Friday, 15 January 2016

Hunky Dory.

First thing Monday morning, in bed listening to the radio. No, scratch that, I’ve forgotten something. I need to rewind, to the weekend, to Saturday, mid-morning, when Eldest sends me a text, “I’m listening to Modern Love on my new turntable,” it says. It makes me smile. Lovely boy. 

“Lovely boy!” I reply, thinking of him in his room at uni, listening to Bowie on ‘vinyl', all happy. "Speak tomorrow,” before realising with something of a jolt that I forgot to respond to a message from him the previous evening. That’s weird. Never done that before. Been so busy.

Eldest loves Bowie. Spent most of his uni interview talking about him, apparently. Hunky Dory is his favourite album. And he loved the Bowie exhibition I took him to see at the V & A. Incredible. I hope you managed to catch it too, if not, it might make a come back - if they have any sense - and if it does, go. Grab the chance by the scruff of the neck, get a ticket, post-haste, straightaway, don’t look back.

But back to Saturday. I’m busy preparing for the party. Need to get things done. I’m making a large potato dauphinoise, marinading a side of salmon: olive oil, soy sauce, wine, garlic, chilli, all the usual things. Also doing a trifle because everyone loves a trifle, all those lovely layers, and so easy to make. Friends are bringing the rest, a dish each, so there'll be lots to go round. A table covered with food, more than we can possibly consume in one go.

Later, I’m doing the lunch now as well, about 12.00 o'clock, and Middle One appears. He’s going to stay in today, he says, also get things done: revision for his mocks. I tell him about the text.

“I don’t know that track,” he says, despite playing lots of Bowie himself lately: Under Pressure, Oh! You Pretty Things, Changes, Rebel Rebel, Heroes.

“What?” I say. “You don’t know Modern Love? It’s the best. Don't miss it. It's a throwback from the 80s, from when I was your age, it's brilliant, clever, sexy. Sexy because it's brilliant and clever.” Like Bowie himself.

So I play it in the kitchen, through the posh ceiling speakers (not that posh really, cheap, not enough bass). “Let’s dance,” I say, and so we play it, loud.

“That’s amazingly good,” says Middle One. 

“Yes it is,” I say. 

So then he plays Bowie tracks for the rest of the weekend. The whole catalogue, front to back. When his friends come round later, I go to the door. “He’s in the basement,” I say, “playing Modern Love.”

Then evening, setting up for the party. “I want hair like this,” Middle One says, coming into the kitchen again, showing me a picture of David Bowie from the mid-eighties, peroxide, blonde quiff. He says he'll use the picture as his new screen saver, on his phone. 

"Cool," I say. “I had peroxide blonde hair like that in the 80s for a while, just after uni. It was fine at first but then each time I had the roots re-done at the hairdressers, it hurt. If the bleach was on for a long time before the colour took, I had to grip the arms of the chair. The result was always worth it though.”

Wish I had a pic to show him - and you - but I can’t find one, and there were quite enough pictures of me on last week's blog. 

The birthday party is wonderful. Great friends, great food, great atmosphere. Middle One and Youngest come down to chat to people, which I love, but it makes me think about the boy who’s not here, about getting up the Saturday morning before, at 6.30 am, driving together through deserted London streets, zooming up the empty M1 to rendezvous with his friend, who was giving him a lift back to uni in his little Ford Fiesta. I didn’t mind taking him, I offered. Our time alone as mother and son is special, and rare.

It was a magical drive. A dark, crisp morning, dawn breaking as we turned down a pretty Belgravia street, towards Eaton Square. Smart shops: Baker and Spice, Jeroboams, Poilane. Twinkling Christmas lights up above.

“Wow,” said Eldest, looking up through the panoramic roof. “I know this road. This isn’t real - it's lovely - but not real.”

“I know what you mean,” I said, "but it is real. There’s a lot more to London than you think. Good and bad, and lots between.”

We're chatting and listening to music together, of course, in our comfy new car. Eldest’s choice of music, of course. So I’m happy on the way there, but miserable on the return. The empty seat beside me, only the music left to linger, me playing it over and over, the tracks he likes, Hall & Oates, for some strange reason. His clever jokes lingering too, making me smile all over again when I think of them. Bittersweet.

Finally, back to Monday morning. Remember? That’s where I began, lying in bed, listening to Radio 4. David Bowie comes on: Starman. "He'd like to come and meet us, But he thinks he'll blow our minds."

“David Bowie was…” says the presenter.

“He just said ‘was,'" I say to Husband, who is dashing round the room, getting ready for work.

“What?” says Husband, "Who? When? What are you talking about?"

“On the radio. David Bowie. The presenter just said ‘was.’ Past tense." 

I don’t want to hear past tense. I want to hear present tense. I want to hear future tense. It hits me: David Bowie has died. Just.

"He’s died!" I say, "So sad! I can’t believe it, the timing, just when both the older boys are really into him.”

"Don’t tell Middle One," says Husband, "not until he’s had his breakfast. It won't be in the papers at least, too soon."

I hope not, I think. If he is dead I don't want to read about it. Not now. Not ever. I want to keep him alive in my head, singing, clever, sexy. Forever.

I go downstairs to catch the paper boy.

Love E x


P.S. I loved Bowie when I was a little girl too. The Laughing Gnome might be best forgotten but it was one of the first records I remember playing on my dad’s record player (an old copy!), that and Don't Give Up On Us by David Soul. Embarrassing. But I was only about ten. And it was a huge hit.

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