Exit | Entrance | Living it up | Living it down | Waking up is hard to do | Stress and distress | Spring green and mushrooms | Depressing stuff | Deliverance | Departure
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©Marcus J Brierley, 1999
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10 - Departure
Making records isn't as easy as it sounds. Making good records is even harder.
Damian wanted to make a good record. He'd been waiting twelve months to make a good record, but now he was in the studio, he had a cold.
What would have been sensible would have been to postpone the sessions until the cold was better, but a), he didn't want to give up now that he was actually in the studio, in case some unknown executives changed their mind, and b), the received wisdom via the chief studio engineer was that studio time was difficult to get allocated and it might be a long while before he could get it again. There was a week allocated to make the record.
A number of other things appeared to be stacking up against Damian being able to make a good record.
The first real problem was, that it was so different from making demos. In the demo studio, or at the BBC, he just turned up with his guitar, got a balance quickly with the engineer, started playing and singing at the same time and got a take.
In the CBS studio, there was a pre-occupation, which was entirely new to Damian, with 'separation'.
If you played guitar and sang at the same time, singing would go down the guitar mic and guitar would go down the singing mic.
If you did each bit separately, only guitar went down the guitar mic and only voice went down the voice mic.
The only problem was, that Damian could not sing his songs without playing the guitar at the same time, nor could he play his guitar without singing. He could play without singing of course, but not exactly the right amount and often, or usually, not the right feeling.
The same proved to be true of the accompanying musicians whom Ted had booked to beef up the plain old folky acoustic sound which Damian was responsible for if he performed on his own, the sound which people knew in the clubs, heard on Don Quillie's radio show, and the sound he was so far successful with.
The session musicians had to play their bits in isolation too. Drums in a little booth in the corner, bass in another corner and so on.
The musicians were new to the music. They'd had a couple of days to run through things and rehearse a little bit. They were top class musicians, no doubt about it. They picked things up like a shot. But they were basically jazzers, not folkies. They didn't actually wrinkle up their noses at the thought of playing the rhythms which Damian demanded of them, but they would've if they could've.
So the basic theory was to 'lay down' the backing tracks first, the rhythm track, then any twiddly bits, then do the vocals last.
Damian was not at all comfortable at it.
He went into the control room after every take and listened hard to try to get the feel of how the songs were coming together, but he just couldn't get an overall impression.
Micky, the engineer, told him not to worry and to just think about his performances, because it'd all get sorted out in the mix down. But he found it hard to think about his performances when having to perform to an unbalanced backing track through soggy headphones. The problem with the cold didn't go away either. In fact it got worse because he took Coldex to cancel the effects of the cold. But all they did was close up his normally wide open voice, into a tight little orifice.
To give him encouragement, Ted sat in the control box next to Micky and said words like 'great' and 'super' and 'biggie that one', more or less indiscriminately. So Damian lost his sense of judgement and got swept along with the flow, which was rip it up, wrap it up, pick it up, pack it up, go home for the weekend. By which time, the recording was finished and all that remained was to mix down.
The four track tape recorders had already had a bit of sub mix down done on them in order to get the number of separate tracks recorded, so some of the decisions were irrevocable. It could have been the same if they had not bothered about 'separation' quite so tediously. They went for a slap-up dinner in Soho at one of Ted's favourite watering holes and came back to the studio for the mix down at midnight. Not a great time to start mixing fourteen tracks.
In the control room, sat Damian, Ted and Micky.
The only one with any experience was Micky. After a lot of setting up, 'EQ-ing' and general knob-twiddling, Ted called it a day and said good-night, leaving Micky and Damian to sort it out for themselves.
Because of the triple pressures of fatigue, ignorance and time, the wrap they called it shortly after six in the morning was not the wrap it should have been. And under circumstances which were fairer, Damian should have been able to take an acetate of the tapes home, consider them on decent sound reproduction equipment and come back to re-mix again later, even go to a different studio and use an engineer specialising in re-mixing. Alas, none of these luxuries were available to Damian, not even the decent sound equipment at home. So when he finally got the acetate - a kind of machine cutting of the master tapes on a special disc blank, not a proper lathe cut, as for LP pressing masters - the following Tuesday, he took it home to his plastic Philips portable to be severely disappointed.
"What do you think?" he said hopefully to Dave and Bertie who were gathered round the minute and tinny speaker for critical listening of their nearest and dearest chum on his very first proper LP.
"Can't really hear the bass. Did you use a bass?" said Bertie.
"Course we bloody did. I can't hear it either. It seems to have disappeared altogether. I'm sure I could hear it on the studio speakers," Damian wailed miserably.
"Don't worry man, it's great!" said Dave, drawing on a freshly rolled reefer.
"Let me have some of that," said Damian, "Maybe it'll start to sound great to me too!"
All of them smoked considerably, and truly the recording sounded better and better, the more stoned they became.
"That's the answer Dame," said Dave, "Just give away free dope with every copy. They'll love it!"
"I should think it'd be a smash it you did that!" said Damian.
"It'd be a smashed!" said Bertie. They all fell about laughing hysterically.
"I don't think you've got any problems Damian," said Dave. "Let's face it, anyone who buys this is going to be a head anyway. So where's the problem. They'll just dig it because of what it stands for."
"Hmm. I still wish it was better built," said Damian.
The next day, early, his anxieties gripped him again and he rang Ted to discuss them.
"Great Damian. Great recording sessions. Great disc. Biggie. Yeah, sure of it. No, great. No need to re-mix. Won't hear of it. Got Trevor whizzing it round the Beeb now. No worries Damian. Everything under control. OK?"
Damian didn't get so much as a word in.
Two nights later, Bertie came rushing into Damian's room clutching his transistor.
It was one of his songs from the acetate being played live on the radio. As it came to a close, the dulcet tones of Don Quillie were saying,
"A sneak preview there, of the new Damian James, out on the CBS label in October. How does he get that voice? Great sound there. Great to hear you Damian if you're listening."
"'How does he do that voice?'" mimicked Damian angrily, "Very badly and with a terrible cold, that's how! Have these people no taste at all?" shouted Damian.
"What do you mean Damian?" said Bertie, "he likes it!"
"That's what I mean," said Damian, "it's crap!"
Bertie shook his head and went out mystified.
As the days went by, Damian became further and further disillusioned and depressed.
He had gigs to go to, but he couldn't be bothered to turn up. He received phone calls from club organisers begging him to come next week instead. They even offered him more money, but he shook his head in silent misery and they wondered if he had lost his mind. Bertie and Dave were also astonished that their recording hero flat-mate should be so down in the mouth about his forthcoming triumph, but couldn't get any more sense out of him than, "It could've been so much better." They agreed that it could have been better. Anything could be better if you made it better, could re-do things indefinitely, had unlimited budgets, but this was as good as it was and people thought it was OK.
Damian was not convinced.
Sheila had been away visiting her folks and missed most of this drama and depression. When she came back, Damian grabbed her and played her the whole disc. She looked doubtfully at him.
"You want me to be truthful don't you Damian?"
"Yes please! I certainly do. Nobody else is being remotely truthful," he said.
"It's... not good, I'm afraid Damian. It sounds thin and weedy, like you're struggling to get it out. Not confident. But never mind Damian! You've got to begin somewhere," she said.
"Well at least that's the truth! I can cope with the truth. fine. I just can't stand it when I think folk are covering up the truth just to protect my feelings."
"I don't think they necessarily do it to protect your feelings. Critics are notoriously aggressive when it comes to slagging someone off they suspect of being crap. But you must realise, there's no such thing as absolutely black and white in recordings, apart from the disc itself. Some people have got a different view from you."
"But the thing I can't stand is the idea of people going out, liking and buying something I don't think is very good myself."
"You like your songs?" she said. Damian nodded. "These are your songs?" He nodded again. "They are recorded the best way you knew how to at the time?" Damian nodded once more. "And you weren't well when you did it and they didn't let you do it again or later. You see, it's not your fault Damian. You did your best under the circumstances and that's as good as you could get this time. I bet even the Beatles first recording was a bit 'iffy'."
The drip feed on Damian's self esteem was beginning to yield results.
"Sheila, you're very good," he said, "You should be a social worker!"
"Well, I might. I'm thinking of it! Seriously!"
* * *
Damian thumbed through the pages of his address book looking for something or someone in particular, but wasn't absolutely sure who.
"Aargh!" he threw the book down on the bed and rubbed his head vigorously to stimulate the brain cells. Picking up the small black book, full of disorganised scribbles and crossings-out, he slowly turned over pages from the beginning again. Eventually, he got up and went out into the hallway to find assistance.
"Sheila! Sheila? Help."
She emerged from the bathroom with wet, soapy hair. "Umm?"
"Where do you think I put Patsy's home address?"
"Jesus, Damian, how should I know?" answered Sheila, rubbing at her hair. "What do you want it for anyway?"
"Look Sheila, I feel bad about not seeing her after her thing. She just went off. I want to... just make sure she's OK," he trailed off into vague uncertainty.
"Well I've got her parent's phone number in my bag. But I'd don't know if she'll be there. She said something about going to stay with her cousin in France. Anyway, you can try it and find out."
* * *
Damian paced up and down the platform at Victoria Station, waiting for the guards to say it was OK to board the overnight train to Paris.
It was a big decision to go. He was neither invited nor expected.
He'd managed to prise the address out of a reluctant grandmother on the end of the phone who had clearly never heard of Damian James, and determined that he had to see Patsy no matter what. The bare fact was, he missed her.
* * *
Emerging from the Gare du Nord at around six a.m. with guitar case in one hand and an ancient rucksack over his shoulder, he thought it might be too early to go knocking on a stranger's door, so he wandered a bit and then gave up and hailed a taxi.
The apartment building was typical, a wide oak door onto a dusty stone street. Damian looked in vain for some indication of which bell to press, but didn't dare to try any. Instead, he pushed tentatively on the door which gave way freely and he ventured inside. He wandered up the stairs and looked along each corridor for indications of Pasty's cousin. Was it a he or a she? He wasn't sure.
On the fourth floor, he saw an apartment door with the words, 'Lamure, Schubfreisen, Moulsey," hand written on a little identification plaque.
Something about the 'Moulsey' made him think 'English!' and he rapped hard on the knocker. After a discrete pause with no response, he rapped again somewhat louder. This time noises were audible from within. Damian's heart pounded with excitement. The apartment door opened on a chain and a French female face peered crossly out.
Somehow, he managed to explain who he was, why he was there and who he was looking for, amid profuse apologies in schoolboy French.
A few moments later he was sitting in the kitchen drinking freshly made coffee with a confused but amazed Patsy.
"Hope you don't mind me barging in like this?" said Damian. Patsy shook her head.
"No, it's great. It's surprising, nice!"
"What's the scene here? Do you think I could stay a bit, or should we move into a hotel?" asked Damian.
Patsy considered the implications of Damian's series of questions and picked one to answer at a time.
"It's just a small flat Damian. My cousin Sally shares with two other girls, Natalie, who you met at the door and Ingrid, who's actually a Belgian girl. Ingrid isn't here at the moment and so I've got her room. She's gone home for a few days. When she gets back, I'll probably move back in with Sally 'till I go back to England. I'd have to ask if it's OK for you to stay, the question will be 'where?'."
Damian nodded understandingly. He yawned a lot and looked very tired.
"Do you want to come into my room and have a snooze?" said Patsy. Damian thought that might be a good idea and followed her through the apartment to the small room which she had been allocated for the time being. They curled up next to each other on the bed and didn't say much more. Soon, Damian was asleep and snoring loudly.
He woke a few hours later and got up to explore. Patsy was sitting writing at a desk in the living room.
"How was it Patsy?" said Damian, sitting down next to her.
"The... the clinic?"
Damian nodded, "And everything?"
"Horrible. It was horrible Damian. That's the truth. Whatever they say. It's horrible. But it's done and like your friend Roget said, 'it's a fresh start.'"
Damian commiserated for half an hour or so and then out of the blue said what he reckoned he'd come to say.
"I thought we might make a fresh start Pats."
For the next two whole days Patsy and Damian did not emerge from her room, except to go to the bathroom, and maybe make a drink or take a bite to eat. They avoided contact with all other inhabitants of the apartment, who fortunately were out at work all day. On the third day, Ingrid came home and wanted her room back. Damian moved out of the flat and found a cheap hotel for himself and Patsy. There they stayed mainly in bed, mainly nakedly, wetly pressing against each other and whispering nothings, mainly sweetly, most of the time. It seemed they'd mutually agreed to accept Roget's suggestion.
As Patsy saw him to the Gare du Nord, she asked, "Do you think this is going to work Damian?"
"Work? What's work? Why work? Do you think this is going to play Patsy?!" Damian was in high spirits.
"Make divine music!"
"You play the tune, I'll beat time!" she said.
"Whatever!" said Damian.
* * *
"Lem Blimblatz!" shouted Damian on the doorstep of St Joan's as the front door was wrenched ajar before he'd even got his key in the lock. Damian threw his arms round him and they danced up and down in the porch screaming, "Man, it's great to see you, wow amazing!" until Mrs Mikley came down to glare them indoors.
"So you got a deal and made your record!" said Lem, walking down the corridor of the flat, with his arm around Damian's shoulders. "You made it without me! You rat!" he continued. "How could you do that?"
"Simple, Lem. You weren't around," said Damian. "I'd have liked you to be around. There's nothing I'd have liked better. The one I've done is crap. If you'd've been here we might have stood a chance of doing something halfway decent. But I got lumbered with a bunch of musos from the wrong era. Plus I had a streaming nose throughout. So all in all, it was a bit of a balls-up."
"Yes, well I have to agree with you man."
"You've heard it?"
"Sheila played it me. I hope you don't mind?"
"I mind and I don't mind. It's my fault it's crap. It's your fault its crap!"
"Hey guy, mine? How so?" said Lem.
"Simple, mate, you weren't here. You haven't kept in touch with us. If I'd have known you were coming back and when, I'd have been able to organise things differently. I'm amazed Sheila wants to speak to you. She's really missed you. She's written and all sorts and never heard a word. What've you been doing my friend?" This was playful banter, although there was no doubt that Damian also felt it.
They settled on cushions in Damian's room, Sheila curled in the crook of Lem's limbs, with cups of tea and toasted teacakes. Lem began.
"See, now, after I left here at New Year, I went to Italy. You know that, right?"
"We met Guilio!" said Damian.
"I'm wearing his shoes," added Sheila.
"Pretty good aren't they?" said Lem. "What a crazy guy! He's bent on self discovery. Had a successful but sheltered life and he wants to see the universe. Nothing wrong with that, just 'cos he's fat?"
Everyone nodded, Lem was right.
"So I stuck around longer than I should've and missed the sign up sheet for my second semester, which means I have to do those modules again next year if I want to graduate, which I do.
"Anyhow on the flight back to LA, I met this guy who said, 'Why not come to Columbia and do some exploration?' He said he'd got money and tents and a military grade four by four ready and waiting at Bogota airport, and well, I just fell for it."
"When you say 'fell for it', did he try to trick you?" asked Sheila.
"Not exactly 'trick'. 'Con' is more the word I'd use," said Lem. "Turned out he didn't have any money at all. True he'd got the four by four and a tent of sorts, though not the kind I'd choose to go on an expedition with, but when it boiled down to it, he needed money from me to finance the whole thing."
"So why didn't you just come back?" said Damian.
"I guess I was having too much fun!" said Lem.
"So it wasn't a hundred per cent con, then?" observed Sheila dryly, "You actively participated?"
"I actively participated, it's true. But it's a great story, huh? Almost as good as saying that I was kidnapped by South American bandits, which almost happened, and that's why I couldn't write you or get away back to England."
"Is it true?" asked Sheila, now regarding the whole story with suspicion, "Is any of it true, or are you just putting us on to cover up for the fact that you totally neglected us and most especially me, for six months?"
"It's mainly true," said Lem, "So, tell me about the record?" he turned to Damian.
"There's not much to say. The deal came through. The studio got booked. The musicians marched in. The technicians stomped all over us. Now the DJs are playing it, and it isn't even released yet."
"Then you've done pretty good in my opinion!" said Lem. "So what happens next?"
"Patsy and me are going to get married," said Damian.
If the word 'gobsmacked' had been invented, then everyone in earshot would have been. But this word was not yet in the English language so, they all just looked amazed instead. And when they'd got over their amazement, they slapped Damian on the back and offered him hearty congratulations.
"When did this happen Damian?" said Sheila.
"It's obvious yeah? I just felt I couldn't live without her. So I went to find her, and when I found her, I told her I loved her. And then I asked her to marry me."
* * *
Waiting by the arrivals barrier at Heathrow, Damian anxiously considered what was likely to happen next. Things like: Would Patsy still want him? What would her parents think about it? After all, she was not yet twenty-one. She would require her parents consent to get married unless they were going to elope and he didn't fancy that. He saw her slim figure pushing a bag laden trolley at the far end of the corridor and his heart leapt. He paced and looked, paced and looked. She saw him and stopped pushing to wave frantically. His heart did a double bounce. It was OK. They met and embraced while people milled around them.
"Glad to be back Pats?"
"Now you're here!" she replied.
They walked arm in arm through the airport to the lifts and descended to the car parks.
"Your place or mine?" joked Damian.
"Mum's expecting me home. They wanted to meet me. It took some persuading for them to let me let you collect me. I think we'd better go home."
Damian nodded with a mixture of disappointment and resignation.
"So shall we do it?" he asked.
"What now in the car?" said Patsy.
"Yes that too!. No, I mean shall we get married?"
"Mmm. Can't think how we'll explain it to mum."
"We should do it together," she said.
"That's the bit I'm worried about. What if they say 'no'?"
"Well, we'll have to persuade them. It'll be a hell of a surprise for them Damian. They haven't even met you yet. They don't know I know you. I don't think I've ever mentioned you to them. I haven't mentioned much to them actually."
"Damian, that's not a nice word!"
The banter and babble continued all they way back to Patsy's parents. However, on arrival there, they went into a fresh state of panic. They sat in the car looking at each other, examining each other's eyes, reading each other's thoughts, worrying each other's anxieties. Then, it seemed, the moment for re-entry arrived by mutual consent.
"OK, let's hit it," said Damian.
* * *
Damian sat on the settee sipping tea politely.
Patsy's mum eyed him in a friendly way. Patsy's Dad did not.
Patsy was of the opinion that timing was of the essence, before the novelty of welcoming their long lost daughter back from France had worn off, then, she thought, the goodwill towards her would be at its highest.
So at an apparently unprepossessing juncture in the conversation she threw in the sentence, "Damian came over to see me for a few days, and it was then he asked me to marry him."
"Oh did he dear," said Patsy's Mum, in that distant kind of way which indicates that what's been said hasn't been heard.
"Did I just hear you say 'marry'?" said Patsy's Dad, starting out of his chair and preparing to chase Damian instantly out of the house.
"Mmm," said Patsy, smiling sweetly and innocently.
"Oh dear!" said Mum dropping her biscuit into her tea.
"I've never heard such nonsense!" said Patsy's Dad, his voice straining the walls of the sitting room. "How long have you known him?" he said, pointing quite disrespectfully with his thumb towards Damian. "You haven't known him five minutes! You just meet him one day in France and the next day you want to get married to him. It's rubbish!"
"Dad, dad,' said Patsy softly and calmly, Damian was impressed, "I've known him for a whole year. We've been friends for most of the year. We've been going out together. We've been... "
"Sleeping together, I wouldn't mind betting!"
"Dad!" said Mum.
"Well whatever we've been doing it's not your business Dad. I'm a grown-up Dad. You've got to realise that. I can make my own mind up about all these things."
Astonishingly, Patsy managed to keep her cool. 'I wouldn't', Damian thought.
"Well, I'm not hearing of it. You'll finish college first and get your qualifications. When you've done that, you can give some thought to settling down I suppose," Dad's mind was set in stone.
* * *
When Damian got back to the flat, there was a brown envelope propped up on his mantelpiece. It had an ominous gloom about it, like so many other brown envelopes. Damian eyed it suspiciously. He picked it up and turned it over. He inspected the postmark and the legend on the verso, 'London County Council'. He put it back. This looked like news which could wait.
He made a coffee and then made a little music. The brown envelope stared at him from the mantelpiece with a vengeful countenance.
"Oh bugger you!" he said to it as it finally got the better of him. "If it's going to be bad then, it's got to be dealt with and got out of the way."
He tore of the top and pulled out the single sheet of paper it contained.
'Damian James,' it read, 'is hereby informed that he has attained a standard sufficient to pass in Education, English and Art and gained the qualification of teacher in the above subjects at Junior and Secondary levels.'
"Bloody hell. I don't believe this!" he shouted out loud. "I haven't been into College for most of the last year. I didn't even take final exams. They must be nuts."
He tore open the door and shouted out so that the entire flat could hear,
"Guys, Sheila, everybody! They made me a teacher! Everybody can you hear?" Various people opened their room doors and poked their heads out. Damian waved his piece of paper madly in the air like a politician set to defeat the opposition in a narrow vote. Sheila came forward to see. Dave strolled down his corridor like tall people do, and snatched the paper out of Damian's hand over Sheila's head to read it. "They must be nuts," repeated Damian, "they've made me a bloody teacher!"
"They must be desperate!" said Dave.
* * *
"How did you persuade him?" asked Dave as the small group of long haired, velvet and corduroy clad visionaries dandled their legs from their high position, seated on the Lewisham and Catford Registry Office wall.
"It was long and hard," said Patsy.
"A bit like my wotsit!" said Damian drunkenly. Patsy pushed him off the wall.
"I think he read the paper one morning and noticed that the world was getting rounder. I don't know. Something he saw connected with something I said. He suddenly gave in. Dear Dad. I love him so."
"So why didn't they come?" asked Sheila.
"They couldn't bring themselves to give in that much!"
Damian resurfaced from the thistles in the undergrowth with a scratched cheek.
"Anyway, they've given us a fat cheque, so let's go and spend it!"
The party moved on in a gaggly meander to the nearest Indian Restaurant and there partook of everything on offer.
* * *
"The drains are blocked again," said Rufus D'Gere, authoritatively to the new Mrs James as she drifted prettily in a bath towel from the kitchen to the hall.
"Talk to my husband about it. He's your landlord," she replied out-imperious-ing Rufus by a useful margin. He looked temporarily off-balanced, then recovering composure, flowed on down the hall to write a cross note.
"Jesus, this guy's got to go!" said Damian, reading it. "You never see him from one day to the next. Then when you do, he moans. Are the drains blocked Pats?"
"Well they might be, a bit. Suds go down slowly. I've been getting the bath much cleaner with some new detergenty stuff. But there is a pong right outside Rufus's window and I think that may be the cause of his complaint."
"Well he'll just have to put his pussyfooting hand down the drain and clear it out himself. It's probably only tea leaves or tree leaves or something innocuous. I can't get worked up about it."
Damian was already planning his next album and that was far more important, even though the first had not yet been released. He had a live gig on Don Quillie's late night Friday show, three prestige's in a single pass, one live, one late, one Friday. He'd decided to put the first album behind him and not even give it head space, but Don Quillie wanted to know all about it.
"What's the significance of the 'old man' in The Room Damian," he asked on live radio to five hundred thousand listeners.
"The 'old man'. Do I have an 'old man'?"
"It's one of the central phrases in the reprise Damian, '...an old man came and watched us too... ' you can't have forgotten that, you must have sung it a thousand times!" said Don reproachfully.
"The 'old man' is our soul Don, our guiding light. Within us and without us, looking on, looking in. He touches me, he touches you, tells us gladly what to do. Sometimes we listen. Sometimes we learn."
There was a fleeting patch of silence. A moment lost on live radio. Some listeners thought they had been turned on. Some listeners thought they had been turned off.
"Oh. Right, I see," said Don.
* * *
"I'm going to go back to the States with Lem," said Sheila.
"Wow! Big decision," said Damian, "Is that what you want?"
"I said so!"
"You still into Lem then?"
"Don't you think so?"
"It's pretty obvious. I was just checking little sis."
"I really don't think you should call me that, after all we've been through," she chastened.
"Just a joke Sheila. So what's going to happen?"
"Lem's booked us both tickets to LA. He's going to talk to his parents about us."
"You mean like about marriage or something?"
"You did it."
"We're serious. Are you serious She?"
"So what'll you do?" asked Damian.
"Lem'll go back to university, he calls it school, and finish his degree, Then we'll get married. I have to get work, which will be difficult, but not impossible. There are things around the University campus I can do, he says. Maybe we can even get married before he finishes, they do that over there, then it'll all be easier from the 'me' point of view."
"So does this mean we'll never see you both again?" Damian suddenly felt deep pangs of impending loss. Aside from his deep attachment to Sheila, he and Lem had been playing music together all the time since his arrival. They'd done gigs together. They'd even planned Damian's next record together.
"I'm sorry Damian," Sheila felt the tears welling up in her eyes as she spoke, "But Lem couldn't stay in England for ever anyway. His passport stamp only allows three months and that's almost up. And he's committed to finishing school."
"Drag isn't it?"
A few days later, Damian and Patsy waved good-bye to Sheila and Lem at the airport. It was a sorrowful occasion. Damian clung on to both of them. How can you lose people you are so intertwined with?
* * *
It was almost Christmas.
From his habitual stance, one elbow hiked atop the high mantelpiece, the wood fire blazing, Wesley Dale was in persuasive mood once again.
"Beautiful room, you know Damian. Ever thought of letting it to me?"
"You interested in moving in?" said Damian, "Interesting. Now Sheila's gone we could do with the extra rent," he mused.
"Yes, dear boy, but I wouldn't want Sheila's old room, I'm afraid. Too poky. Too dingy. To much in the wrong corner of the flat. I need SPACE, dear boy. Like you've got here!"
"So you'd have me and Patsy move out?" said Damian, amused.
"Well now you're becoming a star of stage, screen and telephone, I thought, perhaps, you'd be thinking of moving up to Town."
"Jesus, have you seen the rents in Town?" said Damian in counter attack.
"I'm sure I could help out!"
"You really do want to move in don't you?"
"Think about it!" said Wes.
* * *
"Ever fancied the idea of living up in Town Pats?" asked Damian that evening.
"Moving out of here? Saying 'good-bye' to the old room?"
"Could do. But it'd be a lot of travelling for you Pats."
There was a faint pause for contemplation, then, "Sounds great. I like the idea of living in Town." she said.
The trick of finding a flat in Town depended upon one thing and one thing only. Getting the first edition of the Evening News at eleven a.m. and being by a phone. Damian set up camp in Ted's office and did it for a week until he finally managed to get to somewhere first. You had to literally elbow people out of the way like on a first day of the Harrods' sale.
With hardly a glance at the accommodation itself, Damian agreed to the hundred pounds 'key money' and handed over cash. The fact that the incumbent had the name of 'Song', a Chinaman, made Damian all the more conscious of the move's destiny.
Later in the day, he demanded twice that amount from Wesley, who cheerfully parted with it considering he'd done well.
* * *
Packing up was hard to do.
Patsy did most of it. Damian stood by the French windows and stared out at the faded winter garden, not that he'd ever had a hand in any of the gardening. He turned back to gaze at Patsy diligently sweeping the vast expanse of floor. He stared at the pile of possessions, stacked against the wall on one side of the room, covered with sheets. Most of it wouldn't fit in the new flat and would have to be dealt with by some other means not yet thought out. Was this a wise move? He studied the two hundred quid Wesley had given him, now padding out his pocket. Maybe.
Patsy finished off sweeping and put away the broom. She smoothed out her dress and collected her coat.
Damian picked up his guitar cases and headed for the Fiat, not looking back in case too many memories stared him in the face.
Patsy pulled the door behind her, then as if remembering something, poked her head round it for one last look.