I held a one way ticket in my hand. Destination unknown. I was thirty years old - a watershed age, still in the hangover of my twenties, not too old, or so I thought, to consider the grown-up decisions - marriage, mortgage, kids - of my thirties. I was still playing at life, gambling with choices, motherhood nowhere on the radar.
A question mark over the DJ'ing, a recent redundancy in my pocket, I was headed south with no job, no five year plan, no sense of my next move. Surely I should be established by now? Should know myself like the blue and red veins on an ordinance survey map? Who was I now? What shape would I become?
I nearly bottled it, an inch from grabbing my bag and running like a hounded rabbit down the platform, back to familiarity, to comfort, to fish and chips on a Tuesday evenings with Grandma. But there was a shudder, a jolt, as the train quietly eased - the rhythmical clack and a clack on the track - out of the station.
Decision made I guess.
I looked at the rectangular card between my fingers. I could always return if this adventure fell on its fat face. I knew these streets so well, the junctions of my child hood, my teenage years, my twenties. Yes, I thought, I could always swim up stream, back up the M1, a tried-it-but-didn't-work-out salmon returning to fertile ground. But I never did. I knew even then, months and months before, slumped on the top deck of the 96 grumbling up Otley Road, autumn rain drops crying on the windows, the inner voice asserting 'time to move on, get out, do something new', that I wouldn't be returning to my birth town.
London was a like a giant spread of tapas - the olives, the calamares, the chorizo al vino, the patatas bravas. An endless selection of choices and ideas and inspiration. I discovered tai-chi and yoga and street art and new friends and just how rude commuters can be. There were windy walks on Hampstead Heath and picnics in Regents Park. Proper sushi. The finest vanilla ice-cream in candlelit restaurants on Upper Street. Watching gigs on sticky July evenings at Somerset House. Admiring installations in the Turbine Hall of the Tate Modern.
I temped in grey offices, over views of the city - the monolithic pillars of Canary Wharf, the overbearing slabs of concrete caging Liverpool Street. I watched as tiny workers on ropes filled in the missing pieces of the The Gherkin, sometimes their limbs completely lost in fine, spectral mist. Then one day two towers crumbed - the fire, the bodies, the blood - and I smelt the death and sadness in the empty tube carriage, images of grief and horror on forgotten pages scattered on the floor.
I didn't get along with finance, with the starch uniforms, and the bare, bored walls. I was formally told off - a bad, bad school girl - for not ironing my shirt, for not combing my hair, for not making enough cups of tea for the team. A manager who clearly resented me. And the feeling was mutual. What was I doing working as admin in a risk department in Aldgate? How had I managed to swap my decks for a flat screen and the in-and-out tray and a hole puncher? The rent.
The first home was a shared house in East Finchley, messy and cramped. The second, a flat on The Holloway Road - day and night the traffic never stopped, a constant noise of engines and sirens and horns. It was broken into, DVD's and books strewn about, both my beloved Technics stolen. Then a flat I loved, large square rooms, a separate kitchen and lounge, opposite the Geffrye Museum on the Kingsland Road - a hop and a skip away from flowers and fresh coffee on Columbia Road or the vivid colours and curry houses of Brick Lane.
|Kingsland Road - Image Courtesy of Google|
|Columbia Road Flower Market - Image Courtesy of Google|
|Brick Lane - Image Courtesy of Google|
The DJ'ing still continued, infrequently, in dusty warehouses and clubs under railway bridges and on boats moored on the Thames. I attempted at promoting my own night, 'No Fishes For Missy', the first foray a success - I paid the guest DJ, I broke even on the door, just didn't have the energy for another, couldn't muster the patience to spend evenings dropping flyers around every bar in Shoreditch. Something inside was deliberating, changing. I began tiring of late nights and vinyl shopping. Clubbing lost its shine - the days of waiting in queues, head-over-heels excited at the night's line-up, felt like a drag - so many nights over so many years, it was like going to work, like the nine to five. I always thought I would DJ forever and forever, until arthritis froze my wrists, the very last record cued aged seventy-eight.
When I reached my thirty-third birthday, I'd had enough.
One cold January afternoon the flat on the Kingsland Road was broken into, record decks snatched again. Faced with bent bars on the security grill, the front door wide open - 'come, come in - take anything you want' - I simply sighed with defeat, a resigned shrug of the shoulders, knowing what I would discover on the other side. The mixer and a box of best-ever records had also disappeared, and strangely a bottle of perfume. On the laminate floor, a pair of audio cables lay coiled, smothered in exhumed dust on the spot where my equipment should have been. At least the three thousand records lining the living room walls remained, stoical amidst trauma.
And then I knew, truly knew - life waving its large, bright red flag - that over a decade of DJ'ing had taken its final bow.
A week later I met Younger Dad.
So once upon a time, what did you enjoy (or dislike) doing, seeing or creating? It could be anything. What were you like many moons ago? Do you have a once upon a time story to tell or picture to share? It could be a happy, sad or humorous tale. The skies the limit. So do link up below and grab the badge code ... and don't forget to tweet #onceuponatime. This is a monthly meme.
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