The problem with getting old is that no matter how much you wish it so, it never goes away. So I try to be pragmatic and tell myself that I should make the most of my skills and experience to ensure that I enjoy my life, but nothing is ever so simple.
I did a little gardening yesterday in the sunshine, which was great, but today my back aches like I’ve been digging ditches. <creak, pop>
I’m into the last two weeks of my fifties and it’s more than a little scary. In a week and a half’s time I will turn 60.
I’ve been dreading this for months, but now it’s almost upon me I just want to get it over with in a way that involves the minimum of fuss.
It’s funny, I look in the mirror and see the grey hairs. I feel the aches and twinges that never used to be there. I know that, factually, this is my age. But my mind feels more creative than it ever has before. Admittedly, my forgetfulness is pretty bad at times, but that aside I still feel excited about new projects and ideas.
I’ve been doing a lot of drawing and painting lately, most of it digitally using Photoshop and sometimes ArtRage. It often feels like the perfect accompaniment to my writing and at others it can be a little bit of a distraction, but I feel that my artistic skills are improving all the time and the temptation to spend a lot of time on it is almost irresistible. Still, being professional means concentrating on the paying work as a priority and I’m thankful that I have the ability to do that.
However, here’s a picture I did just yesterday, based on the view from our bedroom window.
Both my heart and mind are struggling with this fact. How can he be dead when I have a new album to listen to? How can he be dead when all I see online this week are posts that link to his many powerful performances? How can he be dead when he’s been an important part of my life for nearly forty three years?
I never met him and only saw him perform live once, but, like many other people throughout the world, as this week has proved, David Bowie is a dear friend who had no knowledge of my personal existence. A friend who spoke to me intimately with every song he wrote.
In 1973, my parents bought a record player for the first time ever. I was fifteen and had hardly given music any thought. I was aware of the stuff they played on the radio, but just as background, and knew that friends talked about music without connecting to anything they said. Until this point I’d been more interested in the Apollo Moon landings and reading science fiction.
With a record player in the house, here was a new toy to play with. But what should I buy?
Initially, I think I only chose Life on Mars? because of the title’s science fiction implications, only realising later it was about something very different, yet the music and lyrics drew me in and my love of Bowie began.
At first it was a slow burning relationship. The next two singles I bought were Stuck in the Middle by Stealers Wheel and Frankenstein by The Edgar Winter Group, which was the start of my eclectic taste in music.
Then a few weeks later, while on a family holiday, I spotted the Space Oddity album and bought it immediately, even though I couldn’t play it until we all returned home. Again, the implication of science fiction teased me, along with an interest in hearing more by this man. This was a time, of course, before the internet and the only way to hear music you wanted was by luck on the radio, by owning the records or by having friends who owned them.
However, being shy back then, I didn’t have many friends and none of them had any Bowie records. But curiously, I found myself making more friends in the coming months through a mutual interest in Bowie’s music. I think it’s fair to say that in this respect alone, he had a life-changing impact on my life.
More albums were added to my collection – The Man Who Sold the World, Hunky Dory, Ziggy Stardust and Aladdin Sane; all brilliant, all so different from each other. His almost eclectic approach to music seemed completely fitting.
My love of his music was both fulfilling and left me yearning for more (even now, this is true) to the point where, when Diamond Dogs was released, I got to the record shop just as they were opening the delivery and my copy was the first out of the box. I was the first of my friends to buy it. I think I played it virtually non-stop for months and it still remains one of my favourite albums.
Plenty of people claimed to hate Bowie at that time and I was laughed at for wearing T-shirts with his image on or for having my hair cut in the Ziggy/Aladdin style (though sadly not dyed orange), yet I enjoyed the fact that these people didn’t like the same music as me. And in spite of my shyness I had a way to be a tiny bit extrovert – I could be a little bit Ziggy.
My musical tastes developed and broadened – Pink Floyd, Queen, Alex Harvey, for example – but Bowie kept delivering the goods with more variety. Young Americans, Station to Station, Low, Heroes, Lodger and Scary Monsters were all excellent in their own ways. New lyrical styles and a number of instrumental pieces saw him develop as a songwriter and a musician.
In spite of this, and although he wrote a number of great songs, Bowie didn’t put together an album that felt like an album (as opposed to a collection of songs) until Outside came along in 1995 and suddenly the old magic was revived again. An album to compare with the likes of Ziggy Stardust and Diamond Dogs in its conceptual themes.
It felt like my friend had come home to me and the cooling of my love for his music and lyrics had never really left at all. It still burned like a beacon.
It’s now over twenty years since Outside was released and we’ve had a number of other excellent albums since then. I’ve been dabbling with musical compositions during this time and I’ve become a professional writer, neither of which would likely have been possible without the ongoing influence of a man who came from humble beginnings yet had such powerful visions that he shone like the star that he is and always will be.
I’ve only listened to the new album a few times since it was released, but already I find that the title track, Blackstar, is lodged in my mind. And I love that a Bowie track still has the power to do this. It is a very fine last album.
David Bowie is dead.
I am sad but still so in love with his music. When I see the wonderful outpourings of love on the internet this week, I realise I have millions of friends who I will likely never get to know or even meet, but our mutual interest in the music of Bowie will always bind a little part of us.
In some ways I’m still the shy teenager who bought Life on Mars? but I’m also much more than that. And today I’m also feeling a little bit Ziggy.
Someone just started following this blog and it dawned on me that I haven’t posted here in absolutely ages. As I’m awaiting feedback on a few things I thought I’d take the quiet moment to rectify the situation. Maybe it will even inspire me to update the damn thing more often. Or maybe I need a smack to the head to make me do so.
So, what to write about?
My grandkids are all growing faster than I’d like (six of them, now). It makes me seem old just watching them change so much every time I see them. My youngest, Ariana, has started cutting teeth and it hardly seems five minutes since she was born. And my eldest, Caitlin, is rapidly approaching her 11th birthday. And now I realise I’m sounding like every other old fogey out there.
When I’m writing it’s like age has no relevance whatsoever. My mind is fired up, sharp, filled with ideas and in love with the words.
Speaking of my mind, I’ve been feeling a bit more creative since coming off my medication recently. Although there are still a few problems, I think I’d rather manage them than go through the slightly disconnected feelings I’ve been having. It seemed like my emotions were all dulled and my rational mind was taking too much control.
Take my brother, for instance. I just realised I didn’t post here about how he was rushed into hospital last year and, after an emergency operation, was diagnosed with cancer. Because of the medication I was on it didn’t properly register with my emotions and I began to feel a little guilty that I wasn’t more upset by the awful news. Over Christmas he was in a really bad way and my rational reaction made me think I had to do something about my medication. I’ve had a few weeps since then. Although my brother’s condition is not good in the long term, recently he’s been a lot better on a day-to-day basis and I go and see him a couple of times a week.
I’ve been incredibly busy with the writing lately, which is always good considering I’m a freelance writer, but I’ve pretty much given up on the comics as a result and don’t have as much time for drawing and painting as I once did. Ah well, I can’t do everything.
Spring is filling the garden with new growth and buds and a few early flowers. We have frogspawn in the pond and the goldfish have survived the winter okay. We even have a new footpath.
I’d like to take a moment to thank everyone who’s been visiting this blog recently, particularly those who have taken the time to click the “like” button on some of my recent painting posts. It’s such a big thing to get a positive response of any kind and each time someone takes that extra little time to do so you are adding to the warm glow that encourages me to continue in my creative development.
Also, to those of you who were kind enough to follow the blog, I hope I provide you with enough interest that you will continue to do so.