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.

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

Pillar 1st April 2018

This trip had been a long time coming. In 2010 Chris and I had a Lakeland Adventure around Ennerdale Water where we wild camped then stayed in Ennerdale YH and finished up in the Castle Inn on Bassenthwaite Lake for a proper treat. We discussed climbing Pillar and how we would do it.

In 2014, we returned to Ennerdale and walked to Black Sail YH and then Chris got sick. It was very sudden and very clear that we were not going to climb Pillar that day. So we changed our plans and did some other things. She was such a tough woman that she did go up Catbells the next day albeit very very slowly but she was so determined to do it. That was the last mountain she climbed.

I went to Wasdale in 2015 and tried to ascend from the other side. I hadn’t allowed enough time and my boot lace disintegrated and although I had a good walk that day, Pillar was just a stretch too far.

Easter 2018: I booked a break on Derwent Water. I set it up so that I had a choice of 3 possible days to walk and I would just take the best of the 3 from the weather forecasts. The first day had very limited visibility on the tops, day 2 was looking good and day 3 looking very pants. I opted for the Sunday.

I drove round from Portinscale where I was staying to Wasdale Head, an hour’s drive. Parked up with no problems near the campsite. And then just walked. You have to go quite a long way in what feels like and is completely the wrong direction but that’s so as to avoid things like the screes. So it’s up to the Black Sail Pass and then basically back along and up and up, including a sort of knarly, knobbly knot which was hands on and fun. It’s a good long walk and always another bit to do but after 3 hours I got to the top and just the top plateau was snow covered, I knew it was a plateau but with the name Pillar you are expecting something else! There is Pillar Rock which is a climbing challenge and why the place is called Pillar. Fantastic 360 views of the sea, Ennerdale Water and Sellafield!

The last of Chris’s ashes are now scattered on the top of the mountain she didn’t reach in life.

I had planned to do a circuit but it looked a lot more snowy ahead so I returned via the same route because I was on my own.

Derwent Water

Derwent Water

Pillar

Ennerdale Water from Pillar

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