Life is a Mystery Quilt, actually Ronan
Hello Dear Reader
Once, many moons ago, one of you wrote to me on MySpace to congratulate me on my chart success while at the same time delivering the best unsolicited advice ever given on a social media portal.
‘Forgive me friend, for I am old,’ you wrote, ‘but because I am old, I can tell you this: just enjoy the ride. Try to see it for what it is, hop on, go with it and be there for every minute if you can.’
Perhaps because it was bookended by a message from a disgruntled Texan telling me I was a pacifist c**t (an oxymoron, surely) and another from a stranger in Swindon insisting that we had been together in another life in Bogota circa. 1839, your message stuck out. You were an American, I think. You looked a bit like Willy Nelson. Maybe you were Willy Nelson, I don’t know - it was a long time ago and not even Tom remembers his MySpace password now. But I think of your message regularly and again, I thank you.
And what this ride through a dualistic universe has taught me, if anything, is that it pays to be reductionist.
What does not matter?
How do we tell the difference?
When last you heard from me, I was mired in May, an awful May, possibly the worst May of my life. It was a shocker because I thought as a Taurean it was illegal for us to have a bad May. It’s our month. The waves usually part, the sun usually beats down in God-like rays and people are wonderful wherever I go. But not this one. The absolute kicker of the month was losing my oldest sister suddenly in its last days and how prescient my most recent newsletter seemed now, and not in a good way.
Precisely because this is a dualistic universe, June brought with it unexpected joy and adventure. I released another album. I squeezed in a long weekend in New York where I made new friends and finally saw my beloved Godparents after Covid could no longer keep us apart. I got blisters from sending out so many CDs from my dining table that I thought the people in my local post office would start hiding behind the counter whenever they saw me approaching with my mail bags. I played a show at Blenheim Palace with David Gray and was off stage in time for The Archers.
I also went to Worcestershire.
And then, earlier this week, I gathered with my siblings to say goodbye to our sister Juliette. As funerals go - and I’d like to think I’m quite the authority on these matters given current form - it was a definite 9/10 on TripAdvisorForFunerals™. It had flowers. It had beautiful eulogies given by family and friends. It had a priest who looked like Father Christmas. It had wonderful, tasteful curtains. The sausage rolls at the wake were amongst the finest I have ever eaten. It even had ABBA. It could only have been better had my sister been there with us, instead of in a box, but her box was a brightly coloured cardboard affair replete with daisies.
My sister packed an awful, awful lot into her sixty years on this planet. That she did it with severe cerebral palsy in a world that still woefully disregards the disabled is all the more extraordinary. I couldn't help but think, sitting there in the beautiful Gloucestershire countryside, how could I ever say anything was impossible, any trial insurmountable, when she had been so utterly determined to achieve whatever she set her very fine mind to and managed it? What a dick move to ever complain about my lot in life, I thought. My sister had more courage and determination in her little finger than I have in my whole body.
‘Death,’ the Reverend Father Christmas told us, ‘is a mystery. Nobody who goes there ever comes back to tell us about it.’
Before I left her in her upstate woodland idyll, my Godmother gave me a quilt she had made. Like her sister we said goodbye to in May, she is a woman of remarkable creative talent. I keep everything she has ever made me: stuffed toys, quilts, aprons, clothes, greeting cards and drawings. I unwrapped her latest offering and promptly burst into tears.
‘It’s a mystery quilt,’ she said. ‘You have no idea what the design will be while you’re making it until you finish it.’
Just like life, then. And perhaps it takes death to see the whole picture. I like to think that my sister, and all the people we have loved and lost, are somewhere out there, looking at the haphazard brushstrokes of their lives and seeing them fall into perfect symmetry. And that’s why they never come back to tell us about it: because they know it will all make sense one day, but it is for every individual to find out for themselves.
I hope you are all doing okay. You have been so very kind with your beautiful messages regarding both the last newsletter and the new album, and I feel lucky to know you are there. Making a record is so often a lonely business but it has definitely felt worth it once again. I owe you a housekeeping update, but damn, you know where to find that stuff if you’re interested and this…this is different.
We’re penpals now.