On The Death Of A Friend

The news came right out of the blue. It says a lot about the world we live in when, on hearing about the death of a middle-aged male, your immediate thoughts turn to mental health and did he take his own life? Even when there was no reason to suspect so.

It seems that those initial fears were well-founded, though. Well-founded regardless of our last spontaneous meeting the week before, unable as I was to see beyond the handshake greeting and the same old laughs. If only our vision could see beyond those superficial things.

It’s a cliché, but the next day, when opening the curtains, the world outside was going on as normal. It was just that he’d fallen away. Fallen from those familiar streets that we’d shared since our childhood of the Seventies. I walked them today, carrying him around with me. Along with his daughter’s words that struck like a dagger on social media:

Dad, I’ll miss you forever. I know we will meet up again someday, just not here

Here. The place of our roots, this housing estate where he was a well-know, popular figure, where we got taller and the world got larger. It’s a poorer place for his absence.

As well as our beginnings I think of our shared interests. He was a huge Lennon/Beatles/Oasis/City fan. Music loomed large in our conversations. He was in a band and I used to listen to his music while he used to read my writing. He once asked me to provide lyrics for something he’d done around a riff he’d come up with. To the best of my knowledge he never got to record it, and the lyrics found a home in my second poetry collection.

On the evening I found out I had a beer in the back garden while listening to his stuff on Soundcloud, along with a couple of demos he’d sent me. They provided the soundtrack while I read through our convos on text and WhatsApp. There was me, informing him of a new John Lennon exhibition in Liverpool. There was he, exhorting me to go to those early Beatle stomping grounds he’d visited in Hamburg.

I live next door to my Mum – my childhood home. I looked to the wall at the rear of the ginnel that we shared. When my son was younger I used to use my friend’s name as a warning for him when he was trying to climb onto it. “There’s a guy called *** *** and in 1982, when he was a kid, he fell off that wall and split his head open!” He’d had a crew cut back then and you could see the blood on his scalp. He still bore the scar in adulthood.

Right up until that middle-age cut off point.

The air began to turn chilly. There’s only seven tracks on his Soundcloud page, the vast majority of his creativity remains uncaptured. I put them on repeat. It’s easier to picture him playing that bass than to think of that room and speculate about his final thoughts.

Wherever he now was, I raised a glass to him.

just not here

I drained my beer as the sun went down on this old town of ours. It will outlive us all.

The Cinderella Hours

I was casually, idly, scrolling through a community page on Facebook last night when a short comment tickled me. It doesn’t take much.

Daniel had, unbelievably, posted:

Disabled parking should only be valid during business hours 9 to 5 Monday to Friday.

I cannot see any reason why people with genuine disabilities would be out beyond these times.

To which Jennifer replied:

We’re disabled, Daniel, we’re not werewolves.

Perhaps Daniel thinks that the Blue Badge should be replaced by a silver one.

An Incidence Of Coincidence

Coincidence. Serendipity. I’ve been speaking a lot about that kind of thing recently. From a reader posting comments on City Jackdaw about places from her childhood that also hold connections for me, to a fellow blogger describing serendipity playing out in her own life.

Along with what’s the chances of that happening in the face-to-face world that we operate in, too.

Highlighting them seems to be attracting more of the same, eavesdropping universe that this is.

This post is an example of a string of coincidences that recently played out over the last few days.

It began when I messaged my cousin to see if he wanted to go to a local Non-League football game. He replied that, along with his family, he’d gone to Glastonbury for a few days, a place I know that they love.

In answering his text I told him to “Enjoy Avalon”, referring to the link that the place has to Arthurian legend.

Later that day, while absently scrolling through Facebook, a video surfaced that was first posted in January by the group Kula Shaker. It featured them spending some time on top of Glastonbury Tor, at either sun-up or sundown, with some music and chanting featuring in the background.

So of course I sent this video on to my cousin as I was sure he’d appreciate it. He did.

Then, speaking of Avalon, in a local charity shop I came across a book that I’d been meaning to read since I was a child:

I snapped up a bargain and was able to start it, a few decades down the line from those first youthful intentions.

Now, back to Kula Shaker again:

They are a band that seem to be marmite to people, but I like them. I first encountered them in 1996 when I worked for a short time in a warehouse (predictive text changed that to whorehouse 🙈) on Stakehill Industrial Site.

Driving an electric pallet truck, I passed the radio, perched on a bottom stair, that was playing what sounded like a slice of 60’s psychedelia, which I love.

After first catching my ear, it seemed that, as I made many circuits around the warehouse throughout the next few days, whenever I passed the radio that same song would be coming from it (coincidence again?). This regular amount of airplay demonstrated that whatever it was, it must be new music, and eventually I stopped my truck and hung around long enough to get the name of the track:

Tattva, by a new group named Kula Shaker.

I went straight out and bought their debut album ‘K’ which featured that song, and have been a fan ever since.

Now, fast-forward back to today.

Kula Shaker’s last album had come out in 2016 (K 2.0) but they had been posting/tweeting/crowing for a few weeks about some new music and a tour that was imminent.

Then we got a countdown promising . . . something.

First there was a cryptic smiley drum thing.

Then the countdown became more specific.

And then D-Day, a video was posted showcasing the first music from this pending new album. The title of the song?

What’s the odds? I’ve stopped asking that question.

Glastonbury/Avalon/The Once And Future King

Don’t be surprised if the group play Glastonbury this year. This thing is going to run and run.

I will follow their lights/And I will follow their star.

Sign Of The Times

I was on a bus, coming from Manchester, which arrived at the bus station of my hometown of Middleton. A woman got on it with her friend and two young children in tow, saying that they were going to Langley which is, at the most, a ten minute journey.

Watching her friend shepherding the children to take their seats, she used her card to pay and then joined them. At that point she studied her ticket and within seconds had marched back to the front of the bus, kicking off with the driver.

“Sixteen pounds and forty-four pence! For two adults and two children? Going to Langley? That’s a piss take, an absolute piss take! Sixteen forty-four?!”

The driver looked at her ticket and then explained that the 16.44 was actually the time at which she’d bought the ticket.

I really wish that she’d have caught the last bus at 23.59.

Claws For The Weekend: The Depopulated

This morning I went up to the doctors to make an appointment for my son, and there was only me in the queue. (Can a queue of one even be called a queue?)

This has never happened before. I mean never, in the history of me going to the doctors to make an appointment for anyone.

From this I deduced that 1: two thirds of the estate on which I live are dead. And 2: The remaining third had not got up yet.

Cue my best ever least waiting time. There’s always a bonus.

Have a great weekend everybody. I hope your communities are hanging on. (Apart from Jerusalem’s Lot. Those guys are gone.)

See you on the flip side.

Brief Encounter

I’d only been walking the dog for a few minutes when I saw, beneath the spring-blossoming tree by the grass verge, a man walking towards us. It was, as my wife affectionately refers to him, the Happy Drunk.

Living alone and often under the influence (but no harm to anyone), sometimes you’d hear him singing aloud on his way home in the evening. Other times he’d be ruminating to himself, completely unaware of your presence. This was early morning though, and he took us in as our individual journeys brought us together.

“That’s a beautiful dog. Is it a spaniel?” he asked.

“Yeah, he’s a Welsh Springer Spaniel.”

“A Welsh Springer? I didn’t know that, I just know a spaniel when I see one. There are different ones, aren’t there?”

“Yes, the English ones are more popular but I think these are better looking dogs. The English Springers are a little bigger, with flat heads instead of these domed ones, and Welshies are always this red and white colour whereas the English ones can be different.”

“Ah, I’ll never remember that,” he replied dismissively. “I just love spaniels. What’s his name?”

I was going to mention that we’d wanted a Welsh name for a Welsh dog and so I’d (half-jokingly) proposed Tom (Jones) and (Katherine) Jenkins, but decided to play it safe and keep it simple. “He’s called Bryn.”

Mishearing, he ruffled the dogs head delightedly. “Fire and brimstone, eh? Fire and brimstone.”

Then we went our separate ways, Bryn throwing a brief, curious glance over his shoulder, the Happy Drunk’s musings turning Biblical.