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.
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.
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
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.
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?
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 1985Growin’ 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
I didn’t lose Carol, I didn’t carelessly forget where I had put her. She didn’t pass away or pass, to where? The words around death smooth and soften the unpalatable. Is death so frightening we can’t talk about it for what it is? Well, it’s certainly not a picnic in the park.
Today I’ve been musing on how long we had to get used to the idea that Carol was dying, it was about 6 days. Some don’t get that long and there is no better or worse. We all knew she had a shorter life expectancy than most but that didn’t actually make it better. We all knew she’d been on a downward trajectory since having to stop dialysing at home and the subsequent loss of her independence. But the days before her brain haemorrhage she and I had been out on a day trip, we’d had a friend round for a meal, we’d planned what we’d like to do in my new life of redundancy (now retirement, bugger working again).
So looking back 3 months it was a shock. We had to implement Carol’s decision about what she wanted her end to be and that was the hardest and the easiest thing ever. Easy because she was so clear about what she wanted and what she definitely didn’t want. Easy because I didn’t want her not to have the life she wanted. Hard because I love her and have loved her for so long.
Carol’s death was peaceful and it also had a beauty. I feel privileged to have held her hand as her bodily systems closed down and stopped. She came awake for the last minute before death. She looked a bit surprised but in a good way. A bit like when I’d given her a surprise present that she really hadn’t been expecting. And then, Carol definitely wasn’t there anymore.
I didn’t lose Carol but I have lost the daily momentum of our life together. There’s no longer anyone to talk rubbish to or to deal with the random irritations (like power cuts) of daily life. The trivia, the stupid jokes. She gave me a fridge magnet that reads “My husband gives me sound advice, 99% sound and 1% advice!” I don’t miss the relentless tedium of kidney disease and all the associated admin and clutter and medical appointments, but I miss the games we played to soften the hardness of our life.
I’m a bit unsure what my safety net consists of now. Counselling has helped me for the last 5 years but surely at some point I must stand on my own 2 feet. Literally. Breaking my leg has shown me so many lovely friends and family who have stepped up and helped me practically, each in ways that made sense for them and for me. Brilliant.
Widowhood is throwing up unforseen aspects for my consideration.
Loneliness. I’d read about the lonely husbands and wives deserted by their friends, especially their friends in couples. And it’s ok, that’s not an issue. The friends I want and need are those who have stepped up and some are indeed in couples. At the moment what I’m missing is someone with whom to share the trivia of my life. Well, hello Facebook!
Dog. I need a dog. Even my GP suggested a dog. What you have to know is that I don’t like dogs. I don’t want to be face licked or jumped on (by a dog) and I want to be able to come and go according to me. I’m happy for you to have a dog or even dogs. That’s not the issue.
Work. It’s not all it’s cracked up to be. Work mates are great, especially the ones you still really want to see when you’re not working. But driving in the dark, 4 hour meetings, endless emails about blah blah blah. I have too much to do for me and I am my own boss now.
Angels. These are vital. R said he has 2 angels who look out for him and who are there when he needs them. I have my own 2 angels.
Birthday. I worried about having a first (61st) birthday with no gifts on the day. L said “No problem, Carol will still give you a gift, just you have to buy it”. Perfect. So I have a dvd to watch, new Levi 501s and some CKs.
I can break the patterns. F said I can do just what I want. I can change my mind. F said “don’t do anything you don’t want to do”.
Bereaved, bereft. Cast adrift. The weft (and the fairly warped) are untangling.
28 days after Carol has died and of course I’m still walking around the too quiet house weeping and wailing, talking to him, he’s not saying anything, talking to the stuffed toys who talk back.
Officially this trip started on January 14th. It had already started when I didn’t know if I was coming home to dead Carol or sleeping Carol and that was back near the end of 2017. We were no longer 2 individuals but joined differently with a radically altered connection, skewed, warped.
Today I thought about baking bread, tears because I’d said I would make more bread as he liked the Christmas bread so much. And this is how it works.
Mostly my thoughts are back to the beginning, when we were young and good looking and full of life and sex.
I’m full up of labels, I became a widow(er) when I registered the death. On the same day my job ended and I became what? retired? not by choice. Unemployed? yes, but I do still have part time work. Cast adrift, in no man’s land. The space is immense. The vastness overwhelming. During the 2 weeks of Carol’s unconsciousness before he died, I became a wife and so did he. We’d never been wives before in our marriage. It wasn’t the right time to have a discussion about the labels, I was glad to be a wife that was fine in those moments. After Carol died in the hospital bed, immediately after, I was excommunicated entirely when the senior sister nominated Carol’s best friend Dave as his/her partner. And failed to apologise profusely, or even just a tiny little bit. Written out completely, no label at all. I so needed that label, just at that moment.