Bristol Bach Choir Spirit of Christmas – St George’s, Bristol

Saturday 15th December, 2018

I wasn’t sure about this one but I’ve seen very few choirs and St George’s is beautiful with great sound and I knew I’d be on my own and in need of cheering up so I figured I had nothing to lose by going along.

Thanks to rubbish First Bus I was only just in time for the start and missed picking up a programme. This only became an issue when it became obvious that there was to be audience participation and I didn’t know the words! Anyone who has heard me sing will probably be pleased by this and disappointed that the couple behind me gave me one of their programmes when they realised why I wasn’t joining in. Given the state my lungs have been in, singing with passion wasn’t the greatest of ideas and I did struggle for breath a fair few times.

I also struggled with the whole concept of a Christmas concert filled with happy faces and shared joy. I find Christmas difficult at the best of times, this year even more so. Usually I am pretty happy to go to a concert alone, but this wasn’t the one to be on my own at. The music and choral voices were wonderful, but all the uplifting Christmas music in the world couldn’t make me feel less alone right now.

I am sure that for many in the audience this annual concert is part of their festive build up and part of their family Christmas celebrations. For them it must have been an absolute delight. The choir was fabulous and the brass ensemble excellent. They did a witty version of The 12 Days Of Christmas and there were some great readings between the singing.

This kind of music and this kind of concert are all about bringing people together and in another time I may have been able to get swept up in it all. This time I felt very alone.

 

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Tess Parks – Rough Trade, Bristol

Friday 14th December, 2018

I met Tess at Soho Radio in the summer and have been enjoying her album so got myself a ticket to see her in Rough Trade’s excellent live room. Then 6 Music invited me to Lauren’s show and I had to rethink plans for the day. I didn’t want to let Tess down (even though she didn’t know I was going, or who I am!) and so after being home for all of 25 minutes I dusted my tired limbs down and headed back out.

I had already missed the first of the 2 support acts and my asthma didn’t allow me to stay for the second (having a cold has triggered off wonky breathing) so I cannot comment on how either of them were. Having managed to get my asthma under control I moved towards the front in readiness for Tess.

Every time I go to Rough Trade I marvel at how they manage to get a full band in on the teeny stage and how good the sound is. Tess was joined by a drummer, bassist, keys and 2 guitarists so it was a bit of a squish but they made it work and work well. Tess has a cracking voice, deep, smoky with a bluesy edge and she was backed by a great band.

Towards the end of Tess’ set I was overwhelmed with tiredness and had to lean against the wall to support me tired legs and I even considered sitting on the floor! I somehow managed to make it to the end of the gig and say a brief hello to Tess from Tom, James and Josie before staggering to the bus stop to get home. 19 hours awake and burning a lot of emotional energy had finally caught up with me.

I probably shouldn’t have gone to this gig. I have been trying to support independent artists and female artists as much as I can and having met Tess I felt I had to go support her playing live. The room was packed, the fullest I’ve seen Rough Trade, which was great and showed my individual support wasn’t really required!

I was far too tired to have really enjoyed this gig, which is a real shame and it’s been too many days for the memory to make sensible words come out. I can tell you that Tess’ album is ace and she’s worth seeing live if you get a chance. I hope I get the opportunity again when I’m less tired and a lot more emotionally with it.

 

BBC Radio 6 Music Christmas Party – Maida Vale, London

Friday 14th December, 2018

I got to bed at midnight. My alarm went off at 5am. I was out the door at 5.30am and on a coach bound for London at 6am. Why? Well I was one of a very select group of listeners to Lauren Laverne’s show who were invited to join her at BBC Radio 6’s all day Christmas Party. You had to email in why you should be invited and my sparkly red jumpsuit of joy swung me an invite. Having been both a Bio-Rythym’er and a Memory Taper on the show and an irregular (damn work getting in the way) listener down the years I was excited about being chosen.

I got to take a guest and so of course I asked Ian to come along. Ian had texted into Lauren’s show to say he didn’t have a gig buddy and I responded saying I’d happily join him any time he was in Bristol. Lauren put us together on twitter and we did indeed meet at a gig not long after! That we got to go to this super special recording together and, spoiler alert, meet Lauren, was thrilling. La Laverne is so damn lovely and GORJUS it just shouldn’t be allowed.

While we were waiting in the corridor somewhere in the bowels of Maida Vale I was touched by Keavney, said hello to Mary Anne, gawped at Marconi and Liz Kershaw, admired Giles Peterson’s jumper and had to stop myself from dancing with excited joy at simply being there. Oh and Lamaq smiled at me in the street outside, as did Amy Lame as I walked past her on the way out. I am such a 6 Music whore. I’ve been a listener guest on every single daytime show plus a couple of the weekend ones. The Chain on RadMac is the only feature I’ve not been on! I have to be a tiny bit disappointed that I didn’t get to meet the Hawk, but then a girl can’t have it all. I wish I’d met Elizabeth Alker too as I am a big fan of her Radio 3 shows. I was also too chicken to go say hello to Nemone who had done my Bio Rhythm segment, but I did wave at her and she waved back.

I WAS IN MAIDA VALE WATCHING LAUREN LAVERNE BROADCAST LIVE! There, that may capture a little bit of my excitement. Ahem.

The live guests were Hot 8 Brass Band who I had been so excited about seeing earlier in the year. That gig turned into a disaster, where I left the venue in panicked tears due to anxiety and missed them. It was bloody wonderful to get to hear them play live, even if it was only a couple of tracks. What tracks they were though! Never thought I’d be grooving to Joy Division but there you are. On a balcony wearing a very sparkly dress, trying not to kick a microphone with 20 others while a radio audience listened in. It was quite a surreal way to spend a Friday morning I think you’ll agree.

Erol Alkan (musician and producer extraordinaire) was also a guest and he had bought with him, among others, Andy Bell from Ride. I had a little chat with him afterwards, he didn’t know me, but did of course know Memphis Tom. Given that 6 Music and Ride were both pretty instrumental in bringing me and Tom together you can imagine how hard it was for me to not be sharing it with him. And not just because he flew back to South Carolina 2 days earlier.

I was ok all the time I was at the show, I was with Ian, Paddy (who we got chatting to in the queue outside) and the other listeners. Plus of course Lauren who is gracious (she pretended to know who I was and everything), modest (“oh stop it”) and beautiful. Like luminous level. Also tall and totally rocking a sequin dress/leather jacket combo in a way I can only dream of. Fair to say I fangirled pretty hard.

After it was all over and I had to leave and was out in the very cold street alone again the pain hit. I wanted so badly to talk to Tom, to let him know all of the above, to have him share in the enjoyment and my happiness. That I couldn’t hurt and still hurts now. Music bought us together and I’ve been struggling with reverting back to having these adventures alone again. I guess it’s all part of accepting the ending of love. This is hard for me to write as I know he is likely to read it. I’m sorry, Tom.  I miss you.

Ian had to head back to work (booooooo) and all I really wanted was to find somewhere quiet (yeah I know, as if in central London on a Friday lunchtime near Christmas) and have a damn good sob. What I did was head to Soho Radio to see my chum James Maynell who has a show there on Friday afternoons. Tom had introduced me to Soho Radio and James this year, we had said hello back in July when Alan McGee was a guest and I got to chat to him live on air (another surreal Friday in my life).

James put me on the spot again and I ended up on air again (damn you, James!) and when Tom, who was listening back home tweeted in I burst into tears and demanded cuddles. Now let me tell you that James and Josie give good cuddle. They should be available on prescription.  They are good folk and the show is called Soho Garage and goes out on Friday afternoons 2-4, you can listen online live or via soundcloud afterwards. Check it out.

It had been a very full day, involving 2 radio stations, a lot of music and wonderful people who were doing their damndest to make me smile. They succeed and I had a fantastic time. I wish I could be this close to music, creativity and the things I’m passionate about more often. Working in the NHS and being a single parent are pretty stressful things, not always a lot of joy or brightness to be found. Music and radio bring light into the darkness, they make us feel less alone and more hopeful. Keep shining brightly BBC Radio 6 Music and Soho Radio. I needed you more than ever today. I think we will all need you more than ever in the months to come. To steal Lauren’s phrase, lots of love to you all.

 

 

 

 

Darius Brubeck Quartet – St George’s, Bristol

Thursday 13th December, 2018

I’d vacillated about this one for a while. Then tickets were in the Flash Sale (Bristol’s cultural venues do this twice a year and you can get great discounts on theatre and gig tickets) and I thought why not? I’ve come to enjoy jazz and St George’s is such a beautiful venue with great acoustics that there was fairly little risk involved.

I was still feeling raw and numb but music, live music, has gotten me through every other tight emotional spot so I decided to head out into the cold.

It was an older audience and the music more dinner party jazz than avant guard but it was played superbly by excellent musicians. It helped me to relax and forget my troubles for a couple of hours, so in that respect it served its purpose. I did have to leave before the end of the encore due to how infrequent the late night buses run and that I had to be up at 5am (more of that in the next blog entry).

I’ve talked before about how gigs are a confluence of many factors and the ones I’ve been to this week have to all be measured with a different frame of reference. Heartbreak is never fun, no matter how long in the tooth you are. Losing someone you love hurts. Music can either take us out of our pain or help us deal with it. Tonight took me away from the hurt for a little while and allowed me to remember that life carries on even while we aren’t looking. A son playing his father’s music, tunes that were love letters to his mother, was a pretty beautiful thing to witness.

 

Ishmael Ensemble – The Exchange, Bristol

Wednesday 12th December, 2018

I only booked a ticket to this gig to give me something to do, to distract me from my own emotions. The blurb sounded promising, electronic experimental jazz with saxophone and I’ve had some good gigs at the Exchange. Better than moping at home I thought.

Come the night of the gig and heartbreak had hit, numb or crying are my current default emotions. I got to the venue pretty much bang on time and caught the support act. I didn’t catch their name and all I remember is them singing a song which I think was called Don’t Leave Me. I was glad I’d decided to hide at the back, out of the way so that I could cry without fear or embarrassment.

When Ishmael Ensemble came out I realised I did know them, they were the support act at the disastrous Fiddlers gig that I’d left in tears of panic a couple of months ago. It is no reflection on their music that I also left this gig early and upset. Having an amorous couple snogging a couple of feet away, given how fragile my heart was feeling, wasn’t conducive to me having the time of my life.

On another day I would have enjoyed this gig, Ishmael Ensemble are a good band making interesting music. I wasn’t in the right head space to enjoy it is all.

Nils Frahm – Hammersmith Apollo, London

Wednesday December 5th, 2018

As if the viral illness I had a few weeks ago hadn’t been enough, this week I came down with a rotten cold. Which isn’t a lot of fun for an asthmatic. For pretty much anyone else I would have cancelled going. Not Nils. No, not Nils.

After seeing him give such a stunning performance in Bristol in February I’ll admit that I was nervous about buying tickets to see him again. When someone has been spellbinding and magical to see live once there is the fear that they won’t be so again. This was also London and usually London gigs aren’t my favourites. But. But Nils.

The Eventim Apollo to give it its current name is another of London’s iconic venues. If you are anyone you’ve played there, The Beatles, Johnny Cash, Ella Fitzgerald, Buddy Holly, Dizzy Gillespie and and and. I’ve only been there once before, for Starsailor in December of 2004 which was a brilliant night, but I was young and excitable and at the front of the standing stalls then. Tonight, much older I was seated in the balcony above. Which gave a great view of Nils in full flow, as well as the endless stream of blokes heading to the gents. The odd exception aside who may have an actual bladder or bowel issue, I’ve never seen so many men unable to sit in their seats. It was ridiculous. Either drink less, lads, or train your bladders. It’s disruptive and rude to the rest of the audience. If Ken Dodd’s very elderly audiences could sit for hours during his shows, you can manage a 90 minute gig in future alright? And as for the bloke behind me giving a running commentary for the last half hour, no-one gives a fuck what you think during the show, shut up.

Right, negatives out of the way. Nils was amazing. How could he not be? Even when ‘the little drum machine I wanted to play for you’ went wrong, nothing was spoiled as Nils played a beautiful and sublime solo piano piece while the technicians fixed whatever the problem was. Everything was handled with grace and humour from Nils, what an absolute sweetheart he is. From the balcony vantage point I could appreciate more the physicality of his playing, as if he was wrestling the sounds out of the various instruments or bringing to life his magnificent creation. Samples, keyboards, drum loops, harmonising voices without words, piano, synths and whatever other amazing sound creation devices he had up there on the stage were mixed together with an alchemy only  genius can muster. Buttons were pressed, levers switched, knobs pulled and keys caressed to build melody and pour beauty into our ears.

Time simultaneously stood still and flew as I was transported and transfixed by the beauty I was hearing. After what could have been either 10 minutes or 2 hours it was all over and time to come down to Earth from whichever celestial plane we had been floating on.

I wasn’t well. The interruptions and general atmosphere weren’t the hushed reverence Nils deserved, but his music is such perfection that it almost didn’t matter. There is no way it could have been as special as the first time I saw him had been, but Nils Frahm live is always going to be a special prospect.

I had to be up and on a 6.45am train the next morning to get back to Bristol in time for work. To do that when I wasn’t well. Nils was worth it. Nils would always be worth it. Now who wants to buy me a ticket for his tour next year? I promise you Nils Frahm live is going to be worth showing up for.

 

 

Ride – Trinity Centre, Bristol

Sunday 2nd December, 2018

Tom is a massive Ride fan and as this gig, part of the 30th anniversary tour, happened to be passing through Bristol while he was over, so we were clearly destined to be there. As had many of the Ride Ubers who had traveled from all over the world. I felt slightly fraudulent coming from a mile down the road!

Not only had a photo pass been arranged for me, it was hand delivered by drummer Loz, so I felt welcome to take up position at the front of the stage.

Support was from the lovely Piney Gir, who I have had the pleasure of seeing before. Ably supported by an excellent band playing shimmery pop about witches, love and other things. She was in fine voice and she was given warm welcome by the ever polite Bristol crowd.

The lighting had been a challenge thus far, something about my height, the height of the stage and the lighting rig triangulated into quite a tricky proposition. Perhaps it would be better for Ride, as they were to be seated.

I was intrigued by the idea of Ride, a very loud guitar band, unplugged. This included an acoustic bass, which I have rarely heard before but love, Steve certainly knows his way round it, that’s for sure. Andy’s acoustic was so beautiful I couldn’t help but be drawn to it. I found myself at his and Mark’s feet, drawing up angles to get ‘the’ shot, kneeling, crouching and crawling along the floor as there was no photographers pit. What a lucky position to find yourself in! Being so close to the musicians to feel and share in the performance in that way was pretty special. I was desperately disappointed to not capture Loz, who was too far back in the dark and hidden. Next time, Loz, I’ll get you next time.

As it was a part seated show I was able to rejoin Tom and his friends for the rest of the show. I wish I’d been closer to Noah, whose enthusiasm and love of music runs as deep as mine. It was the loudest acoustic show I’ve ever heard, but being able to actually hear the words and voices was great, as they can be drowned in sound otherwise. I like it best when Mark and Andy harmonise and when Loz and Steve combine their drums and bass together (I’m a sucker for a good rhythm section). It’s been too many days, I’ve been at work/being Mum/have had a cold to know what songs I liked best. Tom and I agree that Time To Time sounded pretty bloody good, however. There was also fab cover of The One I Love, which I would like to hear again please gentlemen.

Of the Ride shows I’ve been too this was the most relaxed I’ve seen them, there was more chat between songs and they seemed more at ease with each other and the audience. “The secret to being in a band for 30 years is that we were only together for 10!” This was the sort of warm, shared performance given by and for those who’ve been through huge chunks of their lives with this music. It was delivered with love and heart and it showed.

 

 

 

Starsailor – Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London

Thursday 29th November, 2018

Somehow it has been 15 years since Silence Is Easy was released. I was there, buying my copy in HMV on the day of release and getting it signed, I still have the HMV wristband from the instore gig!  To mark the anniversary Starsailor played 3 gigs, of which I could only make this one, the last one, in London. There was no way I would have missed it. Or seeing old mates Lou, Mandie and Nick again.

Shepherd’s Bush Empire is a beautiful venue with a great history but I’ve never really enjoyed a gig there, the crowds have been pretty awful whenever I’ve been. Other than the last time I saw Starsailor there, in 2009. Now that was a memorable night.

There are altogether too many Starsailor stories to share, so many wonderful memories of music, friendship and laughter. Of loss, of love, of support, of feeling like a large, weird dysfunctional family, united in a love of music. 10 years ago, almost to the day, we lost one of our number at a criminally young age. Julia, you were and always are with us in spirit at every Starsailor gig. The love the music engendered endures.

Once we were finally at the venue (rush hour, broken down tubes, long bus journey), I left Tom up in the balcony and went down to photograph the support acts. There were to be 2, Tom Speight and Chris Helme. I liked Tom, he has a good voice and came down into the crowd to sing a number acoustic among the crowd, illuminated by phone lights. It was a sweet and touching thing to do, he seems like a nice chap, perhaps a bit mainstream for my tastes (take no offence Tom, I like Late Junction on Radio 3!) but is worth a listen. I really didn’t get to hear Chris’ set as after I’d taken my photos the officious security wouldn’t allow me to stay nearby so I was kicked out into a corridor backstage to await Starsailor. Oh the glamour!

Being an album anniversary show I knew the running order of course, and what the 3 tracks I would be photographing were. I’ve not heard Music Was Saved or Fidelity live in a long time, and possibly never Some Of Us. Being down in the photo pit during those was, as it always is, thrilling. I am concentrating on what I’m doing (plus trying not to fall over/get in the other photographers way) so some of the magic of the live performance is lost. It is amazing to stand at the feet of artists you love, nothing between you and them on the stage and I do take moments to savour while I am there.

There was no way I would get through the packed crowd, so went out the back route and in the front door, at which point security refused to let me take my camera back in. This I have never experienced before photographing anywhere. I was forced to make a choice between leaving my camera bag (also my handbag) with security or leaving the gig. I’ve no idea why SBE security team decided to take this approach, I have honestly not had a problem with any team at any venue like this in all the gigs I’ve gone too.

By the time all this was resolved (I left the camera bag at the stage door praying it would be ok) I’d missed a whole song. I did get back to Tom in the balcony and had a stunning view of the gig from there. James was in fine voice and on fine form and when he is it makes for a great show. Ben, Barry and Stel are always brilliant, they are the heart of this band and why I’ve loved them for so many years. The addition of the string section was fantastic. The last, and only time, I’d seen them play with strings was the first time I ever saw them at V2002. Given how much I have come to fall in love with orchestral music in the last couple of years I was overjoyed to hear the string section live and only wish there had been more of them! The resonance of a string instrument live is just something special every time you hear it.

There were songs played tonight I’d never heard live, or have heard only once, or haven’t heard live in a long time. As a super fan I can’t really express what that meant. The emotional honesty of this album, made when we were all in our 20’s, holds up. Shark Food, long used as their coming onstage music, has always been one of my favs and so to finally hear it in full was special. The tenderness of Telling Them, the hopefulness of beginnings was beautiful. Silence Is Easy (title track and Four To The Floor aside) is a gentler and quieter album than their others. It had a difficult conception (Phil Spector in full mad as a box of frogs mode started as it’s producer, the band then fired him and finished it themselves. That takes balls and I’ve always admired them for it) and wasn’t as commercially successful as Love Is Here had been, but as an album on the Starsailor journey it’s an important one. Well it always has been for me.

The place exploded during Four To The Floor, I could see almost the whole crowd from where I was and the joint was rocking I can tell you. It was like the old days of Starsailor gigs, a huge crowd all singing along and joining in. I could see and feel the energy being passed back and forth like a wave between stage and crowd. The album finishes with 2 tracks I have long loved. Born Again, which they rarely play live and does things to my emotions I can’t explain and Restless Heart which I have heard only once, at Brixton Academy in 2003 (and never played by James on piano, what a treat!) A more heartfelt, yearning pair of album closers I don’t think you will find. I was a very, very happy lady now. I’d even been singing along! I never do that as my voice is terrible, but when you have an 1800 strong choir to join in with its ok.

I had to laugh at the segway from Restless Heart into Tell Me It’s Not Over, the hope and longing of a young man giving way to the desperate and jaded older one. We were also treated to some of the other great songs they’ve made from all their albums. I’ve heard Poor Misguided Fool so many times before that I’m almost past it now, but something about it tonight simply hit home and Stel absolutely owned Tie Up My Hands (he always does). Now that’s a song they need to re-record. Live, now, it is so heavy.

There was only one way this gig could end, with Good Souls. It really does not matter how many time I’ve heard this, it remains an incredible song. The power of its simple message and melody moves me every time I hear it. Live more so. It was one of 2 songs that kept me alive while I battled sepsis. To be lying in the semi darkness, drips in both arms, floating somewhere between consciousness and not, I heard Good Souls and I knew I had to stay here. For the Good Souls. To the Good Souls who saved my life, to the friends I have known, loved and lost, to the band, thank you. This song, this music means more to me than I can ever express. So many emotions and memories are connected to this band, to this song in particular that of course there were tears. Of loss, of longing, of hope, of redemption, of survival.

To end on a happy note, I was reunited with my camera bag and all its contents and spent the rest of the evening with friends sharing stories and laughter.

 

Kraftwerk Re:Work – The Marble Factory, Bristol

Friday 23rd November, 2018

An orchestra reinterpreting Kratwerk in a nightclub. Who wouldn’t want to go and see that?! I first saw the Paraorchestra earlier this year, entirely deconstructed and then again on the Old Vic stage, where I danced with them, so I knew this would be a special prospect of a gig. Anything they do is. They stretch the boundaries of what an orchestra can be and do and I love them for it.

The Marble Factory is next door to Motion and I have never been to either, my raving days, if I had any, are long gone. I used to walk past the venue dropping my boy off to school but I’ve never been inside. Other than being freezing cold I liked it. Full of character and space. They were also very accommodating and allowed me a seat, as I’ve been really unwell of late. So much so that I have had to cancel going to 4 gigs before tonight. There was, however, no way I was going to miss this.

We started with what conductor Charles Hazelwood called an ear sorbet. A trio of 20th Century compositions. Starting with Schnittke’s Not A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which was all dreamy violin and flute, echoing and circling to Mozart. The music and the venue seemingly not in step with each other! Then the tape composition of Artikulation by Ligetir which was, well, it was odd. Then the enchanting and rather lovely Un Sourire by Messiaen. There was some lovely cello work in that, that I adored.

Charles is an enthusiast, passionate about music, words tumble out of him in a joyous wave. Hearing him talk about music is a joy, hearing him conduct even more so.

What do you get when you cross an orchestra with a synth ensemble and a full band that you have attached close microphones to? Well you have created your very own, entirely unique human orchestral synthesiser. The brilliance of this idea, that you can amplify, distort, squish, bend and meld the orchestra and band sounds live, is breathtaking. This is exactly what Charlotte Harding and Lloyd Coleman have done with this brilliant reworking of Kraftwerk. It’s not a copy, or even an homage, it stands on its own as a piece of orchestral work inspired by and as an accompaniment to the original.

A symphony in 5 parts I suppose is it what was. Each building on the last. Like strata of rock layed down each section perfectly crafted on its own, but layering up and up and up until we reached the peak. The foundation levels were gentler, slower, then the rhythms started to build and grow. The middle piece of the 3 was heartbreakingingly beautiful and made me cry. Again with the cellos! There was a flute somewhere that was groovy, an instrument called a Headspace, where breath became note and sonic landscapes were created in ways you did not know they could. It built and it built and it got funky. Chair dancing may have been going on. Now the venue and the music fitted together, the orchestra was playing rave and it was superb. By the final piece it was getting dizzying the heights they were climbing, onwards we soared, upwards, hurtling along the TransEurope expressway faster and faster. I was off, eyes closed, mesmerised by the music and floating somewhere in deep space. Tears fell, music is beauty, is truth, is life.

Paraorchestra redefine what orchestral music is and can be and they are extraordinary. Simply extraordinary. Whatever the play and however they play it, they make incredible music that challenges your ears and your heart. They encapsulate everything I love about music. Thank you again, from the bottom of my heart, for making music that is open, full of love and accessible in every way.

Grief

Thursday 22nd November, 2018

My Mum died in January 2015. She was 66. I don’t know what her death certificate says but she died of Alzheimer’s. The Mum I knew and loved died some time before her body did. That’s the cruelty of dementia, it is a protracted grief, you watch the person you love disappear slowly over time and you have to mourn them while they are still alive. I thought I had dealt with that grief, that I had somehow managed to absorb it and move on. It stays with you, of course, but becomes part of your life, like wallpaper or background noise and you stop noticing it so much.

The past couple of months have been really hard and I have missed her more than ever. My baby, and I was her baby, has started Secondary school. I took the traditional first day picture in front of the wardrobe and I had no-one to send it to. More than anything I wanted to send it to my Mum and say look, he’s all grown up and handsome and have her share in the sense of pride I felt.

I’ve been unwell the past couple of weeks. That’s tough as a single parent. When you have no Mum to call on, for practical or emotional support it’s even harder. I was a sickly child and Mum provided comfort, fed me Heinz chicken or tomato soup (the only time we got brands was when ill) and tucked me up under blankets. Now I have to do all that myself and I don’t even get to hear her voice telling me it will all me alright.

I took a trip to Brighton not long ago and had a little stroll on the beach. I looked down to find pebbles for her, she collected stones. but could find none quirky enough to meet her standards. In that moment I missed her more than I ever have.

I have no contact with my older brothers, they didn’t even come to Mum’s funeral. I have little in common with my Dad. He lives in a rural village where time seems to have stood still and I live at the heart of a cosmopolitan City. I feel there is no-one to talk to about Mum. No-one to tell stories, laugh at familial jokes, remember her with.

The last time I was at Dad’s house was the day after Mum’s funeral. I don’t drive so getting to him is nigh on impossible. Even if I did, that place was never my home. They moved there many years after I had grow up and flown to a life of my own. I know no-one there and have no connection to the place.

There are no old friends from my childhood who remember my Mum either. I have no sense of connection or roots to my past. There is no grounding, no anchor and no guiding light. It is a very lonely place to be.

The irony of all this is that my Mum lost her Mum at an even younger age, she was newlywed and a new Mum when her Mum died. So she would have completely understood the pain of losing your Mum when you need her the most. She rarely talked about her Mum and for a variety of reasons we didn’t see much of her two sisters. I know she had an unhappy childhood, her Dad gambled and drank, there was violence and that he upped and left when Mum was about 12. It was 30 years before she saw him again. She shut down, staying quiet and compliant.

I’ve been carrying this fresh wave of grief for a while and this morning it has crashed over. I’ve been upgrading my photo editing software and in the process lots of old photos popped up of Mum. I couldn’t look more like her if I tried. I hated it when I was young, we all do, but now it is a very particular pain. Looking in the mirror to see not yourself but your dead Mum’s face staring back at you. Christ on a bike that hurts. The same thick, unruly hair that every hairdresser tells you is the densest they’ve seen “it’s not that it’s thick, or that there is a lot of it, it’s both!” The same strange change of colour, not grey or white or silver but an odd blonde, with flashes of pure copper hidden underneath. The same tired looking blue eyes peeping out from large glasses to accommodate the varifocals. The same blank expression as you can’t work out what your face is supposed to be saying so you let it rest into nothing. The same mannerisms, movements and posture. Those cursed calves. The same height and shoe size. I was made in her image. That would be beautiful if she was still here, that we could go out scouring charity shops together (we would often share or swap coats and jackets) and have everyone know this was a mother and daughter. But no, we were robbed of that. Now I have to look like her with no-one but me to notice. I am the age now I remember her being clearly, and as I age I shall be doing so as her, but without her. I know what I will look like at 50, at 60 even, but beyond that, that will be when I finally get to look like myself I guess. I’ll have no guide beyond 66.

My boy’s first Secondary school photo came back the other day and he looks so like me and my Mum in it. I cry, not for myself, but for him. He will never know her. Or how much she would have loved him. Did love him. She would have doted on him and spoilt him rotten. They would have laughed together, of that I am sure. He enjoys charity shop shopping with me and I can imagine the 3 of us heading out together to do that, with Dad grumpy that his grandson would prefer that to watching football with him! That her love of animals is alive in him, that they would have gone off walking the dogs together. So many images that cannot become real memories.

I miss her more now. I need her now more than I have ever done. She was stolen from me and I will never get her back. I hear her voice in my head saying “life isn’t fair, Em” but I am still angry and raw that I had to lose her.

Grief is mercurial and tricksy and a right bloody bastard. That is pretty much all I have learned in the nearly four years I have been mourning my Mum. I also know that it is a pain shared by so many and that we don’t talk about grief. Writing helps me process and it helps me keep her alive in my memory. I guess this blog post is for me, but it is also for all those who mourn. However long it takes, and whoever it is that you grieve. We need to talk about them and the pain of loss more.