How NOT to write about music – 64. Mary Poppins Returns


I have not processed my mother’s death.

I am not even aware which day it happened on, although I know my sister Alison called me up around 9 pm one Saturday evening in December last year. I cannot recall if it happened before or after Christmas. I have moved the leaflet from her memorial service onto one of my shelves alongside the never-to-be-read books and detritus of a former life. Her picture is standing proud above the piano, and my fellow brothers and sisters occasionally get in touch. At the time, I wondered if her death was a relief, a blessing? My mum had not been able to recognise her surroundings or children or even form sentences for years before she died. Maybe it was a relief? Yet here I am on Mother’s Day 2019 and wishing I could just go visit her in her Home in Chelmsford anyway. Just for the reassurance, an echo of the love and support she so warmly gave while she was alive.

I saw Mary Poppins Returns on Sunday 16th December, 10am for 11am, with my three children at a premiere in Leicester Square. I am able to look that date up. It was the morning after my mother died, and I didn’t tell the children till afterwards when we were just about to enter The Mall right by the ICA. It seems an odd place to tell them, but then what is a good place to tell someone? Isaac had been explaining (rightly) how mawkish he found one scene where the children explain loss to their dad, and I needed to tell him then. Mary Poppins Returns is not the best film to see when you’ve recently suffered a loss. A theme of bereavement and departure runs right through it.

I didn’t enjoy the film that day, although it was lovely seeing the children awed by their surroundings and train journey and free snacks. Also, I fucking loved the companionship and sense of family.

During ‘A Conversation’ I was sitting with tears running down my face, trying not to look obvious, as the dad expressed the bewilderment he still feels at his wife’s absence… not least because the shockwaves I have tried to suppress since my divorce last February chose that moment to sound out loud and clear. (There is a moment during ‘Nowhere To Go But Up’ at the film’s end where the Admiral shouts to Jack “don’t you lose her, son” and what have I done but precisely that?)

I found myself resenting the chirpy moments (e.g. the bloke they drafted in to be the new Dick Van Dyke; the scene with Meryl Streep) but I cannot deny that the film’s storming centrepiece, ‘A Cover Is Not The Book’ had me spellbound and in raptures at Emily Blunt’s acerbic, loving, inch-perfect reading of P.L. Travers’ original Mary.

I am becoming distracted, avoiding the issue. It’s so tiring, so draining trying to process grief. Easier to ignore it, shunt it away so it cannot bother you again. I have listened to the soundtrack to Mary Poppins Returns once, twice – even three times a day, every day since I returned to work start of January. I know why. Mary Poppins leaves at the end of the film, at the end of the soundtrack, it’s so sad and yet no one ever seems to notice. If I keep skipping straight back to the start she’s back, helping me, comforting me, supporting me.

I miss you, mum.

One thought on “How NOT to write about music – 64. Mary Poppins Returns

  1. Pingback: 10 Least Read Entries on How NOT To Write About Music (April 2019) | How NOT to write about music

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