Remembering 9/11

I posted this last year on the Facebook page for this blog, and shared it here too. It will be on the Facebook page again, as my posts are automatically linked to there. No matter where we are from, it is impossible to comprehend the awfulness of that day, a day which has shaped so much of what has happened since then.

Today is the 19th anniversary of 9/11. Like most, I guess, I can remember exactly where I was on that fateful day, when so many innocent people were murdered and the world changed for ever. For us in the UK, this happened just before 2pm. The guy in the next office rushed in saying ‘you have to see this!’ We spent the next hour or so transfixed with horror at what was unfolding on his computer screen, watching the BBC live news. Work was forgotten for a time, and seemed so inconsequential by comparison.

To honour those who lost their lives, and all those whose heroic efforts helped so many others, I’m dedicating this song to them. An explanation of the song is on Songfacts, and I’m repeating it here as background:

“Grand Central Station is a train terminal in New York City, and a bustling hub of activity. It’s a majestic building where amid the din, travelers can find moments of reflection, as so many journeys started or ended there.

Mary Chapin Carpenter wrote the song after hearing an interview with an iron worker who was one of the first on the scene after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center. The interview aired on a New York City radio station on the first anniversary of the attacks, and it brought Chapin Carpenter to tears. “Those first few days there at ground zero, he felt it was a very holy place,” she told NPR. “When his shifts were over, he felt this lifeforce was somehow asking for his help, and when he would leave his shift he figured, whoever wants to go, I’ll take him with me, and he’d find himself just going to Grand Central Station, standing on the platform, and figuring whoever wanted to go home could just catch the train home.”

Chapin Carpenter immediately started writing the song, and had it finished three days later.”

Whatever you are doing today, I hope you can find four minutes to watch this video. The song is beautiful, and some of the images are almost impossibly heartbreaking.

Today is a day for reflection. A day to put aside differences. A day to shed a tear for humanity.

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 7: Escape

As the clue in the title shows, we are now entering week 7 of the lockdown here in the UK. Perhaps surprisingly, a recent survey showed that this was supported by 77% of the population, and opposed by only 15%. It would appear that after our recent spell of collective stupidity in elections we are beginning to develop a herd common sense at last. Sadly, it is no surprise to me that most of the noises against the lockdown seem to be coming from the wealthy and big business owners – money always talks, doesn’t it? I found it particularly offensive that one of the pleas for a government handout came from Richard Branson, whose behaviour towards his Virgin Airline staff has been atrocious, and who last year had the gall to sue the NHS for not awarding a contract to another one of his companies. I have always held that profit has no place in healthcare, and vultures like him re-emphasise the point for me. Hopefully his staff will be supported financially by the government, even if he refuses to use any of his personal fortune to do it. He can at least sit this all out from the comfort of his tropical island!

As we go into our seventh week of lockdown we are beginning to see signs of the way out. Last weekend our esteemed Prime Minister said that he would be announcing the exit plan on Thursday, only to change this to ‘next weekend’ when it became clear that new scientific advice wouldn’t be ready by Thursday. I don’t know about you, but his planning skills wouldn’t encourage me to employ him to arrange a booze up in brewery. But, on the positive side, we may just be given some clues about what needs to happen for the lockdown to be relaxed, which has to be a good thing, right? Trusting the government to get the decisions about it correct, on the other hand – not something that comes easily, given their record to date. Similarities between Johnson and Trump are often drawn: their initial inactivity in tackling the coronavirus was equally inept, and we are paying the price for that now. But I remain hopeful that signs that we have passed the peak are proved right, and that the lockdown relaxation doesn’t come too soon or too rapidly for it to be effective. Fingers crossed.

But let’s be positive! Thoughts of people on tropical islands have given me this week’s theme. Many of us will of late have been spending much more time than usual reflecting on our lives, and building up hopes and dreams – but probably not plans, as yet – for what we will do when this is all over. I’m not a traveller myself – medical conditions militate against that – but many are, and I would imagine that their thoughts will have been turning towards….escape. I promised last week that I would give you an upbeat selection and, whilst neither of this week’s tunes is a belting rocker they do, I think, capture the spirit of how we can ‘escape’ in our thoughts and songs.

The first tune is actually called Escape, though I would imagine that most will know it by the subtitle in brackets:

I hadn’t realised before that Rupert Holmes was actually born as David Goldstein here in the UK, to an American father and British mother: I’d always thought he was American. That song was no.1 in the US and several other countries, though I was surprised to see that it only got as far as no.23 in the UK: the amount of radio coverage it received at the time had left me with the feeling that it reached much higher. He was even on Top Of The Pops with it – the ultimate accolade here for a pop song. After last week’s Stephen Stills song it may appear that I’m encouraging infidelity. I can assure you that I’m not, and in any case the couple in this song couldn’t meet up at present without breaking lockdown and social distancing rules. But as escapes go, it has a nice twist to it, even if they didn’t have to travel far in his imagination to make it happen.

This week’s second song is from a singer/songwriter of whom I’ve been a fan ever since her first album, a mere 33 years ago: Mary Chapin Carpenter. I’ve featured her songs before, but not this one. This is a piece of wishful thinking taken to perfection:

The beauty of the tune is matched by the lyrics, which evoke thoughts of creative beauty in bygone days. Of course, music isn’t the only one of the arts to share in that but, as the meme at the top of the post says, it can certainly play its part! The images that MCC creates are beautiful, as is the whole feel of the song: her warm voice is so soothing, the music is understated, with the mandolin subtly underscoring the lyrics, and that accordion gets me every time! As I said: perfection. If you want to hear more of her she is one of the many artists doing lockdown performance on Facebook which, as well as herself, feature roles for her pets too – they are adorable, especially Angus.

As always, I hope you’re keeping safe and well and doing what your government is telling you to do. I know they are an easy target but despite my criticism of them I know that they are trying to find solutions to all of this, and we don’t help if we ignore their advice! Take care, and I’ll see you next Tuesday.