Parenting, profundities and humour

You and I… — November 22, 2019

You and I…


My love affair with Queen began with a love affair. To be precise my first love affair.

That sounds a whole lot more romantic than it was. I met the boy in question at his friend’s 16th birthday party because the friend was quite the geek and had no girls to ask and my friend was his sister.

I had my second kiss on the sofa in that friend’s lounge. I was 14. (My first kiss was at the school disco the previous summer whilst having my first slow dance to Hello by Lionel Richie. That boy dumped me after one day. I was quite the geek too and his street cred couldn’t take it. I tried to think it was his loss but it wasn’t until October that I got back in the game. Or maybe the game passed me by for all those months. Clever, geeky girl in sensible shoes and glasses- not really that attractive to your average 14 year old boy)…

After some time fraught with tortured teenage angst and misunderstandings that boy and I became an item.

We spent 2 and a bit years together. There was a lot of walking, making fires, meeting him from his Saturday job at Waitrose, watching Robin Hood Prince of Thieves, jealousy, long land line phone calls in hushed voices in the hallway, RPG, art, flat caps, crunchy sandwiches, the Sunday Mail, woods, snogging in the lighting gallery, that sofa, jumping in canals, …well actually that only happened once and it was him. Not me. Nutter.

He had a record player and precisely 3 albums. We would stack all three up and listen to them in turn before turning them all over to their other sides.

One was The Riddle by Nik Kershaw. One was Innocent Man by Billy Joel and one was Queen’s Greatest Hits.

I was smitten from day one.

I was brought up in a house where the LP collection mostly consisted of classical recordings, a few Beatles albums, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road and steam engine noises. Yes I kid you not entire long playing records of steam trains.

Queen, then, was something else.

During our dating period Highlander was released and we had a whole new album of Queen songs from the soundtrack. The Live Magic tour happened. We didn’t go. My mum thought I was too young at 16 for Wembly. That’s a decision I regret to this day. Queen never toured again.

My next boyfriend (he was also at that party and a friend of that geeky brother of my friend) was also a Queen fan. During our time together at Uni between us we completed our entire Queen LP collection. We catalogued the songs according to which member of the band had written them. I still have that list. And half those LPs. We tried to decide who of the 4 was our favourite composer . An almost impossible task.

We mourned Freddie’s passing. We went to the tribute concert. All three of us.

We discussed the merits of different album styles. Was Hot Space really such a mistake. Could you beat the old stuff?

Because although my first experience of Queen was that Greatest Hits album, with all the classics oft belted out by drunken revellers at work’s Christmas parties or bellowed at football matches, it was the lesser known stuff that appealed to me more.

Recently during my endless taxi-ing I have been revisiting my Queen catalogue, now all on Spotify, and rediscovering some of my favourite tracks.

And at the moment that favourite is You and I.

Everyone should listen to You and I. To be honest everyone should listen to the whole of Day at the Races but I hold back from recommending that as the 5 minute long odyssey of White Man puts some people off.

You and I is accessible. But quintessentially Queen. It opens with the piano. I have a soft spot for Freddie’s piano. Maybe because I am a pianist. Maybe because he plays an actual piano not a keyboard. And he does it so well.

Next the drums crash in. I love Roger’s drums. Genius.

There is an excellent bass line for John. I am also a bass player and love a good bass line. Although before you think I can’t really have been all that geeky I played double bass. In orchestras. I tried to pretend I could play electric bass. I really couldn’t. The frets are confusing. And it’s sideways. I did once jam with boyfriend number 3 whose older brother was excessively cool but I was awful. Boyfriend number 3 once saw Queen live. He’d gone to see Status Quo at a gig and Queen were also there. Imagine going to see Quo and getting Queen. By accident. I never really forgave him for that.

Anyway there’s also a good guitar riff for Brian. There are wonderful sung harmonies. It switches between speakers (listen on headphones for the proper effect). There is a false ending. Cymbals in the bridge tap tapping away. All good Queen stuff.

But the star of the show is Freddie’s voice. It often is. I adore it.

And I love the sentiment. No more questions. Let’s enjoy tonight.

I am still friends with that boy who introduced me to Queen 35 years ago. (And with the other two). Some people think that’s wierd. It isn’t. No one needs to be jealous. The romantic part was over literally a life time ago. It was in another life. And yes we meet infrequently and don’t pick up the phone enough. But we are friends.

And that love of Queen he started. That’s still there.

Teo Torriatte my friends.

Old(er) Friends… — September 17, 2015

Old(er) Friends…


Recently I went to the 50th birthday party of a very dear, and clearly quite old, friend.

His partner, another very good friend, had had posters made up of him at various stages of his life. As I looked at these pictures, a couple of which I had supplied, I struggled to understand how we had all found ourselves in this room celebrating this particular milestone.

It seemed like yesterday when I was in my second year at Uni and he was a regular Sunday morning (OK afternoon, well certainly after the Waltons, we were students after all) visitor to our shared house, helping me with the crossword. Until he told me the answer to a clue was ‘Spabcharge’ and I, gullible as ever, believed him. I have never lived that down. Or let him help me with a crossword since.

I took Eldest and Youngest (Middlest was at the Cub Scout B(ring) A G(rown up) camp with Daddy (he was the nearest we had to a grown up)). And before we went to the venue I sat them down and explained that they might hear rude words. Or things about mummy that shouldn’t be repeated. To paraphrase the famous film ‘what happens at the 50th birthday party stays at the 50th birthday party’. I think they got the gist.

They were both tired but Youngest went to sleep in the corner on a sofa (much to the hilarity of my old friends who gleefully remarked that she must take after me) and Eldest was determined to carry on and allow me time with these people, some of whom I hadn’t seen for years.

I was grateful to them. It was really fabulous to catch up with my old house mates and role playing mates and sailing mates.

And it was good for the kids to see me for an evening not as their mum but as a person with history and a life before they appeared in the world.

And I guess it is true that although we all look older, with greyer hair and more wrinkles, none of us have changed all that much. It is so so easy to slip back into those habits of 25 plus years ago. The stock phrases. The nick names. The idiosychronicities we were famous for. The mickey taking. Inside we are all still 20.

These friends were with me at a pivotal moment in my life, when I was living independently for the first time, really finding out about myself.

And I am glad they are still in my life.

Although I wish the birthday boy hadn’t tipped an entire pint of beer over my jeans….. Still it will be a talking point at his 60th….

Old Friends — August 18, 2015

Old Friends


So today I spent an afternoon in the company of good friends.

We had struggled to find a date during the long school holidays when we were all around and had landed on this afternoon. Even with this date one of our usual four was unable to make it and yet another was leaving on holiday the next morning and was mid ‘pack’.

These are friends I met when pregnant with Eldest. We first made each other’s acquaintance whilst sitting on bean bags and floor cushions (surely not the most amenable seating for heavily pregnant women) at the house of our ante-natal teacher being taught about the mechanics of childbirth (not sure I will ever get over that pelvis and doll combo) and the pros and cons of drugs during labour.

I am not sure we really bonded permanently then but the beginnings were stirring. There were 7 couples expecting their first child. In the normal course of events I am sure I would never have met any of these women; our circles, professions and locations being quite disparate.

Eldest decided to make an early appearance and I missed the last session- I have since found out that this caused ‘quite a stir’ amongst the remaining course members.

Luckily for me the charity who provided the course also ran post baby support ‘get togethers’. At the first one it was me, eldest and one very heavily pregnant member who was overdue. The others were in the early throws of new borns and couldn’t make it.

The next session two weeks later saw nearly a full turn out. One lady was beautifully presented and waxed lyrical about the wonders of parenthood. I went home and cried for 2 hours.

A fortnight rolled by and super mum didn’t make it. Probably getting her nails done. It took about 5 minutes before someone admitted that they were struggling. Relief washed over me like a warm shower. And the five of us bonded and never looked back. We met regularly even after our charity provided support stopped. One lady moved away but the rest of us met nearly weekly until about two years ago when post school extra curricular activities, work and other mundanities precluded such regular meetings.

Our eldest children are now 11 and a half. And we try to meet every school holiday with varying degrees of success. Sometimes half a year may go by.

It never matters. Once we get together again it is as if time has not passed. It is like we only met the previous day. Our kids (they now number 10 between four of us) get on like a house on fire despite not sharing schools or Cub packs or sport teams. We make tea in each others kitchens. No one bristles if a child is disciplined by the ‘wrong’ mother. We are all going through the same stuff with the kids at the same time. We always feel better about ourselves and we feel like better parents, or at least more accepting of ourselves as parents, after a long chat. We bare our souls.

And so I count these women as some of the most important in my life. There are others equally important to me, including men too. It is nothing to do with the length of acquaintance. The common link is a shared history from some part of life, an ease, similar experiences, an ability to fall back into conversation as if you have never been apart, and a recognition that the pace of life means not meeting up as much as you would like, but knowing that that doesn’t mean the relationship is any less important or precious.

These are the best sorts of friendship. I love all my friends from whatever walk of life and count myself lucky to have them.

I know a lot of those friends read this blog- so there you go- feel told. Ok?

Footnote…that photo above…that is not a picture of the friends I met up with today. All of us have had at least two children, some three. We don’t jump. Without clenching…

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