It’s funny how dreams can sometimes be a message from the unconscious. While staying in San Francisco earlier this year I dreamed I was standing in a large room in someone’s house. I happened to glance through the window at some children playing in the garden, but then noticed standing on the grass staring right at me, was a large mean-looking black bull. His eyes glistened, he was all muscle and his skin was taut. I froze until a gentle knock on the door brought me back to my senses. I opened the door just wide enough to see three or four children in the hall, a little way behind them stood the bull. I bustled them into the room and quickly closed the door. I was terrified. Two seconds later an almighty noise as the bull smashed the door down. Without thinking I grabbed him by the horns, flipped him over and with my foot against his face pulled at one of his horns until it became limp, then did the same on the other side until he was completely disarmed, lying in a heap on the floor. When I awoke, and after trying to work out what this vivid dream meant, I saw on my phone an email from United Airlines saying my flight to Los Angeles later that evening could be cancelled or severely delayed due to stormy weather. I’m not a great flyer and so immediately went into panic mode. I began frantically finding other ways to get back to Los Angeles, including hiring a car, finding a train and checking on coaches. Fear driven obsession took over as I desperately tried to find another way to reach LA, anything other than flying in a storm. Then my dream came back to me. I realised what it was trying to tell me. The bull represented my fear. In the dream I had taken control of this fear with courage. I had literally taken the bull by the horns. I smiled to myself, put the phone down and knew I would be taking that flight, cancelled or delayed.
The last time I saw my mum was the day before she died in September. I was with my brother and together we sang Amazing Grace to the skeletal figure lying motionless underneath the blankets. Her beautiful face was now unrecognizable, but we believed she could still hear. And so, just like all the other days, we told her how much we all loved her, we named each of her five children followed by her thirteen grandchildren. When my brother had gone through that same long list the day before she muttered something almost inaudible. He put his ear to her mouth and in the faintest of whispers he heard her say, “I feel so lucky.”
Standing outside her room on that last day, I spoke to one of the carers about the different situations she’d witnessed since working at this residential home. Stories that made me believe that often people choose when they are ready to leave. Stories of people waiting for their loved ones to arrive from across the world before going, or another person, a woman who was dying of cancer and every day her husband would sit beside her bed, telling her she would get better until one day he came and said, it’s okay darling, you can go now. She died that night. “Sometimes,” this carer continued, “just opening the window shows the person you’re ready to release them.”
Just before leaving our mother’s bedside, I looked into her face, the face I no longer knew, and said, “Mum, I’m off to Norfolk tomorrow, I’ve opened the window so you can fly.”
That was the last I saw of her, she died the following day, not while my brother and his wife were with her, she waited for them to leave before the angels wrapped their arms around her and carried her away.
I feel as though I’m pregnant. I find myself searching for places that will be suitable for the newcomer once it arrives, places that will inspire and encourage it to grow. The other day I walked down to our new library to see what space there was and if it was peaceful and quiet, I’ve started clearing out cupboards and culling books from the bookshelves. I haven’t quite reached the point of getting down on my hands and knees and scrubbing the kitchen floor, an old wives tale that promises to speed up delivery, but I would if I was told that’s what it takes!
I’m in the frustrating and uncomfortable land of waiting, waiting, thinking of different things I can do to distract myself, putting photographs up on Instagram, reading posts, cooking elaborate meals, writing blogs, visiting friends and when I’m not doing that I’m preparing for the arrival. It feels as if underneath all these activities, underneath all this positive thinking, I’m silently residing in nowhere land.
But this is obviously not a baby I’m talking about, it’s part and parcel of the creative process. What I hope will one day become a book is now in proposal form having been sent by my literary agent to different publishers. I try not to think about it, I know it’s a waiting game but that’s how it is I tell myself throughout each day, you have to accept it’s part and parcel of the process. I have one of the best agents and have complete faith that she will find a publisher, and I have an editor, someone who at times is more supportive of me than I am of myself. I couldn’t ask for a better team, and yet, however wonderful they are, my book will be published in its own time and that time will be the right time. It is one of life’s major lessons on Letting Go; to do your best in whatever endeavour you choose to embark on and then to let it fly. It reminds me of Stings lyrics, the ultimate of letting go, “If you love someone set them free.” I read an insightful quote from Ekhart Tolle, a reminder of how to get centered and accept this situation as it is, “Let go of thought, become still and alert, and don’t try to understand or explain.” Basically it is what it is, I tell myself over and over as I pull myself up from my bootstraps, there are times in life when one inhabits the land of not knowing and the only option is to be still and accept that’s where you are.
It’s starting already!! The buzz is getting louder and the date is getting closer. The 50th anniversary of our trip to India is gaining momentum. February 15th 1968 is now set in stone, the day the Beatles arrived at Maharishi’s Ashram in Rishikesh.
For this momentous occasion, ‘The Beatles Story’ in Liverpool, home to the worlds largest exhibition of, what used to be called, The Mop Tops, are hosting a two-year exhibit called, ‘The Beatles in India.’ This exhibition will be launched on the 15th February 2018 to co-inside with this significant anniversary.
My sister, Pattie, and I were recently interviewed for a video that will be showing throughout the exhibition, and have been asked to attend the launch along with photographer Paul Saltzman. Both Pattie and Paul will have their photographs of that time exhibited as part of the memorabilia, which, amongst other things, will include a sitar belonging to George Harrison’s mentor, Ravi Shankar.
There is still so much interest in The Beatles, so many people of different ages from all over the world will travel year after year to Liverpool to get a glimpse of anything to do with their Beatle heroes.
I don’t know of any other band that had such an impact and continues to do so from generation to generation. Did it have anything to do with that particular time they came on the scene? It was not so long after the war and us teenagers were in need of something new and vibrant, something that spoke to us, and that we could call our own. The Beatles looked friendly and loveable, the boy-next-door sort of image, and when they sang their harmonies together made us all want to sing along, shake our heads at the high-pitched “oooh’s” and play our air guitars.
The ‘Rolling Stones,’ who appeared on the scene about the same time were quite different, they looked like naughty boys, not the sort any mother would want their daughter to go near, their music was raw, more Blues influenced.
What was it about The Beatles that made such an impact on everyone, that kept on going throughout the years, even after they had disbanded? From the eyes of a rather shy 18 – 20-year-old, being in the presence of The Beatles, even though they were funny, quick-witted and friendly, was at times quite intimidating. They were so tight, so connected, as if an invisible membrane was wrapped around them, their own world within a world.
I was invited to talk to a room full of people last Wednesday evening at the Gibson Guitar Headquarters in London. Author and leading music journalist, Lesley-Ann Jones, interviewed me about my time at the Ashram and what was it like being there with the Beatles.
It was such a joy for me and so inspiring to sit on the roof of our bungalow at the Ashram, to feel the morning sun on our faces or have henna painted on our hands as my sister, Cynthia Lennon and I listened to the sound of John, George and Paul playing their guitars. With my eyes closed, as if in a trance, the birds singing and the sun getting warmer I remember listening to them talking to each other as they tried out new songs.
Being in India for those two months was extraordinary, and I feel very grateful to have had that experience. I had no idea at the time, because one doesn’t, that the innocent and gentle time we spent there would one day go down in history, and would become such a significant occasion that fifty years later it would still be celebrated.
Thinking about creativity has been a major preoccupation all my life. It was not that I thought of myself as being exceedingly creative; in fact quite the opposite, my concern for years was that I was not creative at all. I felt too locked inside. Even though I discovered my love of writing at an early age I didn’t think of it as creative. Being a deeply introverted child, it was the most natural means I had of expressing myself, trying to make sense of buried thoughts and feelings. I wrote poems about vivid dreams, about life, or spiritual beliefs, complicated thoughts and existential questions that demanded the light of day. My inner writing world felt like the real me.
I was a photographic model during the “Swinging Sixties.” The photographers were usually young and hip and the atmosphere in the studio, with the latest records playing in the background, was always fun and upbeat. I was only asked once to do a traditional catwalk, that’s all it took to realize it wasn’t for me. It didn’t match my youthful spirit, and so instead I bucked the system and modeled the latest fashion, not walking but dancing, along the catwalks or train platforms to all the latest Motown music or to live bands. Dancing gave me joy and allowed me to create my own means of self-expression. There are times when something as simple as finding what brings you joy can be turned into creativity, the ability to share a part of who you are with others.
As years went on and I found myself surrounded by famous musicians and songwriters the doubts I had harbored about my own ability to be creative were confirmed. Even though I continued to write a few poems, the drive to create was pretty much put to sleep. Later I found out that comparing ones own sense of self-expression to that of anyone else is a sure fire way to block any kind of inspiration. In its most basic form creativity is a universal innate quality that we all possess in some measure. All it needs is a sense of curiosity and wonder.
My drive to write is to connect to a deeper part of myself and to share that with others. There is a wonderful line in ‘It’s Not Only Rock’n’Roll,’ when jazz drummer, Tony Williams, points out the difference between creativity and talent and that other thing that’s beyond creativity – the spirit that touches people. That is what I aspire to. That introverted child who was content to stand in the shadows while secretly wanting to be seen, is still around but over the years writing has given me the courage to break through my wall of shyness, to stand up and be seen and no longer the need to say, ‘if you read my poems then you’ll see who is the real me.’