(Planet Me)
Monday, June 27, 2011
The Wild Ones

It started in a way that I could never have imagined.

A long time ago, I liked a band. I liked a lot of bands. There were a handful that I took to heart. Certain bands became part of my life, my romance, my escape. Put on the cassette walkman, and there I am. In a different world. These days, its an MP3 player. A mobile phone.

Before the internet, in the long gaps between records, when the fix was a 12” or a CD single and a couple of extra songs came out, I survived by the old fashioned tape trading network. Where people recorded cassettes from each other on big cassette players -not high speed, because that introduced hiss, and on metal tapes if you were an audio snob – wrote a tracklist onto a bit of paper – not the J-Card – and stuck it in an envelope, and waited for it to arrive through the postbox in the morning.

If I couldn't get a connection to the world of tapes flying around the postboxes of the country, there was another option. And that was, on Saturdays go to Record Fairs and buy rare recordings, on cassette. £5 a tape or 3 for £12. In strangely coloured sleeves, with photos cut out from newspapers and typewriter font track listings, mass produced on cassettes. Through these means – and the postbox stuffed with jiffy bags made of tape – I heard songs I live with now for the first time : Suede's “Young Men” or an acoustic version of “Lazy” recorded in Tower Records in Haifa, Israel, in June 1995.

As it happened, the first time I met the woman I share my life with now was through these : the now obselete tape trading network. We exchanged letters. Cassettes of pop groups and bizarre indie music, championed at page 38 of the NME in their live show reviews. Every Wednesday I would go to WH Smiths. Every morning my postbox might contain that elusive Suede show from Brighton in 1994 when the seats collapsed. (I know the show exists, because I found a tape with 5 songs from it as filler at the end of another show).

When we met, there was something. Something huge I could not explain. I had no idea how to define it, but it wasn't something I really had ever known before - or since. Certainly I've met people, and fallen for them like a man would when he jumps out of a crashing plane without a parachute. But this was different. This was something far more intense, and crazy. This girl lived one hundred and fifty miles away. Our lives were different. I was – at the time we met – in and out of relationships. I thought we could never be the way I wanted us to be. That the circumstances of life were such that we could be who we wanted to be – trapped by money, and distance, and where we were in our lives, which were two very different places. I was drawn to this soul, a warm, funny, incisive person who could make me see a world I never knew existed with a simple turn of language. I couldn't quit. My mind always returned to them : a place that I instinctively knew I belonged. Nothing ever felt quite as right. In other places, other times, other people, the world felt OK : and life itself is not a place I would want to settle for OK. With other worlds there was a chink in the curtain that let in the shadow of doubt. Here not so. The only shadow was that our lives were in different places physically and in terms of age.


Right people. Wrong time.

Ultimately, I couldn't stop. The time we spent together was rare, beautiful. It was almost an overdose. I tried to stop thinking about this amazing, fascinating person I had met, who I liked, and who liked me, but who – I felt – we could never be together. I hadn't enough power to change my life. I met other people. My life carried on, but in my heart, I knew that this person was the one who believed in me when no one else did and who trusted me when I had nothing but myself. Always there. She saw things in me no one else could see. I got so used – and used is not the right word – but tolerant of never being together, yet both of us wanting to be, that when an opportunity arose, it took me a long time before I knew it.

I found myself, on more than one occasion, outside of a relationship, and immediately, she helped me pick up the pieces, carry on, survive. Even to such simple tasks as coming to help with DIY. I basked in this love, and adored her. But I at the end, we had to go back to our respective lives – the study she breathed, the job I had and the flat I was renting – but always at the back of my mind, I wanted more. I wanted to wake up with this person every day, but had spent years not being able to, and now began to think I never could.

We all get to the same place eventually. Though it does take years to all arrive there. We get there by different means, at different speeds.

On the way to my first marriage, she rang me. She knew I wasn't sure. It wasn't the right thing. But it was set in stone.

The second marriage – all she wanted for me to be happy. Even, to an extent, at the cost of her own. That also, was what I wanted. To see her happy, even if I wasn't. So many things happened, and she was there. So many things happened, and she wasn't there, and I wish she was part of my life, there with me, when those moments happened. When I was sitting at home, bruised and battered by an ex-partner, my world in pieces, and ready to go to A&E with a fractured wrist, it was her who came and helped me through the darkness.

As is no surprise, and old news, my then-wife and I seperated.

And then it happened. We happened. And it's still happening. It is everything I have hoped for. Everything I hoped we could be, we are. I've never known anything quite like it. She's just a girl. I'm just a boy. And we're just two humans. But of all the people in the world, all of the things that could ever happen, the world brought us together. It was a long journey, with little sense at times, and strange and arcane twists and turns, but it did bring us together, and everything I thought, and my heart told me might just be, is.

I feel like the richest man in the world. Even going to the shops is an adventure. My life is not perfect. But knowing this, I am so much richer than I thought I could be. It's a miracle. A little, small, everyday miracle. But it's my life.


And we have a boy in this, who is all our dreams. I never dared think that this, that girl, and I could be together. That we sit next to each other as if it is the most ordinary thing in the world – but it isn't. That I come home from work through my front door, and there she is, and there he is – our little boy, made of dreams and snot. I'm amazed I get to be his daddy. I'm amazed I also get to be my other son's daddy. Those two guys are brilliant, fun, loving, and caring. And the fact is, my life is all my ambitions. All I ever wanted to be was to enjoy my life and be happy. I don't often say this : but I finally seem to have found what I was looking for in my life. There is no longer a gnawing sense that life isn't right.

I have a philosophy : there's no point trying anything less than your best. No point settling for mediocrity. The talents I have in life will give me opportunity : my ambition is for that talent to take me as far as I can in changing the world in small ways – to be as good a person as I can be, to be as positive an influence I can be, to change the world in ways we may not be able to see. But to know that these boys will grow, become men, be the love of someone's life, someone else's father, someone else's husband, someone else's hero, and to know that at home and at work, I made a difference – even if its one we don't see in our lifetime – that is what matters. And, when I come home, I have the girl of my dreams.

When no one else believed in me, she did. And when I had nothing, she believed in me. And I believed in her. And between us, we believe.

“Well, I haven't always been a perfect person
I haven't done what mom and dad have dreamed
But on the day I'll die I'll say 'At least I fucking tried!'
That's the only eulogy I need.”

(Frank Turner, Eulogy)

What a beautiful love story! It appears that, no matter how much it didn't seem like it at the time, the two of you were meant to be.
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