This is an invitation to my fantasy dinner party that I've wanted to extend since the inception of this series of blogs, but one which I kept putting off writing due to the emotions I was sure it would incite.
Like many folks my age, my first experience of Bowie - born David Robert Jones on 8th January 1947 - was in December 1989. I was at my paternal Grandparents house, and I saw an advert for a movie that was due to air on BBC One Christmas Eve. It looked magical and exciting and I remember telling my Dad and Grandad about what I had seen. Dad made sure to set up the VHS on Christmas Eve for me so we could record it. The movie in question? Labyrinth.
Not Bowie's first foray into acting, in fact he acted in many films and I lost my mind when he popped up as Nicola Tesla in The Prestige (2006), but Labyrinth is the one that introduced me to him; his impeccable song writing, his Anthony Newley inspired way of singing, and his strange and captivating beauty.
From that Christmas Eve, Labyrinth became and has remained one of my favourite films of all time and David Bowie was cemented as one of the true loves of my life.
Such is this love, that the day he died - 10th January 2016 - I received text messages from both my parents and my sister checking I was OK. A month later, I memorialised him with a tattoo on my ribs. My tattoo artist, Lucile, spent so long on this piece; I had asked for a quote to accompany the iconic Ziggy flash, and she researched into Bowie's handwriting and made it look as though he had written it on me himself. He's always close to my heart now.
David started his music career in the early 1960's calling himself Davy (or Davie) Jones. He didn't really feel satisfied with this as his stage name, and he was concerned by the confusion with Davy Jones of The Monkees (or Sabrina the Teenage Witch if you watched this in the 1990's), so he changed his name. There has, and will probably always be, some contention over how his surname is pronounced (is it Bow [like something you tie with a lace or ribbon]-ee, Bow [like something you do in front of a Royal]-ee or is it Boo-ee!?), but one thing that isn't in contention is where he found the name. A Bowie is type of fighting knife, designed in Arkansas by James Bowie in 1830. His surname was pronounced Boo-ee, so this is what the knife is called and this is really how David's surname should be said, but even he stated in 1991 he wasn't sure how to pronounce it!
It seems that it has been agreed that it is pronounced Boh-ee (rhyming with Joey or doughy), and die hard fans will cut you up with a Bowie if you get it wrong...
In 1969, Bowie released 'Space Oddity', and in 1972 he introduced us to the first and possibly the most famous of his alter-egos, 'Ziggy Stardust'. Ziggy "died" in 1973; an ending that was foretold in the songs written & released during that year.
Bowie gave us many other alter-egos in his time on this earth; Major Tom, The Thin White Duke and his version of Pierrot the clown. All characters he inhabited fully, but all were aspects of the real David. Each incarnation of Bowie gave us more and more classic songs and insights into Bowie's political, ethical and spiritual beliefs.
Due to the era in which I first discovered Bowie, the first songs I became acquainted with are not always thought of as some of his best, but they will always be the ones closest to my heart. Songs like China Girl (co written with Iggy Pop in 1977 and originally released by him), Under Pressure with Queen (I adore Queen & Freddie Mercury, but that's a story for another time), Ashes to Ashes (a revisit from Major Tom), Let's Dance (the opening bars of which give me so much joy) & Fashion are those that for me are synonymous with my monumental musical discovery. I missed out on the Tin Machine years, and didn't get massively into what he released in between that and the final 2 albums. As is typical of me, and I suppose everyone who grows up, my musical tastes changed. I was bullied a lot for something of the things I was into, so, as is also typical for me, I moved towards what everyone else was listening to at the time (a reminder here - you do you!). Some of these genres and bands I still love today, much of it I question! However, a remix of the 1984 "Loving the Alien" by The Scumfrog released in 2002 reminded me of the deep love I had for Bowie and I am so glad it did.
Speeding ahead a few more years to the release of The Next Day (2013). I remember seeing the video to the song "Where are We Now?" and having this really weird emotional response to it. I loved the re-use of the 'Heroes' album cover for this album.
This is where this blog starts to get more difficult. We start drawing to a close and I have what my friend Charlotte calls 'Bowie melancholy'.
In 2016, on Bowie's 69th birthday, the album Blackstar was released. An album largely recorded in secret and was described by Tony Visconti (longtime friend and co-producer) as David's parting gift to his fans. I remember downloading this album on the train on my way home from work the day is was released, caring not a jot that I was using up all my data! Seeing the video for Lazarus you realised how ill he was, yet, that he was suffering with liver cancer wasn't shared with the public until after his death. Two days after Blackstar's release.
In case you're wondering, I am fighting back tears at this point.
OK, I've pulled myself together now.
I've talked about the contention over the pronunciation of his name, but I've not talked about his eyes. There is a general consensus that David suffered with heterochromia (the medical name for having two different coloured irises), however, this wasn't the case. Following a fight over a girl when he was 15, David was punched in the eye causing what is medically known as anisocoria - the permanent change of the pupil; for David, even after multiple eye surgeries, one of his pupils would forever remain dilated. Interestingly, many years later I was talking about Bowie with an old boss of mine, who casually mentioned he knew the girl that Bowie and his friend George were fighting over! The six degrees of separation between him and I shrank massively that day, and I very nearly lost my shit in the middle of our office!
I've given a bit of a potted history of Bowie, and hopefully I've not got any of my 'facts' wrong, but apart from basically swooning, I've not really mentioned why I would invite him for dinner.
I would love to get him to sing and ask what it was about Anthony Newley (for those of you who don't know, Anthony Newley was an actor, singer & songwriter famous in the 50s, 60s and 70s. Famous for co-writing the score to Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory and, incidentally, married Joan Collins in 1963. They divorced 7 years later.) that made him imitate his voice and create this signature sound. I would love to talk to him about his son Duncan (aka Zowie Bowie) who is one of my favourite film directors (hello, Moon anyone!?) and his daughter Lexi. I would like to hear him speak about his wife, Iman. You could see how much they loved each other. I would want to ask him what prompted him to write the musical, Lazarus; what happened to his faith - he famously said the Lord's Prayer on stage at the Freddie Mercury memorial concert, but then later described himself as an atheist - and whether he was still as spiritual as he used to be (he wanted to become a Buddhist monk, but was told "you don't want to be a Buddhist, you need to follow music"). I would like to discuss with him if he felt that Ziggy's androgynous bisexual nature has helped in assisting those who are struggling with their sexuality and / or gender identity? I personally feel like Bowie made it so OK to be who you are regardless of your sexuality or how you identify or how you dress.
I won't lie, this blog has been a really hard one for me to write. Throughout I am reminded of the fact I never got to see him perform live and that I never will, reminded that there will be no more music from him, reminded too that I am no longer that 7-year old with that sense of excitement and awe, but thankful that I was able to experience that movie at that time in my formative years.
I really wanted to express here how deep my love of Bowie is, but it was also important that I write something that was interesting and flowing. I am not sure I've achieved any of those things here; it feels more staccato and less legato than I had hoped.
I would love to have David Bowie over for dinner, for all the reasons I mention above, because I love him, and simply to thank him for being Jareth.
"Through dangers untold and hardships unnumbered, I have fought my way here to the castle beyond the goblin city to take back the child that you have stolen. For my will is as strong as yours and my kingdom is as great. You have no power over me."
A long time ago, I started a blog series around having a fantasy dinner party and who I would invite (alive or dead or imaginary!). It's been a while since I posted, but it was such a fun thing to write about so I thought I would resurrect it and start inviting some more people over for dinner. A nice thing to do considering we've not been able to have anyone over for dinner for over a year due to COVID-19!
You can see who the first 10 guests are by visiting the Fantasy Dinner Party posts here.
I would love to hear who you would invite over for dinner - let me know in the comments!
This is a strange one. I don’t know if I’ll even post this as I feel like It could be a little too personal, even for me. Also, it’s likely to be such a massive brain dump that it probably won’t make any sort of sense! I know everyone is struggling during this pandemic and there is also a lot to be thankful for during these really strange and scary times, but I’ve definitely found more recently that because I’ve had so much time not working and essentially spending WAY too much time in my own head, I’m struggling even more…
I feel like at the moment I’m piling so much pressure on myself to make myself “something” during lockdown. Like, because I have the time, I should be building an empire, if that makes any sense? I have done several courses over the duration of the pandemic firstly because I like learning and secondly, I guess, to try to make myself “something”. Most of the courses have been photography based as I’ve been interested in photography since I was little - my dad is a keen photographer and he used to turn our tiny bathroom in our little council flat into a dark room at weekends and I would be fascinated by how the negatives were processed and how the images would appear magically on a blank piece of paper after being bathed in different solutions. A number of years ago I bought a Nikon DSLR promising myself I would take up the hobby, but when the first few shots didn’t turn out like I had seen them in my head, I put the camera away. I ended up giving it away as a gift to someone else I thought might get some use out of it. Not sure they ever did to be honest, and whilst I still feel it was a really special gift to give to someone else, I kinda wish I hadn’t parted with it..
When we opened the restaurant, I wanted to spend time doing a bit of marketing and keeping our social media looking great, so rather than just constantly using my iPhone (photos on which never really look the way I anticipate either), I invested in a LUMIX so we could try to get some decent photos. Sadly, all my time was swallowed by actually running the restaurant, so the photography once again fell by the wayside. When lockdown 1.0 started, I decided to do a course to see if I could improve my skills. It was in depth and interesting and whilst I learned a lot, I couldn’t really figure out how to translate what I had learned to my LUMIX (as it’s not a DSLR), so once again, the camera got shelved.
Now, in lockdown 3.0, wanting to pick the camera up again I found myself a photography challenge. 30 days of different things to take photos of. Sounds easy, right? Nope. I can’t bring myself to do it. I keep thinking about it. I have ideas for how I want the photos to look, there are effects shots I want to try out, but I just can’t seem to get my ass in gear and pick up the camera. It sits on the shelf next to my Instax (which I also don’t use) daring me to use it, but I can’t. I can’t let go of this terror that I will be shit at it; even though I know deep down that it doesn’t matter and if I enjoy it that’s the main thing, but I want to be good at it! I think there is an element of me that has been interested in it for so long that if I start trying to do it “properly” I’m just going to be useless and get angry with myself and then the camera is going to get put away again. Or worse. I’m also weirdly embarrassed. I don’t want to start setting up the camera and taking weird self-portraits or still lives because I don’t want Tony to look at me like I’m some kind of lunatic. Despite the fact that I’m 100% myself around him and know he loves me, there are certain things I don’t want to do in front of him because I feel utterly stupid and strange. I can’t talk to camera if he is there even though I really wanted to get into making vlogs. It’s nothing he’s done and he’s super supportive, it’s just how my ridiculous brain works.
Thing is, the photography thing is just the tip of the iceberg. I feel the same about pretty much everything I do, or want to do. I want to be a wine/spirits expert and writer, and I study all the time, I write notes on every wine I drink, yet suddenly it feels like everyone else is a wine expert and has a million (I over-exaggerate here for effect) followers overnight and those closest to me suddenly seem to have more expertise than me without even trying, and share it confidently and articulately and I just feel like the rug has been pulled out from under me. It’s like no matter how hard I try, I’ll never be the expert I want to be. In any field.
The question I suppose is this; is it that I am truly not very good at any of these things and I am right to put the camera away and let other people be the expert I wish I was, or is it that I could be good at all these things but just don’t let myself be? I was once told by a therapist that I have a fear of both failure and success and I think this still prevails. It’s easier not to do things because then I don’t have to worry about being shit at them, and equally, if I succeed, I’ll beat myself up over the fact that it wasn’t really me that succeeded and it was all just a bit of a fluke. Additionally, if I succeed and get all the things I want (or think I want), then what? Everything I’ve been telling myself for the last 38 years was a lie and actually I am good at something?
Don’t be ridiculous, I am definitely right about the fact I’m useless.
And the cycle continues.
Strangely, it doesn’t even matter if I enjoy something, I still don’t seem to be able to let myself go. I have always wanted to learn to roller skate, so for Christmas Tony& I bought each other roller skates. He used to skate a lot when he was younger so was, of course, bloody brilliant and I was in awe. (It’s amazing seeing someone who is good at what they do, isn’t it?!). I managed to actually skate but wasn’t exactly good, and even though I had the best time; I just felt like a scared kid who didn’t know what the heck to do with themselves. My knees were locked and my body rigid; uptight and tightly-wound. Thing is, I feel like that every day. I wake up and am petrified of everything I’m doing. I run a people-facing business but I’m still terrified of talking to people. I make drinks, but I’m still nervous I don’t make them very well. I watch constantly for signs that the drink is going to be sent back to the bar to be remade. I talk about wine and I still feel like I’m just making shit up and that one day I’ll get found out. That’s called ‘imposter syndrome’, right?
I know I’m not the only person who feels this way. I’m intrigued, however, why we feel this way. Is it “instagram” culture that has forced us to feel like we should be doing more and more and more? I don’t think so. No, it doesn’t help, but looking back, I’ve been suffering with this since before mobile phones.
Yes, I’m that old.
Where does it stem from?
Is it because my older sister is super clever and it made me feel like I wasn’t good enough because I wasn’t moved up a year at school? (Not her fault, she’s amazing)
Is it because I didn’t like the same music as all my friends at school and got bullied because of it? (Kids are arseholes)
Is it because I was, for a short time, a better singer than my peers and they all rallied against me and as a result, wasn’t allowed to be the lead in any of the school shows. (I repeat, kids are arseholes)
Maybe it is all these things, maybe it is none of these things and I’m yet to pinpoint the start of the issue. Or maybe I’m just wired wrong.
I think we all want to feel special, and like we are good at something. We want to feel like what we are doing makes some sort of difference in the world around us; to find our niche - that thing that we don’t mind doing each and every day even if sometimes it is really hard - but is this just a pipe dream for the majority of us? It’s beginning to feel that way.
As usual with these kind of brain dump blogs, this has ended in a different place than it started. Perhaps this is why I’ll never be the writer I want to be - too much verbal diarrhoea and not enough structured prose.
Oh, and by the way, the camera is still sitting on the shelf mocking me.
So I get that this is not one of my usual posts, but felt the need to share. I have a stack of wines to review and I will post those soon, I promise (we were lucky enough to have a fine wine tasting this week, and I will post about each and every wine), but I’ve really struggled to get my head on straight and my arse in gear to do much recently. Anyone else feeling like this lockdown is so much harder than the first two? I’ve definitely felt that my mental health is suffering so much more than it has done before.
I’ve been consoling myself with re-watching (for probably the 50th time) Sex and the City, and I was actually really excited to hear that they are bringing it back under the name “And Just Like That”. (Although without Kim Cattrall’s character, Samantha Jones, as it is a well-known fact that she and Carrie Bradshaw actress, Sarah Jessica Parker do NOT like each other, which I’m both saddened and buoyed by as Samantha was never really my favourite character - although I can’t lie and say she was my least favourite. That was Miranda...) I’m finding it strange rewatching the show now being in my 30’s (worryingly, there’s only a very short amount of time I am going to be able to continue to say that) and still feeling like I did when I watched it when I was 16 - I desperately want Carrie’s wardrobe, her job as a writer (not that I want to write a column about sex, I hasten to add, but I would love to have a weekly [I would even take monthly!] column in a paper or magazine and have the opportunity to write for a huge publication like Carrie does with Vogue and then have my articles released as a book of essays), and a cool name like hers (sorry Mum & Dad; have always struggled with that) - but also realising how utterly impossible their lives are and how much of a horrible cow Carrie actually is! Ha! I still love the show though, and if nothing else, I use it as wardrobe inspiration! The thing is, though, despite the fact that the SATC characters are as fucked up as the next person (if not more so), they are also a group of strong, independent women, who know what they want and go for it and don’t actually let anyone else tell them they can’t do it, nor do they let people tell them what they can or can’t wear! One of my favorite lines from the show is Carrie saying “I wanted to be a writer’ I made myself a writer. I want a ridiculously expensive pair of shoes, I find a way to buy them”. This is kind of a good lesson for all of us I feel; we all hold ourselves back too much. If we want something we should go for it.
I can’t help but wonder (see what I did there!) what they will do in this new series now the characters are older and married with kids. After 2 relatively mediocre movies, it’ll be interesting to see the show back on the small screen and where Carrie, Charlotte and Miranda are now and I hope that they can still teach us a few life lessons about being strong women and not just being desperate to find a man!
What are your thoughts on the return of show?
I’ve always been torn on super visible tattoos. I’ve always loved them, but never thought I would get them, based on the fact that a) I was only ever going to get 1 tattoo (how quickly that changed!) and b) I was in jobs that really didn’t allow for them. The ones on my arms had to be covered, so I spent a lot of time in long sleeves. When I started working for a firm that didn’t care about me having tattoos I began to think more about the more visible places, then when I started working for myself, that thought began to take more of a hold.
After a while of these thoughts going round and round in my head, I simply thought “fuck it!” and I decided to go for it.
It’s taking me a while to get use to them, I won’t lie - but I’m definitely thrilled with them. Plus, if anyone does make negative comments about them, I’ll just flip them the finger.