Big Five Oh

I am beginning to worry about my inability to recall the phonetic alphabet.

I am beginning to worry about my inability to recall the phonetic alphabet.

On the telephone to someone this week I stuttered: ‘Tee for Tommy, P for perky and W for, er, whatever.’

But it is only to be expected as I crash land into my 50th birthday this weekend.

And with all this moving into the new Butchelor Pad, my knees feel like I have done a round of parachute jumps with all that upstairs and downstairs.

A good friend warned me that his knees were the ‘first to go’ as soon as the clock struck one minute past midnight on his 50th.

First to go with me are my memory banks and I only need look at the older sister for genetic evidence of that.

When we briefly lived together recently, she would give strange instructions for package deliveries.

‘When the thing comes can you remember to put it in the thingy,’ she would tell me on her way out of the door.

This week she messaged to say she could not find her sugar bowl and asked if I had absent-mindedly pinched it during my move.

I hadn’t, but I do wonder now whether it might have run off with my eggcup. Such has been her generosity in giving me things for the new flat, she joked this week that she is moving in by stealth.

One thing my memory won’t forget though is that I found ‘Are Mam’ dead on my birthday four years back.

I must say, I’ve had better surprises on the big day and this time of the year is a rotten one for anniversaries.

A step-dad in 2011, Nana Butcher (early next month) and with perfect timing, the doctor from Orkney confirmed this week that the old man has indeed had a stroke after all.

They don’t know when, but he is ok and bullish about it now; wondering what all the fuss is about.

As I sip cold black coffee from my sister’s mug, which bears the slogan “It Is What It Is,” it all strikes me as life’s way of reminding me that we reach an age where you’re more likely to be lighting a candle for someone than looking forward to blowing the buggers out.

I remind myself I am not the first to have lost a mother and on balance, mine (72), had a good innings compared to some.

Sadly for me, the record shows she was bowled out more times than she hit sixes and frequently turned the bat on her own stumps.

I also wish I knew then what I know now, so as the anniversary rolls around again, I do wish I could take back a few of the harsh assessments I made down the years.

It doesn’t put me in much of a mood for party poppers or paper kazoos but I will go out anyway, pull on an imaginary black armband, find a cold drink and play the music she used to.

There may not have been much money in the house growing up, but we were rich in music. In fact a friend of hers told me a story how she would turn up at her doorstep when things were grim in the Eighties and announce: ‘I’ve got a tenner, who’s coming to the pub?’

This week I played George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass (1970) which I recall was in my car on the day I found her and was a great comfort to me.

But if you call it up on You Tube, please be aware you have to sit through that insufferable ‘the funeral industry has been ripping us off’ ad man.

And on my local pub jukebox I have recently found a song by Roy Orbison who she often played.

The more I learn the more I realise why she adored his tragic backstory.

The so-called “saddest man in rock,” hid his shyness and stage fright behind thick prescription sunglasses. He lost two sons in a house fire and having reunited with his first wife after a divorce, he then saw her killed in a car crash.

I read this week that he sang about loneliness and emotion in a time when men didn’t, although I think Elvis Presley might have had something to say about that.

Intriguingly, on Orbison’s first tour in Britain as an understudy to an up-and-coming new band, he went down such a storm that he had to be held back from going on for a 15th encore by a certain Lennon and McCartney who were waiting to play next.

But the Big O also endured massive career lows as the charts moved away from his style.

Just as he embarked on a final comeback, he dropped dead from a heart attack aged just 52 in 1988.

So in a reappraisal of the Big O, a collection of his classics is now in the post, as is his last televised star-studded concert Black & White Night (1987).

A new chum – Tel Boy, I’ll call him – also helped lift the spirits last weekend with his quickfire wit and resourcefulness.

Legend has it that he once spent 3,000 hours on an online game without blinking, which amounts to 125 days, although my recollection of our conversation may not be entirely reliable, but I think that was the gist.

Last weekend Tel Boy introduced me to a single Pretty Woman, and can you imagine the gates of hell that would open if that song was released today?

We spent an hour in deep conversation at the bar before she abruptly disappeared.

Unbeknown to me, she had gone to see her ex who had been stood in the other end all the time – watching us get on like a house on fire.

I decided it was time for a sharp exit and Tel Boy agreed, although we were subsequently turned away from the doors of a club.

It’s a boring story of NHS password fails, or aka ‘Cozzer Covid’.

So my birthday day will be a much quieter affair down the local and I will put some money in the jukebox to play Roy Orbison: In Dreams (1963).

After all, O stands for Orbison in my new phonetic alphabet.

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