Back in the mid-90s, while I was a piano and violin teacher, I joined a friend’s band called Movietone for a couple of years. During that time we recorded two albums and two sessions for John Peel, played some gigs (Bristol, London and Brighton) and did a mini tour in France. In case you are wondering, I mostly played viola but also doubled up on piano, glockenspiel, guitar and bass (the last two of which I had to learn specifically for a few songs.)
Now, a thing I have noticed about autistic people like myself, is that our personal risk assessment processes are not always in line with those of the rest of the population. Make a phone call? Panic. Try to leave the house? Panic. Cross the road? Panic. Walk the streets of Paris alone late at night with minimal grasp of the language, a poor ability for map reading, and no working mobile phone? Meh! Which is why, when we had a night off and I found out that another friend of mine was also playing in town that night I figured I’d try and find him to say hello. How hard could that be?
It took me nearly two hours. My map skills sucked more than I can explain. I found myself in various dead ends and alleyways (some with suspicious looking deals going on), and I realised that I had completely misjudged the scale of the map. I retraced my steps several times and I finally realised that setting off on this quest was not, in retrospect, a smart move. I kept ending up the wrong side of the river and I couldn’t work out safe places to cross some of the busier roads. And I didn’t know how to ask for help! A few times I considered turning back but figured that I should see this through. I didn’t want to admit defeat.
Eventually I found the venue but by this time the doors were closed and the queues were building up outside. So now the question – how do you blag your way into a well attended Courtney Pine gig with no language skills? I pushed my way through the throng of fans to the door and, with a highly apologetic tone and some poor miming repeated the two poxy phrases I’d practised to myself before leaving – Er, mon amie? Un bassiste? Seriously, that was all I’d learnt! But you know what? Those crowds of fans, patiently waiting for the doors to open, they worked out the deal and yelled at the security guys to let me in. And, when he tried to argue, pretty much opened the doors and shoved me through as I shouted Merci!! Merci!! What lovely people!
Sadly I only had about half an hour to see my friend before he had to perform and then I figured that I should probably find my way back to the apartment rather than stay for the gig. But as I left the building my heart sank and my knees buckled with the realisation that it was now about 10.30pm and I still didn’t really know where I was. I sat on the steps, stared at the map and wondered how the hell I was going to hold my shit together. And then the rain started. And when I say rain? It was that freak kind of rain that runs down your neck and soaks you to the skin within minutes. What the hell to do? I couldn’t even clearly see a few meters ahead of me the rain was that heavy. The only upside was that nobody would have been able to see the tears.
Now this next bit was pretty crazy. I took a deep breath, somehow went into some kind of hyperfocus and saw the route back in my head, by which I mean that all the side roads and distractions kind of fell away from my vision and I started to run like I was following a satnav. I think it took me less than half an hour to run my way back without any mistakes and in torrential rain, with a map that was so wet it completely disintegrated. As I got to an area I actually recognised I started laughing out loud and sprinted the last bit.
My friends opened the door to me laughing hysterically while pouring the rainwater from my shoes. I couldn’t get the words out I was laughing so hard.
I wanted to think of a witty and snappy way to round this post off but I can’t. Au revoir!