This week has been nice and relaxed, as I took a few days off to spend with family and celebrate my fortieth birthday! I've never been one for elaborate birthday celebrations but I married a woman who is quite the opposite so the day was planned out start to finish and it was a really special one, culminating in a trip to Murrayfield to watch Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band with my wife, daughter and parents. Sitting around the kitchen table with my dad last year, he'd mentioned that he'd always fancied seeing them live and just like magic, a month or so later I saw that they were touring and their Scottish date was on my birthday so it seemed too much like fate to pass it by! My wife and I saw them back in 2009 in Hampden Park, Glasgow and three of their albums - Born to Run, Born in the USA and The Rising - have formed a big part of the soundtrack of our lives together.
If you've never had the opportunity to see them perform, I'd strongly recommend doing so. despite being 73 years old, Springsteen and his band regularly play a solid 3-hour set, with next to no pause between songs. The musicianship across the board is second to none (when two of your guitarists are Nils Lofgren and Steve van Zandt, you know you're in a good band!) and the energy is relentless, but it's the emotion and passion in the songs that has had me hooked since I was a child.
Bruce Springsteen is a key figure in what's often called Heartland Rock, a genre which combines fairly straightforward rock music with lyrical themes about working class life and experiences. He paints vivid pictures of the struggles of ordinary people, in their relationships, communities and work and despite being neither working class not from America, I find these characters and stories so real and relatable that it's easy to have empathy for their circumstances.
He also has a strong social conscience which is something I admire, particularly in those whose work and wealth have elevated them to a place where many of the causes that they champion no longer directly affect them. Perspectives change as we grow, travel through our lives, gain more experience and gather more information along the way and it's often frowned upon when wealthy, famous people remain aligned with causes which they first experienced before the fame and the money arrived. I feel the opposite, however. Using your platform to be the voice of the voiceless is something I've always admired and it speaks of someone with clear and strong values.
I'm no Bruce Springsteen, but helping people is something that is deeply ingrained in me and I always seek to have a positive impact on others in everything I do; whether that be through work, through my family or through the things that fill the spaces in between. After the gig, when everyone else in the family had gone to bed, I sat alone in the house reflecting on the day and thinking about what it means to me to be forty years old and thinking about the many blessings in my life. My dad lost his own father before he was my age, meanwhile I had my dad strimming my lawn this week (in open toed sandals and wearing a pair of safety glasses, usefully, on top of his head, I should add) while I did the mowing and mum was helping Harper fill a bucket with warm water to make the world's smallest paddling pool, in the afternoon sunshine.
My wife had reached out to many of my friends from through the years and compiled a video from all the clips they sent her of their reflections on our friendship and on the morning of my birthday, it was really moving to hear the words of so many people whose lives have intertwined with my own. I can only hope that in the next forty years, I get the chance to deepen those friendships, to make more and to keep helping others and that when I'm sitting here (God willing) at eighty years old, I can look back over the past four decades with the fondness that I'm able to do today. To the many people who have impacted the first forty years of my life, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. Here's to the next forty!