Mermaid Overseas: Los Angeles to San Diego

The soundtrack to a Mermaid making music across three continents.

Where: Los Angeles to San Diego

When: 15/03/2015 – 19/03/2015

Lesson: SPRRIIIINNGG BREEEEAAKKK!!

Achievement: Playing some songs in an Irish bar and beach serenading every night

Lyric: You said you were waiting around to die and I’m waiting to live

Quote: “You kook” / “Spracken!” “Wait, whut”

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1. Lil John & The East Side Boys – Get Low

I have always hated this song but upon entering my hostel literally on Pacific Beach I was greeted by a topless guy from the Military singing “OOH, SKI SKI MOTHERFUCKER” in my sunkissed face. There was a big group of them partying in the hostel with us and a lot of booze flowing so me and Jordana, a gorgeous gal from South Carolina, named them by their home state/town instead of their actual names. We began St Patrick’s celebrations with Pennsylvania, San Francisco, Albuquerque, Maryland and so many more inked hunks and everything got rather blurry. They performed a beautiful acoustic version of this track and i’m so sad I didn’t catch it on video but this version is pretty similar to Gabe’s (the only real name I learnt) beautiful voice. Here is me creeping on them.

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I played some songs in an Irish bar the next night which was thoroughly enjoyable as i’m learning performing live is pretty much the only chance I have to play guitar and sing whilst living in hostels. It was a bit of a strange place but lovely compliments and company from Jordana who kindly drove us there. There’s some American man talking the whole way through this snippet video. Here Jordana is with my first Denny’s (of many) that i’ll be gulfing down in the next weeks.

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2. Aha – A Little Respect

This track came on in the car on the radio and was probably the only song I knew, compared to all the teen rock I heard from most stations. Everyone in the hostel used Pandora which I thought was my charm bracelet but it turns out to be just like Spotify.

I sang to a guy named Cassius who also played for me on Mission Boulevard and we agreed to get together in a studio and write some “beach music” together. Alas, i believe he may have been high as a kite and this never came to substance. I have been writing a few poppy “beach” songs though which will be surfacing at some point.

3. The Kooks – Seaside

I spent SPRING BREAK with a group of students from Nevada who hit it hard and I decided it would be rude not to join every night, despite my time here not really being SPRING BREAK. Hours were spent on the decking of the hostel with my head growing bigger from compliments and redder from the sun. I was continuously referred to as Lucy Spracken, which was intended as a compliment from Tony, but not really taken as one. Tony is a salesman and has decided I am going to make him rich if we go door to door to producers in Hollywood.

The staff at the hostel were wonderful but had to interrupt me performing on the decking when it got too late so from there we would stumble to the beach. One night we sank beers with some German firefighters and another night with a group of conservation workers on their break from work. The conservation workers included Tristan, who also had a Taylor with him and taught me some Californian slang (none of which I can remember), Rob who was from Iowa and has a brother in the music industry and who he is going to give my EP to (fingers crossed) and Michael, who lives in Colorado, played harmonica and stayed with me till 5am listening to my repertoire. We all deliberated on what the term “kook” meant and in America it is apparently an insult. I gushed about my unhealthy teenage obsession with the band and their name originating from Bowie’s song (stalker alert again). Derek requested I play Seaside which was very fitting for our beautiful surroundings. Here’s a recording of, typically, the worst of the songs I sang drowned out by drunken college chicks and my hyena giggle. Please note I have not picked up an American accent, I do not know why I am talking like that.

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Here is a “fucked up” Derek (on the earlier recording referring to Tony feeling his toes) on our way to a SPRING BREAK house party we crashed. We then got kicked out of the party and whilst Tristan did some fabulous beat-boxing we marched down the boardwalk doing this…

4. Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros – Home

Tuesday was St Paddy’s day and drinking began before breakfast. I was out with the guys who work at the hostel (one of them being an Irish Leprechaun fittingly) and a lot of alcohol and sunshine was absorbed. I had a bloody great celebration and this track was playing in one of the bars so will bring me new and fond memories to a track I already loved.

The hangover post Paddy’s was truly astonishing and I certainly had a wave of wanting home. A glorious Facetime with my girl brought me back to the reality of the dream I am in the middle of and all was well again.

5. The National – Sea of Love

The only functional thing I could do during the post Paddy’s hangover was walk, so that is what I did. I walked for hours and hours around Pacific and Ocean beach listening to depressing music and to lift myself out of it, which eventually Zlotty and The National did for me.

On my last evening I was lost halfway back to the beach from the Gaslamp Quarter and after passing quite a few blocks I eventually decided to ask for directions. In a quiet area of San Diego I managed to ask for directions from Bob. Bob was born in New York, now living in San Diego and for the past 8 years had been living in Ilkley, a quiet area in West Yorkshire 20 minutes from my home of Menston. He recognized my accent and we supped some Margheritas in Mexican bars and discussed Ilkley, my travels and his incredibly interesting life (he’s mates with Denzel bloody Washington). A crazy and wonderful coincidence for this small world and I can definitely hear a song coming out of it.

Other songs I’ve been writing from the beach revolve around a marriage proposal meaning I could live the American life for the rest of my years. Although this was only one week into my trip, after a few green coloured beers and slushies, I came very close to booking our flights to Vegas for the next day. As charming as he was he also wanted 2 grand (cash) so the romance was a touch spoiled but still a pretty good deal.

I was not ready to leave San Diego and a return trip is currently in the pipeline for the last couple of weeks in USA in May before heading to Australia.

On the Pacific Surfliner train up to Santa Barbara after a very stressful and expensive morning sorting my accommodation and travel up the coast… stay classy San Diego.

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Mermaid Overseas: London to Los Angeles

The soundtrack to a Mermaid making music across three continents.

Where: London to Los Angeles

When: 10/03/2015 – 14/03/2015

Lesson: A pastey white girl needs stronger sun cream than 20 SPF

Achievement: Blasting through ‘Jolene’ on Karaoke

Lyric: I don’t really want to talk to anybody before I have anything to say

Quote: “Clare”. “Clara?”. “Clare.”. “Cla?”. “Clayeeer”. “Aah, Clare.”

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1. Van Morrison – Caravan

“We can get down to what is really wrong. I long just to hold you in my arms”

As songs stalk you in UK life, they can still travel and stick with you in the USA. Either that or my superpower of soundtracking my own life still functions overseas. I thought about this as I blasted Van Morrison in my ears during the 11 hour plane journey. It takes me to the cellar with Paddy playing pool deafening ourselves and screaming “I CAN HEAR THE MERRY GYPSIES PLAY!”. I decided that If i’m alone, above the clouds, looking down on the world and a song can make me feel as if I’m with my Dad on the lowest floor of the house which I’ve grown up in since I was 3, then surely I won’t feel lonely at all for the next 15 months.

I listened to Van the Man in between balling my eyes out watching Interstellar, longing to be a Hobbit, deciding I would win the Hunger Games and hoping I’ll meet Liam from Nashville (Michiel Huisman) on a street after hiking for weeks and he will want to have sex with me too. I suppose I would have to go on a hike for the last one to happen which is extremely unlikely after Paddy once made me endure the blistering heat of the Bryce Canyon hike when I was 10, fat, burnt and lazy. That will not be happening on this trip.

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2. Prince – I Wanna Be Your Lover

“I wanna be the only one who makes you come for”

In films music can affect the audience’s perception of a scene and it’s meaning so what if your soundtrack remains recognizable but you are in a completely different scene set in, let’s say, California? In rainy England I can lift myself out of any sadness without fail by blasting Prince through my Bose earphones and I am engulfed and happy once more before he has screeched the first “I wanna be your lover”. All my music stalkers will be in California with me – there will be Prince, I imagine David will make an appearance, as he often does, and Bruce will absolutely be accompanying many journeys in solitude.

On my first proper night in LA I went on a hostel bar crawl in Hollywood. I get abuse all the time in London for introducing myself to people that I have met at about 5 previous parties and still I have no recollection of their name. This terrible trait of mine does not bode well for me in hostels and I have spent many conversations with people looping their name, where they are from and key fact in my mind to prevent such abuse abroad.

On the bar crawl I met Kad (Kad, Grenoble (France), PHD in Computer Science) who I agreed to do Karaoke with once we had drunk enough Margheritas. About 7 later he steamed through “Mad World” (which I almost missed from some Mexican guy incesantly kissing me – didn’t ask his name) and I stepped up to do “Jolene”. I actually stalk “Jolene” more than the song stalks me in my life’s soundtrack. I first performed it stood on a table in the middle of a pub full of approximately 50 Kellys in Ireland and one of my angel’s face (Charli, Keighley, best friend since we were 14) was on the telly in her role of Emma in the Channel 4 series “No Angels”.

I’ve performed this track, along with “Son of a Preacherman”,  whenever intoxicated and a group asks me to sing and also when I was busking in Leeds at Christmas last year. Kad explained that “Jolene” had been the soundtrack to his trip when he had been travelling around Ireland with his friends a couple of weeks before arriving in LA. He and Melinda (Melinda, Lyon (France), Fashion design) proceeded to call me Jolene for the following days which was cute or maybe they just couldn’t remember my name. We drank Hoegarden and rose and made this video with some help from Alan (Alan, Michigan USA, comedian). I played some more tracks in the hostel garden also.

One day Kad happened to be listening to “Otherside” by RHCP when I was passing through our dorm room so in the end, he brought me the song from my Paris soundtrack (see previous post) and I brought the song from his Ireland soundtrack. Spooky.

3. Marvin Gaye – Sexual Healing (Kygo Remix)

“I’m hot just like an oven, I need some loving”

I love hostels and learning about so many different cultures from people on different adventures. I went to Venice beach one day with Kad, Melinda, Stuard (Stuard, Holland, parents owned a company that fly horses across the world) and two girls from Denmark (Marie & Line, Denmark, 20 so couldn’t drink but had a car for cruising) and listened to this Norwegian’s remixes on my fabulous Boise speaker that my gadget lover brother got me for my travels. I forgot I was British for an afternoon and burnt to a crisp.

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The only time I have alone to sing and progress the lyrics I have been scribbling constantly is in the shower. Unfortunately guitars don’t play well in water so I am struggling to get any demos recorded as of yet.

4. Angel Olsen – unfucktheworld

“I have to save my life, I need some piece of mind. I am the only one now.”

My brother (Tom, Leeds, Electronic Engineering nerd) not only buys me cracking gadget gifts every year but has given me music for my soundtrack all my life. From long car journeys with Radiohead on repeat, the Nirvana Unplugged album and giving me 2 of his guitars when I went to Uni, he continues to advise me on new artists I should listen to. I had been sent Angel Olsen’s song before,”Windows” by Niall (Niall, Sheffield, old band mate from Squabbling Otters) a while ago and her latest album sent to me from Tom, including that track, is divine.

Tom told me to always listen to an album as a whole piece of work and not just single tracks. I do this but I often have my favourite song which I stick on repeat and dissolve in, which is this opening track from “Burn Your Fire For No Witness”. I fell asleep to it looping one night post sunburn after watching a comedy night and being the butt of a joke as I was informed I looked like a heroin addict slipping under.

5. Rihanna, Kanye West & Paul McCartney – FourFiveSeconds

“I’m trying to make it back home by Monday morning”

I listen to this song and I am in my bedroom in Leeds with my best friend (Lottie, Bingley, the most amazing gal in the world) dancing around naked while she makes a playlist for one of the many leaving doos last month at my house. It was playing in a bar one night and in the 2 Denmark girls car on the roasting journey back to the hostel from the beach.

I spent all day in Beverley Hills with Mousab (Mousab, Saudi Arabia, living in Michigan and looks like Emile Hirsch from Into the Wild) whilst not being able to remember his name, despite partying with him all of the night before. A true faupar on my behalf but we had fun and ate some fancy chocolate on Rodeo Drive as I explained I would feel like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman if I actually entered any of the clothes shops. He reminded me of his name that evening and after he heard me sing he was amazed that my voice sounded like that compared to my “mouse-like” speaking voice. This is something I need to work on during my adventure.

I met Alan after the Karaoke night as we chatted to some southern English boys who were arseholes. He told me he loved Elusive Yusef and purchased the EP listening to it as he drove to Malibu to watch the sunset. On my last night we saw an incredible Jazz Funk band in a bar who had a flutist who mesmerised me by mastering the look of not giving a shit and being so into the music at the same time.

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Getting my first Greyhound Bus to San Diego, CA.

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Mermaid Overseas: London to Paris to London

The soundtrack to a Mermaid making music across three continents.

Where: Paris to London

When: 04/03/2015 – 09/03/2015

Lesson: It is possible to party until 5am without a drop of alcohol

Achievement: Nailing and recording a cover of ‘Otherside’ by RHCP

Lyric: There is nothing easy about this, it will be worth the hard

Quote: “Your coat is ‘orrible… like a rat” / “SHOTS AT THE BAR?!”

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1. Little Dragon – Paris
“It was Paris we said we were gonna meet”

I am unsure whether I’ve managed a week without drinking since I was around 13 due to being a Kelly and a Northerner. 10 years later, Murphey’s Law and the trusty old NHS resulted in my last week in Europe being a sober affair due to a course of antibiotics. Although truly heartbreaking to not drink rouge on the Seine, I was originally informed it would be 2 weeks sans alcool so the reduction to 1 week was a blessing. I did not touch a drop and the character building and self realization was a lesson well worth learning.

Of all the songs featuring Paris in the title this one gave me my 2015 trip buzz. My favourite track on ‘Nabuma Rubberband’ and perfect for strutting through London to hop on the Eurostar for my first stop oversea.

Joe and I have been making music together since we were 15 and whenever we manage to be in the same city, let alone country, for at least a week we try to record and/or perform.
This track is an older recording that we recorded in Ile-de-re in 2013 on a beach in the rain.

Joe was my host for the 4 nights and turned 24 during my stay. The cover we decided to do was Red Hot Chili Pepper’s ‘Otherside’ and this is the video of us performing it in a sunny garden in Belleville. We had to have some help filming as our first attempt at 1am (a little doowally) resulted in the words and structure becoming a morphed 20 second mess.


2. David Bowie – Five Years

“I kiss you, you’re beautiful”

David followed me to France. I wandered the streets in the sun one afternoon still with his greatest hits blaring as my accompaniment, stumbling across a street devoted to musical instruments and purchasing an overpriced capo. I walked into Joe’s local supermarket to buy my fifteenth bag of sweets as it turns out without booze my sweet tooth returns from when I was a greedy, fatty 9 year old and the shop assistant was wearing a Bowie badge. David’s face was all over the Metro on every journey too as his exhibition which I went to in London was soon to be coming to Paris.
We jammed to Five Years but decided it was just too good to even touch so just sat back and listened.

3. Zaz – Je Veux

“Je veux d’l’amour, d’la joie, de la bonne humeur”

Meeting a group of friends who are living in Paris and are a mixture of English, Irish, French, Italian and American was interesting. Some of the antics myself and Joel (West Yorkshire born and bred) witnessed on a boat party one night was thoroughly entertaining. If I had been drinking I’m sure it would have been me making the scene and yelling the same thing repeatedly extremely loudly in people’s sensitive eardrums (drunk people are rather irritating). In line for the toilet on the boat a man ferociously tapped me on the shoulder asking if I have met his friend Mathieu. After much deliberation I was forced to introduce myself to Mathieu. As he and three other wide eyed garcons prodded and stroked my fur coat he spat at me “your coat, it feels ‘orrible”. (me) “oh right, cheers. It’s not real fur…”. “It’s like a RAT! eurgh”. He continued to abuse my poor coat and simultaneously gesticulate rat faces and make rat noises in my face. Needless to say, I wish I had not wasted any time meeting Mathieu.

I supped (sans alcool) Biere dancing around with the multi-cultured group to Zaz, envisaging Joe eating his croissants bopping around his tiny bohemian 6th floor flat with this as his french soundtrack.


4. Metronomy – I’m Aquarius

“We’ve had problems, we’re notorious for them”

I have only recently got into Metronomy from listening to Love Letters and this is my favourite track from the album. My superpower took it from Yorkshire’s ‘blue, blue, electric blue’ boy’s record player to bars and parties across England and still I magically turned it onto the playlist in Paris. I think the rhythm of ‘we’ve had problems, we’re notorious for them’ is real tasty.

Me and Joe recorded this track ‘Home is Where’ and here it is. The band we used to be in, Night Herons, live on just with different beats and different harmonies. Being one of the handful of people I can collaborate easily with, Joe and I are both chuffed with this track. When the day comes when we are living in at least the same country, let alone city, we will release some our songs under a fabulous band name. This is all still in the making and we have a while to work on it but here is some artwork Joe has drafted. He recently discovered Instagram, under my influence, and has been posting some corkers of the magnificent capital of France (joseph.m.armitage).

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5. Cranberries – Linger

“I know I might be rude but it’s just your attitude, it’s tearing us apart and it’s ruining everything”

As magnificently beautiful as Paris is and despite how much I love the city – it fucking stinks. Alongside my overwhelming craving for sweeties, my sense of smell seems to have been further heightened from no alcohol being in my system. Not only does music follow me round, so do lingering smells. The boat party reeked of eggs, the streets stunk of piss and every drunk or hungover fool around me unleashed astonishing breath. These lingering stenches are the only negative spin I can give my sunshine filled long weekend. Do you have to let it linger?

Cranberries’ ‘Linger’ is the soundtrack to the 15 hour nights with the 3 closest things I have to angels in my life. I was blessed to have one of the angels, Joel, joining me and Joe in Paris for 8 euro hot chocolates by the Louvre and bopping around with sweat dripping off the ceiling at the boat party. Here he is.

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Saying bye to the three angels, my mum, brother and sister was crazy when I got back to London. Tears poured when Anne left to go back to Yorkshire with my Gretsch on her back which was a very amusing sight but also looking like a very cool mum. My last night was celebrated with my wonderful sister over posh grub near St Paul’s Cathedral.

An added celebration spent with my bestie Caterak was the end of the week and being back on the sauce just in time for my flight in the morning. We avoided being too emotional with our goodbye as we are partying in Vegas together in 5 weeks time! This fabulous gal was with me last year when in Paris I met the “Elusive Yusef” who entitled my EP. He is not the first French man I have written a song about and I doubt he will be the last. If you’re listening Yusef – this one’s for you.

Next stop… Los Angeles, CA.

Mermaid Overseas: Leaving Yorkshire & London

The soundtrack to a Mermaid making music across three continents.

Where: Yorkshire to London

When: 01/01/2015 – 03/03/2015

Lesson: Don’t post Facebook statuses when under the influence

Achievement: Launch of 3 track EP ‘Elusive Yusef’ (24/01/2015)

Lyric: You wouldn’t let me stay, I wouldn’t want to not go

Quote: “Pigs and troughs”

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I often find there are songs that stalk me for various periods of time. I can’t decide whether my ears pick out the song after hearing it on repeat everyday, it’s just a coincidence or that perhaps I have a super power that controls the soundtrack to my life in public places. So I thought I’d take you through my last few weeks in the UK via the soundtrack in my brain, here goes!

1. Crowded House – Weather With You

“It’s the same room but everything’s different”

I have been absolutely milking the leaving dos to get plenty of attention before I jet off on my tod for over a year. The dos began over 5 weeks ago alongside many ‘goodbye’ social media posts. I am finally ACTUALLY leaving England in the next few days.

Leaving Yorkshire involved daily drinking of my body weight in proper ale and dancing around to Crowded House’s ‘Weather With You’. This track has accompanied some of the best memories of the past 10 years with my two besties in Leeds. My superpower kicked in on our last lunch together as it came on in the pub we were in just as we were saying goodbye.

2. Bruce Springsteen – Dancing in the Dark

“You can’t start a fire without a spark”

The final pint with “Paddy the Daddy” was emotional to say the least but we had our last Bruce Springsteen singalong a couple of weeks before, so I’ve had my fix for the next year. I was probably looking at Bruce’s lyric ‘one last chance to make it real’, which is tattooed on my forearm when I booked flights to the other side of the world. I’m bloody glad I did. This track warms my Boss obsession as one of the few covers I’ve played and the added feature of Monica Geller in the video can never be a bad thing.

3. David Bowie – Sound and Vision

“Blue, blue, electric blue”

David Bowie follows me everywhere. On the rare occasion I listen to the radio, he is there. When I’m flirting with barmen with ponytails, he is there. When I lunch with Paddy in numerous greasy spoons, he is there. His greatest hits has been blasting in my ears continuously these last weeks and every time I hear him sing ‘blue, blue, electric blue’ from ‘Sound and Vision’ I actually hear someone else’s voice barking the line, someone who I spent a fair bit of time with in my last weeks in Leeds.

I’ve said goodbye to my mini home studio by recording a couple of demos, whilst also making the most of my last hours with my true love, my Gretsch. I made this demo combining my true love and ‘blue, blue, electric blue’ boy. I assume I’ll be meeting many Chads, Austins and Brads across the USA and Australia for new sources of lyrical creativity.

4. Lennon and Maisy – Ho Hey

“I’ve been trying to do it right, I’ve been living a lonely life”

In anticipation for the America dream, I managed to watch 2 and a half series of Nashville in a fortnight. I am aware it is ultimate cheese and although I usually pride myself on having exquisite series taste, I will admit I love it and I will be sorely disappointed if I’m not signed to Highway 65 within the first day of my arrival in Tennessee. The first time I listened to the two sisters cover was on the way home from work, walking through Leeds I burst out crying realizing I would not see my own sister for over a year. That was pretty mortifying.

I had a long weekend in London saying bye to chums, which  has been intensely emotional. Most people have been assuming that I’ll never return, either from achieving my wildest dreams or dying by my reckless behavior. Most tended to sway towards the latter.

My last London performance was held at The Montague Arms with three other great bands. It was refreshing to play with musicians who I didn’t spend 3 intimate (and magnificent) years studying a Popular Music Degree with, hearing completely new bands and sounds. A really great band played called Sula Mae who are a funky five piece including a lovely Irish drummer with whom I chatted whilst munching a delicious hot dog. My feedback from the crowd was encouraging and “haunting” is an adjective that has been repeated frequently to me post show. I like that and I think it is captured in this demo, also recorded in my last week in Leeds.

On my second night in London, I left a party on my own at 7.30am to get a bus from Brockley to Peckham (a 10 minute journey). In true tradition, I was awoken by the bus driver and as I looked out the window, blinded by bright Sunday morning sunlight, I realized I was in Holborn. I proceeded to inform the bus driver I was trying to get to Menston, in Leeds. “Where the fack is Menston?!” my new best mate asked. A moment passed and I gathered my surroundings and informed him I would actually like to go to Peckham. “Just don’t go back to sleep, yeah?” I awoke again with my new mate shaking me as he had turned off the engine of the bus to come upstairs and ensure I got off when we’d arrived at my stop. I will remember that man for a long time. The many other London bus drivers who have found me in the same position have been much less forgiving. Here’s a rather flattering selfie I took around that hour.

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5. Laura Marling – Love Be Brave

“How does he make love seem sweet?”

I have seen the whole of London during 5 year’s worth of unintentional slumbers on night buses. One record length night bus journey was with this track stuck on repeat constantly while I dreamt. I have never worked out why I love the beginning of the verses so much; it never seems to get old. The outro on the other hand, well that is pretty crap.

To finish my time in London, I lunched with my main mermaid who has played with me since I began writing solo five years ago. I think I owe her a pint, or ten. A friend’s birthday meal reduced me to the verge of tears, I attempted to sneak off without having to say goodbye because knowing that I won’t be snuggled in their arms for so long is sad.

Off to Paris to meet more Elusive Yusefs, say some more goodbyes and make some more musique.