I returned home yesterday from visiting friends abroad. The view of England from the plane was one of waterlogged wheat fields and mossy-looking bog. I took quick snap-shots from the Southern Network train from Gatwick Airport to Southampton Central. It all looked green and glorious with the sun going down. More like April that January.
I have seen a few seasons like this in my time. When people worked hard to pay rent or mortgages and made great efforts to build up their homes, Mother Nature came along and just laughed at them.
In December, farmers that waited to bring in crops for the Christmas tables have suffered, as have field-reared animals such as sheep.
Predictions for 2016: Being a glass half-full person though, I predict a good building industry using new innovative technologies. I predict a good production of crops in Britain later in the year. Lamb and beef will be expensive, but pork and chicken will be cheap and people will try other birds like partridge. People will give locally grown foods their strong support, but there will be a big demand for imported exotic things like bananas, coffee, rice and especially pineapples. Mushrooms will be added to everything, Brussel sprouts will be eaten all year. Salads and chillis will grown in window boxes. British beer and even wine will become a world-wide trend and, of course, there will always be whiskey in the jar-o.
Everyone seems to be writing obituaries to David Bowie who, sadly, died yesterday, so I will try not to repeat anything from those. I just want to give thanks for the profound influence he had on my life. He gave me belief in myself.
I first heard of him around 1965 when David Bowie and the Buzz performed in Southampton. Everyone thought that this androgynous bloke who dressed a bit different was enigmatic. He had one of those distinctive voices too whereby you could still hear his London accent even though he was singing a range of things. In 1969 Bowie wrote Space Oddity in time for the first man on the moon – it had got on Top of the Pops by 1970 and at this time he was wearing ‘really weird clothes’.
I had been brought up in second-hand clothes and had always felt an outsider because of it, so I created my own style. Bowie not only made me feel okay, he made me feel cool. Suddenly I was an ‘it girl’. In the early 70s he was due to back Lou Reed on his Transformer tour at Southampton Guildhall. Everyone rushed for tickets – mainly to see David Bowie, but I couldn’t get hold of one. I waited outside the Civic Centre and just begged others to sell me their ticket. As one woman had only really wanted to see Lou Reed, she agreed to come out for five minutes and lend me her ticket for one song if I bought her a pack of cigarettes, around 5/- or there-abouts (25p in the new decimal currency).
Bowie was dressed so theatrically – I vowed then to always do the same. The song I listened to? Life on Mars – which I adopted as if it had been written for me.
life on Mars
It’s a God awful small affair To the girl with the mousey hair, But her mummy is yelling, “No!” And her daddy has told her to go, But her friend is no where to be seen. Now she walks through her sunken dream To the seats with the clearest view And she’s hooked to the silver screen, But the film is saddenin’ bore For she’s lived it ten times or more. She could spit in the eyes of fools As they ask her to focus on
Sailors Fighting in the dance hall. Oh man! Look at those cavemen go. It’s the freakiest show. Take a look at the lawman Beating up the wrong guy. Oh man! Wonder if he’ll ever know He’s in the best-selling show. Is there Life On Mars?
Later in the early 80s a band consisting of four blokes from Winchester, named 4 People I Have Known, asked me to write them a song. Heavily influenced by Life on Mars, I wrote a songalong the lines of:
Just finished with my girl
and I’m feelin’ pretty mean
Went down into town
to watch the silver screen
but its dogs eating children
(can’t remember this bit)
so I pick up someone new and leave
Permissive society, such variety
Man! Is this the only way to live?
Embarrassing now when I look back, but DJ John Peel liked it and played it his radio show.
David Bowie played at Southampton Guildhall on two or three more tours, but as an art student I couldn’t afford the rocketing prices. I did get all of his albums though and happily moved along all the trends from Glam Rock to Punk to New Romantics with all the glamour and creativity that dressing up and escaping poverty could bring.