Monthly Archives: February 2016

Two months…Leap Year

I’ve written the last 1968 post today, February 28th… it’s been two months since he left us.

Tommorrow it will be Leap Year Day.  Eight years ago on Leap Year Day, I sent Lem a proposal, hand written for me in a fancy script by a calligrapher.  It said:

After forty years of loving you unwaveringly…

Tradition holds that every fourth year, leap year, on February 29th, a woman may propose marriage to the man she loves.  And so, as the fulfillment of my love for you, I am taking this opportunity to ask for your hand in marriage.
Nothing need change between us.  My motives are purely romantic and I only want to express my hearts’ long desire to be yours.  I don’t want to live with you or go on tour with you.  I just want to be married to you.
Being the gentleman that you are, I am confident that you will respect the sincerity of this proposal and respond kindly and lovingly.




The End of the Beginning


Reproductions of both the original spectacles and of the ones I made myself, made properly by a Hawaiian artist I met on the streets of Northampton.

“Looking through crystal spectacles, I can see you had your fun”                        Epistle to Dippy        Donovan

I was just coming off the platform at Earls Court Road one day, and as I ran up the stairs to the Warwick Street entrance I saw Lemmy and his friend Leo.  I stopped and joined the conversation.  Leo struck me as a wild, wired guy.  He looked a little like Philthy Animal Tayor, Motorhead’s drummer before Mickey Dee, similar energy.  He was a speed freak, very friendly, and I liked him.  After just a few minutes, Leo took his leave, and we watched him bounding up the stairs, waving goodbye as he went. When he was nearly out of site Lemmy turned to me and said “ Leo called me Motorhead…isn’t that cool?”  I had no idea what that meant, but agreed that it was.  So many times over the years Lemmy would say things that I wondered about, and that was one of them.  I should have asked “Well, what does that mean exactly?” “Why is it cool?”
I’d never heard that word before, and wouldn’t hear it again till twenty years later, but it was the key to finding Lemmy again.

“We’ve moved”, Lemmy said happily and with an excited air about him, “over to Nevern Square.  Come on, I’ll show you”, and he grabbed my hand and pulled me along.  It was only a few blocks away, still in our neighborhood.  As we walked he told me that they had recorded an album and he couldn’t wait to show me.  “What?… Wow!”, I exclaimed. This was a big deal, and a complete surprise to me.  In those days, recording was a complicated and expensive endeavor, involving a contract with a studio, not like it is today, with recording options so much more accessible.

This new place was a room in the front of the house with a big three sided window that bowed out, very light and airy, with high ceilings.  Lemmy had a bed right in the alcove of the window overlooking the square, the large garden guarded by a tall wrought iron fence.  These squares are private, only for residents surrounding them, who have keys.  It was a lovely street, and stately townhouse.  Going back to London forty years later to reminisce, I couldn’t be sure exactly which townhouse it was.

The room was large and white, with crown molding around the edges of the ceiling and artful details gracing the walls, giving it a formal feeling character.  This room was built to be an elegant parlor or dining room, and now it had been reduced to a flat for wild rock and rollers.  There were four disheveled beds arranged around the room.  Like the last flat, it was rather dull and nondescript,  but it had a cozy, lived in feeling about it, a nest, and was a definite upgrade from the last place on Philbeach Gardens.  Noticeably, there were several guitars about the room.  Roger was living there too, one of his band mates whom I had met briefly, and two other musicians I would never meet.
I sat down on his bed, taking in the room. He had a little bedside table, strewn with stuff like cigarettes and lighters, rolling papers. On top of the pile was a pair of unusual eye glasses which immediately drew my eye.  They were spectacular  Two oval, many faceted crystals were the “glass”, one blue, and one a turquoise green.  The frames were clearly hand fashioned of copper, holding the crystals in place with a swirling design at the sides and circling around the ear.  I immediately picked them up and put them on.  It was like looking through a kaleidoscope.  Everything I looked at was multiplied, and moved as I moved my head, and any light was lined with a rainbows of color. “ Aren’t they incredible?”, Lemmy asked coming from the kitchen offering me cocktail franks, in cellophane packages, slices of ham, and cheese, the kind of food he’s always liked!  “They’re psychedelic spectacles, meant to wear when your tripping”, he said, “ I drove all the way to Newcastle wearing those!”  I nodded incredulously, as I scanned the room, especially focusing on the sunlight streaming in the windows onto Lemmy’s bed.


The original album I got in New York City in 1969

“Look at this!” he said as he picked up the album on the bed and handed it to me.  It was a black textured album cover with large yellow letters saying “Sam Gopal” over a portrait of Lemmy with his band mates, Sam, Roger, and Phil.  It was called “Escalator.”  I was speechless and I was impressed.  I just looked at him and smiled.
As I was looking it over, Lemmy said “ Listen, I’ve got to go.  I’ve got to meet Roger.”  He took the album out of my hands, pulled the record out of the cover, put it on the record player.  “Stay and listen to it” he said with a twinkle of pride in his eye.  He kissed me lightly on the cheek and left.

I sat there alone in the darkening room as evening came on, and listened to the whole album.  I loved it. It was psychedelic, electric, sound effects conjuring haunting images along with the music, like the Beatle’s “Sergent Pepper” album.  Sam Gopal played tablas throughout giving it an unusual sound, coupled with Lemmy’s distinct voice, soft and romantic in some songs, and driven and passionate in others.  This was the first time I really heard him sing.  This was incredible.

I had had an overwhelming desire to wear the eye glasses outside in the sunlight. I knew Lemmy wouldn’t mind if I borrowed them.  As I walked home in a psychedelic haze wearing the crystal spectacles, Donovan’s song, “Epistle to Dippy” in my mind.

I also wore them to school the next day.  Later that evening Lemmy was at my door. “Do you have my spectacles?” he asked anxiously, sounding out of breath and slightly panicked. “Yes,” I said, “ I didn’t think you would mind if I borrowed them”.  With a look and a sigh of relief he said “Oh no, that’s alright, “I was just worried about them disappearing.”  I got the spectacles from my room and handed them to him. “Gotta run, he said, we’re off to Newcastle again!”  With a quick smile he ran up the stairs.

I wouldn’t see him again for twenty years.

Trouble was brewing at home unbeknownst to me, and I would be leaving London rather suddenly later that week while Lemmy was away…

Over the years I was always on the look out for crystals like those in Lemmy’s glasses, with the intention of making some just like them. It took thirty-five years.

But I did find the crystals in Dublin, in a bead and crystal shop on Batchelors’ Walk on the River Liffey.  I got some copper wiring, and struggled to fashion the frames around the crystals, somewhat successfully, although a little crudely.  The next time I went to see Motorhead, I presented them as a gift to Lemmy.  I had told Phil and Mickey about the glasses and they were watching with me as Lem opened the box.  When he saw them, he literally lit up with a childlike delight, and completely surprised, as if they were the original glasses, long lost and returned again.  I was beyond joyful myself, having made him so happy.

Autumn into Winter


Saint Cuthberts, Earls Court

And so it went… Lemmy was busy making an album with Sam and Roger.  He hadn’t talked about it, except through intimation, but being the oblivious girl that I was, it didn’t really sink in.  Now I knew he was rehearsing with them and that they were a band.

Having discovered St Cuthbert’s through Lemmy, I would go now to explore the church.  Compared to the  magnificence of Saint Paul’s Cathedral which I had visited on the day Lemmy and I met, I saw Saint Cuthbert’s as a quaint  church, but in spite of being a good deal smaller than St Paul’s,  it is an majestic work of art, known as “much the grandest church to have been built in western Kensington”.

At sunset I’d walk into the church, loving the ominous echo of my footsteps on the marbled floor.  I sat on the small wooden chairs, reflecting on the depth of my feelings for Lemmy.  I always found myself alone, I never saw a soul there.  I breathed in the solemnity of that hallowed place.

There were alcoves on the sides of the church, Gothic arches looming overhead, where parishioners could light candles for loved ones and ask for prayers.  A little school notebook sat on the old wooden table in which to write your requests, with the pencil provided, attached to the book with string.  In my carefully written, child like handwriting, I asked for prayers that Lemmy would have everything he wanted in life, that he would succeed in achieving his desires.  I wonder if they save those notebooks forever?

Loving Lemmy was all that mattered to me.  Somehow he had connected me to my spirituality, maybe through my unconditional love for him.  This is not something I was aware of then, this is what I see now.  In spite of my youthful immaturity I knew this was the way it had to be.  I could not have any expectations of him.  It was bittersweet and sad, but I felt a graceful peace and acceptance of who he was, and what our relationship was.

On All Hallows Eve I went to the church with a portable record player which I placed on the lavish ancient alter.  I wanted to hear Donovan’s voice infuse the air with “A Gift From a Flower to a Garden.”,   “Catch the Wind”, and Celeste”. (As I sat here revisiting that evening, that majestic song,  forgotten in my subconscious,  welled up in me and escaped my lips).  These enchanting sweet songs informed my life.

But “Catch the Wind” would be my favorite, the theme song of my life.  When I hear it I drift back to Lemmy Willis, the boy I knew way back then:

In the chilly hours and minutes of uncertainty,
I want to be in the warm hold of your loving mind.
To feel you all around me,
And to take your hand along the sand,
Ah, but I may as well try and catch the wind.

When sundown pales the sky,
I want to hide a while behind your smile,
And everywhere I look your eyes I find.
For me to love you now, would be the sweetest thing,
T’would make me sing,
Ah, but I may as well try and catch the wind.

When rain has hung the leaves with tears,
I want you near, to kill my fears,
To help me to leave all my blues behind.
Standing in your heart is where I want to be
And long to be,
Ah, but I may as well try and catch the wind.

The serenity of that church had become something of a  sanctuary for me to feel my aloneness.  I was not unhappy.   I was loving being in love, whether lamenting the poignant sadness or inspired by the delicious spirituality of love.

Lemmy had written: “Make up your own mind, give me a reason, why you are running small and alone.  No one is lonely if they are ready to live for living and living alone.”

Maybe I had created the reality of my life and Lemmy sensed it … maybe he knew me better than I knew myself.


Earls Court


1967 On my way to Covent Garden for the Royal Gala premiering a new ballet, “Paradise Lost with Rudolph Nureyev and Dame Margot Fonteyn

My relationship with Lemmy took place almost entirely at his flat.  We would go to movies together though.  He took me to see Barbarella, with Jane Fonda, a wild 60‘s movie, so typical of the times.  It was a sexy, beautiful, romantic, adventurer in space!  I loved it and so did Lemmy.  It was so perfect seeing that with him.  I remember leaving the cinema smiling and feeling energized, fairly floating down the street, my hand in his.

One Sunday afternoon on the way to the cinema, across the wide road, (was it sunny Goodge Street?) we saw Eartha Kit as she walked, alone and singing powerfully.  Her hands were waving in the air; she was singing to the sky.  Lemmy was taking me to see “Prudence and the Pill”, with David Niven and Deborah Kerr, an obscure film, I’d say, and a strange choice on his part, but there you have it!

Those two movies, juxtaposed, illustrate well the changes that were happening in our culture at that time.  It was a hip scene going on in London in 1966-67 where going to a nightclub, the DJ playing Tom Jones and Englebert Humperdink and dancing to the bossa nova in those cute little patent leather shoes,  and velvet dresses just above the knee was very cool.  Then it shifted to long flowing Indian dresses, or white boots and flowing sleeves, Nehru collars or very much shorter dresses of the Mary Quant look, which transversed the two scenes.  Now the music was electric, strange, exciting, and like nothing else we’d ever heard. Jimi Hendrix, Arthur Brown, Incredible String Band, and so many other wild and brilliant bands.


1968 Philbeach Gardens

And yet there was still an innocence in these times.  The Beatles were still happily together, and singing about love.  I felt so lucky to be where it was all happening in “Swinging London”.  It was vibrant and exhilarating.  The saying was “London swings while England rots”.  Not that I knew anything of the political or economic situation in the UK.  Revolution was brewing, and the roots of the punk scene were afoot, but I was unaware, only noticing the fashions and the social/cultural revolution happening around me.

One crisp autumn evening I went down to Earls Court Road with my best friend and roommate Anita.  My thoughts were all of Lemmy and I was yearning, (yes, yearning!) for him.  I often walked around the crescent of Philbeach Gardens.  I just wanted to be near him walking down “the street where he lived” like in “My Fair Lady”!  Anita and I were having coffee at a restaurant with other girls from the Royal Ballet School.  It was an American chain restaurant of some sort, red and white stripes, and wooden booths…something to do with Kentucky.  There were some really cool cafe’s near Earls Court, with folk music, like the Troubadour on Old Brompton Road, and Cafe” des Artistes in Fulham.  I can’t imagine why we chose to go to this insipid place.  We were all feeling a bit bored talking about school and boys.  I never talked about Lemmy with any of them except Anita, but even she knew little about him.  None of my friends from school ever met Lemmy.  I was watching the time, in mind of our curfew, because I had a nagging thought of stopping by Lemmy’s just for a moment, just to see him before it got too late, or even just walking past his door.  I was distant with my friends saying little, and not very involved in the conversation.  Anita noticing my wistful longing, looked at me questioningly.  I gave her my usual aloof answer “It’s nothing really”

Finally, I excused myself, saying I wanted to walk around a bit by myself before having to go home.  Just as I walked out the door, along came Lemmy, with his mates Roger and Sam.  I could hardly believe it!  I felt as if I had drawn him to me in some magical way.  I had been thinking of him and wishing to see him all evening and there he was.  And, he was wearing a long shocking pink cape with a hood!  Yes… I’m not kidding.
His friends kept walking, while he stopped and greeted me with a smile as he swooped the cape around my shoulders and swept me along with him as smoothly as can be.  We walked and talked and my uneasiness dissolved.  They were heading to a rehearsal, he said.  It was beginning to dawn on me that he was actually playing with a band.

We crossed Earls Court Road and walked up Nevern Place towards Warwick Road, and onto Philbeach Gardens.  Eventually we came to the church off the crescent, Saint Cuthberts’, with its wrought iron gates leading into the cobblestone courtyard.  I had walked by this place many times, but had never thought to go in.  Lemmy stopped just inside of the gates, and turning towards me, both of us still wrapped in the cape, he said “ I need to take leave of you here”.  He kissed me gently and released me to the chill of the night air, disappearing through the beautiful wooden doors of the church.  I drifted home in a romantic dreamlike trance.

Speaking of dreams, I recently had one wherein Lemmy was flying in the night sky.  He swooped down to me and enveloped me in his arms, which were more like wings, and flew off with me, protected in his loving embrace.  It felt just like being wrapped in his embrace with that pink cape around us both.