#80 Dream

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.

On Poetry:Inspiration

City Jackdaw

For me, my poems serve as a diary. When I look at them I can remember where I was when I got the idea for each one, and what it was that acted as the initial inspiration. The opening poem in my book, Heading North, is called Midnight, July.

The title indicates the when, but not the where and why.

The words for this one came when I was sat in the back garden with a coffee. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky, and I was looking up at the stars and wondering whether we could be alone or was there life somewhere out there?

We writhe 

with a rage to know 

the unknowable,


blind to great masses

that dance in dark orbits. 

And a soft, summer wind 

on a night beneath stars 

is no balm.

While I was sat there, neck craned in the quiet of the…

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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.

Death Of A Babe

R.I.P to one of the Busby Babes, Harry Gregg, 87.

The Manchester United goalkeeper was hailed as a hero after rescuing survivors from the burning wreckage of the plane in Munich, 1958.

Among those who died were eight members of a young team that had been standing on the verge of greatness.

I’m a Man City fan, and from all accounts I’ve heard, both personally and through media, the disaster brought the city of Manchester together, in the days when football existed before an often toxic and tribal rivalry.

I remember my Mum saying that when the accident happened she was, aged fourteen, in bed ill with Scarlett Fever. Her twin brother was a City fan, whereas her older brother, Jim, was a United fan. This brother came in to the bedroom to make the fire up for her, and my Mum said “I’m sorry about United, Jim.”

He didn’t reply, just silently cried with his back to her as he went about his task.

The fiftieth anniversary of the Munich Air Disaster fell, in 2008, on, of all fixtures, Derby Day, with my team travelling to Old Trafford. As a City fan I was dreading the possibility of the moment being ruined by a few idiots, but felt proud as both sets of teams marked the occasion perfectly.

This year, a friend of mine was chosen, along with her son who is a teammate of my son, to travel to Munich to represent the fans at the annual memorial service. Having lost her father a year ago on Christmas Day, she commented:

The occasion itself held an extra poignancy for me, travelling in the footsteps of my father who had made this same pilgrimage twice himself. I know he’d have been so proud of his grandson, reading out the players’ names and laying a wreath down for those who died, players and non-players alike. That is why the Busby Babes and their legacy will never be forgotten. Each generation passes the torch of remembrance on to the next.

R.I.P Harry Gregg

Brave New World

First morning since we left the EU.

Still had no milk for my coffee.

My lad was worried. “Will it mean no more Champion’s League? No more World Cup? No more EUROs?!!!”

In truth I don’t know what it means (beyond my son will still get his football). We’d been a member for all of my life except the first twelve months, and beyond the scare stories and counter-patriotic statements it’s an unknown quantity.

Then, seeing and loving this old photograph, I was reassured that there was a time when we was not a member of the EU.

It is of people waiting at a railway station in Glasgow, 1895.

And I bet the train still hasn’t arrived yet. Some things will never change.

The Fields And The Feels

The other night, waiting to meet friends of ours, I took this photo of a part of my hometown that will soon be transformed. For better or worse is a matter of perspective. Greed v Need, or the wont of a bartered balance? I suppose it depends what side of the fence you are on. So to speak.

Bowlee is a part of our ever-shrinking green belt, a portion of which is destined to vanish for housing. I think the neighbouring fields that my son played football on are safe.

For now.

The affects of this change, though, away from the obvious, objective changes, are emotive.

The following night I took this next photograph. The emotions felt this time were, for once, not mine (self-avowed creature of nostalgia that I am), but for my wife. This path to my daughter’s high school, which we were walking down for Parents’ Evening, is also a trip down memory lane for her. This school, now styled as an Academy, no less, is built on the site of a previous school that she attended decades before.

A different name, a different building, but there is a part of it that feeds into a surviving portion of the school that went before it. Imperceptible to my ignorant eye, it was there that she got the feels, know what I mean?

It was like the Christians among us, a few years back, when we were escorted deep below St.Peter’s in Rome, burrowing into the Scavi, a 1st Century cemetery housing tombs that held, as well as pagan remains, some of the very first adherents of their faith. And also, reputedly, the body of their first Bishop, better known by the name of Saint Peter.

Though the school holds no bones, and goes back mere decades rather than millennia, it demonstrates, for my wife at least, history is more deeply experienced when it is personal.