R.I.P Astrid Kirchherr

I’ve just heard of the death, at 81, of Astrid Kirchherr, the woman who helped define the early Beatles look when the then unknown Liverpool group were in Hamburg in the early sixties.

She took some of their early photographs, iconic photographs in a style that were ahead of everyone else at the time.

After these she also gave the (then) Fab Five their distinctive Beatle haircuts, the fifth being the talented but doomed artist Stuart Sutcliffe who she fell in love with. Later, reduced to four, and with Best replaced by Starr, they went on to conquer the world, as she proudly and sadly looked on.

Fifty eight years apart, I’d like to think that they’ve found each other again. R.I.P

Echoes Of Tears On King Street

I’ve just finished reading The Last Time I Saw Paris, which is a biography of a Parisian Street, rue de la Huchete, running from the early ’20’s to the time of World War Two. Featuring a wide cast of characters, though it’s non-fiction it reads like a novel, and I can’t remember the last time I read a book where the final words moved me so.

Anyway. There was a passage in it that reminded me of something else:

There were, in those days, certain grey-blue postcards that meant someone had been wounded or missing, and some black-rimmed white ones that spelled dark death. The women at the far end of streets would, if they saw the postman’s pouch contained no black-rimmed messages, wave and sometimes cheer with an edge of fear diminishing in their voices, and up and down the street the watchers would relax. Very often no such reassurance was forthcoming, and everyone had to wait, breath caught, nerves throbbing, until someone let out a shriek, or turned wordlessly away or dropped in her tracks and the postman wiped away a tear from his eye with the back of his hand before continuing.

I was a postman for ten years, and one of my rounds was in Cheapside, one of the oldest parts of Middleton. One of the streets there was King Street. In this photo you can see King Street, viewed from behind the cottage on Idler’s Corner, Rochdale Road, climbing ahead. If that pub on the hill is The Beehive, then this was taken before 1919, when it closed. The cottages were gone by 1925.

(Incidentally, Idler’s Corner was so called because weary travellers would stop to rest against the large York stone slabs, ‘idling’ for a time. It was directly opposite King Street.

Of course, this was well before my Royal Mail days. As was the following photograph, which lists the streets running off King Street.

This next photo, though, shows King Street as I know it.

There were no longer any houses lining the road for me to deliver to, I used it just to reach the flats that await at the top of its crest, just the odd business drop along the way.

When I used to walk up there, occasionally I would recall a story, recorded some years ago by an older resident, about a postman that had long preceded me. He was tasked, unenviably, like that postman in Paris at the beginning of this post, to deliver similar telegrams during the First World War.

Each morning, as he navigated the street, women and children would watch from behind net curtains, fearfully, waiting to see who would be the latest recipient, summoned to answer that fateful knock at the door.

Filled with a combination of dread, is he coming here?

then relief, he’s going to Maisie’s

then sadness, poor, poor Maisie

The witness told how one day the postman, having broken under the strain of this daily burden, was sat on the kerbside, sobbing, a woman from one of these houses sat silently beside him, arm around his shoulders in consolation.

I can no longer recall where it was I read this, but sometimes I would remember the story as I followed in that long-gone postman’s footsteps, climbing the hill and feeling the connection of that man and the place in which we both lived, echoes of people and homes now lost to time.

Thoughts On A January Day

City Jackdaw

Coincidence. It happens all the time.

I’m sat inside, reading a book as a weather warning comes over the radio threatening strong winds for my area in the next couple of days. The book I’m reading is by Nicolas Bouvier, and I’ve just got to the part where, during his travels in Ireland, he is asking a local about a meandering road of pointless bends:

I like that. I bet that’s why those lovers of straight routes, the Romans, wore helmets all the time.

*

I lost my Evie twenty years ago.

It was a man behind me, in the queue at the local bank, after enquiring how a newly widowed acquaintance of his was doing, during their chance encounter.

You don’t know what you’ve got ’til you lose it. No, you wouldn’t have seen me, I’ve been in hospital for a hip operation. But I’m still here, still upright…

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Thoughts On A January Day

Coincidence. It happens all the time.

I’m sat inside, reading a book as a weather warning comes over the radio threatening strong winds for my area in the next couple of days. The book I’m reading is by Nicolas Bouvier, and I’ve just got to the part where, during his travels in Ireland, he is asking a local about a meandering road of pointless bends:

I like that. I bet that’s why those lovers of straight routes, the Romans, wore helmets all the time.

*

I lost my Evie twenty years ago.

It was a man behind me, in the queue at the local bank, after enquiring how a newly widowed acquaintance of his was doing, during their chance encounter.

You don’t know what you’ve got ’til you lose it. No, you wouldn’t have seen me, I’ve been in hospital for a hip operation. But I’m still here, still upright. Eighty-one on New Year’s Eve. You’ve gotta fall apart sometime, haven’t you?

I was recently saddened to hear of the passing of an old colleague of mine. He’d made it to his eighties, too, though he’d succumbed to dementia. I bumped into him once, my own chance encounter, and he’d exclaimed “Bloody hell, I’ve not seen you in ages!” The next time I saw him he didn’t know me.

My Mum has just been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. At the moment she’s not too bad, and living next door allows me to keep an eye on her. I asked her if she could remember the name of an old dog that she had:

“Was it Andy?”

“No, I’m Andy!”

She laughed, confusing me with the one who had slouched on the sofa and pissed on the floor. Easy mistake.

Though she’s not yet at the stage that my colleague was, I can see that this person I’ve known for the whole of my life is fading. I guess time can do that anyway, regardless of that particular condition. The years diminish us. It’s like we grow, we build, we peak, then begin to slip back to our primordial beginnings.

*

There is a house near to us where the occupants are shut away. Every single window, both front and back, night and day, has the curtains closed, fastened together in the middle to create a perpetual twilight for those, unseen, living inside.

The young me, the one who had not yet reached his teens and spent his time watching Hammer movies on television, would have immediately thought: vampires. The current me, a bit longer in the tooth, came up with crack den.

State Of Decay

In the wake of the morning school run, I called into the local McDonald’s. Armed with a hot coffee, I went upstairs for extra warmth. It’s that time of year when being comfortable is a question of degree. Literally.

I had the room to myself, and, through a rectangle of light, I could see yellowing leaves outside clinging desperately to trees, only a storm’s breath away from relinquishing their grip forever.

The sky was blue but soon to concede to cloud.

Here, everything was in decay.

It wasn’t just those leaves on the trees; the music coming out of the speaker above me was already out of vogue; that very moment was passing into memory, present tense to past, and I was a machine that through wear and tear would at some point begin to break down. At a cellular level it was already underway, as I was sat there, an heir to debt and degeneration, just a storm’s breath away from relinquishing my grip.

Dead Bird

from my poetry blog

Coronets For Ghosts

Dead Bird

The kids are fascinated by the varying states of putrefaction.
Every morning we pause, compare it to yesterday's
studied image.
"Where have it's eyes gone? Have they sunk into its skull?"

Half-covered by an overnight shroud of autumn leaves,
provoking a conflict of opinion.
The girl thinks it should be buried out of decency,
the boy eager to glimpse its surfacing skeleton.

Every day its stomach is drawn in, the ribs rising.
Then this morning, stunned: the bird is gone,
perhaps removed by a conscientious council worker.
The boy thinks that it's been dragged off to be devoured
by a fox, or a cat, but whatever it was
it must have been really down on its luck,
falling on that desiccated morsel
for a feast.



©AndrewJamesMurray

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