Updated: Nov 3, 2020
Once again, a long time since my last journal entry. It can’t be avoided any longer, so I’ll try to bring things up to date in as succinct a way as possible.
The reluctance to write about my personal situation has been caused by a continuing depression due to the passing of my mother and the difficult, inevitable aftermath of having to clear her home of furniture, bric-a-brac and a lifetime of ephemera. A deadline was attached to this task as the house keys had to be handed back to her stepson, (who was bequeathed the property by his father,) by the end of August.
Dealing with this was traumatic but when the cut off date came, we had disposed of almost everything, many items of furniture being given to charity shops along with various decorative items, lamps, kitchen implements and so on. A few items of furniture were given to a friend of Mum’s who was grateful to have them. A washing machine and some clothes were also given to my late brother’s wife.
Emiko and I mainly hung onto various small, nostalgic souvenirs that Mum had saved from the 1950s, some of which related to my childhood and my late father, though we did manage to bring Mum’s small fridge freezer home to supplement our own less than reliable one. This now sits in our kitchen, a constant reminder of the trips we made to the supermarket with her every Saturday when we would stock the fridge with Mum’s weekly supplies.
As mentioned in a previous journal entry, Mum retained a stylish 1950s bedroom suite that my Father had bought when we lived at Conistone Crescent on Eastmoor Estate, during my childhood. It comprised two large wardrobes, a matching dressing table and bedhead with attached side tables. I was very reluctant to give this away because it held great sentimental value for me, as well as being a nice design from that period. It also had a connection with my very first electric guitar, an Antoria solid body model. I think I’ve told the story before but forgive me for telling it again, just in case you missed it:
The guitar, which was to be a Christmas present from Mum and Dad, had been hidden in the back of one of these wardrobes, unbeknownst to me. At the time, I was aware that I was to be given an electric guitar for Christmas but didn’t know what make or model it would be.
I suspected, some days before Christmas, that the guitar was probably hidden somewhere in the house, so while my Mother was out shopping and my Father at work, I made a sneaky search of various cupboards, hoping to get a look at the guitar before the official ‘unveiling’ on Christmas Day.
It was then that I discovered the guitar was hidden at the back of one of the two wardrobes in my parent’s bedroom. I carefully took it out, saw that it was an Antoria and posed with it for a brief minute in front of Mum’s dressing table mirror, marvelling at how the guitar looked. My only ‘proper’ guitar up to that point had been a second hand Zenith acoustic guitar and although the Antoria wasn’t the Fiesta Red Fender Stratocaster I’d dreamed of, it was, nevertheless,a genuine electric guitar and I was absolutely thrilled with it.
I carefully placed the guitar back in the wardrobe, hiding it again behind the clothes, hoping that my parents wouldn’t notice that it had been moved. And of course, when I was eventually given it on Christmas Day morning, I acted suitably surprised. I confessed to my Mother, in much more recent years, that I’d actually had hold of the guitar before the Christmas gift was officially given to me.
The wardrobe and the dressing table mirror played a special role in my life as a young guitarist, and that’s why parting with those particular items of furniture, which my mother had retained for so long, was a particularly sad experience. I would have hung on to them, but there was simply no way that we could have made space for them in our already overcrowded home.
So, a charity shop was approached to take the bedroom suite but, when the removal men from the shop arrived, they were unable to get the wardrobes down the stairs due to the stairlift which had been installed towards the end of Mum’s second husband’s life. (Her stepson’s father. George.) A week later, my daughter Julia and my grandson Luke came up again from London and managed to dismantle Mum’s bedroom suite and get it downstairs. The charity shop was contacted again and they came to collect.
All went well until they attempted to carry the larger of the two wardrobes out to the van. When they tried to lift it, it started to come apart, and so they refused to take it. It was left in Mum’s dining room in a sorry state. along with a couple of other large items of furniture that we eventually couldn’t dispose of. We had no option but to leave it behind when we finally locked up the house for the very last time.
Turning the key in the door and driving away from the house where Mum had lived for so many years was deeply upsetting. Emi and I shed tears before we exited the place, realising that this was the end of an era. We picked a few flowers from her garden and spoke briefly with a neighbour who thought highly of Mum, and then started the car. I turned to look at the dining room window, which was the room in which she had died, then drove away, never to return.
Somehow, even though Mum had passed away in April, making these trips back to what had been her home to deal with her belongings had provided us with a familiar connection to her. It was sad and yet somehow comforting to be in the space where we’d so often spent time with her on our regular visits. Sitting next to her on the sofa, drinking tea while I glanced through the Wakefield Express newspaper catching up on events in the town I was born in. We would reminice about our early days as a family when my father was still alive. So many warm memories and marvellous times.
I photographed the gradual process of dissolving the house’s contents. I intend to assemble these into a poignant video at some point in time, combined with camcorder footage I took whilst travelling to Wakefield to visit Mum when she was in the rehabilitation centre last year, along with some shots of the outside of the care home that she briefly stayed in before finally returning to her own home in February, prior to her passing in April.
I’ll need time to assemble all this material, to put it into some sort of meaningful order and write and record some music to underscore it. It will provide a poetic memorial in some way, perhaps uncomfortable for me to view but a reminder of what she went through and what we, as a family, went through with her.
It was actually at the start of October, last year, that Mum fell ill and was admitted to hospital, (now already more than one year ago.) She very quickly deteriorated and there were moments when we thought we’d lose her. She remained in hospital for roughly four months before she was sent to a rehabilitation centre and, after that, to a care home. It was the end of January that she eventually got back to her own home, where she wanted to be. Things seemed to improve, but then deteriorated again until the end finally came on 11th April. She passed away at home in the previously mentioned dining room that had been adapted as a bedroom for her. Eight months on, I guess I’m still grieving. I miss her terribly.
Adding to this is the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic which has brought so many troubles to the world. Infections and deaths are on the rise again almost everywhere, particularly in the USA, and it’s increasingly hard to see light at the end of this dark and deadly tunnel. Emiko and I have had to curtail various elements of our lifestyle to try and protect ourselves from this insidious disease, particularly as we’re of a certain age, plus I have other underlying health conditions to contend with, which make me even more vulnerable.
Sadly, the fatigue caused by the necessary restrictions seems to have led a certain percentage of people to behave recklessly, and the problem has been made worse. As a direct result, the country is once more being put into a widespread lockdown situation.
Many people seem to have deliberately ignored the social distancing and mask wearing protocols, much to my, and others, dismay. It’s a disrespectful, ignorant and arrogant attitude which puts other people at risk of serious illness or even fatality, (not to mention the burden on our NHS services.)
And whilst on the subject of ignorance...I’ve been watching, with a mix of amusement and revulsion, the increasingly desperate attempts by the so called ‘President’ of the United States, Donald Trump, to secure himself a second term as the leader of a country that is suffering tragically as a result of his total incompetence and egotistical self interest. America has lost so much standing in the wider world as a result of Trump’s crooked four years as a President. I remember him saying that he wanted to ‘drain the swamp’ of political corruption in America. What a joke! How can he drain the swamp when he is the swamp! God forbid he manages to swindle his way into another four years. The Republican party should hang their heads in shame. So much hinges on tomorrow’s election.
Other things: My eyesight continues to deteriorate and reading becomes increasingly difficult. Typing these words is problematic and I have to constantly review what I’ve written to check for typos. I’ve had to bump up the size of the text that I’m now using so that I can at least spot any keyboard mistakes that my poor vision creates. As for reading books and magazines, it’s become a slow and difficult process with much of the joy taken out of it. Black text on white looks like pale grey on white to me and, even with the aid of glasses and a magnifying glass, I find it hard to distinguish the narrative without straining and re-reading. It results in a very slow process and is incredibly frustrating for someone who has always found so much pleasure and illumination from my lifelong collecting of books.
Meanwhile, as an antidote to all the above, I’ve continued to write and record new pieces of music using the Cubase recording system that was installed in my home studio last year. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m still not entirely convinced by it, but I’m slowly coming around to accepting it for what it is. I suspect that my long history of working with recorded music has put certain expectations in my mind, (and ears,) that are somewhat confounded by such a clinical and cold digital, virtual environment. There are many advantages, of course, but equally many downsides.
Nevertheless, I’ve amassed, at the time of writing, 180 new tracks. Not all of these are individual songs though as that number includes alternate mixes of quite a few pieces, but there are still well over 100 individual new titles. Sorting through all of them, choosing the best mixes and separating them into albums with working running orders is going to be a major task.
I’ve been thinking that the first of these new albums should carry the title ‘New Vibrato Wonderland’, which implies a kind of optimism, (despite the fact that there is also a melancholy, reflective aspect to some of the songs.) The problem is, as soon as I finish one track, I want to immerse myself in the process of creating another one, trying to get closer to what I hear in my head. I start with a certain idea in mind but end up somewhere else entirely.
The music seems to have a mind of its own and shows little respect for my initial intentions. Perhaps that is absolutely fine and ok. I’ve lost the ability to stand back and judge it in any objective, or even subjective sense anymore. Maybe I never had that ability in the first place.
What emerges, at the end of the day, is a reflection of a moment in time, a kind of struggle, with all its emotional and intellectual highs and lows. Try as I may, I can’t seem to impose any preconceived ideas on it. The music resists and demands to be left to its own devices. And maybe that’s all that is possible, so I must try to be content, accept it and move on, one step at a time.
Sometimes though, it seems pathetic that ‘artists’ agonise over this stuff, as if any of it really matters. But it’s undeniable that it does matter in some way to some of us, and will continue to do so. For what it’s worth, it’s my life and my joy.
The wardrobe mentioned in this journal entry...