‘In my mind, I’m seventeen years old,
I am no more than a child,
and I’m never growing old’
So said the words of a song that I wrote some 20 years ago.
The day I wrote the song had been a special day. I’d spent the afternoon interviewing a song writer named Mary Chapin Carpenter for a series I was presenting on Radio 2 about how to write a great song. Whilst trying to remain professional and totally cool I found myself blurting out that she was in fact my favourite artiste at the time and that one of her songs, ‘I am a Town’, was a particular favourite, That night I sat in the audience for her concert at St David’s Hall. As she started playing the introduction to ‘I am a Town’ she said ‘I’m sending this out to Mal’. Well I nearly melted.
When I say that was the day I wrote the song on that day I didn’t have any words or music but I knew the whole event was a song. It was the eve of my 35th birthday and with the good book saying we could look forward to 3 score years and 10 (i.e. 70 years) if we’re lucky, I felt I was standing at the crossroads of my life.
Even though I had 4 children at the time and a mortgage and a car loan and all of the stuff that goes with being an adult I still felt I was just a kid pretending to be grown up. The strange thing is that most of the time, even all of these years later, I still feel the same way… that is, until one of life’s great moments arrive which make you realise time is moving. That’s what happened to me last weekend.
It’s not surprising that the passing years take us by surprise. I look in the mirror most days and see the same face I had the day before. On a day to day basis you don’t notice the subtle changes, the extra lines, the greying of the hair, the losing of the hair! Occasionally you’ll see an old school friend and think, goodness me, they look terribly old without realising that the way you look must have exactly the same affect on them.
And so we have special days in our lives, days that mark a rite of passage for you or for the people close to you. First day of school, last day of school, learning to drive, first kiss, first girlfriend, engagement, births deaths and marriages. I always find it amusing how new parents get so excited that their baby can walk for the first time or talk for the first time. We all know that people having been doing this for countless generations but when it happens to you or one of yours its special, it’s a miracle. It also proves to you that things are changing in life.
I remember the day my youngest daughter was born. For some reason as my wife went into labour we had a laughing fit together, real hysterics, and we still can’t remember the reason we started laughing. Because of that I always think that my little Daisy was born in laughter. She was the youngest of 4 so she grew up quickly having to find her own space and voice in a house already filled with noise.
What a voice she had. It was an octave lower than most girls. I remember calling home once and asking if the person on the end of the line was my eldest son? No. My youngest son? No. With a pretty good impersonation of Paul Robeson she said ‘It’s Daisy’.
Not only did she have a distinctive voice, she could sing. I found that out by accident when she asked me could she record a song for her friends as a Christmas present. I was so blown away by her jazzy tones that I sent a copy to a friend in the music business without telling him who she was. He was also very impressed and set about organizing showcases for all the major London Record companies. Over the coming weeks she sang for top record company executives and had a TV show commissioned about her journey. But Daisy was always one to know her mind. Over breakfast one morning she told me she had decided that she wasn’t ready to become a full time singer and wanted to concentrate on school and that was that.
There have been plenty of days that have marked her passage from my little girl to a beautiful young woman; her first day in university where suddenly she joined a group of fresher’s and hardly turned around to wave to her weeping parents in the car. Graduation, first day at work all special days.
It was a couple of years ago that we found out that there was a boy showing some interest. He was an old friend of her brothers and she seemed slightly annoyed that he was sending her messages on Facebook. To be honest I was quite pleased as, well, it’s good to know the family and also he had a proper job. When she told me he harboured ambitions to be a stand-up comedian I have to say I told her that really wasn’t funny!
Last year he turned up outside my house at 6.45am to meet me as I got home from presenting my early morning radio show. He wanted to ask me for my little girls’ hand in marriage. Of course I did what every father probably does, said yes, and then tried my best to hide the tears rolling down my cheeks.
As Daisy walked down the stairs last Saturday morning in her wedding dress I realised that she wasn’t a little girl anymore. Without me noticing she had turned into a beautiful young woman and I was about to give her away. We laughed together in the wedding car as we drove to All Saints in Mumbles waving to the holiday makers as we passed. We stopped on the walkway up to the church, just the two of us. I wanted to tell her lots of things, what she meant to me, how proud I was, how beautiful she looked. In the end, with both of us on the verge of bursting into tears, we decided not to say anything and try our best to get to the church on time.
There are special days in life and we have to do our best to enjoy them, to create memories that will last a lifetime. As we get older sometimes things that happen to us in the recent days or hours disappear very quickly. I often say I can remember what I did 20 years ago but last week, well let me think about that and consult my diary. One thing I’m sure of, no matter how old I get, I will take every minute of last Saturday with me to my final breath.