Island Blog 137 The Light Just Right

Music notes

 

 

I am excitedly working just now on new songs for recording, well,not recording yet, but more for designing and developing.  All day long I am humming little phrases, changing keys, changing words changing rythms.  Once I meet up with the Talented Two in a week or so, we will take my scribbles and mood-inspired poems and fashion music around them.  They, not I, will layer melodies and harmonies, suggest quirky add-ons that create depth and texture, colour and light.  And dark.  All I am required to do is to spend this preparation time doing what I do know how to do – put words together in a way that tells a story, that give a hint of pain or laughter, to show and not to tell it out too much, for we all like to fill in the spaces allowed us with our own feelings.  This is why some songs last forever and, to be honest, a lot of them make very little sense once we try to explain them.  A Whiter Shade of Pale was scribbled down in the back of a van in between gigs, so I am told, and, when asked what it meant, the writers just shrugged.  It’s not like schoolwork this song-writing thing, not at all.  I don’t have to show my workings, nor do I have to justify them, but what I do have to do is sing them with emotional connection as if what I am telling you is really how I feel.  I don’t write songs about Percy the Pig, or Nellie the Elephant, although that song is great to sing to grandchildren if I include all the actions.  I write about feelings.

It thinks me about doing what I do best, and not wishing I was best at something else.  At school I longed to be an athlete but I was so very far from getting beyond ‘ath’ that it would have made a whole heap of sense to do my best, loathe all of it and spend my free time writing.  The problem with writing is that the only time I found the limelight is in English Lit classes and that was providing I kept to the letter of the law concerning Good Composition.  Nowadays, it is fine to write slang, a lot of which has found its way into the Oxford Dictionnary, which is fine if it works for the piece.  It is not ok to swear, but, then, what is swearing now?  I can read words that would have had my school mistress dialling the emergency services had she ever seen such an assemblage of letters in print, let alone heard them read out in class.  The book would have magically disappeared from the Reading Shelf and parents would have been informed.

In songwriting, words can be hinted at, the front or the back of them lost in a rising instrumental.  It’s infuriating for those of us who want to cover a song and we must needs leap to Google for the lyrics, but I am encouraged by the Talented Two that it sometimes really works best that way and that my Elocution Prize might consider staying in my past.  Enunciating every word as if the whole world depended for its survival on my clear conscise rendering of a particular phrase, is, it seems, vanity of vanities.  Who gives a rip?

As I wrote my book, I let go of the Eng Lit teacher, pushed her off my shoulder and reminded her she was most probably dead and should shut up.  Although I love good prose and therefore find bad prose irritating enough to put me off the whole story, I find that I look more for a gentle sway, an easy rise of words that don’t trip me up with their brilliance, but, instead, show me an unfolding about which I am fascinated to know more.  I want to be led outside of myself and into another world and, yet, I still want that pull on my heartstrings, that connection to my own experiences, my own feelings.  When I read the tale of someone who is living through something I hope I will never live through, something that involves the loss of a child, perhaps, I will think about my own children, my love for them, my fears for them, and, in my heart, I will re-affirm my vow to them, the one I made as each one was born, a vow to protect and defend them to the death.  If I read of a world catastrophe, as a back drop to a tale of people, I will re-jig my priorities in that light.  In short, I will make changes because, through the words of another, I am changed.

I hope I can do the same with my songs.  For now, I am playing word games, reducing sentences down, questioning the need for all the adverbs and adjectives to be there at all, for what I can do, through my voice, as long as it is emtionally connected, is to pull back to indicated thoughtfulness, pain, fear, gentleness, or bring the air more forcefully across my vocal chords to show power, anger or determination.  I can leave out the paraphernalia and keep just the crystals……ones that should make it sparkle, if I get the light

just

right.

Island Blog 70 – Life is a simple thing

Island Blog 70 - Freedom

fig: http://favim.com

It’s all about breathing in and out for decades, something that happens to us quite naturally.  We can take no credit for this and it’s not complicated, until it stops, of course, or struggles to continue.  All we have to do, as out heart beats and our lungs fill and empty a thousand times a day, is to get on with living.

Ah, you might say.  That’s the rub.  My life is so much harder than just breathing in and out and getting on with things.  My circumstances, you see…..well, life is not simple at all.

Yes, I say, it is.  It may not be easy, but it is simple, and then I draw back in case I get swiped, because why?

Because people love to complicate things, all things and especially their own things.

I know people who have come through cancer and people who have not come through.  I am not one of them.  Therefore my life is a breeze.

I know people who have lost a child.  I have not.  Therefore my life is a breeze.

I know someone disabled, paralised, in prison,bereaved,destitute and hungry.

I am none of them. Therefore….etc

At Jenny’s funeral yesterday, I listened to the tributes.  I counted 250 at least in the church.  I caught the sparkle of a woman who refused to moan, although, believe me, she had plenty of reason to. In fact, she had absolutely no time at all for moaners.

On the way to the church, down winding country lanes, I saw a land rover parked  in a driveway.  Across the top of the windscreen the words in bold black said this:-

ONE LIFE.  LIVE IT.

Jenny did.

Short or long it is the same for us all, as far as we know, although one friend whose family are fisherfolk, plans to return as a crack shot seagull.

Whatever our piddling ailments, our list of miniature disasters, we were born with laughter in our hearts and we all know it.

We might consider laughing more and particularly at ourselves.

Island Blog 69 – Aground

Island Blog 69 - Broken back shipThere’s a ship in our harbour aground on the rocks, a big and very stuck ship.  It was on its way from Belfast to Sweden with a load of timber.  I don’t know what will happen to it, or the timber, or the waters in the harbour, but I do know that it matters to me when anything bad happens at sea, because the next part usually involves one of my men.

In the early days of living on the island there was no lifeboat, and the local seamen became auxiliary coastguards.  I remember not infrequent calls, especially during the summer months when every loon with a dream of the wild ocean waves, took to the sea without a clue of tidal rips, wind direction or the rise and fall of the tides.  Add to all that ‘complicata’, those dodgy times when the wind argues with the direction of the tide, creating a real stooshie, when your little craft, so safe, (you thought) begins to screw tail in the boiling soup and runs the very real risk of tipping right over if one big wave comes at you sideways on.  Then there are those razor sharp rocks just below the surface.  You can’t afford to marvel at the wonderful views anywhere near land, because land is not where you think it is.  Land goes on into the sea and says nothing much.  It just blows a few bubbles that can look dead cute if you don’t check your chart.

I’m not saying the skipper of this massive hulk didn’t check his or her charts.  With a ship that big, stopping at all must be planned a mile away, and turning round quickly at the last minute when bubbles reveal their teeth is quite out of the question.

Anyway, back to what I was saying about my men.  The old sea dog had to turn around quick sharp often after a tourist trip to the islands, or out to watch for whales, if a call came through on the radio.  Out he would go, spotlight on the waves, if it was a darkling time of day, to search for a dingy, or worse, a person in the black soup.  It is hard enough to find a huge whale in the sea, never mind a little person with only a head showing.  He has towed sailing boats off beaches and rocks and stayed to reassure folk who had to wait for the lifeboat to arrive from the mainland.  He has helped people be airlifted out, and seen many back into safety.  Now we do have a lifeboat on the island, one with big twin engines, and our son is deputy cox and sometimes the whole cox.  When a storm rises like a bully and when the wind roars and the night is black as a witch, I wonder what he might be called out to do.  There have been some really tough times, but the team is tight and experienced and they know the rocks like teeth just under the surface of the sea, of old.  But still, we women and our imaginations can take the facts and spin our spin and hardly sleep a wink for the pictures in our fluffy little heads.

The sea is a wild thing- unpredictable and demanding respect.  Nobody can be her master and nor they ever will be.

Island Blog 63 – Silver Girl

Silver Girl

 

On June 1st Jenny  died.

We have been friends for over 4o years, the same as my years of marriage.

Our children knew each other as little ones and those children now have little ones of their own.  We had a bet going, she and I that her daughter-in-law would give birth before my own did.  The due dates hold hands, they’re so close.  I will see my new grandchild, but she won’t see hers.

Over the years, our roads travelled in different directions, but we kept in touch.  When she first got breast cancer, she was completely herself about the whole thing.  No time for this, she said, need to sort out treatment and keep moving.  She went sailing after that, for 7 months, she and her man, in a yacht to beat all other yachts with big-ass sails and comfort below deck, every comfort, and the wind in her hair and salt on her tongue, whilst I became an Island Wife.  But women who connect at a wild and deep level, who recognise each other’s spirit and love it, never lose touch, even if the contact is once a year.

We sailed with them once, meeting them on a Greek island.  We all wondered how it would work, four of us converging where Two Roads meet, after 30 years apart, and living in close quarters for a couple of weeks.

I could have been a big pain in the ass, I said.

You are.  She replied and handed me a beer.

In the evenings, moored in a little warm harbour, we would cook, eat and make music.  They taught me songs, and I them, and there was something magical about the candlelight, the warm nights, the laughter and song.

She did much with her life and was never still.  She was the second woman ever to command a Royal Navy warship.  A transatlantic skipper, a magistrate, a wife, mother grandmother, although that title sounds way too old for her.  She adored her family, and actively showed it.  She was feisty, impossible, decisive and noisy and there is a big hole left now she is gone.

But what will stay with me for ever, and this may sound selfish, is what she gave to me.  She never faltered and when I did, she whooped my butt.  I’m not saying, or even imagining, that she had life sussed, because I know she didn’t think that at all.  I saw, at times, such sadness in her big eyes, and she might tell me, briefly, or she might not.  When she knew she had only time left, she would still pick up if I called, or answer a text with humour.  She came to my book launch down south in a bright pink wig after aggressive chemo.  It was our last hug.

I salute her.  She is a woman who challenged me to be the best I could be, just as she challenged herself.

Sail on Silver Girl.

Island Blog 53 – The Colour of Children

image

In the night I listen to the wind rising up like an angry woman.  By 3 am she has bullied the curtains into a right state.  The snapping of upset floral chintz wakes me with a start.

Gunshot, I tell myself as I burst up from another of my apocalyptic dreams.  I had just been wandering across a dead grey wasteland, somewhere beyond Thunderdome, and looking for my children. I can’t go back to sleep to find them once I’ve left the dream.

The curtains lift out into the room exposing the window glass, but no light falls in, for this night is just plain black.  The only light, if I can name it such, sneaks up the stairs from its source- that disco ball of a mouse.

You would think, wouldn’t you, that shutting down my laptop would shut the rodent down too?  But nothing will persuade it into sleep and on it glows, red and blue, all night long, but irritating me a little less tonight, as it lights my way down the stairs and all the way to the kettle.

During the day we had visited a little school over the hill.  The sun was warm and yellow (well, maybe not warm) and the sky ice blue with scuds of snowy clouds as we climbed our way up, over and down the hill.  The little isles were still where we remembered them to be, but faded a little inside a veil of mist. Ewes with their bright white lambs, peppered the roadside and, behind a wonky fence, slow cows peered at us through long russet fringes.

Neither the island husband nor I had remembered to make packed lunch.

We spent an hour in the light bright classroom on little plastic chairs, discussing her plans to decorate a school shed with beach gatherings;  bits of fishing net, bits of rope, colourful plastic, shells and so on.  The children do many beach cleans during the summer and after a big tide, pickings are treasure for those who care to think so.  Ideas flew like swallows around that little classroom and we could just see how wonderful it would be, once we got beyond talking about it, of course.

The children came back from some outside adventure just as we were leaving, all breathless and excited, their cheeks rosy and their mouths full of chatter.  We watched them settle in their places around the wide tables.  The teacher introduced us, and explained the hut project, the abstract design ideas, the use of shape and texture and lots of colour.  I wondered if those little heads could imagine what we had imagined.

I burped ten times.  said one little girl a propos of nothing.

Green burps, she continued, then furrowed her brow.

No, not green………what’s that big colour Mrs Eden?

The big colour?  We were all wondering.

Big as your dad?  asked a little tousle-headed boy.

No, silly, she replied.  Nothing’s big as that.

As we drove back along the little winding road, sucking toffees to quiet our growling stomachs, we considered big colours a bit smaller than a dad, and we felt the awe of it.

Island Blog 42 – A Tale to Tell

Island Blog 42 - pic

 

By now, my book is out there in the world and you may even be reading it.  You may be loving it, you may not, and over this bit, I have absolutely no control.  It is how it is.  My responsibility ended as I caught the words from the air around me and laid them down upon a blank sheet of A4.  The thoughts and feelings that will arise in you as a result of reading those words, in the order I chose, will relate to your life, not mine, and, in that moment of connection, become something new.

Over the years I have found such connections myself as I devoured the stories of many folk in many places and times.  Sometimes I have been tearful for the writer, the hero, or for myself as I become lost in a life that connects deeply with my own.  Sometimes thrilling with delight at the way a story bubbles and chatters over the stones like a clear fall of mountain water after new rain.  In a well written tale, I can hear the voices and see the landscape.  I can smell the wind and taste the grit of it in my mouth;  I can feel the warm skin of a dancing child and shiver at the ice cold of a closed mind or a bitter Arctic night.  I can twist and turn in the sweaty damp of an unfriendly sleeping bag and I can pull quickly back into the shadows to hide as a cruel drama unfolds before me.  I can waken in the night to remember, and then wish I could forget.  In short, I become part of the story, and yet play no part at all.  I may follow this person, or that.  I may long to go back, to see what happened to the child, or the old woman, even knowing that I may not;  not until the writer catches the words and lays them down for me on the page.  Sometimes I even forget to breathe, so lost am I in the story.

And every one is real.

Although it may be a work of fiction, you can bet that the writer is in there somewhere, for, if not, the tale would be as dull as a Monday shopping list.

But it is not just in books that I can connect with another life.  I can find stories in faces along the island roads and they can touch me just as deeply.  Of course, we don’t often get to this level on a daily basis – merely exchanging husband news or word of new additions to the family, new accomplishments, new sofas, new guests and so on, but the eyes are the windows to the soul and no mistake.  Some bright chirpy person can tell me one thing with their mouth and quite another through their eyes.  I do it myself, did it for years.

You are always so bright!  They told me, and because it was the done thing, I kept doing it.

Just like you do, or most of you.  There are some that might consider leaving their list of ailments and complaints at home, for we all have them to some degree or other and I have found from experience that those with most to complain about, usually don’t.  And when I meet those people, who have made a decision not to bore the bejabers out of the rest of us, telling us things we can do nothing whatsoever about and causing rain to fall on that precious moment of shared sunshine, I find my supplies of compassion and respect, verging on reverence, threaten to overwhelm me altogether.  My whole day changes as I guess my way into their life and out again feeling humbled.  Suddenly my load lightens, supposing I thought I had one in the first place.

There is always an argument between reality and fairyland.  I have always preferred fairyland, finding reality way too matter-of-fact for me, and, as we know, these Matters of Fact change daily according to the latest discovery/statistic/breaking news. Shifting sands I reckon, whereas fairyland is always fairyland and you can depend on it remaining so forever, for in that world (the real world in my opinion) we are allowed to be individual in our response to that which we observe.  All views are acceptable.  Nobody is right and nobody is wrong, for we all see things in different ways according to our creed, birthright,childhood and experiences. And we should stand tall and proud inside our own story, and sing it out, for it is the only one we can really tell.

Island Blog 36 – Pecking Order

Island blog 36

 

Woken by a bickering of crows outside my window, I leap out of bed to see what’s up.  I know they’re upset, I can hear it.  They sound like bad-tempered witches and sometimes that can mean a big bird of prey has flown into their air space.  This morning is fair and bright and the air quite still, belying the truth of the situation.

The sky is empty of all songbirds, so I know a predator is nearby, and I am right.

On the grass below me a fight is about to begin over the carcass of a large rabbit. Standing over it – a buzzard.

Two crows lunge at the big bird, like louts, juking back pretty quick as the beak comes down like an axe over their heads.  Positioning themselves either side of him, they dance around him, calling him all manner of names, much like thugs at a state visit, in an effort to wear him down until he tires of them and flies away.  Crows can do this for hours I know, so I turn away for just a moment to find some clothes to wear.  Suddenly the noise level escalates into a riot and I dash back to the window.

A second buzzard has landed inches away from the other, presenting a very real threat.  The two huge birds take their positions for battle, wings slightly out, necks thrust forward, feet two-square on the grass.  In the face of such power, the crows bounce off a few yards and watched from a safe distance, one of them pretending not to care by pecking at a cow pat.

For some moments, the buzzards charge at each other, claws lashing as they rise off the ground, as one, a little higher each time.  The crows jig about like hoodlums, calling out, excited by this clash of the Titans.  The sky, which had emptied when the buzzard first appeared, is now a swoosh of songbirds, looping across the morning sky like chiffon, to land on the fences and among the hazel scrub, chattering excitedly; spectators for the show.

The excitement is tangible.

One of the buzzards grabs the rabbit and tries to fly, but the weight of it defeats him and he only manages a couple of feet off the ground.  Buzzard number two lunges forward to grab the other end of the carcass in his beak.  Then all hell breaks loose as the two of them roll each other over and over in a tangle of claws and wings, of fur and feathers.

As they fall apart, one of them concedes defeat, and re-arranging his feathers he rises into the blue morning.  The victor tries in vain to lift the carcass, till he too gives up and, with a sharp cry, takes to the hills.

That’s breakfast for the crows,  I tell my little green teddy bear who was also watching.  But this time I am wrong.

Two sea eagles come from nowhere, graceful and silent.  They don’t even touch down.  One dips just low enough to pick up the carcass as if it’s a pocket handkerchief and then, together, and without a sound, they lift effortlessly into the empty sky and are gone.