teenage kicks, live music, film and general mayhem

My very first concert was to see Jimmy Ruffin at the Floral Pavilion in New Brighton.  We were massive Motown fans and couldn’t quite believe that he was really playing in our little Northern English seaside town.  Marvelous Mum went for the tickets and managed to get almost front row.  So, so, so exciting.  I will never forget the magical moments before he came on stage, and the anticipation of waiting.  My best friend from school and I were all glammed up, platform shoes, mine were red with a yellow heart, wide wide flares, and a cheese cloth smock, blue eye shadow just like we were shown in Jackie magazine, we were the bees knees.  It was wonderful, singing our hearts out and having the time of our lives.

Since then I have have been lucky to see lots and lots of live music.  I bunked off school to queue for tickets for the Faces at the Liverpool Empire back in 1973.  In those days if you wanted to see a band you had to stand in the street with everyone else and make your way slowly to the box office, hoping supply wouldn’t run out before you got there.  We were ok, I got the tickets and started a life long love of both Rod Stewart and the Faces.   I have seen Rod lots of times since, and was at Manchester Belle Vue to watch the Faces just before they split up, another amazing night out.  I think the coach load of Scottish boys sitting behind us really added to the fun.  Most recently I went with my best friend to the MEN to see Rod, I was delighted to hear him sing songs from the Faces days, and for a couple of hours I clearly was 15 all over again.

I also saw Sweet in a night club in my home town, they were a massive band with a number one hits, quite why they were appearing over the Bingo Hall in downtown Seacombe I have never understood.  This was an amazing night, up until the moment that the dark interior of the night club was flooded with light.  About half way through the set, the band were rocking, all heads, including the band turned to the source of the light, which was the exterior door to the club, flung wide open and the bright lights beyond illuminating the dance floor in front of the stage.  It was one of those moments, frozen in time.  It must have only been seconds, but felt like hours, when I realised the reason for the open door and the light.  My Mother was standing there, in her car coat, scanning the crowd and pointing to her watch.  With the eyes of the whole gig upon me I stood up and went to the door.  ‘How long is this going on for?’ she asked ‘I am fed up waiting in the car for you’.  To say I was embarrassed would be an understatement.  I think I shoved her outside and shut the door to have the conversation.   I did walk back in, but didn’t quite feel as happy as I had done before.  Mothers!!

My love of bands and pop stars got me in a few scrapes in teenage years, never more than the infamous trip to see Stardust being filmed in Manchester.   Imagine if you can a 16 year old me and my mate.  We love David Essex and notice in Dad’s Daily Mirror that the sequel to That Will be the Day, is being filmed in Manchester at the weekend, and they want extras!!   No matter we had never been to Manchester in our lives, that we had no idea how to get to the venue, we were going to be in a film!!  Very careful attention was paid to getting ready.  My brand new feather cut hair was perfect.  I chose a brown (I kid you not) skirt and cream top, that was rather tight, American Tan tights and brown brogues  completed the look.  My friend decided on her lovely black flared trousers with a red t shirt and yellow jacket, after all we were going on camera.  

We got a train from Liverpool Lime Street early on the Sunday morning heading East towards Manchester.  I love start of the journey from Lime Street as the railway track cuts through high sandstone walls through the city.  On reaching Piccadilly Station we stepped out onto the concourse expecting to see a signpost to the venue, don’t know why we thought that, we just did.   Of course that didn’t happen so we asked lots of different bus drivers until we found the right bus and jumped on.  In those days the buses were the old Route-master type with the open platform at the back to hop on and off.  On reaching our destination we excitedly saw lots of young people across the road.  In my rush to get off the bus I slipped and landed on the road in a heap. Disaster, I had cut my knees and more importantly my tights were in holes.  I can’t be in a film with holes in my tights, what could we do?  Sundays in those days meant no chance of a shop being open, we had to improvise.  Luckily under the black flares my friend had a pair of tights so we decided to swap.  But where could we do it.  No visible toilets, we were struggling.  I spotted a police station and in we walked.  I announced my fall from the bus, a bit dramatically, and soon several rather young PC’s gathered round to look at my legs, and my tight t shirt too.  A bowl was produced with warm water, and cups of tea offered.  We thanked them and used the toilets to swap the leg ware around.  Assuring the bobbies that all was now well we made our way to the venue.

As we approached we could see the queue was reducing so joined at the end.  We saw stars arriving in very ordinary cars, Keith Moon waved out of the window and Ringo was meant to be in the car with dark windows.  To say we were excited was an understatement.  Gradually we crept nearer the entrance.  Eventually we were there, 4 hours after leaving home, we had made it.  Thanks to the Daily Mirror for telling us of this wonderful opportunity we were about to be film stars.  Well, that was until the man at the gate said the hope dashing words, ‘have you got your tickets girls?’  Tickets!!  tickets!!  the Daily Mirror definitely did not mention anything about tickets, and we most certainly did not have tickets.  With a wry smile the man at the gate turned from us to the people behind, the people clutching their tickets.  So, we never did get to be in Stardust, my lovely brown skirt and cream top were never immortalised on film, and we no choice but to head to the bus stop for the journey home.

To my friends credit she didn’t blame me, we had had an adventure and we laughed most of the way home.  We went to many other gigs together, but always made sure we had tickets!

The love of concerts is something my daughter has clearly inherited from me and even though she is not yet 20 I suspect she has seen nearly as many live acts as I have.  We went together recently to see The South, members of the former Beautiful South, who she has grown up to listening as I sang along in the car.  It was a great night, even hubby was on his feet singing and dancing along.

Lets not underestimate the power of live music.  Ipods, itunes, downloads, MTV all have their place, but actually being in the same space and hearing music being performed is an amazing experience.  Even when it isn’t great, pub bands, and famously the crazy Elvis impersonator in a pub in Birkenhead around 1994, who was less like Elvis than I am, all have merit.  It is the people who set out to entertain, and people wanting to listen. that makes the magic. Or not in the case of Elvis!!

on selling a house that is also a home

The For Sale sign is up, the agents have taken the photographs, and people have been to view.  It is a very strange feeling showing potential buyers around your home.  Seeing it through other people’s eyes, and steeling yourself to comments on every aspect of our taste and style.

A house is a house, it is bricks and mortar and this one is no different. It is the house my daughter mostly grew up in, where the boys became men.  At times it has not been a happy place but now it is a haven from the world outside.  We are moving. and I am reminded of the many other times I have moved house.   From student flat shares to rented cottages, I have lived in many places. This is useful experience because I know I can make a home anywhere, as long as we are all together and we have a table we can sit around and a stove that works to make food.

I am thinking of my very first flat, shared with my friend from work, I was just 18 and really thought the world belonged to me.  We had such fun. There were parties, there were nights sitting around with friends, there was no money, or any of the comforts of home.  I remember waking up in the cold and only having cold water running from the taps, we didn’t really understand immersion heaters. We pinched toilet rolls from work and once had cider for breakfast because we had no milk.

From a small flat to a shared house, my next home was huge fun.  A falling down, end of terrace house, where five of us shared the kitchen, living room and bathroom. I remember painting my bedroom walls green after a mad Sunday drive into North Wales, we went in convoy to play on the beach. Driving though the wooded roads in the early Springtime the trees infected me with hope and wonder, and I tried so hard to capture the colour in my room.  I was one of two girls sharing with three boys who all needed to be taught general housekeeping skills. We had a cleaning rota, a fund for cupboard basics and lots and lots of good times.  People moved out, new people moved in, the dynamics changed, the rota was discarded, everyone bought their own milk. One person took to putting food dye in their pint, so he could tell if anyone was using it. The whole experience was a lesson for life.  In that house I found friends for life, learned who I was, and had the best times.

From the shared house, I moved back home to Mum and Dad briefly, before buying my very first house.  Newly married, full of hope, not knowing for a minute the roller coaster of emotions ahead of us.  This was the house my babies came home to for the first ever time.  The house my sister married her husband from, the house I was in when I heard about the death of my parents. Here I had a next door neighbour, who taught me about difference, she was an elderly Jewish lady, who became my friend. So many memories, so much living had happened there.  The decision to leave was not a difficult one, then, as now, the time was right.  Although the house was wonderful, things were changing and a new start was needed.   I have never regretted moving, but there is a space in my heart for that home, that time and the me I was then.This house used to be in  my dreams.  I often awoke with wet eyes, and a feeling of loss.  The dreams and sadness for my old house stopped after I met my husband and my life once again was on a happy road.

The house we are selling also has many memories, especially of those who have shared it with us.  Friends of my children have been welcome in our house, some have even moved in, stayed a while and come back often to see us.  Boys, at that difficult time in growing up have camped on the floor in bedrooms, on sofas and generally waited to build bridges with Mum and Dad, before returning home.  We have enjoyed our Spanish friends, who each summer come for a month to learn English and infect us with sunshine and laughter.  They also keep in touch, I am English mummy to a couple of gorgeous girls in Madrid.

Our new home, we don’t know where it is yet, will be smaller.  I am fed up of having three flights of stairs and huge rooms to clean. I will still have space for visitors and a kitchen I am comfy in, other than that I have no idea where we will be.  It is an exciting adventure.

sliding doors that take us home

This weekend we went down to London, to visit family and to catch up with friends.  Driving down on the motorway we were held up by the emergency services who stopped the traffic to allow the air ambulance to land.  It was a sobering 20 minutes watching people battling to help save the live of strangers. Once it was over we all started up the cars, lorries and vans again and got on our way.  I felt very reflective and we started talking about timing, about places and about feelings.  How decisions made, even very simply can have a knock on effect with lasting consequences.  If we hadn’t taken a wrong turn we might have been on the motorway earlier, it may have been us in the accident, how five minutes before we would have driven by and an hour later would never have known about it at all. Life is full of actions and events, and the timing of them is something we don’t control, and yet can change everything.

Soon we were off the motorway and driving through North London, through all the places my hubby grew up in.  We were moving slowly as it was Saturday afternoon in the Capital, and he was telling me tales of the streets as we passed through.  Of cars he owned and jobs he had, of friends and adventures and of home.  He was painting a picture for me of the teenager and the man he was, before our sliding doors connected.

One street we went down was just around the corner to his Dad’s house, we have a photograph taken outside there. A tall man, smiling for the camera, a moment in time captured forever.  I didn’t get to meet his Dad, but felt a connection through the tales being told and being on the streets where he had walked. I have a great deal of respect for those people who were brave enough to move continents in search of a better life, and wonder how those streets seemed to them on arrival from the sunshine.  They made a life, they had their babies and in turn their grandchildren, so far from their beginings, in a city which became home.  Today, in the same streets I see dozens people of all nationalities rushing about, holding hands, shopping, scolding children, laughing and living. Each will have their story and the sliding doors that brought them to where they are today.

Later, we passed the bus garage hubby worked out of when we met, and as we traveled the streets we saw numerous buses that once he might have been driving. Although we have done this trip before, it was lovely to listen to all his memories of the place he called home.  We also laughed about shared memories of my first visit to Hackney and the dreadful pub, just along from the famous Hackney Empire where we happened to find ourselves one lunch time.

To me London used to be a place of glamour, Buckingham Palace, the shops on Oxford Street, Piccadilly Circus and the Houses of Parliament.  I knew nothing of the dozens of villages and small towns, all with their Town Halls, their High Streets and their own personalities.  I am so happy I now know a little of the real Capital City, and can see it through the eyes of someone for whom it is home.

I was once again thinking again about timing, and how sliding doors effect everything that we know.  His home town may not have been London, it could have been thousands of miles away if his parents hadn’t responded to a call to come to Britain.  We may never have met if a set of circumstances hadn’t put us in the same place on the same day.  How much is chance and how much destiny?  Do we send out signals to the universe and influence our futures or is it just pure chance?  

‘Home is where the heart is’, that is what my dear old Auntie says.  I think this is largely true.  I think we carry an imprint in our hearts of the places we belong to.  For some it is the hills or valleys, for others a village or a city, even a river or seaside.  The place we learned to be us, and the place we had our first relationships, with parents, brothers, sisters and extended family.  If we are lucky we carry those imprints with us wherever we live and in turn, connecting with the sliding doors of chance, we make lives that are worth living and carry with us our home in our hearts.


on positive thinking in an uncertain world

Yesterday I was reminded of the person I used to be.  The person reminding me knew me in another lifetime, I was younger, sassier and more confident.  He expected me to still be that me, and after a few hours with him I was left thinking that he is right, I am still that person inside.  It has an extraordinary effect on me, on one hand reminding me of just what I can achieve and on the other focusing me on the learning past experiences can bring.

For several months I have been in an uncertain limbo land of unmade choices.I have dithered and dallied and worried far to much on the what ifs and the maybes.  Decisions are made and wheels set in motion to change almost everything about my life style.  It is exciting and a bit terrifying all at once.  The most important things will stay constant, my husband, my children and my friendships and it remains to be seen where I will be at the end of it all.

Leaving a job, selling a house, big things in anyone’s world, but to be honest now the decisions are made it seems quite simple.  The rest of my life is up to me.  No longer will I drag myself into an environment where I am mostly miserable, to earn the money to live in a house that doesn’t meet our changing needs.  No longer will I complain about the workload and the challenging tasks facing each day and yet  unthinkingly return each day to do it all again.  We are only here once, life needs to to grabbed around the neck and taken for every precious minute.  What on earth have I been waiting for?

I have been reminded that I am in charge of my brain, and if my brain is making my body hurt, then I can change that, it is my brain and my body.  When the aches and pains come, as they will surely do, I will say to myself, ok, but I am not acknowledging that thought, I will move on to happy thoughts and see what happens to the pain.  I will accentuate the positives and become a modern day Pollyanna, without the syrup, and by choosing happy I will become happy.

In the whole debacle of change and upheaval in the workplace I have talked to many of my colleagues.  One, who has been turned down for the leaving package said something so profound it hit home.  She said, ‘I might not get redundancy pay but I have made friends for life in this job and that is worth so much more’  She is right, money doesn’t last, memories do.  Short term financial gain played against experiences and friendship that will last forever.

So this morning I am setting off to work knowing I have 5 more Mondays in this workplace, and a lifetime ahead of me to do other things.

Watch this space world, I am coming to get you.