The 10th May. A date forever etched in my memory and one which, hauntingly, connects two lives for very different reasons. I wear my paternal grandmother’s engagement ring, left to me when she died – I was 22, I think. My middle name was hers and I have bemoaned it for most of my life but family names are important. Pop was an only child and his parents moved from Glasgow to be near us in the 60s. I have happy memories of visiting my grandparents in the early days but, like my mother, Gran was a very strong character and, in the end, there was a severing of relations. Older and wiser, in hindsight, the reasons are more blurred. Suffice to say, Pop continued to visit his parents but … At home, as a form of reprimand, I was often told I was ‘just like Gran’ by my mother or her echoes but it never wounded. Gran was intelligent with a keen sense of humour which she, obviously, passed on to her son – albeit his being consistently of the sarcastic variety – and I suppose we had many traits in common. Does that explain the natural bond I had with Pop? Humour, definitely, but the resemblance in looks, too, could be uncanny.
I have a portfolio case full of old photographs recovered from Lyndhurst and I was looking through them the other night in an endeavour to find one of Pop suitable for use as a header for one of the pages on my new website. There can be little more precious than photographs and I smiled as I found ones of him as a boy and even an old class one of Gran as a little girl. No writing or explanation on the back – merely the date 1908 – in a group of thirty or so, I was immediately drawn to the front row, perhaps because it felt like looking in a mirror. Was it just me? Was I imagining a resemblance? I took said photograph through to Manny and, in a matter of seconds, he found his Great-Grandmother! In the absence of any other explanation, there is a family likeness …
On that note, my mother spent many of her latter years writing a book about her family. She became very interested in genealogy spending time tracing her lineage and, eventually, printed a copy of her resulting tome for each of her grandchildren. Possessing of her own style, it is an enjoyable read albeit susceptible to her unique blend of poetic licence. That was my mother! However, on the subject of old photographs, those carefully hand-picked include one of her father/ Papa in his army uniform. The word ‘haunting’ is not strong enough. It is Manny! The eyes, the forehead … It is lovely to think that one’s parents and grandparents live on in one’s children. A fascinating subject encompassing the dominance of genes. For my part, I am very grateful that the Sherret/Russell blend is so clearly imbued in my own children. I will, however, continue to be intrigued by the way in which – when shown an old photograph of one’s forebears – one is instinctively drawn to one’s own with no heed to the passage of time. Family and the ties that bind, invisible or otherwise.
Well, as ever, I have strayed a little off piste but no matter. Back to the significance of the 10th May and Gran’s engagement ring. I never really take it off but, inside, it is inscribed with the following: JS to AMA 10/5/1925. Desperately seeking the magnifying glass I know I have somewhere, I can’t actually see to confirm but my memory serves me well and I would never forget that date, particularly now! My grandparents got engaged on the 10th May and, fast-forwarding 87 years to 10th May, 2012, on that day I discovered the true meaning of a lie – and endeavoured to extricate myself from him! The rest, as they say, is history but there is no doubting my continued, inextricable link to my grandmother.
As I write/type/talk to myself, the rain outside is torrential and it has become suddenly dark. A message from beyond the grave? I learned earlier that the comedian, Freddie Starr, has died aged 76. Sad news of the lonely demise of one of the funniest men. Huge in the 70s, he was everywhere and multi-talented. A superb impersonator, he could sing, renowned for his renditions of Elvis but it was his appearances on the Des O’Connor Show which I shall always remember. A comic genius, he was also a loose canon and no host could ever predict what he was going to do next. Des O’Connor, however, was content to go with the flow and his infectious laughter coupled with Freddie’s outrageous antics were television gold. Halcyon days.
Yesterday was the 70th Birthday of Billy Joel. Help! Thank God I have just had my hair coloured in an attempt to hold back time. I have said before that Tom Odell (Tom, to his friends!), reminds me of a young Billy Joel and there can be no greater accolade. Who can ever forget his classic album, The Stranger? I found my copy recently although, in the absence of a turntable, it is very much a collector’s item for now. To be remedied. Anyway, back to 1979 and Pollock Halls when the dulcet tones of Mr Joel could be heard emanating through the open windows of most rooms, cascading across the courtyards towards Arthur’s Seat … Part of my university soundtrack, I was lucky enough to see him in concert at the Usher Hall in February 1979. Wearing that infamous checked jacket, jeans and white sneakers (go with it!), his performance was energetic and effortless as he played them all, to the delight of an audience who demanded – and got – five encores! His final song was Only The Good Die Young which, if I remember correctly, he sang from the top of the piano – like someone else I know. Never to be forgotten, I still have my ticket stub – the best £5 I have ever spent! Mind you, I saw Chris Rea that same year at Grindlay Street for all of one pound …
One thousand words on and I haven’t even mentioned Archie! Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor. That is one cool name. Somehow I think Harry’s mother would approve and, certainly, would love to see her son so, so happy. Good stuff!
I saw old footage of Marti Pellow on TV recently, in his latter druggy days with Wet Wet Wet. Always makes me sad to see him then – and now – when I think back to the happy, healthy young guy with the ‘to die for’ smile and the amazing voice who first appeared with his school/bandmates in 1982. Full of energy and optimism, life had, as yet, spared him its cruel reality. Not for long. Made me think of the great Don Henley’s song, The End of the Innocence. If you don’t know it, find it. So evocative.
Out for dinner last Saturday, we were joined by Dylan, one of Manny’s best and oldest friends. As I watched them both, across the table, I was again reminded of that song. Aged all of 26 years, gone is the schoolboy innocence. Both looking older – and tired – I couldn’t help but reflect on the fleeting happiness of childhood borne of carefree days devoid of responsibility. All too soon the umbrella shielding one from life is blown inside out in the wind and there is nothing to protect one from the elements … Worth remembering, though, the words inscribed on the little marble plaque we brought back from Rome to give to Pop/Bapa. I got the hammer out and hung it in his room:
‘Sopra le nuvole c’è sompre il sole.’/ ‘Above the clouds, there is always the sun.’
This is Trish, signing off.
p.s. Who would ever believe it? Nick drove us home on Saturday – again!