Bob Marley's bed in Nine Mile, Jamaica, which was the inspiration for the lyric "We'll share the shelter of my single bed" in the song ‘Is This Love.’ A live rendition of the song can be found on the ‘Babylon By Bus’ live album from Paris in 1978.
Around the turn of the New Millennium, my wife and I, and our children, William and Rebecca, took a ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ holiday to Trelawny, Jamaica. Although the three-week holiday break needed a bank loan to finance it, it was well worth it. Relationships between me and my wife and our two teenage children, William and Rebecca, were at a testing-stage and changing point of life.
My wife and I had enjoyed twenty good years of married life, but our relationship gloss had started to dull down somewhat. We knew that all relationships between man and woman have a natural shelf life and probably sensed that ours was not too far from its expiry date. We weren’t unhappier than most married couples; it was just that we weren’t as happy as we once were during our first fifteen years of married life. Having tasted such happiness, we missed its passing and knew it would never return as it was before. Highly physical and satisfactory love had mutually sustained us for so long and had spoiled us to hold expectations that were no longer attainable by us as a couple.
William and Rebecca were in their awkward mid-teens and were studying at school and college to obtain educational qualifications that would enable them to get them a University place of their liking. William was fast becoming a rebellious young man (he had rebranded himself ‘Will’ to distinguish himself from his dad) and was in two minds as to which life course to take; a university degree in Economics or become a poet and rap singer of the New Millennium. Rebecca had other things on her mind; probably in the boyfriend field of interest.
Just before I embarked on the family’s Jamaican holiday, my name and face appeared on the international television channel ‘News 24’ after the African President, Nelson Mandela had personally phoned me at my home through a Home Office link, to tell me that he had read my book of African stories that Cherie Blair had given him during a Number 10 visit and which he considered to be ‘wonderful’ (The African Trilogy).
The Jamaicans consider Mandela as an idol, alongside Marcus Mosiah Garvey and Dr, Martin Luther King Jn, and by the time we arrived in our holiday complex in Trelawney, Jamaica, most of the hotel staff knew who I was. Over that first week, I had a number of notable Jamaican people contact me, and by the time I made my second visit to Jamaica a year or two later, I was working in conjunction with the Mayor (Custos) of Trelawney and the Minister for Education and Youth Culture on a 64-school trans-Atlantic pen-pal project. I’d also written several books to raise money for school equipment for the thirty-two Trelawny schools; all of which I am proud to say were educationally approved to be placed on the school curriculum.
During our ‘all in’ holiday hotel and Jamaican experience, my son, Will, was using every minute we had checking out the Jamaican music scene, listening to the reggae songs and speaking to too many Rastafarians on the beach who appeared to be selling drugs and other contraband goods. Unbeknownst to me or his mother at the time (although we were aware that he had experimented with cannabis like most of his peer group), Will was now buying some of the stronger cannabis from the beach sellers who were masquerading as Marley music lovers as they sang the rebel songs of Jamaica.
During our family holiday, we visited most of the tourist ‘must-see’ sites, along with the ones closely associated with Bob Marley’s earlier life before he became a famous reggae singer and troubadour. One of our most memorable trips out was when we went to Nine Mile where Bob Marley lived, and we saw his bed (the bed described in the song I sing today). This visit was within a compound with a huge gate that was opened by an armed guard when we pipped the car horn (as instructed by a large notice outside the dwelling). Once we entered, the compound was closed and locked all the while we were inside. Part of me felt a bit uneasy to start with, especially when an enforced collection box for the compound’s maintenance was presented to us. The collection box continued to remain under one’s nose until the contributions to the cause had reached twenty U.S. dollars.
During our hour’s visit to the Marley compound, my son disappeared. Part fearing kidnap and a huge ransom being demanded for his safe return, we searched the compound high and low. We eventually found our son after twenty minutes. He was smoking their own home-grown cannabis with two armed guards dressed in the full Rastafari regalia. It turned out that the most dangerous part of that day-outing wasn’t the armed guard in Marley’s Nine Mile compound but the Jamaican taxi driver we had previously booked to take us on the return journey. He drove along the pothole-ridden roads at over 70 mph with one hand on the wheel while the other smoked some Jamaican spliff that stank; all the time ignoring all requests by car occupants to slow down, whilst perpetually grinning like some taker of high-grade cannabis.
It was certainly a day to remember and for a few years after returning home, my son William decided to pursue a disc jockey and rap singer’s career when he left school. This intention to join the rap scene lasted for a few years until he met a girl who was studying at Huddersfield University. After her degree course, the girl planned to travel the world on an extended gap decade. Once the sniff of love in the making became stronger than a whiff of a spliff in the taking, my son’s next decision had been made. His DJ and rap-singing career was put into mothballs (despite having formed a group and made several rap records) and over the following months, he crammed and gained his entrance into University. By the time he and his girlfriend Eve had graduated, they had been living together in a student’s house in Huddersfield and had arranged their tickets to Perth in Australia where they intended to settle down,
A few years later, both Will and Eve attained their master’s degree in Economics and were planning to live a quality existence in sunny Australia as full citizenship. For a brief spell, my son tried the conventional and high paid job of an accountant, but it soon became evident that this office 9-5 life was not for him. The couple had married in Eve’s homeland of Poland when their future together seemed rosy. Their relationship can best be described as being of the tempestuous Richard Burton/Elizabeth Taylor type. They could neither live with nor live without each other! A few years into their marriage, it became evident that their values and everything else that each of them wanted out of their lives were the opposite, and the couple separated and was subsequently divorced.
Whereas only increasing material acquisition was to be the sole thing Eve wanted to find, what William wanted to discover was not of the material world. William wanted to find lasting peace! He wanted to live the simple life of not needing too many material assets beyond the clothes on his back and good friendships to relate to. In short; he wanted to find himself! He now functions as a Yoga Instructor and being someone who is prepared to turn his hand to anything, he currently spends his time travelling around Australia and between his base in Perth and Bali doing whatever takes his fancy. He recently told me that he plans to record and release eight new rap songs on an album this autumn.
My daughter, Rebecca, holds down a responsible post in London in HR, my son, James, holds an executive position in France, My son, Adam, is a care worker in West Yorkshire and my step-son, Mathew is a machine operative in Barnsley.
This song is a reminder today that all my children, as well as myself, are currently ‘Feeling the love of life’, and it is that knowledge which makes this old man a happy father, husband to Sheila and individual. I dedicate this song to my Jamaican friend, Lorna Gregory.
Love and peace Bill xxx