Sunday 7 December 2008

Anniversary of John Lennon's Death

I heard the news today, oh boy... Yes, I heard on radio 4 - the Eddie Mayer Sunday Broadcasting House programme - that tomorrow is the anniversary of the death (murder) of John Lennon and it reminded me of how I first heard that news all those years ago.

Both Lou,who was about six, and I had bad colds and were in no fit state to go outside, where there was heavy snow and biting North East winds, so had stayed at home. This meant that Lou had not gone to her primary school not far from our home and I had not walked to my school where I was an English teacher. We both hated being off school (strange but true) so to cheer ourselves up, we were making Xmas tree decorations at the kitchen table, which was littered with coloured card, glue, glitter, cotton wool and felt tip pens.

This was in our little terraced single storey house in South Hylton, near Sunderland. It was a traditional North-East house: small garden at the front with a fence separating it from the road, or, in our case, the rough ground that was great for the kids to play on, bedroom at the front, hall way leading to small sitting room with a gas fire, smaller bedroom leading off the sitting room, long, narrow kitchen beyond the sitting room then a lobby with a cupboard and finally the bathroom. And at the back, down a fight of stairs, was a useless piece of grass (because it never got any sunshine.) That's where I kept my motor-bike until it got nicked, which was probably a very good thing because a. with me in control, I probably put my life in danger every time I rode it and b. I was forced to walk to work and very quickly lost half a stone in weight and c. it meant my mother could breath easy again.

The kitchen was definitely the warmest room in winter, the other rooms being very cold because we had no central heating but it was the first house I had ever bought and I loved it dearly. I had decorated it throughout, kept it very tidy and clean (to my mother's surprise!) and even, when I could afford it, had a phone installed!

This house cost the princely sum of £7,250 and I was lucky enough to get a 25 year mortgage with the council, which cost me £60 per month, because I was an employee. This was in the days when mortgages were not easy to get and your eyes may temporarily water at the thought of such low prices.

So, Lou and I were keeping warm in the kitchen, making these decorations and listening to Radio One when the news came on that John Lennon had been shot dead outside his block of flats in New York.

First I felt shock and then disbelief and then a sickening realization that the world had changed, yet again, for the worse,and that our lives would, in some way, be different. He was such a talented writer and musician and he had died so needlessly: shot by a guy who merely wanted fame. Sick. Very sick.

The Beatles were the most influential music group in my life became they burst upon the scene with such enthusiasm and excitement and it was just wonderful to be a teenager at the time. We could identify with these four dishy guys who came from ordinary backgrounds whose music was just fantastic. Still sounds good today, too. Classics. Most of the snogging parties I went to as a teenager had the Beatles songs playing loudly as an accompaniment. Wonderful, wonderful memories.

A couple of months ago, John and I were watching a late night music programme featuring a guitarist (whose name I can't remember) who played a solo instrumental version of 'I heard the news today...' and it was absolutely sensational. Inspired by this, I intend to get the sheet music so I can learn the lyrics and sing them in the bath and on the beach (with no-one else around.)

Who knows how John Lennon's music would have developed had he still been alive. But we were deprived of that on that awful day so many years ago.

For me, I will always remember that day.I no longer teach any more (yeah!) and Lou is now a teacher herself, the decorations lasted for years until they fell apart but that day will always remain an important part of my history.

There have been other days, too, that I still remember clearly because the events that happened on that day touched me greatly: the day we could have had a nuclear war over the Cuban Missile Crisis, the day John F. Kennedy was shot dead, the day Elvis Presley died, the day Natalie Wood died, the day Turkey invaded Cyprus, the day Princess Diana died, the day Paula Yates died, 9/11, 7/7, the Boxing Day tsunami. All terrible days.

But on a lighter note, I know exactly what I was doing on the day that Charles and Diana got married because I painted my back yard door green (my little terraced house in South Hylton), rushed in to watch Diana get out of her coach (couldn't believe how crumpled her dress was) and in the evening went to a very early Xmas party and met John. And reader, I married him...

P.S. If you have a special memory of some momentous day, write about it on this blog (under comments).

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