Thursday, 14 January 2016

Thank you, Alan.

Another one of my heroes is dead. I heard someone speaking about “Severus Snape” from my balcony today and sounding outraged. I googled him; I googled the physical embodiment of Snape. And he’s dead.

Alan Rickman is dead.

And in his death, there isn’t light and joy. No one is muttering sentiments about a better place or “going home”. This isn’t magical. Snape has fought his last battle, and unexpected by everyone, he has lost.

alan rickman rip always thank you

It always seems to happen in clusters. This week we lost David Bowie, too. That loss felt huge and heavy; Bowie taught me that being weird is good enough and that I am good enough. And now he’s gone. London feels empty and beige without him. Alan Rickman, owner of one of the most unique voices in film, taught me to own my differences. These artists that we follow and watch and idolise are what taught me to be me. When I was small I just never expected that it would feel like this to lose them.

Whenever a celebrity dies and people speak about it in a public space I always say something similar; “Please don’t let Michael Caine or Dustin Hoffman die, and I’ll be okay” I used to include Robin Williams in that sentiment too, but then that day in August came where I fell to the floor and wept. Last week I finally had Robin Williams tattooed on my body and I feel lighter now. Perhaps I feel too much. Or perhaps, this art and music that we surround ourselves with, shapes us.

A walk through Camden is a reminder of the life of Amy Winehouse. Murals and shop windows dedicated to her legacy and posters on the walls. She made people feel and in turn, they felt for her. Artists never truly know the influence that they’ve have and the lives that they’ve shaped.

Another one of my heroes is dead and, “Always” will forever be our battle cry.


Monday, 23 November 2015

It doesn't need to be a snowflake to be special

On Friday, I saw something in St. Pancras that totally floored me. It made me feel jubilant and overwhelmed and magical. Let me explain. I was listening to a podcast by Sarah Starrs, featuring Laura Jane Williams and there was something so raw and kind about the interview; Laura kept answering the question and asking it straight back to Sarah... it was a conversation. And I was suddenly struck by the idea of only putting into the world what I want to receive right back. If I'm kind, everyone will be kind. I suppose it's the very real usage of being the change you want to see in the world.

I walked through St Pancs on my usual commute absolutely high. In the wake of the Paris Attacks, it's been a gloomy place; with armed police traipsing the halls. The presence of a huge disney themed Christmas tree has done little to dispel the fear that everyone rightfully feels. Especially around the Eurostar terminal, that is where we're all the most scared. The shining lights of that little terminal right now are the pianos. I love those three of four pianos so very much. 

They're quite often occupied by small children, who don't usually play piano, but on Friday night there was someone else. It was the first very cold day of the year and I was rushing through to my bus when I heard the most beautiful music echoing through the hall. It was so appealing that I phoned my boyfriend to listen out for it. He was glad I'd phoned, being a pianist himself. I stood and listening to the young guy - probably 25 years old - absolutely belt out a James Morrison song. People were stopping to take photos, stopped to take photos. We were all smiling and clapping and abundant. We were all the biggest version of ourselves, enveloped in his music. 

For a few minutes during Friday night rush hour, we were a community. 

When he finished playing I told him it was beautiful and he responded with something that isn't important anymore. I'd done it; I'd listened to that podcast and grown as a person and I'd told someone the kind things I was thinking about them without expecting anything in return. That evening, I spoke about it at the dinner table. At Sunday lunch, I told my in-laws all about it.

Tonight, I undertook my usual commute; the Thameslink to St Pancras and the 91 bus three stops home. Today I'd listened to more podcasts and had a few little epiphanies, but none quite like the Kindness one. The cold had lost its romantic appeal and the walk through the station was a little grumpier than the previous. 

Then I heard it. 

The sound. That bloody traitor, that beautiful, bloody traitor. He was back and this time playing Chopin for an even bigger crowd. Why was he doing that? We'd shared a moment; we were a community! And now he was just playing for anyone, as if they were going to have mini-emotional meltdowns hearing him smack the keys of that silly communal piano. I listened to him again play for a few minutes; there wasn't as much soul in it. It was like he was play-acting; I'd had the last laugh., I didn't. It was crammed with soul and spirit and fucking hell, there was a girl holding the phone out to someone on the end of the line, just as I had.

Is nothing sacred?


Outside the station, waiting for the 91, I was stubborn and angsty, leaning against the wall of the bus stop and not really caring that my combat boots were leaving mud crumbs. I was thinking about it way more than I probably should. I could hear him in the distance and that made me feel worse while I tried to justify our encounter as more.

But I couldn't. Because it wasn't. The faces on tonight's onlookers were just as wild and open and joyous as mine had been. Sure, everyone was taking photos, but this bigger picture doesn't make my deep feelings from Friday evening shameful or any less valid. That experience was no longer exclusive to a small group and that's okay. Now it's part of a bigger collective. I like to think that one day I'll mention it to someone in passing and they'll laugh and say that they had also seen our pianist, on another chilly night entirely.

It doesn't ruin my Kindness pledge. Just like enjoying the same authors, bands or films doesn't make me the same as everyone else. We're all just navigating our way through rough waters. 


You don't need to be a unique little snowflake to be special. And if that doesn't comfort you, I don't know what will.