I nearly typed 21st March, 2023.  Sounds worse!  Not exactly enjoying 2022, though.  Is anyone?  Even the onset of spring, today, is failing to buoy my mood …

How to get rid of one’s reader, immediately!  Or, perhaps not.  Honesty can never be a bad thing and, let’s face it, life is hard, particularly now.  So … I wrote two lines, yesterday, and that was it.  I was freezing all day, just couldn’t get warm despite the sunshine and I think my main problem was lack of sleep.  My own worst enemy, I’ve actually been forcing myself to go to bed earlier the past couple of nights but that doesn’t mean I turn my light off.  In fact, I was ‘maintaining my genius’, last night, until just before 2am.  ‘Maintaining my genius’?  I love it!  Just rolls off the tongue.  Let me explain …

At the end of last year, ABBA released their first album of new material in God knows how many years.  Huge publicity and, of course, their music was everywhere.  I always liked them, particularly as the height of their fame coincided with my university days, thus weaving a soundtrack through the highs and lows.  ABBA’s speciality.  Anyway, I never really knew much about the four members, always fiercely private, particularly Agnetha who had supposedly become a recluse.  Actually, she has released a couple of solo albums over the years and one of them, entitled simply ‘A’, came out in 2013 and was positively locked in the CD player in my car!   An extremely difficult time in my life, Agnetha – as so often before – seemed to capture my mood perfectly.  The songs are memorable for their beautiful melodies and evocative lyrics.  An album of reflection, brimming with poignancy, it will forever be one of my favourites, immediately transporting me back.  We got through it together, though!  Now, I was prompted to read about their story and duly equipped myself with an acclaimed biography: The Real Story of ABBA; Bright Lights Dark Shadows by Carl Magnus Palm.  Ordering it from Waterstones, I could barely carry it from the shop – it’s nearly 600 pages, for goodness sake – but I have enjoyed every word.  Extremely well written – grammar, punctuation, the lot – it has carried me into the early hours for some time now, producing arm muscles I never knew I had!  However, one night Becca appeared, curious as to why my light was still on.  Pre-empting her mockery, I told her that I was ‘maintaining my genius’ – ABBA splashed all over the cover – and how we laughed.  Three words consigned to family history, oft to be repeated.  There is a sub-text, though, being that it is a long-held joke that someone else – he knows who he is – was only ever seen to read two books: Bob Geldof’s autobiography and that of Gary Barlow!

ABBA.  The name synonymous with a catalogue of songs which mean so much to so many; songs which will last for generations … and continue to irritate the hell out of some!  Two married couples who achieved fame and fortune and, seemingly, had it all.  Thing is, nobody has it all and money cannot buy it all.  The book, then, is a timely reminder that all that glitters is not gold; that appearances lie.  A reminder, if any is needed, that a smile can cover a million heartaches and one’s public façade is nothing more than the mask one adorns in the morning and removes each night.

See the funny little clown, see the puppet on a string
Wind him up and he will sing, give him candy, he will dance
But be certain not to feel that his funny face is real …’

David Cassidy, I Am A Clown.

I remember watching him sing that very song, in person, in 1985.  His heart was in every word.

Wow!  Depressing stuff and to think I was going to write about hair.  As I said, not a good day which began with a message cancelling my drumming lesson of all things.  Honestly, that’s tantamount to telling me I have to travel on public transport for the rest of my days!  Little things.

Anything else?  Well, I happen to follow Laurence Fox on Instagram and his stories are cynical at the best of times but …  He had re-posted a video of someone catching a neighbour, I think, red-handed about to syphon petrol out of his car!  Bare-faced, the guy admitted it and apologised, protesting that he needed fuel to get to the gas station.  Oh well, then, that’s alright.  No, it isn’t!  That’s precisely what is wrong with this egocentric world.  It’s all about me; dog eat dog.  Who’s to know, perhaps if that guy in the video had explained his predicament to his neighbour, he would have been happy to help.  Instead, he just took because he needed.  No communication.  No manners.  Just take.

Suitably riled, I drove to the beach.  A beautiful day – but freezing – my heart sank as I saw the dots filing along the sand.  People!  What’s more, I was met by two dogs haring across in front of the car as the ignorant owner just opened her boot and let them go.  No apology, not a wave of the hand, nothing.  It seems this lovely world is, also, full of untrained toy dogs.  Poos and doodles at every turn, they yap and jump up.  Why train them?  That would require effort – oh, and respect for other people.

The wind was biting and the waves powerful.  I find it mesmerising to watch the marbled water morph into frothy white waves as it is forced crashing to the shore.  White horses.  A sight which transports me back to my childhood as, excitedly – at first glimpse of the sea in the distance – we would break into song: ‘Summer has come from the sunny land, summer is here to stay’.  Yes, that ‘little spark of madness’ has been in the veins since birth …  Anyway, the tide was too far in ensuring the beach resembled little more than a prison exercise yard as human beings – whether individuals or groups – walked, as though in lanes, one behind the other, not a flicker of acknowledgement to their fellow man.  How low we have sunk?  Sadly, most are either oblivious or just don’t care.

At the far end, I stopped and looked across to the R&A, Hamilton Grand, The Scores in the distance and Breakers, the house whose beautiful garden was once open to those prepared to put a pound in the box on the gate in aid of the British Heart Foundation.  A hidden gem, we visited several times, following the path of old paving stones, under the arch of climbing roses, down to the garden’s end perched on the cliff’s edge looking over the sea to the West Sands.  Complete with a little summer house, it was like something from a Daphne du Maurier novel and I dreamt of, one day, living there – and writing.  Heaven.  Of course, in reality, it did go up for sale.  Now a construction site, nobody has been living there for years but the garden has been ripped up, the rose bushes and summer house are gone and there is a building and a fence of glass in their place.  No longer Breakers, the name on the new pillars at the entrance is Viewforth.  No more the dream, sadly, it fits.

Nothing if not forewarned, let me raise the bar somewhat.  I was invited to have lunch with my old friend, Roddie, last Wednesday.  A wonderful character from my childhood days, I have written about him many times before but my post of 26th February, 2021 includes a background, for anyone thus far unfamiliar.  Always a joy, he is a welcome reminder that in this world devoid of manners and respect, a soupçon of class may still be found.  As I buzzed my arrival, a familiar, well-spoken voice answered.  Once inside, I was greeted by my old friend dressed in tweed jacket and tie.  I sent him a card the next day, thanking him …

The more I see of the world, the more am I dissatisfied with it; and every day confirms my belief of the inconsistency of all human characters, and of the little dependence that can be placed on the appearance of merit or sense.’

Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice.

The irony lies in the fact that it has taken me fourteen hundred words to write the same!

This is Trish, signing off.