Northcote Social Club is the heart of Northcote. Thelma Plum performed on 10th June 2016 and drew us in with her charming voice and charming character. Click to read the short story by set in Melbourne…
Thelma Plum stood on stage wearing a black 90s tank top and speaking in soft girlish croons about a boy that broke her heart. Her gentle frustration of heartbreak to someone undeserving of that kind of sorrow struck a chord with Jules, who in the crowd of a hundred other bodies, stared up at the inimitable beauty. Her sister Mimi whispered in her ear, “Do you think she also wiki-how’d getting over a breakup?”
Jules laughed. “Hey, that stuff is gold!” she said remembering back to those nights spent searching Google for answers.
“I’m not making fun of you, I enjoyed your running commentary of what hormones you were currently releasing and why that was making it difficult not to text him,” said Mimi.
“I work better when I know what I’m up against,” said Jules, “plus Thelma did it too.”
“Yeah but then she wrote a song about it,” said Mimi, “that’s cooler than a break up journal.”
“I did not have a break up journal,” said Jules.
“Yeah you did! I read it once when you weren’t home,” said Mimi.
“Mimi!” cried Jules.
“What? You’re my sister, I was bored, you read my journals too!” said Mimi.
“Yeah, when you were 9, and they were filled with stories of ponies and boys called Thomas,” said Jules.
“What a dreamboat!” laughed Mimi.
Jules looked back at the stage. Mimi squeezed her hand, “I’m sorry,” she said and also turned back to the stage.
Thelma sung into the microphone and contorted her arms around her body and through the air to make her hands look like floating sparrows. It was both difficult and easy to imagine a guy treating her like shit. The indigo stage lights turned her skin violet and her hair blue, making her look like a woman of the sea. Mimi left Jules’s side to get more vinaigrette wine and Jules danced more vigorously to keep both hers and her sister’s spot.
An older man and older woman stood next to Jules in the crowd. The woman smiled at Jules’s extravagant dance moves, which were fuelled by a desire to keep the tall kids out of her space and a little too much red wine. The couple looked out of place in a crowd of twenty-something kids wearing Savers shirts and Ruby Woo lipstick, however their composed expressions and gentle sways gave them a mindful air worth being around. Jules returned the woman’s smile and curtsied in her direction. The older woman offered her hand and Jules took it without hesitation. The woman moved Jules’s body in closer and swirled her around like a stick collecting fairy floss. Round and round Jules swung creating a bigger dance space. Mimi joined Jules’ side just as Jules was starting to feel that the wine and circular motions were interacting in eruptive ways. Jules untangled her hand to take hold of the glass that Mimi had brought over. “Thanks for the dance,” she said.
Thelma Plum left the stage, “she hasn’t sung Birthday Sex,” said Mimi disappointedly.
“I’m sure she’ll be back for an encore,” assured Jules as she clapped for Thelma to return. The older couple stood next to her, and the man had resumed his position holding the woman with his head resting on top of hers.
“Thelma checked into Lawson Grove the other day,” said Mimi, “and she was with a guy I matched on Tinder with once.”
“Ooh, claim to fame!” said Jules, “how far did you get with him?”
“Not very,” she replied, “he said hi, how’s it hanging and I never replied.”
“Why?” asked Jules.
“I think it was during one of those 24-hour Tinder stints,” said Mimi, “you know where you download the app because you’re bored and should be studying or because the boy you like hasn’t replied to your text.”
“Yeah,” sighed Jules, “Swiping’s only ever fun for the first 50.”
“Maybe we should sign you up now!” said Mimi, “or Happn? I’ve heard it’s better than Tinder!”
“No apps please! I’m not swiping for a soul-mate,” said Jules.
“Who said anything about soul-mates?” asked Mimi.
“No Mims, just no,” said Jules, “stop talking and listen to Thelma.”
Thelma Plum finished with her Like a Version cover making the other bodies in the room dance, but she did not deliver Birthday Sex.
The crowd cheered as she left the stage and the bodies started to meander towards the exit. The older woman tapped Jules’s shoulder, “want to grab a quick drink before you head off?” she asked. Jules was surprised but agreed.
Their names were Allen and Rebecca, they’d been together now for 37 years but never married. They often frequented Northcote Social Club, but also liked going to the Corner and Howler. They were upset to miss Fatima Al Qadiri at Howler that night but they loved Thelma Plum. Allen was a photographer and had been featured in many magazines over the years; they’d even spent a few years living in New York during his peak. Allen’s photos now didn’t bring in much money, plus he didn’t really like working for others, never has. Rebecca made enough money for both of them though. They lived in Northcote, had lived there ever since the late 80s, that’s when Fitzroy started to become expensive. They’d travelled a lot since then, sometimes they were poor and sometimes they had money. It always depended on their desire to work. Allan became depressed approximately every 3 years, sometimes that meant he couldn’t work for a week but once it meant an entire year. That’s why Rebecca stopped painting for money and worked in a high paying job now. She still painted in her spare time and they both preferred having money to not having money. She didn’t mind working and was rarely sad. This gave Allen time to be depressed when he needed to. Allen once sought help for it but he figured his thoughts were a part of him and didn’t want to change them and Rebecca decided long ago not to change Allen.
They asked the girls questions about their lives. Where did they grow up? Had they always lived here? Where did they go to school? Had they travelled? Did they like New York? What were they studying now? Did they enjoy it? Did they prefer Beauvoir or Sartre? Why Beauvoir? What were their favourite books? Would they like another glass of wine? What was their favourite wine? Had they been to Heathcote?
It soon became late and Mimi tapped Jules shoulder, “we need to head soon,” she said. Jules looked at her iPhone and realised they’d probably need to Uber rather than take the tram. She was enjoying the conversations so much but knew she’d need to wake early the next day. She tutored a VCE student on Saturday mornings. Before she left and they said their goodbyes she asked Allen, “how did you two meet?”
Allen smiled, “we met when we were both in University in the late 70s. Bec actually went to La Trobe, I was at Melbourne. La Trobe and Monash were considered the younger rowdier Universities, not that Melbourne didn’t have it’s fair share of protests but there was definitely a bit more going on over there. I met Bec at a protest, I don’t even remember what we were protesting,” he said. He turned to Rebecca, “what were we protesting?”
Rebecca wrinkled her brow, “Women’s movement,” she said after some hesitation.
“Right, right,” said Allen, “In all honesty I’d only gone along because my friend Michael had promised there’d be pretty girls there. I’m not very political.”
Rebecca smiled. She was very pretty; she had a beautiful oval face with long brown grey hair pulled back in a plait. Her eyes were bright.
Allen continued, “Michael and I were sitting in a café, smoking, drinking. We watched the march go by. I saw Bec towards the end. She was holding one side of a banner and was one of the loudest of the women. She was the most beautiful woman I’d ever seen. I literally jumped up from the table and left Michael there on his own. I ran up next to her and swiped the right pole from the banner from her hands.”
He laughed, “what happened after that?” he asked Rebecca.
She smiled, “You were shy after that!” she said, “I think all you managed was hi, how’s it hanging.”