To even begin this post, I guess I have to let you know that I spent a great deal of my early teenage years watching music videos. I recorded the ones I enjoyed (and occasionally, the ones my parents loved too) and wore a groove through tape upon tape rewatching them. My brother and sister, growing up at the time, watched with me and we eventually had a good 30 or 40 hours of music to choose from. The tapes became background noise for my folks and my mother got really adept at knowing when her favourites were coming up.
“Oi, where’s my Boy George?”, she would yell whilst cooking dinner. I would yell back “not on that tape” and she’d go “humpfff” as she knew damn well I’d fast forwarded through whichever one was setting my teeth on edge at the time. My father would moan about the noise but after I caught him tapping his feet to Bon Jovi, we never quite believed his objections again.
There were some songs that captivated us … I still recall the look of glee on my brother’s face when Gun’s & Roses’ November Rain was first played on the telly – he was so pleased he’d taped it, he came down the path to meet me as I came in from work (ahem, yes my music video pastime survived my teenage years). Living in a very sheltered society, where porn was banned, movie violence strictly monitored and life was mostly led along very straight lines, it was pretty amazing that November Rain was even played at all. The first bit of it was about 2 minutes long and we watched it over and over. Every time it got airtime, we got a bit more and I think we had about 7 different bits on different tapes by the time they stopped.
It should come as no surprise that I love Youtube. Most of my favourites are available to watch any damn time I want and it often serves as background to whatever I am doing today.
We were a very different family I guess. Living in a society which bound people to places and lives by the mere fact of the colour of their skin and being against that, set us apart. Being allowed to be unique and eccentric, that set us apart too. I don’t know any of my friends who were allowed to play music the way we did.
I had my own reasons for feeling alien, even within my own family and school was an absolute nightmare of girls and fashion and cliques of people I could never hope to emulate, never mind get close to in any way. I ended up with a life outside of home and school that bore no relation to the age I was.
And it is no surprise that, despite the fact I live 5,000 miles from my immediate blood relatives, we still bond over music and music videos.
Besides blood and genes, we have one more, very important commonality. My sister and I share an ability to live completely in the moment. My parents would much rather have sat and spent time round a barbecue with food, laughs, alcohol and friends than sit in church with a bunch of straight-laced white people. My father spent years waking us up at 4am, bundling us up in our winter clothes and driving us an hour to the beach he and Mom spent part of their honeymoon at, to watch the sun come up.
I still love watching the sun come up and go down and watching the moon rise. I remember hours spent watching for satellites and shooting stars with my Dad, lying back in the damp grass and I can still show you Orion and Venus in the night sky
We had no money but every now and again, my Dad would decide that we were going to have breakfast in a hotel. So off we’d drive, early morning again, in our smart clothes and land on one of the poshest hotels for their buffet breakfast.
We did really impulsive things like this and you know, I still do it. I might watch the sun come up in a different part of the land or spend hours sitting in the dark, listening to nature around me. I’d much rather spend time with friends than do my housework and I’d much rather cuddle a cat than watch the X factor.
Tonight my sister took her boyfriend to a restaurant my parents loved and only got to go on really special occasions. It is a lovely Italian restaurant, in the heart of our hometown, with a revolving top, so as you look out, the view changes from moment to moment.
About once every year or two, Mom and Dad would go there together. My Mom spent a few years in Italy as a dancer before she got married and loved it, came home Italianised and stayed that way. After 30 years, I took her back to Turino to see her friend and her Italian was just as good. So maybe that’s why my folks were memorable. Or maybe it was just for all those years that they went there, they were still so deeply in love.
My sister took her boyfriend there tonight to celebrate 10 months of a wonderful relationship. The barman took one look at her and said … “are you Fred Jenkin’s daughter?”. My Dad has been dead nearly 6 years, my mother 4 months. But he remembered them.