Hey! Stay Young! And Invincible…

The other day my fourteen-year-old daughter asked me what I was like when I was a kid, and the first thing that sprung into my head was my old nickname; ‘Cloth-ears.’ It was mostly my mum who called me this because I was always in a dream. I told my daughter that my favourite things when I was a kid are still my favourite things now; my pets, reading, writing, music, gardening. She said growing up seems boring, and I said yes it is, but you don’t really have to do it.

Growing old is inevitable...growing up is optional

You can’t stop yourself from ageing, but you can choose how you age.

After talking to my daughter, I realised that I’ve never really grown up. Okay, it might look like I have. I’m married, I have four kids, I drive a car, I have my own company for God’s sake, I pay my bills, pay my rent and all the rest of it. But when it comes to ‘adulting’, I drag my feet at every opportunity. I think this is why I hate phoning people and having people phone me. It forces you to act and speak like an adult. I’d much rather text or email. Of course, that could be the stubborn introvert in me too.

The more I thought about it, the more I realised I’ve resisted growing up at every turn. I was never in a hurry to be a teenager or an adult. I just wanted to write and read and play my favourite CD’s. I just wanted to be left alone, and I still feel like that now.  I put off going to University for two years because I didn’t feel ready. I got a job and worked, but that really just gave me more material for writing…

When I'm lyin' in my bed at nightI don't wanna grow upNothin' ever seems to turn out rightI don't wanna grow upHow do you move in a world of fogThat's always changing thingsMakes me wish

I was desperate to be a mum, and I was a young one at 24, but even that wasn’t about growing up. That was about love and fun and childhood. Being a mum has the potential for two things, in my opinion. It can lead you down a road of frustration and drudgery, where you end up repeating all the tedious things your mum said to you, lose your youth, your energy, yourself. Or it can be a chance to make childhood last even longer. Playing, make-believe, story-telling, arts and crafts, mucking about in the dirt, splashing in the river, making dens, tea-parties, imaginary friends, fairy gardens, bike rides, need I go on? I embraced all of these things with my kids and I still do. I love the fact that having kids means you get to go mental at Christmas and Easter and Halloween! I love visiting farms, and museums, taking them to festivals and castles, and on train rides. Would I do all these fun things if I didn’t have kids? I don’t think I would. I think I’d be glued to my laptop twenty-four-seven in a very unhealthy manner.

Then I thought about work. I’ve done my share of boring jobs. I’ve worked in a chemist, a supermarket, I’ve been a gardener and a cleaner. And then I chose a really fun career which also allowed me to carry on being childlike. I became a childminder. At the time this fitted in perfectly with my own young kids. I could be with them, have tons of fun and get paid to look after others too. I truly loved it. I have great memories of the things we all got up to.

As my kids got older, I started thinking about my childhood dreams and the lyrics of an Oasis song came to me one day when I felt myself drifting towards a kind of crossroads. ‘The dreams we have as children fade away.’ My youngest child at the time was starting school after the summer and I felt like there were dreams I had ignored and forgotten about. When I was a kid I wanted to work with animals and write books. I’d been too busy and too exhausted over the last ten years to do either. So I swapped childminding for dog walking, started fostering rescue dogs and started writing again.

_While we're living, the dreams wehad as childrenfade away_Oasis

And so here I am now. I turn 40 in a few months. 40, I tell you!! I don’t feel anything like 40! I don’t have a clue about so many adult things that I really struggle sometimes talking to other adults. I still feel like a child and I intend to stay this way. I’m still doing all of the things I love. Walking dogs, caring for my mini zoo of pets and taking in waifs and strays, attempting to grow my own fruit and vegetables, reading like a fiend, writing like a demon possessed, and doing whatever crazy childish things my kids want to do!

Anyway, just in case adulthood has you prisoner, here are a few tips to help you release your inner child when you can;

  • keep hold of the things you loved as a child; music, art, dance, whatever your passions were back then, there is no need to pack them away when adulthood comes calling
  • try to find employment in an area you are passionate about. Easier said than done, I know, but even if you can’t, try and do some voluntary work instead, or do it as a hobby. Never, ever give up the things you once loved
  • be silly. I can’t help myself. If you can’t say ‘wheee’ when you go around a roundabout, what’s happened to you? If you can push a supermarket trolley and resist the urge to zoom along and lift your feet off the floor, sort yourself out now!! Let your inner child out as much as possible. They know how to have fun
  • talk to a three-year-old. Or any young person. They will soon remind you how hilarious and carefree life used to be
  • go barefoot
  • go out in the rain
  • listen to new music
  • read books aimed at young people
  • put loud music on in the car and sing along
  • don’t miss the little things. Dirt, dust, sunlight, leaves, birdsong, tree bark, the sound of rain, the rush of a river, the flight of a blackbird, so much is going on under our noses and while little kids seize on these things and notice them for the treasure they are, as grown-ups we tend to forget

See, you don’t have to grow up! It’s optional! I suggest you fight it at every turn. And in the words of another great Oasis song “all the dream-stealers are lying in wait, but if ya’ wanna’ be a spaceman, it’s still not too late!”

It's funny how your dreamsChange as you're growing oldYou don't wanna be no spacemanYou just want gold Dream stealersAre lying in waitBut if you wanna be a spacemanIt's still not too lat

 

Me and The Music

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Me and the music and the writing, we are linked, we are circular. Each feeds into the other. My mind is always full of both. I often feel that music should be constantly with me, and when I was a kid, I tried to make this so. Music in my bedroom, music in the kitchen where I used to sit next to the radio to write my stories, and music in my head. I still recall the agony of dying batteries in a Walkman. My favourite song whining slowly to a halt. Rummaging through the junk drawer in the hope that the loose batteries rolling around at the bottom would fit, and have enough juice left to keep the songs going.

When I look back at my writing, music has always been there too. Often without me knowing, it has shaped and influenced my writing, as well as who I am. When I was fourteen I wrote a book about a boy living in 1960’s America, during the Vietnam War. There is no doubt in my mind that my love of sixties music influenced me to write this particular story, and the songs and bands I had fallen in love with, are dotted throughout the manuscript. In my head, the book was in fact a movie, with an awesome soundtrack. Songs like All Along The Watchtower by Jimi Hendrix, White Rabbit by Jefferson Airplane and Ruby Tuesday by The Rolling Stones all had their place. I had songs for fight scenes. I had songs for when the gang were running from the cops. I had druggy songs, and hippy songs, and I had Thank You For The Days by The Kinks, In My Life by The Beatles, and Catch The Wind by Donavan. In my head I could see it all and hear it all and it was perfect.

When I look back, I see everything in terms of what music was there for me. I remember buying a Bob Dylan cassette from HMV when I was about twelve. I used to write the lyrics inside my diaries and my school books. I even used to scrawl lyrics that meant something to me onto the surface of my desk at school with a compass. I remember a friend I was slightly in awe of playing me Guns ‘N’ Roses, and watching the videos for Welcome To The Jungle and You Could Be Mine on MTV at her house. I felt like an outsider peering in. It was something; but it wasn’t mine.

When I first saw the video to Smells Like Teen Spirit I thought Kurt Cobain was the most beautiful person I had ever seen. It was something I did not really understand. I bought the single on 7 inch vinyl from my local supermarket and played it as loud as I dared in my room. When I was sixteen Britpop exploded and I found something all mine. When I rewrote The Boy With The Thorn In His Side twenty years after it was first penned, I went back and made Danny’s journey through music my own. From Guns ‘N’ Roses to Nirvana, from the sixties to the nineties, with The Smiths and The Clash in between. It was my soundtrack and I am still adding to it.

Whatever music I am into most at the time, seems to seep into my writing. I had written a significant first draft of This Is Nowhere whilst listening to a lot of Neil Young vinyl. It suddenly seemed to make perfect sense that Jake’s mysterious mother Kate would have loved his music too. At the moment I am listening to a lot of Frank Turner. I have not made my latest protagonist Elliot Pie, a mad music fan, but I am curious to know how this phase will influence his character and the book.

The music has always been with me. I can’t go long without it. I can’t bear the silence or the hollowness that sometimes creeps in. A tight stomach is alleviated by jangling guitars. A worried mind unburdened by pounding drums, building up and up and up and up. The right chords, the right words, the right order, tingling down my spine, making me smile even when I really don’t want to. Music makes you move, it makes you remember how to breathe. It lifts your mood, sets you free, makes you remember you are alive and that great and beautiful things can happen.

When I was a kid I used to lie on my bedroom floor with the speakers on either side of my head. I was trying to locate every part of the song. I was trying to take it apart, understand every piece of it. I was trying to distinguish which instruments came in where, and I could never really understand it, and I still can’t, but I am still listening.

I still insist on loud music in the car. I search the CD collection before I leave the house, seeking out whatever my mood demands. The radio is on all day. Old music brings back a thousand memories. New music opens up possibilities. Makes me feel jealous of the young. If I am down sometimes I want to wallow in it, I want Creep and Fake Plastic Trees and Motorcycle Emptiness, and if I am angry I might want to stay angry, I might want Postively 4th Street or Karma Police or anything by The Smiths. If I want to be lifted up, if I want to feel instantly positive, I turn to The Stone Roses and Oasis. She Bangs The Drums and I can’t stop smiling and drumming. I Am The Resurrection as loud as can be with no interruptions, otherwise I have to go back to the start and try it again. It can’t be messed up. Gotta hear it all. Live Forever is my favourite song in the world, quite possibly. It’s simple and it’s basic but it’s got everything I need. It gets me right there. It says it all. I just wanna’ fly…

Nearly all of my writing has music in it somewhere. The Boy With The Thorn In His Side is a dark and hard hitting story, but is lifted up by Danny’s love for music. He gets to do what I have always wanted; work in a record shop. In The Mess Of Me Joe runs drugs for his brothers in order to save up for a drum kit. In the sequel he will have formed his band and be trying to get noticed.

Music helps me write. It gets the juices flowing. Lyrics inspire stories and invoke characters inside my head. I imagine that all my characters have a soundtrack; music that defines their life and their story. Songs that are all theirs. Songs they sung when they were sad and lost, songs that gave them hope and guts when they needed it most, songs they fell in love to, songs they had their first kiss to…

Me and the music, tapping away. I remember when I was nineteen, and I hadn’t gone to University like I’d planned, and I had a shit job cleaning offices, and my mother had this terrible man living with her, and all my friends had left and gone to Uni, and everything was over, everything was standing still. I remember drinking every night, alone in my room, just me and the music and my trusty old word processor. All I needed was a constant supply of CD’s and paper. I wrote non-stop, all through the night. I wrote whatever came into my head, streams of consciousness and near unconsciousness. I felt like if the music ever stopped then I would die. The music kept the words coming, one after the other, rushing out of me, releasing me from anger and disgust and fear of the future and the whole world. I could make sense of it; or at least keep the worst fear at bay, if I just kept writing, just kept listening to guitars and drums and lyrics.

Now I walk around and I don’t often like the sound of the world. I want to tape a soundtrack over it all. Life is much cooler if you are constantly singing along. If there are constantly words inside your head.

Sometimes I get a nervous feeling in my stomach and for a moment or two, I don’t know why. I can’t work it out. There is nothing to be nervous about. I am not about to do anything scary or important. But the feeling is there nonetheless. It’s like a breath I cannot take. Like the next move has been prevented and I’m stuck. It’s not horrible, or terrible, but it is strange and comes at any time, following me about my life, sudden tightness, sudden urge to take a deep long breath and try again.The other day I finally worked out what it is. It’s my stomach nose-diving, lurching, crunching up small, and its because its wondering what song comes next. What part of life is about to unfold.

Songs are stories. Songs are full of people. Songs are full of love, and fear, and regret and confusion and pure, relentless joy. My writing needs them all. The desperate ones, the depressing ones, the uplifting ones, the soul destroying ones, the ones that shine… They all help me write.

“I’d hear a song, and it would cause this utterly jolting and physical reaction inside of me. It would take me over and it would take me somewhere else. Set all kinds of things off inside of me. Some songs, they drag you down with them, they take your hand very gently and ease you out of the sunshine. They want you to feel their pain, and they want the shivers to run through you as all your hairs stand on end.And then there are the songs that set your hair on fire, and I mean, they fill you up with indescribably joyous energy, the kind that makes you believe you will live forever. Primal Scream’s Movin’ On Up was one of those for me during that time. When I heard that, or sung along to that at Chaos, my heart was exploding with hope, let me tell you, my body felt like it had wings, my soul knew that nothing bad could ever happen to any of us, ever again. Music can do that you know.”  – Danny, “The Boy With The Thorn In His Side” http://www.amazon.co.uk/Boy-Thorn-His-Side-ebook/dp/B00W8DLGKA/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1431972783&sr=1-1&keywords=the+boy+with+the+thorn+in+his+side

 

My Music Memories

So many, where to start? Don’t try to organise them, just go!

Travis; Why Does It Always Rain On Me? Glastonbury, no idea what year, beautiful clear blue skies, they start singing this and it starts raining! Lead singer grinning, laughing, everyone happy to be rained on…Flowers In The Window..still can’t sing along without choking up…working at Asda, stacking shelves, first child inside my belly, listening to the lyrics, let’s plant new seeds and watch them grow so there’ll be flowers in the garden when we go outside….wow look at you now, you are one in a million and I love you so, let’s watch the flowers grow..the video was all pregnant women and now can’t ever hear that song without remembering how it felt to be pregnant for the first time, just makes me think of her every time…

Embrace; Come Back To What You Know…relationship break-up, about to go away to Uni, living with mum, summer, jogging in the fields around the estate, still friends, not sure, scared, excited, not wanting to let go…was this song trying to tell me something?

Radiohead; all the songs on OK Computer…veeeeeery drunk on Sangria??!! In my bedroom, on my own, writing on my word processor, listening to this, writing random thoughts and thinking about lyrics, ended up on the floor, big jug of Sangria, what was I thinking? Why?? Still got those notes now. Hilarious to read. Thoughts, feelings, hopes and dreams and an over-riding feeling of cold despair and fear for the future. Feeling that nothingness existed just for me. Thinking drink would help. Knowing it would not.

Oasis; Champagne Supernova…New Years Eve, 1998?? Everyone there, all the usual faces, everyone in love, everyone hammered, everyone crushed together in one hot dark horse shoe shaped pub, and this comes on….and everyone is singing, everyone is swaying, and hugging, and drinking, and loving, voices getting louder and louder…singing it all the way back home, drunken wobbling in heels along pavements of Christchurch…Cigarettes and Alcohol, Slide Away, Supersonic…getting read to go out music, loud as possible, wine on the go, tall mirror, heels, silk blouses?? Friends. Writing the lyrics around the edge of the pages in my diary…thinking, knowing, these are our songs, these are about us, and this is our band, this is our time…

Soul Asylum; Runaway Train…watching MTV house/dog sitting at my mum’s friends house, eating doughnuts, feeling fat, loving music, buying the vinyl single in Our Price

Gomez; Get Myself Arrested…summer of the break up, said boy turns up at my house in blood spattered shirt, not his fault, drunken night gone wrong, someone elses blood, standing up for a pal, got lairy with police, spent night in cell, and this song is out, this song is there, couldn’t be more perfect…Tijuanna Lady…Glastonbury, not sure what year, me, all alone, ankle deep in mud, band are new, crowd is small…start playing this, and a beautiful, in fact let’s get it right the most beautiful sunset of my entire life is happening right behind the stage, and all of life is hazy and shimmering and magical…and it is just me, all alone, soaking it up, one of those moments that you will never, ever forget…

The Stone Roses; I Am The Resurrection…had to have it loud every day, at least once a day, Uni days, got me going, had to be loud, all that mad drumming..Ten Storey Love Song…said boy taping these songs for me, me writing the lyrics out in a love letter to him, circling the special ones…Finsbury Park 2013, one of the best days of my life ever…all these songs, with so much attached, I am crying, actually crying, and so are people around me, because we love them so much! And when it is over, walking down the road, everyone singing This Is The One, this is the one, this is the one! This is the one, this is the one, she’s waited for! 

Steve Mason; Fight Them Back, listening to this album repeatedly all the way to Camp Bestival and back, summer 2014, me and my oldest and youngest child, windows down, slow, hot traffic, A Lot Of Love…will always think of my kids and that festival when I hear Steve Mason…then watching him live there, ranting about politics, just brilliant…

Super Furry Animals’ The Man Don’t Give A Fuck…Glastonbury 99?? Not sure. Middle of crowd, they are singing this song, and some truck or van is being driven through the crowd, no idea who is driving it or why, but people are climbing on it and dancing on it and it is moving very slowly through us, and it’s the same refrain over and over and everyone going nuts and loving it…no he don’t give a fuck about anybody else, no he don’t give a fuck about anybody else!

The Smiths; best of album, my go to sleep at Uni album for about a year, go out, get hammered, stagger home, fall into bed, head phones on, The Smiths. Weird.

The Beach Boys; God Only Knows, walk down aisle to be married, Wouldn’t It Be Nice? Walk back up aisle, married!!

Oasis; Wonderwall….first dance

Pulp; Mis-Shapes…me and my geeky friend, our song, all the lyrics just for us, about us! Watching them at the BIC, and Jarvis lights a fag and bends down to give it to a fan…and the crowd surge forward and we are right at the front and our ribs are crushed against the barriers and the barriers move, and the security men rush out, but all is ok, people move back, sorry, sorry, and Jarvis says don’t get hurt people, I don’t want you to get hurt

so many more, every CD I own will cause a slow collapse of memories and feelings, quite bizarre when you are driving, doing the school run, and all this stuff comes back to you…oh yeah, do you remember when??