All that I am, all that I ever was…

I am more than my mental health. I am more than my homelessness. I am more than any one aspect of me. I am Addy. And this is…

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25 Songs, 25 Days: Hallelujah

Day 08: A song that reminds you of your “first love”.

Hallelujah | Jeff Buckley


My first visit to Berneray, an island in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland, occurred in February 2000. After long-terming in a backpacker hostel, myself and two friends decided to do some traveling and opted for the Western Isles. After touring Lewis and Harris we boarded a ferry, crossed the Sound of Harris, and arrived on Berneray shortly after lunch. Almost immediately we were spellbound by the island’s scenery, location and atmosphere. The following morning we sat outside the hostel, on the shore of the island, watching the sun rise over the ocean. We were all speechless, completely hypnotized by the stunning spectacle before us.

Ten months later, after months of traveling Canada and beginning college, I decided I wanted to spend New Year somewhere special. And the only place that came to mind was Berneray. It had lived in my heart throughout the entire year, a memory of happiness, of solace and of contentment. After months of traveling around Canada, making and losing friends and navigating the intricacies of a college education, I needed the joy of Berneray, of that memory with my friends, to see me through into 2001.

So, early in the morning on the 29th December, I set off on the long journey. A train ride, a bus ride, a ferry ride and another bus ride later, I was standing on the shore of Berneray’s east coast, the same spot where I had sat ten months earlier watching a spectacular sunset. I was alone. But I was happy.

Later that night I was busying myself with journal writing when some fellow travelers arrived at the hostel. One was an elderly Englishman. The other, a twentysomething Australian. Almost instantly I was smitten with the Australian’s contagious smile, sparkling eyes and cheeky sense of humor. I didn’t say much, but I introduced myself, told her I was a student and listened intently to stories from her traveling adventure. I found out her name was Louise and that she was on the UK leg of a world-traveling adventure. She had been to Thailand, Europe, Ireland and had decided to come to Scotland to look for work. She had bumped into the Englishman in a hostel in Glasgow and, after being told of the oasis that was Berneray, had been invited to come along for the New Year.

We did little but talk and flirt that first night. Eventually succumbing to our tiredness and slinking off to our respective bedrooms, no doubt to dream about the other. The next morning we got talking again and, after being invited, I accompanied them on a tour around the local landscape, stopping off at a variety of food stores to stock up for the coming days. That night, after returning to the hostel, Louise and I got talking again. We ended up playing a drinking game that had been left at the hostel and, midway through, after excusing myself for a cigarette break, we stood out the front of the hostel. A blanket of stars above us. The gently rolling sound of the surf beside us. It was then when, out of the blue, Louise asked the question that would change my life: “Can I kiss you?”

If Louise hadn’t asked this question there is no way my anxiety riddled mind would have been able to make a move on her, no matter how much I wanted to. And if I hadn’t made a move, if that kiss hadn’t happened, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I would never have moved to Australia. I would never have managed a backpacker hostel. I would never have met Kathy or Grace or Mae. I would never have had a breakdown. That kiss, that singular moment, changed the course of my life. And, after all the chaos and pain, after everything that has happened to me, if I could go back and change it. To shake some sense into myself. To stop that kiss from ever occurring. There isn’t a part of me that would.

For that kiss led to my first relationship. Within days of meeting, Louise decided to accompany me back to Inverness. She moved into my bedsit and we began a relationship that would last five and a half years. A period of time that, for the most part, was full of happiness and joy. As we sat on the ferry at Lochmaddy, awaiting the crossing to Uig, Louise slipped a CD into her discman and popped an earbud into my ear. She wanted to play me a song, one of her favourites, to start our adventure off on the right note. I had never heard of the artist – Jeff Buckley – before. I had never heard of the song – Hallelujah – before. But I was enchanted from the moment his breath hit the headphones.

Hallelujah would go on to become the most important song in my life. It will forever be a reminder of my first relationship, of my first love, and of how quickly, and unexpectedly, life can change.


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015. Five songs that have made me cry

Many years and lives ago I used to cry at the drop of a hat. I always put it down to the perils of being a highly sensitive person. Weddings, births, deaths, Guy Fawkes nights, Christmas, New Year…yep, my ducts would spring a leak on each and every one of them.

Goodbyes were something that always had me welling up, as does the ending of The Amber Spyglass and Torchwood: Series 2. Whilst Doctor Who: Doomsday, well, when I first watched that I nearly cured the drought in Australia.

As for the times I kill an innocent jacket potato by leaving it in the oven for too long…let’s not go there.

These days I don’t cry. Period. I well up from time to time but never allow myself to let the tears fall. I can’t actually remember the last time that I did. I’ve put this down to a defense mechanism rather than a HTFU approach to life. I generally believe men need to soften rather than harden up, whilst women need to start understanding that there’s nothing wrong if a man needs to cry, especially over emotionally painful things.

I wish I could cry more. I miss the emotional release that a good weep would give me and believe that things would be a lot better for me in terms of coping and isolation if I could receive a release every now and then.

Therefore, for my 365 Day Challenge, writing about a song that makes me cry is impossible.

I can however write about songs that have made me cry.

1. Goodbye to You (Michelle Branch)

I first heard this song in the Buffy episode Tabula Rasa. Tara and Willow break up, Giles leaves for England…it’s all too emotional! After discovering what the song was I tracked the album down in a music store in Cardiff and listened to it one night as I moseyed back to the train station.

Whether it was residual Buffy memories or the fact my girlfriend had recently flown back to Melbourne leaving me all alone, I don’t know. All I do know is that I walked through the streets of Cardiff crying like a baby as this played on my old Discman.

2. Unexpected Song (Bernadette Peters)

This song is a key track on the soundtrack album of my second relationship and whenever I hear it I think of her. The fact this relationship became abusive means I cannot listen to this song. Ever.

I guarantee you it will make me cry if I were to listen to it…however, as the traumatic memories would probably also trigger me to kill myself, I don’t think I’ll be trying anytime soon.

3. The Story (Brandi Carlile)

The Story was an album I used to listen to a lot when I was writing the original incarnation of this blog in 2007.

Whenever I hear any song on the album I think of those confused, distorted, homeless days and all the pain I was recording for the world to read.

4.Hallelujah (Jeff Buckley)

We were sitting on a ferry still in dock at Lochmaddy harbour. I had arrived on the island alone to celebrate the New Year in a place that I held dear to my heart; I was returning beside a beautiful woman.

As I tried to comprehend the massive change my life had taken she pulled out a CD player and slipped a disc inside. Popping on ear bud into my left ear, the other into her right ear, she took hold of my leg and told me she wanted to play me her favourite song.

Five and a half years later I am standing in a flat I had called home for three years. All that remains is memory as our once wonderful relationship lay in unrepairable tatters on the floor.

Slipping a CD into the player I listened to one last song to remind me of the good times before leaving. It had me in tears the moment his breath hit the speakers.

5. I Try (Macy Gray)

Oh. My. God.

This song is one of two songs that immediately takes me back to one of the greatest times of my life. For several months in late 1999, early 2000, I long-termed at an Inverness backpacker hostel with a group of some of the greatest people I’ve ever met.

That winter, this song was a huge hit and played many, many times via the stereo during the period. However, it did not make me cry until late February.

As with all travelling eventually the time comes to go home and as I was home it was everyone else who was leaving. In the space of six days I said a farewell to three of the greatest people I’d ever met and as I walked, alone for the first time in months, through the streets of London I walked into a music store off Piccadilly. As I browsed the CDs this song began to play and, even though I tried to stop it, the tears just came as I realised a chapter of my life was closing and things would never be the same again.

Yep, still no tears, but I came close with Hallelujah and I Try. And no, I didn’t dare try Bernadette Peters!

When the day comes that I cry again, I’ll be sure to let you know :)

Until then, what songs move you to tears?