The themes of my blog posts in 2016 would appear to have centred around (in no particular order) anxiety, grief and Celebrity Deaths, so it seems only right and proper that I kick off 2017 with all three.
This morning my son attempted to sing a humorous version of Last Christmas; I told him it was too soon.
I blame myself for the whole thing. You see when Prince died, I may have remarked “I appreciated his musical genius, but I don’t really feel anything about Prince. However, this whole thing has made me realise that I’m going to need serious help if anything ever happens to George Michael”
So when the jingle of doom sounded on my BBC News app on Christmas Day, there was really nothing else it could be. My husband was remarkably sympathetic. After our festive guests had left he poured me half a pint of Baileys and whacked Wham: The Final on the record player while I reminisced about my badge collection. He even tolerated the CDs in the car and Spotify in the kitchen – and sang the Elton John part.
I thought about writing something at the time but the more I read, the more irritated I became. I didn’t want to read what some chap in The Guardian had to say about his musical genius, or reminisce about my favourite video (Edge of Heaven, obvs).
You see George Michael was mine and all of these other people were merely charlatans hired in as professional mourners. They had no business intruding on my grief.
When we mourn for people we have never met, we don’t mourn for them or for their families, even though we may feel great sympathy. We mourn for ourselves, and that part of us that they helped us to become.
You see George Michael was my first love. I had the limited edition Last Christmas in my stocking (Andrew Ridgeley was dressed as Rudolph) and Make It Big was the first album I bought. I had posters, badges, scarves.
It runs like a seam through those few short years of childhood. The Christmas game of Newmarket with my Gran where I won the money to buy Make It Big on vinyl. My Mum buying I’m Your Man on 12inch for me the Monday it came out whilst I was at school. My indignation that I wasn’t allowed to go to see them at Wembley because 10 was clearly plenty old enough. My Dad taking me shopping and buying Faith on video, then complaining about the number of times I watched it and that my lifesize door poster had to go INSIDE my bedroom door, not on the landing.
There is no one left to remember those things but me – not even George – and suddenly that makes me very sad indeed.
Maybe more significantly, the Wham years were ones of proper childhood joy. A friend and I, when our primary mode of transport was roller skates, even wrote to Jim’ll Fix It asking to meet them. I decided that they probably got loads of letters asking that so, to spice things up a bit, how about we ask that George and Andrew could rescue us from sharks. I had the whole scene worked out. In hindsight, I think we can all breathe a sigh of relief that they never took us up on the whole idea.
It was time completely lacking in self-consciousness, before it was important to look cool, or clever, or like you had your stuff together. Remembering a time before before doubt and anxiety and self-awareness took over needs a moment to take a breath.
I was every little hungry schoolgirl’s pride and joy
And I guess it was enough for me
I moved on, and became an angst ridden student instead, listening to Suede and Nick Cave – but my heart still secretly belonged elsewhere. George Michael had his own share of doubt and anxiety too, which is probably why I loved him more. He was missing his place in the world, no longer belonging in a kebab shop but not really embracing the high life either (no puns intended). He wasn’t after hedonism, just ways to find a space to feel content as best he could – or maybe that’s just me.
Whichever way, my lifelong impulse to wrap him in a blanket and cook him a big crumble while he watched a Miss Marple remained constant (I should have asked Jim’ll Fix it for that) – or maybe that’s just me too.
“Don’t be mean to George” has been a regular refrain over the years when my husband momentarily forgets he is off limits from generic celebrity scorn.
His death is a kick in the teeth for kindness, at a time when it feels like we need it most. Whether it’s the good humour and honesty he used to deal with his addictions, scandals and less conventional hobbies, or tales of his random acts of generosity, there is no doubt that he was a good and kind man. The world is in desperate need of the good and kind at the moment and if last year proved anything, it’s that the good guys don’t always win.
That in itself is enough to make anyone a bit blue.
However, now that I’ve got that all off my chest, the grey skies are clearing out of my way. Wake me Up Before You Go-go is still a cracking tune and at least Meryl Streep is still waving the flag for kindness and compassion.
And that ten year old girl is looking Older now, but that’s OK. I have real life people to wrap me in blankets and pass me crumble, and people who need me to do the same.
Well you’re out of time
I’m letting go
You’ll be fine
Well that much I know