Joan Armatrading

It was one of those days, the ones that leave me breathless and anxious, emotions burning my skin. An old man fell to the floor in a faint behind us as we queued for a drink, making me want to cry as I watched people huddle and help, his wife’s crinkled, worried hand on his back. It was one of those days when you feel the loneliest you can feel. The kind of lonely that is only possible in a crowd.

I couldn’t complain, it was both the last place on earth that I wanted to be at that moment, and the only place. Thankfully, the darkness of the auditorium closed around me like a magic cloak. No more need to smile or nod or acknowledge the other people, all here because they really wanted to be. All really lovely, but I just wanted to be far from them.

The moment she opened her mouth, her voice swallowed my up-my-own-arseness. Anthem after anthem of my youth, winding its way through the air, bringing with it marching goose bumps, falling tears. The roar from the crowd as an image of our beloved Madiba flashed behind her as she sang In These Times, finished me, a glorious moment of humanity.

Thank you, Joan Armatrading, thank you.

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