There must be some word today

Whilst the world lunged forth into 2019, Fate’s divination zapped me back to the seventies and I haven’t yet managed to find my way out. Funny, but I’m happy lingering here, somewhere in the mid-late 70s, when summers were summery and life was simpler.

I saw a news article a day or so before the rest of you left 2018 – a mere glimpse as I scrolled, the corner of one eye just capturing the name ‘Karen Carpenter’ – and from that momentary input came an ear worm firmly planted:

Every sha-la-la-la-la, every wo-oh-wo-oh…

Twenty four hours of that and I had to listen to the song in the hope it’d go away.

It didn’t go away. It intensified. It was the unexpected portal to a past from which I’ve yet to emerge… primarily because I’m loving it here.

What a beautiful voice she had. My parents had the album and I’d listen to it – I’d sing along – with others that remain fixed in my mind from that time: the Bee Gees, Simon & Garfunkle, Barbara Streisand… many songs from whom have survived the test of time and are still enjoyable now. I’d lie on the living room floor when my parents were out, the record crackling in circles on the player, getting up periodically to turn it over (yeah, remember that?!), carefully place the stylus, and play the other side.

Delayed gratification of a type we no longer recognise.

With the ear worm refusing to budge, and the memories of a simpler time beguiling and not something I wanted to cast out, I downloaded the Carpenters’ greatest hits album on Apple music and listened to the lot. Songs like Goodbye to Love and Solitaire still make my heart ache, but I’m not entirely sure they’ve stood the test of time – I think my kids would find them very much of a bygone epoch. Though the sentiments are entirely current.

No surprise, I guess, as there are a limited number of plots for human experience… some say 6, some say 36 – either way, we’ve been singing the same songs of love won and love lost since we first sat round a cave pit fire, banged a few rocks, grunted in unison, and found we had rhythm. Prior to that how did we feel? Who knows. Perhaps we were less inclined to acknowledge hurts. Perhaps we just went out and bludgeoned a few edible critters. Got over ourselves.

Now… well, we reflect. We feel pain. We actually enjoy sadness to a point… and then it gets too much. There’s a fine line between melancholy and pain. Sometimes I wish I could just go out and bludgeon a few edible critters. Superstar, up next:

Play that sad guitar.

So, Yesterday Once More… beautiful and I reckon it’s stood the test of time. Goodbye to Love, not so much alas and yet that guitar riff towards the end is blissfully relevant. Solitaire… well… I find it hauntingly beautiful, and apt for our times, but I guess it’s now dated even if the context is relevant – moreso in our world of social media.

The song which has least stood the test of time is the one referred to in the title of this post: Please Mr Postman… which probably made me the most nostalgic. Do you remember getting letters???? It was wonderful! Letters, postcards – more glorious delayed gratification – and long-winded phone calls, tied to a fixed point, sitting on the carpet somewhere for hours because phones had wires that would only stretch so far, and that was that, we knew nothing else.

I’m not ready to join you all in 2019 just yet. I need to just listen a bit longer… but Happy New Year to those of you who’ve arrived. I’ll see you there later.

 

A thousand tiny pieces

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Just play this one out until it explodes into a thousand tiny pieces
What’s your story, universe, you are melody in numbers
You are shapes, you are rhythms, there are signs that we can learn
To place over the heavens, to predict how long we’ll burn
How long will I last, can I turn up the heat?
What star am I circling, what’s circling me?
Now my ebb and my flow, my lack of control
Turning on, turning off
Saying yes, but playing no
Things keep changing…

The Be Good Tanyas, A Thousand Tiny Pieces (album: Hello Love)

A circuitous route…

999098_646811505347080_714063448_nSo I was in Glasgow this week and actually got beyond the station entrance to walk on streets I’ve not seen in over 23 years. And it was a curiously emotional experience, which I hadn’t expected – to view with old and simultaneously new eyes the glorious sight of Glasgow’s truly beautiful architecture, and feel revived, joyous, happy.

Clearly and thankfully, I’ve reached a ‘rose-tinted-glasses’ view of a time wherein I lived for several years in this city during the early 90s and latterly experienced so much pain and sadness. I’m free of that old woe, free to view the good memories (there were lots!), see it anew… and with this came a level of affection that really took me by surprise.

Anyway… I arrived at HQ slightly late, on account of the deviation into street exploration, and gushed perhaps incoherently to colleagues, before continuing the day without any further startling emotions. But the feeling morphed into a circuitous ramble when I later listened to some favoured music on iPod shuffle and remembered how I’d come across it.

The album is a weird one, I can almost guarantee nobody who’d see this (apart from my estranged husband, kids and the friend who gave it to me) will know this person and her work. The album is ‘Napoli Mediterranea’ by Pietra Montecorvino and is one I’ve been listening to since about 2003 – the year it was released.

It was first acquired by a Scot called Douglas – a dear old online friend who sent it to a mutual friend, Marilyn, with a message along the lines of “tried to like this, but failed, perhaps you’ll enjoy it”.  She almost immediately sent it on to me with a message along the lines of “Jesus, Douglas sent me this, awful, what do you think?”

I played it, was utterly hooked, and have listened to it a thousand times since.

Which just illustrates how taste is a fluid and perhaps even random preference, and friends are friends for many reasons but there’s no definitive set of shared criteria… they hated it, I loved it, and yet we all got on.

And thinking about how the CD came into my possession, and subsequently became part of my ‘very special’ collection of favourites… and how these two old friends had entered my life and ‘lived’ with me through some very difficult times… and how we’ve all sort of largely drifted out of touch… and how I was there, back in Glasgow, remembering all this stuff from so many years ago… and still loving Pietra’s music… and now able to re-love Glasgow again… well, I thought it worth sharing in case anyone else can also be moved to adoration by Pietra’s music (for every 9 folk who detest it, there’ll be one lucky soul who ‘finds her’, gets it, and loves it).

Pietra sings in Neapolitan, a distinct dialect of Naples, and I’ve asked fluent Italian-speaking friends to translate her lyrics and they can’t. Neapolitan is perhaps to Italian what Cornish is to English… an utterly separate language. And I love that she sings in such a distinctive and belligerent way – it’s clearly about the music and not the sales.

Here’s a taster… a sexy little duet:

The picture on this blog, incidentally, is a wonderful house I lived in for part of my time in Scotland – probably the most simultaneously happy/unhappy part. Weird. I’d moved out of Glasgow after 3 years or so and headed to the coast – where my novel The Town That Danced is set. And, indeed, this lodge house and the gorgeous castle to which it’s attached, are the very ones fictionalised in my novel. As are some of the local folk. But I could get sued for that, so I’d add that they are all very fictionalised.

And I spent a lot of time, at that point, working freelance for the organisation that now employs me, and so resulted in my recent visit again to Glasgow…

All things come around. All is linked. Circuitous is defined as a route or journey longer than the most direct way. In life, perhaps the circuitous route is the only route to take. Viva Glasgow, viva old friends, viva (re)finding my work tribe, viva life, and viva music that lives with us and stays with us throughout all other turmoil.

Viva to all o’it.

Perfect darkness.

Often late to the party, I persist in exploring new music (that’s new to me). Partly it’s because I subscribe to Apple Music and feel I ought to get my money’s worth – and so each month I make sure to find at least one new band or artist to justify the £9.99 fee. But equally, it’s about the continued quest, which mitigates against becoming stuck in a rut (of which I am eternally fearful as I think it leads to decline).

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me, with my gorgeous headphones

So I’ve amassed a large collection of old, new and oft experimental stuff and, more recently, have invested in an amazing bluetooth player for the house and some totally funky and fabulous can’t-get-enough-of-them headphones for the rail travel I’m now doing lots of… and also for in the bath.

Which is where the “perfect darkness” comes in, as I love to lie there, by candlelight, cosy and warm, and lose myself inside these gorgeous headphones. It’s also the title of album and song from one of my more recent band finds.

A tiny taste of what I’ve found over recent months:

Adna – multiple albums – this song ‘Overthinking’ is from the album ‘Closure’ and is perfect bathing music. In fact, I think I only ever listen to Adna in the bath.

Agnes Obel – no idea how I came about this one, but again multiple albums and this song – Poem about Death – in particular is of the experimental vein, only enjoyed when in the right mood and certainly not everyone’s cup of tea:

Bear with me, they’re not all as weird as this one…

Ah, but dammit… there’s Camille – utterly fabulous, but also utterly weird. So many of her songs I adore, and she sings the best version of Too Drunk To Fuck’ ( as Nouvelle Vague). However, today I’m sharing her wonderful cabaret-to-punk-esque ‘Cats and Dogs’, which is just amazing, I love it. Here she is singing it live:

ElsianceNobody Knows – wonderful sound… another bathing toon. I just love her voice, though too much of it becomes melancholy.

Fatoumata Diawara – I think I came across her on a Radio 3 music show – wonderful sound, lots of albums to choose from, this song is called Sowa.

Finally… though I could easily go on… a fantastic band I discovered (late, yes!) through being an avid fan of Walking Dead – a brilliant TV series with a fantastic soundtrack. The band is Fink, the album the Perfect Darkness of this blog title, and the song is Warm Shadow.

I do love finding ‘new’ music, and I love sharing it – if you have any fabulous finds, please post them in the comments below!

Noise

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A crow barks in a nearby tree

relentless in its rowdy call until

neighbour, three doors down left

shouts “shut up!”

 

I feel his pain,

yesterday it was someone in the

street shouting “hey Joe, Joe, Joe, JOE!”

to the point where you’re silently screaming

Jesus just answer him Joe,

and for three days now it’s been a squeaky toy,

bought for a new puppy, four doors right, whose

owners’ tolerance is to be frank surreal – the

utter depravity of this relentless noise – and

really only surpassed by the surprise brought

in the restraint then collectively shown as we sit,

quietly in our Cuprinol-fenced zones,

trying to read a book or make a call or just still

the mind to contemplate the depth and purpose

and trajectory of our sodding futures, only

to find ourselves haplessly stuck listening to this shit

valiantly managing to refrain from the loud

“shut up!” deafening within.

 

Shut up.

Just shut the fuck up.

 

So I now, three days on, hear the neighbour shouting

at the crow who has come to represent all that is

Disturbing, Intrusive and Unacceptable in this world,

and I want to echo his sentiment, or at least support it

with loud applause, but I’m too damned British and

so instead I sit in quiet glee,

just nodding,

just smiling.

 

The ambience changed this week as

neighbours are, it seems, collectively

on annual leave – how bizarre – but

booked, presumably, when the weather was

fair and all seemed perfect, and so

now they light barbecues in the rain

with grim Dunkirk spirit,

smiles kept bright, voices chipper,

squeaking their fucking dog toys,

and pegging out washing overnight

that still drips low each morning,

wishing they could cut the grass

and at least feel there’d been some sort

of productivity to it all

 

but

in the midst of it

if just one

finds the courage

to momentarily shut the world up

well, for that I am grateful.

~ Zand, 24thJuly 2018

Photo by Nina Strehl on Unsplash

Car crash

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Photo by Chris Barbalis on Unsplash

 

there’s a car crash up ahead

i can’t see it, i can feel it – maybe this bend, maybe the next – perhaps i should go home

listen to yoga chants eat greens remember to breathe and try and recall a time where the roads were safe and a person simply continued to move forwards without fear and the checking of maps dials rear fore – all that anticipation… and for what? why journey at all if each step is predicted?

there’s a car crash up ahead and i’m in it

for one who needs to fix each moment in an aspic concentration carefully measured, this is abandonment, a failure of duty, a release of the wheel and a foot off the pedal

for one who needs to fly, it’s achievement

for one who flits twixt flight and fall, it’s inevitability

at last.

there’s a car crash up ahead and all the yoga chants in the world won’t cease the crush of iron will and failed peace and longing and hope and noise and quiet and lies and truth as they touch mingle melt and meld into a fireball of inevitability, a journey’s reckoning

there’s a car crash up ahead

and no time to get home.

Zand, 15th June 2018

 

 

Foot on the accelerator

 

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A sweep of grey concrete opens before you

Cresting, dipping, turning in to the

hard line of the commute – coloured steel

hues melding into a slow line of duty,

the flow of morning conformity.

Commute, comply, coexist, why not?

 

You have your foot on the accelerator

as the distant light turns from green

to amber –

 

closer than you think?

Perhaps.

 

– you have your foot on the accelerator

as the nearing light turns from green

to amber, you are the pilot on automatic

who for a second’s moment sees impulse

as choice whilst choice becomes impulse

though who knows the Truth of it anyway?

Decisions are made, one’s own life

obtusely held within one’s own capable hands,

and the foot pauses or presses,

movement halts or flies – almost on a whim

As if nothing drove it. As though it were random.

You continue, Commuter – a momentary

annoyance for those paused unwittingly

or a heartbeat’s fear for those in your way.

Remind them: memento mori. It’s good

for the soul to de-commute for a bit.

De-comply. De-conform.

Cease to coexist. Detach.

Be a Good Citizen of the Road

but don’t lack imagination –

when all’s said and done it’s what we have left to work with.

 

For now, you are the god of the road.

Decisions and choices are made by those who lead.

Conformity may be your creed but Impulse is your devil,

Choice remains your elusive Holy Ghost, and the

poet racks up another few lines no matter what.

 

Commuters reach their point, beyond warm concrete

which now rests a while, it doesn’t care either way.

The foot lifts from the accelerator.

The heart beats.

Zand, 8thJune 2018