Bibelots

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Category: influences

People who have left their mark on me, damn them and love them, every one.

Mixed feelings

blank cassette

mixed music,
mixed feelings

Music is a gift. That part I’m sure of.

Hearing music, being able to play it, singing it beautifully or singing it as if no-one else exists in the world. Tapping it out, hearing it as you run your fingers along a fence, sensing it in the pulse of another. Feeling it. It all blends to a sweet and personal harmony.

Music is everywhere and it’s a joy.

But there’s a gift that I miss. Or sometimes think that I do. A package of music that’s had its time.

A million years ago, there was the mixtape.

You could make your own; tape recorder shoved up hard against the radio, finger hovering on the worn red record button, waiting for that song. You know the one. It kept you up at night, trying to remember the words. It made your heart ache, when it came on air. Or it made you want to dance. You couldn’t not dance.

An enthusiastic friend might gift a mixtape to you. A box full of the sounds they wanted you to love. Maybe they were trying to cure you of your poppy, synthy, electronic ways. Maybe it was so that you might one day fall for their kind of music, or even fall for them. I always fell in love with the songs, but it never cured me. A good mixtape could blow my mind. It opened musical doors. Hell, a great one could unearth entire musical cities.

There are different ways to do this now. Digital ways. Shared playlists, and radio stations that like to think they know what you want. The word mixtape has taken on its own life and lots of folk use it to mean the mix, not the media. But, for me, this hasn’t replaced what’s gone. It still does and always will mean a cassette with a wound up gift of sound.

I miss it, absolutely. But that’s not to say I miss the technology. I guess that’s it – what I’m not so sure of. Cassette tapes were thick with imperfections. They wore out. Got tangled up. Unravelled and jammed. Yet there’s a little piece of that imperfect mess that I long for. The last few seconds of the captured next song. The slow devolve of the sounds and words of your favourite track; your most adored bit of tape.

It doesn’t make sense that I miss this. At the time, it annoyed me. Drove me mad. Made me swear and throw things. All the same, these imperfections are what made those songs uniquely mine. No-one else heard these songs in the same way that I did. Not the same order, not the same quality, not even the same loss through overuse and over-love.

And that little nest, that non-robotic soup is, I think, what made this music last. I can still see my favourite tape. My favourite song. That friend’s handwriting. The day the tape broke. Too much heart, too much worship.

As the world around me seeks for more and more stylised perfection, I guess that’s what I miss. A little box of chaos, music and imperfect love.

The love of words

A firewoman in full gear


  A fiery woman: ‘brandweervrouw’
Image via Nationaal Archief

Funny, isn’t it.

People sometimes say that names don’t hold meaning. That they don’t define you. But they can. And in the age of the internet, usernames are an opportunity to add meaning to who you are. Yes, my name is Rosalie. It’s a name I was given. It’s nice. It’s got rhythm. It’s not too common. Often though, when people call me by it, I wonder who they’re talking about. Rose, I’ll go by sometimes. That’s nice and short. But it’s still pretty floral. Sometimes Rosa, if I’m so inclined. In reality, that’s just playing with form.

Ever since the internet came along, I’ve had usernames that aren’t my actual name. More often than not, they don’t disclose gender. Sometimes they deliberately play with age. Beyond that, there’s barely any thought put into them. I’ve had a tiger, an item of clothing, a waterbird and quite a selection of sentences. They all seemed nice at the time. The ones that lasted are the ones who attracted their own audience. On and off through time, an occasional username has stuck and held its own. I don’t entirely understand why. I do know what a gift it is. That it allows me to play with my sense of self.

I’m not sure that the playfulness comes only from the name out front. Sometimes the label can begin to define the person inside. But these names, they’re honestly about what lies underneath. The strong names. The hard names. The silly names. The lovely and the loving names; they’re all me. Or aspects of me.

In a time when privacy is being eroded and identity is claimed to be about trust, this is when I want most to protect these names. Not just for me, but for every single person that needs to breathe. That needs protection. That should be given a space to play, grow and live.

When I went with the username @theloveofwords some years ago, I was working hard to find a way to spend more time with words. I was playing with them, and writing more during the day and creating more at night. So, on a whim I went with my heart. A heart full of words. I wasn’t hiding who I am. After all, here it is, it’s me. But, as ever, it’s a version of me. It is not the whole of me, but it often becomes a very large part of who I am.

No. These names were never just a name. I would only be fooling myself. It was never nothing. Every time, it was about the little things that I love. This time, it was about the words. All of them, big and small.

I do spend more time walking among the wild, wild words now. It wasn’t an accident. I’ve worked hard. And this latest name has made it fun. It calls to me. The words too; they call to me. They define me. What this is, is love.

Yours

The love of words

I REMEMBER

a book signed by terry pratchettI remember the day I met Sir Terry Pratchett.

He wasn’t a sir then, but he was already popular. I live on the wrong side of the turtle, so I’d been reading him for many years before I had the chance to meet him in the flesh.

I can still see his face, the room, the books.

Terry had been signing those books all day. He was short-tempered because his hand hurt. He should have been furious. We ask so much of authors like him. Terry looked at me suspiciously when I told him my name. He wrote it down, but seemed certain I’d made it up in some way. I’d been in an accident the night before, so I can imagine how I looked. The staff of the bookshop had kindly given me a chair to sit on as I waited in the queue and I was sleepy from the painkillers. I remember the eyebrow he raised as I approached. I remember it and I treasure it.

It wasn’t a very long wait as book-signings go, but it didn’t matter. I would have waited an eternity.

When I heard of his death this morning, I found I couldn’t move. It wasn’t a surprise, but it was devastating all the same.

I thought all day about when to write this post. I thought it might be better if I left it until I’m less angry. Less lost. And then I re-read Neil Gaiman’s article on the angry man that was Terry Pratchett.

‘I rage at the imminent loss of my friend. And I think, “What would Terry do with this anger?” Then I pick up my pen, and I start to write.’
Neil Gaiman

I also read Scott Lynch’s furious There is no Past Tense of Terry Pratchett. So, anger and sadness be damned – here I am.

I’m not angry that Terry has left the world so soon. If there was anyone that could fight Death, it was him. I doubt he left quietly.

I’m not angry that the Discworld has stopped at Raising Steam. What a gift it was. The finest of books in the finest of series. How can I be angry in the face of such of riches.

I could never be angry for the words he left behind. There are so damned many. And they can never be erased. If they burnt every book and tried to erase him from the libraries, the orangutangs and I would still hold his memory. Perhaps not every word – not exactly as it spilled across the page – but the way of his words, his way of seeing things, and the way he could shine a light upon an otherwise upside-down world.

His works don’t stop here. They can’t stop. His words and his worlds live on. His fans, to who he was so giving and so generous, will carry them always.

We will be forever grateful.

So, why am I angry? I’m angry for the way that we lost him. That we had to lose him at all. What I want to say here, falls apart. I stare at this paragraph and the screen blurs. It is futile and it is anger. It is loss.

Since my teenage years, Terry has been a constant thread in my life, from the first word to the last. When the internet came along, he was there with it. When The L-Space web and afp were built, if you lurked and were patient, you would find traces of his presence.

His constancy has been his words. His words and his vivid, insightful, incredible imagination.

I was asked recently about authors that have influenced me. Without notice, it’s an unfair question and, while I came up with some good authors at the time, Isaac Asimov included, I left out so many. Including Sir Terry. Because he wasn’t an influence. He was bigger and wilder than that. His words were everywhere. He was a flood. A constant, bright and shining wonder.

I have more than once taken the time to try and tell him what he meant to me. By email, in person, in dedications. And, if only the once and only briefly, I think that he heard. I still have his reply. What I told him wasn’t enough. It couldn’t be. How could I ever find words big enough to pay back the incredible debt of gratitude I owe him?

I was a stranger to him, but he resided deep in my heart and mind. And, although he is gone, it is there I will forever find him. There and in the pages of his books.

Farewell, Sir Terry.

In your words you live on.

‘Up on the mountains, as the blizzards closed in, there was a red glow in the snow. It was there all winter, and when the spring gales blew, the rubies glittered in the sunshine.

No one remembers the singer. The song remains.’

— Terry Pratchett, The Last Hero

 

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