I am certainly one of those persons who believes that ‘Old is Gold’, and until recently, I found no harm in it. I love old music. In fact, the range of my favourite tunes begins between the time of the first church hymnals and whenever ‘O Danny Boy’ was first invented, passes enthusiastically through classical music (Mozart, Handel, Beethoven and Tchaikovsky in particular) skips carefully over the mire onto selected faves of the 40s, 50s, 60s and 60s and seventies (Chuck Berry, Sinatra, Crosby, BB King, Charley Pride, Diana Ross, Aretha, the Beatles, Queen, Phil Collins, George Michael, Elton John, old Latino…), leaps wildly to avoid most of the 80s (with notable exceptions that include Madonna –and more Latino) and halts, bereft, somewhere in the mid 90s. I have since rarely added to my personal jukebox, and never apologised for it.
I adore old movies –I mean, does anyone remember when movies were movies? They stopped making them in 2000. In fact, I often say that I have rarely liked a movie made after 2000, and rarely liked a series made before then. I never go to the cinema any more –seriously. The last time I did was to watch the third Harry Potter movie, nor am I ashamed of saying this. I can’t remember when that was, but I can tell you that the time I went to the cinema before that? It was to watch the second Harry Potter movie. I’m not ashamed to say that either. I am one of those who subscribes to TCM (Turner Classic Movie channel) where I never cease to be blown away by everything from the plots, the sets and the high fashion, but also by the acting, carried out so beautifully in classic and classy succinct accents.
Here may I indulge in lusting after the original bad boys such as Steve McQueen, the hot, naughty, James Garner, the butter-wouldn’t-melt David Niven (also an author, by the by!), the suave Clarke Gable and delectable Cary Grant. I sigh after the classical beauty, style and manner of the original ‘Independent Woman’ reincarnated again and again in Katharine Hepburn and Ava Gardner, the wonderfully and remorselessly evil Bette Davis, the cold Joan Crawford, and the sweet, dear Doris Day. I even delight in more than a few of the unavoidable musicals, and can do a shockingly good rendition of ‘How Are Things in Gloca Morra?’ (Finian’s Rainbow)! Naturally, I’m wordperfect in ‘The Sound of Music’ and ‘My Fair Lady’. It’s Peter Sellers, unique in his Pink Panther movies. Later, it’s the Rockys, the Godfathers, the ‘Frankie & Johnnie’, and ‘A Bronx Tale’ that enthral me. It’s’ Grease’, ‘Footloose’ , and ‘Dirty Dancing’. It’s ‘Diner’, ‘The Big Chill’, and ‘Out of Africa’ and ‘Amadeus’. It doesn’t get better.
I am the one the librarian raises an eyebrow at, when I present myself at the check-out desk with books that were last borrowed in 1957 –I’m not kidding. This week, I spent a couple of hours chortling blissfully over “How To Be An Alien” by George Mikes (pronounced “me-cash”, as it says on the fly leaf) on British society, which gave me that ‘perfect reading’ feeling that everyone should read it at least twice.
I love my jeans (indeed, I live in them), but frankly? I wouldn’t mind squeezing into a crinoline, at least once. Still, my favourite and best clothes are vintage, proudly purloined from my mother’s old trunks –which, by the way, is where I regularly go shopping. I stole my father’s old canon (which was stolen, for which I remain unforgiven) and though I don’t wear a watch, I have several, one of my favourites being one I was given at birth, by my Swiss godmother. Quality used to mean something… And going back to jeans, briefly –you’ve never had a pair unless you’ve had a pair of real ones. Not the ones that stretch, that come in black and white and red in a boot cut, or any such rubbish –the real jean material, sturdy, strong and unchanging. If you ever had one of those, you should still have it –I do!
But would I like to go back to those days? I’m afraid, here, that the answer is a hotly delivered and definite ‘no.’ You see… this culture? It isn’t mine. While Mozart struggled to get the music out of his head and onto music sheets, ‘Amazing Grace’ haunted the cotton fields, Hollywood was setting up ridiculously difficult, brilliant sets in the desert for some epic, and women were fighting for their rights in England (marching the streets in patent high heels, full skirts and feathered hats)? MY ancestors were enjoying the peace of a hot afternoon, topless beneath a palm tree. Their biggest concerns were Maasai warriors charging into the village to make away with their daughters, or lions prowling too close for comfort. It was how to settle upon an appropriate dowry for their girls, and whether her brothers, sent to investigate, would bring back a good report of the potential groom (without which all bets were off, and she could stay on the shelf a while longer). It was whether their sons would come back from the hunt, or the occasional skirmish with another village. No disrespect to them, but taking myself off down the river to fetch water to help Mum cook doesn’t sound appealing. Especially while struggling to balance the calabash on my head with the weight of my pendulous breasts. I’d much rather have been an Italian artist struggling in a workshop in Florence, learning from Leonardo. Or an acquaintance of Mozart’s. Or a script-writer in a writer’s sweat shop in Hollywood. But basically, a White Man. There has never been a better time to be a Black Woman than today, and for this, I am certainly grateful, as I don’t have to struggle a quarter so much from racism as even my mother witnessed, anywhere in the world. I can learn to read. I can go to school, and take it as far as I want to. There are ways for me to prevent myself getting pregnant, thus preserving my choice of career as well as my sanity, should I happen to be a lustful teen. In fact, I can have whatever career I chose to have, and don’t have to be a nurse or a secretary. I can vote. I can divorce a husband. In short, I have rein over all my rights. For absolutely nothing would I be a Muslim woman, for example, in a country run by Sheria law, who still has such a tough journey ahead, in pursuit of basic rights, let alone Happiness.
I think of all of this today, and count my blessings. Still in Hot Pursuit!