You Go To School

The ever reliable Timehop reminded me this morning of a piece I wrote seven years ago today, when I was two weeks away from retirement. It was a fairly short one, but it resonated with me when I read it again so I thought I’d share it for you – after all, how many of you were reading my blog seven years ago and will have seen this before?!

A few things struck me:

1. Those were the days when (a) WordPress offered us a Daily Prompt, and (b) they were helpful.

2. The link to WordPress’ Daily Prompt still works! You’ll have to scroll a long way down the 216 contributions to find mine though, back in the days when this still went by the original, albeit not very original, title of “Clive’s Blog.’

3. I used to listen to my music on an iPod back then – remember them? Just think how much streaming services have rendered them obsolete in seven years, saving us the task of copying our CDs and transferring them! I think mine is tucked away in a drawer somewhere, long since left silent.

4. This will be the second time this week that I’ve shared a Steve Earle song – because he’s worth it!

5. Sadly, I don’t see the point I made about the lack of availability of education for all becoming less valid any time soon.

This is what I said back then:

YOU GO TO SCHOOL AND YOU LEARN TO READ AND WRITE

Daily Prompt: Can’t Drive 55

I haven’t posted for one of the daily prompts for a while – or anything else, come to that – but I was rather taken with the challenge in today’s, which reads:

Take the third line of the last song you heard, make it your post title, and write for a maximum of 15 minutes. GO!

As I’ve been fighting headaches and a migraine all week I haven’t listened to any music since last weekend, so I had to check on my iPod what that last song was. It turned out to be this:

As I’ve mentioned before I am a long time fan of Steve Earle, and this song comes from his first full-length studio album, Guitar Town, which was released in 1986. The third line of the song goes:

You go to school and you learn to read and write

A fairly basic statement, until you hear it in the context of the song, which is about the frustrations of a young man growing up in a small town wanting to get away to see ‘what’s over that rainbow.’ The next line is:

So you can walk into the County Bank and sign away your life

Get the picture? The song is really a mix of those frustrations with hope that the future will be better, all based on the belief of youth that the world is a much better place everywhere except in the small cocoon that encloses them. I know, I was young once, and my memory hasn’t completely gone. Yet. As I approach a major change in my life it does in some strange way feel like I’m a teenager again, with so much to look forward to. The big difference is that I’m not dreaming about what my life may hold and what I may make of it, but how I can spend my time enjoying myself, doing all the things I’ve wanted to do but haven’t yet done, and hopefully still making a useful contribution to society in my own small way. That’s a kind of dream, isn’t it? To my mind, there’s nothing wrong with having dreams at any time about what life may hold for you – being without some hope is like giving up on life, which is not something I’m planning on doing any time soon!

But let’s go back to the song line that started off my thoughts. At its most basic level it is a simple statement of fact: everyone goes to school, and reading and writing are the basis of all forms of learning. All of you reading this must have gone through some schooling to be able to be here now. But I know that people read this blog from a huge number of countries worldwide, not all of which have such a developed education system as the USA and the UK, where the bulk of readers come from. We take education as a right, as a given part of our lives. My education has taken me to university, to a Masters degree, and supported me through my working life. I have been able to read anything I wanted to along the way – even if I still have to look up the big words in a dictionary from time to time. I’ve always seen this as an entirely natural thing, and the opportunity to have a good education should be a given for everyone, regardless of where they are born. Unfortunately, even in the 21st century, that is still not the case everywhere. Maybe, when we sit and think about our frustrations with life, with our dreams of something better, we should also think how lucky we are to do that – not everyone even knows the rainbow exists and that there might be a better place beyond it.

A final thought: the song that started this off has been covered several times. I’ll leave you with my favourite of these, with the beautiful voices of Shawn Colvin and, providing harmonies, her great pal Mary Chapin Carpenter:

Tuesday Tunes 12: Dreams

As we enter week 12 of what is becoming a diluted lockdown here in the UK some of the side effects of the enforced isolation are beginning to reveal themselves. For example, I have become used to staying up till midnight once a week to book a grocery delivery slot – which are now being offered to me some four weeks ahead. Before all this began it was usually possible to get a next day slot, sometimes even sameday, so that is one obvious change. Having carried out the weekly ritual last Wednesday I then couldn’t sleep until around 3am (not from excitement, I can assure you), and spent Thursday feeling totally wiped out – so much so that I had a nap that afternoon. Even for a decrepit old timer like me that was unusual.

It was therefore a suitable day for Kings College and Ipsos MORI to publish their study on how the lockdown had affected our sleep – it certainly got my befuddled attention. This was covered by several of the papers and also by the BBC, whose report can be found here. Briefly, our sleeping patterns have been buggered – as if I needed telling. We are sleeping less, waking and dreaming more, or sleeping in later than we would usually do. It probably doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out that that last point was particularly true for younger age groups, though I admit to elements of all of those factors myself. I thought that sleep would make a good theme for this week’s tunes – and may still do a post on it, as I collected a great many possibilities for it. But that changed when The Times published a follow up article yesterday about how our dreams have been affected. There are some weird and wonderful stories recounted in the piece – I’m not sure how one man would react to being told that his wife had dreamed of decapitating him with a spade – and if you’d like to read more you’ll find it here. I hope that link works, as the paper is behind a paywall, so apologies in advance if it doesn’t. But it settled my choice for this week’s theme: dreams.

In previous weeks people have often commented that one or other of my song choices is new to them. As a little bonus I’m giving you three songs this week, and if any of them is new to you I can only say that you are either young or haven’t been paying attention! I don’t often go for a selection comprising only chart hits but these three were pressing me to choose them – so I have! The songs date back to a six year span, having been released between 1977 and 1983.

To get things off to a rousing start, this is Blondie:

That song was the lead single from the band’s fourth album, Eat To The Beat, and was released in 1979. It continued their habit of doing better in the UK charts than in their native USA: #2 here, but only #27 over there. I’ve always found that pattern strange, but it wasn’t the first (or last) time that we’ve picked up on someone sooner. The same is true in reverse too, in many cases. Weird thing, taste, isn’t it?

My second choice is another absolute stonker, and is the one which gave the Eurythmics their major breakthrough:

They really don’t come much better than that! It was the title track of their second album but, perhaps oddly, was actually the fourth track from that album to be released as a single. They got there in the end, though: #2 in the UK, a US #1, and a massive chart hit in many countries. It’s still one of my all-time favourites, and I love the video.

In generous (indecisive) mood I’m giving you a third song this week. This one should need no introduction as it is from Rumours, one of the biggest selling albums in history:

The album’s stats are incredible: #1 in seven countries, over 40m sales worldwide, countless awards, certified diamond on sales in several countries, and it was all done at a time when the band members’ personal relationships were in chaos. If this wasn’t a themed post I wouldn’t choose this song to represent the album – there are several tracks on it that I prefer, but there really isn’t a dud among them. Rumours was actually the eleventh Fleetwood Mac album – they began as a blues-rock band in the UK – but by the time it was released they were a mixture of Brits and Americans, and the album was recorded in the US. That may have something to do with this being a #1 US single, when it only reached #24 here. Or maybe everyone here had already bought the album!

I hope you have enjoyed this week’s themed selection – there are some pop classics here! As lockdown will be with us for a good while yet I will, like the proverbial bad penny, keep turning up. I hope you stay safe and well, and above all that you find some enjoyment in life – music is a good place to begin! Until next Tuesday: take care.