“Goodbyes are few enough, and we take them where we can”

This line – this entire piece, which is Neil Gaiman’s tribute to Iain Banks on The Guardian – hit me so hard that it actually, physically took my breath away.

Not because I’m a fan of Banks – I’m embarrassed to admit that I’ve never read one of his novels. I only read the piece because Gaiman rocks my socks off these days. Anyway. It speaks of loss – unexpected loss, although I believe truly all loss is “unexpected” – in a way that really resonated with me.

This passage, in particular:

And then, a week later, with no warning, my friend Bob Morales died, and I was upset that I hadn’t replied to Bob’s last email, from a week or so before. So I replied to Bob’s last email, although I knew he’d never read it. And then I wrote to Iain. I told him how much I’d loved knowing him, how much I’d enjoyed being his friend, even if we only saw each other in the flesh every few years.

Followed shortly by:

And he wrote back and said good, comforting, sensible things. Goodbyes are few enough, and we take them where we can.

*Emotional rant warning: Leave if you’re not good with this sort of thing*

I never got a chance to say a proper goodbye to my father. He pretty much went from Real Dad > Coma Dad in the space of roughly 10 minutes, while I was in res at University, and then from Coma Dad > Dead Dad in the space of 14 months.

And as much as you can talk to Coma Dads, unlike in the movies, they don’t wake up if you ask them to squeeze your hand if they can hear you. And they definitely don’t talk back.

One of my life’s biggest regrets – as stupid as it is, is the fact that I cut short that holiday at home – the very last holiday I would have with my father – for the first time ever, in favour of going to visit a friend in the Eastern Cape.  My next holiday, I was doing a work experience in Cape Town, so I couldn’t have gone home. I know that I couldn’t have known what would have happened. I get all that.

But I thought we would have more time. Years and years more. He was 49 when he had his stroke.

(As a result of this, I have the biggest fear of abandonment/loss/change. But that’s not the point of this column.)

You know, I thought I had a point to all of this. Perhaps it is this: Reply to the email, even if it is a one-liner. Tell people that you love them (God knows I should practice what I preach here, I’m pretty much physically incapable of saying the L-word, even when sober). Hug your friends and mean it.

And fuckit, forgive yourself when something awful happens and you didn’t do all those things, or say goodbye in the way you wanted to.

The day I said goodbye to my father was two months before he died. It was the way I wanted to say goodbye, the way I needed to say goodbye at that particular time, but the movie fan in me kept on hoping his eyelids would flutter open, he would see me, actually see me and he would say my name.

Goodbyes are few enough, and we take them where we can.

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Day (Not really) Twenty – #30DayBlogChallenge

Day twenty – The meaning behind your blog name.

But first, I’m quite impressed with myself. Only took twenty days to break the post-a-day thing. I went to the Observatory here in Cape Town last night with two of my friends – honestly, one of the most awesomely fun things I’ve done in ages – and spent the whole of yesterday playing Skyrim (At last!! At long last!!) And it completely slipped my mind. Then this morning when I was meant to post, I woke up to the news that Whitney Houston had died – and so I spent most of my day working on tributes, features, galleries and keeping up with all of the news that was pouring in. So very tragic. Although, as my manager said, these celebrities really do keep dying over weekends. Enough already.

So, the meaning behind my blog name? Well, it’s two-fold. Firstly, I wanted something celebrity-related. I had visions of making this blog mainly celebrity-oriented (hey, I was relatively bright and shiny in those days) and I wanted something to do with stars. Stardust is one of my favourite movies, for some weird reason, and so it worked. And in the URL “Africa” because a) stardust.wordpress was already taken and b) I live in Africa.

So now you know. Stay tuned for Day (Really) Twenty-One.

Rest in peace, Amy Winehouse

Just over a month ago, I wrote a piece called “Amy: A public suicide” for iafrica.com. In it, I questioned the wisdom of allowing her to return to the stage and wondered what was being done, if anything, to get her back on her feet.  I closed off my article with, “Sadly, it may be too little too late for a woman who looks half a move away from catastrophe.”

Exactly a month later, Amy Winehouse was dead.

Amy Winehouse

Amy Winehouse was found dead in her London apartment on 23 July 2011. She was 27.

It somehow felt so inevitable, and yet still completely unbelievable. We all knew where she was headed – especially because by all accounts, she refused to get help, but there was always that ray of hope, that wish she would come out of it and do what she did best.

We all have those “where were you when you heard about…” moments in our lives. I got yelled at by my mom for changing the channel on the morning of Princess Diana’s death, because the ticker at the bottom of the screening reading “The Princess of Wales is Dead” did not quite penetrate my 10-year-old brain at 6.30am on a weekend morning.

Amy Winehouse’s death is going to be one of those moments for me.

I’d spent most of the afternoon at Mirriam House in Paarl (more about that here) after their home burnt down on 17 July. One of their toddlers was killed and they lost absolutely everything – and so we pitched in to bring them lunch and play with the little ones. Afterwards we stopped off at Simonsvlei for some chocolate-and-wine tasting (as you do) and by the time I got home I was nice and giggly and settling down to watch a movie. Then I checked Twitter (yes, I’m on Twitter – you can follow me here) and bang. “Unconfirmed reports that Amy Winehouse has died”. I hit refresh and almost immediately, Sky News had confirmed it. I jumped up, out of bed, left laptop and lights on and was at the office in just over 10 minutes.

And so, it being my job and I love doing it, I’ve been swamped with Amy news… And so I haven’t had time to sit down and actually process anything.

The two overwhelming feelings I’ve had though is – firstly, it’s an absolute shame and I grieve for her. Her death was a tragedy. She was an absolute force of nature – hands down one of the biggest talents to emerge in the past decade. She paved the way for other British female vocalists – Adele, most notably, but also Duffy and Eliza Doolittle – and redefined the jazz/soul genre for the modern age. More after the jump…

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Rest in peace, Elizabeth Taylor

Elizabeth Taylor

Elizabeth Taylor in 'Cat On a Hot Tin Roof'.

When I was younger – possibly around 10 or 11, would be my best guess – I watched Cat on a Hot Tin Roof with my grandmother.  I don’t remember the film too clearly – but what I do remember, was Elizabeth Taylor as Maggie the Cat. She was mesmerising – I couldn’t keep my eyes off her. Like many, many young and slightly awkward girls, I wanted to be her – she was beautiful, confident, wildly talented and breathtaking.

There will only ever be one Elizabeth Taylor.

In the news rush that followed the confirmation of her death yesterday aged 79, I found this gem of a quote from Franco Zeffirelli – who directed Taylor in The Taming of the Shrew. “People like Liz don’t exist any more,” he said. “Because fairy tales no longer exist.”

It’s very true. In the current crop of stars, I don’t think a single actress could even come close to Taylor’s level. Angelina Jolie and Catherine Zeta-Jones are probably closest – but even their stars have faded in recent years. There’s nobody else who has the glamour or the magnetism of old Hollywood… And we’re left with “new Hollywood”.

“New Hollywood” is obsessed with punting out a Good Product. One that will draw in massive ticket sales. A film no longer has to be a masterpiece to garner attention – it’s all about the Product. And the biggest products of all? The stars themselves. Stars are photoshopped into oblivion for movie posters, magazine covers and promotional items. Mainstream actors in particular behave a certain way, interview a certain way, perform a certain way in order to garner some celebrity… And it’s all down to the pioneer that was Elizabeth Taylor.

William Mann, who wrote How to be a Movie Star: Elizabeth Taylor in Hollywood, said: “She created the whole business of fame, the way we know it today.”

“The template that she laid down in the 1950s and 1960s everyone continues to try to follow, with varying degrees of success. But she’s the one that invented it,” he told CNN.

As much as she was famed for her film roles and her tumultuous marriages, she was also a passionate humanitarian. She was a dedicated campaigner for the fight against HIV/Aids, helped to fund amfAR (American Foundation for Aids Research) and in her lifetime raised an estimated $200-million for Aids.

What a lady.