One week down and counting – Ken Bruce withdrawals.  Mercifully, Gary Davies is filling the gap until May and, thus, the true force of the blow has been softened but …  They do say time is a healer.  We fight on!

Friday.  God sure does move in mysterious ways …  Everywhere in the UK, it seems, is being blasted by an arctic freeze; deep in snow and the most treacherous conditions – except my beach!  In all my years, it has rarely been more beautiful, bathed in glorious winter sunshine, laden with the promise of spring.  Barely a breath of wind, the tide was quite far in as the waves glistened in the golden hues, the marbled water, ever powerful, as it curled into a sea of white froth dancing its way to the shore.  Compelled to wallow in the magnificence of the surrounds, I didn’t walk far, pausing, instead, to marvel; to think; to remember.  John Denver came to mind, that genius of song for whom nature was his muse.

To my mind, one of the most under-rated songwriters, John Denver was only fifty-three-years-old when, test-flying his new light plane, he crashed into Monterey Bay and was killed.  October 12th, 1997.  A notorious date, October 12th …  Suffice to say, I have loved his music for as long as I can remember.  Acoustic, melodic, its appeal lies in its simplicity and lyrics which come from the heart.  That’s the thing, he wrote songs which meant something to him and, in turn, resonated with his audience.  Lucky enough to see him live in the Eighties, how I wish I could find my ticket stub today …  Beside me, here on my desk, though, I have an old copy of The John Denver Songbook.  Dated 1971, Manny found it for me in a charity shop last year and I treasure it.  I have it opened at the page with the music and lyrics for Sunshine On My Shoulders – my favourite.  That is the song which came into my head as I stood on the sand, the water glistening in the winter sunshine.  That is what he was writing about.  Universal.  Timeless for all time.

Apricity. ‘ The warmth of the winter sun’, or words to that effect.  From the Latin, Apricari, ‘to bask in the sun’.  Common in the 1600s, its earliest documented use was in 1623.  Obsolete for some time, I had never heard of it until yesterday when Suzie Dent, a lexicographer, was on Claudia Winkleman’s programme on Radio 2 (haven’t re-tuned yet!).  How weird was that, though?  As I said, God moves in mysterious ways for apricity captures, perfectly, my experience on the beach on Friday.  How I love words – and nothing more than learning a new one; increasing my vocabulary.  Always sourcing the meaning of one I don’t know, if it is a word I particularly like, I often jott it down on a post-it note and stick it somewhere obvious.  Thus, I have a multi-coloured collection of my favourites, pusillanimous being one.  For those who are unaware, it means ‘cowardly’.  Something I abhor!  Bilious has long been top of the list – for reasons belonging to childhood – but, now, I can add apricity and, moreover, the 19th century, blutterbunged, meaning ‘dumbfounded, stunned, surprised’.  Blutterbunged.  Truly scrumptious!  To think that the Oxford English Dictionary’s word of the year in 2021 was vax and, in 2022, was goblin mode.  So much to be proud of.  A rapid decline into the utterly mundane!

Once again, I digress from my notes …  Three words: George Michael: Outed.  A Channel 4 documentary of two parts, last week, I happened to hear Scott Mills talking about it on Radio 2 the following day, commenting that you would love him even more after watching it.  Then, the review by Chitra Ramaswamy in The Guardian, Mon 6 March, headlined: ‘George Michael: Outed review this will make you love him even more than you did as a screaming teen’.  Well, no, it certainly didn’t!  A huge fan of Wham in the Eighties, I loved the music: catchy, upbeat, fun, it was happy.  Then, George went solo and his music became more thoughtful and melancholy.  Turn a Different Corner … so evocative; so reflective; so sad.  So my favourite.  Who couldn’t love George Michael?  Last Christmas.  1984.  The genius of the man.  The inner turmoil of the man …

Checking dates, his mother was only sixty when she died of cancer in 1997, four years after Brazilian Anselmo Feleppa, George’s first love, succumbed to AIDS.  Understandably, he was devastated and it seems that, at this point, a black cloud engulfed him.  His arrest in that Beverley Hills park in 1998 was to mark the start of a plethora of news headlines citing driving bans, a jail sentence, excessive drug use and illness.  Yes, he had ‘come out ‘with bravado, all guns blazing and with an arrogant defiance – made much of in this two-part documentary – but it was there that he lost me.  Far from making me ‘love him even more’, it reminded me of why I no longer did.

It’s all equity on steroids.  The race to the bottom whilst pretending we are amazing.’ 

Just one of the comments which resonated with me below Laurence Fox’s Instagram post on the huge growth industry of Drag Queen Story Hour in our schools (11/3/23).   Front and centre was something called a Rainbow Dildo Butt Monkey, invited, last summer, by a Labour council in London to host children’s reading groups in libraries.  Have we sunk so low on this, aptly put, ‘race to the bottom’?  Of course, it is inappropriate, totally unacceptable and, quite honestly, terrifying that any parent should entertain the idea of taking their child within a mile of such an event but this is 2023 and the sane amongst us have a war on our hands; a war against woke!  The Tyranny of Tolerance is alive and well, orchestrated by rabid minorities brimming with a self-loathing projected onto others.  Gender ideology, the sexualization of children, the more depraved the better as the goading continues, daring those of us with a moral compass to challenge at our peril.  Most don’t.  Too scared of being marginalized; too desperate to be part of the crowd.

Similarly, when George Michael was caught performing a ‘lewd act’ in a public toilet in Beverley Hills – and subsequently arrested – we were encouraged to applaud!  Applaud what?  His arrogance?  His defiance?  That he put two fingers up to the world, insisting that he had nothing to be ashamed of?  He was George Michael and he was gay and proud!  The fact that he liked to hang out – literally – in public toilets and go ‘cruising’ for sex with strangers, ‘cottaging’ on Hampstead Heath, high on drugs …

Asked why he cruises for sex when he could get any gay man he wanted, George replied: ‘I do get anyone I want.  But I like a bit of everything.’  

Taken from an article in the Daily Mail (5 December, 2009), eleven years after his ‘outing’ in a public toilet in Beverley Hills.  In 2008, he was arrested in a similar convenience on Hampstead Heath, this time in possession of crack cocaine.  ‘It’s just who I am’, he said … and who was he?  Arguably, one of the most talented singer/songwriters of our time, he was a multi-millionaire.  Good-looking, generous and kind – by all accounts – he was also gay and, clearly, very unhappy!  Contrary to what he would have the world believe, he wasn’t proud of his lifestyle and, poignantly, one of his first comments following his arrest in 1998 was to express relief that his beloved mother wasn’t alive to see it.

George Michael: Outed, Channel 4.  Only in writing this has it dawned on me that the troubled star has merely been used as another vehicle of woke.  His defiance and arrogance, following his arrest and ‘outing’, was the focus; something I disliked.  What he did was wrong.  I didn’t want to know about his seedy sex life; his promiscuity and appetite for strangers.  That wasn’t anything to be proud of.  I hated his ‘up yours!’ track, ‘Outside’, and, to this day, I always switch off the radio when it comes on.  This documentary, though, was intended as a celebration of homosexuality, not of George Michael.  Centred around perhaps his greatest humiliation, in hindsight, his defiance in its wake – in my opinion – only served to mask a self-loathing which he was powerless to overcome.  The age-old story.  Surrounded by sycophants, there to encourage not criticise; to fawn, not to advise, for them, he played the part.  Perhaps, too well.  Who really cared?  Like Elvis before him, it seems he never got over the loss of his mother and, sadly, despite all the fame, money and success – or, more truthfully, because of it – he never found the happiness he craved.

I’d say love was a magical flame
I’d say love would keep us from pain
Had I been there, had I been there …’

George Michael, Turn a Different Corner.

This is Trish, signing off, suitably depressed!