Music, Things I can't photograph...

Is There Life on Mars?

My life in lyrics

Everyone knows exactly where they were when Elvis died. I remember vividly because I was in Teelin, Co. Donegal when I got the news. It was my first ‘real’ Gaeltacht experience, where I met my very first proper boyfriend. That, combined with the adventure of being in one of the most incredibly beautiful places in the world makes it unforgettable.

That day we had climbed Slieve League (the highest cliffs in Europe). Wild and wonderful. It was cold and windy and the song, ‘Handyman’ by James Taylor stays stuck in my memory too because, as it was so windy up there that Lank, a certain very good looking young man from Dungannon, this gallant new boyfriend, took off his leather jacket for me to wear home over my summer dress. When we got back, the Bean an Ti (= lady of the house, in Irish) broke the news to us in tears and that evening she brought all ‘her’ girls into the good sitting room where she lit the fire and put on one Elvis LP after another. It was her youth. We were a motley crowd of convent girls from all over Northern Ireland and were listening to very different music at the time. Still, there we sat huddled, two or three per velvet armchair, watching the flames and feeling a bit homesick, to ‘Love me Tender...’

When the news got in today about Bowie – I was in the kitchen. My youngest daughter has semester holidays so she was at home and my other daughter was also there. I ended up placing my iPad on the bar as we went through a similar kind of ritual. Ziggy Stardust, Ashes to Ashes, China girl… I grew up with Bowie and Major Tom – and Ch…Ch…Changes…

Space travel was as big then as virtual reality is today – astronauts and Space Oddity. My girls found it really odd – especially the blue eye-shadow. I ended up turning the iPad around and just let them listen to the songs – that was better. They said they could imagine it being great film music.

I then took out my Lps and played ‘Wild is the Wind’ and told them the story of a stand up comedian friend from Lausanne. As a child, he dreamed of being a clown with Circus Knie – and when we met him we invited him for breakfast the following morning. As he had a bad cough and was performing again that night I made him fresh thyme tea from the garden and my special cough concoction which is pretty horrible to drink but really works (black candy sugar and chopped onion reduced to a syrup…). While he was on our balcony enjoying the view, (he had never been to our part of the country), he got a telephone call to say he would be touring with Circus Knie that year in the Italian and French speaking parts of Switzerland – a childhood dream come true. Needless to say, we celebrated!

At the end of his tour, we were invited for the final evening in Beausobre and were honoured to sit with his family in a theater with over 500 people. The show was wonderful, poetic as usual. At the end, after the second encore, he fulfilled yet another childhood wish and as the curtain fell, and the Lausanne philharmonic orchestra stood in suits, dickie-bow-tied…  he re-appeared on stage in a white tuxedo to conduct Camille Saint-Saens’, ‘Le carnaval des animaux…’

That would have been enough drama for one night but then he went on to explain how his nephew had died the previous year at the age of 17 in a motorcycle accident and how that had been his main incentive for creating this particular programme – he wanted to make his family smile again. The lights were dimmed and the first few piano notes filled the air in Beausobre and as tears rolled down my cheeks, David Bowie asked, ‘Is there life on Mars…’

Indeed –  we all could be heroes…

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In honour of David Bowie R.I.P. and thank you for the memories