Weatherwise, it's been a typical March day today (if there still is such a thing in these changing times) and so, while it's been raining & blowing outside, I've found myself spending most of the day pottering, planning and invariably, reflecting.
Out came stacks of old photo albums, soon followed by old writing books. This is the inside cover of one of them. The "Green Book".
If i happen to see friends when i've got a new writing book with me (and if the mood takes me), i'll ask them to write something in the front if it. Something to remind me of who and where i was, who i was with, how i was feeling, how far i'd come at the moment, on the day i started the next lap of songwriting. Where it stood in my life. Something to tie it to the moment.
Well, on 5th February 1997, i was with two of my dearest friends (who happened to be going out together at the time); Sam & Simon. (Incidentally, if I ever happen to catch the credits on The Simpsons' tv show, I always smile when i see Sam Simon's name come up, because it reminds me of Sam & Simon.)
Back in 1997, we all worked in the same small company. Simon was a couple of years older than me, wise to the ways of the world; i looked up to him and we shared the same wicked sense of humour. Sam was a blast of fresh air to us both; she was a gorgeous 19 year old, fresh from Devon and absolutely bursting with love, life and laughter. I loved them both dearly. Still do.
The three of us used to hang out reguarly (with the lovely Bex), whether over a few beers and a game of pool after work, or at each other's houses, at gigs, etc...
I had split up with my girlfriend of 5+ years at this time, and frankly, was a mess. It was only thanks to wonderful, 'true' friends like Sam, Simon (amongst others - if you come by this way - you'll know who you are, and you know you have my eternal love & gratitude), that i made it through a truly nightmarish year or so.
There is a point to all this...
It was in my darkest times that I seemed to be at my most creative. I will always remember 1997 as one of my worst, most painful years, but also - and maybe more - as one of the most exciting, groundbreaking, rewarding and fun years of my life. I wrote more songs that ever before. I wrote better songs than ever before. I was writing every day. I started gigging properly in 1997. It was the most terrifying and exciting thing that had happened to me since falling in love years before. I soon learned that if i wasn't almost sick with nerves before going on stage, something was wrong and i'd have a lousy gig. I was building up a following. I was making a name for myself... I came ridiculously close to selling one particular song to one particular chart-bothering girl-group of the time. It got to the point where i was coming home to updates from the group's manager and record label A&R guy on how things stood with the band. They were trying to 'break the States' and the tour had gone horribly wrong. None of them were talking to each other and they were all flying in separate jets. I was told that if - 'if' - the band pulled themselves together and got back on track, then they'd take the song into the studio and think about buying it...
To clarify, I'm not giving you this level of info in order to massage my own ego - i know how (essentially) unimportant and transitory these things really are - but simply to illustrate just how ridiculously surreal my live had become.
It felt like anyday I could have got home to a message on the answer machine saying "...yep, we want the tune. you can quit the day job...".
As it goes, they split up and i didn't quit the day job. Thanks girls. No, really.
That summer, I also met "the one that got away". Funny. I wasn't looking for love, intimacy, or a connection of any kind. But, she came along anyway. We only knew each other for a few months; drifting as easily out of each other's lives as we did into them. No big hellos or goodbyes. But in some strange way, she moved me more deeply than anyone else I'd ever known. (Incidentally, and this is strange, for someone so keen on photography; I never took a single photo of her. All I have are memories of the moments we shared. Still, peaceful moments when everything else simply melted away.)
Her memory, kindness and smile will stay with me. Always. I've a very strange feeling/theory that she was somehow 'sent' to help me heal and set me gently back on track... and i will remain forever grateful to her and whoever - whatever - sent her to my aid.
But that's another story.
Like i said, it was a strange, harrowing and wonderful year.