Northumberland October 2019

Friday 25th

Rain. Rain. Huge rain. It took Liz and Ariel 5 and a half hours to reach me from the Forest of Dean. I watched TV turning the heating off and back on as their journey time increased. A pit stop and a transfer of interesting luggage (an axe and a bag seemingly full of footwear) from one Skoda Yeti to another and we were off into a wet time warp where for at least half the journey Google Maps told us it would take 3 hours and 22 minutes. If only. 5 soggy hours later we reached Church Cottage in Kyloe. Our landlords had kindly unpacked our Sainsbury’s delivery for us and left us a bottle of organic prosecco. Cheers.

Saturday 26th

Great to see our views across to Lindisfarne. We went shopping in Berwick. I managed to get run over by a car. My foot was trapped under its front wheel for a while but I came away completely unscathed, not even any bruising. I frightened myself and my friends and the driver for which I am truly sorry. I didn’t look before I crossed the road the second time because when I’d crossed it first I looked both ways, saw cars only going one way, saw cars parked facing the same way so made an incorrect assumption. I was lucky the driver was going slowly and that I was wearing new Doc Martens that are very rigid. Of course it was my left foot. But remarkably there is no damage. I have wanted to be dead but I don’t actually want to die. Not yet, not until I’ve finished sorting out the stuff in my house. And not then either. It was a salutary reminder that all it takes is one microsecond of inattention. I am walking around with so many dead loved ones I’m not that surprised it happened. After calming down from my idiocy we went to Cheswick and walked by the sea. Liz and I managed to walk in an area containing unexploded ordnance and quicksand! Back to gigli made by A. Yum. Started watching The Laundromat film with Meryl Streep about the Panama Papers.

Sunday 27th

My foot is none the worse. Remarkable boot. Not even a mark on the boot. From Craster we walked along by the sea to Dunstanburgh castle. At Greymare rock we sent Carol’s ashes off into the sea. A seal joined us while the crashing waves took the ashes away. Called in at Howick Hall for the slowest tea ever and an incorrectly delivered order then walked around the gardens. Back home along the lanes as the sun descended. Liz produced borscht, scrummy. We finished watching the Laundromat. Good movie.

Monday 28th

Ariel and I walked a good part of the way up The Cheviot but decided not to try the summit as it was very boggy and cold on the dark side. Instead we stayed in the sun to descend and bimbled about in some woods. We got back to Liz, a blazing fire, delicious kedgeree and a really rubbish film, Call Me By My Name which Netflix told us included “strong sex”. Only if you are a peach. It was very boring IMO.

Liz took this lovely photo of the steps near our cottage

Tuesday 29th

Billy Shiel’s boat from Seahouses around the Farne Islands. Good weather, a bit of bouncing on the waves, a lot of birds and a huge lot of seals, all sizes and ages. Only £15 for 90 minutes. Fab. Pit stop at the Ship Inn. To Ros Castle, a short steep climb for 360 views. Descended to magnificent burnt orange sunset. I made the green Thai curry, possibly the first time I’ve really cooked for other people since Carol died, and I enjoyed it. We tried to watch Capote movie but Liz and I fell asleep. Lovely day.

Wednesday 30th

We drove to Lindisfarne across the causeway. Straight into Pilgrims’ Coffee which sold nice coffee but was short on competent staff. Up to the castle for a good look round including a history talk. Around Gertrude Jekyll’s garden, over to the priory, the parish church and back to the car to get across the causeway before the tide came in. Home for lunch, then A and I went out for walks in different directions. I stayed out until dark. Dinner and another terrible movie, Roma.

Thursday 31st

We did our own things during the day. I went to Lowick and bought bread, then to Doddington. I did a circular walk to find a hill fort, a stone circle and a cup and ring stone. The paths were very overgrown with bracken and gorse and indistinct for most of the walk. I had to micro navigate using a mix of old and new tools all the way round. I found everything, well I found the hill fort easily enough, I wasn’t sure about the cup and ring marks because I didn’t really know what I was looking for. The stone circle (rems of) only had a solitary stone in a swamp of bracken. There may have been more but I didn’t want to do any more bracken than I had to. I got back to the cottage. We dined out at The Black Bull in Lowick 2 miles away. We all had really nice dinners. Back at the cottage we moved away from awful films and played Bananagram, Liz was very good and I was delighted to have been able to use the word buggery.

Liz and Ariel saw this hare on their walk

Friday 1st November

We set off to have a look at Kielder Forest, as we drove we talked about coffee at the observatory. But unlucky for us the road was being resurfaced just at that point so we couldn’t get there. Instead we had a look in the Alpnhaus (why no ‘e’?) where there is a swish B&B and an Alpine shop, all feeling pretty remote. We carried on to Corbridge where we stopped for our coffee, by this time it was well into the afternoon. Eventually we rocked up at The Moorcock in Norland which is on my doorstep and ate very well in the pub. I can’t rate this place highly enough. Then back to mine to recover from yet another mammoth journey.

Snowdonia October 2019

Monday 14th

I booked this short break when Carol was still alive. Arrived at Craflwyn Hall mid afternoon, staying in the stables again, a different stall from the last time I was there. That time I sustained an injury to my elbow and Carol looked after me from a distance, sorted out a GP appointment for me. Dinner was tapas which I enjoyed but some of the other guests didn’t. Some people are so gobby! Entertainment was a word square game. The team I was in won.

Tuesday 15th

Drove to Trawsfynydd which is mostly known for its ex nuclear power station. It was opened in 1965 after 6 years of building. Remained in operation until 1991. It will take 100 years to decommission. Just above it is Tomen y Mur Roman fort and small amphitheatre which was built in the first century and in operation for at least a hundred years and is still very evident on the ground but a hell of a lot less poisonous. After climbing the Norman motte and bimbling about I drove south from Talsarnau up tiny roads with green down the middle and branches hitting the car, out and in for a gate, continuing until the road stopped. Walked roughly 3 km along a fairly good level path, soggy and squelchy in places, to reach Bryn Cader Faner stone circle which was a delight. Back the same way. This time I met a farm truck and a van coming up so I had to reverse quite a way. The evening entertainment was Benjie and Mev who are local birds of prey experts, not a C&W duo. They were knowledgeable and interesting.

Wednesday 16th

Car free day. Walked from the house straight up the hill behind, which is the lower slopes of Yr Aran, a sub peak of Snowdon. A nice mountain walk without going very high. Passed old mine. Some boggy bits. Eventually joined up with the Watkin path. Stopped in Caffi Gwynant for a coffee and a scone. Walked back to the house along the east side of Llyn Dinas on a very good well made path. Only one heavy shower early on. Sunny mostly. Unfortunately the best photos of the walk past Llyn Dinas were corrupted. Another very irritating woman staying here. I’m getting good at walking away. Entertainment was the quiz. My team came second. There are 31 guests in the house, some of whom are Brexiteers, some think it’s ok to make “jokes” about sexual violence, one thinks bereavement is the same as divorce and at least 7 who are decent human beings with respect for others and a developed sense of right and wrong. I have trouble with those who lack self awareness. I don’t expect everyone to be emotionally tip top all the time but I do think people could develop their interpersonal skills before letting themselves out of the house. My best shirt is wasted on them.

Thursday 17th

Leisurely breakfast. Heavy rain expected so I drove quite a way to a National Trust property, Plas yn Rhiw. I’ve really had my money’s worth out of the NT membership fee this year, at least twice over, if not more. Makes up for the years when all I did was park the car. It was a nice little house previously owned by the 3 Keating sisters who were an interesting bunch and rebuilt this house in a stunning location looking out across the bay. Then the rain came, on and off. Had my lunch in the car. Went and looked out over to Bardsey island. Through a torrential downpour to Betws y Coed to see if there were any outdoor kit bargains, there weren’t. The rain settled in heavily. The mental and emotional toll of grief is obvious but I hadn’t even considered the physical aspects, the sapping of energy, lethargy, continued poor sleep, fatigue, reduced muscle strength, low stamina. I am working on all of these. Feels like slow progress. At least my left leg muscles match the right leg, 6 months later.

Friday 18th

To Llannymawddwy through more downpours. However they more or less stopped as I parked up. This is a place Carol and I went to several times (misnamed by me as Pennant in that blog post) when we used to stay at Llanfechain. Carol liked it because we could be in the mountains without having to actually climb one. It’s a gentle walk up to a col, about 100m of up to 1 km of length. We never saw anyone else and I didn’t today. We last went there in March 2015, after getting our civil partnership upgrade. I buried some more of Carol’s ashes at the col overlooking the east valley. It’s such a lovely spot, with valleys east and west. Constant sound of tumbling waterfalls. Back at the car, the rain came on again. I decided it would be ok to do the mountain road and it was though I was cautious through the flooded bits. The really scary bit of road has had big new barriers put up which I was grateful for. Round Lake Vyrnwy and then to Oswestry to get some veg. On the spur of the moment I stopped at Chirk Castle, knocking up yet another National Trust property visited this year. I got wet because I’d failed to take my brolly. It took a long time to get home because of the terrible weather.

Wedding anniversary

I drove over to Near Sawrey, it’s near to Hawkshead. I stayed in Belle Green B&B. Carol and I had stayed there I think 4 times before, definitely 3 times. The last time was the day the EU referendum was announced. Ann and Steve were very welcoming and I felt safe. I went and had a meal in the Tower Bank Arms, it was nice being out in the very dark.

Over breakfast I had a chat with Sally, a visitor from Wisconsin. We hit it off instantly, she’s a photographer with a keen Beatrix Potter interest. I told her about the “behind the scenes” tour I’d booked at Hill Top in the afternoon.

I walked down to Esthwaite Water and selected a spot for Carol’s ashes that didn’t have much obvious footfall but was still overlooking the water. She and I loved this place, we never saw anyone there when we went, it’s such a beautiful spot. I buried the ashes and spoke these words, feeling slightly foolish so did it quietly.

Give me a drink. You know I have always wanted to get married, not for always, but just for once in my life I wanted to live out my love for a man like they did. I suppose you think I mean I want to walk down the aisle in white with my friends watching, but that’s not it, that’s not what this feeling is to do with. Or not all of it, because of course I would love to do that. But that’s easy to laugh at. What I want is to hold his hand in public. And what I want then is to hold his hand in front of the television for several evenings a week, and if you don’t understand that, if you don’t know what that feeling is, if you don’t know why it’s like that then you know nothing, nothing, nothing.

Neil Bartlett, from Ready To Catch Him Should He Fall

Our wedding was just right for us. We didn’t go mad. Our clothes were a bit odd, it was one of those times fashion wise when there wasn’t much around for gender queers, it was all a bit baggy trousers.

Those ruddy broken pots!!

I know I grinned all day long, so much my face hurt. In the morning, Carol gave me a card and these tickets that she’d kept for 14 years.

So when it came to her funeral, I knew exactly which poem to read (W. H. Auden’s Funeral Blues). We managed 10 years of marriage and 26 of being together.

After my own private ritual, I walked to Far Sawrey along the road and then cut up through an old wood and across some fields. Then back to Near Sawrey in a circuit. Sally and I met up again at Hill Top for the tour which was nice because it wasn’t as madly crowded as when Chris and I went there a few years ago.

I headed for home, stopping briefly for a scone at Claife Viewing Station, then over on the Windermere Ferry. The last time I did the ferry, they’d taken off the man who collected the money and replaced him with ticket machines that were completely incomprehensible and slowed down the whole process so much it created enormous queues and frustration. I wrote a letter of protest it made me so cross. Now the machines have gone and the man has returned to take the money off the passengers. Win!!

Half a year

Bruce is singing Living in the Future, from 2009, about what was going on in the USA then. Catchy song, good for dancing.

I started dancing then remembered and felt guilty. I thought about dancing outside, dancing on the beach. The final scene of Longtime Companion. I’ve also been singing but the guilt rushes in, I shouldn’t be singing and dancing. I don’t want the pain, I want the pain. I’m messy, confused. Longtime Companion caused buckets of tears when I first saw it in the 90s. I still think it’s a good movie and was needed then and no not perfect but what is?

I’m grateful for the love of family and friends that has kept me alive, literally. It feels odd that I am alive and Carol is not. I still have not really got used to this truth. It jars.

I took my first multi day trip away. Bathed in the loving kindness of Sophy, Jo, Liz, Ariel and Tracey. I can do this. It was good to be away from the house which is so bound up with Carol, how could it not be? Coming home and she was neither with me nor waiting for me. I had 6 days with few tears but they didn’t take long to reappear. Home is also full of Chris so it’s quite a sad place to be. I wouldn’t want them not to be here.

Now I’m almost bored with bereavement blues blog. Not sure I have anything much more to say. Time to ease off a bit. Maybe.

Five months

What a surprise, five months, stuck on my eyes

(apology to David Bowie)

Some good and some less good things

I was with Carol’s brother, Paul and I said one of Carol’s catchphrases and it was like she was there. Funny and sad, mostly funny.

I no longer have to compromise, I now make all my own decisions, good or bad, quickly or slowly, big or small.

I can do anything I want, if I wanted to get on a plane tomorrow I can do that.

I am sleeping a bit better, my new bed is really comfy.

The leg forced me to slow down and I think I’ve learnt that I don’t need to rush round like a “demented pootle” (Victoria Wood). Things will happen in their own good time.

I know what I don’t want: a dog, a cat, to do Airbnb, to have a lodger.

I love my house and am going to stay in it as long as I want.

I’ve still got quite a lot of things to do in the house, sorting out both Carol’s and my books, other assorted objects and reconfiguring how I use the space. It will take a while and that’s good as I need and want to be occupied. But I don’t want a job!

I’ve been thinking about friends who died too soon, Dave Royle 15th June 1996 and Wendy Ingham 17th June 1997. Both 36, Dave to AIDS, Wendy to nut poisoning. They both changed the world. Dave gave us books reflecting our gay lives and Wendy’s death directly led to nut allergy labelling and a wider public awareness about food allergies.

Rehabilitating my badly injured ankle has got me out walking every single day. I’ve started to meet my neighbours and that’s been very pleasant. The ones I’ve talked to all knew and liked Carol. I’ve done a bit of litter picking along the routes I travel and today was thanked by a passer by.

Dave and Paul and I planted some of Carol’s ashes yesterday. It felt like the right time and it was just us which was right too. We put them next to the ashes of Dave’s mother, Joyce, and Dave’s sister, Liz. Liz was Joyce’s second child to die before she did. So many people who have gone, the people who made up our lives.

Because Carol was not well and I was working we didn’t have much of a social life especially not in the last few years so now I have to build one up and that’s quite hard and sometimes I think I can’t be arsed.

I’m so very tired a lot of the time. In the past I would just keep going, I felt I had no choice when I was trying to keep us in a semblance of normality. Now I have to stop, I can’t plough on relentlessly. Crash instead.

Every day that passes is a day further away from Carol. It’s inevitable but I don’t want it. Carol gave me one of Tristan Gooley‘s books last Christmas, I want her to know that I met him on Friday and what a nice guy he is.

I miss physical contact.

I’m lonely. Sometimes I’m lonely when I’m with people.

Thankfully I like my own company.

My brain hurt like a warehouse, it had no room to spare
I had to cram so many things to store everything in there
And all the fat-skinny people, and all the tall-short people
And all the nobody people, and all the somebody people
I never thought I’d need so many people.

David Bowie

Three wise monkeys at Dove Stone reservoir, having just planted some of Carol’s ashes

4 months and a nod to Neil Bartlett

I’ve been to hell and I haven’t yet come back but I have at least turned round. I know this is nowhere near “coming to terms with” or “accepting”. I know I will always love Carol, and Chris. A cloud has lifted with my increasing return to mobility.

Hell was thinking about things that I can’t write here. Hell was that I haven’t yet worked out what the point is. Maybe I never will, maybe the point is not something I can hold in my hand.

Well Frankie I don’t know what I’m gonna find
Maybe nothing at all, maybe a world I can call mine
Shining like these streetlights down here on the strand
Bright as the rain in the palm of your hand

Bruce Springsteen

Take everything away and what is left? I started to count my blessings. I have a beautiful home, Carol and I made it beautiful with a great deal of help from Paul who knows our house and especially the boiler better than me. I live in a nice area with great views and it’s really quiet. There are goats in the field next to the house and sometimes a cat comes to visit. There are birds and owls and bats. And then there are my friends.

I have one friend who came every week, she put the recycling out, brought me a Costa espresso, odd items of shopping and posted my mail. And she hates driving up the big hill to Blackstone Edge.

One friend took me to A&E and stayed with me whilst I got fixed up in the first plaster cast. Two friends took me to the GP and kept me company, another picked up drugs at a moment’s notice. Two friends came and cooked me lunch. Seven friends took me out to pubs and restaurants where we had lunches and a taster dinner, one of them also brought me supplies of meals she had cooked to go in the freezer. I now have a good knowledge of most of the pubs within a 4 mile radius. The Moorcock was amazing and I’m thinking of walking there for a beer one evening when I can.

I was brought brownies, daffodils, deluxe chocolates and biscuits. I was sent books and a jigsaw, still working on that one! I had face to face visits, one a complete surprise which was totally delightful (we hadn’t seen each other for a long while), video calls and phone calls. One friend rang me every week and got me through the shittiest bits. One friend stayed with me and took me out and helped me to get used to life on the hop, including how to make real coffee easily. And one friend came every week and worked on the house, tiling the bathroom, rehanging doors and shifting a tree’s worth of logs. He is now repairing and sorting the windows.

Then there are the Facebook friends who have helped to keep me up and made me laugh even when I’ve been very down.

Some friends are family and many of my family are friends. The best thing is that I’ve found out who my friends are and my friends are just exactly who I thought they were.

Carol and Chris are no longer here to “catch me should I fall“. I did just that, and found out what I needed to know. Thank you so much.

Here’s Liz reading Neil Bartlett’s That’s What Friends are For.

Standing is good but not the same as walking!

Why does Jak keep going on about Bruce Springsteen?

Or Chris, Carol, Bruce and me; a story of heart-stopping, pants-dropping, hard-rocking, booty-shaking, love-making, earth-quaking, Viagra-taking, justifying, death-defying, legendary Springsteen fans

As much as we could

I want all the time, all that heaven will allow

All That Heaven Will Allow

Bruce has been the soundtrack to half my life and it’s been and continues to be a love affair sans pareil. It’s always been just me and him, 1 on 1, oh and Chris and Carol.

1975. The first song I remember hearing was Born to Run. Released August 25th. Bruce was nearly 26, Chris was just turned 22, I was 17 and Carol 14.

Together, Wendy, we can live with the sadness
I’ll love you with all the madness in my soul
Oh, someday, girl, I don’t know when 
We’re gonna get to that place where we really wanna go 

And we’ll walk in the sun
But ’til then tramps like us
Baby, we were born to run

Born To Run

1981. The River. Carol saw Bruce on The River tour on 20th May 1981 at New Bingley Hall near Stafford. She was 20. Setlist

Is a dream a lie if it don’t come true? 

The River

1984. I danced in the dark to Dancing in the Dark in the Scarlet Coat in Bristol. The Coat was a lesbian disco, with a tiny dancefloor and it was very dark. I used to drink far too much beer and was pretty stupid.

1985. Bruce released Born in the USA. I was living in a shared house in Bristol when Bruce played Roundhay Park in Leeds but that day I was on the M62 which was full of fans. Carol was at that gig with Dave on 7th July. Setlist. To my shame I joined in with my housemates’ dissing of Bruce because he was so macho. I knew nothing. There were some clips of the tour on TV which stayed in my mind mainly because they were not at all macho and I thought maybe I had been wrong, lesson learned – make your own mind up: Growin’ Up part 1 Los Angeles 1985 Growin’ Up part 2 Los Angeles 1985 I was just about to convert to the majesty and mystery of rock and roll, Bruce style.

1986. I met Chris and she performed that magic trick. She introduced me to Bruce and as quickly as I fell in love with her, I fell in love with him. I wore that cassette tape of BitUSA out.

1988. Chris and I finally got to actually see Bruce live for the first time in Sheffield, at Bramall Lane on 10th July. This was the Tunnel of Love tour, still my favourite album. The atmosphere was electric, the show thundering and left us wanting more. The band opened to the title song, this video is from the Barcelona show. Nine days after our gig, Bruce played to 300,000 people in East Berlin and the gig was broadcast live on GDR state TV and radio. This resonated for me because my parents took me to GDR Berlin in 1973 when I was 15. Mum was on a JS Bach pilgrimage, one of the things I remember was the border control confiscating a rock magazine that I had. Setlist

Then the lights go out and it’s just the three of us 
You me and all that stuff we’re so scared of

Tunnel of Love

Just as I had become completely and irrevocably hooked, Bruce broke up the band, ending his first marriage, embarking on his second with band member Patti Scialfa and starting a family.

1993. 22nd May. By this time, Chris and I had changed the texture of our relationship and I had met Carol. Carol made me mixtapes with Hungry Heart and Out in the Street. All 3 of us went to Milton Keynes to see Bruce with the “other band”. I was sporting a lovely stars and stripes nylon flag and Carol and I got really close to the stage. Setlist

That flag
Not posing or anything. Nice boots, what happened to them?
Not very pleasing whatever Chris was eating. We’d struggled to find anything to eat in MK at all that day. The brown car was later stolen (and torched) from the car park opposite the police station in Leeds while I was at Pride in London

We swore we’d travel darlin’ side by side 
We’d help each other stay in stride 
But each lover’s steps fall so differently 
But I’ll wait for you 
And if I should fall behind 
Wait for me 

If I Should Fall Behind

Tonight I can feel the cold wind at my back
I’m flyin’ high over gray fields my feathers long and black
Down along the river’s silent edge I soar
Searching for my beautiful reward

My Beautiful Reward

What is it about Bruce? I’ve not even got to that part. He’s sexy, he’s funny, he’s real (I don’t personally know that but there are no bad stories about him). He’s a multi millionaire but still has time to talk to his fans, he’s acutely conscious of how he’s got to have his wealth and fame. He has a big ego but isn’t afraid to show his soft side. He’s generous with his bandmates, many of whom have been with him for 40+ years and with other musicians. His politics are left, he has an unpublicised charitable foundation, he gave money to the miners’ wives during the strike. He regularly does fundraisers. He’s withstood depression. He reinvents his music, turning the solid rockers like Born in the USA and Born to Run into acoustic ballads, singing falsetto, switching seamlessly across musical genres. He’s always been a friend to the LGBT community right from the get go and more recently speaking out for gay marriage and for trans rights, actually cancelling a show in North Carolina to show solidarity with those affected by anti trans laws.

1996. Bruce’s solo acoustic Ghost of Tom Joad tour. I failed miserably to get tickets for Manchester Apollo. Chris and I had one of our very rare fallings out over this, I can only remember 3 quarrels in 30 years. On the day of the gig, 28th February, I was to be found standing outside the back gates of the Apollo, for hours and hours in sub zero temperatures in an attempt to get Bruce’s autograph. Because I thought I was still young (I wasn’t) and was definitely still stupid, I wasn’t wearing sufficient clothes. The ground frosted up beneath me. I heard the gig as the amplified acoustic songs seeped through the walls, whilst I waited for Bruce to appear. I waited with a strange bunch of folk. They were the obsessed and the dangerously insane, they made me look like a puppy. I bought an old Born in the USA poster off one of them for £1 so I could be ready for the autograph. This was then sneered at for being out of date. One guy was getting ready to have his arm tattooed once Bruce had written on it. And then, after about 6 hours of freezing to the ground, Bruce was there and I was next to him. I managed to say something on the lines of “I think you’re really great”, he signed my poster, giving me a very deep intense look and that was that. Of course, the poster has pride of place in my bedroom and Chris and I made up very quickly. Setlist

Them smokestacks reachin’ like the arms of God 
Into a beautiful sky of soot and clay

Youngstown
The autograph

1999. Bruce got the E Street Band back together on the Reunion tour. Carol, Chris and I saw the band back on form in the MEN Arena on 1st May. They opened with My Love Will Not Let You Down, which Carol and I played at our civil partnership in 2008. Bruce reinvented The River with a haunting sax intro from Clarence. Setlist

I see you standin’ across the room watchin’ me without a sound
But I’m gonna push my way through that crowd, I’m gonna tear your holy walls down
Tear all your walls down

My love, love, love, love, love, love, will not let you down

My Love Will Not Let You Down

2003. Bruce played the Lancashire County Cricket ground at Old Trafford on 29th May. Carol, Chris and I were in attendance for this gig of The Rising tour. A great gig with some great songs. This was the only time we heard Bruce and Danny play Sandy, a breathtakingly beautiful song. Setlist

Now, the greasers, ah, they tramp the streets or get busted for sleeping on the beach all night
Them boys in their high heels, ah, Sandy, their skins are so white

4th July, Asbury Park (Sandy)

I got seven pictures of Buddha, the prophet’s on my tongue
Eleven angels of mercy sighing over that black hole in the sun

Mary’s Place

2005. Bruce released Devils and Dust, or Drivel and Dirt as Chris and I called it. We weren’t happy with it but still went to see him at the Royal Albert Hall on 27th May. He played some songs I really wanted to hear but I didn’t much like the solo arrangements then, strangely they’ve improved with time. We hung around at the back door for ages but he didn’t come out or rather he’d probably left before we got there. It was steaming hot inside and outside the RAH. Setlist

Out ‘neath the arms of Cassiopeia
Where the sword of Orion sweeps
It’s me and you, Rosie, we’re crackling like crossed wires
You breathing in your sleep

Long Time Coming

2006. Boss time was ramping up. Bruce released the Seeger Sessions folk album. Chris and I loved it. We saw it at the start of the tour at the MEN Arena on 7th May, it was a very intimate show, rough and ready. Setlist

Then we went again to Sheffield 6 months later on 14th November, with Carol, after a rather exciting drive in the rain to the venue. By then the show was much more polished. The band opened with a stunning electrifying version of Blinded by the Light. Setlist

2007. The Magic album and tour. December 12th. Chris and I travelled outside the UK for the first time to see Bruce in Antwerp. A great gig with a real calliope on the stage. The Sportpaleis was a dark venue, like going back to the 70s. The staircases were dark, the seating was in darkness. We had a fun December trip together drinking late in bars. I wrote it up and this blog was born. The blog was a love letter. Now that Chris and Carol have both gone, I don’t really know what it is anymore, or even whether to continue with it. Setlist

2008. We all three went to Old Trafford football ground on 28th May for the Magic tour. Danny Federici had died a few weeks earlier. Setlist

11th October, Carol and I were married (civil partnership which we later backdated and upgraded to a marriage). Dave and his mother Joyce, spoke for Carol, Chris for me. We played My Love Will Not Let You Down.

2009. 3rd July Chris and I travelled to Frankfurt for the Working on a Dream tour. A great show, Chris had brought an inflatable guitar and a sax which we waved around. On the way out, we and the crowd sang the Badlands refrain all the way round the stadium. We then had a fun holiday in the hills, Chris attracting several old men. Setlist. Chris also saw Bruce in London on 28th June. Setlist

Chris in Frankfurt
These got waved a lot

2012. Since the previous tour, Clarence Clemons had died. 27th May, Chris and I were in Cologne for the first of many Wrecking Ball shows. We had a great trip. Chris was very keen to go on a cable car so we bought our tickets and then when we got into it she was less keen. It was a small 2 person car and I was told not to speak. I was quite surprised when it took us over the dual carriageway but we arrived safe and sound. Lucky for us because 5 years later the same cable car system collapsed into the Rhine. Chris was never to know that. Setlist

Cologne
The teeth have closed up now.

Back in 2012 on 22nd June, Carol, Chris and I were in the Etihad Stadium in Manchester. Carol was starting to not be well and was heading towards complete loss of kidney function. It was amazingly wet, rained so hard I could hardly see the M62. I’d got together a picnic which we ate in the car. It was a good show and the last time that Carol got to see Bruce. Setlist

Chris, Jak and Carol. I’m wearing a hat I bought in Koln.
That’s my jacket and my hat, Carol!

2013. Chris and I travelled to Oslo and then Bergen on the mountain railway. We returned to Oslo and arrived early at the Telenor Arena on 29th April. We managed to get into the arena very quickly. As we mounted the stairs, I said “I don’t recognise this version of This Hard Land” and as I said it we realised that Bruce was in the arena playing a warm up. We raced as far as we could get and he played a “pre-show” set just for us and a few hundred others. One of the 4 songs was All That Heaven Will Allow which was prescient for us, he’d also played it the first time we saw him in 1988. Setlist

After the gig
In Bergen

Back in the UK, Chris and I went to Coventry on 20th June for what was to be Chris’s final show. She wasn’t very well that day and it wasn’t the best gig we’d been to, the sound was poor. He started with The Ghost of Tom Joad. Setlist. On 24th July, Bruce opened up the new Leeds Arena and I’d managed to get just one ticket. I went to my first Bruce gig alone and made some friends in the queue. It was good seeing him in a smaller venue. He finished up with a solo Thunder Road. Setlist

Now some may wanna die young man 
Young and gloriously 
Get it straight now mister 
Hey buddy that ain’t me 
‘Cause I got something on my mind 
That sets me straight and walkin’ proud 
And I want all the time 
All that heaven will allow

All That Heaven Will Allow

2014. This was the year Chris got sick.

2016. Bruce was due to play the Etihad in Manchester as part of The River 2016 tour on 25th May. I got tickets and then Andy and I mapped out how to get Chris to the show from Borth. In the end Chris decided not to go because she was too sick. She’d worried about letting me down and she had really wanted to go but I was just sad that she was so ill. I went to the show and cried a lot. Setlist. 23rd July saw me in Gothenburg at the Ullevi stadium on my own, I liked Gothenburg a lot and saw Little Steven from a tram. Setlist. I gave Chris Bruce’s autobiography and it’s the last book she read. Chris knew she was dying and knew she wasn’t going to make it till Christmas.

October 27th, Chris died. She was 63. She requested that we play Bruce at her funeral. We chose Thunder Road, Lift Me Up and Born to Run. At the crematorium we all turned round and asked the man controlling the music to “turn it up” for Born to Run.

Show a little faith, there’s magic in the night
You ain’t a beauty, but hey you’re alright
Oh and that’s alright with me

Thunder Road

2017. Chris’s birthday. We commissioned Marc Treanor to do a sand drawing on Mwnt beach on 22nd August, the drawing was based on Chris’s tattoo. He did and he made a video of the day which he set to Lift Me Up.

Your skin, your hand upon my neck
This skin, your fingers on my skin
This kiss, this heartbeat, this breath
This heart, this heart, this wilderness

Lift me up, darling
Lift me up and I’ll fall with you lift me up
Let your love lift me up

Lift Me Up

2019. 14th January Carol died. She was 58. Although not totally unexpected it was still a shock. She and we were not thinking she would die just when she did. She was still future planning including wanting to see Bruce again. All she’d wanted for her funeral was for it not to be costly. We managed that. We finished up with Out in the Street, which along with Hungry Heart was part of how Carol wooed me. It’s May now and Bruce has released a new single Hello Sunshine (makes me think of Morecambe and Wise and Round the Horne) which I think Chris would have loved and perhaps Carol less so. Carol liked the 3 minute rockers more though she’d always stop and listen when I was playing Bruce. Bruce is still managing to say things that have meaning for me. And now it is just me and him.

When I’m out in the street, oh oh oh oh oh, I walk the way I wanna walk
When I’m out in the street, oh oh oh oh oh, I talk the way I wanna talk

Out In The Street