Bowie, over and over. Rain today seems appropriate. After a week of looking after a small person, it felt wonderful to sleep in a little (Steve gets up early), have coffee in bed, and read a new book to Leila (Uncle Vic’s Farm, a gift from a book reviewing friend yesterday), and go out to the garage for a cycle on the trainer.
Damp leaf-smell, almost pleasant, but too much on the rotted side; back still sore from hurting it on Monday vacuuming behind my bedside table (pulling things out, seeing dust caked there and slightly desperate to clean it all after hearing the story from my Aunt about how my grandmother, once so fastidious, lapsed with the cleaning once her dementia set in, and the space behind the bed – when my aunt looked – was filthy). Pedalling while reading, my new favourite way to exercise. Reading the brilliant, brilliant, H is for Hawk. I want Helen Macdonald to be my friend. I have a feeling we would be.
After the cycle, a swim in the pool. Grey mist across the harbour, obscuring the city. Up behind us, mist curling round and through the green, green bush. Before I jump in, I stand at the top of the stairs and look out over the valley, over the houses nestled in the green, out over the skygrey sea and the cloud hovering low. Bowie’s dead. A weird sentence that runs through my head again and again this week.
How to mourn a person you don’t know? The papers have been full of this question, all wanting to acknowledge that this hurt and loss we are feeling is real, not just imagined rockstar hysteria. How to articulate the importance of music that has always been a part of your life, that you have listened to, presumably through all of your life stages, and that has always still felt relevant, important, significant? I’m young enough (not yet forty) so that Bowie has been ubiquitous for me.
Perhaps not in my early youth; Mum had few albums and Dad favoured 60s folk, blues, and country. Glam was too out-there for him, I suspect. So we grew up with Dylan and the Beatles, Ian and Sylvia, Johnny Cash and James Taylor. Bowie came later.
When I think of Bowie, I think of late nights with my friend Jeremy, at his youth hostel, first year at uni. Eating toast and drinking tea (on our poor nights), and listening to music. Always early Beatles, always Bowie.
Always Bowie on mixtapes in the car (a ’55 Morris Minor convertible, that dad bought for us to drive, probably because it was cool and old – he loves old cars – but also couldn’t go too fast), driving to first jobs, in horrible uniforms but feeling for the first time the freedom that came with earning your own money.
Always looking at pictures of him, pictures from another time. So alien.
I think about these things while I swim in the pool, in the rain. I only do breaststroke, feeling my back grate a bit, but the freshness of the water is exhilarating. I think of mourning, of the movements of my arms, a little like I’m flying, and I think of another person who has put her hopes in another, standing on a hillside of gorse and brush, arm extended hopefully with thick leather glove grasping a bit of dead animal. Luring back the hawk, embodiment of all her hopes.
So hard to be honest in public.
Swimming in the pool reminds me of a short story I wrote last year. A story I really, really like. A story I sent out to a few markets but got no interest. A story I think I’m going to put up here instead, and share. It’s called “The Dark Offering,” and it’s about a man, and a pool, and deep, dark thoughts, and a child’s birthday. There are cheezels. It is silly and horrible. It felt like something when I wrote it.
If you check back in a bit, it should be up. Let me know if you like it.