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Is your job safe?  - Corona Virus Diary

12 July 2020

What a week it has been.  For those of you who don’t know, I have been under threat of redundancy since February – nothing to do with the pandemic although that hasn’t helped the situation.  Since February I have been on tenterhooks waiting for that letter to give me notice.  I knew the money would run out for my post at the end of May but still no letter arrived. I tried to stay positive because even under threat of redundancy, my situation isn’t as bad as others.  Especially those who have died from the virus, and those living with the after-effects of the virus that still impact their health.

The end of May came and went and no letter.  June came and went and again, no letter.  I was relieved I was still working but a little on edge too.  Just because it wasn’t here didn’t mean it wasn’t coming.  How can you plan when you don’t know what is around the corner?  So, I applied for an internal position in the same company and had an interview this week.  Even that was unusual.  I have never been interviewed over Zoom before.  So many more things to think about.  How is the lighting?  Can they hear me?  What happens if technology lets us down?  Which room is best for internet reception?  What background can they see and will I be judged on how tidy my bookshelf is?  Anyway, I was convinced I didn’t get it but the next day got a call to be offered the job.  Relief isn’t the word.  At least for now, I am safe.  Safer than I was at any rate.  I would have been very worried if I had to go back out on the open job market in this current climate.

Of course, the job market since the pandemic is the worst in my lifetime.  There are so many companies that cannot afford to keep people in their posts and yes, for some, furlough (a new word to many of us this year) was a reprieve, but putting off the inevitable.  I expect many more redundancies will show up on the government statistics as soon as we reach August and the furlough scheme changes.  I had not been furloughed myself as I am a key worker in my day job.  I did get a little fed up reading about everyone doing fun stuff while I was still working hard.  I think people forget that some of us have worked throughout the lockdown.

Companies are falling down at every turn.  Small ones but also big ones.  In Milton Keynes we had already lost Monsoon and House of Fraser before the pandemic.  Now we have lost Debenhams and Carluccio’s Restaurant.  We only have John Lewis left as the remaining department store and this week they announced they are closing stores including Watford and Birmingham.  Shops are in serious trouble.  These make headline news but don’t forget about what you can’t see.  Charities are especially badly hit.  Not only have they missed out on fundraising opportunities such as marathons, but they have also been hit from reduced donations as people are uncertain of their own future.  If a person is under threat of redundancy, they are not going to give money to charity as they don’t know if they can afford it.  Yet charities often do the unseen work that social workers no longer do due to their own funding cuts.  Charities help stop people reaching a crisis point.

Please if you can, give to charity, but do not give to charities not doing the work themselves (such as Comic Relief, Children In Need and NHS charities together) who are what is known as a second tier charity.  This makes it very hard for the charity doing the work to access the funds.  The funds become restricted rather than unrestricted as the charity has to apply to the second-tier charity for funds around a specific project.  If you give directly to the charity, your donation will really count.  You can see the work it is doing.  Finally, I would say give to a charity that is close to your heart.

If you are unable to give to a charity because of your financial situation, you can still make a huge difference.  You can share the charity’s social media posts.  Not the random ‘please cut and paste/ I bet no one posts this’ passive aggressive posts you see on Facebook which does nothing to raise awareness.  Please share the official charity page posts which will make a difference.  If you are not one for social media, how about volunteering?  I know a lot of roles have changed because of the virus right now, but there are still fantastic roles available, which bring so many benefits.  You can use your skill set to help others.  You can learn new skills.  You can make a difference to another person.  And doing something good for others feeds your soul.  We all need a bit of that right now.

Whatever your situation, I wish you a good week.  Stay safe.

A week of outrage - Corona Virus Diary

 

Sunday 28 June 2020

Everyone seems to be on one side or the other right now.  You are either outraged that people are partying on Bournemouth beach, going to a secret rave (is it the 90's again?) or celebrating Liverpool winning the league outside the stadium while you have been inside all this time observing the rules correctly, or you are one of the idiots who think its okay not to wear masks as it impacts on your human rights.

I guess you already know what camp I fall into.  Yes, I am very annoyed that so many people have no common sense.  How stupid are people?  Do they think the virus won’t come out to play in the sunshine?  Do they think because the government is easing the rules to open up the economy that the virus will obey the government and go away?  I am trying really hard to not be judgmental but people are truly idiotic if they believe this.  Its not just in the UK.  America seems to have a lot of the same problems.  They are almost asking for it.  Tempting the virus to punch them in the face. I will struggle to feel empathy for them if this happens – this is why I will never be a nurse.  Do they deserve it?  I will leave it to you to make up your mind.  The government has eased a lot of restrictions from 4 July.  This includes opening up bars and pubs as well as restaurants and hairdressers.  Surely if anyone had any sense, they would hold off on this until the idiots have calmed down.  Actually, Greene King have some common sense and are not opening until 6 July to avoid that weekend of madness that is sure to come.

This week I visited my mum.  It’s the first time I have seen her since the beginning of February.  Although we did Zoom once, its not quite the same.  I still had to explain that disposable gloves need to be disposed of and that what they think are two metres is not far enough (I think older people think 2 metres is 2 feet).  Despite social distancing and meeting in the fresh air it was good to see them.  My mum is recovering from an operation and I am just so glad she came through it without catching the virus.

I was delighted that Tim Arnold released his latest single this week. Even more delighted that I feature (in a very small way) in the video.  Thanks to Tim that is one off my bucket list. You can read more about it and hear the song here.  Saturday night marked a special day.  It would normally be the Bowienetters event in London this week.  I miss my fellow Bowie peoploids very much so it was held online with a few live performances and all monies raised going to the Terrance Higgins Trust.  Bowie himself used to support these events before he passed and sent messages of encouragement.  It felt just like the old Bnet days where we were all typing online to chat and typically the chat was so fast that I would miss half the conversation before I gave my response.  A few drinks may have been drunk too. but I couldn’t possibly comment.

I also painted another two walls of my hallway this week.  I only have four walls left now.  It’s a mammoth task but I am making good progress.  Although I didn’t feel like doing it – especially in this beautiful weather we have been having – I feel a sense of achievement since I did it.  I also sorted out my bookshelf and got rid of some books that I won’t read again.  I know it sounds strange but I got excited seeing some of my books again.  I have lots of self-help books.  I love a positive thought or two to inspire me.  Here is my inspirational quote for this week.

Life is too short to wait.  It started a debate on my Facebook which I gave another quote – one that totally belongs to me and not some guru.  You need to live today because no one knows what tomorrow may bring.

Wishing you all a great week living your best life that you can in the current circumstances… and please stay safe.

My Grandad  - Corona Virus diary

Friday 13 June 2020

 

With all the anger and hate that has come out recently from #blm plus the frustration of lockdown and the doom and gloom of the daily updates, I have decided to write a positive blog this week.  I want to talk about my grandad who is my inspiration.  He is 98 years young (his words) and he is the most positive person I have ever known.

As a child he threw me the best birthday parties. He was the entertainment.  He did a ventriloquist act with a dummy called Fred and the old Morecambe and Wise joke with the paper bag.  He could even take his finger off and replace it.  As a child this was truly magical.  All my friends loved him and I was so proud he was MY grandad and belonged to me.  Being the first grandchild, I suppose its fair to say my grandparents spoilt me.  They took me to antique fairs, the proms, lots of museums and the cinema.  My gran took me to see Star Wars and Close Encounters.  As a teenager, they took me (at my request) to King’s Road and Carnaby Street to buy my punk clothes.  They loved me and I loved them back.  It is true.  You reap what you sow.

As I grew up and had my own family, I still visited at every opportunity. I used to stay over with my first child but by the time I had my second, they were getting on in years so it was day trips instead.  I always admired their love for each other.  They always held hands and it was obvious to anyone who saw them that they were in love.  They were married for 70 years, but sadly my gran passed away in 2013 and left us all bereft.

My grandad, who had a double heart bypass 20 years ago, has the attitude of ‘every day is a lovely day’.  He misses my gran greatly and still speaks to her photo in his flat.  I can’t even imagine how it must be to lose someone after over 70 years together.  But my grandad, despite his overwhelming grief carried on.  He slowly built a new life for himself.  He went to U3A and jazz clubs.  He paints.  He cooks.  He made new friends and took coach trips to the seaside with them.  Since lockdown he has again, made a new life.  At 98 he cannot risk going out and catching the virus so he stays in.  I know he finds this hard as he has always been such a sociable person.  I take after him and understand this completely.  But he gets food delivered.  He still cooks and paints.  In fact he has sold some paintings to raise money for the NHS after being inspired by Captain Tom.  He sits on his balcony and has a glass of wine while listening to Frank Sinatra.  Yet again, he takes the positives and has made the best of our situation.  He really is an inspiration to me.  I am still very proud to say he is MY grandad.

 

And his positive attitude to life is how I want to be.  No matter what the situation.  No matter how grim it all feels right now.  Be like my grandad and find the small things that make you happy.

This blog is dedicated to both my grandad and my lovely gran. I love you both.

My Grandad and me in January 2020. 

Black lives matter - Corona Virus Diary

Friday 5 June 2020

Besides the corona virus there is only one story that has dominated the headlines this week.  The death of George Floyd in the USA.  I’m sorry, I meant to say the murder of George Floyd.  You cannot be anything other than shocked at seeing that video and it deeply saddens me that this has happened again.  I am pleased to hear that all the policemen involved in this incident have been arrested.  However, that doesn’t mean the fight for justice is over.  Black lives matter has been a hashtag all week.  On Tuesday many millions on social media made their profile black.  However, I really liked the tweet from Dan Whitehead who said: post a black square if you must but don’t use the #blacklivesmatter hashtag when you do so, because then that hashtag is flooded with emptiness when its most needed’.

Yes, black lives do matter.  I have not heard anyone on social media denying it but then perhaps I haven’t looked hard enough to hear it.  There have been protests not only in the USA, but here in the UK too.  I do think it’s important for the world to change and here is a great opportunity to do so.  However, I have two concerns with protests.  Firstly, they do not look very peaceful.  Many turn violent which takes away the message and the power.  But even more concerning is the complete disregard of social distancing.  Where have these people been the last few months?  That virus is still there and its still killing people.  I saw a video of people lying on the floor saying ‘I can’t breathe’.  I know it’s a tribute to George but I couldn’t help but think I hope this isn’t you saying this in two weeks’ time just before they put you on a ventilator.  People from BAME groups are more susceptible to the virus according to the statistic’s, so why on earth would you go to a crowded place and risk your lives in this way?  Your lives matter.  Your voices matter.  Please don’t throw them away in this manner.  

Although black lives matter is all about racism, I want to broaden this movement to say let’s fight all discrimination.  It’s not just the colour of your skin that is discriminated about.  People from LGBTQ+ have been murdered.  People with disabilities have been murdered.  Women have been discriminated against for generations and in some countries are still treated as a second-class citizen.  By widening the remit of the movement, we can put a stop to all hatred.  To all discrimination.  It all matters.  I am talking as someone who has known gay people who have been beaten.  I am talking as someone who has known disabled people spat on in the streets and told they shouldn’t have children.  I am talking as a woman who has been beaten.  I am saying enough is enough.  Let’s stand together and fight together.  But let’s fight a smart fight – socially distancing and getting our voices to the people with the power to change things for good.

Peace be with you all.

A roller coaster of emotions - Corona Virus diary

Sunday 31 May 2020

This week has been a roller-coaster of emotions.  Friday, I sat in the garden all day enjoying the sunshine.  But I sobbed my heart out when I watched a couple of songs from Hairspray to get ready for the shows must go on YouTube special this weekend.  It hit me for the first time in weeks how much I really miss theatre.  Real live theatre. Ironically what I miss the most is the interaction with the audience.  I miss them bowing at the end for us to be able to show our appreciation.  I miss the audience.  I miss people I can hug.  I miss people.  And I sobbed because I cannot see a time when we will be able to go back to our old lives.  I can’t imagine how gigs will be either.  Standing gigs aren’t going to be spaced out fairly – the audience push to the front to see the band.  How can this work in our ‘new normal’?  How stupid are the government to ease the restrictions?  To allow football back?  To allow people to meet in groups of six (In England) … and go into their back gardens and even have a barbecue?  You know that two weeks from now the death rate will rise again.  I have been fine staying in until now, but lifting these rules will kill people.  The virus isn’t tired.  The virus hasn’t gone away.  No wonder I feel so down.  We cannot see an end in sight to this.  So even if they are easing the rules, I am still staying home.  I hope you are too.

Friday, I had a technical problem with my TV.  It turned out that it was just a lose wire but I decided that Friday night I would watch Marc Almond live on my laptop instead.  He was doing a free gig to raise funds and awareness for recording venues that are struggling in these times.  He showed that Marc and his band could socially distance and still use the studio.  Please support this worthy cause.  Marc commentated at how fitting Bedsitter was for our current times.  He sang new songs such as Chaos and old songs such as Chips On My Shoulder.  He said he has to sing Tainted Love or he would never be forgiven.  When he asked ‘touch me with your tainted love’…many fans throughout the world watching, duly obliged including me.  As soon as Marc had finished, I switched over to watch Take That.  They were funny and the interactions were just as good as the songs.  My sister adores Take That and took me to see them in 2011 at Wembley.  I repaid the favour when The Band musical toured.  I know all their big hits even though I would say I was more a Robbie fan than a TT fan.  However, this was so enjoyable and I felt I had properly gigged on Friday night.

That meant Saturday night was for Hairspray.  I say night but actually I started to watch it about 4pm in the afternoon.  I couldn’t wait.  I sung very loudly and thoroughly enjoyed it.  I adore Hairspray.  It’s a sugar-sweet musical but had dark undertones.  It addresses subjects such as attitudes towards size (and I have put weight on since lockdown) and racism.  It couldn’t be more current with the sad passing of George Floyd who was murdered by police officers’ in the USA this week.  It’s a musical with substance and a simple good verses evil at its heart.  Here is my review of the last time I saw it in a theatre.

I also dyed my hair this weekend.  Yes, I had done my roots last week, but now I am finally back to red.  And I felt good about that.  So, when I was approached to do a clip for a new music video, guess what I was doing on Sunday morning?  I won’t say anymore at the moment but will let you know nearer the release of the track.

I have always kept a ‘positive thoughts’ journal so I always try to see the silver lining.  This weekend I am grateful for the beautiful sunshine.  Lockdown would be so much harder without being able to sit in your gardens.  I am grateful that my family are all well and that I have had some lovely conversations with friends over the lockdown period.  Life is good. Why?  Because we are still living it.

Have a good week and stay safe.

What do you do with your time? -  Corona Virus diary

Sunday 24 May 2020

What have I been doing?  Well I have spent a lot of time doing not very much. I have really got on board with the Facebook trend for gif’s – the ones that you have to stop moving in time to complete the picture.  I was surprised how many of my friends were also enjoying this so its not just me.  Has anyone tried the snail yet?  I like the new emojis that are looking like me.  It’s much more personalised and seems to have taken off on Facebook.  I have seen many of my friends do the 10 days to share your favourite book/film/albums with no explanation.  I don’t really understand why people don’t give an explanation.  Surely the whole point is to say why you love it and why its important to you?  And I love Twitter for interactive tv.  The current highlight of my week is watching the Sewing Bee while tweeting about it at the same time.

Yes, I have spent the last couple of weeks online a lot.  Facebook has seen what I have had to eat for breakfast (yes, I am one of those people who like to take photos of my food).  Facebook also reminded me what a fabulous time I had a year ago this weekend.  I had been to the world premiere of Freddie Burretti: The Man Who Sewed The World on the Thursday, Les Mis red carpet premiere at Milton Keynes Theatre on the Friday and then I was up to Birmingham for the weekend to attend Only After Dark, my favourite club in the country.  What a difference a year makes.  This weekend I have painted three more walls in my hallway, has some lovely telephone conversations with friends, and spent Saturday night in 1978 thanks to BBC2.  I have to say that Rat Trap is a piece of writing genius and one of my favourite Boomtown Rats tracks.  And Sunday, oh yes, I dyed my roots.  Can I just say how much I miss my hairdresser.  Why anyone would want to do home hairdressing is beyond my understanding.  I have a new found respect for hairdressers.

I had forgotten that this weekend is a bank holiday weekend.  I honestly did.  So that big pile of stuff I need to get onto eBay may get there this weekend…or not. I might just have an easy day before I start back another week that will seem remarkably similar to last week.    

Has your week been much different to mine?  What was your highlight?  Let’s look for the small things that bring us happiness – after all, we may never get back to how things were and that would be a good thing.  Let’s learn, grow and become better people in a better world.

Feeding the family - Corona Virus Diary

 

Sunday 3 May 2020

This week was my eldest son’s birthday.  He has been unwell during April and he thinks it may have been the Covid 19 virus.  He lives alone and is currently furloughed from his job.  Where he lives there is no shop in the village and he is unable to drive his car with a flat battery and flat tyre.  One of his employees had previously helped him by driving him to the nearest shop, but of course since he has been unwell this hasn’t happened and he was seriously low on food.  He has been too unwell to even try for a slot online and just couldn’t wait 3-4 weeks for delivery.  He would starve.

So today I took him a food parcel.  It was the first time I have left the house in over six weeks and I’ve not seen him for over two months.  I say parcel but I took him a serious amount of food. Not just bananas and grapes to boost his immune system but home-made dinners I had frozen for him.  And a hand sanitiser.  And yes, I took him up a birthday cake.  He didn’t even realise he had a cake until after we had left and got back home.  He text me to thank me.  It was lovely to see him, however briefly, and know that he really is recovered and not just telling me this to stop me worrying.  Of course, I didn’t hug him.  I didn’t get near him.  Forget two metres, we stayed much further apart.  We had a system of delivering the food so we didn’t get near each other.  

I think staying in has had an effect on me.  Today I dressed up, wore make-up for the first time in seven weeks and even put on some jewellery.  For those of you who don’t know, I don’t even go out for a walk each day.  So, this was a huge deal.  The weather was gloomy but that didn’t dampen my spirits although I had a tear in my eye as I left.

But now I feel assured that he has food to eat (every mum will understand this), and that on his birthday he saw his family even if it was not for long and from a distance.

I miss him greatly.  Hurry up and find a cure for this virus so I can see my family please!

A birthday in lockdown - Corona Virus Diary

 

Sunday 26 April 2020

Its been a week of comparing the difference between today and were we were a year ago. This week it was my husband’s birthday.  Of course, we knew we would be in lockdown but what a difference it was.  Instead of going to see Debbie Harry from Blondie on Friday at Birmingham Symphony Hall and partying with my darkling friends on Saturday as originally planned, we sat in our garden with my husband (who often DJs at Only After Dark club, which is based on The Blitz club of the early 80’s) playing an old OAD set.  It was a really good set and reminded me of all the fun times we have had in Birmingham over the last seven years.

I couldn’t get any flour so I couldn’t bake a cake.  Ironic really as normally I wouldn’t have the time to bake a cake.  Instead I made him a home-made rice pudding which I have only made three times in the last 15 years. It tasted better than it looks!

Interestingly he got cards from everyone, despite the lockdown which is extra impressive when you think that some people are not online.  However, for the first time in my life, I gave an ‘I owe you’ a birthday note rather than a present. Its so hard to find things that people want if they don’t sell it on Amazon.

I have seen people starting to fall apart this week.  People are struggling with the lockdown.  I have seen reports of friends saying they have seen people shout in the supermarket at people going the wrong way.  Others seem to ignore the rules completely.  I have seen people picnicking on the green outside my house (and for more than one hour).  I have seen people unravel on Facebook.  I have seen people feeling bored.  So bored they started to wear pillows.  Yes you heard that right! Is that really a thing?!  The novelty of this unusual situation has definitely worn off.  However please don’t forget the reasons why we are doing this.  Already 20,000 people have died from this virus in the UK.  That’s more than 20,000 families devastated.  20,000 people who haven’t been able to say goodbye or attend a funeral.  The emotional damage of this will be an unseen catastrophe for mental health in the coming months and years, but everything we are doing is to try to stop more people catching it and passing it on.  This week it got a little to close for comfort.

My older son, who lives 30 miles away, has been poorly this week.  He became ill last weekend but only told me he was unwell on Thursday because he said he knew I would worry.  He was right.  I couldn’t sleep on Thursday night and was worried sick about him all alone and with a horrid cough and tight chest.  How would I know if he ends up in hospital? How can someone be left alone when poorly?  As a mum, it’s almost instinctive to want to look after him and here was I, miles away and unable to do anything.  When he first went to Uni, I used to call or text daily and I only joined Twitter so I could check he was still alive without annoying him too much or being labelled an overprotective mother.  It hurt him to speak as he had a sore throat from all the coughing.  So, I didn’t want to keep calling but I spoke to him yesterday and he seems better than he was.  I hope that he is a lot better and not just saying that to try to stop me worrying.  All mothers know that we never stop worrying about our children even when they are grown adults.  It’s a job for life and I wouldn’t have it any other way.  But I am glad to say I do think he is on the mend.  Was it Covid 19?  Who knows?  Where did he get it if it was?  Hard to say as he lives alone.  But the truth is I am grateful my son is recovering from whatever it was he had.

Stay well and stay safe.

A final curtain call? - Corona Virus Diary

Sunday 19 April 2020

I love theatre.  I love it more than almost anything else.  From being a young child, my dream was to be an actress. I took Lamda exams and went in for drama competitions.  It’s in my DNA.  I loved traditional pieces and one of my favourite pieces I ever performed was Bella from The Barrett’s Of Wimpole Street.  Of course, real life got in the way and I never became a famous actress.  However, my love for theatre has never diminished.

No matter what I do in life, I have always found myself drawn back to the theatre door, and for several years now I have been lucky enough to review theatre.  With my background I believe I give a unique viewpoint to my reviews.  I feel so lucky to see so many wonderful pieces of drama, musical theatre and even panto.

I never, even with my wild imagination (who at age 12 imagined Spielberg would discover me as I walked to school), that we would be living in a world with no theatres open.  No cinemas.  No festivals.  And how much we all would miss it.

Last weekend I watched Jesus Christ Superstar on Andrew Lloyd Webber’s You Tube Channel.  I sang very loudly…goodness only knows what my neighbours think.  Today I watched Basildon Towngate Theatre’s Dick Whittington Panto from last year.  It brought a tear to my eye.  I am desperate to see live shows.  Yes, I have DVDs of most musicals you can name and tonight Grease got an outing, but they are no substitute for a real-life performance.  Knowing that show is performed just for you on that night is special for the audience.  And knowing the audience are clapping for something they enjoyed is special for the performers.  It’s that relationship that I miss.  The interaction with people.  Chatting in the interval asking what people thought so far.  Going home after a wonderful night out that you remember for years afterwards.  Theatre is magical and has a huge place in my heart.  I am not the only one to miss it.  I know my press friends are missing it too.  I know performers are keen to get back to treading the boards. I know we need the arts in our life.

When the current situation fades from our memory, I hope that this is remembered.  How much we need the arts in our lives.  I hope schools realise how valued skills like acting are.  Even if you don’t do it for a living, trust me, knowing how to act has helped me through many interview situations.  Let’s value the arts and all involved in bringing joy and wonder into our lives.  

In the meantime, I raise a glass of fizzy to all my thespians out there… hope to see you all soon.

Is it okay to do nothing? - Corona Virus Diary

Monday 13 April 2020

In the last few weeks, you have seen all over the country, people baking, gardening, singing, learning new languages or picking up their old instruments and decorating.  I don’t know about you but all this new found enthusiasm is exhausting.  People want to show off their achievements and there is nothing wrong with that. But I do feel guilty if I then do nothing with my day.

I have been planning to decorate my hallway as part of my goals for 2020.  I decided this in January, before any lockdown was in place.  It is a huge project.  From the bottom of the stairs to the top is 14 walls. I figured I would start and do it a bit at a time.  Of course, now we are in lockdown I feel a huge pressure to ‘be productive with my time’ and get it done.  I am still working four days a week but instead of going to review theatre and gigs, I now have every weekend free.

Last weekend I had completed five walls up the stairs to the first floor.  This has taken months of sugar-soaping, filling in holes, and preparing the walls for paint.  I did feel a sense of achievement and yes, I did post photos of it online.  However, this weekend I have not done much at all.  The most painting I did was my toenails on Saturday night.  I have spent my weekend sitting in the garden, reading and eating chocolate Easter eggs.  Do I feel guilty?  Yes, I do. So much so, that just this morning I have sugar-soaped another three walls to get them ready to paint.  In all honesty that was exhausting and done out of guilt rather than enthusiasm.

Keeping up with social media isn’t the only thing I feel guilty about. I am notoriously bad at keeping fit but I do like to walk and dance.  However, my Fitbit doesn’t love me anymore as I am not achieving my step count at all since the lockdown.  It is true I am not going out of my house even to exercise so there is limited space to exercise in but its so bad that I halved my step count and I’m still not achieving that.  Do I feel guilty?  Absolutely.  I always said I never had time to exercise before but now that is no longer a reason as I am not driving to work but working from home so I have two more hours in my day to do stuff.  Have I sorted out my wardrobe or paperwork?  Nope. Even more guilt.  I actually feel more guilty about all this than I have ever done before.  However, sometimes it is good to do nothing.  How often do we just sit?  I am always rushing around to theatres, gigs and Birmingham to go to the best club in the country (OAD) as well as fitting in work and taking my son to guitar practice.  Now I am not doing any of that.  This weekend I sat in my garden, enjoying the sunshine and watching a small Robin on my apple tree.  I cannot remember the last time I did this.  It was not what I would have planned but it was very relaxing.  Maybe we need to learn to do nothing.  There is a lot to be said for meditation.  so, quieten your mind and enjoy the moment.  It is a rare moment of stillness in our busy lives and we should embrace it without guilt or pressure to do something.

Enjoy your day.

How are you doing? - Corona Virus Diary

Friday 10 April 2020

Do you find yourself missing going down the pub, hanging with your friends or going to the theatre or a gig that you were looking forward to for months?  Yes? Me too.

A month ago, things were different.  We are now living in a different world.  Gone is the world of the past and although it is fine to mourn for it, it is, at least for now, resigned to our memories.  This weekend is Easter weekend.  Normally a really important weekend for Christians and also for families to visit each other.  A usual bank holiday would pour with rain.  This weekend of course the weather is stunning.  But don’t be fooled and tempted to go out.  That evil virus is still out there and no matter how much you miss your old life, its not worth giving up your life for.

This week I have had emails telling me that my tickets for The Lion King are cancelled.  My tickets to see Debbie Harry (Blondie) are also cancelled.  I expect many more of my booked shows and gigs to be following suit.  I do miss my old life.  However, for my mental health I have decided to look at the things that make me happy instead.

Firstly, the whole country seems to have come together in one big community.  We clap every Thursday not just for the NHS staff but for all keyworkers on the frontline.  We enjoy the welcome relief of less politics and more ‘we are all in this together’ attitude towards leading the country through this crisis.  No matter what your politics we all wish Boris well.  Even me – and I’m no Tory.

I miss cake but I can’t seem to get any flour to bake any.  Suddenly we are a nation of bakers, a nation of singers, a nation of dancing in our living rooms while streaming.  There is free theatre to watch and pop singers such as Gary Barlow and Chris Martin are doing impromptu free performances.  We are connecting with each other and the arts have never been more important than they are now.  We are all doing our best, whatever that looks like.

I am grateful for the small things.  I get to spend more time with my youngest son Sadly, my older son lives 45 mins away, however he rings me much more often now and texts me almost daily.  I am grateful they were both furloughed rather than made redundant and so still have the hope of a job while being paid 80% of their wage.  I am proud of my key worker husband who is still having to go into work and he, in turn, is grateful to have a quieter commute to work so that he can get there quicker.

I have time to call my 98-year-old grandad daily.  Since 2013 when my gran passed away, my grandad has lived alone and due to his health, now cannot go out the house while the virus is about.  But in his words ‘he has made a life for himself’.  He paints.  He cooks.  He sits on his balcony drinking wine and listening to Sinatra.  He loves life and is grateful to be here.  I think we can all learn a lesson from him.  I am grateful to Waitrose who sent him a card and birthday cake for his 98th birthday last Sunday when none of us could visit him.  Well done Waitrose!

I am in regular touch with my mum who we do now shop for.  She finds it hard to ask for help but we insist. (Of course, when I say ‘we’ I mean my husband).  I am grateful I have food in my house – even if we can’t find pasta and flour in the shops.  I am grateful for the weather being warm and dry.  It means we can sit in our garden.  I am not a gardener and my garden is very basic, but right now it feels like an utopia to just sit there.  Because of my underlying health conditions, I have not been going out to shop or even to take my hour’s exercise.  So, my garden really is a paradise.

I am grateful that I got my fence fixed back in January when it blew down.  I am grateful I got my boiler fixed when it died in February.  Can you imagine not having these basics?  More than anything, I am grateful for good internet – I can keep in touch with my friends daily and see how they are doing.  I am also calling my friends on the phone and receiving just as many calls in return.

I had not yet booked a holiday for this year. We usually visit Brighton each year as well as have a holiday oversees.  Last year we were in Prague.  The year before we were in the USA (twice) and this year… my back garden looks like our destination of choice.

So, am I asking you how you are doing?  Can you find a small thing to be grateful for?  Is there food on your table, a roof over your head?  Yes, we may not be living the life we had a month ago, but for now, we are still breathing and let’s be grateful for that.

Happy Easter to you all. 

To make-up or not to make-up  - Corona Virus Diary

Sunday 5 April 2020

Now is the time that I am secretly grateful to myself for having an obsession with make-up.  Because of this obsession I have more make-up and skin care products than I can use which means I will not be needing to buy some for a while.  I have always been a huge fan of make-up.  I have City & Guilds Certificate in cosmetic make-up and when I used to visit The Clothes Show, my first stop was always the make-up stalls.  I have certain brands I love but also happy to try out new ones.  I am a makeupaholic!

Saying that, with skin care, I normally buy a new bottle of moisturiser once my current one is empty.  However, when I went to Prague last year, I had time to kill at the airport, so with the great deals on offer, I stocked up. I bought my Clarins serum and also my favourite make-up eye shadow palate, Urban Decay Naked 3.  After Christmas I noticed that House of Fraser in Milton Keynes was closing and they still had the Christmas stocks of my Clarins moisturiser.  The Christmas deals mean I get two extra products with my usual moisturiser... so I bought another two.  I also bought another UD palate as it would be rude not to with 20% off.  Never when I bought these products, did I know I would need stock because I would be stuck at home for months on end.  The irony is that as I am not leaving the house, I am not wearing make-up as often as usual.  No one is seeing me other than those who live in my house and the occasional Zoom webinar for work.  Anyway, it’s good to let my skin breathe.  But I am not joking when I say I could go a year without leaving the house and still have enough make-up.  Probably five years.  Told you I am obsessed.

I am also very glad that I have toiletries gifts such as bath bombs and body creams.  These will be used in the coming weeks and it feels like I have won the lottery if there is also a soap in the set.  Hand cream I bought for my colleagues I will be using for myself as my hands are needing that extra layer of support from all the hand washing.

I usually get my hair done professionally but now that all the hairdressers are closed, I am currently coveting an old hair dye that sits quietly on top of my bathroom cabinet.  It belonged to my son who has gone off red and currently has purple hair.  I may just get desperate enough to use it.  And honestly that time is fast approaching as I was due a hair appointment next week which obviously now will not be taking place.

Life is changing in so many ways.  Lots of little things we take for granted we are now grateful for.  So today I give thanks that I love make-up, toiletries and skin care products.  Have a beautiful Sunday.

How to work from home - Corona Virus Diary

Wednesday 25 March 2020

The government has strongly told the country that if you can work from home you should. For many this may be their  first time working from home. I have been working from home for decades so I thought I would share my top tips with you.

My top tips

  1. Get dressed. Just because you are at home doesn’t mean your standards have to slip. Always get dressed as you will feel ‘ready’ for work

  2. Have a designated area to work from. When you are not ‘at work’ do not sit there or home and work will blend into each other.

  3. Time management is important. Only work during work  hours. Don’t be tempted to check emails over breakfast. Make sure when you finish work you turn off your phone and laptop.

  4. Take regular breaks. Don’t eat lunch at your computer. Stretch your legs. Take a ten minute break each hour from the screen. This can still be work such as reading papers in hard copy or writing with a pen rather than on the computer.

  5. Use Skype and phone to speak to other people. Working from home can be isolating so at least once a day speak to others.  Put the radio on if you don’t find it too distracting to help with isolation.

  6. Plan your day. Make a list of jobs and cross them off when you have completed them.

You will be surprised at how productive you can be when working from home. Although you may miss your work colleagues to chat to, they also were a distraction, so you can get so much more done from home and you may want to evidence your work to your line manager.

Being positive and constructive will really help your mental health with this lockdown – remember its not forever and you can get through this.

Stay Safe.

Panic buying  - Corona Virus Diary

Sunday 22 March 2020

I am tired of people being quite aggressive in accusing people of panic buying.  It’s everywhere on social media.  You don’t need to look far.  And although this may have been true two weeks ago, today most supermarkets have limited how many of each item you can buy.  The video of the crying nurse on BBC that has been shared numerus times does not help the situation.  I actually think it’s irresponsible of the BBC to keep showing it.  All it does is make more people feel there is nothing in the shops and feed the need to go shopping.  So, if you want people to stop panicking, please stop sharing it.  No one seems to be addressing the distribution issue.  Surely if staff are off work sick or self-isolating, the distribution will be disrupted.  What if the goods are manufactured and imported?  Are there issues with the country of origin?

I am also increasingly annoyed at the stupid and reckless behaviour of people.  Bondi beach in Australia, students on Spring break in the USA but also right here in the UK.  Beaches in UK yesterday had hundreds of thousands of people.  So much for social distancing.  Do people think they are invincible?  Do they think they will survive?  This is not a holiday.  This is the most serious situation you have been in probably in your lifetime unless you lived through a war.

Today is Mother’s Day.  Normally I wouldn’t see my children as they both work in hospitality. But today son no 1 will call me and son no 2 is home.  I find myself wishing they were both working and that we weren’t in this virus situation.  I am so proud of them both.  They are kind hearted and genuine people who work hard and think of others.  They are empathetic and compassionate and I am proud to know and love them.  I had originally planned to see my own mum today and take her out for lunch.  My mum has been ill for over 40 years so is very vulnerable and her retirement village is now on lockdown.  Luckily, I had already given her card and present so hopefully she won’t feel too sad to have to delay our meal.

So, the best Mother’s Day gift you can give is not to see your mother.  It might just save her life.

Happy Mother’s Day.

Stay Safe - Corona Virus Diary 

Saturday 21 March 2020

Stay Safe.  It’s a new saying but I have found myself saying it more and more over the last few weeks.  I don’t think people are taking it seriously enough.  I don’t understand why.  People are dying in their thousands yet others don’t seem to care.  Is it naivety or just stupid recklessness?  Yesterday, our Prime Minister, closed down all the pubs, restaurants’, gyms and theatres.  Well those that hadn’t already closed.  It’s a worrying time for many reasons. People are worried about their jobs, paying their bills, feeding themselves and making sure they have enough toilet rolls!  But what they should really be worried about is surviving.  Not catching this virus.  Not getting ill.  Not spreading it to others.

Despite the bars and restaurants’ closing, people don’t seem to understand social distancing in the food shops.  Sadly, there are huge amount of people and they queue (as we British are very good at) is far too close and lasts for too long.  I think the next step could be a proper lockdown and limit the amount of people doing food shopping.  We need to be firm here – or things in the UK could end up in a similar situation to Italy.  Borders need to close.  People need to stay indoors for three months.  Forget seven days.  Forget 14 days.  I think we need to be sure its not spreading so it needs to be three months.

Today I watched the film Yesterday that my husband bought me for Valentine’s Day. I had seen it before in the cinema but today I sobbed at this rom-com for a whole new reason.  No gigs.  No hugging.  No life as we knew it.  Oh, how I long for Yesterday.  Everyone will feel the effects of this for generations to come.  This is history in the making but not the type of history you want to be a part of.  It will touch each and every one of us.  Both my son’s work in the hospitality industry.  Neither know how safe their job is.  Neither knows what the future holds.  

So today I ask you all, my dear friends, please stay safe.  Stay indoors.  Because the devil is knocking at your door and you do not want to let him in.

Corona virus diary -Shopping

Friday 20 March 2020.

A week is a long time in the life of this virus.  A week ago, I was going shopping, eating out in a café, looking forward to the theatre trips I had planned and of course the seminal Travelogue and Reproduction gig by Heaven 17 who were doing the first two Human League albums in full.  Needless to say, that has all been cancelled.  I was risk assessed on Monday and told to work from home.  Some of you may not realise that I have a reduced lung capacity, so in normal life I may not be able to walk fast or climb stairs without getting breathless.  I also suffer bad chest infections when someone else only gets a cold.  So yes, this virus scares me.  It could kill me.  Even before this virus, I always had hand gel in my handbag and tried very hard to avoid people who were ill.  Last year I was off work for five weeks with a really bad chest infection.  Five weeks.  So, I do consider myself vulnerable.

I have been indoors all week, but today I decided to go shopping for some food. I chose Asda as they announced an hour for vulnerable people (not just over 70’s or NHS workers but people like me).  I donned my mask (which came from Hyper Japan last year as a fun thing) and put on disposable latex gloves to push the trolley.  I bet no one is cleaning those with anti-bacterial wipes!  I got there before 8am but it was already very busy.  Huge isles empty.  All items limited to three per customer (which is a great idea – unlike our local Sainsburys which said one item per customer).  No soap.  No pasta.  Almost out of sanitary protection and definitely no hand sanitiser.  But there were toilet rolls.  Cheap nasty toilet rolls for £2.00 but of course I bought a pack.  Toilet rolls are fast becoming the new currency in this dystopian world.

I felt so stressed doing this.  I don’t think I will be going shopping again for a long time.  It felt like Armageddon.  The very last shop before all hell breaks loose.  I don’t own a chest freezer but had a spare small freezer in my garage that I was saving for my son when he gets his own place.  Today I plugged it back in.

Today was a first. I cleaned every item of food before I put it away.  Every item. I am also cleaning my post from the postman.  Apparently, this virus can live on paper and cardboard for up to a day so I am not taking any risks.  You may think I am being a bit ‘over the top’ but I believe a month from now, you will wish you were doing what I am doing.

It is dangerous.  It is killing people.  Look at my favourite European destination, Italy.  Already 3.500 people dead from it and that number is still rising.  We need a lockdown and we need it now.  If only we had a government that takes decisive action that protects the people.  This is not a drill. Social distancing is a thing. Do it and do it now. It might just save lives!

Are we living in a horror film? 

 

It's like every horror film I have ever watched.  The beginning of 28 days later.  The beginning of The Stand.  Outbreak.  The shops are empty as people panic buy.  No hand gel.  No toilet rolls.  No pasta.  No paracetamol.  A deadly virus is amongst us.  We can’t see it.  We can’t protect against it.  It kills indiscriminatory and picks on the old and vulnerable.

I have always been fascinated by deadly diseases.  It started when I was 12 and flew to France with the school.  My first trip abroad.  The rabid dog poster has never left me.  I was terrified and it was genuine.  I have never petted a stray animal here in the UK or abroad just on the power of that poster.  I toyed with the idea of studying to be a microbiologist as a teenager but decided on Acting instead.  However, my fascination has always been there.  In the 80’s it was AIDS.  Again, the government terrified the public with a campaign telling us to ‘don’t die of ignorance’.  A few years ago, it was Ebola.

And now we have Corona Virus or Covid19.  Here in the UK there doesn’t seem to be an urgency by the government to take action.  It is almost as if they want people to get infected so that it causes a ‘herd immunity’ which they hope would protect those that are left.  Boris Johnson even said in his speech ‘some of your loved ones will die before their time’ as if that is acceptable for the greater good.  Well I don’t intend to be a statistic.  Ireland is closing pubs from today which means they will be closed on St Patrick’s Day.  Scotland have banned gatherings of over 500 people.  But here in England so far there are no bans.  And in Italy almost 2000 people have already died.  That is a scary statistic.  As I write, 35 have died in the UK.  We don’t know how many people have it or are infected.  It’s not a Zombie film where we can tell by looking at someone.  They aren’t even testing people to find out.  I am truly horrified by the lack of response from this government and think they need to start to protect its citizens.  Matt Hancock the health secretary doesn’t seem to have an urgent bone in his body.  His latest comment today on the Andrew Marr show says ‘in the next few weeks we will be asking the elderly to self-isolate and we may ban mass gatherings’.  May? Next few weeks?  Come on man, make a decision!

Many sporting events have already been cancelled and even Record Store Day has been put back until June. People are ready to self-isolate to protect themselves. My mum lives in a retirement village and from tomorrow they are on lockdown meaning no one can come or go who doesn’t live or work there. It makes sense to me, even if it means cancelling Mother’s Day. So why aren’t the government doing more?

I have many questions that no one seems to be answering.

  • Why didn’t they stop all travel internationally when they first heard about this in China?

  • Is it really just a transfer of a disease from a bat or is it secretly a man-made disease for germ warfare?

  • Why do they say hand gel needs to be 60% alcohol when no bottles tell us that – and why does a bacterial hand gel kill the virus?

  • Does washing our hands really work or is it a way to stop panic as the public then seems to be doing something to protect themselves.

  • Why is it so bad in Italy? Why have so many died? Will this happen in the UK?

There are those who think this is just a bad cold.  There are those who say more people die of normal flu.  These comments are not helpful and does not stop the panic in those who feel particularly vulnerable.  It is not just the elderly at risk.  Those with underlying health issues are also at risk.  Many have invisible health issues and are of working age.  Are they supposed to be staying home for four months and will work pay them?  There are no clear answers.

In these difficult times, I don’t have an answer. I am deeply saddened for my friends in Italy and other countries who are suffering.  I am sending love to all around the world and hope this will all be over soon. 

I had to phone someone so I picked on you….

 

I normally talk about all the amazing events that I go to on Bowie week.  However last Thursday I fell poorly with a bad cold and still feel unwell this week which is Bowie week.  So instead I am going to talk about Bowies last gift to us all.  Some of you may think this is the Blackstar album.  Some may think it’s the Lazarus play and I could easily talk about both in detail.  But no, his lasting gift to me and many of my fellow Bowie fans was the gift of friendship.

For most of my Bowie life, I have not known friends like this.  What I mean by that is I have wonderful friends but none of which love Bowie to the level that I do.  They might like his stuff but certainly didn’t own all his albums and were not fussed about seeing him live.  Hell, they couldn’t even name a favourite top twenty!  I felt like a pariah in the desert. Living in Milton Keynes, I could easily say I am the biggest Bowie fan here.  It was true 40 years ago and is still true today.  This was demonstrated a few years ago by a friend being approached by a playwright to find a huge female Bowie fan.  She thought of me above all others even though she likes him herself…and thanks to her and my collaboration with Mark Wheeller I am featured as one of a handful of fans in the play, ‘Can You Hear Me Major Tom?’ which has been performed twice but this year is due for a publication release.  From that, I have met and became good friends with Charlie Fowler who is also known as David Live (David Bowie tribute).  But back to my being the only Bowie fan in Milton Keynes.  Did you know, I used to buy two Bowie tickets to a gig and then try to find someone to come with me who wouldn’t mind paying for their ticket?  Today if I had two Bowie tickets - I would have a queue a mile long begging me for the tickets.  Today I have a Bowie family.

Something happened on the day he died.  I knew in that moment life wouldn’t be the same again.  I didn’t realise how much I talked about him.  I didn’t realise how much he was already a part of my life.  But losing him meant I needed to find people to share my feelings with. I wrote about him at length.  I wrote my raw feelings down on the day he died.  I wrote poetry about how I felt about him.  But since he died, I have a Bowie family who I don’t have to explain myself to.  They get it.  They understand.  They feel the same way.  If I cry on 10th  January each year – they don’t ask why.  They know.  The peace of finding your tribe of people is beyond anything I have felt before.

I often meet up at events with different fractions of my Bowie family.  I have the netters.  Originally those who were on Bowie net that now run an annual charity event in support of Terrence Higgins trust.  Bowie supported the events and through those I have met some amazing talented and creative people.  I have the Beckenham posse who is lead by the inspirational Wendy Woo to raise money to restore the bandstand which is now a Grade II listed building thanks to her.  The very bandstand he wrote Life On Mars on. Very significant for anyone thinking of doing a Bowie pilgrimage.  Currently as I write this there is the biggest event of all – a week-long Bowie celebration in Dublin.  Let it be said the Irish know how to party.  I sadly cannot be there this year, but I am hopeful that I will get there in future years.  I have lovely friends from the USA that I met in 2018 for the last ever Bowie exhibition.  It just shows that there are so many more people who love him like me…it was just a matter of connecting us.  

But it doesn’t matter how I first met you (when I met you) or if you have (no plans) plans to meet up.  I hope I touch some of you with the love I feel for him and how I write about him.  I hope many of you celebrate this week in your own special way even if it is just listening to your favourite album (yes, I know that choice changes daily!) … here I am sinking in the quicksand of my thoughts…wishing every week could be Bowie week.

 

 

Bowie never let me down

And what I did during Bowie week 2019....

Most Bowie fans may groan at this title…after all its from his commercial 80’s days.  However, for me it completely sums up how Bowie has influenced my life.  I have loved him since I was 12.  It may have been the late 70’s but I soon discovered his back catalogue of 60’s and 70’s work and loved it all. He was there through my difficult teenage years.  He taught me to be myself, to be my quirky and strange self and be proud of it.  Bowie was in my life before husbands and kids, and he has never let me down.  Of course, he doesn’t know it – but I know I am not the only one.  There are many people out there who are as kooky as I am.

January is always a month of mixed emotions for Bowie fans.  This year marks the third anniversary of his death.  How fast has it gone?  It seems only yesterday  I was so excited about hearing the Blackstar album.  I was raw when I found out that devastating news that our starman had left us.  How do I feel today?  It still hurts.  I found myself explaining to my work colleagues the reasons why I take 10 January off each year…and cried.  So yes, it still hurts to have lost him.  During the last three years I have slowly accepted there will be no more new music and that there are those trying to rip us fans off with their mass-produced Bowie items, or worse, a home-made Etsy offering.  But there are many positives and the final gift that David left us, each other.  In our grief we sought out other kooks, because they knew without explaining.  And they didn’t judge.

On his birthday this year (8 Jan) I had to work but I somehow knew it was still a Bowie day.  My copy of ‘The Birth of Bowie’ book arrived. Birth of Bowie on his birthday.  It felt like Karma.  I also downloaded the app of the David Bowie Is exhibition.  It found its way to my home page on my mobile phone and by fluke was perfectly placed over my wedding photo so it looks like I was marrying Bowie.  This IS karma.  The universe knows how much I love him and it reflects back on me.  On 10 January, I had originally planned to be in London, but as I was going to London on Friday and Saturday I decided to stay home.  I watched DVDs and interviews; reflecting and crying as well as laughing and singing Bowie all day.  Never forgotten and always loved. Despite this being a sad day, 95% of my timeline on Facebook is filled with Bowie and the outpouring of love and sadness of this day.  I love its filled with Bowie, but I don’t love the reason why. Maybe ‘Where are we now?’ is a better title.  Nothing has changed and yet everything has changed.  He is still my centre and that doesn’t change but I am unable to talk to people for long without him popping up in conversation.  He is a part of my core.  A part of who I am.  And I miss him.

On Friday I went to London as planned for a Bowie weekend.  I headed for Clapham to spend time with friends and have a Labyrinth evening at The Grand. I dressed with a homage to Sarah from the film but there was every character fancy dress you can imagine there.  It was great to be with my tribe of people.  After the film David Live took to the stage for two fabulous sets.  You can read the review here.  Saturday saw me at the other end of London as I was reviewing A Bowie Celebration.  Its just another excuse to meet up with Bowie family before the gig and have a good catch up.  A Bowie Celebration was fantastic and that review can be found here.

 

If you love David Bowie you may understand my feelings, or you may just think I’m a bit crazy – but I am not alone.

Mamma Mia!  – Here We Go Again!

 

Here we go again – well, that’s exactly how I felt and with some trepidation too.  I love Abba and was lucky enough to have seen them back in 1979 at Wembley and it is my opinion that no one sings Abba like Abba.  I didn’t really like the first film and for lots of reasons really; the bad singing, the stupid handshake thing, and I wasn’t exactly comfortable that poor Sophie had never been told who her father was.  This did not warm me to Donna and perhaps I was a little judgemental that she slept with three men in such quick succession that she didn’t know who the father was or consider using protection on any of these occasions.  So, with all that at the back of my mind I came to this show with baggage – or maybe a low expectation.  I didn’t expect to like it and thought it would be more of the same.

However, I am here as a true Abba fan to say I DID enjoy it.  Maybe it’s because I knew what to expect this time round.  Maybe it’s because they didn’t let Pierce sing much and they had cut out most of the silly handshake bits every time they all meet.  But I think it’s probably much better than the first film because Richard Curtis has had input into the story – oh boy what a difference.  There were times I actually laughed out loud and yes, I will admit more than once.

Julie Walters as Rosie steals every scene – she is such a star and alongside her partner in crime, Christine Baranski as Tanya.  They are most definitely the light relief and bring joy to the film.  I almost wish they could have their own spin off show.

Cher turns up as grandma and she is more like a glam-ma. She looks amazing and sounds great even if I still prefer Abba.  Her love interest is Fernando, played by Andy Garcia.  Who knew that a gangster actor could be in Mamma Mia!  I understood why she sings Fernando but Super Trooper was not an easy fit and I do think there are better songs for this slot that could have been chosen.  Amanda Seyfried is still fantastic as Sophie and along with Dominic Cooper as Sky.  In fact, it’s very impressive that the original cast members are all in it – the continuity is really important.  The film tells the back story of how Donna meets Harry (the banker), Sam (The architect), and Bill (The sexy swede).  It’s actually a good story and well written. It felt organic and interesting.  The story flows and fans will recognise each background song and everything is Abba even if it is done in a Greek style in places.  There is a small part for comedian, Omid Djalili and he gets the best laughs – stay to the end to see him start to sing Take A Chance On Me!

Of course, I knew every song and am very glad to hear some of my personal favourites.  My Love My Life is such a beautiful song and although they have almost completely changed the words I’m glad it’s in there.  Another gem is Andante Andante sung by the young Donna played by Lily James.  I didn’t really rate her voice but on this particular track it was great.  I think she needs Freda’s songs rather than Agnetha’s. Lily was adorable as young Donna and I found myself warming to her unlike the first film. There are some really great production numbers such as Waterloo, although both for Waterloo and Why Did It Have To Be Me?  they needed a bit more bass, a bit more oomph – a bit more everything really!  There is no logical reason why When I Kissed The Teacher has been changed to be singing about a female rather than a male teacher.  Some changes do make sense to fit the story but this is just pointless and felt a bit like trying too hard when it wasn’t necessary.  I did laugh at Hole In My Soul as it was almost unrecognisable!  

Want to test if you are a real Abba fan?  I hear Why did it have to be me and think Happy Hawaii, and for Dancing Queen (which is the most overplayed Abba song ever) I was singing the Spanish version instead.  If you do this then you know what I mean. Also, if you spotted Bjorn on stage in the school scene before the close up!

The young story is compelling and all the cast who play the younger versions are great.  I especially enjoyed the end dance off when the old and young versions of each character are dancing together.

When all is said and done, this film is funnier and better than the first one.  Its got more substance and as I left the cinema I continued to sing Abba loudly at the top of my voice.  As I had done throughout the whole film.  I’d go see it again so that’s a sign of a good film!

David Bowie Convention 2018

There's old fans. There's new fans. And there's David Bowie!

Sarah                           Jan                     Sandra                    Emily

 What is your favourite Bowie track and why?

Sarah: Heroes because of its power and meaningful lyrics

Jan: Moonage Daydream for special memories

Have you seen him live? If so what was your favouirte gig?

Sarah: Yes. Astoria in 1999 because it was up close and I was at the front. 

Jan: Yes. Reality Tour because I got so close to him.

What is your favourite Bowie decade?

Sarah: Its too hard but I do love his Berlin years.

Jan: 70's

What is your favourite thing about the convention?

Sarah: Meeting other like-minded Bowie fans and listen to Bowie

guilt-free all night long

Jan :Meeting like-minded people

 What is your favourite Bowie track and why?

Sandra: Sweet thing (Candidate) reprise as its a story that unfolds.

Emily: Heart's Filthy Lesson as it rocks and is hot

Have you seen him live? If so what was your favouirte gig?

Sandra: Yes it was Astoria in 1999 as it was an intimate gig.

Emily: Yes. Tin Machine in Brixton 1999 as it was a small gig.

What is your favourite Bowie decade?

Sandra: noughties as it reminds me of special times

Emily: 1990's

What is your favourite thing about the convention?

Sandra: getting together with friends

Emily: Its different to everything else

Sara                           Sheri                     Charlie                    Rich

What is your favourite Bowie track and why?

Sara: Absolute Beginners - it was my wedding song

Sheri: Rock N Roll Suicide as it feels as if he is inside of you

Have you seen him live? If so what was your favouirte gig?

Sara: Yes. Birmingham in 1999 as it was a small gig

Sheri: Sadly not seen him live.

What is your favourite Bowie decade?

Sara: 1990's

Sheri: 70's

What is your favourite thing about the convention? 

Sara: Meeting FB friends in real life and the bands are great.

Sheri: It feels like coming home and its addictive.

What is your favourite Bowie track and why?

Rich:Life On Mars. Its everything DB is about. Quirks of lyrics, Beautiful Melody and video. Its how I would introduce someone to my DB. 

Charlie: Today its Fantastic Voyage as its the last track I listened to.

 Have you seen him live? If so what was your favourite gig?

Charlie: Yes. Isolar 2. It was my first gig. 

Rich: Yes 13 times in total but favourite was Serious Moonlight as it was my first.

What is your favourite Bowie decade?

Charlie: 70's

Rich: 70's

What is your favourite thing about the convention? 

Charlie: A feeling of family.

Rich: Meeting Bowie fans and sharing the Bowie love.

My review of the whole weekend can be found here:

The Bowie Convention 2018

Two year anniversary and nothing has changed.

Another year passes and it is Bowie week again.  On Monday 8 January Bowie would have been 71 years old. I didn’t feel like a big party this year.  I felt I wanted to think about him in my own private way.  I put on Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence which was still sealed.  When I first saw this film, I took photos with my 110 camera and yes, I used a flash.  I’m sure I annoyed other people in the cinema, but he was so beautiful he took my breath away.  However karma is a bitch and a few weeks later my camera was stolen out of my handbag.  I never got a chance to see those photos.  At home today on my 4k TV I can take photos to my heart’s desire so I did!  This was so emotional to watch.  The music is so powerful and I’ve not watched this in over 30 years.  It’s like a time machine taking me right back.  How well it works with the film.  And to see David’s beautiful face on the screen was fait accompli.

The day between his birthday and the anniversary of his passing I decided to play Blackstar. This was a significant moment. I have played it many times before but this was the first time I played it without crying.  I marvelled at how clever David is.  The words have double meanings.  The whole album feels like he is talking about dying. ‘I can’t give everything away’ ‘Something happened on the day he died’ ‘Stands a solitary candle’, ‘I’m dying to’, ‘Look up here I’m in heaven’, and of course ‘no plan’ which isn’t on the album but was written at the same time.  The album is a genius at work.  Truly clever and with lots of messages - just like Bowie.  However the album makes me unbearably sad and I truly wish David had not had to go through cancer and dying to make such an album.  I truly wish he was still with us.  I had always wanted to play a Bowie song at my own funeral.  Now I have a whole album to choose from. I also watched Five Years.  A documentary of his 70’s albums over five years.  It’s no secret that I’m a 70’s Bowie girl so this gives me huge pleasure.  I love hearing his talking voice as much as hearing him sing.  In fact I could listen to him sing after that dreadful day on 10 January 2016 months before I could hear any documentary of him speaking.  I cannot say I accepted the news well at all.  I have previously written about hearing the news.  It was only when The Times newspaper had an official statement to ask for any children to come forward (a legal requirement I assume) that it really hit me this was real.  I find it hard to accept even two years on that the man who I have loved since I was 12 has truly gone.  I was not close to my parents who had split up since I was three, so Bowie was the stable dependable person who taught me to be independent.  He taught me how to laugh (Please Mr Gravedigger), how to cry (Absolute Beginners), how to love (Win), to understand pain (Rock N Roll Suicide), and now to understand grief. Most of all he taught me how to be proud of my uniqueness.  To not have to be like everyone else but be confident in me.  He was my teacher and my friend.  He was my saviour.  To those of you reading this and thinking I am an extreme fan, well to some of you that may be true.  But Bowie has also brought me gifts. In his death I have found a connection with other Bowie fans that understand.  They don’t question if I burst into tears, they just hug me.  They don’t moan if every day I mention him in some way, they accept it and even support it.  I don’t think of myself as extreme but just someone who lost someone they loved.

Wednesday was the anniversary of his passing so I travelled down to Brixton as this was absolutely the place to be.  I visited his house in Stansfield Road (as I always do when in Brixton) and met many friends old and new by the wall.  I took my poem (The Worst Anniversary) with and put it up on the wall for others to see.  I met a lady who had travelled from Liverpool to be there and we had a connection as we were both published in My Bowie Story.  I met Nick, who sang Bowie’s songs by the wall with his guitar; it was heart-warming to hear others join in.  I even met a couple who had travelled from Paris to be there.  Bowie had touched us all.  It made me think about the film close encounters and how those who felt they had to be in a certain place.  This was the same thing. Bowie had touched us and now we had that urge to be in Brixton.  Later that day we headed into the Dogstar where we sung Bowie songs so loudly that the pub put a Bowie tape on.  It was a mix of feelings.  I still miss him and think of him every day but being with others who love him as I do really brings a different perspective on it.  He really lives on in all our hearts.

Friday marked the end of Bowie week but for me it was probably the most hectic. I was delighted to review Celebrating David Bowie for Gig Junkies.  You can find my review of the gig here.  I was very honest as it was a bit mixed and certainly not up to Mike Garson’s Aladdin Sane tour standard which was outstanding.  As soon as the gig had finished it was a mad dash from Shepherds Bush to Clapham to see my friend Charlie perform as David Live.  He was fantastic and the whole atmosphere at The Grand in Clapham was electric.  Fans of all ages dancing and singing.  Many dressed up in outfits such as Jareth or Thin White Duke. There was even the odd appearance of Hoggle but he was sleeping by the time I had got there so alas no photos.  After leaving the Grand, the after show party carried on – but what happens in Clapham stays in Clapham. 

Another year passes and he is not forgotten.  Let’s celebrate his music and treasure what he gave us.  

Love on ya.

David Bowie - I was there. 

 

I am delighted to say I have had a piece published in a book. The book is one of the 'I was there' series and this one features David Bowie. 

This piece has never appeared on my website so you will have to buy a copy of the book to read it. It describes the first time I ever saw Bowie live which was during the Serious Moonlight tour. I am featured over four pages but the book contains over 350 first hand accounts from people who knew him, met him and saw him live. It is a must read for all Bowie fans. 

Red Planet Zone, (publisher) said: 'Thank you so much or your wonderful contribution!'

Buy it here. 

A Saturday without you.

I’m sitting here on a Saturday morning going through my David Bowie CD’s to look at making my youngest sister a mixed tape (do we still say that?) as since he passed away she has said she would like to discover more Bowie and it is true to say I am an expert.  

 

However, while looking at the CD’s I open it to see a flyer saying ‘looking for more beyond the legendary music?’.  It hits me that David himself will now never know how much he meant to me and how he has been there for me throughout my life.

 

I am not just a fan.  I am so much more than a fan.  He is part of who I am.  He is in my core. I have loved him and his music since I was 12 years old so it’s been one of my longest relationships in my life.  There are those who would scuff at this and say I didn’t know him and he didn’t know me.  I think these people are jealous that they can never know such a powerful love.  Such warmth from just hearing him speak. Such excitement to see him perform.

 

A tear falls from my eye and I realise I am crying.  I still feel so sad that I will never now get to meet him.  I only ever wanted to tell him how wonderful he is.  I always thought there was more time.  I truly believed that one day we would meet.  It felt tangible.  I have really struggled to believe he is really gone.  That chance; that opportunity has been taken away from me.  Yes, I know this sounds rather selfish and of course I am terribly sad for Iman and his children too, but today I am talking honestly about my feelings about Mr David Bowie and what he meant to me.

 

For I truly think he was wonderful.  He was generous – he gave his songs away and helped others.  He had a great sense of humour – just look at jazzin for blue jean video. In fact, I think he was so wonderful that for the first time ever in my life I now have a tattoo that has the Bowie stars and ‘cause you’re wonderful’ on my wrist with a small heart.  It has brought some comfort and for that I am grateful.  But I still miss him and regret that I wasn’t more proactive in trying to meet him.

 

On the flyer it says ‘Join David’s community’. Well since January 2016, I have discovered just how wonderful our Bowie community is.  I feel they understand my feelings, my love; my soul love for him.  I don’t need to explain.  I can’t explain.  And I shouldn’t have to.  It’s who I am.  Just accept me for me.

 

 

So thinking about my sister’s tape, I am definitely going to put ‘Rock n roll suicide’ on it!  Have a good Saturday everyone. 

(First printed Saturday 21 May 2016)

RSD

Some of you may not even know what RSD is.  Well it stands for Record Store Day and each year on the same day independent record shops get special limited edition releases to sell to the public. The idea was to promote independent record shops and it was a lovely idea.  However, in practice it has not been a utopia as we had wished for.

For example, there are those who don’t live near an independent record shop that is participating…that means travelling and for me that would mean at least 20 miles to another town.  I would have to pay to park but what car parks are open that early?  Some people camp outside all night, but I hate camping and what about those with disabilities or long term illness?  It is not really very fair to expect them to queue or camp out. Further to this there are those who camp and buy in their droves, just to sell on eBay for extortionate prices.  This is not the ethos of RSD.  And there are those record shop owners who give first choice to their friends before the actual day. (yes, this does happen!).

You all know I am a huge Bowie fan.  The original RSD Starman picture disc was a standard price…but I don’t own one as they now go for over £150.  They are not a numbered limited edition nor are they really that rare, but nonetheless prices for this have gone to silly money.

This year there are four Bowie releases. RSD has not done this before and it feels a bit like a money maker just because the starman is no longer with us.  Of course, every self-respecting fan will want them so they will have a choice, queue up or resort to evil bay where they can exchange hands for triple the price or more.  It has become a farce of what it was meant to be.

I can understand why some people are beginning to hate RSD and I am very grateful that I have some good friends who help me get them, but RSD as a concept is not really working and seems unfair to those who can’t make it.

Now that vinyl is a viable format again, do we really still need RSD?

One of the four David Bowie releases for 2017 and the queue outside Sister Ray Records in London on 22 April 2017. 

Bowie Memorial

So, I know you think I talk a lot about Bowie and it’s probably true.  But when something as significant as a memorial is being considered I need to join in the conversation.

Most of you will already know that the mural in Brixton has become a gathering point for Bowie fans.  Personally, I never understood why.  It is not known if he ever visited the mural.  Yes, he was born in Brixton but that is Stansfield Road and very few fans visit there.  Stansfield Road is significantly deserving of a blue plaque.

There are other significant locations to consider for a memorial.  Heddon Street is the location of the cover of the Ziggy Stardust album and a personal favourite location of mine.  It already has a blue plaque on the wall but the telephone box is now around the corner.  Much more could be done to promote this very special place.

Aylesbury is the birthplace of Ziggy, and a statue has already been commissioned there for a bargain price of £100,000.  There is already a large Ziggy poster under the archway where the statue will be.  This has been agreed with the local councils and the Kickstarter project has been successful in raising all the money required.

And of course, we cannot forget the bandstand at Beckenham, known as the ‘Bowie bandstand’.  Bowie grew up in Beckenham so there are many significant ‘Bowie’ locations (such as the Three Tuns and where Haddon Hall used to be) but the most significant of all is the Bandstand.  It was where he played in 1969 and it was on the steps of this very bandstand that he wrote the beginnings of Life On Mars.

But back to Brixton.  It has been suggested that there should be a big red/blue ‘ZiggyZag’ next to the mural.  It is planned to be three stories high and located by the mural.  This is a terrible idea for the following reasons:

  1. ZiggyZag is the wrong name.  The flash is from the Aladdin Sane album and not Ziggy.  This suggests that those who have come up with the idea are not real Bowie fans.

  2. It is too big for the size of the area and will drown out the mural.  It is also an issue for local residents.

  3. It is not required in that location – it already has the mural and for many that is enough.

  4. It is going to cost £990,000.  That is a lot of money for something that isn’t even that well designed.  Just stolen from the original artwork.

  5. My view is that Bowie would hate it.  It is not representative of who he was.  It's commercialising him - and he liked to be challenging and controversial.

 

 

Discussing the Brixton memorial on Facebook put me in touch with Michael Wicks.  He has suggested an alternative to the ZiggyZag in the same location.  A Space Oddity / Blackstar Monolith, located in the middle on the path facing the mural and compliments the mural.  The suggestion is you would be able to look at the mural as you can now. The monolith would have a cut out star so you could walk around to the other side and you could look through the star at the mural.  The monolith itself would represent both the start and end of Bowie’s career.  Like the monolith from Stanley Kubrick's film, A Space Odyssey, that Bowie drew a lot of early inspiration from, the monolith would be a symbol of Bowie’s space oddity and the Blackstar cut out into it representing the of course the end and final chapter Blackstar.  As the mural itself is full of colour, it would set a contrast and offer something different from another lightning bolt (there is already one on the mural).  The Blackstar symbol is an iconic symbol now associated with Bowie and the Blackstar album.

It is my personal view that this is a much better and classier idea.  It is thought-out for both the fans and on a deeper level for the die-hards as well as not overpowering the mural and still being in a central location in Brixton.

This is a controversial subject, but Bowie was controversial.  What do you think?  Do you love the Ziggy Zag or the Blackstar?  Do you want to save the bandstand in Beckenham where David Bowie has a real connection or support an overpriced ZiggyZag?  

Whatever the final decision is, Bowie’s real legacy is his music.

 

If you would like to support the Bowie Bandstand, you can find out more: https://www.gofundme.com/bowiesbeckenhamoddity

How I spent Bowie Week 2017

I always know it would week of emotions but felt the need to do something to mark the occasion anyway.  I did not want to hide away like I did a year ago, when I heard the news.

On 8th January 2017 Bowie would have been 70.  It would have been a significant occasion. However just because he is not physically with us anymore does not stop Bowie fans from marking the occasion.  There were many events up and down the country, but for me it was always going to be with the netters.  For those who don’t know the netters (myself included) were the bowie fans who were originally on Bowie.net.  We were the ones who knew Bowie as Sailor and many talked to him online.  Others have met him and some have even worked with him.  This is where I want to be.  With people who love him as deeply as me.  So, I headed into London.  There were many fantastic musicians doing covers of his work, hearing often songs that are underplayed yet the crowd sang along anyway.  It was a lovely evening and as the clock struck midnight to start the 8th January, we all sang Happy Birthday to the main man who has touched us all in some way.  It was truly a celebration of his work and I felt happy.

On the 8th there was only one place on the planet to be and that was Brixton.  Standing by the wall I met a few friends and then walked over to his house, where he was born, on Stansfield Road.  It felt absolutely the right place to be and I still felt happy.  I was in a much better place than I was a year ago, when I had also mourned with the netters in the same venue and had visited the same sites in Brixton.  Yes, a year was a long time but Bowie was far from forgotten.

But Tuesday had a very different feel about it.  Gone were my celebratory moments of his life.  Instead every channel on the radio talked Bowie and called it Bowie day.  I really hated that.  I did not want the anniversary of his death to be Bowie day.  Any day but that one!  They were obviously struggling for people to talk on the radio as one woman they interviewed loved Bolan and Ferry more.  Could they really not find one true Bowie fan?  They should have called me.  I was feeling annoyed and sad.  So, sad that I burst into tears while I was driving and had to pull the car over and have a moment to myself.  When I completed my destination, I was back in Aylesbury.  I pushed through market square and found myself by the wall where the planned Bowie statue will be.  There are a couple of photos of Bowie under the arches and I sat and thought about him and what he has meant to me.  As I got up I saw a notice board and on it was a piece of paper which said, ‘RIP David Bowie.  If you see this take it’.  I looked around (It’s not candid camera but still felt weird) and took down the paper and lovely homemade Blackstar beaded ornament.  I was truly meant to find this.  I messaged the lovely lady who had put it there on her Facebook and suddenly felt better.  This was meant to happen.  I could continue my day and felt comforted by a complete stranger.  Yet again the Bowie community coming together to support each other.  This is one of the good things to have come out of his passing.  There is a real Bowie community.

I also wrote a piece to remember him.  It was named The Worst Anniversary and I used his own words to say how I felt. You can read this further down the page.

Saturday 14th January is the end of Bowie week and I finished it off with my first ever trip to Lazarus.  This is the Bowie play that he had worked on just before his death.  I had avoided all comments on the show so I could see it fresh and make my own decision.  I knew it was based on the character from The Man Who Fell To Earth.  And I didn’t like that film at all.  So, if you want to see what I thought you can read my review here.  http://www.jasminestorm.com/single-post/2017/01/14/Lazarus-Kings-Cross-Theatre-London

What you won't read in my review is at the end of the show, I was sitting in row B and people both sides of me weren't moving. So I decided to climb over that one row in front to get my photo taken with Bowie. You know what happened next! Yep! On my ass with my dress in the air in front of everyone looking towards the Bowie picture. But shhh, keep this to yourself. I don't need the world to think I'm an idiot!

 

This was how I spent my Bowie week. I am sure you all have your own ways of marking the occasion but for me, this was an emotional week of tears of sorrow and tears of joy. 

Me outside Lazarus, Getting my photo taken with Bowie and the lovely Blackstar found in Market Square, Aylesbury. 

At the V&A in 2013 and on what would have been Bowie's 70th Birthday in Brixton, 2017. 

The Worst Anniversary

A year ago the most influential and inspirational person in my life quietly passed away. I was devastated and when I found out my raw emotions poured into a blog which is further down this page.

To mark the anniversary of David Bowie passing away, instead of using my words, I have written how I feel using his words. See how many lyrics you recognise.  RIP David Bowie. Always in my heart.

The Worst Anniversary

 

Where are we now, without you? I’m not quite right at all.

Something happened on the day he died. They said the things to make it seem improbable, Whale of a lie like I hoped it was. And I cried for all the others till the day was nearly through. Cried so much my face was wet and kicked my brains around the floor.  These are the days it never rains but it pours.  The days float through my eyes, but the days still seem the same. I'm sinking in the quicksand of my thought. This week dragged past me so slowly. The days fell on their knees. I've heard a rumour from Ground Control. Oh no, don't say it's true. I look out my window what do I see? A crack in the sky and a hand reaching down to me. All the nightmares came today. And it looks as though they're here to stay. I’m Hitting an all-time low.

Time was waiting in the wings – but you never knew that. Now the wind is wild and despite being a rebel rebel, my love is lost. He was my soul love. Look up there – you’re in heaven – and I know that somebody up there likes me. But London Boy, can you hear me? Is there life on Mars?  Panic, panic get me out of here…

This isn’t a modern love, this is Ziggy Stardust. He gave me more than five years… he told me that knowledge comes with deaths release; that he was a dead man walking and that all the pretty things are going to hell. I wish someone would phone or pick you up on channel two. When I live my dream you can be my hero. You promised that you would be king and I would be queen.

But the mountain moved its eyes to a world of realise and you stepped through the door to float in a most peculiar way. The stars look very different today.  Can you see these tears so blue? An ageless heart that can never mend, These tears can never dry. I have to live without the sunlight. Love without your heartbeat.

But you tell me…

Fill your heart with love today, don't play the game of time. And then I know that as long as we're together, the rest can go to hell. I absolutely love you.  Starman – don’t believe for one second I’m forgetting you. ‘cause you’re wonderful.

I would like to thank.....

 

You know that feeling when you are a kid on a roundabout and go around and around til you are dizzy and the world is spinning?  Or swinging on a swing when you swing so high that for a few seconds you can’t see anything but sky and you catch your breath?  Well I woke up like that this morning.  Why?

Because I couldn’t believe how lucky I am to be a finalist in the Milton Keynes Digital Awards for my blog again this year.  

And who can I thank? I thank my readers.  Those who message

me kind words and comments.  To all those who have offered

congratulations to me since I found out.  To anyone who had read

anything I have written.

It has certainly been a year of mixed emotions and I have blogged

several times about Bowie and how much I love him and miss

him.  I have also been to some wonderful shows and gigs and of

course blog about those.  But I also blog about what moves me,

local, national and international thoughts I may have.  And you guys read it.  I feel so lucky to have your support…so thank you and cross your fingers for me!

UPDATE: Although my blog didn't win - I picked up two awards on behalf of About Milton Keynes, who I have been writing theatre reviews for over the last year. Well Done to the whole team. 

My first Tattoo.

Since I was 16 years old I had always considered having a tattoo.  My step-brother was a tattooist and was covered in them so from an early age I admired the artwork and talent.  My idea of what design to have has changed over the years; as a teenager I wanted stars and a moon on my ankle.  As I approached 40, I had decided on something abstract on my back. Unfortunately, I fell down the stairs and hurt my back to that felt it was the universe’s way of telling me not to have a tattoo. So I left it. I still had virgin skin.   

 

In January 2016, David Bowie passed away.  I have loved David Bowie since I was 12 and would describe myself as so much more than a fan.  He is a part of who I am.  He knows me.  He loves me.  He raised me.  I felt lost without him.  But in my grief of his loss I found the Bowie community, many who felt the same way as me. They felt the loss as deep as I did.

 

So when some people started to get the ‘Blackstar’ tattoos I considered it too. I felt it was a permanent way of telling everyone how much I loved him with no words.  Not that I needed a reminder, but it would also comfort me in my grief.  It would be a big step as I hate needles and after watching all those tattoo mistake programmes I was worried about having something permanent on me that wasn’t perfect.  But I knew I really wanted this.  I wanted to join the gang.

 

I couldn’t just rush into it. I wanted to research to make sure I made the right decision. I found out that all tattooists should be registered with their local authority. Hygiene is very important too – so as I was faced with new photos of other people’s tattoos everyday on Facebook making me want it more – I still took my time to research.

 

I wanted a personal recommendation. It was hard as my friends offering suggestions hadn’t used the person they suggested. Or the artwork wasn’t the sort of design I was looking for. I knew I needed someone who was good at line work. Luckily since January two Facebook groups had been set up just for Bowie tattoos. This was great as I was able to look at variations of their Blackstar designs. I asked them for personal recommendations and narrowed my options down to two tattooists that I really liked and that were commutable. One was in Coventry and one was in London. I liked them both. When I found out that the London one wouldn’t do the stars as small as I wanted, my decision was made.

 

I nervously rang up Queen of Hearts in Coventry and spoke to Natalie. I was put at ease straight away. I felt nervous for so many reasons.

1.    I’d never had a tattoo before so was unsure of how it works

2.    I was worried about design and perfection of executing the design

3.    I was worried about hygiene

4.    I was worried about pain of the needle

5.    I was worried I may change my mind on the design after its on my skin

However as soon as I spoke to Natalie all my worries disappeared and I booked my appointment.   I had about six weeks from my initial call to my appointment and during that time I emailed her and spoke to her about all my worries and questions. All were answered and put me at ease.

 

So almost three months to the day we lost Bowie, I caught a train to Coventry.  I hadn’t been for many years and it has changed in places with new buildings and landscaped greens. Almost unrecognisable from the 70’s look of many buildings I remember.

 

I headed for the cathedral and with a print out from Google Maps and my smart phone tried to find my destination.  When I found it I was warmly welcomed and offered a cup of tea.  I relaxed and not felt rushed or hurried at all.  We discussed the final changes to my design and I chose my final font for the lyric which was actually a difficult decision. The font was called ‘Angelface’ which felt right and looked right.

 

I had decided a while ago I wanted the Bowie Blackstar’s.  I like the abstract design that spells out Bowie but that not everyone would know.  I like the idea of being part of a secret bowie society. I have always been a lyric person and knew that I also wanted a lyric on my arm.  This was a difficult job as I love so much of his work and so many of his lyrics mean so much to me. Eventually I narrowed it down to two.

 

‘It’s only forever’ from Labyrinth.  I liked this as my love for him is forever and so will the tattoo be.  And I do spend my life quoting from the film ‘she chose down?  Too late now’. ‘Come inside – meet the Mrs’.  ‘I need you Hoggle’.  Yep I was always a big Labyrinth fan and especially ‘You have no power over me’.

 

‘Cause you’re wonderful’ from Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide.  I like the fact he could be saying I’m wonderful, or I could be saying he is wonderful. My blog is called ‘It’s a wonderful life’ and Iike the positive connotations. I also sang this loud when I visited the V&A Bowie Is… exhibition. When he says ‘Not only is this the last show of the tour but it’s the last show we’ll ever do’, I always cry.  It was the winner and the right decision to put it on my arm forever.  

I wanted it to look like a bracelet around my wrist and to finish it off have a small red heart as Bowie will always be in my heart.  This was my original idea and I had not seen anyone have anything like this to date.

 

I don’t know what I had been worried about.  The tattoo space was lovely and decorated in a quirky way.  It certainly appealed to my personality.  I felt excited about doing this.  It was the right time and the right place.  Natalie asked me what music I wanted to play and I chose Young Americans and Hunky Dory albums. I’m a 70’s Bowie girl at heart. I admit that I had a small tear in my eye when 'Somebody up there likes me' came on. 

To my surprise it didn’t hurt at all.  And suddenly I had a tattoo.  It had taken me years to find the right design, the right reason, the right place to have it but now I was a Blackstar and proud to be so. 

The Loss of David Bowie   11.01.16

 

I blog.  I blog about things I feel strongly about.  I blog about things I love. So today of all days – what else can I do but write down a few feelings on the passing of my idol, David Bowie.

 

Those of you that know me, already know that David Bowie has been a huge part of my life.  I may have met some of you at the Bowie Is exhibition or a Holy Holy gig…others I may never have met. But today we are all in mourning.  Today is not The Next Day but the worst day.

 

It is surreal how I found out.  I was actually sick last night and took today off work.  When I woke I had lots of texts from friends offering their condolences before I knew what they were on about.  I logged into Facebook to find more messages.  I couldn’t believe it.  Surely it cannot be true.  I rang my sister to confirm it.  She thinks I have a sixth sense as I was sick the day he died without even knowing.  I am struggling between moments of disbelief and moments of terrible grief.  I cannot stop crying.  Even when I am not sobbing I have the odd tear sneaking down my cheek before I can stop it.

 

My husband ‘likes’ David Bowie and has tried to comfort me.  But right now I need to be around people who really ‘get’ Bowie.  People whose lives were changed forever by him. People who share and understand my grief.  I have often joked that I would get rid of the husband and kids before I got rid of my Bowie collection.  Of course I love my husband and kids, but it was me trying to explain how much Bowie meant to me.    

 

So why do I love him?  It’s hard to explain.  I love his individuality – how he wasn’t scared to be different.  This spoke volumes to me as I never felt I fitted in a ‘normal’ society.  And he didn’t much care for being successfully commercial.  He kept reinventing himself.  Killing off Ziggy was such a brave move yet he made it work. Who else would do that?  Even when he had huge commercial success with Let’s Dance he admits it was one of his less creative periods.

 

I love his compassion and generosity.  During his early years he shared his songs, resurrecting the fading career of Mott the Hoople with All The Young Dudes.  He quietly gave up a slot in his performance on Live Aid to show a film about the starving children.  He always gave to others.

 

I love his talents.  He doesn’t just have a few tracks or a few albums that I love.  I love his diversity and range of genres.  His ability to continue to shock with his music.  This doesn’t mean I have loved everything he has released.  I was never keen on Tin Machine and more recently I hated Sue. (I’ve never been a fan of Jazz).  But ask me which is my favourite album and I would struggle to answer.  I love Hunky Dory.  Kooks always makes me laugh. I love Ziggy and always thought Five Years was a genius piece of writing.  Young Americans is such a sexy album and Station To Stationis one of my favourite tracks from the album of the same name.  I have recently rediscovered and adored, The Man Who Sold The World, especially ‘All the Madmen’ which feels like ‘All the Bowie fans’.  A huge thanks in part to Holy Holy for bringing this album back to life to live audiences.  It really felt special to be part of it.

 

It’s not just his talent for music that I love.  He is (was? – I’m not ready to put him in the past tense yet – it’s all still too raw) an accomplished actor.  Just watch him in Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence or see a clip of his performance of The Elephant Man to know he was Oscar worthy.  And everyone’s guilty pleasure is watching Labyrinth as an adult.  My personal favourite is Absolute Beginners.  Not because of the role he played particularly, but the entire film feels like a cult film and the theme tune of the film by Bowie is an outstanding piece of music that always sends shivers down my spine.

 

He has a wicked sense of humour which can be seen in his extended video of ‘Jazzin for Blue Jean’ Video where he plays two parts.  The end of the video he is arguing with Julien Temple, the director, to say Vic should get the girl instead of ‘Screaming Lord Byron’.  Its truly perfect.

 

I grieve his passing.  It is a personal loss.  I am as devastated as if it were a member of my own family.  But it’s not just my loss.  It’s a loss to all his fans all over the world.  All those who loved him deeply even if they had never met him.  It’s also a loss to all those potential fans who may ‘get’ him now.  I hope you do.  You don’t know how much you miss without Bowie in your life.

 

I will give the final word over to Morgan Visconti (Tony Visconti’s son) who said -

"Another day, another adventure!" was the last thing you said to me. I'll always remember that. My hero. Rest in peace, David Bowie.

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