Pink Floyd and a Broken Freedom

This is raw and immediate so forgive me if comes out a little confused. I will come back and edit it but I feel a need to get this out there.

Pink Floyd are celebrating 50 years as a band. I just read, a few minutes ago, an article about two of their surviving members unveiling a plaque at their old college and, in the connected articles, was a link to Comfortably Numb. It has finished playing as I write this sentence and here am I trying desperately to nail down my evaporating emotions on a keyboard.

Isolated. Living in a rural part of Sussex. One dog, one cat and the four of us Goulands. This was a period where my mother decided to pick up our education again after a lengthy gap. Probably because she was bored brainless with her life.

It’s approaching Christmas, 1979 and Pink Floyd have released a new album The Wall and my mother wants to buy this as a Christmas present for my father. Having done so, she waited until he’d left for work (he was either selling showers or working as a private investigator at this time) the next morning and played the album to make sure it was all right. She tested that cassette all day, every day (except weekends when father was home) for almost a month. By the time my father unwrapped it on Christmas Day, that was one very pre-loved item. When he went back to work, the cassette went straight back into the stereo.

Much of Pink Floyd’s canon is etched onto the souls of St F and I but it is The Wall that resonates most strongly.

Their music had arrived in our lives in my father’s sea-going kit bag, three years earlier. I was eleven years-old and my father insisted that I sit between the speakers and listen to the album he’d brought back from his ship. It was Dark Side of the Moon. From then on, my mother made every effort to track down as many of Pink Floyd’s albums as she could. St F and I loved most of it – some of it was just plain weird and some of it I heard too much of. There was an 8-track stereo in my mother’s car and the same album was always in it. When she started the car, the tape would play. Again and again, for years! It was a long, long time before I could listen to Wish You Were Here again.

The Wall came back to Norfolk with us. Home was an even more isolated place in a rural area. No school – for us.

Isolation, separation, suffocation are recurring themes that I’ve dropped into this post. And they are recurring themes in The Wall. I haven’t listened to the Floyd for a while so finding, and listening to, Comfortably Numb, blew away thirty-five years of my life.

‘Wrong, do it again’ builds into a cacophony of voices all saying different things and then … silence. When the song starts again, it is quieter, muffled, as if the singer has turned inwards. That muffled, quieter – even deadened – quality is how my life felt, to me. At fourteen, I understood what Roger and the boys were saying. I knew about walls. I didn’t realise they were walls. but Pink Floyd handed me the perfect description. Walls didn’t protect me from being punched in the mouth and losing my front teeth. Walls didn’t protect me from having baby food mashed in my head and being thrown up the stairs by my hair. Walls did give me somewhere to hide my mind, though. Young as I was, I already knew that owning or hurting people physically wasn’t enough for some. They wanted, not only power over your mind, they also needed to see inside you. To see how you work, what your thoughts are. For them it’s like watching rats in a laboratory. That’s why the wall came in useful, it hid me. That and music, of course. I sang along, I absorbed the lyrics, I daydreamed, St F and I acted out whole chunks of The Wall when we were alone and each segment of the album became a small magic spell. All of the frustration, anxiety and confusion I poured into my renditions of those songs has stayed in them, trapped by a web of magic and memory.Play any part of that album to me and the spell pops. I am drenched in those painful feelings again – even just the voice telling me I’m wrong and I’ve got to do it again shoots me backwards instantly.

All of this comes across as a bit doomy and gloomy but wait … I haven’t listened to the Floyd properly for some years – The Wall, probably not since I was in my thirties and the gap is a good thing because there is a cut-off point, unlike with my Strawbs albums which never stopped collecting memories, so I went back to a place I haven’t been for twenty years, maybe. Yes, my wall was imperfect and some of my worst demons were thrown over the top of the wall into my deepest self but I listened to that particularly meaningful song as a (nearly) free person. My wall still stands and is still in use but I have been actively dismantling it for the last few years and now it less resembles a wall, more a Stonehenge.

And that’s a good thing, right?

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Posted by on June 1, 2015 in Musing


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The Luck of the Irish

For years my sister has amused herself by gathering groups of drunken Irishmen and pointing them in my direction. She only does this on one night of the year and only when we are out on the town. Yes, I am a St Patrick’s Day baby. On hearing the news, these chaps rush (stagger) towards me and demand that I kiss them for luck.

Hold on a minute … I thought the Irish were already lucky? Admittedly, not all these guys are really Irish, judging by the dreadful attempts at accents that land somewhere between India and Wales, but enough of them are and I feel cheated. Shouldn’t I be kissing them for luck?

I realise now that all my recent problems are attributable to this phenomenon – All my luck’s been stolen. Therefore, tomorrow I will be hiding in my attic.

Having said that, Happy St Patrick’s Day everybody, whether you are really, really Irish or just pretending. Have a wonderful day. Just stay away from my attic because I’m trying to recharge my own luck.

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Posted by on March 16, 2015 in Musing


Dear Dave Cousins … (A letter to the only man I’ve ever truly loved)

Dear Dave,

Once upon a time two little girls grew up listening to their mother’s music. Their mother was a Strawbs fan. In Somerset, Berkshire, West Africa, Norfolk and many, many other places in between, the Strawbs provided the soundtrack to the lives of those little girls.

I was one of those little girls. St F was the other.

In The Gambia, when I was eight and St F was three, I sneaked into my mother’s record collection and played Strawbs, From the Witchwood and Grave New World over and over whilst reading the lyrics.

In Gothenburg, five years later, trapped on a small boat with nothing to do and nowhere to go, we listened to Nomadness and Burning for You. Later, sailing that same boat down to Nigeria, St F would join me on night watch and we would sing all the songs we knew from those albums to keep ourselves awake and scare away the night terrors. I don’t want to spoil you though, Dave. It wasn’t all about you. We did throw in a bit of Steeleye Span and The Yetties too. And we did a mean version of Barry Manilow’s Copacabana. But, mostly, it was about you.

In 1980 I turned fifteen and in a junk shop in Norfolk I found a battered copy of Bursting at the Seams. That was the beginning of my own Strawbs collection. I still have that LP. The sleeve is much Sellotaped but the disc remains scratch free.

I won’t bore you with all the times that you, and Tony Hooper, and all the other Strawbs, past and present, impacted on our lives – I think you get the picture – but can you imagine the shock and awe of finding that our move back to the West Country meant that we were living just up the road from you? Our (much) younger brother was at the same school as your sons. I’d be waiting to pick him up on my motorbike when you’d pull up in your car to collect your boys. I’d watch but I never approached you. Like the Magic Mountain Music man, I’m really rather shy …

Then, joy of joys, you and the band got together and performed in the village hall! Oh. My. God. St F and I were beside ourselves! We danced, we sang and, at the end, Tony Hooper called us over and wanted to know how two twenty-somethings knew all the words to all the songs. Sadly, the conversation was cut short by outside influences and, like a couple of Cinderellas, we were dragged away by forces out of our control. All the way home I kept thinking ‘Please don’t let that be it. Please don’t let that be the only time I see them.’ But it was. For about twenty years.

Fast forward to 4th March 2015.

We were late, you’d already started.

‘Aargh! No!’ squealed my sister and pounded up the steps into the venue with me thundering along behind her. We made it into our seats for the closing bars of the first song.

There you were. And there we were. St F and I looked at each other and went, ‘Eeeeeeeeeeee!’ because we’d finally made it to one of your gigs. The set was short because you were sharing the bill with two other acts but we sucked up every minute and, when you got to the final number, Lay Down, and invited the audience to sing along, we did you proud. We were word-perfect – of course.

In the intermission, I spotted you at the bar. Swerving some neighbours from our village who’d come to hear the songs of Wishbone Ash, I said ‘D’you want a drink?’ to St F and shot off without waiting for her answer.

‘Dave,’ I said, amazed at my own temerity (But I was several whiskies in). ‘Have you got a minute?’ And, bless you, you stopped and smiled and said, ‘Yes.’

It mattered to us, Dave. It was great that you and Chas Cronk and Dave Lambert signed my CD but it was fan-bloody-tastic that you came and sat at our table!

‘Aren’t you going back in to see Carl Palmer?’ you asked and we shrugged.

‘Nah, we only came to see the Strawbs.’

‘But, he’s very good.’

‘I don’t doubt it.’ I shrugged again.

There was no one to interfere this time. The whole evening was an early birthday present for me. St F got the tickets as a surprise and our friend Rude Girl had sprung for us to stay in a nearby hotel. We were unfettered and, thanks to you, at ease. While everyone else was next door listening to Fanfare for the Common Man, we swapped stories and drank a bit and, when I confessed I’d not heard of the album Prognostic, you went over to the merchandise table, got a copy and gave it to me. I don’t think the gift came easy, you were gone a while. It seems the man in charge of the merchandise may have been less than keen to part with it.

‘Did you get into trouble for that?’ St F asked, indicating the CD.

‘Yeah,’ you said.

When the bar filled up again at the next intermission, you were swept away. A chap in a Rick Wakeman t-shirt wanted to interview you for his radio show (but had broken his mic) and you were called back to the merchandise stand but, before you went, you thanked us for our company and you kissed my hand. I had told you about The Gambia and you’d laughed and said we were sad little girls. We’d laughed too but what you couldn’t know, and we couldn’t tell you, was that we were sad little girls. For all those years and, still now, we have only ever had each other – and The Strawbs. You will never understand – how could you? – but that’s OK. I get it. St F get’s it. You, Dave, gave us the stories, the music and the magic to take us away from it all. I fell in love with you back in 1972 when I was a skinny eight-year-old. I still love you now, you and all the Strawbs. But especially you. When you kissed the hand of a woman on the eve of her fiftieth birthday, you reached back to all those earlier Lorraines and, somehow, you made a difference. I know because I’ve been back and checked. I can’t explain but somewhere in a parallel universe is a little girl dreaming along to your songs and she gets her happy ending because she does get to meet her hero. And he is kind.

Thank you, from St F and from me. Take good care, come back next year and know that even if you don’t remember us, we’ll be in the audience singing along.


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Posted by on March 6, 2015 in Uncategorized


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Another Tale of Two Titties

Lorraine Gouland:

Although the world has moved on and the page three debate has gone quiet, I’m reblogging this because it makes some very valid and logical points about something that runs far deeper than bare boobs.

Originally posted on Sadie Hasler:

I’m not sure what I’m crosser about. The fact that The Sun tricked us, or that it was only revealed that they had tricked us right after I had written a column praising them. Of course I was cross; I had used the very witty line “Lorks! No More Norks!” and then had to delete it.

Call me cynical, but when I heard that there was to be no more Page 3, I picked up The Sun and turned to page 4. I thought surely that haemmeroid-faced old Aussie wouldn’t bow to pressure from a feminist campaign, surely he’d think outside the box, and simply move his girls to another page, just to stick a massive antipodean finger up the tight behinds of the ‘sexless humourless braless glamourless men-haters’ who had been making a complete and utter fuss about nothing. But no tits were to be found.

To gauge the…

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Posted by on February 11, 2015 in Uncategorized


So Long and Thanks For All the Swimmy Things

So now, the Big Bang Theory is in doubt. As is the Big Crunch. A theoretical physicist called David Bohm is running around academia armed with something called ‘theoretical trajectories’ and, it is he who is bringing into doubt a theory that tries to answer the eternal question; what else is there? 

Really it’s a serious of questions, one feeding off the other –

How old is the universe? What was there before? Was there a before? Is there an outside of the universe? What if our universe really is one old breadcrumb that’s dropped down the back of someone’s toaster?

These, and many others I haven’t yet conjured up, are unanswerable questions. And, let’s face it, could we even comprehend the answers if we got them? Despite being a compartmentalised type that likes to quantify, penetrate, understand, I can live with the unknowable. But … But. There is an itch, deep down, in my brain.

I truly wish that before we die or after we die or, even, as we die, we could have a gnat’s blink of one moment of total knowledge. Wouldn’t that be mind-blowing? Literally? You would have to be separate from, or imminently leaving, the mortal coil, wouldn’t you? Can a mind ever shrink back from total understanding or are we likely to be found flat on our backs, eyes staring from their sockets, mouths gaping in awestruck Ooooohs? With a little dribble leaking from the corner of the lips?

Or is it just me?

One day, I am going to wink out of existence. Bits of me will remain forever. Bits of me will join the cosmic dust and will one day become part of some new whole – but it won’t be me. will dissipate. So, in that case, I think it’s only fair that I get to understand everything! Even with the risk of dribbling.

Won’t I be hacked off if it does happen and revealed before me, in blinding brilliance, writ large, like giant magnets on a celestial fridge door, are the numbers 42?

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Posted by on February 11, 2015 in Uncategorized


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What Happens When…

… you’ve drifted too far from the shore and you can’t get back?

What happens when…

…you’ve swallowed and held down so much bitter brine that you have no voice left to call for help.

And …

…you have no desire to wave.

After being a good girl and doing the right things – taking the pills, talking to the doctor/nurse/counsellor/psychologist, what happens when you’re left in no-man’s-land ‘on a waiting list?’ Nobody calls. Nobody checks that you’re still alive and still in need of an appointment.

People who know, forget. People who don’t know say, ‘oh, but you always seem so cheerful.’ People who are close to you say, ‘well no one’s going to help you, you have to help yourself. You have responsibilities.’

They still bring their problems, their miseries, to your attention though. Funny that, how can such a no-mark be worthy of asking for advice?

You can ask, ‘hey come to my house for a cup of tea or dinner or just to say hi. Let’s hang out and have a laugh,’ but no one comes. You stop asking. You know that no one wants to spend time with you and, if they should remark that they really must come and see you, you feel the light go out in your eyes. You struggle to smile and say, ‘yes, that would be nice.’ but it is hard. It is so fucking hard.

Maybe there’s a party that you really don’t want to go to because you are so far from the human race now, that you can’t relate to anyone there. But you have to go. Maybe someone breaks a bottle of drink and you find a piece of glass, by chance, and you take it into the toilet and lock the door and hack your arm because you can’t scream. And the hilarious thing is, an hour earlier you did the same thing with a drawing pin that had been left on a shelf but that wasn’t a sharp enough scream.

What happens when you decide to stop taking the anxiety medicine because a. you can’t force yourself out the door to see the doctor for more and b. it does little more than take the topmost edge off of the pain so what’s the point? You can see the deterioration in your face. You can feel the utter hollowness inside where every last drop of hope, every last ounce of pulling yourself up by the bootstrap-ness has been scraped dry?

What happens when you turn away from the shore and stop treading water?

I’ll tell you.

You will be condemned as selfish.

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Posted by on November 3, 2014 in Musing


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I’m Not OK

My niece, Medusa, turned fifteen at the beginning of this month. She is a big fan of the, now defunct, band My Chemical Romance – or My Chem to those of us in the know – and one of her presents was a t-shirt bearing the above legend. It seems apposite to borrow it for the title of this post.

It’s been very quiet on Shedward lately, hasn’t it? In fact there’s only really been a drip feed of posts from me for the longest time.

For the past 18 months I have been unable to work. I tell people it’s because I fell and tore a tendon in my arm in February last year. This is true, I did fall, I did tear a tendon and despite various treatments, it’s getting more painful and debilitating but … The real reason I’m not sailing the ocean blue or trying to operate a cashdesk in the supermarket is because I am suffering from…

wait for it …





(There, you said it. It wasn’t that difficult was it Lorraine?)

To me, PTSD is what the troops returning from war zones have to deal with, not middle-aged women buried in the English countryside but there you go. You live and learn. I won’t bore you with the causes or symptoms, I mention it by way of explanation for my dilatory blogging. I have got terrible writer’s block and I am now too poor to top up the data allowance on my internet dongle – hence the silence. Sorry about that. St F and I are struggling. Even food shopping is a stretch so internet time is a long way down the list. I’m only online now because I rebelled and decided I really did need to check my emails and internet banking etc. And to come here to make my excuses.

So there you have it. Writer’s are famously supposed to be tortured souls. I can vouch for the tortured bit but as to whether I’m still a writer, my jury’s out.



Posted by on July 28, 2014 in Struggling Writers


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