11 days and counting

11 days.

11 days that seem like they’ve passed in an instant, and dragged like an eternity.

11 days since we lost one of the greatest talents this island nation has ever produced.

It doesn’t seem -it still doesn’t seem – possible that it’s happened, so sudden was it to most of us, and that sharp disappearance then compounded by the shocking loss of another huge talent and influence both in, on and around the acting world…

My days have been filled with the normal stuff, work and friends, but also shoehorned in to every available moment, snippets trickling down into the gaps like sand, have been the videos, the songs, the music, the film clips, the tributes and of course the interviews and articles by friends, family, peers and fans.

The shock is here. How can it be still be here? It should have lessened, surely?

How can I be waking every bloody day with the “No more Bowie” thoughts, right there, front and centre. Heavy and empty at the same time, lightened by the myriad interviews that have been in circulation of these brilliant, scintillating men, flashing raw talent like a careless flag and just oh so very much Being.

For every archive I see, there is a lightening of the sadness, and then when it ends, it comes crashing in again, because you know that spark, that brilliance, those souls have gone.

Yes, we have all of those records, the films, the sounds. We can fill our every moment with them should we so choose, but always at the back of the brain is that dark spot that you try to keep at bay.

Nobody can tell me that this grief isn’t real, even though I may be incredulous at it myself – and I am – because it’s feeling about as real as it gets. Even seeing something as innocuous as David Robert Jones (8 January 1947 – 10 January 2016) on Wikipedia had tears rolling unbidden and unwanted down my face, at work, with everyone looking. On Sky this evening, the info for Harry Potter had been changed to “With the late Alan Rickman” and that was me, gone again, tears resolutely streaking my face without any input from me.

Is this going to continue forever, with me having to write it out again and again to try and resolve the loss? Because that’s how it feels. People are going to get sick of me, going on about it, but right now that’s all I can do.

That and keep getting caught in You Tube vortexes.

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Camilla

I do feel sorry for Camilla Long and her ilk.

I realise this is a bit of an odd statement, given how she’s pretty much horrified and insulted Bowie fandom by telling us to ‘man up’ (I’m a woman, by the way Cam old girl, no ‘manning’ needed) and to not display our grief in public.

“I think grief should be private,” she argued. “This is to do with the utter insincerity of social media grief, the odd mimicry and circle-jerkery of it.”

Why should I feel sorry for her? Someone who finds it satisfying to publicly berate grieving people in their hour of sadness surely should not be the receiver of sympathy or softness in any way. But oh…what did we have? What DO we have that she doesn’t?

Those of us who lost an idol, a hero, a friend-in-imagination, maybe a lover in dreams, a sound, a heartbeat that ran through our lives and provided the background and the pulse, what did we have in those hours, and the following days?

We had like-minded others.

All across the world, disbelief and loss was shared, myriad candles went on like stars across the earthscape, music was played, albums were taken out of their precious sleeves and played to within an inch of their lives, films were watched and books read.

Commiserations with total strangers were exchanged, dances were had, tears and silent sobs acknowledged and greeted with mutual understanding.

ACROSS THE WORLD this happened.

The radio stations were filled, the airwaves echoing time after time after wonderful, heartbreaking, brain searing time with his beautiful voice and sharp as cut glass words, and then…and then…with our voices, our thoughts and feelings and our sadnesses mirrored across a whole damned planet.

In our loss, we had everyone else’s loss. We knew, we know, and will continued to know, for decades to come, where we were when Bowie died, what we were doing. We will meet another’s eyes, and we will know.

We will never lose that. She cannot take it away. No matter how much scorn she, and others,  pour on us, it doesn’t matter.

It absolutely doesn’t matter because we have Bowie.

Her words will fade, but his…

Yes, he’s gone, in as much as such a legend can be gone when the pulsing network of music and video and electronic communications across the entire planet is  full of him.

His music echoes across the emptiness of space. It went to the stars, and we went with him. His words, those notes that he searched for, the keys and the chords that speared his ferocious and intense interest and then brought us all along for the thrill of the ride.

A bitter hack who seems to be channelling Katie Hopkins, cannot ever take that vast, shared and literally universal experience away from us. After all, who got an entire new album as a legacy gift?

Look where he took us. Just look.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Voyage Round my Kitchen

It wouldn’t be a voyage as such, as my kitchen isn’t very large, but it is filled with all kinds of things.

Like its owner, it would have liked to be more organised, and a little more polished and shiny, but it’s fighting a losing battle due to its physical constraints, so it has settled quite happily into being a place which can make people warm and contented.

This is most definitely not a clinical, efficient or pretty place. The walls all need sanding back and tiling, the ceiling needs painting, the floor is just the old Council concrete one, the cupboards are now misaligned (they completely fell off the internal wall which had collapsed) and there are things on all the work surfaces. It’s not terribly attractive, but it works and it has a huge window so there’s plenty of light.

I have two sets of tall wooden open shelves, and lots of things have been packed into them, sometimes almost tessellated so they will all fit, and hung off the sides, too. My spice and condiment cupboard is double stacked through necessity.

It started off tidy, it really did – most of the spices are in airtight, square boxes, and even labelled – but you know how it goes when you have more things than space, and are a person who cannot pass spices by. If you are also a person for whom spices are bought, well, then you probably very much understand what goes on in that spice cupboard.

Tidy

Tidy spice

Not so.

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Looking around it today, properly looking, I find that I really have managed to fit quite a lot in here, and almost all of it has personal memories attached.

The basic terracotta water jug that my father brought me back from Cyprus is tucked away so that I can see it, but it can’t get broken by a careless hand. That, a few knives, my unruly hair, dark eyes and hot as a flash temper are all that I have from him. The rest of me – the love of and skill at cooking, the kindness to a fault, the overly empathic soul teamed with a Mama Bear mentality if riled, the gap in the teeth and the tendency to give my own things away if I think someone else needs them more come from my Mum, as do many things in my kitchen.

A beautiful cup and saucer, made for Turkish coffee, sent to me by mum via someone coming back to London.

Coffee cup

An extremely heavy but very lovely coffee grinder loiters around by the cast iron pans. Also a present from Mum.

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The pans and the grinder are hidden underneath the first set of open shelves, which are on the worksurface above the fridge and freezer. This is where the baking trays live, albeit not always terribly harmoniously.

Given to me by a friend who was going to get rid of them until I piped up “Cast iron pans? Me please!” and so they were adopted into the family. They snuggle in next to the water jug, and protect it with their tanned wooden handles.

They were four, but two of them were the same size, and so when my friend Marcus gasped when he caught sight of them, well…yes, you know what happened. The twins were separated and one of them was taken back up North. The remaining three are still looking as good as the day they were made. They’re usually asking to have barbecue beans cooked in them, or a milk pudding, possibly some porridge with muscovado sugar and spices. Solid, dependable, dark and heavy.

There is a clear glass jar of vanilla tea under there too, that Mum sends me when she can, and a stash of quite possibly the best Turkish cold medication I have come across. (Not one to take if you need to be awake though.)

Cypriots love to have things with Cyprus written on them. I am no exception to that rule, despite being a halfie. These are some inhabitants of the open shelves. Yes, those are shot glasses, even though I do not drink, but Cyprus, see? And a tiny island house. And a tiny drawer! (It’s a nutmeg grater.)

Nutmeg and shots

 

Underneath those shelves I have a large round cast iron skillet, and a smaller round cast iron frying pan. The skillet came with the pans, and the small frying pan belonged to Mum. They fit so snugly together, that I don’t feel bad they have to languish in the space between the top of the fridge and the worktop that the open shelves stand on. The square, ridged pan though…that sits apart, in the space on the other side of the fridge top, while the other two spoon and ignore it. It doesn’t seem to mind, as it graces me with perfect steak every time I use it.

The big skillet is for cornbread, or hash, and the smaller frying pan, with its glossy sheen, is for roast potatoes, for toasting spices or roasting garlic.

Small pan

Further round, tucked into a corner by the microwave, sat on top of a fake Le Creuset, and an actual Le Creuset gift (thank you James) , there are two more very old pans. Made by Prestige, and presented to me at a Friends’ Christmas Dinner by my best friend, and my husband, over 20 years ago. The wooden handles have worn, so they only get used occasionally as I worry someone else will burn themselves if the handles go, but I cannot bring myself to get rid of them. I just can’t. I cried when I got them because they were something I had been wanting for a long time, and they mean a lot to me. There was a third, a milk pan, but that went off to a friend’s house to be fixed, and we’ve never managed to get around to collecting it. I suspect it may be lost.

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My main saucepans were a leaving present from a previous job that I was very sad to say goodbye to. A Raymond Blanc set with thick copper sandwiched bases that nobody else has managed to ruin yet. Heavy, dishwasher safe and still shiny and reliable, but annoyingly discontinued now. They nest inside each other on the other set of shelves, each one snug with a purple pan protector inside, their metal voices muted. I can even bake things in these, properly burnt on in that way that only cheese can, and still they clean up every time, usually just with hot water and a bit of washing up liquid.

Baked oon

There is another set, too. You didn’t think I was a one pan set woman, did you?

A dark grey Circulon set, another much loved present. They too are treated to the purple pan protectors, even though they have the temerity to not be dishwasher safe, so they are only used by me, washed very carefully, dried, and put back on the shelf.

The cupboard above the microwave is the double stacked spice cupboard. The next one along holds crockery and glassware. It used to hold more, but then it pitched itself forward off the wall and we lost 70% of the things that had been contained within it.

The noise of that amount of china and glass hitting a concrete floor is ear-splitting and seemingly endless. We filled a 60 litre bin with the shards, and my gorgeous copper wok that was on top was dented beyond repair.

Luckily the dinner plates were all in the dishwasher. I loved these plates so much when I saw them that I bought two complete sets from the much missed Woolworths. That’s nearly 16 years ago now. They are a decent weight, with a good dip in them to hold the food. People like plates.

Olive Plate

All the dinner plates, and all the soup bowls remain. Only three dessert bowls though, one side plate, two of the tea and coffee canisters, and none of the cups.

My cabbage leaf plate survived the fall, by sheer force of will, I’d like to believe. It was my Nan’s and her will was iron.

Cabbage leaf

Another thing to survive, which I really did not expect, is an old glass dish. This was used by our previous cat, who couldn’t drink from a dish on the floor, but could happily drink from this as it was raised. It has been thoroughly disinfected, and bleached, and washed many times, never fear. Another thing that I can’t get rid of.

Bowl

Underneath that cupboard is a present from Tex. It’s a knife block that never fails to make people smile. It always makes me smile too. (Told you the walls needed tiling.) Those test tubes are actually full of flavoured salts from Tenerife that Tex brought back for me, and that’s a jar of Turkish comb honey in the front.

KnifeMan

One thing that is never, ever missing from my kitchen is olive oil. Nothing will make me give it up. That bottle (thanks Mum!) and its pourer does at least stop me from flooding absolutely everything and wasting the greengold elixir.

Olive corner

Just along from the olive oil is another set of open shelves, and that’s where the saucepans, large casserole pots and tupperware lives. The staff of life that is tea and coffee live below them, on the bottom shelf.

Every time I use this French Press, I think of my old bosses, the architects. Making coffee with them was a morning ritual. The milk had to be warmed in the microwave until it was hot, but not so hot that it got a skin, and the coffee had to be very, very strong. After a while they trusted me to make it for them. Each time I make coffee, I smile and think of them. One of them has Alzheimer’s now, and so coffee making has become bittersweet. A lot of the time I use my Moka, and pretend I’m Italian for 10 minutes, but the French Press is the one with the memories.

French press

We’ve run out of kitchen at this point, and there’s nothing terribly memorable about a boiler, though it does have my food processor under it. That was a present from Tex when the bowl on my old one shattered. It was nearly 30 years old, so I can forgive it. The annoying thing? Once we’d disposed of it, I found a spare bowl on Ebay. [sigh] Next time, I check!

The wall with the back door in it isn’t really useable space. The back door does open, but it’s a real pain to close again, so we tend not to use it. I’ve hung fairy lights around it instead.

There is one nice thing on this wall though, and it’s a pretty good mantra.

Be Nice

The Stars are Very Different Today

I know that many will be fed up with this, with the outpouring of public grief for a man that we – most of us – didn’t even know, but tonight my heart just isn’t in anything else at all except listening to his music, and reading other’s memories and stories.

Today has been one of the most unexpectedly hard days for a long time. I’ve never really been into fannish behaviour, or obsessions with bands, but this…this has caught me an uppercut to the chin, lifted me off my feet and dumped me in a crumpled heap in the corner of the room.

While I write this, my husband is upstairs playing Motorhead’s new album, and it’s almost too much, in combination.

If anyone tells me that grief about such a celebrity isn’t real, or valid, or painful, then I have no time for them. No matter how averse to their music others may be, to their fans, that music screams and cries into their soul, reaches out into their brains and holds on.

There’s no difference between feeling that for Bowie, or Bieber, Joplin or One Direction – despite what people would have you believe. That devotion, that feeling, is the same. I won’t say that my grief is more profound, more earned, just because of who it is about. The individual talents may be worlds apart, but that doesn’t change how the fans feel.

For Bowie, though…he just went beyond anything ‘celebrity’ and passed almost into myth and legend, for me, and I can’t quite latch on to the fact that we’ll never hear more from him and his talent. I wanted to see where else he went, and now…now…

He’d survived a heart attack, he’d ‘come back’ when we thought we’d lost him and it turns out he was actually just here saying goodbye. You couldn’t have wrung more emotion out of this even if it had been David Tennant in the lead role saying goodbye to Bernard Cribbins, I swear. I feel exhausted.

I think I fell a little in love with each incarnation, just that bit more each time. I found The Man Who Fell To Earth one of the saddest and most beautiful films ever, the same for The Hunger. If you haven’t seen it, I won’t spoiler it, but it’s vicious, and hard edged, but also stunningly beautiful and heart aching in its portrayal of love and loss.

Those two films made me experience everything along with the actors, such was their talent, and the sheer skill of the writing.

Labyrinth was brilliant, and I adore it, but it didn’t get so deeply entrenched in my head like the other two. They had huge swathes of emotion, harsh realities mixed with beauty and despair and desire and longing. You felt that each character wasn’t just a role for him, it was him, or a facet of him and his crystalline mind.

My life had him as its soundtrack, so it feels now like the tape has ended. There’s just the whickering noise of it at the end as the spool runs out and the room goes dark.

I think, perhaps, I need to watch The Hunger again soon, and of course The Man Who Fell To Earth but not for a while.

This will pass. I haven’t lost a father, or a husband, or a friend. I’ve lost those before, I know that grief well, but I have lost an ever present sound.

Saying “You will be missed” isn’t enough but it’s all I’ve got.

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