Sheffield has produced some great and famous people over the years. Academics, writers, politicians, prostitutes (yes you read that correctly. A lady who goes by the name ‘Belle de Jour’ achieved national fame for publishing her memoirs and even got a tv show starring Billie Piper. Sheffield university was oh-so-proud when it was revealed exactly ‘how’ she payed for her tuition fees). Among this list of patriotic ‘Sheffielders’ was a musician named Jarvis Cocker (he’s moderately famous as a rock star from the band Pulp. Don’t worry; it’d be hypocritical of me to criticise you for not knowing him…but he was in ‘Fantastic mr Fox’ and I can’t accept that you haven’t seen that!). Anyway, he was very popular long before my time but comes back occasionally for his fans. So where better for him to make a public appearance, than his own hometown of Sheffield.
My girlfriend at the time was a big fan of Jarvis Cocker (crazy obsessive actually, but fangirl is a much more flattering title I suppose). So although I was the one who was living in sheffield, I heard about Jarvis Cocker’s arrival from her (because twitter means you can safely stalk people like a responsible adult) and she requested (begged) that I go and get his signature for her. So being the dutiful boyfriend that I was (feel free to praise me), I headed off to the event on her behalf.
The book store Waterstone’s was hosting the event, as he was selling his latest book; a combination between an auto biography and a list of music lyrics (I’d joke that it’d be hard to distinguish the two but there are a lot of mean fans who’d find me if I did). He would start signing at 7pm but I had errands to run so I showed up early into town. I walked past the groups of gossiping 40 somethings who had come for Jarvis and picked up a copy of his new book (in hardback no less. Need that to last) as well as a couple of Walking Dead graphic novels so I wouldn’t be bored as I waited. I was so early in fact, I ended up at the head of the line by accident; I turned around to discover the bubbly fans eagerly queuing up behind me the moment they suspected why I was standing there outside this particular book shop. So unfortunately the organisers of the event, rather than putting up signs or announcing where to line up, bent over backwards to reformat all the rope barriers from the left side of the store to the right. The trail snaked across the whole store and up a flight of stairs, meaning it took them a substantial amount of time to lift everything to the other side, dodging in-between the curious customers buying books. I still don’t believe I deserved the hateful glares I received after that. It’s hardly my fault.
Jarvis Cocker was late anyway so the organisers panicked for nothing it seems. They explained the delay and asked us to be patient. The crowd of women behind me murmured with worry, tightening their raincoats against the cold and regretting not eating anything before coming. They had nothing to distract them while they waited, leaving them to shift idly from foot to foot. But I was at the head of the line, perched on a window sill rather than standing, in my cuddly warm sheepskin jacket (hmmm sheepskin), munching on a cornish pasty I’d bought earlier with one hand, while I read my comic in the other. I was having a great time. Such a good time in fact, it took me at least 30 minutes before I noticed the annoyed glances coming my way.
While we waited an elderly woman came round the corner and jumped in surprise at seeing the line of hundreds of people snaking down the high street. Curiosity got the better of her so she walked over to ask someone what everyone was waiting for. Unfortunately she approached me.
“Excuse me. What are you all queuing for?” she asked, eyes wandering over the shop front.
“Oh some musician. He’s signing books”
“Ooh. What musician?”
“You know…I can’t remember his name. But apparently he’s pretty famous”
I could hear a bees nest stirring behind me so I got ready to swat when I realised it was just an angry mob of insulted fans. Not nearly as serious. I continued to chat with her for a little longer seeing as we had to wait so long and behind I could hear people mutter angrily the answers I didn’t know. The contents of his new book, his songs, why he was in Sheffield, the name of his band. Although I heard them I wasn’t entirely aware of the peril I was in; the possibility the night would end with a lynching.
At last the organisers emerged and announced that Jarvis Cocker had arrived, causing a choir of hushed sighs. But they were immediately cut short when they next said, they could only allow 40 people in at a time and that anyone else might not be able to see him. I was first in line so it didn’t matter much to me but to the die-hard fans, they were not quite so happy that someone who had no idea who Jarvis Cocker was, would be allowed to meet him in place of a true fan.
When I finally got to his desk it was a little difficult to determine which person he actually was. I had no idea what he looked like and there were no less than three different men behind the table as well as a young woman and an unconscious dog who somehow had a sofa all to himself. So I gingerly approached with the copy of his new book and waddled carefully so as to not commit to any one person in case I got it wrong (I was hoping Mr Cocker would reveal himself with some sort of greeting so I knew who he was you see). Fortunately, Jarvis Cocker was called by someone else just before I reached the table and he turned his head to face them, leaving me to correct my course and stand in front of the right man (note to self; he wears thick framed glasses).
“Hello there” he said to me cheerfully, “fancy a grape?”. He gestured to the bowl on the table which was occupied by a half shredded bunch of grapes.
“I’ve been munching on them all night. They’re really good. Oh and please don’t mind him” he went on, nodding toward the dog, “he’s out cold after nine usually”.
I asked him to sign the book to my girlfriend and he was kind enough to not only do that for me but also not to question me about my personal love of his music. In general he seemed like a really nice guy and I would have liked to chat with him a bit longer (not out of awe of his career which I knew nothing about you understand. He just seemed kind of cool).
My exit was somewhat awkward though. After I said goodbye and we wished each other a happy evening, I had to walk by all the people behind me out of the store. Countless deadeye stares to pretend to ignore followed by an ominously silent mob who stared after me as I first briskly walked and then ran down the street with my signature.