Sunday, 1 January 2012
Hopeland (Notes from Corsica) 7. Life. Always Life
Back in England, Wooburn Green remained relatively untouched by world events. One Friday evening we sat chatting with neighbours outside our local, ‘The Steps’.
“So tell me Trev, was anyone at your school involved, the twin towers and all that malarkey?” asked a familiar with a raggedy red nose whose reputation as a drinker had earned him the tag of ‘Duncan Disorderly’.
“I’m not sure Dunc.” I replied, “Considering the size of the school, twelve hundred kids, with all their high flying extended families, it seems that we got off lightly. We think that someone lost an uncle. It’s early days of course.”
We had returned to an uncertain world. The reaction in Corsica to the horrors of 9/11 had been one of sympathetic disinterest. World politics were for the French and other foreigners and if this was how the world behaved, they wanted none of it. Truly a race apart, they were relieved to be floating free, buffered by protecting seas.
In London everyone expected the worse. A bullish Bush would surely retaliate and, as Blair had long since placed us in George’s pocket, we were fated to follow his lead. Another terrorist attack was anticipated with London the expert’s favoured target. The security at my school was doubled; our frontline, black suited Israelites toughened by national service, all seemed to develop bulges under their left armpits. The anxiety was palpable; suicide bombers were everywhere. I only had to sit on a bus or the tube to feel the tension. I felt myself being dragged down into the bug eyed paranoia and decided to start driving to work instead, in the balmy company of ‘Classic FM’.
“I hate it, I want to be anywhere but London.” said Di who worked in Baker Street and had to suffer public transport every day. “Where people were once simply discourteous, they’re now terrified too. ‘Scary rude’ isn’t very pleasant. There’s a lot of flatulence.”
Meanwhile there remained a unanimous admiration of the way that the community of New York had responded to the catastrophe. Their resilient dignity seemed to mute Bush; in place of the expected rhetoric there came odd conciliatory mumblings instead. I suspect that George was as scared and bewildered as the rest of us. Gradually, we stopped holding our breath. Things could never be the same again, but the worst had surely happened, and we were through it. There would be bluer skies than these.
Later that week I spent the day in the studio with Marcus, a fruitful session spent mixing a new song ‘The Falling Man’, composed as a reaction to the events in New York. Even after battling with the usual mid-evening trials of the M25 I felt revitalized after the recent soul bashing. The mix sounded great.
Pulling into our drive I caught sight of Di in the lounge of our neighbours’ house. Louise held her at arms length and looked out at my car. Di turned, as if underwater, and held a halting hand out towards me, pressing her palm against the window, before slowly floating back into the shadows.
She had left a perfect print, a lovely map of lifelines.
Kerry, my older sister had hung herself. Her creeping depression had been chemical. A doctor had prescribed new medication that threatened an initial dip in form before things improved. No one had thought to tell her husband Graham. She went to our parents’ house to do it. Home. Mum found her in the garage. There was surprisingly little wailing and moaning. There was a lot of cold hard sadness.
That sorry September endorsed the fact that tragedy galvanizes the survivors and that we are all connected by our unravellings.
It certainly changed the way that I approached my songwriting.
I resolved to become master of the bleeding obvious. I simplified. I craved a good and generous life; ‘the other life’ where nature ruled, where there was room for the honest mistake and time for tenderness. More than ever I was aware of the small dramas that sustain or break us. It was all too easy to turn away from discomfort and surrender to cold compromise. Why wait for things to get better? Everyday wonders revealed themselves haphazardly; if we took the time to notice them they would enrich us and help us to go on. I would try and catch the essence of those plain fleeting moments and place them in my songs. The trick would be to make the mundane interesting and universal, life to language, language to life. Tom Waits once observed “the obsession’s in the chasing and not the apprehending.” Accordingly, Di and I resolved to take our world and squeeze it gently. While our focus was still very much on the ‘everyday’, our attention was definitely being distracted by a distant horizon. We both wanted to be elsewhere.