The merry and the melancholy widows
ON Tuesday night I went to see Jane Birkin in concert in London. Accompanied by a full orchestra she sang beautiful songs by her former lover Serge Gainsbourg, a man who was a drinking, smoking definition of the word louche. When he died in 1991 the French regarded it as a national tragedy. Here all we really remember of him is the much banned orgasm ode Je T’aime, sung by Birkin in 1969. She was his muse. Though they were not married and broke up in the early 1980s she has, like a widow, kept his memory alive.
After widowhood – or its unmarried equivalent – most women eventually pick themselves up and dust themselves down. Others are poleaxed by grief. And some – especially those married to famous or powerful men – transform their lives into an act of remembrance. Debbie McGee’s gutsy appearance on Strictly is very much a tribute to her love for Paul Daniels because she always talks about him. Since the death of her husband Desmond Wilcox, Esther Rantzen has campaigned for older, lonely people because she is so lonely without him. Yoko Ono keeps Lennon’s memory fresh. Jane Birkin sings Serge’s songs more than a quarter of a century after he died. They are all women full of life and talent yet connected forever to a lost partner.
Love eh? What can you do?