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.

Born To Be Wild(ish)

Do you ever find yourself looking back at earlier versions of yourself, and wondering about how different life was? As we get older, we have a lot more to look back on and while some might contend that we should always look ahead, and never look back, I think we can learn from our past. As I said in my post Summer of ’69 that was a momentous year for me. It was also the year that the movie Easy Rider first graced the screen – in July in the US, a little later in the UK – and it opened up the eyes of impressionable teenagers around the world to a way of life that was very different from our normal, humdrum existences.

If you haven’t seen the movie I’ll try to avoid spoilers, suffice it to say that it doesn’t end well! But for most of us at the time, that wasn’t the point. What we saw in the film was a lifestyle based on doing what you want to do, free from the constraints of regular life. Sure, it was fuelled by an illegal drug deal at the very beginning, but did we care? I know I didn’t! The concept of road movies hadn’t really been explored much until then, and the idea of watching 95 minutes of two guys riding motorbikes around was very strange to my parents: “what’s it about?” “that sounds boring” and “you aren’t old enough to see it” being just some of what they said. It was rated ‘X’ in the UK, which meant that you had to be 18 to be allowed into the cinema, but I somehow managed to raise my short, just-turned-16 frame enough to get past the prison cinema guards. Or maybe they were just glad to take anyone’s cash that they could!

I have the movie on DVD and occasionally dust it off for a viewing. Mostly, it now looks incredibly dated, a real period piece. But there is still much to enjoy in it, especially the scene accompanied by the Byrds’ song I Wasn’t Born To Follow, which is such a joyous expression of youthful freedom.

At 16, we all have dreams of what we want our lives to become, and a release from a late 1960s Britain, with economic troubles putting a real dampener on all the Swinging 60s stuff that had gone before, was incredibly appealing. We all wanted to do it! If you have read my Summer of ’69 you’ll know that I spent that school holiday working to earn the cash to buy my first motorised transport. This was where one of life’s major lessons first hit home: I was never going to be able to earn enough to buy a bike like Peter Fonda’s! So, with reality dawning rapidly, I adjusted my ambitions – another early life lesson – and bought myself a secondhand scooter, a Lambretta Ld to be precise. It wasn’t even the most recent model made by Lambretta, but it was mine! In case you’ve never heard of it – and you can be forgiven for that – this is what it looked like:

The same colour as mine!
The same colour as mine!

Suddenly, a whole new world opened up for me. I could go anywhere I wanted, without the need to consult copious bus timetables, and I really took advantage of this new freedom. I joined the local scooter club, called the ‘Saints’ for reasons no one actually knew, and as well as club nights we went on group outings. We often went to a place called Camber Sands, which was pretty desolate, although it did afford a lovely view of the nuclear power plant under construction at nearby Dungeness. But that didn’t matter to us – we enjoyed the camaraderie of the ride, the wind (and rain, lots of rain) in our hair, and as long as someone had remembered to bring a ball we had a game of football on the sands when we got there. I have been thinking about this post for some time, and it feels very poignant to be looking back at my own youth, and happy times, when the sea has just claimed the lives of five young men who had gone to the very same place to have a good day out. As I said, we can learn from our past: that could have been us. There was never any sign of a lifeguard there, and apparently there still isn’t, 47 years on. It always takes a tragedy for something necessary to be enacted, sadly. In our innocent youth, we don’t really think about potential dangers, do we? Life is for living, we’re young and it is all stretching out in front of us. Why worry?

The ultimate fashion item, c.1969!
The ultimate fashion item, c.1969!

Going back to buying the scooter and becoming part of the local ‘scene’, where the cool kids hung out – as if, in my dreams, etc. – it amuses me that despite the fact that what we thought we were looking for was a freedom from normality, we rapidly adopted a style that became our new normal. If you had a scooter but didn’t wear one of these (look left), you were nobody!

I didn’t quite manage to copy Peter Fonda’s crash helmet either. Although it wasn’t at that time illegal to ride a bike without wearing one, we prided ourselves on being a responsible scooter club, so I bought myself another fashion accessory, just like this one:

Stylish, or what!
Stylish, or what!

But we were happy, that was the most important thing to us. We may not have been like Wyatt and Billy in the movie, but we had a sense of freedom, and I felt that every single time I got on the scooter, even if I was only using it to go shopping or to go to school. In those moments, the world was all mine, and I felt a kind of invincibility. Admittedly, I didn’t feel quite the same way the day I came off it and embedded a stone in my arm, but that was just another life lesson: don’t be a prat! Looking back, through what are probably very rose-tinted spectacles, I do feel a sense of loss, the loss of the innocence of youth. I hope my 16 year old self would have approved of the way my life has developed: I may not be riding the breeze on the open road, but I’ve learnt to recognise how to find the best in life, and to enjoy it.

And finally, for anyone feeling short changed by the edited version of the song in the opening video, I leave you with a full version of what is still the best driving song I know: