Wednesday, 1 February 2012
'Keepers' was my second album as 'Jones' and a collection provoked by loss.
My last album ‘Hopeland’ had been bathed in optimism’s glow after my retreat to Corsica had gifted me with a clarity of thought that was startling. What followed was no drastic regression, just an unsettling feeling that those peaceful waters were about to be disturbed. It’s inevitable that mundanities and small dramas set the ripples forming and here they were again.
And again, it was through writing that I got to temper that turbulence. Once more I withdrew, simplified and learnt to be alone.
I started writing Keepers on the shores of a lake in northern Portugal, and stumbled towards a moment of grace on the roof of a shepherd’s hut in Corsica.
Always close to water, always with a small yellow notepad in hand.
It was also a collection provoked by the loss of a good friend, Mike Tehan, and a recognition of the importance of touchstones; objects, places and people that inspire us to keep eyeing the horizon, yet offer shelter and safe harbour should things go awry.
We bottle their benevolence and call it ‘home’.
Often unwilling or unwitting bellwethers, their kindred spirit can haunt inanimate objects; a toy plane, a letter, a button, a bible, a key…
These are not pious custodians, just ordinary folk with the same vulnerabilities as the rest of us.
And yet something sets them apart, moving us to burden them with our wellbeing.
They become the keepers of our faith in other people.
We are comforted in their presence.
We are diminished by their loss.
Their absence is company enough.
When I was a kid the arrival of Uncle Mike (right) was always a time of great excitement; he was a maverick presence in a fairly regimented household, more like a boisterous older brother than the uncle that he wasn’t. Mike was a great friend of my parents; a navigator on the same squadron as my Dad; a confirmed bachelor always on the lookout for a free meal, even my mum’s cooking couldn’t deter him. Mike was full of easy mischief. He had none of the weighty family responsibilities that burdened my parents. He was the instigator of cushion fights and the master of Chinese burns. I adopted his nonchalance. In those quirky early teenage years my mother would often round on me and say “that’s your uncle Mike talking” and I’d think ‘please God, yes.”
Mike’s family house was in Cleveleys, just down the coast from Blackpool and sometimes, as a treat, we’d be invited there at the weekends. It was a parent free zone, just us kids and, on occasion, just me. I loved those times the most. I was allowed to do all of the things I couldn’t do at home: make tea, chop wood, stay up late. There I was introduced to classical music and the joys of cooking, two things that still give me pleasure everyday. We’d blast out Mahler and chop onions. If this was the adult life it wasn’t daunting; it was fun. That's my ten year old self below, giddily gurning at the camera.
I remember Mike taking me to the Tower Circus where I got to shake hands with Charlie Caroli, the world’s most famous clown. We went to the Opera House Theatre in the Winter Gardens to see the singer Josef Locke whose voice was so loud that he needed no microphone, pretty impressive, even for a ten year old. On the same bill was Jimmy Clitheroe, the ‘Clitheroe Kid’. I laughed so hard that I thought I would choke. Under lustrous skies we rode a rusty tram, wolfing fish and chips from newspaper with our fingers and explored the Golden Mile where I shot the heart out of the Ace and won Mike his money back. Later we climbed and counted every step of the Tower to see the illuminations in their full gaudy glory.
Peering out beyond and
Beneath the crescent moon
Out into the silver
Where the sea met the sky
My hand was in your pocket and
Your pocket was full of stars
And even now
Though your heart is as cold as the moon
My head is full of stars