Searching for the Signal

Katia and Chris weren’t really helping by calling out left-a-bit-right-a-bit instructions. I stood on a chair rethreading the wire, that we used as an aerial, back over the branch of dangling catkins that hung from the ceiling. Zander and I were renting the small, one bedroom, London flat from another tree surgeon who’d gone travelling for a few months. Clearly he was a man who liked to bring his work home – he’d decorated the place with large chunks of arboreal anatomy. There was the branch of dangling catkins; the bookshelves, hewn, with a chainsaw, from over-thick slabs of timber and then the great, round, slice of a trunk that formed the top of the coffee table.

As I balanced on the chair, I waved the wire about, searching for the signal. Static fizzed from the Hi-Fi speakers. When I got the angle just right, like the warm sunshine streaming in through the balcony doors, music filled the room. I pinned the wire home. Over the top of the music a woman DJ chattered. Not in the slippery, snake-oiled voice of the legal radio stations but in a normal, off-the-street London accent, excited and unabashed:

Largin’ it big-style to the hardcore massive. Lovein’ it, livin’ it, this is the sound of the underground! Stay locked London!’

With our lifeline to the real world reconnected, I jumped off the chair, dragged it to the table, and went back to trying to explain my idea.

(London, May 1990)

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