This week so far has been the toughest in my life in many years. The effects of this LOCKDOWN are kicking in badly. One of my friends messaged me earlier today asking how I was doing and if there was anything she could do to help. I sent a quick polite reply as hey, we’re ALL feeling the pinch and punch of this lockdown at the mo but my real answer is – I so so so wish for those simplest pleasures, meeting pals and putting the world to rights over a cuppa, fish and chips in restaurants, running into and nattering with pals and just generally getting on with everyday life and knowing what day it is. Instead, every time I step outside I am sensing deep fear, gloom and distrust. We’re not allowed to talk or embrace, simply expected to grab whatever we need and get the hell home as quickly as possible. Things feel wrong. VERY wrong.
Meanwhile I’m trapped in a flat within a house with some asshole neighbours who are totally disregarding the social isolation and distancing stuff like last night, a party went on thanks to the worst offender. I have been wanting to move out for some time as some of these neighbours are not pleasant people and though I can borrow some money to move out thanks to family, of course until this lockdown ends, I can’t go anywhere so have to sit silently and suffer. What’s worrying me is, give it another week and people will be getting restless, angry and… well… goodness knows what will happen so am definitely feeling a sense of inner fear and dread.
There’s also another saga that started last Christmas which has dragged on and on. I’m now at the final hurdle and that’s adding to my worries since should I fall – thanks to an outside decision – well… let’s not go there. This week has been dominated by that and other things and it’s definitely proving extremely stressful and the damning thing is, there is no relief as a good cuppa and a natter with a pal is the best therapy one can have. I do feel extremely sad about the many trapped in old people’s homes as they’re now forbidden all visitors and I shudder to think how isolated and depressed they’re all feeling. Only FOUR people allowed at funerals? WTF?
Forgive me for my rambling and ranting. Come on, lets all admit it, this lockdown is AWFUL and the longer it goes on, the more damaging it will be. I also am concerned about the great many with mental health issues as again, they’re up the creek without a paddle and having been there myself for many years… let’s put it this way, if this lockdown had occurred 4 years ago, I would be feeling freaked and suicidal as hell by now. The media are NOT helping one bit as they keep shoving us endless bad news of doom and gloom. Yesterday they were saying we should “expect power cuts” so was heartening to see some electricity companies take them to task, accusing them of stirring up senseless panic as our electricity system is coping and will cope fine.
How I HATE the media…
Anyway. The MAIN reason for my typing is this morning, my Mum texted me with a piece of news. I did some searching around to verify it… Sadly, this piece of news was true…
Yesterday, one of the most important people I ever knew in my life passed away. God bless him… 94 years old, a good innings. The picture at the head of this post was taken on his 90th birthday.
Between 1984 and 1986, this guy was my music teacher at school. He was a legend. I read through the ever growing tributes to him and they all tell the same story. He was unique, much loved and deeply respected. I loved and respected him and I can honestly say if it wasn’t for him, you would not be reading this now nor would any of you even know me. He changed my life. This is how.
It’s 1984. I’m 12 years old and started senior school. One lesson I’d never liked so far in school was Music. In walked THIS guy with wild hair, geeky spectacles… he was the true eccentric in living form. Everybody else in my class thought he was a “nutter” whereas I quickly sensed and realised he exuded genuine passion for music. Unknown to me, he had taught one of my Uncles nearly 20 years earlier and my Uncle LOVED this guy and I grew to discover why. He made music fun, and he knew his stuff. One fond memory was one lesson when he talked about repetitive figures and to illustrate he played us Carl Orff’s famous “Carmina Burana” – the “O Fortuna” piece which many would remember as the “Old Spice” music. It starts off with this two note riff and he stood there urging us to listen. Then when the kettle drums burst in with their dramatic entrance, he JUMPED up in the air perfectly in time, whooping to it. He was in heaven… truly happy! A sight and sound I will treasure for the rest of my life. He was so engrossed within the music, he didn’t care how we reacted.
Watching him conduct the school orchestra… well. On one occasion I was sat behind him during the one day of the week the orchestra would play at assembly. Amazing. He was skipping and jumping on the spot and singing loudly along to the noise. How could anyone NOT love a guy like this? I was the only pupil in my class who took him seriously and between us, respect and trust was built.
It’s 1986. We got letters and forms urging us to pick our options for the brand new GCSE exams. I was 13 soon to be 14 and this traumatised me as I was informed I could NOT do both subjects I liked the most – Art and Music. I could only choose one of them. The damning thing was they changed it the following year so one could do both but I was in the unlucky year. I was a good and promising artist. Music… I’m not gonna deny it, I was hopeless. I couldn’t sing nor could I play. I just had passion for it, not necessarily the best qualification. My art tutor took me aside after one lesson and went on, urging me to tick her box. Naturally. I was good. Then after the next music lesson, I was taken aside and Jeffery made a gentle case for me going with Music. He saw SOMETHING within me. Goodness knows what and he was persuasive. I could trust him. I mulled on his words of advice. The night before the options form had to be returned was a nightmare. I’d picked all my other subjects but what was it gonna be – Art or Music? Little did I know the box I ticked would change my life and send it in a very different direction. Of course, I chose Music.
The following week, my art tutor requested me to stay behind. She was very upset and demanded to know what I was playing at as she couldn’t believe I’d turned my back on Art. I did point out I’d had an unsuccessful row with my heads of year where I tried to argue against this stupid choice but rules were rules and the decision had to be made. Next time I saw Jeffery, he was all smiles! He would retire two years later and I didn’t have him as my GCSE music teacher but that didn’t matter as Jeffrey was a constant presence in the Music block which was my sanctuary at school. I spent many hours enjoying his company and humour. He spoke with a wonderful sing-song type voice. I regret never recording him save for a very brief 5 second comment by him at the start of one recording I made in 1987 where you hear him saying “Lovely song, a lovely, lovely song!” As the recording had just started, alas we’ll never know what song he was talking about.
He retired in 1988 but that was far from the end as over the next ten years, whenever I ran into him around my town, he’d always greet me loudly and cheerfully, arms waving “HELLO BARRY!” and we’d then chat a few minutes. By then I was writing songs, performing and more as I now trod along an eccentric path in the world and name of music, creativity and entertainment. THIS guy is the man to thank. Seriously. If it wasn’t for him, my life would not have been what it was as there was no way I would had gone any further down a music path. He saw something within me, and gently encouraged it. I am a damn good performance artist. I am great at what I do… not the best at what I do, but the only one who does what I do.
I owe everything to this guy. I was just one of many hundreds who benefitted from his presence as I knew many who worked with him in the orchestra and everyone absolutely LOVED him. His 90th birthday concert featured a reunion of many faces from across his life playing together and he remembered EVERYBODY. He still had the same energy and passion. People travelled long distances just for that opportunity to play for him.
Today has been a sad one, the world is in a sad place as it is right now but it’s definitely much sadder now he is no longer within it. He will be missed badly by many and his family are now having to wait till this lockdown madness ends before there will be a memorial service for him and I know that will be packed out. Guaranteed. He was a true one off in every sense of the word, a man who enriched and changed the lives of so many.
Lastly, I have started work on a new project to pass the time during April which promises to be a long depressing month. What I’m going to be doing is creating one of my music and sound collages… I started making those back in 1987 and the plan is to create around 3 minutes each day so by the end of the month there should be a complete brand new 90 minutes (approx) collage. It might give you all some amusement and possibly some insights as one can never tell what will appear in there or which tangents it will go off on. I am unpredictable! So… if we complete that, I’ll post a link at the end of the month. Just created the first part and it’s um… well… er…