First time I really heard ‘World Leader Pretend’ by R.E.M was in a house in Portsmouth where I lived for a while, fresh out of the loony bin – Andy was living in the loft – not a bedroom at the very top of the house but an honest to fuck me loft with dangling electrical wires and sporulating fibre glass and bare wood boards with splinters as long as your thumb, all draped with cobwebs, heavy with brick salt. We all thought we were going somewhere – we were going to be writers and musicians. Alison from The Cranes lived more or less next door, allegedly. There was a seagull dying in the kitchen with its head in a bowl of pilchards and it was called Julian and when it died people were genuinely sad and we put it in a cardboard box and went out to the sea along the clattering beach after a few bongs and beers and walked out into the water with it and set fire to it, or I did, I seem to remember, it might just have been me. I remember getting my trousers wet. Someone probably decided they were going to pretend to try to kill themselves and the rest of us would pretend to believe them, Andy gave half a bottle of cider to a tramp and we went home and listened to REM in the loft, sucking on lungfuls of soapbar and glass wool.