Chelsea Girls are the best in the world for company

One of the most important characteristics a writer needs is the ability to be alone, to be happy in your own company. I’ve been writing all day (that is to say, the 24th February 2009), working on a play idea, which is based very loosely on the recording of The Stone Roses’ second album. For a writer, a productive day alone in front of the computer, or typewriter, or open notebook, is a day well spent.

I enjoyed taking a break to make pancakes; I was quite happy to make them for myself, and to eat them alone while listening to the radio. Later in the evening, I watched TV on my own, by way of research. There have been quite a few programmes on the BBC recently about sleep and dreaming, which I’m interested in for this project about the night.  Tonight, there were two; Horizon on the biological clock, and then a show on BBC 1 about a guy who was investigating ways of staying awake for as long as possible. When you’re trying to watch something and to take a few notes at the same time, it’s probably best to do so in silence, in solitude.

Later on today, that is to say, the 25th February, I’m going to Belfast for a couple of nights, to do some research for the book. I’m leaving Birkenhead on the 22.30 ferry, and I’ll float through the night, arriving at Belfast at 6.00 am on Thursday. I’m travelling alone, to visit some top secret night locations in Northern Ireland, and although I’ll be meeting up with lots of nice people while I’m there, for much of the time it will be just me, quite happy, on my own, in my car.

So, for much of the time, being alone is what being a writer is all about. But I just listened again to the clip of Mott the Hoople’s last single ‘Saturday Gigs’ which I posted on Sunday night, with its killer line, ‘Chelsea Girls are the best in the world for company.’ And tonight, the 25th of February, is the 22nd anniversary of the death of renowed Chelsea girl, Rowan Kate Manby, Charley’s Mum, my first wife; my first real girlfriend, if I’m honest. I’m writing about the first night that Rowan spent in hospital after her collapse with a brain haemorrage for the book; but here, because this is the interweb, and necessarily interactive, I just want to post a song for Rowan.

She loved all kinds of music, but in the months before she died, she had become obsessed by doo-wop. She had a project to find the earliest identifiable rock and roll record. One of her favourites was ‘Earth Angel’, by The Penguins, from 1955, a year before Rowan was born. ‘Earth Angel’  was the first record to cross-over from the RnB chart to the Billboard Top 100, and to achieve the Number One spot on both charts. It’s therefore a contender for one of the earliest rock and roll records; and I play it for Rowan, and for me, because I wish I wasn’t alone right now.

‘We die with the dying:

See, they depart and we go with them

We are born with the dead:

See, they return, and bring us with them.

The moment of the rose and the moment of the yew-tree

Are of equal duration.’

3 Responses

  1. Grime says:

    Ah, Ian. Rowan was a lovely lovely girl.
    You need solitude. I need solitude. It’s a good thing sometimes, is solitude.

  2. Helen Morris says:

    No birthdays of note today, but thanks for the fantastic memories of Rowan. My ‘earth angel’ is now 13 and she really loves pancakes. She (Laura) was feeling slightly hard done by because she’d never, as she pointed out, “actually had pancakes on pancake day”. She should have spent the evening with you Ian – a proper pancake person.

  3. Paul Williams says:

    Ah the 25th of February. My niece and nephew, Cassius and Clementine, they are 10 today. Family friend Mark Radcliffe, it is also his birthday today. And poignantly, for my wife her dear friend Melanie who died last year overwhelmed by a brain tumour, she would have been 36 today.
    And as counterpoint, my girl Elsie Mae is going to her friend Amber’s party this afternoon. She will be four.

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