Saturday, 14 July 2012

Show us yer teeth... let the sunshine out

"The sun never says, after all these years of shining on the earth - 'You owe me'.
Think about a love like that - it lights the whole sky"     
( Hafiz)

For the past few days in Brighton, the sun has barely peeped from behind the rain clouds before sinking into the watery horizon. This is British summertime of course - although we've now overtaken the longest day. Almost instinctively, and in the absence of a working television, I've been trying to find music to play, pieces to read and people to speak to, to bring a little sunshine to my day.
You know how someone can brighten a day by walking into a room?  I'm fortunate enough to know a few people like that. My friend Chantal is one such person. She's been through the darkest times in the past two years and yet her smile can lighten up a room, through her own distress or even physical pain, reaching those around her. As soon as I see her smile as she says "Hello lovely lady!" I have to smile too.  Yesterday, oblivious to the rainclouds and tidal chill in the air, she was wearing a 1950's dance hall dress, six inch stilettos and a jaunty rose in her hair.
The transvestite driver on one of the local bus routes turns the corners of my mouth up as he flicks his long blond hair from his perfectly made-up face with rather capable workman's hands. He stands chatting to the other (male) drivers outside the garage, sharing a joke and a cigarette. He wears a mini-skirted, customised women's bus company uniform: this is Brighton after all! In his own possibly size ten stilettos, he stands a head taller than most of his colleagues; I get the feeling they look up to this warm and personable character in more ways than one.
I've known my friend John for half of my life and I know him to be a respected forensic scientist but really not an armchair electrician. Yet this week he persevered with a rewiring project on my spare room for hours, saving me possibly hundreds of pounds but costing him an entire afternoon through to dusk, not to mention his frazzled nerves. When he announced he'd succeeded, I rather ungraciously blurted out that I didn't think he'd be able to do it; he simply smiled and said "Neither did I!"
My recently bereaved but irrepressible friend Lin texts me simply: "Are you alive? I do hope so. Bored x" and I smile. I've had calls from Australia, Singapore and America over the past few rainy days, when I felt trapped in the house by the inclement weather and an even more inclement sore throat. OK, the call from Singapore was a wrong number, but the lady on the other end of the line said she liked my voice and wished I was her friend; this made me smile. I've been answering my emails and texts rather belatedly: whenever I see someone sign off with "Your pal", "Your friend" or "Hugs", I smile.
While my immune system's been struggling over the past few months, friends old and new have been sympathetic, supportive, bossy; but always with a smile. I don't know the name of the Yorkshire lass in my local Sainsburys who calls me "Goldiepops" when she sees me, but yesterday she added "Give us a smile if you've got happy blood!" and so of course I did. And this little blog has now gone well beyond 6,000 page views since I put tentative fingertip to keyboard on 15th February this year: I'm rather amazed as I thought no-one really knew that "The Water is Wide" was here. Every time I looked at the page views last week, I felt my mouth twitching. 
The other day, I received my third wedding invitation in as many months; the diversity of the couples, all tying the knot this October, is heartwarming. All three (very different) cards were handmade and opening each one was like splitting into a shaft of sunlight. I had a delayed journey to Hampshire this afternoon; a couple of a certain age rushed onto the already crowded train at Havant and promptly fell giggling onto me and my little flask and paperback. My spontaneously pursed lips quickly eased into a wide smile when they both apologised at the same time, gushing that they were a little bit all over the place because they had just decided to get married after twenty years together. He told me "It seems a little sudden to me, but what the hell? We're in love!"
The evening I started putting this post together, a cab stopped outside my little house to wait for some of my neighbours; I could hear music blaring as he screeched into the puddle outside my front window. Usually when this happens, I find myself subjected to indiscriminately pounding drum and bass music; and no, I don't really know what that is... Wonderfully, he was playing "Sunshine On Leith" by The Proclaimers, and it played all the way through thanks to the tardiness of the girl across the road. I love The Proclaimers; I love this song because I find it's waltzing rhythm combined with the Reid boys' rugged harmonies and broad Fife accents almost mesmerically warming. I'm particularly fond of the chorus, which I find deeply poetic yet poignantly every-man:

"While I'm worth my room on this earth,
I will be with you.
And while the Chief puts sunshine on Leith
I'll thank Him for His work
And your birth and my birth"
So Thank You: for reading this blog, for being a friend already, or one I haven't met yet, for being kind or funny or wise or simply unique. And Thank You for smiling when I trod on your shopping on the bus or tripped over my own wedge sandals in the supermarket; when I absent mindedly took a bite out of your cake in the M and S cafe and when I smacked you in the face on the pier while trying to wave a fly away from my own.
A genuine smile costs nothing but is always utterly priceless. I grew up in south London, which wasn't always the most comfortable place to be, but smiling was part of the dialect. "Show us yer teeth", for the uninitiated, simply means this life is short: smile while you can. And it's possible more often than you might think.

This post is largely dedicated to Ms Chantal Gregory 
Photo: Chantal Gregory, album

Show us yer teeth!
Photo: Gigi, album

"Sunshine On Leith" The Proclaimers

No comments:

Post a Comment