This is the way it goes. In your mid-forties, you have your first crisis of mortality (death will not ignore me); and ten years later you have your first crisis of age (my body whispers that death is already intrigued by me). But something very interesting happens to you in between.
As the fiftieth birthday approaches, you get the sense that your life is thinning out, and will continue to thin out, until it thins out into nothing. And you sometimes say to yourself: That went a bit quick. That went a bit quick. In certain moods, you may want to put it rather more forcefully. As in OY!! THAT went a BIT FUCKING QUICK!!!… Then fifty comes and goes, and fifty-one and fifty-two. And life thickens out again. Because there is now an enormous and unsuspected presence within your being, like an undiscovered continent. This is the past.
Elvis Presley would have been 75 today. Happy birthday to the King, who lives on in his music. There are a lot of clips here showing Elvis performing live, singing in movies, on television, and one in a studio. Long live the King.
Why can’t Tony Blair be like Eric Blair? Because one was born in Motihari, India, the other in Edinburgh, Scotland? Because while both went to public school, only one went to Oxford? Because though their fathers worked overseas, one was a university lecturer in Australia, the other an Indian Civil Service officer? Or is it because only one married a distant relation of John Wilkes Booth? Yes, the terminator of Abraham Lincoln.
Happy birthday, Tony, but not many happy returns of the day at 10 Downing Street. That’s how plenty of people must be feeling if they remember at all today — May 6 — is his birthday. Yes, born in 1953, he is all of 53 today. I discovered that only because I checked Answers.com which also has another interesting detail which I shall pass over here. This is a family blog.
But reading The Guardian and The Times yesterday in the wake of Labour’s humiliating defeat in local elections which triggered the customary headline, "Blair must go now", I realised something else — why Eric Blair had to change his name to George Orwell.
"He is said to have assumed his pseudonym, inspired by the River Orwell, near his parents’ house in Suffolk, to spare his family embarrassment," said the BBC when he died of tuberculosis at the age of 46 on January 21, 1950. It didn’t say what could be the possible cause of embarrassment, simply adding:
"Orwell’s early writings often drew on his own experiences of poverty which were in marked contrast to his privileged background.
"He spent time living as a tramp in the East End of London and as a dishwasher in Paris – events which inspired his first book in 1933, Down and Out in London and Paris."
But I suspect there was another reason why he used a pseudonym: he couldn’t bear the thought of sharing the same surname as Tony Blair.
It’s true Tony wasn’t even born when he died. But remember he anticipated surveillance cameras, databases, the loss of privacy, Big Government. Is it impossible that a man of his prophetic vision also foresaw the birth and rise of Tony Blair? And we know what he thought of politicians. So the name had to go — and Eric Arthur Blair became George Orwell.
Tony Blair, of course, has more important things to think about than why Eric Blair became George Orwell.
What’s Orwell, after all, but a writer.
And Blair of No 10? The prime minister of Britain for the past nine years.
For darned too long, Chancellor Gordon Brown might mutter under his breath. But his dreams of becoming the prime minister himself may turn out to be a brown study, after all, if his party continues to lose like in the local elections.
Blair is certainly making things sticky for him. He may have promised this will be his last term and Brown will be the next prime minister. But he didn’t consult Brown when he reshuffled the Cabinet yesterday after the election defeat. "Gordon Brown will be very wary of the promotion of John Reid to Home Secretary and Alan Johnson to Education – either man is potentially a leadership challenger," said The Times.
That’s another difference between Eric Blair and Tony Blair. The former proved a visionary, the latter tricky.
Tony Blair may never be Eric Blair. But maybe he aspires to be another Machiavelli.
John Lennon would have been celebrating his 65th birthday today. Imagine what he have been like today had he not been shot dead by a schizophrenic fan outside his New York home just a month after his 40th birthday, on December 8, 1980.
I don’t think he would have been just touring for the big money like Mick Jagger, fading into inconsequence like Paul McCartney or remained inscrutable like Bob Dylan. He might have recorded and performed occasionally, and the music might have been uneven, with occasional flashes of brilliance, but he would have probably spent more time speaking up, taking up causes, mocking the authorities and making a nuisance of himself. Beatles biographer Hunter Davies thinks so too and said so in an article in The Independent yesterday.
Lennon was always a maverick with an activist streak in him. Think of Give Peace A Chance, The Ballad of John and Yoko and the notorious Bed-in in Amsterdam with Yoko Ono and the nudie photos of the couple which found their way into album covers and publicity pictures. Jagger sang about Sympathy For The Devil, Lennon could be the devil himself. But it was always for a cause. Who doesn’t want peace and love? That’s what he spoke for. Remember Imagine.
Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace…
Imagine is not my favourite Lennon song, it’s too wishy-washy. I love my country and believe in religion. Bob Dylan’s Blowin’ In The Wind is my favourite anti-war song. But Imagine does happen to be the most played Lennon song. And it is haunting in a way, the plaintive voice, the spartan arrangements and the sombre melody. And it clearly delivered its message well, or it would not be played so often on the radio.
Personally, I prefer the earlier Lennon, the cheeky and irrepressible moptop. McCartney and he wrote and sang some of the finest songs of my generation. Help, Norwegian Wood, Nowhere Man, those are the songs I love. My personal favourite? A Hard Day’s Night. Lennon was a rock’n'roller who spoke of peace and love. His heart was in the right place.
(Pictures taken from John Lennon Dreamsite)