I remember you: For Rachel


Today a very personal post from my partner Sarah about her best friend Rachel, who died three years ago.

When Sarah was diagnosed with breast cancer eight years ago now, she fairly soon wanted to find her sisters. Other women who’d shared some of her experiences and ‘been in some of the same rooms’ as we always described those places and days of rapid diagnosis, treatment decisions and prognosis. Other women she could really talk to.

Well finding these sisters took a while, a great while. But eventually, through social media, into her life they came. Americans for the most part, and an Australian living in the States in one very particular, opinionated and lovable case. Rachel from New Jersey.

Their friendship was brief, as you’ll hear, but deep and intensely joyous. Their regular Skypes changed the sound of our house. And Rachel’s love brought the sparkle back into Sarah’s eyes. A spark and a sparkle the eventually ebbing grief of these past three years has never subsequently extinguished.

And of course Rachel and these years since changed my life too. Made me value the living of it more than ever before. But you’ll know about that already if you’ve read my ‘Year to live’ posts.

So here is Sarah, remembering Rachel. Continue reading “I remember you: For Rachel”

Behold: The Pen Factory

I’ve been to the same place for my lunch these last two days. This hardly ever happens, unless I’m eating at home. You know, in our own place. That looks exactly the way we want it to and is full of the food we’ve selected or made. So it has to be somewhere else good to get me there on consecutive days.

Behold: The Pen Factory is open for business.

I didn’t think it would be open though. Certainly not by Christmas. Early in November I’d just come out of the Everyman one evening and met Paddy Byrne locking up his would-be new venture after a day’s, clearly, hard physical work in there. It looked like this.

Just six weeks ago.
Just six weeks ago.

“It might not look it but actually we’re nearly done in there’ Paddy told me.’I think we’ll be ready enough to open in about three weeks!”

“Ever the optimist” I thought. And indeed it was a bit more than those three predicted weeks. But it’s open now and I’d be surprised if you didn’t want to go there. Here’s why. Continue reading “Behold: The Pen Factory”

The comfort of melancholy

Listening to Paul BuchananDSC06368

“There’s comfort in melancholy
When there’s no need to explain
It’s just as natural as the weather
In this moody sky today”

Beautiful lyrics from a beautiful song. And nothing to do with Paul Buchanan, the subject of today’s piece. These words are from ‘Héjira’ by Joni Mitchell and occurred to me just now as the best way of introducing what it is I particularly like about the music of Paul Buchanan. I love his melancholy.

Which is different to sadness or misery or heartbreak and definitely a long way from tragedy. It’s ‘as natural as the weather’ and has always seemed to me to be an essential element of my life. Some days are melancholy, minor-key kinds of days. Days for keeping warm, drinking tea and looking after yourself. Days in the shade, shadow days, away from the busy-ness and brightness of changing the world or even of radiant happiness. Quietly reflective. Days for listening to Paul Buchanan.

Which I’ve been doing for half my life now. Continue reading “The comfort of melancholy”

As time goes by: with Harry Nilsson on Roscommon Street

In which I walk the hills of North Liverpool, singing at the top of my voice!

It’s very nearly a year now since I started buying LPs again and it’s going very well, thanks for asking. More new stuff is being put out on vinyl now it looks like it will outlast CDs, and recently our house has been singing out loud to new LPs by local band Bird (swooning keening ethereal good), East Kilbride’s Pearlfishers, Blue Nile’s Paul Buchanan and the sublimely gorgeous ‘Hendra’ by Ben Watt.

Nearly a year in, the LPs.
Nearly a year in, the LPs.

But obviously a lot of the records that have come in over the year have been old stuff from charity shops, and it’s one of them I want to write about. £2.99 from Oxfam, as perfect an album as you could possibly get, by Harry Nilsson.

'A little touch of Schmilsson in the night'
‘A little touch of Schmilsson in the night’

Harry had first come to my attention, and everyone else’s in the late 1960s when Beatles publicist Derek Taylor arrived back from the USA with a box of Harry’s first RCA album ‘Pandemonium Shadow Show’. He loved it so much he gave a copy to all of his friends, including our beloved boys, who immediately told the rest of us about Harry. Continue reading “As time goes by: with Harry Nilsson on Roscommon Street”