Monday, 21 December 2015

A Year In The Life

One of my favourite songs from the world of Musicals is Seasons of Love from Rent. Some of the lyrics are:

Five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes
Five hundred twenty five thousand moments so dear
Five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes
How do you measure, measure a year?

In daylights, in sunsets
In midnights, in cups of coffee
In inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife
In five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes
How do you measure, a year in the life?

I mention this because I have just celebrated my birthday (guess which one if you like, but please be kind). Not a remarkable thing to do, we each have one a year and it wasn’t a BIG birthday, but this was a significant one for me simply because it is a year on from my worst ever birthday.

Last year, I was working on my birthday. I didn’t really want to, but as a freelance artist, you have to take the jobs when they come along, no matter if they aren’t your first choice. So it was last year, on my birthday I was working in a field in Northamptonshire next to a Garden Centre acting out the part of a certain scarlet and fur bedecked, rotund, bearded gentleman associated with this time of year.

I was in the middle of my first session with a crowd of children and parents when in the distance, the sound of a car alarm going off leached into my rendition of Jingle Bells. No one was worried because car alarms go off all the time for no reason. This time there was a reason and I was the victims.

I had left my bag in the car because (ironically) there was nowhere secure to leave it as I was working in a marquee. I won’t go through the entire day of emotions but the upshot was this:

  • The bag with my wallet and approx. £500 in cash for a holiday, from cash fees and book sales was gone.
  • Insurance refused to cover it
  • Items such as a coin purse that had belonged to my Dad and a necklace I’d bought for my wife for Christmas were taken
  • I was due to leave to work on a cruise ship as a guest speaker in two days time and the loss of credit/debit cards was a blow as these are needed to register when you board.

All this happened on my birthday, while playing Father Christmas with a full day of appointments ahead of me. The police would not attend as I had to report it in person. I don’t know how I got through the day but I was professional and fulfilled all my appointments that day. My wife was brilliant, dealing with the Card and insurance companies but at the end of the day with a taped up back window, I left the site at 6.30pm, pulled over at the first opportunity and just wept.

The attack felt so personal. The money taken had been so hard earned, and the callousness of the thieves, targeting cars parked up to have a Santa experience hit me hard. I cannot remember a time feeling so low and devastated. My rational side kicked in and told me I was safe and still have a home and I was still better off than the majority of the world, but despair and a sense of injustice overwhelmed me. As I said: Worst.  Birthday. Ever.

I posted on Facebook and got loads of empathetic messages which helped me somewhat. I remember posting, more from hubris than belief “Look out 2015, I’m having you”. I’m pleased to say that seems to have been the case. Poetry gigs, workshops and schools work has increased. I am quietly building a base for my poetic activities in MK. There has been success from writing in different genres (for the stage and a children’s collection launched). Growing engagement with public and civic events as Milton Keynes’ Poet Laureate has been evident and a fantastic season singing with the Heart & Music choir which always inspires, and gives me a creative family with whom I feel at home.

So this birthday for me was all about replacing the memory of the last one. My wife who loves me bought me a Cajon. As I practice, she may not love me for very long!, I read cards and personal messages from friends who mean so much to me and had nearly a hundred “Happy Birthdays” on Facebook. Overall a low key day spent cleaning and cooking as we prepared the house for friends coming to a “Strictly” Supper Party to watch the final of the series. 

Just one year on from the last but it may as well have been light years in terms of the tangible feelings of love and friendship from the despair of last year. So thanks to everyone for their good wishes. Positive actions no matter how small (such as a message on Facebook) have an effect. I’m grateful for everyone is part of my life. Have a great Christmas and a successful New Year. I’m saying it again with more belief than last year, “Look out 2016, I’m having you”!

Love, light and best wishes to all

Keep writin' and recitin'

Mark x

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