“Will you stay in our lover’s story?” Kooks, David Bowie.
Back in 1988 I saw our time in Sheffield as a sad and lonely period yet in retrospect I see it differently. We were young, not yet fully formed, and very much in love.
My job was hard, physically and mentally, and I felt pulled in many directions. At work, I was the ‘newbie’, before that word was invented, who had to make her mark, a graduate among school leavers, viewed with a little suspicion. I wasn’t part of any clique and was frequently homesick for my birth town and my parents. Gray was out-of-work and lonely too. As I had dragged him to this landlocked city I felt I had to make everything alright for him. Exhausted after my day at the office I felt obliged to go out at night, to pubs or to the cinema, when really I would have preferred to stay in and just talk or be.
Sundays became special though.
Mostly we walked in Weston Park, sometimes visiting the art gallery there, and often in Crookes Valley Park, which was often swathed in mist. He would wear his Joe Orton-style leather jacket and I would be in my blue coat with its real fur collar, which I’d picked up in Oxfam in Broomhill. It looked like something straight out of a Tissot painting. I kept that coat for years.
Crookes Valley Park comprised sloping greens and a flat lake and was peaceful in a melancholic sort of way. Gray was often sad and we were frequently tired. What we talked about I can’t recall but conversation always flowed between us as the leaves came tumbling down around us. There was this utter sense of togetherness, of being with the right one. If I’d have known my Bible back then I would have identified with the verse from Song of Solomon:
“I have found the one whom my soul loves.”
Sometimes we would walk down to Hunter’s Bar and end up in Pizza Hut. Having been on the dole for a few months before I got this job this seemed to us quite decadent! I relished seeing the anticipation in his eyes and we’d laugh as the soft, doughy pizza would melt in our fingers – and then in our mouths. I loved to see him happy like that.
Sundays were doubly precious because I never looked forward to rejoining the world of office politics in a department that was sinking fast in an era of privatisation. Many people in the office were having affairs with each other as if it was the last few days of pre-war Berlin. This was the very antithesis of my world of “pure love”, monogamous, hopeful and magical.
These memories can pierce my heart, as if they were happening right now. I wonder at this, bemused, that he, in his new life with new wife, doesn’t feel it too, at the very same moment as I do.
The subconscious mind, I read, doesn’t understand past and present, but sees everything as if it IS occurring right now. And it is happening. I’m walking in Crookes Park, Sheffield, with the man I love.
I am loved, valued, wanted.
Following on from my love of the Mexican-American Chola-style look here’s a pic of the great shirt I snaffled recently. It’s got some great details – beautiful buttons and fits like a glove. It’s also been well-loved ‘cos it’s a little bobbled in places. How did this shirt, made in China, sold in a single store in downtown Los Angeles, end up in the scruffiest (but very friendly) charity shop in northern England? I’d love to know its tale.
I’ll be adding my humungous, blingalicious crucifix to this some time to cement the Chola look!
I’ve become fascinated by California and LA lately. This is largely to do with the music I love – rock, pop and soul. This led me to the book City of Style by Melissa Magsasay, about LA style.
I was surprised to be most drawn to Chola style and have been adapting the look for my own use, as suitable for someone of my age. The Chola look is based on Chicano gang girls’ style – working class Mexican immigrants from the 1920s onwards. It is characterised, today, by arched eyebrows, ruby lips, big hoop earrings, bandanas, checked shirts, tattoos, skinny jeans and converse trainers. In pop culture terms think of Gwen Stefani, Fergie, Amy Winehouse and Kat Von D.
At my age I can do without the tattoos but pretty much everything else is a great look for any age – strong, sexy but not slutty, tomboyish yet also girly. What’s not to love? I picked up a fabulous grey checked shirt, complete with pearly buttons, and it fits perfectly, from an incredibly scruffy charity shop in my home town – that originally came from a Los Angeles’ shop. A bargain at £1.00. What gold lies in them there hills! I wore the ‘look’ at church BBQ this evening. We humans have to wear clothes – might as well make it fun!
Cholas use a lot of religious jewellery in their attire too, albeit, Roman Catholic-related. Well, I’m not a Catholic but it’s refreshing to see faith worn as fashion when it has a direct link to someone’s heritage and beliefs rather than just in the way that crucifixes are often worn with no thought as to what that symbol means.
This evening’s message (sermon) was on Praying for Prodigals, i.e., praying for those who have been Christians but abandoned a Christian life and who have gone AWOL. Quite a complex subject, especially for me as I don’t know any prodigals. I have either Christian friends or non-Christian friends, on account of coming to the church relatively late in life.
I’m sure my non-Christian friends would see this as an ethical matter, saying, we have free will and it’;s up to us what we do or believe whereas my Christian ones see it as a spiritual crisis that must be prayed for.
Not sure where I stand. I have non-Christian friends whose actions are Christ-like (they just don’t know it or know God) and I see some Christians who are judgemental and small-minded! But I also see some great Christians and some pretty awful non-Christians.
I’ve just re-watched the BBC film An Education,  starring the wonderful Carey Mulligan. I enjoyed it much more than the first time I saw it. Perhaps my head is in a different place.
Although I am not as clever as the Carey Mulligan character, (Jenny) who is based on the writer of the memoir, Lynn Barber, the school she attends really reminded me of the grammar school I went to in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Even the insistence on the fastening of that top button of one’s school blouse…
It almost beggars belief that Jenny’s parents could be taken in by smooth talking David, the older, glamorous man, but when I look back my own parents were equally naive. Not that I was getting up to anything outrageous but I’m sure that they trusted me far too much. In effect, their trust, while flattering, could almost be seen as a benign neglect.
But when you are in the top class at school, singing songs in Latin in the choir, and articulate, you are trusted. Yet this does not mean that you are emotionally mature – not at all. This is the lesson that Jenny learns through her dalliance with David. She may have seen Paris and the insides of jazz clubs but she’s just a child playing dress up.
Incidentally, it was through going to church of England schools and singing in choirs that I always had some tenuous relationship with Christianity. Okay, I didn’t truly understand what it was I was singing about but the ground was prepared.
I’ve been rereading some T S Eliot recently. Studied him at uni. Have loved ‘The Wasteland‘ ever since. I have found the passage that alludes to the Road to Emmaus very moving lately. It comes near the end of the poem. The hope of new life after the dry, dry desert, the monotony and banality of city life… and then some! I love that bit about ‘the white road’:
“Who is the third who walks always beside you?
When I count, there are only you and I together
But when I look ahead up the white road
There is always another one walking beside you
Gliding wrapped in a brown mantle, hooded
I do not know whether a man or a woman
–But who is that on the other side of you?”
In the beginning…
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