I was 15 when John Lennon died. I remember the shock, sitting on the bed with my oldies, listening to the morning news with disbelief. No, surely that’s not possible? Dead? That doesn’t make sense.

This morning, Spurs Fan woke me with the news that David Bowie has left us, and I felt just like I had 35 years ago.

I wasn’t a Bowie fan when I was 15- that came later. I met JWN at university and we combined our record collections; my Beatles, Springsteen and Ultravox to her Bowie and Velvet Underground. I learned a lot, and loved it all.

Bowie was there, always, it seemed. Where there was creativity, theatricality and fun, there was a hint of Bowie.

Of course, Bowie’s influence is beyond music- Caitlin Moran calls it…


But where to start today? I’ve spent hours with 6Music listening to much wonderful music by Bowie, influenced by Bowie, and which influenced him. I’m hearing old interviews, and bereft broadcasters and listeners sharing tales of humour and kindness. A man who did things his own way, and enabled others to do the same.

Thanks, Bowie. The stars will look very different today.








all the remembering

the boy soldier, 1934
the boy soldier, 1934

Granda joined the army when he was 14; his mother tried to get him back when she found out, but he had no plans to stay on the farm. Soldiering was a grand job, he’d say, except when there was a war on. Before the war he was in Burma and India. Later he was at Dunkirk, & in North Africa. He saw the world and came back, to the town 10 miles up the road from the farm. He still worked for the army, and spent time at the Legion. He’d have his grandchildren marching round the living room, and saluting properly, but we didn’t hear many tales. I went to primary school with army children. People my age in Belfast or Derry or South Armagh had very different experiences of the army in their childhood.

Remembrance Sunday was for them, the old men. It was a day to acknowledge their service and their friends who didn’t come home. To consider all that was lost.

That all changed in 1987, when Remembrance Sunday became about all of us. The McSpecs lived in Enniskillen, we knew the people. We were all affected. This interview with Gordon Wilson still makes me cry.

pic pinched from twitter
pic pinched from twitter

There are many other veterans now, survivors of recent wars. Many other people have been lost. Young people, like Granda and his mates used to be.

None of it makes any sense. Loss, death, severe injury, homelessness, destroyed families, refugees. We will remember them all.

image from:
image from:



it takes all sorts

I didn’t want to get up. It was cold, I was cosy.

I put the Christmas playlist on shuffle- there are hundreds of songs and you’d never know what could capture the imagination and warm the day.

really georgeOops, wrong Clooney! Can’t imagine how that happened…

Then I got a bad news call. We’ve lost a friend and former colleague. A small girl, younger than mine, has lost her dad. He was late to fatherhood, the proudest of doting dads. He wasn’t a religious man, but this seemed right for him today.

Any other day, this is the song that makes me smile out loud and think of him. Our mate.

my grandmother’s cupboard

The crockery cupboard was on the left- door open, filled with china and cruet sets, the wee pot for mixing mustard for Granda. The other cupboard, the one on the right, was the mysterious one. It went from floor to ceiling, and was so deep I never saw the back.

The bottom third was Granda’s. It was filled with tools and cleaning equipment, like shoe polish and all the possible brushes. While Granny chopped and cooked and cleaned, he’d gather up all the shoes in the house- I had to take them off my feet- and polish them to a military shine. The whole house shone, in a way few do now.

I was never tall enough to reach the top of the cupboard. Granny was tiny but ingenious. She had a solution for every problem, but I’m not sure I ever saw her get to those shelves. Even standing on a kitchen chair wouldn’t have brought her to much above the height of her sons.

The shelves I could see had envelopes and photographs and sewing tasks and the nearly finished knitting. The inside of the door had postcards from people who’d got away for a few days, to Bundoran, or Skerries. And when the cupboard doors were closed, all was neat, tidy and safe. Presentable.

It all changed within a few weeks. We moved too far away for daily drop ins. Granda died. Our worlds were shaken. Other relations moved in with Granny. That kitchen wasn’t mine anymore. I was a visitor.

The cupboard doors were closed.

Task for Future Learn Creative Writing course- generate something new