Friday, 17 February 2012

Levity fail

See, this is the thing. I wanted to post something light and funny after the last one, but I've struggled to find anything jolly, because I seem to have spent the week in a mope of useless, soggy melancholy.

I have cried at the TV. I have cried at the planting of a memorial potted palm for a woman I had never met in the gulag schoolyard (the intended oak tree did not arrive in time, but the resultant palm-based farce didn't overwhelm the pathos). I have cried at the Elderly Animals. I have cried at the death of Dory Previn to an overwhelming extent, walking the dog through the drizzly shit-strewn streets of grey Uccle with tears streaming down my face, again and again. Like a lunatic.

But oh, Dory Previn. Mythical Kings and Iguanas was my favourite of my mum's albums when I was little (probably because of the mention of iguanas). I didn't understand 90% of the lyrics but I liked the word pictures she made, and her voice, and Mary C Brown, and, well, everything, somehow. It's one of the few records I am inadvertently word perfect on decades later - that, a selection of my dad's Frank Sinatras. I don't know, there's something bizarrely moving about the music your parents listened to when you were little, those long-gone moments when you were all other people, but not. There is for me, anyway.

Dory Previn for me is going back to the time when I would have been about five, or six or seven; when our sitting room was still on the first floor. On Saturday evenings mum would wash my hair in the kitchen sink (often to the accompaniment of Dory Previn), me lying along the draining board, then I would have cold chicken from Marks & Spencer for tea, and go upstairs to watch The Muppets, then Doctor Who sitting on the scratchy chaise longue in my nightie. It was the time when it was just the two of us living together and I suppose when you really can't go back to time and place, when there's no one to talk about it with, you look at those periods with a particular reverence, a particular consciousness of what you've lost. I remember it as being such a sure, happy time but when I think of it, my mum was on her own with me and not much money and her life was in flux and chaos. How did she do it? I don't think I've managed to give my children that same insouciant confidence, that certainty of everything being fundamentally ok, in my chaotic and sad times. Anyway, it's been odd. It evoked my mum in a very particular time and place and made me miss her very concretely, somehow. Look, here we are. I definitely chose that outfit myself. That is not York, if you were wondering.

And here we are twenty years later. Look at her arm on my shoulder. I have that black vest she's wearing now, I wore it earlier this week. I have the baby still too. He's a tiny bit larger now.

And here is lovely Dory singing Mary C. Brown. This one didn't make me cry, incidentally.

All that to explain that I really didn't want to do sad, and sad is all I have. I don't know. What could I tell you about? There has been the usual quotient of farce, new shoes, a small war with a town in the Ardennes (don't ask, they're winning) and an endless stream of domestic tedium. We have learnt two poems (one about spring, one about the water cycle, both execrable), and how to say "plumber" in Dutch and the school heating has broken, leading to logistical chaos. Half term is upon us now, thanks to the extra bonus day of heating related holiday tomorrow, and I am very cross about it. The fuses keep blowing, the loo is blocked, I suspect by a balloon, or some Lego, the dog is coated in a fine layer of park mud (50% shit by volume, I fear) and thoroughly enervated by the children playing Raving Rabbits. Satan - someone expressed concern about Satan - is fine. He survived the arctic temperatures with great rodenty indifference and is treating the rain with the same "Satan don't give a shit" attitude he treats everything. I feel a deep gratitude to Satan. He shows up twice a day, snatches comestibles out of your hand, shits copiously everywhere and vanishes until he gets hungry again. This is everything I need from a pet really. Both boys are currently agitating for rats, which I consider a slight improvement on the previous bids for reptiles.

Most of my entertainment this week has come from my email folder, which has offered me, for instance, today, this excellent opportunity: "help us carry a giant fox sculpture through the streets of Antwerp!". Well. Your offer obviously appears very attractive, but I really need to know a little more. HOW giant is this fox? Is it really, really gargantuan? Will I be able to sit on it? Be carried through the streets of Antwerp on its back? Because on the picture you attach, the man appears to be carrying a really very modestly sized fox. Fox sized, I would be tempted to say. And when you say "help us", can you actually promise me I will get a turn of the actual carrying? I do, I must say, like the programme of events which states, tersely, and without further explanation:


You interest me, TELL ME MORE.

My other email favourite is the "Grand PrĂȘtre Vadou avec action dans l'Immediat" who has offered to make a pact with the devil on my behalf in order to guarantee my happiness. Even the email title was winning: VOICI LA SOLUTION POUR TOUS VOS PROBLEMES SPIRITUELS (HERE IS THE ANSWER TO ALL YOUR SPIRITUAL PROBLEMS). Really? Even insistent vague malaise at lack of concrete achievements? Because I could get behind that. I like that kind of certainty in an internet scammer and really, who in this day and age is willing to commit to the level of customer service that a pact with Satan involves? A very tempting offer and no mistake. Also, voodoo high priests are nothing if not practical because this one has attached a price list. It is full of things I want to put on my Amazon wish list, like hypnotic talismans, special perfumes to make your wife come back and forgive you, cures for syphilis and gonorrhea and a miraculous handkerchief that ensures you are never short of money (interestingly, this comes in two strengths: "simple puissance" and "haute puissance". I'll take one of each!). All yours for several thousands of dollars in a currency I am unable to identify with certainty. His website is down, apparently, but email orders are welcomed. Can you resist? I am not at all sure I can. I wonder how he is with teeth?

There is also an email in my inbox currently entitled "Uniform for Pygmy Lizard Army", but I feel that is a story for another day.

What would YOU like a voodoo priest to bring you? Or what did your parents listen to and how does it make you feel now?


Xtreme English said...

I hope you remembered to eat your pudding in all of that. and i must say i'm jealous. we in the US never get any emails offering happiness if we will make a pact with the devil--only if we will vote for Republicans, which is the same thing.

your mother was a lovely woman. you were a lovely daughter--and are lovely now. chins up!

WrathofDawn said...

Oh dear. You would ask.

Because my parents were born in 1912 and 1914, there was, from Dad:
Mrs. Mills Plays the Roaring 20s
On a "you can't make this stuff up" side note, I saw Mrs. Mills perform this stuff while I was in London in 1972. Don't ask how. It wasn't by my design, I can assure you.
And he was in the navy, so there was:
Royal Canadian Navy March "Heart of Oak"
John Phillip Sousa - "El Capitan"
And also, from my Mom:
Connie Francis
Tennessee Ernie Ford
Mario Lanza
And then I played snare drum in a pipe band. And now I sing Handel and Brahms and such. Oh, yeah. Musically warped. FOR LIFE.

Stacy said...

Anything from the mid-70s, when I was about 5 or 6. The Eagles, Peter Frampton, Elton John, Bee-Gees, I could go on. Totally takes me back to hanging out with my mom as she was sunbathing on the back deck. Good times.

Ann said...

My dad claims to not know who Mick Jagger is and thus m childhood's soundtrack is 'Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring' practised on repeat on proper organ in the actual house - my dad was the church organist & still takes it v seriously as, be fair, he is horribly good. In addition, add in a horrible cacophany: awful clarinet lessons (mother great teacher, horrid pupils); eldest brother loving Iron Maiden; middle a Nik Kershaw big fan ('I won't let the sun go down on me/the riddle' (both utterly awesome)); youngest brother, from what I remember pre Brit pop Dan Read Network. Add in there also Don Giovanni, Ralph Vaughn Williams and gregorian chant. All mixed up. Personally, play 'Car Wash' or "love Train' &I am in seventh heaven. So, a mixed bag.

seminch said...

My father loved jazz, but was only allowed to play his LP's on a Sunday morning,whilst my mother did the laundry. We had Fats Dominoe,Chris Barber,Louis Armstrong and many more of the Trad ilk. But when I hear them now the smell of washing powder and the sound of the twin tub in the background are completely linked. Music and smells tell an amazing story! Sorry you are sad this week.

Anonymous said...

My parents had only four records - Boney M's Nightflight to Venus, Freddie White's Have a Nice Day, the Muppet Show album and the Mini-Pops.

As you can imagine, we had a slightly odd introduction to music.
But now they love Leonard Cohen and we like all sorts of things.

I can't imagine life without my mother and admire your resilience.

It's horribly grey in Brussels this week but hopefully will brighten up soon (well probably not, but we can dream).

Alienne said...

Mine only had 78s; the one that got played most was Mario Lanza - I still know the words to Drink Drink Drink. (it's on Youtube if anyone really wants to hear it - as a kid I didn't realise what an amazing voice he had).

Erin said...

I can sing all the words to several John Denver songs thanks to my parents. They also had records of humpback whale songs, but I can't sing along to those.

Longtime blog reader, here in California, silent until now. Love the pictures of you and your mom.

ganching said...

I cried this week too watching some awful royalist thing on television. There was a clip of Will and Kate's wedding which happened on the same day as my mother's funeral.

I'm sure your children will grow up with their own set of memories which will be as positive as yours are of your own mother.

Accidental Londoner said...

Ah, the long, miserable, fight-y car journeys of my youth were full of Creedence Clearwater Revival and Elton John. When my brother and I were very bad in the back seat we would be punished with strident organ concertos...if they were not already dead, I would not shed a tear at the passing of their creators!

Mrs Osborn said...

my Dad always sung the Stones 'Goodbye, Groovy Tuesday' instead of Ruby, which he thought v funny. And the Beatles too, their early stuff like Love Me Do. I was just listening to R4 Soul Music 'Dear Lord and Father of Mankind' which had me in floods as it reminds me of him. I do love reading your blog and I always think what an amazing mum you are, I hope you have a more cheery week (and if you have half term ahead of you, enjoy! as best you can! the finish line is within reach for me) xx

mountainear said...

Our house was a musical vacuum - I don't think either parent ever played or listened to anything- though come to think of it every Sunday 'dinner' was prepared to the sound of 'Two way Family favourites' which mostly featured Rod Stewarts 'Sailing' in later years.

As a child I was not called by my proper name by friends and family - my nickname was generally used. These days the number of people who know and call me by that name has shrunk to about 5. That makes me sad.

Anonymous said...

Your kiss and ride piece on Listen&Often works voodoo priestess magic on me every time. xoxox

Margaret said...

Mom never listens to music; Dad's a strict classical man. But I do have oddly fond memories of a particular Burl Ives album and something with a lot of patriotic American music. I can actually remember quite a few of the lyrics to "Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean." For some reason, they also had a copy of Sergio Mendes and Brasil '66--I guess because everyone in suburban Long Island bought it that year to play at cocktail parties--which to this day I consider the height of album-cover-photo glamour.

Is your next post going to be about the bizarre murder of that lord, allegedly by Chechen mobsters? Because I am not getting nearly enough salacious detail from the AP newsfeed. They're saying he was planning to solve his debt problems by moving to a Russian commune in Australia to become an organic farmer? Or am I still drunk from last night?

Elizabeth said...

Dory Previn - oh how that link took me back... Although it wasn't my parents who played it; it was me. I think I played Mythical Kings and Iguanas through to the other side. Used to drive my parents nuts. Father listened to to The Ring Cycle, and Mother loved the bloody awful Nolan Sisters. I can't decide which was worse.

vivien y said...

Mum's "Non Music" (said Dad). The Laughing Policeman, Maggie, Yes Ma (and other 78s), Danny Kaye, Eartha Kitt (Non Music was all classical - God knows what she really liked). A poignant little sketch from my sister (ten years younger than me) describing our house when my brother and I had left and she was an only child with mum, dad, the non music and the bickering.
Spring will be here soon and the greyness will wane xxx.

Anonymous said...

Bless you and your lovely mum.

Anonymous said...

Oh my God, Dory Previn. "Mythical Kings" was probably the first album I ever bought, and I had all but forgotten it. Thank you so much for reminding me; I just listened to "The Lady With the Braid" on YouTube and could sing every word.

Now I am obsessed with finding a copy, see what you've done??