A night out with Selena
“Lime just wants to be lemon. It’s an imposter”
I can’t remember who came up with the line but I came across it on tour with Henry Normal and Johnny Bramwell. Henry is the brains behind Steve Coogan, the comedian and executive producer of Babycow productions and Johnny Bramwell is the lead singer of I am Kloot. But either Johnny or I came up with the line, when discussing someone or something. He or I said “they can’t tell the shit from the chanel”. It’s important in this industry to “tell the shit from the chanel”.
Writer Selena Godden called me earlier in the day. “lemn I just wanted to go for a drink, maybe talk about writing. I’ve got some stuff going on and I want your advice on, to chat to you..”. We organised to meet later on in the early eve. This was to be a night of chanel.
I arrive early evening outside Camden Tube station. London is so brittle and alive at this time of year. Camden Tube is a contradiction of kids, junkies, artists, jazz café attendees alcoholics and pick pockets. I catch a London Evening Standard and read about The Race Convention where I was to be writer in residence until I declined due to logistics. Selena arrives. She’s probably the most rock and roll woman I know. I have no idea why I am here except for this person is a good person a hard worker who has always flown in the face of common sense in the name and power of Truth. Between the two I will always opt for the latter. Common sense says she should be in a gutter somewhere addicted to Heroin. Common sense says I should be there too.
Selena has the skin colour of Latte and blonde streaked hair. She has a throwaway beauty and eyes that tell a story of pain and wisdom. With swagger she offers me a silver hip flask. It’s a cold cold night. But hey, a shot of whiskey to start a cold night is a beautiful thing. I ask Selena what it is, as we walk. “Absinthe” she says. If you have seen me after a night on strong liquor you would scream through a police hailer “PUT THE ABSINTHE DOWN LEMN. WALK AWAY FROM THE ABSINTHE”
“Let’s go to the bar and watch the moonlight on the canal and shoot the breeze”. Seems like a very very good idea. I think to myself how much I love this city. “I’ve got so much to tell you” she says. Last night Selena was out with Patti Smith whom she has met quite a few times now and who is here to promote her new book of poetry. I did a reading with Patti Smith about a year ago as part of Meltdown at the South Bank. We sat down with our scarves. I drink beer and it’s a Vodka and tonic for Selena, with lemon. “no lime.” She says with a frown as she slips it out of her drink “Lime just wants to be a lemon. It’s an imposter.”
We talk poetry and poets – something I absolutely love to do. There are so many chancer- ancers, style over contents, in this industry I sometimes feel its my duty to swat a few of them. They do nothing but dilute the cocktail. We talk in particular about poetry and music and the opportunities either missed or squandered. We talk of “Murray Lacking Young” the poet who became renown for achieving a “million pounds record deal”. Unfortunately his work did not stand up and he was swallowed down the plug hole of popular culture swirling in the dregs of its bathwater. It must have been harsh for him. But he was complicit with the hype. After that episode the record industry wouldn’t touch a poet with a ten foot barge pole. There are barges sleeping on the canal as we down our drinks.
Pete Doherty, he of babyshambles and pretty boy on the arm of Kate Moss, comes into the conversation because he alludes to poetry. I have more time for him because of his Irish Roots. “I’ve known him for years” says Selena. She has something of the Janice Joplin, Patti Smith about her. We talk a lot about Pete Doherty and I think it would be unfair to recount Selena's conversation. She only had positive things to say.
But in my opinion he is squandering an opportunity that could send poetry though the roof in popular culture – it is something I have been waiting for, for years. All it takes is one person, an icon of pop culture, to align his lyric writing with his poetry and the whole damn thing will go through the roof.
Selena stops.“Lemn something has happened. I’ve been dying to tell you”. As Selena recounts the story my chin hits the floor. “My book. My memoir has been through a bidding war with the biggest and most dynamic publishing houses.”. I mention a few publishers to check. All of them where part of the bidding. And then I go for the smaller brilliant presses “Canongate?”. Yes canongate. This is monumental news for the writer.
The whole thing is based on her first chapter, and on the writing - there's no hype but for that. Selena has enough of an advance so she does not need to work for a few years. And it gets better. Her band Saltpetre has got an equally massive record deal “I’m riding two horses” she says. That is an album cover right there. Selena hair streaming outwards - every which way but loose - riding two white horses in the middle of London city.
We drink into the night . We go to another pub in central Camden – a place where Selena has always felt safe around the corner from where she lives. I meet a few of her friends and she says to me “the reason I want you to know this news is because you were the first person to publish me and you have always believed in me”. Which I have. It's not rocket science. But I am filled, absolutely filled with pride that someone should be kind enough to say such a thing.
There’s a beer in London. It’s called Courage. And the advertising line is Courage – The Pride of London. That’s it The Pride of London. This is not hype Selena is already 70,000 words in. You’re going to be hearing a lot about Selena Godden. Mark my words. Mark hers.