"Now as I was young and easy" as Dylan Thomas so eloquently began his poem "Fern Hill" - as I was young and easy in my late teens in the 1960's, I discovered Dylan Thomas.
In 1965, in my 18th year, I was introduced to Bob Dylan for the first time by a friend'd suggestion that I watch him on a television programme. In doing that a light bulb came on, the Stones and the Beatles were relegated to second and third places of interest. A life time of devotion to Bob Dylan, his poetry and his music had begun.
Later, after a few months of sating myself on all things Bob Dylan, my interest also began to lean towards the man that Bob Dylan allegedly took his surname from - Dylan Thomas. I bought Dylan Thomas's Collected Poems, read and loved "Under Milk Wood" and begun collecting various autobiographies about both Dylan and his wife Caitlin. It soon became clear to me here was a man that wrote poetry brilliantly and in a style that I many times, badly tried to copy. Not only that, being in my late teens, I was ripe for idolising somebody that was also a rogue, a reprobate and somebody that regularly pissed people off. When you're that age nice people are only seen as boring, people bucking the system are always the ones most interesting. I also read that Dylan Thomas had often said to people that he didn't want to live past 40 and went on to die aged 39 at the height of his fame. He achieved that by going out one night in New York and after claiming to have drunk eighteen whiskies, against doctors orders, collapsed in a coma before dying in a hospital bed a week or so later, well I thought - way to go, who wants to get old. A few years later that thought was once again resurrected when in 1970 Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin and Jimmy Hendrix all died young from drug overdoses.
So with that thought in the back of my mind, I moved further into adult life and marriage and work and buying houses and headed towards that magical cut off point, 40 years of age. Clearly, as I'm writing this aged 72, the romantic thought of dying at 40 like my heroes, was never full filled, life may have took some dark turns along the way but there was always a bright light shining up ahead.
Mind you, as I approach my 73rd birthday, that bright light seems to be flickering somewhat. We are in the depths of the Corvid-19 pandemic and people are dying by the thousands in this country and the normal feeling of safety and comfort from being in hospital is all of a sudden a scary prospect. It's really unsettling to wake up on a fine and sunny morning, with a good day in prospect, to suddenly have that dark cloud of remembering Corvid-19 descend upon you and will today be my turn to get it.
It's changing a lot of people's lives, possibly forever, and has brought about a lot of challenging restrictions to our daily life, which many of us interpret in different ways. For me, the only real restriction is not being able to visit my partner who lives 80 miles away in Surrey whenever I like. We remain separated by the government ruling that travel by car is only allowed for essential reasons and an 80 mile journey there and back would see me probably fined if caught doing it. It's even more frustrating watching some of my neighbours being visited by friends and relatives, visits that include going in their houses.
Other than that, the one topic in vogue at the moment among people that are gardeners or farmers, is how dry the ground has become. To be not that far away from one of the wettest winters on record and now in almost drought conditions, is hard to comprehend. In the gardens, flower borders are cracking up and lawns beginning to go yellow. On the marsh the water levels have dropped almost two feet in places and the field surfaces becoming rock hard, and I watched tractors drilling spring crops the other day, being followed by large dust clouds.
It's becoming a mad, mad world.