Thursday, 15 May 2014

Camden Town ain't burning down.. 9/30/2012



I wasn’t planning another Amy post, because it usually results in me sobbing into my cup of tea and snotting everywhere  but I’ve just got back from Camden so Kleenex at the ready kids..
I finally dragged my unwitting boyfriend on a pretty much Amy exclusive tour of London and after desperately tracing the route on Google Maps for about the past year, I finally got to see her house.
I clambered on Nic’s back to spot her huge Smeg fridge and ‘lioness’ biscuit tin in her kitchen, the pavement opposite, once crowded with flowers and candles is now looking a little bare. But, the messages scrawled on trees remain resilient, standing firm against the council.
We made our way back into Camden Town and went to The Hawley Arms, as we went in, I noticed a shelf behind the bar, dedicated to Amy, including a half eaten glass of lollies with her name on. I remembered the tabloid’s images of her tottering outside, offering her sweets to the paparazzi like an over-generous child. There’s a signed photo of her on the wall that reads “measure upstairs and fit up a pool table, I’ll take any shifts going ‘til its paid for..lotsa love Amy. Ps: I love Blake.” She’d even drawn a thought bubble above her own head that says  ‘I love Blake,’ for just in case you managed to miss it the first time.
One gin and tonic down, we hopped on the tube to Soho to find Jazz After Dark. Owned by Amy’s ‘second dad’ Sam Shaker, the teeny Jazz bar is brimming with paintings of his beautiful inspiration. Asked by Amy to paint nearly 50 pieces of art, his bar is like a shrine to the songbird. Clutching his cup of tea, he showed me his ‘VIP area,’ a room not much bigger than a toilet, filled with cushions with a thick curtain draped in front of it. ‘Amy used to shut the curtains and sit in here with my laptop on facebook’ he says. ‘She’d sit at the bar and find it really strange that her own eyes were looking at her from everywhere on the walls!’ he says gesturing to the surrounding paintings.
‘You’re drinking a Back to Black,’ he says, noticing the white and black vodka with lemonade that I’d so carefully picked off the menu, ‘that’s Amy’s drink, she could drink gallons of the stuff.’
There’s a gleaming sparkle in his eyes everytime he mentions Amy. The lyrics to Back to Black are etched into a wood panel on the wall and he tells me that she wrote the song in here. ‘She used to eat and sleep here,’ he says. He serves a dish he calls the Amy platter as he used to make it for her. ‘She loved meatballs, she’d eat all the platter then go outside with ketchup all over her mouth kissing everyone. ’
The paintings range from Amy as a child, to the most recent, after her boob job, ‘they’re massive!’ I say and he laughs in agreement. It’s one of the only two that she never got to see. In the other she is surrounded by swirls of beutiful gold paint that she asked him to buy specially for her.
You can tell from talking to him that when the rest of the world lost an incredible jazz singer, he lost his muse.
As we leave, he assures me that he ‘loves meeting Amy’s fans’ and I can’t help feeling that his life must be a little empty now she’s gone. I doubt that the 50 Amy’s on the wall offer him anywhere near as much as the one who left them behind.

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