Thursday, August 04, 2011

What Sort of Candle Are You?

And it seems to me you lived your life
Like a candle in the wind - "Candle in the Wind" 1973, Bernie Taupin

Let me take you down,
'cause I'm going to Strawberry Fields.
Nothing is real and nothing to get hung about.
Strawberry Fields forever - "Strawberry Fields" 1966, John Lennon

Tourists at Strawberry Fields, New York
I ask this question, not because I have written a FaceBook app on the topic, but because recently a friend of my brother's described my brother Tim's life as, "like a Roman Candle". And I got to thinking ...

Thinking about how often the image of a flickering dying candle flame is evoked when trying to describe the brief life of one who has gone too soon from this world.

The song "Candle in the Wind" is just one example. Interestingly it was written by Elton John's writing partner, Bernie Taupin, about Marylin Monroe - Norma Jean. Taupin got the idea for the title from a quote he read about Janis Joplin. And of course, over a decade later, in 1997 Bernie Taupin rewrote the lyrics so that the subject was Diana Spencer. Elton John played the new version at Princess Diana's funeral.

Still, I was surprised when I read in an email that a friend had described my brother's life as being "like a Roman Candle, spent in a fantastic rush."

It's not how I saw my brother at all. He was a laid-back kind of guy. He worked for himself most of his adult life, as a carpenter. "Like Jesus," he'd say when people asked him what he did.

I remember Tim musing one night about "careers". He saw them as something "other people had", but not himself. "When I think of 'career', he explained,"I think of a car careering out of control." I laughed. So Tim.

George Harrison Remembered -  November 2001 - Strawberry Fields
I remember too when Tim lived in a spice cupboard. Sleeping on a narrow shelf. Of course this description of his lodgings back then were conveyed to me by my mother who had a dry sense of humour, and moreover, was given to exaggeration.

Tim said he was happy to live in a spice cupboard - "like the Vietnamese boat people," he explained. "If it's good enough for them, then it's good enough for me." But then, he had a dry sense of humour, and moreover, was given to exaggeration.

I actually visited him there later, at his spice cupboard abode. We met outside the spice cupboard in a communal lounge-room. I was wearing a watch. Tim said, "Can I have l look?" and so I took it off and handed it to him. There upon he picked it up and smashed it with a hammer. "You don't need to be ruled by TIME," he said. Really.

Perhaps Tim's friend of the Roman candle remark merely meant that Tim lived life to the full. A Roman Candle. I googled it, and I vaguely remembered them from my childhood - splattering sparks randomly in all directions. Like "Tom Thumbs". I think I was scared of them.

Tim, St Kilda Beach, 1960
Yes my brother did "live life to the full", as they say. He wasn't a conventional person, but he wasn't a Roman Candle speeding through life like a gush of shooting Roman candle sparks.

I lived with Tim for a while when we were both adults. At a time when we were both recently separated from our partners. In the evenings we'd sit out in the back yard with his mates. Like his dad, Tim was a beer drinker.

I'd stay relatively sober, as I had a salaried job. A "career" in fact. But towards the end of the evening even Tim would quit drinking and lay back, looking up at that wonderful Australian night sky - so filled with stars - sinking into ... his strawberry patch.

"Strawberry fields, forever," his friends would say as they departed for the night.

A Lennon admirer, yes. A Roman candle? I can't see it.

And what sort of candle am I?

Or, more to the point, what sort of candle are YOU?

beetroot to yourself
lettuce all get along
Bean so good
getting to know you
Peas to you
and all of your family.

Tim Juliff (1950 - 2011)

1 comment:

Vanessa said...

What sort of candle?

I think we are all eternal flames. Our bodies may die but our souls never go out.

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