Thursday, January 26, 2012

Lisztomania (Take 2)

I thought it might be worth posting the mix CD playlists from the years I've been making them. This also serves as an electronic reminder of what I used and when. For the record, the 2009 mix CD is my favourite and the one I would leave completely as it is. 

The annoying thing is when you pick a track from an artist or band and then the next year they put out an even better album and you can't use them because of the stupid rules (please see Gotye, Sia, Sarah Blasko and Glasvegas, just for starters). Admittedly they're my stupid rules, but even so. (Refresher: I can't use artists or bands I have used previously. But solo and side projects are OK.)

2005 - Welcome to the Programme

Midnight Oil - Read About It
Clouds - SoulEater
George Harrison - What Is Life?
Kings of Leon - Wasted Time
The Cops - Cop City Music
Eskimo Joe - Girl
Mercury Rev - Funnybird
Blind Joe Johnson - Long Gone Train
Patti Smith - Free Money
Ryan Adams - To Be The One
PJ Harvey - Send His Love To Me
Neil Young - Old Man
Sarah Blasko - At Your Best
Beck - Lost Cause
Garbage - Silence is Golden
Radiohead - sulk
Modest Mouse - Float On
Ed Kuepper - Everything I've Got Belongs To You

2008 - This Page Has Been Intentionally Left Blank

Glasvegas - Flowers and Football Tops
David Bowie - Rebel, Rebel
Interpol - No 'I' In Threesome
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds - Today's Lesson
The Smiths - The Boy With The Thorn In His Side 
Ladyhawke - Magic
TV on the Radio - Golden Age
Augie March - One Crowded Hour
Elbow - Grounds for Divorce
The Cranberries - Linger
Edith Piaf - Milord
Elton John - Funeral for a Friend (love lies bleeding)
Sam Cooke - Wonderful World

2009 - Attic Language

Glen Hansard and Marketa Iglova - Falling Slowly
Sia - Day Too Soon
Björk - Big Time Sensuality
Hilltop Hoods - Chase That Feeling
The Pretenders - Kid
M.I.A. - Boyz
Arcade Fire - Intervention
Gillian Welch - Everything Is Free
Florence + The Machine - Cosmic Love
The Presets - Yippyo-Ay
The Clash - Should I Stay Or Should I Go
Whitley - Head, First, Down
Phoenix - Lisztomania
The Polyphonic Spree - Light & Day/Reach for the Sun

2010 - You Rule (So Hard)

INXS - Just Keep Walking
La Roux - Bulletproof
Iggy Pop - The Passenger
Washington - Navy Blues
Kanye West - All of the Lights
Gotye - The Only Way
Grizzly Bear - Two Weeks
Daniel Johnston - True Love Will Find You In The End
Laura Marling - I Speak Because I Can
The Walkmen - Juveniles
Paul Dempsey - Bird In A Basement
Grinderman - Palaces of Montezuma
LCD Soundsystem - Home
Nina Simone - I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free

2011 - something something madness

Sweet - Blockbuster
Wilco - I Might
Herman Düne - Tell Me Something I Don't Know
Sparkadia - China
Psycho Killer (live) - Talking Heads
College feat. Electric Youth - A Real Hero
Emma Louise - Jungle
The National - Runaway
Avi Buffalo - Where's Your Dirty Mind
Foster the People - Call It What You Want
Yolanda Be Cool and Dcup - We No Speak Americano
Tame Impala - I Don't Really Mind
Fleetwood Mac - Go Your Own Way
Austra - Spellwork
Eddie Perfect feat. Iain Grandage - Back To Life

and it continues....

P.S. - When the internet dropped out while the mentor and I were chatting on Skype he sent a message on it saying 'your voice sounds very peculiar'. 

I think this is what the kids refer to as an 'epic fail'. 

Thursday, January 19, 2012

My Heart At Thy Sweet Voice

Back in the days when I actually studied singing (all the way through high school and my first year of university), my singing teachers used to record pieces and exercises on cassette tapes for me to practice with. Occasionally they would also record me practicing with them, sometimes as a harsh lesson in making me practice more often, and sometimes just because they left the tape running. I’ve also heard my singing voice on other recordings over the years – more professional ones, that is. Some of them with really, really good singers. And hearing them at the time and afterwards always makes me feel like a schmuck.

I’ve had a couple of people ask me about my singing lately. The truth is I don’t think about it anymore – I made the decision not to pursue singing professionally so long ago it’s not something that’s at the top of my brain very often. Now I just try and earn back some of the money I spent on my training by singing at weddings.

The truth is I’m pretty good and used to be better. At a certain point in your training (and mine was as a classical singer) you have to decide whether or not to do it professionally. For me that time came at 19, at the beginning of my second year of university. I probably could have done it, gone professional, either with Opera Australia or other organisations. But I just didn’t love performing enough, it really was as simple as that. It’s a decision I have never regretted and particularly given my illness and anxiety problems, it was absolutely the right one.  Every now and again I’ll sing with really good people and think ‘what if?’ but that’s just my competitive edge talking. I’m really glad I don’t have to hear myself sing though, most of the time. It’s torture.

Of course, there is something worse than this. It’s hearing yourself talk.

The mentor likes to communicate via Skype while we’re on holidays. He actually lives in another city, even during semester (he flies back and forth between Melbourne and Sydney every week), and Skype is his preferred mode of communication. So I got an account last week.

Anyone who uses Skype (you know, anyone under 50 and breathing with a friend or relative who lives anywhere other than their own house) has probably used the Echo/Sound Test Service, whereby you speak and make sure that you can hear yourself played back to you via message.

Now I’ve heard my speaking voice before. I’ve recorded voice mail messages and the odd oral presentation I was required to submit at school. And I worked in market research with a very reputable company for two years and was often told how well-spoken I was. I even occasionally have people ask me if I’m English, which is code for ‘you speak really posh’*. But I swear my voice on Skype sounds truly, absolutely appalling. It’s partly a pitch thing – my voice either seems too high or too low – and partly that it just grates.

I am not a terribly vain person. Actually I am not vain at all, as evidenced by the fact that I haven’t been putting on a bra to go outside and meet the delivery guy of late. (And I really have to wear a bra, it’s kind of compulsory for girls like me. They probably go back and tell the guys in the kitchen about the girl with the saggy boobs.) But ‘A Reading of my Voice according to Skype’ sounds so terrible I want to never speak again. Not ever. And I talk a lot.

This is a problem. I cringe at the sound of my own voice. Now I understand why my friends don’t like me. Especially people I had classes with over the years. This can’t be how I sound! If I had to listen to me speak I would want to claw my ears out! Now I understand all those people who said they were eating dinner and really just didn’t want to listen to me ask them questions! Or the judges who didn’t give me first place in debating or public speaking competitions! It’s my not so dulcet tones.

 It’s a good thing that I am not having to defend myself in a court of law they would condemn me based on my voice alone. Even if that’s illegal.

Are politicians and actors and people who work in TV and radio just people who don’t care that they sound terrible? Is this what separates them from us, a lack of vanity?

I’ve had two Skype calls, one with someone who doesn’t speak English as a first language and thinks I sound awesome, and one with an American friend who is beautifully spoken and likes my accent. I don’t think they’re the best people to ask, somehow.

I also don’t know what to do about this, as I think I am too old for elocution lessons. It probably is a good thing that I am talking less but I have enough crippling anxiety without this too. Or is this just the return of vanity now that I am getting better?

Does anyone else feel this way too? Please tell me I am not alone in having this very first world, very selfish sounding problem?**

Spill it. But type it, don’t tell me. You probably speak really badly too.

P.S. – The song from which the blog title is derived is probably one of the most famous arias ever written for a mezzo. Problem is I can’t find a good recording on youtube for you all.
P.P.S. - I was offered two law school places last night. So even if I crash and burn this year I have some options come February 2013.

*It’s no coincidence that the British have more words to abuse people based on how they speak than any other culture I have ever encountered.

**Other very first world, selfish sounding problem: the third book in the Hunger Games Trilogy that I bought online has a massive misprinting problem and essentially is a second copy of the first book. Majorly pissed. I want to know how it ends!
Friday, January 13, 2012

To Sir, With Love

(It needs to be said up front that the title of this blog post is firmly tongue in cheek. Very firmly. Bear that in mind. I just couldn’t resist picking this song title, it was too deliciously wrong.)

(Also, yes, I am a wanker and pick a song title for every blog post title. Sorry. I have fun trying to come up with one.)

I want to spend some time talking about my Honours supervisor. He will feature heavily in all sorts of future posts and as I am a terrible name dropper, I think it best to tell you something about the teacher who is my partner in crime when it comes to my studies this year. And I mean that literally, as there’s no way I could do this as well without him.

I went back to uni in February 2011 after 5 years away from study (5 in practice, 6 in reality). I was told that I would be unable to do my Honours year due to time requirements and initially I was disappointed because I had been looking forward to writing a thesis. But at the time I was all set and ready to do a law degree at the beginning of 2012 so it didn’t really matter in the long term. I was ready to move onto what came next, as soon as I finished the two outstanding subjects for my Arts degree, tucking the study in around full time work. Two more subjects, and I was done.

I still felt this way when I started second semester. The subject I did in first semester was one of the weaker subjects I did in my degree, especially in the History department, and my mark reflected my ambivalence towards it. (The History department at the university where I study is one of the best, certainly in the country and I suspect in the world.) The fact that I still wasn’t intellectually engaged when I started second semester merely served to make me all the more sure that law was where I was headed.

The subject that I was enrolled to study in second semester was a course that I had actually been enrolled to take all the way back in 2004, but I had dropped it as I was trying to get as far and as fast away from Italian as possible, language and history wise. (There’s a story as to why, but that’s for another day.) It was run by a teacher who had an excellent reputation, both when I had been at the university previously and at the point in time I was enrolling. I decided it was time to go back to Italian. It was also the only course run by the department in second semester that was really appealing. So all the way back in February I made a decision that would actually change my life for the better.

I don’t know how classes run in the UK or in the US, but the way we do it at my university and in my faculty is that we take two 1 hr lectures and one 1 hr tutorial for most senior units of study within my degree. For the tutorial we have set readings which we discuss. The class is run by a tutor, usually a post graduate student in the department, if not by the lecturer themselves. The one I was scheduled to take wasn’t with that great a group of people, nor was the tutor all that impressive.

Because of a funeral I had to sing at and the fact that there was a guest lecturer for the second week, it wasn’t until week 3 that I got to listen to the mentor actually do his thang. He shares my penchant for really bad jokes and he is a passionate teacher of the variety that you very rarely meet. But it was one joke, and not even one that is worth repeating, that made me ask to swap tutorials and get into one of his classes. He agreed.

I’ll skip the next few bits and fast forward to the end of semester. I topped the course, I was nominated for a prize and the mentor is now my supervisor for my Honours year, which I was granted special permission to do after an application to which he loaned his considerable support (it helps that he is the Honours co-ordinator for the department in 2012).   

The bits in between include the fact that after my first tutorial run by him he wanted to know if I was going to do Honours or a PhD – after one tutorial, he reached out and implicitly told me I was talented. They include the fact that we both get our coffee from the same (cult) coffee shop on campus around the same time and he would sit and share his with me every Wednesday morning about an hour or so before our class and talk about anything and everything. They include the fact that he asked the right questions and I trusted him instinctively enough to be honest about my Bipolar very early on in the game, the first person in a position of authority that I told (and the only one to date). They include the fact that after he knew me to be suffering from an episode he was kind enough to follow up with me and make sure I was all right. They include the fact that he was as almost as excited as I was when the Honours application was approved and that I wanted to study with him for the year.

My friends are completely sick of hearing about this teacher and about the course I studied last semester. If you met him, you’d understand why I like him so much. And it’s here that I need to emphasise that it’s not ‘liking him’ in a romantic way at all. (I know that isn’t helped by the title of this blog post.) There probably is a large part of me that wishes he was my father and that’s embarrassing enough to admit. But it’s mostly because I want to be like him. He loves teaching so much and his writing is nothing short of incredible. And it’s rare that you meet someone who is so consistently, spontaneously kind. I have had good teachers, but this guy is something else. He is so obviously enthusiastic about the material at hand, and so clearly gives everything of himself to his classes and his students, that you want to meet the same standards of enthusiasm and scholarship. In the context of what we were studying last semester (violence) he characterised himself on more than one occasion as being a coward. The irony is that I have rarely met anyone who lives (and writes) as bravely. He’s the most palpably content person I think I have ever met and no one could deserve that happiness more.

I think most universities have a process by which you can commend teachers for good work and this is the case where I study. What follows is the anonymous commendation I submitted for him at the end of semester:

‘[The mentor] is, quite simply, the best teacher I have ever had. He is a wonderful storyteller, in his writing and in lectures, and he caters to both the highest and lowest common denominator in his teaching, no easy feat. He sincerely wants every student to do the best they can and does everything within his power to make that possible for each of them. Perhaps most importantly he understands that university can be difficult for many students, and his capacity for understanding and empathy make him not only a wonderful historian, but an incredible teacher. He is genuinely inspiring and I consider myself lucky to have his guidance and support.’

I meant and still mean every word of that.

I never expected to find a mentor but having one is pretty great. I’m not used to having people who support me unconditionally and are prepared to tell me so. I keep telling myself that if someone like him believes I am worth something, then I can’t be all bad. Perhaps this is why he means so much to me. But it’s also because, if I decide to pursue an academic career, he’s the teacher I hope to become someday. Mostly it is because he’s the person I most hope to be like in life. 
Monday, January 9, 2012

Stuff Like That There

After my last blog post, it’s time to take a breath. I’ve been talking about some difficult stuff and this seems like a good time to talk about things not quite on the same level.

Firstly, I want to say thank you, to those of you reading and especially to those of you who have commented or emailed. It’s comforting to know I’m not completely out on my own and that I’m writing about things that are at least vaguely interesting. I was especially touched by people’s responses to my last post about my illness. Your kindness has not gone unnoticed.

It’s also interesting to see how many people got excited about my mix CDs. A few copies of the 2011 effort are at this very moment winging their way to some of you on the other side of the world. I’ll probably write a post sometime soon that includes the track listings for the CDs made thus far, so you can see what you missed out on!

I’m not much of a materialist but I am in the process of doing a deep clean and purging of stuff so I’m thinking about ‘things’ a lot. I thought I’d talk about some stuff that is keeping me sane and together at the moment, especially as I don’t have a blog roll where I can say what I am listening to and reading. So here goes:

Emma Donoghue – Room

OoooH THIS IS THE GOOD SHIT! I am loving this. Creepy, moving and just plain beautiful. Yes, I know I am a little late to the party on this one, it’s been out for a while. Oh well. I refuse to become one of those thesis students who stops reading fiction, I am hoping I hang onto this stubborn cause.

Black Swan Low Fat Yoghurt

Mmmmm yummy. No flavouring or fruit even required. Perfect for the lazy arse that I am, especially in the heat.

Snowgum BPA free IL bottle

I already had one of these but my middle brother replaced it for me for Christmas. Totally necessary in a Sydney summer.

Hey Rosetta! – Seeds

One of my best friends and I decided about a year ago to swap new releases (and even old ones) to try and save some money. This was one of most recent CDs I gained and I’ve had it on repeat for a little while now. I’m a sucker for a male front man with a yearning voice and Tim Baker qualifies nicely.

Washington – ‘Insomnia’ ticket for the Sydney Festival

Megan Washington has been part of the Australian music scene for some years now, incredible given she is so young. ‘Insomnia’ was her Australian only release that came out last November and she will be playing the album in full only 4 times around the world, one of which will be at the Sydney Festival in late January. At the Opera House, no less! The friend mentioned immediately above is coming too, as is his girlfriend, and my sister, the same grouping of us who saw Elbow together late last July. The ticket to this was my sister’s Christmas present and a pretty good one, I think. Megan has said openly that she doesn’t want to play most of the songs on this album live ever again after this very brief tour of only four concerts, so we know we’re going to something special. I've seen her live twice in the last 18 months and her voice is incredible. I recommend you buy 'I Believe You, Liar' when you are able, it's great stuff.

I think that’s enough for now, as you probably don't want to hear about the stupid zit that just won't go away. What things are helping you get through Monday, wherever you are? 
Tuesday, January 3, 2012

My Manic and I

I’m an all or nothing girl. I don’t know what ‘the middle ground’ looks like. I have an addictive personality and I don’t love or hate by halves. When I disagree with something I have a lot of trouble pulling my head in, something that made high school especially difficult and me a bit of a target in some workplaces. An already emotional person, when I am passionate about something I will move heaven and earth to make sure that people join my side. It’s already obvious that my strengths and vices are very much two sides of the same ideological coin.

After saying that, it won’t come as a surprise that I suffer from Bipolar II. I’ve almost certainly had it since I was about 15 but I was only diagnosed properly about eighteen months ago (I’m a little over 28). My official diagnosis also includes a comorbid Generalised Anxiety Disorder and I suffer from chronic insomnia. Sometimes the insomnia is even more debilitating than the illness, and that’s saying something.

Writing it so baldly on the (internet) page like that is hard for me. I hate my petty, vicious illness. I lost most of my twenties to it after it spun out of control at the end of 2004. I managed to get through my late teenage years by stringing together enough good days when it counted and I have skated academically my entire life. But about eight years ago this was no longer enough.

It’s hard to describe what suffering from a chronic illness is like. People often talk about their lives breaking into pieces. But this implies that there are bits to piece back together, that you can go back to how things were. It’s not like that.

A few times I have described it as like being in a bathtub with soap and bubbles and warm water. There might be music and candles and whatever – the point is that you are present and warm and everything is  - well, not fine, but liveable. And then suddenly it’s just you, in an empty tub, and it’s cold. There’s nothing to put back together and you discover that a quarter of your life has passed you by.

You don’t get your twenties back. Most of my (very high achieving) friends have been living so fully in the ensuing years that they don’t quite understand what it’s been like. They have jobs and marriages and hobbies and houses and post grad degrees at very impressive places and some of them even have kids. My one priority has been clinging onto a life that, until very recently, I did not want to live. Not even a little bit.

People talk about the stigma of mental illness and that’s under-selling it. I have had to lie about a lot of things these last years. No one wants to be a guinea pig and the one who maybe changes how people think. I have family who see a very clever young woman seemingly wasting her life and faffing around for years at a time. But these are the same family members who think psychiatrists are the devil and that mental illness isn’t real. And some of them don’t know how to keep a secret, so I’ve never told them. My parents are ashamed of me for many reasons but chief among them is my illness and how it has brought me low and unable to do very much. (I was the kid with all the potential.) My friends, many of whom have only known me since I began to get sick, have seemingly given up on me ever doing anything of real worth. And many of them, people MY AGE, the generation who supposedly should have a handle on mental illness and what it might mean, do not ‘get it’. It is as simple, and as devastating, as that. Some kinds of discrimination are alive and well among us.

Part of this is because the perception of people who have Bipolar is that they are cruel and spiteful and manipulative and sometimes violent. And this can sometimes be true. This perception is why I can’t readily admit to having this illness and why I have to explain away gaps on my resume as being times that I ‘cared for a family member who was ill’. It’s as close to the truth as you can tell in a job interview.

This perception, this shame, is partly why I don’t talk about my illness and why I am not honest about it. I have a lot of faults but I am not an unkind person – I would argue that my compassion is actually more of a fault as it tends to get you into all kinds of trouble. But it’s not the only reason I lie. I also don’t talk about it because I hate it so much, and when I talk about it, I sound very angry and very cynical. I am very angry, but I try very hard not to be cynical. I am envious of people with other types of Bipolar who get the episodes that make them productive and feel amazing and that they talk about in practically orgasmic terms. There are inherent dangers to that, of course. But my episodes make me want to die, and for years my life was nothing but one, long, uninterrupted episode.

Last year, for the first time, I finally told someone in a position of authority about my illness. Because of certain truly awful things that have happened to me I am understandably distrustful, particularly of people older than I am. But I am pleased to say that I could not have chosen someone better to tell, to choose to trust. That’s a story for another day, but it’s enough to admit that I managed to make a couple of really good decisions last year that changed my life, and that’s the real heart of the matter. My life is finally getting better. I have purpose for the first time in years.

Perhaps the biggest casualty of my illness has been my sense of hope and the expectation of something better for myself. When you’ve pitched your tent on the edge of hell for as long as I have, you tend to forget that there is a different way to live. I’m trying to be more honest about my illness and about just how scary and isolating it can be. (And it’s not the worst thing that has happened to me.) I do think I have a chance of convincing some people that those who suffer from Bipolar are not necessarily like Billy Chenowith from Six Feet Under, or like my friend’s father, who has what I have and is a degenerative gambler and terrifically unkind person.

Mental illness is a bitch. Part of my wanting to write this blog is to help people understand that some of us who suffer from it are not trying to spread their unhappiness around. We’re just trying to climb out of our empty bathtubs and get on with life. 
Monday, January 2, 2012

White Wedding

Most, if not all, of you are here because I read your wedding blogs.  I think there are some of you who probably think that in addition to being a wedding singer, I am in that edgy-reading-wedding-blogs state of pre-engagement. Maybe I am engaged already and just don’t talk about it.

But here’s the dirty little secret: I am not engaged, pre-engaged, any sort of ‘gaged. I am not married, nor have I ever been.

I am not even in a relationship. I have not been in a relationship for years, certainly not in the time that I have been reading wedding blogs.

I spend the better part of almost every Saturday at one wedding or another. I had some free advertising in various wedding magazines, thanks to brides who gave all their details and pictures as part of those ‘real weddings’ features they run. And as part of that advertising, I got quite a few free copies of said magazines, as well as a lot of work.

And I was fascinated.  

It began a process of trying to find out what brides talk about before the wedding, about what they want their wedding days to mean as the jumping off point for their marriages. And I wanted to find out if grooms ever got involved in this very chatty and opinionated world. It didn’t hurt that this was right in the middle of a 3 year period during which almost all of my close friends got married. In many cases I was an active participant in their weddings and in their navigating the murky waters of wedding planning.

I stumbled across A Practical Wedding very early on in this search, about 3 years ago. It was through this site that I found Lyn and Emma and Sarah and Anna and Drea and Nina and Britt and Becca, some of whom have moved on from wedding blogs and into marriage or ‘life after wedding’ blogs. (In Nina's case, the 'life after wedding' effort is the only blog she has written. Yeah Nina!) Initially my reading of these online diaries was because I wanted to know more about the perspective of those getting married, to see if there was anything I could learn that would make me better at my job. I stayed because I was captured by the stories these women told about a lifestyle I know nothing about and because they're smart and funny and ambitious and, in some ways, in a lot of ways, like me. I kept reading these blogs because I wanted to read stories that might help me become brave enough to start dating and maybe see if being in a relationship was something that might be for me. In other words, I wanted to read stories about relationships that have futures. I want to believe. 

I hope this doesn’t strike fear into the hearts of those of you who write these blogs. This isn’t about idealising the lives you lead or your relationships. I also promise it isn’t morbid curiosity. It's more....observing. Research, maybe.  

On Friday I attended one of those weddings that you don’t see very often. It was a very old school, very orthodox Catholic wedding with lots of clergy and music of the sort you’d hear at a Papal Mass or at a concert at the Opera House, which isn't that far fetched given some of us doing the work. It was a wedding where there was a very strong belief in the celebration of marriage as sacrament. As happy as I was for the bride and groom, both of whom I love very much, there was a hell of a lot about this wedding that was deeply troubling, most of it to do with the role of women. But that isn’t what I want to talk about.

When you spend as much time at weddings as I do, it might be easy to become jaded about what they mean, especially because many of them look and sound the same. I would be a very rich woman if I made double my money for every time I hear ‘love is patient, love is kind, love can shove it up love’s behind’ or ‘be subject to one another’, which is equal parts beautiful and sexist, if you believe in a strict interpretation of scripture. I generally rotate between the same 10 or 12 pieces of music and manage not to laugh when someone requests two different versions of ‘Ave Maria’. It’s their day, after all. And to them this is all new and exciting and up for debate with the parents and every other nosy or interested party.

But I never get tired of watching two people be brave enough to say: ‘Let’s do this. Let’s spend the rest of our lives together’. For someone like me, it is an incredible thing to be around that kind of hope and optimism so regularly. (Don’t worry, I balance it out by doing a lot of funerals, many of them for free.) I commented to Emma recently that it takes chops to dive into this thing called marriage. I wholeheartedly believe that, and on Friday night I realised something – that I want this. That I think I want to be in a relationship again one day. Not yet. I could meet the right person tomorrow and I’d fuck it up royally. But one day. It must mean I am getting better.

This was a wedding where I disagreed with the core beliefs of many people in the room, including the couple getting married. There were people I was hiding from all night. There were people I love that I haven’t seen in years and, in one case, I got to meet their kids. And there were others with whom I found common ground, surprisingly enough. It was also really nice not to be working the whole time.

It was a wedding where there could have been an argument around every corner, with every new person. My relationship with the groom is not nearly as strong as it was and we really don’t agree all that much these days, a source of sadness to me. But I watched him dance in the arms of a strong, incredible woman and I was so happy for them both. We have been through so much together and on Friday he married someone who deserves him and who will make him happy. We didn’t say much but as we clung to each other we were in understanding. ‘Be happy,’ I whispered as I held his face in my hands, just before he grabbed his new wife to run through the tunnel of well wishers’ arms to exit the building. ‘I am,’ he replied, ‘and I will be.’ His wife grabbed hold and he smiled at me, my adopted brother. ‘Now you need to be too!’ he cried, as they started to run.

Weddings are about endings, we just don’t focus on that part. They are often full of goodbyes and arguments that we just push aside for the day, usually with the help of alcohol, in the interests of being polite and caring for one another. It’s often when we realise that we can never go back.

But the beginnings? That’s why we love weddings and why, stressful as they are, they make us happy. They’re about the future.

Here’s to the future. The end is where we start from.*

*Eliot is my homeboy.