Shamina Begum

There has been a lot of controversy over this young woman, or rather the fact that having left (with much publicity) to join ISIS in Syria four years ago, she now wishes to return to Britain.  It is almost impossible to truly discern her motives when at 15 she left school and family to join, and presumably fight for, the Islamic Caliphate, which at that time occupied a large swathe of territory in both Syria and Iraq.  She now says she was indoctrinated at the time – but does that make her any the less responsible?  Does her age, just 15, make any difference?  The law says that a 15 year old girl is too young to consent to have sex, but in the commission of many crimes the age appears to be much lower.  In any case what specific crime was she supposedly guilty of?  Can we be sure that she actually partook of any acts of violence?  Is being a sympathiser in itself a crime?  Too many questions and almost an answerable problem.

Add to all of this the barely disguised fact that ISIS was encouraged and probably funded by the CIA and the Saudis in order to help overthrow an elected leader of a foreign country and we are in very murky waters indeed.  Also, and maybe central to the whole argument is the fact that Begum is a Muslim.  There has been a war of words, fuelling a hatred of Muslims, waged by at least three of our ‘popular’ newspapers – and a tacit acceptance by television news to concur in this or at least to accept it.

And now the Home Secretary has declared that she is to be stripped of her British Citizenship and that she should apply to Bangladesh where her mother was born.

What do I think?  Actually, whatever the rights and wrongs of the case,  she is far better off not returning to Britain.  There is already a campaign of hatred against her and it would be highly unlikely that her identity could be kept secret.  She is safer away from the UK, even in Syria itself maybe.  I do find it strange though the way the press seems to hone in on a case like this when there are far more serious problems with our society than a rather naïve girl making a tragic mistake at a young age.  Such is the nature of Britain today, and Brexit has only added to the problem.  I can still recall the man from Staffordshire who came into our Café a week after Brexit and declared that he had voted Leave to get rid of the “Fooking Muslims”.

But just for one moment Imagine the scenario, if a young British Jewish girl had left to join the Israeli army and had ended up shooting innocent civilians at the Gaza border, and then thought better of it and decided to return to England.  I wonder if she would be greeted by the same hostility, or would those objecting to her be declared as anti-Semites.  Strange world isn’t it?

My Record Collection 63

Julie Covington – A strange one this; a reluctant pop-star.    Julie was and still is a brilliant actress; I first saw her in a Caryl Churchill play at The Royal Court before she was famous.  She had recorded a couple of albums but she was an interpreter of songs not a songwriter.  Then Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice chose her to sing Evita (see E).  This was not only an inspired choice, as she was brilliant – but a very clever marketing ploy.  Evita at that point was a musical that had never been performed; they recorded it however and the album was a huge hit, in large part due to Julie’s beautiful singing.  You see, she was first and foremost an actress and acted the part of Evita in her singing, ranging from ecstasy to sadness in the same song.  The single ‘Don’t Cry For Me Argentina’ went to number 1 and Julie was a star, if a reluctant one.  Then she was in Rock Follies (see R) on ITV, a brilliant drama with songs about a struggling girl group.  I bought her biggest Selling album Julie Covington, which was okay but not fantastic, even if it did have another hit single; Alic Cooper’s song ‘Only Women Bleed’, which was controversial at the time – and maybe still is.  Julie returned soon after this to full-time acting.

Cowboy Junkies

This is a Canadian outfit compromised of 2 brothers and a sister and an old school friend.  They play very soft but alternative country music; Margot Timmins singing in a soft, almost not-there voice.  And every song sounds more or less the same, same tempo, same instruments, same voice – the melody almost not there sometimes too.  But it is sort of hypnotic and a bit soporific at the same time; perfect background music.  I have 2 albums – The Caution Horses (1990) which is very gentle and almost forgettable, it is finished before you realise.  And Open (2001) which is a bit more varied with more electric guitar and different tempos.  Quite pleasant but not really my kind of thing.  Also, the songs don’t seem to really resonate with me, the words float away before hitting my brain.  So, I won’t be buying any more of their albums I think.  Still

Kevin Coyne – a really strange one this; Kevin, and in particular this record were flavour of the month for a while back in  1973.  His album Marjory Razorblade was one of the early Virgin Record releases – and I bought it.  Kevin was a real hippy, a revolutionary character who wrote and painted and made records.  He couldn’t really sing; his voice was harsh and abrasive and a forerunner of some of punk; his songs were obscure and featured a lot about mental illness.  But somehow, for a while he was almost famous, at least in the music press.  I only have the one record, which is just as well.  It is a curio and I bought it again recently on CD as a record of my esoteric and varied musical education.  Interesting to re-listen after quite a few years – took me right back to 1973, one of the very best years for music.  He continued recording for many years and died in 2004.

Julie Covington …Plus

My Record Collection 62

Elvis Costello – I had seen him on Top of the Pops, a geeky spindly post punk singer.  The song was (The Angles Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes -and it was a breath of fresh air after the excesses of punk.  Then after Alison left me in Crete she also left behind a cassette of his first album My Aim Is True.  For many reasons (least of which that it was good) I played the tape to bits and eventually bought the album.  It was released in 1977 but I caught up with a few years later.  What a debut, exceedingly confident and well-written songs, produced by Nick Lowe on the cheap, but it has stood the test of time.  Best songs the single and the follow-up ‘Watching The Detectives’ (she’s filing her nails while they’re dragging the lake) and of course the classic ‘Alison (My Aim Is True)’.  I had most of his early records on cassette having sold the original records and am slowly rebuying him on CD; but he has been incredibly productive with over 30 studio albums already and still going strong.  I recently bought a 5 album box-set of mid-eighties records.   First up is Blood and Chocolate (1986).  Not my very favourite of his, a bit too much of a rough mix, the vocals seem blurred and a bit too screamy – but still, some good songs. ‘I Want You’ – a desperate love song, ‘Blue Chair’ and ‘Battered Old Bird’ are pretty good too.  Maybe I just like the quieter Elvis than the shouting one.   His next year’s effort Spike was really excellent – this was for a few weeks my favourite album.  A real mixture of styles and even an instrumental. Songs about innocent men hung, hatred of Thatcher, two songs co-written with McCartney, and a couple of love songs for good measure.  Something about the record just pulls you along from song to song.  Favourites are ‘Deep Dark Truthful Mirror’ ‘God’s Comic’ and ‘Baby Plays Around’ – but really hard to choose from so many great songs.  1991’s Mighty Like A Rose was a bit of a mixed bag, some good songs and some which sounded a bit desperate – I suppose all Artists must reach a point 15 years into their career when they wonder if they are still relevant?  Still a handful of good songs – ‘All grown Up’ and ‘Harper’s Bazaar’ and ‘So Like Candy’ (another co-write with McCartney).  But altogether a bit of a disappointment I felt.

1994’s Brutal Youth is another record that failed to really excite me….at the time.  But now on hearing it again, it is quite good – though like most of his albums patchy; too many desperate shouting songs – as if by raising his voice he gets the emotion over better, when his quieter sung stuff has all the emotion you could want.  Anyway, best songs ‘You tripped at every step’ and ‘Rocking horse Road’.

Better was 95’s Kojak Variety, a covers album of mostly obscure and early blues songs with a couple of better known songs included – Dylan’s ‘I Threw it All Away’ and the Kinks ‘Days’.  Although most of the songs were new to me they sound pretty good sung by Costello – and on first listening they might have been his own compositions.  An interesting record but not one of his very best.  I basically stopped buying him around this time, just picking up the occasional charity shop offering.   One of these was All This Wasted Beauty – and it is really pretty good.  A bit slower mostly and better for it, it somehow seems a tad ridiculous when older singers try to belt it out like they were still teenagers.  Doing a bit of research I find that these songs had all been written with other Artists in mind; he did offer them and a few were recorded.  Best songs; the title track and ‘Other End Of The Telescope’, and ‘Poor Fractured Atlas’.  Obviously Costello was writing far more material than he could record as many of his records have been later re-released with extra songs.  Another charity shop buy was The Delivery Man (2002).   This is a more American sounding album, amplified by duets with Alison Krauss and Emmylou Harris.  Still a couple of out and out rockers but not a bad record all told – best songs; ‘There’s a Story in Your Voice’. ‘Nothing Clings Like Ivy’ and ‘Heart Shaped Bruise’ – which surprise surprise are all sad slow songs. Last but not least is a compilation of early hits called Girls Girls Girls; excellent and a joy to listen to.    And it makes me realise that maybe this is all I need, all the other albums are okay but sometimes The Greatest Hits is all you need. Not that that has ever slowed me down…

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The Sun Is Always Shining

We are in the middle of winter, a pretty grey and wet one too.  In fact, January, here in France was unremitting rain almost every day.  Then we had a couple of sunny days and it lifted everyone’s spirits; ”It might be cold – but at least the sun is shining.” was on everyone’s lips.  But, of course, the sun is always shining.  Somewhere on earth the sun is beating down merrily, warming people and making them feel happy.  And in fact, of course, the sun is always shining but sometimes we cannot see it for the clouds.   You only have to go up in an aeroplane to observe this.

And that is so true of life.  There are times when everything seems to be going wrong, problems piling up – we’ve all been there.  But actually, we are incredibly fortunate – the sun has been shining on us for all our lives.  Very few of us have witnessed wars; even my parents were children during the War and can barely remember it.  We have lived through one of the longest periods without major conflicts in recorded history.  I know – there still constant wars in Africa and the Middle East – but these don’t involve us personally.  There is no conscription, so we are unlikely to ever have to fight a war, especially as any future major conflict may well be fought by drones and computers (little comfort as we will all probably be annihilated, but hey).  For most of us too we have access to still (despite the cuts) a pretty good health service; we are living longer and mostly in good shape too.  Hunger for most is also a thing of the past too, at least here in the West.

Best of all, most working people have had unimaginable increases in our standard of living; our Great Grandparents would simply have never imagined our lives today.

And yet, we hardly appreciate it at all.  We take for granted free education, old age pensions, the NHS, decent wages, good housing, television, computers and all the rest.  And yes, at times much of this appears to be under threat.  Life can still appear somewhat of a lottery.  Bad things still do happen.  But behind it all the Sun is still shining even if we sometimes cannot see it for the clouds…

My Record Collection 61

Shawn Colvin.  An American female singer-songwriter I got hooked on for a couple of albums; still searching for another Joni maybe…Anyway it started with CD singles and then I bought her first album Steady On.  And it is great, a quite distinct and different voice – a little bit country, a touch folky, and a soft lilt that makes it instantly recognizable.  Best songs ‘Diamond In the Rough’ and the title song.   For a while I hoped she might be my new musical love, but for whatever reason I just stopped buying her new stuff (who can say why these quite arbitrary choices are made).  Also, being American – and before the internet (early 90’s) her records were quite hard to find; now you can find the most obscure stuff on Amazon or ebay.  Anyway the second record I bought which was I now find her fourth – A Few Small Repairs (1996).  And of course it is great; a bit more upbeat, somewhat happier songs – but the same unique voice; instantly recognizable, and quiet, almost acoustic accompaniment.  Best songs ‘Sunny Came Home’, ‘Wichita Skyline’ and ‘I Want it Back’.  And then I bought in a charity shop my third Shawn album Holiday Songs and Lullabies.  I should have realized -Americans, even serious artists, are mawkish about Christmas, and Christmas albums are very popular.   So, I never really liked this record, and it sort-of put me off her for a bit.  I did buy a later record, Brand New You; (2000).  I have never really given this one enough time, but actually listening now, it is quite okay.  Even good, I have to admit.  So, ever the completist I have ordered 2 of her earlier records on ebay…you never know.

Rita Coolidge is next.  I had heard her voice before knowing her name on Joe Cocker’s Mad Dogs album.  But she really came to my notice when she was duetting with Kris Kristofferson (see K).  What a voice, deep and silky and sultry.  She had an album out in 1972 (was this really the very best year for Music?) The Lady’s Not For Sale, which I bought and played to death.  I had a couple of others which are now on cassette (albums sold long ago) but this was always my favourite.  What an album.  From the first bars of ‘My Crew’ to the closing title track, she doesn’t put a foot wrong.  Her versions of ‘Fever’ and ;Bird On The Wire’ still send shivers down my neck.  Follow that with Dylan’s ‘I’ll be Your baby Tonight’.  Rita was such a great interpreter of songs, and a huge part of the late West Coast music scene; her voice sounds almost black in places but somehow it manages to still retain a ‘white’ sensibility.  Next up is Fall Into Spring, and somehow this doesn’t quite hit the spot, maybe because this was a somewhat later purchase and I am not so familiar with it.  Rita was recording with Kris (brilliant records will be reviewed later) who she had just married, and touring endlessly.  As usual, on re-listening – it is actually better than I had remembered. Best songs Kris’s ‘Burden of Freedom’ and ‘desperados Waiting For A Train.’  A year later came It’s Only Love; this is slightly better – maybe a better song choice – best songs ‘Keep the Candle Burning’ (written by Gallagher and Lyle – see G) and ‘My Rock and Roll Man’.  For whatever reason, maybe because Rita was moving along with quite a few others, more middle of the road – but I stopped buying her records after this.  Though, lunatic that I am, I have just bought (again) her first two albums (I only now have these on cassette) – arriving shortly.  I also have a greatest hits selection Collection. Quite pleasant, especially the tracks from the first three records, but it just gets bland from then on in.  Best traocks ‘Seven Bridges Road’ and ‘Tempted’.

The Corrs are next; a mid-eighties Irish band I quite liked at the time.  They are fairly middle of the road but easy to listen to, and some pretty good songs.   The only record I have is Talk On Corners – their big hit.  They sound very much like Fleetwood mac to me, without the American accents.  Best songs ‘So Young’, ‘When he’s Not Around’ and ‘Dreams’.  But like quite a few artists one album is enough.

All Cut From The Same Cloth

Another arrest in the Meuller inquiry; Roger Stone this time.  Another rogue who lived in the shadows, leaving the spotlight for other to fill.  Strange how this is all panning out.  Stranger still that now he has been arrested, the gloves are off.  Even the BBC are describing him as a Political Fixer, a master of dirty tricks.  Old tweets surface of him threatening rivals – where were all these tweets?  How come everyone knew he was a rogue, but had never mentioned it before?  And how come he and Manafort and Cohen, were allowed to operate, permitted to help elect Trump – and no-one thought it might be unethical, or wrong even.

Sadly, the truth is that this is the state of American, and one now suspects much of British Politics these days.  But hang on a minute, this guy was helping Nixon….that was nearly sixty years ago.  And when we look back at the scandals -they are mostly linked to the Republicans; Oliver North and Reagan, Nixon himself, George double-ya and his Vice-President Dick (Halliburton Oil) Cheney were hardly saints either.  And now we have Trump, who may well trump them all.  I know, you will protest that the Democrats aren’t saints either– but at least Kennedy and Clinton were sexual predators (if that makes it any less bad); and weren’t quite as corrupt as the Republicans.

So, I ask – why do these Republican Presidential Candidates surround themselves with crooks?  Is it in their nature – or do they  not consider the dirty tricks, the pay-offs and lies, as wrong?  Or are they simply all cut from the same cloth?  Is winning the only thing that matters?  And yes, that is really the answer.  The end justifies the means.  They are determined to keep things the same, to reward the rich, to punish the poor, to keep the Democrats out of power.

Sadly Britain is going the same way – with Political Operatives like Alistair Campbell and Lynton Crosbie threatening and cajoling to get their man or woman elected.  And don’t even get me started about the Referendum?  Only two years too late are we beginning to unfold the cheating, the overspend, the facebook hacking, the lies – indeed anything to get the result they wanted.  All cut from the same cloth I am afraid.


So, Who is to blame?

As we approach the end game, or maybe just the first of many endgames, of Brexit; the biggest political disaster in my lifetime (though the sale of council houses and Utilities came close) the question comes to mind – who is to blame?   It is easy to point to the political naievety of Cameron, the duplicity of Farage and the mad Brexiteers in the Tory party, the cheating of Aaron Banks, the opportunism of Boris.  All too easy.  And yes, they all contributed – but alas, I have come to the conclusion that it is the Great British Public who are to blame.  The British, and by that I really mean the English, have a strange sense of entitlement, of their superiority, combined with an amazing degree of ignorance and greed.  Maybe it is a hangover from the days of Empire, when Britain was the workshop of the World, when we were taught at school that half the globe used to be painted pink, that we civilised the natives…etc..etc..etc.

Most of it was lies of course, but this sense of Britain being THE world power, or rather the bewailing of the fact that we are no longer even A world power, still remains in the nation’s consciousness.   The trouble is that we cannot forget.  And we cannot forget either that we fought two World Wars against the Germans.  And beat the Hun twice….and yet….and yet…just look over the channel, just see how well they are doing.  Why one has to ask, who won the bloody war anyway?  England has always been suspicious of Europe, that thin strip of water is more potent a symbol than any treaty.

And beneath it all, coiled like the venomous snake that it is, lies racism.  I came from Suffolk to London in 1968, and can still remember the signs in windows…”Room to let, no Blacks, no Irish.”   I can recall vividly the era of skinheads and Paki and Queer bashing, the violence of the football terraces, the racist chanting, the mob mentality.   There is something very ugly lurking just below the respectable surface.  Years of education haven’t erased it, and the gentle words ‘Concerns about Immigration’ mask and permit far nastier, maybe secret thoughts, to become mainstream.  Social media is now awash with vile anti-Muslim and anti-Jewish crap, and the rise of far right groups is a reality I never thought I would live to see.

Coupled with all of this is an ignorance of bewildering proportions, a selfishness, a lack of understanding, a disrespect for Politicians (who in most cases simply wanted to make the country a better place), intolerance, and no comprehension of what Democracy really means.  It is not winner takes all and sod the loser, but a sense of participating and listening to all opinions and trying to find some consensus.  Which just about sums up the failure of Brexit so far and the current mess we find ourselves in.

So, we only have ourselves to blame…or rather those less well educated, mostly older, mostly living in rural areas, often in the North, but not exclusively, there was plenty of ignorance in London and the South-East too.  So, do not look anymore for scapegoats but look instead into the mirror, see what our society has become.

Solzhenitsyn said of the failure of the Russian Revolution, (and he was once a believer) that each generation has to learn for itself about injustice, that each generation has to fight against the complacency of those who are now comfortable but have forgotten the struggle to achieve that.

Maybe Brexit will end up being a lesson, maybe a realisation will dawn that we must not rush to judgement, that we must think things through a bit more….ah, but who am I kidding.  It will be the EU that will be blamed for our own failure, it will be Politicians who didn’t do Brexit right who will carry the can, it will be everyone else but ourselves of course.

My Record Collection 60

Phil Collins.  Ah, the Genesis man who took over the lead singer’s role when Peter Gabriel left.  The band moved gradually over to the middle of the road and then Phil had a run of solo albums….and became massive.   First up is his debut In The Air Tonight which sounds very like a Genesis album, only a bit more introspective.  The production is brilliant, you are simply waiting for the explosion of drums on the title track which arrive almost at the end. In fact the whole mood of the record is moody, and reflective – almost sad, which I love.  Of course the best song is ‘If Leaving me is Easy’ with it’s gentle soothing melody suddenly erupting in real raw and bleeding emotion. Brilliant.  But there are some more upbeat songs, very reminiscent of his Genesis stuff at the time.  Then there is the superb closer, a re-imagining of John Lennon’s Beatle song ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ which is as good as the original.  Another fave track is ‘The Roof Is leaking’; a real kitchen-sink little drama. I loved this album when it came out and time has not diminished its appeal – every song is good, a true classic.  He followed this two years later in 1982 with ‘Hello I Must Be Going’ another excellent but more upbeat record.  A bit more commercial sounding and another resounding hit.  This one sounds far more like the stuff that Genesis were doing in the mid-eighties.  Best songs ‘I Don’t Care Anymore’, ‘Like China’ and the Supremes cover ‘You Can’t Hurry Love’.  If the first album was Phil getting over a broken heart he sounded fully recovered now.  The production was now very sharp; gated drums (which some say Phil invented) and moody waves of synths – but even so, and slightly dated as it sounds, I really like it.  Phil’s third album followed on quickly No Jacket Required.  Co-incidentally I started doing some bookkeeping for a restaurant of that name on Lavender Hill shortly after this.  It was a disaster but that is a different story.  This record is much of a muchness and I was getting a bit bored by both Phil and Genesis by now.  Nothing new, nothing really exciting.  Mind you, the lead single Sussudio is a cracker.  But Seriously followed in 1989; a nicer record I think. A bit less bombastic, a few slower songs.  Big hit ‘Another Day In Paradise’, ‘All Of My Life’ and I also like ‘That’s Just The Way It Is’; Phil was absolute pop royaity by now, but also suffering somewhat of a backlash from those who felt he had sold out.  I am not sure – he was certainly a cocky sod, but should an Artist’s personality really affect the way you hear their music?  Anyway, I do get fed up with the sneerers -if you don’t like someone – simple, don’t buy their records.  But all in all a fine album.   1993 saw Both Sides; and how quickly it can all change.  For whatever reason he produced a really dull record.  Oh, the sharp production was there, the snappy drums, even the melodies are okay – but the magic is missing.  Nothing else really to say.  I actually stopped buying his records after this one.  Though I did return for his final record (see later).  Then quite recently I saw a box set of all his studio albums at a very reasonable price and in a fit of madness bought it.  Ever the completist (though I have given up trying to own a copy of everything since The Beatles…hahaha) I felt I should get it if only to hear the two missing records.

Dance Into The Light – is actually quite a good record.  More upbeat songs and some nice African influenced rhythms.  A nice record, not his best but quite acceptable.  There is also a very good version of Dylan’s ‘The Times they are a changing’.   Testify is the other one I missed.  I have played it twice just now, and really it has made absolutely no impression on me at all.  And yet, Phil thinks it was his best…

Going Back – I did buy at the time; it is Phil’s covers record -and all the songs are Motown hits – Brilliant.  Very easy listening – because you know almost all the songs anyway and Phil both respects the original not to change them too much but just enough to keep them interesting.  Impossible to choose a favourite – maybe ‘Jimmy Mack.’

And hopefully that is it from Phil.  Not one of the best ever artists but pretty good in his time.  Like many his best records were his early ones.  He is still a member of Genesis (seeG) and presumably they will be re-touring and recording again some time.  Until then…

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The Night Of The Storm

Where do I begin?  Was it the storm itself?  I mean the one outside, raging and roaring like some ill-tempered child.  Or was it the storm in my head, the whirlwind I constantly found myself in?  Or did it really begin, like so much else – far earlier.  Suffice it to say that I was confused; nothing made sense – least of all the weather.  Where did that storm come from?  I watch, as you know, 24 hour news – well – almost 24 hours a day.  And the weather is every half an hour.  But was I really taking it in?  For the life of me I cannot remember any storm warnings, no amber bars on the screen, no violent wind arrows streaming across the land like some Norman invading army.  So that night, when I woke in a blind panic with the branches of the old chestnut tree lashing my window and the sky lit up by flashes and rolls of thunder – to say I was confused was an understatement of an understatement.

“Where has this awful weather come from?” was my immediate thought.  No, before that even it was “Am I awake?”  You see, I keep having these violent dreams, where I am lost, abandoned, searching desperately for the house or the room where you are.  Or at least the house where you might be, because, just as in reality, or at least the reality I have been forced to accept – not the one I would have chosen – you are, as elusive as ever.  At least when you were here, on the other end of the sofa or in the kitchen fixing us a meal I had some idea where you might be.  But even then, and yes, actually, especially then, I was never sure if you were really there.  Your physical self? Well, at least I could see that, but what went on in your head, what you were really thinking – was as unknown, and, indeed, as unknowable as anything I had ever encountered.

So maybe we have to go back to that other time, that very sunny day, the day we met.  In fact, the weather seems to have affected both you and I far more than I had realised.  Was it really Summer when I first saw you?  Early Summer – it might have been the first week of May.  That very verdant time, when the fields, the hedges, the trees are all a brilliant, almost impossible green.  Colour is exploding everywhere you look, obscenely pink blossom on the trees and wild flowers all striving to be noticed and, of course, just like young lovers too – striving to be pollinated.  Was I simply trying to pollinate you?  And were you sending out your scent, hints of the sweet nectar I would find enfolded in your arms?

Whatever…best not to over-analyse these things, complicated as they always are. But it seemed to me, at the time, and yes, even now, that we were destined for each other.  Though just as the male spider approaches the female with caution – I was wary of you, my dear.  I had been bitten before, I had tasted love and lost it too.  I wasn’t even what you might call ‘on the rebound’.  It had been three years since my last encounter.  I had been living an ascetic life, spending frugally, wearing old clothes even when they were threadbare and burying myself in work – to stop me thinking how lonely I was, perhaps.  And then you broke through the cloudy barriers I had hoisted for my protection, bringing all that promise, all that sunshine with you.   Ah, what is the use of all this reminiscing?  None of it can disguise the fact that I never knew where you were.

Of course, the truth is that I never even knew who you were.  I said that you were elusive, and though that was part of the attraction, I could never pin you down.  And maybe that was what I really wanted to do.  To capture you, still your beating butterfly wings, fill your veins with embalming fluid and pin you down like some exotic specimen under glass and mahogany.  To stand back and admire you, to look at you from every angle, to finally see what lie behind those bewitching eyes, to finally understand what and who you were.  But maybe you were just that bit cleverer than I, you saw the net I was constructing for you; you slipped away just as it was closing it in on you.

For you escaped.  Well, as you know only too well, you had escaped long before you actually left.  Oh, you left your body behind, you let me hold you, unfold you, cover your body with kisses.  You never resisted my touch, but all the while I could feel the unspoken word hovering between eye and lip.

“Traitor”.  You never spoke out loud but I could hear it nevertheless.

You discerned far before I even admitted it to myself, that my love was false.  My words of love were simply words, my caresses were for my satisfaction not yours.  And you escaped.  You rolled your eyes back into your head and eluded me.

And then, the night of the storm – you actually left.  Maybe it was the very delicate sound of your dress swishing against the nylon of your tights as you tiptoed down the hall?  Maybe it was your muffled breath as you wound the scarf gently round your neck?  Maybe it was the click of the front door as you let yourself out?  But despite the raging storm I was suddenly alert to your leaving.  Above the howling wind, the lashing rain, the roar of the thunder – I heard you leaving.  And I was suddenly up and dressed before you had even left the garden.  I stood in the dark at our bedroom window and watched as you turned for one last look back.  I saw you turn left.   The town – of course.  I walked calmly downstairs, my mind more rational than at any time for weeks.  I put on my heavy Berbour and a waterproof hat.  I rummaged for a torch and my keys.  I quietly closed the door and started silently after you.  I had to reach you, to talk maybe, to stop you from leaving.

You kept turning to look back; you didn’t see me in the shadows though I had you in my sights all along.  I was watching you my dear, and even then a small part of me was hoping you might escape and find the peace you were seeking.  I kept a safe distance behind, biding my time, savouring every moment of your flight.  The wind whipping your coat and flapping it behind you like some huge eagle’s wings, your hair coming loose and flying in wet strands, the tendrils dragging me closer to you.  Ah, you never looked so beautiful.  I breathed in and caught the merest whiff of your scent, borne on the wicked wind.  I knew that just a few yards ahead the houses peter out.  The street lights are far apart a few hundred yards here before the real town begins.  The safety of the town, that was where you were heading, wasn’t it?  Just this short patch of wasteland between me and safety; houses, restaurants and shops, people, the railway station.

But you never quite escaped, did you my love?  Did you really suppose it would be so easy?  Leaving me, I mean?  Why, we should have talked things over.  Come to some compromise, shouldn’t we?  But no, you chose to leave, to desert me, to try and slip away while the storm raged around us.  Oh, how I wanted you to stay.

But I forgive you.  Yes, that may surprise you.  Here am I, the wounded one, the man you left with nary a word and after all I had done for you too.  And yet I feel no anger towards you now, in fact as I forgive you, I find I love you even more.  And now my love is true, no more pretending, no more searching your eyes for lies, for signs of betrayal.

Your eyes are shut now darling, no more accusations, no more lies.  The storm is over, no more rain to drench your perfect hair – no, the rain has even washed the slight pool of blood away.  Strange you didn’t bleed that much at all my dear, I soon staunched the wound.  Thunder stole your faint screams; lightning lit the fear in your eyes.  ; no more rain on your face – just my kisses. No more those eyes accusing me of betrayal, of falsehood.  Your eyes are shut now my sweetest love, you are free now.  In fact, we are both free now.  No more confusion, just calm.  And just outside the window the sun is breaking through.  No more storm outside – or inside my head, just calm now.  I am so tired, let me sleep beside you one more time.

My Record Collection 59

Marc Cohn – Just the one album, The Rainy Season.  And I don’t know why I never bought any others of his.  This record is pretty damn good.  Best songs ‘Walk through the World’ and his biggest hit ‘Walking in Memphis’.  Very Americana and very good.  Makes me realise how many records I will never hear…oh well.

Coldplay – well, this is one of those bands that are massive and yet…..I don’t really like them.  Oh, they are wonderful, of course – that cannot be denied, but They are one of those self-important very rich bands that create very little and play huge stadiums etc. etc. I bought their first album Parachutes – and loved it. And it was downhill since then.  The album was their debut and came out in 2000.  It was, or seemed, largely acoustic – and it is a classic.  Great songs and that world-weary yearning voice; best songs ‘Yellow’ and ‘Trouble’ though there isn’t a poor song on the record.  Two years later came A Rush Of Blood To The Head.  I bought it, but somehow, for me at least, some of the magic had been lost.  They were already Superstars and it seemed to show.  Somehow all that magic of the debut is lost in a bombastic production and grandiose posing.  Well, maybe it was just me because the album and the band became massive.  Best songs ‘Politic’ and ‘The Scientist’.

Jacob Collier – In My Room.  I was bored a few months ago and flicking thru the TV channels stumbled on Jacob live at the Proms.  A multi-instrumentalist and singer with an amazing repertoire and very different songs.  He only has one album and I bought it.  The record is not quite so good as he was live but still an interesting artist.  Impossible to pin down to any genre, this 24 year old defies pigeon-holing.  But only for the Specialist…

Judy Collins.  I first heard of her while I was in the lower Sixth; she was part of the new folk movement of the mid-sixties along with Joan Baez and Buffy Ste. Marie.  I did buy a couple of her LPs later and was quite disappointed.  Her real forte is as an interpreter of songs.  In her quite old age she has released a couple of albums singing Dylan and Cohen songs.  Strangely, although her voice is crystal clear and beautiful, she misses the emotion and tension that the original singers (singing actually quite badly) managed to capture – so a bit disappointing really.