I mentioned, nervously, in passing a few weeks back that I was planning on using my convalescence to write a jukebox musical. As you do.
The idea came from a collision of two events the day after I came home from hospital. I watched one of Steven’s favourite films – Sunshine on Leith. It’s a lovely little film, played with sincerity and of course a brilliant Proclaimers’ soundtrack. Later I received an email from a woman who had just finished my latest book and wanted to let me know that her favourite bits were where Steven uses songs to get his message across or to crack a joke. She particularly liked the chapter about how The Beautiful South have provided the soundtrack and language tools throughout Steven’s life. A seed was planted and it’s been growing quickly ever since.
The musical is not mine and Steven’s story. I have lifted stories from our life and the opening scene is pretty true to an event that took place in August 1995, a few weeks after we adopted Steven.
Me and Julie were sitting on the patio at a hastily arranged meeting with a psychiatrist, a social worker and a speach therapist. Steven was in a familiar position, sitting cross legged in the middle of the living room, constructing a tower out of several CDs. The tone and the content of the meeting was pretty grim. The psychiatrist was reporting back after observing Steven for an hour in his bleak office. The speach therapist had visited us at home the previous week for an hour. From the living room, I could hear Steven picking out CDs to build his tower:
“Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe.
Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart.
Andy Bell and Vince Clark.
George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley.
George Michael and Elton John.
Two George Michaels.
Craig Reid and Charlie Reid……..”
This carried on for some time. Back in the garden, a very different picture was being painted:
Psychiatrist: “From my observations, I conclude that it is likely that Steven will never be able to speak”.
Me: “But he can speak. He pointed out a tractor this morning”.
Psychiatrist: “I meant a conversation. Being able to construct a sentence. Make himself understood”.
Julie: “I can understand him….”
Psychiatrist: “I suspect you’re seeing what you want to see. Hearing what you want to hear”.
Me: “He’s talking now. Can’t you hear him?”
Psychiatrist: “It’s not relational. It’s just words. I’m sorry”.
The meeting carried on in much the same vein for a further 20 minutes. They left. After showing them out, I sat in the porch, smoking and trying to make sense of this prognosis. From the living room, I heard a sort of hissing sound. I poked my head round the door and watched Steven plug the microphone into the stereo system. He put on The Beautiful South’s first album and started singing into the Mike:
“Cry Freedom. For the woman in the wall.
Cry Freedom. Because she has no voice at all….”
I sprinted out of the front door but the professional party were driving off round the corner. And I came to my senses because I realised I hadn’t a clue what to say to them even if I managed to catch up with their car. Needless to say, I had no idea that the meeting set the tone for all future meetings over the next 24 years. One life being viewed through totally different lenses.
Despite the futility of the story, I reckon it makes for a cracking opening scene. Only another 50+ scenes to go.