Since moving back to Stoke and seeing shadows of my old life flit by, I put some thought to the parallel lives going on that I don’t know about. There’s nothing nicer than re-establishing contact with an old friend and discovering all the highlights you’ve missed. Blogging, of course, means that you can keep track of people’s parallel lives. Eve's blog is very interesting, she keeps separate lives and so her posts always have some fascinating little details that she never thinks to mention over coffee. Mustafa is a friend from the days of the University of London and his recent post on Eid-ul-Adha reminds me that none of us ever, ever spoke about religion there, whereas I'm now used to interrogation about my own religion when people hear I work for the Quakers and there is often heated debate in the office. It makes a nice change and I've become much more tolerant about Christianity as a result (though you wouldn't be able to tell that sometimes).
Anyway, Jess's blog has kept me back in touch with her, it's a lot easier to keep updated via someone's blog than to demand they write you long updates of their lives. The coming [actually, going now, this was written last week] of the South by South West Festival in Austin, Texas, reminds me of the time when Jess had disappeared and all we knew was that she had met someone from Texas (prompting thoughts of chainsaws), got married and moved away.
We were concerned, it's fair to say. Texas? We cried! But that, surely, is the American equivalent to Stoke (we said heartily, for we were still young and little realised the eventual pull that would bring many of us back). We knew nothing more than she was in Texas and developed plans to go there and make a film about finding our old English friend. We didn't think there could be many English chappies in Texas and the process of finding her would be an adventure in itself, we thought. Texas, it may be helpful to know, has an enduring fascination for the English, who see it as the very centre of barbarous America. There are frequently Texas seasons on channel four, normally involving statistics on executions and evangelicalism. Anyway, this was before Radio 2, for which as I matured I began to develop the greatest respect, started talking of Austin Texas as "the coolest place in the world". How so? Said I. The South by Southwest Festival, came the reply, by return through the airwaves. And so it came to pass. Texas was the coolest place in the world and there was Jess in the hub of it.
This year, all the old dreams came back. Radio 2 and Radio 1 (for whom I have recently regained respect) are both at the festival this week, picking up new talent as a kitten might pick up tiny fish in a packed shallow stream. I imagined Jess's husband to be on the bill of one of the bars that crowd Austin’s streets, bursting with undiscovered talent. I saw Heath being discovered and launched into stardom by an awed British radio station and Jess becoming the Patsy (surely not? Who do I mean?) to Bowie's David.
Imagine how my hopes were dashed when, in a short Moo exchange, Jess told me: 'we don't go to that, I don't know why'. Heath the Cruel, you have hurt my daytime musing.
The roundabout point I was trying to make (was it? I can't remember now) as I tried to produce a post that was not about Death, was that if Texas can become the coolest place in the world, anywhere can. I have seen many places called 'cool' in recent months, even Kigali in Rwanda. Even if ‘cool’ is probably not actually the label I’m aiming at, there’s hope for everywhere these days.