• Mathilde Fongen

Updated: Apr 7

Saturday night was a milestone. It was the first ever gig I played as part of Audiokicks, and for us as a band it was a big night. We played our hearts out, probably drank our hearts out and with a ripe bedtime of 4 am I can honestly say it was the best night I've had in a long time. Waking up aching, knowing it was completely worth it, feet reminding me how much I danced. Not quite remembering what we talked about or what we laughed about, but remembering laughing. Remembering being entirely happy.

It was a milestone in more ways than one. It's been about 26 months since I moved to Scotland and in those 26 months I've felt more lost than I've ever felt. I've also felt at ease, at home, overwhelmed, motivated, inspired and stressed out of my mind. Anxious, content, depressed, worried and out of place. Anyone who knows me knows I'm a bit of a rollercoaster and I've pretty constantly felt what Phoebe Bridgers calls "emotional motion sickness". And that's probably a very normal part of moving, starting a new job, joining a new band, writing a book, being in your twenties, or at all just being human.

Saturday night felt like landing. It felt like arriving home, finding that sense of belonging, puzzle pieces falling into place. I'm very aware that I experience highs as high as I do, because I've been as low as I have and I now feel this intense feeling of belonging that I don't know if I would feel had I not been through feeling entirely lost. Maybe this group of guys has been more important to me than they're aware of, or that I've been aware of. Maybe it's the feeling of belonging to something that's bigger than me.

This Saturday was positioned at the end of a period of time that has been more busy than I think I've ever been, having traveled, worked 7 day weeks and meanwhile trying to stay on top of writing, music and volunteering. It's come around after two years of building a sense of home in a city that isn't mine. The aftermath, as well as a desperate need for a day off or two, is a feeling of gratitude. Gratitude to my family, my friends back in Norway, my friends in other places, to my other half, to bands I've played in before, to Eilif, David and Erlend for teaching me bass. Especially, gratitude to my new friends here and to Audiokicks for giving me an anchor when I needed one.

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  • Mathilde Fongen

It's a lonely thing, travelling to a city by yourself. A city that isn't home. A city you adore that doesn't adore you back. I suppose a city can be forgiven for that, being a city and all. Then a spot of blue sky opens up just as you look out the window of the café, the sun shines through and you feel like maybe it's possible that it does adore you back after all. It starts to rain when you're walking back to the AirBnB feeling lost and alone and it feels like the city understands how you feel. Maybe you need the rain just now. The uneven cobble stones are beautiful because they are uneven, broken, put back together. Like people. And you think that maybe loneliness can be a peaceful thing. Maybe it can even be shared.

Marbles Magazine, Elaine Gallagher's poetry and books from Dead Ink and Charco Press.

This weekend, I attended a book festival in Edinburgh. It was my treat to myself, a weekend to listen, discuss, think, read and write. Coffee, food, wine and books. Bliss. It was a small festival hosted by my favourite book shop, Golden Hare Books, and it was truly a wonderful experience.

Yes, I opened this post expressing loneliness, but I think loneliness is what made it all the more wonderful. Reading and writing, after all, are lonely experiences, but they can also be shared in the most beautiful way. I've listened to conversations on cooking, propaganda, feminism, the queer experience, discussions on writing and publishing and poetry read by the poet who wrote it. It's been useful, educational, eye opening and inspiring. It's been small, intimate and personal. And numbers aren't why we do this are they? Words are why we write, read and publish. And that's the powerful shared experience of the weekend, a love and adoration of words. A shared experience in reading, writing, interpreting and publishing words.

Golden Hare Books is a favourite of mine in Edinburgh. Another favourite is Smith & Gertrude, whose wine list I've now thoroughly explored. There's something about sitting in a room surrounded by people, a glass of wine and a notebook in hand with plenty of time to kill that brings me solace. The sound of fifteen individual conversations merged together in a backdrop of noise is, to me, the perfect soundtrack for writing.

As a reader, I walk away from this weekend with a reading list that'll last me years. It better not last me more than one year, however, as I hope to come back next October for another literary harvest, and even more books to discover. As a writer, I walk away from this weekend with new motivation, inspiration and shiny new tools to play with. It's easy to feel disheartened when you see tables stacked with piles of extraordinary writing. What am I doing, trying to add to it? Who am I to claim my place among them? But I can't help but feel a sense of belonging. I can't help but feel a sense of purpose as I return home to Aberdeen with a notebook full of scribbles.

I opened this post with loneliness because that's what I felt on the first day of the weekend. On my last day I realised that loneliness can be a beautiful tool used to find a sense of belonging amongst people who share my love of words, printed, scribbled or drawn as they may be. I suppose that's one of the reasons I started writing to begin with, in order to find a space for belonging in a shared human experience. That's what books give us and that's why we can never stop writing and creating. For the sake of peaceful, shared loneliness, we can never stop reading.

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  • Mathilde Fongen

There's something about experiencing live music that feels so inherently human. It can be a busker on the street playing to your mood that day, it can be a band you've never heard of playing in a club you've never been to before. It can be seeing that artist who's music is a permanent part of you in a stadium with thousands of people who feel the same way. It can be playing as part of a band in a rehearsal space, knowing full well that what you're creating there is something special.

When you're part of a crowd, however big or small, it doesn't matter where you come from or really, who you are. Right then you're a part of a group, all there for the same purpose. Complete strangers sharing an experience that might be fun just for that night, or it might stay with you forever. Or you're out with friends and all the stresses of every day life disintegrate as you dance with people you care about and who care about you.

A poem from the #MayMyselfandI challenge

I have the immense privilege of being able to play music and there is no feeling like standing on a stage in front of people who are enjoying what you're making. To be allowed to create a moment for someone else. It gives me a feeling I don't think I'm capable of describing. For years I had this experience on my own as a singer/songwriter and there was something unique about being the sole source of sound in a room full of people. For them to genuinely listen to words I've written and melodies I've created, to grab a loved one's hand or to close their eyes and sway. That said, nothing beats the feeling of playing as part of a band. It makes the whole experience bigger than one person. It gives me a sense of belonging that I've never found anywhere else.

It's the sharing side of music, the universality of it, that makes it so human. It's a way of sharing experiences and emotions that makes us feel at home in each other, listeners and musicians alike. These live music experiences are when I feel the most alive. Sometimes fearlessly alive. I don't think any blog post could accurately depict the way I feel about this, so I'll leave you with a memory:

A favourite band of mine is Band of Horses, and one summer I experienced them at one of my favourite festivals in my favourite city, PiP Fest in Oslo. My friends wanted to stay on the grass further away, so I walked right up to the stage and soaked it in on my own. Then, they played the last song, and my best friend comes to join me, throwing her arms around me in one of the most genuine hugs I've ever been given. That was one of those moments where happiness overflowed and streamed down my face in the form of salty tears.

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