My daughter, Millie, jumped out of the car, excitedly waving a piece of paper in the air without even closing the door.
“Dad, guess what?” She looked like Chamberlain brandishing his treaty.
“We have peace in our time?” I replied, shouting equally as loud across the leaf-covered garden.
“What? No-I’ve got to isolate! School have given me a letter saying I’ve been in contact with someone who has Coronavirus!” She was beaming.
I looked to my wife, playing Millie’s personal home-time chauffeur, who nodded in confirmation.
“They can’t say, but I DON’T HAVE TO GO BACK TO SCHOOL UNTIL THE 3RD OF NOVEMBER!!!” She was almost maniacal in her glee.
“The third . . . of . . . November?”
It turned out that there was indeed a confirmed case in Millie’s year, someone who she’d been in close contact with, and, taking in account the half term holiday, that’s another twenty one days off school. It has only been five minutes since the kids had had six months off.
Three of Millie’s close friends also received copies of this letter. Tonight, by phone, they’d form a quartet of sleuths wrapped up in their very own whodunnit.
It had only been a matter of time, with different years in different schools being forced into similar action over the last month. James’ school was surely overdue, too.
Later, for our Drama Queen, would come the expectant angst, but for now it was only holiday fever that Millie had.
It doesn’t affect the rest of us, yet. She has to isolate for fourteen days, the rest of us can continue as before unless Millie starts with symptoms and it’s at that point we would be impacted, having to also isolate and be tested.
A difficult winter has been predicted by the experts. Now, I’m no member of SAGE, but I’m predicting a difficult three weeks ahead for the Murray household. What with a housebound, paranoid, over-dramatic adolescent with a tendency to hit hyper-speed in 0.5 seconds, I may need to hold my own COBRA meeting.
In the meantime, little Miss Millie is on lockdown. For the rest of us – I’ll let you know.
Mr Chamberlain, where’s your face mask?
John Lennon would have been eighty today. Can you imagine that? The founder of The Beatles being an octogenarian. He’s now been dead for the same number of years that he lived, and there’s always a sadness in that. It’s hard to consider the life without the tragic end. But we must try.
The other morning I downloaded this and listened to it over a coffee in McDonald’s.
A two-parter, it features both Sean and Julian Lennon for the first time speaking publicly about their father. Sean also interviews his Godfather, Elton John, and also Lennon’s songwriting partner Paul McCartney.
Speaking to the latter, Sean mentioned how Love Me Do was written before The Beatles existed as the group we all know, and asked if there were other such early songs? Paul confirmed that there were, for example One After 909 and I Saw Her Standing There. Commenting that they were such strong songs that still stand today, Sean asked did they ever write any bad songs or did they always strike gold straight away?
When Paul replied that there were bad ones, the reaction was along the lines of Oh, thank Christ for that!
I guess that gives hope to we mere mortals, scribbling along in the sand.
Sean also asked about Paul’s first meeting with his father, which I guess every fan knows took place on the 6th July 1957, when John’s skiffle band The Quarry Men were performing at a church fete.
What I didn’t know was that Paul had seen John around a few times before this, but that he didn’t know him. A couple of times he’d caught Paul’s eye when on the same bus, when John would have been travelling to see his mother. Paul had thought that Lennon had looked cool, sporting the rebellious, Teddy Boy look of the time. Then another time he saw him in the queue at a chippy, thinking hey, that’s the guy from the bus. But at this point they’d still never spoke to each other.
That all changed when mutual friend Ivan Vaughan took Paul so see John playing at the fete, and the penny dropped that his friend’s friend was the same guy he’d been noticing around the neighbourhood.
This is artist Eric Cash’s conception of John and Paul’s introductory meeting in the church hall after the performance.
Sometimes in life it seems like the paths of certain individuals keep crossing. The universe has a way of bringing together people who are meant to meet.
Just this morning I saw this image posted, announcing the birth of a young son to Julia and Alfred Lennon.
Who could have had any idea at the time, when skimming the announcements in the local newspaper, the impact that that boy would have on the world?
I wonder about those other babies, too, for example the Looney daughter stated immediately below the Lennon son. What life did she go on to lead? Did she ever know the brief illustrious company that she once shared in her origin? Did she go on to impact the world in some other, less celebrated way?
Eighty years on, I was draining the last of my coffee as Sean finished the show with:
Here’s wishing a Happy Birthday to my Dad. People may grow old, but great music never does.
And that’s true. All art is nailed at the time in a form that lasts forever, untouched by shifting context and the changing mores.
John Lennon would have been eighty in a couple of days. I have a short post about that which I shall post then.
In the meantime, I’ve been sat up tonight seeking out some of his lesser known tracks which I’ve not listened to for a number of years.
And speaking of years, what a year this has been. What would John have made of it?
What do you make of it?
Sometimes it’s good to tune out and tune in, switch off and switch on, falling back into the groove of remembering simpler times.
I’m tuning out now and will tune in later.
Sleep easy, friends.
Blackpool 2020. I’ve been to this northern seaside town countless times since I was a child, but in 2020 even the familiar is different.
I was there with my son, James, last Saturday to watch a football match, staying overnight on the Friday. It was busy, but not pre-Covid busy.
As James was walking out on the beach, I walked along this promenade, keeping apace so I could keep an eye on him.
There was a car to my left, stopped at a red light, and a guy was shouting through a rolled down window “Hey mate, improve your social distancing!”
I looked around. Was he addressing me? It appeared he was.
“Improve your social distancing!”
There wasn’t anybody within at least fifty metres of me. James was about a mile out to sea. The lights turned to green and he drove off, shouting the same message to other pedestrians that he passed. He wasn’t anyone official, and he didn’t look like, you know, a loon. It seemed that he had made it his own personal mission to prevent the town having more Government measures imposed upon it.
Blackpool seafront is breezy at the best of times, if bearing rain a destroyer of plans, and this day was really windy, as is evidenced by these bending tulips. Or, as they are better known- ‘giant spoons’.
I was feeling my age.
While my son walked freely across the beach, I found numerous windbreak-walls to sit against while watching him.
Then, hood on, hat on, mood on, I joined him to walk beneath one of the old Victorian piers, the sea being out, spying the tower between the supports.
This caught my eye and so my camera. Emerged from the depths to breathe once again in light, like barnacle-encrusted cootie trees, shaped like a St.Andrew’s cross.
Halt-who goes there? A shoed adult, a barefoot child, and a gull. It wasn’t volcanic ash in the Cretaceous period forever preserving a passing sauropod, but I liked it.
If you squint, or maybe do that thing with your thumb and index finger to enlarge this photograph, you’ll see my lad out there-far enough away to give my wife a heart attack if she’d been there with us. I assured her by text that he remained in sight at all times. I didn’t tell her that I had binoculars.
The day wore on, the light grew dimmer, the wind grew colder. This gull was gliding effortlessly in,similar to how we freewheel on a bike, coasting in to find a place to settle for the night.
There were starlings, too, around the pier. If it was a murmuration, then they were murmuring above us, turning and wheeling perfectly in unison like a shoal of fish.
Twilight – a liminal time, and James was on the edge, as the tide rolled back in and my thoughts began to turn to that warm room back at the B&B.
Before the sea had started to return to shore, there’d been the odd person out there on the beach, hundreds and hundreds of yards out, walking alone and wearing face masks. Unless it was a way of keeping their face warm I just didn’t understand the thinking behind it. The guy in that car would have been proud of them. And still tell them to improve their social distancing, by megaphone.
Evening was coming on, autumn was coming on, exhaustion was coming on.
The sun sank into the sea, a final flash of fire engulfed in its repetitive end, and still the wheel on the pier turned, around and around, everywhere we looked – the same old cycles.
This gull seemed reluctant to leave, allowing me to come closer to observe it. One final photograph and then we sought the sanctuary of our room.
It’s a nostalgic place for many of us, Blackpool, with long memories of family and old friendships. Away from this attractive seafront though, I think it is quite a deprived town.
Whenever my wife has been here with us, a common question of hers is uttered with an expected regularity while observing the members of numerous Stag Nights and Hen Dos staggering out of the promenade pubs:
I wonder how many marriages are being wrecked tonight? How many babies being conceived?
All out of the hearing of the children, of course, for they see nothing but magic.
That’s her astute understanding of human behaviour, but that kind of stuff can’t go on this year, can it? Not in 2020, when we’re all social distancing.
He was aware of the season’s arrival, was conscious of the changes, but only in a rudimentary way.
For he didn’t know the names of the trees, nor of the birds, but he knew that those geese were preparing to leave, without him even knowing that they were geese.
They were obeying the same instinctive compulsion that they always did, long before anyone named them, and those birds didn’t even know that they were geese, either, for they just recognised each other, as they did in the times when other people, long gone, called them by different names, names now forever forgotten and lost.
But the days remain the same, the signs remain the same, it’s the language that rises and falls. It has always been our wont to label the landscape and creatures around us. Make things familiar and relatable.
He watched them go, taking to the skies, never knowing where they would alight, but trusting deeply in the way of things, and the day that they’d return.
I wrote this in 2017. The magic still remains.
September already. How soon the seasons pass.
Harvest time, fruits of the earth. Our spirits warm with the russet colours outside. I took the dog for a run over the fields this morning. Wind-frenzied trees could not dislodge raucous crows, shy jays, and their more cocksure magpie cousins. Though these are the early days, there is definitely a sense of being on the cusp of autumn.
Soon we will see the squirrels working overtime among the toadstools and wild flowers, the martins, swallows and other migrants gathering to make the long journey back to African shores.
Much to my wife’s distress, daddy long legs seem to be everywhere. One got in as I went out with the dog (again) last night, as my better half was busy preparing a meal for the next day. I said “Don’t harm it, I will catch it when I get back in”.
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I think I need more sleep. I put ketchup in the bowl today instead of washing up liquid.
As we’d say around here, it’s been chucking it down all day. Which translates as ‘it’s been pouring with rain’.
And so, I spent the afternoon inside, watching the first of this two-part documentary:
It passed the time while confined to the house, and I love most of the artists that are covered in it.
Music illustrates our individuality. It’s as though you don’t pick the kind of music that you like, the music picks you. You can have the same background as me, we can share the same context and life experiences, but what turns you on can turn me off, and vice versa. Certain styles speaks to each of us differently. We react to that which moves us the most.
August is coming to a close. Summer is coming to a close. With the night closing in, I’ve started this new book.
Some time back I read and enjoyed Johnson’s short novella, Train Dreams, and thought I’d give his collection of short stories a try.
I have heard of a woman who claimed that she once fell in love with a man because he recommended this book to her. Again – individuality. He searched his memory of every book that he’d read before, and somehow struck the jackpot. Found the one for the one.
The pressure, though, of getting it right. I wouldn’t fancy my chances.
Anyway, that’s enough for now, I’m only one story in. The rain is still tapping on my window.