The lights come up. Jane Birkin is sitting on the edge of a piano school. She is singing ‘Requiem pour un con’. Her hair is piled on top of her head in messy curls and she is dressed in black trousers and a white shirt, half unbuttoned, like the cover of ‘Horses’ but more tailored. She is accompanied by violin, piano, trumpet, drums – so much better than drowning her out with electric guitars – and the occasional rattle of a passing train (we are underground, the room is like a tunnel, only a few doors to the west of Central Station). There is something quite brilliant, subversive even, about her singing not just the songs that were written for her as a young woman and muse but those that were sung by Serge Gainsbourg himself. Especially on ‘Comic Strip’ where she takes the Serge line, leaving all those ‘shebangs’ and ‘pops’ to someone else.
She takes a deep bow after every song, with a ‘Merci’.
At the end she thanks us for our faces.
Jane Birkin with Agnès Varda (from Jane B. Par Agnes V. I wrote about this here VardaFR )
The room is dimly lit. In the past it was a church. Now a couple of hundred people are kissing each other as the New Year is rung in. The piper strikes up Auld Lang Syne. The band joins in but something is wrong. The piper is playing in a different key to the others. The band do not adjust their tuning. The piper doggedly plays on. The effect is like when Les Dawson plays the piano, only with bagpipes. The crowd tries to join in but it’s impossible to know where to pitch it. After a few minutes of this racket the crowd manages to sing, joining in with the band’s tuning and shouting over the piper, who still plays on. This is the longest version of Auld Lang Syne that the world has ever seen. The music stops and the crowd start singing again, the band joins back in but this time the piper admits defeat and dances.
‘I hope this is not a bad omen’, says Marie.
This I have learned, you cannot claim to have an opinion on living in Glasgow until you have been here all year round. Ever since I arrived, when people who live here ask how I am settling in and do I like it here, I have commented on how friendly it is, how much there is to do, how much I like my flat on the hill. There is always an approving nod, followed by a pause. ‘But you haven’t done a winter yet’, or ‘winter is hard’. The reason that winter is hard isn’t really due to the cold, the West of Scotland is generally warmer, though wetter, than the East (horror stories of ‘The Big Freeze’ (remember that?) abound, mind you, maybe I should hold this comment until January?) it’s about light or lack of it. There is not much sunlight during the winter months. The other day I noticed that the sun was starting to go down at 2.45pm and we’re still in November. I have been advised to get a SAD lamp, vitamin D supplements and to make sure my evenings are busy. In addition I have been told that people live seasonally here, out til all hours in the summer and hibernating in the winter. Against this backdrop, I was interested to read about Heliotrope, an installation that explores Scotland, the seasons and light.
I might camp out in the Kibble Palace for the duration.
From the kitchen window you can see fireworks going off all across the north of the city. The closer ones bang and splutter. Further away, sprinklings of red and green glitter shoot up between tower blocks and the Campsie Fells, (or is it the Trossachs?) A flickering light at the end of the garden catches the eye. A neighbour is having a small bonfire. Every now and again he lights an equally small firework, those ones that fizzle on the stick. Did we miss the note in the hall? Is this some kind of house do? The fire draws us downstairs and down to the bottom of the garden. The neighbour is burning 30 years of diaries and sketchbooks. 30 years of misery, he says. The same resolutions every year, the student angst. He had thought it wouldn’t take long but the diaries are plentiful and keep burning, ‘who would’ve thought there would be so much energy in misery?’ We talk about how diaries are used most when you are unhappy. He says you only try to make sense of things when you are unhappy, when happy you feel like it is a god-given right. For one second I entertain the thought of adding my own fuel to his fire and then I dismiss it, go back upstairs, and watch the mini-explosions all over Glasgow.