Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Lunch With Natalie Merchant

I was sharing a tofu treat with Natalie Merchant on the eve of her memoir publication Loud & Liberal: This Is Natalie Merchant. She told me the title was ironic, since her music was never particularly noisy, except that one skronk album she recorded with Mick Jones in a Hackney bedsit. “I was into meth that week. You know, I needed a new musical direction, something unexpected. What could be more unexpected than a rock star taking drugs?”

As the question rankled in my ankles, we moved on to the topic of change. Is it possible to completely change oneself, in attitude, demeanour, patterns of thought? Or are we chained to our genes forever, destined to hate musicals and love spreadable cheese? Natalie mused on this. “Here’s a posit. Why don’t you, Mr. Micholls, spend a week doing the opposite of everything you’d normally do. See if you can. I bet you can’t.”

I smirked and forked a turnip. “You’re on, Merchant. It’s Nicholls, by the way. Not Micholls.” She supped her shake. “Look like I care?” I shook my mug. “Nut. Not really.”

So, I went home to prove Merchant wrong. I sat down to read a book, then stood up to do the opposite. I suspended the book from the ceiling with a length of rope and lay supine on the floor. I let the book read me. Michel Houellebecq’s Platform read me from head to toe for an hour. Afterwards, it was thoroughly depressed and hanged itself on the rope.

Instead of putting food into my mouth, I inserted it rectally. I masturbated with my mouth and brushed my penis. I went out at nights and had a good time, as opposed to the usual evenings of self-examination and Vimto. I drank alcohol and made believe like I was comfortable among the babbling adults with their talk of mortgages, Steve Martin and the ironies of our age. I didn’t return home, I waited for home to return to me, sleeping in a bus shelter with some kind tramps. This happened for seven more days until I was admitted to Western General with three nails in my scrotum and a debt bigger than Belgium.

I turned up for my meeting with Natalie that Monday. With me, a gang of Mexican debtors. “You couldn’t spot me £400,000 could you?” I asked her. “It is sort of your fault, you know.” She smirked. “Oh, OK. Since you did so well.” She handed Julias ‘I Fuck Your Kids’ Mezzar a £400,000 note. The man grinned and muttered: “It triple now. £1,200,000.” Natalie winced. “Fine.” They went away, not without slapping Natalie first.

“So,” I said, collapsing from the five beatings I had taken that morning. “Does that answer your question?”


  1. Oh, dear. You seem to have eaten a lot of lunch lately. Have you considered dinner? Perhaps one where the pasta don't call, where the wine won't drink you, and if there absolutely has to be entertainment, you better make it muzak. I'm not sure you'll be able to stomach any more lunches.

    PS - what was the question?

  2. Is this your way of asking me out to lunch? I'd love to, if you foot the bill. You can tell me all about your new pop-up giraffe book. With the orange cover. I'll hire a muzak robot for the occasion.

  3. So THAT was the question! Yes, let's dine (not lunch, didn't I explain that to you [should that have an Oxford Comma and a question mark or so? I am punctuationally confused today]). I'll cover the bill, but I'll expect you to bring the meatballs.

  4. HA! To answer the posit - yes, people CAN change but rarely do because they don't WANT to change...figuring it is too costly and hard - and not always for the better when one is already pretty damn good. Great read!

  5. You know, you do too many things opposite and it comes back around to doing the same old thing. I think next time you ought to do things randomly. Put activities in one hat, body parts in another, objects and foodstuffs in a 3rd...

    I don't think we are born to be exactly a certain way, but there is some ingrained stuff (for instance I have a strong preference for somber-toned or loud music instead of perky--the somber, I think I was born with, the loud I learned.) But most of how we are is exposure, so I definitely think we can learn new stuff if we try hard enough.

  6. I think I'm too old to shake things up. Even at NM's behest.

    PS my copy of Platform hung itself too. weird.

  7. CC: Deal. Plump and juicy.

    Jen & Tart: You actually answered the question, all sensible-like! Kudos to yous!

    Deb or Barbara: I've only read Atomised. I lied. But I'm sure that book is very joyous too.