The year was 1982. I was on a class field trip to Chinatown in Sydney’s CBD. The usual fare; learn about the Chinese culture, how to use chop sticks, politely repeat a few newly conquered phrases and then attempt to stifle the giggles.

No-one was really looking forward to the long, hot and sticky bus ride home. Back in my day, t’weren’t no cushy fabric seats we sat on. No. We had hard (and mostly torn) leather (questionable) seats. We were tired and cranky by the time we had to head back. But as we dawdled out from an alley way into the main square, we beheld a dazzling sight…

There, in the middle of Chinatown, a hundred, nay – a thousand of the most brightest lights surrounded one man holding a bowl of rice above his head. Movie cameras had been placed at every imaginable angle. People rushed about, talking fast, shouting orders, moving this and fixing that. Music started and stopped. Started and stopped. All the while the man kept raising and lowering the bowl of rice. That man was David Bowie.

He was there to shoot a music video for “China Girl” and we were very much in the right place at the right time. Somehow, our class teacher had managed to convince production staff to ask Mr Bowie if he would sign autographs for us. At the time, it felt as though everything was unfolding in slo-mo. Saw someone walk up to him, say something in his ear which caused him to nod slowly and smile. Putting his bowl down, he turned and walked (glided) over to us. Surely I was dreaming.

As he got closer, I snapped out of my trance to the sound of my friends squealing, desperately looking for something to write with. But they were taking far too long with the search. He was standing right in front of me, for heaven’s sake. And all I could do was reach up meekly and hand him my brand new, bright yellow, Bic Pacer. He took it from me (did our hands touch?) and held out his other hand for something to write on. I gave him my lined notepad and he leaned over to ask for my name. “It’s Cathy!” I gushed. As an afterthought, “Cathy with a’C’!”. But I was too late. My notepad came back, and sure enough, a big embarrassing ‘To Kathy’….. [sigh] I walked to the back of the group so others could have their turn. Happy and disappointed at the same time. Oh well. Never mind. It’s still an autograph, right?

Halfway home on the bus, with the excitement well and truly worn off, I suddenly realised Mr Bowie hadn’t handed back my Pacer. I was too busy being precious about spelling that I hadn’t noticed he’d simply continued signing autographs for everyone with it. God knows what he did with it afterward. The problem was, my parents had only just bought that pencil for me, and, back in my day you didn’t just lose a pencil after only a couple of days and get away with it.

Yes, you got me into trouble Mr Bowie. Any chance you could see your way clear to returning that Pacer you stole? Ta.

As an aside, through the years I’ve been an on-again/off-again fan of his. One of my faves is Changes. It was playing in my head one afternoon at the beach; I noticed this family walking along and it struck me that each member was at a different stage in the their lives. This is my homage to changes…

Changes | © cdeZign

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