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.

 

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Two Coffees

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(this was a piece written for the Shrewsbury Flash Fiction evening, the theme of which was “rules”.

The Flash Fiction group meets second Wednesday of every month at the Shrewsbury Coffee House – all are welcome, it’s a great evening)

Two Coffees

Way back, when it mattered, I’d said: “There’s only one rule and that is there are no rules.

You laughed. “You can’t do that,” you said. “Can’t say there aren’t rules and make that a rule – it’s a contradiction.”

“Okay,” I said. “Call it a guideline then. No rules, that’s the guideline. Agreed?”

“Yeah, cool,” you said. You laughed again, you sounded full, and I knew I had you.

You were making coffee. Instant. You didn’t drink the proper stuff back then. Even with coffee, you wouldn’t follow the rules; you’d pour hot water into the cups then sprinkle granules on the surface where they’d float in belligerent denial of purpose. You had to stir it for ages before they dissolved.

Now you’re making coffee again, in the espresso maker we bought last June, and you hand me mine – black, just as it comes. Into yours, you shake sugar from the bag, not caring whether you get one measure or five, and you stir the sticky brew with an egg spoon for ages.

“I was wondering,” you say, “what the guideline would be for seeing other people.”

The coffee burns my top lip, hits the roof of my mouth and burns that too. I swear, jerk the cup away, hot liquid curls over the edge and spills onto my shirt.

“I mean theoretically,” you say, “you know.”

“Why ask me?” I dab at the spill with a tea-towel, but it’s seeped right through and is clinging fast. I go to the sink, dampen a cloth and press the stain gently, glad to have my back to you. I wait for you to speak.

“Well, as guardian of guidelines,” you say. “I mean they are always yours, right? So I thought, well, you might have… you know… one in reserve…”

You move forward and peer over my shoulder.

“Rub soap on it,” you suggest.

“It’s silk,” I say, “dry-clean only.”

“They always put that, just covering their backs, it needs soap.”

You do the laundry with the same reckless will with which you sweeten your coffee. I had to make it a guideline in the end – after the first couple of months of sludge-grey whites – that we each take care of our own clothes.

“So…” You drain your cup in one mouthful, swallow it down on the pause. “What say you?”

“I suppose it’s a case of to thine own self be true,” I say.

“That’s the guideline?”

“Yeah, I guess so.”

“Okay,” you say. “Cool. It was just theoretical, just curiosity, you know.”

You put down your empty cup.

I stand by the sink, a circle of damp encroaching on my chest.

And I wait for you to leave.