Falling and Laughing: The Restoration of Edwyn Collins
Over 20 years as manager and partner of Edwyn Collins have left Grace Maxwell with a host of tales and a way with words. Camilla Pia chews the fat with her
‘I witter on like a budgie, as my mum would say.’ Lanarkshire-born writer Grace Maxwell is chuckling as she talks about Falling and Laughing, her story of partner Edwyn Collins’ miraculous rehabilitation from two devastating brain haemorrhages in 2005. Following the tragic events of that year, which left the singer physically incapacitated, his family was told that he was lucky to be alive and that he may never recover any aspects of his old self. Collins then went on to defy medical expectations, teaching his brain to read, speak, write and walk all over again, and since then has released a critically acclaimed new record, Home Again, played numerous live shows and is now back in the studio full-time.
It has been a long, arduous process for both the couple and their son Will, and it left them changed for the better. ‘There’s no doubt that good things have come out of it,’ says Maxwell. ‘There are things that Edwyn and I have done and discovered about ourselves. Work kept us sane and stopped us from falling into depression and misery, and although some things are still a struggle for him, he thinks about what he has regained and chooses not to dwell on things that he lost four years ago. You can either be miserable or happy, it’s a choice, and Edwyn chooses to be happy.’
Beautifully penned and complete with photographs and illustrations, Falling and Laughing documents Collins’ debilitating illness and recovery, and his early life with Maxwell from their chance first meeting in a north-west London living room. It’s a heart-warming and inspirational read and despite being initially daunted by the task, Maxwell enjoyed her first foray into the writing world. ‘The guys at Heavenly collared me and suggested I write a book about what had happened to us, introduced me to an agent and before I knew it I had committed to doing it,’ she laughs. ‘It was at that point I thought “god, now I’ve actually got to write the damn thing”. Conveying it properly and getting the tone right concerned me, but then after months of messing around I just cracked on with it and once I started to see it taking shape, I was happy. When it was done it was a great feeling, a real sense of accomplishment.’
And is Edwyn a fan? ‘He is really happy with it, which surprised me,’ she giggles. ‘I expected him to be a little dubious and, at best, perhaps not that involved but he has been brilliant. He was really encouraging throughout and when I’d read him out bits he would say in a cheeky, surprised voice, “You’re a good writer.”’ With a string of literary and musical appearances booked in for the foreseeable future, Maxwell says that she has never been as busy – and as for Collins? He continues to go from strength to strength. ‘There was a time we thought he would never get back into the studio, but he’s fully in the swing of it again. It’s been incredible for me to see him waking up in the middle of the night with ideas for songs. I don’t believe now that Edwyn won’t continue to improve; in fact I think he will carry on defying the predictions.’
Falling and Laughing: The Restoration of Edwyn Collins is published by Ebury Press on Thu 9 Jul.