This month has been busy and it’s only halfway through. NaNoWriMo, of course, began at midnight on the first, and I’ve come to the conclusion that it would be far more enjoyable if people didn’t complain on the forums about it being ‘so hard to find time to write’ or their ‘characters don’t do what they’re told’. Just a note about both – a writer makes time to write and characters never do what they’re told: they do what they want. That’s the nature of writing, at least for me. I write organically, and it was gratifying to read an article about the great Sir Terry Pratchett in which he said the same thing – he doesn’t plan. Ever. I personally rarely know what’s going to happen at the end and, even if I do, I have little to no idea how I’m going to reach that point. I let the characters take me through the plot because, if I try to take them, they rebel against me anyway and things just get confusing when they pull on the leash. It’s easier to set them on their own path.
That said, I am enjoying NaNo again as I did last year, though my plot couldn’t be any further from that of 2009. I like a challenge and I didn’t have anything more than a title and a vague idea, this time. As soon as November began and I started writing it, it started turning itself into a post-apocalyptic dystopia, something I wasn’t expecting. So it’s been fun finding out what’s going on, even though I still have a lot of unanswered questions. The characters will tell me in their own good time and I have patience.
I saw a-ha at the Brighton Centre on Monday night and, well, what can I say except OH MY WORD…. It blew me away. Totally blew me away. When they came on, I started to cry – they began by playing The Sun Always Shines On TV. Then they played the sexiest song in their repertoire, Move to Memphis. They went on to play another nineteen songs and partway though the gig, people started to stand up, so I joined them. I couldn’t sit still anyway and standing just made everything simpler. Everything from Cry Wolf (a 12” favourite of mine when it was released, I played it over and over again) to their cover of Crying in the Rain, Analogue, Forever Not Yours, The Blood that Moves the Body, Hunting High and Low, Stay on these Roads, Summer Moved On (with the famous note that the still-gorgeous Morten Harket holds for around 20 seconds), The Living Daylights (with which the audience joined in, especially when Mags yelled, ‘C’mon, Brighton, this is your last chance, come on!’ [Edit: Thanks to the wonders of YouTube, I can repeat precisely what Mags said at this point. Forgive my memory lapse, but I was enormously high on adrenaline: ‘Come on, Brighton! … This is your last chance, Brighton, come on, as loud as you can! It won’t come again! … Don’t stop now!’]) and the more recent Butterfly Butterfly (The last Hurrah) and one that made me cry the first time I heard it because it harks back to their electronic origins, The Bandstand. It goes without saying that Take on Me was last and it was bittersweet because we all knew that this was the end of a gig that went on for almost two hours and was the last time a-ha would ever play here.
It was the best run-up to a birthday I’ve ever had, I think. Even the time I saw David Bowie on his Outside Tour in 1995, the night before my 21st, can’t beat it – I went with someone who was then a friend and she managed to get tickets in the 14th row (good seats at Wembley Arena), though I admit that was fifteen years ago and memories fade, but this time I was on my own, I went to say goodbye to the band in my own way, and I came out of the auditorium convinced that I had just witnessed the best gig I had ever seen in my life. There are people who ridicule a-ha for their unfortunate reputation as an 80s band. Just because they started out in the 80s doesn’t mean they ever got stuck there – they didn’t. And now, after 25 years, they’re saying goodbye to the fans in the best possible way: with an emotion-laden single (the aforementioned Butterfly Butterfly) and a lengthy world tour that will end on the 4th of December in Oslo. I’m seeing them again next week and for my own part, this is my way of saying thank you. They were with me during my formative years and they’re with me now. They always will be, a-ha or no. People love them. I love them. It’s the end of an era.