Growing Old Disgracefully

The first song to appear in today’s shuffle list is. Say When, by Lene Lovich; my favourite part being the whistle in the background of chorus two. I much preferred this song from the album, Stateless, to the mostly remembered Lucky Number, which had an alternative version of the brilliant, Home on the b-side. I love how a song can transport you back in time and evoke memories that have lain dormant. Maybe one day I’ll see what assortment of memories a few hours on shuffle will bring, but that’s something for another day.

Say When, reminds me of walking down the road in 1979, with my blond hair dyed a mixture of blue and black, (not a good look for a pale youth), dressed in skin-tight green drainpipe trousers, pointed winkle-picker shoes and my fathers jacket that was many sizes to big and covered in safety pins and assorted buttons. Growing up in a small village meant I stood out and that was the intention. I won’t claim to be original or rebellious, what I was I think, was outlandish by choice.

1979

I was always looking for a way to stand out, and if people sniggered and pointed than I had achieved what I set out to do. I had a time in the eighties when, (long before Prince) I’d wear stiletto boots  and double-breasted shirts, with bolero jacketed suits, made for me at the time by my wife. I do my shopping in Tesco or pop to the pub wearing make-up and dressed to shock . Androgyny soon became the in-thing and so I fitted in; which I didn’t want to do. Singing with a band meant that my musical tastes changed, I started to develop a liking for darker indie rock, and with this the amalgamation of androgyny and my previous punk looks developed.

Baz 1

Around 1984, my life was unsettled, I was still singing with the band and felt that although we had success locally, we could achieve more. I arranged a gig in London at the prestigious Camden venue, Dingwalls. We took a coach full of fans to see us perform for some record company A&R men. They were impressed, but felt as a band we weren’t marketable, however they thought I had potential, and with a change of image maybe they could work with me. This coincided with the end of my marriage and I hastily made decision to move to London. I did some backing singing work for Virgin records, there’s a few singles from the period that had my BV’s on, but I’ll not name them here. I did some acting work and my style reverted back to a more punk look, back came the spiky dyed hair and spray-on trousers. Having a 26 inch waist meant my bottom half looked like Olivia Newton-John in Grease posing like Elvis Costello. (He had a way of standing with his legs at odd angles that I adopted).

Skip on a few years and I settled down a little, gone was the deliberate shock-dressing and in my 30’s and 40’s it was supplanted by unusual shoes and loud shirts, but there was still the hair that defied gravity, or as the kids I taught called it, my crown. Then of course there was those moments when I was able to be as outrageous as I wanted to be, performance day for the kids I taught, whether it was punk inspired story or a bunch of freaks, the teachers all joined in the fun and dressed accordingly.

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Cirka No Prata 2011 (There’s those buttons)

So will I grow old gracefully? Probably not, I may no longer wear jackets festooned with buttons, or dye my hair pink. I do still wear flowery shirts and very pointy shoes, and my hair, which is now rapidly turning from blond to white still stands on end like I’ve had my fingers in a plug socket.

Age, it’s just a number, isn’t it?

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Abruzzo 2013

Women with Wheelbarrows

Sunday morning arrived last week with a welcome burst of sunshine and I headed off down the road to the communal fountain at Perano to get my five cents of ice cold, acqua frizzante. As I drive ELO come onto the iPod with It’s Over, I turn up the volume and the multi-layered, rock music spills out of my open window into the Abruzzi countryside. I’m just coming around a bend in Altino when I’m met by the sight of five women walking along the road pushing wheelbarrows. They’re obviously off to work in the fields, but where are the men? Another bend is navigated and I have my answer, I pass a bar where all the men are chatting and drinking coffee: No self-respecting contadino would contemplate a days toil without a helping of gossip and coffee.

Our builder has Sundays off so the house is quiet, I take opportunity to make some melanzane parmiaganni and a batch of pasta sauce for storing in the freezer. After lunch we decide to take a stroll along the beach front at Fossacesia, just twenty minutes in the car and we’re enjoying the breeze coming off the Adriatic. The beach has a few people lying upon towels soaking up the sun, but no one is in the sea. The Italians have a fear of dying from all manner of influenzas and fevers that will come from swimming in the sea before June. I’m now wishing I’d packed some shorts as I’d like a dip, even if only to see the women gasp in horror and tell me that I’ll be dead before the next phase of the moon.

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We continue strolling when we notice two buffed Italian men posing as they walk along the beachfront. Obviously enjoying the attention they are getting whether in admiration or the sniggering, they slow to a snails-pace. It’s an odd sight, as the Italians are still wearing jumpers and top coats, shorts and t-shirts aren’t given an airing until April has passed. We let the parading gym-bunnies continue on their way and drop into Lu Trabocche 3, for a cold Peroni. There’s a steady stream of people coming to eat, so we make a note and say we’ll give the menu a try one day soon.

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There must be an important football match on, (isn’t there always in Italia) as many men have small radios pressed to their ears. We see a family enjoying some al fresco dining, children are doing what children do best, making noise and women are chatting loudly and occasionally scolding an errant youngster. On the periphery of the group sits an old man with his radio, it’s stopped working and I watch as he takes out the batteries and replaces them again, but to no avail, he’s missing the football commentary, so resorts to hitting the radio, beating it into submission until the sound flickers on and he’s happy. It’s nice to see that despite all of our different creeds and cultures, wherever a man is in the world he’ll always revert to that universal method of repair; if in doubt, bash it.

On the way home, with the windows open Siouxsie and the Banshee’s play Cascade, from the live album, Nocturne and I’m singing along as we sail down the lane that runs parallel with the strada statale, as we cross a small roundabout, the music changes and the Bee Gees pop up with, You Should Be Dancing. Again I sing along, this time doing my best Gibb brother falsetto impression, much to the amusement of the men sat outside a restaurant drinking beer. I wave, they cheer and I continue on my merry way wondering if the women with the wheelbarrows are on their way home too.

No! I Am Not

Now I know I stand out when I’m out and about in town. It’s not the colourful clothing I choose to wear or the fact that despite my advancing years, I’m sporting a cockscomb hairstyle, (blame the punk era)better suited to a twenty-something that singles me out.  it’s the fact that I’m naturally blonde (now more a greyish white) and blue eyed. This leads to lots of staring by the swarthy, olive skinned, raven haired locals. Some older members in the village look at me with suspicion and mutter behind their hands. This happened yesterday, doing my best to maintain my standing as a local I dropped into the local bar again for a coffee. The pretty young girl behind the counter recognised me, scoring me another, Barry’s a local point. I ordered my coffee and standing at the bar noticed two elderly signorina’s staring at me, one muttered something to her companion, who dipped her eyes as I smiled and wished her good morning. Then the question came, “Lei Tedesco?” (Are you German?”) I replied letting them know I was English and not German, suddenly their demeanour changed and they both smiled and wished me a good morning. It really is a case of, don’t mention the war.

I then went with Fabrice to purchase cement, we arrived at the builder’s yard and I went into the office to get the paper-order to hand to the young man on the fork-lift truck to collect for us. As I entered the chatter stopped instantly and the two ladies in the office looked at me; rather like rabbits in headlights. I said hello and one of them relaxed slightly, and then asked me, if I was Swedish. “No,” I told her, “but I am partial to a little bit of ABBA.” The sarcasm was wasted on her. “Sono Inglese,” I then said, in an attempt to raise the temperature in the room. “Ahhh,” they both said in unison. “Inglese. Birmingham, London?” Shaking my head I replied, “No, abito qui.” (I live here). Just then as my order was being scribbled into the order book an man came into the room, he looked at me and scowled, seeing this the older of the two women said to him, “He’s English,” the man asked, “Are you sure he’s not a Russian?” The younger woman handed me the slip of paper and then said to the man, “No he’s not Russian or Swedish.”

Ger-horz

I took my order out into the yard muttering that I wasn’t a fan of the musical Mama Mia either, the lad on the fork-lift truck took the order from me and then said, “Are you a German?”

I just rolled my eyes, waited for my cement and wondered how much hair dye would cost.

And to add insult to injury, on the drive back the iPod shuffled and Abba kicked off with, Knowing Me, Knowing You.