25 years ago, I was clearly more organised than my middle-aged self. I was Christmas shopping in Culpepper’s, in Lion Yard, Cambridge, when the rather tiresome stream of carolling over the tanoy halted…and, startlingly, the track changed to “Imagine”.
It’s only in the past 2 or 3 years that I’ve begun to recognise that there is music worth hearing outside the classical tradition, and my student self was as snobbish about music as it’s possible to be, but the Beatles were different. They were the music that my adored Godmother, her younger brother and sister, my adopted siblings, had played through my childhood. I was the youngest by some years, so I’d stayed at home when first J, then T and S left for boarding school, and college. They would return for Christmas and the summer, bringing exciting new friends with Afghan coats, pierced ears, and guitars slung over their shoulders. These were beings from another world than that which I knew as the indulged only child of older parents in a small town on the Sussex coast. I longed to be like them, but was still confined by school uniform, early bedtimes and the need for piano practice…so all I could do was to learn the songs. I knew them backwards…they were the soundtrack of childhood.
Now incredibly, I myself was one of those exotic beings who had flown the nest (no matter that the nest itself had ceased to exist with the death of my parents…I still felt myself flying on golden wings through an enchanted sky)…but here was one of our songs, booming out across the Christmas shops…and people were crying.Openly crying, in that city of sophistication, where we all had to be in control all the time...
John Lennon had been shot.
I completed my shopping hurriedly and went in search of good friends, needing the security they represented..
Somehow, those bullets marked the real end of childhood for me…I could no longer pretend that it all still lay there behind me, should I choose to turn and revisit.
That was the day that I grew up.