“Haitus: Noun, usually in singular; A pause or break in continuity in a sequence or activity.” (OED)
That’s what’s happening today. After six years of weekly posts, though thick and thin, good times and bad, a short break is upon me.
I started writing regularly here back in 2013, for a variety of reasons. The blog, and its years of posts, have helped me achieve some goals – not least focusing on my personal and professional writing.
My scribbles here have also helped me process and progress through some significant life events – career changes, emigration, personal loss, mind-opening travel trips and more besides.
For the foreseeable future, though, posts will not be weekly, as before. But they will continue – not least because this remains a forum for my personal writing, itself a product of all-important reflection and creation.
With apologies to Van Morrison, it’s almost (Irish) independence day.
This year, just like the last couple (since I emigrated from Ireland) I’ve been thinking from 4,000 miles away: what song or poem or piece of writing best sums up the Ireland and the Irish?
Not the kelly green, or lachrymose versions of “Danny Boy”, or green rivers, or a million soda bread recipes, or drinking to excess. Though there’ll be plenty of all that this weekend – at least on this side of the pond.
Then it struck me – or, rather, I heard it. As I listened to music at home last night, a song by The Gloaming – the folk/classical/progressive traditional Irish act – came on.
“The Hare” is a version of the traditional Irish tune “The Hare and the Corn” – of which I am totally unfamiliar. The Gloaming’s version is beautiful though, a fiddle performance that is short and plaintive and melodic, and it throws up all sorts of images of the homeland for me.
It may have been some dust, or the light, or a day spent staring at screens, but for a moment I swore I was standing alone, at dawn, on the flank of Mweelrea in Co Mayo, as sun and rain washed over me, with something in my eye.
Well, I was I suppose, in one way.
Here it is then – more Ireland in three minutes than you’ll get all weekend.
The conversation could – of course – have gone another way. One that didn’t leave him in a daze, sitting outside the office wondering who to tell first. Or what words to use. Instead, after 40 or so years, he was left with this: five, six months at most.
As he sat there, fumbling for his phone, an older woman sat alongside him. Next in line, probably. Better luck, missus. He wasn’t surprised that she started talking to him (something about weekday traffic), but he was when he responded.
Shouldn’t he be staring at a void, or consoling his wife? After all, why keep up appearances when everything else has fallen down? Perhaps it was her face, or voice, the human connection That saw him suggesting alternate routes home for her.
There’s a dull safety in the banal, the simple chat. Or so he thought afterwards, after the calls, and the tears, and the paperwork, and the goodbyes they didn’t want to admit were goodbyes. When he could think clearly, he thought about that day, and those conversations.
The one that began with a doctor telling him things were not good, and the one that ended with an exchange about freeway routes. I know which one I’ll take with me, he thought.
When new releases were presaged by weeks of publicity, when liner notes were pored over, when tracks were listened to dozens of times to figure out just exactly what that lyric was?
A newly-published anthology of writings about Radiohead, “Present Tense: A Radiohead Compendium”, takes me back to that time.
The book, which (full disclosure) features a great interview with the band by my other half, Clare Kleinedler, documents 25 years of journalism about the group, from their earliest incarnation as On A Friday to global pop domination and beyond.
Reading the articles, what stands out less is their substance (although features like Clare’s, and Will Self’s, built on solid interviews as opposed to opinions drawn from lyrical or musical clues, stand the test of time) than their context.
Almost every one, at least those from the “Pablo Honey” era onwards, is written on the assumption that Radiohead matter, that they are necessary, that they have Something To Say. Reading many of these pieces at the time, from defunct (and missed) publications like Select, I’m sure I concurred.
After all, what else was more important in the year 2000 that the release of “Kid A”? Weren’t the scraps from the floor of the studio used by the creators of “Paranoid Android” worth more than the greatest political, sporting or literary achievements of the day?
Well, so we thought. Now, of course, the idea seems quaint. Other music, other writing, other points of view, all of it available online ad infinitum, along with the passage of time, served to place Radiohead within the cultural context, instead of above or before it.
Reading “Present Tense” is as much as act of nostalgia as anything else, then; I felt a warm familiarity with some of the mundane facts in the articles (mundane now, at the time, revelatory – like how the band was named for a song on Talking Heads’ “True Stories” album).
It also reminded me of a period in my life when I had more free time, and less distractions – enough to allow me to spend whole afternoons picking over the inner musical workings of “Lucky”.
I can’t say I miss this (and I’ve long forgotten the arrangement of that particular song), nor will I miss the last era of the Single Important Rock Band – a strangely reductive concept.
But it was enjoyable to read – for a few hours at least – about how things were. Everything in its right place – in this case, the past.