“I’m perfectly up for losing my voice tonight, Auckland! Are you with me?”
Image copyright Caroline Barron, 2015
I first saw Ed Sheeran three years ago on telly, singing A-Team at the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee concert, a self-conscious 21-year-old with that unruly red hair. This is his fifth time in New Zealand since 2012, and the man on stage tonight – this unlikely hero – looks just like that guy from three year ago, but superhero powers gleaned from the brimming hearts of his millions of fans; twelve thousand of which sing every single word tonight. At times it is eerie, voices echoing from in front, behind – all sides – as if in a dimly lit cave, the intimacy belying the enormity of the venue. We could have been next door at the Tuning Fork.
Finding her pet rabbit Liza murdered in the barn was the second worse thing that had ever happened to 14-year-old Harriet. When she saw the hutch lying on its side in the barn like a dead animal, she panicked. She wanted to run and search every corner, but it was like that dream where you’re at the starting blocks, the gun goes off and your legs won’t move. Eventually, a dark trail of blood lead her to the hole in the wall her father used to say said he’d fix. There was poor Liza, half way out – her head strung to her ruby throat by a mere thread. Harriet felt like she was in a scene from Evil Dead.
So now, the first worse thing that had ever happened to Harriet and her rabbit’s death were forever linked. He’d given Liza to her when he’d abandoned them. Now, Liza was dead. The whole thing felt shocking and achy like chewing tinfoil. But still, the first thing she did – after gathering up Liza into the bread bag her mum handed her, and placing her in the chest freezer next to the frozen peas and vanilla ice-cream – was phone her father. Continue reading
Edlin’s descriptions of my home turf – Freeman’s Bay and Ponsonby – during World War Two brought alive much of the dry, factual reading I’ve recently done about U.S. troops in Auckland during that time (I can recommend Denys Bevan’s United States Forces in NZ and The Yanks are Coming by Harry Bioletti). Most Kiwi soldiers were away fighting in the Middle East, so when the Japanese became a threat, the U.S. sent their troops to New Zealand as a base from which to defend the Pacific, and for rest and recuperation between Pacific campaigns. Oh, and to teach Kiwi girls how to jitterbug. Continue reading
The music thumped through me as if Freddie, Bryan, Roger and John were playing on a tiny stage deep inside my chest, rather than on the huge stage 100 meters ahead of our spot on the grass bank. Dad’s hand – dry and warm like pages left out in the sun – squeezed mine; he tapped his chest and laughed. His smile may have out-watted even mine. We were here. Together.
The album that started it all. Bohemian Rhapsody on rotate.
The band launched into the baseline of “Under Pressure” and the crowd went mad, hands in the air, screaming: Pressure! Pressure down on me! Pressure down on you! I leapt to my feet – I couldn’t help it! – then sat down again, embarrassed. I was nine. I’d never been to a concert before. Dad laughed his head off.
“C’mon you,” he said, and dragged me back up.
Thank you to everyone who entered the competition to win a copy of The Free by Willy Vlautin. Thanks also to the lovely Jane at Allen & Unwin for supplying the prizes. And of course a big wahoo and congratulations to our two winners. Read on to find out if it was you…I swear it was not rigged…
My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante, translation by Ann Goldstein, Europa, 2012, NY.
The world is a profound and unchartered place when you’re a young teenager. Relationships are difficult to navigate and you move like a changing and persistent breeze underneath your own front door, trying to find a way – any way – into the hallways of who you are and of friendship. Somehow, Elena Ferrante has captured this elusive breeze and painted a picture of Elena and Lila’s friendship that is so real you’d swear you were inside Elena’s mind. Ferrante allows Elena to hold nothing back, not even the darkness of her self-doubt and jealousy. At times I felt I was leaning against the wall, glass against ear, cheeks blushing with the closeness of it all. Continue reading
Oh what a night. Moi at Mt Smart Stadium on Saturday night to see the Rolling Stones
“We’ve been coming here a long time, New Zealand. So long that the first time we came, we were touring with Roy Orbison!” Jagger told me and 47,000 other fans. Damn right. And you know what? My mum was there. She remembers screaming her 15-year-old lungs out over Mick and Keith (Roy who?) in all the Stones’ velvet, fur and tight-panted glory at the Theatre Royal in Christchurch in 1965. Forty-one years later I first saw them on their A Bigger Bang tour at Western Springs in Auckland; and for a second, and even better, time at iconic Mt Smart Stadium on Saturday night.
Mariah Carey, 14 November 2014, Vector Arena, Auckland.
Copyright Caroline Barron 2014
“Lucky you, you’re up late and at Mariah Carey!” I say to the little girl drying her hands in the Vector Arena bathrooms. “How old are you?”
“I’m seven and my name’s Mariah too.”
“Wow, can you sing as well as the other Mariah?”
Her mum: “She can sing, she’s great.”
This entry from Clive’s 1990 diary demonstrates his constant reawakening.
Imagine that after every single blink it feels like you’re awakening to the world for the first time. This is what life is like for Clive Wearing, after he contracted a brutal virus in 1985 that destroyed the part of his brain that retains memories. He retains between seven and thirty seconds of memory at any one time, which gives him the sensation of constantly re-awakening, confused and unsure of where he is or what has happened to him. To make the story even more fascinating, prior to his illness, Wearing was a famous London composer and musicologist at the height of his career.
Forever Today is Clive’s story, but it is also Deborah Wearing’s story – Clive’s second (and third) wife, several years his junior. Most remarkable is their pure, true love that transcends space, time and consciousness. Deborah nurses Clive for many years before finally divorcing him in an attempt to lead her own life in New York. She realises her heart will always belong to Clive and remarries him. They remain married today. Continue reading
‘The Free’, by Willy Vlautin, Faber and Faber, London, 2014
Tell me what book author Willy Vlautin told me I should read in my post Beer and Books with Willy Vlautin and The Delines (clue: it won the 1984 Pulitzer) and you go in the draw to win a copy of Vlautin’s latest book, The Free. I’ve read it. It’s amazing. Entries close Friday 15th November, 2014. Winners notified by email.
A big thank you to Allen & Unwin Australia for supplying the prize.