11 January 2016

Goodnight Starman


Space Oddity, sung by a spellbinding person with mesmerising eyes, burst on the scene in 1969.

We mid-teens shuffled round the floor at the famous Grove Club in Clontarf, Dublin, Ireland and I, along with the rest of the air-guitar heads knew that a star, with a capital S, had entered our lives.

So began for me, a lifelong adoration of a total genius.

It’s lasted for 45 years.

When Hunky Dory was released, just before Christmas in 1971, I played it almost non-stop, over and over again; I could not get enough of it, and, unusually in an LP (long before CD’s of course) there wasn’t one track I wanted to skip over.

The needle stayed down for the entire album, as I, in my little bedroom, danced around the room and sang along, imitating David’s many different voice tones.

In no time I knew the whole thing off by heart and was positive that some of it, at least, was about me. Ch ch ch ch changes…..”Don’t tell them to grow up and out of it”… Yes!

I was certainly, also, at that point, the girl with the mousey hair, whose mother was yelling ‘No’.

Of course I didn’t understand every single reference in the songs on Hunky Dory. After all, I was a few years behind David in age, and I guess most of us young fans were years behind him in life experiences, but I knew this was the man for me.

And it wasn’t only his music.

Here was the guy who had it all; a rare talent, musically brilliant, someone with a capacity for wondrous experimentation, wildly, dangerously exciting, who introduced us to mad, fabulous fashions, to make-up and hair colour that had the established salons and their artists rushing to keep up with him.

For us, his style was to be copied and worn, yes, out in the street. We did it, silver lipstick and all, with hardly any money, but a sense that we were part of something new, something marvellous.

David Bowie had come along and shone a dazzling beam of light on those of us who were looking for something different, those of us with imagination.

I know I’m certainly not alone on the planet, all these years later, in saying that David Bowie, only eight years older than me, provided, for years, the soundtrack, the background, to much of my life, especially in late teens and twenties.

Even when I, or he, (perish the thought) seemed to lose the plot along the way, I continued to love all his splendid re-inventions.

When I saw him live, in the Glass Spider Tour, it was as if I had reached a sort of Zenith of existence. To see such spectacular talent up close, and to appreciate that everybody on that stage represented David’s immense creativity, was a mega day.
 
Waking this morning to the news that he was dead, was a profound shock.

Like so many others I’ve seen and heard all day on various TV news and tribute programmes, I had no idea David was ill.

Tonight, before I finished this piece, I looked at YouTube again and watched David sing Heroes, live.

It had been hit 21,323,181 times. More than twenty one million people.

So, I am in good company, mourning my ‘friend’ of forty five years.

Last thoughts, as I end this strange day, are with Iman & his family.

My Starman has gone to join the others.

 


10 April 2015

Last Supper in Clontarf

In 2012, while living in rural France, I wrote a note.  It said:

‘Friday, May 9th 2014 – Dining & Dancing on Tables in Paris!’



I was looking two years ahead. Plans were hatching for a big mad party. It never happened.

When my 60th birthday rolled around, we were in Dublin.  My husband Larry, not much older than me, had only days to live.  

Despite the appalling situation we found ourselves in, we celebrated my birthday with an excellent Chinese meal in the apartment I had found for us in Clontarf, near the seafront.


A feast of mouth-watering goodies, Dim Sum, special prawns, a couple of delectable chicken dishes, extra veggies and scrumptious sauces reminded us of so many Chinese meals enjoyed over the years. Especially the excellent ones we had eaten in Chinatown in Paris.

Larry’s special tray, something I found in our brilliant local supermarket and hardware store, Nolan’s, made eating a pleasure.  With a solid wooden top and a soft, bean bag effect underneath, it allowed him to enjoy food and wine in total comfort, sitting in his favourite armchair, while keeping pressure off his legs.

Food was a big part of our lives. Eating just to stay alive was an alien concept to us, and whether a top class Chinese takeaway in Dublin or the Magret de Canard that features on almost every menu in the 'Grand Sud de France', we embraced food and wine with gusto.


Enthusiastically tucking into the food, Larry reminded me of an evening in France years before, when we were eating a typical French dinner with an elderly Madame.

She suddenly said: “you know, when everything else is failing, I hope my sense of taste will stay until the end.”   

His sense of taste had certainly stayed. Despite the pain, the cocktail of drugs prescribed for him and the overwhelming sadness both of us were unable to hide at times, he managed to enjoy many meals during those last months.

My birthday dinner on Friday, May 9th, was the last one we shared.

For Larry it was, literally, his last supper.

By Saturday evening it was hard to believe Friday night had happened. On Sunday afternoon he was in hospital. The following week I was arranging his cremation.  

We didn’t dance on those tables in Paris, but we had done all that. And not only in Paris.



 

At home in France, I always lit candles and wore long earrings for dinner.

On my birthday night, to compliment my splendid Lilien Czech earrings, Larry insisted on using his special napkin holder.   

Poirot like, he adored this silver chain with a clip at each end to hold his linen napkin in place.

That was SO us, a bit eccentric perhaps, keeping up the things we got such a kick out of doing, even in difficult times... but these small things made all the difference.

11 March 2015

The Universe listened, & sent me to Clontarf

Even though Larry’s death was expected, and his suffering in the months before had been appalling, nothing prepared me for the final goodbye.

I wanted everything, other people, small events, international news, the entire world, to just stop. There was no point to anything.  Auden’s “Funeral Blues” now made perfect sense. 

Old familiar novels, inspirational writings & the thoughts of people like David Whyte & Caroline Myss, helped me enormously.

Music helped too of course. Who can live without Vivaldi?  Mozart, Maria Callas & the rest of the biggies. The Eagles, Bowie, Roxy Music, Neil Young. It all depended on the mood of the day.

I watched TV, especially programmes about travel, and anything that involved courage. Step forward Bear Grylls.  I did a trek in Mongolia in 2012 in aid of Help for Heroes.  Bear, a true hero, reminds me of the courage I needed then, the respect I had for the Nomads, possibly descendants of Genghis Khan, who knew the terrain and kept us safe.

I'm in the Orange top
But despite memories of my own survival skills and my best efforts now to stay positive and move forward, it didn’t work. The heartbreak was just too much.

Bleak days dawned, one after the other. May days, summer days, mostly sunny. In June they got longer and longer. Did I care? I did not.

A profound sadness took over.

Blackness settled and would not leave. I wanted to detach myself from the world, to confront this melancholy. But there simply wasn’t time.

Because Widowhood means Administration. Lots of it.

Cold, official correspondence arrived. Every day, something needed to be addressed. Documents covered desk and table. With little energy to tackle the mountain of paperwork, I thought I might go stark raving mad.

Why does the world continue to turn? I wondered.  Has the Creation forgotten Jane? Doesn’t the Universe care? 

But the Universe did care, had minded me, guided me, and put me in exactly the right place to face this challenging time.

Organising our return from France back in 2012, some intuition told me Clontarf was the place.


There’s a seaside village feel here, with shops, chemist, hairdresser, restaurants, dry cleaners all owned and staffed by some of the friendliest people I’ve ever met.


The sea, the wooden bridge, the ladies bathing shelter, the long beach, the dunes, all familiar territory, loved and enjoyed by generations of Dubliners. Most days, I crossed the bridge, walked the beach. The light, whether blue or grey sky, silver horizon, kite surfers whizzing along the waves all created a kaleidoscope of colour.


High summer brought high spirited teenagers; not waiting to get to the beach, they leaped, shrieking, off the wooden bridge at full tide. Being part of the energetic life of the beach, if only as a spectator for the moment, did me a power of good.

Dollymount beach has quiet places too. It’s possible to see the city, yet hear only birds. Tiny birds.

Two days after Larry’s death, early on the morning of the service and cremation, I walked down to the dunes, where the larks sing.


One flew higher, sang louder than the others.

Even on such an appalling day, Larry had the ability to make me smile. Memories of conversations during the previous months, about what, if anything, happened after death. 

“Well, not re-incarnation” he said, “unless I come back as something really great, like a Golden Eagle.”

I looked up, tried to spot the tiny lark, singing his heart out.


“Is it you, Buddy?” I asked, aloud.
 

25 February 2015

Our French dream ends...

We were two romantics, in love with each other and with France. We met in the 1990’s, retired (early) ten years later, sold up and went to live in the foothills of the Pyrenees.

Life was idyllic. My writing about the place featured in newspapers, magazines, journals, even a couple of books. 


Particularly popular with American readers was my Blog. Many contacted me, became virtual friends. I've got standing invitations to the USA.

Our good life continued until, in December 2012, Larry felt unable to face the future in France. He suddenly announced he must return to Ireland.

Explaining his need to be ‘among family & old friends’, he convinced himself life would be better there. He never convinced me.

Prostate cancer had been diagnosed and had advanced into his bones. We knew there would be no happy ending. His decision shocked me, but how could I argue?

Weeks earlier, we had gone to Portugal for the winter, but Larry hated it, endlessly compared it to France and in no time, we drove north, up through Portugal and Spain, and up the west coast of France to La Rochelle.



We had a plan in the future, to leave the Pyrenees and move there. But Larry’s decision to return to Ireland cancelled all French plans. Four days later we boarded the ferry.

Horrified at leaving France and a life I loved, with my mind reeling, I walked the deck of the ship and tried to imagine what was to come, what challenges lay ahead. The immediate challenge was a simple one: warm clothes. We had packed for a sunny Portuguese winter, and having bypassed our area on the drive back, all our winter clothes remained in the foothills of the Pyrenees, while we sailed north to Ireland, in a freezing December.

The friendly & familiar Marine hotel at Sutton, on the coast outside Dublin city would be our base while I organised our future, beginning with somewhere to live.


Anyone who has come back to the bosom of ‘family & old friends’, will spot the comedy elements such a complex situation is bound to produce.

From the leisurely laid back life of rural France, we found life in Ireland to be a super crazy existence. Endless medical appointments, with individuals in various fields, plus re-connecting with friends and family, meant an enormous cast of characters came into our life.

Despite the circumstances, the horrific illness, the very reason we were here, there were times when both of us felt we had joined some daft comedy, with characters created by Woody Allen.

Into our life, onto our stage they marched, the good, the not so good and the downright peculiar. And in doing so, they provided hours of entertainment in the eighteen months that followed.

Larry & I, despite becoming utterly exhausted, kept our sense of humour, our love of comedy, until almost the end.

In early May 2014, we watched Midnight in Paris together one last time.

A few days later my buddy, with whom I had shared so many adventures, went asleep for good.