I promised a few days ago to tell you about the short story that won the hearts of all four judges at the Cambridge Autumn Festival short story competition. The word limit was 2,500 words and the subject was ‘Favourites’, open to whatever interpretation the writers wanted to put on it. There were about seventy entries and the organisers split them into two piles, two judges read one half and two judges the other half. We came up with a short list of six and then all four judges read the final twelve. There was a clear winner and we were all quite emotional about the story. It was called ‘Princess Belle’ and was written by a Christchurch writer, a woman in her fifties. It’s an intergenerational story set around a grandmother reading her granddaughter a bedtime story, her favourite, Cinderella. The grandmother is the narrator and through her we learn about her relationship with her own mother and the questionable job she made of parenting her daughter, the little girl’s mother, who is not there. Jail or rehab, we never quite know. It was simple, stark, poignant and yet ended with a note of hope. It moved us, informed us and entertained us. It was a joy to read.
Today I want to talk about one of the most important things in my life. One of the things that keeps me sane (relatively) and drives my onward journey. And that is Music. As regular readers know, I refer to my grief for my Mum (who died three months ago next week) as my ride on ‘the ocean of grief.’ Most of the time it has settled down to a manageable swell and I’m coping well. A few days ago it suddenly turned into a storm for an afternoon. In the middle of it, when I cried out for help, God directed me back to my music.
I dug out a concert DVD I hadn’t seen for about two years and watched it. That drove me to my computer and I compiled some playlists of songs I’ve neglected, put on the headphones and, ever since, I’ve spent a part of every day singing my little heart out. I can’t hear myself but I’m betting it isn’t pretty. Don’t care. I’m rocking my world to The Killers, Jace Everett, Alison Krauss, Air Supply, Scouting for Girls, Abba, Robbie Williams and Michael Ball among others. And every-so-often I throw in a dose of Placido Domingo, Noah Stewart and Luciano Pavarotti to remind myself that my top notes have gone.
I can’t adequately explain how great it makes me feel to hear and sing along and how soothing music is to me. It helps me express my emotion and it lifts me up when I’m down, it is a big part of how I praise my God, it lets me pretend I’m an opera singer or a rock star. When I make up my own lyrics I’m a poet, when I hum a tune I almost know but can’t remember I’m a songwriter and when I hear a new talent (like the first time I heard Noah) I am awe-struck.
Little quiz, you will recognise this man. When a singer is largely remembered for the end stages of his career, people forget how handsome and incredible on stage he was in his prime. He is sadly missed by millions, including me.
My very favourite song at the moment is called “My arms are Strong”, it begins:
Come to me my darling child
Is the world upsetting you?
I’ll hold you in my arms a while
Nothing so bad
Don’t you know that I will protect you, protect you?
And in the spirit of sharing, here are some of my favourite clips, the ones that make me smile. I hope you click-through and watch them and enjoy them. These are some of the people who (unbeknownst to them) are keeping me afloat on my ocean as the time passes and it becomes easier. Their vocal gift is my life jacket and they are the soundtrack of my life. I thank God for each and every one of them. “Thank you for the music…and in some cases the laughter and in some cases the incredible acting.”