Singles of the year: #37 (NMC)

37. I Can Do Anything – Gene Serene & John Downfall

1999: Carrot Rope – Pavement
1994: Shinny – Elevator
1989: I Can’t Dance (To That Music You’re Playing) – The Beatmasters featuring Betty Boo

Since I can’t think of anything useful to say about this (except to say that it sounds a bit like Peaches before she went boring), let me tell you about Saturday night instead.

Saturday night. Fifteen of us are in a restaurant just outside Whitby, celebrating a fortieth birthday. The restaurant rejoices in the name of “Cross Butts”. As you might imagine, this is the cause of some amusement.

Twelve of us – the birthday boy and his boyfriend, me and K, a lesbian couple, a heterosexual couple, two single gay men (a Buddhist and an actor), a happy-clappy Christian mum and a female-to-male transsexual – are staying in a spacious, comfortable and pleasingly appointed farmhouse (ooh, another Aga!) near Robin Hood’s Bay. The house is a couple of minutes’ walk from a small bay called Boggle Hole. It almost goes without saying that this too is the cause of some amusement. In the smaller house next door, all of three feet away from the farmhouse, the birthday boy’s mother and father are staying, along with the birthday boy’s niece. Family in one place, “family” in the other.

Following the previous night’s extraordinary gales, we were without electric power for most of the day. (In this respect, the Aga was a godsend.) About twenty minutes after it got too dark to read, about ten minutes after the candles were lit in the sitting room, and just as we were wondering how to get ourselves ready for the evening without lighting and hot water, power was restored. (As this threatened to kill the cosy twilight atmosphere, we decided to stick with the candles.)

Just before leaving for the restaurant in the hired minibus, the five occupants of the house who sing in the same choral group, plus the birthday boy’s mother, arranged themselves around the kitchen table, handed out the sheet music, and treated us to a six-part harmony arrangement of a medieval elegy. The effect was spellbinding.

(Aside from the birthday boy to me and K, the following morning: “Because you live in a village at weekends, you get to be friendly with Tories. Because we sing in a choral group, we get to be friendly with Christians. It goes with the territory.”)

In the restaurant, the conversation has turned to smoking, with various ex-smokers talking about why they started. For many, it was the usual story of wanting to be cool and rebellious at school.

I turn to the birthday boy’s niece: a carefully made up young miss in a matching pink crocheted cap and poncho. I’m guessing she’s about seventeen. Poor kid must be feeling a bit left out. Must make an effort.

“So what’s the situation like for people of your generation? Do many of you still smoke, or has it fallen out of fashion now?”

“Well… um… maybe there’s one or two…”, she mutters, gazing at me with wide-eyed astonishment.

“But then, I’m only twelve.”

Uproar around the table, as I bury my head in my hands, all theatrical groans and profuse apologies. The birthday boy says I’ve made his weekend.

I’m always doing stuff like this. They grow up so fast these days, don’t they?

Back in the farmhouse, the iPod and I host an easy-listening disco until four in the morning. My debut gig with the iPod, in fact. Tune of the night: Up Up And Away (In My Beautiful Balloon). In situations like these, a DJ has to know his crowd. No point hitting them with the new stuff, is there?

(Of course, if you had been there, then I could have been as upfront as I pleased. Because we understand each other, you and I. That’s why you’re special.)

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