1. You find that you talk to yourself in the absence of your partner. You wander around the house asking her questions. There are no answers.
2. You have upsetting images that flashback into your mind of when you had to identify your partner at the hospital. The images destroy you. You wonder if the sight of your breathless partner will ever leave you, to be replaced by the smiling image you remember.
3. You find yourself constantly asking yourself the questions ‘What if I could have done something?’ and ‘Why did you do this to yourself/me/your children?’
4. You feel so low at first that simple everyday things like keeping yourself clean seem like a huge task.
5. There are many times when you feel like taking your own life, so impossible do things seem. You consider different methods of doing this.
6. Eating becomes something to just survive. You don’t want to spend any time preparing proper food and you take solace in junk food. The microwave is your salvation.
7. Many of your long time neighbours avoid you. They push their children into the house when they see you walking up the road so that they can avoid talking to you because it’s ‘awkward’.
8. You wonder how you are going to be able to manage at work, ever, any more.
9. You cry when you least expect it, frequently. Even after a period of time when you think you’re ‘getting over it’ the tears squeeze out of your eyes unexpectedly when you have certain thoughts or are reminded of her in some unexpected way. You even cry at the nice things people say to you.
10. You find it difficult to listen to music because you associate the lyrics with you and your lost partner. The chords feel like a soundtrack to your broken life.
11. Even though you have friends and family you often feel so lonely, especially when you’re going back to that empty house once more. You can go a whole weekend barely speaking to anybody. You feel slightly powerless to do anything about this.
12. Anxiety is your normal state, you find yourself panicking about most things, often without specific reason.
13. Your life becomes narrow. Those country walks are no more, the meals out, the cinema. Holidays appear to be a thing that you used to do.
14. You become fatalistic about life and wonder if this is now all there is for you? That the game is over? You’re on your own until the lights finally go out.
15. You keep trying. You go to work on time, do your chores at home wherever possible, shop for food, tackle that garden as best you can. It all feels rather pointless. It isn’t for anybody else’s sake and you don’t care about yourself.
16. Your finances are in shock mode as you gain unexpected expenses whilst at the same time losing a household income.
17. You believe that you are not going to get through this ordeal. This feeling is revisited every day. Day after day.
18. Her clothing and possessions have to be sorted. This task feels heartless – like you are throwing your memories of being together away. Like you don’t care, but you do.
19. You begin to look at the people you know differently. Almost subconsciously you practise zero tolerance with people you feel have wronged you or ignored you at your time of need. Good people come to the fore, the genuine friends prove themselves time over. One or two new people enter your life, show caring and give you some hope.
20. You write a piece like this but don’t know exactly why. You’re almost beyond caring if anybody reads it. You could write twenty more.
The heading today is a quote from the official website of a great hero of mine, singer, songwriter and guitarist John Martyn who passed away on Thursday this past week. It tells of the essence of a man who wrote many songs about the the vagaries of love. Indeed, similar were the words I first heard about him, a fellow student at college back in the late seventies exhorting me to ‘come along to see this guy’ who was playing at Nottingham University, whose songs were invariably written around love.
I did go along, and I was stunned at his musicianship. I’d had the opportunity to borrow an album or two beforehand and was interested in John’s unique style of music already but this live performance was quite something apart. My friend and I had caught a bus from the city out to the University and polished off a drink in the student union bar before rushing to the stairs leading to the concert room. At the foot of the stairs stood two men, one with a mass of curly hair, an unruly beard and an earring. In his hands were a guitar with several effects pedals hanging from it. It was John Martyn and his roadie. We had a few quick words with him, wishing him a good gig whilst walking up the stairs, and he took the stage with a crate of beer placed beside him as we took our places sitting cross-legged on the floor. What transpired was a stunning and original display of innovative guitar virtuosity couple with John’s blues influenced trademark slurred vocals.
From that time around thirty years ago I’ve always felt a special affinity for John Martyn’s music. Not only for it’s excellence but also as a link back those happy and carefree times at college in Nottingham and the great friends that surrounded me in those days. This is perhaps the reason why I was so taken aback to hear the sad news of John’s passing this week. It feels very much like a part of my past has disappeared too.
John had an interesting upbringing. Having been born in Surrey , England, christened Iain David McGeachy to parents who were both opera singers, he spent much of his growing up years in Glasgow and attended school there. It’s said that he very much considered Glasgow to be home. Throughout his career of over forty years John was known for his excesses with drink and drugs. It was perhaps, partly his lifestyle that hastened the end of the marriage to his wife Beverley Kutner, who he had collaborated with musically on several occasions. The resultant next album, Grace and Danger, was an extremely wrought and emotional offering which detailed his feelings of dejection at the time and of how out-of-control his life had become. From John’s large back catalogue it is arguably his Solid Air album of 1973 that has been most widely lauded however. The record was a tribute to his friend, singer-songwriter Nick Drake who sadly died of an overdose of anti-depressants the following year.
John Martyn’s music has always been a curiosity – it’s almost impossible to attribute to any particular genre, so unique is it. It encompasses blues, folk, jazz and much more. He used special effects arguably better than any other artist has with his trademark sound typically being produced with an acoustic guitar run through fuzzbox, a phase shifter and Echoplex. Last year in February, John received a lifetime achievement award at the BBC Radio 2 Folk awards. A present Eric Clapton was urged to say in tribute that John Martyn was “so far ahead of everything, it’s almost inconceivable”. Who would argue with one of the great masters of the guitar?
On Thursday 29th of January, John Martyn passed away in Ireland. The world lost a wonderful talent – a man with a great gift.
Lot of love, John.
“May you never lay your head down without a hand to hold.”
I was reminded of the song, Love Will Tear Us Apart by Joy Division, recently.
I think this is a great song of its time (1980). Despite occasional general accusations of doom-laden lyrics by the group, a dark, cavernous sound, and their recurrent themes of bitterness, loss, death and sadness.
One cold winter’s morning some months ago I was walking through a local village, shivering, collar up against the cold biting wind when I heard this song being carried thinly on the frigid breeze and into my head. Unmistakably it was the sound of Joy Division, but why here? Continue reading
Something a little different today then, a poem.
Not just any piece of verse but quite possibly my favourite one, Dylan’s Thomas’s ‘Love in the Asylum’. I first read this poem in senior school and was immediately attracted to it. There was always something about the bohemian ways of Dylan that appealed to me but the darkness in this piece of work reaches particularly deep into the soul. For me it’s a cry of helplessness, frustration and longing. A longing for the love and companionship that any human being should be allowed, in spite of any disability or other imposed prohibition.
Love in the Asylum
A stranger has come
To share my room in the house not right in the head,
A girl mad as birds
Bolting the night of the door with her arm her plume.
Strait in the mazed bed
She deludes the heaven-proof house with entering clouds
Yet she deludes with walking the nightmarish room,
At large as the dead,
Or rides the imagined oceans of the male wards.
She has come possessed
Who admits the delusive light through the bouncing wall,
Possessed by the skies
She sleeps in the narrow trough yet she walks the dust
Yet raves at her will
On the madhouse boards worn thin by my walking tears.
And taken by light in her arms at long and dear last
I may without fail
Suffer the first vision that set fire to the stars