Happy 4th of July, folks! How did you spend your Independence Day yesterday? I was jealous of all the out-of-offices I received from my fellow American co-workers and the American publishers I work with. Plus, it was a beautiful, sunny day ... and now it's raining. All weekend. Sigh. The night before, I had good intentions of baking an American-themed cake and bringing it into work the next day, but I decided to have dinner and a glass of wine with a friend instead. Oh well.
Anyway, this is how I celebrated after work:
1. Dinner for one at Byron Burger
I went to Byron after work on my own and was kindly offered a seat in my own little corner. A waitress came over, like, 20 minutes later to take my order, citing almost accusingly that she "didn't even see me". Nothing like a bit of British customer service to perk up my American holiday. I was in such a celebratory mood however, I just chirped right back at her that I'd like "extra pickles, please".
Soon, though, I had my own little audience of middle-aged Northerners at a table facing mine, who all watched as I single-handedly devoured a Classic burger, a side of fries, and gulped down an A&W root beer. I also finished every single one of my pickles and licked my fingers clean.
2. G&T for one at The Islington
Then, I headed over to The Islington in ... Islington, to wait for the Julian Velard show to start, which I had tickets to. I've been a fan of his since my early days at Mount Holyoke, where I went to every one of his shows at Blanchard Student Center and the surrounding five colleges.
While I was waiting for John to arrive, I sipped a G&T on the edge of the pub at my own little table, which looked out over the busy Tolpuddle Road (and directly into a Sainsbury's parking lot - jeez, my fingers automatically typed "car park" there ... I've lived in this country far too long). I pretended I was on vacation (again, typed "holiday") instead, overlooking the sunset on a gorgeous, pebbly beach on the Italian coast and that the heavy breeze whipping up my dress and raising goosebumps on my mis-judged bare legs was actually a warm breeze coming off whatever exotic ocean imports warm breezes from the East.
3. Julian Velard concert for two (plus a roomful of lunatic fans)
Soon after John arrived and polished off his pizza, the doors to the show opened and we were treated to a couple hours of terrific music - first from Alex Dezen of The Damnwells, then Julian himself. I haven't been to a Julian Velard show since ... 2006 or so, but I must say, he has a very, erm, diverse mix of fans. They seemed to range from middle-aged men to teenage guys who looked no older than 15 or 16. The latter group seemed to know every single word to every single song and sang along enthusiastically, while heckling the performer at the same time (apparently, one of them has his own YouTube channel dedicated to his covers of Julian Velard songs). It was bizarre, confusing, and annoying all at the same time.
He was amazing, as always. If you want to hear some of his music, I'd recommend starting out with the album, Nitetime, which is what I loved listening to in college (and now). His new albums are just as good though - witty, often satirical lyrics combined with excellent music writing. It's just wonderful to listen to something that isn't mainstream, Ellie Goulding/Bon Iver/Rough Trade-recommended bullshit, but something that's honestly, refreshingly different.
Even John, who wasn't a huge fan before, was thoroughly impressed after the show. "His lyrics are so good! He's an amazing musician!" he enthused, which is a really big deal for him because he, like every other British person, shows tremendous restraint when sharing any form of enthusiasm whatsoever (i.e. shows minimal enthusiasm about anything, ever).
We caught a bus home and walked back in the rain, but it turned out to be a pretty good 4th, all around. I managed to see Julian after the show and told him that I'd been a fan since his early days. He asked me how long I'd lived in London and when I told him, said, "Well, you seem to have retained your American accent pretty well." I replied, "I know. I try so hard." Clearly, I need to work on retaining the vocabulary, however.
Happy 4th, everyone.