Last week I went to see ‘Let it Be’ with a friend of my age, a shared era, shared parallel experiences.
We sang, we danced, we clapped with hands raised high. We relived our adolescent love of the original Fab Four. The songs were as fresh as ever, tears crept and prickled my eyes unexpectedly, occasionally, at the memories invoked. Hearing 40 of the songs in that setting…..real yet not quite….gave me a fresh appreciation of the scale of the innovation of these four men. The impact they made, the lives they changed. Song after song, all sung word-perfect by the ageing audience, reawaken our youthful ideals. Can it really be 50 years ago? I could swear, during the set of ‘All you Need is Love’, that I could smell a drift of Brut.
I went to see the Beatles 50 years ago. I remember the excitement of opening the envelope with the tickets in it, I remember the clothes I wore for the concert. I remember the excitement, the noise, the thrill. I remember all those feelings, re-awakened 50 years on. Still word perfect, still dancing, still singing. ‘ there are places I remember all my life though some have changed’ Yes, I know what you mean…….
My experience has taught me so much but for a couple of hours I was transported by the skilful young men, the cast of a hit show. Those young men couldn’t have realised what it was like in those years, yet still captured an essence somehow.
‘Let It Be’ ………whisper words of wisdom, let it be
Thank you for those memories, those years, those experiences.
We went today to see an old relative, and her husband.
Old friends, relatives of my husband’s, the only ones left from the previous generation.
Fancifully named Aurora, she remembers three generations dead and gone. She remembers house names, addresses, pet names and relationships.
Aurora, throwing light on the shifting patterns of darkness
Mysteries of family gone.
Remembrances of shapes and sizes,
Of where the graves are,
Of turns of phrase.
We return to the family home.
Search through musty boxes,
We find the images that give shape to the stories
The search goes on.
We hope Aurora does too.
A heavy silence lingers over the house. As always, I feel strangely disconnected on this day. Good Friday. I have to state immediately that my Christianity is of the lapsed variety, but it is in my DNA, my vivid memories, my history. Oh, I know all the epistemological arguments….it all comes down to faith and feelings in the end. Sometimes fear, too.
From the age of nearly 3 to around 14 years I always spent Easter with my grandparents. It was my yearly holiday…..my chance to be spoiled, appreciated, taken out for treats. I was always bought new sandals (Start-rite or Clarks). The first of the year. I always wore short white socks for the first time in the year on Easter Sunday.
On Good Friday I was always told we had to sit quietly, read, be calm, don’t disturb the grown-ups. There was always fish pie for dinner (at lunch time) and always church.
The church, Emmanuel, was a red-brick Victorian edifice. It has since burned down. It was a short, quiet, respectful walk from my grandparent’s house. Once there I was transfixed by the huge swells of the organ music, mournful and minor-key. The hymns gave me a taste for words and their power. ‘My richest gains I count but loss, and pour contempt on all my pride’, ‘Can death thy bloom deflower?’, ‘Did e’er such love and sorrow meet….’ All sung in the saddest of respectful metre, all in the minor key. Even at the age of around five, I was aware of the mysticism, the strength of the sounds of these unknown words. The day was pervaded with a heavy, funereal tone. The shops were closed. My grandfather took me for quiet walk to the key side, calling in on my great-grandmother on the way back. All very fitting and respectful. As far as I’m aware, my grandparent’s faith was not a very central part of their lives. It was how most families lived then.
To this day, the ghosts of my grandparents shape my use of time on Good Friday. I sit quietly, I do not go to the shops, I listed to J S Bach’s powerful St Matthew Passion, Mozart’s majestic Requiem. I feel restless, disconnected.
I am still wondering about what faith means to me. I am still not convinced by the stories, I believe in honesty, in treating my fellow man and woman as I would wish to be treated, the central tenets of so many religions.
The sounds of the old Anglican hymns re-echo still inside the fibres of my being.
‘Love so making, so divine, Demands my soul, my life, my all.’
Where is that love from?
Often, when I’m musing about the way things are, I wonder what my grandmother, born in 1899, would have thought about….. whatever!
I am lucky, she left quiet a lot of musings and thoughts and memories, in diaries and an exercise book of remembrances where she begins, ‘I was born at a very early age.’ She goes on to tell of the young men marching off to war through the middle of Liverpool in 1914 and to tell of her first experiences of being a telephonist in George Henry Lee’s shop in Liverpool. It was all new technology back then.
I don’t feel old ……yet……but I think about things that I’ve seen and done. I think that all these little events, mundane at the time, will become a forgotten thing, designated to the recycle bin of our lives, fragments of social history, the fun of events passed.
Here’s a remembered fragment, a sunny moment in time, innocent, before Health and Safety and fear of grown-ups became a part of the collective consciousness.
We had a milkman, Mr Chaffer, who used to deliver milk in the Yorkshire of the ’50s. At the end of his round he used to call us all from where we were playing out, unsupervised, on the crescent where we lived. Any of us children who were playing out at the time (we were always playing out, if the weather allowed) would climb up on his cart and have a ride around to the bottom of the crescent where he would tell us to get off home. We’d run up the hill, giggling and laughing, safe as houses and go to outside the watchful windows, where we continued playing. There weren’t many cars in those days. It was about 1955 I think, our Mums were mostly at home, keeping an eye on us all from time to time. I’m on the left of the photo, my brother is on the right, I still remember the names and the characters of those friends, although we left that area in 1958.
We learned how to get along together, how to plan adventures, how to get up and play on when we fell and how to imagine games, imagine situations, imagine stories. We developed independence, imagination and resilience.
I know many of us remember childhoods through rose-tinted memories. It did rain, one boy in the road wore callipers because of polio and had a bad limping walk, we didn’t have a lot of pocket money and had to walk to school. We did have fun though.