was a defence mechanism, and an awareness that my smaller dreams were a bit unrealistic. Easier to get the idea out there as a sort of joke than to let anyone know that I thought it’d be really cool if these things actually happened.
And, you know, it’s ridiculous?
“Hey, imagine if I went into the Groucho Club?”
A few months ago I did. It was one of the weirdest nights of my entire life. Dean Street is the centre of my world, and I can’t walk down there without realizing how insanely lucky I am.
“Haha, imagine if I had art on display at Maison Bertaux?”
I very recently did. Mind you, it’s because my friend Jaynie and I attended a watercolour workshop there in July, but all the same, it existed. It was there.
And because – recurring theme! – things only get better and better, and because my mini-dreams mentioned above are transparent and both have the same roots, you might be able to imagine what the most magical concept in my world was. Because, ultimately, watching a little surreal comedy show called The Mighty Boosh had a more profound effect on my life than I could reasonably describe in a blog wherein I wish to appear like I’ve maintained at least a little bit of my sanity. It opened up a new world to me, though, and I discovered a remarkable number of other things I like because of it. I’ve made a number of friends because of this niche common interest. And it’d been five years since they last toured, three years since they recorded an album that was never released. By all appearances it was over, and I’d come to terms with this when it was announced they were reforming for a comedy music festival in California. And I live in the same city as them, which meant that maybe if they did a warmup show, I’d get to see it…?
Here I am on the other side of two shows that seem to me to have been too remarkable even for this life I’ve stumbled into. London constantly outdoes itself, constantly redefines itself. What counts as astonishing constantly needs to be rethought or, rather, I just need not to think about it because it’s all very overwhelming and it’s just getting crazier.
I was recently reviewing some of what I wrote when I first got here, the things that were absolutely insane to me back then. I can still see that they are absolutely astonishing, and I do still feel a weird mixture of giddiness and confusion remembering those early days of London life, the dichotomy of feeling so cold and lonely, and so warm and welcomed. There was no way of guessing what might happen next back then, and that feeling has only increased. With every amazing occurrence, I’m struck with the thought that I don’t know how things could get better and they somehow, inevitably, do. I feel like in spite of becoming a fair bit more adjusted to strange things happening to me, the Leslie of my internal monologue is the same person she always has been, and she’s baffled nearly always.
Internal Monologue Leslie and External Leslie have once again become the same person in the wake of the Boosh shows, these two whirlwind nights that seemed way too good to be true. The shows took place in Soho Theatre, as do so many of the best things in my life. Soho Downstairs is a 130-150 seat venue, according to Soho Theatre’s website, and the fact that I was able to see the Boosh (a comedy troupe who, five years ago, sold out the 20,000 seater O2 arena) in a venue as intimate as this one, and the fact that I was able to see them two nights in a row…? Well, there just aren’t words for that.
The atmosphere of the two nights was absolutely incredible, so many dedicated fans buzzing with excitement and the boys so obviously thrilled to be doing shows together again. The shows were split into two sections: the first, with its three support acts, and the second, which was the Boosh Band. It was particularly surreal (and any surrounding surrealism is definitely fitting) that one of the support acts was Joey Page, with whom I’ve become friends. I’d never have imagined that, if I did ever get to see a show like this, I would personally know people involved. But hey, that’s this life of mine…!
It’s not my intention to ramble on about it for too long (trust me, I’ve been doing that for the last couple of days), but the things that happened on these nights would absolutely dumbfound Ottawa Leslie. On the first night I was nearly walked in on in the bathroom by Noel Fielding. On both nights I was greeted with astonishing warmth and familiarity by Noel Fielding’s girlfriend, the spectacular Lliana Bird (whom I’d met twice previously, and whom I’ve spoken to on Twitter a number of times). The second night was particularly dizzying when, already amazed just to be back in that room, I happened to look over at the entrance just as Sergio Pizzorno walked in. Being a big fan of Kasabian and having seen them live twice, Serge was absolutely on my shortlist of people I wanted badly to meet. (That, like a great many things I say in this blog, is a bit of an understatement.) You never really know what people are going to be like if you’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how you’d like to meet them, but my taste in humans remains mostly excellent: Serge and I compared heights (same height!), and he told me several times that I’m beautiful. I think this particular detail of these amazing nights is the one my brain is having the most trouble comprehending; I had a weird moment at work earlier where Fire by Kasabian played and I stood there, absolutely astonished.
I want this city to keep astonishing me, and I’ve no doubt it will. Because, imagine after all of that, imagine how a person couldn’t possibly need more than that to be basically floored. And then, during one of the songs, Lliana Bird leaned forward to say something to me. “We should get up and dance during Love Games.” And we did. Most of the room looked at the members of our two tables like we’d lost our minds, but it was the greatest thing we could’ve possibly done.
Then there was meeting everyone afterwards, those I’d met before and those I hadn’t. Mike Fielding being about a quarter of my height, Julian Barratt being Julian Barratt, Dave Brown being spectacular and good at everything and so on board to take a photo with a photo of my best friend. And Noel Fielding, who was in a rush and so I didn’t get a photo, but from whom I did get a completely unprompted kiss on the cheek. Eep!
These are the sorts of things that seemed to a former incarnation of myself to be nice thoughts but that was it. I have a habit of trying to convince myself I’m delusional whenever something particularly amazing happens, but these are things I couldn’t have imagined. And this is my life.
And this is London life six-and-a-bit months in. I have a five year visa. And to think I thought in 2009 that I’d be able to just live in London for a year, that something like that seemed remotely possible. I’m thrilled, really, for my unspecific aspiration, for my silly daydreams of remarkable things that somehow end up finding their way into reality. I’m perpetually excited to see what happens next, how London will outdo itself this time.
So… London, a city which I’m speaking to as if it can hear me, consider this a challenge. Outdo yourself again, I dare you!