Patti Smith and Spontaneous Kindness

The cumulative effect of everything that's happened this year is a lot to bear, isn't it? I wrote a post the other day about some books and things that helped me get through this year, but walking down to the river today I was trying to think of more personal things too. It's hard to respond to in a way that accepts bleakness whilst also allowing for hope. So, some distractingly nice things first, and then Patti Smith.

First, some family things that were good this year. It was great to take Kieron's mum to San Diego Comicon with us this year. She got to see a completely different side of our life, of her life. She also caught her first Pokemon, and I will remember the spectacular moment when she celebrated her catch forever.

A few months before this, Kieron and I celebrated our fifth wedding anniversary. That seems like it's pretty momentous. We've been together ten years in total, and friends for much longer than that. That's over a decade of bad puns, bad wine and good company. May there be at least another decade more, the glorious beast. We went to visit my family in the mountains in Italy in August. Kieron left a few days before I did, and my three and half year old sort-of niece spent the rest of the week asking me: "Dov'รจ tuo padre?" i.e. "Where is your father?" Our best guess was that she assumed he must be my dad because the two of us spend so much time holding hands, and she only really associates hand-holding with parents. This is the warmest misunderstanding that has ever arisen from our public displays of affection.

Another wonderful moment that meant a lot to me this year - an act of spontaneous adventuring. We came home from San Diego Comicon via LA for a few days, ostensibly for work, along with our friends Jamie and Katie (Jamie is often referred to as Kieron's work-wife). Kieron and Jamie had a meeting that was going to last maybe half an hour or so, and the idea was that Katie and I would just wait for them in the rental car. I can't remember exactly how it happened, but when they left she remembered something I'd been saying before about this being was my first time in LA, and that I really wanted to go to the Griffith Observatory (the observatory in Rebel Without a Cause, The Terminator, and a million other things) and then she said something like "You know, it's really not so far away from here" and immediately started the car and began driving us away, asking me to look up directions on the phone. What was meant to be a sort of nothing 40-minute wait turned into an exciting secret road trip up a mountain, with me being dropped off and running to the edge to see the big view over LA and take a quick photo as she turned the car around (she has been before, I hasten to add). Chances are we wouldn't have had time to do it at any other point anyway, and it was so much more exciting to do it this way. A small act, in a very privileged trip and all that, I know, I know - but for a moment there it was like being an adventurer. What a thrill. And what a kindness for Katie to think of doing it at all. Small acts of spontaneous kindness make me want to make small acts of spontaneous kindness too.

The other big thing that sticks out for me this year is seeing Patti Smith sing 'Land/Gloria' the week after the referendum. Kieron and I got tickets to go and see Massive Attack, who she was playing with. (They were both great btw, reminding me why I loved them in the first place, how strong and political and relevant they are.) And Patti Smith - well, I've never seen her live before, and I didn't dare to hope she'd play 'Land' (spoilers: apparently she often ends gigs with it now) and when it started I felt that full rapturous sprawl of nerve start to spread down the back of my neck. That song is so powerful - the idea of losing control and then taking it back again. It's a song full of ideas and drive and hope and action. And, of course, someone took a video of it at the gig we were at, so you can experience it too - Patti Smith's guttural anger and rage and passion funnelled into a communal experience that acknowledges horror but refuses to submit to it. 

Happy New Year's Eve, everyone.

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