09 Gladys Alone: In Real Life

00.00.00 00.00.00 loading

Gladys performs her song "In Real Life" and a very special person comes to hear her sing it. will the very sensible side of Gladys's character win the day when an film star shows a romantic interest in her?

Read by Natasha
Picture by Chiara Civati
Written by Bertie

By the way, you can hear Gladys in Spotify now.

Gladys goes it Alone, Chapter 9: In Real Life

Gladys spent her summer in Teddington. Much of the time, she sat at her desk and looked out of the window, seeking inspiration. The parked cars grew hot in the sun. Occasionally, a near tropical downpour would rinse the dust off them as effectively as a car wash. The postman delivered gas bills and a boy shoved fliers for pizza deliveries through letterboxes, but nobody was at home to pick them off the doormat. A mangy fox sniffed around some empty dustbins. When the bus stopped on the corner, two old age pensioners got on, and one old man got off. Often Gladys thought, "Is this how I am going to take the world by storm? By looking out at an empty street?”

Life came back to Teddington in the first week of September. Mostly it returned on board a budget flight from Southern Europe, and sometimes in an overladen estate car pulling a caravan back from Cornwall. School was starting up again, but Gladys was staying at home. It felt strange to think that Sara, Jay-Jay, and James would be stringing their sixth form ties around their collars. She thought of the classroom, and her favourite teacher handing out dog-eared copies of Othello to the smallish group who would be reading it for their English Lit A-Level. She could almost smell processed sausages and beans in the school canteen and feel the chill of the changing room, as she got ready for hockey. The only thing she missed, quite frankly, was the company of her friends. Actually, there was something else; there was the routine. There was the security of having your day planned for you. You just had to listen, take notes, and do the homework that was set for you. The conveyer belt would take you to your destination: university. The only question was whether it would be a good university or a second or third-rate one. Otherwise it was certain, and proven to work.

"The life I have chosen is a confidence trick," she thought as she looked at her Facebook page open on her computer, waiting for somebody new to like her or leave a message. "I have to convince myself that I can do it, even though there is no sensible reason to believe that I can, I have to have faith… in myself. Is that foolish pride? Am I messing up my life, like everyone says?”

Hours went by when she just sat and thought. She wasn't doing anything to advance her cause because she had temporarily stopped believing. Then she would force herself to sit down and start writing, and songs would appear in her notebooks. Some were rubbish. Some were good. It was all material she could use one day.

The standout song from this period in Gladys’s creative career is “In Real Life.” The seed of the idea came from the recording of “Are We There Yet?” at the start of the summer. It was the first time that Gladys got a real live band together for a session. They really made a difference, didn't they?

[Play up a bit.]

Up until then, Tim the producer had helped Gladys to "fake it."

These days you don't even need musicians to put down a song. If your producer can play the keyboard, he can be the band. He can be a trombone and a string section if you want. Faking it has its advantages. You don't have to rehearse the musicians. You don't have to record take after take until it is perfect. Every beat is on the beat. Every note hits the right note. A solo starting-out performer like Gladys can sound like she has the London Symphony Orchestra at her beck and call - but does it sound real? Does its heart beat or bleep like a machine?

Arny, whose chest was still connected to all sorts of monitors and electrodes in Kingston hospital also had two little white listening buds coming out of his ears. He was assessing Gladys' song, “Ghost Girl,” which was great, but had largely been "faked." He texted her with his verdict.

"You can't beat live musicians Gladdy. They give it something extra."

Although Arny was old school, Gladys respected him and wanted to please her mentor. So when she recorded, "Are We There Yet?" She asked Tim to find some real musicians. The recording session took three times as long and cost more than three times the price. Half an hour was gone just setting up the drums and checking that each one was miked up properly. It was exciting to have a real live guitarist walk into the studio and tune up his Stratocaster. He was, well, one chilled out dude who did this twice a day for a living. He tried out a dozen different riffs until Gladys and Tim said that was the one they wanted. By the end of the session, Gladys could see that Tim's computer had rows and rows of different takes on it for each instrument - a green wave of sound representing each run-through. The cost of the musicians and the studio time was going to eat into her savings. The result? Well you've heard the song. It was a whole step up, don't you think?

She loved having a creative team come together, and this thought gave her the title for her next song and her first album. When she wrote the words to “In Real Life,” they turned into something a bit different. You see she was thinking about her chance meeting with Darren Wolf, the Hollywood actor. Do you remember that incident? How could you forget? Quite. He hung around in Gladys' thoughts too. Sometimes when she looked out at that suburban street, she saw a cute little open top sports car pull up outside her house and Darren got out - but that was only in her imagination. Yet, if her best friend had asked her about her feelings, she would probably have said she didn't fancy him at all.

She couldn't quite match up the dashing Darren she had seen on the screen, and the slightly crumpled one she had met in real life.

"Yes," she thought, "There's nothing special about stars. They have talent, but so have loads of people who don't make it. Their number comes up in the lottery of life. The entertainment industry showers money on them to make them look perfect, and we see them up on the screen all shiny and glittering. Quite honestly, it could be me. Yes, it could be... if only...”

That was why she wrote her song, “In Real Life” - It was inspired by Darren Wolf, though probably not in a way that he would like.

Her own funds were running low. It was the last recording she could afford for the time being, but it was worth it.

Then something happened in the real world that changed her luck. An email dropped into her inbox from one of the clubs she had contacted at the start of the summer.

"We have a cancellation for Friday night. Can you fill in for us?”
It was from The Spiral - actually quite a snazzy venue just off Bond Street in Central London.

She wrote back quickly before they could ask anyone else.

"Always glad to help out. Fortunately, I'm free. I'll do it.” Then she thought and added, "By the way, how much do you pay?”

She was surprised how swiftly the reply came back. "You're booked in for 9.30. Fee is 60 pounds. You pay your own expenses. One free drink per musician."
She called Tim at the studio and told him the news. They would have to play for next to nothing, but it would be fun.

This time it really was a great crowd; Gladys could say that and be sincere. The clubbers had come out to dance and shake it down it in the first five or six rows. She gave them something to move to, because her upbeat numbers were tight and funky, thanks to the new drummer and bassist. For the first time she felt glamorous up on stage, and was using her arms a like an Indian dancer, swaying her hips, and smiling naturally. Her eyes flirted with the crowd. She sensed that the musician enjoyed the whole togetherness of it, and were really into the groove of her songs. Her music brought everyone together. It was an ecstatic feeling. Yes, this was why she wanted to sing.

Then, at the end of one number, she sensed that a group in the crowd were looking not at her, but at someone in their own ranks. Who was drawing their attention? At last she caught sight of him. It was Darren Wolf. "Yes,” thought Gladys. “He kept his word. An A list Celebrity has turned out to see me!”

But oh, for a moment she regretted that she was about sing her next number.

There was nothing to do but to go for it and giving it her all.

[Play Up “In Real Life”]

Perhaps it was the venue; perhaps it was having a famous person there to see her. Most probably, it was the new musicians - but this was by far Gladys' best performance yet. As she walked off the stage there was something waiting for her on a chair just out of sight of the audience: a big bunch of roses. She had seen them as she had come on, but had assumed they were for somebody else. This time she took a closer look and saw that they were for her.

"Oh my," she thought. "I don't know if this is good or bad.”

Darren found her backstage and gave her three kisses on the cheeks in the French style. He told her that she was great and asked if she had any plans for the evening.

"Thank you for the beautiful roses," she said. "I'm sorry; I have to go back with the band but..." She didn't quite know how she should finish the sentence.

"Can I call you?" He asked. He was very polite, but he obviously didn't expect her to say, "No".

"Well... Well why not?” Thought Gladys. “He did give come to see me, and he sent me flowers.” She gave him her number. It was the first time she had ever given it to somebody who was probably going to use it to invite her out on a date.

Gladys slid her guitar case into the hatchback of Tim’s car. He had parked on a yellow line, and could leave it there for the rest of the evening. The backing musicians were in an elated mood, and heading off to another club. In her other hand she held the roses. She turned to her friends Sara and Jay-Jay and said, "Shall we go and get some tea? “ Although it was late, they found an Italian place that was open. They ordered ice creams. Of course, there was one topic that Sara and Jay-Jay wanted to discuss and it wasn't her performance on stage. It was who had given her the flowers?”

"Well,” said Gladys, "Have you seen Bitten?”

"Of course - we went with you, don't you remember?" Exclaimed Sara.

"Great film," said Jay-Jay, "And that was one dishy vampire.”

"Funny you should say that,” said Gladys, "because these flowers are from Darren Wolf.”

"No!" Said Jay-Jay, in disbelief.

"You're kidding aren't you?" Demanded Sara. Both were giggling and exclaiming so loudly that other people in the cafe were noticing.

"I'm deadly serious," said Gladys. "No pun intended. But he's too old for me."

"What do you mean he's too old for you? He’s famous!"

"He's 26 and I'm 16. I haven't had a boyfriend. It can't be right."

"You need to lighten up," said Sara.

"Let me go on a date in your place,” begged Jay-Jay.

"Yeah tell him you've got two hot friends; Blonde and Brunette."

Gladys didn't smile. She was considering the situation. "Well if he does call me, perhaps I could ask if we could just be good friends.”

The girls looked at her in wonder, not for the first time, as if she was from some sort of far off and distant planet. What made Gladys tick? They had known her for years, but they still didn't quite get what she was about. Well at least they would have something to talk about at school on Monday morning.