Basingstoke Saturday Night

What with spending a few days with Eric's mother, and then Duane passing away I've been thinking a lot about mortality. Getting older, death - fun topics. Some people find comfort in the idea of an afterlife - sort of like a great big South by Southwest in the sky where you schmooze with everyone you ever cared about - but that doesn't work for me. So where's it all leading? I get very down. Part of it's got to be the whole menopause thing. I wanted to face it with wit and aplomb but it's hell some of the time. But what's the alternative to aging?

I don't want mourning to become my new hobby! Friends, places, heroes, the past. But I seem to spend so much time revisiting what has already happened. I wonder how long this passageway to wisdom and understanding and acceptance takes? Thankfully there are still shows to play.

We do a lot of gigs in people's homes. I've been doing them for years and, as odd as it seems to set up and play a concert in the corner of someone's living room, house concerts are becoming more and more popular.

They can be awkward, stilted affairs, like the one we played in December where this guy's whole family sat glowering at us from a sofa because, although Dad was a fan, we were spoiling his wife's Sunday afternoon and the kids had been told they couldn't use the computer for a few hours, so they really hated us.

Or they can be...awkward, stilted affairs, where friends and neighbors are roped into being an audience but they don't particularly like music.

But for the most part they start off a little weird, with people hanging back, unsure what to expect, but in the end having a great time and begging to know when they can host one in their living room.

And then there was Saturday night in Basingstoke.

One of Eric's biggest fans was having a bunch of friends over with us as the entertainment. Some of them had seen us before and were already enthusiastic, and the rest had been assured they'd have a good time.

Things were off to a fine start, everyone with glass of wine or beer in hand. They were laughing at all our jokes and applauding loudly, so we knew it was going to be fun. Then the hostess mentioned that we could trash the carpeting, and all hell broke loose.

Teenage hooligans have nothing on a roomful of people over forty, with the problems that go with being middle-aged, in the middle of England, in the middle of the worst recession in any of our lifetimes. At the end of the first set, people were still lucid enough to say they were having a fantastic time. By a few songs into the second set they were out of their minds. The posh woman who'd been telling me about their horses and second home in France and how she wished she could play guitar was headbanging, thrashing along to Final Taxi. The sandaled men in the room had removed their offending footwear and were smacking sandals together over their heads, then hitting each other, then pelting us with them. Another (probably) menopausal woman kept yelling that she loved me.

People were singing, no - shouting along, pogoing, knocking over lamps and microphone stands, dumping red wine on the cream carpet, falling over chairs. They would have been stage diving but there was no stage. The host's teenage son and girlfriend fled the room, terrified.

Things took a while to die down after we finished playing. A fight almost broke out when someone said the Proclaimers were shite (Eric had to hold me back from hitting the guy). A woman celebrating her thirty sixth birthday, the youngest person in the room, said she'd been feeling really old, but looking at everyone else at the party she felt a lot younger now.

We packed up the equipment and ate hot cross buns at 3 AM. I felt younger too, but for a different reason.